Cowboys vs. Jets Preview | What to Watch For
The Dallas Cowboys will head to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Jets to kick-off the Sunday Night Football schedule, in what’s sure to be an emotional scene on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
While the pregame events will surely be something to see, there’s also the relatively small matter of a football game taking place.
Here’s what to watch for Sunday night.
Three Keys for the Cowboys
1. Offensive line play
Dallas will be starting three new players along the offensive line to start the season, with left tackle Doug Free and right guard Kyle Kosier being the only hold-overs from last season.
The good news here is that they’re younger. The bad news is that none of the three new guys have ever been full-time starters. Dallas’ most recent first-round pick, right tackle Tyron Smith, also suffered a hyperextended knee late in the week, so his status for this game is in doubt.
Rex Ryan has to be licking his chops at the prospect of blitzing the inexperienced Cowboys’ line like crazy, so Tony Romo will likely need to use those plus-wheels quite often.
Expect lots of screens, slants and quick throws from the Cowboys in this one.
2. The secondary must hold its own
The secondary for the Cowboys was amongst the league’s worst last season, and has undergone very few changes from last season, as former Cleveland Brown safety Abe Elam is the most notable addition.
New York does prefer to run the ball, but they also have some dangerous weapons on the outside (Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress) that could provide matchup problems for Dallas.
Veteran corner Terence Newman will likely miss this game, and former first-round pick Mike Jenkins’ status is also iffy with a knee injury.
The Cowboys’ front seven is going to have to come after Mark Sanchez early and often in order to take pressure off of the suspect defensive backfield.
3. Establish the run
We know the Cowboys can sling it around with the best of them, but they’re also going to have to establish a formidable ground attack.
Another former first-round pick, Felix Jones, is finally “the man” in the backfield, and he looked as strong as ever during the preseason.
Injuries are always a question for him, but if he can stay healthy, he can turn into one of the more versatile backs in the league.
When going up against Revis Island, it’s important to be able to do work on the ground.
Three Keys for the Jets
1. Expose the Cowboys’ secondary
As mentioned above, the Dallas secondary is full of question marks. The Jets have rarely felt comfortable letting Mark Sanchez chuck the ball downfield much, but with Plaxico Burress now in the fold, they may be more willing to take some shots.
The Cowboys are certainly capable of putting points on the board, so the normally un-explosive Jets offense is going to have to find a way to keep up.
2. Get pressure on Tony Romo
Rex Ryan’s smash-mouth defenses are built on rushing the passer, and the Jets certainly have the personnel necessary to wreak havoc in the backfield.
Romo can sense pressure and evade tacklers as well as any QB in the league, but New York can’t afford to let him find his rhythm and comfort zone.
Otherwise, they could be in for a long night.
3. Win the turnover battle
This is a key for every team in every game, but winning the turnover battle usually means you win the field position battle, as well.
Winning field position is important, especially for a team with a young quarterback.
Romo and his “gunslinger” mentality make him susceptible to throwing interceptions, and the Jets will need to capitalize on those opportunities when they present themselves.
If they win the turnover battle, they likely win the game.
My Pick: Jets 24, Cowboys 17
NFL Soup Consensus: Cowboys