Breaking Down the Importance of DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin to Dallas Cowboys
According to Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas:
Speaking before the team's kickoff luncheon at Cowboys Stadium on Tuesday, [DeMarcus] Ware said he practiced the last two days and was good to go. When asked if there is any doubt whether he would play against the Giants, [Miles] Austin said "no."
This comes as both refreshing and relieving news for Cowboys fans, because Ware and Austin are obviously two of Big D's most crucial playmakers.
Now include this game being against their bitter NFC East rival and it also comes as no surprise. Dallas certainly needs both to begin the season 1-0 and especially within the division.
Here, we break down the impact each provides for both sides of the ball.
Cowboys Pass Rush vs. Giants Pass Protection
After all, Manning did throw for a career-high 4,933 yards in 2011 and diced up Big D for 746 yards and five touchdowns to only one pick in both contests.
In addition, Manning was only sacked twice between the two games and hit just a total of nine times.
Unsurprisingly, the Giants won each and racked up 68 points in the process.
This time around, Ware has to draw a constant double-team. We know he'll apply pressure on his own and potentially recorded two or three sacks. That, however, won't be enough.
Ware must also attract the attention of any running back staying in for additional protection, This will then put guys like Anthony Spencer, rookie Tyrone Crawford and Jason Hatcher against one-on-one blocks.
The theme here is to get a more all-encompassed pass rush along with Ware. Yes, he's a beast and will wreck quite a bit of havoc by himself. Nevertheless, it's astronomically easier for an offensive line to adjust to one dominant rusher as opposed to multiple.
In short, the more established Ware can make Spencer and Co. appear, the greater competitive edge Dallas has up front.
Sole Impact of DeMarcus Ware
With 99.5 career sacks and finishing 2011 with 19.5, DeMarcus Ware's production greatly affects the rest of Dallas' defense.
Against the Giants he has to anticipate getting double-teamed quite often and a chip block from a releasing tight end or running back as well. Big Blue must attempt every type of blocking scheme to slow him down anyway, otherwise Ware will have a field day.
In that case, Ware must take each down as a chess move.
His quickness at the snap obviously beats a one-on-one block around the edge, so utilizing that initial step to dart inside creates a whole new set of problems for New York. Ware is an obvious outside rusher and it's reasonable to suspect a running back helping on the edge.
However, dipping inside and mixing up the rush technique forces Eli Manning outside of the pocket. He's not a mobile quarterback and pressuring the interior is attacking the Giants strength.
As long as the Cowboys compensate with Hatcher, Crawford or Spencer to the outside then Manning will be inside a convoy of Dallas rushers. Also, any time a running back tries to leak out of the backfield Ware must alter his course.
Recognizing the screens, checkdowns and swing passes takes away a quick read for Manning and simply assists those in coverage.
Ware has to pressure Manning from all over in the front seven, but isolating New York's ground game is the first step since Big Blue's receivers are so dangerous off play-action.
Cowboys Passing Game vs. Giants Pass Defense
If there's one area where the Cowboys can beat the Giants it's through the air.
Tony Romo is coming off his best season and Dallas does present the explosiveness to set the tone and pull away.
Not to mention the Giants did allow 255 passing yards per game in 2011 (ranked No. 29) and Romo sliced them for 610 yards and six touchdowns to only one pick.
So, we know Romo has the ability to play on Manning's level regardless of his receivers. Still, Miles Austin certainly plays a major role for the Cowboys.
He'll have to become Romo's favorite target even against double coverage and accumulate lots of yards after the catch. The Giants still present a ridiculous pass rush to disrupt any timing and rhythm, so Austin won't be going incredibly deep in Week 1.
Quick slants, bubble screens and drags against the grain will suffice so he avoids a safety playing over the top. Dez Bryant isn't nearly as well-established, therefore, keeping him in single coverage situations bodes well when attempting to strike downfield.
The stronger of a passing attack Dallas presents, the more effective DeMarco Murray will be on the ground. New York allowed 121.3 rushing yards per game last season and allowed 4.5 yards per carry.
This potential balanced effort, though, can only happen with Austin contributing over the middle. It forces the linebackers to recognize the intermediate threat and reduces their focus at reacting quicker to the running game.
Stretch/Spread the Defense for Miles
When totally healthy, Miles Austin has top-10 receiver potential.
His breakout season of 2009 displayed Austin's true capabilities and the 2010 campaign wasn't bad either.
Between both seasons he combined for 2,361 yards and 18 scores on 150 receptions.
Presenting great size at 6'2", 217 pounds, Austin has proven to draw double coverage, consistently dominant against single coverage and make plays after the catch. Averaging 15.6 yards per catch for his career, Austin's bread and butter is the intermediate level and getting upfield.
So, New York must honor his ability to find the soft spot between the zones with a nickel/dime package and roll a safety down while blitzing an inside linebacker. The downside of this leaves a cover 1/3 safety on an island if Austin runs a post or deep curl.
Also, as one of the more difficult receivers to tackle, any man coverage with zone help won't entirely slow Austin down. The best opportunity, however, is playing semi-press coverage with inside leverage to use the boundary as an extra defender while cover 2 is over top.
Fortunately for Dallas, Austin possesses the strength to create immediate separation and he's quicker than fast when given space.
The more situations where he's put inside with that size advantage and given chances downfield off play-action, the increased odds Big D has in getting a big Week 1 victory.
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