David Syvertsen

David Syvertsen, aka Sy'56, has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

Nov 122019
 
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Darius Slayton, New York Giants (November 10, 2019)

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets 34 – New York Giants 27

QUICK RECAP

This “battle for New York” had a lot less to do with bragging rights, a lot less to do with potential playoff spots, and more to do with where these two bottom feeders were going to land in the 2020 NFL Draft order. When this game was scheduled, this one had the look of a lot of potential. Two young QBs. The number 2 and number 3 pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, I could go on. But let’s call this for what it really was: a game that had about as much excitement surrounding it as their annual preseason match-up, a game that meant nothing for either team when it came to the 2019 playoffs.

The Giants were without Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram in addition to two starting offensive linemen, Mike Remmers and Jon Halapio. Even with that, they were the “road” favorite against a Jets team that has some of the worst football on tape in the NFL this season. They have a QB who had 10 turnovers in 5 games. They have a head coach who seems in way over his head. They have a depleted secondary and one of the worst group of pass rushers you can find. This was slated to be a win, right? Ha, come on now, these are the 2019 New York Giants you are talking about.

NYJ began the game with a 13-play, 75-yard drive touchdown scoring drive after they converted a 3rd-and-11 and also a 3rd-and-1 via an offsides penalty by Markus Golden. The Giants responded with a 3-and-out on their initial drive, with the last play being a sack allowed by Saquon Barkley (his third of the season) and fumble by Jones that did not end up as a turnover.

The Jets then scored a second touchdown in as many drives, this time making veteran leaders Alec Ogletree and Antoine Bethea appear to be stuck in mud as Jamison Crowder ran right by them and into the end zone. It is a hard sell to convince anyone they were actually stuck in mud however, because well, they were playing on turf and it hadn’t rained in a few days. No, they weren’t stuck in mud, they were simply outclassed. NYJ took a 14-0 lead in the first 13 minutes of the game. NYJ came into this game averaging 12 points PER GAME and ranked dead last in offensive yards. This was the third time in four weeks that NYG allowed two touchdowns in the 1st quarter. To be honest, that is hard to do.

Even though it was still considered early in the game, NYG had a sense of urgency on the next drive. Thanks to poor defensive back play and a couple of NYJ penalties, NYG was able to push the ball and score their first touchdown of the game, a pass from Daniel Jones to Darius Slayton. After a statement-drive on defense, NYG had the ball back at their own 39-yard line. Left tackle Nate Solder left the game with a concussion, making it now the majority of the offensive line on the sidelines. NYG was faced with a 4th-and-4 and this was a turning point in the game. Jones found Slayton on a quick slant where he showed elite-level footwork that actually caused the cornerback to fall similar to what Allen Iverson did to defenders with his crossover in the hardwood. Slayton caught the uncontested pass and then used his 4.4 speed in combination with poor pursuit angles by NYJ to make his way to the end zone for a 39-yard score. A poor snap caused the PAT attempt to turn into punter Riley Dixon chucking it into the end zone, thus the Giants remained down 1.

The half ended on a NYJ missed 54-yard field goal attempt and then Daniel Jones getting sacked on 3rd-and-4 from midfield. It was a back-and-forth half between two bad teams and the margin was a one-point deficit for NYG.

The opening drive of the second half, the drive that many coaches say is the most important of the game, lasted three plays. On 3rd-and-1, Jones was sacked by Jamal Adams at the hands of Barkley yet again but this time Adams stripped the ball and returned it for a touchdown. Another lost fumble for Jones, his league leading 10th of the year. Another allowed sack for Barkley, his fourth of the year which also leads the league for backs.

The Giants were able to take advantage of poor NYJ secondary play yet again, as they turned a wide receiver screen to Golden Tate into a 61-yard score on 3rd-and-9. If we didn’t know any better, it almost appeared both teams were putting in their best effort to lose. That notion was strengthened after the score, as Tate was called for pass interference on the 2-point attempt which forced NYG into going for the extra point. That extra point attempt was missed by Aldrick Rosas, his third miss of the year, a season after he missed just one FIELD GOAL last year.

The NYG offense stayed hot, as they put another touchdown on the board via a 15-yard pitch-and-catch to Tate. The Giants offense was hot and the momentum was clearly on their side. They lengthened their lead to 27-21 on a successful 2-point attempt to Bennie Fowler from Jones. The momentum didn’t last long, however.

The Jets put 3 points on the board on their next drive and forced NYG into a 3-and-out as the battle in the trenches was becoming more and more laughable. The Jets then got to the 1-yard line thanks to a Deandre Baker 33-yard pass interference, his second penalty of the day. Le’Veon Bell powered his way into the end zone and just like that, the lead turned into a 4-point deficit.

The NYG offense continued to sputter, punting the ball back to the 32nd-ranked offense in the league, just to see that 32nd-ranked offense in the league march downfield and put another 3 points on the board. It was 34-27 with just over 7 minutes left. The Giants offense couldn’t even think about being aggressive, as the offensive line completely fell apart and Jones could barely reach the end of his drop back before having to evade pressure. The defense did get the ball back twice via stout run defense but it didn’t matter.

Giants lose, 34-27.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 26/40 – 308 yards – 4 TD/0 INT – 121.7 QBR. Jones added 20 yards on 3 carries. When looking at the passing numbers, one could argue this was the top performance have seen out of Jones this season. He, however, did fumble 2 more times, losing one. The lost fumble resulted in a NYJ defensive score. Jones is hard to truly evaluate right now because the offensive line is so poor and the running game is non-existent. He is making all of the simple throws, and I am not undermining that. He is doing so consistently, rarely does he miss, and I would peg “simple throws” at about 80% of the NFL’s passing plays and there are QBs that struggle with them more than you think. Jones’ toughness on his 3rd-and-10 run and in the pocket against the NYJ physical front 5 stood out. A nice game for him but man, those damn fumbles.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 13 att / 1 yard – 5 rec / 20 yards. That isn’t a typo, by the way. Barkley, the supposed foundation of this offense, the 2018 Draft’s 2nd overall pick, the 2018 Rookie of the Year, accrued 1 yard on 13 carries. He had defenders at his feet the instant he touched the ball on almost every carry, he was hesitant when was able to reach the line of scrimmage, and he couldn’t break any tackles. This running game is a complete mess on every level and they tried to throw the ball in space for him one time. The result? A 22-yard gain. Barkley allowed two more sacks and a pressure. We can now rightfully say he is a liability in pass protection. Just terrible.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton: 10 rec / 121 yards / 2 TD. If there is one bright spot of the 2019 season, it is the Jones-to-Slayton connection. Slayton looked like a complete player out there and it is fun to see his fast-track progression. His route running made a cornerback fall on two occasions and he forced two penalties with his explosion out of his breaks. He also showed strength and presence when attacking the ball with a defender on his back twice. Excellent game from him and he looks like a keeper at this point.

-Golden Tate: 4 rec / 95 yards / 2 TD. The more I see Tate, the more I want him around. I know, easy to say after a 2-touchdown game and there are limitations to his game. But I think it is important to have a guy who can make adjustments and quick decisions on the fly. He knows the game exceptionally well, just a really good situational player who plays and thinks fast. He should never be a number one or even a number two target for a team in the passing game, but if he is your three or four, he can be big time.

TIGHT END

-Rhett Ellison: 3 Rec / 42 yards. A quiet game for Ellison, but he did have a 31-yard reception. I also wanted to note he had a few key blocks that resulted in big plays and/or touchdowns. He is really effective in space as a blocker, but not so much in the trenches.

-Kaden Smith, an UDFA who was signed off the SF practice squad, was on the field for 41 snaps to help with the blocking, but he didn’t perform well there. He allowed a TFL and a pressure. Smith graded out as one of the top run blocking TEs in the draft last year and it goes to show the jump in levels it takes to handle NFL defenders from college kids.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-I want to start with the undrafted right tackle Nick Gates, who was in for the injured Mike Remmers. If you have been reading my reports, you know that I have been down on Remmers and don’t think he belongs on the field as a starter even on a bad team. Gates, grade wise, wasn’t any worse. He is notably more athletic with more twitch and initial pop. He did allow a sack and a pressure and got pushed around as a bit in the running game, but it wasn’t anything different that what we have seen from Remmers. Let the kid play there the rest of the season.

-Nate Solder went down early with a concussion. He was replaced with Eric Smith, formerly of the Jets practice squad. He never played a snap at left tackle in practice. Smith has been here since early September and he entered the game as the backup left tackle. I repeat, this coaching staff hasn’t given him one snap at the position in any of the practices. Not one. And he was in charge of protecting the blind side of their rookie QB. Smith allowed 3 sacks, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure. Awful game and yes, he is worse than Solder.

-Inside was a mess too. Spencer Pulley, who Pat Shurmur has called a “starting center in this league” multiple times over the past two years, played awful. If there was one culprit for Barkley gaining 1 yard in this game, it was Pulley. I had a hard time believing what I was seeing when it came to how hard it was for him to maintain blocks. He allowed a TFL, a pressure, and a sack. He also forced Barkley into changing his direction in the backfield upon getting the ball multiple times. He doesn’t belong in the league.

-Guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler, the two best lineman on this team, didn’t have their best games. Hernandez is not progressing. He hasn’t gotten any better from his rookie season. He allowed 2 TFL and had a sack wiped off his stat sheet because of a questionable Jets holding call in the secondary. Zeitler was the only player on this line who was above average grade wise, but even he wasn’t getting a push in the running game. Too much give.

EDGE

-Solid game for Markus Golden besides his bonehead offsides penalty and one missed tackle. He finished with 4 tackles / 2 TFL / 1 sack / 2 pressures. This has been another bright spot considering what they got him for contract wise. But every sack he gets will make him more expensive to bring back.

-Youngsters Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines were quiet, finishing with a combined 6 tackles but also 1 pressure and 0 plays behind the line of scrimmage. Ximines has made a few mental mistakes against the run this year but he was more disciplined and active this week.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Dalvin Tomlinson seems to have more urgency and desire in his play. Maybe the Leonard Williams trade put him on notice that if he wants a long term deal from this team, he better step up. Step up he did. Tomlinson led the team with 9 tackles while adding a sack. He was all over the field, making hustle plays downfield while also being stout in short-yardage situations. This may have been the best game of his three-year career.

-Speaking of Williams, he was really disruptive. He had 3 tackles, and 5 pressures. That is the most pressures of any NYG defender in one game over the past 3 years. Now, some can say that is a good thing but a pro personnel scout I talk to on a regular basis sent me this text after the game, “Always finds a way to get there, never finds a way to finish. Been a step too slow since day one.” He is going to be a tough guy to figure out over these next 2 months because the narrative is that he oozes talent, but doesn’t seal the deal. We saw more of that in this one.

-Dexter Lawrence can be a maddening player at times. He is definitely making an impact beyond the naked eye and we are seeing more pass rush from him than anyone thought he could bring to the table, but I saw him in a couple different key short-yardage moments just get drilled off the ball. I am hoping he shows more consistency over the second half.

LINEBACKER

-Alec Ogletree had 7 tackles and a pass break up. He really looks thick and choppy out there. I’m not sure if he’s still hurt or his athletic days are simply behind him. The lack of speed and agility at LB has hurt this team more times than I can count. The game is changing and these inside guys just can’t hack it anymore. Davis Mayo added 4 tackles but remains an issue on filling lanes and reaching sidelines.

CORNERBACK

-Deandre Baker’s up-and-down, but more down, season continues. He was flagged twice, one of which was a 33-yard pass interference that put NYJ on the 1-yard line. He had a few plays where he was sticky in coverage, but I was most annoyed on a big play where he showed no urgency in pursuing the soon-to-be 32-year old Demaryius Thomas after the catch. It resulted in a big play and it was inexcusable from a kid whot has hurt this team more than helped.

-Janoris Jenkins quietly had a really good cover game and added 4 tackles.

-Good to see Sam Beal and Corey Ballentine out there. Beal only got in for 10 plays but it was the first time we’ve seen him since NYG took him in the Supplemental Draft two summers ago. Ballentine was targeted early on third down and even though the quicker slot matchups aren’t ideal for him, he didn’t allow a lot of separation and I liked how fast he reacted to the ball once in the air and after the catch.

SAFETY

-Jabrill Peppers is looking better and better each week. There may not be a guy on this team who competes as hard as him play to play, week to week. He finished with 6 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PD, and 2 pressures. He has been a terror when they use him downhill and if this defense can get another 1 or 2 guys like him at LB, the difference would be enormous overall.

-Antoine Bethea finished with 5 tackles and a pass breakup. He also missed 2 tackles, he leads the team in that category, and was outclassed on the Crowder touchdown athletically. I just don’t see a guy with enough reaction speed and I think the game is simply too fast for him.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: No FG attempts. Rosas missed an extra point and is now 19/22 on the year. He is one of 3 kickers in the league with 3 missed extra point attempts.

-P Riley Dixon: 6 Punts / 53.5 avg / 45.5 net

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, WR Darius Slayton, S Jabrill Peppers

3 DUDS

-OC Spencer Pulley, OT Eric Smith, CB Deandre Baker

3 THOUGHTS ON NYJ

  1. I’ve seen a lot of Jets football in recent years because of the fact they are a local team and a lot of my cross-scouting coincidentally has had me get their game tapes as well. They, as of right now, are so close to the situation that NYG is in that it is almost scary. Young QB on a rookie deal. A piss-poor offensive line. Average at best pass catchers. A really good running back who can’t display even 50% of his potential. Minimal pass rush with no real difference maker there. A do-it-all safety. A young TE who has a high ceiling but has a hard time staying on field. A coach who is hard to trust. Tons of money to spend but a lack of assurance that it will be economically spent. All that and I bet these two will be picking near each other in the draft and will be targeting the same guys.
  1. The Sam Darnold vs. Saquon Barkley debate will be there for as long as those two are in the league. Giants nation was split down the middle whether or not they should take Darnold, widely considered the top QB of the 2018 class and he was available. Well here we are about a year and a half into Darnold’s career and we can agree that he has not been good. Sure, he had a solid stretch in December in no-pressure situations but he has started 19 games and has 27 turnovers. Not much more needs to be said because if he keeps that up he won’t be a starter a few years from now.
  1. I am intrigued to see what General Manager Joe Douglas does this offseason when it comes to building their roster from a pro personnel perspective. It was confirmed that, if he was going to trade star safety Jamal Adams, that DAL was going to have to give one of their top OL Zack Martin or Tyron Smith in return. I liked hearing that, as I still believe no matter what that a team absolutely has to avoid poor offensive line play and it needs to be priority A if the group ever falters. They are going to buy a free agent or two in the offseason, no question. And I think that is the best possible approach.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. You know when your own wife, who doesn’t know too much about the details of the game, makes a comment about the QB never making passes on the move unless he is scrambling for his life, that the offense may be too predictable and easy to defend. Jones has proven to be an athletic threat and he has proven he can throw on the move. Why, with this offensive line, do you constantly have Jones sitting in the pocket? It doesn’t work. And while we’re at it, why aren’t you making every effort to give Barkley the ball in space? Traffic runs aren’t working with this offense. Stubborn and lack of innovation and adjustments.
  1. The question with this defensive line is, is there enough room to keep both Tomlinson and Williams long term? Williams will likely demand a much bigger contract because even though the stats aren’t overly impressive, the analytics crowd likes him and they are becoming more and more prominent within personnel circles. I think Tomlinson has value though. I know it is easy to say after what may have been the best game of his career, but there is a lot he can do within different schemes. He is a professional. Works hard, always tries to get better. We want more guys like this around. If I had to choose one because of economics, I am going with Tomlinson.
  1. Would it make sense at some point to shut Barkley down for the rest of the year? He limps off the field every week since he has been back from the ankle injury, he now has a bum shoulder, and it looks like this situation is actually making him a worse running back? I’m not opposed to it if we see more of the same the for another 2-3 weeks.
Nov 072019
 
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Cody Latimer, New York Giants (November 4, 2019)

Cody Latimer – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 37 – New York Giants 18

QUICK RECAP

A national primetime game against a division rival. Throwback all-white uniforms. A new defensive weapon acquired via trade. This was a game that generated at least some excitement in the middle of yet another failure of a season. It was hard to look past the fact this team had lost 5 in a row to Dallas and 11 of their past 15 NFC East match-ups, though. Even in the unfamiliar blue uniforms, the Cowboys entered this one as a 7-point road favorite with little fear of a broken NYG squad.

The night started off in favor of NYG, as Dak Prescott threw an interception directly to safety Antoine Bethea, his first since 2017, on the very first play of the game. The Giants began their initial offensive drive inside the DAL 8-yard line but could only muster 3 points. Essentially they were starting this game over with the Giants getting a 3-point head start. DAL quickly tied the game back up after an 11-play drive that saw chunk gains from Ezekiel Elliott and the 37-year old Jason Witten. The same Jason Witten who has been torching NYG for what seems to be fifty years. The same Jason Witten who was a Monday Night Football color analyst at this time a year ago.

After a NYG three-and-out, DAL took the ball back into NYG territory and lined up kicker Brett Maher for a 54-yard field goal attempt. The wind pushed it wide left and NYG began their drive at their own 44-yard line. Two key plays that brought NYG down inside the DAL 5-yard line were a 16-yard run by Daniel Jones and a 17-yard pass to Golden Tate that converted a 3rd-and-14 situation. It took them three plays to get the one yard needed for a score, but a Jones-to-Cody Latimer pass put NYG back in the lead. Aldrick Rosas missed the extra point, thus the score was 9-3.

The momentum stayed on the NYG side, as receiver Randall Cobb had the ball jarred loose by a violent Jabrill Peppers hit and Bethea came up with his second turnover of the game. The next drive injected more and more juice into the stadium. Tate gained 16 yards on a reverse aided by a lead block by Jones, who got lit up on the play but he contributed to the yards and there is something about toughness that gets everyone excited. Evan Engram then exploded for 15-yard gain after a short pass. A black cat then ran onto the field and caused a delay. It was about a minute or two and it created the thought that maybe this would be one of those good-luck turning points. NYG would go onto win out, get to 10-6, and into the postseason because of this black cat. That idea rapidly disappeared as Saquon Barkley had a likely big-run stopped by his own center Jon Halapio, who for some unknown reason was just standing there not blocking anybody. The two collided and went down. It was Halapio’s best hit of the season. NYG got inside the DAL 10-yard line but couldn’t punch it in, relying on 3 points again off the foot of Rosas.

The score was 12-3, but the missed opportunities created an aura of pessimism. And with that, Prescott connected with tight end Blake Jarwin for a short gain that he turned into 42-yard touchdown. This is the same Blake Jarwin who scored 3 touchdowns against NYG last December and the same Blake Jarwin who scored a touchdown against NYG week 1. He has 6 career touchdowns in his 3-year career, 5 of which are against NYG.

Momentum was slipping through the fingers of NYG and they shot themselves in the foot on the next drive with under a minute left. A drop by Darius Slayton and an interception by Jones gave the ball back to DAL. They were able to get 3 more points on the scoreboard and entered the half with a 13-12 lead.

Latimer opened the half with a kick return that gave NYG starting field position at midfield. Penalties and a sack killed any hope of starting the second half with a score, but they forced a three-and-out when DAL got the ball. The offense didn’t take advantage of it though. I talked about Daniel Jones massive fumble issue during preseason and the only thing I can say about it now is that the issue is nearing catastrophic levels. On a 3rd-and-6, Jones scrambled up the middle and had the ball jarred loose as he approached the first down marker. The fumble was recovered by safety Darian Thompson, former NYG 3rd-round pick. This was Jones’ 7th fumble of the year, tied for the league lead.

DAL turned that into 3 more points, which put their lead at 16-12. Latimer once again had a big return that brought NYG to midfield. Overall, this was the best starting field position the team has had all year from a game-perspective. However, once again, NYG was only able to create 3 points out of it despite getting inside DAL 10-yard line.

The fourth quarter began with a DAL touchdown-scoring drive. Prescott found Michael Gallup near the sideline and the explosive 2nd-year pro made Janoris Jenkins miss, as Jenkins did on the Jarwin touchdown as well, and acrobatically made his way into the end zone. 23-15 DAL at this point.

Saquon Barkley, who was quiet for most of the game, brought NYG all the way to the DAL 11-yard line with a fresh set of downs. However, three straight incomplete passes and no looks to Barkley led to, you guessed it, another field goal by Rosas. NYG was down 5 and a stop on the ensuing drive was near-mandatory. However, a shaky-at-best pass interference call on Deandre Baker on a 3rd-down incompletion kept the drive alive. Six plays later, Baker or Bethea blew his coverage assignment, leaving the DAL number one receiver Amari Cooper wide open across the middle for a big gain and touchdown. NYG was now down 12 with under 8 minutes left and most hope had left the stadium.

NYG put together one more drive with time dwindling and the DAL defense in a prevent, half-effort approach. It would have made those who bet the +7 line happy at least to see NYG get a cheap touchdown but they couldn’t even do that. From the DAL 24-yard line, Jones was sacked and had the ball knocked loose. Jourdan Lewis scooped it up and returned it for a 63-yard touchdown. Jones left the night as the lone leader in the NFL with 8 fumbles.

NYG loses, 37-18.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 26/41 – 210 yards – 1 TD / 1 INT – 74.2 QBR. Jones also added a team-high 54 yards on the ground via 6 carries. Jones lost 2 fumbles, one of which was on a passing attempt, and threw an interception. It can be debated that that interception wasn’t solely on Jones, but at the end of the day he didn’t put it where it needed to be. Jones’ fumbles are going to lose games for this franchise if he doesn’t clean it up. While it may not be a big deal right now because expectations are so low, that can be a game changer and a season changer by itself. The guy who holds the ball the most can’t be giving it away like he is right now. His toughness and athletic ability did impress and he continues to show an even-keel approach, but those fumbles will end it for him and this team if it stays this way. Clean it up.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 14 att / 28 yards – 6 rec / 67 yards. Don’t mistake the receiving line for anything impressive, one of those catches went for 65 yards. So his other 5 catches accrued 2 yards. That is actually hard to do if you think about it. As one of the biggest Barkley supporters during the 2018 draft, I will say this: Barkley is running soft and scared. Is it the fear of injury? Is it the offensive line? Is it being used to not getting to the line without defenders in his face? Or worse, is it him wanting to make it to his Zeke-contract, AKA avoid injury at all costs? I will give him credit for better blocking this week, much better, and the 65-yard gain was what this kid can do every time he touches the ball. But I want to see more grit in his game. Show it to me, kid. You haven’t accomplished that much yet.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate: 6 rec / 42 yards – 1 rush / 16 yards. Tate caught all 6 of his targets, one of which was an incredible catch that he almost got into the end zone. I like how this guy competes and I can see why past fan bases of the teams he played on loved and hated him. Tate is who he is: a really good complimentary player but will never be THE guy. If anything, he may be best suited for the #3/#4 option on a good offense.

-Cody Latimer made a big impact and had this team scored on just a couple more touchdowns of their multiple redzone opportunities, we may be talking about him more. He caught the lone NYG touchdown and returned two kicks to midfield. His separation as a route runner has been minimal but I do think there are things you can do with him. There is a ton of straight line athletic ability and he has proven he can make the tough catch.

-Really poor night for the rookie Darius Slayton. He dropped a pass, allowed a TFL, and tracked the ball really poorly on the Jones interception. He could have been where the ball landed but he was late to turn and didn’t control his body well enough.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 6 rec / 48 yards. Engram has regressed as a blocker. DAL has given him issues a few times in his young career, in particular DeMarcus Lawrence, but some of the tackles he allows are unacceptable. On a run to the opposite side, Engram’s man is coming across his face and still making the play. That isn’t a difficult assignment. Maybe TE should be elevated on the NYG needs list and Engram needs to be a wide receiver who, every now and then, starts the play on the line. Year 3 and he still stinks in there, that won’t change.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Mike Remmers continues to show he can’t play right tackle in the NFL for a team that wants to compete. He allowed 2 sacks and 2 pressures. His run blocking received a below average grade and that adds up to, if you want to call it that, his second-worst grade of the year. He is regressing. Nate Solder actually had a decent game. He did allow a sack-fumble at the end, and he did allow a pressure, but he kept the blind side relatively quiet, in particular on the deep attempts.

-Will Hernandez spent most of the night fighting the entire DAL defense. He relishes the role of personal protector and bodyguard, which is fine. It seemed to get a little over the top and I would much rather see him not allow a TFL and sack against an interior DAL defensive line that is average at best. Kevin Zeitler also allowed a sack late in the game, although he was solid otherwise.

-Center Jon Halapio didn’t get any push against a defensive line that is known for being undersized. I’m not sure why he continues to get the nod even though I am not a fan of Spencer Pulley either. He just looks slow. DAL sent a couple long-developing stunts and blitzes right up the middle and he barely even acknowledged them. His reaction time isn’t good enough. I can’t imagine this OL going into 2020 with him on the roster.

EDGE

-Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden both had 1 TFL and 1 pressure each. Neither were able to come up big on 3rd down, which is always the time I am looking for them to step up. In fact, Golden got called for offsides on a 3rd-and-7 that moved DAL up 5 yards which they converted. Carter was rangy against the run but he was far from stout. He and rookie Oshane Ximines were getting blown off the ball and easily moved, creating some of the massive running lanes Elliott was running through.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-In his first game with NYG, Leonard Williams not only got the start but was also on the field more than both B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson. He had 3 tackles and 2 pressures, including a solid hit on Prescott that was just after he threw the ball. He didn’t do much to standout and he did get washed out a couple times on big Elliott gains. The one thing I see with him that the others don’t have is the ability to create on his own. Williams can bend, run, turn, and burst better than any of the other down linemen. I can see the attraction in him. Time will tell if he can turn it into consistent production.

-B.J. Hill appears to be the odd man out when it comes to playing time. He was on the field for about a quarter of the plays. Interesting to see but I think it has more to do with his position more so than his performance. Dalvin Tomlinson was in at the nose and they have repeatedly said that is a spot they just don’t want to see Hill play.

-Dexter Lawrence already looks to be the leader of the defensive line. From a performance and emotional standpoint, he is rising and rising as the year goes. He had 2 tackles and a QB hit. I re-watched him specifically to see if he was a culprit for Elliott running wild and he played just fine, it had more to do with the linebackers (again) and inconsistent play from Tomlinson.

LINEBACKER

Alec Ogletree continues to be one of the most inconsistent players on this defense. He had 6 tackles and 1 missed attempt. But his play in coverage was tight and slow, as was David Mayo. These guys are attacked on 3rd down and neither are showing the ability to cover laterally. It is pretty easy to exploit and when a good offense needs to make something happen, they are easy targets.

-Deone Buccanon saw his playing time uptick a bit from last week, but he didn’t make much of an impact. Just one tackle and he allowed 2 receptions.

CORNERBACK

-Janoris Jenkins will take heat for the missed tackles and he should, but lets not act surprised here. His tackling has been a weak point since the day he signed with NYG. In addition, I don’t know many corners who would have been able to tackle Jarwin on that touchdown.

-Deandre Baker had a pretty typical night for a rookie. He was picked on early because of how much cushion he gave on the quick slant routes, then made a couple plays on the ball where his ball tracking and aggressiveness were on point, and then was beat deep and both mentally and physically when the game was on the line. More of the same with Baker, a kid who is trying to learn on the fly. It is easy to tell there are mental lapses that are inhibiting his physical ability.

-Corey Ballentine got the snaps at nickel and he moved really well. I like the speed he brings to the table and he has more size than Grant Haley. One of the things we can really keep an eye on in the next seven weeks is how well he can keep it together and improve, as it could cross off a need for the 2020 offseason.

SAFETY

-A quick look at the box score and one will think Antoine Bethea had a good game. Interception / fumble recovery / 9 tackles. Well, the interception was (literally) thrown right at him because Prescott didn’t know he was there, fumble recoveries are often luck-based, and the tackles don’t include his 2 misses and poor angles.

-Jabrill Peppers was a stud in this one. The up-and-down player had 12 tackles, a pass breakup, and a forced fumble. I’ll say this about Peppers, his versatility and value is overlooked because of how bad this team is. He brings a lot to the table and if this team were better elsewhere, I think many would be pointing to how much he impacts the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 4/4 (Made 21, 25, 26, 29). Rosas also missed an extra point, his second of the year.

-P Riley Dixon: 3 Punts – 47.3 avg / 39.3 net

-Cody Latimer returned 6 kicks for 181 yards

3 STUDS

-S Jabrill Peppers, WR Cody Latimer, WR Golden Tate

3 DUDS

-OT Mike Remmers, WR Darius Slayton, LB David Mayo

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

  1. It’s hard not to admire what Ezekiel Elliott brings to the table. I don’t love who he is off the field but this guy balls as well as anyone in the league. He is so dependable as a runner with the way he runs with a forward lean, falls forward, and breaks through initial contact. But what I admire most about him is how dominant he is as a blocker and how consistent he is as a pass catcher. Barkley could learn a thing or seven from really studying his game.
  1. One assistant coach in the league who doesn’t get enough publicity in regard to future head coaching gigs is the DAL assistant defensive coordinator, Kris Richard. He was on the SEA staff when they were dominating the NFC and he has the kind of persona that really gets to the players and brings out the best. All of this talk about offense and getting a fresh voice for Daniel Jones can make you overlook a guy like Richard, someone who I think can be the next Mike Tomlin.
  1. How far can DAL go? Are they in the class of the NFC discussion? Other than PHI, they haven’t beat anyone good. Their other wins are against WAS and MIA, with losses to playoff contenders NO and GB. I think they are a playoff team, but I don’t trust them against a legit opponent. I still question their pass rush and Prescott still needs to prove himself in the biggest moments.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. I don’t want to talk down on Barkley. As most of you know, I was the first and biggest supporter of drafting him early back in 2018. But I have to say the poor offensive line, the ankle injury, and his desire to score a touchdown every play is making his game a lot worse than what we saw last year. He can’t control the injury and the line, but he does need to improve his own performance. He is playing soft. There is no denying it. That can’t happen.
  1. Speaking of Barkley, how come NYG is the only team with a dynamic back like this that can’t seem to get him the ball in space? Go watch CAR, LAR, NO, MIN…and see how they get their dynamic backs the ball in several different spots on the field to maximize their talents. Barkley is at his best when there is plenty of green around him, yet the vast majority, borderline all touches, are either runs between the tackles and little dump offs/screens. Why not triangle route concepts? Why not up the seam? Why not slants from the slot? Maybe the situations make it tough, but Pat Shurmur you are an offensive-minded head coach being paid millions of dollars. Figure it out.
  1. Evan Engram is injured again. There is no denying the talent and upside he brings to the table and there are things he can do that no other tight end can. But at what point do you say he doesn’t fit the offense because of his poor blocking? At what point do you say now is the time to trade him and get back real value? He can be had at a very reasonable price because he won’t be an unrestricted free agent until 2022. Some team that runs a different offense could get a lot out of him for 2 years. I don’t like shipping out real talent like this, but guys, he hurts this offense as much as he helps it and now he can’t stay healthy? Something to ponder.
Oct 282019
 
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Darius Slayton, New York Giants (October 27, 2019)

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions 31 – New York Giants 26

QUICK RECAP

With the signs becoming more and more clear that the Giants 2019 season is a one-way street to the cellar yet again, Big Blue traveled to middle-of-the-pack Detroit just days after the Lions traded away their second best defensive back while also missing their top defensive back and starting running back. After an embarrassing loss at home against the Cardinals, NYG had to set the tone early and prove they were past it. Prove they are better than they were in 2018. Prove they are on the way up. All of that against a 2-3-1 team.

The Giants got the initial momentum with a Janoris Jenkins’ interception, his fourth of the year, from the volatile Matthew Stafford. However, as we have grown accustomed to, NYG turned it over just three plays later. The league-leader in turnovers, NYG has made this a habit we are all too familiar with. Jones was hit by an untouched blitzer who came directly up the middle, a major no-no for offensive line play, and the ball traveled backward out of his hand even though he was in a clear throwing position. Saquon Barkley didn’t seem to match the urgency going after the loose ball that former Giant Devon Kennard had. The result was a scoop-and-score for DET as the home team went up 7-0 early.

After a NYG 3-and-out, DET got the ball back and on a 3rd-and-15 from midfield, Stafford went deep to emerging big play threat Marvin Hall for a 49-yard touchdown as he got behind safety Michael Thomas. And just like that, NYG was losing by double digits in the first half for the fourth straight week and 7th time in 8 weeks.

As Daniel Jones has already proven multiple times, he was able to get this team back on track and stay unrattled. They opened the second quarter with a touchdown scoring drive, capped by a Jones-to-Darius Slayton pass. DET kicker Matt Prater missed a 53-yard attempt on the ensuing drive, giving NYG prime field position, and Jones once again connected with Slayton for the second score in as many drives. Kicker Aldrick Rosas missed the extra point, however, making the score 14-13 DET, but the momentum had clearly shifted.

The refs clearly hurt NYG with a poor call on the next drive. They forced a DET punt but David Mayo was flagged for running into the kicker. By running into the kicker, they actually meant he grazed the punter’s shoelace and thanks to an NBA-caliber flop job, the flag was thrown and DET had the ball back with a fresh set of downs at midfield. DET was able to move the ball up enough to give Prater another shot, this time from 52 yards, which he made to give DET a 17-13 halftime lead.

DET came out and scored on their opening drive in the second half. It was a 10-play drive that ended with a pass from Stafford to Kenny Golladay, one of the emerging young stars in the league. NYG was down 24-13 and if they were going to prove they had some fight, it had to be on this drive. NYG was aided by two DET penalties, one of which was on a failed 3rd-down conversion attempt that led to a Jones-to-Engram 2-yard pass for 6. With a 3-and-out forced on the next DET drive, NYG had their first real shot at taking the lead as the third quarter was closing out.

On 1st-and-10 from midfield, Jones hit Golden Tate for a 14-yard gain on a flea flicker. NYG was starting to step on the throat of DET, but the play was called back as Nate Solder, the second highest paid offensive tackle in football, was flagged for a hold. Instead of 1st-and-10 from the DET 38, it was 1st-and-20 from the NYG 38. The Giants punted three plays later.

DET took their shot at their own flea flicker/double pass-type trick play; they were able to convert it into a 41-yard touchdown. No holding on the left tackle, either. DET took a commanding 31-19 lead but there were still 12 minutes left in the game.

After a back-and-forth drive that included two sacks allowed by the second highest paid offensive tackle in football, NYG did cross into DET territory and were faced with a 4th-and-6 situation. Being down 12, they had to go for it because a long field goal would have still kept it a 2-score game. Jones was bombarded by a 7-man pass rush and threw an incomplete pass to Tate.

The defense remained stout as DET had issues getting a first down to keep the clock moving, but the Giants kept coming up short when it mattered most. Jones took two straight shots into the end zone to his man Slayton, neither of which was converted. Slayton was interfered with on the first attempt and even though the pass interference challenges almost never work, I thought it was puzzling why Pat Shurmur didn’t throw the red flag. That was a crucial play and not using the challenge was a poor decision.

NYG did get the ball back one more time, and thanks to a 25-yard pass interference penalty, they were able to get into the red zone. Jones connected with Barkley for a 4-yard touchdown, Jones’ fourth of the day. NYG got to within 5 but a failed onside-kick attempt led to a couple Stafford kneel-downs.

NYG lose 31-26.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 28/41 – 322 yards – 4 TD / 0 INT – 124.2 QBR. Jones also added 13 yards on the ground. He fumbled the ball twice, both on hits that occurred as he was throwing, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Jones has ball security issues to clean up but neither of these fumbles can be put on him, as they weren’t an issue of holding onto the ball during and after contact. Jones kept NYG in this one with several throws into tight windows. His confidence is growing every week and he is proving to be a guy who plays with no fear. He dealt with a dirty pocket most of the game and after seeing someone like Sam Darnold completely alter his approach because of pressure, it is an encouraging sign to see Jones playing with toughness in the face of adversity so often.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 19 att / 64 yards – 8 rec / 79 yards / 1 TD. Barkley was just an inch away from breaking off a big play on two occasions. Even with that, Barkley gained 143 yards from scrimmage, which is above his career average. Looking at the numbers, it was a productive day. However after re-watching the game, I came away saying Barkley left some out on the field. His blocking was atrocious on two straight plays where he allowed a pressure and then a sack. There seems to be a lot of hesitation in his game right now, perhaps he isn’t fully mentally back from the ankle injury. He gets a pass because he did gut out some tough runs in the second half but as the guy this team is going to build around, he needs to, at least, make more impact without the ball as a blocker.

-Wayne Gallman, on the other hand, quietly had a solid game in limited snaps. He had a 20-yard run on a 3rd-and-26 play that put NYG in position to convert a 4th own late (which they failed). But his biggest impact came as a blocker. He really stuck his nose in there on a couple of occasions that enabled big gains.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate: 8 rec / 85 yards. Really gutsy performance by Tate. He has turned into quite the 3rd-down weapon for Jones. He is playing tough and hard nosed as he approaches the ball and after the catch.

-It looked like it would be a big day for rookie Darius Slayton, as he caught 2 touchdowns in the second quarter on consecutive drives. Both catches were great adjustments to the ball with a corner draped all over him. Those ended up being his only 2 catches of the day, however, and he dropped an easy catch later on. Slayton also allowed a TFL and did not block well overall.

-Cody Latimer had 2 rec / 28 yards and Bennie Fowler brought in 2 rec / 21 yards. Latimer is a guy I wish got more looks because it seems he can make big-time catches in traffic when given the opportunity. He had a really nice one-handed catch in this one. Fowler was flagged for an offensive pass interference but also came up with a clutch catch.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 4 rec / 40 yards / 1 TD. Not a bad day for the inconsistent, but high-ceiling Engram. He continues to flash the elite ability we know he has on all fronts as a pass catcher. Quickness, explosion after the catch, route running…etc. However his blocking received a really poor grade in this one. Many will point to the middle of the offensive line when trying to figure out why NYG had so much trouble inside, but the Engram had a really hard time sealing the edge. He allowed a TFL, and on a few occasions got squeezed to the middle which gave Barkley no wiggle room when the lanes were clogged. Really poor day in the trenches for him.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The ugly gets uglier for Nate Solder. He completely fell apart in the second half and it had a major impact on this team’s comeback effort. It is now at the point where this offense may need to alter its approach and shift constant help in his direction. He allowed 2 sacks and 1 pressure and was flagged for a big holding penalty. His balance and footwork are very poor right now and good pass rushers eat that up with ease.

-Mike Remmers graded out average, which is better than what we have seen lately. He allowed 1 pressure but had a couple of key blocks in the running game.

-The interior got pushed around all game, as NYG just couldn’t get the inside running game going. They also were schooled by delayed inside blitzes. You are NEVER supposed to see an untouched linebacker up the middle on passing plays and it happened multiple times. Jon Halapio allowed a pressure and a TFL. In addition, any communication issues need to come back to him. Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez were good in pass protection for the most part, but they got minimal-to-no push in the running game.

EDGE

-Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden both registered a sack and two TFLs, respectively. They combined for 9 tackles and both are emerging as consistent, reliable, yet limited threats. Golden has a lot of “gamer” in him, finding the ball often and making impact on contact. Carter is still very much a work in progress that gets stifled and rendered ineffective too easily, too often, but his talent is making things happen on occasion nearly every week.

-Really quiet day for Oshane Ximines, who has been struggling these past 2 weeks. We have known this for awhile – the lack of power and strength is an issue and this offseason will be huge for him.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Overall the trio of B.J. Hill, Dexter Lawrence, and Dalvin Tomlinson held the point-of-attack well. They were up against a group of backup running backs as DET tries to get past the injury of Kerryon Johnson. Tomlinson was the highlight of the group, finishing with 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 TFLs. The interior of the DET offensive line has struggled this year but their center, Frank Ragnow, is a quality player. Tomlinson schooled him with quickness and effective arm-over techniques a few times.

LINEBACKER

-Alec Ogletree had 5 tackles and made solid physical impact on a few occasions. Most importantly, he played 100% of the snaps and the play of the front seven was better because of it. A healthy Ogletree may be limited in some fashion still, but I think we got a reminder just how much better he is than the replacement players we had behind him.

-The debut of the newly-signed Deone Buccanon was lackluster. He was on the field for just 11 plays and he finished with a tackle and a missed tackle.

CORNERBACK

-Janoris Jenkins brought in his NFC-leading 4th interception of the season on the opening DET drive. The Lions avoided him much of the day afterwards, and it led to a really quiet day by Marvin Jones.

-Deandre Baker continues to impress, which is obviously stemming from an increase in confidence which is making him faster and more balanced. He was tested deep a couple of times and he stayed right on his man. While he did allow a touchdown to Kenny Golladay, he actually got a hand on that ball and I can’t fault him for it. He had really tight coverage on the route. Baker finished with a team-high 8 tackles.

-Grant Haley, a week after he made the “stud” list, was up and down in this one. He was picked on early as DET targeted him multiple times on third down and succeeded. He did remain active though and made a couple of nice tackles in space. Haley also had a sack.

SAFETY

-The big passing day for Stafford was largely a result of all three safeties getting torched downfield. All three were responsible for long touchdowns and all three had missed tackles on the day. Poor game for Antoine Bethea, Jabrill Peppers, and Michael Thomas. The one positive was a forced fumble by Peppers and recovered by Bethea, however. So those two did save face to an extent.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: No FG attempts. Missed 1 out of 4 extra point attempts.

-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 45.0 avg / 43.7 net

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, CB Janoris Jenkins

3 DUDS

-OT Nate Solder, OC Jon Halapio, S Antoine Bethea

3 THOUGHTS ON DET

  1. During the game and during the re-watch I came away with the same thought on DET receiver Kenny Golladay. This kid is heading towards superstardom. At 6’4+ / 220+ with good speed and ball skills that are approach the elite level, he may be the next uncoverable target in the Mike Evans mold. He came from a lower level of college football, thus it took some extra time to initially develop but he is in the midst of becoming the league’s next big thing.
  1. There is often debate with Pro Football Focus and their grading system. For the most part, fans use their grades as proof when it supports their opinion and they think it is useless when it goes against their opinion. I lean towards the latter, as there is too much missing information when they grade players. I do use them for snap counts and other objective information, though. I bring this up because they have been very hard on DET linebacker Jarrad Davis. I have seen DET 4 times this year and I think he is a top 10 ILB in this league, at worst. He was a wrecking crew in this game on multiple fronts.
  1. How close is DET to contention? They have the QB. They have the CB. They have an above average OL. They have a balanced and deep pass rushing attack. They have a budding superstar at WR. There are a lot of pieces in place but I think they need more dependability at running back which has been a sore spot for years (yes RBs are important) and another piece or 2 along the interior of the offensive line.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. The trade winds are in full force now. NYG is 2-6 and all but out of this divisional race. As I type this, NYG is acquiring DT Leonard Williams for an 8-week rental to see if he fits the system and is worthy of being signed to a long-term deal. If not, they will get a compensatory pick back for him in 2021, which somewhat offsets the early 3rd they are sending to NYJ and a day three pick in 2021. Next up? I think a team will come in and offer a 3rd-round pick for Janoris Jenkins, leaving NYG with the same volume of picks they entered the week with.
  1. Of all the scouting I do weekly, and knowing I watch 8-9 NFL games each week, there is something I am beginning to notice with Saquon Barkley. He tries really hard to avoid contact and there are times that I think he does this too much. He isn’t a soft player, although it looks like the fear of injury combined with the desire for the big play, hurts his inside running at times. Rarely do you see him shoot out of a cannon and make a quick decision to drive himself into a hole and gain the extra yard or two. He doesn’t fall forward like Ezekiel Elliot does and I think it holds this offense back a tad.
  1. What to do at left tackle? I disagree with the notion that Nate Solder may be traded. I can’t see it happening because he stinks and he is really expensive. How many teams would he actually help ? Not many, especially not the teams that are winning and aiming for a playoff spot. I’m not opposed to making a change and giving one of their young guys a shot. Both Chad Slade and Nick Gates did impress during preseason and while I know they may be slight drop offs from Solder’s current level of play, it wouldn’t be much. And then there is the possibility they could actually be better, don’t forget that.
Oct 212019
 
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Michael Thomas, New York Giants (October 20, 2019)

Michael Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals 27 – New York Giants 21

QUICK RECAP

Coming off of extra rest, coming back home, up against a rookie quarterback without his best skill position player behind him, up against a rookie head coach, up against a west coast team on a cool and rainy day. All of this with their star running back Saquon Barkley back from injury a few weeks earlier than originally projected, NYG was a near-4 point favorite against the 2-3-1 Arizona Cardinals.

As previously stated, the rain was coming down early and it remained at a steady pace for the entire game with short spurts of intensity. Any hope of this weather actually impacting Kyler Murray and the Cardinals went out the window right away. Before we could blink, it was 14-0. They scored on the opening drive via a 20-yard run by Chase Edmonds, and after a Daniel Jones interception, it took just three plays to get another 7 on the board via another 20-yard touchdown run by Edmonds. If you are wondering who Chase Edmonds is, don’t mistake him for Emmitt Smith based on this game. He is a second-year back from Fordham who, in the 24 games prior to this one, had 369 on 84 carries with 1 touchdown.

The second quarter began with ARI closing out their third drive, which can also be termed as their third scoring drive as Zane Gonzalez nailed a 47-yarder through the uprights. It was 17-0 and Jones hadn’t yet completed a pass beyond the line of scrimmage. If NYG was going to bounce back after a horrific start, it had to start at this moment, and it did.

Jones led a drive that consisted of a 20-yard run by Barkley and a 20-yard completion to Golden Tate. He lofted a ball downfield toward the end zone perfectly between layers of the defense and right into the bread basket of tight end Rhett Ellison who barreled over ARI safety Budda Baker for NYG’s first touchdown. As bad as the start to the game was, at least it was early and NYG finally showed a pulse. That pulse strengthened on the next ARI possession, as Michael Thomas blocked a punt that landed in the end zone with Elijhaa Penny landing on it just inches away from the boundary It was a special teams touchdown, exactly what NYG needed to formally get this team back in the game and within one score.

After forcing an ARI punt on the ensuing drive, NYG got the ball back on their own 20 with just under 6 minutes left in the second quarter. They were due to start the second half with the ball, so this was the opportunity to squeeze as they already had their hand on the throat of ARI. They inched their way up the field and actually got as far as the ARI 31. It was 2nd-and-4, well within Aldrick Rosas’ field goal range but the next two plays were a harsh but very real reminder that this team quite simply stinks. Barkley ran laterally and couldn’t find a lane, so he opted to run backwards and take a 6-yard loss. This was after he already turned a 2-yard loss in to an 8-yard loss earlier in the game. 2nd-and-4 became 3rd-and-10 from the ARI 37-yard line. NYG just needed a few yards to put them back in to field goal range. On an incomplete pass to Tate, right tackle Mike Remmers was flagged foe a holding penalty. It was now 3rd-and-20 from the 47. NYG ended up punting and went in to the half down 3.

NYG and ARI traded 3 and outs to begin the 3rd quarter. On the second Giants’ drive, they once again were approaching field goal territory. On a screen play design, Barkley was a bit late getting to his spot as the pass catcher and Daniel Jones held onto the ball for a hair too long, as Chandler Jones easily beat Evan Engram for the sack, jarring the ball loose which ARI recovered it. It seemed like the game was on repeat at this point, as Edmonds scored his third touchdown of the afternoon on the third play of the drive via a 22-yard run. ARI scored their second touchdown off a NYG turnover and the score was 24-14.

NYG continued to show they both still had some fight and they were able to move the ball on offense at this point. Once again they marched in to ARI territory. On a drive that consisted of a 15-yard gain on an unnecessary roughness penalty by ARI and a gutsy 4th-down catch and throw from Jones to Tate, NYG lined up for a 37-yard field goal to make it a one score game again. The ball came off right and it end up hitting the goal post, no good. NYG was still down by 10 as the 4th quarter approached.

After a stop, NYG put together their best drive of the day. It was 8 plays long with gains of 10-11-20-6-13-6-9-7, with the final play being a touchdown run by Barkley. NYG came up with yet another stop as Kyler Murray was making multiple rookie mistakes and the ARI offensive line began to falter. NYG had the ball back with over 4 minutes, down 3. On a day where they played awful on both sides of the ball, they had a real chance and were in the middle of a 21-7 run after their horrendous first quarter.

On the most important drive of the game, NYG lasted 5 plays and it consisted of 2 sacks and a lost fumble. NYG was faced with a 3rd-and-18 situation, and Pat Shurmur, who has been rightfully questioned for game management this season, opted for a draw that gained a few yards. NYG had the ball on the NYG 33, 4th-and-15. He stated he knew he was going for it on 4th down no matter what, which makes the draw play-call seem highly odd. On that 4th-and-15, NYG turned it over yet again and ARI turned it into 3 more points, making it 27-21.

NYG had the ball back, without any timeouts, starting at the NYG 12 yard line. The drive was 6 plays long and Jones was sacked twice and pressured twice. The ARI defense finished with 8 sacks on the afternoon, after averaging just over 2 sacks per game heading in to the contest.

ARI wins, 27-21.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 22/35 – 223 yards – 1 TD/1 INT – 78.6 QBR. Jones also added 35 yards on the ground but he did fumble 3 times, 2 of which resulted in turnovers. That is where we need to start with him, as turnovers can kill a QB and we can officially call this a legitimate problem for Jones, as some of you got upset with me calling this out in preseason. Jones isn’t holding onto the ball with two hands often enough and as I said a couple months ago, NFL defenders will know that and they WILL exploit it. As a passer, Jones often had his first read taken away and he had a hard time progressing elsewhere. Combine that with poor OL play and a rather limited WR group, it just ended up being the perfect storm. Jones made a couple of gutsy, high-level passes in this one but don’t let it overshadow that he played poorly. Rookie growing pains, we call them. And hopefully they are just that, only that.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 18 att – 72 yards – 1 TD / 3 rec – 8 yards. It was Barkley’s first game back after missing 3+ games with an ankle injury suffered September 22. He seemed hesitant at first but he did rattle off a gain of 20 yard and also had a gain of 32 yards called back because of a hold. His speed was still there, but maybe the cutting was slightly hesitant. Barkley had a loss of 8 on a short pass and a loss of 6 on a short run. He needs to stop running backwards, period. Sure it may work out once every ten tries and NYG has themselves a highlight-reel run, but those two plays hurt the offense. Sometimes the mission isn’t to simply miss tacklers, it is t simply fall forward and take the gains ARI gives. Barkley also allowed a sack and may have been responsible for another, but it was hard to tell based on watching the all-22. I think we will see a really fired up and motivated and confident Barkley next week in Detroit now that he knows his ankle can handle it.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard was out again with a concussion, thus Golden Tate took over the primary receiver job and, after a poor effort on a early pass over the middle, played outstanding. Tate made several “tough-guy” catches in traffic in key moments. He had 6 rec / 60 yards, with each one going for a first down including two on third down and one on fourth down. He was clutch and tough.

-This is where a lack of consistency and big play ability hurt NYG. Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, and Darius Slayton did combine for 10 receptions but it was only for 96 yards, under 10 yards per. Fowler added a drop.

TIGHT END

-It was a day to forget for Evan Engram. He was targeted 5 times but walked away with just 1 catch for 6 yards while dropping 2 balls. The rain may have been a precursor of what was to come but it didn’t seem to impact that many plays throughout the game. Engram has been among the league’s leaders in drops since he began his career on a per-game basis and if he is ever going to reach the ceiling we know he has, those need to stop. He also allowed a TFL and a sack.

-Rhett Ellison of all people came up with the biggest play of the game, a 28-yard touchdown catch. His blocking was above average in this one, but he did allow a TFL and a pressure. He made some key blocks later on, however, on big plays including the Barkley touchdown.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Before I get into these guys individually, I have to say this group has been a woeful disappointment as a whole. It is the best group we’ve had up front in a few years, but that isn’t saying much and I still the line stinks. I can’t really think of another way to put it. It all starts outside.

-Nate Solder is proving he wasn’t, he isn’t, and he won’t be the answer at left tackle. The contract is monstrous and I have to believe he is here for at least another season and that is a tough one to swallow. He allowed 2 sacks (the first of which was more on Jones), 2 pressures, 1 TFL, and was called for a hold. Can we have one, just one game where he makes it all four quarters without a negative play? Mike Remmers was actually a bit worse if you can believe it. It’s great Greg Olsen thinks he was a good teammate in 2015 and all, but this guy is only playing because there is nothing on the roster behind him. Again. Remmers allowed a season-high for all OL on this team, 3 sacks along with 3 pressures and was called for a hold on a 32-yard Barkley run that would have put NYG close to the end zone. This was a Bobby Hart-caliber game from the guy Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur just had to have.

-The play inside wasn’t much better, but they had better moments here and there. Will Hernandez and Jon Halapio both allowed a pressure and Hernandez was flagged for a hold. Kevin Zeitler was off the radar in this one, earning the highest OL grade on the team for the 5th time in 7 weeks.

EDGE

Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter both had pretty active days against the lackluster ARI tackles. Also keep in mind that ARI only threw the ball 21 times plus the 6 passing plays that resulted in a Murray scramble. There weren’t a ton of looks for these guys when it came to traditional passing but they still impacted the game. Carter had 3 tackles and 2 pressures along with a pass break up. He did get flagged for a personal foul as he dove on top of Murray who was giving himself up – dumb penalty that led to an ARI touchdown. He also had a hard time defending the run. Golden added 2 pressures and 5 tackles, but also missed 2 tackles, one of which was on a play that ARI scored a touchdown on.

-When looking, and re-looking at the ARI touchdown runs, a few things went wrong for NYG obviously but the play of Oshane Ximines stands out the most. He was obliterated at the point-of-attack twice, just completely washed out and he didn’t have the power to either get off of the block or anchor his position. He had 1 pressure in this one.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-If there is a quiet concern I have that I don’t see anyone else talking about, it is the defensive line and their lack of ability to create. It can be hard to measure the quality of B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Dexter Lawrence because a lot of their value is dirty work, stuff you don’t see in box scores. But these guys, against a below average offensive line, played terrible as a group yesterday. The lateral movement wasn’t there and they weren’t getting off of blocks. Too many gaping holes and that wasn’t just on them, but part of the blame goes there.

-I found interesting that B.J. Hill and Olsen Pierre basically split snaps with each other. Was that an indictment on Hill? Was it more based on this week’s game plan and match-ups? Hill has been better than his numbers suggest but Pierre did have an active game. He was twitchy and around the action often, finishing with one of NYG’s 2 sacks. Certainly something to keep an eye on moving forward.

LINEBACKER

-Alec Ogletee was the lone bright spot of the group, finishing with 8 tackles / 1 TFL. He was the one guy on this entire defense who was playing a physical brand, knocking back blockers and actually making an impact on tackles. He was around the ball often and didn’t have any misses.

-David Mayo was credited with a sack on a group effort and also had a pass break up. Beyond that, I was disappointed with his play. He was slow to fill lanes and it resulted in two of Edmonds’ three touchdowns. The hesitation and lack of quick speed in his game was a perfect match for what ARI was trying to do on offense. He was a target in zone coverage as well.

CORNERBACK

-Grant Haley has been on the wrong side of these evaluations all season but I have to tip my cap here, he played his butt off. He made several plays behind the line of scrimmage that, had he not, would have resulted in big plays. He finished with 7 tackles and 1 TFL in addition to forcing action three other times that led to TFL or no-gain plays.

-Deandre Baker had 4 tackles and a deep pass break up. He seems more confident in his reads and assignments, but I’m not so sure he is going to be a productive run defender. He clearly chose not to fill a gap on two occasions and while I understand a lot of corners do that in today’s NFL, I still hate to see it.

-Janoris Jenkins wasn’t challenged much but the one time he was, he got flagged for a downfield pass interference. The flag was challenged by Shurmur and even though the call was upheld, I don’t think it was a penalty.

SAFETY

-Don’t be fooled by the box score, as Antoine Bethea and Jabrill Peppers combined for 17 tackles / 1 TFL / 1 PD. Both played poorly with an extra spotlight on Bethea, who keeps taking poor angles to the action and his lack of speed makes it impossible for him to make up for it. Peppers was a victim of others getting washed out directly into his path a few times, but he too missed a couple tackles and was beat on 3rd down a couple times. Very poor game for these guys.

-Michael Thomas had a productive game, recording 4 tackles, 1 TFL, and a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown for NYG.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 0/1 (Missed 37)

-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 37.3 avg – 36.3 net

-Golden Tate and Darius Slayton handled return duties.

3 STUDS

-WR Golden Tate, CB Grant Haley, LB Alec Ogletree

3 DUDS

-OT Mike Remmers, TE Evan Engram, S Antoine Bethea

3 THOUGHTS ON ARI

  1. Put me in the group that didn’t think it would work for Kingsbury in the NFL. But after 7 games, I have to give him a lot of credit here especially considering they went winless over the first 4 weeks. Now I won’t crown them in any regard just yet, as the combined record of the three teams that beat are 3-18 but I do think they are out of the basement in the league. Kingsbury is a creative mind and isn’t afraid to improvise to keep the defense guessing. He has made adjustments each week and even though not all have worked out, one can easily note the difference between an offensive mind that can be a hybrid rather than one that has a hard time changing.
  1. In regard to Kyler Murray, I have seen 5 of his games this year and I am not yet convinced it is going to work out for him. He has a hard time seeing things mentally, and physically all the talk about his height was credible. From the All-22 tape, it is evident he just can’t clearly locate defenders and receivers over the line. His game is very dependent, maybe too much so, on running around and I have never liked that in QBs. Too much risk. I will admit he is a very tough guy to defend, though.
  1. How far is this team from legitimate contention? Well let’s not even talk about this season. I think the NFC West is the best division in football and ARI can’t hang with any of the three teams above them. They have a really tough schedule from here on out and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them with a 5-10-1 record at the end of the year. I do think they are a step ahead of NYG when it comes to personnel but their offensive line needs work and their best defenders are on the wrong side of 30 next season. Not ideal timing considering the strength of the division, but I expect them to be one of the more aggressive teams in the 2020 offseason.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Did Dave Gettleman get fooled by NE? Nate Solder was signed to a long-term, monstrous contract prior to 2018 and almost all of us were happy with it. I think most fans don’t truly know about guys on other teams, thus the assumption that anyone who started for NE for a long time should be good enough, no? Fans can have the out, but Gettleman cannot. He has been nothing short of terrible since the day he began playing for NYG and I think it’s an indictment on the Pro Personnel staff for not seeing these issues and being fooled by the fact that Tom Brady makes blockers look way better than they are. It is one of the special traits to his game. That signing alone can really hold this team back for multiple years.
  1. I think we can officially put Pat Shurmur on the hot seat. I went back and looked at my game reviews from 2018 and a lot of problems I see now are what we talked about last year. Lack of innovation. Lack of ability to get the ball in the hands of key players. Lack of offensive line blocking adjustments. I do think the camaraderie and overall hustle/passion is better than what we have seen in recent years, but I never go into a week thinking Shurmur gives NYG the coaching edge. While two seasons may not be a fair amount of time for a coach that has weak personnel, now is the time to do it (by now I mean end of 2019). Let Daniel Jones grow up with a new voice, don’t change things on him 2-3 years from now.
  1. At what point does NYG start getting active on the trade market? Are there pieces on this roster that other teams want? Does it send a bad message to the team? They have one more week. Janoris Jenkins is the only piece that I can see getting anything better than a 4th-round pick. The Saints and Seahawks are two teams I would be targeting with him.
Oct 132019
 
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Golden Tate, New York Giants (October 10, 2019)

Golden Tate – © USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots 35 – New York Giants 14

QUICK RECAP

Just four nights after the NYG loss to MIN, the Giants found themselves at a windy Gillette Stadium to take on the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The short week combined with a couple of injuries to key players on offense likely contributed to the massive underdog tone going in to this one. However, NYG has had this overlooked-label attached to them heading into a match-up against Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and company before.

NE drove down the field on the opening drive but consecutive stops at the NYG 19-yard line with just 1 yard to go, the second of which being fourth down, gave NYG the initial momentum. As was the case for most of the night, the NYG offense couldn’t respond as they went 3-and-out. They were without Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley against a team that is 12-0 at home against rookie quarterbacks since Belichick took over.

The two teams traded 3-and-outs before Daniel Jones threw his first interception of the night, this one to John Simon. However Brady, continuing his streak of sub-par play against the Giants in white, threw an interception to Janoris Jenkins on the next play and the messy football we are used to seeing on Thursday nights across the league appeared to be back in full effect.

NYG was not able to take advantage of their 50-yard line starting field position and the defensive battle continued all the way to the point where the first score of the game came on a “blocked” punt. Linebacker Nate Stupar, the personal protector to punter Riley Dixon, was pushed backwards to the point where the trajectory of the ball was right at his helmet. Rookie Chase Winovich caught the live ball and carried it into the end zone.

Brady and the NE offense continued to stall because of a quality pass rush by NYG with perhaps a little help from the wind, which made it hard to really force the ball downfield. That wind, and perhaps the best defense in the NFL, had the tough impact on Jones as well. He threw his second interception of the night, this time to safety Duron Harmon, giving NE the ball at the NYG 20-yard line. Five plays later Brandon Bolden crossed the goal line as NE took a commanding 14-0 lead.

As we have seen multiple times already, Jones showed a short memory by standing tall in the pocket on the next drive while continuing to go through his reads. On the third play, Jones hit Golden Tate for a 64 yard touchdown on a perfectly-thrown deep ball that Tate tipped to himself before outrunning the NE secondary to the end zone. It was the first time NE had allowed a touchdown through the air this season.

Brady was sacked and fumbled on a hit by Lorenzo Carter on the next drive and the surging Markus Golden scooped it up before returning it for a 42-yard touchdown. All of the sudden NYG had this game tied up at 14 but NE responded with a smooth, steady drive that ended with a Brady 1-yard touchdown. Even though NYG had been out-gained 228-129, Jones had thrown 2 interceptions, and the NE special teams had scored a touchdown on a blocked punt, the game still very much felt within striking distance at halftime.

The ever-important first possession of the second half ended in Jones’ third interception of the night, this time to cornerback Stephon Gilmore. New NE kicker Mike Nugent missed a 40-yard field goal after a marathon drive and NYG just couldn’t get past midfield. The offense was sputtering all night besides the one deep ball to Tate. On the ground, Jon Hilliman couldn’t get going. Even worse on their next drive, Hilliman fumbled and it was scooped up by linebacker Kyle Van Noy who returned it for a 22-yard touchdown, the Pats second non-offensive score of the night.

NYG was down 28-14 with the just over 7 minutes left when they were faced with a 4th-and-2 from their own 33-yard line. Would they run? Would they pass? Head Coach Pat Shurmur, owner of a 17-38 record as a Head Coach, opted to punt. NE then scored another touchdown on another 1-yard Brady run while taking off another 3+ minutes of game clock. The night was all but over after that.

Giants lose 35-14.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 15/31 – 161 yards – 1 TD / 3 INT / 35.2 QBR. We knew these past 2 games against MIN and NE would be a different level test for Jones when compared to the two teamse started off against (TB/WAS). On a short week; traveling to NE on a windy night; up against a coach that has feasted on rookie quarterbacks; without his number one receiver, number one tight end, and number one and two running backs had the look of near-impossible. Jones did compete and showed plenty of physical and mental toughness, but when evaluating his play, it was poor. Big picture we can talk about this being a learning experience for him, which is fine, but Jones played bad. Three interceptions and another one that was dropped were the lowlights. He looked confused multiple times and at the end of the day, QB play like that against a team like NE makes a loss inevitable.

RUNNING BACK

-Jon Hilliman: 11 att / 38 yards – 2 rec / -3 yards. Hilliman got his second shot at carries with Barkley and Gallman out and, like last week, it did not go well. His fumble was scooped up for a defensive touchdown and he failed to make an impact otherwise. The all-22 tape showed cutback lanes on three of his carries that he simply didn’t see. Prime example of how important vision is for a back, as Barkley could have taken those 1-2 yard gains and turned them into something huge.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate: 6 rec / 102 yards / 1 TD. Tate was targeted underneath and intermediate often but the one deep shot he got was turned into a 64-yard touchdown. A week after he subtly complained about not getting enough looks against MIN, he responded. His routes are a thing of beauty and once he, Shepard, and Engram are on the field at the same time, they will be a tough trio to cover on sub-3rd-and-7 situations.

-Darius Slayton added 3 catches for 32 yards. He was targeted 8 times and if there is one positive to the offensive weapons being hurt, it is more playing time for the gifted Slayton. He was up against a guy who I think is the best CB in the league right now, Stephon Gilmore, a bunch in this one. Good for him to see how hard it is to get open in addition to competing for the ball when a guy like that is on you. Slayton showed some downfield acceleration that is going to be a weapon here once he gets more confident in his reads and routes. He did have a drop and there are some inconsistencies I see play to play, but he is going to be a difference-maker here.

TIGHT END

-Rhett Ellison: 3 rec / 30 yards. Ellison saw an uptick in snaps with Engram out. He gave NYG what he has been giving for a couple years now, limited ceiling across the board but reliability and consistentcy. NE squeezed running lanes from the outside a few times and it was partially the fault of Ellison who just couldn’t get a push as a blocker.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-While a lot of the difficulties Jones experienced came from quality coverage by the NE back 7 and him simply holding onto the ball for too long, the line was still very shaky. Nate Solder and Mike Remmers each allowed 2 pressures in addition to poor run blocking. Their grades on a week-to-week basis are just above what Ereck Flowers was putting out. While their basements aren’t as low as Flowers was, they need to be more reliable. As much as I want NYG to get a premier pass rusher in next year’s draft, I think OT is going to be offseason priority number one.

-Inside, Kevin Zeitler had a really good game, the top grade on the OL. Hard to always tell who is playing well when a team can’t get the running game going but he was a bright spot. Jon Halapio had another below average game, leaving just week 1 vs DAL where I came away impressed with his effort. Will Hernandez allowed a pressure and was flagged for a hold. One of the sacks could have been attributed to him as well but Jones should have gotten rid of the ball.

EDGE

-If there is one bright spot from this game and recent weeks, the edge play has steadily improved. Markus Golden had a half-sack. That makes 5-straight games with a sack for Golden and he now ranks sixth in the NFL with 5 this season. He also scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery caused by a Lorenzo Carter sack, who also added 2 pressures. Carter is still the guy who makes a play every now and then that makes you dream. There is still hope regarding his upside.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Dalvin Tomlinson was a solid presence all night, turning in easily his top performance of the year, maybe even the past two years. He made a crucial 4th-and-1 stop on the NE opening drive. Dexter Lawrence remains active and disruptive. He had 5 tackles and a pressure. What’s most impressive lately are the amount of plays he is impacting away from the point-of-attack. He is getting to the sidelines, he is reaching receivers on screens and short passes. Just a really disruptive force on every level you can think of.

-B.J. Hill put in another quiet night. While I don’t have any legit concerns with him, I do think the expectations got a little high on him because of a 5.5 sack rookie campaign. Just another example why the volume of sacks in one season shouldn’t be considered too heavily when evaluating a player. He is getting a lot of dirty-work done this year so it isn’t easy to see what he is doing well and what he isn’t, but the past two weeks haven’t been quality performances.

LINEBACKER

-Huge games for both Alec Ogletree and David Mayo. Ogletree returned after missing time with a hamstring injury and led the team with 12 tackles / 1 sack / 1 TFL /1 pressure. He was all over the field, and like I said last week, having a real ILB in there makes a huge difference. While he is inconsistent, it was nice to see him out there filling lanes, getting off of blocks, and making plays after watching what we had to watch last week against MIN. Mayo also had 12 tackles along with a half-sack. He did get exposed multiple times in zone coverage, however, and he missed 2 tackles. Mayo played his heart out though and he is a really physical player.

CORNERBACK

-Janoris Jenkins came out strong for the second week in a row, finishing with 3 tackles / 1 INT / 1 PD. He nearly returned his interception for a touchdown. As he has always been, Jenkins really is amazing with the ball in his hands. I wonder if it is worth trying to give him a touch or two in the return game.

-Deandre Baker is getting more confident and it is easy to see from the all-22 angle. The balance looks better, there are less false steps, less recovery steps. He is also playing more physically and that is one of the best signs indicating the confidence is increasing. Confidence is not important for a cornerback, it is vital.

-Grant Haley had 6 tackles, including 1 TFL. He is still having a hard time sticking to the better slot receivers. While a really good nickel is hard to find, NYG is going to have to try out a new body there at some point this season. Teams have been torching the middle of the field for far too long.

SAFETY

-Jabrill Peppers had 10 tackles / 1 TFL / 1 pressure, but his most notable play was a missed tackle on 3rd down when the score was 14-14. This was the drive after NYG scored a defensive touchdown and the momentum was swinging to NYG. That missed tackle ended up being really costly, as NE scored a touchdown on this possession right before halftime.

-Michael Thomas also missed a tackle on the play noted above. He finished with 6 tackles on the night, one too short. Antoine Bethea had a quiet game and wasn’t contested much, but still found his way to 6 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas – No field goals attempted.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 39.2 avg / 31.1 net. Second poor week in a row for Dixon.

3 STUDS

-LB Alec Ogletree, WR Golden Tate, CB Janoris Jenkins

3 DUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, RB Jon Hilliman, OC Jon Halapio

3 THOUGHTS ON NE

  1. Bill Belichick was hired by the Patriots in 2000. This may be the best defense he has put together over those 20 seasons. NE has never had the #1 ranked defense (yards allowed) but they have had two seasons where they allowed the fewest points. They currently rank #1 in both categories albeit against the easiest schedule in the NFL to date. Opponents aside, the defense, and more specifically the secondary, is in a league in its own right now. Combine that with the Belichick brain, they are going to be so difficult to beat this year.
  1. Are we finally starting to see Brady show signs of age? I’m not talking about athletically (he’s never been a good one), but his ball has less juice on it and it just seems the accuracy isn’t what it was a couple years ago. This was the fourth time I’ve seen him this year, and minus the cupcake schedule, he looks off.
  1. One of the most underrated reasons why NE remains competitive year after year is the play of their OL. It is such a rock-solid unit year after year and most fans can’t name 2 of their starters. I remember scouting all of their current starters and the one thing I can say about all of them – they are all gamers. They lack the ideal measurables, but they usually didn’t get beat one-on-one in college, they are blue-collar tough, and they all have high football IQs. The interior of Thuney-Karras-Mason were drafted rounds 3-6-4 respectively. Starting right tackle Marcus Cannon was drafted in the 5th round. They are smart guys who developed within the system. It’s worked out really well for New England.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. While NYG did have it tied up at 14, I’m not sure I understand the narrative that this was a good game. Yes, multiple offensive weapons were on the sideline for this one but NE didn’t play a clean game themselves. NYG was 2-of-10 on 3rd down, they were out-gained by 2:1 in total yardage, and they had a punt blocked. This was an all around ugly game.
  1. As I always say, I am slow to criticize coaching. There are far too many factors that I don’t have access to, but there are some simple game-management tactics that I just don’t think Shurmur is doing a good job with. The decision to not go for it on 4th-and-2 in the fourth quarter, down 14 points, was mind-numbing. That screams “unprepared” to me.
  1. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in regard to the 2020 NFL Draft, but you guys know most of my time right now is spent scouting that class. And I am going to say this right now… the WR talent coming into the league next year is ridiculous. I may have 10+ grades on receivers that are higher than anyone from the 2019 class. That is not an exaggeration. I think it is important NYG really finds out what they have in Slayton and Tate because there may be a talent that is very tough to pass on in the first 2 rounds next April.
Oct 072019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 6, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings 28 – New York Giants 10

QUICK RECAP

The former division foe Kirk Cousins returned to MetLife Stadium, this time as a member of the 2-2 Minnesota Vikings. Cousins, who came in with a 3-5 career record against NYG, has always feasted on poor defenses and non-playoff teams. The Giants, a non-playoff team with the 25th-ranked defense, entered the game without their top three inside linebackers and a starting outside linebacker in addition to Saquon Barkley still being sidelined by an ankle injury. With the Eli Manning era in the rear view mirror, hopes were that the results against MIN would change, as he was 3-6 with a 56.1 QBR against them, the lowest QBR of any team he ever faced.

For the first time all season, NYG did not score on their opening drive. They were up against the 6th-ranked defense in the NFL, by far the stiffest test of Daniel Jones’ inaugural season. That defense gave Jones and the offense multiple opportunities to make something happen but, as was the case all afternoon, Big Blue did not capitalize. In addition to the initial “0” on the scoreboard, running back Wayne Gallman jogged off the field after a violent hit to the head. It ended his game, leaving just UDFA Jon Hilliman and fullback Elijhaa Penny remaining in the backfield.

Already up 3-0, MIN got the ball back and picked up chunk gains en route to an 11-play, touchdown-scoring drive. They barely broke a sweat, as the defense forced a 3rd down only two times, the second of which resulted in a 15-yard pass from Cousins to Adam Thielen for the 6 points.

Thanks to a 52-yard kick return by rookie Corey Ballentine, NYG began their next drive at midfield and it took just 5 plays to reach the end zone. A picture-perfect pass and a picture-perfect catch from rookie Daniel Jones to rookie Darius Slayton on a 35-yard ball that beat one of the better corners in the NFL, Xavier Rhodes, put this game at 10-7. The crowd got back into it and the team was showing some of the fight they put in display in their previous two weeks, both wins.

MIN was stuffed on 3rd-and-6 on the ensuing drive via a sack by Dexter Lawrence and Markus Golden, however an illegal contact penalty called on Janoris Jenkins gave MIN new life and they were able to march into field goal range and re-take the lead, 13-7. MIN drove the ball deep into NYG territory on their next possession but on that drive, MIN running back Dalvin Cook fumbled twice. The first time resulted in no damage but the second one, just a few yards shy of the end zone, was recovered by Tuzar Skipper. NYG was gaining momentum but they had to start their drive on their own 1-yard line.

Head Coach Pat Shurmur opted to try and get some breathing room via the inside run, something we all knew wasn’t going to be very productive today. MIN, as they did all afternoon, aggressively sent multiple defenders up the inside lanes and it was Anthony Barr who leaked through and put Hilliman on the ground almost immediately after he got the ball. The play resulted in a safety and NYG was down 15-7. They soon put up another 3 points after another rather easy drive into NYG territory. The MIN offense was doing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, however they wanted against the NYG defense. MIN took a commanding 18-7 lead into the half. While it was only 11 points, MIN had out-gained NYG 351-92 to this point. Those 351 yards were the second most by any team in the first half of a game all year across the league.

MIN had two big penalties on the opening NYG offensive drive in the second half. A horse collar tackle by Rhodes after a 12-yard completion to Slayton put NYG into MIN territory. Later, on a 27-yard field goal attempt, former Giant Linval Joseph roughed up snapper Zak DeOssie, giving the Giants a fresh slate of downs at the 5-yard line. The offensive line started to fully crumble at this point, as center Jon Halapio was flagged for a hold and Mike Remmers allowed a sack. It was yet another opportunity missed. NYG ended up settling for a 32-yard field goal by Rosas, making the score 18-10.

MIN needed just 5 plays, again, to get into the end zone as Cousins found Thielen for another score, making it 25-10. Thanks to three separate MIN penalties that gave NYG three first downs, NYG found themselves just a few yards away from the end zone. They had two shots at it from inside the 5-yard line but it resulted in 0 points. The score remained 25-10 as the fourth quarter began. If you’re keeping track, that is two straight possessions where NYG had a combined 8 plays from inside the MIN 10 yard line an they netted 3 points total in that span.

After a quick stop, NYG got the ball inside the MIN 30-yard line again and once again, NYG walked away with 0 points. With time starting to dwindle and the MIN running game continuing to gain what they needed when they needed, 5 more minutes came off the clock and 3 more points when up next to the “MIN” on the scoreboard.

It was 28-10 and the Giants offense had to really start forcing things. Their next drive didn’t last long, as Jones was intercepted for the first time of the day by Barr, the same player that made the tackle that resulted in the safety early on. MIN bled the clock out and that was it.

NYG loses 28-10.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 21/38 – 182 yards – 1 TD / 1 INT. Jones also gained 12 yards on the ground via 3 carries. After two starts against bottom-third defenses, we knew Jones was going to have his handful against the Mike Zimmer-led defense that entered the game #6 in the NFL. In addition, play caller Pat Shurmur worked under Zimmer prior to accepting the job here in NY, thus there had to have been a little extra forecasting going on. That is exactly what seemed to be the case, as MIN had a quick and aggressive response for Jones in almost every situation. He didn’t have a lot of space to work with in the pocket and the timing of things just wasn’t there. Jones missed Sterling Shepard two times on plays that should have been touchdowns and he took a sack on 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line. This was a necessary experience for Jones and in a series full of “first times”, just add this one to the list in addition to the upcoming short week.

RUNNING BACK

Jon Hilliman: 9 att / 20 yards – 1 rec / 4 yards. Hilliman took over the first string running back spot once Wayne Gallman went down with a concussion. Hilliman, who did not earn a 53-man roster job at the end of training camp. Hilliman, who was the number three rusher on a 1-11 Rutgers team in 2018. That was the presence in the backfield behind Jones against a top tier NFL defense. It went as well as expected, as he never posed as a threat and averaged 2.2 yards per carry.

-Wayne Gallman left early with a concussion and I would bet my bottom dollar he will be out this week against NE because of the short rest. Elijhaa Penny, a fullback who has a few running back traits, finished with 15 yards on 3 carries in addition to a 4-yard catch. I’m sure NYG will bring in a back this week for depth purposes, but I project Penny to be pretty involved.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton: 4 rec / 62 yards / 1 TD. Slayton and Jones have an obvious connection and it put up the early 7 points for NYG. His development this season will be very important for next year, as he figures to be a key component to the future passing game. Slayton only saw 5 targets but he made the most of them. I like the ability to push the secondary but he is also proving to be more than just a deep guy. His routes and awareness near the sidelines look good.

-Sterling Shepard had 5 catches for 49 yards on 10 targets but his stat line could have been so much stronger if Jones had hit his spots. Shepard was getting open up and down the field against man coverage all afternoon but he just couldn’t get on the same page as Jones.

-In Golden Tate’s first game in a Giants uniform, he caught the first pass of the game and went into hiding for the majority of the contest after. He finished with 3 rec / 13 yards while playing two-thirds of the team’s snaps. I wouldn’t say he looked rusty but he didn’t look like the Tate I have seen in the past. This was also a tough game to evaluate, as the passing game just didn’t reach a flow consistently.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 6 rec / 42 yards. Engram once again led the team in targets, this time with 11. He is the most dangerous threat on this offense when Barkley isn’t out there and MIN did a great job containing him. He saw a lot of bracket coverage besides routes into the flat. Engram had a drop and was manhandled twice in the running game in addition to being flagged for a hold. The MIN defensive ends are as physical and powerful as it gets and these are guys Engram just won’t be able to compete against. Engram had 2 balls that hit his hands that he didn’t bring in. I did not label them drops, but big-time players have to make those plays.

-In a game where NYG basically gave up on running the ball, Rhett Ellison’s impact was minimal.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Bad day overall for this group. MIN has a formidable defensive front, a position group I would rank in the top 5 across the league. Mike Zimmer also dialed up a lot of complex blitzes and stunts and the lack of chemistry along the OL with a rookie QB was exposed.

-Nate Solder and Mike Remmers couldn’t seal the edge nor could they anchor their positions. Solder was flagged for 2 holds and also allowed a pressure and a sack. Remmers allowed 2 pressures and a sack but actually graded out worse of the two, as his inability to hold the point-of-attack made things really tight for Jones to work within the pocket. While he has been an upgrade over what NYG dealt with in recent years (Bobby Hart / Chad Wheeler), Remmers has been a let down so far.

-The interior wasn’t much better. In fact, if you’re Kevin Zeitler and Jon Halapio, you graded out worse than both the tackles. There were multiple miscommunications between the two, as they were visibly frustrated with each other after a couple passing plays where MIN generated pressure and on the safety where LB Anthony Barr ran straight through their gap to make the tackle. Zeitler allowed a pressure, a TFL, and had an allowed sack cancelled by a questionable illegal contact penalty by MIN. Halapio constantly got minimal to no push in the running game and was flagged for a penalty for illegally going downfield too early on a screen. Will Hernandez allowed 2 pressures and a sack as well.

EDGE

-With no Lorenzo Carter in the picture, it was Tuzar Skipper and Oshane Ximines playing opposite of Markus Golden. Skipper and Ximines were both overwhelmed against the outside running game and it helped create the space for Dalvin Cook to really get going. When that guy reaches space, he is near-unstoppable. Skipper and Ximines got picked on in this one and offered near-nothing as pass rushers.

-Golden had 5 tackles and a sack with 2 pressures. He has been a steady outside presence and also made a couple physical hits in the running game. His is getting more and more nimble as the weeks go which tells me his confidence in growing.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Dexter Lawrence had a sack nullified by a holding penalty in the secondary but he recorded one in the fourth quarter. He had 5 tackles in addition along with a forced fumble and looks like he may be the best player on the entire defense.

-Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill were a tough evaluation in this one. MIN employs a zone-blocking scheme where they really get guys moving laterally. Both seemed to struggle against it, as they were on skates multiple times and ended up creating massive cutback lanes for the MIN backs. Hill did record 5 tackles and he forced Cousins into quick decisions as a passer a few times, but Tomlinson’s lack if impact continues.

-R.J. McIntosh had a sack and a pressure from his 3-4 DE role. He can shoot the gap well and should factor more and more on passing downs throughout the season.

LINEBACKERS

-No Alec Ogletree. No Tae Davis. No Ryan Connelly. Upon further review of the defense’s horrid performance, much of it can be attributed to the lack of impact along the second level. I respect the grit and hustle that both David Mayo and Nate Stupar bring to the table but this got ugly fast. Neither were filling lanes which allowed the OL to reach them 3-5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. At that point, the lanes are wide open for the running backs and with a head full of steam, that is nearly impossible to stop. Both were concrete blocks against the lateral-route passing game MIN had success with all game as well. This is going to be a problem as long as these two are in there.

-Josiah Tauaefa got his first NFL regular season action after being called up from the practice squad. He responded with 3 tackles, including 2 TFL. Don’t sleep on this kid, as he led NYG in tackles during preseason and he shows more downhill presence as a run defender.

CORNERBACK

-Janoris Jenkins and Deandre Baker did an OK job defending the outside. Both, however, were awful against the run. Jenkins had 2 missed tackles and Baker had 1 himself. They were both part of the horrid secondary tackling stemming from poor angles and poor technique. Baker still lacks confidence, as he is too-often falling in coverage and tripping over his own feet. He fell to the ground on an Adam Thielen touchdown where he could have been in position to break up the pass had he not. He was also flagged for a taunting penalty when NYG was holding on for dear life. A free 15 yards from the rook.

-Grant Haley was torched in this one. He allowed a touchdown to Thielen and continues to show he has no ability to defend downfield passes and routes. The turnaround speed isn’t there and the lack of size exposes a lack of ability to make up for getting beat off the ball.

SAFETY

-Even though Antoine Bethea led the team with 11 tackles and a few of those were very high quality, his lack of speed and twitch is hurting this defense on a weekly basis. The 35-year old took a couple of awful angles at Dalvin Cook and was promptly burned for it.

-Jabrill Peppers saw some more LB-type action in this one and that is one of the positives he brings to a defense. He is effective in multiple roles. He had 5 tackles, a TFL, and a forced fumble on a Dalvin Cook run that would have put MIN inside the NYG 5 yard line with a fresh slate of downs. He got beat across the middle on a couple crossing routes, however.

-Sean Chandler saw some action in this one (10 plays) and ended up missing 2 tackles and allowing a 3rd-down conversion where his lack of presence and aggression caused the chains to move. Hesitation and poor tackling, not a good combination for that position.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 32).

-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts – 44.7 avg / 33.0 net.

3 STUDS

-WR Darius Slayton, S Jabrill Peppers, DT Dexter Lawrence

3 DUDS

-OG Kevin Zeitler, LB Nate Stupar, CB Grant Haley

3 THOUGHTS ON MIN.

  1. I have picked MIN to win the NFC North for 4 straight years. In 2016 they finished 3rd, in 2017 they finished 1st, in 2018 they finished 2nd, and right now they are currently 3rd. They are one of the most inconsistent teams in the league and what I mean by that is, when this team is on they can beat anybody and I mean that. Their defense is strong on every level and they have one of the best RB/WR combinations in the league. Shaky QB play and an inconsistent OL has held them back but it looks like they are on the verge of turning both of those corners. If they do, I think they can be considered a legit Super Bowl contender.
  1. Anthony Barr has long-been one of my favorite defenders in the league. How many guys that measure 6’5/255 can play in coverage like does? But also rush the passer with a developed skill set? And then also explode downhill and drive a running back through the ground? MIN was smart to sign him long term and even though he doesn’t always blow up the stat sheet, the amount of things he can do at a high level in one game week to week is rare.
  1. MIN has been one of the better drafting teams in the NFL, particularly on defense. It is amazing how hitting on these high picks can make your team competitive year in, year out. Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Shamar Stephen, Antony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon, Trae Waynes, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Mike Hughes….go find me a team with a better homegrown defense than that. You won’t.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. There were a number of signs in this game that this team isn’t ready to compete. NYG had several opportunities to take advantage of MIN mistakes, but they did not. They had two straight possessions where they had a combined 8 plays inside the MIN 10-yard line. That netted NYG 3 total points. MIN left Sterling Shepard all alone for a touchdown on 2 occasions and they did not result in any touchdowns. MIN got penalized 12 times (5 of which resulted in NYG 1st downs) while NYG was penalized just 5 times. All these should have at least made this a game because good teams capitalize on mistakes made my the opposition and NYG walked out of this one with…10 points. Not good. Not ready.
  1. Let’s not start this “sky is falling” mindset when thinking about this team. My thought that these guys will be sub .500 squad has never wavered. Sure, things can happen and we still want them to “go for it”. But in all reality there are holes all over the place and when NYG has faced off against quality opponents, they haven’t gotten the job done. They are a few steps behind and much of this year will be about finding the guys who will be the nucleus for years to come.
  1. Whether or not Saquon Barkley dresses for the game Thursday night, NYG needs to bring in another body for the backfield. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Penny get the majority carries but there needs to be more security for a running game.
Sep 302019
 
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Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants (September 29, 2019)

Janoris Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 24 – Washington Redskins 3

QUICK RECAP

For the first time since November 14 2004, Eli Manning ran out of the tunnel as the Giants’ backup quarterback. This time around he was the veteran who was watching a rookie take over the reigns. After a memorable NFL debut in Tampa, Daniel Jones started for Big Blue for the first time at MetLife Stadium. Their opponent? The other basement dweller of the NFC East, the 0-3 Redskins.

The Redskins entered the game without their staring left tackle, starting right guard, and starting center. Journeyman Case Keenum remained their starting QB after a horrific Monday night performance just 6 days prior and then spending the week in a walking boot. The Giants on the other hand were without 2 of their 3 rotational inside linebackers and still without Golden Tate, who was in his final week of suspension. However, the biggest hole on their game-day roster was at running back, as Saquon Barkley walked out of the tunnel in street clothes for the first time in his very young career as he recovers from a high ankle sprain.

Keenum and the broken offense lasted just two plays before turning the ball over via a interception to LB Ryan Connelly. The Giants offense started off hot yet again, as they scored on their opening drive for the fourth straight game. Jones hit a wide open Wayne Gallman for a 6-yard score. Whatever process they undergo to script that opening drive, it’s working. The Redskins were getting flagged early and often and that remained to be the case for the entire game. WAS was penalized two times on their ensuing offensive drive four times on the next NYG offensive drive. NYG was reaping rewards of being officiated by the crew that led all referees in flags thrown over the first three weeks.

With WAS playing sloppy and tired, typical of both this franchise in recent memory and teams playing on short rest, NYG’s 13-play, 94-yard drive resulted in another Gallman touchdown, this one a 1-yard rush. NYG got the ball back after forcing a three-and-out but Jones gave it right back, throwing his first interception as a pro to Quinton Dunbar. The NYG defense then forced another three-and-out and it appeared the game was on repeat, as Jones threw his second interception to Dunbar on as many drives. This time WAS turned it into 3 points with their own 1st rounder, Dwayne Haskins, being inserted into the lineup. The Giants lead was 14-3.

Jones’ next step in maturation was on display at this point. After two straight turnovers, he led NYG on a 10-play, 63-yard drive that resulted in a 20-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas. Jones successfully converted a 3rd-and-4, a 2nd-and-20, and a 2nd-and-6 for first downs respectively with both his arm and his legs. That kind of short memory and composure through adversity is yet another reason why this team is all of the sudden better with him at the helm. NYG led 17-3 at the half and it seemed like a much bigger margin.

The Giants’ defensive domination continued on into the second half, as WAS didn’t reach the 100-total yard mark until the final two minutes of the 3rd quarter. Just moments after they eclipsed that mark, Haskins threw his first interception as a pro to Jabrill Peppers, the safety who wears #21 on his jersey. Peppers has had a pretty quiet start to his NYG career but perhaps this was the best moment to break out, as the former #21 of NYG, Landon Collins, was standing on the WAS sideline. Collins has had trouble keeping his mouth shut since he and the Giants organization parted ways. NYG lengthened their lead to 24-3 as the fourth quarter approached.

Offensively NYG struggled to move the ball in the second half, as the stout WAS defensive line controlled the point-of-attack and both running backs, Gallman and Jon Hilliman both turned the ball over via fumbles. The Giants lead was too much for WAS to handle, though, as Haskins threw two more interceptions and the refs continued to penalize the visitors with flags. All in all, it was as dominant a win as NYG has had in quite some time. They had the ball for over 36 minutes and were flagged 5 times opposed to the 12 times the Skins were flagged. This game never felt close.

Giants win 24-3.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 23/31 – 225 yards – 1 TD / 2 INT – 78.0 QBR. Jones also gained 33 yards on the ground. It was a shaky performance by the second-start rookie, as he turned the ball over twice. Because the opponent was one of the worst two teams in football, those turnovers didn’t come back to bite and make a big difference. As mentioned above, the best positive that came out of this for Jones was showing he can forget about the mistakes and go into the following drive(s) with a clear head. Jones’ composure is something I have discussed several times dating back to preseason and he put another check in that box.

RUNNING BACK

Wayne Gallman: 18 att / 63 yards / 1 TD – 6 Rec / 55 yards / 1 TD. While Gallman is never going to be mistaken for Barkley, he answered the call with the only two scores by the Giants offense on the day. While he had a hard time finding space to maneuver in the running game, he did have a couple of key big gains. His pass blocking left a little to be desired as well, as he just couldn’t hold his ground on a couple of occasions and it really tightened the pocket for Jones.

-Jon Hilliman: 10 att / 33 yards. Hilliman had a shot at his first pro touchdown but he fumbled inside the WAS 5-yard line and turned it over. With NYG taking a quick, commanding lead he was given his fair share of opportunities to split the carries with Gallman but he couldn’t quite stand out.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 7 rec / 76 yards. Shepard also carried the ball once for 23 yards on a play that seems to be a weekly staple for the team. A look at the stats and one may not be overly impressed by Shepard, but his presence on this offense is vital especially on third downs. Other than a 3rd-and-18 dump off pass, Shepard converted all of his fourth, third, and second down catches for first downs. He, combined with Engram and the incoming Golden Tate, will be instrumental in the early progression of Jones.

-Darius Slayton, Bennie Fowler, and Cody Latimer combined for 3 catches on just 4 targets. Latimer was targeted twice but he was flagged for offensive pass interference two times in his first game back from missing time with a concussion. With Tate coming back, Fowler and Slayton will likely see less snaps.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 4 rec / 54 yards. Engram saw a lot of double teams / bracket coverage from the WAS back seven. I think a lot of teams are going to do this because of how much Shurmur wants to feature Engram as the primary target and Jones’ early inclination to force him the ball. Engram was quiet but he did have a 31-yard gain that was mostly yards-after-catch. His blocking took a step back in this one, as he couldn’t handle the WAS edge defenders.

-Rhett Ellison added 3 rec / 24 yards. One thing I have always liked about his game is the desire and constant effort as a downfield blocker. Ellison is the one guy who, every single week, he is looking to make an extra push on a defender away from the ball. He may not be the stout blocker I assumed when NYG first signed him, but he brings the team-first, blue-collar approach that I think is really important on a winning team.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Nate Solder had a really productive game, grading out as the top lineman for NYG this week. He allowed 1 pressure and that was it. For a team that has given NYG several pass rush issues in recent years, it was a solid day from the blind side protector. Mike Remmers, on the other hand, continued to struggle. He was flagged for 2 holding penalties and allowed a pressure. He also isn’t doing a good job of cutting off backside defenders in the running game.

-Albeit it was against one of the best defensive lines in football, the interior really struggled all afternoon. Kevin Zeitler allowed a pressure and was flagged for a hold, but he did get out in space on a couple of occasions to throw key blocks on separate big gains. Will Hernandez and Jon Halapio tied for the worst grades along the OL in this one. Hernandez allowed 2 pressures and a TFL while Halapio allowed 2 pressures. Their poor performance wasn’t felt as badly because of Jones’ mobility but the communication issues and lack of lateral adjustment is something teams like MIN and NE can eat up. They need to be better, plain and simple.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-The three-headed monster of B.J. Hill, Dexter Lawrence, and Dalvin Tomlinson dominated the point-of-attack for most of the afternoon. They were up against three interior backups, including former NYG 1st-round bust Ereck Flowers. They were the key reason why WAS running backs Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson combined for 2 yards per carry. Lawrence had 3 pressures, Tomlinson had 1 hurry and a half-sack, and Hill recorded 3 tackles. These guys were as stout as they’ve been all year.

-Olsen Pierre and R.J. McIntosh were on the field for some passing plays in place of Tomlinson and Hill, with Pierre being the more disruptive one. He had 2 pressures, but it was a quiet day for McIntosh.

EDGE

-Markus Golden continues his hot play after a slow start to the season. He had a half-sack and 2 pressures. While he isn’t winning off the snap often, he is proving to be a tough guy for blockers to cling onto. The mix of leverage wins and hustle make him a tough guy hold off for more than a few seconds. His speed in space was noteworthy too.

-Oshane Ximines is making impact plays each week. I think he and Carter are going to blossom into something this defense can really use for years. Ximines recorded a half-sack along with a pressure and pass break up. Let’s keep this in mind: in the last 6 games Ximines has played in (including weeks 2 and 3 of preseason), he has 5 sacks. In only one of those contests, he went sack-less. The consistency he is showing is impressive.

-Tuzar Skipper recorded a half-sack and Carter had a pressure.

LINEBACKER

-With Tae Davis and Alec Ogletree out with injuries, Ryan Connelly got the start with the green dot on his helmet. A player who has been catching the eyes of the coaching staff from the get-go, Connelly had an impactful game. He had an interception and sack to go along with 5 tackles as a key cog to stuffing the Was running game. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL as he tried to move awkwardly in reaction to Deandre Baker coming downhill on a ball carrier who was headed towards Connelly’s lower body. That late adjustment caused the injury and he is out for the year.

-David Mayo led the Giants with 8 tackles. He had a solid presence between the tackles and on contact with ball carries. He didn’t miss any tackles, which is a major, yet overlooked, part of the position. His role will undoubtedly be increased if Ogletree and Davis remain out.

CORNERBACK

-A week after arguably the worst game of Janoris Jenkins’ career, he came right back and intercepted 2 passes and tipped another that led to the Connelly INT. Jenkins, for most of his career, has been a very up-and-down corner but that has as much to do with the nature of the position as it does him as a player. If this defense turns it around long term this season, Jenkins will be in the center of it. He is a playmaker.

-Quiet day for rookie Deandre Baker, in a good way. He wasn’t tested much and he provided solid role-playing run support.

-Nickel corner Grant Haley quietly had a bad game. What I mean by that is that the struggles he put on tape didn’t end up helping WAS score, thus they won’t be discussed much. He should have been beaten for two long touchdowns by Trey Quinn, the final pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Had It not been for poor overthrows by Keenum, this game could have gone far differently. And Haley’s job would be far less secure.

SAFETY

-A week after I discussed Jabrill Peppers needing to step his game up, he walks out of this one with the defensive game ball. He had 6 tackles, an interception returned for a touchdown, and an impressive pass break up that should have been a touchdown for WAS had it not been for the late/strong hands of Peppers. I like the attitude he brings to the table and I can’t help but smile a little bit that he got into it with Landon Collins (who has been very average for WAS) after the game. I spoke about NYG needing a leader and a playmaker on defense and Peppers is the one guy who has the upside to be both.

-Antoine Bethea and Michael Thomas did a nice job on the back end preventing deep openings. Both Haskins and Keenum were forced to tuck the ball and scramble as a result of these two keeping it tight on the back end.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1(Made 30)

-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts – 55.0 avg / 53.0 net

3 STUDS

-OT Nate Solder, S Jabrill Peppers, CB Janoris Jenkins

3 DUDS

-OG Will Hernandez, RB Jon Hilliman, OT Mike Remmers

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

  1. The Miami Dolphins are the unquestioned worst-team in football. However, the Redskins aren’t far behind. If it weren’t for their really solid defensive line, it would be up for discussion. They continue to be hit by the injury bug as bad as any team in the league and it doesn’t seem they have the culture to make up for any physical shortcomings. MIA and WAS play each other on October 13 if anyone is interested in watching what Minor League Football would look like.
  1. There was a lot of media pressure for WAS to put Haskins into the lineup this past week. Even though he started on the bench, he got his playing time based on a coach’s decision and I can’t say it went well. He was 9/17 with three interceptions. I thought it was interesting that Gruden did not commit to Haskins as the starter from here on out, noting that the job had to be earned. Are there work ethic issues with Haskins? Lets wait and see.
  1. Watch the WAS defensive line work and you can see why this NYG trio of Lawrence-Hill-Tomlinson could be a big thing here for the next few years. While I think the WAS trio is better across the board, this is proof that they can be disruptive enough against the pass and dominant against the run to force a lot of stress on the opposing offense.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. It was good to see this team could still have a dominant win despite an overall poor offensive performance. 4 turnovers (2 by Jones) can be a tough thing to overcome but many thanks to WAS playing really bad football at this time. NYG walked away with this victory early. But don’t fool yourself into thinking this was a quality game. If NYG plays like this next week against MIN and a few days later against NE, they will be 2-4.
  1. One more positive about Daniel Jones being under center for the upcoming match-up against MIN is Eli Manning won’t be under center. He was 3-6 with 5 TD / 15 INT and a 56.1 QBR against MIN over his career. By far the team that gave him the most trouble. Jones will have his work cut out for him in this one, another big test. MIN has the 6th-best defense in the league this year and they finished 4th in 2018.
  1. The confidence of this defense has to be higher than its been in quite some time. In the last six quarters of football, they have allowed 6 points (zero touchdowns), they’re getting to the QB, and they are forcing turnovers. The MIN offense has been inconsistent but don’t forget the weapons they have in Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Dalvin Cook. Huge barometer for the Giants, hopefully with either Davis and/or Ogletree back at ILB.
Sep 232019
 
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Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (September 22, 2019)

Sterling Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 32 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31

QUICK RECAP

The 0-2 Giants traveled to Tampa Bay to take on the 1-1 Bucs, whom were coming off a 10-day rest. What had become to feel like normal (the sixth 0-2 start in 7 seasons), this winless start was different. There was a buzz leading into week 3 unlike we have seen in quite some time. Besides the wacky, still unexplainable decision to bench Eli Manning week 12 of 2017, Big Blue would march out of the tunnel with a new franchise QB at the helm. After being selected with the 6th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, Daniel Jones was inserted into the staring lineup after just two games in to his rookie season.

The Giants began the afternoon in similar fashion as the previous two weeks on both sides of the ball. For the third week in a row, NYG allowed a touchdown but also scored points of their own in the first quarter. Jameis Winston, a former number one pick who is currently in a contract year, hit his star receiver Mike Evans in the end zone twice on the Bucs’ first two drives, beating Janoris Jenkins both times. That theme would be repeated all game. In between the TB scoring drives, Jones set the tone for the afternoon, engineering an 11 play – 57 yard drive with two 3rd-down conversions. While it only resulted in 3 points, Jones proved early on he was ready for game time. Fortunately TB missed their first extra point and had their second attempt blocked by Dexter Lawrence with an assist from B.J. Hill. Missed extra points almost always come back to bite you. Remember that.

Jones opened the second quarter with another long, yard-by-yard drive, this one being 12 plays long. TB shot themselves in the foot with two 3rd-down penalties on this one and Jones displayed his athletic ability on two separate occasions, the latter being a 7-yard designed run after a fake to Saquon Barkley inside. Kerry Collins, Kurt Warner, and Eli Manning were the three previous starting quarterbacks for the Giants. None of them would be the best athlete on a team full of senior citizens, thus the burst and speed Jones showed on both those plays seemed almost foreign, but it was a pleasant sight to see.

The rest of the first half was all Tampa. They had four more possessions, giving them six altogether in the first half. They scored four more times (3 field goals and another touchdown to Mike Evans over Jenkins), giving them six altogether in the first half. Yes, six possessions and six scores for the Bucs in the first two quarters, the 27th ranked offense in the NFL after two weeks. Winston finished the half with a 144.5 QB rating, the same Jameis Winston with a career 87.7 QB rating. Jones also lost a fumble, an issue we discussed in the preseason, giving this game a blowout-feel to it as they went to the locker rooms. And the worst of it all, Saquon Barkley went down with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury. TB was up 28-10.

It is often said that the first two possessions of the second half set the tone for the rest of the game. Well, Sunday added to the strength of that theory, as Jones hit Engram for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play and then the Giants stopped the Bucs on their next drive, forcing their first punt of the game. With Barkley on the sideline using crutches and wearing a boot, NYG came out and scored another touchdown via a Jones-to-Sterling Shepard pass. Just like that, NYG had all of the momentum and the TB offense began to stall.

The two teams traded multiple possessions back and forth with both offensive lines starting to fatigue and both quarterbacks turning the ball over. Winston threw an interception but Jones had the ball jarred loose as he wound up to throw just two plays later. TB ended up being the next to score via a 23-yard field goal, making the score 31-25 with six minutes left. The Giants responded with a quick 3-and-out and no choice but to punt it back to TB with the hope their defense could get a quick stop, and that they did. Michael Thomas made arguably the defensive play of the afternoon on a 3rd-and-2 play that left him and TB tight end Cameron Brate alone in space after short completion. TB was forced to punt and Jones, in his pro debut, got the ball back on the NYG 25-yard line with 3:16 left and a timeout at his disposal down 6 points. Stage was set.

He completed his first five passes, the highlight being a 21-yard gain to fellow rookie Darius Slayton whom was also making his pro debut. Jones was quick to the get the ball out while also showing outstanding pocket mobility and awareness. On 4th-and-5 from the TB 7-yard line, it was a do-or-die situation. Jones took the snap, felt pressure on the outside, recognized man coverage with the defenders turning their backs to him, and darted up the middle and easily scored his second rushing touchdown of the day, the first time a Giants quarterback scored on the ground twice in one game since 1991. Aldrick Rosas hit the extra point and NYG was up 32-31 and just over a minute remaining.

The Giants defense, which could not have started worse, quietly came up big for the entire second half. They were on a hot streak but streaks are always meant to be broken. Winston hit Evans one last time, this one for a gain of 44 yards, putting TB within easy field goal striking distance. The wind was officially out of the sails. TB took a delay of game penalty on purpose because Head Coach Bruce Arians was convinced rookie Matt Gay was better from a slightly longer distance. Gay lined up for what appeared to be a chip shot from 34 yards.

28 years – 8 months ago, NYG had a 1-point lead against the Buffalo Bills in Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXV. Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal by less than a foot, wide right. Giants won 20-19. Same city, different stadium, different opponent, and different magnitude, Bucs kicker Matt Gay missed a 34-yard field goal by less than a foot, wide right.

Giants win, 32-31.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 23/36 – 336 yards – 2 TD / 4 att – 28 yards – 2 TD. Jones also lost two fumbles in this one. Well, what can we say? The first start of Jones’ career was as memorable as any first-start of any Giants QB in the history of the franchise. I can’t say this performance surprised me. Why? Jones showed a certain level of poise and natural decision making during preseason. Add this to the list of reasons why I think preseason games are not only important, but vital. From the minute the game started all the way to the Giants game-winning touchdown, Jones had the look of someone that has been there, someone that can handle anything thrown at him, someone that has the ideal match of tools and intangibles. His throws were accurate, his runs were athletic, his hesitations were minimal. Giants fans it won’t take much more, other than time, to fully convince me that NYG has their guy. By guy, I mean their next QB for a decade-plus. Now, hold onto that football. More on that later.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 8 att – 10 yards / 4 rec – 27 yards. Barkley left the game in the 2nd quarter with an ankle injury. That kind of high ankle sprain usually sidelines backs for a minimum of 3 weeks and it could be 2 months before we see him out there. It was a really quiet start to the game for him regardless with absolutely no running room. TB Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles jammed the box pretty tight with an extra defender and got them blitzing multiple gaps often. Barkley did drop a touchdown pass on a ball that caught him off guard a bit but the damage was nullified by a Jones touchdown run soon after.

-Wayne Gallman: 5 att – 13 yards. NYG didn’t spend a lot of time trying to run the ball after Barkley went down. The TB defensive line was dominating the point-of-attack from start to finish. Gallman didn’t get the fairest of opportunities here but these next 2-4 games where Barkley is out, he will get a big shot to make a name for himself.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 7 rec – 100 yards – 1 TD / 2 att – 21 yards. It was Shepard’s first game back after missing a game with a concussion. Shepard is one of the guys who you realize his value after he isn’t out there. He never has been and never will be a star, but the ability to get open, make things happen after the catch, and block downfield are major game-winning traits. He had gains of 36 and 26 yards in the passing game and a 19-yard gain on a rushing attempt. He is going to be vital for Jones’ success.

-Darius Slayton: 3 rec – 82 yards. Like Jones, it was Slayton’s pro debut and he brought exactly what you were hoping for to the table. He looked rusty early on when it came to running routes and tracking the ball but as the game went on, he had what I would call a mini-breakout performance. His 3 catches went for 15-21-46 yards, two of which were in the second half. Slayton was paired up against former college teammate Carlton Davis on numerous occasions and it is worth noting how much of a cushion he gave Slayton in comparison to other NYG receivers. Davis knew Slayton better than anybody out there, and he knows what Slayton can do deep. This was an extremely encouraging sign to see him make an impact like this even though he played under half the offensive snaps.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 6 rec / 113 yards. We are getting to the point where Engram is receiving national spotlight. Only Travis Kelce has more receiving yards among tight ends (by 7). Engram was the favorite target of Jones early on, catching four balls in the first two drives. TB started to bracket-cover him from there on, but the first play of the second half resulted in a 75-yard play-action pass to Engram where his burst and long speed were on full display. Thanks to a key downfield block by Slayton, Engram outran the TB secondary by a pretty wide margin. That was something we have seen glimpses of in his first two years but I think we are at the beginning of a big-time breakout year for him. Watch out.

-Really poor blocking day for Rhett Ellison. He allowed a sack, a pressure, and a TFL.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-It was a horrid day for the tackles. Nate Solder, the second highest paid tackle in the NFL, allowed 1 TFL, 1 pressure, and 3 sacks. He was nothing short of miserable in the second half. Mike Remmers struggled in the run game from the start, allowing a TFL and made both Barkley and Gallman re-direct the instant they approached the line. He allowed 1 TFL and 1 pressure in addition to being flagged for a false start. An offense can usually hide one poor blocking OT, but if both of these guys continue to struggle, it will come back to bite hard against a real defense.

-Guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler both graded out very high in the passing game. Hernandez was swift with his lateral footwork and overall recognition. Zeitler is still nursing the shoulder it seems, as his push wasn’t there but he stayed off the radar, which is exactly what you want from a lineman.

-Center Jon Halapio went backwards in this one, both literally and figuratively. He was matched up against arguable the most under-talked about defensive tackle in the game right now, Vita Vea, most of the game. He gets somewhat of a pass but it has to be mentioned he allowed a TFL and a pressure. His lack of push was right there with Remmers in relation to why this running game just couldn’t get going.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-As we saw last week, Dexter Lawrence is getting more and more comfortable. It seems they are getting him over the center more often and it is changing how the entire defense plays. That is something to keep an eye on in coming weeks. He had 2 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 pressure and was found 15-20 yards away from the point-of-attack getting in on the action a couple times. His biggest play was the blocked extra point after the second TB touchdown. You really have to watch him to fully appreciate what he is doing out there.

-Dalvin Tomlinson is a major unknown to me right now. He was a major weakness against the inside running game several times in this one. He was getting pushed back multiple yards, multiple times. Ronald Jones averaged nearly 6 yards per carry and if there was one guy to point the finger at, it was him. He did make a couple of noteworthy plays based on range to the outside and ability to maneuver in space.

-B.J. Hill had a quietly effective game. He re-directed the TB rushing attack a few times but perhaps his biggest play has yet to be mentioned anywhere. On the blocked extra point, it was Hill that jumped the snap and got the push that created the space for Lawrence to drive through and get his hand up.

-Backups Olsen Pierre and R.J. McIntosh got roughed up. They played a combined third of the snaps and the TB offense visibly went right at them. It was a poor day for both.

EDGE

-The Giants edge presence improved for the second straight week after a tough start in DAL. Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter, and Oshane Ximines combined for 14 tackles / 3 sacks / 4 pressures. Golden was credited with 2 sacks, although I had one of them shared with Ogletree. These three aren’t a what I would call a scary force, but they were consistently getting involved. They have Winston to thank because of how long he holds on to the ball, but it is amazing what changes within a defense when the pass rush starts leaking through.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree strained his hamstring while running back a fumble return that ended up not being a fumble, and missed over half the game. Ryan Connelly, who was already in the starting lineup, stepped up his game thereafter. He had 7 tackles, a pass break up, and a key interception in the second half. He got the green dot put on his helmet and this could be the changing of the guard at inside linebacker for NYG. Ogletree, who has been a bit of an underwhelming presence since NYG traded for him, has 2 more years on his contract at $22+ million. With NYG entering the prime years of building a roster around a rookie-contract-QB, this could be the beginning of the end for Ogletree.

-Tae Davis had a quiet game and was replaced by David Mayo after what appeared to be a head injury. I don’t expect him to miss any time.

CORNERBACKS

-Karma. Janoris Jenkins called out the lack of pass rush to the media after last week’s home loss to BUF. He wasn’t wrong, but he handled it wrong. He responded with his worst game as a Giant and likely the worst game of his career. He allowed 3 touchdowns to Mike Evans and was burned deep on the final TB drive that put them in to easy-field goal range. Had Matt Gay not missed the easy chip shot. Jenkins would be been THE culprit of this loss. He simply did not compete in this one.

-Deandre Baker, other than a play where he allowed a first down to Breshard Perriman as a result of him giving way too much cushion in relation to the situation, improved his play after his tough first two weeks. Baker made a key tackle in this one and showed tight deep coverage on a couple of occasions.

-Grant Haley wasn’t tested much but when he was, he didn’t perform. He allowed a deep pass and was late to help in the middle of the field. The issues NYG has defending the middle of the passing tree are mostly attributed to the safeties, but Haley has to take some of the heat here. He hasn’t taken his game to the next level and his days could be numbered if it stays that way.

SAFETIES

-One thing I am noticing about Jabrill Peppers, a fine athlete who plays really hard, is the lack of instincts and “gamer” in him. He just doesn’t read-and-react efficiently and everything seems manufactured. He allowed a couple of downfield completions and was flagged for a pass interference when he was playing catch up against a tight end. Peppers did finish with 8 tackles and he made a nice play when he blew up a wide receiver screen, but I’m not sure he is going to help this team more than hurt them. He is often a notch or two late and a good QB can expose that all day.

-Antoine Bethea led the team with 9 tackles. I give him credit for being a reliable last line of defense when the action is in front of him. He is a good tackler but the lack of deep range limits this secondary as a whole, and it almost seems like it is impacting the cornerbacks and their overall approach.

-Have to give a shout out to Michael Thomas, who only played 17 defensive snaps, for the tackle he made in the 4th quarter on the Bucs 3rd-and-2 completion in to the flat. A half second later and it would have been first down TB and likely a NYG loss.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 36).

-P Riley Dixon: 5 Punts – 48.8 avg / 47.0 net. Dixon is tied for 4th in the NFL with a 45.5 yard net average.

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, TE Evan Engram, DT Dexter Lawrence

3 DUDS

-CB Janoris Jenkins, OT Nate Solder, DT Dalvin Tomlinson

3 THOUGHTS ON TB

  1. Jameis Winston is in a contract year. He’s been in the NFL for 4+ seasons now. He is 22-37. He has thrown 93 TDs / 62 INTs and has fumbled 40 times. He is currently working with his third head coach. Yesterday was a microcosm of his entire career. A short, nice run followed by mental mistakes and a horrid turnover. He has had a few issues off of the field. This is what Winston was in college and this is what Winston has been, and will be, in the NFL. TB will be in the QB market when the 2020 NFL Draft arrives, no question.
  1. OLB Shaquil Barrett could have been signed by any team in the league this past offseason. Almost nobody wanted the 27-year old, 5th-year veteran who had 14 career sacks to his name as a part time player in DEN. He was paid $4 million on a 1-year deal, which is less money than Kareem Martin on a per-year basis and just slightly above what NYG signed Markus Golden for. Barrett leads the NFL with 8 sacks in just 3 games. This is not an indictment on anyone, but yet another sign that as far away as a team may seem at a position or multiple positions, they truly can be just one guy away at all times.
  1. Imagine this TB defensive front with their best player? Don’t forget they lost Jason Pierre-Paul to a neck injury and last I checked, he is expected back at some point. Barrett, Vea, and a potential JPP comeback combined with other solid role players, this front can make a major impact in a division race that is as up in the air as any.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. During the preseason, I noted that Daniel Jones had an issue with ball security. He fumbled it numerous times but it wasn’t just that that got me concerned. One of the basic principals of moving your way through the pocket in the NFL is keeping two hands on the ball until you are actually starting the throwing motion. It is a foreign concept to some young QBs because they didn’t have to do that in high school or college. The pass rushers weren’t as fast, weren’t as long, weren’t as strong, weren’t as savvy. However, in the NFL, almost every pass rusher is adept to going after the ball. The second one I give him a pass for, as he was in the throwing motion. But that first fumble, it can’t happen. He will walk away from every game with something to work on and I think this needs to be objective number one.
  1. In week 1, NYG allowed 21 points (3 touchdowns) in the first half. In week 2, NYG allowed 21 points (3 touchdowns) in the first half. In week 3, NYG allowed 28 points (3 touchdowns) in the first half. Sure, one could make the argument that in all three games the defense “stepped up” in the second half but I won’t even give them that much credit. Analytics show that most teams, with a lead, alter their offensive game plan in the second half even though the original game plan worked so well in the first half. At that point they are playing to bleed the clock, playing not to lose, rather than sticking with what worked. Very few teams stay aggressive with a double digit lead in the second half, but NO and NE are one of a few that do. That is not irony. Anyway, NYG’s defense is worse than we even think right now. Personnel wise, they have (literally) nobody that scares anybody.
  1. The Saquon Barkley news is a killer. For a team that just came off as emotional of a win as they have had in a long time, it was a rather quick buzz kill. But if I am going to be real here, this NYG team is not ready to compete. There is no sense is rushing him back on the field until he is 100%. Let Gallman get his time to shine and let’s see if another running back can emerge now that touches are up for grabs. It worked out well for SF, no reason it can’t work here.
Sep 162019
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (September 15, 2019)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills 28 – New York Giants 14

QUICK RECAP

It was a warm, sunny, end-of-summer type day at MetLife Stadium as the 0-1 Giants took on the 1-0 Buffalo Bills. The Bills were playing their second straight game at MetLife, as they defeated the New York Jets there in week 1. The Giants were without Sterling Shepard because of a concussion suffered last week, while the Bills nickel cornerback situation entered the game with their third stringer in the starting lineup.

Much like week 1 in Dallas, NYG came firing out of the gate. Starting at their own 25, they seamlessly marched down the field. Chunk gains of 6, 20, 14, and 8 led to a 27-yard touchdown run by Saquon Barkley. A week after we discussed that #26 wasn’t getting enough action in key moments, the team gave him the ball 4 times on this opening drive. The quick 7-0 lead confirmed that approach was the only way this team was going to consistently be a threat.

NYG forced a three-and-out highlighted by a Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter combined sack, the first sack of the 2019 season for NYG. With the lead at 7-0 and Barkley having just owned the BUF defense on all levels, they gave him the ball right away on the second drive he gained 5 yards. They then proceeded to take him off the field for Wayne Gallman. Three plays later, NYG was punting the ball back to BUF.

BUF then went on to score touchdowns on three straight drives. Quarterback Josh Allen and rookie running back Devin Singletary rushed for scores respectively and Allen hit receiver Isaiah McKenzie on a shovel pass for a 14-yard score to put the visitors up by 14. Two things about this run that really set the tone for the rest of the contest: (1) BUF obviously came into this game wanting to challenge rookie cornerback Deandre Baker. They torched him on all three levels of the route tree and the 1st-round pick who was traded up for in last April’s draft looked absolutely lost. (2) The third scoring drive deflated the stadium to a point where it just never quite fully came back from. The drive began on the BUF 2-yard line after an amazing special teams coverage play by Antonio Hamilton. The stadium was very loud and the fans got behind the Giants. How did the defense respond? A 7-play drive that took just 4:26 to reach the end zone. The NYG defense didn’t even look competitive. “Here we go again” was the only thought one could muster at this point.

NYG actually put together a solid drive as the end of the half was approaching. Manning spread the ball out in the passing game and Barkley picked up a couple more chunk gains. Aldrick Rosas, the 2018 second-team All Pro, came out for a 48-yard field goal attempt but it sailed wide left. Again, the fans got their hopes up but Big Blue just couldn’t seal the deal. The defense forced a quick stop and the newly-signed, preseason-star T.J. Jones returned the punt 60 yards all the way to the BUF 33-yard line. NYG was going to get another crack at a score with just over a minute left.

Manning hit Bennie Fowler for a 12-yard gain but had his next pass tipped at the line by rookie Ed Oliver that luckily fell into the arm of BUF defensive end Trent Murphy. BUF took a knee and their 14-point lead into the half.

In this week’s version of “Hey at least….” in the world of moral victories (the majority of any positive thought NYG has had in recent years), the NYG defense stepped up in the second half. Three consecutive scoreless drives for the defense didn’t seem as impressive as it could have been because the Giants offense continued to sputter. They showed some hope with their opening drive of the second half, reaching the BUF 41, but a holding penalty by Nate Solder and a sack allowed by Kevin Zeitler and Jon Halapio reminded us all that these are still the New York Giants, one of the most-oft losing teams in the NFL over the past 6 years.

NYG did not give up or mail it in. With Cody Latimer out after a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit (that wasn’t called a penalty), Manning was back in the all-too-familiar position of dealing with street free agent-caliber receivers running routes. He found Jones in the back of the end zone, who made an impressive play on the ball considering he was mere inches away from being out of bounds as he double toe-tapped the blue paint. NYG was all of the sudden down 21-14 with momentum on their side for the first time since the opening drive of the game.

BUF responded with chunk gains to receiver John Brown and the rookie Singletary, who averaged 9.5 yards per carry by the way. NYG came up with a stop to force a BUF field goal attempt from the 3-yard line. The ball went through the uprights but a (very) questionable personal foul call on rookie Dexter Lawrence for grazing the snapper’s helmet gave BUF a fresh slate of downs from the NYG 2-yard line. Two plays later, Frank Gore, the 4th all time rushing leader, crossed the goal line for his first touchdown since 2017.

It was 28-14 with just under 6 minutes left and NYG was without their top 3 wide receivers. Manning threw a couple of desperate deep balls over the course of the next two drives, one of which landed in the hands of BUF safety Jordan Poyer.

Giants lose, 28-14.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 26/45 – 250 yards – 1 TD/2 INT – 62.3 QBR. Manning didn’t leave as much out there as he did in Dallas in relation to missed opportunities. Those opportunities were few and far between as he entered the game without his two top receivers and then lost his number three late in game with an injury. Excuses can be made, but at the end of the day, to make this as simple as possible, he didn’t make plays. He had multiple balls batted at the line that stemmed from him staring down his targets, having a slow release beginning with his footwork all the way up to his arm-action, and playing a predictable game altogether. Manning didn’t do enough to make things happen when the Bills started to slow down the NYG running game.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 18 att / 107 yards / 1 TD – 3 rec / 28 yards. The game could not have started better for the second-year back out of Penn State. Barkley touched the ball on 4 out of 5 plays, gaining 55 yards via the ground, and scored a touchdown on a 27-yard run. That was the peak of his game, however. Barkley struggled to find a consistent flow because of poor inside blocking, poor tight end blocking, and an overly stacked box. Taking him off the field during their second series of the game didn’t make sense to me at all. He is the kind of player who changes the entire approach to the game on both sidelines when he is on the field and nobody can convince me he needed a break that early, scheduled or not.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Bennie Fowler: 5 rec / 51 yards. Fowler led the team with 10 targets. He appeared to be the guy Manning was most often looking toward in important situations. As expected, he was underwhelming in this one. As he struggled to get any separation on any level of the route tree, but especially on deep passes. His biggest miss was a ball that he dropped after contact that would have been a first down inside the BUF 15-yard line. The next play, Rosas missed the field goal. It was an enormous play.

-T.J. Jones: 3 rec / 38 yards / 1 TD. Jones also handled the punts and returned one for 60 yards, but it didn’t end up in points because of a Manning interception. Jones was the surprise of camp and the team still opted to cut him. Because of the injuries to the position, Jones was brought back and he made things happen in his regular season debut with Big Blue. He caught a 4th-quarter touchdown to get the team within 7, and it was a high-skill play as he leapt, got the ball at its apex, and tip-toed his feet in the blue paint with a defensive back right there. He earned another week here, especially if Latimer is going to miss time.

-Cody Latimer caught 3 passes for 30 yards, and Cody Core, most known for his ability as a special teams gunner, also added 3 catches for 28 yards. Russell Shepard rounded out the group with 2 catches for 19 yards.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram: 6 rec / 48 yards. The Bills were the best defense in the NFL last year when it came to limiting tight end production. They are carrying that over in 2019 it seems, as Engram was contained. Engram’s biggest gain of the day – 33 yards – came in garbage time when the BUF defense was in prevent. Besides that, Engram was held to 5 rec / 15 yards.

-Both Engram and Ellison struggled on the edge blocking in this one. The BUF defense was collapsing the edge against the run over and over, making it near-impossible for Barkley to improvise when things weren’t there inside. Those two aren’t expected to get a ton of pus against defensive ends, but they were just getting walked into the inside gaps too often.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Tackles Nate Solder and Mike Remmers were inconsistent. Solder had a key holding penalty on a 17-yard gain that got NYG to the BUF 24-yard line. It was the opening drive of the third quarter, often a major tone setter for the rest of the game, and three plays later the NYG drive was over at midfield. Remmers allowed 2 pressures, with Solder allowing one.

-Inside, it was a rough day for center Jon Halapio after he played arguably his best game of his career at DAL. The BUF defensive line is one of the most underrated in the league, and they performed well in this one. Halapio allowed a sack, a TFL, and rolled a snap back to Manning. He also was losing out on the ground battle on inside runs, getting pushed around and not creating the running lanes we saw in DAL.

-Kevin Zeitler is fighting a shoulder injury. I’m not sure how public it will become but upon re-watching the group, it was obvious he is favoring it. Zeitler is usually heavy-handed and very controlling with his upper body, but he just didn’t have it in this one. He allowed sack with Halapio. Will Hernandez got off to a rough start, allowing 2 pressures but his play leveled off from there on out.

EDGE

-Markus Golden had an active game after a dismal performance week 1 in DAL. He had 6 tackles, 1 sack (on two separate half-sack plays), and a pressure. It was an encouraging sign for one of the worst pass rushes in football to see Golden disrupt the BUF passing game. The pessimistic would say he was up against a struggling rookie in Cody Ford and Allen is a QB that holds onto the ball way too long at times.

-Lorenzo Carter saw an increase in snaps with the injury to Kareem Martin. I stated he would be one of the most important players on the entire team back during my Training Camp reports, and now he has the real full-time opportunity for the first time. He had 4 tackles, a half-sack, and a pressure. Not a bad game, but too often he disappears for stretches. He needs to get more effective in traffic and not be overly reliant on space-pursuits. This will come down to power development and technique refinement, most notably from his hands.

-Oshane Ximines has 2 tackles and a shared sack with Golden. He is now the third pass rusher who will see more and more snaps as the season progresses. What he does with his hands, already in his young career, is exactly what I want to see out of Carter. The issue I see is the lack of athletic ability to beat guys off the snap or at least pose as a speed-rush threat.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Rookie Dexter Lawrence and B.J. Hill were active in this one. Lawrence seemed to be more aggressive than we saw in week 1, an encouraging sign as these kids have to process so much information pre-snap and post-snap compared to what they did in college. Lawrence finished with 4 tackles and 2 pressures, showing the ability we know he has to push the pocket. Hill had 3 tackles and pressure but what impressed me the most with him was how often he was around the action away from the ball. He is a keeper.

-Olsen Pierre had a sack and it could have been a major impact play had the refs not blown it dead too quickly. Because Josh Allen is so big and strong, it is tough for defenders to get him down quickly. Pierre got a hold of Allen and just before the play was whistled dead, his foot jarred the ball loose. This could have, maybe even should have, resulted in a defensive touchdown for NYG, but it was not reviewable. Even though BUF ended up punting soon after, that could have been a game-altering play.

LINEBACKERS

-Rookie Ryan Connelly got the start next to Alex Ogletree. He finished with 6 tackles, while Ogletree finished with 5 of his own, a pressure, and a pass break up. These two are the ones I expect to see in the middle for the rest of the season. The one issue that both seem to have right now is a lack of range and instincts in coverage. The middle of the field was still a weak point and while more can be attributed to the safeties than linebackers there, it is going to get exposed all year if these two don’t improve.

CORNERBACKS

-I watch a lot of pro football, especially over the last 6 years. This is not a pat on the back or a search for credibility. I state that because I am not exaggerating nor am I blindly saying that the performance we saw out of rookie Deandre Baker in the first half may have very well been the worst I have ever seen from the position. He was picked on over and over again with a variety of receivers and routes. He was lost out there. Baker is afraid of getting beat deep after what happened to him in week 1. There is so much hesitation in his game right now and it is allowing for too much space, a receiver’s best friend. The “bust” label isn’t even a thought of right now, as rookie CBs have it as tough as any position in football other than QB. He can take his lumps and NYG fans will have to accept that. But when simply analyzing the game, Baker just didn’t know what to do out there and it showed. Now he has something to work off of and we will see how he responds.

-Janoris Jenkins, as volatile as the position is around the league, played a solid game. He did get called for a hold at an important moment, though. With NYG just having gotten within 7 in the fourth quarter, Allen threw an incomplete pass to make it 3rd-and-9. Jenkins was called for the penalty, however, giving BUF a first down. They proceeded to march down the field and score a touchdown.

-Grant Haley was on the field for 47 plays. He made 1 tackle, didn’t break up any passes, and missed 2 tackles in space. The nickel corner is a legitimate starting position these days and the best defenses have a guy there who makes plays. Haley is a good story, he tries hard, he cares, but he isn’t making an impact.

SAFETIES

-Antoine Bethea, whom has a starting job by default, played better than what we saw in week 1 but he wasn’t tested nearly as much. He is still getting baited by play-action more than a veteran should and the athleticism isn’t there to make up for it. He did lead the team with 10 tackles.

-Jabrill Peppers, albeit just two games into the season and in a new scheme, hasn’t yet to prove he is capable of making plays. We can talk about the physical package all we want when it comes to the impressive strength and speed, but the football player in him hasn’t shown up yet. He was simply ineffective against the outside run, stemming from the inability to get off blocks. Too much fluff with him so far, not enough play-making.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 0/1 (missed 48). It was a big missed attempt for Rosas, as BUF had just scored three straight touchdowns to make the score 21-7 and NYG put together a solid drive.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 48.4 avg / 47.2 net.

-As previously stated, T.J. Jones returned one of his 3 attempts for 60 yards. NYG didn’t capitalize on it. Corey Ballentine handled kick returns, one for 23 yards and one for 17.

3 STUDS

-RB Saquon Barkley, WR T.J. Jones, EDGE Markus Golden

3 DUDS

-CB Deandre Baker, S Jabrill Peppers, OT Nate Solder

3 THOUGHTS ON BUF

  1. I have a strong appreciation for BUF, and not just because they are off to a 2-0 start. I was asked a few times during the week what I thought about the NYG vs BUF matchup and I said I wasn’t optimistic because of how well BUF is coached. The jury is still out on how well NYG is coached but things aren’t looking positive at the moment. BUF doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, especially on defense. Almost 10 years ago, I was told Sean McDermott was going to be a big time head coach someday. They have something here, just wait and watch.
  1. We don’t know what Josh Allen is yet. Personally, I had him graded out as a day 2 pick and I wasn’t impressed by his rookie season. With that said, I think Allen has some swagger and more than enough talent to be a dangerous player. I think he will be a guy who will go on stretches that make him look like a top 10 QB in the league, just to be followed by stretches where he looks like a questionable starter.
  1. How come BUF went from perennial loser (11 losing seasons since 2005) to a 2-0 team that is knocking on the door of being a legit contender? They have drafted exceptionally well. They have 4 solid starters from the 2017 and 2018 classes respectively, and 6 picks from the 2019 class who are already making positive impacts. Also to prove their strong drafting beyond their own roster, the following players were drafted by BUF since 2012: CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Ronald Darby, OT Cordy Glenn, LB Kiko Alonso, WR Marquise Goodwin, LB Nigel Bradham, WR Robert Woods, OT Seantrel Henderson, LB Preston Brown, WR Sammy Watkins, TE Nick O’Leary, and LB Reggie Ragland. That is some good stuff and if you want to go and count how many players NYG has drafted who became solid starters since 2012, don’t let it ruin your Monday.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. On purpose, I didn’t make the Eli Manning vs. Daniel Jones debate a thing last week. I don’t think it needs to be beat to death week in, week out. However here we are, 0-2 for the fifth time in six years, with a 1st-round rookie on the bench who looked fantastic in preseason. Once you take Manning out, you aren’t putting him back in. My plan would be to let Manning play the next 2 weeks (@ TB, vs. WAS), and if NYG still looks like they are stuck in the mud, turn it over to Jones and let him start 12 games.
  1. The NFC East has 2-0 DAL, 1-1 PHI, and 0-2 WAS. Because I have been around for long enough, I know it is foolish to give up this early in the season for any team. The positive remains this: the NYG schedule has very winnable games coming up. TB and WAS are the next 2 with ARI and DET on the horizon (after MIN and NE). NYG isn’t done yet, guys.
  1. My biggest coaching complaint in week 1 was the lack of devotion to Barkley in 3rd-and-short/4th-and-short situations in key moments of the game. NYG had just one 3rd-and-1, and then a 3rd-and-2, and a 4th-and-2. Barkley didn’t get a touch in any of those situations, although they did convert two of those for a first down. I won’t criticize that because of the results, but I still scratch my head here. I also think this team needs to get him split out more often, as this WR group is depleted. 13 running backs have more carries than Barkley. 10 running backs have more catches than Barkley. 8 running backs have more touches than Barkley. Food for thought.
Sep 092019
 
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At Least There Was Something Worth Looking At – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 35 – New York Giants 17

QUICK RECAP

For the fourth time in five years, Big Blue traveled to Dallas to kick off the regular season. That in and of itself is exceptionally odd but that can be a discussion for another time. The Giants changed their culture and roster nearly as much as any organization in pro football. Gone is arguably the top play-maker in franchise history, gone is arguably their top pass rusher, and in comes a real offensive line and surrounding cast who supports the kind of team that can revolve around their generational talent at running back, Saquon Barkley. This season has a fresh new feel to it and week 1 was as anticipated as its been in awhile.

That anticipation and dare-I-say optimism was rewarded early. The Giants forced a DAL punt on the first drive and proceeded to march down the field and get in the end zone via just 7 plays. The main-gain was a 59-yard run by Barkley through a wide open hole and speedy scamper down the left sideline. Manning hit Evan Engram for a 1-yard score that gave NYG their first, and last, lead of the game, 7-0.

DAL had a dominant offensive day and the warning signs were present on the very next drive. They converted two straight 3rd-and-4’s via the passing game near or inside the hashmarks, a glaring hole that was exposed all day in the NYG swiss-cheese defense. Dak Prescott hit tight end Blake Jarwin up the middle for a 28-yard touchdown without a defender anywhere near him. The Giants have had issues covering the position for years and most in particular against DAL. Let’s not forget that Jarwin was the no-namer last year that scored 3 touchdowns against NYG in week 17. Funny how some things simply do not change.

The refs didn’t do NYG any favors in this one and perhaps the biggest miss was an intentional grounding called on Eli Manning on the following drive. Manning was clearly hit while throwing by the untouched blitzing linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, which prevented the ball from reaching the line of scrimmage. This penalty took NYG out of field goal range and forced a punt.

DAL opened the 2nd quarter with a 9-play drive that saw Prescott go 7/7 – 95 yards – with a touchdown to Jason Witten. No you aren’t reading a repeat game review from years ago. The 2018 Monday Night Football announcer, in his first game back from retirement, scored his 16th career touchdown against NYG. He doesn’t have 10 total against any other team in the NFL. DAL took a 14-7 lead and they were just getting started. NYG went 3-and-out on the next drive before DAL put together a 13-play, 6:43-game clock drive that ended in Prescott’s third touchdown of the game, this time to Amari Cooper who burned rookie Deandre Baker. All of the sudden halftime was here, DAL was up 14 after having the ball for nearly twice as long as NYG.

The Giants began the second half with the ball and crossed midfield quickly. They were faced with a 4th-and-8 and contrary to what Pat Shurmur opted for in the past, they went for it. That resulted in a conversion via a nice pitch-and-catch to Bennie Fowler but they were unable to create much more. Aldrick Rosas came on to nail his first field goal of the year, a 28-yarder to make the score 21-10.

NYG defense needed to show they could make the halftime adjustment and set the tone. The result? A 45-yard pass to Amari Cooper. A 5-yard run by Ezekiel Elliot. A 25-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb that looked like a practice play on air. “On air” means no defense on the field. Nobody even looked at Cobb running his route up the middle of the field, let alone tried to cover him.

NYG was down by 18, albeit with plenty of time on the clock. They made it to the DAL 8 yard line and it was 3rd-and-2. At this point they were in a go-for-the-touchdown mode no matter what. The play call on 3rd-and-2 was a run to fullback Elijhaa Penny. They gained 1 yard. The 4th-and-1 call was a rollout passing play that resulted in Manning not getting rid of the ball, trying to juke 3 DAL defenders, and getting sacked while fumbling the ball. Barkley didn’t touch the ball on either play.

DAL starting deep in their own territory (89 yards away from the end zone), needed just 7 plays to put another 7 points on the board. Deeply aided by a 62-yard pass to WR Michael Gallup, up the middle yet again, Elliot dragged two NYG defenders into the end zone on a 10-yard touchdown run. It was 35-10 at the end of the 3rd quarter.

The two teams traded a few possessions after that without anything noteworthy taking place. The Giants scored a touchdown via a Wayne Gallman 2-yard run in the classic too-little, too-late situation. Daniel Jones then got his first NFL regular season action on their next drive. He completed 3-of-4 attempts before scrambling and fumbling, a reoccurring theme we saw out of him in preseason. DAL re-took the ball and confirmed their win.

Giants lose 35-17.

QUARTERBACK

  • Eli Manning: 30/44 – 306 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. Manning also lost a fumble on a 4th-and-1 passing attempt, a turnover either way. Manning’s overall performance was not a poor one. He protected the ball and made a few big-time throws to both the intermediate and deep levels. He was sacked just once in this one and for the most part, had a pretty clean pocket to work with. The issues with Manning may not have been obvious in the initial look, but after watching this again he made a few major mistakes. When NYG was down 28-10, there was just a crack-in-the-door left in terms of hope. On that drive, Manning was about to have Barkley run past safety Xavier Woods with no safety help over the top. It would have been an easy, long touchdown pass. Instead, Manning got rid of it too fast and ended up hitting Barkley in the back. Later in the drive, Manning had a 4th-and-1 play-action rollout where there was nothing to lose. The initial read was Sterling Shepard, who was running along the goal line more than open enough. Manning hesitated, again, and held onto the ball with multiple DAL defenders closing in on him. The cement-footed QB did his best version of a juke but it resulted in a sack-fumble. A turnover. He has to know by now that in a situation where you are down 18 in the second half and you are that close to the end zone, you have to throw it. Even a blind, toss-it-up-and-hope-for-the-best throw would have been better than holding onto it. Manning’s reaction time, his sluggish movement on long-developing screen plays, and underlying fear to make things happen are going to get him on the bench at some point.

RUNNING BACK

  • Saquon Barkley: 11 att / 120 yards – 4 rec / 19 yards. Barkley averaged 11 yards per carry, including a 59-yard highlight-reel play on the first drive. His vision, grit, and balance stood out in this one. He did fumble on the first touch of the game, the first fumble of his career, but luckily it did not result in a turnover. Barkley wasn’t used enough and Manning’s misread on the pass that hit him in the back would have likely ended in a long touchdown. More on this team misusing him later on.
  • Wayne Gallman: 2 att / 17 yards / 1 TD – 3 rec / 24 yards. Gallman picked up some garbage stats when DAL was up 35-10 in the 4th quarter. Still a solid showing for the underrated backup.

WIDE RECEIVER

  • Cody Latimer: 3 rec / 74 yards. Latimer was on the receiving end of the longest, and second-longest passing gains of the game for the Giants. His one-handed reception at the beginning of the first half that resulted in 43 yards was yet another reminder that there is something here that NYG has to exploit. The triangle numbers are there and his ball skills continue to improve. At some point, the eyebrow-raising ball skills and propensity to finish need credit. And by credit, I mean a more consistent dosage of opportunities. He was also interfered with twice but the refs opted to keep the flag in their pants
  • Sterling Shepard and Bennie Fowler combined for 11 rec / 84 yards. Fowler made arguably the nicest catch of the night on 4th-and-8 where he fully extended up and out while approaching the sideline, and was able to tap both feet in bounds as he completed the dive towards the ground.

TIGHT END

  • Evan Engram: 11 rec / 116 yards / 1 TD. There has been chatter revolving around Engram taking over the #1 pass-catcher role in this offense with Beckham out of the picture. If week 1 is the indicator, be ready for a top-3 season at the position in the NFL. Engram was targeted 14 times on all levels and he looks just as explosive as he ever has. He also made the key block on Barkley’s 59-yard run in the first quarter.
  • Rhett Ellison and Eric Tomlinson played sparingly, with Ellison still holding onto the main number-2 TE role. He made a few nice inside blocks on the move to spring Barkley free from the initial trash at the point-of-attack. Otherwise, a quiet game.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Overall, the increase in overall quality of the group was apparent from the beginning. The left side was solid in the run game especially. Nate Solder and Will Hernandez were powerful and effective off the snap. Hernandez got flagged for a hold (the interior pass rush again) but Solder kept the blindside under control for the most part besides one pressure where he lost his balance.
  • Jon Halapio has been highly-touted by Pat Shurmur, a former center himself, for a couple years now. And besides one pressure from a very unorthodox stunt where DE DeMarcus Lawrence looped all the way to the center of the line, he was dominant. Halapio was clearing inside running lanes by himself and perhaps the most impressive block of the entire game came from him 10+ yards downfield near the sideline on a screen-type pass to Engram. He tossed his man multiple yards into the air, which allowed another few yards of gain. He was the highest-graded NYG lineman.
  • The right side was solid inside with Kevin Zeitler, not so much outside with Mike Remmers. The latter allowed 2 pressures, was blown up twice in the running game that ended up causing TFLs, and was flagged for a false start.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • The trio of Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, and Dexter Lawrence is a group to get excited about when it comes to run defense. They occupied multiple blockers all game and they did their part in keeping Ezekiel Elliot under wraps (4.1 yards per carry is under his 4.7 career average). But one thing about the three of them, they didn’t make plays and I wouldn’t expect much more out of them. Hill did break through the line a few times. The trio combined for 7 tackles, 0 pressures, 0 sacks.
  • Olsen Pierre actually played two more snaps than Lawrence. That is likely a result of him knowing the scheme a bit more and he can offer more as a pass rusher. At the same time, perhaps Lawrence hasn’t quite yet earned it or his lack of conditioning is still an issue? Pierre and fellow backup R.J. McIntosh were quiet for the most part.

EDGE

  • Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter saw the most snaps off the edge. Carter recorded 1 pressure and broke up a pass downfield but was otherwise quiet. Golden saw nearly 80% of the snaps so he was on the field, but he may as well been on the sideline. His attempts at rushing the passer were, to be kind, rusty.
  • Rookie Oshane Ximines saw a decent amount of action in is NFL debut, as Kareem Martin left the game with a knee injury. Ximines got violently introduced to the league by Tyron Smith, who remains in the discussion for the top OT in football. Ximines showed some fight, however, which was nice to see. He lost outside contain on a 3rd-down rushing play, as he just wasn’t able to recover after being fooled by misdirection. It resulted in a first down.

LINEBACKER

  • Maybe Alec Ogletree is still hurt? Maybe he is rusty from all of the practice and preseason action he missed? But the perennial up-and-down player was downright awful in this one. Stats aside (6 tackles and a PD), Ogletree was downright abused by play-action. For the leader of the defense, he sure seemed like he had no idea what DAL was trying to do nor did he show any awareness or reaction to what was going on around him.
  • I like how they swapped Tae Davis and Ryan Connelly in and out. I’m not going to call for a lineup change right now, but those two were the best LBs that NYG had on the field in this one. Davis had 3 tackles and a pressure but still makes aggressive mistakes. I would still rather live with those than the other way around, though. Connelly finished with 2 tackles and a TFL, with the TFL being arguably the best defensive play of the night stemming from instincts, reaction, and closing ability.

CORNERBACK

  • Janoris Jenkins was probably the top NYG defender on the night. He had 5 tackles (3 of which were against the run) and DAL rarely looked his way when passing.
  • The reason for that? Antonio Hamilton and rookie Deandre Baker were on the field. They were absolutely toyed with, torched, beaten…whatever else you want to throw in there…all night. It was ugly and it never got better and there weren’t any positives that came from it. Hamilton was being targeted nearly-non stop but he also missed 3 tackles. One of which was on a 3rd-and-9 pass to Randall Cobb five yards shy of the first down marker. Hamilton had Cobb in front of him, sideline next to him, both hands on, and Cobb barely had to try to get right past him and past the marker. DAL scored a touchdown on the next play to make the score 14-7.
  • Grant Haley, the nickel, was just a hair too late on several occasions no matter where the ball was thrown. The nickel spot is as important as any DB position on the field these days and his feel-good, UDFA-story is wearing off. He isn’t making plays.

SAFETY

  • A sore spot on this defense for a while now. Week 1 didn’t seem any better and if anything, it may have been even worse than what we saw last year. Antoine Bethea has had an overly-impressive career. But the 35-year old who the 20th-ranked IND defense didn’t want after 2013, the 32nd-ranked SF defense didn’t want after 2016, and the 20th-ranked ARI defense didn’t want after 2018 is now starting for NYG. He was fooled, very badly, nearly every time DAL showed misdirection. The play-action fakes had him running in the wrong direction as wide open pass catchers (both tight ends and wide receivers alike) trotted right by him almost as if it was a joke. The worst play of the night was the 62-yard gain to WR Michael Gallup via a short slant pass where Bethea took an awful angle to the action but was still within a yard or two of Gallup when he caught the ball. He simply didn’t have the twitch to just touch him, let alone make a tackle. It was atrocious.
  • Jabrill Peppers and Michael Thomas won’t escape this without blame. They too looked overly stiff and out of position. They are both aggressive, physical defenders but neither showed the ability to forecast and react. By the time they knew what DAL was doing, by the time they were actually moving in the right direction, it was too late. You can be sure future opponents are going to watch this game tape and salivate over their inability to read-and-react.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 28) – 2/2 XP.
  • P Riley Dixon: 4 punts – 41.5 avg – 41.5 net – 3 inside 20

3 STUDS

  • RB Saquon Barkley, OC Jon Halapio, TE Evan Engram

3 DUDS

  • S Antoine Bethea, CB Antonio Hamilton, EDGE Markus Golden

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

  1. Michael Gallup. The number 1 graded WR on my draft board in 2018. The WR who I said will out-produce Amari Cooper in the coming years starting right now. Be afraid of this kid, guys. His combination of speed, agility/looseness, ball skills, and knack for special awareness can make him a household NFL name.
  1. Should they pay Dak Prescott? Or do they have possibly the best possible situation around him that makes him seem better than he really is? I think a valid argument can be made either way but the truth is simple. This team is 32-16 with him as the starter and there isn’t a position in football that messes with team chemistry more than QB. Maybe Zeke is more responsible for their and his success than anything, maybe it is the OL, maybe it is the improving young defense. But messing around with QB could damn then for a long time. Pay him.
  1. Pretty quiet night for the DAL pass rush. I think that is still the question with this team and whether or not they can make a big push in the postseason. DeMarcus Lawrence is legit, but who else is getting through a quality offensive line? At this moment in time, I don’t see that guy yet. And they won’t be able to purchase anyone in the near future.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. 158.3 – The perfect passer rating. The Giants defense was fully healthy. They had two new safeties. They had a 1st-round pick at corner and a 1st-round pick at DT. They contained the running game for the most part. However Dak Prescott put together one of the best passing performances, maybe even THE best, in DAL franchise history. There are bad games and every defense is allowed to have them. But “bad” doesn’t do just how poor this was. It was an embarrassment and to be honest, DAL shot themselves in the foot via penalties by OG Zack Martin (who rarely commits penalties) and drops. This could have been so much worse, if you have the stomach to imagine that.
  1. 3rd-and1. 3rd-and-2. 4th-and-1. Three situations where NYG was losing and the game was starting to slip out of their grasp. Saquon Barkley, whom ended up averaging over 10 yards per carry (best in the NFL week 1 for backs with 7+ touches), Saquon Barkley, whom is a “generational talent”, Saquon Barkley, whom has this offense built around, did not touch the ball on any of those plays. Two passes and a hand off to the fullback. Those 3 plays resulted in a gain of 1 yard and a turnover. I can understand and respect that you can’t be too predictable, that you need to put other things on tape. But when your struggling offense needs to make things happen and your best player is literally dominating every time he touches the ball, give him the ball. “Keep it simple, stupid.”
  1. You can’t think of many worse ways to start off a year but at least the offense showed the ability to make some plays. Barkley, Engram, and Latimer raised a few eyebrows. The offensive line was stout and consistent. The ship isn’t completely broken but the defensive side of it needs to at least look like a pro unit against BUF next week at home. If something like this happens against Josh Allen and company, let’s start talking 2020 NFL Draft.