The Redskins' Cris Dishman is one of the few NFL cornerbacks with the size and strength to go toe-to-toe with Michael Irvin, the Cowboys' 6'2", 207-pound Pro Bowl wideout. Irvin is notorious for the pushes and shoves he doles out while running a pass route, and he's also a specialist at using his big frame to shield smaller defensive backs from the ball. The best way to combat him, says the 6-foot,195-pound Dishman, is to play his game. In the Redskins'21-16 win over the Cowboys on Oct. 13, Irvin caught five passes for 81 yards and one score. In the rematch on Sunday, a 17-14 Dallas win at Texas Stadium, Dishman had the upper hand until late in the game, when Irvin caught four passes for 64 yards, including the game-tying touchdown. Below, Dishman, a 10-year veteran and off-season free-agent signee, discusses the techniques he uses against perhaps the league's most physical wide receiver.
"The first thing I think of when I see Dallas on the schedule is Michael Irvin. The other big guys I've faced this season are the Cardinals' Rob Moore and the Lions' Herman Moore, but neither is as physical as Irvin. [Fellow Redskins cornerback] Darrell Green has covered Irvin more than I have, but there isn't much advice Darrell can give me because he's faster and smaller than me, and our styles are so different.
"So much of the Cowboys' offense is based on timing, so I've got to throw them off. If [ Troy] Aikman's pass is supposed to be at a spot nine yards down-field, I've got to keep Michael from getting there on time. I'll do that by not letting him get off the line. You can't do that all the time because he's so strong that he'll push right past you. Sometimes I have to hold him. The refs know it happens, but they can't always call it.
"I don't get a lot of holding penalties, because I'm good at it. Against Michael, you have no choice but to hold. Otherwise he's going to shove you down the field.
"I watched almost 20 hours of film this week trying to see if Michael is doing anything different from the last time we played, and one thing he's doing a lot more of are the stutter-and-go routes. He'll go nine yards, stutter-step and then blast past the cornerback. My best defense is to bump him at the line and then do it some more.
"Our standard coverage has Darrell and me playing man-to-man. The safeties move up to help stop the run. That leaves Michael and me, and it can get rough. That's fine with me. I was born for this."