By Shawn S. Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys lost quarterback Tony Romo for the rest of the 2015 NFL season and have watched all the high hopes leading into the season crumbling before them. However, there is still an outside chance of making the playoffs if they win out and get some help. That all starts on Monday night against the Washington Redskins, a team that sits in a tie for first place in the NFC East, only two games ahead of the Cowboys. Here is a look at the Redskins heading into the Monday Night Football game.
In 2014, the Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East with 12 wins while the Washington Redskins were dead last with only four wins. One season later, the Cowboys now sit at the bottom of the NFC East, with only three wins while the Redskins sit atop the division, although with a losing record of 5-6. The Redskins currently hold the tiebreaker in the NFC East, but they still play the Cowboys twice this season and Dallas could miraculously pull themselves out of the hole with a few more wins.
Washington Redskins on Offense
This year’s Washington Redskins team looks completely different on offense. Robert Griffin III, who was supposed to be the savior of the Redskins franchise when they drafted him out of Baylor, has not thrown a pass this season. After winning the 2012 Rookie of the Year award and taking his Redskins to the playoffs, Griffin has regressed each year since. In 2015, he hit an all-time low and was removed from his starter’s position for Kirk Cousins.
Cousins is not playing as great as Griffin was in his rookie year, but he has the Redskins somehow in a position to compete for a playoff spot. Cousins has thrown double-digit interceptions, with 10, but has also thrown 16 touchdown passes on the season and ran for three on the ground. He is dependable, but not flashy. His 91.7 quarterback rating is solid as well, but he has been sacked 17 times in 11 games.
With DeSean Jackson out for most of the season, the Redskins really relied on tight end Jordan Reed, who has had a rebound season. Reed leads the team with 55 receptions on 75 targets with 541 yards and a team high six touchdowns. Pierre Garcon has been dependable, leading the receivers with 49 catches for 508 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie Jamison Crowder has gotten a lot of work and has 45 catches for 419 yards, but Jackson’s return moves him back down the depth chart. In four games back from injury, Jackson has 12 catches for 212 yards and two scores.
The running game sees Alfred Morris leading the way again, but he only has 482 yards on 135 carries., and hasn’t seen the end zone yet. Matt JOnes has eaten up a lot of carries as well, with 98 for 351 yards and three touchdowns. As a team, the Redskins have rushed the ball for 1,058 yards over 11 games, with six touchdowns.
Washington Redskins on Defense
The Redskins have a fairly decent defense. They rank 12th in the NFL, two spots below the impressive Cowboys defense. However, where this game will be decided is the fact that Washington ranks third in the NFL against the pass, and with Matt Cassel back at quarterback, that is where the Redskins will have the advantage. They have only given up 234 passing yards a game and have six interceptions on the season. With a playmaker like Bashaud Breeland, that number should go up this week.
However, the Redskins also rank a low 26th against the run. If the Cowboys can get Darren McFadden running the ball well early, they can try to control the clock and limit Cassel’s need to really pass the ball. With the Cowboys strong defense, a running attack established early could win the game for Dallas. This game will be decided early when the teams decide what kind of ball they want to play.
Washington Redskins’ Players to Watch
DeSean Jackson: DeSean Jackson has only been back for four games and hasn’t looked like a world beater yet, but he does have two receiving touchdowns, which is second best on the team. However, what Jackson has going for him is that he is always a highlight reel when playing the Dallas Cowboys. He is dangerous, and with a banged up secondary, he could burn Dallas for the one touchdown that most teams need to beat the Cowboys.
Bashaud Breeland: Dallas is one of the worst teams in the NFL when it comes to the battle of turnovers. Matt Cassel turns the ball over more than previous starter Brandon Weeden because he takes more chances. This week, he gets to face second season safety Bashaud Breeland. In 10 games, Breeland has two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and 59 total tackles. He also had an impressive four passes defensed against Eli Manning last weekend.
This is a game that the Dallas Cowboys can win, regardless of record. The Washington Redskins have only two more wins than Dallas and their weakness on defense is Dallas’ strength on offense. With Tony Romo out, the Cowboys need to run the ball and that is where the Redskins struggle. Neither team is an offensive powerhouse, so this might be a sloppy ugly game, but one that could move the Cowboys closer to the NFC East lead.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.