Since the opening of AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys are 1-4 at home against the New York Giants. That’s not a good stat to own and I’m going to tell you which players are going to have to play a big role to bump the record up to 2-4.
I think this game has the potential to turn into a shootout, and I have a feeling we’re going to see Dez throw up the ‘X’ a few times. Eli seems to play his best football in Dallas and there could be points flying for both sides. Sure, the running game will play a huge part, but I see Dez playing a larger role than he has in past weeks. Amukamara is having his best season since being drafted, but he’s not the caliber of corner that can lock down Dez. On the other side, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is looking like he might play but he won’t be at 100%. If I’m Dez Bryant, I’m licking my chops at an opportunity like this.
Sticking on the offensive side of the ball, one guy that has a chance to earn more playing time is Escobar. He showed improved blocking against the Seahawks while making key blocks for Murray on the final drive. The reason Hanna has played over him thus far has been his lack of blocking ability so this could be a big step for him. With Jermey Parnell getting the start at right tackle, I’m guessing the tight ends are going to be asked to stay in and help out a bit. Witten is the best blocking tight end, so if the coaches wanted to keep him in to help we could see Escobar as the second tight end running more routes than we’ve seen in the past.
However, I doubt Scott Linehan wants to limit Witten’s routes so we may see Escobar jumping in to help Parnell. I’m guessing if they see the slightest bit of struggle from the highly touted second round pick from a year ago, they’ll quickly throw in the more dependable Hanna. I’m hoping he shows some improvement so they can start using him for the reason he was drafted, to create mismatches in two tight end sets.
Last week, Justin Pugh got torched at right tackle by just about everyone that lined up opposite him. The Eagles managed six sacks on Eli and added two more to his backup Ryan Nassib. For a defense that’s been doing a great job of pressuring the quarterback but not quite getting to him, I think this is a great opportunity. With Victor Cruz going down with a season ending injury and Rashad Jennings not playing this week, the Giants don’t have a ton of playmakers on the offense. This could lead to Eli holding the ball a little longer and hopefully taking a few shots from the defensive lineman.
Marinelli has been drawing up some creative blitzes but this is an opportunity to get to the quarterback with less pass rushers. Spencer looks to be returning to form much faster than I thought he would and I like his matchup against Pugh. Connor Barwin, an outside linebacker, did most of the damage last week and Spencer started his career as an outside backer. I’d like to think this will help him a bit as he looks for his first sack of the year.
Another player to watch on the defensive line is Tyrone Crawford. He plays with as high a motor as anyone I’ve seen and I know he wants that first career sack. He’s been close this year and what better time than against the Giants.
Wilcox has been playing well the last few weeks. He’s flying to the ball, smashing ball carriers, and along with Rolando McClain, providing a much-needed edge to this defense. The area he’ll be needed this week is in the passing game. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll need to help out in the run game as well, with the physical Andre Williams leading the rushing attack, but he needs to lock down Larry Donnell in the passing game.
I was excited about Wilcox when he was drafted; I loved the athleticism and the way he hit, but the big question was always ‘can he cover?’ He has a chance to show that he’s learning the safety position this week against a tough tight end. While not many people knew his name before this year, Donnell is a solid tight end. He has good size at 6’6” and is pretty athletic for his size. Where he’s especially dangerous is in the red zone. Wilcox won’t be the only one covering him, but he needs to do his part when he does draw the assignment. We all know he can hit, but it’s about time he shows the coverage skills.
The final player that I think needs to show up this game is Dwayne Harris. He’s fumbled in back to back games and it hasn’t been too costly, but if you fumble enough times it will eventually lose you a game. Harris needs to show a strong bounce back game after not only fumbling but fair catching the ball at the five yard line. He’s better than that. He was arguably one of the best playmakers on last years team.
He’s a dangerous punt returner, kick returner, and is usually outstanding on kick coverage. I expect this to be a close game and field position is going to play a big role. I’d like to see a big return early on from Harris to fire this team up. Coming off a season where he was one of the most feared return men in the NFL, it’d be nice to see him return to form.