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Can the Redskins’ defense hold up against the Texans’ offensive weapons? Ask the Cowboys

The Washington Redskins defeated the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL season opener last week because the defense stepped up, forced mistakes, and took advantage of Dallas’ sloppy offensive play. While many football experts and fans alike picked the Cowboys as the preseason favorite to go all the way, AOL Fan House’s David Whitley aptly pointed out that these prognosticators pay too much attention to hype and too little attention to facts (link). If the Cowboys were the top team in the NFL going into the regular season, then Washington’s win would give fans a reason to count the Skins among the best in the league. In reality, Dallas didn’t bring their A-game, yet still prevented the Redskins from scoring an offensive touchdown.

NFL analysts point to Washington’s poor offensive production as the key problem needing improvement going into this week’s game against the Houston Texans (link). Though getting the Redskins’ offensive motor running is a must-do this week, it’s a must-do pretty much every week for every team. Unlike neighboring Dallas, Houston has not enjoyed the same hype, but managed to get a W in week one against the perennial powerhouse Indianapolis Colts. Assuming that the Houston team that ran all over the Colts shows up at FedEx on Sunday, all eyes should be on the Redskins’ defense.

What stands out about this season’s Texans is its myriad of offensive weapons. In ESPN’s Bill Simmons’ week one analysis, he suggests that Houston’s star running back Arian Foster could be this year’s top back. He ran for a team record 231 yards and 3 TDs against the Colts’ defense. Washington’s defense, on the other hand, did a pretty good job of containing RBs Marion Barber and Felix Jones and held the Cowboys to a total of 103 yards on the ground.  With all of the buzz surrounding Foster, you can bet that Jim Haslett is preparing for him. It is possible that the Skins linebacking core led by pro-bowlers London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo could slow down Foster enough to prevent him from having another breakout game.

If that happens, and it’s a big if, count on the Texans to fall back on QB Matt Schaub’s arm. Remember, Houston had the top-ranked passing offense last season. Though Schaub didn’t play his best game last week, he remains a threat because he has one of the best WR targets in the game in Andre Johnson.  Look for the Texans to use him to stretch the field. Covering Johnson has proved challenging for defenses in the past and the Redskins should expect the same on Sunday. Last week, Washington’s secondary showed they can make big plays against the passing game. On a short pass from Tony Romo, Cowboys RB Tashard Choice got the ball but was taken down and stripped of the ball by Washington CB DeAngelo Hall. Hall returned the fumble 32 yards for the Redskins’ only TD. Starting safety LaRon Landry also had a career-game, recording 17 tackles on the night.

If the stars on defense can maintain the high level of play they showed last week, the Redskins should be able to contain the Texans’ triple threat (Foster, Schaub, and Johnson). Then and only then will Washington be on the offensive.

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