You can forgive Cowboys fans for feeling like it's 2013 all over again. A key cog in the Cowboys defense, Sean Lee, tore his ACL in the first OTA practice and likely is done for the 2014 season, according to sources.
Sources said Lee was told late Tuesday that results from an MRI exam showed that he suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament and that he's expected to miss the entire 2014 season. The team was expected to make an official announcement Wednesday.
The Cowboys were counting on Lee to man the middle of the defense where he is a tackling machine. But he also acts as the quarterback on defense, calling signals and getting players lined up. If that's not enough, he is good in pass coverage and has a knack for intercepting the ball. It's a huge blow all around for the Cowboys.
View the play where he tore the ACL here.
Dallas must now start looking at options. The first place they may look is at Anthony Hitchens. The fourth-round draft pick out of Iowa was supposed to be Lee's backup this season. Just a couple of days ago I wrote about the best- and worst-case scenarios for each draft pick. Here is what I wrote on Hitchens:
Best Case: Never sees the field. What? That's right, if Hitchens never sees the field on defense, it will mean Sean Lee has stayed healthy all of 2014.
Worst Case: Sees the field on defense, and proves that the experts were right and the Cowboys drafted him too high. Visions of 2013 happen all over again.
We may see if the outside experts were right, or if the Cowboys were right about Hitchens.
Dallas could also look at Justin Durant, DeVonte Holloman or perhaps even Bruce Carter.
There is always the free agent market, but there really isn't much there. Guys like Pat Angerer, Jonathan Vilma or Desmond Bishop have talent, but they also come with their own injury/character concerns.
To me, the best option of the bunch is Angerer. He is only 27 and was a tackling machine for the Colts before foot and knee injuries slowed him down.
Despite the injuries, Angerer was a tackle machine for the Colts. In 2011, he led the defense and ranked fourth in the NFL with 146 tackles. Angerer ranked second on the team with 75 tackles as a rookie and finished with 87 last season - third on the team - despite missing five games.
He's recovering from a knee surgery and the Colts decided not to re-sign him for 2014.
Angerer finished last season on the injured reserve list when it became clear surgery was required to address an injury to his right knee. He underwent surgery in late December.
"I saw the doctor today and he said being nine weeks out (from surgery), I couldn't look any better'' Angerer said. "I feel really good.''
He anticipates being ready to take the practice field in June or July. Somewhere.
But, they Cowboys would probably be better served trying to develop someone internally to take over. Hitchens will likely get the opportunity, but DeVonte Holloman should be given a chance, too. He played well at the end of the year at the Mike, and has shown he has that knack for making plays.