IRVING, Texas -Through four preseason games there are a number of words Cowboys fans might use to describe the team's revamped defense: improved, playmaking, physical, aggressive, etc.
But during a conference call with reporters over the weekend, Eli Manning had a different word to describe what he saw when he watched the Cowboys, and in particular the secondary, which has three new starters.
Considering the results, calling the defense "vanilla" has to be seen as a compliment.
When asked about the new-look secondary that he would be facing this Wednesday, Manning's emphasis on the simplicity of the scheme in the exhibitions was a testament to the improvement of the talent, as the starting unit didn't give up a touchdown in its five quarters of action.
"I saw (Brandon) Carr make a couple of interceptions," Manning said. "They'll probably feel good about playing man-to-man and those type of things. They probably have a little more confidence in their DBs to play a little more man and be more aggressive, I would think. But I thought they were pretty vanilla in the preseason."
The Cowboys' first-team defense collected three interceptions in their exhibition work, and allowed only six points total, on two field goals against the Rams, when they were forced to defend a short field.
Manning knows Rob Ryan won't play so basic in his second season as Cowboys defensive coordinator.
"The scheme is complex," Manning said. "They use a number of different personnel, a number of different fronts and looks to try to confuse the quarterback or make it tough on the offense to get in rhythm, so we've got to prepare for a whole lot of things to make sure we're not confused and everybody's aware of who they're blocking.
"After that, we've just got to outperform."
Manning and the Giants have done just that in recent matchups against the Cowboys, winning five of the last six meetings between the teams, including both last year. The last time Manning faced the Cowboys was in the 'make-or-break' Week 17 matchup on New Year's Day. In that game, he torched the NFC East rivals for 346 yards and three touchdowns.