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Bold Predictions, Part 2: Ground Game

Bold Predictions, Part 2: Ground Game

The two teams have had very similar seasons. Of the 12 games they each have played so far, not counting the one against each other, nine have been against common opponents. The comparative results are muddled. The Redskins got bombed by the Giants, the Cowboys split with them, Washington beat Philly, Dallas swept the Eagles (second Redskins meetings with those two, of course, are pending). They both lost to the woeful Raiders and beat the woeful Cardinals and Niners. Denver won in Dallas and at home against Washington while Kansas City lost on the road to the Cowboys and beat the Redskins at Arrowhead. Washington edged the NFC’s top team, the Seahawks, at FedEx while Dallas lost a heartbreaker to them in Seattle.

On top of that, both teams have been living on the edge all year long. All but three of the Redskins’ games have been in doubt in the last two minutes of the game and the same can be said of all but three of the Cowboys’ contests this year.

Is there any reason to believe that Sunday’s game will be any different than 75% of the games that each team has played this year?

No. This one will be a tense, hard-hitting affair that will go down to the wire.

When the two teams last met, it was expected that Gregg Williams would call blitzes on Drew Bledsoe at least three out of every four plays. Williams crossed them up, calling very few blitzes and keeping his backs and linebackers in coverage. It was bend but don’t break approach and it was effective as Dallas put up just the 13 points. Any defensive coordinator will take that any day. Look for Williams to blitz more, but not a lot more. He’ll see if Phillip Daniels can beat tackle Torrin Tucker, a rookie who has been filling in for the injured Flozell Adams. If Daniels can generate some pass pressure, as he has been able to the past few games, look for flooded zones and two-deep coverage. If he can’t, Williams will bring some more heat, but will do so judiciously.

One way or another, the Dallas passing game will be limited. The Cowboys will find the going tough on the ground as well. Since the beginning of November only the Tomlinson-led Chargers have been able to muster more than 62 yards rushing in a game. Julius Jones is having a king-sized sophomore slump, failing to get 100 yards in a single game all year. He won’t on Sunday either. Rookie Marion Barber can sting you here and there and is a nice complimentary back, but he has nobody to compliment.

Gibbs will play this one close to the vest. Those who gnash their teeth at the “Clinton left, Clinton right, pass, punt, fight, fight, fight!” style of offense had better wear a mouth guard to prevent wear and tear on their dental assets. The lovely Redskins cheerleaders had better be on alert; plenty of Mark Brunell passes will be fired in their direction as the quarterback stays away from killer interceptions. You can get away with three picks against the Cardinals; you can’t against the Cowboys.

The key will be Portis and his offensive line. We haven’t heard any tell of Portis, in Riggo-like fashion, go to Gibbs and tell him “Give me the ball,” but the result has been the same. His top three games of the season in terms of carries have been in the past three weeks. The ground game was cranked up not only to beat the Rams and Cardinals, but also in anticipation of this coming game.

If Portis is getting more like five yards a pop and the Redskins are in third and short—or, better yet, rarely in third down at all—the Redskins will control the game and, if they avoid the killer mistake that has plagued them so often both this season and in the past seven years against Dallas, they will pull out the win.

The numbers say that Portis, who is averaging 4.3 a carry, should be able to hold up his end of the deal and run for about a buck and a quarter. It says here that after years of every bounce going Dallas’ way, the Redskins are due a few more or, at least, an equality of breaks.

That adds up to a Redskins win, one that will keep everyone on the edge of their seats until the final gun.

Redskins 16, Cowboys 14.


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Redskins promote CB Phillips from practice squad, waive Bruton Jr. and Clausell

Redskins promote CB Phillips from practice squad, waive Bruton Jr. and Clausell

The Redskins made a roster move just before departing for Arizona to play the Cardinals.

They signed cornerback Dashaun Phillips from the practice squad and cut offensive tackle Blaine Clausell. The Redskins also waived safety David Bruton Jr. off of injured reserve.

Phillips was the Redskins’ nickel corner for the first three games of the season, and he made four tackles and recovered a fumble. But they moved rookie Kendall Fuller up into the slot corner role in Week 4 and Phillips spent several weeks on the inactive list before being waived on November 12 and added to the practice squad three days later.

The moves became known after Redskins coach Jay Gruden had spoken to the media for the day so we can only speculate as to the reasoning behind them. Actually, the release of Clausell isn’t hard to figure out. He was signed after Trent Williams started his four-game suspension and with Williams set to return on Monday and the other options at backup tackle healthy there was no point in keeping him around.

Phillips is likely going to Arizona as an insurance policy. The Cardinals like to spread the field with a lot of wide receivers. They will want to have five cornerbacks active. They do have Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Fuller, Quinton Dunbar, and Greg Toler. But Breeland is listed as questionable with an ankle injury and they Redskins don’t want to take any chance of being caught short-handed at cornerback if he suffers a setback. That’s especially true when they don’t need to bring an extra tackle along.

Depending on how things shake out injury-wise against the Cardinals there is a good chance that we could see Phillips on the waiver wire once again as a roster spot will be needed for Williams.

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Redskins-Cardinals injury report: Reed out, seven questionable

Redskins-Cardinals injury report: Reed out, seven questionable

Redskins

Out

TE Jordan Reed (shoulder)—The word heroic is thrown around too often when talking about what athletes do, in light if what, say, first responders do every day. But Reed playing in the second half out of the Dallas game with a third-degree AC joint sprain certainly was remarkable. But Gruden said that Reed won’t have sufficient range of motion in the shoulder or range of motion to be able to go against the Cardinals.

DE Anthony Lanier (leg)—The reserve lineman missed the second half of the Dallas game with a leg contusion. Gruden said he was kicked in the lower leg against the Cowboys and the swelling is still an issue.

Questionable

LS Nick Sundberg (back)—He tweaked his back in the weight room before the Packers game and missed that game and the one against the Cowboys. He was a full go in practice all week and will return against the Cardinals.

G Brandon Scherff (ankle)—He has been limited in practice during the week but it seems certain that he will go against the Cardinals.

T Ty Nsekhe (ankle)—Ditto comment on Scherff above.

CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle)—He suffered the injury in practice this week and he was limited in practice on Thursday.

RB Chris Thompson (illness)—He was limited in practice during the week but he said in the locker room he will have his usual role on Sunday.

Also questionable for the Redskins: ILB Terence Garvin (shoulder) and DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee)

Cardinals

Check back for the Cardinals injury update after they release their report later this afternoon.