The Dallas Cowboys are about to kick off the 2019 season as they take on the Giants. With every game of the season there will be things to watch. Here are 5 things to watch for in week 1.
1. Kellen Moore’s Play-Calling
Kellen Moore has gone from backup quarterback to coach to offensive coordinator in a short amount of time. He is getting his first opportunity to call plays in an NFL game this week against the Giants. With Ezekiel Elliot back, he’ll have all the tools he needs to get the offense rolling.
Moore’s first test will be going up against a Giants’ defense that is not projected to be very good. They allowed 118.6 yards per game on the ground. With Elliot back, they should be able to eclipse that. The Giants are also projected to have below-average linebackers. The secondary will have a rookie corner in Deandre Baker. This defense presents the perfect chance for Moore to get his feet wet calling plays, which could give fans clues on how he will call games later in the season.
2. Ezekiel Elliot Usage
Elliot has finally signed a contract extension that has made him the highest-paid running back in NFL history. After holding out though, there is a chance that he is rusty. He is healthy, which is the most important thing, but it could take a game or two to get him going.
With the Giants’ defense not expected to provide much resistance, it will be interesting to see how many carries Elliot gets for a few reasons. He hasn’t been with the team, which means they may slowly bring him back. The Cowboys seemingly like both Tony Pollard and Alfred Morris as well. Moore calling plays will also likely change how Elliot is used in this game.
3. Can Saquon be Stopped?
Saquon Barkley took the league by storm as a rookie for the Giants. After they traded away Odell Beckham Jr., Barkley is the only premier playmaker on the New York offense. Even newly acquired Golden Tate is out for the opener after testing positive for PEDs. Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram could make some plays, but certainly, aren’t on the same level as Barkley. This means it is absolutely necessary for the Cowboys to stop Barkley to win the game.
The Cowboys will need to stack the box against Barkley to make sure he doesn’t have any running room. Their talented linebacker group which includes Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith should make that easier. If they can do that, it will force Eli Manning to beat them with his arm, which is something the Cowboys can live with. Barkley will also need to be picked up in the passing game as he is a threat there. Stacking the box and knowing where Barkley is on passing plays should help them really slow down the Giants.
4. Does Dak’s Contract Situation Change the Way he Plays?
The Cowboys have locked up a lot of there players this offseason. Jaylon Smith, La’el Collins and Elliot have all signed new deals with the team. There are still three notable players that don’t have long-term contracts. They are: Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones. With Prescott being the quarterback, it is imperative that he plays well. Could the contract situation throw him off his game?
In the first game of the season against the Giants, his game shouldn’t change. He will hand the ball off to Elliot a lot, get some good play-action passes in and move the chains with his feet with necessary. In the past players have been motivated by playing in the last year of their contract, but it also hasn’t worked out for other players. If Prescott sticks to the gameplan and doesn’t try to do too much, the contract situation will take care of itself after a successful season.
5. Jason Witten’s Return
Jason Witten retired after the 2017 season and joined the crew of Monday Night Football. The critics didn’t like him as a color commentator, but that may have been because his heart was still on the field. He decided to return to the Cowboys for the 2019 season, which is likely a blessing, as the Cowboys were not able to adequately replace him last season.
Prescott rightfully used Witten as a security blanket in his first two seasons in the league. He has his outside receiver in Amari Cooper and even a solid slot receiver in Randall Cobb, but Witten can help Cobb be a new easy target over the middle now that Cole Beasley is in Buffalo. Witten is one of the all-time greats, but it will be interesting to see how much he has left in the tank.