The New York Giants will once again be in town on Sunday for a week 1 meeting against the Dallas Cowboys. Familiar faces from this opening match up a year ago will take the field, along with some key new players in pivotal spots.
One pairing of players should remain the same, as Giants’ star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will line up against the Cowboys’ talented secondary, and more than likely Morris Claiborne.
The battle between Claiborne and Beckham Jr. could go a long way in deciding the eventual outcome of this game, as Dallas will have to make plays defensively to slow down New York’s offense and allow rookie QB Dak Prescott to stay in the game.
Both rounds of this fight went to Claiborne a season ago, as the rejuvenated and suddenly-confident corner held Beckham Jr. to 9 catches through the two games for just 79 yards.
A fresh face across from Beckham Jr. in the Giants’ receiving group will be rookie Sterling Shepard. When drafted in the second round, I immediately felt that Shepard was the team’s best draft pick, with the ability to step in right away and make New York’s offense even more explosive.
In watching the tape from week 1 of 2015, Claiborne was able to make Beckham uncomfortable by consistently putting himself in a great position at the top of his route. Odell thrives off of being able to burst off the line of scrimmage, and then beat his defender with quickness and agility. Claiborne met Beckham with open hips off the line, and was able to turn and run with him when needed.
Morris also did a great job of getting his hands on Beckham to reroute him whenever necessary. With the addition of Shepard, I expect new Giants’ Head Coach Ben McAdoo – the team’s former Offensive Coordinator – to run plenty of two-man routes that rely on Shepard and Beckham Jr. working together to attack Dallas’ coverage. If this is the case, it will be even more important for Claiborne to be able to get physical with Odell Beckham at the right times.
As for slowing down the rookie Shepard himself, I expect Dallas to throw a heavy dose of Orlando Scandrick his way. Scandrick should be able to run with Shepard and make things difficult for him.
With so many variables coming into this game on both sides of the ball for the Cowboys, it is hard to solidify any predictions for how this NFC East showdown will play out. Surprisingly, one question that Dallas may not have to struggle to answer is slowing down the Giants best offensive weapon, as Morris Claiborne will be up to the task.
The Dallas Cowboys travel to Washington to face the Redskins in week 2, where Claiborne and the defense will again face a tough test from the likes of DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Josh Doctson, and Jordan Reed.
The Cowboys secondary may provide the entire defense’s only glimmer of hope in 2016, and it is crucial that they get off to a good start on Sunday.