Most fans do not watch games beyond their favorite team. They’ll watch every contest that includes the team they root for, maybe a few nationally televised matchups, and then the postseason. I bring that up because the typical Washington Football Team follower could easily be under the impression this NYG team, despite all the losses (49 of their last 67), is a team “on the rise” under their young stud franchise quarterback, Daniel Jones. After all, he entered the game 4-0 against WAS. What that typical fan may not realize, however, is Jones also entered the game 4-19 against everyone else. It was a rainy night on a short week for two teams that were torched on third down in their respective week 1 losses. Nobody wants to start the year 0-2 and everybody wants the division win. NYG has owned this matchup, winning 14 of 20 since 2012 and this version of WAS was being led by an undrafted quarterback who had two career starts in four years under his belt.
That quarterback, Taylor Heinicke, was forced into a quick 3-and-out to start the night off. Jones, who had a 100.0 career-quarterback rating against WAS, the highest among all his opponents he has played more than once, started where he left off against this defense. He led a drive with a solid blend of run and pass, mainly featuring himself in both regards, to put the early score on the board. A designed QB-draw, running behind new center Billy Price, put the away team wearing their home blues up 7-0 just 8:20 into the game. WAS responded with their second straight three-and-out in as many drives at the hands of quality NYG pass rushing from the outside.
The first “ugly” of the night appeared on the second NYG drive. First, right guard Nick Gates was rolled up on and broke his leg. It was such a gruesome injury that the telecast opted to not show the replay. The team captain shifted over to guard from center, where he had been excelling, because of the injury to Shane Lemieux, who was placed in Injured Reserve earlier in the day. On the very next play, however, the momentum was back as Saquon Barkley darted through the right side of the line, thanks to Chase Young vacating his lane, and up the sideline for a 41-yard gain. What a sight to see that was! Maybe this would be the night NYG fans have been waiting for after all.
The run brought NYG to the WAS 35. They got to 3rd-and-2 from the WAS 29 via two more running plays before calling an early timeout. And this is where the “no excuses” thought enters one’s mind. After a timeout, Jones had a really hard time lining up the offense. They were shockingly scrambling to get aligned with the play clock reaching :00 as Andrew Thomas jumped out of his stance early, getting flagged for a false start. They moved back the necessary 5 yards, just to have Jones sacked for an 8-yard loss, knocking them out of field goal range. They had WAS by the throat, they called a timeout to get on the same page, and it ended up looking like football’s version of the Bad News Bears. Just an awful, awful display of professional football.
WAS then took control via a 13-play drive where Heinicke connected with one of the most underrated receivers in football, Terry McLaurin, four times. The fourth was an 11-yard touchdown to tie the game up. Both offenses traded three-and-outs before NYG started a drive on their own 22-yard line. The lack of discipline shown by the hyped WAS edge rushers last week against LAC kept showing up in this contest as well. Jones was roasting them with read option runs and he took one 58 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. However, a questionable holding call on receiver C.J. Board took the ball back to the WAS 22. They eventually had a 1st-and-10 from the WAS 13, thanks to a pass interference called on cornerback William Jackson III. Two poor play calls gained a total of 2 yards and the 3rd-down conversion attempt, a short pass to Sterling Shepard, came up 2 yards shy. The Giants settled for a 23-yard field goal by Graham Gano.
After being torched by Denver quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at the end of the first half in week 1, Heinicke did the same in Week 2. They couldn’t cover the likes of Adam Humphries and Logan Thomas. They couldn’t stop the likes of running back J.D. McKissic. The coverage was soft, the pass rush was non-existent, and they couldn’t come up with situational stops. The talk from coaches about specializing in situational football seems like an oxymoron when watching this team play. The drive ended in a 2-yard score by McKissic to give WAS a 14-10 lead heading into halftime.
The opening drive of the second half got off to a hot start. NYG crossed midfield in a hurry and had a 1st-and-10 from the WAS 33 following a defensive holding penalty by former Giant Landon Collins. Yes, he is still in the league but holding on by a thread. A poorly-designed outside run resulted in a loss of 6 yards and then a poorly-designed run play resulted in a gain of 2 yards. NYG was in danger of missing out on a field goal opportunity, but an 8-yard gain via a pass to Darius Slayton put them on the 29-yard line. Gano nailed a 47-yarder to make it a 1-point deficit.
WAS responded with a 3-and-out and the momentum shift was back on NYG’s side. Following a 3rd-and-13 incomplete, the refs flagged WAS corner Kendall Fuller for a pass interference. NYG took advantage of it with a…9-yard loss on…yet another poorly-designed running play. A 9-yard loss on a running play. That is really hard to do. Jones then took control of the game with surprisingly good pass blocking by the hodge-podge offensive line. He completed 3 passes in 4 attempts for a combined 64 yards, the final one being an absolute dime to Slayton for a 33-yard touchdown. NYG was up 20-14.
The rest of the game, as it entered the 4th quarter, was a constant seesaw. The next four drives resulted in both teams netting two field goals each. NYG remained ahead by 6 points with under five minutes left. A 56-yard pass to McKissic, beating Tae Crowder, and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Seals-Jones, beating Adoree’ Jackson, put WAS ahead by 1 point. All of the sudden, NYG was trying to play catch-up once again. Their drive stalled and they were forced to punt for the first time in seven possessions. WAS started the with the ball inside their own 10, just over 3 minutes left.
After being absolutely roasted by McLaurin all night, James Bradberry came up with the game’s first turnover on a beautiful read of the route and break on the ball. NYG had the ball on the WAS 20, down 1, with just over two minutes left. The running game had one constant that worked all night. Read option with Jones keeping to the outside. They had a solid short passing game over the middle to Shepard and the tight ends. Jones was 22/31 (71%) with zero turnovers. This was his game. He was the reason NYG was in position to win and all they had to do was gain a first down, get the clock well below 2:00 while burning through WAS timeouts. Jason Garrett, who struggled with calling productive runs all night (18 carries for 27 yards on non-Jones runs other than the 41-yard gain by Barkley early on), failed again. Two obvious run calls netted just three yards. WAS stopped the clock twice and Jones threw an incomplete pass to Shepard that wouldn’t have reached the sticks anyway. Two poor running plays and a too-short pass to Shepard was the exact same three-play routine we saw in the second quarter when they were near the end zone. Remember? WAS did. Gano hit a 35-yard field goal to give NYG a 2-point lead but there were 2 minutes left on the clock and the NYG defense all of the sudden can’t stop a nosebleed.
There was never a feeling that they would come up with the big stop. Heinicke carved them up yet again, quite easily getting into field goal range. McKissic might as well been Alvin Kamara and Heinicke might as well been Tom Brady. This defense let down the entire organization and fan base, allowing them to get within field distance in a hurry. And that wasn’t even the worst part. Kicker Dustin Hopkins pushed the 48-yard attempt wide right. NYG had the 2-point win in the bag but the yellow flag was thrown on to the field. Dexter Lawrence jumped offsides, giving Hopkins a second life. He nailed it from 43 and WAS won the game. Just like that, NYG starts 0-2 for the fifth straight year and the 7th time in 8 years.
NYG loses, 30-29.
-Daniel Jones: 22/32 – 249 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 102.2 RAT
Jones also added 95 yards and a touchdown on the ground. So, 344 total yards of offense and 2 touchdowns. This was easily one of the best games Jones has put on display in his short career. And he was a Slayton drop away from another 43-yard touchdown. I wouldn’t call the game flawless, as Jones still threw four woefully inaccurate balls on passes across the middle. That needs to improve because it is where the best quarterbacks to their most damage. That aside, Jones put this team on his shoulder. High level throws, gutsy running plays, 3rd-down success, and most importantly the zero turnovers kept this team in the game. Without Jones’ big game, NYG had no shot.
-Saquon Barkley: 13 att – 57 yards / 2 rec – 12 yards
You can call this a (small) step forward for Barkley’s return. He played on short rest and not only did he play, but he was also on the field for 84% of the snaps. He also broke off a 41-yard run where that burst and speed in the open field was on display. Overall, however, it is easy to say that he’s just not fully back yet. On his other 12 carries, he had 16 yards. He looked hesitant and did not see cutback lanes. It is easy for me to say from the All-22 angle that he should be cutting into different lanes, I know. But I see other backs do it on a routine basis and it is because they run without hesitation. Barkley hesitates nearly every time he gets the ball. Is he running scared? On 2nd-and-10 from the 43-yard line in the 4th quarter (6:25 left), Barkley ran through an inside crease and simply fell to the ground. He wasn’t touched, he didn’t trip over his feet. He was anticipating contact, looked scared, and fell to the ground. He tried to save face by punching the ground a few times. He’s done that a handful, if not more, of times over the years. I am starting to turn south on him and I was one banging the table FOR NYG to draft him in 2018.
-Elijhaa Penny had 2 carries for 5 yards. He is the best short yardage back on the team and I am glad they are using him in that role as I stated last year.
-Sterling Shepard paced the group again with 9 catches on 10 targets. He was back in his 10 yards-per-catch area (10.4), but a few of them were big plays. It is early in the year to say this, but with how the passing scheme looks and how well Shepard is moving, he has a good shot at finishing top 5 in the league in catches. This is the best we’ve seen out of him.
-Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton each caught 3 passes and dropped one. Slayton’s drop, however, was in the spotlight as it would have been an easy touchdown. Easy catch? Absolutely not. Should a pro receiver bring that in? Absolutely. There are negative plays each week from Slayton it seems. If John Ross gets on the field, Slayton will be the one that loses his snaps. More on Golladay and his sideline antics below. On the field, however, I’m not worried about his low production through 2 games. He will get his. WAS got away with 2 pass interference penalties on him but I expect to see a lot of that, as he is a physical receiver himself and won’t separate a lot. In addition, Golladay had a monster-block on Barkley’s 41-yard run.
-A better game from the duo of Kyle Rudolph and Kaden Smith. They both came up with a tough grab each and totaled 49 yards on 4 catches. They both were much more effective in the running game with key blocks on some of the better runs Barkley had, Rudolph especially. He did allow a sack, however. I expect Evan Engram to be back for week 3 against Atlanta. He was very active on the field in pre-game warm ups and the team has some extra rest to work with.
-A very back-and-forth, up-and-down performance by the group as a whole. After watching the tape two times, I still don’t know how to best describe the performance of this group. They were very good when it mattered most, but there were a ton of negative plays. Let’s start with the move of Nick Gates to left guard after the team moved Shane Lemiuex to IR. He allowed a sack early before breaking his leg and is now out for the year. Unfortunate for him and NYG, as a strong case can be made for him being the top OL on the team. Ben Bredeson came in and played pretty well, allowing just 1 pressure.
-Billy Price got his first start since being acquired for defensive tackle B.J. Hill (who had 2 sacks for CIN week 1). Overall, it was a very poor game for the fourth-year center. While he did have a key block on the Barkley 41-yard run, he allowed a sack, a pressure, and was flagged for 2 penalties. He looked off balance as well with a couple really ugly displays of blocking even though it did not impact those particular plays.
-The tackles, Andrew Thomas and Nate Solder, both played 100% of the snaps. Matt Peart didn’t see the field on offense. Thomas allowed 2 TFL (one of which wasn’t on him), 1 pressure, and a half-sack. He was also flagged for 2 false starts. Considering who he was up against, I give Thomas another thumbs up for this game. I still want to see a cleaner record and less penalties, but he was left alone often against Chase Young and I thought he got the best of him. Solder, as expected, struggled when he was left alone. He did get a decent amount of help and when he did, he kept it together. He allowed a pressure, 1 TFL, and half-sack.
-Will Hernandez allowed a pressure and made his presence known in the running game. His footwork and lower body bend looked better as well. That said, he simply isn’t on the same level as WAS defensive linemen Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne.
-Another quiet game from this group. Dexter Lawrence wasn’t heard from most of the night until his offsides penalty. Danny Shelton added 1 tackle. He was on the field for 21% of the snaps and didn’t hold his ground the way I expected him to.
-Austin Johnson and Leonard Williams at least combined for 9 tackles and made a few plays away from the ball. They pursued well and made a couple physical plays. Williams was the only one who put pressure on the quarterback but missed the tackle attempt on a near-sack.
-Rookie Azeez Ojulari recorded a sack for the second straight week. He has 2 of the team’s 3 sacks so far in this young season. He was quiet thereafter and while I won’t give him a negative grade, I do want to see more snap to snap consistency and variety. He hasn’t shown any effective rush moves quite yet, although we’ve seen glimpses.
-Lorenzo Carter looked better in Week 2 than he did in Week 1, an encouraging sign knowing he missed most of last year with an Achilles’ injury. He was flagged for a neutral-zone infraction late in the game, however – a black eye on his 3-pressure, 4-tackle game. He needs to finish plays more often, as he’s been getting locked on to by pass blockers too easily.
-Oshane Ximines played nearly half the snaps and didn’t impact the game much. The more he plays, the more evident it becomes he just won’t ever turn into a quality player. He is below average across the board. He just doesn’t win against lone blockers.
-Blake Martinez led the team with 12 tackles and cut out the mistakes we saw from a week ago. Tae Crowder added 4 tackles and a pressure, but his biggest mistake resulted in the big passing play to running back J.D. McKissic in the 4th quarter. He got beat on an obvious wheel route and just couldn’t make up for it. Huge play and a huge part of the NYG collapse defensively. Reggie Ragland added 2 tackles.
-There is no sugar coating the fact James Bradberry played his worst game as a Giant. Had it not been for his interception in the 4th quarter, a fantastic, high-level play on the ball, he would have finished on the “Dud” list. Terry McLaurin dominated him from start to finish. He allowed a touchdown and was flagged twice, once for holding and once for pass interference.
-Adoree’ Jackson added 5 tackles and 2 pass defenses, but allowed the late touchdown to Ricky Seals-Jones on a play where he did a poor job of locating the ball. He also missed a tackle. His movement looks great, but his ball location looks poor. Darnay Holmes is in the same boat. His twitch and burst is so enticing and I like how hard he plays, but he is an easy target for opposing quarterbacks on 3rd down.
-Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers were back to the majority-snap roles when they had 2 safeties on the field. Ryan was solid, finishing with 7 tackles and was superb in coverage for most of the game. He is an excellent open field tackler as well. Peppers had a pressure, 6 tackles, and a pass break up. He missed one tackle.
-Julian Love played just 8 snaps. Xavier McKinney has been disappointing over the first 2 weeks. He made 3 tackles and missed 2 others. He isn’t finishing when he gets in contact with the ball carrier and he just doesn’t have the man-power behind his hits yet. His movement in deep coverage did look very good, however.
-K Graham Gano: 5/5 (Made 23, 47, 52, 55, 35). He has now made 35 straight field goals.
-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 41.3 avg / 41.3 net
-QB Daniel Jones, K Graham Gano, S Logan Ryan
-OC Billy Price, CB Adoree’ Jackson, RB Saquon Barkley
THOUGHTS ON WAS
(1) What is Taylor Heinicke? Can he be a franchise quarterback? If I am WAS, this is the guy I am riding with the rest of the year. You know Fitzpatrick isn’t the long-term answer, but you can’t say the same about Heinicke. Remember, he went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady last January in the playoffs. I think he ends up being another Case Keenum type, but I love the grit he shows play-to-play, drive-to-drive. His interception late was such a killer, but he came right back and made play after play when they got the ball back. If WAS can get by with him, maybe they could end up keeping all those 1st rounders on the DL.
(2) The WAS defense looks downright scary on paper. Their defensive line is loaded with first round picks that they hit on, their corners are a top-10 pair in the league, and I think the second level will improve as rookie Jamin Davis gets more and more comfortable. What is missing? They’re vulnerable at safety and their depth is nearly non-existent. If they get even just a couple injuries (odds are that will happen), I don’t see enough talent to step up. I also think a quality passing game can exploit the safeties.
(3) WAS quietly put together a quality, impactful rookie class. I wrote about that in May. They went hard after high-end athletes on both sides of the ball. Dyami Brown and Samuel Cosmi will be starters for the rest of the year barring injury, and Brown is the one I think can be a nice player. Jamin Davis made some eye-opening plays Thursday night and Benjamin St. Juste is good enough to allow Fuller to go inside in nickel packages. In addition, undrafted free agent running back Jaret Patterson was one of the top backs I saw in preseason who doesn’t currently have a starting job.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
(1) The tempers flaring on the sideline don’t bother me one bit. Kenny Golladay got caught on camera yelling at Jones, presumably for not getting the ball when he thought he should. Want to know what is one hundred times worse? Watching Odell Beckham laugh on the sideline as the team is getting crushed on the field. We have now seen both, and I’ll take guys that hate losing all day. Tempers are allowed to flare up every now and then, as long as it doesn’t impact their play. I don’t think it will.
(2) Is this defense bad? Was the outlook on them a little inflated after 2020? Things change in the NFL so much and even though NYG didn’t really lose any talent from the 2020 unit that was around a top-10 defense, this doesn’t surprise me. Why? The pass rush is woefully poor when they rush 4 or 5. The only way they impact the opposing quarterback is with the blitz. It is a volatile way to play defense and a good passer can see right through it to their advantage. If Graham continues to play soft coverage with poor pass rush, we will see this on repeat week after week.
(3) The NYG running game design left me scratching my head. They have an odd fascination with running toward the strength of a defense. They run into crowded areas, and they make life hard on an offensive line that, quite frankly, is still bottom third in the league. The WAS edge defenders were biting on the inside fakes all game, leaving things open for Jones (NYG’s leading rusher). Why not use that in more key moments? How come they aren’t engineering more space touches for Barkley? Do we really need to see more jet sweeps? It almost looks pre-determined no matter what and it appears the opposing defenses were in on it too.