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Final Thoughts: Witten's Importance, Mayowa vs. Flowers; More Notes

FRISCO, Texas – For better or for worse, there's no more time to evaluate this team. The Cowboys are done practicing ahead of Week 1, and soon enough they'll be on the field at AT&T Stadium against the Giants.

We've said and written about as much as we can about whether Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are ready, and whether the Cowboys defense can step up to the challenge. We know all the storylines, and all that's left is to watch them play out.

Before we all settle in for the start of another season, here's a few final thoughts on how I'm feeling and what I'm looking for heading into Sunday afternoon:

  • Nobody owns the New York Giants like Jason Witten. The veteran has a knack for being at his best when he gets the opportunity to face them. Look for Witten to play a key role in this one, as well. Dak Prescott is going to learn what Tony Romo has always known, and that is that Witten knows how to find space and is right as rain when it comes to catching the ball. I expect that Witten will be the most targeted player for the Cowboys on Sunday, and with the way that he is able to finish, he will be Prescott's best friend.    
  • If you want an underrated trait from Dak Prescott, it would be his abilities as a ball handler. Prescott has a gift when it comes to deceiving opponents with it. He has a feel for how to present the ball, then pull it just at the right time. This could come in handy against a defense that's going to load up to stop the run -- especially if the Cowboys have success running the ball. The play action game is a simple way for a quarterback to make easy throws with defenders overreacting to the run.
  • "On Cowboys Break," the group had a discussion about the confidence level of Lance Dunbar going into this game. Nick and Taylor were not as high as Derek and I were, but to be honest that's understandable being that we have not seen Dunbar the entire preseason. As much as I believe that you will see plenty of Ezekiel Elliott, I have high hopes for Dunbar. The Giants' linebackers struggle to deal with running backs that can play in space, and Dunbar is a guy who can take advantage of that when on the field.
  • I am more concerned about Doug Free against Jason Pierre-Paul than I am Tyron Smith and Olivier Vernon. Free has always been able to block rushers due to his athletic ability -- mainly his foot work. Free would never admit it, but he has fought his way through a foot problem that has robbed him of some mobility. Where I worry about Free is when he has to get all the way outside to handle the wide rush of Pierre-Paul coming off the corner. What I have seen from Pierre-Paul is that he is finally playing to the level that we had seen from him before the accident with his hand. He's back to using that hand in order to keep blockers off him. Keep an eye on how many times Free is able to work Pierre-Paul past Dak Prescott in the pocket, because that will be an indication if Prescott is getting the ball off in the pocket.
  • I think this is where fans finally get to see what Benson Mayowa is all about as a rush end. His matchup against Ereck Flowers should be a good one for the defense due to the fact that Flowers tends to play off balance and gets overextended. He is a mauler with his technique and if he doesn't get his hands on the rusher, then it is hard for him to hold them off. The advantage that Mayowa has is his quickness and the slippery way in which he rushes. He is not big enough to go toe-to-toe with Flowers, so he has to play around him and make him reach to block him. Look for Mayowa to take advantage of Flowers to generate some pressure off that right side.
  • It was interesting to see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie line up in the slot instead of rookie Eli Apple. The thought here might be that the Giants want Apple to learn on the outside first, then shift him to the slot once he feels comfortable with the position.
  • Here are my scouting notes of what I thought of Apple while he was at Ohio State:

"Uses his hands to play off blocks. Physical. Will stay in position on routes. Tends to hold. Light on his feet in the way that he moves. Wants to be in the action. Hard man to run away from. Plays with a burst. Aware to change responsibilities in coverage. Can change direction. Did not play the ball well down the field. Plays the game with physical toughness. Not afraid to come forward and get in on the tackle. Can hold the edge. There are snaps where you see separation when he doesn't hold."

  • Here is my shot at the Cowboys' inactives for Sunday: QB Tony Romo, CB Dax Swanson, RB Darius Jackson, S Kavon Frazier, LB Mark Nzeocha, OG Ronald Leary and DE Charles Tapper.


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