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Cowboys vs. Jets: Johnathan Hankins will play a big part in stopping the Jets rushing attack

With Aaron Rodgers out for the year, all eyes turn to stopping this New York Jets running game.

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Now that the page has been turned to Week 2 and another New York opponent, this matchup looks much different than many of us thought it was going to be when we first saw it on the schedule. With Aaron Rodgers no longer in the picture, it is former first-round pick, Zach Wilson’s group going forward. Taking nothing away from Wilson who deserves his respect, it just goes without saying that he doesn’t present the same challenge that future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers would have.

The Jets offense will now be a run-first group and will lean on Dalvin Cook and Breece Hall to carry the load for the group. The Jets plan for Wilson will be to play smart complementary football, not turn the ball over, and keep the game within reach as the Jets stellar defense and rushing attack looks to take control.

Obviously, this is a much different plan of attack than the one they were hoping to implement with Rodgers under center, but it is their new reality and things change quickly in the NFL. For the Cowboys, it’s a change in defensive strategy as well. While you always want to emphasize defending the run every week, it’ll be an even bigger focal point for this defense come Sunday, and gives defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins an opportunity to make a massive impact in the interior.

Week two player spotlight

Johnathan Hankins

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest points of focus for the Cowboys defense was recognizing, and fixing, their leaky run defense. The team used a first-round selection on defensive tackle Mazi Smith and re-signed Johnathan Hankins to add beef in the interior. Both guys, as well as others, will need to step up in a big way in Week 2.

It isn’t a hard plan to figure out, but nonetheless it will be a key factor on Sunday - stop the run and you’ll win the game. The Jets ran the ball 28 times on Monday night compared to just 21 pass attempts from Wilson. The split may be similar or even more run leaning going forward, and with two dynamic running backs to hand the ball off, it would be foolish to do otherwise as currently constructed.

The game plan seems simple enough for the Jets, but it takes talent to execute, and the Jets biggest weakness is on the offensive line. The Jets offensive line has yet to face a defensive front as deep and skilled as the Cowboys and it will be a huge x-factor to watch for on Sunday. While the Jets offensive line fairs better in the running game versus in pass protection, it’ll be a matchup worth watching this week. Forcing to Jets offense to play behind the chains will be the goal. Forcing the ball into Wilson’s hands could be an issue for the Jets and both teams recognize that.

Hankins numbers will never be gaudy - it’s the nature of the position, but his presence and performance can play a huge factor in Sunday’s outcome. The Cowboys came into the season knowing that the run defense needed to improve and this is the first real chance for the defensive unit to show that they have turned the corner. Look for Hankins and company to be a force in the interior, clogging running lanes, and being a menace for the offensive line, forcing the game into the hands of Wilson. And if so, advantage Cowboys.

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