Game Preview: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, December 30, 2018
When I woke up this morning, I said to my wife, “Ugh, I’ve got to write the game review.” Her response was, “Tell them they are going to lose and go spend time with their families.”
It’s been another one of those years. The fifth losing season in the last six.
Some saw it coming, others were more optimistic.
Let’s recap. The Giants may have experienced the most roster turnover since the 1984 season. The Jaguars outbid the Giants for free agent guard Andrew Norwell. The Giants responded by drastically overpaying Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh, which reeked of desperation even though many didn’t say so at the time. In fact, most of the Giants’ almost 40 free agent signings really didn’t work out (Kareem Martin, Curtis Riley, Cody Latimer, Connor Barwin, Jonathan Stewart, etc., but most long forgotten). The Giants also cut ties with Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Jay Bromley, Nat Berhe, Orleans Darkwa, Shane Vereen, Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard, Keenan Robinson, and others.
Then came the draft and the endless debate of the quarterback versus Saquon Barkley. Whether you supported the move or not, in a widely criticized decision, Dave Gettleman selected Barkley. The early returns on the 2018 NFL Draft are good for the Giants, but the next few years will tell the real story. The most curious pick remains weak-armed Kyle Lauletta.
An early red flag came on September 2, 2018. On that day, the Giants claimed six players off of waivers, representing 11 percent of the roster alone.
Many fans didn’t expect miracles in 2018 but they anticipated the offense and defense being significantly better and the special teams possibly worse. The opposite occurred. During the 1-7 start to the season, an offense equipped with Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley failed to score more than 18 points five times. A new 3-4 defense couldn’t rush the passer or force turnovers. While the Giants remained the healthiest they’ve been in years, Olivier Vernon was hurt yet again. The Giants began parting ways with Ereck Flowers, Eli Apple, and Damon Harrison, and listened to offers for Landon Collins and probably others.
At this point, most Giants fans were confident the team would have a shot at the #1 pick in the draft.
After the bye, the team started playing better. This, combined with the fact that the Giants were fortunate enough to face losing teams playing with back-up quarterbacks, led to a 4-1 “surge.” Perhaps the two most important games of the season were the devastating 25-22 loss to the Eagles, followed immediately by 30-27 overtime win against the Chicago Bears. The latter game came close to being an even bigger disaster than than the Eagles’ game, and had Shurmur lost both, the bulk of the fan base probably would have turned on him for good.
The “feel good” game of the season came on December 9th, the 40-16 ass-whipping of the Washington Redskins. But the Giants quickly were bitch-slapped back into reality with their 17-0 loss to the Tennessee Titans (which felt more like 35-0). The Giants blew an early 14-0 lead last week to the Colts and lost 28-27. They now stand at 5-10.
So where does this leave us? Trying to be objective as possible, personnel-wise, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the Giants’ defense in such bad shape. During my fan years, I watched defenses with the likes of Harry Carson, Lawrence Taylor, Leonard Marshall, Keith Hamilton, Jessie Armstead, Michael Strahan, Jason Sehorn, Antonio Pierce, Justin Tuck, and many, many others – too countless to name. Look at this defensive roster and tell me when the defensive personnel has been worse in the last 30 years.
Offensively, the Giants have two superstar players at the skill positions, Barkley and Beckham, but they still have problems scoring points. The offensive line remains a mess. Most of the moves Gettleman made there during the offseason didn’t work. The Giants still have question marks at center, right guard, right tackle, and maybe even left tackle. Eli Manning turns 38 next week. He doesn’t play like a $23 million player but he will be back for another year in 2019. In some ways, Eli had a good year (completion percentage, only 10 interceptions); in others, he did not (touchdowns, wins).
Many question whether Pat Shurmur is the right guy to turn this around, or simply another place-holder. How long will 67-year old Dave Gettleman, who battled cancer this year, want to do this job? And is he the right man for the rebuilding effort? When and how do the Giants make the transition to Eli’s successor? These are no small questions.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but the bottom line here is this: Are the Giants getting better? Worse? Or stuck in neutral?
THE INJURY REPORT:
- WR Odell Beckham (quad – out)
- WR Sterling Shepard (hip)
- WR Russell Shepard (ankle – out)
- TE Rhett Ellison (concussion – out)
- OC Spencer Pulley (calf)
- DE Kerry Wynn (thumb)
- DE Mario Edwards (calf – out)
- LB Alec Ogletree (concussion – out)
- LB B.J. Goodson (foot)
THE FINAL WORD:
This game means nothing to the Dallas Cowboys. In my mind, a win here for the Giants is virtually meaningless in terms of creating that mystical “winning culture.” After all, my guess is at least 1/3 of the players on the current roster will be gone by early September. And heaven help us if we are claiming six players off of waivers again.
But it is a big game in one sense – the Giants could lose a lot of ground in draft slotting. So “just lose” baby (with some dignity).
Some say the Giants have become the old Cleveland Browns. Perhaps. But they definitely have become the old St. Louis Cardinals – that team in the NFC East that the other teams in the division used to fatten their records against. The Cowboys and Eagles love playing the Giants.