The Dallas Cowboys got off to a great start with a nice 35-17 win over the New York Giants last Sunday. Now, they’ll get a shot at an early division lead if they can come out of D.C. with a victory over the Washington Redskins. Sure, the Giants and Redskins both had losing records last season, and these are games many expect the Cowboys to win, but anytime you can get a road win over a divisional opponent - that’s a good day.
The Cowboys will try to do exactly that. If they pull out another convincing win, it’s going to be hard not to believe this team might be on to something special this season. But at the same time, dropping this game on what is the “easy” part of the schedule, is less than ideal. It should be a battle as these games are usually pretty close. Here are five things to watch when the Cowboys travel to Washington to face the Redskins.
1. Back to the ground attack?
The last time Ezekiel Elliott played at FedEx Field he only had 33 yards on 15 carries. The Redskins defense took him out of the game as it was Zeke’s lowest yardage total of the season. Last week against the Giants, Elliott was held to just 53 yards on 13 carries. After just recently re-joining the team following a contract holdout, the team’s star running back was eased back into action.
This week should be a different story as Elliott should be a bigger part of the offensive attack. The Giants defense learned that bringing the backers down to stop Elliott didn’t work out so well as Dak and company hurt them through the air. If the Cowboys force the defense to respect the passing game more, it could open things up for Zeke to get loose.
2. Going deep
Establishing the run should work it’s way back into the offensive plan, but let’s not bite the hand that fed ya last week. Against the Giants, the Cowboys offense was filled with big plays as Dak Prescott had himself a career day. Dak connected on three touchdowns of at least 25 yards or more that were spread out to Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Blake Jarwin. Prescott also hit Gallup for three plays over 25 yards, including a 62-yarder.
Part of the reason for the Redskins collapse against the Philadelphia Eagles was because they fell victim to the big play. DeSean Jackson blew past defenders for two big plays over 50 yards. The Cowboys have an arsenal of receivers and Prescott will look for the chinks in the armor. Pay close attention to the matchup between Randall Cobb and Jimmy Moreland. A savvy veteran against a rookie DB is a nice recipe for disaster for the Redskins.
3. Protecting Dak
After being sacked 56 times last year (second-most in the league), the Cowboys offensive line did a great job of keeping the pocket clean for Prescott last week against the Giants. The Redskins have a tough defensive front. They will be without one of their top defensive linemen in Jonathan Allen, but the Redskins are deep with some very good options. Second year defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne is tough to move aside and he had a nice tackle for a loss last week against Philadelphia. He’s going to be a challenge for left guard Connor Williams.
The Redskins also have some pass rushers off the edge with Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Montez Sweat. Last week, La’el Collins was the second-highest graded Cowboys player (behind Dak), and he’ll have a good opportunity to prove he is worth that five-year, $50 million extension by trying to contain Kerrigan on Sunday.
4. Attack of the receiving backs
Zeke will be the centerpiece of the Cowboys rushing attack, and Adrian Peterson will do the same for Washington. After churning out 99 yards in their first meeting against the Cowboys last year, Peterson only had 35 yards on 12 carries in their second contest. Stopping AP shouldn’t be that difficult for this Cowboys defense, but what could get them on their heels is their third-down back Chris Thompson. The veteran receiving back didn’t play against Dallas last season due to injury, but the last time he did, Thompson racked up 76 yards receiving against them. He could be a problem for this defense.
The Cowboys have a receiving back of their own that could attack the Redskins defense. Tony Pollard did next to nothing last game, but with Tavon Austin expected to miss this game due to being in concussion protocol, Pollard could see some extra reps in that “whatever back” role. Don’t be surprised if the rookie running back finds his way into the end zone for his first career NFL touchdown.
5. Don’t let Vernon Davis kill them
Last week, the Cowboys allowed Giants tight end Evan Engram to have 11 catches for 116 yards. The defense had a tough time covering Engram, and he finished as the team’s leading receiver. With no real serious threat at wide receiver, the talent at the tight end position gave Eli Manning the most favorable matchup.
Well, that could again be the case for Case Keenum this week. Washington receivers consist of Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn, and rookie Terry McLaurin. While their receivers feature a few young prospects, they shouldn’t scare any of the Cowboys corners.
Where the Redskins can hurt the defense is with their tight end. Vernon Davis had over 70 yards receiving the last time these two teams played, including a big touchdown. The Cowboys defense just couldn’t contain the Redskins tight end.
Last week against the Eagles, Davis had a big touchdown reception; however, it could’ve been prevented with better tackling.
Fly Eagles, Fly!— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) September 8, 2019
Tackle Eagles, Tackle? Not so much... pic.twitter.com/5qXPJ5KQkU
Case Keenum is a game manager, and tight ends can be their best friends. Reed will miss the game with a concussion, which helps the Cowboys, but they need to be mindful of Davis and his big play ability.