It’s been a dreadful start for Mike Nolan and the Cowboys defense inthe 2020 season, but they’ll meet up against one of the biggest slump-buster offenses in the NFL in week five.
Jason Garrett’s offense is in a league of it’s own to start the year, and it’s not a good one.
I've been staring at this chart of rushing & passing efficiency on early downs in neutral situations (close game, not in final 2 minutes of half) and trying to understand how the Vikings got there pic.twitter.com/x2eGsqBl8a— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) October 8, 2020
As we all know, Jason Garrett’s offense can be very stubborn, and that trend has carried over to his tenure with the Giants. On early downs, the Giants are just absolutely atrocious in terms of rushing and passing EPA. Along with being poor on early downs, the Giants offense is bad on all other downs as well - ranking 31st in EPA per play, 29th in success-rate, 29th on dropback EPA, 32nd in rush EPA, and 32nd in rush success-rate. It’s that bad, guys.
With Saquon Barkley out for the entire year, the Giants rely on a running back by committee approach with Devonta Freeman, Dion Lewis, and Wayne Gallman, but the runner the Cowboys will need to focus on the most is the Giants leading rusher, Daniel Jones. Jones, entering his second year, is averaging 7.6 yards per carry, and has picked up eight first downs using his legs. Freeman will likely get the bulk of the carries for the Giants, but the threat is just not there with any of the three backs. With that being said, if the Cowboys defense plays anywhere like it did against the Browns, it won’t matter who is toting the rock for the Giants.
Another positive coming into this game for a struggling Cowboys defense is the Giants will turn the ball over rather easily. Daniel Jones has thrown five interceptions and fumbled three times (lost two) through the first four weeks. While also turning the ball over at a high-rate, Jones has a tendency to take sacks, and be careless with the football inside the pocket. While the offensive line for the Giants isn’t necessarily impressive, a lot of the pressure Jones gets is in-part to him holding onto the football for too long, and welcoming pressure with poor pocket presence. If the Cowboys defense can’t get pressure with their front four against this poor Giants offensive line, and a quarterback that will take his fair share of sacks, they won’t get them at all this year.
Here's how Tristan Wirfs stacks up so far with the 3 OTs chosen before him in the NFL Draft, according to PFF:— Blair Sanderson (@BlairRIVALS) October 6, 2020
Tristan Wirfs - 73.7
(#13 pick, Bucs)
Mekhi Becton - 72.6
(#11 pick, Jets)
Jedrick Wills - 63.9
(#10 pick, Browns)
Andrew Thomas - 53.7
(#4 pick, Giants)
Where the Giants can be good is their receiving corps. While the names won’t jump out at you, the group of Darius Slayton, Golden State, and Evan Engram can do some damage through the air if Jones is kept clean in the pocket. While the Giants still like to run the ball on first down, they will take their play-action shots on second down to catch defenses sleeping. Darius Slayton, a second-year wideout out of Auburn, is one of the most underrated receivers in the league, and is the no-doubt WR1 for Daniel Jones, and the Jason Garrett led offense. Slayton is a crisp route-runner, with the ability to win at the catch point and after the catch due to his size and athleticism. By no means is this Giants receiving corps the Browns, Seahawks, Rams, or Falcons, but it isn’t one you can totally sleep on either.
If the Cowboys want to find success on the defensive side of the ball in week five, they’ll need to get pressure off the edges with DeMarcus Lawrence, Aldon Smith, and Everson Griffen. Working against former Cowboy Cam Fleming, and rookie Andrew Thomas, the Cowboys edge rushers must take advantage of their favorable matchups and win their one-on-ones. The Cowboys corners get somewhat of a break from facing elite wide receiver talent for one of the first times this season. While Slayton is a quality player, and Tate is a savvy vet, if these corners continue to struggle in coverage against this group, it may also be time to hit the panic button on the cornerback group as well.
Luckily for the Cowboys, the Giants offense has just been atrocious this year, and the Cowboys need some confidence heading into the middle part of the season. If the Dallas defense can’t find success against the worst offense in the league, with one of the worst play-callers in the league, it’s going to be a looooonnnngggg season.