FRISCO, Texas – We’ve said pretty much everything we can say.
Once again, it’s all or nothing. We’ve previewed the matchup, and we know what to expect from both the Rams and the Cowboys. There’s just a few last notes to go over.
Here’s a few final thoughts on how I think the Cowboys might approach this game, from injury concerns to lineup shuffles and everything in between.
· Initially, I thought the Cowboys’ coaching staff would go back to Xavier Su’a-Filo once he was healthy enough to go. But my gut feeling as we draw closer to this game is that Connor Williams will once again be back as the starter at left guard after his performance in the victory over the Seahawks. Williams did receive the majority of the snaps this week, with Su’a-Filo getting the backup work. Su’a-Filo was able to work on his conditioning while working with the scout team, as well. It will be interesting to see if they go back to the plan they had earlier in the season when they did not dress Su’a-Filo and had him on the inactive list. With Adam Redmond showing that he can play both center and guard, this might be the route they go.
· It’s going to be a game time call for Cole Beasley and Blake Jarwin. Beasley is dealing with a foot/ankle injury while Jarwin has a high ankle sprain. Neither player took any snaps this week in practice while working extensively with Associate Athletic Trainer Britt Brown on the side. Brown has worked some magic before, and with this being a playoff game, I would say anything is possible. We could see one or both of these players attempt to give it a go without any practice in this win-or-go-home game.
· If Cole Beasley is unable to answer the bell for the contest, look for Tavon Austin to get the start in the slot when the offense gets into “11” personnel. Austin has received the majority of the snaps, and, along with Amari Cooper, should be able to handle the workload. I don’t believe that conditioning will be a problem for Austin, who appeared to make it through all of these practices without an issue. How fitting would it be for him to have a big night against the organization that drafted and traded him away?
· During this week fans have asked me if there is a possibility that we would see Jourdan Lewis travel with Todd Gurley the way he did against Alvin Kamara. There is always a possibility of that happening -- especially if the Rams line Gurley out wide like Kamara did. Where I could see Lewis doing the most is if the Rams try and spread the Cowboys out across the field. This is an offense that has its share of playmakers at receiver, but they have some quality tight ends that work down the field like receivers. Kris Richard could decide to use Lewis in a couple of different ways in order to match what Sean McVay is attempting to accomplish.
· I mentioned earlier there was a possibility that Blake Jarwin might be unable to suit up for this game. If Jarwin can’t go, that would compromise the Cowboys’ scheme with them wanting to run some of their “13” personnel package. The most logical way to handle that would be to use Noah Brown in some formations where he could help out as a wing. Brown might not be as heavy as Jarwin, but he’s not afraid to stick his nose in the block and you could use him in the pass game as a receiver. Another way would be to use one of those backup offensive linemen as a blocker. Adam Redmond and Cam Fleming are just as comfortable lining up as the end man on the line of scrimmage and making a block. You might not have the threat of a reception, but like I said: you’ll get that block.
· We need to keep an eye on Caraun Reid in this game. I am getting the feeling, with Maliek Collins fighting through his ailments, that Reid is going to get more of an opportunity this week. I have been told from various people that Reid was receiving more and more work with the first defense working in Collins’ spot. Usually we’ve seen Daniel Ross take those snaps, but Reid has become the first man off the bench for these defensive coaches.
· Something to keep in mind. On special teams, Rams coordinator John Fassel has run some type of fake with his punter Johnny Hekker in five games this season. Hekker has executed passes against the Vikings, Packers, Bears and Eagles while rushing the ball against the Saints. Hekker is currently 2-of-4 passing for 19 yards, and he’s also is credited for one carry for three yards. There is no question that Cowboys coordinator Keith O’Quinn had his guys working on every possible fake he’s seen from Fassel throughout his NFL coaching career.
· My weekly guess at the Cowboys Inactives: QB Mike White, RB Darius Jackson, S Darian Thompson, LB Chris Covington, OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, DE Dorance Armstrong, DT David Irving.