An offseason where the New York Giants spent over $200 million to upgrade a pretty bad team now sees the rubber meet the road on Sunday at Dallas. Against a division rival, the Giants open their 2016 with hopes of a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
And while the Dallas Cowboys will be without starting quarterback Tony Romo for this game, they are far from a bad team. They still have an aggressive defense and one of the top offensive lines in the league, not to mention an elite playmaker in wide receiver Dez Bryant. It all makes for an intriguing Week 1 for the Giants.
A game that, if they seriously believe they are contenders for the NFC East and the playoffs, they must simply win.
Three things to watch from the Giants in Week 1:
1. The revamped defense
Much of that $200 million spent this offseason in free agency — OK, nearly all of it — was spent on what was the league’s worst defense a year ago. They upgraded the pass rush, adding defensive end Oliver Vernon and defensive tackle Damon Harrison plus re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul. Speed was added at linebacker, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins is a big upgrade in the secondary. Plus cornerback Eli Apple, who boasts huge potential, as well as safety Darian Thompson were added in the NFL Draft. This unit should be much improved and keep the Giants in most games. Sunday will be their first test.
2. Stopping Elliot
The Cowboys made a splash early in the NFL Draft, reaching for Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth pick. There was already pressure on the rookie to live up to the hype, pressure that is now multiplied with Romo’s injury. Dallas will lean on him heavily in this game with rookie Dak Prescott under center.
“Well, we really liked him coming out of school. There was a lot to like about his career at Ohio State. He was a very productive player for them, on one of the best teams in the country, and he did a lot of different things,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “He ran the ball, he caught the ball, he blocked and he played the right way. He was banged up a little bit for a couple weeks of training camp, but prior to that and since then, he has really shown us that he can do what we are asking him to do; run the football in our scheme, handle the protections and what we are asking him to do as a route runner and also as a blocker. So he has done a really nice job, he works very hard at the game, he picks things up quickly, he is a young player like a lot of our guys are, but again, it will be exciting to see him play.”
3. That Cowboys offensive line is good… but a bit overrated.
Last year, they were a top-tier unit in the run game but struggled in their pass protection. In fact, they were bottom-half of the league in sacks allowed. That is something that a Giants front four that figures to be very good can ideally capitalize on. If they can get after Prescott early and often it could quickly become overwhelming for the rookie quarterback.