Look for Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee to be heavily tested throughout – each will need to bring laser-focus and physicality to the field on Sunday to survive a schematic onslaught. Ideally (admittedly a big “if” for this coaching staff), the Cowboys will ask them to blitz often as well. Not only should this tactic be used to clog lanes, but the Rams have only allowed 19 sacks on the year, good for 2nd in the NFL.
With the offense he runs, any hopes of hindering Sean McVay’s effectiveness demands exceptional linebacking play. If Dallas hopes to eek out a victory this week, 50 and 54 must be a considerable part of the 7-7 formula.
Same should be said about the Cowboys defensive line, as Tank Lawrence, Robert Quinn, and Michael Bennett will also need huge games to stymie this offense. But in searching for a real X factor this week, I’m turning to Antwaun Woods.
Big 99 will be back from a combination of injuries and unexpected legal issues this week, and the timing couldn’t be better. The interior lane-clogger will need to be an immovable force along the trenches Sunday, and given Dallas’ lack of size at DT, 99 figures to be in-line for an increased role.
It’s worth noting Woods will likely be itching at his opportunity Sunday, too – although he finished last year’s postseason contest, it was revealed after the game that he tore his labrum in the 2nd quarter against these very Rams. If you recall, Dallas couldn’t stop hemorrhaging up-the-middle chunks of yardage that day, and having Woods reduced to a one-armed liability didn’t do much to help.
This is one of the more interesting storylines to follow, as Antwaun’s presence could force the Rams away from interior rushing lanes and limiting the overall effectiveness of Todd Gurley and company.