IRVING, Texas – Having studied the tape, here are my two big matchups for this weekend's trip to play the Dolphins.
The Dallas offense is going to be playing a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback for the second time in the last three weeks, after Richard Sherman enjoyed a successful day against Dez Bryant. The difference is that this week Bryant will have Tony Romo helping him battle Dolphins standout Brent Grimes.
Elsewhere, the Cowboys are going to need a second-straight solid effort from their middle linebacker against a tough Miami run game.
Let's take a look:
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant against Dolphins CB Brent Grimes
I have always had a great deal of respect for Brent Grimes and the way he goes about playing the game.
He will be a big test for Dez Bryant this week due to his physical toughness and athletic ability. He will not be afraid to play Bryant despite giving up size to him. Grimes is a battler – he is gritty and tough. He plays with speed and quickness, and he can be difficult to get away from because of these traits. Even if Bryant is able to separate from him – Grimes has the catch up speed to rally to the ball. He plays with a burst, which allows him to play with outstanding range.
Grimes is a reactionary athlete. When he comes out of his backpedal, he can really break on the ball. Bryant has to be ready to make catches that are contested, and Tony Romo has to be ready to throw the ball into some tight windows with him in coverage. Grimes is skilled at playing with his hands off the line. He will use those hands to put himself into position to carry his man. He knows how to stay in position throughout the route, and he is very skilled in both man and off coverage. He can key and diagnose with the best of them.
This is also a corner who is good in run support and a willing tackler. He can create turnovers due to how aggressive he is. The Cowboys need to be aware of where Grimes is on the field at all times because he is that good.
Cowboys LB Rolando McClain against Dolphins C Mike Pouncey
Mike Pouncey is an athletic center who plays with initial quickness and foot speed. His lateral range and his agility are impressive. He is able to adjust in space and change direction when necessary. Where he does struggle is when he has to take on an opponent that plays with power and strength.
Last week against the Buccaneers, I thought it was the first time we saw Rolando McClain play with power since the New England game. For Dallas to have any success defensively, they are going to need to control this Dolphins running game. Lamar Miller and Jay Ajayi have done a nice job with the ball in their hands these previous five games. There is nothing fancy in their approach, because both backs have the ability to finish runs.
The Dolphins like to pull Pouncey in their scheme to get him to the edge when he is uncovered. When that happens McClain is going to have to run to fill or work down the line to meet Pouncey on the edge. For the Cowboys, it's a similar blocking scheme as when they play the Eagles and even the Giants to some extent – the Dolphins pull and angle blockers in order to put them in better position to secure blocks.
McClain cannot allow Pouncey to hook him or ride him out of the play. He must be stout and physically take the fight to Pouncey in order to keep these Dolphins running backs from getting started up the field and chewing up this Dallas defense. Rolando McClain's play -- good or bad -- will have a big hand in that.