FRISCO, Texas – Another chance to get back on track.
Back-to-back losses isn't a good thing, but they can be overcome. It's hard to get where you want to go as a football team if you're dealing with three-game losing streaks. Throw in the fact that this New York Jets team is winless, and the Cowboys will have to ask themselves some tough questions if they can't get a road win this weekend.
So here's my weekly look at the matchup and how I think they'll handle it. This is what I'm keeping an eye on heading into Week 6.
- The availability of Tyron Smith has become the dominant storyline for this football game. The All-Pro left tackle did not practice at all this week, but it's a testament to his ability that he has not been ruled out of the game. I think he will be a true game time decision, as this staff tries to determine his status once they arrive at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. If Smith can go, I think it's as simple as sliding Cam Fleming over to the right side, as I don't believe La'el Collins will be able to play in this game. Jason Garrett was not concerned about Fleming practicing on the left side and then switching over if need be. If neither Smith nor Collins can go, that's where it gets interesting. In that scenario, Fleming would man the left side and Brandon Knight would get his first NFL start at right tackle. Knight handled himself well last week when Collins left the game with a knee injury, so this could be an interesting test for the rookie.
- There was a chance last week that Antwaun Woods was going to give it a go against the Packers, but the call was made to hold him out. After missing three games, Woods is ready and this line sure could use him with Le'Veon Bell in the backfield for the Jets. Woods will start at nose tackle with Maliek Collins lining up at under tackle. The backups will be Tyrone Crawford and Christian Covington, which will give them a little more quality depth for the position. The Jets have really struggled to get Bell untracked in the running game due to their offensive line and quarterback situation. I can guarantee Adam Gase is going to test this front after what he observed from the Packers film.
- Leighton Vander Esch missed two days of practice with vertigo, but all signs point to him being ready for the trip and game. In his place, the defense went with a combination of Sean Lee, Joe Thomas, Justin March and Luke Gifford. Garrett mentioned that he is looking for a way to get Gifford active for one of these games after dealing with a high ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason. I don't believe it will be this week for the rookie, but all indications are that he's been practicing well for the opportunity.
- We don't get the chance to watch all of practice, but I promise that offensive line coach Marc Colombo has been drilling his guy on picking up twist stunts. This is a big part of what Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams does when it comes to dialing up pressure. Much like Kris Richard, he will move his defensive line and bring a linebacker with the pressure. That means the running backs will be part of the protection, so Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard will need to be on the screws and ready to help. This can be a tricky situation for the backs, especially if the line doesn't give them a clear picture of where they need to fit on those blocks. Elliott being the veteran will have a better understanding of where he needs to be, while Pollard is still learning but is willing.
- If I were Kris Richard I would be worried about Sam Darnold wearing him out with Jamison Crowder out of the slot. That assignment should fall to Anthony Brown, but if I were Richard I would also have a backup plan just in case Brown struggles. Where Crowder causes issues is with his start-stop quickness. Crowder can make a defender freeze, and once that happens he's off again. Brown has the quickness to match Crowder, but he tends to fall in the trap of drawing holding calls. The last thing Richard's defense needs is to make a stop to get off the field but draw an untimely holding call. This is going to be a key matchup for the Cowboys. They can't allow Crowder to make a ton of receptions and move the sticks like he did against Buffalo the last time Darnold was in the lineup.
- I have a feeling we will see Kellen Moore get back to what we saw from him in those first three games. I think he was nervous with all the pre-snap motions in New Orleans due to the intense crowd noise. I don't believe he feels that will be a problem at the Meadowlands, so look for those shifts, bunch formations and eye candy to influence Gregg Williams' unit. The more he can show, the more he can help Dak Prescott with his reads and create opportunities for Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup with some space for those explosive plays.
- I believe the Jets are the first team the Cowboys have faced that uses an offensive lineman in the backfield as a fullback. Jonotthan Harrison, who is a backup center to Ryan Kalil, will come in the game when the Jets are in their short yardage offense. Harrison hasn't been that impressive in those situations when attempting to locate his man and finishing. Knowing Rod Marinelli, I promise this has been addressed not only in their meetings but on the field, as well. All it takes is Harrison to one time to make his block and Le'Veon Bell is off to the races.
- I am sure Robert Quinn has studied Kelvin Beachum extensively this week. Where Beachum has to be concerned is with how quickly Quinn is able to capture the edge. But where I see Quinn making his living against Beachum is working him to the inside. I can see Quinn hammering him to the outside and then ducking underneath, catching Beachum with all of his weight on that outside foot. In studying both the Eagles and Patriots games, where Beachum had the majority of his problems was when the rusher did this to him. He didn't show the quickness nor the power in order to combat that type of rush. Beachum was so concerned about losing the edge that it opened him up. Look for Quinn to work that angle.