Matchup to watch: Cowboys tackles vs. Giants pass rushers

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
11:00
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When you talk about protecting Tony Romo, there are three defensive ends the Cowboys must worry about from the New York Giants: Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck.

In Wednesday's regular-season opener, the Giants will face a different set of offensive linemen than last season. Doug Free and Tyron Smith have flipped sides at tackle. Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau are the new guards to bookend center Phil Costa. Of course, Livings and Bernadeau can slide over and help Free and Smith if the ends try to rush between the guard and tackle. With the availability of tight end Jason Witten in doubt, John Phillips, James Hanna and quite possibly newly signed tight end Colin Cochart will have to be sound in their blocking techniques.

Let's not forget the backfield. Fullback Lawrence Vickers was signed in the offseason because he's a sound blocker, and Felix Jones or DeMarco Murray must give Romo time to get the ball down field on third downs.

Here are Free's thoughts on defending the Giants' pass rush off the edge.

"It's going to be real difficult," he said. "They have a lot of great players and the amount of players they have, they got a lot of defensive ends. Maybe not as many in the interior, but they use those guys on third down. It's going to be a huge challenge for us. We're going to have to work together, a lot of communication. Some different looks than a regular four-down (linemen) looks and we're going to have go out there and play real hard."

Have the injuries to several offensive linemen hurt the continuity of the line?

"I think we're doing pretty good. You never know what you got until you get out there, but everybody has been getting out there and working real hard and doing our jobs and getting ready to play."

A stat you probably would like to know about: Justin Tuck hasn't sacked a Cowboys quarterback since 2008, a span of five games.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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