With the regular-season finale upon them, the Cowboys have the division title clinched and a low-percentage opportunity to raise their standing in the NFC playoff picture.
It seems more than likely they will remain positioned as the No. 3 seed and play the loser of the Green Bay-Detroit clash in Arlington next weekend.
But, first, the final regularly scheduled date: their annual trip to the nation’s capital to take on the perennially disappointing Redskins, a team that has won just seven of 31 games since the 2012 playoff season when Robert Griffin III was a rookie.
Here is a look at a few of the things the Cowboys will see from Washington’s defense as they close down another year:
LB Jackson Jeffcoat
Ryan Kerrigan has again posted a strong season in Washington. His 13 1/2 sacks and overall exceptional play have again demonstrated his star quality, and it was the best of four seasons from yet another product of the fertile 2011 draft.
But finding a durable bookend partner has not been successful with the many injuries to Texas’ Brian Orakpo. It appears that the Redskins have found a new candidate in Stanford rookie Trent Murphy, but he was lost for the season two weeks ago when he suffered a broken hand.
In steps the rookie from Texas, Jackson Jeffcoat. The Plano West star was a consensus All-American in his final season in Austin. He went undrafted and spent the year trying to make the Seattle roster in training camp before landing on the Washington practice squad, where he played one snap in Week 7.
Murphy’s injury placed Jeffcoat on the active roster for last week’s game against Philadelphia, and he sacked Mark Sanchez in his first extended action in the NFL.
Jeffcoat still deals with the issues that caused his draft stock to slide, with questions of having enough pass rush ability to cover up his deficiencies in pass coverage and run support. But he has a chance to make a major impression, as Washington looks to 2015.
CB David Amerson
Because of the Redskins’ massive investment to trade for Griffin, it was vital that they made their remaining draft picks really count.
The problem there is that players like Amerson, their highest pick in the 2013 draft (second round, 51st overall), have had difficult seasons.
Amerson’s season hit a low in Indianapolis where he was responsible for coverage breakdowns that made Andrew Luck’s day quite elementary. Athleticism has never been his issue, but awareness and confidence seem in short supply as quarterbacks have posted a cumulative passer rating of 132 against him this season — the worst in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.
Joined at cornerback by rookie Bashaud Breeland (fourth round), the Redskins have two young and talented cornerbacks.
But their secondary has been nothing short of a disaster, with the NFL passing for a 108.9 quarterback rating against Washington. The Redskins appear ready to move on from Cowboys’ nemesis Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator, mostly because the defense has made every passer they face as efficient as only Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers have been this season.