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Key Matchups: Micah Parsons gets a familiar battle


FRISCO, Texas — Week 1 has arrived, and with it comes a handful of intriguing one-on-one matchups between the Cowboys and Giants going into Sunday Night Football.

Here are three matchups to keep an eye on going into the season opener.

Micah Parsons vs. Andrew Thomas

Micah Parsons has talked all offseason about him taking the extra step in his training in preparation for his third season in the league, and that training will get its first crack at coming to fruition against 2022 second-team All-Pro left tackle Andrew Thomas.

In 2022, Thomas and the Giants offensive line kept Parsons relatively in check in their first meeting (zero sacks, one total tackle), but it's Parsons that has the upper hand going into Sunday night after notching two sacks against Thomas in their week 11 matchup last season.

With each rep that both Thomas and Parsons get under their belt in the NFL, the intrigue around their bi-annual divisional clashes increases. Parsons brings the elite pass rush. Thomas brings elite pass protection. And in dealing with an opponent that each already have ample experience against in their young careers, the battle can only get more fiery going into Sunday night.

If Parsons wants to put his training on display to show that he's somehow taken another step forward as a young elite player in this league, an overwhelming win against Thomas in week one would be the ideal starting spot for another All-Pro campaign in 2023.

Jayron Kearse vs. Darren Waller

When it comes to offseason acquisitions in the NFC East, it's hard to overlook how big of an impact Darren Waller could make in year one with the Giants. Despite having not played a full season since 2020 due to injury, Waller looks re-energized both on and off the field with the opportunity in New York.

Right off the bat in his new uniform, Waller will get a unique challenge against Jayron Kearse. Athleticism with Waller meets physicality and disruption from Kearse both in route-running and at the high point of a reception. 

In two previous matchups, the physicality was on full display early and often with Kearse trying to push Waller off base, and the athletic tight end looking to use his combination of finesse and size to avoid disruption.

On Sunday night, expect the Giants offense to try and get Waller going early. How will Kearse respond and can he limit the production to Daniel Jones' new toy in the receiving game?

Cowboys LG1 vs. Giants interior DL

Tyler Smith suffering a hamstring strain early in the week has put a big spotlight on the interior of the Dallas offensive line going into Sunday night with a massive challenge awaiting in the form of Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams.

Whether Smith plays or not, the test of dealing with the duo of Lawrence and Williams will be massive. Lawrence brings the motor and physicality off the line while Williams combines his size with a quick first step and quick hands that allow for a physical pass rush out of the interior.

For Tyler Smith, it would be an opportunity for him to show that he's 100-percent healthy and can plant his hurt hamstring into the ground to keep that duo in front of him. For Chuma Edoga, it would be a massive challenge but an opportunity to show that his wide frame would fit well at left guard moving forward. Even if Edoga allows a pressure or two, if he can at least let the offense operate at the pace it's shooting for, then it would be mission accomplished.

Although, that is much easier said than done against one of the most dominant interior defensive line duos from a year ago.

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