With Ezekiel Elliott securing a $90 million extension on Wednesday morning, the New York Giants will gear up to face one of the league’s premier running backs. He is a catalyst for the Dallas Cowboys offense and is one of the more difficult runners to bring down. Having a strong defensive front will be a priority for the Giants, and they will need to supplement the loss of Damon Harrison early last season when the two teams first collided.
Here are the three keys for the New York Giants to beat the Cowboys:
1.) Dexter Lawrence
With the Giants trading away “Snacks” last year, first-round draft pick Dexter Lawrence will be asked to fill a significant role in the defensive line this season.
He will be expected to draw double teams and put pressure on Dak Prescott during the Giants week one matchup against the Cowboys. He will be a catalyst in forcing bad decisions by Prescott and putting pressure on the pocket. Additionally, the Giants need him to be active in the run game and stop Ezekiel Elliott at the line of scrimmage. They will likely have issues dealing with him early on, but they will need to find a way to contain him and his brute style of running.
Aside from just Lawrence, the entire defensive line needs to perform well. Both Dalvin Tomlinson and BJ Hill will be expected to elevate their game, but having previously played against the Cowboys and Elliot before.
2.) Saquon Barkley
The Giants star running back, one of three players at the position to record over 2,000 all-purpose yards in their rookie season, will once again be the focal point of the offense.
Ensuring they feed him early and often, Saquon can take over any game, and he will need to do it again against Dallas. With their defense being a strong point, head coach Pat Shurmur must rely on his star player to crank out yards and get into the end zone.
Last season, Shurmur tended to feed Barkley a lot in the first half of games and then taper off in the second half to not overwork him. In his sophomore season, the Giants cannot be cautious with his workload, as he will be the reason they win most games.
Ensuring he gets a healthy balanced of touches in both the first and second half will allow the Giants to operate at a high-level and compete against better teams in the league. They enter Sunday’s matchup as 7.0 underdog’s, which means they will need to feed Barkley as much as possible, especially with Golden Tate serving a four-game suspension to start the season.
3.) The offensive line
General manager Dave Gettleman has made it a priority to bolster the offense of line the past two seasons. Signing Nate Solder, drafting Will Hernandez, and trading for Kevin Zeitler this off-season makes them a remarkably improved unit. Also, they brought in right tackle Mike Remmers, who is an upgrade over Chad wheeler. They will also return Jon Halapio, their starting center who broke his leg last year early on in the 2018 campaign. This grouping of players will allow Eli Manning to stand tall in the pocket and operate at a more efficient level.
Manning has lacked time to throw the ball in recent seasons, and some of that pressure will likely be alleviated this year.
Cowboys have a daunting defense of line, which will not only put pressure on Manning but Barkley as well. I anticipate Hernandez and Remmers being their focus, as those seem to be the two weak links at this point. Hernandez had an up-and-down preseason, which the Cowboys shortly noticed. They will need strong performance is across the board to dominate the trenches and allow the offense to be productive.