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Scouting report: Cowboys vs. Redskins

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Here’s my mini-scouting report for this week. I checked out the Redskins game against the Eagles and came away with the following thoughts.

Redskins Offense vs. Cowboys Defense

The no-huddle offense that the Redskins ran in the game was not a hurry-up, but similar to what Dallas ran earlier this season. They also abandoned it when they got in the redzone. I don’t know how much they’ll be able to use it on Sunday with the crowd noise at Texas Stadium and their unfamiliarity with running it regularly. It was a neat trick that changed up the offense some and probably gave Campbell a boost of confidence, but we’ll see if they try it again this week.

Clinton Portis looked very good in the game against the Eagles and Washington succeeded most when they got him to the edge using off-tackle plays and toss sweeps. The Redskins were much better running the ball to their left behind Chris Samuels and Pete Kendall. Dallas will need stout run defense from the OLB’s to make sure Portis can’t get the edge and head upfield. Jason Campbell looked good in this game but I was surprised by how much the Eagles pass-rush has deteriorated. They didn’t get pressure against us two weeks ago and they were unable to generate a sustained pass-rush against a banged-up Redskins line. Only at the end of the game when the Redskins had to pass did they make plays by getting to Campbell. When Campbell had time like he did in this game he made good decisions. The Redskins attempted to throw deep quite a few times with varying levels of success. But Campbell was very efficient hitting the short and intermediate stuff and distributed the ball evenly to different receivers.

The Cowboys also need to be aware that Campbell can pick up some yards running the ball and shouldn’t forget about it. But they would probably be better served by concentrating on getting to him and forcing him into bad decisions. The Redskins as a team were picking up a lot of penalties in the game and they also suffered from some conservative play-calling in the redzone. Late in the game with about 5 minutes left, the Redskins had the ball 1st and goal at the 3-yard line leading 22-20. They ran it up the middle and were stopped, they ran it again and were stopped, and they got a false start on 3rd down and were moved back to the 7-yard line. Instead of going for the kill and knocking Philly out of the game, they ran a draw that was stopped and kicked a FG. That was their last score, the Eagles took over after that and won the game. As well as Campbell had played and considering he’d thrown 3 TD’s on the day, you got to give him a shot or two at the endzone.

Redskins Defense vs. Cowboys Offense

The Redskins front seven was allowing a lot of room for Brian Westbrook to run in between the tackles. Even though they are usually pretty good against the run, they were kind of soft on this day. We’ll see if Dallas can exploit them again this week with JJ and MB3. The defensive line was able to get some penetration on the runs but they couldn’t trap Westbrook in the backfield.

Washington was playing a very deep cover scheme with their safeties even in non-obvious passing situations. The safeties were literally 20 yards deep on some plays. The Eagles for the most part were satisfied with taking the underneath stuff and letting Westbrook and the receivers work in the open field. If the Redskins play this type of defense on Sunday, dump passes to JJ and MB3 could be there for the taking and Jason Witten could have a field day over the middle. The absence of Sean Taylor will make them more susceptible to plays over the middle and Taylor is their big INT guy, so the secondary might be exploitable.

I usually think of Gregg Williams as a big blitz guy, but the Redskins didn’t blitz a lot in this game and they also haven’t been blitzing as much against most teams - except for the Jets rookie QB a couple of weeks ago. If they continue that trend they will probably try to get to Romo with ordinary pressure. Against our line in pass-blocking, I don’t think they have the horses to make that work. They’ll be forced to start blitzing at some point and if the Cowboys blocking holds true to form, Romo will make them pay in the secondary. The sacks that they got against McNabb had more to do with Donovan holding the ball too long. Tony Romo doesn’t have that problem.

Summary

On defense, the Cowboys need strong games out of DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis against the run. They need to hold the edge and not let Portis get the corner. Chris Canty could really help out by disrupting the blocking of the left side of their offensive line in the running game. Jason Campbell will take what you give him and is efficient when he’s not pressured. When pressure comes, he can beat it with his feet but he doesn’t have the quickest of releases and could be forced into some bad throws.

On offense, it’s possible to run on them but we might not be able to make a living at it. If we can do it enough it will really put pressure on the interior defense in the middle of the field. Dallas could use T.O. over the top and Witten across the middle to force their safeties to start making choices about coming forward to help against the run or stay back and protect against the pass. Without Sean Taylor I’m sure the Cowboys will try to use the middle of the field in the passing game. If the Redskins are going to play back like they did last week, the dump-offs to JJ and MB3 that have been so effective for us should make another appearance. If Dallas is patient and can force them to respect the run, then the secondary should open up for Romo.