-After missing three games with a neck injury (his second in three years), Daniel Jones was back under center for NYG. He looked rusty, air mailing a simple throw to Saquon Barkley in the flat, misfiring to Darius Slayton which should have been intercepted, and overthrowing Jalin Hyatt on a deep route by four yards on a route where he had three steps on the corner. To rub salt in the wound of what has been just a torturous 2023 season for him and the Giants, he went down with a non-contact knee injury in the second quarter. Jones walked off the field on his own but as of the time of this writing, the likely result is a ligament tear that will need season-ending surgery.
-Tommy DeVito came in for the second straight game as Tyrod Taylor was placed on IR. The undrafted rookie led the offense last week with training wheels, a life jacket, and bubble wrap surrounding his body. This time around, the Giants coaches let him play football. The results were what one would expect out of someone who nobody in the league wanted to draft last April. He did end up completing 15 of 20 passes for 175 yards including his first career touchdown pass. He, too, underthrew Hyatt on a potential touchdown and it resulted in his first of two interceptions (the second one was not his fault). He ran himself into a couple sacks as well but considering all the circumstances, DeVito competed. He showed the offense can be run through him well enough to at least use the entire playbook. This is who the Giants will be using for at least the next three weeks, and I look forward to seeing the opportunity for growth out of the local kid. The glass half-full approach with him is the fact he will compete hard and brings an element of toughness and athleticism to the field. We are not watching Jake Fromm or Mike Glennon.
-Saquon Barkley: 16 att – 90 yards / 3 rec – 23 yards
A week after carrying the ball more than any NFL running back since 2017, Barkley played another solid game when looking at his per-touch average (5.9). This is a positive considering we have seen poor games out of him following big usage in the past. Barkley took a nasty blow to the ribs/throat that caused him to miss a few snaps. He was in obvious discomfort throughout the rest of the game but continued to gut out physical, hard-nosed runs. He had a couple plays where the elite movement traits showed up. Barkley moves like very few guys at his size can and it is nice to see he still has it along with a team-first mentality within this dumpster fire of a season. One must wonder how much he truly will want to push through pain over the second half of the season.
-Matt Breida added 11 yards on 3 touches, one of them being a catch and Deon Jackson got a carry late in the game when it was out of hand.
-Wan’Dale Robinson caught the lone touchdown of the game added 35 yards on 4 receptions. He is not even a year removed from his 2022 ACL injury and while timelines have quickened when it comes to recovery, getting back to a full 100% does take a year-plus. I see his movement traits improving as the year goes on and the best is still ahead for the second-year pro.
-Darius Slayton led the team with 59 yards on 4 catches but also had a ball bounce off his hands and ending in an interception. I was impressed with his blocking on the edge on a couple of the big Barkley runs.
-Jalin Hyatt beat the LV secondary on three occasions in which the ball was thrown his way. On all three plays, the quarterback misfired. Hyatt still came down with an amazing, body-twisting grab on the first one, but Jones put it a bit too close to the sideline and Hyatt came down out of bounds. Then there was an overthrow, then there was an underthrow. This kid can make things happen and he did his job, but the quarterbacks did not. Hyatt did catch two balls underneath for 19 yards and fumbled (which was recovered by NYG).
-Parris Campbell caught 2 passes for 15 yards and Isaiah Hodgins dropped the one target thrown his way.
-Darren Waller was put on IR with a hamstring injury, opening the door again for Daniel Bellinger who has had a rough go this season. He caught 3 passes for 43 yards and while I did see a slight improvement as a blocker, the overall performance in that department still fell below average. His initial contact was clean and physical, but the lack of latch showed up with both him and Lawrence Cager. Bellinger was also flagged for a false start prior to a 4th-and-inches conversion attempt.
-Left Tackle Andrew Thomas finally returned from a hamstring injury suffered Week One after Graham Gano’s field goal attempt was blocked on that rainy night in early September. It is amazing how long ago that seems and what has transpired since that game. While Thomas’ did seem to lose his body control at times (likely a result of not being in game shape), it was the best left tackle play this team has had all season by a country mile. He allowed a pressure and a half-sack but showed some highlight-reel caliber blocks in the running game. If you do not watch much outside of NYG football or focus much on offensive line play, do yourself a favor and watch Thomas. This is how the job is supposed to be done and it is a great barometer to use for evaluating other linemen. It is then easy and obvious to see just how far away the rest of this line is, unfortunately. Nonetheless, it was great to see Thomas out there and I expect his conditioning to improve in time.
-After missing three games with an ankle injury, Evan Neal injured his other ankle on a play where Maxx Crosby put the second-year pro on his butt. I want to say this is some bad luck for Neal, but I cannot get past this at least partially being the result of poor footwork and insecure movement traits. Neal just looks further and further away from a pro athlete the more I study him. He has a hard time picking up those feet and staying centered. I can see the oversetting, the lack of reaction speed, and the lack of mental anticipation leading to the ankles/feet not being where they need to be. Throw that on a 325+ pounder and things like this happen. Neal also reached for his oblique after a play, showing obvious pain. As for his game, he allowed 1.5 sacks and a pressure in addition to the 4th-and-1 false start on the first drive that drew the ire of Daboll. It was not all bad and ugly for Neal, as he did have a few wins against Crosby and his run blocking was a positive difference maker.
-The interior was the best trio we have seen this season. Justin Pugh moved back to his more natural position (left guard) and while he did allow 3 pressures, his game was mistake free mentally. That has been a significant cause of line problems this year and he communicated and reacted well along with center John Michael Schmitz, who allowed just one pressure. The versatile Ben Bredeson shifted over to right guard and finished with the lowest grade on the line. He allowed 1.5 sacks (one could be argued was not his fault), 1 pressure, and 1 TFL. All three were solid in the running game and I would sign up for this caliber of performance out of them for the rest of the year right now.
-Following on the best game of Kayvon Thibodeaux’s season was one of his worst. He was shut out as a pass rusher and his run defense, especially in the first half, was terrible. He was dancing around blockers rather than taking them on which created creases for Josh Jacobs to burst through. He showed no feel for the misdirection plays, played too much catch up, and he missed two tackles. He did pick it up a bit in the second half when things were more predictable but it was a game to forget for him.
-Jihad Ward was stouter and played his best game of the season, finishing with 3 tackles and a TFL. This matchup was more up his alley with a smash-mouth running game and scaled back version of a passing game.
-Leonard Williams spent Sunday afternoon in Baltimore playing for the Seahawks. A’Shawn Robinson got the start in place of him and played an excellent game. He had 6 tackles, including one for a loss, and caused another TFL via penetration. He played half the team’s defensive snaps for the first time since last November while playing with the Rams. Rakeem Nunez-Roches played five more snaps in his backup role, making one tackle.
-Dexter Lawrence was game-planned around and run away from. He saw a ton of double/triple teams but still finished with three tackles and had multiple “teach tape” plays against the run. He has such a unique ability to play big and wide but with tremendous pad level and leverage. There is a lot to be unhappy about in Giants land right now, but Lawrence (and Andrew Thomas) are among the best the game has at their positions right now and maybe the best ever NYG has had at their respective positions in franchise history.
-Micah McFadden is getting better every week. He does something very few linebackers can do. Immediately, post-snap, he runs to a spot and beats the blocker by a mile and will even beat the ball carrier there. That is something that made Luke Kuechly the game’s best linebacker for a few years. He finished with 6 tackles and 2 TFL. Bobby Okereke had 7 tackles and a TFL of his own. These two lead the NFL off-ball linebacker duos in tackles for loss.
-Isaiah Simmons added 3 tackles on 13 snaps.
-Deonte Banks was put in a blender off the line in this one. Jakobi Meyers and Davante Adams, both top-shelf route runners, had their way with him. Rookie Tre Tucker also torched him for a long completion. He needs a better plan in press coverage, and he seemed a bit too lackadaisical, not being set pre-snap. He has not earned that right, yet. He did have a nice pass break-up and 7 tackles, along with 1 missed tackle.
-Adoree’ Jackson missed half of the game with an injury to nobody’s surprise. Versatile defensive back Nick McCloud stepped in and did not have to do much. Cor’Dale Flott manned the slot for most of the game again. Nobody in the defensive backfield had a strong game but I am happy to see Flott becoming more aggressive because it means he is becoming more confident.
-Jason Pinnock and Xavier McKinney were active, as the LV running game had several runs that went through the second level of the defense. Pinnock had 3 tackles and a pass break-up as he fought through a lower body injury. McKinney led the team with 10 tackles and had a pressure, one of just three on the day for the defense.
-Dane Belton played 18 snaps, the second most of the season, and added 3 tackles with some physical play. This guy has some of the heaviest and most violent contact on the defense. If his mental game catches up to the physical talent, this defense has something.
-P Jamie Gillan: 4 punts / 42.3 avg – 40.8 net
-WR Wan’Dale Robinson, LB Micah McFadden, RB Saquon Barkley
-CB Deonte Banks, ED Kayvon Thibodeaux, OG Ben Bredeson
3 THOUGHTS ON LV
1. Head Coach Josh McDaniels was fired just days before this matchup. He made it through just 25 games. The Raiders have not had the same head coach for more than four consecutive seasons since Art Shell in the early 90’s. Where do they go next? I am very curious to see how Antonio Pierce handles the back half the season here. The former Giants linebacker was made for coaching and when I saw him get linked up with Arizona State in 2018, I had a feeling he would end up in this exact role. Will he go elsewhere like Dan Campbell did after being an interim head coach in 2015 with Miami? Or will Las Vegas hold onto him? This organization loves to go after the headline names, but I think Pierce, like Campbell, will be the proper fit to form a real culture.
2. Next up? The quarterback. Nobody truly believes Jimmy Garoppolo is the long-term answer. Even though I have talked to people I respect when it comes to quarterback play who say Aidan O’Connell can start in this league, I cannot get behind him on a win-now team. The trade for Adams last year and the extension of left tackle Kolton Miller and Maxx Crosby makes them win-now. Add in the type of ownership they have and the fact they will not be within striking distance of a top quarterback in the draft makes me think they could be the team that pursues a quarterback via trade next offseason. Who could that be? Kyler Murray, Justin Fields, and the crazy one that I think could have some legs to it is Dak Prescott.
3. Maxx Crosby is one of the top three edge defenders in the NFL. Myles Garrett must be number one and then it gets cloudy. Bosa and Watt are there but when I watch Crosby, I just see a guy who makes more impact snap to snap. Because he is on a bad team, he may not have the respect he deserves. This guy has played 98% of the team’s snaps this year, 96% in 2022. Bosa? 79% / 74%. Watt? 83% / 83%. Garrett? 79% / 79%. Crosby – the league leader in pressures, sacks, and TFL – is a 4th rounder from Eastern Michigan and an absolute rock in the locker room. He is only 26-years old.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
1. The season is over for Daniel Jones. While there will be several discussions surrounding his status with the team from now up until Draft weekend, this will be the last time I address him in game reviews. First, I don’t believe Jones is going anywhere. He will not be traded, he will not be released. The contract is structured in a way where they can’t really do anything with him unless they want to absorb a record-type dead cap hit. Even if they go after a quarterback in the draft, it would be wise to keep him around for 2024 (see Kansas City following the Mahomes selection). In the same breath, Jones did not do anything to cement his status with the team beyond 2024. Whether you think he had a fair shot or not is irrelevant. If NYG is in position to take a guy they think can be a big-time quarterback, they absolutely must go in that direction. But they must make sure it is the right guy. See you in the offseason.
2. Sticking with the quarterback position. What happens when Tyrod Taylor returns? All accounts point toward him being available in a few weeks. He is the (well-paid) backup. He gives this team the best shot to win. I know many fans want the losses to pile up for the sake of the 2024 Draft, but you know the coaches and players will not sign up for that. Taylor is going to be the quarterback and he should be. The only way that changes is if DeVito comes back and plays lights out. Anything is possible and I do like a few things about him. I would like to see if he can continue to progress on some of these downfield throws. Even if he can solidify the QB2 role on this team, that is a big deal moving forward based on economics.
3. Through 8 weeks of the season, the Raiders did not score 20 points once. In this matchup against the Giants defense that was relatively healthy, they scored 24 points in the first half with a Day Three rookie at quarterback. While I understand much of the talk will center around Jones, the injury, and the lack of scoring (rightfully so), this defense was such a letdown in a game where they could have kept it close. As we are learning, such is life when having your defense run by Wink Martindale. Peaks and valleys. More valleys than peaks.