FRISCO, Texas – Here's my weekly look at the two biggest matchups I'm watching this week.
This time around, I think the wide receiver and cornerback play is going to go a long way in determining each team's success.
Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones vs. Miami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker
The Miami Dolphins are void of offensive skill on the outside -- with the exception of DeVante Parker.
In this matchup both Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie had better be prepared for the ball going down the field to Parker. The Dolphins lack explosive plays and this is the one way for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense to generate those chunk plays. Parker has the size and athletic ability to pull off those opportunities where the ball is 50/50. It was evident in the Baltimore and New England games that, when the Dolphins went the route of just throwing the ball up to Parker, they had an advantage. Parker's length is going to be a problem, along with Fitzpatrick's willingness just to let it fly.
Where Jones will have an advantage in this matchup is with his leaping ability. Running with Parker will not be a problem for him at all, so how well he positions himself and then finishes will be the key. Jones is a true pro when it comes to tracking the ball. We saw that last week against the Redskins when, on the first snap of the gam,e Case Keenum tried to find Terry McLaurin down the middle of the field. Jones was step-for-step with him and even had a chance to come down with an interception.
I don't believe it's a wise plan for the Dolphins to test Byron Jones in this manor, but they really don't have much of a choice given the lack of offensive weapons.
Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper vs. Miami Dolphins CB Xavien Howard
There aren't many matchups the Dolphins can win defensively, but this one between Amari Cooper and Xavien Howard they at least have a chance. With no Michael Gallup in the lineup, Brian Flores can concentrate on ways to slow Cooper down and Howard is his guy.
Unlike the matchup with Josh Norman last week, Flores is not afraid to move his guys around in order to give the defense the best chance to get off the field. When I studied Howard these past two games, it felt like I was watching a college team with the way they play field and boundary corners. Howard played on both sides of the field and will occasionally move to the slot when needed. Howard is comfortable playing wherever they ask him to line up.
What makes Cooper unique is that he too will line up all over the formation and is just as comfortable playing that way. Dak Prescott has to go into this matchup fully understanding that, if he does in fact throw the ball in Howard's direction, if the ball is even the slightest bit late or underthrown he's going to make a play on it. He's one of the best that I've studied who can cause issues, whether he's playing in man or zone.
Where Cooper does have an advantage on him is when it comes to tackling. There is going to be a point in this matchup where Howard is going to have to bring Cooper down with a tackle and that's not his strength.