-Daniel Jones: 21/32 – 160 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 77.6 RAT
Jones added 35 yards on 10 carries. He led the NYG offense to 13 points and one touchdown. It was far from an impressive group-performance on tape, but the key here is what he did when it mattered most. Jones made several key plays in big moments that led to the win. NYG’s best drive of the year took place in the second quarter. They were up 7-3 and started on their own three-yard line. 18 plays and 97 yards later, Barkley scored a touchdown to give them a commanding 11-point lead which they carried into halftime. On this drive alone, Jones went 10/12 for 91 yards. Almost half of his completions and over 55% of his yards from the game took place here. He came up with a big-time throw on 3rd-and-9 and then another one on 4th-and-9. Both of which went to Richie James.
The other major positive in this game was the fact Jones did not turn the ball over. In a game like this, the turnover battle means as much as any component to the game. This is the ninth game Jones has not turned it over. This was the major red flag in Jones’ game early on, but undoubtedly the biggest improvement we have seen out of him. It is a good sign to see the player show he can make objective improvements that are vital to team success. While I would not say Jones put the team on his shoulders and led them through the fire, this was more of what I wanted to see. I care less about touchdowns and yards per attempt (5 yards per is VERY low) because of the handicap he is playing with at receiver. I do care about making the big throws in big moments. I do care about him protecting the ball. I do care about him creating opportunities on his own. Jones did all of the above. The quickness in getting the ball out made all the difference and it is amazing how much better the result is when he does so. It took him an average of 2.55 seconds to throw. It was the best of the year and I believe there is a correlation between that time and the offensive efficiency. The quality pass protection helped a lot, too.
-Saquon Barkley: 18 att – 87 yards – 1 TD / 5 rec – 33 yards
Now this is what we all want and what NYG needs out of Barkley. The funny part is, I knew after his first carry that we were going to be watching the best version of him. It was immediate energy. It was a lack of hesitation. It was the immediate acceleration and sharp cuts. Barkley did not blow the box score up, but on a day where the team gained 288 net yards, his 120 total were a big deal. The true value of having an elite back like this shows up in the second half. What were his second half numbers? 11 att / 74 yards – 2 rec / 14 yards. Jones carried NYG on the game’s most important drive in the second quarter, as noted above. It was Barkley that took it over on the second most important drive of the game which took place in the fourth quarter. With a five-point lead and 6:06 left, WAS had all three timeouts remaining. This is where having the elite back is near vital. Barkley (and the NYG offensive line) responded with four straight running plays. Gains of 12, 15, and 14 yards began the drive. The runs were some of the best I have ever seen out of Barkley including his long highlight-reel touchdowns. He pressed the hole, made subtle adjustments, showed spin moves while moving at a full rate of speed, and he fell forward.
I will touch on this below, but the contrast between the best version of Barkley and the worst is enormous. Why is that? Can it actually be solved with a better group of blockers? Because I’ll tell you what. The NYG offensive line had one of their best games of the year in this game. If they play at this level week to week (with the same bodies or new additions), does Barkley become a guy gaining 5-6 yards per carry every week and playing the role of closer? Does that change the long-term outlook? Watching him in the fourth quarter is what makes many hold onto the hope of what #26 could be here. And it is real. It is not just a fantasy. And the number one factor why it may be overlooked by most.
-Matt Breida added 12 total yards (6 rushing / 6 receiving). Not a major impact but he brought a physical brand to the game.
-Richie James continues to be one of the key players to this team who is stepping up when it matters. This time it was in a winning effort. He ended the game with 4 rec / 42 yards and returned two punts for 23 and 9 yards. Once again, we are not talking about taking over the box score, but he deserves the credit for shining in big moments. He caught all but one target. Three of his catches went for a first down. He was the recipient on 3rd-and-9 and 4th-and-9 conversions. He added 19 yards after the catch.
There are 51 NFL receivers who have caught 42 passes this season. James is 1 of 10 who have dropped 1 or zero balls. As I said last week, he is the one guy who I trust the most to get himself open and now he is proving he can be the go-to guy on conversion attempts.
-Isaiah Hodgins continues to impress and build his rapport with Jones. Four targets, four catches. The classic possession receiver is a tough and hard-nosed dude with plus-route running ability. That works in this league. The big play potential may not be there, but he is going to help move the chains. He’s done so 9 times over the last three games and Jones passer rating is 133.3 when throwing his way.
-Darius Slayton had 5 catches for 23 yards. He did not get any real looks downfield. NYG tried to kill the WAS pass defense with a thousand paper cuts. I would have liked to see one or two deep balls to Slayton. But the game plan was evidently short, quick passes and feeding Barkley.
-Daniel Bellinger played a career-high 98% of the snaps while Nick Vannett and Chris Myarick only saw 16% and 10%, respectively. Bellinger was targeted 3 times, bringing in just 1 of them for 4 yards. He dropped a ball at the end of the third quarter that was a result of him simply not getting his head around fast enough. He has good, strong hands but the timing was simply off by a second there. Vannett’s catch went for 15 yards.
The group did a nice job on the edge in the running game. NYG’s run-success was between the tackles so these guys did not factor much, but they both had successful wham blocks on successful plays.
-Andrew Thomas allowed just one pressure on a play where the rusher used an inside move at the same time Jones had to step up into the pocket. Otherwise, a very good pass blocking game for the left tackle. But I thought he left some on the table in the running game. There was a little too much upper-lean to his game. Evan Neal got off to a rough start, but I thought he stabilized as the game went on. He also performed well in key spots. That said, he allowed 3 pressures and was flagged for a false start. Being matched up against Montez Sweat is no small task (second in NFL In QB hits) and he allowed Sweat to hit Jones just once without much help. He was also a force in the running game.
-Nick Gates (21 snaps) and Ben Bredeson (42 snaps) split time at left guard. They were both excellent. This was Bredeson’s first action since Week 7 in Jacksonville. I would love to know the plan here because I have a strong opinion that Bredeson at guard and Gates at center would give this offense their best line. I don’t think it will sway it too much, though. And one can make the case that the rotation will help keep these guys fresh. It appeared to help in the fourth quarter in this game, when the OL really took over.
-Nice work by Mark Glowinski. Two weeks ago, in his first matchup against WAS and Daron Payne, he ended up on the “Dud” list. This is one of the values to an experienced player who shows the blue-collar style of play at the absence of pure ability. Get beat, study film, go to a different part of the tool box, and try again. It worked. He threw multiple key blocks on their successful running plays and allowed just one pressure. Center Jon Feliciano allowed a TFL (5 yards) and was flagged for holding. He was excellent in pass protection when it came to help and staying home on stunts.
-NYG does not win this game without Kayvon Thibodeaux. Plain and simple. You draft edge defenders high with the expectation they take games over. Not every week, not even every other week. But multiple times throughout the year they simply take over. 12 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 pressure, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 touchdown. The grand slam (sack + FF + FR + TD) changed the game. It was one of the most athletic plays I have seen league-wide this year from a pass rusher. Thibodeaux, like Barkley, is playing with an increased sense of speed and twitch. It is turning into power, he is playing with great pad level, and opposing blockers are having a really hard time with it. The icing on the cake is the hustle he is showing. This dude emptied the tank, he gave the team everything he had. We saw him hustling downfield over and over. When the best players are the hardest working players, it is amazing what happens to the culture.
The one negative on his sheet will be the multiple times he got beat on the edge as a run defender. Like Wink Martindale, there is a wide spectrum of results with the way he plays the run. We saw the good (making plays behind line of scrimmage), but there were four separate times where he either got sucked in by a fake or took the wrong angle against the blocker. And they all resulted in big gains. Coaches will see that on tape.
-Azeez Ojulari added 4 tackles, 2 pressures, a half-sack, and a half-TFL. Solid, disruptive game and his mere presence on the other side has helped Thibodeaux put together a strong consecutive set of games. I like how he seems to increase his impact in the second half of games.
-Jihad Ward played a season-low 26 snaps and was not involved in much action. The lack of speed in pursuit almost allowed Taylor Heinicke to get into the end zone on the final drive but Thibodeaux saved the day. Tomon Fox and Oshane Ximines saw a little bit of playing time and did not make an impact. In games like this, it really comes down to the main two guys on the outside.
-Leonard Williams was back. While he didn’t play his best football, his presence is a difference maker. Having the front four of Williams-Lawrence-Ojulari-Thibodeaux is so crucial. It is a quartet that complements each other so well. Williams recovered a fumble and added a pressure in the fourth quarter. He stepped up when it mattered most.
-Dexter Lawrence continued his quality play. It was the second straight week we saw him under 75% of the defensive snaps, but he still ended with 3 tackles, a half-TFL, 3 pressures, and a forced fumble that NYG recovered. Like Williams, I thought his best football was played in the biggest moments.
-Henry Mondeaux, Justin Ellis, and undrafted rookie Ryder Anderson all played 12 snaps each. Anderson made the standout play, a sack (second in as many weeks) and continues to show what I saw over summer. There is something this team can work with here. The ceiling is high and he has a game similar to a young Leonard Williams (scaled back of course). Mondeaux and Ellis were run plugs and not much more. The run defense issues have more to do with the second level, and these guys are doing a good job of eating blockers and holding their ground, but neither are getting off blocks and making any plays. I would like to see one or two from each.
-When it comes to quickly filling running lanes, creating less space to work with is key to a downhill, early-down rushing attack WAS uses. Jaylon Smith mightily struggled here in the first half when the WAS running game was really moving. He did pick it up in the second half and he had 9 tackles, but he also allowed 3 catches on 3 targets for 35 yards. This has become a focal point to pick on by opposing offenses.
-Rookie Micah McFadden was better at getting into the inside running lanes quickly, but the lack of lateral range caught up to him. A good run defense needs that backside pursuit to be there, and I am not sure he has it. Landon Collins saw some real playing time in the second half and made two impressive tackles at the line of scrimmage. I like what Collins brings to the table and I think he is going to be a big part of the defense moving forward.
-Fabian Moreau was put on shadow-duty against Terry McLaurin once again. It resulted in 5 catches for 66 yards on 5 targets. The help over the top on vertical routes from Julian Love was a factor in McLaurin never having the explosive play.
-Cor’Dale Flott was tested multiple times downfield. While he did not break up anything up, I liked the movement traits once again. He needs to eventually progress with the ball skills and making plays, but the ability to play sticky is most important. He has that down on multiple levels of the route tree. There are major concerns with him as an outside run defender, however. He is getting overmatched physically.
-Nick McCloud and Darnay Holmes were the weak points of the defense in the secondary. McCloud allowed a touchdown and dropped an interception. While it goes down as a pass breakup, that is a play that simply needs to be made. While I am careful to put him down at all considering he was added via waivers and has exceeded expectations, I cannot look past the blown opportunity at game-changing plays. Holmes was penalized for the 8th time this year, second most in the NFL. And he got away with a blatant pass interference on the final WAS offensive play of the game. On that same drive, he allowed a huge play in coverage. Defenses know who to pick on in big spots.
-I like what we are seeing on a week-to-week basis from Jason Pinnock. He has run away with the starting safety job from Dane Belton while McKinney is out. He had 5 tackles, a forced fumble, and 2 pass breakups in addition to an untouched pressure. Pinnock’s closing speed is such a factor on outside runs. He is also limiting yards after the catch with quick, sure tackling.
-Julian Love added 7 tackles and missed one, while Tony Jefferson provided extra physical play with 2 tackles himself. NYG has been getting torched in the front seven against the run, but these safeties have stopped the bleeding.
-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 50, 50)
-P Jamie Gillan: 5 punts / 42.6 avg – 41.8 net
-EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, WR Richie James, K Graham Gano
-CB Darnay Holmes, OT Evan Neal, CB Nick McCloud
3 THOUGHTS ON WAS
(1) As the broadcast did a nice job noting, this loss makes the playoff odds for WAS take a nosedive. While they’re not out of it, they pretty much have to win two of their last three to have a shot. They are playing at a motivated SF next week, a game I can’t see them winning. Then two home games against CLE and DAL. Their hope may need to be that DAL would be resting starters in that game. SEA has games against NYJ and LAR remaining. DET has games against CHI, CAR, and GB remaining.
(2) Brian Robinson’s story is one of my favorite of the year. Getting shot, coming back much sooner than expected, and then taking the number one job in the backfield all within months of each other tells us a lot about the character of the man. That and his running style are going to cause problems for the Giants for years. The ideal blend of power, aggression, and quick speed.
(3) During the broadcast, color commentator Chris Collinsworth noted how vital it is for a team to have that third receiver in the passing game. Not sure if he is thinking Curtis Samuel is a real number two guy or not (I don’t), but I think he is one short. A real passing game that strikes fear into a defense needs four targets. Without the amount of nickel and dime being played and how quickly pass rushers are disrupting the timing now, I think the number is four. Three of them need to be receivers, and the fourth can be a tight end or a running back. Goes to show how far away NYG currently is from that kind of potential and how long it can and will take.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
(1) Why do we see a difference in movement traits with Barkley throughout the year? As I noted above, the first five steps of his first carry were all it took for me to note we were going to see the best version of him. Speed, burst, agility, stop and go. All of it. I did a quick look at games of his on grass in 2022 vs. games on turf. On grass, he averages 6 yards per touch and just 4 yards on turf (73 carries – 431 yards / 18 rec – 124 yards on grass and 196 carries – 739 yards / 29 rec – 170 yards on turf). All of this talk when it comes to the non-contact injuries on the turf could certainly be a block between Barkley and his ability. Something to think about and track.
(2) While we can all agree NYG is still early in the process of building a Super Bowl contending roster, I will say something about where they currently sit. This is the kind of team you get a little scared to play against in the playoffs. They have the tools to be very competitive if/when they get a lead. A running game that is capable (albeit inconsistent) of taking over late in games. A pass rush that now has four credible weapons if they stay healthy. There is more to it than that, I know. But those two pieces, when clicking, can do a ton of damage in cold weather games.
(3) Yes, when it comes to projected odds, NYG has a 90+% chance of making the playoffs. In my opinion, that means next to nothing. They need to get at least another win. 9 is the number you feel good about and they’re simply not there yet. MIN is a tough matchup. PHI Week 18 could still be a high-effort game for the Eagles because of home field advantage. And yes, the IND game looks easy on paper, but I still don’t think NYG is the kind of team that can look past anyone in that kind of situation. This win in WAS had some deeper meaning than just the micro-level result. I can’t help but continue to think down the road here and how much this game against MIN can mean for the culture-build. Emotional wins like this, league-wide, tend to lead to a letdown. I want to see the same effort against the Vikes. That will mean something beyond the result.