Sometimes you think the NFL just doesn’t know how to construct a schedule any other way. The New York Giants will open their 2017 season against the Dallas Cowboys. In Dallas, of course. This will be third consecutive year and fourth time in five years the Giants have opened the season in Dallas. It will also mark the fifth time in six years the Giants and Cowboys have met Week 1.
C’mon, NFL schedule makers! What gives? Have a little imagination. In addition to the Week 1 meeting, the Giants will host Week 14.
Anyway, let’s talk a little bit about the defending NFC East champions as we begin to look at the teams the Giants will play in 2017.
Cowboys In 2016
NFC East: 1st
Playoffs: Lost to Green Bay Packers, 34-31, in Divisional round
Offensive rank: No. 5
Defensive rank: No. 5
vs. Giants: Week 1 @ Dallas — 20-19 loss; Week 14 — 10-7 loss
Key Losses: CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church, CB Morris Claiborne, DT Jack Crawford, RB Lance Dunbar, TE Gavin Escobar, T Doug Free (retired), LB Andrew Gachkar, G Ronald Leary, DT Terrell McClain, QB Tony Romo (retired), QB Mark Sanchez, S J.J. Wilcox
Key Additions: G Byron Bell, CB Nolan Carroll, G Jonathan Cooper, DE Damontre Moore, DT Stephen Paea
|4||Ryan Switzer||133||WR||North Carolina|
|6||Xavier Woods||191||S||Louisiana Tech|
|6||Marquez White||216||CB||Florida St.|
|7||Noah Brown||239||WR||Ohio St.|
Three Questions With Blogging The Boys
Dave Halprin of SBN’s Blogging The Boys offers answers to three offseason questions about the Cowboys.
Ed: What is your favorite thing the Cowboys accomplished this offseason?
DH: The Cowboys finally overhauled their secondary. They had added a couple of nice pieces in the past couple of years, safety Byron Jones and cornerback Anthony Brown, but they were still relying on a lot of the same guys who had basically been a problem. This offseason, they let four members of their secondary leave in free agency, corners Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, and safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox. They signed a couple of vets as insurance in free agency, but then went all in at the draft and selected four new secondary players, using second, third, and two sixth round picks on the position group. They still have the aforementioned Jones and Brown, plus long-time veteran Orlando Scandrick, but it was time that they finally brought in fresh blood. The rookies may struggle at first, but in the long run this was a move that had to be made.
Ed: What is the one thing they did not accomplish that could hurt them in the upcoming season?
DH: I was really hoping the Cowboys would take a shot at an established pass rusher in free agency. They did use their first-round pick on Taco Charlton, and he may become the answer, but it would have been nice if they had made a play for a guy that either had established himself as a pass rusher, or who was in the process of blooming. This is the one area that is still holding the Cowboys back on defense.
Ed: Are you optimistic that the Cowboys will be better in 2017 or pessimistic and expecting regression?
DH: I'm actually optimistic, even though their record might not be as good as last year's 13-3 mark. Dallas has to play a first-place schedule, and as you guys know the NFC East is playing some tough divisions this year, so they may end up losing more games than they did last year. But I actually think they will be a better team. Dak Prescott has a year under his belt, as does Ezekiel Elliott, and if Jaylon Smith can make a contribution at linebacker, that should improve the defense. They have a couple of holes to fill on the offensive line, and their overall defense is always a question mark, but in general things are optimistic for Cowboys fans.
The biggest thing most people will be curious about with the Cowboys is whether or not quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott can avoid some type of sophomore slump. That will particularly be the case with Prescott, who completed 67.8 percent of his passes and threw 23 touchdown passes to only four interceptions as a rookie.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith will also be a player to watch as he tries to come back after missing all of his rookie year following a devastating bowl game knee injury in the final game of his collegiate career.
Defensively, Dallas will hope that first-round pick Taco Charlton and former Giants retread Damontre Moore can help a pass rush that was 20th in the league in sack percentage a year ago.
Offensively, how much will the Cowboys be hurt by the loss of offensive line starters Ron Stone (free agency) and Doug Free (retirement)?
Matchups to watch will include Dez Bryant vs. Janoris Jenkins and the Giants’ dominant defensive line against that vaunted Dallas offensive line.
The Giants and Cowboys could find themselves fighting for the NFC East title and a lone playoff spot. So, as usual, these games will be crucial — and intense.