The New York Giants defeated the hated Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday. That would normally be a source of great joy but fans came away largely unimpressed. Not only did the offense score only 13 points, but the Giants were a Jalen Reagor catch away from one of the more devastating losses in a rivalry that is filled with devastating losses. The Giants forced a turnover, got the ball back near midfield with 1:34 left on the clock, and still almost lost the game. Imagine the fallout from that potential catastrophe!
After a 1-5 start to the season, the Giants have gone 3-2 over the course of the last five games. The W-L-W-L-W results have team fans alternating between tepid hope and apathetic despair. Nevertheless, because of the sorry state of the NFL playoff race, the Giants are still alive. Can the Giants go 5-1 or 4-2 in the last five games? Probably not, but there is still a glimmer of hope. The Giants must beat the 5-7 Miami Dolphins. With teams like the Chargers and Cowboys coming up, the wiggle room is gone.
THE INJURY REPORT:
Two weeks removed from the bye week and the Giants are still one beat up team.
- QB Daniel Jones (neck – out)
- FB Cullen Gillaspia (calf – questionable)
- WR Sterling Shepard (quad – doubtful)
- WR Kadarius Toney (oblique/quad – doubtful)
- WR John Ross (illness/quad – questionable)
- TE Kyle Rudolph (ankle- questionable)
- TE Kaden Smith (knee – out)
- OT Nate Solder (elbow – questionable)
- LB Trent Harris (ankle – out)
- CB Adoree’ Jackson (quad – out)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
On losing teams, fairly or unfairly, the two most reviled individuals are almost always the head coach and quarterback. After a promising rookie season, Daniel Jones has opened himself up to immense criticism as the quarterback of a team that struggles to put points on the board and win games. Now for the third year in a row, Jones is out with an injury. Joe Judge has not definitively said if he will return this year. Enter Mike Glennon, who holds a lousy 6-21 record as a starting quarterback (Jones is an almost equally lousy 12-25). Daniel Jones’ detractors eagerly await to see if the quarterback change will cause any sort of offensive improvement from a team that is currently averaging a pathetic 18 points per game.
(Quick aside, if Jones is done for the season, the team can’t feel good about its quarterback situation entering 2022. Combine that with Saquon Barkley’s productivity falling off a cliff and 2021 is turning out to be a worst-case scenario disaster for the franchise).
A month ago, Miami was 1-7. Today they are 5-7. Some will question the caliber of competition, but a 4-game winning streak is impressive in today’s mediocre NFL environment. The Dolphins are hot, and much of that is due to their aggressive, blitz-heavy defense. Indeed, Miami leads the NFL in blitzes. This is going to put tremendous pressure on New York’s struggling offensive line and a starting running back (Barkley) who doesn’t do well picking up the blitz. It doesn’t help that Kadarius Toney (a perfect blitz-beating weapon) is most likely out yet again. Slot receiver Sterling Shepard is likely to miss another game too.
The Miami game plan seems pretty obvious. As bad as Barkley has been in running the ball this year, they have to come into this game concentrating on him and forcing Mike Glennon to beat them. I expect Miami’s defense to stack the line of scrimmage, give Barkley no room to operate, and blitz the heck out of Glennon. They know New York can’t block and that Glennon has thrown 27 interceptions in 27 starts.
How do you beat the blitz? Screen passes to Barkley. Quick slants to the wideouts. If the protection holds up, take your shots on one-on-one match-ups down the field. This is where Kenny Golladay, John Ross, and Darius Slayton could make an impact. But it comes down to protection. Furthermore, Miami is tied with the Giants in forcing 19 turnovers this year. Protect the football.
One more aside, for those who missed it, watch Offensive Coach Rob Sale describe why Matt Peart isn’t playing right tackle in this video, starting at the 21:15 mark. Sales’ facial expressions tell the story. The Giants came into 2021 hoping that Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Will Hernandez, and Matt Peart would be the future. Lemieux missed the season with a knee injury and remains an unknown. Gates suffered a potentially career-altering leg fracture. In his fourth season, Hernandez has only proven to be an incredibly inconsistent player who can’t be completely relied upon. And the Giants’ offensive line coach all but called Peart a “pussy.” In other words, the Giants are no further along on their offensive line rebuild than they were a decade ago with the exception of Andrew Thomas. The next GM of the Giants may be forced to spend both 1st-round picks on an OL-rich offensive line draft.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Patrick Graham’s defense won the game last week. It may sound over-the-top picky to complain, but I am still not thrilled with his defense’s play at the end of halves. A bad throw by Jalen Hurts saved New York at the end of the first half, and two drops by Jalen Reagor saved the team at the end of the game. Finish must be the mantra moving forward.
Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (a lefty) has missed four games this year. The Dolphins are 3-4 with him starting. His best football has come in the last two games where Miami has scored 57 combined points. RPO and play-action is a big part of Miami’s offense and Tagovailoa gets rid of the ball quickly, preferring the short game. Much of this is a reflection of a bad offensive line, which has allowed too much pressure. The Dolphins also struggle to run the ball, with only the Texans averaging less yards per game. Turnovers are also a problem for Miami, as they have 20 on the year (the Giants have 14 by comparison).
The most dangerous weapon on the team is rookie wideout Jaylen Waddle. He’s been target 103 times on the season, catching 77 passes and four touchdowns. He’s an incredibly quick and fast player who can run by defenders, but the emphasis on the short passing game is highlighted that Waddle is still averaging less than 10 yards per catch. Don’t be lulled by that figure. Also highlighting the dink-and-dunk nature of this offense is that the other primary targets are tight end Mike Gesicki (52 catches on 79 targets) and running back Myles Gaskin (43 catches on 54 targets). The Dolphins will also throw to back-up tight end Durham Smythe.
Bad news is that Adoree’ Jackson and Darnay Holmes (on IR) are out. Good news is that Logan Ryan is back and Aaron Robinson is coming off a strong game. Nevertheless, the Giants are down to James Bradberry, Robinson, and Keion Crossen at corner. Ryan and Julian Love will probably have to play some corner in this game, particularly Love in the slot.
In a nutshell, as long as the Giants stay disciplined with the RPO and play-action and don’t give up the big play to Waddle, this is an offense that they should be able to mostly keep in check. Tagovailoa gets rid of the ball quickly, making it hard to get pressure, but this is an offensive line that can have issues in pass protection. We may see a good game from some of the Giants’ pass rushers. That said, the underneath coverage against the backs and tight ends is key. The Giants still very much miss Blake Martinez.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Riley Dixon is an overpaid, underperforming punter. In general, Giants’ special teams are not hurting them this year, but they aren’t winning games either. Joe Judge did mention this week that the Dolphins like to run gadget plays on special teams.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Line Coach Rob Sale on what Matt Peart needs to do to improve: “Go out there and put your hands around somebody’s neck and freaking choke ‘em. Plain and simple.”
THE FINAL WORD:
The season is on the line. The Giants either improve to 5-7 or fall to 4-8 with five games left. It’s up to them.
Teams often will rally around the back-up quarterback for a game or two. It will be interesting to see how Glennon performs.