Sean Lee has dealt with a plethora of injuries during his nine-year career. 2018 was no different, as multiple hamstring injuries would cost him to miss nine games, and limited him to his lowest tackle total since his rookie season. This latest wardrobe change so to speak could help as the upcoming season approaches.
The Cowboys lost their starting strongside Linebacker Damien Wilson to Kansas City via free agency. This left a hole to fill at the position, and the organization made a smart move by switching Sean Lee from weakside linebacker to strong. This kills two birds with one stone. Not only does it upgrade the position with a better player, but it also allows the Cowboys to have their three best players at linebacker on the field when their base 4-3 package is called.
Sean Lee is fully embracing the change, and the new responsibilities of it heading into 2019. “As the game has changed, the standup linebacker positions can be similar at times. There are different responsibilities. Learning some of those different responsibilities, I’ll be working on that and I have great help from Coach Ben Bloom. And then there will be times when I’ll be in similar positions I’ve been in,” Lee said.
The Cowboys mostly operate out of a nickel package, with two linebackers on the field, those will be Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, holding down the middle and weakside linebacker positions. This will limit Lee’s snap count while also preserving his availability. There’s no denying that when healthy Sean Lee is not only good but dominant, putting himself in the same realm as Carolina’s Luke Kuechly and Seattle’s Bobby Wagner as the best linebackers in football. The only drawback has been health, and now with this move, that issue can hopefully be solved.
Even though he was sidelined for more than half of 2018, Lee couldn’t help but notice what his two young protege’s Smith and Vander Esch were doing in his absence and is chomping at the bit to join them this season. “That’s a dream come true to play with two young guys who love football. All-Pro players who played unbelievable last year and really willed our team from a tough record early in the season, to snap back and get into the playoffs is really because of those guys, how well they played and the whole group, the whole defense,” Lee said.
The Cowboys finished 7th overall in total defense last season, mostly without Sean Lee. Now with this new plan in place, the unit has their All-Pro leader back in a reduced but more beneficial role. A win-win scenario for all parties involved.
The hope here is that the all too present injury bug goes away for Lee, while simultaneously blending his skill and leadership with the rising stock of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. If this were to be the case, the Cowboys will have the best linebacker trio in the NFL. The rejuvenation of the general is hopefully upon us.