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Behind enemy lines: What the Redskins are saying about the Cowboys

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Four things seem to be on everybody’s mind in Washington: Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley, and that unexpectedly and annoyingly good defense.

Washington Redskins Introduce Jay Gruden Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

As we await the kickoff for the game against the Redskins, we take a look at what the Redskins are saying about the Cowboys. Four things seem to be on everybody’s mind in Washington:

  • What to do about that unexpectedly and annoyingly good defense.
  • What to do about “Little No. 11.”
  • How to contain Ezekiel Elliott.
  • How to stop Dak Prescott from running.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden on that pesky defensive line (via Redskins.com)

The stunting Dallas defensive line isn’t anything new for Washington. The Cowboys had four sacks in each of their two games last year, something head coach Jay Gruden mentioned at his Monday press conference.

”Defensively, the movement, we haven’t handled the movement, very similar to Indianapolis,” Gruden said. “We didn’t handle the stunts, the line stunts, and the pirate so to speak, the defensive end spike and the three technique spike and those wrapping around or what have you, a lot of moving parts that we haven’t handled very well.”

More from Gruden on the annoying Dallas defense (via Redskins.com)

“Their defensive line is very athletic and strong. Their linebackers, Jaylon Smith – and I don’t know if [Sean] Lee is going to play or not – very, very, good. They have a big long corner, so they are very effective. They’re fast and physical and they play [until] whistle and they pursue extremely well.”

Adrian Peterson is a little tight-lipped about the Cowboys’ front seven (via ESPN)

But it’s also Dallas’ defensive front seven that gives Washington fits. The Cowboys have tweaked their style from past years and aren’t using quite as much pre-snap movement. Their fast linebackers create issues for teams trying to run; they force teams to abandon double-teams on defensive linemen.

The Cowboys rank second in the NFL in yards-per-carry allowed at 3.46 and, among teams that have played six games, are second in total rushing yards against.

“Their strong suit is the front seven,” Peterson said.

Alex Smith on the subtleties of the Cowboys defense (via Redskins press release)

”Yeah, I think similarities to kind of what they’ve been the last few years. On film as far as, they don’t do a ton. They don’t make you prepare. They’re not one of these defenses that play eight different coverages or exotic pressures. They’re not reinventing anything. But obviously, I think you look at them statistically over the last few years and certainly this year, what they do, they do really well, and they play fast. They’re good across the board from a personnel standpoint up front, second level, [and] on the back end. They play together. They play fast and physical, so I think all those things. Sometimes you can watch the film and when you look at some of the numbers, like I said, they don’t [play] all these coverages and things, but the subtleties of what they do really jump out on tape and [they] have had a lot of success doing it.”


Linebacker Mason Foster plans to “spy” on Dak Prescott on passing downs to keep him from running (via Redskins.com).

Foster told reporters Wednesday that containing Prescott will be a focus.

“Yeah it is dangerous, anytime you get a quarterback who’s scrambling like that, still looking downfield and making throws on the run, you know playing outside the pocket like that, it’s tough on the whole defense,” Foster said. “It puts a lot of stress on you so you know you’ve got to be prepared for it.”

Safety D.J. Swearinger hopes the Redskins can contain Prescott the way they did Cam Newton last week (via Redskins.com).

“[Prescott’s] definitely a hard task, but we’ve played against a running quarterback last week in Cam so we kind of did a decent job of keeping him in the pocket, so we’ve just gotta rebound and do the same thing we did but better.”


D.J. Swearinger on bringing down Ezekiel Elliott (via Redskins.com)

“Oh you’ve just gotta have a plan. As a safety you’ve gotta have a plan when you going to attack anybody, especially with a guy like him. You’ve gotta know if you wanna hit him high to get the ball or hit him low to chop him down, but whatever you’ve gotta do you’ve gotta wrap with Ezekiel Elliot. He’s not a guy you can just go down and dive at his ankles. Even if you hit him, you know you’ve gotta wrap him.”

Gruden’s plan is to gang-tackle Elliott (via Redskins press release)

”Well I think number one, we have to gang tackle like always, but I think there is going to be certain defenses where we are going to possibly have a free hitter, whether it’s in the hole or within four or five yards, we’ve got to make the tackle. These one-on-one tackles against ‘Zeke’ are easier said than done but that’s what has to happen. Great backs can make the unblocked player miss, or run through him for another five or six yards and that’s what he’s done in his career. They get hat-on-a-hat-on-a-hat because there is always a free player coming and that guy has got to make his presence felt and make that tackle, or at least hold him up until guys get off blocks and can make the tackle.”

Jay Gruden discussing the unique Dallas running attack (via Redskins press release):

“We faced some diverse run schemes already.

You don’t think New Orleans is, but they’re very diverse with all the jet sweeps and traps and the toss cracks.

Then Carolina comes to town and they have the zone reads and the quarterback powers and all that stuff.

We’ve had some diversity we faced already, but Dallas is another unique-type team. They can line up and bust you between the tackles and they can get outside and the quarterback can run. It’s a great challenge for those guys and those guys just have to hold up against Zack Martin and [Joe] Looney and those guys on the interior and hopefully free up the linebackers.”


Josh Norman on Cole “The Magician” Beasley (via Redskins.com)

“Yeah, he’s a good test for anybody. Especially our guy, being he’s so crafty, he really is man. He’s a little magician, what he’s able to do out on the field. He’s been getting better every year, sideline he really has been. This year he’s really got some stuff to him, looking forward to the matchup, really am man. I know what he’s capable of, and he’s going to show that this Sunday.”

Josh Norman is on high alert for “Little No. 11” (via Sportsday)

”Little No. 11, Beasley, man,” he told reporters ahead of the game. “Have you heard his mix tape? ...

”They are really good, especially him. They are feeding the ball to him a lot more. ... Dak is actually finding him in a phenomenal way. If you don’t think so, just go pull up the Jacksonville Jaguars tape, you’ll see that real quick.”