Cowboys CBs Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald: This week Rob Ryan and his secondary are going to have to deal with one of the top five playmakers in the National Football League.
Fitzgerald is so dangerous because of his ability to not only run routes and gain separation but also catch the ball no matter how poorly it is thrown. Other than Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald has never been blessed with an outstanding quarterback that can consistently get him the ball on the move, where he is the most productive.
When you study Fitzgerald, you see a receiver that never changes speed when he runs routes. Miles Austin has this same trait as well. When you have this ability, you can put a great deal of pressure on the cornerbacks because most receivers have to settle down to cut or break in the route. From that standpoint, it’s much easier to break on the route once you see the receiver adjust. Fitzgerald doesn’t give cornerbacks that opportunity to read him and drive on the ball.
Another problem that Fitzgerald presents is his ability to take his routes all over the field and at all different depths. He is a fearless route runner as well and is not afraid to catch the ball between safeties in the middle of the field and turn it into a nice gain like he did against Baltimore.
The Cowboys can’t afford to allow Fitzgerald to make plays in this game like Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Marshall did the last two weeks. This will be a huge test for Newman, who hasn’t been his best the last two games, mainly in off coverage. Jenkins can be up to the challenge, but how solid is that hamstring? I am sure that Larry Fitzgerald will find out.
Cowboys LG Montrae Holland vs. Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett: This has the potential to be a bad matchup for the Cowboys because of the way that Holland has struggled against players that have explosive quickness up the field.
Dockett is the type of guy that will be a handful for Holland because he attacks you right now. Dockett doesn’t give the blocker much time to react.
Holland will struggle the most trying to get out of his stance quickly and adjust on the move. Dockett can be disruptive. If Dockett is allowed to penetrate, it will throw off the blocking assignments by someone like Kyle Kosier from the backside or John Phillips from fullback when the Cowboys try to get the run to the edge.
Dockett will also create push in the middle as a pass rusher. The Cardinals will also use him to angle to one side then bring a linebacker in the opposite direction. This inside twist with the linebackers was the best way that the Cardinals were able to get pressure.
When teams have been able to get pressure inside on the Cowboys, it has been attacking the middle of the pocket. Phil Costa played one of his better games overall last week when it came to adjusting to stunts and games. With that being said, I fully expect the Cardinals to try to attack from the inside, mainly with Dockett over Holland
That is the one matchup along the offensive line that the Cardinals have the best opportunity to win and cause the Cowboys the most problems offensively.
Cowboys punt coverage unit vs. Cardinals PR Patrick Peterson: If Fitzgerald is the most dynamic player on this Cardinals’ offense, then cornerback Patrick Peterson is the most dynamic player on defense but especially as a punt return man.
Peterson has a rare talent and presents a great challenge for this Cowboys punt coverage team. Peterson is so dangerous because he, like Fitzgerald, is fearless with the ball in his hands. He is not afraid to catch the ball anywhere on the field and start a return. His vision is outstanding, but he is also a physical runner. Peterson is not a small man like a DeSean Jackson, but he has the same type of quickness, burst and speed.
When you watch Peterson, you see a big man who does a nice job of breaking tackles. Jason Garrett spoke of having to get bodies to Peterson to get him on the ground.
The Cowboys are ranked 21st in the league in punt coverage; the Cardinals are second in returns. With a healthy Mat McBriar you could directional punt Peterson in a corner and try to cover. I still think the Cowboys will try this, but how successful they can be will be up in the air.
The bottom line is the Cowboys cannot allow Peterson to change the game with punt returns.