*Cowboys wide receivers vs. Texans cornerbacks: The Texans are ranked 32nd in the NFL in pass defense and 17th in sacks per attempt. The Cowboys are ranked second in passing offense and first in the NFL in protecting the quarterback.
As much as the Cowboys want to fix their running game -- and it is something they need to try to do -- the matchups on the outside can favor them if they are able to hold up against this Texans pass rush.
The Texans like to use a four-man line and twist their defensive linemen to cause problems in the blocking scheme. The Cowboys have struggled at times with this style of scheme inside with Leonard Davis and Andre Gurode adjusting. The Cowboys do a much better job with Kyle Kosier and Marc Colombo in the lineup because of their ability to pass stunts.
If Tony Romo is given time, he can attack corners Kareem Jackson, Glover Quin and Brice McCain when he comes in for the nickel. Jackson is a talented rookie from Alabama, but he just doesn’t have a feel yet for playing vertical and inside routes. I really like the matchup of Miles Austin against him because how physical Austin can be and his ability as a solid route runner. Austin gives veteran defensive backs problems; watch what he does to this rookie.
The Texans will play a form of cover 2 much like the Bears did, so I expect their corners to try and be physical with the Cowboys receivers. The Texans struggled last week against the Redskins when the receivers were running through zones and they lost their men in coverage.
Watch how the Cowboys try and attack this group if they can hold up in protection. Some plays can be made.
Texans LT Rashad Butler vs. Cowboys OLBs DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer: Not going to sugarcoat this for the Texans: Duane Brown’s suspension is a huge blow for this offense. Brown was outstanding at left tackle against Brian Orakpo and Dwight Freeney both in the running and passing games. Butler makes his first NFL start after five seasons in the league.
Butler did play against the Cowboys in the preseason, but it wasn’t against the front-line defenders. Butler looks athletic in movement, but he doesn’t play with the power and nastiness that Brown did.
The Texans are lucky enough that their next best lineman happens to play next to Butler and that is guard Wade Smith. Smith is not big for a guard, but he is very athletic and in this scheme.
I do not believe that the Texans will allow Butler to be on an island much in this game. I look for the Texans to help him with tight ends and backs to that side.
In the preseason match up, Cowboys defensive end Igor Olshansky didn’t play his best game. When the Texans try to run the stretch play going to the left, it will be interesting if Butler can handle Olshansky at the critical point of attack.
Cowboys run defense vs. running back Arian Foster: The Texans run a very similar offense to that of the Washington Redskins in the zone blocking, stretch play scheme. The Cowboys did a nice job in their fits against the Redskins, but this Texans bunch is a different animal.
This offensive line minus Duane Brown at tackle will be different but not scheme-wise. This is the best line that the Cowboys have faced so far this season. They like to push the front side and cut the backside off.
The thing that makes this offense go is running back Arian Foster. Foster is a 224-pound load with the football in his hands. He doesn’t have huge speed, but he is deceptive in the way he can cover ground. He is physical and he will run through arm tackles.
The area that makes Foster dangerous is that if he does get going, it sets up the play-action game for the Texans. The Texans like to run boots and waggles off their stretch plays. In the preseason, the Cowboys gave up a touchdown to Jacoby Jones off the full-flow stretch play to the left.
The Cowboys cannot allow Foster to take over this game like he did against the Colts. If the Cowboys don’t get off blocks and play with discipline with their linebackers, it will allow the Texans to control this game and keep the Cowboys offense off the field.