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Mailbag: How Much Have They Missed Antwaun?

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Does the absence of Antwaun Woods have a direct correlation with the last two defensive performances against the run? I realize that Christian Covington was a starter on a good Texans front, however, I believe Houston runs a 3-4 defense, and it seemed like Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith were running into offensive linemen instead of the ball carrier the last two weeks. Would love to hear your thoughts. - VICKI RATAJESAK / SAN DIEGO, CA

Bryan: Woods will help, but as a group they need to do a better job of holding the point of attack and running to the ball. They also need to do a better job of finishing when they get there. They have tackled better as a unit this season and need to get back to that if they want to improve. The Jets will struggle to block these guys. 

Rob: No question they’ve missed Woods’ strength and toughness at the nose. I do think Christian Covington has given them some real quality snaps there. He had to play a ton (55 of 72) against the Packers. That’s taxing. With Woods inactive, rookie Trysten Hill also got some work there, and that’s not his natural position. The deeper they are at tackle, the better.

I believe during the broadcast there was mention of "soft coverage" in the first half by the Dallas D. On several plays I did notice DB's way off the line, even on short third down plays. It seemed like in the second half the Cowboys played more aggressively. If that is the case, is that because of a lack of faith at the safety position and wouldn't more aggressive play hypothetically lead to more turnovers that they are lacking? Thanks. - ROB RIGGIERI / RUTLAND, MA

Bryan: I believe they played soft coverage because they were worried about Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball over the top, which didn’t happen. The Packers' receivers only had four total catches in the game, so I’d say they did their jobs. What hurt them was Aaron Jones and their tight ends. That was the biggest issue. 

Rob: I don’t think it’s lack of faith in the safeties. It’s not unusual for defenses to mix up their coverages during games. But I do think they have corners capable of playing press. The more aggressive you are, the more you open yourself up to big plays. But there’s no question the lack of takeaways are forcing the offense to drive longer fields, increasing the odds of committing their own turnovers.

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