Despite absences, Sean Lee sees winning D

IRVING, Texas -- Jay Ratliff will be a spectator not only Sunday against the New York Giants, but for at least the first six games. Anthony Spencer’s availability Sunday is in doubt as well.

But Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee believes the new-look defense will be able to compensate for the loss (or potential loss) of two players with five Pro Bowl appearances between them.

Ratliff’s replacement, Nick Hayden, was out of football in 2012 and has not started a game since 2010. Spencer’s replacement, George Selvie, has never started a game in his three seasons.

“From the way we’ve worked in the preseason, the way we’ve played, I think we can be that consistent defense that can help us win,” Lee said. “Obviously those are two great players, guys that we obviously need back and want back, but we can find a way to be a winning defense right now.”

The Cowboys did not have Ratliff or Spencer all summer, so they have become accustomed to life without them, but the first-team defense did not play more than a half in the preseason.

Sunday’s game against the Giants represents challenges in stopping Eli Manning, slowing David Wilson and making sure Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz do not make big plays.

“I think our comfort level is very high,” Lee said. “I think we’ve put great work in, but at the same point you need to get that game experience. We’ve done a good job in the games in the preseason, but there’s nothing like playing a full game, and that’s what we’re going to have to do, and I think we’re going to have to get better week to week if we’re going to be a great defense.”