This time of the year is always great for personnel guys to recharge their batteries for the upcoming grind of the season but also when in the office, get a jump on this season's opponents. For the next several days I am going to do a little breakdown of the Cowboys' opponents starting with the New York Giants.
My focus of the Giants season wasn't on the games against the Cowboys but the run-through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl. When you go back and study the games against the Packers, 49ers and Patriots there was a common thread both offensively and defensively for the Giants and that was their ability to make game changing plays at the key opportunity. But this is also not to say that they didn't have the football gods on their side as well.
In the Green Bay game, the Giants have a busted coverage in the secondary at safety with Antrel Rolle who allows Greg Jennings to get behind him and as Aaron Rodgers is rolling to his right makes a throw that you rarely see him make totally over the head of a wide open Jennings. In the 49ers game, receiver Kenny Williams runs a stutter-go that splits corner Corey Webster and safety Kenny Phillips. It's not even close on the coverage but Alex Smith throws the ball 12 yards down the field ahead of Williams and we all know about Tom Brady's throw at the end of the Super Bowl to Wes Welker.
People want to heap praise on the Giants pass rush and it is a good one and there is no doubt that it helps their secondary because I do believe they do have issues there. In these games, the Giants used safety Antrel Rolle as the nickel slot instead of Prince Amukamara. Rolle was beaten badly by Veron Davis on a route up the sideline where he was totally out of position. I mentioned Amukamara earlier but in the games I studied before the Cowboys went to the Meadowlands for that last game of the season, Amukamara was more of a liability. The Giants drafted Jayron Hosley in the third round out of Virginia Tech who was a boundary corner that has cover skill but is not much of a physical player. It will be interesting to see how the Giants will line up in the secondary.
The Giants do a really nice job with their four-man pressure. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul can be difficult to handle off the edge. In the playoffs he would mainly rush off the defensive right side but would flop to the left side and Osi Umenyiora would come into the game. I thought that Umenyiora was the Giants' best rusher in these games. Teams had a plan for Pierre-Paul but when matched up one-on-one, Umenyiora was able to generate some serious push up the field. Defensive tackle Chris Canty made several nice plays in the 49ers game with his ability to bat passes down. The 49ers have a wide open slant to Michael Crabtree that would have been a huge play but Smith could not get the ball over Canty.
If there are players that you have the deal with defensively for the Giants, the same can be said of their offense. Victor Cruz is a special player because of the different places that he can line up in the offensive formation. You always have to have a plan for him and opening night he will surely be on the minds of Rob Ryan and his players, but a guy I would like to focus on is Hakeem Nicks. It will be real close for Nicks to be ready for that opening game because of the foot he broke in the OTA's. He is telling people that he feels like he will be ready for camp but the Giants brass feels it more like late August. If Nicks doesn't go, this is huge for the Cowboys because I thought that he was the best Giants' offensive player in the games I studied. The Giants like to attack you with three receivers and if he isn't part of their packages that leaves the often injured Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden and rookie Rueben Randle to handle the job. There would be a huge drop off here if that was the case of Nicks being out of the lineup.
I spoke about the Giants having questions in the secondary, and I feel there are questions as well in this offensive line. David Diehl moves back to right tackle from left and Will Beatty takes over on that left side. I have never been a huge fan of his work much like I am not a fan of David Baas at center. Kevin Boothe, who starts at left guard, filled in well for Baas and even made a start against Jay Ratliff and really took him out of the game. If you go back and study the Cowboys' games against the Giants, I never felt like they took advantage of the some of the matchups with this line where the Giants defensive line was able to cause more problems. If things are going to change for the Cowboys on defense against the Giants, it's going to have to be against this group.
The New York Giants made a great run through the playoffs and by winning the Super Bowl are the champions but this is a team that also has its flaws. The quarterback, receivers and defensive front four are outstanding but in my view, there are some issues in the secondary and offensive line that can be exposed if given the opportunity.