The Dallas Cowboys will certainly find themselves facing a daunting task in adapting to the loss of Sean Lee, but they will also find themselves staring opportunity squarely in the face. Yes, challenges abound, but so do openings for other players to fulfill the Jason Garrett mantra of "Next Man Up."
Lee is not only a force on the field with his play but also with his leadership. With his ability to take charge and serve as the leader of the Cowboys defense, he has provided direction and stability to the squad. He will be hard to replace in this capacity but this is something that the Garrett concept has actually positioned the team to be able to withstand. A hallmark of the players that have been brought in during recent seasons is that the team has sought out players who have demonstrated leadership abilities in the past.
With the philosophy of bringing in guys who served as team captains during their collegiate years, the Cowboys have assured themselves of having more than one guy who can serve as the backbone of the unit. In addition, veteran players like Brandon Carr and Barry Church are available to provide a steadying influence as well. Each of these players now has the chance to fill the void created by Lee's departure.
Beyond what the Cowboys captain brings as a leader, Sean Lee will also have to be replaced as a dominating player. Here too the defense has been given some pieces who have the physical skills to breech the void. Players like Morris Claiborne and Bruce Carter have the talent to get the job done. For both it will be a matter of overcoming past issues and meeting with the expectations that are set for them. They will have to prepare now for the most important season of their careers.
For the Dallas coaching staff, the challenge ahead will be difficult but not impossible. The pieces are in place for the Cowboys to overcome the obstacle that stands in their way. On those shoulders will fall the ultimate responsibility of getting the most out of the leaders they have sought out. They will also need to find a way to make sure each man on the roster is ready to execute to his fullest ability at all times. Their combined skills will have to be used in full force to insure that no stone is left unturned in the quest to surmount the challenges ahead.
If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud, it is simply the fact that Lee went down early this year. Time is a valuable commodity and for once that might be in the Cowboys favor. They have a chance to implement their "disaster plans" early rather than trying to adapt on the fly. The opportunities are there and if everyone on the defense can rise to the occasion the team can still avert catastrophe.