David Syvertsen

David Syvertsen, aka Sy'56, has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

Jan 052021
 
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Dante Pettis, New York Giants (January 3, 2021)

Dante Pettis – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

There was an odd feel to the days and moments leading up to the week 17 battle with the Dallas Cowboys. After all, it was the first time in years that Big Blue was playing a meaningful game in January. However, it was largely a result of how bad the NFC East was as a whole, more than the Giants earning the right. If NYG could win this 1 PM game against DAL, all they would need would be an 8:20 PM Eagles win over the Washington Football Team. If those two things happened, they would be hosting a playoff game in under a week. NYG would be the first double-digit loss team in the postseason in league history. DAL was playing for the same exact thing in this do-or-die match-up. As they always say, all bets are off when you’re in the tournament, though.

NYG has been horrid in the first half since the start of December. In their previous 4 games combined, they scored a total of 6 points and did not get into the end zone once in the first 2 quarters. They began this week 17 match-up against league’s 26th-ranked (and last-ranked run) defense. Questions were looming over their second-year quarterback. Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett has already been rumored by the media to be gone after this season. The opening drive on this game meant something and they responded. It took just 6 plays to drive 78 yards, ending with a Sterling Shepard reverse that saw him carry it 23 yards into the end zone.

Backup quarterback Andy Dalton, who took over the job the last time these two teams met on October 11 when Dak Prescott suffered a severe leg/ankle injury, had a really rough first half. He threw an interception on the opening DAL drive to rookie Xavier McKinney but it was cancelled due to a holding penalty on fellow rookie defensive back Darnay Holmes. DAL did end up punting a few plays later, however.

NYG was playing a really physical brand early on. There was a lot of emotion and some extra contact post-whistle on most plays. They were trying hard to establish the run with Wayne Gallman (who gained 18 yards on 2 carries on the opening drive) in contrast to them ignoring him in their previous 3 games, all losses. On the third play of the NYG second drive, there was a fumble on the Jones-Gallman exchange, which DAL recovered. Thus, the Cowboys began their own second drive on the NYG 27-yard line. They did breach the red zone but the NYG defense held them to 3 points.

The two offenses then traded 6 scoreless possessions. Both quarterbacks were struggling to make the needed throws that would extend drives and the game became more and more physical. The Jones-to-Shepard connection continued to blossom with New York’s sixth drive ending with a 10-yard touchdown in which Shepard trucked over DAL rookie corner Trevon Diggs into the end zone. Graham Gano made the PAT after missing the first one following the opening drive to make it 13-6.

Dalton then started to click and the NYG defense started missing tackles left and right. Their drive was thwarted by a Dalvin Tomlinson sack, however. DAL settled on a field goal, this one from 46 yards. The NYG two-minute offense clicked on the next drive. This time, they needed just 4 plays to gain 75 yards, ending with a 33-yard touchdown to Dante Pettis. NYG had 20 points on the board for the first time since November 15. Those 20 points came in the first half. They scored 16 points in the first halves of the previous 5 games combined.

The NYG defense was not able to keep DAL from driving down the field again enough, however. They got past midfield with chunk gains in the passing game. Zuerlein then hit a 57-yard field goal to make it 20-9 going into the half.

After going 1-for-7 on 3rd down in the first half, DAL then went 3-and-out on the opening drive of the second half. The oh-so-important first drive of that second half for NYG then resulted in a turnover thanks to another drop by Evan Engram. The ball went right through his hands and into the arms of DAL safety Damien Wilson. DAL turned that into 7 points on a 1-yard touchdown by Ezekiel Elliott. All of the sudden, they were within 4 points with an offense that was starting to click.

The NYG offense continued to shoot themselves in the foot with an illegal crackback block by Shepard and another drop by Engram killing the drive. DAL had the ball back. Their 13-play drive ended with a 36-yard field goal to cut the lead down to 1 point as the 4th quarter began. The stalling NYG offense then went 3-and-out following a sack. Now DAL, who had at this point scored 13 unanswered points, had the ball back. Fortunately, the NYG defense forced a 3-and-out.

At this time, it is important for an offense to have an identity. They had stalled, the opponent was coming back and within 1, and the end of the game was near. In these moments, they need to have something or someone to lean on and that has been where this offense has been putrid in 2020. Nobody could be consistently relied on. However, Jones stepped up and it was interesting to see who he went after the most. On three of the next four plays, Jones threw to Shepard. All three connected and it gained a total of 43 yards. They were approaching field goal range, which was important because it would force DAL to have to pursue a touchdown rather than a field goal. Damien Wilson came up with another big play by sacking Jones for a 10-yard loss. On 3rd-and-16, Jones threw a pass slightly behind Pettis, who was forced to dive backward. He made the catch but the replay showed the ball bounced off of the ground before he demonstrated full control. DAL Head Coach Mike McCarthy did not challenge, Gano then hit a 50-yard field goal, and NYG had a 4-point lead with under 7 minutes left. A huge gaffe by the DAL Head Coach who had more than his fair share of big mistakes in 2020.

DAL kept their offense rolling, putting together a marathon 17-play drive. They did indeed reach field goal range but the 4-point lead now loomed large. What an awful mistake by McCarthy! DAL converted three 3rd downs and a 4th down on this drive. They made it all the way to the NYG 7-yard line. After a crucial sack by Leonard Williams, Dalton desperately heaved a pass into the end zone which was intercepted by McKinney. This time the interception stood. NYG just had to get a first down on offense and it would all be over.

Wayne Gallman, on 2nd-and-5, broke through the line and crossed the first down marker. Without a DAL defender within 5 yards of him any direction, all he had to do was fall onto the ground. Instead, he dropped the ball. An enormous pile of blue and white jerseys then trounced on top of one another. The refs initially signaled DAL football in one of the most 2020-moments of the year. It was almost unbelievable. After conferring with each other, the refs changed it to NYG possession because Gallman clearly had the ball at the bottom of the pile. After a lengthy booth review, NYG still had the ball and game number 16 ended in the victory formation.

NYG wins, 23-19.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 17-25 / 229 yards / 2 TD – 1 INT / 106.9 RAT

Jones did seem a little hesitant with his legs, but he did run the ball 9 times for 17 yards, including a couple of designed runs. The interception was a complete gaffe by Engram. Jones played a solid game and threw a few really nice intermediate balls. He did show a lack of arm talent on two throws that NFL quarterbacks need to make. One was on a deep pass to Slayton where he had a few steps on corner Trevon Diggs. The other was on an out throw to Shepard on 3rd down from the opposite hash. His poor accuracy was bailed out on a few throws by his receivers. Overall, it was a solid game, he simply just missed on a few throws. By the way, the interception that was on Engram marked the first time Jones had thrown one in a current league-high 178 straight attempts. He was charged with the lost fumble on the exchange with Gallman, but I think it was more on the running back.

RUNNING BACK

-Wayne Gallman: 11 att / 65 yards

Gallman had a bunch of quality inside runs. After all, they were up against the last-ranked rushing defense in the league and the NYG offensive line was getting a great push early. When you have a back averaging 6 yards per carry and a passing game that struggles across the board, I just don’t see why you steer away from that running game. Gallman should have gotten the ball more, once again.

-Alfred Morris added 12 yards on 5 carries and Dion Lewis had 1 carry for 7 yards. All three of these backs are unrestricted free agents this offseason. This could be a very different looking running back room with Barkley coming back in 2021.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 8 rec / 112 yards / 1 TD and 2 att / 24 yards / 1 TD

Shepard put out his best performance we have seen in a long time, possibly the best game of his career. It was a strong finish to the year for a guy who just hasn’t made a ton of big plays for this offense that has been starving for a pass catcher to step up. Shepard played a really physical game, trucking over DAL defenders and making an impact as a blocker. He was flagged for a crackback block, however. One thing I love about this kid, he rarely drops the ball. Really sure-handed receiver.

-Dante Pettis definitely earned the right to be a part of the wide receiver mix next year. He had 2 catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. Both grabs were high-skill (even if the second one did indeed hit the ground). They were both big plays and on a team that is absolutely starving for WR talent, he needs to be at least considered.

-Austin Mack had a catch for 9 yards and allowed a TFL while Darius Slayton added 2 catches for 22 yards. Slayton made a really nice grab on a poorly thrown pass and was also mistargeted by Jones on a deep route. It wasn’t a great year for Slayton but there is no denying the upside if the offense around him improves.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram dropped two more passes. Both went right through his hands and one of them resulted in an interception that DAL turned into a touchdown. The debate really doesn’t exist anymore. Engram is super-talented and blessed with rare movement tools for the position, but he can’t be a focal point here. NYG has him here for one more year on a fair price, but I think his days here should be over. More on that below.

-Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo each had a catch on their lone respective targets. Smith allowed a sack but also threw a key block on the Shepard rushing touchdown.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The top two grades went to the top 2 offensive linemen on the year, Nick Gates and Andrew Thomas. They were both flawless in pass protection and both got tremendous push in the running game. Thomas had a roller coaster season but his second half was better than his first half. He has some positive momentum going into his first offseason. Gates started off poorly but evolved into the top OL on this team. He really did play at a top-10 level in the league at the center position. The physical brand of football is coming back and I think this kid is at the forefront.

-Kevin Zeitler allowed a sack, TFL, and a pressure. He did throw some weight around in the running game but he and Cameron Fleming, who also allowed a pressure, may be the focal point of this offense that needs to be fixed first. That right side has been poor all year and even though Matt Peart did show some signs of potential, NYG can’t go into 2021 with these holes. If it means big money to someone, so be it. If it means another high draft pick, so be it. They need to get dominant up front or else this offense will continue to stink.

-Shane Lemieux played every snap at left guard and allowed 1 pressure. He, too, was solid in the running game. I think he showed enough to deserve a starting spot in 2021 or at the very least be in competition for a starting spot. He simply needs strength and power development. There was a lot he did right this year and NYG should be pleased with him considering where they got him in the draft.

EDGE

-Kyler Fackrell was back after missing 4 games with a calf injury. It was interesting to see NYG try and fill his hybrid ILB/OLB “BUCK” role in this scheme. Nobody realty could. It is a really unique position. He had 3 tackles and a sack. Fackrell is a free agent this year and I think NYG should prioritize bringing him back. He isn’t special, but he is unique.

-Jabaal Sheard had 1 tackle and a 1 pressure. He was a solid player for a one-year rental, but I doubt he is in the picture next year.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-The career-year by Leonard Williams ended with a bang. He finished with 7 tackles, 3 sacks, a pass break-up, and 2 pressures. No need to bring up whether or not the trade was worth it anymore, as previously stated. The question is now is what should NYG offer him to stick around for the long term? The 26-year old is one of the more unique defensive linemen in the game and you could make the argument he is the most versatile defensive lineman in the game. He is not as good as J.J. Watt, but they are the two guys who can credibly play both the inside and outside gaps in whatever scheme a coach draws up. For a defense that truly wants to change their face weekly, that is invaluable. But hey, everyone has a limit.

-Dalvin Tomlinson had 2 tackles and a sack while Dexter Lawrence added 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure. Even though NYG still has a ways to go, these three guys up front along with quality backups B.J. Hill and Austin Johnson were a consistent bright spot all year. This group made this defense more consistent than it has been in a very long time. They made this defense have a standout trait and even though there are other pieces needed, I do hope they find a way to keep these guys together another few years. That could be something special.

LINEBACKER

-Tae Crowder and Blake Martinez both had 11 tackles. Crowder added 2 TFL and Martinez added a sack. This was fun to watch. We have gotten used to how reliable Martinez has been, notably against the run between the tackles. We also saw flashes of Crowder and his play-making ability that stems from plus twitch and speed. They were both on their game in this one and matched with a very solid defensive line, they could be major forces combined as a pair in 2021. Crowder did miss 2 tackles and that is a red flag we have seen a few times.

-David Mayo had 4 tackles, 2 of which were on special teams, and Devante Downs added 1 tackle. These are two guys I wouldn’t mind seeing replaced in 2021. They just don’t seem to have enough speed to be relied on. It has shown up several times this year, as it did in this match-up.

CORNERBACK

-Pro Bowler James Bradberry had 4 tackles and a pass break up. He dropped an interception that he should have brought in. Opposing defenses really didn’t throw at him that much this season. NYG got a good one. Now they need to find another.

-Logan Ryan played more corner in this one than the previous few weeks. He nearly had an interception as well while adding 3 tackles. He had another missed tackle. He led the team in that department this season.

-Darnay Holmes was back after missing time with an injury. He was on the field for under a third of the snaps. On multiple occasions, he has shown the knack for being flagged at very inopportune times. This game was no different. He was flagged for a hold on Xavier McKinney’s interception in the first half. He was beat on a couple 3rd-down conversions as well.

SAFETY

-Speaking of McKinney, we saw a real glimpse of just how good this kid can be down the road. He was all over the field and this scheme has him wearing a lot of hats. He finished with 8 tackles, 1 TFL, and an interception. He also has a second interception that was cancelled by a penalty on Darnay Holmes. McKinney quickly sniffed out a screen pass on two occasions and also sniffed out a reverse that led to a no gain. He really seemed to get more and more comfortable these past 3 weeks. I think NYG should be excited about what he brings to the table. They have been starving for talent at safety for a long time and they now have 2-3 guys who can really get it done.

-Jabrill Peppers was roasted by the DAL passing game in this one. They attacked him over and over and he just always seemed to be a step slow. He did a nice job of making tackles in space and minimizing damage, but he did miss a tackle and was flagged for a holding penalty.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 50). Gano hit his 29 consecutive field goal, a franchise record. He missed an extra point.

-P Riley Dixon 5 Punts / 45.2 avg / 37.6 net

3 STUDS

-WR Sterling Shepard, DT Leonard Williams, S Xavier McKInney

3 DUDS

-OG Kevin Zeitler, TE Evan Engram, S Jabrill Peppers

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

6-10 in a season where they lost their starting quarterback in Week 5. DAL had games started by quarterbacks Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert. They lost both of their starting defensive tackles. They lost both starting offensive tackles and had health issues at center and one of the guard spots. I actually give this team credit for finishing where they did.

What does DAL need the most? Their defense is atrocious on multiple levels. They lack discipline, they lack consistency, and they couldn’t stop the run all year. DAL is going to need to invest money and early picks on their defense, the DTs and safeties in particular. This is where the issues arise when you opt to put so much money into the Prescott/Elliott/Cooper trio and then spend a 1st rounder on a WR. I’ve been vocal about DAL not spreading their funds and picks out well enough and now they are in a very tricky spot with a QB who is going to fight an uphill battle to return from a serious injury. This offseason is going to be huge for them, huge.

DAL got by with a dominant offensive line for a few years. It was one of a few examples in the league that showed just how good a team can be overall when the OL is dominant. However, left tackler Tyron Smith hasn’t played a full year since 2015 and missed 14 games this season. Right Tackle La’el Collins missed the entire year and there are some whispers from people I trust that some in the organization want him at guard. Yes, DAL missing Prescott was the catalyst in their offense going backwards but that OL taking a few steps back was a close second.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

NYG finishes 6-10. It was the most wins they’ve had since 2016. While nobody is actually giving them credit for playing “meaningful games in December,” it was refreshing to walk away from week 17 thinking the arrow was finally pointing up. This was the first time since 2016 that NYG finished with a defense ranked top-half in the NFL and just the 3rd time since 2010. They finished even in the turnover battle a year after they tied for a league-worst -17. They were flagged the 6th-least amount of times just 2 years after getting flagged the 9th-most. They are clearly playing with more grit, hustle, and intelligence. Their coaching decisions are showing more innovation and creativity. There are still things to be done here, but this is the first time in a long time where I feel this team is on the right track.

The most polarizing personnel decision this offseason, in my opinion, is not at quarterback or wide receiver or outside linebacker or defensive tackle. It revolves around Evan Engram. He is locked into another year before his free agency hits in 2022. I’ll go on record now; I think they need to try and trade him if they can get a day 2 pick from someone. I do think he can thrive in a certain role in a certain offense and there is no denying his talent. However, this passing game just doesn’t have the margin of error to deal with his drop issues. We may be singing a different tune about this season if he didn’t drop the ball so much. I think NYG needs to get the “old school” tight end whether it be in the draft or in free agency. This offense will be built on the running game and short/intermediate passes. Engram doesn’t fit and his drops just kill the flow and upside. He isn’t worth the risk.

Where does NYG go this offseason? I will put together a more detailed approach in the coming weeks. But to be short and to the point, they need players on offense who scare the defense. With Barkley out, nobody scares the defense. Look at the top offenses, they all have multiple guys who scare you. You can use the #11 pick on getting the #1- or #2-graded receiver or you can go after one of the top free agents at the position. I lean toward the former. I also think the building of this offensive line isn’t close to being over. They need a new right side and they need to build more depth at tackle. They likely need another starter at outside corner or at least a guy who can rotate in. Lastly, they need a pure pass rusher on the edge who can help them break through the line while rushing just 4 guys while keeping 7 in coverage. Considering they need to figure out allocation of funds to Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson, all of this is a really tall order. If I had to, right now in this moment, rank where I think they need to apply resources, I am saying: OL, WR, EDGE, TE, CB. Those are the top 5 needs.

Thanks for discussing NYG football with me this year, everybody. Just think… about 5 months ago, we didn’t know if football would happen. And within the past 5 months, we had several chirping about the idea that the league should be put on hold. Football is more important to the well being of this country than most want to admit. We were fortunate that the league pulled off a full 256-game schedule. God Bless everyone. I will be around here and there, but during the next 3-4 months, I will be hunkered down writing my reports for the draft. Position previews will be out in April.

Dec 292020
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (December 27, 2020)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The NFL season is full of streaks both hot and cold, for every respective team in the league. The ones that trek through the peaks and valleys the best while minimizing the down times and maximizing the good times are the teams standing tall at the end. The best can still turn those low points into wins while the bottom feeders just can’t seem to hide their issues well enough. The Baltimore Ravens entered the week 16 matchup winners of 3 straight averaging a league high 40 points per game over that span behind the surging Lamar Jackson, who caught fire over that period (10 touchdowns). The Giants entered the game going in the complete opposite direction. They had lost two straight and scored a combined 30 points over the previous 3 weeks, 10 less than what BAL was averaging per game. In the putrid NFC East, however, they were still alive.

The BAL offense continued their impressive, machine-type offensive work early on. They scored touchdowns on both of their first two drives while chewing up the majority of the first quarter-clock. They held onto the ball for 13:17 while NYG possessed it for 1:43 and got flagged for two false starts while accruing 18 total yards. BAL added 3 more points on a 20-yard field goal by All-Pro kicker Justin Tucker, following another long drive, this one 13 plays. With 5 minutes left in the first half, BAL had run 36 plays and NYG just 10.

NYG’s offense did start moving the ball on their final possession of the half, as they had to start eating away at the 17-point deficit. They found themselves in the red zone with 1:25 left and this is where I felt they mismanaged the clock. Following a 4 yard completion to Sterling Shepard on a 1st and 10, BAL called a timeout. They knew there would be enough time to potentially get the ball back. NYG then proceeded to call two high-difficulty pass plays to undrafted rookie Austin Mack. Both fell incomplete and BAL did indeed get the ball back with 2 timeouts and over 1 minute on the clock following Graham Gano’s 31-yard field goal.

BAL then ran another 10 plays that brought them all the way to the NYG 10-yard line, but they were finally stopped by a quality pass rush which made them settle on another field goal, this one from 28 yards, that Tucker nailed through the uprights to give BAL a commanding 20-3 lead at the half. BAL out-gained NYG 282-95 yards and won the time of possession battle 22:38 to 7:22 in the first two quarters. Complete domination.

NYG began the second half with a three-and-out, but the defense did stop BAL for the first time soon after. The NYG offense then started to wake up with chunk gains from Wayne Gallman, Dante Pettis, and C.J. Board. They got into the red zone with a 1st-and-10, but the first two plays from there were a 5-yard loss on a screen to Sterling Shepard and then a 7-yard loss on a sack. They had to settle on a field goal which Gano nailed from 42 yards. This was his 29th straight successful attempt, tying an all-time NYG record.

BAL ended the 3rd quarter with another touchdown-scoring drive spurred by a 25-yard run by rookie running back J.K. Dobbins. Jackson ended the drive by finding a wide open Dez Bryant in the end zone. Yes, the same Dez Bryant who was playing in his 5th game since the start of the 2018 season and formerly of the division-rival Dallas Cowboys. The 32-year old was surrounded by open turf as the NYG secondary had a miscommunication in coverage.

NYG then began the 4th quarter with their own marathon, clock-eating drive that was 15 plays long. This was very much aided by BAL mistakes, however. After a set of plays that saw Jones sacked on three-straight drop backs, BAL running back Justice Hill was flagged for a roughing-the-punter penalty which gave NYG a fresh start from their own 37. BAL was flagged 3 more times on that drive and even though the NYG offense still seemed lethargic and sloppy, they were able to score a touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Jones to Shepard. NYG had narrowed the gap to 14 points with just under 9 minutes remaining. A three-and-out by the BAL offense gave NYG the ball back but NYG was never able to breach midfield. After a 12-yard completion to Shepard, NYG went incomplete-incomplete-sack-incomplete on the following four passing plays. Yet another pathetic display of offense.

BAL drove the ball all the way down to the NYG 1-yard line after starting at the 35. A fumble on the exchange between Jackson and running back Gus Edwards was recovered by the newly-extended Logan Ryan for the lone ball-turnover of the game. NYG had under 2 minutes left and no timeouts. One of the worst two offenses in football could not even reach midfield, yet again, despite BAL playing a soft defense and aiding them with a 10-yard pass interference. The game ended with the final four NYG offensive plays netting 3 total yards on a scramble by Jones before turning it over on downs and back to BAL for the victory formation kneel-down.

NYG loses 27-13.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 24-41 / 252 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 84.6 RAT

The stat line actually made Jones’ performance look better than he played. It wasn’t a good game for the sophomore, as he missed on multiple throws that, simply put, he needs to make. He was short on a couple deep balls to Slayton, he was high on a couple of open slants where he had pressure coming right at him, and he did not process information quickly enough when BAL sent the house in their blitz packages. While the offensive line didn’t do him any favors and we just don’t see these receivers ever running with space around them, his performance did not help this team. Was he rusty after a few weeks of being in and out of practice and games? Was he overwhelmed by the aggressive BAL defense? Did he not respond well to not really being able to use his legs? Or is he just not that good? I’ll discuss further in the closing comments.

RUNNING BACKS

-I really don’t get why NYG hasn’t been using Wayne Gallman more in the first half these past few weeks. He carried the ball 6 times for 27 yards and caught 2 passes for 26 yards. In the first half, he touched the ball 3 times. Granted, BAL dominated time of possession and NYG only ran 18 play,s but I still think Gallman has been productive enough to warrant more consistent touches in the first half where a team can dictate play calls more than the game situation. The same can’t be said in the second half.

-Dion Lewis had 15 yards on his lone carry and Alfred Morris had a 9 yard catch and gained 4 yards on 3 carries, including a key 3rd-and-1 conversion.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard had a season high 9 catches and 77 yards with a touchdown, just his second of the year. It’s been over two months since he last scored. Shepard played a really tough, competitive game from the slot and outside positions. He came up with a big 3rd-down conversion on the lone NYG touchdown scoring drive.

-Darius Slayton caught 2 passes for 26 yards and dropped another one, although it was a tough grab due to an off-throw by Jones. He still needs to start showing the ability to make these tough catches and be more physical against contact. If he wants to be a guy who can run in a straight line and catch passes with nobody on him, fine. But if he is going to be more than the occasional deep threat, he needs to more consistently make the tough plays.

-C.J. Board caught a pass for 16 yards and Dante Pettis caught 2 passes for 33 yards in his first game-action with the team. Remember, San Francisco was very excited about this kid not so long ago. Talent is there, but he has had durability and mental-capacity issues.

-Austin Mack saw more playing time than he has seen in a while. He was targeted three times and didn’t come away with anything. He had a really bad drop on a 3rd-and-4 would-be conversion. He was also flagged for a holding penalty on a kick return.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram had 7 catches for 63 yards. The “big play threat” is now averaging a career-low 10.4 yards per catch. Three of the four Giants leading pass catchers are averaging 11 yards per catch or less. Engram does provide spark and twitch but he just doesn’t create enough big plays for a guy who everyone says is dripping with talent. He graded out average as a blocker.

-Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo were quiet in their respective backup roles. Smith did provide a couple of quality run blocks.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-It was a horrid day for this group, especially in the second half. They just did not come to play across the board. Center Nick Gates was the only one who graded at the average point; everyone else was below the desired mark.

-Rookie Matt Peart allowed 2.5 sacks despite being on the field for just 17 plays. He looked confused and it made him move awkwardly with very little power presence. Cameron Fleming outplayed him by a long shot, allowing just 1 pressure but was also flagged for a false start on a 3rd down. Killer.

-Shane Lemieux continues to struggle when it comes to maintain quality presence and contact as a pass blocker. He allowed 2 pressures and a sack. This coaching staff really seems to favor him over Will Hernandez, who played just 10 snaps, but I think it may be time to let the latter back in this upcoming week. Lemieux just can’t get it done as a pass blocker on an island and opponents now know this. They will keep isolating him.

-Kevin Zeitler was flagged for a false start and allowed 1 pressure and a half-sack. Rookie Andrew Thomas was also flagged for a false start and he allowed 2 pressures. Both got good push in the running game, however. It didn’t help much though.

EDGE

-On a day where the NYG defense could neither rush the passer nor stop the outside run, one can only shake their head. That is exactly what happened. Jabaal Sheard had 2 tackles and Cam Brown finished with three. They both missed a tackle and neither got a pressure. They were facing the backup tackle tandem on an offense that has been mightily struggling with pass blocking. Brown did make an impressive play where he ran down wide receiver Devin Duvernay, possibly one of the 20 fastest players in football. He is interesting, but that is all I will say about him for now. Still a long ways to go.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-This was supposed to be a huge game for these guys. The BAL rushing offense came into this game ranked number one in the NFL. There is no secret to stopping this offense. You have to stuff the run and make Jackson throw. NYG failed, miserably. I have been vocal about the NYG defensive tackles being a key cog to the defensive improvements we have seen this season. With that said, they were outmatched for the majority of the game.

-Dexter Lawrence was the one guy who could have passed as a good player at times in this game. He finished with 5 tackles and a pressure. He remained active throughout the game and made a few plays away from the ball.

-Leonard Williams finished with 1 tackle and 1 pressure in his worst game of the year. Dalvin Tomlinson added 4 tackles and a pressure, but was over-matched in the first half when BAL jumped out to that early lead.

-B.J. Hill added 3 tackles and a pressure.

LINEBACKER

-Blake Martinez was hot and cold. I still don’t think he is 100% based on how he is moving in pursuit. He did play with some decent power and strength, finishing with 12 tackles. He had a big-time fill and stuff on a 3rd-and-2 failed attempt in the second half when NYG still had some life.

-Tae Crowder struggled. The best athlete in this group did show some speed and twitch as usual, but he missed a team high 3 tackles and was flagged for a block in the back on a kick return. He finished with 8 tackles, but it was his worst game of the year and it was against the stiffest competition he has been up against.

-David Mayo was on the field for 44 plays and somehow did not record a single tackle. He missed 2 of them. He was outclassed when it came to speed and agility.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry was back on the field after missing a game. BAL barely even looked his way. He did finish with 3 tackles.

-Part of the reason why Bradberry didn’t get tested was Isaac Yiadom. It was his worst game of the year. He missed 2 tackles, lost outside contain on a 3rd-down conversion, and allowed a touchdown to Marquise Brown.

-Logan Ryan saw a lot of time at nickel. He did finish with 8 tackles and a fumble recovery, but missed 2 tackles. Both of his misses were big and it appears he allowed a touchdown on a misread in zone coverage. Ryan does give NYG a lot of hot and cold. By no means was the extension a bad decision, but there are reasons why nobody in the league wanted him at a significant contract price this past offseason. He needs to clean the mistakes up, especially the ones that revolve around tackling.

SAFETY

-Julian Love saw less playing time. It looks like Xavier McKinney has passed him on the depth chart and it didn’t go well in BAL. McKinney was beat by tight end Mark Andrews multiple times. He also missed 2 tackles. The one thing I will say that I did like was his playing speed. He gets from point A to point B faster than anyone else on the defense.

-Jabrill Peppers had 6 tackles and a TFL. Nothing stood out, good or bad.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 31, 42).
-P Riley Dixon: 3 Punts / 47.0 avg / 35.0 net

3 STUDS

-WR Sterling Shepard, LB Blake Martinez, OC Nick Gates

3 DUDS

-DT Leonard Williams, CB Isaac Yiadom, EDGE Jabaal Sheard

3 THOUGHTS ON BAL

This is one team I just wouldn’t want to play in the postseason. Sure, they haven’t done much there since Jackson has been in the fold. Sure, their passing game isn’t dangerous. Sure, their offensive line isn’t quite what it was a year ago. However, when this team is hot, they show dominance that is as high as anyone. You know what they’re doing, and you just can’t stop it.

Want to know the sign of as really good coaching staff? One that can adjust. One that is not stubborn and set in their ways. Look no further than BAL. They took in Jackson (after trading up for him with the last pick of the 2018 Draft) and morphed their scheme and surrounding cast in a blink of the eye when they put him into the starting role. They stocked up on tight ends. They stocked up on physical downhill running backs. They stocked up on big offensive linemen. BAL has, by far, been the top rushing team in the NFL since the start of 2019. Next up, they have to get it done in the playoffs.

Talk about a homegrown defense and just a team overall that drafts well. Over 75% of their starters / heavy rotation guys were drafted by BAL over the past 8-10 years. Dating all the way back to 2013 (!)…BAL has drafted one current big-time contributor to their defense OR had a big-time defensive player sign elsewhere because of cap economics.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

Some of you need to read this. I try to avoid talking like this within the reviews but not this time. It is OK if you believe Jones is not the answer. It is OK if you think Jones is the answer. Nobody can objectively determine that right now. One thing we all can and should agree on: you don’t know. I don’t know. He doesn’t know. She doesn’t know. The kid has played TWENTY-FIVE games behind a bottom-5 offensive line, the worst set of receivers in football, a tight end who is among league leaders in drops, and a star running back who has missed 14 of 25 games in which Jones started. He needs to be better and I have been vocal about that. You can even argue NYG should start over at QB in the upcoming draft. But to say Jones and NYG should be better because he was the #6 pick (means almost nothing, do some research), or that Jones is a definitive bust, you just sound foolish. This kid has shown more in 25 games than SO MANY quality quarterbacks. That is a fact.

The most disappointing part of this NYG loss was the defensive line. I had high hopes that they would rise to the occasion and put this team back on track. They failed miserably. This is the issue with building a defense on big-and-physical but slow-and- limited athletes who do most of their work between the tackles. Football is a game of space and speed, and NYG just doesn’t have enough up front. They aren’t dynamic enough within the pass rush unless it is schemed.

Here we are entering Week 17 with what I consider a realistic shot at making the playoffs. Not because NYG has played well, but because this division is historically bad. No matter the case, I think rooting for a loss so they can pick higher in the draft is just wrong. If WAS loses to a motivated PHI (which I think will happen), the Giants will have an opportunity to play in a playoff game. Playoff experience is huge for so many young ball clubs. This is the biggest game NYG has had late in the year in a very long time and if they come out firing on all cylinders after such a poor 3-week stretch, it is a great sign for the future. Whether they make the playoffs or not, that is a fact. If they come out and lay an egg and continue their bottom-level offensive football against a horrid defense like DAL, then it is a huge negative sign for the future in my eyes. From that perspective, I think it is pretty easy to decide what you are rooting for. I hope you understand that.

Dec 222020
 
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Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (December 20, 2020)

Sterling Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

While the modern-day rivalry between the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants isn’t very historical or dramatic, as they only play once every four years and don’t have any championship games against one another, there was some extra spice to this late-season match-up. First, the 2019 CLE Head Coach Freddie Kitchens took over play calling duties for NYG for Jason Garrett, who missed the game because of Covid-19. Second, former CLE starting QB Colt McCoy was starting for the injured Daniel Jones. And third, these two teams traded players and picks with each other two offseasons ago, creating a “revenge” feel for many. Beyond that, the national TV, flexed game was a big one for NYG. Because of a WAS loss earlier in the day, NYG would be back in 1st place if they were able to pull off the upset against CLE, winner of 4 of their last 5.

Following a 48-yard return on the opening kick to midfield by Dion Lewis, NYG was set up nicely to start the game. Thanks to a 22-yard pass from McCoy to Sterling Shepard, NYG quickly had the ball in the red zone. After a failed touchdown pass attempt to Evan Engram, the NYG field goal unit came on for a 25-yard field goal attempt. The trickster in Joe Judge has been getting more and more aggressive, but this next decision took the cake. NYG rushed into an odd formation with everyone split out besides three down linemen. Center Nick Gates, an eligible receiver, snapped the ball then ran into the end zone. Punter Riley Dixon took the snap, dropped back like a quarterback similar to that time he did it in recess a couple decades ago, and lofted a pass to Gates who was surrounded by 3 CLE defenders. The ball fell incomplete, turnover on downs.

CLE then turned the ball over on downs near midfield, giving NYG another strong starting field position. This time, they turned it into 3 points. McCoy hit Darius Slayton for 35 yards on this drive and even though everyone knew points would be tough to come by, it was a good sign this team got into the red zone on both of their first two possessions. They were only up 3-0, however. Baker Mayfield, the #1 pick from the 2018 Draft, looked smooth, confident, and decisive. CLE used that to go up by a score of 7-3 via a 2-yard pass to tight end Austin Hooper.

Once again, NYG drove the ball down the field and breached the red zone. They were faced with a 4th-and-2 from the 6-yard line, enabling Judge to stay aggressive. A rush attempt failed to convert the first down and instead of points, it was a turnover on downs for the second time. NYG has an All-Pro contender at kicker, they have a hard time scoring points, and they now were down 7-3 instead of up 9-7. The seemingly automatic Mayfield continued to complete pass after pass on the next drive. They near-seamlessly put another touchdown on the board on a 2-yard pass to Jarvis Landry. Landry was flagged for taunting, however, pushing the CLE extra point attempt back 15 yards. Kicker Cody Parkey ended up hitting the upright on the PAT attempt, keeping the score at 13-3 as halftime approached. NYG has scored a combined 3 first half points over the previous 3 games.

CLE had the momentum and started the second half with the ball. If NYG wanted any shot at a comeback win, these opening second-half possessions were vital. Dexter Lawrence sacked Mayfield for an 11-yard loss on a 2nd-and-11. This was the play that was supposed to change the flow of the game. However, on the ensuing NYG drive, and after two first downs that brought NYG to midfield, Wayne Gallman was tackled for a 3-yard loss due to a failed attempted block by Engram, a wide receiver who sometimes lines up where a tight end is supposed to. This created a 3rd-and-12, which NYG did not convert.

CLE then went on a 14-play, 8+ minute drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown by Nick Chubb. It was 20-3 and the NYG offense just couldn’t get anything going from sources like Colt McCoy, Alfred Morris, and a group pass catchers who are among the least-intimidating in football. NYG was able to put 3 more points on the board a couple possessions later to make it 20-6 (rather than 20-12) with 4 minutes left. CLE was done scoring but they did force NYG to burn their timeouts before getting the ball back with a minute left. A few pointless and meaningless gains later, the clock read 0:00 and NYG remained in 2nd place as they lost their second straight.

NYG loses, 20-6.

QUARTERBACK

-Colt McCoy: 19-31 / 221 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 82.9 RAT

For the second time in 3 weeks, McCoy got the start for an injured Daniel Jones. Expectations for a 34-yard old career backup are never high and whatever they may be, McCoy met them. He made a couple of really nice throws in the first quarter that led NYG to the red zone, but he couldn’t seal the deal on a couple of opportunities in the end zone. McCoy just didn’t put the ball where he needed to on a few occasions and that is often the difference between good and mediocre at this level. NYG went over 15 years without having to deal with a backup starting the game. We’ve now seen it twice in three weeks. It really is such a limiting factor.

RUNNING BACK

-Alfred Morris led the way with 39 yards on 7 carries while Wayne Gallman added 29 yards on 7 carries. Dion Lewis caught 2 passes for 14 yards and had a 48 yard kick return to start off the game but fumbled later in the game as a returner for the second week in a row. It wasn’t a bad day for the NYG backs, but it lacked impact and Gallman getting stuffed on a 4th-and-2 where he just didn’t have the sheer power to push the pile forward was a killer.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton led the way with 74 yards on 4 catches. He had an awful drop that would have converted a 3rd-and-10 (even if he did, there was a penalty on the offensive line that cancelled the play altogether). Still a really ugly look for Slayton. Those 74 yards were 29 yards more than what he accrued in the previous 3 games combined. However, 2 of those catches and 18 of those yards came in the final minute of the game where pretty much nobody cared.

-Sterling Shepard added 51 yards on 4 catches and Golden Tate caught 2 passes for 13 yards. That is a combined 6 catches for 64 yards. Just over 10 yards per catch, yet again from these two. The more games I see this offense play, the stronger the notion is that this team is starving for playmakers on the outside that scare a defense.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram had a bad game. He did catch 4 passes for 46 yards but he added another drop to the list and his blocking was poor. He just isn’t a guy that can handle the rigors of blocking in-line. He allowed a TFL and caused both Morris and Gallman alike to alter the running lane on one occasion each. There was a near-touchdown that can’t be called a drop, however both of his hands were on the ball first and it was jarred out by CLE safety Karl Joseph.

-Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo both deserve a positive write up. Smith was a key blocker on a couple of NYG’s longer runs. They used him as a trap blocker a couple times and he did some serious damage on contact. Toilolo added a catch for 14 yards and recovered the Dion Lewis fumble.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

-After a horrific match-up against Haason Reddick a week ago, Andrew Thomas bounced back against Myles Garrett. Garrett didn’t look like his old self at points, but I like how Thomas played him. He was really aggressive with his hands and he kept his balance post-contact. He did allow a half-sack late in the game but besides that, he didn’t give anything. 0 Pressures, 0 TFL, 0 penalties.

-Cameron Fleming and Shane Lemieux were poor. Fleming just doesn’t have it snap to snap; he is pretty much always going to get beat eventually within a sustained drive. He allowed 2 pressures, got flagged for a hold, and allowed a half sack. Lemieux allowed 2 pressures and was flagged for a hands-to-the-face penalty which ended up being declined. His issues have more to do with the fact he just isn’t powerful enough yet. I think that will come with time. His twitch, balance, and technique look good.

-Kevin Zeitler allowed a TFL and Nick Gates was pretty quiet. He didn’t get left alone much but still produced quality run blocking with his ability to move guys laterally.

EDGE

-It was a quiet day overall for the group, but Carter Coughlin was the stand out. He had 4 tackles and a pressure. He did get beat badly in coverage by Austin Hooper twice, one of which was for a first down. He isn’t natural in that role because remember, he was purely an edge guy in college. I can remember writing in his scouting report that he had the skill set and intelligence to play a role inside down the road. With the BUCK role being an edge role that can fill in next to the MIKE inside at times in this defense, Coughlin is making a strong case to be considered for that role next year. He just needs to figure out coverage more than anything.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-NYG held the CLE rushing attack (top 5 in the NFL) to a quiet day on the ground. The 106 yards were the lowest since November 1. The two catalysts? Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. They were excellent off the line and showed range. They both had 6 tackles and a TFL, Lawrence also had a sack and pass deflection on 3rd down. Williams added 2 pressures and made rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills look like a child in the running game.

-B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Austin Johnson all continued to rotate and provide solid run defense. None offered much against the pass. Johnson had a TFL.

LINEBACKER

-Blake Martinez looked, moved, and hit better than he did last week when he seemed to be recovering from his back injury. He was back to the level we had gotten so used to all year and it was a great combination with what NYG was working with up front. He had 10 tackles and 2 TFL. Not many guys can stone Kareem Hunt, but Martinez did. He played smart, instinctive, and physical. He is one of the best LBs in the league when it comes to noticing and reacting to the screen.

-Tae Crowder added 6 tackles and a TFL. Devante Downs and David Mayo rotated in but it is as clear as anything that Crowder is the guy there. Downs and Mayo both badly missed tackles in space. Those two need to play less and Crowder needs to be the only inside guy on the field next to Martinez.

CORNERBACK

-With both James Bradberry and Darnay Holmes out, NYG had to get a little creative at cornerback with Julian Love and Logan Ryan, both collegiate corners. Both of them played well in their roles, respectively. Ryan had 9 tackles and Love finished with 6. They both were beat by Jarvis Landry on separate 3rd down conversions and both missed a tackle.

-Isaac Yiadom was expected to step up in this one, and he did not. CLE clearly wanted to go after him and they ended up having a lot of success there. He allowed a touchdown to Landry and allowed two downfield completions to Rashard Higgins. He didn’t have a lot of help in this one and he just did not come through.

SAFETY

-In his first game back against the team that made him a 1st round pick in 2017, Jabrill Peppers was as quiet as we have seen this year. He had 3 tackles and just didn’t seem to make a physical presence known against the strong CLE rushing attack. He got caught over-pursuing two outside runs that I did not count as missed tackles, but it did create more yards for them.

-Rookie Xavier McKinney saw a slight uptick in playing time because of the vacancies at corner. He made 4 tackles and was often playing a preventative deep role in coverage. He didn’t really have an opportunity to display much against the pass.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 39 and 37)
-P Riley Dixon: 2 Punts / 34.5 avg / 31.5 net

3 STUDS

-DT Dexter Lawrence, DT Leonard Williams, OT Andrew Thomas

3 DUDS

-OT Cameron Fleming, CB Isaac Yiadom, TE Evan Engram

3 THOUGHTS ON CLE

CLE went a combined 1-31 in 2016/2017. Their last winning season was 2007 (the first Eli Manning Super Bowl). They are now 10-4 and heading toward the playoffs with a big arrow pointing upward. How did they turn it around? Three things. One, they’ve crushed the early draft picks. DE Myles Garrett in 2017, Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward in 2018, Jedrick Wills in 2020. Two, their Head Coach Kevin Stefanski has created a system on offense that fits his personnel perfectly and he sticks to it. Three, they have created one of the best offensive lines in football.

More on that offensive line because it deserves its own write up. Baker Mayfield has been sacked just 18 times this year. In 2019, he was sacked 41 times. Kudos to this Front Office for double-dipping at the OT spots by signing Jack Conklin in free agency and then using their 1st-round pick on Jedrick Wills. Those two, in combination with what I consider to be the top trio of interior offensive linemen in the league has instilled so much confidence in Mayfield in addition to paving the way for a top-5 rushing attack.

The CLE offense is better without Odell Beckham. I mean that 100% and I say it without hesitation. This is not a knock on Beckham at all. This has more to do with my thoughts on NYG and whether or not they should pursue a top WR in free agency. They need an uptick in talent there, but you need to tread carefully. An offense works best, in most cases, when the ball is being spread around. Mayfield was forcing the ball to Beckham and it was making him a less effective quarterback, plain and simple.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There may not be a less effective offense in the NFL than what NYG is working with. Granted, they are working with a backup QB and they are missing the focal point of their offense in Barkley. But 30 points over 3 games (including 13 over the last 2) against three defenses that do not include any top 10 units is just embarrassing. The silver lining here is I would rather go into the offseason trying to fix a bad offense than a bad defense.

How does the 31st ranked offense get fixed? This offensive line needs to become dominant. Not good, they need to be dominant. I think NYG can go into next year with Thomas and Peart at tackle but both of those guys aren’t dominant players. Nick Gates is a keeper at center. The question and opportunity for upgrade will be at the guard spots. Whether it is a high priced free agent (Joe Thuney/NE?) or a 2nd round pick (there are a few), or both, NYG needs to go in that direction. It isn’t sexy, but I feel it is the most efficient and reliable way to go about it.

Two games left and yes, NYG still has a shot at this division crown. The biggest issue? They are matched up against a hot BAL team that, when all things are clicking, can be as hard to stop as anyone. While I am confident in NYG’s ability to stuff a traditional rushing attack like CLE, BAL is simply a different animal. Think about the way ARI was able to pick up chunk gains with Kyler Murray. This will be on the NYG defensive line, yes. But we really need to see that second level (LBs and safeties) step up.

Dec 162020
 
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Andrew Thomas and Daniel Jones, New York Giants (December 13, 2020)

Andrew Thomas and Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Two teams going in two completely different directions. ARI came into this week 14 match-up losers of three straight, and four of their last five. Their lone win over that stretch came at home against BUF at the hands of a last second Hail Mary. On the other hand, NYG was coming off 4 straight wins, including one over SEA the previous week. Starting quarterback Daniel Jones was back in the lineup, Blake Martinez was active after missing some practice time because of a back injury, and the overall health of the NYG squad ranked near the top of the league in a sport where attrition means everything.

The last time Jones turned the ball over was November 2 (week 8) against Tampa Bay. He then went three straight games without giving the ball to the other team (plus he missed last week’s match-up because of a hamstring injury). That is simply mentioned because the one glaring black eye to the start of Jones’ career has revolved around turning the ball over, namely fumbles. It has been getting cleaned up, NYG has been winning, and the arrow for both Jones and the franchise was pointing up. That isn’t how things began, however.

Jones was sacked by former Giant Markus Golden, who was traded by the club in October, on an untouched rush. Jones was starting his release and the timing of the hit was perfect for a forced fumble. Golden scooped up the loose ball himself and returned it to the NYG 9-yard line. The NYG defense stepped up though. They came up with 3rd and 4th down stops from the 1-yard line, keeping the score at 0-0. The NYG offense responded with a 3-and-out before punting the ball back to ARI, where Christian Kirk had a 24-yard return. ARI started their second possession from the NYG 38. This time, ARI was able to put points on the board via a 34-yard field goal by Mike Nugent.

NYG gained a combined 15 yards on their next two drives. ARI started their fourth possession of the game in NYG territory, the third time they started near midfield or better. The NYG defense remained tough though, keeping them to another 3 points. ARI was up 6-0. It was time for the sleepy offense to step up, as they didn’t want a repeat first half performance from last week where they didn’t score at all. That attempt would have to wait. Dion Lewis fumbled the ensuing kick return, giving ARI the ball at the NYG 21-yard line. For the fourth time in five possessions, ARI was starting near midfield or better and it was the third time they were inside the NYG 40. The NYG defense gave up a 15-yard run to ARI running back Kenyan Drake but got it to 3rd and Goal from the 7. Kyler Murray was pressured by multiple rushers and heaved a fade away pass toward the back of the end zone. There was one ARI tight end and three NYG defensive backs in the area but it was Dan Arnold who brought it in for the touchdown. ARI went up 13-0.

The NYG offense approached midfield for the first time but they were stopped on a 3rd-and-7 attempt where Jones did not throw to the open receiver (Lewis) for the second time in as many possessions. They were forced to punt back to ARI and Kirk once again returned it to near midfield. They had under 20 seconds left and no timeouts, but a few chunk gains got them within field goal striking distance. Nugent missed a 55-yard attempt, but it was nullified by a late false start whistle, thus creating a shot for ARI to go for a last second touchdown. With Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on the field, this was not something to overlook. Murray ended up being pressured and scrambled his way down the field for 12 yards and was taken down. It was 13-0 at halftime and NYG was out-gained in yards 199-58.

To make matters worse, ARI began the second half with the ball. They manufactured an 11-play drive that consisted of 8 runs and 3 passes. The final run was a 1-yard touchdown by Drake. It was 20-0 and NYG was entering a do-or-die situation to keep this game reachable. Similar to last week’s game in Seattle, Wayne Gallman was featured at the start of the second half after having a quiet first two quarters. He touched the ball on the first 5 plays, gaining 35 yards. Golden Tate then came up with the big play, making a catch in traffic for a 39-yard gain that brought NYG to the 1-yard line. Dion Lewis then snuck his way into the end zone on the next play and just like that, NYG was on the board but still down 20-7.

The NYG defense forced a punt on the ensuing ARI drive, giving Jones and the offense an opportunity to take the full momentum of this game back. The response? 3-and-out. NYG had a 3rd-and-1 and the play call plus decision by Jones created a deep pass to Sterling Shepard. It fell incomplete.

Kenyan Drake fumbled two straight plays on the next drive but NYG couldn’t grab either one of them. ARI ended up putting 3 more points on the board via a 34-yard field goal by Nugent as the fourth quarter was under way. The next NYG drive netted -1 yard over three plays and they punted yet again. Punter Riley Dixon barely wore his sideline jacket in this one. The NYG defense, despite showing 23 points allowed, continued to play solid football. They forced another ARI punt after two straight plays that saw takedowns behind the line of scrimmage. The NYG offense continued to falter, however. Their next drive consisted of Jones being sacked twice and two false starts by the offensive line. NYG was forced to punt.

With about 5 minutes left, NYG started using their timeouts but ARI was able to push the ball down the field with a balanced attack. This drive netted another 3 points, this time via a 30-yard field goal by Nugent who was perfect on the day. It was 26-7 with just over 2 minutes left. Colt McCoy trotted out with the offense, as Jones was visibly limping during and after the previous drive. The final offensive play was McCoy being sacked by Haason Reddick, his career high fifth of the day, which forced a fumble that was recovered by ARI.

NYG loses 26-7.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 11-21 / 127 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 70.9 RAT

Jones did not have any rushing attempts on the day. After missing a game with his hamstring injury and unsure of his status until late in the week, Jones did not look like himself in this one. I can’t imagine missing one game can make a player “rusty.” What I think happened here was simple. Jones knew he was not going to be playing with his normal arsenal of personal weaponry. Designed runs weren’t a part of the game plan and scrambling was something he had to avoid as much as possible. That, combined with a sneaky-good ARI pass defense filled with quality defensive backs and a NYG offense line that started to break down in the second half, he just seemed to have no shot. Can this be pegged on him? Not completely. However, he missed Dion Lewis on two straight 3rd-down plays that easily could have altered the trajectory of the game. He fumbled three times and even though one of them was completely not his fault, the other two showed weak ball handling. Jones looked lost in this one.

RUNNING BACK

-Wayne Gallman: 12 att / 57 yards and 3 rec / 16 yards

Gallman had a really quiet first half. He did touch the ball 8 times but only gained 25 yards (3.1 yards per). We saw a different level of production in the second half for the second week in a row. He touched the ball 6 times and gained 48 yards (8 yards per). I think we are at the point now where Gallman needs to be the feature player on this offense. We need to see more early down running with him, we need to see him getting the ball on 3rd-and-short, and we need to get him the ball in the screen game. This is no longer a back who had a couple of decent games in a row. Especially if Jones is going to be limited, Gallman needs to start getting the ball 20+ times per game at the minimum.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton was targeted 8 times and caught 3 passes for 31 yards. It has been a disappointing, dry run for Slayton over the past 2 months. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since October 18, he has 10 catches over the past 5 games, and he hasn’t eclipsed 100 yards since October 11. He was man-handled by the physicality of Patrick Peterson on a few occasions, both as the ball came at him and off the line. This continues to be a major issue for him.

-Sterling Shepard had 3 catches for 35 yards and Golden Tate had 1 catch for 39 yards. There aren’t many teams that have gotten less production from their wide receivers this season. More on that below.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram had 2 catches for 18 yards. Both of them came on the last drive of the game when Colt McCoy was under center and the game was basically all but over. He was nowhere to be found in this one.

-Kaden Smith had a catch and Levine Toilolo’s main contribution came on special teams with a couple of physical hits. Neither had a strong impact, good or bad, on the game.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-A week after Andrew Thomas put out the top performance of his rookie season, he took a significant step back. He allowed 2 sacks and 2 pressures in addition to be flagged for a false start. Before the game I was speaking with a former scout and we agreed that Reddick was a worst-case matchup for Thomas. Short, shifty, powerful, and bendy. Thomas just couldn’t seem to square Reddick up and his hands + feet were never in sync. Myles Garrett is on tap.

-The right side of Kevin Zeitler and Cameron Fleming did a nice job in the running game but both allowed a sack and a pressure each in pass protection. Rookie Matt Peart rotated in for a bit (11 snaps total) and allowed a sack. Shane Lemieux had a rough day for the second straight week. He allowed 2 pressures and a sack and Will Hernandez also allowed a sack when he rotated in. Center Nick Gates was the only offensive lineman who didn’t allow a sack on the day but he, too, did not grade out above average. Overall, this was one of the worst OL performances we have seen all year.

EDGE

-Carter Coughlin led the way in this group, as his role appears to be increasing more and more. He has clearly made an impression on the coaching staff, as he has played 39%, 63%, and 81% of the defensive snaps over the past 3 games, respectively. He set a career-high 7 tackles, added a TFL, and pressured the QB two times. They are moving him all over the place and he is thriving.

-Jabaal Sheard had 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and a pressure that led to a sack. For a veteran signed in-season of the street, Sheard has played well. Cam Brown added a pressure but still hasn’t seen a consistent volume of snaps. I think this pass rush could benefit from seeing him on the field more and remember, he is not just a pass rusher. I would argue he can impact the game more as a run stuffer based on what I’ve seen this year.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Dalvin Tomlinson had the best game of the trio that has been playing well all year. He had 3 tackles, a sack, a TFL, and 2 pressures. He was a factor all afternoon, constantly breaking through the line and forcing the offense to react to him. Really solid performance here.

-A week after Leonard Williams had his best game as a Giant, he failed to pressure the quarterback one time, a first this season. He did add 4 tackles and he maneuvered his way off blocks well against the run. When Williams struggles to impact the passing game, there just isn’t much on this defense that can fill the void.

-B.J. Hill, Austin Johnson, and Dexter Lawrence all added a pressure, respectively. Hill also added a TFL and Lawrence added 3 tackles, including a key 3rd-and-goal stop at the 1-yard line. Overall, the NYG run defense wasn’t good in this one, but these guys all did their job up front.

LINEBACKER

-We were unsure all week the status of Blake Martinez after suffering a back injury last week. He ended up playing but it was clear he was laboring out there. While he had 7 tackles, it was evident he didn’t have the same pop on contact and he looked a little slow to fill.

-Tae Crowder is evolving into a quality blitzing linebacker. He had 2 pressures and 4 tackles. David Mayo and Devante Downs didn’t play much, but when they did, they struggled. They weren’t beating blockers to the spots and it created extra room for the ARI running backs. They played less than half the snaps Crowder did.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry had a really solid game. He had 7 tackles and a high-difficulty pass break up in the end zone that could have easily been a touchdown. He wasn’t matched up against DeAndre Hopkins for the entire game but when he was, I thought he was the winner. Isaac Yiadom added 3 tackles and played a physical brand. He got beat in zone coverage a couple times where it didn’t look like he quite knew what was going on around him. Again, he plays way too scared of getting beat deep and it allows for a lot of action underneath to transpire.

-Rookie nickel Darnay Holmes was out with an injury, thus Logan Ryan filled that role for the majority of the game. He had 5 tackles and a near-interception pass break-up that was knocked away by Hopkins; savvy move by the veteran receiver. Ryan missed 3 tackles on the day. One of the more important players on this defense, Ryan is often a hit-or-miss player and today he missed too many times.

SAFETY

-With Ryan playing more nickel corner in this one, we saw rookie Xavier McKinney on the field for 38 snaps, just under 50%. He made 4 tackles and showed his superior athleticism and burst. Him flying around with Jabrill Peppers (more on him below) was fun to watch and could be a big thing in the future if the veteran stays here long term. From the All-22 tape, McKinney looked more reactionary than instinctual, which is common for a young safety in the league.

-Julian Love had 9 tackles (second most of his career) on just 57% of the snaps. I noted him a lot in this one, just playing extra fast and aggressive. He had a really nice fill on a goal-line stand and looked rangy on a couple of lateral Kenyan Drake rushing attempts. The one issue, from my perspective which doesn’t mean much I know, was the zone coverage. I won’t pretend to know how to play defensive back in the NFL, but Love was beat a few times on passes up the middle. He doesn’t seem to attach himself to receivers entering his zone, but rather stays back and just “floats” if that makes sense. The college corner is a quality athlete who doesn’t seem to have a ton of confidence in zone coverage and that is an issue for me.

-Jabrill Peppers continues his red-hot level of play. He led the team with 13 tackles, 2 TFL, and forced a fumble. He was all over the field and looks like he can be labeled as both the best linebacker and best safety on this team. He played both roles. This defense has turned a sharp corner and he may be the leading catalyst.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: No FG attempts
-Riley Dixon: 8 punts / 48.8 avg / 36.6 net

3 STUDS

-S Jabrill Peppers, EDGE Carter Coughlin, CB James Bradberry

3 DUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, OT Andrew Thomas, WR Darius Slayton

3 THOUGHTS ON ARI

Haason Reddick. After watching the new NYG defense run over the first 4-6 weeks of the season, he was the name I circled when it came to 2021 NFL Free Agents to try and sign. The Kyler Fackrell role (BUCK linebacker) in this scheme needs to be effective on the outside but also transform into an extra inside linebacker in specific looks. Reddick has a lot of experience playing inside, which is where ARI predominantly played him for the first three years of his career. His 5 sacks in this game were a little overblown when it comes to how good he is, but the point remains. Fackrell is a one-year rental and Reddick can be the long-term solution for NYG. He is “multiple” in that he can credibly wear different hats for a defense, but the specialty is on the outside despite lacking traditional outside tools.

I don’t believe in ARI in its current state and I don’t believe in Kyler Murray. I’ll go on record with that and will be the first to eat my words if I end up being wrong. ARI is a gimmick offense that does have a lot of talent, absolutely. When everything clicks, they can score on anybody, yes. Murray can take over a game, yes. That, to me, is not what makes a team get in and stay in the elite tier, however. They are reliant on the uniqueness of their offense and Murray’s arsenal. Unique can work like a gem at times (remember Miami’s wildcat offense?) but NFL defenses catch on. Very few offenses and quarterbacks can stay at the top week-to-week and year-to-year. Murray just doesn’t throw the ball from the pocket like those guys and there are things in his game that I just don’t see lasting.

The one area of their team that is stand-out strong and does not get enough attention in the secondary. They’ve really hit on their draft picks over the years and even though Patrick Peterson is not what he once was, there is still plenty in the tank left. Byron Murphy, Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson, and Deionte Johnson were all drafted within the past 3 years. If NYG can build the secondary like this in the next year or two, watch out.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

While the offensive shortcomings can at least be somewhat attributed to Jones, one needs to really look at what this team has at WR. Over his last 19 games, Sterling Shepard is averaging 9.7 yards per catch and has 3 touchdowns. Golden Tate has been good for 2 catches per game over his last 7 and can rarely get open by himself. Darius Slayton has not taken the step up from his impressive rookie year. Evan Engram is among the league leaders in drops since he has been in the league. This team is starving for a true outside threat and if you look at David Gettleman’s history in pro personnel both with NYG and CAR, they are going to go after someone in free agency. The following are projected to be free agents this offseason: Kenny Golladay / DET, JuJu Smith-Schuster / PIT, Allen Robinson / CHI, Corey Davis / TEN, Sammy Watkins / KC. There are a handful of lesser-tier free agents as well but I think they will go big at this spot this offseason.

We should not be surprised to see NYG lay such an egg after such a strong win in SEA last week. This is life in the NFL for a team that is “middle tier.” One week, you create hope of playoff caliber football and the ability to beat anybody. The next week, you look like a team that can’t do anything right. Big picture, everybody. This is part of growing and evolving into a team that can win games in the postseason. They are still on the right path.

Up next are the Cleveland Browns in front of a national audience. I would love to say CLE is overrated (which was my thought early in the year) but this is a legit playoff caliber team playing really good football on both sides of the ball. The greatest test will come defensively on the ground, where Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the best 1-2 backfield duo in the game. In addition, they are running behind one of the top 3 offensive lines in the league this year. The NYG defense has been outstanding this year, but this will be a different kind of test.

Dec 082020
 
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Jabaal Sheard, New York Giants (December 6, 2020)

Jabaal Sheard – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The Giants’ 3-game winning streak landed them in 1st place this past week, albeit with a 4-7 record. That has been the way of 2020, however. The NFC East hadn’t collectively beat a team with a winning record to this point in the season and NYG traveled to Seattle to start off a four-game span matched up against four winning ball clubs. This test would be extra difficult, as quarterback Daniel Jones was sidelined with an injury and the Seahawks ranked 3rd in the NFL in points scored. SEA quarterback Russell Wilson entered this game with a career 53-16 record at home and on the other side was Colt McCoy, who hadn’t won a game as a starter since 2014.

The SEA offense easily drove the ball down the field on the game’s opening drive. Their first five plays gained 5, 6, 11, 24, 11 yards, respectively. The NYG defense has specialized in a bend-don’t-break style for most of the season and that trend continued. Once inside the red zone, NYG forced three straight incompletions and SEA ended up having to go for a 31-yard field goal by Jason Meyers. He nailed it, good for his 24th straight made attempt.

NYG then went three-and-out but forced SEA to do the same. The banged up SEA secondary started to get exposed on the second NYG drive, as McCoy found his three main targets (Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Evan Engram). They got the ball into the red zone but a pass that made its way to and through the hands of Engram led to an interception by Quandre Diggs. NYG wasn’t going to have a big margin for mistakes like this and failing to put points on the board while getting so close was a potential killer.

The NYG defense gave up a few chunk gains but ended up with another stop thanks largely to a sack by Jabrill Peppers. The two offenses failed to sustain drives. Both defenses were applying pressure to the passer and neither running game was finding enough room to really work. It was the NYG defense and their surprise edge presence Niko Lalos coming away with his second turnover in as many weeks after a botched snap by Wilson. NYG had the ball at midfield but the offensive struggles remained. They went three-and-out.

SEA got the ball to midfield, but Leonard Williams was leading constant pressure on Wilson. They were able to force yet another punt with Michael Dickson pinning the NYG offense inside their own 5-yard line. There was under a minute left and NYG simply wanted to make it to halftime down by 3. They ran the ball three straight times and it net gained 6 yards. SEA used all of their timeouts so they could have one more shot at lengthening their lead. The offense didn’t need to come back on the field, however. The punt was blocked in the end zone by Ryan Neal and recovered by SEA but the ball made its way out of bounds quickly enough to make it a safety (2 points) rather than a touchdown (6 points). SEA did get the ball back one more time, starting at midfield, but they weren’t able to get points and went into halftime with a 5-0 lead.

Wayne Gallman, one of the offensive catalysts in the recent NYG winning streak, carried the ball just 4 times in the first half. NYG knew that approach needed to change, and that it did. The old-school, smack-you-in-the-mouth, run-up-the-middle strategy started off the second half. He gained 16 bruising yards on 3 carries. It did not amount to much, as NYG ended up punting, but the tone was set. The physical brand of Big Blue football is back and here to stay. After forcing a quick punt, NYG got the big play they were searching for from Gallman. A 60-yard run all the way down to the SEA 17-yard line put NYG in position to take over the lead. Two Alfred Morris runs later, the 31-year-old back who carried the ball one time in 2019 crossed the goal line for the first time since 2018. NYG then went for 2 and McCoy found Sterling Shepard for the conversion to give NYG a 3-point lead, 8-5.

The NYG pass rush and sheer dominance up front, matched with timely plays by the defensive backfield, kept the SEA offense returning to the sideline. The NYG offensive momentum continued on their next opportunity, scoring another touchdown via a 6-yard pass from McCoy to Morris. Wayne Gallman set up this score as well, as he started off the drive with 39 yards on three carries.

A 9-point lead in the 4th quarter in Seattle. This is where NYG stood before rookie corner Darnay Holmes picked off a Wilson pass that was deflected off fellow rookie Tae Crowder. NYG was able to turn that into 3 points via a 48-yard field goal by the automatic Graham Gano. The lead was elevated to 12 points and the SEA offense, which seemed to have no answers for the NYG defensive front, had under 10 minutes to attempt a comeback.

With a slightly hurried up offense, Wilson drove the ball down the field with an 11-play, 82-yard drive. This was heavily aided by a defensive holding penalty on Holmes on a 3rd-and-15 stop. On the next play, Wilson found running back Chris Carson for a 28-yard score. This brought the score to 17-12 with over 6 minutes left, not a strong position considering how elite Wilson has been in come-from-behind scenarios. McCoy was going to have to make at least a couple plays for NYG to maintain this lead and take home the win, and that he did. He hit Darius Slayton (his first catch of the day) and Evan Engram for two first downs that were not deep passes, but tight window throws that needed quick decisions and accuracy. They were able to get the ball past the 2-minute warning prior to punting back to SEA. Even though they did not put more points on the board, the amount of time taken off the clock was crucial. Now, it was up to the NYG defense.

The first four plays of the final SEA drive netted 34 yards. They were into NYG territory with a minute left. With a 5-point lead, this drive was going to end the game either with a SEA or NYG win, no ties. Wilson then threw two incomplete passes before getting sacked by Leonard Williams, the defensive star of the game who had his way with the SEA offensive line. SEA was faced with a 4th-and-18 before James Bradberry broke up the final pass of the game on a Hail Mary-type play for the win.

NYG wins, 17-12.

QUARTERBACK

-Colt McCoy: 13-22 / 105 yards / 1 TD – 1 INT / 67.4 RAT

When the reports became verified that Daniel Jones would be out for the game, the outlook for this already-tough matchup was bleak at best. A backup quarterback on the road against a top 5 offense led by a MVP candidate is less than ideal. McCoy didn’t take the game by the horns by any means, but this is where having a veteran back there can be a huge benefit. We knew McCoy wouldn’t be dropping dimes and/or getting chunk gains with his legs, but there is a sense of confidence and calm with a guy like McCoy. He stayed within himself, he didn’t make any colossal mistakes, he didn’t try to do too much. He made a few clutch throws and didn’t lose the game for NYG. That is the backup’s job in a situation like this. Nice job by McCoy and I think we may see him for one more game.

RUNNING BACK

-Wayne Gallman: 16 att / 135 yards

A tale of two halves. I’m not quite sure why NYG didn’t feature more of him in the first half, but when they came out for the 3rd quarter it was evident they knew what to do. Gallman had 4 attempts for 6 yards in the first half, 12 attempts for 129 yards (just under 11 yards per carry) in the second half. This was against a SEA run defense that ranked top 10 in the NFL and averaged 64 yards allowed per game over the previous 5 weeks, which included games against the NFL’s top 2 rushing attacks. Gallman is no longer a back who is just able to have a couple good games. This is a legit NFL runner who breaks tackles, has good vision, and will eventually make the big play as long as he gets consistent looks.

-Alfred Morris: 8 att / 39 yards / 1 TD and 1 rec / 6 yards / 1 TD.

Hats off to Morris. A 31-year-old who had one carry in 2019 and who many had assumed was simply washed out of the league for good. This was a practice squad signing in-season that many questioned. An aging back without recent success on a team that wasn’t going anywhere. Why not go for someone young? Why not add a back with more speed or versatile skill set? Another major win for the pro personnel expert Dave Gettleman.

WIDE RECEIVER

-It was a really quiet day for the Giants receivers. Golden Tate caught all 4 of his targets for 30 yards and Sterling Shepard caught 1 of his 6 targets for a 22 yard gain. Darius Slayton saw just 1 target, which he caught for 14 yards in a big moment in the 4th quarter. When you have a backup quarterback with limited arm talent in the game, the receivers simply won’t be able to impact the game much. However, the underneath skill sets of Shepard and Tate especially can still make a difference. Slayton’s main role on this offense stems from being a deep threat and if McCoy is the one throwing the ball, opposing defenses simply won’t be as thoughtful in that regard. Not a bad game by these guys at all, just limited opportunities and if anything, they did a fine job when their number was called.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 4 rec / 32 yards

-I had a feeling Engram would be the most targeted pass catcher with McCoy under center. NYG has been trying to feature him more and more and he did get the ball thrown his way a team-high 8 times. It seems to happen nearly every week now. The broadcasters see him make a nice play, discuss how special of a talent he is, and then he makes a major mistake. Engram dropped a ball in the red zone that was tipped into a SEA defender’s hands for the interception. He dropped another pass in the 4th quarter. Both of the drops were at least somewhat caused by quality defensive plays. However, a big-time tight end needs to make those catches. The first one that led to the interception was another potential game-altering play. One positive on Engram that surprised me was how well he blocked in the second half. He had multiple key blocks when NYG got their ground game going.

-Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo were both on the field for more than 55% of the plays. That fact in combination with Engram being on the field for 77% of the plays is noteworthy. That will rank at or near the top of the league in double/triple tight end sets, respectively. This offensive game plan and halftime adjustments deserve a lot of credit. Smith had a reception for 3 yards and Toilolo didn’t see the ball once. They were on the field to help contain the fast-moving, lateral linebackers. They were both excellent in the second half.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Andrew Thomas graded out the best we have seen this season. His rookie year has taken a turn for the best. The biggest positives I see are the more consistent anchor and hand placement once he is engaged in pass protection. He really is a powerful kid who can handle the size and strength of the NFL. He is not a guy who gets tossed around. When those hands get to where they are supposed to be and his feet are under him, he shows dominant traits.

-Cameron Fleming split snaps with Matt Peart, with the former getting more. Fleming allowed a sack but was just fine otherwise. Peart seemed a little rusty in his 15 snaps. He was off balance and inaccurate, which is understandable considering he just came back from missing a few weeks of work.

-Inside, Kevin Zeitler and Nick Gates were really physical and consistent. They both finished above average grade-wise. Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez split snaps at left guard, with the former starting and seeing the majority. This was a tough game for the rookie, allowing 3 pressures, 1 of which led to a sack. Even though he left a lot to be desired out there as a pass blocker, Lemieux was once again effective with his run blocking efforts. He is so much quicker off the ball and is so much better with lateral adjustments in comparison to Hernandez, who also allowed a pressure. I think Hernandez may be a backup the rest of the year.

EDGE

-Even though I still have this spot as the top defensive need, maybe the top overall need on the team, this crew has been over-extending themselves when it comes to their results vs. expectations. We saw more key plays in this game from this group than we have all year. Cam Brown had 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure in just 10 snaps. Niko Lalos had 2 tackles and a fumble recovery. Jabaal Sheard had 4 tackles, a half-sack, and 2 pressures.

-The surprise of the day, however, was Carter Coughlin. The 7th-round rookie played a season high 45 snaps and finished with 2 tackles and 3 pressures. They moved him around into multiple roles throughout the game. They sent him in as an edge rusher, as a blitzing inside linebacker, and as a spy on QB Russell Wilson. He had a key pressure on Wilson that stemmed from him not being fooled by play-action and showing closing speed to prevent Wilson from reaching the sideline on a bootleg. Outstanding game for these guys as a group.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-The debate is now closed. It is over. The trade for Leonard Williams was a major success. We are no longer looking at a guy who gets a few pressures here and there. We are no longer looking at a guy who doesn’t impact the game enough. Williams is on a different level right now. He had 5 pressures and 2.5 sacks. This is the most dominant DL performance we have seen in a long, long time. I received a text from a scout I speak with on a regular basis and he asked if this seals the deal of locking him up long term. I think Williams has a unique and rare combination of tools and skills that are an ideal fit for this scheme. Patrick Graham has learned how to use him, learned how to get him in a lot of one-on-one match-ups via scheming, and Williams is responding in a big way. My reply was, “Yes…but it may cost watching Tomlinson walk.”

-Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson combined for 3 tackles and Lawrence added 2 pressures. Both were actually a little weak against the run in this one. They were giving up more ground than we have been used to seeing, but they both rose up in the key situations. B.J. Hill added 1 pressure and was flagged for holding.

LINEBACKER

-Blake Martinez led the team with 10 tackles and also broke up a pass and forced a fumble. He was injured late in the game. It was a back injury that, according to media reports, won’t sideline him for any notable time. Martinez kept the glue together after a rough start.

-Tae Crowder was back out there making plays. If NYG can find a consistent play-maker to pair with Martinez inside, this defense will be on another level. So far, Crowder is proving to be a part of that discussion. He had 7 tackles, 1 pressure that led to a sack, and a sack himself. His notable trait is quality open-field tackling. It stems from his twitch and speed that a lot of the other inside linebackers just do not have. And that does not come at the expense of his contact strength and presence. He really has been an ideal fit for this defense and has a role to play.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry had 7 tackles, 1 PD, and 1 forced fumble. The match-up against D.K. Metcalf was one I was looking forward to. If I had to pick a winner, it is going to Bradberry by a thin margin. This is the kind of WR who he does well against; one who works with size, straight lines, and long speed. Bradberry can handle that well while also proving to be ball-savvy and a true play-maker. Metcalf did drop a ball (more on that below) but when these two were truly matched up one-on-one, Bradberry contained him.

-Darnay Holmes and his physical, aggressive, fast brand continued to both help and hurt the defense. He did have 5 tackles and an interception, while simply adding physical a presence to the secondary. He plays a man’s game. The glaring negative was similar to what we saw last week. Holmes was flagged for holding on a 3rd-and-15 stop in the 4th quarter while SEA was mounting their comeback attempt. The next play? A SEA touchdown. His mistakes are coming at the worst time.

-Isaac Yiadom had 4 tackles and 2 pass break ups, one of which was a high-level play in the end zone in the first quarter.

SAFETY

-The trio-safety group of Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, and Julian Love have hit a really nice stride. And to think that arguably the most talented (but unproven) player in the group itself, Xavier McKinney, only saw 6 defensive snaps. The fact that he could add a boost to the unit in the coming weeks is a great sign.

-Similar to Leonard Williams, the unique and versatile skill set of Jabrill Peppers has been figured out by Patrick Graham. He is now regularly making quality plays. He had 5 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 pass break ups. Peppers was also the most physical player on the defense and he made it known on a few occasions. He did get beat on the Chris Carson reception for a touchdown, but he also broke up a 3rd-down pass into the end zone.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 48). Gano also missed one extra point for the first time this year.

-P Riley Dixon: 6 punts / 43.5 avg / 32.7 net

3 STUDS

-DT Leonard Williams, RB Wayne Gallman, OT Andrew Thomas

3 DUDS

-LG Shane Lemieux, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, TE Evan Engram

3 THOUGHTS ON SEA

  1. Wide Receiver D.K. Metcalf is the freak athlete in a league full of freak athletes. He really has blossomed/broken out in his sophomore season. The league leader in receiving yards also ranks third in yards per catch and he ranks fifth with 9 touchdowns. However, just how good is he? I think far too many are too quick to label him a top-shelf receiver. He leads the league with 9 drops. He has caught 64% of his targets (120th in the NFL), and he still has significant issues as a route runner. Metcalf was picked 64th overall in the 2019 Draft (partially because of neck injury concerns) but many said it was the steal of the draft. There were many enamored with his size and speed, and yes, some even thought he was really good because of what he looked like with his shirt off. This is where I stand with Metcalf: he is a Terrell Owens-type weapon who will force a defense to really plan around him. He can take over a game. He can change an offense. However, similar to Engram, I can’t consider him elite if he continues to drop this many passes. I just can’t get there on him.
  1. I love to track the SEA team building process every year. They move around via trade on draft weekend as much as anyone. They trade for players nearly every year. They get aggressive in free agency. They take calculated chances on players with both health and character issues. Why does it work so well? They have a culture there and it comes from the top. Whether or not you like Pete Carroll, that was a notable attribute to his coaching skill set right away. NFL players are not robots. They are real people just like you and I. The culture is absolutely vital to sustained success in this league and It should make NYG fans feel encouraged.
  1. SEA is 8-4 with games left against NYJ, WAS, LAR, and SF. Despite this loss vs NYG, I think they are on the right track to win 10 games. Their defense has completely turned things around I still consider them a top 5 offense in the NFL. This would make it their 8th 10-win season in 9 years, a commendable stat. Sustained success in the league is really tough to achieve. And even though they have had so many ups and downs with personnel on both sides of the ball in recent years, it all comes down to the QB. If you have someone truly elite back there combined with a quality coach and front office, you truly have a credible shot every year.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Defense, defense, defense. It is back. Going to SEA and allowing just 327 yards (3rd-lowest of the season for them), allowing just 12 points (their lowest since December 17, 2017) was the sign I was looking for when I questioned just how legit this defense can be down the stretch. They did not just contain Wilson and the team’s high-powered offense, they completely dominated. The pass rush, the secondary, the physical nature, the forced turnovers…everything was there.
  1. It will be really interesting to see how this coaching staff handles the offensive line down the stretch. These next 4 games will dictate whether or not NYG plays in the postseason and the margin for error is really small, as WAS pulled off the upset in PIT and is trending up. Will they continue to rotate at LG and RT? Or has this been a trial to see who really are the best players and will those players now receive all of the snaps? Will Hernandez seems to be a thing of the past already and Cameron Fleming continues to be the weak link who hurts the offense every game.
  1. Next up is a home game against ARI, a team that has lost 4 of their last 5 with their only win over that stretch coming from the Hail Mary pass from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins. This will be another tough test for the NYG defense, as Murray just presents a lot of different issues and scoring points hasn’t been an problem for them since Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury took over. They are banged up on defense and have allowed 28+ points 5 of their past 6 games and they are most vulnerable against the run. Wayne Gallman should be able to keep his momentum going.
Dec 012020
 
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Logan Ryan, New York Giants (November 29, 2020)

Logan Ryan – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Week 12 brought the Giants to Cincinnati, home of the worst team of the 2019 NFL season. That placed the Bengals at the top of the 2020 NFL Draft, where they took quarterback Joe Burrow following his record setting, National Championship senior season at LSU. Even though the franchise still has a ways to go, things were looking up, as Burrow was proving to be worthy of that top pick with his solid play throughout the course of this season. However, a knee injury sustained last week knocked him out for the remainder of the year and probably into the 2021 season quite a bit as well. Thus, NYG who came in on a 2-game winning streak, were up against 2016 6th-round pick Brandon Allen, a career backup. This was an ideal ending to their, by far, easiest stretch of schedule. Dating back to October 11, this was NYG’s 6th opponent (out of 7) with a losing record. Considering their next 4 opponents entered this week with a combined 28-15 record, one could easily make the argument this was an absolute must-win.

NYG’s opening drive continued a trend we discussed two weeks ago prior to their bye. For the 6th-straight game, NYG scored a touchdown in the first quarter. This one was a 1-yard run by Wayne Gallman, who has now scored a touchdown in 5 straight games, tying a franchise record. The lead did not last long, however. CIN kick returner Brandon Wilson took the ensuing kickoff to the house for a 103-yard touchdown to tie it up.

Both offenses appeared to stall over the next few drives. CIN, ranked third worst in the league on third down, was severely limited by poor quarterback play while the NYG offensive line was flagged three times on their next two drives. On the next possession, tight end Evan Engram fumbled inside the red zone. CIN took advantage and drove the ball into NYG territory and ended up taking a 3-point lead via a 44-yard field goal. NYG was out-gaining CIN by a wide margin but they found themselves losing to the 2-7-1 Bengals and their backup quarterback. Flashbacks of their week 3 loss came up where they lost to Niners backup quarterback Nick Mullens by 27 points. The Giants quickly got the ball into CIN territory as the first half was coming to an end. They settled on a 49-yard field goal attempt for Graham Gano, which he nailed. That made his streak 21 straight successful attempts, the second most in franchise history. CIN knelt when they got the ball back to send the game into halftime.

After stopping CIN with a three-and-out on the first drive of the second half thanks to a drop by running back Gio Bernard, the NYG offense came back onto the field. A 44-yard completion to Engram, his second of 40+ yards on the day, put NYG deep into CIN territory again. On the next play, Jones scrambled up the middle and got up awkwardly. Two plays later, it was very evident he strained his hamstring to the point where he had to come off the field. Backup Colt McCoy, a former collegiate opponent to current Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor, marched onto the field to take over the offense but things went in reverse. Three plays netted -5 yards and NYG had to settle on another field goal, this one from 40 yards, to make the score 13-10.

The NYG defense forced a three-and-out and then Jones came back on with the offense to give it another shot. He lasted two plays and one pass before taking himself out. This was going to be up to McCoy and the Giants defense. The Giants punted back to CIN and they forced them into another punt themselves after three plays. This time, however, CIN faked the punt and converted the first down. The next play netted 13 yards and CIN was starting to gain some momentum. Allen then threw a pass that was deflected by rookie corner Darnay Holmes and fell into the hands of edge rusher Niko Lalos, who was just called up from the practice squad. NYG’s defense was once again stepping up.

The NYG offense began the fourth quarter with the ball in CIN territory and even though they were playing with a lesser deck of cards, they gained enough yards to put Gano in position for another field goal. He nailed it from 39 yards to make the score 16-10. The next CIN drive resulted in a three-and-out and the one following that resulted in a fumble forced by Logan Ryan in which he recovered himself. For those keeping track, the NYG defense in the second half up until this point forced 3 three-and-outs, allowed 2 first downs, and forced 2 turnovers. NYG, then starting from inside the red zone, put up another 3 points via a 32-yard field goal by Gano to make it a 2-score game. CIN had just 3:54 left and were approaching one of their worst offensive performances in their franchise’s history.

With the help of 32 yards worth of penalties, including a 3rd-down pass interference by Holmes in the end zone, Allen found rookie Tee Higgins in the end zone for a 1-yard score. All of the sudden NYG’s lead was just a mere 2 points and McCoy was still playing quarterback. With 2:33 left, NYG was in a good position however, as CIN had just one timeout left. With that said, NYG was not able to get a first down to seal it and had to punt the ball back.

CIN punt returner Alex Erickson, one of the best in the league, was able to finagle his way 29 yards to midfield. CIN kicker Randy Bullock needed just 10 yards to give CIN a credible shot at winning this game and CIN still had about a minute left. The thought of a loss was approaching hard and fast. However, on the first play, Allen held on the ball too long and was sacked by Jabaal Sheard, which jarred the ball loose and it was recovered by Leonard Williams. Game over.

NYG wins 19-17.

QUARTERBACK

Daniel Jones: 16-27 / 213 yards / 0 TD-0 INT / 84.3 RAT

Jones added 19 yards on 6 carries. This was an incomplete game from him, as he made it through just over half of the third quarter before succumbing to the hamstring injury. When it comes to his performance, Jones looked really solid once again. He connected on two deep balls and threw a near-perfect pass on a third attempt that just slipped through the fingers of Darius Slayton. He had a lot of time and room in the pocket and his game clearly benefited from it. And once again, he did not turn the ball over. It is simply a huge difference maker and it has been the key catalyst to this stretch of NYG winning games. As for the injury, I can’t say I know what is coming because I am far from an expert in the field. But based on how he strained it and based on how high up he was grabbing, I think this isn’t going away quickly. This will impact his play for multiple weeks and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him miss a game or two.

RUNNING BACK

Wayne Gallman: 24 att / 94 yards / 1 TD and 3 rec – (-3) yards

Gallman was really effective from the start and once again, he played better than the numbers you see. His yards after contact and aggression when running up the middle is stemming from quality blocking, but also his vision and assertiveness. He runs so much bigger than his size, getting through the traffic and bursting through arm tackles. Gallman is so close to breaking a long one; it is coming. His 5-game streak of scoring a touchdown tied a franchise record.

-Dion Lewis didn’t see the ball a lot (2 carries and 1 catch) but he played a quiet but important role. He was on the field for several obvious passing situations where he picked up the CIN blitz and created both space and time for both quarterbacks on key third down conversions. It was an overlooked but vital component to NYG’s third down success. They were 9 for 21 on third downs, a solid number that played a big role.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard led the team with 7 catches and was second with 64 yards. His route running and toughness in traffic were both featured in this game. There are guys who get open because of how fast and explosive they are, and then there are receivers like Shepard. He can be such a 3rd-down weapon simply because of how well he can trick defensive backs. He made an amazing play on a comeback route where he fell out of his break as the pass was already in the air, got up with the ball nearly on him, and came away with the first down grab. If McCoy is going to be the guy moving forward for a few weeks, expect Shepard to be a key part to the passing game more so than what we have seen.

-Golden Tate was targeted a season-high 9 times. He came away with 4 catches for 36 yards. He did show some toughness in traffic and came up with a couple of key third down conversions but his biggest issue remains a lack of separation. At this point, he is simply a tough guy who needs to find vacant windows against zone coverage and can make a few things happen after the catch. I do expect to see him play a somewhat bigger role if McCoy is the guy moving forward because he can break through arm tackles and gain yards after the catch. However, he just doesn’t separate well at all.

-Darius Slayton saw just 2 targets, neither of which were caught. He dropped a deep ball that would have resulted in a touchdown and even though it was a tough catch, it went through his hands. He played 69% of the snaps and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear they were nursing his ankle injury a bit.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram continued his flashes that create hope just to have them brought back down after a huge mishap. On the first drive of the game and the first drive of the second half, he caught passes downfield that properly displayed both his size and speed. Those 2 catches combined for 97 yards. He finished with 129 catches on 4 yards, but he fumbled in the second quarter and it led to a CIN field goal that put them up by 3. Engram can be such a difference maker. There are not even a handful of tight ends who can make the plays he did in this game but the turnovers and drops are enough to kill his chances long term.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Andrew Thomas did not allow any pressures, sacks, or TFL according to my record keeping. He also was not penalized. This was the first time we can walk away from a game this season saying that. Thomas was primarily matched up against Carl Lawson, an undersized but powerful and quick end who won’t be mistaken for a premiere pass rusher, but he is a solid player. Thomas contained him very well from start to finish.

-The interior had a back and forth day. Shane Lemieux started at left guard and Will Hernandez rotated in. I think the line works better with Lemieux in there, to be honest. He isn’t as stout but athletically he makes a difference and NYG has had a lot of running success via pulling their guards to trap block. Lemieux is hands down more efficient and productive in that role. Kevin Zeitler was flagged for a false start and allowed 1 pressure and 1 TFL. Nick Gates had another above average grade, he leads the group in that department.

-Cameron Fleming is still starting because Matt Peart tested positive for Covid-19. That is my opinion, anyway. He was downright awful in this one. He allowed 2 pressures and he was flagged 3 times. One of his holds was declined by CIN but the next one came on a successful 3rd-and-4 conversion late in the game. Fleming also did a poor job sealing the outside on inside runs. Really poor game by him.

EDGE

-It was an interesting day from this group. Kyler Fackrell and Jabaal Sheard each saw about 50% of the snaps. Sheard had 2 TFL and a sack-fumble that ended the game. Fackrell had 2 tackles and a pressure. He did a really nice job of setting the edge with physical punches and lockouts in the running game.

-There were three youngsters who saw snaps. Cam Brown looked like the best of the bunch, as his skill set is starting to catch up with his tools and engine. Brown can be a dangerous player if he puts things together. He had a pressure and made a key special teams stop on the final punt return that could have easily resulted in a touchdown had he not made the play. Carter Coughlin got in for about 15% of the snaps and he had a pressure that led to a CIN holding penalty. Lastly, Niko Lalos, who was brought up from the practice squad the day before the game, came up with a key defensive play. He intercepted a pass deflection by Darnay Holmes. The coaches say they love his ability to get near the action and that is exactly what happens when you have guys fly to the ball. He only saw 8 snaps on defense; he didn’t show much on his pass rush.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Leonard Williams recorded his 6th sack of the year while adding 2 tackles and 2 pressures. Williams’ biggest play came at the end of the game where he recovered the fumble forced by Jabaal Sheard. However, he was flagged for a roughing-the-passer penalty for the second straight game on the CIN touchdown-scoring drive. Williams was all over the field and if you really put an eyeball on him, you will notice how much he has been changing the game week to week. Whether or not to resign him will be a credibly debatable topic where strong arguments can be made on both sides. That said, I like the idea of paying a guy long term who isn’t overly reliant on explosive movement. Williams makes a huge difference with his hand power, hustle, and versatility. Those traits stick around longer.

-Dexter Lawrence seemed to have some extra pop in him. He finished with just 1 tackle and 1 pressure, but as always, his impact was strong. His back-side pursuit and ability to react are fun to watch. Dalvin Tomlinson added 1 tackle and 1 pressure. B.J. Hill and Anthony Johnson each had a pressure but didn’t do much else in their respective backup roles.

LINEBACKER

-Blake Martinez had 5 tackles, which is a quiet game for him. But CIN only ran 10 designed running plays. He, nor David Mayo, really had a lot of opportunities to make an impact. Tae Crowder was back on the field and finished with 3 tackles. His speed and pop will be important in the coming 2 weeks as NYG will be facing off against really fast offensive skill groups.

CORNERBACK

-The two outside starters, James Bradberry and Isaac Yiadom, did a nice job shutting down the outside passing game of CIN. Bradberry had a tackle and a pass break up, which was on third down. Yiadom’s play is the one that seems to be progressing. While he did allow the late touchdown to Tee Higgins, he did a nice job in deep coverage throughout he afternoon. Having so many physical and aggressive defensive backs, notably on the outside, is a huge deal and a nice sign moving forward.

-Rookie nickel Darnay Holmes had an active day. He finished with 3 tackles, 1 pressure, and a pass break up. His pass break up led to an interception and he made a couple of really physical plays against the run. His issue remains too much contact down the field in coverage, though. Holmes got flagged for a pass interference on a 3rd-down stop that brought the ball to the 1-yard line. Had NYG lost, that would have been the play we were punching the wall over. Holmes is flashing on a weekly basis; I notice him and his play speed every week. He just needs to clean it up when it comes to technique and ball location.

SAFETY

-Jabrill Peppers is really in a groove. His stat line continues to record numbers all over the place. He led the team with 6 tackles and he added a TFL, a pressure, and 2 pass break-ups. He brought a lot of energy to the defense and he is making plays each week. This is evolving into a top notch acquisition by Dave Gettleman, something that even his biggest critics have to respect. More on that below.

-Logan Ryan is also on a hot streak. His play is more back-and-forth because of how much he likes to risk and bait quarterbacks but when it pans out, it really helps the defense. He finished with 5 tackles, 2 pass break ups, and a forced fumble that he also recovered in the fourth quarter. This defense really needed to step up when Jones went down and Ryan was the one who stepped up the most.

-Julian Love played 69% of the snaps, making 2 tackles and preventing a couple of perceived deep passes early on. He looks really swift and easy on the back end. He fits in the safety group well considering what the team is having Peppers and Ryan do collectively. I question if this staff will feel confident in Xavier McKinney playing that role. McKinney was back for the first time but he only played special teams. This will be interesting to watch in the coming weeks.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 4/4 (Made 49, 40, 39, 32)

-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 46.6 avg / 37.8 net

3 STUDS

-S Jabrill Peppers, DB Logan Ryan, K Graham Gano

3 DUDS

-OT Cameron Fleming, WR Darius Slayton, CB Darnay Holmes

3 THOUGHTS ON CIN

  1. CIN is a much better team than what we saw a year ago. They have some pieces in the secondary, they have a solid defensive line rotation (when Reader/Atkins are healthy), and they have the franchise QB. What is missing? That offensive line really needs a facelift. Center Trey Hopkins is the only solid player right now and the jury is still out on left tackle Jonah Williams. They don’t sustain their pass blocks long enough and that division will eat that up with ease if they don’t fix it.
  1. A.J. Green looks like he is done. No, not just a step or two slower. He looks checked out. Watching the All-22 angle led me to this notion. He doesn’t finish routes, he doesn’t attack the ball, and he looks hesitant. I think he is done in CIN after this season, as CIN already has two up-and-coming pass catchers in Boyd/Higgins. Green is a waste of money and no, he isn’t worth taking a chance on if he does hit the market from the NYG perspective.
  1. Defensive end Sam Hubbard is a name I would keep a close eye on in the coming year. His rookie contract runs out after 2021. If you take a look at his stats, you won’t be impressed. He has 1 sack so far in 2020 but I really think this guy’s value goes far beyond the stat sheet. He can impact every down from multiple roles, he is incredibly smart and instinctive, and he is hyper. When it comes to what NYG wants on the edge, Hubbard is the kind of profile they are going to look at whether it is free agency or the draft.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Alright, the cake walk is over. NYG has back-to-back-to-back-to-back quality opponents on the way. NYG has yet to play consecutive games against winning teams. Their next 4 all have winning records. NYG’s past 7 opponents combine for a current 26-47-2 (.347 winning %). Their next four opponents combine for a current record of 28-15 (.651 winning %). NYG’s wins were against teams that rank 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th in points scored. Their next four opponents rank 1st, 8th, 18th, and 12th in points scored. I think NYG can go to bed at night knowing they are no longer basement dwellers in the NFL but now the question needs to be answered, are they approaching playoff caliber or are they still trying to rise to the middle tier?
  1. What players are most responsible for NYG’s turnaround? James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, Jabrill Peppers, Leonard Williams, Logan Ryan. Sure, there are other players who have stepped up and the offensive line has been night-and-day different from what we saw earlier in the year. But just look at those names listed above and try to make an argument against them. You can’t. All were veterans acquired by Dave Gettleman via trades and signings. Gettleman has not been perfect (no GM ever has or ever will be) but his plan is starting to come into focus more and more. His background has always been in Pro Personnel and NYG is really seeing the fruits of that. And guess what…NYG is going to have money to spend over the next couple of years while their best offensive players are on cheap deals. Is there anyone in the league right now that you would rather be spending that money on impact free agents?
  1. If Daniel Jones is down and out for a week or two, that is going to be a major blow to the playoff chances. If I had to guess, we aren’t going to see him against SEA. I do have some professional knowledge in the field and that kind of high-hamstring strain is very slow healing. Maybe youth will be on his side, but Jones needs his legs to be effective and the chance of re-aggravation is high with those. This goes to show how volatile it is to constantly run your QB on designed plays. By no means am I looking down on that, but it is the truth. Running Jones as much as they do widens the odds of him getting hurt. NYG must now trot out Colt McCoy while in 1st place against the toughest grouping of games on the schedule. And with that…NYG needs to TAKE OUT designed quarterback runs for McCoy. Seeing him run around on designed runs and take hits without another QB on the roster blew my mind.
Nov 172020
 
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Wayne Gallman, New York Giants (November 15, 2020)

Wayne Gallman – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 27 – Philadelphia Eagles 17

QUICK RECAP

Just 24 days prior to this game, NYG and PHI faced off on Thursday night in Philadelphia. Because of the miserable state of the NFC East, it was a game that could have set NYG up for an eventual first-place destination. It was a hard-fought loss that seemed very winnable. Since that 1-point loss, NYG lost by 2 to Tampa Bay and won by 3 against Washington. PHI on the other hand beat Dallas by 14 before heading into a much-needed bye week that would help accelerate the recovery of their extended and impactful injury situation. PHI, coming off a 2-week rest, had tackle Jason Peters, running back Miles Sanders, tight end Dallas Goedert, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, and wide receiver Jalen Reagor in uniform, none of whom were on the field when these two teams last met.

The Giants offense has been stellar in the first quarter since October 11. In fact, they entered the game with a 5-game streak of scoring touchdowns in the first 15:00 of game clock. That streak continued in this one, as Daniel Jones ran for a 36-yard score on a designed run that was perfectly blocked and executed. After allowing a 40-yard field goal to PHI kicker Jake Elliott, NYG put together a 13-play drive that ended in a Wayne Gallman touchdown run. The Giants were faced with a 4th-and-1 at the start of the 2nd quarter and they altered the personnel at the last second to confuse the PHI defense and put them on their heels. They then quick-snapped it and Gallman hurdled over the pile at the line of scrimmage for the score. NYG had an early 14-3 lead.

The two offenses traded scoreless possessions but following the NYG 3-and-out, punter Riley Dixon booted a 71-yard punt to pin PHI inside their own 10-yard line. PHI then made it to midfield before punting and pinning NYG inside their own 5-yard line. NYG then followed suit, making it to midfield as well before punting and pinning PHI at their own 11. The special teams were performing at an admirable level as the score remained 14-3 heading into halftime, as both defenses were able to level out and find their footing.

The Giants defense had allowed 48 combined points in the second half of the last three games, an average of 16 points. Their struggles there have been a key culprit in finding themselves on the wrong side of close games. That trend continued as PHI scored on a 56-yard touchdown run by Boston Scott on their opening possession of the 3rd quarter. Scott entered this contest with 5 career touchdowns in 21 career games, 4 of which were against NYG. Wayne Gallman responded with a touchdown run of his own, however, as the NYG offense featured two straight downfield throws to Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate that netted a combined 65 yards. NYG maintained their double-digit lead but that disappeared again as PHI put together another touchdown drive, this one capped off by a 5-yard Corey Clement run. PHI, after successfully executing a 2-point conversion on their previous touchdown, opted to go for another 2 points despite being down by 4. They failed this time, as Leonard Williams got the unrecorded sack on Carson Wentz, the most sacked QB in football, to keep the game at 21-17.

The NYG offense stalled. They went 3-and-out on two consecutive drives, but PHI could not capitalize. Their sloppy play up front and the Wentz accuracy issues that have plagued him all year long continued to surface. NYG lengthened their lead to 7 via a 35-yard field goal before stopping the PHI offense again for the third straight time, this one ending in a James Bradberry 4th-and-10 pass deflection that gave NYG the ball with a touchdown-lead and under 5 minutes left. A surprise 40-yard pass to Darius Slayton put NYG into field goal range where Mr. Automatic kicker Graham Gano hit his 20th consecutive attempt, this one from 44 yards. NYG had a 10-point lead and the PHI offense just couldn’t make it a game. NYG beat Philadelphia for the first time since 2016.

NYG wins 27-17.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 21/28 – 244 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 100.0 RAT

Jones added a team high 64 rushing yards on 9 carries, including a 34-yard touchdown run on the first drive. Jones also had a second touchdown taken off the board by an Andrew Thomas holding penalty. For the first time in his career, Jones has now gone 2 straight games without turning the ball over. Not coincidentally, NYG is 2-0 in those games and they are 3-0 in the games since last year in games he kept the “0” next to his name in the turnover column. Jones sprinkled the ball in all over the route tree with accuracy and precision. He also spread the ball out and did a nice job of taking what the defense gave him. Heading into the bye week, Jones is no-doubt trending in the right direction.

RUNNING BACK

Wayne Gallman: 18 att / 53 yards / 2 TD and 1 rec / 7 yards

Throughout the recent surge in quality play from NYG as a whole, it may be Gallman who has been the biggest surprise and biggest beneficiary. He has been playing at, by far, the highest level of his career. While the numbers aren’t going to jump off the screen, Gallman’s aggressive downhill style and nose for yards after contact have been a huge part of this offense. He rushed for 37 yards on 7 carries in the first half when NYG’s offense was really clicking. This is the fourth straight game in which Gallman has scored a touchdown. Brandon Jacobs was the last NYG running back to do that, all the way back in 2010. He had 3 touchdowns in 38 games heading into this season. Just an outstanding job by the fourth-year back who will be a free agent this winter.

-Alfred Morris continues to be the number two guy in the backfield right now. He added 28 yards on 7 carries, adding some hard-nosed, blue-collar pile pushing. Dion Lewis had 17 yards on one catch and was flagged for a holding penalty.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton: 5 rec / 93 yards.

Slayton went down with an injury on the second offensive NYG play and missed some time but was back in the 2nd quarter. He caught those 5 passes on just 7 targets, as Darius Slay was on him most of the afternoon. His 40-yard catch was a high-level ball skill reception that came at a huge moment.

-Sterling Shepard finished with 6 catches on 6 targets for 47 yards. He made a huge downfield grab in the third quarter. The rest of his receptions were dinky-dunk passes. Golden Tate, a week after being benched for a week, came back and caught 2 passes for 44 yards including a huge grab in which he displayed outstanding ball skills.

-Austin Mack had 1 catch for 9 yards on his lone target. The catch was a brilliant reach-back, hands-only catch on a poor throw by Jones. Mack also had a key block on the Jones TD run and showed some serious physical play at a few different moments. He is an intense player who is making the best of his limited opportunities.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram was targeted just three times, He caught 2 passes for 15 yards, one of which was an excellent hands-grab on a ball that was thrown away from his body. Perhaps his most impressive play on a ball was on the incomplete pass where he jumped and turned his body, snared it with one hand, and came down with it albeit out of bounds.

-Kaden Smith added 2 catches for 12 yards and came up with 2 key blocks, one of which was on the Daniel Jones touchdown run.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-I was really impressed with this group, for the most part. The interior had a really strong first half, run game in particular. Rookie Shane Lemieux got the start over Will Hernandez even though Hernandez was back after missing two games on the Covid-19 List. He allowed 1.5 sacks, as he continues to struggle with his anchor as a pass blocker. But his quickness and initial pop as a run blocker has been a difference maker. The speed out of his stance in translated well into power. His smarts and understanding of the game have been a breath of fresh air. In addition, Kevin Zeitler is looking much better than he did earlier in the year. His lateral movement has been crisper, and he is getting quality movement with his punch. He suffered a concussion and was replaced by Hernandez late in the game.

-Nick Gates had a rough day in pass protection, allowing 2 pressures and 1 sack. With that said, the sack was allowed on a Hail Mary play at the end of the first half. He wasn’t challenged much one-on-one, but when he was, he looked late. As a run blocker, he continues to be an absolute boss. The NYG blocking scheme is pulling their guards laterally often and that can only be done if the center is effectively blocking back side, which Gates is doing. His run blocking has been a huge difference maker in the run-game surge we have seen over the past 5 weeks.

-Andrew Thomas had a solid day. He allowed just one pressure but did allow a half-sack on the first drive. One could make the argument that Jones held onto the ball for too long on that play. Thomas’ most notable gaffe was on a touchdown run by Jones that was called back because of his holding penalty. While he is normally grading out very well as a run blocker, Thomas sometimes fails to sustain quality contact in space with his feet under him and his chest up. Nevertheless, his arrow continues to point up.

-Cameron Fleming’s arrow is still pointing down, steeply. He allowed 3 pressures and graded below average in the running game. I think with the bye week here, it is time to insert Matt Peart as the starter on the right side.

EDGE

-NYG got some impact out of Trent Harris, who finished with 3 tackles, a half-sack, and 1 pressure. He played about half of the defensive snaps and while we shouldn’t get too excited about this, he showed the most athletic “juice” off the edge of anyone we have seen since Lorenzo Carter went down.

-Kyler Fackrell had a poor game. He finished with 2 tackles and a pressure, but he was a key culprit for the struggles NYG had against the run. He didn’t get off blocks and he whiffed on Miles Sanders two times.

DT

-Leonard Williams, who unfairly gets put into the discussion surrounding NYG’s disappointing roster simply because he was acquired via trade for 2 middle round draft picks, had one of his best games since becoming a Giant. He had 2 tackles, 5 pressures, and a sack on a PHI 2-point conversion attempt, which does not show up in the box score. He was getting in on the action away from the point of attack, he was in Wentz’s face all day, and he made it easier on the edge rushers. His one mistake was a silly roughing the passer penalty where it was a blatant, unnecessary take down right in front of the ref that will get called every single time.

-The rest of the NYG defensive interior shined against the pass along with Williams. Dexter Lawrence had 2 tackles, 1 sack, and 3 pressures. Dalvin Tomlinson finished with a tackle and a pressure. If these three can stay in the NYG uniform for another few years and this front office gets their hands on a high-end edge presence, watch out.

-The one issue NYG had up front was against the run. The three PHI running backs ran for 153 yards on just 19 carries. I think more of the blame was on the linebackers but these guys up front did struggle a bit against the zone blocking scheme by just not getting off of the linemen quickly enough.

LB

-Blake Martinez, the NFL’s leader in tackles, had a season-low 4 tackles. PHI attacked him pretty hard in the running game with lone blockers who had a clear path to him. It was evident he was game-planned around.

-Devante Downs and David Mayo combined for 8 tackles and 1 TFL, as they rotated at the other ILB spot. In the box score, that looks like a productive day, but I thought they didn’t fill the running lanes fast enough. They were slow to the meeting point and it resulted in PHI creating better space and angles for the cutback runs. Neither factored in coverage.

CB

-James Bradberry had a big day without causing a turnover. Often, those who want to evaluate cornerback play are too obsessed with interceptions. If you watched this game with the All-22 tape, you would see just how well Bradberry blanketed the PHI receivers. He did have 2 pass break ups, one was on 3rd down and the other was on 4th down. They were both high-level plays on the ball.

-Isaac Yiadom added a pass break up and 3 tackles. He played really hard, aggressive, and physical on the edge. It did result in 2 missed tackles, however. Yiadom stuck with the PHI speedster Jalen Reagor on two occasions downfield where it did appear Wentz wanted to go that way, neither of which he did.

-Darnay Holmes had a tackle and a missed tackle, but his biggest issue was a pass interference penalty called on a 3rd down stop. He is getting too grabby with his hands and needs to do a better job trusting his feet. He is athletic enough on all fronts.

S

-Jabrill Peppers is on a nice hot streak right now. His versatility is shining, as he finished with a team high 7 tackles in addition to 2 TFL, 1 pressure, and a half-sack. Peppers came up with a high-level tackle on 4th down to seal the win. He also came up big as a punt returner, averaging 12 yards per on 4 attempts that really helped win the field position game.

-Julian Love had 3 tackles and was rangy. He was physical and didn’t let any ball carriers shake free of his wrap up. Logan Ryan added 6 tackles and a pressure as he continues to thrive in this versatile, multi-faceted defensive back role.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 35, 44). Gano hit his 20th straight attempt, tying a franchise record. He was signed through 2023 following the game.

-Riley Dixon: 4 Punts / 53.3 avg / 53.3 net. All four punts landed inside the 20.

3 STUDS

-DT Leonard Williams, QB Daniel Jones, CB James Bradberry

3 DUDS

-OT Cameron Fleming, LB Kyler Fackrell, LB Devante Downs

3 THOUGHTS ON PHI

  1. In 2 games, PHI scored 39 points against NYG. 26 of them came in the second half, with just 13 coming in the first half. That is a clear sign that the coaching staff can do a good job of regrouping at halftime and coming out with an altered approach in the second half. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, this coaching staff is a good barometer for Joe Judge’s staff to match up against in the future.
  1. I’ve debated with a few people here over the years (healthy and respectful debate, it is possible!) surrounding the importance of linebackers in today’s NFL. While I think the value of pass rushers and cornerbacks remains stronger, a front office that neglects linebackers almost always gets burned. PHI’s linebackers were exposed several times when I watched the All-22 and it led to a lot of NYG’s offense success. Their linebackers who saw a lot of time in this game were two second-year undrafted free agents, and a 2017 3rd-round pick who was acquired via trade from ATL for a safety who has been off and on the practice squad in SF and a 7th-round draft pick. They are really weak at the second level and it has been a huge miss by that front office.
  1. If I was a betting man, the NFC East race will come down to PHI and NYG. One could make the argument that PHI has a tougher schedule from here on out, but not by much. And the Eagles do have the current standings advantage. PHI is battle tested and remember, they were do or die for 4 straight weeks last year with a very injured roster and they went 4-0 to seal it. That kind of experience and culture does mean something.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. The late injury to Kevin Zeitler and seeing Will Hernandez come into the game led me to thinking about next year and beyond. This offensive line took a turn for the better in mid-October. They still aren’t quite there and still have ugly stretches. However, compared to the last 3-4 years and the first month of 2020, they are a much more productive group. Looking around the league, one should assume your offensive line is going to take at least 1-2 serious injuries at some point in a given season. Seeing Zeitler go out and Hernandez come in got me thinking how this group needs to be addressed in the coming offseason. I can see NYG going after a top-notch guard (Joe Thuney from NE for example) in free agency and possibly even drafting another day 2 offensive lineman who has some inside-out versatility (Rashawn Slater from Northwestern for example). One may say this is too much overload with other issues on the roster. I won’t agree. Make no mistake, much of the recent “surge” in quality play is a direct result of the offensive line improving. Keep that group strong and deep, don’t forget the latter. I would have no issue signing a Thuney-type and drafting a Slater-type while also keeping Zeitler and Nate Solder on the roster as backups for another season.
  1. Are we happy about all of the designed runs from Daniel Jones? Part of me says it is absolutely vital for this offense to move down the field. After all, he leads the team with 384 yards on the ground, he is averaging 7.8 yards per carry, and he is slightly changing how defenses play him along the first 2 levels. The other part of me says that he needs to take less hits if he is going to last for the long term. I am all about the designed run, but I think both he and Jason Garrett need to look ahead now that defenses will start keying in on him and will try to knock him into yesterday. At some point, it will no longer be a surprise and NFL defenders will be able to gear up with anticipation.
  1. Big picture, the Giants offense is still the weak point of this team. They rank 31st in both points and yards. The good news? All but their week 16 opponent (BAL) rank in the bottom half of the league in points allowed and/or yards allowed. That’s right, 5 of their 6 remaining opponents can be scored on at an easier-than-average rate. Their defense will face a stiffer test (especially against ARI and SEA) but if this NYG offensive trend continues, they have a shot. That emotional loss in PHI on a Thursday night is what currently keeps them out of first place. They’re that close.
Nov 102020
 
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Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants (November 8, 2020)

Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 23 – Washington Football Team 20

QUICK RECAP

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones took on the Washington Football team for the fourth time in his young career. He entered the matchup 3-0 against the fellow NFC East basement dwellers while having a 1-16 record against everyone else. The Giants last played Washington on October 18, a matchup they won by 1 point. Since then, they lost two games by a combined 3 points and WAS defeated DAL by 22 points before entering their bye week. A home game following a week off against a team playing on short rest (NYG played the previous Monday night) is historically a very advantageous situation.

NYG reached the WAS 35-yard line on the opening drive and were faced with a 4th-and-1 . They opted to send Dion Lewis, their least powerful back, up the middle where he was stuffed for a no gain. Fortunately, WAS gave the ball right back on a fumble by rookie running back Antonio Gibson on their very first offensive play. NYG took advantage of the that first turnover, creating 3 points out of it via a 38-yard field goal by Graham Gano. The key play on the drive was a 50-yard pass, the longest of the season for NYG, from Jones to rookie Austin Mack. Mack saw an uptick in playing time after Joe Judge made the decision to keep Golden Tate at home after showing up the team last Monday night against the Bucs.

NYG forced a 3-and-out on the next WAS drive before punting themselves just two plays after tight end Evan Engram dropped a pass and had it nearly land in the hands of a WAS defender. The play was originally called an interception, but the replay review overturned the call. On that NYG punt, rookie Isaiah Wright muffed the catch and the ball was recovered by Madre Harper. Four plays later Wayne Gallman crossed the goal line to give NYG a 10-0 lead, both scores coming off WAS turnovers.

WAS then made it to the NYG 10-yard line but multiple WAS penalties pushed them far enough back that the field goal attempt ended up being 48 yards. Dustin Hopkins nailed it through the uprights to cut the NYG lead down to one score, 10-3. On that drive, however, Jabrill Peppers broke the ankle of WAS quarterback Kyle Allen. It was a gruesome injury and the irony behind it was the fact that Alex Smith was the backup who trotted onto the field. Smith had a career-threatening, even life-threatening, injury to his leg just two years ago.

NYG marched down the field on their next drive to set themselves up for another field goal, this one being 48 yards. Gano put it through the uprights again to lengthen the lead back to 10 by a score of 13-3. The NYG defense then forced another 3-and-out, setting up the steady Big Blue offense to put more space between them and Washington. Alfred Morris, a former Pro Bowler who saw his best days in WAS, took over in the backfield for the next drive. He gained 35 yards on his first 3 carries of the possession. NYG kept the momentum going, with Jones hitting Engram in the end zone up the seam for a 16-yard touchdown.

The WAS offense, with under 2 minutes left, got deep into NYG territory. But the drive ended with an interception by Smith as a result of running back J.D. McKissic slipping and falling as the ball was being thrown. Blake Martinez came up with the pick. NYG had as 17-point lead at the half.

Washington then scored on their first three drives of the second half. Despite a slow first half marred by turnovers, they came out converting third downs and neutralizing the NYG pass rush. They scored 2 touchdowns, one on a short run by the rookie back Gibson and the other on a freak pitch, catch, and run to Terry McLaurin. They also added 3 points via a 44-yard field goal by Hopkins. NYG was able to put up three points of their own from Gano’s 18th consecutive successful attempt but the lead was just now three points, 23-20.

The NYG offensive line had been solid until this point, but the WAS defensive front started to get consistent pressure and an offensive pass interference call on Engram killed NYG’s next drive. They punted back to WAS, who had the ball back, down 3, with over 5 minutes left. Their offense was red hot, coming off three straight scoring possessions that netted 17 points.

The NYG defense has shown signs of life all year but they came up short in key situations multiple times and they just haven’t been able to come up with the big, timely play. Well, that was another trend that was about to end. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham has been finding creative ways to create pressure all year despite not having a true edge presence. A Logan Ryan blitz forced Smith into throwing an interception to Jabrill Peppers. On the final WAS drive of the game, a Leonard Williams pressure forced yet another interception, this one to Ryan. The NYG defense put the breaks on the WAS offensive surge and won for the 4th time in as many tries with Jones at the helm.

NYG wins, 23-20.

QUARTERBACK

Daniel Jones: 23-34 / 212 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 94.2 RAT

The Giants’ leading rusher added just 4 yards on the ground. Two things are most important from this one: Jones didn’t turn the ball over and he got the win. It is amazing that he is 4-0 vs WAS but 1-16 elsewhere. Some guys just have a team’s number and vice versa. Jones didn’t have many opportunities to really throw the ball downfield in this one. It was obvious he was trying to get the ball out faster and that he did. He was accurate short and intermediate in addition to appearing decisive. A good step in the right direction for Jones and he was fortunate he didn’t turn the ball over on his fumble where a defender didn’t come in contact with him. That could have changed the outcome of this one. Jones has turned the ball over in every one of his starts outside of this game and the 12/22/19 matchup against WAS. One can easily see just how much more winnable these games are when they don’t lose that intra game battle.

RUNNING BACK

Wayne Gallman: 14 att / 68 yards / 1 TD and 1 rec / 9 yards

Gallman is another one who seems to have his best volume work against WAS. He now has 294 career yards against them; he doesn’t have more than 125 against any other team. Gallman was impressive inside where he seemed to be one broken tackle away from breaking off a big play on multiple occasions. He also pushed the pile twice, showing good power and grit. Gallman continues to impress with the ball but he is the one back who seems to struggle when pass blocking.

-Alfred Morris played a huge part in the win. He gained 67 yards on 9 carries while adding 4 yards on a catch. His 7.4 yards per carry were the highest of his career since September 15, 2013 in games where had had more than 2 carries. Talk about coming out of nowhere. Morris made a couple key blitz pickup blocks as well and I think that presence and reliability back there are key reasons why he is on the roster and seeing time. The production on the ground is simply icing on the cake.

WIDE RECEIVER

Austin Mack: 4 rec / 72 yards

Mack was a few inches shy of his first career touchdown in the first quarter. It was an impressive scamper after the catch where he broke a tackle and lunged for the end zone, but his knee was ruled down just prior to crossing the goal line. Mack also brought in a 50-yard reception, the longest of the year for NYG. Much of his opportunity came from the Golden Tate situation and it may end up being a blessing in disguise. Always good to see a young talent get looks and capitalize on them at the expense of a disgruntled, unhappy, and overpaid veteran.

-Sterling Shepard added 39 yards on 6 catches as he was featured on several short passing plays. He came up with a couple of key 3rd-down conversions and he made key blocks on long NYG running game gains. His impact isn’t seen in the box score but he was a key part to the win.

-Darius Slayton was targeted just one time. That is the first time that has happened in his young career. In 4 career games vs. WAS, he has 4 catches for 54 yards.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram has gotten his fair share of roller coaster reviews over the past few years and we can only add to it at this point. In a week where it was confirmed multiple teams tried to trade for him last week, NYG decided to hold onto the talented playmaker. He led the team in targets with 10, catching 5 of them for 48 yards and a touchdown. There were multiple bumps in the road, however. Engram dropped 2 passes that were literally right in front of his face. One of them was just inches away from resulting in an interception. He also allowed a TFL and was flagged for offensive pass interference. Engram’s touchdown was a huge play and it was a high-skill level catch. I have been banging the table for this offense to send him up the seam more because that is where I think he does the most damage athletically, that is where he can be nearly impossible to cover. Hopefully Jason Garrett can see that now. It’s hard not to think about what Engram and this offense can be if he gets rid of these focus-drops.

-Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo saw the field a considerable amount. They were excellent in sealing off the edge on some of the longer NYG runs.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Center Nick Gates continues to impress and grade out as the top OL on this team. This is now becoming a week after week occurrence and one has to think this can be the norm here. He had never played center before and obviously the preseason was shortened to the point where those first few weeks could have been erased in a normal year. Gates is a tone setter for this group. His energy, hustle, and attitude are making a difference and he is quickly becoming a key leader and component to the direction in which this team is heading.

-Rookie tackles Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart both put out solid efforts and performances. Thomas allowed 1 sack but was pretty clean otherwise. I still see mechanical issues with his pass protection sets but he was able to maintain good contact for the most part for the second week in a row. Two of his three best performances on the year have come over the past 2 weeks. Peart played 31% of the snaps, mostly for Cameron Fleming but he did step in for Thomas for a drive. I think that was pre-determined, as the staff is clearly trying to get Peart in the mix more at both spots. The move did occur after Thomas’ worst series, however.

-The two veterans of the group, Kevin Zeitler and Fleming, both finished with below average grades. Zeitler was better, however. He allowed 2 pressures and a sack, although the sack could be put on Jones. Zeitler came up with multiple key blocks in the running game and he showed some juice as a lead blocker to the outside. That was the best I’ve seen him move this year athletically. Fleming allowed a pressure and a TFL. His down blocking in the running game was really poor. I think we see one more start out of him.

-Rookie Shane Lemieux got the start at left guard for the second week in a row as Will Hernandez was kept on the Covid-19 list. Similar to last week, there was a lot of good and some really bad. He allowed a sack and a pressure in addition to getting flagged for a holding penalty that ended up being declined by WAS. Lemieux looks really solid from a balance and technique perspective. His hands and feet are very in sync with each other and he seems to pick up what the defense throws at him schematically. I think another year in the pro-strength/conditioning program will put him where he needs to be. He looks like a player who can be counted on.

EDGE

-Another quiet day for the NYG edge defenders. Kyler Fackrell was the one who saw the field the most and he ended with 3 tackles and 2 pressures. Not a bad day at all. He was flagged for an offsides penalty as well.

-Jabaal Sheard and Trent Harris saw the next tier of EDGE snaps, neither making a strong impact. Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown barely saw the field again.

DT

-Big day for Leonard Williams, one of his best as a Giant. His stat line read 3 tackles / 3 pressures / 1 sack. He also created penetration that led to a TFL by Dexter Lawrence and his pressure at the end of the game forced the game-ending interception. Williams was all over the field and continues to dominate one-on-one blocking. If this defense can find a true EDGE threat, Williams is going take off.

-Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson both made plays behind the line of scrimmage. WAS only ran the ball 9 times but these two were still very effective up front.

-B.J. Hill had 1 tackle and a pressure while Austin Johnson added a tackle in his limited role.

LB

-Tackling machine Blake Martinez led the team with another 10 in this game. He is just so automatic and reliable. He also came up with a key interception in the red zone toward the end of the first half. Big play, great timing, as WAS was heading toward at least 3 points.

-Devante Downs played the majority of the other ILB snaps when NYG used that personnel. He recorded 3 tackles but was exposed badly in coverage two times. This is a growing hole in this defense that may need to be addressed this offseason unless the staff is confident in Tae Crowder when he gets back on the field.

CB

-Isaac Yiadom had his finest day as a Giant. Although he is still limited in coverage, he made a couple impact plays. He split a sack with Tomlinson and recorded 8 tackles. He allowed a freak touchdown to McLaurin and a 3rd-down conversion but he played a sound, aggressive game.

-James Bradberry wasn’t thrown at much. WAS clearly tried to attack elsewhere in the NYG secondary. He did allow a 3rd-and-1 conversion pass where he simply lost track of McLaurin. Otherwise, quiet game from him in a good way.

-Rookie Darnay Holmes is quietly improving. He made 5 tackles, most of which came on plays where he allowed a catch in man coverage. He did get beat on 3rd down a couple times, but I like how well he is staying in phase and maintaining body control. He plays in a really fast and aggressive fashion that impacts his game as a cover man, blitzer, and run defender.

S

-Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan both came up with multiple key plays in NYG’s 5-turnover performance. Peppers recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass in addition to breaking up 2 others. Ryan had the game-sealing interception and created pressure via a blitz that rushed WAS QB Smith into rushing a throw that ended up being an interception. Ryan also forced a fumble and added 6 tackles and Peppers added 6 tackles of his own. Impact game by these two, even though they both played balls poorly in coverage that resulted in big plays for WAS.

-Julian Love played just under half the snaps. He made 1 tackle and was beat in coverage a couple times in addition to a poor angle on one of WR Cam Sims’ big gains. Not a great game for him and I question what his role is on this defense right now with the hope he is taking notes on the versatility of Ryan, who may not be here next year.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Graham Gano: 3/3 (Made 38, 48, 42). Gano has made 18 straight, the longest active streak in the NFL this season.

-P Riley Dixon: 4 punts / 39.5 avg / 36.5 net

3 STUDS

-S Jabrill Peppers, DT Leonard Williams, OC Nick Gates

3 DUDS

-OT Cameron Fleming, S Julian Love, EDGE Jabaal Sheard

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

  1. About a month ago, I discussed how poor I thought this WAS team really was and just how dark of a time they were entering. Since then, they did beat an awful DAL team in a game where the Cowboys backup QB was injured and taken out of the game, then they had a bye week, then they lost to NYG again. I’ve seen their last 4 games in full in addition to 2 others. Unless they find a solution at QB (Haskins won’t be it from what I hear), we may be looking at the next NYJ or JAC. They are about to hit a point where they can’t pay all of their DL, the best part of their team, and “QB Hell” is approaching.
  1. One player on this team who I have liked since last year, but who hasn’t received a consistent number of opportunities, is Cam Sims. He finished with 3 catches for 110 yards. The third-year receiver from Alabama has played in just 16 games (primarily on special teams) but has seen 11 targets that has produced 9 catches / 198 yards / 1 TD. I think they have something in him and it would be wise to use the rest of this season to expose him to regular snaps and opportunities.
  1. Chase Young, the number 2 overall pick, got off to a nice start prior to injuring his groin. For those that don’t know much about soft tissue injuries to that area, it isn’t fun and they heal very slowly. The snap out of his stance and torque when involved with blockers just isn’t there. He looked much differently early in the year and just doesn’t seem 100% right now. Tough to get an evaluation on him knowing that.

3 THOUGHTS ON NYG

  1. Check out these numbers. NYG gained 350 yards, WAS gained 402. NYG had 74 total offensive plays, WAS had 50. NYG averaged 4.7 yards per play, WAS averaged 8.0. NYG had 2 sacks, WAS had 5. NYG averaged 4.7 yards per pass play, WAS averaged 8.9. NYG punted 4 times, WAS punted 2 times. If you showed me just these numbers and I didn’t know anything else about the game, I would have said there was little-to-no shot NYG won this game. This is how vital the turnover battle is in the NFL. Giants did not turn it over once, WAS turned it over 5 times (and the margin if victory was still only 3 points). So when I bring up just how vital it is that Daniel Jones is not a turnover machine, do not bring up Brett Favre. If Jones keeps the turnovers away, NYG can win right now, not just down the road.
  1. The Golden Tate situation was a breath of fresh air. I’ll be honest, Tate yelling “Throw me the damn ball” last week wasn’t a huge deal. Was it notable? Yes. It wasn’t a big deal, though. The fact that Judge took that (and perhaps some stuff behind the scenes we don’t know about) and used it to bench him / keep him home from practice for a day / put him on the scout team / keep him home from the game was great to see. I think he is laying the foundation for anyone and everyone to see that the little things that other coaches overlook won’t be tolerated. They can morph into bigger issues down the road. Young players can take it in and realize that won’t be acceptable in the future. Another check in the box for Judge who, I will say, has this team feeling different than what we have seen in recent years.
  1. The Giants’ defense is getting a little bit of a pass because of the turnovers and because of the win itself. Truth told, they were awful in the second half against an offense that ranked 30th in the NFL. They are right there with NYJ and NYG as the worst offense in football. Alex Smith passed for 260 yards in the second half alone. What happened? NYG played a lot of zone coverage and it didn’t pan out. I think Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham has done a fine job mixing things up, playing matchups, and creating a pass rush with a lack of true pass rushers. I just don’t think he has the horses right now to be effective in every-down man coverage. James Bradberry is solid but the other corners can’t be relied on in that kind of role. In addition. I’m not sure the safeties are good enough over the top to even somewhat make up for it. That is going to need to be a key focal point to the upcoming NYG roster build.
Nov 032020
 
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Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates, New York Giants (November 2, 2020)

Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates – © USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 – New York Giants 23

QUICK RECAP

Tom Brady and the New York Giants have an interesting competitive relationship. The two have faced each other 5 times in the regular season, with Brady winning 4 of them. However, the Giants will always be a team that can go to sleep at night saying they had his number because of the 2 Super Bowl losses. While those losses seem like a lifetime ago, memories return when he jogs onto the field against Big Blue. This time he did so wearing a Bucs uniform, leading the red-hot Bucs coming off their 5th win in 6 weeks, not to mention their top-ranked NFL defense. The Giants last played 11 days prior, giving them extra rest and time to prepare. As bad as this season has gone when it comes to wins and losses, the continued failure of the NFC East still had not completely shut the Giants out of the possibility of postseason play. NYG just had to win.

The Giants, in their throwback all-white uniforms, started off on defense against Brady and a Bucs offense that scored 38+ points 3 of the past 4 games. Their initial drive did make its way into the red zone but NYG’s bend-don’t-break defense held them to a 37-yard field goal by Ryan Succop. The Giants ensuing drive ended in a punt but they did show some life on a trick-play double screen that converted a 3rd-and-11. The Giants were showing some energy and attitude, especially up front. Punter Riley Dixon pinned TB at their own 10-yard line.

Running back Ronald Jones fumbled on the second play after a punch to the ball from Blake Martinez and it ended up in the hands of Darnay Holmes. NYG was starting with the ball on the TB 12. On 3rd and 5, Daniel Jones threw a perfect pass over the hands of TB linebacker Devin White and into the arms of Dion Lewis for a touchdown. NYG took the early 7-3 lead and then stopped TB on the next drive.

The Giants then got themselves into field goal range but a 11-yard, third down sack pushed them too far back and they had to punt. Dixon then again pinned TB inside their own 10-yard line and the Giants defense ended the drive with a sack of their own, this one by Leonard Williams. NYG began their drive with three straight 10+ yard gains. They made their way into the red zone with under 2 minutes left in the first half. Wayne Gallman scored on a 2-yard touchdown run behind the all-rookie left side of the line and all of the sudden NYG had a double-digit lead. TB put 3 more points up on the board via a 40-yard field goal by Succop as the half came to a close. Brady is an absolute magician when it comes to putting up those overlooked but important 3 points before halftime.

NYG began the second half with the ball but on just the second play, Jones forced a throw on 2nd-and-8 from near midfield that ended up in the hands of TB corner Carlton Davis. His turnover rate over 20 games is now approaching Ryan Leaf territory. TB turned that into 3 more points, making it 14-9. NYG still had their lead as the clock chewed into the 3rd quarter.

Jones and the offense went three and out on the ensuing drive after Jones missed an open Sterling Shepard down the field. The opportunities that this young TB secondary were offering Jones simply couldn’t be capitalized on and it was opening the door for arguably the top quarterback of all time to mount a comeback. The door just kept on opening inch by inch for him. Thanks to a few chunk plays and a pass interference penalty on James Bradberry, TB found themselves inside the NYG 5. Brady then found Rob Gronkowski for a 3-yard touchdown to give TB its first lead since their opening drive of the game. A failed 2-point conversion attempt kept the lead at just 1.

The Giants then pieced together a 10-play drive highlighted by a 30-yard pitch-and-catch from Jones to Evan Engram on a play eerily similar to the drop the put the nail in the coffin to the NYG loss in week 7 against the Eagles. NYG had to settle on a field goal, which Graham Gano nailed through the uprights, to grab the lead back by a score of 17-15. The 4th quarter then began with a TB 3-and-out capped by a Carter Coughlin sack, the first of his career.

NYG breached midfield and started to work its way into TB territory but Jones second interception of the night took the wind out of the sails. It was another forced throw on 2nd down after not seeing the open man and with a defender preventing him from throwing a quality ball. TB then took that turnover and created 7 points off of it via a touchdown from Brady to Mike Evans, who the Giants had kept quiet up until this point. NYG responded with a 3-and-out as the NYG offensive line, which had been putting forth an admirable effort, began to fall apart as the TB defensive coordinator started to blitz on seemingly every play.

TB then put another 3 points on the board via a 38-yard field goal to give the road team a 8-point lead with under 4 minutes left. NYG had enough time to put together a drive in an effort to tie the game up, but they had used all of their timeouts. They used 13 plays, the longest drive of the game, to put 6 more points on the board as the game was coming to a close. It was a drive that included two 4th-down conversions, both of which were very low probability plays. Jones was evading pressure on nearly every drop back and he made a downright perfect throw to Golden Tate, who made a high-level catch in the back of the end zone. NYG was within 2 points but a late throw to Dion Lewis on the two-point conversion attempt and a questionable non-pass interference call by the refs kept NYG just short. Their third loss in 4 games  by a combined total of 6 points left NYG frustratingly walking off the field with yet another “almost” feeling.

NYG loses 25-23.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 25-41 / 256 yards / 2 TD – 2 INT / 74.8 RAT

One look at the box score, and possibly a look at the highlight reel, and one may come to the conclusion once again that “Jones wasn’t that bad.” I am on the other side. Jones’ performance in this game was much worse than the stat line (which isn’t strong) and the loss needs to be put on his shoulders. The two interceptions, both 2nd down throws that should have never been attempted, were the catalyst for the loss. TB turned those second half turnovers into 10 points. Beyond that, Jones did not see what the TB defense was giving him. He had multiple downfield receivers wide open on drives that would have likely ended in points for the team. I’m not talking about small windows here; I really mean wide open. Even though we have seen worse-stat lines, I really do think this may have been one of the worst games we have seen out of him, all things considered. His deep ball success rate was incredibly low, his throw on the 2-point conversion was a second too late on a play that most QBs can make in their sleep, and he just isn’t grasping simple concepts.

RUNNING BACK

Wayne Gallman: 12 att / 44 yards and 1 rec / 18 yards.

Really impressive game by Gallman who was up against one of the top run defenses in football, while running behind the worst-graded offensive line in the NFL. Gallman ran hard and decisively up the middle and came up with multiple big gains. He also had 12-yarder nullified by a bogus holding penalty called on Kevin Zeitler. 62 yards and a touchdown on 13 touches. Considering the circumstances, it was a nice job by a back who doesn’t seem to have the staff’s full confidence just yet.

-Alfred Morris and Dion Lewis saw 21 plays each (28% of the snaps). Morris gained 28 yards on 8 carries and Lewis caught 2 passes, one of which was a touchdown. Lewis did allow a sack and a pressure, as he struggled to maintain contact after the initial pop as TB kept on blitzing over and over.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard led the team with 8 catches and 74 yards on 10 targets. Jones missed him downfield on a 3rd down where he got open via quality route running, as he normally does, but he just didn’t have the gear or ball skills to reach it. Shepard isn’t and won’t ever be a downfield threat for multiple reasons. He is a limited slot guy, which makes it hard to accept NYG signing him to that long-term extension last year.

-Darius Slayton caught 5 passes for 56 yards including a 4th down conversion where he made a huge play after the catch. Had the Giants won this game, Slayton would have been a focal point because of that very play. He was also missed on multiple occasions by Jones downfield. His deep route running, when he gets beyond the jam by the corner, is some of the best I see on a weekly basis in the NFL. If Jones got his act together, we may be talking about one of the best young pass catchers in the game and I mean that.

-Golden Tate was only targeted 3 times. He came up with 2 key catches, the second being a brilliant touchdown reception with :30 left in the game that got NYG within 2. After that catch he yelled out, “Throw me the ball” for what it’s worth.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram was also targeted 10 times to share the lead with Shepard. He caught 5 of them for 61 yards, including a 30-yarder. He also gained 9 yards on a reverse carry which now seems to be a weekly fix for the NYG offensive play-calling. Engram did have a drop late in the game that didn’t have a huge impact. As a blocker, he allowed 1 TFL but also made 2 key blocks on a long Gallman gain and a 1st-down Alfred Morris carry.

-Backups Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo have left a lot to be desired in the blocking game, respectively. Smith allowed a TFL and Toilolo allowed a pressure. They didn’t get enough push when NYG tried to run to the outside and the speedy TB linebackers undercut their angles a couple times. These guys are paid to block and neither are doing a good job.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Overall, this unit put together their best performance of the year. The 4th quarter was a complete nightmare but that had a lot to do with Todd Bowles complex and overly-aggressive blitzing scheme.

-Andrew Thomas allowed 1 sack but I didn’t have him down for any pressures. On that sack, Jones ran right into the man because of pressure coming from the other side. He still didn’t look good on several of his pass protection sets with the over-reaching and lack of sustaining when defenders moved laterally, but it was a step in the right direction. On the other side, Cameron Fleming saw most of the time at right tackle and received the worst grade on the line. He allowed 3 pressures and a sack. One of his pressures led to a Jones interception and another pressure led to a sack on the other side. Matt Peart saw limited time as the coaching staff continues to sprinkle him in. I think he will be starting at RT after the bye week.

-Shane Lemieux got the start at left guard, as Will Hernandez missed the game after testing positive for Covid-19. It was a solid effort that gives NYG encouraging signs for the future. He stayed within his techniques for the most part, he got solid initial contact, and he wasn’t fooled by the blitzing packages outside of one miss. The one issue I saw over and over was a lack of anchor and sustainability. That usually stems from lack of power and strength and will likely improve over time. His second half was worse than the first and he allowed 3 total pressures and was flagged for a false start. It wasn’t a good game-grade but for a first timer who was drafted in the 5th round, there were enough positives.

-Nick Gates and Kevin Zeitler each did a nice job inside. They were both called for holding penalties that I thought were poor calls and they both allowed 1 pressure. For a defense that was sending the house as much as you will ever see in a game, I thought these two did a nice job of adjusting and handing off defenders. Not an easy thing to do. Gates continues to be the bright spot of the offensive line. I am leaning towards him being a credible long-term answer whether he stays at center or moves to guard.

EDGE

-Kyler Fackrell and the newly-signed Jabaal Sheard were completely neutralized by the TB tackles. They combined for 1 tackle and neither recorded a pressure. Ouch. The lack of true, dependable edge talent is such a vital missing piece on this defense.

-Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin both only saw 4 snaps. Coughlin recorded a sack and Brown was right there as well on the same play. I understand these guys need to earn their playing time and they want to bring them along slowly, but I really need to see these guys get more snaps after the bye week. We don’t need to see Sheard playing half of the snaps.

DT

-Really impressive performances by Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson. Williams had 4 tackles and a sack on a key 3rd down stop. He also added 2 more pressures and a QB hit. Tomlinson was such a weapon against the TB rushing attack that saw their running backs gain just over 3 yards per carry. He had 3 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 pressure, and a QB hit. His 3rd-and-1 stop in the fourth quarter was huge. Tomlinson also tipped the pass that caused Ronald Jones to somewhat mis-catch a ball that eventually led to an easy forced fumble by Blake Martinez. That was an overlooked portion of that key play.

-B.J. Hill and Dexter Lawrence did a lot of dirty work and also combined for 7 tackles. Neither made an impact against the pass.

LB

-Really solid game by Mr. Automatic. He had 9 tackles, 1 pressure, 1 TFL, and a forced fumble. Rarely fooled, always near the action, and a solid finisher. Really solid player and one of the top free agent signings across the league.

-David Mayo has officially taken over the second ILB role. He played 50% of the snaps while Devante Downs played 20%. They combined for 4 tackles and neither were challenged much in the passing game.

CB

-James Bradberry has been Mike Evans’ kryptonite. He has been facing him twice per year dating back to his days in Carolina, and this one wasn’t much different. Evans did end up with 5 catches and a touchdown though (first TD catch vs Bradberry since 2016) and Bradberry was flagged for 2 pass interference penalties.

-Isaac Yiadom got another shot at being the number 2 corner on this defense and he put in a solid performance. He had 8 tackles and a pass break up. He was called for a key personal foul which was also a poor call by the refs. He allowed two 3rd-down catches but this was the best we have seen out of him this year.

-Darnay Holmes had 4 tackles and a fumble recovery. I like the way he is moving right now as he just seems to understand the schemes on both sides of the ball. Brady was looking in his direction on the first sack and I think that was a key part of the Williams’ take down.

S

Outstanding game by Jabrill Peppers. He was flying all over the place and making his presence known. He led the team with 10 tackles and he had 2 nice pass break ups, one of which was on 3rd down. They did take him off of the field on specific passing situations, which I am fine with. This defense does a nice job of rotating guys in and out and when you can hide Peppers’ issues, his standout plays simply mean more. Really good effort by him in this one.

-Logan Ryan saw almost all of his snaps at safety as Julian Love continues to see his playing time go up and down. Ryan had 3 tackles and 2 misses while Love added 2 tackles of his own. Both did well defending the deep routes.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 33)

-P Riley Dixon: 4 punts / 36.0 avg / 36.0 net

-Dion Lewis and Jabrill Peppers both had nice returns to improve NYG’s field position. Lewis had a 44 yarder on the opening kick of the second half.

3 STUDS

-S Jabrill Peppers, RB Wayne Gallman, DT Dalvin Tomlinson

3 DUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, OT Cameron Fleming, Kyler Fackrell

3 THOUGHTS ON TB

  1. Prior to the season, I picked TB to win the NFC and we are pretty much at the halfway point now. I still feel the same way, they have so much going for them. Their young talent from the previous few drafts is really developing, their high-priced veterans are healthy and delivering, and they have the QB. I think they are going to win this conference.
  1. How different is this Bucs team from a year ago? Not that much, to be honest. In 2019 they had the best run defense in the NFL but their pass defense was young and shaky. However they had a decent enough pass rush to somewhat make up for it. In 2020, they still have the number one run defense but their young secondary is improving. In 2019, the offense ranked 3rd in the NFL and in 2020 they actually rank 10th. The biggest difference? Their QB isn’t leading the league in turnovers. That can easily be worth 8-9 games in a season. Yes, that much.
  1. You are going to hear Byron Leftwich’s name in the coming years as a hot Head Coach candidate. I’m not going to act like I know whether or not he can be successful in that role but please do not use the 2020 Bucs offensive success as a reason. One, it is mostly Arians when it comes to the coaching. Two, Adam Gase was a hot head coaching name after he worked with Peyton Manning. This is all about the QB and maybe some Bruce Arians. Don’t make the mistake of putting this success on Leftwich’s trophy mantle.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Last week I spoke about Evan Engram not being dependable week to week when it comes to catching the ball. He is uber-talented and he can be a huge difference maker in this league. However, I don’t want a key part of my receiving arsenal to have issues catching the ball. I feel the same way about a quarterback and turnovers. You can look great here and look great there. You can throw dimes weekly, you can make plays with your legs. However, if you turn the ball over a lot (AKA lead the league), I want nothing to do with you. There are 8 games left for Jones to prove himself, or at least I (not important I know) will go into the 2021 pre-Draft process looking for the next QB.
  1. The Giants pass rush has been improving steadily. The most impressive part? They don’t have a lot of quality pass rushers. Leonard Williams is good from the interior and Dalvin Tomlinson can beat one-on-one blocking. However, they haven’t had anyone on the outside worth a second look especially since Lorenzo Carter went down. That in mind, they rank top 10 in sack percentage and pressure percentage. How? Patrick Graham is scheming creative packages both with and without blitzing. This coaching staff has been impressive on multiple levels but I think this is the most notable improvement. If they get their hands on a pure edge guy or two, watch out.
  1. The Giants have the Redskins and Eagles coming up before their bye week. If you are a “there is still a chance”-type fan, these 2 games are vital. Not one of them, but both. The division looks like it belongs to the Eagles but I’ve seen all but one of their games this year and there is no doubt in my mind they could end up with 7 or less wins. They are broken on a couple levels but Carson Wentz looks like he is morphing into Sam Darnold right now. If he doesn’t get better, that team could lose over and over and over. NYG’s most recent three losses are by a combined 6 points. They are right there, they are competitive. If the QB picks it up, they can make things interesting still.
Oct 252020
 
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Wayne Gallman, New York Giants (October 22, 2020)

Wayne Gallman – © USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles 22 – New York Giants 21

QUICK RECAP

Over the past decade, there haven’t been many team-to-team match-ups that are as one-sided as NYG vs PHI. To say the Eagles have had the Giants’ number would be an understatement worthy of laughter. No matter who the quarterbacks are, no matter who the head coaches are, NYG has been seeing PHI in their nightmares. In fact, the last time the Giants beat the Donovan McNabb-led Eagles in consecutive match-ups was 2008. Brandon Jacobs led the team in rushing, Kevin Boss led the team in receiving, Antonio Pierce led the team in tackles, Corey Webster led the team in pass break ups, and Eli Manning was 27 years old. A lifetime ago. Despite that history and the fact that NYG came into this Thursday Night game with a 1-5 record, there was some hope and extra energy. The NFC East was crumbling, and the Giants were coming off a win against Washington. Had they won this one, they had a credible shot at being tied for first place in the division by the end of week 7. This had a “big-game” feel to it and the Eagles entered the night as arguably the most banged-up team in the NFL.

The aggressive Eagles’ offense had their downfield weapon and Giants killer, DeSean Jackson, back in the lineup. They went to him on the first two plays of the game as they marched down the field. They converted a 4th-and-1 attempt en route, as PHI leads the league in 4th-down attempts since Doug Pederson became their head coach in 2016. Carson Wentz powered his way into the end zone on a 1-yard run to put the home team up early.

The first blunder of the night occurred as the NYG punt team came onto the field following their initial offensive drive. They kept the offense on the field for 4th-and-3 before making the switch to punt at the last moment. PHI was scrambling as they tried to hurry and get their punt return team on the field as the defense darted off. They left the NYG gunner, Corey Ballentine, uncovered. He was, literally, all by himself with nobody between him and the first down marker. Punter Riley Dixon noticed, somehow Ballentine didn’t. The ball was snapped, and Dixon had no choice but to boot the ball back to PHI. An enormous missed opportunity! Winning teams capitalize on mistakes made by opponents. It is one of the simplest, basic, and everlasting components to the game. NYG isn’t there yet.

PHI went 3-and-out on the next drive and thanks to a 14-yard punt return, NYG began with the ball at the PHI 39. If you have paid attention to Jason Garrett’s tendencies while with DAL, this is a part of the field he loves to get aggressive on first down. On the first play, Jones threw a dime just over the head of the Eagles’ defender into the hands of Golden Tate, who made a strong catch and broke the tackle to easily jog into the end zone. NYG tied it up. The lead didn’t last long, as PHI used an inch-by-inch, foot-by-foot approach with the screen game being featured numerous times to put up another 3 points via a 31-yard field goal by Jake Elliott.

Daniel Jones got the Giants to midfield on the next drive, as the game plan was clearly heavy on getting the ball to Evan Engram. They were handing the ball off to him and they were throwing to him often in the passing game. On this 8-play drive, Engram was targeted four times, possibly one too many. PHI showed an aggressive double inside gap blitz on 3rd-and-7 and Jones took the shotgun snap and wanted to get rid of it in a hurry. He rifled the ball to Engram, with maybe too much juice on it, and Engram was slow to get his head around and just couldn’t grab the ball in time. It deflected off his hands and was intercepted by Jalen Mills. Turnover number 9 on the year for the second-year quarterback.

PHI failed to take advantage of the interception, as Carson Wentz threw one back to NYG on an ill-timed decision. James Bradberry came down with his third interception of the season and his second in as many games. Only two players in the league have more interceptions than Bradberry, a fantastic free agent signing for this team and maybe one of the best in the NFL this past offseason.

The two offenses traded possessions before NYG had one more shot with just under a minute left in the first half starting at their own 35. On Dion Lewis’ first touch of the game, he fumbled and gave PHI the ball at the 42. The third turnover in 5 drives reminded everyone watching what exactly the NFC East was in 2020. PHI got the ball close enough to take three shots at the end zone but had to settle on a 29-yard field goal attempt. Elliott lined up and missed it. An ugly second quarter was over with PHI up 10-7.

The two teams traded 4 straight three-and-outs to start the second half. NYG then started to take over. Daniel Jones dashed 80 yards before getting tripped by the turf. He was heading toward the end zone but lost his balance and fell. They ended up scoring a touchdown on a 1-yard Wayne Gallman run so this can now be laughed at. Even the best athletes in the world have the occasional slip up but NYG needed 4 plays and a PHI pass interference to get the 8 yards needed for the score. Had they not punched it in, this would have been the poster-play that sums up current state of the Giants organization.

NYG stopped PHI two more times as the Eagles offense was stalling. Already up 4, NYG put together a 15-play drive that began at the PHI 3-yard line after PHI failed on a 4th-and-goal attempt. PHI helped out with a 3rd-down pass interference and a too-late challenge by Pederson that would have went in their favor. Jones ended up hitting Sterling Shepard on a zip-line 2-yard pass to put NYG up 21-10 with just over 6 minutes left against an offense that looked completely broken. They were without multiple receivers, their starting running back, multiple offensive linemen, and their top two tight ends. It then took just over 1:30 for PHI to score a touchdown, a 3-yard pass to Greg Ward. A failed two-point conversion attempt maintained the NYG lead at 21-16, however. PHI would need a defensive stop and a touchdown in the final 5 minutes to win this one.

NYG gained 27 yards on their first three plays, all Gallman runs. On 3rd-and-7, Jones dropped back and threw one downfield to Engram. Many have been banging the table for more downfield passes to the gifted Engram, one of the top athletes in the NFL at the position and the most-targeted pass catcher of the night. They had the match-up and space they wanted. The throw was on the money. Engram reached out his arms and hands but dropped it. The clock stopped, it was 4th down, and NYG had to punt.

PHI needed 71 yards with just over 2:00 left. They got 53 of those yards on three plays using their third string tight end and backup running back. They were inside the NYG 10-yard line just like that. A face mask penalty pushed PHI back to the 18-yard line which may have ended up hurting the NYG defense more because they struggled to defend space. On the next play, Wentz hit Boston Scott on a top shelf throw just over the hands of Jabrill Peppers. PHI was up 22-21. They failed the two-point conversion attempt again, as NYG continued to defend short spaces well, and there was 40 seconds left but NYG didn’t have a timeout.

NYG got the ball to their own 32 on the first play but Will Hernandez was called for a hold. Instead of 2nd-and-3 from the 32, it was 1st-and-25 from the 15 and they had used 6 seconds. Two plays later Jones was sacked for the third time on the night and fumbled, giving the ball back to PHI. His third lost fumble of the season and 10th turnover.

NYG loses 22-21.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 20-30 / 187 yards / 2 TD-1 INT / 91.9 RAT

Jones added 92 yards on 4 carries, including 80 of them on one run that will be on blooper reels for years to come. He also added a lost fumble on the final NYG offensive play. Another game, another performance where we saw some really good things and some really bad things. The Jones apologists will say that Engram should have caught the pass that was intercepted and the fumble at the end of the game didn’t matter because there was little to no chance of them advancing the ball far enough for a game-winning field goal attempt. The haters will simply add them to his massive career turnover total. This is the deal; the pass on that interception had too much on it because Jones thought pressure was coming before it was actually coming. I do think Engram could have turned his head sooner but very few, if any, players are catching that ball. I keep saying we need to see Jones make improvements with his ball security. The fumble at the end of the game, albeit it did not directly lose NYG the game, further strengthens this is an enormous problem that can prevent NYG from winning when the roster is better. He made a few nice throws, he made some athletic plays, but he isn’t putting it all together yet.

RUNNING BACK

-Wayne Gallman: 10 att / 34 yards / 1 TD and 5 rec / 20 yards

Devonta Freeman suffered an ankle injury and Gallman was the one who took over in the backfield. All 10 of his carries were from the 3rd quarter on. Gallman’s stat line isn’t overly impressive but he was a big part of the NYG offensive “surge.” He ran the ball really well and gained several yards after contact. He has been a better back than advertised despite limited opportunities and unfortunate team circumstances. With Dion Lewis’ fumble and overall lack of impact here, I expect Gallman to get more and more touches in future games.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 6 rec / 59 yards / 1 TD

It was Shepard’s first game back since Week 2 on September 20th. He looked quick and shifty from the slot and came up with a few key grabs, including a 2-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter that put NYG up by 11. It is easy to forget the gap between Shepard and his replacements until you see him back out on the field after missing a few games. He is a really explosive short-route runner who can consistently gain separation. While he is limited and can now be labeled an injury prone player, he is a key piece to this offense moving forward.

-Golden Tate had just 1 catch, which was a 39-yard touchdown. It was an impressive play on the ball but don’t let it cloud the fact he went the rest of the game without an impact. Not what you want from a starting outside receiver who has the third-highest cap number on the team. Speaking of no impact, Darius Slayton finished with 2 catches for 23 yards on 4 targets. PHI corner Darius Slay handled him well for the majority of the night.

TIGHT END

Evan Engram: 6 rec / 46 yards and 2 att / 3 yards

It was clear that Jason Garrett wanted to make Engram the key focus of this game. He led the team with 9 targets and the Giants continue to try to get him the ball in space via outside runs. It is hard to ignore Engram’s potential impact with his size/speed/explosion combination that very few have. However, his greatest weakness in the passing game from day one has been his inconsistent hands. He had 7 drops as a rookie and it appears to have become a mental block. This was not an issue in college, I scouted him thoroughly. He has 5 drops this year, and it is near a point where you almost have to give up on him because of it. Pass catchers can be slower than ideal, you can work around it. Pass catchers can be shorter than ideal, you can work around it. However, if you don’t catch the ball consistently you cannot be focal point in a good offense. End of discussion.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-We have seen some shaky performances from Andrew Thomas and this one may have been the worst. We can only hope that this is the low point of his rookie year. He allowed 2 sacks, 3 pressures, and a TFL. The league is attacking his inside shoulder on a weekly basis, and he needs to clean that up right now. The quickest route to the QB from the edge position is through the inside shoulder of the tackle. You have to protect that first, then protect the edge. He is over setting and playing too top heavy. He has a lot of work to do on his pass protection.

-Will Hernandez had a tough game against a really tough match-up. He allowed a TFL and a pressure and was also flagged for a hold on the final drive that really stung because of how ill-timed it was. Lateral movement just doesn’t come natural for him. Kevin Zeitler finished with his top grade of the season, which isn’t saying much. However, it was encouraging to see him play well on short rest against a tough opponent. He did allow a TFL, though.

-Cameron Fleming allowed a TFL and a sack. Not much to say here other than I still think his days are numbered as a starter. I do wonder if there is a trade market for him out there. There are a few contenders that are really thin at tackle and I did hear there was a long list of suitors who wanted him as their swing tackle prior to signing with NYG.

-Center Nick Gates was really good in this game. He has been evolving weekly and may be the best lineman on this team at the current moment. This was against a really tough PHI interior defensive line. He is the one guy who is constantly chasing the action downfield looking for a defender to pick off. Love the hustle and love the production he had in this one.

EDGE

-Kyler Fackrell is now in this position group as opposed to the linebackers. It looks like he has made the full time move to the outside. He had 3 tackles and 2 pressures to go along with 1 missed tackle. His ability to move inside and out is really special and rare, to be honest. There really aren’t many players in the league who can handle that kind of back-and-forth move. While we aren’t talking about an elite talent, his role is really important and hard to find. When looking at the draft prospects, I am constantly trying to find a credible skill set comparable to this and it doesn’t come around often.

-Markus Golden had a 1 sack and 1 pressure and was promptly traded to ARI the day after. Even though NYG could not afford to lose any more EDGE talent, Golden wasn’t an ideal fit and he won’t be a long-term fix. I am actually impressed that NYG netted a 6th round pick for him. The Cardinals really needed talent at that spot with the loss of Chandler Jones, though.

-Cam Brown played a career high 12 snaps and didn’t make an impact but his movement and size stand out. With the Golden trade now in the rear-view mirror, expect him to start seeing more and more snaps. That will be fun to watch.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-One thing that has bothered me is how often this group gets blown up. I think Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham is sending them on a lot of designed slants, and depending on what the play call is, they get completely washed out. The Eagles offensive line was playing multiple practice squad-caliber guys and they still held their own against a NYG line that is supposed to be the strong point of this team. The match-up just didn’t swing in the Giants’ direction the way I was expecting.

-Leonard Williams finished with the top grade among the DL with 2 pressures and 1 tackle. He caused a lot of re-directing in the PHI running game. Dalvin Tomlinson had 3 tackles and a pressure in addition to a pass break up. He had a bad missed tackle however and was completely pushed down the field twice that opened up big running lanes. Dexter Lawrence had a tackle, a sack, and a pressure. B.J. Hill had 3 tackles and a sack that was negated by a NYG penalty. Lastly, Austin Johnson had 1 pressure and 1 tackle.

LINEBACKER

-Mr. Reliable Blake Martinez led the team in tackles yet again, this time with 9. He also added 2 pressures and a pass break up. Don’t take his play for granted simply because it happens every week. He is playing at such a high level.

-Devante Downs got the start even though David Mayo was back. He finished with 5 tackles and a pressure that led to an intentional grounding penalty early in the game. For a guy who has struggled so far this year, it was his best performance. Mayo was on the field for just 10% of the defensive snaps and finished with 2 tackles, 1 of which was on special teams. I think this job will belong to Downs for the time being.

CORNERBACK

-This group struggled overall. James Bradberry did haul in his 3rd interception of the season on a nicely played ball in the end zone. I was actually curious to see if he could handle DeSean Jackson because of the shifty speed he brings to the table. Bradberry excels against bigger receivers who don’t get in and out of breaks as well. Jackson did catch passes of 12 and 9 yards on the first drive of the game, but was held pretty quiet after that until injured. Bradberry did miss a tackle and was flagged for a pass interference on the PHI game winning drive.

-For the second week in a row, Ryan Lewis was torched down the field late in the game. He also got flagged for an illegal contact penalty. Teams will now test him more and more down the field.

-Corey Ballentine allowed a 3rd-and-10 conversion early on. He played under 20% of the snaps and I think he needs to start getting phased out of this defense. He just isn’t playing well and he doesn’t seem to mentally grasp the speed of this game. Speaking of mental gaffes, the mistake of not realizing he was uncovered on the NYG punt was an enormous missed opportunity that could have really changed the complexion of this game. Ballentine was also responsible for a 15-yard illegal hit penalty on the punt before the game-winning drive by PHI.

-Madre Harper, an undrafted rookie from the Raiders, saw a lot of playing time late and was promptly torched by the PHI passing game. In addition, he was flagged twice.

SAFETY

-Logan Ryan had a really solid game, as it looks like he played more safety than corner in this one. He had 2 pressures and a pass break up in the end zone. His biggest mistake, however, was a holding penalty on 3rd-and-goal from the 5-yard line on the final PHI drive. It gave them new life and two plays later they scored the game-winning touchdown. Awful timing on what was really his lone glaring mistake.

-Jabrill Peppers has minimal football sense. First of all, he fair caught two punts where he had 10+ yards of open space in front of him. Secondly, his man coverage of Boston Scott on the game- winning touchdown throw was atrocious. He came too hard downhill, knowing he didn’t have any help behind him against a back who accelerates quickly in a situation where you knew PHI was going to take a shot at the end zone. Talent at safety is useless if you don’t fully understand game situations. He did have 6 tackles and a sack.

-Julian Love had 7 tackles and a pass break up. Solid game for him where he read the action well and flowed in the right direction consistently.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano didn’t attempt a field goal. He apparently strained a quad on a kickoff, and it would have been a struggle for him to go for a long game-winning field goal had NYG gotten far enough up the field on their final drive.

-P Riley Dixon: 6 punts / 44.2 avg / 42.0 net

3 STUDS

-LB Blake Martinez, OC Nick Gates, RB Wayne Gallman

3 DUDS

-OT Andrew Thomas, TE Evan Engram, CB Corey Ballentine

3 THOUGHTS ON PHI

  1. Carson Wentz has become a completely different QB over these past two seasons, not in a good way. One can understand his happy feet in the pocket because of the poor OL play and lack of receiver-talent, but his poor decision-making should be alarming. He is trying to do too much and making throws that can’t be excused even by his biggest supporters. He leads the NFL in turnovers. They’re stuck with him for a while and they better pray this is a short-term speed bump.
  1. I respect the PHI coaching staff as much as any in the league. Their awful 2-point conversions play calls aside, these guys adjust to the game situation as well as anyone. They have been ravaged on offense with injuries two straight seasons. They don’t make it look pretty, but they get the job done.
  1. PHI is now the front runner of the division, no doubt. As they start to get some guys back on offense, I think they will be set up nicely to get to the 8-9 win mark, which we know won’t be touched by anyone else in the NFC Least. I wouldn’t want to play them in the playoffs, either. Their pass rush is top 3 in the league and they have a lot of guys who know how to win.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Speaking of “knowing how to win,” that is the biggest component this young NYG team needs to acquire in the coming months. I think it is an overused line by the media at times, but when a team is making the most amount of mistakes late in the game (drops, penalties, allowed sacks, etc.), that is a sign of pressing and getting mentally defeated by the moment. Eli Manning played his best football late in games. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan came up big late in games. While the team needs to continue to add better personnel, these players need to step up when the game is on the line consistently. They won’t go anywhere worth getting excited about until that happens.
  1. Last week, I discussed how this would be a big test for this team in regard to the future. A short week, a big game that meant a lot to the divisional standings, and response to coming off a win. It went so well for 3 and two-thirds of a quarter. Their defense was coming up big, notably in the second half, and their offense was adjusting well and turning opportunities into touchdowns. Ultimately, they failed the tests. Is this something we will keep on seeing? Or will they adjust and grow from the experience and end up being on the other side of this next time?
  1. Joe Judge emphasized getting smart, sound players during his initial interviews after being hired. He did this moreso than most coaches and their cliché lines. After 7 games, I can see what he means more than ever. If Corey Ballentine, Cameron Fleming, and Jabrill Peppers had higher on field IQ, this team may have 3 wins. If Evan Engram had mental toughness, this team may have another win. If this offensive line handled stunts and twists more naturally, this team may have another win. I know the “if” department doesn’t get anyone anywhere. However, when scouting players for the upcoming draft, that is something I am really going to key in on. NYG will be placing more value on it than ever.