Today, the reality will begin setting in for the Cowboys, with the official word coming down on the torn left ACL suffered by middle linebacker Sean Lee yesterday.
As they did so many times last year, they’re going to have to rebuild their defense by either pushing young players who might not be ready or signing veteran stopgaps.
According to Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com, the top in-house candidates to replace Lee are fourth-rounder Anthony Hitchens, or second-year linebacker DeVonte Holloman.
“I think all positions have their challenges, no question about that,” coach Jason Garrett said. “There’s a mental and intellectual challenge that comes with certain positions.
“Quarterback would be one of them. Center would be one of them. Mike linebacker would be one of them. But we feel good about the linebacker options that we have. We drafted Hitchens for a reason and we feel like he’s a good football player and has some position flex. We’ll see how he responds to the opportunity he gets.”
If they wanted more experience, they could drag back Ernie Sims, who played 12 games for them last year.
Another intriguing option might be former Saints middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was cast aside as an odd and too-expensive fit in their conversion to a 3-4. He might not have the wheels he used to have, but he’s a more-than-serviceable player, and could step in quickly.
But the Cowboys will realize how hard it will be to fill that hole today, when they step back onto the field.