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Cowboys Week: Vikings Run Defense


Despite a few nagging injuries, the Cowboys are expected to have full arsenal of running backs come Sunday.  The three headed monster that is Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice could prove to be the toughest test yet for this Vikings run defense.

The Vikings ended the 2009 season ranked 2nd when it came to stopping the run.  They only allowed an average of 87 yards per game.  The Cowboys have gained an average of 131 rushing yards per game, good enough for 7th in the NFL.

On average, the Cowboys gain 4.8 yards per carry, which could spell trouble for a Vikings defense that has not appeared as dominant against the run ever since E.J. Henderson’s season was ended prematurely due to injury. 

Stopping the run and forcing an offense to become one dimensional is always the Vikings highest priority on defense, but the challenge will be a great one against this rushing offense which features a slew of very talented and very different weapons.

Marion Barber is known as a tough runner that can be hard to bring down and is willing to hit defenders as hard as they hit him.  He averages 4.4 yards per carry and is the Cowboys main contributor to the run game.  Barber is particularly strong in the red zone as his seven touchdowns for the year would suggest.  Barber is reportedly battling a bursa sac injury which could cause him to see a limited number of touches, but his backups are just as dangerous as he is.

Felix Jones is young speedster that has become very well known for his breakaway abilities and knack for the big play.  He averages 5.9 yards per carry.  His ability to make defenders miss is incredible, but not nearly as incredible as his ability to torch defenders once he makes it to the second level.

As if two starting-caliber running backs wasn’t enough, the Cowboys have yet another option in the form of Tashard Choice.  Choice is the next under-sized running back to prove the world wrong by becoming a dangerous threat.  Choice has averaged 5.5 yards per carry and is responsible for the longest run of the Cowboys season which was 66 yards.  Choice has the ability to jitter-bug through the line of scrimmage without anyone even knowing where he is, and much like Felix Jones, has the ability to capitalize on his ability to get to the second level by utilizing his blazing speed.

Tony Romo has the exact type of mobility that one looks for in a quarterback. By that I mean that he makes plays with his feet but hopes that those plays still result in a pass downfield rather than him having to run the ball.  That being said, if Romo wants has to run the ball he is very capable of doing so.  He has run the ball 35 times this season, which is a little over twice a game, and has gained 105 yards on those rushes.  The Vikings defenders will need to show great awareness so that Romo is not allowed to scramble for a first down at a key point of the game.

Lastly, the Cowboys may try to neutralize the Viking pass rush by running one or two reverses at strategic points in the game.  Patrick Crayton has a knack for such plays, as he averages a gain of seven yards per rush this season.

I have little doubt that the Cowboys will be able to break off a few big gains on the ground this Sunday.  However, the presence of Pat and Kevin Williams is something that can almost always effectively force a team to abandon the run for long stretches of a game.

Jared Allen and Ray Edwards have also shown that they are solid run stopping ends this season. 

When a running back does manage to get past the line of scrimmage, a rare occurrence for the Vikings, the back seven defenders have shown inconsistencies that would worry even the biggest Minnesota Homer.  Missed tackles from linebackers and defensive backs cannot be prevalent this weekend, or else the Cowboys will be able to exploit the Vikings defense both on the ground and through the air.

In the end, I have faith in the Vikings front four to consistently stifle the Dallas running attack.  They may not be able to dominate in a way that forces the ‘Boys to become one-dimensional, but I guarantee that they will have to beat the Vikings through the air if they want to advance to the NFC Championship game.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Jasper Brinkley has 4 starts under his belt after E.J. Henderson’s horrible injury.  The rookie has shown flashes of greatness, but those flashes have been marred by some instances of poor tackling and decision making.  One would hope that his recent experiences, combined with a week to prepare, have help the young fella tighten up some aspects of his game that desperately need it.  The Vikings have suddenly become somewhat suspect to the run since Brinkley took over, but if he can put all of the tools he has to proper use then he has the ability to do great things against the Cowboys.  Keep an eye on how he does, as the Vikings Super Bowl hopes and his career in the NFL may hinge on his ability to step up big.

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5 Responses to “Cowboys Week: Vikings Run Defense”

  1. c.carterhof says:

    That last sentence is concerning.

  2. bigjohnny84 says:

    It sure is CC. But I’m not willing to go quite that far. Cant put it all on Brinkley.

  3. Purple Charlie says:

    CC, Johnny,
    I knew we were really going to miss E.J. even more at this point,I hope Jasper AND the rest of the Defense turn it up a notch this weekend…

  4. starrc10 says:

    I have been forced into muttering this under my breathe all week just to get through the work days:

    theresnosuchthingasfootballtheresnosuchthingasfootball… and so on

    I am a nervous wreck.

    • Purple Charlie says:

      Work hasn’t pick up just yet, So I’m at home and think about this game most of the day, Each day closer, my stomach starts to churn…

      I understand…

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