Oct 152021
 
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Abraham Lincoln

THE STORYLINE:
“What I’m about is an old school physical mentality. We’re going to put a product on the field that the people of this city and region are going to be proud of because this team will represent this area. We will play fast, we will play downhill, we will play aggressive. We will punch you in the nose for 60 minutes, we will play every play like it has a history and a life of its own, with a relentless, competitive attitude. We will play fundamentally sound, we will not beat ourselves. That is our mission right here… It’s a tough division, it’s a tough division and the city is full of tough people and they expect to see a program, they expect to see a product, that represents them. I’m going to do everything in my power, every day, to make sure the people of this city and this area turn on the TV or sit in the stadium seats and are proud to say that we’re their New York Giants.” ― Joe Judge (January 2020)

“The hen is the wisest of all the animal creation, because she never cackles until the egg is laid.” ― Abraham Lincoln

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • QB Daniel Jones (concussion – probable)
  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – out)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (knee – out)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – probable)
  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (ankle – questionable)
  • OT Andrew Thomas (foot – questionable)
  • OG Ben Bredeson (hand – questionable)
  • OG/OC Matt Skura (knee – probable)
  • LB Justin Hilliard (ankle – out)
  • S Logan Ryan (hip – probable)
  • S Jabrill Peppers (hamstring – probable)
  • S Nate Ebner (quad – probable)

THE FINAL WORD:
The Mara and Tisch families and their employees have done the impossible. One decade ago, this team was widely regarded to have one of the most loyal fan bases in all of sports. New York Giants fans would fill the stadium and watch on TV no matter how bad the team was. Wellington Mara even remarked in the 1980’s that one of the biggest mistakes he made during the 1960’s and 1970’s was misjudging the loyalty of Giants fans, and had he known better, he would have not attempted the “quick fix” as much as he did and build the team through the draft instead.

I have never seen the team’s fanbase more dispassionate and disinterested. It’s palpable. The team just sucks to watch and it has been that way for 10 years. Even when the Giants were bad in previous down periods, Dan Reeves and Dave Brown could upset the championship-caliber Dallas Cowboys or Jim Fassel and Kent Graham could upset the unbeaten Denver Broncos. In other words, there was some life and spirit in even mediocre teams. Football was still fun. The Giants might not be headed to the playoffs, but they were still competitive and could beat any team on any given Sunday. Those days are long gone.

The Giants are not just 1-4, but we all know they will be 1-9 by Thanksgiving. There is no mystery, nothing to look forward to, and that’s just sad. This season was supposed to be different. I suspect the bulk of fans will soon tune the team out this season, if they haven’t done so already. There are better ways to enjoy a Sunday.

Oct 112021
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 10, 2021)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

After riding high following their emotional Week 4 win against the Saints, the Giants went on the road for the second straight week to take on the NFC East favorite Dallas Cowboys. A division rivalry that has been anything but in recent years would be an opportunity for NYG to make a statement. A statement that they could contend for the division crown. A statement that they were on the way up with Joe Judge at the helm. A statement that their dynamic, come-from-behind win in New Orleans was no fluke, but the new norm. They would have to do so without their left tackle Andrew Thomas, who was active but did not play. They would have to do so without their top wide receiver in Sterling Shepard and defensive general, Blake Martinez. Dallas, winners of 3 straight, was pretty much fully healthy with a quarterback in Dak Prescott who has found himself in the early MVP discussion. If NYG wanted to truly turn this ship around, this would be the game they had to win.

NYG had the initial momentum, forcing an interception on a 4th-down pass from Prescott to running back Ezekiel Elliott by Lorenzo Carter. After a 3rd-down drop by rookie Kadarius Toney, Graham Gano lined up for a 54-yard field goal attempt. It went wide right, leaving the game tied at 0-0 and giving DAL excellent field position. DAL shot themselves in the foot again, this time being a Dalton Schultz drop in the end zone that made them settle on a 31-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein. DAL had the initial lead.

NYG went 3-and-out on the next drive but the biggest negative was a Saquon Barkley sprained ankle on a freak accident where he stepped on DAL cornerback Jourdan Lewis’ foot. For those who have ever sprained their ankle in that fashion, you know it doesn’t take much for it to get ruined. The odds of it happening were slim-to-none, but what is done is done. Barkley’s ankle blew up on the sideline within just a few minutes and we knew in that moment, he was done for the day and likely longer.

DAL drove down the field with ease again. And for the third time in as many drives, their final play was a major mishap that prevented points. Prescott mishandled a shotgun snap and the ball rolled into the hands of NYG linebacker Reggie Ragland. NYG proceeded to go 3- and-out again on the ensuing drive, but the score was still 3-0 as they dug into the second quarter. On 3rd-and-8, DAL put up the first touchdown of the game. A deep pass to CeeDee Lamb over James Bradberry finally put a score on the board that indicated what was really occurring on the field.

Thanks to a 38-yard gain on a 3rd-and-10 pass to Toney, NYG was back in field goal range. The offense stalled and settled on another long field goal attempt; this was from 51 yards. Gano nailed this one through the uprights and put NYG within a touchdown. They had the ball back after a 3-and-out by the DAL offense and found some of their mojo we saw last week in New Orleans. They got inside the DAL 5-yard line and after two straight failed rushing attempts by Devontae Booker, offensive coordinator and former Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett called a designed run for Jones after a faked handoff. Jones came up a few inches short but was badly concussed on a hit by DAL linebacker Jabril Cox. He needed assistance walking off the field and that was as clear a sign as anyone needed, he too was done for the day. NYG ended up scoring a touchdown to tie it up via a Booker run but it was hard to be optimistic knowing Barkley, Jones, Shepard, and Thomas were out.

DAL put up a touchdown to end the half on a Prescott pass to Amari Cooper. It was the 5th time in as many weeks where NYG allowed a touchdown in the final 2 minutes of the first half. NYG was down 17-10.

The Giants came out of the half, being led by Mike Glennon (7-28 career in games he played), without Barkley, Shepard, Jones, Thomas, Nick Gates, and now receiver Kenny Golladay who injured his knee in the first half. They were up against the best team in the division being led by a QB that had beat NYG 8 times in a row. Tall order.

Their initial drive netted 3 points, making it a 4-point margin. DAL then took over. They scored touchdown on the ensuing drive via a pass to Elliott, intercepted a Glennon pass on the first play of NYG’s next drive, then put up another 3 points on a 38-yard field goal by Zuerlein. They were up 27-13 as the game entered the 4th quarter.

The Toney-show was NYG’s last hope at making this a game as the final 15 minutes of game clock dwindled down. He picked up 26 yards to get the ball across midfield. From there, he was the target or ball carrier on 4 of the next 6 plays. They were inside the DAL 10, but the 4th-and-goal pass to him toward the sideline on a play where he lost his footing fell incomplete. DAL began the ensuing drive from their own 2, and needed just 9 plays to travel 98 yards. Elliott scored his second touchdown of the day on a 13-yard run. It was 34-13 with 7:34 left.

Glennon had a solid drive, engineering 11 plays and fighting through further adversity that stemmed from an on-field fight that saw Toney get ejected for throwing a punch. Yet another playmaker not on the field. Glennon found Booker for a 3-yard touchdown to make it 34-20. After a failed onsides kick attempt, DAL put up 3 more points on a 31-yard field goal by Zuerlein. This game was all but over with under 2 minutes left, but the football gods added further insult to injury with a pick-6 by DAL corner Anthony Brown. The score was now more indicative of how big the gap was between these two teams on this day.

NYG loses, 44-20.

QUARTERBACK

-Mike Glennon: 16/25 – 196 yards – 1 TD – 2 INT / 68.1 RAT

Glennon essentially played the second half under a deficit without 3 starting offensive linemen, his starting running back, and 3 of his top 4 receivers. On the road. Knowing that, I think Glennon deserves some credit. He made a few quality throws and commanded the offense well all things considered. Nobody will mistake him for a starting caliber quarterback, but he has been around, has started games, and can do the minimums. That said, I wouldn’t expect anything more from him on a consistent basis if Jones ends up being out.

-Daniel Jones: 5/13 – 98 yards – 0 TD – 0 INT / 65.5 RAT

Jones added 9 yards on the ground. Before his concussion, he was erratic. He overthrew John Ross down the field twice and air mailed one over Barkley’s head on a short pass. It was a poor performance, and it is hard to diagnose why. Was the new offensive line in his head? Was he too amped up? Or is this just the inconsistency from Jones that is going to create debate in the upcoming months in regard to this team’s long-term future with him? Remember, he won’t be earning a rookie salary in just a couple years. Economics is a part of the evaluation.

RUNNING BACK

-Devontae Booker: 16 att – 42 yards – 1 TD / 3 rec – 16 yards – 1 TD

Booker isn’t a feature back and nobody should expect that from him. However, like Glennon, he made the most out of the situation he was in. He dropped a pass and allowed a pressure, but otherwise he was mistake free. I’ve said this before on him and I will say it again. Booker is a difference maker as a blocker and as a pass catcher. He has 128 career receptions with a 75% catch rate. If Barkley is out for extended time, I think he is the automatic 3rd down back and he can be spelled on early downs with Eli Penny and Gary Brightwell.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Kadarius Toney: 10 rec – 189 yards / 1 att – 7 yards

Toney was the star of the game for NYG, and nobody was even close. After his drop on the first drive, he caught 10 of 12 targets and just made so much happen by himself. The quickness and agility, which show up with the ball and while running routes, is rare. There aren’t many players in the league who can move like him. The temper issue at the end of the game? I don’t want to make too much of it because the answer is generic. It was a dumb decision in the heat of the moment against a dirty player (Tyron Kazee) who has a reputation. The only move to make is preventing himself from doing that again. He was pulled back by coaches last week after a NO defender hit Jones near the sideline. His toughness and attitude are part of what make him a good player, but he needs to show he can control it. We’ve been here before, hopefully this one turns out better.

-After his big-time performance last week, John Ross had 1 catch for 13 yards and had a touchdown pulled off the board by a review because he didn’t get his second foot down in time. He had a step on DAL corners multiple times downfield and Jones overshot him twice. Glennon didn’t see him on another one.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 4 rec / 55 yards
Engram caught all 4 of his targets and two of them were high-level hand catches. If Glennon gets the nod with Jones being out, look for Engram to see an uptick in production. Glennon has a history of throwing to the tight end often.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Andrew Thomas was active but did not play. Thus, the staff moved Nate Solder back over to left tackle and inserted Matt Peart on the right side. Solder allowed 3 pressures and was flagged for a hold. Peart was excellent on the right side. He neutralized that side of the line from start to finish while the coaching staff sent over a lot of help to Solder’s side. Peart should be the starting RT by midseason. He needs to get his game experience up and he just showed there isn’t much of a drop off, if at all, from him to Solder when Thomas returns back at left tackle.

-Left Guard Matt Skura had an awful game and was benched for recently signed Wes Martin. He was on the field for just 29 plays (15 passes) but allowed 3 pressures. Martin didn’t fare much better, but he did get a better push in the running game.

-Will Hernandez had a solid game. He was effective at the second level and was left alone on an island in the passing game often. He neutralized the DAL interior pass rushers, most of which are power based. Hernandez does have his struggles against speed, but he is as good as you will find when it comes to blocking against size and power.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-DAL averaged 5.2 yards per carry and while some of that will be put on the defensive line, most of the blame should be placed on the guys in the next position group. Leonard Williams had 6 tackles, a half-sack, and a pressure. He had a dumb personal foul penalty late in the game where he couldn’t hide his frustration. Dexter Lawrence was hot and cold. He finished with 3 tackles. The glaring negative I have was the result of him facing off against DAL right guard Zack Martin. Martin, one of the best in the game still, abused Lawrence when they were on an island. That is a red flag for me. Lawrence did get him on one pass rush but otherwise, he looked overmatched.

-Danny Shelton was terrible against NO and because DAL had a lot of success on the ground, many will assume was terrible against DAL. That would be incorrect. He was much more active, finishing with 6 tackles and a half-sack. He missed 1 tackle and didn’t offer anything as a pass rusher, but he was better at holding the point of attack than a week ago.

-Austin Johnson had 4 tackles and a sack, continuing his solid play. He offers a lot of what B.J. Hill did prior to the trade with CIN.

LINEBACKER

-This was the position group that hurt the defense the most in my opinion. They were roasted against the pass all afternoon, showing no range. The outside ‘backers failed to set the edge over and over. Lorenzo Carter made a huge play on the tip + interception early on, but he was getting crushed in the running game all afternoon. Azeez Ojulari had 3 tackles and 1 TFL, his 5th play behind the line of scrimmage in as many weeks but got pushed inward routinely on the DAL outside zone runs. And Oshane Ximines continues to show no feel for run defense. He did add 1 pressure, though. Poor game by this crew.

-Tae Crowder and Reggie Ragland were late to the outside over and over. Their mental reactions are a hair slow, and they just couldn’t make up the gap with movement, more notably Ragland. Ragland’s box score reads well (7 tackles, 1 FR, 1 PD, 1 TFL), but he was the catalyst in NYG’s poor run defense for most of the afternoon. The speed isn’t good enough. Crowder has more juice, but it won’t matter much if he can’t diagnose quicker.

CORNERBACK

-There are certain receivers James Bradberry can excel against. The quicker, more change-of-direction based pass catchers are simply not a good matchup for him. Lamb is one of those guys. He torched Bradberry for a long touchdown and forced a pass interference on a 3rd-and-3 near the end zone later in the game. Bradberry also dropped an interception. A poor game for him that added to his poor overall start for the season.

-Adoree’ Jackson and rookie Rodarius Williams were both beat on 3rd down multiple times. They are quality athletes but like Crowder, they don’t forecast well. Their reactions are just a tad too behind and against a quality passing game, that margin just can’t be erased especially with a poor pass rush.

SAFETY

-There wasn’t a lot of positive coming from a defense that allowed over 500 yards. Julian Love, upon re-watching the 2 tapes, played a good game. They moved him around often. He had 2 pressures and 5 tackles. Love is an effective blitzer who times his breaks well to coincide with the snap and he takes good angles. His glaring negative, however, was being late to the outside on the long Lamb touchdown. He also took a poor angle on the play.

-Logan Ryan led the team with 8 tackles. He missed 1, but it was a tough play where he was caught out of position. Xavier McKinney had 6 tackles and looked better in coverage than a week ago in NO, but he was still getting beat by tight ends. He needs to improve over the middle of the field because in all honesty, his impact elsewhere isn’t good enough to make up for poor coverage.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/3 (Made 51, 51, Missed 54).
-P Riley Dixon: 2 punts / 45.0 avg / 36.5 net. Dixon is having a poor year and ranks bottom 7 in the most important metrics.

3 STUDS

-WR Kadarius Toney, OT Matt Peart, S Julian Love

3 DUDS

-OG Matt Skura, LB Oshane Ximines, CB James Bradberry

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

(1) I projected DAL to win 10 games and win the NFC East prior to the season. I stand by it now and could see them approaching 12 wins if they remain healthy. Their offense is loaded and will end up top-5 in points scored. We knew that. But what is the difference maker? Their defense looks credible and deep, finally. Even with the release of linebacker Jaylon Smith, this defense is so well put together top to bottom, left to right. The emergence of cornerback Trevon Diggs could potentially shut down one side of the field the way Jalen Ramsey does for LAR. He is doing things only a couple corners in the league can do.

(2) It’s hard not to root for a guy like Dak Prescott. His personal story and issues with depression, the bounce back from a horrific injury, and the fact he was a FOURTH round pick (many forget that) should give a lot of teams and fans alike hope. I graded him as a 2nd rounder and stacked him right under Carson Wentz in 2016 and saw Donovan McNabb in him. Now? I think he is the best QB from that class by far (Goff/Wentz/Lynch/Jones) and will end up with a far better career than McNabb.

(3) NYG had a shot at Micah Parsons. He was one of the top 10 players on my overall board and was an ideal fit for a scheme that gave multiple looks. He has 10 QB hits, 3 TFL 2 PD, and 25 tackles. All of that and he still doesn’t even know what he’s doing yet. He is making all of that happen with sheer talent alone. If his head stays on straight, and from everything I’ve been told he has been an “A+ student” with the coaches, DAL may have yet another elite-level player for the back seven to pair with Diggs. Say what you want about Jerry Jones, but those guys have drafted very well over the years.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) This won’t matter much in the NYG locker room but when it comes to us, the outsiders, it certainly does. NYG is missing nearly two-thirds of their offense and their 5 most important players. How long will Jones, Barkley, Thomas, Shepard, and Golladay be out? My guess is not long. But because of the poor 1-4 start, their margin for error was small. They are now staring down the barrel of a schedule that is the hardest in the NFL. 16-9 is the combined record of their upcoming 5 opponents and the team with the worst record? Kansas City. It’s hard to have even an ounce of optimism as opposed to last year because DAL is already running away with the division crown.

(2) Matt Peart was behind Nate Solder on the depth chart for the first 4 games. Kadarius Toney barely saw the ball over the first 3 games (all losses). They get forced into action week 5 and they end up playing at a really high level? Proper patience? Or over-coaching? Should these two have played a larger part in the offense weeks 1-3? I think it is a question worth asking.

(3) NYG now ranks bottom 3 in pressure percentage. When examining and breaking down defenses from around the league, it is one of the most important metrics I personally use. They are 2nd worst in QB knockdown percentage. Simply put, we will never know how good this secondary is without a true pass rush presence. There is a lot of talk, and there will be a lot of talk, why NYG is where it is right now. The lack of pass rush is where I start the conversation and then I move over to the OL. Remember when NYG used a 1st round pick on defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka from Boston College in 2006 despite the fact they already had a top tier group of pass rushers? They were already 3-deep with 3 All-Pro caliber players and had other roster weaknesses. Those were the days and always remember, “You can never have enough pass rushers.” Draft talent more than you draft need. It works.

Oct 082021
 
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Kadarius Toney, New York Giants (October 3, 2021)

Kadarius Toney – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
Giants fans should have celebrated last Sunday. God knows that wins have been few and far between the last few years. But there is a difference between celebrating ONE win as a fan and losing complete perspective. All last Sunday’s upset win (over a beat-up Saints team with a questionable quarterback) did was stop the bleeding. That’s it. In order for it to be more than that, the Giants are going to have to pull off a number of upsets in upcoming weeks. Can they do that? Sure. But the oddsmakers say no, and if they are correct, fans contending that the team has “turned the corner” are going to look pretty stupid in a couple of weeks.

I said it last week, and I’ll say it again now, and again next week: the only way to get out of this mess is to circle the wagons, ignore the outside noise, and just focus on winning that next game. Nothing else matters. One game at a time.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (knee – probable)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (groin – probable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – out)
  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring – out)
  • WR C.J. Board (clavicle – probable)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – probable)
  • LT Andrew Thomas (foot – questionable)
  • OG Ben Bredeson (hand – out)
  • DE Leonard Williams (knee – probable)
  • S Logan Ryan (hip – probable)
  • S Jabrill Peppers (hamstring – out)
  • S Nate Ebner (quad – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Many fans believe the Giants performed better on offense last Sunday because Joe Judge and Jason Garrett changed their offensive approach. Garrett and Daniel Jones said this week that simply was not true, that the team simply executed better. What we do know is that the offensive line played at a much higher level than normal. The starting five gave Jones time to throw, and Jones responded with one of his best games. Funny how that works!

To me, more vague is the overall impact of John Ross and Kadarius Toney. Did those two make a bigger impact than Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard because they are better players? Or was it the result of the offensive line giving Jones more time to deliver the ball, and Jones responding with a top-tier performance? That remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to watch moving forward.

For all of the giddiness many of us are feeling, keep this in mind: with seven minutes left in the Saints game, the Giants had only scored 10 points. This is still a team averaging only 20 points per game. That’s not good enough. In my mind, the next step towards improving that number is getting the running game going. Last week, I talked about the offensive braintrust getting Saquon Barkley into space in order to get his mojo back. We saw that with a few plays last week, most notably Saquon’s long touchdown catch-and-run and the key screen pass in overtime. That seemed to spark Saquon who finally ran a tough, instinctive, between-the-tackles touchdown in the red zone for the win. Build upon that. Continue the plays in space. Get his confidence up. And start feeding him the ball. He will break the big runs.

Dallas’ defense was atrocious last year. They fired their defensive coordinator and the overall impression is that they have improved, although the yards allowed on a per-game basis is even worse this year.  (Dallas is giving up 396 yards per game…for comparison sake, the struggling Giants’ defense is giving up 382 yards per game). Why Dallas is perceived to be doing better is they are creating turnovers. Turnovers have saved the day for the Cowboys in a couple of games. If Dallas doesn’t create turnovers, they are in trouble.

As Joe Judge pointed out in his Wednesday press conference, the Cowboys run a lot of stunts up front, trying to confuse the offensive line into making mental mistakes that lead to negative plays. This is the type of pass rush that has given the Giants problems in the past, particularly guys like Will Hernandez. We saw it last week, give Daniel Jones time, and he can get the ball to his play-makers, who seem to be coming on. Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Saquon Barkley are showing signs of being difference makers. If Evan Engram could get in on the act, this offense could become really dangerous. The fly in the ointment here is that Andrew Thomas, who is coming off a very good game, is clearly struggling with a foot injury. If he plays, that will affect his performance.

The expectation heading into this game is that the Giants are going to have to score a lot of points. The team’s defense is surprisingly struggling and Dallas is a top-5 offense in both yards and points. Can the Giants reach that magical 30-point mark for once?

Final point. I’ve seen a lot of posts this week about so-and-so (Gettleman, Judge, Jones, Barkley, Toney, Thomas, etc.) because of ONE game. Don’t lose perspective. It was one game. You may be singing a different tune in a week or two. In order to really “turn the corner,” Judge, Jones, Barkley, Toney, Thomas, etc. have to string together more positive performances and win more games. Nothing has been settled yet. There are still 13 more games to go.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
I’ve talked about it for a few weeks now, for some reason this defense has gotten mentally weak at the end of halves. Osi Osi Osi OyOyOy is going to hate me for stealing his work again, but he just made the same point about the defense collapsing at the end of the first half in EVERY game the team has played this year (Finishing the 1st Half Strong). Some say it’s the pass rush. It’s more than that. It’s as if they expect to give up points now. They have to fix this or they are going to lose more games.

But that may not have been the most troubling element of last week’s game. Against the Saints, the Giants allowed 170 rushing yards. This was against a New York Giants defense whose #1 main goal is to stop the run. Patrick Graham talks about it each and every week. Enter Dallas, who is #2 in the NFL in rushing, averaging almost 170 yards per game as well. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this game is going to be won or lost.

You can talk about Dak Prescott (who owns the Giants), WR Amari Cooper, WR CeeDee Lamb, TE Dalton Schultz, etc. all you want, but the Giants need to stop running backs Ezekiel Elliott (5.3 yards per carry) and Tony Pollard (6.8 yards per carry) to win this game. When a team is able to run the ball, you wear down your opponent, control the clock, keep down-and-distance situations manageable, slow down the pass rush, and make the passing game much easier. Want to get Dallas out of their comfort zone? Stop the run. Easier said than done.

The entire 11 out on the field on defense have a role in stopping the run. But a clear weak spot last week was the nose tackle position. The Giants are missing Dalvin Tomlinson. Austin Johnson and Danny Shelton were too easily controlled last week. Missing Blake Martinez doesn’t help matters either. This may be a game where we could see Reggie Ragland’s snaps increase, even though he is weaker in pass coverage. With Jabrill Peppers out, run defense will probably be weaker as well as his replacements won’t be as big or physical. The Giants need Xavier McKinney and Julian Love to make a difference this week.

That all said, New York obviously can’t sleep on Dallas’ dangerous passing game. Prescott is completing over 75 percent of his passes right now. He has a 10-to-2 TD-to-INT ratio and his QBR is an unbelievable 117. He can hurt teams with his feet still when necessary and has dangerous targets to throw to. The obvious targets are the ones we mentioned, but don’t sleep on the back-up WRs and TE too (New York has a history of making heroes out of Dallas’ back-up tight ends, including Blake Jarwin, who has five career TDs against the Giants). Coach Judge has emphasized how Dallas does well with the short passing game, and they will take their shots down the field.

Long story short, for the Giants to win this game, the defense has to play its best game of the season thus far. And they need to do a better job of creating turnovers. The Giants have generated four turnovers all year (the Cowboys have generated 10). Patrick Graham is going to have to take some chances in the secondary in order to stop the run. It’s time for James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, and Ryan Logan to earn their big, fat paychecks. Play more man coverage and load up against the run. And for the love of God, hold the line at the end of the 2nd and 4th quarters!

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I’m still waiting for that “wow” special teams game from Joe Judge and Thomas McGaughey. This could be the week where we see Kadarius Toney get special teams return touches. Dallas always seems to have good special teams.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Joe Judge on the Dallas defense:It’s a turnover-driven defense.

THE FINAL WORD:
There is a big difference between 2-3 and 1-4. Win the turnover battle and win the damn game.

Oct 052021
 
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Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (October 3, 2021)

Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

There is adversity, and then there is what the New Orleans Saints have gone though. After being displaced thanks to Hurricane Ida, the team had to practice in Texas and play a “home” game in Florida. It didn’t end there. Week 2 against the Panthers, they were without seven assistant coaches on game day and three the following week against the Patriots because of positive Covid tests and protocols. They were also missing their star wide receiver Michael Thomas, starting left tackle Terron Armstead, starting center Erik McCoy, starting inside linebacker Kwon Alexander, starting defensive end Marcus Davenport, starting defensive tackle David Onyemata, backup wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, and kicker Wil Lutz. All of this in the first season without Drew Brees under center since 2005.

On October 3, Week 4, it was the first time they were in front of a full home crowd since the 2019 season. The place was rocking and hungry to make an impact against the 0-3 Giants. Big Blue was also a little less than 100%, albeit not nearly down to the level of the beat-up Saints. They were without receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, in addition to marching out their fourth left guard in as many weeks. Linebacker Blake Martinez was placed on IR earlier in the week, leaving the green-dot responsibilities to Tae Crowder.

The game remained scoreless through the first quarter. NYG did show some life on both sides of the ball, however. Leonard Williams came up with a huge 4th-down stop on a running play from the NYG 29-yard line. Rookie receiver Kadarius Toney came up with a first down on a short 3rd-and-18 pass where he created it all pretty much on his own. That drive, which ended at the start of the 2nd quarter, brought NYG into field goal range. Graham Gano had his 37-consecutive made field goal streak broken on a wide-left attempt. It was the first miss since November 25, 2018, when he was with Carolina. Coincidentally, the NYG kicker at the time was Aldrick Rosas, current kicker for the Saints. Rosas missed a career-long attempt field goal of 58 yards on the following NO drive.

NYG had the ball back with great field position. John Ross III, the NFL Combine record-holder for the fastest official (4.22) 40 time ever, suited up for NYG for the first time since being signed in March. He blew by rookie corner Paulson Adebo and Jones perfectly placed the ball on his chest in stride. As he was about to breach the goal line, he had the ball jarred loose. Adebo did not realize the ball was live, giving Ross III the opportunity to pounce back on it in the end zone. The play resulted in a touchdown and NYG had the initial 7-0 lead.

NO then put together a 13-play, 8:28 drive with three third-down conversions that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Winston to Juwan Johnson. It was the fourth time in as many weeks where the NYG defense allowed a touchdown with under 2:00 left in the first half. NO then built off that momentum in the third quarter with another touchdown scoring drive. This one only needed 3 plays, however. A 58-yard gain on a pass to receiver Marquez Callaway and a 9-yard pass to veteran journeyman Chris Hogan preceded an 8-yard touchdown run by Mr. Everything Taysom Hill. It was a physical run that saw him break four tackles. NO was up 14-7 and the raucous crowd had their swagger back.

NYG’s next drive made it inside the 5-yard line with a 1st down, but their red zone woes continued and they had to settle on a field goal by Gano. Down by 4, NO head coach and former NYG Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton went for the jugular. Winston connected with another veteran journeyman Kenny Stills for a 46-yard touchdown but a holding penalty called on tight end Adam Trautman brought it back. One play later, NO threw the ball downfield yet again, this one by Hill, but right into the hands of NYG corner James Bradberry. Instead of it being 21-10, NYG had the ball back with the score 14-10. NO was running the ball down the throats of NYG but they got just a bit too greedy and it helped out NYG.

Unfortunately, NYG could not capitalize on the NO mistake. Evan Engram dropped a 3rd down conversion pass and NO put those 7 points on the scoreboard that they missed out on earlier. It was early in the 4th quarter as Hill crossed the goal line for a second time. NO had gone on a 21-3 run in just over 17 minutes of game clock. NYG needed to respond.

They traded scoreless possessions and now NYG was also playing a game against the clock. They were down 11 with just 7:01 remaining. After a 26-yard punt return by C.J. Board that brought NYG close to midfield (a very overlooked component of the comeback effort), NYG wasted no time in putting a touchdown on the board. Jones hit Barkley on a go route with a perfectly placed ball just over the coverage of NO top corner Marshon Lattimore. Barkley was making cuts in this game we haven’t seen since 2019 and he used one of them to scamper by safety Marcus Williams for the score. NYG opted to go for 2 so they could be within 3 and they used a designed QB draw to get it done. Jones darted through the line and the score was 21-18 with over 6 minutes left.

This was the moment where the NYG defense needed to prove they were at least close to the level we expected them to be coming into this season. They hadn’t been able to come up with big stop over the previous 3 weeks and they were getting torched late in halves. Thanks to a shocking delay of game penalty, pushing NO back to 2nd-and-14 on their own side of the ball and a solid pass rush by Leonard Williams, NYG had the ball back with just over 3 minutes.

Jones spread the ball out, using targets to Kenny Golladay, Toney, Engram, Ross, and Barkley (the latter 2 did not catch those targets, however). The point was, he kept NO guessing and he took what the defense gave. They stalled as they reached field goal range and had to settle on tying the game via a 48-yarder by Gano. NO didn’t have much time left and they foolishly didn’t have any timeouts remaining. The game was headed to overtime.

NYG won the coin toss and obviously chose to start overtime with the ball. Remember the rule is if a touchdown is scored, game over. If the team who starts overtime with possession hits a field goal, the opponent then gets an opportunity to match it or score a touchdown of their own (which would end the game). Want to control your own destiny? Get in the end zone.

A Jones pass to Ross picked up 17 yards for a first down on the first play. Two plays later, he hit him for 8 yards which also netted a first down. They were pushed back to a 2nd-and-14 via a Collin Johnson illegal substitution penalty, but it took just one play, a pass to Barkley, to gain all of that back and more. They were now in field goal range. A collective gasp among NYG fans occurred on the next play where Barkley fumbled. The ball bounced around several times, NO had a shot at recovery, but tight end Kyle Rudolph recovered it. Two plays later, on 3rd-and-5, Jones hit Golladay for a gain of 23 yards. Aggressive play call and throw for an offense that did a nice job of keeping the foot on the gas.

1st-and-goal from the 6. An offense that has been downright terrible in these situations. Touchdown wins it, field goal keeps it alive and open for another potential disaster. This was the opportunity this team was in search for. They needed just one play, a handoff to their running back that is showing signs of returning to his elite ways, to end it. Barkley got over the goal line, barely, and NYG had their first victory of the 2021 season.

NYG wins 27-21.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 28/40 – 402 yards / 2 TD – 1 INT / 108.5 RAT

Jones also added 27 yards on the ground. Keep in mind that the INT was on a Hail Mary attempt at the end of the first half. This could easily be considered the best game we have ever seen out of Jones. Not just because of the career high 402 yards and yards-per-attempt (10.05), but because of the number of high-level throws he made in clutch situations. He had a notable difference in decision making. The confidence level and desire to put this team on his back, on the road in a hostile environment, missing two starting OL and his most targeted receiver, speaks volumes. His downfield passing is impressive and now that there are credible deep threats and the OL appears to have turned a corner, get ready. This may be the starting point for something we always knew COULD happen with this group.

RUNNNG BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 13 att – 52 yards – 1 TD / 5 rec – 74 yards – 1 TD

The game didn’t start off very well for Barkley. His first 4 touches netted -3 yards, and at the end of the first quarter, he had 4 total yards. From the second quarter-on, he had 13 touches for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. The biggest positive takeaway I had from this game was the different level of movement we saw. The cuts in and out of traffic, combined with his burst and the timing of when to use it, isn’t something we have seen in quite some time. His confidence should be elevated after this game and that could be the final missing component to getting back the player who gained 2,000+ yards from scrimmage as a rookie. The negative? From the All-22 angle, he clearly missed the running lane on two inside zone runs. These were running lanes that I see most NFL backs hit, both good and bad.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Kenny Golladay: 6 rec / 116 yards

Not enough will be made of Golladay and the chunk gains he made to set up scoring opportunities for the offense. He is such a threat in traffic because of how well he comes back to the ball, using his length and strength against cover men. He also made a difference as a blocker and consistently shows high effort in that department. It may not make the highlight reel, but it makes a huge difference when receivers with that kind of size play like that.

-Kadarius Toney: 6 rec / 78 yards

Toney’s coming out party was a huge part of the NYG win and comeback effort. He made multiple big plays after the catch, showing toughness and elite-level quickness. The ways he can cut things back and pick up extra yards were on full display. This is what made him a threat at Florida in the SEC. He can simply play at a different level of speed in short spaces. He couldn’t get behind the secondary on deep routes, but that won’t be his game. His game is what we saw on 3rd-and-18, where he took a short pass and found a way past the chains. He did drop a pass and had another drop nullified by a hold on guard Matt Skura.

-John Ross III: 3 rec / 77 yards / 1 TD

With Slayton and Shepard out and this being Ross’ first game back from being on short-term IR, the opportunity could not have been better for the 9th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The oft-injured speedster made his presence known right away with a 51-yard touchdown. Nearly just as important were his two other catches on the overtime drive. I don’t want to inspire too much over-excitement about one player from one game, but I will say this: Ross has missed 36-of-55 games since his career began. Most (not all) were injury-induced. Plain and simple, we have not seen the best out of the 25-year old Ross, who was drafted the same year as Evan Engram to put things into perspective time-wise.

TIGHT END

-Speaking of Engram, we have another negative to add to the list. He dropped a 3rd-down pass that was thrown a little behind him. He did catch his 5 other targets for just 27 yards total. He was also given a rushing attempt near the goal line that lost 3 yards. He played 68% of the snaps and was in some visible pain at different points of the game. I don’t want to look too deeply into it with my very limited knowledge, but Engram’s body language was very odd in this one.

-Kyle Rudolph caught 2 passes for 24 yards, including 1 for 20 yards. He was given an opportunity on 3rd-and-goal, but he couldn’t out-position the much smaller NO corner Lattimore. He looks like he is playing in slow motion. He is a fine player to have on the side, but he isn’t a feature-player who should be targeted in vital situations. There isn’t enough talent left in him.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-This is some of the best pass blocking we have seen from the NYG offensive line in over 28 games. Zero sacks and just 3 QB hits from defenders who defeated a blocker.

-Another elite-level performance by Andrew Thomas on the blind side. He allowed 1 pressure and that was it. NO rotated a few backup-caliber pass rushers at him and none had any success. His pass protection tape was a clinic on how to get the job done in a variety of ways. Right tackle Nate Solder allowed 1 pressure, a great game for him, and better than what he has been putting on tape since being on this team. They were giving him a ton of help against Cameron Jordan, one of the top-10 defensive ends in the game.

-The interior played a solid game, notably in pass protection. Matt Skura, the fourth starting left guard in 4 weeks. He finished with the worst grade in the group, allowing a TFL, a pressure, and was flagged for a holding penalty. Will Hernandez also allowed a TFL and 1 pressure, but threw a couple of key blocks on big gains. I was most impressed with his effort, hustle, and effectiveness down the field. On three occasions he was 10+ yards beyond the line of scrimmage making blocks that helped gained more yardage. Center Billy Price was clean after a rough first two drives. Much better than a week ago.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-I knew Leonard Williams had a solid game when I watched the live tape. Upon the re-watch and All-22 review, he clearly was the difference maker on this defense. He had 5 pressures in a game where the NYG pass rush didn’t record any sacks. In their defense, NO called just 23 pass plays. Williams also came up with a huge stop in the first quarter on 4th down to force a turnover on downs. What stood out about that play was how far away it was from the snap. Williams nearly reached the sideline to run down Alvin Kamara and then had to work over and around others to complete the play against a back who is always near the top of the league in yards after contact and broken tackles. The defensive tackle had 6 tackles.

-Danny Shelton had a horrible game. He was on the field for just one-third of the snaps, mostly running downs, but his negative plays were a huge part of the success NO had on the ground. He was pushed back multiple yards several times. A nose tackle that big and that ineffective in space needs to, at the very least, maintain the point-of-attack at the line of scrimmage.

-Austin Johnson and Dexter Lawrence were up and down. Lawrence had the better game, finishing with a pressure, TFL, PD, and 6 tackles. He was not the issue when it came to NO running the ball well. Johnson added 6 tackles and played a physical game, but was really hit or miss against the inside run. He was very poor against the pass as well.

LINEBACKER

-Tae Crowder and Reggie Ragland were fighting an uphill battle against a Saints running game that saw their offensive line easily reaching the second level. They both missed 1 tackle (Crowder’s being a lowlight on the first Hill touchdown), but also combined for 17 tackles. For what they had to deal with, I would grade their performance in the positive.

-Make it four weeks in a row for rookie Azeez Ojulari making a stop in the backfield. Also, make it four weeks in a row where he was quiet for the vast majority of the game, notably as a pass rusher. Lorenzo Carter missed 2 tackles, had 1 pressure, and finished with 4 tackles (all were assists). I zeroed in on every Carter pass rush and he just doesn’t have it. No moves, no ability to disengage, and no tight turns around the edge. It has been a poor start for him.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry had a big interception and 2 tackles, however he was burned deep and also missed a tackle. While the interception was a needed big play for both him and the defense respectively, I am still a bit worried about the amount of separation we are seeing receivers get on him.

-Adoree’ Jackson got beat on 3rd down two times and also missed 2 tackles. He was picked on often, as seen with his 7 tackles. While Jackson is a better option than what NYG has been marching out there at the position in recent years, he has yet to show he is worth the hefty price tag. I’m not optimistic about this one.

SAFETY

-The safeties were the position group on this defense I was most excited and optimistic about coming into this season. Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney have dampened those thoughts. Peppers allowed a touchdown to Juwan Johnson, a former undrafted receiver who was shifted to tight end. He was injured on that drive and sat out the rest of the game. McKinney missed 2 tackles and was horrible in coverage. He allowed a touchdown that was nullified by a NO holding penalty. His angles in pursuit were very poor as well.

-Logan Ryan and Julian Love, however, played well. Ryan led the team with 9 tackles and Love added 6. They were both all over the field and seem to be better football players than athletes, while the two names above are the complete opposite. I want the instincts and football intelligence at this position more than I want the athlete.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/3 (Made 23, 48, Missed 35)
-P Riley Dixon: 4 punts / 39.3 avg / 37.0 net

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, DT Leonard Williams, OT Andrew Thomas

3 DUDS

-DT Danny Shelton, S Xavier McKinney, OLB Lorenzo Carter

3 THOUGHTS ON N.O.

(1) 2021 will be the biggest test of Head Coach Sean Payton’s career. Since he took over in 2006, the team has finished top 5 in the league in scoring 10 times and top 5 in yards 11 times. Those are stunning numbers. In recent years, however, it is the defense that has stepped up as the team has spent more and more draft resources on the other side of the ball. Four of their past six first round picks have been spent on defenders and they now have the 15th most expensive defense while they have the 26th most expensive offense. Things have changed so much, and the question will be whether or not Payton can pivot well enough without Brees. It hasn’t panned out so well in New England so far.

(2) How good can this Saints team be? Jameis Winston at the helm leaves me overly skeptical they can be a true NFC contender. My thoughts won’t go beyond there even though I think the defense is more than solid. Winston has thrown the ball 20, 22, 21, and 23 times. Those aren’t completions, those are attempts. He ranks 30th there. 18 QBs have completed more passes than he has even attempted. You can only ride Alvin Kamara for so long and at some point, they won’t be able to protect the quarterback forever. His bonehead decision-making is going to show up at some point and that delay-of-game penalty in the 4th quarter was a microcosm if who he is. I projected them to miss the playoffs prior to the season and I still believe it to be true.

(3) The one hope NO can rely on is the mere fact a huge portion of their starting lineup is injured (and due to come back). Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Erik McCoy, Terron Armstead, Marcus Davenport…are just a few names they will have back in the coming weeks.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) The passing game on play-action. More specifically, the passing game on first down play-action. Jones went a perfect 7 -or-7 for 84 yards (11.0 YPA). First down play-action is one of the most well-known and proven strategies to enhance a passing game and early-down offense in general. Defenses are more prone to playing the run and will “bite” more easily. Even if they don’t bite, it slows down the initial pass rush, putting the offensive line in position to succeed more often and easily. We need to see more of this, it works as well as anything on this offense.

(2) So, is it time to turn around expectations for this team? Not quite. Just like it was foolish to write them off at this time a week ago. NYG has a tough slate of games in the coming weeks, very tough. Arguably most-difficult-in-the-NFL tough. However, momentum and confidence in sports are something that cannot be objectively measured by fans and media. As smart as some people think they are, it cannot be measured or accounted for from our perspective. Don’t try. Winning matters. Winning tight games matters. Coming from behind matters. Even when you want to lose games so you can draft Chase Young who is, by the way, NOT one of the 191 players in the NFL who have a sack this season. His 2 QB hits, however, are indeed tied for 102nd in the NFL along with the likes of former Giant Kyler Fackrell, Chiefs safety Daniel Sorenson, and Jets cornerback Bryce Hall.

(3) Last week I wrote that the NYG offense was not performing poorly. Not to the level that some were acting. They were awful in the red zone and awful inside the opponent’s 5. I didn’t feel like getting into a back-and-forth with emotional NYG fans who throw more unnecessary tantrums than my 1-year old. However, now that most are under a better mindset. Some of the most objective numbers I look at from a team offense perspective in relation to the other 31 teams:

Yards Per Play: 8th (6.2)
Turnovers: 3rd (3)
1st Downs: 20th (82)
Penalty Yards: 12th (207)
Score percentage: 12th (41.5)

This is an above average offense trending toward a top 10 offense. Get on board.

Oct 012021
 
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THE STORYLINE:
If you read last week’s game preview, I used a post from Osi Osi Osi OyOyOy in my opening statement. He finished with the words, We better win. The Giants didn’t. We all know that their season is in grave danger of slipping away before it seems like it started. Again. This really is starting feel like the movie Groundhog Day, where no matter what the protagonist Bill Murray does, he can’t seem to end a waking nightmare that keeps repeating itself.

This season wasn’t supposed to be like the previous four. We convinced ourselves this was the right head coach, and that he was really now calling the shots over the bumbling general manager. On paper, the team had a strong offseason, addressing a number of need areas, making a decent defense stronger and dramatically upgrading offensive weapons.

There are lots of excuses why the Giants are 0-3 and appear to be perhaps the worst team in the NFL. The Giants gambled on staying relatively pat on the offensive line and lost. Retirements and injuries (particularly Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux) didn’t help. In addition, injuries to many of the newcomers such as Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Adoree’ Jackson, and Elerson Smith sabotaged the expected upgrades. Saquon hasn’t looked like Saquon, and may never regain that form. Evan Engram is hurt (again) and unreliable (again). The expensive, high-priced secondary with tons of free agent and draft capital isn’t playing like we expected. Judge and his coaching staff had made a number of questionable in-game decisions.

Everyone has their own theory on who is most to blame. The owner, the general manager, the coaches. Personally, I’m past the finger-pointing stage. I just want it fixed. No more excuses. Fix it. This isn’t fun anymore and sports is supposed to be fun.

In a nutshell, we all know the issues. The offense doesn’t score enough points. The defense has no mental toughness, and falls apart in the clutch. The special teams have already lost one game too. You can’t win when all three phases of your team suck.

The season is not dead yet, but it is clearly on life support. The Giants have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the league. Injuries are mounting. There is little room for error now. The only way to get out of this mess is to circle the wagons, ignore the outside noise, and just focus on winning that next game. Nothing else matters. One game at a time. But win that first game and go from there.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (knee)
  • FB Cullen Gillaspia (ankle)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (hip)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – out)
  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring – out)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – questionable)
  • OG Ben Bredeson (hand – out)
  • LB Tae Crowder (hamstring – questionable)
  • CB Keion Crossen (elbow – questionable)
  • S Logan Ryan (hamstring)
  • S Nate Ebner (quad – questionable)
  • LS Casey Kreiter (knee)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
What really killed the Giants last week was the two long first-half drives that only resulted in six points. The Giants did what they were supposed to until they shot themselves in the foot in the red zone. Score touchdowns there instead of field goals and the Giants win that game.

The current state of the offensive line is due to a number of factors including front office/coaching misjudgment (mainly Matt Peart), two unforeseen retirements, and terrible injury luck (Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Ben Bredeson). Indeed, the left guard position appears jinxed as the Giants will have their fourth starting left guard in four games. Nate Solder has never played well as a New York Giant. Indeed, I’d rather have Peart out there taking his lumps at this point than wasting snaps on Solder, who won’t be here next year. The good news is that Andrew Thomas is starting to string some nice games together. Will Hernandez has 14 games left to make a case why he should be an NFL starter. Ben Bredeson (when he returns from a hand injury), Wes Martin, Billy Price, and Matt Skura are auditioning for the future as well. It is what it is. The front office has been scouring the trade market, waiver wire, and practice squads for answers.

One could argue that the offensive line disarray is the primary cause for the running game issues. But those watching the games can see the 2021 version of Saquon Barkley is a shadow of his rookie form. Jason Garrett says Barkley is still rounding into form and is getting better and better. I don’t see it yet. What a tragedy it will be if Saquon never consistently plays like he did in 2018, which was one of the most remarkable seasons a running back has ever had in the NFL. Barkley needs to stop dancing around, hit the damn hole, and gain those tough yards. The big plays will come. But they won’t if the team keeps finding itself in 2nd-and-11 and 3rd-and-9 because Barkley didn’t gain those five yards he should have picked up. At the same time, the coaching staff has to put him in better position to gain confidence. Get him more into open spaces. In a nutshell, help him get his mojo back.

The Giants also appeared jinxed at wide receiver. They simply can’t get this unit anywhere near full strength for even one game. All three of their top receivers are now hurt, with two missing this game. Fortunately, the Giants appear to have above average depth at the position. The Giants will now have to rely on Kadarius Toney, even though he is still way behind due to a lost spring and summer. Despite a nagging hip injury, Kenny Golladay appears to be heating up. And Collin Johnson has been a pleasant surprise. C.J. Board and practice squaders Dante Pettis and David Sills may also have to pick up the slack. On a side note, every year I fall for the Sterling Shepard hype. I want to like the guy as a player. But he simply cannot stay healthy. Every year, he gets hurt and misses games.

The tight end position has been a major letdown. Again. I’m just an average fan running a blog. How come I can tell that Evan Engram is a coach killer and this fucking front office and coaching staff (and previous coaching staffs) can’t see it??? They made their own bed. Now they have to sleep in it. Kyle Rudolph has been a big disappointment too. He was supposed to be a major factor in the red zone. To date, he hasn’t.

Which leaves us with Daniel Jones. He’s not playing poorly. But he’s not playing great either. He’s kind of in no-man’s land and in a way, that’s the worst possible outcome for the Giants right now because the Giants still really don’t know what they have in him. Is he the future of this team or no? Most fans don’t think the coaching staff is helping him out with the play calling. And clearly there are continuing personnel issues all around him on the offensive line, at wide receiver, at running back, and at tight end. Turnovers are down. Embarrassingly, but also to his credit, he’s the team’s leading rusher. But does he have “it”?

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
I don’t know why but this defense is simply mentally weak. They did a great job last week until there were 2 minutes left before halftime, then they fell apart in the clutch. Again. Same thing happened in the second half. Again. The struggling offense takes a lead, and the defense can’t hold it. With the game on the line, they collapse every single week at the end of the game. What is going on? It’s almost like they expect to fall apart, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As fans, we all sense it too. Whatever the reasons, Patrick Graham, his coaches, and players have to figure this out soon. Jobs are on the line.

Losing Blake Martinez for the season is a devastating blow. Tae Crowder, who of course tweaked his hamstring this week in practice, has to pick up the slack. Reggie Ragland can help on running downs, but I think I would go with Carter Coughlin more at this point. While he has limitations to his game, he makes plays. I wouldn’t discount Justin Hilliard either.

The two problem areas on the defense right now are obvious. The secondary isn’t playing up to the level that was expected. This was supposed to be one of the top units in the league and one of the best NYG secondaries ever. And it’s not just one guy but everyone. James Bradberry is not playing at the Pro Bowl level he played at last year. Adoree’ Jackson was supposed to be better than this. Jabrill Peppers remains a frustratingly inconsistent player. Even Logan Ryan made mistakes last week that cost the Giants the game. Xavier McKinney? Darnay Holmes? Make some plays.

The other problem area is the lack of pass rush. Azeez Ojulari is flashing, but he needs to do so more consistently. Oshane Ximines isn’t the answer. Lorenzo Carter flashed in camp, but that has not translated to the regular season. It may be time to start using Quincy Roche a bit more along with Ojulari.

Finally, turnovers are the great equalizer. Games are won and lost with turnovers. Giants defensive players have let far too many potential turnovers slip through their fingers through the first few games. Hold onto the damn ball!

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I don’t see what the coaching staff sees in Riley Dixon. In the offseason, I would move on from him. It’s also time to use Kadarius Toney in the return game. The Giants need points anyway they can get them.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Joe Judge on teaching a team how to win:You’ve got to cut out the mistakes that keep you from being successful. That’s turnovers, mental errors, penalties. You’ve got to cut those things out. When you eliminate those things that slow your opportunities for having success, all of a sudden you find yourself in the right position… The truth is what’s on tape… Until you get those things corrected as a team, you’re not going to have the opportunities for success that you should have. Close isn’t good enough. We’re not playing horseshoes and hand grenades. We have to have results.

THE FINAL WORD:
This is a winnable game for the Giants. It’s up to them whether they want to dig themselves out of this hole or remain a joke. No one can help them but themselves.

Sep 282021
 
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Evan Engram and Logan Ryan, New York Giants (September 26, 2021)

Evan Engram and Logan Ryan – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

You just don’t know how much you appreciate someone until they’re gone. It’s been just over one season since Eli Manning retired. The 16-year quarterback who won two Super Bowls and made the playoffs six times had his day in the sun at MetLife Stadium during a halftime ceremony. He officially had his number retired and nameplate hung on the Ring of Honor within the stadium. Eli Manning, a career .500 quarterback who had his fair share of ups and downs, cheers and boos, successes, and failures. While the demise of NYG began toward the back nine of his career, it was never, ever this bad. NYG, the biggest losers in the NFL since the start of 2017, were set to face the 0-2 Atlanta Falcons, experiencing a similar decline as their long-time franchise signal caller is nearing the end of his career. They were 18-32 over their last 50 games with an offense that has gone backwards each season since 2018 and very little long-term hope on the roster. Barring a tie, one of these teams would be leaving 0-3.

For the first time this season, all of the starting NYG offensive weapons were on the field. Evan Engram was back after missing time with a calf injury and Kenny Golladay got the nod after being questionable all week with a hip injury. They were up against defense that allowed the most points in the NFL, the most passing touchdowns in the NFL, and the 6th-most yards per carry in the NFL. They were home on one of the nicest days of the year with zero weather negatives. It was time to make a statement.

After stopping ATL on their first drive, we saw a 14-yard gain on short pass to Barkley in open space, a 38-yard gain on absolute dime to C.J. Board from Daniel Jones, and a 3rd-and-1 conversion on a running play designed for Jones, the NYG leading rusher on the season. They had 1st-and-goal from inside the ATL 10-yard line but an 11-yard sack on 2nd-and-goal pushed them too far back. They settled on a 25-yard field goal by Graham Gano to make it 3-0. The NYG defense stopped ATL again on the ensuing drive, giving NYG the ball back. A first down play-action pass to start the drive resulted in another double-digit gain, this one 19 yards to Golladay. NYG have had a lot of success with that approach. On the next play (a first down), NYG took a 3-yard loss on a running play. They punted 3 snaps later.

Following yet another stop by the NYG defense, this one a three-and-out, NYG put together a 15-play drive. They reached the red zone, setting up a 1st-and-10 from the ATL 17-yard line. Jones missed a shotgun snap and it resulted in an 11-yard loss (their second 11-yard loss of the half). Two plays later, running back Elijhaa Penny was flagged for a false start. It was now 3rd-and-22 from the ATL 29-yard line. NYG settled for another field goal attempt, this one from 31 yards. Gano nailed it again and NYG had a 6-0 lead. ATL did breach NYG territory for the first time on the next drive, but a solid defensive play by Logan Ryan forced yet another punt.

NYG started the next drive inside their own 5. They converted a 3rd-and-6 on a pass to Board, but he was flagged for pushing off. Another shot to their own foot. They punted the ball back to ATL with just over 2 minutes left before halftime. ATL started the possession inside NYG territory and had gains of 3, 12, and 14 yards in addition to an unnecessary roughness penalty on safety Xavier McKinney, giving them 8 more yards and putting them inside the 10. Ryan then hit Olamide Zaccheaus for a 4-yard touchdown. ATL needed just 36 seconds of game clock in a hurry up situation to take the lead, 7-6. There was, however, enough time left on the clock for NYG to pursue more points.

Jones hit Evan Engram for a 13-yard gain on the second play of the drive. The super-athlete but sub-par football player who many NYG fans are still hoping turns the corner fumbled. ATL recovered and took control of the ball on the NYG 36-yard line. It was an ugly scene for Engram, who is visibly in the doghouse among the NYG faithful. He heard the loudest booing directed at one player I have heard in a long time inside the stadium. Fortunately, he was saved by an Azeez Ojulari sack-fumble, which was recovered by Lorenzo Carter on a 3rd-and-9. NYG then took a knee and went into halftime down by 1.

The two offenses traded scoreless possessions to start off the second half. On the first play of the NYG’s second possession, Barkley took a 20-yard gain on a short pass that again, got him the ball in space. It was called back because guard Will Hernandez illegally moved downfield before the ball was thrown. Instead of 1st-and-10 from the ATL 36, it was 1st-and-15 from the NYG 39. 25-yard swings like that are so vital to an offense that is already bottom tier. NYG did make it back on to the ATL side of the field eventually. On 4th-and-4 from the ATL 39, Judge opted to punt. There was no trust in this offense’s ability, on a day where Jones had been performing well and Barkley-space plays were working, to get that tough first down.

NYG inched their way down the field on their next possession. Consecutive gains of 11, 4, 12, 3, 7, 4, 1, 5, and 16 yards brought them inside the ATL 10-yard line. A pass interference called on ATL corner Fabian Moreau got the ball to the 1-yard line and from there, Barkley scored his first touchdown since December 29, 2019. That is about two and a half months before the Covid-19 pandemic started to put that date into perspective. NYG put another 2 points on the board via a Jones-run where he barreled over ATL star defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. NYG had a 14-7 lead in the fourth quarter.

The greatest sign of a good defense is coming up with the big stops when it matters most. NYG’s defense had put forth an admirable effort to this point, but they needed one more quarter of quality football. On the very next drive, ATL tied it up through a 15-play drive. They converted four straight 3rd downs while the NYG defensive backfield took turns getting beat. Logan Ryan was flagged for a pass interference in the end zone. Rodarius Williams was beat by Tajae Sharpe, who is holding on by a thread in this league. Adoree Jackson dropped an interception and was also beat on an earlier 3rd down. Matt Ryan hit blocking tight end Lee Smith on a 1-yard pass for the touchdown following Logan Ryan’s penalty, tying it up at 14 with just over 4 minutes left.

NYG got the ball to midfield with just over 2 minutes left. This was the most important part of the game where Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett needed to find a way to gain another 15 yards for the automatic Graham Gano. The two most reliable plays this season (knowing Sterling Shepard was out with a hamstring injury) have been designed runs for Jones and quick passes to Barkley in space. Garrett opted for a pass to Engram (incomplete), a deep drop back (9-yard sack), and then a quick pass to Barkley in space (10-yard gain). It was a 4th-and-9 from the 50. An 0-2 team that has had issues stopping offenses in 2-minute situations playing against a defense that had allowed 30 4th quarter points over the first two weeks. It was time for Judge to make his “Harbaugh Go-For-It” decision. He opted to punt and hope for overtime. Riley Dixon sailed one into the end zone and ATL had the ball, with all of their timeouts, just 40 yards away from field goal range.

It took just 3 plays for ATL to gain 55 yards. They bled the clock out (NYG used 2 timeouts earlier on avoiding a delay-of-game penalty and defensive confusion pre-snap). Kicker Younghoe Koo, who grew up about 20 minutes from MetLife, hit a 40-yard field goal with :00 left on the clock.

NYG loses, 17-14.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 24/35 – 266 yards – 0 TD – 0 INT / 90.9 RAT

Jones also added 39 yards on 8 carries and scored a 2-point conversion via the ground. He fumbled twice, both of which he recovered himself. Another solid performance by the third-year quarterback. He had one of the top throws of the day across the entire league in the first quarter on a 3rd-and-4 go route to C.J. Board. He lost Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard early on to injury but made most of the situation. I wish Garrett had put more on his shoulders on that final drive in the 4th quarter. Those are the situations NYG needs clarity on regarding his future with the club. Jones has thrown just 1 interception over his last 9 games and remains one of the top rushing threats in the league at the position.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 16 att – 51 yards – 1 TD / 6 rec – 43 yards

The arrow continues to point up for Barkley, although he still isn’t playing at the level this team needs if they have any thought of getting out of the basement among NFL offenses. Too much dancing, not seeing the cutback lanes, and the lack of quality decision making are bothersome. He also tripped over his own feet three more times. He is so explosive in a straight line, but he keeps on violently slamming his front foot into the ground looking to shake a pursuing defender. He is constantly looking for the highlight reel rather than making the sure yards and it is impacting this offense in a negative way. At 0-3, I expect Garrett to start getting him the ball 25+ times per game now. There is a right and wrong way to do that. More on this below.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Kenny Golladay: 4 rec – 64 yards

After missing the week of practice with a hip injury, Golladay was an unknown until just a couple hours before kickoff. He was on a limited snap count, as he was on the field for just 70% of the offensive plays. He made a couple of aggressive plays on the ball and after the catch, showing notable grit and toughness. He also forced two pass interference penalties. One positive of having a big receiver like this is exactly that. Corners, especially in big situations, tend to get too handsy on and grabby with them because of the size disadvantage.

-Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton both went down early with separate injuries. I would expect them to be out for at least a couple weeks, opening the door for the forgotten John Ross III potentially. This created an opportunity for the sizable Collin Johnson, recently picked up off of waivers from Jacksonville. He led the receivers with 5 catches, totaling 51 yards. He was the main target for Jones on 3rd downs and it worked out well.

-Rookie Kadarius Toney saw the field often in the first half. He had 2 catches on 2 consecutive plays. He gained solid yards after the catch both times and it was a solid way to get him involved. I was hoping to see him get another touch or two in the second half, but it didn’t pan out that way.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram returned after missing 2 games with a calf injury sustained in preseason. It was an ugly afternoon despite seeing just over half the snaps. He caught 2 passes on 6 targets and lost a fumble in the 2nd quarter. For the rest of the afternoon, Engram was booed every time the ball was thrown his way and cheered every time he came off the field.

-Kaden Smith caught 1 pass for 9 yards and allowed a pressure while Kyle Rudolph did not see any action in the passing game and allowed a TFL. The combination of Rudolph and Smith at least gives NYG a real and dependable expectation from the position. Engram is so volatile, and the negative plays may turn him into a part time, gimmick-only type asset to the offense. Usable and worthy of a gamble here and there, but simply not an every down player.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-A solid game overall for the group albeit against a weak ATL defensive front. Andrew Thomas was the star of the day, throwing a shutout and completely locking down anyone who lined up across from him. Right tackle Nate Solder allowed 3 pressures and a sack. That sack was at a vital time of the game on the final NYG drive. He was also flagged for a hold that ATL declined on the play.

-The interior had a poor game overall. It was a step up in relation to what we are used to seeing here, but it was still a poor overall performance. Will Hernandez allowed 2 TFL and was flagged for an illegal-man-downfield penalty on a 20-yard pickup. Ben Bredeson allowed a sack, TFL, and pressure. It wasn’t a pretty stat line but he actually performed notably well the rest of the way. He needs to be better, but he showed he can hang at left guard. Billy Price allowed a TFL and continues to look sloppy. On the sack that Bredeson allowed, Price was supposed to be in on the double team there. However, he tripped and fell, leaving a lane open for the ATL defender (Jarrett). He and Hernandez are too often ending up on the ground because of balance issues, a major no-no. Good defensive fronts are going to see that and play games with them.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-The two headliners of the group, Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence both had above average grades on my scale. Williams produced the trifecta, recording a sack, TFL, and pressure in addition to 5 tackles. He was just a few inches away on multiple occasions from making additional plays in the backfield as well. He was getting off the ball well and caused a lot of disruption. Lawrence added 3 pressures and 3 tackles. He got a lot of push up the middle and forced Ryan into quick decisions throughout the afternoon.

-Impressive game from Austin Johnson. He had 5 tackles, 1 sack, and a pressure. He and Danny Shelton are two solid options inside who control multiple gaps against the inside run.

LINEBACKER

-Rookie Azeez Ojulari recorded his 3rd sack in as many games. On paper, it is woefully impressive and encouraging. However, as we have seen since the first preseason game, there isn’t enough impact elsewhere. He played in just half the snaps and didn’t make a lot of noise other than that play. However, a sack that produced a turnover via fumble is the kind of play this defense is starving for more of. He is off to a good start and isn’t even in the discussion when talking about the issues on this defense. I feel good about his future.

-Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines each finished with 1 tackle apiece. Carter’s was for a loss and he recovered the fumble that was forced by Ojulari. It was a disappointing game from these two, and the outside pass rush continues to be low-level and overall detriment to this defense as a whole.

-Inside, Blake Martinez was lost in the first quarter with a non-contact ACL injury. His 2021 season is over. While in the grand scheme of things it won’t matter because this team doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, this defense will miss his presence. Tae Crowder took over the green dot-duty, the play-caller of the defense. His on-field IQ won’t be near the level of Martinez, as seen in the frustration from Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham on a 3rd down where the team was forced to take a timeout because of alignment issues. He did end up with 11 tackles and does bring a different level of speed to the defense.

-Reggie Ragland finished with 4 tackles and may see an uptick in playing time, although I am curious to see who this front office brings in off the market to fill the Martinez roster spot.

CORNERBACK

-The ATL receivers are not a good matchup for James Bradberry. I said earlier in the week that it may suit NYG well to have the Giants top defensive back shadow rookie “tight end” Kyle Pitts all afternoon rather than stick to the crossing route-heavy ATL receivers. He allowed a touchdown and two first downs. He did have an impressive pass break up in the first quarter. He didn’t have a poor game, but certain types of receivers (quick-footed, change of direction guys) give him major issues.

-Adoree’ Jackson had another poor game and continues to warrant the “overpaid” label. He missed a tackle, dropped an interception, and showed low effort on a couple plays to his side. Jackson, like Jabrill Peppers, seems to lack situational awareness. Corner is a very difficult position to play (second hardest in the game in my opinion), but Jackson just isn’t big enough to play with such poor recognition and reaction time.

-Rodarius Williams replaced Darnay Holmes as the team’s nickel back. He was flagged for a pass interference on a 3rd-down stop and missed 2 tackles. From the All-22 angle, he did seem to stick to the ATL crossing routes better than the two guys mentioned above. That is a good sign for a corner that has solid size and ball skills.

SAFETY

-Logan Ryan had a poor game and it was mostly about the plays he did not make. He missed 2 tackles, dropped an interception, and was flagged for a 3rd-down pass interference in the end zone that led to an ATL touchdown. This is the leader of the defense and now, with the injury to Martinez. He received a notable payday this past offseason and plays a position that needs to make plays that alter a game. Plain and simple, Ryan needs to elevate his game even though I know he isn’t a weak point of the defense.

-Xavier McKinney seems to be having issues with the mental side of the game. He is fooled by misdirection way too much. The contrast between him and Julian Love there is obvious. It is hard to play safety if you get fooled that easily, just ask Jabrill Peppers. Peppers had 7 tackles and 2 pressures in addition to a couple solid punt returns. The All-22 shows how blatantly obvious it is that he just can’t forecast or anticipate. He is a top shelf athlete who can react well enough in most situations, but the lack of instincts shuts the door on his play-making potential. He is an easy target when a team needs a first down.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/2 XP.
-P Riley Dixon: 5 Punts – 45.8 avg / 37.0 net. His biggest punt of the day, one from the 50 in the 4th quarter, was a complete failure that resulted in a touchback. Field position was crucial there.

3 STUDS

-OT Andrew Thomas, DT Leonard Williams, WR Kenny Golladay

3 DUDS

-LB Lorenzo Carter, S Logan Ryan, OG Will Hernandez

3 THOUGHTS ON ATL

(1) Cordarrelle Patterson is one of the most unique players in the league, if not the most. He spent 5 years in the league as a wide receiver after being drafted 29th overall by MIN. He then went to NE primarily for special teams, but they started to put him in the backfield because of injuries. From that point, he never saw more targets than he did carries. He also remained one of the top kick returners in the game (a trait he has had since his rookie season) and an above average gunner. Patterson is now 30 (old for the NFL) and producing some of his best results across multiple roles. I think he is the best running back on the ATL roster and could end up being the leading rusher by year’s end. I can’t think of another first-round receiver who made a position change this late into his career, played on 5 teams in 9 years, and continued to improve his status into his 30’s. Ever.

(2) The Falcons organization as a whole is in a very tough spot. They owe Matt Ryan a TON of money over the next few years and it is not a contract they can get out of. The cap penalties are enormous and would set records for dead money. They don’t have a young QB in the wings and they may not lose enough games to head into the draft in position to grab one. This is a similar situation to where NYG was with Eli Manning in the 2017-2019 time period. Perhaps he is good enough if the talent around him very good, but it simply isn’t. The ATL defense has very little potential, and the offensive line is average at best. I think they are in for a rough few years coming up unless they hit a few home runs, not even doubles, in the draft.

(3) The one hope they have, besides staying healthy which they have so far, is the fact they do win the turnover battle often and they are in a lot of games. They had leads in 13 of 16 games last year and they led at halftime in 9 of 16 games (80% win rate). Head Coach Arthur Smith was the catalyst in Ryan Tannehill’s resurgence in Tennessee, too. I think .500 is a reach for them, but a few bounces their way could lead to a 9-10 win season.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) I have been on the critical side of Jason Garrett for a few reasons, one of which is right below. However, I am going to say this and it may surprise some of you. The offense did not perform poorly. As a matter of fact, they played well when looking at some of the more important metrics. They had a successful play rate of over 50%, they were solid on 3rd down, their pass protection graded above average, and they spread the ball out well. Why only 14 points? Big mistakes at inopportune times by the offensive line and questionable play selection in the red zone.

(2) On to my critique of Garrett when it comes to Barkley. I did some extra work on his involvement and came away with this:

  • Barkley had 9 touches in space. They totaled 62 yards (6.9 yards per)*
  • Barkley had 12 touches into traffic. They totaled 32 yards (2.7 per).

*Does not include the 20-yard gain (into space) on the Hernandez penalty.

Obviously, these plays can’t all be directly compared because of situational football. And yes, you need to take into account specific situations. However, it does paint a picture, at least somewhat, where this offense should go in key situations late in games. On that final offensive drive, they didn’t get the ball to him in space, they did not run play-action (Jones’ top passing numbers when it comes to splits), and they did not opt for any designed runs for Jones (another high-success marker). That, to me, does not make sense.

(3) 0-3. Two losses by a combined 4 points. Several missed opportunities in the red zone and a defense that can’t stop the opposition over the final 2 minutes of a half. Is NYG getting blown out? No. The difference between them and teams like the Jets and Jaguars is apparent. These close, emotional losses tend to bring out unfair doomsday thoughts in fans. I don’t think this team is going anywhere this season, but I am not mailing it in just yet. They are in games and are a few bonehead plays away from 2 wins. I’m not a moral victory guy, so please don’t take it that way. But an offsides last week and maybe one less shot to the foot this week (dropped INTs, penalties…etc)…just one less, and NYG could be 2-1 right now. Margins are that close and that is why I don’t think you can label NYG a bottom tier team in 2021 just yet. Time is running out though and I am curious to see how they respond in a tough situation on the road against a solid defense. I’ll be watching.

Sep 242021
 
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New York Giants Fans (December 15, 2019)

© USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
In The Corner Forum last week, I argued that the Week 2 game against Washington was not a “must-win” game as many were arguing. In my opinion, the NFC East is going to be subpar once again and there is a good chance that a team that is hovering around .500 in December will still be alive for the division title. Barring serious injury issues, I also believe the New York Giants will become stronger on offense and defense as the year progresses.

That all said, this game against the Atlanta Falcons feels like it has a greater significance than an ordinary Week 3 contest. For one, this is a very winnable game for New York. Second, and most importantly, at 0-2, the margin for error is rapidly diminishing for the Giants. Third, the symbol of the team’s most recent successful past – Eli Manning – will be honored at the game.

I think poster Osi Osi Osi OyOyOy captured my thoughts when he wrote:

I feel like due to a lot of different factors, this game is particularly meaningful when it comes to the organization’s outlook. We’ve had “must-win” early season games over the years, which we typically lose, we even had some “must-win” games later on last year due to the ineptness of the NFC East.

But the vibe I get for this game just doesn’t feel like the usual “must-win to keep the season alive” game. It really feels like the entire organizational structure is on the hot seat, from the Owner to the GM to the Head Coach to the QB to the RB to the Defensive Coordinator to the rookie 1st round draft pick, etc. This feels like a “must win to keep the franchise from crumbling” type of game.

The Falcons are the worst team in football right now, their organization has had their own issues over the last handful of years. The Giants are simply a better team than them and should take care of business to get back into the 2021 divisional race.

We’ve been bad for so long that I’m pretty much expecting the worst. But if we can’t beat the Falcons this week, the backlash on here and in the media would be insane. I can only imagine what a shitshow this place would be on Monday if we lost and Jones/Barkley played poorly with Toney doing nothing and the defense playing poorly again.

I’ve felt down about this Franchise plenty over recent years, but thinking about the fallout of a loss this weekend just makes me feel uncomfortable and sick. I can’t really remember feeling this specific type of way about a game before.

We better win.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (knee – probable)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (hip – questionable)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (ankle – probable)
  • TE Evan Engram (calf- questionable)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee- probable)
  • NT Austin Johnson (illness – probable)
  • LB Cam Brown (hamstring – out)
  • S Logan Ryan (hamstring – probable)
  • S Nate Ebner (quad- questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Daniel Jones and the offense had a good night against a good defense last Thursday, scoring 29 points with two almost-touchdowns being erased. But one game does not make a trend. Saquon Barkley played far more than anticipated, and had a 41-yard run, but his other touches were non-productive. He should continue to get better as he rounds into football shape, but the question is can he and will he attain his rookie form? If he can, this offense can be truly dangerous.

Once again, the offensive line is in disarray. Don’t write off Matt Peart, but his short-term inability to win the starting right tackle job clearly was not expected by team leadership. And the serious injuries to Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux, two of the three interior starters, has the entire franchise scrambling. Billy Price and Ben Bredeson, who were added only a few weeks ago, are now the new starters.

Fan ire seems to be directed at rookie Kadarius Toney, but his slow development was easy to predict once he missed most of the offseason. The guy who needs to get it going is veteran Kenny Golladay. The return of Evan Engram should help this offense as long as he doesn’t screw up.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The defense was supposed to carry the team this year. Through two games, it is currently ranks 26th in yards allowed and 25th in points allowed. It can’t stop the run or the pass. It can’t get off of the field on 3rd and 4th down. Most damning of all, it can make the critical stops in key situations at the end of the 2nd and 4th quarters.

It’s not one issue. Coaching appears to have been a problem, but players are not making plays, including guys who have a proven track record under the current coaching staff. Whatever the reasons, they need to get this fixed, and fast.

The secret of good defense has always been the same. Play smart. Pursue and gang tackle. Stop the run. Get after the passer. Play tight coverage. Get the football. That will never change.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I just want to mention what a tremendous performance by Graham Gano last Thursday night. Indeed, it may have been the best performance by a kicker in team history, nailing field goals of 23, 35, 47, 52, and 55 in less-than-ideal conditions. He deserved the win.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham:I need to do a better job of coaching. That’s my job.

THE FINAL WORD:
The wiggle room is disappearing. The fans are starting to tune out again. A reminder of the more successful past will be standing on the sideline. This team desperately needs to win this game.

Sep 182021
 
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Darius Slayton, New York Giants (September 16, 2021)

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Most fans do not watch games beyond their favorite team. They’ll watch every contest that includes the team they root for, maybe a few nationally televised matchups, and then the postseason. I bring that up because the typical Washington Football Team follower could easily be under the impression this NYG team, despite all the losses (49 of their last 67), is a team “on the rise” under their young stud franchise quarterback, Daniel Jones. After all, he entered the game 4-0 against WAS. What that typical fan may not realize, however, is Jones also entered the game 4-19 against everyone else. It was a rainy night on a short week for two teams that were torched on third down in their respective week 1 losses. Nobody wants to start the year 0-2 and everybody wants the division win. NYG has owned this matchup, winning 14 of 20 since 2012 and this version of WAS was being led by an undrafted quarterback who had two career starts in four years under his belt.

That quarterback, Taylor Heinicke, was forced into a quick 3-and-out to start the night off. Jones, who had a 100.0 career-quarterback rating against WAS, the highest among all his opponents he has played more than once, started where he left off against this defense. He led a drive with a solid blend of run and pass, mainly featuring himself in both regards, to put the early score on the board. A designed QB-draw, running behind new center Billy Price, put the away team wearing their home blues up 7-0 just 8:20 into the game. WAS responded with their second straight three-and-out in as many drives at the hands of quality NYG pass rushing from the outside.

The first “ugly” of the night appeared on the second NYG drive. First, right guard Nick Gates was rolled up on and broke his leg. It was such a gruesome injury that the telecast opted to not show the replay. The team captain shifted over to guard from center, where he had been excelling, because of the injury to Shane Lemieux, who was placed in Injured Reserve earlier in the day. On the very next play, however, the momentum was back as Saquon Barkley darted through the right side of the line, thanks to Chase Young vacating his lane, and up the sideline for a 41-yard gain. What a sight to see that was! Maybe this would be the night NYG fans have been waiting for after all.

The run brought NYG to the WAS 35. They got to 3rd-and-2 from the WAS 29 via two more running plays before calling an early timeout. And this is where the “no excuses” thought enters one’s mind. After a timeout, Jones had a really hard time lining up the offense. They were shockingly scrambling to get aligned with the play clock reaching :00 as Andrew Thomas jumped out of his stance early, getting flagged for a false start. They moved back the necessary 5 yards, just to have Jones sacked for an 8-yard loss, knocking them out of field goal range. They had WAS by the throat, they called a timeout to get on the same page, and it ended up looking like football’s version of the Bad News Bears. Just an awful, awful display of professional football.

WAS then took control via a 13-play drive where Heinicke connected with one of the most underrated receivers in football, Terry McLaurin, four times. The fourth was an 11-yard touchdown to tie the game up. Both offenses traded three-and-outs before NYG started a drive on their own 22-yard line. The lack of discipline shown by the hyped WAS edge rushers last week against LAC kept showing up in this contest as well. Jones was roasting them with read option runs and he took one 58 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. However, a questionable holding call on receiver C.J. Board took the ball back to the WAS 22. They eventually had a 1st-and-10 from the WAS 13, thanks to a pass interference called on cornerback William Jackson III. Two poor play calls gained a total of 2 yards and the 3rd-down conversion attempt, a short pass to Sterling Shepard, came up 2 yards shy. The Giants settled for a 23-yard field goal by Graham Gano.

After being torched by Denver quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at the end of the first half in week 1, Heinicke did the same in Week 2. They couldn’t cover the likes of Adam Humphries and Logan Thomas. They couldn’t stop the likes of running back J.D. McKissic. The coverage was soft, the pass rush was non-existent, and they couldn’t come up with situational stops. The talk from coaches about specializing in situational football seems like an oxymoron when watching this team play. The drive ended in a 2-yard score by McKissic to give WAS a 14-10 lead heading into halftime.

The opening drive of the second half got off to a hot start. NYG crossed midfield in a hurry and had a 1st-and-10 from the WAS 33 following a defensive holding penalty by former Giant Landon Collins. Yes, he is still in the league but holding on by a thread. A poorly-designed outside run resulted in a loss of 6 yards and then a poorly-designed run play resulted in a gain of 2 yards. NYG was in danger of missing out on a field goal opportunity, but an 8-yard gain via a pass to Darius Slayton put them on the 29-yard line. Gano nailed a 47-yarder to make it a 1-point deficit.

WAS responded with a 3-and-out and the momentum shift was back on NYG’s side. Following a 3rd-and-13 incomplete, the refs flagged WAS corner Kendall Fuller for a pass interference. NYG took advantage of it with a…9-yard loss on…yet another poorly-designed running play. A 9-yard loss on a running play. That is really hard to do. Jones then took control of the game with surprisingly good pass blocking by the hodge-podge offensive line. He completed 3 passes in 4 attempts for a combined 64 yards, the final one being an absolute dime to Slayton for a 33-yard touchdown. NYG was up 20-14.

The rest of the game, as it entered the 4th quarter, was a constant seesaw. The next four drives resulted in both teams netting two field goals each. NYG remained ahead by 6 points with under five minutes left. A 56-yard pass to McKissic, beating Tae Crowder, and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Seals-Jones, beating Adoree’ Jackson, put WAS ahead by 1 point. All of the sudden, NYG was trying to play catch-up once again. Their drive stalled and they were forced to punt for the first time in seven possessions. WAS started the with the ball inside their own 10, just over 3 minutes left.

After being absolutely roasted by McLaurin all night, James Bradberry came up with the game’s first turnover on a beautiful read of the route and break on the ball. NYG had the ball on the WAS 20, down 1, with just over two minutes left. The running game had one constant that worked all night. Read option with Jones keeping to the outside. They had a solid short passing game over the middle to Shepard and the tight ends. Jones was 22/31 (71%) with zero turnovers. This was his game. He was the reason NYG was in position to win and all they had to do was gain a first down, get the clock well below 2:00 while burning through WAS timeouts. Jason Garrett, who struggled with calling productive runs all night (18 carries for 27 yards on non-Jones runs other than the 41-yard gain by Barkley early on), failed again. Two obvious run calls netted just three yards. WAS stopped the clock twice and Jones threw an incomplete pass to Shepard that wouldn’t have reached the sticks anyway. Two poor running plays and a too-short pass to Shepard was the exact same three-play routine we saw in the second quarter when they were near the end zone. Remember? WAS did. Gano hit a 35-yard field goal to give NYG a 2-point lead but there were 2 minutes left on the clock and the NYG defense all of the sudden can’t stop a nosebleed.

There was never a feeling that they would come up with the big stop. Heinicke carved them up yet again, quite easily getting into field goal range. McKissic might as well been Alvin Kamara and Heinicke might as well been Tom Brady. This defense let down the entire organization and fan base, allowing them to get within field distance in a hurry. And that wasn’t even the worst part. Kicker Dustin Hopkins pushed the 48-yard attempt wide right. NYG had the 2-point win in the bag but the yellow flag was thrown on to the field. Dexter Lawrence jumped offsides, giving Hopkins a second life. He nailed it from 43 and WAS won the game. Just like that, NYG starts 0-2 for the fifth straight year and the 7th time in 8 years.

NYG loses, 30-29.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 22/32 – 249 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 102.2 RAT

Jones also added 95 yards and a touchdown on the ground. So, 344 total yards of offense and 2 touchdowns. This was easily one of the best games Jones has put on display in his short career. And he was a Slayton drop away from another 43-yard touchdown. I wouldn’t call the game flawless, as Jones still threw four woefully inaccurate balls on passes across the middle. That needs to improve because it is where the best quarterbacks to their most damage. That aside, Jones put this team on his shoulder. High level throws, gutsy running plays, 3rd-down success, and most importantly the zero turnovers kept this team in the game. Without Jones’ big game, NYG had no shot.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 13 att – 57 yards / 2 rec – 12 yards

You can call this a (small) step forward for Barkley’s return. He played on short rest and not only did he play, but he was also on the field for 84% of the snaps. He also broke off a 41-yard run where that burst and speed in the open field was on display. Overall, however, it is easy to say that he’s just not fully back yet. On his other 12 carries, he had 16 yards. He looked hesitant and did not see cutback lanes. It is easy for me to say from the All-22 angle that he should be cutting into different lanes, I know. But I see other backs do it on a routine basis and it is because they run without hesitation. Barkley hesitates nearly every time he gets the ball. Is he running scared? On 2nd-and-10 from the 43-yard line in the 4th quarter (6:25 left), Barkley ran through an inside crease and simply fell to the ground. He wasn’t touched, he didn’t trip over his feet. He was anticipating contact, looked scared, and fell to the ground. He tried to save face by punching the ground a few times. He’s done that a handful, if not more, of times over the years. I am starting to turn south on him and I was one banging the table FOR NYG to draft him in 2018.

-Elijhaa Penny had 2 carries for 5 yards. He is the best short yardage back on the team and I am glad they are using him in that role as I stated last year.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard paced the group again with 9 catches on 10 targets. He was back in his 10 yards-per-catch area (10.4), but a few of them were big plays. It is early in the year to say this, but with how the passing scheme looks and how well Shepard is moving, he has a good shot at finishing top 5 in the league in catches. This is the best we’ve seen out of him.

-Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton each caught 3 passes and dropped one. Slayton’s drop, however, was in the spotlight as it would have been an easy touchdown. Easy catch? Absolutely not. Should a pro receiver bring that in? Absolutely. There are negative plays each week from Slayton it seems. If John Ross gets on the field, Slayton will be the one that loses his snaps. More on Golladay and his sideline antics below. On the field, however, I’m not worried about his low production through 2 games. He will get his. WAS got away with 2 pass interference penalties on him but I expect to see a lot of that, as he is a physical receiver himself and won’t separate a lot. In addition, Golladay had a monster-block on Barkley’s 41-yard run.

TIGHT END

-A better game from the duo of Kyle Rudolph and Kaden Smith. They both came up with a tough grab each and totaled 49 yards on 4 catches. They both were much more effective in the running game with key blocks on some of the better runs Barkley had, Rudolph especially. He did allow a sack, however. I expect Evan Engram to be back for week 3 against Atlanta. He was very active on the field in pre-game warm ups and the team has some extra rest to work with.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-A very back-and-forth, up-and-down performance by the group as a whole. After watching the tape two times, I still don’t know how to best describe the performance of this group. They were very good when it mattered most, but there were a ton of negative plays. Let’s start with the move of Nick Gates to left guard after the team moved Shane Lemiuex to IR. He allowed a sack early before breaking his leg and is now out for the year. Unfortunate for him and NYG, as a strong case can be made for him being the top OL on the team. Ben Bredeson came in and played pretty well, allowing just 1 pressure.

-Billy Price got his first start since being acquired for defensive tackle B.J. Hill (who had 2 sacks for CIN week 1). Overall, it was a very poor game for the fourth-year center. While he did have a key block on the Barkley 41-yard run, he allowed a sack, a pressure, and was flagged for 2 penalties. He looked off balance as well with a couple really ugly displays of blocking even though it did not impact those particular plays.

-The tackles, Andrew Thomas and Nate Solder, both played 100% of the snaps. Matt Peart didn’t see the field on offense. Thomas allowed 2 TFL (one of which wasn’t on him), 1 pressure, and a half-sack. He was also flagged for 2 false starts. Considering who he was up against, I give Thomas another thumbs up for this game. I still want to see a cleaner record and less penalties, but he was left alone often against Chase Young and I thought he got the best of him. Solder, as expected, struggled when he was left alone. He did get a decent amount of help and when he did, he kept it together. He allowed a pressure, 1 TFL, and half-sack.

-Will Hernandez allowed a pressure and made his presence known in the running game. His footwork and lower body bend looked better as well. That said, he simply isn’t on the same level as WAS defensive linemen Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Another quiet game from this group. Dexter Lawrence wasn’t heard from most of the night until his offsides penalty. Danny Shelton added 1 tackle. He was on the field for 21% of the snaps and didn’t hold his ground the way I expected him to.

-Austin Johnson and Leonard Williams at least combined for 9 tackles and made a few plays away from the ball. They pursued well and made a couple physical plays. Williams was the only one who  put pressure on the quarterback but missed the tackle attempt on a near-sack.

EDGE

-Rookie Azeez Ojulari recorded a sack for the second straight week. He has 2 of the team’s 3 sacks so far in this young season. He was quiet thereafter and while I won’t give him a negative grade, I do want to see more snap to snap consistency and variety. He hasn’t shown any effective rush moves quite yet, although we’ve seen glimpses.

-Lorenzo Carter looked better in Week 2 than he did in Week 1, an encouraging sign knowing he missed most of last year with an Achilles’ injury. He was flagged for a neutral-zone infraction late in the game, however – a black eye on his 3-pressure, 4-tackle game. He needs to finish plays more often, as he’s been getting locked on to by pass blockers too easily.

-Oshane Ximines played nearly half the snaps and didn’t impact the game much. The more he plays, the more evident it becomes he just won’t ever turn into a quality player. He is below average across the board. He just doesn’t win against lone blockers.

LINEBACKER

-Blake Martinez led the team with 12 tackles and cut out the mistakes we saw from a week ago. Tae Crowder added 4 tackles and a pressure, but his biggest mistake resulted in the big passing play to running back J.D. McKissic in the 4th quarter. He got beat on an obvious wheel route and just couldn’t make up for it. Huge play and a huge part of the NYG collapse defensively. Reggie Ragland added 2 tackles.

CORNERBACK

-There is no sugar coating the fact James Bradberry played his worst game as a Giant. Had it not been for his interception in the 4th quarter, a fantastic, high-level play on the ball, he would have finished on the “Dud” list. Terry McLaurin dominated him from start to finish. He allowed a touchdown and was flagged twice, once for holding and once for pass interference.

-Adoree’ Jackson added 5 tackles and 2 pass defenses, but allowed the late touchdown to Ricky Seals-Jones on a play where he did a poor job of locating the ball. He also missed a tackle. His movement looks great, but his ball location looks poor. Darnay Holmes is in the same boat. His twitch and burst is so enticing and I like how hard he plays, but he is an easy target for opposing quarterbacks on 3rd down.

SAFETY

-Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers were back to the majority-snap roles when they had 2 safeties on the field. Ryan was solid, finishing with 7 tackles and was superb in coverage for most of the game. He is an excellent open field tackler as well. Peppers had a pressure, 6 tackles, and a pass break up. He missed one tackle.

-Julian Love played just 8 snaps. Xavier McKinney has been disappointing over the first 2 weeks. He made 3 tackles and missed 2 others. He isn’t finishing when he gets in contact with the ball carrier and he just doesn’t have the man-power behind his hits yet. His movement in deep coverage did look very good, however.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 5/5 (Made 23, 47, 52, 55, 35). He has now made 35 straight field goals.
-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 41.3 avg / 41.3 net

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, K Graham Gano, S Logan Ryan

3 DUDS

-OC Billy Price, CB Adoree’ Jackson, RB Saquon Barkley

THOUGHTS ON WAS

(1) What is Taylor Heinicke? Can he be a franchise quarterback? If I am WAS, this is the guy I am riding with the rest of the year. You know Fitzpatrick isn’t the long-term answer, but you can’t say the same about Heinicke. Remember, he went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady last January in the playoffs. I think he ends up being another Case Keenum type, but I love the grit he shows play-to-play, drive-to-drive. His interception late was such a killer, but he came right back and made play after play when they got the ball back. If WAS can get by with him, maybe they could end up keeping all those 1st rounders on the DL.

(2) The WAS defense looks downright scary on paper. Their defensive line is loaded with first round picks that they hit on, their corners are a top-10 pair in the league, and I think the second level will improve as rookie Jamin Davis gets more and more comfortable. What is missing? They’re vulnerable at safety and their depth is nearly non-existent. If they get even just a couple injuries (odds are that will happen), I don’t see enough talent to step up. I also think a quality passing game can exploit the safeties.

(3) WAS quietly put together a quality, impactful rookie class. I wrote about that in May. They went hard after high-end athletes on both sides of the ball. Dyami Brown and Samuel Cosmi will be starters for the rest of the year barring injury, and Brown is the one I think can be a nice player. Jamin Davis made some eye-opening plays Thursday night and Benjamin St. Juste is good enough to allow Fuller to go inside in nickel packages. In addition, undrafted free agent running back Jaret Patterson was one of the top backs I saw in preseason who doesn’t currently have a starting job.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) The tempers flaring on the sideline don’t bother me one bit. Kenny Golladay got caught on camera yelling at Jones, presumably for not getting the ball when he thought he should. Want to know what is one hundred times worse? Watching Odell Beckham laugh on the sideline as the team is getting crushed on the field. We have now seen both, and I’ll take guys that hate losing all day. Tempers are allowed to flare up every now and then, as long as it doesn’t impact their play. I don’t think it will.

(2) Is this defense bad? Was the outlook on them a little inflated after 2020? Things change in the NFL so much and even though NYG didn’t really lose any talent from the 2020 unit that was around a top-10 defense, this doesn’t surprise me. Why? The pass rush is woefully poor when they rush 4 or 5. The only way they impact the opposing quarterback is with the blitz. It is a volatile way to play defense and a good passer can see right through it to their advantage. If Graham continues to play soft coverage with poor pass rush, we will see this on repeat week after week.

(3) The NYG running game design left me scratching my head. They have an odd fascination with running toward the strength of a defense. They run into crowded areas, and they make life hard on an offensive line that, quite frankly, is still bottom third in the league. The WAS edge defenders were biting on the inside fakes all game, leaving things open for Jones (NYG’s leading rusher). Why not use that in more key moments? How come they aren’t engineering more space touches for Barkley? Do we really need to see more jet sweeps? It almost looks pre-determined no matter what and it appears the opposing defenses were in on it too.

Sep 152021
 
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New York Giants Fans (September 12, 2021)

Losing Patience – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
The honeymoon is over. Giants’ fans have begun to turn on Joe Judge. It was predictable development as the need to scapegoat eventually had to move past just Dave Gettleman, Jason Garrett, and Daniel Jones. In some ways, it is humorous to watch. Fans who only weeks ago said they loved his press conferences now call him a blowhard.

So what’s going on? The obvious answer is the team isn’t winning. If the team had won last Sunday, fans would keep their negative comments directed at Garrett and Jones. But if you don’t win, the grace period will last only so long. Social media has destroyed time horizons. Fans don’t see the brief Joe Judge era (2020-present) as distinct from the sad end of the Tom Coughlin era (2012-2015), Ben McAdoo era (2016-2017), and Pat Shurmur era (2018-2019). Notice a pattern here? See the risk? If many fans get their way, Judge and Jones will be gone soon. The team will have to start over, but these fans won’t really see it as starting over. They will expect immediate results because the team has been bad for a decade. Unfortunately for these fans living in a figurative drunken stupor, it doesn’t work that way. When you start over, you start over. It’s 2017 all over again. Screaming “fix it now” isn’t living in the real world.

Joe Judge may or may not be the right head coach for this team. Jason Garrett may or may not be the right offensive coordinator. Same with Patrick Graham. Same with Daniel Jones. Most fans have already made up their minds. But truth be told, none of us really know. Certain posters in The Corner Forum will scream from the rooftops that they know for sure, but they really don’t. How do I know this? Because I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen Giants’ fans try to get rid of Bill Parcells, Phil Simms, Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, etc. Think of the tragedies if those fans were listened to at the time.

My educated guess on what is going to happen is this: the NFC East is going to suck again this year. Because of that, every team in the division will be mathematically alive for most, if not all, of the season. I think the Giants are going to look and play a lot more impressively in November and December than they will in September and October. Why? Because injuries and shortened camps/preseason kept many of the team’s new component parts from developing chemistry and cohesion. Once again, the offensive line is out of sorts. The Shane Lemieux injury was a big deal. Kenny Golladay and Daniel Jones are not in sync. Saquon Barkley is rusty as hell. Kadarius Toney is so far behind that it isn’t funny. He still has no idea how to run professional routes. “Blah, blah, blah…these are just more excuses!” Yup, but it’s also the truth.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (knee – questionable)
  • TE Evan Engram (calf – out)
  • OG Shane Lemieux (knee – out)
  • LB Cam Brown (hamstring – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Full disclosure. One of my all-time pet peeves is fans saying the reason an offense sucks is the coaching staff when it is obvious there are larger on-field talent issues. One of the few things I’ve learned over the years is that a competent offensive line “miraculously” makes it easier to call a game. It’s hard to play defense when the other team is generating five yards per carry and you are constantly in 2nd-and-5 situations. The internal alarm clock in your QB’s head isn’t going off prematurely because he’s afraid he won’t have time to throw. Your red-zone offense is a lot more difficult to stop when you push the pile on 3rd-and-goal.

My point is you will be amazed at how good an offensive coordinator becomes when his players execute. Look no further than how fan opinion of Kevin Gilbride changed from game-to-game, season-to-season from 2007 to 2013. Hell, I’ve seen the same posters who wanted the guy fired now lament that he is gone. Remember the 4th-and-1 deep shot to Amani Toomer against the Steelers in Pittsburgh in 2008? Objectively speaking, that was a stupid, high-risk play. But it worked. And fans thought the call was “brilliant.” Why did it work? The OL blocked. Eli threw perfect pass. Amani Toomer made a fantastic catch. Execution at all three levels.

How are the Giants going to get out of this funk and score more than 20 points on a consistent basis? Run the football. When the Giants were at their best last year, they were able to run the football. I saw posters claim in The Corner Forum that the problem with the offense against Denver was that it wasn’t “aggressive” enough. What does that mean? The team only handed off to running backs 14 times in that game. “You can be aggressive with the passing game!” Again, what does that mean? I think fans are conflating “aggressive” with what actually results in chunk yardage plays. If your quarterback is bird dogging receivers or inaccurate, if your receivers drop the ball, if your offensive line misses a block or gets called for a penalty, being “aggressive” doesn’t work.

The Giants are not going to get out of this funk until the offensive line gets its act together and creates some holes for Saquon Barkley. And Barkley has to get that rust off quickly and hit the freaking hole. If not, don’t re-sign him. “This offensive line can’t block!” If fans are right about that, the team is screwed. But I think it is far too early to tell. I’m afraid Shane Lemieux is going to have to end up on IR soon. He couldn’t even make it through the first game. Andrew Thomas had a strong game last week. I think those writing off Matt Peart are doing so way too prematurely. Again, Peart was raw coming out of college and he didn’t get a lot of snaps in full pads this offseason (NFLPA doesn’t allow it). He will continue to see his reps increased as the season progresses. (BTW, Nick Gates snapped the ball early on the play where everyone wants to knock Peart). I suspect we’ll see a lot of Ben Bredeson and Billy Price soon. There is a good chance Price will be the new center with Nick Gates shifting to guard. If Will Hernandez falters, Bredeson will take his job.

As for Daniel Jones, as Sy’56 pointed out in his game review of the Denver game, 1 down, 16 more games to go to determine his future here. The fumble last week was a game-altering turnover. If he can’t fix that, it’s time to move on. I will say this: Jones’ turnover issues briefly disappeared last year when the team ran the football. Funny how that works.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Full disclosure. Because I am an old Giants fan, I will always hold the defense to a different standard than I do the offense. It sounds stupid to blame the defense for losing a game that the offense only scored 13 points (6 of which came in garbage time). However, it’s a different game if the Giants had held on any of those three fourth-down conversions last week. It’s a different game if the defense holds at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half. If a defense wants to be great, it has to win games when the offense is not getting the job done. We saw that repeatedly under Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick from 1984-1990 and in spurts under Dan Reeves, Jim Fassel, and Tom Coughlin.

You’ve heard me say this repeatedly over the years. You will forever look at football differently when you realize there are only so many offensive possessions per game. Denver only had eight offensive possessions last week, four in the first half and four in the second half. That’s it. Three of those drives took 22 minutes off of the clock. So while we can lament New York’s offense only running 20 plays in the first half, some of that also had to do with the fact that the defense needs to get the ball back quicker for the offense. The Giants actually moved the ball in the second half of the Denver game. But the pressure to score touchdowns increased dramatically when what had been a 7-3 game quickly turned into a 20-7 game with the Giants offense only having ONE possession during that span. You can’t score when you don’t have the ball.

I talked last week about an early season trend last year by the Giants’ defense of allowing scoring drives at the end of halves. And that unfortunately reared its ugly head again in the opener. As much as the Daniel Jones’ fumble was game-altering, so was the defense’s inability to stop Denver at the end of the first half, including on 4th-and-2. Then at the start of the 3rd quarter, Denver scores on 4th-and-goal. (Also keep in mind that Denver’s first field goal drive occurred after converting on 4th-and-7). That’s 17 points. Denver was 3-of-3 on 4th down and 7-of-15 on 3rd down (it actually felt worse than that given when those conversions came in the game).

I can talk until I’m blue in the face about this match-up or that match-up, but we all know what the problem with this defense has been: they can’t get off of the field on 3rd down (and now sometimes 4th down). Yes, that is related to the pass rush. Against Denver, the Giants actually were buzzing around the QB more than fans realize and had six official quarterback hits. The Giants are spending a lot of money on that secondary. They have to make more plays on the football. And ideally, pick off some passes. Get the ball back for the offense on a short field. The defense must be the strength of the team this year or the Giants have no chance.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
C.J. Board gained 66 yards on two kickoff returns last week. That’s very good. Jabrill Peppers gained two yards on one punt return. Joe Judge and Thomas McGaughey may need to break into their bag of tricks soon if the offense continues to struggle.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Joe Judge on Washington’s defense:They play off what the disruption of the front causes in front of them and they do a good job right there limiting big plays. You play against this team, you have to be prepared to go down the field tick by tick by tick. They’re a very good team situationally getting off the field on third down and red area. They’re a very good team of not allowing explosive plays.

THE FINAL WORD:
It won’t surprise me if the Giants fall to 0-2. It won’t surprise me if the Giants soundly beat Washington. This is not a good division. The quarterback change means nothing to me as a Giants fan. We’ve seen plenty of times where that bites us in the ass. But the Giants have won five in a row against Washington despite their very strong front seven on defense. For whatever reason, Washington doesn’t intimidate New York.

This is a big game for a number of reasons. The most important being that the division title will likely be determined by the division record.

(One last piece of advice to fans… stop overreacting to a small sample size. If a player plays a good game in the latest game, it doesn’t mean anything. He has to string a bunch of good games together. The reverse is also true, if a player has a bad game, it doesn’t mean anything unless he strings a bunch of bad games together. Look for trends not snapshots).

Sep 132021
 
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New York Giants Fans (September 12, 2021)

Dejection – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Week 1 of the 2021 season began with a matchup against the Denver Broncos. Year-2 Head Coach Joe Judge took on year-3 Head Coach Vic Fangio, a defensive mastermind who hired a familiar face to run the team’s offense in 2020. Former Giants Head Coach, Pat Shurmur was back in town to call plays for the Denver offense that saw a change at quarterback this offseason. Teddy Bridgewater, owner of 35 career wins and a 66+% completion percentage, started a game under center for the fourth team in just his seven seasons. He was never a failed project at any point in his career. The former first rounder suffered a career-threatening injury prior to the 2016 season and threw just 25 passes over the next two seasons combined. After 15 starts for Carolina a year ago in which he completed just under 70% of his passes (5th in the NFL) and finished with 92.1 rating, he was now starting over Drew Lock for the defense-centered Broncos.

Much of the attention revolving around Denver heading into this game was the defense. It was a great litmus test for an offense that has a year-3 quarterback, new offensive weapons in Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, and of course the star running back Saquon Barkley on the field after missing nearly all of 2020 with a knee injury. A 42-yard gain on a pass from Daniel Jones to Darius Slayton put NYG across midfield, but the next two plays netted -8 yards. The opening Bridgewater-led drive ended with an incomplete deep pass to Courtland Sutton covered by one of the newest cornerbacks in the very expensive secondary, Adoree’ Jackson. The next NYG drive went 3-and-out, being capped off by a sack allowed by Nate Solder. It was Solder’s first sack allowed since the 2019 season. He did not play in 2020.

DEN took used ball control, a theme of the day, on the next drive. 15 plays, 62 yards, and 8:42 of game clock led to a 23-yard field goal by kicker Brandon McManus. McManus was traded by the Giants to DEN in 2014. The early 3-point lead wouldn’t last long. NYG converted two straight 3rd downs, one at the hand of a Ronald Darby pass interference and one on an 8-yard pass to Sterling Shepard. Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett called a 1st down pass for the third straight time and this one put points on the board. Sterling Shepard took a pass on a crossing route, broke a Patrick Surtain II tackle, and rumbled his way into the end zone. NYG was up 7-3.

DEN marched right down the field again with the help of a bonehead personal foul penalty on second-year corner Darnay Holmes. Logan Ryan then made one of the top plays of day, as he stripped the ball away from tight end Albert Okwuegbunam after a catch-and-run inside the NYG 4-yard line. Even though it was early in the game, it was game-changing at that moment. A defense that couldn’t stop the opposing offense needed a play like this, and Ryan produced it. The negative, however, was the NYG offense going 3-and-out without even looking halfway competitive from the poor starting field position.

As the 2-minute warning approached, Bridgewater found Sutton on a 14-yard gain on 4th-and-2 to cross midfield. Three plays and 35 yards later, he found wide receiver Tim Patrick for a short touchdown on misdirection. There were just 13 seconds remaining afterward, meaning DEN practically got the ball right back after scoring a touchdown (because NYG started the game on offense) and dominating the time of possession 18:59 to 11:01.

The NYG defense needs to be the backbone of this team. They’re supposed to be the side of the ball that steps up when things look bleak. They did come up with a big turnover in the first half, but they were allowing too many conversions and chunk plays. Starting off the second half with a stop was crucial, as DEN already had a 3-point lead. It did not pan out very well. DEN went on a marathon 16-play, 75-yard, 8:12 drive that included FOUR straight 3rd-down conversions. It was a drive that saw DEN receiver K.J. Hamler drop an easy touchdown and another receiver, Jerry Jeudy, go down with a serious ankle injury. Neither ended up being capitalized on, as DEN put another touchdown on the board on a 4th-and-1 pass to Okwuegbunam, where he broke a Blake Martinez tackle attempt and reached for the pylon. It was 17-7 well into the 3rd quarter and NYG had run just 20 offensive plays all game up until this point. It was time for them to step up.

They were well on their way. NYG converted three straight 3rd downs, the Jones-Shepard connection was getting stronger and stronger, and Barkley (with the help of the OL) pushed a pile past the first down markers. The crowd was getting into it and NYG was heading into the red zone. On a 1st-and-10 scramble, Jones fumbled and lost the ball. DEN had it back and just like that, “Same Old Giants” came back into everyone’s mind. DEN turned that possession into 3 points after, you guessed it, another successful 3rd down conversion.

NYG was down by 13 as the fourth quarter was under way. Their 14-play drive brought the clock all the way down to the 6:30 mark. They had a fresh set of downs inside the DEN 10-yard line. This had a “very last chance” feel to it. Those four plays gained a total of 1 yard. Three incomplete passes and a 1-yard run. The final two passes had no shot and screamed a lack of innovation and creativity. DEN got the ball back, and on the fourth play of the drive, Melvin Gordon took a rushing attempt 70 yards for a touchdown. DEN was up 27-7 and the NYG faithful headed for the exits with 4 minutes left in the game, a weekly tradition when NYG plays at home unless fans of course sold their tickets to the Dallas faithful when the Cowboys are in town.

The final two drives put some lipstick on the pig of a performance NYG put out. We saw a few nice grabs by Kenny Golladay and eventual garbage-touchdown by Jones as the clock ran out to make the final score look even better than what we all watched for 3 hours.

NYG loses, 27-13.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 22/37 – 267 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 90.7 RAT / 6 att – 27 yards / 1 TD

Looking at the stat line, it would be natural to assume Jones played a decent game. I went in the other direction. He was way worse than the stat line, and considering the fumble at such an inopportune time, it was a well-below average game from Jones. This is THE year for the third-year quarterback from Duke and it was a poor way to start it off. He was inaccurate on several throws, he had two interceptions dropped, and the fumble was inexcusable. That was arguably the top turning point of the game, and you just can’t have that from the leader of the offense. Jones continues to be slow to react, he continues to struggle when his primary read isn’t there, and he isn’t putting a defense on its heels. 1 down, 16 to go for Jones who is in a season-long job interview for his future.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 10 att / 26 yards – 1 rec / 1 yard.

Understandably so, Barkley looked very rusty. He was losing his balance and footwork, he dropped a pass, and he failed to see running lanes on two occasions. It is important he got in and out of the game while avoiding any physical issues. That is a big mental part of coming back from a serious injury for a player who is fully dependent on cuts and bursts. I expect to see him on a similar pitch count Thursday night.

-Hats off to Devontae Booker. He didn’t impact the game in an obvious, playmaking manner. He rushed for 7 yards on 4 carries and caught a pass for 6 yards. However, he was a factor in the passing game as a blocker. He made 3 big-time blocks, 2 of which that put DEN defenders on the ground.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 7 rec – 113 yards / 1 TD.

One of the best games we have seen out of Shepard’s career. He was a menace for the DEN secondary on 3rd down and after the catch. The majority of his yards came with the ball in his hands. I noticed throughout preseason that he looks more physically developed this year. He is going to break a ton of tackles with how aggressive and quick he moves, in combination with his strength.

-Kenny Golladay made a catch early on in the 1st quarter but was very quiet until the game was pretty much over. He made a couple of really nice grabs with a defender all over him. He looked like a guy who will improve the odds of those 50/50 balls substantially. He finished with 64 yards on 4 catches in his NYG debut.

-Darius Slayton had 65 yards on 3 catches, 42 of those yards on the first drive of the game on a deep ball. His speed is there but he continues to play a soft game against contact with defenders.

-Rookie Kadarius Toney’s usage was odd. After not being a factor for nearly the entire training camp and preseason period, Garrett engineered two scripted plays for him. One resulted in a loss of 6 yards, the other resulted in a gain of 4 yard. Then, we essentially did not see him until the 4th quarter when the game was all but lost. After a bizarre spring and summer with him in relation to this team, that just didn’t sit well with me.

TIGHT END

-Really poor game by new tight end Kyle Rudolph. He allowed a TFL and a pressure as a blocker, and just didn’t impact the game in the trenches. Minimal push, minimal sustainment. He looked rusty and stiff. He added 2 catches for 8 yards. I was expecting more.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-One of the positives (yes, there are positives from this loss) was Andrew Thomas. Bradley Chubb missed the game with an ankle injury, thus backup Malik Reed was the predominant opponent lining up across from the second year tackle. Thomas was superb in pass protection, showing heavy and sticky hands, good balance, and outstanding pad level. Nice warm up battle for the tall task he will face Thursday night against Washington.

-Nate Solder returned from his year away from football. He started right where he left off, strengthening the notion he just isn’t a starting caliber player. He allowed a sack on a short drop back, 1 TFL, and 2 pressures. He can’t bend at all, and it shows. Will Hernandez, who plays right next to Solder as he shifted over to the right side, was equally awful in the passing game. He allowed 2 pressures and a TFL. A case can be made he was responsible for a sack as well. After a strong (but very short) preseason, the arrow appeared to be pointing up for him. Well, it didn’t remain that way in this one as his heavy feet and delayed reaction time was abused on several ugly plays. His poor play didn’t impact the situation often, but it was still very disappointing.

-Matt Peart and Ben Bredeson rotated in. Bredeson actually saw the majority of the snaps at left guard. He looked a little out of control, but he did maul his man a few times. Peart allowed a TFL and a sack, the latter being more communication based as Von Miller ran right by him and put Jones on the ground as Peart remained in his 2-point stance. If nothing else, it will be found on countless blooper videos I imagine.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-The big boys up front, in all honestly, played a solid game. You won’t see it in the box score, and I think they could have finished better in the pass rushing department, but it was a solid effort from multiple guys. Dexter Lawrence made DEN guard Graham Glasgow and center Lloyd Cushenberry look like high schoolers several times. Great push from him that netted 4 pressures. Leonard Williams added a TFL and 2 pressures, one of which led to a sack.

-Austin Johnson finished with 5 tackles and a pressure. He did get credit for a sack, but it came on a play where Bridgewater tripped over his own blocker and fell to the ground. Johnson was the first to touch him, thus getting credit for the sack. Logan Ryan and Williams were really the main contributors there. I thought Johnson was all over the box though, impressive game.

-Danny Shelton added a pressure but missed a TFL attempt that would have been a key play.

LINEBACKER

-Good to see an active Lorenzo Carter on the field. He didn’t finish the way I was hoping for, but he made DEN adjust to him and that is a good sign. He struggled at setting the edge as well, as did rookie Azeez Ojulari. It was a mixed bag for the second rounder, but I really liked how active he was. He finished with 3 tackles, 1 sack, and a pressure. He was flagged for head-contact on Bridgewater, a major no-no in this league. I expect both to improve from here, but I still question how consistently they can beat one-on-one blocking as pass rushers.

-Blake Martinez had an up-and-down game. He finished with 9 tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 pressures. However, his missed tackle on the Okwuegbunam touchdown (a 4th-down play) was inexcusable. He also struggled in coverage.

-Tae Crowder finished with 4 tackles and may be one of the most physical defenders on this team. He put a couple of DEN offensive linemen on their butt a few times. He is the best athlete they have at the position, and he appears to be much more powerful than a year ago. A very good sign. Reggie Ragland split snaps with him and had 7 tackles, most of which were against the run, between the tackles.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson are the two most expensive starting cornerbacks NYG have had on the same field at the same time (not including hybrid DB Logan Ryan from a year ago). They did not earn their paychecks respectively. While they avoided the big-play touchdowns, they were often a step or two too late in coverage as the DEN offense torched them on 3rd and 4th downs. Grading corners can be tough because opportunities are so few, but at the end of the day, they were outplayed by the young DEN pass catchers.

-Darnay Holmes is such a roller coaster. He plays fast, he plays aggressive. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham does several things with him but he, nearly every game, makes a bonehead mistake. He was flagged for a personal foul as he blatantly threw Jeudy out of bounds way after the play was dead. Judge promptly took him out and ripped him a new one on the sidelines.

SAFETY

-What I consider to be the strength of this defense and the biggest hope this unit has – the safeties – were torched by the DEN tight ends. Jabrill Peppers was beat on 3rd down three separate times, although he did have a TFL and pressure. Julian Love was late in coverage on a couple of occasions as well.

-Logan Ryan and Xavier McKinney were solid. Ryan led the team with 10 tackles, a TFL, and made one of the plays of the game on his forced + recovered fumble near the end zone. McKinney broke up 2 passes but got lucky on a couple of occasions where Bridgewater underthrew a target who blew by him. He also missed a tackle.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 XP
-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 54.0 avg / 39.3 net

3 STUDS

-WR Sterling Shepard, OT Andrew Thomas, S Logan Ryan

3 DUDS

-OT Nate Solder, TE Kyle Rudolph, CB Adoree’ Jackson

3 THOUGHTS ON DEN

(1) Watching, re-watching, and then re-re watching the game, I came away with one thought. We really have to give credit to how well DEN quarterback Teddy Bridgewater played. He was incredibly accurate no matter where he threw the ball. He got the passes out in a hurry, and he created a lot on his own. Bridgewater isn’t a very good athlete, but he played an athletic game. On multiple instances he moved just enough to avoid sacks before making quality throws on the move. He really knows how to take what the defense gives him to a point where it can be woefully frustrating for the opposition. Maybe he took in a thing or two from playing under Drew Brees because that was a very Brees-like performance.

(2) Many don’t realize just how much Drew Lock held this team back last year. They actually could have been a solid offense but a horrid start and Lock being bottom 5 in most advanced metrics just killed their shot in the tough AFC West. I’ll be curious to see if he ends up getting a shot down the road, but I know Shurmur really liked him coming out of Missouri a few years ago. That said, he gave up on Lock in a hurry.

(3) DEN and NYG both have one of the most expensive secondaries in the NFL (top 6). The difference? DEN also puts enormous resources into their pass rush while NYG is left hoping their day 2 / day 3 picks that have not proven anything can rush the edge. DEN’s defense is going to keep them in a lot of games this year and it may be the most ideal spot for a quarterback like Bridgewater. I wouldn’t discount this team from a 9-10 win season especially because they have a very easy schedule lined up.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) I don’t want to write up, for the 1,000th time, how little Week 1 means in the grand scheme of things. A successful season in 2021 is 8-9 or 9-8. They are 0-1 with 16 games left and it was a frustrating game to watch, absolutely. Green Bay lost to the Jameis Winston-led Saints 38-3. Buffalo lost at home to the .500-at best Steelers by a touchdown. Tennessee lost 38-13, at home. I think the one credible fear and gripe NYG fans can yell from their balconies if they feel the need to do so revolves around the fact that it really seems like we are watching the same issues year after year. A vanilla offense, a shaky-at-best offensive line, minimal pass rush, and a defense that struggles in clutch scenarios.

(2) Joe Judge trying to throw a challenge flag on a scoring play was a borderline inexcusable mistake. I haven’t read about his post-game thoughts on the subject, but even my wife who is a casual bystander during football games said, “Aren’t you not allowed to do that?” NYG went on to lose a timeout because of it. That did not end up meaning anything, but it was a juvenile mistake.

(3) The offensive line rotations at RT and LG can be viewed one of two ways. One, it is messing with the most vital component of offensive line play: chemistry. Two, nobody is stepping up and proving snap-to-snap, week-to-week reliability. I’ve discussed the holes at OT and OG multiple times since the end of last year and we are still in the middle of it. I am not sure if the answer(s) are on the current roster, but multiple guys need to be given opportunities with the hope of, well yes, luck. NYG’s only hope here is someone far outplays the level they’ve already played at. Nearly out of the blue. “Fingers crossed” is usually a poor way to build a football team.