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Scout's Notebook: Cowboys' Run Game, Carolina's LBs Among Final Thoughts

IRVING, Texas– Here are my final impressions of the Cowboys-Panthers Thanksgiving matchup at AT&T Stadium:

  • I expect that Byron Jones will see Greg Olsen in some coverages but I do not see him traveling with him in this game. I believe that Rod Marinielli will throw several different combinations at Olsen depending where he lines up, meaning that the Cowboys are going to take an all hands on deck approach. This way the Panthers cannot just key on one person and it keeps Cam Newton guessing.
  • I like the matchup for the Cowboys of Tyron Smith against Jared Allen. Throughout his career when Smith has had an off game technique wise, he usually bounces back with a big effort. Allen doesn't have the quickness that he once had and Smith's power will give him trouble. Keep an eye on the ball going off that left side behind Smith often in this game, especially when across from Allen.
  • With Panthers cornerback Charles Tillman listed as doubtful, that means nickel corner Bene' Benwikere would most likely get the start at that spot. It would also mean that Colin Jones would likely slide into the role of the nickel corner. Jones gave up a big catch to DeSean Jackson out of the slot last weekend against the Redskins. Keep an eye on this spot because this is a matchup that Scott Linehan can take advantage of with Cole Beasley. Jones will struggle with Beasley's quickness.
  • Rookie Devin Funchess is becoming a target for Cam Newton in this Panthers offense. Newton threw the ball in Funchess' direction a season-high eight times last week against the Redskins. Expect the Panthers to take a shot down the field with Funchess at some point in the game. He might not have the vertical speed of Ted Ginn but his size allows him to outfight defenders for the ball. He has been hard for cornerbacks to handle one-on-one when the ball has been in the air.
  • Coming off a tough battle last week against Ndamukong Suh in Miami, Zack Martin and La'el Collins draw another tough assignment from Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. I see Lotulelei and Short very similar to what the Eagles have inside from Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan - strong guys who play with quickness. Martin and Collins must be careful in how they handle these guys because of how well they attack the middle of the pocket. We have seen in past games how much pressure in the middle of the pocket affects Tony Romo's ability to function more so than pressure from the outside.
  • When Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory rush they will need to make sure that they do not allow Michael Oher the ability to sit down on them. Hardy and Gregory need to break Oher down by keeping him on the move. The more he has to adjust, the harder it is for him to complete his blocks. Oher is a long, rangy blocker and tends to move in sections when he sets. When he gets settled and extends his hands, he is at his best. These Dallas rushers cannot allow that.
  • Dallas ball carriers need to be aware of these Carolina linebackers and their ability to create turnovers. As a group they do an outstanding job of ripping at the ball when they arrive. Their speed is outstanding, which allows them to cover a ton of ground and puts them in position to get those turnovers. If you go back to the Tampa game, this Cowboys offense struggled with their linebackers on the second level and it hurt them in the running game. The Panthers' linebackers are better, and if they are left unblocked, it is going to be a difficult afternoon for Darren McFadden and Robert Turbin.
  • It appears the Panthers feel that Roman Harper is a better cover man than Kurt Coleman at safety. Harper was not a fast nor quick player coming out of Alabama but has played with toughness and smarts. He's very aggressive in coverage and will take some chances. He will struggle if there is separation in the route. Doesn't have the catchup speed to make up that ground. Will surprisingly be matched up one-on-one on tight ends despite his lack of athletic skills. I believe that Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar will be solid options for Tony Romo to find with him in coverage.
  • The Panthers are one of the few teams in the league that will dress all three quarterbacks. Cam Newton is the starter of course, but Derek Anderson and Joe Webb are on the game day 46 as well. Webb sees action on the kickoff return but he will also come in the game and takes snaps at quarterback in a package where he is the primary ball carrier. Webb has yet to throw a pass this season, but in these games where it's a national television audience, don't be surprised if offensive coordinator Mike Shula comes up with something with Webb in the game.
  • My guess at the Dallas inactives against the Panthers: Brice Butler, Ronald Leary, Geoff Swaim, Trey Williams, Ryan Russell, Mark Nzeocha and Morris Claiborne.   
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