IRVING, Texas – Two Cowboys players who squared off in the opener against the Giants will offer a much greater skill set in the second contest between the NFC East rivals.
Jason Witten was more of a decoy than an All-Pro tight end and center Ryan Cook hardly knew the plays. This time around, Witten's turned back into his reliable self, while Cook's had nearly half the season to get accustomed to the Cowboys' offense.
Center Phil Costa left the opener after the first series of the game, forcing Cook, who the Cowboys traded for less than a week prior, to play center the rest of the night.
"He really didn't know that much, so we were kind of flying by the seat of our pants, so to speak," said offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
Cook and Costa have switched in and out of the starting rotation, as each have dealt with multiple injuries this year. Costa's latest injury to his ankle against Carolina will shift Cook back into a starting role, this time as a more experience Cowboys lineman.
"He's a smart guy," Callahan said. He picked up the system well. Being off a few weeks, I think allowed him just to kind of sit back and really absorb all the details of what we're expecting our center to do."
Though Cook has seen the Giants' defensive line once this season, Callahan said he expects New York's talented group will offer some different looks than what they showed in the opener.
Witten, who returned early from a spleen injury to play in Week 1, said he might be more useful this time around helping out with the rush from Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.
Witten also will most likely get more open as a receiver, after catching just two passes for 10 yards in New Jersey. He admitted he wasn't a focal part of the game plan in the opener after missing the previous three weeks of practice, although he never doubted he'd play.
"I was convinced," Witten said. "I was. I think there's an approach you have to have as a player. Even though it doesn't really show it in the stats or anything, that's probably one of my more proud games, just because of the mindset going into that and being an energy boost for your team in a situation to start the season off."
Witten said he's much healthier now, and his numbers indicate as much, having caught 25 passes in his last three games. The experience of Cook and the health of Witten could be crucial this weekend, as the Cowboys attempt to beat the Giants for the first time at Cowboys Stadium and sweep their NFC East rivals.
"You look at those games that we've played them at home, that really defines who they are," Witten said. "They're out, they're out, they're out, then they come back and win it at the end. It's a 60-minute game, and we need everybody ready to play. We understand what kind of challenge it'll be. It'd be big to win at home here this week."