The Dallas Cowboys face the New York Giants in Week 1 of the 2017 season on Sunday. The Giants feature a daunting defense that will torment the Cowboys and the rest of the league for seasons to come. While this defensive unit was lackluster and the team’s Achilles heal during the 2015 season, the Giants revamped rapidly and efficiently through free agency and the NFL draft and have now accumulated tremendous talent along the defensive line and secondary. Let’s take a closer look at each unit.
The New York Giants feature Jason Pierre-Paul, Damon Harrison, Jay Bromley and Olivier Vernon along the defensive line. JPP has outmatched the Dallas Cowboys for many years now and there is no reason to think that this season will be any different. Although he finally got the big payday this offseason, look for him to continue to challenge the Cowboys offensive line all game. Pair JPP with Olivier Vernon and you have a pair of studs at defensive end. The Giants added Damon Harrison last season and he has already proven himself as an excellent run-stopper up the middle.
Fortunately for the Dallas Cowboys, they boast a tremendously talented offensive line that can matchup with this defensive line. The challenge will be if the Giants throw enough blitzes from the secondary to outflank the offensive line and force Dak Prescott into a series of mistakes. The Cowboys running backs will need to be good in pass protection and help take some of the burden of Prescott by moving the chains.
For how much the Giants have focused on rebuilding their defensive line and secondary, they have basically neglected their linebacking group. They feature a Base 4-3 defense and have Jonathan Casillas, B.J. Goodson and Devon Kennard as the starters. If this group is able to step up and make the plays necessary, this defense can easily be one of the best in the National Football League. Look for B.J. Goodson to be the leader of the pack as he has demonstrated explosiveness in the past.
The Dallas Cowboys must be able to exploit this group if they plan to have success during Week One. Look for Jason Witten, Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer to occupy the middle of the field and move the chains for the Dallas offense.
In the secondary, the Giants feature All-Pro Landon Collins at strong safety, Darian Thompson at free safety and Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at the cornerback positions. This quintet is easily one of the best units in the league, they lead their defense with the fewest touchdowns allowed in the NFL last year. The challenge this week will be Dak Prescott’s ability to find his open targets and limit his mistakes.
Dak Prescott faced this unit twice last season and he put up forgettable numbers each time. He finished both games with two losses, two interceptions, only one touchdown and a lackluster near-50% completion percentage. For these numbers to improve, look for Dallas to go to extremes, sometimes adding protection along the offensive line with two tight-end sets, and then spreading the offense with Ryan Switzer and Cole Beasley.
The matchup to watch for this weekend will be how Dallas’ reshuffled offensive line will fare against one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. While Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick have proven their All-Pro status, La’el Collins and Chaz Green/Jonathan Cooper are going to be immediately thrust into a pressure-packed game. If the offensive line can neutralize the Giants defensive front, Dak will have the opportunity to setup the play-action and eventually have the time necessary to find the open receiver. If the Giants overpower the Cowboys in the trenches, look for the Cowboys to drop this game to start the season.