IRVING, Texas – With all the talking I do about the NFL draft, I'd be remiss if I didn't dedicate some attention to this weeks' matchup of rookie sensations.
Aaron Donald was one of my favorites, and Cowboys fans' favorites, to be taken by Dallas at No. 16 in last year's draft. The conversation started in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl, and it didn't stop until St. Louis selected him No. 13 overall. The Cowboys wound up going with another Senior Bowl standout in Zack Martin – and now the two get to battle each other once again.
That, as well as an important battle in the Dallas secondary, are my two big matchups this week:
Cowboys Brandon Carr CB against Rams Brian Quick WR [embedded_ad]
It doesn't matter who starts at quarterback for the Rams against the Cowboys on Sunday – he will be looking to get the ball to Brian Quick. Across the line from Quick will be Brandon Carr, who is coming off an outstanding game coverage-wise in dealing with Nate Washington. In that contest Carr, technique-wise, was flawless. His jam, turn and adjust reminded me of his days when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs.
When facing Quick, he is going to need to repeat that exact blueprint in order for this defense to have the same success they did in shutting down the Titans. What Carr will see when he studies Quick is that when he has free access in routes, he tends to have better results. One of Quick's best traits is the awareness he has as a route runner. He's a difficult matchup for defensive backs because he is sneaky in the way he sets the defender up with small movements while going up the field.
Quick has a feel for how to drive hard inside, feel the defender on him, then break back outside. He's a thinking man's player in how he is aware to where he is on the field and where the sticks are. He has shown the ability to be a dependable target no matter where the ball is thrown. Clutch player for this Rams offense.
Cowboys Zack Martin OG against Rams Aaron Donald DT
In a rematch from one of the better one-on-one battles during the Senior Bowl practices, Martin and Donald will once again square off. In getting ready for this game, I was surprised that the Rams did not have Donald in the starting lineup.
Instead, he is working in a rotation with Kendall Langford at that under-tackle position. When Donald has stepped on the field, the tape has shown that same explosive player that we all believed he could be during the buildup to the draft. His motor, effort and pursuit are those traits that make him unique. His lack of height does not appear to be a factor, and when taking on blocks at the point of attack he has played with solid technique when getting off the blocks.
He's excellent at reading and reacting to the play. He never stops moving, and that was a major part of his game in college. Very good hand use whether he is playing the run or rushing the passer, and his technique helps him get off blocks. Various pass rush moves along with the ability to counter what the blocker is trying to do to him.
Martin has to guard against that first explosive step off the ball because that sets Donald up in the way that he rushes the passer. What Martin realizes from his experience in facing Donald is that if he is lazy with his own technique and doesn't finish his blocks then he will get exposed by Donald quickly.