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Giants game plan for Cowboys ground attack


The Giants Secondary will be ready for anything the Dallas Cowboys throw at them come Sunday Night.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.– The Giants were neither surprised nor shaken when they learned Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will be on the field Sunday night when the teams meet in the season opener in Dallas.

Elliott, who led the NFL with 1,631 rushing yards as a rookie in 2016, has been suspended for six games by the NFL for violating the league's Personal Conduct Policy. Although the suspension was upheld yesterday by NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson, Elliott is eligible to play against the Giants.

Giants coach Ben McAdoo said he had, "no reaction. He is a tremendous ballcarrier and we want to play against the best. So, we are excited for the opportunity." McAdoo responded to two followup questions with one answer: "Whoever suits up for Dallas, we'll go play."

The Giants faced Elliott twice last season. In his NFL debut on Sept. 11, he ran for 51 yards on 20 carries. Three months later, he rushed for 107 yards on 24 attempts, but was limited to 21 yards on nine second-half carries.

"We expected him to play," said All-Pro safety Landon Collins. "You want to be the best, you have to play against the best and you have to beat the best. He is one of the best in the game, that's what we are going to do."

"As a competitor, you want the best players out there on the field," said cornerback Eli Apple, a former teammate of Elliott's at Ohio State. "And as a defense, we always want to see the best, so it is going to be a great challenge."

Although the Cowboys would certainly have missed Elliott, they would not have been devoid of talent if he was forced to sit out. Backups Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden have a total of five 1,000-yard seasons between them.

"Zeke is a different back," Collins said. "He's a younger back. McFadden and the older backs, they run differently. Zeke is a do it all kind of back. The other two backs are one-cut runners. They are going to press the hole and they are going to try to get what they can. Zeke is going to try to make something happen every time, man. That's the difference between the three backs that they have."

"He is not afraid to stick his nose in there and he is somebody who is going to finish every run," said Apple. "Very hard runner and speed, his quickness, he can jump over people, he just has the whole package."

Elliott also gains an uncommon amount of yardage after a first or second hit. The Giants must wrap him up and make sure they bring him down.

"He keeps his feet moving," Collins said. "He has a lot of power behind his weight and then a lot of weight behind him, so you definitely have to get your butt down, lower your shoulders and get underneath him and just try to keep driving him back. Because he is definitely going to keep pushing for those extra yards."

*McAdoo also downplayed the listing of rookie free agent Shane Smith as the third of five tight ends – instead of the only fullback – on the new depth chart released by the team.

"I haven't seen one yet," McAdoo said. "How does it look?" Regarding Smith, McAdoo said, "He can do a variety of things. He's a football player. He's able and he's willing."

*Although Dwayne Harris was a Pro Bowler last season, his kickoff return average dropped by 4.5 yards (28.7-24.2), and his punt return average by 4.1 yards (10.0-5.9) last season. McAdoo said Harris will be "in the mix" as a returner, and is confident the seven-year veteran will bounce back.

"I think, quite simply, his catch mechanics are better," McAdoo said. "They are better this year. It was more of an emphasis for him and he is back on track."

*Wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle) and linebacker Keenan Robinson (concussion) were the only two Giants who did not practice today.

Five other players on the team's injury report practiced fully: cornerbacks Eli Apple (ankle) and Michael Hunter (concussion), defensive tackle Jay Bromley (knee), wide receiver Tavarres King (ankle), and tight end Shane Smith (quad).

Apple, who hurt his right and then his left ankle in the preseason said, "I have great confidence in both my ankles right now."

*Dallas linebacker Anthony Hitchens (ankle) did not practice. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis (hamstring) was limited.

*The Giants' record on Kickoff Weekend is 50-37-5. Their record in road openers is also 50-37-5. Their record in season-opening road games is 33-25-5.

The Giants have the NFL's fourth-highest winning percentage in road openers:

Team Record Percentage
Cowboys 35-21 .625
Packers 55-39-2 .591
Texans 9-6 .600
Giants 50-37-5 .580

*The Giants' 50 victories on Kickoff Weekend are the NFL's third-highest total. Chicago and Green Bay each have 54.

A look at the expected starters for the Giants' opener in Dallas

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