In discussing what to watch for the Cowboys against the Giants, I hinted at a few strategic moves that might make sense for the ‘Boys. Specifically, I’d love to see Rob Ryan dial back the blitzes, forcing Eli Manning to continually throw against Cover 2 looks. Offensively, attacking the Giants’ sub-par secondary should be a priority for Jason Garrett. In addition to those broad philosophies, here are a few other bullet points that should be in the Cowboys’ game plan against the Giants in Week 8.
Use motion to control Jason Pierre-Paul.
If there’s a game in which tight end Jason Witten’s blocking workload should increase, this is it. The Cowboys need to get the ball downfield against the Giants, but they’ll need proper protection to do it. Although the Cowboys’ offensive line isn’t nearly as poor as people think—they’ve allowed a lower sack rate than all but three teams—the Giants’ pass rush is superb.
And that pass rush is led by JPP. The freak athlete has generated pressure on 7.4 percent
of his pass snaps—the highest mark on the Giants. To control him, look for the Cowboys to utilize “12” personnel (which implements two tight ends) or motion Witten to Pierre-Paul’s side when necessary. Witten has stayed in to block on only 15.5 percent of the Cowboys’ 2012 passes, but that rate should be higher on Sunday.
Think outside of the box offensively.
The Giants’ front seven defenders are too talented to not use some sort of deception. Garrett can’t continually run dive plays and straight dropbacks and expect the offense to always execute. We need to see more counters and playaction passes, in particular.
Despite totaling 7.2 YPC on over 100 counters since 2009, we’ve seen only two from the Cowboys all season. And although the Cowboys have thrown for 250 yards, a touchdown, and an 80.0 percent completion rate on playaction passes, Tony Romo has been ordered to throw just 20 all season. The Cowboys’ chances of winning will improve dramatically if Garrett can use misdirection plays to get defenders out of position.
Use stunts to get pressure on Eli Manning.
For Rob Ryan to stay in Cover 2 and other safe looks against the Giants, he’ll need to be able to get pressure without blitzing. That’s a difficult task, but one that I think the Cowboys can complete. To do it, they should twist their defensive linemen and outside linebackers to keep the Giants’ offensive line on their toes. On film, I’ve noticed the offensive line can struggle when defenses stunt or rush multiple defenders in the same area.
Specifically, I think the ‘Boys can take advantage of right tackle Sean Locklear. Locklear has given up pressure on 6.5 percent of his snaps this year—the same rate that I’ve attributed to Cowboys right tackle Doug Free. If Dallas can confuse Locklear with twists and even zone blitzes that force him to block anyone but the man lined up over top of him, they’ll be able to reach Manning and keep two safeties deep.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.
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