There has never been a so consistently over-hyped NFL team as the Dallas Cowboys. Year after year, the Cowboys receive an inordinate amount of media attention. It’s really quite comical. In the last quarter century, the Cowboys have won only three playoff games. Even the times when the team has excelled in the regular season (2007 and 2016 for example), they were one-and-done in the playoffs. 2021 was likely another tease for their fan base. The Cowboys don’t have the feel of a legitimate contender and are heading towards their third decade of futility.
That’s what makes the New York Giants’ recent impotence against the Cowboys (and Eagles, but that’s for a later preview) so frustrating. The Cowboys undoubtedly were a better team in recent years, but the Giants have been getting bitch-slapped by an overrated team in what has been a mediocre division for years. Want to know why the Giants keep firing general managers and head coaches? It’s because they haven’t been competitive in their own division. I hate to keep bringing it up, but the Cowboys have won nine of the last 10 games against the Giants. That’s not a rivalry; it’s a joke.
Nothing will really change with this team until it starts beating the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee – out)
- WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring – doubtful)
- OC Jon Feliciano (shin – probable)
- DL Leonard Williams (knee – doubtful)
- OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee – questionable)
- OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf – questionable)
- CB Aaron Robinson (appendix – out)
- CB Nick McCloud (hamstring – out)
- CB Justin Layne (concussion – out)
- S Dane Belton (clavicle – probable)
- S Jason Pinnock (shoulder – probable)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
I hate to deal in hyperbole, but to date, this may be the most important game Daniel Jones will play in Giants’ uniform. For one, as we all know, this is THE make-or-break season for Jones. His contract is up after this year and the team may simply let him walk. But specific to this game, what if Dallas Cowboys’ back-up quarterback Cooper Rush out-plays Jones on a super-hyped Monday night game on the team’s home turf? See where I’m going with this? This game may very well come down to quarterback play and the quarterback who performs better. If the Giants (and Jones) get embarrassed by the Cowboys again, I’m not sure Jones will ever get the fan base back on his side.
Is this fair to Jones? Yes and no. Yes, because Jones clearly still has significant warts to his game. Aside from a couple of games early in his career, there has been no “wow” factor with him. More than ever, it’s a quarterback-driven league and it’s hard to see Jones ever carrying a team to the promised land. On the other hand, it’s not completely fair because Jones is on his third head coach and fourth offensive coordinator since being drafted. That’s absurd. Whether fans want to admit it or not, there is a dramatic learning curve every time you change offensive system. Sterling Shepard admitted this week that receivers are still making too many mistakes in their routes. That happens to every team that changes coaches. It’s why teams with established coaching staffs and systems have an inherent advantage over opponents who do not.
To state the obvious, the New York offense hasn’t lit the world on fire the first two weeks. The offensive line has been up and down. Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney have been still missing in action, and while Jones has been good enough to help pull out two close victories, he has also been fortunate that mistakes didn’t turn those games into painful losses. The Giants now will be facing their third tough defense in a row, a defense that presented problems for Tom Brady and Joe Burrow.
The Cowboys’ defense is the strength of their team and is coached by Dan Quinn, who the Giants interviewed as a head coaching candidate. They are led by all-world linebacker Micah Parsons, who is beating his opponent on pass rush opportunities more than 50 percent of the time. That’s rare territory folks. Quinn lines Parsons (who is listed as “questionable” with an illness) up all over the field and he can beat opponents with power, quickness, and technique. DeMarcus Lawrence is off to a slow start, but he has given the Giants issues in recent years. Both young offensive tackles will be challenged by Parsons and Lawrence on the edge, plus the struggling interior of the New York offensive line will have to deal with Parsons coming up the middle. Edge rusher Dorance Armstrong also has two sacks in two games. In obvious pass-rushing situations, the Cowboys will use multiple edge rushers in special pass-rush packages (similar to what Steve Spagnuolo used to do with his “Nascar” defense).
The Dallas secondary is led by interception-magnet cornerback Trevon Diggs (2 interceptions against the Giants in 2021). His fellow corner is Anthony Brown (1 interception against the Giants returned for a touchdown in 2021). The 2021 Dallas defense thrived off of take-aways. They only have one so far this year, but obviously a key for Jones and the rest of the New York offense is not to turn the ball over against this group. Dallas prefers to have their opponents drive the field in small chunks rather than give up the big play. They count on their opponent to make the stupid mistake such as a turnover, sack, or penalty.
Until the New York offensive line settles down more in pass protection, the strategy is obvious. Run the ball with your best player. If the Giants want to keep Parsons and company off of Daniel Jones’ back, and prevent those killer mistakes such as turnovers and sacks, run the ball. This proved harder last week against the Panthers than it did in Week 1 against the Titans. But New York needs to keep plugging away. Be the more physical team. Wear down a more undersized defensive front. It won’t be conducive to scoring a lot of points, but it will keep mistakes to a minimum and pay greater dividends later in the contest.
I will also throw this out there. Brian Daboll embarrassed Kenny Golladay last week. If Golladay has any pride, plus any talent left in the tank, it should show up this week. I would not be surprised if we saw a big game from Kenny.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The beauty of Wink Martindale is the opponent never really knows what they are going to get. He changes things up each week, sometimes out of necessity (injuries), but mostly because that is who he is as a defensive coordinator. If you choose to listen, Martindale keeps telling you, “It’s a position-less defense… And you’ve already seen two different defenses… We got to reap the rewards on Sunday because we gave Carolina a different look than what they’ve seen.”
The issue for the Giants in this game is the injury situation. Yes, edge rushers Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux will likely play. But both have missed most of the summer with injuries and will be rusty. The missed time has to affect the rookie Thibodeaux in particular. Starting corner Aaron Robinson is out, and that’s not ideal given that the Cowboys could be getting back wide receiver Michael Gallup this week (he’s listed as “questionable”). Worse, arguably the team’s best defensive player, Leonard Williams, is out. That will affect both the run defense and pass rush.
The Cowboys’ offensive line isn’t the team strength it used to be. Right guard Zack Martin is still one of the best in the business. The left tackle is rookie Tyler Smith and right tackle Terrence Steele is more of swingman that ideal starter. Expect both to be tested by the Giants’ edge players. The issue is inside. Dexter Lawrence is off to hot start. But with Williams out, the team will have to rely on reserves and possibly undersized Jihad Ward to stop a two-headed running game in Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. You can’t rush the passer if you don’t stop the run, and Wink is going to have to scheme his best to control the Dallas ground game. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with, more linebackers like he played in Week 1 or more defensive backs like he did in Week 2. The former seems more obvious, but Wink isn’t always obvious.
Which brings us to back-up Cooper Rush, who is subbing for the injured Dak Prescott, and the passing game. Personally, I didn’t see a huge drop-off from Prescott to Rush. And we know the NYG history against back-up quarterbacks. The Giants had better not take Rush too lightly. As mentioned, Gallup may return this week from an ACL injury. The big dog right now is CeeDee Lamb, who can play outside or in the slot and present match-up issues. Noah Brown is a bigger receiver who is surprisingly leading Dallas in receptions as teams pay more attention to Lamb. Gallup could take pressure off of Lamb, however. Tight end Dalton Schultz is dealing with a knee injury and might not play (he’s listed as “questionable”). If he doesn’t, the Cowboys will have to rely on inexperienced back-ups. That said, Dallas tight ends have a history of tormenting the Giants.
The game plan is fairly obvious on this side of the ball as well. Even when Prescott is in the line-up, the Cowboys are more of a run-first team. This is especially true now with the back-up playing. Stop the run. Get the Cowboys in uncomfortable long yardage situations and test the tackles on the pass rush. Focus your coverage on Lamb and make Rush beat you.
I’ll finish on this note… the Giants are due for some picks.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Giants’ special teams are coming off a strong game. The team will need more of the same in what is likely to be a tight defensive game. The diminutive KaVontae Turpin is very dangerous on returns. He scored on a kickoff and punt return in the same preseason game. Thomas McGaughey admitted this week that while he loves Jamie Gillan’s leg strength, he is still working on his control. The Giants need to be careful here.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale on QB Cooper Rush: “I see a guy that’s a starting quarterback in this league. Honestly, I do… He’s got two career starts, but he’s also 2-0 with those career starts. So, this guy’s a proven winner… He’s a smooth operator back there, and he doesn’t get rattled.”
THE FINAL WORD:
Both teams play good defense. Both teams will want to run the ball. Usually in these types of contests, quarterback play, special teams, and which team makes the fewest mistakes will be the deciding factors. This is a really big moment for Jones. The entire country will be watching.