Dec 062022
 
Jihad Ward, New York Giants (December 4, 2022)

Jihad Ward – © USA TODAY Sports

QUARTERBACK

Daniel Jones: 25/31 – 200 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 104.3 RAT

Jones also led the team in rushing with 71 yards on 12 carries. He lost a fumble in the first quarter. Besides a spike toward the end of the first half to stop the clock, he completed his first 16 passes and had two more taken off the board because of penalties. Jones’ first true incomplete pass came in the fourth quarter with 1:45 left. That one was a drop by Darius Slayton on what may have been considered a poorly thrown ball, but more than good enough for Slayton to come down with. Jones went 8/8 (and one more spike to stop the clock) for 64 yards in overtime.

Because of the conservative decision making by Brian Daboll, we do not know if Jones could have led this team to a win. Did he leave much out there? No, not really. Jones got what he could have out of this JV-caliber group of pass catchers. The biggest question surrounding him and his long-term outlook revolve around can he shoulder the entire offense in key moments? Can he do it? NYG could have used this game to help answer that question and they cowardly walked in the other direction. Starting off 16/16 (minus the spike) and starting 8/8 in overtime (minus the spike). Having a deep ball dropped by Slayton that, had he come down with it, could have led to a game-winning field goal. The quick decisions and play-making ability he created with his legs. After watching the All-22, Jones played a good game, even keeping the first quarter fumble in mind. The lack of confidence Daboll showed on the 4th-and-3 was unwarranted from my perspective and may be more telling than some want to think. They do not believe in him. How many head coaches who are confident in their quarterback make that decision? Almost NONE.

RUNNING BACK

Saquon Barkley: 18 att – 63 yards – 1 TD / 5 rec – 18 yards

60 of Barkley’s rushing yards came in the first half. So yes, between the third quarter, fourth quarter, and overtime Barkley carried the ball 7 times for 3 yards. NYG had the lead from the 11:40 point in the third quarter until 1:53 left in the fourth quarter. They ran ten offensive plays over that span and Barkley ran the ball three times for -1 yard. This is where I feel there is yet another disconnect between what the team is and what they said they would be. They have the bell-cow back. They have the second half lead. They have a terrible passing game. And Barkley gets one yard on three carries while WAS works their way back to a tie? Part of this can be play-calling, but the other part is, at least in my eyes, a lack of trust in Barkley.

There is no denying he is failing to put his shoulder down, break tackles, and show some blue collar in his game. He took a pass in overtime, looked at a defender about to meet him just beyond the line of scrimmage, and used his 225+ frame and tree trunk legs to drive the defender back multiple yards. NYG picked up seven on the play. He is clearly capable of playing the power game. He clearly does not do so on a consistent basis. A 225+ pound back with elite movement traits is averaging 2.75 yards after contact per carry. That ranks 28th in the NFL among backs with over 100 carries. Behind the likes of Devin Singletary, Isaiah Pacheco, Raheem Mosert, D’Onta Foreman, Tyler Allgeier, and Khalil Herbert to name a few. Multiple things needed to be better when it comes to this running game, but it starts with #26.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton remains WR1 on this team across the board. He had a team high 6 catches and 90 yards, including a 55-yard catch where he made a great play on the ball. As usual, however, Slayton had arguably the biggest whiff of the day. He dropped another deep ball with 1:40 left in the fourth quarter of a tie game that would have put NYG into near-field goal position. He mistimed his jump for the ball, increasing the difficulty of the actual catch. He lost it when he hit the ground. A true #1 threat in the passing game who brings a consistent skill set to the table is by far the biggest need on this roster.

-Isaiah Hodgins has my attention and the attention of many others as well. He caught 5 passes for 44 yards including a touchdown. The two standout traits in his game that can make him stick here are the toughness after the catch and reliable route tempo. There are sharp, quick route runners but they do not always get open. Then you have guys who understand tempo, patience, and macro-level play sets. That is Hodgins. He also came up with two key first downs that completely stemmed from his strength and toughness. Hodgins is at least 215 pounds, and he brings some fire behind those pads when he has the ball. I feel good when it is thrown his way and he brings a couple elements to the table that others do not.

-Richie James added 3 catches for 20 yards and 12 punt return yards. James has caught 11 of his last 12 targets. I give him a lot of credit for bouncing back from the Seattle fumble issue.

TIGHT END

-Welcome back Daniel Bellinger. His first game back after the eye injury sustained October 23. He caught all 5 targets for 25 yards. There is a better blend of talent when it comes to size and speed when comparing him to the revolving door of replacements NYG went with while he was out. He was beat routinely as a blocker, however. He allowed 2 pressures in pass protection and was flagged for a hold.

-Nick Vannett was the TE2 for this game, out-snapping Chris Myarick 30 to 8. Neither caught a pass and both allowed a pressure. Overall, a really poor game by the NYG tight ends.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-I was encouraged by the play of the two tackles. This was rookie Evan Neal’s first game back since injuring his knee October 23 in Jacksonville. I put the microscope on him early and it wasn’t pretty. He wound up on the ground four times in the first quarter. Huge red flag. But he responded well and picked it up as the game went on. He pitched a shutout in pass protection. Andrew Thomas allowed 1 pressure. There was a sack that some will put on him, but I did not. There were multiple communication issues on the offensive line throughout the game and it is hard to peg who that is on. When it comes to actual blocking, Thomas had a very good game.

-The interior of this line was a disaster. The WAS group is outstanding between the tackles. I have discussed them multiple times over the years and while the team has not been very good over that span, the interior DL is more than solid. I have also discussed the NYG interior OL shortcomings since my first in-person look at them in camp. It is a bad, bad group. Mark Glowinski allowed 2 sacks and a TFL, but he did throw a key block on the Barkley touchdown run. He was getting out-reached by Daron Payne over and over. Combine that with no anchor and you just have no shot in that scenario. Nick Gates got abused by Jonathan Allen athletically. He allowed 3 pressures and a TFL. Center Jon Feliciano was solid, showing quality movement to the outside. His taunting penalty was a questionable call but that was at least partially derived from his reputation. Feliciano is widely known as a guy who goes overboard with that kind of stuff. Whether the flex was meant for Slayton or not, it could have been easily avoided. And yet another sign that the numerous scuffles one gets involved in throughout their career will come back and bite you at some point.

EDGE

-Azeez Ojulari played 30 snaps in Week 3 against Dallas. He played 30 snaps in Week 4 against Chicago. Entering this game, that was it. Finally back, he broke out with one of the best games of his young career. He was on the field for 49 plays and ended with a sack, a forced fumble that he recovered, and a team-high 5 pressures. The movement traits and power game were what I was most impressed by. Ojulari obviously put in work this past offseason on adding bulk and power (take notes Kayvon), but this was the first time we really got to see it in action. He was getting under the pads of blockers with tremendous knee + ankle flexion while maintaining an upright torso with balance. That all stems from lower body strength. If he stays on the field, he changes this defense.

-Rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux was second on the team with 4 pressures and he added a sack to go along with 5 tackles. He also penetrated on a running play that led to a TFL. While there is still some hesitation in his game that is leaving production on the table, we have now seen two big time performances in back-to-back weeks.

-Jihad Ward had 3 tackles, 1 pressure, and 1.5 sacks. On his second sack, Ward forced a fumble that was recovered by WAS. One of the most important players on the defense who nobody ever talks about, Ward will now get used more economically with Ojulari back. His inside-out versatility is a big deal for this scheme and one I am focusing on in scouting prospects should he leave town in free agency. It can be a hard spot to fill.

-Oshane Ximines added 2 tackles, including 1 TFL. He lost the edge again on a 15-yard run. This has been the biggest issue in his game from the beginning.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Dexter Lawrence is turning into an ironman at the position. Yet another game at over 91% of the snaps. Check this out. In 2019, Lawrence played over 80% of a game’s snaps one time. 2020? Zero times. 2021? One time. This season Lawrence has played 81%, 94%, 90%, 97%, 86%, 91%, 88%, 84%, and 91% of snaps in individual games. It is one thing to do that at Aaron Donald’s size. It is almost unheard of for a player this size to play this many snaps. His dominant play continues, finishing with 9 tackles, 1 sack, and 3 pressures. He is a tone setter for the defense in that he is the guy who is 14 yards downfield near the sideline making a tackle. It means a lot when your best players are also the best-effort players.

-Leonard Williams played just 35 snaps, the second lowest of the year. He is battling a neck injury. He still finished with 3 tackles and a pressure that led to a sack. The NYG run defense did suffer a bit without him in there.

-The trio of Justin Ellis, Henry Mondeaux, and Vernon Butler had their fair share of snaps. Ellis got credited with a sack, although I have him down for a half-sack. Fun fact. Ellis has played in 112 games including 53 starts dating back to 2014. That was his first ever full-sack on the official stat sheet. Mondeaux finished with 2 tackles and Butler flashed a bit with 4 tackles. Remember this is a former 1st round pick who had 6 sacks in 2019.

LINEBACKER

-This is now a two-man show at linebacker and it works well enough. Jaylon Smith is the straight-line, explosive guy who brings some emotional leadership to the mix. He finished with 5 tackles. Micah McFadden is the more physical inside-gap filler with better instincts and initial movement. He finished with 9 tackles and a forced fumble that ended up falling out of bounds. Both are solid in their respective roles, but the issue here is they both struggle on lateral running plays. They were eaten up by blockers in the running game because they just don’t get to their points fast enough.

CORNERBACK

-Be careful what you wish for when hoping Fabian Moreau gets back. The former Redskin missed the week 12 game against Dallas but was back for this one. He got absolutely roasted. He missed an open field tackle that led to a touchdown in the first quarter and that was just the beginning. He was beat on 3rd down multiple times and was also flagged for holding on a 3rd-down stop.

-Zyon Gilbert saw the first regular season action of his career as Darnay Holmes was out with an injury. He flashed some quality aggressive play but was often successfully targeted and beaten by WAS down the stretch. He also missed a tackle on the game-tying score. Gilbert did finish with a TFL and a PD that was a near-interception on a well-read play.

-Nick McCloud has made the most of his opportunity here. He played all 85 snaps and finished with 8 tackles and 2 pass break ups. While I like the physical nature he plays with, his missed tackle on the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter is textbook for what a defender cannot do in that situation. He made zero effort to tackle Dotson; he simply just lowered his shoulder, looked away, and threw an elbow. Poor play at a crucial time and it overshadowed his otherwise solid game.

-Rookie Cor’Dale Flott played about a quarter of the snaps. He came up with a key tackle on a 3rd down stop where he quickly read the play and undercut the blocker. Flott’s movement traits both in pursuit and coverage are impressive.

SAFETY

-Julian Love had one of the best efforts of the day. He was all over the field, leading the team with 12 tackles, one of which was for a loss. He fills running lanes like an inside linebacker. His tackle rate is currently one of the best in the NFL at all positions among full-time players and the absolute best among safeties. He did get beat in coverage a handful of times but considering everything that he is doing for this defense week to week, he is proving to be one the best sheer values on the team.

-Dane Belton appears to be passed on the depth chart by Jason Pinnock. Belton didn’t see a snap and Pinnock saw 79 of them. He finished with 3 tackles and 2 pressures and a big PD in the fourth quarter.

-Tony Jefferson was back and finished with 4 tackles as he saw his first action in nearly 2 months. The 28 snaps were over twice as many as any game he has played this season.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/3 (Made 48, 27 / Missed 58)
-P Jamie Gillan: 7 Punts / 46.3 avg – 42.6 net

3 STUDS

-EDGE Azeez Ojulari, WR Isaiah Hodgins, DT Dexter Lawrence

3 DUDS

-OG Nick Gates, OG Mark Glowinski, CB Fabian Moreau

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

(1) The move from Carson Wentz to Taylor Heinicke reinvigorated this entire team. They’ve lost one game since Week 5 after starting 1-4. While the schedule has done them a few favors (like the rest of the division) it is hard to argue against their results. WAS has rotated through multiple different quarterbacks since Heinicke was brought to town in 2020. Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Garrett Gilbert, and Wentz. Heinicke does not check all the boxes when evaluating quarterbacks in the draft. He is small and he doesn’t have a power arm. But watching the throws this kid makes purely from innovation and reaction is impressive. The 4th-and-4 throw he made to Curtis Samuel for 20 yards in the 4th-quarter, game-tying drive was a top-5 throw in the league this season. I really mean that. He is getting better and better and I bet if the kid was 6’3” everyone would be behind him as a franchise guy.

(2) One of the more interesting contract situations to follow league wide will be what WAS decides to do with Daron Payne. He is playing on his fifth-year option deal (what Lawrence will be playing on next season) and the predominant thought around the league is he will be elsewhere in 2023. However, if they team stays with the cap-friendly Heinicke, it can open the door for Payne sticking around. Some believe they will pursue a high-priced corner, however. If that is the case, I don’t see them also signing Payne.

(3) Just how good is WAS? Besides having the best record in the NFL since Week 6, are they a credible NFC contender? If I had to make a tier system in the league, they are a notch above NYG right now only because of the injury situation. WAS has been relatively healthy all year. They also have immense strength in the trenches, a top-notch playmaker at WR, and an active back seven on defense especially in the middle. If I am an opponent, I don’t want to play these guys in the playoffs especially if Chase Young comes back strong from injury. They have game-wreckers, guys who can take over a game. And yes, the QB is underrated.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) What happened to Brian Daboll’s aggressive approach that he spoke of after their Week 1 win in Tennessee? “We’re going to be aggressive. That’s what we want to do. That’s the mindset I want the players to have. If it didn’t work, I could live with it,” Daboll exclaimed after that W. Multiple times over the past 6-7 weeks, I’ve seen his stance soften. Whether it be at the end of a first half in a close game or on 4th-and-under-5 in enemy territory. Ignoring the 4th-and-3 opportunity from the WAS 45-yard line right as the offense was clicking for the first time since the third quarter was mind-boggling. They needed 3 yards. 6 of the 7 previous plays gained 7, 5, 10, 12, 4, and 3 yards. Have things changed that much since Week 1? What exactly has? The playoff-bubble all of the sudden makes them scared to try and go for a win? This was Daboll’s biggest gaffe of the year and if you don’t think that decision changes the “mindset” (his words) of players moving forward, you are dead wrong. To me, it is no coincidence that Daboll is all of the sudden afraid to keep his foot on the gas is occurring at the same time as we are all seeing a drop off in aggression from Barkley. Good coaches dictate culture and confidence.

(2) The long-term outlook of this franchise is in question. As I have said multiple times, they appear to be in much better hands when it comes to the decision makers creating and sticking to a vision. The most important part, however, is seeing who produces on the field and letting that steer the direction of the ship. The NYG defense has holes, as do most pro defenses, but we are seeing the creation of its core. Ojulari, Thibodeaux, Lawrence, Williams, and Love will make up nearly half of the defense. Throw in supplements like McKinney and Jackson, add another year or two of personnel acquisition, and the defense has a nice trajectory that could end up being a top-shelf unit. Getting that homegrown core is vital to the process and NYG is very much getting there.

(3) A matchup against the Eagles and then another one against the Commanders who will be coming off a bye. Creating the NFL schedule is a MUCH more complex process than many believe. I’ve done some research on that and I know someone who was with the league office in the 2008-2015 timeframe. Learning about the nuances and algorithms that go into it was eye opening. With that said, having a team play the same opponent two games in a row (with a bye in between) should be a major no-no. That one is easily avoidable and I am shocked to see the NFL let that happen.

Dec 042022
 
Graham Gano, New York Giants (December 4, 2022)

Graham Gano – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 20 – WASHINGTON COMMANDERS 20…
The big game against the New York Giants and Washington Commanders ended in an unsatisfying 20-20 tie on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants are now 7-4-1 on the season and 0-2-1 in the division.

In terms of overall team statistics, Washington held clear advantages in first downs (25 to 20), total net yards (411 to 316), net yards rushing (165 to 134), net yards passing (246 to 182), and time of possession (41:11 to 28:49). Both teams turned the ball over once with fumbles.

The Giants received the football first to start the game, picked up one first down, and then turned the ball over when quarterback Daniel Jones fumbled at the end of a 5-yard run on 2nd-and-5. Washington recovered at the New York 48-yard line. The Commanders reached the Giants’ 3-yard line but were forced to settle for a 21-yard field goal.

The Giants quickly went three-and-out on their second possession. Washington responded with an 8-play, 62-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Taylor Heinicke to wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who broke a tackle on the play to score. The Commanders were now up 10-0 with just under two and a half minutes to play in the 1st quarter.

New York finally got on the scoreboard on their third possession. The Giants gained 45 yards in eight plays to set up a 48-yard field goal by place kicker Graham Gano. After a quick three-and-out by the Commanders, which was aided by an 8-yard sack by defensive lineman Justin Ellis, the Giants tied the game. Jones connected with wide receiver Darius Slayton on a 55-yard deep throw. On 3rd-and-7, Jones then ran for 10 yards down to the Washington 13-yard line. On the next snap, running back Saquon Barkley scored from 13 yards out.

The Commanders regained the lead on their next possession with a 12-play, 51-yard drive. The key play was a defensive holding penalty called on cornerback Fabian Moreau on 3rd-and-7 which gave Washington a first down. The Commanders kicked a 42-yard field goal to take a 13-10 advantage.

The Giants’ final possession of the first half began with 2:23 on the clock. After a first down and a 21-yard run by Barkley, the Giants were at the Washington 30-yard line with 1:07 left with all three timeouts. But the Giants did not handle the clock well in the last minute, despite converting on 3rd-and-10 and 3rd-and-1, and settled for a 27-yard field goal on 2nd-goal from the 9-yard line with five seconds left.

At the half, the game was tied 13-13.

The second half started well for New York. On 3rd-and-8, Heinicke was sacked by linebacker Azeez Ojulari. The ball came loose and Ojulari recovered the fumble at the Washington 20-yard line. Jones ran for seven yards on 3rd-and-4. Two plays later, he threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins as the Giants were now up 20-13. Unfortunately for New York, these would be the last points they would score on the day.

The Giants pinned Washington at their own 5-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, but the Commanders neared midfield before punting. The Giants went three and out near the end of the 3rd quarter. The Commanders then drove 40 yards but missed a 52-yard field goal with just over 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter.

After two more punts by the Giants and one by the Commanders, Washington began their game-tying drive with 3:43 left in the game. Starting from their own 10-yard line, the Commanders drove 90 yards. The key play was a 20-yard completion on 4th-and-4 from Washington’s own 27-yard line. Heinicke then completed a pass of 25 yards down to the New York 28-yard line. He then threw to wide receiver Jahan Dotson, who avoided a couple of tackles en route to the score with 1:45 left on the clock. The game was tied at 20-20.

The Giants went three-and-out again. Washington picked up two first downs but were stopped at their own 38-yard line. The Commanders punted and Jones knelt on the ball once from the New York 16-yard line with 13 seconds left. After scoring a touchdown early in the 3rd quarter on a short field, the Giants’ offense only had one first down for the remainder of the 3rd and all of the 4th quarters, netting just one yard.

The Giants won the toss, picked up one first down and then punted. The Commanders picked up one first down and then also punted. The Giants reached the Washington 45-yard line but could get no closer. Head Coach Brian Daboll decided not to go for it on 4th-and-3. The Commanders got the ball back with 1:36 but could not move the ball. Washington was very fortunate that Heinicke did not fumble the ball when he was blindsided for a sack by linebacker Kayvon Thibodeux near the end zone. The Giants got the ball back with 28 seconds left at their own 43-yard line. New York gained 17 yards. With five seconds left, Gano’s 58-yard field goal attempt came up short and the game ended.

Jones finished the game 25-of-31 for 200 yards and one touchdown. He was also the leading ground gainer for New York with 12 carries for 71 yards. Barkley ran the ball 18 times for 63 yards and a touchdown. The leading receiver was Slayton, who caught six passes for 90 yards.

Defensively, the Giants were credited with five sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and three forced fumbles. The sacks were by Ellis, Ojlari, Thibodeaux, defensive linemen Dexter Lawrence, and linebacker Jihad Ward.

GAME VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS are available on YouTube.

ROSTER MOVES, PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
On Saturday, the Giants activated OLB Azeez Ojulari and S Tony Jefferson from Injured Reserve. The team also waived TE Tanner Hudson and signed TE Nick Vannett to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad.

The Giants activated (standard elevation) DL Vernon Butler and CB Zyon Gilbert from the Practice Squad to the 53-man roster.

Inactive for the game were WR Kenny Golladay (illness), OG Josh Ezeudu (neck), OG Shane Lemieux (toe), CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee), TE Lawrence Cager, OLB Elerson Smith, and CB Darnay Holmes.

DL Leonard Williams (neck) left the game and did not return.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Brian Daboll and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Brian Daboll and select players will address the media by conference call on Monday.

Dec 022022
 
Don "Wink" Martindale, New York Giants (November 13, 2022)

Don “Wink” Martindale – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
Glass half full or empty? The optimist will say this is an intriguing contest between two tough, over-achieving, well-coached teams that are playing above expectations. The naysayers will call this a game between two teams that are trying to keep out of last place in the division. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Regardless, this is an absolutely critical game for both franchises. The winner will have the inside track to the 3rd spot in the division and a possible Wild Card spot. The loser is going to be behind the proverbial 8-ball.

The Giants and Commanders are two similar teams. Both are largely carried by their defense. Both like to run the ball more than they throw it. But at the moment, both appear to be heading in opposite directions. The Commanders have won six out of their last seven games, including an impressive win in Philadelphia. The Giants have lost three of their last four and have already been swept by the Dallas Cowboys.

Can the Giants regain their footing and reverse Washington’s surging momentum? That’s the storyline.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Gary Brightwell (illness – questionable)
  • WR Darius Slayton (illness – questionable)
  • WR Richie James (knee – questionable)
  • TE Daniel Bellinger (eye – questionable)
  • OC Jon Feliciano (neck – questionable)
  • OG Josh Ezeudu (neck – out)
  • OG Shane Lemieux (toe – out)
  • OT Evan Neal (knee – probable)
  • OT Tyre Phillips (neck – probable)
  • DL Leonard Williams (neck – probable)
  • LB Carter Coughlin (thigh – questionable)
  • CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee – out)
  • CB Fabian Moreau (oblique – questionable)
  • CB Darnay Holmes (shoulder – questionable)
  • CB Cor’Dale Flott (concussion – probable)
  • S Dane Belton (clavicle – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
I’ve outlined the Giants’ passing game issues for the past two months. The cavalry is not going to crest the hill and save the day in 2022. Kadarius Toney was a bust and is gone. 29-year old Kenny Golladay has had one of the greatest career implosions in NFL history. Wan’Dale Robinson is on IR. The Giants will have to get by with Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins, and Richie James, all of whom may not even be on the team in a few months. Making matters worse is James has been nursing a knee issue for the past couple of weeks. It’s not a good situation, but there is little that can be done about it.

More worrisome has been the marked decline in the Giants’ ground game in recent weeks. There is a direct correlation between the team’s last three losses and Saquon Barkley’s lack of productivity. In those games, Barkley rushed for 53, 22, and 39 yards, averaging only 2.5 yards per carry. In the last two games, he only rushed the ball for a total of 26 times. This was after his career-high 35-rush game against the Texans. And it’s not just that the blocking hasn’t been there. Barkley is not running as decisively or physically as he did in September and October. Cutting to the chase, the Giants can’t win unless Barkley gets back on track. They don’t have the weapons in the passing game to compensate.

Relatedly, Daniel Jones’ declining rushing figures are having a negative impact on the offense. Since his 107-yard effort against the Jaguars on October 23rd, Jones has only rushed for 108 yards in the last four games, averaging only 25 yards per game. Some of this has been due to opposing defenses playing more in a more disciplined fashion. But Jones’ number has not been called as much either. He carried the ball only three times against the Cowboys. The Giants need to get back to their old 1-2 punch formula of Barkley and Jones presenting problems on the ground.

The good news is that the team is getting reinforcements up front. Evan Neal and Daniel Bellinger are back. Both were injured against the Jaguars on October 23rd. The Giants have gone 1-3 since they have both been out. Neal not only will help the ground game, but his presence will allow Tyre Phillips to serve as the 6th offensive lineman in heavy packages, another upgrade. Bellinger has been missed not only as a target, but as a viable, point-of-attack blocker at the tight end position. In addition, the return of Nick Gates should help to settle down the interior of the line, be it at left guard or center.

Which brings us to the Commanders, a well-coached defense that is currently 7th in the NFL in yards allowed (one spot below the 6th-ranked Cowboys). Washington is 10th against the pass and 8th against the run. They are also 10th in points allowed. To be blunt, they are playing far better defense than the New York Giants. The strength of Washington is their defensive line, led by defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, as well as end Montez Sweat. They can play the run and all three have over six sacks each. The Commanders also may be getting back #2 overall pick in 2020, Chase Young. Making matters worse is a secondary that has been playing good football. Starting corner Benjamin St. Juste will miss his second game in a row however. The Commanders are excellent in 3rd-down defense, being able to rush the passer as well as cover.

The man on the spot is Daniel Jones. He does not have the weapons that Washington has. He’s also going against a tougher defense than his counterpart in this game. With six critical games left, starting this Sunday, Jones still has the opportunity to make a statement. He must out-play Taylor Heinicke, not only for his team to have a chance but probably for Jones’ own fate with this franchise. Jones was the #6 overall pick. Heinicke was undrafted. Don’t turn the football over. Make plays in crucial situations to keep drives alive and score points. Win the game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Not only has the Giants’ ground game deteriorated, but so has its defense. It’s pretty easy to connect the dots as to why. The loss of Xavier McKinney caused a domino effect on the entire defense. This was exacerbated by the loss of the team’s #1 cornerback in Adoree’ Jackson. I don’t think it is a coincidence that we have seen a marked decline in 3rd-down defense and red-zone defense since both were lost. The problem for Wink Martindale and the defense is these two are still out as the key stretch run begins.

The defensive key to this game is obvious: run defense. Like the Giants, the ground game is the heart of the Washington attack. Stop their ground attack and stopping the Commanders becomes much easier. Washington is only 22nd in offense in yards, and 24th in points. But they average over 121 yards per game rushing and lead the NFL in time of possession. Rookie Brian Robinson has been impressive and is coming off his best game against the Falcons, averaging almost six yards per carry. Antonio Gibson is the other back, and presents more of an issue as a receiver (47 catches). He’s dealing with a foot injury however.

The problem for New York is that their run defense has been bad this year. The Giants are 26th against the run, allowing almost 139 yards per game. Worse, the Giants are allowing 5.2 yards per rushing attempt, one of the worst figures in the League. The lack of depth on the defensive line, talent issues at inside linebacker, and sporadic tackling by the secondary have all contributed to the disappointing play. But Washington is surely going to approach this game by attacking the New York weakness. Washington’s yards-per-carry is usually not impressive (sub 4.0), but they stick with the run and hope to wear down their opponents in the 4th quarter. It has been working.

The other fly in the ointment is the quality of Washington’s receiving targets is vastly superior to New York’s. Terry McLaurin is one of the best receivers in football. He can beat you deep and he can beat you by keeping the chains moving. With better quarterbacking, he’s be a real star. Curtis Samuel is also a quality slot receiver. These two, plus Gibson and tight end Logan Thomas, are Washington’s main receiving threats.

Which brings us to Heinicke, the 29-year old undrafted quarterback now with his sixth NFL team. He took over for Carson Wentz in Week 7 and has gone 5-1 as a starter. He’s no stud quarterback, but he’s managed games well and made just enough plays when called upon. That said, he lacks a top arm and has gotten lucky with a number of his throws. If the Giants can stop the run and make the Commanders more one dimensional, New York’s pass rush could make things uncomfortable for Henicke and cause turnovers.

The good news for the Giants is that Kayvon Thibodeaux is coming off of his best game. Azeez Ojulari finally is back as well and will help the pass rush. Combine these two with Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence and the Giants finally may have some real horses to rush the quarterback. The Commanders will also be without right guard Trai Turner. Center Tyler Larsen has also been limited with a shoulder injury.

Priority #1 is stopping the run. The inside linebackers will be on the spot, especially with as much motion as Washington employs offensively. But an undermanned New York secondary will also have to deal with McLaurin and Samuel. The return of Fabian Moreau should help, but the Giants will need Darnay Holmes, Nick McCloud, Rodarius Williams, and Cor’Dale Flott to rise to the occasion as well.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Thomas McGaughey’s special teams units have been a disappointment this year. The return game has been a net negative. Punting has been a problem. Coverage has not stood out. Giants face one of the league’s better punters in Tress Way. Punt/kick returner Dax Milne is out.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale on his run defense: “We’re just going to have to get 11 hats to the football, and right now statistically, our run defense isn’t very good. We need to continue to work on fundamentals and technique and getting everybody to the football. When you start putting in all the other runs, the wide receiver sweeps and all the other plays off of it, I think run averages are up across the league, but I think we need to get better at it.”

THE FINAL WORD:
These are two similar, over-achieving teams that are unfortunately playing in the same division as the Eagles and Cowboys. After Sunday, one will be in far better shape than the other. This contest almost has the feel of a playoff game. If the Giants win, hopes for a real playoff spot continue. If they lose, fan attention will likely increase about the upcoming offseason. This is the biggest December game the Giants have played since 2016.

Nov 262022
 
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (November 24, 2022)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

One of the metrics I use in coach evaluation is how well a team plays the second time around. These are almost always divisional foes but when post-season match-ups come into play, I look at them as well. While Brian Daboll was not the Head Coach in BUF, I did take a look at how their team (and offense) fared in their respective repeat matchups year-to-year:

2018 (on a 6-10 team): 1-2 and +13 in points
2019 (on a 10-6 team): 1-2 and +2 in points
2020 (on a 13-3 team): 3-1 and +29 in points
2021 (on a 11-6 team): 4-1 and +8 in points

The Thanksgiving Day match-up in DAL marked the first time in Daboll’s Head Coach tenure they would face off against a repeat opponent. They lost to the Cooper Rush-led Cowboys Week 3 by a score of 23-16. A game where NYG had a lead in the second half, but had it taken out of their grasp because the defense did not step up when they were needed.

The initial NYG drive stalled at midfield before opting to punt on 4th-and-3 from the DAL 48-yard line. The initial DAL drive stalled on their own 40-yard line, but they kept their offense on the field on 4th-and-2. Ezekiel Elliott was stuffed by a group of defenders led by Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys 2016 second rounder who was starting against his former team for the first time. NYG was primed to strike first blood. Daniel Jones hit Isaiah Hodgins for a 24-yard touchdown, but it was called back after right tackle Tyre Phillips was flagged for illegally blocking downfield. Jones then threw two incomplete passes, the second of which was flagged for intentional grounding, pushing NYG way back into deep field goal range. Fortunately, Graham Gano sent the 57-yarder through the uprights to give NYG the initial lead.

Dak Prescott, coming off his best game of the season in Minnesota, gave NYG the ball back with an interception that landed in the hands of Rodarius Williams. The NYG offense responded with a three-and-out as the DAL defensive front, a top-five group league-wide, was easily controlling the point-of-attack. Seven of DAL’s next eleven snaps were running plays and it landed them in the end zone via an Elliott 6-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. NYG then borrowed a page from that book, running the ball on seven-of-nine plays which also ended in a touchdown, this one by Saquon Barkley on a one-yarder. NYG had the lead at 10-7.

After trading three-and-outs, DAL put together a lengthy drive that was heading toward the red zone. Prescott tried to fit one in to CeeDee Lamb but a deflection by Darnay Holmes ended up in Julian Love’s hands for the second interception of the half, matching their 2022 season total coming into this game. A sloppy final two minutes, including two penalties by DAL and one by NYG and an interception that was nullified by one of those DAL penalties eventually led to a 47-yard field goal by Gano to lengthen their lead to 6 as halftime approached.

The DAL offense was a different animal in the second half. They started off with a 14-play drive that consisted of four third-down conversions. One of them was with a lot of help from the refs on a phantom defensive holding called on Holmes. The fourth conversion was a 3rd-and-15 touchdown pass to tight end Dalton Schultz. It put DAL up by one and wiped out over half of the third quarter clock.

The NYG offense stalled near midfield again. This time it was 4th-and-1 from their own 45-yard line. Daboll pushed the urgency, with 4:11 left in the third quarter, and kept the offense on the field. Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka called a great play, giving Jones an open look at Saquon Barkley who was all alone in the flat. A catch would have resulted in a first down and much more. Jones misfired, the ball fell to the ground, and Prescott took over on the NYG side of the field. Six plays later, Prescott connected with Schultz for another touchdown and DAL was up by eight.

Midfield continued to be a black hole for the NYG offense. They just could not get past it. Barkley couldn’t get going, the entire NYG offensive line (including Andrew Thomas) was taking turns getting beat, and the DAL train was heating up. For the third straight drive, DAL put a touchdown on the board, this time via a 2-yard run by tight end Peyton Hendershot. They were up 28-13 with under 9 minutes remaining. NYG down, by two touchdowns plus a two-point conversion, with an offense that had been averaging 18 points per game since their win in Jacksonville October 23rd.

They did end up getting into DAL territory on their next drive. There were two problems, however. They never quite went into hurry-up mode (11 plays netted 38 yards and took off 5:41 of game clock) and the final sequence went 10-yard sack, false start penalty, 16-yard gain, incomplete pass. DAL took the ball back and ran the ball over and over to get NYG to rid themselves of their timeouts. NYG did end up scoring a garbage-time touchdown with just :08 remaining on a pass from Jones to Richie James. At the very least, NYG bettors left the game happy. The onsides kick did not work and NYG dropped their 11th game to the Cowboys in their last 12 attempts.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 21/35 – 228 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 88.8 RAT

The mistakes Jones made in this do not show up on the stat sheet. It was a poor start where he held onto the ball on plays where they left specific pass rushers unblocked. The illegal shift + intentional grounding that nearly pushed them out of field goal range were avoidable. The 4th-and-1 miss to Barkley was the turning point of the game. He was fortunate to not have an interception on his stat line at the end of the first half on penalty that had nothing to do with the play. And lastly, I felt he did not tuck and run on two instances where he should have. Both resulted in stops for the DAL defense. This game won’t be put on Jones but there is no denying just a couple of better plays by him would have easily altered the trajectory of the game. And the looks were there, he simply did not come through.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 11 att – 39 yards / 4 rec – 13 yards

For the second straight week, Barkley was contained, and it was a mix of quality defense and a scaled back version of Barkley. Is he hurt? I don’t know. If I had to money on it, I would say he is not hurt. He was not coming off the field dramatically in pain like we have seen him do in the past. He was not grimacing after hits. Mentally, Barkley looks hesitant. NYG missed out on two likely third-down conversions because of that hesitancy. On an offense like this and considering the player he is, that is a huge deal.

-The best running back play we saw in this game was from Gary Brightwell. He gained 31 yards on 5 carries and added another 18 yards on 2 catches. This was the most we have seen him touch the ball over his two seasons in the league and the results were excellent. He’s earned more touches in this offense that is searching everywhere for production. Matt Breida added 15 yards on 3 touches, 1 catch and 2 carries.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton came up with the offensive play of the day. A game-long 44-yard catch that set NYG up for their first touchdown that put them up early. He was targeted 5 other times, catching 2 of them for 19 yards. Earlier in the game I made a negative note on his ball skills when it came to fighting through contact while maintaining body control down the field. In fairness, his 44-yarder was a big-time play on the ball. It is the up-and-down play by Slayton that causes evaluators to pull their hair out. The good is there, the consistency is not.

-Richie James had 5 catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. Almost all of that came in the second half. Isaiah Hodgins caught 3 passes for 31 yards and had a touchdown taken off the board by an offensive line penalty. Kenny Golladay did not get thrown to at all, nor did Marcus Johnson. They saw a combined 26 snaps.

TIGHT END

-A better game from this group as a whole than what they put out there last week. Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick, and Tanner Hudson all caught one pass each (for 23-20-10 yards respectively). Cager and Myarick were responsible for 2 of the 3 biggest plays in the passing game. Hudson did not see any blocking snaps, but both Cager and Myarick held their own against the physical DAL front.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-On paper, this had the potential to be an ugly game for the Giants offensive line. DAL came into this one leading the NFL in sacks and top-three in every important pass rush metric. NYG was missing their starting right tackle and were on a fourth-string left guard. To make matters worse, left tackle Andrew Thomas was battling illness and appeared to be limping a bit on that bad foot of his. He paid the price against All Pro linebacker Micah Parsons, allowing 2 sacks, 1 pressure, and 0.5 TFL. Jack Anderson, the fourth-stringer noted above, allowed 2 pressures and a sack and was flagged for a false start.

-Center Nick Gates graded out as the top lineman, which isn’t saying much. His hands were heavy and accurate. I don’t see a ton of movement off the line against defensive tackles and he did struggle to get his hips in the hole a few times. I chalk that up to the lower body still working its way back.

-The right side was responsible for four pressures (2 each by Mark Glowinski and Tyre Phillips). Glowinksi also allowed a 0.5 TFL and Phillips was called for a crucial penalty that came from him aimlessly working his way downfield for no reason on a passing play. I liked what I saw out of him as a run blocker though and I wonder if there is any thought on him returning to guard when Neal comes back. Not as a starter, but as an immediate backup if needed.

EDGE

-The top individual pass rush performances of this season previously belonged to Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. Those performances now sit behind rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux’s dominance he put on display in this game. 9 pressures, 1 caused hold, 1 caused TFL. This was the best combination of get off, pad level, and power we have seen out of him. He absolutely abused fellow rookie Tyler Smith on the left side all game and proved to be a menace both the inside as a blitzing linebacker and on the left side the defensive line. He did miss 2 tackles, one of which was a sack, but this is exactly what we want to see from Thibodeaux at this point. The most impressive part of his stat line is the fact he did so on just 26 pass rush snaps. In another year or two, after he continues to figure his craft out at the professional level and improve his power game, a few of those will turn into sacks.

-Jihad Ward finished with 2 pressures and 1 TFL. I like him so much more when he is in the tight spaces. His power game and feel for blockers is top notch.

-Oshane Ximines lost the edge twice on big runs in the first quarter. He also missed a tackle and did not impact the game as a pass rusher.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Leonard Williams was back to his dominant ways. He had 6 tackles, 3 TFL, and 1 pressure. His closing speed on lateral runs is such an overlooked component to his game. He reaches guys that 95% of the league’s interior linemen cannot. The negative in his game, which has been around for years, showed up a few times in this one. He does not anchor well against runs right at him. He also missed 2 tackles.

-Dexter Lawrence had 5 tackles and a pressure. He seemed to be off his game in this one. Nothing drastic, but I caught him walking gingerly and grimacing a few times throughout and he looked out of gas on a few others. Henry Mondeaux added 3 tackles and a pressure. He offers much more than Justin Ellis, who finished with 1 tackle, when it comes to playing sudden and showing some range once off the initial contact of a blocker.

LINEBACKER

-Jaylon Smith was playing some spirited football in his first start against the team that drafted and signed him to a long-term deal. He led the team with 10 tackles, adding 1 TFL and a big 4th-down stop early in the game. His downhill explosion is still there and even though the lateness + lateral movement issues hurt from time to time, he has been a quality player for this defense.

-Micah McFadden was on the field for a career-high 48 snaps. After a poor game last week against DET, I saw more urgency with his reads, and he finished better. He had 4 tackles and 2 TFL with 1 missed tackle. The movement in coverage looked much better when looking at the All-22. He was rarely targeted, but he did his job when working the intermediate level of the route tree.

CORNERBACK

-We had a little bit of a coming out party for Rodarius Williams. I discussed him a bit after the DET game noting how often he was getting beat in his first action of the season. He responded with 2 pass break-ups and an interception, the first of his career. He did not allow a reception either (although he was flagged for a pass interference). There were quite a few people excited about Williams after the 2021 preseason, remember. Now that he is in the mix, he looks the part.

-Nick McCloud had 8 tackles without any misses. I like him in the middle of the field. He is a physical player and gets the ball carrier down at a near-perfect rate. He allowed a touchdown in coverage. Rookie Cor’Dale Flott allowed 3 completions on all 3 times he was targeted. His lack of power presence is a concern against a receiver with any kind of size. Michael Gallup tossed him around a couple times. His play speed is excellent, though.

-Darnay Holmes was flagged three times, one of which was a poor call. The issue here is Holmes has the reputation of being too grabby in coverage. He built that as a rookie in 2020 and it hasn’t gotten anything but worse. He now has 7 penalties on the year and teams know it. He also allowed 3 catches for 58 yards, being outclassed by Lamb. He did deflect a pass that ended up being an interception.

SAFETY

-Julian Love tied for the team lead with 10 tackles. He added two impact plays as well, a TFL and an interception. This is exactly what this team needs from Love. Be the safety net on the back end who makes tackles in space and create big plays for the defense. He did both.

-Jason Pinnock played every snap. This is valuable experience for him. He had 8 tackles, but he also missed one and allowed a touchdown in coverage. More up-and-down play for him.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 57, 47)
-P Jamie Gillan: 4 Punts / 48.3 avg – 38.3 avg

3 STUDS

-CB Rodarius Williams, EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, S Julian Love

3 DUDS

-CB Darnay Holmes, OT Andrew Thomas, RB Saquon Barkley

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

After the Week 3 loss in September, I asked how far do I see this version of Dallas going? “We have every reason to believe they will contend not only for the division, but for the conference. The defense has the upside of being special and if that offense can elevate their game just one or two levels, they have the “goods.” Here we are at the end of November, and I only feel stronger about that notion. DAL is one of three teams I can see going to the Super Bowl. The difference between this team and the previous few years is the defense. They can be lights out against anyone.

There is a good chance that was Ezekiel Elliott’s final game against NYG in a Cowboys uniform. DAL has made a habit out of restructuring his contract in recent offseasons, pushing money into future years. They did not do so this past offseason. To me, that, and the emergence of Tony Pollard who is simply a better player right now, will pave the way for them cutting him loose in a few months. 12 games, 1108 total yards, 10 TDs vs NYG.

I will be intrigued to see where Tyler Smith, their 2022 first round pick, ends up on the offensive line. He was going to be the left guard until Tyron Smith went down but shifted over and has played at a solid level for most of the year. He’s allowed 4 sacks and is second in the league with 10 penalties. This was a major issue at Tulsa as well. I think Smith’s run blocking is already on the elite level but I don’t see the upside in pass protection. I think he ends up at OG in the future.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

Two losses in five days can sting a bit more and the injuries on both sides of the ball were accelerated by the Thursday game. The positive is now schedule-based. NYG gets 10 days of rest prior to a home match-up against the Commanders, who play Sunday against ATL. With multiple players on the brink of returning (OT Evan Neal, TE Daniel Bellinger, OL Ben Bredeson), the timing of this mini-bye week is crucial. Especially considering WAS will be one of the teams NYG is contending with for a playoff spot.

The Barkley tape is the elephant in the room that everyone can see. He is not running as hard. He is showing hesitancy. And this is an offense that did not have any margin to work with. Barkley is the most important player on this offense and probably the team. If he does not play to his ability (whether it is physical or mental) – the entire scope changes. Look what happened when Brightwell came in and ran hard. I discussed this a few times last year. There was not, and is not, a bigger Barkley guy out there than me. But if the hardness in his game is back and forth, it will make for an easy decision this upcoming offseason.

One of the questions people will ask about Daniel Jones and his future with NYG will revolve around upside. Just how good can he actually be? Best case scenario, what is he? We just watched Dak Prescott throw two interceptions in the first half. He was hit just as much if not more than Jones was throughout the game. Nothing mattered. He comes out in the second half and played some of the best QB I have seen all year from around the league. The numbers did not pop off the page, but it was the complexity of his throws and how precise they were. I do not see that in Jones. Both right now and in the future.

Nov 242022
 
Julian Love, New York Giants (November 24, 2022)

Julian Love – © USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS COWBOYS 28 – NEW YORK GIANTS 20…
An undermanned New York Giants team played a gutty first half against the Dallas Cowboys, but were overwhelmed by three straight second-half touchdowns. The Giants lost 28-20 on Thanksgiving and fell to 7-4 on the season.

Aside from the scoreboard, the Cowboys also held team statistical advantages in first downs (26 to 21), total net yards (430 to 300), net yards rushing (169 to 90), net yards passing (261 to 210), and time of possession (34:09 to 25:51). A big difference was the Cowboys were 7-of-11 on 3rd down (63.6 percent) while the Giants were just 3-of-11 (27.3%) and 0-of-2 on 4th down. New York did win the turnover battle two to zero.

The Giants received the football to start the game, gained 20 yards on the first play, but then were forced to punt. The Cowboys picked up one first down on their first possession and decided to go for it on 4th-and-2 from their own 40-yard line. Running back Ezekiel Elliott was stuffed by linebacker Jaylon Smith, turning the ball over on downs. Quarterback Daniel Jones threw a 23-yard pass to tight end Chris Myarick. After a sack, a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins was nullified due to tackle Tyre Phillips being illegally downfield. Two incomplete passes and an intentional grounding penalty led to the Giants settling for a 57-yard field goal by Graham Gano.

The Cowboys crossed midfield on their second possession, but quarterback Dak Prescott was intercepted by cornerback Rodarius Williams at the New York 30-yard line. The Giants went three-and-out. The ensuing Dallas drive went 93 yards in 11 plays, lasting over six minutes, and resulted in Elliott scoring from six yards out. Cowboys 7 – Giants 3 early in the 2nd quarter.

The Giants responded with their own touchdown as New York drove 75 yards in nine plays. The Giants benefited from a defensive holding penalty on 3rd-and-2. The big play was then a 44-yard strike from Jones to wide receiver Darius Slayton down to the 1-yard line. Two plays later, running back Saquon Barkley scored from one yard out. Giants 10 – Cowboys 7.

After both teams exchanged three-and-outs, Dallas drove into Giants territory. But at the 2-minute warning, a Prescott pass was deflected by cornerback Darnay Holmes and intercepted by Julian Love. He returned the ball 17 yards to the New York 27-yard line. With 1:50 left on the clock, the Giants gained 44 yards in eight plays to set up a 47-yard field goal as time expired.

At the half, the Giants led 13-7.

The Cowboys imposed their will on the Giants with three straight touchdown drives after the break. Dallas drove 75 yards in 14 plays, 44 yards in six plays, and 80 yards in 10 plays as Dallas went up 28-13 with nine minutes left in the game.

Meanwhile, a key turning point for the Giants offensively came on their first possession of the second half after the Cowboys had regained the lead 14-13. Facing a 4th-and-1 from their own 45-yard line, Jones threw an errant short pass to Barkley, who dropped what would have been a first down. Dallas then proceeded to score their second touchdown of the half on the short field. The Giants gained a couple of first downs on their second drive and then punted the ball away early in the 4th quarter. That’s when Dallas drove for their third touchdown of the half.

Trailing by 15 points with less than nine minutes to play, the Giants reached the Cowboys 39-yard line by then turned the football over on downs with 3:12 left to play. The Cowboys drove to the New York 28-yard line but missed a 46-yard field goal. With 1:13 left on the clock, the Giants scored a garbage-time touchdown by driving 64 yards in seven plays with wide receiver Richie James catching a 1-yard touchdown. The Cowboys recovered the onside kick with seven seconds left.

Jones finished the game 21-of-35 for 228 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. His leading receiver was James who caught five passes for 41 yards and a touchdown. Barkley was held to just 39 yards on 11 carries.

The Giants did force two turnovers, but they also gave up over 430 yards of offense. The team generated no sacks although outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux was credited with five quarterback hits. The Giants also had six tackles for losses.

GAME VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS are available on YouTube.

ROSTER MOVES, PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
On Saturday, the Giants signed OL Devery Hamilton and S Trenton Thompson to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad. To make room for these two players, the Giants waived ILB Austin Calitro and OLB Quincy Roche.

The Giants activated (standard elevations) OL Korey Cunningham and S Terrell Burgess from the Practice Squad to the 53-man roster on the same day.

Inactive for the game were TE Daniel Bellinger (eye), OC Jon Feliciano (neck), OG Josh Ezeudu (neck), OG Shane Lemieux (toe), RT Evan Neal (knee/illness), CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee), and CB Fabian Moreau (oblique).

CB Cor’Dale Flott left the game with a concussion and did not return.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Brian Daboll and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Brian Daboll (Video)
  • QB Daniel Jones (Video)
  • RB Saquon Barkley (Video)
  • OLB Jihad Ward (Video)
  • CB Darnay Holmes (Video)
  • S Julian Love (Video)

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Brian Daboll and select players will address the media by conference call on Friday.

Nov 232022
 

THE STORYLINE:
Just last week, fans of the New York Football Giants were contemplating an 8-2 record, the return of number of previously injured players, the possible acquisition of Odell Beckham, and dare we say it, a possible run at the NFC East title. A few days later, many of these same fans are questioning if the team will win another game this year and see beating the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving as an equivalent challenge as beating the 18-0 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Dear Giants fans,
Get a grip.
Signed, BBI Management

Professional football is a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry in which each year 32 franchises compete for a shiny trophy. Aside from geographical location, these 32 franchises differentiate themselves from each other by the color of the clothes they wear. Distinct from MLB and the NBA, these teams operate on a relative even playing field with a hard salary cap. Every team has good players and coaches. Because of this, it’s virtually impossible for any one team to dominate the league.

The Giants entered 2022 with their third general manager and fourth head coach in six years after enduring a decade-long’s worth of mismanagement. Botched drafts and free agent signing periods left the franchise with a roster devoid of talent, players accustomed to losing, and a very poor salary-cap position. Most fans were thrilled that ownership reached outside of the organization and hired a new GM and HC who be on the same page and work together to eradicate the rot and build a new foundation. Most of these fans knew this would take time, especially since many believed the quarterback on the team was not part of the answer moving forward.

The offseason was a dizzying affair. Players such as Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Will Hernandez, Lorenzo Carter, Jabrill Peppers, James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, and Riley Dixon, among many others, were let go. Almost 40 free agents and 11 draft picks were added to the training camp roster. Changes were made in the front office both before and after the draft. Many fans and pundits assumed the Giants, blessed with an easier schedule, would win somewhere around 4-6 games. How gloomy were the prognostications? There was a lot of talk of Daniel Jones probably being benched at some point for Tyrod Taylor.

Then something weird happened. The Giants beat AFC’s #1 seed on their turf on opening day. And they did so in dramatic style, coming back from a 13-0 halftime deficit and winning with a daring 2-point conversion. Over the course of the next eight games, the Giants would surprisingly win six of them, often coming from behind in the 4th quarter to pull off the upset. Even with one of the best records in football, the Giants were considered the underdogs in almost every game. The pinnacle of the first half of the season was the back-to-back dramatic victories over the Packers in London and the Ravens.

The weird part was all of this was happening with a completely revamped roster of unfamiliar names, many of whom were let go by other teams and would have trouble finding work on any other roster. Players who were counted on to make a big difference did not, such as Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Aaron Robinson, and Azeez Ojulari. Injuries also affected the play and availability of Leonard Williams, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Evan Neal, Shane Lemieux, Daniel Bellinger, among others. The team was left scrambling in-season for waiver-wire pick-ups, guys signed off of the street and practice squads. Although it wasn’t pretty, the team was still winning despite being hampered with the worst set of receivers and tight ends in the league and a number of castoffs on the defensive side of the ball.

The Giants were winning because they were well coached, and the new coaching staff was getting the best out of players who many had discounted, such as Dexter Lawrence, Adoree’ Jackson, Julian Love, Daniel Jones, and Oshane Ximines as just a few examples. Others came out of nowhere to play significant roles such as Jihad Ward and Fabian Moreau. It wasn’t easy. Players kept getting hurt and the front office and coaching staff had to keep juggling the roster, limited by little cap room. At times, the Giants didn’t even keep 53 players on the roster.

Tactically, the staff recognized the limitations of the roster. Passing-attack gurus Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka transitioned to a run-first ground game, designed to minimize mistakes and keep the team alive in games against opponents with equal or better talent. The defense gave up yardage, but stood tall on third down and inside the red zone. And for whatever reason, this team started to believe it could and would win in the 4th quarter. Opponents simply could not kill the Giants. They hung around, they hung around, they hung around… and finally somehow pulled off the win.

Something else different began to happen. Giants’ fans began complaining that the wins were too ugly. After each win, there were more discussion threads on what went wrong rather than what went right. It quickly began to dawn on me that Giants fans who were worn down by a decade worth of losing were developing unrealistic expectations about what this team was and could be as it is currently formulated. The other red flag was the insistence by the bulk of the fan base that the addition of just one wide receiver would change everything for plodding offensive football team and somehow turn them into a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Whoa! What?

Karma began to change over the bye week. Xavier McKinney got stupid, crushed his hand on vacation, and sabotaged the entire defense. He was one of the few players on this team the Giants could ill-afford to lose. His absence had a domino effect. The Giants also started to do something they had not done, and that was kill themselves with turnovers. Richie James fumbled twice on punt returns against the Seahawks. The team turned the ball over three more times against the Lions. Brian Daboll got stupid and put Adoree’ Jackson on punt returns and paid the price. Now the other player in the secondary the Giants simply could not afford to lose may be gone for the bulk of the rest of the season. Worse, the Giants came out of last week’s game needing a MASH unit. Wan’Dale Robinson had his career game to date and then tore his ACL, leaving a bad unit even worse. The other starting cornerback, Moreau, who was filling in for Aaron Robinson, got hurt. Five offensive line showed up on the injury list and two safeties. A really thin team to start with just got dangerously thin.

This where Giants fans have gotten stupid. Not all of you. The smart ones are nodding your head at what I wrote and are off the hook. I’m scolding those of you who say such things as (and yes, these have been posted this week):

  • Brian Daboll lost this team when he yelled at them.
  • We will learn this Thursday if this coaching staff is any good.
  • The team needs to make a number of changes in Week 12 to take the offense and defense in new directions.

But what mostly bothers me are posts that scream (paraphrasing), “If this team doesn’t win and perform to my expectations, then the individuals responsible are horrible human beings and must be vilified until they make me feel better.” Or the “please tell me it’s going to be OK” posts. What are we? Eight year olds? I don’t know what is going on, but some of you guys need a good slap in the face and dose of reality.

This is flawed, rebuilding football team. It underwent major changes this past offseason. It will undergo major changes this upcoming offseason. The 7-3 start has been great, and hopefully they still have a few wins in them to keep things entertaining. But the unexpected winning has now created unrealistic expectations. A thin team that wins with the slightest margins of error is not likely to experience sustained success. And this is especially true when that thin team loses its most important players. “But…but…but..” No buts, that’s just the way it is. Teams with stronger rosters will prevail in the end. Survival of the fittest.

So this is a word of advice to those of you who are getting really upset: It’s a game. It’s supposed to be something fun for you to enjoy. It would be nice to win, but it’s not the end of the world if your team loses. The Giants appear to be heading in the right direction with a GM and coach on the same page. Regardless of how it ends, this year turned out better than expected. You’d probably feel better if the team’s W-L record was better after the bye than before it, but it’s not likely to work out that way.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Richie James (knee – questionable)
  • TE Daniel Bellinger (eye – out)
  • OC Jon Feliciano (neck – out)
  • OG Josh Ezeudu (neck – out)
  • OG Shane Lemieux (toe – out)
  • OT Andrew Thomas (illness – questionable)
  • OT Evan Neal (knee/illness – out)
  • OT Tyre Phillips (neck – questionable)
  • CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee – out)
  • CB Fabian Moreau (oblique – out)
  • S Dane Belton (clavicle – questionable)
  • S Jason Pinnock (jaw – questionable)

THE FINAL WORD:
The Giants are huge underdogs against Dallas and for good reason. The Cowboys are coming off of their most impressive win of the season. The Giants are coming off their most disappointing loss of the season. Worse, the Giants somehow managed to end up a more physically-damaged team after the bye week. The secondary, offensive line, and wide receiving corps are a mess with injuries. Barring a big upset, the results are not going to aid your post-Turkey digestive process. If you can’t handle that, pretend the team isn’t playing and enjoy the time with your family.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 222022
 
Julian Love, New York Giants (November 20, 2022)

Julian Love – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell was drafted by NYG in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft. He started 34 games for them, 28 of which came over his final two seasons before he signed with DAL (and later DET) in free agency. A year-plus after his career ended, he became an intern-offensive coach for MIA. Working his way up, including a stretch where he was interim Head Coach for MIA and an Assistant Head Coach for NO, Campbell landed the top job for DET in 2021. In a time where owners are often chasing after specialty minds (offense/defense), DET did it different. They went after a culture guy. Campbell is leader of men. He wants to chew glass, get into fights, and give off the tough-guy persona to a league full of tough guys. His staff is filled with former players with similar backgrounds and mindsets. DET personifies “Blue Collar” as much as any team in the league. To be determined if this approach can work and DET. If you have not followed the team, DET has had some of the worst losses in the league since Campbell’s tenure began when it comes to blown leads and aggressive mistakes.

DET came into this one with the last-ranked defense in the NFL when looking at both yards and points allowed, respectively. What surprises many, however, is the fact they came into the league with a top-10 offense in both categories. They do not have star power on that side of the ball. They have a quarterback who would not start on 20 teams in the league. How are they doing this? NYG got a front row seat in their Week 11 matchup at windy MetLife Stadium. It is that time of year.

NYG began the game with the ball. Left Guard Shane Lemieux was on the field for the first time, giving the team 4 of their 5 starters up front on the field. Evan Neal remained inactive with a knee injury. Two of the first three plays resulted in losses. They went three-and-out and DET responded with three points via a field goal by Michael Badgley. A week after Saquon Barkley’s 30+ touch performance and four days prior to their next game against DAL, backup running back Matt Breida made his mark early. He converted a 4th-and-1 rushing attempt before a 16-yard gain on a 3rd-and-7 a few plays later. This set them up for their first touchdown of the game, a 3-yard run by Daniel Jones.

The game stayed at 6-3 (the extra point was blocked), NYG up, for the next three possessions as the two ground-and-pound offenses were playing the field position battle. DET punter Jack Fox, a 2020 All-Pro, had consecutive punts of 57 and 63 yards. NYG’s #1 corner and fill-in punt returner, Adoree’ Jackson, was injured on the 57-yarder. He did not return and will be out a month. Jones threw an interception on a zone blitz that he did not recognize, throwing it directly to DET defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, the second overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. With the DET offense starting their drive in the red zone, it took just four plays for them to score on a Jamaal Williams four-yard run.

Thanks to an illegal block in the back by Nick McCloud on the ensuing kickoff, NYG started their drive on their own 6-yard line. They had gains of 19, 13, and 4 yards. Because of the penalty, that only got them to their own 42-yard line. They were forced to punt again as the NYG offensive line, with four starters in, continued to get abused. Punter Jamie Gillian then shanked one 25 yards. DET needed just three plays before they were in the red zone again and with under a minute remaining in the half, Williams scored a 1-yard touchdown to make the game 17-6. Poor clock management by Jones ended the half with the NYG offense near midfield.

DET opened the second half with another touchdown-scoring drive on the back of Williams yet again, his third score of the day. There was urgency in the NYG offensive huddle on the next drive. Down 18, at home, but up against the worst defense in the league. Barkley had just 18 yards on 10 first half carries, and they were approaching the point in the game where they needed points, and fast. The way to do that in the NFL? Throw the ball. On 4th-and-5 from the DET 40, Jones threw his second interception on a poorly placed ball. Rookie Kerby Joseph brought it in, his third of the season as he has emerged as the league’s top rookie safety so far.

DET did not convert this into points. They went three and out two possessions in a row, but NYG’s offense remained stagnant themselves. However, as the game turned to the fourth quarter, their fortune started to change even though they lost their most targeted receiver, rookie Wan’Dale Robinson, to a knee injury. He did not return and will be out the rest of the year. Breida did end up scoring NYG’s next touchdown on a 3-yard run but kicker Graham Gano missed the extra point. 24-12 DET.

NYG got the ball back with under 9:00. This was it, they needed to score a touchdown on this drive and who better than DET to do it against, a team that has made a living on blowing fourth quarter leads since the start of the Campbell-era. Jones threw two incomplete passes, center Nick Gates forgot to snap the ball on 3rd-and-10, and the anemic passing game needed a huge play. Jones delivered a strike to recently picked up receiver Isaiah Hodgins for a 20-yard gain. First down. But on the next play, right before he went down, Hodgins fumbled, and it was recovered by Hutchinson who was all over the field. DET needed four plays before D’Andre Swift got his turn at crossing the goal line on a 4-yard touchdown run.

NYG did end up getting that touchdown, a drive and turnover too late, on the next drive. Jones hit Richie James on a 9-yard crossing route. They were down 13 points with under 5:00 left in need of a successful two-point conversion to make it a TD + 2-point conversion + FG margin. Tight End Lawrence Cager dropped the pass from Jones, NYG remained down 13, and DET recovered the ensuing onsides kick. NYG would not touch the ball again. DET’s offensive line paved the way for two first downs via run-only in run-only situations and sucked the remaining NYG timeouts out of Brian Daboll’s hands.

NYG loses, 31-18.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 27/44 – 341 yards / 1 TD – 2 INT / 74.1 RAT

Jones also added a team-high 50 yards on 7 carries including a touchdown. The 341 yards were the third-highest of his career and the 44 attempts were the second-highest. The DET defense, again the worst in the league because of how poor they perform against the pass, sold out on stuffing Barkley and the NYG running game. This will be what see week in, week out for the rest of year. Extra beef up front, defensive backs in the box, and sheer number advantages. Jones did make big throws. He did a fine job getting the ball out when receivers were open. He took what was there. He was productive (391 yards total). Checks in all of those boxes. But the interceptions were both on him. He did not read the zone blitz on the first one and he air-mailed the second one. While we can continue to pound the OL + pass catcher drum and rightfully so, this one will go in the negative bucket for Jones. He did not rise above.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 15 att – 22 yards / 2 rec – 13 yards

Barkley looked like a guy who carried the team a week earlier. He had less pop and speed than what we have seen this season. After reviewing the All-22, I also noted three runs where Barkley’s lack of aggression caused no gain or a loss. All three were plays that had a strong likelihood of going for 5+ yards, one of which could have been much bigger. Daboll has done a fine job with Barkley and this running game when it comes to putting the head down and getting those 2-3-4 yard gains. But we saw the version of Barkley who had too much tip-toeing, lack of desire, and overall slowness. That margin in between in this league is enormous. A poor game for Barkley but he was strong pass protection. He has turned that around in a big way.

-Matt Breida: 3 att – 13 yards – 1 TD / 1 rec – 16 yards

We did not see a lot of Breida in this one and I wish we saw more. He brought more energy to the offense than Barkley did, and it was obvious on the early drive where he converted a 4th- and 3rd-down conversion, respectively. While it is hard to keep #26 off the field, this was something obvious to see early on. With where NYG’s receivers are, I think more looks with both guys on the field should be a priority.

WIDE RECEIVER

-The position group caught 22 passes for 292 yards, by far a season-high. Wan’Dale Robinson led the group with a line of 9/100 but suffered a torn ACL on the first play of the fourth quarter. Such an unfortunate blow for multiple reasons. One, it looked like Robinson’s role was starting to click here. He was the guy Jones could get the ball to on 3rd/4th down. He was the one who created the most on his own after the catch. Two, because of the nature of the injury and timing, this is something that could linger into 2023. My hope is he will be on the field Week 2 or 3.

-Darius Slayton came up with a few big plays. His 17.2 yards per catch in a game that he had 5 or more receptions were the most since Week 10 of 2020. The negative with Slayton continues to be drops. He added 2 more to his season total and double caught two others – meaning a slight bobble before bringing it in. On a team that lacks talent at WR – he is clearly the number one guy especially with Robinson out. He can make big plays in an offense that is begging for such in the passing game. But it is hard to rely on a guy with his caliber of hands and ball skills. He did come up with a key block on the Jones touchdown run early in the game.

-Maybe the loudest ovation of the day, whether it was genuine or sarcastic, came on the first Kenny Golladay reception. He had 2 catches on the day, both body-balls that he let come in to his numbers rather than attack it with his hands, for 29 yards. By default, Golladay will see more and more looks now.

-Richie James appeared out of the doghouse once Robinson went down. He responded with 3 catches for 48 yards and a touchdown, all coming in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Hodgins came up with 29 yards on 3 catches but lost a fumble that DET turned into a fourth quarter touchdown.

TIGHT END

-Another lackluster day for the group overall. It is one thing to see a lack of impact on the game, but when the negative plays start to pop up, it becomes frustrating to watch. Tight end was mishandled this past offseason and even in-season. Lawrence Cager allowed a TFL, was flagged for offensive pass interference, and dropped a big 2-point conversion attempt with the team down 13. He did have 2 catches for 20 yards, but that was it for the group as a whole.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-I have long discussed the issues the interior of this line would present as the year went on. It was one of the first things I saw at camp back in August. They’ve played better than I anticipated but that doesn’t mean much. It has still been a well-below average group that was somewhat overshadowed by the smoke and mirrors offensive scheme. With Shane Lemiuex on the field for the first time this season, I had some optimism. That ended quickly. He allowed 3 pressures and a sack before being benched in the second half for rookie Josh Ezeudu, who allowed a pressure himself. Mark Glowinski was man-handled by Alim McNeill repeatedly. He allowed 2 pressures and was flagged for illegally blocking downfield on a drive that had NYG approaching field goal range and ended with a punt. His penalty was the turning point of the drive.

-Center Jon Feliciano left the game with a neck injury. He allowed a TFL and one pressure before heading out. Nick Gates started off as a blocking tight end but then took over at center for Feliciano. He was flagged twice, one of which was declined. As I said a few weeks ago, Gates is the guy that should be at center. He sustains contact better than Feliciano and gets more push.

-Andrew Thomas allowed 1 TFL but was otherwise lights out again. On the other side, Tyre Phillips had to be relieved by Matt Peart because of a neck injury. Phillips allowed a pressure before departing and Peart struggled with 2 pressures and a TFL. His hands were all over the place and it threw off his body control. Peart clearly has not clicked yet. The tools were there, and it was worth the gamble, but he simply cannot pass block consistently.

EDGE

-Oshane Ximines had a solid game, pressuring Jared Goff 3 times and registering 1 tackle. He was flagged for a roughing penalty, however, on a 3rd-and-8 stop that gave DET an automatic first down on a 3-point scoring drive.

-Rookies Kayvon Thibodeaux added 2 tackles and 1 pressure and Tomon Fox had 1 tackle. Quiet and overall ineffective game for the two on limited looks, as Goff only threw 26 passes.

-Jihad Ward had 4 tackles, 1 pressure, and a pass break up. Martindale put him into coverage on a couple of occasions via the zone blitz and it hurt the defense. Ward moves more like a defensive tackle than a linebacker. Stiff and slow.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams continue to play a ton of snaps. Lawrence had 3 pressures and a team-high 7 tackles while Williams added 1 pressure and 4 tackles. The DET interior is one of the best in football and these two won several matchups. The success DET had on the ground had very little to do with them.

-Henry Mondeaux remains ahead of the immobile Justin Ellis on the depth chart. He played 32 snaps while Ellis only saw 17. Both of them struggled against that OL.

LINEBACKER

-Rough day for the group. Rookie Micah McFadden got the start next to veteran Jaylon Smith and both were manhandled against the DET running game. McFadden is a step too slow especially in coverage. It keeps popping up and DET took advantage of it on the play-action crossing routes. He was also flagged for a pass interference. Smith had 6 tackles but 5 of them were assists. He was late to the running lanes and slow to fill. The lateral adjustments are worrisome, as he looks so stiff and rigid when he needs to adjust. He added 1 pressure.

-Tae Crowder saw an uptick in playing time late in the game and finished with 3 tackles and a TFL.

CORNERBACK

-Adoree’ Jackson missed most of the game because he was injured on a 3-yard punt return. He was recently put in that role because of the two Richie James fumbles in Seattle a few weeks ago. More on that below. Jackson will be out for a month, if not longer. I’ve said this a few times; Jackson is the one guy this defense could not afford to lose. Huge blow for the defense that has almost no margin left.

-Fabian Moreau suffered an oblique injury and may be out Thursday at DAL. That leaves the secondary with Darnay Holmes at nickel and a mixture of Nick McCloud, Rodarius Williams, and Cordale Flott on the outside as NYG is approaching a difficult slate of opposing offenses in the near future. Holmes and McCloud both had a TFL and were solid in coverage. They fit the aggressive scheme well and I feel good about them. The concerns are with Williams and Flott. Williams was beat in coverage multiple times in his first action of the season and Flott, a rookie who has played 22 snaps since Week 3, is raw. He dropped an interception but did force a fumble. These next few weeks will be huge for Flott when it comes to experience and learning from mistakes. It may be painful right now, but it could end up being beneficial to his future.

SAFETY

-Julian Love was the lone defender to play all of the snaps. Nobody else played 90% of the snaps. He tied for the team lead 7 tackles and added a TFL. He did miss a tackle on a 3rd-and-long conversion though and missed out on an interception late in the game, but it did end in a pass break up.

-Jason Pinnock was in and out of the game with a jaw/neck injury. He is very much an all-or-nothing type player on defense. He had a TFL and 3 tackles but added a missed tackle. I like the aggressive style and length he brings to the table. I hope he can stay on the field because NYG may have something in him.

-Rookie Dane Belton had 2 tackles but was ridden out of multiple plays by wide receiver and tight end blocks. That is a weakness in his game I’ve seen repeated a few times this season. He also allowed receptions on the two times he was targeted.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 0/0 (One extra point blocked and he missed another)
-P Jamie Gillan: 4 punts / 38.3 avg – 38.3 net

3 STUDS

-DT Dexter Lawrence, WR Wan’Dale Robinson, RB Matt Breida

3 DUDS

-OG Shane Lemieux, LB Micah McFadden, RB Saquon Barkley

3 THOUGHTS ON DET

The Lions have passed their 2021-win total (3) with 7 games left on the schedule. They’re currently the 2nd place team in the NFC North. They have contests against JAC, NYJ, CAR, CHI, and GB remaining. Say what you want about the defensive and late-game struggles, but this team is on the rise. I believe in culture-building and I believe the resources DET has put into it will pay off. What is truly missing? They’re going to be limited with Jared Goff under center, that is the simple truth. The statistics are a bit misleading, as a lot of their production has come late in games against prevent-style coverages. But if their 2022 first rounder Jameson Williams, who may be back in December and was my second-ranked receiver behind Garrett Wilson last April, is a dude who checks every box. With next year being the vital third season of the Campbell-era, I can see them making THE aggressive move in the offseason for a quarterback. That can go in a few directions, but it is something I see happening one way or another.

The DET offensive line has been well built. Left tackle Taylor Decker, 1st round 2016. Left guard Jonah Jackson, 3rd round 2020. Center Frank Ragnow, 1st round 2018. Right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai, free agent signing in 2020 (currently on IR). Right tackle Penei Sewell, 1st round 2021. When I look at this offense that is top 10 in yards and scoring without a true number one receiver (or tight end now that they’ve traded T.J. Hockenson), Jared Goff at quarterback, and an overrated number one back in D’Andre Swift, it is impossible to not give most of the credit to their O-Line. It creates a strong notion in my head that adding yet another high pick to the group along the interior will very much be in the discussion next April.

The Dan Campbell experiment seems to be working. Now, the Colts seem to be re-energized by Jeff Saturday. Neither situation can be considered a full-blown win yet, but if they turn in to successes you can bet your bottom dollar other teams will follow suit. Coaching hires that have less to do with scheme, more to do with culture.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

Two losses in their last three games. One win since October 24. Is NYG simply regressing toward the mean? Meaning is this what they truly are? A thin roster that cannot handle the multitude of injuries. A team that was winning a bunch of one-score games, but the law of average has arrived? I think NYG has some “dark” days ahead, meaning more and more losses, but let’s not get it twisted. This team has already exceeded expectations in 2022. They are still very early in this new regime and way of doing things. They’re playing with house money and, as we have been saying since August, they are looking for things that will build this roster and the future. They need some answers, and they need their young guys to get the experience of ups and downs. Anything else that comes, which includes a very-possible postseason birth, is icing on the cake.

If NYG wanted to put a premium playmaker in the return game, why not put Saquon Barkley back there? Because you don’t want him getting hurt. Then why put Adoree’ Jackson, who in my opinion was the most important player on defense, in that role? This coaching staff has been amazing from the start and Daboll is in the running for Coach of the Year. But that was the wrong move and they’re going to pay for it. I understand some of the decision-making revolved around feeling safe with Jackson (catching the ball) but losing him is going to be a potential season-changer for this defense and team.

Injuries aside, I’m glad NYG has a short week against a team that just absolutely crushed the 8-1 Vikings on the road 40-3. One team riding a high. One team riding a low. Both teams have seen their fair share of peaks and valleys this season. It is a divisional matchup. This is the first time this new regime is playing a repeat-opponent. I think NYG will be in this game on Thursday as crazy as it sounds. It’s the way the NFL works more often than not.

Nov 202022
 
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (November 20, 2022)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT LIONS 31 – NEW YORK GIANTS 18…
The New York Giants were soundly beaten by the Detroit Lions 31-18 on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the loss, the Giants fall to 7-3. Worse than the loss was a plethora of injuries suffered by New York, including starting cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson (knee) and Fabian Moreau (ribs), offensive linemen Tyre Phillips (neck) and Jon Feliciano (neck), wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (knee), and safety Jason Pinnock (jaw). An early report indicates that Jackson may miss 3-5 weeks with an MCL sprain. Robinson’s knee injury appeared to be serious.

Some of the overall team statistics were misleading. The Giants out-gained the Lions in first downs (25 to 23), total net yards (413 to 325), and net yards passing (324 to 165). But on a very windy day, the Lions out-rushed the Giants 160 to 89. Most importantly, they won the turnover battle 3 to 0 and were 4-of-5 in red zone efficiency.

The Giants received the ball to start the game, but quickly went three-and-out. On their initial possession, the Lions moved the ball 64 yards in 11 plays, being halted for the only time in the red zone and settling for a 24-yard field goal. The Giants impressively responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Daniel Jones. The Giants converted on a 4th-and-1 near midfield and a 3rd-and-7 on this possession. However, the extra point was missed. Giants 6 – Lions 3.

Detroit punted twice and New York once in the next three possessions. However near the 6-minute mark in the 2nd quarter, Jones threw his first interception since Week 3. The pick was returned 20 yards to the Giants’ 18-yard line. It took the Lions just three plays to regain the lead for good as running back Jamaal Williams scoring from four yards out. Lions 10 – Giants 6.

The Giants continued to self-destruct as running back Gary Brightwell muffed the ensuing kickoff. He recovered but an illegal block by cornerback Nick McCloud moved the ball back to the 6-yard line. New York picked up two first downs and punted. However, Jamie Gillan’s punt traveled only 25 yards. With just 2:19 left on the clock, the Lions were able to drive 68 yards in seven plays with Williams scoring his second rushing touchdown of the game. The half ended with Jones being sacked on 3rd-and-15 near midfield.

At the break, the Lions led 17-6.

Special teams issues continued for the Giants as the second half began. The Lions returned the kickoff 36 yards to their own 44-yard line. Nine plays later, Williams ran for his third touchdown of the game and the rout was on, Lions 24 – Giants 6.

The Giants picked up one first down on their first drive of the second half, but then Jones was intercepted for a second time on 4th-and-5 from the Lions’ 45-yard line. The interception was returned 38 yards to the New York 41-yard line. The New York defense did force a three-and-out, but the Giants were pinned back at their 7-yard line. The Giants gained three first downs, but punted on 4th-and-10 from the Detroit 49-yard line.

Detroit went three-and-out again. The Giants finally responded with their second scoring drive, moving the ball 67 yards in nine plays with running back Matt Breida scoring from three yards out. Jones ran for 15 yards on 4th-and-1 on this drive. However, Graham Gano missed his second extra point. Lions 24 – Giants 12 early in the 4th quarter.

With the New York defense forcing another punt on the ensuing drive, things could have gotten interesting but the Giants gave the ball right back when wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins fumbling the ball away at the New York 33-yard line after a catch. Four plays later, running back D’Andre Swift rushed for Detroit’s fourth rushing touchdown of the game. Lions 31 – Giants 12 with just over six minutes to play.

The Giants made the scoreboard look a tad more respectable by driving 75 yards in six plays. Jones connected with wide receiver Richie James for a 9-yard score. However, tight end Lawrence Cager dropped the 2-point conversion attempt. Lions 31 – Giants 18.

The Lions recovered the onside kick. With 4:19 left in the game, Detroit picked up two first downs and ran out the clock.

Jones finished the game 27-of-44 for 341 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He was also the team’s leading rusher with 50 yards on seven carries. Before he left with a knee injury, Robinson led all receivers with nine catches for 100 yards. Running back Saquon Barkley was held to 22 yards on 15 carries (1.5 yards per rush).

The defense allowed 160 yards rushing. They did not sack the quarterback and were credited with only three quarterback hits and three pass defenses. The defense also did not create a turnover.

GAME VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS are available on YouTube.

ROSTER MOVES, PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
On Saturday, the Giants activated OG Shane Lemieux from Injured Reserve. Lemieux suffered an unspecified foot or toe injury in the first preseason game and was placed on Injured Reserve at the end of August.

The Giants activated (standard elevation) TE Lawrence Cager from the Practice Squad to the 53-man roster on the same day.

Inactive for the game were TE Daniel Bellinger (eye), RT Evan Neal (knee), WR David Sills, OG Jack Anderson, ILB Austin Calitro, and OLB Quincy Roche.

RT Tyre Phillips (neck), CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee), CB Fabian Moreau (ribs), OC Jon Feliciano (neck), WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee), and S Jason Pinnock (jaw) were injured and did not return. According to TheScore, Jackson suffered a sprained MCL and is expected to miss 3-5 weeks. Robinson was spotted on crutches after the game. Pinnock was taken to the hospital.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Brian Daboll and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Brian Daboll and select players will address the media by conference call on Monday.

Nov 182022
 
Brian Daboll, New York Giants (November 13, 2022)

Brian Daboll – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
It’s usually unwise to make bold proclamations after a small sample size. After all, New York Giants fans were feeling pretty good about Dan Reeves during the 1993 season and Jim Fassel during the 1997 season. And views about those two coaches changed radically in subsequent years. On the flip side, fans were ready to run Bill Parcells out of New Jersey after 1983 and Tom Coughlin after his third season in 2006. Nevertheless, I came to the conclusion this week that there is some very Belichick-ian about Brian Daboll.

For years, I have envied the way that Bill Belichick was able to import ordinary players, immediately get them up to speed in a new system, and have them become not-so-insignificant contributors to a winning program. Not only did the Giants make sweeping roster changes in the offseason, but since the end of August, they have picked up the following players off of the street, waiver wire, or other teams’ practice squads: Jason Pinnock, Jack Anderson, Henry Mondeaux, Tyre Phillips, Jaylon Smith, Fabian Moreau, Landon Collins, Tony Jefferson, Lawrence Cager, Marcus Johnson, Isaiah Hodgins, Terrell Burgess, and Vernon Butler. Fast forward to last week’s game, and Pinnock, Mondeaux, Phillips, Smith, Moreau, Cager, and Hodgins all were factors in the victory. That’s SEVEN players. Astounding.

59-year old Don “Wink” Martindale, who has coached in the NFL since 2004, said on Thursday, “I’ve never seen a roster move around the way this roster moved around with injuries and things like that.”

Combine that with the way this coaching staff has adjusted to the strengths and weaknesses of this roster.  All coaches talk about doing this, but few actually do it. Last Sunday, the Giants employed formations with eight offensive linemen on the field. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before. But it seems like something like Belichick would do if his roster was configured the same way.

Winning in the NFL is about acquiring talent. But it’s also about how you manage the talent you have. Few teams have security at head coach. It’s why we see so many coaches fired each offseason and why the Giants have fired four coaches in six years. Regardless of how this team finishes this season, it appears the Giants may have the head coaching position finally figured out again.

The 2022 New York Giants are a team living on the edge. They don’t have the pass catchers to score a lot of points. Every contest has been (and will be) a nail-biter decided in the 4th quarter. That formula usually is not conducive to sustained winning because the law of averages usually catches up with you. Thus far, that has only happened twice for the Giants. I keep expecting the other shoe to drop, but the Giants keep winning. That said, my instincts still tell me that every opponent is certainly capable of embarrassing the Giants.  And that includes the Detroit Lions. Don’t sleep on the Lions. They are better than their record indicates.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Wan’Dale Robinson (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring – questionable)
  • TE Daniel Bellinger (eye – out)
  • RT Evan Neal (knee – doubtful)
  • OG Josh Ezeudu (neck – questionable)
  • DL Dexter Lawrence (back – questionable)
  • OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux (illness – probable)
  • OLB Jihad Ward (thumb – probable)
  • S Dane Belton (clavicle – questionable)
  • PK Graham Gano (illness – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka came from pass-happy systems. It’s extremely likely that their long-term vision for the Giants is a team that can throw the ball 35-40 times per game if necessary and doing so at an elite level. The drafting of Wan’Dale Robinson supports that conclusion. Nevertheless, both coaches recognized the limitations of the current personnel and massively altered their approach, turning the Giants into a run-first team.

The Giants have played nine games. In six of those games (all wins), they have run the ball more than they have thrown it. In both of their losses, they have thrown the ball more than they have run it. The reasons for this vary and often can’t be rationally discussed by fans who have formed intransigent views on the quarterback, running back, receivers, and blockers. But the reality is the coaching staff has come to the conclusion that it is better to play more conservatively on offense, and the W-L record based on the run/pass ratio seems to support that position. Points come out of the passing game. And they come out of big-chunk plays in the passing game. But the Giants are not currently built for that approach. If the Giants attempt to veer too much away from their current formula, the team is likely to see more three-and-outs, penalties, sacks, and worst of all, turnovers.

Which brings us to another stat that is not receiving enough attention: the Giants’ offense has lowest turnover rate in league. Only 5.3 percent of their possessions have ended with a turnover. Daniel Jones has thrown only two interceptions (and none since Week 3 against Dallas when his intended receiver fell down on a pick). And the Giants only have five lost fumbles, three of which were by Richie James on punt returns. It’s no coincidence that Giants’ turnovers were an issue in both of their losses. When the Giants don’t turn the football over, they probably are going to win the football game.

So fans yelling at the top of their lungs that Daboll and Kafka are being too conservative and need to open it up more are completely missing the point. They don’t understand the team’s limitations and why they are winning. You can try telling them, but they don’t want to listen. Same thing with any pre-game predictions that the Giants are going to score 30+ points. Unless the defense and special teams score, they aren’t going to do that this year.

The Giants’ formula, which they are pretty much wed to until the roster improves in the offseason, is based on playing it safe and not making mistakes. The Giants are not beating themselves with penalties and turnovers, but they are also not scoring a lot of points. The red-zone defense has kept them in contests and the Daboll/Kafka commitment to the ground game has paid off dividends in the 4th quarter of close games. The 2-yard run in the 1st quarter becomes the 14-yard run in the 4th quarter. It’s why so many of New York’s 4th-quarter comebacks have come not only on the right arm of Daniel Jones, but his legs and the legs of Saquon Barkley.

Enter the Detroit Lions and a larger danger than their 3-6 record suggests. The Lions are not only 6th overall in offense, but 9th in scoring. They average over 24 points per game and have scored more than 30 points in four games (35, 36, 45, and 31). The Giants simply cannot match those numbers. So not only does the offensive braintrust have to pray that Wink’s defense can hold the Lions to field goals, but the offense has to play keep-away by putting together long, clock-eating drives that hopefully result in at least 2-3 touchdowns.

The good news is that Detroit’s defense is dead last in yards allowed (416 yards per game) and points allowed (over 29 per game). The Lions also are not good on 3rd down and in red-zone defense. The Giants were able to employ a heavy run-first strategy against Houston’s 32nd-ranked run defense. Don’t expect a big change as Detroit is 31st against the run. However, Daboll and Kafka may rightfully be more concerned about the Lions scoring more points than the Texans against the New York defense. If so, I would not be shocked to see more play-action in the first half of this game than we are accustomed to. Much depends on the weather (it may be very windy) and the health of the receivers (see above injury list).

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The loss of Xavier McKinney had a big, domino effect on the defense last week. A unit that largely kept Houston under wraps in the first half had trouble stopping 29th-ranked offense in the second half. McKinney was missed in coverage and as a tackler. His absence most likely will be noticed even more this week against the NFL’s 6th-ranked offense (8th passing, 10th running). Note the balance. Detroit can hurt you with run and the pass. And they are one of the top teams in the NFL in big plays, getting huge chunks of yardage (again, big plays are the key to point generation in the NFL). Not having McKinney in there for this game scares the heck out of me.

What makes Detroit so good on offense? First of all, they have one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. They are solid or better across the board, especially if their starting center plays this week as he is now expected to. Unbelievably, quarterback Jared Goff is only behind Patrick Mahomes in 20+ yard completions this year. WR Amon-Ra St. Brown is on pace for a near 100-catch season and is Goff’s go-to guy. Goff will also throw to wide receivers Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond, and running back D’Andre Swift. As for the ground game, it’s a 1-2 punch with Jamaal Williams being more of the workhorse and Swift being the more explosive, change of pace. This is a balanced, well-coached unit that has surprisingly performed well against quality teams.

Detroit’s big plays don’t come out of a reliance on the deep passing game but yards-after-the-catch (YAC) and big runs by their backs. When facing offenses like that, tackling become priority #1. Martindale and his staff will be preaching limiting the big play through gang-tackling. What is going to be tough is the play-action game. Because the Giants need to respect Detroit’s running game, the linebackers will be more vulnerable to run fakes, leaving gaps over the middle of the defense. This is exacerbated with the loss of McKinney with his instincts and range missing.

The match-ups I’m most curious to watch are up front. Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence are playing as well as any defensive linemen in the league. But the excessively high number of snaps is beginning to take a toll on Lawrence, who was limited this week with a back injury. These two also face one of the better OLs in the NFL. The Giants need Williams and Lawrence to be at their best along with Kavyon Thibodeaux making his presence felt. Detroit will likely target Dane Belton and/or Jason Pinnock in coverage. They will also have Swift test the linebackers in coverage.

I firmly believe this game is going to come down to red-zone offense and defense for both teams. Detroit is going to move the ball. But the Giants need to keep them from reaching the end zone in order to keep the game close.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Daboll and Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey have highlighted Detroit’s tendency so surprise opponents on special teams. “(Head Coach) Dan (Campbell) is real aggressive,” said McGaughey. “And at any point in time, you can get a surprise onside kick. You could get a fake punt. So, we’ll work on that stuff this week, and we got to stay ready for it.”

Punter Jamie Gillan is going through a rough stretch and needs to rebound. The Giants’ punt return game remains uneasily unsettled. McGaughey seemed to indicate a continuation of the Adoree’ Jackson/Richie James split. Neither seems like a good answer.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Brian Daboll on the Detroit Lions: “They create explosive plays. (Jared) Goff plays at a high level; he’s a very accurate passer downfield, intermediate, off the play action. And then their two runners have taken it to the distance a few times. They’re both a little bit different but both very good. They’ve scored 30 points four times. In six of their losses, four of them have been four points or less. The other one against the Cowboys it was 10-6 with 3:20 left. Explosive team. Good football team… Look, they create explosive plays. The other thing they’re really good at is down in the red zone, finishing drives… We’re going to have to do a good job of trying to slow them down and make sure we’re tackling and not giving up 50-yard runs that they break through, taking care of the deep part of the field and things like that on defense. Offensively, do our job in terms of executing and trying to go down and score points and then create field position in the kicking game – another good team. Dan (Campbell) has run a variety of fakes since he’s been there: onside kicks, surprise onside kicks, fake punts.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This is an important game for the Giants, especially with the upcoming short week before Dallas on Thanksgiving. This is a contest where the weather and fans could really work in the Giants’ favor if the wind does pick up and the fans remain loud. You already know my thoughts on the keys… turnovers, red-zone offense, red-zone defense. Both of these teams have played an inordinate number of close games. The difference is the Giants have been winning the close games while the Lions have been losing them.

Nov 152022
 
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (November 13, 2022)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The Houston Texans are the pinnacle example of just how fast things can change in the NFL. Head Coach Bill O’Brien took over the job for the Texans in 2014 after putting himself at the top of the next “Belichick Disciple” list that had not been working out very well despite coming from the most dominant franchise in the game. Houston was coming off a 2-14 season but once O’Brien took over, the team went 9-7 three straight years, made the playoffs twice, and even won a post-season game. There was something missing, however. Brock Osweiler, Brian Hoyer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick were the primary quarterbacks for those squads and the organization knew it would not get over the hump without a real player under center, a long-term solution. In the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Houston gave Cleveland a call and offered #25 overall in round one and their 2018 first rounder to move up to #12. Cleveland accepted and allowed O’Brien to get his quarterback, Deshaun Watson from Clemson. Watson tore his ACL halfway through his rookie year and the team went 4-12. But from there, HOU went on to win 22 games in two years including another post-season win, Watson made the Pro Bowl three straight seasons, and he led the NFL in passing in 2020 with just under 5,000 yards. They were on a steady ascent with one of the game’s young stars at quarterback. Fast forward a couple years and Watson forced his way out of town for multiple off-field reasons, HOU is on is third coach in three years, and they’ve won 8 games since the start of the 2021 season. Peaks and valleys.

NYG came into this game off their bye week with a 6-2 record ready to face off against the 1-7-1 Texans. The bye week is used for self-scouting, and it also allows injured players another week of recovery without missing game action. With this staff and the current NYG injury situation, that actually meant something. That showed on the first drives of the game as the NYG defense forced a three-and-out of HOU and the offense responded with a 10-play, 68-yard touchdown-scoring drive that ended in a short pass from Daniel Jones to Lawrence Cager. HOU went on to post two more three-and-outs as Wink Martindale seemed to put all his attention on stuffing HOU rookie running back Dameon Pierce. The first quarter ended at 7-0 and on HOU’s tenth offensive snap of the game, they finally got past the first down marker. That drive, their fourth of the game, ended in a 38-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn as the game was into the second quarter in a hurry.

Both teams exchanged sloppy offensive drives from there until halftime. Poor snaps, penalties, broken plays, sacks. All of the above were on display between the two teams as both were showing their colors. They came into the game ranked in the bottom third of yards-per-play and points, respectively league-wide. It was discouraging to watch and Daboll was visibly angry with the performance of the offensive line.

The second half began, yet again, with a new form of NYG offense. For the fifth time this season, their opening possession of the third quarter put points on the board. It was a highlight-reel play on 3rd-and-9 where Jones had to fall back with multiple HOU pass rushers bearing down on him as he threw the ball to Darius Slayton just beyond the line of scrimmage. Slayton made safety Jalen Pitre miss and then he turned on the burners, out running most of the HOU secondary to the end zone with some blocking help from by tight end Tanner Hudson.

The HOU offense, as it did for the entire second half, easily moved the ball downfield. They put up seven points of their own on a pass from Davis Mills to Nico Collins for a 12-yard score.

NYG had a 14-10 lead, and the offense came back on the field and put together a beautiful drive. 12 plays, 74 yards, and two 3rd-and-7 conversions on passes led to a 2-yard Barkley touchdown run. After a ten-point first half by the two bottom-third offenses, the second half opened with 21 points in three possessions. HOU drove down the field and found themselves 1st-and-goal from the NYG 9-yard line. Leonard Williams, part of the two-headed monster along the inside of the defensive line, forced a Pierce fumble that was recovered by linebacker Jaylon Smith. The NYG offense did not capitalize, however, as they went three-and-out, but they were able to somewhat reverse the field position.

Once again, HOU was in the red zone with a first down after just two plays. Once again, HOU turned the ball over on a pass into the end zone. Dane Belton came down with it, ensured his feet were in bounds, and stepped out of the field of play in the end zone for a touchback. This time, the offense gained two first downs that helped the field position battle, and more importantly, took time off the clock. HOU was down 11 points with under five minutes remaining. Their offensive surge stayed alive and well, starting on their own 8-yard line and ending up in the red zone with a first down for the fourth time in four second-half possessions. With time running short and the need for two scores no matter what, HOU opted for a 34-yard field goal by Fairbairn.

NYG recovered the ensuing onsides kick. Barkley was stopped two yards shy of the first down marker and HOU used their remaining two timeouts to force NYG into a field goal attempt. Graham Gano nailed a 49-yarder to give them another 11-point lead. HOU, again for the fifth time, made their way back into the red zone and had a first down. Questionable clock management in a game where they absolutely needed to score a touchdown at some point helped NYG seal the deal. Fairbairn hit a 46-yarder to get the game within 8 points again but with just :07 left. Jones took the knee and NYG improved to 4-1 at home, the most wins at MetLife since 2016.

NYG wins, 24-16.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 13/17 – 197 yards / 2 TD – 0 INT / 153.3 RAT

Jones added 24 yards on the ground. Because the situation called for it, Jones was not needed much. Do not mistake this for a lack of ability. Do not mistake this for a lack of confidence from Daboll/Kafka. They were up against the 32nd-ranked HOU run defense (29th-ranked in yards per attempt). NYG had the early lead and never let it go. He is still working with a poor group of pass catchers. He is still playing behind a poor pass blocking offensive line. All these things add up to the reasoning behind Jones only throwing the ball 17 times. In addition, keep your attention on the 11+ yards per attempt and 153.3 QB rating. Both led the NFL in Week 10. Number one in the NFL. Beyond the stat sheet, Jones made good decisions and maneuvered well around pressure. The play he made on the Slayton touchdown was overlooked by some because of the fact Slayton ran a long way to the end zone. That play was more on the shoulders of Jones because of what he did in the pocket, no question.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 35 att – 152 yards – 1 TD / 1 rec – 8 yards

As noted above, the situation called for a “lean on Barkley” kind of offensive approach. By lean on Barkley, I mean jump on to his back and ride him through the fire. His 35 attempts were a career-high, and those yards were tough-earned. The number one rusher in the NFL did something off the radar I was happy to see. Early in the game, in the red zone, he bounced a run outside that he shouldn’t have. It was the last time he made that mistake. One of the keys to Barkley’s ascent this season is how willing he is to take the two-to-three yard runs rather than sit behind the point-of-attack hoping to create something on his own. Sure, the offensive line has been better and so has the scheme, but Barkley’s aggressive downhill approach has made a huge difference. Lastly, his blocking was on point. He was a weapon against the HOU blitz-heavy attack with violent hits and sustained contact.

-Matt Breida added 20 yards on 6 carries.

WIDE RECEIVER

-The Bad News Bears got their poster boy back. Kenny Golladay returned to the field for the first time since October 2. He was targeted twice. He dropped both targets. The first one was a tough ball away from his body, but it was catchable. The second one was as bad of a drop as you will find in today’s NFL. Even his teammates and coaches cringed on the sideline. He was soon taken out after that and did not come back into the game.

-Darius Slayton is the group’s saving grace. He had 3 catches for 95 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown emanating from his speed, out-running angles of the HOU secondary. He and Wan’Dale Robinson (2 rec / 20 yards) are both dangerous in their own way. If this offense needs to go more pass happy at some point, they need to be the focal points moving forward.

-Isaiah Hodgins was signed off of the BUF practice squad, where he had previous experience with Daboll, and played a key role right away. He had 2 catches for 41 yards, both resulting in a first down. His separation is limited, but just like he did at Oregon State, he played the ball well in the air and understands the importance of body positioning. With the way Golladay played, I expect Hodgins to get his snaps in the coming weeks.

TIGHT END

-Tanner Hudson tied Slayton with the team lead 3 receptions. His went for a combined 24 yards. His biggest play of the day was a downfield block he made on the Slayton touchdown. He stuck to his man, and it also took out a second HOU defender who had a good shot at catching Slayton from behind.

-Hudson was third in snaps at the group, as he is the worst in-line blocker of the trio. Chris Myarick and Lawrence Cager saw more snaps, but both struggled at the point-of-attack. It did not impact the running game badly, but Myarick did allow 2 pressures and dropped a pass. Cager allowed a TFL and a pressure but caught a touchdown in the first quarter two plays after being penalized for an illegal formation. This is going to be an underwhelming group until Bellinger returns and expect to see the high number of extra linemen on the field to help combat that.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-From a macro perspective, the NYG offensive line got the job done. It took a few extra guys at times and their pass protection was below average. But when looking at what they had to do, they won the battle against the HOU front.

-Andrew Thomas graded out well above average, as he threw another shut out in pass protection. He did, however, allow 2 TFL. From a season full of elite grades, this was Thomas’ second-worst game of the year. The thing that made me smirk was that no other lineman on this team has graded as high as Thomas’ second-worst game this season. His high floor is as impressive as his high ceiling.

-The interior of this line was a major weak point when Jones threw the ball. Of the 23 drop backs, the combination of Joshua Ezeudu, John Feliciano, and Mark Glowinski allowed 5 pressures and 2 sacks. Glowinski was the weak point, as he was responsible for 2 of those pressures, a half-sack, and missed a block that ended up causing the TFL on the Robinson rush attempt that lost five yards. Feliciano also allowed 2 pressures but he was in on several key runs as a lead blocker. His athleticism to the outside was a big factor and he played sticky on linebackers. Ezeudu allowed 1.5 sacks but the one at the end of the game I did not count against him. That had more to do with Jones taking the sack on purpose to keep the clock running and it was far away from the point-of-attack. Ezeudu finished as the second-best lineman in the game as his speed and power to the second level factored in on Barkley’s big runs. He was also a key contributor to Barkley’s touchdown. I am encouraged by the fact his play appears to be on an upward track.

-Right tackle Tyre Phillips had a few bad looks. He allowed a sack, a TFL, and was flagged for a false start. His game looks very “all or nothing.” He has tremendous power and size, but if the accuracy is not there, he is an easy guy to beat.

-The extra three lineman that saw snaps were Jack Anderson, Nick Gates, and Matt Peart (just activated for the first time this season). Anderson made a bonehead mistake on a crucial 4th-and-1 that would have been converted. He was flagged for a false start, and it pushed NYG far enough back to force a punt. In a tight game, that could have been a huge mistake.

EDGE

-Kayvon Thibodeaux finished with 4 tackles and 2 pressures. He made a key 3rd-down stop with an aggressive, physical hit at the point-of-attack and started to break through late in the game. He was held twice (neither were called) late in the game. I’m not sure why he isn’t getting these flags. I never expect the refs to see everything, but these are pretty obvious and they’re right in front of the QB. It’s odd. This was a solid game for Thibodeaux even though he did not fill the stat sheet. More on his first 7 games below.

-Oshane Ximines had a tackle and a pressure along with a PD. He nearly had a sack-fumble, but the call was overturned, rightfully so. Jihad Ward had 1 tackle, 1 sack, and 1 pressure. Tomon Fox added an untouched pressure on his 13 snaps. I still think we are going to see him factor over the second half of the season.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Just when we thought it couldn’t get better for Dexter Lawrence, he comes out and has arguably his most dominant game of the season. 5 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 6 pressures, 1 sack, 2 pass breaks ups. He also forced two holding penalties. This defense is performing at a high level but I’m not sure everyone realizes how much of it points back to him and Leonard Williams, who I will get to next. Lawrence is winning with sheer physical dominance. His hand placement, along with his lockout and lower body leg drive, is simply too much for a lone blocker to handle. It is a lot of fun to watch.

-Leonard Williams was right on par with Lawrence. He had 9 tackles, 4 pressures, a half-sack, and a forced fumble. Williams created big plays for the defense. Two of his pressures led to sacks and his forced fumble was recovered by NYG as HOU was approaching the end zone. Safe to say he is fully back. More on these two monsters down below.

-Henry Mondeaux was back on the field after missing time with a knee injury. He saw 22 snaps and added 1 tackle and a half-TFL on an impressive play on the first drive. Justin Ellis was on the field for 11 snaps and missed a tackle. The game looks a bit too fast for him.

LINEBACKER

-One casualty of the bye week, regarding playing time, was Tae Crowder. He played just two snaps. Jaylon Smith (41 snaps) and rookie Micah McFadden (36 snaps) were the main second level defenders. The veteran of the pair had 5 tackles and a pressure in addition to a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter. He also had 2 missed tackles. McFadden had just 2 tackles and struggled on runs to his outside shoulder. I would not count Crowder out yet based on how much this coaching staff will move guys in and out of roles, but I do think they trust Smith more.

CORNERBACK

-I liked what I saw out of Adoree’ Jackson and Darnay Holmes. Jackson has 2 pass break ups in addition to 6 tackles and Holmes finished with 3 tackles, and an outstanding TFL. He did allow a couple of big plays in the passing game, but I thought his coverage underneath was solid.

-Fabian Moreau got off to a nice start, breaking up a pass on third down but later he allowed a touchdown to Collins. I normally like and even prefer him in those match-ups against the bigger, more physical wideouts. He simply just lost that battle, nothing to be overly concerned about.

SAFETY

-Because of the unfortunate hand/finger injury to Xavier McKinney over the bye week, Julian Love and Dane Belton were expected to step up. They both played 100% of the snaps. But it was Jason Pinnock, a waiver claim from the Jets prior to the season, who saw the big tick up in playing time. He was on the field for 23 snaps (36%), the second-most of his career. He was one of the surprise big contributors to the game. 4 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a pressure. Huge opportunity for him and this is a guy who I know the Jets really did not want to lose.

-Belton did have a big interception in the fourth quarter, but overall it was a poor game for the rookie. He led the team with 3 missed tackles and was roasted in coverage. HOU went after him hard and had a lot of success with it. Curious to see if that is a trend we see in the coming weeks. Love added 5 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 49)
-P Jamie Gillian: 6 Punts / 40.3 avg – 34.2 net

3 STUDS

-DT Dexter Lawrence, DT Leonard Williams, QB Daniel Jones

3 DUDS

-P Jamie Gillian, OG Mark Glowinski, WR Kenny Golladay

3 THOUGHTS ON HOU

The reason why I discussed the demise of the Houston franchise at the start of the review is simple. Building a winning franchise in the NFL is hard. HOU had what everyone wants. A young superstar quarterback. An elite left tackle. An elite wide receiver. A face of the franchise on defense who was a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Imagine that. Elite players everywhere but they couldn’t even get to the AFC Championship Game. Suddenly the bottom falls out and all but one of those pieces are currently playing elsewhere. It is rare to have the personnel, coaching, and front office all on the same page. Every move is important. Every interaction is important. Every game is important. Whether you’re in it, or not.

Where does this HOU franchise go from here? I’ve seen enough of Davis Mills to know he won’t be the guy. I think he can be “good enough” with the ceiling of a Jimmy Garoppolo. But the HOU team has a long, long ways to go before they are in the same stratosphere as SF when it comes to a support system. Mills does not have athletic ability to make up for the average passing traits. They will be high enough (and with some extra capital) in the draft to take their next quarterback. It is a no brainer if you ask me. Get him in town, hire the right head coach (a spot I can see Sean Payton landing), and go from there.

Lovie Smith took away the captain tag from receiver Brandin Cooks because of how he acted after not getting traded. Cooks does not have a strong reputation in NFL circles. “Diva” may not be the right word, but to make it simple, he just isn’t a team-first guy. I never thought NYG was in the running for him in the trade market (mainly because of the money owed to him). I also don’t think he would have made the difference that some think he would have. Even though some of his numbers say otherwise, he is a number two at best. My opinion comes from watching his tape over the years. A very inconsistent player who is owed a lot of money and who does not have a strong reputation in the locker room? Pass.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I know there is some chatter circling around the #5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux. He has 1 sack in 7 games. If that is all you look at, a strong case can be made for disappointment. I challenge you to look a little deeper, however. Thibodeaux is averaging 1 pressure every 11 pass-rush snaps. #1 overall pick Travon Walker? 1 every 13. #2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson? 1 every 11. Thibodeaux has a forced fumble. Walker? Zero. Hutchinson? Zero. Thibodeaux has hit the quarterback 3 times on 205 pass rushes. Walker has hit the quarterback 3 times on 299 pass rushes. Hutchinson 4 times on 298 pass rushes. I could go on with a few more but my point is, trust me on the fact that Thibodeaux is playing better than his sack number will lead you to believe and he is on par with other rookies at the position. He is actually off to a much better start than what we saw out of Azeez Ojulari last season when looking at the big picture beyond only sacks.

So, I did a little quick study on defensive tackle pairs in the NFL. Not only is the Lawrence/Williams combo the best in the league, I don’t think any are even close. Tennessee and Baltimore are the closest, but their coaches wouldn’t even take them over what NYG is playing with. This is a special pair. I’m not sure if they will stick here long term because of Williams’ contract, but be sure to keep appreciating what they’re doing for this defense. It is special.

Sticking with the defense for the trifecta. The parting thought will not be a positive one. Against one of the worst offenses in the NFL, the NYG defense allowed 18 first downs, 2-of-3 third-down conversions, 301 yards on 34 plays (8.6 per), and 13 points in the second half alone. Those numbers are better than the best offenses in the NFL when it comes to a per-half basis. While the unit came up big when it mattered, this was an alarming defensive performance from a macro perspective that can and should cause some concern. Something to keep an eye on as they have some productive offenses coming up (DET, DAL, PHI, MIN are all top half in league).