Dallas Cowboys: Will Hill

Dez Bryant won't take trash-talking bait

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
5:10
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IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant isn't biting on all the barking from the New York Giants' secondary.

Bryant heard about the Giants' vow to get physical with him Sunday. The competitor in Bryant might have wanted to fire back, but he plans to let his actions speak for themselves Sunday at MetLife Stadium instead of getting sucked into a trash-talk exchange.

Bryant
Bryant
“They can say whatever they want to say,” said Bryant, who added that he's never had a problem defeating press coverage. “That's what they believe, we'll let them believe that. We're going to go out and we're going to play our game.”

The Giants held Bryant to four catches for 22 yards in the Cowboys' season-opening win, often double-teaming him with a cornerback playing press coverage and a safety over the top. The New York defensive backs apparently think they've got the formula for stopping Bryant figured out.

"Get your hands on him," Giants safety Will Hill told reporters, comments that were seconded in a little less inflammatory manner by cornerback Prince Amukamara. "He doesn't like to be touched, like most receivers in this league. But really him. He doesn't like to be touched."

Kind of sounds like Hill is calling the 6-foot-2, 222-pound Bryant soft, huh?

“Call it whatever you want to call it,” Bryant said, refusing to take the bait and playfully bantering with the Valley Ranch media. “Like I said, we're just going out and playing our game on Sunday. I have no comment to really none of that. I'm not getting into no trash talk. Not going to let [the media] bait me.

“I'm just going out there and just playing, you know. Play Cowboy football.”

Ware: Giants always have something to say

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
12:31
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IRVING, Texas -- New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul started off the week by saying his team is getting ready to “put it on,” the Dallas Cowboys.

Ware
Ware
On Wednesday, several Giants talked about the do-or-die nature of Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium for their chances. Pierre-Paul said, “it’s like a Super Bowl.” Safety Antrel Rolle said this game “is going to determine the outcome of the season.”

Safety Will Hill said the defense will get physical with Dez Bryant because the Cowboys receiver “doesn’t like to be touched, like most receivers in this league. But really him. He doesn’t like to be touched.”

The noise from New York always seems loud when they play against the Cowboys.

“You know they have something to say every time we play them,” DeMarcus Ware said. “They try to put the gas on the fire every time. It’s an NFC East game, that’s what we do.”

The Cowboys mostly do not return fire, especially since Patrick Crayton departed. It’s part of Jason Garrett’s message to the team. He does not want bulletin-board material. He wants the focus to be on the preparation.

But that should not belie the sense of urgency the Cowboys feel going into this game. In a way this is every bit a must-win game for the Cowboys.

“I don’t know there’s a correlation between what you say during the week and you’re intensity during the game,” Garrett said. “We’re getting ourselves ready to play this game. They’re a good football team. We have a great respect for their players, their coaches, their organization, and we’re going to prepare our best this week to play our best on Sunday.”

N.Y. suspension helps Cowboys

July, 20, 2013
7/20/13
1:25
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OXNARD, Calif. -- It’s too early to think about the Cowboys’ Sept. 8 regular-season opener, but their opponent, the New York Giants, suffered a slight blow on Saturday when safety Will Hill was suspended for four games by the NFL.

Hill is a backup safety and core special-teamer, but he will not return until Sept. 30.

The Giants could also be without defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who had offseason back surgery. After the June operation, Pierre-Paul was looking at a three-month recovery period, which would have him ready the week of the opener. Even if he can play, will he be 100 percent football-ready?

Last season, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was not himself following offseason foot surgery in the season opener against the Cowboys.

For the Cowboys, any absences from the Giants’ lineup will help against a team they have yet to defeat at Cowboys Stadium (0-4).

The NFC East: Living in the nickel

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
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One big reason cornerback Terrell Thomas is important to the New York Giants is that the Giants really like to use defensive backs. The Giants learned earlier this week that Thomas' latest knee injury would not require surgery and that he should be able to play for them this year. This is good news, because with Aaron Ross having left via free agency and second-year cornerback Prince Amukamara still developing, the Giants need Thomas. Not just as the starter opposite Corey Webster, but in the nickel and dime defensive packages they used more than any other team in the league last year.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Giants used five or more defensive backs on 734 defensive snaps last year -- more than any other team in the league. That number accounted for 68.5 percent of their 1,072 defensive snaps. Only the Green Bay Packers went with five or more defensive backs on a higher percentage of their plays -- 69.0 percent, or 724 of 1,049.

I know this because our NFC North blogger, Kevin Seifert, recently did a post about how often the NFC North's teams were in nickel or dime packages last year, and he passed along the chart he got from ESPN Stats & Info showing how often each team in the league went with extra defensive backs. That's how things work on the ESPN.com NFL blog network. We're a team. A brotherhood. Eight pistons firing as one. It's really quite beautiful to watch sometimes.

Anyway, I looked at the chart and noticed that the NFC East's teams basically lived in nickel and dime defenses. Well, three of them at least. The Giants ranked second in the league in percentage of plays with five or more defensive backs. The Dallas Cowboys were fifth, at 59.5 percent. The Philadelphia Eagles ranked eighth, at 56.8 percent. And the Washington Redskins were the exception, ranking 24th at 43.9 percent.

The Redskins had injury issues at safety, didn't like the job Kevin Barnes was doing as their inside corner and have very good linebackers that they don't like to take off the field. But the other three teams in our division ... they love them some nickel.

Back to the Giants for a second. Just because they used extra defensive backs this much last year doesn't automatically mean they'll do it again. They're deeper and stronger at linebacker this year, and they didn't re-sign veteran safety Deon Grant. That means, if they go to those three-safety looks they've run the past couple of years, the third safety would have to be someone like Tyler Sash or Will Hill. With Thomas currently on the shelf, there's a chance they could ask safety Antrel Rolle to play the nickel corner position, but that's not ideal. Michael Coe is likely the next corner off the bench if Amukamara is pressed into a starting role, and while he's looked good in camp, he lacks experience. The Giants liked linebacker Jacquian Williams in coverage late last year and in the postseason, and it's possible they could design more packages this year that use just four defensive backs, since their 2012 strengths may lie elsewhere.

The Cowboys' ideal plan is to start Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne at cornerback with Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins backing them up. Scandrick is good in the nickel spot, and overall this plan would give them enough depth to go to the nickel as often as they like. The issue right now, of course, is that Jenkins and Claiborne are hurt, and even if they expect those guys back for the start of the season, they're probably not getting to practice those nickel looks as much as they'd like to. Or at least, not with the personnel they'd prefer to use.

As for the Eagles, they're similar to the Giants in that they're stronger at linebacker this year and subtracted one of last year's starting corners when they traded Asante Samuel. With Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as the starters, the nickel spot right now is likely to fall either to veteran Joselio Hanson or (more likely) rookie Brandon Boykin. Curtis Marsh has been getting a lot of work in camp and is the first option off the bench should one of the outside guys get hurt. And undrafted rookie Cliff Harris has a chance to make the team and add depth. Given the responsibility the Eagles' linebackers have for run support and gap control in the Wide 9, it's likely the Eagles will lean on their defensive backs as much as they did last year, and play as much nickel.

A lot of this depends on opponents, too. The Giants, Eagles and Cowboys all like to throw the ball a lot, so when they play each other they structure their defenses to stop the pass. And having teams like the Packers, Saints, Falcons, Steelers and Lions on the schedule, as NFC East teams do this year, can make teams go to the nickel more. But if we're basing it on last year alone, our teams like to use extra defensive backs as much as anyone in the entire league.

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