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Cowboys defense set for matchup with Commanders, looking for 2-0 start in East without Prescott

After beating Daniel Jones on the road, the Cowboys get their first look at Carson Wentz with Washington this Sunday.

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Commanders Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Cowboys kept their win streak against NFC East opposition alive on Monday night at the Giants, and now quickly face another divisional test versus the Commanders this Sunday. The Cowboys swept Washington by a combined score of 83-34 last season, but will see the Commanders with Carson Wentz at quarterback for the first time. Wentz has his new team off to a 1-2 start, beating the Jaguars in week one but losing to the Lions and Eagles in consecutive weeks.

The Commanders only managed a late touchdown in their 24-8 loss to the Eagles, who are off to the best start in the East at 3-0. The Cowboys may have Dak Prescott’s comeback to look forward to by the time they see the Eagles in two weeks, but for now can’t afford a let down at home vs Washington. Where outside fans may be expecting the clock to strike midnight for Cooper Rush leading the Cowboys to wins, the team has all the confidence they need in their backup thanks to a stretch of great play-calling from Kellen Moore.

For as much praise as the Cowboys offense has earned in their response from week one, it will still be Dan Quinn’s defense trying to will this team to a three-game win streak. With an aggressive game plan against the Giants netting five sacks, the Cowboys took the league lead in total sacks into a matchup with the team that’s allowed the most entering Week 4.

Wentz has been sacked 15 times in three games, and has thrown four career interceptions against the Cowboys. Dallas hasn’t quite found the turnover luck they generated last season yet, but did intercept Tom Brady in week one and Daniel Jones to seal the win last week. Taking this a step further against the Commanders would be a welcome sight similar to last year, where the Cowboys scored on a Dorance Armstrong fumble return in the road win and a DeMarcus Lawrence pick six in the rout at AT&T Stadium.

This Sunday will also mark the first common opponent the Cowboys share with the Eagles, whose 3-0 start has been put under the microscope and broken down at every angle. Just how good the Eagles are after strengthening their roster heavily in free agency is still unknown as the NFC’s last unbeaten team. Philadelphia has certainly won with style points against the Lions, Vikings, and Commanders, and now the Cowboys can prove themselves against the same Commanders team.

Washington Football Team v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

In the fourth quarter of last year’s home win versus Washington, Cooper Rush threw a touchdown to Malik Turner. Turner may not be with the Cowboys anymore, but Rush has seen similar receivers step up around him with CeeDee Lamb emerging as the WR1 and Noah Brown making the most of his opportunity behind him.

Against a Commanders defense that gave up 340 passing yards and three touchdowns to Jalen Hurts, the Cowboys will need Rush to make plays through the air while not ignoring the emphasis they’ve put on the run game.

With Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen leading the Commanders in tackles for loss from the interior, this is a tough front for the Cowboys to run against, but plays should be there on the edge for both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.

For the Cowboys defense, tightening up the big plays they allowed to Daniel Jones should be a focus against Wentz. Their run defense has been much tighter than it was compared to a year ago though, slowing down Saquon Barkley in preparation for this matchup against Antonio Gibson and Curtis Samuel.

The fact the Cowboys can be considered favorites against the Commanders with Cooper Rush at quarterback means a lot for the outlook on the rest of this season, but they face another mobile quarterback and strong rush defense this week. A loss to the Commanders would be a significant setback for the Cowboys with the Rams on the schedule to follow, but a win will only build the expectations for a team nowhere close to full strength but looking to repeat as division champions.

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