FRISCO, Texas – I write this piece every week in anticipation of the Cowboys' opponent, but it always feels more meaningful for an NFC East game.
The Giants are the only team to beat the Cowboys all season long. On top of that, this is one of the most hotly-contested rivalries in the NFL – as I'm sure you know. The fact that the Cowboys have a chance to lock up the division against one of their most familiar foes makes for some compelling football.
Anyway, these are the guys I'm worried about as Dallas and New York get set for their second meeting.
Weapon:CB Janoris Jenkins
Jenkins lines up at right corner and will occasionally play in the slot, depending on scheme. He plays off, then rallies to the ball. He has outstanding foot quickness and he can cover some ground.
If there's one negative that stands out, it's that he's hit and miss as a tackler. There will be snaps where he goes low and block tackles, then others where he will wrap his man up. It is impressive that he has 9 tackle for losses this season, though. He will take some strange angles to get in position to tackle. And, there are snaps where you can see that he wants nothing to do with it.
The reason he got that big contract in the spring is that he has ball skills. He can track the deep ball, and he gets his head around at the right time. He will play press coverage, but he is not strong enough to hold the receiver along the line. He tends to grab instead of jam. He has trouble in route when receivers are physical with him. Because of this, he sees his share of screen passes to his side. You can bully him. He has had issues in the red zone with this.
Jenkins plays with really loose technique. He is a feel player, and he likes to gamble and take chances. Teams try and double-move him. There are snaps where he gets caught in no man's land and he just freezes. But when he has to turn and run, he can do it – he's not stiff or tight at all. He moves easily.
Bottom line: this guy has the ability to make the big play, then the next snap also give one up. He has been a much better player with the Giants than he was with the Rams, as he leads the team with 15 passes defensed. You have to be aware of him due to his ball skills and gambling style of cornerback play.
Nemesis:QB Eli Manning
You would be hard pressed to find a player in this league that is more Jekyll & Hyde than Eli Manning. As well as he has played in victories for the Giants, he has also had a major role in many of their defeats.
When I have had the chance to visit with members of the Giants staff in the past, they generally have no idea which Manning might show up week-to-week. But going back through his long career with the Giants, some of his best days throwing the ball came against Dallas. He has had six games in his career where he has passed for over 330 yards against the Cowboys and multiple games where he has thrown for four touchdowns.
Say what you will about him, but Manning is a model of durability. He has made 195 consecutive starts since 2005. He also shows more athletic ability than you would think in the pocket. He doesn't look to run, but he can avoid pressure and slide outside. Some of his best work is when he can slide forward in the pocket and deliver the ball. He can also be a pain to get on the ground, and he is always trying to unload the ball when he is in trouble. Because of this, he maintains good control and throws effectively on the move -- plays with his eyes down the field.
Manning holds the ball high and has a quick compact delivery and a strong arm. He can be accurate in the short and intermediate range, as he drills the ball nicely between defenders over the middle. He shows fairly good touch – and the talent around him helps with that. Since the arrival of Odell Beckham Jr., Manning has developed into a better deep ball passer. But there still are snaps where he will under throw or be off line when attempting these types of passes. But he is not afraid to take those shots down the field.
As you well know by now, Manning will take some chances and will force some balls into traffic at times. If he has an issue to his game, it is when he gets into the red zone with his decision making. There are far too many snaps where he will just throw the ball up for grabs instead of just getting rid of it.
Manning is the worst rated quarterback when it comes to handling the blitz. He has a rating of 59.1 in those situations. League average is 90.4
Under the Radar: DE Romeo Okwara
When Jason Pierre Paul was injured in the Pittsburgh game it was Okwara who finished the game for him. He could get the start this week if they feel like he's ready. During that Pittsburgh game, he was splitting time with Kerry Wynn. When I studied him at Notre Dame, I thought he was more suited to play as a strong side linebacker and nickel rusher but physically he looks like a defensive end. He even saw some work at defensive tackle in the nickel.
Okwara has long arms and good reach, so his first move is to try and get his hands inside on the blocker to control. There were snaps at Notre Dame where he got stopped on his pass rush, but he improved in that area. His pressure is more due to effort than technique. You don't see a wide variety of moves. He also likes to push blocker back into the quarterback. He can be all over the place as a pass rusher, but he shows some good upper body strength. I thought he could have used his strength better when getting rid of the blocker.
He is a wrap-up tackler when he gets in position. In college he was big on trying to create turnovers and going for the strip. He will chase the ball from the backside, but he can hold the edge with power in the running game.
If there was an area that he really struggled in, I didn't see the awareness to find the ball. There were snaps -- especially late in the Pittsburgh game -- where the Steelers were running the ball and he was locked up one-on-one and the ball went inside of him. You can force him wide when blocking him to take him out of the play. It's a big loss for the Giants with no Jason Pierre Paul in the lineup.