- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Can they slow down Dallas’ offense? The Cowboys have scored 30 or more points in three of their five games. Denver’s defense looked atrocious against Dallas on Sunday in allowing 48 points. Dallas does have a lot of talent, but the Redskins' familiarity helps. Last season they swept the Cowboys by applying enough pressure on quarterback Tony Romo and mostly keeping him contained in the pocket. They accomplished this with stunts, linebacker blitzes up the middle and off the edge. Romo still got outside on occasion, but the Redskins forced him into mistakes. He threw six interceptions in his last nine games, five coming against the Redskins. Also, corner DeAngelo Hall must, once again, be physical with receiver Dez Bryant -- Hall is confident in his ability to stay with Bryant downfield. Problem is, the Cowboys have other weapons and the Redskins have played poorly against good offenses this season. And know this: Romo has thrown five touchdown passes to no interceptions against a five-man rush or more with a 111.8 passer rating; 10 of his 13 sacks have come against four-man rushes, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Can Robert Griffin III repeat his huge day? He’s a different player than he was in that Thanksgiving Day game when he got into a zone (304 yards, four touchdowns). Griffin made some unreal throws in that win. But he’s facing a worse defense than he did against Oakland, where he started to show more signs of his old self -- as well as signs of growth in escaping trouble, but keeping his eyes downfield and making plays. What Griffin needs is a fast start, something he has not had in any game this season. Dallas ranks 31st against the pass and not just because it faced Peyton Manning. The Cowboys were 27th entering that game.
Will Alfred Morris play? He practiced all of Monday and usually if there are questions about players they sit that one out. But Wednesday is a big day; if he practices full, then it looks good for Morris. He finished his rookie regular season with a 200-yard effort against Dallas. Yes, much has changed for Dallas since that game (the Cowboys are now in a 4-3 front; they’ve been better stopping the run at 3.8 yards per carry). But with the potency of Dallas offense, the Redskins could use a strong game on the ground to control the ball. Besides, the Redskins do a good job manipulating defenses once they start running well. Also, given Dallas’ troubles covering backs -- linebacker Bruce Carter in particular -- perhaps this is another chance for Roy Helu to shine on third down.
Will they use more hurry up? Perhaps. But the Redskins did so against Oakland because of how varied the Raiders' fronts were; they were constantly showing a different one. Dallas does not do that, certainly not to that extent; the Cowboys will rotate DeMarcus Ware between right and left end and he’ll often stand up at end. Could they use this strategy to change the pace or create a spark? Sure. But this is a defense that already has allowed three 400-yard passers. The Redskins should be able to create a spark without the hurry up. But it is a good changeup tactic.
What happens if they lose? With so many games left you can never officially count a team out. However, this is (obviously) a huge game if the Redskins want to reach their preseason expectations. Then you add on the other aspects: Does this season then go downhill fast, with upcoming games against Chicago and Denver? If that’s the case, what does owner Dan Snyder do with coach Mike Shanahan, who has one year left on his deal? Potentially, he could go four years with just one (extended) stretch of (very) good football. Yes, that’s getting ahead of ourselves because there’s so much time left. But a 1-4 start will lead to serious questions about the direction of the franchise. Again.
Can they slow down Dallas’ offense? The Cowboys have scored 30 or more points in three of their five games. Denver’s defense looked atrocious against Dallas on Sunday in allowing 48 points.