Redskins-Cowboys: Areas to monitor this week

The Washington Redskins return to practice Wednesday to begin

preparing for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Washington aims to snap a five-game losing streak while the Cowboys are coming off of a 44-7 thumping of the Buffalo Bills.

Here are some key areas to monitor on this downtrodden team.

> Defensive line depth -- The Redskins lost a valuable member of their defensive line rotation when Kedric Golston, who had been very stout against the run, was placed on IR Tuesday. More pressure will fall upon Stephen Bowen, with whom Golston often rotated. Can Kentwan Balmer, who just joined the team last week, step in and make valuable contributions? Does Darrion Scott, who re-joined the team on Tuesday, have anything to offer?

> Answers in the running game -- The Redskins desperately need a spark in their rushing attack and so far, Roy Helu or Ryan Torain have struggled to produce consistently and give their team the balance it needs. Tashard Choice is itching to make his Redskins debut against the team that waived him on Oct. 29. In addition to needing its backs to increase their production, Washington also needs better production from its revamped offensive line.

> Finding a new playmaker – Leonard Hankerson was quickly emerging as a threat for the Redskins, but now he’s done for the season. Teams have been able to concentrate on limiting Fred Davis in recent weeks. Jabar Gaffney is a steady veteran, but is this the week that Anthony Armstrong and Terrence Austin get involved? Can new addition David Anderson take on a larger role as he enters his second week with the team? If ever there was a week that the Redskins needed to discover some big-play ability, this is it. The Cowboys this season have 26 passes of 25 yards or more. Meanwhile, Washington has only 10 this season. The Redskins will need to find ways to move the ball quickly to keep up on Sunday.

> Oshiomogho Atogwe’s health – The veteran free safety and one of Washington’s biggest free agent signings of the offseason hasn’t been right all season. It started with a hamstring injury in the preseason and has expanded to knee and toe injuries. He has lacked a burst of speed and explosiveness, and thus far, he hasn’t been able to display his stellar range. He didn’t play in the last two games while trying to heal. Reed Doughty has done a solid job in his place, but he isn’t as strong in coverage as Atogwe has been in previous years. So getting a truly healthy Atogwe back for this game could help.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.

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