Here's a fun trick: go check out the individual stat rankings for the current season on any major website – you should see Sean Lee's picture looking back at you from a couple of different spots.
With his performance Sunday against Minnesota, Lee jumped up to a 112 total-tackle tally this season, according to the Cowboys coaches' film. But his league stats aren't anything to scoff at, either. According to the NFL, Lee is currently tied with Cincinnati's Vontaze Burfict for first in the league in tackles.
That goes well with his share of the league lead in interceptions. Lee is one of eight guys in the NFL with four picks through nine weeks, and five of those eight are defensive backs.
Considering everything he's been able to do for a middling Cowboys defense, the decision to lock Lee up for the foreseeable future in August looks like a pretty smart one. He was entering the fourth year of his rookie contract.
Fellow all-everything linebackers Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman are secured in San Francisco through 2017 and 2019, respectively. Carolina standout Luke Kuechly is only halfway through his rookie deal.
Lee would have undoubtedly been one of the top free agents available in the upcoming offseason. Instead, Dallas secured him as a defensive corner stone at a pretty substantial discount. The injury concerns that made that possible haven't even begun to factor into Lee's season after nine weeks.
Take a look around the NFC East, and you don't quite see that impact-maker on anyone else's defense. The Eagles' leading tackler, DeMeco Ryans, sits at 76 tackles on the season, while Redskins' leader Perry Riley has 68.
How's this for a bad sign: the Giants' leading tackler at midseason is safety Ryan Mundy, who has 48 tackles – or roughly half of what Lee is producing.
Lee's fun interception lead is bound to drop off as we get deeper into the season – at least, I think. But as of right now he's got one more pick than Redskins' leader DeAngelo Hall and Giants' leader Antrel Rolle, both of whom have three.
Three different Philadelphia players have two interceptions – only one of which has come in the last month.
Even funnier: Rolle and Hall, in their three interception returns, have 26 and 43 return yards, respectively. Lee has returned his interceptions for a combined total of 174 yards and a touchdown this season.
Like I mentioned above, Lee is set to be the face of this defense for the foreseeable future. His contract extension will keep him here another six season after 2013. Right now, I wonder where that's coming from for the rest of the NFC East. [embedded_ad]
Riley is in the final year of his rookie contract with Washington, having excelled the past two seasons in the Redskins' 3-4 defense. Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are more pass rushers than interior enforcers, but it's still worth pointing out their contracts expire in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks is off to a promising start in his second season out of Cal, with 66 tackles, a sack and an interception. But Philadelphia's big-money linebacker, Trent Cole, isn't matching his contract with 28 tackles this season.
Jon Beason, who joined the Giants a month ago, has led the team in tackles in two of New York's last three games. But I'd still be willing to bet the Giants address a thin linebacking corps in the 2014 NFL Draft.
For the time being, it's Lee who's setting the pace for this division's defenses