This game has not gone as the Redskins would have liked it in the first half. They are trailing 17-7 at the half.
Despite the perceived weakness of the Cowboys, the Skins have not been able to take advantage of the situation. They have made too many mistakes and that has hurt them badly. But that’s no fault of the defense.
So far, Greg Manusky’s defense has had a terrific start to the game. The stop unit came with a plan to stop the run on early downs and get pressure on Dak Prescott. And the plan worked well early.
The Dallas offense has not been able to mix up their play calling in an effective manner in this game. Too often, they are running the ball on first and second down and relying on Prescott to convert on third downs. However, the Redskins defensive front has done well to limit the rushing yards gained on early downs and that has rattled Prescott. Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith have done well to get pressure on Prescott on most downs, and Manusky dialed up a couple of effective blitzes as well.
In the first quarter, Manusky chose to rush six at one point and that really set the tone for the team. Prescott had no way to escape the free rusher, and Josh Harvey-Clemons was able to combine for the sack with Smith. Moving forward, Manusky has to focus on continuing to dial up pressure and finding solid pass rushing combinations to continue the defensive success in the second half.
The Redskins do need to keep up their effort in the second half. They allowed too many early rushing yards on the Dallas touchdown drive, and that was because they lost a bit of their edge in run defense. This was a minor blip, and the overall performance of the defense has been solid aside from this drive.
On offense, things have been less smooth. The Redskins receivers have been a problem all year, but the performance of the group in the first quarter was one of the worst they’ve seen all season. It started innocently enough when Josh Doctson dropped a pass. Kirk Cousins had put the ball right on his body, so it was clearly Doctson’s fault. Doctson has struggled with drops this year and needs to improve in that area moving forward.
Though Doctson made a mistake, Jamison Crowder had an even worse performance. The Redskins slot man dropped the first pass that came his way which was once again a perfect throw from Cousins. Crowder let it glance off his hands and Jeff Heath picked it off. Just a few plays later, Crowder fielded a punt and was stripped by Kyle Wilbur on the return. The Cowboys recovered and while they didn’t score on the ensuing drive, they pinned the Skins inside their own one.
Crowder has to shake off these mistakes and perform well in the second half. He started to get going on the final drive with a big catch. The team needs him to play well if they are to have a chance to win.
As for Cousins, he has had an up-and-down first half. He hasn’t made many bad throws, but his receivers are just letting him down right now. Making matters worse, Cousins fumbled deep in his own territory to set up a Cowboys scoring run. He needs to avoid making big mistakes, he had a second fumble that Samaje Perine recovered, but he does need help from the rest of his team to succeed.
The worst news of the half for the Redskins was the injury to right tackle Morgan Moses. He had his leg rolled up on from behind, and he ended up being carted off. Hopefully he ends up being okay, but the injury looked like a tough one.