As the holiday season approaches, Covid-19 is taking over the NFL and its rosters in ways we have not yet seen over the past two seasons. Several teams are missing multiple starters and the NFL even moved multiple games back a couple days in an effort to take control of this thing. NYG, a roster than had already been impacted by injuries, was now without multiple defensive backs and a couple wide receivers because of either positive tests and/or close contacts. DAL on the other hand was barely impacted by Covid-19 and as a matter of fact, their roster came into this Week 15 matchup as one of the healthiest in the league.
Mike Glennon started his third straight game for the Giants as Daniel Jones remained sidelined with a neck injury that still lacks clarity. Following a defensive stop, Big Blue had the ball starting inside their own 10-yard line. On 3rd-and-5, Glennon was hit as he threw the ball, causing an errant ball that ended up in the hands of DAL corner Jourdan Lewis. He returned the ball to the NYG 13 and two plays later, Ezekiel Elliott rampaged up the middle for a 13-yard touchdown. DAL had the early lead, 6-0.
NYG responded with a scoring drive much thanks to the running game. They began the drive with 6 straight rushing attempts and 8 out of 10 plays overall, with Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker combining for 56 yards. The drive halted once they got inside the DAL 20-yard line, as the worst red-zone offense in the league padded their lead in that department by settling for a 35-yard field goal by Graham Gano.
DAL re-lengthened their lead with 3 more points of their own, a 26-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein. Their running game was getting what they wanted when they wanted. After a quick NYG possession, DAL used 6:37 of game clock on their next drive as they inched their way down field using 16 plays, reaching a 3rd down just three times. NYG did hold them to a field goal, however, as the young pass-rushing duo of Azeez Ojulari and Quincy Roche sacked Dak Prescott on 3rd down from inside the red zone.
With just under 2 minutes left in the half, NYG had a shot to put some points on the board themselves. This is the time period where they have been ranked worst in the league (62 point differential). After reaching their own 40-yard line, Barkley had the ball jarred loose by DAL defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and it was recovered by defensive tackle Carlos Watkins. DAL began with the ball in NYG territory with just :41 left but that is all they needed. They added 3 more points via a 27-yard field goal to make it 15-3 at the half.
NYG added 3 points on the first possession of the 2nd half via a 42-yarder by Gano. The score then stayed at 15-6 for most of the 3rd quarter. After Glennon was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 QB sneak attempt from their own 29-yard line, DAL used the field position to lead them to another touchdown. This, a one 1-yard pass from Prescott to tight end Dalton Schultz.
The 4th quarter was equally ugly for both offenses. The game saw three turnovers in a matter of 7 minutes. Two interceptions by Glennon, both being horrific throws, and a fumble by Prescott. That would be it for Glennon, as Jake Fromm came into the game with just under 4 minutes left. He moved the ball well as DAL softened their defense as a whole. They did reach the red zone but, as expected, the drive faltered and the NYG offense walked off the field after turning the ball over on downs. The league leader in fewest touchdowns scored (formerly tied with HOU) now sits atop the throne by themselves. DAL got the ball back and took a knee to end it, as they have now won 9 of the last 10 in the matchup.
NYG Loses 21-6
-Mike Glennon: 13/24 – 99 yards / 0 TD – 3 INT / 24.8 RAT
This may very well be the last time we see Glennon throwing passes for NYG. On the year, he has thrown 129 times. 3 of them have been touchdowns, 7 have been interceptions. He is completed under 54% of those attempts and offers nothing as a runner. Glennon had his shot to prove he can at least function on the field, and he failed. I will touch on this down below, but there is no point in having him take snaps under center anymore. He throws a good, accurate ball on one out of every 3-4 passes and severely limits any potential this already-broken offense trots out onto the field.
-Jake Fromm came on to the field for a drive and looked OK. There is no point in evaluating his performance in either direction because of how soft the DAL defense was playing and the game-situation itself. However, he proved he can function in the offense well enough to warrant starts moving forward if Jones remains out.
-Saquon Barkley: 15 att – 50 yards / 4 rec – 24 yards
For the second week in a row, I am encouraged by the progress I have seen with Barkley and his overall footwork and urgency. He is taking the sure yards when they are there and seeming to be more confident with putting his foot in the ground and bursting north. 74 yards on 19 touches is far from impressive, and he isn’t gaining much after contact nor is he breaking many tackles. The fumble was a huge black eye on his game as well.
-Devontae Booker was one the offensive “stars” of the game for NYG. 74 yards on 8 carries and another 8 yards on 2 catches. He is best used in a complimentary role and always has been. Now that Barkley is back taking on the majority of the snaps, Booker is able to come in with fresh legs and take advantage of situational football. Two of NYG’s biggest plays were Booker runs (31 and 28 yards).
-All but Kadarius Toney were on the field. This is a group of pass catchers that several have said would be a dangerous set of weapons. Collectively and individually, they’ve been anything but. Kenny Golladay caught 3 passes for 53 yards. 2 of those catches and 46 of those yards were in garbage time against the soft DAL defense.
-Sterling Shepard caught 2 passes, both on that final garbage-time drive, and tore his Achilles on one of the final plays. He will be out for the rest of the year and odds are this will keep him out of all if not most of the team offseason activities. It is very possible NYG has seen the last of him in a Giants uniform. His cap hit is $12.5 million in 2022.
-Evan Engram brought in 4 catches for 33 yards. He also dropped a pass and showed low football IQ after the catch. There isn’t much that needs to be said about Engram anymore. He is a fantastic athlete who has not developed into a quality football player. One can make the argument he has gone backwards within his skill set. His 15 drops over his past 28 games and 170 targets along with his bonehead decisions and poor blocking should easily be a one-way ticket to the exit door following this season.
-Andrew Thomas pitched a shutout. The one negative play on his sheet (a pressure) came from Glennon evading pressure from the other side and into the arms of the DAL defender Thomas was responsible for. He was not docked on my scoring table. His comfort level and overall repeatability looks top notch right now and I believe he is only going to get better. He was nicked up late and it would be a shame to see him miss more time.
-As good a Thomas was, Will Hernandez was equally as bad. He allowed a sack, 2 pressures (1 of which led to a sack) and 1 TFL. He was also the one blown up on the failed 4th-and-inches conversion attempt.
-Guard Matt Skura and Billy Price both allowed a pressure, while the latter also allowed a TFL. They were solid in the straight-ahead running game but when asked to move laterally and/or adjust to the active DAL front, they just couldn’t hold onto their defenders. That was the biggest gap between the NYG line and DAL. The guys in blue couldn’t maintain their positions on their assignments at all.
-We saw another 50/50 split between Nate Solder and Matt Peart. It does look like this coaching staff knows they need to see Peart on the field, but he hasn’t earned full time duties. Peart was flagged for a false start on 4th-and-short which made NYG ultimately end up punting. I was told he received quite the earful when he came off of the field from multiple coaches.
-Leonard Williams fought through a rather significant triceps injury and played 65% of the snaps. I give him credit to play through that on a team that is 4-9 in mid-December. He was flying around the field too, showing plenty of hustle and grit. He finished with 3 tackles and a pressure.
-Dexter Lawrence finished with 3 tackles and a pressure as well but was getting moved way too much in the running game. He didn’t two-gap well at all and the reaction speed is too slow to play on the end in their hybrid 3-4 fronts.
-Veterans Austin Johnson and Danny Shelton each added 2 tackles, and both were mixing it up with the DAL offensive line for most of the game. It was a frustrating game for those two as they just couldn’t get off blocks and DAL was running right by them. I think the extra-fluff post-whistle stemmed from the frustration those 2 had in matching up against the effective DAL interior linemen.
-One of the best games we have seen out of Lorenzo Carter. He started the game on fire, and it carried through the rest of the game. He finished with 4 tackles, 2 sacks, a forced fumble, a pass break up, and 2 pressures. That was the best individual pass rush performance we have seen from the edge in a couple years.
-Azeez Ojulari and Quincy Roche, both rookies remember, combined for a sack and added 7 tackles combined. They along with another rookie, Elerson Smith, give this defense some promising hope down the road. Smith seems a few steps behind, as he just hasn’t been on the field much, but his straight-ahead movement off the ball and hand work looks solid. I’m not sure any of them are the marquee pass rusher a defense wants, but they are at least appearing to be solid accessory pieces.
-Inside, Tae Crowder led the team with 12 tackles. He was active and fast, things we already know. However, when blockers get a clean shot at him, he is near-helpless. Veterans Jaylon Smith and Bernardrick McKinney are better examples of linebackers who take proper angles and have some power to them to get off blocks in a hurry.
-Reggie Ragland has seen his role diminish significantly and that is a good thing. His speed is a major flaw when it comes to defending outside runs and flats in the passing game.
-This position group was beat up a bit by the Covid situation. That said, it was an admirable effort overall and I came away impressed. CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup combined for just 90 yards on 11 catches. James Bradberry was on his game, breaking up 2 passes and showing quality deep coverage.
-Jarren Williams has been impressive in flashes through limited playing time. For the first time, he was an every down player and he thrived. Does NYG have something here? Still way too early to tell but his 5 tackle / 1 pass break up performance caught my eye. His hips and feet were in full sync, and he looked very confident in his reads against some of the best route runners in the league.
-Keion Crossen saw a season-high 15 snaps on defense. He does have plenty of defensive experience from previous years, but he has been almost exclusively used on special teams this year. He saw a lot of action at nickel and appeared to fulfill his role well.
-I give a ton of credit to Logan Ryan and Julian Love. I’ve noted this before and I don’t want to harp on it too much, but their versatility on the back end is a big deal. We may just not appreciate it a lot because of how bad this team is. They both ended with 20 tackles and more importantly, 0 misses.
-Xavier McKinney added 3 tackles and missed 2. He wasn’t tested much in deep coverage.
-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 35, 42)
-P Riley Dixon: 2 punts / 50.5 avg – 50.5 net
-LB Lorenzo Carter, OT Andrew Thomas, RB Devontae Booker
-OG Will Hernandez, QB Mike Glennon, TE Evan Engram
3 THOUGHTS ON DAL
(1) Like nearly everyone else, I saw DAL as a legit big-time contender by the end of October. They were 6-1, averaging over 30 points per game, and their defense was forcing a ton of turnovers. Since then, they’re 4-3 and their offensive production has gone down a bit. While I still think they have a shot at making some noise, they are too many issues I see on a weekly basis from them, and I think the quality opponents are picking up on them.
(2) Over their current 3 game winning streak, the DAL defense has forced an amazing 12 turnovers. There are 4 teams that haven’t forced more than that over the entire season. When I see teams go on runs like this where turnovers are the driving force to their wins, especially at this kind of rate, it worries me. Good teams (playoff teams) usually don’t turn the ball over much. All 3 teams DAL has beat over that span are not playoff teams. Mike Glennon, Taylor Heinicke, and Taysom Hill were the starting quarterbacks. Again, buyer beware.
(3) DAL has been one of the best drafting teams in the league for quite some time now. Can NYG use their template, or at least a part of it? In 2020 they used a 2nd-round pick on corner Trevon Diggs and a 3rd-round pick on defensive tackle Neville Gallimore (trust me you will hear his name more and more now). In 2021, they drafted linebacker Micah Parsons and defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa. Along with some development of other players and low-key free agent signings, this defense now ranks 7th in points allowed vs/ 28th a year ago. NYG needs to turn things around on offense, but I don’t think it needs to take as long as some believe as long as they have the right mind running their draft. Things can turn around in a hurry.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
(1) We do not need to see Mike Glennon under center anymore. I can understand why holding back Jake Fromm initially was needed. Learning an offense from top to bottom, left to right is needed to protect players. Now that we saw him engineer a drive and look just fine while doing it, he needs to be the guy from here on out. No, I don’t see a situation where he can be a part of the QB solution even if he plays well. But it could create a path toward him being a cheap backup. NYG will need to find several ways to manipulate the cap in the coming 2 years. Some of them will be big, a lot of them will be small. A backup QB is a spot they could save some money if Fromm can be the guy. Let’s see what he has in that regard.
(2) How much weight do we put into these late season performances when it comes to contract decisions this offseason? Lorenzo Carter torched the DAL offensive line (mostly the 2nd- and 3rd-string left tackles) and his situation will be one of the key ones to follow this offseason. He has always been an upside-based player. Tools rich, versatile, high intangibles, coaches love him. If he turns it up these next few games, does he earn a long-term deal? In my eyes? No. He has 11.5 sacks in 46 games (30 starts) at a position where pressure on the quarterback is job number one.
(3) I have been harsh on Barkley over the past year, rightfully so. I was also one that wanted Barkley chosen in 2018 for a team that I believed had one more run left with Eli Manning. Not a good call. So, I have been on both sides of the fence here and I still don’t see the answer in relation to what NYG should do with him in these upcoming offseasons. I am sure I will go over this in more detail soon, but I am liking what I see out of his movement in recent weeks. He is one guy who could leave a lasting impression in these next few games if he turns it up another notch.