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

Rhett Ellison – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 30 – New York Giants 10

RECAP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUARTERBACKS

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

RUNNING BACKS

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

WIDE RECEIVERS

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

TIGHT ENDS

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

OFFENSIVE LINE

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

DEFENSIVE LINE

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

LINEBACKERS

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

CORNERBACKS

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

SAFETIES

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

SPECIAL TEAMS

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

3 STUDS

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

3 DUDS

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

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

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

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 062017
 
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Evan Engram, New York Giants (December 3, 2017)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders 24 – New York Giants 17

RECAP

In what may have been the most controversial week in NYG history after the benching of legendary quarterback Eli Manning for Geno Smith, Big Blue headed to the Black Hole to take on the 1st-place-pursuing Raiders. They were missing their own two star receivers as the Giants continued to compete with a roster full of replacement-level players.

The Giants started off with the ball and were 3-and-out, a result that was repeated over their first three drives. The Raiders, on the flip side, scored a touchdown on their first drive. Marshawn Lynch dashed through the middle with the Giants linebackers getting lost in traffic and 51 yards later crossed the goal line for the game’s first score.

On the Giants fourth drive, they finally found some flow. Smith had a nice stretch, going 4/5 for 54 yards, including a 29-yard pitch, catch, and run to Evan Engram. Orleans Darkwa finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run up the middle to eve the score at 7 a piece.

After a 4th-and-1 stuff, the Giants got the ball back near midfield and 2 plays later, they were already in field goal range. Smith stayed hot until he fumbled on a sack by the untouched Bruce Irvin. Raiders took the ball back put together a 12-play drive that resulted in a 39-yard field goal. Raiders led 10-7 with less than 4 minutes left in the first half.

With under 1 minute left I the half, the Giants forced a punt from deep in Raiders territory, but a well executed block attempt resulted in OAK punter Marquette King tucking the ball rather than kicking, giving the Giants the ball on the OAK 9-yard line. The opportunity for a major momentum shift heading in to halftime was there for the taking. After an offsides penalty brought NYG to the 4, Smith dropped back on 2nd down and once again was sacked, lost the football, and turned it back over to OAK. Giants went in to halftime trailing 10-7.

Quality defense, or poor offense depending on the way you look at it, dominated the 3rd quarter. Neither team could really get a drive going and it ended with a Landon Collins fumble recovery created by cornerback Brandon Dixon in his first game with the team. The NYG offense failed to capitalize with another 3-and-out, giving OAK the ball back at the start of the 4th quarter.

The short passing game was able to pick up big chunks of yardage, getting OAK to the NYG 9-yard line and on first down, Deandre Washington rushed into the end zone with Landon Collins badly missing a tackle on the play. NYG then responded with a touchdown drive of their own, with Smith hitting Engram in the end zone after he ran an outstanding route. The score was 17-14 but the all-of-the-sudden hot OAK offense put together another short touchdown drive, this time ending with a pass from Carr to Johnny Holton from 9 yards out.

NYG was down 10 with 3:19 left. They got up into field goal range with OAK playing a prevent defense and because they were down 2 scores, they attempted and made a 52 yard field goal. After an unsuccessful onsides attempt, OAK rushed for a first down and NYG had to watch the clock disappear as they lost their 10th game of the year.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Geno Smith: 21/34 – 212 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. Smith also fumbled twice, turning the ball over both times. In the first NYG game where Eli Manning did not start in 210 games, Smith did a fine job of staying focused and playing within himself. He avoided the bad decisions and made some really strong armed throws into tight windows. The accuracy wavered back and forth a bit, but Smith did not lower the level of this offense by any means. He played a decent game.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 14 att/32 yards – 1 TD. There wasn’t a lot of running room for Darkwa, as the middle of the OAK defensive line dominated the point-of-attack from start to finish. Darkwa, in addition, didn’t break tackles at the rate he has been all year. He isn’t a guy who will create much on his own.
  • Paul Perkins: 3 att/12 yards – Perkins wasn’t on the field much, but that shiftiness and ability to miss contact when he gets just a little bit of space jumped off the screen in his three carries. He is a guy whot got a raw, raw deal in 2017.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 3 rec/56 yards. Shepard goes unappreciated by some because he won’t ever be a number one guy and won’t ever be a deep threat. But this kid, a second-year WR, is as tough as they come and shows some of the best ball skills you will find in the league.
  • Tavarres King: 4 rec/23 yards: King led the team with 9 targets, as Smith was looking his way several times on short routes near the sideline. He does a nice job of getting open, but beyond that he is just a limited player. He also had a drop late in the game.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 7 rec/99 yards – 1 TD. After a really tough 3-week stretch, Engram has come on strong two straight weeks, with this OAK game being arguably the best we have seen this year. He made an amazing one-handed grab over the middle with a defender draped all over him, ran an amazing route on his touchdown catch that tricked fellow rookie safety Karl Joseph badly, and had one amazing run after a catch that reminded all of us that this kid is a wide receiver-caliber athlete. He has some “special” in him and the fact he has responded very well to his mid-season adversity is a very good sign.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: After a tough game last week, Chad Wheeler was entering Oakland with a huge test on his hands. Prior to suffering a concussion in the 2nd half, Wheeler had allowed a sack and 2 pressures. Not bad, but certainly not good, either. Wheeler has outperformed Bobby Hart (whom came in for the injured Wheeler) but he still has a long ways to go in terms of earning a future job here. Ereck Flowers graded out below average for the 5th time this year. He also allowed a sack and 2 pressures, appearing to struggle with any sort of different look the Raiders threw at him. Stunts, blitzes, zone blitzes – he just doesn’t see that stuff.
  • Interior: Center Brett Jones had his worst game of the year, and just like a lot of young centers in the league, has seem to worsen over time. The league has started to figure him out, especially trying to get him on an island as a pass blocker where he is a low-level player. John Jerry had a quiet game, no major mistakes but he rarely got movement off the line of scrimmage as a run blocker. Jon Halapio actually graded out as the best Giants OL of the day, right at the point where I call it “above average”. He won almost all of his 1-on-1 battles and the sack he allowed was more due to Geno Smith than anything.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Olivier Vernon finished with 4 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. His impact went far beyond the stat sheet, as he was very disruptive. He was consistently getting penetration outside, setting the edge against the run which is a crucial role. He had a hard time getting by Donald Penn in the passing game, but when Penn went down with an injury, he absolutely abused rookie David Sharpe. Jason Pierre-Paul had a quiet game – 3 tackles, also 1 of which was for a loss. There has been talk about a lack of effort with him and while I do think his engine is a little hot/cold, I’ve always noted that his conditioning worsens as the year goes on. That is something I have had on him for the past few years. He just tires out too fast.
  • Tackles: Because we see it each week, the appreciation for Damon Harrison may get overlooked here and there. But he had another incredible game, tossing blockers aside with ease and making tackles. There isn’t a DT in the game like him. Dalvin Tomlinson was up and down. His movement ability and initial pop can make plays, but there are still stretches where he gets blown back 3-4 yards in short-yardage situations. The one weakness to his game is that he isn’t overly stout against power plays. Jay Bromley played just under 40% of the snaps, and struggles to make any impact. He is kind of just there. He isn’t hurting the defense, but doesn’t do anything to stand out.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson was back, but went down with another injury. He is very effective when he’s in there but the question deserves to be asked, is this guy going to be able to hold up in the NFL with his physical play? This LB situation may be priority A for the new regime when it comes to the defense and as much as I like Goodson, I’m not sure he is someone who can be relied on.
  • Kelvin Sheppard led the team with 8 tackles and even though he isn’t a starting-caliber player in this league, he does bring  physical presence and attitude to the defense. He is a guy worth having around. Calvin Munson looked good in space and recorded NYG’s lone sack. It’s been a solid year for the UDFA. Devon Kennard split time between LB and DE again, but didn’t do much to stand out.

CORNERBACKS

  • With Janoris Jenkins on IR, opportunity arose for practice squad CB Brandon Dixon. And I’ll say this about him, I look forward to watching what he can do the rest of the year. He competed really hard and seemed to have the reaction speed I look for. While the OAK receivers were missing their top 2 guys, Dixon had some serious speed to defend against. He broke up 2 passes and forced a fumble that was recovered by Landon Collins. He did, however, drop an easy interception.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had 2 hustle plays that I was more than happy to track. He had a little stretch earlier in the year where I wondered if he was checking out, but he has been playing his butt off these past few weeks.
  • Don’t look now, but Ross Cockrell might be the second-best CB on this team behind Jenkins. He has been getting better each week and the All-22 tape is very complimentary of him. I think he is a piece worth holding onto hard this offseason.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins had another solid game. It seems like the scheme is keeping him close to the line of scrimmage more often than what we saw earlier in the year, which is a good thing. He is a dominant downhill player with sideline-to-sideline range against the run, but he just isn’t a quick-twitch cover man. He also struggles on angles against speed, the missed tackle of Deandre Washington on his TD run was another example of that.
  • Darian Thompson did an excellent job in deep coverage. Raiders QB Derek Carr was looking to throw deep four times but Thompson’s quick reads and movement got him in position to prevent the attempts. His play has really elevated in the past 4-5 weeks.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – Made 52 yds. Rosas got one shot late in the game to make it a one score game, and he booted a 52 yarder that hit halfway up the net. When this kid lines it all up, he has as strong a kick as anyone in the NFL.
  • Brad Wing: 7 Punts – 48.4 avg. His 45.1 net is an outstanding, top-tier performance. Sometimes we forget how much easier it is for kickers in weather like that.

3 STUDS

  • TE Evan Engram, DT Damon Harrison, CB Ross Cockrell

3 DUDS

  • OC Brett Jones, Jason Pierre-Paul, OT Chad Wheeler

3 THOUGHTS ON OAK

  • All of the sudden this team is in a 3-way tie for 1st place in the AFC West. They are potentially on track for a home playoff game. Keep that in mind when you remember this team started off 2-4 while the Chiefs were surging to a 5-0 start. Every year there are examples of overreactions to stretches in a season and people needing to simply let things play out. A lot can and does happen in 17 weeks.
  • WR Johnny Holton is going to be a big name within the next year or two. He is one of the fastest players I have seen all year and his route running has improved by leaps and bounds from preseason. With Crabtree and Cooper out, he got to display his ability and I liked what I saw.
  • OAK has one of, if not the, highest-paid offensive lines in football. And they have graded out to be a top 10-unit, but that’s about it. Buyer beware when throwing huge money at players on the OL.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • The Eli Manning benching for Geno Smith topic has been discussed over and over and I am sure we are all sick of it. My thought from the beginning has been this and I won’t say much else on the matter: Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese knew their time was coming to and end unless a late-season surge (wins) occurred. I think an underlying thought was to try to catch lightning in a bottle a la Case Keenum in MIN, and see if Geno could win a few games via good performance so that McAdoo/Reese could make a plea to ownership stating it was Manning’s fault, not theirs, for the horrid 2017.
  • Who’s up next for NYG as GM and coach? We can throw the usual names around that always pop up: Saban, Shaw, McDaniels, Gruden, etc. I think NYG is going to be patient on this to see if any current coach shakes free from a firing of their own. I think they want someone IN the game to coach, not someone that has been on the outside. Two names who I think are on their own respective hot seat who owners will like: Marvin Lewis from CIN and John Fox from CHI.
  • As for the team that still has 4 games to play, I think the energy will be high now that the coach is out and Eli is back in the saddle. We see things like that happen often. And I think NYG wins this week against DAL.
Dec 012017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (February 5, 2012)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Oakland Raiders, December 3, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The Eli Manning era began on November 21, 2004 with a 10-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It ended on Thanksgiving night on November 23, 2017 with a 10-20 loss to the Washington Redskins. In between came 210 consecutive starts (second most in NFL history), four Pro Bowls, an 8-4 playoff record, two miraculous playoff runs, two Super Bowl MVP awards, and – most importantly – two Super Bowl trophies. In the end, Eli will be leaving the Giants owning just about every meaningful record a quarterback can hold for the 93-year old franchise, including over 50,000 yards passing and 334 touchdown passes. There were also 40 game-winning 4th-quarter drives in the regular and post-season.

This transition was inevitable. Father time waits for no one. And unless there was going to be a Michael Strahan-like Cinderella finish with Eli walking away on his own terms with a third Super Bowl trophy, the ending was always going to be less than ideal.

It is important to remember where the Giants were in April 2004. Since the departure of Bill Parcells early in 1991, the franchise had been adrift. While the team teased with an unanticipated Super Bowl appearance in 2000, the New York Giants appeared to be treading water as they just fired their third coach in a row after a disastrous 2003 season. The conservative Giants stunned the NFL that April doing something they never do – they traded away two #1 picks for the goofy kid from the University of Mississippi. At the time, it smelled like a desperate roll of the dice. And the early returns were not good. During his rookie season, the quarterback with the permanently-boyish face actually finished a game with a 0.0 quarterback rating. Manning may have hit rock bottom in November 2007 after a 4-interception, 3-pick-6 game against the Minnesota Vikings. Fans rapidly became annoyed with the lack of visible emotion and the shoulder shrugs after each bad play. The Giants appeared to have made a huge mistake.

Then came the still-unreal playoff run in 2007. And the second one in 2011. 8-0, beating the NFC’s #1 and #2 seeds on their respective home turfs. Twice. And beating the unbeatable AFC #1 seed Patriots. Twice. And wrecking the inevitable “perfect season” in the process. In each of those runs, Manning was THE key figure. He became a new quarterback in January 2008 when he efficiently sliced his way through an outstanding Tampa Bay defense. A week later he calmly changed the complexion of the entire game by marching the Giants down the field with pinpoint passing for a touchdown right before halftime in Dallas. Then came perhaps his best game, the -24 degree wind chill, NFC Championship in Green Bay where he clearly out-dueled legendary Brett Favre. Two memorable 4th quarter touchdown drives against Bill Belichick’s defense, including what NFL Films guru Steve Sabol labeled as the “greatest play in NFL history” resulted in Super Bowl trophy #1 and perhaps the greatest upset in sports history next to the “Miracle on Ice.” Eli had pulled it off. He had done it. And we caught a rare glimpse of emotion from him as he fought to hold back the tears.

The Giants were even stronger in 2008 but injuries and the Plaxico Burress shooting incident sabotaged what could have been another run. Then in 2011, Eli had his career-season. Encumbered with a bottom-ranked defense and running game, and a once-venerable offensive line that was eroding fast, Manning literally carried the team to the playoffs with six 4th-quarter regular-season comeback victories, and then two more in the post-season. He blew the game open late against the Falcons. He out-dueled the 15-1 Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. He was never tougher despite getting the crap kicked out of him against the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. And his late-game beyond-perfect pass to Mario Manningham in the Super Bowl was the dagger that resulted in Super Bowl trophy #2.

In January 2011, Eli Manning was still only 31 years old. A young 31 who was coming off a league MVP-like season. He had an 8-3 record in 11 playoff games. In hindsight, that was the pinnacle of his career. While the reasons vary, his play noticeably declined in subsequent years with an ironic uptick in 2014-15 when Ben McAdoo became offensive coordinator. The overriding sense is that team management screwed the pooch by not surrounding Eli with enough talent on offense, defense, and special teams from 2012-2017. Six years wasted. An offensive line in permanent shambles. A finesse offense that couldn’t pick up an inch in short-yardage. Last-place defenses that couldn’t hold a 4th-quarter lead. Inevitable and catastrophic special teams breakdowns. An injury-plagued and riddled roster year after year. Bad coaching hires, particularly on defense – remember Bill Sheridan and Perry Fewell? When all is said and done, Eli only played in 12 playoff games.

Quarterback is the most important position on every NFL team. And the Giants have been 41-50 in the regular season since their last Super Bowl. Eli has been a victim of his team’s roster, but he also hasn’t played like a $20+ million per season quarterback. Perhaps the same inner passion and hunger has dissipated with success and time. He has a family now and priorities become different. Perhaps the skills have eroded enough to make subtle but meaningful difference. But 2011 is long gone and Eli can no longer carry a team.

Let’s go back to April 2004 again. If you were asked at the time if you would give up two #1 picks for a quarterback who would pass for 50,000 yards in his career and win two Super Bowls, you would gladly accept that in a heartbeat. Regardless of how it began or ended, Eli Manning’s career was a tremendous success. He IS the most successful quarterback in team history. And in an era of douchebag assholes permeating the league, he was a class act through and through. New York Giants fans are PROUD that he was our quarterback.

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

The most alarming aspect of this week was not that Eli Manning was benched, but how the transition was handled. Geno Smith is not the future of this team. It’s either Davis Webb or a yet-to-be-drafted quarterback. The Giants season ended in September. In October, Davis Webb should have been bumped up to the #2 spot. Not in case Eli got hurt, but simply to give Webb the extremely limited #2 quarterback practice snaps. Webb isn’t ready to play. He hardly had any snaps in training camp, barely played in the preseason, and has hardly thrown the ball in practice since the season started. When and if he plays late this year, it won’t be pretty. Success comes with preparation and Webb has had none. And now fans in a foul mood are ready to jump on him when he struggles.

Beyond that, the optics of Eli’s benching are horrific. John Mara spoke to Eli after the announcement, not before. You don’t do that. Not to the face of the franchise for the past 14 years (or 15 percent of its entire 93-year history). If Mara had previous commitments, you cancel them. Or you postpone this move. And you don’t have Eli answer questions in the locker room with a bunch of clueless fucking teammates yucking it up in the background while he is struggling to fight back the tears. You hold a press conference. In the proper setting. With the owner, general manager, and coach explaining what hopefully is the real reason for this move – to get Webb some late season snaps. Because if this is about Geno Smith, and Geno Smith plays every snap in the five final games, then Giants’ ownership/management may be beyond redemption.

Ben McAdoo (aka Ray Handley 2.0) lost his job when San Francisco embarrassed the Giants. If you don’t think Mara is stupid, then this reeks of Mara throwing McAdoo further under the bus to justify his firing. (Which he really didn’t need to do given how the fan base already feels about the coaching staff). Perhaps this is a set up for a complete house-cleaning. We’ll see. But I don’t trust Mara’s public statements. And the competency of ownership/management and the team structure that has existed since 1979 is now very much in question as the Giants have rapidly turned into the Cleveland Browns. (Keep in mind, these guys hired Ben McAdoo in the first place).

The best general manager the Giants have ever had was the 1980’s edition of George Young, who unfortunately was at a loss in dealing with the salary cap and the new NFL in the 1990’s. Ernie Accorsi, his hand-picked successor, was not the same caliber. But he clearly was a better GM than Jerry Reese, who doesn’t seem to understand how to put together an offensive line or linebacking corps. In hindsight, what we’ve learned is how important Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning were to the franchise in their respective primes. As various parts came and went, they held this mess together and somehow willed the team to two more NFL titles.

As Matt in SGS has adeptly pointed out, what this move does do is clear the way for the new coaching staff in 2018. The new coach won’t have to deal with the public relations nightmare of being the one who dumped Eli Manning. He’ll get to start from scratch. By botching this so badly, the Giants have most likely burned any bridge that Manning could come back in 2018 under a new regime. And the Machiavellian in me thinks that may have been intentional. The only way I see Eli sticking around is if the Giants hire a coach with an exceptionally strong persona who demands that Eli return to mentor the new QB for one more year. But that’s not likely.

So if this is it, Eli, we thank you. You never complained. You never threw anyone under the bus. You worked your tail off each and every year, organizing unofficial passing camps, conducting private post-practice film sessions. There was never any visible ego involved in your game, no “look at me” narcissism. While we wish you had more on-the-field success, the highs were so high that expecting and wanting more may have been too greedy on our part. Decades from now, fans will look back in wonderment at the two playoff runs, shake their heads, and just say, “Wow!”

Nov 292017
 
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Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants (November 23, 2017)

Janoris Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports

Washington Redskins 20 – New York Giants 10

RECAP

Following a hard-fought, borderline even emotional, win at home against the Kansas City Chiefs just four days prior to the Giants-Redskins Thanksgiving night match-up gave off the notion there was still plenty of grit left in this team. On the other side, Washington came limping in with a 4-6 record and following a horrific 4th-quarter loss in New Orleans. Their playoff hopes are alive but dwindling. Both teams were missing multiple key starters and we knew these factors, combined with a short week of preparation, would turn this into an old-school street fight between the two bottom feeders of the 2017 NFC East.

Eli Manning made his 210th consecutive start; this one being behind a line that was missing 3 starters (Pugh-Richburg-Fluker) and still without all 3 of his top wide receivers (Beckham-Marshall-Shepard).

The teams traded 3-and-outs to open up the game, with Evan Engram dropping a 3rd-and-4 pass. This was the first of three on the night for the rookie, the NFL’s leader in drops. On the game’s 6th possession, an offense finally ran more than 5 plays, as Washington got the ball across midfield. On 4th-and-1 from the NYG 41-yard line, a Cousins pass was broken up by Darian Thompson. NYG was in business with their best field position of the night as the end of the first quarter approached.

On 3rd-and-7 from the WAS 33-yard line after a few quality plays, Manning was sacked by Washington’s sack leader Ryan Kerrigan at the hands of Chad Wheeler for the second time. The 3rd down opportunity turned into a punt, again.

Following another 3-and-out by WAS where Landon Collins showed signs of all-over-the-field dominance; NYG started their 5th drive of the night on their own 28-yard line. Sixteen plays and 8:29 of game clock later, the Giants were up 3-0 via a 30-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas. The drive was smooth and steady with physical running by Orleans Darkwa, who excelled when running to the right side, and two 19 yard passes, one to Roger Lewis and one to Tavarres King. The lowlight, however, was a terrible misfire by Manning to Shane Vereen on a screen pass that had big play and potentially a touchdown written all over it.

With 1:04 remaining in the half Cousins went deep to Josh Doctson. The pass fell incomplete but Ross Cockrell was flagged for pass interference, a spot foul. That mistake by Cockrell was a 37-yard gain for WAS, putting them in easy field goal range and they were able to tie it at 3 heading into the half.

On the second WAS possession of the 3rd quarter, slot receiver Jamison Crowder provided the two biggest plays. First, a 33-yard reception, most of which was after the catch, and second, a 15-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal from the 15-yard line. Cousins ability to evade pressure with eyes downfield was a weapon the Giants defense could not handle.

The Giants offense was stalling and with a 10-3 lead past the halfway point of the 3rd quarter, WAS had the personnel and approach to bleed out the clock. The Redskins, thanks to a couple penalties, were forced into a 3rd-and-18 situation that led to Cousins making an errant throw off the hands of his receiver and into the waiting arms of Janoris Jenkins, who returned the interception for the lone Giants touchdown of the night. Jenkins leads the NFL in pick-sixes since 2011 and despite the negative attention he has gathered in recent weeks, stepped up to make a play that shifted the momentum in a big way.

The end of the 3rd quarter saw a development that beat the Giants up the rest of the way, and that was rookie running back Samaje Perine having his way with the Big Blue front seven. On six carries, he rushed for 50 yards. WAS ended up punting on that drive as the 4th quarter began, but it was a foreshadow of what the Giants would be struggling with on that side of the ball.

Offensively, NYG just couldn’t get anything going. They had four possessions in the 4th quarter, all of which resulted in a combined 12 plays, 44 net yards, one first down and a game-sealing interception with 1:08 left on the clock. Redskins win, 20-10.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 13/27 – 113 yards – 0 TD/1 INT. The 113 yards and 4.3 yards per attempt were the lowest we have seen out of Manning since 2007. The situation he is in just doesn’t get worse, Cleveland included. The Giants pass catchers lead the league in drops and the offensive line took a step back in comparison to what they have shown in recent weeks. Manning, in addition, misfired on a few occasions and continues his streak of games with more than four negative throws.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 9 att/37 yards. 2 rec/6 yards. More of the same from the 4th round rookie. Gallman is an excellent change-of-pace back who is explosive through traffic with great vision and agility. One of these upcoming games, he is going to break off a long TD. He is due.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 11 att/30 yards. 1 rec/9 yards. Darwka had a nice stretch on NYG’s fifth drive of the game, but that was about it. There was minimal room for him to work with and he isn’t exactly a quick-reaction type back, thus he was being hit before he really got going. Darkwa won’t ever be a guy that can create on his own.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Roger Lewis: 3 rec/26 yards. With Sterling Shepard still out, I said this would be the opportunity for Lewis to show the organization what he has. After last week’s big performance in the 4th quarter, Lewis did end up getting the most targets among the group. He had a big reception on 3rd down early, but after that he was a non-factor. He continues to struggle gaining any sort of separation against man coverage.
  • Tavarres King: 2 rec/36 yards. King has turned into the one receiver on this team who can create on his own via movement. Whether he is running routes or making high-level receptions, there is some play-maker in him. On two occasions, however, it looked like he ran the wrong route from what I am guessing via the all-22 tape.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 3 rec/18 yards. Engram is officially in a slump, a rather significant one. He is leading the NFL in drops after adding three more to his season total. It has gotten into his head at this point and it will be up to him to force himself out of this mess. Rookie? Yes. But he needs to get this fixed sooner rather than later. His blocking received an above-average grade for the first time in three weeks, and overall on the year, he has been better than expected in that area.
  • Rhett Ellison: 1 rec/9 yards. From week one, I’ve stated this guy needs to be on the field more than he is and he deserves more targets. He just isn’t in their playbook, it seems. But I don’t think it is a coincidence that the NYG rushing game took a step back this week along with the fact Ellison’s playing time dipped back below the 50% mark.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: After a very impressive performance on the NYG home turf, undrafted rookie Chad Wheeler came back down to earth in his first road start. He allowed 2 sacks and 4 pressures, as Ryan Kerrigan beat him up inside and out. Ereck Flowers had his worst game in 6 weeks, being called for 2 penalties, allowing 1 pressure, and allowing 1 sack. This was the worst combo-grade we have seen from the tackles since early in the year.
  • Interior: The lack of run-blocking presence was felt without D.J. Fluker in the mix. Jon Halapio made his first career start since being drafted in 2014. As he performed at training camp, he looked stiff and unable to block anything in space and/or after lateral movement. He confirmed that he doesn’t belong on the field with a grade well below average. John Jerry hit the point he has been hitting most of the year on the grading sheet, a few inches below average. He did get some quality movement early, but too often he whiffs and ends up chasing after his man. Brett Jones struggled mightily in pass protection when left alone. He appears over-matched when he is asked to do so. All three interior blockers finished below average on the grading sheet.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: It took 11 weeks, but the Giants finally got plus performances from both of their ends. Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon both played over 85% of the snaps, a feat in and of itself considering the nagging injuries they’ve been dealing with. They combined for 3.5 sacks and 10 tackles. They were active, hustling, and consistent from start to finish. Kerry Wynn played a few snaps but failed to make an impact.
  • Tackles: The three-man rotation of Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Jay Bromley were over-matched by the interior blockers of WAS. Re-watching the tape, it was stunning to see how many times they were being blown off the ball 2-3 yards. It resulted in rookie Samaje Perine netting 100 yards for the second straight week, 97 of which came in the second half alone. Robert Thomas was also very poor in controlling the point-of-attack when he was in. As a group, it was their worst performance to date. Dalvin Tomlinson did record his first career sack.

LINEBACKERS

  • The most decimated unit on the team via injuries seems to he adding a new street free agent each week. Kelvin Sheppard, one of those recent signings, led the group with 7 tackles, as Jonathan Casillas added 6 of his own. Neither are stuffing the running lanes, however. They are struggling to impact the game with speed or power and neither are doing well in coverage, as the middle of the field continues to be the weakness of the NYG pass defense.
  • Devon Kennard has been, and continues to be, one of the season’s bright spots. He recorded another sack via the interior pass rush. His versatility, especially on 3rd downs, is a weapon worth keeping around.
  • Curtis Grant suffered a season-ending injury early in the game.

CORNERBACKS

  • The Giants lone touchdown of the night came from a pick six by Janoris Jenkins, his second of the year. Jenkins played an outstanding game in coverage and after watching the all-22 tape, his effort was not a problem at all. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a quiet game in a good way, rarely being targeted.
  • With Eli Apple out via a coach’s decision, Ross Cockrell got the start and played every defensive snap. He played a physical game and did a nice job in coverage, allowing under 50% of the balls thrown his way to be completed. Cockrell has been a very solid player considering what NYG had to give up for him. I think he is a keeper as a backup.
  • Unfortunate injury for Donte Deayon, who was going to get the opportunity to show his worth to this team for the future. He broke his arm on a tackle attempt of Jamison Crowder, who had his way with Deayon prior to on a few occasions.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins and Darian Thompson shined again. Collins led the team with 14 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. He was all over the field and did an outstanding job of anticipating plays and snaps. When you have a safety like this, the lack of ability at linebacker isn’t nearly as big of a deal. When this guy is playing a roaming role, especially against the run, he really is top notch. Thompson has improved in coverage mightily since the beginning of the year, being more assertive and quicker to react. He had two very nice, high-level pass break-ups.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – Made 30 yds. Quiet night for the rookie kicker. McAdoo could have given him a 38-yard attempt, but opted to go for it on 4th-and-1.
  • P Brad Wing: 9 punts – 41.2 avg. His net average was just 2 yards under his average, a solid number. He pinned WAS inside the 5 once.
  • Return: Kalif Raymond returned 2 punts for a total of 8 yards.

3 STUDS

  • DE Jason Pierre Paul, DE Janoris Jenkins, S Landon Collins

3 DUDS

  • OT Chad Wheeler, DT Jay Bromley, QB Eli Manning

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

  • Samaje Perine is going to be a factor in this division for a long time. He specializes in short yardage but he will prove to be much more than that. He doesn’t go down on initial contact, always running through arm tackles and grinding out a defense. The combination of him and Chris Thompson in the future will be a tough, tough duo to play against.
  • The Redskins have backed themselves into a corner with Kirk Cousins. They could have locked him up for a solid deal the past two years, but the mishandling is now going to cost them an extra few million per year. At this point, you just can’t let him walk via FA. There is no long term plan in place for WAS behind him and they won’t be picking high enough to select a franchise guy.
  • The WAS offensive line is just, if not more, beat up than the NYG OL. However their backups come in and still played at a solid level. They’ve done a nice job building that group from top to bottom and it is something NYG should look at. Both how they did it and if one of them can be had via FA.

3 THOUGHTS ON NYG

  • I can’t stress this enough: the situation Eli Manning has had to work with is the worst, or second worst to CLE, in the NFL. Everything about this offense when it comes to support of the QB is simply over-matched. Does it mean it is unfair to evaluate his play? Not exactly. There are still things he is doing wrong and/or at a low level each week. However, I’m not sure any QB in the league could succeed in this situation and I mean that.
  • Are we seeing what this defense should have been all year? Collins is all over the field and appears to be in on every play. The ends are disruptive. The cornerbacks have played lock-down coverage the past 2 weeks. What could have been this year….what could have been. They woke up a little too late.
  • Another issue I have had with this front office for years, and I know not everyone agrees, is the lack of resources devoted to the linebacker position. I am just sick and tired of signing street free agents of bottom-feeder type players to fill a role that impacts the run and pass so much. It is a direct relation to why the Giants have been absolutely killed by tight ends and slot receivers over the middle and the run defense has been so inconsistent. One of these years some money and/or a high pick needs to be used on a linebacker or two.
Nov 222017
 
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Tavarres King, New York Giants (January 1, 2017)

Tavarres King – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Washington Redskins, November 23, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
When Roger Lewis, Jr. came down with that miracle catch in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend, I jumped up and yelled, “YES!!!!!!” Two plays later, when place kick Aldrick Rosas kicked the game-winning field goal, I was not sure how I felt. Did the Giants just hurt themselves in the draft? Does the win impact how ownership views the long-term effectiveness of how the team is being run?

To those who say positioning at the top of the draft does not matter, I remind everyone of the nightmare of the 1996 NFL Draft. Drafting 5th, everyone assumed that the Giants would have a shot at Simeon Rice or Jonathan Ogden. But when those two players – along with Keyshawn Johnson and Kevin Hardy – surprisingly went before the NYG pick, the Giants were screwed. The Giants did not need or want Lawrence Phillips. Nobody wanted to trade with the Giants, and they were “forced” to picked a half-blind defensive end from the University of Oklahoma. The lesson of this story? Falling a spot or two at the top of the draft can make all of the difference in the world.

Then there is the management/ownership issue. We all know that the Giants would prefer to not make any changes. It’s not in the team’s DNA. That conservative nature has been a tremendous asset at times, but it has also been a liability too. What we do know is this: a defense that had largely quit the previous two games, including the anemic San Francisco 49ers, decided to show up against the Chiefs. That’s exceptionally maddening. And nothing has changed in terms of evaluating Jerry Reese’s decision-making in the draft and free agency at a number of positions, including both lines and the linebacker position.

So where does this leave us? Two beat-up teams with very little to play for playing on a very short week and a national holiday in front of what is anticipated to be yet another small crowd. Given those circumstances, the Giants can win this game. Moreover, looking at the schedule, the Giants could actually win a few more games before this is over. Again, this leaves me with mixed emotions.

Side Note: Someone asked me this past week why I am not doing my usual game previews that focus on match-ups against the upcoming opponent. The two-fold answer is (1) since the team was done in October, I see these more like preseason game previews, and (2) as we’ve seen in just the past two weeks, match-ups don’t count right now, effort does.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Orleans Darkwa (hamstring – probable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (illness – questionable)
  • OL Justin Pugh (back – out)
  • OL D.J. Fluker (toe – out)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee – probable)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (shoulder – questionable)
  • DT Damon Harrison (ankle/elbow – questionable)
  • DT Dalvin Tomlinson (ankle – probable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – out)
  • LB Calvin Munson (quad – doubtful)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – questionable)
  • LB Kelvin Sheppard (groin – questionable)
  • LS Zak DeOssie (trap – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
One game does not make a trend. Heck, one season does not make a trend (innumerable examples such as RGIII). But have the Giants gotten lucky again with an other undrafted free agent? Chad Wheeler’s first start was beyond encouraging. I’m sure there will be rough moments to come, but if he is a viable NFL starter and Ereck Flowers continues to settle down, then there is at least somewhat of a foundation to work with. Then you factor the emergence of D.J. Fluker, who won’t play this week and will be a free agent, and there are some encouraging signs. Unfortunately and ironically, Justin Pugh (1st round) and Weston Richburg (2nd round) were supposed to be part of the solution, and now they are just question marks who may sign with other teams in the offseason. If Pugh and Richburg are off the team in 2018, those are two more wasted premium picks and holes to fill. Had they panned out, a line of Flowers-Pugh-Richburg-Fluker-Wheeler may have been a solid one.

As for this particular game, with Pugh and Fluker out, it looks like either Jon Halapio or recently-signed journeyman John Greco will start at guard. I’d prefer to see the 26-year old Halapio over the 32-year old Greco at this point. Regardless, the emerging running game will likely take a hit without the physical Fluker in there.

The latest red flag is the Sterling Shepard situation. At first it was supposed to be a migraine, now Ben McAdoo said they are not sure what is going on. Hopefully this isn’t a long-term concussion concern. As Sy’56 addressed in his KC game review, how will Roger Lewis build upon his game-winning catch? Or was this his flash-in-the-pan moment? Moving forward, the Giants have Odell Beckham and Shepard, and not much else in the wide receiving department.

Given the state of the various, makeshift component parts, the Giants offense will continue to struggle for the remainder of the season. The best the Giants can hope for is a 20-point-type “offensive explosion” from this group, and as we saw last Sunday, even that may be pressing it.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Want to see how much effort is a determining factor in a football game? Watch the exact same Giants defense against the 49ers and the Chiefs. How will the defense perform against the Redskins? Tell me how hard they are going to try first. The Giants held the Chiefs to nine points because defenders such as Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins decided to play up to their ability. Those two are difference makers when they are on their game.

On the other hand, I would like to single out Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson for continuing to play hard despite their respective injuries. They are not using the 2-8 record as an excuse to sulk or miss time. Harrison comes to work every game even though it is clear that ankle injury is hurting him. Harrison is the type of guy I want on my football team. Give credit to Jerry Reese for spending $$$ on him. But the JPP re-signing still looks like a mistake. And I’m not sure how the Giants will address this in the offseason given the cap hit involved with moving him. These last six games are important for Pierre-Paul’s status.

I was skeptical of the Ross Cockrell trade… Steelers fans were overjoyed when Pittsburgh ditched him. But Cockrell has played at a respectable level. Again, the talent is there in the Giants secondary. Collins, Jenkins, DRC, Cockrell. That’s why the performance of the defense this year is so thoroughly revolting. Give me a couple of stud DTs and a strong secondary, and 9 times out of 10, I show you a very respectable defense. Opinions will vary on the reasons but effort, coaching, outside pass rush, and linebacker play are all contributing factors in the defense’s demise. (Speaking of the pass rush, do you realize the Giants only have 14 sacks?! And as much as we knock JPP, he has 4.5 of those – or 1/3 of the team’s total. No other defender on this team has more than two sacks after 10 games.)

Which brings us to Eli Apple. His development (or lack thereof) in the final six games is probably the top issue to watch on defense during this final stretch. The effort just hasn’t been there. Is that because of his mom’s health situation? Or is the game simply not that important to him? Is he a winning or losing football player? With DRC getting up there in age, if Apple is a 1st-round bust, then the Giants have yet another glaring hole to fill.

Lastly, what a mess at linebacker! B.J. Goodson – who has had injury issues all season – must have a high-ankle sprain to be out this long. Calvin Munson and Jonathan Casillas are still hurting. Even the recently-re-signed Kelvin Sheppard immediately got hurt. The Giants’ linebacking corps will be a patchwork mess on Thursday. Look for the Giants to employ more three-safety looks, hoping not to become too vulnerable against the run.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Aldrick Rosas is going through a shaky period here. He needs a perfect game soon. How bad has the Giants’ return game been this year? The team’s longest kickoff return is 30 yards and longest punt return 20 yards. The Giants are currently 23rd in kickoff returns (20.4 yards per return) and 25th in punt returns (5.8 yards per return). Tom Quinn – meet door.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Roger Lewis, Jr.: “Lewis is a guy that’s been around, he’s a young player, had a big role on special teams, and really grew into his role on offense. You see how important it is to him to develop chemistry with the quarterback. He’s been outspoken on it, and he works hard on it every day in practice. He’s one of our work dogs out there, he really works hard at practice, and it shows up when you look at the numbers each and every day on the GPS, and also the targets as well.”

THE FINAL WORD
It’s always tough for the road team to win on Thursday night. Throw in the 2-8 record and playing on Thanksgiving and it is easy to see the Giants losing this one. That said, the Redskins lost a heart-breaker last week and are extremely banged up. The franchise is practically giving away tickets for free right now so the crowd may be sparse and demoralizing to a team that had been in the playoff hunt. What I expect is a very ugly football game between two bad and beat-up teams. It may be one of those games where you question which team wants to lose it more. Effort and turnovers will most likely be determinative.

Nov 222017
 
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Aldrick Rosas and Brad Wing, New York Giants (November 19, 2017)

Aldrick Rosas and Brad Wing – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 12 – Kansas City Chiefs 9

RECAP

To this point of the 2017 season, there have been stretches where the Kansas City Chiefs appeared to be one of the top teams in the league with the Giants being one of the bottom feeders. However, KC has been faltering as of late, coming to East Rutherford with just 1 win since October 9. The winds were gusting and Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid knows that can help bring any match-up closer together.

With Eli Apple inactive due to a coach’s decision, Ross Cockrell and Janoris Jenkins were the starters at cornerback. In addition, B.J. Goodson missed another game and the undrafted rookie Calvin Munson started in his place. The first quarter flew by, as both teams were keeping the clock moving via the run game and short passing. The Giants, in unorthodox fashion, showed aggression via trick plays on their first drive, one of which didn’t work out. They successfully ran a fake punt with Nat Berhe taking the direct snap and running up the middle. A few plays later, Shane Vereen took a toss to the outside that ended up being a halfback option pass. He had Evan Engram open, but the throw was a tad late and Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen shot over for the interception near the end zone.

On the next possession, KC was starting to piece together another drive before a shovel pass to tight end Travis Kelce, a play that has been working well for them all year, brought Kelce right into the target of Jason Pierre Paul. An explosive hit and all of the sudden the ball popped into the air right into the waiting arms of Damon Harrison. Yes, 355-pound Damon Harrison. The Giants marched into the end zone just 7 plays later via an Orleans Darkwa 1-yard run, NYG’s 3rd rushing touchdown of the year. Kicker Aldrick Rosas missed the ensuing extra point thanks to one of the infamous gusts of wind the Meadowlands will occasionally provide.

KC then put together a 15-play drive that swallowed over 9 minutes of game clock. It resulted in a 31-yard field goal by Harrison Butker. The rest of the first half was uneventful, as we saw a combined three 3-and-outs. It was 6-3 as the third quarter began despite NYG having only totaled 93 total net yards to that point.

After the teams traded punts again, NYG put together a couple of nice plays and were knocking on the door for more points. On 3rd-and-7 from the KC 31-yard line, a Manning to Evan Engram pass that landed them at the 3-yard line was called back because of an offensive pass interference. Because of the wind, two plays later NYG had to go for it on 4th-and-9 from the 33, but the infamous short pass play that would have left Engram with no chance of reaching the first down marker fell to the ground and KC took over.

In a blink, at the beginning of the 4th quarter, KC was on the NYG 16-yard line with 1st-and-10 to go. They could only gain 3 more yards and had to settle for another 31-yard field goal, courtesy of Butker. The score was now tied at 6 with the NYG offense still sputtering.

After trading another pair of 3-and-outs again, NYG took a drive that started on their own 4-yard line and approached midfield with 1st down. A 9-yard gain was called back due to a holding penalty by Engram and a couple plays later John Jerry pushed them back even further with an unnecessary roughness penalty. The Giants were forced to punt the ball back to KC and the momentum was shifting.

On 1st-and-10 from their own 40, Andy Reid went into his own bag of tricks. Travis Kelce, one of the best overall athletes in the game and a former quarterback, received the ball and instead of darting downfield, launched a deep pass to Demarcus Robinson. The hesitation he initially showed gave Landon Collins enough time to reach his point and he came down with the ball on the NYG 14-yard line.

The Giants eventually punted the ball back to KC, but for the second straight possession, NYG intercepted KC, this time it was Alex Smith who threw the ball and Janoris Jenkins who came down with it. His 17-yard return set NYG up 1st-and-10 on the KC 23-yard line. The Giants did take one shot at the end zone, but they were forced into taking the simple 3 points via a 26-yard field goal by Rosas. Giants led 9-6 with under 2 minutes left.

The Giants appeared to have the game in the bag after Jenkins’s second interception in as many drives, but a pass interference penalty called it off. Alex Smith then took over the game, marching the Chiefs down the field with big-time throws and scrambling ability. His last-ditch effort to end the game via a rushng TD was cancelled by a physical downhill tackle by Landon Collins. KC tied the game with a second remaining, overtime was next.

KC put together a couple of quality plays, but a holding penalty set them back and they had to punt the ball to Eli Manning and the Giants. They put together a solid drive mixed with the run and the pass. On 4th-and-5 from the 36-yard line, Ben McAdoo had a tough decision to make. Let the strong-legged kicker Rosas go for the game-winner from 53? Or try to get a first down in a situation that has been beating them up all year, badly. He opted to put the ball in Manning’s hands and it resulted in a 34-yard gain down the left sideline. There, Roger Lewis made the catch of the year for NYG. After being interfered with by KC corner Phillip Gaines, he was laying on the ground but still managed to bring the ball in. The pass interference was declined and two plays later Rosas hit the first game-winner of his career from 23 yards. Giants win, 12-9.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 19/35 – 205 yards. 0 TD/0 INT. While Alex Smith has had the better season statistically, the difference was apparent between him and Manning when it came to dealing with the wind. Smith looked very uncomfortable for the majority of the game while Manning’s experience in these situations rose to the occasion. He was the victim of 6 drops in this game, as well. Manning had 148 yards in the second half.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 20 att/74 yards – 1 TD – 2 rec/14 yards. Darkwa and this running game continue to improve each and every week. He isn’t a sexy back, but his constant ability to push the pile and fall forward doesn’t go unnoticed. His glaring issues that have been hurting this team over and over, however, are the drops. He had 2 more in this game.
  • Wayne Gallman: 6 att/19 yards – 1 rec 3 yards. Gallman had a drop of his own on a play that could have netted a lot of yards. He is the unofficial change of pace back who brings a different level of speed and explosion. One of these weeks he is going to break off a long touchdown, but he has to get and hold onto that ball.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Roger Lewis: 3 rec/55 yards. Lewis was relatively quiet until late in the game, but he responded with the catch of the year for NYG. The opportunity he has right now may never come again, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to late-game heroics. Was it a fluke? Right place, right time? There were a lot of teams drawn to this kid as an UDFA out of Bowling Green a couple years ago. The ball skills were a + park on everyone’s scouting report and his route running has improved mightily. I would be surprised if we didn’t see a slight uptick in his targets, which is hovering around 3 per game.
  • Tavarres King: 3 rec/48 yards. King has the veteran experience, intelligence, and toughness that Manning likes to work with. My college scouting report on him raved about his route running and it is something I see with him today. Very smooth, efficient mover and he can make the tough catch. His lack of physical presence and strength does limit him against certain coverages and situations, however.
  • Travis Rudolph: 3 rec/34 yards: The most targeted receiver Sunday, Rudolph played a career-high 27 snaps. He displayed what we already know about him – reliable hands, ball skills, and route running. But he really struggles to get himself open against quality man coverage.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 1 rec/9 yards. Engram is the feature pass catcher in this offense. He was targeted 6 times but only came down with the ball once. He dropped 2 passes and also was responsible for 2 penalties. As a blocker, he graded out at the “average” mark. However, he got a lot of movement on Darkwa’s touchdown run.
  • Rhett Ellison: 1 rec/7 yards. Ellison has really helped this running game buckle down and control the point-of-attack. His impact is quiet in the box score, but don’t overlook his importance.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: I won’t overreact to one start, especially at home, but the performance Chad Wheeler put together in his first NFL start at right tackle was enough to excite anyone. He was borderline flawless and put together one of the top 5 grades overall of all the OLs on this team in 2017. It was the best RT grade I have on the year, including the ones Justin Pugh started. One game isn’t enough to make any strong statements, but he did everything right. His confidence and decision-making were on a different level from what we saw in preseason and his limited regular-season snaps. He got plenty of movement on guys much bigger and stronger than him with almost perfect technique and timing. Ereck Flowers had another quiet game, in a good way. He stayed on the hottest streak of his career and is proving some doubters wrong. If this were a winning team, he would be getting a ton of positive attention. There are still significant holes here, but he has improved.
  • Interior: D.J. Fluker, if you really zero in on him, has to be someone everyone admires. The guy plays his tail off and brings the blue collar, overly physical approach to the line that we all want to see here. Once he started at right guard, this OL as a whole started to perform better in the run game. His presence and ability to move defenders has been very impactful. John Jerry and Brett Jones shared the lowest grades along the OL this week, but even they still graded out on the average mark. Their pass blocking leaves a lot to be desired, especially on blitzes.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Jason Pierre-Paul had arguably the most physical hit of the day that jarred the ball loose out of Travis Kelce’s hands and into the arms of Damon Harrison. From a dead stop position, he launched himself into Kelce and sent the 260-pounder parallel to the ground. It was a hit that maybe 5 players in the NFL could make. I see plays like those and a few others where he tracks the ball carrier down on the back side and wonder why we don’t see him just dominate, flat out dominate. He had a very quiet game as a pass rusher. Olivier Vernon had one of his more disruptive games of the year, finishing with 3 QB pressures despite only playing 83% of the snaps due to a minor shoulder injury.
  • Tackles: It was good to see Damon Harrison out there after being carted off the field a week ago, although his snaps were a tad limited. He continues to be the best player on this defense, with both visible and hidden benefits. After a quiet game in San Francisco, Dalvin Tomlinson responded with an active game, finishing with 6 tackles. He certainly isn’t playing like a rookie. NYG has a good one here.

LINEBACKERS

  • With B.J. Goodson out again, Calvin Munson got the start. The undrafted rookie out of San Diego State finished with a career-high 12 tackles. He showed a good first step and good angles towards the action. The biggest plus with him, zero missed tackles.
  • Devon Kennard recorded another sack, his 2nd of the season. His versatility shines every week and I think he is one of the most underrated weapons on this defense who can really fit into any scheme. He has limitations, but he gets the job done. Jonathan Casillas wasn’t very active, as he is still struggling to find the consistency snap to snap when it comes to making quick reads and reactions. He is often late to the party.

CORNERBACKS

  • After being suspended 2 weeks ago, and one of the worst performances of his career last week in San Francisco, Janoris Jenkins came out and showed why he can rightfully be considered a top-10, maybe even top-5 CB in this league. He had a pass break up and a clutch interception that set the Giants up to take a 4th-quarter lead. His second interception was called back because of a penalty, but even that had to be admired because of the ball skills he displayed.
  • With Eli Apple sitting out because of a coach’s decision, Ross Cockrell got the start. The 4th-year veteran seems to be getting more comfortable in the system and his tools are something I always look for in NFL cornerbacks. He has size, he plays physical, and his hips can turn with ease. The confidence in his game has been taken to another level and I expect to see more and more improvement from here on out.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins led the team with 14 tackles. He has several big hits and a few third down stops that helped the Giants maintain field position in this low-scoring affair. Collins played his heart out with plus hustle grades throughout the entire game. His interception on the Kelce option-pass was a great reaction and even better read. He wasn’t fooled one bit. Solid game for Darian Thompson but the note that keeps popping up next to his name is a lack of presence and a lack of range. Watching the all-22 tape, it is apparent to me that his lack of range is a big  part of the reason why this defense struggles defending the pass in the middle of the field.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 – made 26 and 23. Missed 1 extra point. Rosas has made a habit of missing field goal attempts. His two this week went through the uprights, albeit they were very short. They were in clutch situations though. His missed extra point was a result of a gust of wind that would have knocked anyone’s kick flat.
  • Brad Wing: 6 Punts – 45.3 avg. It was a busy day for Wing and his 42.5 net was a season high. Very good game for him punting to one of the most dangerous PRs in the league.

3 STUDS

  • RT Chad Wheeler, S Landon Collins, WR Roger Lewis

3 DUDS

  • OG John Jerry, TE Evan Engram, LB Jonathan Casillas

3 THOUGHTS ON KC

  • This is why you don’t crown a team early in the year. After a 5-0 start including wins over NE and PHI, the Chiefs looked unstoppable on both sides of the ball. Some in the media start using the word Super Bowl but since then, they are 1-4. What happened? This is the NFL, that’s what happened. This happens every year and the overreactions regarding early wins and losses make several people look silly by season’s end. The Chiefs are not as bad as what they have showed recently, and I still expect them to be one of 3-4 teams in the AFC Championship run.
  • Travis Kelce is the best athlete in the NFL, all things considered. I have never seen a tight end that big and strong move that fast and quick. His ball skills are improving, as are his routes and blocking. I think it is safe to say he is the best tight end in the game. And I am scouting a tight end from a small school right now that reminds me exactly of him.
  • What does this team need to right the ship? Early in the year they were controlling the point-of-attack and running the ball down the defense’s throat. They stuck with the run time and time again. Andy Reid has done this in the past…and that is rely on the pass too much when a team is down. The instant Hunt’s carries went into the single digits, this team’s tailspin began. Easy solution if you ask me. Get Hunt the ball more often, then everything else will open up.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • As I have been saying, the discussion of McAdoo’s job is the easy conversation to bring up. But it doesn’t need to be a weekly thing. Let this thing play out the rest of the year, talk about all the stuff in January. Until then I know it can be tough to watch a losing team, but there are several players to watch and evaluate for next year. Top one being Chad Wheeler.
  • Tip of the cap to Janoris Jenkins and the intensity he played with. Either he looked in the mirror and decided to man up, or someone got in his ear. Jenkins was flying around putting his body on the line like we saw in the first three weeks. Maybe that team meeting where they watched the low-effort plays stuck it to him and if that is the case, good job by McAdoo. There have been a handful of players that have showed notable differences in effort-output, hopefully Eli Apple is next.
  • The two starting defensive ends on this team showed so much promise before the season and even though they flash here and there, they simply aren’t good enough. The 4-man pass rush is almost vital to defensive success in the NFL now, and the production coming from these two spots needs to be better. Both are on the fragile side, both are on the inconsistent side. It is a bad combination for the long term future and if they don’t flash more, DE may be at or near the top of their draft needs in the spring.
Nov 172017
 
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Game Preview: Kansas City Chiefs at New York Giants, November 19, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
To bastardize a line from a movie classic Becket: “Will no one rid us of this this interminable season?”

This is never-ending horror show… the NFL version of the Bataan Death March. It gets worse by the week yet we are only just over halfway through the season.

I may be dead wrong, but Ben McAdoo, his coaching staff, and many of the players signed their pink slips last week by getting blown out by the previously winless San Francisco 49ers. There is no excuse, none, for being that uncompetitive against one of the NFL’s worst teams. The question is does John Mara have the balls to hand a pink slip to Jerry Reese as well? And if not, does the Tisch family intervene?

You think these scenarios sound extreme? In the team’s 93rd season, the Giants are on course to have THEIR WORST season. The Giants have finished with two wins four times in team history. The 1966 Giants currently have the worst overall record, finishing 1-12-1. Do the 2017 New York Giants have another win in them? If not, the Giants will finish 1-15.  And this is a team that the franchise believed to be a Super Bowl contender. Talk about a complete and epic management failure! This is not all on the coaching staff. The current culture feels stale and needs a shake up.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • OL Justin Pugh (back – out)
  • OL D.J. Fluker (knee – probable)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee – probable)
  • DT Damon Harrison (ankle – questionable)
  • DT Dalvin Tomlinson (ankle – probable)
  • LB Devon Kennard (quad – questionable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – out)
  • LB Calvin Munson (quad – probable)
  • LB Kelvin Sheppard (groin – doubtful)
  • CB Donte Deayon (ankle – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
In the cesspool that is the Giants’ offense, there are two emerging bright spots: Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. These are two building blocks. Pray for their health during the remainder of this meaningless season. But the Giants may be facing a total rebuild everywhere else:

  • Quarterback: As I’ve previously discussed, it is time to move on from Eli Manning. He may stick around one more season as a starter to serve as mentor to the new quarterback, but sticking with a quarterback who is approaching 37 makes no sense on a rebuilding ball club. The Giants will likely draft their replacement for Manning with a top three pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Davis Webb? The Giants are not going to play him this year and the Giants can’t risk assuming he is the answer at QB going into 2018 and pass on a potential franchise QB with a top pick. For better or worse, they feel like they owe to Manning to not bench him for Webb. (And to be honest, because Webb has received virtually no practice snaps since being drafted, he’s not ready for any real game action).
  • Running Back: I keep saying this but the Giants are wasting snaps on Orleans Darkwa. Same with Shane Vereen. Ben McAdoo is trying to save his job and the jobs of his assistant coaches. The welfare of families are involved… it’s a tough situation. But Darkwa and Vereen are not the future of a rebuilding club. The team needs to get a better read on Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins. Unfortunately, the team will probably head into the offseason with running back remaining a big question mark and the team parting ways with the two backs who will receive the bulk of the remaining play time. Stupid.
  • Wide Receiver: Re-signing Odell Beckham is not a given. He will demand to be the highest paid non-quarterback in the NFL. Is he worth it? Talent wise, probably, although one can point to the fact that the Giants haven’t won a lot of games despite his historic productivity. The bigger issue is his head. He’s not a “bad guy.” But is he a “winner”… that almost-indefinable intangible demonstrated by impact players who lift their entire team? Or is he a distraction? Also muddying the waters is that Beckham, from a marketing standpoint, is one of the few reasons to watch this team. He’s a legit superstar marquee player in the world’s biggest media market. That’s not lost on Mara and Tisch – who in the end, are running a business that seeks to make money. One thing to keep in mind is that with Manning likely coming off the books soon, allocating a significant chunk of the salary cap to Beckham becomes more tolerable. Aside from Beckham and Shepard, there isn’t much in the cupboard here. The Giants need to part ways with Brandon Marshall.
  • Tight End: Ironically, a year after fielding arguably the worst tight end unit in the NFL, this is the bright spot moving forward. Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, and probably Jerell Adams are all keepers. On some teams, Matt LaCosse may be seeing more playing time.
  • Offensive Line: Here is probably the #1 reason why the Giants will be in full rebuild mode. There may not be ONE single keeper in this group. Perhaps Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty (the latter who struggled mightily in the preseason but who is still young). But that may be wishful thinking. Justin Pugh can’t stay healthy and based on his Twitter account seems obsessed with a big pay day. Weston Richburg has declined as a player since 2015 and is coming off a serious concussion. A year after the Giants gave him another big contract, the Giants need to part ways with John Jerry. Bobby Hart proclaimed himself the best right tackle in football but has proven to be the worst. D.J. Fluker is serviceable, but inconsistent. Brett Jones is just a guy and probably better suited to a reserve role. Ironically, as the Giants have gotten worse as a team, Ereck Flowers has gotten better. But as Sy’56 has pointed out, he has some tough opponents coming up. He may be the most important player to watch on offense for the remainder of the season. How many new starters do the Giants need on the offensive line after spending three premium picks on the position? The question is scary enough. But how scary is the potential answer?

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The defense has quit. And that is as much as an indictment on Steve Spagnuolo as it is on Ben McAdoo. That’s why both need to go. This will be yet another season where a Spagnuolo-led defense will finish near the bottom of the NFL. I don’t think 2007, 2008, and 2016 can save him from the performances of 2012 (Saints), 2015 and 2017 (Giants). The Giants’ defense gave up 31 points and almost 500 yards of offense to atrocious 49ers with a rookie quarterback. It’s not acceptable.

  • Defensive Line: Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson are the building blocks. The problem is Jason Pierre-Paul’s $62 million contract. In hindsight, re-signing JPP was a HUGE mistake. He’s a coach killer. The game isn’t important enough to him. Yet, if the Giants cut him, it will cost over $20 million against the cap. So the new coaching staff is probably stuck with him. Same story with Olivier Vernon (over $11 million in dead money if cut). The prayer here is a new coaching staff will light a fire under both of these two, but that may be pie-in-the-sky, wishful thinking. The good news is that Avery Moss appears to have an upside, but we need to see more. After all, we thought the same of Romeo Okwara last year and we saw how he didn’t pan out.
  • Linebacker: A complete mess. They can’t cover (historically bad against tight ends) or play the run. It’s time to part ways with Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson, J.T. Thomas, Mark Herzlich, and most of the other no names. The hope here was that B.J. Goodson would turn out to be a viable linebacker, but he has been injury prone beyond belief and terrible in coverage. There may not be ONE KEEPER in this entire group. That’s unbelievable and an utterly damaging indictment on the personnel department on this team.
  • Defensive Backs: This is the group that has quit. And it’s clear as day to see. Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have both been suspended for not taking their jobs seriously. Landon Collins went from a “Defensive Player of the Year” candidate to a stiff. All three were legit Pro Bowl/All-Pro types a year ago. Eli Apple’s head doesn’t seem to be in the game. On paper, this is a group of players that most teams would die for. You can see it on the tape, the effort isn’t there (see last week’s dagger-in-the-heard 47-yard touchdown right before halftime). Yeah, it sucks when you are a 1-win team and dead halfway through the season. But you are being paid to play to YOUR potential, not sulk and act like a baby. Grow up! You think your jobs and future income are guaranteed? I hope you saved a good chunk of your current contracts because your options in the outside world are going to be limited. Clean up in aisle 5.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but Tom Quinn needs to go. Aldrick Rosas and Brad Wing are clearly auditioning for the next coaching staff. I do hope they bring Rosas back to camp next year. He has tremendous ability and it is not unusual for a kicker to struggle a bit in his rookie season. The Giants only got one good year out of Dwayne Harris. That contract was another mistake.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram: “Sterling is really emerging as a young leader for us. I like that about him. He’s a confident player. It’s good to see him get in his groove. He’s had to fight through so many things in training camp and here in the season with injuries, and before those he was really hitting his stride. So it’s good to see him hitting his stride again, and we have a lot of confidence in him. He’s one of our better players, and he’s willing to block for a receiver that plays in the slot. That has a big impact on our football team… (Engram is) a dynamic player in the pass game, he’s coming along as a blocker. He’s working on it, it’s important to him. There are some things he needs to clean up. But his work ethic, his passion and love for football is refreshing. Evan was named a team captain this week. First time I believe I’ve named a rookie team captain.”

THE FINAL WORD
So you don’t think it can get worse?

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

Sterling Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers 31 – New York Giants 21

RECAP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUARTERBACKS

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

RUNNING BACKS

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

WIDE RECEIVERS

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

TIGHT ENDS

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

OFFENSIVE LINE

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

DEFENSIVE LINE

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

LINEBACKERS

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

CORNERBACKS

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

SAFETIES

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

SPECIAL TEAMS

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

3 STUDS

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

3 DUDS

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

3 THOUGHTS ON SF

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

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Typically in the NFL, a coach who has had the season McAdoo has had in 2017 would not have made it home with a job after losing to an 0-9 team by 10 points. But it is simply not the Giants way to fire a coach like this in-season. It’s not going to happen.
  • A case could be made that Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh are the two most reliable OL on the team. They are both free agents this upcoming offseason and if this OL is going to need most of the attention in terms of building for 2018, what do you do with these guys? Those spots might be hard to fill via free agency, and the Giants can’t afford to use two of their first three picks on the OL. The issue is both of these guys have had a very hard time staying healthy and their price demands may make it tough to bring them back. The whole situation of building the 2018 OL is going to be very tricky.
  • Creating a culture of winning, hard-working, team-first attitudes would be a top priority of mine if I were ever building a team. Getting a team full of guys who love the game and want to win at all costs. They are out there and it can carry weight into the scouting process. I’m not sure the Giants’ front office has done a good job of this. There are too many guys who don’t get after it, don’t play hard, don’t put the team first. Long term, they shouldn’t be here. That would be priority number one for me this offseason.
Nov 102017
 
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Steve Weatherford, New York Giants (January 22, 2012)

Steve Weatherford – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers, November 12, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
It’s hard to believe that we are only halfway through this mess. The Giants have had other hopeless seasons that were over at the midway point, but I’m not sure this level of despair and/or indifference has been reached in decades. And yet, we still have eight more games to play.

How bad are your 2017 New York Giants? 28th in offense. 30th in defense. Special teams that play a role in each mounting loss.

There may not be a better example of how transient the National Football League has become than this match-up. Six years ago, these two teams were on top of the NFC, playing in one of the most memorable conference championship games ever played. It was a hard-hitting slug-fest in the best tradition of the Giants-49ers games from 1981-1990, and it ended dramatically in overtime

The 49ers looked like an up-and-coming team who would be good for a long time under a head coach who was sure to be in San Francisco for years to come. The Giants’ road had been far rockier, but it looked like Eli Manning had truly reached top-tier quarterback level as he dragged a weak running and defensive team to the playoffs by throwing to young targets Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham. (In hindsight, it was Eli’s best season of his career). The Giants even had a new surprising tight end in Jake Ballard. Again, it was anticipated that these players would be around for years to come. Tom Coughin surely had surely permanently cemented his job security in New York – even Bill Parcells said so.

The combined record of both teams in 2017? 1-16. These two teams are now battling with the Cleveland Browns for the dishonor of being labeled the worst team in the NFL. It’s a comical fight for the #1 spot in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Giants and 49ers have gone from the cream of the crop to laughing stocks in just six years.

The question here for the Giants is this: how low can you get? It is frightening to contemplate that the game against the Los Angeles Rams may not be the nadir of this season. Have the Giants’ players quit? Do they respect and fear the coaching staff? Are they afraid for their own jobs? We’re about to find out.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • OL Justin Pugh (back – probable)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (ankle – questionable)
  • DE Kerry Wynn (knee – questionable)
  • DT Dalvin Tomlinson (ankle – probable)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – questionable)
  • LB Devon Kennard (quad – out)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – out)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (quad – out)
  • LB Calvin Munson (quad – questionable)
  • CB Donte Deayon (ankle – doubtful)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Using the last three games as a guide, we see the only apparent road map for the New York Giants offense to remain respectable for the remainder of the 2017 season: run the football, sprinkle in Eli Manning passes to Evan Engram and anyone else who can get open, protect the football, and try to shorten the game. There were drives here and there against the Broncos and Rams where the Giants looked decent when they could run the ball. When they couldn’t against Seattle, it got ugly. And the problem against the Rams were the two first-half turnovers combined with the game rapidly getting out of hand.

The Giants simply can’t function consistently anymore just throwing the ball. They don’t have the receivers and Eli Manning is misfiring too often now. Regardless of the reasons, Manning’s effectiveness has clearly been trending down for two years in a row. He’ll be 37 in January and the Giants are going to have a shot at perhaps whomever they think is the best quarterback in the draft. This isn’t hard to figure out. There are many dangers for the New York Giants franchise moving forward. Making the wrong decision at General Manager. Making the wrong decision at head coach. Making the wrong decision at quarterback. Those are the three big ones. Change isn’t always good. But neither is loyalty. Not in this business.

Probably the most realistic ideal scenario is for Eli Manning to finish 2017 in respectable fashion, the Giants select the best QB in the draft, and for Eli as a starting quarterback to serve as a mentor for the new guy in 2018. Then Eli would have to decide in 2019 whether to retire as a Giant or keep playing with another team. It’s not the way we wanted it to end. We wanted to see him hoist that third Super Bowl trophy as MVP. But it isn’t going to happen. The Giants as a franchise botched it. They wasted the last six years.

The worst scenario would be to see Eli continue his shell-shocked play, get hurt, and watch Geno Smith finish the season. The Giants pass on the franchise quarterback and try it again with the same Reese-McAdoo-Manning formula in 2018.

I keep sounding like a broken record here, but the best thing the Giants can do on moving forward on this side of the ball is to finally determine what they have in Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins, and Sterling Shepard. Orleans Darkwa is the team’s best back right now, but he’s not the future. Evan Engram is clearly a keeper. The offensive line is a mess. In their contract years, Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh were supposed take a step forward in 2017 but Richburg clearly hasn’t improved and is already on IR with a serious concussion. Pugh has missed time with injuries AGAIN. Bobby Hart has been a disaster. Ereck Flowers started off playing like crap but has settled down a bit. Are there ANY keepers on this line? Any at all? The Giants have spent three very high draft picks on this shit show! It is ridiculous.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Granted the Los Angeles Rams are one of the better offenses in football, but that was disgusting last week. The Rams had nine scoring drives. The Giants only forced two punts and did not accrue a sack or force a turnover. 3rd-and-33? Some may point to the missing players, but at least guys like Avery Moss were hustling out there. It will be very telling to see what kind of effort Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eli Apple, and Landon Collins put forward in the secondary. Same with Jason Pierre-Paul, who is looking more and more like another front office re-signing mistake (see John Jerry on the other side of the ball). Olivier Vernon should be back this week. What kind of effort do we get from him after missing more than a month?

It bears repeating. The Giants were the #2 scoring defense in the NFL last year. Most of the same players are still here. Same coaching staff too. Now they are 30th in yards and 29th in scoring defense. DRC and Jenkins each missed one game with a suspension but the secondary has been healthy. Except for Vernon, same story with the defensive line. Now five linebackers are on the injury list with three key ones not playing against the 49ers. The Giants were forced to sign Kelvin Sheppard and Deontae Skinner this week just to have enough bodies. What if the 24th-ranked 49ers offense – with quarterback C.J. Beathard at the helm – move the ball up and down the field on the Giants? Can this defense that came into the season with the goal of being the NFL’s best sink lower? Can anyone on this team cover a a tight end?

Moving forward, the Giants can build around Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson. Those interior positions are hard to fill. Janoris Jenkins is a very good player. Landon Collins should rebound. Fingers crossed there. Avery Moss has flashed. But then there are question marks with JPP, Vernon, DRC, B.J. Goodson, Apple, and others. It is looking more and more likely that the constant revolving door at linebacker will continue in 2018 as Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson are not long-term answers.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Tom Quinn’s unit is now a weekly disaster. Each game it is something new. Ironically, Quinn is one of the few remaining connections to the 2011 NFC Championship Game, where his special teams had a huge role in winning that game.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Eli Manning: “I think that sometimes I take for granted the type of guy he is and the way he prepares. I say things in press conferences where you have to hold all players accountable. He’s accomplished so many things in this league at a high level, but he still needs to be held accountable. The past is something that we all learn from and we all hold dearly in some instances, and some instances we don’t. I respect everything he’s done and accomplished in this league. But right now, we need to win and we need to play better and I don’t like to grade players in the media or in the public, but everyone needs to be held accountable and he’s going to be held accountable just like everybody else in this building that’s under my watch. Period. Does that mean I don’t have faith and confidence in him? Heck no. I’ve got a ton of faith, a ton of confidence in him. I always have. I always will. Do I say it enough to him? Probably not. I wasn’t raised in a warm and fuzzy environment, but I do have a lot of confidence in Eli and I have confidence that we’re going to right this ship and make a run.”

THE FINAL WORD
This is the game that may determine how significant the offseason house-cleaning will be.