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.

Nov 152017
 
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Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (November 12, 2017)

Sterling Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers 31 – New York Giants 21

RECAP

Nine weeks into the season, two of the three worst teams in the NFL took the field in San Francisco. The Niners were expected to be in this position, as they are building their defense year by year via the draft and recently-acquired QB Jimmy Garoppolo to be the leader of their offense moving forward. While he is still learning the playbook, the Niners are relying on 2017 3rd rounder C.J. Beathard to move the chains and score points. On the other side is future Hall of Famer in Eli Manning but both support systems are hurting big time. The combined list of players on injured reserve is massive and the talent on the field for this game was one of the lowest we have seen, and will see, all season.

The two teams traded field goals on their respective opening possessions and after a 4th-and-1 stop by Olivier Vernon and the newly signed Kelvin Sheppard, the Giants took advantage of the good field position and Aldrick Rosas put another 40+ yard field goal through the uprights to make it 6-3.

The Giants were in position to take full control of the first half when Niners fullback Kyle Juszczyk fumbled the ball as he was falling to the ground near midfield. Three plays later, the Giants were approaching the red zone but pressure from the San Francisco front forced Manning into a rookie-caliber mistake. Instead of tucking the ball and taking a sack, he tried to shovel the ball forward with no target in sight and it ended up resulting in a silly 2nd-down fumble.

What Beathard did three plays later is what the Giants were attempting to do. He took the momentum swing and turned it into a San Francisco score, connecting with speedster Marquise Goodwin who easily beat Janoris Jenkins downfield. It was an 83-yard score, the longest of the season for SF.

The Giants responded with a touchdown of their own, Manning to Engram, taking the lead back at 13-10. With just over 2 minutes remaining the their possession beginning on their own 24-yard line, signs were pointing towards the Giants going into halftime with a lead. However, with ease, Beathard once again drove his team down the field and connected for another touchdown, this time to TE Garrett Celek. The tackling and pursuit angles of the defense were downright pathetic. Tight ends have scored touchdowns in 10 straight games against the Giants and the theme of the coaching regime continues, same mistakes and shortcomings week after week.

NYG took 5 minutes off the clock to open the 3rd quarter, highlighted by explosive runs by Wayne Gallman and arguably the Giants’ catch of the year by Sterling Shepard. Rosas, however, pushed a 34-yard field goal attempt wide right keeping the score stuck at 17-13 Niners. The Niners put together a drive of their own but it was halted by an Olivier Vernon interception. Once again, the momentum was there for the taking but the Giants simply couldn’t step up, once again.

The Niners continued to creep their way up the field and ended up getting in the end zone on the first play of the 4th quarter via a Beathard 11-yard scamper into the end zone. On 3rd-and-2, Jason Pierre Paul was running away from the rolling out quarterback and cornerback Eli Apple made the decision to not try and prevent him from reaching the end zone. It was as pathetic of a play and overall effort I’ve seen all year, nail in the coffin. Within another 3 minutes of game clock, SF scored another touchdown via a Matt Breida 33-yard run and the Giants were down 31-13 to the 0-9 Niners.

The Giants did score a garbage touchdown at the end of the game on a pass to Roger Lewis from Manning, but the game was over as there was only 1:07 left. A failed onside kick attempt later, Giants lose 31-21.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 28/37 – 273 yds – 2 TD/0 INT. Add a fumble to the evaluation of Manning – one of his worst we’ve seen. Manning’s deep throws (20+ yards) were more accurate than we’ve seen in recent weeks. His presence and confidence in the pocket have gone up now that Flowers has really stabilized his play on the left side. Manning made some solid throws into tight windows, showing zip and accuracy. He has never been an athletic mover when scrambling or rolling out, but he seems to be losing a step when he tries to evade pass rushers.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 14 att/70 yards – 2 rec/18 yards. Darwka also ran for a 2-point conversion late in the game. Darkwa has proven that when he gets moving downhill with some space to work with, he can be a consistent tackle breaker who picks up plenty of yards after contact. When the team gets an extra tight end on the field, his success is much greater. He won’t create much on his own via movement, but he is a more than solid bruiser.
  • Wayne Gallman: 3 att/22 yards. Snaps were limited for Gallman, only being on the field for 15% of offensive plays. What I’m seeing with him though is an outstanding job of being efficient with his footwork and decision making. He is very assertive and quick to react.
  • Shane Vereen: 5 att/11 yards, 4 rec/27 yards. Vereen actually led the RB group in plays for the first time this season. He has proven to be the top pass catcher and blocker among the group. Vereen has been underused all year but at this point, youth is going to have to win out.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 11 rec/142 yards. Both were career highs for the second-year receiver. He and Evan Engram are the feature players in this offense and the fact they are so young is a good thing. The rest of the season will be huge for their progression as players in this league. Shepard started to see more double teams towards the end of the game, which is something he has rarely seen to this point in his career. He made one of the toughest catches we’ve seen all season in the 2nd quarter and has proven to be a tough, blue-collar gamer. Shepard fits well with the slot position.
  • Roger Lewis: 3 rec/33 yards – 1 TD. Lewis still struggles to consistently run himself open via quickness and route running, but he showed some toughness in traffic. He got after it and made a nice ball-skill catch TD late in the fourth quarter.
  • Tavarres King: 2 rec/22 yards, 1 rush att/11 yards. King had an impressive run on his reverse during the first drive. He is playing fast and hungry, but there simply isn’t a lot to work with talent wise.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 6 rec/31 yards – 1 TD. Engram saw a lot of attention from the SF defense, something I expect most if not all teams to do from here on out. Again, it will be good for his long term progression. The route he ran on his touchdown catch was a thing of beauty. Eric Reid is a very good cover safety against tight ends, but Engram made him shift his weight with a fake out-cut before darting up the short seam and locating the ball right away and bringing it in as he approached the back of the end zone. His footwork as a route runner is top notch. Engram, however, had his second worst blocking grade of the season as he just couldn’t handle the physical SF edge defenders which resulted in a few runs being stopped short.
  • Rhett Ellison and Jerell Adams: Both were mainly in there to block, Ellison more so than Adams. They both graded out very high and are proving their value despite not being featured in the passing game often. This running game has reached another level since their playing time has increased.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers continues his hot play. This is by far the best stretch we have seen out of him in his young career. It will be interesting to see how he finishes up with some better pass rushers coming his way. The hand accuracy, footwork, and effort have all been solid. The one thing I see him consistently struggling with however is reaching guys to his inside shoulder on running plays. Not an easy task, but it resulted in a TFL in this game and a no-gain run stop on another. Justin Pugh went down, again, with an injury. The question now has to be asked when trying to decide whether or not to sign him to a long term deal this upcoming offseason, is he too injury prone? He allowed a sack prior to getting hurt. His replacement, Bobby Hart, gave up another horrific sack where he didn’t touch the defender and actually fell to the ground trying to do so. His days have got to be numbered.
  • Interior: John Jerry and D.J. Fluker were inconsistent early on. Fluker was late to recognize lateral movement and Jerry misfired his hands three times in the first quarter. However as the game went on, they both evened out and graded out with positive performances. Brett Jones had a solid, yet unspectacular game at center. His pass blocking, especially on deep drop backs, was below average.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: We can discuss a quality run defense game by Jason Pierre-Paul with his 5 tackles, 2 of which were for a loss. However his lack of impact on the passing game is frightening. I only counted 5 double teams/chip blocks, which means the average-level SF tackles had no issues with him. Olivier Vernon had a solid game. He had a TFL, 2 QB pressures, and a tipped pass that resulted by an interception by himself. His pass rush impact is inconsistent at best, as well.
  • Tackles: Damon Harrison was having another solid game, breaking through the line and affecting the SF running game by himself. He is virtually unblockable and the coaching staff has done a nice job watching his snaps to maintain effectiveness. He went down with an injury and left the field on a cart, however. Dalvin Tomlinson and Jay Bromley both had quiet games, but they did a lot of dirty work. Their glaring negative was almost no pressure on passing plays besides one time each.

LINEBACKERS

  • With B.J. Goodson out, Calvin Munson got another start and he finished with 6 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. He is getting overwhelmed on inside running plays but has shown range and good angles when moving laterally. Jonathan Casillas struggled, missing 3 tackles and just being burned on a couple others. He looks out of shape and stiff. His 6 tackles make it appear that he had a better game than he really had. Kelvin Sheppard surprisingly had solid presence inside. The newly-signed inside linebacker who is familiar with the team and its defense made quality reads and physical hits. If nothing else, it is good to see a hustler out there who will still lay the wood.

CORNERBACKS

  • One of the reasons many Rams fans and teammates were not upset to see Janoris Jenkins leave in free agency last year was…well…exactly what we saw Sunday. Jenkins, for the most part, has been an outstanding CB for NYG since signing in 2016. However a suspension handed down by Ben McAdoo last week and a horrid 2017 season for the Giants have taken the wind out of his sails and it showed up in San Francisco. Jenkins was torched deep, intermediate, and short all afternoon. He missed three tackles, two of which were I would say a result of less than 30% effort. It was an embarrassment and he should have been benched mid-game.
  • Eli Apple continues to show the lack of “want-to” in his game, as noted above. The lack of effort he showed on the touchdown run by Brethard has become the new norm with him. He did make a couple physical hits earlier, but this stuff is simply inexcusable. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a quiet game, as his assignments were usually covered up or Beathard wasn’t looking their way. On the long touchdown to Goodwin, Cromartie may have blown his deep coverage assignment but I’m not positive what coverage they were in. I’ve watched it a few times from the all-22 and I am 50/50 on what his role was there.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins and Darian Thompson played every defensive snap. After Collins put out his worst performance of the season last week, the defensive play calling had him closer to the point-of-attack where he does his best work. He led the team with 7 tackles but is still showing poor angles towards the ball. The further into space he gets, the worse he looks. And he can’t use the age factor as a reason. It is an alarming trend that we have seen this year considering he is a safety. Darian Thompson finished with 6 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. He has been playing a very physical brand but his range in coverage doesn’t give this defense a ton of stability on the back end. Andrew Adams played in certain packages and had an impact early, but was quiet in the second half.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 2/3 – Made 47, 42, Missed 34. Rosas has been very inconsistent this season and his long-term status as the Giants kicker is up in the air.
  • P Brad Wing: 3 punts – 41.3 avg.

3 STUDS

  • WR Sterling Shepard, DE Olivier Vernon, QB Eli Manning

3 DUDS

  • CB Janoris Jenkins, RT Bobby Hart, LB Jonathan Casillas

3 THOUGHTS ON SF

  • Another team that is doing it right when it comes to rebuilding their roster with a new, fresh head coach. They have some important pieces in place already and much of their fate will be on the shoulders of Garoppolo moving forward. But I like what they have in their front seven defensively and a couple of the pieces they have at the skill positions offensively. If their secondary and OL can be shored up, I think they can compete as soon as next year.
  • There were a few people I got to talk to during the pre-draft process who were very high on C.J. Beathard. His situation at Iowa was as bad as anyone’s when it came to scheme/offensive line/receivers, thus he was overlooked by many. He does have some of the essentials you need in an NFL QB. He is mature beyond his years, composed under pressure, and tough as nails. The way he took over the game at times with his legs made me think of former SF quarterback Alex Smith.
  • Keep an eye on this Matthew Breida kid, the running back that scored a 33-yard touchdown. While Carlos Hyde has the #1 job locked up for at least another year, there is a through the roof upside with Breida. His speed and burst to that speed are as good as I’ve seen in the entire league and he runs so much bigger than 200 pounds. When he gets some strength added to his game, he has the makings of a big-play back who you can’t keep off the field.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Typically in the NFL, a coach who has had the season McAdoo has had in 2017 would not have made it home with a job after losing to an 0-9 team by 10 points. But it is simply not the Giants way to fire a coach like this in-season. It’s not going to happen.
  • A case could be made that Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh are the two most reliable OL on the team. They are both free agents this upcoming offseason and if this OL is going to need most of the attention in terms of building for 2018, what do you do with these guys? Those spots might be hard to fill via free agency, and the Giants can’t afford to use two of their first three picks on the OL. The issue is both of these guys have had a very hard time staying healthy and their price demands may make it tough to bring them back. The whole situation of building the 2018 OL is going to be very tricky.
  • Creating a culture of winning, hard-working, team-first attitudes would be a top priority of mine if I were ever building a team. Getting a team full of guys who love the game and want to win at all costs. They are out there and it can carry weight into the scouting process. I’m not sure the Giants’ front office has done a good job of this. There are too many guys who don’t get after it, don’t play hard, don’t put the team first. Long term, they shouldn’t be here. That would be priority number one for me this offseason.
Nov 082017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 5, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams 51 – New York Giants 17

RECAP

Two teams heading in completely opposite directions. Two teams with completely different approaches to game day. The Los Angeles Rams, armed with their new, young, hot shot head coach and a second-year quarterback who was selected #1 overall in 2016 marched into East Rutherford with the limping, aging, broken Giants organization approaching a near-low point in its history. This game had “ugly” written all over it during warm-ups.

Initially, the Giants we saw in Denver 3 weeks ago appeared to be back. They were aggressively and consistently running the ball up the middle with plenty of success. Orleans Darkwa gained 35 yards on 3 running plays, moving the Giants across midfield. However, a 3rd-and-4 that turned in a 3rd-and-9 thanks to a D.J. Fluker false start. Aaron Donald then sacked and forced Eli Manning into a fumble for the first of three NYG turnovers on the day. Spurred by a 36-yard run by Todd Gurley, it took LAR just 4 plays to score via a Jared Goff-to-Tyler Higbee 8-yard pass.

NYG was not deterred, initially anyway. They put together a quality 14-play drive that resulted in a Manning-to-Tavarres King touchdown. It was 7-7 at the end of the first quarter before the wheels started to fall off, hard.

Landon Collins, who had arguably his worst game as a pro, had his first blunder of the day after the Giants forced the Rams into 3rd-and-7. His unnecessary roughness penalty put the Rams near midfield and even though the Rams were shooting themselves in the foot via penalties, a 2nd-and-18 deep pass down the right sideline to a rookie tight end burned Collins badly, putting them at the 8-yard line. The Giants defense was able to hold them to a field goal, however.

Wayne Gallman gave the ball right back on the next drive on a 1st-and-10 run near midfield. Two Rams penalties ended up pushing the Rams back behind midfield with 3rd-and-33 staring them in the face. Then, we saw one of the most pitiful, downright disgusting plays in Giants history. A wide receiver screen to Robert Woods resulted not only in a first down, but 52-yard touchdown. The angles and effort showed by the Giants defense was that out of a JV vs…..actually Freshman team vs. Varsity practice film. This was the turning point that abruptly reminded everyone watching that that Giants 2017 season will go down as one of the most disappointing in franchise history.

The air was sucked out of the team, the fans, and the stadium. Another 3-and-out by the Giants gave the ball back to LAR on their own 29-yard line and on the second play, Goff launched a deep ball to Sammy Watkins for a 67-yard touchdown. Landon Collins, who this Rams team was obviously targeting from the beginning, was burned yet again.

The Giants went into halftime down 27-10, but might as well stayed in the locker room instead of coming out for the second half. With the stadium already emptying, the Rams made it 48-10 within the first 12 minutes of the third quarter. Watching the minutes go by was truly more difficult than watching paint dry. The Giants did score one more touchdown on a Manning-to-Engram pass but the game ended with Geno Smith at quarterback and a 51 spot put up by the surging Rams. The most points NYG has allowed at home since 1964 and it had the feel of something we will likely see again this year. Giants lose, 51-17.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 20/36 – 220 yards – 2 TD/1 INT – 80.8 QBR. When it comes to the 2017 season, it was just about an average performance for the 14th year veteran. With the pass blocking a tad better than what it has been, Manning was able to drop back, read the defense, and throw the ball downfield. He overshot several receivers who were open and just hasn’t had the accuracy on that deep ball. His interception thrown to Trumaine Johnson was a hair late and behind his target.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 17 att/71 yards – 2 rec/8 yards. Darkwa started off on fire, surging hard through the middle of the Rams defense. The Giants were controlling the clock early thanks to his aggressive, assertive running style that was consistently breaking tackles. His usage diminished as the game wore on because of the score and once again, he dropped another pass.
  • Wayne Gallman – 9 att/41 yards. The one play that stands out from Gallman’s OK day was a 2nd quarter fumble that eventually led to a Rams touchdown. With the rain coming down hard, the ball had some slickness to it and Gallman simply didn’t keep the ball tight to his body when engaged with tacklers. Otherwise he continued to show elusiveness and vision in his limited action.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 5 rec/70 yards. In his first game back from an ankle injury suffered a month ago, Shepard led the team in catches and was second on the team in targets. He continues to show value over the middle with his ability to quickly get open. He looked rusty, however, with 2 drops.
  • Tavarres King: 3 rec/33 yards – 1 TD. About 6 weeks ago, King was unemployed but because of the slew of injuries to the position, the smooth fifth year veteran is back and able to get plenty of snaps. He scored the Giants first touchdown of the day on their second drive and could have had another if it weren’t for an overthrow by Manning. He has always been an efficient route runner with the ability to get open in short areas. He isn’t overly dynamic or explosive, but he should get plenty of looks at the season wears on. This will be a huge opportunity for his career moving forward.
  • Roger Lewis: 1 rec/4 yards. Lewis has been facing some of the league’s best cornerbacks. Aqib Talib, Richard Sherman, Trumaine Johnson. A 3-week run doesn’t get much tougher than that for an NFL receiver. With that said, Lewis hasn’t been able to get even close to open and his physical presence at the point-of-attack has been very poor.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec/70 yards – 1 TD. If I had to choose one bright spot from the entire team, it’s Engram. We already knew about his talent from what he has shown all throughout training camp and the regular season. But know we are seeing this guy is a competitor in every sense. He plays hard all the time and a guy with his physical gifts combined with that approach can do big things in this league. His long speed was too much for cornerbacks to handle and he was ripping through tackle efforts by safeties. There is a ton to get excited about with him.
  • Rhett Ellison: 2 rec/21 yards. Ellison played about 60% of the team’s plays, most of which were earlier in the game when the Giants were dominating the ground game. A player like him simply won’t make a huge impact when a team is playing catch up football. However his value as a fullback and tight end should be something that sticks to this team long term.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers continues his above average performance on the year overall. He allowed one TFL and was responsible for 1 pressure, even though it wasn’t an obvious 1-on-1 beat. His pass blocking actually graded out higher than his run blocking, which is rare for him. Bobby Hart continued his 2017 campaign to let the league know he can’t be a starting tackle in this league. His reaction, coordination, and hand strength is just so low-level that I’m not sure he should even be a backup in this league. He allowed a sack to Connor Barwin where he literally didn’t touch Barwin. A simple inside move was all it took and Hart couldn’t even get a hand on him. The unfortunate part about it is that as long as Justin Pugh remains sidelined with an injury, there isn’t anyone that can replace Hart. Chad Wheeler simply isn’t ready.
  • Guards/Center: The last time John Jerry faced off against Aaron Donald, Donald was a rookie and Jerry dominated from start to finish. This time, the result was the complete opposite. Jerry’s 2.47 grade was among the lowest the Giants have had this year on the OL. There were two separate plays where Donald lined up across from Jerry and went untouched into the backfield despite Jerry’s efforts to block him. It was a combination of Donald being the best in the game and Jerry simply not being in the same league. Jerry was responsible for a sack, a TFL, and 2 pressures. Brett Jones and D.J. Fluker had positive grades, as they were paving lanes and moving defenders with ease early in the game. While both are limited in the pass game, they held it together for the most part.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Rookie Avery Moss got the start with the injuries to Vernon, Okwara, and Wynn. The 5th-round rookie out of Youngstown State who has struggled to play against the strength of the power of the NFL to this point put in an exceptional effort. He was an impact player against the run, finishing with 6 tackles. He added 2 pressures and a pass deflection. While there is still a great need for more power and strength here, he is showing the grit, hustle, and on-field awareness that you can really work with. Jason Pierre-Paul finished with 3 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. He didn’t make much of an impact against Andrew Whitworth in the passing game.
  • Tackles: The most consistent performers week-to-week on the team reside along the interior of the defensive line. Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Jay Bromley finished with a combined 14 tackles – a very high number for the position. Tomlinson is showing more and more presence each week. His athletic ability that stems from top tier balance, body control, and agility combined with his man-strength can make him a weapon for this defense. He is one guy I enjoy watching week in, week out. He is a keeper. Damon Harrison continues to bring it each week and my hope is some of these young guys take in what he is putting out there. The immovable object is very active and fully capable of changing a game by himself. Having him here for Tomlinson is huge.

LINEBACKERS

  • Another unit that is becoming depleted by injuries. Jonathan Casillas and B.J. Goodson were both out, opening the door for Curtis Grant and Calvin Munson. I’ll tell you what, when it comes to Grant, he belongs. I’m not sure I see a guy who should be starting, but his size, speed, and physical brand is a welcomed sight for this stagnant team. He still does and probably always will struggle with quick-twitch change of directions and reactions, but he played hard on Sunday. He and Munson both finished with 6 tackles a piece. Munson struggled mightily to get off blocks; they take so much out of him and the recovery speed isn’t half of what it needs to be.

CORNERBACKS

  • Janoris Jenkins was suspended for the game for missing practice on Monday, the second veteran of this position group to be suspended by the team this season. The first, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, was in uniform and played a good game. His effort was top notch and he made two of the more physical tackles on the day in addition to sticking to his coverage assignments all over the field. He still has plenty in tank. Eli Apple, once again, looks the part and showed some quality coverage. However, lapses in concentration and an overall lack of effort were apparent and it’s getting really old, really fast. You don’t win with guys that have this kind of approach. He has become one of the players on this team who I think needs to go – as in trade or cut this offseason.

SAFETIES

  • I am trying to recall a game where Landon Collins was beat this many times. As of now, I am still drawing a blank. Collins lack of long speed and overall athletic ability in coverage and in space was attacked all afternoon. His bone-headed penalty followed by being beat deep by tight ends, wide receivers, and players after the catch was about as bad as I’ve seen out of a position that the Giants have had a lot of bad performances over the past decade. Collins has earned the right to have a bad game here and there, but he needs to bounce back. And the defensive scheme needs to make sure they aren’t making him drop into deep coverage responsibilities too often. Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams played solid games respectively. Thompson is moving well in coverage with fluid hips and light feet, less hesitation. Adams could use more playing time, as he is making an impact as a tackler and force over the middle.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1-2 FG (made 50, missed 45). His 50 yarder had about 8-10 yards left on it, but he pushed his next attempt wide right. The rest of this season will be a tryout for him.
  • P Brad Wing: 4 Punts – 53.3 avg. Wing had a punt blocked, but it wasn’t his fault. The Rams special teams outplayed NYG in every phase from execution/spacing to hustle.
  • Return: Ed Eagen and Shane Vereen made minimal to no impact.

3 STUDS

  • TE Evan Engram, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, DE Avery Moss

3 DUDS

  • LB Calvin Munson, S Landon Collins, OG John Jerry

3 THOUGHTS ON LAR

  • What a turnaround this team has made. They have always had solid personnel on defense, but a few acquisitions via free agency, trades, and the draft, along with the maturation of Jared Goff, all of the the sudden this offense is leading the league in scoring and their defense still has some dominant traits. Watch out NFC…for a long time.
  • Aaron Donald was my choice for the NYG first round pick in 2015. NYG still struck gold with Odell Beckham but there is still an interesting debate that can be had. Who would you rather have? Beckham has more impact on games when he is fully on, but is it enough to make up for some of the issues he potentially brings with the “diva-ness”? Donald has had several games where he just absolutely wrecks games, ruins them, for opposing offenses. The contract holdout was a red flag, however.
  • Are there many, if any CBs, that have the size of Trumaine Johnson in the league? There are plenty of guys with height and length, sure. But this kid looks like a safety that can shut down almost any WR in the league by himself. As LAR becomes an NFL spotlight team, expect the rest of the media and fans to catch onto him as one of the best, if not the best.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • What the Rams have done to turnaround their franchise keeps the glass half full for NYG fans. Draft a new young quarterback for the future; hire a fresh, young voice who keeps players motivated and hungry; fix the OL with a veteran signing even if the price tag is steep; and perform well with your first few picks in the draft. The Giants can do all of this in the next year or two, no doubt. But ownership needs to be bold; they’ve been loyal enough. They need to get a new regime in here to run the show.
  • Perhaps the biggest question that needs answering is how to handle the Eli Manning situation. I think it would be in his best interest to allow a trade to a team like JAC in the offseason. Play with a defense that is among the best in the league, hand the ball off to a strong rushing attack, and make a few plays per game himself. I don’t think Manning is done entirely, much like Peyton wasn’t done when he left IND. But if things don’t look up the rest of the way, he and NYG both may be best suited with a break up.
  • The defense has been just as, if not more, disappointing in 2017. The approach for the rest of the year should be a tryout. A key eye on Apple, Casillas, Goodson, Cromartie, Thompson. All of these guys have not met expectations and while some of it is injury based, this team needs to know who these guys are and how hard they push though tough times. They need to go into the offseason knowing that these guys will always put forth top notch effort. If not, goodbye.
Oct 242017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 22, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Seahawks 24 – New York Giants 7

RECAP

After the Giants put a number in the win column last week against Denver, there was at least some sense of optimism surrounding the team. It would be short-lived, as the match-up with Seattle on paper was an ugly one for New York.

Seattle has had its own issues with the offensive line and penalties, both of which reared their ugly heads in the first half. Defensively, the Giants were fighting hard early including a stand where they stopped Seattle 10 straight times inside the NYG 10-yard line. A Thomas Rawls fumbled picked up by Landon Collins set the Giants up in the red zone and it took them just two plays to score, a 5- yard pass to the surging rookie tight end Evan Engram.

The rest of the first half was an ugly offensive display. Penalties, minimal protection from the offensive line, and failed conversions. This had the look of a defensive dogfight heading into halftime. It was a first half that saw the Giants gain 42 total yards, but they somehow still led 7-3.

Seattle got much more aggressive in the second half, throwing the ball downfield and taking advantage of the Giants’ defense defending the middle of the route tree. Doug Baldwin, who finished with 9 catches for 92 yards, caught his lone touchdown of the day after juking Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out of his shoes with his release off the line. With no safety help over the top, it was an easy pitch-and-catch. Seattle led 10-7 halfway through the 3rd quarter with the NYG offense still mightily struggling.

With momentum on the SEA side fully, the Seahawks continued to move the ball consistently via the air game. Missed tackles and NYG penalties helped their cause as the cream eventually rose to the top. Wilson threw two more touchdowns and the Seattle coverage was strangling the second-rate NYG receivers. The Giants’ offense may have hit a low point, as they gained just 177 total net yards while converting 17% of their third down conversions.

Giants lose, 24-7.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 19/39 – 134 yards – 1 TD/0 INT: In his second full week with replacement-level wide receivers, Manning looked lost and uncomfortable for the majority of the game. If it weren’t for Engram, he would have had a hard time breaking the 100-yard mark. I’m not sure if it is Manning or the design of the offense, but the amount of times they are throwing the ball 4+ yards shy of the first-down marker on third downs is alarming. It’s been happening since week 1 and all but assures this team will not be marching downfield. Manning can’t be looked down upon, as the situation he is in is among the worst in football.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 9 att/35 yards – 3 rec/13 yards: After his impressive performance in Denver, Darkwa came back down to earth. A 3.9 average can be considered a positive for the Giants, as Darkwa continued to break through contact between the tackles with his aggressive running style. His pass blocking left a lot to be desired, missing multiple blitzers up the middle.
  • Wayne Gallman: 5 att/15 yards – 2 rec/14 yards: Gallman’s presence wasn’t felt much. It was a good experience for the young slasher to see the difference in speed and physicality between the Seattle defense and what he’s been matched up against prior.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Travis Rudolph: 3 rec/32 yards: In his first substantial playing time of his career, Rudolph saw some ups and downs. He had a hard time getting off the jam a few times. His biggest weakness is a lack of size and strength. The quickness and hands can be used from the slot, but the inability to power his way through press coverage and fighting for the ball in traffic may end up being what holds him back. There is still a lot to learn with the playbook including a hot read he failed to make which ended up with a Manning pass hitting him in the back.
  • Roger Lewis: 1 rec/12 yards: Prior to the game, I put Lewis down as a guy that would be tested. This was a big day for him…being matched up against a strong secondary without anyone taking pressure off him. He didn’t pass. He was targeted 6 times and simply seemed overwhelmed. He didn’t sell his double route opportunities and got pushed around in traffic.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 6 rec/60 yards – 1 TD: Engram is going to be the feature player on this offense for the rest of the season. He has passed every test so far this year and I think it will end up being huge for his career. I thought this fast, big, and physical back seven would be able to shut him down but Engram seemed more than comfortable and proved to be capable of handling the NFL’s best. This game was, however, his first negative blocking grade of the year. He had a hard time sustaining his blocks and got very little movement on the Seattle front seven.
  • Rhett Ellison/Matt LaCosse/Jerrell Adams: Ellison played about half of the team’s snaps and is still being underused. He dropped the one target thrown his way and his impact as a blocker was up and down. LaCosse saw a season high 17 snaps. One of the stars of training camp didn’t see any official targets, but he was a primary receiver on one play where Manning was scrambling and had to throw it away over his had. LaCosse was open and was visibly upset he didn’t get the opportunity to do his thing. Adams was barely on the field.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers continues to be the bright spot of the offensive line over the past 4 weeks. This is the best stretch we have seen out of him in his career. Justin Pugh was hurt in the first half and did not return, forcing the shaky-at-best Bobby Hart into action. Hart struggled to finish his blocks and is proving to be nothing more than an average backup in this league. His balance, hand placement, and confidence in his assignments simply aren’t there.
  • Guards/Center: John Jerry and Brett Jones appeared to have one of their worst performances of the year, respectively. Without re-watching the tape (time constraints this week), it looked like the pressure coming up the middle all afternoon was stemming from a lack of adjustment to late blitzes and twists/stunts. This is something these guys have been struggling with since training camp and I expect to see a non-stop effort by opposing defenses to do this the rest of the year. Jones is starting to look a little over-matched in there. D.J. Fluker had a positive game, showing flashes of dominance as a run blocker. Mentally, just as I saw with with the Chargers, he is a step behind often and doesn’t have the foot speed to catch up. He missed two blitzes inside that forced Manning into early throws.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: With the injuries mounting at the position, Jason Pierre-Paul played 96% of the team’s snaps. The fatigue hampered his play a bit, but overall it was a gutsy performance if nothing else. He applied two pressures to Wilson, including one knockdown. He failed to rise to the new bar he set after a 3 sack performance in Denver and continues to be one of the biggest 2017 disappointments for NYG. The bright spot of the day was the play of rookie Avery Moss, who played less than half of the team’s snaps but led them with 4 pressures. He also forced the Rawls fumble after good backside pursuit. Moss is still way behind when it comes to strength and power, but he is making the most of what he has and is getting the job done. This will be an important stretch in terms of him maturing into an NFL pass rusher.
  • Tackles: Once again, the Giants’ interior dominated. It’s like clockwork now when it comes to Damon Harrison beating single and double teams alike with his pop off the snap, top tier strength when engaged, and almost-shocking quickness to free himself and take down ball carriers. He recorded 7 tackles including 1 or a loss. Rookie Dalvin Tomlinson and veterans Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas were impact players against the run. Thomas recorded a season high 3 tackles and showed some of the quickness we saw in training camp. Those two veterans are fighting for  2018 roster spots now.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson’s impact on a game where the ball is thrown a lot is minimal at best. So far in his young career (and I know we still have to wait and see), Goodson is proving to be a 2-down player. He is over-matched when it comes to defending those 3rd-and-5 passes over the middle – late to recognize and he is a straight-line athlete, not a quick adjuster. Keenan Robinson led the team with 9 tackles and appears to be on the uptick after a rough start to the year.
  • Curtis Grant saw a season high 34 plays. His straight-line speed and presence stand out. He is excellent in pursuit but again, the quick twitch in coverage isn’t there. He had a hard time sticking to his assignment after his opponents made their cuts.
  • Devon Kennard is quietly having a very good year for NYG. The versatility he has shown from the SAM linebacker spot is what this team has been looking for. He applied pressure, hit Wilson a couple times, and was stout against the run. Used correctly, Kennard can be one of those quiet-but-essential difference makers

CORNERBACKS

  • Janoris Jenkins is the little engine that could. I noticed this about him when he faced off against Brandon Marshall in training camp and it has shown up a few times this year. Up against the 6’6”-Jimmy Graham with no help, Wilson threw a fade into the end zone and Jenkins easily contested the pass. He is a fighter and a quality cornerback.
  • In his first game back from suspension, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie struggled. He was outclassed by the quickness of Doug Baldwin on a couple of occasions. He was only on the field for 16 plays and one has to think he may be one of the first guys who checks out mentally. I really do wonder if there is a trade market out there for him so NYG can get the pick back they sent to PIT for Ross Cockrell. Speaking of Cockrell, he has quietly been a solid addition. Reliable but unspectacular, he is rarely caught out of position or out of control – two things I had in his college scouting report out of Duke. Curious to see if he can earn a future roster spot here because so far, so good.
  • Eli Apple was back in his starting role, playing 97% of the team’s snaps. He had some good plays, but overall it was a negative performance again. He suffered another defensive holding on a play where he was fooled by a double route and allowed a touchdown late in the game to Graham. What was most maddening were the amount of times he lost his outside contain assignment against the run. It’s a simple role and almost inexcusable to miss it multiple times in one game.

SAFETY

  • Landon Collins made the highlight reel a couple of times, with his body-slam tackle of Tyler Lockett and fumble recovery that set up the lone Giants’ touchdown. However his performance in deep coverage was downright awful. He was outclassed speed-wise and showed that he shouldn’t be handling any single-high duties. He also had a bad missed tackle on Jimmy Graham that gave SEA about 20 more yards on one of their touchdown scoring drives.
  • Darian Thompson had a quiet game in a good way, sticking to his assignments and applied pressure as a blitzer twice. Nat Berhe recorded a sack but was only on the field for 4 plays.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 0/1 – Miss from 47. With the Giants down 10-7 early in the 4th quarter, Rosas pushed his game tying attempt wide right.
  • P Brad Wing: 7 att/38.4 net avg. Wing had one of his blocks partially blocked but otherwise had a good day.
  • Return: Ed Eagan handled punt return duties but was a non factor.

3 STUDS

  • TE Evan Engram, DT Damon Harrison, DE Avery Moss

3 DUDS

  • OG John Jerry, OC Brett Jones, S Landon Collins

3 THOUGHTS ON SEA

  • Russell Wilson has had one of the more impressive starts to his career when considering his production and win total. That said, he makes a lot of rookie-caliber mistakes when it comes to holding onto the ball way too long and being erratic with his decision making. I would say over the past 20+ games his arrow has flat-lined a bit.
  • The SEA offensive line is just as bad, if not worse, than what NYG is working with. It may be what ends up holding them back from serious contention because they day they are matched up with a quality pass rushing team, they are in major trouble.
  • The Seattle linebackers for a few years now have proven what an athletic, physical group can do for a defense. Those guys can cover almost anything thrown their way, they can knock the helmets off blockers, and they don’t miss a lot of tackles. They have set the bar for 4-3 defenses and those that run a similar front need to take notes.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • As I said before, I looked at this match-up on paper prior to the game and came away with the thought that NYG had no shot in this one. I have seen every SEA game so far this year and if there was a defensive personnel/scheme combination that the NYG offense wouldn’t be able to move the ball against, it would be this one. I don’t think the rest of the season will be this ugly, but that was a blueprint other teams can try to replicate to keep NYG under 10 points.
  • I am going to get a lot of disagreements about this, but Eli Manning should get a pass for the rest of the year. The situation he is in simply doesn’t get worse. The offensive line has a new leak each week, the scheme and play calling appear to be outclassed by the opposition, and he has replacement-level wide receivers all around him. I’m not going to get into what the NYG QB approach should be next year and forward, but Davis Webb isn’t even a thought this season.
  • I try to steer clear of being overly-critical of play-calling and schemes. I simply don’t have the access to the information that is needed to have a fully credible opinion on the subject. That said, I watch 8-10 NFL games per week and there isn’t an offense in the league that is more predictable and repeatable that what I see with NYG. The same mistakes and shortcomings arise each week. The injury situation and the OL may hamper them a bit, but how many times are we going to see a pass to a receiver darting towards the sideline 4 yards short on 3rd down? Or a quick dump off to a running back with 4 defenders between him and the first down marker? When do we see Evan Engram run up the seam? The rest of the season is as much a tryout for next year for the coaching staff as it is the players.
Oct 182017
 
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Dalvin Tomlinson, New York Giants (October 15, 2017)

Dalvin Tomlinson – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 23 – Denver Broncos 10

RECAP

Heading to Denver in prime time after a 7-day run that saw the loss of 4 of the team’s top 5 wide receivers and starting weakside linebacker to injury in addition to the suspension of their slot cornerback appeared to be a situation that was going to be as bad as it can be. Denver has was won 25 of their past 30 games on their home turf, including all 3 this season. The number one defense in the league matched up against an offense that has been struggling mightily. A secondary and pass rush that has been shutting down passing games with ease and the top ranked run defense with the backing of a home crowd on a Sunday night. This had the makings of just ugly for NYG. In typical NFL fashion, Eli Manning yet again proved but he and the league are as unpredictable as ever.

The Giants dominated the time of possession early on. They forced two three-and-outs defensively. And with Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan now calling the plays, there was a consistent and steady flow off the bat spearheaded by a running game that went from evolving over the past few weeks to domination in Denver. The Giants made it down to the Denver 8-yard line, 1st-and-goal, with rookie Evan Engram taking over as the team’s primary target in the passing game, catching 2 passes for 37 yards. Aldrick Rosas kicked a 25-yard field goal to give the Giants the initial lead, something they wouldn’t give up the rest of the game.

On Denver’s third possession of the game, they began near midfield thanks to a catch interference by Michael Hunter on a punt play. Former Giants kicker Brandon McManus, whom had already missed 3 field goal attempts at home in 2017, went wide right on is 35-yard attempt. There was blood in the water and NYG too advantage of it. Led by a 47-yard run by Orleans Darkwa, the Giants marched down the field and capped the drive with a 5-yard pitch-and-catch for a touchdown from Manning to Engram. NYG had a commanding 10-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter.

Once again, Trevor Siemian and the balanced Broncos offense appeared to be driving until he threw an interception to safety Landon Collins. Collins returned it 21 yards setting up the Giants on their own 35-yard line. A quick three-and-out partially because of a 3rd down delay-of-game penalty gave the ball back to Denver who, once again, drove down the field via play-action passes and attacking the top Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Their red zone woes continued, however, and they settled for a field goal attempt by McManus, this one he made. 10-3 Giants with just over 4 minutes left in the first half.

The Broncos defense forced the Giants into another three-and-out as the momentum appeared to be shifting. A big play from the Giants defense was needed. On 3rd-and-10, Siemian continued to throw to Jenkins’ side one too many times, as the Giants top cover man picked off a pass to the left and returned it for 43 yards into the end zone. The Giants took a 17-3 lead into halftime with Siemian in the locker room early getting his non-throwing shoulder checked out which he appeared to injure trying to tackle Jenkins.

New York and Denver exchanged 4 play drives to start off the second half. On the Giants second possession, they were led by a 21-yard catch-and-run by Engram, the rookie who will likely view this game as his breakout. His speed and size gave the Denver coverage fits. For the first time this year, Ben McAdoo opted to let kicker Aldrick Rosas go for a 45+ yard field goal. The rookie lined up from 51 yards away and nailed a 51-yarder that would have been good from 60. New York took a 20-3 lead and it was now up to the defense to prevent the 12th-ranked offense in the league from giving the team another blown lead.

The Broncos quickly got to midfield and started to approach field goal range. A sack by the run-stuffing Damon Harrison put a roadblock in the Broncos plans. They opted to go for a 53-yard field goal, which would cut the lead to two possessions. Kerry Wynn broke through the inside gap and got his hand on the low-line drive attempt, getting enough of it to prevent the ball from ever having a shot at even reaching the goal post. The score remained 20-3 as the Giants took over close to midfield.

Manning hooked up with Engram for yet another impact, 19-yard play, getting the Giants to the Denver 38-yard line. On 3rd-and-3, Engram however suffered his second drop of the night forcing NYG to give Rosas another shot at a long field goal, this one 49 yards. Denver’s own hybrid defensive lineman, Adam Gostis, snuck through the line and got his hand on this one, making it the second block in as many attempts for in this match-up.

As the 3rd quarter was drawing to a close, wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas were injured. Sanders was eventually carted off while Thomas was fighting through a significant limp. The team was down 17 points with one quarter left and their top two targets were either not on the field or a shell of their actual selves. Jason Pierre Paul recorded his second sack of the night and then on 4th-and-5, Thomas was stripped by Jenkins and the ball as recovered by Eli Apple. Giants ball near midfield again with a 17 point lead.

A quick three-and-out and a punt gave the Broncos the ball back on their own 15-yard line and they put together perhaps their best drive of the night. Despite losing another wide receiver, Isaiah McKenzie, to injury, they drove all the way down to the Giants 1-yard line. The Giants defensive front came up big and forced a turnover on downs. New York was able to take 2 minutes off the clock, giving the ball back to Denver at their own 42-yard line.

Siemian went 4/6 for 55 yards, capping the drive with their only touchdown of the night to tight end Jeff Heuerman. After a failed onsides kick attempt and good field position, the Giants rode another long Darkwa run into field goal range and Rosas made his third one of the night, this one from 40 yards. The Broncos squeezed one more play in but nothing from that point mattered. Giants win 23-10 in Denver.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 11/19 – 128 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. With multiple weapons no longer in the picture, the outlook and approach of this offense had change. Manning has always done a nice job with young, under the radar receivers and this game was no different. He wasn’t asked to do much but he did protect the ball against one of the scariest pass defenses in the league at their place. Him and Engram have seemed to develop the relationship this team will be heavily relying on the rest of the season. This is something that I saw developing at training camp and the best has yet to come.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 21 att/117 yards – 1 rec/13 yards. The highest rushing total for a lone Giants rusher since, get this, January 3, 2016 (Week 17 of the 2015 season)!  Darkwa started off hot and ended hot. His aggressive downhill style is a force when the blocking is there.
  • Wayne Gallman: 9 att/27 yards – 2 rec/7 yards. There wasn’t much of a need for Gallman other than giving the hot-handed Darkwa a breather. The combination of these two can be something to really work with, as their running styles couldn’t be more different.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Roger Lewis: 1 rec/15 yards. With such a limited amount of passes thrown and Engram being their top target, Lewis couldn’t really get involved. Also keep in mind that being matched up against Aqib Talib forced Manning to look away from him. Lewis’ lone catch was a big one, a 3rd-and-10 conversion on the Giants lone TD scoring drive. Next up? Richard Sherman.
  • Tavarres King: 1 rec / 7 yards: In his debut back with the team, King was thrown to 3 times. I expect him to be more involved over the next few weeks, as Eli seems to at least have some trust in him. Travis Rudolph is knocking, however.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 5 rec/82 yards – 1 TD. This was a huge, huge night for the Giants first rounder. Not just the production, but the fact he stepped up as the team’s primary receiving option and looked dominant doing it is a sign of things to come. The quick speed he has for a player his size may be unmatched in this league and once he gets over the little hesitations I see here and there, there is no ceiling for him. Huge test or him against SEA coming up.
  • Rhett Ellison: 0 rec/0 yards. He played about two-thirds of the team’s snaps. The team’s running success was in part because of him. What I like most here is how hard he runs downfield to throw the extra block. Watching the offensive tape over and over makes me appreciate what he brings to the table as an intangible guy. And I am holding on the concept that he can be a difference maker in the passing game if he gets the looks.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Considering who these guys went up against, both Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh had a very solid game. Flowers graded out at 2.78, right around the “average” line of my grading system. The two sacks he allowed were not fully his fault and if anything, were both more on Manning. Flowers actually didn’t run block well and a number that stood out to me were the 5 tackles he allowed, his highest of the season. Pugh graded out at 2.9 and was primarily matched up against Von Miller – that is a major victory for the team’s best OT. He allowed 1 sack 1 tackle on the night.
  • Guards/Center: D.J. Fluker, in his first start of the season, dominated in the run game. His 2.93 grade was the highest of the night, as he was moving guys off the ball consistently from start to finish. He is probably the biggest difference maker in this Giants running game that appears to be taking off finally. John Jerry and Brett Jones graded out at 2.89 and 2.81 respectively, rounding out the first time the linemen have all graded out above the average mark on my sheet in the same game since last year. Jones had some play-changing blocks but also allowed 4 tackles, a high number for a center.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: One of my preseason predictions gone wrong was Jason Pierre-Paul being in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. I wouldn’t call his start to the year “horrid”, but it was nowhere near where I thought he would be. Well he took a step in the right direction finally, finishing the night with 3 sacks and a forced fumble. There was less dancing around to his game and I’ve always felt when he was more assertive, more straight-lined, with his approach that is when we see the dominant JPP. He has another opportunity coming up this week to take over. Kerry Wynn got the start on the other side and played solid run defense, recording a tackle for loss. Rookie Avery Moss played nearly half the team’s snaps but didn’t make much of an impact. The power presence simply isn’t there yet.
  • Tackles: Damon Harrison continues to be the bright spot of the defense. He finished with 4 tackles and a sack where he was moving like a 275-pound pass rushing tackle. His impact is felt almost every play, as he was double-teamed on 78% of the plays he was in. Rookie Dalvin Tomlinson took yet another step forward in his progression, getting off the ball exceptionally well and altering the plans of the Broncos running game. They averaged just over 2.5 yards per carry largely because of these two. Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas actually got close to even playing time at the position to help keep those two fresh and did a fine job inside.

LINEBACKERS

  • After a rough start to the year, Keenan Robinson played his best game of the year. He was very consistent with his assignments against the run and made an impact in coverage, break up 2 passes. He finished with 6 tackles. B.J. Goodson also finished with 6 tackles and 2 pass break ups, although he is still struggling often when it comes to recognizing pass and getting to his spot and/or man.
  • Devon Kennard had a quiet night but his versatility and multiple roles helps this defense in several ways. Calvin Munson was brought in as an early run-down defender and finished with 2 tackles.

CORNERBACKS

  • With Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite serving his one game suspension handed down by Ben McAdoo, someone had to step up. Eli Apple had his best game of the year and one of his best since being in the NFL. He broke up 3 passes, wasn’t flagged once, and was very physical in the run game. Janoris Jenkins was picked on early and did get a beat a few times (including a pass interference penalty) but came up with the biggest play of the night – a pick 6 at the end of the 2nd quarter that gave the Giants a double digit lead.
  • Ross Cockrell and Donte Deayon both saw plenty of time with the Broncos playing the majority of the game from behind. It was Deayon’s first game action and he was very sure of himself and his assignments. Watching the “All-22” tape, I can tell Deayon knew where to be and who to get to. He is an excellent mover in coverage and if he can hold up physically, can bring plenty to the table in nickel/dime packages .

SAFETIES

  • With Denver only handing off the ball off 15 times, Landon Collins’ didn’t have his usual impact in the box. He finished the game with 0 tackles for the first time in his career. However his 2nd quarter interception with the Broncos driving was a major momentum shift in the game that prevented them from putting valuable early points on the board. Collins also was somewhat limited, playing 64% of the teams snaps. Darian Thompson had another solid game, finishing with 5 tackles and more importantly getting near the action often.
  • Nat Berhe and Andrew Adams played about 20% of the teams snaps and didn’t make much of an impact. Berhe did miss a TFL opportunity which has become the norm for him.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 3 / 4 – Made 25-51-40 – Missed 49. An important step for Rosas, who really has been overlooked in long field goal attempts so far this year. Rosas’ 51-yarder hit halfway up the kicking net with velocity; it may have been good from 65.
  • P Brad Wing: 6 punts – 49.8 avg. His 46-yard net average is top tier. Wing had a solid night that helped NYG win the field-position battle.
  • Return: Ed Eagan – 1 PR for 20 yards. With Dwayne Harris gone for the year, this is a job that is there for the taking and the shifty Eagan took advantage on his one shot. I like how quickly he can accelerate north/south while maintaining the ability to cut laterally at any given time.

3 STUDS

  • RB Orleans Darkwa, OG D.J. FLuker, DE Jason Pierre Paul

3 DUDS

  • OC Brett Jones, DE Avery Moss, WR Roger Lewis

3 THOUGHTS ON DEN

  • Coming into the year, my biggest worry about this defensively-dominant team was a lackluster offensive line paired with a QB who doesn’t seem to have a ceiling higher than middle of the road. That can be a rough combination and considering Paxton Lynch won’t be ready until next year at the earliest, DEN may have a hard time holding onto that wild card spot. Unless their defense dominates week in, week out, they are going to have a lot of trouble winning enough games.
  • CB Aqib Talib may not be everyone’s favorite person, but re-watching his all 22 tape and with what I have seen on those tapes the past 3 years, I have to say I think he is the best CB in football right now. Granted Roger Lewis may not have been the stiffest challenge Sunday night, but the way he moves before reads are supposed to be made combined with his size, speed, and ball skills is almost unfair.
  • Left tackle Garett Bolles was a very much talked about prospect last year because of his interesting situation. Older than the average rookie, a rough past, sloppy technique at times, short tempered. But in his short career to this point, he may have the left tackle spot locked up in DEN for the next 7-10 years. He looked fantastic.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Do we need to evaluate the Giants playoff chances every week? No. One week at time and let this thing play out. There IS still a chance and the biggest weakness on this team has turned a corner, the offensive line. Plays are being made by the defense, and Eli Manning specializes in these situations. Keep all of those in mind.
  • 4 of the 5 top WRs were injured last week and all of the sudden this Giants offense looked efficient, consistent, and reliable. Funny how that works. You will never catch me saying they are better off without those guys on the field, but something needs to be said for the fact they were just fine against the BEST defense at THEIR place. Quality offensive line play and a new play caller made all the difference. It would be great to see this offense actually take steps forward to prove to everyone in the building and on the sideline that star players aren’t always needed, a team that plays together to win is all you need.
  • Did Ben McAdoo “save his job”? Well first of all I don’t think his job was ever that much in danger the way some were saying. It simply isn’t the Giants way to fire someone after his second year, the first of which he made the playoffs. But him turning the play calling duties over and suspending the team’s #2 CB after an 0-5 start were both ballsy moves. And they both worked out very well. If he can get this team to a 2-5 mark heading into the bye week, I don’t think there is anything that can happen that would get him fired in 2018.
Oct 112017
 
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Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, New York Giants (October 8, 2017)

Eli Manning and Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Los Angeles Chargers 27 – New York Giants 22

RECAP

With two 0-4 teams facing off at MetLife Stadium, something had to give. The stadium notably lacked life, as it rained all morning prior to kickoff, creating an eerie, something-just-isn’t-quite-right-type feeling. Just 3 and a half hours later, that eeriness was proven right. The 2017 season couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start leading up to this match-up, or so we thought. This 2017 Giants squad was about to find themselves on the wrong side of team history.

The defense was stout early, not allowing a first down over the course of their opponent’s first three drives. With Kerry Wynn on the field in place of the injured Olivier Vernon and Ross Cockrell seemingly having passed Eli Apple on the CB depth chart, there was a sense of new energy and confidence. On the second possession, LA quarterback Philip Rivers did not see the shotgun snap coming from deep in their own territory. With the fear of oncoming defenders potentially landing on the ball for a defensive touchdown, he smacked the ball out of bounds for a safety.

The Giants offense paired this hot start with something we haven’t seen yet, a consistently-productive running game. Orleans Darkwa got the start in the backfield and they rode his hot hand all the way into the end zone, as he carried the ball 6 times for 58 yards in the first quarter, the final carry being a 23-yard touchdown. The line, particularly inside, was dominant at the point-of-attack and things were looking up as the Giants took their 9-0 lead into the 2nd quarter.

On the Chargers’ fourth drive of the game, they began to move the ball via a balanced run/pass attack. Their star running back, third-year Melvin Gordon, hadn’t been seeing success as much as last season to this point. They were noticeably trying to force-feed him the ball via the ground and air, as he got the ball 4-out-of-8 plays including the one that got him them into the end zone on a 6-yard catch after he easily beat B.J. Goodson in coverage. Speaking of Goodson, he was exploited as a pass defender on a couple of occasions on this drive and his 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for physically contacting a ref was a huge, costly mistake.

With the Giants lead cut down to 2, rookie Wayne Gallman was the feature player on the next drive. He was consistently making the first man miss, getting the Giants near midfield but in typical 2017 NYG fashion, the offensive line was completely blown up on a 3rd-and-1 attempt, ending in a 2-yard loss, forcing NYG to punt. The Giants defense got back on track, forcing three straight 3-and-outs. The combination of poor field position, dropped passes, and a dominant Damon Harrison continued to shut down this Chargers’ offense. They converted just 1-of-7 third downs, a theme that would not exactly stick for the rest of the game.

The Giants’ offense had their best opportunity of the day to create distance on the scoreboard just past the halfway point of the 2nd quarter. 1st-and-10 at the Chargers 39-yard line. A bad drop by Darkwa, an overthrow by Manning to Engram down the sideline, and a false start by tackle Bobby Hart pushed them out of field goal range and into a punt situation. Valuable points were left on the board via shooting themselves in the foot.

To finish off the first half, LAC put together the first of their three 11+ play drives. They drove all the way down to the Giants’ 6-yard line but thanks to one of Keenan Allen’s three drops on the day, they settled for a field goal as the time ran out. LAC headed in to the locker room up 10-9 despite being outplayed by the Giants the entire half.

The start of the second half was an interesting case of back and forth as both teams had the momentum in their laps, but failed to seize the opportunity to fully secure and run away with it. After going 3-and-out, the Giants punted the ball to LAC. Speedster Travis Benjamin keyed a 19-yard return giving the Chargers 1st down at midfield. At the snap of a finger, they were inside the Giants 10-yard line looking to lengthen their lead. Darian Thompson, whom played the best game of his young career by a wide margin, intercepted a 3rd down pass intended for Allen. He went down in the end zone, securing the touchback and gave Eli Manning the opportunity to shift the lead again.

The Manning-to-Beckham connection finally woke up, connecting twice for 31 yards. On 3rd-and-5 from the LAC 29-yard line, Manning overcame his deep ball accuracy issues from the first half and dropped the ball in a bucket to Roger Lewis for a touchdown. It was as good of a pass as anyone could have thrown in that situation and Lewis did a fine job of tight-roping the sideline and holding onto the ball as he crashed to the ground. The Giants took 16-10 lead and against an 0-4 team, this was supposed to be the stopping point.

The Chargers pieced together another 12-play drive, their second in three possessions. Towards the start of this possession, however, the refs overlooked a major penalty that could have easily altered the outcome of this game. On 2nd-and-9 from the LAC 9-yard line, Rivers was pressured and as he began to vacate the pocket, he threw the ball away where there was no Chargers’ receiver. He made the throw from his own end zone, thus it should have been a safety, as intentional grounding was never called. The refs claimed he made it out of the pocket, but that was not the case. What should have been 2 points and possession to the Giants turned into an eventual touchdown. Rivers completed three passes on 3rd down this drive, one of which was 3rd-and-15 and the last being a 18-yard gain the play before their touchdown to tight end Hunter Henry, whom beat Collins for the ball.

Down 17-16, Manning responded by inching his way up to midfield before pump faking a short slant to Beckham, whom got an easy and free release to his deep route and ended up with no one around him as he jogged into the end zone with what ultimately ended up being his last touchdown of the season. The Giants, with what has now become too much the norm, failed to manage the clock properly as they lined up for a 2-point conversion attempt. They were bumped back a crucial 5 yards and weren’t even close to securing the 7-point lead. New York led 22-17.

After trading back and forth possessions, the Chargers added 3 more points at the end of an 11 play drive. On the next drive, the Giants almost-hopeless season turned, well, hopeless. Beckham was badly injured and carted off, making him the fourth receiver of the day to leave the game with an ankle/foot injury. The pass catchers were decimated from a personnel standpoint, the Chargers offense was showing they could drive the ball down the field without much of a problem, and the Giants lead was only at 2. On the next play, Manning was sacked by, you guessed it, another stunt play by the Chargers defense and ended up losing the ball via fumble. LAC recovered and it took them just 3 plays to score on a Rivers pass to Gordon. The score was 27-22 just like that and NYG had little to no hope of moving the ball with their injuries and shaky offensive line play.

The Giants were able to muster together two first downs and got over in to LAC territory, for a short time. Bobby Hart, who had a game to forget, was flagged for illegal hands to the face and instead of it being 2nd-and-2 on the LAC 40-yard line, it was 1st-and-20 from the Giants’ 42-yard line with 1:20 left on the clock. Four plays later, Manning was intercepted by safety Tre Boston and that signaled the end. The Giants lose, 27-22, and fall to 0-5.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 21/36 – 225 yards – 2 TD/1 INT – 83.7 rating. As we’ve seen the previous two weeks, Manning showed up in the second half. He was spreading the ball around, getting it out quick, and was responding to pick up the Giants shaky defensive play. He did struggle mightily in the first half, especially with the deep ball. He had two plays where Beckham was open downfield for a touchdown, but overthrew him by 5+ yards. He was sacked 5 times and lost a fumble.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 8 att – 69 yards – 1 TD. After missing a game with injury, Darkwa came back as the starting running back and gave the Giants their best performance out of the backfield this season. He showed off his aggressive downhill style that initially drew everyone to him early in his career. His 23-yard touchdown run saw a combination of good blocking and late movement to miss tacklers. The one glaring issue here, however, was his 3 drops. Not good.
  • Wayne Gallman: 11 att – 57 yards – 5 rec – 27 yards. Another impressive game for the 4th-round rookie who ran with such an elusive style. Gallman, on multiple occasions, showed the ability to create something out of nothing. Intended running lanes aren’t always there and with the good backs, that doesn’t always matter. Gallman is showing a trait that can be very hard to find.
  • Shane Vereen: 5 att – 18 yards – 4 rec – 27 yards. His biggest play of the game was called back by a Roger Lewis hold. His one-handed grab and 20-yard scamper was a thing of beauty. That play is what I think NYG could have and should have been using in recent weeks more often. He is such a weapon in the screen game with his awareness of defenders and blockers in space.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Odell Beckham: 5 rec – 97 yards – 1 TD.  The last game we will see Beckham play in 2017 was a solid one. He was quiet early but if it weren’t for a few overthrows by Manning, we could be talking about a breakout performance and NYG win. Who knows, maybe even a healthy Beckham. 2017 couldn’t have gone worse for the kid who wants to be the highest-paid player in the NFL. These next 6-9 months of rehab will tell us a lot about him and his future with the team. Mouth shut, get to work. You have a ways to go.
  • Brandon Marshall: 2 rec – 15 yards. Speaking of individual situations that couldn’t have gone worse this year, Marshall’s 2017 is now over as well. An ankle injury that required surgery will sideline him the rest of the year. Marshall didn’t impact the game, or the season, much. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him hang up the cleats for good in the coming months.
  • Sterling Shepard: 1 rec – 9 yards. On a day where 4 of the top 5 NYG receivers went down, Shepard was the day’s first. He was hurt in the 2nd quarter and he too, won’t be back for awhile. If the season continues to go down the path it is currently headed, the team may very well opt to keep him out until 2018.
  • Roger Lewis: 1 rec – 29 yards – 1 TD. Eli Manning deserves a ton of credit for the touchdown pass to Lewis, perfectly dropped in the bucket where only he could grab it. However Lewis showed tremendous ball skills by getting both feet down in a tight space and holding onto the ball after hitting the ground hard. There is a draw to this kid’s talent, one of the top UDFA’s from the 2016 Draft Class who would have been a mid-rounder had he not had some previous off-field issues. This is his opportunity. Lewis is now the team’s number one wide receiver.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rhett Ellison: 1 rec – 9 yards. Ellison played a season high 71% of the team’s snaps, partially due to the multiple injuries at wide receiver. I’ve been banging on the table since week 1 in Dallas that this guy needs more playing time. He needs more looks in the passing game. Well, by default that is about to happen.
  • Evan Engram: 0 rec – 0 yards. For the first time in his young career, Engram was shut out. His opportunities were almost zero, as well. He was thrown to 4 times but on none of them did he really have a credible chance at bringing in. He is going to be the feature part of this offense now and I’m not sure if that is a positive or not. I assume they are going to split him out wide most of the time, but there he may be matched up against the opposing top CB. That’s what I would do if I was against the Giants. Will he be able to separate? Or is he a guy who needs the outside receivers to take pressure off him? A positive note: Engram has graded out positive as a blocker in all 5 games this year.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers had his best game of the season, and his upward trend is very encouraging. He didn’t always look pretty or efficient when it came to technique, but point blank he got the job done. His grade of “3” is exactly where I would want any starting OL. That is graded as a plus performance. Bobby Hart, on the other hand, mightily struggled. He allowed 3 sacks, 3 pressures, and committed 2 penalties. Two of his sacks were partially a result of Manning evading the pocket and running into the defender, however. Hart was getting beat from the start and put out the worst-graded NYG OL performance of the year.
  • Interior: Justin Pugh continued to stay at the level he’s pretty much been at all year. Solid, slightly above average. He moved back to LG after his short tenure at RT and the fact he can maintain his level of play inside-out is going to add some money on to his contract come this offseason. D.J. Fluker replaced John Jerry early, getting a shot at facing off against his former team. He had a very up and down game. His ups, as we expected, came in the run game. A lot of movement up front and he sustained his blocks. As a pass blocker, he struggled. He allowed 3 pressures and the inability to pick up stunts is just alarming. How he can make this mistake over and over is just awful. Center Brett Jones was the surprise of the day, as he graded out at 2.95, second highest on the team. He is as gritty as it gets and reminds me a ton of former Giants’ OL Rich Seubert.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Defensive Ends: With Oliver Vernon on the sideline nursing his ankle injury, Kerry Wynn got the start. He proved he just isn’t an every-down guy, as his impact was never felt. Jason Pierre-Paul continued his disappointing season, finishing with a mere 4 tackles and 1 QB pressure. Unlike previous weeks, the Chargers were dropping back deep, giving several opportunities for the ends to make their mark. It never happened, as Rivers wasn’t sacked once. Pierre-Paul has struggled mightily to disengage from blocks despite getting off the ball well. And the two offsides penalties for lining up in the neural zone are almost inexcusable. Rookie Avery Moss got on the field for 29 plays. His lack of power presence was apparent.
  • Defensive Tackles: The Damon Harrison/Dalvin Tomlinson duo inside continues to be a strength. The Chargers really struggled to consistently gain yards on the ground between the tackles. Harrison played arguably his best game of the season, eating blockers and space with ease. He added 5 tackles, one of which was for a loss and broke up a pass. Harrison also showed some pass rush we haven’t really seen much of this year. Jay Bromley played about half the team’s snaps and was able to hit Rivers a couple times.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson was solid in run support, mainly inside. However, he was beat badly in coverage on multiple occasions, furthering the fear around the idea he may not be an every-down guy. Melvin Gordon beat him badly in to the flat for the Chargers first score in quarter 1.
  • Keenan Robinson, a player that is supposed to be making his money via ability to cover backs and tight ends, was getting beat routinely in addition to shoddy run defense. With The Giants up by 2 with 3 minutes left, Robinson failed to stick with Gordon into the flat for his second easy touchdown catch of the day. Jonathan Casillas was banged up and tried to play through it, but his impact on the game was never felt.

CORNERBACKS

  • 2016 first round pick Eli Apple has officially lost ground on the depth chart, having sat on the sideline for the first three defensive series. Apple didn’t have a bad game once he got on the field, however. He played stout run defense on the outside, totaling 5 tackles. One glaring negative from Apple that may only bother me: can he please not openly laugh on the sidelines while the rest of the team is staring at the ground as their record is just minutes away from being 0-5? His little-kid approach was shown during training camp as well. Ross Cockrell got some more playing time as a result, but allowed two big third-down conversions and had 2 missed tackles.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins both played well. Unfortunate this team is wasting such solid veteran CB play on such a bad year, because it’s a really tough position to fill.

SAFETIES

  • Darian Thompson has struggled this year, but his performance against LAC was very encouraging. He intercepted a pass in the end zone and had two high-level deflected passes. Thompson was also a factor as a blitzer and run defender, leading the team with 11 tackles.
  • The second-leading tackler, Landon Collins, played through a lower-body injury sustained in the first half. His aggression is usually a weapon for this defense but it turned out to be a negative on a few occasions against the Chargers. He over-pursued play-action fakes and was beat in coverage for a touchdown and two separate third-down conversions. The injury may have slowed his reactions a tad, but Collins had his worst game of the year and it really hurt this defense at the most inopportune times.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 extra points. I found it interesting that McAdoo, for the second week in a row, would not attempt a 50+ yard FG attempt with the strong-legged Rosas.
  • P Brad Wing: 8 punts – 44.1 avg. Wing pinned the Chargers inside their own 20 four times, and inside their own 10 twice. Very good bounce back performance for him after two consecutive weeks of game-altering punts, in a negative way.
  • Return: Dwayne Harris had his best game of the season, returning 3 punts for 38 yards. He was making a difference in the field position game before his injured his foot, which ended his season.

3 STUDS

  • S Darian Thompson, OT Ereck Flowers, DT Damon Harrison

3 DUDS

  • OT Bobby Hart, DE Kerry Wynn, S Landon Collins

3 THOUGHTS ON LAC

  • The Chargers may have shown up 0-4, but they are not a bottom feeder in the NFL. They were seconds away from a win in Denver, their kicker missed a chip shot field goal at the end of their week 2 game against Miami. This is not a bad team, in fact, this may be the best Chargers team we have seen in years. If there is a team you want to bet on that appears to be down and out, but can comeback in to playoff contention, Chargers should be that team.
  • Hard to watch Russell Okung, who was available this past offseason, dominate at left tackle week after week. NYG had a shot at this guy and I was told Okung was interested in playing here. The issue with being stubborn about past draft picks that aren’t panning out is the missed opportunity to getting a guy like this. This guy should have been in an NYG uniform, not the LAC one.
  • Not sure how many people pay attention to the CB Cameron Heyward, but he is one of the top 5-6 CBs in the league. He has really developed nicely after inaccurately being labeled a slot-only CB.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • On October 8th, the 2017 season has now become all about next year and beyond. They aren’t doing any damage this year, but the value of watching and paying attention now is trying to find players that you can move forward with. Can Brett Jones be a cheap starter at OC? Is Wayne Gallman a starting caliber RB? Are any of these WRs going to be in the rotation next year? Can Eli Apple progress?
  • Eli Manning will not, and should not, be benched for Davis Webb. It is a ludicrous idea. He is still going to be the guy next year and Webb never showed anything that would lead you to believe he is the next guy. Remember, he is a 3rd round project that nobody wanted to see the field this year.
  • Is Ereck Flowers turning it around? He has gotten better 3 weeks in a row, with this game being the best we’ve seen possibly over his whole career. I firmly he is not the left tackle you want long term, but if he can prove to play at a decent level from here on out, NYG may have their RT of the future.
Oct 032017
 
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Wayne Gallman, New York Giants (October 1, 2017)

Wayne Gallman – © USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 – New York Giants 23

RECAP

Typical fall weather in Florida. The sun was out, bright and shining, during pre-game warm ups then at the snap of a finger, the first few drives were played in a torrential downpour of rain. The day’s weather replicated the emotions of the Giants week 4 match-up against the Bucs, sitting at 1-1 having played just 2 games as a result of their forced week 1 bye due to weather.

The Giants offensive line saw a two-part shuffle in the starting lineup, with 2017 free agent signing D.J. Fluker getting the start at right guard, shifting John Jerry over to left guard and Brett Jones into his normal backup role. It didn’t matter who was in there early, as Bucs DT Gerald McCoy was bursting through the line whenever and however he wanted, causing major disruption early in the game. He had three tackles for losses during the Giants’ first three drives. He made both Jerry and Fluker look like high school freshman getting beat by Division I recruits. Whether he was penetrating and altering the running game’s plan or getting into Manning’s face on simple three step drop backs, he was the star of the show early.

The Bucs jumped out to an early 13-0 lead in the first quarter, with 2 touchdowns both from Jameis Winston’s arm. The first, a simple fade-type pass to their own star receiver (who near-rivals Beckham’s career numbers) Mike Evans, beating Eli Apple who did not even locate the ball. The second was a major breakdown in coverage by the Giants linebackers. Rookie tight end O.J. Howard was left all alone on a play-action right, pass left design and ended the 58-yard score with not a single defender anywhere near him. The one positive here was a missed extra point by Nick Folk, an important and oft-repeated theme of the day. The Bucs had 13 points on 12 offensive plays at the end of quarter 1. The Giants…0 points on 19 plays.

On the Giants 6th possession of the game, they finally started to piece together a positive drive into Bucs territory. They made it to the Tampa 21-yard line, 1st and 10. After a near first-down catch-and-run by Brandon Marshall, they lined up for a 3rd-and-1 on the 12-ard line. A quick inside handoff to Shane Vereen was stuffed right away by former Giants DE Robert Ayers, who beat Ereck Flowers off the ball to his inside shoulder. The Giants settled for a 30-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas, making it 13-3 with 7:21 left in the first half.

The Bucs went 3-and-out on their next drive thanks to creative play calling by Steve Spagnuolo, who put safety Landon Collins in position to disrupt the passing game via the blitz all afternoon. On 3rd-and-10, he forced Winston into a quick decision, throwing a ball right into the waiting hands of tackle Jay Bromley, who at least tried to drop in back in coverage. The ball literally went through his hands and we were all reminded that there is a reason why some guys play on the line. That could have been a major missed scoring opportunity for the Giants, but Manning and the offense responded.

Had it not been for an Odell Beckham drop (his second of the quarter), the 7-play drive would have been completely full of positive plays. Manning spread the ball around and ended it with a career long 14-yard touchdown run – the first (and currently only) Giants rushing touchdown of 2017.

Winston and the Bucs got the ball back with 3:17 and marched down the field, all the way to the Giants 1-yard line. A season that seemed to be hanging on by a thread got a major surge from the defense, holding the Bucs to a field goal and limiting the damage. The score going into halftime was Bucs 16 – Giants 10.

In the third quarter, the Bucs inched their way into field range, taking advantage of an over-aggressive Giants back seven and missed tackles. The Bucs backup running back, Jacquizz Rodgers, ran low to the ground and let the Giants defensive backs over-pursue, making it an easy task to run through arm tackles and gain extra yards. Nick Folk lined up for a 49-yard field and missed, supplying the Giants with solid field position as their quest for another comeback ensued.

The Giants marched down the field, never gaining more than 10 yards with the exception of a 13-yard run by rookie Wayne Gallman. After being a non-factor in the first three games, Gallman got his opportunity after the struggling Paul Perkins struggled to get up from a physical tackle by Kendell Beckwith. Gallman seized the opportunity, ending the drive with a 4-yard touchdown catch which put the Giants ahead for the first time, 17-16. The Giants then forced a 3-and-out capped by their lone sack of the day by the blitzing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Momentum had fully shifted in Tampa.

The Giants entered the 4th quarter in Bucs territory. With Weston Richburg out with a concussion, Brett Jones stepped in and helped pave the way for yet another positive, piece-by-piece drive. They set Aldrick Rosas up for a 43-yard field goal attempt, but the rookie pushed it wide right, giving him is first miss of his career including regular and preseason.

The Bucs moved the ball over midfield but were forced with a tough 4th-and-2 decision on their own 36-yard line. Go for it? Or give Nick Folk another chance? This time from 53 yards. They chose the former and Landon Collins continued to do what he does best, disrupt. He broke up a pass intended for Cameron Brate, turnover on downs. The Giants suffered a 3-and-out, but the negative of that was overshadowed by punter Brad Wing’s second complete shank in as many weeks, with this punt traveling a mere 15 yards, keeping Tampa right near midfield.

It didn’t take long for Tampa to reach the red zone with the biggest culprit being a half-effort missed tackle by Rodgers-Cromartie that led to a 30-yard gain by receiver Adam Humphries. The Giants lack of quality tackling is a major issue that supplied the Bucs with way too many valuable yards late in the game. Cameron Brate caught a touchdown over the middle as Jonathan Casillas was simply over-matched dropping back into coverage. The Bucs took the lead back but missed the 2-point attempt. 22-17 with 7:44 left.

On the second play of the Giants ensuing drive, which started at the 25-yard line, Manning hit Beckham for a 42-yard downfield pass. We almost forget how good Manning is at this kind of throw in this kind of situation. With the offensive line altering the Giants approach to the passing game, it is almost upsetting to see what this duo could be if there were 5 capable guys up front. Beckham was off and on the field with his ankle injury continuing to flare up. Between that and a dislocated finger suffered earlier in the game, hats off to this hard-nosed, always-hustling superstar. Gallman helped inch the Giants up to the 2-yard line and on 3rd-and-goal, Manning found Rhett Ellison for the lead-changing touchdown. Beckham did catch a 2-point conversion attempt to give the Giants a safe 3 point lead, however he (barely) stepped out of bounds prior to catching the ball and ended up having to give the points back for illegal touching. The Bucs were getting the ball back, down 1, with 3:16 left.

This is where big-time defenses step up. Sacks, pressure, turnovers….something. The Giants, however, continued to underwhelm on that side of the ball by allowing the Bucs deep into field goal territory in just 5 plays, the back-breaker being a 26-yard pass to Brate, whom beat Collins fairly easily. That play gave the Bucs tight ends a total of 6 catches for 143 yards (and 2 TDs). Instead of making plays, tackles were being missed left and right and no pressure was being put on Winston. Because the Giants mismanaged their timeouts in the 2nd half via a foolish challenge and timeout on a 2-point conversion, they were left watching the clock dwindle as the Bucs perfectly set up Nick Folk for a game-winning field goal. The 34-yard attempt snuck through the uprights by less than a foot, no time remaining. Giants lose 25-23.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 30/49 – 288 yards – 2 TD/0 INT – 3 att – 21 yards – 1 TD. For the second week in a row, Manning led multiple touchdown-scoring, lead-changing drives in the second half. He had pressure in his face for the majority of his drop backs, but he wasn’t sacked once and appears to be adjusting very well to what the players around him can supply. His poise under pressure has always been a strength and he continues to give this team a fighting chance despite several factors around him heading in the wrong direction.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 11 att – 42 yards – 2 rec – 8 yards – 1 TD. We saw a different level of explosion and decision making with Gallman during training camp in comparison to the other NYG running backs. With Paul Perkins continuing to struggle in addition to getting nicked up, Gallman got his shot in the second half and was one of the main reasons this offense had balance from there on out. He was able to find small windows, dart through them, and make positive plays out of nothing. His touchdown catch in the 3rd quarter and positive blocking grade may very well get him the starting nod in the near future.
  • Shane Vereen: 5 att – 14 yards – 1 rec – 11 yards. Continues to be underplayed, being on the field for just 28% of the plays in this one. Positive things happen with this guy on the field and he needs to get more action. I will keep saying this until it happens.
  • Paul Perkins: 9 att – 13 yards – 1 rec 6 yards. The nightmare season continues for Perkins, who may now have a rib injury to deal with in addition. Perkins finished with 13 yards but had a 14-yard run. Yes, do the math. That means otherwise, he carried the ball 8 times for -1 yard. Perkins is now averaging 1.9 yards per carry on the young season and while it isn’t only on his shoulders, the success Gallman had when he came in might be a damning fact for the second-year back.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Odell Beckham: 7 rec – 90 yards. Beckham is clearly still fighting the ankle injury he sustained during preseason, although he is still fully capable of making plays up and down the field. He came down with a 42-yard reception late in the game with his blazing speed and also came up with a 15-yard gain where he broke 3 tackles with a combination of strength, toughness, and quickness. Beckham, however, dropped 2 more passes and wasn’t aware of the out-of-bounds along the back of the end zone on their crucial 2-point conversion.
  • Brandon Marshall: 6 rec – 46 yards. Halfway through the game I had the thought that Marshall was just so much bigger and stronger than the Tampa corners, the Giants might as well just keep feeding him the ball underneath until the defense stopped it. For the most part, Marshall handled them in those situations but he too is still dropping too many passes. Off the top of my head he already has 5 on the young season.
  • Sterling Shepard: 5 rec – 54 yards. He was thrown the ball 5 times and he came down with all of them. Shepard is showing the necessary toughness and grit over the middle. He is a great option for this offense to have when primary reads aren’t there.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 6 rec – 62 yards. As the weeks go by, it seems to be the case more and more that Engram is entrenched as the team’s number two receiving option. He is moving exceptionally well and making high-difficulty catches each game. Four of his 6 catches went for a first down and I think moving forward, he needs to be targeted on 3rd down. That only happened twice against the Bucs. He also had a positive blocking grade for the third straight week.
  • Rhett Ellison: 2 rec – 11 yards – 1 TD. Ellison played a season-high 39% of the plays, but I still don’t think it is enough. He saw a couple plays at fullback but with the amount of “11” personnel the Giants use and the emergence of Engram, he is stuck on the sidelines. He has been thrown the ball 5 time this year, and he has 5 catches. The yards he can gain after contact and the reliability as a blocker is part of what the Giants are missing. Two birds, one stone.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Both Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh recorded their best grades of the season in this game. Manning wasn’t sacked once and even though the Bucs DEs leave a lot to be desired, these guys deserve at least some credit. Flowers did however allow two tackles for losses and Pugh struggled to maintain his anchor ability after he tweaked his back. But these guys fought hard and played better than any of their previous games. Pugh graded out at a “3”, which is right where I consider the best performances week in, week out around the league. Let’s not forget he is out of position. Makes me really think about him as a left tackle for the long-term future.
  • Interior:  Weston Richburg put together another solid game until he left with a concussion. Brett Jones stepped in and didn’t really factor in either direction. D.J. Fluker and John Jerry got off to horrific starts, as Gerald McCoy had his way with both of them for pretty much the entire first quarter. They cleaned it up well and both played at a very high level in the second half. They both snuck past the bare minimum grade of what I would consider acceptable, but still have plenty of room to improve. Fluker deserves a shot to stay at RG for the near future.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Jason Pierre Paul recorded 4 tackles, a half sack, and a QB hit. But he continues to underwhelm and is being neutralized by a lone blocker too many times. They are trying to move him around exploit match-ups, but he simply isn’t beating anyone right now. My expectations were so high for him this year, and he is far from meeting them. Olivier Vernon only made it 22 plays before re-injuring his bum ankle. Kerry Wynn and Romeo Okwara both got the opportunity to step up, and neither could produce any pressure. Both had a hard time holding up against the run, as well. Poor game for those two that certainly contributed to the Bucs 5+ yards per carry.
  • Tackles: Two of the bright spots were the consistent high level of play from both Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson. Harrison missed a short stretch with a minor knee tweak, but he demanded so much attention and started to disrupt the passing game via the bull rush with more and more frequency. Tomlinson is playing better each week, showing more confidence and pop off the snap. He is going to make things happen for this defense down throughout the season. Jay Bromley’s missed interception may be one of the NFL’s bloopers of the year and his stoutness against the run hasn’t improved. He is a liability to the defense.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson returned from a 2-week injury-caused hiatus. His presence makes a huge difference for this defense. He is the one defender on this team who I completely trust when it comes to actually bringing down the ball carrier when he has the opportunity to do so. He finished with 6 tackles on the day. His coverage was sub-par, something we saw up close and in person at camp.
  • Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson are getting simply out-matched in coverage and in space. These two need to stop missing tackles and stick to their cover assignments or else tight ends will continue to torch this defense for, how many years in a row now?
  • There are far bigger issues on this defense than Devon Kennard and his versatility in terms of assignment and alignment is respectable. However his weakness in space, most notably coverage, is a huge liability to the defense that will continue to have a big negative impact.

CORNERBACKS

  • Not a bad day for the two starters, Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple, but far from great as well. Apple was beat badly for yet another touchdown in the first quarter when his lack of skill set showed up again. He doesn’t get it yet. Jenkins continues to play bigger than his size and continues to break up passes (2). However he had two very bad missed tackles that did end up impacting the game.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the only other CB to play, as he was on the field for the majority of the defensive snaps. I respect what he has turned his game into now, as he no longer has that top-level speed and athleticism. He is very good at anticipating and playing smart. Rarely is he caught out of position or surprised. However his missed tackle on Humphries that I noted above was just downright awful and lazy. And the sad part, it has become the norm with him at least once per game.

SAFETIES

  • A top defensive grade for Landon Collins is slightly overshadowed by his bad coverage on the final drive of the game when Cameron Brate beat him downfield. The timing of that beat couldn’t have been worse. Other than that, Collins led the team with 7 tackles, 2 pass break ups, and 3 QB pressures. The coaching staff is using him in so many ways and he is at such a high, difference-making level.
  • Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams pretty much split duties next to Collins, with Thompson still getting the edge in volume. This shouldn’t last much longer, as his two missed tackles this week were a big deal. His range couldn’t keep up with DeSean Jackson deep and he isn’t making quick enough decisions. Adams needs to be given the majority snaps now.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Aldrick Rosas: 1 for 2 (Made 30, Missed 43). Rosas was put in another pressure situation this week and failed. Those 3 points that were left on the board were huge. Looking forward to seeing how he responds.
  • P Brad Wing: Same story as last week. Overall a solid day until the pressure was really on and he responded with a 15-yard shank. When it gets in your head, it’s over. The Giants can’t let this happen week after week; he needs to put together a few good weeks now.
  • Dwayne Harris: Non factor again.

3 STUDS

  • QB Eli Manning, RT Justin Pugh, RB Wayne Gallman

3 DUDS

  • WR Brandon Marshall, DE Kerry Wynn, S Darian Thompson

3 THOUGHTS ON TAMPA BAY

  • Watching Gerald McCoy wreck havoc on the Giants offense for the entire first quarter all by himself from different angles was eye opening. Yes, it was against the Giants offensive line. However when you have a 300+ pound presence that can get off the ball fast AND powerful like that, he can make a lot of other players look good.
  • I continue to not be sold on Jameis Winston. This guy does play well late in games, but there are so many mental mistakes he continues to make week after week. His arm is erratic and he looks lost out there often, especially when you watch the All-22 tape.
  • CB Brent Grimes won me over this season. I always knew he was solid, but I admit the public perception of him and his wife being out of control via social media and a few rough games in Miami has kept him down my personal CB ranks for awhile. This dude is a legit blanket-cover guy who can hang with speed and quickness in any situation. He will continue to be among the league’s leaders in pass breakups.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • As long as the NFC East teams continue to lose games, the Giants will have a fighting shot. Who knows? Maybe this division will be the the one where an 8-8 team wins the title and a home playoff game. Wishful thinking, I know. There is stretch of schedule coming up that they can take advantage of, starting with the 0-4 Chargers. The Giants have the toughest strength of schedule in the NFL this year and they finally get a break here at home against an absolutely miserable franchise.
  • Even if Paul Perkins comes back healthy, Wayne Gallman and Shane Vereen should be splitting the RB duties for now. Gallman brought new energy and play-making ability and Vereen continues to make things happen for this offense. Time for Perkins to take a step back. Not a goodbye, just a sit tight and watch what happens with these other guys.
  • This Giants defense has major problems, the two worst being downright awful against the run and an inability to create pressure on the passer via four rushers. You can’t have that. Spags is being forced into blitzing a lot, leaving the overly vulnerable linebackers into serious coverage roles which they simply do not have the personnel for. Time to step up JPP. That’s on you and that hefty contract of yours.

This season still isn’t over.

Sep 272017
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (September 24, 2017)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles 27 – New York Giants 24

RECAP

If there were ever a must win for the Giants in the first quarter of the season, this was it. Their second NFC East match-up of the season was on the road in Philadelphia, a place they haven’t won since 2013, against the 1-1 Eagles. As bad as the first two weeks were, Eli Manning has led the Giants out of a 0-2 hole to the pinnacle of the NFL before.  A win on the road, in the division, would get this ship heading in the right direction.

Things started off on a positive note, with the Eagles going 3-and-out on their first drive highlighted by an Olivier Vernon sack. Then began the theme of the Giants first half. They got to 1st-and-10 on the Eagles side of the field but it resulted in zero points. As a matter of fact, that happened on every single possession in the first two quarters. They put together solid drives, mainly through their passing game, but couldn’t quite seal it to the point of getting rid of that zero on the scoreboard. Missed opportunities and lack of execution.

After a 10-for-11 start by Eli Manning, he threw his first of two interceptions on the day. The pass was intended for Brandon Marshall who was targeted 11 times, more than the first two weeks combined, but Manning misfired and threw the ball towards the middle of the field rather than the sideline. It was a momentum killer after the Giants spent the entire first half knocking on the door.

The Giants were already in a 7-0 hole, thanks to an Eagles offense that was having an easy time running the ball via bad New York tackling and efficient blocking by their very solid offensive line. On 4th-and-8 on the Giants 43-yard line, Carson Wentz was sacked by Devon Kennard, giving Manning and the offense one more shot at a first-half score. 1st-and-10 at midfield with 2:29 left.

Slowly but surely, they got the ball to the 2-yard line, with 32 seconds left and a timeout remaining. Manning threw two touchdowns to Sterling Shepard but both were reviewed and correctly overturned. After a scoreless half and knowing the Giants would receive the ball after halftime, Ben McAdoo opted for the aggressive move on the road, foregoing a sure-thing 3 points, and gave it a go on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line, trying to run the ball behind an offensive line that has been pushed around since he’s been here with no change in sight. The result? Orleans Darwka being tackled for a loss. Giants down 7-0 at halftime.

The Giants and Eagles traded scoreless possessions to start off the second half, with the Giants gaining the field position advantage after a missed 42-yard field goal by Eagles kicker Jake Elliott. Two plays into the drive, Manning threw his second interception on a tipped slant pass intended for Odell Beckham. Thanks to a 41-yard pass interference by Eli Apple, the Eagles turned the Giants’ mistakes in a 14-0 lead after Carson Wentz found tight end Zach Ertz in the end zone before Darian Thompson could intervene.

Manning led a solid, piece-by-piece drive where both the ground game and air attack looked alive and well. They got it to the 13-yard line but McAdoo felt the pressure to score a touchdown a tad too early and opted to forgo an easy field goal attempt again just to be shut down on 4th-and-2, forcing another turnover on downs. The Giants entered the 4th quarter down 14-0.

Starting near mid-field yet again, Manning hooked up with Brandon Marshall three times before finding Beckham in the end zone for a 10-yard score. His ability to get his feet down in-bounds near the back of the end zone after out-leaping the defensive back is a play many won’t appreciate enough. He makes extraordinary plays look much more doable than they really are. The ball was quickly back in the hands of New York thanks to a dropped ball/fumble by Zach Ertz. Just 1:50 of game clock passed after that before Manning hit Beckham for another amazing, contested TD catch, this time with one hand. Another three minutes of game clock pass and all of the sudden, Sterling Shepard is racing downfield on his way to a 77-yard touchdown, the vast majority of which was after the catch. That had the look of a play that would turn the season around as New York took a 21-14 lead, their first lead of the season.

With momentum fully on the Giants side, Carson Wentz got aggressive by air mailing a pass to deep threat Torrey Smith. The ball would not have been caught, but the always-grabby Apple was flagged for another pass interference, this time being 36 yards. This brought the Eagles to the 15-yard line and on the next play, rookie Corey Clement made Jonathan Casillas and Darian Thompson look silly on his way towards the Eagles third touchdown of the day. It was a 1:32 drive.

The Giants and Eagles traded field goals towards the end of the quarter as both defenses failed to step up. The Giants got the ball with :51 left and cautiously went for the yards necessary to put Aldrick Rosas in a game-winning situation. However two penalties brought them back to a point where a punt with 19 seconds was the Giants only move. Brad Wing then made the mishap of the day, shanking one off his foot, totaling 28 yards.

Wentz was able to find Alshon Jeffrey over Eli Apple for a 19-yard gain, putting Jake Elliott in position to make a 61-yard field goal with :01 left on the clock. The result? Elliott is now the Eagles record holder for the longest made field goal in franchise history. 0-3 Giants.

QUARTERBACK

  • Eli Manning: 35/47 – 366 yards – 3 TD/2 INT – 100.1 rating. This game replicated Manning’s entire career to this point against the Eagles. He played well, threw for a lot of yards, came up big in the 4th quarter, but ended up losing. Manning is now 10-17 against Philadelphia all time. The “typical Eli” comments are warranted to an extent, as his interceptions came up at inopportune times but credit needs to be given for the poise and high pressure throws he made throughout the entire fourth quarter when this team needed him most.

RUNNING BACK

  • Orleans Darkwa: 7 att – 22 yards. Throw in an 11 yard reception as well. Darkwa continues to look like has more life with the ball in his hands. The word “impressive” cannot be used for any of these backs, but Darkwa at least showed he can break more tackles and push piles. At this point, that is the only thing the running game is creating; slow, crowded piles. His 20-yard run in the 4th quarter is the longest NYG has seen this year.
  • Paul Perkins: 9 att – 22 yards. Also note 2 catches for 8 yards. Perkins had a stretch on one drive in the 3rd quarter where he looked halfway decent. Yes, the sample size was that small. He rushed 3 times for 16 yards on that drive; you can do the math on what he put out the rest of the way. Again, a victim of poor blocking but also again, lack of impact after contact.
  • Shane Vereen: 2 rec – 18 yards. One carry for another 5 yards as well. On the field for less than 30% of the snaps. Not nearly enough playing time again and at some point he needs to be on the field more than the two names above.

WIDE RECEIVER

  • Odell Beckham: 9 rec – 79 yards – 2 TD. Moving forward it is safe to say that Beckham is as healthy as he will be in relation to the preseason ankle injury he sustained. It was good to see the emotion out of Beckham, as maddening as he can be. This guy plays his heart out and made two touchdown receptions that very few WRs in the league can make, trust me on that. There was a stretch of plays that stood out to me in the 3rd quarter. Manning went to him four consecutive plays, the third of which he dropped a ball. He responded right after with a 13-yard catch for first down, a high effort play. We can say what we want about his childish antics but if this team is going to make a turnaround, it will center around him. He is that big of a difference maker.
  • Brandon Marshall: 8 rec – 66 yards. Not an impressive stat line but it was good to see so many passes (11 total) thrown his way. We got to see what this guy can be to opposing defensive backs trying to tackle him in space. A glimpse anyway. I fully expect to see a big game out of him in Tampa Bay now the game chemistry is there with him and Manning.
  • Sterling Shepard: 7 rec – 133 yards – 1 TD. The play of the game was going to center around his 77-yard touchdown, one in which he made a move or two and raced 70 yards after the catch. The collapse late, however, overshadowed how big of a play that was. Shepard has an opportunity here to really shine. He is proving to be overly reliable in this slot-dependent, slant-dependent, YAC-dependent passing game. His toughness and consistency since the start of his rookie year are impressive.

TIGHT END

  • Evan Engram: 5 rec – 45 yards. Overall a quiet game from Engram. He continues to lead the tight end in snaps played by a huge margin. As a blocker, his grade was better than weeks 1 and 2 respectively. The progress there is encouraging but it is still a weakness to his game and the overall offense.
  • Rhett Ellison: Wasn’t thrown to at all and his performance as a blocker was average, although he played just 29% of the snaps. Tough to make an impact on the game with such little playing time. If this coaching staff wants more production out of the running game without taking to big of a bite out of the air attack, Ellison should be in for more than 50% of the plays.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Admirable performance, for the most part, by both Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh. Neither allowed any sacks and with the help of the quick-release passing game, their combined pressures allowed were just 2. Flowers graded out much higher than he did the first two weeks but still graded out slightly negative. Pugh has been a steady rock all three games. Pugh did allow some inside pressure but because he is so often in good position from top to bottom, he had enough to keep his man away from making a big impact. Pugh is making money every week with his performance at RT as he heads towards his free agency.
  • Guards/Center: Hard-nosed effort from these three, although there wasn’t a ton of movement at the point-of-attack. Weston Richburg was the highest-graded lineman although he is making it a common habit to play a recovery style after getting drilled off the ball. At some point, that is going to be a major issue for this offense. John Jerry had a positive grade. What’s ironic here is, he led the group in negative-plays and positive-plays. He made some play-altering blocks, especially when they had him trap across the line, on some of the Giants’ biggest gains. He also did a nice job neutralizing the inside rush. Brett Jones gets beat initially almost every time, but in the same breath he fights back hard and won more often than not. He, too, graded out positively.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Jason Pierre Paul was matched up against one of the best right tackles in the game, Lane Johnson. Johnson won. Pierre-Paul had a very quiet day against the pass and struggled to disengage from the lateral blocking by the athletic Johnson. He has been one of the most disappointing players on this team through the 0-3 start. Time for him to step up. Olivier Vernon recorded a sack early on a play where Wentz held onto the ball too long, but also recorded 5 tackles. His performance against the run was very up and down and he did have to fight through an ankle injury in the second half. Romeo Okwara and Kerry Wynn rotated in and out for about 20% of the plays but failed to make any serious impact.
  • Tackles: Damon Harrison was avoided by the Eagles’ ground game. They made him move laterally often and it tired him out. He was only on the field for 58% of the plays. The Eagles made sure to not let him impact the game. Dalvin Tomlinson, Robert Thomas, and Jay Bromley all had a hard time maintaining their positions. They were being driven back and out of holes. Thomas especially lacked gap discipline, opening up massive cutback lanes. None were very impactful as pass rushers.

LINEBACKERS

  • The most underwhelming position group when it comes to overall grades. Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson led the group in playing time, and both led the team in negative plays. They had a hard time disengaging from blockers, especially on the outside. Don’t let Robinson’s team-leading 10 tackles deceive you, he was a liability against both the run and pass.
  • After a solid showing in his first week as the starting MIKE, Calvin Munson only played 30% of the snaps. Was there an injury? Did the coaches see something I didn’t? Was it the PHI personnel grouping that often had them running out three wide receivers? Could be any of those but Munson, in my opinion, deserves to be on the field. His play against the lateral run has been a major plus so far and NYG really struggled there Sunday.
  • Hats off to Devon Kennard who has been showing a healthy dose of versatility each week. He filled in at DE and strong side linebacker, finishing with a sack and a QB hit.

CORNERBBACKS

  • Janoris Jenkins broke up two passes, the only two of the day for the NYG defense. His effort and impact against receivers that are so much bigger than him is admirable to say the least. He is a major plus for this defense and is grading out as one of the best corners in the league so far in this young season.
  • Eli Apple is up for the dud of the week. Teams are obviously targeting him downfield because of his inability to keep his hands away from grabbing. It was his red flag coming out of college and there has been little-to-no progress there so far in his career. His two long pass interference penalties in the second half both led to PHI touchdowns. He also missed a tackle and allowed too much separation on underneath routes to Torrey Smith, a receiver who is not known for short-route running ability.
  • With the Eagles in a 3 WR formation so often, Dominique Rodgers Cromartie played a season-high 41 plays, showing more than solid man coverage. Ross Cockrell has been impressive in his limited action.

SAFETIES

  • Underwhelming game from both Landon Collins and Darian Thompson. Other than Thompson’s big hit which knocked Darren Sproles out of the game, his game review was full of negative plays. He is late to recognize underneath passing routes and he missed 3 tackles that resulted in big gains, including a touchdown. His leash shouldn’t be too long, as he has yet to show much in his short NFL career. Collins didn’t finish with a negative grade, but his impact wasn’t felt the way we are used to. He overran a few lateral pursuits. And his coverage was average at best. The forced fumble you see in the box score was a mere drop-of-the-ball by Zach Ertz that Collins had little to do with.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas:1/1 (42) – 3/3 on extra points. Rosas attempted his first high-pressure kick. Tied 21-21 with 3:11 to go, he nailed the 42 yarder with plenty of extra room.
  • Brad Wing – 4 punts – 38.5 yard avg – 1 inside 20. His horrendous shank in the 4th quarter was the main reason for the Eagles being set up for a game-winning field goal.
  • Return: For the third straight game, Dwayne Harris made zero impact on the game via his returns.

3 STUDS

  • WR Odell Beckham, QB Eli Manning, CB Janoris Jenkins

3 DUDS

  • LB Jonathan Casillas, P Brad Wing, CB Eli Apple

3 THOUGHTS ON PHILADELPHIA

  • Despite Dallas’ 13-win season last year with their young nucleus coming back, I noted Philadelphia as the team NYG would have to fend off for a division crown. NYG’s poor start aside, I think the Eagles are as well balanced as it gets in the NFC East. Wentz is a gamer, the team will control the trenches on both sides of the ball most weeks, and their schedule is pretty favorable.
  • The Eagles secondary is very banged up, but the young guns put together a couple solid performances. I was impressed with how CB Rasul Douglas played. He prevented the deep ball from being an option a couple times and played tough underneath against Marshall.
  • The Wentz-to-Jeffrey duo is only going to get better as the season progresses. Jeffrey doesn’t do a lot of things right as a route runner, but he has a Plaxico Burress-type approach to his game. He is bigger, taller, and can reach longer than almost everyone covering him. He is a guy who can be thrown to even when he is covered, something Wentz has never done. Once he gains confidence and chemistry there, I expect their offense to jump to the next level.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • The Giants are one of 3 teams in the league that have faced three teams with winning records this season. If there is a glass half-full approach, it can center around that this was a very difficult set of games to start off the year. Two road division games and one of the most up-and-coming NFC teams on a Monday night. The upcoming stretch has a lot of winnable games. The Bucs and Chargers are very beatable. The Seahawks are not the Seahawks we have come to know the best 5-6 years. The Rams and 49ers have yet to prove that they are really out of the bottom third of the league. Those 4 teams make up 80% of the upcoming 5 games.
  • I wouldn’t call the offense broken anymore. It isn’t good, but it’s not broken. It’s improved each week and the biggest positive taken from this game is the fact that Beckham appears to be back, fully. When a player like that hesitates, a player who depends so much on explosive movement, he is a shell of himself. It is easy to tell that Beckham let it loose in the second half and I think his confidence will be back in Tampa – a defense that can be torched. Also, the fact Marshall got much more involved is a huge plus. He still has it.
  • This defense, at least to me, was supposed to come in and be a top 5 unit in the NFL. Right now, they are middle of the pack. There is too much talent here to think this is where they are. They are relatively healthy, too. There is a string of games coming up that could really elevate the confidence of this unit.  It’s not coaching or play calling, these guys simply need to beat their respective opponents.
Sep 202017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 18, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions 24 – New York Giants 10

RECAP

The Giants have become the new Patriots of the NFL when it comes to disclosing information about injuries. Janoris Jenkins and B.J. Goodson, two of the highest graded NYG defenders from week 1, surprisingly were on the team’s inactive list prior to kickoff. On the flip side, star receiver Odell Beckham dressed and made his 2017 debut on Monday Night Football against the 1-0 Detroit Lions, led by the NFL’s highest-paid player, Matthew Stafford.

On Detroit’s second drive (following the Giants’ three-and-out that included a sack), Stafford led the Lions on a 9-play drive that ended with a 3rd-and-12, 27-yard touchdown pass on a vertical route to Marvin Jones over Eli Apple, who never  located the ball. Things were looking up soon after, as New York responded with their own 8 play scoring drive that resulted in rookie tight end Evan Engram’s first career touchdown.

With the game tied 7 a piece, the Lions took over the field position battle thanks to two rookie mistakes. First, Engram’s celebration penalty, and second, kicker Aldrick Rosas’ kick out of bounds. The defense however stepped up when Jason Pierre-Paul forced a sack-fumble, which was recovered by Devon Kennard. It took just one play to hand the ball back to Detroit after Manning threw a pass slightly behind Engram, who tipped it into the arms of linebacker Tahir Whitehead. Fast forward 5 plays and Stafford throws his second touchdown, this time to tight end Eric Ebron who simply outran safety Darian Thompson on a crossing route.

Both defenses held their own towards the end of the second half, with Detroit sacking Manning 3 times in 6 drop backs, gaining more field position advantages. They ended the first half with a 6-play drive capped off by a 56-yard field goal that hit the cross bar and bounced over, by Matt Prater.  A sign of the Giants coaching staff having little-to-no confidence in the ability of this offense was the fact they let the clock run from 1:20 all the way down to :35 as the Lions field goal unit got on the field. That was an opportunity that Ben McAdoo simply looked past, scared that the offense would end up giving the ball back to the Lions.

Down 17-7, the Giants put together arguably their best drive of the night that got them as close as 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line. An opportunity like that resulted in just a mere 3 points, largely attributed to a holding penalty on guard Brett Jones.

At the start of the 4th quarter, the biggest turnaround/turning point of the game occurred. Manning threw a perfect deep ball up the right sideline to Brandon Marshall, the hyped free agent signing who has made zero impact so far. It would have resulted in a 30+ yard gain but instead, Marshall let the ball slip right through his hands, an inexcusable drop. Two plays later, Lions rookie punt returner Jamal Agnew returned a punt for an 88-yard touchdown, making it 24-10. The air was sucked out of the team and fans at that point and it was never recovered. The Giants’ top targets were dropping balls, passes were being thrown well before the first down marker on 3rd/4th down, and the running game couldn’t find an inch. Slightly different path, but the same result for the offense that hasn’t had an identity in years. The Lions played a conservative, clock-eating style of offense and the Giants lost, 24-10 at home.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 22/32 – 239 yards – 1 TD/1 INT – 87.9 rating. Upon watching the offense a second and third time respectively, Manning didn’t deserve to be thrown under the bus by Ben McAdoo. He had pressure at his feet and in his face often, again, and still made some big time throws despite it. If Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram hold onto downfield passes that Manning put on the money, we are talking about a 300+ yard game and maybe even a win. One glaring hole from the night, however, was a play in which Manning went to the ground before even bring touched by Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. He needs to rise above a situation like that and stay strong when the pressure is on.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Shane Vereen: 6 att – 28 yards – 4.7 avg. Also picked up 27 yards on 3 catches. There is a sense of security and more potential with Vereen on the field. A better blocker, receiver, and playmaker in space with the ball in his hands. One of the game-plan changes this team needs to make is get the ball in his hands more than 12 times per game, minimum. Vereen has always been an assertive runner WHO can create on his own and unfortunately that is what the NYG backs will need to do all year.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 3 att – 17 yards – 5.7 avg. Darkwa’s first rush went for 11 yards. The opportunities have been sparse for the Giants’ most physical back, but he can move the chains by falling forward and pushing piles. He should have been in there on the Giants rushing attempt from the 1-yard line.
  • Paul Perkins: 7 att – 10 yards – 1.4 avg. Also added 2 catches for 12 yards. The running back position appears to be up for grabs, as Perkins simply hasn’t been making plays. Yet once again, he hasn’t really had the opportunity to find a rhythm. The running lanes aren’t there but Perkins is still showing too much hesitation and timidness.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Odell Beckham: 4 rec – 36 yards. In his first game back since the August 21 injury in Cleveland, the Giants limited his snaps, 61% to be exact. There was a visible lack of burst and confidence to his movement and a player like him needs that to be effective. His biggest impact on the game may have been the attention he demanded from the Lions on his deep routes. He was triple-covered four times.
  • Sterling Shepard: 2 rec – 23 yards. A near touchdown where he was clocked by safety Glover Quin while reaching for the ball could have changed the game. By no means was it a “should have had it” play, but someone needs to step up and make something happen eventually. Shepard had a couple of rushing attempts as well, as he appears to be the most explosive player this team has with the ball in his hands until Beckham is fully back.
  • Brandon Marshall – 1 rec – 17 yards: Was on the wrong end of one of the most influential plays of the night. A horrendous deep ball drop that helped alter the momentum of the entire game. On the next drive, Marshall showed a poor effort on a ball that was slightly above his head on a crossing route. The issue with Marshall his entire career is how he approaches the game when things aren’t going his way and the team is losing. Is the desire to win burning inside of him? Or is he going to continue to play like a has been that is looking forward to retirement?

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec – 49 yards – 1 TD. With each week that passes, Engram is getting more and more comfortable in the Giants’ offense. His ability to get open and make plays after the catch are going to be crucial to any sort of offensive turnaround. His first career touchdown was unchallenged by the Lions’ defense due to a playaction fake. Late in the game, Engram dropped a 29-yard touchdown pass after being hit by cornerback Darius Slay. A tough play indeed, but one that could have changed the outcome of the game. Engram also graded out poorly as a blocker with a couple of bad breakdowns in crucial situations.
  • Rhett Ellison: 2 rec – 21 yards. To this day, I can’t recall a target intended for Ellison where a positive play wasn’t the result. If the Giants want more blocking presence on the field without fully compromising their playmaking potential, Ellison needs more snaps. He was only on the field for 39% of the plays. With that said, Ellison was beaten badly on two key running plays as a blocker.
  • Jerell Adams: 1 rec – 38 yards. The Giants biggest play of the night was to Adams up the right sideline. Manning was under heavy pressure which forced an under throw. But a nice adjustment to the ball by Adams brought the Giants to their best field position of the night. It was Adams’ only play of the game and he showed that he could be a missing piece to an offense that needs more blocking presence without fully compromising play-making potential.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers, for the second straight week, graded out the worst on the line and had another bottom-5 performance from around the league. Poor footwork. Poor knee bend. Inaccurate hands. Lack of hustle and grit. There is zero difference between the rookie version of Flowers and the year 3 version. Patience is one thing if there are signs of progress here and there. Stubbornness is another. Throwing him out there to protect Manning’s blind side is the latter. It’s time – Flowers needs to be benched or moved. Justin Pugh shifted over to right tackle after the first drive as a result of Bobby Hart’s ankle injury. His performance on the outside was good enough to sell me on the idea of moving him to his college position, left tackle, full time.
  • Interior: John Jerry and Weston Richburg graded out with positive performances. After Jerry’s split-blunder on the Lions first sack of the night, he played well enough. He stayed on his man, as his assignment was being responsible for just one tackle the rest of the game. Richburg played very solid assignment-football, allowing just one tackle himself and very good pass protection when he was left alone. Brett Jones, who played all but one drive at left guard, was up and down. He allowed a cover-sack and committed a big holding penalty. While he doesn’t look good out there, especially with adjustment-based lateral movement, his grit and fight is something Flowers could take notes on. He is a true, blue-collar hustler who makes up for shortcomings by simply outworking his opponent.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

  • Jason Pierre Paul recorded his first sack, which also forced a fumble in the 2nd quarter. His overall impact on the game was better than the 3 tackle-stat sheet leads on. He was disruptive and pursued well to the sideline, forcing the Lions’ running backs inside on a few occasions. Olivier Vernon forced Lions tackle Greg Robinson into a few penalties, but overall his impact wasn’t anything stand out. His match-up in this contest should have led to more production. Too often was he being neutralized by a lone blocker against the run. Romeo Okwara recorded two pressures in limited action. He continues to be a solid 3rd-down threat who can line up anywhere.
  • The Lions tried to keep Damon Harrison away from having an impact. They ran to the outside so often and double-teamed him on most passing plays. Even on a “quiet” night, Harrison was still in on 6 tackles and controlled the inside running lanes when Detroit did try to go there. Rookie Dalvin Tomlinson got his first start and I think it will be his for the rest of the year. He was active both in the box and in pursuit, showing plus athleticism and range. He is going to be a major factor moving forward. Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas failed to make a positive impact on their limited snaps.

LINEBACKERS

  • The pregame surprise of the night was B.J. Goodson showing up on the inactive list, out with a shin injury. The NFL week 1 leader in tackles was replaced by undrafted rookie Calvin Munson. The Lions made him move laterally often which he struggled with early but made some impact play tackles late in the game as his reads became more confident. Munson did a nice job of making himself small through traffic and filling lanes. He was on the field for every snap.
  • Devon Kennard only played about half the team’s defensive plays, but had a disruptive night. He recorded a QB pressure, QB hit, and tackle for loss. He was very stout against the run and displayed versatile pass rushing by breaking through the Detroit line from different spots. Jonathan Casillas recorded two tackles for loss, but was also ridden out on a couple of Detroit’s bigger running plays. J.T. Thomas was hurt, again, early in the game.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins and Darian Thompson both played every snap. Collins didn’t make any impact plays other than a couple of physical downhill hits against the run. Thompson was beat by tight end Eric Ebron on Detroit’s second touchdown, but broke up a pass later in the game. His range against deep routes appears to be a step behind and his impact as a run defender is minuscule. He had a fairly simple opportunity for an interception in the 2nd quarter, but he badly mistimed his leap for the ball with poor body control. On the Lions’ first touchdown drive, Nat Berhe was assigned to spy Matthew Stafford on a 3rd-and-12 play. He over-pursued badly which allowed an easy cutback lane for Staffod to scramble for a 1st down. The Lions scored 3 plays later.

CORNERBACKS

  • With Janoris Jenkins on the sideline injured, Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were both on the field for every snap. Both had every up and down nights. Apple’s allowed touchdown to Marvin Jones was something we have seen since the beginning for him, trouble locating the deep ball with body control. He had solid coverage as usual, but that’s only half the battle when defending the pass. The Lions were noticeably attacking him. He made a few physical plays and deflected a pass later on. Rodgers-Cromartie led the team with 11 tackles, most of which were against the run. He had two bad missed tackles that resulted in extra yards for Detroit in key situations, however.
  • Ross Cockrell got his first real playing time with the Giants and played well. Interesting to see him ahead of Michael Hunter on the depth chart, as he out-snapped him 39 to 1.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – 25 yards. Easy chip shot, but a kick out of bounds in the 2nd quarter added to a field position loss.
  • P Brad Wing: 5 punts for 47.8 yard average. An overlooked mishap for the team was Wing out-kicking his coverage by 10-15 yards on the return for a touchdown. That ball needs to be higher, not as far, so the returner has less space to work with upon catching the ball.
  • Return: Dwayne Harris had a quiet night.

3 THOUGHTS ON DETROIT

  • I’ve seen this team play a lot since the start of last season. Matthew Stafford is certainly inching his way towards the elite level. His arm talent is second to none in this league, he has sneaky mobility in and out of the pocket, and he has proven to be unfazed by big moments several times. Detroit is 110% justified in giving him the contract they did, as there may be one or two QBs in the league I take over him for the next 5+ years.
  • The secondary is playing better in the first two weeks than what I saw all of last year, most notably nickel corner Quandre Diggs. Darius Slay is the best corner you’ve never really heard about, and even the Nigel Lawson/D.J. Hayden split can hang with many high-caliber WRs in certain matchups. They are a solid duo who will be on the field based on who the other team has running routes.
  • The Giants offensive line is a mess, and the Lions are somehow piecing together solid performances with players the Giants could have easily signed, most notably Ricky Wagner and T.J. Lang. They aren’t superstars and I won’t pretend they are, but the gap between them and what the Giants are throwing out there is astronomical. That’s how bad this OL personnel is for NYG. And it makes this front office look bad for not adding any veteran piece of value in free agency.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Everything looks worse when a team is losing. Everything gets questioned and that is often a result of overreacting. But sometimes, bold statements are justified. The debate of what Ben McAdoo will be is still very much alive. Throwing your first-class, team-first-always quarterback under the bus to the NY media was a low blow. McAdoo is as blah as it gets in interviews as he doesn’t like to dive too deeply into questions and information. Was his comment about Manning, which he has done before, a sign of frustration? Will that spill over into the bigger egos on this team? McAdoo needs to remember, the Giants haven’t accomplished much and the offense has never been worse, since he’s been a part of the organization.
  • I touched on this briefly above, but I will repeat. The best move for this offensive line is to move Pugh to left tackle right now. No trades or signings. Pugh’s value to the team is best suited there and Flowers has two options. Play right tackle so they don’t have to rely on D.J. Fluker or Chad Wheeler, or sit on the bench. I understand he hasn’t played on that side since early in college but he is not a left tackle in this league, something I have said since he was drafted. There has been no improvement, no progression with him. If anything, he might surprise and simply play at a higher level over there.
  • Time for this pass rush to step up. I wouldn’t put the below average label on them yet, but making 1 or 2 plays via the pass rush isn’t enough, especially with a line that has Greg Robinson playing left tackle. Granted the Lions were barely dropping back in the second half, but it is time for these guys to step up. They have as tough a test as they will have all year in Philadelphia next week. Show us you deserve all that money, Vernon and JPP.
Sep 122017
 
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Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (September 10, 2017)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 19 – New York Giants 3

RECAP

Five days before the game, things were looking up for the injured Odell Beckham and the decision to uphold Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension was public. Fast forward to the hours prior to kickoff and Beckham decided the confidence in his ankle just wasn’t there, forcing him to sit out while Elliott was granted permission to play until his case was heard in Federal Court (AKA the suspension won’t be served until 2018 in all likelihood). The Giants were without their star and the Cowboys finagled their way into being full strength – and it was eerie how unsurprised Jerry Jones was about the whole thing.

How the game began became the underlying theme of the night. Long, steady possessions by Dallas with proper run/pass balance, ball protection, and overall control. The first two Giants drives resulted in 6 plays, 4 total yards, a sack, a holding penalty, and Eli Manning looking insecure in the pocket. In fact, the Giants initial first down didn’t come until the 2nd quarter. The Giants defense was on the field for 20:43 out of 30:00 minutes in the first half as the Cowboys recorded 47 plays, the most by any NFL team since 2007.

Down 16-0 at halftime, Eli Manning led a 16-play, 9:44-drive that resulted in their only three points of the night. They were 1st-and-goal from the 5-yard line with an opportunity to seize momentum, but blown blocks up front, a 9-yard sack, and completed pass well short of the needed yardage brought rookie Aldrick Rosas onto the field for his first career regular-season kick, a 25 yarder.

Momentum was there for taking again, as the Giants defense stopped Dallas and got the ball back in the hands of Manning. The response? Reaching their own 32-yard line but going no further because of missed blocks and Manning rushing through his reads while neglecting his passing mechanics.

There were only six total points scored in the second half between the two NFC East rivals, as Dallas bled the clock out with consistent ball control and the Giants missing that big-play presence. Manning threw his first interception the play after their biggest gain of the night with just under 8 minutes left in the game, the final nail in the coffin.

The Giants head back to East Rutherford trying to figure how to increase their 2.9 yards-per-carry and 33% 3rd-down conversion rate. The problems with this offense from 2016 are still here, albeit without Beckham in the picture. Speaking of the Giants star receiver, he made plenty of money by not playing because there may not be a non-quarterback in the league that impacts his respective team more than #13.

QUARTERBACKS

  • 29/38 – 220 yards – 0 TD – 1 INT – 78.8 rating. Manning lacked command and toughness. His shaky feet in the pocket could partially be blamed on the poor play upfront, but he rushed several throws when he didn’t need to. There was enough zip on his passes and his lone deep pass of the night actually had too much on it. When the team needed him to step up, he didn’t answer the bell. A couple of the biggest opportunities resulted in Manning not getting the job done.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Paul Perkins: 7 att – 16 yds – 2.3 avg. Minimal space to run, yes. But he didn’t create anything on his own, either. He was late to make his decisions and didn’t break tackles. That is a rough combination. Only on the field for 30% of the team’s plays.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 3 att – 14 yds – 4.7 avg. Had the nicest run of the night, 12 yards on his first attempt which didn’t happen until the second half of the second quarter. Pass blocked well, showed more life with the ball in his hands than Perkins.
  • Shane Vereen: 9 rec – 51 yards – 5.7 avg. Had plenty of garbage time production, but played well earlier in the game as well. His knack for positive plays and reliability on passing downs wasn’t used enough early on. Lacks the star power but he is a chain mover via the pass game. Not one carry for the back that seems to find the hidden yards every time he touches the ball is inexcusable. Vereen may very well be the best RB on this team by a wide margin; he needs more meaningful touches.
  • Shane Smith: On the field for 8 offensive plays; got the job done on 3rd down. His presence wasn’t too noticeable, but he was an important player in his limited reps. He moved the pile on a 3rd-and-1 Darkwa conversion.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 7 rec – 44 yds. The 6.3 yard average per reception isn’t good, but Shepard played tough and did what was asked of him in the offense. This is a very underneath-heavy passing game and Shepard’s strength and toughness fit the slot role well. With Dallas was dropping so may defenders into deep half coverage, Shepard’s short routes in combination with the poor pass blocking up front, Manning looked his way plenty. He dodged a bullet with his self-recovered fumble in the 2nd quarter.
  • Roger Lewis: 4 rec – 54 yards. Two of the 3 biggest gains on offense went to Lewis, who saw more snaps because of the Beckham injury. He made a couple nice catches on the move and ran good routes into the vacant windows against the Cowboys Cover-2 defense. If he can continue to show he picking things up mentally, his tools will be used this year.
  • Brandon Marshall: 1 rec – 10 yds. The hyped WR signing couldn’t have had a quieter night. His first target came with 1:32 left in the 2nd quarter. He was held without a catch until the garbage-time drive at the end of the game and had he not come up with that 10 yard reception, it would have been the first time since his rookie year in 2007 in which he was held without a catch. He got one downfield opportunity in the second half which resulted in zero separation and a throw that was about 7 yards past his reach. Marshall’s play presented the question, can he create on his own?

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec – 44 yds. Engram got the start and played more than twice as many snaps as Rhett Ellison and Jerell Adams combined. The longest Giants play of the night was a 31-yard pitch-and-catch where he showed his elite-level speed down the sideline. His blocking was average at best, including a bad miss on the Giants 1st-and-goal rush from the 5-yard line. If he has the time to get into his intermediate and deep routes, Engram is going to make a lot of plays in this offense.
  • Rhett Ellison: 1 rec – 9 yds. One of the surprises of the night, Ellison was only on the field for a third of the Giants offensive plays. His one target resulted in an impressive 9-yard gain where he bowled over defenders and dragged them for an extra few yards. In an offense that struggled to pass the ball anything beyond quick releases, Ellison was vastly under-utilized. His blocking was solid, but he had two significant misses that resulted in TFL or no-gain runs.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers started off on the right foot, but fell well below the average mark. His second half was an image of what we watched for pretty much all of 2016. Poor use of leverage and too much over-committing his upper body, leaving him unbalanced and without control. Bobby Hart had the worst night of the group, making Demarcus Lawrence look like he was Von Miller off the edge. He spent way too much time on the ground and lacked a consistent push in the run game.
  • Interior: Justin Pugh played the best of the bunch, putting together an above-average score, although he did tail off a bit in the second half. His technique and initial punch stood out to me in a positive way. Weston Richburg had an average performance, making a couple of effective second-level blocks but was, once again, pushed back into the pocket a couple times. John Jerry got off to a horrific start, allowing a sack, a pressure, and committing a penalty all within the first 6 plays. He hit a nice stride in the 2nd half, getting movement as a run blocker and neutralizing his man in the pass game. But the damage was done early, ending with a below average grade.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: As we saw last year, both Jason Pierre Paul and Olivier Vernon played the majority of the defensive snaps (89% and 97%, respectively). Pierre Paul had the highest grade of the group, showing his usual excellent range in pursuit and sturdiness at the point of attack. He brought Dak Prescott down once on a pressure. Vernon recorded the lone New York sack, a play in which he went untouched to the QB. Otherwise, he had a quiet night and struggled to break free from Dallas left tackle Tyron Smith. Kerry Wynn and Romeo Okwara saw time in the diverse, borderline exotic fronts that Steve Spagnulo threw together but neither made any impact.
  • Interior: Damon Harrison led all defensive linemen on my grading sheet, playing his usual dominant version of himself. He was stout and active, adapting to the game’s situation all night. His versatility created pressure for Dak Prescott up the middle, deflected a pass, and brought down running backs for a loss. He is a weapon that no offensive line will keep contained. After watching him break down last year, they were sure to keep his snaps limited to just under 65%. Technically Jay Bromley started, but rookie Dalvin Tomlinson out-snapped him 3:1. As I said when they drafted him last spring, Tomlinson would impact the game week 1 in Dallas. He was an integral piece to holding down the 2016 NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliot for the most part. Robert Thomas saw 21 snaps, but struggled to make any impact. He was brought in on favorable pass-rush downs but struggled to disengage from blockers and at times, look way over-matched by the size of Dallas guard Chaz Green. He had a very rough game.

LINEBACKERS

  • The brightest spot of the entire defense, the highest grade I have given a Giants linebacker in over a year went to B.J. Goodson. His 18 tackles were the most in the NFL by a long shot on opening weekend. His range and power presence on the move especially stood out. There was a play where he completely lit up All-Pro Guard Zack Martin and finished it off with a tackle for loss. Jonathan Casillas and Devon Kennard played a physical brand and helped contain the Cowboys run game, especially in the first half. Kennard didn’t play even half the snaps, as the Giants were in the nickel for the majority of the game, but his presence was felt on plays where is wasn’t directly involved on the tackle. They played a physical, blue collar brand.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins was all over the field, being used as a linebacker, nickel cornerback, and roaming safety. His performance in coverage was top notch, if only they kept him on tight end Jason Witten all night. Those were the few times #82 had a hard time getting open. Darian Thompson, in what is basically considered his rookie season, struggled to react. On several occasions he was a step or three too late to support the run, especially to the sidelines. His physical impact when making hits just isn’t there, as he looks like an average-sized cornerback trying to play the safety spot. He wasn’t tested much in deep coverage. Andrew Adams was on the field for 8 defensive snaps, but wasn’t really tested.

CORNERBACKS

  • Arguably the most entertaining one-on-one battle of the night was Janoris Jenkins vs. Dez Bryant. Jenkins dominated this match-up in 2016 and while I can’t use that word again this time around, he did keep Bryant contained. Minus the one long penalty (21-yard pass interference) that set up the lone touchdown of the night, Jenkins won every match-up down field (3 attempts). He did miss two tackles where there was a VERY questionable effort put forth. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the team’s nickel corner, was on the field for 70% of the plays. His knack for reading routes and forecasting throws gets better and better, but he is not the ideal defender to cover the quicker slot receivers. Cole Beasley made him look silly on a couple of occasions. Eli Apple received the lowest grade of all the Giants defensive backs that played significant snaps. He was beat by Brice Butler early to set up the first Cowboys field goal, beat by Jason Witten on the lone Dallas touchdown, and targeted often on 3rd down where his success rate was not high. His impact on the run game was strong, however.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – 25 yards. Easy chip shot, otherwise a quiet night.
  • P Brad Wing: 6 Punts – 44.8 yard avg. 41.5 yard net avg, both solid numbers.
  • Return: Dwayne Harris had a quiet night.

3 STUDS

  • LB B.J. Goodson, DT Damon Harrison, OG Justin Pugh

3 DUDS

  • RT Bobby Hart, LT Ereck Flowers, QB Eli Manning

3 THOUGHTS ON DALLAS

  • The linebackers in a 4-3 defense can absolutely change the game. Anyone who watched the combination of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith cannot argue against that statement. Those two were as responsible as any for the Dallas win. They compliment each other perfectly and will be headache for opponents all year.
  • Dak Prescott was inaccurate for the majority of the game. He missed a handful of very easy throws, but he looked antsy and overly-excited. Putting too much mustard on the ball and finishing high. This game could have been much worse had he been on top of his game.
  • No, I don’t think the Dallas defense is improved up front. The likes of Maliek Collins, Charles Tapper, and Demarcus Lawrence have the Giants offensive line to thank for that talk. They are a sub-par group.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • The most over-reactionary thoughts in the sports world are post-week 1 NFL football. The sky is not falling, this team is not going 0-16. If you have paid attention to the Eli Manning career, the Giants have had several of these games, sometimes multiple in each year. It was as ugly as it got, but that was not a representation of this Giants squad. They will be better Monday night at home.
  • Odell Beckham made a lot of money by not playing. His mere presence on the field changes the complexion of the entire offense, and his true value will be felt when he gets back on the field. He makes other players better, plain and simple.
  • Hats off to the defense after an exhausting first half. But a solution needs to be found for defending the tight end. Enough of this already. Each year more and more teams are adding the athletic pass catcher to that position; it will become the norm very soon. Jason Witten became the all time leading receiver for the storied organization and his historic production against the Giants was highlighted (150 career catches against the Giants alone). If there is an Achilles’ heel to this strong defense, the tight end is it.
Sep 022017
 
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Roger Lewis and Matt LaCosse, New York Giants (August 31, 2017)

Roger Lewis and Matt LaCosse – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 40 – New England Patriots 38

QUICK RECAP

For the 13th consecutive season, the New York Giants ended their preseason schedule against the New England Patriots. These two have had a couple of epic Super Bowl contests over the past decade and even though multiple starters on both sides did not dress, there is an extra sense of nostalgia seeing the Giants in their “Whites” and the Patriots in their “Blues”. The final preseason contest was less about the starters getting their reps and more about the potential backups battling it out for roster spots.

The Giants jumped out to a commanding 34-14 lead at halftime, clicking on all cylinders offensively. But just like last week against the Jets, the backup defense struggled to hold the lead and ended up losing it completely in the 4th quarter with under a minute left. Rookie Davis Webb then engineered a 7-play drive which ended with a game-winning 48-yard field goal by fellow rookie Aldrick Rosas with no time left on the clock. The Giants improved to 2-2 on the preseason with a 40-38 victory.

QUARTERBACKS

  • The backup job battle between Geno Smith and Josh Johnson was back and forth throughout the entire preseason. Smith, the more talented of the two, was on fire going 10/11 for 111 yards and a TD. He was hitting guys left and right in stride with a nice blend of zip and touch. Johnson entered the game early in the 2nd quarter, getting the majority of the snaps. He responded with his own preseason-best performance, going 11/14 for 135 yards and a TD. At their best, Smith is the better quarterback. There is no debating that but Johnson may be the more secure guy. Who wins this job will come down to which situation they prefer, really. If I had to choose, Smith is the guy.
  • Davis Webb came in during the 4th quarter. He went 8/14 for 103 yards and was a little erratic on his deep throws but continues to show excellent footwork. Webb works on his craft a lot, rollout positioning especially. It came to fruition in the game-winning drive when he evaded pressure from his blind side, rolled out to the left, and completed a nice ball. Hopefully this is the last Webb sees the field against another team until next year. All in all, he had a great preseason process.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Shaun Draughn finally got to show this coaching staff what he can do. It’s been a bumpy ride when it comes to his health and opportunities, but a 14-carry, 54-yard night, including a touchdown and a couple catches, could be enough for him to warrant a roster spot.
  • Orleans Darwka ran hard downhill, showing his physical brand and proving he is the top “pile-pusher” among the NYG backs. He has proven before that when he gets some space allowing him to gain a full head of steam, he can do damage in there. He carried the ball 8 times for 40 yards, including the long of the night, 21 yards.
  • Shane Vereen and Wayne Gallman rounded out the rest of the RB play. Vereen looked physical, especially as a blocker. He is going to be a crucial part to this 3rd down offense. Gallman struggled to break free from initial contact. He probably takes more hits than he should considering his small-ish frame, but can’t blame a back for being a fighter. He enters the season as the team’s most explosive rusher.
  • Shane Smith had his best game of the preseason and it looks like he is getting more used to the speed of the game. He is more assertive and showed a couple of nice adjustments to stick to his man and maintain running lanes.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • No Beckham, Marshall, Harris, or King. Opportunity for the young guys who want to make this team or practice squad. Travis Rudolph led the position group with 3 catches for 46 yards, including a gutsy extension catch over the middle on a seam route. From day one, he has been the young kid who does everything right from running routes, securing and tucking the ball, and constantly catching the ball. The physical shortcomings aren’t going anywhere, but he has proven he can make plays when the opportunity is given.
  • Jerome Lane continued to impress. The raw, physical receiver showed another pure hands catch on a crossing route. For a guy that spent just one year in college as a wide receiver, the amount of untapped upside warrants a spot on the practice squad.
  • Canaan Severin, Marquis Bundy, and Ed Eagen all had impressive nights in their own respects. Severin appears to be the highest-upsided of them all and could sneak his way onto a roster spot. His ability to adjust to the ball and attack with his hands at 6’2/205 is attractive.

TIGHT ENDS

  • With Rhett Ellison and Evan Engram on the sideline to preserve safety, there were plenty of snaps to go around for Matt LaCosse, Will Tye, and Jerrell Adams.
  • LaCosse, who had as good of a training camp as anyone when it came to making plays, finally got a steady dose of action and ended up with 5 catches for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns. As a blocker, he graded out above average. I think its time this gets on the 53-man roster because he hasn’t stopped making plays since he’s been here.
  • Will Tye opened the game with a fumble on the Giants’ first drive. He continued to look more athletic than he was last season, but there is a sense of “You know what you are getting with him” when it comes to Tye. Limited upside both as a blocker and receiver.
  • Adams has turned into a dominant-level blocker. His ability to stifle, move, and stick to defenders is going to a factor this year. He is still growing into his top-tier frame and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him on the field for 10+ snaps per game.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • All in all, a very solid performance from the backups. All 5 starters did not play, leaving it up to the back-up players themselves to give one last effort to make this team. The Patriots were very vanilla with their pass rush scheme, so that helped quite a bit.
  • The young tackles, Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty, continued to show what we have seen all preseason. Wheeler is a gifted athlete with body control and balance, but there are flashes each week that show his lack of true man-strength and lack of experience. Bisnowaty was a major disappointment in his first preseason; there is a lot of work for him to do. No player has ruined more plays by himself than the rookie from Pittsburgh. He did get some action at left guard in the 4th quarter and for what its worth, looked more comfortable there when he wasn’t forced into space.
  • D.J. Fluker excels against defenses like this, vanilla and straight-ahead power rushers. He can handle anyone that is thrown at him in that fashion. There are still a couple of occasions where he ducks his head and reaches when trying to block laterally. Brett Jones had a very solid game, especially in the run game. The team had a lot of success running off either one of his shoulders, I think the backup OC job is his.
  • Jarron Jones, a practice squat candidate, has come along OK with his footwork in comparison to where he was in August. There is no way he can be depended on if an injury were to occur, however. He continued to whiff on defenders and appear three steps behind mentally.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Olivier Vernon didn’t dress for the game while Jay Bromley remains sidelined with a knee injury. The Patriots offense was held to 3.4 yards per carry.
  • Robert Thomas notched a sack along with 3 tackles, proving his multi-down threat. He fought hard to get off blocks, showing quick and strong hands and a relentless engine.
  • Kerry Wynn made the defensive play of the night, tipping a Jacoby Brissett pass to himself and returning it for a 15-yard touchdown in the first quarter. To think about how far he has come in his young four-year career is a proof-is-in-the-pudding development that shows sometimes being patient with these high-upside, high-character young guys can really pay off. He has become an important piece to this potentially dominant defense.
  • Devin Taylor hasn’t showed enough in his short tenure with the club. He is too slow off the ball and struggles to get movement on blockers. Too many plays do I have the “NF” (Non-Factor) next to his name. Same can be said for Stansly Maponga, a hybrid DE/OLB who just doesn’t fit with this scheme nor has he shown the needed athleticism.
  • Rookie Avery Moss was all over the field. Both DE spots, pass rushing OLB, coverage OLB, and pass-rushing DT. The tools are there, he just needs to put his best foot forward in the weight room. He isn’t powerful enough yet but there is a play-maker somewhere in there.
  • Jordan Williams and Josh Banks, both a tad undersized for interior play but too big and slow for the outside, get off the ball well but both were struggling to get off their blocks. They were beat on a few of the Patriots more positive running plays.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson, Devon Kennard, Jonathan Casillas, and Keenan Robinson (injury) did not play. Curtis Grant saw the most action in the group and responded with 8 tackles, the most on the team. He is an excellent interior defender, as he can explode into 3-5 yard creases with power and presence. Very good tackler who makes the effort to wrap up violently. He was exposed in space a few times. Grant is not a poor athlete but he does have trouble reacting laterally and in coverage.
  • Fellow backup and roster hopeful Deontae Skinner added 3 tackles while roster probable Calvin Munson recorded 2. Munson is less physically gifted but he has proven to be the most instinctual backup they have and, when it comes to that position, instincts trump all.
  • J.T. Thomas got the most live action he’s seen in almost a year and he didn’t disappoint. He had 4 tackles a forced a fumble. Thomas showed a physical brand when tackling and filling lanes to meet blockers. He was very impressive against the backups of NE and could end up being the athletic but powerful backup they need on the weak side.

CORNERBACKS

  • Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Michael Hunter, and Eli Apple all remained on the sideline. This position group has seen as much turnover as any on the team. The top 4 seemed pretty much locked in, thus I think these guys were competing for a practice squad spot or two and the final spot on the 53-man roster.
  • DaShaun Amos has been with the team all offseason and preseason, and his size/speed combination were on display against the Patriots. He is a smooth transition guy, very important for the man coverage scheme.
  • Tim Scott was in on a lot of action. He allowed a few passes to be completed in his direction but he played a physical downhill style. He made an impression on me in his 2 games here. Tay Glover-Wright allowed a touchdown pass, struggling to control his body when locating the ball.
  • Donte Deayon only played early on, but he was beat for a 1st quarter TD matched up against Cody Hollister. It was a play that further exposed Deayon’s glaring weakness, his size. He just doesn’t have a lot of range when attacking the ball against a receiver and he is so easily moved. I think he has an inside track at making this team but he needs to be avoided when it comes to placing these CBs in certain roles.

SAFETIES

  • Darian Thompson got the start, as he simply needs more and more experience. The second year, projected starter next to Landon Collins is still extremely raw when it comes to reading and reacting to NFL offenses.
  • Nat Berhe gave his weekly missed tackle when he tried to take down Austin Carr on his way into the end zone. There is such a thing as a player who is too aggressive, and Berhe is exactly that. The issues that a poor-tackling safety can present could really damn a defense. I respect his presence considering his size, but is this a guy who will hurt the Giants as much as help? More?

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Kicker Aldrick Rosas went 4-fo- 4, including the game-winning 48-yarder. It was good to see him respond positively to a pressure situation. Even though it was a low-intensity preseason game, the Giants would have lost if he missed. Rosas went 8-for-8 in preseason games and as far as I’m concerned, did everything right to deserve the job.

3 STUDS

  • DE Avery Moss, QB Geno Smith, TE Matt LaCosse

3 DUDS

  • OT Adam Bisnowaty, S Nat Berhe, CB Tay Glover-Wright

3 PATRIOTS TAKEAWAYS

  • What New England does with their backup QB situation is going to be one of the more interesting personnel situations in the league next year. Jacoby Brissett has shown enough in his now two preseasons and the 2016 regular-season to warrant backup duty. If that is the case, teams looking for a starting QB next year could skip the development process by trading a 1st round pick for Jimmy Garoppolo.
  • Two players who I wanted the Giants to draft in the 5th and 6th rounds respectively, were both taken by the Patriots. OT Conor McDermott played a very solid RT and LB Brooks Ellis showed what liked in college (a big and physical guy with enough speed paired with excellent instincts). If either one of these guys shakes loose via roster cuts, NYG should give them a hard look.
  • When a Patriots pass catcher goes down, there is always someone that comes out of nowhere it seems. Austin Carr is a name that my boss at Ourlads was all in on from last fall all the way through the draft process. Austin Carr is the reliable route running, catch-everything no-namer that all of you may be adding to your fantasy roster soon if he can get on that 53-man roster.