Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Jets key matchups

September, 10, 2011
9/10/11
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*Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff vs. Jets C Nick Mangold: This will be a battle all day not only in the running game but more importantly when the Jets throw the ball.

Scout's Eye
Mangold is a rock-solid performer in the middle. He rarely allows his man to get to the ball in the running game or put pressure on the quarterback. Mangold likes to grab his opponent’s inside pads and work his hands for control. Mangold is a strong player who shows upper-body strength and power. Plays with a good base and anchor.

Ratliff in his own right has some suddenness and snap to his game. Ratliff will need to fight Mangold with quickness and hand placement. Ratliff doesn’t want to go toe-to-toe with Mangold, but the more he is able to work the edges and put him on the move, the better chance he has to be disruptive in the middle.

Mangold is good enough to play one-on-one but if Ratliff can put him in bad situations, then it will force the Jets to use their guards to help. Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer wants to run the ball to set up his play-action game for easier throws for Mark Sanchez. Ratliff, Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears will need to be stout in the running game and take the Jets out of what they want to do on first downs.

*Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick vs. Jets WR Santonio Holmes: Rob Ryan is going to have to find a way to get his defense off the field on third downs and it very well could come down to a matchup between two slot players. Santonio Holmes will line up inside for the Jets while Orlando Scandrick will draw the assignment of dealing with the elusive Holmes.

When you study the Jets’ passing game, the one area that stands out is Sanchez is doing his very best to get the ball to Holmes, whether it’s on screens, hitches or in the middle of the field. Holmes is an explosive player who doesn’t shrink when it comes to red-zone duty. The thing that makes Holmes so dangerous is his ability to adjust quickly to passes and get up the field.

Scandrick has the quickness to match Holmes and will study him to gauge what depth he runs his routes and any route adjustments he will make. You have heard me talk about how difficult it is to play as a slot corner because when you are inside, you have to defend the whole field. You can’t use the sideline to your advantage. With Holmes, Schottenheimer likes to move him all over the formation to make it difficult for the defense to make adjustments to him.

If Holmes does have a weakness, it's that he will body catch balls at times in traffic against his body. If Scandrick can maintain tight coverage in the route, he has a chance to contest some balls that go Holmes’ way.

If the Cowboys are going to get off the field on third down, they are going to need a big game from Scandrick on Holmes.

*Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware vs. Jets OTs D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Wayne Hunter: A huge pressure point for the Cowboys in this game will be whether Ware can get pressure on Mark Sanchez through Ferguson or Hunter. In studying both of these Jets tackles, I came away with the thought that he can and it doesn’t matter which tackle it is.

All training camp I have observed Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan move Ware around in practice to try and create opportunities to rush. Of the two Jets tackles, Hunter is the one who struggles most with the athletic rusher. Ferguson, on the other hand, is much more athletic. His main problem is that when he faces a rusher that goes from speed to power, he has a real problem adjusting to that. I have seen Ferguson get walked back to Sanchez but also seen him give up pressure and sacks on hard spin moves inside against Cincinnati.

Hunter tends to get overextended because he doesn’t always move his feet to get to the outside. His feet tend to stop on contact, which allows the defender to get to his shoulder. Hunter is the more physical of the two tackles, trying to slap defenders’ hands down, resetting his own hands inside.

Ferguson tends to catch more than punch and tries to steer his man, but he doesn’t always show the upper body strength to pull this off.

This is the type of game that should set up well for Ware. He can get pressure on either of these tackles because he is not a one-trick pony as a rusher. Look for Ryan to put him into position to make plays in this contest.

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