Film breakdown: The Redskins should be able to easily win the ground game against the Cowboys

A couple days ago, Trent Williams was deservedly named to his first Pro Bowl.  He is not the only Redskin offensive lineman putting in a great season.  Another player who is playing at a high level is center Will Montgomery, and really, in terms of the rushing attack, the entire line has far exceeded expectations.  The Redskins lead the NFL with 162.3 rushing yards per game, and you can see why on film.  Earlier this week, I broke down Alfred Morris’ 10 yard TD run for the Allentown Morning Call.  Since the audience was mainly Philly fans, the article was written as a criticism of the Eagles’ defense.  It can also be read as praise of the Redskins’ dominant run game.

The Cowboys’ defense is playing without its spine.  NT Jay Ratliff has only played 6 games this season because of an assortment of injuries, while ILBs Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are done for the season after being put on IR.  The Cowboys are also missing Week 1 starter Barry Church.  But worse, the backups are now also missing games.  Reserve NT Josh Brent is done playing football for the foreseeable future after rolling his car while reportedly being under the influence. Ernie Sims suffered a concussion two weeks ago against the Steelers and had to leave the Saints game early last week because of dizziness.  As a result, players like Alex Albright, Brady Poppinga, Eric Frampton, and Brian Schaefering are seeing meaningful playing time.

The last two weeks, the Saints and Steelers chose to attack the Cowboys through the air.  In those two games combined, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees combined for 93 passes, while Steelers and Saints running backs carried the ball just 52 times.  That’s a 64%:36% pass:run ratio, which would have been more skewed toward the pass if the Saints hadn’t chosen to run the ball late while trying to bleed the clock with a 14 point lead.  The Saints in particular had success all day attacking the middle of the field where the bevy of backups reside.

I think the Skins can, and will, attack the Cowboys with a heavy dose of the ground game.  Brian Schaefering was mentioned above as a player that is seeing significant snaps as a result of the banged up Dallas D.  Here’s an example of how the Cowboys are being hurt by playing with so many backups.  This was an 8 yard TD run by Mark Ingram, and it was all started when the Saints were able to move Schaefering off of his spot.  At the snap, RG Jahri Evans (#73) will block down on Schaefering and then head to the second level to take on ILB Ernie Sims:

Schaefering 1

Evans sees Sims attack the line of scrimmage at the snap so he’s unable to get much power into his down block on Schaefering before he has to peel off and take on Sims:

Schaefering 2

That little lean into Schaefering was enough to move Schaefering to the left, where he’s now easily neutralized by center Brian De La Puente (#60).  Meanwhile, Evans has Sims blocked up nicely.

Schaefering 3

Ingram easily squirts through the hole left by Schaefering’s inability to anchor.

Schaefering 4


The weather report for Sunday in Landover, MD as of Friday morning is that it should be in the high 20s or low 30s around game time with 17 MPH winds.  Wind is the worst enemy of a QB above all else in the NFL, so the team with the best rushing attack may be in the better position to win.  The Cowboys actually did a decent job the past two weeks against the Steelers and Saints, allowing 4.1 and 3.1 yards per carry, respectively.  However, the Steelers and Saints rank 26th and 24th in rush offense.  The Redskins, as noted above, are #1.

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  1. […] Blind squirrels and nuts and whatnot.  In hindsight, the Skins’ ability to run all over the Cowboys was extremely obvious.  The […]

  2. Jeff says:

    Not really sure how this is a great example. You have a seven man box with 8 potential blockers. This stems from the fact that the Saints hardly ever run the ball in the redzone!! Of course the Cowboys will play a completely different style of D against the Redskins.

    The NG doesn’t even do a terrible job. The scheme Dallas was running didnt even adjust to the motion to FB on the play, conveniently out numbering them in the box. Then the LB runs up into the line of scrimmage effectively blocking himself. Just a poor call against this play. But who could blame them, they throw a huge percent of redzone TDs.

    Dallas runs a great scheme to stop a pistol style offense. Watch them bring two off the edge against option, and rob the dig/post with the safety. The lbs will read the H back and that’ll take them to about 90% of the run plays. I like the idea, but this is a terrible example and provides zero insight to this upcoming week.

    1. Yeah, they really shut down the Skins’ O last time around. The Skins not only hit the little 10 yard slants, but they burned the Cowboys badly over the top when they were over-committing. Not to mention… they ran for about 150. And that was with Bruce Carter and Josh Brent.

      Watch the play. NT was moved with ease. Is Jay Ratliff or Josh Brent getting moved that easily? Is Sean Lee or Bruce Carter getting stoned that easily? Thought I was kind of pointing out the obvious in saying the Cowboys’ backups aren’t as good as the starters, but whatever.

      And I’m not sure what kind of math you’re using. Definitely not 8 vs 7. I’d like to hear that one explained.

      1. Jeff says:

        Henderson is the eight *potential* box blocker (crack) since he is on the los. However, since there’s no one to block directly in the box he’ll just go to the second level.

        It’s simple iso with two crack blocks and *the d is in a terrible call for the play*! Yes, Shaefering gets moved into the gap but as long as he takes up a gap and draws anything resembling a dbl, he’s off the hook. The only player who is wrong in this whole play is Sims! Of course you’re 100% correct that there is a reason why some players are starters and some are backups. But, literally, the next series, they stop a trap play outnumbered just by keeping fits.

        Like I said above, I like the idea your putting forth that includes a diagrammed example. My issue is highlighting a TD that has more to do with the play call than some terrible defensive technique doesn’t quite make the point.

        It would make more sense to show some of the Bengals game (7.3yd/rush ave) as it would be a better example of how Dallas will attack the Redskins (even if the players won’t be the same). Their offense has a ton of the same principles of the Skins and it’ll be Ryan’s second crack at the game with more film to look over.

        Yea, I probably missed your point for the most part. I just think that at this point in the season where everyone is playing either banged up or with back ups, it’ll come down to Ryan vs Shanahan, and my comment was more regarding how the game would actually play out schematically.

        My last point above is the potential of the scheme that Dallas runs and what teams have done in previous games to contain the Skins. Doesn’t help that Ryan is.. well, a bit unpredictable.

        1. horatius says:

          The Giants had plenty of tape too when the played the Skins a second time. A fat bit of good it did them.

        2. Thanks for taking the time to provide your insights Jeff and Jimmy. It’s great to be a fly on the wall, taking it all in. I truly appreciate it.

  3. The only counter we have to the Redskins running game is to get and keep DeMarco Murray going to keep the ball out of Alfred Morris’ hands. I’m not Jon Gruden.

  4. DerfDiggy says:

    *anticipates your picks*

    1. Ha, well here’s the thing though… When I’ve picked the Skins to win, I’m almost always right. When I pick the Cowboys to lose, I’m almost always wrong. If the Skins are the direction I go, something has to give.

      1. DerfDiggy says:

        Two opposing forces collide….The #JimmyJinx vs. The #RedskinRule

        Me thinks the Mayans were just off a few days….the world will end when your pick is put under duress Sunday night.

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