FRISCO, Texas – Here's my look at this week's biggest matchups in this Week 4 contest at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Dallas Cowboys OT La'el Collins vs. New Orleans Saints DE Cameron Jordan
Last season when these two met, La'el Collins did an outstanding job of being very patient in his approach against Cameron Jordan. The Saints' Pro Bowl defensive end is a lot like DeMarcus Lawrence, and it's not easy to face an end that not only rushes the passer but plays the run well. To steal a Jason Garrett line, Collins wasn't perfect, allowing Jordan to beat him for a sack -- but it was a situation where Prescott went through three reads before pulling the ball down.
If you evaluate how Collins played overall, you have to give him credit for holding Jordan in check. It got to the point where Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen moved Jordan to the other side and let him rush against Cam Fleming to see if he could have better success there.
I mentioned where Collins was good against Jordan was with how patiently he played him. Collins wasn't too anxious or jumpy. He let Jordan go through all his pass rush moves, then fired his hands into him. He was able to make Jordan reset his rush. Once you get a defender to stop, then start his rush again, he's not going to be able to finish like he needs to.
What will be different in this matchup is that the game is being played at the Superdome, where the crowd tends to cause problems. But this is where Collins has been outstanding throughout his career, knowing exactly how to time the snap count in order to get that jump in order to secure his man.
Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie vs. New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas
Michael Thomas is one of the best receivers in the NFL. His route execution and finish make him tough to defend. Sean Payton will line him up all over the formation in order to create matchup problems. I've put him with Chidobe Awuzie for this breakdown, but Byron Jones and Anthony Brown will also get a shot, as well.
Where Thomas is especially dangerous is working the middle of the field. I can't tell you how many times I've seen him run that "arrow" route from the slot where he angles inside and just sits to wait on the ball. He's also a nightmare to deal with when he catches it on the move. He can be a nasty runner and finisher. Defenders have to get to him quickly and bring him to the ground before he has a chance to get going. Awuzie can't expect him to miss many chances for receptions, even on those contested balls.
What these defensive backs need to be ready for is how physical Thomas can be in routes. He is not afraid to push or shove in order to create space. The tighter you play on him, the more likely he's going to push at the top of the route. I have seen him shove defenders out of the way and officials have allowed him to do it without a call. He is one of those rare receivers that will do anything in his power to push the envelope to get open.
Teddy Bridgewater will lean on Thomas and Alvin Kamara in this game heavily to create offense and both are capable of delivering.