Over the course of this season, the 3-7 New York Giants have struggled to move the ball offensively and prevent opponents from moving the ball.
The Giants have shown flashes of competitiveness at times recently, though, and this Sunday’s game in New Jersey feels like a potential trap game for the Cowboys.
1. An Emerging WR
Cowboys fans should remember Beckham from his two touchdown receptions the last time these teams played. That was only Beckham’s third NFL game (he missed the team’s first four games with a hamstring injury), and his play has improved considerably since.
Beckham’s play is reminiscent of Greg Jennings and Steve Smith (the one now on the Baltimore Ravens) in their prime. His great feet help him to be one of the savviest rookie route runners in recent memory, plus he’s lightning quick out of his breaks to create separation. Despite being only listed at 5-foot-11, he high-points the ball as well as anyone.
Since the Giants have started targeting Beckham more, their passing game has improved. They’re not great through the air, but they’re capable of having a big day if the Dallas secondary isn’t up to task.
2. A DE Reaching His Potential
Jason Pierre-Paul is the name most fans recognize, but Robert Ayers is the defensive end causing the most disruption for New York this season. Before last Sunday’s game, Ayers ranked second in Pro Football Focus’ Pass Rushing Productivity — percentage of pass rush snaps with pressure — with 34 pressures in 174 pass rushing snaps, just ahead of Houston’s J.J. Watt.
Ayers, who signed with the Giants before this season, is finally starting to produce like the player the Denver Broncos selected with the 18th overall pick in 2009. He’ll mostly line up over the right tackle, but defensive coordinator Perry Fewell twists and stunts him and he effectively blitzes just about every gap on one side.
Right tackle Doug Free has struggled against speed rushes in pass protection this season, so expect the Giants to try to exploit that with Ayers Sunday. And with Pierre-Paul playing so well against the run this season, including getting the best of left tackle Tyron Smith in Week 7, this might be the toughest test of the season for the Cowboys' tackles.
3. A TE Carving A Role
Unless you’re a fan of the Giants or fantasy football fiend, you might not have heard of Giants tight end Larry Donnell, who’s quickly making a name for himself.
After being targeted only once during his first two seasons, the 26-year-old former college quarterback has become Eli Manning’s safety net. Manning has targeted Donnell 61 times this season and Donnell has yet to drop a catchable pass.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, Donnell will likely be a tough matchup for the Cowboys linebackers in coverage.
The Giants' offense has played very well at times and the defense has played well enough to win a few times. The problem is that those things haven't happened simultaneously yet.
If the Cowboys aren't careful, the Giants play a complete game on both sides of the ball and deal the road favorites a tough loss.