Dallas Cowboys (1-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-1)
I think the first thing you need to recognize when you break down how the Cowboys might attack this Dolphin defense is the fact that, despite the impressive passing numbers of Tony Romo last week, the Cowboys run the ball and like to establish the run early in games. Last week, on Dallas' first possession, 7 of the 13 plays run on that drive were running plays. And for the entire game, the run/pass ratio was about even. So yes, the Cowboys did exploit the pass against the Giants for big gains, but everything is orchestrated off of an effective running game. And considering the Dolphins struggled a bit stopping Washington's rushing attack, expect the Cowboys to come out and run early.
The Cowboys offensive line is huge to say the least. The average weight of one of their starting lineman is 329 pounds. In this day and age, where many teams look for more athletic lineman, that's very huge. And their rushing philosphy is kind of a throw back to the smash-mouth era of football. They have a big, strong line and two tailbacks who can handle the load. So they won't hold back when running, often times looking to run right up the middle and rarely trying to run outside. For a Dolphins fan, this is troubling considering how effective the Skins were in running the ball right into the teeth of the defense. For the Dolphins to stay in this game and have a real chance of winning, they must shut down the run early in the game.
The other effect that the run game has on this Cowboy offense was very noticable in their game last week. They love to run play-action passes and hit their talented tight end, Jason Witten, in the middle of the field. What happens is the linebackers generally bite on the play-action once Dallas establishes the run, allowing Witten to get behind the linebackers and into open space where he can run after catch, which he does very well. Miami will have to counter this by doing two things. The first is stopping the run, which will allow the linebackers to pay more attention to Witten on play-actions rather than hustling to the line to stop the ball carrier and allowing Witten to get behind them. The other is that whoever the safety is starting opposite of Renaldo Hill must do a good job of knowing where Witten is at all times. Hill's going to be busy helping Will Allen defend Terrell Owens, so the other safety is going to have to take responsibility for keeping tabs on Witten. He had 6 catches for 116 yards and a score last week. The Dolphins must make sure that he doesn't put up any numbers close to those in order to remain in this game.
Now let's move on to the rest of the passing game and what the Dolphins might to do slow it down. Obviously, a lot of attention will be paid to Owens, and rightfully so. It's likely going to be Will Allen's job to stay with him all game, with safety help over the top, bracket covering him. Allen does have the speed to stay with him on the crossing routes and underneath patterns. In fact, Allen is probably a bit faster than Owens. The problem comes in when T.O. starts breaking out double moves and Allen gets burnt on one of them, which is why safety help is likely required.
However, I do think the Dolphins lucked out that the Cowboys don't have Terry Glenn, as his speed would have created issues for Travis Daniels on the other side. Now Daniels will likely be up against Patrick Crayton, who doesn't scare me nearly as much as Glenn would have. I think Daniels can hold his own in that matchup, allowing more attention to be paid to Witten and Owens.
Of course, the key to slowing down the Dallas passing attack will be to get pressure on Tony Romo. I, personally, am not sold on Romo. Last week, he had all day in the pocket to make his throws. He was way too comfortable in the pocket. This week, the Dolphins need to bring pressure at Romo all game long. I wouldn't mind seeing blitzes come from everywhere on the field. I say they should do whatever they need to do to make Romo uncomfortable in the pocket and force him to make quick decisions. I got a feeling that if the Dolphins can get pressure on him, Romo is going to make more than a few mistakes, which is exactly how the Dolphins can win this game.