In retrospect, neither Tyron Smith nor J.J. Watt would have been a bad pick. Smith recently made his first Pro Bowl appearance and is rapidly becoming one of the best offensive lineman in the game, while he is also one of the youngest as well. On the other hand, Watt is domination personified on the defensive line and already has a Defensive Player of the Year award under his belt. Dallas could have taken either man and been well served. The choice was made and now the question is "Will Watt make the Dallas Cowboys pay for passing on him?"
Tony Romo has stated openly that he feels that Watt is the best single player that the team will face all season, and there is little reason to dispute Romo's statement.
"He's a dynamic player who has been disruptive in every single game that I've seen. You have to make sure he doesn't really make a difference-making play that changes the outcome of the game. Sometimes you can't control him on every snap that you want, but you can minimize it with certain things. I think we're going to try and do that a little bit." - Tony Romo
Minimizing J.J. Watt's impact is easier said than done. The Houston Texans defensive lineman already has 17 QB hits on the season, more than double the number of any other player in the league, and also has two sacks on the season. He will be, if allowed to run wild, a disruptive force. Still, there are some things that can be done to reduce the damage that Watt can do. In fact, the Cowboys have a blueprint courtesy of their division rival New York Giants. Former NFL QB Dan Fouts, who will call Sunday's game for CBS, had a front row seat for the Giants' win over the Texans a couple weeks ago, and recently shared his observations on how Eli Manning and Co. were able to contain Houston's top player.
"I worked the Giants win over the Texans earlier this season. The Giants ran the heck out of the ball. Eli Manning rolled out away from Watt just about every time and changed the release point on his passes. The Cowboys have a road map." - Dan Fouts
Fouts also observed that the Dallas offensive line has the potential to dominate every game. Between their ability to dictate the action up front and DeMarco Murray being able to continue carrying the ball at a 5+ yard per carry clip, Watt's impact on the game should be lessened. Stopping the ground game is a weakness for Houston; they are surrendering over 130 yards per game this season. In addition, if the Cowboys elect to roll Romo away from Watt, Romo should have some clear passing lanes to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers.
All of this is easier said than done, of course. Dallas is going to have to fire on all cylinders offensively if they expect to limit Watt, one of the most dominant players in the game today. Other than in the opening quarters of the season, this has not been a problem for Scott Linehan's unit. If Dallas follows the blueprint that has been laid out for them, the team should emerge from the "Lone Star Showdown" with their fourth consecutive win.
[Ed. Note: Stay tuned, Neithan20000 will take a closer look at Watt's game tape in our next post here on BTB.]