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

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

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, December 7, the day the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night football.

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Cowboys

—Matt Cassel will be making his fifth start for the Cowboys. Remember that he did not spend any of the offseason program or training camp with Dallas. They made the trade to acquire him a few days after Tony Romo broke his collarbone for the first time in Week 2. He still is learning the offense on the fly. He has completed 62.7 percent of his passes but for only 5.7 net yards per attempt.

—Greg Hardy leads the Cowboys with 4.5 sacks but he had three in his first two games after returning from a four-game suspension to start the season and just 1.5 in his last five games. He usually lines up on the right side so he will be up against Trent Williams. It’s a good bet that Hardy will continue his sack slump as Williams has not allowed one all year.

—Will it be an Alfred Morris night or a Matt Jones night? Morris seems to be the hot hand now. Disregarding the Panthers game, in which Morris left after only two rushing attempts due to a rib injury, Morris has 38 carries for 170 yards in his last two games. In those same two games Jones had 75 yards on 19 carries. I think they will go in hoping to get Morris going early and see what they can get running and receiving from Jones.

—Kirk Cousins has 290 or more yards passing in each of the Redskins’ last four home games. Since allowing 356 yards to Eli Manning and the Giants in Week 1 the Cowboys have allowed no more than 250 passing yards in a game. I think the Redskins will be OK if Cousins splits the difference and throws for about 275. But with, say, 225 yards the Redskins could struggle.

—Of course, there is more to it than just Cousins’ passing. If the Redskins are going to win they will have to contain Darren McFadden on the ground and force Cassel to show off his relative inexperience in the Dallas offense, get a few takeaways, and get at least a moderately effective running game going. My gut feeling from around Redskins Park this week is that they are ready to do it but there is a fine line between confidence and overconfidence. I think they will pull it out but I won’t be shocked if they struggle.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins vs. Cowboys 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Days until: Redskins @ Bears 6; Bills @ Redskins 13; Redskins @ Eagles 19

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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

RELATED: Who's next at QB for the Redskins?

Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

MORE REDSKINS: Offer to Cousins not nearly enough

Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

Rich Tandler and JP Finlay wrap up the Redskins offseason and prepare for what will be the most intriguing and the most overplayed storylines at training camp in Richmond.

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back