IRVING, Texas – Cornerback Orlando Scandrick will likely shift back inside to his normal position against the slot receiver, leaving him once again in charge of containing the Giants' most versatile and dynamic outside threat.
Scandrick and Victor Cruz have each had their moments in that battle, and how Scandrick fares this weekend against the Salsa-dancing sensation could determine the direction this defense trends after some recent struggles.
"You guys know I'm always out to prove something, so any time I have a chance to play against a guy of that caliber, a Pro Bowler like that, I relish those moments," Scandrick said. "But at the same time, I know it's going to be a challenge and I'm embracing it. I'm going to be ready to play."
Cruz has put together some monster performances against the Cowboys in the past against a variety of looks and coverages, including earlier this year when he caught five passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns. His first touchdown in that game went for 70 yards as he got past the Dallas safeties.
But Scandrick has also gotten the best of Cruz before, holding him to two catches for 23 yards in the second matchup between the teams last year.
Needless to say, Scandrick said the two players know each other's tendencies well.
"I feel like the past two or three times that we've played against each other, if you take last year's opener and then the game down at our place and this year's opener when we've been against each other, if you just highlight our matchup, it's been a great matchup," Scandrick said. "We go at it. He does some things great, and I do some things well that he has trouble with."
Cruz leads the Giants this year in receptions (58) and receiving yards (824). His childhood days as a Cowboys fan are long gone, but he looks forward to the division matchups against his former favorite team.
He said everything that goes into a division matchup gets his blood boiling, and he looks back at his matchups against Scandrick with mixed reviews.
"Our battles have been pretty good," Cruz said. "I think we've gone back and forth a couple times, but he's a good player. He's quick, he's fast, he's pretty smart. When he reads something, he attacks it pretty quickly. It's definitely going to be another classic battle once again. I'm excited for it."
Scandrick is arguably in the midst of the best year of his career. He's become the most versatile cornerback on the team, shifting inside when Morris Claiborne's healthy in the nickel packages and moving back outside as a starting corner in the base package.
Head coach Jason Garrett said he's always had confidence in Scandrick playing outside, and the corner's demonstrating why this year. While moving around, he's defended 11 passes, recorded one sack, picked off a career-high two passes and is in the top five on the team in tackles this year with 46, according to coaches' film.
"The combination of being able to play inside and outside is really important for a corner – not many guys have those traits to do that," Garrett said. "We've always felt like he's had those traits." [embedded_ad]
Garrett attributes that ability to Scandrick's confidence, comfort level and wits.
"He's an instinctive player, has a good feel for the game," Garrett said. "I think he demonstrates that with his ability to make plays on the football. He seems to be able to get away from guys as a run defender, covers guys well, has a good understanding of what they're trying to get accomplished."
Garrett also complimented Cruz's ability as a playmaker and the challenge he'll provide for Scandrick. That matchup's something Scandrick looks forward to greatly.
"I always expect myself to go out and play well," Scandrick said. "I feel like your guys that are playing well and your guys that are supposed to be playmakers, when you are struggling as a team or as a defense or at anything in life, you may need those guys to step up and do a little bit more. I'm going to play within reason and within my game, but I do feel like I need to step up and do a little bit more."