Cowboys must beat Giants with pass rush


This week presents a golden opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys. Coming off of a bye week, Dallas will travel to New Jersey to take on a New York Giants team that Dallas has already defeated once this season.

With a win, the Cowboys could ensure they will hold a tiebreaker over the Giants in the NFC East race via a season sweep. However, this Cowboys team will have to rely on a different group of heroes than the ones who delivered a last minute comeback victory in the team’s week 1 defeat of New York.

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Since then, the strength of the Dallas Cowboys has flip-flopped. Due to injuries and sub-par play, the offense is now the liability that head coach Jason Garrett’s team must compensate for.

Now the strength of the team is unquestionably the front seven of the defense, mainly because it is the only healthy unit the team can field (other than the offensive line, which has been handcuffed by injuries to other units on the offense).

When comparing firepower, the Giants enter the game with the advantage at quarterback with Eli Manning and at wide receiver with Odell Beckham Jr. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys will be starting their second backup quarterback of the year in Matt Cassel and even if star wide receiver Dez Bryant is able to return from a foot injury, he most likely will not be the player we’ve become accustomed to.

Thus, Dallas must beat the Giants by beating up Manning. This will be more difficult than it may appear being as the Giants have given up only seven sacks this season.

Manning is skilled at getting rid of the ball quickly limiting the amount of hits he takes. But even if Dallas can’t sack Manning, forcing him to get the ball to a tight end or running back on short routes is not the worst outcome.

When he has time to sit in the pocket and look for open wide receivers such as Beckham or fellow wide receiver Rueben Randle downfield, Manning is lethal. So Dallas will want to force him to throw the ball short then swarm to the ball.

With defensive end Greg Hardy (who had two sacks of the New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady in his first game back from a 4-game suspension) and rookie defensive end Randy Gregory returning from a high ankle sprain, Dallas has the athletes to pressure Manning.

Dallas must also force Giants quarterback Manning into mistakes as the Philadelphia Eagles did on Monday Night Football. Under constant pressure from the Eagles defensive line, Manning threw two interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown).

Assuming that the Dallas offense will continue to be mediocre at best, Dallas would greatly help its cause if Hardy or Gregory or any of the rest of the front seven can fluster the Giants’ signal-caller. The book on Manning clearly states that when he is under pressure he is prone to making crucial mistakes.

Manning has led the NFL in interceptions three times since coming into the NFL. However, this year his sacks and interception totals are down, due in large part to his comfort level in the second year of the Giants’ new offensive scheme.

Unfortunately, forcing takeaways has not been a strength of the Cowboys this season. With only three takeaways this season, Dallas is tied for last in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But those numbers may change with an elite pass rusher like Hardy coming off of one end and the top rated pass rusher in the 2015 NFL Draft, Gregory, coming off the other end.

At first glance, it would appear that Hardy would have a big game. He will be matched up with the Giant’s rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers who has only six games of NFL experience.

But Flowers has allowed only one sack thus far in 2015. So the rest of the defensive line must be able to collapse the pocket.

If Gregory or defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford can get consistent pressure on Manning, the Giants may be forced to put Flowers on an island versus Hardy. That is a matchup that Cowboy’s defensive coordinator Rod Miranelli will gladly take.

This week, Dallas won’t have Tony Romo to save them with a miraculous 4th quarter. If the Giants are able to get out to a two-score lead as they did in week 1, the Cowboys and their limited offense will be hard-pressed to keep up.

Putting Manning on the ground is key for Dallas.

"As Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News points out, “Manning has beaten the Cowboys 11 times in his career and in seven of those victories he was sacked once or fewer. He has lost 12 times to the Cowboys and mixed into those defeats were eight-, five-, four- and a pair of three-sack games.”"

That means that the fully healthy front seven featuring Hardy, Gregory, Crawford and linebackers Sean Lee and Rolando McClain will have to do the heavy lifting for their team. If Marinelli can develop a scheme to confuse Manning and his players can execute it, Dallas could find itself atop the NFC East after six games despite missing it’s starting quarterback, top wide receiver and number one corner (Orlando Scandrick) for the majority of the season.

However, if the Dallas pass rush is unable to make an impact upon the game, Manning will be able to pick apart a suspect Cowboys’ secondary and send Dallas to a crippling 4th consecutive loss.

Next: Matthew Stafford: Tony Romo's heir apparent in Dallas?