The Dallas Cowboys versus the Washington Redskins. It has a certain ring to it, a clarion call for fans to re-new a rivalry once again. The heat in this rivalry comes and goes, but the fire never completely dies. And now that the Redskins are at 2-0 and leading the NFC East in the early part of 2011, there's some fuel for the flames. The Cowboys would love nothing more than knocking off the Redskins, grabbing a share of the NFC East lead, and continuing the momentum from the 49ers game. Let the hate begin!
For some insight into the game, I headed over to enemy territory and talked to Kevin Ewoldt at SB Nation's home for 'Skins fans, Hogs Haven. I sent over 5 questions to get an idea of what's going on with the rejuvenated Redskins. He kindly obliged me with 5 answers. Also, Kevin's partner-in-crime at Hogs Haven, Ken Meringolo, authored a nice piece on the rivalry and put it in the FanPosts, go check it out.
Blogging The Boys: Evaluate the play of QB Rex Grossman so far. How much has his play been a catalyst or a hindrance to victory? What's he doing well, and where's he having problems?
Hogs Haven: Rex Grossman's play I would give a "B." He has been a catalyst to victory for sure because he's the only QB on this roster that can run Shanahan's offense at the exact tempo it needs to be run. Timing is everything. If guys aren't where they are suppose to be and the ball is not in the air at the exact, correct moment - things go very bad. (*cough* McNabb *cough*).
My biggest issues with Grossman is that he fails to see blind side pressure well (main reason for so many prior year fumbles), and he has the tendency to float some passes. The vastly improved running game (Hightower and Helu) and upgrade at Center (Casey Rabach was on par with Alex Barron in effectiveness last year) alleviate a lot of problems. The Redskins rank #1 in the NFL in time of possession. That is what Grossman has brought to the table.
Four questions to go...
BTB: With Tony Romo hurting, we know the Redskins will want to hit him as often as possible if he plays. How has the Redskins pass rush been, and what's the frequency of blitzes? Should we expect full-out pressure?
HH: The Redskins 3-4 defense is finally starting to bear fruit. You can expect Rak and Kerrigan to rush on pretty much every play. What makes things challenging is when the Redskins decide to send a safety (Landry) or LB (Fletcher). The Redskins disguise their packages effectively, so it's going to be a challenge for Romo to figure out who's coming and who's dropping back. What's the best way to stop Larry Fitzgerald? Don't allow Kolb to drop back...the Redskins were successful on that every play but 1.
BTB: It looks like you have a banged-up secondary. What's the injury status on them?
HH: Secondary is fine. Laron Landry, barring a setback (he's fully testing his hamstring today), is a go. Josh Wilson hurt his neck, but he said he's fine and the Redskins have him listed as questionable. His backup, Kevin Barnes, has been playing well so no concerns there.
BTB: Fred Davis has numbers that are beastly. Where has he been most effective, what kind of routes is he running?
HH: Fred is seeing a lot of success just because the other Redskins WRs are that good at getting open. People want to laugh about Santana Moss, Cooley, and Jabar Gaffney being old, but the truth is they are 5-star route runners and continually get open with ease. Grossman will hit them regularly, so now that the Redskins are running 2 TE sets the majority of the time, Fred has been the guy left open. The majority of Shanahan's routes have WRs and TE's catching the ball between the hash marks.
BTB: After two games in 2011, how would you attack the Redskins to beat them? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
HH: If the Cowboys can get pressure from 4, Grossman will be an INT machine. The Cardinals batted down something like 9 balls last week mainly because the Redskins pocket looked like a rock concert (picture Grossman with 8 people around him trying to throw on his tippy toes). If DeMarcus Ware wins his battles vs Trent Williams more time than not, and Ratliff can get a 3-yard push on our Center/Guard....that will cause major problems.
Thanks to Kevin at Hogs Haven for the insight.