The Dallas Cowboys placed linebacker Sean Lee on injured reserve (IR) on Wednesday, meaning he’s done for the year. The move means Dallas loses its best player for the remainder of the 2012 NFL season. A torn ligament in one of Lee’s big toes requires surgery and it’s severe enough that he won’t be able to play any more until 2013. Through six games in seven weeks, Lee ranked ninth on the league with 48 tackles to go along with four passes defended, one interception and a forced fumble.
Lee is the heart, soul and backbone of the Cowboys’ defense and the player the team relies on to make big plays in critical situations. He’s arguably the surest tackler in the NFL, so losing Lee is a blow to Dallas’ defense that can’t be described with words, despite the best effort from Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett:
“Sean Lee is an outstanding football player. I can’t tell you how well he’s been playing since he’s been our starting inside linebacker. He’s the leader of the defense, he makes the calls, he plays the right way in practice [and] he plays the right way in the game. He defends the run, he defends the pass [and] he’s a bell cow for us and a guy that really, really everybody on our defense and football team looks up to. He goes about it the right way and he’s an outstanding person as well. We love everything about him. It’s obviously unfortunate and disappointing that he had the injury.”
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will now have to alter his scheme to keep from completely collapsing against the run as Dallas ranks 15th in rushing defense. The team signed Ernie Sims, who started 13 games for the Indianapolis Colts in 2011, to replace Lee’s roster spot. However, it will be Lee’s college teammate at Penn State, Dan Connor, who takes over the starting duties at inside linebacker.
It’s impossible to replace a player like Lee, so at 3-3, the Cowboys’ season could go from mediocre to bad really quickly if the team doesn’t adjust to the playmaker not being on the field. Connor was added as a free agent this past off-season, so Dallas is about to find out what he’s worth.