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The Cowboys Must Embrace the Unknown This Weekend

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The Cowboys Must Embrace the Unknown This Weekend

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There are certain games this season that the Cowboys can prepare for without much trouble.

There's not much sense practicing how to stop any trick plays during the weeks when the Giants are on the docket. The only thing that could make Tom Coughlin look unhappier than he usually does would be someone suggesting a bit of flair on his offense. Similarly, there's no reason to spend any time working against sensible short yardage plays during Eagles week. Andy Reid's got to prove he knows how to call them before anyone needs to worry about defending them.

Sunday's game against the Redskins, on the other hand, doesn't lend itself to such an easy week. With a new head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and quarterback, the Redskins are rolling into Week One without any indication of what kind of team they're going to be this season.

You could look at Mike Shanahan's past for some offensive clues or gander at tapes of when Jim Haslett was running the Saints for some clues. The Cowboys are surely doing this, but both those men are decent coaches which makes it unlikely that they will simply call plays they like without tweaking things for their current personnel. The long history with Donovan McNabb doesn't make things any simpler. Within single games, McNabb has gone from accurate world beater to turnover-prone vomiter and back again. He's capable of anything under the sun.

Until their first play on Sunday, the Redskins are a blank slate. Situations like these are a bit unsettling for NFL coaches who like to script out plays in advance, pick up tendencies on video and try to micromanage every moment of every game to their favor. They should embrace the uncertainty, however.

When I was a high school offensive tackle, our coach used to give us a contingency plan in case we forgot our assignment on a given play: "When in doubt, fire out." Whatever the offense is trying to accomplish, there's a better chance of it working if you knock the guy in front of you on his rear.

It's not so different for the Cowboys. They are the more talented team and should be able to dictate the pace of the game on both sides of the ball. It may be something of an oversimplification, but don't worry about what the Redskins will do and focus only on what you're doing. Make Trent Williams block DeMarcus Ware flying around the edge, make the Redskins defenders catch Felix Jones in the flat and make them try to hang with you instead of the other way around.

It's not a bad theory of how to approach every week, come to think of it.

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Related Topics Redskins, Week One, Mike Shanahan
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