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Dallas @ Washington: How Washington will try to slow down the smoking-hot Cowboys offense

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Can the Washington defense slow down the juggernaut Cowboys offense?

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

No offense in the NFL is hotter than the Dallas Cowboys at the moment. For three straight games they’ve put up over 30 points. How will the Washington defense try to cope with that machine?

First thing they need to do is get healthy. Much like Washington’s offense, their defense is also dealing with injuries. The good news for Washington is that they might get one big component of their defense back. After two weeks on the sidelines, corner Josh Norman looks to be on track to play on Sunday. Along with Bashaud Breeland, who is also not 100% healthy, they will hope to contain Dez Bryant and company on the outside. Still, their entire secondary is dealing with nagging issues.

On the defensive side, the secondary is getting close to relying on free agents off the street. Cornerbacks Josh Norman (rib) and Fabian Moreau (hamstring) and safeties Deshazor Everett (hamstring) and Stefan McClure (hamstring) hope to play this week. Corner Bashaud Breeland has competed well despite a sprained knee.

Washington has a pretty good set of pass rushers, but they may be without their current sack leader on Sunday.

Redskins outside linebacker Preston Smith is dealing with a groin injury that is severe enough to keep him out of Sunday’s matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Smith did not participate in Wednesday’s closed walk-through.

Smith, who turns 25 in November, will continue to receive treatment with the hope that the ailment will be better by the end of the week, but the Redskins have the luxury to sideline Smith with three healthy pass rushers — Ryan Kerrigan, Junior Galette and rookie Ryan Anderson — all available.

One thing Washington has had trouble dealing with is mobile quarterbacks. They get another one this week, and it’s been an issue for them.

Among the common threads in the Redskins’ three losses in 2017 has been a mobile quarterback playing for the other side. Carson Wentz is second on his team with 196 yards rushing on the season and Alex Smith has 121. Dak Prescott has 152. It’s not just the rushing yards that give the Redskins consistent headaches, it’s the ability to elude pass pressure and get off an accurate pass. Prescott is as slippery as any quarterback out there and he has the ability to get rid of the ball just before going to the ground. The Redskins will need to wrap him up and get him down on the ground. That’s easier said than done as they found out against Wentz (twice) and Smith.

The mobility and escapability that Wentz showed last week was a major problem for Washington. Dak Prescott has shown he’s equally as good at slipping the pass rush and hurting teams with his feet. Something to watch for this week.

While Washington has been pretty tough against the run, they did lose Jonathan Allen to injury, softening their front line. Teams also choose to pass more than run against Washington, but the Cowboys will probably stick with their run-first philosophy. It’s just who they are. Washington has a very tough time getting teams off the field on third down.

They are also struggling in two-minute drills before halftime.

Through six games, [Washington’s defense] has allowed 24 points inside the final two minutes of the first half. The Redskins allowed three points in that span in Week 1 and touchdowns each of the past three games.

Stats Corner Washington Defense:

— 12th in yards per game allowed (325.2), 19th in passing yards allowed (230.7), 9th in rushing yards allowed (94.5)

— 25th in points per game allowed (24.5)

— 24th in third-down conversions allowed (41.8%),

— Tied for 9th in sacks (18), tied for 16th in passing TDs allowed (10), tied for 14th in yards per rushing attempt allowed (4.0)

Conclusion:

Washington is suffering from injuries just like on their offense. Getting Josh Norman back will be a huge help, but if Preston Smith can’t go that is huge for the Cowboys. He can be very disruptive on defense. Even though teams have found success passing the ball on Washington, the Cowboys will still try to run it. Hopefully they will incorporate more read-option plays and QB draws for Dak Prescott as Washington really struggles to contain mobile quarterbacks.

Dallas does a good job of protecting their quarterback, getting better as the season progresses. As long as they continue that, then the rest of the offense should have time to exploit a weakened Washington defense. Washington gives up a lot of points, and the Cowboys score a lot of points. One thing to note, the weather is supposed to be poor with plenty of rain. If that comes to pass, it may slow down both offenses, but the Cowboys run game could prove extremely useful in that situation.