Cowboys defensive player to watch: NT Jay Ratliff

NT JAY RATLIFF

How he beats you: The 6-foot-4, 287-pound Ratliff anchors the Dallas line and boasts great versatility and intensity. He’s good with his hands, possesses above average lateral quickness, and boasts strong pass-rushing skills as well. “I turn on the film and I see a lot of No. 90 lining up on me just like the first game,” says Redskins center Will Montgomery, who will face off with Ratliff the most. “It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge. He’s a really athletic guy, so we’ll give him some different looks and try to make sure he doesn’t get too comfortable.”

How to stop him: Montgomery says his task isn’t too complicated in theory. “Stay in front of him,” he said with a laugh. But that’s easier said than done given Ratliff’s athleticism, the center says. Ratliff isn’t has big as a lot of nose tackles, so Montgomery, who isn’t as tall, but does boast impressive strength, should be able to win some battles against Ratliff.

Bottom line: Ratliff doesn’t lead the Cowboys’ defensive front in tackles, but he often draws double-teams and is used on stunts to create opportunities for his fellow linemen and linebackers. A player who will benefit from this is inside linebacker Sean Lee, who ranks second on the team with 55 tackles. With outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware coming off the edge as an exceptional pass-rusher, the Cowboys rely on Ratliff and ends Kenyon Coleman and Jason Hatcher to bring pressure on passing situations and drop their other linebackers into coverage, which makes it harder for opponents to find holes to exploit for the passing game. “They can get there with four guys, and when you can get there with four guys, the coverage behind it is a lot tougher,” Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.

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