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Need to Know: Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Cowboys

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Need to Know: Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Cowboys

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 2, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night football.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Cowboys

—Even though they haven’t won a game without Tony Romo, the Cowboys are still a team to be very wary of. Five of their seven losses with Romo sidelined were by one score and some of those went down to the last minute.

—Darren McFadden has managed to remain healthy and he is on pace to gain a combined 1,300 yards rushing and receiving. But he’s about their only offensive weapon. Dez Bryant is having a horrible year, missing five games with a broken foot and averaging 12.2 yards per catch with just two touchdowns. Jason Witten is losing a step or two at age 33. Of course, the production of both Bryant and Witten is hampered by the loss of Romo, who suffered a second fracture to his left clavicle on Thanksgiving and isn’t coming back.

—The Cowboys are ranked seventh in the league in defense in terms of yards allowed but they are not really that efficient. They are 18th in points allowed and Football Outsiders ranks them 22nd in defensive DVOA (18th vs. pass, 25th vs. run).

—Part of the reason they are less than the sum of their stats is their turnover ratio of minus-12, the worst in the NFL. They are the worst in the NFL in the takeaway department with just seven—six interceptions and one, yes one, fumble recovery. Their quarterbacks have thrown 14 interceptions.

—Of course, the worst thing the Redskins can do is what some of the Giants did with them and take Dallas for granted. It’s hard to see them doing that. Their propensity for following up a nice win with a bad loss has been mostly due to the quality of the opponents they have faced after winning game, not to any letdown. I think the Redskins should be confident going into this one but nobody should expect the Cowboys to lay down for them.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings, no media availability

Days until: Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Bears 11; Bills @ Redskins 18

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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