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Giants Offense Has Edge Over Weak Cowboys Defense

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - NY Giants Offense Built to

Despite their incredible success in 2016, the 11-1 Dallas Cowboys still have a glaring concern on defense. This is no small issue with Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of the New York Giants' offensive weapons waiting for them on Sunday night.

Ranked 18th overall, the Cowboys defense is especially weak against the pass.  Here is a quick rundown of just how bad it's been:

  • Cowboys Headlines - Brandon Carr Expected To Be Released By Cowboys 129th in total yards allowed
  • 31st in completion percentage
  • 31st in interceptions
  • T-22nd in sacks
  • 29th in opposing QB rating

It hasn't been pretty. And unfortunately, the Giants are well built to exploit it.

As we prepare for Sunday's big divisional showdown, here's a profile of the Giants' offense. Naturally, we're going to start with the head of the snake.

Quarterback

It feels weird to use "iron man" and "Eli Manning" in the same sentence, but you have to give the guy his due. Since taking over as the Giants' starting quarterback in 2004, Manning hasn't missed a game. He has the third-longest consecutive games streak in NFL QB history behind just his brother Peyton and Brett Favre.

Giants, Eli Manning

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Eli is one of the ultimate examples of a QB whose play goes up or down with the amount of pressure you can put on him. He will carve you up if you don't get in his face, and that's been a big problem for the Cowboys all year.

Last week, Dallas harassed Sam Bradford about as well as they have any quarterback all season. If they can get a few hits on Eli and force that first turnover, he's prone to unraveling. There aren't many above-average passers who get rattled faster than Eli, or who will give your defense more gifts once they're losing their nerve.

The problem for the Cowboys is that the Giants offense doesn't allow much time for you to get to Manning. They have one of the lower yards-per-attempt in the league. They like hitting Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz, and other receivers on short passes and letting them use their speed to pick yards up after the catch.  The ball comes out fast and, once he has rhythm, Manning will dink and dunk you all the way to the endzone.

Running Backs

Rashad Jennings, GiantsThe Giants use both 31-year-old Rashad Jennings and rookie Paul Perkins fairly evenly. They have the 31st-ranked rushing offense in the NFL. Normally this would be a positive, but Dallas can't get comfortable after last week.

The Minnesota Vikings went into last Thursday's game with the worst run game in the league. They were also missing their starting center that night. Still, the running
backs averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

The Giants' passing offense is far more threatening than Minnesota's, meaning things should be even more open for the running backs than last week. New York's already had rushing success against Dallas this year, getting 113 yards yards on 24 carries in Week One.

The Cowboys do have a few things they can feel good about. The linebacker position is far more stabilized now than it was then. Youngsters Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson have improved throughout the year and will be much better in support. They will have to be, because the safeties will likely be staying deeper than usual.

You also have to watch out for the Giants' backs in the passing game. Last week, Rashad Jennings had six catches for 34 yards and a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He and Paul Perkins combined for seven catches against the Chicago Bears two weeks before that.

Receivers

It's another great season for Odell Beckham Jr. He is currently in the top five in the NFL for catches, yards, and touchdowns. His numbers tend to take a big hit against the Cowboys, however.

Beckham has only ever had one eye-popping performance against Dallas. Here is a look at his five games against the Cowboys:

CTH YDS TDS W/L
10/19/14 4 34 2 Lost
11/23/14 10 146 2 Lost
9/13/15 5 44 0 Lost
10/25/15 4 35 0 Won
9/11/16 4 73 0 Won

Obviously, the Cowboys have done a good job through the years of scheming for Beckham and keeping him contained. It will be interesting to see if they go with veteran Orlando Scandrick or standout rookie Anthony Brown in coverage against the Giants' top weapon.

Giants

AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

There is still plenty to be concerned about after OBJ. The Giants drafted Sterling Shepard to replace Victor Cruz, but then Cruz got healthy and now they have both playing well. Both are capable of making big plays both on a deep pass or running after a short route. It could be a rough day for Brandon Carr, who struggles against speed.

All year, Dallas has been content to give up short yardage to opposing offenses. They have focused on stopping big plays and forcing you to march the field and chew up clock. It's obviously worked during the 11-game win streak, but it can backfire if your offense isn't performing at its usual efficiency.

Last week, Dallas got away with this because the Vikings just didn't have enough offensive firepower. The Giants don't have that problem.

Tight Ends

Will Tye, GiantsNew York uses both Larry Donnell and Will Tye a fair bit, with Tye being the more dangerous receiving threat. He is currently third on the team in catches behind Beckham and Shepard.

The Cowboys have had their issues with opposing tight ends through the years, and this season is no different. According to Yahoo, they currently give up the 6th-most fantasy points to tight ends.

What's worse, they haven't even seen the best players in the league. This year, Dallas has only played against two (Jordan Reed & Zach Miller) of the league's top-10 tight ends as rated by Pro Football Focus.

As already mentioned, the Cowboys will likely give up some big chunks of yards to the tight ends as they would any other receiver. The key will be keeping these big targets from hauling in touchdowns once they get down to the redzone. Tye and Donnell only have one score apiece this year, so that's one positive.

Offensive Line

The Giants' offensive line isn't a stellar group. Still, they do a good job of keeping Eli Manning clean in a passing-focused offense. Manning helps with his quick release on a lot of short routes.

Here is a quick rundown of the Giants' starting linemen and their Pro Football Focus ratings for their positions:

  • Benson Mayowa, Ereck Flowers, Giants

    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    LT - Ereck Flowers (60th)

  • LG - Justin Pugh (4th)
  • C - Weston Richburg (25th)
  • RG - John Jerry (24th)
  • RT - Bobby Hart (46th)

Clearly, their biggest weakness is on the edges. This is good for the Dallas defense, which has its biggest problems at defensive end. DeMarcus Lawrence may get his best matchup all year against Flowers.

The Giants will hope that Pugh returns from injury this week, which he's currently projected to do. He is one spot below Zack Martin in guard rankings and a key to whatever run success they might be able to have.

 



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Dallas Cowboys

7 Free Agents the Cowboys Should Target

Shane Carter

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Are the Dallas Cowboys in for Another Quiet Free Agency in 2018?
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys' focus after losing in the second round of the playoffs is likely going to be contract extensions, sealing up their best players now before getting ready for the draft. They're likely to lose a few free agents but their priority will be their big name free agent, DeMarcus Lawrence, and extending contracts of Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and probably Byron Jones, in a year where they’ll see more cap room than they have in a long time.

Free agency, to Dallas, has been really almost entirely about re-signing their own and not dipping into the free agency pool like Jerry Jones used to do. However, in today’s NFL, a bit of the old Jerry may need to come back.

If we look at the success of Philadelphia, the L.A. Rams, Kansas City, Cleveland or Chicago, all these teams re-signed their own and drafted well, but also went out of their way to either trade for or sign other players. Free agency helped refuel all these teams and all saw success in the same capacity as the draft did.

The Cowboys don’t need to break the bank but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to consider some players who will be available. This team has nowhere to go but up, so take that next step. The more help, the better.

Anthony Sherman

A bit of an underrated name, Anthony Sherman was another Pro Bowl player this season for Kansas City. Being brought back on a one-year "prove it" deal, he more than outplayed his contract.

The Cowboys' current fullback, Jamize Olawale, did play as well as people had hoped. He played well on special teams, but as a blocker for Ezekiel Elliott and a receiver out of the backfield (see the Colts game). Olawale was a very valuable player to Oakland but he wasn’t able to replicate the same success in Dallas.

Sherman might want to come back to Kansas City but not only do the Cowboys have more cap room in 2019 but the possibility of playing with arguably the best running back in football might be too big to pass up. Just imagine the next Daryl Johnston and Emmitt Smith.

Randall Cobb

Cowboys Headlines - Who will Emerge from the Cowboys Linebackers? 2

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

See how many quarterbacks there are in the NFL and then which teams gave them a plethora of weapons: Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Matt Ryan, Baker Mayfield, Deshaun Watson, etc.

Amari Cooper appears to have re-established himself among the NFL’s elite receivers, Tavon Austin looks like a cheap re-sign who could be used in rotation both in the slot and outside, and Michael Gallup in the last four games of the season finally meshed with Dak Prescott and looks like a great number two receiver. Throw in Blake Jarwin and a likely second-round pick to be a tight end, and the Cowboys look like they’ve got plenty of weapons.

We need to consider now the other receivers Dallas has. Cole Beasley is hitting free agency and it doesn’t look like they’ll be able to keep him, Terrance Williams’ future is up in the air, Allen Hurns is coming back from a devastating injury, and Noah Brown is much more of an H-Back/sub-tight end option. Ideally, Dak Prescott’s next receiver will have good hands, run routes well and have plenty of speed.

Randall Cobb is not likely to return to Green Bay, and according to spotrac.com, his estimated value is currently a little under $8 million a year. Whether that’s too rich for the Cowboys’ taste or not, they should consider this. Cobb is only 28 years old and still can be productive on the right team, and given the right quarterback, one of the better slot receivers in the game.

K.J. Wright

The Legion of Boom is dead and, with it, the remnants of Seattle’s Super Bowl defense. K.J. Wright might not be on the same level as Bobby Wagner but he might be just what the Cowboys need in the linebacker rotation.

It looks like Sean Lee might have played his last down as a Cowboy. He’s never completed a full 16-game season, and with rising stars Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch back there, Lee is a likely cap casualty. Damien Wilson is a solid linebacker and often played up to the level that both Smith and Vander Esch played at but Wright might be an upgrade.

He’s 29 years old but won’t command a high price in the open market. His familiarity with Kris Richard also makes this an intriguing option. Knowing his success with Richard, it would make sense that Wright wants to finish his career in a system that he can thrive in and possibly make it back to the Super Bowl.

Matt Slauson

Depth was seriously tested on the offensive line in 2018. Travis Frederick missed all season with Guillain-Barré syndrome, Zack Martin missed time with knee issues, and Tyron Smith as well, for his neck.

Connor Williams looks like the future at right guard but Xavier Su'a-Filo filled in for most of the season. Going forward, the Cowboys need better, more veteran depth.

Matt Slauson has played for four different teams, playing in 114 games and starting in 111 of them. While he’s probably not the player he once was, Dallas really needs him for quality depth across the interior offensive line and veteran leadership.

He only cost the Colts $3 million last season, and that would be worth the price to bring him in. Depending on the health of the offensive line, any sort of upgrade on the second team is worth it.

Jalen Richard

Lee, Green Standouts on Cowboys Injury Report 1

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

It’s always good to have a full backfield. You need your lead dog, a solid number two and a speed receiver option to come out of the backfield. The Cowboys lacked the last one, and they could really use it.

Jalen Richard is a modest 5’8 200 lbs but has given the Raiders plenty of quality play, both as a change of pace back and especially at receiver. In fact, he had more receptions (68) than he did rushes (55) in 2018.

Since he’s likely to be mostly used as the Lance Dunbar-type of back that Jason Garrett misses, it's better that he catch passes than run the ball.

Richard shouldn’t cost very much and having him there would allow Elliott more rest, not having to force him out there on passing downs. Obviously Ezekiel Elliott is one of the best running backs in the game, at both running and catching, but quality depth with Jalen Richard might be what keeps him healthier, longer.

Jason Verrett

Health has been the biggest issue for Jason Verrett. His first two seasons looked like he was going to be a star in this league. However, in the last three seasons, he’s only played in five total games. It’s unlikely that he’ll be retained by the Chargers.

Jerry Jones has shown from time to time that he’ll give a player chances, despite off-field or injury issues (see Rolando McClain). A one-year "prove it" deal would make a lot of sense, especially if it improves the Cowboys' secondary depth.

Having played at TCU, Verrett is familiar with DFW and would probably be welcomed. There’s still plenty of time for Verrett to return his career back to where it once was. At a discount, the Cowboys might want to take advantage.

Earl Thomas

Kam Chancellor's Seahawks Career Ends, Will Earl Thomas be Next to Leave? 2

At last! We’ve come to THE name everyone has expected: Earl Thomas.

Leader of the Legion of Boom and future Hall-of-Famer, Earl Thomas broke the internet last season when he ran toward the Cowboys locker room, telling coach Jason Garrett to come and get him. Cowboys and Seahawks fans went crazy.

It was a move that was thought could happen before or during the draft, or possibly before the 2018 season started. But Seattle never budged.

Instead, Earl Thomas broke a bone in his leg, the game after he played the Cowboys and was placed on injured reserve. Now, Earl Thomas is a free agent, and Seattle is likely to lose him and get nothing back.

Earl Thomas has been to a pair of Super Bowls, winning one, and along with Kris Richard helped create one of the greatest secondaries in NFL history. This should be a no brainer. Earl Thomas could be the missing piece to the already elite Cowboys defense. Let’s make everyone’s wishes come true and make this happen Jerry Jones!



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Dallas Cowboys

3 Reasons Why Kellen Moore Should Not Become Offensive Coordinator

Jess Haynie

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Kellen Moore

The notion that current Quarterbacks Coach Kellen Moore will be promoted to Offensive Coordinator has divided many Cowboys fans. The idea is growing on some, but others remain very opposed. Is he really the right guy to help Dallas' offense get to the next level?

Yesterday, one of my fellow Inside The Star writers gave his reasons why Moore's promotion could be a positive for the Cowboys. I decided to play devil's advocate today and give three reasons why it would not be a good move.

For the record, I'm not opposed to the move. I don't want some retread like Todd Haley or Mike McCoy, who have been fired from more than one NFL team in their past. What innovation can they offer at this point?

But at the same time, do you really want a guy whose never held the job at any level before now? That leads us to my first reason for being against Kellen Moore.

1. Inexperience

Even Sean McVay spent three seasons as the Redskins' OC before he got his job in Los Angeles. Moore was playing QB just a year ago and has spent one season in a true coaching role. I know he was credited for being an assistant to the coaches during his playing career, but you'd still like a guy whose spent a little more time with a clipboard in hand.

Kellen could be a genius, and there are often reality checks that come whenever you step into a larger role. We often see something being done and think we understand, even thinking we could do it better, but then discover nuances and challenges that we didn't recognize before.

Most of the greatest QBs to ever play the game didn't have strong rookie seasons.

Of course, there's talk that Moore's role as OC would be supplemented by a lot of experienced assistants. Tight Ends Coach Doug Nussmeier has been a coordinator on the college level for high-profile programs like Alabama, Florida, and Michigan. We could even see Jason Garrett gets more hand-on with the offense again.

Perhaps Kellen would give a fresh approach and outlook that would push the Cowboys' offense forward in 2019. But you have to be concerned about his lack of experience, regardless of how highly you rate his potential.

3 Reasons Why Kellen Moore Should Not Become Offensive Coordinator

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, QB Kellen Moore, and former OC Scott Linehan

2. Scott Linehan's Influence

If you didn't like Linehan's work with the Cowboys then you may be concerned that he's had a lot of influence on Kellen Moore's offensive philosophy. Between Dallas and Detroit, they have been together for all but one of Moore's seven years in the NFL.

Linehan was the Lions' OC when Moore signed with them following the 2012 draft. When Scott was fired by Detroit after the 2013 season, he came to Dallas while Kellen played one more year with the Lions. In 2015, Linehan played a key role in getting Moore signed by the Cowboys.

That said, we have no way of knowing how much Linehan has shaped Moore's ideas about football. It's only a hypothetical, but one that shouldn't be ignored.

It's entirely possible that Kellen may have learned some good things by observing Linehan, too. "What not to do" can be valuable experience. Perhaps Moore was shaking his head at some of Scott's calls and decisions as much as the rest of us.

I take some confidence in the fact that Jason Garrett, who knows offense, would be willing to make this move. His job is on the line and the willingness to give Kellen Moore increased responsibility means Jason must see something he likes.

It also would mean he doesn't blame Kellen for our third reason.

3. QB Regression in 2018

This is the clearest and most concerning evidence against Moore's ascension on the coaching staff. In his one year as Quarterbacks Coach, there was no sign of development in Dak Prescott's performance from his rookie season. Also, Cooper Rush's play in the 2018 preseason was a clear regression from last year.

But only insiders know how much of this is about the coach as opposed to players and other factors around them. Was Kellen wanting to coach things that didn't align with Linehan's offensive strategy? Was Moore really getting to do things his way?

Most would agree that Prescott's play got better as the season went on, and perhaps that's a feather in Moore's cap. In fact, it could be a sign that Kellen also improved in his role over time.

As for Rush, we've seen plenty of one-hit wonders in sports. Guys can get hot and cool off, and perhaps what we saw last August was closer to reality than his 2017 play.

But as smart and savvy as Kellen Moore has been praised to be as an offensive mind, there's no denying that it didn't seem to rub off on the Cowboys quarterbacks this year. Communicating and teaching what you know to others is a separate skill.

~ ~ ~

Ultimately, we don't know what kind of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore could turn out to be. But there's evidence on both sides of the argument, and the Cowboys will be taking a serious gamble if they elect to promote such an inexperienced guy to such an important role.

But in this era when everyone is looking for the next creative and innovative offensive mind, maybe it's the exact move this team needs.



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Dallas Cowboys

How Joe Looney Saved the Cowboys Season and Protected Their Future

Brian Martin

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Joe Looney Saved Cowboys 2018 Season and Protected Their Future

I can't really express enough how important Center Joe Looney was to the Dallas Cowboys 2018 success. His play was kind of lost in the shuffle of all of the ups and downs that took place throughout the year, which is why I wanted to try to set the record straight today.

Joe Looney is better known around Cowboys Nation and the outside media as the guy who dressed up as a 6'3", 315 pound Ezekiel Elliott earlier in the offseason. You may have forgotten, but he wore Zeke's No. 21 jersey with his mid-drift showing while miming the "Feed Me" sign during practice. It's hard to imagine a jokester like that could be such an integral part to the Cowboys 2018 season, but he was.

Despite his jocularity, Joe Looney more than adequately replaced Travis Frederick in the middle of the Cowboys offensive line this past season. In fact, he was really the only consistent thing about the starting five, which in itself deserves more attention than it's actually received.

The Cowboys OL was a mess this season. Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, Dallas' other Pro Bowl offensive lineman, battled injuries throughout the year and missed time because of it. Add that to the revolving door at left guard between Connor Williams and Xavier Su'a-Filo and La'el Collins up-and-down season, and Looney's play looks all that more impressive.

The fact that Joe Looney was pretty much an afterthought this past season really speaks volumes to the level of his play. One of the things that really made him so important to the Cowboys success though in 2018 was his availability.

Joe Looney, Travis Frederick

Dallas Cowboys C Joe Looney

It may surprise you to know, but Looney played every single offensive snap (1,076) in 2018. That's up from just 94 snaps in 2017 as the Cowboys backup guard/center. I don't know about you, but I find that really impressive. To go from basically not playing to starting every single game is a huge jump to make.

As impressive as it was for Joe Looney to play every single offensive snap in 2018 for the Cowboys, what he did with that opportunity is even more inspiring. If not for him, Dallas wouldn't have won the NFC East division or made the playoffs. But, he did more than save their season. He protected their future.

Just imagine for a second if Looney would've been a disaster taking over for Travis Frederick in the middle of the Cowboys OL. It shouldn't take too much imagination on your part, just think back to what happened in 2017 with Tyron Smith out of the lineup, forcing Chaz Green and Byron Bell to start at left tackle.

Quarterback Dak Prescott was forced to run for his life in 2017 with backups at LT, causing him to regress as a pocket passer and develop "happy feet". If not for Looney, it could've destroyed Prescott's confidence altogether. Instead, Prescott continued to improve throughout the 2018 season and looks to be the future at the position once again.

I don't know what you think about all of this, but for me Joe Looney was the Dallas Cowboys MVP in 2018. I believe it's time to give credit where credit is due, because he's definitely not receiving the kind of recognition he deserves.

Do you think Joe Looney saved the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season?



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