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Mailbag: Benefits Of Shifting WRs? Keanu Neal?


We have read that the coaches have CeeDee Lamb running routes on the outside to "take advantage of matchups" and have Gallup in the slot for the same reason; what makes a favorable matchup for one of them compared to the other? —  MARK WHITT / MULLENS, WV

David:I think being able to move around like that makes it harder for defenses to match you. For instance, if the opponent has a big, rangy corner who pairs well with Gallup's straight-line speed, perhaps you can shift Gallup inside to get away from that guy. Or if the Cowboys go up against a top-tier slot cornerback with short-area quickness, perhaps you can move Lamb out to the boundary to match up with someone who doesn't handle his burst so well. If all your receivers can move everywhere, it simply makes it more difficult for the opposition to neutralize them.

Nick:I think more than anything, just having those guys line up all over the place will make it difficult for teams to get a read on how the Cowboys are going to play. Sure, they can say that this No. 1 cornerback is going to match up with Amari or CeeDee, but if that happens, they'll need to be a good slot corner. Because if not, the Cowboys will exploit that matchup and make sure that cornerback is always in the slot. Or think of it this way – if a team has a great cornerback who can cover Amari all over the field, then he might wind up in the slot. That means, the slot cornerback, who could be smaller and not used to being on the outside, has to go out there and check CeeDee or Gallup. So really, the Cowboys hold the cards and however defenses want to line up, Kellen Moore should have an alternative option to counter.

All this news about the linebackers and I haven't heard anything about Keanu Neal? How is his camp going? Is he hurt? Or just not standing out? — ROBERT SANTOS / SAN ANTONIO, TX

David:I honestly think Keanu Neal has been solid, but maybe not spectacular. For starters, it's hard to get consistent playing time on such a loaded depth chart, and I'm not sure his more physical playstyle translates well to practice. I have very little doubt that he's going to make the team, but I don't envy Dan Quinn trying to figure out the rotation with him and the other Big 3.

Nick:He hasn't really stood out much, but I think there are reasons for that. For one, he's a physical player. He's had 100+ tackles three times in his career. And right now, the Cowboys aren't really tackling. He'll play down by the line of scrimmage and when it's time to mix it up, I bet he shows up. Secondly, he'll have somewhat of a hybrid role that I bet Dan Quinn isn't ready to reveal just yet. I would imagine Tom Brady might be the first one to really find out how and where Neal is going to play.

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