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Matchups Revisited: LT Handled Orakpo From Start To Finish


Cowboys OT Tyron Smith vs. Redskins OLB Brian Orakpo

Revisited:This was a matchup that I actually felt very good about going into the contest. Tyron Smith had been playing at such a high level but when you studied the Redskins, Brian Orakpo was on a roll too. When you play a rusher like Orakpo, you have to almost be technique perfect because he can find ways to expose your flaws. From my seat in the press box, then later studying the game on the way home, Smith was near perfect. Where he might have got in trouble a rush or two was over setting or playing to the outside believing that Orakpo was going to try and carry him wide thus he was worried about that edge.

Have heard me say this a bunch, when Smith is a little off, it's when those rushers carry him down inside but he has improved so much in this area with his foot work and the way he now plays with patience. I was able to talk with Smith as we were walking to our cars and he told me that he is becoming more comfortable of playing all rushers but also gaining more of an understanding of how he has to be balanced in his sets. No tackle wants to get beat to the edge and this case, he was worried about what he had seen from Orakpo much more around the edge than he did coming down inside. Where Smith did his most damage on Orakpo and I think this is the best way to play him, is to attack him. Don't let him get going, Smith was able to make him start and stop his rush during the game and in the running game, he hammered on him.

What these defensive ends and outside linebackers are learning is that Smith is not only an athletic player but he also plays with a great deal of power. When he gets his hands on the defender, he is done because he is going to control with those hands and push you with that lower body power. The way that Tyron Smith was able to handle Brian Orakpo in this game was text book because at any point in time, Orakpo could have taken over this game but he didn't have that opportunity.

Cowboys LBs vs. Redskins FB Darrel Young

Revisited: I really worried the Redskins with Kirk Cousins at quarterback that they would just load up and slam the ball at this Cowboys defense to control the game that way. There were several plays where these linebackers had to face Alfred Morris just in the one back set and he was able to have some success. There were some snaps especially in the 2nd half after the Romo interception, where Shanahan went with the combination of Young and Morris which gave the Cowboys some trouble at the point of attack but it was after that touchdown that these linebackers did a much better job of handling him.

After the Redskins converted a 3rd down late in the game to Aldrick Robinson, Shanahan put Young back in the lineup to try and create some running room for Morris, but Jeff Heath took him on at the point of attack, which allowed Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman to fill along with George Selvie for no gain, which put the Redskins in a long yardage situation and two plays later, Orlando Scandrick is able to undercut the pass to Pierre Garcon to get the defense off the field.

Overall, Morris did have his rushing yards but that was expected against a Cowboys defense that had its share of problems but Darrel Young did not have the type of an impact that I had seen from him in previous games.  

Posted Friday, Dec.19 Cowboys OT Tyron Smith vs. Redskins OLB Brian Orakpo

As these games have become more important, the matchups have become more critical. One missed assignment or breakdown could be the difference whether your team moves on or is home for the playoffs. The one player that has been the most consistent regardless of the situation has been Tyron Smith and how he has been able to take whomever he is playing out of the game.

This week against the Redskins, he draws one of their better defensive players, run or pass. Brian Orakpo like his teammate on the other side, Ryan Kerrigan is relentless in the way they approach the game. There is no question that Smith will need to be at his best and having faced Orakpo before always helps in the way of his physical and mental approach. Where I don't believe that Orakpo gets enough credit is in his ability to play the run. For a player that has his length and range, he is able to hold up at the point, string the blocker out, shed and make the tackle.

What Smith is going to have to be careful of is Orakpo's ability to shed and trap the ball carrier for no gain or a loss. Smith is going to need to get inside of Orakpo's body and not allow him to extend those hands on the front side. Where Smith is also going to have to work hard is on the backside cut off when the ball goes away. Orakpo loves to chase the ball and he has the speed to catch Murray from the backside. Two very athletic players going at it here on Sunday.

Cowboys LBs vs. Redskins FB Darrel Young

With Kirk Cousins in the game, the Redskins are more of a traditional type of offense. There are more snaps under center and more "I" formation plays. Without Sean Lee in the lineup, stopping this Redskins running game will fall on the shoulders of DeVonte Holloman, Bruce Carter and Kyle Wilber. It's hard enough to have to deal with Alfred Morris running downhill at them but with Darrel Young in the lineup, it is even more of a challenge. Young is just an extension of what you see in Morris. [embedded_ad]

At 5-11 and 245 pounds, he is a "Splatter" back that is able to run right through would-be tacklers. Where he makes it so difficult as a linebacker is that when you take him on, then shed, here comes Morris and you are usually off balance or not in great position to make the play. In watching Morris play, I have always thought that he was an outstanding single or one back with his running style in this scheme but putting a Young in front of him, makes him even more dangerous. Young doesn't hold him up or cause him to delay getting the ball inside or out.

Both Young and Morris work very well together. Where I think that Kyle Shanahan misses the boat, is when he pairs Morris with Logan Paulsen because with him in front, there just isn't the point of attack space that Young can create. These Cowboys linebackers got a little taste of a blocking fullback last week in John Kuhn but this week is a whole different cat and they had better be ready for that.    

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