NFL Week 4 Preview: Rams at Cowboys
Each week, the PFF analysis team will bring you break downs of the most important matchups for each game of the NFL season.
Coverage by: Mike Cahill
Matchup: Los Angeles Rams offense vs. Dallas Cowboys defense
- T Rob Havenstein vs. EDGE DeMarcus Lawrence – Week 4 will be the stiffest test right tackle Rob Havenstein has seen all season, as he goes up against the NFL’s leader in quarterback pressures DeMarcus Lawrence. Havenstein’s 73.5 overall grade in Week 3 ranked 26th among all tackles and his 94.6 pass-blocking efficiency ranked 35th among 66 tackles. Meanwhile, Lawrence is the highest-graded edge defender with an elite 93.0 overall grade through three games, ahead of the likes Von Miller and Khalil Mack. He and leads all defenders in quarterback pressures by five with 26. Keeping QB Jared Goff clean will be important as he holds a passer rating of 126.2 when kept clean, second highest in the league.
- QB Jared Goff vs. Cowboys Pass Rush – Jared Goff’s third-highest passer rating under pressure, 98.9, will be tested on Sunday he faces the PFF’s fifth-overall graded pass-rush. Goff has seen pressures on 38.4 percent of his drop backs through three games. While he’s performed well, Goff’s numbers without pressure are remarkable through three games. His completion percentage of 80.8 is not only the highest in the league, but the only quarterback above the 80 percent threshold.
- WR Sammy Watkins vs. CB Jourdan Lewis – After earning the fourth-highest grade among wide receivers in Week 3 with an 88.2, Sammy Watkins will see rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who just saw future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald catch two passes in his coverage for a total of six yards. Watkins leads the league among receivers with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when targeting him on his 14 total targets. With Watkins averaging 14.9 yards per reception, 15th most among receivers with at least 14 targets, and Lewis allowing only 6.9 yards per reception, sixth fewest among cornerbacks with at least 12 targets in their coverage, something will have to give.
Coverage by: Aaron Jones
Matchup: Dallas Cowboys offense vs. Los Angeles Rams defense
- G Chaz Green vs. DI Michael Brockers – With center Travis Frederick and guard Zack Martin both having strong years (currently ranking eighth and seventh at their respective positions) Chaz Green has emerged as the obvious weak spot on the interior. He’s projected to matchup against Michael Brockers, whose run-defense grade of 86.9 has him ranked fifth among 119 qualifying interior defenders. Green has struggled mightily in this respect, tied for the worst run grade among 64 qualifying guards with a 29.3. He will have to improve upon his run blocking, as Frederick and Martin look to take on the top rated interior defender from 2016, Aaron Donald.
- T La’el Collins vs. EDGE Connor Barwin – La’el Collins has been a disappointment so far this year after transitioning to right tackle. His overall grade of 32.9 has him ranked 69th among 72 qualifying tackles. Collins does however project to have a positive matchup, as he’s expected to line up against Connor Barwin. Barwin has played 94.2 percent of his snaps from the left side, the 13th highest rate among 94 edge defenders. His pass-rush productivity (measures pressure created on a per snap basis with weighting toward sacks) of 3.6 ranks 94th among 98 qualifying edge defenders. He currently ranks 99th among 101 qualifying edge defenders with a pass-rush grade of 43.1. Since Quinn, Brockers, and Donald will get most of the offensive line’s attention, it’s imperative Collins holds his own against Barwin.
- QB Dak Prescott vs. CBs Trumaine Johnson and Nickell Robey-Coleman – Prescott showed the ability to find receivers downfield Monday night, completing all three of his deep pass attempts (attempts targeted 20 or more yards down the field) for 112 yards, the third most on deep passes in Week 3. While Johnson has had his struggles this season (ranking 63rd among 109 cornerbacks) he’s shown the ability to be a solid corner, posting grades of 80.7 and 80.5 the past two years. Nickell Robey-Coleman has had a strong start to the season, ranking 13th among 109 cornerbacks with a grade of 83.4.