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Assessing the Loss of Cowboys’ LB Sean Lee

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The Dallas Cowboys will be without LB Sean Lee (hamstring) against the Eagles 4th ranked rushing attack this Sunday night and it could spell doom for the Cowboys, who are desperate for a win. You cannot understate the impact of Lee’s loss on the defense, as he has been their steadiest performer and has the talent to mask a lot of holes.

Let’s dig into the numbers in regard to the Cowboys run defense performance when Lee has missed time.

In 2016, Lee missed Week 17 against the Philadelphia Eagles. That year they averaged 83.7 rushing yards allowed, league best. With Lee out, the Eagles racked up 114 yards and a touchdown on 30 rushing attempts for a 3.8 average. This was in line with their average yards per carry, but the Eagles were able to top the average total per game by 36%.

In 2017 there’s a larger data set with Lee essentially missing 3 games. Lee was out for games with the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, and only played 8 snaps (61.5 snap avg) against the Atlanta Falcons. In those games, teams racked up an average rushing stat line of 30-153-.66 with a 5.11ypc average. This is an extreme hike when compared to games where Lee played. In 6 other games with an active Lee, the Cowboys allowed an average line of 21-80-.5 with a 3.77ypc average. That’s a 91% hike in yards and a 36% uptick in yards per carry average.

Lee has a reputation for being a film junkie and his work ethic shows up in every facet of the game. His preparation allows him to key and diagnose quickly and he possesses enough athletic ability to capitalize on his excellent mental processing. Against the run, he is rarely caught out of control when filling his gaps or when tackling in space, always taking ideal angles to the ball-carrier to finish with balance and power.

Per Pro Football Focus, Lee has 14 run stops, which leads the Cowboys linebackers, a statistic that is a product of not only his run and tackle ability, but his penchant for stacking and shedding blockers with excellent timing and leverage.

Add to that Lee’s penchant for making big plays against the Eagles, like this one from last year, knocking the Eagles out of field goal range and preventing the Cowboys from going down to scores:

 

One last stat: since 2013, the Eagles are 3-1 when Lee is out. The Cowboys will be searching for answers at the weakside linebacker spot this Sunday, but you can be sure they won’t be able to fully replace the disciplined and uber-prepared Lee.

Michael is an NFL Draft enthusiast, aspiring scout, and grandson of longtime East Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS football coach John P. Kist. He hosts Locked On Eagles and writes for Inside the Pylon & Breaking Football.

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