What has felt like an eternity has finally arrived as the Cowboys will cap off week one when they open their season against the Giants at MetLife Stadium. Dallas is entering 2023 with Super Bowl aspirations and the entire nation will get to see firsthand why those who follow the Cowboys are so optimistic.
The New York Giants, who placed third in the division last season with a 9-7-1 record, are a team on the rise who are looking to beat quarterback Dak Prescott for the first time in their last ten attempts. Although the Giants won their wildcard weekend playoff game on the road against the 13-4 Minnesota Vikings last season, beating a division rival not named Washington has been a problem. The Giants have lost eight out of the last ten contests to the Eagles including a 38-7 divisional round loss to end their 2022 season.
While the Cowboys figure to leave New York with a win on Sunday night, they may need to be prepared to counter a Giant gameplan.
Giants QB finally comfortable
Point: Giants quarterback Daniel Jones returns as the franchise QB after inking the same four-year $160 million contract Dak Prescott signed with the Cowboys over two years ago. While the Cowboys, Eagles and Commanders welcomed at least one new coordinator this offseason, the Giants are running it back with the same crew.
Jones gets to come into a season not having to adjust to a new voice in the offense. Prior to Giants head coach Brian Daboll’s arrival, Jones had two head coaches and four offensive coordinators in his first four seasons with the team. Instead of adjusting to the intricacies a new coordinator brings, Jones was able to concentrate on himself as a player.
One thing Daniel Jones said he worked on this offseason was getting more comfortable throwing from a variety of arm slots.
We saw that carry over to training camp, joint practices and the preseason on his TD to Daniel Bellinger.
Exciting development for the #Giants passing game. pic.twitter.com/L6L4tJiNTj
— Dan Schneier (@DanSchneierNFL) August 19, 2023
Jones has familiar targets returning in the receiver room but late-season waiver wire pickup Isaiah Hodgins may be the biggest. Hodgins led the team in receiving touchdowns with four scores even though he did not make his Giants debut until mid-November.
Counterpoint: Dallas is more than equipped to handle the unusually high number of receivers that could contribute to the Giants offense. Dallas kept 12 defensive backs on the roster for situations like this. Any mismatches the team might encounter offer multiple solutions with such a stocked defensive-back room.
Giants line offensive?
Point: While Jones is enjoying the comforts of stability, his offensive line has been anything but. The Giants have used two top-10 picks in their last four drafts on offensive linemen in an attempt to stabilize the position. It could be argued that it is still the Giants weakest position group.
After a subpar rookie season, left tackle Andrew Thomas has transformed into one of the better young blindside protectors in the entire league. His bookend and 2022 top-10 pick Evan Neal is looking for a similar rebound after going through a rough rookie season.
The Giants are also prepared to start second-round rookie center John Michael Schmitz, who was floated a possible draft target for the Cowboys.
He is flanked by left guard Ben Bredeson and right guard Mark Glowinski, both of whom struggled last season. Glowinski gave up five sacks and allowed 34 pressures. Bredeson did not give up a sack last year but rotated with Joshua Ezeudu, who also returns as the primary backup interior lineman.
Look for the Giants to run a lot of play-action and misdirection in order to maximize the effectiveness of running back Saquon Barkley while opening up the middle of the field for newly-acquired TE Darren Waller. The former Pro Bowler was traded to New York from the Raiders.
The 44 sacks Jones took were the fifth most taken in the league last season. Movement creates hesitation that can slow down the reaction time of a defender. Any delay may give Jones enough time to get the ball to his playmakers. This could also hide the deficiencies the Giants are dealing with in the interior of their offensive line.
Counterpoint: The Dallas defensive line has been so effective in years past that even if Neal is improved and Schmitz is an upgrade at center, the Giants may still have trouble holding their blocks long enough for Jones to get comfortable. If the Dallas defensive line can get enough penetration and make the team one-dimensional, the comforts of stability could be erased rather quickly.
Point: Figuring out what ails the Giants run defense is problematic for a few reasons. The team gave up the sixth-most rushing yards last season while the 5.2 yards per carry they allowed was only better than the Los Angeles Chargers.
Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence posted a PFF-best 81.9 grade for his position in the rush defense department. Fellow interior lineman Leonard Williams ranked 22nd in that same metric yet having two of the best interior run defenders in the league was still not enough to stop the bleeding. The team brought in defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson, who also ranked inside the top 35 players in rush defense along with journeyman Rakeem Nunez-Roches in an attempt to shore up a glaring need.
The team believed their issue went beyond the defensive line and signed former Indianapolis linebacker Bobby Okereke to a four-year $40 million contract. Okereke was a tackling machine with Indianapolis but he did have 18 missed tackles which placed him in the top 10 last season.
#Giants DC Wink Martindale on Isaiah Simmons:
"He's perfect for this defense. … It's not about what position we're gonna play him; we're gonna play him wherever we need him because he can do so many different things. I've talked before about positionless defense. He's perfect… pic.twitter.com/c9kxBZveYy
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 6, 2023
Counterpoint: Testing the Giants run defense is surely going to be at the top of the game plan this week. The good news is Dallas has a shiny new toy in the passing game in Brandin Cooks to go along with the weapons they already had which will make it hard for the Giants to concentrate on just stopping the ground game. For the Giants, they have to hope that is enough to stop the run as two of the team’s three top cornerbacks are playing in the NFL for the first time on Sunday night.
If the Cowboys are able to find balance on offense and keep Jones uncomfortable, Dallas may win its first week one game in the Mike McCarthy era.