The Washington Redskins will be trying to end a five-game losing streak Sunday, when they host the Dallas Cowboys.
In their first meeting of the season, the Cowboys edged the Redskins 18-16 on a 40-yard field goal with 1:52 left on the clock.
Since then, the Redskins have gone 1-5 while the Cowboys have won three and lost three. Dallas, who enters the game having won 14 of the last 21 meetings, enters as seven-point favorites.
Here are five storylines to follow in this matchup.
1. The lingering injury bug: The Redskins just can’t shake it. Already shorthanded along the offensive line, the status of rookie Maurice Hurt, who has started the last two games at left guard, remains in doubt as a knee injury has sidelined him this week. Both right tackles Sean Locklear (ankle) and Jammal Brown (groin) are hobbled as well. Injuries have robbed the Redskins of playmakers Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, Tim Hightower and now Leonard Hankerson. On defense, strong safety LaRon Landry says he expects to play although a sore Achilles’ tendon has hampered him all week. But how effective can he be? The defensive line has gotten thin as well, as end Kedric Golston was lost for the season last week. Can the Redskins overcome all of their bumps and bruises to compete with Dallas?
2. Rex’s rebound: Quarterback Rex Grossman makes his second start since reclaiming his job, and Redskins players and his coaches believe that despite his warts (11 interceptions and two fumbles in six games), the nine-year veteran gives them the best chance to win. He can move the offense, but moving it isn’t enough. Grossman & Co. need to find the end zone. During this five-game skid, the Redskins have averaged 10.6 points a game. That certainly won’t cut it against a Dallas team that ranks 10th in the NFL in scoring (24.8 points a game). Can Grossman and his short-handed offense get back on track?
3. Run game: The Redskins’ rushing attack has been missing in action for much of the season, and that’s a big reason why their offense has struggled so mightily. The Shanahans have tried Ryan Torain, gone to Roy Helu, back to Torain and then back to Helu again. Helu provided a bit of a spark (averaging 5.0 yards a carry this season), but with Washington usually playing from behind, the team has had to take to the air. A lack of continuity on the line complicates matters, but the Redskins have to try to find a way to rekindle the rushing attack. In their last three games, the Cowboys have given up 178.7 yards a game and 6.3 yards per carry. Could the Redskins possibly get right this week? Will Tashard Choice get a chance to help his new team as he faces his old team?
4. Run defense: While the Redskins still are trying to get their rushing attack going, the Cowboys have found their workhorse back in rookie DeMarco Murray, who has averaged nearly 19 carries for more than 150 yards rushing in the last four games. The Redskins on the season rank 16th against the run, yielding 120.4 rushing yards a game and need to buckle down this week to keep the Oklahoma product from running wild, which will enable Dallas to string together long, clock-churning drives. Limiting Murray will put more pressure on quarterback Tony Romo to make big plays, which could mean opportunities for interceptions.
5. Armstrong’s opportunity: Last season’s breakout receiver, Anthony Armstrong has yet to rekindle the magic this season thanks largely to limited opportunities. He started the year on a strong note, but got hurt the last time Washington faced Dallas and hasn’t reclaimed a regular spot in the rotation since. Now with Hankerson done for the year, it appears that Armstrong will return to the starting lineup as he remains the best option at that X-receiver position. He would love to shine against his hometown team, the Cowboys, and finally prove to coaches that he shouldn’t have been the forgotten man.