Dec 202014
 
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Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State Rams (October 11, 2014)

Ty Sambrailo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 20, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

NEVADA

#17 – QB – Cody Fajardo – 6’2/215

Fifth year senior that has been starting since his redshirt freshman season. Dual threat type with a really strong arm. Led the team in rushing. Runs the ball a lot. A very cheap version of Kaepernick. Only saw him once and that was against Arizona. He played really well in that game, showing some toughness/grit/comeback ability. Projects to be a late rounder but he should get drafted. He is a runner because the scheme called him to be, but there is legit arm talent there. Not just a gimmick guy.

#53 – DE – Brock Hekking – 6’4/255

Probably mostly know because of his WWF type hair style. Not the prospect that some labeled him to be earlier in the year. Lacks some of the more important tools that you look for in a 4-3 DE. Had a down year in 2014 after leading this team in sacks and TFL in 2012 and 2013. His game is based purely on energy/hustle/aggression. Saw some tape against Colorado State’s 1st round caliber OT. His lack of physical talent was apparent but he brings it every play. Doesn’t stop until that whistle blows and can make plays based on effort alone every game. Late round prospect at best but he will be in demand. Coaches like this kind of guy.

#24 – DB – Charles Garrett – 5’11/205

Versatile DB that has a lot of experience split between S and CB. May be too thick for the CB spot in the NFL, lacks that quick twitch and reaction. I actually have some intrigue here with Garrett, I want to see more of him. He plays a fast and aggressive game, physical player. Wore a fee hats for this team and performed well across the board. Does he have the movement ability? There is some trouble off the field that needs to be looked in to as well.

#2 – WR – Richy Turner – 5’11/180

Slot receiver prospect with good quickness in and out of his breaks. Really smooth catcher and route runner. Unspectacular prospect but does enough of the little things well to get a late round look. He will likely test out well athletically. Would have liked to see more production but he can play. Limited player but a lot of good slot WRs in the NFL looked like this guy in college.

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE

#8 – QB – Terrance Broadway – 6’2/221

Only saw Broadway once in 2014, wasn’t really impressed. Another dual threat QB that has some arm talent to him. Strong player that can run with some power but wouldn’t call him a guy that keeps opposing coaches up at night. Inaccurate on simple throws. Sloppy mechanics. Will leave school near or at the top of many all time passing records. Not really interested in him but will put an eyeball on him tonight.

#67 – RT – Daniel Quave – 6’3/324

Fifth year senior that has started every game of his career. Has played RG and RT. Projects to be a G at the next level. Only have one look at him on my sheet so I need to see more. Typical squatty guard that packs a punch but struggles to move with faster defenders at a lower level of college football. Really strong upper body. Could project to be a late day three guy.

#46 – RB – Alonzo Harris – 6’1/238

In between the tackles runner that needs to be a downhill guy in the NFL. Can’t be an outside runner. Most likely limited to short yardage/goal line duty. Will struggle to make it at the next level, just doesn’t have that quick twitch and vision to make things happen. Pretty basic player and athlete that lost carries to a talented sophomore they have. Doesn’t catch a lot of balls. Unspectacular guy that will likely get a look late in the draft or in free agency from a team that wants a power back.

#6 – DT – Justin Hamilton – 6’2/310

First team all Sun Belt. Probably the highest upside player in this game. Hamilton carries 300+ pounds with ease. Athletic mover in space but also plays a violent game. Angry player that beats guys up, plain and simple. I think he could be a solid 3-4 DE and/or 4-3 DT. The hybrid defensive schemes will love him.

#7 – CB – Corey Trim – 5’11/192

Again, I have not gotten a lot of looks at Trim. He is a good sized corner that was avoided for the most part in the game I saw. Looking forward to seeing if he has a physical side to him because he isn’t much of a speed guy.

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UTAH STATE

#74 – OT – Kevin Whimpey – 6’5/295

Fifth year senior. Wide-shouldered team captain with a lot of strength. Needs to gain mass. Has the feet to play in the NFL but lacks the technique. His feet get stuck too often and his hand placement is too high. Late rounder at best here but I think he gets a look from someone based on his frame and experience.

#52 – LB – Zach Vigil – 6’/240

Probably the top prospect in this game. Productive and experienced leader. Fun guy to watch because he’ll do anything. Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year (19.5 TFL and 9.5 sacks) He shows ability to run with tight ends down the seam that are more athletic than him. But he can also blitz inside/out and push linemen through the pocket. Just a quality football guy that teams like to have on their team. I think he has an outside shot at being a top 100 pick if he can grade out well in workouts.

#99 – DE – BJ Larsen – 6’5/275

Another guy I like based on frame/speed alone. Larsen is a strong presence outside with a violent style. He shows some intriguing athletic ability as well. Reads and flows towards the action. Demands a lot of attention from the opposition but still makes an impact. Guys at this size with his movement ability almost always get drafted. I think he could be a 5th rounder.

UTEP

#14 – WR – Ian Hamilton – 6’5/229

Team’s leading receiver in 2014. Upside guy that will draw the attention of scouts based purely on long term upside. He has the tools. Big, tall, and long with some speed. Averaged over 20 yards per catch in 2014. I want to get another look at him, looking forward to looking at more position-specific traits here.

*******************************************

UTAH

#8 – DE – Nate Orchard – 6’4/255

All American. Led the nation in sacks per game, finished with a total of 17.5. Not just a pass risher though, he has a complete game to him. Initially came to Utah as a WR, has added 60 pounds since high school. He won’t test out in the top tier athletically, but he is a football player. Does so many things really well. Gravitates towards the action better than most pass rushers. Functionally strong. Uses his long arms and strong hands well. He could be a sneaky 4-3 DE prospect. He was considered a raw guy with upside heading in to 2014 and then he blew up. Tough matchup against the Colorado State LT, huge game for his draft grade. Could be a 3rd rounder.

#18 – DB – Eric Rowe – 6’1/201

4 year starter. Over 45 career starts on his resume, most of them at FS. Played CB this year and I think it really increased his draft grade. He has the height/length that the NFL looks for, but also legit sub 4.4 speed. Ball skills are there, as are the reaction times and instincts. Get involved often. Active player with a lot of aggression. Not sure he has the functional speed downfield, he’ll be tested by an All American WR in this game. Probably a round 3 or 4 guy.

#80 – TE – Westlee Tonga – 6’4/244

Will be an old rookie (27). Has a laundry list of injuries over his college career. Missed all of 2013 with a knee. He was a question mark for 2014 but he played really well. I saw him against USC and he was able to get open against their athletic LBs. Quick twitch guy in fort and intermediate routes that catches the ball when it’s near him. Physical guy with a lot of effort to his game. Works hard as a blocker, can control guys and at the very least stay between them and the ball carrier. Late round prospect that would be drafted if it weren’t for his age.

COLORADO STATE

#51 – OT – Ty Sambrailo – 6’5/315

The top prospect in this game. Big matchup for him being against Orchard for most of the game. Sambrallo has 1st round tools, traits, and skills but he isn’t mentioned with the top guys. I can remember seeing him whole scouting Richburg last year and thinking he had 1st round ability. His game is all about consistent body control and technique. He isn’t a power guy, but he is powerfull/strong enough. Easy mover that always looks balanced. You see some left tackles that lack body control when going after a blocker, not this guy. Sambrailo has the size and movement to be a 1st rounder. Just a consistent, no-nonsense kind of blocker that you rarely see make mistakes. NYG should be giving him a hard look.

#18 – QB – Garrett Grayson – 6’2/220

One of the day 2 or 3 QBs that could shoot up the draft boards in the coming months. Mountain West Conference Player of the Year. Very strong arm, good decision maker and can make all the throws. Footwork and throwing mechanics are all there. Would love to see what he can do at the Senior Bowl. I think he is just as talented as Ryan Nassib but with more upside.

#37 – LB – Aaron Davis – 6’1/221

A lot of guys like Davis, but I haven’t seen a good game yet. He is a poor tackler that doesn’t have a major physical impact on the game. There is a lack of size and power here and he doesn’t exactly have superb athletic ability. At best I see him as a late rounder.

#23 – CB – Bernard Blake – 6’0/185

Average corner with some height and length. Gets thrown at a lot, hence why he has some quality pass break up numbers. He isn’t a guy that strikes fear in to the opposing offense. Just another guy that could be drafted somewhere on day 3.

Dec 192014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at St. Louis Rams, December 21, 2014

The Giants 2-game winning streak – which really should have been a 3-game winning streak had it not been for the unbelievable collapse against the Jaguars – has some fans feeling a little better than they did last month. However, despite their 6-8 record, the Rams are a major upgrade in competition for New York and the best team the Giants have played since losing to Dallas on November 23. The Rams are an ascending team that has beaten some of the NFL’s best, including the Broncos and Seahawks. There are some serious match-up problems for the Giants in this game. We’re about to see if this little December “run” has been a mirage.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Can the blockers up front give Eli Manning a chance?
The Rams have arguably the best defensive line in football. On top of that, Gregg Williams is one of the most aggressive defensive coordinators in football. He doesn’t care if his down four can do the job all by themselves, he will still bring the blitz in any situation. The Rams are fast, physical, and very good up front. This may be the best pass rushing team the Giants face all year and that’s saying something when you consider some of the teams the Giants have already played. Two huge match-up problems for the Giants are DT Aaron Donald (8 sacks) versus RG John Jerry and RDE Robert Quinn (10.5 sacks) versus LT Will Beatty. The Rams also have an NFL-high 23 sacks from blitzes and will be facing a group of linemen, tight ends, and backs who have not excelled against blitzing defenses this year.

Second Down
Will Eli Manning avoid the killer mistake?
Love him or hate him, we all know that Eli at times will make some mind-blowing mistakes, especially when under constant duress and/or becoming frustrated. With no running game, Eli will be under siege on Sunday. He is going to get hit a lot. He is facing a team whose defense is peaking. But the Rams do have issues of their own on offense. Eli has to play smart and not put his defense in a bad position. Throw the ball away. Take the sack. If the play isn’t there, punt. Don’t turn the football over. That includes fumbles as well as interceptions. Eli has to become more of a game manager on Sunday.

Third Down
What can Odell Beckham do against a talented and well-coached defense whose #1 game plan will be to take him out of the game?
Odell Beckham is now officially a marked man. Ben McAdoo has done a fantastic job of moving him around – outside, inside, backfield, etc. – just to make it more difficult for opposing defenses to double and possibly triple-team him. Gregg Williams is a dick, but he’s a very good defensive coordinator. He will make it his defense’s duty to not let Beckham beat them. The Rams will get their hands on Beckham, hit him with or without the ball, and try to get into his head. St. Louis defensive backs have talked about it all week…they are intent on not letting Odell do his thing against them. Can Odell overcome all of that and get into their heads?

Fourth Down
Can the Giants defense rise to the challenge?
The Giants offense will not be able to score a lot of points against this opponent. The only chance the Giants have is if the NYG defense – which has played very well at times during the last three weeks – can play a complete game on Sunday against a team with quarterback issues. Much of that is on the players, but also much is on Perry Fewell. The Giants can ill-afford giving up a couple of touchdown drives. The Giants need to play like the Cardinals did against the Rams – blow for defensive blow – in  a game that ended 12-6. The defense can’t start slow or finish slow. No letup. Force three-and-outs and turnovers.

BREAKING DOWN ST. LOUIS:

OFFENSE
Strength?
The Rams have some size on the offensive line and some talented skill players. I would say the best thing they do offensively is use misdirection and trick plays to help cover for issues at the quarterback position. WR Tavon Austin is a very fast, quick, dynamic play-maker who actually touches the ball more as a rusher (31 rushes) than receiver (28 receptions). The troubled but talented ex-Titan Kenny Britt can make plays. TE Jared Cook leads the team in receptions. The Rams will spread the football around. There are seven players on the team with over 20 receptions.

Weakness?
The quarterback. Aging journeyman Shaun Hill has taken over for Austin Davis. Hill is more of a game manager and is being called upon not to lose games. The Rams are 26th in offense in terms of yards and 20th in terms of scoring. They struggle to run the ball at times although rookie running back Tre Mason can break the big play. The Rams have given up 41 sacks.

DEFENSE
Strength?
The Rams are very talented in the front seven and have very good overall defensive team speed. The Rams are 11th on defense but that ranking is a bit misleading as the Rams defense has been getting better as the season has progressed. St. Louis is very good in third-down situations and in the red zone. They have only given up 12 points in the last three games.

RDE Robert Quinn and LDT Aaron Donald are the main headliners up front but LDE Chris Long – who missed most of the season – has returned and he is very good as well. Alec Ogletree and James Laurinaitis are former high-round draft picks and 3-down linebackers who lead the team in tackles.

Weakness?
Perhaps the secondary. It’s a feisty group with good overall athleticism. But even though the Rams are ranked 10th in pass defense, their pass rush probably covers up for some vulnerabilities in the secondary. The problem is you have protect your quarterback long enough to exploit their defensive backs. The Rams run defense has not been consistent, but remains 12th against the run.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Coached by Jim Fassel’s son, the Rams probably run more trick plays on special teams than any other pro team. They are very fast on specials and dangerous on punt and kick returns. Tavon Austin has one punt return for a TD and Benny Cunningham is averaging almost 30 yards per kickoff return.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

RG John Jerry
John Jerry isn’t very good. And Aaron Donald – who may end up being defensive rookie of the year – is the type of player who Jerry is likely to struggle against big time.

WR Odell Beckham
He and Eli are carrying the offense right now. And Beckham – who may end up being offensive rookie of the year – is THE reason to tune in and watch the Giants right now.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin on the Rams - “The team is built on speed and physicality…They are allowing in the last five weeks just 9.2 points per game…allowing in the green zone just 14 touchdowns, the fewest in the NFL. In the last nine games they have 35 sacks.”

Jeff Fisher on the improved Giants pass rush - “I think the Giants are playing better as a team. When you get a lead like they did against Washington, in particular, they are able to roll up and rush. I think their pressure is also a result of the match-ups up front. Their ends are outstanding. They have been winning the match-ups against tackles and they have played some young quarterbacks that are holding the football.”

FINAL WORD:

The Rams defense versus the Giants offense is a scary match-up. The Rams have shown some vulnerability to the run, but the Giants haven’t been able to run the football against any halfway decent run defense. If the Rams were not a blitzing team, the match-ups up front would be scary enough, but throw in Gregg Williams’ aggressive and confusing blitz packages, and one has to seriously fear for Eli Manning’s safety in this game. Eli will be under a tremendous amount of pressure. He has to play smart. Giants fans won’t like it, but I think the Giants have to play it conservatively on offense if for no other reason than to protect the quarterback. I might take some shots on first down. But don’t be surprised to see some head-scratching runs on third down.

The only way I see the Giants winning this game is if the Giants’ defense matches the Rams’ defensive intensity and the Giants somehow manage to not get out-played on special teams. But as well as the Giants’ defense has played at times during the last three weeks, they really have not played a complete game. And while the Rams are not a good offensive team, they run a ton of misdirection and misdirection gives Perry Fewell’s players fits.

Two more bad signs? Jeff Fisher and Tom Coughlin go way back and Fisher has good success against Coughlin. And as good as the Giants used to be in playing in domes, they have now lost four of their last five in domes.

Most importantly, the Giants may have the better quarterback and Odell Beckham. But the Rams are the better football team.

Rams 20 – Giants 3.

Dec 162014
 
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Odell Beckham and Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Odell Beckham and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 24 – Washington Redskins 13

Game Overview

A bad 5-9 football team beat a worse 3-11 football team.

Offensive Overview

It was the Eli Manning and Odell Beckham show and not much else. The Giants only gained 287 total net yards and 143 of those yards came on passes from Manning to Beckham. In other words, half the offense. The Giants only had three plays over 20 yards, and all three were passing plays from Manning to Beckham for 35, 31, and 21 yards. And all three touchdowns were Manning to Beckham connections.

The Giants only rushed for 49 yards. In five first-half possessions, the Giants only gained seven first downs, punted four times, and only netted 95 yards. It took the team 12 plays to travel 56 yards on their one first-half scoring drive.

In the second half, the lone field goal was set up by an onside kick (the Giants could not gain a first down after the successful recovery). There were two more punts and one turnover on downs. The good news is that Manning and Beckham hooked up for their second and third touchdowns on the day.

How bad would this team be without Manning and Beckham?

Quarterback 

Overall, Manning played fairly well given the complete absence of a running game. He finished the game 23-of-34 for 250 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions (118.5 QB rating). Most of the yardage came in the second half as Eli was held to 9-of-16 for 79 yards in the first half of the game. That said, on the 3rd-and-7 play after the onside kick recovery, Manning was fortunate that the linebacker did not intercept his pass intended for Preston Parker. There were two plays that stood out to me in the second half. The first was the 35-yard touchdown pass to Beckham where Manning looked off the coverage to the right, helping Beckham to pull loose from the coverage. The second was his remarkably accurate 18-yard throw to Rueben Randle on 3rd-and-8 despite rolling to his right and throwing back across his body. That’s a throw that normally gets quarterbacks in trouble.

Running Backs 

A virtual non-factor. Rashad Jennings carried the ball once for three yards before leaving the game with a re-aggravated ankle injury. Andre Williams (56 snaps) carried the ball 18 times for a pathetic 44 yards (2.4 yards per carry). His longest run was six yards. The “best” run of the day was Henry Hynoski’s 2-yard gain on 4th-and-1. But Hynoski was unable to convert on a 3rd-and-1 play late in the second quarter, killing a drive.

Wide Receivers

It was the superlative Odell Beckham and not much else from the other wideouts. Beckham caught 12-of-15 passes thrown in his direction for 143 yards and three touchdowns. He and Manning were the offense as the other four wide receivers on the team only caught seven passes for 71 yards.

Ironically, it was a bit of a rough start for Beckham as he couldn’t drag his foot inbounds on one third-down conversion attempt that would have kept the opening drive alive. He later couldn’t handle a somewhat high throw on the first play of the ensuing drive. But the drive ended with an excellent touchdown reception by Beckham despite tight, aggressive coverage by the Redskins’ defensive back.

Odell Beckham comes up with TD despite tight coverage

Odell Beckham comes up with TD despite tight coverage

Besides the 143 receiving yards, Beckham also helped to cause an additional 70 penalty yards as the corner who was covering him was flagged five times on two pass interference, one defensive holding (declined), and two personal foul penalties. Of course, Beckham’s two second-half touchdowns were decisive. In the third quarter, he demonstrated excellent acceleration by sprinting through the middle of the defense for a 35-yard touchdown. On the drive where the Giants really put the Redskins away, Beckham had a key 21-yard reception on 3rd-and-2. And while he dropped his first TD attempt on this drive on 1st-and-goal, he made up for it on 2nd-and-goal with his 6-yard TD reception.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Randle (31 snaps) was benched in the first quarter for the second time in three games. When the Giants drafted Randle’s former collegiate teammate and friend Odell Beckham, I thought that might spur Randle to greater heights. It appears to have had the opposite effect. As BBI poster RetroJint said, Randle seems to be “stuck at the crossroads of indifference and envy.” Randle’s one big contribution – and it was a significant play – was his 18-yard reception on 3rd-and-8 that set up the last touchdown. But he also could not come down with a couple of passes that hit him in the hands, including a contested 3rd-and-7 reception that would have kept a drive alive earlier in the game.

BBI poster Emil wrote the following after the game:

Fans don’t often get to see this side of football because all eyes are on the QB at the snap when you watch on TV, but check out the replay of Beckham’s last TD. He wins the route right off the line of scrimmage by attacking the defender’s outside shoulder (his shoulder to the sideline). He uses his feet to get the DB to open up the inside and Beckham exploits it for the TD. It all happens in about a second and the DB is toast. Game over.

Many WRs are fast, many are big, some are big and fast. Few are big, fast, and textbook route runners. In fact, with this new generation of large WRs, most get by on their physical talents because they can. Doesn’t take much for a 6-3+ WR to gain the advantage on a DB. Beckham doesn’t have that luxury. He is fast, and has an incredible catch radius, but he is not big. By running perfect routes, pretty much all the time, he gains separation without getting in the space of the defensive back. It is simply amazing to watch.

Would also point out, this is one of the reasons Beckham gets separation and Randle does not. Randle, who never seems to get separation, runs inconsistent routes and has lazy footwork. Not to mention, he seldom uses his size to his advantage. If Rueben Randle could add some polish to his game, like Amani Toomer did, he would be a real asset in this offense.

Preston Parker played 36 snaps and has one catch for 12 yards. Kevin Ogletree played 19 snaps and had three catches for 25 yards. He had a key 15-yard catch on 3rd-and-4 on the Giants’ first touchdown drive. Corey Washington caught one pass for four yards on his only snap of the game.

Tight Ends

The tight ends were strangely quiet in the passing game as Larry Donnell (38 snaps), who torched the Redskins earlier in the season, had only two catches for 11 yards. Daniel Fells (29 snaps) had one catch for 16 yards that helped to ignite New York’s go-ahead touchdown drive. Adrien Robinson played 12 snaps.

Sometimes the issues with the blocking are with the tight ends and not the offensive line. For example, in the second quarter, Donnell’s man penetrated into the backfield and completely disrupted a run by Williams.

Larry Donnell's opponent penetrates into backfield, disrupting play

Larry Donnell’s opponent penetrates into backfield, disrupting play

Offensive Line

The offensive line remains a sore spot. The line as it is currently constituted simply cannot run block effectively against decent run defenses. The Giants were held to a pathetic 49 yards rushing. Sometimes it is borderline comical. There was one run on the TD drive where RT Justin Pugh got stood up, and a pulling LG Weston Richburg slammed into him, knocking Pugh to the ground and allowing Pugh’s man to make the tackle. But the main issue is the Giants simply are not knocking people off of the line of scrimmage. For example, on the graphic below, Larry Donnell is called upon to block the defensive lineman on a down block and Will Beatty is called upon to pull and take out the linebacker. Neither can do their job and Williams has no place to run.

Will Beatty and Larry Donnell can't make their blocks

Will Beatty and Larry Donnell can’t make their blocks

Pass protection was much better, especially in the first half. The only sack that was given up appears to have been a mental rather than physical breakdown as the Giants left the Redskins’ best pass rusher, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, unblocked. Either TE Daniel Fells screwed up on the play or their was a flaw in the pass protection call. There was one series in the game where pass protection was an issue from a physical standpoint. Ironically, that was on the Giants’ last TD drive as Manning was hit hard a couple of times. Richburg was also flagged with a holding penalty on this drive.

The most harmful penalty was the one on the preceding series when Pugh’s holding penalty wiped out a 30-yard touchdown to Beckham. This drive ended with a failed 4th-and-1 conversion attempt.

J.D. Walton appeared to have forgotten the snap count on a 3rd-and-2 play at the Washington 9-yard line, causing a 5-yard penalty and a subsequent field goal when the Giants could not convert on 3rd-and-7.

Defensive Overview

It was largely a tale of two halves as New York’s defense was torched by Washington for 16 first downs and 265 yards in the first half, including 98 yards rushing and 167 yards passing. In other words, the Redskins gained more yards in the first half than the Giants did in the entire game. Fortunately for New York, the Redskins only managed 10 first-half points as QB Robert Griffin III inexplicably lost the ball while crossing the goal line at the end of the first half.

In the second half, New York gave up one big offensive play that set up a field goal, but otherwise completely shut down the Redskins (61 of Washington’s 107 second-half  yards came on that one play). The Redskins only gained five second-half first downs, and three of those came on the one scoring drive. Meanwhile, the Giants piled up the sacks, finishing with seven and 12 hits on the quarterback.

The Redskins did have seven plays that gained 20 yards or more. In addition, the defense was often fooled by misdirection. And there were a couple of big mental breakdowns on plays where running backs were left wide open in pass defense.

Defensive Line

For the third week in a row, the Giants played a bad offensive line and for the third week in a row, the pass rush was a huge factor, with New York accruing seven sacks. That said, run defense discipline in the first half was suspect as the Redskins gained 98 yards on 16 carries (6.1 yards per carry). And the pass rushing was more of a factor in the second half, with six of the seven sacks coming after the break.

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jason Pierre-Paul (68 snaps, 7 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 5 QB hits, 1 forced fumble) played a terrific game. Yes, much of his damage came in fourth quarter against a right tackle who was shifted to the left side once Pro Bowler Trent Williams left the game. Yet before Williams departed, JPP had a series of key plays against him in the third quarter, including combining with Devon Kennard for 4-yard sack on 4th-and-2, slamming Robert Griffin the III to the ground on 2nd-and-goal from the NYG 11-yard line, and then on the following play sacking Griffin for a 9-yard loss to force the Skins to settle for a FG.

After the Giants went up 24-13, Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins took over the next series as JPP clobbered Griffin as he threw the ball, Hankins stunted and sacked Griffin on 2nd-and-10, and then Pierre-Paul sacked Griffin from a stand up position on 3rd-and-22.

While JPP was pretty stout against the run, he continues to over-pursue the running back on QB keepers around his end. JPP also had a defensive offside penalty.

Interestingly, Kerry Wynn (41 snaps, 7 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit) played slightly more than Damontre Moore. Wynn impressed with his hustle and instincts against the run. And for an undrafted rookie, he was probably the most disciplined defensive lineman on the field in terms of not over-pursuing the back on play-action fakes. Wynn didn’t flash as much on the pass rush, but he did pressure the quarterback once into an incompletion.

Moore (39 snaps, 5 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 QB hits) was flagged with a defensive holding penalty on the tight end in the second quarter. He combined with Johnathan Hankins on a key 4-yard sack inside the New York 10-yard line late in the first half. In the second half, I was impressed with his hustle chasing Griffin 23 yards down field to make the tackle. Moore also did a nice job of keeping Griffin from scrambling for a first down on 3rd-and-4 in the fourth quarter.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Johnathan Hankins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Johnathan Hankins (50 snaps, 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 QB hits, 1 forced fumble) played his best game as a Giant. He not only had 2.5 sacks, but he was a factor rushing the passer on a number of other plays as Redskin quarterbacks had no room to step up in the pocket in order to avoid the outside rush. For example, on JPP’s 3rd-and-goal sack, Hankins was right there too, and Griffin had nowhere to run. Two of Hankins sacks came late in the 4th quarter and helped to make the victory a comfortable one.

Cullen Jenkins (32 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit) played more than he has in weeks and saw some time both at end and tackle. His sack came on 3rd-and-4 on Griffin’s first drive. Mike Patterson (22 snaps, 1 tackle), Jay Bromley (16 snaps, 1 tackle), and Markus Kuhn (11 snaps, 3 tackles) all played in the rotation.

Linebackers

The only linebackers to play on defense were Jameel McClain (70 snaps, 6 tackles, 1 QB hit), Devon Kennard (49 snaps, 7 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 1 pass defense, 1 forced fumble), and Mark Herzlich (32 snaps, 4 tackles).

The run defense was shaky in the first half, as was pass coverage on running backs as Silas Redd (3 catches for 62 yards) and Chris Thompson (3 catches for 22 yards and a touchdown) were a factor in early Redskins’ success.

For example, during Washington’s first drive, on a read option, it appears that Kennard didn’t maintain his gap responsibility on a play where QB Colt McCoy picked up 20 yards on the ground. Two plays later, Kennard couldn’t get off of the block from the TE at the point-of-attack and RB Alfred Morris gained 14 yards. Later on this opening FG drive, there was no linebacker in sight on a short pass to Redd that picked up 17 yards on 1st-and-15.

On the Redskins’ TD drive, McClain was easily beaten by TE Niles Paul out of the backfield for a 17-yard reception. And it was either McClain or Stevie Brown who should have picked up Thompson out of the backfield on his wide open 9-yard touchdown reception.

On the Redskins final drive of the first half, Redd was left side open for a 37-yard gain with no one in the picture. Some linebacker or safety was at fault there.

The linebackers played better in the second half. Kennard combined with Jason Pierre-Paul to sack Griffin on 4th-and-2. And he and Herzlich were pretty tough at the point-of-attack on running plays after intermission, including on a 3-yard loss.

Herzlich was flagged with an illegal use of hands that wiped out a 1-yard loss caused by Kennard.

Defensive Backs

The Giants did a fine job on the two main wide receivers: Pierre Garcon (4 catches for 36 yards) and DeSean Jackson (3 catches for 15 yards). The only big pass play to a wideout was the 61 yarder to Andre Roberts.

But to be fair, there were breakdowns that were covered up by the incompetence of Robert Griffin III. For example, note how two receivers are wide open on this first-half 3rd-and-10 pass play where Griffin throws the ball out of bounds.

The Redskins missed some golden opportunities in the secondary

The Redskins missed some golden opportunities in the secondary

Griffin did exploit one of these pass defense breakdowns for a 20-yard gain to Roberts late in the first half.

For the second week in a row, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (57 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 pass defense) and Chykie Brown (68 snaps, 5 tackles) started at corner with Mike Harris (38 snaps, 2 tackles) being the third corner. Unlike last week, Zack Bowman (14 snaps, 0 tackles) did log some time on defense.

Rodgers-Cromartie played well. The Redskins mostly shied away from testing him. He knocked down one pass thrown in his direction to Garcon. Griffin also took one deep shot to Jackson but Rodgers-Cromartie was stride for stride with the Giants’ nemesis. While DRC saved a touchdown by chasing down Roberts on his 61-yard gain, Rodgers-Cromartie may have been the cornerback Rolle said was out of position on the play to begin with (it was either DRC or Mike Harris, and my guess was it was DRC). Nevertheless, Rodgers-Cromartie is playing more than he did during the losing streak and that is having an impact on the overall defense.

Chykie Brown did give up a 22-yard reception to Garcon on the Redskins’ sole TD drive, but once again he surprisingly kept his opponent mostly quiet. He’s playing better than expected since being cut by the Ravens.

Stevie Brown appears to have regained the starting free safety job as for the second week in a row he logged far more snaps (70 snaps, 3 tackles) than Quintin Demps (22 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 pass defense).

Cullen Jenkins, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Antrel Rolle (70 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 pass defense) did not play one of his better games. He had very good coverage on TE Jordan Reed in the end zone on the second-to-last play of the first half, but he could not come down with the interception. Rolle had a dreadful third quarter. First, he should have sacked Griffin for a loss on 2nd-and-6, but Griffin stiff-armed Rolle to the ground and picked up 23 yards. On the next series, Rolle took a bad angle on a 3rd-and-6 play that should have been limited to about a 15-yard completion. He overshot Andre Roberts who then rumbled for a 61-yard gain. On the very next snap, Rolle hit Griffin out-of-bounds for a 15-yard personal foul penalty.

Special Teams

It was mostly a positive performance for the special teams.

Josh Brown hit a 32 yard field goal. Two of his four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, but one was kicked out of bounds, resulting in Washington starting their possession at the 40-yard line. The Redskins returned one kickoff for 33 yards so that was not ideal either.

Steve Weatherford punted six times, averaging and netting over 43 yards per punt. Five of his six punts were downed inside the 20-yard line, and four inside the 10-yard line. And the Redskins only returned one punt for one yard. Zack Bowman did a nice job of downing two punts inside the 10-yard line.

Preston Parker returned three kickoffs for 90 yards, including a 45 yarder that set up the team’s first touchdown.

Odell Beckham returned four punts for 19 yards, with a long of 13. He was flagged for an invalid fair catch signal in the second quarter. And he muffed the last punt, leading to the team’s only turnover with nine seconds left in the game. The Giants are using him so heavily on offense that the team may want to consider pulling him off specials for the remainder of this season in order to give him a bit of a break. Adrien Robinson was flagged with an illegal block on one return.

One of the big plays in the game was the recovery of the onside kick by the Giants at the start of the third quarter. Given that the Giants were kicking off from the 35 yard line after 30 penalty yards were assessed, the decision was a no brainer but the Washington was expecting the onside kick and the Giants still recovered. It was a nice hustle play by CB Chandler Fenner.

(Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 14, 2014)
Dec 122014
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 14, 2014

The early audition for the 2015 New York Giants roster continues. That includes coaches as well as players.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
No major injures.
The Giants already have 20 players on injured reserve, including a potentially career-altering injury to WR Victor Cruz and career-ending injury to RB David Wilson. The last thing this team needs in December is a serious injury to an important cog that could impact the 2015 campaign. In particular, get Eli Manning and Odell Beckham out of this season healthy.

Second Down
Is Perry Fewell gone, or in the process of saving his job?
Statistically-speaking, Perry Fewell’s defense was among the NFL’s worst in 2011, 2012, and most of 2014. But the NYG defense has improved in the last two weeks by playing two of league’s worst offenses (Jaguars and Titans). It is now the 23rd-ranked defense and could continue to improve by facing offensively-challenged teams like the Redskins and Rams before facing the more explosive Eagles. The defense has been very aggressive in the last two games with many more blitzes (and successful blitzes being called).

Does Fewell only get more aggressive against lesser competition, fearing to do so against better offenses? Or is this yet another example of him changing his style mid- to late-season after repeated failure, only with him reverting to his old unsuccessful schemes if he returns in 2015?

Management has to be VERY careful here when evaluating Perry Fewell and the ENTIRE defensive staff. It must not base its judgement on the last five games of 2014, but the the entire body of evidence from 2010-2014. Despite changing components, the overall track record has not been good with many late-game breakdowns.

Third Down
Who will be part of the solution on the offensive line?
Obviously, the hope and need is that Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Geoff Schwartz will be part of the answer moving forward. Assuming Richburg will be the center, what positions will Pugh and Schwartz play? Is offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, who been with the team since 2004 but who has been unable to mold a cohesive unit the last couple of seasons, the right man to steward them forward?

“What’s (Pugh’s) better position? I don’t know,” said Flaherty recently. “He’s an NFL right tackle for the New York Giants and is that his best position right now? It is. I don’t see anything in the future that changes unless something happens in free agency or in the draft. Can he be a good right tackle in this league? Absolutely, I think he can be one of the best.”

Obviously much depends on what transpires in free agency and the draft in 2015. What about Will Beatty? He has rebounded from a terribly inconsistent 2013, but the Giants could do better. But with needs everywhere, is he a guy they can win with while addressing many other positions of need?

In the last three games, it will be important to see how Beatty does at left tackle and Pugh at right tackle.

Fourth Down
Who will be part of the solution on the defensive line?
For the last few years, much of New York’s issues have involved their line play on offense and defense. With important cogs like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Linval Joseph, and Chris Canty fading out of the picture, the Giants have struggled to maintain the same elite level of play. Who on the current roster should be part of the fix? Jason Pierre-Paul has played better than his injury-plagued 2013 campaign, but he still has not regained his 2011 form. He looked very sharp last week against backup tackles but he needs to be an impact player against top-flight starters. Pierre-Paul faces some good tests down the stretch and these games will be important for him. The bad news for the Giants is if he departs in free agency, they will have yet another huge hole to fill. He still is that one guy on defense who other teams game plan around.

What about Damontre Moore? Is he a future starter or simply just a pass-rushing role player? Is Kerry Wynn just a guy? Johnathan Hankins looks like a foundation player, but what about Jay Bromley? Cullen Jenkins will probably be back one more season, but the team probably should move on from Mike Patterson. Markus Kuhn seems like just a guy.

BREAKING DOWN WASHINGTON:

OFFENSE
Strength?
Statistically, Washington’s offense (12) is better than New York’s (14). They pass the ball better (10th versus 13th) while the Giants run the ball slightly better (21st versus 22nd). The Redskins have some dangerous weapons at key positions. Alfred Morris is still one of the NFL’s tougher, more physical runners. DeSean Jackson (who has a shin injury) and Pierre Garcon are very dangerous wideouts who can break a game open. The Redskins like to throw to their tight ends as both Niles Paul and Jordan Reed each have 36 receptions. Trent Williams is a very good left tackle.

Weakness?
Though the Redskins can move the ball, they have struggled scoring (26th in the NFL) and keeping drives alive (30th in the NFL on third-down conversions). They turn the football over quite a bit too. The offensive line has struggled to protect the quarterback, and most importantly, their quarterback play – be it Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy, or Kurt Cousins – has been suspect.

DEFENSE
Strength?
Statistically, the 3-4 Redskins defense is far better than the Giants, ranking 10th in yards allowed (to New York’s 23rd). They are 11th in run defense and 13th in pass defense. The Redskins actually have a pretty tough and physical front seven and can be difficult to run on. RDE Jason Hatcher (5.5 sacks but battling knee issue) and OLB Ryan Kerrigan (11.5 sacks) have been disruptive. NT Chris Baker and LDE Jarvis Jenkins are tough against the run, and have actually forced former NYG Barry Cofield to the bench as a top reserve. The other linebackers are no slouches either. ILB Keenan Robinson leads the team in tackles, ILB Perry Riley is athletic, and OLB Trent Murphy is an up-and-coming rookie.

Weakness?
Despite not giving up a lot of yards, the Redskins give up a lot of points, though some of that is related to offensive issues (turnovers). The secondary is not as strong, starting one rookie at corner, and the Redskins continue to have issues at safety. They can be vulnerable to the big play.

SPECIAL TEAMS
The Redskins special teams are ordinary. They have given up one kickoff return TD and one punt return TD this year.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

WR Odell Beckham
He’s the reason to tune in. This might be the week where he breaks one on special teams too.

Damontre Moore/Kerry Wynn
While Cullen Jenkins may see a lot of time at defensive end, this is a good opponent to evaluate how Moore and Wynn do against the run. Not just in terms of the physical nature of the Redskins’ running game, but also the amount of misdirection the Redskins will employ at times. Like JPP, Moore hasn’t been the most disciplined guy out there on the field in terms of maintaining his gap responsibility.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “You really can’t overemphasize the fact that (the Redskins’) record is 3-10. How the heck could they be the 10th-rated defense in the NFL and the 12th-rated offense? They do a lot of things very, very well. Obviously, putting it all together has been an issue. They’re not alone in that area, but they are very physical. They’re an outstanding defensive front. People don’t run the ball on them, they’re 11th in the league against the run. What they’ve really done, they’ve gone to an aggressive pressure package and they’ve made mistakes in the secondary and they’ve given up big plays. ”

Jay Gruden - “It is very difficult to be a one-dimensional team against a good pass rushing team like the Giants, the Rams, and the Colts. We have to do a good job staying in the football game, keeping the football game close where all three of our dimensions of runs, play actions, boot legs, and the drop backs are all opened in the play book, and not be one-dimensional.”

FINAL WORD:

Don’t be misled by the first meeting between these two teams. The 45 points scored by the Giants are misleading because so much of that was set up by terrible passing decisions made by Kirk Cousins (four interceptions), who no longer is in the picture. The Redskins can be very aggressive up front with a variety of blitz packages, and the Giants’ blockers have proven that they don’t handle the blitz very well. NT Chris Baker is going to be a problem for OC J.D. Walton and this is also a tough opponent to run the ball on. New York should attack early and often with the pass. If the Giants run, run, pass in this game, they may be falling right into the hands of Skins who then can be more aggressive on 3rd-and-long. Defensively, this will be an interesting game as the Redskins can run the ball and will use misdirection. Also, unlike the Jaguars and Titans, Washington has downfield passing threats who can break a game open. Eli and Odell could take over this game, but this is also a contest the Giants could very well lose. Much depends on how motivated each team is…who wants it more? I have no idea who will win, but if you were to put me on the spot…Redskins 21 – Giants 17.

Dec 082014
 
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Markus Kuhn, New York Giants (December 7, 2014)

Markus Kuhn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 36 – Tennessee Titans 7

Game Overview

The New York Giants dominated one of the NFL’s worst teams (30th in both offense and defense) that was also missing key players, especially on the offensive line and wide receiver. So it’s important to take this win with a very big grain of salt. The win also practically ensures that the Giants will not receive a top-5 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

All that said, after seven straight losses and two months of losing football, it does feel good to see our team finally win a game.

Offensive Overview

The Giants had five first-half possessions and scored on four of them. In the first half, the Giants picked up 14 first downs, were 6-of-10 (60 percent on 3rd down), and accrued 258 total net yards. Interestingly, the Giants’ first half strategy was heavily oriented to the pass as New York passed 30 times in 42 plays (71 percent) and almost 88 percent of the yards gained came through the air (226).

The issue was New York had to settle for field goals on three of those drives with possessions ending at the 2, 1, and 18 yard lines. In other words, the Giants were 1-of-4 (25 percent) within the red zone in the first half. On the Giants’ 12 first-half rushing attempts, they only gained 32 first-half yards (2.7 yards per carry).

With a 23-0 lead, the defense dominating, and memories of last week’s pass-play disasters, it was understandable for the Giants to go more conservative in the second half, especially after QB Eli Manning’s boneheaded interception that was returned for a touchdown. In the second half, the Giants passed the ball 13 times (for 34 yards) and ran it 16 (for 113 yards). (This does not count Ryan Nassib’s two kneel downs for -3 yards).

Only two plays went for over 18 yards, but those two plays (the 50 yard reception by Odell Beckham and the 50-yard run by Andre Williams) accounted for 1/4 of New York’s offense.

Quarterback

One again, it was a tale of two halves for Eli Manning. Eli was very sharp in the first half, completing 20-of-29 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown. That said, he did miss on two passes late in the first half inside the red zone.

In the second half, Eli did not play well, completing 6-of-13 passes for 34 yards, and one terrible interception that was returned 23 yards for a touchdown. The interception was an incredibly stupid play by Manning as the Giants were leading 30-0 at that point, and the only way the Titans could possibly get back into the game was turnovers. Instead of trying to make something out of nothing by carelessly flinging the ball to a well-covered Larry Donnell to his left, Eli should have tried to run for the first down or just taken a slide. At worst, bring on Steve Weatherford and punt. Don’t give the Titans any hope. In addition to that single play, Manning just wasn’t as accurate in the second half despite a number of passes called in obvious running down situations.

Running Backs

The running game was much more productive in the second half than the first, as the Giants running backs rushed for 32 yards on 12 carries (2.7 yards per carry) in the first half and 104 yards on 15 carries (6.9 yards per carry) in the second half. Of course, those numbers are inflated by Williams’ 50-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-1 in the 3rd quarter.

Williams (52 snaps) was the bell cow, accounting for 131 of New York’s 142 rushing yards (92 percent). He also caught three passes for 16 yards. The second offensive touchdown drive was all Williams and his blockers as he carried the ball three times for 59 yards and the score.

Rashad Jennings (14 snaps), who was battling an ankle injury, only ran the ball twice for five yards and had one catch on 3rd-and-long for 17 yards on a very well-executed screen pass. Orleans Darkwa (6 snaps) carried the ball once for no gain and had one incomplete pass thrown in his direction.

Henry Hynoski played 24 snaps and his lead blocking in the second half was a big factor in Williams’ productivity.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham (67 snaps) was targeted 15 times, catching 11 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. The bulk of his productivity came in the first half again when he caught nine of those passes for 117 yards. Beckham also showed off his arm strength with a deep pass that covered about 65 yards in the air.

Beckham had an 18-yard catch on New York’s first drive that ended with a short field goal. His biggest impact came on New York’s next possession as all four plays involved passes to Beckham with the talented receiver catching a contested 50-yard deep ball, a short 7-yard reception, and two plays later, a 3rd-and-3 15-yard TD reception while he was being smacked by the safety. Beckham also caught two short third-down conversions on the second FG drive. On the negative side, Beckham was flagged with an unsportsmanlike penalty and he dropped what should have been a 45-yard touchdown pass in the 4th quarter.

The second most productive wideout was not Rueben Randle but Preston Parker (42 snaps) who caught all five passes thrown in his direction for 50 yards. Two of those catches came on the opening FG drive as Parker caught a 12 yarder on 2nd-and-6 and a 15 yarder on 3rd-and-4. On New York’s second FG drive, Parker had another key 13-yard catch on 3rd-and-4. He also had a 17-yard catch on the final first-half FG drive.

Rueben Randle (50 snaps) had one catch for nine yards. Kevin Ogletree (15 snaps) had three passes thrown in his direction, but did have a reception. Corey Washington played four snaps and was not targeted.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell (49 snaps) caught 4-of-7 passes thrown in his direction for 28 yards. He dropped a pass 3rd-and-6 pass right in his hands that would have given the Giants a 1st-and-goal situation in the 4th quarter. Daniel Fells (32 snaps, one target) did not have a catch while Adrien Robinson (13 snaps) made a tough catch on a low throw on 3rd-and-1 that unfortunately did not pick up the first down.

I watched the blocking of the tight ends more closely on the opening drive. Robinson had a nice block on the game’s initial play. Fells failed to make his block later on a run by Williams that went nowhere. Donnell made a really nice block as an upback leading the back through the hole on another carry. Donnell’s man was the guy who hit Manning hard on the deep shot to Beckham in the 4th quarter.

Offensive Line

The same offensive line that played for the first 10 games of the season started in Tennessee with Justin Pugh back at right tackle. Against a defense that was 8th in the NFL in sack production, the Giants did not allow a sack although Eli Manning was officially hit five times, three times by DE Jurrell Casey.

The running attack continues to sputter though the Giants certainly had some second half success running the ball, most notably on the 50-yard touchdown run.

The two weak spots remain OC J.D. Walton and RG John Jerry. For example, on the only New York drive in the first half that did not result in points, Walton’s bad block on 1st-and-10 led to a 1-yard loss. On 2nd-and-11, Manning had to quickly unload the ball as Jerry’s man blew past him to hit Manning as he threw the ball. Jerry gave up another quick pressure in the second quarter.

J.D. Walton gets pushed back, disrupting running play

J.D. Walton gets pushed back, disrupting the running play…

...then John Jerry gets beat inside, causing rushed throw.

…then John Jerry gets beat inside, causing a rushed throw.

But there were other slip ups up front that hurt the running game. In the 2nd quarter, LT Will Beatty could not handle DE Jurrell Casey at the point-of-attack and Williams was tackled for a 3-yard loss.

RDE disrupts running play by defeating block of Will Beatty.

RDE disrupts running play by defeating block of Will Beatty.

On the positive side, there was superb blocking Williams’ 50-yard touchdown run by Beatty, tight ends Robinson and Fells, and fullback Hynoski.

50-yard TD with good blocks from Robinson, Beatty, Fells, and Hynoski.

50-yard TD with good blocks from Robinson, Beatty, Fells, and Hynoski.

And my whipping boys, Walton and Jerry did a really nice job on a 3rd-and-long screen pass that picked up 17 yards and set up the last field goal.

A well-executed screen with good downfield blocks by Walton and Jerry.

A well-executed screen with good downfield blocks by Walton and Jerry.

Beatty was flagged with a holding penalty and Richburg with ineligibly downfield on a screen pass.

Defensive Overview

The Giants dominated defensively, shutting out the Titans, holding them to 12 first downs (three in the first half). The Titans were held to a paltry 207 total yards (62 in the first half). The Giants accrued eight sacks, three turnovers, and scored defensively.

While such a performance should not be discounted against any pro team, keep in mind the Titans were 30th in offense and dead last in scoring coming into the game, and they were without both offensive tackles and their best wideouts due to injury.

Defensive Line

The Giants held the Titans to 61 yards rushing and 27 of those yards were from the quarterback. Indeed, backup quarterback Jake Locker was the team’s leading rusher. In addition, the Giants defensive line was credited with four sacks.

There are currently only three defensive ends on the roster. Jason Pierre-Paul (50 snaps, 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 1 QB hit, 1 forced fumble) and Damontre Moore (45 snaps, 2 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 2 QB hits) saw the bulk of the action though Kerry Wynn (35 snaps, no tackles) played quite a bit.

Tennessee was missing both their offensive tackles. JPP took advantage of that and was the most disruptive defensive player on the field. Interestingly, Perry Fewell finally had him playing quite a bit at left defensive end, though Pierre-Paul continued to flip-flop between both end spots. Not only did Pierre-Paul have two sacks but he was a factor on the pass rush throughout the contest. For example, JPP’s pressure caused the quarterback to step up into the pocket and into the waiting arms of Jameel McClain on the team’s first sack. Similarly, on the Devon Kennard sack the caused the fumble returned for a touchdown, it was JPP who initially contacted the quarterback.

Pierre-Paul had initial contact on fumble play returned for TD.

Pierre-Paul had initial contact on fumble play returned for TD.

Pierre-Paul’s first sack came late in the first half as he also stripped the ball. However, Pierre-Paul should have simply fallen on the fumble instead of trying to pick it up as Tennessee recovered instead. JPP’s second sack came on the Titans’ last offensive series.

JPP beats left tackle to sack QB and cause fumble.

JPP beats the left tackle to sack QB and cause a fumble.

Pierre-Paul was also a factor against the run, as best illustrated by his penetration on the second offensive snap of the 3rd quarter that disrupted one running play.

JPP blows up running play.

JPP blows up running play.

Like Pierre-Paul, Moore was flipped-flopped from side to side. He was not terribly stout at the point-of-attack against the run, particularly at left defensive end. I saw one late 1st quarter running play where he was easily shoved back four yards by the tight end. To me, since he doesn’t look bigger than Devon Kennard, Moore is probably better suited to the right side of the defense in non-obvious pass-rush situations.

Moore - playing LDE - gets pushed back 4 yards by TE

Moore – playing LDE – gets pushed back 4 yards by TE

Moore came up with his first sack late in the 3rd quarter. However, two plays later, Moore was flagged with an unnecessary roughness penalty, wiping our a defensive touchdown. Moore’s final sack came on the Giants’ last defensive play as Moore nailed the QB for a 10-yard loss on 4th-and-9.

At defensive tackle, as usual, Johnathan Hankins (27 snaps, 1 tackle, 1 QB hit) saw the most action but Jay Bromley (23 snaps, no tackles) was #2 in the number of snaps received. Hankins had one very good pass rush where he smacked the quarterback as he released the ball, causing an incomplete pass on a play where the receiver was wide open. He also was right on top of the quarterback on Moore’s sack that ended the game on 4th-and-9.

Hankins beats LG to hit QB, causing an incomplete pass.

Hankins beats LG to hit QB, causing an incomplete pass.

Mike Patterson (19 snaps, 1 tackle), Markus Kuhn (16 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery), and Cullen Jenkins (14 snaps, 1 tackle) all saw playing time too. Kuhn had the defensive score. Patterson made a nice hustle play down the line of scrimmage on the tight end on his sole tackle.

Linebackers

With Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich both out with concussions, the Giants were short at linebacker with only Jameel McClain, Devon Kennard, Spencer Paysinger, and newcomers James Davidson and Paul Hazel active.

McClain (58 snaps, 8 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for losses, 1 QB hit) and Kennard (32 snaps, 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 2 QB hits, 1 forced fumble) were very active for the second game in a row. No other linebacker showed up on the stat sheet as Paysinger only played nine snaps.

McClain had the team’s first sack and Kennard followed that up later in the first quarter with a sack and forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown. McClain made a nice tackle on a 3-yard screen play that looked poised to pick up more. Kennard’s second sack – where he was unblocked – knocked the Titans’ starting quarterback out of the game.

Defensive Backs

Titans’ wideouts were limited to 12 catches for a total of 148 yards, but keep in mind that Tennessee’s two top wideouts were missing from this game and former Giant Derek Hagan was Tennessee’s leading receiver with six catches for 62 yards. The two Titans quarterbacks completed 23-of-35 passes for 206 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions (57.6 QB rating).

The only big breakdown came late in the game on a 30-yard completion where there appeared to be some confusion between safeties Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown.

Zack Bowman (no defensive snaps) appears to have been demoted. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (58 snaps, 0 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defense) and Chykie Brown (56 snaps, 5 tackles) started with Mike Harris (50 snaps, 3 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for losses, 1 QB hit) receiving significant playing time as the slot corner.

DRC played well and picked off a pass that he returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. A penalty wiped out the TD, but the interception stood. I thought he got a little sloppy with this tackling however.

I liked what I saw from Harris. He missed a sack in the first half when the QB ducked under his blitz, but later redeemed himself with a 10-yard sack on 4th-and-5 in the fourth quarter. Harris was often matched up on dangerous RB Dexter McCluster, and he did a nice job on him. Harris also nailed Hagan for a 2-yard loss on a WR-screen in the 4th quarter.

At safety, Stevie Brown (58 snaps, 2 tackles) continued to start along with Antrel Rolle (58 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 pass defense). Quintin Demps (26 snaps, 3 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defense) and Nat Berhe (3 snaps, 1 tackle) saw playing time as well.

On the play where Moore’s penalty wiped out a defensive score by DRC, Rolle was also flagged with unsportsmanlike conduct for pretending to take pictures of Rodgers-Cromartie…a stupid, immature stunt by a veteran of Rolle’s stature. Rolle did cause a late interception with his hit on TE Delanie Walker that was picked off by Demps on the rebound.

Chykie Brown seemed to do OK but was flagged with an unnecessary roughness penalty.

Special Teams

Josh Brown was 5-for-5 on field goal attempts, making it from 20, 19, 36, 52, and 42 yards. Five of his nine kickoffs went for touchbacks. The longest Tennessee kickoff return went for 23 yards.

Steve Weatherford punted four times, averaging 46.5 yards per punt (40.5 yard net). He nailed a 61 yarder that bounced into the end zone and only netted 41 yards – this is why Tom Quinn was upset on the sidelines. The Titans only returned one punt for four yards.

Preston Parker returned one kickoff for 20 yards but only reached the 17-yard line. Odell Beckham returned four punts for 49 yards, with the longest being for 21 yards. He seems poised to break one.

Paul Hazel was flagged for being offsides on a kickoff.

(New York Giants at Tennessee Titans, December 7, 2014)
Dec 052014
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 30, 2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Tennessee Titans, December 7, 2014

The season that would not end…the slow death of the 2014 New York Giants season continues. Giants fans wait 7-8 months for football to begin and now they can’t wait for it to be over and to see how management is going to address this steaming pile of crap.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Is Eli hearing footsteps again?
By the end of the 2013 season, not only was Eli Manning seriously hurt, but he had become shell-shocked behind one of the worst NYG offensive lines in recent memory. There was a legitimate fear that the exceptionally poor protection could have a long-term psychological impact on his game. Enter Ben McAdoo and a somewhat improved offensive line that helped to restore his confidence in the first half of the 2014 season. But the offensive line has begun to deteriorate again and consequently so has Eli’s confidence. To be blunt, he doesn’t trust his line and it’s affecting his game.

Second Down
Is Andre Williams an NFL starter?
With Rashad Jennings (ankle) ailing, Andre Williams most likely will start against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses. Williams may have five touchdowns but his is averaging a pathetic 2.9 yards per rush on 134 carries. Thus far, the super-productive collegiate back who many thought was a steal simply looks like “just a guy.” Obviously, the offensive line has a role in that, but Williams has to play better. If not, then he is yet another draft mistake by Jerry Reese, Marc Ross, and company. It will be curious to see if he or fellow rookie Titan Bishop Sankey has the better game.

Third Down
Are Larry Donnell and Rueben Randle part of the long-term solution?
Truth be told, Larry Donnell really has played above expectations this year with 51 catches for 516 yards and six touchdowns. But after the early-season game against the Redskins where Donnell looked like a budding star, more was expected down the stretch. Was that just a one-time flash in the pan? Randle has 56 catches for 609 yards and two touchdowns. That’s not enough for a #2 receiver in a passing league. He only has one 100-yard game this year. Randle has the ability, but he’s got to want it.

Fourth Down
On a defense that has to be overhauled in the offseason, who will be part of the solution?
The million dollar question is will Jason Pierre-Paul be back? For as much grief as he gets from fans, he’s still the best defensive lineman on the team and the guy who other teams worry about. If he walks, that opens up yet another huge hole on a defense sorely lacking talent (plus, it will mean the premature departure of yet another 1st round draft pick). But the Giants should not dramatically overpay JPP. One assumes Johnathan Hankins and Jay Bromley will be part of the fix, but what about Damontre Moore? Based on comments from coaches this week, it’s clear that they still don’t view him as a full-time starter. If that is the long-term view of his game, the Giants really have some huge holes on the defensive line. Aside from Robert Ayers (now on IR), is there anyone else really worth bringing back up front? At linebacker, Devon Kennard seems like a player. Jameel McClain has been decent. But these two are not overly speedy and the rest of the linebackers just aren’t that good. In the secondary, as long as everyone returns healthy, and if they can re-sign Walter Thurmond (a big if), they should be in good shape at corner. But safety is an issue, especially if Antrel Rolle leaves.

BREAKING DOWN TENNESSEE:

OFFENSE
Strength?
Like the Jaguars last week, the Titans are not very good on offense. They are 30th on offense in yardage and 32nd in points scored. The Titans are terrible on 3rd down (dead last in the NFL) and they turn the ball over a lot. That said, when healthy, they have the makings of an up-and-coming young offensive line. The problem is their line, including LT Taylor Lewan (ankle) and RT Michael Oher (toe) have been battling injuries. Chance Warmack is the right guard. Lewan and Warmack are both high 1st rounders who many Giants fans wanted to draft. Delanie Walker has been productive catching the football at tight end and could present some match-up issues for the Giants as could RB Dexter McCluster. Giants fans will remember how this runner-receiver-returner killed the Giants in Kansas City last season.

Weakness?
The Titans struggle to run the ball (27th in the NFL). And while they are better passing (20th), they are starting a rookie quarterback with a bum right shoulder and have suffered some significant injuries at wide receiver. Justin Hunter was placed on IR and Kendall Wright has a hand injury that caused him to miss some practice time this week.

DEFENSE
Strength?
Like the Jaguars, the Titans are statistically pretty bad on defense, but they do one thing really well – rush the passer. They are 8th int he NFL in sacks with 31 and in their new 3-4 defense has enable pressure from multiple players (15 Titans have sacks). See Tom Coughlin’s comments below on which defenders have stood out to him.

Weakness?
The Titans are 30th in yards allowed and 32nd in points allowed. They are dead last against the run. The Titans are 18th against the pass, but that is more a function of the pass rush than a suspect secondary.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Dexter McCluster returned a punt for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Giants in 2013 as a Chief. New Yorkers are also familiar with ex-Jet Leon Washington’s return game (8 career kickoff TDs). Rookie Bishop Sankey has actually been more productive on kickoffs this year than Washington.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Eli Manning
The Giants need to get Eli through the next four games both physically and mentally intact for the 2015 season.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “(The Titans’) defense is led by Jurrell Casey, an outstanding rush defender up front. Derrick Morgan, Jason McCourty is having an outstanding year. You can’t help but noticing him on tape. And the two inside backers, (Wesley) Woodyard and the rookie, (Avery) Williamson, and also (Michael) Griffin, the safety, are doing an outstanding job.”

Ken Whisenhunt - “When I look at the (New York Giants) I just look at what I see on tape. I see a team that plays hard and make some plays and has weapons. We certainly have our concerns. You know just from looking at it what their record is, but I think they are a team that is better than what their record is…Certainly (Odell Beckham) is growing as a young player. I think you can see his confidence has increased and he is making a lot of plays and he is one you certainly have to be aware of, but to me it all starts with the quarterback. He is a very good player, established player in the league and I have a lot of respect for what he has done. I think you have to make sure you that you try to contain him.”

FINAL WORD:

I have a hard time seeing the Giants winning another game in 2014. Defensively, a lack of demonstrated success (i.e., confidence), injuries, and a growing belief that Perry Fewell is probably on his way out will likely continue to cause defensive breakdowns, even against terrible offensive teams like the Titans. Offensively, while the Titans are terrible statistically, they do one thing that has caused the Giants problems – they rush the passer. An aggressive 3-4 defense, the Titans will blitz from every angle and this Giants’ offensive line gets confused very easily by blitzes, and stunts, and probably their own damn shadows. If the Giants can protect Eli and not turn the ball over, they should win easily. But I don’t see them doing either. Titans 19 – Giants 10.

Dec 022014
 
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John Mara, New York Giants (November 30, 2014)

John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jacksonville Jaguars 25 – New York Giants 24

Game Overview

The Giants managed to find a way to do the impossible. Leading 21-0 in the second quarter against a 1-10 football team – a team with the NFL’s 31st-ranked offense and 30th-ranked defense – the Giants collapsed and lost the game 25-24.

It was an epic defeat – even for a 3-9 football team that has now lost seven games in a row. Ironically, the loss may ultimately end Tom Coughlin’s NFL head coaching career in the very city where it all began.

It was a team-wide embarrassment for the Giants:

  • The offense only scored three points and gained six first downs in the second half. Worse, they allowed two defensive scores. As Coughlin said after the game, the Giants probably would have won the game had they just knelt on the ball in the second half.
  • On special teams, Josh Brown missed a 43-yard field goal in a game the team lost by one point.
  • Defensively, statistically the Giants played well for most of the game, but once again, with the game on the line, the defense allowed the opponent to easily march down the field and score the game-winning points. There was also a dropped interception that could have prevented a field goal and a 6-play, 67-yard touchdown drive that was far too easy.

Leading by 21 points, it was almost impossible for the Giants to lose this game against this particular opponent. But the 2014 Giants found a way. This team is psychologically fragile, now shell-shocked, and expects the worst to happen. And it usually does.

The New York Giants are a broken franchise.

Offensive Overview

  • First Half: 23 rushes, 19 passes, 0 sacks, 21 points, 16 first downs, 254 total yards (177 yards passing, 77 yards rushing), 6-for-8 on third down (75 percent). No turnovers.
  • Second Half: 12 rushes, 19 passes, 4 sacks, 3 points, 6 first downs, 75 total yards (36 yards passing, 39 yards rushing), 1-for-7 on third down (14 percent). Three fumbles lost, including two for defensive scores.

Some will contend the Giants got too conservative in second half, but the Giants were very conservative in first half too. They rushed 23 times and passed 19 times in the first half, nevertheless scoring touchdowns on three straight possessions and going 3-for-3 (100 percent) in the red zone against the NFL’s top red zone defense.

For example, on the first touchdown drive, the Giants ran the the ball 13 times out of 19 plays. On third touchdown drive, the Giants ran the ball four times in seven plays. Both touchdowns on these drives came on runs.

In the second half? The Giant rushed 12 times and passed 19 times. The big difference? The blocking fell apart as the Giants no longer had much success running the football and Eli was sacked four times. Obviously, the two defensive scores on passing plays were decisive. In fact, one can legitimately argue had the Giants not passed the ball in the second half of the game, but just run and punted, they would have been far likelier to have won against the particular opponent. In other words, perhaps they were not conservative enough. That won’t work against most teams, but it probably would have worked in this game.

Quarterback

Eli Manning finished the first half 15-of-19 for 177 yards and a touchdown (123.0 QB rating). He completed 9-of-15 passes for 70 yards in the second half. While he threw no interceptions, he fumbled the ball away twice, including for one score.

Running Backs

Again, a tale of two halves. Rashad Jennings (47 snaps) carried the ball 19 times for 65 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. This despite a poorly blocked play that resulted in an 11-yard loss and exacerbated by Jennings’ ill-advised decision to reverse field. Before Jennings left with an ankle injury, he only manged 26 yards on seven carries in the second half. Jennings also should have fallen in on Manning’s fumble in the end zone instead of trying to pick it up and run it out. Jennings caught 3-of-5 passes thrown in his direction for a grand total of three yards.

Andre Williams (26 snaps) finished with 21 yards on eight carries. Williams caught 2-of-3 passes for 16 yards, including an 18-yard screen pass on the second TD drive.

Wide Receivers

Rueben Randle (45 snaps) was benched for the first quarter due to being late for a team meeting on Friday. He caught 3-of-4 passes in his direction for 52 yards.

Odell Beckham (69 snaps) caught 7-of-8 passes for 90 yards. The Giants need to get the ball more into his hands, but the offensive line needs to give Manning time to do that too. Beckham was targeted six times in first half and only twice in second half. His biggest first-half play was his 29-yard run-and-catch off a short pass. His only second-half receptions came on New York’s only scoring drive in the second half? Coincidence? Not likely.

Kevin Ogletree (21 snaps) caught two passes for 25 yards and Preston Parker (62 snaps) caught two passes for six yards and a touchdown. Ogletree had key 12-yard catch on 3rd-and-6 on third TD drive. Parker dropped a perfectly-thrown TD pass right before Jennings’ 17-yard TD run. Corey Washington played two snaps.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell (54 snaps) caught 5-of-7 passes thrown in his direction for 55 yards. He caught a 14-yard out pass on 3rd-and-7 on first TD drive and a 32-yard reception on the second TD drive. But his fumble proved extremely costly as it was returned 41 yards for a touchdown. On the following drive, he could not make the catch on 3rd-and-3 when contacted by the defender. Daniel Fells (27 snaps) missed a block and his man is the one who sacked Manning and forced the other fumble that resulted in a touchdown. Fells had a shot at recovering the loose ball but missed it. Adrien Robinson played three snaps.

Offensive Line

Justin Pugh (quadriceps) did not play and was replaced by Geoff Schwartz for the second week in a row. But Schwartz (14 snaps) was carted off of the field early with a serious ankle injury and did not return. He was replaced at right tackle by James Brewer (46 snaps). Brewer left the game in the second half with a concussion. When he left the game, John Jerry moved from right guard to right tackle and Dallas Reynolds (14 snaps) played right guard.

The offensive line was not “good” but it was respectable in the first half, especially in pass protection. I was underwhelmed by the run blocking, particularly by RG John Jerry (as inconsistent as they come and responsible for too many negative plays; he doesn’t sustain or completely misses too many blocks; he also is easily confused by stunts and blitzes), OC J.D. Walton (just gets pushed around too much – he’s not an NFL starter), and LG Weston Richburg (doesn’t play with much power and seems undersized for position). Likewise, James Brewer just seems like a soft player. He rarely plays to his size. He shouldn’t be in the NFL.

On the first drive, Jerry’s poor run block led to an 11-yard loss on 2nd-and-6 and subsequent punt. Brewer and Reynolds were flagged with false starts. But the unit gave up no sacks and no QB hits in first half.

Like they did against the 49ers, the offensive line deteriorated in the second half. Manning was sacked and fumbled the ball away on the second NYG offensive snap of the 3rd quarter. While TE Daniel Fells gave up a hit, so did Jerry and Walton who let one inside rusher blow past them (and instead of trying to recover the ball, both Will Beatty and Walton just stood there watching).

After the offense came back onto the field, on their very next pass play, on 3rd-and-2, Manning was sacked again as Beatty – for some inexplicable reason – let his man just blow past him, and Walton again got bulldozed back into Manning. On the next series, on 3rd-and-2, Manning’s arm was hit as James Brewer’s opponent ran right past him (and based on Tom Coughlin’s reaction, Rashad Jennings should have chipped the end and helped Brewer on this play). Incomplete, missed field goal.

As the game progressed from the third into the fourth quarter, it became clear that the offensive “brain trust” was justifiably concerned about the line’s ability to protect Eli even on short pass plays. But the running game got worse too. There isn’t too much you can call offensively when you can’t block for the run or the pass.

Early in 4th quarter, Andre Williams got nailed in the backfield when Brewer failed to get a hand on the defensive tackle who then easily got past Walton (according to David Diehl, Brewer was largely to blame here). On the next play, Manning had time but couldn’t find anyone open and was sacked. On the next play, Donnell fumbled. Jacksonville 22 – New York 21.

When Brewer went out and Jerry moved to right tackle and Dallas Reynolds came in at right guard, it got worse and Jacksonville smelled blood in the water. Now trailing because of the two defensive scores, the Giants couldn’t run and Eli wasn’t given a clean pocket. Most pass attempts were short because there was no time to throw anything farther down the field.

When the line finally gave Eli some time on its last scoring drive, Eli was able to complete four straight passes, but the drive stalled in the red zone with a 1-yard loss running play and two incomplete passes (despite decent protection).

When New York got the ball with 28 seconds left, down by one, the game ended on an appropriate note as Jerry and Reynolds got destroyed on a stunt and Manning was sacked and lost the ball.

Defensive Overview

Even had the Giants won this game, the improved defensive performance would have had to be taken with a grain of salt given the level of incompetence of the Jaguars’ offense (31st-ranked offense, terrible offensive line, rookie quarterback).

But anyone wearing blue-colored glasses when looking at this defense has be depressed by yet another late-game collapse by that side of the ball. Despite everything that went wrong after the 21-0 lead, the Giants were still up 24-22 with 3:26 to play and Jacksonville starting at their own 20-yard line. Eleven plays later, with 28 seconds left in the game, the Jaguars kicked the game winner.

In a game decided by a single point, the Giants dropped an interception that would have prevented a field goal. In fact, the the Giants could not force a turnover against a team that had turned the ball over in every game it had played this year.

The defense forced seven punts, but they also gave up long drives of 70 (field goal), 67 (touchdown), and 55 (field goal) yards – all resulting in points. On the touchdown drive, the Giants appeared confused by the Wild Cat and Read Option plays that picked up 28 yards before the 30-yard touchdown pass.

These deficiencies largely erased an excellent start for a Giants’ defense that did not allow a first down on Jacksonville’s first three possessions of the game. The Jaguars first 1st down came with about 5:30 left in the first half. There were two three-and-outs in the fourth quarter too. But then came the game-winning drive. Not good enough.

Defensive Line/Linebackers

The Giants played a lot of players on defense.

Jason Pierre-Paul (66 snaps, 4 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QB hits) played virtually every snap at defensive end. With Mathias Kiwanuka (knee) out, Damontre Moore (43 snaps, 1 tackle, 2 pass defenses) saw the most action he has all season. Robert Ayers (34 snaps, 1 tackle) left the game with a season-ending pectoral tear. As a result, Kerry Wynn (3 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 QB hit) surprisingly played quite a bit (22 snaps).

The Jaguars could not run the ball on the Giants except by using unconventional methods such as the Wild Cat or Read Option. But the five QB runs by Blake Bortles picked up 68 yards, the most damaging coming on the game-winning field goal drive when it appears that Pierre-Paul was out of position, biting too hard on the inside fake to the running back (though the linebacker to that side might have been responsible too). It was too bad for JPP who otherwise played well against a very talented left tackle. His best play was his outside speed rush where he sacked Bortles on 3rd-and-8 in the 4th quarter. He also deflected a two-point conversion attempt and caused the left tackle to hold on the final game-winning drive.

Moore played decently, tipping two passes and flashing at times on the pass rush. He and Johnathan Hankins combined for a 1-yard loss on a running play too. But Moore also had a holding penalty and appeared to be out of position on a Wild Cat run that picked up 16 yards on Jacksonville’s lone offensive TD drive.

Ayers was playing very well as a pass rusher until hurt. I spotted three excellent pass rushes by him, including two that really caused sacks that others ultimately got credit for. But he also badly missed a tackle on a running play that should have lost yardage but gained 17 on the first-half FG drive. Kerry didn’t look bad. He cleaned up on one of Ayers’ pressures for a sack. He did get flagged with an illegal use-of-hands penalty.

Inside, Johnathan Hankins again logged the most time (40 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit) followed by Markus Kuhn (27 snaps, 0 tackles), Mike Patterson (23 snaps, 4 tackles), and Jay Bromley (16 snaps, 2 tackles). The tackles were very stout inside against the run. Hankins cleaned up one of Ayers’ pressures for a sack and also caused a holding penalty that wiped out a Jacksonville TD in the first half.

At linebacker Jameel McClain (68 snaps, 9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit) and Devon Kennard (46 snaps, 3 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QB hits) saw the most action. Mark Herzlich (23 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 TFL), Spencer Paysinger (22 snaps, 0 tackles), and Terrell Manning (1 snap, 0 tackles) played more sparingly.

McClain and Kennard were both very active. The two combined for three sacks. Kennard also tackled the back for a 3-yard loss, but also dropped an easy interception off a deflected pass in the end zone that could have prevented a FG. Paysinger was on the same side as JPP on Bortles’ killer 20-yard run on the last drive, but was too easily blocked.

Defensive Backs

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (17 snaps, 2 tackles) played sparingly as Zack Bowman (61 snaps, 1 tackle) and Chykie Brown (55 snaps, 7 tackles) saw the most action, followed by Mike Harris (22 snaps, 1 tackle).

Antrel Rolle (7 tackles, 1 TLF, 1 pass defense) and Stevie Brown (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit) played all 68 snaps. Quintin Demps (0 tackles) played 26 snaps.

Bortles only threw for 194 yards, but he did complete 60 percent of his passes, and most disturbing was 3-for-4 for 34 yards on the game-winning drive. The big mess up there was Bowman getting beat on the 23-yard slant on 2nd-and-15. Bowman also got beat deep for the 30-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. DRC hardly played but caused two incompletions with physical hits. Chykie Brown was a bit shakier this week, and missed a tackle, but his play didn’t really harm the Giants.

Stevie Brown made a nice play earlier in the game by not biting on misdirection and tackling the ball carrier for no gain. I thought he had a shot at an interception in the second quarter but couldn’t come down with the ball (his 8-interception season in 2012 appears to have been a fluke). Antrel Rolle was quiet yet again. He was flagged with a late hit but followed that up with an excellent play on a screen pass for a 2-yard loss.

Special Teams

Josh Brown picked a bad time to miss his first field goal of the year, this one from 43 yards out. His 33 yarder put the Giants up 24-22 with 3:26 to play.

Two of Brown’s five kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. The Jaguars returned three kickoffs for 51 yards, the longest being only 21 yards.

Steve Weatherford punted five times, averaging 51.8 yards per punt (47.8 yard net). The Jaguars returned three of those punts for a total of 20 yards, with the longest being 10 yards.

The Giants only returned one kickoff: 22 yards by Preston Parker. Odell Beckham returned five punts for 48 yards with the longest being a 23 yarder. But he shouldn’t have fielded one punt inside the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Jacksonville scored on defense when Eli was sacked at the 8-yard line.

(New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars, November 30, 2014)
Nov 282014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 23, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars, November 30, 2014

Before December, the Giants have been officially from playoff contention. It is the third season in a row, and fifth time in six years, the Giants will not be in the playoffs. The remaining five games are now more about preparing for 2015.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
What does Odell Beckham Jr. do for an encore?
It was the catch that broke twitter as Odell Beckham Jr. dove backwards and pulled in the uncatchable with three fingers. So, what’s he do for an encore? Despite missing the first six games of the season, Beckham is closing in on 1,000 yards receiving and making general manager Jerry Reese look very smart for drafting the rookie with the No. 12 pick int he draft this year.

Second Down
Can Perry Fewell save his job?
There’s a good chance nothing can save Fewell’s job as the Giants defense, even with its additions, is 31st in the NFL. Last week’s game-winning drive by the Dallas Cowboys was filled with questionable calls from Fewell and even bigger questions as to the players he chose to put on the field. Can Fewell salvage something, anything, these last five games to show he can still be a solid defensive coordinator in the NFL?

Third Down
Will Damontre Moore play more?
The New York Giants are in desperate need of a pass rusher. Arguably the team’s most talented continues to sit on the sideline. With the team officially eliminated from the playoffs with the Detroit Lions victory over the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving, there’s nothing to lose by playing Moore every snap. Mathias Kiwanuka has struggled this year, Moore hasn’t been given the chance to. Will the defensive coaches put the second-year pro on the field?

Fourth Down
How will the Giants play against Jacksonville?
The New York Giants got through the easy portion of their schedule with victories over the “bad” teams in the NFL. After going winless against the good teams, how will New York now play against the one-win Jaguars? There’s nothing to play for anymore for the Giants, will they play down the Jaguars?

BREAKING DOWN JACKSONVILLE:

OFFENSE - by Connor Hughes
Strength?
With Maurice Jones-Drew in Oakland, Denard Robinson has been a pleasant surprise for the Jacksonville Jaguars on offense. Robinson has rushed for 508 yards this season and four touchdowns. He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

Weakness?
Blake Bortles had a nice preseason for the Jaguars. Blake Bortles has not had a nice regular season for the Jaguars. Since being handed the starting quarterback job back Sepember 21, Bortles has thrown just eight touchdowns to a league-leading 15 interceptions. Bortles has thrown an interception in every game he’s played and multiple interceptions in five of nine starts. The rookie is taking his lumps and the Giants secondary should be able to take advantage.

DEFENSEby Eric Kennedy
Strength?
Despite the fact that the Jaguars are 30th in defense, they can rush the passer. Jacksonville is third in the NFL in sacks with 33. And 14.5 of those sacks have come from the interior defensive line. The defense of the Jaguars is also extremely tough in the red zone, allowing an NFL low 39 percent conversion rate.

Weakness?
The Jacksonville secondary is not very good. Not only are the Jaguars 27th in pass defense but secondary only has two interceptions on the season (three others by non-defensive backs).

SPECIAL TEAMS - by Eric Kennedy

Jordan Todman leads the NFL with 23 kickoff returns of 20 or more yards and his 26.3-yard average is sixth in the league.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Eli Manningby Connor Hughes
Eli Manning has been under fire the last two games as the quarterback has been one of the reasons the Giants have lost each. Had it not been for five interceptions versus the San Francisco 49ers, and an overthrow to Preston Parker against Dallas, there’s a chance New York sits better than 3-8. Manning has always been a quarterback that puts his numbers aside and takes chances when things start looking bad. Things are now looking bad, Manning could look to start forcing the issue.

Against Jacksonville, Manning should be able to find the same success he had earlier in the season. Or, things continue to spiral down.

New York Giants Offensive Line - by Eric Kennedy
As noted above, the Jaguars can rush the passer, statistically better than the 49ers and Cowboys who gave New York’s line problems. The Giants offensive line needs to protect Eli to allow him time to get the ball to downfield targets who should be able to exploit a pretty bad secondary. Also of note, the Jaguars are 28th in run defense. New York’s ground game has been anemic for six games. It’s time to turn that around.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “I worry that we’re not winning the games that were the close games. I worry that we put ourselves in position to score and we don’t score, and we don’t win. One week, it’s score and the next week, it’s stopping them…There is no doubt that (the team almost waits for something to go wrong). Why would we have the ball first-and-goal at the four (against the 49ers) and not score?…(Against the Cowboys), they’ve got to go 80 yards. We have eliminated getting beaten by a field goal. They’re got to score a touchdown. They’ve got to go 80 yards and they’ve got to score a touchdown. Why would that not be a challenge?”

Gus Bradley - “I think their skill positons, their receiving corps, tight end, and Eli Manning, I think they are very talented on the perimeter. Obviously with Odell Beckham Jr., he has kind of made a name for himself the last five games. We really liked him coming out in the draft, as did many teams.”

FINAL WORD:

(by Connor Hughes) The Giants aren’t a very good team right now, but they’re much better than the Jacksonville Jaguars. Truthfully, I believe it will take New York making all the wrong mistakes to even give Jacksonville a chance, and even then New York could probably still pull out a win. The Giants offensive line should be able to control the line of scrimmage which in turn will open up running lanes. If the Giants can establish a rushing attack, that then makes the passing game more effective. I believe they’ll get both going against Jacksonville. Giants 24 – Jaguars 14.

(by Eric Kennedy) The Jaguars may be 1-10 but they continue to play hard and many of their games against far better teams have been very competitive, including the Colts last week. For weeks, some of the Giants players have been saying they could still make the playoffs. Well, officially that pipe dream has ended. Will the team come into this game with the proper frame of mind with reality finally hitting them in the face? I think Perry Fewell’s defense is simply just bad and the defensive players uninspired. I also worry about Eli against this pass rush. Jaguars 20 – Giants 3.

Nov 262014
 
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Amari Cooper, Alabama Crimson Tide (November 8, 2014)

Amari Cooper – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft – November 26, 2014 Report

By Colin Lindsay (Great Blue North Draft Report)

After posting some draft comments last weekend, a couple of erstwhile, not to mention discerning, BigBlueInteractive.com regulars asked if I would consider posting some draft thoughts based on where the Giants stood regarding the 2015 draft between now and the end of the season given there isn’t much else to really get excited about in Big Blue land. Along the way, I’d also hope that at least when it comes to the draft that folks really try and think like a pro rather than carry on like a pampered frat house sophomore or a drunk hollering in a bar.

First off, people just have to stop talking about Jerry Reese’s draft picks. JERRY REESE DOESN’T MAKE THE PICKS! Neither does Marc Ross for that matter. The fact is that the Giants invest literally millions of dollars and hundred of man hours putting a grade on every draft eligible player out there and then coalescing as a collective around the guys they like.

Second, if guys are going to talk about the draft, it would be nice if they understood how it really works. In particular, when people say the it’s a lottery or a crapshoot what they mean is that the draft IS a lottery or a crapshoot. It is like flipping coins. George Young probably said it best when he said that when it comes to the draft you gather as much information as you can get, make the best picks you can, and then you cross your fingers. Hit a bunch of heads and they call you a genius; hit too many tails and they start calling your 4th round picks – that only had a 25% or so probability of ever working out in the first place – that don’t work out BLUNDERS!

Thirdly, folks could really humor this old draft guy by not posting who they’d take. Trust me, nobody cares! Fact is nobody should care who I’d take. Folks might care a tad, though, who I think the Giants might be looking because I have a pretty good track record of dissecting and predicting what they might be thinking, although nobody’s perfect!

Where we stand … If the draft were held this week the Giants would have the 7th pick in the opening round, the same as last week as each of the team’s just ahead of the Giants also lost. Of course, the lay of the land could change for the Giants as the next couple of weeks as they head into what can only be described as the ‘easy’ part of the schedule. Indeed, the Giants next four opponents have a combined record of 10-34, whereas during the current 6-game losing streak the opponents combined W-L record was 45-21. In fact, if its any small consolation to Giants’ fans, the 8 losses so far this year came against teams with a combined winning % of almost 70%; indeed, even throw out the wins against the Giants and they are still 53-27 or 66% against the rest of the league.

The good news for the Giants is that even if they are able to win the majority of their remaining games, although that’s hardly a given, they won’t lose all that many draft spots as there are just aren’t a whole lot of teams within striking distance ahead of them in the standings. In fact, even were the Giants able to run the table the rest of the year, they aren’t likely to draft much higher than the 13-14 range.

The less good news for the Giants if indeed their 2015 first round pick is to be in the #7 range is, at least how looks right now (although of course a whole bunch is going to change between now and April 30), that it appears that there is a major drop-off after the top 4-5  players in this year’s draft which right now look to be QBs Mariota and Winston (assuming he doesn’t get red-flagged), DEs Williams and Gregory and WR Cooper. Of that group, Alabama WR Amari Cooper is the most likely to somehow slip down to the 7th spot – and it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise that if the Giants had their druthers they would love to add a big-play receiver like Cooper to pair with Beckham and hopefully Cruz, but it could very well take a trade up to guarantee getting the Tide star.

At the same time, again at least at this point in time, it does not appear as if there would be a particularly neat match between the top players available and the Giants’ draft priorities. The next best guys, at least on a consensus NFL board, for example, look like Alabama SS Landon Collins and OTs Brandon Scherff of Iowa and A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi. Each would fill a need, but none is the kind of real impact player that a team like the Giants would likely like to add if they were to get a top 10 pick this year. Collins, for example, is more an in-the-box type SS and the Giants would almost certainly prefer a rangy FS type. Of course, the Giants would be very intrigued by a so-called Blue Goose-can’t miss OT, but I am not sure there is such an animal in this year’s draft. Scherff, who has been described as this year’s Zach Martin, might be the most interesting OL option if it came to that. He’s not that athletic, but is a big, really tough, physical guy who you could start out at OG, but ultimately move to either OT if the need arose.

That said, I don’t see the Giants entering the draft with the OL the #1 priority. The one real gap they have is RG and there other ways to address that than use the highest pick you have had in almost two decades. My best guess is that heading into the 2015 draft the Giants top priorities will be a) upgrading the pass rush; b) adding some more weapons on offense including another WR and RB; and c) adding some speed and athleticism to the defensive back 7, along with the OL. Obviously, they likely won’t be able to accomplish everything with just three premium picks, but obviously some of those issues can be addressed just as well in free agency.

In fact, in the end, if the Giants were ultimately to pick around #7, there is a very good chance that the player they take isn’t rated quite in that area at this time as there are a bunch of players hovering just outside the top 10-15 right now with the upside to go higher. That group includes WRs Kevin White of West Virginia, Michigan tweener Devin Funchess, Davante Parker of Louisville, Jaelen Strong of Arizona State, along with enigmatic 6-5 Dorial Green-Beckham of Oklahoma, 6-9 Baylor DE Shawn Oakman, and dynamic Washington OLB Shaq Thompson. Time will tell.

Of course, the draft runs more than one round and if the draft were held this week the Giants would also have the 38th and 71st picks. And if there is some good 2015 draft news for the Giants its that it appears there will be excellent depth at several positions of interest including RB, WR, and safety, while there should also be some decent depth at positions like OG, OT and MLB. There could also be a couple or three DE prospects available in the second round, including Nate Orchard of Utah, Kentucky’s Bud Dupree and LSU junior Danielle Hunter; however, DE does not look like it will be particularly strong at the 2015 draft and any team that wants to upgrade at the position won‘t want to dawdle.

Meanwhile, the list of other players that could be on the Giants’ radar in the second round include RBs Tevin Coleman of Indiana, Miami’s Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska; WRs Sammie Coates of Auburn and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery, South Carolina OG A.J. Cann; and safeties Gerod Hollimon of Lousiville, Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss and Derron Smith of Fresno State. For the record, there could also be a number of very good OT candidates in the 2nd round including Tyrus Thompson of Oklahoma, Ty Sambrailo of Colorado State, Ereck Flowers of Miami, and Spencer Drango of Baylor.

Nov 242014
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (November 23, 2014)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Dallas Cowboys 31 – New York Giants 28

Game Overview

The catch was nice, but who really cares? The Giants are 3-8, losers of six straight and one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Last week’s game review started off with the following sentence:

It was a close game and the Giants came very close to pulling off the upset, but this team finds new ways to lose every week.

Did it really surprise anyone that the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense allowed the Cowboys to march 80 yards in seven plays and two minutes for the game-winning drive? Did it surprise anyone that the Giants couldn’t even gain one first down in their last desperate attempt to tie the game?

The fans and media expect the New York Giants to lose every week. But what’s worse, the New York Giants players expect to lose every week now. Two and a half seasons removed from their last NFL Championship, the cultural mindset of this team has changed completely.

But hey, at least ownership is happy.

Robert Tisch after Dallas scores its first touchdown

Steve Tisch after Dallas scores its first touchdown

Offensive Overview

The Giants out-gained the Cowboys in total yards (417 to 385), first downs (27 to 18), and time of possession (35:07 to 24:53). The Giants were nearly 70 percent on their third-down conversions (11-of-16). Both teams committed one turnover. The Giants had fewer penalties. The Giants ran more offensive plays (74 to 53). With numbers like that, you expect to come out on top.

Not counting their last possession in the second quarter (9 seconds left), the Giants had four first-half possessions and scored touchdowns on three of them, including drives of 13 plays and 80 yards, 6 plays and 66 yards, and 11 plays and 80 yards. At the half, the Giants led 21-10.

In the second half, the offense cooled dramatically. In hindsight, the Giants were too conservative on their first two series of the third quarter. The Giants went three-and-out on their first two possessions, drove to the Dallas 18 before Eli threw a killer interception, and then punted again. By this point in the game, the Cowboys had gone up 24-21.

Finally with nine minutes to go, New York drove the ball 93 yards in 14 plays, taking over six minutes off of the clock to regain the lead 28-24. But the Giants’ defense quickly surrendered the lead again. With one minute to go, the Giants had a legitimate opportunity to at least give Josh Brown a chance to tie the game, but New York couldn’t pick up one first down and turned the football over on downs. Six second half possessions – one score. Not good enough.

Quarterback

Again without a viable running game (2.8 yards per carry) and inconsistent pass protection, Eli Manning played mostly well and finished the game 29-of-40 for 338 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception (112.3 quarterback rating).

Those are very strong numbers – and usually game-winning numbers.

But the one interception when the Giants were driving for a touchdown late in the third quarter is what most people will remember, not the four long touchdown drives orchestrated by him.

On 2nd-and-10 from the Dallas 18-yard line, Manning had WR Preston Parker running absolutely free over the middle of the defense. Eli’s pass was high and intercepted. The pick was returned 45 yards and the Cowboys scored four plays later. It was a 10 or 14 point swing in the game.

Missed opportunity #1

Missed opportunity #1

“Just high, just threw it high,” said Manning. “(Parker) was a little flatter than I anticipated and just kind of… no excuse though, you’ve got a guy running open, I’ve got to hit him right in the numbers.”

Head Coach Tom Coughlin also seemed to suggest that there was an issue with the route by Parker.

“There was a little bit more of an adjustment that had to be made in the route and that was the expectation,” said Coughlin. “As a result, the ball was thrown high and it ended up being a tipped ball.”

Following up this screw-up, on the very next possession, Eli missed seeing Beckham breaking free for what should have been an 87-yard touchdown.

Missed opportunity #2

Missed opportunity #2

To Eli’s credit, he helped to orchestrate the 14-play, 93-yard drive in the 4th quarter that gave the Giants a 28-24 lead with three minutes to go. He had one last opportunity to tie the game late, but his offensive line didn’t give him the time.

Running Backs

A common theme in all six straight losses? The Giants can’t run the football. Rashad Jennings carried the ball 19 times for 52 yards (2.7 yards per carry) and Andre Williams carried the ball 10 times for 35 yards (3.5 yards per carry). Williams did have an 18-yard run and scored a 3-yard touchdown, but he was also very lucky that his fumble right before the score wasn’t ruled a turnover. The biggest positive impact by the backs was in the passing game where Jennings caught 8-of-10 passes thrown his way for 68 yards, including a 27-yard swing pass on the last TD drive. That said, Jennings was held just short of the 1st down marker on the Giants last 4th-and-2 offensive play.

In recent weeks, Henry Hynoski has become a bit of a short-yardage specialist for the Giants. He picked up 4 yards on 3rd-and-1 early in the game.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham remains the sole bright spot in otherwise dreadful season. His 43-yard touchdown reception is clearly one of the best in NFL history. Unfortunately for the Giants, Beckham’s impact was largely limited to the first half, where he caught all eight passes thrown in his direction for 125 yards and two touchdowns. In the second half? Beckham caught just 2-of-3 passes for 21 yards. He did leave the game early in the fourth quarter with a painful back injury, but returned.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 23, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

In the first half, he had a key 12-yard catch on 3rd-and-5 on the first scoring drive and a diving 13-yard catch on 2nd-and-11 on the second scoring drive, which was capped by his brilliant one-handed 43-yard reception.

But it’s interesting to see how fast he has become the ONE guy the other team worries about, and how the Giants are beginning to take advantage of that to open up other areas of the offense. For example, on the first TD drive, on 3rd-and-3, Beckham was lined up in the backfield. Eli – with time – looked in his direction, drawing the defense, then threw a slant pass to a wide open Rueben Randle for a 21-yard gain.

Eli glances at Beckham, drawing defense's attention...

Eli glances at Beckham, drawing defense’s attention…

...that leaves Rueben Randle wide open on the slant

…that leaves Rueben Randle wide open on the slant

A few plays later, Manning faked an end around to Beckham, opening up an exceptionally well setup screen pass to Rashad Jennings that gained 15 yards. The drive finished with a 3-yard touchdown to Beckham.

Eli fakes end around to Beckham, again drawing defense's attention...

Eli fakes end around to Beckham, again drawing defense’s attention…

...instead Eli dumps ball off to Rashad Jennings on well-orchestrated screen pass

…instead Eli dumps ball off to Rashad Jennings on well-orchestrated screen pass

Beckham continued to make an impact on the run-heavy third TD drive by helping the Giants to convert on 3rd-and-8 (14-yard catch) and 3rd-and-6 (12-yard catch). Note the interesting four-receiver set employed by Ben McAdoo.

four receiver bunch formation designed to get Beckham open quickly

four receiver bunch formation designed to get Beckham open quickly

Beckham  had a 12-yard reception on 3rd-and-2 in the third quarter two plays before Manning’s interception.

Rueben Randle was only targeted three times, catching all three passes for 36 yards. Preston Parker caught one pass for 16 yards. Of the 38 passes thrown, only seven were thrown at the #2 and #3 wideouts. Parker was flagged with a false start early in the fourth quarter, contributing to a failed possession.

Tight Ends

For the first time all season, all three tight ends were actively involved in the passing game. Daniel Fells actually led the group with 3 catches (out of four targets) for 35 yards. He was up and down in the blocking department. And he had two critical 13-yard receptions in two 3rd-and-12 situations. Larry Donnell caught 2-of-4 passes for 24 yards. He had a key 16-yard reception in heavy traffic on 3rd-and-7 on the Giants’ last TD drive. His blocking was also up and down, but he gives a good effort. Adrien Robinson caught a 1-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-goal to put the Giants up 28-24 with three minutes to play. Robinson did a nice job of selling the fake on his initial block.

Offensive Line

There were two line-up changes with Geoff Schwartz starting at right tackle for the injured Justin Pugh and Adam Snyder starting in place for the benched Weston Richburg. Richburg returned to the lineup late in the game when Snyder left with a knee injury. James Brewer also saw some snaps at left tackle when Will Beatty suffered an eye injury (but later returned).

Run blocking remained a problem as the Giants only averaged 2.8 yards per carry against a middle-of-the-pack defense. The Giants had problems blocking MLB Rolando McClain (11 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss) all night. There was one drive – the third TD drive of the first half – where the Giants did get the ground game going. On this drive, the Giants ran the ball eight times for 45 yards, including runs of 12 and 18 yards. But it was fleeting moment in the game.

One of the few big holes for the Giants' backs...this was a well-blocked play

One of the few big holes for the Giants’ backs…this was a well-blocked play

Pass protection was decent early but deteriorated as the game wore on. The two sacks came late in the second quarter. On the first, Schwartz had some problems with the defensive end. Then Beatty and Snyder couldn’t handle a stunt, resulting in a 9-yard sack. When the Giants got the ball back after the sole Dallas turnover at the Cowboy 42-yard line, Beatty gave up immediate pressure, Manning was hit and threw the ball away and intentional grounding was called. This prevented the Giants from getting into field goal range right before intermission.

Pass protection was strong early, as on this TD pass to Beckham

Pass protection was strong early, as on this TD pass to Beckham

It didn’t get better after the break. Beatty and Snyder had problems with a stunt early in the third quarter and Eli was forced to dump the ball off prematurely on failed 3rd down conversion attempt. The line came up small on the last desperate drive as Schwartz was bull-rushed twice into Eli’s face and then Jerry let his man blow by him to hit Manning.

Defensive Overview

Just another really shitty performance by the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense. Again, this is the third time in four seasons that the Giants are on pace for giving up over 6,000 yards of offense (the only times in team history this has happened).

The defense allowed RB DeMarco Murray to run for 121 yards on 24 carries (5 yards per carry). Once again, Romo owned the Giants. Last month in the first Giants-Cowboys game, Romo completed 17-of-23 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns. His QB rating was a gaudy 135.7. This game? Romo was 18-of-26 for 275 yards and four touchdowns with a QB rating of 143.4.

The defense can’t blame fatigue on their performance. Dallas only ran 53 offensive plays. But Dallas averaged 7.3 yards per play. 150 yards came on FIVE pass plays.

There were some positive signs. The Cowboys were 4-of-10 on third-down conversions. And in five first-half offensive possessions, while the Cowboys did score 10 points on two long drives, they also went three-and-out twice and fumbled the ball away once.

But in the second half, Dallas scored three touchdowns in five possessions. Worst of all, once again, as has been the history of this unit for the past three years, the defense could not hold a late-game lead as the Cowboys tore through the defense to win the game, driving 80 yards in just seven plays and two minutes.

The defense came up smallest at points in the game where you think they should have been motivated to perform at their best: (1) allowing the Cowboys to drive 77 yards in 9 plays right after Beckham’s one-handed catch, and (2) with the game on the line at the end.

Deciding not to copy the game-winning defensive scheme of the Washington Redskins to blitz Tony Romo heavily – especially with his bad back – Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell usually decided to rush only four, with little impact.

It was a typical – but still odd decision – by a coordinator who has to know his job is on the line. What did he have to lose? On the game-winning drive, by rushing four, plus not using pass rushers Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore, Fewell probably has sealed his fate. Romo went 6-for-6 for 66 yards on the final 80-yard drive.

Defensive Line/Linebackers

The Giants allowed the Cowboys to average 5 yards per carry on the ground against a defense intent on stopping the run. It didn’t matter. Look at the Cowboys’ third drive of the game. Five of the nine plays were runs with gains of 5, 13, 4, 4, and 3…nothing spectacular…just slow death. And the productive running game set up excellent misdirection plays including a 27-yard screen pass off a fake end around and then a 4-yard shovel pass to TE Jason Witten for the TD.

While Tony Romo was sacked twice and officially hit four times, the numbers are misleading. Romo often had all night to throw, especially on the game-winning drive when he had between 8-10 seconds on two plays, including the game-winning touchdown throw.

It was not a good performance by anyone in the front seven. Jason Pierre-Paul (53 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 QB hit, 1 fumble recovery) probably played the best. He had a few nice plays against the run and pass, including drawing a holding penalty that wiped out a 39-yard pass play, but it wasn’t enough. More was needed and is expected, especially on the game-winning drive by Dallas.

Mathias Kiwanuka (45 snaps, 1 tackle, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) and Robert Ayers (20 snaps, 1 tackle) were too quiet. Kiwanuka continues to receive the bulk of the playing time despite (1) a knee injury that has caused him to miss practice time each of the last few weeks, and (2) ineffective play. Damontre Moore (1 tackle, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack, 1 QB hit) only played 6 snaps. His sack was more of a coverage sack, but at least he got to the QB.

Inside, Johnathan Hankins (48 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 QB hit) played virtually the entire game. One gets the sense he isn’t getting much help. Mike Patterson (27 snaps, 3 tackles) and Markus Kuhn (13 snaps, 0 tackles) are simply not getting the job done. Jay Bromley played six snaps but did not show up on the stat sheet. Perhaps the Giants made the wrong decision to let Linval Joseph go, even with his big contract.

Despite briefly leaving the game with a knee injury, Jameel McClain (53 snaps, 5 tackles) played most of the defensive snaps, followed by Devon Kennard (34 snaps, 5 tackles), Mark Herzlich (25 snaps, 6 tackles), and Spencer Paysinger (6 snaps, 2 tackles). No one really made any plays of note, especially against the run.

The linebackers and safeties actually did a decent job on the top two tight ends as Jason Witten was held to 4 catches for 30 yards (and one touchdown) and Gavin Escobar did not catch a pass. But James Hanna did make a 27-yard reception against Paysinger on a 3rd-and-1 play-action fake where everyone bit on the run fake.

Defensive Backs

Tony Romo completed 18-of-26 passes (69 percent) for 275 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions (143.4 QB rating). Romo threw 26 times and there were no interceptions and only one pass defense.

Most of the damage in the receiving game was done by WR Dez Bryant (7 catches for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns) and WR Cole Beasley (2 catches for 66 yards and 1 touchdown).

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (40 snaps, 5 tackles) and Zack Bowman (43 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 pass defense) formed the primary cornerback duo with Jayron Hosley (29 snaps, 2 tackles) and Chykie Brown (20 snaps, 1 tackle) also receiving significant playing time. DRC played pretty well.

At safety, Antrel Rolle (53 snaps, 7 tackles) continues his very quiet season. Stevie Brown (42 snaps, 3 tackles) saw more action than Quintin Demps (29 snaps, 3 tackles). Rolle has a sure interception in the end zone pass right through his hands. One play later, Dallas kicked a 38-yard field goal.

The inability to stop the Dallas ground game (which is also the responsibility of the defensive backs who had trouble getting off blocks) caused problems in the passing game.

For example, note how both Hosley and Brown bit too hard on the end around fake to the wide receiver. This left the running back all alone on a screen play that picked up 26 yards down to the NYG 7-yard line.

Jayron Hosley and Stevie Brown badly bite on the end around fake

Jayron Hosley and Stevie Brown badly bite on the end around fake

One of the big screw-ups of the game was obviously Beasley’s 45-yard touchdown catch-and-run. Hosley was beaten badly by Beasley and then Bowman missed a tackle. Aside from this play, Bowman actually played pretty well against the pass, including a late knock down of a key 3rd-and-3 pass intended for WR Terrance Williams.

Then on Dallas’ next possession, I have no idea what the Giants were doing when they left Bryant all alone for an easy 31-yard touchdown.

Oompa Loompas

Giants zone defense on Bryant’s 31-yard TD

On Dallas’ game-winning drive, the first really big play was the 21-yard pass to Beasley, where nobody seemed to cover him.

On two of the last three pass plays, including the game winner, you can’t blame the secondary. Romo had all night to throw. You can’t expect to cover for 8-10 seconds.

Special Teams

Josh Brown did not attempt a field goal. Four of his five kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. One return went for 22 yards.

Steve Weatherford punted four times, averaging 55 yards per punt (only netting 38 however). Dallas returned all four punts for a total of 68 yards, averaging an unacceptable 17 yards per punt return.

The Giants only returned one punt with Odell Beckham losing 1 yard on his only return. Preston Parker returned four kickoffs for 99 yards, with a long of 37 that helped to set up one score. But he also screwed up by fielding one return close to the sideline, his momentum carrying him out at the 13.

(Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, November 23, 2014)