Washington Redskins: 5 Matchups Key to a Victory over the Dallas Cowboys
The biggest story is the 2-0 Washington Redskins.
Yes, it has only been two games against less than stellar opponents, but there has been a clear culture change in Washington. The future for the remainder of the 2011 season and beyond is suddenly bright.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, though, let's focus on the upcoming Monday night game against the rival Cowboys.
Here are five matchups that will determine the outcome of this early season NFC East battle.
Trent Williams vs. DeMarcus Ware
DeMarcus Ware is one of the games premiere pass rushers. In two games against the Jets and 49ers he has totaled four sacks. For those of you who are anti-math, let me help you out. That is two sacks per game.
Trent Williams, who has had an up and down start to his young career, must do everything in his power to keep Ware from getting two more sacks on Monday night. In Week 1, Williams surrendered two sacks to New York's Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul is good, but he is no Ware.
This may be the single most important individual position battle of the game. If Williams can, at the very least, make things difficult for Ware, the Redskins will have a much better shot at the victory.
Rex Grossman vs. Dallas Pass Rush
The Dallas Cowboys lead the NFL in sacks with 10. Yes, it is Trent Williams and the offensive line's responsibility to keep Grossman upright, but it is inevitable that the defense will get to him. When they do, it's on Grossman to minimize the damage.
At this point it's no secret Grossman is prone to turnovers. If he can take the sack, hold on to the ball and live to see another play, the Skins have an opportunity to exploit the blitz and pick apart a mediocre Dallas secondary.
If Grossman can avoid giving the Dallas offense a short field, it could make things very difficult for Romo (or Kitna, or whoever) and company as the Redskins defense has played well through the first two games.
Redskins Front Seven vs. Dallas Offensive Line
What's this? The Redskins are generating an imposing pass rush from their front seven? Get out of here. That never happens.
Good luck Dallas offensive line, you're going to need it.
(I wanted to end the slide right here, but that's not exactly good analysis.)
The Redskins are tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks with seven. Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are quickly becoming one of the game's most electric outside linebacker duo's, but it isn't just about them.
New defensive tackle Barry Cofield and defensive end Stephen Bowen are eating up blockers and opening holes for Orakpo, Kerrigan and ageless wonder London Fletcher, among others.
Romo's hurt, their running game has been ineffective and the offensive line is banged up too. This is the perfect game to attack the quarterback. Of course, every game is the perfect game to attack the quarterback. But this one really is.
Make it tough for whoever is under center for Dallas and they will struggle to generate any kind of consistent offense.
Kyle Shanahan vs. Rob Ryan
Apparently, the guy who lives on the couch is also the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, and he's pretty good too. Rob Ryan is aggressive and will bring the pressure all night to try and mask the weaknesses of his secondary.
On the Redskins side, Kyle Shanahan is one of football's best young offensive coordinators. His game plan will no doubt try to exploit the one-on-one opportunities that Ryan's blitz packages will create.
Shanahan's biggest challenge will be to get the running game going against a run defense that has been stout through the first two games (second in the NFL, allowing only 59.5 yards per game).
If the zone style run attack can exploit the Cowboys 3-4 defense, it will make it much easier for Washington to run it's play-action and bootleg pass plays, as well as take pressure off Grossman.
Redskins vs. the National Stage
"Ahhh, it's a night game and everyone is watching!?!?!"
O.K. I didn't actually quote anyone on that, but it sure feels like the entire Redskins franchise has been saying that for the past decade, just before they come barreling out of the tunnel and onto the field.
The Redskins are 3-11 on Monday Night Football since 2000 and have been embarrassed frequently in those appearances. In their most recent appearance on MNF in week 10 of the 2010 season, Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles crushed the Skins, 59-28.
It was bad. It was Madden on the easiest level against the computer bad.
While things are clearly changing for the better in Washington, a poor display on Monday night will certainly feel like a setback.
Regardless of who plays for the banged up Cowboys, the Redskins need to play well in front of a national audience to prove to themselves and to fans, that no stage is too big for this team.