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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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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room

Sean Martin

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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room 1

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.

Jane Slater on Twitter

Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line

The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.

Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.

Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp

What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.

The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.

Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.

To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.

Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.

If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.

Tell us what you think about "Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys LB Named NFC Defensive Player of the Week Against Eagles

Jess Haynie

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Leighton Vander Esch
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

You already knew that Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker, had a great night last Sunday in Philadelphia. Apparently the rest of the football world agreed, and now he's been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

The award is the first of what could be many for Leighton, who has emerged as a defensive leader for the Cowboys. He's been playing more in the absence of veteran Sean Lee, who has been battling hamstring issues all season.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

THE. WOLF. HUNTER. Congratulations to #DallasCowboys rookie LB @VanderEsch38 on being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week! → https://t.co/XeSTt2tIpX

This is the second Player of the Week award for a Dallas Cowboys this season. Kicker Brett Maher won the Special Teams version in Week 4 after going 4-for-4 and hitting a game winner over the Detroit Lions.

The Defensive Player award hasn't gone to a Cowboys since Week of 2017, when DeMarcus Lawrence put up three sacks against the Arizona Cardinals.

Leighton's recognition is also well-earned. He led Dallas with 13 tackles and an interception in a pivotal road victory against a division rival. In what was arguably a "must-win" game for the Cowboys, their first-round pick stepped up and stood out.

A few more games like this, and Vander Esch could be in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. But even above personal accolades, Leighton's play could help the Cowboys make a push in the NFC East.

If nothing else, he's making that first-round pick look smarter every week.



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Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott

John Williams

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Takeaway Tuesday: Prescott's Legs Give Offense a Much Needed Spark

Things have not gone well for Dak Prescott this season. His play has been up and down and he hasn't given the team or Cowboys Nation much reason to believe that he's the future at the quarterback position for the Dallas Cowboys. Speaking to 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas today, Legendary Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Roger Staubach offered support for the Cowboys current quarterback, Dak Prescott.

Staubach had this to say when asked about Dak Prescott.

Mark Lane on Twitter

Roger Staubach on @1053thefan said #Dak is a part of the problem with the #Cowboys offense, but he is not the problem.

Roger Staubach didn't start in the NFL until the third year of his career and thinks that's a good time for the quarterback to make the jump. At this point, we are 40 games into Dak Prescott's NFL career and we can see some of the things that he's good at as well as some of the things that he struggles with.

As Staubach points out, Dak Prescott has the intangibles that you look for in a quarterback, even if his play hasn't been what you'd want at the position. Roger admits that Dak shoulders some of the blame for the offensive woes of the last 16 games, but realizes that there are  many reasons for the Cowboys offensive failures this season.

Roger Staubach believes that the Dallas Cowboys can win with Dak Prescott as their starting quarterback despite some of the flaws that have crept up over the last 16 games. He's not wrong.

Staubach's pretty accurate in his assessment that there's been more good than bad. If you look at the first 24 games of Dak Prescott's career, he was really good. Through the last 16 games, he's struggled at times. So technically there's been more good than bad. The problem is that over the last 16 games, there's been more bad than good. The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and lately Dak hasn't done much. We can debate all day on how much of the struggles Prescott's faced are on him, but everyone should be willing to admit that some of the struggles are on him.

It's plausible that the confidence in Prescott that Jerry Jones has comes from Roger's belief that the Cowboys can win games with Dak Prescott at quarterback; and they have. In Prescott's career, the Dallas Cowboys are 25-15. Though wins are a team stat and not a quarterback stat, it just goes as evidence that Dak Prescott can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League.

Dak has some flaws, but the offense and its play caller haven't helped Prescott much this season. We should be critical of Prescott because he has a big pay day coming, if you believe Jerry Jones. While Dak has some flaws, he also has some traits that can make him a good quarterback in the NFL with the right coaching situation behind him. 2018 may be running out of time for the Dallas Cowboys and their playoff prospects, but the Cowboys have time before they have to make a decision on Prescott.



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