Giants-Cowboys, Week 1: Five key matchups, and a game prediction

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
Week 14 21 31 321 10.4 4 0 141.3
Week 17 29 37 289 7.8 2 1 106
Total 50 68 610 8.97 6 1 124

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
Total 34 62 540 8.71 6 1 146.1

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):

Giants:

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
Hakeem Nicks  

Cowboys:

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
    DeMarcus Ware

Game prediction

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.

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29 Comments

  1. It's a Brand New Carr! says:

    I can’t even take this analysis seriously, especially if you think 34 points will be put up on the revamped Cowboys D. Add to the fact that Nicks isn’t even in game condition, the backs and tight ends will be kept to help out on Ware, and Michael Coe got cut from the Jaguars. Yes, Jacksonville.

  2. youngwiz says:

    oh you picked against the cowboys? who ever would have seen that coming?

  3. yehti says:

    Jimmy,
    by your own stats Romo has done well against the Giants. I am very nervous about the Giants Dline like any fan whose team is playing them should be. the big reason for Dallas’ L last year is the D. I do think the D is improved. i dont know if it will be improved week 1 or not.

    IMO thats where this game will be won or lost is by Dallas’ D

    1. yehti says:

      Hmmmmmmm

  4. Cruz will be a one hit wonder just like Milli Vanilli & Carr is like Micheal Jackson helping the Boys get there 6grammy(ring)

  5. Juz Sayin says:

    Any body picking the Giants gone lose there money & there Honey

  6. Jimmer says:

    Exactly. Giants seem to think their pass rush will cover for their poor secondary. Cowboys seem to think that improved coverage will cover for their poor pass rush. Interesting.

    1. poolboy87 says:

      I’m unsure why exactly you would say that the Cowboys have a “poor pass rush”. Last time I checked, while they definitely didn’t have the front that the Giants or Eagles have…they were still 7th in the league in sacks last year.

      1. TJ says:

        I guy that can get to qb. Had almost half of the teams sacks

  7. AJ says:

    Jimmy, don’t think you put enough emphasis on the secondary match ups. (not telling you how to do your job just wanted to bring something up). In the first game btw these two the secondaries were both horrid. Dez had a TD late where he was literally uncovered. Miles was wide open but blew a tire during the route. In addition, the cowboys were equally as bad giving up the lead late in the 4th. My points is that the cowboys seemingly fixed their CB problem, where as the giants may have a worse group than last year with prince & TT out once again. I’d like to hear how you think this plays out.

  8. TJ says:

    NO mention of Demarco Murray. He broke his ankle in the first Giants game after something like 6 carries. He could be a difference maker in a game like this.

    Also of note is the fact that noted Cowboy killer Brandon Jacobs is no longer around (13g 617 yards, 7 TDs and 147 rec yards with a TD career wise vs. DAL). Always seemed to play his best vs. Big D.

  9. Tyler D says:

    Expect the Giants to go after Carr too, last time Eli played against Carr in 2009 he had a good day and Steve Smith took Carr to school, Hakeem scored his 1st TD with Carr on him.

    1. David_Does_Dallas says:

      I hope they do. This is not Carr of 2009.

    2. It's a Brand New Carr! says:

      Hahahaha I look up the highlights and I didn’t even see Carr get burned once. Nicks did catch a TD on a screen pass which was hardly his fault.

  10. David_Does_Dallas says:

    It will be a good game. I think the Giants have the advantage but I think the game will be close. With Jenkins out, Claiborne will be tested and I think the Giants will have limited success on him, but enough to keep the offense rolling. High scoring game, I don’t think the giants can score more then 24 points on the Cowboys, so that’s our offenses hurdle.

    1. Is Jenkins officially out?

      1. David_Does_Dallas says:

        No he is not. That is just an assumption. He may play but I would think in a limited role.

  11. Todd B says:

    * Giants DL vs Cowboys OL: I agree that this is a key matchup but wasn’t this the case last year as well? According to the QB stats listed, both QB’s did pretty well.

    1. Yes, good point, and I should have unpacked that one a little bit more. I still think the Cowboys will get their yards and score some points, but the Giants pressured the hell out of Romo last year, and sacked him 9 times.

      1 of those sacks was a safety. Another was a sack/fumble recovered by the Giants. Of the remaining 7 sacks, the Cowboys did not get another first down on that series in 6 of those 7 drives.

      So the pressure they got affected those games in a huge way. And of course, the Giants won both games last year. One was close, one was very comfortable.

  12. Mo is one rookie u dont wanna mess with & I dont think Tyrone Smith is having nightmares over (1year wonder) JP Paul & Carr is worried about (1 Year Wonder) Cruz.Quit acting like the Giants were a hardcore Super Champions ,They were a 9 &7 lucky 49ers fumble here & Wes Walker drop there from getting Couglin Fired!!!!

    1. SV says:

      That Wes Walker is really something…

      1. So is Tyrone Smith. At least Walker isn’t on this dude’s team.

    2. Jalarsen says:

      You wanna mess with EVERY rookie until they prove themselves! Is Claiborne any more special than any other highly touted top 5 CB from any other year? He’s a rookie, he’ll get messed with and probably show some good things and some mistakes. (I love how cowboy fans think their draft picks are somehow more proven and special than other draft picks)

      1. yehti says:

        wow there chief. thats 1 cowboy fan not all.

  13. Morris Claiborne is going to get a “Welcome to the NFL” moment or three tomorrow night. Giants DL vs Cowboys OL and Eli + Cruz/Nicks vs. Cowboys Secondary(-Carr) are going to rule the day. Giants 31-20

  14. BBI says:

    Agreed with most everything. I think in the same way the ‘Boys will move DeMarcus Ware around….I think the Giants will do the same with Victor Cruz.

    To be honest, I think the platoon of Hixon and Barden should get their catches versus Morris Claiborne. If not, they can always move Cruz there….but you have to think with Mike Jenkins probably out, it’ll be Cruz vs Orlando Scandrick.

    That’s a matchup that I take all day, every day, twice on Sund…err, Wednesdays.

  15. AJ says:

    I can’t wait to see this matchup, and what each team can do in a real game. I am torn on who I want to lose more. On one hand, I really want to see Eli try and get away with one of his “DeMarcus is coming” throw it up and pray passes and watch Carr pick it off. On the the other hand, I love seeing Romo get sacked. There is a high possibility I will get to see plenty of both. Great way to start the season, with one team in the NFC (possibly two Redskins vs. Saints) guaranteed to start 0-1. The only thing that would make it better is if they could both lose.

    1. deg0ey says:

      Maybe it’ll be a tie ;)

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