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Gameday: Packers Linebacker Crucial To Green Bay Tilt

Posted Dec 12, 2013


The Nemesis: DeMarcus Ware

There are teams over his career that DeMarcus Ware absolutely plays his best against. The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants come to mind initially, but the Green Bay Packers should be mentioned with these two as well.

In four games against the Packers, Ware has 21 tackles, four sacks, one tackle for loss and eight quarterback pressures with one pass breakup. This week Ware will be lined up across from rookie tackle, David Bakhtiari, who has played well for the Packers this season, but that should not deter Ware.

These are the types of games where Ware tends to shine going against a young player at home. After what happened to this defense in Chicago, Monte Kiffin needs to have Ware at his very best to create problems for a Packers offense that will most likely be going with Matt Flynn at quarterback. Flynn tends to hold the ball longer than what you see with Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have allowed Bakhtiari to handle rushers on his own in the games I have been able to study.

I expect them to stick with that same plan, but this is where Ware needs to take advantage of that. In my view, this has been a tough season for Ware because of the standards that we have for him but one game against a team that he dominates can change all that.

 

The Weapon: Dez Bryant

In his short career, Dez Bryant has only faced the Packers one time and that was in 2010 with an eight catch, 86 yard game with one touchdown.

Like most of his teammates on Monday night, Bryant had an extremely quiet game. Dom Capers might decide to not allow Bryant to beat him in this game and double him the entire night with a safety over the top like he played Calvin Johnson two weeks back.

I do expect Capers to put Tramon Williams, his best corner, on Bryant to try and cover him that way as well. This will be an interesting matchup because Williams is a savvy veteran who has good cover skills and the ability to run with anyone on this Cowboys offense. Bryant will need to be ready for a physical game from the opening snap, and there is no doubt he will.

I also feel like Romo and Bryant will be able to take advantage of Williams’ aggressive style of play with some double moves up the field to get Williams off balance. The best matchup for Bryant this week will be if he can get some snaps against Sam Shields, who tends to struggle with receivers that work inside on him. On tape, he really struggles with power and as we all have seen, that is one of Bryant’s best traits.

 

Under The Radar: Sterling Moore

Jason Garrett and Monte Kiffin are looking for answers to try and help this defense play better. One of the adjustments that I believe they will make, and we saw it in the second half against Chicago, was to play Sterling Moore in the nickel at corner in place of B.W. Webb.

Garrett said on Thursday morning that Webb was playing like a “young guy” right now, and that they are looking at options to get the best players on the field. Moore was fine in the limited snaps that he was able to play in the game on Monday night and with his play on the outside, it will comfortably allow Orlando Scandrick to play inside on the slot, which is vital with Jordy Nelson playing there for the Packers.

Where I like Moore in this scheme, and I thought I saw this during the preseason and training camp, was how competitive he is. This defense needs cornerbacks that are willing to battle on the outside to deny the ball going to these receivers.

That’s what Sterling Moore gives you in coverage. He can also be that guy on the edge, when the ball gets to the outside, who will put himself in position to make the tackle and that is something that this defense has struggled with at times.

Green Bay Packers

 

The Nemesis: Jordy Nelson

 

I remember when Jordy Nelson first came into the league in 2008 out of Kansas State and ended up in Green Bay -- I thought that was the perfect spot for him to land. To me Nelson has always been one of those guys that played with a great deal of heart, grit and toughness.

The more difficult the situation, the more he showed up. I have always had a great deal of respect for the way he played. I have always said this about him: he is one of the best bad ball catchers that I have seen in this league. Where Nelson doesn’t get enough credit is as a route runner.

He plays with deceptive speed and fluid movement for a player his size. There is a reason that Mike McCarthy lines him up all over the place in the formation because he can handle any of those assignments. He can be difficult for a cornerback to have to deal with because of these traits.

He’s a physical player who is not afraid to put his shoulder down or use his hands to push off to buy himself separation. These Cowboys cornerbacks have to be ready for all kinds of routes, because he is not afraid to go anywhere on the field to handle the ball.

Has the ability to make contested catches, whether it is high or low -- it doesn’t matter. He will find ways to get the ball. It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is, he is the “Go-To” guy.

 

The Weapon: Clay Matthews

On a defense with several outstanding players, Clay Matthews is their best one in my view.

When you talk about guys who can turn a football game around in two or three plays, Matthews is that guy. One new development for Matthews is that he is now rushing off that right side instead of the left.

For the Cowboys, this is the best possible matchup because that is against Tyron Smith, who has been outstanding this season. When Smith faces Matthews, he will get a player that plays with relentless effort and passion. He is one of those players that never stops coming at you, but Smith knows all of this from their days together at USC. 

Matthews has a wide range of pass rush moves and you never see him come with the same one. He plays with surprising leverage and power because there are snaps where you see him walk the tackle back into the backfield.

Where Matthews can also be relentless is in his effort to chase the run. If you don’t block him on the backside, he has the speed and quickness to run the ball carrier down. Smith’s athletic ability will give him the ability to match Matthews, but he is going to need to find a way to outwork him on each and every play because Matthews will not quit until he gets to the ball.     

 

Under The Radar: Andrew Quarless

Of the several bad injuries around the NFL this season, the one to Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was as difficult as it came. Not only did the Packers lose a talented player, but there were questions about his career going forward, which is a shame.

In his place, the Packers have gone with former fifth round selection Andrew Quarless. Before Finley was injured, he had 25 receptions and three touchdowns. Quarless has since caught 23 passes and one touchdown to his credit.

What is interesting about Quarless is that he can do many of the same things in the scheme that Finley could do when it comes to where he lines up and how he gets down the field. Mike McCarthy will line him up inline, bunch formations or out wide, as a single receiver.

He is a 6-4, 252-pound player who runs in the low 4.7s, and you can see this in his game. Where there were questions about his game at Penn State was how consistent he was as a player, down after down.

Quarless has had some plays where he catches the ball very easily, then others where he doesn’t show the concentration or focus that he needs to always have. If the ball is coming behind him, he will struggle to get movement. I have seen him get buckled at the point, and he is a much better receiver than he is a blocker.

This is where Monte Kiffin and this Cowboys defense have to be aware of where he is in the formation, because Matt Flynn will look in his direction.

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