FRISCO, Texas – I can tell the regular season is upon us when I start watching other teams' games – in this case, footage of the New York Giants.
The time for focusing on the Cowboys has passed, and I once again turn my focus to this team's upcoming opponent. Given that they're a division rival, we already know plenty about what to expect when the Giants roll into AT&T Stadium on Sunday. But no two seasons are the same, so it's always worthwhile to take another look.
Every week in this space, I'll have a writeup on three players worth watching in this matchup. You'll be familiar with a lot of them, but I'll also try to sneak in a lesser-known player the Cowboys need to watch out for. We'll kick the 2016 season off with a player any Cowboys fan should know by now:
Weapon: Odell Beckham Jr., WR
There is no doubt about it – Beckham is one of the most difficult receivers to defend in the league due to the pace with which he executes his routes. He is difficult to gauge because he can be on a dead sprint up the field – then stop on a dime and turn for the ball. This makes it a nightmare for any cornerback that doesn't have vertical or lateral speed to keep up with him.
On film, he just explodes away from coverage, and he is very aggressive going after the ball. He will lay out for an off-target pass. He plays with a physical edge to his game. Beckham is not afraid to mix it up. Having said that, he can shake a defender in the open field after a catch. Oftentimes, he will run and catch a short pattern into the teeth of a defense, then turn it into a huge play.
Good ball skills down-the-field competing for the ball. His hands are his best trait -- can snatch the ball away from his body. Makes catches all over the field, in and out of traffic – one handed or two, doesn't matter. On top of his natural ability, he works hard to be great at his position. He has the speed to take the top off a secondary.
Bottom line: A competitive and impact player who has the strength and explosion of a running back. Has big hands and long arms. Not afraid to block. Is more than willing to stick his nose in the action to free up the ball carrier. Tremendous ability to make those around him better. Big-time player.
Nemesis: Olivier Vernon, DE
Outstanding athlete who plays with a sudden first step. He can quickly diagnose a play after controlling an opponent, then attack the ball -- quick reactions. Vernon also has the ability to feel pressure and react on the move. He's got long arms and big, strong hands to control the blocker.
Vernon has good contact balance – he can anchor down at the point of attack. He also has the power to walk a blocker back into the quarterback. Good lateral quickness to close the off tackle or bounce outside to run the play out of bounds. For these reasons he's a hard man to block in the running game – he keeps blockers off his body.
Plays square to the line of scrimmage with good knee bend. Good overall quickness, agility, and balance, and he is always attacking the blocker. He can break his man down with moves, and he has start-stop quickness. When you watch him, you see that he can get his man to lunge or extend, then work right around him. He's got an effective spin move when he's rushing, and he has nice hips and change of direction. This is not a stiff-moving player at all. He shows lower body bend and balance. He doesn't give up on plays, and he doesn't disappear for stretches in the game -- disciplined player.
Vernon gave Tyron Smith all he could handle when the two met last season in Miami and rain had nothing to do with it. He should be a handful for Smith now that he is with the Giants.
Under the Radar: Jerrell Adams, TE
I remember my initial thought when the Giants drafted Jerrell Adams and what a nice selection it was, given how Ben McAdoo likes to use his tight ends.
Physically, Adams is 6-5, 247 and runs in the low 4.6's. This is not a stiff-moving player at all. The Giants are trying to put him in positions where he can develop as a blocker. He is used as inline "Y" as well as an "H."
At this point, he is really more of a get-in-the-way blocker than the guy who is going to hammer his man off the line. He doesn't have much power at the point of attack, but he does a nice job of blocking down and sealing the edge. He can run with his man, but he has trouble sustaining his block when defender gets the first shot. Right now, he needs to be more of a backside blocker than the guy at the point.
His best trait is his ability to get vertical. He plays with outstanding initial quickness, which allows him to get up the up the field in a hurry. He will carry routes inside, and he will bounce off tacklers with the ball in his hands. He also will go get ball, and he catches with his hands.
Adams can be hit and miss on the contested catch, which he showed at South Carolina. He's not strong enough for pass protection but his effort is good. He will be a good matchup for these Dallas safeties due to his size and athletic ability.