FRISCO, Texas – It's Friday again, which means it's time to settle in for one last look at this matchup.
We got a nice, long look at this Cowboys team in Week 1 – but it'll be interesting to see if that same team shows up for the home opener. You never want to overreact to Week 1, but there are some trends on tape that they'll have to overcome if they want to be successful against the Giants.
Here is my weekly notebook for pregame, as I take my best guess at what I think the Cowboys are going to do to get their first win of the season.
· I would not worry about the groin injury to DeMarcus Lawrence. I'm hearing he was taking his normal snaps and should be ready to go in his matchup against Erik Flowers -- who is now the Giants' starter at right tackle after beginning his career on the left side. On the other side, I didn't expect Randy Gregory to play this week due to being placed in the concussion protocol during the Carolina game, but Gregory practiced on Friday. That at least gives him a chance to play. If the Cowboys open in their nickel package, look for Taco Charlton to make the start at right end, allowing Tyrone Crawford to kick inside while Gregory backs up on the outside.
· Keep an eye on what happens at linebacker this week. Coaches have been happy with what they've seen from Leighton Vander Esch and would like to get him on the field more. Vander Esch has the capability to line up in all three spots at linebacker, but I don't see the coaches taking Sean Lee or Jaylon Smith off the field. That leaves Damien Wilson as a possibility if they want to start Vander Esch.
· Down and distance was a big problem for the Cowboys' offense, and I buy Scott Linehan's explanation of why he couldn't get into some more of his game plan dealing with long yardage. From my experience with coaches after a loss, I expect that your will see some old staples from the playbook that Linehan used during Prescott and Elliott's rookie seasons. Instead of trying to push new ideas, coaches tend to go back to plays that worked in the past. I wouldn't be surprised to use this as a way to get Prescott going.
· Studying the Giants defensively on film, they play a ton of man coverage with their corners due to their skill. Both Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple are most comfortable when they can line up this way. One way to deal with man coverage is to run these corners through traffic. Make them have to fight to stay in coverage. Nickel corner B.W. Webb will have a rough time dealing with Cole Beasley if he has to avoid picks and rubs in order to cover. Other teams around the league use this type of an attack scheme-wise in order to get their receivers space. We could see this as an adjustment to help.
· I don't see Rod Marinelli or Kris Richard traveling Chidobe Awuzie or Byron Jones with Odell Beckham Jr., because that's just not their style. These coaches have a great deal of confidence in their corners -- and that includes Anthony Brown. An adjustment that I do think you'll see them make is playing a safety deeper than normal depth. This is how teams get around handling Beckham and those downfield plays. I promise that the Giants will take a shot on either Awuzie or Jones -- but the question will be if their offensive line can hold up?
· Tackling will be a key component to for the Cowboys defense and very well could factor in to whether they come out on top against the Giants. Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. will not make things any easier for the defense in that area. One of the silver linings of the Carolina game was that the defense still managed to play well despite not having good tackling games from Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith. My expectations are that we will see Lee and Smith having a bounce back game. Lee has been a thorn in the Giants' side his entire career and I see no reason why he won't be again. The Giants will have problems blocking both of these guys, especially in the running game.
· I believe this will be the week that we see Rico Gathers active. Rookie Dalton Schultz got the call last week but will probably be sitting against the Giants. This will be another one of those situations where they will have active guys on the game day roster -- but they will not play on special teams. Where Gathers can help out is in some 12 personnel packages, subbing in for Geoff Swaim or Blake Jarwin in normal down and distance situations. Or he could replace one of them in the red zone, where he presents himself as a large target for the Giants to have to deal with.
· My weekly guess at the Cowboys Inactives: QB Mike White, TE Dalton Schultz, OG Xavier Su'a-Filo, C Travis Frederick, DT Datone Jones, S Xavier Woods, LB Chris Covington.