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Opponent Offseason Update: Dallas Cowboys

Posted Jul 11, 2017

This offseason giants.com will take a closer look at each of the Giants opponents next season, and how they’ve changed this past offseason.

Today, we’ll take a look at the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants start the season on the road against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football in Week 1.



Last Season: 13-3, 1st Place NFC East, #1 Seed NFC

After an opening night loss to the Giants, the Cowboys rattled off 11 straight wins before losing again to the Giants on December 11th. Their only other loss was their final game in the season at Philadelphia when playoff positioning was already set. They lost to the Packers in a close shootout in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

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Home: 7-1
Road: 6-2
Division: 3-3
Point Differential: +115

Key Additions:  OL Byron Bell, CB Nolan Carroll, DL Stephen Paea, DL Damontre Moore

Key Losses:  OL Doug Free, OL Ronald Leary, RB Lance Dunbar, DL Terrell McClain, DL Jack Crawford, CB Brandon Carr, CB Morris Claiborne, S Barry Church, S JJ Wilcox

Draft Class: DL Taco Charlton, CB/S Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, WR Ryan Switzer, S Xavier Woods, CB Marquez White, DL Joey Ivie, WR Noah Brown, DL Jordan Carrell

Overview:  The Cowboys proved to be ahead of schedule last year by winning thirteen games despite starting a rookie 4th round pick after Tony Romo got injured in a preseason game. Dak Prescott exceeded all expectations thanksto  an excellent running game, offensive line, and weapons to throw the ball to. The defense did enough to win games.

2016 Offense

5th in yards per game
2nd rush yards per game
23rd pass yards per game
5th points per game
2nd Time of Possession
10th Third down %
3rd Red Zone %
T-9th Turnover Margin (+5)

Dak Prescott took the league by storm last year. Even considering his impressive supporting cast, Prescott was ridiculously efficient as a rookie. He threw for 3667 yards to go along with 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The latter is sure to go up this year as he does more in the offense. The Cowboys offense revolved around the running game, but Prescott showed he could carry the team in the second half of the season with his performances against the Packers in the playoffs and Buccaneers.

Fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott carried the load as a rookie. He led the league in rushing with 1631 yards to go along with 15 touchdowns. Selected 1st team All-Pro , he ran successfully behind a dominant Dallas offensive line. The line will undergo serious changes this year with the departure of left guard Ronald Leary and retirement of right tackle Doug Free. La’el Collins will play one of spots with an open competition for the other. 

The Cowboys have weapons outside as well. Dez Bryant is completely healthy for the first time in a long time as their outside playmaker. Terrance Williams will start opposite him. Cole Beasley is a crafty slot receiver and will mentor Ryan Switzer, the Cowboys rookie out of North Carolina. Jason Witten returns (again) as the starting tight end.

The Cowboys had one of the most efficient offenses in the league last year and they have the talent to do the same in 2017.

2016 Defense

14th yards per game
1st rush yards per game
26th pass yards per game
19th sack rate
15th third down %
14th red zone%
5th points per game

The Cowboys defense was better last year than most critics give it credit for, evidenced by their 5th place ranking in points allowed per game. It bent, but didn’t often break. Its rush defense wasn’t nearly as good as the rankings above, nor was their pass defense as bad. Those rankings are more a product of opposition playcalling due to game situations than anything else. Dallas did undergo a lot of changes on this side of the ball and they will have to integrate the new faces to make defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s defense buzz.

The Cowboys do not have a dominant pass rusher. Instead they have a lot of (mostly younger) players that will rotate into different spots on the line play to play to help generate pass rush. They will hope they can generate enough pressure from a combination of rookie Taco Charlton, David Irving (suspended four games), veteran Cedric Thornton, DeMarcus Lawrence (coming off back surgery), Maliek Collins (promising rookie year), Charles Tapper (2nd yr player coming off back surgery), Giants cast-off Damontre Moore, and Benson Mayowa.

Sean Lee returns as one of the best linebackers in the league and will try to play his third straight healthy season, after playing in 14 or more the past two years. Damien Wilson could be facing suspension for an assault charge on the 4th of July. Jaylon Smith, coming off reconstructive knee surgery, including nerve damage is a wildcard.

The secondary is the real question. The team lost four big contributors last season in Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church and JJ Wilcox. Remaining veterans Orlando Scandrick and new addition and former Eagle Nolan Carroll remain at cornerback with Byron Jones and Jeff Heath at safety. Second year player Anthony Brown is coming off a strong rookie year as a sixth round pick at cornerback. Then they have rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis, corner/safety and second round pick Chidobe Awuzie, 6th round cornerback Marquez White and 6th round safety Xavier Woods who will all compete for playing roles.

The preseason will be an important time for Dallas in deciding who will be playing on both the defensive line and in the secondary.

Conclusion: The Cowboys have a young offense full of playmakers making regression on that side of the ball unlikely. On defense, they are depending on far less proven young players to emerge as playmakers so they can hold their own on that side of the ball. How well they play defensively will determine if they make the playoffs or not.