Dissecting Most Crucial Matchups in Redskins' Week 6 Contest with Cowboys
Heading into Week 6 of the 2013 NFL season, the Kansas City Chiefs, who mustered all of two wins last season, have as many wins as the entire NFC East. The Washington Redskins, who sit at 1-3, could move into first place in the division with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday combined with a Philadelphia loss.
The circumstances aren't ideal, but at least Redskins vs. Cowboys has some sort of meaning early in the season, right?
The Cowboys are coming off of a heartbreaking three-point loss to the Denver Broncos where they put up 48 points, but gave up 51. The Redskins are fresh off of their bye week, which could mean they've had time to jell and knock off the rust, or lost what little cohesion they had following their victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Here's a look at the crucial matchups between the Redskins and Cowboys.
Redskins Defensive Front vs. Cowboys QB Tony Romo
The Redskins may have one of the worst defensive backfields in the NFL from a statistical standpoint, but their defensive front is underrated and suffers greatly from the lacking secondary play.
Their pass rush touts the talents of Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, the seasoned field general London Fletcher and the quietly productive Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen.
Tony Romo is looking to build on his 506-yard, five-touchdown night against the Broncos, which included a game-losing interception in the fourth quarter. His track record against the Redskins isn't the best, he's 7-8 as a starter, averaging 206.3 passing yards per game and 1.4 touchdowns per game.
If Orakpo and Kerrigan can get Romo on the ground and Barry Cofield can get his hands on some passes at the line of scrimmage, the Redskins might be able to quench the fiery passing attack with Romo at the helm. If they can't throw Romo off his rhythm, the Redskins could be looking at a blowout.
Redskins LT Trent Williams vs. Cowboys DE DeMarcus Ware
DeMarcus Ware is still one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL despite adjusting to playing defensive end as opposed to outside linebacker as he has since his rookie season. Trent Williams is one of the better left tackles in the NFL, but he hasn't realized his full potential just yet.
The Redskins need Williams to keep Ware under wraps if they expect Robert Griffin III to have any kind of time to drop back for any sort of pass.
Washington's offensive line hasn't been great this season, and Ware's four sacks belie the fact that he could very easily notch three sacks against an unprepared Redskins protection package. If Williams can't handle him, the 'Skins better hope Alfred Morris, Roy Helu and/or Darrel Young can put a body on him before he can sack RGIII.
Redskins TE Jordan Reed vs. Dallas Pass Defense
Fred Davis was supposed to bounce back from back-to-back shortened seasons to become one of the best tight ends in the NFL. However, this season he has been overshadowed by rookie tight end Jordan Reed, and that trend should continue this week.
The Cowboys defense has given up more than 100 yards to two tight ends this season, with Denver's Julius Thomas gaining 122 yards with a pair of touchdowns and San Diego's Antonio Gates earning 136 yards and a touchdown.
Reed isn't the highlight-reel tight end you might expect, but he leads all Redskins tight ends with 13 catches and has the only touchdown scored by a tight end for Washington.
Expect the Redskins offense to feature plays designed to use Reed as a primary target, which could pay off in the long run.
Redskins QB Robert Griffin III vs. Cowboys Pass Rush
Robert Griffin III is not now, nor will he ever be, Peyton Manning. Manning threw four touchdowns in Denver's Week 5 victory over Dallas and may have exposed some holes in their defense, which should help Griffin be more comfortable surveying the field.
Washington can win without a huge day from Griffin, but it wouldn't do much to ignore the glaring weakness on the Dallas defense.
Though the majority of it came from stat-stuffing, late-game drives, Griffin has eclipsed the 300-yard mark in three of his four games this season. A soft matchup, at least as far as pass defense goes, will work in Griffin's favor, assuming his receivers show up against the Cowboys.
Redskins RB Alfred Morris vs. Cowboys Run Defense
The Cowboys defense has been stout against the run, allowing just 82.8 yards per game at a rate of 3.8 yards per carry. The Redskins have struggled to balance their offense, but they're averaging a middling 106 yards per game.
Add Alfred Morris' tender ribs to the equation and things don't look so good for the Redskins.
If Morris can stay on the field, fight through his ailing ribs and muster 100 yards, Washington's odds of winning increase dramatically. However, there is more to contend with than just his running.
The offensive line hasn't helped a great deal, which is due in part to the offense adjusting to a less mobile RGIII. Though last season has all but gone out the window, Morris did rumble for 313 yards and four touchdowns in two games against the Cowboys last season, which sets an excellent precedent for his success this Sunday.
Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall vs. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant
This could very easily be the entire secondary against the Cowboys pass attack, but the marquee matchup will prove more important than the whole. Dez Bryant has caught 29 passes for 423 yards and six touchdowns.
DeAngelo Hall had an excellent game against Bryant in the 2012 regular-season finale, but can he continue his success?
Hall, like the rest of the Redskins secondary, has been spotty in coverage, and facing a strong, athletic receiver like Bryant is not the time to test his limits.
This could be mitigated by a strong showing from the pass rush, but Hall will have his hands full with Bryant, and maybe even Miles Austin could slip into the mix and offer a much speedier, more reliable target who can also stretch the field.