The Dallas Cowboys will have their hands full come Monday night, when the hated Washington Redskins make their way to Cowboys Stadium. Although Dallas leads the series 60-38-2 and have won 19 out of the past 25, the Redskins arrive feeling plenty confident about their chances. Their 2-0 start has them sitting atop the NFC East, so we figured it would be a good idea to get the skinny from an expert on the team, Daniel Shiferaw. 'DShif' is SB Nation's credentialed Redskins' Editor, and he provides us with the scoop.
SB Nation Dallas: Is there a discernible difference over the past two years in the ways Dan Snyder is running in the team?
Daniel Shiferaw: I think most people around here would say there's been a huge difference. When Snyder signed Shanahan in January of 2010, he gave him and GM Bruce Allen the keys to the franchise. Make no mistake about it, Shanahan runs the show. Some of the moves they have made over the past year have been such a departure from what we've seen the past decade that it's hard to argue that the owner influences many of the football decisions anymore.
SB Nation Dallas: How would you analyze the progression of the Redskins 3-4 defense from last season? Is the run defense as bad as it appears in the stats or do the games tell a different story? (4.8 ypc against, 32nd ranked Run D DVOA from FO, 30th by PFF)
Daniel Shiferaw: The Redskins run defense has had two bad stretches so far this season. One in the first half against the Giants, keyed by a drive where Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs seemingly took over before Bradshaw punched it in for the score. The second time they really struggled was in the second half of the Arizona game, where Beanie Wells nearly racked up 100 yards in that half alone. The Redskins run defense was caught off balance in the second half by inside runs (mostly draws), because they believed the Cardinals would have abandoned the run and stick strictly with the pass.
So yes, the run defense is still an issue for the team, but one they believe they will improve upon as the season goes along.
SB Nation Dallas: How much do fans worry about Rex Grossman's turnover problems?
'Bad Rex' is probably a Redskins fan's biggest nightmare right now. Not that he's shown a ton of it yet, but the fact that he could revert to his old ways in a critical situation and cost the team a game is something that concerns the fanbase. He's had a few of those moments through two games, but hasn't had the huge mistake just yet.
SB Nation Dallas: Give us the inside scoop. Who are three Redskins the casual observer might not know, but are making an impact in 2011
Daniel Shiferaw: The Redskins might have one of the more exciting kick and punt returners in the NFL in Brandon Banks. He's the smallest player on the team (listed around 148 pounds), but has speed for days. He is the one player on the Redskins roster that is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
Many outside observers are talking about the emergence of the Redskins running game with starting tailback Tim Hightower, but it's his rookie backup Roy Helu who's done some damage early. Last week against the Cardinals, Helu finished the game with over 100 yarsd both rushing and receiving and showed his explosive speed on a few runs. He's an excellent change of pace back for Shanahan and is the running back duo's homerun threat.
And lastly, I know this might sound strange, but the Redskins new punter, Australian born Sav Rocca, has made a huge impact for the team. He's done a tremendous job making things tough for opposing offenses. He leads the NFL with 6 punts inside the 20 yard line, which has made the defense's job that much easier. Special teams is often forgot about, but the Redskins boast one of the more solid units in the league through two games.
SB Nation Dallas: The Cowboys have won 19 of the last 25 contests between the clubs. How has that affected the rivalry amongst Redskins fans in the DC area?
It hasn't affected this rivalry one bit in this area. Redskins fans are as boisterous as ever when it comes to America's Team. They still are of the motto that if the Redskins win just two games in a season, that both games better be against Dallas. That's just the way it is in DC, no matter what the records indicate.
On the field, however, if these two teams can wind up playing meaningful games in December and January in the near future, I suspect the rivalry could return to it's glory days of the 70's and 80's.