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Cowboys hope to rebound with Cassel under center

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IRVING, Tex. — It’s quarterback Matt Cassel to the rescue for the Dallas Cowboys.

He has replaced Brandon Weeden and will look to jump-start the Cowboys offense and end their three-game losing streak Sunday against the New York Giants.

The Cowboys need a win to even their record at 2-3 and continue to keep their season afloat until the injured Tony Romo comes back Nov. 22.

Cassel began practicing with the first-team offense during the bye week and is continuing to immerse himself in the offense.

“My comfort level with the guys has been great,” he said. “Last week I think with the bye week, having two extra days of practice, was very helpful, actually getting in there and getting some rhythm with those guys. Now it’s just about building each and every day leading up to the game.

“I think so far, so good. I haven’t had much work with them, but at the same time I think this is a veteran group and they’re doing a really good job.”

Cassel, 33, is more experienced and more accurate than Weeden. The Cowboys believe he will take more chances and go down field to make opponents pay for the eight-man fronts they are using to stop the Cowboys’ running game.

“I think there’s a lot to like about him,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s physically capable of doing anything we ask him to do. He’s a big guy, he moves around, he can make any throw we could ask him to make, he’s a veteran player.

“He has good command of the offense in a short period of time. You can tell he’s been in a lot of different offenses. He understands offensive football, he understands defensive football. We’re just excited to see him play. He’s done a nice job in the practice work he’s gotten here in the last few days.”

Cassel is spending this week trying to get on the same page with his receivers and build that trust.

“It comes down to the small things and details in routes and basically just finding ways for Matt to throw you the ball, because he’s a great quarterback, a great leader,” receiver Terrance Williams said. “Whenever you present a presentable, throwable target, the ball will come to you perfect.

“We have to find ways to get open and present him a great target.”

SERIES HISTORY: 107th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 62-42-2. Dallas has won five straight in the series, including sweeps in 2013 and 2014. A win Sunday would give the Cowboys their third straight season sweep in the series.

GAME PLAN

–The Cowboys will use Christian Michael more to help bolster the running game against a Giants defense that ranks sixth in the league. That ranking is skewed because New York ranks 30th against the pass, giving up 298.5 yards per game. This is where the Cowboys need quarterback Matt Cassel to make a difference in his first start in place of the failed Brandon Weeden. Make plays down field against a suspect Giants pass defense and help open up running lanes for the ground game.

Defensively, the Cowboys must stop the run and then get after quarterback Eli Manning. The Giants’ offensive line is struggling. Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory and Tyrone Crawford should feast up front.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Cowboys DE Greg Hardy vs. Giants Ts Marshall Newhouse and Ereck Flowers.

Newhouse was nothing but a turnstile in the Giants loss to the Eagles Monday night. He offered little resistance to the onslaught of pass rushers. The rookie Flowers is overmatched and will need help. Now they get to face a hungry, fresh and motivated Hardy on Sunday. It should be no contest. Hardy had two sacks and five pressures in his first game against the Patriots two weeks ago.

–Giants WR Odell Beckham vs. Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne.

Beckham is listed as probable for the game, but he has been slowed by a hamstring injury. If the Giants have any hope of success, they need Beckham to have a dominant performance. Claiborne has been the Cowboys’ best defensive back and will draw the assignment against Beckham. He needs to be fast and physical with his fellow LSU alumnus.


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