Grudge Match: Cowboys-Redskins keys

*Cowboys LT Doug Free vs. Redskins OLB Brian Orakpo: The last time that Free and Orakpo met was Week 3 after Free had played one of the poorest games of his career at left tackle. Free struggled badly against the 49ers, not only with his technique, but his confidence as well.

Orakpo is the type of rusher that will come at you from all angles and all rush points. His game is similar to DeMarcus Ware’s in that he just doesn’t have one pass-rush move. What makes rushers like Ware and Orakpo difficult to block is their ability to use their hands with body position and feet.

Orakpo is explosive off the edge and he can get into a blocker quickly, then turn the corner. Orakpo can also make himself small where Free doesn’t get much of a hitting surface on him. If the tackle can’t get his hands on him, then it makes it difficult to stop his path to the ball.

In the last meeting, Free was concerned about Orakpo’s ability to sell him hard up the field then plant on his outside foot and come inside, leaving Free to have to try to adjust inside to stop his rush. Again, this goes back to what we have seen in Ware in that he has shown the ability to attack blockers inside or outside.

The Seattle and Buffalo games were more of what we have expected from Doug Free, which is a good thing when you are match up against a player of the talent of Orakpo.

*Cowboys nickel CB Frank Walker vs. Redskins TE Fred Davis: With Santana Moss out of this game with a hand injury, the focus of the Redskins passing game now shifts to tight end Fred Davis. Since Walker joined the club, he really has done an outstanding job of playing the role of the nickel corner that plays inside against receivers but also handles the tight end. The Cowboys had a run there where they faced some outstanding tight ends and Walker has done a good job.

Davis is not like your normal tight end when it comes to playing inline. He is a decent blocker at the point of attack, the type that stays after you, but he really makes his living getting down the field.

Walker has been effective covering these tight ends by being physical with them. Walker has an advantage over, say, Barry Church because Walker knows what it is like to play on the outside, cover receivers and play routes. Davis can run routes better than most tight ends, so you need someone like Walker that is comfortable carrying receivers down the field.

If the Redskins do make it into the red zone, then you will most likely see the coverage switch to one of the safeties, either Gerald Sensabaugh or Abram Elam, who do a better job in a smaller area.

*Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray vs. Redskins SS LaRon Landry: This will be an interesting matchup because Landry will be the eighth man in the box that Murray will have to deal with when finishing runs.

Landry is a physical player that plays with a burst and can bring a load when coming forward. Landry is the type of player that loves to go for the big hit and tries to punish ball carriers.

Murray has done a nice job of making himself difficult to bring down in the open field. Murray has had success taking the ball hard front side then cutting it back.

If Tyron Smith and Doug Free are successful cutting off the backside, then there will be a lane to run the ball. In that alley will be Landry to meet Murray.

Last week the Cowboys did a nice job of taking Bills safety George Wilson out of the game by throwing the ball early in the game and having success. Wilson, like Landry, is a big hitter that plays well in the physical side of the game.

The Redskins have a better front seven than the Bills with Barry Cofield and Adam Carriker along with outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. If the Cowboys are going to have success running the ball, they are going to have to block these edge players in Orakpo and Kerrigan. Both these players are outstanding at chasing the play from the backside.

Secure these two and the ball has a chance to get to Landry. Don’t and the running game will struggle, but there is no doubt that there will be some serious collisions between Murray and Landry in this contest.