Cowboys: Nick Mangold
The Jets had young linemen in left tackle DBrickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold and the first move New York made was signing All-Pro guard Alan Faneca to a deal with $21 million in guaranteed money.
According to Callahan, Faneca helped raise the level of play of Ferguson to his left and helped Mangold see the game better.
You can’t help but wonder if New Orleans guard Carl Nicks can do for the Cowboys what Faneca did for the Jets provided the Saints are not able to re-sign him and the Cowboys are willing to shell out mega-millions.
“All I can go by is my experience with him at Nebraska and he was awfully talented,” Callahan said. “He’s really matured into the fine player he is today. He’s dominant in every respect. I think that his play provides a lot of firmness in that pocket for Drew [Brees] to step up into. I’ve got a lot of respect for Carl and how he’s developed himself as a pro in New Orleans. I have a good friend who’s the line coach there, and he speaks very highly of him. I’m happy for his success.”
He knows Doug Free and Tyron Smith will be parts of the five-man operation, but will Free and Smith flip sides from where they were in 2011? Right guard Kyle Kosier ended the season with a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee. Phil Costa started every game at center, but is he a long-term answer? The left guard spot is open for competition with Bill Nagy coming back from ankle surgery and Montrae Holland and Derrick Dockery set for free agency.
In 2008 Callahan came aboard a New York Jets ship that went 4-12 the previous year with a rookie left tackle in D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center in Nick Mangold.
In free agency the Jets added the NFL’s best guard in Alan Faneca, signing him away with a five-year, $40 million contract that included $21 million in guarantees. They signed Damien Woody to play right tackle, paying him $11 million in guarantees as part of a five-year, $25 million deal to get out of Detroit.
“Those young guys had to grow up in a hurry and now those guys, Mangold and Ferg, are two of the best offensive lineman in football,” Woody said. “A lot of that has to do with Coach Callahan doing that extra work. He’s going to work those guys before practice, during practice, after practice and all that hard work paid off for a couple of years. Our offensive line was probably considered one of the best in the league. I think he’s going to have the same effect in Dallas.”
While the Jets went with free agents early, they mixed in younger players, such as Matt Slauson, and took Vladimir Ducasse in the second round of the 2010 draft.
In Oakland, he made two changes on the offensive line and the team went from 4-12 to 8-8, mixing in younger linemen like Mo Collins, Barry Sims and Matt Stinchcomb.
The Cowboys need to address the offensive line in 2011 either in free agency (are we tired of the Carl Nicks stuff yet?) or the draft. Or both.
Callahan has done it both ways in his past.
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.
Jay Ratliff was on the field for 733 plays last season, and did not record a tackle for loss.
Actually, he hasn’t had one in 19 games.
If that trend doesn’t end Sunday against the Jets, then the Cowboys have no chance to control the Jets’ running game. Ratliff is an undersized nose guard at 285 pounds, so the Cowboys often align him so he can use his quickness and agility to beat blocks at the line of scrimmage.
When the scheme works, Ratliff is a disruptive force. When it doesn’t, the Cowboys get gashed.
But the run defense begins and ends with Ratliff, who will be going against Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold. If Ratliff doesn’t play well, the Cowboys have no shot to beat the Jets.
The Cowboys are still learning the nuances of Rob Ryan’s schemes, which prefers not to use a safety as an eighth defender to stop the run. They will make some mental errors against the run and Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson will take advantage of them.
The Jets should hit their average, if not more.
Keith Brooking believes the Jets' personality, not their personnel, is the primary reason their running game is so successful. He admires the relentlessness of the "Ground and Pound" plan.
“They do not shy away from that regardless of what happens throughout the football game,” Brooking said. “If it doesn’t keep working in the beginning, they’re going to keep doing it and keep doing it.”
That’s not to say the personnel isn’t impressive. And the Jets’ two best blockers match up against Dallas’ best defensive players.
There aren’t many games in which the opponent has the edge in the matchup against Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff. This is one of them. Nick Mangold is an All-Pro mauler with a 22-pound advantage over Ratliff. If he’s able to handle Ratliff without help, it will be a long day for Dallas’ inside linebackers.
Pro Bowl left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson doesn’t have the edge over DeMarcus Ware, but it’s nowhere near the mismatch Dallas usually has with its most dominant player.
The Jets have the matchups to run the ball effectively against the Cowboys. They’ll also probably have the lead late in the game, which means they’ll run it a lot.
So the answer is no.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Jerry Jones' recent comments, Cowboys OTAs, Dez Bryant and more.
Play Podcast Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the latest Tony Romo news and what he will be watching for in OTAs.
Play Podcast Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss his comments on how Jason Garrett should handle being on the hot seat and not let Jerry Jones get in the way.
Play Podcast Cowboys safety Barry Church joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the new defensive scheme and the impact it will have on him, how much more intense he expects practice to be with Monte Kiffin and his expectations.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the latest Cowboys news, including Jason Garrett downplaying Tony Romo's involvement in offensive planning and play calling.
Play Podcast John Lynch joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss playing for Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli, why Cowboys fans should be excited about the new defensive staff, why Valley Ranch will no longer resemble a country club and his thoughts on the Cowboys' roster.
Play Podcast Herm Edwards joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the latest Cowboys news and give his take on what new face will make the biggest impact for Dallas.
Play Podcast Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what he saw at the Cowboys' rookie minicamp and how he helped Rod Marinelli on the defensive side of the ball.