COWBOYS NOTEBOOK: Sean Lee is on the way back

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) runs after making a catch against Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee (50) in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium.Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

LB's return could bolster an already thriving unit.

Dallas head coach Jason Garrett said on Wednesday that linebacker Sean Lee will be back at practice this week, at least on a limited basis.

Lee has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury after posting 20 tackles in the first three contests.

“It’s a work in progress,” Garrett said. “We’ll see if Sean’s available for the game based on the work this week. Sean’s obviously one of the best players we have and a great leader for our defense. Incredibly productive.”

However, the Cowboys have had far less drop off on defense with Lee out than they did a year ago when he missed five games. Dallas gave up 30 points a game and lost four of five.

There’s a good reason for that. The Cowboys drafted linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the first round and 2016 second-round pick Jaylon Smith is having a breakout year.

“Both Jaylon and Leighton have played well in (Lee’s) absence, better than we’ve played in the past in the linebacker position when Sean was out,” Garrett said. “But when Sean’s healthy and ready to go, Sean’s going to play.”

MAHER DRILLING IT STRAIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE: The Cowboys opened themselves up for a lot of criticism when they cut longtime reliable kicker Dan Bailey on September 1.

Dallas coach Jason Garrett has said all along that the team simply liked the way Brett Maher was kicking the ball better and made a tough decision to go with him over Bailey.

Maher is making the organization look smart as he has split the uprights on 15 of 16 field goal attempts, including 3-for-3 from beyond 50 yards. On Sunday, Maher drilled kicks of 50, 46, 32 and 55 yards.

Add that to his 38-yard field goal on the final play to beat the Lions three weeks ago, and Maher is looking like a Pro Bowler.

COWBOYS USING TANK IN SPOT DUTY: Cowboys star defensive end Demarcus “Tank” Lawrence has been bothered by a shoulder injury the last couple of weeks. He doesn’t have a sack in two games and just a pair of assisted tackles.

Lawrence led the NFL in sacks after the first four games, but he has slipped to a tie for fifth in that category.

However, Dallas coach Jason Garrett still liked what the team got from Lawrence in its win over Jacksonville on Sunday.

“Some of the other guys played on the early downs,” Garrett said in his postgame press conference. “(Lawrence) played really consistently throughout in the passing situations. And again, did a really good job.”

Lawrence wasn’t the only Dallas defensive linemen playing partial duty because of an injury. Defensive tackle Maliek Collins was also limited in practice with a knee injury last week as were defensive ends Taco Charlton and Randy Gregory.

“All those guys played in the game, so we anticipate them practicing,” Garrett said. “For the most part, we anticipate those guys practicing on the defensive line.”

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