On Sunday, the New York Giants march into a familiar stadium to face the same old foes, though much has changed since the last Big Blue victory in the former Cowboys' Stadium.
Many in Dallas hope that perhaps a name change can finally spell the end of the Giants’ dominance in what is now AT&T Stadium. However, week one may be a bit premature to rely solely on hope, so the Dallas Cowboys have been organizing and preaching another means of defeating their rivals — generating turnovers; a message linebacker and captain Sean Lee claims the team is taking to heart.
“We work on it every day,” Lee said. “We talk about it every day. We have a ball in our meeting room we have to hit when we walk in. It’s on the forefront of our mind every day. If we want to be great, we’ve got to get the ball out and get it back to our offense. It’s every meeting, every practice, it’s on boards.”
Granted, this isn’t exactly a revolutionary gameplan, as just about any coach at any level can tell you turnovers are often the deciding factor in most games. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the emphasis is necessary for a defensive unit that generated only 16 turnovers last season.
This season, the Cowboys come in with a new Defensive Coordinator in Monte Kiffin who has switched to a traditional base 4-3 Tampa-2 Defense. Thus, the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, and Jay Ratliff will be called upon to provide the majority of the pass rush as they did last season where the current defensive line was responsible for 30 of the team’s 34 sacks. For the time being, the Cowboys will be without both Spencer (knee) and Ratliff (groin) due to injuries. Expect the Giants to challenge the shuffled group by running the ball right at them to set up the play action for their own shuffled offensive line.
In order to pull off the traditional road warrior upset the Giants will need a strong game out of second year stud David Wilson. Requirements include, first and foremost, protecting Eli Manning, chipping pass rushers, catching the ball in open space and, of course, finding the running lanes and hitting them hard — something that hasn’t been an issue thus far for Wilson.
The one and only knock or potential weakness some have pointed at in regards to the Virginia Tech product is the same that Sean Lee & Co. will be targeting, as you can be sure they have not forgotten what happened to Wilson in his NFL debut last year against these very Cowboys. Wilson fumbled the football early, was clearly distraught on the sidelines, then subsequently benched, and ultimately cemented in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse. Look for Wilson to try to make amends and prove some of his bold Hall of Fame statements from a year ago.
And then there’s Eli, who at this point in his career is rather predictable in terms of potential production. He has the arm, weapons, football IQ, and that elusive clutch gene to keep his team in every game to the final whistle. But at the end of the day Eli is gunslinger who will make some throws that will leave you scratching your head but at the same time it’s those very throws that often bring up the “Elite” conversation.
Can Eli avoid those costly turnovers the Cowboys seem to be fiendishly after? He can, but he can also force a pass or two that yields an interception. A balanced attack could go a long way in facilitating Eli’s decisions.
An interesting note on Eli’s matchup against Monte Kiffin, in 12 career games against the Tampa 2 Defense, Eli has only 9 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. These numbers could mean something, or they could mean nothing as Eli faces the Tampa 2 Defense regularly in practice as Giants Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell has been known to use it on occasion as well. Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, and we imagine the Giants don’t need any reminding either with Tom Coughlin leading the team; they must win the turnover battle if they want to win this game.
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