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St. Louis Rams - Dallas Cowboys: Key Players to Watch


When the St. Louis Rams square off in Dallas against the Cowboys, it won't be marque players who decide the outcome of the game. After reading everything I can find, it seems like this contest will be decided in the trenches. Linemen - on offense and defense - are going to carry the day on their massive backs. More specifically, I think it will come down to how guards and centers fare against defensive tackles.

The Dallas Cowboys are in trouble at guard, and so are the St. Louis Rams. Chris Williams is hobbled for the Rams, while Dallas' guards have had trouble securing the middle of their offensive line this season in both the run and pass protection. Both these groups face some strong defensive tackle opponents, and these match ups could effect the entire game.

Based on the play of both offensive lines, I'd give the nod to the Rams. While the unit suffered in run blocking, they've prevented Sam Bradford from being sacked this season. Yet, the challenge before them today is a tough one. Left defensive tackle Jason Hatcher - 6'6", 299 lbs - is having a great year, with two quarterback sacks so far. The weaker link is right defensive tackle Nick Hayden - 6'4", 301 lbs. - but he'll be facing either a banged up Chris Williams, or back up Shelley Smith.

The Rams have Michael Brockers at right defensive tackle, facing Ronald Leary - 6'3", 331 lbs. Kendall Langford - playing left defensive tackle, will have an interesting match up with newly signed guard Brian Waters or Mackenzy Bernadeau. Waters played briefly against the Kansas City Chiefs, and it was the first time he'd stepped on the field since 2011. The edge here goes to the Rams. Brockers is getting better with each passing week, and the odds of him having a Pro Bowl kind of year are pretty good. Langford is strong against the run, working on the same side as defensive end Chris Long. If there's a weak area along the Rams' defensive line, it will be on their left, with Long nagged by a hip injury. Look for the Cowboys to hammer the DE/DT gap on their right side, and the Rams' left. If the Cowboys try to run toward Brockers and Quinn, they're in for a bad day.

Here's where the centers for both team come into play, and may represent a tipping point for both Tony Romo and Sam Bradford's ability to throw the ball. The Rams' Scott Wells, and the Cowboys' rookie Travis Frederick are going to have to have big days. Add in the possibilities of linebackers coming up the middle on blitzes, and theses two centers are going to have their hands full.

What will tell the tale, is how well Dallas can contain Brockers with a single offensive lineman, and if Harvey Dahl can handle a fired up Jason Hatcher. In short, the battle of the day will be in the interior lines of both the Rams and Cowboys. Expect the Dallas to blitz more than they have to compensate for a mediocre Hayden. What's more, the Cowboys' defensive line may very well offer Rams' running back Daryl Richardson with his best match up so far this season. Look for the Rams to pound the Dallas right side of their defensive line often. While some would think running away from DeMarcus Ware being a good idea, the opportunity to trap and seal with a pulling tight end, and open the DE/DT gap will be too much for Jeff Fisher & Co. to resist. Richardson has a single great talent, and that's flashing straight and fast at a hole. Any opening on this side will yield decent gains for the second year running back.

While the sexy skill positions on the field will catch most fans' eyes, make no mistake: This game is about trench warfare, pure and simple...