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Giants vs. Cowboys: What to expect when Dallas has the-ball

Dallas possesses explosive offense that can score in multiple ways

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants host the Dallas Cowboys in their second matchup of the season. The Cowboys easily defeated the Giants in week five by a score of 44-20. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones exited the game with a concussion, and rookie Kadarius Toney had a 10-catch, 189-yard, game. Jones is questionable with a chance to play after suffering a neck injury, and Toney is on the COVID-19 List.

New York’s defense struggled with the Los Angeles Chargers, as the Mike Glennon-led offense was stagnant for much of the game. Dallas narrowly escaped a come from behind victory against the Washington Football Team last week. Dak Prescott threw a late 4th quarter pick-six to linebacker Cole Holcolmb which almost led to an upset Washington victory. The Washington loss all but ensures an NFC East title for Dallas.

The Cowboy offense ranks second in the NFL with an average of 29.2 points per game this season. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only team that averages more points per game this season. Dallas is also sixth in rushing offense with an average of 128.5 yards per game and fourth in passing offense with 280.6 yards per game.

The offense is led by young offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and star quarterback Dak Prescott who has struggled in recent weeks. Jerry Jones recently stated that it was “probably fair” to classify Prescott as “being in a slump. Despite the struggles, Dallas won their last two matchups against the Saints and the Football Team, after losing at home to what appears to be a defeated Las Vegas Raiders team on Thanksgiving.

Dak Prescott

Prescott has thrown for 3,381-yards on the year with a touchdown to interception ratio of 24 to 10. His completion rate is still a very impressive 67.9%, ranking 8th in the NFL just behind Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. Prescott also has a high touchdown percentage of 5.3% which ranks 11th in the NFL.

According to Pro Football Reference, Prescott has the 16th-best on-target percentage, and the 24th best bad throw percentage; accuracy hasn’t been his strength relative to the rest of his statistics, according to the metric. Prescott also sees the blitz frequently. He is the fourth-most blitzed quarterback in the league behind Lamar Jackson, Kirk Cousins, and Matt Ryan.

Although he is blitzed, Prescott does an excellent job using his quick release to not get pressured; this is also, in part, thanks to a stellar offensive line that keeps him upright. Prescott has a 19.1% pressure rate which ranks 4th best in the league. He also has only been sacked 22 times. Prescott is surrounded by talent upfront, on the perimeter, and in the backfield. Patrick Graham and the Giants defense hands will be full against this offensive unit.

Rushing attack

The duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard is dangerous. Both players are dealing with injuries; Elliott has a knee issue that seems to have slowed him down and Pollard missed week 14 with a plantar fascia injury in his foot. Both may be dressed and available for Dallas against the Giants.

Kellen Moore runs a lot of rushing concepts. They incorporate DUO runs along with their stretch wide zone action. New York struggled to combat the Chargers stretch zone game in week 14. I can see a similar approach where Dallas uses that zone look to set up rollouts and play-action bootlegs.

New York’s linebackers were slow to commit against the Chargers and the double teams upfront occupied the lineman. The Giants’ defense is generally tough to run against, but horizontally based rushing attacks have had success this season. There’s a possibility Leonard Williams will be absent from this game, which will pose a huge problem for the Giants front.

Elliott is the primary running back, although there are debates between him and Pollard. Elliott has 185 carries for 810 yards and two touchdowns this season. He’s also seen 54 targets, securing 41 of them for 245 yards and a touchdown. Pollard has 107 rushing attempts for 602 yards and two touchdowns. Pollard also has 31 catches on 34 targets for 259 yards. Pollard possesses a lot more explosiveness and is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball, whereas Elliott is more of a thumper for short-yardage situations. Elliott doesn’t seem healthy at the moment but still earns a solid touch count by the end of every game.

Passing attack

I do not envy defensive coordinators forced to devise game plans to slow down Dallas’ offense. We witnessed this early in the season; teams were playing two-high looks, so Dallas ran the ball effectively. Defenses adjusted and the offensive attack has struggled a bit, which is also a product of a banged-up running back room and a struggling Prescott.

Nevertheless, Dallas has one of the best trios of wide receivers in the NFL. CeeDee Lamb is the dangerous, up-and-coming receiver who can virtually do anything and everything. Amari Cooper is the technician of a route runner, more of a “Z” type of receiver, with Michael Gallup as an underrated “X”.

Lamb has his fair share of drops this season, but his contested catch ability, body adjustment, and overall fluidity are rare in NFL wide receivers. He has 64 catches on 96 targets for 890 yards and six touchdowns this season. Lamb burned James Bradberry for a long touchdown in man coverage in Week 5.

Cooper dealt with several injuries this season and missed two games on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He returned two weeks ago to play second-fiddle to Lamb in the passing attack. Cooper has 51 catches on 72 targets for 675 yards and six touchdowns. Michael Gallup recently returned to the lineup and has 27 catches on 47 targets for 324 yards and a touchdown.

Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown are the other two receivers who may see snaps in the offense. Wilson is a speedy slot receiver who did a solid job while the Cowboys were without Cooper and Gallup. Brown is a big-bodied receiver with 16 catches for 184 yards this year. He is typically behind Wilson in the pecking order; Wilson has 32 receptions for 438-yards and three touchdowns.

Dalton Schultz assumed the primary tight end responsibility and plays nearly every snap on the offense. A big part of Kellen Moore’s first and second down passing playcalling is the stick concept, something Giant fans have become accustomed to seeing while Jason Garrett was their play-caller.

Stick works against the Giants softer zone looks where Schultz can expand his route, or sit in the void; he does a great job with his spatial awareness and typically uses soft hands at the catch point. He should have caught a touchdown against the Giants in week five, but he dropped the pass.

Schultz has 53 catches on 71 targets for 584-yards and 4 touchdowns. He’s not very athletic, and neither is backup Jeremy Sprinkle, but he does a great job working within the framework of Moore’s offense. He had 6-catches for 79 yards in week five.

Blocking

Left tackle Tyron Smith will miss this week against the Giants with an ankle injury, and right tackle La’El Collins avoided suspension after an altercation during the Washington game. Dallas has depth upfront. The absence of Smith could result in a few different combinations, but it should be Collins and Terence Steele operating as tackles, with Ty Nsekhe as the swingman.

Zack Martin and Connor McGovern will likely handle the guard spots. Connor Williams played 13 snaps against the Football Team and was recently usurped in favor of McGovern. The interior line is solid overall, and center Tyler Biadasz does an adequate job in the middle of the line.

Dallas has allowed 123 pressures this season. The Giants have allowed 164 pressures despite having 30 fewer passing attempts.

The line is versatile, allowing Moore to call zone and power/gap concepts. They’re athletic enough to kick into space and hold up at the point of attack well enough to gain positive yardage.

Final thoughts

New York was embarrassed in Jerry World earlier this season, and the year has continued to spiral into mediocrity. Week 15 is the first home game since the Giants defeated the Philadelphia Eagles three weeks ago. I’m not hopeful for a Giants’ victory against a team that can successfully score points in so many ways. The Giants have four games left on the year, with three being divisional matchups. This offseason can’t come quick enough for another lost Giants’ season.