IRVING — The Cowboys will try to win their second consecutive game Monday night against the Redskins. Here is a look at how both teams match up:
When the Cowboys run
They are the only team that has yet to break a run longer than nine yards. They have gained only 109 yards on the ground – the second-lowest total in the NFL. In summary, the Cowboys’ rushing offense has been lousy in the first two games of the season. There are no signs that it will get any better this week. Starting tailback Felix Jones is questionable after suffering a dislocated shoulder last week and the Redskins have allowed 168 rushing yards this season. Only seven teams have surrendered fewer.
When the Cowboys pass
Tony Romo may have a fractured rib and a collapsed lung, but the Cowboys’ aerial attack is healthy and robust. Only two teams have passed for more yards than the Cowboys in the first two weeks of the season while Romo, who is questionable, has posted an efficiency rating of 108.8. Yet Romo will be without injured receiver Miles Austin and quarterbacks have completed only 56.5 percent of their passes against the Redskins, who have also accumulated seven sacks – the fourth-highest total in the NFL thus far.
When the Redskins run
Edge: If the New York Jets and San Francisco showed a commitment to their running games in the first two weeks, then the Redskins demonstrated they are fully invested in theirs. This season, they have carried the ball 61 times, accumulating more carries than both the Jets and 49ers. They have also collected 246 rushing yards – the 10th highest total in the league. Yet the Cowboys’ run defense has proven to be remarkably stout. Only one team, San Francisco, has surrendered fewer yards on the ground than the 119 the Cowboys have yielded.
When the Redskins pass
Edge: Over the years, Rex Grossman hasn’t earned the best reputation as an NFL quarterback. But this season he has performed well, averaging 298 passing yards per game and posting an efficiency rating of 90.6. The Cowboys’ defense is also aware that Grossman thrived in the Redskins’ last meeting with the Cowboys, throwing for 322 yards and four touchdowns. But the Cowboys’ pass defense, which has allowed 514 yards, should benefit from the return of starting cornerback Terence Newman after he has been sidelined since Aug. 3 with a groin injury.
Field goals lifted both the Cowboys and Redskins to victory last week. Graham Gano connected on a 34-yard try in the fourth quarter to give Washington a 22-21 win over Arizona. Dan Bailey made a 19-yard attempt in overtime as the Cowboys prevailed 27-24 over the 49ers. Yet Gano and Bailey also experienced their share of struggles last Sunday. Gano had a 30-yard attempt blocked and Bailey missed a 21-yard try. Dallas can take solace in the fact that Mat McBriar averages six more yards per punt than Washington’s Sav Rocca.
This is the Cowboys’ first home game of the season. Since their second exhibition contest, the Cowboys have traveled to Minnesota, Miami, New York and San Francisco. In fact, 36 days have passed between home dates. The players have said they look forward to returning to Cowboys Stadium and the partisan crowd should give Dallas a boost in a rivalry game.
Rookie Dwayne ‘Hairy’ Harris said he tries to get a first down on every punt return. That is, make at least 10 yards.
So far, so good. He’s averaged 10.5 yards on four in the first two games. His 11-yard return last week in overtime got the ball outside the 20-yard line. The Cowboys started at the 22, and on the first play, Tony Romo hit Jesse Holley on a 77-yard pass that set up the game-winning field goal.
“I thought it was a good return,” coach Jason Garrett said. “It was a positive play for us. It went north and south. That’s a good thing. He’s pretty confident and reliable catching the football back there. That’s Line 1 when you’re a punt returner.”
Harris returned 51 punts and 102 kickoffs in his four years at East Carolina. He returned three kickoffs for a touchdown as a junior. He averaged 9.4 yards on punt returns in college.
“I think he’s done some good things just making some positive plays,” Garrett said. “He did in the preseason, and he did the other day in the game. So you want to make sure you secure the ball, first and foremost, but as he gets more confident back there, you’ll start to see some of the things that we saw out of him coming out of school.”
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is a receiver now because he looked like a receiver in practice. The Cowboys were impressed when he lined up at receiver against the defense.
“Oftentimes, defensive guys have to play offense, and offensive guys have to play defense, and we’ve seen him do some really good things,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We’re banged up at the receiver position. We want to give him more of a look over there.”
Owusu-Ansah is wearing the No. 11. He’s a practice squad player right now.
“We like having him in a developmental role,” Garrett said. “If you remember, when he came out of school, he’s a small-school guy, was injured, missed his whole first offseason, missed time in training camp, missed time in his rookie year. So he’s really behind. So we like his development as a secondary guy. … You see a lot of athletic ability.”
The Washington Redskins’ offensive line has been tested in their first two games of the season, but neither the Giants nor the Cardinals are quite on the level of the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive front, which Washington will face Monday night.
Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware draws the most attention, and rightfully so as he has ranked among the league’s elite pass-rushers during his career. But the Redskins are just as wary of Anthony Spencer, who lines up opposite Ware, as well as nose tackle Jay Ratliff and ends Kenyon Coleman and Jason Hatcher.
“All of their guys, every single one of the guys that rush the passer are very good,” Redskins offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. “That’s the one thing you notice on film. They’re all very active, they all have distinct, good pass-rush moves, they all execute them very well and put a great deal of pressure on the quarterback. They’re very impressive that way. Spencer, Hatcher, Ware, the nose guard, the list goes on. They’re all very impressive.”
Like the Redskins, the Cowboys run a 3-4 defense. And Dallas has utilized variations of that scheme since 2005. But previous experience against the Cowboys’ 3-4 won’t help Washington’s offensive front very much because Rob Ryan took over as defensive coordinator this offseason and runs a less traditional, rather unpredictable version of the defense.
“It’s still the 3-4, but they run a lot of blitzes you won’t see from anybody else, because that’s how their D-coordinator is,” left tackle Trent Williams said.
Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan agrees.
“He’s aggressive and he’s all over the place,” Shanahan said of Ryan. “He’s going to try to confuse you. They do a lot of different things and you never really know what to expect. It’s not like they do the same thing week-in and week-out. You have to see how they are going to play you and you always have to be ready to watch the defense and be ready to adjust from the first play on.”
In the first two weeks of the season, the Cowboys have done everything from flip-flop Ware from the right to the left side and back to the right again, to overloading on one side, to having all of their front seven — including Ratliff, the nose tackle — blitz from a two-point stance to confuse the offenses they have faced.
“There can be trouble at times with identification,” Foerster said of the challenges that Dallas’s unconventional looks create. “People aren’t aligned where you’re used to having them aligned, there are different angles of rush – it’s different than just guys lined up on the line of scrimmage and rushing from where they usually rush. People coming from different places. Definitely a lot of challenges.”
After two weeks, the Cowboys’ defense leads the NFL with 10 sacks and has limited its first two opponents to an average of 283 yards a game, fourth in the league. Ware leads the team with four sacks, and Spencer and Hatcher have two sacks apiece.
“Every week’s a challenge, and last week’s waaaay in the past,” Foerster said. “Now we’ve got a real challenge in Dallas.”
By Mike Jones of The Washington Post
Brett Favre, who retired earlier this year to leave the game for good, will help with the Comcast Sports Southeast television broadcast of the Oct. 1 game featuring Southern Mississippi and Rice in college football.
The Gunslinger knows all about Southern Miss Football, completing 55.4 percent of his passes in college for 6,772 yards, 39 touchdowns and 22 picks before joining the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers.
“I’m excited to be back at Southern Miss with the Golden Eagles,” Favre stated. He also said that he’s not committing to a new career in broadcasting, but just wanted to support his college where he set all kinds of records in college football.
Favre has been spending a lot of quality time with this wife Deanna. The couple recently went on a 25-mile bike ride and on Sundays, he’s usually getting work done on his farm after church. He has two daughters, Brittany Nicole and Breleigh Ann.
Last week, there was buzz that Favre might leave retirement to join the Indianapolis Colts because he might be a better answer to Manning replacement Kerry Collins.
However, his agent, Bus Cook, said that he did not receive a single call from any team this year inquiring to see whether he would be interested in returning.
“I haven’t heard from anybody saying, ‘We’d like to talk to you about Brett,’” Cook said. “There have been rumors about Philadelphia, Miami, Indianapolis. But we have not had any calls.”