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Cowboys 2024 opponent preview: X-factors for the New York Giants

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Cowboys 2024 opponent preview: X-factors for the New York Giants

All eyes are on the New York Giants as they are featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks, giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the Dallas Cowboys’ rival. The Giants have a lot of significant changes to address as they hope to challenge Dallas for the NFC East title. New York lost star player Saquon Barkley to the Philadelphia Eagles, removing a major explosive piece from the offensive attack. Furthermore, their backfield has another, more expensive question mark in Daniel Jones.

Jones, tabbed the successor of Eli Manning, has dealt with injuries and inconsistent play. Yet, the Giants rewarded Jones with a new contract with a $40M annual salary. Defensively, Brian Daboll and Don Martindale couldn’t find common ground, so the latter departed the team. New York wants to prove that their 2022 season, that resulted in a playoff win, wasn’t a flash in the pan and see if they can keep pace in the division. Here are the X factors for the Giants that could be a problem for the Cowboys in either of their two regular season meetings.

Opponent: New York Giants

2023 record: 6-11 (3rd place in the NFC East)

Date(s) on the schedule: Week 4, Sept 15th & Week 13, Nov 28th (Thanksgiving)

Daniel Jones, Quarterback

Syndication: The Record

Tariq Zehawi/NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Giants’ success largely hinges on whether Daniel Jones can stay on the field and be effective. The Giants were rumored to have their sights set on other quarterbacks in this year’s draft and were linked to prospects like J.J. McCarthy. The team stood pat and went elsewhere. What remains to be seen is if Jones can stand on his own. For a time, Barkley was a crutch for Jones and the offense, relying on Barkley to intermittently produce a huge play for an otherwise anemic offense.

Without Barkley, it’s Jones’ time to step up. Daboll has overseen the development of Josh Allen and superficially, Jones has similar traits. Jones has an adequate arm and above-average mobility. Surrounding Jones is a solid foundation for wide receivers. The Giants have added speed to their receiving corps over the past few seasons, including Jaylin Hyatt, Wan’Dale Robinson, and one of the top receiving prospects in the nation in the form of Malik Nabers.

The Giants have also attempted to reinvest in their offensive line. When healthy, Andrew Thomas is one of the better tackles in the league. Center John Michael Schmitz was taken in last year’s draft to solidify the middle of the pocket for Jones. Although Jones has a $22.2M cap hit if cut after this season, 2024 feels like his last stand with the organization. Yet, if he can develop some semblance of consistency from the pocket and stay upright, it would do wonders for the Giants, given their receivers.

Evan Neal, Offensive tackle

NFL: New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of the offensive line, we have to spotlight Evan Neal. How Neal has failed thus far in his career is troubling. Taken with the seventh overall pick in 2022, the massive offensive tackle (6’8 “, 350 lbs.) was considered the other pillar of the Giants offensive line opposite Andrew Thomas. Sadly, Neal was abysmal last season, surrendering 29 quarterback pressures and posting a PFF rating of 39.8

The situation feels like a dreadful callback to Ereck Flowers. Complicating matters, Neal hasn’t done himself any favors with the fans. Following some harsh yet warranted critiques of his performance last season, Neal delivered some unfavorable comments:

“The person that’s commenting on my performance, what does he do? Flip hot dogs and hamburgers somewhere? … Most critics really don’t understand the game of football to the level that we understand it in this building. So why would a lion concern himself with the opinion of a sheep? I’m just going to focus on Evan — and getting better. ”

That said, it’s not too late for Neal to get better, and even steady play amplifies the Giants’ chances of competing with the Cowboys.

For the Giants to threaten the Cowboys, things are going to have to fall in their favor, and their biggest questions need viable answers. Again, it’s a major ask for Neal to suddenly become on par with Thomas, but if he can trend upward, it’s a big boost to Big Blue and possibly the biggest x-factor to decide the success of their 2024 season.

Jason Pinnock, Safety

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Initially a fifth-round pick of the New York Jets and projected as a cornerback, Pinnock has found a home for himself with the Giants, transitioning to safety. Furthermore, it would be easy for Pinnock to get lost among New York’s defenders and become a face in the crowds among Kayvon Thibodeaux, Bobby Okereke, and newly acquired Brian Burns. However, Pinnock had an outstanding season in 2023.

Last season, he was fourth on the team, with 85 tackles, including two interceptions and one score over 16 games. Pinnock was also terrific in coverage as he surrendered 24 receptions for 284 yards, recorded two interceptions, and broke up five passes while allowing a passer rating of just 79.4. Dak Prescott likes attacking the middle of the field against New York, but with Pinnock patrolling the back end of the Giants’ defense, it will be more challenging than it has in years past.


Previous X-factor recaps:

Week 1, Cleveland Browns
Week 2, New Orleans Saints
Week 3, Baltimore Ravens

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