Game Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, November 15, 2020
Are you Red or are you Andy Dufresne?
Red: “Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”
Andy: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
The Giants have lost 13 of their last 14 games against the Eagles, including the last seven in a row. This has gone well beyond which team is more talented at any point in time. It’s clearly mental. Look no further than the last time these two teams met. The Giants were up by 11 points with six minutes to play. And they still lost. The defense broke and with a chance to ice the game, Evan Engram dropped the ball.
Two bad football teams play each other on Sunday. One believes they will win. The other does not. What the X’s and O’s say at this point is immaterial.
THE INJURY REPORT
- RB Devonta Freeman (ankle/hamstring – out)
- WR Sterling Shepard (toe/hip)
- WR Golden Tate (knee – questionable)
- TE Kaden Smith (concussion)
- CB Isaac Yiadom (calf – questionable)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE
As we near the bye week and then the final six game stretch run, I think we can start to look at the big picture and what the Giants accomplished and failed to accomplish in 2020.
Without spring mini-camps and OTAs, no preseason, and a limited summer training camp, it was always going to be a challenge for a new coaching staff with massive roster turnover to have this team primed and ready by the time the regular-season started. Worse, and catastrophically, the Giants lost their best player on the team early. We can debate the reasons why, but the Giants have a bottom tier offense that struggles to put 20 points on the board every week in a league where scoring doesn’t seem to be a problem.
Regardless of the reasons, Daniel Jones has not progressed as hoped or expected. He was better last week simply because he didn’t lose the game. He teases with the “wow” plays and there is still a good chance that he develops into a very good quarterback. But stating the obvious, he has to string together games where he does more to win the game than lose it. One game does not make a trend. Can he build upon his “success” from last week?
Before the season, I talked about how it would be interesting to watch the dynamic between Golden Tate and the coaching staff since Tate has a history of wearing out his welcome. I think it’s clear that Tate is on his way out, leaving the Giants with major question marks at wide receiver heading into 2021. Darius Slayton is not a #1 receiver. Sterling Shepard is at best an injury-prone slot receiver who doesn’t stretch the field. Austin Mack may not even be in the NFL next year.
The Giants carried four tight ends this year and there was talk and hope of Jason Garrett and Freddie Kitchens getting the best out of Evan Engram and Kaden Smith as receivers, and of Levine Toilolo and Eric Tomlinson being huge blocking assets. It didn’t happen. Engram is who he is… a coach killer. I expected more from Smith but it just never happened. The two big guys have also been disappointments.
Once Saquon Barkley went down, the entire picture changed on offense. I warned everyone about this. The team has done an admirable job of picking up guys off of the street and at least presenting some sort of a running game, culminating in last week’s season-high performance. But it’s doubtful that Devonta Freeman, Alfred Morris, and Dion Lewis will even be on the roster in 2021. The good news is Wayne Gallman is showing some signs of life as a capable back-up.
Which brings us to the one emerging positive from 2020 on the offensive side of the ball: the line. While the specific components did not take the path that I expected, the line as a whole progressed as I predicted: very rough start with real chemistry and cohesion starting to develop by mid-season. I should have taken into account the murderers’ row of defensive fronts the Giants faced this year. I also did not expect Kevin Zeitler to fall off a cliff like he has. But Nick Gates has played far better than expected. Andrew Thomas has been far shakier than anticipated, but he is improving and the Giants now have three rookies to team with Gates as the foundation of what looks to be a promising offensive line for years to come. There will be still ugly moments. The very good Giants offensive lines of the past did not become what they were in one season.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE
This side of the ball has been steadier than the offense, but it also has major talent deficiencies that cannot be addressed in one offseason. The Giants botched the rebuild in the secondary with their terrible 2019 draft. And we all have harped on the problems at edge rusher.
The good news is the Giants appear to have the horses up front on the defensive line. And assuming that Tae Crowder can build upon his fast start, the Giants have a nice complementary combo at inside linebacker with tackling-machine Blake Martinez and the athletic Tae Crowder. The loss of Lorenzo Carter was a major blow outside, however. He will be coming off of a major injury and had yet to prove himself regardless. The Giants have not been able to evaluate Oshane Ximines either due to his injury. The Giants need a difference-making pass rusher in the worst way. Those are extremely hard to come by.
Thankfully the Giants not only made the right call on Blake Martinez in free agency, but also James Bradberry. Can you imagine the state of the defense without these two guys? Darnay Holmes is developing at nickel corner, but the rest of the corner situation is a joke. The Giants don’t need one new corner, they need two or three. The 2019 draft really screwed the team here. Worse, Julian Love hasn’t worked out at safety either. Xavier McKinney is going to miss most or all of his rookie season. Will Logan Ryan want to re-sign with a rebuilding club? Jabrill Peppers keeps alternating between good and bad play.
Sy’56 already talked about it. The Giants defense allowed three straight scoring drives against an anemic Washington offense in the second half before Alex Smith threw two horrible interceptions. The good news is the defense finally made plays late in the game to seal the deal. The bad news is they almost collapsed again.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Graham Gano has been a godsend. I was skeptical about him, but boy was I wrong. He’s the MVP of the team.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH
Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham on his reaction to losing the first game against the Eagles: “Each game is so different. I consider myself a teacher, first and foremost. I happen to teach football. I think like any teacher, whether you’re a kindergarten teacher or a professor, you’re trying to do your best job so your students can learn. You want to see them have success. To see them fight so hard, to give up that lead. Usually what happens, as a coach, obviously I didn’t get the right calls in there. I failed them. If I’m being honest with you, I was just disappointed in letting them down personally, that’s just me. In that moment of honesty, that’s where I was at, we have to figure this out. For me right there, it was more I look at these guys as I’m a teacher than as a coach. I felt bad I let them down and I had to figure out a way to make sure they can taste success and get the reward of all their hard work. They’re working really hard for Joe. I felt bad. They’re working hard for Joe, working hard for all of us, and we didn’t come away with the win. The beauty of this and division opponents is you get to play them twice. We got them this week, not that the last game has anything to do with this week. We got another shot at them. Looking forward to the opportunity to go out there and compete against them. Hopefully, we do enough to put ourselves in that position again to have a chance to win the game.”
THE FINAL WORD
Without trying to sound insulting, some of the “we are turning it around” reactions to the Giants win over Washington were comical. We went through the EXACT same thing less than a month ago after the Giants beat Washington and before they played the Eagles. And yet fans keep falling into the same trap, especially after wins against that team in Maryland.
Can the Giants build upon last week’s success and beat the Eagles on Sunday? Sure. The Eagles are a losing football team with their own Jekyll and Hyde quarterback. But history says no. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 13 times…
At the end of Shawshank, Andy proved to Red that hope was indeed a good thing. I’m not there yet.