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Redskins-Cowboys matchups: Rabach vs. Ratliff

During the course of the week I will post what I believe to be the key matchups to watch during Sunday night's Redskins-Cowboys game. My first highlighted matchup is the battle between Redskins center Casey Rabach and Cowboys tackle Jay Ratliff. Here's what to look for:

Will the smaller Rabach be able to slow down the much bigger and stronger Ratliff? Very few offensive lines were able to slow Ratliff down last year as he had one of his most impressive seasons as a professional football player.

Rabach is coming out of an off-season in which he was not only retained but given a contract extension for his services. So Rabach should be poised to start this season very fast. Also, the Redskins' offensive line had a poor showing last season, which gives Rabach and the rest of this group added incentive to do better this year.

The challenge for Rabach will be to keep Ratliff from disrupting the run and pass game on the inside. If Casey can slow him down, chances are the Redskins offense will have a better chance of finding a groove early on in the game. If he can't, it could turn into a very long evening for Rabach, Donovan McNabb and the rest of the offense.

Ratliff and this Cowboy team have come up short the last three seasons, but seem poised to make a legitimate run at a championship this year. If that's going to happen the Dallas defense is going to have to play even better than it has in years past, and it all starts with Ratliff setting the tone up front. Will he be able to collapse the pocket, forcing McNabb to scramble outside? Will Ratliff be able to disrupt the center of the line enough to create roadblocks for Clinton Portis and company to have to run around in the running game?

If you ask me who has the edge in this matchup, I have to pick Ratliff. One on one it's a tall task for anyone to block him, so look for Rabach to get help early and often.

By LaVar Arrington  |  September 7, 2010; 7:30 AM ET
 
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Comments

Keep up the good work LA!

Posted by: Austgriff | September 7, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I think Casey is a good dude and an above average center, but he has a history of struggling against the 3-4. We played against a few 3-4 looks this pre-season and there were a few plays where our center was just standing there not hitting anyone on a pass play, the NT's get around him real quick.

Posted by: alex35332 | September 7, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Lavar, not to critique your style too much here, but it would be great to see an analysis on the finer points of the game with these matchups. Things like technique, tactics, system style, etc. Why does Ratliff seem to get the better of Rabach on a yearly basis? What do they do from a technique standpoint that allows Ratliff to win that battle? From a tactical standpoint? What does Rabach need to do to improve in that matchup, and/or what can the Shanahans do to aid Rabach within the scheme?

You have a unique gift in the world of writing and football analysis in that, unlike most columnists and reporters, you have played the game at the highest possible level. You see the game in a way that these other writers cannot possibly imagine. Why not spread the knowledge? Let us know on a deeper level why these matchups are important and why they trend the way they do.

Because as of now, with all due respect and appreciation for your work, this piece could have been written by any of the numerous writers or columnists we see in this and other publications. Be different. Give us something we don't have already.

Posted by: psps23 | September 7, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

"look for Rabach to get help early and often."

From where, a RB or Guard, or both based on the play?

I second the comments from psps23, and give us some details here. Cmon Lavar. You're better than that...right?

Posted by: sgmd | September 7, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

A no brainer. All you have to do is ask yourself what has happened in the past 3 or 4 games between the 2 of them.

I see Rabach being pushed into the backfield AS USUAL on running plays, causing the skins RBs to run in his back.

I also see the pocket collapsing on McNabb, right in his face, up front where the center plays.

I hope Raback does get help because he in my opinion was the weak link in a pitiful oline last year.

Posted by: keedrow | September 7, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

...so look for Rabach to get help early and often.

Do you mean the guards will give chips and double-team help to slow the big Cowgirl down? Or were you just being vague to play up the gamesmanship aspect of Sunday's matchup and not give the bad guys any tactical advice?

Posted by: ericroks | September 7, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Ratliff abuses Rabach every year, along with most nose and def. tackles in the league. This guy is a major liability on the oline. He is supposed to be the anchor and set the tone, not even close. He constantly gets blown off the ball, allowing defensive linemen to penetrate the backfield off the snap and disrupts Skins running plays and pass pocket. He constantly has been called for holding penalties stalling drives the last couple years. He needs to be replaced, and not sure how Shanallenhan did not see that. Then to give him an extension...phuey. Our line will be better this year, but still in need of a face lift. And it should start with replacing our center. smh

Posted by: LaLa12 | September 7, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

LaVar is correct, Rabach will struggle (as he has in the last 2 years). Cheers.

Posted by: MPNangle | September 7, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

LaVar,

You're doing the journalistic equivalent of leapfrogging the offensive line. Awesome job and thanks for the insight. This is the real Redskins "Insider."

Posted by: nativedc | September 7, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I think Casey is a good dude and an above average center, but he has a history of struggling against the 3-4. We played against a few 3-4 looks this pre-season and there were a few plays where our center was just standing there not hitting anyone on a pass play, the NT's get around him real quick.

Posted by: alex35332
_______________________________________

@Alex - I agree completely!...... which is exactly why fat boy should've been in camp and working with his teammates. He made it all about himself when in fact Casey could have used the extra work in practice against what has turned out to be a "legend in his own mind"!

Posted by: BenThere | September 7, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

These comments are right, unfortunately for Redskin fans. Caseys play dipped last season. Who knows why team managers didn't know it. He got an extension rather early, as if it was pre-decided no matter what. He's given his best for us, but he won't get hammered negatively, like ithers that gave and give their best. It's pick a desired victim. Never once have I read anything negative from the post pertaining to what we all see of our starting center. They are silent.

Posted by: CTaylor42 | September 7, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Blah, Ratliff is a beast and Rabach will not/does not handle him on his own. I imagine Dockery will be leaning more towards helping Trent Williams out, so that leaves Artis Hicks helping Rabach? If that?

Posted by: Bigfoot_has_a_posse | September 7, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

rabach is a overrated weakling he constantly is driven back into the qb(mcnabb this year)he was never anything other than avg and that was 3yrs ago. If they have to depend on this bum to block ratliff one on one mcnabb could be injured in the 1st game. he should have been released when randle el and others were let go. The only reason shanahan wants rabach and litchensteiger, w. montgomery as his o-lineman is because they like him are so-called white all of them are weaklings and get blown off the ball yet he keeps them and releases e. williams a player who is quick and strong..what a joke but is will not be for mcnabb.

Posted by: wathu19 | September 7, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

LaVar,

You're doing the journalistic equivalent of leapfrogging the offensive line. Awesome job and thanks for the insight. This is the real Redskins "Insider."

Posted by: nativedc | September 7, 2010 12:24 PM

I second that! Real Redskins "Insider", no doubt. Thanks, LaVar.

IMO, Sellers ought to help Rabach out often. McNabb's too important and we need him healthy to win games this year.

Posted by: RedCherokee | September 7, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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