A Game Plan for Dallas vs. Washington
At Bleacher Report, I posted a game plan for the Cowboys vs. the Redskins:
DO play the run early
The Redskins haven’t run the ball as much as they’d like, simply because they’ve been down too many points late in games, but you better believe they will want to establish the run early against Dallas.
Take a look at Washington’s first-down run rate after each quarter.
It’s nearly 65 percent in the first quarter, declining from there as the Redskins have gotten down in games. The Cowboys need to be prepared for Washington’s potent running attack and stop it early so they can avoid facing it late.
DON’T play the Redskins to run on 2nd-and-10
This might seem like an odd suggestion, but 2nd-and-10 is a really unique down in that it usually follows an incomplete pass. And across the league, there’s actually predictability in play-calling on 2nd-and-10, with the majority of teams running the ball way more than the numbers suggest they should.
The reason? Coaches try to be unpredictable in their calls. In doing so, they often mix it up, running after passes and vice versa. Ironically, many coaches become painfully predictable in certain down-and-distance situations specifically because they’re trying to be unpredictable!
NFL teams should generally pass on 2nd-and-long anyway; it often works because defensive coordinators expect a run on 2nd-and-10 after an incomplete first-down pass.
Well, the Redskins haven’t run the ball all that much on 2nd-and-10, doing so on just 11 of 25 such plays (44.0 percent). And RGIII has absolutely killed it in these types of situations, completing 12 of 14 passes for 169 yards (12.1 YPA) and a touchdown—good for a 140.8 passer rating.
It’s a small sample, but the broader picture remains; NFL offenses can be productive by going against the grain against defenses conditioned to look for something in a particular situation. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin needs to be prepared for the Redskins’ passing game on 2nd-and-long, particularly play-action looks.
DO attack cornerback David Amerson
The Cowboys have a unique situation this week with wide receiver Miles Austin appearing to be healthy. That’s a positive, of course, but it will be interesting to see how much playing time Austin receives coming off of his hamstring injury. That’s because rookie Terrance Williams played so well last week against Denver, catching four passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.
Dallas might be smart to get three or more receivers on the field, too. The Redskins’ starting cornerbacks—Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall—have both played decent football, each allowing under 1.30 yards per route run against his respective coverage.
But nickel cornerback David Amerson has struggled. He’s allowed 2.30 yards for every snap that he’s been in coverage—the second-worst mark in the entire NFL.
In most situations, Amerson will be lined up over Austin in the slot. That’s a matchup that the Cowboys can and should exploit, so Austin might just be a bigger part of the game plan than you think.