The new season is officially upon us, and the Dallas Cowboys will kick things off against an all-too-familiar opening opponent, the New York Giants. There was a time not so long ago when it felt like they were starting the season off against the Giants every year. That’s because they went an eight-year span (2012-2019) where they opened against the Giants six times. It was something we got used to.
Then, the schedule makers gave us a reprieve as the Cowboys' previous three openers have been against non-Giants teams (Rams, and the Bucs twice). But here we are again. A good old Metlife meeting between these two divisional rivals is once again on the docket.
There have been some memorable season openers with these two teams. Back in 1995 the Cowboys blew out the Giants 35-0. You couldn’t ask for a better start when Emmitt Smith scampered off for a 60-yard touchdown on his very first carry of the season. We knew things were going to be great that year and they were as the team eventually went on to win the Super Bowl.
The Cowboys are hoping things come full circle and they reach the pinnacle of success this season, but it all starts on Sunday night. Here are five things to look for when the Cowboys play the Giants under the lights.
1. The new-look offense
Last year, the offense sputtered at times finishing outside the top 10 in yards gained after being tops in the league the previous year. With an upgraded wide receiver group and a few extra weapons added, the unit is poised for better things in 2023. This will also be the debut of the new play-calling duo of Mike McCarthy and Brian Schottenheimer.
Will the Cowboys run the ball more like McCarthy has been promoting? How will the addition of Cooks spice up the offense? And will Tony Pollard look just as explosive in the lead-dog role after coming off his foot injury? Soon, we’ll have answers.
2. Protecting Dak
It wouldn’t be a season opener if a Cowboys offensive lineman wasn’t unavailable for one reason or another. Since taking over as head coach, McCarthy has never had all five of his starters available in Week 1. In 2020, La’el Collins missed the entire year with a hip injury resulting in rookie Terence Steele being thrown into action. In 2021, Zack Martin missed the opener with COVID. And last year, they were without Tyron Smith as he injured his knee in training camp.
We are all hoping this will be the year that we get to see what we were hoping to see last year, but that again is in jeopardy. Tyler Smith is dealing with a hamstring strain and Tyron Smith rolled his ankle on Thursday. If the line is a little depleted, it’s going to be a challenge as the Giants' defense is the real deal. They have power up the middle in Dexter Lawrence and some speed along the edge with Kayvon Thibodeaux. For Prescott to take advantage of his weapons, he’s going to need time to operate and the health of his offensive line is huge.
3. Containing Jones
Not only do the Cowboys want to keep their own quarterback from running for his life, but they would also prefer to keep Daniel Jones from venturing about, albeit for different reasons. Jones is coming off a season where he rushed for over 700 yards as he turned into a scrambling fool. This included a 79-yard effort against the Cowboys in Week 3.
This Dallas pass rush will come after Jones, but they’ll need to be smart about it as they don’t want to get caught overpursuing and leaving gaping holes for the Giants quarterback to run for days. Jones isn’t a quarterback who can shred defenses with his arm, but the number of targets at his disposal is plentiful and it’s going to require the Cowboys defense to stay disciplined.
4. It’s Micah’s time
While we are all focused on some of the new things that come with the 2023 version of the Cowboys, we can’t forget about its most talented stalwart, Micah Parsons. This young and hungry defensive stud gets better with each year and he looks poised to be something special this season.
The Giants have their own issues along the offensive line and you better believe Dan Quinn is going to attack them. Undoubtedly, Parsons will be his biggest weapon as he’s been anxiously waiting to get back on the field to wreck some stuff. A cool evening under the lights will serve nicely as a precursor to what could be a remarkable year for the Cowboys' top player.
5. A little rust
The Cowboys didn’t play their main starters during the preseason and some of these guys will be playing together for the first time ever. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect the team to take a bit to get themselves warmed up. This is just how the team has approached things to begin the year during the McCarthy era, and so far it hasn’t equated to an opening week win. The Cowboys have lost three straight season openers and last year they didn’t even score a touchdown. Things shouldn’t be quite as stagnant against this Giants team, but if we come out of this one feeling a little underwhelmed with this performance, let’s make sure not to overreact too much.