Dez Bryant and Janoris Jenkins have been waiting nearly eight months to get at each other again and they will have the opportunity to do just that when the Giants visit the Cowboys this Sunday night on NBC. Bryant wants badly to redeem himself after two lackluster performances against the tough Giants defense last season and Jenkins wants to prove that his impressive performances against Bryant were no fluke.
The offseason trash talk between the two has only added fuel to the fire and the eyes of the football world will be on AT&T Stadium this Sunday night when the two lock up again.
At the moment, all bragging rights belong to Janoris Jenkins.
Jenkins had his way with Dez during their two matchups in 2016. In the season opener, a 20-19 victory for New York, Bryant only made one reception for eight yards. Many people chalked that up to Bryant and quarterback Dak Prescott, who was making his first NFL start, needing more time to get on the same page. However, in the second meeting, in December, this one a 10-7 win for the Giants, Bryant was once again held to a single reception, and this time he fumbled the ball away after he was stripped by Jenkins, who in addition to that forced fumble also intercepted a pass intended for Dez Bryant during the same game.
Jenkins was interviewed in February and he spoke about his ability to slow Bryant.
“I played better than he played,” the cornerback said. “For real, though, to be honest, when you look at film and you break down your opponents and the receivers that you’re facing, you notice what they like to do. Take away the slant and the dig, and when they get in 21 personnel and Dez is inside the numbers, you take away the corner post. He doesn’t have nothing else.”
Jenkins also mentioned that being a physical corner gives him a slight edge against Bryant because of Bryant’s lack of speed.
“Everything’s got to be a double move to get him open because he’s not fast,” Jenkins said.
The emotional Bryant got a hold of those remarks in April and took exception to them, taking to social media to express his feelings. He vowed to “embarrass” Jenkins if Jenkins plays him man-to-man next time, implying that the Giants secondary was successful against him last year because of the scheme they played. Bryant, realizing he was responding to a two-month-old story, deleted the inflammatory tweet and said he was looking forward to seeing Jenkins again.
Janoris Jenkins responded with a tweet of his own, highlighting Dez Bryant’s statistics when Jenkins was on him.
Jenkins was only stating facts, but those stats don’t completely illustrate just how dominant he was against Bryant in their two meetings in 2016.
In their Week 14 matchup, Bryant finished with nine total targets and Jenkins wasn’t the primary man in coverage on two of them. He was still the primary defender on more passes than in his opening day meeting with Bryant — this time following him into the slot.
Of course, in addition to the advanced stats, Jenkins also caused two turnovers.
It wasn’t just Bryant who struggled against the Giants defense last year. The Dallas offense, as a whole, had a difficult time getting on track. They averaged just 13 points per game in the two losses and Prescott completed only 42-of-82 passes for 392 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Ezekiel Elliott had just as tough a time on the ground, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry.
Bryant’s matchup with Jenkins is key, though. Dez, who posted three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2012-2014, has seen his production drop the last two seasons as he has been hampered by injury. He missed seven games in 2015 after breaking his foot in the season opener, and missed three games in 2016 with a hairline fracture in his knee, finishing the season third on the team with 50 receptions for 796 yards and eight scores.
He is back at full strength this year, and his quarterback, Dak Prescott, after going through his first full offseason as the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback, feels like his No. 1 wide receiver is ready to bust out again.
“I just know that makes Dez hungry,” Prescott said on Wednesday after practice. “Dez is ready to go, ready for this matchup.”
Both players and, more importantly, both teams are anxious to get the season started. There has been talk all offseason about who will rule the NFC East, with strong cases being made for both the Cowboys and the Giants. Both of these proud franchises want to set the tone for the rest of the season, and there is no better way to do just that than in the Sunday night spotlight.
[Featured Image by Michael Ainsworth/AP Images]