Final Thoughts: Shuffling Each Team’s O-Line

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FRISCO, Texas – You get into such a rhythm previewing these games, it’s strange to think that this could be the last one.

It’s going to take a complete team effort to keep the Cowboys playing into next weekend, as this Seattle Seahawks team enters the postseason as hot as anyone in the tournament. We obviously have an idea of what this matchup will look like, thanks to the Week 3 tape – but these teams are obviously so different since then.

With some injury concerns and some lineup shuffling, this is what I’m thinking about this wildcard matchup. In a game between such evenly-matched teams, it’s going to come down to minor details to see who gets the win.

Here’s what I’m looking at:

·             Connor Williams will get the start at left guard for Xavier Su’a-Filo -- and I don’t see this as a problem. There are a couple of things to consider here. Su’a-Filo doesn’t play his best when he doesn’t practice, and that was evident the last time the club faced this situation. With him missing the entire week, playing Williams is the right thing to do here. Williams is also a great scheme fit for this game. In studying the Seahawks, the way that teams have moved the ball on them in the running game has been by getting them on the move. Counters, boots and waggles have worked against this Seahawks defense due to how aggressive they are. Williams is a better fit to play that more mobile style of scheme than Su’a-Filo.

·             After a scary moment against the Buccaneers, Tyrone Crawford will be back in the lineup at his normal right defensive end spot. The offensive line and tight ends were in full pads early on Tuesday, so Crawford padded up under the watchful eye of the Cowboys’ director of rehabilitation, Britt Brown, to prove he could handle a snap or two and was cleared to take part in the practice. Crawford has experienced no setbacks and this defense could sure use him after he played a heck of a game against the Seahawks in Week 3, both defending the run and getting hits on Russell Wilson.

·             There has been so much talk about Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith here lately, but don’t throw the dirt on Sean Lee quite yet. Vander Esch and Smith have been outstanding, but going back and studying that game from Week 3, the Seahawks had a hard time blocking Lee. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Lee rise from the ashes and make a game changing play or two to help this defense.

·             There were some questions about Tavon Austin appearing on the injury report this week, but I have been told from a couple of folks that he should be good to go. If you remember last time these two clubs met, Austin had a big carry on a jet sweep which caught the Seahawks off guard. Since his return to practice, Scott Linehan has been adding more and more to his plate in order to take advantage of his explosive quickness.

·             Like the Cowboys, the Seahawks have been a little banged up on their offensive line. J.R. Sweezy has been dealing with a foot problem, which has forced Ethan Pocic to move from right to left guard. Germain Ifedi, who started at right tackle in the previous matchup, played in Pocic’s right guard spot last week against the Cardinals. If Sweezy is unable to go, I like the matchup inside with Ifedi having to deal with the power of Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins. The Cardinals had some success attacking the middle of the pocket, especially in the “A” gaps.

·             Been hearing a lot of good things about Caraun Reid and what he has been doing at defensive tackle. The film has shown him getting more of an opportunity during games and making the most of them. Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods will be the primary starters, but look for Reid to get more of a look in some nickel situations as a pass rusher. With Tyrone Crawford back in the lineup, the staff might pair him with Reid -- which would allow Randy Gregory to get in the mix, as well. 

·             With two evenly matched squads, this game could come down to maybe a wrinkle that the other hasn’t shown during the season. With the tension as high as it is, going for it on fourth down or executing a trick play could allow Jason Garrett or Pete Carroll to steal a possession from the other. I have often been critical of Garrett for not managing the game correctly or knowing the condition of his team. I will say that, during this last half of the season, his decision making and his willingness to take advantage of opportunities have me coming around.

·             My weekly guess at the Cowboys inactives: QB Mike White, S Darian Thompson, RB Darius Jackson, LB Justin March-Lillard, OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, DE Dorance Armstrong, DT David Irving.

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