Previously we broke down the offense for this week’s upcoming game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants. Now we dive back into the position battleground, this time looking at how the defensive positions and special teams stack up against each other.
The Cowboys defensive line held up pretty well last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. They pressured Jalen Hurts 20 times and got him down for a sack three times. They also did well to keep D’Andre Swift to just 43 rushing yards yards and an average of 2.4 yards per carry. This week the Cowboys line is facing Saquon Barkley, but will likely get some extra support in the box since he represents the key threat to the New York Giants offense. In the last three games the Cowboys defensive line has allowed an average of 84 rush yards per game, that’s the ninth-fewest in the NFL.
As for the pass rush, the Cowboys are facing a Giants offensive line that is allowing the most sacks this season so far. The Cowboys have the twelfth-most sacks this season and will have a field day getting into the Giants backfield and swarming the teams third-string quarterback, Tommy DeVito. Micah Parsons was held far too often last week which reduced his productivity, expect that to change this week or some serious questions will be asked. Let’s hope the coaches put Sam Williams on the field a little more this week. Against the Eagles he made one sack at the start of the game and finished the game with three total pressures. He only played 12 snaps and had a pass rush win-rate of 34%, which places him in the top-5 among pass rushers in terms of efficiency last week.
The Giants traded away one of their starting defensive tackles, Leonard Williams to the Seattle Seahawks. Williams represented an inside threat for the Giants which had to be accounted for, now he leaves the Giants with 22 pressures this season, that was the third-most on the team at the time. The Giants line was already producing the second-least amount of pressures in the league. As for run defense, they rank eighth-worst in total rush yards allowed and have allowed 13 rushing touchdowns this year, third-most in the league. The team still has Dexter Lawrence who’s having a great season. He leads the team in pressures and leads the Giants defensive linemen in tackles. He rarely misses tackles and has been vital for the team at making defensive stops this season. Leading the team in sacks is Kayvon Thibodeaux. He’s started to hit his stride the last three weeks and has accumulated five sacks in that time. His game against the New York Jets was impressive and he was a key factor at keeping the game close. Azeez Ojulari will be missing this time around after being placed on injured reserve last month.
Damone Clark/Markquese Bell
Bobby Okerke/Micah McFadden
It wasn’t a great game last week from either linebacker. They didn’t play badly, but they also failed to play at their best, which the Cowboys really needed in order to get the win. It’s not blaming them for the loss, but to see them getting caught up on blocks or having to chase downfield to stop chunk plays isn’t how everyone wanted to see them play against a team like the Eagles. Both linebackers made seven tackles last week but allowed a very high rate of completions when in pass coverage. But once the defensive line and both linebackers started to reduce the amount of explosive plays the Eagles were able to make, suddenly the defense got off the field more often and gave the offense a chance to take control. Leighton Vander Esch is close to returning, but the exact date he’s set to come back hasn’t been announced yet.
Behind Dexter Lawrence in terms of defensive talent and production is starting linebacker Bobby Okereke. He leads the team in tackles and forced fumbles and his 80 total tackles this season is eighth-most in the NFL. He’s left with quite a lot of work to do in the box and things would more than likely look a lot worse for the Giants in terms of holding up against the run if it wasn’t for Okereke. His nine tackles for loss is third-most among linebackers, only one less than Micah Parsons. Beyond Okereke is Micah McFadden, and he’s totaled 54 tackles this season, which is second-most for the Giants. He leads the team in missed tackles however and has seen his struggles when asked to drop into coverage on passing plays. Isaiah Simmons looked to slowly be on the rise, but after a strong outing in Week 5 he’s only played 74 snaps and made seven tackles.
Thanks to the production and play strength of Bobby Okereke the Giants win this round. The Giants defense overall is still allowing one of the worst rates in the league against the run, allowing 127 rush yards per game, which is eighth-worst. In comparison, the Cowboys are allowing 108 yards per game, which sits them around mid-table. But Okereke is out-producing Damone Clark, McFadden is out-producing Markquese Bell.
It was a tough day for the Cowboys defensive backs last week. The Eagles system put players in favorable matchups, which meant guys like Jourdan Lewis had to defend players they wouldn’t normally face. But as the game wore on, and Dan Quinn started to put resources in the right places to eliminate the issue, the game began to swing back in favor for Dallas. DaRon Bland had moments of panic last week and the pass interference call on Stephon Gilmore is still baffling. Both Bland and Gilmore face a lesser threat in Darius Slayton and Wan’Dale Robinson this week. Both cornerbacks need to stay aware and vigilant to not allow their assignments to get separation and break free. This is a game of patience for the defensive backs as apposed to trying to keep up.
Adoree Jackson and rookie Deonte Banks are the Giants starting corner backs. Jackson allowed five receptions for 84 yards the last time he faced the Cowboys, leading the team with the worst passer rating allowed of 111.6. This week he will be facing CeeDee Lamb who is coming off a monstrous game and enjoying an extremely productive period since coming off the bye-week. Deonte Banks played quietly in Week 1, which makes sense being a rookie. But since then has had a sharp increase in workload and is getting up to speed with the NFL. His tendency to be handsy has got him in trouble and has been penalized six times so far this year. He’s allowing a completion rate of 56% and has a passer rating allowed of 81.7, which for a rookie isn’t overly bad. The teams best defensive back is safety Xavier McKinney. He’s made 45 tackles this season and is allowing a completion rate of 60%. But the Alabama product can’t do it all on his own back there, even though he was one of the few bright points for the Giants in Week 1.
The Cowboys ranks sixth-best in passing yards allowed, and seventh-best in lowest passer rating allowed. On top of this the Giants offense ranks last in passing yards per game, last in receiving touchdowns and fourth-worst in average passer rating.
For the Giants defensive backs, they are facing an offense that ranks 12th in passing yards per game (third-most in the last three games), completing 70% of passes thrown (which is third-most), and are ninth in the league in passing touchdowns. The Giants defensive backs have a lot of work to do this week, and their defensive line which is getting very little pressure doesn’t do them any favors. Keep an eye on the practice report this week for Jackson, he is in concussion protocol after last week’s game.
Brandon Aubrey breaks an NFL record. Yes, “Auto-Aubrey” stays perfect after a huge 51-yard field goal that was very high-pressure last week, and he didn’t even blink an eye on the attempt. Aubrey has made 19 field goals on 19 attempts, which is the best start to any kicker’s career. The only question on last week’s game was how did he manage to kick the ball out-of-bounds off a kickoff, and what were they trying to accomplish?
For the Giants, the familiar theme continues for this roster, as starting kicker Graham Gano has been put on injured reserve. They now have Randy Bullock kicking for them as Gano looks to get surgery on his knee which will end his season. Bullock played the last two seasons for the Tennessee Titans where he averaged 84% field goal accuracy. He played in one game for the Giants back in 2016, but has yet to make a field goal for them.
Bryan Anger ranks sixth in average yards-per-punt. He also ranks eighth in average hang time. A testament to how well the Cowboys offense has done this season at getting into scoring position, Anger has only had to punt 23 times this season, that ranks 30th among punters.
Jamie Gillan punts for the Giants and the last time he played the Cowboys, he had to come out three times to punt. No punter in the NFL has more punt attempts than Gillan this season, and his average yards-per-punt of 46.6 yards ranks 22nd among punters.
KaVontae Turpin has been taking the ball out of endzone on kickoff returns a lot lately, with one of last week’s attempts getting up to midfield. From kickoffs he’s one of the best in the league right now. When it comes to punt returns though, he’s down the order by quite some way, but having penalties called against him on huge returns doesn’t help his figure. The Giants re-signed wide receiver Gunner Olszewski back to the team and now serves as the team leading punt returner. He’s made nine punt returns since rejoining the Giants and averages 9.9 yards per return.
Which team has the better defense?
This poll is closed
New York Giants