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Cover 4: What we'll be looking for in Week 1


So Week 1 has arrived, prompting the crew to discuss the first thing to look for when the Giants take the field Sunday night against the Cowboys:

John Schmeelk: Let's see how the Giants' two rookie cornerbacks play in their NFL debut against what is one of the best passing attacks in the NFC. Dak Prescott had issues with interceptions last season, but the Cowboys averaged 30 points per game in his starts. This off-season, Dallas added veteran Brandin Cooks (1,000 receiving yards in six of his last eight seasons) and Michael Gallup is another year removed from ACL surgery that seemed to slow him down last year.

Expect CeeDee Lamb to covered by Adoree' Jackson on most plays, especially since Lamb is playing more and more of his plays in the slot. It means Cooks and Gallup will be the responsibility of two players that have never taken a NFL snap. Cooks in an accomplished receiver with sub 4.40 speed (4.33 at the NFL Combine in 2014) who runs routes well. Gallup is a downfield threat with good hands and body control to make back-shoulder catches downfield. Gallup had more than 1,900 yards receiving between 2019-20.

There's no doubt that Cowboys head coach and play caller Mike McCarthy will be putting big red circles around those two young cornerbacks and will test them with double moves and other downfield shots. It's also certain that Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale won't hesitate sending blitzes throughout the game, leaving those cornerbacks on an island in man-to-man coverage. If they handle their responsibilities as they did in the preseason, it would bode very well for the remainder of the regular season and there's no reason to think this defense can't develop into a dominant group.

Dan Salomone: The Giants will go as far as Daniel Jones take them - and Jones will go as far as the offensive line takes him. That's where the focus will be in Week 1 against a Dallas defense that sacked Jones eight times over two meetings last season, including five in Week 3 at MetLife Stadium. Specifically, watch rookie center John Michael Schmitz. The second-round pick and former All-American hasn't played a regular-season snap in the NFL, but he has been tested daily in practice against Dexter Lawrence, one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game. Schmitz will be flanked by a combination of guards who have to be revealed for Week 1, an All-Pro left tackle in Andrew Thomas, and a right tackle looking to make a second-year leap in Evan Neal.

"We'll see, again, when we get to Sunday against the Cowboys," general manager Joe Schoen said last week of the guard rotation with Mark Glowinski, Ben Bredeson, and Joshua Ezeudu. "We won a lot of games with those players minus JMS (center John Michael Schmitz). It's his first year here, but won nine games and a playoff game with that group. So, we'll see how it pans out."

View photos of the New York Giants' 2023 roster as it currently stands.

Lance Medow: A big talking point this off-season has been the Giants' quest to close the gap on the Cowboys and Eagles. Well, in order to accomplish that feat, you must learn from what happened last season and find ways to avoid similar pitfalls. In 2022, New York managed a total of six plays for 20+ yards (five through the air, one on the ground) against Dallas – it was a big reason the Giants averaged only 18 points per game in those two contests. On the flip side, Dallas posted 25.5 points per game despite missing starting quarterback Dak Prescott in the first matchup and recorded five plays for 20+ yards in Week 3 alone. That's why the volume of explosive plays will be so important.

Last season, the Giants had the fewest plays for 20+ yards in the NFL with 28 and were tied for the sixth-fewest plays of 40+ yards through the air with five. They were average in those categories on the ground, but if this offense is going to take the next step, it must rely more on game-changing plays. In Week 1, they'll be facing an offense that averaged 27.5 points per game in 2022, nearly a touchdown more than the Giants. The Cowboys return most of their offensive starters and added veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who is more than capable of stretching the field and putting stress on defensive backs. When the Giants have possession, all eyes will be on some of New York's newest weapons (including Darren Waller and Parris Campbell) as Daniel Jones & Co. try for more explosive plays. The Giants scored 22 points or fewer in 12 of their 17 games last season, but they only won five of those contests and two of those 12 came against Dallas. Look at the scoreboard … that's where closing the gap begins.

Matt Citak: Throughout the summer, we witnessed numerous players from both sides of the ball step up and play well leading into the start of the regular season. However, the most noticeable - and perhaps the most important - thing we observed throughout training camp and the preseason was Daniel Jones' increased confidence heading into Year 2 of coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka's offense.

Simply put, the fifth-year quarterback dominated all summer. Other than one relatively rough session while practicing with the Lions in Detroit, Jones put together standout performance after standout performance at practice. The 26-year-old was completing 70-80 percent of his passes during team drills just about every day, connecting with Darren Waller, Parris Campbell, Jalin Hyatt and the rest of the team's targets. On top of his passing, Jones just looked significantly more comfortable in the offense compared to last training camp. He was constantly making quicker decisions, getting through his reads and getting the ball out of his hands faster than we saw last season. The quarterback, who is known for his calm and cool demeanor, has also been noticeably more vocal, both on and off the field. He was voted a team captain for the fourth consecutive season, which shows how his teammates feel about his leadership. After receiving a multi-year contract extension and some new playmakers during the off-season, this is the sort of growth the Giants were hoping to see out of the young quarterback.

"Just confidence," assistant general manager Brandon Brown said last month about what he's found in Jones throughout camp. "I think with Daniel, he knows that we have his back and that we believe in him, and it was our job to get him generators. Dabs speaks about generators and not just guys that are run-after-catch, but guys that can be quick-strike players. Guys that can create open windows for him. So, I think our job is making him the best version of himself and him coming back and doing the work with the skill guys over the summer, it all just lends itself to him being more confident and us gelling and finding our groove earlier."

Jones and the Giants' offense will have quite the tough opening test. The Dallas defense is one of the best in the league with talented players at every level, starting with Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence up front and Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore in the secondary. We're going to find out right away just how much progress Jones has made in Year 2. What better first test than the Cowboys under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football.

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2023 cycle.


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