Every week during the season, we’ll scout out the Cowboys next opponent. This weekend, that opponent is the Washington Redskins.
The Opponent: The Washington Redskins, aka the Skins, aka “We swear we can find six Native Americans who are totally cool with our nickname”
Record: 3-6, last in the NFC East.
The Line: Cowboys by 11.
Last Game: A deceiving 27-17 triumph over the slumping Denver Broncos. Denver had a leg up on the Redskins in the first half, with Kyle Orton finding Brandon Marshall twice for deep scores when Marshall, somehow, came free behind the Skins’ secondary. Orton went down with an injury shortly thereafter, and the Broncos were never the same once Chris Simms took command of the offense. If Orton had been able to stay in that game, the Broncos win it. The Skins best offensive play was a fake punt.
The Coach: Lame duck Jimmy Zorn! Yes, let’s all give Jim Zorn a round of applause for making it through 10 weeks of this season without accidentally calling Dan Snyder a massive tool in front of the press. If you aren’t up to speed on all your Zorn drama, a very quick refresher course. Zorn had his play-calling duties taken away by the team a month ago. The team then assigned those duties to consultant Sherman Lewis, who joined the team in the middle of the season. Until last week, that move had failed to pay any noticeable dividends, as the Skins remained one of the absolute worst offensive teams in football. Zorn will be fired at season’s end and replaced with someone very famous and expensive, who will then end up quitting 18 months from now after dealing with Snyder.
The Offense: Upheaval along the offensive line has cost the Redskins dearly all season long. Stalwart tackle Chris Samuels is out with a neck injury and will likely retire. His replacement, Stephon Heyer, may also be out for this game, which is fine because he was terrible. Guard Randy Thomas also suffered a season-ending injury. This line has been shuffled around constantly all year long, and quarterback Jason Campbell has been getting killed for it. Campbell holds the ball too long, and is averse to taking many risks downfield. His receivers, with the exception of Cowboy killer Santana Moss, are average. Running back Ladell Betts had a great game against Denver after taking over for Clinton Portis, who maintained his role in the starting lineup only because he and Snyder are BFFs. Tight end Chris Cooley is also done for the year, with Fred Davis serving as a fairly decent replacement.
The Defense: This is the fifth best defense in football, and the top passing defense in football. So NOW might be a good time for Wade Phillips and company to perhaps try running the ball a bit more often. Star DT Albert Haynesworth sprained his ankle last week, and his status for the game is uncertain.
Key Matchup: Miles Austin vs. DeAngelo Hall. Hall is a lousy tackler, so this might be Austin’s chance to regain the blazing hot form that made everyone sit up and take notice a few weeks back. It beats throwing the ball off of Roy’s helmet again.