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Defense game-plans for new Cowboys QB Matt Cassel


Playmakers on Cowboys first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – No Giants player is as familiar with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel as Brandon Meriweather. The Giants hope that knowledge proves useful this week.  

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Cassel will make his initial start for the Cowboys on Sunday, when they face the Giants in MetLife Stadium. He was acquired in a trade with Buffalo on Sept. 22. Cassel takes over for Brandon Weeden, who started three games after Tony Romo fractured his collarbone in Philadelphia on Sept. 20.

Dallas lost each of those games, so coach Jason Garrett has turned to Cassel, who is 34-38 as a regular-season starter with four teams. Cassel got his first extended opportunity to play in 2008, his fourth season in New England, after Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener. Cassel led Patriots to 10 wins, but the Patriots missed the playoffs despite an 11-5 record.

Cassel threw 21 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions that season. Meriweather played in every game with 11 starts as a second-year safety on that team.

"Matt was an athlete," Meriweather sad. "He was a good runner and he had a strong arm. When he got his time to shine, he capitalized on it. He was that one player that if anything happened to Tom, could go in there and step up."

Meriweather has started every game this season, his first with the Giants. He said the Cassel he is studying this week looks very similar to the player who was his teammate seven years ago.

"Cassel is Cassel," Meriweather said. "I don't think people change too much. I think if you have one great season, then it's in you."

A month ago today, Cassel was still with the Bills and had no idea the Cowboys would view him as a temporary replacement for Romo.

"You never know in this league," Cassel said. "That's one thing for sure, is that it's the most unpredictable, unpredictable league to be in, especially due to the physicality of the game. I never counted myself out and I was always hopeful that whether it was in Buffalo and competing for the job or whether this other factor really happened with the trade and now I'm certain here. You always shoot and you're main goal is to always be out there on Sundays and playing and being a starter. So I'm happy about the opportunity."

The Giants last faced Cassel six years ago. On Oct. 4, 2009, he started in Kansas City in a game won by the Giants, 27-16. Cassel completed 15 of 32 passes for 127 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. The current Giants have no remaining defensive players from that game.

But these Giants are becoming well-versed in all things Cassel this week.

"We've gone back and done all our homework," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Matt had the outstanding year (in) 2008, when Brady went down and they still won 11 games there in New England with him at quarterback. So we went back to that. We went back to his preseason stuff as well."

Dallas defeated the Giants on opening night with Romo at quarterback, 27-26. The Giants expect little change in the Cowboys' offense in the rematch on Sunday.

"I would assume that they're going to run their same stuff," Meriweather said. "Dallas has their great offensive line, I think you put it on their offensive line, and you say, 'Win the game.'"

The Giants must do everything they can to prevent that.

  • Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) was one of four Giants who did not practice today. The others were wide receiver Victor Cruz (calf), and cornerbacks Trumaine McBride (groin) and Trevin Wade (concussion).

Five players were limited: wide receiver Rueben Randle (hamstring), defensive end Robert Ayers (hamstring) and linebackers Devon Kennard (hamstring), Unai 'Unga (neck) and Jonathan Casillas (neck).

  • Cornerback Prince Amukamara (pectoral) will miss his second straight game.
  • Late in the Philadelphia game, Rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers caught a tipped Manning pass that first caromed off the helmet of right tackle Marshall Newhouse. The play lost 11 yards. Because the Eagles declined the illegal touching penalty on Newhouse, the play stood and Flowers became the first Giants offensive lineman to catch a pass since Dec. 8, 1984, when a Phil Simms pass was batted in the air and grabbed by center Kevin Belcher, who gained four yards against the Cardinals in St. Louis.
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