Sunday's game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks was supposed to feature a battle of two of the NFL's true heavyweights, as two of the strongest players in the entire league, Dallas defensive end Igor Olshansky and Seattle left tackle Walter Jones, were projected to go one-on-one in a battle as likely to affect nearby Richter scales is the line of scrimmage.
That featured bout might have slipped on to the undercard this week with the announcement that Jones, arguably the finest tackle in football, is done for the year because of a knee injury. But Olshansky said Thursday that while Jones' absence might reduce the marquee value of the matchup, he still expects a battle Sunday.
"Pass protection, and he's a great run-blocker, too," Olshansky said when asked what the Seattle offense will miss most about Jones. "He's one of the best offensive tackles in the league. He's right at the top of the list — he's one of the very best."
Jones is not the only key member of the Seattle offense who might be missing from the lineup Sunday. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck left the Seahawks' game with San Francisco with a rib injury last weekend; some reports call the injury a season-ending broken rib, while others have suggested Hasselbeck has a cracked rib through which he'll try to play Sunday. Olshansky said he thinks Hasselbeck will attempt to play.
"Hasselbeck will play, for sure," Olshansky said. "In this league, you've got to have your best players out there. If he's ‘questionable,' to me, that means he'll play. ‘Doubtful' means he might not play. But ‘questionable' — yeah, he'll be out there."
If Hasselbeck can't play, the Seahawks will turn to Seneca Wallace, who is smaller but faster and more elusive than Hasselbeck. Olshansky said the two Seattle quarterbacks play different styles, but the differences are less stark than many believe.
"It's the same defense, the same concepts — you just have to be aware of the rush and the scrambling (with Wallace at the helm)," Olshansky said. "Hasselbeck can scramble too, but like (against) anyone else, you have to push the pocket. I guess he's not as big of a threat on the ground, but he's still a threat."
Olashansky said that while Jones might be the best tackle in the game, his absence doesn't necessarily mean the Dallas defense will have a free path to the quarterback Sunday. But he also said if the Cowboys can maintain the pressure they generated in last Sunday's win over Atlanta, Dallas has a legitimate chance to pick up its third consecutive victory.
"They have Damion McIntosh (replacing Jones), who's a capable offensive tackle in this league, a starter," Olshansky said, "but you definitely want to get after him.
"You've just got to go out there and impose your will on the other player, on the other team. If we go out there with that mentality, the result will take care of itself."
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