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Cowboys Gab Preview: Cowboys @ N.Y. Jets

Rex and Rob will battle in Sunday night's game on NBC. A game where the best defense will win.

Dallas Cowboys (0-0) @ New York Jets (0-0)
Where: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
When: 7:20 pm CST
Media: NBC

The Dallas Cowboys are heading to New Jersey to take on the New York Jets. While there are no shortage of story lines for both teams, the Cowboys will be looking to their defense to make a statement to start the 2011 campaign.

Last season Dallas had the 23rd ranked defense in yards allowed and also struggled to stop teams from scoring. Dallas’ defense finished the worst in team history for points allowed last year. Wade Phillips is out and Rob Ryan is in. Ryan, came to Dallas from Cleveland in the offseason. He had the 13th ranked defense with a Cleveland group, that he said, had “far less talent”. Ryan brings an aggressive 3-4 scheme designed to confuse quarterbacks and lineman. He looks to disguise his blitzes with the threat of sending everyone. The difference in Dallas’ defense has to come from Ryan’s ability to scheme and get more out of his players than Phillips did last year. Nine of the eleven starters are the same as last year and they will get a big challenge to start the season.

The Game:

This week really is the battle of the Ryan brothers. Rex is bringing his well versed defensive group in against Rob’s “behind the eight ball” group. Dallas has had just over a month to digest Rob’s defense and, if the preseason was any indication, they haven’t quite got it yet. Look for both brothers to blitz often trying to get to the other team’s quarterback.

New York picked up WR Plaxico Burress in the offseason. Burress is no stranger to playing the Cowboys, and was quite successful when he was with the Giants. Burress presents matchup problems for the Cowboys smaller corners. With Dallas’ starting corner Terrance Newman ruled out with a groin injury, it will be up to Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick on the back end. Fourth-year man Alan Ball figures to come in for nickel packages. Bryan McCann will also get a lot of work. That is not a list to inspire confidence for Cowboys fans when they have to cover the likes of Burress, Santonio Holmes, and Derrick Mason. The Jets veteran group of receivers will give the Cowboys secondary fits if the Cowboys cannot get any pressure on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

The Keys For Dallas:

The keys of the game for Dallas are rather simple: 1) Pressure Mark Sanchez, and 2) Control the ball. The Cowboys will be on the road in a very charged up New York area, who will be extra juiced with the anniversary of 9/11. The Jets will be doing their best to provide people with a victory as they remember the tragic events that took place 10 years ago in New York. The Cowboys will need to make sure that they take the crowd out of the game by controlling the ball through with the running game. They need to get Felix Jones, Tashard Choice, and DeMarco Murray going early and often. The Cowboys will be behind a line that has three new starters (2 rookies, 1 second year), and will be relying on the help of veterans Kosier and Free, and their tight ends, Jason Witten and Jon Phillips.

Quarterback Tony Romo has been itching to get back after he suffered a season ending injury against the Giants in week 7 last year. It will be key for him to keep himself under control and make smart decisions with the ball. The Cowboys cannot afford to lose the turnover battle if they want to win this game.

The defense will focus on stopping the Jets powerful receiving core by getting to Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has proven that if you rock him early, he will get off track. Linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer need to make a home in the Jets backfield and Jay Ratliff will look to hold down the center of the defense for the Cowboys. If the Cowboys get to Sanchez it will put them in a good place to sneak out of New York with a win.

The Keys For New York:

The Jets have a very aggressive defense which makes their biggest key of the game – get to Tony Romo. If the Jets get pressure on Romo, it is likely the can force him to make some ill-advised throws. The Jets strength is their secondary where, corners, Darrell Revis and Antonio Cromartie are ball hawks that will capitalize on Romo’s mistakes. The Cowboys have some solid receiving threats of their own and the Jets will have to figure out how to stop Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten. Witten, in particular, causes matchup problems for the Jets defense who will not be able to cover him with a linebacker.

The second key for the Jets will be to run the ball. Running backs, Shonn Green and LaDainian Tomlinson will try to ease the pressure on Sanchez by forcing Dallas to respect the run. Green is the work horse and has had problems holding onto the ball in recent seasons. Tomlinson still has lots in the tank and is an ever dangerous threat out of the backfield. They will be key for Sanchez on swing passes, screens, and just running the ball, forcing the Cowboys to slow down their aggressive attack.

Players To Watch:

Dallas:

Kicker Dan Bailey won the job to kick field goals this year. He is a rookie, and while he had a productive college career at Oklahoma State, he is on the biggest stage now. The Cowboys will need every point they can get and Bailey will be relied upon early and often.

New York:

Tight End Dustin Keller presents the Cowboys all kinds of matchup trouble. On top of Burress, Holmes, and Mason, Keller provides Sanchez a safety net. He has great speed and good hands, and much like Dallas’ Witten, cannot be covered by a linebacker. Dallas will likely use Gerald Sensabaugh to cover Keller, a matchup the Jets have to love. Look for Keller to have a big game.

The Outcome:

I want to pick Dallas, but I just think the Jets in the first game is too tough a task on the road. I think Rob Ryan’s defense is not quite where they need to be just yet, and Dallas will have a hard time outscoring the Jets against a Rex Ryan team at home. In a stadium where emotions will be a major factor, I have to go with the home team. Jets 31 – 21.


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