5 Players to Watch: Cowboys @ Texans
The Cowboys and Texans meet on Sunday Night Football in a contest for Lone Star bragging rights. The Texans’ roster is stacked with talented, dynamic players, but the team has managed only one win this season. What gives?
Meanwhile, the Cowboys are looking to build on the momentum from their Week 4 victory over the Lions. Sunday’s game in Houston is their chance to get the first road win of the season.
Here’s a list of 5 Players/Matchups to watch this weekend:
Michael Ainsworth via AP
Texans “Jack” Jadeveon Clowney (#90) vs. Cowboys Left Tackle Tyron Smith (#77)
Wow, watching these two Pro Bowl players go head-to-head may alone be worth the price of admission. Tyron Smith’s job is to protect QB Dak Prescott’s blindside, and he’s got his hands full with Jadeveon Clowney who is a physical freak and can wreak havoc on an offense. Clowney was the #1 overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. At times last week against the Colts, he totally dominated the game.
The Texans, who play a base 3-4 defense, officially list Clowney as a “jack”, but he mainly lines up as the bookend to J.J. Watt, the left defensive end.
And what’s the old saying about “if the right one doesn’t get you, the left one will?”
Whew, the Texans have Clowney on one side and J.J. Watt, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, on the other side.
Texans Defensive End J.J. WATT (#90) vs. Cowboys Right Tackle La’el Collins (#71)
He’s baaaack! Watt missed the final 11 games last season because of a broken leg. The previous year, he missed 13 games and underwent back surgery. But when he’s on the field, he’s can impose his will.
Eric Christian Smith via AP
Last week, the Texans won their first game of the year. Watt recorded 2 sacks and forced two fumbles. Clowney recorded 2 sacks and scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery. These two guys are the best pass rushing tandem in the league and they can take over games. It’s going to really be fun to see La’el Collins at right tackle and Smith at left tackle go against Clowney and Watt.
Yes, the Cowboys will commit extra help to block Clowney and/or Watt. But you can’t double-team them both on every play. It’s sort of like ‘pick your poison’.
Ron Jenkins via AP
Cowboys Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence (#90)
On the topic of prolific pass rushers, why is DeMarcus Lawrence not mentioned in the same breath as J.J Watt or the likes of Von Miller and Khalil Mack? Lawrence does not get the same amount of national attention as the other guys.
It’s probably because the Cowboys have not had success in the postseason and Lawrence’s breakout campaign was last year. But Lawrence is just as effective as those other guys; plus, Lawrence is really good versus the run. He’s a complete package. But sacks are what earn the attention and the big money contracts.
Guess what…Sunday night’s game is a prime-time national audience, and this is Lawrence’s chance to outshine Watt and Clowney. Lawrence (5 ½) currently leads the NFL in sacks, and he’s going to be going against a rookie offensive tackle, Martinas Rankin.
Besides, the Texans have been awful in pass protection this year which is bad news if you are Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson….
AJ Mast via AP
Texans Quarterback Deshaun Watson, (#4)
I’m really looking forward to being on the sideline this Sunday because it’s my first time to watch Watson play in-person. He is one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the game. Last season, his breakout rookie campaign was cut short due to torn knee ligaments suffered in practice last November.
One of Watson’s greatest strengths is his athleticism and mobility, but he’s been sacked a lot this year because the revamped Texans’ offensive line has really struggled the first month of the season. In fact, he’s been sacked 17 times in 4 games. As the Houston Chronicle pointed out this week, Watson has been sacked on 11.49% of his pass attempts. That’s a high number. He’s been hit 43 times already and is on pace to be sacked 68 times this season and absorb 172 hits.
Bottom line, Watson is taking way too many hits and he’s got to get rid of the ball before he becomes a human pinata.
You’ve got to think that Cowboys pass rushers DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Taco Charlton, David Irving, and Tyrone Crawford are licking their lips while watching film this week!
Michael Conroy via AP
Texans Wide Receiver Keke Coutee (#16)
First things first, Keke Coutee’s last name is pronounced “Q T” (like the gas stations). If you’re a fan of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, you already know about Coutee, the rookie 4th round pick.
Why am I picking Coutee as a “player to watch” instead of perennial Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins? Well, I should pick Hopkins. He’s awesome. You could argue that he’s one of the top 3 wide receivers in the league. Hopkins, no doubt, is the Texans’ #1 receiving threat. He’s a first-team All Pro.
The Texans also have Will Fuller, a really talented, speedy, explosive player who ran a 4.32 in the 40-yard dash. Fuller was a 1st round pick two years ago. He’s limited in practice this week because of a hamstring injury, so we’re not sure of his status for Sunday’s game. If he plays, look out! He’s dynamic!
But I’m listing Coutee because he’s a young guy that maybe a lot of people are just learning about. He’s only played one game so far this season because he was sidelined the first three regular season games with a hamstring injury. What did Coutee do in his NFL debut last Sunday at the Colts? He caught 11 passes!
Coutee also makes our list because he grew up loving Dez Bryant; they are both from Lufkin, Texas.
“Me and Dez are very close,” Coutee told The Houston Chronicle. “I’m sure you guys see us always going back and forth on Twitter. So we stay in contact as much as we can. When he was playing at Lufkin, I watched him a lot. Growing up, all of the kids wanted to be like Dez. Him being around for some part of my life is good.”
The Cowboys secondary is going to have its hands full this week with Hopkins, Fuller (if he recovers from his hamstring injury), and Coutee. And the fact that QB Deshaun Watson is mobile and can extend plays by escaping pressure makes the cornerbacks jobs even harder. This game is a really tough test for Cowboys cornerbacks Byron Jones (#31), Chidobe Awuzie (#24), and Anthony Brown (#30).
Cowboys-Texans kickoff is 7:20pm central on NBC’s Sunday Night Football at NRG Stadium in Houston. You can also listen to the game on the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network.