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Final Thoughts: Testing Josh Norman, Continuing The Red Zone Success; More
FRISCO, Texas -- Alright, let’s do some housekeeping before we get set for kickoff against the Washington Redskins.
Just about everything went right for the Cowboys last weekend in San Francisco, which leads to the fascinating question: can they carry it forward against sturdier opposition? The Redskins are a .500 team on paper, but they’ve got some impressive performances on their resume this season.
Weather is going to be a factor in this game, as are injuries -- even if those are talking points that coaches and players would rather avoid. Here are my last few notes on what to watch for when this game gets underway Sunday afternoon:
- Everything appears to be alright with Tyron Smith and his back. Smith missed several days of practice last week, then played in the 49ers game. This week, Smith only missed Wednesday and was able to get through without any issues. Smith will be matched up this week against Preston Smith, who has done a nice job playing the run and getting pressure on the quarterback opposite Ryan Kerrigan.
- It might sound crazy, but if I am Scott Linehan, I test Josh Norman's health early in this game. Norman has missed the previous two games with a rib injury. If he's going to carry Dez Bryant in this game, make him have to play in it. Put Bryant on the move and put this ball in his hands to see how bad Norman wants to be physical with him.
- I liked what I saw from Jaylon Smith as a blitzer last week. Going forward, he appears to have no problem doing it, and the power he shows might lead to setting him up as that extra rusher in certain packages. It's the old saying that coaches put their players in situations where they have the best chance to succeed. Maybe they can find a niche for Smith this way?
- How good has Dak Prescott been through six games? He has a quarterback rating of 109.3 when he gets inside the opponent’s 30-yard line. As a team, the Cowboys offensively have scored a touchdown 65 percent of the time when they get into that area, which is best in the NFL.
- I think Kyle Wilber is going to try to give it a go with his knee injury this weekend. But if for some reason he can’t play, I’d imagine Justin March-Lillard will handle his duties. March-Lillard had a special teams tackle against the 49ers. Wilber has seen action in some base looks as a rotational guy and March-Lillard would likely do the same. He has some experience in the league while at Kansas City, Miami and Seattle playing linebacker.
- As well as La'el Collins has played this season, we need to still keep an eye on him if he's going to require any help against Ryan Kerrigan. With the way the Cowboys like to occasionally get in "12" and "13" personnel groups, keeping Jason Witten or James Hanna in to block would make perfect sense. If Collins appears to be holding up well, then we will likely not see that adjustment and continue to allow him to handle him one-on-one. But all this will be decision by the staff as the game progresses.
- Even with Mike Nugent on the squad, I caught wind that Jeff Heath still took some practice kicks during the field goal period on Thursday. Still can't get over how well he preformed in that 49ers game with no time to even prep for the opportunity.