The Dallas Cowboys face a familiar foe this weekend to kick off the 2017 football season as the New York Giants come back into town. We outlined the New York Giants defense here and will now focus on their offense and how the Dallas defense will fare.
The Giants offensive line is the weakest component of their entire team. The front office has attempted to resurrect this position by adding offensive weapons around Eli Manning rather than investing draft picks and high-dollar contracts along the offensive line.
In order for the Dallas Cowboys to have success, their defensive front will have to attack Eli Manning aggressively and limit the time he has in the pocket. The Cowboys will have some new pieces up front as Stephen Paea makes his Dallas debut along with rookie Taco Charlton and possibly newcomer Brian Price. Look for Tyrone Crawford and Demarcus Lawrence to attempt to close the edge and pressure Manning, while Maliek Collins pressures the middle.
The Giants have an interesting dichotomy when it comes to their running backs and pass catchers. They added Brandon Marshall to an already solid duo in Odell Beckham Jr and Sterling Shepard. They used their first pick in the draft in April to bring Evan Engram, the top pure pass-catching tight end in college football last year. This foursome of pass catchers provides Manning with one of the best complement of receivers and tight ends he has had in his career. While OBJ’s status remains up in the air, most expect him to suit up against the Cowboys.
On the other hand, the Giants have a pitiful rushing attack with Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen leading the pack. In years past, the running game for New York has been compensated by Manning’s ability to spread the ball and throw it down the field. If Dallas expects to win this game, they will need Paea and Maliek Collins to stuff the gap and effectively limit the play-action pass for the Giants.
In previous years, the Giants have torched Dallas with the downfield attack, particularly using OBJ’s speed and athleticism. This year, they will pair his talent with Marshall’s size and Engram’s versatility. While there is experience between Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Byron Jones and Jeff Heath, there will be legitimate concern about Dallas's ability to cover all of Manning’s weapons. The defense will rely on Sean Lee’s instincts with audibles and playmaking to effectively neutralize the attack.
Over the course of his career, Manning is 13-12 during his 25 regular season games against Dallas since 2004. Over the course of his career, he has had a 61% completion percentage, 48 touchdowns and 25 interceptions against the Cowboys. More recently, over his last four games against Dallas, he has had four touchdowns, two interceptions and has been sacked eight times.
Manning has more experience against the Dallas than any quarterback in the NFL. He has a knack of making big plays but the Dallas defense has fared relatively well against Manning over the years. In order for the Cowboys to beat Manning, they must hit him early and often and force him into mental mistakes, strip sacks and careless interceptions.
The key matchup to watch for is how Jaylon Smith fares against the New York Giants playmakers in his first real game in over eighteen months. How will Smith fare against the newly drafted Evan Engram? How will Smith fare with live action and a series of tackles and pivots throughout the game? Given the unfortunate loss of Anthony Hitchens to injury, the Dallas Cowboys will have to rely on Damien Wilson or Justin Durant and Smith to man the middle of the field along with Sean Lee.
If the Dallas Cowboys can limit the time Manning has in the pocket and force an early mental mistake, look for Dallas to start off the season with a win. If Manning connects early and often with his playmakers despite OBJ only being a decoy, the Dallas defense will be in for a tough start to the season.