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Cowboys News: Can Dak Prescott Find Dez Bryant Against Redskins?

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Latest Cowboys headlines: Cowboys must win toxic differential to beat Washington; opening up the offense for Dak Prescott; can Dez Bryant bounce back versus Redskins?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Week 2 Cheat Sheet: Can Cowboys find Dez? - Kevin Patra, NFL.com
Patra provides a rundown of every Week 2 game, and has this to say about the Cowboys.

Dez Bryant's five targets in Week 1 were a whopping seven fewer than Cole Beasley. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott insists he won't force the ball to Bryant, but he could force the ball to his star wideout, especially in the red zone.

Much was made of Washington corner Josh Norman not traveling last week. If Redskins DC Joe Barry employs a similar tactic, it will be interesting to see how much the Cowboys avoid putting Bryant on Norman's side of the field. Norman held Bryant to just one reception on five targets last Thanksgiving (the CB traveled with Dez for Carolina in portions of that contest). Whether it's Bryant or another receiver, Dallas must stretch the field more consistently in Week 2 after the rookie passer went just one of 10 on throws over 15 air yards last week.

Bold predictions: Dez Bryant bounces back with two scores -- on Josh Norman - Staff, NFL.com
Nick Shook does the honors for the Cowboy in this week's bold predictions from the Around The League staff, and he expects the Cowboys to ride Dez Bryant to a win in Washington.

Much has been made about Dez Bryant's lone catch in the Cowboys' season-opening loss to the Giants. Are Dak Prescott and Bryant on the same page? Will Josh Norman cover Dez Bryant? To that we can probably answer yes, especially after all of the fire Norman received in the media after largely not covering Antonio Brown in Week 1. But where the narrative turns, and where this prediction becomes bold, is in this matchup.

Bryant bounces back from the one-catch game last week by ordering a full-course meal, tightening the napkin in his collar and feasting on Norman. Prescott finds Bryant close to 10 times, and two of them go for touchdowns. Bryant utilizes his big frame to go up over Norman to catch a jump ball inside the red zone for six, then breaks a big one later in the game as Dallas proves Week 1 was nothing to fret about. Terrance Williams doesn't have to worry about getting out of bounds this week as Bryant gets back on track and the Cowboys roll to an emphatic Week 2 win over Washington.

NFL prop bets for Week 2: Dez Bryant UNDER receptions (5) and receiving yards (67.5)? - Brett Smiley, FOX Sports
Smiley takes the UNDER on this prop bet on Bryant's production and explains why.

Bryant just hasn’t fared that well in non-Tony Romo games (most of 2015): Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar points out that Bryant hasn’t reeled in more than five receptions in a game since Week 15 of 2014. I think we’re going to see a ticked-off Cowboys offensive line look to restore its reputation at Washington after New York’s running defense humbled the unit and poured cold water on the Ezekiel Elliott hype train that’s attempting to reach the Eric Dickerson rookie rushing record station (1,808 yards). The Redskins got torched by Antonio Brown last week (in a game plan Bryant thought was humorous) but Bryant is no Brown and Prescott is no Ben Roethlisberger, and they probably don’t want Prescott attempting more than 25-30 passes at this point.

Cowboys vs. Redskins, or is it Dez Bryant aganst Josh Norman? - Charean Williams, The Star-Telegram
Dez Bryant vs. Josh Norman is easily the most anticipated matchup of today's game, even if the Cowboys provide the obligatory disclaimer.

"The game’s not about Josh Norman and Dez Bryant, and Dez doesn’t want it to be that way," Cowboys receivers coach Derek Dooley said. "I’m sure Josh doesn’t want it to be that way. It’s the Dallas Cowboys playing the Redskins, and that’s our approach."

Cowboys' Bryant playing it cool after slow start - Shuyler Dixon, Shreveport Times
Dez Bryant isn't getting drawn in to any discussions about his number of catches, or about Dak Prescott's performance.

"Whatever the coaches give me, that's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to get too involved, get my emotions too high, or too low. I'm just going to stay prepared and ready at any moment."

Linehan gave Prescott high marks for his debut, and Bryant has gone out of his way to praise the 23-year-old since before Romo's latest back injury. So it's safe to say Bryant didn't see Prescott as the problem in Week 1.

"I don't like using rookie as an excuse because it's not," Bryant said. "But at the same time it was his first NFL game. I think he did a hell of a job and he's going to continue getting better. We're just going to keep pushing and stay behind him and be ready when he needs us."

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The Cowboys Must Win The Toxic Differential To Beat Washington - Danny Phantom, Blogging The Boys
"Toxic Differential" is a term popularized by Brian Billick when he was the offensive coordinator for the Vikings in 1998, though the concept the was in circulation among coaches well before then. The metric measures of how many big plays teams create minus how many they give up and also includes turnovers forced versus allowed. It is essentially a big-play stat, and Danny argues that the biggest key to beating the Redskins is who makes the most big plays.

While the Redskins running game was suspect last week, they also gave up three big passing plays. The Cowboys will need to attack them through the air as well. People will are expecting that Dez Bryant to be more involved, and he should be, but this is a great opportunity for Terrance Williams or Brice Butler to come up with a deep touchdown pass. Wouldn’t it be great if TWilly redeemed himself with a big touchdown catch?

Washington Run Defense - “We're garbage there.” - Dave Halprin, Blogging The Boys
Halprin checks in with Hogs Haven and asks them about the Redskins run defense. Their answer minces no words.

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).

Opening up offense for Dak Prescott - Todd Archer, ESPN
In his Twitter mailbag, Archer responds to a reader question about opening up the offense.

It depends on how you want to define "opening up the offense." The Cowboys don't think it was closed, from what they did in the opener. They look at the number of snaps played, the yardage and the time of possession as positives. They see touchdowns that were dropped (Cole Beasley) and overturned (Dez Bryant). If you expect Prescott to throw it more than 45 times, then no, it won't be that way. If you want to define "opening the playbook" as being more creative, then OK, but if I said yes, I'd only be guessing.

I do think they will try to get the ball more to Bryant, but I don't think you will see him force-fed passes. For better or worse, this is the offense they will run. They can win like this, but they have little margin for error. They don't want to overexpose Dak Prescott. It wouldn't be fair to the kid, but I do think there are more things the coaches must do to help him.

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Keys To Victory - Michael Stahl, TheHogs.net
A refreshing take on the game in an otherwise often bland NFL reporting landscape.

Keys to victory, you ask? Don’t play like the dog’s unwashed bollocks. Everything has to be markedly better this week. If Jones can’t find openings on his first few carries, either give him more carries than the seven he got last week or get Robert Kelley in the game. If Cousins can’t get the ball to the midget patrol in the end zone, get the taller receivers and tight ends in the game and get Josh Doctson in the game. What the hell did you draft him for if you’re not going to use him in those situations? Scoring 16 points with this offense is a steaming pile of horse dung. It’s absolutely inexcusable, regardless of the opponent. If the team can’t post at least 24 points offensively they will lose more games than they will win. That falls on $20MM man Kirk Cousins. You gambled on yourself. You’re no longer playing with house money, Sporto.

Redskins-Cowboys: Ingredients For Victory - Staff, Redskins.com
The Redskins.com crew breaks down the factors to keep an eye on during today's game. One of those is the Redskin's propensity for drawing flags.

Only two teams – the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Rams – committed more penalties than the Redskins in Week 1. While the nine penalties that Washington was whistled for amounted to just 55 yards, the situations in which the flags came led to frustration on Washington’s behalf.

The Redskins committed five false start penalties and two holding penalties that beset a running game for Washington that rushed for just 55 yards. These are mistakes Washington believes it can fix, especially the false starts, which head coach Jay Gruden said he addressed early in this week’s practices.

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Three methods on how to approach a rookie quarterback - Brian Billick, NFL.com
Billick breaks down three approaches to rookie QBs: starting QB by design, starting QB by circumstance, and sitting by design. Dak Prescott is starting by circumstance, and Billick opines the Cowboys need to support Prescott better for the rookie to be effective.

Two things clearly must change for the Cowboys as they move forward with Prescott under center.

They simply don't want him to throw it 45 times as he did last week -- especially in a game that never turned into a shootout. For most quarterbacks, the ideal pitch count is around 30; you don't want to go much above that, especially when you've got a rookie quarterback, a tight game and Ezekiel Elliott carrying the rock for you.

When Prescott does throw it, he needs to generate more explosive plays down the field. The Cowboys had just one single play against the Giants that gained more than 20 yards, a completion to backup tight end Geoff Swaim. As I've said many times before: In today's NFL, just winning the turnover battle (the Cowboys were plus-1) isn't enough; you must create explosive plays as well, and one per game just simply isn't going to cut it.