The Cowboys Must-See Rookie Matchups in 2014

Aaron Donald, DT. Week 3

Now that the draft is over, it’s time to take a look at rookie matchups we’ll be seeing for the 2014 schedule.

Let’s kick it off with the Week 1 matchup:

Week 1 – 49ers 3:25pm (FOX) SEPT 07: Jimmie Ward, SS

Ward will likely start next to 2nd year player Eric Reid. Ward is a guy the Cowboys liked, and if he has a solid game, he could make us wish we traded down to draft him to help our secondary. Ward will have his hands full patrolling the middle of the field where we could potentially see Devin Street, WR getting in on the action. I like the matchup our offensive will give the 49ers secondary. Right out the gates, Demarcus Lawrence will see his first elite left tackle in Joe Staley. Staley will undoubtedly welcome the rookie to the NFL, but in this game, I’m hoping Lawrence gets passed him with his speed. This is a great matchup for our shiny new Ferrari. Let’s go Lawrence!

Week 2 – @Titans 12:00pm (FOX) SEPT 14: Taylor Lewan, RT; Bishop Sankey, RB

We head on the road and Lewan will have his hands full against Selvie and picking up a doubl-team on Henry Melton. I like this matchup for us. However, Bishop Sankey has the most potential to give us trouble in this game. I would not have minded Sankey in Dallas, but playing against him will be a challenge. He’ll make plays in the running game and with the Titans passing game.

Week 3 –  @Rams 12:00pm (FOX) SEPT 21: Greg Robinson, LG; Aaron Donald, DT

This is the matchup that intrigues me the most early on the season. Robinson is slated to start at left guard next to LT Jake Long, so we’ll see how Demarcus Lawrence gets around that potential double-team. I do like Lawrence’s ability to get around the stiffer Long and Robinson though, his speed to get low and around them should be a great matchup all game long. Defensively, we’ll see the guy we all coveted, Aaron Donald. We’ll see how good he’ll be against the Cowboys new look offensive line. If Donald places their 3-tech, he’ll have his hands full with Martin. Martin was the one player that was stuffing people at the Senior Bowl, and Donald is familiar with Martin as they played against each other over the years when Pitt played against Notre Dame. That defense with the Rams is stacked, so to me, this will be the first true test of our offense. Can we get the ball downfield, will we be able to run the ball. It’s gonna be a good one!

Week 4 – Saints 7:30pm (SNF) SEPT 28: Brandin Cooks, WR

The Saints are just plugging and playing right here with Cooks. Lance Moore leaves, and here comes Cooks, an upgrade. The Saints will have a prolific offense yet again. This time around the Cowboys are hoping for a better defensive showing. The Cowboys will be looking to slow down the Saints offense with a steady dose of the running game. And look for Linehan to get after the Saints secondary with the plethora of weapons at his idisposal. Devin Streets could have a pivotal role in this game as the #3WR. The Saints will likely double-team Dez, but that will leave them susceptible to getting lit up by Terrance Williams and Streets. This game could be a shoot out, but if Lawrence can get around Armstead, which I think he will, then we’ll slow them down. I like our advantage in the trenches in this one.

Week 5 –  Texans 12:00pm (CBS) OCT 05: Jadaveon Clowney, DE; Louis Nix, NT; Tom Savage, QB

By the time week 5 rolls around, we’ll know if Clowney is the boom player the Texans had hoped and the Cowboys will know if Lawrence is on his way to filling the shoes of Ware. Clowney will have his hands full against Tyron Smith who is looking to get a monster contract, so his play is going to be solid, no doubt about it. We’ll see what Clowney is all about when he goes up against Trent Williams, Redskins in week 1. If he trouble getting through Williams, then Smith is going to eat his lunch. Nonetheless, the matchup against Clowney will be intriguing. Zack Martin will have his hands full in this game, but the stunts and Watts inside move will be met with Martin’s power. I love it. The trench warfare in this game should be a good one. Nix will get playing time in this game against Frederick and could get plugged up by his former teammate Martin as well. Will Savage be the QB by Week 5? If so, he’ll get to see his former teammate in action attacking the Texans suspect secondary.

Week 6 – @Seahawks 3:25pm (FOX) OCT 12: Paul Richardson, WR

This game could be a doozie. The last time the Cowboys went up to Seattle we got stifled in all phases of the offense. The Seahawks traded out the 1st round and picked up Richardson in the 2nd round and I expect him to be their guy to stretch the field. Like the Rams game, this will be a great test for Zack Martin. The Seahawks front is the best in the league right now, although, the Rams closed that gap after this past draft. The Cowboys will need to match the Seahawks physical play on both sides of the ball, and I think that’s why we saw the Cowboys draft and bring in some UDFA with some “edge” to them.

Week 7 –  Giants 3:25pm (FOX) OCT 19: Odell Beckham, WR

Raise your hand if you hate the Giants. I wish they would fall off and get tired of Coughlin and implode, but they continue to be one of the better teams in the conference despite their 2013 record. The Giants upgraded their receiving corps with Beckham and he could give the Cowboys fits in the same vein as Desean Jackson. See, the NFC East knows our secondary play is suspect and they are counting on our pass rush to be the same, if not just marginally improved from last year. If that were the case, I’d really be worried about this pick, and don’t get me wrong, I am, but not overly scared. The Cowboys pass rush will be there and it’ll come in waves this year, we’re going to harass the immobile Eli Manning all game. Their defensive line took a step back this offseason and wasn’t heavily invested this draft; meanwhile, the Cowboys offensive line has taken a step forward. We should be able to control the clock when we play the Giants this year.

Week 8 – Redskins 7:30pm (MNF) OCT 27: Trent Murphy, OLB; Morgan Moses, RT

By week 8 we’ll know what direction the Cowboys team is going, either bombing out, or towards another mediocre season, or excitement after stringing together some solid wins against solid teams. In week 8, we’ll see Murphy at OLB, and I’m not worried or even impressed with the pick. I like their RT selection the most in Morgan Moses. He should be in the mix to start for the Redskins and could have a solid game going up against Selvie or Spencer if he plays by this week.  I’m not worried about the Redskins defense, and it’ll be interesting to see Hatcher get shutdown. He should have gone to a 4-3 team. I like the potential matchup Devin Street gives us against this secondary. Bye week 8, we’ll be on Sean Lee watch, will he be playing half way through the season. Lee’s durability has been a huge question mark for him, so keep your eye out for Anthony Hitchens from here on out.

Week 9 –  Cardinals 12:00pm (FOX) NOV 02: Deone Bucannon, SS; Troy Niklas, TE; Kareem Martin, DE

This will be an interesting matchup for our offense. I like what the Cardinals did defensively with Bucannon and Martin was a steal for them. The pick that could give us trouble will be Niklas. Niklas is a big and powerful tight end. He’ll lineup and be solid in their run and pass blocking. If Lawrence is the player we hope he’ll be, he’ll likely get Niklas in his face throughout the game, and that’s if Valdeer needs it. In the passing game Niklas is a load to bring down and tackle. I don’t want to see any half ass tackling from Claiborne of the secondary for that matter, they better be ready to be physical in this game.

Week 10 –  @Jaguars 12:00pm (FOX London) NOV 09: Blake Bortles, QB; Marquise Lee, WR; Allen Robinson, WR

Before the draft I penciled this in as a win, but the Jaguars had a solid draft headlined by Blake Bortles. Bortles doesn’t get rattled, but if the Cowboys want a change to make him nervous they’ll need to bring that pass rush attack with fresh legs and hit him. Lee and Robinson will pose challenges to our secondary if we give Bortles time to throw the ball. In this game, our physical safeties should be able to rattle Lee into dropping passes as he did at USC, but Robinson is probably the one the Cowboys will need to focus on by the time we get to week 1o. Demarcus Lawrence should get some one-on-one matchups against Luke Jockel, that’ll be fun to watch. The x-factor will be the Jaguars defense, they quietly added some players that have potential to being in the starting lineup by week 10,  Telvin Smith and Chris Smith at linebacker. Martin will have a solid game against the Jags defensive line.

Week 11 –  BYE WEEK

Week 12 – @Giants 7:30pm (SNF) NOV 23

–See Week 7–

Week 13 –  Eagles 3:30pm (FOX) NOV 27: Marcus Smith, OLB; Jordan Matthews, WR; Josh Huff, WR

I’m hoping the Eagles are beat up by Week 13, having their bye week in Week 7 should be good for that cause. The scheduling gods hate the Dallas Cowboys, this is the first game that kicksoff a brutal stretch. After this game we play the Eagles again in 2 weeks – crazy! As for the rookie matchups, the Eagles are looking to go for the kill on everyone this year. They are stacked up on offense, in particular at wide receiver. Matthews will stretch the field and Huff played for Kelly at Oregon, so this will be seamless for him. They are going to air it out. The Cowboys were one of a very few teams that were able to throttle down the Eagles passing attack, and now with Marinelli in full control we should see more of the same. The Cowboys alluded to beefing up the offensive line to help extend drives and keep our defense fresh. Well, that will be put to the test in this game. We should be able to run over the Eagles and slow them down, and with the additions of Melton and Lawrence we’ll be in Foles face and Eagles backfield.

Week 14 –  @Bears 7:25pm (NFLN) DEC 04: Kyle Fuller, CB; Will Sutton, DT

Kyle Fuller was the Bears premier pick in the first round and perhaps their best pick from a decent draft haul. Adding Will Sutton to their line should help them out as well, but not concerned about it. Although, I liked Sutton, he had games where he was shutdown, and against Notre Dame, he was shutdown. I don’t see him getting passed Frederick or even Martin. The Bears offense shredded the Cowboys, but this time around we’ll have some more weapons on defense to get after Cutler. I like Cutler because he gets rattled, so with Melton in the backfield and Lawrence coming off the edge we should have some success,  and we better. The Bears receivers are a matchup nightmare for us. I’m hoping we get more physical play from those guys. I hate playing in Chicago, let’s hope for this best in this one.

Week 15 – @Eagles 7:30pm (SNF) DEC 14

–See Week 13–

Week 16 – Colts 3:25pm (CBS) DEC 21: Jack Mewhort, OG/C

This will be a full 60 minute game, with playoff implications for both teams. The AFC South got upgraded across the board, so you have to know the Colts won’t have that division handed to them, so in week 16, we could be in for a playoff level game here. The Colts will have a stacked passing attack, and we’ll have answer them with sound defense, we’ll need to stay in Lucks face. In this game, the Cowboys should hold the advantage on offense. With an upgraded offensive line and the addition of Streets at WR, we should be able to match the Colts firepower and control the clock with a better running game than the Colts.

Week 17 – @Redskins 12:00pm (FOX) DEC 28

— See Week 8– The rookie matchups will be the same as week 8, but this game has the potential to being another de fecto NFC Championship again (sighing). The Cowboys need to have locked up the NFC East title before the end of the year. We simply cannot do this final game, win and you’re in thing each and every year. I want to go into this game already clinched. Period. Show us the changes that were made in the offseason mattered. Make us believe letting Ware and Hatcher go was the right thing to do, and prove to Cowboys Nation that the draft was so genius that we have a GM in Will McClay for Stephen Jones once he fully takes over the reigns.

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