New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) celebrates after catching a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012 in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
In any game, there are a few key matchups that can change the course of the contest. Yesterday, I looked at a few crucial players we’ll want to watch on the Giants’ defense. Today, I’ll turn my attention to the offense. Note that Eli Manning won’t be on this list because it’s just a given that the quarterbacks always have the most control over a team’s fate.
RT Justin Pugh
Rumor has it that the Cowboys were actually going to take Pugh if he fell to them after they traded into the back of the first round in this year’s draft. Instead, the Giants snatched him up with their first pick. Monte Kiffin will likely attack the rookie, who might actually be matched up on DeMarcus Ware quite a bit.
The Giants like to run to the left side of their offense more than the right; last year, they ran outside of the left guard 153 times, compared to only 115 runs outside the right guard. On most of those left runs, the Giants will be using a “left-handed” formation, so Ware will be lined up over Pugh. Look for the veteran to make a few plays chasing down David Wilson from the weak side.
WR Victor Cruz
Cruz is always a matchup nightmare for Dallas. Last season, he ran 69.7 percent of his routes from the slot. That allows him to get off of the line while the cornerback on him can’t use the sideline as an extra defender.
That cornerback will typically be Orlando Scandrick, who was quietly outstanding last year, allowing only 5.7 YPA and a 68.6 passer rating. Scandrick’s stiffest challenge could come in the red zone; Cruz is one of the few undersized receivers who is red zone efficient.
RB David Wilson
When Andre Brown went down, it might have been a sneaky positive for the Giants because now they’ll be forced into giving Wilson more carries. If we were trying to build a running back prototype, it would be a young back with 4.4 speed who has been efficient and can catch passes. That describes Wilson pretty much perfectly, and he has the opportunity to cause some real damage against Dallas if they play with two deep safeties, as I expect.
If the Giants can run the ball and force a safety into the box, it will really help Manning and the passing game. If they can’t, it will be difficult for the Giants to acquire big plays against the Cowboys’ conservative zones.