IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys could be eliminated from the postseason this weekend if they don’t beat the Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles win against the Chicago Bears. So this trip to Washington D.C. is virtually a must-win game for the Dallas Cowboys, who have now lost two straight games to drop to 7-7.
Here are the gut feelings for insiders Nick Eatman, David Helman and Rowan Kavner.
It’s really easy to hop on the negativity train, considering how the past week has gone for the Dallas Cowboys. They don’t have a linebacker corps, and their secondary is held together by duct tape. I don’t have much doubt Kirk Cousins is going to be the latest backup quarterback to rack up big yardage. With the season in the balance, though, I think Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray can step up and carry this team into Week 17. More importantly, I think the offensive line can step up and continue its hot streak. I see another 100-yard effort in Murray, and I think Romo can take advantage of a bad Washington secondary. Michael Spurlock is going to have a valuable return in a key situation, and Dallas is going to win by 10-14 points.
Hopes are slim right now for a reeling Dallas group after losing two straight games in awful fashion, once just getting picked apart in Chicago and the other by giving a game away to the Packers, but there’s a reason the Redskins are a three-win team and have lost their last six. Their situation is worse than the Cowboys’ current one. The breadth of Dallas defensive injuries make them look more and more like last year’s team, so there aren’t a litany of teams I’d pick them to beat, but this is still one. I think the Cowboys go back to what they trust, getting Jason Witten involved early. He’ll find the end zone, but the Dallas offense will also find a way to get Cole Beasley at least five catches. The play-calling will still frustrate some, as the Cowboys work to find the best way to handle their recent rushing success, but they’ll have success on the ground and through the air before Dan Bailey wins it by a field goal.
My gut for this game isn’t so great. Somehow, I have a hard time seeing the Dallas Cowboys get out this place with a win. Then again, I really don’t think the season and playoff hopes will be over after Sunday. Whatever the Cowboys do, I see the Eagles doing as well, setting up a showdown next week like we all expected. I think the Cowboys can definitely win this game, but I worry about the defense stopping the run, especially if it gets rainy and turns into a sloppy-field game. I don’t think you can dismiss the fact Washington has just three wins. A three-win team is a bad team. And while Kirk Cousins can certainly hurt this team, there’s a reason they are so bad. So I think this one is close. Somehow I have a hard time picking Dallas, but an even stronger feeling is the Cowboys have something to play for next week, too.
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GAME 15 GAMEPLAN – COWBOYS VS REDSKINS: It’s time to “let your star be the star” | Cowboys injury shuffle continues in Dallas
IRVING, Texas – Twenty-four hours from now, the Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins game will be in the history books. Here are some final thoughts prior to the game …
Let Your Star Be The Star
Where Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan have done a much better job in the 2nd half of this season is finding ways to move Dez Bryant around in order to find him space in the defense. By using Bryant on the outside but also in the slot has prevented teams from getting a read on where he is going to operate from. Also give Bryant credit for embracing all the moving around and doing a solid job with his assignments and routes. Against this Redskins secondary, there will be opportunities for some productive plays that are simple throws. Keep an eye on Bryant out of the slot this week if the Redskins decide not to bring DeAngelo Hall with him inside. Usually Josh Wilson will play the slot and there is no way that if Bryant continues to run those routes across the field and underneath, that he can match him. Expect Garrett and Callahan to become even more creative in where they move Dez Bryant around in this game.
In his press conference on Friday morning, Jason Garrett was asked about how hard it was to practice and prepare for the Redskins this week with all the players that were missing at one time or another for various medical reasons. His answer was that it wasn’t easy but you find ways to adjust. The biggest problem for this club is trying to field enough players for your scout teams to give your first and second groups the plays they need to work against to get ready for the ball game. If you just take the defensive group for example, with Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware, and George Selvie missing time, that meant guys like Everette Brown, Jarius Wynn, and Martez Wilson had to take double reps working with both the defense, then turning around and playing on the scout team for the offense. DeVonte Holloman will be getting his first start at Mike (middle linebacker) because of injuries to Sean Lee, Justin Durant and Ernie Sims, but there he was getting work on the scout team, just trying to help out. Kyle Wilber is another guy that does this as well. Brandon Carr missed the last two days of practice dealing with a virus, so Sterling Moore who now starts in the nickel on the outside was working as a scout team corner with B.W. Webb. Garrett even spoke of offensive players such as receivers working as corners, just so they could field 11 players to work against. If things had gotten any worse, I am sure, that defensive back coach, Jerome Henderson, who was a former NFL cornerback could have took a rep or two. The last thing a coaching staff wants to deal with is problems during their weekly preparation but it sounds like they were able to work around the issues they had.
Not A Simple Replacement
It will be another week without Dwayne Harris in the lineup due to his hamstring injury. Harris is like that Swiss Army Knife in your pocket. He is the blade, spoon and scissors all in one. Of all the injuries down the stretch, the one to Sean Lee was huge. You could make a case that the injury to Harris has been the one that is the most difficult to replace. There are so many roles that he has on the team, that you just can’t bring one player on board and feel like that is taken care of. In an attempt to find Harris’ replacement, the front office turned to the coaching staff in hope that their experience with certain players over the years, that there might be someone on the street that could maybe fill that void. In this case, Rich Bisaccia had been with Michael Spurlock during two different stops with the Buccaneers and Chargers. What you get from Spurlock is a punt and kickoff return man, an outside flyer on the punt team and a player you can use on the kickoff team as the L3 or R3 as a cover man. I am not going to tell you that Spurlock will be as productive as Dwayne Harris but it is important that his coach believes that he can more than handle the job and with so much on the line you need that type of confidence in the player.
Important Practice Squad Addition
It’s not normal to get too up (or down) about practice squad addition. It was important for various reasons to consistently add and subtract players. In order to not only give the coaches the best group of players to function every day for practice, but also trying to develop (one or two) players that might be able to use as future starters. Much like the Dallas Cowboys did with Ronald Leary in 2012. There are also other reasons you use your practice squad and that is to bring a player or two on that might have been with a future opponent and pick their brain about ways that they might operate. The Cowboys made a very interesting practice squad move on a player that was with the Redskins through their game in Atlanta just last week. Lance Lewis (see below) is a receiver that was on the active roster for the Redskins for the last month of the season and active in games against the 49ers, Giants, and Falcons. He takes the place of Jamar Newsome who was on the practice squad, but was injured this week. Usually teams will not add players this late in the week unless they are rolling guys on and off to have a nine or ten man roster. Lewis got to suit up with the Cowboys and practice on Friday and will do so again today before the team leaves this afternoon. As a staff, you look for any advantage that you might get in a matchup and in this case, the Dallas Cowboys might have found a good one.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys sign wide receiver Lance Lewis from Redskins squad
The Dallas Cowboys placed practice squad wide receiver Jamar Newsome on practice-squad IR on Friday. Newsome, who has been on the squad most of the year, suffered a calf strain.
The club has replaced him with wide receiver Lance Lewis, who has been with the Washington Redskins organization the last two years, mostly on the practice squad.
Adding Lewis gives the Cowboys three receivers on the practice squad, along with Tim Benford and Lanear Sampson.
There was some speculation that one of the practice-squad receivers could get a call-up this week, depending on Terrance Williams’ hamstring injury. After missing practice Wednesday and Thursday, Williams returned to practice Friday and is listed as questionable to play against the Redskins on Sunday.
LOCAL VOICE MAKING NATIONAL DEBUT: Fox’s rookie play-by-play voice, Kevin Burkhardt to call the Cowboys-Redskins game tomorrow
PHOTO: Ex-Cowboys quarterback Danny White (right) working with play-by-play man Kevin Burkhardt (left) on the national broadcast of Dallas Cowboys games for Compass Media Networks.
Six straight games the TV play-by-play voice working the Dallas Cowboys game has been a network first-teamer.
Beginning Nov. 3 against the Vikings, the voices have belonged to Fox’s Joe Buck, NBC’s Al Michaels, Buck again, CBS’ Jim Nantz, ESPN’s Mike Tirico and Buck once more.
Should the Cowboys manage to beat the Washington Redskins in Sunday’s noon game, it likely will be Al Michaels for Week 17’s NFC East showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Bucking the trend this week, Fox has assigned rookie Kevin Burkhardt (far right, photo) to call the Cowboys-Redskins on Sunday.
Who? That’s right, Kevin Burkhardt, a former radio voice of your Dallas Cowboys.
What? Yep, Burkhardt worked the last two seasons calling Cowboys games alongside analyst Danny White for Compass Media. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it. Compass is a company that put together a network to relay games to markets beyond the more familiar Dallas Cowboys Radio Network.
While the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network includes flagship “The Fan” KRLD-FM (105.3) and outlets around Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma, Burkhardt broadcast the brand to stations in Alaska, Hawaii, New York and 31 other states.
When Burkhardt heard Fox was creating a national cable network to be known as Fox Sports 1, he figured he’d apply for work as a college football announcer. After all, he had plenty of high school radio play-by-play experience and had been a last-minute fill-in for the radio call of the 2009 Texas Bowl between Navy and Missouri.
When the Fox folks studied Burkhardt’s work, they called his agent to say that he wouldn’t be working college football. But how would he like calling NFL play-by-play?
It was an incredible offer. Network NFL play-by-play gigs come along maybe once a decade. Look up “ensconced” in the dictionary. There’s a picture of Dick Stockton alongside.
And so Fox paired Burkhardt, 39, with up-and-coming analyst John Lynch, 42, who played 15 Hall of Fame-worthy seasons of safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos.
“They put me in a position to succeed,” Burkhardt said in a telephone interview this week. “My partner is the easiest person to work with.”
Working with Burkhardt and Lynch is ubiquitous sideline reporter Erin Andrews, whom Fox lured from ESPN with much accompanying fanfare.
The crew has morphed into a Fox favorite. It will work a playoff game, a plum assignment the weekend of Jan. 11-12. Buck and Troy Aikman, the network lead team, will work the other game before advancing to the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl.
Last year, Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick worked Fox’s “other” playoff game. Previously, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and Tony Siragusa called a playoff game for the network dating to 2008.
Calling the second playoff game at Fox is a big deal.
A good effort in their playoff game and Burkhardt, Lynch and Andrews establish themselves as Fox’s No. 2 crew.
“I’m thrilled by all of this,” Burkhardt said. “I’m flattered by the playoff game. This whole thing has been nuts.”