It's been a long offseason for Cowboys fans and probably an even longer one for the team, but football is officially back!
The Cowboys were one of the NFL's surprise teams of 2014 and they look to build on that success beginning with a Sunday night matchup against the New York Giants. Dallas swept New York last season, but the Giants have made a few tweaks to their roster that should make them a more formidable opponent.
1. Return of Steve Spagnuolo
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"They" credit QB Eli Manning with two Super Bowl wins, but the Giants won it all after the 2007 and 2010 seasons on the strength of an aggressive front four. The 2014 defense was porous, but the return of Steve Spagnuolo, their 2007 defensive coordinator,
The Giants don't have a group as strong as the '07 and '10 groups, but a nickel front with...say...Ayers, Odighizuwa, Selvie and Devon Kennard could cause problems for a Cowboys offensive line that was relatively vulnerable in pass protection.
2. Offensive Line Additions
The Giants struggled to run the ball last season, their 3.6 yards per carry was third worst in the NFL, which affected their ability to produce points in the red zone. The team addressed the problem this offseason by adding two veteran offensive linemen and spending a first-round pick on one.
Guard Geoff Schwartz is one of the more underrated interior linemen in the NFL. TCU alumnus Marshall Newhouse has been pretty bad, but he moves Justin Pugh to guard where he fits better than he did at tackle. First rounder Ereck Flowers is a right tackle playing on the left side for New York, but he does upgrade the position and his run blocking should be very good.
3. Eli Manning
There aren't many quarterbacks as inconsistent as Eli Manning, but he saved some of his best football for the Cowboys. During the last two seasons, he averages 8.3 yards per attempt, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception per game against Dallas.
Not having Victor Cruz will hurt, but Manning is still throwing to a pretty good trio of WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle and TE Larry Donnell. Add in third-down back Shane Vereen, and the Giants will prove a tough test for the Cowboys' weak link at secondary.
The Giants frankly don't match up well with the Cowboys, so a win in their season opener is unlikely.
If they played this game 100 times, Dallas would probably win 80 of them. The Giants have made a few upgrades that could make Sunday night a little tense for Cowboys fans, though, if a few things break their way.