Promise and anticipation cloud around as the NFL Season springs anew, but as the Cowboys’ dramatic 2016 campaign opens against the division rival Giants, which toe-to-toe showdowns across the star-studded turf will seal a victory?
Tyron Smith vs Olivier Vernon:
Three straight All-Pro nods will mean next to nothing for Smith as the Cowboys 2016 campaign kicks off, having given up multiple pressures and a sack to Olivier Vernon in Dallas’ meeting with the Dolphins last year (one of the most turbulent of Smith’s career). Equally, much has been made of the pressure that comes with quarterback money and 30 QB hits in 2015 for the Giants’ new defensive end. It’s interesting to note that Vernon beat Smith with inside-out swim and spin moves last season, as well using the aggressive speed of the Cowboys left tackle against him to disengage and disrupt the run. How Smith attacks the matchup will be must-see TV.
Dez Bryant vs Janoris Jenkins:
Let’s be clear, training camp and the preseason has shown Bryant will be moved about the formation more than we’ve seen in years prior, as Scott Linehan looks to exploit match-ups across the field. But when #88 lines up across from the former Rams cover-man, what we’ll get is $132 million of contracts going toe to toe. Having found near immediate chemistry with stand-in-starter Dak Prescott, Bryant opens the regular season with the chance to run against a player who has thrown up the ‘X’ against the Cowboys in the past. Jenkins is a fluid, gambling corner always with an eye on the ball. The trouble he finds is that the dice too-often come up snake-eyes. Boasting a penchant for misreading the play, the new Giant’s style has lead to big gains and blown assignments with regularity, demonstrated below:
Morris Claiborne vs Odell Beckham Jr.:
Iron sharpens iron, steel sharpen steel, and whatever mettle Claiborne is made of Cowboys fans will be hoping it’s been left razor-edged by a training camp battle in holding his own against Dez Bryant. What has been evident from camp film as well as preseason games is much improved mirroring of receiver’s breaks and footwork, aggressive but controlled timing on the ball and, hold your breath, renewed confidence for #AirplaneMo. Despite dealing with several different injuries in the past, there was plenty of promise to take from the much-maligned LSU product in 2015, and his Week 1 performance containing OBJ will do nothing but suggest he’s up to the task again after moving to left corner. On the other side of the line, Beckham comes in as a consensus elite-tier WR, one of the more unstoppable offensive weapons in the NFL and a bonafide yards-after catch nightmare. He’ll be looking to prove all that against a team he tallied just 79 yards and zero touchdowns against last year.