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Cowboys @ Giants: An Opportunity For Dallas To Pound The Rock?

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With the New York Giants ranking among the leagues worst run defenses, there will be plenty of chances for DeMarco Murray to add to his 1,200 yard plus total. The question is where will the best running lanes be found.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Simply looking at the numbers will tell us that the Scott Linehan's prepared gameplan will be built around getting the ball into the hands of the NFL's leading rusher, early and often. As of right now, DeMarco Murray is still the only rusher to have eclipsed the thousand-yard barrier this season. In addition, the Cowboys running game ranks second in the league as a team. On the other hand their upcoming opponent, the New York Giants, have not fared so well in stopping the run. They are currently at the bottom of the list when it comes to rushing defense. You don't need a PhD to figure out that opportunity knocks for Dallas.

What you do need is a Scout's Eye to break down where the best chances to exploit that weakness can be found. Even though the Giants as a whole might be struggling to stop the run, there are some things that Perry Fewell's defense does do well against the run. A review of the film tells us that the New York front seven does a good job of clogging up the middle. Even with the loss of Jon Beason at middle linebacker, players like Johnathan Hankins and Robert Ayers are shutting down the middle. That tells us that the real opportunity lies in getting the Cowboys running backs outside the tackles. That is where teams have been hurting the Giants this year.

Defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka are talented football players, but their talents are focused on getting upfield and getting after the passer rather than setting the edge and turning running backs inside toward the beasts that patrol the middle. As long as Doug Free and Tyron Smith can control their men while run-blocking, the Dallas backs should be able to have a field day once they are able to turn the corner and start running north and south.

Naturally, Bryan Broaddus is not the only person out there who can look at film and figure this concept out. The Giants have some good scouts and coaches reviewing film too, and they know their weakness and will be looking to counteract what they see. The most likely route for them to take will be to employ the same strategy that the Arizona Cardinals used to limit Murray to 79 yards on 19 carries. There is little doubt that they will bring linebacker Jameel McClain on frequent run blitzes in the hopes of his getting to Murray before the Dallas ball-carrier can make his cut into the the gaps in the Giants defense. If Murray is getting met soon after taking the handoff, the Dallas offense will be in for a long day.

Scott Linehan's game plan will revolve around preventing this from happening a second time. It will be the responsibility of the two tackles to insure that the New York defensive ends are not able to set the edge. This will open lanes to the outside for Murray and his compatriots to run through. Their three counterparts on the interior will be responsible for denying the Giants the penetration that would allow them to disrupt the Cowboys running game before the plays have a chance to develop. All easier said than done and something that would give us ulcers until recently. With the progress that offensive line coaches Bill Callahan and Frank Pollack have made and the high level talent the front office has brought in over the past several years, it now plays into the strength of the Dallas offense.

All that remains is for the Dallas Cowboys to execute.