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Cowboys show they belong atop NFC East with 40-0 drubbing at Giants

The Cowboys took the home Giants fans out of Sunday night’s game early, never looking back in a shutout win to start the season.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The NFC East put three teams in the playoffs in 2022, and by Sunday night the Dallas Cowboys knew they were playing to keep pace with one of them - as the Eagles won to start the season 1-0. On the road against the third playoff team from the division, the Cowboys made one of the loudest statements of week one, surging to a 16-0 lead behind a special teams touchdown, field goal, and defensive touchdown in route to a 40-0 drubbing of the rival New York Giants.

The Cowboys were missing starting left guard Tyler Smith, safety Donovan Wilson, and cornerback Jourdan Lewis on a rainy night in New Jersey, but still made this a miserable season opener for the home team, earning Dan Quinn’s first shutout in his third season as defensive coordinator. It was the most lopsided win for the Cowboys over the Giants since 1966, also a season opener Dallas won at home 52-7.

The attention to detail by the Cowboys to not lose focus in a blowout and play to the championship standard Mike McCarthy has worked to build was on full display, with the Cowboys taking the ball away three times to tie for the league lead after a week. The Cowboys were the best team in the NFL in this area the last two seasons. They not only took the ball away from Daniel Jones but sacking him seven times in a game they dominated in every way possible.

As we’ll do here after every Cowboys game, here are a few of my immediate takeaways.

  • The cohesion between Dan Quinn’s player development on defense and John Fassel’s on special teams has helped the Cowboys build one of the deepest rosters in the NFL. Safety Juanyeh Thomas set the tone for how this game would play out on the Giants’ first drive with a blocked field goal, returned by newest Cowboy Noah Igbinoghene for a touchdown. Thomas also got a surprising amount of playing time with the starting defense.

Thomas is yet another player seeing the benefit of having a year in Quinn’s system, making the year two jump to mix in seamlessly with the experienced safeties and linebackers Dallas has in the back seven. With Jayron Kearse playing less of his box role and more in man coverage against Giants TE Darren Waller, Thomas stepped into this role and defended the run well while showing off range and athleticism in coverage. New York’s offense was far from the first one that was left confused and a step behind the looks Dallas can draw up with so much fluidity between linebackers and safeties, but a player like Thomas being ready for a big role in this week one divisional game is beyond even the highest expectations for a dominant Cowboys defense this season.

Opposing offensive coordinators are going to have their hands full simply identifying the players they need to be aware of when playing against this defense, and that’s with blue chip players like Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Trevon Diggs, and Stephon Gilmore all showing up in this win as well.

  • The Cowboys versatility on defense doesn’t stop with the secondary, as their defensive line features player depth that can all line up at multiple spots. Early on, DeMarcus Lawrence was used on the inside a lot to deter the Giants from running Saquon Barkley up the middle. The Cowboys are still counting on rookie Mazi Smith and Johnathan Hankins to be their main run-stuffers at defensive tackle, but saw the added pass rush ability of Osa Odighizuwa and Chauncey Golston pay off against a weaker interior offensive line for the Giants compared to their starting tackles. Lawrence was also his usual self from the natural left end position, turning the corner quickly on a play near the end of the first quarter to allow Markquese Bell to make a third down stop.

Bell has only been practicing at linebacker for a few weeks following Demarvion Overshown’s season ending injury, but fit in alongside Damone Clark and Leighton Vander Esch to stay a step ahead of the Giants offense all night.

  • Dak Prescott having more consistent checkdowns and open throws was an early thing to watch for in the new McCarthy offense, and while it wasn’t perfect in it’s debut by any stretch, his newest receiver went a long way in providing this. Brandin Cooks was an easy target, sometimes out of the slot, creating space and separation that Dallas hasn’t had at the position outside of CeeDee Lamb in some time. Cooks converted a fourth down that led to a first half field goal, a drive that could have continued if not for a Jake Ferguson drop on third down.

The good from the Cowboys tight ends in this game was their route running and intent to be featured as regular targets for Prescott on the run, but finishing plays was a struggle all night for both Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot.

  • Before Tyler Smith was officially ruled out of this game, the Cowboys were looking to use the athleticism of their offensive line in space as an advantage against a Giants defense with good size on the inside. Even with Chuma Edoga starting in place of Smith, Dallas was able to do this, seeing a vintage performance from Tyron Smith at left tackle and Zack Martin at right guard. Edoga fit in with the game plan and held his own when pulling in the run game, doing so in sync with Smith on Kavontae Turpin’s rushing touchdown. Perhaps the easiest touchdown of the night though came when Tony Pollard followed a pulling Martin around the right side for a walk in score, regularly making his best plays outside the tackles in his first real game as RB1.

This was Pollard’s second touchdown of the night, the first coming on a great red zone sequence from McCarthy, running Prescott to the left on first down, Pollard up the middle on second, finally setting up the outside zone for Pollard to score on third down.

  • The tight end room having a bounce back game in week two will be something to watch for when it comes to how this team can possibly build on a near perfect night, but so too will be how the Cowboys find ways for CeeDee Lamb to get involved. Lamb caught all four of his targets for 77 yards with a long of 49, the type of efficient performance that warrants much more volume for the team’s WR1. The plays that Pollard, Turpin, and Cooks made with the ball in their hands shouldn’t take away from what Lamb can do in the open field, something the Cowboys should prioritize.

For more Monday reaction to every Cowboys game, check out the Hidden Yardage podcast with Mark Lane and I, available on the Blogging the Boys podcast network via Spotify and Apple.

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