On paper, the cross-country trip the Rams had to embark on for a Sunday 1 PM contest was an ugly one for Big Blue. The NFL-leader in offensive yards per play against the defense that had allowed the 8th most yards per play. The 6th best 3rd-down offense against the 29th-ranked 3rd-down defense. One of the top-3 pass protecting offensive lines facing off against a bottom-three pass rush. And lastly, since 2017, the 3rd-best road team vs. the worst home team in the NFL. This had ugly written all over it despite the relatively close 17-9 loss to the Rams a season ago.
The Giants began with the ball, and it was ugly from the start. Daniel Jones was sacked by Leonard Floyd, causing a fumble, just 2 days after the third-year quarterback cleared concussion protocol from a hit he took in their previous game against DAL. They pushed through the initial adversity, converting a 3rd-and-14 via a pass from Jones to the dynamic and explosive playmaker Kadarius Toney. That, along with a few chunk-gains in the running game by Devontae Booker, stepping in for the injured Saquon Barkley, brought NYG into the red zone. NYG had 1st-and-10 from the LAR 11-yard line. As expected, the worst red zone offense in the league had to settle on a 27-yard field goal and they lost Toney to a re-aggravated ankle injury. He would not return.
The Rams offense, led by potential MVP Matthew Stafford, did breach NYG territory but a 3rd-down sack by Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence pushed them back far enough to warrant a punt. NYG had the ball back deep in their own territory. The offensive line continued to get pummeled, but Jones was able to convert a 3rd down and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey was called for a hold on another 3rd down a few plays later. On a 4th-and-1 from their own 41-yard line, the NYG offense opted to go for it via a QB sneak up the middle. It was mere inches shy, which led to a turnover on downs.
Leonard Williams came up big again on a 3rd-and-5 from the NYG 35-yard line, sacking Stafford once more, pushing them out of field goal range once more. The Big Blue defense deserved a ton of credit as they game entered the 2nd quarter with the home team up, 3-0. That was the final positive state of the game for the Giants.
The next 5 offensive possessions resulted in 3 three-and-outs and 2 turnovers. Mixed in between were 3 Rams touchdowns: two passes from Stafford to Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp respectively, and a run by Darrell Henderson. As the clock neared 2:00, LAR had the ball again and you know what that means. NYG has made a habit out of allowing touchdowns over the final 2 minutes of the first half, and for the 6th time in 6 weeks, that is exactly what they did. Stafford hit Henderson up the left sideline for a 25-yard score and the fans were already heading toward the exits. LAR had a 28-3 lead at the half and they were without Toney and left tackle Andrew Thomas because of injuries.
LAR was held to a 32-yard field goal on the opening possession of the second half, but then Jones threw another interception to Taylor Rapp (his second of the game) on the ensuing drive. LAR turned that into another touchdown, as they scored their 38th straight unanswered point with just under 12 minutes left in the game. There isn’t much to say about this game from here. NYG did score a garbage touchdown via an Elijhaa Penny run for 4 yards as LAR slowly but surely took their starters off the field on both sides of the ball. NYG kept most of their starters in, minus a near-full blown personnel change along the offensive line. It was hard to watch at the end, as most of the defense started to jog through the motions, the leftover fans peppered the home team with boos, and Joe Judge joined the list of NYG coaches staring into the abyss wondering what in the hell he had gotten himself into.
NYG loses 38-11.
-Daniel Jones: 29/52 – 242 yards – 0 TD / 3 INT
Jones added 4 yards on the ground and fumbled twice, losing one. Against a defense that was middle of the pack, Jones looked overmatched. Perhaps he was. He was missing his top receiver, his running back, and then lost his left tackle and number three receiver in the first half. He appeared to be fighting an uphill battle most of the way and he just couldn’t seem to pull himself out of it. Remember, year 3 is all about evaluating whether or not Jones will be the long-term answer at quarterback. Part of that includes whether or not he performs well through adversity. Part of that includes how much he can elevate those around him greater than the sum of its parts. He failed here. There are a couple things that can be pointed at, but we must keep things simple. Jones was overmatched mentally and physically. No question.
-Devontae Booker: 12 att / 41 yards and 4 rec / 28 yards.
Booker was running well early on. He had a few chunk gains inside but because they were down so much in the second half, his role was diminished further and further. His vision and yards after contact were solid and he was successful on all of his pass-blocking responsibilities besides one miscommunication with the offensive line.
-Elijhaa Penny had 15 yards on 3 carries including a touchdown. I would like to see him in all short-yardage and goal-line situations; he remains very successful in those situations.
-Sterling Shepard: 10 rec / 76 yards
After missing a game with a hamstring injury, Shepard came back and led the team in yards and catches. 7 catches and 56 of those yards came after halftime, mostly against soft prevent defense. Shepard had 2 big drops and that is what stood out the most to me from him in this game.
-Because of the injuries to Golladay, Toney, and Slayton, we saw an increase in playing time for Dante Pettis and Collin Johnson. The former had 5 catches for 48 yards and the latter added 2 catches for 21 yards. John Ross went catch-less. 7 combined catches on 18 targets, a terrible catch percentage.
-Toney and C.J. Board were both lost with injuries, further shrinking this position group which will likely force a signing or 2. We may finally see preseason stud David Sills IV. Should Toney have been out there after missing most of practice in the week leading up? Yes. He passed pre-game protocols and the only way NYG was going to have a shot in this game was points. Toney gave NYG the best opportunity to score points at the skill position and without Barkley on the field, nobody else was close.
-It was an uneventful day for the group. Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph combined for 4 receptions / 32 yards on 7 targets. They were both on the field at the same time for just under half the snaps because of the abundance of injuries they were going through at receiver. Kaden Smith also played about a quarter of the snaps. Rudolph’s inability to move his feet and bend his knees as a blocker makes him look like a player who aged really fast. Add him to the list of disappointments that have come here this offseason via free agency.
-Engram still lacks flow as both a route runner and receiver. There is something mental going on there and I am sticking with it.
-Andrew Thomas was clearly hobbled from his nagging foot injury that kept him out last week against DAL. He lasted just 29 snaps before leaving the game with another injury. This brought swing tackle Matt Peart into the fold. The second-year, 3rd-round draft pick allowed 2 sacks and 3 pressures. It was a bad sign for him, as the team will be examining him hard this upcoming offseason when determining how to approach the future offensive line. Clearly, he is not a fit for the left side. The issue is, neither is Nate Solder. Solder allowed 3 pressures and a sack himself, further proving something that no longer needs to be discussed. He isn’t a pro-caliber lineman anymore.
-Inside, against the top defensive lineman in the league in Aaron Donald, Will Hernandez and Matt Skura both allowed a pressure and were both flagged for a false start. They did a solid job on the positive inside runs, but neither did well on the outside zone running plays. The Rams defense is fast but where they really excel up front is with their gap discipline and ability to forecast. They were simply beating these two, and center Billy Price, to spots on the field. Price was rarely left alone in this one. He allowed 1 pressure but was solid otherwise, finishing with the top grade among the OL.
-Leonard Williams was the top player on the team in this game. Back when this was an actual game, he was on fire. He had 1.5 sacks, 2 pressures, and penetrated against the run. He finished with 7 tackles but didn’t seem very interested late in the game. I will address his post game comments below.
-Dexter Lawrence, who we’ve discussed in regard to needing to step up for this defense, also started off hot and finished with 7 tackles. He added a half-sack and was controlling multiple gaps in the running game. Lawrence isn’t an impactful player, but I think his value isn’t appreciated because of how poor the team is around him. When I watch quality football teams and defenses around the league, the outlook on a player like Lawrence is much higher. Guys like this create opportunities for others but if those others don’t make things happen and/or the team as a whole gets torched, players like Lawrence get lost in the shuffle. Simply put, a good defense that has a need inside will want Lawrence, something I will touch on later on below as well.
-Austin Johnson and Danny Shelton were doing a nice job against Rams center Brian Allen when matched up against him, but really struggled with the gap integrity when they had to move laterally. Johnson had a pressure and 6 tackles (all assists) and Shelton ended up getting injured late in the game.
-There are were moments where Tae Crowder looks overwhelmed. He is still a young player who is lacking in some key areas, but I thought he played his butt off. He led the team with 10 tackles, added a TFL, and had one pressure. He was beat in man coverage that resulted in a touchdown by Darrell Henderson. That won’t ever be a spot he should be pre-snap unless NYG is sending an all-out blitz. Poor scheming by Patrick Graham there and Stafford knew it right away.
-We saw a little bit of Carter Coughlin later in the game. Reggie Ragland is a known stout run defender, but the results aren’t good enough. I think it is time to get Coughlin more looks. He was a couple inches away from an interception and I think his versatility could make some things happen for this defense.
-Yet another quiet game from the outside linebackers. Azeez Ojulari, Lorenzo Carter, and Oshane Ximines combined for 111 snaps. LAR dropped back to throw the ball 31 times. Not one pressure. Not one. Ximines had a garbage time TFL and the starters combined for 3 tackles. They are complete non-factors.
-Adoree’ Jackson continues to put up poor performance after poor performance. What an awful signing that was a clear attempt at throwing an expensive band aid on a problem this front office did not properly forecast. He was attacked on 3rd down, allowing 3 conversions and allowed a touchdown.
-James Bradberry was solid, as he matched up against Robert Woods for most of the afternoon and kept him to a season-low 2 catches. Bradberry also broke up 2 passes.
-Xavier McKinney’s box score looks nice.. He had 3 tackles and 2 interceptions. For a defense that is starving for impact plays and for a defense that just can’t get to the passer enough, McKinney’s big plays were important to see even though they had no impact on the game. He also dropped a third interception. I want to see him finish more plays as a tackler and pursuer. He gets to where he needs to be, he plays physical and aggressive, but there is something missing. Hopefully the experience of playing at NFL speed will fix the issues because he is one young defender on this team who has a high ceiling.
-Logan Ryan had 7 tackles and continued to play hard to the end. Call me old fashioned but I appreciate and respect what he does on the field. He was beat on 3rd down and on a touchdown, but he is one of the few defenders NYG has who can be relied upon. We know what we are getting out of him week in, week out.
-Jabrill Peppers on the other hand is further weakening his odds of being on this team in the future because of poor play. Offenses are quite obviously looking to get after him on 3rd down and near the end zone. He is a huge part of the weakness this defense has at the second level and is no match for a solid receiving threat. Athletic freak, bad football player. It won’t work.
-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 27)
-P Riley Dixon: 4 punts / 52.5 avg – 43.5 net
-DT Leonard Williams, S Xavier McKinney, RB Devontae Booker
-OT Matt Peart, QB Daniel Jones, LB Lorenzo Carter
3 THOUGHTS ON LAR
(1) Did you know LAR hasn’t made a 1st round pick since 2016? Five straight drafts without a 1st rounder AND they won’t have one in the next two drafts (unless they trade FOR one). Front offices can be aggressive like this when, and only when, the foundation is firmly in place. Strength in the trenches (BOTH sides of the ball). A coaching system that elevates others on a consistent basis. And wins. NYG lacks all of the above. Until then, the idea of trading FOR players is not the right approach because the holes are too many.
(2) Are the Rams a legit contender in the NFC? You bet. That makes it 2 weeks in a row that NYG took on 2 of the 3 teams that I think the NFC will come down to. TB is the remaining conference contender they haven’t seen yet, but that time will come in 5 weeks. 82 points allowed, 31 points against. That is the margin between where NYG is and where we want them to eventually be. An average of 25+ points per game.
(3) Andrew Whitworth doesn’t get half the attention that he should. 16 seasons as a starting left tackle and soon-to-be 40 years old. I have all the respect in the world for Tom Brady and what he does at his age but I think what Whitworth is doing at a much more physically demanding position belongs in the same conversation.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
(1) Leonard Williams wasn’t happy about the boo birds spraying out their distaste for the team on Sunday. Some overdone line about how he wouldn’t go boo a salesman that is performing poorly at his job. I’ve seen this before and I’ll see it again. Someone needs to tell him to focus on fixing himself and the team he plays on. While this “story” is not a big deal at all, I think it goes to show one of the major internal issues NYG is currently dealing with. A bunch of people around this organization not taking complete ownership for their part in being the worst team in the NFL over the past few years. Their players don’t perform well, their front office is missing out on the right players both in free agency and the draft, and the coaches can’t seem to stay on the same level of intellect as the rest of the league. Be a man and admit it. Part one of fixing a problem is acknowledging the problem and, in this case, every person involved in football operations that receives a paycheck from NYG is part of the problem. You’re wasting time talking about “boo’s”. You’re in New York, Mr. Williams. You’re 34-67 as a pro and the highest paid player on the team. Set the example of ownership, not finger pointing.
(2) The year is 2014. NYG is coming off 7-9 season (2013) and ranked 26th in the league in sacks. The year prior (2012), they were 22nd in sacks in a season they just missed the playoffs. And lastly, the year before that (Super Bowl winning 2011), they ranked tied for 3rd in the NFL with 48 sacks. NYG was picking 12th in the first round. Admittedly, their offense was struggling as well but this is the moment NYG went away from what was working for so long. They passed on Aaron Donald (much to my dismay), and selected Odell Beckham. Since then? Donald has earned first-team All-Pro honors 6 times. Donald has 89 sacks and 136 TFL over 116 games. Beckham has played in just 86 games with 51 touchdowns (just 16 since 2017). I am reminded of this every time I watch LAR play and it was a franchise-changing moment that few ever talk about.
(3) The NFL trade deadline is 2 weeks away. Here we are again, wondering if anyone in the league wants the trash from this roster so NYG can net an extra mid to late round pick in the next draft. A couple thoughts on this. One, you want to have good players here so one can properly gauge what is currently here. I am getting at Sterling Shepard, a player I think many will forecast in a trade market. I think his contract is too big for anyone to see great value in him. A good player, absolutely. However, when economics come into play, the value is very average. Plus, if you are going to use the rest of 2021 to evaluate Jones in regard to NYG’s future at the position, he needs to be here running routes, not Dante Pettis. Second, who on this roster is worth something to someone else? I can only see two guys that would warrant attention. They are CB James Bradberry and DT Dexter Lawrence. As I said above, Lawrence may not get the attention on a bad team, rightfully so. On a defense that has other parts (playmakers at LB and quality edge presence), Lawrence can make things happen. I wouldn’t expect anything better than a 4 or 5 for either, but those are 2 names I would look into for a trade. KC, IND, and TEN are all contenders that will be searching for defensive help.