*How much do players get caught up in the Dallas-Washington rivalry? I’m sure some do -- running back Alfred Morris grew up a Redskins fan and said the other day, “If you don’t beat anybody, you’ve got to beat the Cowboys.” Former Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels came to Washington with a hatred of the Cowboys.
*But more players are like nose tackle Barry Cofield, who said earlier this week, “I’ve had people tell me they don’t care if we lose every other game, as long as we beat Dallas twice. It sounds crazy to me. But it gives you a glimpse inside the mindset of the fans, and we’re going to carry that [emotion] with us down to Dallas.” One player, in a casual conversation Friday, said that players don’t really get into this game more than the other division games. Any team you play twice a year helps foster certain feelings.
*It would help if these teams were consistently good and having to go through one another to, say, win the division or have playoff success. That has rarely been the case in the past 15-20 years. That’s why it was good for the NFL that they met in the regular-season finale with the NFC East title on the line. But that doesn’t mean fans of both teams don’t feel a certain way, at least not based on seeing interactions between flight attendants and fans or gate agents on my flight to Dallas. Anyone wearing Cowboys or Redskins garb was subject to some sort of comment.
*"NFL Matchup" is one of my favorite shows and they talked this week about corner DeAngelo Hall and some missteps he’s had this season. In some cases they’re right. But one play they highlighted this week should have been more about coaching than Hall’s play. It was a touchdown pass versus Green Bay to Jordy Nelson in which Hall, looking like he would stay with Nelson, shot up to the flat. That left Nelson open with safety Bacarri Rambo scrambling to cover him. But Hall’s job on that play was to try to trap quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the play, conning him into throwing to the flat. The coaches acknowledged it was a bad decision and I agree. Rambo clearly is not a guy who could have made up that much ground to cover Nelson.
*The show also highlighted something else I’m not always fond of: the linebackers’ drops when the Redskins show seven and rush four. It can be tough to get back deep enough to defend certain routes, especially if the corners aren’t going to play tight. It led to a touchdown to, yes, Nelson on a post. Hall was off; the linebackers failed to get enough depth. Touchdown. That’s too much Green Bay talk, but it was brought up after watching the show. Just an example of little things that can lead to big gains in the pass game for the opposition.
*That said, Hall needs to have another strong competitive game when facing receiver Dez Bryant. Say what you want about Hall, he does compete hard and has a lot of pride. The tough part going against Dallas is that quarterback Tony Romo is throwing the ball well and using lots of weapons. Even slot receiver Cole Beasley could be a pain in the rear for Washington Sunday night. But I remember at times last season when Beasley’s height (he’s listed at 5-foot-8) impacted the play in a negative way. Either Romo didn’t see him or had to try and lead him differently over the middle (once leading to a Hall interception) if he's tightly covered.
*Quarterback Robert Griffin III has a chance to have the sort of game that announces he’s back (whether or not he would be 100 percent himself is another matter; but the chance for a breakout game exists). And it'll happen if the Redskins establish the run early. Oakland's defense is pretty good; Griffin finished with a strong game. He must get it done early (but don't forget: Griffin did little in the first quarter of last season's Thanksgiving Day win; two first downs in the first quarter). Washington needs the offense to show something more in the first half. Otherwise: 1-4.