Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ron Jenkins/AP/Shutterstock (13393678aa) Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (7) warms up before playing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas Buccaneers Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 11 Sep 2022
Dallas Cowboys (2-1) vs. Washington Commanders (1-2)
Game time: Sunday, 12 p.m. CST
TV/radio: FOX / SiriusXM, 105.3 The Fan, KVMK 107.5 La Grande
What’s at stake: If you would have told Cowboys fans that the team could go 2-1 while starting quarterback Dak Prescott sat out with an injured throwing hand, most probably would have taken it without hesitation. But after wins over the Bengals and Giants with Cooper Rush under center, the Cowboys face the Washington Commanders with a chance to go 3-0 without Prescott and jump out to a 2-0 start in the NFC East.
When the Cowboys have the ball: For the third straight game, it will be Cooper Rush under center for the Cowboys. Rush, who has been flawless in both his starts this season, will have a chance to pick apart a suspect Washington defense if the offensive line can hold up. The Commanders’ 28th-ranked pass defense is giving up almost 275 yards passing per game this season, including a massive 7.4 yards per catch for opponents. With Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz back in the fold, Rush will have plenty of weapons to frustrate the Washington defense all afternoon.
When the Commanders have the ball: After three weeks, the Commanders come in with one of the worst offenses in the NFL, but they have talent. Led by quarterback Carson Wentz, Washington has a couple of speedsters on the outside in Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, the always dangerous Logan Thomas, and a tough running back combination of Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissick. But where Washington falls flat is in the offensive line that has given up 15 sacks in 130 passing attempts. That is tied for the worst in the NFL through three weeks with the Bengals, who gave up six sacks to the Cowboys in a Week 2 loss.
Key Cowboys to watch:
CB Trevon Diggs– Trevon Diggs got his first interception on the final defensive snap of the night for the Cowboys in their win over the Giants last week. Diggs, who led the NFL with 11 last year, could have had another interception earlier in the game but just missed as the ball went right through his hands. And while he has shown he always shows up big in the passing game, Diggs has been just as vital in defending the running game this year. He has nine total tackles in three games, including one on third down that helped seal the victory late in the win over Cincinnati.
WR Michael Gallup – Set to finally make his return to the lineup, Michael Gallup will be a welcomed addition to the wide receivers group. Gallup was a key component to the offense last season, where he racked up 445 yards on 35 catches and two touchdowns before tearing his ACL in a Week 17 loss against Arizona. Now fully rehabbed, the fifth-year WR out of Colorado State should take his place in the starting lineup alongside CeeDee Lamb. And what better team to make your season debut against than the Commanders, the 28th-ranked pass defense in the NFL after three weeks?
OG Jason Peters – Just days before the season opener, the Cowboys signed 41-year-old Jason Peters to give its injury-plagued offensive line some help. It took the nine-time pro bowler three weeks of practice to get ready, but he made his debut in the win over the Giants. Peters entered the game at left guard for the third series of the game, finishing the game with 14 of 64 offensive snaps played.
DE Dorance Armstrong – While listed as a defensive end, the Cowboys use Dorance Armstrong all along the defensive line, depending on the situation. Armstrong, listed at 6-4 and 253 pounds, uses his 83-inch wingspan and nearly 35-inch-long arms to be able to successfully address the inside and outside responsibilities of stopping the run. He can also use his speed (4.87 40) to track down the ball carrier or simply get after the quarterback. His versatility has had him on the field for the third most plays (104 or 51% of snaps) of the ten defensive linemen that have played for Dallas this season. He has three sacks, tied for second on the team with Demarcus Lawrence.
The bottom line: If the Cowboys want to win the NFC East for the second straight season, they have to beat division foes, especially at home. The Commanders are off to a 1-2 start, with a defense that is ranked near the bottom of most categories at this point in the season. Without two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, one coming in the final two minutes, in the season opener at home, the Commanders would be winless and probably looking to make changes at key positions. If the Cowboys continue to put relentless pressure on the quarterback, as they have in the first three games, then it will be a long afternoon for the Commanders, especially QB Carson Wentz.