The Dallas Cowboys have lost their best defensive player to a serious injury again.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday night that linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL at the team's OTA session and is expected to miss the 2014 season, according to a source who has seen the MRI results. Lee's left knee buckled when he was run over by first-round pick Zack Martin during a drill that was supposed to be non-contact.
It's a devastating blow for Lee, who has missed 15 games over the last two seasons due to wrist, neck and hamstring problems. When he's fully healthy, Lee mixes great run pursuit with rangy pass coverage as well as any linebacker in the league. He was expected to anchor a Cowboys defense that looks particularly soft up the middle with holes at defensive tackle and questions next to Lee at linebacker.
The Cowboys were set to draft Ryan Shazier in the first round before the Pittsburgh Steelers took the linebacker off the board. Dallas was hoping to add a playmaker next to Lee after Bruce Carter disappointed the coaching staff one season ago.
When the Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware this offseason, the defense lost its best player of the last 20 years. Now they've lost Lee, the guy that was supposed to be their best player for the next five campaigns. The Cowboys gave Lee a huge contract extension before last season, betting that his injury history wasn't predictive of future problems. (Lee also suffered a torn right ACL in college and had a left knee injury.) We thought the Lee contract was worth the gamble for such a premier player entering his prime, but his durability continues to be an issue. A potential timetable for Lee's return is unclear, but he'll have an uphill battle to be a factor in 2014.
New defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is trying to rebuild the Cowboys' defense after a disastrous 2013. They didn't look any better on paper even before Lee went down, and they don't look any luckier this season, either.