On Sunday night, the ‘Boys will try to take down the Giants for the first time ever in Jerry’s World. To do it, they’ll need to exploit a Giants defense that is strong up front but very weak in the secondary. Here are a few key defensive players to keep an eye on.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul
JPP is coming off of an injury, but he looks like he’ll give it a go on Sunday night. Injured or not, Pierre-Paul is one of the premiere defensive ends in the NFL. He had only 6.5 sacks in 2012, but he recorded 43 pressures. Based on that total, his most likely sack total was actually 11, i.e. he was just unlucky with sacks.
Pierre-Paul is about as good of a run defender as he is a pass-rusher, so the Cowboys will need to avoid him in all facets of the game. Look for the ‘Boys to motion quite a bit to double-team JPP; they’ll need to use pre-snap motion since Pierre-Paul lines up all over the field.
FS Ryan Mundy
With Stevie Brown out for the year, 28-year old Ryan Mundy will be playing free safety for the Giants. He’s been targeted only 48 times during his four-year career, so that’s a player the Cowboys will want to test. The Giants figure to play a whole lot over Cover 2 Man-Under—a defense with a two-deep shell and man coverage underneath—so Mundy will often have help from the cornerbacks. When the Giants go to a traditional Cover 2 and Mundy is by himself in the deep half, the Cowboys should go after him.
CB Corey Webster
The Cowboys torched Webster in the opening game last season and it set the tone for the rest of Webster’s year. He allowed 10.3 YPA in 2012—one of the worst marks in the NFL. To give you an idea of how much opposing quarterbacks picked on Webster, consider that he was targeted 130 times—nearly twice as many times as rookie Morris Claiborne. I think Prince Amukamara will probably shadow Dez Bryant, but I’d look to Bryant any time Webster is on him.
DT Linval Joseph
The outside rushers in New York get the notoriety, but Joseph quietly holds down the fort on the inside. In 2012, though, Joseph wasn’t so quiet against Dallas. The defensive tackle ripped about the Cowboys’ interior line for three sacks in two games. If the ‘Boys don’t protect Tony Romo up the middle, it’s going to be a long night.