Dez Bryant is a faster version of Vincent Jackson (which is crazy because Jackson is really fast). He's big, he's strong, he's quick, he has great hands, he can jump 20 feet into the air, he can outrun a cheetah and he's getting better each year (which means he hasn't hit his peak yet). To sum up, nobody can cover Dez Bryant. A smart cornerback will try to play the QB instead of trying to cover Bryant.
Here's the problem: The 2013 Chargers secondary couldn't cover Charlie Joiner. Right now. Charlie Joiner is 65 years old.
If I'm John Pagano this week, I'm assigning Shareece Wright the task of shadowing Dez Bryant. I'm telling him to try and play the QB instead of trying to fight for the ball. I'm assigning a safety (probably Marcus Gilchrist) "over the top" coverage on every play, and I'm not letting him make the decision on which side to cover. His job will be to provide "over the top" coverage on whichever side Dez Bryant is on. However, that leads to...
I could make the argument that Jason Witten is a better tight end than Antonio Gates and always has been. Gates had a few years where he was the better receiver, but Witten has always been the better blocker and has better hands than Gates.
Now, before you get angry, think about that. I consider Antonio Gates to be one of the 5 best tight ends to ever play this game....and Jason Witten might very possibly be better than him. That's damn impressive.
What's not impressive is Eric Weddle's man-coverage on tight ends so far this season. Jake Locker and Delanie Walker connected just about every time they were able to get Weddle in man-coverage last week, and it contributed to the Chargers loss.
The "over the top" coverage that Dez Bryant will require from one safety means that the other safety will likely be in man-coverage on Witten a few times during the game (trading off with Manti Te'o, who is playing in his first ever NFL game). That means that, all game, Witten will be going one-on-one against either a rookie in his first game, a guy that was embarrassed by Delanie Walker last week, or someone that has been so bad at defending tight ends over the course of his career that Pagano has actually been using deep coverage as a way to try to keep him away from tight ends in the first three games. This should go well.
The Cowboys defense has been filled with stars, and underperforming, for as long as I can remember. The idea behind hiring Wade Phillips was that he would fix it. The same idea led to them hiring Rob Ryan. Neither could get their 3-4 players to run an effective 3-4 defense consistently. Enter Monte Kiffin and the 4-3.
Monte is about a thousand years old, and his defense is as vanilla as they come, but he puts stars in a position to make plays. The Cowboys had the stars, now they have the scheme, and the Dallas defense is what has led the team to a very respectable start to the season and a lead in the NFC East. They're not the pushovers they used to be.
The Cowboys are currently 2nd in the league in sacks (15), 9th in points allowed (18.3), and 2nd in rushing yards allowed per game (66.3). Their cornerbacks are excellent, their safeties aren't bad, their pass rushers are like sharks with blood in the water and their defensive line has been pushing people around regularly. Scoring against this defense will not be easy.