Winless Giants enter with downtrodden Dallas driven to find ‘D’
The running joke is that there is no “D” in Dallas, but the the state of the Cowboys’ defense is no laughing matter.
It’s serious business considering Dallas has surrendered a franchise-worst 146 points over the first four games of the season.
The Cowboys (1-3) look to repair their ailing defense on Sunday when they host the New York Giants (0-4) in a battle of struggling NFC East teams in Arlington, Texas.
Owner Jerry Jones said he’s holding off on any changes and wants to “stay the course.”
“They need to basically execute the scheme and the plan and … trust the plan,” Jones said of his defensive coaching staff and personnel. “Trust the scheme. You hear that all the time — just trust the play, trust your preparation, trust the play. And that can be challenging if you’ve got a new system, and we certainly have a new system. But there’s other clubs that have new systems, too, especially over on the defensive side of the ball. So, I think we will trust our schemes better.”
The sheer numbers are staggering. Dallas is allowing an NFL-worst 36.5 points per game, a league third-worst 430.5 total yards per contest and 172.5 on the ground, which trails only the winless Houston Texans (181.8).
Cowboys new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan saw his team hemorrhage a franchise-high 307 rushing yards in its 49-38 loss to Cleveland last Sunday.
While defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was quick to label Dallas’ performance as “soft,” head coach Mike McCarthy went against sounding the alarm on Wednesday.
“I just think it’s part of football. I mean I think it’s anytime you have a transition whether it’s a scheme or technique. I think those are the natural hurdles you have to get over,” McCarthy said. “We’re all disappointed that we’re not over those hurdles with more consistency.”
Cowboys safety Xavier Woods stressed communication with his teammates while speaking to reporters on Wednesday.
“That’s the bottom line: All get on one page, communicate,” Woods said. “When we’re talking about breakdowns, communication, us not lining up correctly or us not seeing things between two people the same way. If one’s wrong and the rest is right, then we’re all wrong.”
While the Cowboys’ defense has allowed numbers that boggle the mind, the same can be said for statistics put forth by quarterback Dak Prescott.
Prescott is on pace to shatter Peyton Manning’s single-season passing record by nearly 1,300 yards. His 1,690 passing yards through the first four games are 133 more than the previous record total of Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, who set the mark when he played with the then-St. Louis Rams in 2000.
Prescott completed 41 of 58 passes for a career-high 502 yards on Sunday to become the first player in NFL history to throw for 450 yards or more in three consecutive games.
On the flipside, New York’s sputtering offense — under former Dallas coach and now Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett — is one of many reasons why the winless club resides in the cellar of the moribund NFC East. New York is averaging a paltry 11.8 points per game, which is a full 4.5 behind the next closest team.
A sliver of optimism has come to pass from New York’s beleaguered rushing attack, which saw the combination of Devonta Freeman, Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman record 14 carries for 91 yards (6.5 yards per carry) in the second half of a 17-9 setback to the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday.
Giants coach Joe Judge is excited to see his team play in front of fans after it competed in empty stadiums in each of the first four weeks of the season.
“There’s a different kind of energy home and away, but I think both energies really add to the atmosphere and add to the environment,” Judge said. “I’m looking forward to playing Dallas this week. It’s a bonus that there are going to be fans there as well. That’s just added incentive to it.”
The Giants could also see the return of safety Jabrill Peppers, who was limited in Wednesday’s practice after missing last week’s game versus the Rams with an ankle injury.
Safety Adrian Colbert (neck) and linebacker Kyler Fackrell (neck) were also limited, while linebacker Oshane Ximines (shoulder) did not practice on Wednesday.
As for Dallas, left tackle Tyron Smith (neck), defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford (ankle), defensive end Dorance Armstrong (knee) and center Joe Looney (knee) did not practice on Wednesday.
Lawrence (knee) and cornerback Trevon Diggs (shoulder/knee) were listed on the injury report but had a full practice.
–Field Level Medi