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Cardinals' Pressure Presents Cowboys With Another Challenge Against Blitz

IRVING, Texas – It can't be something the Cowboys' quarterbacks want to hear, but Travis Frederick shared some simple football wisdom this week.

Asked about Washington's success in sending blitzes on Monday night, Frederick put it plainly.

"Whenever something happens like that, you expect to see it again – whether it's this week or next week or six weeks down the road, we'll see something like that again," he said.

The Redskins sacked Tony Romo five times on the night – one of which knocked him out for most of the second half, and has his availability for Sunday in serious jeopardy. Trusting in his cornerbacks to handle one-on-one coverage, Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett simply sent more blitzers than the Cowboys could handle.

When Dallas did handle the pressure, the Cowboys couldn't execute, leaving open receivers and big gains behind in the process.

"The disappointing thing is we weren't able to execute some things that were there against the blitz, and I think that's what gets people out of it," said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. "The fact that we weren't able to do it consistently – we got a couple, but not enough. That was the whole issue."

Going back to Frederick's logic, that second glimpse is likely to come as quickly as this weekend. Arizona has developed a reputation as one of the best blitzing teams in the NFL, and it's not something Cardinals coach Bruce Arians tried to downplay.

"We are a pressure defense – I don't know the statistics, but I'm sure we're in the top two or three in the number of calls," Arians said. "But that's just what we have to do for our players to help them succeed."

In that regard, maybe the breakdowns against Washington are a positive thing. With just five days between games, the Redskins handed the Cowboys a blueprint of their weaknesses just in time to play the Cardinals.

"It's finding the leak before it explodes," Frederick said. "I guess you could say that the pipe exploded last week, but as long as you get it fixed – get a patch on it, hopefully we can make it so nobody's coming through this week."

The Cardinals might come after the quarterback, but it remains to be seen how similar those two gameplans look. Washington utilized a lot of Cover Zero packages – which is to say, the Redskins gave their cornerbacks no help from their safeties, which enabled them to send more blitzers than the Cowboys had blockers.

It's a risky strategy, but one Arians said he would have liked to try first – rather than Washington.

"I think the one thing, when you roll the dice like that and play Cover Zero, it's feast or famine," he said. "I would have rather seen them not do it and let us be the one who surprised them with it, maybe, but it's part of the game and they were successful the other night."

As if the Cowboys didn't have enough to worry about, they might have to make those adjustments with significantly personnel. As of Thursday, Romo's status for Sunday is in doubt, and left guard Ronald Leary and right tackle Doug Free are also coping with injury issues.

It's possible that backup guard Mackenzy Bernadeau and Free's replacement, Jermey Parnell, could making pressure adjustments to protect Brandon Weeden.

"What's great about our offensive line is we have those guys that can step in, the way that Jermey has, and the way that – if Mack needs to – Mack will," Frederick said.

If it comes to that, though, Weeden echoed Linehan's comments – the Cowboys will simply have to execute better.

"You can't get caught with the ball. That's the main thing," he said. "You have to have answers and not get stuck."

[embeddedad0]The Cowboys seem to have been working on those answers. Jason Witten said there's been a heavy focus on protection in practice this week, and Romo said there'll be some adjustments coming.

That's obviously not going to stop Arizona, or anyone else, from attempting to exploit any problems. That's to be expected, and the Cowboys intend to be prepared.

"If Tony plays, it's going to be business as usual, and if Brandon plays, he's going a really good feel for finding guys in man coverage," Linehan said. "We're looking forward to the challenge, and if people want to do that to us, our plan is to be ready for it."

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