The Path to the NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

Jackson Thompson

The Giants-Cowboys rivalry will see some new history when the two teams square off in Week 5 at AT&T Stadium in 2020. That Week 5 meeting will, for the first time in the 60-year history of the rivalry, pit two first-year head coaches against each other.

The Giants took a chance on Joe Judge, a former special teams coordinator with the Patriots. At the same time, the Cowboys brought in a proven veteran in former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, who led the Packers to nine playoff berths in 12 full seasons at the helm, including a Super Bowl XLV championship.

The Giants hope the Judge era results in greater success over Dallas than recent years, as the rivalry has been lopsided 12-4 in favor of the Cowboys since the Giants' Super Bowl XLVI championship season.

For the Giants, the Week 5 matchup is also the start of a six-week stretch that includes five games against divisional opponents.

Getting that stretch off to a good start against the Cowboys will be critical for Judge in his first year, and maintaining success against the Giants will be crucial for McCarthy in cementing the validity of his hiring, especially considering who will be calling offensive plays for the Giants.

Giants' new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who led the Cowboys as head coach for a decade from mid-2010-19, will face the Cowboys as an opposing coach for the first time this season, bringing an added layer of drama to the rivalry in 2020.

Garrett laid the foundation for Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliot's success, and his reputation is heavily rooted in Dallas. How the Cowboys offense performs without Garrett could go a long way in determining his legacy in Dallas.

The Cowboys in 2020

Key Losses: TE Jason Witten, C Travis Frederick, CB Byron Jones, DE Robert Quinn, DT Maliek Collins, WR Randall Cobb, S Jeff Heath, DE Michael Bennet, WR Tavon Austin

Key Free Agent Signings: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Dontarie Poe

Draft Picks: WR CeeDee Lamb, CB Trevon Diggs, DT Neville Gallimore, CB Reggie Robinson II, C Tyler Biadasz, DE Bradlee Anae, QB Ben DiNucci

What It Means for the Giants

The departure of Jason Witten should offer somewhat of a sigh of relief for Giants fans, as they won't have to face a playmaker that has gashed the Giants up the seems for some huge plays for the past 17 years.

In 30 career regular-season games against the Giants, Witten totaled 154 catches for 1,568 yards and 15 touchdowns. However, the Cowboys tight end position might still be a problem for the Giants with Blake Jarwin set to take over for Witten in Dallas. Jarwin only has six career touchdowns, but five of those are against the Giants.

The Giants might have to worry about a new playmaker doing similar damage with the drafting of Lamb out of Oklahoma. Lamb's combination of body control, hands, and run-after-catch ability will be a chore for the Giants defense to plan for in 2020 and beyond.

Lamb will become the latest Cowboys wide receiver paired with quarterback Dak Prescott to do some serious damage against the Giants this year. Since Prescott was drafted in 2016, he's managed to spread the ball out against the Giants, connecting on touchdown passes to Witten, Jarwin, Dez Bryant, Tavon Austin, Cole Beasly, Amari Cooper, Randal Cobb, and Michael Gallup at the expense of the Giants in the last four years.

Finding success in the passing defense is not just for either of the two meetings in 2020, but long-term, as personnel in the Giants secondary and Cowboys receiving corps is locked in for the next few years and will figure to see a lot of high-stakes battles moving forward.

The Giants' most significant signing of the offseason was cornerback James Bradberry, who came over from Carolina on a three-year $43.5 million contract. As the Giants' presumptive top cornerback for the next three years, Bradberry will likely see a lot of snaps against Cooper, who's five-year, $100 million extension was Dallas' most significant offseason move.

If new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham does assign Bradberry to cover Cooper for the majority of snaps, it's a matchup that could go a long way toward dictating the outcome of the game.

That would also leave one of the Giants younger and unproven defensive backs responsible for covering Lamb.

Cornerback DeAndre Baker's future with the Giants is murky. If he is unable to play, the most likely candidates to compete for the other perimeter cornerback spot include Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine, and Julian Love (or perhaps even a combination, depending on the scheme and situation). Whoever does draw Lamb will probably be part of one of the more closely-watched matchups between the Giants and Cowboys.