“The most wonderful time of the year” had a different feel to it in 2021. The surge in Covid-19 cases continues to explode both within the league and in society itself. The impact it has had on everyday life over the past couple of weeks for many reminded us just how fragile the situation itself is. Sports have become an important escape for many. A time period, whether it be a 3-hour game or a full afternoon, to mentally escape the stresses created from this seemingly never-ending pandemic was what many had to look forward to. A classic NFC East matchup between the Giants and Eagles was on tap. Philadelphia was on the playoff bubble, sitting with a 7-7 record and winners of 4 of their last 5. The only loss within that stretch? November 28 vs. NYG. The Giants were all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, coming in at 4-10 with their last road win being October 3 at New Orleans. This game only added to the stress of life.
Jake Fromm got the nod at starting quarterback for the first time in the NFL. The hope was that a new face under center could help create a spark in what many consider to be the worst offense in the NFL. It certainly couldn’t be any worse, right? The first quarter was marred with poor offensive football. Both offenses gained one total first down each on the game’s first 6 combined possessions. Fromm last took on PHI starting quarterback Jalen Hurts in the 2018 National Championship. Boy have things changed for those two when it comes to their status regarding football.
NYG broke the scoreless tie via a 54-yard field goal by Graham Gano. Most of the offensive production on the drive came from running backs Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker in addition to receiver Kadarius Toney, who saw the field for the first time since November 22. PHI kicker Jake Elliott missed a 41-yard attempt on the ensuing drive but did hit a 22-yarder after NYG went 3-and-out. The game was tied at 3 as the we headed into halftime with the two offenses combined for 225 yards, two thirds of which belonged to PHI.
Fromm was intercepted on the second play of the second half and that play spurred one of the ugliest in-game stretches of football this franchise has ever seen in an era of Giants football that is arguably the worst this franchise has ever seen. Boston Scott scored on a 3-yard touchdown run because a NYG vs PHI matchup doesn’t exist without him crossing the goal line. It was his 12th career touchdown, 8th against Big Blue in 3 years.
Fromm and NYG went 3-and-out again before PHI padded the lead with a 37-yard field goal by Elliott. Head Coach Joe Judge then opted to return Fromm to the bench to re-insert Mike Glennon. That confirmed that NYG did not have the next Tony Romo in Fromm. So close. Glennon went on to lead yet another 3-and-out drive before PHI scored yet another touchdown on a pass from Hurts to rookie Devonta Smith to bring the score to 20-3 as the game entered the 4th quarter. The first two possessions of that 4th quarter resulted in two more PHI touchdowns. One was a pass from Hurts to right tackle Lane Johnson right before a pick-6 that Glennon threw to PHI linebacker Alex Singleton. 34-3 with 10:19 left after NYG went up 3-0 in the 2nd quarter.
NYG then went on a meaningless 17-play drive that consisted of two third-down conversions and two fourth-down conversions. It ended with a touchdown pass from Glennon to Evan Engram. Perhaps it wasn’t so meaningless for those in their fantasy football playoffs but then again if you were relying on any Giants for your fantasy football matchups, you likely didn’t make the playoffs. The two teams traded scoreless possessions from there and this game couldn’t end soon enough. This season can’t end soon enough.
NYG loses 34-10.
-Jake Fromm: 6/17 – 25 yards / 0 TD – 1 INT / 19.5 RAT
-“Not ideal” for Fromm’s first career NFL start according to him. That is putting it kindly. To be blunt, Fromm looked like he didn’t belong on the field. For a quarterback who does not have tremendous arm talent, everything else needs to be near-flawless. Fromm’s accuracy was poor, the blocking in front of him was poor, and his ability to process the defense was poor. There was nothing positive to take from his performance.
-Mike Glennon essentially played the second half and went 17/27 for 93 yards and 1 TD / 1 INT. The one contrast I see between the two is arm strength and overall zip on the ball. Neither were particularly accurate, but Glennon throws a much better ball than Fromm and it isn’t close.
-Saquon Barkley was outproduced by Devontae Booker again. Barkley gained 28 yards on 16 touches, Booker 46 yards on 10 touches. The offensive line didn’t do them any favors as both, Barkley more so, was being contacted by defenders behind the line of scrimmage. Just an ugly overall game for the backfield that didn’t move the needle in either direction regarding the team’s future vision here.
-9 receptions for 62 yards. No, not by one player. That is the stat line for the entire wide receiver group. DeVonta Smith, a rookie for PHI, had 5 receptions for 80 yards.
-Kadarius Toney was back on the field and saw about half of the snaps. He ended with 4 catches and 28 yards. His balance wasn’t keeping up with his agility, as he looked rusty. On the PHI defensive touchdown, he didn’t finish his route and it gave Singleton that window to get his hands on the ball. The one issue with a receiver that is so intent on what he does after the catch is exactly what happened. He needs to remember: Get the ball first then make your move(s).
-Kenny Golladay didn’t bring in any catches until Glennon came in. With a quarterback like Fromm, one that is so limited when it comes to arm power and likely hesitant to throw into traffic, expecting Golladay to get looks was unlikely. He didn’t get to make many plays on the ball.
-Darius Slayton and David Sills each had 1 catch for a total of 12 yards.
-Evan Engram’s production also ticked upward after Glennon came back in. He had 3 catches from him for 19 yards including the team’s lone touchdown. Engram also added a drop to his season’s total.
-Kyle Rudolph was only on the field for a season-low 17 snaps. Interesting approach here for a team that couldn’t get the ball to receivers and on a team with an offensive line that was clearly overmatched.
-The PHI front is not a good matchup for NYG porous offensive line. In all honesty, we can say that about most lines NYG faces off against, but I didn’t think the NYG offense had a shot in this game for that reason.
-Nobody finished with a positive grade. Andrew Thomas was the closest. He allowed a pressure, a TFL, and was flagged for a false start. Derek Barnett, a free agent this upcoming offseason, won the 1 on 1 battle between the 2 over and over.
-Matt Peart suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury on the third drive. He had allowed 2 pressures on the first 2 drives, clearly overmatched by Josh Sweat. His movement and stiffness were so poor. Korey Cunningham came in and played 88% of the snaps and it was clear to me he is the better player than Peart. I don’t want to beat a guy while he’s down, but that may be the last time we see Peart starting a game for NYG. His improvement and development have been non-existent since being drafted. If anything, he’s gone backward.
-Inside was a mess. Matt Skura allowed 4 pressures and a TFL while Billy Price and Will Hernandez allowed a pressure and TFL each. The running game was overwhelmed by how crowded it got between the tackles. Not only do they lack push, but they were being driven back 1-2 yards at least on inside runs. You just cannot move the ball in that scenario. Wes Martin relieved Skura in the second half and offered more of the same, except he held his ground against the bull rush a bit better.
-Another week where I felt the defensive line got trounced in the running game. Dexter Lawrence continues to be an enigma to me. He finished with 3 pressures but was poor against the run. More on him below.
-Leonard Williams finished with 5 tackles, 1 pressure, and 1 PD. I am curious what this franchise plans on doing with him. Obviously, he is here long term, and I am more than fine with it. He is a unique player who can take over games, one of the top 5 DTs in the game. However, there are certain roles he just doesn’t excel in and one of them is 2-gapping the running game. Good blockers simply take him where he wants to go, and it opens massive running lanes. It is discouraging to say the least.
-The trio of Austin Johnson, Raymond Johnson, and David Moa did not offer much against the pass. They combined for 4 tackles and 0 pressures. Moa shows some grit inside but both he and Johnson were overwhelmed by the power run blocking of PHI.
-Another impressive day for Lorenzo Carter, who is making a late season surge. He finished with 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 3 pressures. He also forced a fumble that PHI ended up recovering. He has that twitch and explosion back. Can one make the argument that he is now far enough removed from his Achilles’ injury to show what he truly is athletically? Yes. How much does that weigh regarding his future? That will be the point of interesting and hopefully respectful debate.
-Rookie outside linebackers Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith also flashed. Encouraging signs from a longtime sore spot on this defense. Ojulari finished with 3 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure. He made a couple of nice inside moves that I hadn’t seen yet. One of the focal points I have down for him heading into the offseason is more variety with his inside game. Good to see progress from him in this area right now. Smith only saw 13 snaps, but I saw exactly what I wanted to see on the play he got a pressure. Inside move with late bend and a tight-angled turn.
-Tae Crowder hasn’t been getting the best reviews from me this season and rightfully so. But what I like is just how hard he plays, start to finish. He is one physical dude but one who I hope is a backup next season, not a starter. He and Jaylon Smith were the main reasons why we see the NYG defensive backs making so many tackles. Just too late and not effective enough filling the gaps.
-James Bradberry and Jarren Williams handled nearly all of the snaps at outside corner. They excelled early on showing tight coverage, but it wavered in the second half. They were getting burned up and down, left, and right. Bradberry was inches away from an interception.
-The trio of Julian Love, Logan Ryan, and Xavier McKinney was very busy. In fact, they were the 3 leading tacklers, combining for 15 of them. Love missed 2, McKinney missed 1. These guys are all over the field and when watching the All-22, it’s hard not to be impressed amidst such an unimpressive team overall. The general feel of this team is so poor, but I strongly believe they are a couple pass rushers and perhaps a linebacker away from being a very good group overall. Not an easy order but at the same time, not an impossible task. This safety trio is one of the best 5 in the NFL and I mean it. They can be built around and where NYG sits in the draft should be able to net one of those pieces.
-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 54)
-P Riley Dixon: 8 Punts / 36.8 avg – 28.0 net
-OLB Lorenzo Carter, S Logan Ryan, OLB Azeez Ojulari
-QB Jake Fromm, OG Matt Skura, WR Kadarius Toney
3 THOUGHTS ON PHI
(1) Can PHI be the random wildcard team that gets hot at the right time and surges through the playoffs? When I think about Jalen Hurts being the QB, my initial answer is no. But when I think about how important offensive/defensive line play can impact the game, I think yes. The trench-combination this team has could be one of the best 3 or 4 in the NFL right now. Some of their young players are peaking at the right time and Fletcher Cox is one of the best 5 DTs in the game. After all, they are the number one rushing team in the league.
(2) PHI rookie DT Milton Williams is a name to watch in the future. The 3rd round pick came in a little undersized for inside play (6’3/284) but PHI has found a nice role for him, and he has been contributing since Week 1. I think my grade (mid- to late-day 3) was way off. We are going to hear his name more and more in the coming years. That kind of body type is always hard to project because they are very scheme and role dependent. There are a handful of these guys in the 2022 class who I think can be difference makers in a similar way. I hope NYG can get their hands on one of them in the middle rounds.
(3) Wide receiver DeVonta Smith was a very sought-after prospect by many of us heading into the 2021 Draft, myself included. PHI leap-frogged NYG in a trade with DAL and took him. I remember having that pit-in-the-stomach feeling knowing we would see him twice a year for a long time. How has his rookie year been? He hasn’t missed a game. He’s played 86% of the snaps. He is by far the team’s #1 WR across every metric. Only Jaylen Waddle and Ja’Marr Chase are ahead of him among rookies. The team hasn’t used his strengths consistently enough when it comes to deep routes but when they do, he has shined. He has the look of a Justin Jefferson type weapon if the QB play gets elevated.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
(1) Dexter Lawrence, as noted above, is a tough player to truly figure out. Remember when he came into the league it was all about his size, presence, and sneaky athletic ability that we liked. A Linval Joseph-type with the upside of a Haloti Ngata. Simply put, he hasn’t gotten over the hump. Nice player? Sure. His pass rush is the one thing that has made somewhat of a difference here. However, the lack of consistent run stuffing has been a frustrating watch. Part of it is how he is used but I question him even if they move him to a true NT role. If there is one player on this roster who is marketable in an offseason trade, it is Lawrence. If he can be used to help build the OL or pass rush in any way, I pull that trigger.
(2) I just got done watching Miami play against New Orleans on Monday Night Football. While I think they are still a year away from credible AFC contention, I try to take some things away from the Dolphins in regard to building from the basement of the NFL in a competitive market. I’ve discussed their OL approach (it worked but it took years of patience with developing rookies). I’ve discussed their spending on defense with a quarterback on a rookie deal. But what can NYG do at WR when looking at MIA? I have a feeling that this won’t be taken well, but with one of those top 10 picks I think NYG should look hard at WR. I’m not sure the value will be there, but if it is, WR needs to be a consideration in addition to the OL. NYG needs to score more points and I’m not confident their skill position guys have the horses to do so despite how many resources that the team has already spent on the position.
(3) I am 36 years old. I began following this team in the mid-90’s and started to really follow this team closely in the early 2000’s. Then I got into professional scouting about a decade later, amping it up around 2014-2015. Not as long as some of you, I know. That said, this is by far the lowest of the low my eyes have seen. Forget about the record (which is horrific) since that Odell Beckham boat picture. I am talking about the simple quality of football and ability to compete. This is the lowest of the low. Completing passes to the flat seems like a chore. Blocking defenders at the point-of-attack seems impossible. Putting a consistent pass rush on the opposing quarterback never happens. We see as many drops and miscues and missed assignments as any team in the league. What exactly are we looking for from a head coach when evaluating him? Forget the pressers after games, almost all of them are worthless. I am talking about on-field evaluation. What are we actually looking for? A coach needs to be a problem solver and culture builder. Almost 2 years in, tell me what problems have been solved and which culture has been built? I’ll be waiting for that answer.