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Cowboys news: Indispensable players and how to keep them on the field

A lot of articles about some of the key pieces on the roster today, plus Jason Witten’s future and Tony Romo getting accolades.

New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The one player the Cowboys can’t afford to lose, Sean Lee, they often lose - Dave Halprin, Blogging The Boys
Our fearless leader did a piece on which Cowboys player is the one they can't afford to lose, and he made a very logical choice.

It’s no secret that the Dallas Cowboys defense, and team, relies on linebacker Sean Lee like no other player. This isn’t to minimize the problems created when other players are absent, like Tyron Smith or Ezekiel Elliott, but the Cowboys can scheme around that eventually, once their coaching staff finally realizes that leaving Chaz Green on an island just might be a bad idea. But with Lee, the Cowboys are a different defense, and thereby a different team. And what Lee brings to the game you can’t scheme around.

I could wow you with the statistical difference of the Cowboys defense in 2017 when Sean Lee plays and when he doesn’t. Instead, let’s talk about what Lee brings to the game that makes him so special, and how his frequent absences put the team in a bind. Simply put, Lee has the highest football IQ on the defense, and maybe on the entire team. His ability to read an offense pre-snap and then get the defense in the right position and play-call is his biggest gift. Yes, he’s athletic. Yes, he is a sure-tackler. But what really sets him apart is his brain, and that’s just hard to replace.

Sullivan: Staggering Stat For Lee, Rod Smith’s Breakout, More Thoughts | Jeff Sullivan, Dallas Cowboys
If you want even more persuasive evidence of just how important the General is, he is the lead-off to Sullivan's weekly column.

Since the Week 1 loss to the Giants last season, the Cowboys are 19-2 in games Sean Lee plays at least half the snaps. In those 21 games, they have outscored their opponents by an average of nearly 10 points a game, 27.8-17.9. The only NFL team to outscore their opponents by double-digits the last two years is New England. In the seven games Lee hasn’t played half the snaps, the Cowboys are 1-6 and have been outscored by more than 11 points, 29.0-17.7. The only team to be outscored by their opponents by double-digits the last two years is Cleveland.

I know there is a ton of numbers out there on Lee’s value to this team, but this one is absolutely beyond staggering. Kind of like how Jeff Fisher has six winnings records in 22 seasons as a head coach and is expected to draw interest this offseason. Like, how is that possible? With Lee, the Cowboys are one of the two best teams in football over a two-year stretch. Without him, they are one of the two worst, at least statistically speaking.

Dallas Cowboys, Sean Lee have plan to help him stay on field - Todd Archer, Dallas Cowboys Blog- ESPN
So if Sean Lee is so crucial to Dallas' success, how do you keep him on the field? Maybe you don't have him out there so much.

Lee played in 66 of 80 snaps against the Giants and had two of the game’s biggest plays with a 9-yard tackle for loss and an interception in the fourth quarter. In the five full games he played before the New York contest, he played in 293 of 315 snaps, getting pulled for 17 snaps in the blowout win against the San Francisco 49ers. In the other four games he played in all but five snaps.

What Cowboys Dak Can Learn From Eagles’ Wentz Injury « Mike Fisher, CBS Dallas / Fort Worth
The loss of Carson Wentz threatens to derail what has been an incredible season for the Philadelphia Eagles. That is something the Dallas staff might want to keep in mind, since Dak Prescott is just about as important to the offense as Lee is to the defense.

“It just reminds you how vulnerable that (quarterback) position is to getting hit,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tells “Shan & RJ” on 105.3 The Fan. “The position of the quarterback on most runs are vulnerable to injury. So I would say to us or anybody else, look out really building in any type of running game around the quarterback.”

Well, Jerry needs to say it to “us” — that is, his own Cowboys, who use QB Dak Prescott as a running threat with frequency, and just two weeks ago against the Redskins ran an option play that resulted in Prescott sustaining a hand injury that required an in-game X-ray.

Prescott Says He Won’t Change Style Of Play After Wentz’s Injury « Josh Clark, CBS Dallas / Fort Worth
The owner may want the team to be more protective of Dak Prescott, but the QB has no plans to change his style in light of what happened to Wentz.

“I’m not gonna put that in my mind. I don’t think anybody is. It’s part of the game and just comes with it,” Prescott said. “Us running quarterbacks, we know we’re susceptible to that when we’re running, but for me, it’s about going to get what I can. If I need to get that touchdown or in his case (Wentz’s) it was needed and he got it (the touchdown). And that’s just him being a competitor. I’ll treat the game the same way I’ve been playing.”

No, DeMarcus Lawrence isn't just having a 'contract year'; why Cowboys can't let elite DE walk in free agency | Bob Sturm, SportsDay
As important as Lee is to the Cowboys, there is a very good argument to be made that retaining Demarcus Lawrence is the most important move the team can make in the coming offseason.

With all due respect to Sean Lee, I think Lawrence is the Cowboys' best defensive talent right now, and I am not sure it is close. If you allowed the NFL to pluck one player from the defense, it would be between Lawrence and Irving -- not an aging Lee. If Lawrence was on any other team, I bet many would suggest he is the guy to target in free agency.

La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise ✭ Brian Martin, Inside the Star
With all the tumult this season in Dallas, the way La'el Collins has stepped up at RT has been largely overlooked.

In all honesty, I always believed that La’el Collins’ best position in the NFL is on the interior of the offense of line as a guard. I thought he could use his strength and athleticism to his advantage when working in a phone booth against slower and less athletic defensive tackles. That’s not to say I didn’t think he would make a good right tackle, I just thought he had Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

Strangely enough, Collins has probably put together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first season starting at the right tackle position for the Cowboys. He has become an upgrade over the previous starter Doug Free, and is really starting to earn high praise from the brass.

Jason Witten is focused on present, but future could be on sidelines - Todd Archer, Dallas Cowboys Blog- ESPN
Jason Witten has no plans to end his career as a tight end, yet. But he seems to have a pretty good idea that he will eventually go into coaching - and all signs point to him being a great one.

"I would just lean on everything that I've prepared for my whole life. Had great coaches around me at every step of the way in my career," Witten said. "I've had coaches that believe that you motivate within and other coaches that believe they do the motivating ... I hope that I'd be very honest, demanding, high standards, not come off those standards in which what allows you to win and lose. But also just I hope if anything could leap off is my love and passion for this game.

"I believe there's a certain way you play it and coach it, and I think if they're around me as a coach that that would be more than anything else they would see that. There's got to be trust that's unwavering. I hope I would show that in the way I communicated."

Blog: David Irving, Two OTs Absent From Pratice; Orlando Scandrick Returns | David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
David Irving is still being held out of practice, which casts doubt on his availability this Sunday.

In total, the Cowboys had four absentees from their Wednesday practice. Tyron Smith, La’el Collins and James Hanna sat out along with Irving.

The Smith and Collins absences are less concerning, since they have been held out the past two weeks of practice with no ill effects on game day. And Orlando Scandrick was back on the field to try and work back into the lineup.

Tony Romo on CBS NFL TV broadcast, Dallas Cowboys, more | Rchard Deitsch, Longform -
Remember back when people were saying how Tony Romo was going to struggle with the top analyst's job for CBS? Yeah, good times.

The best sports television analysts educate, entertain and inform, and when someone who can deliver those on-air attributes arrives on the landscape, they should be rewarded with both audience and praise. CBS Sports gambled heavily last April by naming former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo as its lead NFL game analyst. Romo had zero network broadcasting experience at the time, which meant he would be learning the mechanics of broadcasting on the fly while doing the network’s most significant NFL game every week — and sometimes two games per week given CBS’s “Thursday Night Football” schedule. It was a high-wire tightrope to walk no matter how bright or prepared Romo was in an era where social media opinions about broadcasters are impossible to ignore.

But Romo exceeded all expectations as a rookie analyst and we name him the 2017 Sports Illustrated Media Person Of The Year in this space for the impact he had on the country’s most-watched sport. Having currency (Romo was on the Cowboys’ roster until April) does not always translate into astute analysis but Romo’s knowledge of the league—specifically the formations and fronts of teams and how an offense attacks a defense—made him an invaluable resource for NFL viewers. His natural enthusiasm and love for football translated for audiences and he has rightly received praise from fans and the NFL establishment. The best thing about Romo is that he will only get better as sports television becomes more familiar.

Dallas Cowboys: NFL owners make Roger Goodell extension official; Jerry Jones reacts | SportsDay (Associated Press story)
So this is the last we will hear of the Jerry Jones/Roger Goodell kerfuffle.

Or not. (Sigh.)

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