Nov 102017
 
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Steve Weatherford, New York Giants (January 22, 2012)

Steve Weatherford – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE INJURY REPORT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 082017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 5, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams 51 – New York Giants 17

RECAP

Two teams heading in completely opposite directions. Two teams with completely different approaches to game day. The Los Angeles Rams, armed with their new, young, hot shot head coach and a second-year quarterback who was selected #1 overall in 2016 marched into East Rutherford with the limping, aging, broken Giants organization approaching a near-low point in its history. This game had “ugly” written all over it during warm-ups.

Initially, the Giants we saw in Denver 3 weeks ago appeared to be back. They were aggressively and consistently running the ball up the middle with plenty of success. Orleans Darkwa gained 35 yards on 3 running plays, moving the Giants across midfield. However, a 3rd-and-4 that turned in a 3rd-and-9 thanks to a D.J. Fluker false start. Aaron Donald then sacked and forced Eli Manning into a fumble for the first of three NYG turnovers on the day. Spurred by a 36-yard run by Todd Gurley, it took LAR just 4 plays to score via a Jared Goff-to-Tyler Higbee 8-yard pass.

NYG was not deterred, initially anyway. They put together a quality 14-play drive that resulted in a Manning-to-Tavarres King touchdown. It was 7-7 at the end of the first quarter before the wheels started to fall off, hard.

Landon Collins, who had arguably his worst game as a pro, had his first blunder of the day after the Giants forced the Rams into 3rd-and-7. His unnecessary roughness penalty put the Rams near midfield and even though the Rams were shooting themselves in the foot via penalties, a 2nd-and-18 deep pass down the right sideline to a rookie tight end burned Collins badly, putting them at the 8-yard line. The Giants defense was able to hold them to a field goal, however.

Wayne Gallman gave the ball right back on the next drive on a 1st-and-10 run near midfield. Two Rams penalties ended up pushing the Rams back behind midfield with 3rd-and-33 staring them in the face. Then, we saw one of the most pitiful, downright disgusting plays in Giants history. A wide receiver screen to Robert Woods resulted not only in a first down, but 52-yard touchdown. The angles and effort showed by the Giants defense was that out of a JV vs…..actually Freshman team vs. Varsity practice film. This was the turning point that abruptly reminded everyone watching that that Giants 2017 season will go down as one of the most disappointing in franchise history.

The air was sucked out of the team, the fans, and the stadium. Another 3-and-out by the Giants gave the ball back to LAR on their own 29-yard line and on the second play, Goff launched a deep ball to Sammy Watkins for a 67-yard touchdown. Landon Collins, who this Rams team was obviously targeting from the beginning, was burned yet again.

The Giants went into halftime down 27-10, but might as well stayed in the locker room instead of coming out for the second half. With the stadium already emptying, the Rams made it 48-10 within the first 12 minutes of the third quarter. Watching the minutes go by was truly more difficult than watching paint dry. The Giants did score one more touchdown on a Manning-to-Engram pass but the game ended with Geno Smith at quarterback and a 51 spot put up by the surging Rams. The most points NYG has allowed at home since 1964 and it had the feel of something we will likely see again this year. Giants lose, 51-17.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 20/36 – 220 yards – 2 TD/1 INT – 80.8 QBR. When it comes to the 2017 season, it was just about an average performance for the 14th year veteran. With the pass blocking a tad better than what it has been, Manning was able to drop back, read the defense, and throw the ball downfield. He overshot several receivers who were open and just hasn’t had the accuracy on that deep ball. His interception thrown to Trumaine Johnson was a hair late and behind his target.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 17 att/71 yards – 2 rec/8 yards. Darkwa started off on fire, surging hard through the middle of the Rams defense. The Giants were controlling the clock early thanks to his aggressive, assertive running style that was consistently breaking tackles. His usage diminished as the game wore on because of the score and once again, he dropped another pass.
  • Wayne Gallman – 9 att/41 yards. The one play that stands out from Gallman’s OK day was a 2nd quarter fumble that eventually led to a Rams touchdown. With the rain coming down hard, the ball had some slickness to it and Gallman simply didn’t keep the ball tight to his body when engaged with tacklers. Otherwise he continued to show elusiveness and vision in his limited action.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 5 rec/70 yards. In his first game back from an ankle injury suffered a month ago, Shepard led the team in catches and was second on the team in targets. He continues to show value over the middle with his ability to quickly get open. He looked rusty, however, with 2 drops.
  • Tavarres King: 3 rec/33 yards – 1 TD. About 6 weeks ago, King was unemployed but because of the slew of injuries to the position, the smooth fifth year veteran is back and able to get plenty of snaps. He scored the Giants first touchdown of the day on their second drive and could have had another if it weren’t for an overthrow by Manning. He has always been an efficient route runner with the ability to get open in short areas. He isn’t overly dynamic or explosive, but he should get plenty of looks at the season wears on. This will be a huge opportunity for his career moving forward.
  • Roger Lewis: 1 rec/4 yards. Lewis has been facing some of the league’s best cornerbacks. Aqib Talib, Richard Sherman, Trumaine Johnson. A 3-week run doesn’t get much tougher than that for an NFL receiver. With that said, Lewis hasn’t been able to get even close to open and his physical presence at the point-of-attack has been very poor.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec/70 yards – 1 TD. If I had to choose one bright spot from the entire team, it’s Engram. We already knew about his talent from what he has shown all throughout training camp and the regular season. But know we are seeing this guy is a competitor in every sense. He plays hard all the time and a guy with his physical gifts combined with that approach can do big things in this league. His long speed was too much for cornerbacks to handle and he was ripping through tackle efforts by safeties. There is a ton to get excited about with him.
  • Rhett Ellison: 2 rec/21 yards. Ellison played about 60% of the team’s plays, most of which were earlier in the game when the Giants were dominating the ground game. A player like him simply won’t make a huge impact when a team is playing catch up football. However his value as a fullback and tight end should be something that sticks to this team long term.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers continues his above average performance on the year overall. He allowed one TFL and was responsible for 1 pressure, even though it wasn’t an obvious 1-on-1 beat. His pass blocking actually graded out higher than his run blocking, which is rare for him. Bobby Hart continued his 2017 campaign to let the league know he can’t be a starting tackle in this league. His reaction, coordination, and hand strength is just so low-level that I’m not sure he should even be a backup in this league. He allowed a sack to Connor Barwin where he literally didn’t touch Barwin. A simple inside move was all it took and Hart couldn’t even get a hand on him. The unfortunate part about it is that as long as Justin Pugh remains sidelined with an injury, there isn’t anyone that can replace Hart. Chad Wheeler simply isn’t ready.
  • Guards/Center: The last time John Jerry faced off against Aaron Donald, Donald was a rookie and Jerry dominated from start to finish. This time, the result was the complete opposite. Jerry’s 2.47 grade was among the lowest the Giants have had this year on the OL. There were two separate plays where Donald lined up across from Jerry and went untouched into the backfield despite Jerry’s efforts to block him. It was a combination of Donald being the best in the game and Jerry simply not being in the same league. Jerry was responsible for a sack, a TFL, and 2 pressures. Brett Jones and D.J. Fluker had positive grades, as they were paving lanes and moving defenders with ease early in the game. While both are limited in the pass game, they held it together for the most part.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Rookie Avery Moss got the start with the injuries to Vernon, Okwara, and Wynn. The 5th-round rookie out of Youngstown State who has struggled to play against the strength of the power of the NFL to this point put in an exceptional effort. He was an impact player against the run, finishing with 6 tackles. He added 2 pressures and a pass deflection. While there is still a great need for more power and strength here, he is showing the grit, hustle, and on-field awareness that you can really work with. Jason Pierre-Paul finished with 3 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. He didn’t make much of an impact against Andrew Whitworth in the passing game.
  • Tackles: The most consistent performers week-to-week on the team reside along the interior of the defensive line. Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Jay Bromley finished with a combined 14 tackles – a very high number for the position. Tomlinson is showing more and more presence each week. His athletic ability that stems from top tier balance, body control, and agility combined with his man-strength can make him a weapon for this defense. He is one guy I enjoy watching week in, week out. He is a keeper. Damon Harrison continues to bring it each week and my hope is some of these young guys take in what he is putting out there. The immovable object is very active and fully capable of changing a game by himself. Having him here for Tomlinson is huge.

LINEBACKERS

  • Another unit that is becoming depleted by injuries. Jonathan Casillas and B.J. Goodson were both out, opening the door for Curtis Grant and Calvin Munson. I’ll tell you what, when it comes to Grant, he belongs. I’m not sure I see a guy who should be starting, but his size, speed, and physical brand is a welcomed sight for this stagnant team. He still does and probably always will struggle with quick-twitch change of directions and reactions, but he played hard on Sunday. He and Munson both finished with 6 tackles a piece. Munson struggled mightily to get off blocks; they take so much out of him and the recovery speed isn’t half of what it needs to be.

CORNERBACKS

  • Janoris Jenkins was suspended for the game for missing practice on Monday, the second veteran of this position group to be suspended by the team this season. The first, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, was in uniform and played a good game. His effort was top notch and he made two of the more physical tackles on the day in addition to sticking to his coverage assignments all over the field. He still has plenty in tank. Eli Apple, once again, looks the part and showed some quality coverage. However, lapses in concentration and an overall lack of effort were apparent and it’s getting really old, really fast. You don’t win with guys that have this kind of approach. He has become one of the players on this team who I think needs to go – as in trade or cut this offseason.

SAFETIES

  • I am trying to recall a game where Landon Collins was beat this many times. As of now, I am still drawing a blank. Collins lack of long speed and overall athletic ability in coverage and in space was attacked all afternoon. His bone-headed penalty followed by being beat deep by tight ends, wide receivers, and players after the catch was about as bad as I’ve seen out of a position that the Giants have had a lot of bad performances over the past decade. Collins has earned the right to have a bad game here and there, but he needs to bounce back. And the defensive scheme needs to make sure they aren’t making him drop into deep coverage responsibilities too often. Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams played solid games respectively. Thompson is moving well in coverage with fluid hips and light feet, less hesitation. Adams could use more playing time, as he is making an impact as a tackler and force over the middle.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1-2 FG (made 50, missed 45). His 50 yarder had about 8-10 yards left on it, but he pushed his next attempt wide right. The rest of this season will be a tryout for him.
  • P Brad Wing: 4 Punts – 53.3 avg. Wing had a punt blocked, but it wasn’t his fault. The Rams special teams outplayed NYG in every phase from execution/spacing to hustle.
  • Return: Ed Eagen and Shane Vereen made minimal to no impact.

3 STUDS

  • TE Evan Engram, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, DE Avery Moss

3 DUDS

  • LB Calvin Munson, S Landon Collins, OG John Jerry

3 THOUGHTS ON LAR

  • What a turnaround this team has made. They have always had solid personnel on defense, but a few acquisitions via free agency, trades, and the draft, along with the maturation of Jared Goff, all of the the sudden this offense is leading the league in scoring and their defense still has some dominant traits. Watch out NFC…for a long time.
  • Aaron Donald was my choice for the NYG first round pick in 2015. NYG still struck gold with Odell Beckham but there is still an interesting debate that can be had. Who would you rather have? Beckham has more impact on games when he is fully on, but is it enough to make up for some of the issues he potentially brings with the “diva-ness”? Donald has had several games where he just absolutely wrecks games, ruins them, for opposing offenses. The contract holdout was a red flag, however.
  • Are there many, if any CBs, that have the size of Trumaine Johnson in the league? There are plenty of guys with height and length, sure. But this kid looks like a safety that can shut down almost any WR in the league by himself. As LAR becomes an NFL spotlight team, expect the rest of the media and fans to catch onto him as one of the best, if not the best.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • What the Rams have done to turnaround their franchise keeps the glass half full for NYG fans. Draft a new young quarterback for the future; hire a fresh, young voice who keeps players motivated and hungry; fix the OL with a veteran signing even if the price tag is steep; and perform well with your first few picks in the draft. The Giants can do all of this in the next year or two, no doubt. But ownership needs to be bold; they’ve been loyal enough. They need to get a new regime in here to run the show.
  • Perhaps the biggest question that needs answering is how to handle the Eli Manning situation. I think it would be in his best interest to allow a trade to a team like JAC in the offseason. Play with a defense that is among the best in the league, hand the ball off to a strong rushing attack, and make a few plays per game himself. I don’t think Manning is done entirely, much like Peyton wasn’t done when he left IND. But if things don’t look up the rest of the way, he and NYG both may be best suited with a break up.
  • The defense has been just as, if not more, disappointing in 2017. The approach for the rest of the year should be a tryout. A key eye on Apple, Casillas, Goodson, Cromartie, Thompson. All of these guys have not met expectations and while some of it is injury based, this team needs to know who these guys are and how hard they push though tough times. They need to go into the offseason knowing that these guys will always put forth top notch effort. If not, goodbye.
Nov 032017
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (October 23, 2016)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants, November 5, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
While my last preview was well received by some, others correctly pointed to the fact that it really wasn’t a “game preview” about the upcoming opponent. To be honest, given the abyss the Giants find themselves in, I don’t really see the point of doing traditional game previews other than the impulse to routinely go through the motions. So right or wrong, I intend to use this spot to provide a weekly “state of the Giants” article as we move closer and closer to incredibly important January decisions to be made by the Mara and Tisch families.

The sense of “blah-ness” among New York Giants fans (1-6 record) and the NFL in general (empty stadiums, declining ratings, injured stars) is palpable. I’ve never seen anything like this. There have been periods in recent years where the NYG fan base felt the Giants were on the wrong track and far away from a championship, including ironically, a couple of times before the Giants last two Super Bowl wins. But even during these dark periods, the fans cared. They screamed, hollered, bitched. Something has changed and I can’t really put my finger on it yet.

Unfortunately, the Giants too appear to simply be going through the motions. No one seems particularly angry or upset… owners, team management, coaches, players. I don’t really know what I want them to do, but Jerry Reese’s press conference seemed more-of-the-same bullshit as does McAdoo’s repeated claims that “we are practicing well” and “we are playing hard.” Again, this isn’t a roster filled with Dave Browns and Jeremy Lincolns. The 2017 New York Giants are not supposed to be 1-6. They were supposed to be a contender. And regardless of what others are claiming, players don’t appear to be afraid of Coach McAdoo, with two Pro Bowl corners simply not showing up to work. And as I predicted, the injury list is growing and players don’t appear to be returning very quickly. We’ve seen this before (see Jim Fassel’s last year).

When things don’t go well, the immediate fan reaction is to call for change. Sometimes that is a mistake. And I’ve been guilty of that as well. I remember saying the Giants were going nowhere with Tom Coughlin in 2006. Imagine if the Giants had fired him then? Same with Bill Parcells after his disastrous 1983 season. On the other hand, the Giants clearly stayed with Dan Reeves a year too long. My point? How much of a problem is Ben McAdoo and his staff? Is it premature to fire him? Or is sticking with him for another year, while making cosmetic changes to the assistant staff, doubling down on a bad decision to promote him to head coach in the first place?

Then there is Jerry Reese. Right now, Reese and his staff are entering the final stages of scouting 2018 NFL Draft prospects. Reports are being written and analyzed. Do you fire Reese in January when the bowl games are wrapping up? Same with the scouts? Do the Giants find a sacrificial lamb (Marc Ross)? Who replaces them and what material do they use to make draft-day decisions a few months later? But again, is doing nothing doubling down on a structure that isn’t working?

Complicated business. Monumental decisions.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Paul Perkins (ribs – probable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (ankle – probable)
  • OC Weston Richburg (concussion – out)
  • OL Justin Pugh (back – out)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (ankle – out)
  • DE Kerry Wynn (knee – out)
  • DT Robert Thomas (calf – probable)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – out)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – out)
  • LB Calvin Munson (quad – probable)
  • CB Donte Deayon (ankle – questionable)
  • S Nat Berhe (calf – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Sometimes we lose sight of the forest through the trees. When Tom Coughlin hired Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator in 2014, I was intrigued to see the New York Giants employ the West Coast Offense and join the ranks those teams that had high-powered passing offenses. Plus, it was becoming obvious that Eli Manning was suffering in a 5- and 7-step drop passing offense behind an offensive line that could not protect him. When Kevin Gilbride was “fired”, the overwhelming reaction on BBI was one of relief. And McAdoo’s early impact on Manning was very positive. Manning enjoyed a career renaissance as he approached his mid-30s.

Now for my side tangent. With my son entering high school and playing in the marching band, I have been attending quite a few Friday night high school games this year. Our local team started off 5-0, using a pistol-type, pass-heavy offense with a variety of formations and personnel groupings. The coach is very unconventional, taking chances I cringe at (i.e., going for it on 4th-and-5 on their side of the field with a 6-point lead). “Maybe this is the direction the league really is going,” I thought. “More like the Arena League and less traditional.” That all changed in Week 6 and our team’s home-coming game. My folks were in town and I said, “Wait to you see how good our 5-0 team is!”

The first thing I noticed was how big the linemen were on the opposing team. “Holy crap, those guys look like college players.” (When I got home that night, I checked their roster, and yup, their linemen were all in the 6’3”, 260lb-range). They just abused our 5-0 team up front. It was smash-mouth personified. They ran, ran, ran and our team couldn’t stop it. And it got worse as the game went on. They hung 50 points on us and had they not called off the dogs in the 4th quarter, it could have been 70. On the other side of the ball, we couldn’t run and became completely one dimensional. Our only points came on a kick return. The other team was just bigger, tougher, more physical, and nastier. We never had a chance.

My point is we sometimes get caught up in the jazzier aspects of the game… the one-handed catches, the 8-yard slant pass that goes for a 70-yard touchdown. But no matter how much the game changes, the game really is still won or lost in the trenches. Yes, you need a good quarterback. Yes, you need to be able to pass the ball in 2017. But if you can’t run the football, you are a finesse team. And the Giants have been a finesse team for far too long. That’s where the offensive inconsistency, including short-yardage and red-zone issues come from. Nothing is really going to change with the Giants until they become a physical offensive football team again.

As for this week’s game, Justin Pugh being out complicates issues on the offensive line. Bobby Hart, who has struggled mightily this year, will regain his starting job at right tackle. John Jerry and D.J. Fluker will be the guards. Weston Richburg has now been absent for over a month. And Pugh is hurt yet another year. The Giants offensive line is even more of a mess than it was a year ago. How is that possible?

It will also be interesting to see how effective or ineffective Sterling Shepard will be with no Odell Beckham on the field.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
I know I’ve sounded very critical of the defense this year. Yes, I hold them to a higher standard than the offense because a greater investment has been recently spent on that side of the ball. Coming into 2017, we all knew the Giants still had issues on the offensive line and potentially at running back. But most of us figured the defense would pick up where they left off. They didn’t. Worse, the minor mutinies have been on that side of the ball. Ben McAdoo is receiving a lot of justified criticism for players not respecting him, but what about Steve Spagnuolo? What does it say about him that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins felt they could just walk out like that? And very troubling was this line from ESPN writer Jordan Raanan earlier this week:

“Players who spoke to ESPN about the situation have offered up explanations ranging from some players not caring anymore now that the season is lost to a lack of overall respect for McAdoo and some of his coaching staff, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.”

Is it merely a coincidence that the suspensions involved two Pro Bowl players in the defensive backfield? Perhaps. But something smells fishy. And this bears watching – especially by those who think Steve Spagnuolo might be a viable candidate to replace McAdoo.

What I will be looking at moving forward is how many defensive players are skipping games with injuries and how hard are these guys still playing in the 4th quarter of games, regardless of the score. Note that Olivier Vernon – who had never missed a game before this year – has now been out for over a month. His replacement – Kerry Wynn – is now out too. So are two of the starting linebackers. It’s disconcerting that B.J. Goodson keeps getting hurt. If you can’t rely on your middle linebacker to be there every week, you need a new middle linebacker.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Regardless of what transpires in January, Tom Quinn must go.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on if a good week of practice should translate to good football during games: “Absolutely.”

Coach McAdoo on why that has not happened: “That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

THE FINAL WORD
The Giants should be 1-7 by 4:15PM on Sunday.

Oct 242017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 22, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Seahawks 24 – New York Giants 7

RECAP

After the Giants put a number in the win column last week against Denver, there was at least some sense of optimism surrounding the team. It would be short-lived, as the match-up with Seattle on paper was an ugly one for New York.

Seattle has had its own issues with the offensive line and penalties, both of which reared their ugly heads in the first half. Defensively, the Giants were fighting hard early including a stand where they stopped Seattle 10 straight times inside the NYG 10-yard line. A Thomas Rawls fumbled picked up by Landon Collins set the Giants up in the red zone and it took them just two plays to score, a 5- yard pass to the surging rookie tight end Evan Engram.

The rest of the first half was an ugly offensive display. Penalties, minimal protection from the offensive line, and failed conversions. This had the look of a defensive dogfight heading into halftime. It was a first half that saw the Giants gain 42 total yards, but they somehow still led 7-3.

Seattle got much more aggressive in the second half, throwing the ball downfield and taking advantage of the Giants’ defense defending the middle of the route tree. Doug Baldwin, who finished with 9 catches for 92 yards, caught his lone touchdown of the day after juking Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out of his shoes with his release off the line. With no safety help over the top, it was an easy pitch-and-catch. Seattle led 10-7 halfway through the 3rd quarter with the NYG offense still mightily struggling.

With momentum on the SEA side fully, the Seahawks continued to move the ball consistently via the air game. Missed tackles and NYG penalties helped their cause as the cream eventually rose to the top. Wilson threw two more touchdowns and the Seattle coverage was strangling the second-rate NYG receivers. The Giants’ offense may have hit a low point, as they gained just 177 total net yards while converting 17% of their third down conversions.

Giants lose, 24-7.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 19/39 – 134 yards – 1 TD/0 INT: In his second full week with replacement-level wide receivers, Manning looked lost and uncomfortable for the majority of the game. If it weren’t for Engram, he would have had a hard time breaking the 100-yard mark. I’m not sure if it is Manning or the design of the offense, but the amount of times they are throwing the ball 4+ yards shy of the first-down marker on third downs is alarming. It’s been happening since week 1 and all but assures this team will not be marching downfield. Manning can’t be looked down upon, as the situation he is in is among the worst in football.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 9 att/35 yards – 3 rec/13 yards: After his impressive performance in Denver, Darkwa came back down to earth. A 3.9 average can be considered a positive for the Giants, as Darkwa continued to break through contact between the tackles with his aggressive running style. His pass blocking left a lot to be desired, missing multiple blitzers up the middle.
  • Wayne Gallman: 5 att/15 yards – 2 rec/14 yards: Gallman’s presence wasn’t felt much. It was a good experience for the young slasher to see the difference in speed and physicality between the Seattle defense and what he’s been matched up against prior.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Travis Rudolph: 3 rec/32 yards: In his first substantial playing time of his career, Rudolph saw some ups and downs. He had a hard time getting off the jam a few times. His biggest weakness is a lack of size and strength. The quickness and hands can be used from the slot, but the inability to power his way through press coverage and fighting for the ball in traffic may end up being what holds him back. There is still a lot to learn with the playbook including a hot read he failed to make which ended up with a Manning pass hitting him in the back.
  • Roger Lewis: 1 rec/12 yards: Prior to the game, I put Lewis down as a guy that would be tested. This was a big day for him…being matched up against a strong secondary without anyone taking pressure off him. He didn’t pass. He was targeted 6 times and simply seemed overwhelmed. He didn’t sell his double route opportunities and got pushed around in traffic.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 6 rec/60 yards – 1 TD: Engram is going to be the feature player on this offense for the rest of the season. He has passed every test so far this year and I think it will end up being huge for his career. I thought this fast, big, and physical back seven would be able to shut him down but Engram seemed more than comfortable and proved to be capable of handling the NFL’s best. This game was, however, his first negative blocking grade of the year. He had a hard time sustaining his blocks and got very little movement on the Seattle front seven.
  • Rhett Ellison/Matt LaCosse/Jerrell Adams: Ellison played about half of the team’s snaps and is still being underused. He dropped the one target thrown his way and his impact as a blocker was up and down. LaCosse saw a season high 17 snaps. One of the stars of training camp didn’t see any official targets, but he was a primary receiver on one play where Manning was scrambling and had to throw it away over his had. LaCosse was open and was visibly upset he didn’t get the opportunity to do his thing. Adams was barely on the field.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers continues to be the bright spot of the offensive line over the past 4 weeks. This is the best stretch we have seen out of him in his career. Justin Pugh was hurt in the first half and did not return, forcing the shaky-at-best Bobby Hart into action. Hart struggled to finish his blocks and is proving to be nothing more than an average backup in this league. His balance, hand placement, and confidence in his assignments simply aren’t there.
  • Guards/Center: John Jerry and Brett Jones appeared to have one of their worst performances of the year, respectively. Without re-watching the tape (time constraints this week), it looked like the pressure coming up the middle all afternoon was stemming from a lack of adjustment to late blitzes and twists/stunts. This is something these guys have been struggling with since training camp and I expect to see a non-stop effort by opposing defenses to do this the rest of the year. Jones is starting to look a little over-matched in there. D.J. Fluker had a positive game, showing flashes of dominance as a run blocker. Mentally, just as I saw with with the Chargers, he is a step behind often and doesn’t have the foot speed to catch up. He missed two blitzes inside that forced Manning into early throws.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: With the injuries mounting at the position, Jason Pierre-Paul played 96% of the team’s snaps. The fatigue hampered his play a bit, but overall it was a gutsy performance if nothing else. He applied two pressures to Wilson, including one knockdown. He failed to rise to the new bar he set after a 3 sack performance in Denver and continues to be one of the biggest 2017 disappointments for NYG. The bright spot of the day was the play of rookie Avery Moss, who played less than half of the team’s snaps but led them with 4 pressures. He also forced the Rawls fumble after good backside pursuit. Moss is still way behind when it comes to strength and power, but he is making the most of what he has and is getting the job done. This will be an important stretch in terms of him maturing into an NFL pass rusher.
  • Tackles: Once again, the Giants’ interior dominated. It’s like clockwork now when it comes to Damon Harrison beating single and double teams alike with his pop off the snap, top tier strength when engaged, and almost-shocking quickness to free himself and take down ball carriers. He recorded 7 tackles including 1 or a loss. Rookie Dalvin Tomlinson and veterans Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas were impact players against the run. Thomas recorded a season high 3 tackles and showed some of the quickness we saw in training camp. Those two veterans are fighting for  2018 roster spots now.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson’s impact on a game where the ball is thrown a lot is minimal at best. So far in his young career (and I know we still have to wait and see), Goodson is proving to be a 2-down player. He is over-matched when it comes to defending those 3rd-and-5 passes over the middle – late to recognize and he is a straight-line athlete, not a quick adjuster. Keenan Robinson led the team with 9 tackles and appears to be on the uptick after a rough start to the year.
  • Curtis Grant saw a season high 34 plays. His straight-line speed and presence stand out. He is excellent in pursuit but again, the quick twitch in coverage isn’t there. He had a hard time sticking to his assignment after his opponents made their cuts.
  • Devon Kennard is quietly having a very good year for NYG. The versatility he has shown from the SAM linebacker spot is what this team has been looking for. He applied pressure, hit Wilson a couple times, and was stout against the run. Used correctly, Kennard can be one of those quiet-but-essential difference makers

CORNERBACKS

  • Janoris Jenkins is the little engine that could. I noticed this about him when he faced off against Brandon Marshall in training camp and it has shown up a few times this year. Up against the 6’6”-Jimmy Graham with no help, Wilson threw a fade into the end zone and Jenkins easily contested the pass. He is a fighter and a quality cornerback.
  • In his first game back from suspension, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie struggled. He was outclassed by the quickness of Doug Baldwin on a couple of occasions. He was only on the field for 16 plays and one has to think he may be one of the first guys who checks out mentally. I really do wonder if there is a trade market out there for him so NYG can get the pick back they sent to PIT for Ross Cockrell. Speaking of Cockrell, he has quietly been a solid addition. Reliable but unspectacular, he is rarely caught out of position or out of control – two things I had in his college scouting report out of Duke. Curious to see if he can earn a future roster spot here because so far, so good.
  • Eli Apple was back in his starting role, playing 97% of the team’s snaps. He had some good plays, but overall it was a negative performance again. He suffered another defensive holding on a play where he was fooled by a double route and allowed a touchdown late in the game to Graham. What was most maddening were the amount of times he lost his outside contain assignment against the run. It’s a simple role and almost inexcusable to miss it multiple times in one game.

SAFETY

  • Landon Collins made the highlight reel a couple of times, with his body-slam tackle of Tyler Lockett and fumble recovery that set up the lone Giants’ touchdown. However his performance in deep coverage was downright awful. He was outclassed speed-wise and showed that he shouldn’t be handling any single-high duties. He also had a bad missed tackle on Jimmy Graham that gave SEA about 20 more yards on one of their touchdown scoring drives.
  • Darian Thompson had a quiet game in a good way, sticking to his assignments and applied pressure as a blitzer twice. Nat Berhe recorded a sack but was only on the field for 4 plays.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 0/1 – Miss from 47. With the Giants down 10-7 early in the 4th quarter, Rosas pushed his game tying attempt wide right.
  • P Brad Wing: 7 att/38.4 net avg. Wing had one of his blocks partially blocked but otherwise had a good day.
  • Return: Ed Eagan handled punt return duties but was a non factor.

3 STUDS

  • TE Evan Engram, DT Damon Harrison, DE Avery Moss

3 DUDS

  • OG John Jerry, OC Brett Jones, S Landon Collins

3 THOUGHTS ON SEA

  • Russell Wilson has had one of the more impressive starts to his career when considering his production and win total. That said, he makes a lot of rookie-caliber mistakes when it comes to holding onto the ball way too long and being erratic with his decision making. I would say over the past 20+ games his arrow has flat-lined a bit.
  • The SEA offensive line is just as bad, if not worse, than what NYG is working with. It may be what ends up holding them back from serious contention because they day they are matched up with a quality pass rushing team, they are in major trouble.
  • The Seattle linebackers for a few years now have proven what an athletic, physical group can do for a defense. Those guys can cover almost anything thrown their way, they can knock the helmets off blockers, and they don’t miss a lot of tackles. They have set the bar for 4-3 defenses and those that run a similar front need to take notes.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • As I said before, I looked at this match-up on paper prior to the game and came away with the thought that NYG had no shot in this one. I have seen every SEA game so far this year and if there was a defensive personnel/scheme combination that the NYG offense wouldn’t be able to move the ball against, it would be this one. I don’t think the rest of the season will be this ugly, but that was a blueprint other teams can try to replicate to keep NYG under 10 points.
  • I am going to get a lot of disagreements about this, but Eli Manning should get a pass for the rest of the year. The situation he is in simply doesn’t get worse. The offensive line has a new leak each week, the scheme and play calling appear to be outclassed by the opposition, and he has replacement-level wide receivers all around him. I’m not going to get into what the NYG QB approach should be next year and forward, but Davis Webb isn’t even a thought this season.
  • I try to steer clear of being overly-critical of play-calling and schemes. I simply don’t have the access to the information that is needed to have a fully credible opinion on the subject. That said, I watch 8-10 NFL games per week and there isn’t an offense in the league that is more predictable and repeatable that what I see with NYG. The same mistakes and shortcomings arise each week. The injury situation and the OL may hamper them a bit, but how many times are we going to see a pass to a receiver darting towards the sideline 4 yards short on 3rd down? Or a quick dump off to a running back with 4 defenders between him and the first down marker? When do we see Evan Engram run up the seam? The rest of the season is as much a tryout for next year for the coaching staff as it is the players.
Oct 202017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 15, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants, October 22, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
Last Sunday night was fun. This preview is not.

This preview is going to piss off a lot of loyal New York Giants fans who understandably want to grasp onto any sliver of hope for the 2017 NFL season. Last Sunday’s huge upset of the Denver Broncos was (1) too little, too late; and (2) most likely a mirage against a team that got caught taking the Giants too lightly.

The Giants season died when they began the season 0-5. Hell, historically speaking, it died when they started 0-3. The team wasn’t ready to play the 2017 season and nothing that transpires now will change those facts. The Giants are a seriously-flawed team (in all three phases) that now has nearly-insurmountable injury issues. They have no margin for error. Unfortunately all of this will be made clear very soon to those still clinging to hope.

The danger moving forward is that ownership and management will misplace responsibility once the season is over. The offense, defense, and special teams ended this season long before the Injured Reserve list began to expand. The team once again botched its own personnel and coaching analysis (more on that below). There are structural issues that must be dealt with if this team is ever to become a CONSISTENT winner, and not one that merely threatens to make the playoffs every four or five years. One senses that the Super Bowl wins in 2007 and 2011 emboldened franchise management with a certain degree of arrogance that now seems quite misplaced. To be blunt, their shit is beginning to stink.

Many fans were upset with my comments that wins from here on out will only worsen the Giants draft position. I will never root against the Giants. It’s not in my DNA. But if we are thinking with our heads and not our hearts, this team will need to draft its next franchise quarterback in 2018. And every win between now and the end of the season will make that goal more difficult. Trading up will cost a future #1 draft pick. And I don’t agree with those who argue that winning games is more important than draft slotting (see Cedric Jones vs. Jonathan Ogden or Aaron Ross vs. Darrelle Revis).

I’m sorry to be Debbie Downer. It sucks. This is supposed to be fun and entertaining. But I’ve got to call it like I see it.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Paul Perkins (ribs – out)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (ankle – questionable)
  • OC Weston Richburg (concussion – out)
  • OG John Jerry (tooth – probable)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (ankle – out)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – out)
  • LB Calvin Munson (quad – out)
  • S Landon Collins (ankle – probable)
  • LS Zak DeOssie (wrist/elbow – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Many Giants fans are not accurately assessing last Sunday’s offensive futility. The reason is that for the first time in recent memory, the Giants actually had what appeared to be a physical ground game. The Giants not only rushed for a season-high 148 yards against the NFL’s #1 run defense, but they did it in a blunt-force fashion that made us all feel good.

But despite all of that, the Giants only accrued 16 offensive points, 12 first downs, and less than 120 yards passing. The team only converted on four 3rd-down opportunities. The defense scored and Tom Quinn’s special teams didn’t screw up – neither are common occurrences.

More than all of that, one game does not make a trend. Orleans Darkwa is still an incredibly injury-prone back and it is highly doubtful that Flowers-Jerry-Jones-Fluker-Pugh are the reincarnation of the 1990 New York Giants offensive line.

What is most troubling about all of this is that the (expletive deleted) coaching staff couldn’t figure out that Pugh was the team’s best offensive tackle. Hell, he may still be the best left tackle on the team. And perhaps Fluker should have been starting all along? (Remains to been determined, but he clearly added a much-needed degree of physicality to the OL). Why can’t management acquire good offensive linemen and why can’t this coaching staff put them in the best position to succeed? Good job at starting to figure this out after spring workouts, 10 OTAs, training camp, four preseason games, and an 0-5 start!!! (sarcasm off) What would the Giants record be right now if the Giants had simply configured their offensive line better in training camp?

More bad news? Granted the Denver Broncos secondary is one of the best in the NFL, but the Giants patchwork wide receiving corps had TWO catches last week! Two for 22 yards! Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall (who is clearly done and was a bad signing) are not coming back. Sterling Shepard should help, but he’s not an outside threat. Teams simply are not going to be threatened by Roger Lewis and Tavarres King. I would imagine the Legion of Boom was cackling quite a bit in the film room this week.

Let’s end on a positive note. Evan Engram and Wayne Gallman look like promising young players. I’m excited to see more of them. I also am intrigued to see if the Giants can really morph their offense into a more physical ground-attack. I also suggest that Giants fans really begin to soak in the twilight period of Eli Manning’s career. He’ll be gone sooner than most of us realize, and he is still breaking League and Franchise quarterback records with each passing game. The Giants ditched Phil Simms before most of us were ready and I wouldn’t be shocked to see it happen again.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Take a bow New York Giants defense! Your performance against the Denver Broncos last week was great! You held the Broncos to three points until late in the 4th quarter! And you did this short-handed without Olivier Vernon and Jonathan Casillas!

Where the (expletive deleted) was this in the past four games? What would the Giants record be right now had the defense played like this against the Lions, Bucs, Eagles, and Chargers?

Again, one game does not make a trend. Prove last Sunday was no fluke. Can we have another game like Jason Pierre-Paul and Eli Apple? Some more sacks and turnovers please? Another game where we hold onto a 4th-quarter lead?

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Yea! Tom Quinn’s special teams didn’t implode for one game! And Ed Eagan flashed on his lone punt return. One game does not… oh (blank) it!

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on how not calling the offensive plays impacted him as a coach: “It was interesting on Sunday night for the first time in a long time not calling plays, where I guess I could move around with a little more energy and vigor than I usually can. Your normal coaching personality comes out a little bit more when you don’t call the plays, simply because of thinking ahead from just a playcaller standpoint. You’re always thinking ahead from a game management standpoint, but when you remove the actual calling of the plays, it changes some things. I guess your personality comes out a little bit more on the sideline. So that was fun for me.”

THE FINAL WORD
This game will determine how much last Sunday night was a mirage or not.

Oct 182017
 
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Dalvin Tomlinson, New York Giants (October 15, 2017)

Dalvin Tomlinson – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 23 – Denver Broncos 10

RECAP

Heading to Denver in prime time after a 7-day run that saw the loss of 4 of the team’s top 5 wide receivers and starting weakside linebacker to injury in addition to the suspension of their slot cornerback appeared to be a situation that was going to be as bad as it can be. Denver has was won 25 of their past 30 games on their home turf, including all 3 this season. The number one defense in the league matched up against an offense that has been struggling mightily. A secondary and pass rush that has been shutting down passing games with ease and the top ranked run defense with the backing of a home crowd on a Sunday night. This had the makings of just ugly for NYG. In typical NFL fashion, Eli Manning yet again proved but he and the league are as unpredictable as ever.

The Giants dominated the time of possession early on. They forced two three-and-outs defensively. And with Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan now calling the plays, there was a consistent and steady flow off the bat spearheaded by a running game that went from evolving over the past few weeks to domination in Denver. The Giants made it down to the Denver 8-yard line, 1st-and-goal, with rookie Evan Engram taking over as the team’s primary target in the passing game, catching 2 passes for 37 yards. Aldrick Rosas kicked a 25-yard field goal to give the Giants the initial lead, something they wouldn’t give up the rest of the game.

On Denver’s third possession of the game, they began near midfield thanks to a catch interference by Michael Hunter on a punt play. Former Giants kicker Brandon McManus, whom had already missed 3 field goal attempts at home in 2017, went wide right on is 35-yard attempt. There was blood in the water and NYG too advantage of it. Led by a 47-yard run by Orleans Darkwa, the Giants marched down the field and capped the drive with a 5-yard pitch-and-catch for a touchdown from Manning to Engram. NYG had a commanding 10-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter.

Once again, Trevor Siemian and the balanced Broncos offense appeared to be driving until he threw an interception to safety Landon Collins. Collins returned it 21 yards setting up the Giants on their own 35-yard line. A quick three-and-out partially because of a 3rd down delay-of-game penalty gave the ball back to Denver who, once again, drove down the field via play-action passes and attacking the top Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Their red zone woes continued, however, and they settled for a field goal attempt by McManus, this one he made. 10-3 Giants with just over 4 minutes left in the first half.

The Broncos defense forced the Giants into another three-and-out as the momentum appeared to be shifting. A big play from the Giants defense was needed. On 3rd-and-10, Siemian continued to throw to Jenkins’ side one too many times, as the Giants top cover man picked off a pass to the left and returned it for 43 yards into the end zone. The Giants took a 17-3 lead into halftime with Siemian in the locker room early getting his non-throwing shoulder checked out which he appeared to injure trying to tackle Jenkins.

New York and Denver exchanged 4 play drives to start off the second half. On the Giants second possession, they were led by a 21-yard catch-and-run by Engram, the rookie who will likely view this game as his breakout. His speed and size gave the Denver coverage fits. For the first time this year, Ben McAdoo opted to let kicker Aldrick Rosas go for a 45+ yard field goal. The rookie lined up from 51 yards away and nailed a 51-yarder that would have been good from 60. New York took a 20-3 lead and it was now up to the defense to prevent the 12th-ranked offense in the league from giving the team another blown lead.

The Broncos quickly got to midfield and started to approach field goal range. A sack by the run-stuffing Damon Harrison put a roadblock in the Broncos plans. They opted to go for a 53-yard field goal, which would cut the lead to two possessions. Kerry Wynn broke through the inside gap and got his hand on the low-line drive attempt, getting enough of it to prevent the ball from ever having a shot at even reaching the goal post. The score remained 20-3 as the Giants took over close to midfield.

Manning hooked up with Engram for yet another impact, 19-yard play, getting the Giants to the Denver 38-yard line. On 3rd-and-3, Engram however suffered his second drop of the night forcing NYG to give Rosas another shot at a long field goal, this one 49 yards. Denver’s own hybrid defensive lineman, Adam Gostis, snuck through the line and got his hand on this one, making it the second block in as many attempts for in this match-up.

As the 3rd quarter was drawing to a close, wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas were injured. Sanders was eventually carted off while Thomas was fighting through a significant limp. The team was down 17 points with one quarter left and their top two targets were either not on the field or a shell of their actual selves. Jason Pierre Paul recorded his second sack of the night and then on 4th-and-5, Thomas was stripped by Jenkins and the ball as recovered by Eli Apple. Giants ball near midfield again with a 17 point lead.

A quick three-and-out and a punt gave the Broncos the ball back on their own 15-yard line and they put together perhaps their best drive of the night. Despite losing another wide receiver, Isaiah McKenzie, to injury, they drove all the way down to the Giants 1-yard line. The Giants defensive front came up big and forced a turnover on downs. New York was able to take 2 minutes off the clock, giving the ball back to Denver at their own 42-yard line.

Siemian went 4/6 for 55 yards, capping the drive with their only touchdown of the night to tight end Jeff Heuerman. After a failed onsides kick attempt and good field position, the Giants rode another long Darkwa run into field goal range and Rosas made his third one of the night, this one from 40 yards. The Broncos squeezed one more play in but nothing from that point mattered. Giants win 23-10 in Denver.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 11/19 – 128 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. With multiple weapons no longer in the picture, the outlook and approach of this offense had change. Manning has always done a nice job with young, under the radar receivers and this game was no different. He wasn’t asked to do much but he did protect the ball against one of the scariest pass defenses in the league at their place. Him and Engram have seemed to develop the relationship this team will be heavily relying on the rest of the season. This is something that I saw developing at training camp and the best has yet to come.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 21 att/117 yards – 1 rec/13 yards. The highest rushing total for a lone Giants rusher since, get this, January 3, 2016 (Week 17 of the 2015 season)!  Darkwa started off hot and ended hot. His aggressive downhill style is a force when the blocking is there.
  • Wayne Gallman: 9 att/27 yards – 2 rec/7 yards. There wasn’t much of a need for Gallman other than giving the hot-handed Darkwa a breather. The combination of these two can be something to really work with, as their running styles couldn’t be more different.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Roger Lewis: 1 rec/15 yards. With such a limited amount of passes thrown and Engram being their top target, Lewis couldn’t really get involved. Also keep in mind that being matched up against Aqib Talib forced Manning to look away from him. Lewis’ lone catch was a big one, a 3rd-and-10 conversion on the Giants lone TD scoring drive. Next up? Richard Sherman.
  • Tavarres King: 1 rec / 7 yards: In his debut back with the team, King was thrown to 3 times. I expect him to be more involved over the next few weeks, as Eli seems to at least have some trust in him. Travis Rudolph is knocking, however.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 5 rec/82 yards – 1 TD. This was a huge, huge night for the Giants first rounder. Not just the production, but the fact he stepped up as the team’s primary receiving option and looked dominant doing it is a sign of things to come. The quick speed he has for a player his size may be unmatched in this league and once he gets over the little hesitations I see here and there, there is no ceiling for him. Huge test or him against SEA coming up.
  • Rhett Ellison: 0 rec/0 yards. He played about two-thirds of the team’s snaps. The team’s running success was in part because of him. What I like most here is how hard he runs downfield to throw the extra block. Watching the offensive tape over and over makes me appreciate what he brings to the table as an intangible guy. And I am holding on the concept that he can be a difference maker in the passing game if he gets the looks.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Considering who these guys went up against, both Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh had a very solid game. Flowers graded out at 2.78, right around the “average” line of my grading system. The two sacks he allowed were not fully his fault and if anything, were both more on Manning. Flowers actually didn’t run block well and a number that stood out to me were the 5 tackles he allowed, his highest of the season. Pugh graded out at 2.9 and was primarily matched up against Von Miller – that is a major victory for the team’s best OT. He allowed 1 sack 1 tackle on the night.
  • Guards/Center: D.J. Fluker, in his first start of the season, dominated in the run game. His 2.93 grade was the highest of the night, as he was moving guys off the ball consistently from start to finish. He is probably the biggest difference maker in this Giants running game that appears to be taking off finally. John Jerry and Brett Jones graded out at 2.89 and 2.81 respectively, rounding out the first time the linemen have all graded out above the average mark on my sheet in the same game since last year. Jones had some play-changing blocks but also allowed 4 tackles, a high number for a center.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: One of my preseason predictions gone wrong was Jason Pierre-Paul being in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. I wouldn’t call his start to the year “horrid”, but it was nowhere near where I thought he would be. Well he took a step in the right direction finally, finishing the night with 3 sacks and a forced fumble. There was less dancing around to his game and I’ve always felt when he was more assertive, more straight-lined, with his approach that is when we see the dominant JPP. He has another opportunity coming up this week to take over. Kerry Wynn got the start on the other side and played solid run defense, recording a tackle for loss. Rookie Avery Moss played nearly half the team’s snaps but didn’t make much of an impact. The power presence simply isn’t there yet.
  • Tackles: Damon Harrison continues to be the bright spot of the defense. He finished with 4 tackles and a sack where he was moving like a 275-pound pass rushing tackle. His impact is felt almost every play, as he was double-teamed on 78% of the plays he was in. Rookie Dalvin Tomlinson took yet another step forward in his progression, getting off the ball exceptionally well and altering the plans of the Broncos running game. They averaged just over 2.5 yards per carry largely because of these two. Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas actually got close to even playing time at the position to help keep those two fresh and did a fine job inside.

LINEBACKERS

  • After a rough start to the year, Keenan Robinson played his best game of the year. He was very consistent with his assignments against the run and made an impact in coverage, break up 2 passes. He finished with 6 tackles. B.J. Goodson also finished with 6 tackles and 2 pass break ups, although he is still struggling often when it comes to recognizing pass and getting to his spot and/or man.
  • Devon Kennard had a quiet night but his versatility and multiple roles helps this defense in several ways. Calvin Munson was brought in as an early run-down defender and finished with 2 tackles.

CORNERBACKS

  • With Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite serving his one game suspension handed down by Ben McAdoo, someone had to step up. Eli Apple had his best game of the year and one of his best since being in the NFL. He broke up 3 passes, wasn’t flagged once, and was very physical in the run game. Janoris Jenkins was picked on early and did get a beat a few times (including a pass interference penalty) but came up with the biggest play of the night – a pick 6 at the end of the 2nd quarter that gave the Giants a double digit lead.
  • Ross Cockrell and Donte Deayon both saw plenty of time with the Broncos playing the majority of the game from behind. It was Deayon’s first game action and he was very sure of himself and his assignments. Watching the “All-22” tape, I can tell Deayon knew where to be and who to get to. He is an excellent mover in coverage and if he can hold up physically, can bring plenty to the table in nickel/dime packages .

SAFETIES

  • With Denver only handing off the ball off 15 times, Landon Collins’ didn’t have his usual impact in the box. He finished the game with 0 tackles for the first time in his career. However his 2nd quarter interception with the Broncos driving was a major momentum shift in the game that prevented them from putting valuable early points on the board. Collins also was somewhat limited, playing 64% of the teams snaps. Darian Thompson had another solid game, finishing with 5 tackles and more importantly getting near the action often.
  • Nat Berhe and Andrew Adams played about 20% of the teams snaps and didn’t make much of an impact. Berhe did miss a TFL opportunity which has become the norm for him.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 3 / 4 – Made 25-51-40 – Missed 49. An important step for Rosas, who really has been overlooked in long field goal attempts so far this year. Rosas’ 51-yarder hit halfway up the kicking net with velocity; it may have been good from 65.
  • P Brad Wing: 6 punts – 49.8 avg. His 46-yard net average is top tier. Wing had a solid night that helped NYG win the field-position battle.
  • Return: Ed Eagan – 1 PR for 20 yards. With Dwayne Harris gone for the year, this is a job that is there for the taking and the shifty Eagan took advantage on his one shot. I like how quickly he can accelerate north/south while maintaining the ability to cut laterally at any given time.

3 STUDS

  • RB Orleans Darkwa, OG D.J. FLuker, DE Jason Pierre Paul

3 DUDS

  • OC Brett Jones, DE Avery Moss, WR Roger Lewis

3 THOUGHTS ON DEN

  • Coming into the year, my biggest worry about this defensively-dominant team was a lackluster offensive line paired with a QB who doesn’t seem to have a ceiling higher than middle of the road. That can be a rough combination and considering Paxton Lynch won’t be ready until next year at the earliest, DEN may have a hard time holding onto that wild card spot. Unless their defense dominates week in, week out, they are going to have a lot of trouble winning enough games.
  • CB Aqib Talib may not be everyone’s favorite person, but re-watching his all 22 tape and with what I have seen on those tapes the past 3 years, I have to say I think he is the best CB in football right now. Granted Roger Lewis may not have been the stiffest challenge Sunday night, but the way he moves before reads are supposed to be made combined with his size, speed, and ball skills is almost unfair.
  • Left tackle Garett Bolles was a very much talked about prospect last year because of his interesting situation. Older than the average rookie, a rough past, sloppy technique at times, short tempered. But in his short career to this point, he may have the left tackle spot locked up in DEN for the next 7-10 years. He looked fantastic.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Do we need to evaluate the Giants playoff chances every week? No. One week at time and let this thing play out. There IS still a chance and the biggest weakness on this team has turned a corner, the offensive line. Plays are being made by the defense, and Eli Manning specializes in these situations. Keep all of those in mind.
  • 4 of the 5 top WRs were injured last week and all of the sudden this Giants offense looked efficient, consistent, and reliable. Funny how that works. You will never catch me saying they are better off without those guys on the field, but something needs to be said for the fact they were just fine against the BEST defense at THEIR place. Quality offensive line play and a new play caller made all the difference. It would be great to see this offense actually take steps forward to prove to everyone in the building and on the sideline that star players aren’t always needed, a team that plays together to win is all you need.
  • Did Ben McAdoo “save his job”? Well first of all I don’t think his job was ever that much in danger the way some were saying. It simply isn’t the Giants way to fire someone after his second year, the first of which he made the playoffs. But him turning the play calling duties over and suspending the team’s #2 CB after an 0-5 start were both ballsy moves. And they both worked out very well. If he can get this team to a 2-5 mark heading into the bye week, I don’t think there is anything that can happen that would get him fired in 2018.
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New York Giants Fans (October 8, 2017)

© USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Denver Broncos, October 15, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The 2017 New York Giants season is shaping up to be one of the most disastrous in the team’s 93-year old history. Fans who thought it couldn’t get worse witnessed it getting worse last Sunday. Not only did the winless Giants lose yet another game, but they lost four of their active five wide receivers, including the team’s best player, Odell Beckham, Jr.

You think it can’t get worse? Oh I’m here to tell you sunshine that it can. Thirty-six year old Eli Manning will likely take more and more hits on his aging body. It is not out of the realm of possibility that we could see Manning’s ironman streak end and Geno Smith taking over. The team is beginning to show signs of tuning out Ben McAdoo. And as losses mount, expect the injury list to grow. There are already 13 players on Injured Reserve. And six more players have been ruled “out” against the Broncos.

The 2003 New York Giants won four games. The 1983 New York Giants won three games. The 1974 New York Giants won two games. The 1966 New York Giants won just one game. How low will the 2017 New York Giants sink?

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Paul Perkins (ribs – out)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (ankle – out)
  • OC Weston Richburg (concussion – out)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (ankle – out)
  • DE Romeo Okwara (knee – out)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – out)
  • S Landon Collins (ankle – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
If you choose to watch, from a fan perspective, the best way to approach the rest of the regular season is like watching an extended and more serious preseason. We don’t know if Ben McAdoo will be back. Or Jerry Reese. But many – if not most – of these players will.

  • Quarterbacks: Barring a miracle turnaround, the New York Giants will likely have a shot at one of the best quarterback prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. And the prevailing opinion is that the Giants will draft one of them if they get the opportunity. It would be ideal if Davis Webb were a 3rd-round steal and the Giants were able to draft running back Saquon Barkley or a defensive end instead, but the Giants will simply not know what they have in Webb by the end of this year. So expect the Eli Manning era to last at least one more season in 2018 as he serves as a mentor for the team’s 1st round pick and/or Webb. How can this season get worse? Manning gets hurt and we get to enjoy Geno Smith running around like a chicken with his head cut off.
  • Running Backs: Same story with Orleans Darkwa. He impresses early in a game. Then he stops receiving carries. We later learn he got banged up again. The Giants simply can’t count on him. His touches should be going to Wayne Gallman, who has shown flashes of being a legitimate NFL back. The big offseason debate for NYG fans will be the quarterback (and which one) or running back Saquon Barkley. (This of course assumes the Giants will keep losing).
  • Wide Receivers: The Giants are down to four wideouts – three of whom were not on the 53-man roster last Sunday. Roger Lewis, Travis Rudolph, Tavarres King, and Ed Eagan?! Good Lord! At the very least, this is a tremendous opportunity for one or two of these guys to prove they belong in the NFL. Roger Lewis has the most upside, but has proven to be inconsistent. Rudolph is the most consistent, but can he separate from NFL defenders? King and Eagen have bounced around the NFL and this is their last chance.
  • Tight Ends: One would think we’ll see a heavy dose of Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison on the field together. I hope the Giants don’t force feed Engram as a wideout. As Sy’56 has already pointed out, if the Giants split him out wide, and the opposing team puts their best CB on him, he is likely to be held quiet. I would heavily use Engram and Ellison in the passing game as true tight ends/H-Backs. Try to match them up on safeties and linebackers.
  • Offensive Line: As Sy’56 and Cris Collinsworth have pointed out, Ereck Flowers has flashed signs of not sucking in recent games. But he’ll be tested to the limit in this game by pass-rush extraordinaire Von Miller. The question remains… what is his best position? Bobby Hart is struggling on the opposite side. He has 11 games left to prove he belongs in the NFL. At right guard, the Giants have one player who can’t run block (John Jerry) and one player who can’t pass block (D.J. Fluker). Is Justin Pugh worth the money he thinks he deserves or is it best to let him walk? Is Brett Jones a legitimate NFL starter? I’m rooting for a way for Chad Wheeler to play.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
For the third game in a row, Steve Spagnuolo’s defense could not hold a 4th-quarter lead. Now an open rebellion appears to be brewing on the defensive side of the ball. Olivier Vernon out again. Jonathan Casillas not playing this week and Landon Collins questionable? This could get even uglier.

  • Defensive Line: Unfortunately, given the size of their recent contracts, for better or worse, the Giants are stuck with Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon for a while. The cap hit for cutting or trading either in 2018 would be too great. It was hoped that Romeo Okwara might prove to be another rookie free agent steal, but he’s not. And he’s out for this game. Kerry Wynn, who was far too quiet last week, will start again. Meanwhile, the JPP disappearing act continues. Damon Harrison is playing his heart out. He’s got to be frustrated as hell. I personally will be spending more time watching Dalvin Tomlinson.
  • Linebackers: Jonathan Casillas was not playing as well as last year, but him not playing this week is a significant loss for a unit that has struggled to cover backs and tight ends. B.J. Goodson was the talk of training camp, but he’s embarrassing himself in coverage. Keenan Robinson has regressed and shouldn’t be back next year. The Giants may want to start rotating Calvin Munson and Curtis Grant more into the line-up and see what they can do. For any future opponent, I would keep throwing against these guys with my backs and tight ends all day.
  • Defensive Backs: Along with the defensive line, this was supposed to be one of the best units in the NFL and good enough to help carry the team. Now there is dissension in the ranks. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is suspended and he probably won’t be back in 2018, even with a regime change. Despite what the coaches say, Eli Apple was benched. He’s unhappy. Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins don’t sound happy at all about the DRC situation. And now Collins is banged up. The Giants are wasting snaps on Ross Cockrell. He’s not the future. Play Apple and Michael Hunter. They need the experience. Darian Thompson had his best game last week. Let’s see if he can build upon that.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Dwayne Harris was finally getting some chances last week and responding. Then he breaks his foot and is gone for the year. He may not be back in 2018. Travis Rudolph and/or Ed Eagan will return. Ball security could be an issue. I’d love to see Aldrick Rosas get a chance at a historic-type kick in Denver with his leg. Have I said I want Tom Quinn gone?

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo: “Nobody is giving us a chance in this ballgame. They’re saying without Odell, we can’t score points.”

THE FINAL WORD
Attention NFL and networks – flex the Giants out of all prime-time spots while you still can! Save yourselves!

Oct 112017
 
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Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, New York Giants (October 8, 2017)

Eli Manning and Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Los Angeles Chargers 27 – New York Giants 22

RECAP

With two 0-4 teams facing off at MetLife Stadium, something had to give. The stadium notably lacked life, as it rained all morning prior to kickoff, creating an eerie, something-just-isn’t-quite-right-type feeling. Just 3 and a half hours later, that eeriness was proven right. The 2017 season couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start leading up to this match-up, or so we thought. This 2017 Giants squad was about to find themselves on the wrong side of team history.

The defense was stout early, not allowing a first down over the course of their opponent’s first three drives. With Kerry Wynn on the field in place of the injured Olivier Vernon and Ross Cockrell seemingly having passed Eli Apple on the CB depth chart, there was a sense of new energy and confidence. On the second possession, LA quarterback Philip Rivers did not see the shotgun snap coming from deep in their own territory. With the fear of oncoming defenders potentially landing on the ball for a defensive touchdown, he smacked the ball out of bounds for a safety.

The Giants offense paired this hot start with something we haven’t seen yet, a consistently-productive running game. Orleans Darkwa got the start in the backfield and they rode his hot hand all the way into the end zone, as he carried the ball 6 times for 58 yards in the first quarter, the final carry being a 23-yard touchdown. The line, particularly inside, was dominant at the point-of-attack and things were looking up as the Giants took their 9-0 lead into the 2nd quarter.

On the Chargers’ fourth drive of the game, they began to move the ball via a balanced run/pass attack. Their star running back, third-year Melvin Gordon, hadn’t been seeing success as much as last season to this point. They were noticeably trying to force-feed him the ball via the ground and air, as he got the ball 4-out-of-8 plays including the one that got him them into the end zone on a 6-yard catch after he easily beat B.J. Goodson in coverage. Speaking of Goodson, he was exploited as a pass defender on a couple of occasions on this drive and his 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for physically contacting a ref was a huge, costly mistake.

With the Giants lead cut down to 2, rookie Wayne Gallman was the feature player on the next drive. He was consistently making the first man miss, getting the Giants near midfield but in typical 2017 NYG fashion, the offensive line was completely blown up on a 3rd-and-1 attempt, ending in a 2-yard loss, forcing NYG to punt. The Giants defense got back on track, forcing three straight 3-and-outs. The combination of poor field position, dropped passes, and a dominant Damon Harrison continued to shut down this Chargers’ offense. They converted just 1-of-7 third downs, a theme that would not exactly stick for the rest of the game.

The Giants’ offense had their best opportunity of the day to create distance on the scoreboard just past the halfway point of the 2nd quarter. 1st-and-10 at the Chargers 39-yard line. A bad drop by Darkwa, an overthrow by Manning to Engram down the sideline, and a false start by tackle Bobby Hart pushed them out of field goal range and into a punt situation. Valuable points were left on the board via shooting themselves in the foot.

To finish off the first half, LAC put together the first of their three 11+ play drives. They drove all the way down to the Giants’ 6-yard line but thanks to one of Keenan Allen’s three drops on the day, they settled for a field goal as the time ran out. LAC headed in to the locker room up 10-9 despite being outplayed by the Giants the entire half.

The start of the second half was an interesting case of back and forth as both teams had the momentum in their laps, but failed to seize the opportunity to fully secure and run away with it. After going 3-and-out, the Giants punted the ball to LAC. Speedster Travis Benjamin keyed a 19-yard return giving the Chargers 1st down at midfield. At the snap of a finger, they were inside the Giants 10-yard line looking to lengthen their lead. Darian Thompson, whom played the best game of his young career by a wide margin, intercepted a 3rd down pass intended for Allen. He went down in the end zone, securing the touchback and gave Eli Manning the opportunity to shift the lead again.

The Manning-to-Beckham connection finally woke up, connecting twice for 31 yards. On 3rd-and-5 from the LAC 29-yard line, Manning overcame his deep ball accuracy issues from the first half and dropped the ball in a bucket to Roger Lewis for a touchdown. It was as good of a pass as anyone could have thrown in that situation and Lewis did a fine job of tight-roping the sideline and holding onto the ball as he crashed to the ground. The Giants took 16-10 lead and against an 0-4 team, this was supposed to be the stopping point.

The Chargers pieced together another 12-play drive, their second in three possessions. Towards the start of this possession, however, the refs overlooked a major penalty that could have easily altered the outcome of this game. On 2nd-and-9 from the LAC 9-yard line, Rivers was pressured and as he began to vacate the pocket, he threw the ball away where there was no Chargers’ receiver. He made the throw from his own end zone, thus it should have been a safety, as intentional grounding was never called. The refs claimed he made it out of the pocket, but that was not the case. What should have been 2 points and possession to the Giants turned into an eventual touchdown. Rivers completed three passes on 3rd down this drive, one of which was 3rd-and-15 and the last being a 18-yard gain the play before their touchdown to tight end Hunter Henry, whom beat Collins for the ball.

Down 17-16, Manning responded by inching his way up to midfield before pump faking a short slant to Beckham, whom got an easy and free release to his deep route and ended up with no one around him as he jogged into the end zone with what ultimately ended up being his last touchdown of the season. The Giants, with what has now become too much the norm, failed to manage the clock properly as they lined up for a 2-point conversion attempt. They were bumped back a crucial 5 yards and weren’t even close to securing the 7-point lead. New York led 22-17.

After trading back and forth possessions, the Chargers added 3 more points at the end of an 11 play drive. On the next drive, the Giants almost-hopeless season turned, well, hopeless. Beckham was badly injured and carted off, making him the fourth receiver of the day to leave the game with an ankle/foot injury. The pass catchers were decimated from a personnel standpoint, the Chargers offense was showing they could drive the ball down the field without much of a problem, and the Giants lead was only at 2. On the next play, Manning was sacked by, you guessed it, another stunt play by the Chargers defense and ended up losing the ball via fumble. LAC recovered and it took them just 3 plays to score on a Rivers pass to Gordon. The score was 27-22 just like that and NYG had little to no hope of moving the ball with their injuries and shaky offensive line play.

The Giants were able to muster together two first downs and got over in to LAC territory, for a short time. Bobby Hart, who had a game to forget, was flagged for illegal hands to the face and instead of it being 2nd-and-2 on the LAC 40-yard line, it was 1st-and-20 from the Giants’ 42-yard line with 1:20 left on the clock. Four plays later, Manning was intercepted by safety Tre Boston and that signaled the end. The Giants lose, 27-22, and fall to 0-5.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 21/36 – 225 yards – 2 TD/1 INT – 83.7 rating. As we’ve seen the previous two weeks, Manning showed up in the second half. He was spreading the ball around, getting it out quick, and was responding to pick up the Giants shaky defensive play. He did struggle mightily in the first half, especially with the deep ball. He had two plays where Beckham was open downfield for a touchdown, but overthrew him by 5+ yards. He was sacked 5 times and lost a fumble.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 8 att – 69 yards – 1 TD. After missing a game with injury, Darkwa came back as the starting running back and gave the Giants their best performance out of the backfield this season. He showed off his aggressive downhill style that initially drew everyone to him early in his career. His 23-yard touchdown run saw a combination of good blocking and late movement to miss tacklers. The one glaring issue here, however, was his 3 drops. Not good.
  • Wayne Gallman: 11 att – 57 yards – 5 rec – 27 yards. Another impressive game for the 4th-round rookie who ran with such an elusive style. Gallman, on multiple occasions, showed the ability to create something out of nothing. Intended running lanes aren’t always there and with the good backs, that doesn’t always matter. Gallman is showing a trait that can be very hard to find.
  • Shane Vereen: 5 att – 18 yards – 4 rec – 27 yards. His biggest play of the game was called back by a Roger Lewis hold. His one-handed grab and 20-yard scamper was a thing of beauty. That play is what I think NYG could have and should have been using in recent weeks more often. He is such a weapon in the screen game with his awareness of defenders and blockers in space.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Odell Beckham: 5 rec – 97 yards – 1 TD.  The last game we will see Beckham play in 2017 was a solid one. He was quiet early but if it weren’t for a few overthrows by Manning, we could be talking about a breakout performance and NYG win. Who knows, maybe even a healthy Beckham. 2017 couldn’t have gone worse for the kid who wants to be the highest-paid player in the NFL. These next 6-9 months of rehab will tell us a lot about him and his future with the team. Mouth shut, get to work. You have a ways to go.
  • Brandon Marshall: 2 rec – 15 yards. Speaking of individual situations that couldn’t have gone worse this year, Marshall’s 2017 is now over as well. An ankle injury that required surgery will sideline him the rest of the year. Marshall didn’t impact the game, or the season, much. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him hang up the cleats for good in the coming months.
  • Sterling Shepard: 1 rec – 9 yards. On a day where 4 of the top 5 NYG receivers went down, Shepard was the day’s first. He was hurt in the 2nd quarter and he too, won’t be back for awhile. If the season continues to go down the path it is currently headed, the team may very well opt to keep him out until 2018.
  • Roger Lewis: 1 rec – 29 yards – 1 TD. Eli Manning deserves a ton of credit for the touchdown pass to Lewis, perfectly dropped in the bucket where only he could grab it. However Lewis showed tremendous ball skills by getting both feet down in a tight space and holding onto the ball after hitting the ground hard. There is a draw to this kid’s talent, one of the top UDFA’s from the 2016 Draft Class who would have been a mid-rounder had he not had some previous off-field issues. This is his opportunity. Lewis is now the team’s number one wide receiver.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rhett Ellison: 1 rec – 9 yards. Ellison played a season high 71% of the team’s snaps, partially due to the multiple injuries at wide receiver. I’ve been banging on the table since week 1 in Dallas that this guy needs more playing time. He needs more looks in the passing game. Well, by default that is about to happen.
  • Evan Engram: 0 rec – 0 yards. For the first time in his young career, Engram was shut out. His opportunities were almost zero, as well. He was thrown to 4 times but on none of them did he really have a credible chance at bringing in. He is going to be the feature part of this offense now and I’m not sure if that is a positive or not. I assume they are going to split him out wide most of the time, but there he may be matched up against the opposing top CB. That’s what I would do if I was against the Giants. Will he be able to separate? Or is he a guy who needs the outside receivers to take pressure off him? A positive note: Engram has graded out positive as a blocker in all 5 games this year.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers had his best game of the season, and his upward trend is very encouraging. He didn’t always look pretty or efficient when it came to technique, but point blank he got the job done. His grade of “3” is exactly where I would want any starting OL. That is graded as a plus performance. Bobby Hart, on the other hand, mightily struggled. He allowed 3 sacks, 3 pressures, and committed 2 penalties. Two of his sacks were partially a result of Manning evading the pocket and running into the defender, however. Hart was getting beat from the start and put out the worst-graded NYG OL performance of the year.
  • Interior: Justin Pugh continued to stay at the level he’s pretty much been at all year. Solid, slightly above average. He moved back to LG after his short tenure at RT and the fact he can maintain his level of play inside-out is going to add some money on to his contract come this offseason. D.J. Fluker replaced John Jerry early, getting a shot at facing off against his former team. He had a very up and down game. His ups, as we expected, came in the run game. A lot of movement up front and he sustained his blocks. As a pass blocker, he struggled. He allowed 3 pressures and the inability to pick up stunts is just alarming. How he can make this mistake over and over is just awful. Center Brett Jones was the surprise of the day, as he graded out at 2.95, second highest on the team. He is as gritty as it gets and reminds me a ton of former Giants’ OL Rich Seubert.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Defensive Ends: With Oliver Vernon on the sideline nursing his ankle injury, Kerry Wynn got the start. He proved he just isn’t an every-down guy, as his impact was never felt. Jason Pierre-Paul continued his disappointing season, finishing with a mere 4 tackles and 1 QB pressure. Unlike previous weeks, the Chargers were dropping back deep, giving several opportunities for the ends to make their mark. It never happened, as Rivers wasn’t sacked once. Pierre-Paul has struggled mightily to disengage from blocks despite getting off the ball well. And the two offsides penalties for lining up in the neural zone are almost inexcusable. Rookie Avery Moss got on the field for 29 plays. His lack of power presence was apparent.
  • Defensive Tackles: The Damon Harrison/Dalvin Tomlinson duo inside continues to be a strength. The Chargers really struggled to consistently gain yards on the ground between the tackles. Harrison played arguably his best game of the season, eating blockers and space with ease. He added 5 tackles, one of which was for a loss and broke up a pass. Harrison also showed some pass rush we haven’t really seen much of this year. Jay Bromley played about half the team’s snaps and was able to hit Rivers a couple times.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson was solid in run support, mainly inside. However, he was beat badly in coverage on multiple occasions, furthering the fear around the idea he may not be an every-down guy. Melvin Gordon beat him badly in to the flat for the Chargers first score in quarter 1.
  • Keenan Robinson, a player that is supposed to be making his money via ability to cover backs and tight ends, was getting beat routinely in addition to shoddy run defense. With The Giants up by 2 with 3 minutes left, Robinson failed to stick with Gordon into the flat for his second easy touchdown catch of the day. Jonathan Casillas was banged up and tried to play through it, but his impact on the game was never felt.

CORNERBACKS

  • 2016 first round pick Eli Apple has officially lost ground on the depth chart, having sat on the sideline for the first three defensive series. Apple didn’t have a bad game once he got on the field, however. He played stout run defense on the outside, totaling 5 tackles. One glaring negative from Apple that may only bother me: can he please not openly laugh on the sidelines while the rest of the team is staring at the ground as their record is just minutes away from being 0-5? His little-kid approach was shown during training camp as well. Ross Cockrell got some more playing time as a result, but allowed two big third-down conversions and had 2 missed tackles.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins both played well. Unfortunate this team is wasting such solid veteran CB play on such a bad year, because it’s a really tough position to fill.

SAFETIES

  • Darian Thompson has struggled this year, but his performance against LAC was very encouraging. He intercepted a pass in the end zone and had two high-level deflected passes. Thompson was also a factor as a blitzer and run defender, leading the team with 11 tackles.
  • The second-leading tackler, Landon Collins, played through a lower-body injury sustained in the first half. His aggression is usually a weapon for this defense but it turned out to be a negative on a few occasions against the Chargers. He over-pursued play-action fakes and was beat in coverage for a touchdown and two separate third-down conversions. The injury may have slowed his reactions a tad, but Collins had his worst game of the year and it really hurt this defense at the most inopportune times.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 extra points. I found it interesting that McAdoo, for the second week in a row, would not attempt a 50+ yard FG attempt with the strong-legged Rosas.
  • P Brad Wing: 8 punts – 44.1 avg. Wing pinned the Chargers inside their own 20 four times, and inside their own 10 twice. Very good bounce back performance for him after two consecutive weeks of game-altering punts, in a negative way.
  • Return: Dwayne Harris had his best game of the season, returning 3 punts for 38 yards. He was making a difference in the field position game before his injured his foot, which ended his season.

3 STUDS

  • S Darian Thompson, OT Ereck Flowers, DT Damon Harrison

3 DUDS

  • OT Bobby Hart, DE Kerry Wynn, S Landon Collins

3 THOUGHTS ON LAC

  • The Chargers may have shown up 0-4, but they are not a bottom feeder in the NFL. They were seconds away from a win in Denver, their kicker missed a chip shot field goal at the end of their week 2 game against Miami. This is not a bad team, in fact, this may be the best Chargers team we have seen in years. If there is a team you want to bet on that appears to be down and out, but can comeback in to playoff contention, Chargers should be that team.
  • Hard to watch Russell Okung, who was available this past offseason, dominate at left tackle week after week. NYG had a shot at this guy and I was told Okung was interested in playing here. The issue with being stubborn about past draft picks that aren’t panning out is the missed opportunity to getting a guy like this. This guy should have been in an NYG uniform, not the LAC one.
  • Not sure how many people pay attention to the CB Cameron Heyward, but he is one of the top 5-6 CBs in the league. He has really developed nicely after inaccurately being labeled a slot-only CB.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • On October 8th, the 2017 season has now become all about next year and beyond. They aren’t doing any damage this year, but the value of watching and paying attention now is trying to find players that you can move forward with. Can Brett Jones be a cheap starter at OC? Is Wayne Gallman a starting caliber RB? Are any of these WRs going to be in the rotation next year? Can Eli Apple progress?
  • Eli Manning will not, and should not, be benched for Davis Webb. It is a ludicrous idea. He is still going to be the guy next year and Webb never showed anything that would lead you to believe he is the next guy. Remember, he is a 3rd round project that nobody wanted to see the field this year.
  • Is Ereck Flowers turning it around? He has gotten better 3 weeks in a row, with this game being the best we’ve seen possibly over his whole career. I firmly he is not the left tackle you want long term, but if he can prove to play at a decent level from here on out, NYG may have their RT of the future.
Oct 062017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 8, 2013)

Eli Manning prior to Giants-Chargers game in 2013 – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants, October 8, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
It’s been decades since a New York Giants’ season was all but officially over this early. Even the 4-12 2003 New York Giants started the season 2-1. The strike-plagued 1987 team started 0-5, but there was also an expectation that the defending Super Bowl champions might make a push. You’d have to go back to the mess of the 1960s and 1970s to find such a depressing start.

To be honest, I am at a bit of a loss in how to proceed with these game previews. The Giants are no longer really playing for the post-season but their own jobs. And that includes the coaches as well as the players. This team was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. Instead, it is one of the worst teams in the NFL – on offense, defense, and special teams.

Enter the win-less Los Angeles Chargers, another NFL team that abandoned its fan base in pursuit of even more $$$ to play in a city that doesn’t like football. So with one-quarter of the season already over, we are about to witness a glorious 0-4 versus 0-4 match-up of teams from America’s two largest media markets. This isn’t good for the NFL.

For at least one more month, the owners, front office executives, coaches, and players will parrot talking points about the season not being over, but at some point, 2017 will become more about 2018 than the current disastrous season. Many fans will want the Giants to begin playing younger prospects in order to effectively ascertain what the team’s true needs are. But the coaches may be playing for their livelihoods. A game here or there could save Ben McAdoo and his staff. Will the coaches do what is best for the long-term development of the team, or for themselves?

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Paul Perkins (ribs – out)
  • RB Orleans Darkwa (back – probable)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (finger/ankle – probable)
  • WR Brandon Marshall (toe – probable)
  • OC Weston Richburg (concussion – out)
  • OG John Jerry (hamstring – questionable)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder/knee – questionable)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (ankle – questionable)
  • DE Avery Moss (shoulder – questionable)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The 2017 New York Giants were clearly not ready to start the season. They slept-walked through their first two games on offense (13 total points), placing the team in a desperate 0-2 hole. Then continued offensive issues combined with late-game special teams and defensive breakdowns caused back-to-back devastating last-second losses. The offense may now be improving, but it is too late. And the offense is still not good. The Giants have NOT scored a point in the first quarter this year. They have only scored 17 first-half points in four games (an average of 4.25 points per first-half). So not only were the Giants not ready to start the season, they still aren’t ready at the start of games. Guess what? If you limit your scoring to only half the game, you are not going to win many football games.

  • McAdoo/Offensive Coaches: They seem over their heads. They preach balance and “heavy hands” but this team is as finesse and one-dimensional as it gets outside of the Arena League. With few exceptions, individual players don’t seem to be getting better. When is the last time you thought, “Man, our offensive staff really out-coached the other team?”
  • Quarterback: The New York Giants as a franchise squandered the last six years of Eli Manning’s career. Now 36, the #1 question this franchise faces is how long to stick with Manning. Is another year of the McAdoo-Manning combo really going to turn things around? Or do the Giants really want Manning to go through another dramatic coaching/offensive system change at the age of 37? It is hard to see the Giants pulling the cord on Manning, but they did it with Phil Simms so nothing is impossible.
  • Wide Receivers: The fact that we are talking receivers next and not running backs is an indication of how the Giants and the NFL have changed. But the #2 question the New York Giants face is whether or not to re-sign Odell Beckham, Jr. to what undoubtedly will be the highest non-quarterback contract in NFL history. Take Beckham off of this team, and a dreadful offense would become unwatchable. He’s the only guy causing non-diehard fans to tune in. And other than his atrocious run-blocking effort, Beckham certainly isn’t dogging it. He’s a super competitor who wants to win. But the Giants should be at least a little concerned about giving a player who has been difficult to control/influence one of the biggest contracts in sports. Will he become more powerful than the coach and even more difficult to manage? Does this team want to tie up a huge portion of its salary cap to a wideout? My guess is that Beckham isn’t going anywhere, but the situation bears watching as the Giants continue to lose. Brandon Marshall isn’t the future of this team. The Giants should cut him, re-sign Taverres King or sign Travis Rudolph from the Practice Squad, and play the young receivers.
  • Running Backs: Wayne Gallman should be made the starting running back. Paul Perkins needs to sit. Once Perkins (ribs) is healthy again, cut Orleans Darkwa (an injury-prone player who has no future with this team) and re-sign fullback Shane Smith from the Practice Squad. Gallman, Shane Vereen, and Perkins (last chance) should get remaining 2017 playing time. If someone gets hurt, Darkwa can be re-signed.
  • Tight Ends: One of the few bright spots is Evan Engram. He looks like the real deal. The Giants appear to be in good shape here with Rhett Ellison and the under-utilized Jerell Adams.
  • Offensive Line: It seems incredibly odd to me that the Giants did not prepare for a viable back-up plan if one (or both) of their young tackles struggled. Justin Pugh should have been moved to left tackle in camp. Ereck Flowers should have been moved to guard or tried at right tackle. What’s disturbing about Flowers is that a prospect who was supposed to be a mauler in the ground game now can’t seem to do anything well. He looks like a complete bust. Chad Wheeler needs another year or two in the weight room, but I’d be tempted to play him now and let him gain the experience. Re-signing John Jerry was a mistake. Well-respected OL Coach Mike Solari hasn’t delivered the goods in New York. No one appears to be getting better. And Jerry Reese and his scouting department can’t evaluate offensive linemen. This mess has been going on for years now.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The narrative that Steve Spagnuolo simply needed better players is rapidly falling apart. The 2017 New York Giants defense is beginning to resemble the dreadful 2015 version. The Giants can’t stop the run, they can’t rush the passer, and they are beginning to give up late-game leads again. (The defense squandered TWO 4th-quarter leads in BOTH of the last two games).

  • Defensive Line: The most shocking development has been the poor play of the defensive line. Coming out of the preseason, this group was healthy and looked poised for a monster year. The ends – who have played too much and are now struggling with injuries – have been a huge disappointment. Neither Jason Pierre-Paul nor Olivier Vernon are justifying their current contracts. The tackles have been a bit better. None of the back-ups – both outside and inside – have distinguished themselves. The Giants will need to spend a premium draft pick on a defensive end in 2018.
  • Linebackers: Jonathan Casillas had a strong season in 2016, but that now looks like it will be his career year. He is not playing well. Keenan Robinson has regained his injury-prone reputation and also is not playing as well. Hopefully B.J. Goodson will be part of the solution moving forward. Devon Kennard is more of a situational player. Like the offensive line, Jerry Reese and staff seem incapable of drafting athletic, play-making outside linebackers. Depth at this position is putrid.
  • Defensive Backs: The negatives here have been the continued inconsistent play of Eli Apple (1-3 bad plays per game offsetting otherwise solid performances) and the failure of Darian Thompson to turn into the player anticipated by the coaching staff. Moving forward, the Giants have to determine how much Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has left in the tank beyond the 2017 season. And if Thompson doesn’t have “it”, the team still has a major hole to fill at free safety.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Tom Quinn should have been fired years ago. It’s hard to be overly-sympathetic with the owners, front office execs, and coaches when something this obvious is not acted upon. The Giants have now lost three games in a row largely due to special teams breakdowns. Interesting that things started to go really south again once Larry Izzo left the Giants after 2015.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Yada, yada, yada… No one is listening at this point.

THE FINAL WORD
Those of us who are old enough have seen the warning signs before. When your star players start throwing the coaching staff under the bus, things can turn ugly fast. Odell Beckham’s comments about the Bucs knowing what plays the Giants were running is reminiscent of player criticism directed at Ray Handley, Dan Reeves, and Jim Fassel. Whether this criticism is valid or not is moot. Fingers are beginning to be pointed. Next warning signs? More and more players showing up on the injury report and not coming back quickly.

The biggest draw for this particular game is that this is likely the last time Eli Manning and Philip Rivers will play against each other. Eli has never been on the winning side of this match-up (0-3).

Oct 032017
 
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Wayne Gallman, New York Giants (October 1, 2017)

Wayne Gallman – © USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 – New York Giants 23

RECAP

Typical fall weather in Florida. The sun was out, bright and shining, during pre-game warm ups then at the snap of a finger, the first few drives were played in a torrential downpour of rain. The day’s weather replicated the emotions of the Giants week 4 match-up against the Bucs, sitting at 1-1 having played just 2 games as a result of their forced week 1 bye due to weather.

The Giants offensive line saw a two-part shuffle in the starting lineup, with 2017 free agent signing D.J. Fluker getting the start at right guard, shifting John Jerry over to left guard and Brett Jones into his normal backup role. It didn’t matter who was in there early, as Bucs DT Gerald McCoy was bursting through the line whenever and however he wanted, causing major disruption early in the game. He had three tackles for losses during the Giants’ first three drives. He made both Jerry and Fluker look like high school freshman getting beat by Division I recruits. Whether he was penetrating and altering the running game’s plan or getting into Manning’s face on simple three step drop backs, he was the star of the show early.

The Bucs jumped out to an early 13-0 lead in the first quarter, with 2 touchdowns both from Jameis Winston’s arm. The first, a simple fade-type pass to their own star receiver (who near-rivals Beckham’s career numbers) Mike Evans, beating Eli Apple who did not even locate the ball. The second was a major breakdown in coverage by the Giants linebackers. Rookie tight end O.J. Howard was left all alone on a play-action right, pass left design and ended the 58-yard score with not a single defender anywhere near him. The one positive here was a missed extra point by Nick Folk, an important and oft-repeated theme of the day. The Bucs had 13 points on 12 offensive plays at the end of quarter 1. The Giants…0 points on 19 plays.

On the Giants 6th possession of the game, they finally started to piece together a positive drive into Bucs territory. They made it to the Tampa 21-yard line, 1st and 10. After a near first-down catch-and-run by Brandon Marshall, they lined up for a 3rd-and-1 on the 12-ard line. A quick inside handoff to Shane Vereen was stuffed right away by former Giants DE Robert Ayers, who beat Ereck Flowers off the ball to his inside shoulder. The Giants settled for a 30-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas, making it 13-3 with 7:21 left in the first half.

The Bucs went 3-and-out on their next drive thanks to creative play calling by Steve Spagnuolo, who put safety Landon Collins in position to disrupt the passing game via the blitz all afternoon. On 3rd-and-10, he forced Winston into a quick decision, throwing a ball right into the waiting hands of tackle Jay Bromley, who at least tried to drop in back in coverage. The ball literally went through his hands and we were all reminded that there is a reason why some guys play on the line. That could have been a major missed scoring opportunity for the Giants, but Manning and the offense responded.

Had it not been for an Odell Beckham drop (his second of the quarter), the 7-play drive would have been completely full of positive plays. Manning spread the ball around and ended it with a career long 14-yard touchdown run – the first (and currently only) Giants rushing touchdown of 2017.

Winston and the Bucs got the ball back with 3:17 and marched down the field, all the way to the Giants 1-yard line. A season that seemed to be hanging on by a thread got a major surge from the defense, holding the Bucs to a field goal and limiting the damage. The score going into halftime was Bucs 16 – Giants 10.

In the third quarter, the Bucs inched their way into field range, taking advantage of an over-aggressive Giants back seven and missed tackles. The Bucs backup running back, Jacquizz Rodgers, ran low to the ground and let the Giants defensive backs over-pursue, making it an easy task to run through arm tackles and gain extra yards. Nick Folk lined up for a 49-yard field and missed, supplying the Giants with solid field position as their quest for another comeback ensued.

The Giants marched down the field, never gaining more than 10 yards with the exception of a 13-yard run by rookie Wayne Gallman. After being a non-factor in the first three games, Gallman got his opportunity after the struggling Paul Perkins struggled to get up from a physical tackle by Kendell Beckwith. Gallman seized the opportunity, ending the drive with a 4-yard touchdown catch which put the Giants ahead for the first time, 17-16. The Giants then forced a 3-and-out capped by their lone sack of the day by the blitzing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Momentum had fully shifted in Tampa.

The Giants entered the 4th quarter in Bucs territory. With Weston Richburg out with a concussion, Brett Jones stepped in and helped pave the way for yet another positive, piece-by-piece drive. They set Aldrick Rosas up for a 43-yard field goal attempt, but the rookie pushed it wide right, giving him is first miss of his career including regular and preseason.

The Bucs moved the ball over midfield but were forced with a tough 4th-and-2 decision on their own 36-yard line. Go for it? Or give Nick Folk another chance? This time from 53 yards. They chose the former and Landon Collins continued to do what he does best, disrupt. He broke up a pass intended for Cameron Brate, turnover on downs. The Giants suffered a 3-and-out, but the negative of that was overshadowed by punter Brad Wing’s second complete shank in as many weeks, with this punt traveling a mere 15 yards, keeping Tampa right near midfield.

It didn’t take long for Tampa to reach the red zone with the biggest culprit being a half-effort missed tackle by Rodgers-Cromartie that led to a 30-yard gain by receiver Adam Humphries. The Giants lack of quality tackling is a major issue that supplied the Bucs with way too many valuable yards late in the game. Cameron Brate caught a touchdown over the middle as Jonathan Casillas was simply over-matched dropping back into coverage. The Bucs took the lead back but missed the 2-point attempt. 22-17 with 7:44 left.

On the second play of the Giants ensuing drive, which started at the 25-yard line, Manning hit Beckham for a 42-yard downfield pass. We almost forget how good Manning is at this kind of throw in this kind of situation. With the offensive line altering the Giants approach to the passing game, it is almost upsetting to see what this duo could be if there were 5 capable guys up front. Beckham was off and on the field with his ankle injury continuing to flare up. Between that and a dislocated finger suffered earlier in the game, hats off to this hard-nosed, always-hustling superstar. Gallman helped inch the Giants up to the 2-yard line and on 3rd-and-goal, Manning found Rhett Ellison for the lead-changing touchdown. Beckham did catch a 2-point conversion attempt to give the Giants a safe 3 point lead, however he (barely) stepped out of bounds prior to catching the ball and ended up having to give the points back for illegal touching. The Bucs were getting the ball back, down 1, with 3:16 left.

This is where big-time defenses step up. Sacks, pressure, turnovers….something. The Giants, however, continued to underwhelm on that side of the ball by allowing the Bucs deep into field goal territory in just 5 plays, the back-breaker being a 26-yard pass to Brate, whom beat Collins fairly easily. That play gave the Bucs tight ends a total of 6 catches for 143 yards (and 2 TDs). Instead of making plays, tackles were being missed left and right and no pressure was being put on Winston. Because the Giants mismanaged their timeouts in the 2nd half via a foolish challenge and timeout on a 2-point conversion, they were left watching the clock dwindle as the Bucs perfectly set up Nick Folk for a game-winning field goal. The 34-yard attempt snuck through the uprights by less than a foot, no time remaining. Giants lose 25-23.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 30/49 – 288 yards – 2 TD/0 INT – 3 att – 21 yards – 1 TD. For the second week in a row, Manning led multiple touchdown-scoring, lead-changing drives in the second half. He had pressure in his face for the majority of his drop backs, but he wasn’t sacked once and appears to be adjusting very well to what the players around him can supply. His poise under pressure has always been a strength and he continues to give this team a fighting chance despite several factors around him heading in the wrong direction.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 11 att – 42 yards – 2 rec – 8 yards – 1 TD. We saw a different level of explosion and decision making with Gallman during training camp in comparison to the other NYG running backs. With Paul Perkins continuing to struggle in addition to getting nicked up, Gallman got his shot in the second half and was one of the main reasons this offense had balance from there on out. He was able to find small windows, dart through them, and make positive plays out of nothing. His touchdown catch in the 3rd quarter and positive blocking grade may very well get him the starting nod in the near future.
  • Shane Vereen: 5 att – 14 yards – 1 rec – 11 yards. Continues to be underplayed, being on the field for just 28% of the plays in this one. Positive things happen with this guy on the field and he needs to get more action. I will keep saying this until it happens.
  • Paul Perkins: 9 att – 13 yards – 1 rec 6 yards. The nightmare season continues for Perkins, who may now have a rib injury to deal with in addition. Perkins finished with 13 yards but had a 14-yard run. Yes, do the math. That means otherwise, he carried the ball 8 times for -1 yard. Perkins is now averaging 1.9 yards per carry on the young season and while it isn’t only on his shoulders, the success Gallman had when he came in might be a damning fact for the second-year back.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Odell Beckham: 7 rec – 90 yards. Beckham is clearly still fighting the ankle injury he sustained during preseason, although he is still fully capable of making plays up and down the field. He came down with a 42-yard reception late in the game with his blazing speed and also came up with a 15-yard gain where he broke 3 tackles with a combination of strength, toughness, and quickness. Beckham, however, dropped 2 more passes and wasn’t aware of the out-of-bounds along the back of the end zone on their crucial 2-point conversion.
  • Brandon Marshall: 6 rec – 46 yards. Halfway through the game I had the thought that Marshall was just so much bigger and stronger than the Tampa corners, the Giants might as well just keep feeding him the ball underneath until the defense stopped it. For the most part, Marshall handled them in those situations but he too is still dropping too many passes. Off the top of my head he already has 5 on the young season.
  • Sterling Shepard: 5 rec – 54 yards. He was thrown the ball 5 times and he came down with all of them. Shepard is showing the necessary toughness and grit over the middle. He is a great option for this offense to have when primary reads aren’t there.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 6 rec – 62 yards. As the weeks go by, it seems to be the case more and more that Engram is entrenched as the team’s number two receiving option. He is moving exceptionally well and making high-difficulty catches each game. Four of his 6 catches went for a first down and I think moving forward, he needs to be targeted on 3rd down. That only happened twice against the Bucs. He also had a positive blocking grade for the third straight week.
  • Rhett Ellison: 2 rec – 11 yards – 1 TD. Ellison played a season-high 39% of the plays, but I still don’t think it is enough. He saw a couple plays at fullback but with the amount of “11” personnel the Giants use and the emergence of Engram, he is stuck on the sidelines. He has been thrown the ball 5 time this year, and he has 5 catches. The yards he can gain after contact and the reliability as a blocker is part of what the Giants are missing. Two birds, one stone.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Both Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh recorded their best grades of the season in this game. Manning wasn’t sacked once and even though the Bucs DEs leave a lot to be desired, these guys deserve at least some credit. Flowers did however allow two tackles for losses and Pugh struggled to maintain his anchor ability after he tweaked his back. But these guys fought hard and played better than any of their previous games. Pugh graded out at a “3”, which is right where I consider the best performances week in, week out around the league. Let’s not forget he is out of position. Makes me really think about him as a left tackle for the long-term future.
  • Interior:  Weston Richburg put together another solid game until he left with a concussion. Brett Jones stepped in and didn’t really factor in either direction. D.J. Fluker and John Jerry got off to horrific starts, as Gerald McCoy had his way with both of them for pretty much the entire first quarter. They cleaned it up well and both played at a very high level in the second half. They both snuck past the bare minimum grade of what I would consider acceptable, but still have plenty of room to improve. Fluker deserves a shot to stay at RG for the near future.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Jason Pierre Paul recorded 4 tackles, a half sack, and a QB hit. But he continues to underwhelm and is being neutralized by a lone blocker too many times. They are trying to move him around exploit match-ups, but he simply isn’t beating anyone right now. My expectations were so high for him this year, and he is far from meeting them. Olivier Vernon only made it 22 plays before re-injuring his bum ankle. Kerry Wynn and Romeo Okwara both got the opportunity to step up, and neither could produce any pressure. Both had a hard time holding up against the run, as well. Poor game for those two that certainly contributed to the Bucs 5+ yards per carry.
  • Tackles: Two of the bright spots were the consistent high level of play from both Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson. Harrison missed a short stretch with a minor knee tweak, but he demanded so much attention and started to disrupt the passing game via the bull rush with more and more frequency. Tomlinson is playing better each week, showing more confidence and pop off the snap. He is going to make things happen for this defense down throughout the season. Jay Bromley’s missed interception may be one of the NFL’s bloopers of the year and his stoutness against the run hasn’t improved. He is a liability to the defense.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson returned from a 2-week injury-caused hiatus. His presence makes a huge difference for this defense. He is the one defender on this team who I completely trust when it comes to actually bringing down the ball carrier when he has the opportunity to do so. He finished with 6 tackles on the day. His coverage was sub-par, something we saw up close and in person at camp.
  • Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson are getting simply out-matched in coverage and in space. These two need to stop missing tackles and stick to their cover assignments or else tight ends will continue to torch this defense for, how many years in a row now?
  • There are far bigger issues on this defense than Devon Kennard and his versatility in terms of assignment and alignment is respectable. However his weakness in space, most notably coverage, is a huge liability to the defense that will continue to have a big negative impact.

CORNERBACKS

  • Not a bad day for the two starters, Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple, but far from great as well. Apple was beat badly for yet another touchdown in the first quarter when his lack of skill set showed up again. He doesn’t get it yet. Jenkins continues to play bigger than his size and continues to break up passes (2). However he had two very bad missed tackles that did end up impacting the game.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the only other CB to play, as he was on the field for the majority of the defensive snaps. I respect what he has turned his game into now, as he no longer has that top-level speed and athleticism. He is very good at anticipating and playing smart. Rarely is he caught out of position or surprised. However his missed tackle on Humphries that I noted above was just downright awful and lazy. And the sad part, it has become the norm with him at least once per game.

SAFETIES

  • A top defensive grade for Landon Collins is slightly overshadowed by his bad coverage on the final drive of the game when Cameron Brate beat him downfield. The timing of that beat couldn’t have been worse. Other than that, Collins led the team with 7 tackles, 2 pass break ups, and 3 QB pressures. The coaching staff is using him in so many ways and he is at such a high, difference-making level.
  • Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams pretty much split duties next to Collins, with Thompson still getting the edge in volume. This shouldn’t last much longer, as his two missed tackles this week were a big deal. His range couldn’t keep up with DeSean Jackson deep and he isn’t making quick enough decisions. Adams needs to be given the majority snaps now.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Aldrick Rosas: 1 for 2 (Made 30, Missed 43). Rosas was put in another pressure situation this week and failed. Those 3 points that were left on the board were huge. Looking forward to seeing how he responds.
  • P Brad Wing: Same story as last week. Overall a solid day until the pressure was really on and he responded with a 15-yard shank. When it gets in your head, it’s over. The Giants can’t let this happen week after week; he needs to put together a few good weeks now.
  • Dwayne Harris: Non factor again.

3 STUDS

  • QB Eli Manning, RT Justin Pugh, RB Wayne Gallman

3 DUDS

  • WR Brandon Marshall, DE Kerry Wynn, S Darian Thompson

3 THOUGHTS ON TAMPA BAY

  • Watching Gerald McCoy wreck havoc on the Giants offense for the entire first quarter all by himself from different angles was eye opening. Yes, it was against the Giants offensive line. However when you have a 300+ pound presence that can get off the ball fast AND powerful like that, he can make a lot of other players look good.
  • I continue to not be sold on Jameis Winston. This guy does play well late in games, but there are so many mental mistakes he continues to make week after week. His arm is erratic and he looks lost out there often, especially when you watch the All-22 tape.
  • CB Brent Grimes won me over this season. I always knew he was solid, but I admit the public perception of him and his wife being out of control via social media and a few rough games in Miami has kept him down my personal CB ranks for awhile. This dude is a legit blanket-cover guy who can hang with speed and quickness in any situation. He will continue to be among the league’s leaders in pass breakups.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • As long as the NFC East teams continue to lose games, the Giants will have a fighting shot. Who knows? Maybe this division will be the the one where an 8-8 team wins the title and a home playoff game. Wishful thinking, I know. There is stretch of schedule coming up that they can take advantage of, starting with the 0-4 Chargers. The Giants have the toughest strength of schedule in the NFL this year and they finally get a break here at home against an absolutely miserable franchise.
  • Even if Paul Perkins comes back healthy, Wayne Gallman and Shane Vereen should be splitting the RB duties for now. Gallman brought new energy and play-making ability and Vereen continues to make things happen for this offense. Time for Perkins to take a step back. Not a goodbye, just a sit tight and watch what happens with these other guys.
  • This Giants defense has major problems, the two worst being downright awful against the run and an inability to create pressure on the passer via four rushers. You can’t have that. Spags is being forced into blitzing a lot, leaving the overly vulnerable linebackers into serious coverage roles which they simply do not have the personnel for. Time to step up JPP. That’s on you and that hefty contract of yours.

This season still isn’t over.