Here's a look at the guys I have my eye on when I watch the tape of this week's opponent, the New York Giants.
Nemesis: QB Eli Manning
Over the years, when it comes to writing about the Cowboys' nemesis in these matchups against the Giants, it seems like Eli Manning's name always comes up. Manning has a career record of 13-15 against the Cowboys. As this record indicates, he's had some incredible moments against the Cowboys and others that he would just as soon forget about.
Even with a dynamic running back and an electric wide receiver, Manning doesn't have the same ability he once did. His mobility has slowed and the arm doesn't quite have the zip that it once did. Pat Shurmer is trying to help him with play action and a shorter passing game so he doesn't have to make those throws like he once did.
When protected, though, he can still make some throws. He's been hit so much over the last several years that he looks jittery in the pocket. That clock is always ticking in his head. There are snaps where Manning shows tremendous touch, then others where he throws the ball so hard that it's difficult for the receiver to make a play. He will hurry some passes when he doesn't have to. His feet never appear to be settled in the pocket. Tends to throw passes where he is falling backwards or off his back foot.
All of that said, he has absolutely no fear about delivering the ball in traffic. He's not always accurate with his tight window throws, and several of his turnovers were due to his lack of accuracy here. Manning will get his share of balls knocked in the air. He will crumble in the pocket when he feels pressure. When Manning's eye level comes down and he starts the notice the rush, he has no shot of being effective.
Weapon: TE Evan Engram
Evan Engram has been in and out of the lineup this season dealing with injuries. When playing, he's one of the most dangerous tight ends in the league. He really is a big wide receiver in a tight end's body.
For a large man, he's deceptive in the way he plays. Defenders lose track of him because he will line up along the line of scrimmage inline. Jeff Heath and Jaylon Smith lost track of him for a touchdown earlier in the year while lined up there. He does a nice job of finding space, especially along the sideline.
Engram plays with impressive body control and balance to make those difficult receptions. He is always ready for the ball. His hands and eyes are in good position, and there are some snaps where the ball is in a poor position but he's able to adjust his body in a way to make the catch.
He does a good job of getting north-south in a hurry, as he has shown some run-after-catch skills. His speed is impressive. You have to be aware of him on those delayed screens. Engram has a feel for how to slow play a block, then work to the outside right behind the blockers.
The previous time these two teams met, he hit the defense for a nice gain. The Cowboys have to be mindful of how to take care of him in coverage. Jeff Heath has primarily been the guy that has carried tight ends this season, but we could also see Byron Jones get a shot at Engram.
Under the Radar: DE B.J. Hill
B.J. Hill is in his rookie season with the Giants. In their scheme he plays as a defensive end, but I think he's better suited to play as a tackle like he did at North Carolina State. He will reduce down inside over the guard, so that helps him take a better path to the ball and quarterback.
He is a thick guy that shows good initial quickness off the snap. He doesn't have ideal pass rush moves at this time, but he does show the power to knock the blocker back in the pocket. He's had several snaps where he was able to bully Quenton Nelson of the Colts backwards -- which I haven't seen many guys do this season.
Where Hill will get in trouble is when he comes off the ball a little high. When he doesn't play with knee bend, you see him struggle to get off blocks. This is where Zack Martin and Xavier Su'a-Filo should be able to take advantage of him to try and hold him along the line. I was impressed with the way he hustles to the ball. He is always on the move and his effort is outstanding. You will need to account for him due to this effort. Hill doesn't quit on the play and will make tackles when the blocker has stopped trying to finish him off. You think he's out of the play then the next second, he's getting up off the pile.
He's going to be a player that the Cowboys are going to have to deal with for a while once he develops some pass rush moves.