Cowboys' five things to watch: Revamped secondary looking for revenge on Giants for last season

Posted Tuesday, Sep. 04, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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1Cowboys pass defense

In the past six games against the Cowboys -- five of them victories -- Eli Manning averaged 333 passing yards and 2.5 touchdowns. He passed for 746 and five touchdowns in the two victories last season. To that end, the Cowboys signed Brandon Carr in free agency and traded up in the draft to get Morris Claiborne. They expect to shore up a secondary that allowed the second- and third-most passing yards in team history over the past two seasons.

2Banner raising

The Kickoff Game was conceived after 9/11 as a way to boost economic recovery in New York and Washington. It turned into a huge success, and the defending Super Bowl champion now hosts the game -- and a pregame concert -- traditionally on the Thursday (but Wednesday this season) after Labor Day. Defending Super Bowl champions are 8-0 in the game after unveiling their banner and celebrating the previous year's championship one last time.

3Protecting Romo

The Giants have not been kind to Cowboys quarterbacks, with 25 sacks the past nine games. (The Giants are 7-2 in those games.) In 2010, Giants linebacker Michael Boley ended Tony Romo's season with a vicious hit up the middle that broke Romo's left clavicle. The Cowboys shored up the interior of their offensive line by signing guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings in free agency, but Bernadeau, Livings and center Phil Costa all had injuries during the summer that prevented the three from playing in a preseason game together.

4Run, DeMarco, run

DeMarco Murray, a third-round draft pick in 2011, proved he can carry the load. He set a team record with 253 yards in his first start and finished with 897 yards and two touchdowns on 164 carries before fracturing his right ankle against the Giants in December. He will run behind one of the best fullbacks in football in Lawrence Vickers, who has blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher four times in his six NFL seasons.

5Cowboys vs. the division

The Cowboys haven't won the division since 2009 because they haven't been good in the division. Philadelphia and the Giants have made the Cowboys miserable the past two years. Dallas is only 5-7 against the NFC East over the past two years combined. The last time the Cowboys had a winning record against NFC East teams was in 2009. (The Cowboys also have a seven-game losing streak on NBC.)

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