Big Picture: 5 Storylines For Cowboys-Commanders

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Week 4 is already on the horizon after the Cowboys’ Monday Night Football win over the Giants on the road. The defense did what it has done throughout the season, racking up five more sacks with DeMarcus Lawrence accounting for three of those. Cooper Rush impressed yet again with a strong performance and CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard each had big games.

Enter the Commanders, who are fresh off a rough outing against the division rival Eagles. After nabbing a win in their opener, Washington has stumbled in back-to-back weeks and will look to Carson Wentz to rebound from a tough Week 3.

It’ll be another divisional battle for the Cowboys this week when they see the Commanders. Here are five storylines for both teams heading into the noon kickoff at AT&T Stadium this Sunday.

  • Old friend Carson Wentz rejoined the NFC East after a year away with the Colts last season before an offseason trade to the Commanders. In eight career starts against the Cowboys, Wentz is an even 4-4 with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. His last start against Dallas came in the 2020 season against and a Cowboys team without Dak Prescott, much like will be the case this time around. In that game Wentz passed for just 123 yards along with two touchdowns and two picks.
  • Washington has struggled to protect Wentz thus far through the early part of the season by allowing 15 sacks in just three games, including nine last week to the Eagles. For context, the Cowboys defense leads the league with 13 sacks of their own. Now while the Commanders’ offensive line has struggled to keep Wentz upright, he has taken 17 sacks in his career against the Cowboys.
  • To say that the Commanders have struggled to get going offensively would be an understatement. After putting up 14 points in Week 1 against the Jaguars, the Commanders have been shut out in each of the last two weeks in the first half. To add to it, Washington has a -19-point differential through three games and have been outgained in total yardage by just under 50 yards. Yet despite that Washington ranks No. 7 in the league on third down conversions at over 47%.
  • Will Terry McLaurin be a factor? McLaurin signed an extension over the offseason but has been uncharacteristically quiet to start 2022. The Ohio State product has just 12 catches for over 230 yards, but just one touchdown. Dallas has done well to contain the perimeter threat over the years, allowing an average of almost 57 yards per game and just two touchdowns in five games. Keep your eye on the Commanders’ other targets, however. Curtis Samuel and rookie Jahan Dotson have each gotten out to good starts, as has running back JD McKissic in the pass game.
  • Although they will be without star pass-rusher Chase Young as he works back from last season’s ACL tear, the rest of the Commanders’ defense has yet to really find their footing. They have allowed an average of 27 points a game thus far, 28th in the league, while recording just eight sacks with Daron Payne leading the way with three.
  • If anything has become clear this season, it’s that the Cowboys’ pass rush is a serious force. While Micah Parsons certainly steals all of the headlines with his four sacks, DeMarcus Lawrence put up three of his own against the Giants before halftime and Dorance Armstrong has three sacks as well. For a Commanders offensive line that allowed nine sacks last week to the Eagles, this could be a nightmare matchup for them against the league leaders in sacks.
  • Although it was thought that Michael Gallup could potentially make his season debut against the Giants, all signs point to the receiver possibly making his return from ACL surgery this Sunday against Washington. Noah Brown has been productive in a No. 2 role so far this season and CeeDee Lamb had his first big game of 2022 last week against the Giants, but the addition of Gallup even in a limited role could add an over-the-top element to the offense that has been lacking in his Absence.
  • Cooper Rush has been exceptional through two starts in place of the injured Dak Prescott, including his 215 yards and a touchdown against the Giants. Rush has completed nearly 63% of his throws in that span, but the biggest point is that he has yet to throw an interception in those 75 passing attempts. If the Cowboys can continue to run the ball the way they did against the Giants with 176 yards between Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, that will go a long way in helping Rush continue his success in place of Prescott. Perhaps even further than that, the Cowboys are converting just under 29% of their third down attempts, ranking 27th in the league. However, they have successfully completed 4-of-7 fourth down attempts.
  • Speaking of the running game, Tony Pollard broke out in Week 3 with 105 yards on just 13 carries while Ezekiel Elliott had 73 yards and a touchdown. The Commanders have allowed almost 129 rushing yards per game, whereas the Cowboys have averaged right at 118 yards.
  • Just for good measure, let’s circle back to the defense just once more. The Cowboys are rightfully getting their flowers for their ferocious pass rush, but the guys in the secondary deserve their due as well. Dallas is surrendering right around 176 passing yards per game this season and have only allowed two passing touchdowns. While the Washington offense has been inconsistent, they have had the propensity to hit the big play.

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