Washington Redskins (1-3) at Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
Sunday - 8:30pm on NBC
Cowboys lead the all-time series 62-42-2
This week's opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, sit atop the NFC East with a 2-3 record along with the Philadelphia Eagles. In order for the Redskins to win on Sunday and show they are capable of being a division contender, they MUST do the following:
1) Contain Dez Bryant - The Cowboys really have no other steady threat at wide receiver. Even though Miles Austin practiced for the first time in two weeks this Wednesday, he has battled with a hamstring injury most of the year and rookie Terrence Williams is still inconsistent. In Week 17 last year, DeAngelo Hall did a fantastic job covering and limiting an injured Bryant. This week, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett would not say which corner will be responsible for him, but whoever it is will have their hands full, as Bryant has the speed and strength to take one to the house at any time. Staying in front of him and limiting his yards after the catch will be crucial. Tight end Jason Witten continues to give defenses fits as well, and his excellent play will no doubt continue. The hope is to limit his damage, but that is no small feat and Redskins linebackers have already been struggling in that department.
2) Neutralize DeMarcus Ware by continuing to show more of the "real" read option and utilizing play-action and roll outs - The Redskins offense that was on display against Detroit in Week 3 was exhibited again and continued to show progress against Oakland in Week 4. They also showed that they are capable of running a dangerous hurry-up offense when they choose to, which means Dallas must prepare for that as well. The Cowboys currently rank only 31st in the NFL in pass defense and 30th in total defense.
3) Attack the Cowboys linebackers with tight ends Fred Davis and Jordan Reed - The last two games against the Chargers and the Broncos, Dallas had a tough time defending the middle of the field. Starting outside linebacker Bruce Carter was benched two weeks ago in favor of Ernie Sims for struggling in pass coverage. Sims has not fared much better and the Redskins should look to capitalize.
4) Pick on Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne - He has been having shoulder issues that have compounded the struggles he was already having in the defensive secondary. In Week 1, he dislocated his left shoulder and has been wearing a brace since. Due to the injury, he fell out of the starting lineup and has indicated the shoulder still bothers him. His play improved last week with a recovered fumble and an interception, but overall his performance has been a weakness. Heading into Week 5, Claiborne had given up the third most yards by any defender in the NFL with 332 passing yards allowed.
5) Unleash Orakpo and Kerrigan and wait for Tony Romo to make mistakes, because he WILL - Romo has been consistent at making horrible decisions at the worst possible times. As usual, putting pressure on him will only speed up the process. While he is very capable of making big plays with his arm and feet, he also is very apt at killing his team with ill-timed errors of judgement. In addition, going into the season Dallas looked like they would have offensive line issues at almost every spot except center, where rookie Travis Frederick came in as a first round pick and played well immediately. While they have played slightly better than expected, they have already given up thirteen sacks. Also, in the Redskins favor, they will be getting linebacker Rob Jackson and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins back from suspensions. That should help a defense that has ranked 19th in the NFL in total defense and only 31st in sacks with a total of seven through four games this season.
The Dallas Cowboys shocked the world and almost beat the Denver Broncos last week. The key part of that last statement, however, is "almost". The reason they lost was that their defense gave up chunks of yards through the air and their offense made crucial errors. Sound familiar? It should, as every Redskins fan could say the same thing about their team's play thus far in 2013. That being said, the Redskins should have an edge in that they are coming off a confidence building victory in their last game, are getting injured and suspended players back healthy, and have had two weeks to prepare.
Let's hope it makes a difference.