W2W4: Giants vs. Cowboys, 8:30 p.m.
September, 5, 2012
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com
The season opener is finally here. Let the title defense begin with five things to watch for:
To the left, to the left: The Giants will start Sean Locklear at left tackle after a solid preseason filling in for Will Beatty.
Beatty is listed as questionable but could play tonight as an extra blocker. It will be important to see how Locklear holds up at left tackle, which could be a serious area of concern for the Giants since Beatty's back could be an issue all season long.
My guess is that the Giants will give Locklear help when DeMarcus Ware comes knocking. The Giants may use two-tight-end sets with Bear Pascoe and Martellus Bennett. Also, Ahmad Bradshaw is good at pass protecting and could be an option on third downs to protect Eli Manning.
Salsa time: Victor Cruz meets salsa hater Brandon Carr. Remember, it was Carr who said no more salsa dancing now that he is in Dallas. The Cowboys spent their offseason upgrading their secondary by adding Carr and Morris Claiborne.
Will it be enough to stop Cruz? ESPN Stats and Info points out that Cruz led the league in receiving yards on third down (698), yards after catch (371) and 30-plus-yard plays (7). Cruz had 27 third-down receptions, 22 of which went for first downs -- despite being targeted only 36 times -- 15th-most in the NFL.
Consider this: He got even more time to work on his bond with Manning during training camp and minicamp with Hakeem Nicks on the mend from toe surgery. Nicks is expected to play tonight and he should be fine. While Nicks might need some time to get his wind and timing back, I expect Manning to look for Cruz often.
Manning time: Eli opens the season in his prime and more confident than ever. And he is facing the Dallas Cowboys, a team that he has had great success against.
In 15 regular season games against the Cowboys, Manning has thrown 31 touchdowns, his most against any opponent, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Stats and Info points out that Manning threw three of his five touchdowns against the Cowboys last season when facing five or more pass rushers, with no interceptions. Manning also led the NFL last season with 18 touchdown passes against such pressure.
Coe-sign? Veteran Michael Coe will get the start opposite Corey Webster at cornerback and he'll be on the hot seat. He will have to cover Dez Bryant or Miles Austin quite a bit, and that is a handful. And when Miles or another Cowboy is in the slot, safety Antrel Rolle might have to cover the slot unless the Giants go with rookie Will Hill or Jayron Hosley.
Kenny Phillips said Coe had the best showing of all those in the secondary during OTAs and minicamp. This is Coe's shot to prove he can start. Prince Amukamara hopes to return against Tampa Bay in Week 2, but we still don't know how Amukamara will be as the starter, either. All eyes will be on Coe tonight.
Release the Kraken: Jason Pierre-Paul was an absolute monster last year against Dallas. He recorded two sacks, a safety, a forced fumble and blocked a potential overtime-forcing field goal to secure a 37-34 win in Dallas on Dec. 11.
The Cowboys will have to find a way to counter the three-headed pass rush of JPP, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, who are healthy and looking for a "Hip Hop Hooray" party tonight against the Cowboys.
Of course, in order to unleash his pass rushers on Tony Romo, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell must be able to stop the run and the explosive DeMarco Murray. Remember, the Giants' defense is thin inside without Chris Canty (PUP list). But Fewell's deep linebacking corps should help.
What are you all looking for tonight against the Cowboys?