FRISCO, Texas — Week two is here, and with it comes a handful of matchups that will help determine if the Cowboys can be as successful as they were in week one when they welcome in the Jets for the home opener on Sunday afternoon.
Whether it's Zack Martin defending his crown as the top guard in the NFL, DeMarcus Lawrence tapping into his run defense skills or Michael Gallup facing off against a rising superstar, the intrigue remains high going into Sunday.
Here are the three key matchups for the Cowboys and Jets.
1. Zack Martin vs. Quinnen Williams
The week one matchup for Zack Martin against an athletic interior defensive line wasn't one that gave him many struggles, as he played a major part in helping to keep Dak Prescott from getting sacked in the season opener. Moving into week two, the challenge only increases with the brute force that awaits with Quinnen Williams.
The fifth-year defensive tackle was a frequent flier in the backfield for the Jets in their opener against the Bills, as his presence isn't limited to making plays himself in the backfield, but it also extends to him diverting plays by pushing opposing offensive linemen into the direction of running plays or into a collapsing pocket. Some of Williams' most impactful plays came with backfield disruption that gave way to his teammates getting tackles for loss.
Power on power will be the name of this matchup, and for Martin it's an opportunity to continue to prove his status as one of the top guards in the league – if not the top guard – while for Williams it's an opportunity to enter the top echelon of interior defensive line talents with a good day against Martin.
2. DeMarcus Lawrence vs. Mekhi Becton
With Aaron Rodgers out of the equation and Zach Wilson inserted in to command the offense, generating pressure on a young quarterback and limiting the run game attack spearheaded by Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook will be crucial towards the Dallas defense having a repeat performance of the dominance that it showed in week one.
With that in mind, DeMarcus Lawrence's presence on Sunday afternoon both in pass rush and in defending the run will be a big part of what could make the Dallas defense successful for the second week in a row. While his presence in the run game was up-and-down at times last season, Lawrence has built his 10-year career off of disrupting the backfield no matter what's being run by the opposing offense. Tapping back into that ability on Sunday will yield results with a domino effect down the rest of the defensive line and defensive unit as a whole.
Waiting on the opposite side of Lawrence at right tackle will be fourth-year offensive lineman Mekhi Becton. The opener for the Jets was only Becton's second game since his rookie season in 2020 after suffering back-to-back season-ending injuries in 2021 and 2022. Getting back into the swing of things on Monday night against Buffalo, Becton had to shake off some rust as he allowed backfield pressure and was responsible for a pair of penalties as well. An opportunity awaits for Lawrence to take advantage of a young tackle trying to regain his footing following injury on his way to limiting the Jets' main offensive firepower: the running game.
3. Michael Gallup vs. Sauce Gardner
With Brandin Cooks listed as questionable for Sunday's game after not practicing all week due to a knee issue, it appears that Michael Gallup will draw the challenge of lining up against second-year cornerback Sauce Gardner on the boundary.
Gardner – who comes into his sophomore campaign after winning the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2022 – struggled in week one lined up against Stefon Diggs, but a matchup against Gallup allows for more success, at least on paper. For Gallup, it's an opportunity to step into the WR2 role if Cooks is out and shine against one of the league's rising superstar corners.
Gallup has emphasized all offseason that he's back to his old self after dealing with the mental aspect of recovering from injury all of last season, and a big opportunity awaits to show just that against the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Gardner.
The length and physicality from the young Jets defensive piece downfield caused issues for receivers all year in 2022, but Diggs was able to find success in the short-to-intermediate game on Monday night. Short and methodical gains – which is what the new "Texas Coast" offense is predicated on – will be the key to keeping Gardner on his back foot and Gallup having a big day.