On the morning of each Cowboys game, you'll get a chance to take a sip of Joe's gridiron insights with our 'Morning Cup of Joe.' He'll offer five storylines to follow when the Cowboys take the field and his thoughts on what to expect.
1.Take advantage of injury and indecision
The Cowboys defensive line has a chance to make life hell for Washington QB Kirk Cousins.
Washington's offensive line has been decimated with injury, and left tackle Trent Williams doesn't even know if he should be playing. He revealed this week he needs surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right knee.
"I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing," said Williams, "but that's what my heart is telling me to do right now."
4-of-5 starters on Washington's offensive line are dealing with injury. Starting center Spencer Long won't play.
Williams and guard Brandon Scherff will be gameday decisions.
The Cowboys rank 21st against the run, but they need to tee off against their injury-riddled opponents. Dial up the pressure like they did last week, speed up the clock on Cousins to force him into making bad decisions that result in turnovers.
Demarcus Lawrence is second in the league in sacks with 9.5, he needs to exploit whoever ends up in front of him and throw up another multi-sack performance, like we saw earlier in the year.
2.Chris Thompson is that guy
Washington running back Chris Thompson is the team's leading rusher and receiver. Shutting down the run game against Washington's ailing offensive front is straightforward.
But the Cowboys must create ways to stop the shifty Thompson from making impact plays catching the ball out of the backfield. Thompson has racked up 366 receiving yards and 3 TD catches to go along with 213 rushing yards and 2 TD's on the ground.
He's that guy, so whatever Rod Marinelli comes up with needs to start with stopping Thompson.
3.Prove that Zeke's recent run is for real
With a court date looming Monday afternoon in New York, Zeke Elliott realizes this could be his last game for quite awhile. Wednesday, I asked Elliott if he was looking forward to getting some resolution Monday in his legal dealings.
Without hesitation, Elliott said, "I'm looking forward to Sunday."
He sounded focused, and now he needs to prove as much.
The Cowboys have worked to get their running back to what we came to expect in 2016. In the first three games of this season, the Cowboys averaged 89 yards rushing per game. That number has exploded in the last 3 game to an average of 206 yards per contest.
Washington ranks in the top 10 in the NFL in rush defense giving up 94 yards per contest, so this will a good chance for the Cowboys to show they've truly got it together in the run game, then hope Monday's ruling goes in Elliott's favor.
4.Keep cashing in even if that means being selfish
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has thrown 14 touchdowns so far this season, that's twice as many as last season, and 10 of those have come in the red zone.
In fact, in the last four games, the Cowboys have been virtually unstoppable in the red zone. With Prescott at the helm, 14-of-the-last-15 trips have culminated in the endzone.
With the run game clicking, the threat of Prescott keeping it on the zone read, and his ability to throw the ball into the endzone, the Cowboys numerous options have been too much for opposing defenses. Prescott has it rolling and needs to stick to what he's doing, even if that means being selfish and running it in himself.
5.We want the real rivalry, not the made-for-tv commercial one
This is more about passion than play-making. While Dez Bryant needs to keep his emotions in control when facing Washington cornerback Josh Norman, I still want to see some fight in the Cowboys fiery receiver.
Bryant and Norman were featured in a cell phone ad campaign by Samsung. They didn't shoot the spots together, but they talked to each other and may have quashed a beef that has been trash-talk laden and even featured a postgame confrontation.
Norman will be back in the line-up after missing a couple games with a broken rib, and perhaps they're maturing and trying to move on. But Bryant is most productive when he's trying to prove something. He needs to keep that in mind before making peace with one of his gridiron mortal enemies.
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