Sean Lee spent the first four weeks making the Cowboys look very wise for drafting him in the second round of the 2010 Draft.
After an up and down rookie season, Lee broke out upon his ascension to the starting lineup this year. He dominated the Jets in Week One, played well against the 49ers and had a key pick to help beat the Redskins. He's been one of the best inside linebackers in all of football this season and a big reason why the Cowboys have picked up two wins in the first four games.
All in all, it was enough to make Lee the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September. He needs to be just as good, if not better, against the Patriots this weekend.
Much of the focus this week has been on which Cowboys defensive back is going to match up with Wes Welker when the Patriots have the ball, but Lee's matchup with the Patriots tight ends is going to be just as crucial. Tom Brady loves to throw the ball to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to pick up yards over the middle of the field and it usually works because teams don't have inside linebackers good enough to stick with them.
Lee is good enough to do the job. He's got enough speed and size to match up with either of the Pats tight ends and make them smaller parts of the offense than they have been in other games this season.
Obviously, Lee can only guard one player at a time. But if he is able to shut down his man, the rest of the Cowboys defense can focus on stopping Welker and the other tight end. The ripple effect means Tom Brady will need an extra beat to find an open man and that extra beat can be enough for DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer to get to him in the pocket.
Lee's day won't stop there, however. He also needs to be a sure tackler when the Pats spread out and then run the ball. The Jets failed to stand up to the run last weekend because they couldn't keep the right personnel on the field to stop both the pass and run. Lee's ability to be a force in both phases should give Rob Ryan more leeway to experiment with the rest of the defense without risking losing effectiveness against anything the Pats come up with on offense.
Easier said than done? Of course, but Lee makes it less of a pipe dream than it would be for most teams.