Sep 152021
 
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New York Giants Fans (September 12, 2021)

Losing Patience – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
The honeymoon is over. Giants’ fans have begun to turn on Joe Judge. It was predictable development as the need to scapegoat eventually had to move past just Dave Gettleman, Jason Garrett, and Daniel Jones. In some ways, it is humorous to watch. Fans who only weeks ago said they loved his press conferences now call him a blowhard.

So what’s going on? The obvious answer is the team isn’t winning. If the team had won last Sunday, fans would keep their negative comments directed at Garrett and Jones. But if you don’t win, the grace period will last only so long. Social media has destroyed time horizons. Fans don’t see the brief Joe Judge era (2020-present) as distinct from the sad end of the Tom Coughlin era (2012-2015), Ben McAdoo era (2016-2017), and Pat Shurmur era (2018-2019). Notice a pattern here? See the risk? If many fans get their way, Judge and Jones will be gone soon. The team will have to start over, but these fans won’t really see it as starting over. They will expect immediate results because the team has been bad for a decade. Unfortunately for these fans living in a figurative drunken stupor, it doesn’t work that way. When you start over, you start over. It’s 2017 all over again. Screaming “fix it now” isn’t living in the real world.

Joe Judge may or may not be the right head coach for this team. Jason Garrett may or may not be the right offensive coordinator. Same with Patrick Graham. Same with Daniel Jones. Most fans have already made up their minds. But truth be told, none of us really know. Certain posters in The Corner Forum will scream from the rooftops that they know for sure, but they really don’t. How do I know this? Because I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen Giants’ fans try to get rid of Bill Parcells, Phil Simms, Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, etc. Think of the tragedies if those fans were listened to at the time.

My educated guess on what is going to happen is this: the NFC East is going to suck again this year. Because of that, every team in the division will be mathematically alive for most, if not all, of the season. I think the Giants are going to look and play a lot more impressively in November and December than they will in September and October. Why? Because injuries and shortened camps/preseason kept many of the team’s new component parts from developing chemistry and cohesion. Once again, the offensive line is out of sorts. The Shane Lemieux injury was a big deal. Kenny Golladay and Daniel Jones are not in sync. Saquon Barkley is rusty as hell. Kadarius Toney is so far behind that it isn’t funny. He still has no idea how to run professional routes. “Blah, blah, blah…these are just more excuses!” Yup, but it’s also the truth.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (knee – questionable)
  • TE Evan Engram (calf – out)
  • OG Shane Lemieux (knee – out)
  • LB Cam Brown (hamstring – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Full disclosure. One of my all-time pet peeves is fans saying the reason an offense sucks is the coaching staff when it is obvious there are larger on-field talent issues. One of the few things I’ve learned over the years is that a competent offensive line “miraculously” makes it easier to call a game. It’s hard to play defense when the other team is generating five yards per carry and you are constantly in 2nd-and-5 situations. The internal alarm clock in your QB’s head isn’t going off prematurely because he’s afraid he won’t have time to throw. Your red-zone offense is a lot more difficult to stop when you push the pile on 3rd-and-goal.

My point is you will be amazed at how good an offensive coordinator becomes when his players execute. Look no further than how fan opinion of Kevin Gilbride changed from game-to-game, season-to-season from 2007 to 2013. Hell, I’ve seen the same posters who wanted the guy fired now lament that he is gone. Remember the 4th-and-1 deep shot to Amani Toomer against the Steelers in Pittsburgh in 2008? Objectively speaking, that was a stupid, high-risk play. But it worked. And fans thought the call was “brilliant.” Why did it work? The OL blocked. Eli threw perfect pass. Amani Toomer made a fantastic catch. Execution at all three levels.

How are the Giants going to get out of this funk and score more than 20 points on a consistent basis? Run the football. When the Giants were at their best last year, they were able to run the football. I saw posters claim in The Corner Forum that the problem with the offense against Denver was that it wasn’t “aggressive” enough. What does that mean? The team only handed off to running backs 14 times in that game. “You can be aggressive with the passing game!” Again, what does that mean? I think fans are conflating “aggressive” with what actually results in chunk yardage plays. If your quarterback is bird dogging receivers or inaccurate, if your receivers drop the ball, if your offensive line misses a block or gets called for a penalty, being “aggressive” doesn’t work.

The Giants are not going to get out of this funk until the offensive line gets its act together and creates some holes for Saquon Barkley. And Barkley has to get that rust off quickly and hit the freaking hole. If not, don’t re-sign him. “This offensive line can’t block!” If fans are right about that, the team is screwed. But I think it is far too early to tell. I’m afraid Shane Lemieux is going to have to end up on IR soon. He couldn’t even make it through the first game. Andrew Thomas had a strong game last week. I think those writing off Matt Peart are doing so way too prematurely. Again, Peart was raw coming out of college and he didn’t get a lot of snaps in full pads this offseason (NFLPA doesn’t allow it). He will continue to see his reps increased as the season progresses. (BTW, Nick Gates snapped the ball early on the play where everyone wants to knock Peart). I suspect we’ll see a lot of Ben Bredeson and Billy Price soon. There is a good chance Price will be the new center with Nick Gates shifting to guard. If Will Hernandez falters, Bredeson will take his job.

As for Daniel Jones, as Sy’56 pointed out in his game review of the Denver game, 1 down, 16 more games to go to determine his future here. The fumble last week was a game-altering turnover. If he can’t fix that, it’s time to move on. I will say this: Jones’ turnover issues briefly disappeared last year when the team ran the football. Funny how that works.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Full disclosure. Because I am an old Giants fan, I will always hold the defense to a different standard than I do the offense. It sounds stupid to blame the defense for losing a game that the offense only scored 13 points (6 of which came in garbage time). However, it’s a different game if the Giants had held on any of those three fourth-down conversions last week. It’s a different game if the defense holds at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half. If a defense wants to be great, it has to win games when the offense is not getting the job done. We saw that repeatedly under Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick from 1984-1990 and in spurts under Dan Reeves, Jim Fassel, and Tom Coughlin.

You’ve heard me say this repeatedly over the years. You will forever look at football differently when you realize there are only so many offensive possessions per game. Denver only had eight offensive possessions last week, four in the first half and four in the second half. That’s it. Three of those drives took 22 minutes off of the clock. So while we can lament New York’s offense only running 20 plays in the first half, some of that also had to do with the fact that the defense needs to get the ball back quicker for the offense. The Giants actually moved the ball in the second half of the Denver game. But the pressure to score touchdowns increased dramatically when what had been a 7-3 game quickly turned into a 20-7 game with the Giants offense only having ONE possession during that span. You can’t score when you don’t have the ball.

I talked last week about an early season trend last year by the Giants’ defense of allowing scoring drives at the end of halves. And that unfortunately reared its ugly head again in the opener. As much as the Daniel Jones’ fumble was game-altering, so was the defense’s inability to stop Denver at the end of the first half, including on 4th-and-2. Then at the start of the 3rd quarter, Denver scores on 4th-and-goal. (Also keep in mind that Denver’s first field goal drive occurred after converting on 4th-and-7). That’s 17 points. Denver was 3-of-3 on 4th down and 7-of-15 on 3rd down (it actually felt worse than that given when those conversions came in the game).

I can talk until I’m blue in the face about this match-up or that match-up, but we all know what the problem with this defense has been: they can’t get off of the field on 3rd down (and now sometimes 4th down). Yes, that is related to the pass rush. Against Denver, the Giants actually were buzzing around the QB more than fans realize and had six official quarterback hits. The Giants are spending a lot of money on that secondary. They have to make more plays on the football. And ideally, pick off some passes. Get the ball back for the offense on a short field. The defense must be the strength of the team this year or the Giants have no chance.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
C.J. Board gained 66 yards on two kickoff returns last week. That’s very good. Jabrill Peppers gained two yards on one punt return. Joe Judge and Thomas McGaughey may need to break into their bag of tricks soon if the offense continues to struggle.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Joe Judge on Washington’s defense:They play off what the disruption of the front causes in front of them and they do a good job right there limiting big plays. You play against this team, you have to be prepared to go down the field tick by tick by tick. They’re a very good team situationally getting off the field on third down and red area. They’re a very good team of not allowing explosive plays.

THE FINAL WORD:
It won’t surprise me if the Giants fall to 0-2. It won’t surprise me if the Giants soundly beat Washington. This is not a good division. The quarterback change means nothing to me as a Giants fan. We’ve seen plenty of times where that bites us in the ass. But the Giants have won five in a row against Washington despite their very strong front seven on defense. For whatever reason, Washington doesn’t intimidate New York.

This is a big game for a number of reasons. The most important being that the division title will likely be determined by the division record.

(One last piece of advice to fans… stop overreacting to a small sample size. If a player plays a good game in the latest game, it doesn’t mean anything. He has to string a bunch of good games together. The reverse is also true, if a player has a bad game, it doesn’t mean anything unless he strings a bunch of bad games together. Look for trends not snapshots).

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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