The New England Patriots will host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. While Dallas is primarily known for its high-powered and versatile offense, they also possess a more-than-formidable defense, capable of beating teams in various ways. If the Patriots are to be victorious on Sunday, they will need to exploit the Cowboys’ weaknesses
Though many Patriots players are expected to garner some attention during Sunday’s matchup, here are three players on defense that might raise an eyebrow when the Pats take the field against the Saints.
Jackson continues to prove his worth as the Patriots number one option at the position. He will need to continue that trend against a very impressive Dallas offense. Through the first five games of 2021, Jackson has compiled 19 solo tackles, 5 passes-defensed and two interceptions. Whether deployed in man coverage or zone concepts, Jackson has developed an impressive instinct for finding the football, while keeping his targets in range and maintaining a visual on the opposing quarterback. In Week Six, he will see prominent action against quarterback Dak Prescott’s impressive arsenal of offensive skill position players; including receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, and tight end Dalton Schultz. While New England’s coaching staff may look to deploy him against any one of the aforementioned players on Sunday, it is widely expected that he will see plenty of snaps lined up opposite Cooper. In any case, expect Jackson to be in position to make a play on the ball, should Prescott be forced into making any ill-advised throws by the Patriots aggressive defensive front.
Despite taking part in only three snaps in his return to the Patriots lineup against Houston in Week Five, Collins made the most of his time. He earned one sack on Texans’ quarterback Davis Mills. At his best, Collins is still one of the more dynamic talents in the league. He can still provide capable contributions as an off-ball linebacker, as well as explosiveness at the position on third down. The Patriots undoubtedly hope that Collins’ familiarity with their system could help to provide additional stability to the Patriots defense. In an attempt to keep Dak Prescott off balance on Sunday, look for Collins to see a significant increase of playing time in the middle and on the edge of the Pats defense.
Phillips continues to be one of the Patriots’ most reliable defenders. The 29-year-old has compiled 15 tackles on the season thus far, with one interception. Still, Phillips’ greatest asset remains his versatility. He has nicely settled into the ‘Star’ role in the Pats defense. As such, he is primarily used as a hybrid box safety, capable of playing outside linebacker in most defensive schemes. However, he is also far from limited to that role. Phillips is more than capable of aligning along the defensive line, at slot corner and even outside-wide. With the Patriots almost certain to deploy several defensive backs on Sunday evening, in hopes of taking away Dallas’ throwing lanes, especially to their tight ends. As a result, Phillips may play a significant role in making things difficult for Dak Prescott, and forcing the Cowboys into increased running situations.