The Dallas Cowboys are coming off an impressive 35 to 17 week one win against the New York Giants. Now, they turn their attention to another division rival the Washington Redskins in what should be a tough early-season road game. The Cowboys have had a lot of success playing the Redskins during the Dak-Zeke era going 5-1 against them since 2016. However, they are always a difficult opponent for Dallas no matter what their record is, especially at home. Here are 3 keys that I think can lead them to their second division win in this young season.
1. Establish Ezekiel Elliott early
As we all know, the Cowboys are built to run the football with their powerful offensive line and All-Pro running back. Elliott’s first game was rather pedestrian with 53 yards on 13 carries but it was expected considering he traditionally starts slow and the fact that he only had a few practices before the season because of his holdout. It’s all about getting him into football shape and the only way to do that is to feed him the ball. Two things travel in football, your defense, and your running game. The Cowboys should come out pounding the rock and establish their advantage upfront.
The more you move the chains the less the crowd will be involved and the longer it will take the opposing team’s offense to get a rhythm due to not being on the field. Control the clock, wear down the defense and keep your defense fresh at all times. Feed Zeke, early and often.
2. Keep riding the Dak wave
Dak Prescott couldn’t have dreamed of a better start than the one he had in the season opener. He set an opening game franchise record for passing yards with 405, breaking Hall of Famer Troy Aikman’s previous record of 362 in 1999. He had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 and tossed four touchdowns, good enough to win NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Now, he’s facing a defense that isn’t very good and in particular, a secondary that should have problems covering Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb, who all had big games last week.
Kellen Moore should continue to let Dak attack the middle of the field, the sidelines and downfield just like week one. Throw the ball on first down some to keep the defense off-balance. Use Elliott and Tony Pollard out of the backfield as well. You want to keep this momentum and confidence going for Dak.
3. Defense needs to reassert their dominance
One of the not so bright spots in last Sunday’s win against the Giants was the defense. They were on the field for almost 28 minutes, gave up 25 first downs and 470 total yards (151 yards on the ground). The Cowboys were seventh in fewest yards allowed and fifth against the run in 2018 so the week one performance wasn’t ideal by any means. However, they were still very good in a few areas. The Giants were only 2 of 11 on third downs and scored a lackluster 17 points. When you can get off the field on third down and keep points at a premium you are setting your defense up for success.
Also, the Cowboys forced two turnovers against the Giants. This has been a big issue in recent years for the defensive unit despite having really good teams overall. As we know, you force turnovers your chances of winning increase immensely.
Road games are tricky, especially early in the season against a division rival. On paper, the Cowboys are the superior team but games aren’t played on stat sheets. There has to be a focus to come in and handle business and get division win number two in as many weeks. If they establish Elliott, keep riding Dak’s momentum and play sound defense I see them going to 2-0 this Sunday.