After four weeks you’re probably looking for something to focus on other than the Dallas Cowboys’ lackluster offense. So how about the emergence of perhaps the next great linebacker for the Cowboys?
You need to start paying more attention to third-year inside linebacker Sean Lee, if you’re not already. Lee’s not hiding in plain sight, mind you. He had 131 total tackles last year, four picked-off passes and two fumble recoveries.
But for those that have watched the Cowboys play all four games this year, it’s clear that Lee that taken his play to another level, one that could earn him his first Pro Bowl nod by December.
Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee that taken his play to another level, one that could earn him his first Pro Bowl nod by December.
By the numbers
Lee has 47 tackles through four games. That doesn’t sound startling until you consider that he has more than twice as many tackles as the next-best tackler on the team, linebacker Bruce Carter.
Inside of those 47 tackles is another crazy number. Lee has 29 solo tackles. That’s more than twice as many as anyone else on the team. Carter is the next closest with 13.
Lee is all over the place right now. Numbers are one thing. Impact plays are another, and Lee’s been making plenty of them. Start with the opener against the New York Giants. The media made a big deal about offensive lineman Tyron Smith tracking down the Giants’ Michael Boley after an interception.
Conveniently, most forgot about the fumble Lee forced from Ahmad Bradshaw in the first quarter, a play that would have been just as important if the Cowboys’ impotent offense had turned it into points.
Everyone remembers Lee’s getting rocked by Seattle’s Golden Tate while pursuing a ball carrier in the first half, but they fail to remember that he tied the franchise record for tackles in a game with 21. This record was held for 41 years by Lee Roy Jordan.
It should be noted that the NFL only credits Lee with 14 tackles for that game, as the NFL doesn't actually recognize tackles as an official statistic. Nevertheless, he had a great game.
Tampa Bay may have been Lee’s “worst” game of the year. But he had seven tackles, a defended pass and an interception that set up DeMarco Murray’s 11-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. As much praise as the Cowboys’ secondary has received this season, Lee is the only Cowboy with an interception.
About the only thing Sean Lee doesn’t do is sack the quarterback. But the Cowboys have DeMarcus Ware for that.
In the debacle against Chicago two weeks ago, Lee finished with 14 tackles. Lee's total tackle numbers from last year, oddly enough, match up with where he is after four games this year.
But the impact plays were missing in 2011. Through four games last year, he didn’t force a fumble or pick off a pass. He’s done both after the same marker this year.
Lee's place in history
About the only thing Lee doesn’t do is sack the quarterback. But the Cowboys have DeMarcus Ware for that. Many don’t look at Ware as a pure linebacker. They look at him as more of a pass rusher. Lee better fits the prototype of Cowboys linebackers of the past.
We’re talking about guys like Chuck Howley, the Super Bowl V Most Valuable Player, and his buddy Lee Roy Jordan, the franchise’s leading tackler among linebackers. The two of them combined for 11 Pro Bowl visits.
Of more recent vintage there’s Bob Breuning, who made three Pro Bowls; Ken Norton Jr., who manned the middle for those Cowboys Super Bowl teams in the 1990s; and Dexter Coakley, who went to three Pro Bowls in the 1990s.
It’s too early to consider Lee on the level of Howley or Jordan. But the way Lee has started this season, it looks like the nation is going to find out what astute Cowboys fans already know: Sean Lee is a star in the making.