IRVING, Texas – Another season, another chance to break down the Cowboys' opponents. As early as Sunday, I began breaking down the Giants – both from the preseason and bits of last year – in an effort to determine their biggest threats.
A couple of those are pretty obvious. Eli Manning has had plenty of success against the Cowboys, and Odell Beckham Jr. launched himself into the NFL spotlight against Dallas last fall.
But there's more to this matchup than that. So let's start breaking it down.
Nemesis: Eli Manning, QB
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. In visiting with members of the Giants staff, they have no idea which Manning might show up from week-to-week. With a contract year looming for him, what do you do going forward?
As inconsistent as Manning might be against the league, he has saved some of his best work for the Cowboys. In going back through his long career with the Giants, some of his best days throwing the ball came against Dallas. Where there needs to be concern from this defensive staff is that even with the likelihood of there being no Victor Cruz out the slot – Manning will still have plenty of options to work with.
Where this Cowboys defense is going to have to make a difference is attacking the front of the Giants' pocket. In studying Manning during the preseason, some of his best throws came when he had the ability to climb forward and avoid the rush. These Cowboys defensive tackles need to find ways to win quickly to not allow that to happen.
Weapon: Odell Beckham Jr., WR
Even with Orlando Scandrick out with a season-ending knee injury, I didn't feel that Rod Marinelli was just going to have him trail Beckham all over the field. Whatever side Beckham lines up on, that responsibility will fall on Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.
In the preseason the Giants used Preston Parker out of the slot while Rueben Randle and Beckham played on the side. What makes Beckham Jr. so difficult to defend is not his ability to catch the ball, but the way he runs routes to gain separation. His pace is difficult to gauge due to the fact that he can be on a dead sprint up the field, then stop on a dime and turn for the ball.
What was surprising is there were snaps where Beckham did exactly what I described on his route but Manning missed him. What this Cowboys secondary is also going to have to deal with in Beckham is the fact that he will take his routes all over the field. This is especially hard on Carr -- who struggles badly when receivers take him across the field due to his lack of catch-up speed.
Under The Radar: Kerry Wynn, DE
Wynn is an interesting player that is part of this defensive line rotation for the Giants. He will line up at end, but he will also see some action inside at tackle, as well. You can tell that he really loves the game with how hard he plays each snap. He has a passion for the game and is always competing.
He plays with some short-area foot quickness and burst -- good lateral quickness and body control. Showed nice pursuit speed going down the line and making plays in space. Good playing strength at the point of attack. Can hold the blocker in place while working to find the ball, and he can anchor down. You will see an occasional arm-over move from him to free himself.
There is good contact balance and an ability to finish when he is in position. Plays with football intelligence. Is able to key and diagnose the play and work that direction to make the tackle. Will need more work with his pass rush moves and how he attacks blockers.
Wynn's initial quickness is good, but he doesn't do much after that initial burst. He's not going to always capture the corner or have the bend to finish the play. I like him better as a run defender, but you have to be careful with his effort on the pass where he might fall into a sack.