The Cowboys travel to Washington to battle it out and see which team can avoid being written off after week two. The loser gets a cushy seat at the bottom of the NFC East. The Cowboys owned that dishonor after the 2015 season and the Redskins had it the previous two years. Neither wants to own it again.
This also happens to be the matchup of the last two division champs so many are wondering which version of their team will show up in 2016. The Cowboys lost a close one against the Giants last week, while the Redskins got smoked by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Who is able to rebound this week and come out on top? Here are five things to keep an eye out for on Sunday.
Reed My Lips – No Huge Catches
The Redskins have one of the league's better tight ends in Jordan Reed, but it’s taken a while for people to see it because the fourth-year veteran has been injury plagued for most of his career. But last season he was healthy and made his presence felt as he caught 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns, all career highs. Just as a point of reference, Rob Gronkowski has only had one season where he’s caught more passes and only two seasons where he’s had more touchdowns. Reed is a very good player.
He's a complete pass-catching tight end. He’s got really good quickness, runs his routes very well, and has tremendous hands to make contested catches. The Redskins will be looking his way frequently on Sunday.
But the Cowboys have a real good tight-end covering, free safety in Byron Jones. He showcased that during his rookie season last year with some very impressive outings against strong tight ends, including Reed. The Redskins tight end just couldn’t get himself going in his two games against Dallas. Here are his numbers:
- 3 catches for 33 yards and no touchdowns
- 4 catches for 45 yards and no touchdowns
Despite a career season for Reed, Byron Jones and company did a great job not allowing him to hurt them. Jones may give up some short passes, but unless Reed can break some tackles, he’s not going to be a real threat against the Cowboys.
Who wins: Jones. The Redskins would look to attack other areas that give them favorable matches because this just isn’t one of them.
Captain Kirk – Set Phasers To Stun
Last year, Cousins was the best quarterback in the NFC East as he threw for over 4,000 yards and had a QB Rating above 100. But 2015 is just one season and if Nick Foles has taught us anything, it’s that great play one season doesn’t necessarily carry over into the next. Despite a strong year, the Redskins aren’t ready to give him the keys to the franchise just yet as they are renting his services for a hefty price of $20 million.
But Redskins GM, Scot McCloughan tends to know what he’s doing. There are reasons he’s not signed long-term and some of those surfaced last week against the Steelers. Cousins has some accuracy issues and he doesn’t have to be pressured to make errant throws. Which is good news for Dallas because they cannot generate much of a pass rush.
Cousin’s carelessness means bad news for Washington as they have shown they cannot come out of a tailspin of Cousin picks. They are 3-15 when he throws an interception. They are 0-11 when he throws more than one. If the Cowboys can just get in his face enough to make him uncomfortable, that’s all it will take to keep him off target.
Key Matchup: Tyrone Crawford vs. Redskins left guard Shawn Laurao. The Cowboys defensive tackle will be looking to have a good rebound game and a weak interior line of Washington is just the thing to help. This inside pressure is much needed for Dallas.
Ground Control To Major Zeke
The unveiling of rookie running back sensation Ezekiel Elliott did not go as planned. The New York Giants had some big boys on the defensive line and did a great job impeding the running lanes.
But the Redskins will not have the same success. They struggled stopping DeAngelo Williams on Sunday as the 33-year-old running back went off for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Here is a display of the Redskins stout run defense.
DeAngelo Williams you can not be serious! https://t.co/hV9n21mgcM— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) September 13, 2016
Zeke is not 33 years old. The Redskins will make adjustments to have a better showing against the run, especially since the Giants paved the way for shutting down Elliott, but that will be easier said than done. The Redskins just don’t have the defense to duplicate the Giants performance.
The Cowboys running game will be in full swing, but it won’t just be the kid doing the damage. Alfred Morris makes his return to Fed Ex Field. He’s not a vindictive person, but what players doesn’t want to just unleash on his old team?
Bold Prediction: Morris out-rushes his replacement, Matt Jones, despite carrying the ball fewer times.
Feed The Beast
When Dak Prescott connected with Dez Bryant on the second play of the game, it looked like a marriage made in heaven. But Prescott would go on to throw 44 more passes and none of them would be caught by Bryant. The Cowboys star receiver would get a few chances to make a big play, but just couldn’t bring it in. But a few chances aren’t going to cut it.
If teams are going to focus on stopping the run (and they will be….all the time), then the Cowboys are going to have to retaliate with a strong passing attack. The inability to do such is the epitome of the 2015 Dallas Cowboys season, so this certainly can’t happen again. And it won’t because Prescott can make plays. But talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words, and other cool sounding clichés.
Prescott has a game plan and that doesn’t include forcing the ball to anyone. But the Cowboys must find a way to get the star receiver more involved. The Cowboys aren’t paying Bryant $14 million a year to almost catch touchdown passes. They need him to make plays.
Don’t Be Surprised If: Things get a little chippy between Bryant and Josh Norman. They respect each other, but both are extremely competitive. With reputations at stake, there will definitely being some jawing going on.
Not This Guy Again
It was so nice to see Santana Moss retire because he would save up all his good plays for the Dallas Cowboys. While the former Redskins receiver is gone, his big playmaking ability has been replaced by DeSean Jackson. The veteran receiver doesn’t catch a lot of passes as that’s really not his thing. Running after the catch, now that’s his thing. Jackson has made a career of long TD receptions and he doesn’t hold anything back against the Cowboys.
The Cowboys secondary can hold their own at times, but their corners are more physical and don’t have the blazing speed to keep up with Jackson. Orlando Scrandrick is the team’s best speedster, but he struggled in week one and isn’t at full strength. This makes the Cowboys vulnerable to Jacksons’ big play ability.
Fun Flashback: This is my favorite DeSean Jackson play.
Lmaoooo. RT @Complex_Sports: LOL DeSean Jackson got the crowd hyped for THIS!?!?— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) December 8, 2015
What will you be watching for on Sunday?