What to Watch For
The NFL regular season will be underway Wednesday night when the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants welcomes the Dallas Cowboys to MetLife Stadium. The division rivals ended the regular season last year with a 31-14 Giants win and will continue the rivalry tonight. Here are some things to watch out for during tonight’s game.
The NFL and the referees are in a labor dispute, meaning replacement refs will be used tonight. With it being a primetime game, the best crew of replacement refs will be assigned to the game, but even the best replacement refs are not as good as the worst regular refs. It will be something to watch for as these replacements will have to show a backbone when faced with adversity like a coach such as Tom Coughlin yelling at them at the sidelines.
Another thing that has a high chance of happening is a lot of calls being made that maybe should not have been. With being under a microscope and every move them make to be picked apart, the replacement refs are more likely to air on the side of caution then not; this could make for a very choppy game stopped by a lot of penalties as the refs try to keep control over the game. Also, the replacement refs have had trouble with the pace of the game, placing the ball on the wrong hashes and not being able to figure out first downs. With the regular season now upon us, this will have to be fixed as teams will be running two-minute drills at the end of halves and games and some teams run a no-huddle offense.
Referee crews and coaching staffs usually build a rapport with each other, something these replacements will not have the luxury of. When Ed Hochuli’s crew is working a game, you know what to expect from them; the calls they are going to make and the way they go about working the game. This in turn means you can prepare your players better. Tonight, each team will go in blind and have to just make adjustments as the game goes on.
-Giants Left Tackle (Sean Locklear) vs. DeMarcus Ware
Sean Locklear will get the start tonight at left tackle for the Giants after having a solid preseason filling in for the injured Will Beatty who is suffering from a back injury. Beatty is listed as questionable for the game tonight and could see the field as an extra blocker.
Locklear will be under the microscope tonight, as left tackle will be a position to watch all season if Beatty can not get healthy. This could develop into the biggest area of concern for the Giants, especially against someone with the talent of DeMarcus Ware.
Ware averages almost a sack a game in his career against the Giants, so holding him to none tonight would be quite the achievement for Locklear. The Giants cannot expect that to happen though, so expect the Giants to give Locklear some extra help with the pass rush. Two tight end sets are an option, as well as Ahmad Bradshaw seeing some third-down duty as he is a good pass protector.
Rush vs. Cowboys Offensive Line Giants Pass
The Giants have made Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s life miserable when they play on the field. In two games alone last year, the Giants got to Romo for nine sacks and hitting him on countless other possessions.
Jason Pierre-Paul was a monster against the Cowboys last season, accounting for two sacks, a safety, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal on a potential overtime forcing kick to secure a 37-34 Giants win.
Pierre-Paul is only one of the players the Cowboys will have to worry about, as the Giants have a three-headed monster at the defensive end position when you add in Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.
Stopping these three will be nearly impossible for the Cowboys, but one way for them to counter it is with a strong running game. If the Cowboys can get a running game going with Demarco Murray, it will slow down the vaunted Giants pass rush.
-Giants Wide Receivers vs. Cowboys Re-Vamped Defensive Backs
Last season, the defensive backfield for the Cowboys was a mess, so this season they made a point of emphasis to change that. Welcome in free agent signing Brandon Carr and first round draft pick Morris Claiborne. They will be tested right out of the gate, as the Giants employ one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL.
Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are weapons that Eli Manning will look to get the ball to early and often. Nicks and Cruz will look to continue their dominance against the Cowboys, as they combined for 25 catches, 491 yards and two touchdowns in two match-ups last season.
Carr started the trash talking earlier in the year, saying that his arrival in
there will be no more salsa dancing for Cruz.
That is more bulletin board material for Cruz and the Giants, as if they
needed any more of a reason to be fired up for an opening night game against a
-Giants Defensive Backs vs. Cowboy Receivers
The Giants defensive secondary suffered major blows during training camp, losing starting corner back after starting corner back. First, Terrell Thomas was lost for the season after re-aggravating his torn left ACL in the first week of practice. In the second game of the preseason, rookie Jayron Hosley suffered a turf toe injury and was put in a walking boot. Game three of the preseason the Giants saw Prince Amukamara, expected to step up this season by Giants personnel, hurt his ankle and be put on the shelf for a few weeks.
This means that veteran but sparingly used Michael Coe will be starting opposite of Corey Webster. Coe will be asked to take on the monumental task of slowing down either Dez Bryant or Miles Austin. Coe will have his hands full, but at the same time as a great opportunity to show the Giants that he is a player worth keeping around.
All of the injuries also mean that covering the slot could be a potential problem for the Giants. Safety Antrel Rolle may have to come up in coverage, unless the Giants feel comfortable enough using rookie safety Will Hill or Hosley. The job of these cornerbacks will become that much easier if the Giants front seven is able to get the pass rush they are capable of getting.