New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys will be won in the trenches

(Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images) /

The New York Giants head to Dallas this week in search of their first victory under head coach Pat Shurmur.

There were both positive and negative takeaways from the New York Giants’ Week 1 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but nothing stood out more than the play of Big Blue’s offensive line.

The G-Men struggled both in pass protection and in creating running lanes, but they were also facing one of the best defenses in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, Big Blue’s defensive front showed plenty of promise.

However, the Giants still allowed 137 yards on the ground, and that was with Leonard Fournette sidelined for most the game with a hamstring injury. New York’s defensive front will face a much tougher test in Week 2 against the Dallas Cowboys.

New York Giants
New York Giants /

New York Giants

The battle in the trenches will have the biggest impact on the result of Sunday night’s game. Both franchises are desperate for a win, and it starts up front for both teams.

It’s no secret that Dallas has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Even without Travis Frederick, the Cowboys still boast two All-Pro talents in Zack Martin and Tyron Smith. Both cracked Pro Football Focus’ top 50 players for the 2018 season, but at least, Martin will have to deal with another player on that list.

Damon Harrison is one of the league’s best interior defensive linemen. On Sunday night, he will be lined up at nose tackle between center Joe Looney and Martin. The matchup is surely one to watch, as the Cowboys will look control the outcome with their ground game.

Harrison and second-year defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson were two of New York’s top graded defensive players in Week 1.

The G-Men will be without Olivier Vernon for a second consecutive week, making the play of Connor Barwin and Lorenzo Carter that much more important. The Giants will rotate their outside linebackers, playing Kareem Martin, Barwin, and Carter both on the right and left sides. They will need to make the most of their opportunities, something Big Blue’s front-seven struggled to do last week.

For the Giants offense, the top matchup to watch will be between All-Pro pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence and right tackle Ereck Flowers. The Giants former first-round pick was a human turnstile against Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue in Week 1. He at least has some experience playing against Lawrence but is also likely to see more snaps against Dallas’ top pass rusher than he has in any other game.

Lawrence’s natural position is left defensive end. He is likely salivating over the opportunity to play against Flowers most of Sunday night. The Giants continue to put their faith in the 6-foot-6, 334 pound offensive tackle. It has yet to pay off. But while Flowers has taken most the heat for the offensive line’s Week 1 performance, it was the whole unit that struggled.

Dave Gettleman signed Patrick Omameh to a three-year, $15 million contract this offseason. He earned the worst grade along Big Blue’s starting offensive line against Jacksonville, according to Pro Football Focus.

Nate Solder also didn’t live up to his record-breaking contract in Week 1, and both Will Hernandez and Jon Halapio are clearly still developing. They will have their hands full with Tyrone Crawford and Taco Charlton.

The Giants undoubtedly have playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. But if the offensive line can’t open running lanes for Saquon Barkley or give Eli Manning time to connect with Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard downfield, how much of an impact can Big Blue’s playmakers really have?

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That’s why this game will be won in the trenches. As Landon Collins said this week, the Giants will have a “better shot at winning” if New York’s defense can take “the air out of their running game.”

Of course, Big Blue will also have to get after Dak Prescott. They can’t expect to win if Dallas’ 25-year-old quarterback has time to make his reads and find the open receiver.

The battle in the trenches is important in every game. But Sunday’s tilt between these two NFC East rivals will come down to whoever wins up front.