Here’s a look at the two biggest matchups I have my eye on for this divisional playoff matchup against the Rams.
Dallas Cowboys OG Connor Williams vs. Los Angeles Rams DT Ndamukong Suh
The further we move along in the week, the more likely I believe that Connor Williams will get the start over Xavier Su’a-Filo. With Williams coming off a nice game last week against the Seahawks and Su’a-Filo fighting through an ankle injury, it makes the most sense to stick with Williams this week. Even if Su’a-Filo did make the start, I believe Wade Phillips would attack this area of the Cowboys’ offensive line. Lining up Aaron Donald in this spot also makes sense for the Rams, and I guarantee we will see that, as well.
Suh and Donald, in my opinion, are two different players, so Williams is going to have to prepare that way. Suh will beat you with his power, while Donald wants to win on that first step. Suh will have gone back through his film study this week and noted that, when Williams has had problems, it has been when he plays with straight legs. Without that base, Williams is unable to move and he becomes an off balance blocker.
To play Suh, you have to play with knee bend, which gives you the necessary leverage to keep him along the line. Williams is going to need some assistance in this game -- regardless if of whether he’s playing Suh or Donald. If the Rams attack Zack Martin one-on-one and they win that matchup, well, then they were just better.
The Cowboys don’t have that same luxury with Williams, and that’s why I believe you will see Joe Looney keeping his left eye on what happens with Connor Williams as he deals with both Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald.
Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence vs. Los Angeles Rams OT Rob Havenstein
I really like this matchup of DeMarcus Lawrence working against Rob Havenstein. Both of these Rams offensive tackles are big guys. When big linemen run across pass rushers like Lawrence, they tend to be slow-footed. I was encouraged by what I saw from the Bears and Eagles games, where Havenstein and Andrew Whitworth had to handle these ends that were athletic and played with bend.
Lawrence will put pressure on Havenstein to deal with not only his speed, but his power, as well. This is where Lawrence has an advantage in that he can set up Havenstein with his rush. Lawrence can pound the edge, pound the edge -- then work back underneath with some power. Lawrence has the ability to make Havenstein continue to guess on how he’s going to attack him. This is where Khalil Mack and Michael Bennett had success.
Where Lawrence needs to be careful is that Sean McVay likes to give the defense a lot of what I call “Eye Candy.” This is motion and movement to attempt to distract you from your assignment and make you play slow. Lawrence is a veteran defender and he’s seen all the tricks of the trade in order to try and slow him down. Lawrence is just going to need to play through all that and have the type of game he is capable of having.
Lawrence is also going to need to be mindful of chip blocks from Todd Gurley when he stays in the backfield. Like Ezekiel Elliott, Gurley is one of the most complete backs in the league when it comes to his pass protection.