Death, Taxes, and a week one clash with the New York Giants. Including this Sunday’s game, the Dallas Cowboys will have faced New York in four of their past five season openers. It’s a bitter rivalry.
Only this time, there are plenty of new faces on each side of the ball who will have an impact. Expect drama, big plays, and a close finish.
Here’s a look at this week’s key match ups.
Dez Bryant vs. Janoris Jenkins
It’s no secret that the Cowboys want to run the ball as much as possible. To counter this, I fully expect the Giants to test rookie Dak Prescott from the first snap. They will do so with constant pressure and a loaded box. To back off, Prescott will have to earn the respect of opposing defenses.
Enter Dez Bryant and Janoris Jenkins.
I expect one-on-one coverage between these two throughout the course of the game. Prescott will need Bryant to win this battle through the air to open up the running game. It is important for Dallas to build up Prescott’s confidence, and getting the ball to your big-play wide out will set the tone.
Last time these two guys faced off, Jenkins registered a pick six, but Bryant returned the favor with a 68-yard touchdown in the second half. Jenkins is talented, but loves to take risks on the ball. Bryant must get the better of him early and often if the Dallas offense is to post big numbers on Sunday.
Winning in the Trenches
New York’s front office spent big on the defensive side of the ball in free agency. Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison were brought in to wreak havoc and challenge strong offensive lines like the Dallas unit. It’s clear when the Giants were at their best in the Eli Manning era, they had an elite pass rush. Same can be said with the offensive line of Dallas.
Vernon versus Tyron Smith will be essential to keep an eye on this weekend.
In their previous meeting in Miami last season, Vernon beat Smith as bad as ever, sacking Tony Romo after an impressive swim move. He also registered a few hits on Romo, and made the All-Pro talent of Smith seem human again.
It is imperative that Dak Prescott remain upright and as comfortable as possible. If Dallas can dominate New York’s front four, Prescott will impress in his debut.
The Dallas Secondary vs. Odell Beckham Jr.
As bad as the Dallas front seven looks on paper, the secondary has potential to be pretty strong. With a weak pass rush, minus DeMarcus Lawrence for four weeks, the secondary needs to shine. The return of Orlando Scandrick will help. Morris Claiborne has had a great camp. And Byron Jones is living up to his first round status.
Beckham has established himself as arguably the best wide receiver in the game. Slowing him down is always a recipe for success. New York does not have a good running game or offensive line though, so Dallas should make Beckham’s surrounding cast beat them.
I expect rookie Sterling Shepard to see a lot of one-on-one coverage early, making that matchup an important one as well.
If Prescott is to make a strong debut for Dallas, he will need all the help he can get. The team needs to win these match ups at every turn, allow Ezekiel Elliott to run free, and Prescott to play his game.
The Prescott era takes its first step forward this Sunday.