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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (December 9, 2018)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 40 – Washington Redskins 16

QUICK RECAP

On October 28, the Giants lost to WAS and the two teams were heading in complete opposite directions. However 5 weeks have passed and in the NFL, that can be an eternity. Since then, WAS has lost its starting quarterback to a horrific leg injury, lost 4 of 5 games, and lost its identity overall. They lead the league in players on the IR after finishing 2nd on that list in 2017 and when we talk about trying to avoid a losing culture, what we see in WAS is exactly what we are talking about.

The Odell Beckham-less Giants offense (a quad injury sidelined him) started off slow. The offensive line was leaky, as they were last time these two teams faced off, and Saquon Barkley dropped a pass that could have been a big gain. The WAS offense was being led by Mark Sanchez, who was signed off of the street following Alex Smith’s injury a few weeks ago, and they weren’t going anywhere fast either. This had the feel of an old school, grind it out NFC East battle.

With just under 3 minutes left in the first quarter, a Sanchez pass was tipped at the line by Kareem Martin and right into the waiting arms of Curtis Riley who could have walked into the end zone. The Giants took control early in a game where it looked like it would be incredibly difficult for WAS to even pass midfield, let alone score points.

The Giants offense gradually woke up in the 2nd quarter. Thanks to a 30-yard, in-the-bucket throw by Eli Manning to Corey Coleman up the left sideline, NYG had a first and goal from the WAS 3-yard line. However their next 2 plays resulted in -14 yards and they settled for a 35-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas. They were up 10-0 with some momentum churning.

After another 3 and out by the WAS offense, NYG got the ball back and handed the ball to Barkley to get the drive going. Well, that drive lasted that one play, as he burst into the open field and outran the defensive back angles all the way for a 78-yard touchdown. The speed in the open field had that race to the goal line won before he reached the WAS 40-yard line. NYG was up 17-0 and the wind was out of the sails for WAS. It took just 2 plays before Sanchez turned it over a second time, this time a toss to Alec Ogletree, who intercepted his 5th pass of the season. Manning then found a wide open Sterling Shepard in the end zone for maybe the easiest touchdown of the year. It took just 4 minutes of game clock for NYG to extend their lead from 7-0 to 24-0, and they weren’t done yet.

WAS had another 3 and out and on the sixth play of the next NYG drive, Manning found Bennie Fowler in the end zone. 31-0. Felt good to be on this side of a complete and utter blowout. What happened next? You guessed it, another Was 3 and out and NYG strove to get one more drive towards the end zone going. A short pitch and long run by Evan Engram brought the offense all the way down to 5 yard line. They failed to punch it in, but a 23-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter out NYG ahead 34-0 at halftime.

Even though this game seemed out of reach, the NYG defense needed to squash any idea of a potential comeback. They sacked Sanchez twice on WAS’ opening drive of the second half and then gave Manning’s offense one more opportunity to drive down the field and put more points on the board. A 9-play, 81-yard drive ended with Manning’s third touchdown of the day, this one to Russell Shepard who caught his second touchdown in as many weeks.

WAS then made a QB change to former Giant Josh Johnson, another signal caller they signed off the street just a week ago. Johnson actually put together some sandlot-style football against a Giants defense that knew they had done enough to win the game. They scored two 4th quarter touchdowns while the Giants offensive success came to a halt as rookie Kyle Lauletta took over.

While the game never got close again, WAS did consistently move the ball behind Johnson and NYG failed to cross mid-field besides their final 2 minutes of the game. However no complaints and no bad taste left in their mouths.

Giants win 40-16.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 14/22 – 197 yards – 3 TD / 0 INT. Not much was needed out of Manning. But after a cold start to the day, he and the NYG offense turned into a machine for the 2nd and 3rd quarters. He really spread the ball out well, which was hard considering he only threw the ball 22 times. He fit balls into tight windows on 2 of his touchdowns and connected a couple times downfield. His 2 standout-mistakes were near the end zone, however. He got away with a near-INT at the end of the 1st half thanks to Sterling Shepard playing the role of defensive back. And he also took a huge sack that resulted in a 14-yard loss. He can’t go that far back in his evasion, especially for a guy that simply can’t evade. This was Manning’s 5th game of the year with a 110+ QB rating.

-Kyle Lauletta: 0/5 – 0 yards – 0 TD / 1 INT. Not a big enough sample size to really fairly evaluate Lauletta. But I do hope fans and media-alike saw the gap between what NYG has in Manning and what they could have in a 4th round rookie from Richmond. I don’t want to knock him while he is down, especially in a game like that, but Lauletta didn’t look good. He threw an INT and had another one dropped by a WAS defender.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 14 att – 170 yards – 1 TD / 4 rec – 27 yards. The elite-level running back scored on a 78-yard touchdown that displayed the burst, balance, and runaway speed that most backs just don’t have. He had a few other runs that showed how versatile his game is and perhaps the best part about it was that he only touched the ball 18 times. It is not a coincidence that this offense turned it around the instant he broke off the long run.

-Wayne Gallman got a season-high 14 carries and rushed for 38 yards. He got a lot of mop-up time where the defense really keyed in on him, so there isn’t much judgment to be done besides that fact that he ran hard and hungry. Elijah Penny also got 5 carries and gained 21 yards in addition to a 16-yard gain on a screen pass. There is some interesting athletic ability to his game that can be used in a variety of ways.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Sterling Shepard: 2 rec / 17 yards / 1 TD. Perhaps Shepard’s best play of the afternoon was his pass break-up on a ball that Eli Manning threw right to cornerback Greg Stroman. It could have given WAS some needed momentum heading into halftime. Shepard’s touchdown catch was as easy as it gets in this league but he is a guy who continues to make plays that matter. Not a dynamic downfield threat, but he may be the guy I trust the most when it comes to getting open. And one thing that doesn’t get discussed enough is how impactful he is as a blocker. He threw a key block on Barkley’s long TD run and is always hustling in that department.

-Corey Coleman: 2 rec / 43 yards. With Odell Beckham sidelined, Coleman was the team’s vertical threat. They gave him a couple of deep shots, one of which he came down with in the 2nd quarter.

-Russell Shepard and Bennie Fowler each caught one pass in the end zone. While these two are roster fillers, they have done well in their limited opportunities. They have come up with big/important plays when the team needed them.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram: 3 rec / 77 yards. After missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury, Engram came back and didn’t have a lot of opportunities. With that said, he made the most of what was given to him. He had two huge gains after the catch, showing off his legit 4.4 caliber speed. Sometimes we forget just how explosive this kid is. His blocking grade was solid, although the team appears to be taking him off the field in run-only situations now.

-Scott Simonson and Rhett Ellison both graded out above average as blockers but did not factor in the passing game.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Solid day for Nate Solder. His name wasn’t called much at all in a negative fashion, as he ended the day with his highest grade of the season. His play has stabilized but I still see him getting walked back a few too many times.

-Chad Wheeler was one of the guilty culprits for the NYG slow start on offense. He was flagged for a holding penalty and allowed a sack. He was solid the rest of the way, though.

GUARDS / CENTERS

-All the talk surrounding Jamon Brown’s presence stabilizing this entire offense is a little overblown. I think that is coincidence more than anything, as he continues to be very up and down (although that is a better performance than what we have seen at RG over the past few years). Brown allowed a sack, a pressure, and was flagged for a false start. While he does make several key blocks in this potent rushing attack, his inconsistencies that led to him being cut by the Rams are popping up weekly.

-Will Hernandez continues to be a rock at LG. Facing off against that interior WAS defensive line is no small task, and he answered the bell. He did allow a TFL but for the most part, he was very solid. He has had a positive grade in all but 2 games this year.

-Spencer Pulley, we know by now, is the weak link to this OL. He allowed both a pressure and a TFL, something we see every week with him. OC will be one of the top priorities for this team in the offseason and fortunately the draft class at that spot may be the best we have seen in awhile.

EDGE

I don’t agree with all of the distaste for Oliver Vernon. I do think he is overpaid when looking at his production, but edge rushers are extremely hard to find. And I think I’ve said this before, but this team’s overall pass rush vastly improved since he came back from injury earlier in the year. He finished with 1.5 sacks and 5 tackles.

-Lorenzo Carter returned to the lineup and had a very disruptive game in his rotational role. He had 5 tackles, 1 pressure, and 1 sack. What stood out to me at Georgia last year in addition to his superb athleticism, was how disciplined he stays within the scheme. Carter played very tight assignment football and it helped get the job done for the defense as a whole.

-Kareem Martin continues his role as a solid role player who can be rotated in and out. He tipped a ball at the line that ended up being intercepted and returned for a TD by Curtis Riley to break the game’s 0-0 tie. He added 2 pressures and a half-sack.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Dalvin Tomlinson , Josh Mauro, and BJ Hill had their best game as a trio since the Damon Harrison trade. They absolutely owned the inside gaps and were active in pursuit against the run and as pass rushers. Their 7 combined tackles don’t even begin to tell the story of how much they dominated. Tomlinson 1 pressure and 1 TFL; Mauro had 1 TFL, 1 pressure, 1 sack; and Hill had 3 pressures and was in the backfield all afternoon.

-Rookie RJ McIntosh is seeing an increase in playing time little by little each week. I like how this defense can bring him along slowly because of how deep and versatile the group is. McIntosh shows impressive speed in pursuit. He made a tackle in space in the 1st quarter where he pursued Chris Thompson across the tackle box and met him at the turn-up point for the takedown. It was an impressive display of athletic ability that I don’t think any of the guys above could have made. He still has a ways to go with is hands and technique, but his upside is on display.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree continues his hot streak. He leads NFL linebackers with 5 interceptions after coming down with one in the second quarter. He also added a pass break up in addition to a team leading 8 tackles and 2 TFL. The career up-and-down linebacker has shown stretches like this before and if he can ever keep the bad games away like we saw about a month ago, he can rightfully be considered a top tier linebacker in the NFL.

-BJ Goodson and Tae Davis split duty next to Ogletree but they weren’t on the field much to make a real impact, as the Giants defensive personnel went defensive back-heavy with WAS being so far behind and having to throw often.

CORNERBACKS

-Janoris Jenkins and BW Webb continue to be the two most steady rocks of the secondary, maybe even the entire defense. While they were up against a low-level passing offense from top to bottom, they did what they were supposed to do – dominate. Webb was in lockdown mode all day and Jenkins got tested a couple times deep and won his battles.

-Grant Haley was on the field for nearly every snap and he has been making eye-opening plays weekly. He continued that trend with 5 tackles and a TFL. Despite his size, his physical and aggressive nature really stand out.

SAFETIES

-Michael Thomas stepped in for the injured Landon Collins. He finished with 6 tackles and the game-sealing interception. While he did show some physical limitations in coverage, he played accurate assignment football and brings a physical presence to the back end.

-Curtis Riley had a really productive day: 3 tackles, 1 interception, and 2 pressures paved the way for his most impactful game as a Giant. He also scored the first touchdown of the day on a ball that was deflected right into his hands in the first quarter. The speed and physical style are easily attractive, but he missed 2 tackles on the day and ranks near the lead league in that category.

-Sean Chandler is going to get more and more looks over the next 3 weeks. He responded with 3 tackles, a pass break up, and a sack. The coaching staff has liked his style from day one and I can see why. Very easy mover with good instincts and a nose for the action. I want to see more reliable tackling and more assertive run-reactions.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 35, 23). Rosas missed an extra point. There seemed to be a few snap-to-hold exchanges that were delayed. A good, but not perfect day for the Pro Bowl hopeful.

-P Riley Dixon: 6 Punts / 43.0 avg / 43.3 net. Very good day for Dixon who is quietly having a very good year. He pinned one inside the 5 that eventually led to the Giants defensive touchdown.

-PR Jawill Davis had 5 returns for 51 yards, including a 23 yarder. He is a tough dude and he knows that he is only going to stick around showing what he can do on returns. He takes pride in the role and that is all you can ask for.

3 STUDS

-RB Saquon Barkley, LT Nate Solder, LB Alec Ogletree

3 DUDS

-OG Jamon Brown, OC Spencer Pulley, DE Kerry Wynn

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

-We talk about winning and losing cultures a lot. Some people think it is complete BS, some believe strongly in it. To each their own. However, when watching these two teams that are both more than likely “out of it” play on the same field at the same time, there was an obvious difference in approach. Does that carry over into the future? I think it can. And it makes me think if this is the last we are going to see of Jay Gruden.

-WAS has been the most injury-hurt team in the NFL over the past three years. If at any point you feel like NYG has gotten the short end of the stick there, just go look at what they have had to deal with over the years. Just brutal.

-Is there any reason for optimism in WAS? Alex Smith may be done for good. They have ignored the idea of drafting a young QB in recent years despite long-term question marks. Their best offensive player is a soon-to-be 34-year old running back who will be a free agent in a couple months. It looks bleak. But I’ve said this before about WAS and I will say it again: they are strong in the trenches and that is always the best place to start a rebuild. That process is already complete.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-NYG is still playing like they have something to reach. Mathematically they are still in the wild card hunt and even though the odds are stacked against them, it’s important to see how they respond to specific situations. How many times have we seen this team play down to the level of competition on the field in games where they were clearly the better team? NYG took a vulnerable WAS team and stomped on their throats. I don’t care who you are up against in the NFL, that is hard to do.

-So maybe we temper the “Kyle Lauletta needs to get starts” talks for now. Again, NYG is still in it, Manning and the offense have more than just stabilized, they are playing very well, and the 4th round rookie looked awful in his limited snaps. There is a possibility, and I will say it is a strong one, that this offense simply needed time to mend together. New players, new coaches, new schemes. If they continue this momentum into the end of the year, you can bet I will be calling for them to remain intact heading into 2019.

-If this defense can get a top-tier edge rusher, and yes I know that is easier said than done, that front line is going to cause a lot of problems for opponents in the coming years. While Tomlinson and Hill aren’t exactly game-wreckers, they are as reliable and consistent as anyone can ask for against both the run and pass. I spoke about Vernon as being a solid player and Carter has the look of a solid rotational player. Keep combining “solid” with a star, and big things can happen to the pass rush. NYG’s will have one available when they are on the clock in the first round next April.

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David Syvertsen

David Syvertsen, aka Sy'56, has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

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