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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.

Packers1 – Streamable

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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.

Rams3 – Streamable

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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.

Packers2 – Streamable

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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.

Falcons2 – Streamable

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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.

Rams1 – Streamable

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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!

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Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we’re not how you think we are. Host of “Upon Further Review” on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @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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La’el Collins’ Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Brian Martin

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La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise 1

The decision by the Dallas Cowboys to move La’el Collins from left guard to right tackle was met by some skepticism by quite a few members of Cowboys Nation during the off-season. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of those skeptical of the move, but I’m not afraid to admit he has exceeded my expectations.

In all honesty, I always believed that La’el Collins’ best position in the NFL is on the interior of the offense of line as a guard. I thought he could use his strength and athleticism to his advantage when working in a phone booth against slower and less athletic defensive tackles. That’s not to say I didn’t think he would make a good right tackle, I just thought he had Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

Strangely enough, Collins has probably put together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first season starting at the right tackle position for the Cowboys. He has become an upgrade over the previous starter Doug Free, and is really starting to earn high praise from the brass. Stephen Jones in particular has been impressed with Collins, especially considering how he has played after missing two full weeks of practice.

Mark Lane on Twitter

DallasCowboys COO Stephen Jones told @1053thefan La’el Collins has answered the bell after his contract extension.

I personally agree with everything Stephen Jones said about La’el Collins. I’ve really enjoyed watching his progression this season, but I have been really impressed how he played the last two weeks after missing so much practice.

You might not of known, but Collins has missed two full weeks of practice due to a herniated disc in his back. This is put his availability to play against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants in jeopardy, but somehow he has toughened up and played considerably well.

This unfortunately will be something he has to continue to battle through the rest of the season, but I’m not going to bet against him playing. He absolutely makes this offensive line better and I would hate to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell back on the field after the way they played as feel-ins.

La’el Collins has without a doubt earned my respect and I think it’s about time we all recognize the player he is turning into. I know the Dallas Cowboys appreciate all that he does and believe that his recent contract extension is money well spent.

What do you think about La’el Collins?

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Cowboys’ DE DeMarcus Lawrence Fed Up With NFL Officiating

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Crossroads: Is This a Short-Term or Long-Term Team? 2

The Dallas Cowboys were able to come away with a 30-10 victory over the New York Giants Sunday afternoon in what was described as a must-win situation in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. Typically, when these two teams square off against one another there are sure to be some kind of fireworks in the ballgame, but the final volley of explosions didn’t go off until after the completion of the game during an interview with DeMarcus Lawrence.

DeMarcus Lawrence didn’t hold back in his post game interview, especially in regard to the NFL officiating. He let his frustrations known that he is fed up and that he’s not going to take it anymore. At least not quietly that is.

Lawrence, the NFL’s sack leader, ripped the officiating crew after the Giants game Sunday afternoon for not calling any holding penalties. There was actually one holding penalty called against the Giants, but the point Lawrence was trying to make still rings true.

Joe Trahan on Twitter

Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence goes on an explosive rant about officiating, in particular, a lack of holding calls by linemen against him. And yes, Lawrence realizes he a fine is coming, whether he’s got a point, or not. And yes, he probably does. https://t.co/UU51xQi05p

DeMarcus Lawrence certainly has a right to be mad and I don’t blame him at all for voicing his frustrations about the lack of holding calls against opposing offensive lineman. This actually adds more fuel to the fire that there is indeed an officiating conspiracy against the Cowboys.

In fact, you may or may not be surprised to learn that there have only been two holding penalties called on Cowboys’ opponents in the last 10 games, including the one against the Giants Sunday afternoon. For comparison sake, the Cowboys offensive line have been flagged 18 times during that time span.

It’s gotta be a coincidence, right? Maybe, maybe not. But, one thing is for sure… DeMarcus Lawrence has had enough!

Of course, Lawrence’s outburst will surely earn him a fine from the NFL, but it may be worth it if it draws more attention to the poor officiating the Cowboys have been receiving. I don’t know about you, but I for one am glad #90 will not “go gentle into that good night“.

Do you think DeMarcus Lawrence’s frustration is justified?

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Travis Frederick Nominated For Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award

Sean Martin

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Travis Frederick

Every year since 1970, the National Football League has honored a player that goes above and beyond to give back to their community while excelling on the field of play. Known as the Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award since 1999 (the year the Chicago Bears’ Hall of Fame RB passed away), the Dallas Cowboys’ 2017 nominee is starting C Travis Frederick.

Next month, three finalists will be chosen out of the current field of 32 nominees, and Cowboys Nation will know further if their three-time Pro Bowl center can become the fourth Cowboy to win this award.

TE Jason Witten is the most recent member of America’s Team to take home this prestigious honor back in 2012, meaning that he will play the rest of his career with this sleek jersey decal that was revealed last night.

Brian McCarthy on Twitter

New tradition starting tonite: Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year winners to wear special patch on their jerseys to recognize their contributions to their communities. @saints @drewbrees among the 5 current winners

As their 2017 nominee, Frederick will sport the same logo as a helmet decal. The issue Travis Frederick has grappled with the most since being drafted by the Cowboys is hunger among school children and low-income families.

Frederick’s Blocking Out Hunger Foundation includes a pantry that provides over 10,000 meals a year and his Nourish2Flourish program is on pace to provide students 90,000 meals by the end of this year.

Travis Frederick Walter Payton Man Of The Year – Streamable

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This video from the NFL’s release of the 2017 Walter Payton Man Of The Year nominees shows the full range of people Frederick has impacted with his generosity and outreach as a star for a Cowboys team that consistently strives to lead the league in these efforts.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

@dak, @tfrederick72 & @DCC_Tasha visiting @MedicalCityKids, spending time with patients and staff. #CowboysGiveBack

On the field, Travis Frederick has dealt with multiple LGs starting next to him, anchoring the Cowboys’ offensive line through these transitions with his steady play and leadership. Originally seen as a reach of a draft pick, Frederick has blown past most draft projections for him out of Wisconsin in 2013 thanks to his intelligence at the center position.

Taking this same approach to his community service efforts, Frederick is now at the center of an award that all 32 teams would be proud to have on their team for the Dallas Cowboys.

Congratulations to Travis Frederick and the 31 other nominees from around the National Football League.

Tell us what you think about “Travis Frederick Nominated For Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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