New England Patriots vs Dallas Cowboys “Under the Radar” Players
Dallas Cowboys: Keanu Neal, LB
New England Patriots: Matt Judon, DE
Hand up. My apologies for speaking the Kadarius Toney coronation into existence prior to last weekend. He won some matchups against the Cowboys, and boy, did he ever take advantage of the opportunity. Let’s hope this Pats player doesn’t hurt us as bad. Plus, a little something extra at the end…
Mac Jones only averages 6.5 yards per attempt this season. For some context, Dak Prescott averages nearly two whole yards more at 8.3 yards per attempt. The Patriots running backs and tight ends also account for nearly 52% of the receptions on the Patriots. Keanu Neal is going to be active in the passing game this week.
Prior two Neal’s two-week absence due to COVID-19, he saw 77% and 72% of the snaps in the first two weeks of the season. In his return last week, Neal still saw 50% of the snaps. Expect that number to increase back to the mid-70% range, especially with his ability to cover running backs and tight ends in the passing game.
Neal is going to be tasked with lining up against tight ends, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, along with potentially picking up running backs, Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden, out of the backfield. The verdict is still out on lead back, Damien Harris, as he nurses a rib injury, although I would bet he plays. The Patriots are without running back, James White, who is on the injured reserve and currently lists Brandon Bolden as questionable.
With some questions at running back and Jones’ evidenced liking of his short passing game, Neal could see a lot of action against the tight ends. Coming in at 212 pounds and running a 4.6, Neal is much more of a hybrid player even though listed as a linebacker. As far as a prediction, my gut tells me that Neal is guarding a tight end and we get a forced fumble after the catch at some point Sunday afternoon.
To a lot of America, Matt Judon is a lesser-known edge rusher. That is about to change rapidly. The Patriots defender is proving to be a monster this season. Through five games Judon has accumulated 6.5 sacks, 20 tackles, eight of which have been a tackle for loss, and 11 hits on opposing quarterbacks.
The Cowboys’ offensive line will have their hands full with Judon, who although is listed as a linebacker, has been wreaking havoc in the running game and pass rush. The Cowboys would be wise to run away from Judon. He is second in the league in sack totals and tied for first in tackles for loss. If the Cowboys can slow down Judon, a tall task, the rest of the matchup in the trenches leans in their favor.
As promised, something extra. Keep an eye on Connor McGovern. Kellen Moore has used him as a short-yardage fullback. I have to believe they have a goal-line play-action pass where McGovern sneaks out into the flat and is left all alone. Who else better to pull off a play like this against, than Bill Belichick, who has proven a love for utilizing the forgotten suspect on goal-line passes.