Can Sean Lee still be nickel LB?

IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys’ brass declared on draft day that second-round pick Sean Lee, a linebacker they gave a mid-first-round grade, would be their nickel linebacker as a rookie.

That appears unlikely less than two weeks before the season opener. As Wade Phillips pointed out, Lee isn’t even working at that position.

Lee’s plate is full playing catch-up in the base defense and special teams after a strained quadriceps sidelined him for 13 practices and two preseason games. Second-year linebacker Jason Williams and undrafted rookie safety Danny McCray split the nickel linebacker reps with the starters Saturday in Houston.

Safety Mike Hamlin is also being considered for that spot. Wade Phillips would prefer that Keith Brooking doesn’t have to play every down, but he’s the best nickel linebacker on the team at this point.

It might not be too late for Lee to earn the role that he was originally expected to fill.

“We’ll see how he does this game,” Phillips said. “He might take a step forward. We’re not going to count him out.”