IRVING, Texas – A look at my two key matchups for Sunday's regular season finale against the Washington Redskins.
Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick against Redskins WR DeSean Jackson
We have seen in these previous games a willingness from Rod Marinelli to try and help his defense by playing with more matchups across the board when it comes to athletic ability. Last week against the Colts, Marinelli had Scandrick ready to take T.Y. Hilton in the ball game, but when Hilton was unable to play, it allowed him to use Scandrick in other ways.
If you go back to the previous meeting between these two teams, it was Jackson who hurt the Cowboys with two vertical plays down the field, while Scandrick was on another receiver. What makes Jackson so dangerous is his vertical speed, and Marinelli, after seeing those plays in his preparation but also seeing what Jackson was able to do against the Eagles last week, he understands that he will need to match a player on him that can handle that assignment.
Scandrick is the one player that can press Jackson but also turn and run with him. Scandrick is comfortable with his speed and quickness after years of facing him. Part of the battle of facing Jackson is having an understanding of how fast he can really move. It is clear that Jay Gruden wants to make things simple for Robert Griffin III and just taking vertical shots down the field and quick screens give him the most chance for success. It will be Orlando Scandrick's job to choke that off.
Cowboys LBs against Redskins RB Alfred Morris
When these two teams met in October, it was one of the worst games for the Cowboys linebackers when it came to tackling in space. There were several snaps where Rolando McClain, Bruce Carter and Justin Durant were in position to make plays on Alfred Morris for little or no gain, but just didn't do a good enough job of wrapping him up and bringing him to the ground.
The plan for slowing Morris down will come in forcing him to run wide and not allowing him to turn his shoulders to get up the field. It is when Morris can get a head of steam and run downhill that he is his most dangerous. He has always been one of those backs that, when he has the bit between his teeth and he can make that initial cut, then as a defense you are going to have problems.
It remains to be seen if Rolando McClain in fact does play this week with all of the health issues he is dealing with, along with the accident recently at his Alabama home. If McClain doesn't play, then Anthony Hitchens will get the start at Mike with Bruce Carter and Kyle Wilber manning the other two spots. Defensively, the Cowboys have done a much better job of playing against these running backs like Matt Forte that run the ball with power by getting bodies to the ball.
I expect that we will see from Jay Gruden a steady diet of Alfred Morris and how well these Cowboys linebackers get off blocks and tackle could very well be the difference in the game.