Five big things to watch for during the Cowboys-Jets game, Part 2: Defense

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Marcus Spears (left) and Kenyon Coleman (right) have a lot to prove this season

3. Can the front 7 stop the Jets running attack?

The Jets averaged around 33 carries per game last year; they had the 4th most rushing yards in the league.  That being said, none of their RBs scare me (sorry LT, you were feared just a year or two ago, but not now). None of them, including Greene, seem capable of controlling the game on their own.  If their running game is successful, it will not be the result of unusually talented rushing, it will be because of an effective offensive line.  The Jets do have a formidable OL, and the Boys run defense did look a little soft, especially up the middle, in the pre-season and last year.

If we are to believe all we hear about “mixing it up”, “causing confusion for the offense”, “interchangeable parts” etc, it should be nearly impossible to predict how Ryan will utilize the front 7. The key, as per usual, is whether they can consistently stop the run with the front seven, or whether they have to start sneaking 8 men in the box. If they can’t do it with 7, it could be a long day for the defense.

One would expect the front 7, particularly the ILBs, to be more attacking than the “read and then react” approach them seemed to get them caught hesitating all too often under Phillips. Expect more run-blitzing on 1st and sometimes 2nd early in the game and as long as the score is close.

3.c. How quickly and thoroughly will Coleman allow us to forget about Olshansky?

If Coleman can hold his own at the point of attack against the run and/or generate any semblance of a push on passing downs, he will be at least a slight upgrade over Igor.

3.d. Will Marcus Spears play with a chip on his shoulder because the team refused to give him a big-time contract?

The media claims that the Cowboys wanted to re-sign Steven Bowen and let Spears go, but they had to ‘settle’ for Spears when Bowen got big $ from the Skins. Spears is perennially undervalued and under-appreciated; he may start playing like he is angry about it. I will be watching to see whether the Jets are able to break any substantial runs to his side.

3.e. What will Ratliff’s role be?

Will we see Ratliff, as so many fans have been demanding for years, used as anything another other than a typical NT? Could we see him line up as DE?

If they do move him around, it will be interesting to see whether Spears or Coleman slides inside, or whether one of them comes out and Josh Brent comes in to play the nose. If we don’t see Ratliff moved around at all, it won’t rule out the possibility that he will eventually play at least some passing downs as a DE. Ryan is still installing a new system in which unpredictability is fundamental; I expect to see something new, even if it is small wrinkles, every week.

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Tags: Alan Ball Anthony Spencer Bradie James Bryan McCann Dallas Cowboys Dallas Cowboys Vs New York Jets Dallas Defense Defense DeMarcus Ware Keith Brooking Mike Jenkins New York Orlando Scandrick Plaxico Plaxico Burress Preview Rex Ryan Rob Ryan Terence Newman

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