FRISCO, Texas – This is really going to be a new look.
It’s been four years since the Cowboys have played the New York Jets, and I don’t need to tell you that a lot has changed for both teams since then. That was a late-season matchup between two teams that were in complete transition.
Since then, both teams have drafted new quarterbacks and they have turned their rosters over. Obviously, the Cowboys have found a bit more success than Gang Green to this point, but the Jets have added talent to this roster in recent years – via free agency and the draft.
This week’s breakdown focuses on that. This might be a winless opponent, but let’s take a look at some of the guys the Cowboys need to watch out for.
Nemesis: RB Le’Veon Bell
It’s unfortunate Le’Veon Bell signed on to such a talent-poor offense this past spring, because he simply gets no assistance. You can see he still has the talent to be special, but there is no one around him that forces opponents to divert their attention. So that leaves Bell as a one-man act here on Broadway.
His quarterback, Sam Darnold, has missed significant time while dealing with Mononucleosis. Defensive coordinators have had no fear in dealing with Luke Falk and have set their game plans up to take care of Bell. Operating against stacked boxes has put pressure on the offensive line and tight ends to create space, which they have been unable to accomplish.
What should worry Kris Richard and Rod Marinelli is that their unit is coming off a game where they did not match the Packers’ physicality. Coming into the game, the Packers had been struggling to run the ball and they were able to do so with resounding success. Aaron Jones is a good back, but he’s not Le’Veon Bell.
As much as I fear Bell’s skill as a runner, it’s those moments as a pass receiver that put me on edge. Against the Browns, he was 10-for-10 on targets/receptions. As much trouble as this defense had tackling in space last week, the thought of having to deal with Le’Veon Bell in this manner troubles me.
Weapon: S Jamal Adams
If there is a player on this Jets roster who can wreck your game plan -- Jamal Adams would be that guy.
There is nothing he can’t do on a football field. He physically takes on the run. He’s a fierce tackler that punishes the ball carrier. He’s one of the great finishers in the league. Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will put him in coverage without worry. Adams has the skill to carry running backs or tight ends with ease. The more the staff puts on his plate, the better he responds.
You can tell opposing offenses game plan not to go in his direction. Opponents will attempt to attack other areas instead of the ones he’s focusing on.
I will be interested to see how Williams uses him in this matchup. Williams likes to blitz, which means he will lock his guys up in man coverage across the board. Williams could choose to put Adams on Ezekiel Elliott if he doesn’t feel like Jason Witten can hurt him in the field -- but then he may match him up on Witten in the red zone.
Williams also might be concerned with what he saw from Elliott in the Packers game, where he was making plays in the passing game, and figure out a way to match Adams up there. Regardless what Williams’ plan is, just know that Jamal Adams is going to be in the middle of the action due to his versatility and playmaking ability. He’s a special player.
Under the Radar: LB Neville Hewitt
Neville Hewitt might not be a household name, but he’s well known to Jets fans. Since coming over from the Miami Dolphins, he has been on the field for 99 percent of their defensive snaps. What’s also impressive about him is that he lines up on their special teams, as well, and has been productive.
What I noticed about him on tape is how well he tackles. Against a Philadelphia Eagles offensive line that does an outstanding job of getting blockers on the second level, Hewitt had 10 tackles. There was one particular play where he about broke Dallas Goedert in half. Goedert attempted to jump over Hewitt, but he was having none of that and he put his shoulder in Goedert’s thigh and form tackled him into the ground.
Gregg Williams trusts him to play coverage, so you will see him matched up in various positions on the field. Hewitt runs well enough to carry running backs out of the backfield, but he can hold his own against tight ends, as well. He is not out of place at all when put in those situations.
He is a secure finisher. You don’t see many ball carriers get away from him in space. When Williams wants to dial up pressure, you see him as part of that blitz package. The Jets like to twist their front and bring linebackers to help on the rush.
The bottom line with Hewitt is that this Cowboys offensive line has to make sure they get a body to him. He can hurt you a couple of different ways if left unattended.