Nov 242021
 
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Andrew Thomas, New York Giants (November 22, 2021)

Andrew Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The Giants faced the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a Monday night in November for the second year in a row, a rather odd schedule repeat. In 2020, NYG was 1-7 and TB was 5-2 at the time of the match-up. This year? NYG came in at 3-6, TB 6-3. Even though NYG was now the away team, they were coming off a 15+ day rest as TB had lost 2 straight including a double-digit loss to the Washington Football Team. Some of the best memories in NYG history have come at the expense of Brady. However, those glory days seem to be centuries behind us.

TB opened the game without a part of their three-headed monster at wide receiver. Antonio Brown was out with an ankle injury, but the rest of their core was in place. Their drive was as easy and smooth as a knife through melted butter. NYG played a soft, 2-high look and Brady methodically took advantage of the space underneath and intermediate areas. Their first 6 plays each netted 7 or more yards and the drive ended with a 13-yard pitch, catch, and run from Brady to Chris Godwin.

NYG responded with a quality drive, their final quality drive of the game. It lasted 13 plays and spread the ball around well. They were 1st-and-10 from the TB 15-yard line. Most teams view this position as a position of opportunity. NYG, however, is the worst red-zone offense in the NFL and quarterback Daniel Jones entered the game completing a league-low 41% of his passes inside it. From there, Jones threw an incomplete pass, Jones rushed for a 1-yard gain, Will Hernandez was flagged for a false start, and Jones threw another incomplete pass. Graham Gano then nailed a 37-yard field goal to get NYG within 4.

TB marched down the field yet again. In fact, of their first 15 plays, not one of them was a 3rd down. They used 18-total plays on this drive as the game entered the 2nd quarter. The pass rush was non-existent but with 7-8 defenders in coverage, NYG was able to stop the bleeding a bit and hold them to a field goal. NYG went 3-and-out on their next drive.

TB had the ball at their own 15-yard line. On the first play, there was a miscommunication on the play where both receivers to the left side stayed home for the screen pass. It was likely the mistake of Tyler Johnson, a second-year receiver from Minnesota who averages 3 targets per week. Mike Evans had the pass bounce off his chest and into the arms of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. He returned it to the TB 5-yard line and NYG was just 15 feet away from tying it up. A creative play call had Jones toss the ball to the eligible Andrew Thomas, a play nobody saw coming. Thomas made a leaping grab up and away from his body and, no sarcasm here, this may have been one of the best 5 catches we have seen from a Giant in 2021. Thomas’ first career touchdown puts him tied for 2nd on the team in that department. Sadly, he ranks ahead of both $72 million receiver Kenny Golladay and 1st round receiver Kadarius Toney as of Week 11.

TB responded with yet another easy, low-to-no pressure drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown by running back Ronald Jones on a play where Jackson, the hero from the previous drive, seemed to forget about the concept of outside contain. NYG did force an incomplete pass on the drive however, yes one. The tape should give Head Coach Joe Judge some quality things to speak of during his next press conference.

The two offenses traded scoreless possessions and thanks to a Tristan Wirfs holding call on their next drive, TB was forced out of field goal range and gave NYG the ball back with :43 left and 2 timeouts. Play to win? Or play not to lose? NYG had a decision to make. It appeared they would run the clock out unfortunately, as their first play was a low-key, low-success dump pass to Saquon Barkley. They let 20 seconds come off the clock. Jones to Barkley then netted 11 yards and brought the ball to the NYG 20-yard line with 9 seconds left. That is when Joe Judge opted to use the first of his 2 remaining timeouts.

NYG did not know what they wanted to do. NYG then got the ball near midfield with 3 seconds left, but Darius Slayton fumbled the ball. Fortunately, the clock ran out and NYG entered the half only down by 7.

It was a 7-point game with TB out-playing NYG in a big way. That 7-point lead quickly became a 17-point lead as Brady hit Mike Evans for a touchdown and Ryan Succop nailed a 40-yard field goal following an absolutely terrible interception by Jones. The NYG line was falling apart, the TB offense continued to go where they wanted when they wanted, and Jones looked like a deer in the headlights. He threw another interception in the 4th quarter, a play where he did not see even half the field. Succop turned that into another 3 points.

The score represented what we had been watching all night, a 30-10 lead by the Bucs. TB soon pulled their starters, the Giants offensive line turned in their worst half of the season (which is hard to do, as TB was missing their top DL), and Barkley was found limping on the sideline while Toney talked to trainers with no gloves while riding a bike.

At least Blaine Gabbert didn’t score a touchdown. Another positive that I am sure we will hear about from the front office at some point in condescending fashion.

“We may have a little more confidence in our offensive line than you guys.” – Dave Gettleman – May 2021.

Giants lose, 30-10.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 23/38 – 167 yards / 1 TD – 2 INT / 57.7 RAT

Jones also added 10 yards on 3 carries. It was a major step back for Jones in multiple ways. He looked like a young quarterback who regressed. He did not look like a quarterback who was going to make other players better. Both interceptions were solely on him with an extra emphasis on the first one. While the offensive line did him no favors and the talent around him, despite being praised by the media as a “high-ceiling group,” under-performed yet again, Jones was the culprit in such a poor offensive performance. He continues to struggle seeing the entire field and the actual throws themselves are consistently average at best. His time is running out.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 6 att – 25 yards / 6 rec – 31 yards

With the NYG offensive line clearly overmatched and NYG playing from behind most of the game, Barkley didn’t have consistent opportunities on the ground. While his touches didn’t do much for the offense and game overall, the numbers don’t look bad on a per-touch basis. However, I still have a negative grade on Barkley, and it is becoming overly tiresome to see the same issues game after game. He is a poor blocker who shows minimal effort; he continues to trip over his own feet (followed by slamming the ball on the ground as if he was surprised); and he stops his momentum way too soon on inside runs into traffic. There are dozens (plural) of backs who show more than he does on a weekly basis.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Kadarius Toney: 7 rec / 40 yards

Toney also threw a deep pass (which was the nicest deep ball we have seen in long time). He was targeted a season-high 12 times and it created 40 yards of offense (3.4 yards per play). 3.4 yards per target is, for those don’t track stats like that often, good for about 165th in the NFL. That tier is almost always reserved for running backs and fullbacks. Toney had a couple impressive yards after the catch gains based on his elusiveness and agility, but he also had a drop and a double catch. There are several ways to use this kind of talent, but NYG hasn’t been consistent with him yet.

-Kenny Golladay played 44 snaps and received 2 targets. He caught 1 of them for 12 yards. When I watch the All-22 tape, the one consistent thing I see with him is a lack of separation. While he does do well in traffic, one has to consider this aspect of his game. He doesn’t get open on his own and he has caught just 58% of his targets over his career. Players who catch 58% of their targets rank 175th in the NFL in that department. We need to see more out Golladay, plain and simple. I will not call it a “bad signing” in free agency (yet), but you can’t pay a guy what they paid him and throw him the ball 34 times in the 7 games he played in on an offense that is desperate for points. There is little to no cohesion within this organization. No plan.

-Darius Slayton added 4 catches for 37 yards. He was flagged for an illegal block in the back and got tripped up on the downfield Toney pass that was nearly a big play. His contact presence and balance remain the biggest issues of his game.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram had a poor night in the trenches. He allowed a TFL and 2 pressures. He caught 2 passes for 12 yards and is now averaging 8.4 yards per reception on the season.

-Kyle Rudolph had the biggest play of the night with a 28-yard grab, and run and that was about it from him. Rudolph now leads the group with 8.6 yards per reception on the season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The one positive from the offense was Andrew Thomas. While he did fall victim to a late sack in the 4th quarter, he shut down Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul in almost all of their 1-on-1 matchups. He did whiff on a running play in the second quarter but made up for it a snap later when he made an acrobatic touchdown catch on a surprise play. Good to see him back on the field and playing at a high level. If there is one player on this team who can be part of the future core that turns things around, I think he’s it.

-The interior of this line was abysmal. I would love to see what the film review is like in their room. Will Hernandez, especially. This was the worst performance of his career and I’ve been told here at BBI that I have it out for him. I do not have it out for him. I just never saw him as a starting-caliber player and the fact he continues to get starts says something about the decision makers. He allowed 4 pressures, he was flagged for 2 holding penalties (one was declined), and he was flagged for a false start. I was most disappointed by the fact that he appeared to just give up late in the game. Matt Skura allowed 4 pressures and Billy Price allowed 2. 10 pressures allowed from the interior spots. Nobody is performing well.

-Nate Solder oddly got the start over Matt Peart. Peart has not been good, but the margin between him and Solder is thin (if it exists). In a situation like that on team like this, go with the youth over the contract. NYG does it in reverse.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Really poor game from the trio of starters. They were tossed around by the Bucs OL all night. In their defense, I would put TB top 2 or 3 in the NFL along the offensive line. That said, the reason why Patrick Graham went ultra-soft on the back end of the defense was the confidence in the line and they failed to step up.

-Dexter Lawrence had 2 pressures and a pass break up, but he was too often handled by lone blockers. Leonard Williams added 1 pressure, but was too often driven multiple yards in the wrong direction as he tried to anchor against the run. Austin Johnson led the group with 5 tackles and added a pass break up.

-Danny Shelton added a TFL in garbage time and Raymond Johnson III added a sack late when it did not matter.

LINEBACKER

-If you remember back to the game against the Raiders prior to the bye, Quincy Roche and Azeez Ojulari both had solid performances and it created some hope. This was a tall task to take on but even with the extra rest, they were absolutely shut down all night. Ojulari and fellow rookie Elerson Smith (who got his first defensive snaps) added one pressure each. I am excited to see the team use Smith more in this role, he certainly looks the part.

-Tae Crowder and Reggie Ragland combined for 9 tackles with Ragland adding one for a loss. Crowder react too slowly mentally, and Ragland is a poor athlete. In some cases, around the league, the linebackers between the tackles complement each other to the point of hiding one another’s weaknesses. These two aren’t clicking and are easy to beat. Benardrick McKinney is the best of this trio and should take over the majority of snaps. He added 5 tackles but played under a third of the snaps. He brings more to the table.

CORNERBACK

-The James Bradberry vs. Mike Evans battle has always been a fun-watch dating back to the cornerback’s days in CAR. They split success and fails down the middle but, on this night, Evans got the win. Bradberry allowed a touchdown, a 3rd-down conversion, missed 2 tackles, and was nearly beat on a separate touchdown by Breshad Perriman but a drop helped out NYG’s top corner who is due to make over 12% of the team’s salary cap next season.

-Adoree’ Jackson intercepted a deflection off Evans’ chest, which set up the lone NYG touchdown of the night. He then allowed a touchdown on his lack of ability to set the edge on a Ronald Jones outside run. Darnay Holmes added 4 tackles and was solid most of the night against Chris Godwin.

-Rookie Aaron Robinson, who I am also excited to see more of, saw 22 snaps. He was caught out of position a couple times, but I like the way he competes and moves. There wasn’t much to take away from the All-22, but I do think we will have a decent idea what he can do by the end of this season.

SAFETY

-With Logan Ryan out because of Covid, Julian Love stepped up in a big way. He had 6 tackles and broke up 2 passes, both very nice plays on the ball. He was all over the field and when NYG did step up a few times, he was at the center of it. He did miss a tackle on the first TB touchdown because of a poor angle, but it was a quality performance.

-Xavier McKinney led the team with 7 tackles and showed quality range in deep coverage from the All-22 angle. Brady was hung up a few times and from my perspective, I believe it was McKinney who took away the reads. He has been on a very solid run these past 5-6 weeks.

-J.R. Reed, brought up from the Practice Squad to take the 53-man roster spot of Ryan, saw a considerable amount of time. He added 4 tackles but missed 2 others and appeared to have weak contact presence. That was the red flag (along with his knee) coming out of Georgia.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 37)
-P Riley Dixon: 4 Punts / 48.3 avg – 46.0 net

3 STUDS

-OT Andrew Thomas, S Julian Love, S Xavier McKinney

3 DUDS

-OG Will Hernandez, QB Daniel Jones, CB James Bradberry

3 THOUGHTS ON TB

(1) TB is the class of the NFC and when I look around at the competitors within the conference, I don’t see anyone close. Sure, ARI looks good on paper and DAL can go toe to toe if everything clicks correctly. Any given Sunday, I get it. But what TB has that those 2 and others have not shown in the postseason yet is the innate ability to finding ways to win. TB and Brady in particular have the intangibles that I always speak of. They’re vital. Learning how to win games is a skill that needs to be developed over the years and they truly have it.

(2) The TB offensive line entered Week 11 as the only starting 5 to have begun each game on the field together. At this point in the season, that is extremely rare. That is a key reason why this team and this group in particular is playing so well. Another reason? They’re drafted the OL as well, if not better, than everybody. They have 2 first-round picks on the outside and, amazingly, three starters inside who all played lower than Division I football. I’m not sure I have ever seen that before. OC Ryan Jensen is the best center in football and the Alex Cappa + Ali Marpet duo at guard is the best duo at the position in the league. The unproven question mark is depth. Marpet went out with an injury and in comes Aaron Stinnie. He was very good and easily remained the second-best guard in this game. Perhaps that isn’t saying much, though. Offensive Line Coach Joe Gilbert is a name worth keeping in the back of your head.

(3) A thought to consider. Please do not take this as what I want or what I think NYG should do. I am not going there yet. But with the possibility of Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Aaron Rodgers all being available via trade this upcoming offseason, could this team look at the turnaround we saw in TB once Brady arrived as a template to follow? Starting in 2011, TB had 8 losing seasons in 9 years. Their record over those 9 years was 49-95. They had multiple 1st-round busts at quarterback. They had 4 failed head coaches. Their offense and defense were both routinely bottom-third in this league. Then bam, all of the sudden it changes the second an elite quarterback comes into town. The difference would be the fact that NYG would likely have to give up multiple 1st round picks and possibly a quality player to obtain that QB. That said, the aura of a team changes when a guy like that puts on the uniform. Intangibles can be contagious. Even though there are holes on this team left and right, this needs to be a possible option for a team that has proven to be terrible at building a winner via the draft. Do the Maras have the guts to do this?

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) I have watched this defensive scheme over and over, multiple times from multiple angles ever since Patrick Graham was hired. While I know they are an “amoeba” front (one that often changes shape/alignment), I am having a hard time truly understanding what their plan is. Yes, I know the response is they “change it week to week and base it on matchups.” I think this is part of the big picture problem though. There is no identity, they are putting guys in spots they don’t belong, and it makes building depth very difficult. I am putting daily work into the 2022 Draft reports and stacks now and there just isn’t a flow to where NYG needs to infuse new talent. Whatever they’re doing or trying to do isn’t working and I don’t see long-term promise. I think they need to get more rigid with a 3-4 or 4-3 and build from there.

(2) The Jason Garrett firing will hopefully bring improvement and/or clarity to the current NYG offensive personnel. Freddie Kitchens has had success in this league, but it was short-lived as a play-caller. The league figured him out in a hurry, and he struggled to adjust. Are there similarities here to what CLE had when Kitchens took over the play-calling from Todd Haley in 2018? After all, from week 9-on, CLE led the NFL in yards per play and yards per pass attempt with a rookie quarterback and running back. NYG arguably has more talent than CLE did back then, but the offensive line will make things difficult for any play-caller. I think the biggest jump we can expect is where NYG currently resides in red zone success, which is the absolute basement in the NFL. This is equally big for Kitchens as it is Jones and company.

(3) For the fourth straight week, NYG has seen a decline in total yards. Was Garrett really THE culprit? Or is he more the scapegoat of a bigger problem that those who remain are scrambling to try and cover for? The NYG organization has been all about saving face and public perception. The press conferences try to convince those who listen that things are under control and there is a plan in place. It is clear to me that this team does not have a plan beyond basic football. They don’t know how to draft, they don’t know how to manage the cap, they don’t know how to play 2-minute offense and defense, they don’t know what to do in the red zone, they don’t know how to manage timeouts. You can preach fundamentals all you want, and you can say one-liners about being a teaching-based coaching staff. Sounds very Belichick-y. That helps during the spring and summer months where results are subjective. However, the mismanagement always rears its ugly head during the fall and this is the problem that starts from the top.

Nov 232021
 
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Yes, we have to use this damn photo again!

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 30 – NEW YORK GIANTS 10…
The once-proud New York Giants franchise was humiliated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-10 on Monday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Giants are now 3-7 and all alone in the cellar of the NFC East.

In a game that was misleadingly close at halftime (Buccaneers 17 – Giants 10), Tampa Bay simply dominated in all facets of the contest:

  • Total offensive plays: Bucs 76 – Giants 54
  • Total net yards: Bucs 402 – Giants 215
  • Net yards rushing: Bucs 94 – Giants 66
  • Net yard passing: Bucs 308 – Giants 149
  • Total first downs: Bucs 28 – Giants 15
  • 3rd-down efficiency: Bucs 6-13 (46 percent) – Giants 1-9 (11 percent)
  • 4th-down efficiency: Bucs 1-1 (100 percent) – Giants 1-3 (33 percent)
  • Turnovers: Bucs 1 – Giants 3
  • Time of possession: Bucs 35:39 – Giants 24:21

The Buccaneers received the ball to start the game and cut right through the New York defense, driving 73 yards in eight plays to take a quick 7-0 lead. The Giants responded with their “best” drive of the night, picking up 56 yards in 13 plays but having to settle for a 37-yard field goal. On their second possession, Tampa Bay put together a marathon, 18-play, 79-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard field goal in the 2nd quarter. Tampa Bay 10 – Giants 3.

After a three-and-out by the Giants on their second possession, New York got the ball right back when quarterback Tom Brady’s pass was deflected and intercepted by cornerback Adoree’ Jackson at the Tampa Bay 15-yard line and returned to their five yard line. Two plays later, left tackle Andrew Thomas caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Daniel Jones. The 5-yard drive was New York’s last scoring possession of the night. It was all downhill for the Giants after that.

With the score tied at 10-10, Tampa Bay easily drove the field again. The 8-play, 71-yard drive resulted in a 6-yard touchdown run that gave the Buccaneers the lead for good. Neither team scored for the remainder of the half.

The tone for the second half was set on each team’s initial possession after the break. The Giants’ second most productive drive of the evening gained 50 yards and reached the Tampa Bay 25-yard line. But Jones’ 4th-and-1 pass fell incomplete and the Giants turned the ball over on downs. The Buccaneers responded with a 10-play, 74-yard drive that resulted in a 5-yard touchdown pass. The rout was on.

New York’s final five possessions resulted in two punts, two bad interceptions by Jones, and a final turnover on downs. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay added two more field goals to extend the lead to eventual final score of 30-10.

Daniel Jones finished the game 23-of-38 for 167 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. No Giants’ receiving target gained more than 40 yards. The team’s leading rusher was running back Saquon Barkley with just 25 yards on six carries.

Defensively, the Giants rarely pressured Tom Brady as he orchestrated six scoring drives with over 400 yards of offense.

Video lowlights are available at Giants.com.

ROSTER MOVES, PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
On Monday, the Giants activated LT Andrew Thomas (foot/ankle)  to the 53-man roster from Injured Reserve. LB Trent Harris was signed to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad.

The Giants also elevated TE Chris Myarick and S Steven Parker to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad. In addition, WR/returner Pharoh Cooper was activated from the Practice Squad as a COVID-19 replacement for S Logan Ryan (Reserve/COVID-19 List).

Inactive for the game were FB Cullen Gillaspia (calf), WR Sterling Shepard (quad), TE Kaden Smith (knee), LB Lorenzo Carter (illness/ankle), S Nate Ebner (knee), OG/OC Wes Martin, and LB Oshane Ximines.

TE Kyle Rudolph (ankle) and WR Kadarius Toney (quad contusion) were injured in the game and did not return.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Joe Judge and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Joe Judge (Video)
  • QB Daniel Jones (Video)
  • RB Saquon Barkley (Video)
  • LT Andrew Thomas (Video)
  • DL Leonard Williams (Video)

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge and select players will address the media by conference call on Tuesday.

Nov 202021
 
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THE STORYLINE:
The 2021 New York Giants may be on life support, but they are not dead yet. If the playoffs were to start today, the 5-4 New Orleans Saints (who the Giants have already beaten) and the 5-5 Carolina Panthers (who the Giants have also already beaten) would make the tournament. The Giants stand at 3-6 with eight games left to play. For them to realistically make the playoffs, they will probably have to finish the season 5-3 or 6-2. On paper, the most difficult remaining two games for the Giants appear to be Monday’s game against the 6-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the December 19th game against the Dallas Cowboys.

The problem for the Giants is that no game is a sure win. All of this speculation could amount to pissing into the wind if the team loses to the Eagles, Dolphins, Bears, etc. But right now, there is still hope. The team is getting healthier as it comes off its bye and the defense has been playing much better. The Giants are still playing hard for Coach Judge.

If New York can somehow manage to pull off an upset against an angry Tampa Bay team coming off an embarrassing loss to Washington, things could get interesting.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – questionable)
  • RB Devontae Booker (hip – questionable)
  • FB Cullen Gillaspia (calf – questionable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (quad – out)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – questionable)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (illness/ankle – out)
  • S Logan Ryan (Reserve/COVID-19 – out)
  • S Nate Ebner (knee – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
There was a long period of time during the 1990s when no New York Giants quarterback could reach the 300-yard passing mark in a game. In a league that had become increasingly reliant on the passing game, it was an embarrassing non-accomplishment that was finally broken when Kerry Collins became the starting quarterback. The new mark of futility for the Giants is the team’s inability to score 30 points in a game. The team is averaging less than 20 points per contest this year. I keep talking about it, but scoring points is kind of an important indicator of victory. (sarcasm off)

Everyone has their own reason. The coaching sucks. The quarterback sucks. The offensive line sucks. Injuries to the skill players. Many people want to point to one reason, but there is probably a degree of truth in all of these reasons. Regardless, the Giants are not going to consistently win unless they can increase their average point total, and do so quite dramatically.  Scoring 19 points per game just isn’t going to cut it in 2021.

The good news is that the bye week came at a fortunate time for the team. Knock on wood, but it appears the Giants are going to get some important cogs back such as Saquon Barkley and possibly Andrew Thomas (still on IR, but may be activated). Others who have been nursing injuries such as Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney will be healthier. Unfortunately, the entire band won’t be back together with Sterling Shepard still out. Still, this is the strongest the offensive unit has been since they upset the Saints in New Orleans.

On paper, Tampa Bay’s defense is tough. It ranks 9th in yards allowed. It falls to 18th in points allowed, however. And in multiple key moments during last week’s loss to the unimpressive Washington offense, the Bucs failed to make a defensive stop. They also lost defensive tackle Vita Vea late in the game. Their confidence must be a bit rattled. Tampa has been far more difficult to run against (2nd in the NFL, allowing less than 80 yards per game) than pass on (22nd in the NFL). That would seem to suggest that the coaching staff should take a more pass-oriented approach against the Buccaneers, particularly earlier in the game. Keep in mind too that Saquon Barkley is still rusty as hell (he never really knocked off all of the rust from not practicing in camp or playing in the preseason before he got hurt again). I would tend to use Barkley more in the passing game at this point, and use the run more later in the game if the Giants are still within striking distance, or better yet, ahead in the contest.

The Bucs are a middle-of-the road team in the pass rush department, accruing 22 in nine games. Only one player, linebacker Shaquil Barrett, has more than three sacks this year (he has five). For comparison’s sake, the Giants have 19 sacks in nine games. So while Tampa Bay has players who can be disruptive, like former Giant Jason Pierre-Paul (who has been dealing with injuries), this isn’t a front that New York line should be scared of (and Washington certainly handled them pretty easily up front). It’s one of the main reasons why the Buccaneers blitz so much. They have issues generating pressure with only their defensive line.

If I’m Judge and Garrett, I have Daniel Jones target the play makers early and often: Barkley, Toney, and Golladay. You have a lot invested in these guys; it’s time for them to pay dividends. The Tampa defense tends to play more conservatively in the secondary, attempting to protect against the big play, so Jones will most likely have to be patient and find open targets underneath. In short yardage, hand the ball to Eli Penny to keep the chains moving. I would continue to go to these guys in the red zone, with the possible addition of the tight ends.

Lastly, what Jones and his offensive teammates need to do (besides score points) is protect the football. Tampa is tied for seventh in the NFL in takeaways, with 15.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
You guys know I like to look at the big picture stats first. On paper, the Tampa Bay offense is daunting, but there are some oddities that suggest the strengths and weaknesses of the unit. The Bucs are third in the NFL in yards gained per game (over 400). They are the #1 passing team in the NFL, averaging over 315 yards per game. They are only 27th in the NFL in rushing (90 yards per game). Most importantly, they are third in the NFL in scoring, averaging 31 points per game. (In other words, they AVERAGE more points than the Giants have been able to score in any one single game this year).

Obviously, the centerpiece of the offense is arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game: 44-year old Tom Brady. You are not going to fool Brady. He’s seen it all. He reads defenses exceptionally well and gets rid of the ball quickly. One of the reasons why Tampa’s offense performs so well is that it doesn’t make a lot of negative plays. Negative plays are drive killers. Brady keeps the Bucs out of those situations.

I have not watched all of the Tampa Bay games this year. But in the games that I have watched, what sticks out to me is the dink-and-dunk nature of their passing attack. At one point last week in the Tampa Bay-Washington game, Brady went a long stretch without throwing the ball more than 10 yards down the field. But when you look at their team stats, the Buccaneers have over 40 passing plays that have gained more than 20 yards. From what I can tell, much of this comes from yards after the catch, combined with Brady lulling defenses into the belief that he won’t go deep. At one point late in the Washington game, the left corner let WR Mike Evans run right by him for an easy deep touchdown catch (the safety was late getting over too). So in other words, while Brady may not be heavily reliant on the deep (or even intermediate) passing game, he will still burn you if you fall asleep on it.

The other important element to consider is that Brady gets rid of the ball so quickly (combination of the short passing schemes and his ability to read defenses so well) that teams rarely get to him on the pass rush. Brady has only been sacked 12 times this year and is getting rid of the ball on average in 2.38 seconds. That’s an ominous sign for a Giants team that only has accrued 19 sacks this year.

How did Washington beat Tampa? They never seriously felt threatened by Tampa’s ground game even though they averaged over 4 yards per carry in that contest. Washington only allowed two completions down the field (the aforementioned 40-yarder to Evans and a 29-yarder in the first half). The only other play that gained more than 15 yards was a short pass where Evans gained yards after the catch and the defender yanked on his face mask. What Washington did differently is they tackled well on short completions in front of the sticks.

If I’m Patrick Graham, I use a similar game plan. Focus on the pass, not the run. The Bucs really use the short-passing game on 1st down as an extension of their ground game anyways. Don’t bother blitzing Brady all that much. You’re not going to get there. Rely on Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Austin Johnson, and one of the outside pass rushers to generate inconsistent pass pressure. Perhaps send someone up the A gap occasionally to get in his face immediately (he’s not mobile). But I would focus on coverage, especially underneath. Trust James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson to take the outside receivers with some help from the free safety. Bradberry has a lot of experience against Evans. The key here is to play tight, aggressive coverage on the underneath targets, and most importantly, gang tackle after the catch. The bad news for the Giants is that Brady’s long-time security blanket, Rob Gronkowski, is expected back for this game.

Brady’s top target is slot receiver Chris Godwin, who has 57 catches and four touchdowns. He does a lot of damage after the catch. Evans is the big play guy. He has nine of Brady’s League-leading 27 touchdown passes (19 more than Daniel Jones). Brady also throws a lot to running backs Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard (59 catches between the two of them). A key will be if wide receiver Antonio Brown, who has been dealing with ankle issues, plays.

On the surface, we appear to have a match-up between an offense that likes to dink-and-dunk its way down the field and a defense that bends but doesn’t like to break (at least in recent weeks). That would seem to suggest Brady moving the ball well and the Giants hoping they can stop him in the red zone. I don’t like that scenario. I think Graham has to take more chances, not so much with blitzing, but with playing more aggressive underneath coverage and taking chances deeper in the secondary. Get off of the field before the red zone. The fly in the ointment here is that the traffic controller in the secondary, Logan Ryan, will miss the game. Xavier McKinney and Julian Love will both really be on the spot.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I assume Pharoh Cooper will be elevated to the game-day roster again this week. The Giants desperately need to break one in their return game.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett on having more of his component parts last available against the Saints in Week 4:Yeah, certainly that was a game where we were most healthy, and our guys played really well in a tough environment against a good team. So that’s something you certainly want to build on, but each game is unique.

THE FINAL WORD:
The bye came at the right moment for the Giants. But this is not the best match-up for the Giants coming out of the bye, facing the NFL Champions on Monday night, coming off an embarrassing loss. Most expect the Giants to lose to the Bucs and fall to 3-7. If that happens, the Giants won’t be dead yet, but their margin for error gets uncomfortably small.

That all said, this Bucs team is not unbeatable. Washington proved that. The Giants are getting some important pieces back too. It comes down to how rusty the Giants will be coming off of the bye (and how rusty those keys players who missed time with injuries will be) combined with how angry the Bucs team they will be facing will be. Historically speaking, the Giants usually play well in Tampa.

Nov 032020
 
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Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates, New York Giants (November 2, 2020)

Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates – © USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 – New York Giants 23

QUICK RECAP

Tom Brady and the New York Giants have an interesting competitive relationship. The two have faced each other 5 times in the regular season, with Brady winning 4 of them. However, the Giants will always be a team that can go to sleep at night saying they had his number because of the 2 Super Bowl losses. While those losses seem like a lifetime ago, memories return when he jogs onto the field against Big Blue. This time he did so wearing a Bucs uniform, leading the red-hot Bucs coming off their 5th win in 6 weeks, not to mention their top-ranked NFL defense. The Giants last played 11 days prior, giving them extra rest and time to prepare. As bad as this season has gone when it comes to wins and losses, the continued failure of the NFC East still had not completely shut the Giants out of the possibility of postseason play. NYG just had to win.

The Giants, in their throwback all-white uniforms, started off on defense against Brady and a Bucs offense that scored 38+ points 3 of the past 4 games. Their initial drive did make its way into the red zone but NYG’s bend-don’t-break defense held them to a 37-yard field goal by Ryan Succop. The Giants ensuing drive ended in a punt but they did show some life on a trick-play double screen that converted a 3rd-and-11. The Giants were showing some energy and attitude, especially up front. Punter Riley Dixon pinned TB at their own 10-yard line.

Running back Ronald Jones fumbled on the second play after a punch to the ball from Blake Martinez and it ended up in the hands of Darnay Holmes. NYG was starting with the ball on the TB 12. On 3rd and 5, Daniel Jones threw a perfect pass over the hands of TB linebacker Devin White and into the arms of Dion Lewis for a touchdown. NYG took the early 7-3 lead and then stopped TB on the next drive.

The Giants then got themselves into field goal range but a 11-yard, third down sack pushed them too far back and they had to punt. Dixon then again pinned TB inside their own 10-yard line and the Giants defense ended the drive with a sack of their own, this one by Leonard Williams. NYG began their drive with three straight 10+ yard gains. They made their way into the red zone with under 2 minutes left in the first half. Wayne Gallman scored on a 2-yard touchdown run behind the all-rookie left side of the line and all of the sudden NYG had a double-digit lead. TB put 3 more points up on the board via a 40-yard field goal by Succop as the half came to a close. Brady is an absolute magician when it comes to putting up those overlooked but important 3 points before halftime.

NYG began the second half with the ball but on just the second play, Jones forced a throw on 2nd-and-8 from near midfield that ended up in the hands of TB corner Carlton Davis. His turnover rate over 20 games is now approaching Ryan Leaf territory. TB turned that into 3 more points, making it 14-9. NYG still had their lead as the clock chewed into the 3rd quarter.

Jones and the offense went three and out on the ensuing drive after Jones missed an open Sterling Shepard down the field. The opportunities that this young TB secondary were offering Jones simply couldn’t be capitalized on and it was opening the door for arguably the top quarterback of all time to mount a comeback. The door just kept on opening inch by inch for him. Thanks to a few chunk plays and a pass interference penalty on James Bradberry, TB found themselves inside the NYG 5. Brady then found Rob Gronkowski for a 3-yard touchdown to give TB its first lead since their opening drive of the game. A failed 2-point conversion attempt kept the lead at just 1.

The Giants then pieced together a 10-play drive highlighted by a 30-yard pitch-and-catch from Jones to Evan Engram on a play eerily similar to the drop the put the nail in the coffin to the NYG loss in week 7 against the Eagles. NYG had to settle on a field goal, which Graham Gano nailed through the uprights, to grab the lead back by a score of 17-15. The 4th quarter then began with a TB 3-and-out capped by a Carter Coughlin sack, the first of his career.

NYG breached midfield and started to work its way into TB territory but Jones second interception of the night took the wind out of the sails. It was another forced throw on 2nd down after not seeing the open man and with a defender preventing him from throwing a quality ball. TB then took that turnover and created 7 points off of it via a touchdown from Brady to Mike Evans, who the Giants had kept quiet up until this point. NYG responded with a 3-and-out as the NYG offensive line, which had been putting forth an admirable effort, began to fall apart as the TB defensive coordinator started to blitz on seemingly every play.

TB then put another 3 points on the board via a 38-yard field goal to give the road team a 8-point lead with under 4 minutes left. NYG had enough time to put together a drive in an effort to tie the game up, but they had used all of their timeouts. They used 13 plays, the longest drive of the game, to put 6 more points on the board as the game was coming to a close. It was a drive that included two 4th-down conversions, both of which were very low probability plays. Jones was evading pressure on nearly every drop back and he made a downright perfect throw to Golden Tate, who made a high-level catch in the back of the end zone. NYG was within 2 points but a late throw to Dion Lewis on the two-point conversion attempt and a questionable non-pass interference call by the refs kept NYG just short. Their third loss in 4 games  by a combined total of 6 points left NYG frustratingly walking off the field with yet another “almost” feeling.

NYG loses 25-23.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 25-41 / 256 yards / 2 TD – 2 INT / 74.8 RAT

One look at the box score, and possibly a look at the highlight reel, and one may come to the conclusion once again that “Jones wasn’t that bad.” I am on the other side. Jones’ performance in this game was much worse than the stat line (which isn’t strong) and the loss needs to be put on his shoulders. The two interceptions, both 2nd down throws that should have never been attempted, were the catalyst for the loss. TB turned those second half turnovers into 10 points. Beyond that, Jones did not see what the TB defense was giving him. He had multiple downfield receivers wide open on drives that would have likely ended in points for the team. I’m not talking about small windows here; I really mean wide open. Even though we have seen worse-stat lines, I really do think this may have been one of the worst games we have seen out of him, all things considered. His deep ball success rate was incredibly low, his throw on the 2-point conversion was a second too late on a play that most QBs can make in their sleep, and he just isn’t grasping simple concepts.

RUNNING BACK

Wayne Gallman: 12 att / 44 yards and 1 rec / 18 yards.

Really impressive game by Gallman who was up against one of the top run defenses in football, while running behind the worst-graded offensive line in the NFL. Gallman ran hard and decisively up the middle and came up with multiple big gains. He also had 12-yarder nullified by a bogus holding penalty called on Kevin Zeitler. 62 yards and a touchdown on 13 touches. Considering the circumstances, it was a nice job by a back who doesn’t seem to have the staff’s full confidence just yet.

-Alfred Morris and Dion Lewis saw 21 plays each (28% of the snaps). Morris gained 28 yards on 8 carries and Lewis caught 2 passes, one of which was a touchdown. Lewis did allow a sack and a pressure, as he struggled to maintain contact after the initial pop as TB kept on blitzing over and over.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard led the team with 8 catches and 74 yards on 10 targets. Jones missed him downfield on a 3rd down where he got open via quality route running, as he normally does, but he just didn’t have the gear or ball skills to reach it. Shepard isn’t and won’t ever be a downfield threat for multiple reasons. He is a limited slot guy, which makes it hard to accept NYG signing him to that long-term extension last year.

-Darius Slayton caught 5 passes for 56 yards including a 4th down conversion where he made a huge play after the catch. Had the Giants won this game, Slayton would have been a focal point because of that very play. He was also missed on multiple occasions by Jones downfield. His deep route running, when he gets beyond the jam by the corner, is some of the best I see on a weekly basis in the NFL. If Jones got his act together, we may be talking about one of the best young pass catchers in the game and I mean that.

-Golden Tate was only targeted 3 times. He came up with 2 key catches, the second being a brilliant touchdown reception with :30 left in the game that got NYG within 2. After that catch he yelled out, “Throw me the ball” for what it’s worth.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram was also targeted 10 times to share the lead with Shepard. He caught 5 of them for 61 yards, including a 30-yarder. He also gained 9 yards on a reverse carry which now seems to be a weekly fix for the NYG offensive play-calling. Engram did have a drop late in the game that didn’t have a huge impact. As a blocker, he allowed 1 TFL but also made 2 key blocks on a long Gallman gain and a 1st-down Alfred Morris carry.

-Backups Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo have left a lot to be desired in the blocking game, respectively. Smith allowed a TFL and Toilolo allowed a pressure. They didn’t get enough push when NYG tried to run to the outside and the speedy TB linebackers undercut their angles a couple times. These guys are paid to block and neither are doing a good job.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Overall, this unit put together their best performance of the year. The 4th quarter was a complete nightmare but that had a lot to do with Todd Bowles complex and overly-aggressive blitzing scheme.

-Andrew Thomas allowed 1 sack but I didn’t have him down for any pressures. On that sack, Jones ran right into the man because of pressure coming from the other side. He still didn’t look good on several of his pass protection sets with the over-reaching and lack of sustaining when defenders moved laterally, but it was a step in the right direction. On the other side, Cameron Fleming saw most of the time at right tackle and received the worst grade on the line. He allowed 3 pressures and a sack. One of his pressures led to a Jones interception and another pressure led to a sack on the other side. Matt Peart saw limited time as the coaching staff continues to sprinkle him in. I think he will be starting at RT after the bye week.

-Shane Lemieux got the start at left guard, as Will Hernandez missed the game after testing positive for Covid-19. It was a solid effort that gives NYG encouraging signs for the future. He stayed within his techniques for the most part, he got solid initial contact, and he wasn’t fooled by the blitzing packages outside of one miss. The one issue I saw over and over was a lack of anchor and sustainability. That usually stems from lack of power and strength and will likely improve over time. His second half was worse than the first and he allowed 3 total pressures and was flagged for a false start. It wasn’t a good game-grade but for a first timer who was drafted in the 5th round, there were enough positives.

-Nick Gates and Kevin Zeitler each did a nice job inside. They were both called for holding penalties that I thought were poor calls and they both allowed 1 pressure. For a defense that was sending the house as much as you will ever see in a game, I thought these two did a nice job of adjusting and handing off defenders. Not an easy thing to do. Gates continues to be the bright spot of the offensive line. I am leaning towards him being a credible long-term answer whether he stays at center or moves to guard.

EDGE

-Kyler Fackrell and the newly-signed Jabaal Sheard were completely neutralized by the TB tackles. They combined for 1 tackle and neither recorded a pressure. Ouch. The lack of true, dependable edge talent is such a vital missing piece on this defense.

-Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin both only saw 4 snaps. Coughlin recorded a sack and Brown was right there as well on the same play. I understand these guys need to earn their playing time and they want to bring them along slowly, but I really need to see these guys get more snaps after the bye week. We don’t need to see Sheard playing half of the snaps.

DT

-Really impressive performances by Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson. Williams had 4 tackles and a sack on a key 3rd down stop. He also added 2 more pressures and a QB hit. Tomlinson was such a weapon against the TB rushing attack that saw their running backs gain just over 3 yards per carry. He had 3 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 pressure, and a QB hit. His 3rd-and-1 stop in the fourth quarter was huge. Tomlinson also tipped the pass that caused Ronald Jones to somewhat mis-catch a ball that eventually led to an easy forced fumble by Blake Martinez. That was an overlooked portion of that key play.

-B.J. Hill and Dexter Lawrence did a lot of dirty work and also combined for 7 tackles. Neither made an impact against the pass.

LB

-Really solid game by Mr. Automatic. He had 9 tackles, 1 pressure, 1 TFL, and a forced fumble. Rarely fooled, always near the action, and a solid finisher. Really solid player and one of the top free agent signings across the league.

-David Mayo has officially taken over the second ILB role. He played 50% of the snaps while Devante Downs played 20%. They combined for 4 tackles and neither were challenged much in the passing game.

CB

-James Bradberry has been Mike Evans’ kryptonite. He has been facing him twice per year dating back to his days in Carolina, and this one wasn’t much different. Evans did end up with 5 catches and a touchdown though (first TD catch vs Bradberry since 2016) and Bradberry was flagged for 2 pass interference penalties.

-Isaac Yiadom got another shot at being the number 2 corner on this defense and he put in a solid performance. He had 8 tackles and a pass break up. He was called for a key personal foul which was also a poor call by the refs. He allowed two 3rd-down catches but this was the best we have seen out of him this year.

-Darnay Holmes had 4 tackles and a fumble recovery. I like the way he is moving right now as he just seems to understand the schemes on both sides of the ball. Brady was looking in his direction on the first sack and I think that was a key part of the Williams’ take down.

S

Outstanding game by Jabrill Peppers. He was flying all over the place and making his presence known. He led the team with 10 tackles and he had 2 nice pass break ups, one of which was on 3rd down. They did take him off of the field on specific passing situations, which I am fine with. This defense does a nice job of rotating guys in and out and when you can hide Peppers’ issues, his standout plays simply mean more. Really good effort by him in this one.

-Logan Ryan saw almost all of his snaps at safety as Julian Love continues to see his playing time go up and down. Ryan had 3 tackles and 2 misses while Love added 2 tackles of his own. Both did well defending the deep routes.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 33)

-P Riley Dixon: 4 punts / 36.0 avg / 36.0 net

-Dion Lewis and Jabrill Peppers both had nice returns to improve NYG’s field position. Lewis had a 44 yarder on the opening kick of the second half.

3 STUDS

-S Jabrill Peppers, RB Wayne Gallman, DT Dalvin Tomlinson

3 DUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, OT Cameron Fleming, Kyler Fackrell

3 THOUGHTS ON TB

  1. Prior to the season, I picked TB to win the NFC and we are pretty much at the halfway point now. I still feel the same way, they have so much going for them. Their young talent from the previous few drafts is really developing, their high-priced veterans are healthy and delivering, and they have the QB. I think they are going to win this conference.
  1. How different is this Bucs team from a year ago? Not that much, to be honest. In 2019 they had the best run defense in the NFL but their pass defense was young and shaky. However they had a decent enough pass rush to somewhat make up for it. In 2020, they still have the number one run defense but their young secondary is improving. In 2019, the offense ranked 3rd in the NFL and in 2020 they actually rank 10th. The biggest difference? Their QB isn’t leading the league in turnovers. That can easily be worth 8-9 games in a season. Yes, that much.
  1. You are going to hear Byron Leftwich’s name in the coming years as a hot Head Coach candidate. I’m not going to act like I know whether or not he can be successful in that role but please do not use the 2020 Bucs offensive success as a reason. One, it is mostly Arians when it comes to the coaching. Two, Adam Gase was a hot head coaching name after he worked with Peyton Manning. This is all about the QB and maybe some Bruce Arians. Don’t make the mistake of putting this success on Leftwich’s trophy mantle.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Last week I spoke about Evan Engram not being dependable week to week when it comes to catching the ball. He is uber-talented and he can be a huge difference maker in this league. However, I don’t want a key part of my receiving arsenal to have issues catching the ball. I feel the same way about a quarterback and turnovers. You can look great here and look great there. You can throw dimes weekly, you can make plays with your legs. However, if you turn the ball over a lot (AKA lead the league), I want nothing to do with you. There are 8 games left for Jones to prove himself, or at least I (not important I know) will go into the 2021 pre-Draft process looking for the next QB.
  1. The Giants pass rush has been improving steadily. The most impressive part? They don’t have a lot of quality pass rushers. Leonard Williams is good from the interior and Dalvin Tomlinson can beat one-on-one blocking. However, they haven’t had anyone on the outside worth a second look especially since Lorenzo Carter went down. That in mind, they rank top 10 in sack percentage and pressure percentage. How? Patrick Graham is scheming creative packages both with and without blitzing. This coaching staff has been impressive on multiple levels but I think this is the most notable improvement. If they get their hands on a pure edge guy or two, watch out.
  1. The Giants have the Redskins and Eagles coming up before their bye week. If you are a “there is still a chance”-type fan, these 2 games are vital. Not one of them, but both. The division looks like it belongs to the Eagles but I’ve seen all but one of their games this year and there is no doubt in my mind they could end up with 7 or less wins. They are broken on a couple levels but Carson Wentz looks like he is morphing into Sam Darnold right now. If he doesn’t get better, that team could lose over and over and over. NYG’s most recent three losses are by a combined 6 points. They are right there, they are competitive. If the QB picks it up, they can make things interesting still.
Nov 032020
 
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Dion Lewis, New York Giants (November 2, 2020)

Dion Lewis – © USA TODAY Sports

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 25 – NEW YORK GIANTS 23…
The New York Giants lost another heart breaker on Monday night, losing 25-23 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the loss, the Giants fell to 1-7 for the third time in the past four seasons. It was the third game in the last four where the Giants lost despite holding an 11-point lead against a favored opponent. Five of the team’s seven losses have been decided late in the game.

Two interceptions by quarterback Daniel Jones were instrumental in the defeat as the overall team statistics were evenly matched. The Buccaneers won the turnover margin 2-1.

Tampa Bay began the game on offense and drove 57 yards in 11 plays to set up a 37-yard field goal and a quick 3-0 lead. The Giants picked up two first downs on their first possession but were forced to punt. However two plays later, linebacker Blake Martinez forced a fumble that cornerback Darnay Holmes recovered at the Buccaneers 12-yard line. On 3rd-and-5, Jones threw a perfect pass to running back Dion Lewis for a 7-yard touchdown. The Giants led 7-3.

After two punts by Tampa Bay and one by New York, the Giants drove 77 yards in 10 plays later in the 2nd quarter, culminating with a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Wayne Gallman to give the Giants a 14-3 lead with 1:46 left in the first half. Once again, however, the Giants defense allowed points late in a half as the Buccaneers gained 53 yards in eight plays to set up a 40-yard field goal. Safety Logan Ryan made a sure tackle on 3rd-and-2 to prevent Tampa Bay from possibly finishing the possession with a touchdown.

At the half, the Giants led 14-6.

Dion Lewis returned the opening kickoff of the second half to the New York 44-yard line, but two plays later, Jones threw a bad interception that gave Tampa Bay the ball on their own 42-yard line. The Bucs then drove 34 yards in 10 plays to set up a 43-yard field goal. Giants 14 – Buccaneers 9. After a three-and-out by the Giants, Tampa Bay went ahead for the first time with a 5-play, 67-yard drive that culminated with a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady to tight end Rob Gronkowski. The 2-point conversion attempt failed and the Bucs led 15-14.

The Giants responded with a 10-play, 56-yard drive that unfortunately stalled inside the red zone. Still, place kicker Graham Gano’s 33-yard field goal regained the lead for the Giants, 17-15 near the end of the 3rd quarter.

The Giants defense, which played well most of the night, forced a three-and-out. Then came Jones’ second killer interception, turning the ball over at the Buccaneers 34-yard line. Aided by a questionable lowering the head to initiate contact penalty on cornerback Isaac Yiadom, Tampa Bay followed this turnover up with a 6-play, 66-yard drive, that ended with Brady’s second touchdown throw. Buccaneers 22 – Giants 17.

After a three-and-out by New York, the Buccaneers extended their lead to 25-17. Tampa Bay drove 47 yards in eight plays, setting up a 38-yard field goal with less than four minutes to play.

Down by eight points, the Giants began their last desperate drive at their own 30-yard line. Under heavy pressure, Jones miraculously converted a 4th-and-5 play for 12 yards to wide receiver Darius Slayton. Jones followed that up with a 15-yard scramble on 2nd-and-15. On 4th-and-16 from near midfield, Jones then completed a 20-yard pass to wide receiver Sterling Shepard. Three plays later, he found Tate for a 19-yard score with 28 seconds left in the game. Needing two points to tie the game, the conversion failed (the officials picked up a pass interference flag on the defense). Tampa recovered the onsides kick.

Jones completed 25-of-41 passes for 256 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also ran three times for 20 yards. His leading receivers were Shepard (8 catches for 74 yards), tight end Evan Engram (5 catches for 61 yards), and Slayton (5 catches for 56 yards). Gallman rushed for 44 yards on 12 carries and running back Alfred Morris chipped in with 28 yards on eight carries.

The defense held the Buccaneers to 344 total net yards (81 yards rushing, 263 yards passing) and forced one turnover. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams and linebacker Carter Coughlin each sacked Brady.

Video highlights are available on Giants.com.

PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
Activated from the Practice Squad for this game were RB Alfred Morris, G Chad Slade (COVID-19 Replacement), and S Montre Hartage.

Inactive for the game were RB Devonta Freeman (ankle), WR C.J. Board (concussion), CB Ryan Lewis (hamstring), S Adrian Colbert (shoulder), TE Eric Tomlinson, OT Jackson Barton, and DE R.J. McIntosh.

No injuries were reported.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge will address the media by conference call on Tuesday.

Oct 312020
 
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Joe Judge, New York Giants (September 14, 2020)

Joe Judge – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants, November 2, 2020

THE STORYLINE

When Big Blue Interactive began back in 1995 (originally lamely called the “Big Blue Home Page”), the New York Giants were embarking on painful 5-11 season. Nine times in that season, the Giants had a chance to tie or take the lead late in the 4th quarter. The team only scored once in those nine chances. Five games ended on the final play of the contest with the Giants winning only one of those. The team’s highlight tape that season was aptly called “So Close, Yet So Far.”

Back in those days, a quarter of a century ago, the small BBI audience was divided into those fans who called themselves “optimists” and those who called themselves “realists” (aka “pessimists). Those optimist versus realist arguments were the lifeblood of the site in its early days.

The defense had some talent (very young players such as Michael Strahan, Jessie Armstead, Jason Sehorn, and Phillippi Sparks) but was saddled with a frustrating, plodding offense led by Dave Brown, Rodney Hampton, Chris Calloway, and Howard Cross.

Coming off a 9-7 season, fans were very optimistic coming into the season until the Giants got blasted in the opening game 35-0 by the Cowboys. The game was even worse than the final score. It was a huge wake-up call. But despite that, Giants fans felt their team had a chance to win each and every week. And as mentioned, they nearly did, being in almost every single game right up to the final gun. The Giants should even have upset the eventual Super Bowl Champion Cowboys in Dallas in Week 16, but lost a last-second heart-breaker there too.

In many ways, despite the numerous personnel flaws on that team (starting with the quarterback), the 1995 New York Giants were a better team than its 2020 counterpart. The defense had more talent at all three levels. The offensive line (Jumbo Elliott, Brian Williams, Lance Smith, Doug Riesenberg, Greg Bishop) was much stronger. The running backs were Hampton, Tyrone Wheatley, Charles Way, and Herschel Walker. The receivers were not a strong group but still had Mike Sherrard, Calloway, and Arthur Marshall. The tight ends were an unspectacular group but they could block (Cross, Brian Kozlowski, Aaron Pierce).

For the past three seasons, I keep reading the same responses to my game previews: “That was depressing!” It is not my intent to be depressing. Hell, I was one of the original “optimists” who used to lock horns with the “realists” on a day to day basis. It would also not be a good business model for me to intentionally depress my customers. But my credibility would be completely shot if I did not interject some “realism” into the conversation about this team. Some of you may have caught my dramatic change in tone as soon as Saquon Barkley was lost for the season with a potentially career-altering injury. Yes, I feel strongly he was that important to ability of this team to compete and win under the new coaching staff. His loss was catastrophic. With him, the Giants probably had a good chance to win the pathetic NFC East. Without him, they will have trouble staying out of the basement.

The 2020 New York Giants have TWO major  problems:

(1) Lack of talent. I’ve repeatedly mentioned my concerns at running back (with Barkley out), wide receiver, and tight end in addition to the growing pains on the offensive line on the offensive side of the ball. The 2019 defensive back class for the team (3 picks) now looks like a disaster and the defensive backfield is suffering because of it. The Giants obviously lack a premier edge rusher too.

(2) Lack of confidence. Losing is something you can get used to, and you can start to expect it. You can actually train your brain to lose and become a “loser.” There really isn’t a major talent difference between the 80 percent of the teams in the NFL. Those who expect to win have a major advantage over those who don’t. There is no other explanation for largely average Eagles and Cowboys to own the Giants for almost the past decade. Even when the games were tight, in the end, the Giants made the loser’s mistake because they expected to lose. You know it because you could feel it too.

We know how to fix problem #1. Get better players. Problem #2 is far more difficult. Coach Judge could have made substantial inroads into turning the mentality of the team around had the Giants beat the Cowboys and Eagles in the past few weeks. But they didn’t. And the team has one win and confidence remains in the toilet. I can’t overemphasize the opportunity that was lost here. In real terms, “leading” the NFC East at 3-4 would have been a joke. But in terms of overall confidence, the needle would have been pointing in the right direction. The mindset would have begun to change. Instead, the Giants blew it.

I’m not sure where the team goes from here. The last nine games should be very telling.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • RB Devonta Freeman (ankle – out)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (shoulder/toe)
  • WR C.J. Board (concussion – questionable)
  • OG Will Hernandez (positive COVID test – out)
  • CB Darnay Holmes (neck)
  • CB Ryan Lewis (hamstring – doubtful)
  • S Adrian Colbert (shoulder – out)

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH

Head Coach Joe Judge on turning the team’s confidence around: “I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not a huge believer in that to begin with. In terms of does one game affect another game, I don’t really think so. I think you have to show up and whether you won last week or lost last week, it’s about what you do preparing this week and how you execute on the field for 60 minutes. That’s going to dictate the results of that game. I respect the question, I understand exactly where you’re coming from. My personal mindset and philosophy doesn’t really tie too much into how one game affects another one.”

THE FINAL WORD

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 5-2. The New York Giants are 1-6. The Bucs dramatically lead the NFL with +80 point differential. In other words, they are not just beating teams, they are blowing them out. The 1995 Giants would have kept this game close, but the I doubt the 2020 version will.

My focus remains on Daniel Jones, Andrew Thomas, Nick Gates, Matt Peart, Shane Lemieux, and Darius Slayton. Fingers crossed on all of these players.

Sep 232019
 
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Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (September 22, 2019)

Sterling Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 32 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31

QUICK RECAP

The 0-2 Giants traveled to Tampa Bay to take on the 1-1 Bucs, whom were coming off a 10-day rest. What had become to feel like normal (the sixth 0-2 start in 7 seasons), this winless start was different. There was a buzz leading into week 3 unlike we have seen in quite some time. Besides the wacky, still unexplainable decision to bench Eli Manning week 12 of 2017, Big Blue would march out of the tunnel with a new franchise QB at the helm. After being selected with the 6th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, Daniel Jones was inserted into the staring lineup after just two games in to his rookie season.

The Giants began the afternoon in similar fashion as the previous two weeks on both sides of the ball. For the third week in a row, NYG allowed a touchdown but also scored points of their own in the first quarter. Jameis Winston, a former number one pick who is currently in a contract year, hit his star receiver Mike Evans in the end zone twice on the Bucs’ first two drives, beating Janoris Jenkins both times. That theme would be repeated all game. In between the TB scoring drives, Jones set the tone for the afternoon, engineering an 11 play – 57 yard drive with two 3rd-down conversions. While it only resulted in 3 points, Jones proved early on he was ready for game time. Fortunately TB missed their first extra point and had their second attempt blocked by Dexter Lawrence with an assist from B.J. Hill. Missed extra points almost always come back to bite you. Remember that.

Jones opened the second quarter with another long, yard-by-yard drive, this one being 12 plays long. TB shot themselves in the foot with two 3rd-down penalties on this one and Jones displayed his athletic ability on two separate occasions, the latter being a 7-yard designed run after a fake to Saquon Barkley inside. Kerry Collins, Kurt Warner, and Eli Manning were the three previous starting quarterbacks for the Giants. None of them would be the best athlete on a team full of senior citizens, thus the burst and speed Jones showed on both those plays seemed almost foreign, but it was a pleasant sight to see.

The rest of the first half was all Tampa. They had four more possessions, giving them six altogether in the first half. They scored four more times (3 field goals and another touchdown to Mike Evans over Jenkins), giving them six altogether in the first half. Yes, six possessions and six scores for the Bucs in the first two quarters, the 27th ranked offense in the NFL after two weeks. Winston finished the half with a 144.5 QB rating, the same Jameis Winston with a career 87.7 QB rating. Jones also lost a fumble, an issue we discussed in the preseason, giving this game a blowout-feel to it as they went to the locker rooms. And the worst of it all, Saquon Barkley went down with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury. TB was up 28-10.

It is often said that the first two possessions of the second half set the tone for the rest of the game. Well, Sunday added to the strength of that theory, as Jones hit Engram for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play and then the Giants stopped the Bucs on their next drive, forcing their first punt of the game. With Barkley on the sideline using crutches and wearing a boot, NYG came out and scored another touchdown via a Jones-to-Sterling Shepard pass. Just like that, NYG had all of the momentum and the TB offense began to stall.

The two teams traded multiple possessions back and forth with both offensive lines starting to fatigue and both quarterbacks turning the ball over. Winston threw an interception but Jones had the ball jarred loose as he wound up to throw just two plays later. TB ended up being the next to score via a 23-yard field goal, making the score 31-25 with six minutes left. The Giants responded with a quick 3-and-out and no choice but to punt it back to TB with the hope their defense could get a quick stop, and that they did. Michael Thomas made arguably the defensive play of the afternoon on a 3rd-and-2 play that left him and TB tight end Cameron Brate alone in space after short completion. TB was forced to punt and Jones, in his pro debut, got the ball back on the NYG 25-yard line with 3:16 left and a timeout at his disposal down 6 points. Stage was set.

He completed his first five passes, the highlight being a 21-yard gain to fellow rookie Darius Slayton whom was also making his pro debut. Jones was quick to the get the ball out while also showing outstanding pocket mobility and awareness. On 4th-and-5 from the TB 7-yard line, it was a do-or-die situation. Jones took the snap, felt pressure on the outside, recognized man coverage with the defenders turning their backs to him, and darted up the middle and easily scored his second rushing touchdown of the day, the first time a Giants quarterback scored on the ground twice in one game since 1991. Aldrick Rosas hit the extra point and NYG was up 32-31 and just over a minute remaining.

The Giants defense, which could not have started worse, quietly came up big for the entire second half. They were on a hot streak but streaks are always meant to be broken. Winston hit Evans one last time, this one for a gain of 44 yards, putting TB within easy field goal striking distance. The wind was officially out of the sails. TB took a delay of game penalty on purpose because Head Coach Bruce Arians was convinced rookie Matt Gay was better from a slightly longer distance. Gay lined up for what appeared to be a chip shot from 34 yards.

28 years – 8 months ago, NYG had a 1-point lead against the Buffalo Bills in Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXV. Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal by less than a foot, wide right. Giants won 20-19. Same city, different stadium, different opponent, and different magnitude, Bucs kicker Matt Gay missed a 34-yard field goal by less than a foot, wide right.

Giants win, 32-31.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 23/36 – 336 yards – 2 TD / 4 att – 28 yards – 2 TD. Jones also lost two fumbles in this one. Well, what can we say? The first start of Jones’ career was as memorable as any first-start of any Giants QB in the history of the franchise. I can’t say this performance surprised me. Why? Jones showed a certain level of poise and natural decision making during preseason. Add this to the list of reasons why I think preseason games are not only important, but vital. From the minute the game started all the way to the Giants game-winning touchdown, Jones had the look of someone that has been there, someone that can handle anything thrown at him, someone that has the ideal match of tools and intangibles. His throws were accurate, his runs were athletic, his hesitations were minimal. Giants fans it won’t take much more, other than time, to fully convince me that NYG has their guy. By guy, I mean their next QB for a decade-plus. Now, hold onto that football. More on that later.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 8 att – 10 yards / 4 rec – 27 yards. Barkley left the game in the 2nd quarter with an ankle injury. That kind of high ankle sprain usually sidelines backs for a minimum of 3 weeks and it could be 2 months before we see him out there. It was a really quiet start to the game for him regardless with absolutely no running room. TB Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles jammed the box pretty tight with an extra defender and got them blitzing multiple gaps often. Barkley did drop a touchdown pass on a ball that caught him off guard a bit but the damage was nullified by a Jones touchdown run soon after.

-Wayne Gallman: 5 att – 13 yards. NYG didn’t spend a lot of time trying to run the ball after Barkley went down. The TB defensive line was dominating the point-of-attack from start to finish. Gallman didn’t get the fairest of opportunities here but these next 2-4 games where Barkley is out, he will get a big shot to make a name for himself.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 7 rec – 100 yards – 1 TD / 2 att – 21 yards. It was Shepard’s first game back after missing a game with a concussion. Shepard is one of the guys who you realize his value after he isn’t out there. He never has been and never will be a star, but the ability to get open, make things happen after the catch, and block downfield are major game-winning traits. He had gains of 36 and 26 yards in the passing game and a 19-yard gain on a rushing attempt. He is going to be vital for Jones’ success.

-Darius Slayton: 3 rec – 82 yards. Like Jones, it was Slayton’s pro debut and he brought exactly what you were hoping for to the table. He looked rusty early on when it came to running routes and tracking the ball but as the game went on, he had what I would call a mini-breakout performance. His 3 catches went for 15-21-46 yards, two of which were in the second half. Slayton was paired up against former college teammate Carlton Davis on numerous occasions and it is worth noting how much of a cushion he gave Slayton in comparison to other NYG receivers. Davis knew Slayton better than anybody out there, and he knows what Slayton can do deep. This was an extremely encouraging sign to see him make an impact like this even though he played under half the offensive snaps.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 6 rec / 113 yards. We are getting to the point where Engram is receiving national spotlight. Only Travis Kelce has more receiving yards among tight ends (by 7). Engram was the favorite target of Jones early on, catching four balls in the first two drives. TB started to bracket-cover him from there on, but the first play of the second half resulted in a 75-yard play-action pass to Engram where his burst and long speed were on full display. Thanks to a key downfield block by Slayton, Engram outran the TB secondary by a pretty wide margin. That was something we have seen glimpses of in his first two years but I think we are at the beginning of a big-time breakout year for him. Watch out.

-Really poor blocking day for Rhett Ellison. He allowed a sack, a pressure, and a TFL.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-It was a horrid day for the tackles. Nate Solder, the second highest paid tackle in the NFL, allowed 1 TFL, 1 pressure, and 3 sacks. He was nothing short of miserable in the second half. Mike Remmers struggled in the run game from the start, allowing a TFL and made both Barkley and Gallman re-direct the instant they approached the line. He allowed 1 TFL and 1 pressure in addition to being flagged for a false start. An offense can usually hide one poor blocking OT, but if both of these guys continue to struggle, it will come back to bite hard against a real defense.

-Guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler both graded out very high in the passing game. Hernandez was swift with his lateral footwork and overall recognition. Zeitler is still nursing the shoulder it seems, as his push wasn’t there but he stayed off the radar, which is exactly what you want from a lineman.

-Center Jon Halapio went backwards in this one, both literally and figuratively. He was matched up against arguable the most under-talked about defensive tackle in the game right now, Vita Vea, most of the game. He gets somewhat of a pass but it has to be mentioned he allowed a TFL and a pressure. His lack of push was right there with Remmers in relation to why this running game just couldn’t get going.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-As we saw last week, Dexter Lawrence is getting more and more comfortable. It seems they are getting him over the center more often and it is changing how the entire defense plays. That is something to keep an eye on in coming weeks. He had 2 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 pressure and was found 15-20 yards away from the point-of-attack getting in on the action a couple times. His biggest play was the blocked extra point after the second TB touchdown. You really have to watch him to fully appreciate what he is doing out there.

-Dalvin Tomlinson is a major unknown to me right now. He was a major weakness against the inside running game several times in this one. He was getting pushed back multiple yards, multiple times. Ronald Jones averaged nearly 6 yards per carry and if there was one guy to point the finger at, it was him. He did make a couple of noteworthy plays based on range to the outside and ability to maneuver in space.

-B.J. Hill had a quietly effective game. He re-directed the TB rushing attack a few times but perhaps his biggest play has yet to be mentioned anywhere. On the blocked extra point, it was Hill that jumped the snap and got the push that created the space for Lawrence to drive through and get his hand up.

-Backups Olsen Pierre and R.J. McIntosh got roughed up. They played a combined third of the snaps and the TB offense visibly went right at them. It was a poor day for both.

EDGE

-The Giants edge presence improved for the second straight week after a tough start in DAL. Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter, and Oshane Ximines combined for 14 tackles / 3 sacks / 4 pressures. Golden was credited with 2 sacks, although I had one of them shared with Ogletree. These three aren’t a what I would call a scary force, but they were consistently getting involved. They have Winston to thank because of how long he holds on to the ball, but it is amazing what changes within a defense when the pass rush starts leaking through.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree strained his hamstring while running back a fumble return that ended up not being a fumble, and missed over half the game. Ryan Connelly, who was already in the starting lineup, stepped up his game thereafter. He had 7 tackles, a pass break up, and a key interception in the second half. He got the green dot put on his helmet and this could be the changing of the guard at inside linebacker for NYG. Ogletree, who has been a bit of an underwhelming presence since NYG traded for him, has 2 more years on his contract at $22+ million. With NYG entering the prime years of building a roster around a rookie-contract-QB, this could be the beginning of the end for Ogletree.

-Tae Davis had a quiet game and was replaced by David Mayo after what appeared to be a head injury. I don’t expect him to miss any time.

CORNERBACKS

-Karma. Janoris Jenkins called out the lack of pass rush to the media after last week’s home loss to BUF. He wasn’t wrong, but he handled it wrong. He responded with his worst game as a Giant and likely the worst game of his career. He allowed 3 touchdowns to Mike Evans and was burned deep on the final TB drive that put them in to easy-field goal range. Had Matt Gay not missed the easy chip shot. Jenkins would be been THE culprit of this loss. He simply did not compete in this one.

-Deandre Baker, other than a play where he allowed a first down to Breshard Perriman as a result of him giving way too much cushion in relation to the situation, improved his play after his tough first two weeks. Baker made a key tackle in this one and showed tight deep coverage on a couple of occasions.

-Grant Haley wasn’t tested much but when he was, he didn’t perform. He allowed a deep pass and was late to help in the middle of the field. The issues NYG has defending the middle of the passing tree are mostly attributed to the safeties, but Haley has to take some of the heat here. He hasn’t taken his game to the next level and his days could be numbered if it stays that way.

SAFETIES

-One thing I am noticing about Jabrill Peppers, a fine athlete who plays really hard, is the lack of instincts and “gamer” in him. He just doesn’t read-and-react efficiently and everything seems manufactured. He allowed a couple of downfield completions and was flagged for a pass interference when he was playing catch up against a tight end. Peppers did finish with 8 tackles and he made a nice play when he blew up a wide receiver screen, but I’m not sure he is going to help this team more than hurt them. He is often a notch or two late and a good QB can expose that all day.

-Antoine Bethea led the team with 9 tackles. I give him credit for being a reliable last line of defense when the action is in front of him. He is a good tackler but the lack of deep range limits this secondary as a whole, and it almost seems like it is impacting the cornerbacks and their overall approach.

-Have to give a shout out to Michael Thomas, who only played 17 defensive snaps, for the tackle he made in the 4th quarter on the Bucs 3rd-and-2 completion in to the flat. A half second later and it would have been first down TB and likely a NYG loss.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 36).

-P Riley Dixon: 5 Punts – 48.8 avg / 47.0 net. Dixon is tied for 4th in the NFL with a 45.5 yard net average.

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, TE Evan Engram, DT Dexter Lawrence

3 DUDS

-CB Janoris Jenkins, OT Nate Solder, DT Dalvin Tomlinson

3 THOUGHTS ON TB

  1. Jameis Winston is in a contract year. He’s been in the NFL for 4+ seasons now. He is 22-37. He has thrown 93 TDs / 62 INTs and has fumbled 40 times. He is currently working with his third head coach. Yesterday was a microcosm of his entire career. A short, nice run followed by mental mistakes and a horrid turnover. He has had a few issues off of the field. This is what Winston was in college and this is what Winston has been, and will be, in the NFL. TB will be in the QB market when the 2020 NFL Draft arrives, no question.
  1. OLB Shaquil Barrett could have been signed by any team in the league this past offseason. Almost nobody wanted the 27-year old, 5th-year veteran who had 14 career sacks to his name as a part time player in DEN. He was paid $4 million on a 1-year deal, which is less money than Kareem Martin on a per-year basis and just slightly above what NYG signed Markus Golden for. Barrett leads the NFL with 8 sacks in just 3 games. This is not an indictment on anyone, but yet another sign that as far away as a team may seem at a position or multiple positions, they truly can be just one guy away at all times.
  1. Imagine this TB defensive front with their best player? Don’t forget they lost Jason Pierre-Paul to a neck injury and last I checked, he is expected back at some point. Barrett, Vea, and a potential JPP comeback combined with other solid role players, this front can make a major impact in a division race that is as up in the air as any.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. During the preseason, I noted that Daniel Jones had an issue with ball security. He fumbled it numerous times but it wasn’t just that that got me concerned. One of the basic principals of moving your way through the pocket in the NFL is keeping two hands on the ball until you are actually starting the throwing motion. It is a foreign concept to some young QBs because they didn’t have to do that in high school or college. The pass rushers weren’t as fast, weren’t as long, weren’t as strong, weren’t as savvy. However, in the NFL, almost every pass rusher is adept to going after the ball. The second one I give him a pass for, as he was in the throwing motion. But that first fumble, it can’t happen. He will walk away from every game with something to work on and I think this needs to be objective number one.
  1. In week 1, NYG allowed 21 points (3 touchdowns) in the first half. In week 2, NYG allowed 21 points (3 touchdowns) in the first half. In week 3, NYG allowed 28 points (3 touchdowns) in the first half. Sure, one could make the argument that in all three games the defense “stepped up” in the second half but I won’t even give them that much credit. Analytics show that most teams, with a lead, alter their offensive game plan in the second half even though the original game plan worked so well in the first half. At that point they are playing to bleed the clock, playing not to lose, rather than sticking with what worked. Very few teams stay aggressive with a double digit lead in the second half, but NO and NE are one of a few that do. That is not irony. Anyway, NYG’s defense is worse than we even think right now. Personnel wise, they have (literally) nobody that scares anybody.
  1. The Saquon Barkley news is a killer. For a team that just came off as emotional of a win as they have had in a long time, it was a rather quick buzz kill. But if I am going to be real here, this NYG team is not ready to compete. There is no sense is rushing him back on the field until he is 100%. Let Gallman get his time to shine and let’s see if another running back can emerge now that touches are up for grabs. It worked out well for SF, no reason it can’t work here.
Sep 222019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 22, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 32 – TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 31…
In his first NFL start, quarterback Daniel Jones led his team in a dramatic, 32-31 come-from-behind victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. However, the win came at a significant price as running back Saquon Barkley was forced to leave the game with what is believed to be a high-ankle sprain. Barkley spent the second half of the game on the sidelines wearing a walking boot and crutches. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday.

The Giants are now 1-2 on the year.

Aside from the play of Jones, the first half was mostly a disaster for the Giants. Not only did the team lose Barkley, but the New York defense allowed scoring drives on ALL SIX Tampa Bay first-half possessions:

  • 10 plays, 75 yards, touchdown (extra point missed)
  • 9 plays, 75 yards, touchdown (extra point blocked by DL Dexter Lawrence)
  • 5 plays, 46 yards, field goal
  • 6 plays, 62 yards, field goal
  • 3 play, 41 yards, touchdown
  • 6 plays 46 yards field goal

The Giants scored 10 points on their first two drives of the game, but the offense simply could not keep pace with the opposing team’s scoring avalanche. The three other first-half drives by New York resulted in two three-and-outs and a fumble by Jones after he was sacked. At the half, the Giants trailed by 18 points, 28-10.

Momentum quickly shifted in the 3rd quarter. The Giants scored touchdowns (and one 2-point conversion) on their first two drives of the second half. On the very first offensive snap of the 3re quarter, Jones connected with tight end Evan Engram on a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown, followed by the 2-point conversion to wide receiver Sterling Shepard. After forcing Tampa Bay’s first punt of the game, the Giants followed that up with an 8-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended with a pin-point, 7-yard touchdown pass by Jones to Shepard on 3rd-and-goal. The big play on this drive was a 46-yard completion to rookie wide receiver Darius Slayton.

The Giants had cut the score to 28-25. However, the comeback began to falter despite the New York defense now forcing three punts in a row and their first turnover of the year (an interception by rookie linebacker Ryan Connelly). The Giants were forced to punt twice themselves and after the Connelly interception, Jones fumbled the ball away again after being sacked. Eight plays later, the Buccaneers kicked a 23-yard field goal that gave the them a 31-25 lead with exactly six minutes to play.

Both teams went three-and-out, with safety Michael Thomas making a game-saving tackle on 3rd-and-2. Jones and the Giants had one more chance with 3:16 left on the clock.  Jones connected on passes to Shepard for five yards, Slayton for 21 yards, Engram for one yard, Shepard for 36 yards, and Fowler for five yards down to the Tampa Bay 7-yard line. After his first two incompletions of the drive, Jones faced a 4th-and-5 from the 7-yard line. Jones scrambled up the middle for the touchdown, giving the Giants their first lead of the game, 32-31.

However, the game was not over. Tampa Bay got the ball back with 1:16 left on the clock. Passes of 20 and 44 yards placed the ball on the Giants’ 9-yard line with 13 seconds left to play. However, the Giants were saved from a heart-breaking defeat when Tampa Bay place kicker Matt Gay missed what would have been a game-winning 34-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.

Jones finished the game 23-of-36 for 336 yards, two touchdown passes, and no interceptions (112.7 quarterback rating). Jones was also the team’s leading rusher with 28 yards on four carries, scoring twice. He did fumble the ball away twice on five of his sacks. Jones’ leading receivers were Shepard (seven catches for 100 yards and a touchdown) and Engram (six catches for 113 yards and a touchdown).

The defense allowed 499 total net yards (144 yards rushing, 355 yards passing) with 311 of those yards coming in the first half when the Buccaneers scored on six straight drives. The Giants did accrue four sacks: linebacker Markus Golden (2), linebacker Oshane Ximines, and defensive end Dexter Lawrence (1). Linebacker Ryan Connelly had the team’s only turnover with his interception.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVES AND INJURY REPORT…
WR Cody Latimer (concussion), QB Alex Tanney, TE Garrett Dickerson, TE Kaden Smith, OG/OT Chad Slade, OT Eric Smith, and S/CB Julian Love were inactive.

RB Saquon Barkley (ankle), LB Alec Ogletree (hamstring), and LB Tae Davis (possible concussion) all left the game and did not return.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Pat Shurmur and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Pat Shurmur (Video)
  • QB Daniel Jones (Video)
  • RB Saquon Barkley (Video)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (Video)
  • TE Evan Engram (Video)
  • LB Markus Golden (Video)
  • LB Ryan Connelly (Video)

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur and select players will address the media on Monday. The players are off on Tuesday and return to practice on Wednesday.

Sep 202019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 8, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, September 22, 2019

THE STORYLINE:
In 25-year history of BBI game previews, there has never been a more obvious storyline. Barring a disaster, the 16-year Eli Manning era is over. The Daniel Jones era has begun. For some, the move away from Manning was long overdue. For others, it is too soon. Most Giants fans probably have mixed emotions. They are excited about the change, but feel terribly for Eli. Yes, transition and change are the nature of the sports world. But many young Giants fans have known no other quarterback. Think about where you were in your personal and professional lives in 2004. That’s how long it has been.

As an organization, the New York Giants never fully embraced the necessary rebuilding of this franchise by clinging to the aging Manning. Hell, they have refused to even use “rebuild” in their lexicon. But here we are, in year two of a new regime, with a gutted roster and brand new starting quarterback. The defense appears to be one of the very worst in the NFL and two of the rising teams in league reside in the NFC East. This is going to take a while. What fans are looking for now is hope. Hope that things will eventually get better. That starts with Daniel Jones.

What fans need to understand is this: the 2019 season is already over for the New York Giants. Everything that happens between now and December 2019 is now about 2020 and beyond. The up-and-down growing pains and growth of the new quarterback is the storyline for the remainder of the year. Pat Shurmur is probably safe for one more year, although his defensive coordinator remains on the hot seat.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Sterling Shepard (concussion – probable)
  • WR Cody Latimer (concussion – out)
  • WR Bennie Fowler (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring – probable)
  • TE Garrett Dickerson (quad – probable)
  • RG Kevin Zeitler (shoulder – probable)
  • CB Grant Haley (illness – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
If you are impatient or looking for miracles, you are going to be disappointed. Daniel Jones is a rookie quarterback who is going to struggle. The preseason means virtually nothing. Teams were not game-planning for him or disguising coverages. And he was not playing against front-line players. There is also a chance that Jones looks very good early on until defenses catch up with him. That has happened with many other quarterbacks. Look at how RGIII was anointed the savior in Washington after his first season. I’m not trying to be a wet blanket here, but expectations need to be reasonable.

The perception is that Pat Shurmur has not been able to run his full offense with the immobile Eli Manning. We’re about to find out if that is true or not. Shurmur will undoubtedly scale some things back to not overburden the rookie more than necessary. But will we see things like run-pass options? That would be quite a change for Giants fans.

The Tampa Bay game plan is obvious: stop Saquon Barkley and force Daniel Jones to beat them. Smart coaches usually want to build up the confidence of a young quarterback by giving him easy completions early. I suspect we’ll see some short throws to Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, or Saquon Barkley to start the first quarter. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers will crowd the line of scrimmage, blitz, and mix up their coverages to confuse Jones. They want him to make mental mistakes and throw the ball to places where he should not. They want to rattle him. Bruce Arians was pretty frank when discussing Jones. “He’s a more mobile guy so you have to be a little more cautious of rush lanes and things like that. Expect a little bit more movement passes, but he’s still a rookie… It’s a very hard position to play.”

As an offense, the Giants have looked awesome on both of their initial drives of the season and then faltered for the rest of those contests. There has been no consistency. To make things easier on Jones, Barkley needs to get the ball and gain yardage on a consistent basis. That said, I would not run Barkley into 8- and 9-man fronts. If the Bucs want to crowd the line, let the rookie play. He throws a beautiful deep ball.

On last thing to note with Jones. Keep in mind that he has not had many reps with the starters. In other words, he has much more experience throwing to guys like T.J. Jones and Garrett Dickerson than Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. Don’t be surprised at missed connections with the starters while there appears to be better chemistry with second-tier players.

Meanwhile, another week, another tough defense for the Giants. Tampa is currently 8th in defense in terms of yardage allowed (6th in rushing defense). And the defense has only given up one touchdown in two games.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
While the Giants continue to face quality defenses on a weekly basis, the are encumbered (once again) with one of the very worst defenses in the league. It doesn’t matter how many coaches they change or how many players they get rid of or newly acquire, the Giants remain near the bottom of league standings. The Giants are 28th in yardage allowed and 31st in scoring defense. And they simply cannot stop the pass. The quarterback rating for opposing quarterbacks playing the Giants is an embarrassing 132.3. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 71 percent of their passes against the Giants. On a yards-per-carry basis, the defense has allowed a respectable 3.8 yards per carry. It’s the pass defense that is killing New York.

Against a lesser offensive line than they faced in week one, the pass rush picked up a bit last week. But both Antonio Hamilton (week one) and Deandre Baker (week one and two) have struggled terribly at corner opposite of Janoris Jenkins. Opposing quarterbacks and coordinators are simply playing pitch-and-catch against these two guys. Worse, the middle of the field has been left exposed by the safeties for yet another year. So far, Jabrill Peppers has not lived up to the expectations set by Dave Gettleman and James Bettcher. He’s been invisible, and not in a good way. Antoine Bethea has been just as poor in 2019 as Curtis Riley was at free safety in 2018. Grant Haley is also not making plays on the football. If the Giants are going full rebuild, it may be time to simply live and die with Deandre Baker, Julian Love, Corey Ballentine, and Sean Chandler. That said, if Baker continues to struggle as poorly as he did last week, the Giants may want to allow him to clear his head on the bench while playing one of the other younger guys outside for a game or two (for example, move Haley outside to stop the worst bleeding and move Love to nickel corner).

Lost in the issues in the secondary and with the edge rushers is that the Giants have a nice trio of defensive linemen developing up front. They are the strength of the defense. What we need to see is the edge guys Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter, and Oshane Ximines build upon last week. I’d like to see Tuzar Skipper get some snaps soon too. Inside, Ryan Connelly has taken over at one spot. Is Alec Ogletree really the “leader” you want moving forward next to him? I’d have him on a short leash.

The Buccaneers have some talented players at the skill positions but their offense is not good because they don’t have a quarterback. But that doesn’t seem to matter against the Giants, who made Jameis Winston look like Dan Marino last year when he came off of the bench. I can talk about Xs and Os and match-ups, but it comes down to this: can the Giants rush the passer and cover the receivers? Tampa has good tight ends. Expect them to feast on the middle of the field. Until the Giants prove they can even function in these areas, opposing offenses will continue to embarrass the team, regardless of the down and distance.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Aldrick Rosas missed his second kick in two years last week. Let’s see how he rebounds. T.J. Jones had a 60-yard punt return. The coverage units have been strong. Special teams have not been an issue for the Giants yet.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula on Tampa Bay’s blitzing schemes: “They do such a good job, it poses a lot of problems for a lot of offenses. As we go into the game, you can imagine starting a rookie quarterback is probably going to increase it a little bit. They’re really good at what they do, and they’re really fast at doing it, and they give you a lot of disguises, so I think all of those things present problems. So, we’ve really got to be on point with our recognition and our communication.”

THE FINAL WORD:
There is an understandable sense of excitement and nervousness about the beginning of a new era. Again, I want to caution fans who have grown far-too-accustomed to disappointment that this is a process for Jones. This is just the beginning. The last 14 games of this year is the growing experience he needs to go through in order to become the player the Giants hope he will become. There will be both good and bad plays, good and bad games. To expect otherwise is foolish.

On the other side of the ball, the Giants will never become a good team again unless they get their defense sorted out. This has become an annual embarrassment for the Giants. They are not even functioning at a somewhat professional level.

Nov 212018
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 18, 2018)

Odell Beckham, Jr. – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 38 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35

QUICK RECAP

Following the Giants Monday night victory in San Francisco, the 2-7 NFC East bottom-feeders took the long trek home and were forced to take on the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers on short rest. However, the newfound “8 game season” that this team has taken on as its mantra created a sense of confidence and “challenge accepted” approach.

NYG put together its easiest, borderline most fluid drive of the season right off the bat. A 6 play-63 yard drive that featured Saquon Barkley 5 times ended in an easy touchdown pass from Eli Manning to the rookie. Tampa Bay, led by the 35-year old Ryan Fitzpatrick, looked off from the beginning. They were using broken plays and some miscues by the Giants front seven to gain yards rather than a fluid offensive system. Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter opted to go for it on 4th and 1 from the NYG 5-yard line despite being on the road, down 7, in the first quarter. The NYG front line created a wall that Fitzpatrick couldn’t get through and NY forced its first de facto turnover on the day.

The NYG offense proved that the first drive wasn’t a fluke and that they may have actually found a rhythm that carried over from the previous week. Head Coach Pat Shurmur had a sit down with Barkley during the week and wanted to create more urgency, a more north/south approach to Barkley’s efforts when the game called for it. Barkley accepted that challenge and more, as he was gashing the depleted TB front seven with the most aggressive running style we have seen out of him yet. A 12-play drive that gave him the ball on half the snaps resulted in another NYG touchdown, this one a 5-yard run up the middle.

Down 14-0, TB found themselves in a 4th and goal situation from the NYG 10-yard line. Koetter opted to go for it yet again and things looked bleak post-snap. A broken play led to Fitzpatrick scrambling for his life but he somehow managed to find a running lane to the outside and dove his way into the end zone for a touchdown.

The Giants offense puttered for the rest of the half, shooting themselves in the foot with poor blocking, penalties, and simple mishaps. TB was gaining momentum thanks to something I may have never seen before. Defensive end Olivier Vernon was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty and then 2 straight offsides penalties. 25 yards back-to-back-to-back. Three plays later, Fitzpatrick threw an interception to safety Michael Thomas on a pass intended for OJ Howard up the seam. NYG opted for the safe approach and took the lead into halftime, 14-7.

Anyone who has followed Fitzpatrick’s career knows that he is one of the more up-and-down, Jekyll-and-Hyde quarterbacks in the league. We saw the ugly side of him in this one, mostly in the second half. On TB’s first possession, he threw a pick six that was deflected by Janoris Jenkins and into the arms of Alec Ogletree. Then, on the next possession, Fitzpatrick lofted a ball, almost Hail Mary-style, into the end zone at the end of a solid drive which NYG safety Curtis Riley came down with. NYG then put themselves into field goal position and Aldrick Rosas booted a 52 yarder though the uprights. They had a commanding 24-7 lead and Fitzpatrick was benched in favor of Jameis Winston, the former #1 overall pick.

Winston has begun his career on a record-setting turnover pace, but TB gave him a shot to bring this team back. He did exactly that. TB scored touchdowns on their next 4 possessions. Yes, 4 straight touchdown scores for the anemic Bucs offense. Thankfully, the NYG offense continued to stay hot via a balanced attack. Manning hit Odell Beckham on an 8-yard touchdown and Barkley crossed the goal line for a third time on a 2-yard run.

It was a back-and-forth affair that turned into the NYG faithful simply hoping for the clock to run out because TB kept creeping closer and closer, making it a 3 point game at one point with over 2 minutes left.

NYG was able to run the clock down to under 30 seconds, but Winston and the offense did come out for one final possession, no timeouts in hand. On the first play, Winston heaved a desperate ball downfield that was intercepted by BW Webb, and that sealed NYG’s 3rd win of the season.

Giants win, 38-35.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 17/18 – 231 yards – 2 TD / 0 INT. Manning finished with a 110+ QB rating for the 3rd time in 4 games. It is amazing, but not surprising, how much better Manning and this offense looks now that the offensive line has stabilized. Don’t look now, but he is trending towards career highs in both completion percentage and QB rating despite being sacked a league-leading 36 times. Nobody is going to mistake Manning for one of the elite signal callers in the NFL, but he is finally finding the comfort zone within this uber-talented offense. Give this guy enough time to read the defense and enough time for the receivers to actually run their routes and we will see more performances like this.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 27 att / 142 yards / 2 TD – 2 rec / 10 yards / 1 TD. There was a different version of Barkley on the field against TB. One we had yet to see and it seems to have stemmed from some hard-truth coaching from Pat Shurmur. Barkley’s lone negative in his scouting report last spring was a little too much dancing behind the line of scrimmage, neglecting what the defense gives him too often. Barkley took it to heart and ran harder between the tackles time after time than I have ever seen, college days included. He was constantly finishing runs, falling forward, and gaining yards after initial contact. This is the kind of running style that, if Barkley can turn on and off based on game situations and the opposing defensive approach, can take his game to the next level. His 3 scores proved that he, and this offense, are much more than big-play dependent.

-Wayne Gallman and Elihjaa Penny deserve mention. They combined for 39 yards on 6 touches. Penny has made a couple of athletic catches in recent weeks and while he won’t ever be a feature of the passing game, it is a nice outlet to have. Gallman’s opportunities are so limited, but his quick speed will make a big play at some point.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Odell Beckham: 4 rec / 74 yards / 1 TD. Six days after Beckham went for 4 catches – 73 yards, he put out a similar performance. His touchdown catch was a thing of beauty, one that many could not have made. The ball was well on its way before he turned around and he had to make an backwards adjustment to the pass. He is in a nice groove right now despite seeing a ton of attention from opposing secondaries.

-It was a spread out day for the rest of the WR group. Sterling Shepard had 2 catches for 22 yards and both Bennie Fowler and Corey Coleman each snared a pass. Coleman’s role here seems locked in as he is performing so well as a kick returner whereas Fowler will only make an impact if someone gets hurt.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram: 2 rec 66 yards. Similar to last week, Engram’s impact on the game wasn’t really felt until the 4th quarter. When TB’s offense kept the game close and within striking distance, Manning hit Engram on a short pass, but Engram’s burst and speed created a 54-yard gain on the play that put them near the end zone that eventually led to a touchdown. What was notable about this day, however, was the fact Engram played just 32% of the snaps, less than half the snaps of Rhett Ellison and even less snaps that Scott Simonson. Is he in the doghouse? Not necessarily. However as I said a couple weeks ago, this team runs the ball better with Engram not on the line. If this offense wants to continue to be run-dominant, I expect to see snap totals like this from Engram.

-With that said, Ellison had an up-and-down game as a blocker. He allowed a TFL and a sack. While you can’t expect him to sustain blocks against a DE like Jason Pierre-Paul, he has constantly been a very inconsistent presence in the trenches. Simonson wasn’t a factor that often as a blocker, but his footwork has come a long way since the start of the year. Curious to see if he can carve a long-term role here for himself as a presence in the trenches.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Nate Solder had the responsibility of facing off against former Giant DE Jason Pierre-Paul. The motivated JPP finished with 7 tackles and 1.5 sacks. One of the sacks came through Rhett Ellison, but Solder was still being handled pretty badly. His staying power just isn’t there. The fact Manning only dropped back 23 times helped Solder not get exposed as often as he has been, but I still view him as a major liability to this offense.

-Chad Wheeler had a solid game as a run blocker. His initial contact was violent and he got downfield a handful of times making a difference. I love the hustle this kid plays with. He allowed 1 TFL and had a bonehead personal foul penalty on a PAT late in the game. Otherwise, very solid game for him.

GUARDS/CENTERS

-This is the best combo-guard play we have seen out of NYG in quite some time. Rookie Will Hernandez had the highest grade of the group, as he neutralized and moved All Pro Gerald McCoy all afternoon. He did allow 1 TFL early in the game where his lack of foot-adjustment showed up again, but he was a steady force from there on out. Brown had some of the most dominant run blocks against both DTs and LBs that I saw all weekend. Now that he knows the scheme one more week, he moved with more confidence. I don’t want to celebrate yet, but NYG may have found their RG.

-Spencer Pulley was the one negative of the group and I think that is simply what we are going to have to deal with the rest of the way. You can hide poor OC play if the guards play at a high level. Pulley allowed a sack and had a false start penalty.

EDGE

-Kareem Martin, ever since his days at North Carolina, has a game every now and then that makes evaluators get excited. Well, this was that game. He finished with 7 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 TFL. He was a factor in both traffic and in space, but I will say some of his bigger plays were a product of the action being washed his way. But hey, he got it done. Good game for him.

-Lorenzo Carter continues to show subtle but obvious improvement across the board. He had 2 pressures, 1 of which led to a sack by Martin. Get this guy in pursuit and he can chase down any QB and force him into an early throw.

-Olivier Vernon and Kerry Wynn both had quiet games, although the loudest hit of the day may have been by Wynn on special teams. Vernon had an odd stretch of roughing the passer-offsides-offsides on three straight snaps. That is the kind of thing that makes a fan say “trade him” but let’s not forget guys, this pass rush did improve as a whole when he came back from injury.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-The lack of Damon Harrison’s presence has been apparent these past two weeks. Dalvin Tomlinson and BJ Hill were getting moved off the ball way too much, way too often. The TB running game had wide open running lanes inside for most of the day and while some of that was on the LBs, Hill and Tomlinson weren’t stout enough. They need to be better.

-Josh Mauro and Mario Edwards on the other hand, who both played 37% of the snaps, were exceptional in their backup duty. Mauro had a TFL and a pressure while Edwards had 2 pressures and a forced fumble. Mauro’s pressure was the reason Fitzpatrick threw his final interception. The ball was lofted into the air because he had Mauro creeping up into his face as he threw. That was an overlooked aspect of that key play. Both of these guys play really physical and make a difference at the point of attack.

LINEBACKERS

Another weak showing from the inside linebackers in this one. Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis were not filling lanes against the TB rushing attack. They were a step slow and too late to make reads, giving the TB blockers the proper angles to wash them out. And when TB did use the middle of the field in the passing game, they once again couldn’t get it done. Nice job by Ogletree to come up with the pick six on a Janoris Jenkins tipped pass, but these guys need to play better.

CORNERBACKS

-Speaking of Jenkins, he had a strong game for the most part. The one weak moment came late in the game where he was beat off the ball and for a 44-yard touchdown to Mike Evans. He broke up a pass that ended up turning into a defensive touchdown for NYG. His play has leveled off in a good way in recent weeks. One thing I didn’t like, and we have seen this before out of him, was the fact he made a business decision to not tackle a downhill Peyton Barber near the goal line. Can’t have that.

-BW Webb came down with an interception on a final desperation attempt-type throw on TB’s last drive. This was his best game of the season, as he shut down DeSean Jackson. He finished with 7 tackles and 2 pass break ups as well. Webb has had me thinking the past few weeks that he may have earned his way into a contract next year; he has been consistent.

-Grant Haley played the nickel role again and appears to be getting more and more confident. He dropped a interception and did allow a touchdown late to Adam Humphries, but I think his performance these past 2 weeks warrants a continued role in the nickel. He doesn’t have the physical presence to work through receivers to the ball, but he is reacting fast and getting his hands on the ball.

SAFETIES

-Best game of the season to date for Michael Thomas. He was only on the field for about a third of the plays, but he came up with a key interception in the red zone in addition to a couple of key tackles late in the game. Thomas is the best tackler on this team and I have a feeling the team will give him a hard look if Landon Collins prices him out of this town via free agency in the winter.

-Landon Collins led the team with 11 tackles and was again a solid force in the box. He did recognize running plays late a few times that led to lengthy gains, but he was solid. The glaring issue with Collins arose late in the game when TB obviously had to make a play deep. He was late to give help on a vertical route and it resulted in a touchdown. I’ll say this again, if you can’t send this guy deep ever, he isn’t a safety. Something to think about. Nice interception and return for Curtis Riley but he did miss more tackles and is among the NFL’s league leaders in that department. Not a list you want a safety to be on.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 52). In a year where kickers are just failing left and right, Rosas continues to be one of the most steady ones in the league.

-P Riley Dixon: 4 Punts – 41.5 avg / 34.0 net. Nothing notable from Dixon in this one; he had a couple opportunities to pin TB close to their own end zone but overshot one, undershot the other.

-KR/PR: Corey Coleman added another 40 yard return early. He has what I call aggressive speed and he is a major weapon if the blocking is good enough. He is close to taking one to the house.

3 STUDS

-RB Saquon Barkley, S Michael Thomas, OG Will Hernandez

3 DUDS

-LB Tae Davis, OT Nate Solder, DE Olivier Vernon

3 THOUGHTS ON TB

-This is maybe one of 3 or 4 teams in this league that just lack direction. They have a recent #1 pick whom has had some success and a 35-year old journeyman going back and forth at QB. Their offensive line is inconsistent with both tackles, neither of which deserve big money, heading towards free agency. Their best defenders have a hard time staying healthy. And their Head Coach seems to be in over his head on a near-weekly basis. Lastly, they just spent a ton of money on free agents this past offseason. Very odd situation going on down there, it’s been built the wrong way.

-Jameis Winston may, or may not be available this offseason. Crazy prediction, I know. But if he is made available, I know at least some NYG fans will throw his name out there. I’ve watched him plenty over the years and I do think he has some special talents and intangibles. The problem is, they are grouped with off-field red flags that never seem to go away, and a lack of ball discipline. He was lucky that Mike Evans fell on his fumble in the end zone on his first drive of the second half. Like I feel about Sam Darnold, some guys just don’t protect the ball enough in key situations. Winston is who he is and I don’t want him in a Giants uniform. It wouldn’t work here in a high-pressure market.

-This goes to show guys….”winning” in free agency doesn’t get you anywhere. Acquiring expensive veterans as the main catalyst for a turnaround just doesn’t work. Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Ryan Jensen, Beau Allen combine for about $36 million in cap space with all of them locked up for another 2-4 years. And this team is going nowhere fast.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-Does NYG have momentum? Well they beat 2 teams on the down slope that have a combined 5 wins through 11 weeks. But just like you don’t get any credit for losing to a good team, NYG deserves credit for 2 wins no matter who they come against. As we see every week in the NFL, there is no such thing as an easy W.

-If NYG is going to keep this offensive flow going (25 + points in consecutive games for the first time since October 2015), the actual devotion to the running game and play-action passing needs to be the staple. Manning has always been at his best from under center in a play-action-heavy routine. I’m glad to see Shurmur, for the first time, stick to a running game throughout all 4 quarters. If he can keep this approach, NYG will continue to score points like this.

-How can NYG fix this defense in-season? It does look like they are trying to spread some snaps out among the front seven with different personnel combinations each week. Credit to them for continuing to try new things. Perhaps the quality of talent isn’t there to defend the middle of the field, but this coaching staff needs to find something. Their toughest test will be this weekend as Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert may very well be the best TE combination in the NFL when it comes to catching the football.