The New York Giants will face off against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. The highly-anticipated matchup should be a great game to kickoff the 2019 season. The Giants and Cowboys have a historic rivalry with multiple classic games.
However, there is also a plethora of awful games in the long storied rivalry. Each team has dealth with their fair share of blowout losses and even close heartbreakers. For the Giants, many of those painful losses have been handed to them by one man.
Jason Witten has hand-delivered losses to the Giants throughout his career. Last year, Witten retired from the NFL and joined ESPN to be in the broadcast booth on Monday nights. This was a huge win for the Giants fans as they would not have to watch their team incompetently blow a game due to their lack of ability to cover old man Witten.
Now, one year later, he’s back. Witten unretired this offseason and rejoined the Dallas Cowboys. Giants fans will once again have to worry about their team forgetting how to cover a tight end in AT&T Stadium.
How Deadly Has Witten Been Against The Giants?
Jason Witten is not exactly a stat-sheet stuffer, but he always seems to show up in the clutch against the Giants. In 2017, at 35 years old, the Giants still allowed Witten to score a touchdown in each of the contests on the season. The Giants were blown out in each of them.
In 2016, the Giants swept the Cowboys, beating them in both matchups. Witten went without a touchdown in both games. In 2015, Witten scored the game-winning touchdown (his second touchdown of the game) in the final seconds of the game during the first matchup of the season. But in the second matchup of the season, the Giants emerged victorious after holding Witten scoreless.
There seems to be a correlation between Witten scoring touchdowns and the Giants losing games. Witten is now 37 years old and is still a chain-mover for Dallas. New York needs to shut him down in order to win in week one.
How To Shut Down Jason Witten And Why The Giants Might Struggle
One thing that the Giants seriously lack is a solid coverage linebacker. Alec Ogletree was spotted missing assignments in coverage multiple times last year. He struggled in coverage against running backs like Tarik Cohen and also against tight ends like George Kittle.
This is where the Giants’ new safety comes into play. Jabrill Peppers, a former Cleveland Brown acquired in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, will need to shut down Jason Witten. Peppers is a Swiss Army Knife on defense. He can defend the run, play in coverage, and even occasionally rush the passer.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, Jabrill Peppers needs to prove that he is an upgrade in coverage over Landon Collins. The Giants let Collins walk in free agency, despite him being one of the best run-defending safeties in the NFL. However, Peppers is a better defender against the pass.
According to Pro Football Focus, Peppers had a solid coverage grade of 77.3 in 2018, a 15.6 point improvement from his 2017 rookie season. Additionally, Peppers recorded an even higher coverage grade of 87.2 (third best in the NFL) when the Browns were in man coverage.
Jabrill Peppers’s ability to play man coverage is the Giants’ key to shutting down Jason Witten. Peppers will need to stick with Jason Witten and take away the Cowboys’ safety blanket on offense. If Peppers can stop Witten, the Giants’ chance of winning this game increase tremendously.