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Giants vs. Cowboys: 5 storylines to follow

Pat Shurmur admitted you always keep one eye on the opener throughout the summer, but now full attention is set on the Dallas Cowboys. Week 1 has finally arrived. The New York Giants have begun their on-field preparation for the defending NFC East champion at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center before their trip to AT&T Stadium.

Here are five storylines heading into Week 1:

1. Shurmur “thrilled” about the 2019 edition of the New York Football Giants. Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman set out on their second season together with what they believe is a stronger roster than the one at this point last year. Its first test comes this Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET at AT&T Stadium.

“I told the players, I’m thrilled about the team that we have,” Shurmur said. “I really loved the team that we had when we had 90 (players). Going through that process this weekend, I thought we did it the right way. We added some new players that we feel good about and that we think will help us after going through the process of seeing who was released and whatnot. We had our first practice before Dallas today. We’re off to the races.”

2. Roster is still being finalized. The Giants “set” their 53-man roster over the weekend in accordance with the NFL deadline, but it is best to remember that building a team is an ongoing process. On Sunday, the Giants signed tight end Eric Tomlinson, who was waived by the Jets, and accordingly placed cornerback Sam Beal (hamstring) on injured reserve. On Monday, they parted ways with linebacker B.J. Goodson and signed free agent David Mayo, another linebacker.

“We feel like we are a better team than we were a year ago, we just have to go out and perform,” Shurmur said. “We know we are at the stage of our year where winning football games is what it’s all about and so that’s where we’re at. … I like the way we have built our team. I like some of the changes we made personnel wise. I also feel like the second year in our system we are smoother in how we operate.”

3. Who will be Manning’s primary backup? The Giants are four days from opening the season in Dallas. They are X-number days away from someone other than Eli Manning starting at quarterback. Nevertheless, the latter was the first topic posed to Shurmur in his first press conference of game week after the Giants moved ahead with three quarterbacks – Manning, rookie Daniel Jones and Alex Tanney – on the active roster. Shurmur said he and Gettleman were in agreement that having a trio was the way to go. The head coach and offensive architect was then asked if Tanney would step in for Manning if something happened to him and Jones, under the hypothetical, was not ready yet.

“Daniel is going to be ready when it’s his time,” Shurmur said. “Having Alex here who is a veteran I think adds to the room.”

The Giants carried four quarterbacks all offseason until waiving Kyle Lauletta, their fourth-round pick from a year ago.

“There are things behind the scenes where we felt like Alex was doing well,” Shurmur said. “I think Kyle made great progress. We were really pleased with what (Kyle) had done. We just felt like it was the best thing for us to move forward with Tanney.”

4. Zeke is back. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who edged out Saquon Barkley by 127 yards last season for his second rushing title, ended a 40-day holdout just before the start of the regular season. Elliott and the Cowboys agreed to a six-year contract extension on Wednesday, which means the Giants will be seeing plenty of him in the foreseeable future.

“We’re going to play defense the way we have to play to defend the Cowboys,” Shurmur said Monday before the Elliott news. “Certainly if Zeke is there, you have to spend special attention (on him). They have some running backs that have done well in camp that they feel good about. We have to play good team defense, regardless of who’s playing against us. There’s no telling who they’re going to line up with at this point.”

Meanwhile, Dallas still boasts plenty of Pro Bowlers on offense, including quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper.

“(Cooper is) an outstanding player as well,” Shurmur said. “I think that’s what makes them, on offense, hard to defend. They have an outstanding quarterback that can use his legs, which creates problems for the defense. They have skilled position players, not only on the outside but in the inside too with their tight ends. They have a runner, if Zeke plays, that’s one of the best in the league. They have guys in that room that… We have to defeat our blocks, address our gaps, and play good run defense, regardless of who’s carrying it.”

5. Barkley named one of seven team captains. In just his second season, Barkley has been named a team captain. It came as no surprise after seeing his leadership displayed throughout the spring and summer practices. On offense, he is joined by quarterback Eli Manning, his 13th time being named a captain, and left tackle Nate Solder. Linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Antoine Bethea, who signed this offseason, are the defensive captains. Long snapper Zak DeOssie and safety Michael Thomas will lead special teams.

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