Cowboys' pass rush at full strength just in time for Giants

IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey was like millions of other people as he watched the New York Giants play the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football, except Mincey was looking at his television a little differently.

He was studying what the Eagles did to harass Eli Manning into two interceptions and three sacks.

“They stopped a lot of his quick throws and things that get him in rhythm,” Mincey said. “It made the game really tough and also they stopped the run really well. That was the key. They limited him.”

It was the first time Manning threw more than one interception in a game since Week 2 last season. It was the first time he was sacked three times in a game this season. The Cowboys sacked Manning just once in their season-opening victory this year.

But the Cowboys’ pass rush was not at full strength for that game with Greg Hardy serving his four-game suspension. In fact, the Cowboys haven’t had their full pass rush available for a game all season, as Randy Gregory has missed the last four games with a high ankle sprain.

Gregory will return Sunday for the rematch against the Giants.

In training camp, the Cowboys were excited about a nickel pass rush in which Hardy and Tyrone Crawford lined up at tackle with DeMarcus Lawrence and Gregory at defensive end.

“Four pass-rushers getting after the quarterback? Can’t get better than that,” Lawrence said. “We keep practicing the way we practice, I feel like we’re going to be pretty good.”

In the Cowboys’ last game against the New England Patriots, they sacked Tom Brady five times. Hardy had two sacks and five quarterback hurries. McClain had nine tackles and a sack. Jack Crawford, Tyrone Crawford and Rolando McClain had the other sacks. Hardy had five quarterback hurries as well.

“The game happens faster inside,” Hardy said of his work as an interior pass rusher. “There’s a lot of detail that goes into being a tackle or a nose. But when you’re outside, you got that space, you got that freedom, you got that ability to stretch the end and at the same time collapse the pocket. That’s a unique ability and a unique opportunity.”

Hardy and Gregory spent time in Tuesdays’ meeting talking about their pass rush.

“We’re kind of setting up our rushes to kind of direct Eli to maybe where we want him to go,” Gregory said, “because we know how he likes to step up [into the pocket]. Just working the little things like that.”

Rod Marinelli’s defense is predicated on the four-man rush affecting the quarterback and creating takeaways. The Eagles did it to the Giants. The Cowboys hope to do it, too.

“Eli is an awesome quarterback, so you know he’s going to make his adjustments, so he won’t get sacked like that,” Lawrence said. “The offensive line is going to make their adjustments. They’re going to play better against us. We know that already. It’s just about us going out and doing what we’re supposed to do to get to Eli.”