Redskins preparing for Dallas’s new-look defensive front

Trent Williams, Tom Compton & Kory Lichtensteiger

The Redskins’ offensive linemen will face a 4-3 Cowboys front after Dallas ran the 3-4 for the last eight years. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Because they play their divisional rivals twice a year, the Washington Redskins have good familiarity with the Dallas Cowboys’ personnel, and that knowledge helps boost confidence. But this year, Washington’s offensive players are preparing for changes along Dallas’s defensive front.

This year, Dallas has switched from the 3-4 defensive front that the team utilized for the last eight seasons, and instead, the Cowboys now run a 4-3 defense under new coordinator Monte Kiffin.

Top pass rusher DeMarcus Ware has now switched from outside linebacker to defensive end, and defensive lineman Jason Hatcher has moved from end to tackle. Together they anchor the line, having accounted for seven of their team’s 11 sacks.

“Their go-to guys are still there. You have to prepare for them to be the play-makers that they are,” Redskins left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. “They’ve got some new personnel, too, with some injuries and new players. But we just have to study and try to prepare as best we can.”

The Redskins find themselves in a unique situation where they have good familiarity with the opposing players, but no first-hand knowledge of how the Cowboys will attack them. They believe that through video study, they will gain a good feel for how they can best execute versus Dallas.

“There’s certainly carry-over there,” right tackle Tyler Polumbus said. “When you get in a pass-rush situation with a guy, he’s going to revert to the same move when he’s in a 3-4 as he would in a 4-3. But as far as overall schemes and tendencies, it’s entirely different. There’s a blend in there. … Obviously, all the calls are going to be different from a 4-3 than what they would be in a 3-4. You’ve got a certain set of plays that you’d play against a 4-3 team and a different set against a 3-4 team.”

Washington’s desire to run the ball will not change because of the Cowboys’ front. Despite struggling with consistency in this area in each of the first four games, the Redskins again will try to establish the run game and use that to set up their play-action passing attack. The Cowboys’ secondary has struggled against the pass, but the defensive front has done fairly well against the run, limiting teams to 3.8 yards a carry (12th-best in the NFL).

“It’s just what we do and it’s essential to us,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said of establishing the run game.

Of facing the new-look defense, he said little changes in his mind.

“You have got to take each game, each year as a new experience,” Griffin said. “They have got the same guys there, but they have a totally different scheme and they’ve bought into that scheme, so we have to attack that. We can’t just attack those individual guys, so I think it is totally different. But at the end of the day, we want to have a similar result, and that’s a win.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins practice Friday at 11:50 a.m.

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