The Cowboys finally return to the field this Sunday, desperate to end their three-game losing streak. On the opposite sideline sits the rival New York Giants, coming off an embarassing 27-7 loss to the Eagles on Monday night. Dallas will look to extend a five-game winning streak in the rivalry and pull back into first place in the struggling NFC East. For what the Giants plan to do to stop such things from occuring, we check in with TheGiantsBeat.com beat writer, Josh Fyffe.
So much has changed for both teams since we talked in advance of Opening Day. At that time, you projected hope for the wideout corps that still has yet to get on the field together for a single snap. Talk to us about the Giants offense as it stands currently.
Aside from Manning’s Monday Night dud performance last week, he has compiled one of the better starts to his NFL career. Despite not having the three-headed wide receiving juggernaut of Odell Beckham Jr, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle, Manning has shown a maturity in the decision making of his game, using his check-downs rather than making an ill-advised throw. Manning’s been able to complete 66% of his passes and has thrown 11 touchdowns in contrast to only four interceptions.
In the absence of Cruz, Larry Donnell has seen the biggest increase in receptions, currently tied for second on the team with Rueben Randle at 24. Donnell has gone on hot streaks and cold streaks, having a notably bad game against the Eagles but also making the noted game winning catch against the 49ers just two weeks ago. Shane Vereen has also demonstrated his value averaging over 6 yards per offensive touch.
In the running game, Rashad Jennings has been receiving a majority of the totes, compiling 66 carries so far on the season accompanied by 243 rushing yards. The Giants running game has been as stagnant as last year and has been one of the disappointments of the offense thus far into the season. Not having a dominant rushing threat has allowed oppenents to get back into the games when they are down, namely because of the Giants inability to finish when attaining a lead.
The offense still hasn’t hit their ceiling or really sniffed their full potential. When/if everyone gets healthy, opponents and spectators alike will be impressed by the production that can come out of the Giants offense. Currently they are in the top half of the league in points score, while also boasting a top ten passing attack. More consistency in the ladder half of games from Manning and the recovering health of the wide receiving corps can make this offense a more dynamic one.
While the Giants haven't suffered major injuries/suspensions to their top-of-the-line stars like Dallas has, there has been no shortage of missed games by the Giants. This is a theme of the last several years for New York. How has the team done in filling in the gaps?
While Victor Cruz hasn’t played a snap on offense this season, a majority of the Giants’ injury woes have come on defense. Throughout the course of 2015, the Giants have endured injuries to Jon Beason, Kevon Dennard, Robert Ayers, Prince Amukamara, Mykkele Thompson, Dominque Rodger-Cromartie (DRC), and of course Jason Pierre-Paul. Last week’s volatile performance may have been the Giants worst overall outing of the season, and one where the lack of depth in specific areas of the team really showed.
The way the Giants have combatted these injuries is by preaching a next-man-up policy. This week Jayron Hosley will be starting in place of Prince Amukamara, and the coaching staff couldn’t be preaching more confident behind the young defensive back. Hosley came in against Atlanta in the second half when DRC went down in that game. Players like George Selvie, Jonathan Casillas, and Kerry Wynn have done an excellent job on stepping up on a diminished roster. Brandon Meriweather as well, while initially being a starter, has provided a great compliment to rookie Landon Collins and has yet to be penalized for a personal foul penalty this season; a feature of his game which has haunted his past.
When injuries occur, it usually requires more than the person replacing them to step up, everyone on the team has to step up to make up for a players absence. The Giants are having trouble supplementing a strong pass rush and that has really been an issue for them this season. Blitzing the safeties and corners may be a way to combat that this week, especially with Matt Cassel making his first start of the season.
Many onlookers attempted to lend benefit of the doubt to the Giants after winning two games in a row on the heels of two games they really should've won. What would be a fair assessment of what this team does well and where they are vulnerable?
The Giants have been amazing at starting off fast this season, being able to hop out to an early lead in a majority of their games this season. This means they do a great job at executing their game plan early on, and Eli’s decision making has definitely been a strength for this team because to win he cannot be turning the ball over. The Giants passing game has definitely been their core competency thus far into the season. I would argue that the offensive line has been as well, sans last Monday Night’s game against the Eagles.
As for weaknesses, on offense their run game is their Achilles heel. This offense struggles to create efficient run plays with none of the Giants running backs averaging over 4 yards per carry. As I touched upon earlier, this makes it harder for the Giants to close out games as well as be able to control the clock.
On defense, while they are ranked 30th in the league in pass defense, I wouldn’t point to their secondary as a weakness. DRC was recently ranked in PFF’s top 15 cornerbacks of 2015 and has had an admirable 2015 campaign. Amukamara has as well, however he will be sidelined for the next 2 to 4 weeks with a pectoral injury. Both of the safeties, Collins and Meriweather have played well despite their brief time in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system. The reason for the 30th in the league ranking is a contribution of the pass happy offenses the Giants face when they surmount a second half lead combined with the Giants inability to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Against Dallas’ offensive line, that is a matchup that concerns me.
The Giants pass rush has fallen a long ways from the days of the Nascar package and relentless pressure that was so evident from 2007-2011. The Cowboys are seeing their star rushers return to action, who on the Giants side needs to be accounted for, and has their been anything specific that is working for that unit?
Unfortunately I consider the Giants current pass rush to be one of the larger areas of weakness for this team as a whole. The one subtle star who has compiled a decent 2015 campaign is DE Kerry Wynn who has shown solid discipline and presence as an edge defender.
Jonathan Hankins hasn’t had the same caliber of a season he had last year but definitely plugs up the middle of opposing offenses and would be the player who I think will give the Dallas offense the most trouble.
The Giants will have to be creative with their blitz packages to confuse Matt Cassel and potentially throw some safety and corner blitzes to compensate their pass-rush shortcomings. It will be exciting to see if any role player takes an accelerated role in this week’s matchup.
Give us your final score prediction...
Giants: 31 Cowboys: 23
Despite all of the concern I may have heading into to this matchup, Eli is looking to bounce back after a terrible outing against the Eagles and should be fired up to redeem the Giants offense. Matt Cassel in a new system balances out with the Giants’ defensive short-comings and I see him making one too many mistakes and giving the Giants too many opportunities to not win the game.