Five Storylines: Cowboys vs. Redskins
The Redskins will return from their bye week on Sunday night when they head to AT&T Stadium to face the Cowboys for the first time. Five storylines are worth following.
BY ZAC BOYER
1. Will Robert Griffin III’s homecoming be similar to last year?
Playing in his first game as a professional in the state of Texas, Robert Griffin III had a dazzling Thanksgiving performance when he threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-31 victory. Perhaps more remarkably, the Redskins’ thrashing of the Cowboys – only a late-game charge made the score close – led to a loud “R! G! 3!” chant from the assortment of Redskins, Baylor and Griffin fans in the stadium. Griffin suggested the bye week helped him rest his surgically repaired knee, and he’s been improving in each game since the start of the season, but expecting a repeat performance is a bit much at this stage.
2. How will the Redskins stop Dez Bryant?
The Cowboys have one of the better receivers in the league in the 6-foot-2, 222-pound Dez Bryant, who torched the Redskins for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the Thanksgiving game and has twice had 141 receiving yards in a game this season. Bryant was held mostly in check in the second meeting between the two teams last season, catching only four passes for 71 yards and being held out of the end zone while being covered by cornerback DeAngelo Hall. It’s likely Hall, who did a respectable job against Lions receiver Calvin Johnson earlier this season, will draw that assignment again.
3. Can the running game finally emerge?
One of the hallmarks of the Redskins’ offense under Mike Shanahan has been the running game, but the team has been forced to throw the ball more frequently as large deficits have made a ground attack unfeasible. Running back Alfred Morris, expected to play despite a rib injury sustained against the Raiders, hasn’t yet been able to carry the ball more than 20 times a game after averaging 20.9 attempts during his record-setting rookie season. The Cowboys will offer resistance, as their fourth-ranked run defense is allowing only 82.8 yards a game.
4. What makes Tony Romo so dangerous?
While he’s given a lot of grief because of his late-game miscues over the years – including Sunday against the Broncos, when he threw an interception deep in his own territory with just under two minutes remaining in a tie game – Tony Romo has excellent vision and an ability to extend plays by moving the pocket and taking advantage of defensive breakdowns. (His 85-yard touchdown pass to Bryant last season came on such a play.) The Redskins were able to sack Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn seven times in their last game, leading to a victory and, later, Flynn’s demotion and eventual release. Maintaining that type of pressure and containment will made it easier for the secondary to shut down receivers.
5. Is there a chance the special teams units show improvement?
Special teams coordinator Keith Burns emphasized the need for patience shortly before the Redskins adjourned for the bye week, and while his group hasn’t been a detriment, it’s done no favors. Rookie running back Chris Thompson has been unspectacular returning punts and kickoffs, and punter Sav Rocca has had an up-and-down year. The return of Kai Forbath from a groin injury would theoretically a positive, but his replacement, John Potter, was adequate both on kickoff and placekick attempts.