Dallas Cowboys: 5 Key Players for the Season Opener Against the NY Giants
Last season the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants met in the final week of the season in a game that decided the division title. A month later, the Giants won the Super Bowl.
The NFL season kicks off tonight, with the Cowboys seeking revenge on their divisional rival Giants.
With Romo and company looking to throw the first jab at the defending champions, they will look to hand the Giants their first loss of the 2012 NFL season.
For the Cowboys to come out victorious to start their 2012 campaign, here are five key players who must have a huge game tonight.
1. DeMarcus Ware
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This is an obvious pick. With Ware dominating in almost every game that he plays in, he must have another monster game against the Giants.
The Giants will start Sean Locklear at left tackle after a solid preseason filling in for Will Beatty, who is struggling with an ailing back. This means that Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan may send Ware over Eli's way to cause a bit more pressure in the pocket.
Arguably the best pass rusher in the game today, the Cowboys must find a way for Ware to get in the pocket to disrupt Eli Manning in the pocket. Essentially, Rob Ryan and his defense must isolate Ware. This means the defensive end on Ware's side may line up wider than usual, forcing Locklear to make a decision and draw his focus away from Ware.
If the Cowboys want to disrupt Manning and his explosive weapons, it may start with DeMarcus Ware up front.
2. The Whole Offensive Line
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It's no secret that the Giants possess one of the scariest defensive lines in the NFL.
With the like of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora coming after Tony Romo, the offensive line must help Romo stay upright, as they have failed to do so in the past.
The Giants recorded nine sacks against the Cowboys last season—six of them coming from their Week 17 meeting last year.
With tight end Jason Witten listed as doubtful for the game with a lacerated spleen, Jason Garrett must find clever schemes to stop the dominating D-line of the Giants from getting to Romo.
The Cowboys must give Romo time in the pocket if this offense wants to have an efficient night and exploit the Giants' weak secondary.
3. DeMarco Murray
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The Giants defense ranked 19th against the rush last year, allowing 4.5 yard per carry and 121.3 rushing yards per game.
In eight games as the primary ball-handler last season, Murray delivered three games with more than 130 yards.
An interesting stat to note is where Murray has received at least 20 carries, the Cowboys are 5-0.
With Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett often preaching balance on offense, a strong performance by Murray would allow the Cowboys to keep Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense off the field as well as tire out the front four of the Giants defense.
4. Tony Romo
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We couldn't possibly write a Dallas Cowboys piece without including Romo right?
In all seriousness, Romo may have an opportunity to exploit the Giants secondary that was ranked 27th in the league last year if his line can give him time.
With cornerbacks Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara both sitting out the game with injury, Romo may have some favorable matchups with either Miles Austin or Dez Bryant.
ESPN New York reports that Michael Coe will get the start against the Cowboys in replacement of Amukamara.
Coe, who is 6'0" and 187 pounds, may have a tough time against the much bigger Austin and Bryant, who are both 6'2" and over 215 pounds.
Romo and his receivers may have a favorable matchup against the Giants and their secondary, and the signal-caller for the Cowboys must be on top of his game and target his weapons early on.
Tony Romo must make his reads and get rid of the ball quickly in order to avoid the ferocious Giants' pass rush.
5. New Corners: Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne
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The Cowboys spent their offseason upgrading their secondary by adding Brandon Carr and rookie Morris Claiborne. With cornerback Mike Jenkins uncertain for tonight's game, Carr and Claiborne will need to step up in order to stop the dynamic receiving duo of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
Both Carr and Claiborne are physical cornerbacks who specialize in aggressive press coverage. The newly acquired corners will have to be physical against Nicks and Cruz to disrupt their routes and make it harder for Manning to get them the ball.
Rob Ryan emphasizes creating turnovers, and both Carr and Claiborne were added to the roster because of their ability to do so. With only one forced turnover against the Giants in two games last season, the Cowboys must perform better tonight.
Utilizing plenty of bump-and-run and denying the pair of receivers a clean release off the line of scrimmage will be key to slowing down the aerial attack of the Giants.