FRISCO, Texas – It's amazing how much can change between two divisional meetings in an NFL season.
When the Cowboys and Redskins met in September, both were trying to avoid the ignominy of an 0-2 start. The Cowboys had just come up short in a division loss to New York, while Washington had just been shellacked by Pittsburgh.
Obviously, it's been quite the turnaround for both teams. And while both clubs have gotten to this point using the same casts they had back then – there are always going to be differences.
So here's my look at the rematch with Washington – what's new and what's the same.
Weapon: WR DeSean Jackson
Regardless of the stats, this is still one of the most dangerous big play receivers in the league. He is a go-to player, and Kirk Cousins is not afraid to throw him the ball at any level. Hs playing speed and initial quickness make him difficult to deal with, and he can get on a defender quickly. He will eat up cushion in a hurry -- able to get vertical separation in a heartbeat.
This is a home run type of receiver. Plays with outstanding body control and balance. Can start and stop an instant and is able to change directions with explosive quickness. He can sell a route hard, hit the brakes and be in a totally different direction before the defender has a chance to react.
That said, Jackson is not the type of receiver that is going to win many jump ball situations. His size limits how he plays in the air, and he is better when he can get the ball on the move. He can sell routes, but it's more about speed than being precise. He will run routes in the middle of the field, but he hasn't always been a receiver that has been consistent when it comes to making that contested catch. On Sunday, he had a drop in the Green Bay game in just this circumstance. When he gets knocked around and has to fight for the ball – he will struggle.
With that in mind, the Cowboys need to be physical with him. He is so dangerous when he has space to operate. Big run-after-catch player. He can be difficult to deal with when he gets in a rhythm. The more plays that he makes – the more he starts to take over a game. Jackson has never been a huge blocker because of his size, but that is not why he is in this lineup.
You always have to be aware where he is on the field.
Nemesis: OLB Ryan Kerrigan
Relentless in the way that he competes -- never quits on a play. Because of this, the majority of his pressures and sacks come from his effort. He has outstanding football intelligence and is a hard guy to fool when he is on the field. Teams try and trick him on waggles and boots to his side, but he rarely bites. He plays with a closing burst and range – this is a reactionary athlete in every sense of the word. He plays with lateral quickness and agility, but there is a little stiffness in his body and change of direction.
Kerrigan will put his foot in the ground and drive to the ball, but his field strength is just OK. There are snaps where he gets tied up and has a hard time getting off the block. There is some really nice hand use and strike ability with them. He anchors down at the point of attack by extending his hands. He is a very good tackler when he gets in position to do so, and he is very consistent in his technique.
My main impressions is that he comes after his opponent down after down. He's more of a rusher as an outside linebacker than a guy who drops in coverage. He's an instinctive player, both run and pass. He comes up with big stops when the defense needs them. He also has an ability to create turnovers in the pocket, which is something Dak Prescott needs to be aware of.
Kerrigan can line up at several different spots in the scheme to cause problems. He comes up with one or two big plays a game for his defense.
Under the Radar: RB Rob Kelley
It's remarkable that this guy wasn't even on our radar for the first meeting, back on Sept. 18. He initially signed out of Tulane as an undrafted rookie in 2016, and he has taken over as the primary ball carrier for the Redskins since the Cincinnati game three weeks ago.
Kelley is a compact, tough runner that shows more foot quickness than playing speed. He plays with acceleration and a burst, but he also shows patience with the ball in his hands to read the blocks and make the correct cuts. I would not call him a home run hitter, but he will continually grind out yards. This is the type of back that can wear defenders down with his style. He has good short-area foot quickness with lateral agility, and he plays with a slam/bam style when he gets through the hole. Good body control and balance.
This is not the most creative runner, but his playing strength makes up for his lack of skill. He has a physical finish with functional playing strength. He also plays with both upper and lower body power -- keeps his legs moving on contact and fights for extra yards. Kelley runs through arm tackles with power.
The Cowboys will need to get bodies to him and wrap him up to get him to the ground. He has the vision to see the holes and make the cuts, and he reads blocks well. For a rookie, he is consistent in his running style.
It's important to note that Kelley doesn't get many opportunities to be a blitz pickup back. He comes off the field for Chris Thompson, who is the team's third down back. He appears to be durable. His ball security was good.
Kelley has averaged 22 carries per game these past three weeks, but he is not going to give you much as a receiver. He has just two catches for the year.