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Cowboys vs Giants, Week 1: Game Plan Articles

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I’ve been posting some game plan articles for Dallas heading into Week 1, the first at Dallas News:

Target Corey Webster

Webster was a quality corner a few years ago, but he’s been really poor in the past two seasons. Last year, Webster allowed 10.3 YPA—one of the worst marks in the NFL. That included a Week 1 thrashing from Dallas during which Webster was targeted six times, allowing five catches for 127 yards and a touchdown.

Opposing quarterbacks have been picking on Webster since 2011, when he was targeted an incredible 130 times. In comparison, Brandon Carr was targeted 87 times in 2012 and Morris Claiborne just 69.

The Giants will likely place Prince Amukamara over top of Dez Bryant. The Cowboys should basically force the ball to Bryant no matter what, but he’ll be involved in one heck of a mismatch of Webster is on him.

It will be interesting to see if the Giants continue a trend they’ve shown against Dallas over the past couple seasons—playing Cover 2 Man Under. In my opinion, that defense—with two deep safeties and man coverage underneath—is the best way to stop Dallas. It’s really the only way to effectively double-team Bryant and it could force the Cowboys to remain patient with the running and quick passing games.



This morning, I published a bunch of DOs and DON’Ts for Dallas in this game:

DO work Jason Witten underneath.

I’ve gone on record as arguing that Witten’s play is declining (and has been for a few years), but it was difficult to spot last season since he had so many targets. Even though I’m bearish on Witten, I think he can play a huge role in this contest.

Cover2manunder_crop_exact

The reason is Cover 2 Man-Under—a defense the Giants love to play against Dallas. Actually, the Giants have played it on as many as 57.1 percent of their snaps in a single game. So what’s Cover 2 Man-Under? Take a look.

As the name suggests, the defenses utilizes a Cover 2 shell with two deep safeties, but man coverage instead of zone coverage underneath. It’s really effective at defending outside receivers, particularly deep. When Dez Bryant runs downfield, he’ll effectively be double-teamed.

Well, one of the best ways to beat Cover 2 Man-Under is with the tight end. If the Giants are going to focus on Dez Bryant, which is extremely likely, Witten should be able to take advantage of man coverage over the middle of the field. Look for Witten to rack up a ton of receptions on out and hitch routes; 64.7 percent of his 2012 routes were one of those two.

And I also took another look at the Cowboys’ changing running game:

Some teams can win games when rushing often—namely teams that run the read-option—but the Cowboys aren’t one of them. They win more frequently when theypass the ball early and often. Actually, it’s that way for the average NFL team too. Check this out:

Runpassbalance_original

Year in and year out, we see the same thing: the best passing teams are the best teams period.

Having said that, it’s still important for the Cowboys to run the ball effectively. And while offensive coordinator Bill Callahan might or might not bring a more balanced early-game approach to Dallas, it’s clear from watching the preseason games that the Cowboys’ approach to running the football has shifted dramatically.

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