Cowboys Training Camp Battles, Part I: Jason Williams vs. Sean Lee
By Jonathan Bales
As Cowboys training camp approaches, somewhat of a paradox surrounds the team. Excitement and confidence are plentiful, yet there are a multitude of question marks for the Cowboys on offense, defense, and special teams.
Who is going to be starting at left tackle? How about in the slot? Who will return punts and kicks? Will David Buehler win all kicking duties? Who will be the nickel linebacker? The free safety?
The Cowboys, as one of the league’s most talented squads (perhaps even the creme of the crop), sure do have a lot of question marks. But it is important to differentiate between a “question mark” and a “hole.” At this point, there are no obvious holes on the team–no blatant weak spots.
Instead, there are positions where dependable play has been replaced by potential. But why the switch? Why substitute an unknown commodity for dependability? Well, if you can only “depend” on a player for mediocre play, then plugging in the ‘potential,’ even if it is a risk, is probably the right move.
For example, who would you rather have starting at left tackle: a player who the Cowboys can count on for average play (Flozell Adams), or a player who has, say, a 75% chance of being a tremendous player, but could also flop (Doug Free)?
There is no right or wrong answer. Perhaps it is savvy to fill a team with both high risk/high reward players and more dependable ones with less upside. One thing I know, however, is that teams with mediocre players don’t win championships. Organizations that take chances win it all, and the Dallas Cowboys are taking a lot of calculated gambles heading into the 2010 season.
One such gamble is heading into camp with various positions “up for grabs.” In our new “Cowboys Training Camp Battles” Series, I will analyze these positional battles, detailing who I think will win each job and why.
In this first installment, I will take a look one of the Cowboys’ backup positions (albeit an important one)–the nickel linebacker spot.
Battle for the Nickel Linebacker Job
The Cowboys were ensured a new nickel linebacker in 2010 after Bobby Carpenter was traded to St. Louis. Second-year man Jason Williams, who is practically a rookie, will battle with Penn State’s Sean lee for the job.
Jason Williams Scouting Report
Taken from my article on the potential impact of second-year players:
Williams is an athletic freak. He ran a 4.4 forty-yard dash at his Pro Day. Had Williams had all of 2009 to learn, that kind of speed could have really helped Dallas.
He may not be as instinctual as Lee, but if Williams can reach a point where he is fully comfortable with the mental aspects of his position, watch out. He would then be able to let his athleticism take over, and he is undoubtedly the most athletic inside linebacker on the team.
Williams is also a competitor who will embrace the challenge laid before him.
Sean Lee Scouting Report
Taken from my post-draft analysis:
Positives: One of the hardest workers you will ever meet, surprisingly athletic, great in coverage
Negatives: Slightly undersized for a 3-4 defense, coming off of 2008 knee surgery, may not have a very high ceiling
Lee is a much different player than Williams. His athleticism will surprise you, but he is nowhere near Williams in terms of speed or explosion.
There is a lot more that goes into player linebacker then speed, however, and Lee has all the intangibles. He is intelligent, hard-working, and a great leader. His upside might be limited, but so is his downside.
Pros/Cons of Starting Williams
Williams is a high risk/high reward player. I feel confident in saying he is much more likely than Lee to give up a big play, but also much more likely to make one. For a Cowboys defense that did everything right in 2009 besides force turnovers, Williams may be the smart pick because he offers the Cowboys more playmaking ability.
Pros/Cons of Starting Lee
Lee is the opposite of Williams–a low risk/medium reward player. I love Lee’s character, but I can’t seem him making a ton of game-breaking plays. On the flip side, he also won’t give up many big plays. I compare him to a young Zach Thomas.
This one is a coin toss right now. As I said, Williams and Lee are different players. It is possible the Cowboys could utilize each player in different situations (Lee in normal game situations, Williams when a big play is needed), but one guy figures to receive the bulk of the nickel snaps. I am putting this battle at 50/50 right now, although if forced to select one, I would choose Lee due to his sensational spring workouts.