The New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, who meet Sunday night in the season-opening game for both teams know each other well. Still, we always learn something when we venture into opposition territory. So, let’s see what we can learn from Dave Halprin of SB Nation’s Blogging the Boys in our inaugural 5 questions segment of the 2023 NFL season.
Ed: I am going to start the season by cheating, asking two questions in one. What did you like most about the Cowboys’ offseason? What did you dislike most?
Dave: The best thing about the Cowboys offseason was the acquisition of Brandin Cooks at wide receiver and Stephon Gilmore at cornerback, for relatively cheap draft capital in trades. Cooks helps fill out a receiving corps that struggled besides CeeDee Lamb last year. Cooks brings a different dimension to Dallas and that is speed. The Cowboys needed a receiver that had big-play ability and that could threaten a defense with speed and Cooks fits the bill. On defense, Gimopre provides a quality cornerback option in tandem with Trevon Diggs. Teams were avoiding Diggs last year and picking on the other side of the defense. Gilmore gives them a better option when that happens and should help tighten up the pass defense.
As for dislike, I would say I wasn’t thrilled with the top of the Cowboys draft. They used their first-round pick on defensive tackle Mazi Smith, and while the reasoning of helping their poor run defense makes sense, I’m not convinced it’s the best use of draft capital. The same could be said for their second-round pick, tight end Luke Schoonmaker. In both cases they may be fine players, but they just didn’t feel like they would greatly enhance what the Cowboys are doing this year. I may end up being wrong about them, but for now they weren’t my favorite picks.
Ed: Going for the jugular here, I guess. The biggest reason the Cowboys have not even been to a conference championship game, much less a Super Bowl, since 1995 is … what?
Dave: It’s impossible to say there is a biggest reason because the issues change over time. The easy target is, of course, Jerry Jones considering he has been the one constant through all that time, and he has made some questionable personnel decisions along the way. But there have also been poor coaching decisions in key situations; we wandered through a QB desert for a while until Tony Romo arrived; we were done in a couple of times by Aaron Rodgers, and then there is just the variable of bad luck or bad timing. For example, we ran into a Giants team that got super hot at the right time and they rode that to a Super Bowl. We’ve had years with some very strong teams that have not been able to get through the playoff run, and it’s frustrating, but I don’t think there is a ‘one size fits all’ reason for the failures.
Ed: Mike McCarthy taking over the offense is going to be [fill in the blank] for the Cowboys? And, please explain.
Dave: Interesting for the Cowboys. Kellen Moore was able to put together some high-scoring teams in his years, but come playoff time, the San Francisco 49ers were able to clamp down on that offense and it didn’t feel like Moore had a counterpunch. McCarthy is changing up some things like some of the pass protection schemes and is also instituting some West Coast principles into the offense. The Cowboys also seem to be more interested in adding speed and quickness to the offense, trying to get playmakers like Tony Pollard, Brandin Cooks, KaVontae Turpin and newcomer Deuce Vaughn into space and let them work. But how it will actually look is sort of a mystery because Dallas didn’t play their starters in preseason, so we never got a clear look at how it will really look. So it will be interesting to see what McCarthy dials up in this first game.
Ed: If I offered you Daniel Jones straight up for Dak Prescott would you make the trade? Why or why not?
Dave: The short answer is no. I realize I’m speaking to a Giants audience here so I’m likely swimming upstream in any attempt to explain myself, but there is nothing in the statistical record that would lead me to make that trade. I even went back and researched it based on your question, and Prescott outperformed Jones handily when comparing the first four years of each player’s career. Even last year, being one of Jones’ best and Prescott’s worst, they were very comparable statistically except for Dak’s interceptions, which were atypical of his usual output. I get that Jones is younger, so that does make a difference, but I would need to see more than just one year of high quality output to be sure of where his future is headed. I’m not really expecting to convince Giants fans of my reasoning, and we all tend to overrate our own players so I could be guilty of bias there, but the career stats just tell me that Prescott is the better quarterback at this time. Of course, age can change that and Jones has potential to grow while Prescott is probably going to be what he is, but I’m not making that trade.
Ed: The Cowboys have won four straight and 11 of 12 against the Giants. They are favored at MetLife Stadium Sunday night according to our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook. Does that domination continue? Why or why not?
Dave: I think the Cowboys will win the game, but I wouldn’t bet on a dominating performance for a few reasons. Dallas is on the road and that is always tough in the NFL. The Cowboys did not play their starters in the preseason at all so I expect a little rust early in the game. And they are getting used to a new offense under Mike McCarthy, so that will be a challenge. But the Cowboys defense is very good, and Prescott has some more weapons at his disposal this year, plus Pollard is now going to be featured, which is something we’ve wanted for a few years. I think it will be a close game but Dallas wins by a couple of points.