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