Sep 202017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 18, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions 24 – New York Giants 10

RECAP

The Giants have become the new Patriots of the NFL when it comes to disclosing information about injuries. Janoris Jenkins and B.J. Goodson, two of the highest graded NYG defenders from week 1, surprisingly were on the team’s inactive list prior to kickoff. On the flip side, star receiver Odell Beckham dressed and made his 2017 debut on Monday Night Football against the 1-0 Detroit Lions, led by the NFL’s highest-paid player, Matthew Stafford.

On Detroit’s second drive (following the Giants’ three-and-out that included a sack), Stafford led the Lions on a 9-play drive that ended with a 3rd-and-12, 27-yard touchdown pass on a vertical route to Marvin Jones over Eli Apple, who never  located the ball. Things were looking up soon after, as New York responded with their own 8 play scoring drive that resulted in rookie tight end Evan Engram’s first career touchdown.

With the game tied 7 a piece, the Lions took over the field position battle thanks to two rookie mistakes. First, Engram’s celebration penalty, and second, kicker Aldrick Rosas’ kick out of bounds. The defense however stepped up when Jason Pierre-Paul forced a sack-fumble, which was recovered by Devon Kennard. It took just one play to hand the ball back to Detroit after Manning threw a pass slightly behind Engram, who tipped it into the arms of linebacker Tahir Whitehead. Fast forward 5 plays and Stafford throws his second touchdown, this time to tight end Eric Ebron who simply outran safety Darian Thompson on a crossing route.

Both defenses held their own towards the end of the second half, with Detroit sacking Manning 3 times in 6 drop backs, gaining more field position advantages. They ended the first half with a 6-play drive capped off by a 56-yard field goal that hit the cross bar and bounced over, by Matt Prater.  A sign of the Giants coaching staff having little-to-no confidence in the ability of this offense was the fact they let the clock run from 1:20 all the way down to :35 as the Lions field goal unit got on the field. That was an opportunity that Ben McAdoo simply looked past, scared that the offense would end up giving the ball back to the Lions.

Down 17-7, the Giants put together arguably their best drive of the night that got them as close as 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line. An opportunity like that resulted in just a mere 3 points, largely attributed to a holding penalty on guard Brett Jones.

At the start of the 4th quarter, the biggest turnaround/turning point of the game occurred. Manning threw a perfect deep ball up the right sideline to Brandon Marshall, the hyped free agent signing who has made zero impact so far. It would have resulted in a 30+ yard gain but instead, Marshall let the ball slip right through his hands, an inexcusable drop. Two plays later, Lions rookie punt returner Jamal Agnew returned a punt for an 88-yard touchdown, making it 24-10. The air was sucked out of the team and fans at that point and it was never recovered. The Giants’ top targets were dropping balls, passes were being thrown well before the first down marker on 3rd/4th down, and the running game couldn’t find an inch. Slightly different path, but the same result for the offense that hasn’t had an identity in years. The Lions played a conservative, clock-eating style of offense and the Giants lost, 24-10 at home.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 22/32 – 239 yards – 1 TD/1 INT – 87.9 rating. Upon watching the offense a second and third time respectively, Manning didn’t deserve to be thrown under the bus by Ben McAdoo. He had pressure at his feet and in his face often, again, and still made some big time throws despite it. If Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram hold onto downfield passes that Manning put on the money, we are talking about a 300+ yard game and maybe even a win. One glaring hole from the night, however, was a play in which Manning went to the ground before even bring touched by Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. He needs to rise above a situation like that and stay strong when the pressure is on.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Shane Vereen: 6 att – 28 yards – 4.7 avg. Also picked up 27 yards on 3 catches. There is a sense of security and more potential with Vereen on the field. A better blocker, receiver, and playmaker in space with the ball in his hands. One of the game-plan changes this team needs to make is get the ball in his hands more than 12 times per game, minimum. Vereen has always been an assertive runner WHO can create on his own and unfortunately that is what the NYG backs will need to do all year.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 3 att – 17 yards – 5.7 avg. Darkwa’s first rush went for 11 yards. The opportunities have been sparse for the Giants’ most physical back, but he can move the chains by falling forward and pushing piles. He should have been in there on the Giants rushing attempt from the 1-yard line.
  • Paul Perkins: 7 att – 10 yards – 1.4 avg. Also added 2 catches for 12 yards. The running back position appears to be up for grabs, as Perkins simply hasn’t been making plays. Yet once again, he hasn’t really had the opportunity to find a rhythm. The running lanes aren’t there but Perkins is still showing too much hesitation and timidness.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Odell Beckham: 4 rec – 36 yards. In his first game back since the August 21 injury in Cleveland, the Giants limited his snaps, 61% to be exact. There was a visible lack of burst and confidence to his movement and a player like him needs that to be effective. His biggest impact on the game may have been the attention he demanded from the Lions on his deep routes. He was triple-covered four times.
  • Sterling Shepard: 2 rec – 23 yards. A near touchdown where he was clocked by safety Glover Quin while reaching for the ball could have changed the game. By no means was it a “should have had it” play, but someone needs to step up and make something happen eventually. Shepard had a couple of rushing attempts as well, as he appears to be the most explosive player this team has with the ball in his hands until Beckham is fully back.
  • Brandon Marshall – 1 rec – 17 yards: Was on the wrong end of one of the most influential plays of the night. A horrendous deep ball drop that helped alter the momentum of the entire game. On the next drive, Marshall showed a poor effort on a ball that was slightly above his head on a crossing route. The issue with Marshall his entire career is how he approaches the game when things aren’t going his way and the team is losing. Is the desire to win burning inside of him? Or is he going to continue to play like a has been that is looking forward to retirement?

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec – 49 yards – 1 TD. With each week that passes, Engram is getting more and more comfortable in the Giants’ offense. His ability to get open and make plays after the catch are going to be crucial to any sort of offensive turnaround. His first career touchdown was unchallenged by the Lions’ defense due to a playaction fake. Late in the game, Engram dropped a 29-yard touchdown pass after being hit by cornerback Darius Slay. A tough play indeed, but one that could have changed the outcome of the game. Engram also graded out poorly as a blocker with a couple of bad breakdowns in crucial situations.
  • Rhett Ellison: 2 rec – 21 yards. To this day, I can’t recall a target intended for Ellison where a positive play wasn’t the result. If the Giants want more blocking presence on the field without fully compromising their playmaking potential, Ellison needs more snaps. He was only on the field for 39% of the plays. With that said, Ellison was beaten badly on two key running plays as a blocker.
  • Jerell Adams: 1 rec – 38 yards. The Giants biggest play of the night was to Adams up the right sideline. Manning was under heavy pressure which forced an under throw. But a nice adjustment to the ball by Adams brought the Giants to their best field position of the night. It was Adams’ only play of the game and he showed that he could be a missing piece to an offense that needs more blocking presence without fully compromising play-making potential.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers, for the second straight week, graded out the worst on the line and had another bottom-5 performance from around the league. Poor footwork. Poor knee bend. Inaccurate hands. Lack of hustle and grit. There is zero difference between the rookie version of Flowers and the year 3 version. Patience is one thing if there are signs of progress here and there. Stubbornness is another. Throwing him out there to protect Manning’s blind side is the latter. It’s time – Flowers needs to be benched or moved. Justin Pugh shifted over to right tackle after the first drive as a result of Bobby Hart’s ankle injury. His performance on the outside was good enough to sell me on the idea of moving him to his college position, left tackle, full time.
  • Interior: John Jerry and Weston Richburg graded out with positive performances. After Jerry’s split-blunder on the Lions first sack of the night, he played well enough. He stayed on his man, as his assignment was being responsible for just one tackle the rest of the game. Richburg played very solid assignment-football, allowing just one tackle himself and very good pass protection when he was left alone. Brett Jones, who played all but one drive at left guard, was up and down. He allowed a cover-sack and committed a big holding penalty. While he doesn’t look good out there, especially with adjustment-based lateral movement, his grit and fight is something Flowers could take notes on. He is a true, blue-collar hustler who makes up for shortcomings by simply outworking his opponent.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

  • Jason Pierre Paul recorded his first sack, which also forced a fumble in the 2nd quarter. His overall impact on the game was better than the 3 tackle-stat sheet leads on. He was disruptive and pursued well to the sideline, forcing the Lions’ running backs inside on a few occasions. Olivier Vernon forced Lions tackle Greg Robinson into a few penalties, but overall his impact wasn’t anything stand out. His match-up in this contest should have led to more production. Too often was he being neutralized by a lone blocker against the run. Romeo Okwara recorded two pressures in limited action. He continues to be a solid 3rd-down threat who can line up anywhere.
  • The Lions tried to keep Damon Harrison away from having an impact. They ran to the outside so often and double-teamed him on most passing plays. Even on a “quiet” night, Harrison was still in on 6 tackles and controlled the inside running lanes when Detroit did try to go there. Rookie Dalvin Tomlinson got his first start and I think it will be his for the rest of the year. He was active both in the box and in pursuit, showing plus athleticism and range. He is going to be a major factor moving forward. Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas failed to make a positive impact on their limited snaps.

LINEBACKERS

  • The pregame surprise of the night was B.J. Goodson showing up on the inactive list, out with a shin injury. The NFL week 1 leader in tackles was replaced by undrafted rookie Calvin Munson. The Lions made him move laterally often which he struggled with early but made some impact play tackles late in the game as his reads became more confident. Munson did a nice job of making himself small through traffic and filling lanes. He was on the field for every snap.
  • Devon Kennard only played about half the team’s defensive plays, but had a disruptive night. He recorded a QB pressure, QB hit, and tackle for loss. He was very stout against the run and displayed versatile pass rushing by breaking through the Detroit line from different spots. Jonathan Casillas recorded two tackles for loss, but was also ridden out on a couple of Detroit’s bigger running plays. J.T. Thomas was hurt, again, early in the game.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins and Darian Thompson both played every snap. Collins didn’t make any impact plays other than a couple of physical downhill hits against the run. Thompson was beat by tight end Eric Ebron on Detroit’s second touchdown, but broke up a pass later in the game. His range against deep routes appears to be a step behind and his impact as a run defender is minuscule. He had a fairly simple opportunity for an interception in the 2nd quarter, but he badly mistimed his leap for the ball with poor body control. On the Lions’ first touchdown drive, Nat Berhe was assigned to spy Matthew Stafford on a 3rd-and-12 play. He over-pursued badly which allowed an easy cutback lane for Staffod to scramble for a 1st down. The Lions scored 3 plays later.

CORNERBACKS

  • With Janoris Jenkins on the sideline injured, Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were both on the field for every snap. Both had every up and down nights. Apple’s allowed touchdown to Marvin Jones was something we have seen since the beginning for him, trouble locating the deep ball with body control. He had solid coverage as usual, but that’s only half the battle when defending the pass. The Lions were noticeably attacking him. He made a few physical plays and deflected a pass later on. Rodgers-Cromartie led the team with 11 tackles, most of which were against the run. He had two bad missed tackles that resulted in extra yards for Detroit in key situations, however.
  • Ross Cockrell got his first real playing time with the Giants and played well. Interesting to see him ahead of Michael Hunter on the depth chart, as he out-snapped him 39 to 1.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – 25 yards. Easy chip shot, but a kick out of bounds in the 2nd quarter added to a field position loss.
  • P Brad Wing: 5 punts for 47.8 yard average. An overlooked mishap for the team was Wing out-kicking his coverage by 10-15 yards on the return for a touchdown. That ball needs to be higher, not as far, so the returner has less space to work with upon catching the ball.
  • Return: Dwayne Harris had a quiet night.

3 THOUGHTS ON DETROIT

  • I’ve seen this team play a lot since the start of last season. Matthew Stafford is certainly inching his way towards the elite level. His arm talent is second to none in this league, he has sneaky mobility in and out of the pocket, and he has proven to be unfazed by big moments several times. Detroit is 110% justified in giving him the contract they did, as there may be one or two QBs in the league I take over him for the next 5+ years.
  • The secondary is playing better in the first two weeks than what I saw all of last year, most notably nickel corner Quandre Diggs. Darius Slay is the best corner you’ve never really heard about, and even the Nigel Lawson/D.J. Hayden split can hang with many high-caliber WRs in certain matchups. They are a solid duo who will be on the field based on who the other team has running routes.
  • The Giants offensive line is a mess, and the Lions are somehow piecing together solid performances with players the Giants could have easily signed, most notably Ricky Wagner and T.J. Lang. They aren’t superstars and I won’t pretend they are, but the gap between them and what the Giants are throwing out there is astronomical. That’s how bad this OL personnel is for NYG. And it makes this front office look bad for not adding any veteran piece of value in free agency.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Everything looks worse when a team is losing. Everything gets questioned and that is often a result of overreacting. But sometimes, bold statements are justified. The debate of what Ben McAdoo will be is still very much alive. Throwing your first-class, team-first-always quarterback under the bus to the NY media was a low blow. McAdoo is as blah as it gets in interviews as he doesn’t like to dive too deeply into questions and information. Was his comment about Manning, which he has done before, a sign of frustration? Will that spill over into the bigger egos on this team? McAdoo needs to remember, the Giants haven’t accomplished much and the offense has never been worse, since he’s been a part of the organization.
  • I touched on this briefly above, but I will repeat. The best move for this offensive line is to move Pugh to left tackle right now. No trades or signings. Pugh’s value to the team is best suited there and Flowers has two options. Play right tackle so they don’t have to rely on D.J. Fluker or Chad Wheeler, or sit on the bench. I understand he hasn’t played on that side since early in college but he is not a left tackle in this league, something I have said since he was drafted. There has been no improvement, no progression with him. If anything, he might surprise and simply play at a higher level over there.
  • Time for this pass rush to step up. I wouldn’t put the below average label on them yet, but making 1 or 2 plays via the pass rush isn’t enough, especially with a line that has Greg Robinson playing left tackle. Granted the Lions were barely dropping back in the second half, but it is time for these guys to step up. They have as tough a test as they will have all year in Philadelphia next week. Show us you deserve all that money, Vernon and JPP.
Sep 192017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 18, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT LIONS 24 – NEW YORK GIANTS 10…
The Detroit Lions defeated the New York Giants 24-10 on Monday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants are now 0-2 on the season, having scored only one offensive touchdown so far this year. Going back to the 2016 season, the Giants’ offense has not scored 20 points now for eight games in a row.

Both offenses struggled for most of the game as the Giants actually out-gained the Lions in total net yards (270 to 257), first downs (14 to 12), and average gain per play (4.9 to 4.6). But the Giants defense allowed 138 yards rushing, quarterback Eli Manning was sacked five times, and the Giants allowed an 88-yard punt return that sealed the game for Detroit in the 4th quarter.

The teams exchanged punts to start the game. The Lions drove 54 yards in nine plays on their second drive to go up 7-0 on quarterback Matthew Stafford’s 27-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marvin Jones, who beat cornerback Eli Apple on the play. The scoring drive was kept alive by a 13-yard scramble by Stafford on 3rd-and-9. The Giants responded with their sole touchdown drive of the young season, an 8-play, 75-yard drive that ended with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Manning to tight end Evan Engram (who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the touchdown).

Things got a little crazy in the second quarter. Place kicker Aldrick Rosas’ kickoff after the touchdown went out of bounds, giving the Lions the ball at their own 45-yard line. After driving to the Giants’ 33-yard line, the Lions turned the ball over when defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Stafford and forced a fumble that linebacker Devon Kennard recovered. But on the very next snap, Manning’s pass intended for Engram was off-the-mark, intercepted, and returned 18 yards to the Giants’ 29-yard line. Five plays later, Stafford threw his second touchdown pass and the Lions went up 14-7.

After two punts by the Giants and one by the Lions, Detroit added to their lead late in the second quarter by driving 37 yards in six plays to set up a 56-yard field goal. The Lions led 17-7 at the half.

Detroit did not score on offense in the second half of the game, but it did not matter as the Giants’ offense and special teams struggled. The Giants’ offense only managed one second-half scoring drive, a 10-play, 68-yard affair that ended with a 25-yard field goal by Rosas in the 3rd quarter. When the Giants got the ball back early in the 4th quarter and trailing by 17-10, the game turned when wide receiver Brandon Marshall dropped a deep pass from Manning on 2nd-and-8. Two plays later the Giants punted and Brad Wing’s punt was returned 88 yards for a touchdown that put the Lions up by two touchdowns with 13 minutes left to go in the game. New York’s final two possessions end with turnovers on downs as the Giants failed to convert on a 4th-and-3 at their own 48-yard line and 4th-and-10 at the Detroit 29-yard line. Ball game.

Manning finished the game 22-of-32 for 239 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. His leading receivers were Engram (4 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown) and wideout Odell Beckham, Jr. (4 catches for 36 yards). The Giants continued to struggle to run the ball as Shane Vereen was the leading ground gainer with 28 yards on six carries. The Giants were held to 62 yards rushing.

Defensively, while the Giants gave up 138 yards rushing, Detroit was held to only 119 net passing yards. The Giants sacked Stafford twice, once by Pierre-Paul when he forced the fumble and another time by Calvin Munson, who started at middle linebacker for the injured B.J. Goodson.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were cornerback Janoris Jenkins (ankle/hand), linebacker B.J. Goodson (calf), linebacker Keenan Robinson (concussion), quarterback Davis Webb, running back Wayne Gallman, tight end Matt LaCosse, and defensive end Avery Moss.

Right tackle Bobby Hart re-injured his ankle and left the game in the 1st quarter. Hart was spotted on crutches and wearing a boot after the game. Linebacker J.T. Thomas left the game in the second half with a groin injury.

GIANTS SIGN CURTIS GRANT FROM PRACTICE SQUAD, CUT TAVARRES KING…
On Monday afternoon, the New York Giants waived wide receiver Tavarres King and signed linebacker Curtis Grant to the 53-man roster from the team’s Practice Squad.

King was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He has spent time with the Broncos (2013), Panthers (2013-14), Jaguars (2014), and Buccaneers (2014-15) – playing in just two regular-season games. The Giants signed King to the Practice Squad in late September 2015. Last year, King played in seven regular-season games, finishing the year with just two catches for 50 yards. He caught three passes for 73 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown pass in the playoff loss to the Packers.

Grant was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the San Diego Chargers after the 2015 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Chargers (2015), Falcons (2015), Titans (2016), Raiders (2016), and 49ers (2016). Grant was signed by the Giants to a reserve/future contract in January 2017.

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

ARTICLES…

Sep 162017
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, New York Giants (December 18, 2016)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Detroit Lions at New York Giants, September 18, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The issue is not that the New York Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday night. There is no shame in that and the Giants certainly can recover from 0-1. The issue is the way the Giants lost. I’ve been preaching since last year that the Giants offense has become a one-trick pony: Eli Manning finding Odell Beckham for the big play. Take that away and the Giants offense becomes one of the worst in the NFL.

So what did the Giants do this offseason? They swapped Evan Engram/Rhett Ellison for Larry Donnell/Will Tye, Brandon Marshall for Victor Cruz, and Paul Perkins for Rashad Jennings. They rolled the dice by going with the same offense line. The results so far have been no different. Even without Beckham in the line-up, the Giants should have been able to generate more than three points and 13 first downs (2 in the first half!) with the weapons the team has against that Dallas defense.

This will sound like an overly-dramatic overreaction, but Ben McAdoo and the offensive brain trust are running out of excuses. So is the entire franchise for not being able to put together a viable offensive line in years.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle – questionable)
  • WR Tavarres King (ankle – probable)
  • OL Bobby Hart (ankle – probable)
  • OL D.J. Fluker (leg – questionable)
  • DT Jay Bromley (knee – probable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (leg – questionable)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (concussion – out)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle/hand – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Ben McAdoo and his offensive assistants were clearly out-coached by the Dallas Cowboys staff last Sunday night. The Dallas defense knew what New York was going to do and the Giants coaches had no answer for it. Obviously, execution also matters. And Eli Manning looked like a quarterback playing out the string of a possible Hall of Fame career. The offensive line still can’t block. The running backs can’t create on their own. And the receivers who played didn’t provide many yards after the catch.

This is the Giants offense:

  1. They have some talented wide outs and tight ends who can hurt you in the passing game.
  2. They can’t run the ball.
  3. They struggle on third down and in the red zone.

So defending the Giants is easy and predictable. Focus on taking away the big plays in the passing game by playing soft, conservative coverage. You don’t have to blitz a ton because you can pressure the now-jumpy Manning with just four defenders against an offensive line that struggles with stunts. Largely ignore the run. Make the Giants nickel-and-dime you because they are likely to eventually stall on 3rd down. The proof is in the pudding. The Giants have not scored 20 points in a game for seven games in a row now, including against the Detroit Lions last December (a 17-6 victory for New York). Right now, Ben McAdoo’s offense without Tom Coughlin’s overall influence isn’t working.

How do the Giants overcome this? The simplest solution would be to run the football and keep running it until the opponent has to move an extra defender into the box. But the finesse New York Giants seem incapable of playing smash-mouth football. The other solution is just keep moving the chains with short- to medium-passes. Bing, bing, bing… down the field. And perhaps your receivers start generating serious yards after the catch. Force defenders to play tighter coverage.

The Lions play the same wide-nine defense up front that the Eagles have played. It’s a get-to-the-QB-at-all-costs scheme that is particularly troublesome for the Giants given the state of their offensive line and the immobility of Eli Manning. The Lions ends will play wide of tackles Ereck Flowers and the gimpy Bobby Hart (ankle), angled towards the QB, largely eschewing the run. The Giants are an ideal team to run the wide nine against.

Whether or not Odell Beckham (ankle) plays or not, the Giants are toast unless Eli Manning starts playing with greater toughness and confidence (easy for me to say, but I’m not the one being paid $20 million per season). He has to just say “fuck it” and be the Eli of old. Get Brandon Marshall into the action and I’d keep hitting Engram and Ellison over the middle. I’d be tempted to start Shane Vereen and keep the Lions off balance with runs with Vereen early (you can bring in Perkins later in the game). Last year, the Giants ran the ball more than they passed against the Lions. While the Giants only averaged 3.6 yards per rush, they kept the aggressive Lions defense honest.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
People are going to accuse me of nit-picking, but the Giants defense didn’t do enough to help the team win last week. For now, the defense has to carry this team. That means getting off the field on third down and forcing turnovers. Last week, the Giants didn’t force one turnover, only had one sack, and allowed Dallas to convert on over 50 percent of their chances. The struggling Giants offense was also encumbered by horrible field position. The defense has to create better opportunities for the offense. It is what it is.

The Lions don’t run the ball well, but they can hurt you with their passing game. Matthew Stafford may be inconsistent, but he is certainly capable of putting up big numbers and he has a knack for leading his team from behind in the 4th quarter. And he has a plethora of targets to choose from including wideouts Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay; tight end Eric Ebron; and pass-catching running backs Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah. Look for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to cover Tate out of the slot and Janoris Jenkins to cover Jones. That will play a lot of pressure on Eli Apple (who had a rough game against Dallas) to cover the emerging Golladay (two touchdowns last week). Golladay is big (6’4”) and he can get deep. Landon Collins and the linebackers will be challenged by Ebron and the running backs in pass coverage. This is a bad opponent to be missing Keenan Robinson. And now Goodson is bothered by a shin injury. We may see more three safety packages, especially if the Lions can’t run the ball. The Detroit Lions offensive line has been completely revamped. The defensive line should and must get after Stafford.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
One of the few bright spots from last Sunday was the play of Dwayne Harris. He looks like he still can make an impact both as a returner and cover man. They’ll need a strong game from him and his teammates because Detroit has one of the strongest special teams units in the league. Aldrick Rosas still really hasn’t been tested (he made a 25-yard attempt in the opener).

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Lions: “They are a different team (from last season). (On offense) they are playing very well. They are hot. They had a nice come-from-behind win, which they can do. That has been (quarterback) Matthew Stafford’s M.O. The quarterback’s playing well, playing with a lot of confidence, extending plays. They possess some matchup problems for you, for anybody they play with the backs out of the backfield and the tight end with some size and speed in Ebron, and the receivers that they do have. Whether it’s a guy who is quick underneath or a big man that can run pretty well.

“On defense, it starts up front for them. They are doing a nice job of getting after the quarterback, pushing the pocket, and they mix in those wide nine fronts, which are a challenge. They squeeze the pocket and they squeeze the run at the same time. (Jarrad) Davis is a young linebacker who’s continuing to grow and learn the pro game. They threw him in there right off the bat and he’s developing for them. (Free safety Glover) Quin does a good job directing the secondary. They are very multiple. They have a lot of calls. Special teams is where they probably don’t get as much attention as they deserve. They are very good on special teams. They have a bunch of core players. They roll maybe eight different guys in there that have a lot of value on special teams for them, and they are very good.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This is not a must-win game, but it is darn close. Going 0-2 would be bad. Another game of not reaching 20 points would be bad. Another game where the team can’t reach the 50-yard rushing mark would be bad. Another game where Eli isn’t the old Eli would be bad. The defense and special teams may have to come to the rescue, especially if Beckham is out another week.

Dec 192016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 18, 2016)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 17 – Detroit Lions 6

Overview

This was an impressive win against one of the NFL’s better teams. It was a matter-of-fact, business-like effort that was reminiscent of the Giants teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The offense was unspectacular but efficient. The defense was smothering and opportunistic. Special teams helped the defense by pinning the Lions offense deep in their territory. There weren’t a ton of highlights, but at the end of the day, the Giants tallied yet another victory – their eighth in nine games.

Giants on Offense

Statistically, the offensive performance was not much better than the dreadful performance against the Cowboys as New York only accrued 17 points (up from 10), 17 first downs (up from 12), and 300 total net yards (up from 260), averaging 4.8 yards per offensive play. But the offense was far more efficient, being 7-of-15 (47 percent) on 3rd down conversions and 2-for-2 (100 percent) in red zone opportunities. And the Giants did not turn the ball over. Offensively, the New York was flagged just twice.

The big change in the last two weeks has been the commitment to the run. Last week, the Giants literally ran the ball on half of their offensive snaps. This week, 32 of New York’s 62 offensive snaps were running plays – or slightly MORE than half. Against the Cowboys, the Giants averaged 3.1 yards per rush. This weekend, they averaged 3.6 yards per rush. These are not good figures. But the commitment to the ground game is keeping opposing defenses honest, balancing the time of possession, providing more respite for the defense, and most importantly, reducing mistakes and risk. The offense may not be winning games, but it hasn’t been losing them either.

That all said, let us not lose sight of the fact that the offense is not carrying its fair share of the workload. Seventeen points is not enough. Punting the football away seven times in a game is far too much. The offense needs to do better.

The Giants had four pass plays over 20 yards but none over 29 yards. Their longest run was 11 yards.

Quarterback

This was a bit of a rebound performance for Eli Manning, who had not reached the 200-yard passing mark in the previous three games. While Manning barely surpassed that mark against the Lions (201 gross yards), he was efficient (20-of-28 or 71 percent completion percentage). Manning threw two touchdowns and no interceptions and finished with a 115.3 QB rating. Quarterbacks hate the description, but Eli “managed” the game, very similarly to Phil Simms in the later years of his career. Manning averaged 10 yards per completion.

Running Backs

For better or worse, Ben McAdoo and staff have decided to run the football and grind it out. Detractors will point to the scoreboard – only 27 total points in two games. Advocates will point to fewer killer mistakes and improved time of possession. Giants backs ran the ball 31 times for 105 yards (Odell Beckham had a 9-yard end around), averaging 3.4 yards per carry. That average was dragged down by Rashad Jennings, who only gained 38 yards on 18 carries (2.1 yards per carry). The far more productive player was Paul Perkins, who carried the ball 11 times for 56 yards (5.1 yards per carry). Shane Vereen also chipped in with 11 yards on two carries (5.5 yards per carry). The ground game was an important factor in all three scoring drives.

The backs were only targeted five times in the passing game for a total of two completions for 9 yards. The best passing play was a 25-yard screen pass on 3rd-and-12 where Vereen fumbled at the end of the play, the ball being recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by Victor Cruz. However, an illegal-use-of-hands penalty wiped out the play. Vereen has had ball security issues in his limited playing time this year.

Wide Receivers

Same story as most of the other contests. Odell Beckham remained the primary option with six catches of eight targets for 64 yards and a touchdown. Sterling Shepard was a bit more productive this week with four catches (targeted five times) for 56 yards and a touchdown. Victor Cruz got his one catch – this one on a perfectly-thrown pass from Eli Manning for 29 yards. Cruz hasn’t caught more than one pass in a game since before the bye week. It’s no coincidence that the Giants best passing plays came on their scoring drives:

  • 29-yard pass to Cruz and then 6-yard TD to Shepard.
  • 22-yard pass to Beckham on FG drive.
  • 25-yard pass to Beckham on 3rd-and-10, 23-yard pass to Shepard, and 4-yard TD to Beckham.

Beckham did drop a deep pass right before halftime that might have resulted in additional points. Shepard also dropped a pass.

Tight Ends

The tight ends were move involved this week with seven catches in eight targets. Will Tye caught four passes for 25 yards and Jerell Adams chipped in with three catches for 18 yards. Both averaged only about six yards per catch however. Tye was flagged for holding, but the penalty was erased with an offsetting penalty by the Lions. The blocking was decent.

Offensive Line

Justin Pugh returned to left guard after missing five games with a knee injury. The Giants ran for 114 yards on 32 attempts (3.6 yards per carry). Eli Manning was only officially hit three times, but two of those were sacks. The first sack occurred on a strange play where RT Bobby Hart let the left defensive end go and Pugh attempted to block him from across the formation. The whole thing looked like a mess. The second sack came when RDE Ezekiel Ansah beat LT Ereck Flowers to the inside. Flowers also gave up the other hit on Manning. Bobby Hart’s illegal-use-of-hands penalty did wipe a touchdown on the Giants field goal drive. Overall, this was a reasonably good performance.

Giants on Defense

Despite missing two of their best players (Jason Pierre-Paul and Janoris Jenkins), for the second week in a row, the New York Giants defense did a number on the opponent:

  • 6 points
  • 16 first downs
  • 324 total net yards (but 48 of those came in garbage time)
  • 56 yards rushing (13 of which came on QB scrambles)
  • 5-of-14 on third down (36 percent)
  • 0-of-3 in red zone opportunities with two turnovers

Detroit’s 11 offensive drives resulted in:

  • 2 field goals
  • 2 turnovers
  • 6 punts
  • end of the game

Aside from the two turnovers, there were not a lot of dramatic plays. The Giants were credited with only one sack, four QB hits, four tackles for losses, and five pass defenses. But the run defense was excellent and the secondary only gave up one big passing play. Detroit’s two longest drives (74 yards and 58 yards) resulted in end zone turnovers. Those turnovers were the difference in the game. And the Lions had come into the game with only seven interceptions and three fumbles lost all year. Also keep in mind that the Lions are the NFL’s comeback kings this year, winning eight come-from-behind games in the 4th quarter. Not this time.

Defensive Line

The Giants controlled the line of scrimmage, limiting the Lions to 56 yards rushing on 19 carries (2.9 yards per rush). Ironically, Detroit’s best run of the game was their first play which picked up 12 yards. The Lions only attempted to run the ball seven times (not counting one scramble) in the second half as they recognized the futility of doing so. The pass rush was a bit better than the stats reveal. The Giants were only credited with one sack and four QB hits. However, Matthew Stafford was forced to escape the pocket a number of times. As expected, Oliver Vernon led the way with 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 0.5 sacks, 2 QB hits, and the fumble recovery in the end zone that prevented a touchdown. Damon Harrison (4 tackles) and Johnathan Hankins (5 tackles, 0.5 sacks) were rocks in the middle. Romeo Okwara (2 tackles) was not as noticeable this week. Kerry Wynn was flagged with a late roughing-the-passer penalty.

Linebackers

It was a pretty nondescript game for the linebacking corps as Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard, B.J. Goodson, Kelvin Sheppard, and Keenan Robinson were only credited with 10 total tackles. Casillas had one tackle for a loss and Kennard one quarterback hit. Coverage was decent as tight end Eric Ebron was limited to four catches for 36 yards. And not counting one late 33-yard garbage-time catch, the backs were held to five catches for 28 yards.

Defensive Backs

While not perfect, the Giants did a good job on a potentially-dangerous passing attack despite Janoris Jenkins missing the bulk of the game with a back injury. Three Lions receivers caught a total of 14 passes (in 22 targets) for 176 yards. But 67 of those yards came on one play, when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) was beat deep by WR Golden Tate. However, give DRC credit for chasing down Tate at the 11-yard line and saving a touchdown as the Lions fumbled the ball away on the next snap. DRC finished the game with a team-high three pass defenses and a game-sealing interception in the end zone late in the 4th quarter.

Eli Apple played every snap and also saved a touchdown with his sole breakup in the end zone. DRC and Apple combined for 14 tackles, including two tackles for losses by Apple after short throws. Eli was flagged with a defensive holding penalty on a 3rd-and-9 incomplete pass that kept a field-goal drive alive. He also gave up a 21-yard completion on 3rd-and-7 to WR Marvin Jones despite very tight coverage. CB/S Leon Hall saved a touchdown with his forced fumble that was recovered in the end zone by the Giants. Coty Sensabaugh and Trevin Wade both received more playing time than normal (25 snaps each) with Jenkins out. Landon Collins had a team-high eight tackles. He was flagged with a 6-yard pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-3. Collins made a strong tackle on TE Eric Ebron after a 1-yard catch on 3rd-and-2 to force a punt late in the 3rd quarter.

Giants on Special Teams

The Detroit Lions have one of the strongest special teams units in the NFL and the Giants held serve in this department. The negative was the partially-blocked punt that traveled only 18 yards with Jonathan Casillas missing his man. Thankfully that did not lead to any points for Detroit. Brad Wing has been very busy this year. He punted the ball seven more times on Sunday, averaging 42.6 yards per punt (41 yards net) despite the block. For the second week in a row, two of his punts were downed inside the 5-yard line. That was huge.

Robbie Gould nailed his 47-yard field goal attempt. One of his four kickoffs resulted in a touchback, but another was ruled out-of-bounds at the start of the second half and contributed to Detroit’s second field goal drive because of the outstanding field position it provided.

Dangerous returner Andre Roberts was limited to 32 yards on two kickoff returns and 11 yards on four punt returns. That was huge as well. There was a big hit by Kerry Wynn on one kickoff return.

Dwayne Harris returned one kickoff 23 yards and two punts 19 yards. Odell Beckham returned two punts and had a spectacular 63-yard touchdown return called back due to a blatant and unnecessary illegal block by safety Eric Pinkins.

(Detroit Lions at New York Giants, December 18, 2016)
Dec 182016
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, New York Giants (December 18, 2016)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 17 – DETROIT LIONS 6…
The New York Giants defeated the Detroit Lions 17-6 on a rainy afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the victory, the Giants improved their overall record to 10-4. The Giants have now won eight out of their last nine football games. The Giants have not yet clinched a playoff spot but will do so if they can win one of their last two games.

It was an unspectacular but efficient performance by the offense as the Giants accrued only 17 first downs and 300 total net yards (114 rushing, 186 passing). But New York did not turn the ball over, was 7-of-15 (47 percent) on 3rd down, and was 2-of-2 (100 percent) in the red zone.

Meanwhile, the Giants defense dominated for the second game in a row, holding the Lions to six points, 16 first downs and 324 and total net yards (56 rushing, 268 passing). The defense forced two turnovers and Detroit was 0-of-3 (0 percent) in the red zone.

The Giants had six first-half possessions. New York began the game with an impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 6-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Eli Manning to wide receiver Sterling Shepard. However, the Giants offense went three-and-out on their next two possessions. After a Detroit turnover, the offense mounted an 11-play, 51-yard march that ended with a 47-yard field goal by place kicker Robbie Gould. The Giants last two possessions of the first half did not result in points.

Of Detroit’s five first-half possessions, only two gained more than 17 yards. The Lions drove 40 yards in 11 plays on their second possession to set up a 48-yard field goal. Their most serious threat came on their next drive. Quarterback Matthew Stafford hit wide receiver Golden Tate for a 67-yard passing play. But on the next snap from the Giants 11-yard line, defensive back Leon Hall forced fullback Zach Zenner to fumble after a 7-yard gain. Defensive end Olivier Vernon recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback. The Lions only gained one first down on their final two possessions of the first half.

At the break, the Giants led 10-3.

Detroit cut into that lead on their first possession of the second half by driving 45 yards in 12 plays to set up a 33-yard field goal. But those were the last points of the day for the Lions. Detroit’s final five possessions resulted in three punts, an interception by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the end zone with just over two minutes to play, and 48 garbage-time yards after getting the ball back with 12 seconds left.

The Giants were not much more impressive offensively with four of their five possessions resulting in punts. But sandwiched in the middle of that offensive futility was an 8-play, 71 yard drive that ended with a one-handed touchdown reception by wide receiver Odell Beckham from Manning. That touchdown gave the Giants a 17-6 advantage with 5:47 to play.

The Giants did miss an opportunity to add more points when Beckham had a 4th-quarter 63-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified by an illegal block penalty on safety Eric Pinkins.

Offensively, Eli Manning completed his first 11 passes, a career-high to start a game. He finished the game 20-of-28 for 201 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.  His top targets were Odell Beckham (6 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown), Sterling Shepard, (4 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown), and tight end Will Tye (4 catches for 25 yards). Running back Paul Perkins gained 56 yards on 11 carries and running back Rashad Jennings gaine 38 yards on 18 carries.

Defensively, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was credited with 7 tackles, 1 interception, and 3 pass defenses. Cornerback Eli Apple had 7 tackles, 2 tackles for losses, and 1 pass defense that saved a touchdown. Olivier Vernon had 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, half a sack, 2 quarterback hits, and a fumble recovery.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle), safety Nat Berhe (concussion), quarterback Ryan Nassib (elbow), defensive tackle Robert Thomas, linebacker Deontae Skinner, wide receiver Tavarres King, and offensive tackle Will Beatty.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins left the game in the second quarter with a back injury and did not return. “He took a knee to the back and he’s still being evaluated,” said Head Coach Ben McAdoo.

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

POST-GAME NOTES…
At 10-4, this is the Giants’ first season with double-digit victories since 2010, when they finished 10-6. The Giants did not make the playoffs that season.

The Giants won their sixth consecutive home game, their longest such streak since they won their first six at home in 2008.

The Giants finished 7-1 at home, their best record in the 7-year history of MetLife Stadium (previous best: 6-2 in 2012) and their best home record since they were 7-1 in Giants Stadium in 2008.

The Giants are 5-1 this season when they rush for more than 100 yards.

First-year head coach Ben McAdoo is the fourth Giants coach to win at least 10 games in his debut season, joining Allie Sherman, Dan Reeves, and Jim Fassel.

QB Eli Manning is now the seventh quarterback in NFL history with at least 4,000 completions. He is also now eighth on the NFL’s all-time pass attempt list with 6,735.

ARTICLES…

Dec 162016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 6, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Detroit Lions at New York Giants, December 18, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
At 9-4, the New York Giants are close to finally returning to the playoffs. But they are not there yet and they can still screw this up. This is a dangerous game for the Giants. Sunday’s contest against the Detroit Lions is sandwiched between two division games, with the following game against the arch-rival Philadelphia Eagles coming four days later on Thursday night. After the Giants biggest win of the season thus far, will New York suffer an emotional letdown against the first-place, 9-4 Detroit Lions?

Amazingly, eight of Detroit’s nine wins have been 4th-quarter comebacks. If the game is close, the Lions believe they will pull out the win.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Shane Vereen (concussion) – questionable
  • OG Justin Pugh (knee) – probable
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) – out
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee) – probable
  • DT Johnathan Hankins (shoulder) – probable
  • LB Keenan Robinson (shoulder) – questionable
  • LB Mark Herzlich (concussion) – probable
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – questionable
  • LS Zak DeOssie (hamstring) – probable

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
It’s bad and getting worse. The Giants are now down to 27th in offense in terms of yards and 25th in terms of scoring. Eli Manning hasn’t topped the 200-yard passing mark in the last three games. The last time he threw for more than 260 yards was on October 16th against the Ravens. Victor Cruz has caught FOUR passes since the bye week. The starting tight end – Will Tye – hasn’t caught more than two passes in a game the last four contests. The Giants are 30th in the NFL in rushing (both yards per game and rushing average).

Enter the Detroit Lions, who are middle-of-the-pack in yardage allowed (15th) but 10th overall in scoring defense (20.6). “Last seven ballgames, they’ve given up about 16 points and have caused 10 turnovers,” said Ben McAdoo. “It starts upfront. They’ll try and squeeze you. They play the wide-nine as they try and play with width and work hard up the field. Try and get to the quarterback first and play everything else along the way. Their secondary and the linebackers are doing a nice job playing to the front. They’re well-coordinated.”

In Detroit’s 4-3 defense, the players to watch up front are DE Ezekiel Ansah, ex-Raven DT Haloti Ngata, and DE Kerry Hyder. Ansah is the primary pass-rushing threat even though he has no sacks thus far this year (14.5 in 2015). Hyder is a player who has come out of nowhere to lead the Lions in sacks with eight. So both Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart will be under the spotlight once again. Ngata is on the downside of his career but he can still present problems. What will be interesting to see is how effective left guard Justin Pugh will be coming off of a knee injury that caused him to miss the last five games. Middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead leads the team in tackles (107) and Darius Slay is developing into one of the NFL’s better cornerbacks. Linebacker DeAndre Levy has missed most of the season due to injury but is getting healthy again. He’s strong in coverage. [LATE NOTE: Ansah (shoulder), Slay (hamstring), and Levy (knee) are “questionable” for the game.]

Weather may be an issue again on Sunday with rain in the forecast. Through 13 games, the Giants are averaging 3.4 yards per rush. The Lions have allowed 4.3 yards per rush. With Eli struggling and the defense peaking, I would not be shocked to see McAdoo make a big commitment to the run on Sunday. But in the end, the Giants will be what they have been – the Manning-to-Odell Beckham show. If that duo can click, the Giants will move the ball and score. If they struggle to connect, the offense will be dead in the water. It would be nice to say the Giants can diversify their passing game, but they have proven incapable of doing so. At some point, the coaches have to decide whether Victor Cruz – who is struggling to separate – is helping or hurting the offense. I’d be tempted to get a more vertical threat such as Roger Lewis more playing time.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants defense is coming off its best game and the team is now 7th in scoring defense (18.8 points per game). But with the Giants offense struggling and a diverse passing offense coming to town, the Giants defense can’t afford to let the positive press go to their heads. Jason Pierre-Paul is still out.

Statistically, the Lions are just 21st in the NFL in yards per game and 17th in scoring (22.7 points per game). But quarterback Matthew Stafford is having a tremendous season with a 22-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio and completing 66.7 percent of his passes. Stafford has five targets with over 42 receptions, including WR Golden Tate (71 catches, 3 touchdowns), ageless slot WR Anquan Boldin (55 catches, 7 touchdowns), RB Theo Riddick (53 catches, 5 receiving touchdowns), WR Marvin Jones (46 catches, 4 touchdowns), and TE Eric Ebron (43 catches, 1 touchdown). There is no one target to concentrate on.

The Lions do not run the ball well. They are 29th in rushing (25th in yards-per-rush with 3.8 yards per carry). Detroit only has four rushing touchdowns and Riddick leads the team with just 357 rushing yards. Obviously, the Giants don’t want to allow the Lions to get their ground game going on Sunday (especially if the weather is bad), but the defensive focus will be more on the 13th-ranked passing game.

The Giants have to feel good about their cornerback match-ups on Tate, Boldin, and Jones. An interesting battle will be Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs. Boldin – these two played together with the Cardinals. Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple will likely cover Tate and Jones most of the time. The issue will probably be covering Riddick and Ebron as receivers. (LATE UPDATE- Riddick is “doubtful” with a wrist injury and Ebron is “questionable” with a knee injury). Ebron is having a decent year and the Giants have a way of making opposing tight ends look like superstars. So pass coverage by Landon Collins, Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson (who has a shoulder issue), and Devon Kennard will be key. My guess is we don’t see a lot of Kelvin Sheppard this week.

One variable to keep an eye on is that Stafford has a significant injury to the middle finger of his throwing hand. He played with it last Sunday and fully practiced this week, but it could be a factor, especially if the ball is wet. The Lions have only turned the football over 10 times this year (7 interceptions and 3 fumbles). Also, DE Olivier Vernon will be facing rookie left tackle Taylor Decker.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Detroit Lions are very good on special teams across the board. They are top-10 in both punt and kickoff coverage. The punter and kicker are having fine seasons. Andre Roberts has returned two punts for touchdowns this year and is averaging over 14 yards per punt return. He also returns kickoffs.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Detroit’s offensive weapons: “They’re all players that would probably be featured in other places. With the collection of guys they have, they have a pretty unique group and a guy that’s pretty special delivering the ball. Marvin Jones, we looked at him as a free agent. He’s a very talented player. He doesn’t just go long; he can really stick his foot in the ground and separate. (Anquan) Boldin is tough playing inside. He’s a completion waiting to happen. (Golden) Tate can do a lot of different things for you, short, deep, in the backfield, whatever the case may be. (Theo) Riddick is a guy that is a matchup challenge coming out of the backfield getting screens and burst routes. He can run away a little bit. (Eric) Ebron is a young, developing player. He’s a big target and can run down the middle of the field. Put the fear in two-deep coverage.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Historically-speaking, this is the type of game the Giants would lose… coming off of an emotional divisional win, now facing a non-division opponent with another division game on the horizon. It will be interesting to see if a Ben McAdoo-coached team suffers a letdown in this spot. The Lions are a well-coached team with a solid defense, diverse passing game, and very good special teams. This game will be close. And the new Cardiac Kids in Detroit believe they will win the close game. The difference maker in this contest could be returner Andre Roberts.

Sep 112014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Detroit Lions 35 – New York Giants 14

REVISITING: FOUR DOWNS
During our game preview, we listed ‘Four Downs,’ which took a look at the top four questions surrounding the Giants heading into the game. Now that the game has been played and the film reviewed, it’s time to break it down.

First Down
Can John Jerry, J.D. Walton and Weston Richburg contain Ndamukong Suh?
To answer bluntly, no. Ndamukong Suh made a mockery of both Walton, who was three yards deep in the backfield nearly every play and New York’s running game suffered as a result. Suh seldom went head-to-head with Richburg.

Second Down
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs Calvin Johnson
This match-up did not go as well as hoped for the Giants. While the 67-yard touchdown to start the game was more on Damontre Moore and Stevie Brown, DRC gave up several key completions to Johnson. More was hoped for and expected.

Third Down
Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush gave the Giants problems early on in the game as a receiver, particularly on the first two drives. Bush beat LB Jacquian Williams twice for 18 yards on the first touchdown drive, and then beat Stevie Brown for 24 yards on the second touchdown drive. He was held to just seven yards on three more catches after that. Bush was a non-factor in the running game, carrying the ball nine times for 15 yards (1.7 yards per carry).

Fourth Down
Walter Thurmond III vs Golden Tate
Walter Thurmond played well. Golden Tate did have six catches for 93 yards but that damage did not occur against Thurmond. Tate’s biggest play was his 44-yard reception where there was another busted coverage in the Giants zone defense with Stevie Brown likely being the guilty party.

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW – by Connor Hughes
The New York Giants were without a few of their offensive pieces Monday night in Detroit. Not suiting up for New York were: WR Odell Beckham Jr., OT Charles Brown, OT James Brewer, and OG Adam Snyder. 

From the outside perspective, things weren’t pretty Monday night in Detroit. With just a few minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Giants had mustered 91 yards on 40 plays. When the game concluded, the offense managed two touchdowns, quarterback Eli Manning was turning the ball over and the offensive line wasn’t blocking. The receivers were dropping passes and creating little separation. The running game was ineffective.

It appeared as if everything went wrong for the Giants and that Manning had continued to regress. It seemed there was little-to-no hope for the team.

And you know what? That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Following an intensive film breakdown, the Giants offense performed much better than expected. No, it wasn’t great, and certainly wasn’t good, but it wasn’t as hopeless as originally anticipated. In fact, the best way to describe it, there is hope for the Giants offense. The players just need to make the plays. The passes were there to be caught. There were ways to extend drives. The Giants were inches away from making them. There was progress.

The nuts and bolts don’t tell the complete story: 197 total yards (144 passing, 53 rushing). Two sacks for 19 yards. 3-for-13 on third downs. Two-for-three on fourth downs. 16 total first downs accumulated (four rushing, eight passing).

QUARTERBACK – by Connor Hughes
There was a very strong and glaring realization when analyzing the game film from Monday night: Eli Manning didn’t play poorly. In fact, he was one of the offense’s bright spots. Sure, some of his passes could have been a little more accurate, but that criticism can be given to three-to-four Manning throws a game every since he entered the league a decade ago.

Knocking out the one glaring mistake early, Manning never should have thrown the ball to Victor Cruz during his second interception. The play was a dud from the beginning when Nick Fairley blew past J.D. Walton.

I get Manning’s thought process: Victor Cruz was open and behind the defense with little safety help. In fact, had the play been on the opposite side of the field, where Manning could have rolled out to his right and thrown with his body as opposed to against, it very well may have been a touchdown.

The interception was a bit of the gun-slinger in Manning coming out. He believes he can make any throw, this was one he couldn’t. With the Giants down and needing a play, Manning tried to put some life into the team. Unfortunately, it should have been a situation where the offense lived to fight another down.

The first interception Manning threw, Manning also took blame for. Although, looking at the tape, I don’t see it as his fault. Now, there is no way to know the exact play call or what Larry Donnell was thinking, but this much is true. Manning and Donnell made direct eye contact before the play and Donnell noted he saw it. Donnell could have gotten a seam route call, Manning could have seen the blitz and expected Donnell to change on the fly. That’s probable, too. Either way, it’s a miscommunication.

The facts remained, when Manning had time, he made nice throws down the field. Whether his receivers caught them was another issue. On the first third down of the game, Manning went to Jernigan, who was open and should have caught the ball for a first down. Had he not gone to Jernigan, both Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz had run double-curls on the opposite side of the field, but were a yard or two short of the first. Jernigan was there for the first.

There was a play down the seam later in the game where Manning went to Victor Cruz. The result? Another drop. There were plays to be made, the playmakers on the Giants just didn’t make them. Can’t blame Manning for that.

There were a few “bad” throws from Manning on the night, but on many, Manning didn’t have a clean pocket. As was the case on his first “bad” throw to Donnell. Donnell was open on an out route, Manning released the ball, but was unable to step into the throw due to pressure. Had Manning had a little more time, it’s a six-yard completion.

There were many glaring take-aways from Monday’s game. The regression of Manning was not one of them. Should he have thrown that ball down the sideline across his body to Cruz? No. Was he the team’s biggest issue? No.

RUNNING BACKS – by Connor Hughes
There really isn’t anything ‘special’ about Rashad Jennings. He doesn’t have elite speed. He isn’t the toughest player in the world to bring down. He doesn’t do anything ‘great.’

What Jennings does do, is everything very, very well. There were little running lanes for Jennings to work with, much of that had to do with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Where Jennings made his presence felt was his ability to react to the early pressure up the middle from Suh and Co., and find the cutback lane.

On Jennings’ longest run of the night, the Lions immediately pushed the Giants offensive line into the backfield. Jennings began running to the left, then cutback and around Suh to turn what appeared to be a non-gain into a pretty nice pickup.

Jennings also truly stands out – and did again Monday – with his pass blocking. I didn’t catch a play where Jennings made the “wrong” decision on whom to pick up. He made the correct blocks and chips.

It’s been awhile since the Giants had an every-down back, but Jennings appears to be it. He’s a good runner, blocker and receiver, and the Giants used him in all areas Monday. Not many running backs in the NFL can take claim to that.

The lone other Giant to get a carry Monday was Andre Williams, who continues to be the same player the Giants thought he was in the preseason. Williams is a very good runner, but isn’t there just yet as a blocker or receiver. He’s a good change of pace back, and once he gets more comfortable in his other two roles, he should see an increase in playing time. The issue the Giants have right now is that when Williams checks into the game, opponent’s know he’s a one-trick pony at this point in his career.

WIDE RECEIVERS – by Connor Hughes
Throughout the Giants game with the Lions, the Giants played with primarily three wide receivers, with Corey Washington getting a couple snaps near the goal line. Actually… I take that back… a fifth ‘wide receiver’ actually got a snap:

One of the receivers who caught some of the most flack was Rueben Randle. The former second-round pick was targeted just three times and caught two passes for one yard. He did have a completion that was nullified by a defensive penalty.

There are a lot of questions on whether Randle was struggling to get ‘open.’ Watching the film, that wasn’t readily apparent. Instead, it looked as if the Giants just simply weren’t looking to get him the ball.

It could have been because Manning was looking to get rid of the ball quickly, and not going to his second, third, fourth reads. Either way, Manning was not looking in Randle’s direction. Period. It wasn’t as if Manning was looking to Randle, he wasn’t open, then he was taking a sack, or throwing to someone else. Manning just wasn’t going there. It was almost as if Randle wasn’t in this week’s game plan.

Jerrel Jernigan, on the other hand, was targeted and continues to leave much to be desired. It started with a case of the “alligator” arms on the first series of the game. Manning made the right read, Jernigan was open and he just short-armed it. The safety was coming up to apply a hit, and it looked like Jernigan knew that. The entire approach to the ball was awkward. The route was a bit lazy, too.

Manning didn’t take many deep shots in the game, but he did go down the field to Jernigan on one play and Jernigan had a step. Manning didn’t have a clean pocket and as a result couldn’t put it out directly in front, but Jernigan adjusted to the ball and turned around. From the film, it looked like the ball hit Jernigan’s hands and bounced out. Again, these are plays that are there to be made, and the Giants playmakers aren’t making them.

Victor Cruz made a public cry to have the ball thrown to him more. In the first half of Monday’s game, he probably should have. In the second half, he needs to catch some passes. You can’t complain about needing the ball more, but then when the ball is thrown to you…

The reason the Giants drafted Odell Beckham Jr. was to take some of the pressure off Cruz. Cruz benefits more when he has someone else on offense who demands that coverage shadow. If Cruz’s numbers drop a bit because he is the No. 1 option, that’s understandable. But drops? These are the types of plays that aren’t on Manning. If these passes are caught, Monday is a different game.

For whatever reason, early on, Cruz was simply not targeted by Manning. The Giants offense is predicated on getting the ball out of Manning’s hands fast, which may have been why Manning didn’t go through his reads as much. The ball was out of his hands before he could survey the field. Still, it was a bit puzzling why those quick reads were to Jernigan and Donnell, not Cruz and Randle.

Corey Washington’s main rep came in the red zone with Eli Manning throwing the high fade to the 6-4 target. It was the right decision, Washington has the height advantage. The biggest question mark was if the Giants planned on using Washington in the red zone…why not try to get Manning and Washington some reps together in the preseason?

TIGHT ENDS – by Connor Hughes
Larry Donnell saw almost all of the Giants reps at tight end, with the score potentially being a reason for that. Donnell isn’t the Giants strongest blocker, but he is their best receiver, and he showed that Monday.

Donnell ran some nice routes, and his two fade routes near the goal line showed the potential he has. On his first fade, Donnell came a big toe away from getting his first touchdown. On his second, it was a touchdown.

The thing that impressed me most with Donnell on the two fades were the positioning he got.

Where Donnell struggled is the same place Donnell has always struggled: Blocking. There was one play that particularly stood out. On the Jerrel Jernigan end-around that lost two yards, Will Beatty had whiffed a bit on the block and allowed LB DeAndre Levy to run free to Jernigan. While Beatty’s block on the play was dismal, Donnell ran right past Levy, allowing him to make the play. Had Donnell even just chipped him, it’s a potentially big play.

OFFENSIVE LINE – by Connor Hughes
Collectively as a unit, it wasn’t pretty. That’s how it should be, though. If one offensive lineman has a bad day and allows pressure on the quarterback, things aren’t going to go well.

That was situation on Monday night. Were all five of the Giants offensive linemen bad? No. Were most of them bad at different points in time? Yes. Were some worse than others? Yes.

With this unit being such a deep area of concern, I tried to spend as much time as I could looking at each unit individually to grade them out and see how they performed.

Before getting to the offensive linemen, a compliment to Suh. Prior to the game, I talked extensively to Weston Richburg about what makes Suh so special. The No. 1 thing he talked about was the defensive tackle’s ability to jump the count. Emphasizing that, one play stood out to me more than anything else. With this, there simply isn’t anything you can do as a lineman. Look below where Suh is, compared to the rest of his defensive linemen.

Will Beatty
No, it really wasn’t as bad as originally anticipated. Did Beatty miss a few blocks? Yes. Was the failed cut attempt as ugly as a block attempt can be? Yes. Did Beatty stand up well against Ansah for a large portion of the night? Yes.

Overall, Beatty didn’t perform that poorly and was far from the weakest link on the offensive line. You can see when Manning had a clean pocket, Beatty had a lot to do with it:

With that being said, he whiffed on a block that had the potential to be a touchdown. On the end-around, Beatty missed the initial block on Levy who came flying in to make tackle on Jernigan for a two-yard loss. Had he made that tackle, and Donnell continued down the field, there was a lot of room to run.

My biggest question mark with Beatty came strictly on the cut block. Not the technique, or the fact the cut failed, but why? Normally, offensive linemen will go with a cut block on third- or second-and-short situations. The objective is to get the lineman quickly on the ground and their hands down so that the quarterback can throw a quick pass over their head. It’s designed to prevent bat downs.

When Beatty went with his cut-block attempt, it was third-and-nine. Watching the film, Manning didn’t look like he was trying to hit any quick pass. It was a longer developing play. I don’t understand why exactly Beatty went with a cut block. To me, it didn’t make sense in that situation.

Weston Richburg
Playing the first game of his professional career, it was impressive the way Richburg handled himself in Detroit. In fact, Richburg may have been the Giants best offensive linemen. The rookie routinely made his way to the second level, sealed on a few runs and performed well in pass protection.

J.D. Walton
Walton, and right guard John Jerry, drew the short straw and faced Suh throughout the course of the night. Neither fared well at all, but Walton performed poorly no matter who he went up against. The center was knocked back into the backfield multiple times on running plays, was blown past by Fairley on Manning’s second interception and was over-matched by most he faced. It wasn’t pretty for the Giants center.

Walton didn’t have the best preseason for the Giants, either, and the question now comes up on if he could be close to losing his starting position when Geoff Schwartz returns. If either Brandon Mosley, Adam Snyder or John Jerry prove they can perform at right guard, it would allow Weston Richburg to slide in at center.

John Jerry
It’s tough to grade out or break down John Jerry’s film because he went up against Suh the majority of the night. The biggest take away from the film was that Suh simply beat Jerry off the ball too many times and caught him off guard. Did Jerry look bad Monday night? Yes. But he was going up against arguably the best defensive tackle in the NFL. Unlike Jerry, Walton was brought in to start. Jerry was meant to “compete” for a starting position, but the Giants wanted Snee, Richburg or Mosley at that right guard position. He showed some promise on running plays, but he was overpowered by Suh on far to many occasions.

Justin Pugh
Quietly, Justin Pugh had a nice game Monday night. He seldom allowed any pressure around his right side and didn’t jump out on the film for any negative reason. Of each of the offensive linemen I looked at, I struggled finding anything negative to write about in regards to Pugh. Did he overpower anyone? Not really, but he didn’t perform poorly, either. At this point, the Giants will take that day in, and day out.

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW – by Eric Kennedy
For at least the first half of the 2014 season, we knew a defense that had received an infusion of talent in the offseason would have to carry the team while the offense sputtered. That did not happen on Monday night. The back seven, particularly the secondary, was supposed to be the strength of the defense but the Giants gave up 341 net passing yards to the Lions.  QB Matt Stafford completed 22-of-32 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns for a QB rating of 125.3. That tremendous offensive productivity was from a team with a completely new coaching staff and offensive scheme.

Some very disturbing notes:

  • While the Giants stopped the run until the fourth quarter, they simply could not get off of the field on third down, including third-and-long. Detroit was 10-of-15 (67 percent) on third down.  Detroit was able to overcome terrible down-and-distance situations throughout the night. On the first TD drive, the touchdown came on 3rd-an-9 after Detroit had faced a 2nd-and-15. On the second TD drive, they overcame 2nd-and-18 and a 3rd-and-13. On the first FG drive, they overcame a 3rd-and-11.
  • The Giants allowed six pass plays of 20 or more yards, including passes of 67 and 44 yards.
  • The Giants got burned at least three times when Perry Fewell decided to drop 1 or 2 defensive linemen into coverage instead of having them rush the passer. These plays failed miserably. Though the numbers don’t indicate it, the Giants did apply some decent pressure on Stafford at times throughout the game. The Giants got burned on the 3rd-and-13 play that ended with a 16-yard touchdown (3 man rush, CB blitz), the 44-yard gain on 3rd-and-11 (3 man rush with Cullen Jenkins dropping), and the 22-yard gain on 3rd-and-7 on the last TD drive (2-man rush with Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers dropping. Great, now we’re dropping two defensive linemen.
  • There was also a dumbfounding (to me) call where on 3rd-and-25 from the Giants’ 38-yard line, Fewell basically called a prevent defense in a situation where the Giants had to prevent the Lions from getting into field goal range. There was hardly a Giant DB in the picture. Stafford completed a dart over the middle in traffic but he could have just as easily dumped the ball off short. There were two completely uncovered receivers with no defender within 15 yards.  Luckily, the Lions missed the field goal, but they should not have. Bad defensive call.
  • A constant theme during Perry Fewell’s tenure with the Giants has been confusion in the secondary that leads to big plays. That happened again on Monday night. Too often in zone coverage the other team’s wide receivers seem to be wide open in critical situations.  The troubling thing is that the mistakes are also being made by players who have been with Fewell for more than one offseason.
  • Damontre Moore did screw up by not keeping under control and preventing Stafford from launching his 67-yard touchdown pass. But he was basically benched after that play and the Giants could have used him. Other Giant defenders screwed up and weren’t benched. I don’t understand that move.
  • The Giants defense utterly gave up in the fourth quarter. It was embarrassing. You can say they wore down or whatever. The Lions ran 63 offensive plays…that’s not a terribly high number. A defense that wants to think of itself as a “top 5” defense doesn’t lie down like that.

Overall, a defense that was supposed to carry this team failed miserably. They surrendered two touchdowns on Detroit’s two first possessions, immediately putting the Giants in a 14-0 hole. They gave up another decent drive in the first half that thankfully ended in a missed field goal. In the second half, while the defense did a good job of limiting the Lions to a field goal after Eli Manning’s first interception, Detroit scored an additional 17 points on their next three possessions, including drives of 66 and 80 yards. There was one sack (player unblocked) and no turnovers forced.

DEFENSIVE LINE – by Eric Kennedy
The defensive line played pretty well. They were outstanding against the run – until the fourth quarter.  Johnathan Hankins (5 tackles) was a rock inside against the run and even flashed on occasion on the pass rush. Cullen Jenkins (2 tackles) was not as noticeable but he looked good a times against both the run and the pass. Jason Pierre-Paul (4 tackles), suffered a neck stinger, but he was very good against the run and the most consistent pass rusher the Giants had on the field. He came close a few times, and he also hustled on plays down the field. It was a mixed bag for Mathias Kiwanuka (1 tackle), who started off the game strongly but faded as the game wore on; hence, my objection to keeping Damontre Moore on the bench because of his early miscue. Kiwanuka’s pass rush became weaker as the night progressed and the Lions ran quite successfully at him and Mike Patterson (1 tackle) in the second half. Robert Ayers (1 tackle, 1 sack) played both end and tackle and flashed on occasion at both spots. My overall takeaway on the defensive line was this: good against the run, decent but not game-changing rushing the passer, and kind of gave up late in the game.

LINEBACKERS – by Eric Kennedy
Improved play was expected from this group, but the early returns were more of the same. Jon Beason, as could be expected after missing all of camp and the preseason, looked rusty. While he did a good job of reading plays and helping his teammates do a stellar job against the run (again until the 4th quarter), he was only in on four tackles and actually missed a tackle. Jameel McClain was also only in on four tackles. He flashed on a couple of plays, but it wasn’t enough. And he looked terrible down on the goal line on the Lions’ last score. Jacquian Williams (7 tackles) was dreadful. While the strength of his game is pass coverage, he did not do a good job against RB Reggie Bush early in the game, including badly missing a tackle. Bush had Williams leaning the wrong way on another reception. Williams was flagged with defensive holding too. In the third quarter, Williams’ missed tackle on the tight end turned a short gain into a 26-yard pass play. But what bothered me the most was his lack of physicality against the run, particularly in the second half of the game. He just seems like a player who doesn’t like contact…and that’s kind of a bad thing for a football player. The final kicker was his indecision on Stafford’s 3rd-and-5 touchdown run. Make the play!

DEFENSIVE BACKS – by Eric Kennedy
Much more was expected from this group. I do think part of it is scheme. There is a lot talent at cornerback with this group, and Perry Fewell has to learn to trust them by playing more man coverage and less zone. That said, there were instances in the game where the players did not engender such faith. The play that sticks out to me is the 24-yard reception by WR Calvin Johnson on 3rd-and-4 in the second quarter. Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie (4 tackles, 2 pass defenses) is locked up one-on-one with Johnson in press man coverage, but DRC allows Johnson an easy release to the inside for the big play on the slant. Given the caliber of competition (Johnson), Rodgers Cromartie didn’t have a “bad” game, but much more was expected from him. He had his share of nice plays but he also gave up a few (and was lucky Prince Amukamara saved his ass on a deep post route). Speaking of Amukamara (8 tackles, 2 pass defenses), he played well both against the run and in pass coverage. He made a nice play on the TE in the end zone to save a touchdown. Walter Thurmond wasn’t noticed. That’s good in that he usually kept his man quiet, but a game-changing play by him – or one of his teammates in the secondary – would have been nice. That was the hope coming into this season by this defensive back group.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (September 8, 2014)

Calvin Johnson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The bigger problem was at safety. It’s clear that Stevie Brown (9 tackles) is a major step down from Will Hill. Brown was actually very good against the run, far more active than the linebackers. That is an area where he really has improved since 2012. But Brown was too often a liability in coverage. He really screwed up on the 67-yard touchdown pass. As the last line of defense as a free safety, and facing the NFL’s best wide receiver, Brown simply must be in better position to keep that play from turning from a decent-sized 3rd-down completion into a long touchdown. He was out of position and worse, failed to make the tackle. Brown was burned badly by Reggie Bush (and looked slow in the process) on a 24-yard gain on the next possession. A safety has to be able to cover a back better than that. Later on this drive, Brown should have been beaten for an easy score by the tight end, but the ball was underthrown. I wonder if Stevie Brown should be playing strong safety and Antrel Rolle should be playing free safety. Rolle (4 tackles) was pretty quiet except for forcing one fumble that was recovered by the Lions. More is expected from him. As a unit, the secondary only had four pass defenses on the night and no interceptions.

SPECIAL TEAMS – by Eric Kennedy
The Giants need their special teams to excel this year too while the offense struggles. And Tom Quinn’s unit once again came up short. The Giants had one punt blocked and had two others almost blocked. In the process, Steve Weatherford was hammered and suffered ligament damage to his left ankle. Weatherford punted five times for an average of 40.2 yards per punt. The Lions were held to 11 yards on three punt returns.

Josh Brown attempted no field goals and all three of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

Quintin Demps returned one kickoff for 14 yards to the 16-yard line. Not good. Preston Parker made a big mistake by fielding a punt inside the 5-yard line. He did have one return that picked up 18 yards.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Detroit Lions, September 8, 2014)
Sep 092014
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

DETROIT LIONS 35 – NEW YORK GIANTS 14

Please note, the observations listed below are initial gut-reactions. They are not made based on film study. That will come later in the week during our formal game review.

I’ve been critical of Eli Manning before, and at times, it was justified. Manning has a little bit of that gun-slinger mentality in him where he simply doesn’t care, he’s going to try to fit some balls into some places they shouldn’t be. He’s going to make some bad decisions.

On Monday night in Detroit, he made one of them. He shouldn’t have thrown that ball to Victor Cruz. Period.

And that’s the only complaint I have with Eli Manning. That’s it.

Joe Montana wouldn’t have success behind this offensive line. Neither could Steve Young, John Elway, Peyton Manning, Cam Newton or any other quarterback you want to throw back there.

The Giants offense lacks playmakers, lacks linemen and lacks a truly great running back. That’s not Manning’s fault.

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (August 18, 2014)

Prince Amukamara – Photo by Connor Hughes

STUDS:

Prince Amukamara
When the New York Giants played the Detroit Lions last year, Calvin Johnson didn’t know who Prince Amukamara was. When Johnson spoke to the Giants media via conference call this week, he mentioned Amukamara by name. Monday night, Amukamara put himself on everyone else’s map, too. The former first-round pick was all over the field. Amukamara played with a newly-found physicality, made several nice plays on the ball and was, as written above, all over the field. It was a very impressive start to the season for Amukamara.

Jason Pierre-Paul
Many held their breath when Jason Pierre-Paul hit the turf with an apparent shoulder/neck injury. When he returned, he made his presence felt. Pierre-Paul may not have gotten to Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, but he did make several plays against the run. There was a stretch for awhile where the Lions offense was sputtering and Pierre-Paul was a big reason for that.

Larry Donnell
I was holding back on this until I heard after the game that both Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning admitted Manning’s first interception was on Manning. I thought Donnell was worthy of a stud. On a night filled with blemishes, duds and turds, Donnell was a nice bright spot. He made several plays down the field, and an impressive play on the fade route for a score on 4th down. Donnell was one of the few offensive players to stand out. The big question with him is blocking. If he could become a serviceable blocker, he could be the Giants ‘complete’ tight end they were so desperately looking for in training camp.

Johnathan Hankins, New York Giants (October 6, 2013)

Johnathan Hankins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Johnathan Hankins
The one thing the Giants defense did very well was stop the run. Last year’s second-round pick was a big reason for that. Hankins was an absolute force up the middle for the Giants and disrupted several run plays and even collapsed the pocket a few times. The more I watch Hankins, the more I’m impressed. I look forward to watching the film this week to really break down his performance. He flashed a few times, which is what makes him a stud, but I’d like to see what he did on each play.

DUDS:

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
I know, he played the best receiver in the game, but I don’t believe it excuses the performance he put forth on the field. In one-on-one coverage, DRC was beat far too often with Calvin Johnson running wide open in the secondary. There were miscommunications between him and the safeties and things were just not pretty for the team’s prized free-agent acquisition. Again, I know, it was Calvin Johnson, but wasn’t Rodgers-Cromartie signed to the mega-deal because to match up with those kind of receivers?

The Offensive Line
My expectations weren’t high for the offensive line entering their match-up with the Lions. Truly, I didn’t expect much. The five who took the field for the Giants Monday night were even worse than I could have ever possibly imagined. There wasn’t a player who wasn’t beat. Will Beatty, John Jerry and J.D. Walton were utterly pathetic. For a team that was so bad up front last year, you’d think they’d have depth-on-depth-on-depth this year. Forget the Geoff Schwartz injury for a second, left guard was the least of the Giants issues. In fact, Weston Richburg may have been the best Giants lineman to take the field. Walton, Beatty and Jerry on the other hand? Wow. These were guys that were either returning, or signed, to solidify the offensive line. The group, collectively, may have looked worse Monday night than at many points a season ago. Adam Snyder should be ready to go next week, but he’s not the answer. The fact is, this is the offensive line that will be ‘protecting’ Manning for the next eight weeks. I don’t see how Manning finishes the season healthy.

Jacquian Williams
The Giants ranted and raved about Williams this offseason, signing the linebacker’s praises about the steps and progress he had made this summer. For the first time in his career, the team believed he was ready to take the next step and be an every-down linebacker. Maybe it was the fact it was Monday Night Football, but Williams did not play well for New York. Several missed tackles, poor gap control and backside containment. It wasn’t pretty for Williams. Making things even worse was the juke-out suffered at the goal line. Not by Reggie Bush, but by Matt Stafford.

Ben McAdoo, New York Giants (June 19, 2014)

Ben McAdoo – Photo by Connor Hughes

Ben McAdoo
Again, with an offensive line like the Giants, it’s hard to have success in any facet of every game, but McAdoo gets on the ‘Dud’ list for one string of plays. This could be a situation where it’s just a difference of opinion, but in my mind, on first-and-goal at the one yard line…you run the ball. You run it three straight times. If it fails on all three, then you throw.

Needing something, anything, to get back into the game and trailing by 14 points, you most certainly do not throw a fade route to an undrafted rookie. On second a goal, run the ball. If the line can’t manage one yard on three carries, then there’s a bigger issue, but you need to trust the line.

I know, Donnell came a toe nail away from making the grab on second down, but in my mind I just believe you have to run the ball. What if New York hadn’t scored on fourth down and turned the ball over?

Jerry Reese
It’s early, maybe a little premature, but I feel deserving. The Giants have no playmakers opposite Victor Cruz. The Giants have no depth across the offensive line. The Giants don’t have a tight end that can be serviceable in more than one area. The Giants don’t have a top-notch running back. The Giants “don’t have” list can go on, and on, and on. That falls square on the shoulders of Jerry Reese.

Sep 082014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Truly, it couldn’t have gotten much worse.

If Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and the rest of the New York Giants sat down prior to Monday’s season opener versus the Detroit Lions and listed everything they didn’t want to have happen, odds are everything on that list would have been checked off on Monday Night Football.

The Giants didn’t block, cover, tackle, pass or catch. Their worst nightmares came to fruition under the lights of Ford Field. When the dust finally settled, the Lions were walking off the field with a 35-14 victory.

“It was a nightmare performance,” Coughlin said.

New York offensive woes, the same that were displayed for five games in the preseason, were once again brought to the forefront. The dysfunctional group didn’t cross the 100-yard of total offense mark until the fourth quarter. It took a penalty-filled drive for the Giants to establish anything, and even then it wasn’t pretty.

Manning was running for his life, again. There were miscommunications, again. There were interceptions, again.

It was dismal and pathetic performance. Hardly the national debut Ben McAdoo had hoped for in displaying his new West Coast offense to a nationally televised audience.

Manning finished 18-of-33 and threw for just 163 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Rashad Jennings rushed 16 times for 46 yards. Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle caught two passes each.

“No excuses,” Coughlin said. “We played very poorly. We don’t have a lot to be proud of.”

Trailing by 14 in the first quarter, Manning marched the Giants on a 13-play, 79-yard drive. New York picked up three first downs via Lion penalties. With a first-and-goal at the one yard line, New York ran two consecutive fade routes to no avail, one to Corey Washington, and one to Larry Donnell.

After a run from Jennings netted nothing, Manning found Donnell on 4th-and-goal for his first career touchdown.

Larry Donnell, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Following the score, the offense’s ineptitude returned. After a Lions three-and-out gave the Giants a chance to tie, the offense punted twice, threw an interception, punted again and then threw another interception.

“There’s no reason for the turnovers, it’s not part of the offense,” Manning said. “No reason to have those. Besides that, there’s a few other opportunities to make the plays, we just didn’t make them.”

Defensively, New York flashed its potential, but fell short on far to many occasions. On the Lions first possession, quarterback Matt Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for a 67-yard score on 3rd-and-9. Johnson was left wide open due to a miscommunication between Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Stevie Brown.

Rodgers-Cromartie passed Johnson off to Brown. Brown ran to the sideline to join Rodgers-Cromartie. Johnson took off to the middle of the field. There wasn’t a white jersey within thirty yards.

One possession later, Johnson struck again, catching a 16-yard score on an adjustment route in the back of the endzone on 3rd-and-13. Johnson finished with seven receptions for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Stafford was 22-of-32 for 346 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He ran for an additional score.

Detroit gained 417 yards of offense, held the ball for over 36 minutes and went 10-of-15 on third downs.

“There’s a lot of work to do, obviously, in a short week,” Coughlin said. “We’ll see what we can accomplish.”

New York will face the Arizona Cardinals next week in the team’s home opener. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 P.M.

Video lowlights of the game are available at Giants.com.

Post-Game Notes: Punter Steve Weatherford suffered a high-ankle sprain. He will have an MRI on Tuesday. DE Jason Pierre-Paul suffered a stinger but he does not think he will miss any time.

Inactive for the Giants were WR Odell Beckham (hamstring), OT James Brewer (back), OT Charles Brown (shoulder), OG Adam Snyder, DT Jay Bromley, DT Markus Kuhn (ankle), and DE Kerry Wynn.