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Giants-Cowboys: What to expect when New York has the football

Can the Giants’ offense, down to a rookie third-string quarterback, do anything against Dallas?

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The 2-7 New York Giants travel to Dallas for their Week 10 matchup against the 5-3 Cowboys. A lot has changed for the Giants since their 40-0 Week 1 defeat at the hands of Dallas. Starting quarterback Daniel Jones tore his ACL, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor is on Injured Reserve, and undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito is starting for the Giants.

New York was humbled by Dallas’ ferocious defense in Week 1. Their high expectations were all but vanquished by Dan Quinn’s defensive unit. Dallas forced three turnovers, blocked a field goal that was returned for a touchdown, and had seven sacks in the game.

The Giants’ offense was inept, couldn’t protect Jones, and the result was the Cowboys’ biggest shut-out victory in history. The humble pie served to the Giants in Week 1 lingers. New York’s playoff aspirations were over in October; a too familiar reality for the recent New York Giants.

Dallas, however, is vying for playoff positioning. They suffered a devastating 28-23 loss in Philadelphia last week. The Cowboys have the Giants, Panthers, and the Commanders over the next three weeks; all of these games are very winnable for the Cowboys.

DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the Cowboys as 16-point favorites. The line is rightfully shifting higher, as Dallas opened at 14.5-point favorites after the 4:30 p.m. Eastern games on Sunday.

Even though it appears like all is lost for the Giants, I hope to see vengeance gained by a team that was openly mocked by Dallas in Week 1:

The Giants have ONE win in the last 13 games against Dallas. That lone win concluded the 2020 season against Andy Dalton. The Giants would have made the playoff had the Eagles defeated Washington in what is now referred to as The Nate Sudfeld Game. New York has yet to defeat Dak Prescott.

Defensive statistics

Dallas has the sixth-best NFL scoring defense; they only allow 18.5 points per game, just behind the Bills, 49ers, and Browns. The Cowboys’ defense only allow 288 yards of offense, which is third best in the NFL behind Baltimore and Cleveland. Dallas does rank 15th in run defense, allowing 108.9-yards per game, while ranking sixth in passing defense, allowing only 179.1-passing yards per game.

The Cowboys blitz more often than last season. Quinn’s unit brings an extra rusher on 29.6% of snaps, but they only get pressure on 21.6% of pass attempts. One reason, though, is the nature of how offenses play Dallas. Typically speaking, the football is designed to come out of the quarterback’s hand very quickly. Coordinators are well-aware of the destruction caused by Micah Parsons, Demarcus Lawrence, and the rest of Quinn’s defense.

Parsons has 49 pressures and is second in the league behind Maxx Crosby. Lawrence has 25 pressures, Osa Odighizuwa has 22 from the defensive line spot, and Dorance Armstrong Jr. has 17. Parsons has 7.5 sacks, Armstrong Jr. has 3.5, Odighizuwa has three, Lawrence has two, and Sam Williams has two.

DaRon Bland leads the team with four interceptions, three resulted in touchdowns. Stephon Gilmore has two interceptions, and safeties Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker both have one. Bland has stepped in admirably for Trevon Diggs, who tore his ACL in practice just over a month ago.

Dallas’ defense is tied for second in interception percentage (4% of passes), and rank 17th in sacks with 21. Bland leads the team with six pass break ups, and Gilmore has four.

Giants’ game plan

The Giants will play ball control offense and try to avoid DeVito into obvious passing situations. This may force Dan Quinn to go heavier than he’s accustom, but the Giants lack of tight end depth behind Daniel Bellinger could lead Quinn to just rely on his defense’s speed until it proves to be a liability.

Like Martindale, Quinn uses a lot of multiple safety looks and DIME packages to maximize speed. The Cowboys have a deep and physical safety room that consists of Hooker, Kearse, and Donovan Wilson. Both Isreal Mukuamu and Juanyeh Thomas will work into lighter packages when dressed, but Hook and Kearse have played more than 400 snaps this season; Wilson has missed a few games with injury, but is healthy now.

Over the last two games, Saquon Barkley has 57% of Giants’ overall touches; this includes quarterback rushes. I don’t expect much to change against Dallas. Moving the football against Dallas’ defense is a tall task with this personnel.

Barkley averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 18 carries in Week 1. Establish the run to set up the play action is a tried and true method for the Giants, but not necessarily against Dallas, who does an excellent job keeping the Giants’ bootleg attempts in check.

DeVito had some success in garbage time against Las Vegas with half-field high-low reads. His touchdown to Wan’Dale Robinson was on a mirrored smash concept, and his deep pass to Darius Slayton was against a Cover-2 defense with two vertical routes to the boundary; DeVito found the hole shot for a nice gain. He also hit Bellinger on a sail concept corner route.

Dallas’ defense no longer has Leighton Vander Esch patrolling the second level. Damone Clark and former safety Marquise Bell occupy the second level; the latter of which is about 205-pounds. It’s not inconceivable to imagine that the Giants find some success against a lighter defense in lighter personnel packages.

That’s the hope for New York. Establish the run, rest the defense, avoid obvious second/third and long situations, and tire the defense out with the ground & pound approach. It’s a tough task, though, because the Giants won’t command any respect for their vertical ability.

With that in mind, I do wonder if Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka throw caution to the wind and try an early deep shot to Jalin Hyatt. With this potential game script, I wouldn’t mind seeing that aggression in a hostile environment against a team that is much better than the Giants.

Final thoughts

Dallas delivered a harsh reality check to the Giants that has persisted and remained with their team through the entire season. Murphy’s Law has applied to the Giants’ 2023 season; every calculated risk they took blew up in their face, and draft coverage couldn’t come quick enough. The Cowboys are heavy home favorites, and it’s easy to see why. They should handle business against the Giants this weekend.