The Big Mac Blog

Cowboys legend issues warning for defense

The Dallas Cowboys could not beat the New York Giants in either meeting in 2016, thus making them a miserable matchup for the season opener in 2017.

“It was the absolute perfect, ideal matchup for the Cowboys,” Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor member and former safety Darren Woodson told me in a phone interview.

As Jerry Jones would say, “Do what?”

“Their offensive line was perfect for the Cowboys,” Woodson said.

The biggest weakness for the Giants in the off-season was their offensive line, and they did nothing to improve it. It was awful against the Cowboys.

What Woodson is saying is slooooooooow down on the “Cowboys’defense is fixed” narrative.

Among the many fears for the Cowboys in Week 1 was a defensive line with no established pass rusher, and missing suspended linemen David Irving and Damontre Moore.

Against the Giants, Tank Lawrence had the best game of his life and consistently ate up whoever was in front of him. He finished with two sacks, and was the consistent full-throttle, off-the-edge rusher the team needs. He played as well as he looked.

Overall, the Giants finished with a 2.9-yard-per-carry average, and quarterback Eli Manning was sacked three times. He was hit a handful of other times, and harassed throughout. In short, he was bad.

He was bad because his offensive line was weak. He was bad because the Cowboys’ defensive line was much better than feared.

However, as far as believing this one game is an indicator of the season ahead, don’t.

“They were good, but that was the perfect team for them,” Woodson said.

In hindsight, maybe the Giants were not the bad matchup we all feared for the Cowboys. The Giants beat the Cowboys by one point in Week 1 last season, when Dak Prescott was making his first NFL start.

The Giants beat the Cowboys again, on December 11 in a frigid night game in New Jersey. And they won by three points.

Week 1 of 2017 was totally different. The Cowboys dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage.

In Week 1 Sunday night, Tank looked like the edge rusher this team needs. If he’s that good all season, the Cowboys have a pass rusher other teams have to account for on every snap.

He’s lost weight, after playing most of last season in considerable pain. To the point where he struggled getting out of bed. Two years ago he had eight sacks. Now he’s in his fourth season, a contract year. Weird things happen in contract seasons.

“If you are thinking he’s going to be a 14- or 15-sack guy, I don’t know about that,” Woodson said. “Now an eight, or nine, or 10 guy? I think he could do that.”

Woodson is not entirely sold that after one game the Cowboys defense is as good as it looked against the Giants.

“They have guys but can they make plays? The one thing about that defense is they play hard,” Woodson said. “[Defensive coordinator] Rod Marinelli always, always gets those guys to play hard. So they may not always have the most talent, but they always play hard.”

The Cowboys defensive line is off to the best of starts, but Woodson is simply warning us that maybe the Giants offensive line is just that bad.

If Tank and friends do it again Sunday in Denver, maybe we won’t have to slow down as much.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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