FRISCO, Texas – Here's a look at the two big matchups I have my eye on this weekend at FedEx Field.
Dallas Cowboys OG Connor Williams vs. Washington Redskins DT Da'Ron Payne
Connor Williams has faced the powerful Da'Ron Payne before, but he is now better equipped to handle him with his added weight and strength. Williams understands that Payne is a powerful man who has the ability to walk him straight back into Dak Prescott's lap, so his ability to set his feet and anchor down in the front of that pocket will be a key.
Williams cannot allow Payne to bully him in this game. Payne doesn't use many pass rush moves and he's going to want to push with power in order to get home. Last week against the Eagles, Payne was able to penetrate deep enough in the pocket that he knocked down a pass from Carson Wentz.
Where Williams also has to be careful is in the running game, where Payne is difficult to move. Payne manages to keep his shoulders square to prevent from being turned. By playing this way, it makes it more difficult for Ezekiel Elliott to feel the lane or find where to make the cut. Payne uses not only his own body to clog the hole, but the blockers as well in order to create doubt for the back.
What will help the Cowboys in this game is that Jonathan Allen is likely to miss with a knee sprain. That means Travis Frederick can keep a closer eye on what is going on with Williams and Payne to lend a hand if necessary.
Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis vs. Washington Redskins WR Trey Quinn
This matchup could switch depending on what the staff decides to do with Byron Jones and Anthony Brown. If Jones were to start, I believe they would move Brown to the slot and Lewis would become the dime back. Or they could start Brown and use Jones as the dime, which means Lewis would continue to play as the slot. If Jones were to start, the staff might choose to keep Lewis in the slot due to the fact that he will likely practice there all week. I know that sounds confusing, but there are a lot of moving parts here.
For the sake of this matchup, I am going with Lewis in the slot and the matchup with Quinn. What I like about this from the Cowboys' perspective is how competitive Lewis plays. He will contest every ball, which is what you need when dealing with a player like Quinn. He's an outstanding receiver. He gets in and out of his routes quickly without any wasted motion. He's not just running routes. There is a plan to his game and Lewis knows this.
Lewis has to be ready to move all over the field. Jay Gruden's scheme has the receivers executing all types of crossing routes. Lewis is going to be in chase mode from the opening whistle, but that should not bother him too much. Where Lewis needs to be careful is not holding Quinn off the line and drawing flags. They're similar in size and it would be easy for him to have that happen.