FRISCO, Texas– If you've been reading along this season, you should be noticing a pattern by now.
There's so many quality players worth considering when you look at the Cowboys' opposition. Many of them are household names – especially when you play a quarterback of Aaron Rodgers' caliber, or a devastating pass rusher like Clay Matthews.
I'm going to get into what those guys bring to the table. But there's so much impressive young talent coming into the league right now, and I want to keep an eye on a standout rookie that might catch your attention during this matchup at Lambeau Field.
Let's take a look:
Weapon:QB Aaron Rodgers
There's a lot to say about Aaron Rodgers, but it starts with the fact that he's one of the most competitive quarterbacks in the league. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he will do whatever it takes to win.
He's mentally tough with outstanding football intelligence. It's rare for him to make a mistake that would cost his team a shot at victory. Top arm talent and strength. He will deliver the ball at all levels and arm angles in order to complete a pass. He's got a quick, overhand throwing motion, and the ball comes out of his hand nicely. He has the touch for check downs, screens and fades, and some of his best passes are those that are thrown on the move. He has a knack for keeping his eyes down the field and making a clutch throw – this is a poised and confident quarterback.
Rodgers has outstanding awareness and anticipation. You cannot give him the same look over and over – you have to mix it up. He is able to process information quickly and make the right decision. He has the toughness and courage to hang in the pocket to deliver the ball. When there is trouble in the pocket, he has the mobility to move, slide and escape. Perhaps most importantly for this Dallas pass rush: he is able to improvise when he has to. Underhanded and flip passes are part of his attack.
If there is a noticeable trend for him early this season, it's that his yards per attempt are down. Traditionally he's well over 7.5, but he is now averaging a yard less this season at 6.3. Has missed some opportunities for some big throws but has also had some bad luck with his receivers.
Nemesis:LB Clay Matthews
Much like Rodgers, Matthews has such a great passion for the game. He rarely takes a play off or has a loaf. Outstanding football intelligence and understanding of scheme. He has to be smart due to how many places he lines up in this defense.
There's a lot to like, but Matthews' best traits are his speed and quickness. He plays with a burst and some serious range. He reacts very well to the play, and he is a finisher. He plays with body control and balance. You have to catch him just right to knock him off his feet. He is a better player when he can take on blockers while on the move -- when stationary, he has more trouble.
If you're looking for weaknesses, he doesn't anchor down all that well when he gets a blocker on him or the ball is right at him. That said, I have to say that I have seen him make more tackles than miss. When he gets into position – he can get the job done. Outstanding effort and pursuit to the ball, as he doesn't quit on a play.
As you might expect from his numbers, he is a better player as a rusher than he is in coverage. He has made a career coming off the edge, but he now is asked to rush more from inside. You will see him as part of blitzes where he is in combination with the defensive line. He plays with instincts and a feel for where he needs to be.
You have to be aware of him, whether he is around the ball carrier or quarterback because of his ability to create turnovers. He is always going to be reaching for that ball. Scheme-wise, you have to account for him every snap. He is the best defensive player the Packers have.
Under the Radar:LB Kyler Fackrell
Another one of my favorite players from the 2016 NFL Draft. I loved his length and range as a pass rusher. Fackrell is a perfect fit for the Packers due to his ability to rush the passer in their 3-4 scheme, and he has made the transition from college to productive NFL player.
He is relentless in the way he rushes the passer, and it makes him a nice complement to Nick Perry and Clay Matthews when he comes off the bench. He shows the ability to attack the edge and capture the corner. He can get push when he extends -- plays well with his hands. He can hold the point and shed blockers, and he'll often use a spin move to free himself. He will not let ball get outside of him – he'll fall back inside to make play.
Fackrell has a burst up the field, but this is a technique player. He has a feel for how to get his shoulder under the blocker, and he plays with some power – he's capable of overpowering a tight end. He takes the effort to retrace his steps, and he has shown the ability to finish the rush when he gets in the pocket.
One big trait for a rookie is that he is able to rush at the right level and not let the quarterback outside or let the tackle wash him to the outside. He will surprise you with how quick he is for being so long. Comes off the ball well. Can put blockers in a bad spot with his first step. Have to stop him right off the snap or he's going to find a way to get to the ball.