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Storylines to follow heading into Giants vs. Cowboys


The Giants open the 2023 campaign at home with a divisional matchup against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.

Following last year's success that saw the Giants win their first postseason contest since Super Bowl XLVI, Brian Daboll's squad will look to carry over that momentum to this season.

The Giants will be featured in prime time a good amount at the start of the season. In addition to this week's matchup, the Giants also play on Thursday Night Football in Week 3 (at San Francisco) and on Monday Night Football the following week (vs. Seahawks). Two weeks later, they will return to Sunday Night Football for a matchup against the Bills, totaling four games in the national spotlight in the first six weeks of the season.

But with the season set to begin in a few days, the focus remains solely on the Cowboys.

Here are five storylines to follow in the season opener:

1. 2023 opens with NFC East matchup

The Giants begin with a tough divisional matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. It's no secret the Giants struggled against the NFC East last season. Despite the team's overall success, the Giants went 1-4-1 in the division, including two losses to both the Cowboys and Eagles. However, coach Brian Daboll insists last year's results have no impact on Sunday night's game.

"I don't really think what happened last year or any other game really has any bearing on this game," Daboll said during Tuesday's media session. "You take a look at it, you look at the players they still have, you look at their schemes. Obviously, they have the same defensive coordinator; but again it's a new season, they'll be a bunch of new stuff that we will have to adjust to, and we've got to focus on ourselves and make sure we are ready to go."

The Giants have dropped four consecutive games and 11 of the past 12 against their division rival, with their last win in the series coming in Week 17 of the 2020 season. After losing against the Giants twice during his rookie season in 2016, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has won 10 consecutive games in this rivalry. Athough Dallas' recent success in the series has not gone unnoticed, the Giants are keeping their focus on themselves.

"It's a big divisional game for us," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "All the divisional games are certainly big and match up with a lot of tradition and history so yeah, it's a big deal. But it's about what we do, it's about how we play and taking care of our business first."

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

2. Growth of the offense

One of the biggest storylines throughout training camp was the potential growth of the offense in Year 2 under Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. The Giants finished the 2022 season ranked 15th in points and 18th in yards per game. However, the unit featured a Top-5 run game (in both yards and touchdowns) along with the seventh-best red zone offense. The Giants added several new pieces during the offseason, including tight end Darren Waller, wide receivers Parris Campbell and Jalin Hyatt, and center John Michael Schmitz. With another year in the system, the offense expects to make a big jump, starting Sunday night.

Perhaps the biggest factor in the offense's success is the development of quarterback Daniel Jones. The 26-year-old is coming off his most efficient season in which he set career-marks with 3,205 passing yards and a 92.5 passer rating. Jones also set several franchise QB records, including completion percentage (67.5), interception percentage (NFL-best 1.06), rushing yards (708) and rushing touchdowns (seven), while his 119.3 passer rating on deep passes was the third-highest in the league. The fifth-year quarterback drew rave reviews from his coaches and teammates all summer.

"I think it's a new season," Daboll explained. "We're going to have to do the things we need to do leading up to this week. He's had a good training camp, and now we've got to turn the page and get here on Dallas, which we've been the last couple of days, and go out there and practice and make sure we correct the things that are going to happen and ultimately play well and make good decisions and move the ball down. That's his role. But he's had a good camp."

Jones and the offense will face one of their toughest tests all season in the Cowboys, who ranked fifth in points allowed last season while leading the league with 33 takeaways. Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn also led his unit to a Top-10 finish in both third down and red zone defense.

"I think on defense, they're fast," said Jones. "They run to the ball, they attack the ball, they've got a strong pass rush, a couple of guys up front and they're good in the back end. They fly around, run to the ball, make plays, they're disruptive, cause a lot of turnovers, they're a good group – strong group, but we'll be prepared for them. But like I said, it's about what we do and we're preparing to play our best."

3. Year 2 in Wink's defense

The Giants' defense found some success last season under defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. The unit finished the year with the fifth-best third down (35.1 percent) and red zone (49.2 percent) defense, but ranked 17th in points and 25th in yards allowed.

One of the biggest reasons for the Giants' struggles against the NFC East last year was their run defense. In the five contests against the Cowboys and Eagles (including the playoffs), the defense surrendered an average of 200.2 rushing yards per game. This led to the offseason acquisitions of linebacker Bobby Okereke and defensive linemen Rakeem Nunez-Roches and A'Shawn Robinson, as the Giants made it a priority to boost their run defense. Additionally, the Giants also acquired two defenders in recent trades – versatile linebacker Isaiah Simmons and edge rusher Boogie Basham. The team hopes both acquisitions will help increase the unit's sack total from last season (41 sacks, 13th in the league).

The Cowboys had one of the league's top rushing attacks last season, ranking sixth in attempts, ninth in yards and second in touchdowns on the ground. Despite the hype that surrounds a matchup against a division rival, defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence said the Giants are locked in.

"A little more juice knowing it's a division team, but I think the mindset is the same for everybody," said Lawrence. "We've been preparing through camp and we're going to prepare well this week. We're going to go out there and play football and do our best."

4. Rookies' first test

The Giants released their unofficial depth chart for Week 1 on Tuesday, and several rookies found themselves listed among the starters.

Although many expected first-round pick Deonte Banks to earn one of the starting cornerback spots, the same cannot be said about sixth-round pick Tre Hawkins III. But the rookie out of Old Dominion put together a strong performance throughout training camp and the preseason, which led to veteran Adoree' Jackson spending a lot of time in the slot, where he will go against CeeDee Lamb. This leaves the newcomers to cover veterans Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup.

"I think it just shows how they worked through OTAs and camp," Lawrence said about the rookie cornerbacks. "I kind of noticed it late. They're just going out there and working, honestly. Understanding the playbook, knowing their assignments, and not making a lot of mistakes, making plays on the ball in camp. It's good to see that."

Second-round pick John Michael Schmitz earned the starting center job after a strong summer. On 50 pass block snaps across the first two preseason games, Schmitz surrendered just one pressure. The rookie center will be tasked with blocking Cowboys rookie defensive tackle Mazi Smith, the 26th overall pick.

The Giants' third-round pick, Jalin Hyatt, will likely see some snaps in the opener. The Cowboys sport a tough pass defense, led by Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore, which should offer a good first test for the rookie. Additionally, fifth-round pick Eric Gray is listed on the first-team depth chart as the kickoff and punt returner.

5. Scouting the Cowboys

The Cowboys' offense starts with quarterback Dak Prescott. The 30-year-old started 12 games last season and finished with 2,860 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and a career-high 15 interceptions. In his 12 career games in the series, Prescott has a 23-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

"Dak is a productive quarterback, he's got a very good skill set, he's won a lot of games, he's been very productive, scored a lot of points. They've got a good football team, so we are going to need a really good week here of preparation," Daboll said.

Dallas has talented playmakers all over their offense. Running back Tony Pollard is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career. He finished with 1,007 yards on the ground, 371 yards through the air and 12 total touchdowns. With Ezekiel Elliott now on the Patriots, Pollard is expected to receive a majority of the touches out of the backfield.

Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb leads Dallas' pass-catchers after his breakout campaign last year. Lamb caught 107 passes for 1,359 yards and nine touchdowns, setting new career-highs in all three categories, on his way to being named Second-Team All-Pro. He is joined by fellow wideouts Brandin Cooks, a veteran with six 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, and Michael Gallup, while Jake Ferguson sits atop the depth chart at tight end after Dalton Schultz signed with the Texans.

"They have a very good player that plays both inside and outside with CeeDee, but they have some other skill players that are going to be challenging – really their entire package," Daboll told the media. "All their skill guys from their backs, to their receivers, to their tight ends. All of our guys are going to have to be ready to go with the assignments that we ask them to do."

As for the defense, Micah Parsons has racked up 26.5 sacks across his first two seasons in the NFL, both of which resulted in him being named All-Pro. Parsons had two sacks against the Giants last year, while fellow edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence recorded three sacks in just one game against the Giants last season.

"I think I said it last year, he's a dynamic player," Daboll said of Parsons. "You know, these defensive ends that can rush passer and get a lot of production on the quarterback, they are like skill players, so he's an explosive, dynamic playmaker. They line him up in a variety of spots, he's productive, he's hard to block, he's a really good football player, one of the best in the National Football League."

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