Dallas Cowboys vs. New England Patriots Preview: Defense

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4.  Can the two safeties avoid biting on the play action fakes?

As I mentioned above, Welker does not have sprinter speed. The vast majority of the long catches he has made this year came when one or both of the safeties fell for the play action fake; this allowed Welker to go one-on-one with a CB without any help over the top. Welker, like most starting WR’s in the NFL, is dangerous when he is covered by a single CB.

Many of the commentators have been discussing the match-up of Scandrick versus Welker. I highly doubt that Scandrick, or any of the DB’s for that matter, will have to handle Welker one-on-one very often. Expect to see a safety providing help to the CB over the top on the vast majority of the plays.

I will be watching to see if the safeties can avoid getting fooled by the play action. I will also be watching to see if their reluctance to bite on play action causes them to be late getting to the point of attack on real running plays.

He has to play like an angry Beast. Looking like one is a great start.

5.  Can Jay Ratliff get a consistent push up in the middle?

One of the things that stood out to me when I watched the Browns-Pats game, was how consistent Shaun Rogers was in getting a push in the middle. He was disruptive in both the passing and running game. ( I have to be honest here: the Browns have 2 big NT’s, so some of the plays may have been made by the other NT). Rogers played for Ryan last year and was a free agent this off-season, but the Cowboys did not pursue him. Rogers is listed at 350 lbs, but I think that is being kind; Ratliff is a slim 287 lbs.

Ratliff getting penetration will be a key aspect of stopping the run, and in collapsing the pocket on passing plays.

I will be watching to see how often they double-team Ratliff. I will also be watching to see if Ryan moves Ratliff around, and whether Ryan ever chooses to go heavy in the middle by playing Brent and Ratliff at the same time.


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