-Tommy DeVito: 17/25 – 191 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 103.9 RAT
Add another level to DeVito’s ascending performances this season. Add another level to DeVito’s comfort and responsibility within this offense. And add another level of trust that DeVito has earned in the eyes of both coaches and fans. The fun ride continues and it feels like he (and the team) have found the exit inside a dark tunnel. That light is still far away but it has at least been located and the team is inching toward it. Without getting too ahead of ourselves, I just want to break down a few elements of his game that credibly mean something. One, his ability and confidence to progress through reads as he reads the coverage. His internal clock is improving with each week. Two, his release and accuracy on downfield passing are notable. He is comfortable and confident as he throws the deep ball. He hit Jalin Hyatt near the sideline for gains of 41, 29, and 22 yards. Zero hesitation, pinpoint placement, and repeatability. And last, footwork and ball fakes. DeVito’s mechanics for the position look outstanding. It does not mean everything, but it means something. Everything he is doing right now looks clean. An undrafted rookie who looks like this on a team that has been losing like this? Hard to remember seeing anything that resembles what he is doing in the league.
-Saquon Barkley: 12 att – 46 yards / 1 rec – 6 yards
40 of Barkley’s yards came in the first half on 8 carries. Two of those runs came in the first quarter that gained 33 yards. Overall, it was a quiet game for him with a congested point-of-attack and inconsistent run blocking inside. The big runs were to the right side where the crease was big enough and there long enough for him to burst through. Barkley had two negatives on the day – an allowed sack and a drop. Those show up too often.
-Matt Breida added 6 yards on 2 carries and a 10-yard gain in the passing game. He was on the field for just 10 snaps.
-One of the best traits DeVito has shown is the ability to spread the ball out to his pass catchers. He knows what his guys are good at, and he knows where to use them the most. Enter Jalin Hyatt. A career-game for the rookie who has been frustrating to watch for no reason other than lack of usage. He caught 5 passes for 109 yards. Three of them were explosive plays (20+ yards) and all three were high-level plays. I have been saying it since the beginning of the season, Hyatt has a few special traits that are hard to find together. We can see the speed and acceleration. But the plays on the ball he made near the boundary with the combination of coordination and footwork can make him a lethal weapon. And I mean, absolutely lethal. The move he put on J.C. Jackson after the catch was not something I expected to see either, as the short area change of direction and hip fluidity were a bit of an unknown with the ball in his hands.
-Wan’Dale Robinson was used underneath over and over, totaling 26 yards on 4 catches with one drop. The average depth of target was just 2.8 yards. That will often be the case. His usage (and frame) are similar to Zay Flowers from Baltimore (Flowers is a tier or two higher with what he can do downfield) in that you will often see games like this, an average-per-catch that looks like what you see out of a running back who had a good game on the ground. The explosive plays will come, though. Just wait.
-Isaiah Hodgins scored the lone touchdown of the game for NYG on a 12-yard pitch and catch where he used his pure strength on a stiff arm to finish off the play into the end zone. Sterling Shepard had a catch for 6 yards and a drop, and Parris Campbell caught one ball that resulted in a 2-yard loss.
-Daniel Bellinger played the majority of the snaps with Lawrence Cager occasionally showing up on the field. Mike Kafka used 11 personnel for most of the game. Bellinger caught his one target for 8 yards and performed as usual in blocking roles. He was solid in the trenches, but he struggled to get across the face of his man when he needed to cut off the backside. It caused a TFL on one play and a stop at the line of scrimmage on another.
-Left tackle Andrew Thomas is human after all. He allowed 1.5 sacks on plays where he lost the initial angle and was unable to recover. He usually shows enough lower body adjustment to put himself back into the right position to make a save, but it appears his anchor is not 100%. Even though it was not his best day, those truly were his only losses of the day.
-Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson were the ones who paved the way on the best running gains we saw on the afternoon. Bredeson also did a fine job as a pass blocker, albeit against a low-level group of interior pass rushers. This is where Phillips struggled. He allowed 1.5 sacks and 3 hurries. His lockout game is a difference maker as a run blocker because of his length and heaviness. But in pass protection, where swifter footwork is necessary and the ability to react is more important, this is where he struggles. He did receive help from the tight end on occasion and it made a big difference. Considering Bellinger is not much of a threat in the passing game, I do feel that this is a better role for him. Help out then run a short-delayed route for dump-offs.
-Rookie center John Michael Schmitz allowed a pressure and a TFL. I am seeing a repeated problem with his outside zone blocking. He gives a bit too much ground (in an effort to get more downhill momentum) but the guy he is assigned to beats him to the spot and out-leverages him, creating more lost ground. Combine the two and the running back is multiple yards behind the line of scrimmage when he has to make his first adjustment. Schmitz gets the job done when he does not need to move far from the starting point, but he continues to struggle when he gets further away from it.
-Justin Pugh allowed 2 pressures and a TFL as well. He was the one getting pushed around when NYG tried to run left and did not have success. He is the one getting displaced and even though he can recover well, the point still remains. He is not getting enough movement at the point-of-attack.
-As I have said in previous reviews, there are always things to keep an eye on when it comes to the team and future. This was the first game Kayvon Thibodeaux has been on the field without Dexter Lawrence. Leonard Williams was traded weeks ago. So how did Thibodeaux respond to being the one guy on this front who needed to be schemed against? He finished with 5 tackles, 2 TFL, a half-sack, and a forced fumble. I thought it was some of the best run defense we have seen out of him and the reaction speed to screens (which NE ran a ton of) was excellent. Combine that with what I read about his preparation + leadership shown during the week, and I would say that is nearly as good as you can expect for Thibodeaux without Lawrence on the field.
-Jihad Ward and Azeez Ojulari essentially split reps. While they don’t exactly play the same role and alignments, Ward was on the field for 40 snaps, Ojulari 38. Ward is the one who played the better of the two and it was by a sizable margin. He finished with 5 tackles and 1.5 sacks. One of those came on a 3rd down in the fourth quarter, a big play in a big moment. It is the first time Ward has had more than 1 sack in a game over his 8-year career. Ojulari had a QB hit early on, but was shut down the rest of the game again.
-Benton Whitley, just recently signed off the Vikings practice squad, played three snaps and made an impressive play on a pass break up. He’s bounced around a few different practice squads since 2021. He is a heavy-handed, vertical threat with the straight-line burst to put some pressure on a tackle. He will also factor on special teams.
-A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches were the starting interior defenders with Dexter Lawrence sitting out with a hamstring injury. Nothing against these two but what a difference it was to not have #97 in there. Robinson can hold his own and he plays an active game. He finished with 5 tackles and Nunez-Roches added one pressure.
-D.J. Davidson and Jordon Riley rotated in, and while they struggled to get off blocks in the passing game, I thought their stoutness against the run was solid. Where they currently struggle is shedding the blocks and making plays on the ball carrier. Riley missed two tackles.
-Bobby Okereke had another high-impact game. He had 8 tackles and added 3 pressures. He missed a tackle on a play that would have resulted in a sack. Mac Jones threw an interception right to him. He took possession of the ball inside the red zone and returned it 55 yards giving NYG the ball on the NE 26-yard line. This is the drive they ended up scoring the lone touchdown, further strengthening how big of a play it was.
-Micah McFadden added 6 tackles (with one miss), including one TFL on a play where he read the screen in a blink of an eye and broke on the receiver instantly.
-Isaiah Simmons had 2 tackles and a miss on a third down that resulted in a first down. His untouched pressure led to the Okereke interception. When McFadden missed a few snaps with a hand injury suffered by friendly fire, Simmons played the inside linebacker role. I noticed there and other alignments as well that he is simply late. That is the way to describe his game. Big-time athlete who can do a lot – but he is almost always late. Late to recognize, late to see, late to react.
-Adoree’ Jackson returned and remained outside with Deonte Banks on the other side and Cor’Dale Flott in the slot. I’ve always felt this has needed to be their trio of starters at the position. Jackson did miss two tackles, but he was steady in downfield coverage. Banks intercepted a pass in the first quarter near the sideline. Nice catch, good awareness and read. Banks has cleaned up some of his footwork in zone coverage and it is encouraging to see him advance throughout his rookie year. He had to offer a public apology for, you guessed it, a social media mistake. That really isn’t worth addressing here but I am glad he came out and played a solid game with a big play in a defensive battle. Banks does need to shore up some of his run-defense habits. They are borderline atrocious.
-Xavier McKinney is on a hot streak and it hit the climax on one of the better interceptions you are going to see a safety make in this league. It was a thing of beauty – the way he tricked Mac Jones into thinking he was dropping deep, knowing the route concept, breaking back down at the exact right moment so Jones had no idea, and then finishing the play off by coming down with the ball. Oh, and he led the team with 10 tackles and broke up another pass. While he was not perfect in coverage, he kept things in front of him and showed a good feel for what the Patriots were doing.
-Jason Pinnock played all 68 snaps and added 6 tackles, 1 of which went for a loss. With the number of screens and quick passes New England used, Pinnock did a nice job of getting to the action and disrupting. That quick trigger means a lot for this defense and even though he finds himself on the wrong side of blocks at times, he is getting the job done.
-K Randy Bullock: 1/1 (Made 42)
-P Jamie Gillan: 8 Punts / 45.4 avg – 40.3 net
-S Xavier McKinney, EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, WR Jalin Hyatt
-OT Tyre Phillips, EDGE Azeez Ojulari, RB Saquon Barkley
3 THOUGHTS ON NE
(1) Mac Jones is up there with the worst starting quarterbacks in the league. While the situation around him leaves much to be desired, it is hard to see where the future is. From my summary in 2021: “The upside is where I lose it a bit with him. He will be solid, but I don’t ever see him being great”. Remember this was after an all-time season with Alabama and there were rumors San Francisco was going to take him #3 overall (they opted for Trey Lance). He’s been yanked multiple times, he has gone backwards after a solid rookie season, and there simply isn’t anything to his game that stands out in a league where you need to have a trait or two that stand out.
(2) There is smoke surrounding Head Coach Bill Belichick. He’s been there since 2000 (the year Kerry Collins led NYG to the Super Bowl, Ron Dayne’s rookie season). He is 264-117 as the Head Coach for NE and he’s won 6 Super Bowls and 9 AFC Championships. But this team has gone 27-34 since Tom Brady left town. He has made several odd, head-scratching decisions involving the offense, including operating without a true offensive coordinator in 2022, cutting Bailey Zappe in the preseason, and playing games with Jones’ status as the starter. Add in some odd draft decisions on that side of the ball that would have been harshly lambasted in any other city and it appears to be time. Would that be the end? Or does the 71-year old get another crack with a win-now team? Looking at you, Chargers.
(3) There is a good chance New England winds up with the first or second pick of the draft. Because they currently have no hope at quarterback and a pretty awful roster (especially on offense), one has to think they will press the restart button and draft one of the top 3 quarterbacks: Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, or Jayden Daniels. Does Robert Kraft bring back someone he loves in Josh McDaniels (for a third time)? Or does he go after the hottest name in the league in Bobby Johnson from Detroit? NYG fans should want that because you don’t want him calling the shots in Washington.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
(1) The Giants head to their bye week with a 4-8 record (somewhat still in playoff contention by the way) before the final five games on the schedule. They have two matchups against the Eagles and three games against 5-6 teams (Packers, Saints, Rams). Three of the five are at home. Take away your desire for a high draft pick for a moment. What do you want to see out of this team? What can they use over those five games to help build the future? First of all, it is DeVito or bust the rest of the way. Each game that comes is another opportunity to answer a key question for the 2024 season. Who is the backup quarterback moving forward? Tyrod Taylor can come back to be second string, a nice security blanket. But DeVito has played better. He simply presents more upside and carries some unknowns with him. We know what Taylor is. That is the component that needs to be figured out.
(2) I’m not sure if “turnaround” is the right word for where the Giants are right now since their November 12th 49-17 loss in Dallas. But they have won two in a row and are +13 in turnover margin since week five. By the way, that ranks NUMBER ONE in the NFL. It is the BIGGEST margin of any 8-game span in the league all year. Yes, since October 8, NYG leads the NFL in turnover margin, one of the most sure-fire stats to impact wins and losses. Criticize the coaching staff all you want, but the truth is, they have steadied the ship. On both sides of the ball.
(3) The offensive line cannot be considered a strength, but like the team overall, it has become a reliable-at-times unit. Andrew Thomas being on the field means a ton. It cannot be understated. But watching them on tape, the unit simply looks cleaner. The first half of the season was full of defenders getting free runs to the backfield. We had blockers running into each other. And we had whiff after whiff. It is clear NYG will need to add a body or two in the offseason, that fact will not change. But can any of these guys be brought back to provide depth? Possibly even a starter spot? Chemistry means a lot and we cannot just assume they can fill these spots with a rookie or journeyman free agent. I do not believe spending big will be in their budget plans.