Play linebacker in the NFL, and you'll face a wide array of running backs. There are the slashing guys who rely more on speed than power, like Dallas' last opponent: Detroit RB Kevin Jones. Earlier this season, the Cowboys faced the ultimate example of the polar opposite of Jones: Pittsburgh RB Jerome Bettis might not be able to outrun (Dallas mascot) Rowdy, but he has a nasty habit of obliterating many would--be tacklers who get in his way.
Cincinnati RB Rudi Johnson combines speed and power about as well as
any runner in the league. Carrying 233 pounds on his 5-10 frame,
Johnson has good speed, but more than that, he is very hard to knock
down on the first hit.
"He's a good back, a really good back," Dallas LB Dat Nguyen said. "He
runs really hard, and he's got an extremely low center of gravity. He
reminds me a little of (Pittsburgh RB) Duce Staley."
Nguyen admitted that there's a considerable adjustment for defenders
when they make the transition from chasing a speedy slasher like
Detroit's Jones to a runner like Johnson.
"You have to wrap him up when you hit him," Nguyen said of Johnson. "If
you just lower your shoulder and hit him, he'll bounce off you and keep
going. He's so strong and so low to the ground, you can't just hit him
once and hope he goes down."
Nguyen said that although the Bengals have a talented (albeit
inexperienced) passer in QB Carson Palmer and a slew of gifted
receivers, led by WR Chad Johnson, the focus of the Dallas defense is
"That's our mentality every week," Nguyen said. "Every week, we want to
shut down the run and make the other team's offense one-dimensional. It
doesn't matter if they've got a great quarterback or a great wide
receiver. If you can shut down the run, you've got a chance."
Dat Nguyen: Pinball Wizard
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