As we head into the dog days of summer, there are many questions facing the Dallas Cowboys. Paramount among them has to be how our beloved ‘Boys will fair against their NFC East rivals in 2013. For the next few weeks I will be taking a look at the Cowboys division rivals and how Dallas might match up with each of them when football season finally rolls around. First up has to be the Cowboy’s most historically hated foes and defending NFC East champs…the Washington Redskins.
Halfway through the 2012 season when Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan made headlines by giving the impression that he was giving up on his team’s hopes of having a successful season, I thought the ‘Skins were the least of the Cowboys worries. Little did I know that the Redskins would make my turkey hard to swallow on Thanksgiving by storming into Big D and handing the Cowboys a great big “L.” The Redskins rally didn’t end there. They marched through the NFC East with a vengeance and sent Dallas home in a division deciding showdown the Cowboys faithful would like to forget.
Washington’s successful season was largely due to the play of their two rookie sensations, QB Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris. Between them, the Redskins dynamic duo combined for 90 percent of a Washington rushing offense that ended the season ranked first in the league. Morris ended the year with 1,613 rushing yards, while Griffin III added 815 of his own, including seven rushing touchdowns. What was the Redskins’ saving grace also ended up being its downfall, as Griffin III went down with a serious knee injury in the team’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Griffin III also suffered a concussion during the 2012 campaign.
Rookie running back Alfred Morris made mincemeat of a Cowboys defense that had been decimated by injuries in the season finale. He ground out 200 rushing yards on 33 carries and added three touchdowns to help the Redskins defeat Dallas by a score of 28-
Cowboys Nation is hoping that NFL elder statesman Monte Kiffin’s vaunted Tampa 2 defense will be able to put pressure on Griffin III and create some turnovers in 2013.
On the Cowboys side, Tony Romo accumulated 4,903 passing yards and 28 touchdowns during the season. It is worth noting that both Romo and Griffin III finished 2012 with an identical completion percentage of 65.6. As Griffin III’s penchant for using his feet has led to concerns about whether or not he can stay healthy for an entire season, a worry with Romo has been the number of times he puts the ball in the hands of the Cowboys opponents, especially in critical situations. In 2012 alone he threw 19 interceptions and if the Cowboys hope to take back the NFC East crown, that simply has to stop.
Keeping running back DeMarco Murray healthy could help the Cowboys take some of the heat off Romo. Murray has proven he can be a force in the Dallas backfield. We all remember that record-breaking rushing performance in 2011 against the St. Louis Rams. However, a knee injury kept him on the sidelines for six games in 2012 and the Cowboys rushing attack felt the pain of his absence by ended the season at a dismal ranking of 31st in the NFL.
One way to assure Murray avoids injury would be to bring in a veteran back to take some of the load. Of the many that are still available in the NFL,my pick of the bunch would be former New York Giant Ahmad Bradshaw. Jerry Jones has shown no interest so far in bringing in veteran backfield help. Rookie Joseph Randle seems to be the best option to spell Murray at this point.
The Cowboys first face the Redskins on October 13 at Cowboys Stadium in a Sunday Night Football match up. They travel to FedEx Field to play the ‘Skins on December 22.