FRISCO, Texas – Here is a look at the two matchups I think will have the biggest impact on Thursday's outcome between the Cowboys and Redskins.
Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Washington Redskins CB Bashaud Breeland
The last time these two clubs met, Bryant was targeted 12 times. Of those 12, seven targets were at Breeland, who allowed four receptions. What was surprising about those targets was how Breeland was playing Bryant. He was backed off, giving him plenty of space in the route.
That's a sharp contrast to how Josh Norman played Bryant, just inches from his face. Bryant had two targets against Norman and ended up without a reception.
In studying tape of Breeland this past week against the Packers, he was in more press coverage than he was off. He did a nice job of crowding Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. The tactic worked well, as both receivers combined just six total receptions. Just watching Breeland play, he looks far more comfortable playing when he is in a press position than he does when he is off. His technique is better when he can get his hands on the receiver. He wants to be physical and mix things up. When he is off, it takes him out of that type of game.
Dallas likes to move Bryant around to keep him away from coverages designed to take him out of the game. It's rare that Norman will leave his left cornerback spot, but there were times where defensive coordinator Joe Barry did travel him to mark Bryant, so that's always a possibility.
With a short week, I think that Barry will stick to his game plan and ask Breeland to play more press man and be the guy to try to deal with Bryant in this game.
Dallas Cowboys DE Tyrone Crawford vs. Washington Redskins OT Moses Morgan
In Week 2, this was the game where Tyrone Crawford started out at defensive tackle, then shifted outside to end. It was the Redskins' final drive when Crawford was able to beat Morgan around the edge for an eight-yard sack of Kirk Cousins.
Morgan is one of those tackles that has extremely long arms and he uses them to his advantage. He was a left tackle at Virginia but has been a right tackle in the NFL. He is at his best when he can extend those arms and keep rushers off his body. Where he gets in trouble and is broken down is when rushers get to him.
He has lower body stiffness, and he lacks the quickness to block edge speed if he is taken wide. He is not the best athlete among the Redskins' offensive linemen. He will drop his head and eyes in pass protection. He plays high and without knee bend at times in pass protection. Rushers can drive him back.
This is where I see Crawford taking advantage of him with his power. Even if Crawford can't mount much of a rush, driving Morgan back into Cousins is a way to affect him in the pocket. Forcing Cousins to throw over the top of him will cause some accuracy problems.
The game plan for Crawford is to win with his initial quickness due to the lack of Morgan's foot quickness. Crowd noise should also help Crawford, because Morgan will be forced to peek inside to try and see the snap.