IRVING, Texas -- Some thoughts from the practice field at Valley Ranch:
Austin Back In The Mix
I have a strong feeling that, barring a set back during practice, Miles Austin will be starting at wide receiver opposite Dez Bryant when the Cowboys face the Redskins this weekend. Austin has missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury, but I was told that on Wednesday he practiced well, looked healthy and Tony Romo connected with him on several plays to get him back into the flow.
Even with Austin back, I do not believe this affects Terrance Williams, Dwayne Harris or Cole Beasley. Look for Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan to continue rotating these receivers in order to create matchup problems for opponents. We even saw a play or two against the Broncos where Beasley lined up outside out of the slot in an attempt to get him onto the field.
With Lance Dunbar sidelined by a hamstring injury that he suffered against the Broncos last week,, the offensive coaches are once again getting Joseph Randle ready to play. Randle received extensive work at practice during the week of the San Diego game and will get more of an opportunity this week in practice.
Randle does bring a different dynamic in his running style, but, as with all rookies, can you live with the mistakes in pass protection? Last season when the Redskins and Cowboys played, there were problems with the protection that resulted in negative plays. DeMarco Murray did not carry the ball much last week against the Broncos, but when you take him off the field, you lose that steady, reliable pass protector.
Trent Williams is one of the better left tackles in this league when it comes to his overall game. DeMarcus Ware has had some of his best battles with Williams, who was drafted by the Redskins to play against these types of elite pass rushers.
Throughout his career, Ware has always played his best in these types of matchups. The more difficult the opponent, the more he seems to raise the level of his game. We all remember how he dominated Jake Long several weeks ago and Brandon Albert of the Chiefs before then. Williams is one of those tackles that is not passive at all. There is an edge and nastiness to his game that Ware is familiar with. [embedded_ad]
Whether it's defending this zone-read or trying to keep Robert Griffin III in the pocket, Ware is going to have to be at his best. The last time these two clubs met, Alfred Morris rushed the ball for 200 yards to lead Washington into the playoffs. The Redskins are solid on the left side of their offensive line with Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger when it comes to running the ball in that direction. So Ware will once again have to be an anchor on that side to prevent what happened last season.
*Help Wanted *
If you are looking for a player like Ware, who tends to play his best against the Washington Redskins, keep an eye on Jason Hatcher. It has been a very quiet two game stretch for Hatcher, who started the season on a tear. In 14 games against the Redskins, Hatcher has 39 tackles and 3.5 sacks to his credit. As good as Kory Lichtensteiger has been playing at one guard, Chris Chester has not. Hatcher has been battling a stinger that he suffered in the Broncos game and missed practice on Wednesday but should work back in this week.
This matchup against Chester will be an outstanding opportunity for Hatcher to get his game back on track and help the Cowboys defense by attacking the pocket in the middle and up the field. There have been snaps where Hatcher has been doubled teamed by scheme, but when he does draw that one-on-one battle, he needs to put as much pressure as possible against Chester, who would struggle with his quickness and power. This is a battle that Jason Hatcher should win.