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Scout's Eye: Pass Protection Must Account For Quinn


IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys aren't catching any breaks with their matchups at tight end early in this season. They've already struggled with the likes of Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, and they'll deal with another athletic tight end in St. Louis this weekend. Of course, Jimmy Graham looms in Week 4, but we'll get to that.

Jared Cook will certainly be a guy to watch as the Cowboys travel to face the Rams. With the way the offensive line allowed pressure against the Titans, Pro Bowler Robert Quinn will be another Rams player to watch. There's also the little matter of determining who the Rams will start at quarterback.

Here's my weekly breakdown:

Weapon: Jared Cook, TE

This is yet another game where the Cowboys defense is going to have to deal with a tight end that has the ability to make plays down the field like a wide receiver. St. Louis offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer does an outstanding job of taking advantage of Jared Cook's abilities. He will line up inline as a traditional "Y," but you will also see him flexed in the slot and outside as a wide receiver.

What makes Cook so dangerous is the vertical speed and separation he plays with. He does a really nice job of running his routes in a way [embedded_ad]

that make him difficult to cover. He just doesn't run them in one spot, but he takes them to all different levels. For a man his size he has outstanding body control and balance, so when the ball is in the air you see him adjust to the flight of it and get his hands in position to make the catch. I would not call him a dynamic run blocker, but his size and athletic ability allows him to keep in position while run blocking.

He's a playmaker in every sense of the word, whether in the field or in the red zone. This defensive staff might consider matching Cook with a cornerback like Sterling Moore, who has the skill to cover a receiver but is physical enough to match him down the field.

Nemesis: Robert Quinn, DE

Quinn has faced the Cowboys twice in his career and has totaled four tackles. In both of those games he battled Tyron Smith, who has played very well against him considering what a threat that Quinn has become rushing the passer. For Smith to hold Quinn without a sack in two matchups is a feat in itself and a credit to Smith.

What is interesting is that both of those games were played at AT&T Stadium, so this will be the first time Quinn will face Smith on his home turf, where the crowd noise is different -- so Quinn will be able to use that to his advantage. What makes Quinn special as a rusher is his explosive first step. He is attacking the upfield shoulder of the blocker in those first two steps. His pass rush moves and counters are unique. It's rare that you see him just trying to handle a blocker with one move. He is in constant motion. He is one of those rushers that can get the corner and really bend underneath to get separation.

You will see him run hard to the corner then dip his shoulder to clear. He gives the blocker a very small hitting surface in the way that he attacks. As well as Smith has played him in the past, I would not be one bit surprised to see defensive coordinator Gregg Williams use a rush or two over Doug Free, looking for a matchup, after some of the problems that Free had against the Titans last week.

Under the Radar: Austin Davis, QB

Jeff Fisher has come out earlier this week and said that if Shaun Hill is healthy enough to play that he would be the starter at quarterback for the Rams against the Cowboys on Sunday. If Hill cannot answer the bell, then the job will once again fall to Austin Davis, who made the start this past weekend in Tampa.

In studying Davis, what he lacks in game experience he makes up with arm strength, mobility and play making ability. When you watch Hill play, he doesn't have any of those traits. The way Davis played, I thought he showed a great deal of poise and composure. His demeanor appeared calm and relaxed. He played with instincts and was in tune to what was going on around him. He didn't appear to be hurried or rushed. He showed toughness while hanging in the pocket and dealing with the rush.

His movement was where it needed to be and he was able to avoid and escape trouble. He made good decisions under duress and the throws that he made were accurate and didn't require his receivers to have to work to get the ball. His lack of game experience did not show -- which was surprising. If Fisher does in fact goes with Hill over Davis, I feel like that would be a huge advantage for Rod Marinelli and his defense on Sunday.

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