The Cowboys defense will have all of their starters active for the first time this season against the Giants. The return of Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, Sean Lee and Rolando McClain has defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli excited.
The Cowboys defense has shown study improvement and we began to see flashes of what’s to come when they terrorized Tom Brady before the bye. The return of Randy Gregory adds yet another weapon to Marinelli’s arsenal of “Rush Men” and the Giants OL is suspect. Greg Hardy said the the objective of the defense is to inflict pain on opposing quarterbacks.
Eli Manning will be the first victim for this young, talented, group of pass rushers. Randy Gregory is still raw, but with limited snaps, he has shown his ability to get up the field and already has three quarterback pressures. His quickness, athletic ability and violent hands will be on full display. The attention Greg Hardy will garner should provide Gregory with some favorable one one one match-ups and I expect him to inflict some pain on Eli Manning.
Rod Marinelli will be able to get more creative with the Cowboys defense and expect him to move Hardy around to find favorable match-ups. We saw some of that creativity against the Patriots when he used a three man front and used the quickness of Rolando McClain and Sean Lee to raise havoc in the middle.
Tyrone Crawford has been one second late from blasting the quarterback on too many occasions. Not having aÂ one tech who has the ability to collapse pockets and create a pile in the middle has limited his ability to take advantage of his quickness and excellent technique. With Hardy and Gregory added to the mix, it will be a nightmare for the Giants coaches to game plan to stop the rush.
If they focus on those two, Crawford will punish Eli with pressure up the middle. If they line up Hardy next to him in the middle and Gregory on the outside, combined with blitzing McClain up the middle, Eli will become very uncomfortable because he is at his best when he can step up in to the pocket. When Eli becomes uncomfortable, he makes mistakes: namely throwing interceptions.
Greg Hardy said they want to cause pain, but don’t want to injure anyone. But, if you ask me, I think in the back of their minds, there is nothing this defense would rather do than defrock Eli Manning by knocking him out of the game as pay back for Tony Romo.
I expect the Cowboys defense to relentlessly attack Eli Manning early and try to not only rattle his cage, but force the much needed turnovers. The Giants have switched to a West Coast offenseÂ which is predicated on protecting the QB by allowing him to get rid of the ball quickly. Eli has done a good job of this, but if the secondary can hold for just a few seconds, someone is going to get to Eli.
In the absence of Tony Romo, it is going to be up to Matt Cassel to extend some drives and help to keep the defense rested. As we have seen every week, even without a full cast of starters, they were firing on all cylinders early, but worn out in the second half. If Matt Cassel can actually do that andÂ put some points on the board, I don’t only see a lot of pain in Eli Manning’s future, but interceptions and the possibility of him leaving the game on a cart.