Mon, 06 Feb 2023

Dallas Cowboys | Know your foe

Houston Texans
09 Dec 2022, 18:02 GMT+10

John Harris

When Houston plays Dallas, it matters that much more to Houstonians.

When the Astros beat the Rangers, there's a little more pep in Houstonians' steps

When the Rockets knock off the Mavericks, there's a little more chest thumping than usual.

When the Texans beat the Cowboys, there's a bit more celebrating like in 2018.

When these two cities' teams take the field, it just matters that much more to the great people in our city. So, let's gear up for another matchup with the Cowboys, just the sixth regular season matchup in the history of the Texans franchise.

This one, though, is the toughest one for the Texans to date. The Cowboys are coming off of a 54-19 beatdown of the Colts on Sunday night. It was a game in which the Cowboys scored 33 points in the fourth quarter. To put that in perspective, the Texans haven't scored more than 24 points in a game all season. Now, the Colts put it on a platter for them with four turnovers in a mess of a fourth quarter. But, the Cowboys have averaged 37.5 points a game after their bye week in week nine. Four games, 3-1 in those games, scoring a total of 150 points.

QB Dak Prescott drives the Dallas machine, but he has plenty of help with the best RB duo in the league, a top five WR and a top ten OL in front of him. The Dallas defense is as deep and athletic as any the Texans will face in 2022. LB Micah Parsons is the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL and he's just in his second season in the league. Although he's the key cog in that defensive machine, there are DUDES at every level of the defense. So, yeah, the biggest challenge the Texans have faced this year is staring them in the face on Sunday for sure.

Four years after the last time, which was four years after the previous time, well, okay, you know the rest, get to Know the Texans' Week 14 Foe - the Dallas Cowboys.

2022 Schedule (4-7)

Week 1 - L Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-3

Week 2 - W Cincinnati Bengals 20-17

Week 3 - W @ New York Giants 23-16

Week 4 - W Washington Commanders 25-10

Week 5 - W @ Los Angeles Rams 22-10

Week 6 - L @ Philadelphia Eagles 26-17

Week 7 - W Detroit Lions 24-6

Week 8 - W Chicago Bears 49-29

Week 9 - BYE

Week 10 - L @ Green Bay Packers 31-28

Week 11 - W @ Minnesota Vikings 40-3

Week 12 - W New York Giants 28-20

Week 13 - W Indianapolis Colts 54-19

Week 14 - Houston Texans

Week 15 - @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 16 - Philadelphia Eagles

Week 17 - @ Tennessee Titans

Week 18 - @ Washington Commanders

Cowboys OFFENSE (in 2022 regular season)

Rushing Yards Per game - 145.9 ypg (7th in the NFL)

Passing Yards Per game - 210.0 ypg (22nd)

Total offense per game - 355.9 ypg (11th)

Turnovers lost - 12 (2 Fumbles lost, 10 INT)

Expected Cowboys starting offense for Week 14

QB - Dak Prescott

RB - Tony Pollard/Zeke Elliott

WR - CeeDee Lamb

WR - Noah Brown

TE - Dalton Schultz

TE - JAKE FERGUSON

LT - TYLER SMITH

LG - Connor McGovern

C - Tyler Biadasz

RG - Zack Martin

RT - Terence Steele

Key Offensive Non-Starters

WR - Michael Gallup

TE - Sean McKeon

TE - PEYTON HENDERSHOT

WR/KR - KaVontae Turpin

Italics - Rookie

ALL CAPS - New to team in 2022

Keys to winning v. the Cowboys Offense

1. The NFL's Best Kept Secret - Earlier this year, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked about the Dallas running back situation as Tony Pollard started to emerge as the Cowboys number one backfield weapon. Jones was staunchly behind Elliott as THE number one bell-cow back in the backfield. But, things have changed over the past five to six weeks. Pollard is clearly the number one option in the backfield and he might be the number one option for this offense. Against Indianapolis, he had fewer carries than Elliott, but Pollard averaged 7.6 yards on 12 carries. He also had two catches for 15 yards. So, on 14 touches, he averaged 7.5+ yards/touch. On the season, he's averaging 6.4 yards per touch with ten touchdowns. The Texans must know where he is on every play and they can't get caught with a linebacker covering him man-to-man when he's on the perimeter without help. The Vikings learned a very hard lesson in that regard. The Texans can't make that same mistake against the Cowboys relatively new star Pollard.

2. Left Side - When the 2022 NFL Draft got into the 20s, I started thinking about the Texans pick at No. 37. Could there be a chance to double up on OL and draft a young dude with an immense future to go along with Kenyon Green? The guy I had my eyes on for a bit was Tulsa LT Tyler Smith. From a football violence perspective, no one in this draft was like Smith. I did think he'd move into guard so I envisioned a Green-Smith guard duo that would grow together for a while. But, the Cowboys snatched him up with overall pick No. 24 and it was the best move the Cowboys could've made because they needed him to stay at LT when Tyron Smith got injured. As such, Tyler Smith, like most rookies on the OL, in particular at LT, struggled a bit, but I watched him against the Commanders early this season and had he changed his jersey to No. 77 (Tyron Smith's number), there was really no discernible difference. That said, he's still a rookie, so Texans DL Jerry Hughes and company have to hit him with some, uh, stuff to see how he responds. He's helped save the season for the Cowboys, but it's time to put pressure on him on Sunday.

3. Strong Side - The best guard in the NFL is Dallas RG Zack Martin. Since he arrived in Dallas, he's played at a Pro Bowl/All-Pro level. He's going to be a Hall of Famer when his career is done. On the other side of the spectrum is RT Terence Steele, an undrafted, long armed tackle who was more about finesse in college. Yet, as Steele has gotten opportunities, he's taken advantage of them and grown into one of the better young RT prospects in this league. So, Martin lines up next to Steele and that's one strong side. These two play extremely well together and they don't allow leakage in the pass game. Furthermore, they get to second level defenders in the run game to help that run game flourish.

Cowboys DEFENSE (in 2022 regular season)

Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 129.8 ypg (24th in the NFL)

Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 179.8 ypg (2nd)

Total offense Allowed per game - 309.6 ypg (5th)

Turnovers generated - 21 (10 INT, 11 Fumble recoveries - Cowboys are +9 in TO margin)

Expected Cowboys starting defense for Week 14

DE - DeMarcus Lawrence

DT - Johnathan Hankins

DT - Osa Odighizuwa

DE - Dorance Armstrong

LB - Micah Parsons

LB - Leighton Vander Esch

LB - ANTHONY BARR

CB - Trevon Diggs

S - Jayron Kearse

S - Donovan Wilson

CB - Kelvin Joseph/DaRON BLAND

Nickel - DaRON BLAND

Key Defensive Non-Starters

S - Israel Mukuamu

S - Malik Hooker - two takeaways vs. Colts last week

DE - DANTE FOWLER

LB - DEMONE CLARK

DT - Carlos Watkins

DT - Neville Gallimore

DE - SAM WILLIAMS

ALL CAPS - New to team in 2022

Italics - Rookie

Keys to winning v. the Cowboys Defense

1. The NFL's Least Kept Secret...and best defender - When I first truly studied former Penn State defensive star Micah Parsons for the 2021 NFL Draft, I alluded to the fact that I thought he was the best defensive prospect in the 2021 Draft, by far. My exact words?

"In my opinion, he is THE class of this 2021 NFL Draft defensive draft class and is the only defensive player in my Ultimate 11 of the Harris 100. He's a violent and punishing tackler and he aggressively plays under control in all that he does. He's a versatile chess piece that can be used all over the field and he impacts every aspect of the defense - run defense, pass coverage, blitz opportunities, pass rush, everything."

Even though I did mention that he could pass rush well, I didn't imagine that he would ever fully transition into an edge mega-star and even if it was a thought in my head, I would never have imagined that he'd have done it so early in his career. His explosiveness is off the charts. His first step and football instincts are unmatched. For as good as the Texans offensive tackles have played this year, they've not faced ANYONE like THIS guy and he'll be a major test for those tackles. What makes it that much more difficult is that Cowboys DC Dan Quinn completely understands how to get Parsons isolated one-on-one in the pass rush. Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard have their work cut out against THE BEST edge rusher in the league today.

2. Run, Dameon, Run - The one chink in the Cowboys overall team armor is the inability to truly shut down the run. This defense sits in the bottom third of the league giving up nearly 130 yards per game on the ground. Considering the fact that this Cowboys offense needs to sit on the sideline and rest for a LONG time in this matchup, this is the best news heading into a game in a while. Consider further the fact that the Texans may have a skeleton crew at WR, running the rock right at this crew makes sense for a number of reasons. If successful...

-It limits the impact of Parsons and pass rush

-The Cowboys offense sits and gets out of rhythm

-Controlling the clock

-Physically establishing the offensive line and Pierce

-Takes pressure off of QB Davis Mills and the passing game against one of the best pass defenses in the league.

Yep, lot of reasons why this running game MUST take control.

3. Down one corner - The Cowboys lost cornerback Anthony Brown to injury last week putting the Cowboys secondary in a bit of a quandary. Now, don't get it twisted, Brown wasn't an All-Pro like the guy on the other side (Trevon Diggs), but he was steady and reliable for certain. With him healthy, the pieces in the back end fit together wonderfully well, to a point that the Cowboys are second in the league in pass defense, yielding less than 180 yards per game. Whoever steps into the lineup opposite Diggs should, SHOULD get targeted a ton in this game by QB Davis Mills, who steps back into the starting lineup this week.

Tap to browse tickets for the Houston Texans next home game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs here.

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