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Rust or Decline, What’s Behind Sean Lee’s Dreadful Week 1 Performance?

For years now, Linebacker Sean Lee has been the Dallas Cowboys best defensive player. There is no denying that when he is on the field and healthy, he makes the defense better. But, that certainly wasn’t the case Sunday afternoon when the Cowboys took on the Carolina Panthers to kick off the 2018 season.

Sean Lee’s performance Sunday afternoon definitely isn’t what we expect from him, or what he expects from himself for that matter. He even admitted as much.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Sean Lee: “I usually tackle well and I work on it every day in practice. I just did not get it done. I am going to have to get better this week. That is unacceptable tackling I did today.

To say that Sean Lee didn’t play up to his normal standards would be an understatement. He found himself out of position far too often and missed way too many tackles that are usually routine for him. Unfortunately, the question has to be asked…Was it just rust or is he starting to decline?

Considering his age and injury history, it’s certainly plausible Sean Lee is starting to decline as a player. It happens to every professional athlete at some point whether they like it or not. But, is that what is actually happening? I’m not so sure.

Let’s dive in a little deeper in order to try to get to the root of the problem.

Sean Lee

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The one thing we know about Sean Lee is that his film study and preparation is second to none. Unfortunately, on this particular play he not only found himself playing out of position, but also failed to make the tackle. With weeks to prepare for this type of run/pass option (RPO), this is simply unacceptable and he would admit as much.

What he should have been doing was scraping over the top and securing the edge. That would have prevented Cam Newton from picking up a good chunk of yardage with his legs.

Let’s take a look at another play from Sunday afternoon.

Sean Lee missed tackle

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This is a play that we have seen Sean Lee make more often than not, and usually for a tackle for a loss. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened this time.

To his credit, he properly diagnoses the play and reacts accordingly. He is there to make the tackle at the line of scrimmage, but doesn’t continue to drive his feet through the tackle, eventually letting wide receiver slip right through his grasp.

These plays are uncharacteristically like Sean Lee. But again, is it due to rust or decline?

Since #50 was held out of quite a few practices and had relatively zero playing time in preseason, I’m hoping to chalk all of this up to rust rather than decline. For the most part he was in position to make the play, but just failed to execute. He did after all almost change the outcome of the game by himself.

Sean Lee tipped pass

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Sean Lee certainly had his fair share of bad plays Sunday, but this definitely wasn’t one of them. If Safety Jeff Heath could have secured the interception off Lee’s tipped pass, it would have prevented the Panthers from scoring on this drive and quite possibly changed the outcome of the entire game.

I don’t know where you stand, but I think Sean Lee’s Week 1 performance against the Panthers had a lot more to do with rust rather than decline. At least, that’s what we are all hoping anyways.

If I know Sean Lee, he is going to take the way he played Sunday personally and do his best to rebound from here on out. It’s just the kind of person/player he is. We will find out soon enough if he’s up to the task.

Is Sean Lee just rusty or is he actually starting to decline?

What do you think?

Brian Martin

Written by Brian Martin

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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