As is customary every week before a Cowboys game, we like to get some intelligence on what the enemy is thinking. This week, that means speaking with our old friends over at Washington blog Hogs Haven. Here’s what they had to say about the upcoming game between Dallas and Washington.
Blogging The Boys: Kirk Cousins is going into a year where it's kind of a "prove it" thing as far as being the franchise QB of the future. How do you feel about him as a player and how did he perform in Week 1?
Hogs Haven: Overall, I feel good about Kirk as a starting QB in this league. I love what our GM did by giving him the tag and making him prove himself a little more this year because, he was great the last half of last year, but hadn't really done a whole lot before that. So even though I like what I've seen for the most part, why not make him really prove himself a little longer if you can (before committing so much money)? I can't say I speak for all fans, though. Fans are fickle. Over the course of the off-season, everyone was feeling great about Kirk. Most wanted him to get the long-term deal and really thought QB is a position we don't need to worry about anymore for a while.
Then last week happened and the fan-base is having the typical week one overreactions. Kirk struggled... a lot. He played very poorly and it was a little concerning. He'll need to bounce back in a big way this week. He threw a couple of picks (the first one was simply/completely unacceptable from a starting QB) and really didn't throw the ball down the field, at all. He struggled finding open WRs and really kind of locked in on Jordan Reed. It was Reed or bust on way too many plays and he missed a lot of open guys as well as open scrambling lanes on times when he should have just tucked it and run. The Steelers really tried him in an effective way by only rushing three or four on just about every play and dropping everyone else into zone coverage. Kirk had all the time in the world, but simply didn't do anything with it. It messed him up. He looked anxious. He ended up with a lot of yards, but a lot came in garbage time. The Steelers were content giving him check-downs and making tackles... and it worked brilliantly. Of course, Kirk wasn't helped by the fact that we refused to even attempt to run the ball...
BTB: One topic everyone was talking about was Washington not putting Josh Norman exclusively on Antonio Brown. Do you agree with the decision or should they have tried to neutralize Brown with Norman? Will there be any change this week with respect to Dez Bryant?
HH: I agreed with the initial plan. Bashaud Breeland had a great summer and people were talking him up like he was going to be a top 10 CB this year. I had no problem letting them stay on their sides and see how it goes. The problem came after we all realized it was going horribly. There was no adjustment. There was no preparation for the possible event that Antonio Brown was going to torch Breeland and we'd need to do something about it. It was terrible. It wasn't a terrible initial plan, but after Breeland starting getting beat pretty good, there had to be an adjustment. Either Brown needed double-teaming with a S (most likely DeAngelo Hall) or they had to switch it up and let Norman shadow him. The failure to adjust was very disheartening.
With regards to this week, I honestly have no clue what they'll do. I wouldn't be surprised either way. Our DC (Joe Barry) has said he'd do the same thing again (keep the CBs on their respective sides of the field), but you know he has to have been hearing all this noise and feeling the pressure. I mean, Norman's a great CB and we're paying handsomely for him. I don't much care what our initial plan is, but Barry better be ready to adjust if it starts going sideways. Bryant's a different cat than AB. Brown's little and lightning quick. Breeland has always had better success against Bryant (and guys more his size). So I honestly wouldn't be surprised if they stay the course. And honestly, I'd feel fine with it because I still believe Bree is a great CB and he's had a lot of success against Bryant. Also, if I'm not mistaken, doesn't Bryant typically stay on the right side of y'all's offense? That's the side Norman was on in week one. So if you guys don't move Bryant around much (the Steelers move AB around a lot), then he might be matched up against Norman without us even making an adjustment.
BTB: The other topic discussed was the poor run defense against the Steelers. Does Washington have a fundamental issue on defense with stopping the run? Is this an area Dallas should look to exploit?
HH: Yes, Washington has a fundamental issue on defense with stopping the run. We're garbage there. We were last year and we didn't do much to improve in that department in the off-season. Dallas obviously should look to destroy us there and almost certainly will. I don't think I can bear to watch Alfred Morris running all over us... The big problem is our DL. We don't have a whole lot of talent there. I hope we're planning something to adjust or change to make things better this week, but if DeAngelo Williams and the Steelers OL can manhandle us, then I have no doubt that Elliott, Morris, and that Cowboy OL can do the same. Hopefully we're a lot more focused on the run game this week on defense (especially considering Prescott isn't the threat that Big Ben is).
BTB: What did Week 1 show you about the team that you were unsure of coming into the season? Were there any big surprises?
HH: I'm a big proponent of not overreacting to the first game of the season. So take all this with a grain of salt, because I want to see a few more games before I decide if something that I thought in the off-season is either confirmed or shown to be incorrect. I (along with just about every Redskin fan paying attention) was very unsure about the running game coming into this season. We've all be concerned. Most fans (myself included) wanted to see Alfred Morris brought back. I'm higher on Matt Jones and his potential than many of the fans I've read from on Hogs Haven, but Morris was a known quantity. Week one was not only just one game, but we decided to try to run the ball a whopping 12 times (one of which was a Kirk Cousins scramble and another was a throwaway play to end the first half). Hard to make any judgments from that. The 10 real runs we had weren't outstanding, but they weren't abysmal, either. The main concern that was confirmed for one week at least is that we do not run the ball nearly enough. Whether it works well or not, we have to find a way to remain much more balanced.
Another thing fans were uncertain about was whether our run defense would be any better than last year, or not. Week one showed us that it's not. Again, don't want to overreact, but it was really bad last week.
Something that I think surprised many (though certainly not all) fans was how poorly Kirk Cousins played. Most were feeling really good about him coming into this year and he looked deplorable. I expect he'll be much better Sunday.
BTB: For Washington to win on Sunday, what needs to happen? What will be the topics people are discussing on Monday if Washington wins?
HH: For Washington to win against the Cowboys, they must run the ball with more consistency and win the ToP. If we can have even an average running game, that'd be a big win and allow us to run it 25+ times. 12 (really 10) times in a game is unacceptable and a recipe for a loss. People will be talking about Matt Jones and our OL on Monday if Washington wins. Oh, and another thing about our OL, we have to cut the penalties way down if we're going to win. Last week the penalties killed us and the primary culprit was our OL. They must play far more disciplined this week.
Another thing that needs to happen is the run defense needs to improve. There isn't a Redskins fan alive that actually believe we're going to shutdown the Dallas running attack. Your OL and RBs are too good for that to happen. Plus, I believe y'all didn't run enough last week as well and Garrett has a history of swinging back wildly in the other direction after losing a game when he knows he didn't run it enough. A rookie QB on the road for the first time and a running attack like y'all have... he'd be crazy to not run it into the ground. Based on his history and learning from your mistakes last week, I expect he'll pound the rock. The Redskins have to find a way to slow it down and get off the field. Our defense got gassed last week due to not being able to slow down the run game. It has to be the focus/priority for our defense.
Finally, Kirk Cousins has to put together at least a mediocre game. We have the talent around him to win games if he just plays OK. No more 2-INT games, missing wide open receivers, and playing way too hesitantly. He has to let it fly. The strength of our roster is with our skill players and he has to get the ball in their hands. If he plays a little more like 2015 Kirk and a little less like last-week-Kirk, then we have a much better chance. If the 'Skins win, I expect fans will be back talking about how Kirk's looking like the guy and we can go back to discussing exactly how much money he deserves for his long-term contract as opposed to who our new QB will be next year.
Thanks for the knowledge, Hogs Haven.