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Redskins 2018 Season Preview: Dallas Cowboys, Week 7

Jordan Reed Cowboys

In what will be the Redskins first NFC East game this year, the Dallas Cowboys will travel to FedExField in Landover, Md., on Oct. 21 with kickoff at 4:25 EST on CBS.

Washington will look to rebound against their long-time rivals after dropping both games to Jason Garrett's side last year.

Dallas' key additions: Signed WR Allen Hurns (Jaguars), WR Tavon Austin (Rams), WR Deonte Thompson (Bills), DE Kony Ealy (Panthers) OT Cameron Fleming (Patriots), Drafted LB Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State) and OL Connor Williams (Texas)

Dallas' key subtractions: TE Jason Witten, WR Dez Bryant, LB Anthony Hitchens

Due to playing two games each season against Dallas, Redskins.com is taking a closer look at Scott Linehan's offense today and will analyze Rod Marinelli's defense later this month.

Even with the departures of future Pro Football Hall of Famer Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, the Cowboys expect to return to the form that crowned them as NFC East Champions in 2016. This mainly relates to the return of superstar running back Ezekiel Elliot, who will not have to deal with the six-game suspension that hung over the former Ohio State Buckeye's head for a majority of the 2017 campaign.

Elliot's suspension prevented the Cowboys' offense from gaining any kind of major steam, denying them a return to the postseason after having expectations of reaching their first Super Bowl since 1995.

The Ladue, Mo., native's clean slate will allow the Cowboys to get back to what they do well offensively, which stems from their vaunted offensive line while giving Elliot plenty of space to create big plays down the field. They are one of the few teams in the league where the running back has a direct correlation to how their quarterback performs.

Dak Prescott, meanwhile, took a step back from a statistical standpoint during his second season in Dallas.

Dallas brought in one the league's most dangerous players, though, in Tavon Austin during free agency in order to get the third-year quarterback back to the form that made him a Pro Bowler in his rookie season.

The West Virginia product should fit well with the Cowboys' offensive scheme due to Prescott's playing style. Dallas has built an offense around the former Mississippi State Bulldog to where he just needs to get the football to these playmakers in prime positions. Austin can line up in the backfield as a change of pace running back to Elliot's downhill style, and line up in the slot as deep-threat wide receiver with his blistering speed.

Austin's gifts will certainly be welcomed by Prescott and Co., but the signing of veteran Allen Hurns may have a greater impact on the offense as a whole. Even if he isn't the same player that he was five years ago, the departure of Bryant leaves a huge question mark in the Cowboys' receiving core.

Former Baylor Bear Terrance Williams figures to become the team's primary vertical receiving option due to his experience in the system, but Hurns at just 26 years old has a great opportunity to establish himself as the No. 1 option going forward.

The Miami native was a steady option for the Jacksonville Jaguars since his 1,031-yard season in 2015. Like Austin, he has a gift to break through the secondary on any given play with top-flight speed as he has scored multiple 50-plus-yard touchdowns in his five-year career, but doesn't lack the ability to win jump-balls at 6-foot-3.

This won't be the first time Washington will go against an All-Pro running back in this upcoming season, as first round draft choices Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen will be tasked with slowing down 2017 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara in Week 4 when the Redskins travel to New Orleans.

In a game that has massive implications for the overall picture of the NFC East in 2018, preventing Elliot from repeating his 150-yard, two-touchdown game last year against Greg Manusky's group could change the entire narrative surrounding the run defense. More importantly, it gives the Redskins a greater chance in securing a key victory as they try to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

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