The New York Giants (2-6) will look to break a four-game losing streak when the Dallas Cowboys (4-3) come to town in Week 9. The NFC East rivals will meet on Monday Night Football for the first time since 2010, when Big Blue traveled to Dallas and left with a victory.
The Cowboys are on extra rest after they sat idle in Week 8. They entered their bye with a 37-10 victory over Philadelphia, which ended a three-game skid and elevated the defending division champion above .500 on the season. Dallas took the first leg of the season series, defeating the Giants, 35-17, in the season opener.
Here are five storylines to follow ahead of the Dallas game and the start of the second half of the Giants' season:
1. Leonard Williams latest addition to Giants D
A week after the Giants signed hybrid linebacker Deone Bucannon, the team acquired defensive lineman Leonard Williams in a trade with the Jets, who received a 2020 third-round selection and a 2021 fifth-round selection that could become a fourth. Like Bucannon, who had one solo tackle in his 11 defensive snaps in his Giants debut, Williams is expected to play right away and fit into the rotation.
"I got drafted [by the Jets] and they didn't keep me, they didn't want to keep me, but this team definitely showed interest and wanted to go out of their way to get me over here," Williams said after his first practice in a blue, not green, uniform. "So I think it speaks volumes on this team wanting me here, and I have to prove to them why they should want me here. I think I'm just going to keep my head in the playbook, we've got a long week ahead of us since we don't play until Monday, and just lock in and hone in on my new teammates, my new playbook and everything like that, and prove to these guys that they made the right choice."
Originally the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Williams has never missed a game in his NFL career. He started 70 of 71 career games for the Jets and recorded 240 tackles (32 for loss), 90 quarterback hits, 17 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. Last season, Williams was just one of five 3-4 defensive linemen with at least 20 quarterback hits and 10 tackles for loss. The others were J.J. Watt, Calais Campbell, DeForest Buckner and Chris Jones.
2. After joining him in the record books, Jones faces Prescott for first time as starter
Coming off a four-touchdown performance, Daniel Jones will make his Monday Night Football debut in Week 9. The opposing quarterback will be Dak Prescott, whom Jones joined as the only rookies in NFL history to have two games of at least 300 passing yards, two touchdown passes and zero interceptions.
In last week's 31-26 loss at Detroit, Jones set career highs in attempts (41), completions (28), touchdowns (four) and passer rating (124.2). The yardage total (322) was second to his 336 yards in his starting debut at Tampa Bay in Week 3. Prescott, meanwhile, enters the week with an offense ranked first in yards per game (437.9), third down conversion rate (51.9), and yards per play (6.71).
3. Shepard getting closer to return; Beal decision must be made by next week
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard suffered a concussion in Week 5, his second of the season. The fourth-year pro has not played since, but he took another step in the right direction on Wednesday. He practiced for the first time with contact as the Giants began their on-field preparation for Dallas.
"Yeah, it does [boost our optimism that he returns], it does," coach Pat Shurmur said. "I think he's getting closer and closer. We have an extra day certainly because it's Monday night, so again, we'll just see what the week brings."
Meanwhile, cornerback Sam Beal, the team's 2018 third round supplemental draft choice who has yet to play a game, continues to make "good progress," according to Shurmur. Beal (hamstring) was designated to return from injured reserve two weeks ago, and the Giants have until next Wednesday to activate him. If they do, the team would need to release somebody to free up a spot on the active roster. Rookie cornerback Corey Ballentine also remains in the concussion protocol.
4. Giants live in the "real world" as trade deadline passes
All trading for the 2019 NFL season ended on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET. The corresponding move to the Williams trade was the Giants waived linebacker Tae Davis, who was one of the four starting linebackers in the season opener in Dallas.
"I think a lot of this whole trade deadline is talked about outside our building," Shurmur said. "We sort of live in the real world, and guys just go about their business and come to work. There are times when you just have to wait to hear what happens. Year after year after year, everyone is talking about Jackrabbit (Janoris Jenkins), and he's still here. Again, we try to live in the real world when it comes to that kind of stuff. I think our players do a good job of that."
5. The effect of the players-only meeting
The Giants, who have two more games until their bye, held a players-only meeting on Monday after returning from the loss in Detroit. "I'll just leave it at, the players wanted to have our meeting and we had our meeting and accomplished what we wanted to get done," linebacker and defensive co-captain Alec Ogletree said. Players have kept the details in-house, but Jones said there is a "certain sense of urgency in the building."
Photos from Wednesday's practice as on-field preparations began for the Dallas Cowboys
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