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Sean Lee: Time for the General to Surrender

John Williams

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REPORT: Cowboys LB Sean Lee to Miss Games with Hamstring Injury

“Football is a meritocracy,” said Tony Romo about this time two years ago. He’d just been told that Dak Prescott would remain the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, though Romo was deemed healthy enough to return to action. Well, the Cowboys face a similar situation with another rookie playing excellent football with a veteran on the sideline. The rookie is Leighton Vander Esch and the veteran is Sean Lee.

When Romo stepped aside he issued the words that have become synonymous with who Tony Romo is, “Football is a meritocracy.” As sad as it is when it comes to the end of a player’s career, the time has come for General Lee to wave that white flag as a full-time player in the NFL.

Lee has been one of the best linebackers in the game during his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, but has always been limited by his body’s inability to stay healthy. In most seasons, the Cowboys haven’t had an adequate replacement for Lee on the depth chart and that led to disastrous outcomes like the Green Bay and Los Angeles games in 2017.  Most years, we’d sit around for weeks telling ourselves, “if the Cowboys can hang in there until Sean Lee gets back, then they’ll be alright.” 

That all seems to be over now. The Dallas Cowboys finally have a player on the depth chart who can adequately, and perhaps more than adequately, replace Sean Lee’s production at the weak side linebacker position in Vander Esch. You don’t have to be a film grinder to see that the 19th overall pick has become a difference maker for the Cowboys and someone you can’t take off the field. He’s the future, but he’s also proving to be the now at WILL for the Dallas Cowboys and the coaching staff as well as Sean Lee need to recognize that. 

Vander Esch has two interceptions in the last two games, won defensive player of the week for his play against the Philadelphia Eagles. Per Pro Football Focus, Vander Esch is second in the NFL among linebackers in tackles and fourth in the NFL in stops. 

He’s been one of the best players on the team this season and shouldn’t come off the field, even for an All-Pro like Sean Lee.  

So the coaches have a difficult decision to make, but with the Dak Prescott-Tony Romo decision as a template, it’s not really a difficult decision. 

It’s time for Sean Lee to take a step back. He’s a leader on the defense whether he’s on the field or on the sideline. He’s a huge asset to the linebacker room in-game preparation, and he can still make plays for you when asked to do so. Lee, however, doesn’t need to see a full-time compliment of snaps when he returns unless we see a drop off in play for Leighton Vander Esch. Vander Esch’s play and Lee’s body are telling us that the time is now to make the transition to life on defense beyond Sean Lee.

Lee is still an important player to have around and he’ll get some snaps, but the WILL linebacker spot needs to be Leighton Vander Esch’s moving forward. 

Because, after all, “football is a meritocracy.” 



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Barry Graham

    November 19, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    So, what’s the rush? Sean Lee is a smart guy. He’ll know when it’s time for him to transition. No harm having two great linebackers in a rotation.

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      November 19, 2018 at 10:18 pm

      Totally agree. Sean is a great player to have back up the WILL and the MIKE. I’m not getting rid of him, just don’t want him taking snaps from LVE. Much like with Gallup after the Cooper trade, I didn’t want to see Gallup start to take a step back.

      • DevilDog58

        November 20, 2018 at 1:04 pm

        I think with the Cooper trade the opposite will happen. Being mentored by a true #1 will give us 2 great WR on the outside and let Beasley play the slot where he will shine.

        • John Williams

          John Williams

          November 20, 2018 at 4:23 pm

          Exactly. Gallup continuing to run as a starter is excellent. I was just worried he would take a back seat after the fact.

  2. Guy Fawkes

    November 19, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Or move Vander esch over to Damien Wilson’s spot and run with the 3 best lb’s in the game . Sean Lee move over you’re crazy . Perhaps you should cover another team.

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      November 19, 2018 at 10:19 pm

      LVE doesn’t have the ability to set the edge at the point of attack the way Damien Wilson can. Your SAM has to be able to take on and shed blocks from guards and tackles. You want your WILL to be able to run free because the 1-tech defensive tackle is holding up the guard and center allowing the WILL to flow with the play.

      • DevilDog58

        November 20, 2018 at 8:28 am

        Those are good points, Bro. Maybe keeping Lee fresh is the best idea. One thing is for sure, I wouldn’t mind seeing him coach our LBers when he retires. He is such a student of the game I think he’d be an outstanding coach.

        • John Williams

          John Williams

          November 20, 2018 at 4:23 pm

          Exactly. Keep Lee at like 10-20 snaps a game and you’ll get a better fresher Lee.

      • Ethan Chazin

        November 20, 2018 at 9:03 am

        Well said, John. A voice of reason. Plus given the state of the game and pounding LBs take, having an All-Pro to leverage as a “back up” is a great luxury. Also seems like Lee would NOT want to go to another team to prolong an injury-filled career?

        • John Williams

          John Williams

          November 20, 2018 at 10:54 pm

          Absolutely. Lee can still play about 20% of the snaps as a backup MIKE and WILL LB and be potentially more effecitve of a player with less injury risk.

  3. DevilDog58

    November 19, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    I also think there’s no rush in limiting Lee’s snaps on the field. I know he’s played two positions and I think he could play all three. I say move him to Sam LB and we’ll have Vander Esch, Smith and Lee on the field as our LBing corps. Who knows? Maybe Sean can stay healthy and we’d have one of the best if not the best LB corps in the League. If we get all our DL healthy, I would absolutely love to have them with DLaw, Irving, Collins, Woods & Gregory in front of them and Awuzie, Heath, Woods or Frazier & Jones behind them. The S spot I’m not sure about because it’s the one position we don’t have an impact player at on D. I hope we can pick one up in the off season (maybe Earl?). Man, what a D we could have next year. Of course this year’s looking pretty good too!

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      November 19, 2018 at 10:22 pm

      Neither Lee or LVE would be nearly as effective at SAM because your SAM is for all intents and purposes like the 1T defensive tackle just on the EDGE. The SAM’s responsibility is to take on blockers and set the EDGE so that the MIKE and WILL can flow freely. I love Sean Lee. I just think we are seeing LVE playing at a really high level.

      I like the idea of having Lee as a backup to Smith and LVE and you can still run Lee out there in nickel as well. Limit his snaps and make him more effective.

      • DevilDog58

        November 28, 2018 at 12:48 pm

        Really, what I was thinking was for next year. LVE @ MLB, Lee @ WLB & Jaylon @ SLB. Of course for it to work Lee would have to stay healthy all year, a feat he has never accomplished. I do think with his size & speed LVE would be great at MLB. Smith has the brains and speed to play anywhere. Whose the other LB? Is it Damien Wilson? I don’t think I have ever heard his name called during a game. But Lee is getting older so it’s better to rotate him. Just wish they would/could rotate him on the OTHER side.

      • DevilDog58

        December 6, 2018 at 3:18 pm

        What worries me is that I read Jerry’s going to give Lee back the starting job. I agree with you on limiting his snaps and letting LVE play the majority of the downs. That kid is exploding and I think taking him out of the games too much would be a huge mistake.

  4. David Anthony

    November 19, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    John, truer words have never been spoken… Sean Lee should seriously consider making the move to coaching. He has the mind for it and his hamstrings won’t be an issue. This is no knock against Lee, I have nothing but respect for the guy. He has proven his skill in an unquestionable fashion. But facts are facts; he has never been able to stay on the field.

    However, don’t expect logic to suddenly become a strong suit in Dallas. The Cowboys under J.J.’s tenure have routinely exhibited characteristics that run counter to sound reasoning.

    His recent public commitment to Dak and Garret serve as good examples. We win a game or two and suddenly Dak’s missed reads and inconsistent throws don’t matter? I’m not ready to throw Dak to the curb but he needs to actually demonstrate he’s our best option at the position. Many analysts who should know don’t see it.

    Another case in point, Jason G has failed to deliver the goods for the better part of a decade yet J.J. says he’s not playing for his job.

    It’s one of those things that make you go hmmmmmmmmm.

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      November 19, 2018 at 10:23 pm

      Appreciate the positive feedback. It’s a difficult and touchy subject for some.

      I love Lee and want to keep him around as long as he’s willing. I just would prefer him to take on a reserve role and allow the young dynamic duo take the lead at LB.

    • DevilDog58

      November 20, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      Thanks for agreeing with my suggestion of coaching for Lee. I hope he chooses that path instead of the booth.

      • John Williams

        John Williams

        November 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm

        I think that’s the future for him. He’s got an excellent football mind and is already paying dividends as a mentor for the young linebackers. He can still have an on-field impact, but I think it’s time to let Smith and LVE be the now as well as the future.

        • DevilDog58

          November 28, 2018 at 12:38 pm

          Agreed. Now if we could just find a TE Coach……..

  5. Steve

    November 19, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    I’ve been looking at this very situation for a few weeks now and it seems when I really focused on it, LVE has blew up! He’s a stud and is the present and future LB of America’s Team along with Smith and Wilson and Lee! I believe Lee has maybe 1 more yr in him and I personally would love to see him and our boyz win a Championship before he retires! If not then he should see that his time has come and maybe be our LB’S coach because he is very intelligent and knows the game well and would be a valuable asset to one of the youngest teams in the NFL! With his contract off the books after this yr or next then Big D will be in awesome shape cap wise! Enough to sign our young studs and then get 1 or 2 of the market! We NEED Earl Thomas badly to control our young secondary and be that playmaker we desperately need because we have an A- Defensive line A+ Linebackers and B- Corners and IMO a D at safety! EARL could put our D on the map as one of the top 5 in the NFL and the youngest to boot!

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      November 19, 2018 at 10:25 pm

      I’m all about chasing Earl Thomas in the offseason to pair with Xavier Woods at safety and do think that would help the defense go from very very good to elite.

  6. Travis Diggs

    November 19, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Hopefully they dont let him leave to be a analyst like they did with Romo. Romo should be our qb coach and oc, nobody knows the offense like him. With that being said nobody knows the defense better than Sean Lee, he could easily step in and work alongside Benny Bloom which he’s probably already doing

    • John Williams

      John Williams

      November 19, 2018 at 10:24 pm

      Right. Lee is already a leader in the LB room and is probably coaching those guys up. I’d keep him on the roster as a backup WILL and MIKE as long as he’s willing to do so so he can collect that paycheck and then when he’s ready have a coaching office ready for him to walk into.

  7. EverybodyTalks

    November 21, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    If we are going to be in the playoffs and make this run towards it, then Sean, Jaylon, Damien and LVE all need to be rotated to stay fresh and reduce the chance of injury for each of them.
    They are all pluses to our LB corp and just read that Joe Thomas is back. Very hopeful he is 100% because Joe also brings a lot of intensity to the Wolf Pack.

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Cowboys Offseason: Landon Collins Cleaned Out Locker, Set to be FA

John Williams

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Cowboys Headlines - #DALvsNYG: Dealing With Giants Safety Landon Collins

It's no secret that the Dallas Cowboys are heading into the 2019 offseason looking to upgrade at the safety position on a defense that finished inside the top 10 in 2018. With much of the focus on Earl Thomas, New York Giants Safety Landon Collins has become the center of attention in the last couple of days.

Per a report by Josina Anderson, Collins cleaned out his locker on Wednesday as he gets ready to go into free agency for the first time.

ig: josinaanderson on Twitter

I'm told that Giants S Landon Collins cleaned out his locker today at the team facility and said his goodbyes to teammates, coaches and trainers. It doesn't seem like Collins expects to be a Giant for much longer, per sources.

After Paul Schwartz attempted to assert that there was no claim to the report...

Paul Schwartz on Twitter

Attention those who care about the New York Giants: Landon Collins HAS NOT cleaned out his locker at the team facility. Repeat: Landon Collins HAS NOT cleaned out his locker at the team facility. Go about your business and have a nice day.

And Landon Collins had this to say...

https://twitter.com/TheHumble_21/status/1098315997839265792

If cleaning out a locker is any kind of evidence, then Collins is prepared to hit the market when free agency opens on March 13th. He joins a loaded safety group that includes Thomas, Houston Texans Safety Tyrann Mathieu, Los Angeles Rams Safety LaMarcus Joyner, Glover Quin of the Detroit Lions, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix formerly of the Green Bay Packers, but most recently of the Washington Redskins, and several others who could find new homes this offseason.

The Cowboys are very familiar with Landon Collins, as they've seen him nearly twice a year over the last four years. The three time Pro Bowler was one of the best players on the Giants defense. They would line him up in the box and at time use him to cover Cole Beasley.

Collins ranked first in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus in run stop percentage at 7.2%. Meaning on running snaps, he made a tackle that rendered the running play ineffective 7.2% of the time.For further reference, Jeff Heath made a run stop on 4.2% of his run plays, which was 15th in the NFL among safeties.

The only positions to have more of an impact on the running game were linebackers and the defensive line. Even if you include linebackers, his run stop percentage was 31st in the NFL. Leighton Vander Esch led the Dallas Cowboys with a run stop percentage of 11.3%, which was third among linebackers. Collins number nearly matched the run stop percentage of Jaylon Smith at 7.6%.

Add Collins to a defense that stops the run as well as the Dallas Cowboys did last season and you take your team to another level against the run.

Landon Collins will probably get the most money this offseason. He's only 25 and has had success in the NFL. Many teams will be reaching out to Collins when free agency opens and the Dallas Cowboys should certainly be one of those teams. Collins would be an excellent addition to the Dallas Cowboys defense and would allow Xavier Woods to stay in his role as the free safety.

We're just under three weeks away from the start of NFL free agency and the drama will only get bigger as the Cowboys look to add to their team.



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Report: Free Agent DL David Irving Not in Dallas Cowboys’ 2019 Plans

Jess Haynie

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David Irving

The Dallas Cowboys and troubled Defensive Lineman David Irving appear to be at an impasse. According to a report from David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, the team has "no intention" of trying to re-sign Irving and will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.

Irving started the 2018 season with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He only appeared in two games after that, registering one sack and four tackles.

David Moore on Twitter

Source: Cowboys have no intention of keeping DT David Irving at this time https://t.co/vqMNZty6Aq via @sportsdaydfw

Despite reports of David's ongoing issues with an ankle injury, Dallas never placed him on injured reserve. Then came the reports that Irving was missing practices and team meetings while dealing with personal issues related to the custody of his daughter.

The team stayed pretty mum on the subject of Irving's status throughout the year, falling back on the ankle injury when pushed. But after months, it became clear that either David, the team, or both parties were disinterested in his return to football.

The Cowboys had high hopes after 2017, when Irving posted seven sacks in just eight games. They placed a second-round tender on him last offseason as a restricted free agent and were surely ready to give him a long-term deal if he'd built on that success.

But David's issues, physical or otherwise, have clearly done the opposite.

Dallas is known for working with troubled players, as we've recently seen with Randy Gregory. That they're closing the book on Irving suggests there's an issue with his desire towards football.

It's a sad loss for both. David's potential is enormous, as evidenced by his productivity when he actually does play. But he appears more likely to hit the Commissioner's exempt list in 2019 than the football field, given the reports of multiple failed drug tests over the last year.

Hopefully David Irving can turn things around one day and capitalize on his talent. But if it ever happens, it appears that it won't be with the Dallas Cowboys.



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BREAKING: WR Terrance Williams Gets Dropped by Dallas Cowboys

Jess Haynie

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Takeaway Tuesday: What We Learned From Cowboys Loss To Packers
AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

The Dallas Cowboys have ended their six-year relationship with Wide Receiver Terrance Williams. According to multiple sources, they have declined a team option on Williams' contract and he will now be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

The move will reportedly save the Cowboys $2.25 million in salary space this year.

Williams was the team's third-round pick in 2013 and started 68 of the 83 games he played in. He developed into a solid number-two receiver by the end of his rookie deal in 2016 and was given a new four-year contract that offseason.

David Moore on Twitter

Terrance Williams career w/ the Cowboys is done. Sources say the club has declined the WR's option for 2019, making him a free agent. The move is no surprise. He caught just 2 passes for 18 yards last season. His departure frees up $2.25 million on the cap.

After another decent year in 2017, things took a bad turn for Terrance last season. It started with an offseason arrest for public intoxication that eventually led to a three-game suspension, although Williams served that while on injured reserve.

The Cowboys already appeared to be giving Williams' spot away when they made several offseason acquisitions at WR; Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin all were brought in even before Terrance's arrest.

While Williams did start in two of Dallas' first three games in 2018, he only had three passes his thrown his way. The team finally put him on IR due to ongoing complications with a surgically-repaired foot.

While it didn't end well, Terrance Williams' time in Dallas was ultimately a solid return for a third-round pick. He made a few big plays and was a proficient run-blocker, good enough to start in almost 75% of the team's games since he was drafted.

The Cowboys now hope that another third-round pick, Michael Gallup in 2018, will do bigger and better things.



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