IRVING, Texas – I would say I'm worried about overstating the impact J.J. Watt could have on this game, as we've talked about him a lot heading into this weekend's matchup. I don't think that's possible with Watt, though – the AFC Defensive Player of the Month award he just earned is evidence of that.
So Watt is one of my key matchups, and the other one is the Texans' dangerous wide receiver – but probably not the one you're thinking of.
Cowboys Offensive Line against J.J. Watt, DE
It's rare when I put these matchups together for DallasCowboys.com that it is about one player facing a group of players, but this week that just so happens to be the case. J.J. Watt is listed at left defensive end for the Texans, but in actuality he lines up at several [embedded_ad]
different spots in this scheme.
Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel cut his teeth working with Bill Belichick in several spots during his NFL career, and this was an approach he learned from Belichick in taking your best defensive players and moving them around in the defense to create the best possible matchups to take advantage of. In Houston's game against the Bills last week, Crennel moved Watt up and down the line until he settled on attacking right guard Erik Pears down-after-down. Pears was overmatched and struggled to handle the quickness and power of Watt. Crennel made sure that Pears didn't get help by running stunts with his linebackers, which left the guard on an island to deal with Watt.
Where Watt is at his best is when he can line up on the outside shoulder of his man, then quickly cross his face. He has the rare ability to get the blocker off balance with his initial move by not allowing him to set his feet. As Tony Romo said in his time with the media on Wednesday -- and I agree with him – J.J. Watt will be the best defense player they face this season.
Cowboys Orlando Scandrick, CB against Texans DeAndre Hopkins, WR
There was a time when the Texans relied solely on Andre Johnson to make plays in the passing game, but that is no longer the case. DeAndre Hopkins might play in the shadows of Johnson at this point in his young career, but don't let that fool you about the type of player that he is starting to develop into.
When he came out of Clemson in 2013, his timed speed was a 4.55 in the 40-yard dash -- which is slow by receiver standards. When you watch him on tape, however, his game speed is clearly better than his timed speed. You see an extended burst and the ability to separate in routes when working up the field. He plays with outstanding body control and balance. He shows the ability to go get the ball when it is in the air. In the season opener, he made a highlight catch against the Redskins where he turned his body to the right and reached back with his left hand, snatching the ball out of the air.
He has the physical size to handle press coverage, and he will fight hard to get off the line and get into his routes. Has the courage to run slants and crossing routes, concentrate on the ball and take a hit. He's got a very wide catching radius -- will make the contested catch, no problem. Coaches like to get him the ball on the move and let him break tackles. He will test this Cowboys secondary with his playing making ability.