Jan 052021
 
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Dante Pettis, New York Giants (January 3, 2021)

Dante Pettis – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

There was an odd feel to the days and moments leading up to the week 17 battle with the Dallas Cowboys. After all, it was the first time in years that Big Blue was playing a meaningful game in January. However, it was largely a result of how bad the NFC East was as a whole, more than the Giants earning the right. If NYG could win this 1 PM game against DAL, all they would need would be an 8:20 PM Eagles win over the Washington Football Team. If those two things happened, they would be hosting a playoff game in under a week. NYG would be the first double-digit loss team in the postseason in league history. DAL was playing for the same exact thing in this do-or-die match-up. As they always say, all bets are off when you’re in the tournament, though.

NYG has been horrid in the first half since the start of December. In their previous 4 games combined, they scored a total of 6 points and did not get into the end zone once in the first 2 quarters. They began this week 17 match-up against league’s 26th-ranked (and last-ranked run) defense. Questions were looming over their second-year quarterback. Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett has already been rumored by the media to be gone after this season. The opening drive on this game meant something and they responded. It took just 6 plays to drive 78 yards, ending with a Sterling Shepard reverse that saw him carry it 23 yards into the end zone.

Backup quarterback Andy Dalton, who took over the job the last time these two teams met on October 11 when Dak Prescott suffered a severe leg/ankle injury, had a really rough first half. He threw an interception on the opening DAL drive to rookie Xavier McKinney but it was cancelled due to a holding penalty on fellow rookie defensive back Darnay Holmes. DAL did end up punting a few plays later, however.

NYG was playing a really physical brand early on. There was a lot of emotion and some extra contact post-whistle on most plays. They were trying hard to establish the run with Wayne Gallman (who gained 18 yards on 2 carries on the opening drive) in contrast to them ignoring him in their previous 3 games, all losses. On the third play of the NYG second drive, there was a fumble on the Jones-Gallman exchange, which DAL recovered. Thus, the Cowboys began their own second drive on the NYG 27-yard line. They did breach the red zone but the NYG defense held them to 3 points.

The two offenses then traded 6 scoreless possessions. Both quarterbacks were struggling to make the needed throws that would extend drives and the game became more and more physical. The Jones-to-Shepard connection continued to blossom with New York’s sixth drive ending with a 10-yard touchdown in which Shepard trucked over DAL rookie corner Trevon Diggs into the end zone. Graham Gano made the PAT after missing the first one following the opening drive to make it 13-6.

Dalton then started to click and the NYG defense started missing tackles left and right. Their drive was thwarted by a Dalvin Tomlinson sack, however. DAL settled on a field goal, this one from 46 yards. The NYG two-minute offense clicked on the next drive. This time, they needed just 4 plays to gain 75 yards, ending with a 33-yard touchdown to Dante Pettis. NYG had 20 points on the board for the first time since November 15. Those 20 points came in the first half. They scored 16 points in the first halves of the previous 5 games combined.

The NYG defense was not able to keep DAL from driving down the field again enough, however. They got past midfield with chunk gains in the passing game. Zuerlein then hit a 57-yard field goal to make it 20-9 going into the half.

After going 1-for-7 on 3rd down in the first half, DAL then went 3-and-out on the opening drive of the second half. The oh-so-important first drive of that second half for NYG then resulted in a turnover thanks to another drop by Evan Engram. The ball went right through his hands and into the arms of DAL safety Damien Wilson. DAL turned that into 7 points on a 1-yard touchdown by Ezekiel Elliott. All of the sudden, they were within 4 points with an offense that was starting to click.

The NYG offense continued to shoot themselves in the foot with an illegal crackback block by Shepard and another drop by Engram killing the drive. DAL had the ball back. Their 13-play drive ended with a 36-yard field goal to cut the lead down to 1 point as the 4th quarter began. The stalling NYG offense then went 3-and-out following a sack. Now DAL, who had at this point scored 13 unanswered points, had the ball back. Fortunately, the NYG defense forced a 3-and-out.

At this time, it is important for an offense to have an identity. They had stalled, the opponent was coming back and within 1, and the end of the game was near. In these moments, they need to have something or someone to lean on and that has been where this offense has been putrid in 2020. Nobody could be consistently relied on. However, Jones stepped up and it was interesting to see who he went after the most. On three of the next four plays, Jones threw to Shepard. All three connected and it gained a total of 43 yards. They were approaching field goal range, which was important because it would force DAL to have to pursue a touchdown rather than a field goal. Damien Wilson came up with another big play by sacking Jones for a 10-yard loss. On 3rd-and-16, Jones threw a pass slightly behind Pettis, who was forced to dive backward. He made the catch but the replay showed the ball bounced off of the ground before he demonstrated full control. DAL Head Coach Mike McCarthy did not challenge, Gano then hit a 50-yard field goal, and NYG had a 4-point lead with under 7 minutes left. A huge gaffe by the DAL Head Coach who had more than his fair share of big mistakes in 2020.

DAL kept their offense rolling, putting together a marathon 17-play drive. They did indeed reach field goal range but the 4-point lead now loomed large. What an awful mistake by McCarthy! DAL converted three 3rd downs and a 4th down on this drive. They made it all the way to the NYG 7-yard line. After a crucial sack by Leonard Williams, Dalton desperately heaved a pass into the end zone which was intercepted by McKinney. This time the interception stood. NYG just had to get a first down on offense and it would all be over.

Wayne Gallman, on 2nd-and-5, broke through the line and crossed the first down marker. Without a DAL defender within 5 yards of him any direction, all he had to do was fall onto the ground. Instead, he dropped the ball. An enormous pile of blue and white jerseys then trounced on top of one another. The refs initially signaled DAL football in one of the most 2020-moments of the year. It was almost unbelievable. After conferring with each other, the refs changed it to NYG possession because Gallman clearly had the ball at the bottom of the pile. After a lengthy booth review, NYG still had the ball and game number 16 ended in the victory formation.

NYG wins, 23-19.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 17-25 / 229 yards / 2 TD – 1 INT / 106.9 RAT

Jones did seem a little hesitant with his legs, but he did run the ball 9 times for 17 yards, including a couple of designed runs. The interception was a complete gaffe by Engram. Jones played a solid game and threw a few really nice intermediate balls. He did show a lack of arm talent on two throws that NFL quarterbacks need to make. One was on a deep pass to Slayton where he had a few steps on corner Trevon Diggs. The other was on an out throw to Shepard on 3rd down from the opposite hash. His poor accuracy was bailed out on a few throws by his receivers. Overall, it was a solid game, he simply just missed on a few throws. By the way, the interception that was on Engram marked the first time Jones had thrown one in a current league-high 178 straight attempts. He was charged with the lost fumble on the exchange with Gallman, but I think it was more on the running back.

RUNNING BACK

-Wayne Gallman: 11 att / 65 yards

Gallman had a bunch of quality inside runs. After all, they were up against the last-ranked rushing defense in the league and the NYG offensive line was getting a great push early. When you have a back averaging 6 yards per carry and a passing game that struggles across the board, I just don’t see why you steer away from that running game. Gallman should have gotten the ball more, once again.

-Alfred Morris added 12 yards on 5 carries and Dion Lewis had 1 carry for 7 yards. All three of these backs are unrestricted free agents this offseason. This could be a very different looking running back room with Barkley coming back in 2021.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 8 rec / 112 yards / 1 TD and 2 att / 24 yards / 1 TD

Shepard put out his best performance we have seen in a long time, possibly the best game of his career. It was a strong finish to the year for a guy who just hasn’t made a ton of big plays for this offense that has been starving for a pass catcher to step up. Shepard played a really physical game, trucking over DAL defenders and making an impact as a blocker. He was flagged for a crackback block, however. One thing I love about this kid, he rarely drops the ball. Really sure-handed receiver.

-Dante Pettis definitely earned the right to be a part of the wide receiver mix next year. He had 2 catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. Both grabs were high-skill (even if the second one did indeed hit the ground). They were both big plays and on a team that is absolutely starving for WR talent, he needs to be at least considered.

-Austin Mack had a catch for 9 yards and allowed a TFL while Darius Slayton added 2 catches for 22 yards. Slayton made a really nice grab on a poorly thrown pass and was also mistargeted by Jones on a deep route. It wasn’t a great year for Slayton but there is no denying the upside if the offense around him improves.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram dropped two more passes. Both went right through his hands and one of them resulted in an interception that DAL turned into a touchdown. The debate really doesn’t exist anymore. Engram is super-talented and blessed with rare movement tools for the position, but he can’t be a focal point here. NYG has him here for one more year on a fair price, but I think his days here should be over. More on that below.

-Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo each had a catch on their lone respective targets. Smith allowed a sack but also threw a key block on the Shepard rushing touchdown.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The top two grades went to the top 2 offensive linemen on the year, Nick Gates and Andrew Thomas. They were both flawless in pass protection and both got tremendous push in the running game. Thomas had a roller coaster season but his second half was better than his first half. He has some positive momentum going into his first offseason. Gates started off poorly but evolved into the top OL on this team. He really did play at a top-10 level in the league at the center position. The physical brand of football is coming back and I think this kid is at the forefront.

-Kevin Zeitler allowed a sack, TFL, and a pressure. He did throw some weight around in the running game but he and Cameron Fleming, who also allowed a pressure, may be the focal point of this offense that needs to be fixed first. That right side has been poor all year and even though Matt Peart did show some signs of potential, NYG can’t go into 2021 with these holes. If it means big money to someone, so be it. If it means another high draft pick, so be it. They need to get dominant up front or else this offense will continue to stink.

-Shane Lemieux played every snap at left guard and allowed 1 pressure. He, too, was solid in the running game. I think he showed enough to deserve a starting spot in 2021 or at the very least be in competition for a starting spot. He simply needs strength and power development. There was a lot he did right this year and NYG should be pleased with him considering where they got him in the draft.

EDGE

-Kyler Fackrell was back after missing 4 games with a calf injury. It was interesting to see NYG try and fill his hybrid ILB/OLB “BUCK” role in this scheme. Nobody realty could. It is a really unique position. He had 3 tackles and a sack. Fackrell is a free agent this year and I think NYG should prioritize bringing him back. He isn’t special, but he is unique.

-Jabaal Sheard had 1 tackle and a 1 pressure. He was a solid player for a one-year rental, but I doubt he is in the picture next year.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-The career-year by Leonard Williams ended with a bang. He finished with 7 tackles, 3 sacks, a pass break-up, and 2 pressures. No need to bring up whether or not the trade was worth it anymore, as previously stated. The question is now is what should NYG offer him to stick around for the long term? The 26-year old is one of the more unique defensive linemen in the game and you could make the argument he is the most versatile defensive lineman in the game. He is not as good as J.J. Watt, but they are the two guys who can credibly play both the inside and outside gaps in whatever scheme a coach draws up. For a defense that truly wants to change their face weekly, that is invaluable. But hey, everyone has a limit.

-Dalvin Tomlinson had 2 tackles and a sack while Dexter Lawrence added 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure. Even though NYG still has a ways to go, these three guys up front along with quality backups B.J. Hill and Austin Johnson were a consistent bright spot all year. This group made this defense more consistent than it has been in a very long time. They made this defense have a standout trait and even though there are other pieces needed, I do hope they find a way to keep these guys together another few years. That could be something special.

LINEBACKER

-Tae Crowder and Blake Martinez both had 11 tackles. Crowder added 2 TFL and Martinez added a sack. This was fun to watch. We have gotten used to how reliable Martinez has been, notably against the run between the tackles. We also saw flashes of Crowder and his play-making ability that stems from plus twitch and speed. They were both on their game in this one and matched with a very solid defensive line, they could be major forces combined as a pair in 2021. Crowder did miss 2 tackles and that is a red flag we have seen a few times.

-David Mayo had 4 tackles, 2 of which were on special teams, and Devante Downs added 1 tackle. These are two guys I wouldn’t mind seeing replaced in 2021. They just don’t seem to have enough speed to be relied on. It has shown up several times this year, as it did in this match-up.

CORNERBACK

-Pro Bowler James Bradberry had 4 tackles and a pass break up. He dropped an interception that he should have brought in. Opposing defenses really didn’t throw at him that much this season. NYG got a good one. Now they need to find another.

-Logan Ryan played more corner in this one than the previous few weeks. He nearly had an interception as well while adding 3 tackles. He had another missed tackle. He led the team in that department this season.

-Darnay Holmes was back after missing time with an injury. He was on the field for under a third of the snaps. On multiple occasions, he has shown the knack for being flagged at very inopportune times. This game was no different. He was flagged for a hold on Xavier McKinney’s interception in the first half. He was beat on a couple 3rd-down conversions as well.

SAFETY

-Speaking of McKinney, we saw a real glimpse of just how good this kid can be down the road. He was all over the field and this scheme has him wearing a lot of hats. He finished with 8 tackles, 1 TFL, and an interception. He also has a second interception that was cancelled by a penalty on Darnay Holmes. McKinney quickly sniffed out a screen pass on two occasions and also sniffed out a reverse that led to a no gain. He really seemed to get more and more comfortable these past 3 weeks. I think NYG should be excited about what he brings to the table. They have been starving for talent at safety for a long time and they now have 2-3 guys who can really get it done.

-Jabrill Peppers was roasted by the DAL passing game in this one. They attacked him over and over and he just always seemed to be a step slow. He did a nice job of making tackles in space and minimizing damage, but he did miss a tackle and was flagged for a holding penalty.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 50). Gano hit his 29 consecutive field goal, a franchise record. He missed an extra point.

-P Riley Dixon 5 Punts / 45.2 avg / 37.6 net

3 STUDS

-WR Sterling Shepard, DT Leonard Williams, S Xavier McKInney

3 DUDS

-OG Kevin Zeitler, TE Evan Engram, S Jabrill Peppers

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

6-10 in a season where they lost their starting quarterback in Week 5. DAL had games started by quarterbacks Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert. They lost both of their starting defensive tackles. They lost both starting offensive tackles and had health issues at center and one of the guard spots. I actually give this team credit for finishing where they did.

What does DAL need the most? Their defense is atrocious on multiple levels. They lack discipline, they lack consistency, and they couldn’t stop the run all year. DAL is going to need to invest money and early picks on their defense, the DTs and safeties in particular. This is where the issues arise when you opt to put so much money into the Prescott/Elliott/Cooper trio and then spend a 1st rounder on a WR. I’ve been vocal about DAL not spreading their funds and picks out well enough and now they are in a very tricky spot with a QB who is going to fight an uphill battle to return from a serious injury. This offseason is going to be huge for them, huge.

DAL got by with a dominant offensive line for a few years. It was one of a few examples in the league that showed just how good a team can be overall when the OL is dominant. However, left tackler Tyron Smith hasn’t played a full year since 2015 and missed 14 games this season. Right Tackle La’el Collins missed the entire year and there are some whispers from people I trust that some in the organization want him at guard. Yes, DAL missing Prescott was the catalyst in their offense going backwards but that OL taking a few steps back was a close second.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

NYG finishes 6-10. It was the most wins they’ve had since 2016. While nobody is actually giving them credit for playing “meaningful games in December,” it was refreshing to walk away from week 17 thinking the arrow was finally pointing up. This was the first time since 2016 that NYG finished with a defense ranked top-half in the NFL and just the 3rd time since 2010. They finished even in the turnover battle a year after they tied for a league-worst -17. They were flagged the 6th-least amount of times just 2 years after getting flagged the 9th-most. They are clearly playing with more grit, hustle, and intelligence. Their coaching decisions are showing more innovation and creativity. There are still things to be done here, but this is the first time in a long time where I feel this team is on the right track.

The most polarizing personnel decision this offseason, in my opinion, is not at quarterback or wide receiver or outside linebacker or defensive tackle. It revolves around Evan Engram. He is locked into another year before his free agency hits in 2022. I’ll go on record now; I think they need to try and trade him if they can get a day 2 pick from someone. I do think he can thrive in a certain role in a certain offense and there is no denying his talent. However, this passing game just doesn’t have the margin of error to deal with his drop issues. We may be singing a different tune about this season if he didn’t drop the ball so much. I think NYG needs to get the “old school” tight end whether it be in the draft or in free agency. This offense will be built on the running game and short/intermediate passes. Engram doesn’t fit and his drops just kill the flow and upside. He isn’t worth the risk.

Where does NYG go this offseason? I will put together a more detailed approach in the coming weeks. But to be short and to the point, they need players on offense who scare the defense. With Barkley out, nobody scares the defense. Look at the top offenses, they all have multiple guys who scare you. You can use the #11 pick on getting the #1- or #2-graded receiver or you can go after one of the top free agents at the position. I lean toward the former. I also think the building of this offensive line isn’t close to being over. They need a new right side and they need to build more depth at tackle. They likely need another starter at outside corner or at least a guy who can rotate in. Lastly, they need a pure pass rusher on the edge who can help them break through the line while rushing just 4 guys while keeping 7 in coverage. Considering they need to figure out allocation of funds to Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson, all of this is a really tall order. If I had to, right now in this moment, rank where I think they need to apply resources, I am saying: OL, WR, EDGE, TE, CB. Those are the top 5 needs.

Thanks for discussing NYG football with me this year, everybody. Just think… about 5 months ago, we didn’t know if football would happen. And within the past 5 months, we had several chirping about the idea that the league should be put on hold. Football is more important to the well being of this country than most want to admit. We were fortunate that the league pulled off a full 256-game schedule. God Bless everyone. I will be around here and there, but during the next 3-4 months, I will be hunkered down writing my reports for the draft. Position previews will be out in April.

Jan 032021
 
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Leonard Williams, New York Giants (January 3, 2021)

Leonard Williams – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 23 – DALLAS COWBOYS 19…
The New York Giants defeated the Dallas Cowboys 23-19 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday afternoon. The Giants finished the 2020 regular-season with a 6-10 record (4-2 in the NFC East). If the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the Washington Football Team on Sunday night, the Giants will win the NFC East and will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round of the playoffs.

Leading 20-9 at the half, the Giants almost let this game slip away, including some gut-wrench moments late in the 4th quarter. But defensive lineman Leonard Williams dominated with 7 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 quarterback hits, 3 tackles for a loss, and one pass defense.

The Giants received the ball to start the game and impressively drove 78 yards in six plays to take a quick 6-0 lead (the extra point was missed). A mixture of passes from quarterback Daniel Jones and runs by running back Wayne Gallman set up a 23-yard end around by wide receiver Sterling Shepard that went for the score.

Dallas picked up two first downs on their initial drive and then were forced to punt after a 3rd-down sack by linebacker Blake Martinez. However, the Giants gave the ball right back when Gallman botched a handoff from Jones. The Cowboys recovered at the New York 27-yard line. The Giants defense held when Williams sacked quarterback Andy Dalton on 3rd-and-8 from the 14-yard line. Dallas kicked the 38-yard field goal to cut the score to 6-3.

For the next six consecutive drives (three by each team), the Giants and Cowboys struggled to move the ball. New York picked up three first downs and Dallas could not pick up one. All six of these possessions ended with punts.

Midway through the 2nd quarter, the Giants’ offense began to click into gear again. New York drove 65 yards in six plays with Jones finding Shepard for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Shepard also caught a 21-yard pass earlier on this possession. Giants 13 – Cowboys 3.

The Cowboys finally began to move the ball themselves, driving 44 yards in 10 plays to set up a 46-yard field goal. Giants 13 – Cowboys 6.

With 2:13 left on the clock before halftime, New York decided to remain aggressive. It took just four plays for the Giants to drive 75 yards, the two big gains being an 18-yard pass to Shepard, followed by a 38-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Dante Pettis. The Giants now led 20-6 with under a minute to play. Unfortunately, the defense allowed Dallas to gain 35 yards in 45 seconds, setting up a successful 57-yard field goal as time expired.

At the half, the Giants led 20-9.

The Giants’ defense forced a three-and-out by the Cowboys to start the 3rd quarter. However, two plays later, on 2nd-and-10, a pass from Jones intended for tight Evan Engram bounced off of his hands and was intercepted at the Dallas 38-yard line. Worse, Cowboys’ momentum continued to surge as Dallas drove 62 yards in 10 plays to cut the score to 20-16. Running back Ezekiel Elliott scored from one yard out.

The Giants gained two first downs before an illegal crackback penalty called on Shepard pushed the Giants back, leading to a punt. The Cowboys then began a long, 13-play, 62-yard drive that was finally stopped by linebacker Kyler Fackrell’s 8-yard sack on 3rd-and-9 from the Giants’ 10-yard line. Nevertheless, the 36-yard field goal cut the score to the slimmest of margins early in the 4th quarter. Giants 20 – Cowboys 19.

After both teams exchanged punts, with another sack by Williams, the Giants put together a key 8-play, 48-yard possession that ended with a clutch 50-yard field goal by place kicker Graham Gano. Shepard caught another 21-yard pass from Jones on this drive. Giants 23 – Cowboys 19 with six and a half minutes left to play.

Starting at their own 25-yard line, the Cowboys began a potential game-winning, marathon, 17-play possession that took over five minutes off of the clock. All looked lost when Dallas was able to set up a 1st-and-goal from the 7-yard line. But Williams sacked Dalton for a 10-yard loss. Then on 3rd-and-goal from the 17-yard line, safety Xavier McKinney intercepted Dalton in the end zone with 1:15 left to play.

However, the game was not over and Gallman gave New York fans a huge scare when he fumbled on an 8-yard gain on 2nd-and-5. Gallman recovered the loose ball at the New York 39-yard line. The Giants then knelt on the ball to run out the clock.

Daniel Jones finished the game 17-of-25 for 229 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. His leading receiver was Shepard, who caught 8 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown (he also ran for a 23-yard touchdown). No other Giants had more than two catches. Gallman carried the ball 11 times for 65 yards.

Defensively, the Giants sacked Dalton six times: Williams (3), Martinez (1), Fackrell (1), and defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson (1). The defense was also credited with nine tackles for losses and six pass defenses. Linebackers Martinez and Tae Crowder were each credited with 11 tackles.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
P Ryan Santoso was activated from the Practice Squad for this game.

Inactive for the game were WR Golden Tate (calf), OT Jackson Barton, OL Kyle Murphy, DE R.J. McIntosh, CB Madre Harper, and P Ryan Santoso.

The Giants reported no injuries from the game.

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

POST-GAME NOTES…
If the finish in first place, they will be the first six-win playoff team in NFL history.

The Giants ended a seven-game losing streak to Dallas. They had last defeated the Cowboys in December 2016.

The Giants won despite finishing 0-for-7 on 3rd-down conversion attempts. This is the first time the Giants won a game without converting a third down since the 1970 merger.

This was the fifth game this season in which the Giants did not allow a first half touchdown.

This was the first time in wide receiver Sterling Shepard’s 5-year pro career that he scored two times in a game.

The Giants finished the season with 40 sacks, their highest total since they had 47 in 2014. Leonard Williams led the team with 11.5 sacks, the most by a Giants’ player since Jason Pierre-Paul’s 14.5 in 2014.

Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson became the first Giants defensive player to begin his career with the Giants and start each of his first 64 games in the league since the NFL went to 16 games in 1978.

Kicker Graham Gano’s 50-yard field goal with 6:27 remaining in the 4th quarter was his 30th consecutive successful attempt, a franchise record. Gano made 31-of-32 attempts this season, a .9687 percentage that is the second highest in Giants history. In 2018, Aldrick Rosas made 32-of-33 attempts, a success rate of .9696. Gano kicked his fifth field goal this season of 50 or more yards, including four against the Cowboys. That is a franchise single-season record.

ROSTER MOVES…
On Saturday, the Giants activated linebacker Kyler Fackrell and cornerback Madre Harper from Injured Reserve. To make room for these two, the team placed fullback Eli Penny (illness) on Injured Reserve and cut quarterback Joe Webb.

The Giants placed Fackrell on Injured Reserve in early December 2020 with a calf injury. Up until that point, he had played in all 11 games, starting eight, and accruing 30 tackles, three sacks, and one interception that he returned for a touchdown. Fackrell was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. The Giants signed Fackrell an unrestricted free agent from the Packers in March 2020.

Harper was placed on Injured Reserve in mid-December with a knee injury after playing in nine games with no starts. He was signed by the Las Vegas Raiders as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. The Giants signed Harper off of the Practice Squad of the Raiders in late September 2020.

The sole fullback on the team for the past three seasons, Penny played in 14 games in 2020, rushing the ball six times for 15 yards (2.5 yards per carry) and catching two passes for 20 yards. The 6’2”, 234-pound Penny was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Cardinals after the 2016 NFL Draft. The Giants signed Penny off of the Practice Squad of the Arizona Cardinals in September 2018. He has played in 44 regular-season games for the Giants with four starts.

The Giants signed Joe Webb to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in December 2020. Webb was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He has spent time with the Vikings (2010-2013), Carolina Panthers (2014-2016), Buffalo Bills (2017), Houston Texans (2018-2019), and Detroit Lions (2020).

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge will address the media by conference call on Monday.

Jan 012021
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 22, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE

The New York Giants are in a very strange position. A 10-loss team, the Giants face scenarios in the NFL’s final regular-season weekend where they could make the playoffs by winning the atrocious NFC East or secure a top 10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

For the Giants to make the playoffs, they have to beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon and pray the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Washington Football team on Sunday night. Neither is impossible and there is a good chance the Giants can pull this off. If they do, the Giants will likely lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Los Angeles Rams. And Giants fans will be left with the opportunity to purchase the tragically comical “6-10 New York Giants 2020 NFC East Champions” t-shirt.

So should we REALLY be rooting for New York to win this game? Wouldn’t it be best for the long-term interests of this team to secure a much higher draft pick? There is merit to that argument. But there is also merit to the argument that if the Giants are ever to become a truly competitive team again, they need to re-develop a winning mindset and culture. Joe Judge also needs to know which of the players on his current roster will perform well in the crucible of playoff-type football. Over a decade ago, Tom Coughlin learned that players such as Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, Plaxico Burress, Michael Strahan, Antonio Pierce, and Corey Webster could be counted on in pressure-packed situations with an entire season on the line. In 2016, Ben McAdoo discovered Odell Beckham could not.

This game, and the potential playoff game, are hugely important tests for Daniel Jones, Wayne Gallman, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, the offensive and defensive line, the three rookie linebackers, and many of the players in the secondary. Do they elevate their game? Remain inconsistent? Fold under the pressure? Joe Judge will be watching.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • QB Daniel Jones (hamstring – probable)
  • FB Eli Penny (illness – out)
  • WR Golden Tate (calf – doubtful)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (ribs – probable)
  • TE Evan Engram (calf – probable)
  • LB Cam Brown (illness – questionable)
  • S Jabrill Peppers (ankle – probable)
  • CB Darnay Holmes (knee – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE

The Dallas Cowboys are 26th in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed. The Giants are 31st in both yards gained and points scored. Something has to give. The Giants offense never hit any sort of stride in 2020. The most points the team scored in a single game was against Dallas on October 11th in a 37-34 loss (seven NYG points were from a defensive score). Since beating the Philadelphia Eagles 27-17 on November 15th right before the bye week, the Giants haven’t scored more than 20 points in a game. During the last five games after the bye, the team has embarrassingly only averaged 12.4 points. It’s a minor miracle the Giants won two of those five games.

I’ve pointed out ad nauseam how the personnel limitations on offense have hampered this team all year. It is what it is. The offensive line is a work in progress. It got dramatically better during a 4-game winning streak and got dramatically worse during the current 3-game losing streak. There is a direct correlation between how this offensive line plays and the overall competency of the offense, leading to more or less rushing yards and more or fewer negative plays in the passing game. Throw in the ill-timed injuries to Daniel Jones and the utter lack of fear-inducing targets to throw to and it’s pretty easy to see why the team has struggled to score points.

As always, rightfully or wrongly, the lightening rods/scapegoats are the coaches and quarterback. Many fans say if we just get rid of Jason Garrett (they are not prepared to go after Joe Judge – yet) and the quarterback, all will be right in the world. This is just a lazy and stupid reaction. It’s much more complicated than that. And New York fans should know better, especially since we literally just went through this three other coaching staffs and Eli Manning. The talent (or lack thereof) on the offensive line, at running back, at tight end, at wide receiver matters. Hell, the play of the defense has an impact the offense (turnovers, field position, keeping the score within reach, time of possession, number of drives, etc.).

Fans may forget, but Eli’s rookie season was largely a disaster. He actually finished one game against the Baltimore Ravens with a 0.0 quarterback rating, only completing four passes for 27 yards. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger was tearing it up on the 15-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. Most Giants fans were absolutely convinced the Giants had drafted the wrong quarterback. Eli lost his first six starts. All was doom-and-gloom until he beat the 6-9 Dallas Cowboys in the season-finale, throwing three touchdowns and leading the team from behind in a dramatic last-second victory. Even with playoff appearances in 2005 and 2006, as late as December 2007, many if not most fans were convinced Eli would never take them to the promised land.

Minus the surrounding offensive and defensive talent that Eli Manning had, Daniel Jones had a far, far superior rookie season in 2019. Indeed, had it not been for the ridiculous number of fumbles, fans would have been raving about him all offseason. And he had two watershed games that year with dramatic come-from-behind wins against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins, throwing five touchdowns in the latter during a season where he threw 24 touchdowns in 12 starts.

Where am I going with this? Daniel Jones can do it. We’ve seen it. He can throw a lot of touchdown passes. He can run for touchdowns. He can lead his team from behind. I remain firmly convinced that if you surround him with legitimate NFL talent, he can perform. That all said, this game against the Dallas Cowboys is a huge, huge test for him. Yes, he is not completely healthy. Yes, his offensive line remains inconsistent. Yes, his pass targets suck. But this is a playoff game. Jones needs to elevate his play and carry his team as much as he can without doing something really stupid. In short, score points. Is he a winner?

One way or the other, this is likely to be the game that everyone remembers from Jones heading into the offseason.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE

The good news for the Giants’ defense is they are not facing the Cardinals, Browns, or Ravens this week. But Dallas isn’t chopped liver. They lost Dak Prescott for the season against the Giants in October, but Andy Dalton is a legit NFL starter with a 2-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio. Dallas is 12th in offense (7th in passing yards and 17th in rushing yards).

To be blunt, the New York defense hit its high point against the Seattle Seahawks on December 6th and has been playing like shit during the current 3-game losing streak. The 73 points given up in the last three games has not been indicative of the poor play. They haven’t been good against the run or the pass. This has to change on Sunday or the Giants have no chance. And Andy Dalton has already led the Cowboys to a come-from-behind victory against the Giants and Patrick Graham this year. That was a game the Giants should not have let slip away.

Despite the fact that he is having a down season, the focal point must remain Ezekiel Elliott, who has rushed for “just” 937 yards and five touchdowns this year. Much of that is a reflection of a diminished offensive line that simply is missing parts and not playing as well. Nevertheless, Elliott is still quite capable of wearing down a defense and taking over a game. The Ravens ran all of the Giants last week to the tune of 250 yards. The Cowboys are going to test them.

That all said, the absolute strength of the current Dallas offensive team are their passing game targets, headlined by wide receivers Amari Cooper (86 catches, 1,073 yards, 5 touchdowns), CeeDee Lamb (69 catches, 892 yards, 5 touchdowns), and Michael Gallup (55 catches, 794 yards, 5 touchdowns). Throw in tight end Dalton Schultz (56 catches, 545 yards, 4 touchdowns) and Elliott (49 catches, 319 yards, 2 touchdowns). If Daniel Jones had targets like these, he would be lighting it up. (As a team, the Giants only have 10 touchdown receptions this year).

The problem for Patrick Graham is this: he doesn’t have the cornerbacks to match up with Dallas. James Bradberry can cover one of these studs, but Isaac Yiadom will have to take another and rookie Darnay Holmes (still dealing with a knee issue) will have take yet another. The linebackers and safeties can’t help out too much without leaving Schultz or Elliott all alone. This is what I mean when I say the surrounding talent matters. These guys make Andy Dalton look good.

Graham can only do so much game-planning here. Dalton is a veteran. The Giants can’t focus too much on the run or the pass because Dallas is balanced. This game will come down to individual match-ups… who is better and who wants it more. To win, the Giants will most likely have to win the turn over battle.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

The Cowboys always seem to have very good special teams. As noted, the Giants special teams played well most of this year but have faded down the stretch. They definitely have been a factor in the 3-game losing streak as well. The offense could use some help with a big return in the return game to set up quality field position.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH

Head Coach Joe Judge on whether the 2020 season can be considered a success for his team, regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game: “Yeah, I think there are a lot of things in terms of what we set out to accomplish this year that no one game is going to go ahead and define the season. I’m proud of the culture and the foundation we’ve laid and the work ethic and urgency we’ve instilled in these players going forward. That being said, there are a lot of things we need to do better as an organization across the board going forward. We have to keep building this thing in the right direction. But I know there’s a vision going forward and there are a lot of people pointing in the right direction right now. So yeah, absolutely. But that being said, look, our job is to go out and win on Sunday. We’re doing everything we can right now to go out there and win a football game.”

THE FINAL WORD

The Giants went on a 4-game winning streak that included three wins against the terrible NFC East. They upset the Seahawks but showed their true colors against real play caliber teams (Arizona, Cleveland, Baltimore). The Cowboys are a bad team in a bad division. The Giants can win this game.

I love the Giants and hate the Cowboys. So you know my rooting interests. That said, there is a weird dynamic with this game in that it could mean the difference in sliding as possibly as many 15 spots in the draft order. What do I want more than anything? To be left with a really positive impression of Daniel Jones heading into the offseason.

Oct 132020
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 11, 2020)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 37 – New York Giants 34

QUICK RECAP

Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was back in Dallas facing off against his former employer of 13 years, 9 of which were spent as the Head Coach. The Cowboys offense came into the game leading the NFL in points scored. The Giants offense came into the game ranked 30th in points scored. As bad the NYG season has looked to this point, they were still very much alive in the divisional race. Not one team in it had more than a win and all three rivals had significant roster issues.

The Giants jumped out to an early 7-3 lead on an Evan Engram reverse that looked broken at the start. Remember, NYG tried a similar play two weeks ago against the Niners that resulted in a turnover. This time, Daniel Jones’ pitch was accurate, Engram evaded an Everson Griffen tackle, and dashed downhill into the end zone. This was the first touchdown in 21 offensive drives and it was the first time NYG had a lead since the first half against Pittsburgh on September 13. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Dak Prescott threw an interception to Kyler Fackrell. Fackrell came out of Utah State in 2016 known for his plus-athletic ability combined with a 6’5” / 245 pound frame. A player at that position doesn’t always get a chance to put on display his long speed plus agility with the ball in his hands but Fackrell took full advantage of the opportunity. He scampered his way to a 46-yard touchdown looking like a tight end who may have been playing his pro career on the wrong side of the ball. Not really, but it was an overly impressive play by Fackrell that put NYG up 14-3.

The Giants defense forced a three-and-out and took the ball back downfield via a balanced offensive attack. The running game found a constant positive flow for the first time of the 2020 season as they attacked a porous DAL defensive front. Graham Gano nailed a 55-yard field goal through the upright and it was 17-3 with most of the second quarter left to play. DAL then put together a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended in an Ezekiel Elliott 1-yard touchdown. The Giants were still up by 7 and their offense was finding a flow. This was yet another test for Jones and this young NYG team. The response? On the fourth play of the drive, rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas allowed a sack to Demarcus Lawrence that jarred the ball loose out of Jones’ hands. DAL cornerback Anthony Brown scooped it up and scored a touchdown to tie the game up at 17-17. Jones’ 22nd fumble in in his 17th game. His record-setting rate continues to lengthen.

NYG responded with a march down the field on a drive that lasted 9 plays. Head Coach Joe Judge, who has a special teams background, had some tricks up his sleeve. As the NYG field goal unit marched onto the field, Engram stopped his retreat to the sideline by just a few yards. The DAL defense did not see him out there and holder Riley Dixon took notice. He rushed the snap, threw it up to Engram, and NYG had another touchdown on the board. Unfortunately, the flag came out as a result of an illegal shift penalty, as Cameron Fleming was not set in his stance. Had Dixon waited one more second to call for the snap, NYG would have went up by 7. Instead, Gano was forced into another 50-yard attempt in which he nailed through the uprights. DAL had just 51 seconds left but they only needed 35 of them. Two chunk pass plays from Prescott to rookie CeeDee Lamb and a trick play of their own resulted in the third DAL touchdown of the quarter. This one was a “Philly Special” as wide receiver Cedrick Wilson threw a perfect pass to Prescott for the 11-yard score. DAL was up 24-20 at halftime.

NYG opened the second half with a quality drive, but the frustration only grew. After two successful third down conversions, Jones hit Darius Slayton on a 3rd-and-6 deep ball that resulted in a touchdown. However, a questionable offensive pass interference was called on Damion Ratley at the line of scrimmage. Instead of the touchdown, NYG was moved back to the DAL 41-yard line and their 3rd-and-16 attempt failed. They were forced to punt, but DAL left 12 men on the field which moved NYG up 5 yards, enough to put Gano on the field for yet another 50+ yard attempt. He nailed it making him the first NYG kicker ever to hit three 50+ yarders in the same game. NYG was down by 1.

The DAL offense marched down the field again, but this drive came with a price. Prescott was tackled by Logan Ryan in a way that ended up causing a compound fracture to his right ankle. It was as gruesome as it sounded. Prescott was taken off on the cart in tears, not knowing if that would be the last time he would wear the DAL uniform. He was playing under the franchise tag and the debate surrounding whether or not he would be given a long term deal has been discussed for years now. Andy Dalton, the 9-year starter signed from Cincinnati came into the game to try and finish off the drive. DAL still scored a touchdown, this one a 12-yard run by Elliott. The home team went up 31-23.

The two offenses traded three-and-outs as the third quarter came to an end. NYG’s opening play of the fourth quarter was a 39-yard gain on a pass from Jones to Slayton. However, their losing tendencies appeared on the next play as they were forced to use their second timeout. They were late out of the huddle in addition to an alignment miscommunication between Jones and Golden Tate. They ended up putting another 3 points on the board via another field goal by Gano, this one from 28 yards, to make the score 31-26.

On the first play of the next DAL drive, rookie center Tyler Biadasz and the second-string quarterback Dalton mishandled the snap and it was recovered by Blake Martinez. NYG began their drive on the DAL 17-yard line and it took just 5 plays to get in the end zone via a Devonta Freeman 4-yard power run. Jones then found tackle Andrew Thomas in the end zone on a trick two-point conversion play. NYG now had a 34-31 lead against an offense that was missing three starting offensive linemen and their starting quarterback.

DAL rode on the backs of Elliott and backup Tony Pollard with help from a 15-yard facemask penalty by Markus Golden and a badly missed tackle by rookie cornerback Darnay Holmes to get into field goal range. Greg Zuerlein hit a 40-yarder to tie the game up. Jones and the Giants offense had their shot to win this game.

They gained 15 yards on 5 plays including a near-interception and were forced to punt and the Cowboys got the ball back with 52 seconds left. Those 52 seconds were all DAL needed, an offense playing with an offensive line that was mostly made up of backups. Consecutive completions to Michael Gallup that highlighted his top-tier ball skills and playmaking potential both warranted reviews. Both catches that combined for 57 yards were upheld, putting DAL in easy field goal range. Zuerlein barely put one through the uprights from 34 yards as time expired.

NYG loses, 37-34.

QUARTERBACK

Daniel Jones: 20-33 / 222 yards / 0 TD-0 INT / 80.6 RAT

Start number 17 for Jones. Loss number 15. Fumble number 22. I sound like a broken record with my talk about the turnovers, fumbles in particular, but this cannot go on at this rate. We are giving Jones this season to trek through the peaks and valleys, but we need to see progression, not regression. It is that simple. Right now, Jones is not progressing, and he is turning the ball over at a record rate. There isn’t much else to say about this game. He did make a couple of nice throws, but he continues to show too much hesitation especially when he steps up in the pocket.

RUNNING BACK

Devonta Freeman: 17 att-60 yards / 1 TD / 2 rec-27 yards

-In Freeman’s third week with the team, in fact his third week on any NFL team without any preseason action, we saw a glimpse of some of his former pop in Atlanta. We knew it would take a few games for him to catch up to speed, and here we are. Freeman only averaged 3.5 yards per carry but I thought he ran really well. He showed two jump cuts in traffic that we hadn’t seen yet and that is a sign to me that his legs are under him and the confidence is back. I think it is possible we see a small trade market for him in the coming weeks if a contender loses their top back.

-Wayne Gallman rushed for 24 yards on 5 carries, averaging a team high 4.8 yards per. He broke tackles on 4 of his carries and continues to show consistent ability as a complimentary back. I think his upside is tapped out but he can get the job done in this role and seems to always be close to breaking a long one.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton: 8 rec / 129 yards

Slayton also had a 31-yard touchdown taken away by a questionable offensive pass interference call on Damion Ratley. It was a strong day for the Giants most talented receiver after a few poor games. His greatest trait, dating back to his days at Auburn, is found downfield when he tracks the deep ball. We need to see more deep shots to him. Slayton isn’t a guy who will strongly impact the game via slants and yards after catch. Send him downfield more often and see what happens.

-Golden Tate was the only other wide receiver to catch a pass. He brought in 4 passes for 42 yards on 5 targets. The lack of receiver depth on this team is scary-bad in an era where dozens of quality receivers enter the league via the draft each year. The draft presents so much every year at this spot, yet NYG is starving for more talent there. I get the national scouting list every August for the upcoming draft database. Which position has the most talent? Wide receiver. The supply is more than the demand but NYG can’t find guys to make things happen when injuries arise.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram was targeted 2 times and had 2 carries. It is hard to imagine what NYG has planned for him. I watch the Steelers rookie wide receiver (Chase Claypool) score 4 touchdowns and simply wonder “What if?” I bring that up because I brought up Engram’s name all over Claypool’s scouting report, as they had so many similarities in college when it came to their skillset and tools respectively. Claypool is a wide receiver who some were labeling a tight end during the pre-draft process. Engram is a tight end who some continue to label a wide receiver. We know Engram can’t routinely block in-line well enough, but any time he touches the ball, it’s hard not to imagine the possibilities he brings to the table. No matter where you stand with him, he can’t be targeted just twice in a high scoring game where you throw the ball 33 times.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The rough stretch for rookie Andrew Thomas continues. He allowed 2 pressures and 2 sacks. He is now approaching the league lead in sacks allowed with incredibly difficult tests coming up against Washington and Philadelphia. It seems like Thomas has a tough test each week. You know what it is? Most teams have high quality pass rushers and if you want to succeed at tackle in this league, you have to be really, really good. Thomas is not that right now. He is overextending, he isn’t sustaining hand contact, and he losing the width of his base. It’s ugly.

-Cameron Fleming was a disaster on the right side, allowing 3 pressures and a TFL. His clock is ticking as the starter.

-Inside, the trio of Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, and Kevin Zeitler had their best game as a group. In the running game, they got more push than we’ve seen in any contest this year, albeit against a poor Dallas defensive front. Gates was flagged twice (one for a hold and once for a block in back) while Zeitler and Hernandez both allowed 1 pressure each. There seemed to be more lateral pulling of the guards which worked out well for the rushing attack. I expect to see more of that in coming games.

EDGE

-Lorenzo Carter suffered a season-ending Achilles’ injury on the initial drive. In what was perhaps a career-defining season, this was very unfortunate.

-Markus Golden woke up for the first time in 2020. He had 3 tackles, a half-sack, and 2 pressures on a season-high 57 snaps. He will now be the feature edge guy with both Carter and Oshane Ximines out (Ximines may return from IR at some point). It is possible we start to see some Carter Coughlin on the edge and/or Cam Brown inside if they opt to move Fackrell to full-time starter outside.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-As stout as this defensive line can be at times, I was disappointed with their performance against a beat up DAL offensive line. Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams both lacked difference-making plays and came up short in key situations. Neither got any pressure on the passer either.

-Dalvin Tomlinson was solid. He had 6 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 sack. He really is a fine player who would be getting a lot more attention if this team was winning games. He lines up in multiple spots, has a lot of contact presence, and makes plays away from the ball often.

LINEBACKER

-Kyler Fackrell was the highlight of the defense in this one. He finished with 3 tackles, 1 TFL, and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. The athletic ability he showed on that play was big time and it made me think if he had some potential as a tight end back in the day. Obviously that isn’t a move you make now, but his speed and agility combined with that power and his frame just gave me that impression. Solid game for him that and he has the tool set to make a full time move to the spot vacated by Carter.

-Blake Martinez has been lights out since signing with NYG. You can’t expect a good game every single week, thus this was his first negative grade. He finished with 7 tackles and did recover as fumble, but elsewhere he just gave up too much in the running game. He was also targeted in the middle of the field multiple times. DAL had a lot of success throwing at him.

-Tae Crowder got the start and finished with 5 tackles, playing 74% of the snaps. With Carter out, I think we are going to see more of him as Fackrell will see more snaps at OLB. I expect to see some Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin as well. The only thing that could get in their way is the return of David Mayo, which is still up in the air.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry shut down Amari Cooper (2 rec / 23 yards) as well as anyone we’ve seen since Cooper was acquired via trade in 2018. Really good game by him when watching the All-22 angle. He was never fooled or off balance.

-Darnay Holmes continues to play fast and physical. He had 3 tackles, 2 pass break ups, and a half-sack. As aggressive as he plays, he is still missing tackles that really hurts this defense. He needs to clean that up.

-Ryan Lewis had an up and down game. He was beat by Michael Gallup late, which led to the DAL game-winning field goal, but he did an OK job in coverage. He simply got beat by a perfect throw and outstanding play on the ball by Gallup. Lewis was beat by Lamb a couple times but overall it was a solid game. He just seemed to get beat when it mattered most.

SAFETY

-Jabrill Peppers was back on the field after missing a game early with an ankle injury. His snaps were limited, playing just over a third of them. He ended with 5 tackles including 1 TFL. He was really active and explosive against the run and made some plays late to keep DAL from making gains outside.

-Logan Ryan is a player you really appreciate if your team is winning. He does so many little things that other defensive backs do not. He led the team with 9 tackles and came up with a few really tough solo tackles on Elliott. He is smart, instinctive, and versatile.

-Adrian Colbert started for Julian Love, but continued to give NYG lackluster play at that position, notably in coverage. He also added 2 personal foul penalties. Love appears to have fallen out of favor with this coaching staff rather quickly.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 4/4 (Made 55, 50, 54, 28). Gano is now 13 for 14 on the year.

-P Riley Dixon: 2 punts / 52.0 avg / 50.5 net

3 STUDS

-WR Darius Slayton, LB Kyler Fackrell, K Graham Gano

3 DUDS

-OT Andrew Thomas, OT Cameron Fleming, WR Damion Ratley

3 THOUGHTS ON DALLAS

  1. It was really tough to see Dak Prescott to go down the way he did. Competitive advantage aside, you hate to see a guy like that in a year where he has had some documented off-field issues, go down the way he did. The question will be asked in the coming months: Is that the last time we see him in a Cowboys uniform? Initially my thought is he will be back on a one-year prove-it deal, but when you look at how big the QB market may be this upcoming offseason, someone may still offer him a multi-year deal.
  1. There may not be a team that has been bit by the injury bug harder than DAL. Three starting offensive linemen, a starting tight end, their best linebacker, a starting corner, a rotational LB, and both starting defensive tackles. Now they lose their starting quarterback? Ouch. Mike McCarthy will get a pass for whatever happens this season in his first year as their head coach. If they still end up winning some games, he will look like a genius.
  1. I’ve always been a fan of having a legit, quality backup quarterback behind the starter. As much as it hurts to lose Prescott, Dalton is going to keep this team on a similar level. Watch. He has 72 career wins (with CIN) including a 41-26 career record at home. Dalton never really regressed over his career. He simply just couldn’t seem to take the next step up to elevate players around him. However, he was never a guy who just couldn’t get it done. DAL will shift their offensive focus and overall plan a bit, but that side of the ball is still loaded with weapons.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Let’s not give the Giants offense credit for putting up 34 points. 7 of them came from Kyler Fackrell’s interception and another touchdown scoring drive started at the DAL 17-yard line. This team still averaged 3.3 yards per carry (the worst rushing team in the NFL averages 3.5 per game). This team still averaged 6.7 yards per passing attempt (the 10th worst passing offense in the NFL averages 6.8 per game). This kind of production against a banged-up defense that had allowed the most points in the NFL is just awful.
  1. I will give the Giants coaching staff some credit for at least trying to get a little innovative, trying to create points from outside of the normal game plan. The flea flicker, the fake field goal attempt, the reverses to Engram, etc. It did not help them win but I do like the idea that these coaches will think outside the box. Remember, Joe Judge is 38 years old and has never been a head coach. This is a growing experience for him as well.
  1. The trade deadline is coming really fast and everyone knows how strongly I feel about the draft and doing it right. If there is a way to get extra picks (even if they are day three), this is the way to get them without selling your competitive integrity. There are three guys I would strongly consider trading who I also believe will have a market for their services. First is Engram. During the game, I again thought “if a real offensive mind got their hands on Engram he could be a monster.” (BUF?/ARI?/SF?) I feel strongly about that and if someone offers a 3rd- or 4th-round pick, I say pull the trigger. Second is Peppers. He is locked in for another year at a decent cap rate. If a defense can find a run-and-chase role for Peppers (BAL?/IND?/NE?), he can be an important role player. He isn’t someone you build a defense around or give too much to assignment wise, but he is a guy who brings energy and will make things happen on talent alone. You can hide his issues if you have a good defense around him. Lastly, I do think there is a market for Tomlinson. The question remains, however, if you want him here long term to build around. He won’t be a game-changer, but he is a really solid and reliable player. I bet someone offers a middle round pick for him. If NYG thinks they don’t want to add more money resources to the DL spot with Williams and Lawrence already here, I think a contender with DL issues could take him (KC?/LV?/DAL?).
Oct 112020
 
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New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (October 11, 2020)

Game-Winning Field Goal – © USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS COWBOYS 37 – NEW YORK GIANTS 34…
The New York Giants blew early and and a late leads, and ended up losing a heart-breaker to the Dallas Cowboys 37-34 in Texas on Sunday. This despite the fact that the Giants knocked Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott out of the game (and the season) by breaking his right ankle in the 3rd quarter. The Giants fall to 0-5 on the season.

Dallas received the ball to start the game and promptly drove 69 yards in 11 plays to set up a 24-yard field goal. The Giants impressively responded with their first touchdown drive in three games as New York marched 75 yards in seven plays. Tight end Evan Engram scored on an end around from three yards out and the Giants led 7-3.

New York quickly extended their lead as on the third play of Dallas’ second possession, linebacker Kyler Fackrell intercepted Prescott’s pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown. After a three-and-out by the Cowboys, the Giants drove 38 yards in 12 plays to set up a 55-yard field goal by place kicker Graham Gano. The Giants now led 17-3 early in the 2nd quarter.

However, momentum abruptly shifted back to the Cowboys. First, Dallas drove 75 yards in 12 plays, culminating in a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Ezekiel Elliott. Then on New York’s ensuing possession, quarterback Daniel Jones fumbled as he was sacked. The loose ball was returned for 29-yard defensive touchdown by the Cowboys. The game was now tied 17-17.

The Giants responded with a 9-play, 43-yard drive that ended with a 50-yard field goal by Gano with 51 seconds to play. Unfortunately for the Giants, an additional four points was wiped off of the board when an illegal shift penalty erased a 27-yard touchdown on a fake field goal. Worse, the Giants’ defense collapsed late in the half again. The Cowboys easily drove 75 yards in six plays, scoring on a trick play of their own as Prescott caught an 11-yard touchdown pass.

At the half, Dallas led 24-20.

The Giants received the ball to start the 3rd quarter, moving 39 yards in 10 plays to set up a 54-yard field goal by Gano (his third 50+ yard field goal of the game). Once again, the Giants had a touchdown taken off of the board when Jones’ 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darius Slayton was erased due to an offensive pass interference penalty on wideout Damion Ratley. Cowboys 24 – Giants 23.

Despite losing Prescott seventh play of Dallas’ first drive of the second half, the Cowboys ended this possession with a touchdown when Elliott ran for a 12-yard touchdown. Cowboys 31 – Giants 23.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Giants managed a 9-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard field goal by Gano. The Giants immediately got the ball back as the Cowboys fumbled the ball away at their own 17-yard line (linebacker Blake Martinez recovered the fumble). Five plays later, running back Devonta Freeman scored from four yards out. Left tackle Andrew Thomas caught a pass from Jones on the 2-point conversion attempt. Just like that, the Giants were now up 34-31 with less than nine minutes to play.

The Cowboys were able to drive 53 yards in 11 plays on their next possession to set up a game-tying 40-yard field goal with less than two minutes to play in the game. The Giants picked up one first down but were forced to pun the ball away. Dallas started their final drive at their own 12-yard line with 52 seconds on the clock. The Cowboys picked up 72 yards on three straight plays to set up the 34-yard game-winner as time expired.

Offensively, the Giants accrued 20 first downs, 300 total net yards (89 rushing, 211 passing), and were 7-of-13 (54 percent) on 3rd-down conversion attempts. Jones completed 20-of-33 passes for 222 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. But his fumble resulted in a defensive score. Slayton was the leading receiver with eight catches for 129 yards. Freeman was the leading rusher with 17 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, the Giants allowed 28 first downs, 402 total net yards (126 rushing, 276 passing), and Dallas was 5-of-9 (56 percent) on 3rd down. Fackrell returned an interception for a touchdown and Martinez recovered a fumble. The Giants also picked up two sacks.

Video highlights are available on YouTube.

PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were TE Eric Tomlinson, OT Jackson Barton, DE R.J. McIntosh, and LB T.J. Brunson.

LB Lorenzo Carter (Achilles) left the game in the 1st quarter and did not return. He is likely done for the season.

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

POST-GAME NOTES…
The Giants have lost seven games in a row to the Dallas Cowboys.

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

Oct 092020
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 8, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, October 11, 2020

THE STORYLINE

In terms of overall talent and emotional mindset, the Dallas Cowboys are better positioned to win this game. But this is a winnable game for the Giants. While New York is 0-4 on the season, the Cowboys are only 1-3. Both have new coaching staffs and Dallas may have actually regressed in the coaching department (I think the loss of Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli was huge).

We have two very interesting match-ups on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Dallas is #1 in yards per game (510) and #3 in scoring (31.5). All of this despite some serious injury issues on Dallas’ offensive line. Defensively, the Giants are #5 in yards allowed (328) and #13 in scoring defense (24).

On the flip side, offensively, New York is dead last in yards per game (278) and scoring (11.8). Defensively, Dallas is 30th in yards allowed (431) and dead last in scoring defense (36.5).

In other words, something has to give on both sides of the ball for both teams. In all likelihood, the Giants offense will look better in this game while the defense looks worse. Whether or not that translates into a win remains to be seen. The Cowboys are huge favorites in this game.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • LB Oshane Ximines (shoulder – out)
  • LB Kyler Fackrell (neck – questionable)
  • S Jabrill Peppers (ankle – questionable)
  • S Adrian Colbert (neck – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE

    Sy’56 wrote at the end of his Giants-Rams game review that fans should focus more on player development this year than wins and losses. That’s a sad state of affairs, but from a mental health perspective for Giants fans, probably wise advice. My fear is that this team has gotten far too comfortable and used to losing. Anyone who has played competitive sports on a bad team knows what I mean. While the roster keeps churning each year, the core group that has been here for the last few years just simply doesn’t know how to, or expect to, win. The front office execs, the coaches, and the players all say the right things during the week, but the team loses every Sunday and everyone says, “We need to execute better.” Frustrated fans begin to look for quick and easy scapegoats. We used to laugh at teams like the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins who fell into these never-ending negative cycles. The Giants have officially become one of those teams.

    But this week I’m going to take Sy’56’s advice and provide my overall thoughts on the state of each position group and who I think the team can count on moving into 2021 and beyond.

    Quarterback: To state the obvious, Daniel Jones is not playing as well as hoped or expected. This has started the inevitable conversation that if the Giants are once again in the position to draft a “franchise” quarterback, do they do so? Right or wrong, I’m more optimistic about Jones because I think he has the mental and physical tools to succeed and I think the rest of the team is dragging him down right now. Others would argue he is not elevating the play of those around him. They could be right. Needless to say, the remaining 12 games is crucial in terms of understanding where we are at with respect to the quarterback position. What is frustrating is that Jones makes enough plays with his arm and feet to tease, but mistakes have marred his performance and contributed to losses. What I find equally frustrating is the lack of patience with quarterback development among today’s fans. I would like to remind everyone that the bulk of NYG fans were ready to run Eli Manning out of town as late as November 2007 (his fourth season). Nevertheless, this team is scoring less than 12 points per game. That’s beyond pathetic. And until that dramatically changes, Jones will be blamed for it. Guy to watch: Daniel Jones.

    Running Back: I still don’t think many fans understand the catastrophic impact the loss of Saquon Barkley is having on this offense. I’ve argued since he got hurt that his loss changes everything for the worse. He was the ONLY guy on this team who scared opponents both as a runner and receiver. Saquon was so much better than everyone else on the Giants that I would equate his loss with that of a pro basketball team losing their superstar scorer. He is being replaced by three players (Devonta Freeman, Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis) whose contracts expire this offseason and I would not be surprised if all of them are not re-signed. That’s how barren the cabinet is at this position. With Barkley out of the picture, is there a worse group of running backs in the NFL? Guy to watch: Wayne Gallman (most likely to be re-signed even though Freeman will likely get more snaps).

    Wide Receivers: This position has turned into a disaster. Teams have either figured out Darius Slayton or he is going through a sophomore slump. The injury-prone Sterling Shepard is hurt once again and one must wonder if its not just best to move on. Golden Tate is nearing the end. Oddly, the Giants decided to keep only four receivers, two of whom now are waiver-wire pick-ups. There is a good chance that the ONLY player who will be back next year who is currently on the 53-man roster is Slayton. As we move into November and December, I would expect the coaching staff to consider promoting Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack, or Derrick Dillon to the active roster to receive a few looks. Again, is there a worse group of wide receivers in the NFL? Maybe one or two teams are in the conversation, but that’s it. Guy to watch: Darius Slayton.

    Tight Ends: Evan Engram is proving that he is another 1st-round disappointment and one wonders if he is long for the team. I would say trade him before the deadline, but would there even be a market for him? The other guys on this team are complementary pieces.  This is a very weak unit and again may be one of the worst in the NFL. Guy to watch: Kaden Smith.

    Offensive Line: Andrew Thomas is taking his lumps and is coming off of his worst performance. He needs to rebound this week. The Giants desperately need him to develop into a Pro Bowl-type tackle in a year or two. The Giants can get by with Will Hernandez, but they need more than that from him as well. As Sy’56 has pointed out, his problems have revolved around lateral agility. I don’t know how Nick Gates is going to pan out, but you can see why the coaches like him. To get into with Aaron Donald like he did last week was an eye-opener. Gates is still green as grass at the position so expect continued growing pains. The major head-scratcher is the continuing decline of 30-year old Kevin Zeitler. I think we’re all at a loss explaining that. If that continues, I would not be surprised to see Shane Lemieux start stealing some snaps like Matt Peart is doing now at right tackle. Speaking of Peart, it’s pretty clear that the coaching staff is grooming him to move in at right tackle soon. Peart is being provided with the luxury that Thomas wasn’t given, and that is to more slowly transition him into a starting spot. Personally, I’m still optimistic about this group. I expected and wrote about the growing pains we are all seeing. Playing a string of really good defenses hasn’t helped. I think the unit will continue to improve as the year progresses. Keep in mind however that with the limitations the Giants have at running back, tight end, and wide receiver, I’m not sure how much this will translate to improved productivity on the field. Guys to watch: Andrew Thomas, Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, Kevin Zeitler, Matt Peart.

    NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE

    Defensive Line: I think the defensive line started off a bit more slowly than hoped against the run but has been improving. As Sy’56 has pointed out, if the Giants had better pass-rushing edge rushers, the unit would look even better. Dexter Lawrence is coming off a strong game and Leonard Williams has played well. Dalvin Tomlinson is another big body and Austin Johnson was a real difference maker against the Rams. Guys to watch: Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson (Giants have contract decisions to make on both).

    Linebackers: I told you guys that Blake Martinez was the victim of bad press. He’s arguably been the team MVP. I think many of us expect to see Tae Crowder start stealing snaps from Devante Downs. Outside, the new coaching staff obviously has favored Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines over Markus Golden. (Ximines is hurt so we’ll probably see more of Golden this week). While Carter has improved, no one is scaring the other team in the pass rush department and this is hurting the entire defense. I would not be shocked if we start seeing Cam Brown receive more snaps. Kyler Fackrell has a role on this defense as a situational player. Stating the obvious, on a team with many, many needs, pass-rushing edge rusher remains an offseason priority. Guys to watch: Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Tae Crowder.

    Defensive Backs: If Blake Martinez hasn’t been the MVP, then it’s been the other priority free agent the team signed in the offseason, James Bradberry. Nevertheless, the Giants continue to be haunted by the unexpected disaster that was Deandre Baker and Sam Beal sitting out due to COVID. That has left the team scrambling at the other outside cornerback position where Corey Ballentine and Isaac Yiadom have struggled. The team appears to be holding auditions at the spot now with Ryan Lewis and Madre Harper next on call. Darnay Holmes is learning on the job at slot corner. Inside, the loss of Xavier McKinney was another unexpected disappointment. Jabrill Peppers is proving he is more athlete than player. Does he have a future on this team? Julian Love appears to be the classic ‘tweener who may not have a true home at either corner or safety. Logan Ryan provides veteran leadership. Will he want to re-sign here next year? Guys to watch: Darnay Holmes, Madre Harper, Julian Love.

    NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

    If the Giants continue to struggle this much on offense, do not be surprised to see some fake punts and/or field goals soon.

    FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH

    Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett on playing young quarterbacks: “Quarterbacks play best when they’re in a really good environment. That’s younger quarterbacks and that’s older quarterbacks. What everyone’s trying to do in an organization is create a good environment for their quarterback and give them a good supporting cast. Typically, it’s a strong offensive line, it’s playmakers outside, it’s a good run game. I think those things help that quarterback transition more smoothly. If he’s in a situation where he’s carrying too much of a burden early on because the team is young and in their rebuilding stage, sometimes it’s a little bit harder for that guy to transition. I think that’s probably a common denominator for a lot of guys. Sometimes quarterbacks have to take their lumps because they’re really in the ground floor of the rebuilding process. The best ones I’ve been around have come out the other end of those experiences. Sometimes the transition happens smoother because the team is further along in their cycle of rebuilding, and that quarterback comes into that environment and is that much better.”

    THE FINAL WORD

    I don’t expect the Giants to win this game, but they can. What will be fascinating to watch is Cowboys weakness (defense) versus Giants weakness (offense) and Cowboys strength (offense) against Giants strength (defense). Throw in Jason Garrett’s knowledge of his former team and this one could get a bit crazy.

    One final note on Jones, I keep seeing comments such as “Jones was playing better last year than he is this year!” Again, I don’t think fans understand what the loss of Saquon Barkley did to this team. His loss means the surrounding talent around Jones is much, much worse than it was last year (even factoring in Barkley’s injury last year). This offense is now incapable of getting big chunks of yardage on a consistent basis. Everything comes in small chunks now because the surrounding skill position players can’t provide more than that. The closest similarity I can point to is the Giants offense in the mid-1990s when the team’s best offensive player was fullback Charles Way.

    Nov 072019
     
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    Cody Latimer, New York Giants (November 4, 2019)

    Cody Latimer – © USA TODAY Sports

    Dallas Cowboys 37 – New York Giants 18

    QUICK RECAP

    A national primetime game against a division rival. Throwback all-white uniforms. A new defensive weapon acquired via trade. This was a game that generated at least some excitement in the middle of yet another failure of a season. It was hard to look past the fact this team had lost 5 in a row to Dallas and 11 of their past 15 NFC East match-ups, though. Even in the unfamiliar blue uniforms, the Cowboys entered this one as a 7-point road favorite with little fear of a broken NYG squad.

    The night started off in favor of NYG, as Dak Prescott threw an interception directly to safety Antoine Bethea, his first since 2017, on the very first play of the game. The Giants began their initial offensive drive inside the DAL 8-yard line but could only muster 3 points. Essentially they were starting this game over with the Giants getting a 3-point head start. DAL quickly tied the game back up after an 11-play drive that saw chunk gains from Ezekiel Elliott and the 37-year old Jason Witten. The same Jason Witten who has been torching NYG for what seems to be fifty years. The same Jason Witten who was a Monday Night Football color analyst at this time a year ago.

    After a NYG three-and-out, DAL took the ball back into NYG territory and lined up kicker Brett Maher for a 54-yard field goal attempt. The wind pushed it wide left and NYG began their drive at their own 44-yard line. Two key plays that brought NYG down inside the DAL 5-yard line were a 16-yard run by Daniel Jones and a 17-yard pass to Golden Tate that converted a 3rd-and-14 situation. It took them three plays to get the one yard needed for a score, but a Jones-to-Cody Latimer pass put NYG back in the lead. Aldrick Rosas missed the extra point, thus the score was 9-3.

    The momentum stayed on the NYG side, as receiver Randall Cobb had the ball jarred loose by a violent Jabrill Peppers hit and Bethea came up with his second turnover of the game. The next drive injected more and more juice into the stadium. Tate gained 16 yards on a reverse aided by a lead block by Jones, who got lit up on the play but he contributed to the yards and there is something about toughness that gets everyone excited. Evan Engram then exploded for 15-yard gain after a short pass. A black cat then ran onto the field and caused a delay. It was about a minute or two and it created the thought that maybe this would be one of those good-luck turning points. NYG would go onto win out, get to 10-6, and into the postseason because of this black cat. That idea rapidly disappeared as Saquon Barkley had a likely big-run stopped by his own center Jon Halapio, who for some unknown reason was just standing there not blocking anybody. The two collided and went down. It was Halapio’s best hit of the season. NYG got inside the DAL 10-yard line but couldn’t punch it in, relying on 3 points again off the foot of Rosas.

    The score was 12-3, but the missed opportunities created an aura of pessimism. And with that, Prescott connected with tight end Blake Jarwin for a short gain that he turned into 42-yard touchdown. This is the same Blake Jarwin who scored 3 touchdowns against NYG last December and the same Blake Jarwin who scored a touchdown against NYG week 1. He has 6 career touchdowns in his 3-year career, 5 of which are against NYG.

    Momentum was slipping through the fingers of NYG and they shot themselves in the foot on the next drive with under a minute left. A drop by Darius Slayton and an interception by Jones gave the ball back to DAL. They were able to get 3 more points on the scoreboard and entered the half with a 13-12 lead.

    Latimer opened the half with a kick return that gave NYG starting field position at midfield. Penalties and a sack killed any hope of starting the second half with a score, but they forced a three-and-out when DAL got the ball. The offense didn’t take advantage of it though. I talked about Daniel Jones massive fumble issue during preseason and the only thing I can say about it now is that the issue is nearing catastrophic levels. On a 3rd-and-6, Jones scrambled up the middle and had the ball jarred loose as he approached the first down marker. The fumble was recovered by safety Darian Thompson, former NYG 3rd-round pick. This was Jones’ 7th fumble of the year, tied for the league lead.

    DAL turned that into 3 more points, which put their lead at 16-12. Latimer once again had a big return that brought NYG to midfield. Overall, this was the best starting field position the team has had all year from a game-perspective. However, once again, NYG was only able to create 3 points out of it despite getting inside DAL 10-yard line.

    The fourth quarter began with a DAL touchdown-scoring drive. Prescott found Michael Gallup near the sideline and the explosive 2nd-year pro made Janoris Jenkins miss, as Jenkins did on the Jarwin touchdown as well, and acrobatically made his way into the end zone. 23-15 DAL at this point.

    Saquon Barkley, who was quiet for most of the game, brought NYG all the way to the DAL 11-yard line with a fresh set of downs. However, three straight incomplete passes and no looks to Barkley led to, you guessed it, another field goal by Rosas. NYG was down 5 and a stop on the ensuing drive was near-mandatory. However, a shaky-at-best pass interference call on Deandre Baker on a 3rd-down incompletion kept the drive alive. Six plays later, Baker or Bethea blew his coverage assignment, leaving the DAL number one receiver Amari Cooper wide open across the middle for a big gain and touchdown. NYG was now down 12 with under 8 minutes left and most hope had left the stadium.

    NYG put together one more drive with time dwindling and the DAL defense in a prevent, half-effort approach. It would have made those who bet the +7 line happy at least to see NYG get a cheap touchdown but they couldn’t even do that. From the DAL 24-yard line, Jones was sacked and had the ball knocked loose. Jourdan Lewis scooped it up and returned it for a 63-yard touchdown. Jones left the night as the lone leader in the NFL with 8 fumbles.

    NYG loses, 37-18.

    QUARTERBACK

    -Daniel Jones: 26/41 – 210 yards – 1 TD / 1 INT – 74.2 QBR. Jones also added a team-high 54 yards on the ground via 6 carries. Jones lost 2 fumbles, one of which was on a passing attempt, and threw an interception. It can be debated that that interception wasn’t solely on Jones, but at the end of the day he didn’t put it where it needed to be. Jones’ fumbles are going to lose games for this franchise if he doesn’t clean it up. While it may not be a big deal right now because expectations are so low, that can be a game changer and a season changer by itself. The guy who holds the ball the most can’t be giving it away like he is right now. His toughness and athletic ability did impress and he continues to show an even-keel approach, but those fumbles will end it for him and this team if it stays this way. Clean it up.

    RUNNING BACK

    -Saquon Barkley: 14 att / 28 yards – 6 rec / 67 yards. Don’t mistake the receiving line for anything impressive, one of those catches went for 65 yards. So his other 5 catches accrued 2 yards. That is actually hard to do if you think about it. As one of the biggest Barkley supporters during the 2018 draft, I will say this: Barkley is running soft and scared. Is it the fear of injury? Is it the offensive line? Is it being used to not getting to the line without defenders in his face? Or worse, is it him wanting to make it to his Zeke-contract, AKA avoid injury at all costs? I will give him credit for better blocking this week, much better, and the 65-yard gain was what this kid can do every time he touches the ball. But I want to see more grit in his game. Show it to me, kid. You haven’t accomplished that much yet.

    WIDE RECEIVER

    -Golden Tate: 6 rec / 42 yards – 1 rush / 16 yards. Tate caught all 6 of his targets, one of which was an incredible catch that he almost got into the end zone. I like how this guy competes and I can see why past fan bases of the teams he played on loved and hated him. Tate is who he is: a really good complimentary player but will never be THE guy. If anything, he may be best suited for the #3/#4 option on a good offense.

    -Cody Latimer made a big impact and had this team scored on just a couple more touchdowns of their multiple redzone opportunities, we may be talking about him more. He caught the lone NYG touchdown and returned two kicks to midfield. His separation as a route runner has been minimal but I do think there are things you can do with him. There is a ton of straight line athletic ability and he has proven he can make the tough catch.

    -Really poor night for the rookie Darius Slayton. He dropped a pass, allowed a TFL, and tracked the ball really poorly on the Jones interception. He could have been where the ball landed but he was late to turn and didn’t control his body well enough.

    TIGHT END

    -Evan Engram: 6 rec / 48 yards. Engram has regressed as a blocker. DAL has given him issues a few times in his young career, in particular DeMarcus Lawrence, but some of the tackles he allows are unacceptable. On a run to the opposite side, Engram’s man is coming across his face and still making the play. That isn’t a difficult assignment. Maybe TE should be elevated on the NYG needs list and Engram needs to be a wide receiver who, every now and then, starts the play on the line. Year 3 and he still stinks in there, that won’t change.

    OFFENSIVE LINE

    -Mike Remmers continues to show he can’t play right tackle in the NFL for a team that wants to compete. He allowed 2 sacks and 2 pressures. His run blocking received a below average grade and that adds up to, if you want to call it that, his second-worst grade of the year. He is regressing. Nate Solder actually had a decent game. He did allow a sack-fumble at the end, and he did allow a pressure, but he kept the blind side relatively quiet, in particular on the deep attempts.

    -Will Hernandez spent most of the night fighting the entire DAL defense. He relishes the role of personal protector and bodyguard, which is fine. It seemed to get a little over the top and I would much rather see him not allow a TFL and sack against an interior DAL defensive line that is average at best. Kevin Zeitler also allowed a sack late in the game, although he was solid otherwise.

    -Center Jon Halapio didn’t get any push against a defensive line that is known for being undersized. I’m not sure why he continues to get the nod even though I am not a fan of Spencer Pulley either. He just looks slow. DAL sent a couple long-developing stunts and blitzes right up the middle and he barely even acknowledged them. His reaction time isn’t good enough. I can’t imagine this OL going into 2020 with him on the roster.

    EDGE

    -Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden both had 1 TFL and 1 pressure each. Neither were able to come up big on 3rd down, which is always the time I am looking for them to step up. In fact, Golden got called for offsides on a 3rd-and-7 that moved DAL up 5 yards which they converted. Carter was rangy against the run but he was far from stout. He and rookie Oshane Ximines were getting blown off the ball and easily moved, creating some of the massive running lanes Elliott was running through.

    DEFENSIVE TACKLE

    -In his first game with NYG, Leonard Williams not only got the start but was also on the field more than both B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson. He had 3 tackles and 2 pressures, including a solid hit on Prescott that was just after he threw the ball. He didn’t do much to standout and he did get washed out a couple times on big Elliott gains. The one thing I see with him that the others don’t have is the ability to create on his own. Williams can bend, run, turn, and burst better than any of the other down linemen. I can see the attraction in him. Time will tell if he can turn it into consistent production.

    -B.J. Hill appears to be the odd man out when it comes to playing time. He was on the field for about a quarter of the plays. Interesting to see but I think it has more to do with his position more so than his performance. Dalvin Tomlinson was in at the nose and they have repeatedly said that is a spot they just don’t want to see Hill play.

    -Dexter Lawrence already looks to be the leader of the defensive line. From a performance and emotional standpoint, he is rising and rising as the year goes. He had 2 tackles and a QB hit. I re-watched him specifically to see if he was a culprit for Elliott running wild and he played just fine, it had more to do with the linebackers (again) and inconsistent play from Tomlinson.

    LINEBACKER

    Alec Ogletree continues to be one of the most inconsistent players on this defense. He had 6 tackles and 1 missed attempt. But his play in coverage was tight and slow, as was David Mayo. These guys are attacked on 3rd down and neither are showing the ability to cover laterally. It is pretty easy to exploit and when a good offense needs to make something happen, they are easy targets.

    -Deone Buccanon saw his playing time uptick a bit from last week, but he didn’t make much of an impact. Just one tackle and he allowed 2 receptions.

    CORNERBACK

    -Janoris Jenkins will take heat for the missed tackles and he should, but lets not act surprised here. His tackling has been a weak point since the day he signed with NYG. In addition, I don’t know many corners who would have been able to tackle Jarwin on that touchdown.

    -Deandre Baker had a pretty typical night for a rookie. He was picked on early because of how much cushion he gave on the quick slant routes, then made a couple plays on the ball where his ball tracking and aggressiveness were on point, and then was beat deep and both mentally and physically when the game was on the line. More of the same with Baker, a kid who is trying to learn on the fly. It is easy to tell there are mental lapses that are inhibiting his physical ability.

    -Corey Ballentine got the snaps at nickel and he moved really well. I like the speed he brings to the table and he has more size than Grant Haley. One of the things we can really keep an eye on in the next seven weeks is how well he can keep it together and improve, as it could cross off a need for the 2020 offseason.

    SAFETY

    -A quick look at the box score and one will think Antoine Bethea had a good game. Interception / fumble recovery / 9 tackles. Well, the interception was (literally) thrown right at him because Prescott didn’t know he was there, fumble recoveries are often luck-based, and the tackles don’t include his 2 misses and poor angles.

    -Jabrill Peppers was a stud in this one. The up-and-down player had 12 tackles, a pass breakup, and a forced fumble. I’ll say this about Peppers, his versatility and value is overlooked because of how bad this team is. He brings a lot to the table and if this team were better elsewhere, I think many would be pointing to how much he impacts the game.

    SPECIAL TEAMS

    -K Aldrick Rosas: 4/4 (Made 21, 25, 26, 29). Rosas also missed an extra point, his second of the year.

    -P Riley Dixon: 3 Punts – 47.3 avg / 39.3 net

    -Cody Latimer returned 6 kicks for 181 yards

    3 STUDS

    -S Jabrill Peppers, WR Cody Latimer, WR Golden Tate

    3 DUDS

    -OT Mike Remmers, WR Darius Slayton, LB David Mayo

    3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

    1. It’s hard not to admire what Ezekiel Elliott brings to the table. I don’t love who he is off the field but this guy balls as well as anyone in the league. He is so dependable as a runner with the way he runs with a forward lean, falls forward, and breaks through initial contact. But what I admire most about him is how dominant he is as a blocker and how consistent he is as a pass catcher. Barkley could learn a thing or seven from really studying his game.
    1. One assistant coach in the league who doesn’t get enough publicity in regard to future head coaching gigs is the DAL assistant defensive coordinator, Kris Richard. He was on the SEA staff when they were dominating the NFC and he has the kind of persona that really gets to the players and brings out the best. All of this talk about offense and getting a fresh voice for Daniel Jones can make you overlook a guy like Richard, someone who I think can be the next Mike Tomlin.
    1. How far can DAL go? Are they in the class of the NFC discussion? Other than PHI, they haven’t beat anyone good. Their other wins are against WAS and MIA, with losses to playoff contenders NO and GB. I think they are a playoff team, but I don’t trust them against a legit opponent. I still question their pass rush and Prescott still needs to prove himself in the biggest moments.

    3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

    1. I don’t want to talk down on Barkley. As most of you know, I was the first and biggest supporter of drafting him early back in 2018. But I have to say the poor offensive line, the ankle injury, and his desire to score a touchdown every play is making his game a lot worse than what we saw last year. He can’t control the injury and the line, but he does need to improve his own performance. He is playing soft. There is no denying it. That can’t happen.
    1. Speaking of Barkley, how come NYG is the only team with a dynamic back like this that can’t seem to get him the ball in space? Go watch CAR, LAR, NO, MIN…and see how they get their dynamic backs the ball in several different spots on the field to maximize their talents. Barkley is at his best when there is plenty of green around him, yet the vast majority, borderline all touches, are either runs between the tackles and little dump offs/screens. Why not triangle route concepts? Why not up the seam? Why not slants from the slot? Maybe the situations make it tough, but Pat Shurmur you are an offensive-minded head coach being paid millions of dollars. Figure it out.
    1. Evan Engram is injured again. There is no denying the talent and upside he brings to the table and there are things he can do that no other tight end can. But at what point do you say he doesn’t fit the offense because of his poor blocking? At what point do you say now is the time to trade him and get back real value? He can be had at a very reasonable price because he won’t be an unrestricted free agent until 2022. Some team that runs a different offense could get a lot out of him for 2 years. I don’t like shipping out real talent like this, but guys, he hurts this offense as much as he helps it and now he can’t stay healthy? Something to ponder.
    Nov 052019
     
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    Pat Shurmur, New York Giants (November 4, 2019)

    Pat Shurmur – © USA TODAY Sports

    DALLAS COWBOYS 37 – NEW YORK GIANTS 18…
    It was a close game for a while, but the Dallas Cowboys pulled away late to defeat the New York Giants 37-18 on Monday night at MetLife Stadium. The Giants fell to 2-7 on the season, losing their fifth game in a row and sixth straight game to the Cowboys.

    The key takeaway from this game was the Giants’ ineptitude in the red zone, as New York settled for short field goals on 4-of-5 trips inside the 20-yard line. The Cowboys also out-gained the Giants in total net yards (429 to 271), net yards rushing (172 to 100), and net yards passing (257 to 171).

    On the game’s first snap from scrimmage, free safety Antoine Bethea intercepted Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott at the 15-yard line, returning the ball to the 8-yard line. Unfortunately, the Giants settled for a 21-yard field goal to go up 3-0 early. The Cowboys tied the game at 3-3 on their second possession by driving the ball 58 yards in 11 plays to set up a 35-yard field goal.

    The Giants went three-and-out on their second possession. Although the Cowboys picked up 38 yards and three first downs on their third drive, they missed a 54-yard field goal attempt. The Giants responded with a 10-play, 56-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-goal from quarterback Daniel Jones to wide receiver Cody Latimer. However, place kicker Aldrick Rosas missed his second extra point of the season. The Giants led 9-3.

    After the Cowboys picked up two first downs and 44 yards, the Giants got the ball back when strong safety Jabrill Peppers forced a fumble after at short pass to wide receiver Randall Cobb that Bethea recovered at the New York 20-yard line. The Giants then drove 73 yards in 12 plays, but once again were forced to settle for a short field goal, this time from 25 yards out. Nevertheless, with 2:50 left in the half, the Giants surprisingly led 12-3.

    At this point, the game turned against New York. The Cowboys easily drove 75 yards in six plays, capping the drive with a 42-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to tight end Blake Jarwin, who has scored five of his six career touchdowns against New York. Giants 12 – Cowboys 10.

    It got worse for the Giants before halftime. Facing a 3rd-and-10 from their own 26-yard line with 39 seconds left, Jones’ deep pass intended for wide receiver Darius Slayton was intercepted and returned 29 yards to the New York 39-yard line. Although the Cowboys only gained five yards, it was enough to set up a successful 52-yard field goal.

    At the half, Dallas led 13-12.

    Latimer returned the opening kickoff of the 3rd quarter 50 yards to the New York 48-yard line. Despite this great field position, the Giants could only pick up one first down and then punted. After a three-and-out by the Cowboys, Dallas got the ball right back when Daniel Jones fumbled the ball away after scrambling for a first down on 3rd-and-6. Dallas recovered near midfield and drove deep into Giants’ territory, but were forced to settle for a 28-yard field goal. Cowboys 16 – Giants 12.

    Latimer returned the ensuing kickoff 41 yards to the New York 48-yard line. The Giants once again drove inside the 20-yard line, setting up a 1st-and-10 from the 13, but settled for yet another short field goal, this time from 26 yards out. Dallas now led 16-15 as the quarter neared completion.

    The Cowboys went up 23-15 early in the 4th quarter after a 9-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to wide receiver Michael Gallup. A huge 65-yard gain by running back Saquon Barkley on a screen pass set up the Giants at the Cowboys’ 11-yard line. New York could get no closer and kicked a 29-yard field goal. Cowboys 23 – Giants 18.

    A pivotal moment came on the ensuing Cowboys’ drive. Cornerback Deandre Baker was flagged with a questionable 26-yard pass interference penalty on a 3rd-and-6 incomplete pass from the Dallas 15-yard line. Six plays later, on 3rd-and-12, wide receiver Amari Cooper was left wide open down the middle of the defense on a 45-yard scoring play that put Dallas up 30-18 with eight minutes left to play.

    Both teams exchanged punts. The Giants got the ball back with 4:18 left to play in the game. A far-too-slow 2-minute drill ended up taking almost four minutes off of the clock. With 22 seconds left in the game, Jones was sacked while he was in the throwing motion, the loose ball was recovered by the Cowboys and returned 63 yards for a touchdown with just six seconds left in the game.

    Daniel Jones completed 26-of-41 passes for 210 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He also fumbled twice and was the team’s leading rusher with 54 yards on six carries. Jones’ leading targets were Barkley (6 catches for 67 yards), tight end Evan Engram (6 catches for 48 yards), and wide receiver Golden Tate (6 catches for 42 yards). Barkley was held to a paltry 28 yards rushing on 14 carries. The Giants allowed five sacks.

    The defense did not accrue a sack. The Giants picked off one pass and recovered one fumble.

    Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

    INACTIVES AND INJURY REPORT…
    WR Sterling Shepard (concussion), QB Alex Tanney, OT Eric Smith, OT/OG Chad Slade, DE R.J. McIntosh, LB Chris Peace, and LB Devante Downs were inactive.

    Shepard was originally expected to play but suffered a setback. “He practiced fully this week and was limited with no contact the two weeks before that,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur in a written statement on Sunday. “He told (Senior Vice President Medical Services/Head Athletic Trainer) Ronnie (Barnes) last evening (Saturday) he didn’t feel well and was sent for examination and evaluation. When he arrived for work this morning, he still did not feel well. At that point, the decision was made to continue in the concussion protocol.”

    Shepard has suffered two concussions this season, one in the opener against the Cowboys and another in early October against the Vikings.

    POST-GAME REACTION…
    Transcripts of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Pat Shurmur and the following players are available in The Corner Forum:

    WHAT’S UP NEXT…
    Head Coach Pat Shurmur will address the media by conference call on Tuesday.

    Nov 022019
     
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    Markus Golden, New York Giants (September 8, 2019)

    Markus Golden – © USA TODAY Sports

    Game Preview: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, November 4, 2019

    THE STORYLINE

    The 2019 New York Giants season is already all but officially over by the midway point. Again. With eight games left in another abysmal campaign, you’re going to keep hearing me harp on the following:

    The Giants will not become a playoff contender again until:

    1. The defense gets MUCH better.
    2. The offensive line gets MUCH better.
    3. The coaching staff gets MUCH better.
    4. Management does a MUCH better job in free agency.

    These four areas have been an issue for years, outside a brief defensive blip in 2016. The abysmal drafting performance of the Giants for much of the past decade was #1 on the list, but current management appears to be doing better in that area. However, when it comes to evaluating pro personnel already in the league, Dave Gettleman and Company have been dreadful. In the past two years, they have signed Kareem Martin, Nate Solder, Patrick Omameh, Curtis Riley, Cody Latimer, Connor Barwin, Jonathan Stewart, Nate Stupar, Antoine Bethea, Rod Smith, among many others already forgotten. And let’s not forget trading for Jabrill Peppers and Alec Ogletree. Signing Golden Tate (who was given a $37.5 million contract) and Markus Golden doesn’t offset all of those mistakes. Fingers are crossed that the Giants didn’t just blow two picks on Leonard Williams.

    One of the reasons I bring this up is the Giants will have over $60 million in cap space in 2020. That sounds like a lot. And it is. But also keep in mind there will be other teams with even more cap space than the Giants, so competition for a few good players will be very intense and price tags could get ridiculous quickly. Two or three horrific Nate Solder-like contracts could screw the Giants for years. The Giants have to dramatically improve their ability evaluate pro personnel.

    THE INJURY REPORT

    • WR Sterling Shepard (concussion)
    • CB Grant Haley (knee)
    • CB Corey Ballentine (concussion)

    NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE

    The focus remains the development of Daniel Jones. After a few rough games, he bounced back with his second 300-yard game of his young career and threw for four touchdowns. I keep saying it, but his progress won’t be linear. Expect ups and downs, especially this week as the New York Giants offensive line appears to be regressing and the Dallas Cowboys have one of the most formidable defensive front sevens in football.

    Nate Solder has turned into a train wreck. In addition, the Giants once again misjudged their center position. Some of the offensive line breakdowns appear to be due to Jon Halapio not making the correct line calls. Will Hernandez has not taken the step forward that was anticipated and Kevin Zeitler may be playing hurt. Mike Remmers has been better than Chad Wheeler, but not by much. ONCE AGAIN, the Giants are going into an offseason desperate to find MULTIPLE new starters on the offensive line. It seems like the Giants just keep spinning their wheels here. I hope some of the back-ups see some time before the end of the season.

    Three players to watch are Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton. Barkley seems a bit out of it. Focus on the fundamentals (i.e., pass protection) and don’t try to make every play a highlight run. The big plays will come to him if he settles down. It will also be interesting to see if Shepard plays with more caution after suffering his second concussion this year. Will he be the same aggressive player catching balls over the middle and blocking for his teammates? Other than Jones, Slayton has been one of the few reasons to watch this year. But he needs to be more consistent and productive throughout the entire game in order to reach the next level.

    NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE

    The last time these two teams faced, the Cowboys scored 35 points in three quarters before calling off the dogs in the fourth quarter or Dallas may have scored 50 points. Dak Prescott only threw seven incompletions. Wide outs Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper, and Randall Cobb combined for 17 catches, 333 yards, and two touchdowns. And, ONCE AGAIN, Cowboys’ tight ends hurt the Giants, this time with another two touchdowns. The Giants couldn’t get any heat on Prescott. Deandre Baker, Antonio Hamilton, Grant Haley, the linebackers, and safeties were abused. And this was with Ezekiel Elliott coming off of holdout and not yet in game shape.

    I keep hearing fans and media types saying that James Bettcher has nothing to work with. Yes, there are talent issues on this defense, but the Giants have also given Bettcher a lot of toys to play with, many of which, he undoubtedly lobbied for. They have spent a #1, #2, and #3 on the defensive line, and now have added former #1 Leonard Williams. The Giants also traded for two other #1 picks in Jabrill Peppers and Alec Ogletree. Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines were both #3 picks. The Giants brought in former Cardinal “security blankets” Kareem Martin (now on IR), Deone Bucannon (another former #1), Olsen Pierre, Markus Golden (former #2), and Antoine Bethea. In the secondary, the Giants have two #1 picks starting (Peppers and Deandre Baker) and a former #2 pick who has been an All-Pro (Janoris Jenkins).

    And yet this defense is once again near the bottom of the NFL. Enter Leonard Williams. All eyes will be on him.

    NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

    Aldrick Rosas has now missed an extra point and two of his six field goal attempts. Not good.

    FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH

    There may be a few more expletives from Coach Shurmur after this game is over.

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Cowboys have the NFL’s #1 offense and #8 defense. They have won 11 of the last 14 games against the Giants, and five straight against the Giants. The Giants are 3-6 in their last nine Monday night games. The Giants are a missed field goal away from being 1-7 and are officially vying with the Redskins, Dolphins, Falcons, Bengals, and Jets for worst team in the NFL.

    Other than that, everything is peachy.

    Sep 092019
     
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    At Least There Was Something Worth Looking At – © USA TODAY Sports

    Dallas Cowboys 35 – New York Giants 17

    QUICK RECAP

    For the fourth time in five years, Big Blue traveled to Dallas to kick off the regular season. That in and of itself is exceptionally odd but that can be a discussion for another time. The Giants changed their culture and roster nearly as much as any organization in pro football. Gone is arguably the top play-maker in franchise history, gone is arguably their top pass rusher, and in comes a real offensive line and surrounding cast who supports the kind of team that can revolve around their generational talent at running back, Saquon Barkley. This season has a fresh new feel to it and week 1 was as anticipated as its been in awhile.

    That anticipation and dare-I-say optimism was rewarded early. The Giants forced a DAL punt on the first drive and proceeded to march down the field and get in the end zone via just 7 plays. The main-gain was a 59-yard run by Barkley through a wide open hole and speedy scamper down the left sideline. Manning hit Evan Engram for a 1-yard score that gave NYG their first, and last, lead of the game, 7-0.

    DAL had a dominant offensive day and the warning signs were present on the very next drive. They converted two straight 3rd-and-4’s via the passing game near or inside the hashmarks, a glaring hole that was exposed all day in the NYG swiss-cheese defense. Dak Prescott hit tight end Blake Jarwin up the middle for a 28-yard touchdown without a defender anywhere near him. The Giants have had issues covering the position for years and most in particular against DAL. Let’s not forget that Jarwin was the no-namer last year that scored 3 touchdowns against NYG in week 17. Funny how some things simply do not change.

    The refs didn’t do NYG any favors in this one and perhaps the biggest miss was an intentional grounding called on Eli Manning on the following drive. Manning was clearly hit while throwing by the untouched blitzing linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, which prevented the ball from reaching the line of scrimmage. This penalty took NYG out of field goal range and forced a punt.

    DAL opened the 2nd quarter with a 9-play drive that saw Prescott go 7/7 – 95 yards – with a touchdown to Jason Witten. No you aren’t reading a repeat game review from years ago. The 2018 Monday Night Football announcer, in his first game back from retirement, scored his 16th career touchdown against NYG. He doesn’t have 10 total against any other team in the NFL. DAL took a 14-7 lead and they were just getting started. NYG went 3-and-out on the next drive before DAL put together a 13-play, 6:43-game clock drive that ended in Prescott’s third touchdown of the game, this time to Amari Cooper who burned rookie Deandre Baker. All of the sudden halftime was here, DAL was up 14 after having the ball for nearly twice as long as NYG.

    The Giants began the second half with the ball and crossed midfield quickly. They were faced with a 4th-and-8 and contrary to what Pat Shurmur opted for in the past, they went for it. That resulted in a conversion via a nice pitch-and-catch to Bennie Fowler but they were unable to create much more. Aldrick Rosas came on to nail his first field goal of the year, a 28-yarder to make the score 21-10.

    NYG defense needed to show they could make the halftime adjustment and set the tone. The result? A 45-yard pass to Amari Cooper. A 5-yard run by Ezekiel Elliot. A 25-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb that looked like a practice play on air. “On air” means no defense on the field. Nobody even looked at Cobb running his route up the middle of the field, let alone tried to cover him.

    NYG was down by 18, albeit with plenty of time on the clock. They made it to the DAL 8 yard line and it was 3rd-and-2. At this point they were in a go-for-the-touchdown mode no matter what. The play call on 3rd-and-2 was a run to fullback Elijhaa Penny. They gained 1 yard. The 4th-and-1 call was a rollout passing play that resulted in Manning not getting rid of the ball, trying to juke 3 DAL defenders, and getting sacked while fumbling the ball. Barkley didn’t touch the ball on either play.

    DAL starting deep in their own territory (89 yards away from the end zone), needed just 7 plays to put another 7 points on the board. Deeply aided by a 62-yard pass to WR Michael Gallup, up the middle yet again, Elliot dragged two NYG defenders into the end zone on a 10-yard touchdown run. It was 35-10 at the end of the 3rd quarter.

    The two teams traded a few possessions after that without anything noteworthy taking place. The Giants scored a touchdown via a Wayne Gallman 2-yard run in the classic too-little, too-late situation. Daniel Jones then got his first NFL regular season action on their next drive. He completed 3-of-4 attempts before scrambling and fumbling, a reoccurring theme we saw out of him in preseason. DAL re-took the ball and confirmed their win.

    Giants lose 35-17.

    QUARTERBACK

    • Eli Manning: 30/44 – 306 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. Manning also lost a fumble on a 4th-and-1 passing attempt, a turnover either way. Manning’s overall performance was not a poor one. He protected the ball and made a few big-time throws to both the intermediate and deep levels. He was sacked just once in this one and for the most part, had a pretty clean pocket to work with. The issues with Manning may not have been obvious in the initial look, but after watching this again he made a few major mistakes. When NYG was down 28-10, there was just a crack-in-the-door left in terms of hope. On that drive, Manning was about to have Barkley run past safety Xavier Woods with no safety help over the top. It would have been an easy, long touchdown pass. Instead, Manning got rid of it too fast and ended up hitting Barkley in the back. Later in the drive, Manning had a 4th-and-1 play-action rollout where there was nothing to lose. The initial read was Sterling Shepard, who was running along the goal line more than open enough. Manning hesitated, again, and held onto the ball with multiple DAL defenders closing in on him. The cement-footed QB did his best version of a juke but it resulted in a sack-fumble. A turnover. He has to know by now that in a situation where you are down 18 in the second half and you are that close to the end zone, you have to throw it. Even a blind, toss-it-up-and-hope-for-the-best throw would have been better than holding onto it. Manning’s reaction time, his sluggish movement on long-developing screen plays, and underlying fear to make things happen are going to get him on the bench at some point.

    RUNNING BACK

    • Saquon Barkley: 11 att / 120 yards – 4 rec / 19 yards. Barkley averaged 11 yards per carry, including a 59-yard highlight-reel play on the first drive. His vision, grit, and balance stood out in this one. He did fumble on the first touch of the game, the first fumble of his career, but luckily it did not result in a turnover. Barkley wasn’t used enough and Manning’s misread on the pass that hit him in the back would have likely ended in a long touchdown. More on this team misusing him later on.
    • Wayne Gallman: 2 att / 17 yards / 1 TD – 3 rec / 24 yards. Gallman picked up some garbage stats when DAL was up 35-10 in the 4th quarter. Still a solid showing for the underrated backup.

    WIDE RECEIVER

    • Cody Latimer: 3 rec / 74 yards. Latimer was on the receiving end of the longest, and second-longest passing gains of the game for the Giants. His one-handed reception at the beginning of the first half that resulted in 43 yards was yet another reminder that there is something here that NYG has to exploit. The triangle numbers are there and his ball skills continue to improve. At some point, the eyebrow-raising ball skills and propensity to finish need credit. And by credit, I mean a more consistent dosage of opportunities. He was also interfered with twice but the refs opted to keep the flag in their pants
    • Sterling Shepard and Bennie Fowler combined for 11 rec / 84 yards. Fowler made arguably the nicest catch of the night on 4th-and-8 where he fully extended up and out while approaching the sideline, and was able to tap both feet in bounds as he completed the dive towards the ground.

    TIGHT END

    • Evan Engram: 11 rec / 116 yards / 1 TD. There has been chatter revolving around Engram taking over the #1 pass-catcher role in this offense with Beckham out of the picture. If week 1 is the indicator, be ready for a top-3 season at the position in the NFL. Engram was targeted 14 times on all levels and he looks just as explosive as he ever has. He also made the key block on Barkley’s 59-yard run in the first quarter.
    • Rhett Ellison and Eric Tomlinson played sparingly, with Ellison still holding onto the main number-2 TE role. He made a few nice inside blocks on the move to spring Barkley free from the initial trash at the point-of-attack. Otherwise, a quiet game.

    OFFENSIVE LINE

    • Overall, the increase in overall quality of the group was apparent from the beginning. The left side was solid in the run game especially. Nate Solder and Will Hernandez were powerful and effective off the snap. Hernandez got flagged for a hold (the interior pass rush again) but Solder kept the blindside under control for the most part besides one pressure where he lost his balance.
    • Jon Halapio has been highly-touted by Pat Shurmur, a former center himself, for a couple years now. And besides one pressure from a very unorthodox stunt where DE DeMarcus Lawrence looped all the way to the center of the line, he was dominant. Halapio was clearing inside running lanes by himself and perhaps the most impressive block of the entire game came from him 10+ yards downfield near the sideline on a screen-type pass to Engram. He tossed his man multiple yards into the air, which allowed another few yards of gain. He was the highest-graded NYG lineman.
    • The right side was solid inside with Kevin Zeitler, not so much outside with Mike Remmers. The latter allowed 2 pressures, was blown up twice in the running game that ended up causing TFLs, and was flagged for a false start.

    DEFENSIVE LINE

    • The trio of Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, and Dexter Lawrence is a group to get excited about when it comes to run defense. They occupied multiple blockers all game and they did their part in keeping Ezekiel Elliot under wraps (4.1 yards per carry is under his 4.7 career average). But one thing about the three of them, they didn’t make plays and I wouldn’t expect much more out of them. Hill did break through the line a few times. The trio combined for 7 tackles, 0 pressures, 0 sacks.
    • Olsen Pierre actually played two more snaps than Lawrence. That is likely a result of him knowing the scheme a bit more and he can offer more as a pass rusher. At the same time, perhaps Lawrence hasn’t quite yet earned it or his lack of conditioning is still an issue? Pierre and fellow backup R.J. McIntosh were quiet for the most part.

    EDGE

    • Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter saw the most snaps off the edge. Carter recorded 1 pressure and broke up a pass downfield but was otherwise quiet. Golden saw nearly 80% of the snaps so he was on the field, but he may as well been on the sideline. His attempts at rushing the passer were, to be kind, rusty.
    • Rookie Oshane Ximines saw a decent amount of action in is NFL debut, as Kareem Martin left the game with a knee injury. Ximines got violently introduced to the league by Tyron Smith, who remains in the discussion for the top OT in football. Ximines showed some fight, however, which was nice to see. He lost outside contain on a 3rd-down rushing play, as he just wasn’t able to recover after being fooled by misdirection. It resulted in a first down.

    LINEBACKER

    • Maybe Alec Ogletree is still hurt? Maybe he is rusty from all of the practice and preseason action he missed? But the perennial up-and-down player was downright awful in this one. Stats aside (6 tackles and a PD), Ogletree was downright abused by play-action. For the leader of the defense, he sure seemed like he had no idea what DAL was trying to do nor did he show any awareness or reaction to what was going on around him.
    • I like how they swapped Tae Davis and Ryan Connelly in and out. I’m not going to call for a lineup change right now, but those two were the best LBs that NYG had on the field in this one. Davis had 3 tackles and a pressure but still makes aggressive mistakes. I would still rather live with those than the other way around, though. Connelly finished with 2 tackles and a TFL, with the TFL being arguably the best defensive play of the night stemming from instincts, reaction, and closing ability.

    CORNERBACK

    • Janoris Jenkins was probably the top NYG defender on the night. He had 5 tackles (3 of which were against the run) and DAL rarely looked his way when passing.
    • The reason for that? Antonio Hamilton and rookie Deandre Baker were on the field. They were absolutely toyed with, torched, beaten…whatever else you want to throw in there…all night. It was ugly and it never got better and there weren’t any positives that came from it. Hamilton was being targeted nearly-non stop but he also missed 3 tackles. One of which was on a 3rd-and-9 pass to Randall Cobb five yards shy of the first down marker. Hamilton had Cobb in front of him, sideline next to him, both hands on, and Cobb barely had to try to get right past him and past the marker. DAL scored a touchdown on the next play to make the score 14-7.
    • Grant Haley, the nickel, was just a hair too late on several occasions no matter where the ball was thrown. The nickel spot is as important as any DB position on the field these days and his feel-good, UDFA-story is wearing off. He isn’t making plays.

    SAFETY

    • A sore spot on this defense for a while now. Week 1 didn’t seem any better and if anything, it may have been even worse than what we saw last year. Antoine Bethea has had an overly-impressive career. But the 35-year old who the 20th-ranked IND defense didn’t want after 2013, the 32nd-ranked SF defense didn’t want after 2016, and the 20th-ranked ARI defense didn’t want after 2018 is now starting for NYG. He was fooled, very badly, nearly every time DAL showed misdirection. The play-action fakes had him running in the wrong direction as wide open pass catchers (both tight ends and wide receivers alike) trotted right by him almost as if it was a joke. The worst play of the night was the 62-yard gain to WR Michael Gallup via a short slant pass where Bethea took an awful angle to the action but was still within a yard or two of Gallup when he caught the ball. He simply didn’t have the twitch to just touch him, let alone make a tackle. It was atrocious.
    • Jabrill Peppers and Michael Thomas won’t escape this without blame. They too looked overly stiff and out of position. They are both aggressive, physical defenders but neither showed the ability to forecast and react. By the time they knew what DAL was doing, by the time they were actually moving in the right direction, it was too late. You can be sure future opponents are going to watch this game tape and salivate over their inability to read-and-react.

    SPECIAL TEAMS

    • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 28) – 2/2 XP.
    • P Riley Dixon: 4 punts – 41.5 avg – 41.5 net – 3 inside 20

    3 STUDS

    • RB Saquon Barkley, OC Jon Halapio, TE Evan Engram

    3 DUDS

    • S Antoine Bethea, CB Antonio Hamilton, EDGE Markus Golden

    3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

    1. Michael Gallup. The number 1 graded WR on my draft board in 2018. The WR who I said will out-produce Amari Cooper in the coming years starting right now. Be afraid of this kid, guys. His combination of speed, agility/looseness, ball skills, and knack for special awareness can make him a household NFL name.
    1. Should they pay Dak Prescott? Or do they have possibly the best possible situation around him that makes him seem better than he really is? I think a valid argument can be made either way but the truth is simple. This team is 32-16 with him as the starter and there isn’t a position in football that messes with team chemistry more than QB. Maybe Zeke is more responsible for their and his success than anything, maybe it is the OL, maybe it is the improving young defense. But messing around with QB could damn then for a long time. Pay him.
    1. Pretty quiet night for the DAL pass rush. I think that is still the question with this team and whether or not they can make a big push in the postseason. DeMarcus Lawrence is legit, but who else is getting through a quality offensive line? At this moment in time, I don’t see that guy yet. And they won’t be able to purchase anyone in the near future.

    3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

    1. 158.3 – The perfect passer rating. The Giants defense was fully healthy. They had two new safeties. They had a 1st-round pick at corner and a 1st-round pick at DT. They contained the running game for the most part. However Dak Prescott put together one of the best passing performances, maybe even THE best, in DAL franchise history. There are bad games and every defense is allowed to have them. But “bad” doesn’t do just how poor this was. It was an embarrassment and to be honest, DAL shot themselves in the foot via penalties by OG Zack Martin (who rarely commits penalties) and drops. This could have been so much worse, if you have the stomach to imagine that.
    1. 3rd-and1. 3rd-and-2. 4th-and-1. Three situations where NYG was losing and the game was starting to slip out of their grasp. Saquon Barkley, whom ended up averaging over 10 yards per carry (best in the NFL week 1 for backs with 7+ touches), Saquon Barkley, whom is a “generational talent”, Saquon Barkley, whom has this offense built around, did not touch the ball on any of those plays. Two passes and a hand off to the fullback. Those 3 plays resulted in a gain of 1 yard and a turnover. I can understand and respect that you can’t be too predictable, that you need to put other things on tape. But when your struggling offense needs to make things happen and your best player is literally dominating every time he touches the ball, give him the ball. “Keep it simple, stupid.”
    1. You can’t think of many worse ways to start off a year but at least the offense showed the ability to make some plays. Barkley, Engram, and Latimer raised a few eyebrows. The offensive line was stout and consistent. The ship isn’t completely broken but the defensive side of it needs to at least look like a pro unit against BUF next week at home. If something like this happens against Josh Allen and company, let’s start talking 2020 NFL Draft.