IRVING, Texas – As you might expect, the matchups for this game have been greatly affected by the change in personnel on the field. The Cowboys are working with a new quarterback, and they don't have their top receiver – which will undoubtedly change the way they matchup with Atlanta.
One of today's two matchups is a direct result of that fact, but the other is fairly straightforward. Regardless of who's missing on offense, I think this Cowboys pass rush is going to have a great opportunity to take advantage of the Falcons' offensive line.
Conversely, if Brandon Weeden is going to have success – and if the Dallas rushing attack is going to have room to work – I think it falls on how well the Cowboys can make plays through the air.
Let's take a look at this week's matchups:
Cowboys DE Jeremy Mincey against Falcons OT Jake Matthews
For all the positive traits that Jake Matthews has as a tackle -- initial quickness, lateral range and body control -- the one area that he struggles with is with his overall strength. Matthews is an outstanding athlete, very similar to what the Cowboys have in Tyron Smith, but he doesn't share Smith's upper and lower body power.
Where Matthews will have problems in this matchup with Jeremy Mincey is when Mincey wants to put his head down and just run right over the top of him. In these first two games I have studied for the Falcons, rushers have had far better success playing Matthews this way instead of attempting to work the edges on him. Matthews is just too athletic to allow you to beat him around the corner, but handling power is a whole different story.
If Mincey wants to carry Matthews back into Matt Ryan, there will be an opportunity to do that. The adjustment that the Falcons will likely make -- and I have noticed -- is that they will keep a tight end or a "H" back to Matthews' side in order to try and help him. If that is the case, I still believe Mincey can work against Matthews with some success due to the fact that Mincey is quick to the inside and the extra blocker would have trouble getting into position. If Mincey was more of an edge rusher – then that blocker might help, but in this case it doesn't.
Cowboys WR Terrance Williams against Falcons CB Desmond Trufant
As much as I believe that Dallas needs to stay away from Desmond Trufant, there are going to be some snaps where they just can't avoid him.
Trufant is the best defensive back that the Falcons have. He is highly competitive and he is physically tough. His playing speed and short area quickness are impressive. Trufant is one of the few corners that I have seen that shows the ability to be able to carry a route across the field and not lose contact or position with the receiver. His best trait is his recovery speed. There were snaps where it appeared that he was beaten, but just before the ball arrived, he was right there to knock it down.
Trufant is going to not only make Williams fight for space, but the other Dallas receivers as well. If Williams is going to make plays in this game, they will likely be contested -- which hasn't always been his strength. Williams is going to have to be smart in the way he plays against Trufant in regard to how he executes his routes. If he is lazy, then Trufant will eat him up, but if he can just buy a little separation – Brandon Weeden has the arm strength to put the ball in there.
The Falcons normally don't move their corners around, but Dez Bryant won't be in the lineup on Sunday. Dan Quinn knows firsthand what Terrance Williams is capable of from his days in Seattle and might find it necessary to match him up with his best corner.