-Tyrod Taylor: 23/33 – 297 yards / 1 TD – 1 INT / 98.0 RAT
Taylor added 38 rushing yards on 8 carries. It was an eventful night for the 34-year-old backup who is just months away from free agency. It was an odd game for him with his typical ups and downs that we are accustomed to watching. He made some explosive plays down the field, he threw an awful interception in the red zone, he made some Houdini escapes from pressure, he had to be peeled off the ground multiple times with short-term injuries (even to the point Tommy DeVito had to come in). One thing is for certain, whenever Taylor is on the field for extended snaps, you are going to see it all in both good and bad ways. He played a good (not great) game overall, but the standout trait I see in him (after watching him dropping back the most times he’s had in a season since 2017) is how fast he can get the ball out and set his playmakers up for success. While the ball placement is inconsistent, there is a feel to the game he shows that young quarterbacks can learn a lot from. I enjoyed watching him play this year and he will undoubtedly get another backup job in 2024 if he wants it. NYG should consider keeping him around no matter what they end up doing in the draft. I’ve seen a lot of backup QB play in 2024, Taylor is one of the top five or six in that role league-wide.
-Saquon Barkley: 18 att – 46 yards – 2 TD / 2 rec – 51 yards
Much will be made about Barkley’s future with the team as we dive into offseason mode. I will lightly touch on that at the bottom of this article. Barkley’s two touchdowns gave him his first ever back-to-back double-digit score season of his career. They got him the ball in space on both those scores and as I’ve been pounding the table for years, the results are great when he gets put in that situation. While he has never been a productive/effective bruiser even though he is 225+ pounds, he does do damage on guys when he gets some momentum in the open field. He can make them miss, but he can also pick up hidden yards after contact. I applaud the way he finished this one out and how professional he has remained since the awkward contract situation last offseason. Again, more on him below.
-Eric Gray rushed for 19 yards on 3 carries and added 9 more yards on a catch. One thing I saw in this game and all year from him on VERY limited touches was the lack of ability to make things happen after contact. There was not enough to label it an actual negative on his scouting report, but Gray played small in the few opportunities he had this year.
-Wan’Dale Robinson: 5 rec – 85 yards
What an exciting talent this kid is. All of his production came in the first half. I have to believe the effort in getting all the looks to Sterling Shepard in the second half impeded Robinson from getting his first game of over 100 yards in the passing game. He plays faster than everyone on that offense. You can show me forty times and maybe vertical routes, but Robinson plays the game so quick and explosive. Very strong end to the year for him and he is a key focal point in 2024 no matter what.
-Darius Slayton ended with 5 catches for 62 yards and a touchdown with a drop. It was his third straight game with a score, the first time we have seen that out of him since being drafted. He, too, finished the season on a high note and it looked like Tyrod Taylor got the most out of him. His game builds off the fact he can be a vertical threat. His drop rate in 2023 was a career low and he caught 66% of his targets, a career high. Now, if they can get him to be stronger in contested situations, I could see him being a viable number two.
-Sterling Shepard’s career with NYG (and maybe overall) ended with 18 yards on 3 catches along with a 6-yard run. If you get into the sentimental stuff, it was good to see the team try so hard to get him looks and one final score. He is and always has been a beloved teammate. As for the performance itself, it was a microcosm of what we know. He simply lost that explosive gear in short areas to make any substantial difference. He couldn’t do much on his own. Solid career for him, but one that did not reach the level we thought it would after a 69-catch, 8-touchdown rookie season in 2016.
-Darren Waller fought through a stinger (shoulder) but came back out and played through it. He finished with 5 catches for 45 yards. This is going to be a debatable situation among fans, but I would expect him back in 2024. This regime traded a day two pick for him and even though it was a lackluster season (his third in a row), much of it will be blamed on the situation and I bet they run it back. I understand what he can do on occasion, but I don’t see it with the 31-year-old with an alarming injury history. He lost a step or two and he hinders the running game.
-Daniel Bellinger saw some extra playing time and I thought it was one of his better blocking performances, although he did not get a single target in the passing game. If you put truth serum in this front office and coaching staff, I think they would admit to being somewhat disappointed in his year two. He did not take a step forward, and in some regards, he went backward. He will be back in 2024 without question, but I would rather it be in a depth role.
-Matt Peart got the start at right tackle. His lone start of the season was something I kept a close eye on the free agent to-be. While he did appear to tire out in the fourth quarter (understandable, he had played 60+ snaps just once since November 2021), I thought he played just fine. He allowed a pressure and was flagged for a hold. The footwork was really good, and remember, his size is a big factor. This is an interesting situation to follow, and I guarantee a new OL coach will want to work with him. He has the traits.
-The interior did not include John Michael Schmitz, who was out with a shin injury. Ben Bredeson shifted over to center played well. He allowed one pressure and a TFL. “Well” is a relative term. Bredeson has been the worst or second-worst lineman on this team and I have seen enough to say he can’t be here next season. I would rather take my chance on a day three rookie as a versatile interior backup. Mark Glowinski allowed 3 pressures and Justin Pugh added two. The coaching staff has opted to go put others in front of Glowinski throughout the year and I expect him gone next season along with Pugh. “Off the couch” was a cool story for a few weeks and I do think he helped solidify the line to a point, but he can’t hang in a starting role. Guard is a major, major need.
-Andrew Thomas was near-automatic, allowing just one pressure on a play Taylor held onto the ball too long. I walk away from 2023 believing even more so that this is a true, elite left tackle who makes the other four guys better. The OL never became “good” but when he came back, it became much more functional.
-Kayvon Thibodeaux ended the year on a high note with 3 pressures, one of which was a hit. He added 3 tackles and broke a pass up as well. There is no question he hit a wall down the stretch, but the first double-digit sack guy in a Martindale scheme ever after a quiet start to the season gives plenty of promise moving forward. The question is, can he be THE guy outside, or does NYG need to invest more there? I have not seen enough to label him as something more than I did when he came out – and that is a Harold Landry type (TEN).
-Azeez Ojulari had one of his most productive games of the season. One last shot at putting some quality stuff on tape before this Front Office makes personnel decisions. His 2 sacks were the first multi-sack game out of him since last December, and the third of his career in three years. He added 2 pressures (1 hit) and recovered a fumble. The blitz-heavy package used (especially against Hurts) freed him up a bit. There is something missing with his movement traits. The sudden re-direct seems tight and off-balanced, not what I saw in 2021, not even close.
-Jihad Ward added a sack to his career-high on the year and 4 pressures. Known for his run defense, he was a part of the crew that benefitted from all of the extra bodies Martindale sent at the PHI passers. This coaching staff likes Ward a ton but with a new scheme coming, there is a good chance he is gone.
-While it may not lead to an All-Pro spot (I can make a strong argument it should), Lawrence’s season ended strong. He had 3 pressures, 1 QB hit, and a tackle. The hamstring kept his workload down again and there were a couple plays to the outside where he did not get to that he did earlier in the year.
-Veterans A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches both added a pressure and a tackle, Robinson’s going for a loss. Even though NYG has some interesting young talent in backup roles along the line, Robinson is a guy I would like to see back for the right price. He may wait like he did last year, but he added some stability and versatile impact that is hard to find.
-D.J. Davidson and Jordon Riley played a handful of snaps in spot duty once again, not really making much of an impact. Riley has no variety to his pass rush plans.
-Bobby Okereke and Micah McFadden both finished with 8 tackles. Okereke, who did not miss a snap all season (and played the fourth most in football), added a sack. Depending on the new scheme, I can see this duo coming back as the starting pair next season. Okereke is obviously a no-brainer, but McFadden did make a tremendous jump from year one to year two. While there are limitations in his game and he missed a ton of tackles, this is pair who complements each other well.
-Slight late season emergence for Isaiah Simmons as he finished with 2 pressures and 2 tackles, one of which was for a loss. To echo what I said last week, this season was by far the biggest percentage of snaps Simmons played on the edge and I think this is where he needs to be. I’m not sure where it will be, but there was enough on tape this season to prove he can play in a rotational role.
-Adoree’ Jackson finished with 7 tackles and allowed 6 completions on 8 targets. He allowed a higher completion percentage and more yards per catch than any full season prior to 2023. What to do with him is debatable because while he is overpaid, quality corners are hard to find. NYG doesn’t have much beyond Deonte Banks to work with.
-Tre Hawkins is in that discussion. He allowed a touchdown on a route concept he was way too late to recognize. That was the most glaring issue I saw out of the rookie from Old Dominion, understandably so. The tools are good enough, but the mind has not caught up yet. He did play physical against the run, and I think that is a sneaky-strong ingredient to his game.
-Cor’Dale Flott and Nick McCloud both played well albeit against second stringers for the majority of the second half. McCloud did force a fumble that NYG recovered and added 3 tackles. He brings value to the table with how versatile and physical he is.
-In his final game before heading toward free agency, Xavier McKinney had what may have been his best career game. 6 tackles, 2 interceptions (on consecutive plays), and a pass break-up. We have seen multi-INT games from him in the past, but both of these plays were elite-level. One showed his range from the middle of the field with a high-point catch, and the other was an immediate post-snap read ending with an explosive burst downhill. A case can be made that McKinney is the biggest personnel question mark on this current roster, Barkley included. While the franchise tag is always an option, his market is going to be high. A lot of teams need safety help, and he may be the top one available.
-Dane Belton, a week after his own 2-interception game, was back to making impact plays for the defense. He had 6 tackles, including a sack and a TFL, in addition to a pressure. He was a free rusher on both of his impact plays as a blitzer, but the burst is where I see him as a weapon. He plays fast, but possibly too fast for his own good. He added 2 missed tackles to his season total (8).
-K Mason Crosby: 2/2 (Made 24, 21)
-Jamie Gillan: 5 Punts / 45.6 avg – 44.0 net
-S Xavier McKinney, WR Wan’Dale Robinson, OT Andrew Thomas
-OG Justin Pugh, CB Adoree’ Jackson, DT Jordon Riley
3 THOUGHTS ON PHI
(1) If you are a believer in momentum heading into the playoffs, you have to think PHI is going to see a quick exit. The wheels have fallen off, they now have multiple injuries to deal with, and they are on the road (1-4 as away team since October 9). There is nothing attractive about the Eagles right now and the Bucs defense has allowed the 7th fewest points in the NFL.
(2) What about the future of this team? If they lose this upcoming weekend, could we see a coaching change? I would be surprised but we have to remember Nick Sirianni does not seem to be fully endorsed by the players. He is a volatile personality who was very dependent on the coordinators he lost last offseason.
(3) Wide Receiver Quez Watkins is an off-radar free agent who I am sure this team will let walk after the season. He turns 26 in June and has played four years for the team. His playing time and involvement has been sporadic with the additions of A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith who came in after he did. This is an explosive threat with elite hands and a route tree that can work all over the field. If NYG wants to add both a speed threat and potential value grab at receiver (who can play outside and slot), Watkins is a guy to look for. I always like his tape.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
(1) Here we are, the end of the season. Another long one that left us wanting more after high expectations. I write this on a Monday night hours after NYG fired multiple assistant coaches including the guys that ran the defense and special teams respectively. The biggest news, in my opinion, was seeing Offensive Line Coach Bobby Johnson being shown the door. It was an absolute must after seeing a lack of development in the young guys and poor cohesion overall from a line that allowed the second most sacks in the history of the game and the most since 1986. This tells me that Brian Daboll will be on notice in 2024. New coordinators, a few new positions coaches, and a lot of new personnel needs to bring in a different result. The honeymoon of 2023 is officially over. Now let’s see what he can do in a high-pressure New York environment.
(2) I’ve opted to keep Daniel Jones out of the game reviews since his ACL injury. If I am taking my own personal bias and opinion out of it, I strongly believe this organization is going to roll with him in 2024. Just based on the history of ownership and the fact you rarely (if ever) see a contract given like the one Joe Schoen inked him to last offseason swept under the rug just six games into it, I think they’re going to use that sixth overall pick on another tool. A receiver, a pass rusher, possibly even an offensive lineman is where I think they end up going. Again, not what I think they should do, but rather what I think they will do. A day two quarterback is something I could see though.
(3) Did we just watch Saquon Barkley’s final game in a Giants uniform? I still believe he is their best player, and I don’t think his contract demands are a deal breaker. But we’ve seen the average, good, and very good versions of him and I just don’t believe it puts wins on the board. I banged the table hard for him to be drafted in 2018 and there isn’t a bigger fan of the person he is than me. I like everything about him. But keeping emotion out of this, I would rather have topflight guard come to NYG via free agency than see Barkley back on the field. It sounds harsh, but this team needs too many pieces before it spends big resources on a running back who is barely better than average with a growing list of lower body injuries.
***Thank you to Eric and the BBI Community for reading and discussing the NYG reviews. As the years go by, I’m not sure how much longer I will be able to do these. I do not take it for granted and I do know there are some others who could probably do a better job than me.
I look forward to the offseason – I will be here on occasion, but this starts a very intense 3-4 month period of draft prep. Talk soon, everybody.