Dallas Cowboys 20 – New York Giants 13
Two 0-1 teams entered Sunday night on the same day where the two other NFC East teams lost to even their records at 1-1. Whomever left AT&T Stadium would have a share of 1st place early in this 2018 season.
With top edge rusher Oliver Vernon still injured, Kerry Wynn started on the NYG 4 man front. DAL didn’t waste time as Dak Prescott connected with Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown pass up the sideline on a blown coverage by Janoris Jenkins and Curtis Riley. After a 6 play drive, DAL had the ball back in their possession and gained 12-19-15-15 yards on their first 4 plays. This set them up for another 3 points and NYG was down 10-0 before the rhythm of the game even started.
The two sub-par offenses traded possessions a few times without gaining much of a field position advantage. NYG was force feeding the ball to Saquon Barkley who, if nothing else, was breaking tackles left and right every time he touched the ball. Manning was getting the ball out quickly because of the porous offensive line yet again and the DAL secondary was adamant about not letting Odell Beckham wreck the game.
One interesting observation from the early NYG offensive drives. When they were down 7-0, Pat Shurmur did not want to go for it on 4th and inches at midfield. For an offense that struggles to put together drives, an offense that struggles to even reach midfield, it was a puzzling decision. However when NYG was down 10-0, Shurmur opted to go for it on 4th and inches two times in a row despite being at a lesser field position. Not a big deal but it just screams lack of identity to me. 4th and inches at midfield for this offense needs to almost-always be a go-for-it situation.
With that said, NYG didn’t have one play on the DAL side of the field in the first half. They went in to halftime down 10-0.
On the fourth play of the second half, Manning was sacked for the 5th time by untouched blitzing linebacker Damien Wilson, forcing a fumble that was recovered by DAL. This was a trend that started early and continued on for the entire game. Stunts and blitzes, both basic and complex, confused the anemic offensive line. Lack of talent, lack of chemistry, and a lack of adjustment made this a painful game to watch.
DAL turned the turnover in to 3 points, giving them a 13-0 lead which probably felt like a 30-0 lead knowing who was on the other sideline.
Just when you thought NYG was completely out, in typical Eli Manning-era fashion, they showed life right after their darkest moment. Barkley continued to show elite-level yards after contact ability, Manning hit Cody Latimer for a game-high 37 yard gain, and Barkley gained 18 yards on a dump off pass that included moves I don’t see any RB in the NFL making. They were 1st and goal at the 3 yard line just to be brought back by a holding penalty and two consecutive pass plays where pressure was on Manning before he could make two reads. Also on this drive, NYG lost center Jon Halapio to a broken ankle and leg; he is done for the year. NYG did get on the board, making it 13-3.
The DAL offense started to create some hope too, as they just couldn’t move the ball, guilty of 2 straight holding penalties, and quickly putting the ball back in to NYG’s hands. There was a slight momentum shift at this point late in the 3rd quarter. NYG then responded with a 3 and out that was capped off by the 6th DAL sack of the night. Opportunity missed.
DAL then responded with a 14 play, 8+ minute, touchdown-scoring drive. Prescott controlled the drive, going 5/6 for 35 yards and rushing for 19 yards on 3 attempts. The score was by Ezekiel Elliott who barreled in to the end zone breaking though Kareem Martin for a 6 yard touchdown. DAL led 20-3 with under 6 minutes remaining in the game.
Manning and the NYG offense took advantage of a less-aggressive DAL defense, scoring their lone touchdown of the night on an 11 play drive capped off by a wide-open pass to Evan Engram in the end zone. NYG then recovered an onsides kick, recovered by Michael Thomas. They quickly gained another 27 yards and opted to kick a field goal to make it a one-possession game. It was their only hope. Rosas hit the field goal, making a 20-13 score but they failed to convert the second onsides kick.
Dallas wins, 20-13.
Eli Manning: 33/44 – 279 yards – 1 TD / 0 INT. Manning also added 3 rushing attempts for a total of 4 yards, two of which were successful 4th and 1 QB sneak conversions. Once again, Manning saw either the worst, or one of the worst amounts of protection from the OL in the league. There is going to be a weekly debate regarding whether or not Manning is done or not. My stance remains the same. The most athletic QB in the league wouldn’t be able to deal with this amount of pressure and lack of assurance from this OL group. Manning can’t step up in the pocket. He can barely even step into throws. 3 step, 5 step, 7 step drops….it doesn’t matter. Manning does deserve some blame, however. The limited shots he is getting downfield, he hasn’t capitalized on enough. In addition, his hoppy-footwork and occasional too-quick of a release has contributed to the poor offensive play. Call me stubborn, but I watch almost every NFL game every week, and nobody is dealing with this outside of Russell Wilson in SEA.
Saquon Barkley: 11 att / 28 yards – 14 rec / 80 yards. The run blocking was no better. I haven’t seen an NFL offense yet where the RB is getting hit earlier than what NYG is dealing with. Barkley was running into traffic and untouched defenders repeatedly. But because of his superior receiving skills, his impact on the game was strong. He set a franchise record with his 14 catches, most of which were dump offs, and he broke more tackles than any NYG running back has in a game since it’s been recorded. What he was able to do with the ball in his hands was just a glimpse of what we are going to see. Imagine he was playing behind a good group of blockers. The options and upside with him are endless.
-Wayne Gallman and Jonathan Stewart played a combine 13% of the snaps and gained a combined 4 yards. You can tell this coaching staff really wanted this win and they wanted no part in taking Barkley out.
-Really poor game by Shane Smith. He allowed 2 sacks against the blitz-happy Dallas defense. He was on the field for 4 plays. He allowed 2 sacks. If he can’t block, there is no point in him being on this team.
-Odell Beckham: 4 rec / 51 yards. Beckham recorded his second catch with 6 minutes left in the first quarter. His next catch wasn’t until the 4:22 mark in the fourth quarter. He wasn’t a factor for the majority of the game. They gave him two credible downfield shots, both were overthrown by Manning. I watched the All-22 and assumed he was being double teamed non stop, but that wasn’t the case. On the plays he had one on one coverage deep, the pass protection simply wasn’t there. Manning was forced to get rid of the ball before Beckham made his move. Timed well by the DAL defense.
-Sterling Shepard and Cody Latimer caught 2 passes each. Shepard also dropped one in the second quarter. Latimer’s first catch as a Giant was a nicely thrown deep ball where Latimer had minimal to no separation, but the lengthy and strong receiver showed nice ball skills to come down with it. One thing I see a lot with him is a lack of separation, as there isn’t a ton of twitch to his game, but he does have some long stride speed if Manning can ever get enough time.
Evan Engram: 7 rec / 67 yards – 1 TD. Engram caught all of the passes thrown in his direction. I think it may be time for Manning to look his way more often, especially with the need for such quick releases. He gets open consistently and he is so dangerous after the catch with his rare combination of size and speed. He had two clean looks at the end zone that Manning didn’t see. Safeties cannot cover him. One thing he hasn’t consistently done well yet is find the windows/lanes against zone coverage. The best receiving tight ends make an art of that; he isn’t close yet. As a blocker, he had another sub-par game. He allowed a tackle for loss and a sack in addition to getting drilled backwards a few times, making Barkley alter his path.
-Rhett Ellison saw 35% of the snaps and disappointed as a blocker. For a guy that has a role to aid the poor OL play, he sure hasn’t done it these first 2 weeks. He, too, was getting pushed backwards, creating a new point of attack.
-Nate Solder, the highest paid left tackle in the game, was physically overmatched in this one for the second week in a row. He allowed one tackle for loss and was flagged for a hold (which was declined) in addition to 2 pressures.. The one thing Solder does well compared to the rest of the OL is, even when he is beat, he stays on his man. The balance and athleticism helps him there. I also think he is a small victim of playing next to the rookie Hernandez, who is having a very hard time picking up this blocking scheme.
-Ereck Flowers had another below average performance. He allowed 3 pressures, struggled at the second level as a run blocker, and appears to have no clue what he is doing on stunts. He did have 4 “plus” pass blocks one on one against Demarcus Lawrence if you are looking for any glimpse of positive.
-The two guards were nightmares, it was the worst combined grade from the guards I have seen in 2+ years. Patrick Omameh was responsible for 2 pressures and 1 sack. He wasn’t able to sustain blocks. He has a decent punch at the line, but his man is off free within 1-2 seconds almost every time. Will Hernandez looks lost mentally. Again, the base-level athleticism is there, but it doesn’t show up because he is too slow to react. He allowed 1 pressure and 2 sacks. The first of which was about as bad as it gets. Hernandez was also completely whiffing at the second level as a run blocker. He continues to get a pass here and there for being a rookie, but there were moments where he didn’t even look competitive.
-Center Jon Halapio was having a decent game, but he broke both his ankle and leg during the 3rd quarter. John Greco came in to replace him. He allowed a pressure in his limited duty. He is likely to be the starting OC from here on out and I have been impressed with him in his short tenure with NYG. I don’t think this will have any negative impact on NYG.
-With Olivier Vernon out again, Kareem Martin and Connor Barwin dominated the snaps. They are both journeymen caliber players. Barwin did have a solid game, as his short area pop is still there and he is feisty. He had a pressure and pass break up. Martin looks like a complete non factor. His contact balance is poor, he can’t get off blocks as a pass rusher, and the speed off the edge is non-existent. He had 3 missed tackles and finished with 1 pressure.
-Lorenzo Carter’s speed and athleticism showed up. He had 2 pressures on the same drive. When he sees a consistent stretch of plays, his level of play improves. As the year progresses, we should see him on the field more. He missed outside contain twice but his speed to the sideline made up for one of them. He really does have rare athleticism. Kerry Wynn had 2 tackles, one of which was for a loss. Hate to see him not make much of an impact as a pass rusher after a strong preseason yet again. This team needs him to step up.
-Damon Harrison controlled the two inside gaps like he always does. DAL had a lot of success on the ground, but it wasn’t any fault of Harrison’s. It’s amazing how, when he is single teamed against a running play between the tackles, he is always in on the tackle. Every time. He also recorded a pressure.
-Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill received average grades. Hill was quiet but pursued well and held his ground. One thing they both struggled with was getting off blocks in time at running plays in their direction. They were just a step too slow a few times. Hill was also taken off the field in passing situations.
-Really poor game by Alec Ogletree. Yes, he led the team with 6 tackles and a couple of them were an impressive blend of speed and power. He missed 2 tackles and was really late to recognize on a few others. When that happens, the blocker gets the angle and makes it nearly impossible to fill the lane in time. B.J. Goodson recorded 1 tackle despite playing more than 50% of the snaps. He, too, missed a tackle. If it’s not between the tackles, Goodson has looked very pedestrian so far.
-Ray Ray Armstrong didn’t impact the running game, but he excelled in coverage. On three occasions he completely took out Prescott’s intended target with perfect coverage. He adds an element none of the other LBs do.
-For the second week in a row, Janoris Jenkins was beat on a vertical route early. This time, it resulted in an early touchdown by Tavon Austin. He completely whiffed at the point of attack and couldn’t catch up. The question may need to be asked at some point, are his off-field struggles impacting his play? He was solid from there on out, as he wasn’t tested much.
-Eli Apple with another excellent game. What I have always wanted to see with him, dating back to his college days, is more play with his feet and less with his hands in coverage. 2 weeks in o 2018, he appears to be clicking there. His All-22 tape was the best of the DB group.
-B.W. Webb was tested often. He was on the field for 77% of the snaps. He was flagged once and allowed a few catches but overall he was solid. Donte Deayon didn’t play much, but almost came up with a red zone interception in the 4th quarter.
-Landon Collins has been very hit or miss since his All-Pro 2016 season and that trend continued Sunday night, with more lean towards the miss-side. He missed two tackles and was fooled badly twice on run plays. The misdirection has been giving him a lot of trouble and when he isn’t on, big gains are created.
-Curtis Riley had a bad night. He was late and took a bad angle on the Austin TD in the first quarter and had a bad missed tackle that led to a big gain by Ezekiel Elliot.
-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 28,38). Rosas remains perfect on the season. He also created a successful onsides kick in the 4th quarter.
-P Riley Dixon – 6 Punts – 43.3 avg / 40.0 net. Solid margin there and he landed 3 inside the 20.
-KR/PR: Cody Latimer had two impressive kick returns; he is fast in space and runs through initial contact consistently. Kaelin Clay had another near turnover as a PR.
-RB Saquon Barkley, CB Eli Apple, DT Damon Harrison
-OG Will Hernandez, OG Patrick Omameh, LB Alec Ogletree
3 THOUGHTS ON DAL
-I’ve seen every snap of DAL over the first 2 weeks and I still don’t think this will be a .500 team. The offense is abysmal. Overly reliant on the running game with an OL that is not nearly as dominant as it was 2 years ago. Prescott threw for 96 yards on 23 attempts beyond the TD pass to Austin where Jenkins had a rare whiff at the line of scrimmage.
-Get to know the name Chidobe Awuzie. DAL second year CB is going to be considered one of the best in the game within a year or two. He matched Beckham step for step several times in coverage on all levels, both laterally and vertically. He is great at making adjustments to the ball and he is one of the most physical tacklers in the league at the position.
-Jaylon Smith, now another year removed from his scary knee injury, now may be the best LB on this team. His 10 tackles and 1 for loss were impressive, as he fills the lane with no hesitation and lets you know he is there. And his most impressive play of the night? Deep coverage against….Odell Beckham.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
-Losing a tight game to JAC was one thing, but this loss to an average-at-best DAL team has created a strong thought that this will be a 5-6 win season at best. We discussed throughout the offseason that filling all these holes in just a few months was borderline impossible. You can’t say its over yet, but the issues on this roster are awfully high in volume.
-What can be done with this OL? They are going to be a poor unit all year, but is there anything that can be done that can give the offense at least some hope consistently? The one hope is that Hernandez, a rookie that didn’t play against NFL prospects in college, improves on a normal rookie scale. Also, this line is playing together for the first time so one could say chemistry will be developed in time. If those two things don’t happen, I really don’t see any hope here and that’s a shame because this group of playmakers is among the best in the NFL.
-Just how good is Landon Collins? I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but he is probably next up on long term contract talks. He is an unrestricted free agent next year and I have a hard time accepting he deserves top tier safety money. His 2016 season (which was All-Pro caliber) may be impacting everyone’s view on him too much. I do think he is good, he is 24 years old, and he does play hard. But 2017 was underwhelming and he has been bad these first 2 weeks. Missed tackles, fooled badly, and minimal impact on passing plays. He needs to play better and there is no way around it. This defense sorely needs a playmaker.