-Daniel Jones: 18/27 – 169 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 96.1 RAT
Jones added 26 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Brian Daboll pulled him in the fourth quarter as the game simply got out of reach and he was taking so many hits. Jones saw the typical and expected amount of pressure and he was working against the typical number of mismatches all afternoon. He did not turn the ball over. He had an impressive string of passes in the second half. He made plays with his legs that most quarterbacks in the league did not. All of these were positives in a situation where everything about this matchup was simply lopsided in PHI’s favor.
The deeper part of my assessment is not as friendly. Jones had multiple opportunities to show progress in the area where he has come up short on multiple occasions. He did not come through. Besides the quick-fire, one-read throws, Jones struggled to work his eyes and hips to the open target. On 3rd-and-10 from midfield in the second quarter, Kafka called a crossing route concept. Darius Slayton going from left to right and Daniel Bellinger from right to left. They intersected right in the middle of the defense where linebacker T.J. Edwards was in coverage. Jones did not make the read, Edwards read Jones like a book, and the pass ended up being a near-interception by two different players. Meanwhile Slayton ends up wide-open for a potential first down. These are the plays that Jones needs to be making by now. They may not mean much to some, but they’re some of the most important make-or-break plays in NFL games week-to-week. You can’t have them all, but the good ones get most of them. Jones does not make half of them.
-Tyrod Taylor came in late for the final two drives. The first one ended in a lost fumble and the second one ended in a touchdown pass to Richie James. The highlight of that drive was a 32-yard run on 4th-and-15. There is not much to evaluate here, as he was playing behind the second-string offensive line and the game was nearly over.
-Saquon Barkley: 9 att – 28 yards / 2 rec – 20 yards
Barkley was close to not playing, as he suffered a neck injury that made him a game-time decision. His 20 snaps were by far a season low. This was the most overmatched I have seen NYG at the point-of-attack this year. Combine that with the early 21-0 deficit and Barkley’s injury, it seemed everything was set up for him to be a non-factor in this game. I think the low-snap count had more to do with the game situation than his injury. I fully expect him to be back to a normal snap count in their do-or-die match-up next week.
Since his 32-carry game against HOU, Barkley has run the ball 53 times for 152 yards and caught 13 passes for 64 yards over four games. That is an average of 13 carries / 38 yards and 3 catches / 16 yards per game. He is nursing shoulder and neck injuries. He is not hitting the hole hard; he is not getting through tackles. Barkley is breaking down over the course of the second half of the season for the second straight year, had an ACL injury that forced him to miss 13 games, one year after missing four games with an ankle injury. Economically, he is making less and less sense even though he is the most talented offensive player on the team.
-Gary Brightwell was the most impressive runner on the team with 23 yards on 5 carries and 18 yards on 2 catches. He had runs of 13 and 4 yards on his first two carries. Those carries and one in the fourth quarter were the hardest, most physical we saw a back run in this game. I think there is something in him that NYG can use more of. In limited playing time, he is averaging over 5 yards per carry and while we cannot overreact to that lone stat, NYG should be able to gravitate toward him a bit more. Matt Breida added 15 total yards and a drop.
-Richie James led the team across the board with 7 catches for 61 yards. He brought in a touchdown late despite taking a nasty hit to the head immediately afterward. Watching the All-22 made something blatantly obvious to me. James is on a different level among the other targets on this team when it comes to simply getting open. While it is a strength of his game, the margin between him and the others in separation is enormous. Easy to see why he is targeted more than the others and easy to see that is the one trait this receiver room needs to add in the offseason. I will touch on this below, but James was destroyed on blocking attempts near the line of scrimmage, and it had a bad impact on the running game.
-Isaiah Hodgins had 4 catches for 38 yards and a touchdown. Nice work by him on the score where he quickly recognized Jones in the scramble drill. He got and kept leverage on the PHI defender and used his body correctly to shield him off as the ball approached. Hodgins is a nice underneath threat, but the lack of long speed showed up early in the game when Jones took a deep shot to him. There is no final gear there to get over the top.
-Darius Slayton had just 2 catches but one went for a 37-yard gain, the biggest play of the day for NYG. He added his 6th drop of the year, the third straight season he has reached that number. Jones missed him open a couple times on what I think would have resulted in 10+ yard gains.
-Daniel Bellinger and Nick Vannett split the tight end snaps for the most part while Chris Myarick was on the field for just 4 plays. It was an uneventful day for the group. Bellinger caught 3 passes for 19 yards and Vannett brought 1 in for 9 yards. The PHI front is such a strong, stout group against tight ends on the edge. This was one match-up I knew would go against NYG and it certainly did. Neither are going to fare well in situations like that.
-This was a match-up nightmare for the NYG offensive line. Not just from a macro-perspective (PHI DL simply being better than NYG OL), but also from a micro-perspective. The holes in the games of the NYG line – player by player – were exploited greatly by the skillset of the individuals along the PHI defensive line.
-Andrew Thomas allowed a sack and was getting beat initially off the ball more than what we are used to seeing. Really though, it was a solid game minus the sack for Thomas. He showed good recovery tactics, his footwork looked lighter and faster, and he got push in the running game. Rookie Evan Neal, however, had maybe the worst game of his young career. He allowed 5 pressures and 2 sacks. Week after week, we are seeing him wind up on the ground over and over. You can’t block if you’re laying down on the ground. He is not bringing his feet with him when he moves laterally. Way too much reaching, way too much bending at the waist. His power is a difference maker, as seen with a few quality run blocks. But we only see this when his feet are in the right spot which, right now, is not often enough.
-Inside, Nick Gates allowed a TFL, a sack, and 2 pressures. He was beat off the ball by Milton Williams, one of the quicker DTs in the NFL, a few times and it was ugly. Gates biggest weapon, however, is the grit he shows in recovery mode. He plays through the whistle and plays with a lot of desire. That eventually makes a big difference. Gates also made a couple key blocks on bigger NYG gains.
-Mark Glowinski allowed a TFL and Jon Feliciano allowed a sack. Glowinski has looked completely overmatched for a couple straight weeks. I do not think taking him out will be in the cards, but his play has significantly declined. Having that kind of player next to Neal, a rookie who simply does not look ready, makes for some really tough sledding on the right side.
-Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux played another strong game. Ojulari had 2 sacks and 4 tackles. This kid is an all-out hustler, all of the time. I love that about him, and it will create plays for the defense over time. Not all pass rushers keep their foot on the gas if they lose with their first and second moves. Ojulari has that T.J. Watt relentlessness to him that creates production. Thibodeaux did not fare well against the run, but he was disruptive again as a pass rusher. He had 3 pressures, one of which caused a sack, another caused a hold, and he could have been given credit for a half-sack on the one where Jalen Hurts was taken down near the goal line. The PHI tackles are top-notch players who play with tremendous power. Thibodeaux got under their pads and pushed the pocket well and also showed his outside burst. I am seeing more versatility out of his repertoire, and it is good to see him get stronger as the season goes on. Can’t say that for many players on this team.
-Jihad Ward did not play well as an edge setter. He was getting sucked inside by play fakes and his lack of speed/burst got exposed when the ball ended up going outside. He finished with just 1 tackle and did not break through as a pass rusher once.
-Tomon Fox and Oshane Ximines saw about a quarter of the snaps and neither showed up. No impact.
-Last week I spoke about the crazy amount of snaps Dexter Lawrence was seeing. With Leonard Williams out with a neck injury, I was intrigued to see what they were going to do with his workload. He played 72% of the snaps, his second lowest of the year and his lowest since Week 1. With the game out of hand the way it was, it was a good decision. We may see another 90+% day for him next Sunday. He finished with 1 tackle and 1 pressure, as he was doubled almost all afternoon.
-The trio of Ryder Anderson, Henry Mondeaux, and Justin Ellis played a significant number of snaps. Season highs for all three respectively, as a matter of fact. Anderson got off to a rough start, but I liked how he competed. He had 2 tackles and recorded his first career sack. Mondeaux and Ellis both finished with 1 tackle. They were simply overmatched and just could not beat blockers one-on-one. They lack the twitch, especially Ellis, to peel off their man and take out a ball carrier.
-Jaylon Smith tied for team-high 9 tackles, but it was a poor game by the veteran leader of the group. The PHI running game is a beautiful mix of scheme and execution. It is very tough to read and defend. Smith’s greatest weaknesses, anticipation and reaction time, were exposed in a big way. He is too slow to recognize, and the blockers got the angles on him. He was torched in the running game.
-Micah McFadden had 5 tackles and 1 TFL playing under half the snaps. I like the progress he is showing, and he continues to be a weapon between the tackles. Tae Crowder saw some action and missed a tackle and was owned by PHI center Jason Kelce on the Hurts rushing touchdown. Again, simply overmatched.
-The trio of Darnay Holmes, Fabian Moreau, and Nick McCloud got outclassed by the PHI passing game. While it was not a big day in the air because of how much the run game dominated, all three were beat in big moments. McCloud and Holmes were both beat for explosive touchdowns (20+ yards) and Moreau got flagged for illegal use of hands on a third-down stop. Another area where PHI is capable of just owning one-on-one matchups is at receiver. A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith are elite-level route runners. They can sell their double moves as well as anyone and both McCloud and Holmes are known for taking the bait. Those were easy wins in man coverage for PHI. I still think the biggest injury this team has suffered all year is Adoree’ Jackson. On a damn punt return.
One positive I see out of Holmes is the quick recognition of screen passes and underneath route concepts. When he is looking downhill at the action, he is at his best. Add in the aggressive nature and excellent play-strength for his size, he has some safety in him. I’ve thought of this before but never expanded much on it. While it is too late to make this kind of move for 2022, I will be curious to see if NYG or any team that eventually signs him would consider the move.
Cor’Dale Flott is showing quality coverage and foot speed. He is near the action and does not look overmatched in any kind of matchup despite the size shortcomings. That said, he is not forcing many incompletions. He is close, but I want to see him take that extra step toward actually breaking up a pass. There is still that slight hitch in his reaction to routes and it is forcing him just short of being in the right position at the catch point.
-Zyon Gilbert saw just 8 snaps but finished with a sack.
-Really solid efforts and performances from both Julian Love and Jason Pinnock. Because of the inability of the front seven and their run defense, both were given a ton of opportunities to make tackles. They combined for 18 (9 each) and didn’t miss a single one. Love strengthened his case for being considered the best tackling safety in the NFL and Pinnock’s play speed continues to improve. That tells me things are clicking mentally and when you see that with a lack of mistakes, good things are coming. He has put two solid games back-to-back now.
-Tony Jefferson was the third safety again. He made 3 tackles and added a pressure.
-K Graham Gano: 2/2 XP
-P Jamie Gillan: 6 Punts / 40.2 avg – 35.3 net
-EDGE Azeez Ojulari, S Jason Pinnock, WR Richie James
-OT Evan Neal, LB Jaylon Smith, EDGE Jihad Ward
3 THOUGHTS ON PHI
(1) If I am taking one team to make the Super Bowl from the NFC, my answer is without hesitation the Eagles. This roster has been engineered so well by General Manager Howie Roseman, and the coaching staff has the players executing at such an elite level on both sides of the ball. I have seen All-22 tape of PHI 5 or 6 times this year and it is a true joy to watch. This is what top-shelf execution looks like on both sides of the ball. All angles, all situations, their timing and accuracy is precise. That along with the depth and fortunate injury situation has left them in the driver’s seat of this conference.
(2) Are there any lessons learned from how this roster was constructed that NYG can try to apply to their roster rebuild? I have a few. The top one being a dual threat quarterback who was not a first rounder. Remember that in a few months. The next one being a trade for a proven star receiver who became available at the right time. It was a pull-of-the-trigger that I think added the dynamic element to this offense that makes them truly elite, or at least capable of that level. Lastly, they add to their offensive / defensive lines every single year through the draft, free agency, and waivers. The depth they have and the value they’re paying for quality players in the trenches in the best in the NFL. Let’s hope Brandon Brown, the assistant general manager of the Giants from the Roseman tree, will bring in a similar approach and result.
(3) Haason Reddick is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. I mean that. If I had to create a list of the top 4 outside linebackers league wide, he is on it. I really wanted NYG to pursue him prior to signing a 1-year deal with CAR a couple years ago. Who knows where he would be now if they did, but they let him slip through the cracks. The size profile throws some people off but there is a player (maybe 2) in this upcoming draft class that reminds me a lot of Reddick. The size, speed, burst, and ability to move around a bit. This dude has always been a pure edge guy and the off-ball LB experiment did not work and almost pushed him out of the league. Now he is a potential All-Pro. Remember, always take what a guy does well and put him in that position. It is crazy how many NFL coaches do not do that with special talents.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
(1) This game had a certain vibe to it. The same vibe NYG fans have gotten used to seeing in December. Complete domination on both sides of the ball. Getting toyed with by the opponent. A double-digit deficit before your first bathroom break-type vibe. Did we really get fooled that badly? Is NYG back in the cellar already? Injuries have piled up a bit but most of the nucleus to this roster is still out there. They have Barkley, they have their starting quarterback, they have most of their starting lines. And they were outclassed from start to finish. The more things change, the more they stay the same. This is what I and some others meant when we said this team is still far away from real contention.
(2) I have a serious concern with some of the run-game design. I am always hesitant to question play-calling and even more hesitant to question design. There is too much information I do not have access to. But I would love to get an answer why, three or four times, they had Richie James motion to the tight end’s spot behind the line of scrimmage (which brought another PHI defender into the box) and then ran a play right off of his shoulder. James got tossed out of the way like he was a fly, and the PHI defenders were in the backfield within a moment. Every time. And they kept calling this design over and over. It would be one thing if they did it with a receiver that had size (Hodgins?) – but they actually took the smallest player on the field and asked him to be a fullback/tight end hybrid. Watching the designs of these two running games was like watching the Lawrence Taylor getting blocked by a running back. A completely different league.
(3) The upcoming national spotlight game has a unique feel to it. While I am never in the camp where one game means so much more than every other, this match-up is close. They are up against one of the hottest teams in the NFL, on the road. They just played each other two weeks ago and WAS is coming off a bye. They’re getting healthier while NYG is losing more bodies. NYG has won just 1 game since the week before Halloween. Long term question marks surrounding the status of their QB and RB are creeping into more and more conversations because those decisions are right around the corner. They are still in playoff contention but make no mistake, they need to win this game. No excuses. No empathy pain. None of that. Win, or else. Perform, or else.