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Position battleground (defense): Cowboys vs. Giants head-to-head break down for each defensive position

A positional head-to-head breakdown on the Week 3 matchup between the Cowboys and Giants to find the strengths and weaknesses of each defensive position.

Syndication: The Record Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

Previously we broke down the offense for this week’s upcoming Monday Night Football game for the Dallas Cowboys, now we dive back into the position battleground, this time looking at how the defensive positions and special teams stack up against each other.


Both defensive lines match fairly similarly in terms of their effectiveness on run defense and points allowed. The New York Giants defensive line has former Clemson Tigers nose tackle Dexter Lawrence and he currently leads the team in pressures and added to the turnover tally for the Giants with a forced fumble. The Giants now lead the league in fumbles with three already on the season. They also have Oshane Ximines and Leonard Williams, both at the moment big factors in the teams efficiency on run defense, but Williams has doubts about whether he’ll get to play this week, something the final practice report will tell.

One thing the Giants defensive line does do more effectively than the Cowboys is the number of first downs allowed on the ground, and their line so far is managing to do better than expected despite the injuries they had to deal with. They are getting more pressure on the QB than the Cowboys, but the Cowboys do win in sack total. In terms of tackling the ball carrier, both teams are fairly equal in number.

For the Cowboys, what is good to see is the further development of Quinton Bohanna, he had a great game doing his job on the inside, showing off his two-gapping ability. Dante Fowler got his first sack as a Cowboy, and Dorance Armstrong is finally taking his camp hype into the regular season by getting to the QB last week.

Both teams have emerging defensive lines. For now let’s call this a stand off unless Kayvon Thibodeaux manages to get healthy in time. And if Azeez Ojulari gets his chance to lace up Monday it could give the Giants even more potential up front. If both players get a healthy scratch for Monday, then an already coping Giants defensive line could look extremely improved.

Win: Push (for now)

Syndication: The Record Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK


Crowder/Calitro/McFadden vs Parsons/Vander Esch/Barr

After last week you could easily put Micah Parsons in the defensive line group, and doing so would have the Cowboys win in that particular head-to-head. But hypothetically even with Parsons not part of the LB corps, the combination of Leighton Vander Esch and Anthony Barr would beat out the Giants linebackers. A major weakness for the G-Men is the linebackers, and it has been for quite some time. The Giants linebackers have allowed a touchdown each so far, collectively they all have less tackles than LVE, and what’s even more exciting for Dallas is Anthony Barr stepping up and making some big stops last week (despite the late hit penalty). Now lets add Parsons to the list… this fight is over.

Win: Cowboys

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK


Let’s talk safety first (and it’s weird to be so positive about safeties as a Cowboys fan). Yes, Donovan Wilson and Malik Hooker strike again. Last week Wilson had a bit of a shaky start but soon found his groove finishing as one of the tackling leaders for the Cowboys. But what was impressive from Wilson was his defensive stops at crucial moments, be it as a down safety getting to the ball carrier, getting quickly out to the tight end, or recognizing the play while in Cover 2. Malik Hooker actually finished with the most tackles on the day and looked strong in his role. And with that both safeties are now first and second on the team in tackles.

At corner, Trevon Diggs, facing maybe one of the most electrifying receivers in the league, locked it down. Against Ja’Marr Chase, Diggs only allowed two receptions for 14 yards and was the main factor in killing the Cincinnati Bengals final drive with a mammoth tackle. In fact, the entire defensive back group for the Cowboys played well against one of the most elite receiving corps the NFL has to offer.

And here’s how cohesive and naturally the Cowboys backs are playing together. Last week in the dying moments of the game, Dann Quinn lost communication with his team. This meant the players on the field had to communicate, understand their assignments and then react. For the secondary, those factors are extremely important on any play, let alone under the pressure they were in at that moment. The result was a well-defended play killing the Bengals chance to take the game. That’s a defensive back room in perfect synchronicity.

For the Giants they have their own safety tandem playing well at the moment with second-round draft selection Xavier McKinney and the team’s tackling leader Julian Love. They also have a forced fumble from their nickel back defender Darnay Holmes, he has seven tackles so far on the season. And we can’t forget Adoree Jackson, a familiar name on the Giants defense.

But to make this binary, one defensive back group has faced the best wide receiver corps and trumped them in the process. The other has faced a lack-luster Tennessee Titans receiver group and an under-utilized Carolina Panthers pass catching crew.

Win: Cowboys

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


If there’s any game where KaVontae Turpin scores a special teams touchdown this year it’s this one. The Giants special teams return defense is not exactly great. In the first two weeks the Giants are in the top ten in both respective weeks in yards allowed on punt and kickoff returns. Where conversely Turpin is showing off his skills and getting the second highest yards per attempt last week on punt returns. And even if he doesn’t get to the end zone on a return, he’s sure to get upfield and put the offense in favorable field position. The only possible mitigation on punt returns for Turpin is the Giants punter Jamie Gillan who can really boom a kick downfield. For the Cowboys, there’s Bryan Anger who did a great job last week keeping the Bengals tied back in their own 20 on numerous kicks.

In terms of kicker battle it’s fairly evenly matched. We have the GOAT in Brett Maher who slotted the ball between the verticals for a 50+ yard field goal winner, and so far has a perfect kicking record on the year. And the Giants have Graham Gano who has been the steady, reliable kicker over at the Meadowlands for quite some time. Gano is also perfect this year and has managed to clear the posts on 50-yard attempts twice.

Everything is fairly even here. The Giants have the more known commodity of kicker with Gano, the Cowboys have an enticing return game with Turpin.

Win: Push


Which team has the better defense?

This poll is closed

  • 95%
    Dallas Cowboys
    (634 votes)
  • 4%
    New York Giants
    (29 votes)
663 votes total Vote Now

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