1 – The Cowboys OL vs the Giants DL
Oof. This is one of at least 4 severe mismatches the Cowboys’ OL will have to endure this season. The Giants and Eagles have the two best defensive lines in the game (in whatever order you prefer), and the Cowboys are going to struggle to keep JPP and Co. out of Tony Romo’s face. The one offensive lineman that Cowboys fans can be proud of is Tyron Smith, who is still just 21 years of age and has an infinite ceiling. Smith is probably going to have to block a combination of Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora one-on-one, as the Cowboys will likely be forced to give help elsewhere. Smith had an impressive rookie season, but I think that has been overstated a bit. He was far from perfect.
The following video shows all Tony Romo’s sacks from the 2011 season (Three Stephen McGee sacks are not included, one of which included a sack allowed by Tyron Smith). I found 7 addition sacks where fault can be attributed to Smith. They are at the following marks in the video below: 0:14, 1:23, 1:47, 2:18, 2:31, 3:12, 5:18…
The Cowboys absolutely must stay out of obvious passing downs. To do so they’ll need to run the ball effectively, and utilize play action to keep the Giants’ pass rush off balance, while mixing in a healthy dose of screens and max protect. It also wouldn’t hurt (as in any game) if the Cowboys could get themselves an early lead. That’s about the best I can do as far as ways to slow down the Giants pass rush, because the Cowboys are thoroughly out-manned and over-matched here.
2 – Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne vs. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz
Why did the Cowboys go out and pay Brandon Carr $50 million over the next 5 years, and use their first two picks in the 2012 draft to move up and select LSU star Morris Claiborne? Well… Here’s “Exhibit A”…
That’s just a little 5 yard out designed to simply pick up a 1st down on 3rd and 1, but Victor Cruz is able to turn it upfield for a 74 yard TD. This is as bad as coverage gets in the NFL. Newman was targeted 9 times in that game by the Giants. He gave up 8 catches for 174 yards. In the first matchup, the Giants targeted Newman 10 times. They knew who they wanted to attack, and they went after him… a lot.
The Giants don’t have Terence Newman to pick on anymore. However, they do have an obvious target. That would be Morris Claiborne, the prized rookie CB and 6th overall pick of the NFL draft. Claiborne missed a lot of time this offseason during OTAs after having surgery on his wrist, and then additional time during training camp with a sprained MCL. He only played 2 preseason games, and by my count, just 48 snaps in the preseason (19 against the Chargers, and 29 against the Rams). That’s not ideal for a rookie about to face a couple of stellar receiving threats in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. I fully expect the Giants to formulate a game plan that attacks Morris Claiborne early and often.
3 – Kevin Gilbride vs. Rob Ryan’s deployment of DeMarcus Ware
Tom Coughlin named Sean Locklear his Week 1 starter at LT against Dallas over Will Beatty, leaving the Giants with a very shaky pair of bookends on their OL, with David Diehl at RT. Obviously, Sean Locklear is no match for DeMarcus Ware. You know that, I know that, and you can sure as hell bet Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride knows that. An easy solution would be to simply stick Martellus Bennett on Locklear’s side, and you can fairly easily shut down anyone in the league by giving them that kind of extra attention… if you know where they’re going to line up.
I would expect Rob Ryan to move Ware around like a queen on the chess board and try to get him in as many 1-on-1 situations as possible, whether that be over Locklear, Diehl, or standing up in the middle of the line. At the very least, by moving Ware around creatively, the Cowboys can force the Giants’ OL to worry about making pre-snap adjustments.
If the Giants are able to successfully scheme for Ware by giving him extra attention, the Cowboys desperately need Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher to step up and pressure Manning, especially if Jay Ratliff isn’t 100% or just not playing. I’ll be locating #94 at every snap to see if the Cowboys try to get creative.
4 – The Cowboys’ receivers vs. Michael Coe
Here is what Tony Romo did against the Giants last season:
|Tony Romo vs Giants||Comp||Att||Yards||YPA||TD||INT||Rating|
Here is what the Cowboys’ QBs did against the Giants in 2010:
|Cowboys QBs vs Giants 2010||Comp||Att||Yards||YPA||TD||INT||Rating|
|Romo/Kitna Week 7||21||40||213||5.3||3||0||148.5|
|Kitna Week 10||13||22||327||14.9||3||1||124.1|
As the numbers above will show, the Cowboys have had plenty of success throwing against the Giants. And now the Giants have to start Michael Coe at CB.
Michael Coe was drafted in 2007 by the Colts. He did not play in 2008. From 2009 to 2011, he played for Jacksonville before finding his home in New York with the Giants. In those three years, he has played a grand total of 89 snaps. When Prince Amukamara went down with an ankle sprain, Coe earned himself the right to start Week 1 against Dallas. For a player that was drafted 5 years ago, Coe is very inexperienced. Miles Austin was a full participant in practice for the Cowboys this week. If healthy (and that’s a huge “if”), Austin and Dez Bryant form a very scary pair of receivers. Coe will have his hands full.
5 – Both teams vs. Injuries
The Cowboys (14) and Giants (10) have a combined 24 players appearing on the injury list. There are a lot of key names on that list. I hate to oversimplify things, but depending on which of these players are hampered or not at game time is going to play a major factor in this game, and I didn’t want to overlook it. Later today, each team will give each player a designation like probable, questionable, etc. For now, here was their participation in practice on Sunday (via ProFootballTalk):
|Did not practice||Limited participation||Full participation|
|Prince Amukamara||Will Beatty||Michael Boley|
|Marvin Austin||Mathias Kiwanuka||Ahmad Bradshaw|
|James Brewer||Adrian Tracy||Jayron Hosley|
|Did not practice||Limited participation||Full participation|
|Matt Johnson||Dan Connor||Miles Austin|
|Danny McCray||Andre Holmes||Dez Bryant|
|Jay Ratliff||Mike Jenkins||Phil Costa|
|Kyle Wilber||DeMarco Murray|
|Jason Witten||Phillip Tanner|
Giants, comfortably. I simply can’t get past the first key matchup listed above, which is that I don’t believe the Cowboys can block the Giants’ DL. Let’s call it 34-24.