Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys return to scene of last season’s watershed loss, prompting Amari Cooper trade

The trip to Washington on Sunday brings the Dallas Cowboys to their watershed moment of a year ago.

A loss to the Redskins had them at 3-4 and left for dead with a putrid passing attack. Quarterback Dak Prescott passed for under 200 yards in four of those seven games and averaged 202 yards per game.

It prompted a bye-week trade with the Oakland Raiders for receiver Amari Cooper that provided immediate results as the team won seven of their last nine games to win the NFC East while averaging 282 passing yards per game.

The Cowboys offense is even better and more explosive this time around.

The addition of Cooper remains the key difference as he’s the true No. 1 receiver the offense needed to help Prescott reach his full potential.

Consider Prescott’s numbers over the last two seasons, including the playoffs, since the Cooper trade:

* His nine wins are tied for first in the NFL.

* His 70.7 completion percentage is second in the NFL.

* His 20-5 touchdown-interception ratio is fifth.

* His average quarterback rating of 105.7 is fifth.

Cooper, who had six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown in the 35-17 season opening win against the Giants, has 59 receptions for 831 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 regular-season games since joining the Cowboys last season.

“[Cooper’s] really good. He wins a lot,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He wins in man-to-man coverage. He presents himself well to the quarterback. He’s not someone who is all over the place as a route runner. He’s just pretty clean. He’s comfortable to throw to; he’s got a very good feel for recognizing man vs. zone coverage and in zone. He finds friendly spots for the quarterback, as well. He’s a good football player.”

He had eight catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns in his only matchup against the Redskins last Thanksgiving. He will be looking for more Sunday.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH SUNDAY VS. THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Zeke Elliott getting a bigger load

The Cowboys were smart with running back Ezekiel Elliott in his first game after missing all of camp and the preseason in a contract holdout. He had 13 carries for 53 yards against the Giants. Look for him to get his normal load of at least 25 touches against the Redskins Sunday. He is certainly ready for more and the Cowboys do not plan to hold him back any longer. He is in great shape. “I think I’m ready now for a normal workload,” Elliott said. “I’ll be able to go out there and do it.”

Dak Prescott’s encore

Prescott may not call it his best game ever, But his near-perfect performance against the Giants last week will go down as one of the best games in franchise and NFL history. That is not up for debate. It also has no bearing on Sunday’s game against the Redskins. Prescott has put that in the past. An improved performance, let alone a repeat performance, is likely not in the cards. Perfection is not routine. Prescott’s focus is building on tangible things like his decision-making, accuracy and command of the offense to hopefully lead the Cowboys to a 2-0 start.

Did the Redskins learn anything about Kellen Moore?

One advantage the Cowboys had in the season opener was that the Giants didn’t have a clue on new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. It was all fresh and new. The Redskins have at least one game tape to try to handle on his tendencies and likes during certain situations. It may be too soon as those usually don’t come into focus until after four games, but it’s better than nothing and they won’t be flying blind like the Giants.

Will Taco Charlton be active?

If defensive end Taco Charlton is inactive for a second straight week it tells you that the Cowboys are trying to keep him out of harm’s way for a possible trade. There is no other explanation, especially with Tyrone Crawford being limited in practice this week because of the surgically repaired hip. Rookie Joe Jackson is not more valuable than Charlton. Last week was about preserving him. It may be the case again Sunday. Vice President Stephen Jones acknowledged he has talked to the Dolphins and other teams about trades.

Stopping the run

The Cowboys defense will focus on stopping the run against the Redskins, specifically legendary back Adrian Peterson. 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. Peterson had 99 yards in a victory against the Cowboys at Washington last year. They blamed poor run fits and a lack of discipline for Barkley’s success but Peterson certainly has their attention.

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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.
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