Sep 232023
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 21, 2023)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports


-Daniel Jones: 22/32 – 137 yards / 0 TD – 2 INT / 64.2 RAT

Jones added 5 yards on the ground. This was a matchup nightmare on paper. The Niners ability to put “quick pressure” on the passer, the makeshift offensive line, and not having their two best offensive players on the field made the margin for error miniscule. Jones had to play perfect and everyone around him had to play bigger than the sum of their respective parts for this to be competitive. The game-plan was full of dinks and dunks and I estimate about 50% usage of the full playbook even being an option. There were not a lot of positives to take away from this game when it comes to Jones. The few times where the team needed a play (and he had things working around him), he did not come through. The 3rd-and-11 miss to Waller in the fourth quarter with the score at 23-12 was the standout negative. Waller does not escape his share of the blame (I will discuss this in the tight end analysis), but that is an easy throw that needs to be made 99 out of 100 times. We’ve heard and saw all summer just how big and long Waller is, how he towers above everyone else. Jones had that target wide open (NFL standards) for a first down and he air-mailed it above his outstretched hands.

The positives remain the same. He stood tall in the face of pressure in a situation that had ‘loss’ written all over it. He went through progressions, he did not abandon mechanics, and he was accurate on almost all throws. While I will not call him Joe Montana when it comes to ball placement, he threw strikes most of the night on the quick-release throws. For the second time in three weeks, he was fighting uphill in mud, nothing to gain traction on and slowly having the ground slip from underneath him. He is now 1-11 in primetime games and while that is more of a correlation between the quality of opponents + the poor state of the NYG roster than the time of day that present his struggles, it is hard to get past the notion he is not rising to a better version of himself in situations like this. Daniel Jones just….is.


-With Saquon Barkley out again with another lower body joint injury (the story of his career so far unfortunately), the NYG backfield barely moved the needle. Matt Breida did score the lone NYG touchdown of the night on an impressive, aggressive downhill run of 8 yards. He had just 4 total carries for 17 yards and 3 catches for 1 yard. Gary Brightwell added 5 yards on 4 carries and had the team’s biggest gain of the night (18 yards) on a dump-off pass, but also dropped a pass. His sample size was small, but his overall impact was positive economically, just like in previous games where he has contributed.


-Wan’Dale Robinson was back on the field for the first time since tearing his ACL 10 months ago. That is an impressive turnaround from the second-year gadget receiver from Kentucky. He had 4 catches for 21 yards while fellow slot receiver Parris Campbell led the team with 6 catches, netting just 24 yards. The limitations of the offense overall made them key focal points underneath because their skill sets can get them open in a hurry and both are supposed to be effective after the catch. They struggled to break tackles, though. Neither made an impact there, neither stepped up to make plays on their own, which was a vital ingredient to any potential success they were hoping to have.

-Darius Slayton appears to be the number one receiver on this team. He is the guy who has the most experience with Jones, he is the guy with the most contractual commitment to the team, and he is the only player who is being targeted more than 9 yards downfield on average (minimum 4 targets). He ended with 3 catches for 32 yards and had a couple of open looks deep that did not come to fruition because of poor blocking. He is playing hard and confident right now, and with his speed, that matters.

-I am disappointed we, A) barely saw Jalin Hyatt (16 out of 50 snaps) and B) he did not get a single target. I know we should temper expectations from the rookie receiver, as I even said myself last spring following the draft his impact in 2023 would likely be minimal. Even with that in mind, not one target? The one guy on this team (with Barkley out) who can strike fear into the defense? The guy who made two the biggest non-touchdown plays in their historic comeback last week? If he truly is more than just a vertical threat, then the argument that Jones simply not having enough time is not good enough for me. He should have been given at least two or three looks.


-Darren Waller led the team with 7 targets, but he caught just 3 of them for 20 yards. He added a drop that led to an interception. After a summer full of optimism and beat reporters salivating when discussing how much of a threat he appeared to be, three games in and I am down on what his upside can be here. Sure, the underneath threat and security blanket component to his game are there and it will be all season. But there is a significant difference in his movement from what I saw from 2019-2021. Jones misfired on two throws in his direction, they were more on the passer. However, Waller’s attempt at what I call “late movement,” a reaction-based attempt to the ball looked like it belonged to a 275-pound blocking tight end. No abrupt, explosive leap to go up and get it. No sudden change of direction to snare the ball that hit his hands. Effort is not the issue from what I see, just a simple lack of ability. Perhaps the hamstring is a tighter constraint than I initially thought. My true fear is the 31-year-old does not, and will not, have the special athletic traits that made him a household name and we are simply looking at an average underneath threat. Not a bad thing, but not what some believed it would be.

-Daniel Bellinger played 30 snaps and seems to be having trouble finding his role within this team. One of the biggest surprises from the 2023 Rookie Class has taken a back seat to Waller for obvious reasons. He had 1 catch for 8 yards. He has seen 2 passes thrown his way in 3 games. His value is a guy who splits a blocker/receiver role, but because of Waller’s presence he has been way more biased toward the former and he simply is not good enough there. He allowed a sack, a hold, and was flagged for a false start. This two tight end package has been one of the more subtle disappointments for the offense through three games.


-A few days ago, I warned everyone to temper the enthusiasm regarding former Tar Heels Joshua Ezeudu at left tackle and Markus McKethan at right guard. Performing well against Arizona did carry some weight, but the truth is that defensive line can make a case to be the worst in football. I wanted to see what the line, and these two in particular, would bring to the table against one of the best fronts in football. Just a solid game against them would go a long way. It did not turn out well. Ezeudu allowed 5 pressures and was flagged for a face-mask penalty. He was clearly overmatched when he faced off against Nick Bosa. They offered help a few times from Bellinger, but big picture, Ezeudu cannot compete against the best in the league. McKethan struggled even more. He was charged with 4 pressures and a sack in addition to a holding penalty. His size and length appear to be weapons that can win a lot of battles, but it is a complete hit or miss due to a lower half that does not have enough shiftiness to it. Growing pains are allowed and we will need to see if these guys can improve with consistent snaps week to week.

-Despite a couple of ugly losses to Javon Hargrave, I ended with a positive grade on rookie center John Michael Schmitz. He allowed one pressure was driven back badly on an outside zone run (again) that caused a TFL. Besides that, I thought he moved well to the second level, provided quality help in pass protection, and anchored well. From my perspective re-watching the game, there appeared to be minimal communication issues up front. I credit that to Schmitz. Execution has not been good, we know, but the assignments have seemed cleaner than I remember over the past two-three years.

-A lot of eyes are on Evan Neal, and rightfully so. The 2022 seventh overall pick has not been good through 18 games. He allowed a sack on the two-point conversion attempt and two pressures. The bar has been set low, but I do believe this was an overall positive performance compared to what Neal has been putting out there. While it is not good enough and I still want to see substantial improvement, I did not walk out of this game lowering his status even further. Hopefully he can use this as a springboard to better play, more consistently. After all, that is what this comes down to.

-Shane Lemieux got the start over Mark Glowinski, something I did not see coming. He allowed 3 pressures and a sack, and the disheartening note I have from the live game was: “Not even competitive.” No anchor, minimal range in the running game, and inability to recover when beat.


-Kayvon Thibodeaux was on the field for 72 snaps. He finished with 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 hurries. Overall, it was a game that lacked impact. He was flagged for a questionable illegal contact penalty which I did not mark against him, as I thought it was within five yards from the line of scrimmage. The issue was a lack of feel, lack of flow to the action, and slight hesitation. That and the obvious fact he is not winning one-on-one battles. I am not comparing him to Bosa by any means, but the difference I see in those two off the ball is completely night and day. Bosa has tunnel vision. Thibodeaux has hesitation. Does he play scared? Does he lack situational awareness? I see both. And no, I am not seeing improvement (at all) despite a couple positives in the traditional box score. I will say it again. He needs to play better, period.

-Jihad Ward, Oshane Ximines, and Boogie Basham were the other rotational edge defenders. None within the trio has stepped up with Azeez Ojulari out. Ward can set the edge against the run, but the next time he comes off a blocker to make a big stop will be the first. Basham has been unimpressive in action since the trade from BUF, as he looks like the JV version of Ward. And we know what Ximines is. He did add a pressure with 2 tackles. I think it is time we see Tomon Fox on the field.


-Dexter Lawrence had another Dexter Lawrence game, finishing with 7 tackles, 3 pressures, and a TFL. Leonard Williams came to play as well, at least more so than the previous two weeks, and finished with a half-sack, 6 tackles, and 2 QB hits. He was flagged for a roughing penalty that was correct when looking at the rulebook, but it is the one I just do not support. I am all about protecting quarterbacks but expecting a guy to fall a certain way while moving at full speed is a garbage way of making life impossible for defenders.

-D.J. Davidson got the look over rookie Jordon Riley again, and he showed why. On just 19 snaps (9 run / 10 pass) he finished with a half-sack, 2 pressures, and a pass break up at the line. He was injured on a dirty play by Jake Brendel, a play he should be fined for. Davidson was pushing the interior SF linemen around every time he got on the field. The injury to the elbow appeared to be fairly serious.

-A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches are, at least, playing physical and prideful. They are getting beat initially at the point-of-attack and they do not have the recovery quicks to make up for it. They are clearly frustrated because of the part they are playing in the defense getting beat up front against the run. Robinson did end up with 5 tackles and pursues the action with a lot of hustle. I am still holding onto hope the line can turn things around. The size, power, and effort are all there from all of the guys.


-Micah McFadden had a game. He led the team with 10 tackles, including 4 for a loss. He missed a tackle early on and I thought “here we go again”. But he made several tackles on plays away from the ball. He read the screen game exceptionally well and I guarantee other teams will be using his performance on film as “teach tape” throughout the season. He remains an easy target in the passing game but if he gets this kind of results downhill, they can deal with him being weak in backwards coverage.

-Bobby Okereke does not seem fully comfortable in the scheme. I say that because when he fills downhill hard, he is an absolute menace. But there still seems to be a lack of consistency to that part of his game and it is causing significant issues against the run. If I had to come up with a single catalyst to the issues the defense has there, it is him. He did finish with 9 tackles and 2 pressures (both untouched) but 3 missed tackles are way too many for a leader of the defense, the green dot.

-Isaiah Simmons saw a slight uptick in playing time, finishing with 4 tackles. His lack of feel for angles and blocking on a 3rd-and-13 conversion was an absolute killer. The speed and range are great assets but only valuable if he knows that to do. Very poor situational awareness by him on that play.


-Another rough night for the rookie corners. Deonte Banks suffered an arm injury and at the time of this writing, we do not have the MRI results. Tre Hawkins missed 2 (of his 3 on the night) tackles on the same play, something you could go an entire season never seeing. He got flagged for holding and allowed every target in his direction to be completed. He looked lost, unsure, and tight. He may not be the best fit for the number of snaps he is seeing and after three weeks (and as many penalties), it may be worth moving someone else into his starting spot.

-Adoree’ Jackson saw most of his snaps outside again, the spot I think he simply works best. He did allow a long touchdown pass to Deebo Samuel late in the game but I thought his coverage was solid most of the night. He broke up a pass over the middle on a great corner play.

-Darnay Holmes moved into the slot when Jackson went outside. He finished with two impact plays, a pass break up and a TFL on a screen, but he was also flagged for a hold on a third down stop. The issue we have seen since his rookie season continues to be his kryptonite and what simply makes him unreliable.


-Xavier McKinney and Jason Pinnock both played every snap again. They combined for 12 tackles and 3 missed tackles. They were targeted often, especially with SF tight end George Kittle. Pinnock made the biggest blunder of the night on the 3rd-and-14 conversion where they had everything lined up, he simply needed to make the tackle. He did not come close. He turned it up a bit in the second half with 2 pressures. McKinney seemed a bit lost. He was not anticipating routes and the precision of the SF passing game kept exposing it.


-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 44, 57). The 57-yarder ties his career-long with NYG.
-Jamie Gillan: 6 punts / 52.7 avg – 49.0 net


-LB Micah McFadden, DT Leonard Williams, K Graham Gano


-CB Tre Hawkins, OG Markus McKethan, S Xavier McKinney


1. The best coach in football is Kyle Shanahan. That’s where I stand with him, and I know I’m not alone. What he has done over the years despite such injury turmoil (especially at QB) is something most (if not all) coaches would crumble under. He is a magician and trend setter when it comes to finding ways to play efficient football. Early down passing, motion pre-snap, versatile personnel packaging, etc. The scheme itself is fun to watch no matter who they play. Since 2017, they have been the 10th, 4th, 6th, 1st, 3rd, and 9th most injured team in the league, respectively. They made the NFC Championship despite zero games with their QB1, RB1, TE1, WR1, WR2 all healthy at the same time last season. How many teams could pull that off? I don’t think any. Coaching made the difference.

2. SF had 196 yards after the catch in this game alone. The Giants total net yards were 150. The thing is, SF is always among the league’s best in yards after the catch. They’re also near the top in explosive run plays. How come? Scheme is one, but also the kind of players they go after. They’re all strong and powerful relative to their positions and maybe the most overlooked component to their success is how hard they block downfield for each other. It is such a difference maker.

3. SF is one of the two or three best teams in the NFC. How did they get there? You may be surprised to see their early draft results in recent years. Since John Lynch took over in 2017, here are their first-round picks: DT Solomon Thomas (#3), OT Mike McGlinchey (#9), DE Nick Bosa (#2), DT Javon Kinlaw (#14), QB Trey Lance (#3). To be blunt, that is a terrible looking list outside of Bosa (the highest paid defender in the NFL). Only Kinlaw remains on the team. How is Lynch considered one of the top GMs in football and what can NYG learn from it? If you go back to 2017 and start going through their day 2/3 picks, you’re going to be wowed. TE George Kittle, DT D.J. Jones, CB D.J. Reed, LB Fred Warner, LB Dre Greenlaw, WR Jauan Jennings, OT Colton McKivitz, RB Elijah Mitchell, S Talanoa Hufanga, QB Brock Purdy, OG Spencer Burford. These guys in combination with the aggressive trades for OT Trent Williams and RB Christian McCaffrey are the catalysts to this being such a well-balanced team. Keep this in mind in the coming years with the NYG regime led by Joe Schoen. Even when you miss in the first, the doors are open later on to build the nucleus. You must find the right guys there.


1. So let’s not beat the dead horses. Is Daniel Jones worth the money? Are the #5 and #7 picks from the 2022 draft going to step up? Save it for another time, I’m sure history will repeat itself. Let’s turn the attention to Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale. It is hard to fully diagnose what is going on, but the results are scary. 98 points allowed in 3 games (let’s take off 14 for the special teams + defensive TDs from week 1). So, 84 points allowed. Sixth worst in yards per play allowed. Last in turnovers. Fourth most in yards per pass allowed. 14th most yards per rush allowed. Second worst in pressure percentage. Sixth most missed tackles. Seventh worst on third down. The personnel was upgraded. There are 7 returning starters. And everything has gone backwards. Has the league figured out Martindale? It is something that needs to be considered.

2. I’m not a fan of the “must win” label some put on games unless is mathematically eliminates someone from contention. So, no, Week 4 against Seattle is not a must win. But getting a 3-day rest advantage over a 1-1 team that is flying from the West Coast is one of the easier set ups they have and not taking advantage of it would be such a major blow to the vibe of this team.

3. The one time NYG scored a touchdown came on a drive where they had the biggest gain of the day. A 22-yard pass interference call on a deep ball to Waller. Getting the ball more vertical like this creates so many more opportunities for the offense. You can get that cheap penalty, which when it comes to results end up being the same as a long completion. It puts things on tape and in memories of defenders that needs to be accounted for, opening space up underneath. And it can change the entire mojo of a team. NYG needs to find ways to push the ball downfield at least a handful of times week in, week out. They have the speed.

Sep 202023
Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York Giants (September 17, 2023)

Kayvon Thibodeaux – © USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants came as close to falling off the tight rope as one can get last Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. They may have regained their balance with one of the most memorable games in franchise history, but they are still clearly shaky with some strong wind gusts about to hit them in the face.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first. Perhaps the Giants were still reeling from their 40-0 drubbing by the Cowboys. Perhaps the frontline players are still trying to knock the rust off after having hardly played in the preseason. Perhaps the Giants simply are not that good. But getting dominated by the Joshua Dobbs-led Arizona Cardinals in the first half in a must-win game may have been the low point of my NYG fandom. And I’ve seen a lot of horrific moments in the past 40 years. I’ve never been more confused and disappointed as a fan as I was at halftime. How could this be happening? What is going on? To be honest, I still don’t know. And the fact that actually did happen is a huge red flag.

The good is obvious. 31 second half points. Not giving up at 20-0, or probably even more tellingly, at 28-7. Keeping their poise and executing when every single possession had to result in a long scoring drive. That is the type of game that can change the trajectory of an entire season. It was also another indication that maybe, just maybe, Daniel Jones is actually a pretty darn good quarterback.

There is just one “little” problem on the horizon. Having to play a West Coast road game on Thursday night is incredibly tough enough, but to have that team be the San Fransisco 49ers, the most physical team in football, is an almost impossible mountain to climb. Indeed, this couldn’t be a worse opponent for the Giants coming off an emotional win on a short week. Like the Cowboys and Eagles, the 49ers are another team that wins because they are exceptionally strong up front on both sides of the football. The Giants have proven over and over again they can’t compete with those types of teams. Not yet.

And after Thursday, it hardly gets any easier. Long story short, the Giants are going to have to pull off a major upset or two within the next month or they are going to be 1-5 heading into the October 22nd game against the Commanders. The next four opponents? 49ers, Seahawks, Dolphins, and Bills. That’s why 20-0 at halftime against the Cardinals is so alarming.


  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – out)
  • WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee – questionable)
  • LT Andrew Thomas (hamstring – out)
  • OG Ben Bredeson (concussion – out)
  • ILB Micah McFadden (neck – questionable)
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari (hamstring – out)

By all accounts, the Giants’ offense had its best training camp in years. That was backed up by the second day of practices against the Detroit Lions and the impressive first offensive series against the Panthers. Then came that absolute disaster against the Dallas Cowboys where the team could do nothing right and only generated 63 passing yards. “But that was the Cowboys, the Giants will get right against the Cardinals!” At halftime in Glendale, the Giants had five first downs and were scoreless for six straight quarters. It was an incomprehensible result given the offseason additions.

Whatever the reasons, the Giants dramatically came out of their mental slump after halftime. The team scored on every offensive possession, including drives of 75, 75, 80, 64, and 56 yards. Daniel Jones and his weapons were a machine. I’m not sure there has ever been such shocking turnaround over the span of eight quarters… historic, embarrassing ineptitude for six quarters immediately followed by near flawless execution.

Why? Obviously the players executed better. Look no further than the play of Daniel Jones. He was on a different level in the second half. The line also gave him more time and Saquon Barkley started to play like Saquon Barkley. But there was more to it than that too. Jalin Hyatt did something that he did all throughout training camp: he blew past both the corner and deep safety for a 58-yard catch that really probably should have been a 75-yard touchdown. That one play put the fear of God into Arizona’s defense. It changed everything. Up until that point, the Cardinals had not really respected the deep threats (even though they were lucky that Jones missed Darius Slayton deep in the first half). The offensive line also enabled Jones to take the shot to Hyatt. Had that been against Dallas, the play would have resulted in a sack.

The offense employed by Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka is all about spacing, both vertically and horizontally. The Hyatt deep shot put the horizontal back into play. Note how players were getting open far easier after that down-the-field completion. Arizona was also still being heavily influenced by the play fakes to Saquon Barkley. In my opinion, the Arizona game plan was to not let Barkley beat them. Jones reached a new level, his receivers now had room to operate, and Arizona paid the ultimate price. Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, game-winning field goal. It doesn’t get any better than that.

So the Giants got out their funk. Finally. They are ready to rock and roll now. Normally, I’d say yes and be very hopeful and excited. However, there are three big problems: (1) the offensive line is still unsettled given the injury situation to Andrew Thomas and now Ben Bredeson, (2) Saquon Barkley is going to be out at least one game, and most importantly (3) the San Fransisco 49er defense. The schedule makers did the Giants no favors with this one.

Yes, the New York offensive line performed surprisingly well with Joshua Ezeudu playing at left tackle and Marcus McKethan playing at right guard. But that was against an Arizona Cardinals defense that was missing two starters in the front seven. The 49ers are on a completely different level. This is a team that went into Pittsburgh and made the Steelers look soft, holding them to seven points. Josh Ezeudu, who has barely played at left tackle in the pros, now faces right end Nick Bosa, the defensive player of the year who had 18.5 sacks in 2022. Evan Neal, who is still having his issues in pass pro, will face Drake Jackson who already has three sacks this year. The interior defensive linemen – Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave – are two of the best two-way defensive tackles in football. Hargrave had 11 sacks with the Eagles in 2022. They are also deep at the position. Mark Glowinski will have to fill in for Bredeson.

It may start with the defensive line, but it doesn’t end there, aside from Bosa, the 49ers had two more All Pros on defense, linebacker Fred Warner and safety Talanoa Hufanga. Linebacker Dre Greenlaw is an underrated tackling machine. The secondary is solid at corner and very strong at safety. On paper, this is a complete mismatch against the team with the top rated defense in all of football in 2022 (both in terms of yards and points).

To win, the Giants will have to hit some big plays in the passing game. They won’t be able to run ball consistently against this defense, with possible exception of Daniel Jones, who will likely come out of this game pretty battered. They also need to prevent turnovers. The guy who needs to play more is Hyatt. He can help loosen up any defense. Whether the offensive line can give Jones the time he needs to get him the ball is a different matter entirely.

I’m a big fan of Wink Martindale. But I wrote before the opener, “The pressure is on Martindale to elevate New York’s 25th ranked defense that was also 27th against the run. To be blunt, the Giants had the worst defense in the NFC East. He knows how to do it. His defenses in Baltimore were always top notch in run defense. And Joe Schoen gave him a lot of new toys to play with.”

Last week, I wrote, “Wink Martindale and his defensive players are very fortunate that the media and fans are focusing almost exclusively on the Giants’ offensive woes this week. Because the defense laid an egg on Sunday night too. The yardage figures were subdued mainly because Dallas had fewer plays and offensive possessions than the Giants. Nevertheless, the defense allowed five scoring drives, including three rushing touchdowns. Dallas was 6-of-13 (46 percent) on third down and 1-of-2 on fourth down. The Giants had no sacks only hit the quarterback three times. They did not create a turnover.”

Well, with fans now at least temporarily mollified by the 31-point second-half against the Cardinals, Wink is very much in the spotlight this week. The Giants allowed five consecutive scoring drives against Arizona (it could have been six except for a missed field goal). The Giants are the only team in the NFL without a sack or turnover. Somewhat surprisingly, they are a respectable 15th overall in yards allowed, but the run defense is still bottom tier, allowing over 136 yards per game.

Want a key stat? The 49ers have the NFL’s #1 defense against the run in terms of yards per carry (3.4). The Giants are tied for 31st with 5.2. So we have a match-up where the league’s most innovative and third-most productive running team (173.5 yards per game) will face one of the NFL’s worst-rank run defenses for the past two years. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to see where this is going.

Fans will understandably focus on the glamor positions and talk about Cinderella story quarterback Brock Purdy, two-way threat Christian McCaffrey, one of the best tight ends in football in George Kittle, and dynamic receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk for good reason. Say what you want about Purdy, but the rest of those guys are studs. However, to me, the face of this offensive football team is left tackle Trent Williams, a mountain of a man who just obliterates his opponents. On paper, the rest of the line isn’t overly impressive, but they play well together as a unit and are very physical in the running game. They are also helped by the innovative running schemes employed by Shanahan.

The challenge with playing the 49ers is this: you have to stop the run. They won’t abandon it. At the same time, the 49ers have enough explosive weapons at running back, tight end, and wide receiver to make big plays in the passing game. It makes them very tough to defend.

The only shot the Giants have in this game is to do something they haven’t been able to do in years with multiple general managers, head coaches, and defensive coordinators, and that is stop a very good and very physical ground game. The Giants have good depth on the defensive line now. The Giants should play four defensive tackles much of the game up front and keep rotating them. Wink is also going to have to take chances with the young players in the secondary and allow them to sink or swim. Easy touchdowns could be the result. But it’s pick your poison and I don’t want to see the 49ers run for 250 yards against the Giants.

There are a number of players on this defensive roster who have been missing in action. Kayvon Thibodeaux has received the bulk of the criticism for understandable reasons. But there are others including Leonard Williams, Azeez Ojulari (who is hurt again), Bobby Okereke (who was THE big free agent acquisition in the offseason), and Rakeem Nunez-Roches (who was signed to stop the run). Someone has to get to the quarterback. Someone has to force and recover a fumble. Someone needs to make a pick. And based on last Sunday’s performance, everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to tackle. The 49ers saw the film. They have to be licking their chops.

I said I was going to keep score on Thomas McGaughey. While the Giants didn’t do anything special on special teams, they didn’t lose the game. Eric Gray made some nice plays fielding punts and Graham Gano kicked the game winner. Let’s be generous and tie Tom’s record up at 1-1.

Note that 49ers returner Ray-Ray McCloud has 13 career fumbles.

Brian Daboll on Kyle Shanahan: “He’s done this for a long time. He has a ton of experience. He has, I’d say, a number of plays that he’s run throughout his past and he’s always evolving. That’s what I appreciate about Kyle. He’s a heck of a football coach. He creates, I’d say, a lot of issues, whether that’s run force issues, whether that’s making plays look exactly the same and setting things up. He’s a timely play caller. He’s an excellent coach.”

Daboll on the Giants defense: “Run defense is really team defense. It’s controlling the line of scrimmage, it’s making sure we have good run fits and run support. It takes all 11 guys… I’d say we play a lot of fronts. Wink has pretty much every front you can have… Obviously, we want to create some negative plays, whether that’s negative run plays or pass plays. We got to do a good job of getting them to those pass situations, controlling first down so they can’t play the game on their terms.”

Fans will think I’m being too pessimistic about this contest, but I go with what I see. Based on last season and the first two games of this season, the 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFL. And much of that success is predicated on the play of their lines. That’s exactly the type of team that gives the Giants trouble. And on top of that, this is a Thursday night road game coming off an emotional win? C’mon.

If this were a normal Sunday game against a different team, I would like the Giants chances. Not in this one.

Sep 192023
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 17, 2023)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports


Daniel Jones: 26/37 – 321 yards / 2 TD – 1 INT / 103.5 RAT

Check this out. With 1:09 left in the 2nd quarter, Jones was 6/12 – 43 yards / 0 TD – 1 INT. Now go take another look at the final stat line. From that moment he went 20/25 – 278 yards / 2 TD – 0 INT. Jones also had 59 yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown. You want a real-life look at a quarterback who has put a team on his shoulders to lead the best comeback this franchise has had in the modern era? This was it. We have seen the toughness Jones exudes since his rookie year. We have seen him make big time throws in the second half to all three levels. We have seen him make plays with his legs that, maybe, five other starting quarterbacks in the NFL can make. But we have never seen it all together in one half throughout a three-score comeback. This goes in the top five list of Jones’ best performances. What was so different in the second half? Three things came to mind after the two re-watches.

One, his targets stopped dropping balls. More support from the surrounding cast, which he had very little of in the first six quarters of the season, will always open the door to better potential results. The Waller/Barkley drops in the first half especially were killers. Two, Jones looked much more decisive and brave in the pocket. He abandoned the play too soon three times in the first half rather than stepping up and keeping his eyes downfield. Once he had some momentum build upon the third quarter (the long Hyatt completion was so key for that), he maneuvered the pocket with more precision and/or opted to tuck and run north. His time-to-decision was evidently faster. Three, his accuracy and timing were near-perfect. The underneath-to-intermediate throws were on the money, properly setting up his targets to allow them to move upfield right away after the completion. Jones made over a handful of big-time throws, the kind of throws everyone in the media would be pointing out if it were Joe Burrow (0-2) or Justin Herbert (0-2). Jones had the look of a winner in this one. Whatever it takes, whatever the situation. A lot went against him, and he rose up and led this team to a huge win.


-Saquon Barkley: 17 att – 63 yards – 1 TD / 6 rec – 29 yards – 1 TD

Unfortunately, Barkley on the second to last play of the game got caught between a pile of linemen and a defender coming in from the side, trapping his foot underneath a lineman while being twisted in the other direction. He will miss time, possibly a month.

As for his performance in this game, he was Robin to Jones’ Batman. A duo who came up with the big plays in key moments, the plays you pay these guys to make. The 3rd-and-9 touchdown pass was execution by both at the highest level we see in the sport. That was Mahomes-Kelce caliber, a score that very few pass catchers could make in this league. Barkley’s performance did come with a few warts. For the second straight week, he dropped a ball he should have held onto that resulted in an interception. For the second straight week, I have multiple runs where he danced/stutter stepped in the backfield while a crease was there (or about to be there) for the taking. 2nd-and-1 he turns sideways/runs backwards. These things cannot happen, and more situational awareness and better vision are needed. I’ll touch more on his replacement while injured at the bottom.

-Matt Breida had one carry for 5 yards, the play before Graham Gano’s winning-field goal. Eric Gray deserves credit for a 14-yard punt return in the fourth quarter to start the NYG possession that ended up tying the game at 28 in the fourth quarter. Both will be in for big roles just two days from now.


-I discussed how much this offense needs to generate more explosive plays from the passing game. It is near-essential for the team to take the next step. Enter Darius Slayton and Jalin Hyatt. Slayton had 3 catches for 62 yards. His completions were 29, 18, and 15 yards. Hyatt had just 2 catches, both resulting in explosive plays (one for 58 yards, one for 31 yards) and were the two longest plays of the afternoon. Slayton also had a catch in the fourth quarter where he (barely) landed out of bounds that would have been an all-time highlight had the field been a few inches wider. Jones also underthrew him in the first half on a play where he had 2-3 steps on the corner. Hyatt is the key, here. A lot to be put on a third rounder but the way he moves and way he is tracking the ball and how fast he can easily get over the top can change how defenses work the short to intermediate routes. Hyatt looks ready for more.

-Isaiah Hodgins did not contribute much from a volume perspective, but he did come down with the game-tying touchdown on a brilliant catch that was very high-difficulty. I did charge him with a drop in the third quarter on a fade pass from Jones, but I will admit it could have gone either way. Regardless, Hodgins is going to benefit the most if teams have to start respecting the deep passing game.

-Parris Campbell added a drop and was flagged for a false start on a potentially controversial two-point conversion attempt, which valid arguments could be made both for and against. After the penalty, Daboll opted to simply go for the extra point to make it 28-21 rather than the conversion in an effort to make it 28-22. Maybe it was one of those good mistakes. Sterling Shepard had 1 catch for 4 yards. He played just 10 snaps.


-We saw some of the biggest value Waller brings to the table in the second half. He finished with 6 catches for 76 yards (5/64 were in quarters three-four). Four of those went for a first down, which led the team and tied for the league-high among tight ends in Week 2. Watching the All-22 angle and everything makes simple sense. More vertical pressure on the secondary because of Slayton + Hyatt combined with linebackers who cannot hang with Waller creates separation and space. He seems to already have a strong chemistry with Jones and I expect it to further improve in time. The two negatives were a first quarter drop (knocked out by a defender) and the fact he does seem to struggle with stride length. The hamstring/nerve issue is real, and it may inhibit some of what I thought he could offer as a seam pusher up the field.

-Uneventful game for Daniel Bellinger, who played under half the snaps as the team was very heavy on 11 personnel usage (3 WR). He had two losses as a blocker that were a result of poor initial footwork, but he did throw a key block on Barkley’s touchdown run as he lined up in the backfield.


-Here is a good sign. The days and hours leading up to the game, Joshua Ezeudu and Markus McKethan were the main talking points. With Andrew Thomas being declared out with a hamstring injury early on, Ezeudu was placed into the left tackle spot over Matt Peart. He played 508 snaps in college there, but none in the NFL and almost zero practice time. McKethan, who was Ezeudu’s teammate at North Carolina, missed all of 2022 (his rookie season) after tearing his ACL during a scrimmage in training camp last August and would be taking his first pro snaps for the benched Mark Glowinski. The best part? All that pre-game chatter about the changes and it was the last time we heard anything about them.

How did they play? Ezeudu was flagged for a false start prior to the first play and allowed a one-yard sack on the second drive that was not a bad beat. From there? Nearly flawless. McKethan allowed a half-sack and 2 pressures. He struggled with two separate blitz pickups and getting to the linebackers at the second level. But what impressed me was how he never abandoned techniques. This guy is very big and long for a guard. His 35.5” arms and 85.5”wingspan are top five in the history of the position. Seeing him long-arm guys (even with his feet in the wrong spot) got him a few extra wins. Excellent firsts for both former Tar Heels and I will touch on the OL more below.

-Center John Michael Schmitz was rock solid all game. I still see him losing too much ground on these aggressive outside zone runs but he isn’t getting beat and that is what’s most important. I also saw him make a couple instinctive moves that I only see a handful of centers make in the league. Combine that with the perfect grade in pass protection and two QB sneak successes, his grade was very good.

-Ben Bredeson took a nasty blow to the head and was quickly diagnosed with a concussion. He allowed a TFL before exiting. Mark Glowinski came off the bench to play left guard, a spot he hadn’t played since 2017 with Seattle. After allowing a TFL right away, he also provided above average play.

-Evan Neal did look better than he did in week one but was still the one guy with a negative grade up front. He allowed 2 pressures, was flagged for a hold (that wiped out a touchdown), a false start, and received a ton of help throughout the game. I did note how important that help would be for the offense, but I still can’t get behind him as a player yet. Remember, I was very high on him as a prospect, and I still believe he can be a good player. But taking my bias out, Neal still struggles in pass protection way too much.


-Kayvon Thibodeaux has a lot of eyes on him, rightfully so. He was the 5th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. He is 0-for-2 this season on hitting just the minimum standard for what is expected of him. He had 1 pressure which resulted in a QB hit and even that was on a stunt where ARI left him unblocked up the middle. I was also disappointed on the lack of backside pursuit on the ARI outside zone runs. Two blockers in front of him pulling to the opposite side and he did not react fast enough. Now, it is possible he was playing assignment football and I do not question his effort. Thibodeaux plays hard. He simply does not always have the quick and natural football sense against the run on complex running plays. The conclusion here is that he has been a no-show through two weeks to start off the year.

-Azeez Ojulari missed the game with a soft tissue injury again (hamstring). He has now missed 11 of his last 18 games and that does not include playing under 20% of the snaps in their two playoff games last year.

-Oshane Ximines was activated and had a QB hit and a half-TFL on a play he went unblocked. He had one tackle and a missed tackle. Boogie Basham played a very quiet 13 snaps. The depth looks poor, the starters look poor. Nothing is set in stone, but that is the cold hard truth with the first 10% of the season now in the rear view mirror.


-Another week of solid rotations. Another week of solid Dexter Lawrence play. Another week of overall underwhelming group performance. Lawrence did end up shining and came up big when the team needed him the most. 4 tackles, one TFL (two separate half-TFL plays), and 3 pressures. Just another day at the office for the All-Pro. His impact on stuffing the run, even the outside runs, has been near make or break. When he gets doubled and neutralized, bad things are likely to happen. When ARI tried to single-man him, his push shrunk the creases to near-nonexistent.

-Leonard Williams added 2 pressures but finished with no tackles. I expect more out of him, to be blunt. He is getting moved too easily in the running game and he has not been getting off blocks like he did last year. He needs to find his groove after playing just 12 snaps in preseason. Lawrence is doing his part, Williams needs to step up and do his. It will impact multiple facets of the defense.

-The trio of accessories all had stretches of solid play, but they’re all limited. Hence why they are backups, I suppose. A’Shawn Robinson finished with three tackles and a half-TFL. D.J .Davidson was active in place of Jordon Riley, which I like because these two will be competing for snaps all season and that will bring the best out them respectively. He added one tackle. Rakeem Nunez-Roches struggled to make any sort of impact besides giving Williams the occasional breather. He was overwhelmed by double teams on running plays. These three guys combined for 31 pass rush snaps, and they did not accrue a single pressure. On a team that is struggling to get to the passer, it is a bigger deal in my eyes than it admittedly probably should be. Somebody needs to step up there. And it’s not like they’re doing well against the run. They’re averaging 6th-most yards per carry allowed among the 28 teams that have played two games so far.


-Add Bobby Okereke to the list of guys who looked like completely different players in the second half than the first. Almost as if the real one showed up at halftime and put on the #58 jersey before they came back out of the tunnel. He finished with 8 tackles, one for a loss. Early on, Okereke was not filling his gap hard or fast enough. But when the team needed big stops, he rose to the occasion especially in the third quarter. On the flip side, he was flagged for a pass interference that called off an interception, he was flagged for a personal foul for hitting the quarterback’s helmet, and he abandoned his gap on the Dobbs rushing touchdown. Too many killer plays for one guy, the green dot guy. But he was a big factor in the second half and it took him off the dud list.

-Micah McFadden got on that list early as well but stayed on it, unfortunately. He had four missed tackles. One of them resulted in a touchdown, one of them would have been a take down for a short loss, and another one would have resulted in a major loss. We know what he is at this point. He is effective in traffic because he is quick, low to the ground, and powerful. He is not even half as good in space and/or while moving laterally. The missed tackles need to stop, it changes drives.

-Isaiah Simmons played 13 snaps, again as expected, nine of which he dropped into coverage. He finished with 2 tackles and a pressure on a scramble. The speed showed up and made a difference in two occasions. Do I expect him to play more? Not yet. Do I expect him to take over for McFadden? Absolutely not. That isn’t his position.


-Rookie Deonte Banks played all 64 snaps, a positive considering he left Week One early with cramps. He is a work in progress, which is stating the obvious. He flashes excellent sheer talent and ability. He is physical and his coverage is borderline too grabby. He was flagged for illegal contact for the second straight week. His biggest negatives came against the run. While it is not priority A or B for a corner, Banks needs to stop missing tackles (2) and losing track of his edge responsibilities. The game is too fast to make up for a bad initial read.

-Adoree’ Jackson also missed a tackle, playing every snap. He finished with 5 tackles and allowed 4 catches on 6 targets. Most of those passes were incredibly tough assignments on quick strikes but he did come up with two big pass breakups. He looks more comfortable in coverage, but as I said a few weeks ago, his lack of presence in tackling from nickel will be an issue this defense needs to cope with.

-Rookie Tre Hawkins was not involved much on his 40 snaps. He came up with an impressive deep ball pass break up where he stayed on top of the assignment and was inches away from the interception. He, too, missed a tackle and he also made a bad read on the Marquis Brown short touchdown catch. He looked hesitant and unsure, and like Banks, the game is too fast for that. He was taken off the field on their two-corner looks, where Jackson went back to the outside.


-Xavier McKinney played all 64 snaps and Jason Pinnock missed just one play while he had a contact lens replaced. The former had 7 tackles and a pass break up. He missed a tackle and was a flagged for a questionable personal foul in the first half. It was a solid game for a guy who may be the best blitzer on the team. Pinnock led the team with 10 tackles, but also missed 3. He plays so fast that at times it is too fast for his own good. I’ll take the fast mistakes though; you can live with those. He had an interception that was called back, he had 1.5 TFL, and easily looks like the fastest reactive player on the defense. This unit is not creating turnovers but if/when they do, the two safeties will be involved. I still think they miss Julian Love (off to a tough start in SEA), but the group overall is not even close to one of the concerns defensively.

-Bobby McCain and Dane Belton combined for just 8 snaps and made no impact.


K Graham Gano: 1/1 (made 34 and a long extra point)
P Jamie Gillan: 3 punts / 37.0 avg – 37.0 net


-QB Daniel Jones, OT Joshua Ezeudu, DT Dexter Lawrence


-LB Micah McFadden, ED Kayvon Thibodeux, OT Evan Neal


1. The talk surrounding ARI, for months, has centered around tanking for the 2024 NFL Draft. This franchise has their own pick (expected to be top 5) and the Texans pick (acquired in a draft-day trade, also expected to be top 5). That is realistically going to probably land them two top 5 picks. You can even set a solid market on them being two of the top three picks. They traded away a solid OL depth / starting guard in Josh Jones right before the season (again to HOU) and they traded Simmons to NYG. They cut DeAndre Hopkins. They traded for their starting quarterback in the final week of August. Who knows what they are doing with Kyler Murray? All of this in a year where the next big thing at quarterback is likely to declare for the 2024 Draft AND there is a generational wide receiver likely to be there as well. No, I do not think this team cares about the loss yesterday.

2. About 14 months ago, quarterback Kyler Murray signed a 5-year/$230 million extension with the club. $160 million guaranteed. Can they actually move on from this deal without crippling the team’s ability to spend? In short, yes. They could move him next offseason and absorb $46.2 million in dead money. Yes, a lot of money but we have seen worse. Atlanta recently did something in that tier with Matt Ryan. They could wait until after June 1 to trade him and absorb $13 million dead cap in 2023, $33.3 million in 2025. Considering what I know about General Manager Monti Ossenfort, I think they will make the move as soon as possible. The interesting debate is how much he plays in 2023. They may not want to fall into accidental wins (Murray can still take over a game backyard football style), but they do want to increase his value to QB-hungry teams that are ready to win. This will be incredibly interesting to follow.

3. Prior to 2023, here is the list of the first draft picks this team has made since 2014: TE Trey McBride, LB Zaven Collins, LB Isaiah Simmons, QB Kyler Murray, QB Josh Rosen (I was very wrong on him too), Haason Reddick, Robert Nkemdiche, D.J. Humphries, Deone Bucannon. There is more to a draft class than the first rounder, NYG fans know that. But that many misses in that short span of a time (including 5 picks in the front half of round 1) is the quickest way to getting fired. To be frank, I am surprised some guys in that front office have held onto their jobs for that long. But with some of the things I know about the management within that organization behind the scenes, I can’t say I am surprised. Not everyone in the NFL has a job because they truly deserve it. Previous ARI front offices (and even some coaches) are prime examples of that. Better days ahead.


1. The Saquon Barkley injury is, unfortunately, something we have grown somewhat used to over the years on a season-to-season basis. The multiple serious injuries (those that cause multiple consecutive games missed) suffered to the lower body are such a killer for a back who has a game built on shiftiness and burst. Instead of harping on him and running back contracts, the better discussion centers around how to replace the production. Nobody on this roster is replacing Barkley. But the Moneyball approach is where to go in discussion; how do they replace his yards and touchdowns? It needs to be a team effort, one that is so much more doable than the previous times this has happened because of better depth. Sure, Matt Breida and Eric Gray and Gary Brightwell will get the carries, but nobody needs to be the guy. Maybe Jones gets more designed (but safe) carries. Maybe we see more dump offs to Campbell and (eventually) Wan’Dale Robinson. Maybe Gray excels where Barkley struggles (vision, feel, decision making). Maybe they get more aggressive downhill burst from Breida/Brightwell. The options are plenty and it should not crush the offense.

2. Million dollar question. What is the ideal offensive line configuration now? Let’s discuss this from the perspective that Andrew Thomas is back, and Ben Bredeson is healthy. Both may be out Thursday, though. When they’re ready to go, I think they roll with Thomas-Ezeudu-Schmitz-McKethan-Neal for the time being. Glowinski and Bredeson off the bench are above average when considering depth around the league. Peart is the gameday swing tackle, but Ezeudu is the number one backup outside. I am not going down the path of replacing Neal with Ezeudu, it’s not even a thought. I am not considering Neal to guard, it’s not even a thought. The question I have is about Ezeudu. His snaps at guard have not been very good so far, but he was great at left tackle in his pro debut. As pleased as I was with his game, let’s not forget the Arizona group of pass rushers is a strong contender for worst in the NFL. We will have a clearer picture after the game Thursday night.

3. This defense just looks terrible. While they did step up in the second half, I am considering the entire game within my evaluation. They’re one of four teams that have played 2 games as of this writing that has not forced a turnover (Dallas has forced 7 and Philadelphia has forced 6). They are the ONLY team in the league without a single sack. They’re second to last in pressure rate. What is the solution? It seems Martindale is hesitant to blitz. His rate is middle of the league right now (after leading the NFL in 2022). The blitzes on pass plays resulted in 50% completion rate against ARI. Is he afraid of leaving the young corners on a true island play to play? Is he trying to play the game of deception when everyone plans for more blitzing? The front can’t get home with four pass rushers. The results can’t be too much worse than they are right now. I suggest Martindale go back to his roots and force things to happen.

4. A 38-7 loss against the Eagles in the Divisional Playoffs. A 40-0 loss to the Cowboys week one. A 20-0 deficit to one of the worst teams in the NFL after two quarters of football. That is a 10-quarter span where this team was being outscored 98-7. That is historically bad. Not just bad; historic. This brought back a memory that many have chosen to forget. In year one of the Ben McAdoo era, NYG went 11-5 and lost a closer playoff game to the Packers. Eli Manning threw for 4,000+ yards, Landon Collins and Damon Harrison both made the All-Pro Team, and Odell Beckham finished third in the NFL in both catches and yards. Things were looking better than they had in 5 years. Fast forward to the very next season (2017), NYG started off 0-5, 1-8, and 2-13. McAdoo was fired in early December. The results on the field here in 2023 were appearing like something we have seen. Building momentum under a new Head Coach just to see it fall off a cliff. But as I, and many others, have said, this regime is different. Simply, different. I hate the “must win” label a game has in Week 2, but I will say I think this win will have a spillover impact very much like Week 1 in Tennessee did last season when NYG went for 2 instead of tying it up with an extra point. But there is more to be done, more to prove. The Giants have played some of the worst football league wide in 6 of 8 quarters. And this coaching staff called consecutive timeouts in the 4th quarter (resulting in a penalty). The short week is a big test.

Sep 152023
Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants (September 10, 2023)

Dexter Lawrence – © USA TODAY Sports

All it took was 60 minutes of atrocious football to wipe out nearly most of the trust and goodwill created by Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll during the 2022 NFL season. Understandably, fans are now back to questioning everything. Why shouldn’t they? Twelve years of shoddy football and getting embarrassed by division rivals on national television will do that.

Too harsh? Too short-sighted? Have some patience?

Fuck off.

You had an entire offseason to prepare for the opening game, against an opponent that was one of your measuring sticks for progress. And the result was 40-0? It doesn’t get worse than that. In the entire 100-year history of the sport, there have been few more embarrassing results than that. The Dallas Cowboys were literally laughing at the Giants on the sidelines. Laughing.

The entire New York Giants franchise has a lot of work to do if they are going to regain any respect and trust.


  • WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee – doubtful)
  • TE Darren Waller (hamstring – probable)
  • LT Andrew Thomas (hamstring – questionable)
  • OT Matt Peart (elbow – probable)
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari (hamstring – doubtful)
  • LB Cam Brown (ankle – probable)
  • CB Deonte Banks (calf – probable)
  • CB Cor’Dale Flott (hamstring – probable)
  • S Gervarrius Owens (hamstring – probable)
  • PK Graham Gano (ankle – probable)

In the entire offseason, the Giants made ONE significant addition to the offensive line, the drafting of John Michael Schmitz in the second round. The Giants did not draft another offensive lineman; they didn’t even sign an undrafted offensive lineman. In free agency, the team signed reserve centers J. C. Hassenauer (who is on IR) and Sean Harlow (who is on Dallas’ practice squad). The argument was made they were going to develop the young players they had here. Thus far, that plan has failed miserably. The unit that was considered the weak spot of the entire team just played one of the worst games at the position in franchise history, which is saying something given some of the offensive lines this team has fielded in the past century.

I would argue the final score wasn’t the worst thing that happened on Sunday night. It was the play of Evan Neal. If Neal wasn’t the seventh overall player taken in the draft, he would probably be benched by now. Is it a lack of agility, confidence, technique? The fact that he missed two critical weeks of training camp with a concussion? Who knows? We can only go by what we see and that ain’t pretty. So far, the “sure thing” offensive tackle in the 2022 NFL draft has been a bust. From this game on, he’s fighting to remain in the NFL.

Some legitimate excuses can be made for Neal. Only one can be made for Mark Glowinksi’s atrocious performance. Glowinski was signed in free agency last year not to be a stud, but simply to be a steadying, veteran presence at right guard. In 2022, he was a bit too up and down, not living up to his 3-year, $18 million contract as the first free agent Joe Schoen signed. On Sunday night, he was an utter disaster, playing his worst game in his solid nine-year career. What is going on? I have no idea. It’s not his age. Glowinksi is 31 years old.

The only excuse for all of these guys is just how little they played together in the summer. I think the Giants made a mistake not settling on their starting unit much earlier in camp. I also think they made a mistake not playing them more in the preseason. Let’s hope that is the case because the alternative theories are far worse to contemplate.

OK, this is the offensive preview and I’m on paragraph five and still talking about the offensive line. We all know why. If the offensive line can’t block, nothing else matters. The Giants spent much of their resources this offseason re-signing Daniel Jones and upgrading the weapons around him. The opening night result? 14 first downs. 173 total yards. 63 net passing yards. Again, 63 net passing yards.

Who is playing quarterback and who he is throwing to doesn’t matter a lick if the offensive line can’t pass block for more than one second. It just doesn’t. You can only game plan so much. Talent and execution will win the day.

Offensive Line Coach Bobby Johnson has said over and over that who plays and who doesn’t is based player performance. He repeated that line a few times this offseason. “The players make the choice for us.” It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens here if the right side of the offensive line doesn’t dramatically improve. At the same time, the injury to Andrew Thomas certainly complicates matters.

The Cardinals are not to be taken lightly on the defensive side of the football. On opening day, their defensive gave the Washington Commanders fits with six sacks, six tackles for losses, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries (including one for a defensive touchdown), and one interception. Their head coach, Jonathan Gannon, was the defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles last year. He knows how to play the Giants.

Wink Martindale and his defensive players are very fortunate that the media and fans are focusing almost exclusively on the Giants’ offensive woes this week. Because the defense laid an egg on Sunday night too. The yardage figures were subdued mainly because Dallas had fewer plays and offensive possessions than the Giants. Nevertheless, the defense allowed five scoring drives, including three rushing touchdowns. Dallas was 6-of-13 (46 percent) on third down and 1-of-2 on fourth down. The Giants had no sacks only hit the quarterback three times. They did not create a turnover.

Being down 16-0 in the first quarter had to take an emotional toll, but good defenses have to rise up. If your opponent makes a play on special teams or on defense, you need to respond in kind. Easier said than done? Sure, but that’s what good defenses do. Where was Bobby Okereke, Azeez Ojulari, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Leonard Williams, etc.? Make a play.

The Cardinals are not good on offense. Career back-up Joshua Dobbs is the starting quarterback. He’s started three games in the NFL, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Against the Commanders, he did complete 21-of-30 passes, but for only 132 yards and no touchdowns. He was also sacked three times and fumbled three times (losing two). Arizona running backs rushed for 58 yards (receivers had more success on three carries).

In a game where the New York offense may struggle again, the Giants defense needs to dominate this game. Create turnovers and opportunities for the offense. No excuses. At least perform as well as Washington’s defense did in holding Arizona to 210 yards of offense.

At this point, Thomas McGaughey should be coaching for his job. The blocked field goal opened the flood gates and got the Giants’ best offensive player hurt. Graham Gano, the team’s best special teams player, also got his ankle rolled.

It’s time to keep score. McGaughey is 0-1 in 2023. And his press conference with the media on Thursday suggests he knows he’s on the spot.

I’m simply going to use the same quote I used last week, as it is even more appropriate this week.

Joe Schoen on the 2023 season: “We haven’t played a game yet. So, we’ll see. Again, we’re going to continue to prepare for Dallas and get ready for the season. I think I said it last year at the same press conference: it takes a few weeks into the regular season to figure out who the team is, how we’re going to react when adversity strikes, and how we’re going to handle if there’s success, or if you’re down at halftime.

“I think that showed last year against Tennessee in the second half. I didn’t know how the team was going to react coming out of halftime or if you’re playing Green Bay in London and you’re down in the second quarter, 17-3. We still have a lot to learn about this team. We’ll see when it comes to Sunday against the Cowboys, how they’re going to come together as a team and gel and how they’re going to react in those situations.”

I’ll be honest with you. I never saw 40-0 coming. I doubt Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll did either. As scary it is to think that Dallas may simply be that good, it’s even scarier to think that the Giants may be that bad. I don’t think they are, but if the offensive line does not dramatically improve, the rest of the offense and defense won’t matter. And special teams now is 0-1 with a significant role in the first loss. The Giants absolutely must end this weekend at 1-1 heading into Thursday night’s game against heavily-favored and likely-to-win San Fransisco.

The season could very much be on the line. In week two. Sad, but it is what it is.

Sep 122023
New York Giants (September 10, 2023)

© USA TODAY Sports


Daniel Jones: 15/28 – 104 yards / 0 TD – 2 INT / 32.4 RAT

Jones also ran the ball 13 times and gained 43 yards on the ground. He fumbled twice, neither of which were recovered by DAL. It was a night to forget for too many reasons to count. Part of the expectation after signing the 4 year / $160 Million contract this offseason includes him playing better and creating more with what he is given. Jones was under pressure the entire night, he dealt with poor snaps in the shotgun that threw off timing and ball security, and it was wet. Add that to the fact he played against one of the top defenses in football and it all adds up to facing a wall. How did Jones respond to that wall? Did he scale it? Did he at least put a dent in it? No, he did not. The first interception was not on him, as Saquon Barkley should have held on to that ball. The second interception? The near-third? All on Jones and the play where he was running out of bounds and threw it back into traffic where more DAL defenders than NYG targets were, on first down, was about as bad as it gets. We saw Bryce Young and CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson make those mistakes in their rookie debuts. Jones, a fifth year-veteran and $40 million quarterback absolutely cannot make that mistake.

A shutout cannot be solely placed on Jones’ shoulders. There are multiple components that led to one of the worst Week 1 losses the NFL has ever seen. But 0 points? Missed throws? Bad decisions? The same bad decisions he needs to be past by now? There are lot of people in this organization that need to look themselves in the mirror. Jones is, without question, one of them. Poor performance and not halfway up to par for a $40 million QB.


Saquon Barkley: 12 att – 51 yards / 3 rec – 12 yards

Barkley was charged with a drop (that turned into a Jones interception / pick six for the defense). It could have been charged a fumble. Either way, a major blow to the offense and team overall as it put seven points on the board for Dallas. Beyond that, Barkley looked solid early on pushing piles and putting his shoulder down. The issue I have is what he left on the field. I watched the game from the end zone and he had three different runs where the cutback lane was there, and he did not take it. The best-vision backs can anticipate those lanes, the good-vision backs can react to those lanes. The poor-vision backs never see it. Barkley went 0-for-3 there.

-Matt Breida added 9 yards on 2 carries and Gary Brightwell saw time late when things were out of hand, gaining 5 yards on his lone carry.


-It was a tough game to evaluate the wide receiver play between the weather and the time available in the passing game. Most of the Jones drop backs did not even allow the receivers to get into their routes. Darius Slayton had 3 rec / 15 yards, Paris Campbell had one catch for 2 yards and a drop, and Isaiah Hodgins had 1 catch for 24 yards that resulted in a lost fumble. Those were the receivers who played the most. As much as we discuss better targets in the arsenal for Jones and the offense, it still looks like an underwhelming group, does it not?

-Jalin Hyatt had one target in his debut, a poor throw by Jones but it should have been brought in by the rookie. He dropped a ball that hit both his hands and that was the last we saw of him. The league is already fearful of the speed. DAL corner Trevon Diggs was providing a lot of space underneath on routes when he was on Hyatt to protect from getting beat over the top. Unfortunately, Hyatt’s true impact will only be felt when the line does its job.


-Darren Waller: 3 rec – 36 yards

-Waller led the team in yards and targets, playing just over half the snaps. He was on a pitch count because of an aggravated hamstring, something to monitor. This is not the first time. He made two nice hand-grabs on balls away from his body. On the opening drive, Waller was going to be targeted on the 3rd-and-2 false start by Andrew Thomas. It was set up well for an easy touchdown. They are doing a lot to get him open underneath and over the middle. The few times he lined up with his hand in the dirt and was asked to block did not go well. He was the reason NYG failed a 3rd-and-2 conversion attempt on a Jones outside run. That isn’t why he is here, but for this offense to remain efficient with two tight ends on the field in the running game, he needs to show more there.

-Daniel Bellinger played almost two-thirds of the team’s offensive snaps, most on the team for the position. He did not receive a single target and graded poorly as a blocker. He allowed a sack to Demarcus Lawrence on a play where he was tossed to the ground as if he were a 180-pound receiver, a complete non-factor. There was talk about his strength gains among many in the media because they saw a picture with his shirt sleeve rolled up and his bicep looked big. It does not work that way. Bellinger’s power in the trenches was a problem. He did not look effective in that role at all.

-Lawrence Cager got a few snaps toward the end of the game and brought in 2 catches for 17 yards.


-Tough to figure out where to start. The newly signed Andrew Thomas pulled his hamstring early (on the blocked field goal) and gutted out 53 snaps the rest of the game. He was clearly playing through a lot of pain and at the time of this writing, we are waiting on MRI results. Regarding the game itself, Thomas was not the reliable force that he was in 2022. The 3rd-and-2 false start was one of the biggest plays of the night. He was also flagged for hold that got declined and he allowed 3 pressures, one of which caused a sack, and a half-TFL. I applaud and respect the effort, but the performance itself was not up to par. Unfortunately, 65% of Thomas is better than 100% of anyone else they can put in at left tackle.

-Ben Bredeson and rookie John Michael Schmitz both played all 70 snaps, and both graded out well below average. Bredeson allowed a pressure and a TFL. He was also flagged for a holding penalty. While he is the top left guard on this team, he has too many snaps where he looks like he is better suited for the interior backup role. The lack of bend and adjustment speed are issues against a fast defense like this. He looks the part in the running game, and he gets movement off the ball, but I am concerned about any potential progress he can make as a pass blocker. Schmitz is a step behind the power component to pro tackles. He wound up getting pushed back 3-4 yards on plays he needed to get lateral. It completely threw off the vital timing variables to the outside zone NYG likes to use. He, too, was better in the power game going downhill.

-Now, we move on the right side. The combination of Mark Glowinski and Evan Neal in this game was the worst one-side performances I have seen, possibly ever, in my personal history of watching the Giants. Glowinski allowed 3 sacks (and had another called off by a penalty) and 4 pressures. The 31-year old was signed last year to give the team a solid, yet unspectacular, veteran presence who at least had a high floor. There is a hole in the floor. His knee bend was not there, and he is not a very big, powerful guy. He can’t afford to play with poor bend. Another game like that and he should be put on the bench. Absolutely atrocious game and clearly unacceptable.

-As for Evan Neal. I’ve been vocal about him being the most important player on offense not named Daniel Jones. NYG was dead last in the league in explosive passing plays in 2022. Chicago was better. Houston was better. Improved pieces are in place but if Evan Neal cannot be trusted to maintain pass protection for 3 seconds, maybe even 4, they will be near or at the bottom again. Week 1 was a nightmare result of the biggest variable in this discussion. 5 pressures, 2 sacks, and 1 TFL for the 7th overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. No injuries to lean on for an excuse. No new positions. No new schemes. No new coaching. Just bad football by a player who will run out of excuses by November if he keeps this up. Don’t ask about a move to guard right now. The question is how long he can hold on to a starting role if he does not improve. Year 2, you’re on notice.

-We saw backups Matt Peart and Joshua Ezeudu get on the field late. Peart played 4 snaps before getting injured and Ezeudu saw 14 snaps at left tackle, a position he played in college. Ezeudu’s biggest gaffe was the missed block that led to the blocked field goal. The ONE thing you cannot do as the outside blocker is allow an untouched defender go through inside. That’s exactly what he did, and the result was, well you know.


-Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari combined for 74 snaps, 36 of which were rushing the passer. There was not one pressure accrued from them. Thibodeaux added 4 tackles and played some solid run defense, but Ojulari did not factor there. The concern I have with the 5th overall pick from the 2022 NFL Draft, Thibodeaux, is the lack of power in his game. I discussed this during training camp last summer, I brought it up again during the season, and it is still worry number one. His anchor and sheer strength are a notch below average. You have almost no chance at being a big-time pass rusher without a power element to your game. Look around the league and you will see what I mean.

-Newly acquired Boogie Basham saw most of his snaps late in the game. He, too, did not apply any pressure and added just one tackle. He and Jihad Ward, the one edge defender who did get a pressure (literally one), are the same player. Stout and strong, but slow and limited.


-Dexter Lawrence began his year where he left off in January. The best player on this defense was a bright spot, finishing with 4 tackles and 4 pressures, 2 of which were QB hits. Leonard Williams added a pressure and 2 tackles. Something to keep an eye on is the snap share. Lawrence played 64% of the snaps, Williams 55%. While this game is not the best gauge for what to expect, I do foresee this being closer to the norm than what we saw in 2022 where they were playing 80-90% of the snaps week in, week out.

-The rotational pieces all showed what they can do, albeit lacking some consistency against the run. Jordon Riley had a TFL on an impressive play usually reserved for Lawrence. I continue to be impressed with his play at his size. Veterans Rakeem Nunez-Roches and A’Shawn Robinson both gathered 3 tackles. Robinson looked rustier than anything after not playing a single snap in preseason. Although it is hard to be optimistic about anything right now, the Giants defensive front can still be viewed as a strong unit, and they showed enough against DAL.


-During preseason, I discussed how big of a difference I felt Bobby Okereke can make for the Martindale scheme. While he was not close to the biggest issue in this loss, like what I said about expectations that are now on Daniel Jones because of the contract, a similar argument can be made about Okereke. He found himself on the wrong side of the blocks way too often. He had 5 tackles, and he did force a fumble on a downfield play (recovered by DAL), but re-watching the tape showed late movement and awareness. We can chalk it up to a new scheme and new surroundings, but he cannot have many more performances like that.

-Micah McFadden, on the other hand, came to play. He had 10 tackles, the team lead, one of which went for a loss and one coming on special teams. The inside linebacker spot next to Okereke has been a topic of discussion and McFadden tightened his choke hold on it.

-Potential difference maker Isaiah Simmons played exactly the amount I have projected he would. I said 15-20 snaps per game, he played 15 snaps. He rushed the passer on 6, he dropped into coverage on 5, and defended the run on 4. He finished with 1 tackle and looked good in coverage. He covers a ton of ground in a hurry.


-For the first time since 2008, a team opened week one with two rookies starting at outside corner. How did Deonte Banks and Tre Hawkins fare in their debuts? They were the two players on the defense that were flagged. Hawkins twice, one of which was a pass interference on a 3rd-and-12 stop that resulted in a 37-yard gain for the Dallas offense. He did finish with 7 tackles and showed a physical brand, which will be a difference maker, but his coverage looked grabby and unsure. Banks looked crisper and more confident with his technique and ability to read routes, but left the game early with cramps.

-Adoree’ Jackson’s debut as a starting nickel had mixed results. He was the biggest culprit on the longest play of the game, a 49-yard gain on a play where Jackson did not feel the unofficial pick coming and ended on the ground in man coverage against the Cowboys best receiver, a place you never want to be. Jackson’s ability is a solid, not great, fit for nickel. However, there are elements you have to deal with, such as traffic like he saw on that play, that he does not have a ton of experience with.

-Nick McCloud saw some action after Banks went down and Darnay Holmes played just 4 snaps. Neither made anything notable happen.


-Another bright spot can be the play of Xavier McKinney. He was on the field for all 58 snaps with 4 tackles and 2 pass breakups. He also showed some very smart play with chips on receivers that were crossing his face while he was moving downhill. I don’t see that often when watching safeties. It stems from incredible on-field IQ and fast reaction times. Jason Pinnock also played all 58 snaps, finishing with 5 tackles and a missed tackle.

-Dane Belton was the only other safety to play, and he was on the field for just 6 plays. He lost the edge on Tony Pollard’s second touchdown creating a walk-in.


-K Graham Gano: 0/1 (Missed 36)
-P Jamie Gillan: 3 Punts / 53.3 avg – 47.7 net


-S Xavier McKinney, LB Micah McFadden, DT Dexter Lawrence


-OG Mark Glowinski, OT Evan Neal, OLB Azeez Ojulari


1. What made this Dallas defense so dominant? It is never one answer, it is never one player. But if you want the start of something that is too long-winded to write here, here you go. The speed and power of their front seven with Micah Parsons looking like he is on a different level than a year ago (which is potentially very bad news) is where I start. They did not do anything overly complex up front. Some stunts and twists, some blitzing, some alignment changes for #11. But it was not anything extreme, it was something we see often across multiple defenses. They simply beat NYG blockers to spots over and over. And the few times those blockers engaged resulted in physical beat downs. Tough to compete with a defense that is both faster and stronger than you, plain and simple.

2. Part of my reason for my Dallas skepticism has centered around how reliant their defense and team overall has been on the turnover margin. They are +25 over the past two seasons. The second highest league wide? +15. Fifth highest? +9. A three-year run at this pace of 10+ per year would be historic. One game in, they’re +4. If they are indeed this level of elite, my 8-9 projection will likely be one of my biggest misses. And I hate to say it, but their speed and the fact they have the game’s top defensive player opens the door to that turnover number.

3. Where is the Achilles’ heel on this offense? We know the defense will be very good. In the NFC, the door is open to the point if you are dominant in one element, you can be merely average in the other and you’re in the postseason. Dak Prescott is what he is (and that is good enough). CeeDee Lamb now has a credible number two in Brandin Cooks. Tony Pollard is a potential star. I see the offensive line and Mike McCarthy holding the keys. Tyron Smith is still good, but he missed 15 games in 2020, 6 in 2021, and 16 in 2022. Their depth is an unknown. With Kellen Moore in Los Angeles now, McCarthy needs to prove he can avoid silly game management mistakes and not run Pollard into the ground, a guy who has never been an every down player.


1. My yearly reminder: Week 1 does not matter as much as you think it does. I would say the same thing if the Giants were on the opposite side of this debacle. The objective value of a week one loss is the same as a week 18 loss that prevents a team from making the playoffs, yes. But to change the perceived trajectory of a team based on one game, especially so early in the year, is foolish. Cincinnati isn’t doing it. Kansas City isn’t doing it. Different tiers of teams, I know. But the point remains that this 40-point loss counts the same as an overtime loss. I would rather see this week one than in week eight. Plus, I think this opens the door to learning what this entire roster and coaching staff have under the hood deep inside when they take the field in Arizona next week.

2. We can sit here and talk badly about the players, deservedly so. They got trounced all three phases from start to finish in embarrassing fashion. They will need to acknowledge and own it until they are on the field against the Cardinals. But what about the coaching staff? I am always hesitant to point the finger at coaching unless I know the facts of what is going on inside the building. Even with that, it is hard to walk away from this without putting at least some of the blame on the coaches. Daboll, Kafka, Martindale, McGaughey were disassembled on national TV. They were THE difference last year. But this is the NFL and innovation only lasts so long. Dallas had the response and speed ready for the bootlegs. They knew how to keep Prescott clean blitz or no blitz, and they simply had their players ready. Coaches, step it up. Success last year means absolutely nothing. Your last two games were against division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas. The combined score was 78-7.

3. The biggest issue, once again, is the offensive line. Captain Obvious. Do you make a move right away? What is the move? The answer partially resides in the Andrew Thomas MRI report. If he is out, are they relying on Matt Peart? Is he even healthy? What is plan C? Joshua Ezeudu? What if he needs to step in at right guard for Glowinski? The constants appear to be Neal at RT (you are not moving him this year), Schmitz at OC, and Bredeson at LG. If a move is coming, it will be Bredeson to RG and Ezeudu inserted into left guard after an underwhelming preseason. But as I said above, we will find an objective answer what is inside these players and I want Glowinski to be a part of that. No knee jerk reactions from me. I want the same five out there (pending the Thomas injury) to see what these guys are all about. They play the San Francisco front in 10 days, too.

Sep 082023
Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York Giants (September 26, 2022)

Kayvon Thibodeaux – © USA TODAY Sports

There are a number of different and somewhat competing storylines to this game, and to be honest, to this season. Last season, the New York Giants shocked everyone by finishing the regular-season 9-7-1. At the same time, they somewhat predictably finished 1-4-1 in the NFC East. Even the Washington Commanders did something the Giants could not do, that is, beat the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.

Everyone knows the deal. The Eagles and Cowboys have absolutely owned the Giants for the past decade. It’s beyond embarrassing at this point. And it’s the primary reason that most pundits don’t expect the Giants to be serious contenders in 2023. Teams that don’t have a winning record in their own division have a hard time competing for a playoff spot. If you go back through my game previews for the past 10 years, they probably pretty much say the same thing. To be honest, I’m bored and tired of writing about it.


On paper, the 2023 New York Giants are a vastly different team than the superbly-coached, talent-starved, injury-riddled, over-achieving squad of 2022. And not many pundits seem to be grasping that reality. Yes, every team experiences change each and every season in today’s NFL. But the year-over-year changes are startling for a team that won a playoff game in January. In Week 3, the Cooper Rush led Cowboys embarrassingly defeated the Giants at MetLife 23-16. On offense that day, aside from Sterling Shepard (who tore his ACL in the game), the other starting receivers were David Sills and Richie James. Rookie Daniel Bellinger was the starting tight end. Two months later on Thanksgiving, in the second game that Dallas also won (28-20), Lawrence Cager was starting at tight end with Bellinger out with an eye injury. The offensive line was also a mess with Tyre Phillips starting at right tackle, 4th-string Jack Anderson starting at left guard, starting center Jon Feliciano out, and Andrew Thomas playing sick and with a bad foot.

Fast forward to Week 1 of this season, on opening night, Daniel Jones will now be surrounded by Saquon Barkley, Darren Waller, Daniel Bellinger, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Darius Slayton, Jalin Hyatt, and Sterling Shepard at the skill positions. Aside from the obvious qualitative and quantitative upgrade in overall talent, the one noticeable factor is the offensive team is much faster.

The changes on defense are even more obvious. Injuries ravaged all three levels of a defensive team that already had talent issues. In Week 3, Leonard Williams was out. Both Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee) and Azeez Ojulari (calf) were playing hurt. Justin Ellis and Nick Williams started on the defensive line. Austin Calitro and Tae Crowder were the inside linebackers. Starting corner Aaron Robinson was out with an appendicitis and Cor’Dale Flott started outside. On Thanksgiving, both starting cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson and Fabian Moreau were out, as was safety Xavier McKinney. Jaylon Smith started at inside linebacker, with Oshane Ximines playing outside. Flott started again outside along with Nick McCloud.

Fast forward to Sunday night. Finally, Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, Adoree’ Jackson, and Xavier McKinney will all be on the field together healthy. More than that, they will now be joined by A’Shawn Robinson, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Bobby Okereke, Isaiah Simmons, Deonte Banks, Tre Hawkins, and emerging Jason Pinnock and Daniel Belton. Quality, quantity, and speed.

But here’s the crux…

While there is a core of returning building blocks, this team has vastly changed. And on paper, it has done so for the better. But there are so many new and important component parts that we don’t know they will react TOGETHER under the crucible of NFC East warfare. The Cowboys know who they are. The Giants don’t. And since the starters rarely played in the preseason, we simply don’t know what the final product will look like. And how it looks in September will likely be much different than what it looks like in November and December as the new component parts cohesively come together. This is a very young football team (second youngest in the NFL according to Joe Schoen). And we must remember they are still trying to catch up with the Cowboys and Eagles.

If you’ve noticed, Joe Schoen, Brian Daboll, and the coordinators have talked about how this is a new season and the past doesn’t matter. I think this is more than coach speak. There is quiet confidence about the 2023 New York Giants. But there is also the fear of the great unknown. We’re all about to discover what this team is made of.


  • RB Gary Brightwell (knee – probable)
  • TE Darren Waller (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee – doubtful)
  • TE Lawrence Cager (ankle – probable)
  • DL D.J. Davidson (knee – questionable)
  • LB Cam Brown (ankle – questionable)
  • CB Cor’Dale Flott (hamstring – doubtful)
  • S Gervarrius Owens (hamstring – doubtful)

There are so many storylines here… too many to adequately elaborate on without frightening the reader away due to article length. But here are some of my more pressing thoughts:

  • Daniel Jones seems like a different guy this offseason. Confident and sure of himself. He’s in the second year of this offense, a rarity for him. He has the faith of a franchise that gave him $160 million in the offseason. He is surrounded with the most talented team he has had in his life, most notably the ultimate security blanket in Darren Waller. While he dramatically cut down on turnovers in 2022 and became a serious threat as a rusher, Jones must start making more plays down the field and throwing more touchdown passes.
  • It is undeniable that the quality and quantity of receiving weapons has dramatically improved since last season. Darren Waller is one of the top tight ends in football. Daniel Bellinger will be even better than his surprising rookie season. Along with Waller, Parris Campbell and Jalin Hyatt significantly make this a faster team. They can go the distance anytime they touch the football. So can Saquon Barkley and Darius Slayton. This is a big deal for a team that was dead last in passing plays 20 yards or over with just 28. However, we as fans don’t know how this will all flesh out. “I’d say each week’s going to get a little bit different,” said Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka. “This week’s kind of in that same boat, kind of mix in our guys and make sure we’re giving them the stuff that they’re good at and then we’ll try to maximize on their strengths as much as we possibly can.”
  • While the obvious choice for the biggest beneficiary of this talent upgrade is Daniel Jones, a close second has to be Saquon Barkley, who has been somewhat of the forgotten man this summer. Indeed, much respect for Saquon for being the team player and not raising a big stink this summer by avoiding the holdout and keeping his head down and just doing his job. That’s what you want in a player and teammate. That all said, Saquon must have a burning passion inside of him right now. He feels disrespected. Combine that desire with the inability of teams now to focus completely on stopping Barkley as a runner and receiver. They now have to contend with Waller, Campbell, Hyatt, etc. Barkley in space is a dangerous thing. And the spaces should be there in 2023.
  • Finally, the elephant in the room is the state of the offensive line. For 10 years, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Washington has been better up front. Andrew Thomas is a stud. There will be growing pains with John Michael Schmitz, but he looks to have the goods. The other three spots are still question marks. And this division is loaded with some of the best defensive fronts in the game.

Enter a very talented and well-coached Dallas Cowboys defensive team. I believe I saw it stated that no team in the NFL faces a tougher schedule in terms of the defenses it faces than the Giants. Last season, the Cowboys were 12th in yards allowed and 5th in points allowed. They were 8th against the pass and 22nd against the run. Dallas’ pass defense got even stingier with the offseason acquisition of cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Their defensive coordinator has been in high demand as a head-coaching prospect the past couple of seasons, including interest from the Giants.

If you look back at the two games against Dallas last season, the one stat that sticks out is this: the Cowboys sacked Daniel Jones eight times. Equally damning is they officially hit Jones 19 times. The Giants were far more successful running the football in the earlier game, gaining 167 yards with both Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones doing the bulk of the damage. However, on Thanksgiving, Barkley and Jones were held to a paltry 53 yards on the ground. Tellingly, in both games, the Giants were only 3-of-11 on 3rd down. Turnovers were not an issue as the only one came at the very end of the second game. In the passing game, in Week 3, starting wideouts David Sills and Richie James combined for six catches for 56 yards. Shepard had 49 yards on five catches before he collapsed with an ACL injury. Jones didn’t throw a touchdown pass in the game. In Week 12, Darius Slayton demonstrated his frustrating inconsistency. He came down with a superb 44-yard catch but only caught two more passes on five other targets. James was the “leading” receiver with five catches for 41 yards.

I review all of that to identify the difficulties as well as present the new opportunities. Yes, the Cowboys are loaded with defensive talent at all three levels. They controlled the line of scrimmage against the Giants and never felt threatened by the New York’s passing game. However, the Giants protected the football and stayed in both games. Now Dallas has to contend with both Darren Waller and Daniel Bellinger at tight end; Saquon Barkley at running back; and Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Darius Slayton, Jalin Hyatt, and Sterling Shepard at wide receiver.

It’s time to take the training wheels off of Daniel Jones. Recent history suggests the Giants should run more than they should pass against this Dallas defense, especially given their fierce pass rush and excellent defensive backfield. However, I think this Giants team has been built to take what the opposing defense gives them. If Dallas loads up against Barkley, throw the football. If they back off, run the football. Daboll and Kafka will keep Dallas guessing with play-action, misdirection, RPOs, gadget plays, etc. I would not call for many deep drops, not with their rush against our offensive line. Move Jones around. Quick passes to the tight ends, Barkley, and the wideouts. Bing, bing, bing. Similar to how we saw the Giants’ first team offense play on their one drive in the preseason. Don’t let them breathe. Stay out of 3rd-and-long. There are different ways to create space and big plays without throwing bombs. My spidey sense says the deep shots to Hyatt against the Jets was a feint, but hey, if they want to play with fire and crowd the line against him, good luck.

Up front, this issue is not just physical, but mental. The Cowboys love to run stunts and games to confuse offensive lines. This has been the Achilles’ heel for the New York offensive line. Evan Neal’s lone bad snap in the preseason came on a stunt. And inside, the constant experimentation at both guard spots obviously came at the expense of developing OL cohesion and chemistry. Dallas knows this.

I do hope Andrew Thomas remembers Micah Parsons taunting him on Twitter after the game last season. I do hope Neal remembers how DeMarcus Lawrence humiliated him for three sacks. I hope the guys up front have pride and are looking for some payback.

I still suspect the majority of the Giants’ fanbase doesn’t recognize the many issues Wink Martindale had to deal with last year. Injuries on the defensive line, at edge, at inside linebacker, at corner, and at safety ravaged his defense. He only had one corner who he could fully trust, Adoree’ Jackson, and he was lost for much of the second half of the season. Same with his best safety, Xavier McKinney. His best outside pass rusher, Azeez Ojulari, hardly played at all. Kayvon Thibodeaux was slowed by a preseason knee injury. Leonard Williams was hurt much of the year and it showed. There were revolving doors at corner and inside linebacker all season. The point here is the defense was never a fully intact unit and Martindale had the feel of a guy trying to plug multiple leaks in a decaying dam.

That all said, the pressure is on Martindale to elevate New York’s 25th ranked defense that was also 27th against the run. To be blunt, the Giants had the worst defense in the NFC East. He knows how to do it. His defenses in Baltimore were always top notch in run defense. And Joe Schoen gave him a lot of new toys to play with, including Bobby Okereke, Isaiah Simmons, Boogie Basham, A’Shawn Robinson, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Jordon Riley, Deonte Banks, Tre Hawkins, Bobby McCain, and Gervarrius Owens. Combine these newcomers with now healthy Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, Adoree’ Jackson, Xavier McKinney, and Jason Pinnock.

“I like where we are at defensively and I am excited where we are going,” said Martindale this week. “It’s going to be fun to watch… I think that the biggest thing you will see is the difference in our speed and as soon as we can catch the execution up with the speed, like I said, it’s going to be fun for you guys to watch and for our city to watch.”

Their opponent has a lot of familiar faces, but the style may be changing in a noticeable fashion. Gone is offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who was made a scapegoat despite Dallas’ #1 ranked offense two years ago (and 11th last in 2022). Head Coach Mike McCarthy now takes over play-calling duties. If history is any guide, the Cowboys are about to become more pass happy with a West Coast offensive feel. That could be good news for a Giants’ defense that gave up roughly 170 yards on the ground in both games (345 total) to Dallas last season.

In the offensive review above, I highlighted how the Giants allowed eight sacks and 19 quarterback hits on Daniel Jones. On the flips side, the Giants did not sack either Cooper Rush or Dak Prescott once. Rush was only hit twice while Prescott was hit nine times. The main target for both quarterbacks was CeeDee Lamb, who caught a total of 14 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. In the first game, Adoree’ Jackson had issues covering him, and it’s likely that the Jackson-Lamb match-up will continue with both playing in the slot much of the game (Lamb also plays outside). Tony Pollard rushed for 8.1 yards per carry in the first game with Ezekiel Elliott (who is now with the Patriots) leading the way in the second game, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Those are simply embarrassing numbers.

Weird stat… Giants only had six interceptions as a team in 2022. However, they got two of them in one game on Thanksgiving against Prescott. Cowboys’ tight ends continued to haunt the Giants as Dalton Schultz had two touchdowns on Thanksgiving. He’s now with the Houston Texans.

Why have the Cowboys owned the Giants for a decade? Same reason the Eagles have. Both teams have owned the trenches. To turn that around, Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, A’Shawn Robinson, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, Bobby Okereke, and Micah McFadden/Isaiah Simmons have to live up to expectations. Getting no sacks and allowing 170 rushing yards per game won’t get it done. Possibly helping New York is that left guard Tyler Smith (hamstring) and left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) are both dealing with injuries.

With McCarthy calling the plays now, don’t automatically assume Dallas will begin the game running the football. Any head coach will want to test a rookie cornerback. And the Giants have two starting. Look for both to be tested early and often. Wink loves both Deonte Banks and Tre Hawkins but even he admits, “You know there is going to be hiccups, we all know. That’s being a rookie.” So look for Dak to take some shots with Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Brandin Cooks (offseason addition) early. How well the rookies weather the storm could determine the fate of the game.

To help them out, the Giants’ pass rush has to be better than it was against the Cowboys last season. Thibodeaux did have a big game on Thanksgiving, abusing Tyler Smith with nine pressures and forcing him to hold. Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams need to translate their strong summer into the the real games. The two new inside linebackers – Bobby Okereke and Isaiah Simmons – need to be factors against the run and the pass. Both should do better in coverage against those pesky Dallas tight ends.

Wink feels like he has his guys now. He freely admits that they will better down the road with more experience playing together. They have to survive the early hiccups, but Wink is still going to bring it. “Pressure breaks pipes.” Hopefully guys like Xavier McKinney and Jason Pinnock can be the beneficiaries of that pressure. Six interceptions in one season is pathetic. It’s time to rectify that.

The fanbase doesn’t have a lot of faith in New York’s special teams. Part of the reason has been the absolute refusal of a number of coaching staffs to acquire a dedicated punt and kickoff returner. “Coach of the Year” Brian Daboll’s lone blemish was his curious decision to have his best corner return punts last year, and it cost the team. Now a rookie who only returned nine punts in college, Eric Gray, has unofficially been designated as the primary punt and kickoff returner. Will this end up hurting the franchise once again?

Joe Schoen on the 2023 season: “We haven’t played a game yet. So, we’ll see. Again, we’re going to continue to prepare for Dallas and get ready for the season. I think I said it last year at the same press conference: it takes a few weeks into the regular season to figure out who the team is, how we’re going to react when adversity strikes, and how we’re going to handle if there’s success, or if you’re down at halftime.

“I think that showed last year against Tennessee in the second half. I didn’t know how the team was going to react coming out of halftime or if you’re playing Green Bay in London and you’re down in the second quarter, 17-3. We still have a lot to learn about this team. We’ll see when it comes to Sunday against the Cowboys, how they’re going to come together as a team and gel and how they’re going to react in those situations.”

Mike Kafka’s media sessions are usually pretty boring. But he did drop one nugget this week that I think was spot on. “There’s things that you look at on tape that they did last year and not really 100% sure of what they’re going to this year so you put in your base rules, and you put in your schemes you think you’re going to attack, then at the end of the day, it’s how fast can we adjust when they present it.” (Emphasis mine).

I’ve harped on this for years. There are only so many drives per game. Often times, there are games where teams will only have four possessions per half. Mike McCarthy and Dan Quinn are going to present things to surprise the Giants. Brian Daboll, Mike Kafka, and Wink Martindale are going do the same. How well and how quickly each coaching staff adjusts will be decisive. I have a ton of respect for Dan Quinn. Not so much for McCarthy. I like our coaches in this situation. I’m also not sure if Dallas truly recognizes how much faster the Giants got on offense and defense this offseason. The Giants are a far different animal.

Aug 282023
Eric Gray, New York Giants (August 26, 2023)

Eric Gray – © USA TODAY Sports


-Daniel Jones did not play, giving Tyrod Taylor his second start of the preseason. He stayed on the field for just 9 snaps. He was under pressure quickly, as the NYJ starting defense faced off against the backup NYG offensive line. He threw two deep balls up the right side to rookie Jalin Hyatt. One was inaccurate, landing out of bounds and the other was broken up by Sauce Gardner. Both were underthrown.

-Tommy DeVito: 19/29 – 210 yards / 1 TD – 1 INT / 84.0 RAT

DeVito played nearly the entire game. He is right up there with the league’s leaders in snaps by quarterbacks this preseason and has been one of team’s top pleasant surprises. The interception resulted in a pick-six for the Jets. It was a play that showed his inexperience. The Jets defense did not bite on a play fake, leaving multiple defenders in the intended passing lane to the backside. DeVito did not have his plan B on demand. He stared down the intention, hesitated before getting it out, and threw where he shouldn’t have. Sills did not run a great route either. Beyond that play, he put together another impressive performance. I went back and looked at some of my college summaries on him and found a couple of interesting parallels.

“…DeVito plays the position with unusual competitive energy. He needs to control it on the tempo throws that need to be layered over levels of the defense…he will struggle to make multiple reads from within the pocket… DeVito projects as a roster-hopeful but will likely bounce around practice squads because of the intriguing arm, but lack of development in his overall skill set”.

This kid has developed the skill set more than I thought he would at such an early stage. The issues are still there, but when I consider some of the recent third stringers NYG has employed (Davis Webb, Clayton Thorson, Kyle Lauletta), I look back at DeVito and come away with the fact this kid needs to be kept around. The question is, will it need to be on the 53?


-James Robinson, who did not make the final 53, saw the most action in a game since week 9 of last year while he was with the Jets. He had an impressive 55 yards on 10 carries including 41 yards after contact. He broke 5 tackles and ran with tremendous pop and pad level. He will be on a roster at some point this year. This was an important game for him.

-Eric Gray had another quiet game on the ground but his 48 yards on 4 catches (two of which he displayed ability to get to the ball away from his frame) were key. His hands were something I noted during the pre-draft process, very underrated component to his game. Throw in the fact they trust him on punt returns, this is where I think most of his value will be early on. But I did not see enough as a ball carrier as it looks like he hasn’t adjusted to the speed of the league yet.

-Jashaun Corbin’s final attempt to make an impression for the 53-man roster was quiet. He had just 6 yards on 6 carries and 2 catches for another 11 yards. The numbers game will likely land him on the practice squad, but he showed enough to warrant a spot if an injury pops up at running back.


-Jalin Hyatt got the start and was matched up against Sauce Gardner two times on plays where he ran deep routes. He was targeted both times, however both passes were not placed where they needed to be. But the positive I took from it was the fact he clearly had 2+ steps on the All-Pro corner on the first one. He then had a step on Gardner the second time, but he did not lengthen the separation because he had to gear down to track the underthrow. Gardner also got away with a little hold on that second one too. Hyatt won’t face a corner better than that, thus I took it as a significant positive.

-David Sills led the team with 81 yards and 6 catches, including a touchdown. He really is an impressive player during preseason, and he does a lot of the little things right. His ball skills are outstanding when it comes to framing the ball and getting through traffic. The issue, and it pops up every time he plays, is he can’t separate. The speed and quicks simply are not there and that is why he won’t ever be more than he is; a backup who gets stashed but will provide locker room and practice value.

-Jamison Crowder and Jaydon Mickens added 2 catches apiece. Crowder also got a look as a punt returner, reminding us there is some extra value he can add if he squeezes onto the roster. Wan’Dale Robinson’s end to the PUP list will likely coincide to Crowder being shown the door. That will likely happen this week.


-Lawrence Cager, who truly moves like a big wide receiver, caught all three of his targets for 24 yards. This is still a guy who is hard to peg in relation to the 53-man roster. He is a unique talent and I cannot imagine a scenario he where remains on the practice squad if he is placed there. Multiple teams will want him. The depth at receiver and lack of blocking impact may leave him off the roster though.

-Chris Myarick saw 11 snaps but was forced to leave early due to a hand injury. This opened the door for PS-hopeful Ryan Jones. He was on the field for 56 snaps. He added 2 more catches but also dropped one.


-With Tyre Phillips still unable to play as he rehabs his injury, Matt Peart and Korey Cunningham played the entire game. Peart started off as bad as it gets and ended with a line of 2 sacks, 2 pressures, and 2 penalties. The Jets pass rush is one of the best in football. What he put on tape over the first few drives is what I expect to see during live games if either Andrew Thomas or Evan Neal were to go down. The more I watch, the more important their health as a pair is vital to this team’s success. Peart did settle down after the first three drives; however that was against the third and fourth stringers. 147 of 148 preseason snaps were at left tackle, none were at right tackle. Does that really sound like the team’s swing tackle plan? I don’t think so. Cunningham on the other hand split time between right guard and right tackle. He allowed 2 pressures. I trust him as a backup more than I do Peart. The difference in balance, overall footwork, and sheer hustle is easy to see.

-Julién Davenport, who has 19 career starts in the league, appears to be near the end of his career. He showed terrible bend, inaccurate feet, and JV-caliber strength. He allowed a sack and a TFL in addition to 3 pressures. He was simply brought in to be a camp body and was the worst OL on the field in this game.

-This was a big game for Shane Lemieux. He had a solid start to preseason in week one, however the shift to OC in week 2 produced some ugly tape. He returned to guard and looked much more comfortable. I think he still has enough to offer at that spot. Does the fact he looks so much worse playing center significantly hurt his chances? NYG has a starter in Schmitz. They have a capable number two in Bredeson. Considering the lack of established depth inside, I still think it is worth keeping him around a bit longer. But it is safe to say, the four year starter at guard in college simply cannot be depended on to start plays with the ball in his hand. That could force him out.

-Marcus McKethan saw his first live game action against another team for the first time since being drafted in 2022. His size and strength were notable, but the two issues I had with him in college are still there. First, he plays way too high. The lack of knee bend at his size in combination with the lack of recovery quickness is going to make life very difficult as a zone blocker in the running game. He was slow to get across defenders laterally and the lack of consistency in his footwork created multiple early losses. He did settle in a bit and the upside he presents is worth keeping around, but part of me thinks he should be kept on the practice squad for the time being. He is not game-ready, not even close.

-Wyatt Davis was taken off the field on the cart with an ankle injury and Josh Ezeudu played just 8 snaps. I believe that will be the last we see of the former.


-Tomon Fox is going to be the number one backup on the edge for this team. He brings the power presence and versatility that the others do not. While he does not seem overly fluid in space, his hand-fighting and sheer power gets him a lot of wins initially. He had 2 tackles and 3 pressures. If he had just a little more juice, he could be a credible threat off the edge. But at the very least he can set the edge and grind his way to applying pressure. He still has some more to chew off when it comes to his upside too.

-Did any of Tashawn Bower, Oshane Ximines, or Habakkuk Baldonado show enough to warrant the final depth job at outside linebacker? Simply put, if they need another body outside, they will need to look at the cuts from around the league. Once cuts become public, I will write up a few suggestions. Ximines has the inside track because the staff did get some quality football out of him a year ago. He had a QB hit in this game, but we know what he is by this point. The depth can be better. Bower and Baldonado are practice squad options at best, as neither stood out in this game.


-Watching Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, and A’Shawn Robinson stand next to each other on the sideline was a nice reminder. NYG will have the biggest starting defensive line in football.

-None of the above played, rightfully so. Rakeem Nunez-Roches got his first live snaps in the first quarter. He had one pressure and a tackle. He is a high energy, hustler type. It was not enough to fully evaluate his game but that is fine. We know what NYG has in him based on his previous years with Tampa Bay and he is here for depth. Speaking of depth, Jordon Riley played early on and was taken out to keep him fresh for week one against Dallas. Between him and starting a 6th rounder at outside corner, I can’t say I saw this coming at all. Snap your finger and NYG all the sudden is loaded with depth along the defensive front. If they all stick and stay healthy, the rewards that stem from that will be huge.

-Once again, the trio of Kevin Atkins, Donovan Jeter, and Brandin Bryant failed to maintain gap integrity against the run, and none made an impact as a pass rusher. Kobe Smith added 2 tackles and is the one I want to see kept on the practice squad.


-While he only played 6 snaps, the story of the night was the newly acquired Isaiah Simmons. The 8th overall pick from the 2020 defense was purchased for a 7th rounder in next spring’s draft. I will touch on this more below, but this move could change the defense in a big way. He had a pressure and a missed tackle, spending most of his time lined up on the line of scrimmage.

-Carter Coughlin may have had a job secured on the 53-man roster before camp, maybe he did not. His play through the three games stood out to me, especially in this one. He had 2 TFL where he displayed excellent diagnosing and reaction speed. The angles to the ball carrier, the power presence upon contact with his target, and ability to finish were all impressive. Throw in his special teams prowess, he is a near lock to make this team.

-Game two for Darrian Beavers ended with just one tackle and some struggle to get to the action clean. He appears to be just a step slow post-snap and throw in some hip tightness; he just can’t get to point B fast enough yet. His contributions will be on special teams early, but he does have some potential as a package defender when they want to use the blitz on passing downs. Remember, he played all over the defensive front seven in college.


-This game was the final effort for several back-end corners to potentially swallow up the last spot on the cornerback depth chart. This is the one huge question mark on this entire team that many I have spoken to on the outside are focused on. Some NYG fans are excited about the future of the first rounder Deonte Banks and the surprise of camp, Tre Hawkins. Perhaps they will be cornerstone players down the road. 2023? The fact they are so easily put into starting roles should easily tell us something about the position group as a whole.

-Gemon Green, Darren Evans, and Amani Oruwariye all allowed 100+ passer ratings. As a trio, Jets passers went 15/19 for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns against them. Oruwariye likely gets the nod (if any of them) because of his veteran experience, and he continued to show he is the best tackler and most physical of the three. Zyon Gilbert left the game early with an injury after struggling against NYJ first stringers as well.

-A razor thin group of corners with not one but TWO rookies starting is about as risky as it gets in today’s NFL on the back end. Darnay Holmes played in the first half and will likely keep his spot as a rotational nickel. The staff still likes the 2024 free agent.

-Remember – NYG made two pickups off the street/waivers (Fabian Moreau / Nick McCloud) around this time last year. I get a sense we will see that kind of move again.


-I was looking forward to seeing some more Bobby McCain against the starting Jets offense. He took a cheap shot from Randall Cobb that left him concussed, thus playing just 2 snaps.

-Rookies Alex Cook and Gervarrius Owens played most of the game on the back end. They finished with 6 and 5 tackles, respectively. Owens added a QB hit. There is something about him I see that is different, to be blunt. This is always a dangerous thing to say in any sort of scouting assignment. But looking at his snap alignments through 3 games (23 snaps on the line, 41 in the box, 56 at FS, 23 outside the box), zero missed tackles, just one allowed reception, and just the gut feeling I have. Owens is going to be a big part this defense at some point.


-K Graham Gano: 3/3 (made 57, 40, 56)
-P Jamie Gillan: 5 punts / 49.2 avg / 44.0 net


-WR David Sills, LB Carter Coughlin, K Graham Gano


-OT Julién Davenport, CB Germon Green, DT Brandin Bryant


1. We’ve seen this before. Preseason hype around the Jets because of offseason acquisitions. We’ve even seen it with a future Hall of Famer coming to town from Green Bay when Brett Favre arrived in 2008 (they went 9-7 and missed the playoffs). Intra-city rivalry aside, I think this time is different for two reasons. Favre in 2008 had one of the worst seasons of his career and the supporting cast just wasn’t there. He did go on to MIN the next year, winning a playoff game. They had a top 5 defense and an All-Pro running back, however. Bring that back to Rodgers. He won the MVP in 2020 and 2021. He is on a team with a top 5 defense and the 2022 Offensive AND Defensive Rookies of the Year. Running back Breece Hall would have been a contender for that award that Garrett Wilson (man I wanted him in the ’22 draft) won. Point is this situation is set up well for Rodgers coming to NY. This team is going to the playoffs.

2. What is the one factor that can easily derail my projection? Like most teams, the offensive line. The issue they have, that several others do not, is the fact this group is not established yet. Everyone knows this is where they are potentially weak. Everyone knows this is how you minimize the benefit of adding Rodgers to the offense. Mekhi Becton is the NYJ version of Evan Neal. If he does not step up (and stay healthy) – the path to the peak is going to be filled with roadblocks.

3. Garrett Wilson. I am not huge into fantasy football, but I am very much aware how big of a market it is. For those who play (and have not drafted yet) – I am looking at him the same way I look at Justin Jefferson right now. I said it back when NYG was drafting #5 and #7 in 2022, and I am saying it now, this kid is going to be a production machine.


1. The cornerback and edge group need help. Isaiah Simmons may alter my opinion a bit, but because of the hybrid-ness to his role, I still think the front office will need to try and find another guy who can factor out there. Does a blitz-heavy scheme make it less than vital? Sure. But let’s keep in mind what this team is doing at corner. It would be a huge deal to find a pass rusher who shakes loose in the coming days. And as I said earlier, this corner group is an injury away from playing guys that do not belong in every down duty. If you think you’re a contender to win 10-11 games, that needs to be addressed.

2. The Isaiah Simmons trade. I said back in 2020 that whoever drafts him needs a specific plan. Not to force him into roles, but force roles around him. Be patient, develop. Hide the weaknesses (he has a few), exemplify his strengths. After watching the current NYG coaching staff work for a year-plus and knowing some behind the scenes things about the ARI organization, this move can be an absolute game changer or the team. I see a Derwin James type more than a Micah Parsons. Not the same caliber (yet), but the same kind of role. It will take a few weeks, but at the very least this kid can impact the pass rush. I’ve always wanted to see him rush the passer more. He has 239 rushes over his career with 32 pressures. The rate of 13.4% would be right up there with the top 20 edge rushers in football if sustained for a season.

3. My prediction for the 2023 season is 11 wins. The increase in weapons for the offense and year two of one of the top coaching staffs in football are the two key reasons. They have a kicker who will win games in close matchups. They have a better offensive line than what was put out there in 2022. Their best player is hungry on a prove-it deal. They have year-2 players (where we see the biggest gains in margin in guys) playing key spots. They have a credible inside linebacker who the scheme needs. Their depth is twice as good as it was a year ago. And most importantly I expect a step up a notch by the quarterback being in the same system with real talent and innovative minds calling the shots. They’re not on par with the Eagles yet, but they’re gaining ground and the entire organization is hungry. It feels different.

Here is my prediction for the 53:

QB (2): Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor
RB (4): Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Eric Gray, Gary Brightwell
WR (6): Isaiah Hodgins, Darius Slayton, Paris Campbell, Jalin Hyatt, Sterling Shepard, Wan’Dale Robinson
TE (3): Darren Waller, Daniel Bellinger, Tommy Sweeney
OT (4): Andrew Thomas, Evan Neal, Tyre Phillips, Matt Peart
OG (4): Mark Glowinski, Ben Bredeson, Joshua Ezeudu, Marcus McKethan
OC (1): John Michael-Schmitz

EDGE (4): Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, Jihad Ward, Tomon Fox
DT (6): Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, A’Shawn Robinson, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Jordon Riley, D.J. Davidson
LB (5): Bobby Okereke, Micah McFadden, Darian Beavers, Carter Coughlin, Isaiah Simmons
CB (5): Adoree’ Jackson, Deonte Banks, Tre Hawkins, Darnay Holmes, Cor’Dale Flott
S (6): Xavier McKinney, Jason Pinnock, Dane Belton, Bobby McCain, Gervarrius Owens, Nick McCloud
ST (3): Graham Gano, Jamie Gillan, Casey Kreiter

PUP: CB Aaron Robinson

Key Cuts:

WR Jamison Crowder
OT Korey Cunningham
OG Shane Lemieux
TE Lawrence Cager
RB Jashaun Corbin
ED Oshane Ximines
DL Ryder Anderson
LB Cam Brown

Aug 252023
Tommy DeVito, New York Giants (August 18, 2023)

Tommy DeVito – © USA TODAY Sports

The final preseason game is usually a ho-hum affair but this Giants-Jets contest has the air of a circus due to the team in green that suffers from a chronic inferiority complex playing their latest “savior.” The sooner this game is over, the better.

Indications from practice this week suggest that many of the Giants veteran starters will not play. We will probably see rookie and second-year starters or valuable back-ups get some playing time in the first half.

The Jets are most likely looking to make a statement. Yawn.

WR Wan’Dale Robinson (ACL) and CB Aaron Robinson (ACL) remain on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List.

RB Gary Brightwell (unknown), TE Tommy Sweeney (unknown), OL Jack Anderson (unknown), DL Ryder Anderson (triceps), LB Cam Brown (unknown), CB Cor’Dale Flott (unknown), and S/CB Nick McCloud (unknown) did not practice this week and are unlikely to play.

Do not expect much from the Giants’ offense on Saturday. The Jets’ backup defensive linemen have been terrorizing opposing offenses this preseason. If their starters play, it could get ugly for the Giants, particularly if guys like Andrew Thomas, Daniel Jones, Darren Waller, and Saquon Barkley sit.

Really there are two things the Giants can get out of this game on both sides of the ball:

  1. Continue to provide valuable game experience to the youngest starters/important role players in anticipation of the regular season.
  2. Acquire more information on players fighting for a 53-man roster spot or place on the Practice Squad.

Thus, we may see center John Michael Schmitz and right tackle Evan Neal play against a very talented defensive front. I would expect Joshua Ezeudu to play and possibly Ben Bredeson and Mark Glowinski if all three are still fighting for two starting spots. Beyond the six obvious offensive linemen who will make the roster (Thomas, Neal, Schmitz, Bredeson, Glowinski, Ezeudu), the team also must determine who the last three reserves will be. Thus, this is a really big game for Matt Peart, Korey Cunningham, Marcus McKethan, and Shane Lemieux. Complicating matters is that Tyre Phillips missed the the first two preseason games and we do not know for sure if he is playing in this one since he just returned from injury. Jack Anderson will likely not play.

The other unsettled area on this team is wide receiver. Barring injury, Parris Campbell, Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins, and Jalin Hyatt will be on the final 53. Wan’Dale Robinson will also be on the 53-man roster sooner or later. But his return date complicates matters. Do the Giants activate him from the PUP before opening day in two weeks? That’s possible. It’s also possible the Giants keep him on the PUP for the first month of the season. The Giants are likely to keep six or seven receivers. So depending on Robinson’s return, there could be two or three openings left for Sterling Shepard, Cole Beasley, Jamison Crowder, Collin Johnson, and Bryce Ford-Wheaton. Coming off a very serious injury, Shepard has had a surprisingly strong camp. Beasley was impressing before he got hurt. Johnson’s knee injury sabotaged his camp and his best hope may be the Practice Squad. Whether he and Bryce Ford-Wheaton can make it through waivers unclaimed remains questionable and he could have special teams value that keeps him on the 53.

We know that Darren Waller and Daniel Bellinger are the top two tight ends. But things got a bit more complicated this week when Tommy Sweeney suffered an unspecified medical incident while not practicing this week. Sweeney missed 2020 with myocarditis. We’re talking about potential career-threatening stuff here. How long will the medical staff want to keep him away from the playing field? Sweeney is the second-best blocker at the position on the team. Lawrence Cager is more receiver than blocker. Chris Myarick’s stock may have just gone up.

Running back has generated a lot of fan attention, but Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, and Eric Gray are going to be the top three backs on this team. If one gets hurt, someone will be pulled off of the Practice Squad. Gary Brightwell has missed almost all of camp and the question now is can the Giants waive him without an injury designation. (An unclaimed player who is waived/injured can be waived off of IR with an injury settlement, but he can’t be re-signed until later in the season). Jashaun Corbin has flashed in the preseason and ideally suited for the Practice Squad if he can make it through waivers. James Robinson really hasn’t done much.

Finally, Tommy DeVito gets one more chance to show if he worthy of future development as Tyrod Taylor’s eventual replacement, possibly as early as 2024.

The trade for Isaiah Simmons really overshadows this preseason finale. There are those who are overhyping Simmons while others who are minimizing it far too much. As is usually the case, the truth lies in the middle. Simmons will likely not be a classic “starter” by definition. But he can have a big impact on this defense as a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none-type. That’s usually a pejorative, but not necessarily in a Wink Martindale defense. Though he is not an overly physical player, Simmons is at his best attacking the line of scrimmage as a run-and-hit player if you can keep big bodies off of him. He has legit sub 4.4 speed and can chase down anyone on the field. He also can cover, as long as you are not asking him to cover quick, little guys. Simmons immediately is one of the best pass rushers on the roster and the fastest coverage linebacker. For a 7th-round pick and $1 million salary? No brainer.

Before getting into the game, one other comment. The Giants REALLY have upgraded their overall team speed this offseason on both sides of the ball. Parris Campbell, Jalin Hyatt, Darren Waller, Bobby Okereke, Isaiah Simmons, Deonte Banks, and Tre Hawkins make this a much faster team at THE key positions where speed is an asset. Combine these guys with Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, Darius Slayton, Kayvon Thibodeau, Azeez Ojulari, Adoree’ Jackson, and Jason Pinnock and this is a very fast team now. Defensively, the Giants have also added a lot of length (height + arm length) to those who will cover passing targets.

I would not expect to see many of the core defensive players to play in this one. Guys like Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, Bobby Okereke, and Xavier McKinney will probably sit. This should enable Aaron Rodgers and the Jets faithful to feel good about themselves for a night. Again, we will probably see the youngsters who need experience such as Deonte Banks, Tre Hawkins, and Micah McFadden. I’m not sure if we will even see Jason Pinnock, who is coming off an injury that caused him to miss some practice time.

Up front, Giants fans still have not seen our two primary back-ups and occasional starters – A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches – play. Thus, they have largely been forgotten. They shouldn’t be. Both are significant additions who will play important roles against run-heavy teams like the Eagles, Cowboys, and Commanders. Do they play on Saturday or will we have to wait until September? Meanwhile, other than Tre Hawkins, the biggest surprise of training camp has been Jordon Riley. What a tremendous additions both players have been for such low draft picks! Ryder Anderson’s injury has sabotaged his whole camp and he is in the same boat as Gary Brightwell in terms of cutting him with possibly an injury designation. On the flip side, D.J. Davidson returned to practice this week and actually received some first-team reps. He has a lot of rust to knock off. My personal preference is for the team to carry six defensive linemen (Lawrence, Williams, Robinson, Nunez-Roches, Riley, and Davidson).

At linebacker, outside we know Thibodeaux, Ojulari, and Ward will be on the team. The presence of Simmons now as another dynamic pass rusher makes predicting other spots more difficult. Simmons can not only blitz up the middle, but he can rush from the outside. Tomon Fox, Oshane Ximines, and Tashawn Bower are all fighting for a roster spot. Habakkuk Baldonado’s best chance is probably still the Practice Squad. This is a very important game for all four players. Inside, again, Simmons helps but also makes predicting final roster spots tough. We know Okereke, McFadden, and Beavers will make it along with Simmons. Is there room for someone like Carter Coughlin? Cam Brown has missed most of camp and may have to be waived/injured too, complicating any potential Practice Squad plans.

I’ll feel a lot better when Deonte Banks and Tre Hawkins have gotten their snaps and are out of the game healthy. The reserves will be undermanned with Cor’Dale Flott and Nick McCloud not playing due to injury. McCloud’s camp has also been sabotaged and one wonders if he still has a roster spot despite a very strong spring.

Dane Belton appears to have the third safety spot nailed down. The Giants will likely keep five safeties. Six is possible given some CB/S flexibility with McCloud and Bobby McCain. I wouldn’t think the team would want to expose Gervarrius Owens to waivers, but it’s a number’s game right now at the position. The top three corners are obviously the two rookies and Adoree’ Jackson. With Aaron Robinson still on the PUP and no word on his return, one would expect him to miss at least the first month of the season. Darnay Holmes and Flott should both make the 53-man roster. That’s five corners. Big game for someone like Amani Oruwariye and Zyon Gilbert.

The Eric Gray experiment continues.

The Jets are going to take this game much more seriously than the Giants. Please don’t get bent out of shape over this one. Just get out of the contest healthy.

Aug 202023
Isaiah Hodgins, New York Giants (August 18, 2023)

Isaiah Hodgins – © USA TODAY Sports


-Daniel Jones: 8/9 – 69 yards / 1 TD / 0 INT / 135.6 6 RAT

The only incompletion came on a Darren Waller drop. Jones was near flawless. A slight misthrow to Parris Campbell near the end zone was the only real blemish within the one drive he spent on the field. If that was the main weak point to his performance, it is going to be a fun season. Jones executed his ball fakes and overall footwork at a high level. It translated to accurate ball placement and well-timed progressions. He was in complete sync with the scheme and play calls. This offense turned the corner from an efficiency standpoint in 2022. They avoided third down (a key metric to the best/winningest teams over multiple years) and the sixth-best rate last year, after finishing second worst in 2021. Of the ten plays on this opening drive, just once did third down come up.

-Both backup quarterbacks, Tyrod Taylor and Tommy DeVito, completed 9 passes for 90 and 88 yards respectively. Taylor, the unquestioned second stringer, also led the team with 21 yards rushing and threw a 33-yard touchdown. Taylor has been the same guy for years. He shows enough flashes to make you think he really can be a starting caliber quarterback. The consistency with his mechanics is not there, and it leads to erratic ball placement. DeVito looks like he is on a fast track to confidence in the pocket, but he still needs work on getting the ball out faster. He has a cannon.


-Saquon Barkley was in pads for warmups, but he did not play in the game.

-There seems to be an interesting competition between rookie Eric Gray and second-year veteran Jashaun Corbin. On paper, the fact this regime just spent a draft pick on Gray – along with Corbin being undrafted a year ago – and they keep trying to force him into the return role says Gray will be the guy. On film? Corbin is making it a discussion. He gained 22 yards on 3 catches and his 9-yard run displayed the hunger and urgency he moves with. He also had a 17-yard run that was negated by a penalty. Gray, while he had an impressive 9-yard run that resulted in a touchdown, is struggling to consistently get downhill quickly enough. The biggest issue right now, however, is often overlooked by fans but I can guarantee you the coaches are going to be all over him about it. If Gray does not improve his blocking, he will barely see the field on offense. He allowed two hurries and a QB hit. So far this preseason, Gray has been asked to pass block 8 times. He has allowed 6 pressures.


-From last week’s review: “Personally, I would like to see Hyatt more involved. They need to try and script a couple deep shots to him so they can see how he tracks the ball, fights for it, and plays the body position game in real live situations.”

-Hyatt went from just one target in the first game to five in this one. And Kafka/Daboll scripted a deep ball to him which resulted in a 33-yard touchdown. The fifth gear he has was on display. Carolina safety Eric Rowe had absolutely no shot at catching up once Hyatt had an inch of vertical space on him. You think he is moving at his top rate and then he hits the next level of fast forward. Fun play and a glimpse of what to expect from an offense that was starving for plays like this a year ago. Next up on the list, and this will be a big one, is getting more consistent at framing the football as a pass catcher on lateral routes. He had a drop on the play prior to the touchdown that stemmed from that particular ball skill.

-Parris Campbell caught all three targets for 23 yards and Isaiah Hodgins added 45 yards on two catches. Those two, along with Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard (1 rec / 6 yards), Jamison Crowder (2 rec / 18 yards), and Wan’Dale Robinson (PUP) make this receiver room arguably one of the top jumps in overall quality and depth at the position league-wide from 2022.

-Bryce Ford-Wheaton is the third/fourth stringer you can’t keep your eyes off of. He caught both of his targets for 24 yards. We know the size and speed are off the chart. We know his ball skills and route running need work. The power to his game is what stands out upon second look. Both as a gunner and off the line as a receiver. His rate of movement and sheer size add up to be very D.K. Metcalf-like. No, not even close to that level, but my point is how rare the combination is. The snaps he had as a gunner were very good. A team like this may have to find a spot for him as a special teamer because he won’t last long on the practice squad, as all 31 teams can snag him at any point.


-The quality Daniel Jones performance left a nice taste in everyone’s mouth. Darren Waller, however, was my favorite ingredient to the entrée. He played 8 snaps. He was targeted 4 times, caught 3, and had one jarred loose by safety Vonn Bell. The goal of that initial first-string drive was to get him the ball early. He took a couple big hits too. They coaching staff was smart to get him out when they did. Mission accomplished and Waller has the look of a focal point to this passing game.

-Daniel Bellinger, one of the top rookie tight ends in football a year ago, caught a touchdown from a unique 12-personnel look. Even with all the depth at receiver, the options that Waller and Bellinger present when on the field together can make this passing game even more efficient. The touchdown was the highlight, but the blocking was on point. His impact on contact is sending a different jolt to the defender than I remember. That was a key component to the Eric Gray touchdown run. All the talk surrounding Waller is warranted. Don’t forget about Bellinger. He is going to make some key plays this season.

-There is some difference in opinion surrounding the third tight end. I lean toward Tommy Sweeney (who did not play). Lawrence Cager (1 rec / 4 yards) does bring more to the table as a receiver, but as mentioned above, the weapons are now deep. The presence in the trenches would be of more service to the offense. Cager continues to get tossed around in that department.


-The story of the night was Evan Neal. After missing the better part of two weeks with a concussion, he both started and tied for the second most snaps on offense. He really had just one blemish. He failed to recognize a twist upfront and the defensive tackle worked around his outside shoulder and recorded a sack. It was Neal’s fault, no question. But when it came to breaking down his physical performance, I was pleased. He looks lighter on his feet and simply cleaner. He is showing a better first three steps and we already knew how stout he is. It is all about position and balance for him. If both get check marks, he is tough to beat. Encouraging night from the guy who may be the most important variable to NYG wanting to throw downfield more often.

-The one player who saw more snaps was Matt Peart, who continues to prove he cannot handle pro edge defenders. He allowed 2 pressures and was flagged for 2 holding penalties. Korey Cunningham had a bounce back performance and recent signing Julién Davenport got his feet wet. None of the above proved to be a solution for the issue this team has at backup tackle. The classic tell from all three is the simple but difficult ability to stay square. Quality defenders can get them to fall from the waist on up, making secondary rush moves much more effective.

-Inside, we saw Ben Bredeson and Joshua Ezeudu rotate at left guard, the one spot that is up for grabs in the starting lineup. If the decision was based solely on this game alone, Bredeson is the winner. He played a clean game with a strong latch. Ezeudu’s footwork (or lack thereof) made it hard for him to mirror his man. When he gets a guy in a phone booth, his power is notable. But space is not his friend and right now he cannot be trusted in pass protection on an island.

-At center, John Michael Schmitz appears to have the stating center job locked up, as expected. This was a pass-heavy game while he was in there (29:5 actually) and he allowed one pressure. That play was a poor display of foot speed and recovery. The one concern I have with him is exactly that. But the run-game impact and mere fact he is a rookie with a high floor lessens the concern.

-Shane Lemieux, after a solid week one in Detroit, saw 18 snaps at center and struggled mightily. He clearly was not comfortable in that role. His hand techniques were all over the place and he never found his anchor. He allowed a TFL and was flagged for a hold, as was third stringer Jack Anderson.

-Wyatt Davis, after a horrific experiment at tackle last week, returned to guard for just 13 plays. His comfort and skill set are much better inside, but there is still a lot more to be desired from his sustainability and reaction speed.


-Kayvon Thibodeaux played the first two drives before spending the rest of the night on the sideline. We saw him win against Ikem Ekwonu on an impressive rush move where he played low, stifled with a violent punch, and ripped under the outside shoulder to hit Bryce Young as he was throwing the ball. He also beat the 2022 All-Rookie tackle for a sack on a play where some confusion up front gave the explosive Thibodeaux a clear path to Young. He looks faster and twitchier, a sign the confidence is growing. On the negative side, he lost the edge twice in the running game and on both occasions the lack of a true anchor was obvious. He needs to be more disciplined there, as his natural size below the waist is below average.

-Azeez Ojulari and Jihad Ward had quiet games. Ward had a QB hit and a hurry, playing an even split between outside and inside. That is where his true value is. Last year he played a 7:1 ratio outside to inside. I like his first step quickness against interior blockers as his movement issues show up in space.

-The backup edge defenders had a night. They were constantly putting pressure on the backup Carolina quarterbacks (albeit against a poor OL that was crushed last week as well). Tashawn Bower led the group with 3 pressures. Both Oshane Ximines and Tomon Fox recorded two themselves. Fox still seems to be the leader in the clubhouse, as he had 4 tackles and a half-sack. Habakkuk Baldonado added a QB hit and a tackle late in the game.


-Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams got the start and played 12 snaps a piece. Both are already in mid-season form. These two are the best players on this defense and the Carolina OL had no shot against them. They both did what they wanted and went where they wanted. The interior of the Carolina OL is a weakness, one of the most glaring ones in the league, but it was obvious Lawrence is simply on a different level. He did get flagged for offsides and a roughing the passer penalty (on a 3rd down stop) after an errant swipe for the pass, which also happened to be where Bryce Young’s head was. Man, he is small.

-The defensive game ball award goes to the draft pick I barely spent any time scouting last fall. Jordon Riley got an opportunity with A’Shawn Robinson, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, and D.J. Davidson sitting this one out. He had some snaps with the first-string defense and balled out. He had 3 tackles, 1 TFL, and a fourth-down run stop that was all him. He got movement off the ball, bench pressed the blocker off him, located the ball, and engulfed him at the point-of-attack. It was such a clean rep, and he went on to put a ton of quality tape together the rest of the night. He was abusing center Justin McCray, an eight-year veteran with starting experience.

-The back-end guys, Kobe Smith and Donovan Jeter, struggled in their second game of preseason. Neither held their gaps in the running game and neither pressured the quarterback on a combined 19 opportunities.


-What a refreshing sight to see Bobby Okereke on the field. I will touch on this more below, but the 2023 big ticket free agent addition played into the second quarter and led the team with 7 tackles. The power, instincts, and quick burst all showed up on multiple occasions. He will not turn around the run defense by himself, but it was easy to see how important he will be for the front seven. This is the classic NYG inside linebacker this defense has lacked for so long.

-Darrian Beavers was back on the field. His size and speed are similar to what they have in Okereke, but his reaction time and lack of precision with his footwork and overall techniques were the stark differences. He finished with 4 tackles and showed good range. His contact is what I call heavy. A classic thumper who will need to show some more progress with the ability to read and cover especially. I still think there is a good shot he starts by the end of the year over Micah McFadden, who finished with 1 tackle.


-Playing Adoree’ Jackson in the slot appears to be a real thing. Of his 21 snaps, he played inside on 16 of them. I feel confident with him anywhere on the field, but the one issue I can see with him at nickel is the lack of physical presence against more physical targets and the running game. He had a missed tackle on the night and has never been strong there.

-Rookies Deonte Banks and Tre Hawkins continue to start on the outside and the 6th rounder from Old Dominion continues to play like the better player. Even Joe Schoen sounds surprised by how well he is playing this early on. The speed he is playing with, the run-game assignments he is executing at a high level, and the easy vertical burst at his size are all major attributes for this scheme.

-Cor’Dale Flott is playing good football. While his route anticipation is a step behind, his coverage is constantly right there underneath. I initially believed it was a battle between him and Darnay Holmes for the nickel job. The development of the rookie guys outside, which can shift Jackson inside, will likely push Flott into the versatile number four job. He can play both, but his run defense is a liability. He also missed a tackle and lost the edge twice.

-Darren Evans allowed a touchdown after getting beat off the line and failing to locate the ball.


-Xavier McKinney had a disruptive couple of plays and looked fast in coverage. He is the top dog in a deep safety group, but I still think he needs to show a full season of good football before even considering a long-term contract. Remember, there is not as much cap room now with the recent big signings. At his best, McKinney is the best safety NYG has had in a long time and would round out such a strong middle of the defense if he sticks around. He just needs to stay on the field.

-Dane Belton had 2 TFL, showing great instincts and downhill explosion. The winner of the night among the backups was rookie Gervarrius Owens, though. He also had 7 tackles and broke up a pass with picture-perfect technique and timing. He is such a natural on the back end, one who can wear every hat in the versatile safety scheme. He won’t be rushed into action, but it would be a crime to keep this kid off the field because of his draft status. This dude is a player who can defend the run and cover. His special teams impact will be strong as well. He had the most versatile alignment among all safeties in this game.


-P Jame Gillan: 3 punts / 43.0 avg – 36.3 net


-DT Jordon Riley, QB Daniel Jones, LB Bobby Okereke


-DT Kobe Smith, OT Matt Peart, OC Shane Lemieux


1. The story surrounding this team is the #1 overall pick, quarterback Bryce Young. Not only because of where he was drafted, but what the front office had to do to get him. After failing to come up with the strong-enough trade offer for Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, and Deshaun Watson…after failing to move up in the draft for the likes of Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa…after failing to select Justin Fields when he was available, David Tepper was stuck watching the likes of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, P.J. Walker, Cam Newton (v2), and Teddy Bridgewater for the first few seasons of his ownership. After firing Matt Rhule, he put an end to that by sending the #9 overall, #61 overall, a 2024 1st, a 2025 2nd, and wide receiver D.J. Moore to Chicago so they could get whoever they wanted in the draft. They end up with a Seneca Wallace-body type but in an era where Young’s style of play fits the current style of NFL football the best. Throw in the intangibles, something very important to Head Coach Frank Reich, and Carolina thinks they have their guy.

2. I’m not sure if I live under a rock or if there really is a lack of chatter around Carolina’s new Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero. He is one of the best young defensive minds in the game. He came over from Denver and prior to that he was with the Rams where he won a Super Bowl. He specializes in pass defense and the team has one of the top young corners in Jaycee Horn. The rest of the personnel lacks depth but there are a few pieces that can make this defense as a whole very good in 2023.

3. Just how far can Carolina take this in 2023? Not far. It will be a tough year. I project New Orleans and Atlanta to finish 1-2. Considering the fact Reich has been all-time bad at winning games early in the year and they start off @ATL, vs NO, @SEA, vs MIN, @DET, @MIA with a rookie quarterback and shaky offensive line, I see them starting in a deep hole and unable to get out. This franchise should be looking at 2024.


1. One could not ask for a much better drive out of the Daniel Jones-led offense. Would it have been nice to see a downfield pass? Sure. But when I watched the All-22, it was easy to see Carolina was protecting the back end with a shell. The best offenses simply take advantage of what is provided by the defensive personnel and alignment. Efficient offenses avoid third down. They kill you with a thousand paper cuts. And they protect the ball. NYG struggled to score points early in games and I like how hot they started in this one.

2. I’ve been banging the table for a linebacker for far too long. While some teams league-wide view it as a position to piece together cheaply (with success), I’ve always thought it was the missing piece (or a missing piece) to a defense that has been a roller coaster for two decades. They have not been top-16 in points allowed two straight seasons since 2002. Let that sit for a little. I always roll my eyes when media-types talk about Giants being an old school defensive-biased franchise. In all honestly, they haven’t been consistent on that side of the ball since Parcells/Belichick in the late 80’s. Almost 40 years! But before I go down that rabbit hole even deeper, my point remains this team has lacked the identity in the middle. Antonio Pierce gave them a glimpse. Okereke is the best they’ve had there since then and I’m all about it. The force he moves with, the diagnostic nature about his game, and the every-down ability will make a huge difference for this team.

3. Once game left. What to expect? There are several spots on this roster up for grabs. The backup receivers and running backs are interesting. Who gets the final OL/DL spots are interesting. The abundance of talent they have at safety is interesting. I do not want to see the key guys out there for more than 2-3 drives. I want to see the roster-competition spots filling most of the snaps because there are some very tough decisions to be made. I hope to have a projected 53-man roster out the morning after the final preseason game.

Aug 172023
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (August 1, 2023)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

So far, knock on wood, it’s been a relatively uneventful training camp and preseason for the New York Giants. And that’s the way the franchise prefers it. Keep chugging along, getting ready for the September 10th opener, which is a little over three weeks away.

Head Coach Brian Daboll has not provided any information on who will be playing against the Carolina Panthers. My guess is we will see many of the starters, possibly for as much as a quarter.

The most significant injury this summer has been the concussion suffered by RT Evan Neal on August 4th. Although he officially cleared the concussion protocol on Wednesday, he has not participated in a full-contact practice in two weeks. I think he needs to play on Friday. He’s missed too much valuable practice time.

WR Wan’Dale Robinson (ACL) and CB Aaron Robinson (ACL) remain on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List.

RB Gary Brightwell (unknown), WR Collin Johnson (knee), OL Tyre Phillips (unknown), DL Ryder Anderson (triceps), and LB Cam Brown (unknown) did not practice this week and probably won’t play. WR Cole Beasley (leg) could also be out.

The greatest sense of unease surrounding the team right now remains the offensive line. Evan Neal’s concussion was a big setback. With only a handful of practices and one more preseason game remaining on the schedule, he probably has to play in this game just to get the reps. Expect him to be a bit rusty after missing two weeks of practice. (There was also one report that he tweaked his ankle in practice on Wednesday). At the other tackle spot, Andrew Thomas may get a few reps, but the priority is keeping him healthy. I would expect John Michael Schmitz to play possibly as much as the first half. Again, he needs the reps to acclimatize himself to the pro game.

Other than Neal, there is a great deal of uncertainty at the two guard spots. It’s pretty clear the coaching staff is still trying to determine who starts at both left and right guard. It was assumed before camp started that Mark Glowinski’s starting spot at right guard was safe. That’s not the case as Ben Bredeson is still getting snaps there and at left guard with the first unit. The Giants have not ruled out guard-by-committee approach. Regardless, with three weeks to go before the Cowboys, the Giants don’t know who two of their opening day starters on the offensive line will be. That’s a bit disconcerting.

The performance of the back-ups against the Detroit Lions last Friday also raised some red flags. Part of that was exacerbated by the absence of Tyre Phillips and Devery Hamilton from that game. Phillips will likely miss this game and Hamilton has since been waived/injured. The two worst culprits were tackles Korey Cunningham, who much more was expected out of, and Wyatt Davis, a guard who was playing out of position. The Giants signed offensive tackle Julién Davenport off of the street this week. The ones to watch here are Matt Peart and Korey Cunningham at tackle, Shane Lemieux at center and/or guard, Marcus McKethan at guard and/or tackle, and Joshua Ezeudu and Ben Bredeson at guard. The Giants are likely to keep nine offensive linemen with Thomas, Neal, Schmitz, Bredeson, Glowinski, and Ezeudu being the sure bets. That leaves Phillips (who won’t play), Peart, Cunningham, Lemieux, and McKethan fighting for three spots. A waiver-wire pick-up or trade is also an option.

While there is unease on the offensive line, there is fan confusion at wide receiver. Entering camp, nine different receivers could make a strong case for one of the six or seven roster spots. Collin Johnson’s knee injury may have taken him out of the equation, but Joe Schoen has also indicated that Wan’Dale Robinson won’t start the season on the PUP. So we still have eight players fighting for six, maybe seven openings. One has to figure that Isaiah Hodgins, Parris Campbell, Darius Slayton, Jalin Hyatt, and Wan’Dale Robinson make it. Two guys who fans originally did not think had much of chance – Cole Beasley and Jamison Crowder – stood out against the Detroit Lions. Sterling Shepard has yet to play, but seems to be rounding into form quicker than expected. So who goes? Are any of these guys willing to remain on the Practice Squad?

Likely influencing the discussion at wide receiver is the situation at tight end. Tommy Sweeney has not received enough attention from fans as a possible valuable back-up as a blocking tight end. With the Giants likely to run a lot of 12 personnel this year with both Darren Waller and Daniel Bellinger on the field together, it is very possible the Giants decide to keep four tight ends. That makes it tougher to keep seven wide receivers. It also begs the question is it worth keeping seven wide receivers if much of your base offense is 12 personnel? So the preseason remains very important for guys like Lawrence Cager and Tommy Sweeney. Both could make it. Or the team could let go of one.

Finally, there is a pretty good fight going on at running back too. Saquon Barkley is obviously safe and should not play much. It is very unlikely for the team to part ways with a rookie draft pick (Eric Gray), especially since they seem to grooming him for return duty. Do the Giants keep three or four running backs? If three, and the coaching staff wants Matt Breida on this roster, then James Robinson, Jashaun Corbin, and Gary Brightwell will have to hope for a Practice Squad spot. Brightwell’s injury is not helping his cause for the 53-man roster.

When the Giants landed Deonte Banks, John Michael Schmitz, and Jalin Hyatt with their first three draft picks, fans were ecstatic to the point of largely ignoring the remaining four picks. Eric Gray got some love for being a good value in the 5th round, but the remaining 6th-round and two 7th-round selections seemed more throw-aways at the time. Fast forward to mid-August. 6th rounder Tre Hawkins is seriously pushing for a starting outside corner spot. He looks like the complete package – a big, fast, physical corner who can play press coverage. 7th rounder defensive lineman Jordon Riley has caught the eye of the coaches. Defensive Line Coach Andre Patterson, who has coached a lot of great players over the years, thinks he has the ability to be a good player. The second 7th-rounder, safety Gervarrius Owens, has flashed both in camp and the first preseason game. Right now, the 2023 Draft Class is looking like a home run. Keep that in mind when someone tells you late picks don’t matter.

Last Friday’s preseason game was interesting in that both primary back-up defensive linemen, A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches, did not play. Personally, I’m dying to see them both in action for the first time, as well as continued snaps from Jordon Riley. Add to the mix that D.J. Davidson was just activated from the PUP. He is recovering from an ACL. I’m curious to see if he plays. Ryder Anderson is missing a lot of time, and he may have cost himself a spot.

We also did not see the headliners at linebacker: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, and Bobby Okereke. I would expect all three to see snaps against the Panthers. Micah McFadden clearly has the advantage over Darrian Beavers, who is still being brought along slowing coming off his own ACL. McFadden flashed in run defense, but he’s still under the microscope, particularly in pass coverage. Does Beavers play this week and get a chance to make a statement?

One of the more interesting battles is back-up outside linebacker/edge. We know Jihad Ward will be one of the guys. The question is who else? Tomon Fox caused the first turnover last week. Tashawn Bower made some plays in run defense. Habakkuk Baldonado got to the quarterback twice. Oshane Ximines is also in the picture. This is also another area where the Giants may seek outside reinforcements before September 10th.

Defensive Backs Coach Jerome Henderson said Wednesday that this was the deepest group he’s had since being with the Giants. He said all of the players on this 90-man roster can play in the NFL and that’s not always been the case for him. That seems fairly obvious at safety. Where there was once concern about the position with the departure of Julian Love, the Giants now seem to have a numbers problem. Jason Pinnock appears to have the starting spot locked up opposite of Xavier McKinney. Dane Belton seems to have a good hold on the third safety spot. That leaves Nick McCloud, Bobby McCain, Gervarrius Owens, and Alex Cook. At least two of these players have to go. And it’s not a given that they can be safely stashed on the Practice Squad.

Meanwhile, it appears the Giants got two starting cornerbacks out of the same draft. Jackpot. There will be growing pains during their rookie year. Games will be lost because of their youth. But both have the look and feel of long-term studs at a critical position. So much so that the Giants are using their only proven commodity at outside corner in the slot now. Who would have thought that a few weeks ago? Yet I’m still greedy. I want to know if we have a quality 4th outside corner on the roster. Interestingly, the Giants moved Cor’Dale Flott outside this week. That seems to suggest that Adoree’ Jackson and Darnay Holmes will be the two top slot corners with Flott now having to make his mark outside. These last two games are huge for both Rodarius Williams and Amani Oruwariye.

I warned about a breakdown on punt and/or kickoff coverage in my preview last week, and it happened with the 95-yarder that changed the outcome of the game. Again, while I prefer that doesn’t happen, I don’t get bent out of shape over special teams snafus in the preseason. This is where the coaches are trying new players and seeing who can and can’t cut it.

More than the coverage, it’s important to note that the coaches said Jamie Gillan out-kicked his coverage. That’s a problem. He’s young, but entering his second season, he can’t do these things without causing bigger issues for his coverage team.

I also must admit that I’m not totally comfortable with handing the punt and kickoff duties to a rookie running back with virtually no experience at doing either in college. For years, this franchise has curiously ignored finding and using a true return specialist. This has come back to haunt a number of different coaching staffs, and yet the Giants appear to be going down that road again. I get it. Roster spots are valuable. But the return game matters.

My expectation is that the starters will play at least a quarter. Get them in and out. Much attention will be on the offensive line, both front-line starters and reserves. We also should see Daniel Jones for the first time.