On the opening night of the 2021 NFL Draft, NYG and CHI paired together for one of the biggest trades of the weekend. CHI traded up, offering their own first rounder, a fifth rounder, and 2022 1st and 4th round picks. It was quite the haul on paper for NYG, and CHI finally got their hands on a big time QB prospect, Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Fast forward to week 17 of the 2021 season. The two teams were a combined 9-21, they were both bottom-5 in offensive yards per play, and their 1st round picks (Fields and Kadarius Toney) were both on the sidelines with respective injuries. The two have played in just a combined 17 out of 32 possible games. The futures are looking bleak for the two storied franchises, cornerstones of the NFL in two of the biggest markets in the country. Both general managers are unlikely to be back and both head coaches are on the hot seat. Bears vs. Giants, one of the most irrelevant games of the NFL season.
The struggles of the NYG offensive line have been beaten into our minds over and over for close a decade now. I know it gets old reading about it and, trust me, it has gotten even older to write about it. On the first play of the game, Mike Glennon was sacked by Trevis Gipson, forcing a fumble that was scooped up by Bilal Nichols and returned to the NYG 2-yard line. CHI running back David Montgomery scored a play later to give CHI the 7-0 lead before 19 seconds ticked off of the game clock. NYG gained 20 yards on 4 rushing plays on their next drive before they tried to drop back and throw the ball again. Glennon then proceeded to throw an interception to Tashaun Gipson. CHI turned that into another 7 points, this time a pass from Andy Dalton to Darnell Mooney. The 5-10 Bears were up 14-0 less than 7 minutes after the game began. It was the first-time all-season CHI scored more than 7 points in the opening quarter.
The next NYG drive ended with NYG trying to throw again. Glennon was sacked. Drive over. The two horrid offenses traded a few scoreless drives. NYG was actually having some per-play success on the ground which shouldn’t have caught anyone off guard. CHI’s run defense came in having allowed the 24th-most rushing yards in the league (3rd least against the pass). NYG did all they could in regard to the offensive game plan to maximize the disparity. Extra linemen, Saquon Barkley in the wildcat, and a 21:4 run/pass ratio on their first 25 plays. The issue was an immediate 14-0 deficit. A 38-yard field goal brought the sore to 14-3, but a 21-yard field goal by CHI quickly restored the lead back to two touchdowns.
With 1:00 left in the first half, a blunder on the kick return by Pharoh put NYG on their own 5-yard line. Devontae Booker lost 3 yards on the first play, Derrick Kelly was flagged for a false start on the next play, and all the sudden the NYG offense that had a front line less sturdy than water trying to simply get the clock to run out in desperation to avoid a safety. It did not work. Booker was tackled for a loss, giving CHI another 2 points via the safety :46 left. It ended up being enough time for CHI to move the ball into field goal range, getting CHI yet another 3 points via a 44-yard kick through the uprights. 22-3 at the halfway point.
CHI started the second half with the ball and scored via David Montgomery’s second touchdown of the day. That would be it for the scoring. Glennon and Dalton both threw interceptions. Glennon lost another fumble on another sack. NYG turned the ball over on downs. CHI running back Montgomery threw an interception, yes you read that right. This turned into as close to an unwatchable game as it gets in today’s NFL. It almost seemed like we weren’t even watching professional football.
NYG loses 29-3.
-Mike Glennon: 4/11 – 24 yards / 0 TD – 2 INT / 5.3 RAT
Add in the four fumbles (2 lost), and we are talking about worst quarterback and overall passing-performance in the NFL this season and right up there with the worst we have ever seen within this franchise. That will be a theme of this review. Worst, ever. Glennon once again was overmatched by a defense that is one of the best in the league against the pass. Partially because he doesn’t belong on the field, partially because the support system around him is at a near all-time low. I don’t want to give Glennon a pass. On multiple occasions, he held on to the ball too long, made errant throws, and did not find the open man.
-Saquon Barkley: 21 att – 102 yards
For the first time since 12/22/19, Barkley rushed for over 100 yards. He hit that mark 7 times as a rookie in 2018. This game against CHI was only the 9th time since. The poor CHI run defense helped the cause here. One more observation I will share in regard to Barkley’s current skill set: hHis burst and straight-line acceleration are there. I expect them to be even better next season. What seems to be missing is the agility-speed. He is losing too much momentum and needing too much time to change direction and alter his path. When it comes to athleticism, that is most important for a back.
-David Sills was the only receiver to walk away from this game with a catch. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse than what we saw a week ago against PHI, this happens. I wish I had more for you guys regarding this position, but I don’t. Kenny Golladay was thrown to once, Pharaoh Cooper twice, and Sills once. When an offense looks like this top to bottom, the receivers are the ones you just can’t truly evaluate.
-Evan Engram tied for the team-lead in receiving on his 1 catch, which was 12 yards. The coaching staff opted to bring in help via extra linemen on running plays. Engram’s performance there has always been poor, and they seem to have phased him out of that role for the most part. Kyle Rudolph performed better in the trenches, as expected.
-Tackles Andrew Thomas and Nate Solder both played every snap. Thomas allowed 1 sack late in the game, but otherwise was very solid. He seemed to get out of his stance late and just couldn’t make up that time to the edge. Solder allowed 2 sacks and looked overmatched. I cannot wait until the day I know longer have to study his tape and write his name. He’s been done for a long time now.
-Matt Skura played center for Billy Price. Please do not mistake me for a Price apologist, I don’t think he is a starting-caliber player. However, you can easily see the gap between him and a guy like Skura who was downright awful. He allowed 3 TFL and a pressure. CHI is really strong along the interior defensive line, and they give plenty of players a handful, but Skura did not belong on the field with them. What a rough end of year for him!
-Will Hernandez allowed a TFL and a sack. Both of those negative plays were textbook for what you tell an offensive lineman NOT to do. He was actually very good on the gap-blocking when he could get on his man straight ahead and try to bulldoze. Wherever he ends up in 2022, and it better not be here, he will need to be employed in a more gap-blocking than zone scheme. But even then, he just can’t pass block.
-Wes Martin, Derrick Kelly, and Ben Bredeson rotated at left guard. None of them stood out in any positive manner. Martin was the worst, allowing 2 TFL. Bredeson is the only one I would want on this roster moving forward.
-I continue to be impressed with the hustle and grit we are seeing from Leonard Williams. He led the team with 8 tackles and 2 pressures while playing with an injured elbow. He has become a barometer for the versatile DL prospects I scout. I usually use 2-3 guys from around the league from every position as the ceiling and Williams is one of them. Austin Johnson added 5 tackles, building off his solid season (maybe the best of his career).
-Because Dexter Lawrence and Danny Shelton were out with Covid, we saw an uptick in playing time for David Moa. The second-year undrafted free agent was overwhelmed at the point-of-attack. CHI was running over him with a lot of success.
-We didn’t see much from Raymond Johnson III or Woodrow Hamilton. They didn’t play much, and when they did, there wasn’t much to note in either a positive or negative way.
-If this team was in contention, we would be celebrating the signing of Jaylon Smith a bit more. He’s brought the needed combination of speed and power to the front. He had 7 tackles and a sack. I will say this: I can see where teams like GB and DAL didn’t see the scheme-fit. He is very much a freelancer who evades gaps and kind of does his own thing. When it works, he makes plays. When it doesn’t, the defense can get torched. It will be interesting to see what happens in free agency. Get him in the right scheme and I think it can work out in a big way.
-Tae Crowder had 6 tackles and missed 2. He also had a garbage-time interception.
-Lorenzo Carter, yet again, continued his late-season surge. He had 6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, and a PD to earn the team’s highest grade. Even some things that do not show up in the box score were impressive. His backside pursuit and angles were outstanding. Carter is playing with a ton of hustle and is finishing his hits with power. This will be one of the more interesting guys to watch this offseason because he is now playing very well, and the coaching staff loves him.
-The trio of rookie Azeez Ojulari, Quincy Roche, and Elerson Smith did not have a lot to look back on. Ojulari had a TFL and a PD but was shut down as a pass rusher. Roche added 5 tackles but had several negatives on my scoring sheet when it came to run defense. He also didn’t pressure the quarterback. Smith played about a third of the snaps and finished with 1 pressure where, once again, his technique and bend were on display. He just isn’t stout enough for quality run defense especially when he is inside the tackle or head up.
-James Bradberry had a solid game in a tough matchup against Allen Robinson. He had an interception and broke up 2 passes. Adoree’ Jackson lined up as the starter on the other side and finished with 4 tackles. He gave up a lot on crossing routes.
-Rookie Aaron Robinson was beat for a touchdown and was lucky to not be beaten for a second one. He had a hard time playing sticky to the quicker Mooney who has quietly become one of the more underrated receivers in football. Robinson, like almost all young corners, has shown a lot of back and forth to this point. I think he is going to be a solid player though; I like how he responds to getting beat.
-Logan Ryan was all over the field. He had 5 tackles and 2 pass break ups. He dropped 2 interceptions. He was consistently at the right place, right time but he didn’t seal the deal on those 2 occasions.
-Xavier McKinney added 6 tackles and an impressive pass break up down the field where he came from midfield and showed the range we have seen several times. That is hard to find in this league and McKinney has it.
-Julian Love didn’t play much. I am interested to find out what the deal is with their usage of him. He has been all over the place this season with his snap counts even though I think he can be an incredibly valuable player in the secondary with his versatility.
-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 38)
-P Riley Dixon: 4 punts / 39.0 avg – 38.8 net
-OLB Lorenzo Carter, RB Saquon Barkley, S Logan Ryan
-QB Mike Glennon, OC Matt Skura, OG Wes Martin
3 THOUGHTS ON CHI
(1) There are some similarities between CHI and NYG. Their roots come from strong defensive football and the running game. Their cold-weather setting, hot/cold fan base, and place in NFL history still mean something. However, their inconsistent management and poor front-office performances have made the teams lose touch with what made them such a big deal in this league. CHI Ryan Pace has dropped the ball on so many occasions, but his track record far exceeds what NYG has dealt with. I do believe they are on the track toward contention but Pace, like Gettleman, needs to go. He was hired in 2015 and the team has gone 48-64 since and their salary cap is in poor condition.
(2) CHI is second in the NFL in sacks and that is with their premier rusher Khalil Mack playing in just 7 games. Robert Quinn is the main catalyst here, leading the league with 18 sacks. But what else has created one of the better pass defenses? Their second level (linebackers and box-safeties) have been superb. The NFL is such a quick-strike league and that part of the field needs to be better than just OK at coverage. They need to be fast, they need to be smart, and they need to react quickly. When looking at what NYG needs to elevate their defense, it can’t only be about the pass rush. It should start there, but I will be tapping on the door in the coming months reminding how much this team needs another inside linebacker and possibly a box safety.
(3) How close are the Bears? I think they are VERY close. Their record does not indicate where I think they currently sit. Not having a 1st rounder in 2022 will hurt a bit, but this will all come down to Fields taking the step up and the team finding more OL help. They won’t have the money to go out and get someone, but with how deep this OL class is coming up, I think they can find a legit starter on the outside in round 2. Fix that, get some more help next to Roquan Smith at LB, get Mack back in the fold, and this team can be a 9+ win team in a hurry.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
(1) The worst 2 games of Glennon’s 9-year career have come in the last 3 weeks. He has been on some bad, bad teams including the Jaguars last year. We are currently hearing a lot of talk about how Judge should be given a pass based on how rough the NYG roster and injury situations are. I go the other way. NYG wasn’t dealt a good deck of cards, I agree. Some bad luck and some really bad front office decisions. But how is anyone going to tell me this coaching staff is adjusting game plans to maximize the potential of the team? Nobody is winning 9 games with this roster, that isn’t the point. This is a team that cannot even compete with anyone in the league. Good coaching staffs will find a way to be competitive for at least part of the game. Instead, we are watching Matt Skura pull from his OC position and attempts to block a blitzing OLB? We are watching deep drop backs in the passing game? We are rotating the left guard, but not Will Hernandez? We still use play-action and pre-snap motion at near-bottom rates?
(2) One more game to watch, and then it is finally the offseason for NYG. I love football and I have an appreciation for NYG because they were the team I followed growing up. I now watch them as much as I watch everyone else in the league, but I still find myself pulling for them as do many of you. I get paid to do what I do, and I have aspirations to take this further. All that said, these games are actually hard to watch. I feel like I’m not even watching football. It looks like a high school game…one of those high school games where one team is playing with not one kid who will play in college against a team loaded with Division 1 recruits. That is the only comparison I can think of.
(3) Seeing all of the off-the-field talk brewing like a bad summer thunderstorm overhead is disheartening. Pat Hanlon losing control and flexing on Twitter, former scout Steve Verderosa finding ways to trash the organization publicly (he may be writing a behind-the-scenes book too), and a few other media outlets giving some damning information on ownership has made this organization look like an even bigger league-wide joke. Perhaps this is what we need, however, to get things truly shaken up beyond just a new coach. These are dark days, we all already know that. History as a way of repeating itself for those who choose to ignore it.