EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - The New York Giants are ready to play the Cowboys whether Ezekiel Elliott plays for Dallas or not.
After practicing on Monday for the season opener in Dallas, many of the Giants had a feeling Elliott will end his holdout and have a new contract by the weekend. They believe the NFL’s leading rusher in two of his three seasons in the league will play against them Sunday.
“We’re just focused on us, really,” linebacker Alex Ogletree said. “We have to be prepared for whoever shows up to play. If he’s there, we’ll be prepared for him. If he’s not, we also have to be prepared for the other guys. We just have to focus on what we need to do versus worrying about their situation as much.”
The Cowboys beat the Giants (5-11) twice last season, the second time in the regular-season finale when Dallas coach Jason Garrett rested Elliott and two of his top linemen before starting the playoffs. Elliott had rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown in the second game of the season, a 20-13 Cowboys victory in Dallas.
“We’re going to play defense the way we have to play to defend the Cowboys,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “Certainly if Zeke is there, you have to spend special attention (on him). They have some running backs that have done well in camp that they feel good about. We have to play good team defense, regardless of who’s playing against us. There’s no telling who they’re going to line up with at this point.”
Shurmur says the Cowboys have a couple of good backups in rookie Tony Pollard and veteran Alfred Morris. A fourth-round draft pick out of Memphis, Pollard played well in the preseason. Morris filled in two years ago when Elliott was suspended.
Shurmur said the Giants had Pollard on their draft board in a prominent position.
Ogletree would like to see Elliott get paid what he is worth and play in the game. Elliott has two years left on his rookie contract.
“In order to be the best, you have to play everybody that’s the best, and he’s one of the best in the league,” Ogletree said of a Giants team looking to prove its 4-0 preseason was not a fluke. “Like I said earlier, it’s about us going against the top groups and showing why we are a good defense and a good team.”
Giants safety Antoine Bethea added the obvious: Cowboys are a better team with Elliott.
“Zeke is a good player, he will make a difference,” Bethea said. “Dallas is Dallas and has its scheme. The last few years the running backs they have there have performed well, but Zeke is a very good player and you can’t take anything away from him.”
Linebacker Tae Davis said everyone on the defense knows Elliott is a threat on any play.
“But you can’t put it past any guy to step in if he is not playing,” Davis said. “If you underestimate anyone, they can have a great game. We just have to keep preparing and keep trying to get better as a team.”
NOTES: Linebacker David Mayo, drafted by Dave Gettleman in Carolina in 2015, was signed as a free agent. New York had planned to waive veteran LB B.J. Goodson, but traded him to Green Bay for a late-round pick next year. New York added CB Corn Elder and WR David Sills to its practice squad. … The players elected seven captains for the season: QB Eli Manning, T Nate Solder, RB Saquon Barkley, Ogletree, Bethea, LS Zak DeOssie and Michael Thomas, who made the Pro Bowl as a special teams player last season.
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