Dallas Cowboys

Less-than-perfect Cowboys defense heads to Washington with something to prove vs. Skins

Based on social media impressions, the Dallas Cowboys were Dak Prescott-perfect in all areas in the blowout victory against the New York Giants in the season opener.

The offense ran like a well-oiled machine, at least in the words of Prescott, who passed for 405 yards, four touchdowns and had a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3, in rolling to a 35-10 lead in the third quarter and then resting their starters en route to a 35-17 victory.

The feelings weren’t so rosy on the other side of the ball.

The Cowboys defense knows it must tighten up against the run, get more pressure on the quarterback and force some turnovers when they play the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

“We want to be an elite defense, and we feel like we are that,” linebacker Jaylon Smith said. “But we have to go out and prove it every day. There were instances in the game where we didn’t display that. Our job is to correct that.”

A major point of emphasis against the Redskins is stopping the run and containing legendary back Adrian Peterson on Sunday.

Peterson, a seven-time Pro Bowler, rushed for 99 yards against the Cowboys last October at Washington.

“They call him A.D., ‘All Day’ for a reason. He’s always going to come with tenacity,” Smith said. “We have to be able to match it and exceed their expectations.”

The Cowboys got the 18-point win against the Giants but they were gashed on the ground by running back Saquon Barkley, who had 11 carries for 120 yards, including a 59-yard romp on the second play of the game.

It was unacceptable for a prideful Cowboys defense that ranked fifth against the run last year.

“Obviously last week was not up to our standard, and it just comes down to discipline and effort,” said secondary coach/defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard. “The big part about it is that we maintain our gap control.”

The Cowboys hope to be better on defense because they are getting healthier. Defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford and cornerback Byron Jones were all on limited snap counts against the Giants because they missed all of training camp and the preseason recovering from offseason surgeries.

They should play a larger role against the Redskins.

Lawrence, a two-time Pro Bowler who has a goal of two sacks a game, had a ½ sack and a forced fumble against the Giants.

He expects more from himself and the defense on Sunday.

“More pressure on the quarterback, more strip sacks,” he said. “We pride ourselves on being one of the best units in the league and we don’t feel like we showed that last week. So we’ve got something to prove.”

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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.