IRVING, Texas – With an explosive offense like the Saints' coming to AT&T Stadium, there's going to be a lot of focus on how the Cowboys defense performs – and rightfully so. But the New Orleans pass rush is something that isn't getting enough attention in the buildup to this game.
In this week's matchups breakdown, I think we're going to see Orlando Scandrick take on a big assignment in his first game back as the starter. On the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys' line will have a lot to handle in this game – especially if the Saints focus on Doug Free, which I think they will.
Cowboys Orlando Scandrick CB against Saints Brandin Cooks WR
How the Cowboys deal with Brandin Cooks in this game will be just as important as how this Cowboys defense
will handle Jimmy Graham. There is no question in my mind that Sean Payton will do everything in his power to put Cooks in positions to take advantage of his home run speed. Payton will run him on normal routes on the outside. He will bring him in motion across the formation and hand him the ball on the "Jet Sweep." He will line him up in bunch formation on one side of the field with Graham and Marques Colston and hit him with a screen while those two block for him. I also believe you will see Payton run him on a vertical "9" route up the field and see if any of these cornerbacks can stay with him. The one player that I believe can handle him regardless of where he goes is Scandrick, because of his own explosive quickness. This matchup will take place in two different spots, in my opinion. Look for it to come on the outside, but also in the slot as well. The Saints like to use several slot players throughout a game, but when Cooks works out of there all those options that I spoke of come into play. What will help Scandrick in this matchup will be that he is a similar size and speed, so he is not giving away anything thing there.
Cowboys Doug Free OT against Saints Junior Galette OLB
As we all know from his days here with the Cowboys, Rob Ryan is not afraid to gamble and bring pressure on the quarterback -- regardless of the down and distance. Out of his 3-4 front, he is going to attempt to confuse blocking schemes. He is going to have down linemen standing up and linebackers with their hand on the ground. I also feel that you are going to see all kinds of stunts and twists to the right side, manned by Doug Free and Zack Martin, to see if they are on the same page with their pickups. The most consistent rusher from the games I was able to study was Junior Galette, with Cameron Jordan right there as well. I expect Ryan to identify Free as the blocker that he wants to attack pressure-wise and will make sure that Galette is to that side. Free is going to have to deal with a rusher that can really get off the ball with [embedded_ad]
that first step and attack the corner. Galette does a really nice job of breaking down the blocker as he is going to the quarterback. Slap, swat, swim -- you see it all in terms of pass rush moves. To combat this, Free is going to have to be very patient and allow Galette to make all his moves, then be in position to either ride him past Romo or sit down and take him on at the spot. Galette will work to get Free off balance, and as we have seen before when that happens to him it is usually a bad result for Romo. Ryan is all about matchups and this one between Doug Free and Junior Galette is one that he must feel like he can win.