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Eatman: This Defensive Line Looked More Beefed-Up Than Patched-Up

ARLINGTON, Texas – Last year, 19 points in the season opener to the Giants wasn't quite enough.

This year, it was enough for a blowout.

So maybe it's a stretch to say the Cowboys blew out their division rivals here Sunday night. After all, a 16-point win is technically only two scores.

But when you think about what the Cowboys defense did all night long, keeping the Giants from ever getting into an offensive rhythm, it's hard to fathom New York getting the ball into the end zone once, much less four times.

What a difference a year makes, right? OK, let's be honest – what a difference not having Odell Beckham Jr. was for the Giants. In my opinion, he's one of the three most dangerous players in the entire league and his lack of presence on the field completely changes what the Giants can and cannot do.

They don't have a running game. Their other receivers just don't scare anyone by themselves, and for some reason, New York didn't really do anything to upgrade what was a bad offensive line last year.

It doesn't look much better in 2017. I guess the jury is still out on everyone, but to think the Cowboys defense has improved that much seems to be a stretch. Who knows, maybe that's exactly what has happened.

But I think the Giants offensive line played a factor into what we saw here Sunday night.

I'm not trying to take anything away from what the Cowboys defense did here in this game. It was very impressive from start to finish, especially the play of DeMarcus Lawrence. Any time you can double last year's entire sack total in one game, it either proves how bad things were a year ago, or a sign of much better things to come from the player this year. Or maybe a little bit of both.

The biggest knock on this defense the last couple of years is not having a player that offenses can be afraid of. It's just Beckham on the Giants' side of the ball. When he's out there – completely healthy or not – you have to account for him.

With the Cowboys defense, they haven't really had a pass rusher that teams need to game plan for. Of course, they've waited for Lawrence to be that guy. We'll see if this game is an indication of that, but it's exactly what the Cowboys need.

Just remember, Damontre' Moore comes back from suspension after one more game and David Irving still has three more to serve. My thought was Charles Tapper probably wouldn't be active when the Cowboys get to full strength, but that might've changed Sunday. He recorded his first NFL sack and showed some other nice rushes off the edge.

To me, that's where all of this starts on defense. The secondary will be fine if the Cowboys can keep the pressure on the quarterback. The linebackers can fly around to the ball if things are disruptive up front.

It wasn't just Lawrence who had one of the best games of his career. All offseason and training camp, Maliek Collins looked like a guy ready to take his game up a few notches. That didn't change Sunday night, as he was more than a handful for the Giants' interior line. He drew a holding penalty and stuffed the run several times, forcing things to the outside.

You also have to give some credit to Tyrone Crawford, who probably wasn't close to 100 percent but still found a way to play through an ankle injury that seemed bad enough to keep him out of several games in the regular season. Crawford was not only able to play this week, but went back and forth from end to tackle.

The entire defense was great, but it always starts up front and the Cowboys' D-line couldn't be denied.

Will they face better offensive lines than this? Of course, and it'll probably start next Sunday in Denver. But they might not face many lines better than the one they see every day in practice.

And since they've been winning a few battles so far this offseason, it's a safe assumption the Cowboys might be able to continue the trend. Especially considering more help is on the way.

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