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Steve Spagnuolo and Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 31, 2017)

Steve Spagnuolo and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 18 – Washington Redskins 10

RECAP

The best part about turning the calendar to 2018 is the fact that the Giants 2017 season is officially done with. I have never been so wrong when it came to forecasting a Giants season and it seemed like forever ago when we were at training camp labeling this team a Super Bowl contender. And here we are, week 17 and the duo of John Jerry and Eli Manning were the only 2 offensive starters left on the field against the Redskins.

In front of a half-empty stadium, the Giants and Redskins played through a painful game to watch. An early touchdown by the Giants was the peak of the action as both teams seemed more interested in getting out alive than trying to win a game. The small sense of urgency by NYG stemming from a new General Manager aided the team towards their 18-10 bleeder and 3rd win of the season.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 10/28 – 132 yards – 1 TD/1 INT. If this were a game full of meaning, the outlook on Manning might be a little lesser. But considering he was playing behind, and throwing the ball to, players who see the majority of their time in the 4th quarter of preseason games, he gets a slight pass. Manning had a season high 8 passes dropped in this one, lengthening his lead among all NFL quarterbacks in that category. Was this Manning’s last game with NYG? My gut says no, he will be back for at least one more year. Whether anyone thinks he still has it or not, there is no denying the fact evaluating his 2017 without acknowledging the fact he had the worst situation to deal with across the board in the NFL this year is not fair. Manning didn’t play well, I will say that. But I’m not sure who would have in this mess of a season.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 20 att/154 yards – 1 TD. On the game’s second play, Darkwa ran right and cut back inside thanks to two pre-snap audibles by Eli Manning at the line of scrimmage. It was the longest run of his career and 5th TD of the season. Darkwa averaged 4.1 yards per carry throughout the rest of the game and, as usual, dropped a pass. Where the team goes with him from here is very much up in the air, but I respect how hard he runs. This was a breakout year for Darkwa, as prior to this game, his career SEASON high was 153 yards, 1 less than he gained in this game alone.
  • Wayne Gallman: 15 att/89 yards – The explosive, quick accelerator had his share of big runs and outstanding adjustments to the defense. Gallman’s speed and elusiveness were one of the best surprises of 2017 and he needs to be factored into what this team plans on doing in 2018. If they bring in a back, it should be someone who excels in the play-to-play pounding and short-yardage situations. Gallman should have the change-of-pace spot locked up for a couple years, at least. Two things he absolutely needs to clean up, however, both occurred in this game. He had a drop and a fumble. Time to get in the weight room, too.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Hunter Sharp: 3 rec/29 yards – 1 TD. Overall a very solid game for the second-year pro who was signed just 3 weeks prior. He brought in his first career touchdown pass on the second drive of the game. He showed quality routes throughout but also suffered two drops on consecutive plays later.
  • Travis Rudolph: 1 rec/29 yards. I was hoping to see more opportunities for one of the training camp studs who has been inching his way towards more and more playing time. His one play was an excellent catch and turn up field for a 29 yard gain, the biggest passing gain of the day.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rhett Ellison: 5 rec/63 yards. A career-high 5 catches for Ellison, a guy the Giants underused all year. He was making catches and plays most are unaware he can make. This guy is much more than a blocking tight end who works hard and the next play caller needs to understand he can be a valuable weapon next year.
  • Jerrell Adams: 0 rec/0 yards. Adams looks the part and will occasionally make the catch in practice that can get you excited. But he had two opportunities, one of which was for a touchdown, and he dropped both. Two years in and looks like he won’t ever be anything more than a quality blocker. That is fine, but it won’t give him a ton of long-term security here.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: The two long-haired rookies who I got mixed up a few times during training camp were the starters for this game. A rookie 6th round pick on the right side and an UDFA on the left side – that is who was in charge of protecting the immobile Giants quarterback. As run blockers, they both graded out above average. Bisnowaty had a bad game elsewhere. He allowed 2 sacks and 2 pressures in addition to 2 holding penalties. It was the second-worse RT performance of the year only to former Giant Bobby Hart. And boy does it sound good to say former Giant there. Wheeler didn’t play as badly on the left side, but still was shaky with a slightly below average performance. He exceeded what almost every UDFA did in the NFL this year, thus nobody can look down on him. I do think he is in the picture for RT next year.
  • Interior: After a few bad weeks by OC Brett Jones, he put together a very solid performance. He was borderline dominant in the run game and didn’t have any mishaps as a pass blocker. John Greco subbed for John Jerry (concussion) at LG and I’ll tell you what, he played well. The 32-year old had 66 starts to his name prior to this game and he graded out right there with Jones. Right Guard Jon Halapio finished right below the average mark. He allowed 2 pressures and led the line in allowed tackles. Overall a solid year but he won’t be more than a backup moving forward.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Very solid game from the ends for the second week in a row. Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul combined for 2 sacks and 4 pressures. They were up against backup tackles and provided good gap integrity against the run as well. Neither had a good year or came even close to earning their high cap numbers. With this team being locked into those contracts for at least another year, they are going to be the 2018 starters.
  • Tackles: Damon Harrison ended his second straight season of dominance with NYG. He has been the best player on this team since the beginning of 2016 and will be a building block for next year. If this team runs a 4-3 or a 3-4, he will be the guy in the middle who makes other players better no matter what. Rookie Dalvin Tomlinson had his second best game of the season, totaling 4 tackles and 2 pressures. He had arguably the best year of all the rookie DTs in the league and will be a reliable starter on this team for a long time, no matter the scheme.

LINEBACKERS

  • Kelvin Sheppard intercepted 2 passes and finished with 6 tackles. For a guy who was a street free agent during the beginning of the season, he had a very solid year with the Giants. He probably won’t be a guy that sticks to the roster moving forward, but he had a very respectable year here. Solid inside defender who brings a physical presence to the defense.
  • Devon Kennard recorded his 4th sack of the season and broke up a pass. The versatility this kid has shown all year needs to be factored into his place on this team moving forward. He made a big impact as a pass rusher but is very limited in coverage. If this defense needs an edge presence who can fill LB roles here and there, Kennard will be a keeper.
  • Ray-Ray Armstrong and Calvin Munson are opposite linebackers. Armstrong is a plus athlete who lacks instincts and discipline while Munson is a step slow but has mightily improved his movement post-snap via reads and awareness from the beginning of the season. Neither are guys you make future personnel decisions around, but they do have a shot to stick around.

CORNERBACKS

  • In all honesty with no bias, Ross Cockrell may have played the CB position better than anyone in the NFL over the past 4 weeks. While he hasn’t been overly tested when it comes to quality of his opponent, Cockrell has been dominant. He broke up 4 passes and intercepted another one. He is in the running for a starting job next year and it would be a help when it comes to their approach in FA and the draft if they know he is gonna be the guy.
  • Brandon Dixon and Darryl Morris played the majority of the snaps at CB otherwise, as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played just about a third of the snaps. Cromartie has a valuable role on this defense, but if his playing is going to hover around 50% or less of the plays, he may not be worth keeping considering his cap number. Dixon earned a right to fight for a roster spot next year with his impressive size, speed, and aggression. He doesn’t have the feel though, as every week I noticed him getting beat by double routes and lacking the balance and body control as he turned.

SAFETIES

  • With Landon Collins out, Andrew Adams took his place. Adams is impressive when the action is in front of him. Other than him missing a tackle, he finished with an impact across the board. He had 6 tackles, one TFL, and a pass breakup. Adams also added a pressure. His coverage is solid underneath, but his stiffness and lack of speed makes him a liability against WRs on an island and in deep coverage. Darian Thompson finished with 7 tackles and no misses. He has been solid in his first season as the starter, but the upside with him is limited. He doesn’t make an impact as a tackler and the deep coverage responsibilities are somewhat hampered by a lack of long speed and acceleration. He would be a very good third safety, but merely an average starter.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 23,28). Rosas had yet another extra point blocked early in the game. Hard to say if it his fault or the guys up front blocking. Rosas did not have a good year, too many misses. Kicker might need to be a priority this offseason if a reliable veteran shakes free.
  • P Brad Wing: 9 Punts – 40.3 avg / 33.0 net. A quiet game from Wing with a couple ducks. This was a bad year for Wing overall, especially the stretch early in the year where his late-game mishaps heavily contributed to multiple NYG losses. He should be put on notice.

3 STUDS

  • CB Ross Cockrell, LB Kelvin Sheppard, RB Orleans Darkwa

3 DUDS

  • OT Adam Bisnowaty, TE Jerell Adams, OG Jon Halapio

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

  • Kirk Cousins had a very poor game. While the surrounding cast can be somewhat blamed, it is games like this that lead some to believe he just cant be the guy a team spend $20+ million on per year.
  • WAS has been in the middle of the pack for 3 straight years. Their progress has been halted and they always seem to be the team that is merely solid, but not scary. It looks like Gruden will get another year, but what is going to change? This is a team that is very well put together in the trenches but there isn’t enough star power at the playmaking positions. At some point Gruden needs to push for an aggressive move personnel wise.
  • Ryan Kerrigan has 47 sacks over the past 4 years and has never missed a game in his career. In 14 career NFC East games, he has 29 sacks which is over 2 per game. If there was one edge rusher in the league who I would call overlooked, it is him. I think he is one of the best players in the NFL. WAS has him locked up through 2020.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Initially I was indifferent about the Dave Gettleman hiring but the more I study his tenure in CAR and hear him speak, I think he is exactly what the team needs. Back to “old school”, no-nonsense type approaches on both sides of the ball and in the locker room. He is a guy huge on team culture and laser focus on the big picture. Get the bad apples out, the guys that don’t want to work, and slowly but surely increase the quality of people and players. Odell Beckham will be the most interesting case here. He will definitely will be here in 2018 but if the antics worsen, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see him playing elsewhere in 2019. For the record, I want ODB here long term if he can mature at least a little bit.
  • The #2 pick discussion is now the main focus of NYG talk. This has the potential to be a monumental pick for the franchise. It will somewhat be based on what the team does in FA leading up to it. This is my thought, though a lot of us will over-think it and over-complicate it. This is a simple situation, really. Get the best player and I don’t care what position it is. RB, QB, WR, OT, DE…etc. If  a QB meets the grade, it will likely be the best decision for the future of this team over the other spots. If one doesn’t meet the grade, all bets are off. Get a special player and don’t look back.
  • Let’s not overlook that NYG is potentially heading into the offseason without any starting caliber OTs. Flowers had a solid year, but does he want to be here? Is he going to work hard for 365 days? Is he better suited at RG or RT? Wheeler, is he a 3rd tackle or a starter? Remember this, Gettleman values the trenches as much as anyone. With this current group in shambles, he may put a ton of resources into it via FA and the draft before he tries to plug other holes.
Dec 292017
 
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John Mara, New York Giants (December 29, 2017)

John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 31, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The most disappointing season in the 93-year old history of the New York Giants finally ends on Sunday. 2017 was an utter disaster on every level, causing the conservative franchise to take steps it rarely has done such as firing a general manager and firing a head coach in-season.

And while many fans want to forget 2017 and focus on the future, it is important to understand the magnitude of the organization’s ineptness. Ownership failed. Team management failed. The coaching staff failed. The public relations staff failed. The training staff failed. Offense, defense, special teams failed. The players behaved like immature assholes from Odell Beckham to Eli Apple to Landon Collins.

The organization failed, from top to bottom. And that does not bode well moving forward. Don’t think so? Keep this in mind:

  • Ownership picked and Ernie Accorsi lobbied for Jerry Reese over Dave Gettleman as the team’s next GM in early 2007. Fast forward a decade later and Accorsi lobbied Mara and Tisch for Gettleman. Oh the irony.
  • In early 2016, ownership decided Tom Coughlin, and not Jerry Reese, was the problem. Ouch.
  • Ownership rushed to hire Ben McAdoo, a man who was clearly over his head, fearing the Philadelphia Eagles would snag him. In hindsight, the Eagles may have successfully goaded the Giants into making a disastrous coaching move. On top of that, McAdoo’s assistant coaching staff was virtually identical to Coughlin’s. Did ownership meddle and mandate the retention of coaches like Steve Spagnuolo, Mike Sullivan, and Tom Quinn?
  • Ownership/management were convinced the 2017 New York Giants were a Super Bowl contender. Instead, no team in Giants’ history has lost more games in one season. If the Giants and Browns played on Sunday, the Browns would probably win. One would hope that the leaders of the franchise would have a better capability for self-analysis.
  • Ben McAdoo was made the scapegoat for the Eli Manning benching, a move that both ownership and management signed off on, but then hid from. The disastrous PR handling of this move caused the Giants to backtrack on a decision that actually had merit, resulting the worst possible outcome. Eli Manning saw his consecutive game streak end and felt pissed on, yet the team still didn’t get a read on Davis Webb. What a waste!

Dave Gettleman has been hired as the team’s next general manager. He may be the perfect selection, the worst, or something in between. Only time will tell. What we do know is the GM search was a farce. Three of the four candidates interviewed were intimately connected to the Giants’ organization and existing culture. Marc Ross was a courtesy and Rooney Rule interviewee. Louis Riddick has been out of the NFL since 2013. Kevin Abrams may have been the only other serious candidate considered, and that’s not a given. Right or wrong, ownership decided to not even seriously consider other options.

  • Pros: No surprises. Gettleman worked for the Giants from 1998 to 2012. He knows the team’s culture from the owners down to the secretaries and janitors. Gettleman is experienced and knows how to evaluate talent. He’s been a GM in the league and knows how to do the job. He was the safe pick. If Gettleman was the pick all along, delaying the inevitable through a dog-and-pony show would have been a waste of time and could have cost the Giants an opportunity to hire a head coach of their choosing.
  • Cons: While he may tweak things here and there, Gettleman is a product, and therefore a representative, of the current team culture. It is highly unlikely there will be many – if any – structural changes in the way the Giants conduct their business. This was clear to many as soon as it was announced that Accorsi would be consulting ownership. It is somewhat disturbing that no outside candidates/approaches were even seriously considered. Mara should not insult our intelligence in claiming that all options were on the table. While Gettleman was the safe choice, he may not have been the best. And at 66, his age is a factor and he will likely only be a short-term solution, which in itself could influence the way he approaches his job.

An interesting indicator to watch will be Marc Ross, the team’s Vice President of Player Evaluation (really Director of College Scouting). If he stays, be worried.

Let’s be clear about one thing: other than ownership, nothing matters more than the general manager. If the Giants have picked the right general manager, they will be OK. If they have picked the wrong guy, the Giants may be entering the 1970s again. But the risks don’t stop there. Gettleman has to pick the right coaching staff and make the right decision at quarterback, including with what to do with either the #2 or #3 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Making the wrong decisions with the coaches or quarterback could set this team back years. And in 2022 or so, we may be going through all of this again as the Giants remain a laughing stock. This is the most critical phase the Giants have gone through since 1979. That year, Pete Rozelle forced George Young on the Giants, which led to Ray Perkins and then Bill Parcells, and Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor.

So as of late December 2017, here’s where we are at in terms of the big picture:

  1. General Manager: Dave Gettleman
  2. Head Coach: ???
  3. Quarterback: ???

The success of those three selections will ultimately determine the fate of the team possibly for the next decade.

Dec 292017
 
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Sam Darnold, USC Trojans (December 1, 2017)

Sam Darnold – © USA TODAY Sports

2018 NFL Draft Prospects: December 29, 2017 Bowl Games

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WAKE FOREST

#85 TE Cam Serigne – 6’3/240

5th year senior. Leaves WF and the ACC as the all time leader in receiving yards and catches among TEs. He isn’t a very dynamic athlete, but he catches everything thrown his way. Has a knack for finding extra yards after contact via awareness and toughness. Blue collar guy that will stick somewhere, albeit with a limited upside. 5th/6th rounder.

#53 DE Duke Ejiofor – 6’4/275

5th year senior. 2nd Team All ACC. Top tier run defender, plays the inside gap of the tackle really well. May want to bulk up and play a 3-4 DE type role, he can excel there. Crafty, excellent technique, nose for the ball. Some teams will have a 3rd round grade on him, not a pure edge guy though.

Other Notables:

#10 QB John Wolford – 6’1/200
#14 DE Wendell Dunn – 6’3/250
#6 LB Jaboree Williams – 6’0/245
#50 LB Grant Dawson – 6’1/225

TEXAS A& M

#92 DT Zaycovern Henderson – 6’2/300 (WIL NOT PLAY – Suspended)

*#3 WR Christian Kirk – 5’11/200

Junior that hasn’t declared yet, many expect him to. Was one of the top playmakers in the country from beginning of 2015 through end of 2016. As a returner and receiver, he was as electric as it got. 7 return TDs over his career.Led the SEC with 83 catches in 2016. There is some Odell Beckham in him when it comes to the explosion he has in and out of his breaks and the toughness he plays with. Production saw a dip in 2017 with such poor QB and OL play. But when looking at this kid move with the ball, he has 1st round talent written all over him.

#7 RB Keith Ford – 5’11/215

5th year senior, began career at Oklahoma but transferred when he saw he wasn’t going to be the guy. Effective downhill, short yardage back. Consistently breaks through initial contact but a limited athlete that won’t create on his own. Late rounder.

#4 WR Damion Ratley – 6’3/190

Fourth year senior that had a hard time seeing action in his first three years. Entered 2017 with 17 career catches, finished 2017 with 26-603-6. Legit deep speed, has always been a guy that would get people excited in training camp. Maybe someone gets a late rounder that is about to blossom?

#23 Armani Watts – 5’11/200

Four year starter, one of my favorite players in the draft. Likely will finish as my #1 or #2 safety in the class. I want to see how he tests athletically, if he is truly a 4.4 guy, I am putting him in my top 10 overall. This kid is all over the field, plenty of TFL, INTs, PDs, blocked kicks…etc. Just an incredibly smart player that tackles well. Not a big thumper, but he gets the man down. Would be an ideal fit next to Landon Collins in all likelihood.

#40 DE Jarrett Johnson – 6’3/260

Fourth year senior, played behind Daeshon Hall and Myles Garrett, got to show what he has in 2017. Looks like a pass rusher-only, but with upside. Love the body and pad level, has some natural tools that can be worked with. Just didn’t get a ton of playing time in college. Late rounder, maybe UDFA that is worth taking a chance on.

Other Notables:

#24 CB Priest Willis – 6’2/205
#9 DE Qualen Cunningham – 6’3/245

________________________________________________________

NC STATE

*#15 QB Ryan Finley – 6’4/210

Fourth year junior. Hasn’t declared yet, I am leaning towards him going back to school. He doesn’t have 1st round talent and in a somewhat crowded QB class, he could be the guy that gets bumped down to round 3-4. Finley is a pro style passer, excellent footwork and release. Very accurate, poised, consistent. Doesn’t have the live arm that some of these other guys do and his athletic ability is average at best. That said, I think he can be very solid in the NFL. Alex Smith type passer.

#1 WR/RB Jaylen Samuels – 5’11/236

In all honesty, one of my favorite players in the class. This guy may be as versatile as any offensive sklll position player I have ever scouted. He averaged 6+ yards per carry with 2017 being majority short yardage and goal line attempts, caught 195 passes, and scored 47 touchdowns over his 4 years. I’ve seen him 11 times over the past 2 years, and I think he can play both WR and RB in the NFL, a la Ty Montgomery. Samuels plays as hard as anyone, loves the game, total team player. He is a gamer that understands situational football very well. I think he is a 2nd rounder and it will be on the coaches to find the proper ways to use him.

*#7 Nyheim Hines – 5’9/197

Undeclared junior, guys that grade out round 3 or better are usually pushed to go to the NFL, legs only have so many mileage. Hines has already been banged up and with a strong 2017 where he had flashes of big play ability inside and out, he could definitely come out. He is really quick and explosive, runs physical. I think he has a better career in the NFL that he did in college.

#50 OG Tony Adams – 6’2/300

Four year starter. Powerfully built, specializes in run blocking with his initial punch and low center of gravity. Good straight line mover that equally struggles to move laterally with balance and quickness. Smart guy, leader of the line, makes the calls. Needs work on sustaining blocks. 4th/5th rounder.

#9 DE Bradley Chubb – 6’4/260

Fourth year senior that was very solid leading up to 2017, then broke out in a big way. Chubb was 2nd in the nation with 25 TFL. An equally dominant player against the run and pass, does all the little things right. Excellent hands, feet, and leverage. Mean dude, wants to obliterate his opponent. This can be a guy that changes the entire outlook of a defense. May not be the explosive edge guy some want, but he is a big time player with a probable top 10 overall grade.

#98 DT BJ Hill – 6’4/300

Fourth year senior with a lot of experience, started games every year of his career. Coaches say he is one of the most important players on that team, gets overlooked a lot. Really good at holding his ground, massive lower body power. Showed some penetration skills in 2017, he is a safe player to draft and put in to action right away.

#35 DE Kentavius Street – 6’2/290

Fourth year senior, little underwhelming career wise. Has experience at DT and DE, I think he may be best suited for DT at the next level, maybe a 3-4 DE role. Freakish athletic ability for a 290 pounder, will blow up the combine. He shows glimpses, he is more than an athlete. 4th rounder somewhat based on good workout numbers.

#27 DT Justin Jones – 6’2/312

Big guy with speed and hustles. Makes a lot of plays via secondary movement and pursuit, which I always like to see. Doesn’t do much at the point of attack, needs to work on initial positioning and hand placement. But guys this big that make as many tackles as he does (62 over past 2 years, 15 of which went for loss) are always worth looking at Day 3.

Other Notables:

#4 LB Jerod Fernandez – 6’0/227
#24 CB Shawn Boone – 5’10/206
#58 LB Airius Moore – 6’0/235

ARIZONA STATE

#7 RB Kalen Ballage – 6’3/230

4th year senior, was a goal line back early in his career and evolved in to more of an every down guy. Rare combination of size and speed, might see a big boost in his stock when the workouts happen. Has shown flashes of dominance, but consistency isn’t there. Doesn’t run with a feel, lacks vision and reaction ability. Limited in terms of what you can do with him scheme wise, 4th rounder.

#4 RB Demario Richard – 5’10/219

4th year senior. Gets overlooked because Ballage is the more sexy prospect based on tools, but Richard might be better suited for the NFL. He is quicker, just as hard to bring down, and has more vision and easy-ness to him. Creates more on his own. Has had some issues with drops and ball security, blocking is sub-par. 4th/5th rounder.

#3 LB DJ Calhoun – 6’0/236

4th year senior that was in and out of the starting lineup early in his career, had some discipline issues assignment wise. Cleaned things up in 2017, played very well. Led the team with 22.5 TFL over past two years. Physical and rangy wrap up tackler that is all over the field. Struggles in traffic. 4th/5th rounder.

Other Notables:

#44 LB Alani Latu – 6’2/248
#90 DT Tashon Smalwood – 6’0/279
#17 S J’Marcus Rhodes – 6’1/214
#65 OC AJ McCollum – 6’2/311

_________________________________________________________

KENTUCKY

*#41 OLB Josh Allen – 6’5/230

Junior that hasn’t declared yet, seems like he is coming out though. Really, just a 1 year starter/contributor that has really good tools. Explosive and fast, easy bender, that can both rush the passer an factor in coverage. Seems like a natural at both and his best days are ahead of him. He doesn’t make a physical impact on contact, not a powerful guy. Another year in school could make him a 1st rounder, while right now I see a 5th rounder.

Other Notables:

#9 WR Garrett Johnson – 5’11/175
#73 OT Kyle Meadows – 6’5/303
#68 OG Nick Haynes – 6’3/308
#70 OT Jordan Swindle – 6’7/313
#51 LB Courtney Love – 6’2/242

NORTHWESTERN

#9 TE Garrett Dickerson – 6’3/248

4th year senior, saw a spike in production in 2016. Has had a knack for making plays downfield and after the catch. Really interesting athlete that can sneak by guys. Foot speed and body control are a plus, but ball skills and hands have been inconsistent. 6th rounder.

#21 RB Justin Jackson – 5’11/193

4th year senior, has had a very productive career. Burst on to the scene as a freshman in 2014. 4 straight years of 1,000+ yards, but also 1,000+ career carries. I see a quality back with vision and instincts being his strengths but an inability to run through tacklers and break tackles Poor blocker. Just don’t see the presence of an NFL back, but I bet he makes a team with his plus-receiving ability 7th rounder. He will be at the Senior Bowl.

#1 DT Tyler Lancaster – 6’4/315

5th year senior. A ton of experience, team captain that coaches and teammates rave about. If you like enormous, long armed, big handed, country strong players this is your guy. He is going to put on a show at the combine with his bench press. He is functionally powerful as well, a major force inside. Can eat up space and make some plays at the point of attack. Not really a pass rusher but a reliable 2 down defender that will factor right away. 4th rounder, safe pick.

#16 S Godwin Igwebuike – 6’0/212

Fifth year senior, 3 year starter. Has been among the team’s leaders in tackles and interceptions since 2015. Some guys view him as a top tier, maybe top overall, safety in the class. I don’t see it because he has a hard time seeing things transpire before they do. Doesn’t forecast well. Fooled by playaction a lot, double routes kill him. He tackles well and shows excellent agility, but a safety needs the 6th sense. I say 4th/5th rounder.

#21 S Kyle Queiro – 6’2/221

Fifth year senior. Missed some time earlier in his career with an injury. Broke out in a big way in 2017, leading the team with 4 INTs. Has more upside than Igwebuike considering his frame and versatility. He can match up in man coverage against slot corners, has a better feel for the game. Right now I have him in round 5, but I am going to se more of him in the coming months and he has top 100 potential.

Other Notables:

#69 OC Brad North – 6’2/290
#15 WR Macan Wilson – 6’0/185

_____________________________________________________

USC

*#14 QB Sam Darnold – 6’4/225

Third year junior. Broke out in 2016, more in particular in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. Entered the year as the top prospect in the nation, everyone assumed he would be the guy the #1 overall team would take. That isn’t as clear now. Darnold had a rough year and if I am going to be honest, a really rough year. We already knew the arm strength, body, toughness, athletic ability…all of that was there. Darnold turned the ball over way too many times and looked terrible in the pocket for the majority of the year. Just a young kid trying to do too much. Trying to fit balls in to windows that didn’t exist, didn’t protect the ball with defenders around him. The chatter of his OL being poor is a weak argument. Darnold played poorly and there isn’t any way around it. There is a ways to go with him and maybe this ends up being a good thing for him, maybe it doesn’t. But I know this right now, I am nervous about drafting him that high.

*#25 RB Ronald Jones – 6’0/200

A few months ago I was under the impression there was no shot anyone would over take Saquon Barkley as the class’ top running back. Well, I still have him up there but Ronald Jones is making things difficult. Jones might be the most explosive, best moving back I’ve scouted in years. The former USC track athlete has the forward lean and top tier balance that make him a threat to reach his elite top speed in a blink. He leaves school as one of the top rushers in program history and is a 1st rounder in my book, maybe a top 10 talent.

*#80 WR Deontay Burnett – 6’0/175

Junior that hasn’t declared. If Darnold comes out, Burnett probably will too. His stock isn’t anything special right now, but his QB play will likely drop next year and he may not want to risk playing a year with lesser talent around him. He is very slight-framed, doesn’t have a ton of deep speed. He does move very well underneath, showing excellent slot potential. But can a guy under 180 pounds hack it physically? I prefer more strength potential. 3rd/4th rounder.

*#94 DT Rasheem Green – 6’4/275

Junior that hasn’t declared yet, I think he will. He stood out to me from week 1, a guy that looks like an NFL player on a college field. Just massive everywhere, has pro-caliber technique and movement. His ideal fit is 3-4 DE and I think he can be one of the best in the league. This is a guy that PIT or NE drafts and goes on to a stable and consistent 10 year career. Safe pick with big upside.

#42 OLB Uchenna Nwosu – 6’2/240

Fourth year senior, 2 year starter. Very active 3-4 OLB type that checks all the technique boxes. Excellent with his hands and leverage, wins a lot of 1 on 1 battles that way. He is a step too slow when it comes to pure edge rushing speed and doesn’t carry a ton of presence physically. I think 4th/5th rounder.

#98 DT Josh Fatu – 6’2/315

Senior that started off at junior college. Broke out in 2017, carries tremendous power and short area quickness. He can be a factor between the tackles. Actually had 6.5 sacks this year, didn’t see that coming but he is so good off the ball and after initial contact. I think he can be a 4th rounder that contributes early.

Other Notables:

#4 WR Steven Mitchell – 5’10/195
#74 OC Nico Falah – 6’4/285
#4 S Chris Hawkins – 5’11/190

OHIO STATE

#74 OT Jamarco Jones – 6’5/310

Senior, 2 year starter. He is the one guy I am targeting right now that can likely be had in round 2 that I think is a week 1 starter at LT in the NFL. If NYG doesn’t want to move forward with Flowers at that spot, Jones is interesting to me. Excellent footwork and hand placement, stays under control. Has some trouble sustaining in space and will be slow out of his stance at times. I like him.

#54 OC Billy Price – 6’4/312

Fifth year senior. Leader of the line, All American. Widely considered the best OC in the draft, maybe the top interior guy in the class behind Quenton Nelson. Coaches love this kid, as hard a worker as you will find and always gets the job done. Has plenty of experience at OG and OC. Gets a little sluggish in there, feet will get stuck. I would be a little worried with him at guard, but at OC I think he is plug and play.

*#21 WR Paris Campbell – 6’1/208

Undeclared junior. Raw but exciting player that would likely be a 1st rounder next year. Right now he is viewed more as a gamble, just hasn’t gotten a lot of looks. 52 career catches. Can really shoot out of a cannon and he tracks the ball exceptionally well.

#16 QB JT Barrett – 6’2/230

A lot of people like to overlook this kid. He isn’t among the top QBs in the class, not close, but as a late round shot in the dark he might be one of my favorite QBs. Has a ton of experience in big situations, has responded really well in the majority of them. Has a lot of work to do on his footwork but he reads the defense well, has mightily improved his throwing, and has shown to be very innovative. Barrett doesn’t project as a starter in the NFL right now, but he is very coachable, tough, and talented. For a day 3 pick, what more can you want?

*#12 CB Denzel Ward – 5’10/191

Undeclared junior. May have been the team’s 2nd best CB last year behind Lattimore, but a little overlooked because of tools-rich Gareon Conley. Ward is very good at playing the ball. A lot of PDs despite teams rarely throwing his way. Excellent slot defender, a growing role in the NFL. Doesn’t tackle well, but does make an impact on special teams as well.

#7 S Damon Webb – 5’11/195

Senior that has played CB and S. I am looking forward to studying him more. I often discuss the need for a safety to have the 6th sense, Webb has it. He is very smart and quick to react. Has true, legit sideline range from the CF spot. Size is a little bit of a worry for the position, doesn’t impact the game much as a tackler. When I talk about what the Giants need next to Landon Collins, Webb is it.

*#86 DT Dre’Mont Jones – 6’3/295

Third year sophomore. Scouts love this guy, upside through the roof. Hasn’t really put everything together yet but I bet if he comes out, he ends up being a top 45 pick. Has the NFL body right now and when he turns it on, rare athletic ability. A gamble because he hasn’t produced consistently yet.

#59 DE Tyuan Lewis – 6’4/266

5th year senior, a lot of experience. Powerful, has had NFL calibe strength and power for 2 years now. Led the team with 8 sacks in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Doesn’t have the initial explosion off the edge, but he can make up for it somewhat with what he does post engagement. Strong hands, aggressive nature, pursues hard. Projects as a starter or #3 guy that plays a lot.

*#6 DE Sam Hubbard – 6’5/265

Undeclared fourth year junior. Was tabbed as the next Joey Bosa, probably unfairly. He hasn’t reached anywhere near that level but the tools still excite me. Big and nimble, bends well, can play the hands game very well. The quick twitch and explosion are average though. I think he is a solid rotational guy in the NFL, safe pick, but a limited player.

#11 DE Jalyn Holmes – 6’5/274

Overlooked senior. Nick Bosa has made it tough for Holmes to get on the field a lot, but don’t take that as Holmes not being good. I think his potential is just as high as Hubbard and Lewis. Has the frame, has the moves, has the quick feet. He may be the most attractive DL on this team when it comes to long term progression.

#35 LB Chris Worley – 6’2/230

Senior with 2 years of starting experience. I’m not wild about him, kind of average across the board. Has played with more talent in front of him than maybe any LB in the country but still struggles to produce a lot. Weak contact as a tackler, speed is OK. Coverage OK.

Other Notables:

#85 TE Marcus Baugh – 6’5/250
#93 DT Tracy Sprinkle – 6’3/293

Dec 272017
 
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Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (December 24, 2017)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals 23 – New York Giants 0

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 27/45 – 263 yards – 0 TD/2 INT. Manning also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. It was a rough day for Manning, as his 57.9 QB rating was his second lowest of the year. Manning’s footwork and release points were just simply off for the majority of the game. The NFL’s best defense over the past 2 months appeared to be in his head more than it should have been, as he was sidestepping pressure that wasn’t always there and rushing throws that he didn’t need to. His accuracy was an issue for almost the entire game.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 10 att/18 yards – 6 rec/44 yards. There weren’t enough opportunities for Gallman to find his groove. They were playing from behind for the majority of the game and the fast, physical defensive front was too much for the Giants OL to handle. Seeing him take big hits week after week and getting right back up is a good sign. He has plenty of toughness and with another couple of years of NFL weight training, he can be our guy. His movement and vision are very good.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 6 att/10 yards. Darkwa didn’t have any luck against this defensive front, either. Darkwa has really disappeared in the second half of the season. He hasn’t averaged over 3 yards per carry since November 19 against the Chiefs. Bad hands, bad vision, won’t create much on his own.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 5 rec/45 yards. Also had a drop on a poorly thrown, but catchable 3rd-down pass from Manning. After a career game last week, Shepard didn’t factor much before aggravating a neck injury that forced him to miss most of the 4th quarter. They tried sending him deep on a couple of occasions, but him and Manning just couldn’t connect. And Shepard isn’t a deep separation guy, doesn’t have that next gear.
  • Roger Lewis: 4 rec/40 yards. Lewis was the most targeted receiver of the day, getting 11 looks from Manning. He responded with his worst performance of the season. He had 3 drops and ran poor routes, struggling to gain separation on simple routes. Lewis is catching the ball with his body too often and has proven that despite more opportunity in 2017, he is a #5 WR at best. He did not take a jump up that totem pole this season.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rhett Ellison: 4 rec/60 yards. With Engram going down early with a rib injury, Ellison saw a spike in playing time and targets. In my end of year review, I will discuss Ellison as one of the most underused players on this team. He responds well to his targets percentage wise as much as any pass catcher on this team and he has a way of always finding extra yards.
  • Jerrell Adams: 4 rec/31 yards. Adams also saw a spike in playing time and caught all of his targets. Adams is a slow-twitch athlete who doesn’t dominate as a blocker the way he should, but he has done well in his limited opportunities as well. The tight end position appears to be set for the next few years.
  • Evan Engram: 1 rec/12 yards. Went down with a rib injury early, sat out the rest of the game and will likely sit next week. Capped an outstanding rookie season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers went backwards, especially in the 2nd half. He had a terrible series, allowing 1 pressure and 2 holds within one drive. He had 2 other pressures in addition, struggling to stick with stunts and late movement. His game seemed off in comparison to what we have seen over the past 3 months. He needs to finish strong, because that LT spot is far from securely his. Bobby Hart allowed 2 pressures and a sack. Not much needs to be said here; he is not a starting caliber OL in this league and I’m not sure he backup caliber, either.
  • Interior: Brett Jones had another below average performance, as did Jon Halapio. They were unable to hold the point-of-attack or lock on to their respective defenders. John Jerry allowed a TFL and 1 pressure, but graded out as the top OL in this game with a mark right at the average point. He isn’t a guy who played bad enough to lose his job but he also isn’t a guy who played well enough to keep it heading in to the 2018 offseason.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Damon Harrison continued his All-Pro caliber play. I don’t spend much time even looking at the Pro Bowl rosters, but I will say it again, there is not a better DT in the NFL. He had 2 TFL, 2 pressures, and continued to make plays sideline to sideline. His impact within the tackle box is as dominant as any player in the league at their respective position. Dalvin Tomlinson was quiet, but also effective at controlling the inside gaps. Jay Bromley did record a TFL, but he led the DL in negative plays mainly from him getting pushed back 2+ yards multiple times.
  • Ends: A very solid performance from the starting duo. One thing that can be tough to do is take the previous disappointments and not let them impact the current evaluation. Jason Pierre-Paul has been the most underperforming player on this 2017 team, but he was very disruptive in this game. Blowing up tight ends and tackles at the point-of-attack and finishing with 4 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 pressures. Olivier Vernon added a sack/fumble of his own along with a pressure and 3 tackles.

LINEBACKERS

  • Kelvin Sheppard led the team with 9 tackles. More of the same with him, solid play between the tackles with a lot of physical presence behind his hits, but anything in to space and he gets exposed badly.
  • This was the first extended look I got at the newly signed Ray-Ray Armstrong. He played 40% of the team’s snaps and flashed some of the athleticism and power this LB corps has lacked for a long time. He still doesn’t look like a natural linebacker out there, showing hesitation on his reads and too many recovery steps.

CORNERBACKS

  • Ross Cockrell continues to show he deserves a long term spot on this team, meaning he needs to be on this team in 2018. He brought in 2 interceptions, both of which he showed excellent body control and ball skills, 1 of which was in the end zone. This will be one of the major positives that comes out of the 2017 season; he has played exceptionally well and has steadily improved with the more playing time he got.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has impressed me. Not necessarily in that his level of play has been what it used to, although he has been more than solid, but in his constant hustle, leadership and effort. After his suspension earlier in the year, I thought this was going to end ugly in NY for him, but he plays as hard as anyone on this team.
  • Brandon Dixon went through some growing pains in this one, being outclassed by Larry Fitzgerald on multiple occasions. Outclassed to the point that on double routes, Dixon couldn’t stay within 4-5 yards of him. He allowed a touchdown to Fitzgerald and John Brown.

SAFETIES

  • After one of his most physical tackles of the year, Landon Collins went down with a broken arm which will end his season. He had a good, but far from great, season. Collins needs to be used carefully, because there is a lot he simply cannot do in coverage.
  • Andrew Adams received more playing time via the Collins injury, and he did not respond well. The sixth sense I talk about when looking at safeties is something he just doesn’t have. Far too many times he is dropping into zone coverage unaware of who and what is around him. He also missed 2 tackles. Darian Thompson had 4 tackles and picked up deep routes well, although he wasn’t challenged much.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Aldrick Rosas: 0/1. Rosas missed his lone opportunity of the day, a 33-yard attempt that sailed wide left.
  • Brad Wing: 6 Punts – 43.8 avg – 39.0 net. Wing suffered an ankle injury on an uncalled roughing the kicker penalty.

3 STUDS

  • DT Damon Harrison, CB Ross Cockrell, DE Jason Pierre-Paul

3 DUDS

  • OC Brett Jones, WR Roger Lewis, OG Jon Halapio

3 THOUGHTS ON ARI

  • This team is built to win a lot of games right now, if only they had an accomplished QB who can stay on the field and throw the ball down field with success. Yes, Eli Manning would be an ideal fit for that team while they groom a long-term answer. The defense is top 5 in the NFL and is loaded with young talent who will be around for the next few years. If Manning doesn’t shake free, this would be an ideal landing spot for Kirk Cousins.
  • Larry Fitzgerald is not a veteran WR who should hang it up. He is one of the top WRs in the game and I place him right under the Jones/Brown/Beckham tier. How he runs routes, catches the ball with his hands, and controls his body is something every young WR should study. He does everything at a high level and continues to work hard to improve, not just sustain, his skill set. He has multiple years left, no doubt.
  • Bruce Arians has always been one of my favorite coaches since his days as an OC in Pittsburgh. He has a sense of realness to him, but still a guy who grown men playing in the NFL will fear. He is a guy who I would take in NY right now if he were to ever get out of ARI. He gets the most out of his players, especially QBs.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • These games are painful and there are certain players you can’t get a fair evaluation on. Manning played poorly, made some mistakes a veteran like him should not make. But can we consider who he is throwing the ball to? And the line that is blocking in front of him? I wouldn’t call them excuses, but it has to be considered when trying to figure out if he should still be the guy moving forward. I am on record as saying that I think this team can still win with Manning but that doesn’t mean I would look past QB at #2 overall.
  • The Landon Collins/Eli Apple saga is going too far now. Collins shouldn’t be saying what he is saying to the media, the whole cancer comment was a bit too much. At this point, with how public the team’s distaste for Apple is, the trade value couldn’t be lower. So with that said, they may be forced in to keeping him another year and hoping he grows up and/or gets stimulated with the new coaching staff.
  • At this point, there is still a possibility 1 or 2 OT’s can be in the running for the #2 overall pick. Has Ereck Flowers proven he deserves to be the guy there? Or do you take his skill set and move it to RT and draft Connor Williams (Texas) or Brian O’Neill (Pittsburgh)? If Manning is going to play out this contract, the OL may have to become priority A and B this offseason and if a new shiny rookie can hack it at LT, Pugh comes back strong, and Flowers sustains this level of play at RT, we have something to work with – something much better than what we have seen in recent years. At this point, anything is and should be considered possible.
Dec 222017
 
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New York Giants Defense (January 11, 1987)

New York Giants Defense (January 11, 1987)

Game Preview: New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals, December 24, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
For the first time in 23 years of writing game previews, I’ve got nothing. This is the nightmare season that simply won’t end. So while the Giants are set to establish a new franchise record for losses in one season, in the spirit of the Ghost of Christmas Past, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and remember happier times. Merry Christmas and a belated Happy Hanukkah!

(NOTE: Since the NFL/YouTube have blocked NFL-related content from BBI, you may have to click on the link to watch).

Dec 202017
 
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Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (December 17, 2017)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles 34 – New York Giants 29

RECAP

With each week comes a gap that is that much shorter before this horrendous 2017 season is over for the bottom-feeder Giants, the second worst team in the NFL. What was destined to be a blowout-type projection with the Eagles aiming at a first round bye in the playoffs behind their MVP candidate QB Carson Wentz quickly became a closer-to-even match-up as Wentz tore his ACL last week. Nick Foles, former Eagles backup, was back in the saddle after a few unsuccessful seasons with the Rams and Chiefs, respectively.

The Giants’ 31st-ranked scoring offense came out, surprisingly, on fire. Eli Manning was spreading the ball out, hitting his targets on the numbers, and looking confident. They opened with a 13 play drive that ended with an Orleans Darkwa 1-yard touchdown run, the first time NYG scored 6 on their first drive of the game all season. Aldrick Rosas had his PAT blocked, leaving the score at 6-0. PHI responded with a touchdown drive of their own, with the biggest play being at the hands of a missed sack by Jason Pierre-Paul and a 32-yard pass interference penalty on Darian Thompson. Two plays later, Foles found the newly-signed long-term receiver Alshon Jeffrey for 6, his ninth TD catch of the year. There isn’t a single 3-WR combination on the Giants that have 9 TDs on the year.

Manning was out to prove that first drive wasn’t a fluke, as he engineered another touchdown via 10 plays. The Giants’ no-huddle offense sent the PHI defense scrambling, as the pass rush substitutes weren’t able to get on the field and the PHI defensive backs looked lost. Tavarres King brought in his 2nd TD catch of the year.

After a quick PHI possession, it took NYG 3 plays to get in the end zone again, this time a short pitch to Sterling Shepard and a 63 yard-after-catch scamper down the sideline aided by good downfield blocking and porous tackling by the PHI secondary. It was early in the 2nd quarter and NYG held a commanding 20-7 lead with the Eagles looking lost with a backup QB leading the charge. They had to stop the bleeding first, then figure how they were going to dig out of this deep hole on the road.

All within the last 6 minutes of the first half, a Manning interception to Ronald Darby led to a quick touchdown pass from Foles to Zach Ertz (a tight end scoring a TD, surprise, surprise) and then a blocked punt in NYG territory led to a touchdown pass from Foles to Trey Burton (a tight end scoring a TD, surprise, surprise). In 2:30 of game clock, the score went from 20-7 NYG to 21-20 PHI. The nightmares of 2017 continue. NYG did put together a quick and efficient 11 play drive at the end of the half capped by a 28-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas to take a 23-21 lead at halftime, however.

PHI took the lead back on the first possession of the second half via a field goal by Jake Elliot, a likely Pro Bowler. Foles was inconsistent, as he was for the rest of the half, but he made key throws and/or the NYG defense failed to step up in key situations. The second PHI possession of the second half yielded more points, this time a touchdown from Foles to Nelson Agholor after newly-acquired Jay Ajayi picked up a combined 54 yards on 2 straight plays, the second of which was another low-ball effort by Eli Apple. It was 31-23 just like that.

PHI offered a couple of mistakes themselves with an offsides on a NYG punt that led to a re-birth of a drive and a missed tackle by Darby that enabled King to scamper into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day, bringing NYG back with 2 of the Eagles towards the end of the 3rd quarter. NYG lined up for a 48-yard field goal attempt at the beginning of the fourth, but for the 3rd time a NYG kick was blocked. This time Malcolm Jenkins snuck around the outside and got just enough of it. The 4th quarter woes appeared to be following this team yet again.

PHI marched down the field, ate up 7:30 of game clock, and hit a short field goal to extend their lead to 5. It was now touchdown or bust for the 2-11 Giants. Manning, yet again, led this offense down the field and was looking like his old, clutch self. With replacement-level receivers, he was spreading the ball out, escaping pressure, and making several changes at the point-of-attack in their solid no-huddle offense. It was 4th-and-goal from the 6-yard line and…right tackle Bobby Hart proved it again. The worst right tackle in the league was flagged for a false start, pushing NYG back to the 11-yard line, a major difference. Manning was forced to throw the ball before he wanted to and it was out of the reach of Engram. Game over, Giants fall to 2-12.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 37/57 – 434 yards – 3 TD/1 INT. In 2 games this year, Manning has passed for 700 yards and 6 touchdowns against PHI. His 434 in this game were the most he has had in one game since week 4 of 2015. The play-calling called for more downfield passing than we have seen all year and it begs the question, why wasn’t this approach earlier in the year? Manning’s greatest strength has always been downfield passing and this was the first week we saw him do it consistently.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 8 att/39 yards – 6 rec/40 yards. More of the same from the 4th-round rookie. Gallman has a burst and change of direction that continues to create on its own that the other NYG backs don’t have, plain and simple. He is running hard and tough, in addition. His play, his improvement, and his approach each week is a good sign for the future.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 9 att/7 yards – 1 TD – 1 rec/9 yards. Rightfully so, Darkwa is being slightly phased out of the offense as this team needs to see what Gallman can present. We know what we have in Darkwa. An average between-the-tackles rusher who can break tackles, which is important, but can’t do anything else at a high level.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 11 rec/139 yards – 1 TD. Shepard was targeted early and often, 16 times. That is the most Manning has targeted any pass catcher all year. Shepard did have another drop, however. This kid is a tough player who is starting to show he is more than a 3rd-and-5 slot receiver. He can make some things happen and excels at getting himself open. He is a keeper, but won’t ever be more than a #3 on a good passing offense.
  • Roger Lewis: 4 rec – 74 yards. Lewis was targeted 10 times and is developing in a positive way before our eyes. I’m not ready to say he needs to be a part of the 2018 group, but he is closer than he was since Beckham and Marshall were injured. Lewis is showing more body control and speed as a route runner and when he is attacking a 50/50 ball. Good signs.
  • Tavarres King: 2 rec – 70 yards – 2 TD. King made the most of his day, getting in the end zone twice despite only having a couple catches and leaving the game early via injury. His body control is upper tier, but elsewhere is game is very limited. Plus with that frame, not sure he will ever be durable.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 8 rec/87 yards. The second-most targeted pass catcher on the day is on a mini hot streak. He did have another drop, but this kid is just getting more and more confident each week. It is enabling him to play faster, which is hard to believe because he was already the most impressive athlete in the NFL at TE. He was manhandled by DE Vinny Curry twice, so there is still a blocking deficiency there but he has done better than most thought this year.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: With Manning dropping back deeper in the pocket and holding onto the ball longer, it put more on the OL’s shoulders. For the most part, they responded well against a pass rush that has been more than solid this year. Ereck Flowers had a another below average game, allowing 2 sacks (1 of which was on a 2 pt conversion), 2 pressures, and recorded a holding penalty. He saved himself with some quality run blocking, however. Bobby Hart is still in the starting lineup for some reason. He allowed 2 pressures and 2 TFL while recording an atrocious false start penalty at the end of the game. Chad Wheeler deserves playing time over these next 2 weeks.
  • Interior: Pleasantly surprised by this group. They didn’t do a good job run blocking, but they held up well against an interior pass rush that has been among the best in football this year. You could see the frustration boiling in Timmy Jernigan late in the game. John Jerry had his second-best game of the year and third game where he was above average. Brett Jones and Jon Halapio were right at the slightly above average mark.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Another woefully quiet game by Jason Pierre-Paul. He was over-matched by Lane Johnson, arguably the top RT in the league. He had a free sack put in front of him in the first quarter but Nick Foles, not known for his movement ability at all, pump faked and juked him badly which led to Thompson’s 32-yard pass interference penalty. Olivier Vernon was disruptive, as he was up against the backup left tackle for PHI. He recorded a sack-fumble and a season high 6 pressures. It was his best game of the year.
  • Tackles: Damon Harrison played a season high 75% of the team’s snaps, good to see a guy like him who has been banged up almost all year continue to play his heart out. His grades have been sky high all season. Dalvin Tomlinson recorded 3 tackles and continues to improve his hand techniques. This DT unit is going to be a major strength moving forward, among the best in the league. Jay Bromley recorded a TFL in limited action and he has been a pleasant surprise over the past 5-6 games.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson was back in the lineup, but ended up leaving the game with another injury. He has had a very hard time staying on the field and whether it is luck or not, it will have to be considered when evaluating how to approach the LBs this offseason. He did have 7 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. His speed and range looks limited, as he just doesn’t carry any sort of fluidity unless he is attacking downhill. That can be a problem.
  • Kelvin Sheppard is an older, slightly less athletic version of Goodson. Not dismissing him, as he does make an impact between the tackles and plays with a physical brand. However he, Calvin Munson, and Devon Kennard simply take away from the speed of the defense. Kennard gets a pass because of his pass rush versatility, but this team needs more speed in this unit. No doubt. And you know who is a free agent this upcoming offseason? Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham.

CORNERBACKS

  • Another solid game by Ross Cockrell. I am curious to see the numbers on him over the past 5-6 weeks when it comes to QB rating on balls thrown his way. He had another solid PD and looked excellent on the All-22. Coverage strengths against all levels of the passing tree.
  • Eli Apple was back in action and showed a few flashes of his talent, which is certainly first-round caliber. He was involved in some very physical plays and after that, his hustle and intensity dwindled. When I see things like that, I just think this kid isn’t a football player. Very poor effort on the Jay Ajayi screen play that went for a big gain. Maybe the new coaching staff will give him the reboot he needs, but I’m not optimistic there.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made an aggressive mistake that led to an Eagles touchdown. He jumped the wrong route and left his man sitting in the end zone all alone. Mistake? Yes. But if he guessed right and came away with a pick 6, he would have been praised for it. I don’t mind things like that happening to be honest.

SAFETIES

  • Darian Thompson finished with 9 tackles and a PD. He didn’t make a lot of mistakes but the two that he did make were game-changing. He had a deep pass interference call that put PHI inside the 5-yard line and a horrid missed tackle on Zach Ertz. The situations exaggerated the mistakes a tad, but that is the name of the game. Those two mistakes led to 10 points for PHI.
  • Landon Collins only played about a quarter of the team’s snaps. Andrew Adams was his replacement and finished with 6 tackles, but also missed 2 others. After a surprising rookie season in 2016, he appears to have gone backwards. He can be beat by quickness too often and that is simply the name of the game in the NFL now. Not sure he deserves to be here long term.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/2 (Made 28, 48 blocked). Rosas had an extra point blocked as well as a 48-yard attempt late in the game. Looking back, it looks like he was a hair slow getting to the ball and the blocking was poor on the field goal. Rough year for this kid.
  • P Brad Wing: 2 Punts – 37.0 avg. Quiet day for the most used punter in the league this season.

3 STUDS

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

3 DUDS

  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul, OT Bobby Hart, FS Darian Thompson

3 THOUGHTS ON PHI

  • I said this before the Wentz injury, but this PHI secondary is going to hold this team back in the postseason. If and when they get matched up against a quality air attack, they’re finished. I’ve heard some commentators speak highly of Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby…etc. These guys are not good at all.
  • Unfortunate for PHI fans that they won’t be able to see what their young franchise QB can do in the playoffs. It is a huge part of whether or not they have “The One”. Postseason play is huge in terms of evaluating QB play and they are going to have to wait now.
  • The PHI pass rush has the makings of something that can be special. Rookie Derek Barnett, the underrated Brandon Graham, and interior forces of Timmy Jernigan and Fletcher Cox may be one of the best 3rd-down rushing groups in the league. And they are all going to be there for at least another few seasons. Another reason to stock up on OL talent for NYG.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Touching on this again…but why wasn’t the passing offense approached like this all year? Throw the ball downfield. Let Eli take his chances, even if it means more INTs. I think this game proves he has plenty left in the tank and he should be the guy next year. But it also proves that when McAdoo was here, the approach was very flawed. It was extremely easy to predict and defend against. This was the best the passing game looked in 2 years and Manning had Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, and Kalif Raymond running routes!
  • I still have a thought of considering Saquon Barkley, RB out of Penn State, with the NYG first pick. I see a lot of “special” in him. Yes, if the next franchise QB is there grade-wise you take him, but what if he isn’t? You can’t force that pick and you could get a guy that helps this team win games next year. I can see a combination of Barkley and Wayne Gallman just running wild. Objective A, B, and C after that is building the OL. I think it is a good plan for the last year or two of Manning’s career here.
  • Is the defense that bad? I don’t think so. I think there are legit worries at two spots. One, the edge rushing. This team needs a new, young fresh force at DE or pass rushing OLB. Two, the depth at CB is going to look thin if Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t back. He has another year left I think, but he is frail and behind him, there is next to nothing. CBs are very hard to find. Cockrell is a keeper, Jenkins can be very good if his head is on straight, Apple is such a wildcard. That isn’t a spot you want to struggle at. But if they can bring in one more feasible talent and build the edge rush, I think this defense can quickly be back in the top-10 discussion.
Dec 152017
 
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Game Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 17, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
At this point, I suspect everyone would like to fast-forward to January in anticipation of the intrigue surrounding the selection of the new general manager and coaching staff. But we have three torturous games left, including the Giants’ annual humiliation at home by the Philadelphia Eagles. This one-sided “rivalry” gets worse with each passing year. The Eagles have won an astounding 15 of the last 18 games dating back to 2008. Last year was the first time the Giants had won a home game against the Eagles in 10 years!!!

The Giants-Eagles decade-long mismatch is perhaps one of the best indications that this franchise needs a cultural shift… a spiritual enema if you will. Steve Spagnuolo can’t and shouldn’t be the next head coach. We saw more of the same in his inaugural game as NYG head coach last week. His defense – which was second in scoring defense last season – is DEAD LAST in yards allowed in 2017. And it sucked before injuries started hitting that side of the ball. And this isn’t the first time his defenses have been dead last in the NFL and among the worst in NFL history. It’s time to part ways. Nice guy. Not a consistently good coach.

The bigger issue is what to do at GM. Most expect Dave Gettleman will get the job. Those calling for dramatic change – a cultural shift – are uneasy about that prospect because of Gettleman’s long ties with the existing organizational (group think?) structure that dates all the way back to 1979. Hiring Gettleman would be the “safe” move. And it would probably allow for a Gettleman-Kevin Abrams marriage that would eventually morph into Abrams taking over when the 66-year old Gettleman is ready to retire. If this occurs, one would suspect that most (if not all) of the scouting staff would retain their jobs. The key figure to watch in such a scenario would be Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross (really Director of College Scouting). If Ross stays, that would be a major red flag to many.

There are those who argue that it can’t get worse than it is now and that the whole thing should be blown up and completely new faces introduced. The problem is it can always get worse. There is risk with staying the course and there is risk with changing things completely. The important thing is make the right decisions and not be terribly wed to how dramatic the change is or isn’t.

Let’s cut through the bullshit. The Giants need to recognize one important thing: IT ISN’T WORKING! This team hasn’t been right in six years. It’s been poorly constructed. Drafting is always a bit of a crapshoot, but you have to hit on more than you miss. And it is quite telling that very few Giants players drafted are re-signed when their initial contracts are up. Rather than building a roster, it feels like the Giants are constantly trying to fill holes because of crappy drafting and poor free agent decisions. The team has not been able to put together a viable offensive line despite spending significant resources in that area (including three premium draft picks). The Giants are not mentally or physically tough. They are a finesse team that is annually plagued by injuries. They can’t pick up an inch in short-yardage. They can’t run the football. They can’t rush the passer or create enough turnovers. They can’t stop the opposing team when it matters. They start and end games poorly. And special teams are an annual disaster.

If the Giants can’t see this, then the franchise is in real trouble. It’s becoming more and more clear that 2017 was an iceberg that was slowly approaching that the Giants couldn’t see. But it was an iceberg created by their own mismanagement of the roster and coaching staff.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Roger Lewis (ankle – questionable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – probable)
  • WR Travis Rudolph (hamstring – questionable)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (finger – probable)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (finger – probable)
  • DT Damon Harrison (not injury related – probable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – probable)
  • CB Brandon Dixon (heel/hamstring – questionable)
  • S Landon Collins (ankle – doubtful)
  • S Nat Berhe (hamstring – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
If you asked me what I want the next version of the New York Giants offense to be, I would answer with one word: TOUGH. I’m tired of finesse. I want to turn back the clock and have a team that may not have a lot of pretty highlight plays but will physically hurt the other team and be able to run the football. That’s not the direction the game is headed, but I’m a dinosaur and a contrarian. I can’t stand having a team that you know can’t pick up an inch on 3rd-and-short. The Giants have four rushing touchdowns this year, and one of those are by the quarterback. They had six rushing touchdowns in 2016. Those stats are ridiculous.

Other than sentimental reasons and possibly as a transitional bridge to the new quarterback, it makes little sense for Eli Manning to remain with the team much longer. New GM, new coaching staff, needing a roster rebuild. Soon-to-be 37-year old, declining quarterback? The longer they hold on, the longer the rebuild is going to take. Excuse my French, the Giants fucked up the last six years of Manning’s career here. But they can’t go back in time and fix it. It sucks but dwelling on it won’t make things better. You have to move forward.

Some other quick roster thoughts:

  • As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, Davis Webb hasn’t played because they Giants never gave him enough reps to get ready. This goes all the way back to training camp. I hope he plays in the last two games but he hasn’t been prepped correctly and it’s too late to learn anything of note that will affect the 2018 NFL Draft. Another screw up.
  • As I’ve mentioned for weeks, the Giants are wasting snaps on Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen. Neither will be with the team in 2017 (if they are, another major red flag). The Giants need to know what they have in Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins. Too many snaps have been wasted here on guys who are not part of the future. Screw up.
  • Other than Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard, there isn’t anything at wide receiver. And Beckham’s future contract status is a major question mark and Shepard has been hot-and-cold (and a bit injury-prone).
  • Tight ends are good.
  • I don’t think the Giants can re-sign the injury-prone Justin Pugh. If he leaves, there is another hole. Time to part ways with guys like John Jerry and Bobby Hart. Tough call on Weston Richburg but I’d offer him a prove-it type deal. I still see more upside with him than Brett Jones, who I don’t think is a starting-caliber center. If the new coaching staff wants to run the football, bringing back D.J. Fluker and Ereck Flowers makes some sense. Long story short – this aspect of the team is still a shit show despite three premium draft picks. That alone was reason enough to fire Jerry Reese.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
In terms of personnel decisions, the biggest issue other than quarterback the Giants face is what to do with over-priced, under-performing Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon? If they are going for a major rebuild, it might be best to take their medicine, swallow the painfully expensive cap hits, and clear the decks more for 2019 and 2020. JPP is a coach killer. There was a hope/thought that the fireworks accident may have woken him up to take the game more seriously, but whether it is his physical limitations or his mental approach, he’s just a guy out there who teases. Vernon is a tougher call because when healthy, he’s played well. But he seems to be nicked up a lot and isn’t as effective when he is. What we do know is that the Giants are not getting the pass rush they expected out of him. The offensive line may have been reason #1a why Reese was let go, but his free agent decisions on JPP and Vernon are a close second.

  • Damon Harrison is the kind of football player you can build around. He was Reese’s greatest free agent decision. The Giants can win with Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson at defensive tackle.
  • The help wanted sign is out at linebacker. This unit needs a complete rebuild. The only two the new coaching staff may consider retaining are the injury-prone B.J. Goodson and the smart, versatile, but athletically limited Devon Kennard.
  • Landon Collins is a very good STRONG safety – please note the word strong. Darian Thompson has had an up-and-down season in what basically is his rookie year. They need better depth here.
  • Corner is going to be an interesting area to watch. Janoris Jenkins has All-Pro ability. Much depends on how the new coaching staff feels about his personality. Same with the aging and somewhat fragile Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Then there is Eli Apple. Many fans think he isn’t a good player. When his head is screwed on right, he is. Apple has shut-down ability. But the fucker needs to grow up and stop acting like an entitled little bitch. Football careers are short and momma isn’t going to be around to pick up the pieces at some point. Grow up. Football is a job. Good news is that Reese may have stolen Ross Cockrell from the Steelers.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I suspect this game will be the final nail in the Tom Quinn story.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
(What Steve Spagnuolo says at this point really doesn’t matter. He’s a place holder).

THE FINAL WORD
This “rivalry” has become a one-sided joke. Nothing changes on Sunday.

Dec 142017
 
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December 14, 2017 BBI New York Giants Videocast: BigBlueInteractive.com’s Mike Siegel and NJ.com’s Dan Duggan talk about the factors that have led to the New York Giants’ terrible season as well as the general manager search.

Dan Duggan cover the Giants for NJ Advance Media.

Mike Siegel, aka gidiefor, serves as a moderator and is a longtime contributor in The Corner Forum, originally joining BBI in 2004. Raised in Brooklyn, NY, he is a rabid Giants fan, an attorney, a family man, proud grandfather of five, and a former NYC Park Professional, Mounted Park Ranger, and instructor at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, who was noted for his work in Brooklyn Park rehabilitation projects, park publications, public park tours and programs, and also his paper-folding prowess. His more than fifteen-foot high Origami holiday tree in Central Park’s Dairy was a fixture in the 1980’s. He has been an active participant in BBI’s outside gatherings, and strongly believes in fostering the BBI community environment and promoting serious discussion about Giants football.

Dec 132017
 
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Rhett Ellison, New York Giants (December 10, 2017)

Rhett Ellison – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 30 – New York Giants 10

RECAP

A 2-10 team could not have had more attention than what the Giants had coming into their home, week 14 match-up against the middle-of-the-pack Dallas Cowboys. Eli Manning made his first start back after a one-week hiatus for the first time since 2004. This was the result after ownership opted to fire Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese which was inevitable but possibly accelerated because of how they handled the Manning benching. With the NYG throwback uniforms being worn and a crowd that was fully behind Manning at the start, the game had an intense feel to it for the first time in months.

There was an odd, uncommon start to the game. Both teams put together marathon drives, 16 plays for DAL and 17 for NYG. They both resulted in 3 points respectively and before we knew it, the game was into the 2nd quarter. Dallas was shooting themselves in the foot with multiple offsides penalties by their defensive line and failure to capitalize on two NYG fumbles.

Spurred by a 35-yard pass to Evan Engram, NYG marched down to the goal line on their 3rd drive of the game. In true calm, cool, and almost relaxed fashion, Manning hit Rhett Ellison for a 1-yard touchdown on a play-action rollout to the right. NYG led 10-3 against a Cowboys team that has been mightily struggling to find their offensive identity without their suspended running back Ezekiel Elliot.

The sparse NYG crowd came to life but it was short lived. Dak Prescott hit Dez Bryant on a short slant and an aggressive mistake by cornerback Brandon Dixon, who went all in on trying to deflect the pass, led to Bryant spinning free post-reception with nothing but green in front of him. It was a 50-yard touchdown that evened the game at 10 with under 2 minutes left in the half and that ended up being the score at halftime.

The 3rd quarter saw DAL and NYG trade possessions a few times, with Damon Harrison dominating the Cowboys offensive line and Sean Lee impacting the game on every possible level against the Giants’ offense. The most accurate kicker in NFL history, Dan Bailey, missed his second in three chances as the end of the quarter came to a close. On 3rd-and-2 near midfield on the ensuing NYG possession, Sterling Shepard dropped a pass (adding the NYG first place ranking in that category). After forcing a 3 and out, NYG had 3rd-and-2 again approaching midfield and this time it was Roger Lewis who came up with the drop. The NYG receivers helped to set up what ended up being one of the ugliest quarters of the 2017 season.

Prescott hit Giants killer Jason Witten for a 20-yard touchdown up the – you guessed – middle of the defense with 7:45 left. All was not lost and NYG was still very much in it. Poor play calling and execution led to an NYG punt despite being in DAL territory. DAL faced a 3rd-and-3 and even though their thought process was to get the clock to 0:00, they went with an empty backfield approach. One quick slant later to RB Rod Smith and the NYG defense was trying to catch him from behind but to no avail. DAL took the commanding 23-10 lead (failed extra point).

As if that wasn’t enough, Manning threw his first of two interceptions into the waiting arms of Sean Lee. DAL was able to put the ball in the end zone one more time, shoving the knife a little deeper, via a 15-yard run by Smith. DAL keeps their playoff hopes alive and NYG falls to 2-11.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 31/46 – 228 yards – 1 TD/2 INT. The two interceptions at the end of the game have an asterisk next to them. It was desperation time and he had to force things. The drops by Shepard and Lewis were killers and, at this point, both inexcusable but expected, ironically. Manning didn’t have a lot of “minus” throws and he just doesn’t have time to go through a lot of reads. This truly has become the worst situation in the league for any QB to work with from what I have seen.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 12 att/59 yards, 7 rec/40 yards. Career high in rushing attempts, rushing yards, catches, and receiving yards for the rookie. I think he needs to be the feature backfield presence on this team from here on out. His vision and decision-making, combined with his athletic ability, make him a big-play threat this backfield hasn’t had in years. He did fumble early but it was luckily recovered by the offense.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 10 att/29 yards – 2 rec/15 yards. Darkwa had 2 poorly graded blocks and also fumbled early in the game, with his teammates falling on it. His presence as a tough inside runner was still there and he didn’t drop any passes, so good for him there.
  • Shane Vereen: 6 att/23 yards – 3 rec/24 yards. A lot of Vereen’s production comes in garbage time and/or on rushing plays when the NYG offense is facing 3rd and 10+. It is clear he won’t be a part of the picture after 2017.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Roger Lewis: 7 rec/46 yards. I knew Lewis was going to get more and more opportunities from Manning after their big play a few weeks ago. He led the team with 11 targets, the next leading target count among WRs was 3. His drop was a big one and he continues to show what I talked about in August, solid tools but minimal skills.
  • Sterling Shepard: 2 rec/16 yards. His impact on the game was never really felt, as he was only targeted 3 times. Shepard had a huge drop on 3rd down that took the wind out of the NYG sails.It was really disappointing to see him have trouble getting open against single coverage. He has not capitalized or risen to the occasion since Beckham and Marshall have been injured.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec/54 yards. Watching the all 22 tape, this was the most double coverage Engram has seen all year. They were often bracketing him, a move I am surprised defenses didn’t do earlier in the season. He had the biggest play of the day for NYG, a 35-yard reception where DAL completely forgot about him in deep coverage. Engram added a drop and is among the league leaders in that category.
  • Rhett Ellison: 4 rec/20 yards – 1 TD. Ellison continues to be Mr. Reliable when targeted, as he has been all year. His 1-yard touchdown catch was actually pretty high-difficulty and impressive.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers righted the ship after a rough game last week in Oakland. He was the highest graded NYG blocker, well above the average mark. One encouraging sign other than simply not getting beat as often in pass protection, is he has really limited the penalties. His technique is still very shaky but it doesn’t always have to look pretty. Bobby Hart was back in the stating lineup, as Chad Wheeler was out with a concussion. He received a lot of help against Demarcus Lawrence. I wouldn’t call this a good game for Hart, but he only allowed 1 pressure and didn’t make any major mistakes that we were used to seeing.
  • Interior: Brett Jones and Jon Halapio both took a step back against the very average Cowboys DTs. Jones mightily struggled in pass protection when left alone for the second straight week, and Halapio allowed 3 pressures and was flagged for a hold. John Jerry didn’t get a lot of push in the run, and was inaccurate on trap blocks, missing his target twice. He hasn’t been good at making adjustments on the fly all year and that is a part of the job that is becoming more and more essential in the NFL.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: The glaring positive of this entire team over the course of the year is Damon Harrison. We are getting a treat in watching this guy play – the top DT in the game. His dominance against the inside run is almost assumed now but what stood out Sunday were the hustle plays he made near the sideline and down the field. You simply don’t see the big guys like him with that much range. Having him around is absolutely huge for the future of this team. Dalvin Tomlinson and Jay Bromley split duties next to him and both had quietly effective games.
  • Ends: Jason Pierre Paul had 5 tackles and a pressure. His impact on the game remains woefully inconsistent and near non-existent on 3rd downs. Olivier Vernon was outclassed by Tyron Smith, the top OT in the game. He finished with 1 tackle and a foolish roughing-the-passer penalty. When he can’t out-quick the blocker, his hand game just isn’t good enough to give a guy like Smith a problem.

LINEBACKERS

  • Kelvin Shepard and Calvin Munson were #1 and #2 in tackles on the day (10 and 9) but both had really bad beats on multiple occasions. Shepard is a between-the-tackles run defender only, as seen when he was assigned to cover RB Rod Smith in the 4th quarter on 3rd down and couldn’t stay within 3 yards of him on a quick slant. Munson has been improving as the year goes, but he hasn’t been getting off blocks at all. He really struggles there. Both of them and Devon Kennard had negative grades in coverage, with the glaring mishaps coming from Shepard (mentioned above) and Devon Kennard on Witten’s touchdown.

CORNERBACKS

  • Ross Cockrell and Brandon Dixon continue to dominate the playing time, as both were in for every snap. Cockrell continues to look better and better each week. I think this guy needs to be in the long-term picture. He had two very high-level PDs. Dixon added 2 PDs of his own, showing physical and aggressive play. He got a little too aggressive on the 50-yard TD pass to Bryant, however.
  • Darryl Morris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were each on the field less than half the plays but were very solid when they were in.
  • Eli Apple remained inactive, and his hole is being dug deeper and deeper.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins and Darian Thompson both graded out as average. Collins had a nice impact on the running game, notching a TFL and forcing the DAL ball carriers to re-direct. His feel through traffic is outstanding, excellent instincts. Thompson missed 2 tackles, neither of which were overly complicated. His lack of long speed was put on display a couple times as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – Made 39. Rosas only had one shot in this game, and he came through. He really hasn’t had a full dose of action to give NYG a real idea if he should be here long term or not.
  • P Brad Wing: 8 Punts – 43.4 avg/33.9 net. Wing wasn’t sailing the ball high enough and it gave DAL a few clean returns. He leads the NFL in punts this year and has appeared to take a step down in terms of quality.

3 STUDS

  • DT Damon Harrison, CB Ross Cockrell, RB Wayne Gallman

3 DUDS

  • OC Brett Jones, OG Jon Halapio, DE Olivier Vernon

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

  • I said something similar after the week 1 matchup, but the impact a LB like Sean Lee has on the game week in, week out is as strong as any top-tier defender in the league, and I mean that. This guy impacts the game in so many ways, in so many situations. And the thing about having a LB like this is that it is incredibly hard for an offense to avoid him. He is everywhere. Take notes and apply, new front office.
  • This was a major confidence booster for the DAL offense. Their numbers without Ezekiel Elliot vs. their numbers with him have been atrocious but Rod Smith has been getting discussed for awhile now. It looks like he has things figured out and the talent is taking over. This team has the capability of getting hot from here on out and doing damage if they can sneak into the playoffs.
  • I was very high on the DAL draft this past year and two main reasons for that were CBs Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie. Those guys can ball. Their impact on the game will be very strong for the next few years.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • I am working on a list of coaches who I think NYG will be looking hard at. One common thing I am looking for is a guy who players really respond to, get behind, and will bleed for. I think that has been a major missing link with this team in recent years. Look at how PIT players play for Tomlin among other things. Vikings for Zimmer, Seahawks for Caroll…etc.
  • Get the ball to Gallman as much as possible over these next 3 weeks. I think it is important to get as much information on him as a player as possible. Saquon Barkley is going to be available when NYG is on the clock and unless you fall in love with a QB in the process, he has to be in the picture at least. If Gallman can be the guy, then that idea lessens. But you need to know.
  • I really do think NYG has something in Cockrell. I have watched every one of his snaps from the All-22 tape over the past few games and he’s been steady and impressive on all levels. There is a lot he does well, very little that he doesn’t do well.
Dec 082017
 
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Game Preview: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, December 10, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The 2017 New York Giants season is the never-ending nightmare. We are still only 3/4 of the way through this mess. I’ve never been more ready for a football season to just end.

It’s been an emotional couple of weeks for Giants fans with the benching of Eli Manning, the firings of Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo, the promotion of Steve Spagnuolo as interim head coach, and the reinstatement of Manning as the starting quarterback. But it is important to take a step back for a moment and understand the big picture.

This past week was a cataclysmic event for one of the NFL’s flagship franchises. The last time the Giants fired a general manager was 1978. The last time they fired a coach in-season was 1976. The last time they fired a coach after so short a stay was pre-1930. The Giants just did two things they simply do not usually do and it is the ultimate indication of how great a disaster this season has been. The decline is surreal when you take into account that the Giants were 11-5 and a playoff team just one year ago and widely expected to challenge for the NFC East title in 2017.

What follows is pure uninformed opinion and speculation on my part, so take it with a grain of salt:

I believe Ben McAdoo was dead man walking after his team got embarrassed by the dreadful San Francisco 49ers in mid-November. I think Jerry Reese also had one foot out the door at this point, but ownership was looking for an excuse to keep him. An upset against the Chiefs and another embarrassing loss to the Redskins on Thanksgiving followed. Then came the benching of Manning.

Regardless of how it was handled, everyone admits that ownership, management, and the head coach signed off on the move. What may or may not have surprised the Giants was Eli’s refusal to play along with their start-the-game-but-the-sit strategy (I don’t trust any public comments by the Giants here). Having McAdoo announce the move in a usual post-practice press conference setting without the owner on the premises and the GM nowhere to be seen reeked of throwing McAdoo under the bus. It was a cowardly act. And then to have a teary-eyed Eli Manning address the press throng at his locker with his teammates oblivious to the solemn nature of the moment was a PR disaster.

What I do believe is that the Giants were absolutely shocked by the level of intensity of the reaction from advertisers, fans, former players, and national and local media. It became not just a local sports story, but a national one covered by the general press. Fans put up billboards. Former players were going to show up on the sidelines of the Dallas game with Eli jerseys on just to shame the organization. At this point, I think John Mara and Steve Tisch were in damage-control mode. Revenue and reputations (ego) were at stake. They knew they were going to fire McAdoo and possibly Reese. So to temporarily stop the firestorm, they sacked both a month early (a smart PR move). Then John Mara held what appeared to be a sincere press conference. When the mob is angry, throw them a couple of heads. In the short-term, they’ve stopped the hemorrhaging, but the underlying wounds still remain.

There is a certain degree of logic in what the Giants had tried to do. The 2-10 Giants are a dysfunctional mess with a soon-to-be 37-year old quarterback who is one of the highest-paid players in the NFL and who also has been on a downward slope since his 2014-15 career revival. The coach was going to be fired and the team is going to have a top-10 and possibly top-5 draft pick with the opportunity to select one of the best quarterbacks coming out of college. Benching Manning would allow the Giants to evaluate Davis Webb as well as not encumber the new head coach with unenviable label as the guy who got rid of the legendary Manning.

But THE WAY the Giants handled this is where they screwed up. First and most importantly, they never got Webb ready (which they should have started doing in October and November). Because of that, sitting Manning to play Geno Smith never made any sense unless Reese and McAdoo were seriously considering Smith as a potential 2018 contender for the starting job. (There is a small chance Smith could still develop into a viable NFL starter, but Giants fans were never going to accept him as Manning’s replacement – that was a non-starter). Secondly, again, the PR optics were dreadful. Mara and Reese hid and threw McAdoo under the bus. McAdoo – who never learned how to deal with the press – coldly and matter-of-factly announced the benching. Eli was sadly left to address the press in a poor locker room environment.

So what? Well, now the Giants may have given their fans some short-term satisfaction in their quest for blood, the same issues remain and actually may have become more difficult. Unless you are totally convinced that Eli Manning is still a stud quarterback capable of a 2011-type season and that none of the past six years are his fault, then the Giants are left with the problem of how and when to make the transition to the next quarterback. Entering the 2018 NFL Draft, they will have no idea of what they have in Davis Webb. And the next regime is going to be encumbered with what has now become a super-charged transition issue because of the way the Giants already botched things the first time. Many of us – including myself – felt that we had seen the last of Manning on Thanksgiving. But we did not anticipate the December 4th in-season housecleaning. The good news is that we now get to show Eli our appreciation over the course of the last four games (three at home). The bad news is where do we go from here and how?

The pressure on John Mara to get this right is immense. In 2018, the Giants will have (1) a new general manager, (2) a new head coach, and (3) probably the heir-apparent to Eli. If they screw any of this up, the franchise may be in for a very dark period for a significant amount of time. They will also have to decide (4) the best way to part ways with Eli and when, and (5) whether or not to re-sign Odell Beckham.

Underlying all of this is whether the Giants remain loyal to their post-1978 organizational structure (which has brought them five Super Bowl appearances, with four wins). It is difficult to see Mara parting ways with the bulk of the scouts. As Greg from LI points out in The Forum, the Giants drafting noticeably began to decline when Marc Ross began to oversee the operation. What preconditions will be placed on the new GM? Will he be allowed to fire Ross and pick his own scouts? Will they simply import someone already comfortable with the existing structure such as Dave Gettleman or Kevin Abrams? Will they take the “interim” off of Steve Spagnuolo’s title, allow him to tweak the staff, and stay the course? That won’t sit well with many fans who suspect the institutionalized, staid thinking within the organization is a big part of the problem. But “new and fresh” faces are no guarantee of future success. As pointed out by Fatman in Charlotte, Dan Reeves and Ben McAdoo were outside faces. What matters is not the type of changes made, simply that THE CORRECT changes are made.

Things can get better. But they can also get worse. Much worse. John Mara faces a historical crossroads and new chapter for the franchise his father bequeathed to him.

THE INJURY REPORT:
Seventeen players are on Injured Reserve, most notably WR Odell Beckham, WR Brandon Marshall, WR Dwayne Harris, OC Weston Richburg, OG D.J. Fluker, LB Jonathan Casillas, LB Keenan Robinson, and CB Janoris Jenkins. Eight others have been waived from IR since October.

  • RB Orleans Darkwa (illness – questionable)
  • RB Wayne Gallman (hip – probable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Travis Rudolph (hamstring – questionable)
  • OL Justin Pugh (back – out)
  • OL Chad Wheeler (concussion – questionable)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (finger – questionable)
  • DT Damon Harrison (elbow – probable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – out)
  • CB Eli Apple (hip/back – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Yes, it will be great to see Eli Manning back at the helm so we can show him our proper appreciation. But the problems remain. The offensive line remains in shambles, especially with Justin Pugh still not playing. (Incidentally, it is looking more and more like the Giants will need to let Pugh walk… the concussion/back issues are major red flags for a player who simply can’t seem to play a whole season). And the NY running game has noticeably declined since the physical D.J. Fluker was placed on IR. Eli will have a gimpy Sterling Shepard (hamstring) and Evan Engram to throw to but not much else as this is clearly the worst wide receiving corps in the NFL.

The Giants are averaging less than 16 points per game and an offensive “explosion” for them must now be considered 20 points.

What makes me angry is the Giants were given a tremendous opportunity to evaluate Davis Webb before the 2018 NFL Draft. They botched it and now it is too late. After Sunday, there will be only three games left and Webb still hasn’t been bumped up to the #2 spot.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants need to be very careful in their evaluation of Steve Spagnuolo. They like him. He’s a nice guy. But he was a very uncompetitive 10-38 as the head coach of the Rams. His defenses have been up-and-down throughout his coaching career, and despite showing some life recently, the Giants defense is a major reason why the team is 2-10 this year. Keep in mind the off-field player issues with the defensive backs (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple) have all been on his side of the ball.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
If Tom Quinn survives the 2017 purge…

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo: “It’s our hope to unite, restore and find a way to win football games. When I mean restore, you know, restore Giant pride. It’s hard to be real prideful when you don’t win a lot of football games.”

THE FINAL WORD
I know what most Giants fans want – they want Eli Manning to come out of the tunnel with the crowd roaring in approval, and for him then to carve up the hated Dallas Cowboys. The problem is reality. Many Giants fans have already sold their tickets – many going to Dallas fans. And Eli is still a 36-year old quarterback on the downside of his career, encumbered by a pitiful supporting cast. And while injuries were not a factor/viable excuse for most of the season on defense, they are now becoming one in the back seven.

Now comes a statement that is going to be difficult for many to accept: from a strategic perspective, it is not good for the Giants to win any of these last four games. The short-term, feel-good gain will mean nothing moving forward. But it could significantly damage the team’s draft position and steer ownership towards false conclusions.

Stand up and cheer for Eli. Pray he plays well. But I’ll leave it at that.