Heading into Sunday’s massive matchup between the Cowboys and Vikings, a ton has been made about how the Cowboys will go about slowing down the Vikings rushing attack.
And, of course, this is for good reason.
Dalvin Cook and the Vikings have been electric on the ground this season, pounding teams into submission while also taking and succeeding on play action shots down the field. It’s been the offense that both nerds and football purists can enjoy in their own ways. And it’s been incredibly effective.
Where the Cowboys absolutely need to be great on Sunday, though, is on their offensive line. Particularly at offensive tackle.
Minnesota boasts two of the pass edge rushers in all of football, as indicated by their pressure statistics cited by PFF’s Sam Monson in the tweet below. These rushers – Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen – will pose a plethora of problems for even the Cowboys dynamic tackle duo.
Minnesota Vikings have the 1st and 3rd ranked player in terms of total pressures in the NFL this year. #2 is JJ Watt, so obviously will be slipping down that list as the season goes on.
Minnesota ranks fourth in adjusted sack rate this season, totaling 28 through their first 9 games. Hunter himself has 8.5 sacks to go along with 14 quarterback hits and 10 total tackles for loss. Simply put, he’s an elite edge rusher who has once again played himself into the “best defensive end in the league” conversation in 2019.
Locking down these dangerous pass rushers is obviously important, but what it makes it even more vital than usual when facing the Vikings defense is because of how weak they’ve been on the back-end of their defense this year. When offenses do get the time to throw the ball and take downfield shots, they’ve been decently successful doing so. Minnesota’s defense is loaded with talent just about everywhere, but there’s no doubt that their cornerbacks have underachieved this season.
Still, the Vikings are 14th in total pass yards allowed this season and 12th in expected points added on defense. They’re also fifth in net yards per passing attempt, once again indicating how suffocating this defense can be when they are getting pressure off the edge.
Minnesota’s defense features talent on all three levels, but finding ways to slow down Griffin and Hunter will be priority number one for the Cowboys this week.