If Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is prone to release the ball in two to three seconds, wouldn't it suit the Cowboys to play press-man coverage to disturb the receivers' routes and give our defensive line time to get their hands on Brady? – Craig Ward/Atwater, CA
Nick: Without a doubt, the cornerbacks have to be at their best in this game, and it's not just in coverage, but tackling. You're right about Brady getting the ball out quick. Press coverage can offset that, but it's also going to come down to tackling. Let's not forget, the Cowboys could've probably gone a few different routes in adding another cornerback to the mix. But against the Bucs, who have been the expected matchup for the last few weeks, the Cowboys obviously wanted to get some size and experience. Enter Xavier Rhodes, who has the length and strength and he's seen just about anything there is to see at this position. Look for him to be close to the line of scrimmage, being able to fight with receivers at the line, but also the ability to recognize the routes and screens to go up and make a play. Last time against the Bucs, they ran right at the corners, including Diggs. So tackling and recognizing the plays will be huge for all of the cornerback spots.
Kurt: You're right, Brady doesn't waste any time. He averaged 2.45 seconds getting rid of the ball this season, which was the fastest in the NFL. Consequently, his 4.6 average completed air yards also tied for the third-lowest mark. His game is quick with a lot of dump-offs (Leonard Fournette was third among league running backs with 523 receiving yards). So for the Cowboys, they need to get physical with the receivers at the line of scrimmage, disguise their schemes to keep Brady guessing on who is rushing and who is dropping back, and have those like Leighton Vander Esch and Jayron Kearse generally make life miserable for anyone crossing over the middle. It's all in the name of disrupting Brady's timing. If he's not immediately in sync with his target, that gives the Cowboys defense time to get through Tampa Bay's suspect offensive line and to an immobile quarterback.