The Redskins.com crew breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Cowboys 2016 Week 2 showdown at FedExField.
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GET INTO A GROOVE, KIRKAfter throwing for at least one touchdown pass in all 16 regular season games last year, Redskins quarterback Trent Williams did not find the end zone during Monday evening's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He did throw for more than 300 yards, but a good portion of that came when the Redskins were trying to climb out of a double-digit hole.
"There are plenty of places where I can be better and that's where I'm focused and understand that I have a great opportunity now this Sunday to go out there and hopefully put a better taste in our mouths," Cousins said
This week, Cousins faces the Cowboys for the fourth time as a starter for the Redskins. He is currently 1-2 against Washington's biggest foe, but Dallas' defense doesn't necessarily stand out like it once did.
Still, Cousins knows that the Cowboys will throw some new looks at him and try to make the offense one-dimensional like it became during the latter stages of Monday's game.
But if the Redskins can find a way to churn yardage on the ground, it will make life easier for the offense, particularly in third-down and red zone situations.
"You know, if you're over 50 percent in both of those, you're going to be near the top of the league, in a better position that most teams, so that's something we're always going to look at," Cousins said. "And there are others – first down efficiency, yards per play, that kind of a thing – that you look at, that you can kind of measure yourself to see are we achieving the goals that are necessary that lead to wins, traditionally and typically. So those are statistics you can kind of look at to find where the holes are, maybe the gaps are, where you're being efficient and can feel good about."
LOCK 'EM DOWN
There has been a lot of talk this week leading up to the divisional matchup between the Redskins and the Cowboys.
A significant portion of the conversation has been concerning the play of cornerbacks Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland in last week's loss to the Steelers and the upcoming challenge that Dallas presents, especially with receiver Dez Bryant.
"(Bryant) is a great competitor. There's no doubting that," Norman said. "He's been doing his job over there in Dallas and doing a good job of that. We've just got to understand and know that there's other guys beside just (Bryant) over there. … We've just got to be understanding and knowing what the coaches want from us. We've got to perform and execute flawlessly."
Despite giving up 126 yards and two touchdowns to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, the defense is ready to attack this Sunday.
Breeland has had success against Bryant in the past, holding him to just 30 yards on three receptions in one critical 2014 battle.
In the Cowboys' loss to the Giants last week, quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 227 yards, with only one catch going to Bryant for eight yards. While there has been a lot of talk about Norman covering the top receiver for the opposing team, which Breeland did mostly in the Steelers game with Brown, the variety of threats that this offense presents means that the defense cannot just focus on one player.
"I think both of our corners are capable," safety David Bruton Jr. said. "You just have to have days like that where things just don't fall into place as you've seen. But both of our corners are very capable guys. They're able to make those plays and, heck, before you know it, Bree (Bashaud Breeland) could be over here getting a big-time contract similar. I think both of our corners are great guys, great competitors and they want to be the best. I think both of them are willing to go up against the best."
DEFEND HOME TURF
For the second time in as many seasons, the Redskins enter Week 2 with a chance to redeem an opening season loss back at FedExField.
A look back at some of the top images in games between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys.
In 2015, the Redskins fell to the Miami Dolphins in the season-opening game before controlling the St. Louis Rams from start to finish the next Sunday. It would be the first of six home wins on the season for Washington.
This time around, the Redskins are hoping to exact revenge from Monday's loss to the Steelers with a big victory over the Cowboys.
"It's important because winning on the road isn't easy," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said this week. "Obviously, winning at home isn't easy either, but it's an important game for a lot of reasons. It's a division game, it's the Cowboys and it's a home game – that's a trifecta right there for you. So, it's very, very important."
Defensive end Chris Baker – who is listed as questionable to play but remains optimistic about his chances of doing so – said he wants to send Redskins fans home Sunday afternoon with "something good to cheer about."
"You can lose a lot of non-divisional games, but if you win the division, you have the chance to get a home playoff game and get into the playoffs," Baker said. "This a division game, so we've got to come out here and win this one."
PLAY A CLEANER GAME
Only two teams – the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Rams – committed more penalties than the Redskins in Week 1. While the nine penalties that Washington was whistled for amounted to just 55 yards, the situations in which the flags came led to frustration on Washington's behalf.
The Redskins committed five false start penalties and two holding penalties that beset a running game for Washington that rushed for just 55 yards. These are mistakes Washington believes it can fix, especially the false starts, which head coach Jay Gruden said he addressed early in this week's practices.
"Two of them were really, really costly," Gruden said of the false starts Tuesday. "We had the plays that we had absolutely drawn up for the coverage that we wanted and the false start just killed us, so it's something that is very inexcusable for us as coaches to deal with. So we have got to get corrected. Something as simple as the snap count can cost you and it cost us (Monday)."
Gruden acknowledged that a wide variety of snap counts could have been the issue, but was quick to remind that different snap counts are "something that you need have in the National Football League."
"You have got to [have] variety in your snap count and we have got to be able to handle it," Gruden said. "We are professional football players and we'll trim it down a little bit, but it is something that we have to handle."
An improvement in the penalty department, especially when it comes to false starts, will likely help the Redskins offense maintain more flow and balance. The Redskins 43 passes to 12 rushes can partly be attributed to the team trailing in the second half, but penalties also put the team in long yardage situations that called for passes.
"It all starts in practice, that's what practice is for," tight end Vernon Davis said. "It's for us to have opportunity to get out there and kind of minimize those mistakes and penalties that we made in the game I think (Wednesday) was the start and we've accomplished a lot. We got better as a team, as a unit, and we had a chance to correct some of those things."