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Sean’s Scout: How Much Will The Cowboys Miss LB Sean Lee?

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: How Much Will The Cowboys Miss LB Sean Lee?

The Cowboys' week ten loss in Atlanta to the Falcons left plenty in Cowboys Nation with an uneasy feeling, myself included. Playing in the first of what we now know will be six straight games without RB Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys watched as their protection of Dak Prescott took them out of the game offensively as Chaz Green filled in for the injured Tyron Smith.

Green's awful day of work overshadowed just about everything else that went wrong for the now 5-4 Cowboys on the afternoon, set to host the division leading 8-1 Eagles on Sunday night. Sean Lee exited this game in the first quarter, and will not be back on the field this week to help Dallas slow down Carson Wentz and Philadelphia.

Prior to giving up 336 yards to the Falcons without Lee for the majority of it, the Cowboys faced the Rams at Packers at home in weeks four and five. Conceding over 30 points in both losses while allowing over 160 rushing yards in each, the Cowboys have shown nothing defensively that proves they can handle life without their general on the field.

I cut up the film to study why this is the case for Rod Marinelli's unit. Let's take a look at the Dallas Cowboys front seven, sans Sean Lee, in this new edition of Sean's Scout.

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The simple reason the Cowboys fail to hold up defensively without Sean Lee is because of the quality of players they have behind him that get forced into action. Clearly, Jaylon Smith at this point in his career is not ready to be an every down MIKE linebacker in Dallas.

Jaylon's rare flashes this season have come when Lee is playing his usual WILL position alongside him, as Sean's initial read and pursuit of the play allows Smith to seek the ball and finish.

Lined up as the sole LB on the field with Anthony Hitchens here though, the inside drive from Benson Mayowa at RDE forces Hitchens to play the cutback lane on this Aaron Jones touchdown run. Maliek Collins does his job as the 1T DT in drawing a double team, but the right guard makes a better play by climbing to the second level and finishing off an out-of-position Smith.

The lack of instincts, playing speed, and ability to get off blocks at linebacker without Sean Lee is a glaring weakness for the Cowboys right now that stuck out time after time on this tape.

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Damien Wilson is yet another player that has been forced to play out of position without Lee, although he's taken strides as a unique SAM linebacker with some ability to play WILL. Lined up at MIKE on this Todd Gurley gash, both Wilson and Jaylon Smith fail to shoot their gaps with clean technique or readiness to bring down a physical back like Gurley.

The Rams do block this play exceptionally well, but having the likes of Wilson, Smith, and later Kavon Frazier all wiped out of the play is an ominous sign for a Cowboys defense preparing to deal with LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi.

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Going back to the Cowboys loss to the Packers, you'll see Anthony Hitchens look to make the play coming across at SAM here as opposed to playing a cutback lane at WILL. That is Jaylon Smith lined up once again as the only other LB on the field, and as Hitchens gets caught on a block there is nobody but Smith - already lagging behind the play - to stop the speedy Aaron Jones from turning this rush up into the second and third level.

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So much of what the Dallas Cowboys do defensively is rooted in gap integrity across all levels. If players at any point lose their gaps, big plays are going to be there for opposing offenses. In this clip from last week's loss, an over aggressive Jaylon Smith actually runs into Anthony Hitchens - who was looking to take on the block of the tackle and squeeze the run.

In studying these games, it didn't matter if it was Smith, Hitchens, Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, or Kavon Frazier down in the box for Dallas. Sean Lee just means too much as the rallying force for his Cowboys defense, a masterful LB when it comes to fundamentally using his eyes, feet, and hands to constantly put himself in position to make impact plays.

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The Eagles are coming into AT&T Stadium on Sunday night with one of the more efficient offenses in the entire league. As a decision maker, it would be hard to find many quarterbacks executing at a higher level that Carson Wentz right now - as his Eagles have also relied heavily on a deep rotation of RBs getting the job done.

The "glass half full" way to look at the Cowboys loss to the Falcons was that they ideally had to fix only the LT position to get back to competing. Now, they must prepare for the possibility of playing without Tyron Smith once again, in addition to LB Sean Lee.

Failing to win a game on this trying 2017 season without Lee thus far, Rod Marinelli is going to have to put together something pretty special in finding a way to compensate for this loss on a prime time stage.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: How Much Will The Cowboys Miss LB Sean Lee?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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3 Comments
  • Randy Martin

    Sean as much of an optimist as I am, I am more of a realist. Past history speaks loudly about what happens when Lee is out and it ain’t pretty. And we saw how exposed we were on the O-Line last week. Unless Marinelli has a completely different look this week that will keep Philly off-balance and unless we can score, unlike last week, I just don’t have a good feeling this week. That being said, this will be a true test of our mettle this week as, in my opinion this is a do-or-die week for us. A win and we are 2 back of Philly, a loss and we are 4 back with no hope of the NFC East, and little to none of the Wild Card. If we lose, I say let’s see more of the young guns and back ups the rest of the season and find out where all our holes (I think we already know) are and plan for next season.

  • Travis Diggs

    Without Lee this defense reminds me of lost kids in the amusement park who cant find their parents. Everybodys confidence is shot which leaves them bird watching

  • CountLippy

    They are a sub par nfl defense without him, a better than average defense with him.

    Good luck “fixing” that.

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Cowboys QB Dak Prescott Embraces Lack of No. 1 Wide Receiver

Sean Martin

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Cowboys QB Dak Prescott Embraces Lack of No. 1 Wide Receiver

As I wrote exactly a week ago, in discussion of maligned Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Terrance Williams:

"...this won't be the first look we have at the status of the Cowboys receivers. I'm already on record having high expectations for Michael Gallup, and believe Cedrick Wilson was one of the steals of the draft for the Cowboys in the sixth round. The unproven nature of this pass catching unit (through to TE with rookie Dalton Schultz) is going to make for fascinating training camp battles, competing for spots in an offense that could still be one of the league's best".

Here we are again, with an emerging leadership voice of the Cowboys speaking about his wide receivers. Dak Prescott told Pro Football Talk that he, "doesn't know if any team in the league necessarily needs a No. 1 receiver".

This is a bold statement from a third-year quarterback that's already told Cowboys Nation this offseason that he wants to be the best to ever play for the franchise. Beginning the journey towards becoming a Cowboys legend must start with Prescott securing his status as the Cowboys franchise QB in 2018 - by throwing to Williams, Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley, Cedrick Wilson, and Allen Hurns.

This will be no easy task for Prescott, but the Cowboys have never wavered in their commitment to building this team around him. Left with no choice on personnel decisions like Jason Witten's retirement, the Cowboys are well-prepared to also deal with the loss of Dez Bryant.

If they weren't, Bryant would still be in Dallas, and as it stands now he remains a free agent. New to the Cowboys offense is not only Gallup, Wilson, and Hurns but also Tavon Austin as a pass-catching running back.

Strength in numbers must be the message for the Cowboys offense this season. Relying heavily on Ezekiel Elliott and a punishing offensive line will be what keeps opposing defensive coordinators up at night, but so too must be the diverse nature of how the Cowboys can line up on the outside.

Allowing Prescott to serve as a "point guard" like QB could lead to the Cowboys turning plenty of heads with their all-around play in 2018. Anybody writing them off simply because of unproven wide receivers lacks a complete understanding of the roster and how Scott Linehan plans to change his offense.

Sure, it's possible that Linehan fails to prove himself as a play caller worthy of the talent the Cowboys possess on offense - but the talent is there. In Prescott's rookie year, Cole Beasley emerged as his go-to receiver, only to regress in 2017.

With the Cowboys shipping Ryan Switzer to Oakland during the draft, Beasley has a clear path back towards developing this chemistry with Prescott out of the slot. The same should go for Allen Hurns, despite arriving in Dallas as a free agent this year.

Hurns has talked about holding himself to a high standard, despite joining the Cowboys to play with Dez Bryant initially.

"I felt it was a big opportunity to come to Dallas to play with Dez. But with him not being here, it’s a bigger opportunity. It's a matter of me making the most of the opportunity"

Plenty of Cowboys receivers will have a chance to make the most of the opportunity to play in this offense. Hurns' spot as an outside starter feels safe, as he could be the big "No. 1" target Prescott needs to either find in the red zone or distribute the ball elsewhere.

The amount of change the Dallas Cowboys have gone through since drafting Dak Prescott is a cruel reminder of how difficult reaching the pinnacle of sports can be. The Cowboys biggest challenge to reach the playoffs again in 2018?

Silence the doubt that a declining Dez Bryant no longer being with the team will derail the efforts of this deep and eager-to-compete WRs room.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys QB Dak Prescott Embraces Lack of No. 1 Wide Receiver" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary

Sean Martin

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Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary 1

The Dallas Cowboys best move of the offseason may very well be hiring Kris Richard as their new passing game coordinator. Despite not signing any free agents or drafting added talent for Richard to work with in the secondary, the Cowboys have plenty of reasons to feel great about their current starters - along with an intriguing class of UDFAs.

The prospects of Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Byron Jones, and Xavier Woods working with Richard to sharpen their skills with Seattle's "Legion of Boom" fabricator is as good as it gets. In a very short period of time, the cornerback position has turned into one of the hardest spots for fringe players to make the Dallas Cowboys roster.

Don't tell this to San Diego State's Kameron Kelly. Neither Richard or Kelly may be household names around the NFL, but San Francisco 49ers Cornerback Richard Sherman certainly is. Sherman also happens to be the player the Cowboys are looking for Kelly -- an undrafted free agent that didn't receive a single college offer from "power five" schools -- to emulate.

Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary

Dallas Cowboys Passing Game Cooridinator Kris Richard with Richard Sherman

Given all that Sherman meant to Richard's defenses since being drafted by his Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, these feel like impossible expectations for Kelly to live up to.

The 6015 (6' 1 5/8") defender didn't even play the same position as Sherman until his final collegiate season, slowly making the transition from WR to DB at SDSU by starting as a Sophomore and Junior at safety.

Now just another player in a blue jersey with white numbers at The Star, Kelly is looking to earn the star on a team that may look to remain young, deep, and most importantly versatile in the secondary by keeping one or more UDFAs.

That is, if any of these long shot players deserve a spot on the final 53-man roster. Kelly already has an edge on this field, blessed with the length and daunting frame that allows Richard and the Cowboys to dream of featuring their own Richard Sherman.

"I think he’s trying to turn me into his next Richard Sherman or something". - Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Kameron Kelly

Kris Richard is going to coach everybody he comes across hard. He knows no other way. Kam Kelly is already embracing this, seeing the Cowboys vision for him and not backing down from the challenge.

Turn on the tape for this "diamond in the rough" prospect, and you'll see a player that carries this same competitive toughness onto the field.

Mike Mayock on Twitter

Will a DB compete / tackle ? Top of screen- flat footed read on bubble- trusts eyes and goes ! Just checking boxes- I see you, kameron Kelly of SDSU.... https://t.co/fJM4s16Eq1

Kelly joins Charvarius Ward, Donovan Olumba, and Tyree Robinson as the Cowboys class of UDFAs at both cornerback and safety. An athletic DB out of Oregon, Robinson has made a strong initial impression with several plays on the ball in drills so far.

However, it was Kam Kelly that set up an interception for Jameill Showers in yesterday's practice by getting in the face of rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup.

Projecting anything that resembles a starting lineup for the Cowboys defense in the last week of May is silly. So too is realistically expecting Kelly, Ward, Olumba, or Robinson to ever crack this lineup.

Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary 2

Dallas Cowboys CB Kameron Kelly

The Cowboys could find themselves without enough practice snaps to go around for starting caliber players like Awuzie, Lewis, Jones, Anthony Brown, and even Marquez White. This does not bode well for Kam Kelly, who is only going to continue generating buzz from fans and the Dallas media.

For now, Kelly is getting his chance though. The Cowboys are ever-so-slowly getting back into form for 2018 - doing so with many familiar faces no longer on the roster. This team is going to look different on both sides of the ball come September, and Cowboys Nation can only hope it's for the better given the impressive amount of depth all over the field.

Kam Kelly won't back down from the depth the Cowboys have at CB, expecting to impress his new coach Kris Richard in the mold of three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman.

Tell us what you think about "Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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Rico Gathers’ Absence in 2018 Wasn’t About Health

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Rico Gathers, Rams

A sixth-round pick out of Baylor University, Rico Gathers was supposed to be one hell of a football story. A basketball superstar, Gathers hadn't played college football at all, but the traits he had were enough for the Dallas Cowboys to take a chance on him during the final day of the 2016 NFL Draft to find a potential heir to Jason Witten.

After spending his entire rookie season developing in the practice squad, it felt like Gathers would have his chance in 2017. However, after suffering a concussion in the preseason, he never saw the field during the regular season. Despite initially making the 53-man roster, he was quickly placed on injured reserve.

Cowboys Nation hoped to see him back after the mandatory eight weeks in IR, but the much-anticipated comeback never took place.

The narrative was that the concussion was more serious than previously thought and that there was also a jaw injury involved. And through it all, there were some whispers about Gathers' absence being more coaching related than health related.

Last Wednesday, the former Baylor basketball star talked to the media about his situation and brought some very interesting responses to the table.

Brandon George on Twitter

Cowboys TE Rico Gathers said he was cleared from his concussion after Week 7 last year to return to practice. "But I could just tell by the drift of the season and the drift of the coaching staff that I probably wasn't going to play this last year anyway.

If his comments are true, it really confirms that the fact that Gathers didn't get any playing time at all last season wasn't only concussion-related. If he was truly ready to go since week 8, then him not being on the field shows how the Cowboys coaching staff isn't sold on the player like the fans are.

Sure, it'd be one hell of a story. And of course, he seemed to make a statement during the preseason. However, it's not like Dallas had very special backup tight ends behind Jason Witten. As much as it hates to admit it, maybe Gathers simply isn't as good as some thought he was.

This was not the only interesting comment from Rico as he also said that the jaw injury never happened, claiming that was something media-related. This obviously brings up an even more interesting question: Was the team lying about Gathers' health to keep him on IR and avoid having to get him on the practice squad and risking him being pouched by another team?

We might never get to know the absolute truth in this case, but it's still worth noting.

Right now, Gathers' fight is all about making it to the regular season.

Brandon George on Twitter

Rico Gathers: "The biggest thing for me this year is just making it to the regular season. I have to make sure I'm healthy and make sure I'm able to be on somebody's 53-man roster.

"Somebody's 53-man roster" is the quote that sticks out from this comment. If Gathers makes it to a roster for the 2018 season, it just might not be with the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps it's for the best. The team has a chance to give Dalton Schultz an important role from day 1 and continue with Geoff Swaim's and Blake Jarwin's development going forward.

Rico Gathers may still be in the picture, for sure, but don't be surprised if he's shown the door before expected. I think every fan out there agrees that having a kid who hadn't played football since he was 13-years old turn into a quality starter in the league would've been remarkable.

But it's time to realize that that doesn't look to be the case.

Right now, Gathers is fighting for a spot on the roster. He's going to have to put up a big fight if he's to prove he's worthy of wearing the Star. Luckily for the Dallas Cowboys, with a deep TE room, they won't be desperately relying on his success to find the new starting tight end of the franchise.

Tell me what you think about "Rico Gathers’ Absence in 2018 Wasn’t About Health" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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