The Washington Redskins take on their heated rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, in a week two match-up that already feels like a must-win for the Burgundy and Gold.
Heading into the second game of the season, the two teams arrive with very different perspectives on how their first game went. In DC, the Redskins appear to be down, as they allowed a 17-0 lead slip through their fingers and a divisional opponent to walk off the field victorious.
Meanwhile, Jerry’s Boys left AT&T stadium riding high after shellacking the New York Giants 35-17, and their offense appears to be humming.
Dak Prescott proved that he is more than just a game-manager as he threw for over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns. They also had a pair of 100-yard receivers as Michael Gallup collected 7 passes for 158 yards and Amari Cooper chipped in with a stat-line of 6 catches, 106 yards and a touchdown.
All of this is transpiring as Ezekiel Elliott returns to form.
The Silver and Blue’s offense appears to be clicking as they head east to Landover.
Cowboys Off-Season and 2019 Outlook
Key Players Lost: Caraun Reid DT, Cole Beasley WR, Damien Wilson OLB, Datone Jones DT, David Irving DT, Geoff Swaim TE, Marcus Martin G, Rod Smith RB
Key Additions: Christian Covington DT, George Iloka FS, Kerry Hyder DT, Randall Cobb WR, Robert Quinn DE
2019 Forecast (Oddsharks.com): Nine Wins, #2 NFC East
Head Coach: Jason Garrett (8 years)
Offensive Coordinator: Kellen Moore (New)
Defensive Coordinator: Rod Marinelli (5 years)
What to Expect from the Cowboys Offense
The Dallas Cowboys came into the 2019 season with the seventh most expensive offense in the NFL. They allotted 111M of their salary cap to the unit, including the most lucrative offensive line in the league which costs 60M dollars within itself. And that was before the 90M Ezekiel Elliot deal that he signed last week.
Considering this, the Cowboys offense is just now catching up to the hype, as Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore has added a few wrinkles to the team and they appear much more efficient.
Last year, the Cowboys won nine games by a single score and struggled to produced in the second half of games. This was mostly due to conservative play-calls from former OC Scott Linehan as his team produced first half leads, and his reliance on Elliott to close out games.
In theory, riding your bell-cow back in the second half may appear to be the prudent approach, but Linehan’s conservative philosophy hampered the ‘Boys success in 2018. His run-heavy strategy led to a yards-to-go of 8.4 yards on third-down, which was third worst in the league (Warren Sharp, 2019 Football Preview). As a result, the Cowboys only converted 24% of their third downs last season in the third quarter, severely hampering their success and allowing opponents to hang in games (Sharp).
Moore seems much more innovative in his offensive schemes, and this should cause the Redskins some worry. Remember, Moore spear-headed a potent offensive attack at Boise State while playing quarterback there and it appears that he is bringing plenty of that BSU window-dressing with him.
Take a look at a #BaldyBreakdown, showing how comfortable Prescott is at leading this offense. Prescott is feeling so “cool” he even gives Cooper a high-five while in motion.
Although it’s a small sample size, it appears the Cowboys are much more apt to take advantage of pre-snap motion this season. This should pose a problem to the Redskins as they clearly displayed communication issues in the secondary last week (See: Desean Jackson). Further complicating the matter is that Quinton Dunbar is likely to sit this week, adding more inexperience to the secondary.
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Moore has also instilled a hefty amount of play-action, which has proved fruitful for offenses last week. In addition to the Cowboys 35 points last week, the Jackson-led Ravens hung 59 on the Dolphins.
Three Keys to the Game
One surprising aspect to Prescott’s game is his effectiveness in the red-zone. Whether it was designed runs or impromptu scrambles, Dak was one hell of a red-zone threat for the ‘Boys last season.
In 2018, he had 19 rushes within his opponent’s 20 and was highly effective.
Prescott netted positive yardage on 68% of his attempts last season, which made him the most effective rushing quarterback in the red-zone of those who qualified (at least ten red-zone carries). This puts him ahead of Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. He also found the end zone six times on these attempts, or 31% of the time.
Hopefully Manusky is aware of Prescott’s prowess and has a plan to contain him or spy him.
Another key to a Redskins win is taking away Zeke in the passing game. Elliott had 33 targets on first down last season, trailing only Christian McCaffrey and Todd Gurley. These pass attempts were successful 73% of the time and averaged eight yards per play (Sharp). The Redskins have plenty to worry about tomorrow, but limiting Zeke’s touches in space should be a priority. It is very easy for an explosive play to occur, especially with a star-studded offensive line blocking for him.
Finally, Amari Cooper needs to be taken away. Last season he revived a Cowboys offense that was on life support. He played 11 games for the team last season, but his receiving pace would have extrapolated to 96/1,303 yds/10 TDS over 16 games (Evan Silva). Now he has had a full off-season to develop chemistry with his quarterback.
Stopping Cooper may be “task one” for the ‘Skins tomorrow. Let Prescott’s other weapons beat you.
The Redskins face an uphill battle as they host the Boys in Blue tomorrow at FedEx. The ‘Skins already appear to be short-handed as Derrius Guice has been placed on short-term IR and Jonathan Allen has been ruled out with a sprained MCL.
These two building blocks are tone-setters on both sides of the ball, and their absence will be missed. Guice, in theory, should be a dynamic back capable of passing/catching of the same ilk as Elliott.
Allen’s absence on the defensive line led to a second half collapse in Philadelphia. Matt Ioannidis, Tim Settle, and DaRon Payne appeared to be gassed with a limited rotation. Now they face the NFL’s reigning rushing champion and the return of All-Pro Center Travis Frederick.
On offense, Case Keenum shined last week, but I think his stat-line should return more to earth this week. He will be effective, but without Jordan Reed (concussion) and Terry McLaurin now on the NFL radar, his options may be limited. I’d expect Keenum to put up around 30 pass attempts, for 225 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Adrian Peterson will have a stellar game as he will “run angry” and prove that he is indeed, a freak of nature. So i’d peg him for about 80 yards and a score.
Ultimately, this won’t be enough as the home team drops this one 21-31 to the team from Texas. They fall to 0-2.