EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The New York Giants are very aware of one thing. They are facing one of the best teams in the NFC in the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, posing an enormous challenge to a struggling defense.
The Cowboys enter the game clicking on all cylinders. They have the fourth-best offense in the entire league and the top rushing attack, keyed by the NFL's leading rusher, DeMarco Murray. Quarterback Tony Romo is enjoying one of his better seasons, completing 68.6 percent of his passes for 1,510 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Needless to say, the 5-1 Cowboys, winners of five straight, pose a gigantic challenge for the Giants' defense which did nothing to stop Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy last week. McCoy finished with a season-best 149 yards rushing against the Giants in the Eagles' dominating 27-0 shutout.
"The way they run the ball with Murray and the way Romo is making plays. They have threats all over the place," Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "They have a really balanced offense. They're a pretty good team and present a very big challenge to us."
Jenkins believes that this year's Cowboys team could be the most balanced — running and passing — that he's seen.
"They were really good in '07, but this team is as good, if not better," Jenkins said. "They keep moving the chains (getting first downs)."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin hopes that his team can recover from the tough loss to the Eagles.
"They spread the ball around well. They have good football players," Coughlin said. "We have to go out and play the best we can with the players we have."
The Giants will have middle linebacker Jon Beason, who has seemed to recover enough from his foot and toe issues to be able to play Sunday. They might not have top cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who is battling a back and hamstring issue.
Beason, who hurt his foot during the organized team activities during the summer, requiring surgery, returned to action last week in a limited fashion after missing three straight games. Beason practiced Thursday and plans on playing Sunday.
"I'm still limited, but it's on the backburner," said Beason, who has 11 tackles in four games this season. "I'm ready to go on Sunday. I'm going to do my job and do it hard."
Coughlin said the Giants need Beason's presence on the field.
"He feels better and the coaches feel better about him being out there," Coughlin said. "He just has to get back and be the player we know he can be. His energy and enthusiasm is the same as it always was."
Beason knows that the Cowboys will represent the best team the Giants have faced this year.
"We can't give up 200 yards rushing like we did (against the Eagles)," Beason said. "We have to have a short memory and come back this week."
Rodgers-Cromartie said that he was "about 60 percent" healthy after Thursday's practice, which isn't a good sign for the Giants. Rodgers-Cromartie did not practice at all due to the injury.
"I think I can just show up Sunday and play," Rodgers-Cromartie said. If he plays, he will get the assignment of trying to stop the explosive Dez Bryant. "This injury is totally new to me, so I don't know what to expect."
Giants defensive end Robert Ayers said his team can't worry about what the Cowboys are trying to do, and must avoid stupid mistakes.
"We got beat up good last week, but there's no dark cloud hanging over us. If we get a win, no one is talking about the loss," he said. "We can play with anybody if we all do our job."
Whatever the case, the Giants know that they need to enter next week's bye week in a positive manner.
"We don't want to sit around all week with a sour taste in our mouths," Jenkins said. "We have to move from last week and concentrate on getting after Romo."
NOTES: Before practice, the Giants were all given instructions on handle the Ebola virus if they happen to come across a carrier. ... RB Rashad Jennings, nursing a sprained knee, is definitely out of Sunday's game and will not travel with the team. That leaves the brunt of the Giants rushing chores on the shoulders of rookie Andre Williams. ... LB Spencer Paysinger (hamstring) was limited in practice Thursday.