Dallas Cowboys fans are intimately familiar with how much of an impact one bad matchup can have. Last season, Chaz Green was singlehandedly responsible for perhaps the worst game any Cowboy has ever played, allowing six sacks to run-of-the-mill defensive end Adrian Clayborn in a blowout loss that could have been avoided if the Cowboys had just been able to block properly. But football is a game of matchups. When an opponent finds one that it likes, it exploits it over and over again until the offending team finds a solution for it. The Cowboys often failed to do so last season. That led to quite a few frustrating losses.
But the Cowboys were rarely the aggressors on that front either. Rarely did one star turn in a truly dominant performance that altered the entire course of a game. DeMarcus Lawrence did so against the Arizona Cardinals, and Ezekiel Elliott did so in a blowout against the San Francisco 49ers that probably could have been won with Jason Garrett taking carries out of the backfield, but otherwise, the Cowboys largely failed to take the role of aggressor. They stayed too consistently within their designed scheme rather than taking what the opponent gave them. Next season, they will have to be willing to force the issue when there is a matchup to be exploited. And in all 16 of their games this season, there will be some area that the Cowboys can take advantage of a weakness. These are the players in each game that will be equipped to do so.