Daniel Jones: 15/28 – 104 yards / 0 TD – 2 INT / 32.4 RAT
Jones also ran the ball 13 times and gained 43 yards on the ground. He fumbled twice, neither of which were recovered by DAL. It was a night to forget for too many reasons to count. Part of the expectation after signing the 4 year / $160 Million contract this offseason includes him playing better and creating more with what he is given. Jones was under pressure the entire night, he dealt with poor snaps in the shotgun that threw off timing and ball security, and it was wet. Add that to the fact he played against one of the top defenses in football and it all adds up to facing a wall. How did Jones respond to that wall? Did he scale it? Did he at least put a dent in it? No, he did not. The first interception was not on him, as Saquon Barkley should have held on to that ball. The second interception? The near-third? All on Jones and the play where he was running out of bounds and threw it back into traffic where more DAL defenders than NYG targets were, on first down, was about as bad as it gets. We saw Bryce Young and CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson make those mistakes in their rookie debuts. Jones, a fifth year-veteran and $40 million quarterback absolutely cannot make that mistake.
A shutout cannot be solely placed on Jones’ shoulders. There are multiple components that led to one of the worst Week 1 losses the NFL has ever seen. But 0 points? Missed throws? Bad decisions? The same bad decisions he needs to be past by now? There are lot of people in this organization that need to look themselves in the mirror. Jones is, without question, one of them. Poor performance and not halfway up to par for a $40 million QB.
Saquon Barkley: 12 att – 51 yards / 3 rec – 12 yards
Barkley was charged with a drop (that turned into a Jones interception / pick six for the defense). It could have been charged a fumble. Either way, a major blow to the offense and team overall as it put seven points on the board for Dallas. Beyond that, Barkley looked solid early on pushing piles and putting his shoulder down. The issue I have is what he left on the field. I watched the game from the end zone and he had three different runs where the cutback lane was there, and he did not take it. The best-vision backs can anticipate those lanes, the good-vision backs can react to those lanes. The poor-vision backs never see it. Barkley went 0-for-3 there.
-Matt Breida added 9 yards on 2 carries and Gary Brightwell saw time late when things were out of hand, gaining 5 yards on his lone carry.
-It was a tough game to evaluate the wide receiver play between the weather and the time available in the passing game. Most of the Jones drop backs did not even allow the receivers to get into their routes. Darius Slayton had 3 rec / 15 yards, Paris Campbell had one catch for 2 yards and a drop, and Isaiah Hodgins had 1 catch for 24 yards that resulted in a lost fumble. Those were the receivers who played the most. As much as we discuss better targets in the arsenal for Jones and the offense, it still looks like an underwhelming group, does it not?
-Jalin Hyatt had one target in his debut, a poor throw by Jones but it should have been brought in by the rookie. He dropped a ball that hit both his hands and that was the last we saw of him. The league is already fearful of the speed. DAL corner Trevon Diggs was providing a lot of space underneath on routes when he was on Hyatt to protect from getting beat over the top. Unfortunately, Hyatt’s true impact will only be felt when the line does its job.
-Darren Waller: 3 rec – 36 yards
-Waller led the team in yards and targets, playing just over half the snaps. He was on a pitch count because of an aggravated hamstring, something to monitor. This is not the first time. He made two nice hand-grabs on balls away from his body. On the opening drive, Waller was going to be targeted on the 3rd-and-2 false start by Andrew Thomas. It was set up well for an easy touchdown. They are doing a lot to get him open underneath and over the middle. The few times he lined up with his hand in the dirt and was asked to block did not go well. He was the reason NYG failed a 3rd-and-2 conversion attempt on a Jones outside run. That isn’t why he is here, but for this offense to remain efficient with two tight ends on the field in the running game, he needs to show more there.
-Daniel Bellinger played almost two-thirds of the team’s offensive snaps, most on the team for the position. He did not receive a single target and graded poorly as a blocker. He allowed a sack to Demarcus Lawrence on a play where he was tossed to the ground as if he were a 180-pound receiver, a complete non-factor. There was talk about his strength gains among many in the media because they saw a picture with his shirt sleeve rolled up and his bicep looked big. It does not work that way. Bellinger’s power in the trenches was a problem. He did not look effective in that role at all.
-Lawrence Cager got a few snaps toward the end of the game and brought in 2 catches for 17 yards.
-Tough to figure out where to start. The newly signed Andrew Thomas pulled his hamstring early (on the blocked field goal) and gutted out 53 snaps the rest of the game. He was clearly playing through a lot of pain and at the time of this writing, we are waiting on MRI results. Regarding the game itself, Thomas was not the reliable force that he was in 2022. The 3rd-and-2 false start was one of the biggest plays of the night. He was also flagged for hold that got declined and he allowed 3 pressures, one of which caused a sack, and a half-TFL. I applaud and respect the effort, but the performance itself was not up to par. Unfortunately, 65% of Thomas is better than 100% of anyone else they can put in at left tackle.
-Ben Bredeson and rookie John Michael Schmitz both played all 70 snaps, and both graded out well below average. Bredeson allowed a pressure and a TFL. He was also flagged for a holding penalty. While he is the top left guard on this team, he has too many snaps where he looks like he is better suited for the interior backup role. The lack of bend and adjustment speed are issues against a fast defense like this. He looks the part in the running game, and he gets movement off the ball, but I am concerned about any potential progress he can make as a pass blocker. Schmitz is a step behind the power component to pro tackles. He wound up getting pushed back 3-4 yards on plays he needed to get lateral. It completely threw off the vital timing variables to the outside zone NYG likes to use. He, too, was better in the power game going downhill.
-Now, we move on the right side. The combination of Mark Glowinski and Evan Neal in this game was the worst one-side performances I have seen, possibly ever, in my personal history of watching the Giants. Glowinski allowed 3 sacks (and had another called off by a penalty) and 4 pressures. The 31-year old was signed last year to give the team a solid, yet unspectacular, veteran presence who at least had a high floor. There is a hole in the floor. His knee bend was not there, and he is not a very big, powerful guy. He can’t afford to play with poor bend. Another game like that and he should be put on the bench. Absolutely atrocious game and clearly unacceptable.
-As for Evan Neal. I’ve been vocal about him being the most important player on offense not named Daniel Jones. NYG was dead last in the league in explosive passing plays in 2022. Chicago was better. Houston was better. Improved pieces are in place but if Evan Neal cannot be trusted to maintain pass protection for 3 seconds, maybe even 4, they will be near or at the bottom again. Week 1 was a nightmare result of the biggest variable in this discussion. 5 pressures, 2 sacks, and 1 TFL for the 7th overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. No injuries to lean on for an excuse. No new positions. No new schemes. No new coaching. Just bad football by a player who will run out of excuses by November if he keeps this up. Don’t ask about a move to guard right now. The question is how long he can hold on to a starting role if he does not improve. Year 2, you’re on notice.
-We saw backups Matt Peart and Joshua Ezeudu get on the field late. Peart played 4 snaps before getting injured and Ezeudu saw 14 snaps at left tackle, a position he played in college. Ezeudu’s biggest gaffe was the missed block that led to the blocked field goal. The ONE thing you cannot do as the outside blocker is allow an untouched defender go through inside. That’s exactly what he did, and the result was, well you know.
-Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari combined for 74 snaps, 36 of which were rushing the passer. There was not one pressure accrued from them. Thibodeaux added 4 tackles and played some solid run defense, but Ojulari did not factor there. The concern I have with the 5th overall pick from the 2022 NFL Draft, Thibodeaux, is the lack of power in his game. I discussed this during training camp last summer, I brought it up again during the season, and it is still worry number one. His anchor and sheer strength are a notch below average. You have almost no chance at being a big-time pass rusher without a power element to your game. Look around the league and you will see what I mean.
-Newly acquired Boogie Basham saw most of his snaps late in the game. He, too, did not apply any pressure and added just one tackle. He and Jihad Ward, the one edge defender who did get a pressure (literally one), are the same player. Stout and strong, but slow and limited.
-Dexter Lawrence began his year where he left off in January. The best player on this defense was a bright spot, finishing with 4 tackles and 4 pressures, 2 of which were QB hits. Leonard Williams added a pressure and 2 tackles. Something to keep an eye on is the snap share. Lawrence played 64% of the snaps, Williams 55%. While this game is not the best gauge for what to expect, I do foresee this being closer to the norm than what we saw in 2022 where they were playing 80-90% of the snaps week in, week out.
-The rotational pieces all showed what they can do, albeit lacking some consistency against the run. Jordon Riley had a TFL on an impressive play usually reserved for Lawrence. I continue to be impressed with his play at his size. Veterans Rakeem Nunez-Roches and A’Shawn Robinson both gathered 3 tackles. Robinson looked rustier than anything after not playing a single snap in preseason. Although it is hard to be optimistic about anything right now, the Giants defensive front can still be viewed as a strong unit, and they showed enough against DAL.
-During preseason, I discussed how big of a difference I felt Bobby Okereke can make for the Martindale scheme. While he was not close to the biggest issue in this loss, like what I said about expectations that are now on Daniel Jones because of the contract, a similar argument can be made about Okereke. He found himself on the wrong side of the blocks way too often. He had 5 tackles, and he did force a fumble on a downfield play (recovered by DAL), but re-watching the tape showed late movement and awareness. We can chalk it up to a new scheme and new surroundings, but he cannot have many more performances like that.
-Micah McFadden, on the other hand, came to play. He had 10 tackles, the team lead, one of which went for a loss and one coming on special teams. The inside linebacker spot next to Okereke has been a topic of discussion and McFadden tightened his choke hold on it.
-Potential difference maker Isaiah Simmons played exactly the amount I have projected he would. I said 15-20 snaps per game, he played 15 snaps. He rushed the passer on 6, he dropped into coverage on 5, and defended the run on 4. He finished with 1 tackle and looked good in coverage. He covers a ton of ground in a hurry.
-For the first time since 2008, a team opened week one with two rookies starting at outside corner. How did Deonte Banks and Tre Hawkins fare in their debuts? They were the two players on the defense that were flagged. Hawkins twice, one of which was a pass interference on a 3rd-and-12 stop that resulted in a 37-yard gain for the Dallas offense. He did finish with 7 tackles and showed a physical brand, which will be a difference maker, but his coverage looked grabby and unsure. Banks looked crisper and more confident with his technique and ability to read routes, but left the game early with cramps.
-Adoree’ Jackson’s debut as a starting nickel had mixed results. He was the biggest culprit on the longest play of the game, a 49-yard gain on a play where Jackson did not feel the unofficial pick coming and ended on the ground in man coverage against the Cowboys best receiver, a place you never want to be. Jackson’s ability is a solid, not great, fit for nickel. However, there are elements you have to deal with, such as traffic like he saw on that play, that he does not have a ton of experience with.
-Nick McCloud saw some action after Banks went down and Darnay Holmes played just 4 snaps. Neither made anything notable happen.
-Another bright spot can be the play of Xavier McKinney. He was on the field for all 58 snaps with 4 tackles and 2 pass breakups. He also showed some very smart play with chips on receivers that were crossing his face while he was moving downhill. I don’t see that often when watching safeties. It stems from incredible on-field IQ and fast reaction times. Jason Pinnock also played all 58 snaps, finishing with 5 tackles and a missed tackle.
-Dane Belton was the only other safety to play, and he was on the field for just 6 plays. He lost the edge on Tony Pollard’s second touchdown creating a walk-in.
-K Graham Gano: 0/1 (Missed 36)
-P Jamie Gillan: 3 Punts / 53.3 avg – 47.7 net
-S Xavier McKinney, LB Micah McFadden, DT Dexter Lawrence
-OG Mark Glowinski, OT Evan Neal, OLB Azeez Ojulari
3 THOUGHTS ON DAL
1. What made this Dallas defense so dominant? It is never one answer, it is never one player. But if you want the start of something that is too long-winded to write here, here you go. The speed and power of their front seven with Micah Parsons looking like he is on a different level than a year ago (which is potentially very bad news) is where I start. They did not do anything overly complex up front. Some stunts and twists, some blitzing, some alignment changes for #11. But it was not anything extreme, it was something we see often across multiple defenses. They simply beat NYG blockers to spots over and over. And the few times those blockers engaged resulted in physical beat downs. Tough to compete with a defense that is both faster and stronger than you, plain and simple.
2. Part of my reason for my Dallas skepticism has centered around how reliant their defense and team overall has been on the turnover margin. They are +25 over the past two seasons. The second highest league wide? +15. Fifth highest? +9. A three-year run at this pace of 10+ per year would be historic. One game in, they’re +4. If they are indeed this level of elite, my 8-9 projection will likely be one of my biggest misses. And I hate to say it, but their speed and the fact they have the game’s top defensive player opens the door to that turnover number.
3. Where is the Achilles’ heel on this offense? We know the defense will be very good. In the NFC, the door is open to the point if you are dominant in one element, you can be merely average in the other and you’re in the postseason. Dak Prescott is what he is (and that is good enough). CeeDee Lamb now has a credible number two in Brandin Cooks. Tony Pollard is a potential star. I see the offensive line and Mike McCarthy holding the keys. Tyron Smith is still good, but he missed 15 games in 2020, 6 in 2021, and 16 in 2022. Their depth is an unknown. With Kellen Moore in Los Angeles now, McCarthy needs to prove he can avoid silly game management mistakes and not run Pollard into the ground, a guy who has never been an every down player.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
1. My yearly reminder: Week 1 does not matter as much as you think it does. I would say the same thing if the Giants were on the opposite side of this debacle. The objective value of a week one loss is the same as a week 18 loss that prevents a team from making the playoffs, yes. But to change the perceived trajectory of a team based on one game, especially so early in the year, is foolish. Cincinnati isn’t doing it. Kansas City isn’t doing it. Different tiers of teams, I know. But the point remains that this 40-point loss counts the same as an overtime loss. I would rather see this week one than in week eight. Plus, I think this opens the door to learning what this entire roster and coaching staff have under the hood deep inside when they take the field in Arizona next week.
2. We can sit here and talk badly about the players, deservedly so. They got trounced all three phases from start to finish in embarrassing fashion. They will need to acknowledge and own it until they are on the field against the Cardinals. But what about the coaching staff? I am always hesitant to point the finger at coaching unless I know the facts of what is going on inside the building. Even with that, it is hard to walk away from this without putting at least some of the blame on the coaches. Daboll, Kafka, Martindale, McGaughey were disassembled on national TV. They were THE difference last year. But this is the NFL and innovation only lasts so long. Dallas had the response and speed ready for the bootlegs. They knew how to keep Prescott clean blitz or no blitz, and they simply had their players ready. Coaches, step it up. Success last year means absolutely nothing. Your last two games were against division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas. The combined score was 78-7.
3. The biggest issue, once again, is the offensive line. Captain Obvious. Do you make a move right away? What is the move? The answer partially resides in the Andrew Thomas MRI report. If he is out, are they relying on Matt Peart? Is he even healthy? What is plan C? Joshua Ezeudu? What if he needs to step in at right guard for Glowinski? The constants appear to be Neal at RT (you are not moving him this year), Schmitz at OC, and Bredeson at LG. If a move is coming, it will be Bredeson to RG and Ezeudu inserted into left guard after an underwhelming preseason. But as I said above, we will find an objective answer what is inside these players and I want Glowinski to be a part of that. No knee jerk reactions from me. I want the same five out there (pending the Thomas injury) to see what these guys are all about. They play the San Francisco front in 10 days, too.