IRVING, Texas – Another week, another tight end this Dallas defense needs to be wary of. With Victor Cruz out for the season, Larry Donnell now becomes one of Eli Manning's best weapons on offense.
That's one of my crucial matchups for this upcoming rivalry game, as well as the latest challenge for this Cowboys' offensive line. Cullen Jenkins brings a skillset that might make it difficult for Tony Romo to work in the pocket.
Here are my two matchups to watch:
Cowboys Safeties against Giants TE Larry Donnell
There are some teams around the league that just have a knack for finding players at certain positions, year after year. The New York Giants have always had the ability to grab tight ends, whether it was through the draft or off the street.
Larry Donnell was signed after the 2012 NFL Draft and spent that season on their practice squad. He had primarily seen the majority of his snaps on special teams but started the season with an outstanding game against the Lions and has carried that through the season to this point.
What makes Donnell so difficult to cover is his pure athletic ability. He has power forward size with the nimble moves of a much smaller man. He has a working understanding of how to use his body to get in position for simple throws. He plays with really good balance and body control while he is running his routes. He can cover some ground and there is some separation in his game.
For Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox to have success against Donnell, they cannot allow him to have free access in his routes. They need to find a way to make him fight for space and make it a physical game for him the entire day.
Cowboys Guards against Giants DT Cullen Jenkins
When you focus on this Giants defensive line, it is usually on Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka, but I feel like Cullen Jenkins will need some considerable attention, as well.
On tape, Jenkins appears to be regaining the form he once had while he was a member of the Green Bay Packers. He lines up as the under-tackle -- or three-technique -- in this scheme for the Giants. His best trait is his initial quickness off the snap. It's that quickness helps him attack the gap.
[embeddedad0]When he gets to the edge, he can be difficult to control. His overall strength is very good both in his upper and lower body – good hand use and shed, and he works to not stay blocked for long. He's always fighting to get up the field and try to be disruptive. Jenkins is the type of tackle that is mobile in the way that he plays against the run.
What Ronald Leary and Zack Martin have to guard against in playing Jenkins is not finishing their blocks, because his motor and effort will get him to the play. It is also important that they have to be ready for some quick technique moves that will get them off balance. With the way the Giants like to squeeze the edge of the pocket with their ends, having a place to Romo to slide forward will be huge. Both Leary and Martin will need to be able to handle Cullen Jenkins and keep that area clean.