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Cowboys scouting report: Scouting the Washington Redskins offense

Will the Dallas defense have their hands full with the Washington offense?

NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys are coming off a huge week one victory against the New York Giants, and the Redskins are coming off a tough week one loss against the Philadelphia Eagles that saw them up 20-7 heading into halftime. Today, we will take a dive into the Washington offense to see just how the Cowboys will need to defend Case Keenum, Adrian Peterson, and the young receiving corps of the Redskins.

A couple of things to note before we get started, the Redskins will be without running back Derrius Guice, left tackle Trent Williams, and could possibly be without tight end Jordan Reed. Even with three of their better players out, or not at 100%, the Redskins offense looked very good in the first half of their week one loss to the Eagles.

With Trent Williams still not with the team, the Redskins are starting 37-year-old Donald Penn at left tackle to protect Keenum’s blind-side. Penn is a big, strong tackle that struggles handling quickness off the edge. He also struggles mightily with over-setting that can leave himself vulnerable when rushers bring a speed-to-power plan to the table. On this rush, you can see Derek Barnett threaten the edge with speed, before attacking Penn’s chest with powerful hands and length. Penn gained too much depth in his pass set attempting to counter Barnett’s speed, which gave Barnett and easy opportunity to overpower Penn for the QB hit. With Tyrone Crawford dealing with his hip injury, and Taco Charlton likely inactive, Dorance Armstrong could be in for a big workload in week two. This is a game the Cowboys could have used Robert Quinn’s abilities off the right side of the defensive line.

One of the Redskins biggest weapons is second-year receiver Trey Quinn. Quinn was a fun pre-draft evaluation because of his quickness, suddenness, and route-running abilities coming out of SMU in the 2018 NFL Draft. Quinn and Keenum developed a nice connection over the offseason, and that was evident in their week one loss to the Eagles. Quinn was able to get open with ease on the underneath route’s against Philadelphia’s nickel corner, Avonte Maddox. Here he runs a nice inside pivot-route that completely turns the corner around. If he keeps his route inside and carries it up the field, or if Keenum delivers the ball on the outside shoulder, Quinn may have scored on this play. While we likely won’t see Quinn put up huge numbers, Anthony Brown and/or Jourdan Lewis will need to limit his impact on third down, and in the red-zone if the Cowboys want to keep the Redskins from moving the football with ease.

Similar to the New York Giants, the Redskins used a good amount of mesh-concept to free up their receiving backs and slot receivers on third downs. This is a nice little concept from Jay Gruden that forced the dropping linebackers to cover two levels of the field with one position. On 3rd and 8, Gruden dials up a levels-mesh play that brings Chris Thompson and Trey Quinn as the receivers across the shallow-middle of the field. Giving the down-and-distance and space the linebackers are forced to cover, the mesh-receivers pull all three of the Eagles linebackers down to attack the underneath players. Gruden then has a level-receiver running a medium dig-route behind the linebackers. Once Keenum sees the linebackers step up to attack the underneath receivers, he has a free window for the first down. The Cowboys linebacker will need to stay discipline in their coverages, and must force Keenum to check the football down, and limit the big plays.

On the Redskins opening drive, the use of play-action was evident. On Vernon Davis’ big touchdown run, Washington ran a simple bootleg play-action which had Vernon Davis coming from the backside to the play-side flat. Davis gets a one-on-one with the safety, and is just to athletic for the defender to keep up. Keenum does a nice job of manipulating the safety on this play with his legs to give himself an easy window to get the football to his tight end. What Davis does after the catch here is just insane, and whenever you have a guy with Vernon Davis’ athletic ability the defense must rally to the football, to limit the yards after catch.

The Redskins were pretty committed in the first half to running the football even though it wasn't working. Washington ran three times on 1st and 10 in their opening drive, and didn’t have a ton of success. This set their offense up in tough situations on second and third down, but the Washington offense was up to the challenge in the first 30 minutes of the game. The Washington offensive line struggled run-blocking against the Eagles, and the Cowboys need to take advantage of that on Sunday with an angry Adrian Peterson coming out, and looking to prove his own head coach wrong.

In the first half of week one, Case Keenum looked very good. Keenum used his legs, arm, and scheme to throw the football all over the Eagles defense. Rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin had himself a nice first game, finishing with five receptions, 125 receiving yards, and a touchdown, which is shown here. While this is a busted coverage by the Eagles defense, the speed threat that McLaurin brings to the table is obvious. Keenum sees McLaurin coming open after finishing out the play-fake. Keenum then notices there is zero safety help over the top, steps up in the pocket off of the final step of his drop, and delivers a nice ball for the touchdown. Taking the shot here is a no-brainer. McLaurin is able to separate at the top of his route, and with inside leverage Keenum puts the ball where the defender has zero shot at recovering. While this play is more of an example of poor defense, rather than great offense, the threat of Terry McLaurin down the field needs to be a big concern for the Cowboys secondary heading into week two.

The saying “sometimes you’d rather be lucky than good” can apply to Case Keenum. At times, it seems as if Keenum has already made up his mind where to throw the football without even reading the coverage or placement of defenders. Here Keenum throws what should have been a pick-six, but it doesn’t end up hurting him. Keenum takes the snap, scans left, and before even checking the coverage on the right side of the field delivers a strike right into the corners chest. Keenum didn’t seem to read anything here, and surely looked like he had his mind made up where he was going with the football as soon as he was given the play call. The Cowboys defense has to make Keenum pay when he decides to throw you one or two on Sunday.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Washington offense looks different in week two, with the subtraction of Derrius Guice, and the addition of Adrian Peterson. Just one week after coach Jay Gruden took some subtle shots at Peterson, he will now likely lean on him to lead his offense against the Cowboys on Sunday. The Cowboys would love to follow a similar game plan that they had in week one. Score a ton of points, and force the opposing team to beat them through the air. If that ends up happening, the Cowboys should be in good shape to head to 2-0 on the young season.

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