FRISCO, Texas – Here's a look at my two big matchups heading into this second meeting against the New York Giants.
Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones vs. New York Giants WR Darius Slayton
Generally, the learning curve for rookie wide receivers is fairly steep. The Giants appear to have hit on one in Darius Slayton where that's not the case. Slayton has come in and hit it off right away with Daniel Jones, averaging more than 16 yards per reception. Jones has developed the trust in Slayton to go up and get the deep shots that he throws.
Just studying his game, you would swear Slayton is a much taller player, given the way he extends for the ball -- but at 6-1, he does it with technique and timing. While he was at Auburn it was his ability to take short receptions and turn them into big gains that first attracted me to his ability. There were snaps in college where you felt how explosive he was coming off the tape. Defenders would have angles to tackle him along the sidelines -- and then the next thing you knew, he was in the end zone. The Giants use him as a kick returner, so they saw him in the same light.
Slayton will test Byron Jones with the way he is playing, but I don't see Jones giving an inch here. Jones can run with Slayton, and when the ball goes in the air his athletic ability will be able to counter Slayton, as well. Jones' experience will also benefit him battling this rookie. There is nothing that Slayton can do route-wise that Jones hasn't seen. But again, he needs to be careful of Slayton's athletic ability.
* Dallas Cowboys OT La'el Collins vs. New York Giants LB Lorenzo Carter*
I believe you could make a case that La'el Collins has been the Cowboys' best offensive lineman in the first half of the season. He's shown tremendous patience in his technique. He's no longer lunging and putting himself in poor blocking positions. His body control and balance have been on point.
In the previous meeting between these two teams, Collins dealt with Markus Golden, who he handled throughout the game. Coming into the season I thought Golden was the Giants' best pass rusher. So when they lined him up over Collins, they must have believed it was going to be an advantage for them -- but Collins proved them wrong.
Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher is in a bind coming into this game. He knows his secondary struggled badly in the previous matchup, and the only way to protect them is with a pass rush he doesn't have. Lorenzo Carter is his best pass rusher and generally it's off that right side. We could see Carter once again working against Tyron Smith, but that didn't work out well for the Giants. I will be interested to see if the Giants continue to feel as if Collins is the weak link at the tackle spot. I don't know how they could study these games and think that's the case, but moving Carter away from Smith might be his best option.
Whatever direction he chooses will likely decide the fate of this game. He knows he can't get gashed by Dak Prescott like he did in the opening week and expect to win.