Nov 20, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Robert Kelley (32) celebrates on the sidelines after scoring a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 42-24. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Redskins are facing the Dallas Cowboys in just a couple of days. Who should you keep an eye on during the game?
The Washington Redskins have been on a tear as of late. They have won back-to-back games after their bye week, and have only lost once since Week 2. They are going to be facing the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, and that matchup could give them fits.
It their last meeting, the Cowboys edged the Redskins 27-23 thanks to a mistake by Kirk Cousins in the end zone. Since then, Dallas has won eight more games in a row to improve their overall record to 9-1. They are becoming one of the best teams in the league, but Washington will want to try and humble their rivals.
With all of that said, here are a few players to keep an eye on in the game. These Redskins could have a big impact on the final outcome.
Sep 12, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins offensive guard Brandon Scherff (75) prepares for the start of the play against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
5. G Brandon Scherff
Over the past couple of games, right tackle Morgan Moses has been struggling with an ankle injury. Moses has been in obvious pain when he has been on the field, and I question whether or not his ankle will hold up during a short week. If it does not, the team will be forced to use some of their backups more frequently and give them help. For that reason, Brandon Scherff may be the guy to watch for the offensive line.
This season, Scherff has locked down the right guard position for the Redskins. He has played very well, as he and Moses have solidified the right side of the line. The duo should continue to be solid, but Scherff will have a big day on Thursday.
If Moses is limited, they will have to give him help in pass protection. The team could choose to use a tight end to chip block on some plays, but on others Scherff will have to help out. The strong guard should be up to the task, but if he cannot do his job as well, the right side of the line may be weaker. If that happens, Kirk Cousins could have a tough game.
Scherff needs to be the stronghold on that side of the line. This week is particularly important for the team, and they cannot afford to have any issues on the offensive side of the ball.
Nov 20, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Jared Cook (89) makes a reception in front of Washington Redskins safety Donte Whitner (39) during the second half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
4. S Donte Whitner
Last week against the Packers, I thought that Donte Whitner was wildly unimpressive. The veteran has always had some problems in coverage, but Sunday night seemed egregious. He was unable to cover Jared Cook and was constantly torched by the athletic tight end. Whitner has to improve against Dallas, or he could get beaten again.
The Cowboys have Jason Witten as their top tight end, and he should have no problem with Whitner. Though Witten is much slower than Cook, he is smart and physical and should be able to play well against Whitner. Joe Barry has to be careful with how he decides to play Whitner against Witten on Thanksgiving.
Backup Gavin Escobar could come in and give Whitner troubles. Escobar is a good athlete with solid size, but he has never quite developed into a consistent threat. That said, the Cowboys could try to use him as a secret weapon if they want to exploit Whitner in coverage.
Overall, Whitner could end up being the weakest part in the secondary if he plays like he did Sunday. Hopefully the coaching staff will put him in a position to succeed, and maybe they will use Su’a Cravens in coverage a bit more.
Oct 28, 2016; London United Kingdom; Washington Redskins defensive end Ziggy Hood (90) at practice at the Twyford Avenue Sports Ground in preparation for game 17 of the NFL International Series against the Cincinnati Bengals. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
3. DT Ziggy Hood
Ezekiel Elliott could be a player that causes problems for the lowly Redskins run defense. Because of this, Ziggy Hood’s performance will tell us a lot about the Redskins defense this week.
Hood took over at the nose tackle position after an injury to Kedric Golston. Hood has looked pretty good in the role, though he is not a true run stuffer. He is better as a pass rushing threat, so that would explain a bit of why the middle of the defense has not been particularly strong.
On Thursday, Hood needs to be at his best in collapsing the interior of the line. The Cowboys have the best offensive line in football, and the Redskins are going to be hard pressed to play up to the competition. Any interior push is going to have to start with Hood. If he and Chris Baker can cause some problems, they may slow down the running game. That would give the Skins at least a chance to win the battle.
Nov 20, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) scores a touchdown as Green Bay Packers strong safety Micah Hyde (33) looks on during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
2. WR DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson played relatively well against the Packers. Considering that he was coming off of a tough shoulder injury, his performance was solid. It remains to be seen how he will fare on a short week, but he should have a chance to do well.
Jackson is going to matchup with either Brandon Carr or Anthony Brown on most plays. Jackson’s speed will allow him to gain ground on some plays. He may not be targeted as much as Pierre Garcon, but this time around he may have a chance to make some truly game breaking plays.
I expect that the Cowboys defense will key in on Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder this week. The team will not try to do too much to Jackson as he comes back from injury. Besides, both Garcon and Crowder went over 100 yards last week, so they are the top two receivers on the team, right?
Well, not exactly. Jackson is still explosive and though he is not consistent, this type of situation will be beneficial to him. He can go under the radar and use his athleticism to his advantage. Given the way that Cousins has been throwing of late, it would not be surprising to see Jackson catch a long touchdown during Thursday’s game.
Nov 20, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Robert Kelley (32) carries the ball as Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) chases in the first quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
1. RB Robert Kelley
Last week, Robert Kelley scored three touchdowns against the Packers and recorded his first 100+ yard game. Against the Cowboys, he could continue his success.
Kelley has only gotten better with more reps, and his physical style allows him to rip off chunks of yardage. He has rarely ever ran for negative yardage, and he should have no trouble racking up yards against the Cowboys.
Though the Cowboys technically rank third in rush defense, that number is a bit misleading. Their front is a little bit weak, as they do not have a lot of talented players. Their edge rushers are fine, but they lack any consistent run stuffers. Also, the Cowboys have led in a lot of their recent games, so teams have not had as much of a chance to run on them. In fact, they are only facing 19.9 run plays per game, which is good for the lowest total in the NFL.
The Redskins should exploit this area. Many perceive this to be a strength, when in reality, it is an under the radar weakness. Kelley should be able to have a “surprisingly good” performance on Thursday. He will be able to gash the Dallas defense and if he gets 25 carries, he could really help to tire out the front seven.