Oct 082021
 
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Kadarius Toney, New York Giants (October 3, 2021)

Kadarius Toney – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
Giants fans should have celebrated last Sunday. God knows that wins have been few and far between the last few years. But there is a difference between celebrating ONE win as a fan and losing complete perspective. All last Sunday’s upset win (over a beat-up Saints team with a questionable quarterback) did was stop the bleeding. That’s it. In order for it to be more than that, the Giants are going to have to pull off a number of upsets in upcoming weeks. Can they do that? Sure. But the oddsmakers say no, and if they are correct, fans contending that the team has “turned the corner” are going to look pretty stupid in a couple of weeks.

I said it last week, and I’ll say it again now, and again next week: the only way to get out of this mess is to circle the wagons, ignore the outside noise, and just focus on winning that next game. Nothing else matters. One game at a time.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (knee – probable)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (groin – probable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – out)
  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring – out)
  • WR C.J. Board (clavicle – probable)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – probable)
  • LT Andrew Thomas (foot – questionable)
  • OG Ben Bredeson (hand – out)
  • DE Leonard Williams (knee – probable)
  • S Logan Ryan (hip – probable)
  • S Jabrill Peppers (hamstring – out)
  • S Nate Ebner (quad – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Many fans believe the Giants performed better on offense last Sunday because Joe Judge and Jason Garrett changed their offensive approach. Garrett and Daniel Jones said this week that simply was not true, that the team simply executed better. What we do know is that the offensive line played at a much higher level than normal. The starting five gave Jones time to throw, and Jones responded with one of his best games. Funny how that works!

To me, more vague is the overall impact of John Ross and Kadarius Toney. Did those two make a bigger impact than Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard because they are better players? Or was it the result of the offensive line giving Jones more time to deliver the ball, and Jones responding with a top-tier performance? That remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to watch moving forward.

For all of the giddiness many of us are feeling, keep this in mind: with seven minutes left in the Saints game, the Giants had only scored 10 points. This is still a team averaging only 20 points per game. That’s not good enough. In my mind, the next step towards improving that number is getting the running game going. Last week, I talked about the offensive braintrust getting Saquon Barkley into space in order to get his mojo back. We saw that with a few plays last week, most notably Saquon’s long touchdown catch-and-run and the key screen pass in overtime. That seemed to spark Saquon who finally ran a tough, instinctive, between-the-tackles touchdown in the red zone for the win. Build upon that. Continue the plays in space. Get his confidence up. And start feeding him the ball. He will break the big runs.

Dallas’ defense was atrocious last year. They fired their defensive coordinator and the overall impression is that they have improved, although the yards allowed on a per-game basis is even worse this year.  (Dallas is giving up 396 yards per game…for comparison sake, the struggling Giants’ defense is giving up 382 yards per game). Why Dallas is perceived to be doing better is they are creating turnovers. Turnovers have saved the day for the Cowboys in a couple of games. If Dallas doesn’t create turnovers, they are in trouble.

As Joe Judge pointed out in his Wednesday press conference, the Cowboys run a lot of stunts up front, trying to confuse the offensive line into making mental mistakes that lead to negative plays. This is the type of pass rush that has given the Giants problems in the past, particularly guys like Will Hernandez. We saw it last week, give Daniel Jones time, and he can get the ball to his play-makers, who seem to be coming on. Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Saquon Barkley are showing signs of being difference makers. If Evan Engram could get in on the act, this offense could become really dangerous. The fly in the ointment here is that Andrew Thomas, who is coming off a very good game, is clearly struggling with a foot injury. If he plays, that will affect his performance.

The expectation heading into this game is that the Giants are going to have to score a lot of points. The team’s defense is surprisingly struggling and Dallas is a top-5 offense in both yards and points. Can the Giants reach that magical 30-point mark for once?

Final point. I’ve seen a lot of posts this week about so-and-so (Gettleman, Judge, Jones, Barkley, Toney, Thomas, etc.) because of ONE game. Don’t lose perspective. It was one game. You may be singing a different tune in a week or two. In order to really “turn the corner,” Judge, Jones, Barkley, Toney, Thomas, etc. have to string together more positive performances and win more games. Nothing has been settled yet. There are still 13 more games to go.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
I’ve talked about it for a few weeks now, for some reason this defense has gotten mentally weak at the end of halves. Osi Osi Osi OyOyOy is going to hate me for stealing his work again, but he just made the same point about the defense collapsing at the end of the first half in EVERY game the team has played this year (Finishing the 1st Half Strong). Some say it’s the pass rush. It’s more than that. It’s as if they expect to give up points now. They have to fix this or they are going to lose more games.

But that may not have been the most troubling element of last week’s game. Against the Saints, the Giants allowed 170 rushing yards. This was against a New York Giants defense whose #1 main goal is to stop the run. Patrick Graham talks about it each and every week. Enter Dallas, who is #2 in the NFL in rushing, averaging almost 170 yards per game as well. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this game is going to be won or lost.

You can talk about Dak Prescott (who owns the Giants), WR Amari Cooper, WR CeeDee Lamb, TE Dalton Schultz, etc. all you want, but the Giants need to stop running backs Ezekiel Elliott (5.3 yards per carry) and Tony Pollard (6.8 yards per carry) to win this game. When a team is able to run the ball, you wear down your opponent, control the clock, keep down-and-distance situations manageable, slow down the pass rush, and make the passing game much easier. Want to get Dallas out of their comfort zone? Stop the run. Easier said than done.

The entire 11 out on the field on defense have a role in stopping the run. But a clear weak spot last week was the nose tackle position. The Giants are missing Dalvin Tomlinson. Austin Johnson and Danny Shelton were too easily controlled last week. Missing Blake Martinez doesn’t help matters either. This may be a game where we could see Reggie Ragland’s snaps increase, even though he is weaker in pass coverage. With Jabrill Peppers out, run defense will probably be weaker as well as his replacements won’t be as big or physical. The Giants need Xavier McKinney and Julian Love to make a difference this week.

That all said, New York obviously can’t sleep on Dallas’ dangerous passing game. Prescott is completing over 75 percent of his passes right now. He has a 10-to-2 TD-to-INT ratio and his QBR is an unbelievable 117. He can hurt teams with his feet still when necessary and has dangerous targets to throw to. The obvious targets are the ones we mentioned, but don’t sleep on the back-up WRs and TE too (New York has a history of making heroes out of Dallas’ back-up tight ends, including Blake Jarwin, who has five career TDs against the Giants). Coach Judge has emphasized how Dallas does well with the short passing game, and they will take their shots down the field.

Long story short, for the Giants to win this game, the defense has to play its best game of the season thus far. And they need to do a better job of creating turnovers. The Giants have generated four turnovers all year (the Cowboys have generated 10). Patrick Graham is going to have to take some chances in the secondary in order to stop the run. It’s time for James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, and Ryan Logan to earn their big, fat paychecks. Play more man coverage and load up against the run. And for the love of God, hold the line at the end of the 2nd and 4th quarters!

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I’m still waiting for that “wow” special teams game from Joe Judge and Thomas McGaughey. This could be the week where we see Kadarius Toney get special teams return touches. Dallas always seems to have good special teams.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Joe Judge on the Dallas defense:It’s a turnover-driven defense.

THE FINAL WORD:
There is a big difference between 2-3 and 1-4. Win the turnover battle and win the damn game.

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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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