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Cowboys @ Dolphins Key Matchup: Dallas Offensive Line Vs. Ndamukong Suh

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Tony Romo is back, and that is widely perceived as the biggest factor influencing Dallas' game in Miami. But it may be just as important how well the Cowboys can protect their franchise quarterback from the Dolphins' star defender.

The uniform for Suh is different, but this matchup is still crucial for the Cowboys.
The uniform for Suh is different, but this matchup is still crucial for the Cowboys.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

After eight long weeks and seven brutally disappointing losses, the Dallas Cowboys finally have Tony Romo back. This has injected a new spirit of hope into the team and its fanbase. With the team remarkably only two games behind in the loss column despite being 2-7, a win this Sunday when the team goes to play the Miami Dolphins would go a long ways to ending the doom and gloom that has been weighing down everyone who follows the Star.

But the Cowboys have to make sure that they keep Romo healthy the rest of the way. The current series of unfortunate events for Dallas really began when Romo's collarbone was broken during a sack in the second game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles. And against the Dolphins, the key to that is going to be protecting him from the best defensive lineman they have, Ndamukong Suh.

Suh was the big fish in NFL free agency in 2015, the only defensive lineman universally seen as more effective than Greg Hardy. Like Hardy, he came with some negative baggage, but since his transgressions were limited to his on-field reputation for dirty play, it was more manageable, While Hardy had to settle for a one-year deal that protected Dallas in the event he did not work out, Suh cashed in with a huge $100 million contract. But his performance in Miami has been disappointing - until last week's game against the Eagles, when he may have been the key player in turning the game around for the Dolphins.

Thanks to a field goal on their first offensive drive of the game the Dolphins weren't completely shut out in the first quarter, but with the score 16-3 and the Eagles driving into Miami territory heading into the second quarter, it still felt like the makings of an old fashioned ass kicking.

The Dolphins needed somebody on their defense to step up and make a play ... or two ... or 10 ... and who better to do that than their big free agent acquisition from this spring, Ndamukong Suh, my Hoss of the Week for Week 11.

There is no denying that to this point Suh has not had the year he or the Dolphins anticipated when they signed him to be a $100 million man in March. However, there is definitely still time for him to get things turned around. I hate using a contract as a factor to judge a guy's performance, but if you give a guy that much money, the expectations are bound to be sky high.

I don't know if a light went off or what. Maybe the Eagles' play calling suddenly afforded Suh more opportunities to make plays. Whatever the reason, the guy was a helluva lot more productive than I have seen him in most of the games this year from literally the moment the second quarter started.

- Stephen White, SBNation writer

Maybe for once the Cowboys caught a break in timing, since it usually seems like players wait until they face Dallas to step up their game. Of course, that view may still have a little homerism involved, but it still is nice to have some video of Suh's "A" game to work with. Playing from the tackle position, he is going to be primarily the responsibility of Zack Martin and Travis Frederick. The good news for the Cowboys is that they faced him in last year's first-round playoff game and were able to manage him well for the most part. But it is crucial that they do so again, since he is not only a constant threat to the quarterback on passing downs, but also is extremely disruptive in the running game. Given the problems that the Cowboys had with rushing the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they need to stop him from having the kind of impact against the run that he did last week. And of course they don't want to subject Romo to excessive punishment trying to throw.

While there is no doubt that Romo brings so very much to the table, we have to remember that he is not the only player that has to perform well if the Cowboys are to salvage something from the train wreck that the first nine games of their season has become. One of the pervasive theories about having him back is that he will inspire the rest of his teammates to do better, and that is not invalid. But his performance and safety are very dependent on the job the O line does, and they have had their moments when things did not go so well. Against Suh and the rest of the Miami defensive front, they cannot afford serious mistakes. But the interior of the Dallas line, including La'el Collins, does have one thing that should serve them well against the Dolphins, and that is a nasty attitude that matches that of Suh. These are men who take pride in beating the guy in front of them in both phases of the offense. They will need every bit of that to come out on top and lead the way for the "skill" positions.

For fans of line play, the game on Sunday looks to be a real treat with some of the best players in the league on both sides of the line when the Cowboys have the ball. Dallas needs Romo to throw well and the running backs to get some yards. Their ability to do that will depend on what happens when those big guys up front collide. The battle in the trenches looks to be one of the major factors in this game, and perhaps the biggest of them all.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB