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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (December 29, 2019)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles 34 – New York  Giants 17

QUICK RECAP

Week 17 approached and NYG fans have become embarrassingly used to it meaning absolutely nothing. The most exciting part of the year for this franchise has been the offseason and this game didn’t host any implications beside the fact we were that much closer to a new head coach, the free agency period, and the NFL Draft. Arguably the darkest days in the history of the organization are here. We are living them. On a rainy Sunday, PHI came to town needing a win to lock up their NFC East title for the 9th time in 19 years.

With a depleted offense and more injuries on the way, PHI came limping into this one, to say the least. One of the most aggressive teams on 4th down in the league, PHI opted to try and set the tone early on a 4th-and-7 from the NYG 38-yard line but it was stuffed thanks to pressure from rookie Oshane Ximines. The NYG offense responded by reaching midfield being forced to punt.

The second PHI possession resulted in 3 points via a 31-yard field goal by Jake Elliott. NYG then responded with a drive that was a true microcosm of their 2019 season. On 2nd-and-4, Barkley was taken down for a 4-yard loss on a run that was intended to be between the tackles and then Daniel Jones was sacked because of a 2-man stunt by the PHI defensive front that Nate Solder and Will Hernandez looked helpless against. Three and out.

The two teams traded 6 straight scoreless drives combined. On the three NYG drives, the team gave the ball to Barkley two times for a total of -7 yards. Fortunately PHI was playing with the backups-backups on offense and their top play-maker over the past 4 weeks, Miles Sanders, was out of the game with a lower body injury. Their sloppy play kept NYG in it. The Giants were able to put 3 points on the board via a 37-yard field goal. PHI then responded with a 8-play, 75-yard, touchdown-scoring drive. Carson Wentz hit third-string tight end Josh Perkins for the 24-yard score. Perkins has 9 receptions on the year, all of them are against NYG.

There were 2 minutes left in the half and NYG had more than enough time and timeouts to try and get this game back to even. They responded with 8 plays that got them to midfield before having to punt. Barkley touched the ball one time (a 7-yard rush). PHI took their 10-3 lead into halftime.

NYG began the second half with the ball and they were able to score their first touchdown of the game. Jones hit Golden Tate in the back corner of the end zone for the 20-yard score and the game was tied up. You could feel the sigh of relief coming from Dallas, as they were handling the Redskins but needed the NYG win to secure their division title. This game was, at least, competitive. Oh have the barometers for success within this franchise changed!

That lead didn’t last long, however. The Boston Scott show reappeared just as it did Week 14 on Monday Night Football in Philly. In that game, he totaled 128 yards and a touchdown, almost all of which came in the second half. PHI scored a touchdown on their second possession of the second half on a 7-yard scamper into the end zone by Scott. The lead was 17-10. But then the big-play back from NYG struck once again, as he’s made a habit of in recent weeks. Barkley was given the first carry of the drive and took it to the house for a 68-yard score. The burst into space and runaway speed was something to marvel at. Man, what could be with this kid if they were able to constantly get him in space!

The 4th quarter opened with a PHI field goal, a NYG fumble, and then a PHI touchdown – all within the span of 2 minutes. The PHI play-makers on this drive other than Carson Wentz? Scott, Greg Ward Jr., Robert Davis, Deontay Burnett, Jordan Perkins. None of them were on the active roster until October 11.

The next two NYG drives did not pick up a first down, the second of which was a turnover on downs as a 4th-and-2 rushing attempt that took way too long to develop resulted in no gain. PHI took advantage of the blood in the water, and needed just four plays to get into the end zone again via another Scott touchdown, his third of the day.

The wind was out of the sails one last time in regard to the 2019 season, and also the Pat Shurmur era. NYG put together a few garbage drives, one of which ended in an interception.

Giants lose 34-17. The worst team in the NFL over the past three seasons (12-36).

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 28/47 – 301 yards – 1 TD/1 INT – 76.6 RAT. Jones was also charged with his 18th fumble / 11th lost fumble of the year. One could argue this one was more on the shoulders of Jon Halapio as it all started with a shotgun snap that went knee-high. Jones did re-gather possession and ended up losing it, however. Jones was inaccurate for most of the day, notably on downfield passes. He had Sterling Shepard twice and Darius Slayton once “wide” open (in NFL terms) but he just didn’t get the ball to the right spot. He was also late to see and throw on a few underneath passes where NYG was either on 3rd/4th down. Compared to what we have seen this year, it was a poor game by Jones.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 17 att / 92 yards / 1 TD – 3 rec / 25 yards. It was heading toward another horrid day for Barkley until his 68-yard touchdown run livened up the box score. While we know Barkley has been big play-dependent when it comes to his total production over his first two years, it is still amazing what he can do for an offense when the space is there. There were a handful of attempts where Barkley had defenders at his feet upon his approach to the line of scrimmage – an image we all just got sick of seeing. There is a lot of potential with this offense because of what Barkley can do and the new coach better figure it out upon arrival.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate: 5 rec / 68 yards / 1 TD. Tate had an awful 3rd down drop early in the game but he woke up and ended strong. His touchdown catch was high-difficulty as Rasul Douglas was draped all over him and was actually called for pass interference on the play. Tate’s role on this team moving forward is interesting to me. He can’t be the #1 or even the #2 guy in the passing game. But if he can be you’re #3, you are talking about a high-ceiling attack. The issue? Nobody on this roster is head and shoulders ahead of him and it forces him into the expectation tier that he simply will not fulfill. My conclusion? Keep him here and hope for development elsewhere and/or a new face that can be a #1 or #2.

-Sterling Shepard: 5 rec / 39 yards. Shepard got a little banged up when he landed hard on his hip early in the game but he toughed it out and stayed in the game. Watching the All-22, he did pull up multiple times. Shepard was missed by Jones downfield two times and twice underneath. This could have been a huge game for him if Jones had been on. Something to chew on: Shepard has been in the league for 4 years. He is averaging 11.6 yards per catch and 4 touchdowns per season. While I don’t think the long-term contract was a bad decision, everyone needs to be on the same page that this team needs a better number one threat in the passing game. He won’t ever be that guy.

-Darius Slayton: 4 rec / 50 yards. Slayton had two opportunities deep with one of them being an underthrow and the other being Slayton just getting beat by the corner. Slayton’s rookie year is something to be pleased about, but not necessarily excited about if that makes sense. The speed and route running were effective all year but the book is out on him a bit. He really struggles to get off the jam and doesn’t play through contact well. He deserves an opportunity to be a guy here but I wouldn’t make plans around it; rather he can be the speed/deep threat accessory.

TIGHT END

-Kaden Smith: 8 rec / 98 yards. Smith led the team in targets, yards, and catches. Not bad for a 6th rounder who cut from SF. In all seriousness, Smith is one of the best finds this front office has had in awhile. While opportunity certainly created some of his production, Smith looks like a keeper. Having him as the number two guy next year while Evan Engram gets one more shot is going to be a nice roster asset.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The left side of this line was a disaster, as the dumpster fire here just continues to intensify. Will Hernandez and Nate Solder combined for 4 pressures and a simple stunt resulted in 2 sacks where they both looked lost. They also allowed 1 TFL each. This has been an issue for 32-straight games. Lack of chemistry can no longer be blamed. I will be very disappointed if Solder is the starting left tackle in 2020. I think Hernandez will have to be the left guard another year, but the issues I had with him on my scouting report out of UTEP popped up left and right all year. Buyer beware.

-Jon Halapio had his third-worst game of the season, which is hard to believe because he played really, really poorly in 2019. This position is another no-brainer when it comes to 2020 mandatory replacements. He allowed a pressure, a sack, and 2 TFL. I should be getting OL stats from around the league from my guys and I am going to guarantee Halapio grades out as one of the worst three OCs in the league. He was pitiful. All year.

-Kevin Zeitler also struggled in this one, his second-worst game of the year. He allowed a TFL and a pressure but most glaringly just didn’t get any movement off the ball for almost the entire game. Not a good way to end the year. Nick Gates allowed a pressure but other than that, ended the game pretty cleanly. He was the top NYG OL in this one and based on what we have seen this year, he deserves to be in the discussion for an OT spot or a 6th OL spot next year, the latter being preferred. I feel much better about him than I did Chad Wheeler for what it is worth.

EDGE

-Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter didn’t get to the QB but they each finished with a pressure and a TFL, respectively. Golden has been a consistent force all year that, similar to Tate. He can’t ever be THE guy on your pass rush but would be a solid secondary weapon. The cost of bringing him back and the scheme that is implemented will have a say in that decision obviously. Carter ended the year stronger than he started, but I can’t say I am overly optimistic about him heading into the offseason.

-Oshane Ximines had a key pressure on the first drive, but was pretty quiet otherwise. My expectations were not that high for a 3rd rounder who I had graded lower. Nevertheless, I didn’t see a lot out of him that gets me excited. The Giants need a lot of help at the edge-rushing position, especially if Golden leaves. Priority B behind the offensive line.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Dexter Lawrence surprisingly played awful upon my re-watch. He was playing high and slow and even had a few plays where he looked disinterested. After a really strong year, I didn’t like seeing him end the season with Boston Scott running untouched behind an offensive line that was 40% injured. A big part of that was on Lawrence.

-Leonard Williams continued his solid play and ending to the season. He had 5 tackles – a half sack – 1 pressure. He did miss a tackle in the first half and there are still too many plays where he is rendered ineffective by a lone blocker, though. This is going to be a big decision for David Gettleman, as he just isn’t worth anything more than $10-12 million per year in my eyes. But Gettleman already gave up a 3rd-round pick for him in a hopeless season.

-Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill both finished with 2 tackles. It’s funny how people coming into the year overrated Hill after his solid but opportunistic rookie season, yet now some are overlooking his value to the team. The NYG defensive line was really healthy all year and he happened to be the guy who didn’t get on the field much. I don’t see it as an indictment of poor play at all. The NYG DTs are solid and deep as we head into 2020.

LINEBACKER

-The best inside linebacker in the Giants home blue was David Mayo, not Alex Ogletree. I have to give Mayo credit for being a consistent hustler and blue-collar defender. He has athletic limitations and I’m not sure he is a guy I want penciled in as a starter in 2020, but he is a good guy to have on the team. He finished with 6 tackles and a half-sack. Ogletree finished with 4 tackles and was a liability in coverage. His time in NY needs to be over.

-Deone Bucannon finished with 2 tackles and a TFL where he made an extremely athletic and physical play. He has been impressive enough to warrant an opportunity at a backup job depending on the new scheme.

CORNERBACK

-Antonio Hamilton – according to the box score – had a really good game. 5 tackles and 4 pass break ups. But this is where watching the game is important. While he did make impressive plays on the ball a few times, Hamilton was burned a few times but luckily Wentz wasn’t looking his way. Also, can we stop with the taunting after you break a pass up just plays after you missed a tackle and allowed a first down while your team is losing by 10? Losing culture right there. But yes, let’s root for losses.

-Deandre Baker showed impressive coverage throughout but was burned badly on a crossing route where he simply did not recognize the route combination. That was a clear sign that he just doesn’t have it all mentally down. He was beat on that touchdown by a 3rd-string tight end. It wasn’t a speed issue, it wasn’t a ball skill issue, he just didn’t recognize.

SAFETY

Another quick glance at the box score and you will see that Michael Thomas led the team with 11 tackles and added a TFL. Solid game right? Wrong. He missed 3 tackles, was flagged twice, and was beat on three 3rd-down conversions in coverage. He was a guy who was brought in for character and special teams prowess so I can’t knock the personnel decision too bad here. But he can’t be a guy you are trotting out there for a meaningful volume of snaps.

-Antoine Bethea, another head-scratching veteran acquisition, missed 2 tackles and was completely run over by the 207-pound Scott for the final PHI touchdown. He takes bad angles and has almost no range in deep coverage. What exactly does he offer? Being a good guy can only get you so far. Hopefully NYG has a real safety tandem for the first time in years in 2020 and he won’t be a part of it.

-Julian Love was a mixed bag as we have seen in recent weeks. He had 8 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 PD. He also missed a tackle and was getting beat, routinely, by Greg Ward, Jr. in coverage. I am optimistic with Love when it comes to his potential to impact the team. The question is, where? He played a similar safety role to Jabrill Peppers and I wouldn’t want either of them in the deep FS-type role that Bethea was playing. I think Love could do it more than I believe in Peppers, but they may need to find a nickel role for him depending on, once again, the new scheme that is coming.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 37). Real inconsistent year for Rosas and a leg needs to be signed to compete with him in camp. No doubt.

-P Riley Dixon: 6 punts / 42.8 avg / 42.3 net. For the second year in a row, Dixon statistically finishes as a top 10 punter in the league.

3 STUDS

-OT Nick Gates, RB Saquon Barkley, DT Leonard Williams

3 DUDS

-OC Jon Halapio, S Michael Thomas, DT Dexter Lawrence

3 THOUGHTS ON PHI

  1. Before we go and hand the NFL Coach of Year award to the team with best record, can someone please find me a coach that did more than Doug Pederson did with this banged up PHI squad? Would Harbaugh be the #1 seed if he was without Mark Ingram, Mark Andrews, 2 starting OL, 2 starting corners, and his top 3 wide receivers? Or would Shanahan be coaching the #1 seed if he was without George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Emmanuel Sanders, and his top 2 RBs? Pederson orchestrated 4 straight wins to end the year with 400+ total yards (first time PHI did that since 2013). All of this with the most depleted offensive roster in football.
  1. There is another feather in Pederson’s cap, but this has more to do with the winning culture that has been built from the top on down. PHI is 12-2 from week 15 on in do-or-die games (regular-season and playoffs). Winning culture is derived from avoiding losses guys. Another reason why you do not ever, ever root for losses.
  1. With all of this said, I can’t see PHI getting out of the Wild Card weekend alive. Even though they get a SEA team that has been slowly dying over the second half of the year, they are matched up favorably. I think SEA takes that game by 7+ points because their defense will be able to handle the group of backups with ease. It will be an ugly game, but I think PHI is just too beat up to defeat a quality team at this point like SEA.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. As I write this, the news of Pat Shurmur being fired is out in the open and the 3rd coaching search in 5 years is under way. Unfortunately this time of the year has become more fun than the actual season, a true sign of a losing franchise. I have 2 front runners (zero inside information, just preferences). My first is Eric Bieniemy, the OC from KC. I started to discuss him 2 years ago even though it may have been a bit early for him. I like the Andy Reid coaching tree, I like his offensive background, I like this guy’s attitude, I like his ability to relate to players but also put them in their place. My second preference is Matt Rhule, the NY local and current Baylor coach. I like his idea of building culture and sticking to tough-guy football with a dose or two of modern era tendencies.
  1. Daniel Jones. Overall this was a very solid rookie year. He earned the right to get 3 seasons (what I think every 1st rounder deserves if they show some things as a rookie) but I am not going to glorify him as the leader of the future just yet. I love the toughness. I love the sneaky athletic ability. I love the footwork and throwing mechanics. However, the turnovers are absolute killers in the NFL and setting a record for lost fumbles needs to be fixed. I also saw some arm power things that popped up during scouting and during training camp (both of which I addressed and got knocked for) during the season when it came to deep balls. He has a ways to go and I think he can be the guy, but I am not labeling him the guy yet.
  1. As much as this league has turned offensive, you have to get guys that make plays on defense. Even guys like Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Aaron Donald (none of which are in the playoffs) won’t turn a team around but every good team has guys on defense who make plays or strike fear into opposing offenses. The Giants don’t have any. Literally. None. While the offensive line needs to be addressed first and foremost, NYG needs to be aggressive with their abundance of cash in getting at least 2 play-makers. CB / EDGE / S / LB…any of those spots. Spend big, twice.
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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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