Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports
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Washington Redskins 20 – New York Giants 13
Just a few days after the Giants shipped off two defensive starters via the trade market in addition to their starting MIKE linebacker being on the sideline, the last-place Giants took on the first-place Redskins and their high-performing defense coupled with an efficient offense. The disparity between these two teams when it comes to the trenches gave this match-up a very bleak outlook from the beginning.
After trading opening possessions, WAS drove down the field via a nice run/pass balance and ended it with a touchdown pass from Alex Smith to the ageless Adrian Peterson. The short pitch, catch, and run into the end zone was aided by a horrible missed tackle by Nate Stupar. Once again, NYG found themselves playing from behind, something they have become very used to, as no team in the NFL has trailed more this season than Big Blue.
NYG broke into WAS territory on consecutive drives but it netted a total of zero points. The biggest negative the first time around was a sack by Matt Ioannidis, 1 of his 2.5 on the day. On the second drive, Eli Manning was intercepted by DJ Swearinger, his first of 2 on the day, on a pass intended for Odell Beckham. The boo-birds started to come out in full effect after that one.
The NYG defense held strong, as they did for most of the day. They forced WAS into attempting a 41-yard field goal which was no-good right away off the foot of Dustin Hopkins, who had made 8 straight prior to that.
Manning came out firing on the next drive, dropping a perfectly-thrown deep ball into the hands of Sterling Shepard but the third year pro couldn’t hold onto it. However, the air game picked up 41 yards on the next three plays as the 2-minute warning approached. 1st and 10 from the WAS 25-yard line and Pat Shurmur, who has vowed to commit this offense to a run-heavy attack, passed the ball three straight times. It resulted in 7 yards and NYG had to settle for a 37-yard field goal. Three straight possessions with a 1st down in WAS territory resulted in a meager 3 points. These are the 2018 New York Giants.
The second half opened with WAS up by a score of 7-3. The first two NYG offensive drives both ended in sacks. A lot of pressure was being put on the Big Blue defense and they did a fine job keeping it within one score for the majority of the game. Hopkins nailed a 53-yard field goal and Manning’s offense came onto the field knowing it just couldn’t get going. They needed to force something and hope for the best. On 3rd and 18, thanks to yet another sack, Manning basically shut his eyes and chucked it downfield with no awareness of where the defense stood. The result was Swearinger coming down with his second interception and the offense walking off the field looking hopeless, again.
This offense wasn’t going to make anything happen, thus the defense had to make a play if there was any hope in this game turning around. Right on queue, Landon Collins forced a Peterson fumble that was recovered by Olivier Vernon and run back for 43 yards. NYG had a 1st and 10 on the WAS 39-yard line. It had a now-or-never feel to it even though there was a minute left in the 3rd quarter and it was only a 10-3 lead for WAS.
On 4th and 3, Manning dropped back and saw pressure coming, making him go to his hot read which was Evan Engram, who led the team in drops last year. The ball went, literally, between his two hands and fell to the ground. Turnover on downs. Momentum gone. Fans packing up. It was an ugly scene.
WAS drove down the field and netted another 3 points via a 39-yard field goal. The next NYG drive included another sack, the 4th of the half. After trading a couple more possessions with the NYG defense holding on for dear life and the offense responding with more poor play, the WAS defense gave NYG a gift. A 46-yard pass interference penalty on a deep ball to Saquon Barkley followed by a 32-yard pickup via a pitch-catch-run to and by Beckham put NYG inside the 5 yard line.
And here we are, back to Shurmur not standing behind his words. NYG had 3 shots at the end zone, and gave the ball to Barkley just one time. Instead of throwing a lob pass to Bennie Fowler, who would be on the street right now if NYG didn’t sign him a few weeks ago, why not hammer it 3 times with the best player on the field? NYG settled on a short field goal to make it 13-6.
After a strong performance for most of the day, the NYG defense finally broke. Peterson shot through a gap and thanks to a poor angle by safety Curtis Riley, he had an easy 64-yard path to the end zone. The score was 20-6 with 3 minutes left in the game.
NYG ended up driving down the field against a prevent defense and scored a late touchdown to, ironically, Engram. It was a 16-play drive that left 20 seconds on the clock. Rosas attempted an onsides kick which was recovered by WAS. Game over.
NYG loses 20-13.
-Eli Manning: 30/47 – 316 yards – 1 TD / 2 INT. It was another frustrating day for the passing game. Manning’s early interception was an absolute killer. His blind heave downfield that resulted in another interception was inexcusable in a one score game. Manning was sacked another 7 times, bringing the season’s number up to 31, the total amount of times he was sacked in 2017 and just 8 short of his career high. The Giants are halfway through the season. It’s hard to see Manning go through this but the case remains that he is not without blame. His entire game looks awfully slow. His mental reactions, his release, his footwork, and his arm. There isn’t any juice there.
-Saquon Barkley: 13 att / 38 yards – 9 rec / 72 yards. The rookie had a tall task, as WAS entered the game with the league’s #3 run defense having already shut down Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliot, and Alvin Kamara, respectively. While he did break the 100-total yards mark for the 6th time this season, the WAS defense kept him in check. I was hoping Shurmur would have given him more carries because even though this offensive line was over-matched at the point of attack, we’ve seen Barkley create on his own.
-Odell Beckham: 8 rec / 136 yards. Respect to Beckham for playing a spirited, high-effort game. He came up with a couple of highlight-reel catches in addition to displaying his after-catch impact. It’s hard not to get down about the fact that this team has two talents on this offense that could be considered the best ever in franchise history at their respective positions, but the brokenness of this roster prevents that from leading to wins. Also, credit to Beckham for keeping his head as the WAS defense made a few off-camera cheap shots on him him and were running their mouths all afternoon.
-Sterling Shepard: 4 rec / 34 yards. Shepard’s most notable play of the day was a drop on a deep ball that would have resulted in 40+ yards. He got both hands on the ball but rookie cornerback Greg Stroman jabbed it loose before they went to the ground. He also had another drop later in the game. Otherwise it was a quiet day for the 3rd year pro.
-Bennie Fowler III got 7 targets on the day, catching 4 balls for 48 yards. 2 catches / 34 yards of which were on the final drive against the WAS prevent defense. Fowler was on the field for 70% of the plays, and was targeted on a key red zone passing play. I think this guy is getting way too much action for who he is. His route running has been low-caliber and he doesn’t make tough plays on the ball. More on this later.
-Evan Engram: 5 rec / 25 yards / 1 TD. Not that this is an overly impressive stat line, but these numbers make his day look a lot better than what it was. The second year pro added 2 drops to a resume that already has plenty of them, one of which was a key moment in the game on 4th down. Engram was also mangled in the running game, often getting pushed back multiple yards by the WAS front-seven defenders and failing to properly locate second-level defenders. Engram still has plenty of time to prove what he can be for this team, but I think the approach to how he is used may need to change. More on that below.
-Rhett Ellison played 40% of the snaps and was targeted once in the passing game. His blocking grade was average, as they have been with him for the majority of his career with NYG.
-Nate Solder can no longer be considered in a slump. We can no longer say he is having a hard time getting acclimated to a new system with new surroundings. Nate Solder is a really bad left tackle. He allowed another sack and 2 more pressures. I compared his grades to Ereck Flowers last year and, believe it or not, Flowers was grading out higher. He is getting bullied, pushed around, and failing to sustain blocks no matter who he is up against. It is a major surprise to me and it’s hard to accept that he is at the very beginning of a long-term contract.
-Chad Wheeler left the game in the second half with an ankle injury, but not before allowing a sack and a TFL. While I still think we can use the “developing” label on him, Wheeler really hasn’t shown improvement throughout the 8 games this season. Brian Mihalik saw his first action in the NYG uniform. He had 2 false start penalties and wasn’t really challenged much as the WAS pass rush was very vanilla. Initially, I don’t see anything worth being optimistic about.
GUARDS / CENTERS
-There must be something in the water at the right guard position because whomever mans that spot has been a weak link among a weak group all season. John Greco now possesses the lowest game grade of the year among all OL. 3 pressures, 2 sacks, and 1 TFL along with a false start penalty made us long for the days of John Jerry. Greco has been getting worse and worse since being put in to the lineup week 2 and has proven why he was a street free agent at this time last year.
-Spencer Pulley also had a poor game at OC. He was getting beat off the ball repeatedly, decreasing the size of the pocket in the passing game and making Barkley redirect his path in the running game. He allowed 1 sack on the day. Will Hernandez had another slightly above average game grade but when you compare him to the rest of this offensive line, he looks like a Hall of Famer. He was late to see a blitz on a play where Manning was sacked, although it looked like it was Barkley’s responsibility. Those lateral-movement blocks appear to still be a problem for him.
-Olivier Vernon had one of his most disruptive games since putting on the NYG uniform. Too bad this isn’t a winning football team because if it were, more would be talking about how well he has been playing since returning from injury. Against one of the top left tackles in the NFL for the majority of the game, Vernon finished with 4 pressures, 1 TFL, and a fumble recovery.
-As expected, Lorenzo Carter is seeing an increase in snaps at the expense of Kareem Martin. That is a very good thing, as Carter already brings more to the table. The quick speed and range in pursuit shows up every week. He had 3 tackles and a pressure. These next 8 games will be very big for his maturation as a player.
-Kerry Wynn added 2 tackles but struggled to impact the game as a pass rusher. His playing time remains too light in my opinion. He needs to be on the field for more than 50% of the snaps each week, and he was around 40% against WAS.
-Just a few days after the trade of Damon Harrison to DET, BJ Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson held down the inside running game for the most part. Hill was active, often breaking into the backfield. He finished with 6 tackles, 1 TFL, and a pass break up. However he was flagged 3 times on the day. Tomlinson added 3 tackles but did lot of the dirty work that goes unnoticed when watching the game casually. He is going to be a very solid NT now that he will be in that role full time.
-Notable effort by Mario Edwards. He was only on the field for 31% of the snaps but he made a few hustle plays. He is really active and has the potential to be the third starter before the year is over.
-Really active day for BJ Goodson, who saw an uptick in playing time with Alec Ogletree out. He led the team with 8 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. WAS seemed to target him a lot in the passing game, as the book is out on him being a liability in coverage. However, I had several check marks next to Goodson’s name when it came to hustle, physical play, and simply being at the right place at the right time.
-Nate Stupar and Tae Davis basically split the snaps next to Goodson, with Davis getting the edge late in the game. Stupar had 3 missed tackles, one of which was really ugly and led to Peterson’s first touchdown. Davis’ speed and aggression was a plus to see. We know he is going to struggle in traffic because of how small he is, but the undrafted rookie finished with 6 tackles, most of which were outside the tackle box. He has a lot of range and broke up a pass while being matched up against a wide receiver. His one glaring negative was a running-into-the-kicker penalty that gave WAS a fresh set of downs. He will likely see a lot of playing time during these last 8 games.
-With trade rumors swirling around Janoris Jenkins, the 30-year old, 7th-year pro had a solid game in coverage outside of one pass interference penalty. Jenkins really is a solid cover corner, and sometimes you just can’t see it unless you watch the all-22 angle. CB is a really tough position to find and lock down for any team and the fact they didn’t trade him is not necessarily a negative.
-BW Webb started and played the entire game on the other side. While I do think he is better suited in a nickel role, he competed hard. He finished with 4 tackles but also had a 43-yard pass interference penalty. That has been a trend his entire career. Grant Haley got a lot of playing time as the team’s nickel back and I liked what I saw. He finished with 4 tackles and showed good movement, very assertive. His lack of size showed up on 3rd down a few times and that will be a learning experience for him over the second half of the season. There is a lot to like about him.
-Landon Collins has been a nice streak of quality play lately, hence why a few teams were offering a 3rd-round pick for the free agent-to-be. He finished with 5 tackles, 1 TFL, and a key forced fumble that could have really turned this game around.
-Curtis Riley continues to start next to Collins not because of impact or quality play, but by default. He did have a solid play in coverage early on, but Riley took a really poor angle on Peterson’s long 4th quarter touchdown run. As the last line of defense, it was an inexcusable mistake that we are seeing too often with him. That is a big reason why I just don’t see Riley as a starting-caliber FS.
-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 37, 22). Fairly easy and simple day. Rosas has now hit 95% of his attempts on the year.
-P Riley Dixon: 5 Punts / 44.0 avg / 44.0 net. This was Dixon’s best game of the year, nailing 1 inside the 2-yard line and didn’t allow WAS to return any. His best hang time to date kept that net average high.
-KR/PR Quandree Henderson: 2 solid returns on the day. A PR that went for 19 yards and a KR that went for 30. There is definitely some talent there, and this kid makes things happen when he gets the ball in his hands.
-DE Olivier Vernon, LB BJ Goodson, WR Odell Beckham
-TE Evan Engram, OG John Greco, OT Nate Solder
3 THOUGHTS ON WAS
-I picked WAS to finish 9-7 this year and compete for a Wild Card playoff spot. I am still sticking with that and I actually think they have a strong chance at winning the division. Crazy to think with the amount of age they have at RB and QB that they can get to this level. But you know why there are up there? Their OL and DL are among the best in football. How did they get there? Two 1st-round picks and one 3rd-rounder on the OL, three 1st-round picks and one 2nd-rounder on the DL. Take notes NYG, because that is how this thing is going to get turned around.
-Ironic that I was going to write that the one glaring hole I have seen on this defense has been the safety play next to DJ Swearinger. Then they trade for HaHa Clinton-Dix from GB and all of the sudden this defense looks as balanced and stacked as any in the league. He is a great fit next to the physical Swearinger, who is having the year of his life right now.
-The one thing that can hold this offense back (other than injury) is the lack of a go-to pass catcher when this team needs a big play in the air attack. Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson aren’t going to scare anyone and Jordan Reed just hasn’t taken the next step in his career. I hope Evan Engram doesn’t run into that problem, a guy who looks promising but never gets over the hump.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
-The trade deadline has come and gone, and it looks like the only real offers were coming in for Collins and Jenkins. NYG opted to pass and that tells me they are going to keep Collins moving forward. Which ultimately means they are ready to pay him top SS dollar which can rightfully be debated on either side. One thing that he offers, other than solid but unspectacular play, is the kind of locker room presence this team needs moving forward. Hard worker, stays clean off the field, and can wear a few hats. Money aside, it is going to take more guys like this to get this thing back on track.
-I don’t think Evan Engram’s days are numbered. Not even close. His drops are a major issue, yes. His blocking presence is a weakness to an offense that will be relying on the run more and more in the coming years, yes. However the talent this kid has is still among the top in the league at the TE position. My thought, and I know it won’t be a popular one is, to experiment with him as a WR the rest of the season. His athletic ability out there may seem much worse than where we see it at TE, but I still think he can be a weapon out there. And to be honest, do we really need to watch Bennie Fowler run routes? Put Shepard/Beckham/Engram at WR and let Ellison see full time snaps at TE. I bet this ends up vastly improving the running game both on inside and outside intentions and the passing game won’t take a hit at all.
-When should NYG decide to sit Manning? Should they sit him at all? The only reason I say yes is to get Kyle Lauletta on the field. However he can’t be rushed on to the field with this OL playing the way it is. It can be a detriment to his progression. With his recent arrest, which I don’t believe is a big deal, I think the likelihood of this happening is very good right now. But the post-bye week would have been perfect to do something like this if everyone was confident he knew this offense well enough.