Dallas Defense vs. Jacksonville Offense
Running game: The Jags are a team that likes to establish the run, but got away from it last year. This year they've rededicated themselves to the running attack. They came into camp thinking they would use the 1-2 punch of Fred Taylor and Greg Jones, but Jones is out for the season so Taylor will carry the load. The veteran back is healthy - one of his biggest problems - and can be a very dangerous back. But the Jaguars offensive line is questionable, and may be susceptible to Dallas's big defensive line. Chris Canty and Marcus Spears should be able to hold their ground against LT Khalif Barnes and RT Maurice Williams. Both are big tackles, but Canty and Spears are both 300 lbs. so there isn't too much of a size difference. Dallas will need OLB DeMarcus Ware to play better against the run than he did last year, but they shouldn't have that problem on the others side as Greg Ellis has already proven he's stout against the run. TE Kyle Brady is an excellent run blocker, so Ware and Ellis will have to deal with him to stop the run.
Up the middle, the play of Jason Ferguson will be a key, as it always is with the NT in a 3-4. Dallas doesn't have a proven backup for Ferguson, so the Jags will want to test the middle in the 2nd half of the game to see if he's worn down in the Florida heat. Parcells might counter with Jay Ratliff instead of newly acquired J'vonne Parker, or he may switch to some 4-3 looks if Ferguson needs a rest. LB's Bradie James and Akin Ayodele will have the task of dealing with the Jaguars massive guards.
Look for Jacksonville to run at DeMarcus Ware, they'll want to see if his run support game has improved from last year. They'll also want to wear down Ferguson in the middle and try to force a substitution, then take advantage. Dallas has shown in the preseason that they can handle the run reasonably well with the front seven, and they'll want to keep SS Roy Williams in coverage for this game to counter the Jags 3-WR package. The key players for the running game defense will be Ferguson and Ware.
Passing game: Byron Leftwich has a great arm and usually makes good decisions, but he's an immobile QB that will take a sack. The Cowboys defense will want to put pressure on him constantly, and will try to do it without resorting to an abundance of blitzes. The Jaguars line couldn't protect Leftwich in the preseason and the Cowboys will make this a point of emphasis. DeMarcus Ware will give LT Khalif Barnes fits because of his speed, and could end up with a massive day. The Jags may counter with a 3-WR spread look that will utilize the short passing game. Only WR Matt Jones has enough speed to worry the Cowboys deep, so the Cowboys will roll the safety coverage to his side and take their chances in single-coverage with Ernest Wilford and Reggie Williams. Dallas has to be concerned with the height advantage of the Jax receivers, especially in the redzone. If TE Marcedes Lewis doesn't play or is limited because of injury, the Jags other TE's offer limited ability in the passing game freeing the secondary to concentrate on the wide-outs.
Bill Parcells isn't likely to change out of his base defense on 1st and 2nd down, meaning OLB Greg Ellis will be tested in pass coverage. Expect Jax to test him early and go back to his side routinely if he is giving up yards. Dallas could counter by going to the nickel, but more likely they'll send Ellis into the pass rush and use SS Roy Williams or the inside LB to fill the void in coverage. Parcells doesn't like to let the offense dictate his defensive formations, so instead of going nickel, the Cowboys will test the Jags offensive line with heavy pass rushes when Jax is in the spread offense. Terence Newman shouldn't have a problem in single-coverage, so the burden will fall on Anthony Henry to lock down his man in those situations.
Look for Dallas to put the pressure on Leftwich often, first with their standard pass rush and if that doesn't work they'll start to blitz. The key for Dallas is to get negative plays against the Jags so they can sit back in coverage on long 2nd and 3rd down plays. DeMarcus Ware should be able to get into the Jags backfield, and if they start chipping him or double-teaming him, Greg Ellis will make them pay from the other side.