Redskins playmaker Chris Thompson will look to bring out the worst in the Cowboys' defense, with the help of a diverse running attack.
There's no question the Dallas Cowboys possess some the league's fiercest pass rushers.
The Cowboys recorded 21 sacks through their first six games, led by defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence's 9.5 marks the second highest total in the NFL. Only Jacksonville's Calais Campbell edged out Lawrence for the top spot with 10.
While the Dallas defensive line inspires fear in the hearts of quarterbacks across the NFL, the Cowboys' run defense has been more of a question mark in 2017. The front seven have found success in stuffing the run on multiple occasions, but a lack of consistency has kept the squad from reaching elite levels.
Streaky is the best way to describe how the Cowboys have performed against the run. The season started off well enough against the Giants. New York's two leading rushers combined for 30 yards on the ground and the Cowboys cruised to a 19-3 victory.
The next week, however, C.J. Anderson and the Denver ground game racked up 178 yards. The ups and down continued with Arizona only gaining 49 yards on the ground, but the Los Angeles Rams rattling off 168. Redskins running back Chris Thompson, one of three backs that will be looking to crack the code of the Dallas defense on Sunday, said there's more to analyzing a defense that stats on a page.
"We've just got to get out there and execute our game plan," Thompson said. "We can't look at the stats of what they're ranked as a run defense. If we go out there and we're just kind of lollygagging around and feeling up on guys, they'll embarrass us."
The Dallas defense is far from a one-man show. Lawrence and linebacker Jaylon Smith lead a defense that has created seven turnovers. Smith, a 2016 second-round out of Notre Dame, leads the team in tackles with 44.
Thompson, who leads Washington in receptions and will mostly have to deal with the Dallas defense when catching passes out of the backfield, will have an additional playmaker to watch out for in Sean Lee. The eighth-year linebacker will make a return to the field after a quad-contusion sidelined him for the latter part of Week 7's game. Lee has battled injuries for most of the season, missing games against the Rams and Packers due to a hamstring issue. Thompson said of all the members of Dallas' defense, Lee will be a force to be reckoned with.
"It's definitely a difference out there with him. He's so smart and he makes adjustments on the fly that puts his team and puts his defense in a good position.," Thompson said. "When he's on that field, he changes games."
To combat Lee and the rest of the Cowboy defense, Thompson said Washington will have to rely on its depth at running back. All three of the Redskins' running backs have more than 100 yards rushing, with Thompson breaking 200. Rob Kelley serves as Washington's premiere back, taking most of the handoffs, while Perine and Thompson rotate in. With the combined efforts of all three, Thompson said his team has a good shot at finding a crack in the Cowboys' defense.
"Whoever's in there, they're going to do a great job. I have no doubt about that," Thompson said. "As a running back group, we've just got to go out there and put some good things out there and make our offense look good."