(Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2016 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features linebacker Sean Lee.)
Name: Sean Lee
Height/Weight:6-2 / 238
Experience: 6 seasons
College: Penn State
Key stat:Career-high numbers accompanied Lee's highest number of game appearances since 2011. In 14 starts he posted 156 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss – all personal bests.
Contract Status:Signed through 2019.
2015 Impact: Coming off a knee injury that cost him the entire 2014 season, Lee made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career and deservedly so. Play was outstanding throughout the season. No up and down in the way he went about his job. Team leader in every sense of the word. High character, work ethic and competes. True passion for the game. There is nothing phony or fake in the way he plays. Hard to imagine anyone on this squad that was more disappointed in the outcome of the season than he. Plays with physical and mental toughness. Off the charts when it comes to football intelligence. Reactionary athlete that plays with rare lateral quickness. When he is on the move, he is difficult to block. Always been solid using his hands and had to do far less of it while playing as the WILL. Was freed up to make more plays running to the ball. One of the best tackling defenders in the league. Don't have to worry about him missing plays. Put on a clinic each week as a tackler. Is always around the ball. Showed the ability to blitz throughout the season. Was a factor in New England and Washington games as a rusher. Still shows awareness in the passing game. Huge red zone interception against Philadelphia.
Where He Fits: Smart move by the staff to save wear-and-tear on him with the move to WILL linebacker. Position puts him in shape to make a ton of plays. Never comes off the field and for good reason. Like how the staff has used him more as a rusher than cover man. Has a feel for how to attack the pocket and finish plays. Had a couple of games where he was affected by concussions but was able to finish the season. Is the best defensive player the squad has.
Rob Phillips:The shift to the weak side did appear to benefit Lee. You'll never completely avoid contact when you're playing linebacker – that's just the nature of the position and football – but the WILL allows him to flow to the ball without having to shed as many blockers. The team credited Lee with 156 tackles in 2015; by comparison, Barry Church led the defense with 110 in 2014. There were multiple games (Week 2 at Philadelphia, Week 13 at Washington come to mind) where Lee clearly looked like the best player on the field. Credit to him for fighting his way back from the 2014 ACL surgery, but given his makeup as a player and team leader, no one should be surprised by his rebound season.