The Dallas Cowboys have played three straight tough games to open up the season and find themselves with a respectable 2-1 record. They look to start a winning streak against the division-leading L.A. Rams this weekend. We previewed the Rams offensive attack, but now let’s look at the Rams defense and how it stacks up against Dallas’s offensive schemes.
The Rams feature a 3-4 defense and Wade Phillips leads a very creative defensive unit up front. Aaron Donald (defensive end) and Michael Brockers (nose tackle) dominate the trenches on their own and are flanked with Ethan Westbrooks as the other defensive end. Donald is widely regarded as one of the best defensive linemen in the National Football League and he will go up against Tyron Smith who is also regarded as one of the best left tackles in the NFL. It will be a very interesting matchup to keep a close eye on throughout the game.
Dak Prescott showed that his ability to escape from the pocket and create on the run may be his biggest strength. This approach will be particularly important against a strong defensive line and an aggressive secondary. Prescott must feel pressure and blitzes this week and be able to escape from the defense if he expects to mimic his performance against the Cardinals this week.
The linebackers for the Rams include Alec Ogletree, Mark Barron, Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin. This quartet leads the defense in tackles with 24 to Ogletree and 18 to Barron. This group provides stability and veteran experience and will take on the responsibility of defending Cole Beasley, Jason Witten and the newfound bubble screen to Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams. Barwin has tormented Dallas during his time in Philadelphia and has recorded five sacks and 25 tackles in just eight games against the Cowboys.
The Cowboys must establish their run game against this defense. Dallas will feed Ezekiel Elliott the ball enough times that he will break a long run and force the defense to respect the play-action which will allow Prescott to torment the defense.
Wade Phillips has a talented secondary that usually plays with three cornerbacks and two safeties. The secondary consists of Trumaine Johnson, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Maurice Alexander, Cody Davis and Lamarcus Joyner. In three games, Joyner, Robey-Coleman and Johnson have each recorded one interception, multiple pass deflections and two total forced fumbles and recoveries. This group will have their hand full against a strong and talented receiving group in Dallas.
In the prior three games, the Dallas offense has played against superstar cornerbacks and safeties in Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. While this Rams secondary has fared fairly well thus far, they just allowed 39 offensive points to the Brian Hoyer and San Francisco 49ers. Dak Prescott was very efficient against the Arizona Cardinals and cannot wait to get a piece of the Rams.
The key matchup this weekend is Wade Phillips against Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan. Phillips knows the Dallas offensive schemes well and it will be a real chess match throughout the game as each side attempts to make the right adjustment. The Rams are a less-talented version of the Cowboys as they boast a young quarterback and running back combination, a good set of pass catchers but a similarly talented and composed defense. Look for the Dallas Cowboys to start a new winning streak if they are able to neutralize Donald and give Dak Prescott time in the pocket. If Dallas is unable to protect Prescott, the defense will find itself on the field for extended periods of time which will allow Gurley to take the game over.