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New York Giants Competitive Edge Week 5: Offense vs. Dallas Cowboys Defense

How does the Giants offense stack up against the Cowboys' defense? Olivier Dumont has the breakdown.

Just when it felt like the New York Giants were in for another rough, slow start to the season, this team managed to find a way to secure its first win last Sunday, doing so in dramatic fashion.

Though it was only one win, it was a big one, considering the Giants were not only at the brink of becoming 0-4, but they were also playing a strong, New Orleans Saints team in the loud Caesars Superdome.

There were a lot of factors that played into this victory for the Giants. But spearheading the success of their comeback overtime win was a piping-hot Giants offense that delivered in full, nearly eclipsing 500 total yards on the day while unloading 27 points against a Saints defense that had allowed less than 17.3 points per game.

Despite the impressive showing from this Giants offense, the next key step for this group is developing consistency. We’ve seen the potential they can reach, even when they’re not at full strength.

This Giants offense needs to prove that last week wasn’t just some fluke or mere coincidence. And that starts by generating another strong offensive output against the Dallas Cowboys, an elite NFC East foe.

The Cowboys have won three straight games, taking down the Chargers in Week 2, the Eagles in Week 3, and the Panthers in Week 4. With the NFC East division still very much up for grabs, this game has the makings of a fierce battle.

Let's take a look at how the Giants' offense stacks up against the Cowboys' defense in our weekly "Competitive Edge" breakdown.

Giants Pass Offense

  • Quarterback (Daniel Jones)
  • Running Backs (Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker)
  • Tight Ends (Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith)
  • Wide Receivers (Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Collin Johnson, C.J. Board)
  • Offensive Line (LT Andrew Thomas, RT Nate Solder, RG Will Hernandez, OC Billy Price, LG Matt Skura, Ben Bredeson, Matt Peart)

Following a relatively quiet start to his third season, Jones threw for a career-high 402 yards while accomplishing this feat with only 28 completions on 40 pass attempts.

The last time a Giants quarterback threw for 400+ yards was back in 2017 when two-time Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning threw for 434 yards against the Eagles.

But despite the eye-popping passing yards that Jones mustered last Sunday--his first 400-yard career performance, by the way--what stood out the most was the timing and precision behind the execution of his throws.

From week to week, Jones has been getting better at making the most of his pass attempts, and that came to life against the Saints when he completed 70 percent of his throws on the day (a season-high).

A big part of that efficiency and success has been directly tied to the steady presence of his pass blockers. From start to finish, the Saints' four-man pass rush struggled to generate much pressure against this offensive line and had to rely a lot more on blitz packages.

Despite the Saints' efforts, this Giants offensive line prevented the New Orleans Saints from registering any sacks, which allowed Jones to take full advantage of the time he had in the pocket.

Jones tapped into his arsenal of versatile receiving targets (minus Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, both sidelined with hamstring injuries) who wreaked their fair share of havoc.

Golladay delivered a team-high 116 receiving yards, but he wasn’t the only receiver with a big day.

Ross displayed the impact he can generate with his flashing speed and quickness, gathering himself three receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown in his first game as a Giant.

Toney highlighted the shifty elusiveness he can bring to the table, hauling in six of his team-high nine targets for 78 yards, which included a slicing and dicing 18-yard third-down conversion in the first quarter.

Cowboys Pass Defense

Pass Coverage

  • Cornerbacks (Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, Maurice Canady, C.J. Goodwin, Nashon Wright)
  • Safeties (Damontae Kazee, Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, Israel Mukuamu)

When it comes to pass coverage, the Cowboys have a bit of a mixed bag. At the forefront of their concerns is their 31st league ranking in yards allowed per game (315.3), a result of Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts, and Sam Darnold all throwing for 300+ yards against them.

To make matters worse, the Cowboys rank third in the league in touchdown passes allowed (9) and are 21st in opponent completion percentage (67.5). Whether it’s simply preventing teams from scoring through the air to thwarting receivers from reeling in receptions, this Cowboys pass defense doesn't quite appear to be a shutdown unit yet.

However, this group of Cowboys defensive backs has some bright talent amongst its ranks that can single-handedly influence the outcome of a game.

Diggs, the hottest cornerback in the league right now, is standing tall at the front and center of this group. Diggs has five in four games this year, two against the Panthers last week alone. Last year he had three interceptions in 12 games.  

The ball-hawking corner has proven to be very elite in coverage and is tied in first on the team in pass breakups (3) while leading the defense in reception percentage (50 percent).

Alongside Diggs is Brown, a savvy veteran corner who’s off to a solid start in his sixth campaign with the Cowboys. Though he has conceded two touchdowns this season and leads the team in missed tackles (5), Brown has put his versatility on full display in his first four games. He is second on the team in tackles (26) and third in reception percentage allowed (66.7) despite seeing a team-high in targets (36). He is also tied in first in pass breakups with Diggs (3).

The Cowboys have a sharp, a well-rounded, menacing safety presence on the field in Kazee, who’s gathered an interception, a forced fumble, and two pass breakups to start the season.

Though the passing defense numbers don't look impressive, the individual talent has been a promising development.

Pass Rush

  • Defensive End (Randy Gregory, Tarell Basham, Chauncey Golston, Azur Kamara, Dorance Armstrong)
  • Defensive Tackles (Osa Odighizuwa, Brent Urban, Carlos Watkins)
  • Linebackers (Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch)

The Cowboys pass rush is certainly not at fault for any of the team's pass defense’s shortcomings. Even without their best pass rusher (DeMarcus Lawrence), this group has been very effective at collapsing the pocket and overwhelming opposing quarterbacks.

Tied in seventh in the league in sacks (9) and sixth in sack yards lost (83), this Cowboys pass rush has enforced a consistent level of pressure that can be very disruptive and costly.

Leading the charge upfront is the dynamic duo of Gregory and Odighizuwa. Following a bit of a quiet year for Gregory in 2020, this season has been quite the opposite. Gregory is currently third on the team in total pressures (10), consisting of two sacks. At 6’5” and 255 pounds, Gregory brings an unrelenting level of power and strength upfront.

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Anchoring the middle of the defensive line alongside him is Odighizuwa, who’s having one remarkable rookie campaign so far. Tied with Gregory in sacks (2) while placing second in total pressures (15), Odighizuwa leads all defensive linemen in total tackles (10) and has generated an immediate impact for this pass rush.

But rising tall at the forefront of this group has been Parsons, the special rookie talent and 12th overall pick in the draft this year.

Parsons, the young Penn State product, leads the team in sacks (2.5) and total pressures (17) and has been every bit as advertised. With Gregory and Odighizuwa providing dangerous power up front, Parsons, on the other hand, brings an impressive level of quickness and athleticism off the edge that some have compared to a young Von Miller.

Toss in Vander Esch’s speed and efficiency on blitz packages, and this group could shell out its fair share of damage on Sunday.

Competitive Edge: Giants

This battle between the Giants passing offense and the Dallas passing defense is a tough one to call, considering how well each group matches up against the other.

Still, give the Giants the edge. The Cowboys, as previously noted, have allowed four different quarterbacks to throw for over 300 yards. Also, the Giants are coming off their best passing performance of the year, which came against a very good pass defense.

In addition, the Cowboys pass rush has allowed an average of 2.78 seconds to throw for opposing quarterbacks. They are going up against a quarterback in Jones that threw for over 400 yards with just 2.75 seconds in the pocket.

If all that's not enough, this Giants passing offense has begun to incorporate the receiving talent running back Saquon Barkley has to offer, plus the Giants pass protection has been solid.

With Hernandez pulling off a flawless pass-blocking efficiency rating of 100 against the Saints and Skura delivering a near lights-out first game with his 98.9 pass-blocking efficiency as a left guard, this Giants offensive line has been a pleasant surprise with its pass blocking this season.

Even Thomas, who struggled during his rookies season, posted back-to-back 98% pass-blocking efficiency ratings over his last two games. Thomas is listed as questionable for Sunday's game with a foot injury.

Though the Cowboys pass defense brings plenty of firepower and upside, look for the Giants' pass offense to prevail.

Giants Run Offense

  • Quarterback (Daniel Jones)
  • Running Backs (Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Eli Penny)
  • Tight Ends (Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith)
  • Offensive Line (LT Andrew Thomas, RT Nate Solder, RG Will Hernandez, OC Billy Price, RG Matt Skura, Ben Bredeson, Matt Peart)

The Giants run offense has been solid but is still some ways from where it needs to be. Though the Giants have been cautious with how much Barkley takes on per game, they’ve had to rely much more on their pass offense and, in large part, because the run game hasn’t been as consistent.

One side of this issue is on Barkley, who’s struggled with inside penetration and has let his free-flowing, flashy moves sometimes get the best of him.

Midway through overtime against the Saints last Sunday, Barkley nearly conceded a fumble that slipped right out of his hands inside the Saints’ 40-yard line. Had Rudolph not been there to jump all over it, the Saints could have easily come away with the victory instead.

The other side of the equation that has significantly hindered this run game is the offensive line. The same group who has gone above and beyond with their pass blocking hasn't been as consistent with their run blocking.

Outside of Thomas, this unit has struggled with garnering the fortitude Barkley needs upfront, and that will need to change if they plan on giving him a more extensive workload down the line.

That said, Barkley has shown plenty of fiery spurts in his return, including a nifty 17-yard run on a 1st and 20 play in the final minute of the second quarter against the Saints. At the same time, this very exact run reinforced a lingering concern Barkley has been trying to avoid: His feast-or-famine pattern of production.

Six out of Barkley’s 13 run attempts last Sunday resulted in one yard or less gain. Outside of securing a big touchdown in overtime, the 2018 Rookie of the Year is still getting his feet back under him.

Cowboys Run Defense

  • Defensive Tackles (Osa Odighizuwa, Quinton Bohana, Carlos Watkins)
  • Defensive End (Randy Gregory, Tarell Basham, Chauncey Golston, Azur Kamara, Dorance Armstrong)
  • Linebackers (Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch, Keanu Neal, Luke Gifford)
  • Safeties (Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker)

In Week 4, the Giants run offense went up against a Saints run defense that currently ranks second in the league in yards allowed per game (66.0).

This week the Giants see a Cowboys run defense that ranks sixth in the league in yards allowed per game (81.0). This group of Cowboys run stoppers has been very dynamic, and it all starts with their dual-threat at the linebacker position in Parsons and Vander Esch.

With each bringing immense strength, surging speed and pursuit, as well as a knack for tackling ball carriers efficiently, it’s no surprise that both are in the top five on the team in both stops and total tackles.

Outside of this menacing duo, the Cowboys have robust run-stopping support from their defensive line and secondary. Upfront, both Golston and Odighizuwa lead the Cowboys defensive linemen with four stops each, providing a wall of durability and strength to slow down any ground-and-pound runs inside.

In the secondary, Kearse’s run play recognition and anticipation on the line of scrimmage has not only placed him in first on the team in total tackles (27) but has also led him to tie in first amongst all Cowboys defensive backs in stops (7).

In short, this Cowboys run defense is a fierce bunch that can come at you from all sides. And be prepared for this group of run stoppers to assert their authority against a struggling Giants run offense on Sunday.

Competitive Edge: Cowboys

Though they’ve been off to a slow start, what’s encouraging about the Giants run offense is that Barkley has been improving every week.

He's looked more comfortable with his runs as he starts to regain his familiarity with how this offensive line works best. And after only 13 attempts last week, expect Barkley to receive more work on the ground against the Cowboys.

Despite the improvement, the Cowboys still get the competitive edge. The Giants' offensive line's inconsistent run blocking remains a major concern. Unless Barkley can feast on some big lanes, he could be in for a long day.

Interestingly, ever since their Week 2 game against Washington, the Giants have cut back on the RPOs for Jones, this due to the Giants finding success passing the ball.

For Dallas, Neal is expected to make his return from the COVID-19 list this week. Neal will aim to fill the void created when Jaylon Smith was cut. Coming off one of his best seasons as a Falcon in 2020, where he gathered 100 total tackles and 27 stops, Neal could be primed for a busy day.

From their front seven to their defensive secondary, expect the Cowboys run defense to have a successful outing against this Giants run offense. 


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