Cowboys at Browns: 5 matchups to watch in Week 1 game

May 16, 2024

Before the Dallas Cowboys hit the practice field for official organized team activities and minicamp, they’ll know who they’ll be lining up against on Sundays this fall. The NFL schedule was released on Wednesday (see the Cowboys here), but we already knew who they would start the season against.

Dallas Cowboys at Browns: 5 matchups to watch in the Week 1 game - Blogging  The Boys

It came out on Monday that Dallas would be away for Week 1 to face the Cleveland Browns at 4:25 pm ET on FOX for Tom Brady’s first game as an NFL commentator. The last time the Cowboys opened the season on the road against the Browns was in 2008, when Tony Romo was at quarterback, throwing touchdowns to Terrell Owens. A lot has changed since then.

This time around, the cast of characters will include Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb, Micah Parsons, Deshaun Watson, Amari Cooper, and Myles Garrett. Even without knowing how both rosters will shake out, there are already a few matchups to look forward to.

1. Tyler Guyton vs. Myles Garrett

This one entirely depends on whether rookie first-round pick Tyler Guyton wins the starting left tackle job. If Guyton can’t come out of training camp winning the job, which is a possible scenario, Tyler Smith could be the one going against Garrett.

Let’s live in a world where Guyton is up against Garrett. Talk about an unfair assignment for his first NFL start. Garrett is coming off a dominant season recognized with the highest honor, winning Defensive Player of the Year. The Browns’ star pass rusher was Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 graded defensive player and had the best pressure win percentage (27.3) among all defensive ends.

Some parts of Guyton’s game still need time to develop despite being a first-round pick. He’ll be transitioning from being a right tackle in college to being on the left side. Tyler Smith was considered a “project” as a rookie but stepped in at left tackle in 2022 and looked pretty good. But that was his position and assignment in college, so there was less to learn.

After being selected by Dallas, Guyton rented an Airbnb before rookie minicamp and began working with offensive line specialist Duke Manyweather of OL Masterminds. This is a great start. If Guyton can absorb everything thrown his way in training camp, the matchup with Garrett in Week 1 might not be as one-sided as people think, but that’s a big if.

2. Cowboys run defense vs. Browns rushing offense

Browns running back Nick Chubb is still recovering from his severe knee injury last year. Because of that, he could start the season with an injury designation, putting him on the sidelines for Week 1.

However, even without Chubb in the lineup, the Cleveland rushing attack was one of their bright spots on offense last year. Even after losing their star rusher for the year, the Browns finished 12th in total rushing yards and yards per game, and Jerome Ford had a career season.

Their offensive line makes their rushing attack go, and without Chubb and former o-line coach Bill Callahan moving on to Tennessee, things could favor the Cowboys’ re-tooled run defense.

Linebackers DeMarvion Overshown and Eric Kendricks are expected to contribute to stopping the run and be an improvement to what Dallas had at linebacker last season. Another leap in development from Damone Clark, Mazi Smith, and even Sam Williams would greatly help the cause, too.

If Kevin Stefanski sees a weak spot in Dallas’ defense, he’ll exploit it in the run game. We’ll see if Mike Zimmer and his crew are up to the challenge.

4. Wide receivers vs. Cornerbacks

This matchup goes for both sides. It will feature Amari Cooper against Trevon Diggs and the CeeDee Lamb match with Denzel Ward. All four players are premier players at their position in what looks like to be a draw, not in favor of either team.

Cooper will face his former team for the first time since being traded to Cleveland in 2022. To much dismay of Cowboys fans, Cooper was traded for just a fifth-round pick to save Dallas money and walk away from the wide receiver’s contract.

Lamb and Cooper are coming off career-best seasons in receiving yards and yards per game. The Cowboys and Browns also have solid secondary options in Brandin Cooks, Jalen Tolbert, Jerry Jeudy, and Elijah Moore. With Lamb and Cooper as the focal point of their offenses, it’ll be a tall task to try and eliminate them from the game plan. Luckily, both teams have Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland, Greg Newsome, and Denzel Ward.

Diggs was out for the season due to a torn ACL he suffered in practice, but all signs are looking positive for a return to normal this year. Bland had a historic season that ended in an All-Pro, Pro Bowl, and Defensive Player of the Year nomination. For Newsome and Ward, the combination of corners became one of the better tandems in the NFL in Jim Schwartz’s defense. Sprinkle in Martin Emerson Jr., and the Browns have a secondary most offenses would like to avoid.

On paper, this looks like the matchup everyone will have their eyes on.

5. Who wins the tiebreaker for Defensive Player of the Year

The battle for who wins the 2024 Defensive Player of the Year could be decided in Week 1. There are 16 other games the Browns and Cowboys will have to play, but when it comes to Micah Parsons and Myles Garrett, how effective they are in the opening weekend could be the tiebreaker with hardware at the end of the year.

Parsons has been a Defensive Player of the Year finalist for three years. He’s been beaten out by T.J. Watt, Nick Bosa, and Garrett a season ago. Under the lights of Tom Brady’s first game with FOX, there could be some added motivation for Parsons to be better than his counterpart.

Garrett and Parsons were neck and neck for most of the 2023 season, but Garrett edged out Parsons and Watt when it came to the voting. There’s no way to predict what will happen after Week 1 for both players, but if the past three years indicate, their names will be in the conversation for the crown of the league’s most dominant defensive player.