By Matthew Postins
The Dallas Cowboys (2-3) host the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Wednesday marks the traditional start to the NFL work week. So here are the five stories you should follow leading up to the game:
Tony Romo: Expect a week of local criticism and Monday morning quarterbacking directed at the starting quarterback. Even Jerry Jones said on Sunday that the only way Romo would silence his critics was to win a Super Bowl. That seems a little far-fetched when you can’t even get to the playoffs. Expect plenty of gauging whether all of this crunch-time failure has reached the point where it rules Romo’s head. And expect some folks that will defend Romo, too. As I wrote earlier this year, there is no more polarizing quarterback in the NFL.
Robert Griffin III: The last time we saw RGIII in Cowboys, excuse me, AT&T Stadium, he was torching the Dallas defense. But this is a new year and the Cowboys are a new defense (theoretically) and Griffin is not his usual self after last year’s surgeries. Yet. He’s coming off a bye week and had some time to rest up. Will he more resemble the RGIII we saw last year or the RGIII we saw a few weeks ago? That will deeply impact whether this Redskin offense will finally be a Redskin offense in full.
The pass defense: There will be plenty of questions about defending the Redskin passing game. Even though RGIII hasn’t looked as sharp as last year, the Redskins are still a Top 10 passing offense. The Cowboys are coming off giving up back to back 400-yard passing games and there are serious questions about how they’re defending the pass. There are two tracks here. The first question is whether the Cowboys pass rush can bounce back after failing to record a sack for the first time this season. The second question is why the Cowboys secondary has been so porous. I’d be interested to hear the answer to the second question.
The running game: Yep, here we go again. As I wrote in First and 10 on Monday, DeMarco Murray ran the football 10 times on the Cowboys’ first three drives and the Cowboys scored all three times. He had two carries the rest of the game. In a game in which the Cowboys needed to run the ball effectively they not only failed to do so but they also failed to even try after that third scoring drive. Why? Well, head coach Jason Garrett skipped his usual Monday press conference, so expect he and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan to be peppered with that very question this week. This Cowboys offense is starting to look much like last year’s when it became all about Romo and throwing the football. As Sunday proved that can be a double-edged sword.
The rise of Terrance Williams: For the second straight game the rookie had a fine outing, and this time he didn’t fumble. His 82-yard touchdown reception was a game-changer when the Cowboys really needed it. So he’s going to get plenty of attention this week, especially if Miles Austin continues to struggle with his hamstring. If Austin doesn’t practice again this week, expect some locally to start questioning if Austin will even be with the team in 2014. It’s a legitimate question, given Williams’ recent play.
And a bonus, just for this week:
J.J. Wilcox: Well there’s no safety net now. With the release of Will Allen on Tuesday, the rookie is now the unquestioned starter opposite Barry Church. Expect some copy on how the rookie will handle being “the man” in an area of the field that has been burned repeatedly the past few weeks.