*The Nemesis: Jason Witten *
In 20 games played against the Washington Redskins, Jason Witten has caught 94 passes for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns. Throughout his long career, Witten has always been a thorn in the side of the Redskins, who have found it very difficult to match his ability to get up the field. In this game on Sunday, Witten should once again get those opportunities to find space in this secondary who will most likely have to use their safeties to help in coverage on Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.
With Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan coming up with schemes that get multiple receivers on the field, as we saw in the Broncos game, it stretches the defense horizontally and it creates space for Witten to work underneath and up the field. It will be interesting to see if the Redskins treat Witten like a receiver and match him that way or does Brandon Merriweather and Bacarri Rambo draw that assignment. I believe that Rambo would be more physical in coverage than Merriweather but because he has more experience than the rookie in these situations that he will most likely get that call. Regardless, I expect a big game, once again from Witten.
The Weapon: Dan Bailey
It would have been real easy for me to talk about Dez Bryant, DeMarcus Ware or Tony Romo for the weapon here but if you take a closer look at the numbers in the last 10 meetings between the Cowboys and Redskins, five of those games were decided by three points of less and this is where Dan Bailey comes it. Bailey has attempted 12 field goals in his career against the Redskins and he has yet to miss. In 2011, Bailey was even a perfect six-for-six, which accounted for all the points in a victory over the Redskins 18 – 16.
Where Bailey has been automatic, his work as a kickoff man, has been flawless. In 30 kick off opportunities, opponents have only been able to return the ball eight times for an average starting field position of 20.5. Bailey's kick offs last week against the Broncos was one of the deciding factors that held the dangerous Trindon Holliday in check only allowing him 24 yards a return. Despite what we have seen from both the Cowboys and Redskins through five games, I believe that this will be another tight game and will most likely come down to three points which I would happily put on the toe of Dan Bailey.
Under The Radar: Orlando Scandrick
The Washington Redskins are going to throw the ball 58% of the time on first down. How this Cowboys secondary plays on those downs, will be vital to their success on Sunday night. There has been less running by Robert Griffin III and more of him making throws from the pocket. The last two weeks, pressure from this Cowboys defensive line has struggled to get home and something needs to be done about it.
The most consistent player on this defense has been Orlando Scandrick whether he has played outside in the base or out of the nickel. Where Scandrick can help this defense the most is not only in his coverage but as a slot blitzer to create some problems for Griffin III in the pocket. Monte Kiffin has used Scandrick in that role that he once had for Ronde Barber and he has had some success. Of Scandrick's 6.5 career sacks, two of them have come against the Redskins. Scandrick has a really nice feel for how to attack the pocket and do it in a way not to draw a penalty on his blitz. I would not be one bit surprised to see Kiffin take advantage of bringing Orlando Scandrick off the edge.
The Nemesis: Robert Griffin III
There are very few quarterbacks in the National Football League that can say they have never lost to the Dallas Cowboys, but Robert Griffin III is one of those. Though his sample size is only two games, his play against them in my view, was the difference in those games. What is different about Griffin III from what I have seen from last season to this, is more of a willingness to make throws from the pocket. I am not saying that, Griffin III is Peyton Manning back there, because you will see him move and buy a second or two more to get the ball down the field.
The Redskins will still line up in "Ace" formation and go through all the play action reads, which is a strength of Griffin III. For a young quarterback, he is one of the best that I have seen handling the ball on the move. He is extremely smart and it is rare that you see him make a poor or bad read, when running the read option. When throwing the ball, he is going to look down the field first. He looks more comfortable throwing the ball in the middle of the field than anywhere else, which is where the Cowboys have had their troubles.
The Weapon: Pierre Garcon
If I were on the Cowboys defensive coaching staff, I would be very concerned about how we were planning on how to deal with Pierre Garcon in this game. Offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan has done a really nice job of creating plays to get the ball in Garcon's hands and allowing him to do the rest. There has become a really nice bond between Garcon and Griffin III, to the point where Griffin III will just throw the ball in the general direction of Garcon with the understanding that he is going to make the play regardless where the ball is.
What has been impressive about Garcon is how much power that he plays with when they get him the ball. You will see him catch a quick screen and he explodes up the field, leaving tacklers in his wake. Garcon likes to also work the middle of the field and not just on simple routes, but those deep crossing routes between the linebackers and the safeties. He is not afraid to catch the ball in traffic and will compete, if he has too. When you play Garcon, you have to be physical with him because if you don't, he will try and beat you up. Tough matchup.
Under The Radar: Jordan Reed
The Redskins like to use their tight ends on game day and all of them play a role. There was a time where Fred Davis was the lead dog in the sled for the Redskins offense, but Logan Paulsen has taken a lot of his responsibilities when it comes to being the only tight end on the field. Matter of fact, the Redskins most successful passing formation is when Paulson is on the field, with three other wide receivers.
But keep an eye on rookie Jordan Reed, who has had two weeks to recover from a deep thigh bruise that he suffered in the Lions game. What I have seen from Reed is a player that is more of a route runner than he is a blocker. Very good on his run after catch and with 4.71 speed, can be a matchup problem for linebackers and safeties to have to deal with. Has made 13 catches in three games with one touchdown.
The Redskins like to move their tight ends around the formation and line them up in different spots and this is to take advantage of players like Reed to get him in space off play action fakes. Reed can be a mismatch player for a defense that has struggled in coverage with the tight end position the last two weeks.