As the Redskins prepare to face the Cowboys on Monday night, they'll both rely on the systems and schemes put in place by offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
Posted on the wall in the Redskins locker room this week, after being grabbed from team meetings, was a piece of paper with the Cowboys logo and a simple motivational message.
"They have the BEST offensive line in the NFL…and the best left offensive tackle!"
Defensive back DeAngelo Hall had the idea to bring it down and tape it up where his unit sits. Defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois said he kept slipping the papers underneath offensive line coach Bill Callahan's folders in meetings, which prompted an unhappy response.
The Redskins' Monday night tilt with the Cowboys is significant for a variety of reasons, but a new wrinkle this year comes with Callahan, his most recent employer and the imprint he made in Dallas before leaving for Washington.
Callahan was the offensive line coach for the Cowboys for the previous three seasons and was fundamental in establishing what many believe to be the best O-line in the league. Since he migrated to the Redskins, Washington's offensive line has gained similar merits while Dallas hasn't skipped a beat under Callahan's former assistant, Frank Pollack.
"Often times, you'll have coaches on your staff who go elsewhere or maybe you have a guy added to your staff who's been somewhere and you're playing that team," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "First and foremost, evaluations come from watching the tape. Sometimes because you've been with someone, maybe you have a better understanding of what they're doing after you've watched them on tape."
Callahan's departure from Dallas didn't leave a hole, it left a formula. The Cowboys have allowed 24 sacks (10 to a less mobile Matt Cassel) and just 49 quarterback hits this season. They've also paved the way for 1,268 yards rushing without a premiere, every-down back.
The Redskins have similar numbers – they've allowed just 17 sacks, 54 quarterback hits and helped produce 1,058 yards, at times looking dominant at home.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 13 match up against the Dallas Cowboys Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
"A lot of that system has stayed the same, and so he's a guy we have a lot of respect for," tight end Jason Witten said. "He really did a great job for our offense in the first year as a play-caller and then last year with the offensive line and our run game, so we see a lot of carry over in what Washington does now, but us too, very similar in the way we approach it in the run game."
The Cowboys' consistency on the line – with left tackle Tyron Smith and a bevy of young talent – should prove to be one of the toughest tasks the Redskins defensive line has had to face this year. That's been apparent by the bulletin board material plastered to the walls and the way players have answered questions about containing the offense.
"They got three or four first-rounders. They did a good job building that offensive line," said defensive end Jason Hatcher, who admitted the schemes haven't changed from last year. "They throw a lot of max protection at you, they tight the splits down not allowing you to get any penetration. They do a good job. It's just going to come down to just effort and don't quit. Whoever going to outwork each other. That's what it's going to boil down to. Just outwork the man in front of you."
In some respects, though, the Cowboys won't be presenting many surprises. Practice weeks are times to refine skills and to match up with an opponent's looks. The Redskins' offensive line has proven to be more than valuable for the defense in both categories.
"Looking at them is almost looking at our line," defensive line Ricky Jean Francois said. "When I got a chance to look at film, it felt like I was looking at Trent [Williams] and every dude across the line. Looking at film, we are playing against the same dudes we are practicing against. It's just different bodies, different uniforms, but the same technique. Got to remember where Coach Callahan came from and who made those guys that way."