IRVING, Texas – We'll spend a lot of time this week talking about the return of Tony Romo – and rightfully so.
But as is usually the case on Wednesday, there's plenty to talk about with this next opponent in Miami. It's been a few years since the Cowboys have played the Dolphins in the regular season, but we're going to start with a very familiar name.
It hasn't even been a year since this Dallas offensive line has had to face Ndamukong Suh. So that seems like a good place to start as we break down the Miami Dolphins.
Let's get into it:
Nemesis: Ndamukong Suh, DT
Suh has appeared to be on a much better path now that Dan Campbell has taken over as the head coach. He is far more active and competitive. There were snaps where he wasn't always on the screws with his effort, but he is as physical tough as they come.
Suh has the ideal size and quickness to play as an under-tackle. He's disruptive and a large part of that is due to his power. Plays with explosive upper and lower body power. His strength is rare, and he can easily walk blockers back when he wants. When he attacks the gap up the field, he is nearly impossible to stop on the charge. To have success against him in the running game, you have to shield him, then hope the back hits the hole before he has a chance to react.
Teams in the past have taken advantage of his aggressive play by running the ball around him. He is difficult to handle one-on-one. Difficult man to move, so you almost have to play him by getting in the way and letting him try and move over you to the ball. He has impressive hand use with ability to shed blockers. When he can extend on the blocker, he is in clear control.
All of that said, he doesn't always play with outstanding body control and balance. There are snaps where you do see him out of position. Zack Martin has faced him before, so he will understand what he is up against – while this will be La'el Collins' first shot at him. Both of these Dallas guards have shown the ability to match power with power of their own. Long drives are important here because with Suh – the longer he has to play the less productive he really is. Keep that in mind.
Weapon: Jarvis Landry, WR
Jarvis Landry is the Dolphins' best play maker. He is hard to tackle and he plays with quickness along with power. Landry is one of those rare receivers that is not looking to go out of bounds. He will make tacklers miss in space because of his quickness, but he will also run through arm tacklers.
The coaches want to get him the ball because he makes plays. You will see him line up all over the formation. Plays wide, in the slot and out of the backfield – and he is dynamic in all areas. Outstanding hands with a large catch radius. He is more quick than fast, but he plays with physical and mental toughness. He has rare body control and balance, and he will put himself in awkward positions to receive the ball.
Can make contested catches all day. Natural hands. Fights for the ball. Doesn't give up on passes. Plays with stop-start quickness. Plays with strength. Shows situational awareness – understands where the sticks are and how to make sure that he is beyond them. Consistent route runner. Will go all over the field to catch the ball. Tremendous amount of courage when it comes to going to get the ball. Will carry his route over the middle all day. Beats press coverage with quickness. Clutch production. Wants the ball.
This is the player that Ryan Tannehill finds when he needs a play. These Dallas corners have to be ready for a battle all day. Can't allow him to take over the game down the field or when he gets the ball in space.
Under the Radar: Derrick Shelby, DE
There is no question that the Dolphins miss Cameron Wake as that rush defensive end. Without him they have had to play Derrick Shelby in his place, but to be honest he hasn't been bad.
Shelby might not have the same foot speed or quickness as Wake, but he does a nice job of coming off the ball. He will attack the blocker off the snap and capture the corner. Shows lower body bend. Can get his shoulder past the blocker, then burst to the quarterback. He does a nice jump of playing with his hands, and he has the ability to extend them and control the blocker. Good upper body strength, but it's more placement than strike and explosiveness. Good contact balance when he has to take on a blocker.
He can anchor down at the point of attack. Will string out the blockers, working down the line to make a tackle. Shows range. There are snaps where he was fooled because he was too aggressive trying to get to the ball. He doesn't always show discipline when playing the run – he can be taken advantage of. His best trait is his ability to play against the pass. He uses pass rush moves in order to free himself. Plays with body bend and finish. Not used in many games or stunts but athletic enough to handle that responsibility.
Shelby will line up at both left and right end, but he spends the majority of the time on the left side so Doug Free will be matched with him. Free is athletic enough to handle him but he will need to be ready for a guy that can play with power as well.