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Final Thoughts: New Look For The Defense? Favorable Looks For Dez; More

*FRISCO, Texas – *It feels like it’s been a lot longer than 12 days, but here we are.

This rough stretch is finally at an end for the Cowboys, and they’ll get some time to rest when this game against Washington is over. Before that, though, it would be nice if they could break this three-game losing streak heading into the final month of the season.

The Redskins aren’t in great shape themselves, as they limp into this game with plenty of injuries of their own, not to mention the same 5-6 record as the Cowboys. Tonight’s winner claims second place in the NFC East and stays afloat in the wild card hunt, while the loser has a long wait for another chance to grab a win.

Here’s my final notebook of the week on this division rivalry game:

  • These coaches know that changes needed to be made on the defensive side of the ball, so I think Chidobe Awuzie will start for Anthony Brown. We could also see some changes at the nickel spot where Orlando Scandrick usually plays inside. Coaches could decide to go with Brown or Xavier Woods there and keep Scandrick on the outside. I asked Jason Garrett about the possibility of Brown going back to the role that he had in 2016 where he was successful and he didn’t rule it out. If Woods plays inside and Scandrick on the outside, then that would mean Brown and Jourdan Lewis would be coming off the bench in sub package work if needed.
  • It doesn’t look like La’el Collins got any work during the week, so we will see how things play out for him for this game. He’s really a game time decision. Collins has been dealing with a back injury and in his place Byron Bell has been getting the snaps. Bell made the start against the Eagles at left tackle and wasn’t a liability, so it make sense for him to get the start on the right side if needed.
  • There were some questions about Anthony Hitchens and his availability earlier in the week. I can say now that he will be good to go. Justin Durant won’t be available so look for Jaylon Smith, Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber to be the starters at linebacker when they go to their base packages. 
  • I hinted around last week that we might see Ryan Switzer on the inactive list, but he did dress against the Chargers. I am once again getting the feeling that the coaches might be leaning that direction again this week. Where Switzer has been a primary help has been as a return specialist. If he does not dress with Darren McFadden no longer on the club, those responsibilities could fall on the shoulders of Jourdan Lewis and Cole Beasley. If you remember from training camp, Lewis did get some work as the kickoff return man.
  • There has been a lot of talk about the lack of a downfield passing game for the Cowboys. I would not be one bit surprised to see more of those attempts coming against the Redskins. Dez Bryant has had some success running those deeper routes when he faced Bashaud Breeland. If the protection can hold up against Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith, the way the Redskins play in the secondary -- especially at safety -- should lead to more space for these Cowboys receivers to work.
  • I like the Cowboys’ chances for some inside pressure on Kirk Cousins from Maliek Collins and David Irving, with Tony Bergstrom and Arie Kouandijo starting. Neither Bergstrom nor Kouandijo play with any power and will struggle controlling Collins and Irving. Collins has been better since moving back to nose tackle, but Irving hasn’t been as good. This is a great chance for him to get back on track. Brandon Scherff is back in the lineup opposite Kouandijo, so that will help the Redskins’ line -- but there are still questions at tackle with Trent Williams and Morgan Moses struggling with various injuries.
  • I will be interested to see how the Cowboys handle all of the Redskins crossing routes in this game. The Chargers made a living last week attacking the defense by running guys across the field. There were communication and coordination problems that didn’t help and with some new starters in the mix this could be even more of an issue. The Cowboys are near the bottom of the league when it comes to defending on third down and a large part of that is due to their inability to handle routes – thus, you have these changes in personnel.   
  • My weekly guess on the Cowboys inactives: WR Ryan Switzer, RB Trey Williams, LB Sean Lee, LB Justin Durant, DE Datone Jones, DT Daniel Ross, TE Blake Jarwin.
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