Thursday, June 02, 2016

Sean Lee, Flaws and All, Was Awesome in 2015

Perhaps it will be the theme of this current era of the Dallas Cowboys -- the flawed superstar. Tony Romo might be a flawed superstar. Heck, Dez Bryant may be a flawed superstar. I suppose the definition of the flawed superstar is that they deserve incredible amounts of praise, and yet, while you offer that amount of praise, someone else at the table will counter with: "Yeah, but."
Romo has some flaws, of course -- great player and maybe as many personal skills as any quarterback this city has ever known, but, you know ...  simply suggesting Dez Bryant has a few flaws to overcome is enough to start a fight, but that conversation is certainly worth having at some point.

But, I want to focus on Sean Lee. Doing some work this morning with splash plays and the defense this season has led me back to awesome moments from Sean Lee's season. He was really, really good in 2015. In fact, there were several games where he just took things over.
Yet, the things people remember include the massive hit against Atlanta, the concussion against the Saints and the concussion against the Eagles. He can't stay healthy.
Wait a minute. He played 814 snaps. That is nearly 90 percent of all the snaps. Shouldn't we focus on that a bit? He played more snaps than any of the past four seasons. And when he played, the quality of his play was very, very high.
Now, you aren't going to get the benefit of the doubt when you play 1,000 snaps from 2012-14 and then, during your one "healthy" year, you miss games because of two concussions. But, allow me to admit that I wish he didn't have these circumstances and I would definitely trade him for a perfectly healthy Sean Lee who wasn't turning 30 next month.
But, then, allow me to show you 10 plays from last season that I easily and quickly collected from my notes to focus on what he can do for you. For better or worse, he easily is the best Dallas has. And he is fantastic in long stretches as these plays will demonstrate.
Ready? Here we go:
Thanksgiving Day: seek and destroy in the first quarter against Cam Newton on the read option. Lee isn't buying your fake, and he is chasing you down in the backfield.
Week 1: Lee has the "Will" linebacker responsibility of outside contain on the weak side and devours Rashad Jennings with no help.
He takes on the tight end in the hole and still makes the tackle on the running back behind him. Strong work.
Here is Lee's forte. There's a power run to his right -- you either shoot the gap with ferocity and conviction, or you get run over by a pulling guard. He records a tackle for loss.
Above you find my favorite play of them all. The tackle tries to get him. The fullback tries to get him. The running back tries to avoid him. This is Sean Lee blowing up a December game after a season's beating on his body with low stakes in the game. Film don't lie. Beauty.  
Pretty good game against the Bills, eh? That team runs the ball really well, but they had their issues with No. 50.
Can Sean Lee still run? Let's see Tyrod Taylor try to turn the corner on him.
Can Sean Lee still run? Let's see Matt Jones try to turn the corner on him.
Here, he meets Marshawn Lynch in the hole. Lynch is a tough guy to bring down, but Lee shows great aggressiveness.
And one more TFL against the now-retired "Beast Mode."
He was really good in 2015. I could have shown you 15 more of these.
Now, the NFL was not going to give him the All-Pro votes if he was hurt two or three times during the year, and I am not saying it should have. Here is the All-Pro voting on inside LBs in 2015:

Inside Linebackers

-- Luke Kuechly, Carolina, 49; NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco, 14; Bobby Wagner, Seattle, 12; Derrick Johnson, Kansas City, 9; Clay Matthews, Green Bay, 4; Brandon Marshall, Denver, 3; Jamie Collins, New England, 2; Anthony Barr, Minnesota, 1; Deone Buccanon, Arizona, 1; Thomas Davis, Carolina, 1; Sean Lee, Dallas, 1; K.J. Wright, Seattle, 1; Telvin Smith, Jacksonville, 1.
But, on this random June morning, I thought it would be a good idea to remind Cowboys fans that the guy can still play. These plays demonstrate his high value when someone at the table wants to spend all day discussing his flaws.  
He still has it.

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