Redskins vs. Cowboys: Which Rookies Face Most Pressure to Perform?

Ryan PhillipsContributor IIISeptember 26, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 27: Tyron Smith #77 of the Dallas Cowboys during the game against the Minnesota Vikings on August 27, 2011 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With quarterback Tony Romo still recovering from a punctured lung and a broken rib the Dallas Cowboys' main concern Monday night will be protecting their franchise quarterback. The Washington Redskins are sure to try and pressure the injured Romo, force him into mistakes and hit him as much as possible.

Two rookies have to step up and make a difference for the Cowboys tonight if they hope to come away with a big win.

When Dallas made right tackle Tyron Smith the No. 9 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, they had high hopes for him. He has stepped in as a starter from day one and he has impressed his teammates with his work-ethic and guts as he's has played through a hyper-extended knee. Well, now that his quarterback is injured, Smith needs to get even better in a hurry.

Protecting Romo's front side will be key tonight against Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and the rest of Washington's front seven. The Redskins are surely going to bring pressure, and Smith has to hold down his side of the line or his wounded quarterback will have a long night.

Running back DeMarco Murray has a chance to step up tonight with Felix Jones still nursing a shoulder injury. Jones is likely to play, but there is almost no chance he handles a full load of carries. That means the third-round pick out of Oklahoma has to step up and help Dallas establish a running game that has been noticeably absent so far this season.

In limited action so far Murray—who was the 71st pick in the 2011 NFL Draft—has eight carries for 21 yards and two catches for 17 more. While he hasn't seen the ball a lot, Murray's confidence is reportedly growing and having a bigger role this week can only help his maturation.

With the Cowboys sporting the NFL's 30th ranked rushing attack (54.5 yards per game) getting Murray going would be a huge boost to the offense. A good running game would also help take pressure off of Romo, which would only make this week easier for the rest of the offense.