When facing an offense whose most potent threat is a running back, it is generally considered an advantage to jump out to an early lead. This forces your opponent to abandon the run and resort to a passing attack. Naturally this is easier said than done; and in the case of Jamaal Charles it is not necessarily effective either. As formidable as he is when carrying the ball, Charles can be just as prolific as a pass catching threat. Charles is such a threat in the passing game that Andy Reid used him as a wide receiver in last week's contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars. To shut down such a dual threat player requires a concerted effort on behalf of the defense.
In the Kiffin/Marinelli defensive scheme, stopping the run is primarily the jurisdiction of the linebackers, as is the responsibility for shutting down receivers out of the backfield. For the Dallas Cowboys, that primarily means the duo of Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, plus a little help from Justin Durant. Sunday's game will be a match up of the Chiefs offensive strength squaring off against one of the Cowboys defensive strong points. Sean Lee is well aware of the importance of the battle he and his colleagues face.
"He’s a great back, great elusiveness, great speed," linebacker Sean Lee said. "He’s got a ton of ability. If we don’t gang tackle and get to him it’ll be a tough day for us. We’re going to have to rally and find a way to get to him."
Fortunately for the Cowboys, the linebackers in the Dallas-2 defense are a group of players that have the speed and range to match up well with a back of Charles' caliber. They read and react well to the ball, and they bring a high level of athleticism to the defense. As our own Joey Ickes stated in his look at the position group, the linebackers are the backbone of the defense. Against the Chiefs, they will have to step up and prove Joey correct if the Cowboys have a chance to win.
In addition to the linebackers, I anticipate that Dallas will play an abundance of single high safety since the Chiefs and Alex Smith are not considered to be a deep passing risk. This will allow safety Barry Church to play up in the box where he can take advantage of the opportunity to deliver an additional load of lumber to Mr. Charles on Sunday. The Cowboys safety knows that the Dallas defense has a hard day's work ahead.
"He’s got all-class speed and he can turn the corner on anybody," -Barry Church
Come Sunday the gang tackling hoard of Dallas defenders will face their second challenge of the season. If they play up to their ability and continue their swarming and ball-stripping ways, Sunday afternoon could become a long one for Jamaal Charles. If they fail to live up to the challenge, it will be the Cowboys defenders who will feel like the end of the game will never come.