The Dallas Cowboys found a way to earn a victory in Week 2 with a backup quarterback leading the charge. For the second time in two years, when called upon, quarterback Cooper Rush did enough to put the Cowboys in the win column.
Now the challenge becomes whether or not he can do it again. Last year Rush didn’t have to back up his win because starting quarterback Dak Prescott came back to after a calf injury sidelined him for a week. That isn’t the case in 2022, Rush will get another start under center as Dallas prepares for their first road game against the New York Giants.
This isn’t the Giants of the last handful of years, they’re tied for first in the NFC East after winning the first two games of the season. If the Cowboys can beat their rivals on Monday Night Football, they’ll move past the Giants in the standings. Here are six things to know about the Giants as the Cowboys get ready for their Week 3 matchup.
Not same old Giants
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The Giants last made the playoffs in 2016 and since then have started their last five seasons at 0-2 or worse. That isn’t the case this year, as the Giants have started 2-0 with two close wins under new head coach Brian Daboll.
Daboll has brought an aggressive mindset to the organization, and it’s paid off early. Daboll went for a two-point conversion instead of the game-tying extra point late in the game against the Tennessee Titans and the successful try led to the victory.
Daboll’s pushing all the right buttons in his first head coaching stint, and he’s got the Giants finding ways to win games instead of losing them. However, neither of the teams the Giants have beaten have won a game yet, that changes when the Cowboys come to town.
Facing Rush instead of Prescott is a stroke of luck for the Giants, but they’re off to a good start.
Saquon Barkley is playing up to his potential
(Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
No one questions running back Saquon Barkley’s talent, but he’s had some trouble living up to his lofty draft status. The injury bug has plagued him for most of his career, as he’s only played a full slate of games once in his four seasons with the Giants.
The star runner is off to a hot start to 2022 as he leads the NFL in rushing yards with 236 and is second in the league in total yards with 282. Barkley’s also averaging 6.1 yards per carry, which is tops in the league among backs with at least 30 carries on the year.
Barkley’s second half efforts against the Titans in the season opener led the Giants to a comeback win, which included the game-winning two-point conversion. The Cowboys’ run defense needs to find a way to keep Barkley in check if they want to win the game.
Offensive line is much improved
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Much like the Cowboys, the Giants are going through a rebuild on their offensive line. The team drafted Evan Neal seventh overall to play right tackle, while another highly drafted offensive lineman, Andrew Thomas, continues to improve at left tackle. Neal is a work in progress as a rookie, but Thomas is excelling, which is helping the offensive line turn a corner.
#Giants LT Andrew Thomas is the highest graded offensive lineman in the NFL through two weeks with an 89.1 PFF grade.
He's continued his strong play after finishing last year with a 78.9 grade.
A franchise LT. Something the Giants haven't had in a long time. pic.twitter.com/bj75XJbDfE
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 19, 2022
There are also two other changes to the unit from last year’s starting five. Mark Glowinski has taken over at right guard and Daboll brought journeyman center Jon Feliciano with him from the Buffalo Bills. Feliciano’s presence in the middle is something the Giants have been missing in recent seasons and it’s stabilized the line.
The offensive line has given up eight sacks on the season, but they have also paved the way for a top five rushing attack through two games. The Giants have been trying to improve a woeful offensive line for years, and it looks like it’s finally happening.
Daniel Jones still isn't the answer at quarterback
(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
The running game is good, and the offensive line is improving, but the Giants still have no answer at quarterback. Fourth-year QB Daniel Jones hasn’t shown the ability to be able to be a big-time player and he could hold back the offense.
Daboll helped work wonders with Bills phenom Josh Allen, but Jones still hasn’t taken a leap forward with his new offensive guru of a coach. Jones is throwing for only 182 yards a game, and although he does have a completion percentage of almost 71%, his paltry 6.6 yards per attempt means he isn’t pushing the ball down the field.
Although he’s thrown just one interception this season, it was a throw in the end zone that cost the Giants points and ticked off Daboll in the process, leading to a cussing out on the sideline.
Jones has also contributed to the eight sacks taken, as he tends to hold onto the ball for a long time when trying to make a play.
They beat the backup quarterbacks
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While the Giants have had trouble beating the starting quarterbacks for the Cowboys, they tend to win while playing against Dallas’ second-best signal callers. The Giants have won the last three games against the backup QBs for the Cowboys and they’ll get another chance to continue that streak against Rush.
Matt Cassel started the string of losses for the backups in 2015, when he was filling in for the injured Tony Romo. Prescott was technically the backup in the 2016 season, after Romo hurt his back in the preseason, the Giants beat the Cowboys in the season opener, which was also Prescott’s first NFL game. The Giants beat backup Andy Dalton in 2020 while Prescott was out with his ankle injury.
It’s a fortuitous break for the Giants to go against Rush instead of Prescott, who owns them. Prescott has won nine straight against New York after losing his first two games.
Key defenders could be returning
The Cowboys aren’t the only team that has been missing some key pieces to start the season, the Giants have been without two of their best projected pass rushers in the first two games. That might be changing.
Last year’s top edge rusher for the Giants, Azeez Ojulari, hasn’t played a down yet with a calf injury, but is expected to play. Ojulari led the Giants with eight sacks in his rookie year and is poised to make a second-year jump.
The Giants planned to team up Ojulari with top-five pick Kayvon Thibodeaux to form a fearsome pass rush. Thibodeaux was hurt on a controversial block the preseason but is also expected to make his NFL debut against the Cowboys.
— NFL Rumors (@nflrums) September 22, 2022
It isn’t all good news for the Giants, however, as they are likely to be without Pro Bowl defensive tackle Leonard Williams because of a knee sprain. Williams has yet to miss a game in his eight-year career and appears to be a longshot to play.
Wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Wan’Dale Robinson are both considered questionable to play, with Robinson classified as a did not participate in practice on Thursday. If neither play, it would leave a Giants short at receiver against the Cowboys.