The Dallas Cowboys head to Fed Ex Field to face off against the rival Redskins Sunday in what will be their second division game in as many weeks.
The rival Redskins are coming off of a tough loss at the hands of a powerhouse Steelers team. The Steelers have a formidable front 7 that held the Redskins to a meager 55 rushing yards and 16 points.
To add to the Redskins pain, 33 year old DeAngelo Williams gashed them for 143 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. Big Ben connected with Antonio Brown for 126 yards and 2 TDs. The 38 – 16 thrashing they endured has their defense ranked 31st in points allowed (38). 26th vs the run (147 yards) and 28th in total defense (427 yards). Ouch!
To make matters worse, both All Pro left tackle Trent Williams and right tackle Morgan Moses are dealing with injury issues. Williams is listed as questionable for Sundays match-up. Moses was listed as a full participant in Thursdays practice. Obviously the Cowboys don’t have Tony Romo at the helm, so we can’t expect the same level of success as All-Pro QB Ben Roethlisberger.
The Cowboys Win IF:
1. They need to establish the run. There is no reason why the Cowboys shouldn’t be able to run the ball better if they start the veteran, Alfred Morris.
I understand there are high expectations for the 4th overall pick, Ezekiel Elliott. However, it takes a certain amount of chemistry with the OL to effectively run the ball in the Cowboys scheme. It also takes a better understanding of NFL defenses. Elliott missed too much time in the off-season to be ready to start. It’s okay for a 1st round pick to take the necessary time to develop properly.
Alfred Morris has had a lot of success in this league. He carried the load for the entire off-season. He has the necessary chemistry with the OL and understanding of NFL defenses. Morris earned that starting job. Figure in his familiarity with a defense he practiced against every day, it’s a no-brainer to give him the nod on Sunday. The Cowboys continue to lose because they cater to their draft picks rather than starting the best players.
2. Dak Prescott has got to get the ball in the hands of his biggest play maker, Dez Bryant. In fact, he is going to have to prove that he has the vision to see the open receivers on the deep routes. He needs prove he has the willingness to take those shots down the field. There were more than a few times vs the Giants that Brice Butler or Terrance Williams were open down field. Having had only 5 completions between three wide receivers, and only one to Dez Bryant, will not do.
The coaches will need to get creative in the way they use Bryant. I would move him around in order to find favorable match-ups. Sending him on deep vertical routes most of the time makes it too easy to game plan for him. Bryant gives them the best chance for yards after the catch because of his size and physicality.
In recent years the Cowboys have had no answer for the Redskins blitz packages. Prescott had plenty of time in the pocket vs the Giants. If the Redskins come after him the way they did Tony Romo and Kellen Moore, it could get ugly. He is not going to have all of that time to get through his progressions.
As long as Prescott keeps throwing nothing but high percentage underneath passes, teams will focus on stopping the run. The run has been successful in the past because teams had to worry about getting burnt deep. I am all in for using the short passing game as an extension to the run. However, a quarterback needs to be able to use that to set up the deep ball while teams are loading the box .
If he allows the Redskins to load the box and focus on stopping the run, they will become one dimensional. Last but not least, Dak Prescott has got to be able to find the endzone. The Cowboys won’t win many games relying on the leg of Dan Bailey. There were far too many missed opportunities in the red zone.
A lot of folks want to take shots at the defense, but they played a damn good game. What Rod Marinelli was able to do against one of the best offenses in the league, was amazing. Considering the weapons he has, holding Eli Manning to only 203 passing yards is commendable. The Cowboys lost because Prescott was unable to find the endzone and/or impose a deep threat.
I can remember countless games that Tony Romo put up over 30 points and lost. Jason Garrett has a tendency to throw the defense under the bus of late despite allowing a lot less points than previous years..
The fact is: the Cowboys’ defense is currently ranked 11th for points allowed (20), 9th in total defense (316 yards), 11th vs the pass (203 yards) and 21st vs the run (113 yards). Rod Marinelli has accomplished this with a bunch of late round or undrafted guys and street free agents. The missing starters along the defensive line and at MLB explain the problems stopping the run.
All of the starters are healthy on offense. There are 3 first round picks on the offensive line and one with a first round grade. They have a $70 million wide receiver and used the 4th overall pick on a RB. At the end of the day, the lack of production is on the quarterback and the head coach. They are using Garrett’s offense which is ranked 24th in points (19), 20th in total offense (318 yards) and 20th in passing (227 yards).
Poor personnel decisions such as starting a rookie RB over a veteran and the inability to scheme to the strengths of the multitude of talented players on a loaded offense speaks volumes. Opting to put Kellen Moore on season ending IR and trusting the foreseeable future to a 4th round QB with no experience in a pro-style offense wont help.
Al posted a very informative article on Moore’s injury: Kellen Moore Will Bounce Back. Based on medical facts, Kellen Moore would have been able to return by week three or four at the latest. By once again catering to a draft pick, the best player wont play. They paid dearly for not playing Moore sooner last year. The offense thus far, is a clone of the 2015 version.
The outcome of the game vs a porous Redskins defense that allowed 38 points week one, and 435 yards to Kellen Moore week 17, will be based on whether or not Dak Prescott can impose a deep threat to set up the run, and/or find the endzone. Enough said.