The Cowboys and Redskins meet on Sunday night with both teams desperate for a victory. In a division where every team is struggling, this game has a playoff feel to it. The Redskins won the division last season and were favored to repeat, but a 1 – 3 start has left them with more questions than answers at this point.
The Redskins have had their issues on both sides of the ball but that's not to say, as a group they cannot put it all together at the flip of a switch. They still rely on Robert Griffin III and his surgically repaired knee to make plays. Through four weeks of the season, we have seen a Griffin III that has been more interested in making plays with his arm, than he is his legs. To this point, Griffin III only has 72 yards rushing, with 21 of that coming on one run. There have been times on film, like in the Green Bay game where he could have had an easy 15 yard run going to his left but instead of taking that he delivered the ball to his receiver for a 8 yard gain. The Redskins still get in a pistol formation or "Ace" and run the read option out of it with Alfred Morris. [embedded_ad]
Where Griffin III has struggled the most and this was something that was one of his strengths last season, is protecting the ball. He was one of the best in the league when it came to not allowing turnovers. This season, he has already thrown four interceptions which is rare for him. When he is on target, usually in the middle of the field, it is to Pierre Garcon who leads the club in receptions. What is difficult for a corner in dealing with Garcon is how physical he is coming off the line. He does a really nice job of using his strength and power to bully defenders. He gets separation with his power and he has the ability to catch the ball on the move and present problems in the open field. The coaches like to get him the ball on screens and let him just run through the secondary.
Josh Morgan is the starter on the other side but he will also split time with Leonard Hankerson, who is another big bodied receiver. The always dangerous, Santana Moss is also in the mix but what has been different about him in the games that I was able to study, he had some bad drops of the ball while he was on the move. Throughout his career, he has been a "Cowboy Killer" so I would expect nothing different from him.
The Redskins most productive passing formation is when they get in "11" personnel with the three wide receivers and Logan Paulsen. Rookie Jordan Reed has also pitched in for Fred Davis who has not been as productive as he has been in the past. There is nothing that Paulsen does great but he also can make a play or two when you are not expecting it. As much as this Cowboys defense has struggled with tight end play these last two week, there are things that these Redskins players skill wise can cause problems with.
When Trent Williams was drafted with their first pick in 2010, I remember asking a Redskins scout why they made that selection. His answer was very simple, to block these elite rushers in the NFC East. Williams has been a very steady and at times, dominate left tackle. He has a nasty side to him and when he gets his hands on you, he can finish the job. Throughout his playing career, he has given DeMarcus Ware fits. He is a relentless run blocker and shut down pass blocker. He is not the smoothest moving player but he just keeps coming after you. This is never an easy matchup for Ware to have to handle.
With Williams on the left side, he is paired with who I think is their second best linemen, in Kory Lichtensteiger. When you study the tape, this combination is awfully solid for the Redskins. Lichtensteiger is very quick off the ball and getting into his blocks. He knows how to play in order to get in position to control his man. He does a really nice job of playing on his feet and it is rare that you see him on the ground or knocked back. When the Redskins want to run the ball, their left side is where they like to go. The club is averaging 6.1 yards a carry behind these two.
Where it appears that the weakness is with this line, is at right guard with Chris Chester. I do not see a powerful player here and in the running game, there are plays where he gets no movement and often times, he is handled at the point of attack. Tackle Tyler Polumbus also has his issues with power and when rushers take him hard down inside, there are problems there. Where he does have some success is when he kicks wide, gets his hands extended and work his feet to the outside. He is more of a catch blocker than one that is going to sit down on the line with the rusher.
Alfred Morris is a perfect back for this Mike Shanahan offense. There is nothing fancy about the way he carries the ball. He is an attacking downhill runner that punishes tacklers along the way. In will line up in this "Ace" formation and they will hand him the ball or they will toss it to him on the sweep. He is not a breakaway type of back with home run speed, but a consistent grinder of the ball. He is a load to deal with and if you don't get to him early, he can wear you out. Roy Helu is the 3rd down back and where he is most effective is catching the ball out of the backfield. Have to be aware of him, acting like he is blocking, then releasing out of the backfield. If he does have to protect, he really struggles. Could be something that these linebackers take advantage of.