IRVING, Texas – This isn't the ending we wanted or expected, but we have come to the finale of the Cowboys' season.
It's been a long, frustrating ride, and a season that will prompt plenty of questions about how the Cowboys move forward from here. But before we get to that, we've got one last chance to watch this roster compete before a long break.
We've covered the fact that there's nothing up for grabs in this game – we've known that for a while. But as I often say, there's still plenty we can learn about this team and these players by getting in one more game. Soon enough it'll be time to focus on the offseason and the draft, but here's my last notebook about what I'm expecting from this divisional matchup against Washington.
Let's take a look:
- I expect to see Ronald Leary starting at left guard for the injured La'el Collins in this game. Leary took all the snaps in practice and is ready to go. Leary's strength in the middle of that line will help Kellen Moore have a place to step up when he needs to make a throw.
- Sean Lee showed up on the injury report late in the week, and it has me believing we might not see him playing in this game -- but don't totally rule him out. If Lee doesn't play, I could see Anthony Hitchens sliding back to his natural spot at the weak side linebacker and Kyle Wilber once again starting on the strong side in the base defense.
- Redskins cornerback Will Blackmon was listed on the injury report this week as having shin/hip problems. With him being banged up, look for Scott Linehan to not only go after him when he plays on the outside, but also when he moves inside to the nickel. Opponents have taken shots on Blackmon down the field and had success.
- I was hoping we could see Chaz Green, Mark Nzeocha and Damien Wilson getting snaps this week, but it appears that Wilson might be the only one. He has been a backup linebacker all season while Green and Nzeocha missed a large part of the season recovering from injuries. Getting the feeling that neither one of them have received enough work other than the scout team to get a shot.
- Trying to sort out how these receivers might line up. Terrance Williams and Brice Butler will likely start with Cole Beasley and Lucky Whitehead in support. Devin Street was back at practice on Friday, but in his absence during the week, Vince Mayle took his snaps. Coaches might feel it necessary to give Mayle another look while Street sits. If Street does in fact sit – it will be the end of a very disappointing season where much more was expected from him.
- Rod Marinelli has handled these special tight ends, like Washington's Jordan Reed, in various ways this season. He has played Byron Jones one-on-one, he has used Barry Church and he has mixed with several different players. With Church out of the lineup and J.J. Wilcox a questionable cover man, I have a feeling that Marinelli will likely keep Wilcox deep and out of harm's way and use Jones to carry Reed. Marinelli could also use Terrance Mitchell and Jeff Heath if he wants to give him a different look.
- Jason Witten spent way too much time last week against Buffalo playing as an offensive tackle. I don't believe we will see that this week. Kellen Moore needs Witten in routes and being available as an option. If a tight end stays in, it should be James Hanna or Geoff Swaim.
- Greg Hardy might be playing in his last game for the Cowboys on Sunday, and it will be up for debate whether to bring him back. Hardy might not be that elite player that I thought he would be, but from my first glace of this draft class – that edge rusher might be a difficult player to find in the draft. With Hardy needing two sacks to trigger an incentive in his contract, look for him to try and finish the season strong. Trent Williams has been a little banged up and might not be up to the challenge of having to deal with a motivated Hardy.
- In watching Kellen Moore play these last couple of weeks, if I were Scott Linehan I would consider allowing him play out of an empty formation. Spreading the defense would likely allow him some nice throwing lanes. As quickly as he knows where he wants to go with the ball and his ability to get rid of it, he could put this Redskins defense in some bad positions coverage-wise. Watching them on tape I think it would create some matchup problems.
- My guess at the Cowboys Inactives: Rodney Smith, La'el Collins, Chaz Green, Jameill Showers, Mark Nzeocha, Morris Claiborne and Vince Mayle.