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Giants vs. Cowboys: Players to watch in Week 1


Well Giants fans, the wait is finally over.

The New York Giants are set to kick off their 2023 campaign with a matchup against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. Big Blue hopes to snap a four-game series losing streak against their NFC East rival when they take the field for Sunday's primetime contest.

After going 9-7-1 and winning the franchise's first postseason game since Super Bowl XLVI last season, the Giants added more talent to both sides of the ball during the offseason. Brian Daboll's squad will be challenged right away with the matchup against a tough division foe in the national spotlight.

Here are five players to watch in Week 1:

QB Daniel Jones

Fresh off his best NFL season, Daniel Jones stood out all summer, putting together efficient performances at practice just about every day. In his only preseason appearance, Jones quickly led the offense down the field in under five minutes for a touchdown. The 26-year-old went 8-of-9 for 69 yards and a score, finishing with a passer rating of 135.6 while adding a 6-yard run. Yet head coach Brian Daboll reminded the media that past success doesn't mean much once Week 1 kicks off.

"I think it's a new season," Daboll said this week about Jones. "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."

The Cowboys played well against the pass last season, ranking eighth in passing yards allowed per game while their 17 interceptions were tied for fourth in the league. Cornerback Trevon Diggs, a Pro Bowler in each of the last two seasons, is now joined in the secondary by former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore.

View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

TE Darren Waller

Just prior to the start of free agency back in March, the Giants made their first big splash of the offseason when they acquired tight end Darren Waller in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders. Waller received rave reviews all throughout camp as he worked to build a connection with Jones. The veteran was on the field for only one offensive series during the preseason, when he caught three of four targets for 30 yards from Jones.

Now set to make his official Giants debut this weekend, the 30-year-old, who was voted a team captain last week, is keeping his focus on improving each day leading up to the opener.

"I'm excited man, just trying to stay within the day, you know?" Waller said Wednesday. "Every single individual day of practice leads to a good game on Sunday, so not trying to get too excited, peak before then. Just trying to keep building as the week goes."

Simply put, the Dallas defense shut down opposing tight ends last season. Their 629 receiving yards allowed to the position was the sixth-fewest in the NFL, while their one touchdown allowed was the second-lowest mark. Nonetheless, Waller expressed his excitement about being a part of the latest chapter of this storied Giants-Cowboys rivalry.

"Like I've said before, growing up in a house with my parents, NFC East fans, I know the history," Waller said. "I know how heated and competitive these games have been over the years and I know what I'm about to step into on Sunday. I am honored to take the field."

OT Andrew Thomas

Several key Giants received contract extensions since the end of last season, with the most recent one being Andrew Thomas. The franchise left tackle had a breakout season in which he surrendered just three sacks and 21 total pressures on over 600 regular-season pass block snaps. He recorded an impressive pass block win rate of 92.6 percent in 16 games on his way to being named second-team All-Pro.

Thomas and right tackle Evan Neal will be tasked with slowing down Cowboys edge rushers Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence. Parsons, who has been named First-Team All-Pro in each of his first two seasons, had two sacks in the second game against the Giants last season. Lawrence, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, recorded three in the first meeting. As a unit, the Cowboys' 54 sacks were tied for the third-most in the league.

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

OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux

After suffering a knee injury during the preseason last year, Kayvon Thibodeaux made his official NFL debut in the Week 3 game against Dallas. Although he was limited to 58 percent of the team's defensive snaps, Thibodeaux had a pass breakup along with a solo tackle. He finished his rookie season with 49 tackles (33 solo), four sacks, six tackles for loss, and 13 quarterback hits to go with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Three of his four sacks came in the final five games of the season.

Unlike last season, the second-year outside linebacker enters the 2023 campaign fully healthy. Many pundits focus solely on a pass rusher's splash plays, but it's the little plays Thibodeaux makes that truly excited defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.

"I think any player that's judged with the microscope that he is - and when they have success and when they really take that next step … is when they become finishers at the quarterback and finishers when they get their hands on the football and things of that nature. But you know when everybody talks about sacks and everything else, they forget about him sprinting 40 yards down the field and tackling a tailback that's running. Guys don't usually make those plays; he makes those plays, so it's going to be enjoyable to watch," Martindale told the media Wednesday.

The Cowboys boast one of the league's top offensive lines, with left tackle Tyron Smith and right tackle Terence Steele locking down the edges. While the Giants were unable to sack Cowboys QBs Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush in the two meetings last season, Martindale used those contests as learning lessons for Sunday's game. 

"I think that we played well, just couldn't finish them and this is a new year," the defensive coordinator said Wednesday. "I don't sit back there and say they had eight (sacks) and we had zero and look at that as a failure, no. I just know we got to fix some things and we've worked on that, and we will see where we are at come Sunday night."

ILB Bobby Okereke

The Giants' big offseason addition on defense came in the form of inside linebacker Bobby Okereke. Over his last two seasons with the Colts, Okereke registered a total of 283 tackles while playing every game. The Giants saw first-hand just how impactful Okereke can be when he racked up a career-high 17 total tackles against them in Week 17. The Giants were clear that one of their biggest goals of the offseason was to add speed, and Okereke does just that.

"I've always said this, philosophically, if you have a fast mike, then you have a fast defense and he's a really fast mike," Martindale said last month.

Despite joining the team only a few months ago, Okereke, similar to Waller, was voted a team captain in his first season with the Giants.

"I think the players respect them and they have gone about their job the right way and performed out on the field, whether it be in practice or in some of the games and players that voted for them certainly have respect for them," Daboll said about the two veteran additions last week.

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has made it no secret that he wants to run the football. Dallas ranked sixth in attempts, ninth in yards and second in touchdowns on the ground last season, including a total of 345 rushing yards in the two games against the Giants. Okereke was brought in to help anchor the middle of the defense, especially against the run. Sunday's game will serve as a challenging first test for the veteran linebacker.

View rare photos from the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.