FRISCO, Texas –A look at the two big matchups I'm watching this week while the Cowboys prepare to face the Detroit Lions this Monday night.
Dallas Cowboys OG Zack Martin vs. Detroit Lions DT Haloti Ngata
Last week against the Buccaneers, Martin was outstanding handling Gerald McCoy. This week he draws a different type of player in Ngata. Playing speed is replaced with brute strength. Ngata is one of the better one gap players in this league due to his size and physical power.
When Ngata takes the gap up the field, he is a load to control. He is not interested in sitting along the line of scrimmage and just trying to hold up blocks. He attacks and wants to be disruptive as a penetrator. His get-off and initial quickness are impressive. He has the ability to put the blocker in a poor position right off the snap, and he takes advantage of that. Blockers know they have to get on this guy quickly in order to keep him from charging up the field, and they become overextended. There's not a ton of pass rush moves, but he will throw a quick arm-over or swim move and then be on his way.
Ngata is more active as a pass rusher than what Martin faced with those big inside tackles for the Giants. Look for Martin to handle Ngata one-on-one the majority of the game, but like we observed last week, Travis Frederick has a keen eye what is going on around him in the pocket -- especially to the inside. If he feels like he needs to slide across and take a shot or two into Ngata's ribs, he is going to do that to soften him up.
Martin has the upper and lower body power to handle Ngata, and if the Cowboys are going to have success moving the ball, he will need to do just that.
Dallas Cowboys CB Brandon Carr vs. Detroit Lions WR Golden Tate
The Cowboys could play this a couple of different ways. They could have Carr continue to travel with the opponent's best receiver, or just have him sit on the right side and play coverage. As long as Anthony Brown continues to start – I believe we are going to see Carr go with Tate.
What makes Tate unique is his route-running ability. He is more quick than fast. There is lateral quickness to his game without the long speed. He is outstanding when it comes to taking his routes across the field and catching the ball on the move. It's his ability to read coverage and run his man through the trash that affords him the opportunity to gain separation.
This is a situationally aware player. He knows where the sticks are and how to get there. He is a big-time run after the catch player – as the Cowboys should remember from the 2014 playoffs. He also has the courage to catch the ball in a crowd, and he's a hard guy to defend when he gets into position on the route.
Tate is a clutch player, regardless of the down and distance. He has natural hands and will extend them to catch with them. Large catching radius with the ability to adjust to poorly thrown passes.
The bottom line is that Tate is as versatile as he is dangerous. Even without Calvin Johnson in the lineup, he is having plenty of success this season – he's approaching 1,000 yards on the year and is averaging six receptions per game.
Carr has drawn tough assignments the past two weeks with Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans, and the Cowboys might call on him one more time by asking him to help limit Tate's production.