It wasn’t the prettiest game on offense for the Dallas Cowboys last week in their win over the New Orleans Saints but the defense showed up which is a good sign going forward. This week they will be facing off against their bitter rival in the Washington Football Team who’s the hottest team in the NFC. This week for the Cowboys marks the make-or-break stretch of games with them going up against the WFT twice in a three-week period. They will need to win these games to keep their lead in the division with the WFT only two games back.
Let’s take a look at what the Washington Football Team is bringing to the table in this week's matchup.
Washington Football Team
2020 Record: 7-9
Last Meeting: 11/26/2020 - Washington Football Team 41 - Cowboys 16
Head Coach: Ron Rivera
Key Additions: WR Curtis Samuel, CB William Jackson, WR Adam Humphries
Key Losses: OLB Chase Young (Knee), TE Logan Thomas (Knee), OLB Ryan Kerrigan, T Morgan Moses, CB Ronald Darby, OLB Montez Sweat (Covid)
Offensive Statistics and Analysis
Offensive Ranking: 20th (ppg)
Passing Offense Ranking: 20th
Rush Offense Ranking: 9th
Last season the Washington Football Team was able to take advantage of a weak NFC East division on their way to the division title and playoffs. This season they are looking to do it all over again, but this time they are playing catch up and have the Cowboys in the sights thanks in part to the play from backup turned starter Taylor Heinicke. Heinicke’s ability to move around in the pocket has helped the offense, and he can also run the ball as he is the second leading rusher with 289 yards behind starting running back Antonio Gibson who has 800 yards on the ground. Currently the Washington Football Team is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and they have been able to use that to milk the clock and slow games down on their opponents because they aren’t able to win games that turn into shootouts.
Heinicke’s time in he pocket has been at 2.6 seconds so far this season which isn’t bad but teams have had success when blitzing him. Out of the 109 blitzes that have come his way he has been hurried into throws 43 times, hit 37 times, and had pressure in his face 104 times which have led to 24 sacks, 11 interceptions, and five fumbles this season. Simply put the Cowboys need to stop Gibson and make Heinicke and his arm beat them this week.
If Heinicke goes to the air, he won’t have tight end Logan Paul as he is done for the season. He will still have Terry McLaurin who is the team’s leading receiver with 61 catches, 808 yards and five touchdowns. Besides McLaurin, Heinicke uses his running back in the passing game as both Gibson and J.D. McKissic (when healthy) are weapons. Expect the Cowboys to try and take McLaurin out of the equation with Trevon Diggs and safety help.
Defensive Statistics and Analysis
Defensive Ranking: 24th (PPG against)
Pass Defense Ranking: 30th
Run Defense Ranking: 3rd
If you’re looking for a team that was built to stop the run then the Washington Football Team is the model you build. Defensive tackles Johnathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Matt Ioannidis in the middle and athletic freaks in OLB Chase Young and Montez Sweat have been the key that runs the engine of this defense. Add to that linebackers Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis and safety Landon Collins and you can see why they are the third best defense in rushing yards allowed with 1,095 yards. But as luck would have it the Cowboys will be facing off against this stout defensive front without their star pass-rushers in Young (knee) and Sweat (Covid) this week. The team is capable of creating pressure in the middle with Allen, Payne, and Ioannidis accounting for 55 out of the 121 defensive pressures put on quarterbacks this season.
But there’s always a flip side to things and that especially goes for the Washington Football Team’s defense that come in as one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Teams are averaging 6.9 yards per reception against this secondary, they have also given up 26 passing touchdowns this season. All season teams with a solid receiving corps and a capable quarterback has been able to move the ball through the air (3,167 yards) which then forced the Washington Football Team offense to play from behind and run the ball less.
Much like last week, the Cowboys will have to use their passing attack to good effect as that is the weak spot for the Washington defense, while the run defense can make things very difficult.