FRISCO, Texas – On their end of things, there's only so much the Cowboys can do about Washington's gameplan. As Jason Garrett loves to remind us, their best course of action is to focus on what they can control and bring their best effort to FedEx Field this weekend.
We here on the outside don't share those limitations, so this is a great space to speculate about what might happen when the Cowboys and Redskins line up this weekend. Whether you want to focus on the Dez Bryant-Josh Norman matchup, or the Dallas pass rush against this Washington offensive line, there's a lot of variables that go into this contest – some of which we'll have to wait for Sunday to see.
Before the weekend begins, here's my final notes on what I'll be looking for during this Week 2 rivalry match:
- The question is if Josh Norman does in fact travel with Dez Bryant, how would that affect the Cowboys' game plan? I am not interested in challenging Norman -- especially with Dak Prescott at quarterback. If Tony Romo was under center, then that's a totally different situation. With Norman you are dealing with corner that makes it difficult for receivers to escape, which asks the quarterbacks to make tight window throws all day. Romo and Bryant have spent enough time together to have an understanding of where the ball needs to be -- especially in that type of coverage. I will say that I do expect Scott Linehan to move Bryant around and try to buy him some space, which means more routes on the move -- which makes Bryant more difficult to cover.
- I have to admit that I am worried about the health of Orlando Scandrick in this game. There is no doubt that Scandrick will line up and play, but how long he can go and how effective he can be is another question. The Redskins are big on routes that carry their receivers across the field, which is going to require Scandrick to have to chase. They're also big on routes where they rub defenders off with picks. This will also make Scandrick's job more difficult, because he's going to have to avoid those picks and then work up the field with the receiver. Without that ability to explode, it is going to put him at a disadvantage with his positioning. This defense needs Scandrick to be right, and I wonder if he's going to be 100 percent ready from a physical standpoint.
- The best edge rusher at this current time for the Cowboys is Benson Mayowa. For the Redskins, Trent Williams is their best offensive lineman. In the past we have seen Rod Marinelli move his rushers around in order to get the best matchups. Given the current situation for the pass rush, I would not waste Mayowa down after down against Williams. Instead, I would consider moving him for a few snaps in order to let him work against Morgan Moses, who is nowhere as good as Williams when it comes to handling an edge rusher. Mayowa with his quickness could put Moses in some bad blocking positions.
- Last week against the Giants, one of the adjustments the defense made during the game was going with a "Dime" package to handle the multiple receivers on the field. As a matter of fact, they were able to generate a sack in that package. It puts J.J. Wilcox onto the field as a safety, which allows Byron Jones to play in the slot. I expect that we will see the same type of idea being used this weekend, considering how the Redskins like to use Jordan Reed and all their other receivers. Defensively, you have to find a way to match up with them and this gives them their best opportunity to do so.
- I don't feel like the Redskins have a running back that is a home run hitter. Matt Jones is a nice player, but he's nowhere as good as what they had in Alfred Morris. Chris Thompson is their third down back and he is very similar to what the Cowboys have in Lance Dunbar. He is short, shifty and can catch the ball. Where he does struggle is if he has to work in blitz pickup. Defensively they have to be ready for him catching screens, especially in the red zone where Jay Gruden likes to sneak him outside and just flip him the ball to work in space.
- If you want a player that could have a big day if the Redskins try to take Dez Bryant out of the game – Brice Butler would be my guy. There were several snaps in the Giants game where Butler was open, but the ball just didn't go his direction. Butler has the ability to be a factor, especially if he has to deal with their nickel corner Dashaun Phillips. I could see Butler taking advantage of Phillips with his size and strength.
- I don't think we'll see a change with Cole Beasley as the primary punt returner when the opponent is at midfield. Lucky Whitehead and Dez Bryant will get the work when the opponent is in the own end or backed up on the goal line. The bottom line is that the coaches just don't trust Whitehead to secure the ball -- especially in their own end of the field.
- My guess at the inactives for the game: QB Tony Romo, RB Darius Jackson, S Kavon Frazier, LB Mark Nezocha, OG Ronald Leary, DE Ryan Davis and DE Charles Tapper.
A look at some highlights from practice at the Ford Center at The Star on Thursday, September 15.