The Cowboys open the 2010 season in pursuit of the Super Bowl at Texas Stadium in February by traveling to Washington to play the Redskins, new quarterback Donovan McNabb and two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Shanahan.
Prognosticators are all over the board when trying to handicap the NFC East. I’ve seen pundits pick each of the four teams to win the division and predictions where each of the clubs gets passed over for the postseason party.
After playing 11 seasons for another Cowboys archrival, the Philadelphia mcnabbEagles, McNabb takes his leadership skills to the nation’s capital. In fact, it could have been the Cowboys who are most responsible for Philly coach Andy Reid deciding to dump the six-time Pro Bowler.
The Boys beat the Eagles three times last season, including a 24-0 season finale that stole the division and home field from Philadelphia and a 34-14 thumping in the opening round of the playoffs the next week. McNabb was ineffective in each game and was sacked eight times.
Now McNabb, who has been out several weeks with a gimpy ankle, is being asked to take over a Washington offense that was 26th in the NFL in scoring. The Skins failed to score more than 17 points in its first eight games, and didn’t score a TD against the Cowboys last season. The running game averaged just 94 yards and 3.9 per rush.
The defense was the strength of the Redskins last season, but the on-going feud between Shanahan and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth has overshadowed training camp. Despite rumors, the disgruntled and misguided Haynesworth is expected to suit up against Dallas.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, coming off his best season in many aspects, especially ball security and decision making, could have to use his scootability on Sunday because of a suspect line.
The 30-year-old had to run for his life in the playoff thumping in Minnesota last season, and he will take on a strong Washington pass rush likely without right tackle Marc Colombo and left guard Kyle Kosier because of knee injuries. The offensive line has been under scrutiny all training camp because of their age and ineffectiveness and Romo could eventually pay the ultimate price
If Romo gets time, he’ll have a plethora of threats to choose from. Wideout Miles Austin had a breakout season in 2009; tight end Jason Witten is always among the league leaders in receptions; and first-round pick Dez Bryant, who missed all of preseason with an ankle injury but will play Sunday.
Romo will have the three-headed monster in the backfield. Felix Jones, who broke runs of 49 and 73 yards in the wins over Philadelphia, should become the featured back, but battering ram Marion Barber and shifty Tashard Choice will play also.
Besides the offensive line, the Cowboys’ red zone offense is in need of improvement. Dallas was second in the NFL in yards but 14th in scoring, which put a lot of pressure on the defense. But DeMarcus Ware and the rest of the D was up to the task, ranking first allowing just 250 points all season and pitching back-to-back shutouts against Washington and Philadelphia.