Arizona Cardinals 23 – New York Giants 0
- Eli Manning: 27/45 – 263 yards – 0 TD/2 INT. Manning also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. It was a rough day for Manning, as his 57.9 QB rating was his second lowest of the year. Manning’s footwork and release points were just simply off for the majority of the game. The NFL’s best defense over the past 2 months appeared to be in his head more than it should have been, as he was sidestepping pressure that wasn’t always there and rushing throws that he didn’t need to. His accuracy was an issue for almost the entire game.
- Wayne Gallman: 10 att/18 yards – 6 rec/44 yards. There weren’t enough opportunities for Gallman to find his groove. They were playing from behind for the majority of the game and the fast, physical defensive front was too much for the Giants OL to handle. Seeing him take big hits week after week and getting right back up is a good sign. He has plenty of toughness and with another couple of years of NFL weight training, he can be our guy. His movement and vision are very good.
- Orleans Darkwa: 6 att/10 yards. Darkwa didn’t have any luck against this defensive front, either. Darkwa has really disappeared in the second half of the season. He hasn’t averaged over 3 yards per carry since November 19 against the Chiefs. Bad hands, bad vision, won’t create much on his own.
- Sterling Shepard: 5 rec/45 yards. Also had a drop on a poorly thrown, but catchable 3rd-down pass from Manning. After a career game last week, Shepard didn’t factor much before aggravating a neck injury that forced him to miss most of the 4th quarter. They tried sending him deep on a couple of occasions, but him and Manning just couldn’t connect. And Shepard isn’t a deep separation guy, doesn’t have that next gear.
- Roger Lewis: 4 rec/40 yards. Lewis was the most targeted receiver of the day, getting 11 looks from Manning. He responded with his worst performance of the season. He had 3 drops and ran poor routes, struggling to gain separation on simple routes. Lewis is catching the ball with his body too often and has proven that despite more opportunity in 2017, he is a #5 WR at best. He did not take a jump up that totem pole this season.
- Rhett Ellison: 4 rec/60 yards. With Engram going down early with a rib injury, Ellison saw a spike in playing time and targets. In my end of year review, I will discuss Ellison as one of the most underused players on this team. He responds well to his targets percentage wise as much as any pass catcher on this team and he has a way of always finding extra yards.
- Jerrell Adams: 4 rec/31 yards. Adams also saw a spike in playing time and caught all of his targets. Adams is a slow-twitch athlete who doesn’t dominate as a blocker the way he should, but he has done well in his limited opportunities as well. The tight end position appears to be set for the next few years.
- Evan Engram: 1 rec/12 yards. Went down with a rib injury early, sat out the rest of the game and will likely sit next week. Capped an outstanding rookie season.
- Tackles: Ereck Flowers went backwards, especially in the 2nd half. He had a terrible series, allowing 1 pressure and 2 holds within one drive. He had 2 other pressures in addition, struggling to stick with stunts and late movement. His game seemed off in comparison to what we have seen over the past 3 months. He needs to finish strong, because that LT spot is far from securely his. Bobby Hart allowed 2 pressures and a sack. Not much needs to be said here; he is not a starting caliber OL in this league and I’m not sure he backup caliber, either.
- Interior: Brett Jones had another below average performance, as did Jon Halapio. They were unable to hold the point-of-attack or lock on to their respective defenders. John Jerry allowed a TFL and 1 pressure, but graded out as the top OL in this game with a mark right at the average point. He isn’t a guy who played bad enough to lose his job but he also isn’t a guy who played well enough to keep it heading in to the 2018 offseason.
- Tackles: Damon Harrison continued his All-Pro caliber play. I don’t spend much time even looking at the Pro Bowl rosters, but I will say it again, there is not a better DT in the NFL. He had 2 TFL, 2 pressures, and continued to make plays sideline to sideline. His impact within the tackle box is as dominant as any player in the league at their respective position. Dalvin Tomlinson was quiet, but also effective at controlling the inside gaps. Jay Bromley did record a TFL, but he led the DL in negative plays mainly from him getting pushed back 2+ yards multiple times.
- Ends: A very solid performance from the starting duo. One thing that can be tough to do is take the previous disappointments and not let them impact the current evaluation. Jason Pierre-Paul has been the most underperforming player on this 2017 team, but he was very disruptive in this game. Blowing up tight ends and tackles at the point-of-attack and finishing with 4 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 pressures. Olivier Vernon added a sack/fumble of his own along with a pressure and 3 tackles.
- Kelvin Sheppard led the team with 9 tackles. More of the same with him, solid play between the tackles with a lot of physical presence behind his hits, but anything in to space and he gets exposed badly.
- This was the first extended look I got at the newly signed Ray-Ray Armstrong. He played 40% of the team’s snaps and flashed some of the athleticism and power this LB corps has lacked for a long time. He still doesn’t look like a natural linebacker out there, showing hesitation on his reads and too many recovery steps.
- Ross Cockrell continues to show he deserves a long term spot on this team, meaning he needs to be on this team in 2018. He brought in 2 interceptions, both of which he showed excellent body control and ball skills, 1 of which was in the end zone. This will be one of the major positives that comes out of the 2017 season; he has played exceptionally well and has steadily improved with the more playing time he got.
- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has impressed me. Not necessarily in that his level of play has been what it used to, although he has been more than solid, but in his constant hustle, leadership and effort. After his suspension earlier in the year, I thought this was going to end ugly in NY for him, but he plays as hard as anyone on this team.
- Brandon Dixon went through some growing pains in this one, being outclassed by Larry Fitzgerald on multiple occasions. Outclassed to the point that on double routes, Dixon couldn’t stay within 4-5 yards of him. He allowed a touchdown to Fitzgerald and John Brown.
- After one of his most physical tackles of the year, Landon Collins went down with a broken arm which will end his season. He had a good, but far from great, season. Collins needs to be used carefully, because there is a lot he simply cannot do in coverage.
- Andrew Adams received more playing time via the Collins injury, and he did not respond well. The sixth sense I talk about when looking at safeties is something he just doesn’t have. Far too many times he is dropping into zone coverage unaware of who and what is around him. He also missed 2 tackles. Darian Thompson had 4 tackles and picked up deep routes well, although he wasn’t challenged much.
- Aldrick Rosas: 0/1. Rosas missed his lone opportunity of the day, a 33-yard attempt that sailed wide left.
- Brad Wing: 6 Punts – 43.8 avg – 39.0 net. Wing suffered an ankle injury on an uncalled roughing the kicker penalty.
- DT Damon Harrison, CB Ross Cockrell, DE Jason Pierre-Paul
- OC Brett Jones, WR Roger Lewis, OG Jon Halapio
3 THOUGHTS ON ARI
- This team is built to win a lot of games right now, if only they had an accomplished QB who can stay on the field and throw the ball down field with success. Yes, Eli Manning would be an ideal fit for that team while they groom a long-term answer. The defense is top 5 in the NFL and is loaded with young talent who will be around for the next few years. If Manning doesn’t shake free, this would be an ideal landing spot for Kirk Cousins.
- Larry Fitzgerald is not a veteran WR who should hang it up. He is one of the top WRs in the game and I place him right under the Jones/Brown/Beckham tier. How he runs routes, catches the ball with his hands, and controls his body is something every young WR should study. He does everything at a high level and continues to work hard to improve, not just sustain, his skill set. He has multiple years left, no doubt.
- Bruce Arians has always been one of my favorite coaches since his days as an OC in Pittsburgh. He has a sense of realness to him, but still a guy who grown men playing in the NFL will fear. He is a guy who I would take in NY right now if he were to ever get out of ARI. He gets the most out of his players, especially QBs.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- These games are painful and there are certain players you can’t get a fair evaluation on. Manning played poorly, made some mistakes a veteran like him should not make. But can we consider who he is throwing the ball to? And the line that is blocking in front of him? I wouldn’t call them excuses, but it has to be considered when trying to figure out if he should still be the guy moving forward. I am on record as saying that I think this team can still win with Manning but that doesn’t mean I would look past QB at #2 overall.
- The Landon Collins/Eli Apple saga is going too far now. Collins shouldn’t be saying what he is saying to the media, the whole cancer comment was a bit too much. At this point, with how public the team’s distaste for Apple is, the trade value couldn’t be lower. So with that said, they may be forced in to keeping him another year and hoping he grows up and/or gets stimulated with the new coaching staff.
- At this point, there is still a possibility 1 or 2 OT’s can be in the running for the #2 overall pick. Has Ereck Flowers proven he deserves to be the guy there? Or do you take his skill set and move it to RT and draft Connor Williams (Texas) or Brian O’Neill (Pittsburgh)? If Manning is going to play out this contract, the OL may have to become priority A and B this offseason and if a new shiny rookie can hack it at LT, Pugh comes back strong, and Flowers sustains this level of play at RT, we have something to work with – something much better than what we have seen in recent years. At this point, anything is and should be considered possible.