Rewind to Week 17 of 2020 with me. NYG was on the brink of a potential playoff spot despite a 6-10 finish. The only thing that stood in their way was the Washington Football Team that went into a Sunday night matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles with a 6-9 record. Because of tie-breakers, NYG would have gone to the postseason had PHI taken care of business. PHI tanked the game for the sake of a better draft position. There is some debate on whose call that actually was, but Pedersen took the heat. Washington won, went to the playoffs, Pedersen was fired, and NYG was on the outside looking in. Had they made it, would Joe Judge have had an extra year to prove his worth in 2022? As angry as NYG nation was back then, it was a move that could have prevented NYG from working under Brian Daboll today.
NYG has not been a productive first-drive team. In fact, the last time they opened the game with a touchdown-scoring drive was November 7, 2021 at home against the Raiders. They later went on to win that contest, one of their four on the year. So, for the first time in 14 games, Jones led the NYG offense to a game-opening touchdown on a pass to Darius Slayton. The lead did not last long, however. The Jaguars, led by second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence and former Eagles Super Bowl-winning Head Coach Doug Pederson, marched right back down the field. Six Plays (3 run / 3 pass), and 70 yards ended with Travis Etienne crossing the goal line. They opted to go for two points rather than tie it up after NYG was flagged for an illegal formation on the PAT try. Etienne easily ran that one is as well to give the home team an early one-point lead.
NYG punted on their next drive, but after left guard Ben Bredeson went down with a knee injury. JAC showed no issues in continuing their early offensive momentum, again getting into the red zone and putting up points. This drive ended with a 27-yard field goal by Riley Patterson. Former Giants’ first round pick Evan Engram had the longest play of the drive, a 28-yarder. The 28-year old is currently playing with the lowest drop rate of his career (2.6%), well below the league average. He is on pace to set a career high in catches and yards.
NYG was able to put up three points of their own on a 33-yard field goal by Graham Gano. But this came after Evan Neal, the second starting lineman of the game, limped off the field injured. He, along with Bredeson, did not return. At the time of this writing, both will likely be out for at least a couple of weeks. Even though NYG got the game within one, the outlook was bleak. A rookie who has already seen his share of struggles was in at left guard and a third-year vet who was waived in August by Baltimore was in at right tackle as NYG was taking on a very physical defensive front from JAC.
For the third time in as many tries, JAC found themselves in the red zone. It seemed everything they were trying on offense was working. Runs, passes, play-action, counters…etc. JAC was moving the ball at will and someone on the defense needed to make a play. Safety Xavier McKinney, who was having a poor game up until this point, stepped up. He forced an Etienne-fumble as he reached the NYG 5-yard line. Julian Love recovered in the end zone and walked out of bounds for the touchback. It was an enormous turn of events. Instead of it being JAC ball, 1st-and-goal from inside the five, it was NYG ball on their own 25. This turned into three more points for NYG after Gano hit a 33-yard field goal. The half was over after JAC threw a desperation Hail Mary and NYG had the 2-point lead.
The opening play of the first half was a 49-yard run by Etienne. At this point, he had 92 yards on just 7 carries. Etienne got them down to the NYG 1-yard line after two more carries before Trevor Lawrence took two straight QB sneaks up the middle, the second one crossing the goal line. NYG has made a living this year on scoring early in the second half, but they were the ones that allowed the early score after halftime. JAC was up 17-13, as Nick McCloud blocked the extra point. NYG drove down the field themselves and had an interception by Jones taken off the board thanks to a roughing-the-passer penalty, the second turnover of the game NYG escaped due to a flag. They had 2nd-and-3 from the JAC 3-yard line. Barkley was stuffed at the line on second down. Jones nearly threw an interception on third down. And Marcus Johnson dropped a pass on fourth down that would have at least resulted in a first down conversion and could have ended up in the end zone. The frustration level was at its highest.
Three straight scoreless possessions followed. The second stop of JAC was the result of more aggressive decision-making by Pederson. On 4th-and-1 from the NYG-20 yard line (and a 4-point lead), he kept the offense on the field. They tried yet another QB sneak and this time the NYG front stuffed it. Turnover on downs. Instead of going for the 7-point lead (Patterson is 7/8 lifetime on attempts 30-39 yards), it was NYG ball, down four. After a quiet running game in the first half, NYG was controlling the point-of-attack (with 2 backup OL remember). All 69 yards gained on their own were via the running game. Add in another 10 yards and 3 JAC penalties. Jones, who was having arguably the most impressive performance of his career, crossed the goal line on a 1-yard carry. NYG was up 20-17.
The NYG defense forced a three-and-out on the next drive, and with just under 4:30 left in the game, the offense had the ball back and their dominance on the ground continued. NYG brought extra linemen on the field and simply ran power after power after power. They gained 61 yards and forced JAC to use all 3 timeouts. The black eye here was the fact that Barkley ran out of bounds, stopping the clock, three times. Not once, not twice, but three times. Football has a way of balancing things out over time. A week after Barkley made the unselfish and brilliant decision to fall on the ground in front of the end zone to keep the clock running, he made three bonehead mistakes (in a row) that kept the game alive for JAC. Gano hit a 34-yarder to make the NYG lead six.
JAC and the referees made things interesting. Three penalties were called on NYG. One of them nullified an interception by Fabian Moreau. One of them added 15 yards to a 28-yard gain with under :20 left. Lawrence and the JAC offense had three shots at the end zone from inside the NYG-20 yard line. The first two fell incomplete. The third connected with Christian Kirk right in front of the end zone. It took a trio of NYG defenders to wrestle the 200-pound slot receiver to the ground just a couple feet shy of the end zone as the clock expired.
NYG wins 23-17.
-Daniel Jones: 19/30 – 202 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 94.0 RAT
The most important stat from Jones came on the ground. He ran for 107 yards on 11 carries and added another touchdown. It was his first ever 100+ yard performance and he is third to only Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields in rushing by a quarterback this season. Jones has 1,343 yards on the ground so far in his career. Eli Manning had under 600 over his career. The contrast in offensive style and possibilities with an athlete like this under center should not be overlooked when evaluating his play. Jones put this team on his shoulder and delivered. He had multiple passes dropped, including a touchdown. Game ball for a guy who stepped up the most when his team needed him the most. If you are looking for a negative, he did have two turnovers cancelled by JAC penalties that did not exactly impact the original result of the play.
-Saquon Barkley: 24 att – 110 yards / 4 rec – 25 yards
Barkley has been a different player in the second half of games this season. Week 7 was no different. He had 9 carries for 18 yards in the first half, 15 carries for 92 yards in the second. This is the ideal way to go about a power-run game; be at your best as the defense grows tired. The fact he did this behind a makeshift offensive line means something for both him and the coaching. I do believe they were limiting his snaps early, as the shoulder is a minor issue that they need to prevent turning into a big one. But with the game on the line late, it was time to feed him over and over. He delivered. That said, the constant lack of awareness that saw him go out of bounds three times was such a head scratcher. Had they lost, Barkley would have been one of the biggest scapegoats and rightfully so.
-Matt Breida had 19 yards on 4 carries and gained 14 yards on a catch. Solid performance in a game that saw him tie a season-high 18 snaps.
-Poor game by the group overall. NYG is 6-1, but one needs to ask how much longer they can try to contend with these guys running routes. Darius Slayton caught 3 passes for 58 yards including a 32-yard touchdown. That was a double catch, and he dropped a ball later on. His ball skills and overall feel for the position is maddening.
-Wan’Dale Robinson was a huge part of the offense early on. He finished with 50 yards on 6 catches. Not the most impressive stat line, but keep in mind ALL of that production was in the first half. He suffered a minor injury in the second half and even though he came back in, he did not see the ball (or any targets) after halftime. I’m not too into fantasy football but I have a strong feeling he is going to be THE feature receiver on this team from here on out. No other player was targeted more and his adjustments to the ball in the air were amazing.
-Marcus Johnson is a polarizing player. I noted how many transactions he has been a part of in the past (including 2 trades). We saw some of the good the last two weeks, but we saw the ugly this week. He was targeted three times and he had 2 drops, one of which came at a vital point in the game. He was also flagged for an illegal downfield block.
-David Sills had a catch for 19 yards and Richie James added 1 catch for 2 yards.
-Rookie Daniel Bellinger suffered one of the worst injuries I have seen in quite some time. While it sounds like it won’t be in the season-ending tier, the pain he obviously felt made my stomach knot up. He took a finger-led punch to the eye which caused fractures and will require surgery. He had 1 catch for 13 yards before exiting.
-Chris Myarick and Tanner Hudson will likely fill in for him moving forward. Myarick had 2 catches for 21 yards and allowed a TFL. I will touch on this below, but an argument can be made that tight end is now a bigger need on this team than receiver.
-I will start off with the injuries. Ben Bredeson and Evan Neal both missed most of the game with knee injuries. Initially this was perceived to be a major blow. When considering the law of averages, when a team loses multiple linemen in the same game, it usually gets ugly. Here? One could make the argument the NYG offense only got stronger from that point. No, not a knock on Neal and Bredeson. It is a compliment to the situation, players and coaches combined. Tyre Phillips played 58 snaps at tackle and Joshua Ezeudu played 61 snaps at left guard. How did they fare? Phillips looked better than the rookie. He allowed 2 pressures and a half-TFL, but was often left alone on an island and won more of those match-ups than I expected him to. Because Neal is still growing as a player, I don’t expect much of a drop off with Phillips in there. Ezeudu allowed 3 pressures and was flagged for illegally going downfield on a passing play. Overall, it was a poor game for him, but his best football was played late in the game when NYG absolutely took over with the running game.
-Mark Glowinski allowed a pressure and a TFL. More of the same from him. Solid football with a limited ceiling. You know when you hear the line “high floor / low ceiling” in pre-draft talk? That is Glowinski.
-Jon Feliciano had his best game as a Giant and Andrew Thomas was near-perfect again. The latter did allow a pressure, and some will credit a sack against him but that is why I like tracking my own stats. That sack was not on Thomas. These two and Glowinski need to be rock-solid as this offensive line is about to shift around a bit.
-Last week I discussed rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux playing on a steady incline ever since missing the first two games of the year. That description is still in play. He had 3 tackles and a team-high 3 pressures. He constantly won with his first step and played well under the pads of the JAC tackles while turning a tight corner. His effort and speed are making an impact away from the ball, always a good sign. The big issue that continues to arise? He is not doing a good job setting the edge. He has been slow to recognize and lacks the power to make up for it. That hurt NYG against the run multiple times.
-Jihard Ward is the epitome of what an edge setter is in the NFL. He excelled in that role and has done so all year. He finished with only 2 tackles, but did a lot of the dirty work that helped this defense come up big late.
-With Oshane Ximines and Azeez Ojulari out, the door was opened for Tomon Fox and Quincy Roche. Roche was on the field just 2 snaps and he finished with a tackle. Fox was on the field for 34 snaps and did not appear on the stat sheet. He made one physical hit on an incomplete pass toward the end of the first half but beyond that, he was shut out. NYG had a few pass rush issues for the first 50-65% of the game. Fox was one of the culprits there.
-Dexter Lawrence was flagged twice for roughing the passer. The first was complete garbage. The second, I did not agree with, but that kind of roughing gets called weekly around the league. Hate the rule there, not the ref. Otherwise, he finished with 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure. He had a sack nullified by a defensive holding call in the secondary.
-Leonard Williams and Nick Williams both had 1 tackle and 1 pressure. The former broke up a pass at the line as well. Overall, a quiet game from these two who had a hard time against the run.
-Ryder Anderson and Justin Ellis both rotated in and finished with a tackle.
-Tae Crowder had 6 tackles and missed one. He also broke up a pass. The issue with his overall game showed up in an ugly way in this game. He is late to react off the ball and gets caught out of position. He struggles to get off those blocks and now there is a wide-open running lane for the opposition. Jaylon Smith has similar issues but does show more post-snap when it comes to making reads. He added 4 tackles and showed good coverage downfield multiple times.
-Welcome back #21, Landon Collins. He saw 23 snaps at linebacker and most of them were on third down / passing situations. He had 1 tackle on an impressive play where he fought off the block in space and dragged down the ball carrier near the end zone.
-Adoree’ Jackson is the one force in this cornerback group that can be relied on play to play, week to week. He had 6 tackles and 2 pass break ups. His coverage down the stretch was money. Undoubtedly one of the most important players on this defense because of what is, or isn’t, behind him.
-Fabian Moreau finished with 7 tackles and a pass break up. He too came up big on the final drive. His interception was cancelled by a penalty by Dane Belton (a horrific call). And he was part of the crew that kept Kirk out of the end zone on the final play. He fits the bend-don’t-break stigma of this defense very well.
-Darnay Holmes had a penalty cancelled by a different defensive penalty. Otherwise, it was more of the same from him. Physical run support and tackling, good-not-great coverage, and a lot of versatility.
-Nick McCloud blocked an extra point. All things considered that ended up being a big play in the game.
-Xavier McKinney came up with a huge forced fumble that was desperately needed at the time. JAC was moving the ball with ease early on and it appeared they were about to score another touchdown. Getting that ball out of Etienne’s grasp was both timely and potentially game-changing. That somewhat hides his poor angles in run support that gave JAC extra yards (and points).
-Julian Love led the team with 9 tackles and a fumble recovery. The fumble recovery may not have even been the biggest play of the game. He made initial contact with Kirk on that final play of the game that ended up 1 yard short of JAC winning the game. McKinney and Moreau made bigger impact hits, but it was Love’s contact that slowed down Kirk’s momentum. Had Love not done this, Kirk may have reached the end zone for the score. He was flagged for a personal foul earlier in the game that I thought was another poor call by the refs.
-Dane Belton played 23 snaps, as he and Holmes appear to be going back and forth with respect to playing time. He finished with 2 tackles and was hosed on a penalty on the last drive that cancelled the Moreau interception. Another poor call by the refs.
-K Graham Gano: 3/3 (Made 33, 33, 34)
-P Jamie Gillian: 2 punts / 40.0 avg – 30.0 net
-QB Daniel Jones, WR Wan’Dale Robinson, CB Adoree’ Jackson
-WR Marcus Johnson, LB Tae Crowder, OG Joshua Ezeudu
3 THOUGHTS ON JAC
1. Yet another example (there are multiple cases every year) of not crowning anyone after 3 weeks. JAC started of 2-1 with wins against IND and LAC that combined for 62 points of margin over those opponents. They were up 8-1 in the turnover margin. They were up 70-51 in first down margin. Fast forward to Week 7, and they still have only 2 wins. Losers of 4 straight, JAC’s turnover margin is back to even and they’ve averaged under 18 points per game since their fast start. They are not contenders yet even though the AFC South can make a case for being the worst in football again.
2. Just how good is Trevor Lawrence? The 2021 #1 overall pick was destined for that tag since his freshman season at Clemson. He went on to have a stellar career there, but as we all know, life in the NFL is different. I’ve seen him four times this season and the traits are obviously there. But one inconsistency I see week to week revolves around ball placement issues when he has a lot of action close to him. This happens often. Kids from college come into the league and long-gone are the days of having 5 yards of space around you in all directions for 3-4-5 seconds every drop back. Lawrence missed on several throws in this game, and I saw the same against both HOU and PHI (albeit that one in the rain). Every young quarterback has a three-year grace period in my eyes as long as they do not bottom out. He is only in year two and is currently playing under his third play-caller. But for someone who I graded as high as I did, I was expecting better play than what he is showing in year two. He was the second-best quarterback on the field in this game and to be blunt, it wasn’t close.
3. What does JAC need to be a credible contender? Obviously, we know Lawrence needs to ascend, that can go without saying. When I look at this roster, I see quality players on both sides of the ball. Ownership has spent more free agency money than anyone in the league since 2012. I trust the coach. Travis Etienne has All-Pro potential, and he is starting to flash. Their defense has a young star in Josh Allen and another future star in Travon Walker. Linebacker Devin Lloyd is playing some of the best football in the league among rookies. But they have not escaped the cellar. What gives? I see two major issues. Their receivers can’t make anything happen after the catch and they are not deep threats. That is a danger zone to be in. Defensively they don’t have the cover-guys at the top and lack pro-caliber depth when guys go down. Thus, they are incredibly vulnerable to losing both passing battles week to week. Until that changes, they’ll remain where they’re at.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
1. 6-1. Credible playoff contention now and opportunities like this should not be assumed by a front office. Does the urgency for a trade (or signing) at receiver pick up with each win? Yes, I think so. Especially when it is coupled with the fact these receivers either can’t stay healthy or simply cannot be relied upon. Let’s be sure to not lower the standard for what a winning receiver does for a team. We have seen Slayton flash. We have seen Johnson flash. We have even seen Sills do a few good things. But do not mistake them for more than what they are: replacement-level players. I don’t want General Manager Joe Schoen to go down the path of selling future premium picks. But I think the urgency is a little higher now on an Odell Beckham reunion. But don’t overlook the need for a tight end. They are less expensive regarding both the cap and the trade market. Bellinger is the future at the position, but replacing his value and production CAN be done with a simple trade of a day-three pick to a team that is out of contention.
2. In episode 6 of “NYG Coaches Are Among the Best in the League”…I bring you to the final 19 offensive plays of the game. 17 of them were runs and they totaled 130 yards. 2 of them were passes, both fell incomplete. NYG doubled down on what they knew would work. Their bread and butter. And this was behind a banged up offensive line. So, what did they do? Bring on extra linemen as blocking tight ends (Devery Hamilton and Jack Anderson). They essentially ran the same play over and over and then threw in the little curve ball once JAC over-committed off the snap with a Jones naked bootleg. This staff has such a strong grasp how to move the ball on offense and that has more value than fancy personnel that other teams may have. It just keeps getting better.
3. A game in Seattle before NYG gets a week off. While 6-1 looks nice on paper, 7-1 will make things so much more comfortable than 6-2 moving forward. Because of their rookie tackles, I have seen all the Seattle games this year. They are right up there with NYG as the most surprising team in the NFL this season. My biggest concern is their ability to pound the run. They are first in the NFL in yards per carry and their rookie Kenneth Walker looks big time. NYG ranks dead last in the NFL in yards per carry allowed. This is an obvious mismatch, and I am curious to see what Martindale schemes up to prevent this being an issue.