Each week we'll go through every position on the team with a quick update on the good and bad, taking a look both backward and forward.
Quarterback: The numbers against Carolina were outstanding, but how Tony Romo managed the game was even better. He showed great patience in what the Panthers were giving him on defense, and he was able to make the throws necessary to keep the ball away from Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. Against the Giants this week, look for Romo to once again play within himself because he knows that turnovers in this game will most likely be the difference.
Wide Receivers: This Cowboys offense has yet to have a game where both Miles Austin and Dez Bryant have really gone off. Kevin Ogletree was the star the last time Dallas met the Giants with Austin making some big-time plays as well. New York's secondary was banged up in the season opener, but that's still no excuse. The Cowboys just played well. I have always believed that Bryant has his best games when he gets going early, so watch and see if Romo in fact does target Bryant early on, something they were not able to do against the Panthers. It will also be interesting this week to follow practice and see if Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris or Andre Holmes get more reps as the third guy with Ogletree having a problem with his finger.
Running Back/Fullback: The health of this position is not great. I have a gut feeling that DeMarco Murray will once again be sidelined, and Felix Jones is a little banged up as well with neck and knee soreness. The majority of the reps in practice this week should fall on Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar as they nurse Jones along. The first time these two teams played, the Cowboys had some success using Murray in "12" personnel, so look for more of that alignment this week. Lawrence Vickers was not as good in New York as he was against Baltimore two weeks ago, but they still need him to try and bang in there to dig out linebackers at the point. The Giants are a physical group inside.
Tight End: There were plenty of questions surrounding the health of Jason Witten when these two teams met in Week 1, but Witten now looks to be back in form with his routes and catching the ball. Meanwhile, John Phillips has been steady and the sneaky James Hanna is waiting to have a breakout game. My sources have told me that Hanna has been outstanding in practice not only on the scout teams, but also when given the opportunity with the first-team offense.
Offensive Line: Second-level blocking is the key for this offensive line. Against the Ravens they had it. Versus the Bucs, Bears and Panthers, it was a struggle. The Cowboys can run the ball when they get hats on hats, but the backs have to help them as well. The protection against the Ravens and Panthers was outstanding with Doug Free playing his best game in two seasons at Carolina. I really believe the key matchups against the Giants are going to be on the edges in both the running and passing games. It's no secret that the Cowboys got the better of it the first time around. Ryan Cook will once again start at center, but look for Mackenzy Bernadeau to be the backup if there are any problems. I hate to say it, but the trust factor for David Arkin is very low.
Defensive line: You have to give defensive line coach Brian Baker a lot of credit for the way this line has played through the first six games of the season. At various times there have been different combinations that Baker has had to use, and they really haven't missed a beat. The numbers for Jay Ratliff in the Carolina game were not great, but just his presence inside takes pressure off the others in the front seven. Baker has Josh Brent and Tyrone Crawford playing at a high level, which has allowed him to keep his older guys like Kenyon Coleman, Marcus Spears and Ratliff fresh. In the first meeting with the Giants, the front seven did a wonderful job of controlling the game, so look for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and Baker to get a rotation going that keeps bodies after this explosive offense.
Linebackers: I am not going to try and sugarcoat the loss of Sean Lee to this defense and what it means for potentially the next couple of weeks. As we had noted before, Ryan and this staff have really done a nice job of trying to put band-aides on a defense that has had its share of injuries. With Lee being down, these games now fall on guys like Bruce Carter, Dan Connor, Alex Albright and Orie Lemon. Would not be one bit surprised if we see Ryan try and play more 4-3 defensive schemes with Carter in the middle and Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware on the outside. Connor did a nice job when he had to play last week against the Panthers, but it will be interesting to see if Ryan goes with him down after down. Again, look for Ryan to be creative.
Secondary: There is no secret that the Giants have one of the most talented receiving groups in the NFL, and the challenge will be if the Cowboys can once again match up like they were able to in Week 1. Brandon Carr had a nice bounce-back game against Carolina's Steve Smith while Morris Claiborne got some great experience dealing with routes that went across the middle of the field. The more Claiborne sees this and learns to play it, his growth as a corner will expand. Orlando Scandrick has had a quiet season from the slot, but that's because he has had some quality snaps. This game will test him, and he knows it. Danny McCray has made improvements at safety, but he needs to be ready for the ball going down the field. I expect Mike Jenkins to have more of a role in this game than he did last week because of the number of receivers that the Giants use. I believe it's going to take all hands on deck to match up in this game.
Special Teams: Dan Bailey was once again back on track at Carolina after his miss in Baltimore. Brian Moorman was clutch with his punts and the coverage teams were money. Eric Frampton and Lance Dunbar were huge factors in the Panthers game, but will need much of the same to deal with the Giants' Rueben Randle, Domenik Hixon and David Wilson, who are all dangerous return men.