FRISCO, Texas – First road trip of the season, and a chance to stack two good performances together.
It's never easy when the Cowboys go up to FedEx Field, and I don't expect Sunday to be any different. In anticipation of this game against the Washington Redskins, here's what I've got my eye on in Week 2.
- I have gone back and forth on whether or not Byron Jones starts at right cornerback. Anthony Brown made the start in his place last week against the Giants. But thanks to his own hard work and that of Britt Brown, Jones appears ready to take more of a role after playing well in the work that he received. In talking to people about him and how he practiced, it was all thumbs up in the way that he was moving and responding to the work. Armed with this information, I do believe he's going to start and Anthony Brown will move inside to the nickel with Jourdan Lewis playing as the dime.
- I expect we will continue to see Kellen Moore utilize the bunch formations that were so successful against the Giants. Putting Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb together presents problems for the secondary to deal with when it comes to sorting out coverage. When the receivers come off the line, it creates natural picks due to the exchange of routes and defenders will struggle to get through the trash. Jimmy Moreland is a rookie and the Redskins' nickel corner. Covering Randall Cobb will be a tall task, and making him fight to do so would only put more stress on the defense. This is an area Moore could choose to attack.
- Don't know if I am going out on a limb here, but I am expecting a big game from Tyrone Crawford. My reasoning is the matchup with Donald Penn -- especially if the Redskins have to put the ball in the air a great deal. With no Trent Williams, Penn has taken over as the left tackle and he's not the same player he was in Oakland. I expect Crawford to take advantage of that. My reasoning here is that the longer Penn has to hold his block, the more he struggles with his sustain. Crawford has always played with a relentless effort, and if he gets a tackle that struggles to match his relentlessness, he has success.
- Having no Jonathan Allen in the lineup is a huge blow for the Redskins. Allen is such a load to deal with – which we observed in the two games these clubs played last season. He and Da'Ron Payne are hard guys to move in the running game. Allen's backup, Caleb Brantley, hasn't practiced all week with a foot problem and will likely not play this week. That leaves Tim Settle, who normally will line up as a nose tackle, to play in his spot. Washington's staff could also choose to play Treyvon Hester or bring Ryan Bee or Chris Odom up off the practice squad. Settle makes the most sense, given that he saw some action last week against the Eagles.
- If you haven't heard the name Terry McLaurin by now, shame on you for not watching "The Draft Show" or checking up on the Redskins from last week. McLaurin had a huge first game against the Eagles with five receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown. He could have had a second, long touchdown but Case Keenum overthrew him by just a couple of yards. I will guarantee that Jay Gruden once again takes a shot down the field with him. McLaurin has the speed to get deep quickly and these corners know it. Where Kris Richard and his crew have to be careful with McLaurin is his ability to catch the ball on the move, especially on crossing routes.
- The gut feeling I have this week is that Ezekiel Elliott will get a full complement of work. I don't see the staff holding him back in this game. With that being said, Tony Pollard and Jamize Olawale will be ready, as well. What I am looking forward to seeing is if Kellen Moore uses some combination of these backs on the field at the same time. Pollard was used that way while at Memphis, as he and Darrell Henderson worked together with great success. Pollard is such a weapon out of the backfield when it comes to receiving the ball, so it's only natural that the staff gets him more involved that way. A combination of Elliott and Pollard would bring some serious juice to the backfield.
- Darian Thompson and Donovan Wilson were back at practice this week. That means the squad had all of their safeties practicing after being shorthanded against the Giants. I had heard that C.J. Goodwin even took a few snaps during practice in case they had an injury or two during the game. I was hearing that Goodwin was back at corner while Thompson was running with the backups, while Wilson was on the scout team. With that knowledge, look for Thompson to dress and Wilson to be inactive. That would give them: Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier and Thompson. All four play special teams and that will help in that area.
- I am concerned about the Redskins just loading up with Adrian Peterson and testing this Cowboys run defense. Peterson is not Saquon Barkley, but he's fresh and their offensive line is capable of making that work. It could be Jay Gruden's plan to shorten the game and protect his own defense from having to deal with all these weapons the Cowboys have. I believe Gruden wants to turn this into an ugly, low scoring game and use as much clock as possible. Hammering Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson at this front seven might give him the best chance to take this game.