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5 Matchups Cowboys Must Win For A Victory Over Cardinals

Brian Martin

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5 Key Matchups For Cowboys To Ensure Victory Against Cardinals

After the shellacking the Dallas Cowboys took from the Denver Broncos last week, they look to get back on track against the Arizona Cardinals Monday night. This will be their second road game of the 2017 season, but home or away, this Cowboys team has to be at their best in order to put another W in the win column.

The Arizona Cardinals might not be as talented overall as the first two teams they’ve faced this season, but they do have some players that could give the Cowboys some problems. I put together a list of five matchups I think the Cowboys must win in order to ensure a victory over the Cardinals Monday night. Continue to read below to see which matchups I believe are the key to a victory.

Dez Bryant vs. Patrick Peterson

Dez Bryant is arguably the best playmaker the Dallas Cowboys have on the offensive side of the ball. There has been a lot of talk lately that he is washed up and not as talented as he once was, but that is completely inaccurate. He may not be the focal point of the offense anymore, but that doesn’t take away how important he truly is.

Bryant will draw the opposing defenses best cornerback ever week. He has already faced Pro Bowl CBs in the first two games of the season and will see another one in Patrick Peterson this week. This is a tough matchup again because Peterson is physical and can carry Bryant in coverage anywhere on the field.

Peterson of course won’t have to do this alone, because the Cardinals defense will undoubtably role extra coverage Bryant’s way every time he’s on the field. Bryant just has to do enough in order to keep the Cardinals defense rolling extra coverage in his direction, because that will open up things for the rest of the Cowboys offense. But, Bryant simply can’t allow Peterson to win the one-on-one matchup.

CB Jourdan Lewis

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys Secondary vs. Cardinals WRs

The Dallas Cowboys will be a little thin in their secondary tonight against the Arizona Cardinals. Both Nolan Carroll and Chidobe Awuzie will miss this contest due to injuries, which means some of the young defensive backs will have to step up.

Luckily, Orlando Scandrick will be back on the field, which provides more veteran experience against a talented group of Cardinals WRs. Scandrick can’t do it alone though. Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and maybe even Xavier Woods will have to be on top of their games in order to keep the Cardinals WRs in check.

The Arizona Cardinals offense likes to push the ball down the field, so the Cowboys secondary will have to keep the plays in front of them and make sure tackles. This was a problem last week, but I’m sure defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has emphasized this week how important tackling is. This matchup just might be the most important for the Cowboys.

DE D Marcus Lawrence

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Lawrence vs. John Wetzel

Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has been simply outstanding the first two weeks of the 2017 season. He has pretty much dominated any offensive lineman he has gone up against and should continue that impressive streak this week against the Arizona Cardinals backup left tackle John Wetzel.

Wetzel will be filling in as an injury replacement and as a former practice squad member of the Dallas Cowboys, should know what he’s up against. Unfortunately, that works both ways. Lawrence should know all too well Wetzel’s strengths and weaknesses and how best to win the match up. I’m expecting Lawrence to have another good game getting after the QB and you can bet Carson Palmer is paying extra close attention to where he is lined up every play.

RT La'el Collins

RT La’el Collins

La’el Collins vs. Chandler Jones

The Dallas Cowboys absolutely have to win the battle of the trenches against the Cardinals tonight. The Denver Broncos were able to beat them at their own game and control the line of scrimmage last week. That can’t happen this week and La’el Collins might just be the key to the entire offensive lines performance.

The Arizona Cardinals have a talented defensive line, but I believe that it will be Chandler Jones who might just be the most impactful. I think Jones and Collins will square off against one another the majority of the game and this is a battle Collins has to win. Luckily, Collins has performed above expectations and has already proven himself against some of the best pass rushers in the NFL.

It may be unfair to single out Collins, because I believe the entire offensive line needs to up their game after last week’s performance. But, I believe the Collins and Jones matchup will go a long ways in determining how the Cowboys come out in the battle of the trenches. If the Cowboys can win that battle, it will open up the passing and running game, making things that much more difficult for the Cardinals defense.

Scott Linehan

Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan

OC Scott Linehan vs. DC James Bettcher

It’s no secret that I’ve been extremely hard on Scott Linehan in the past. I think he was largely responsible for how the Dallas Cowboys offense performed last week against the Denver Broncos defense, which is why I think he has to do better this week.

Offensive coordinators against defensive coordinators is always a chess match. You have to anticipate what the other is going to do and come up with the right counterattack move. Linehan was unable to do that against the Broncos, but the Cardinals defense doesn’t have the same kind of talent on that side of the ball as Denver did.

Linehan has to do much better job of getting Dak Prescott settled down early, because he has been a little inaccurate to start the first two games of the season. He also has to find ways to get the ball in the hands of his best playmakers, Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott. When they are involved early in the game, it helps the entire offense and puts the opposing defense on their heels.

What are your key matchups for the Cowboys against the Cardinals?

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Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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2 Comments
  • Hobbes49

    Good calls all Brian. I am really disappointed Chido isn’t playing. He and Lewis need all the reps they can get. Thank God Scandrick is back. I think how well our d-tackles help control the inside running game will be a big factor as well.

    • Brian Martin

      I’m disappointed that Chidobe has struggled with injuries so much so early in his career. I thought he would be a starter by now, but at least the Cowboys have some depth at the position. I’m actually more excited about Lewis. I thought he was a first-round talent, but the lack of height and possible DV hanging over his head knocked him down a few rounds. I think the Cowboys have some really good young CBs

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La’el Collins’ Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Brian Martin

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La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise 1

The decision by the Dallas Cowboys to move La’el Collins from left guard to right tackle was met by some skepticism by quite a few members of Cowboys Nation during the off-season. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of those skeptical of the move, but I’m not afraid to admit he has exceeded my expectations.

In all honesty, I always believed that La’el Collins’ best position in the NFL is on the interior of the offense of line as a guard. I thought he could use his strength and athleticism to his advantage when working in a phone booth against slower and less athletic defensive tackles. That’s not to say I didn’t think he would make a good right tackle, I just thought he had Pro Bowl potential as a guard.

Strangely enough, Collins has probably put together a Pro Bowl caliber season in his first season starting at the right tackle position for the Cowboys. He has become an upgrade over the previous starter Doug Free, and is really starting to earn high praise from the brass. Stephen Jones in particular has been impressed with Collins, especially considering how he has played after missing two full weeks of practice.

Mark Lane on Twitter

DallasCowboys COO Stephen Jones told @1053thefan La’el Collins has answered the bell after his contract extension.

I personally agree with everything Stephen Jones said about La’el Collins. I’ve really enjoyed watching his progression this season, but I have been really impressed how he played the last two weeks after missing so much practice.

You might not of known, but Collins has missed two full weeks of practice due to a herniated disc in his back. This is put his availability to play against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants in jeopardy, but somehow he has toughened up and played considerably well.

This unfortunately will be something he has to continue to battle through the rest of the season, but I’m not going to bet against him playing. He absolutely makes this offensive line better and I would hate to see Chaz Green or Byron Bell back on the field after the way they played as feel-ins.

La’el Collins has without a doubt earned my respect and I think it’s about time we all recognize the player he is turning into. I know the Dallas Cowboys appreciate all that he does and believe that his recent contract extension is money well spent.

What do you think about La’el Collins?

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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Awuzie and Lewis Impress, Concerns Around Dez Bryant

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Awuzie and Lewis Impress, Concerns Around Dez Bryant

The Dallas Cowboys headed to New York a couple of days ago with a mission: survive a potential trap game versus a 2-10 New York Giants team. Despite not getting most of the help they needed from other teams around the league, at least Dallas was able to do the job they could control.

Through three quarters, the Cowboys struggled a lot. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when they decided to have a touchdown party, outscoring the Giants 20-0 in the final eight minutes of the game.

What did we learn from the Cowboys’ seventh win of the season? Here is this week’s edition of Takeaway Tuesday! 

Dak Prescott Bounced Back

Although the Cowboys are a team that’s barely breathing in the playoff race, the truth is there’re a lot of ways that Dak has improved as a QB. It’s easy to look at a team lose football games and blame the QB without hesitating. That’s been the case most of the season.

It’s fair to say that Prescott hadn’t had an awesome game in a long time, though. But this time, he did just that.

Film Room: How Dak Prescott Beat The Giants' Blitz

Dak Prescott needed a performance like this one. He threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns last Sunday. He made some key throws and key reads during the game and managed to beat the Giants’ blitz with ease. Glad to see you hush the haters, 4.

Certainly a good thing to see when you need to go 3-0 in order to stay in the postseason conversation.

Concerns Around Dez Bryant Continue to Increase

Listen, I love Dez Bryant. He’s been one of my favorite players to ever watch. But at some point, you have to start admitting there is a problem. Yes, Dez Bryant has been struggling this season. Whether you want to blame Dak or Dez about it, it’s fair. I think they both are to blame.

The thing about Dez is that he can have quite a few bad plays and makes you forget about it when he  does something awesome. A perfect example of this is his 50-yard TD against the Giants last Sunday. It came at a perfect moment, but he had dropped some easy balls earlier in the game.

Dez – Streamable

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Dez is getting paid like an elite WR, and despite some great moments on the field, he’s been having a lot of bad ones lately. If you have a $70M contract, you can’t frequently drop passes like that.

It may be about chemistry with his new QB, it may be about age, or it may be just about a couple of bad years for the guy. Whatever it is, as much as we hate to say it, Dez isn’t anywhere close to the “top receivers” conversation this year.

Sean Lee Proved to be Invaluable Once Again

Less Is More For Sean Lee And Cowboys' LBs?I’m constantly amazed by the difference the Cowboys’ veteran linebacker makes when he’s on the field. In his heroic return against the Giants, he finished the day with 18 total tackles, 10 of which were solo. With Sean Lee on the field, this defense has been able to be a headache for opposing offenses.

Sean Lee could easily be this team’s MVP. For Cowboys Nation, it’s been a season of constantly missing football players in Dallas. Out of everyone, I think Sean Lee is the player we missed the most. Including Ezekiel Elliott.

This defense transforms into a very capable one with Lee around. The Cowboys need Zeke back if they want to have success in their hunt for the playoffs, but without Lee, they wouldn’t stand a chance.

Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis Are Still Killing It

Coming into this game, one of the biggest question marks was the cornerback position for Dallas. Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis were going to get the start, and there’s always uncertainty around rookies going up against a QB like Eli Manning.

lewis – Streamable

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Look at that coverage by Jourdan Lewis. Look at him turn his head around when the ball’s coming. The way this secondary will grow is exciting to think about. The Cowboys have something special in these two guys. They’ll make for an amazing CB duo for years to come, and I’m excited about what they bring to the table.

Chidobe Awuzie has played the last two games, and he’s been very impressive. Throughout the entire game, his converge was pretty impressive. Eli only targeted him 5 times in the ballgame and was able to complete just two passes against him.

Sean Lee ended up with the interception late in the fourth quarter, but it was perfectly set up by Chidobe Awuzie.

Awuzie – Streamable

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It was a very fun fourth quarter for the Dallas Cowboys, and even though it looks difficult… this football team’s playoff hopes are still alive. Jason Garrett must keep this team focused in the Oakland Raiders for now, though.

Hope dies last, Cowboys Nation. Keep your head up.

Tell me what you think about “Takeaway Tuesday: Awuzie and Lewis Impress, Concerns Around Dez Bryant” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Dallas Cowboys

Playoffs Or Not, Cowboys Defense Showing Promise For Future

Sean Martin

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Playoffs Or Not, Cowboys Defense Showing Promise For Future 1

The New York Giants are not a good football team, but the Dallas Cowboys 30-10 win over the Giants in Eli Manning’s return to action left Cowboys Nation with plenty to be excited about as the team improved to 7-6.

In a stacked NFC, the Cowboys unfortunately did not get much help from scores elsewhere around the league Sunday, and the momentum they’ve built with two straight wins ahead of Ezekiel Elliott‘s return in week 16 has done little to improve their chances of reaching the playoffs.

The entire NFC East in 2017 has truly epitomized how quickly things can improve or fall apart in this league, as the Eagles clinching the title came at the cost of their franchise QB Carson Wentz – tearing his ACL to end his season.

Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys Defense?

Dallas Cowboys’ Jourdan Lewis (27), Chidobe Awuzie (33) and Xavier Woods (25) warm ups before an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Through all of this, including my own criticism of Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli, I can’t help but get excited about the potential this young Dallas defense is showing. The Cowboys got back in the win column two weeks ago against the Redskins, shuffling their secondary with great results.

Adding Sean Lee back to this winning formula against the Giants brought things even further into focus for the Cowboys defense though. Schematically, they were cohesive through all three levels. The longest play the Giants hit on was a 35-yard completion (against the blitz) to Evan Engram – one of their lone remaining offensive threats.

When the Cowboys dropped three straight games in weeks 10-12, the defense was desperate for Dak Prescott and the offense to play up to their potential. Prescott’s career day at MetLife Stadium was perhaps the most unsurprising development from this week, as the Cowboys found out early in this season that Prescott is in fact their franchise QB, and soon the complimentary performance turned in by this scrappy defense will be just as regularly expected.

Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys' Defense?

Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis continue to live up to their draft status, two lengthy defenders with ball skills that have not been seen in the Cowboys secondary for some time. Sixth round pick Xavier Woods has proved valuable at every spot these coaches play him at, contributing at Nickel CB against the Giants’ Sterling Shepard and looking comfortable.

Jeff Heath came up with an interception on what may have been Eli Manning’s last pass as a Giant against the Cowboys, and played well throughout the afternoon in his rotational role alongside Byron Jones.

At linebacker, Sean Lee’s 18 tackles with an interception only further highlighted how well Anthony Hitchens has played at the other primary LB spot. I wrote in my immediate post game Sean’s Scout that I also thought Jaylon Smith could have been utilized more in this game, but the fact that he’s played in 13 straight games for the Cowboys without additional injuries is incredible enough.

Simply put, the biggest reason the Cowboys have salvaged a shot at contending for the playoffs this season is because they’ve found a way to get back to playing complimentary football on offense and defense – even with some key absences on both sides of the ball.

The game plan is a proven one. When the Cowboys run the ball, control the clock, and allow their defense to play from ahead against hurried, one-dimensional offenses they can beat anyone.

Whether or not that means 10 wins to close this roller coaster of a season – good enough for the playoffs or not – the Cowboys are doing well to prove they’ll have staying power in the NFC for years to come.

This fate was very debatable a few weeks ago, and any team that commits to turning over their defense as much as the Cowboys did in one offseason should expect something of a regression, but the Cowboys’ future is now being written in front of us by young stars on offense and defense.

Playoffs Or Not, Cowboys Defense Showing Promise For Future

Getting more than three remaining kickoffs for guys like Awuzie, Lewis, Woods, Jaylon Smith, and Lewis Neal would certainly be ideal for the end of this season. Should the Cowboys miss out on the playoffs due to circumstances past their control though, we can all spend a few months getting very excited about what these defenders will have to say about taking matters into their own hands at the very next possible opportunity.

Tell us what you think about “Playoffs Or Not, Cowboys Defense Showing Promise For Future” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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