Updated: Jan 21, 2021
The attitude in Ashburn should be optimistic among players and coaches as Washington heads into the bye week. Washington dominated the Dallas Cowboys on both sides of the ball in route to a 25-3 drubbing. Washington should have had even more points after a failed 4th down effort on the Cowboys goal line. Nonetheless, the Burgundy and Gold came out with a plan and the W.
HC Ron Rivera realized his team would be facing a depleted offensive line and a defense that was one of the worst, statically, in the league. Records and statistics seem to be out the window when these two rivals face each other. OC Scott Turner made a concerted effort to establish the run with rookie Antonio Gibson, which helped set up play-action. Gibson had a career day, leading all others with 120 yards rushing with a touchdown on 20 carries.
Although Kyle Allen only had 194 yards passing, he avoided turning the ball over and threw for two touchdowns. Being the game manager is what was needed against Dallas, but once again star receiver Terry McLaurin was the go to play-maker. McLaurin had 90 yards receiving on 9 catches with his third quarter 52 yard catch and score being the big play moment of the day.
Tight End Logan Thomas had his best day as a member of the team, chipping in multiple timely catches. The former Virginia Tech QB finished the day with 60 yards receiving on 4 rec, with none bigger than his third quarter 15 yard reception in which he broke a key tackle in route to the end zone.
Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio had his defense ready to play, exploiting the weakness along Dallas’s o-line. They also had the advantage of facing backup signal caller Andy Dalton with Dak Prescott on IR. Del Rio’s defense pressured Dalton all day until he was knocked out of the game by Jon Bostic during an attempted slide. Although that play led to a penalty with Bostic’s ejection, it made little difference. The defensive unit would finish the day with 6 sacks, 1 resulting in a strip sack for a safety and an interception. In the end they held Dalton to 75 yards passing with an int and Zeke Elliott to only 51 all purpose yards.
Although rookie pass rusher Chase Young was held without a sack, his presence was felt all day leading to pressures and untimely throws. Dallas attempted to double team and chip Young, but that just led to opportunities for the other Washington defenders. The stars of the day, on defense, would be DE Montez Sweat and LB Cole Holcomb.
Sweat’s speed, off the edge, was evident all afternoon after recording 2 sacks, 3 QB hits and a tackle for a loss. The second year pass rusher seems to be coming into his own with now 5 sacks on the season, after recording 7 sacks in 2019. The combination of Young/Kerrigan and Sweat was a lethal combination on a rainy afternoon in Landover.
The Burgundy and Gold Report MVP of the defense was second year linebacker Cole Holcomb. The former North Carolina linebacker has been battling a sore knee all season and saw his first action last week in spot duty. His performance against Dallas was the best of Holcomb’s young career, after recording 4 solo tackles, 1 tfl, 2 QB hits, 1 sack and an int. The interception couldn’t have occurred at a better time as Dallas was in Washington’s red zone, when Holcomb made the pick that deflected off Elliot’s hand.
Turner and Del Rio had their units clicking on all cylinders against Dallas, gaining another valuable division win to bring them to 2-5 overall with a 2-1 record vs NFC East opponents.
Heading into the Bye Week
The loss of safety Landon Collins was the lone blemish on the day for Washington, but nonetheless a big blow to this defense. Per ESPN’s John Keim it is believed that Collins will be out for the year with an achilles injury. The bye week might have come just in time with a safety likely to be added. They currently only have three safeties with Deshazor Everrett, Kamren Curl and Troy Apke who seems to have fallen out of favor with Del Rio.
The free agent market is thin, but two names should draw interest; the first being Eric Reed, who played for Rivera in Carolina. Reed has shown he has plenty left in the tank and the connection to Rivera is sure to be brought up by the local media. The second safety who Washington could show interest in is Earl Thomas. The seven time pro bowler had an altercation with a teammate and a domestic dispute that ultimately led to his release from Baltimore, which is why many believe he’s still available. Both are savvy veterans with the ability to play free/strong safety and adapt quickly. A dark horse could be a trade with Minnesota, who is reportedly shopping safety Harrison Smith. Some evaluators have argued the best way to utilize Smith at either FS or SS, but adding another versatile safety in his prime should be on the table for Washington.
With a division still up for grabs, the team playing the best defense and maintaining balanced ball control, could have a shot to play in the postseason even at a record under .500.