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.

Dec 062022
 
Jihad Ward, New York Giants (December 4, 2022)

Jihad Ward – © USA TODAY Sports

QUARTERBACK

Daniel Jones: 25/31 – 200 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 104.3 RAT

Jones also led the team in rushing with 71 yards on 12 carries. He lost a fumble in the first quarter. Besides a spike toward the end of the first half to stop the clock, he completed his first 16 passes and had two more taken off the board because of penalties. Jones’ first true incomplete pass came in the fourth quarter with 1:45 left. That one was a drop by Darius Slayton on what may have been considered a poorly thrown ball, but more than good enough for Slayton to come down with. Jones went 8/8 (and one more spike to stop the clock) for 64 yards in overtime.

Because of the conservative decision making by Brian Daboll, we do not know if Jones could have led this team to a win. Did he leave much out there? No, not really. Jones got what he could have out of this JV-caliber group of pass catchers. The biggest question surrounding him and his long-term outlook revolve around can he shoulder the entire offense in key moments? Can he do it? NYG could have used this game to help answer that question and they cowardly walked in the other direction. Starting off 16/16 (minus the spike) and starting 8/8 in overtime (minus the spike). Having a deep ball dropped by Slayton that, had he come down with it, could have led to a game-winning field goal. The quick decisions and play-making ability he created with his legs. After watching the All-22, Jones played a good game, even keeping the first quarter fumble in mind. The lack of confidence Daboll showed on the 4th-and-3 was unwarranted from my perspective and may be more telling than some want to think. They do not believe in him. How many head coaches who are confident in their quarterback make that decision? Almost NONE.

RUNNING BACK

Saquon Barkley: 18 att – 63 yards – 1 TD / 5 rec – 18 yards

60 of Barkley’s rushing yards came in the first half. So yes, between the third quarter, fourth quarter, and overtime Barkley carried the ball 7 times for 3 yards. NYG had the lead from the 11:40 point in the third quarter until 1:53 left in the fourth quarter. They ran ten offensive plays over that span and Barkley ran the ball three times for -1 yard. This is where I feel there is yet another disconnect between what the team is and what they said they would be. They have the bell-cow back. They have the second half lead. They have a terrible passing game. And Barkley gets one yard on three carries while WAS works their way back to a tie? Part of this can be play-calling, but the other part is, at least in my eyes, a lack of trust in Barkley.

There is no denying he is failing to put his shoulder down, break tackles, and show some blue collar in his game. He took a pass in overtime, looked at a defender about to meet him just beyond the line of scrimmage, and used his 225+ frame and tree trunk legs to drive the defender back multiple yards. NYG picked up seven on the play. He is clearly capable of playing the power game. He clearly does not do so on a consistent basis. A 225+ pound back with elite movement traits is averaging 2.75 yards after contact per carry. That ranks 28th in the NFL among backs with over 100 carries. Behind the likes of Devin Singletary, Isaiah Pacheco, Raheem Mosert, D’Onta Foreman, Tyler Allgeier, and Khalil Herbert to name a few. Multiple things needed to be better when it comes to this running game, but it starts with #26.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton remains WR1 on this team across the board. He had a team high 6 catches and 90 yards, including a 55-yard catch where he made a great play on the ball. As usual, however, Slayton had arguably the biggest whiff of the day. He dropped another deep ball with 1:40 left in the fourth quarter of a tie game that would have put NYG into near-field goal position. He mistimed his jump for the ball, increasing the difficulty of the actual catch. He lost it when he hit the ground. A true #1 threat in the passing game who brings a consistent skill set to the table is by far the biggest need on this roster.

-Isaiah Hodgins has my attention and the attention of many others as well. He caught 5 passes for 44 yards including a touchdown. The two standout traits in his game that can make him stick here are the toughness after the catch and reliable route tempo. There are sharp, quick route runners but they do not always get open. Then you have guys who understand tempo, patience, and macro-level play sets. That is Hodgins. He also came up with two key first downs that completely stemmed from his strength and toughness. Hodgins is at least 215 pounds, and he brings some fire behind those pads when he has the ball. I feel good when it is thrown his way and he brings a couple elements to the table that others do not.

-Richie James added 3 catches for 20 yards and 12 punt return yards. James has caught 11 of his last 12 targets. I give him a lot of credit for bouncing back from the Seattle fumble issue.

TIGHT END

-Welcome back Daniel Bellinger. His first game back after the eye injury sustained October 23. He caught all 5 targets for 25 yards. There is a better blend of talent when it comes to size and speed when comparing him to the revolving door of replacements NYG went with while he was out. He was beat routinely as a blocker, however. He allowed 2 pressures in pass protection and was flagged for a hold.

-Nick Vannett was the TE2 for this game, out-snapping Chris Myarick 30 to 8. Neither caught a pass and both allowed a pressure. Overall, a really poor game by the NYG tight ends.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-I was encouraged by the play of the two tackles. This was rookie Evan Neal’s first game back since injuring his knee October 23 in Jacksonville. I put the microscope on him early and it wasn’t pretty. He wound up on the ground four times in the first quarter. Huge red flag. But he responded well and picked it up as the game went on. He pitched a shutout in pass protection. Andrew Thomas allowed 1 pressure. There was a sack that some will put on him, but I did not. There were multiple communication issues on the offensive line throughout the game and it is hard to peg who that is on. When it comes to actual blocking, Thomas had a very good game.

-The interior of this line was a disaster. The WAS group is outstanding between the tackles. I have discussed them multiple times over the years and while the team has not been very good over that span, the interior DL is more than solid. I have also discussed the NYG interior OL shortcomings since my first in-person look at them in camp. It is a bad, bad group. Mark Glowinski allowed 2 sacks and a TFL, but he did throw a key block on the Barkley touchdown run. He was getting out-reached by Daron Payne over and over. Combine that with no anchor and you just have no shot in that scenario. Nick Gates got abused by Jonathan Allen athletically. He allowed 3 pressures and a TFL. Center Jon Feliciano was solid, showing quality movement to the outside. His taunting penalty was a questionable call but that was at least partially derived from his reputation. Feliciano is widely known as a guy who goes overboard with that kind of stuff. Whether the flex was meant for Slayton or not, it could have been easily avoided. And yet another sign that the numerous scuffles one gets involved in throughout their career will come back and bite you at some point.

EDGE

-Azeez Ojulari played 30 snaps in Week 3 against Dallas. He played 30 snaps in Week 4 against Chicago. Entering this game, that was it. Finally back, he broke out with one of the best games of his young career. He was on the field for 49 plays and ended with a sack, a forced fumble that he recovered, and a team-high 5 pressures. The movement traits and power game were what I was most impressed by. Ojulari obviously put in work this past offseason on adding bulk and power (take notes Kayvon), but this was the first time we really got to see it in action. He was getting under the pads of blockers with tremendous knee + ankle flexion while maintaining an upright torso with balance. That all stems from lower body strength. If he stays on the field, he changes this defense.

-Rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux was second on the team with 4 pressures and he added a sack to go along with 5 tackles. He also penetrated on a running play that led to a TFL. While there is still some hesitation in his game that is leaving production on the table, we have now seen two big time performances in back-to-back weeks.

-Jihad Ward had 3 tackles, 1 pressure, and 1.5 sacks. On his second sack, Ward forced a fumble that was recovered by WAS. One of the most important players on the defense who nobody ever talks about, Ward will now get used more economically with Ojulari back. His inside-out versatility is a big deal for this scheme and one I am focusing on in scouting prospects should he leave town in free agency. It can be a hard spot to fill.

-Oshane Ximines added 2 tackles, including 1 TFL. He lost the edge again on a 15-yard run. This has been the biggest issue in his game from the beginning.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Dexter Lawrence is turning into an ironman at the position. Yet another game at over 91% of the snaps. Check this out. In 2019, Lawrence played over 80% of a game’s snaps one time. 2020? Zero times. 2021? One time. This season Lawrence has played 81%, 94%, 90%, 97%, 86%, 91%, 88%, 84%, and 91% of snaps in individual games. It is one thing to do that at Aaron Donald’s size. It is almost unheard of for a player this size to play this many snaps. His dominant play continues, finishing with 9 tackles, 1 sack, and 3 pressures. He is a tone setter for the defense in that he is the guy who is 14 yards downfield near the sideline making a tackle. It means a lot when your best players are also the best-effort players.

-Leonard Williams played just 35 snaps, the second lowest of the year. He is battling a neck injury. He still finished with 3 tackles and a pressure that led to a sack. The NYG run defense did suffer a bit without him in there.

-The trio of Justin Ellis, Henry Mondeaux, and Vernon Butler had their fair share of snaps. Ellis got credited with a sack, although I have him down for a half-sack. Fun fact. Ellis has played in 112 games including 53 starts dating back to 2014. That was his first ever full-sack on the official stat sheet. Mondeaux finished with 2 tackles and Butler flashed a bit with 4 tackles. Remember this is a former 1st round pick who had 6 sacks in 2019.

LINEBACKER

-This is now a two-man show at linebacker and it works well enough. Jaylon Smith is the straight-line, explosive guy who brings some emotional leadership to the mix. He finished with 5 tackles. Micah McFadden is the more physical inside-gap filler with better instincts and initial movement. He finished with 9 tackles and a forced fumble that ended up falling out of bounds. Both are solid in their respective roles, but the issue here is they both struggle on lateral running plays. They were eaten up by blockers in the running game because they just don’t get to their points fast enough.

CORNERBACK

-Be careful what you wish for when hoping Fabian Moreau gets back. The former Redskin missed the week 12 game against Dallas but was back for this one. He got absolutely roasted. He missed an open field tackle that led to a touchdown in the first quarter and that was just the beginning. He was beat on 3rd down multiple times and was also flagged for holding on a 3rd-down stop.

-Zyon Gilbert saw the first regular season action of his career as Darnay Holmes was out with an injury. He flashed some quality aggressive play but was often successfully targeted and beaten by WAS down the stretch. He also missed a tackle on the game-tying score. Gilbert did finish with a TFL and a PD that was a near-interception on a well-read play.

-Nick McCloud has made the most of his opportunity here. He played all 85 snaps and finished with 8 tackles and 2 pass break ups. While I like the physical nature he plays with, his missed tackle on the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter is textbook for what a defender cannot do in that situation. He made zero effort to tackle Dotson; he simply just lowered his shoulder, looked away, and threw an elbow. Poor play at a crucial time and it overshadowed his otherwise solid game.

-Rookie Cor’Dale Flott played about a quarter of the snaps. He came up with a key tackle on a 3rd down stop where he quickly read the play and undercut the blocker. Flott’s movement traits both in pursuit and coverage are impressive.

SAFETY

-Julian Love had one of the best efforts of the day. He was all over the field, leading the team with 12 tackles, one of which was for a loss. He fills running lanes like an inside linebacker. His tackle rate is currently one of the best in the NFL at all positions among full-time players and the absolute best among safeties. He did get beat in coverage a handful of times but considering everything that he is doing for this defense week to week, he is proving to be one the best sheer values on the team.

-Dane Belton appears to be passed on the depth chart by Jason Pinnock. Belton didn’t see a snap and Pinnock saw 79 of them. He finished with 3 tackles and 2 pressures and a big PD in the fourth quarter.

-Tony Jefferson was back and finished with 4 tackles as he saw his first action in nearly 2 months. The 28 snaps were over twice as many as any game he has played this season.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/3 (Made 48, 27 / Missed 58)
-P Jamie Gillan: 7 Punts / 46.3 avg – 42.6 net

3 STUDS

-EDGE Azeez Ojulari, WR Isaiah Hodgins, DT Dexter Lawrence

3 DUDS

-OG Nick Gates, OG Mark Glowinski, CB Fabian Moreau

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

(1) The move from Carson Wentz to Taylor Heinicke reinvigorated this entire team. They’ve lost one game since Week 5 after starting 1-4. While the schedule has done them a few favors (like the rest of the division) it is hard to argue against their results. WAS has rotated through multiple different quarterbacks since Heinicke was brought to town in 2020. Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Garrett Gilbert, and Wentz. Heinicke does not check all the boxes when evaluating quarterbacks in the draft. He is small and he doesn’t have a power arm. But watching the throws this kid makes purely from innovation and reaction is impressive. The 4th-and-4 throw he made to Curtis Samuel for 20 yards in the 4th-quarter, game-tying drive was a top-5 throw in the league this season. I really mean that. He is getting better and better and I bet if the kid was 6’3” everyone would be behind him as a franchise guy.

(2) One of the more interesting contract situations to follow league wide will be what WAS decides to do with Daron Payne. He is playing on his fifth-year option deal (what Lawrence will be playing on next season) and the predominant thought around the league is he will be elsewhere in 2023. However, if they team stays with the cap-friendly Heinicke, it can open the door for Payne sticking around. Some believe they will pursue a high-priced corner, however. If that is the case, I don’t see them also signing Payne.

(3) Just how good is WAS? Besides having the best record in the NFL since Week 6, are they a credible NFC contender? If I had to make a tier system in the league, they are a notch above NYG right now only because of the injury situation. WAS has been relatively healthy all year. They also have immense strength in the trenches, a top-notch playmaker at WR, and an active back seven on defense especially in the middle. If I am an opponent, I don’t want to play these guys in the playoffs especially if Chase Young comes back strong from injury. They have game-wreckers, guys who can take over a game. And yes, the QB is underrated.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) What happened to Brian Daboll’s aggressive approach that he spoke of after their Week 1 win in Tennessee? “We’re going to be aggressive. That’s what we want to do. That’s the mindset I want the players to have. If it didn’t work, I could live with it,” Daboll exclaimed after that W. Multiple times over the past 6-7 weeks, I’ve seen his stance soften. Whether it be at the end of a first half in a close game or on 4th-and-under-5 in enemy territory. Ignoring the 4th-and-3 opportunity from the WAS 45-yard line right as the offense was clicking for the first time since the third quarter was mind-boggling. They needed 3 yards. 6 of the 7 previous plays gained 7, 5, 10, 12, 4, and 3 yards. Have things changed that much since Week 1? What exactly has? The playoff-bubble all of the sudden makes them scared to try and go for a win? This was Daboll’s biggest gaffe of the year and if you don’t think that decision changes the “mindset” (his words) of players moving forward, you are dead wrong. To me, it is no coincidence that Daboll is all of the sudden afraid to keep his foot on the gas is occurring at the same time as we are all seeing a drop off in aggression from Barkley. Good coaches dictate culture and confidence.

(2) The long-term outlook of this franchise is in question. As I have said multiple times, they appear to be in much better hands when it comes to the decision makers creating and sticking to a vision. The most important part, however, is seeing who produces on the field and letting that steer the direction of the ship. The NYG defense has holes, as do most pro defenses, but we are seeing the creation of its core. Ojulari, Thibodeaux, Lawrence, Williams, and Love will make up nearly half of the defense. Throw in supplements like McKinney and Jackson, add another year or two of personnel acquisition, and the defense has a nice trajectory that could end up being a top-shelf unit. Getting that homegrown core is vital to the process and NYG is very much getting there.

(3) A matchup against the Eagles and then another one against the Commanders who will be coming off a bye. Creating the NFL schedule is a MUCH more complex process than many believe. I’ve done some research on that and I know someone who was with the league office in the 2008-2015 timeframe. Learning about the nuances and algorithms that go into it was eye opening. With that said, having a team play the same opponent two games in a row (with a bye in between) should be a major no-no. That one is easily avoidable and I am shocked to see the NFL let that happen.

Nov 262022
 
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (November 24, 2022)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

One of the metrics I use in coach evaluation is how well a team plays the second time around. These are almost always divisional foes but when post-season match-ups come into play, I look at them as well. While Brian Daboll was not the Head Coach in BUF, I did take a look at how their team (and offense) fared in their respective repeat matchups year-to-year:

2018 (on a 6-10 team): 1-2 and +13 in points
2019 (on a 10-6 team): 1-2 and +2 in points
2020 (on a 13-3 team): 3-1 and +29 in points
2021 (on a 11-6 team): 4-1 and +8 in points

The Thanksgiving Day match-up in DAL marked the first time in Daboll’s Head Coach tenure they would face off against a repeat opponent. They lost to the Cooper Rush-led Cowboys Week 3 by a score of 23-16. A game where NYG had a lead in the second half, but had it taken out of their grasp because the defense did not step up when they were needed.

The initial NYG drive stalled at midfield before opting to punt on 4th-and-3 from the DAL 48-yard line. The initial DAL drive stalled on their own 40-yard line, but they kept their offense on the field on 4th-and-2. Ezekiel Elliott was stuffed by a group of defenders led by Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys 2016 second rounder who was starting against his former team for the first time. NYG was primed to strike first blood. Daniel Jones hit Isaiah Hodgins for a 24-yard touchdown, but it was called back after right tackle Tyre Phillips was flagged for illegally blocking downfield. Jones then threw two incomplete passes, the second of which was flagged for intentional grounding, pushing NYG way back into deep field goal range. Fortunately, Graham Gano sent the 57-yarder through the uprights to give NYG the initial lead.

Dak Prescott, coming off his best game of the season in Minnesota, gave NYG the ball back with an interception that landed in the hands of Rodarius Williams. The NYG offense responded with a three-and-out as the DAL defensive front, a top-five group league-wide, was easily controlling the point-of-attack. Seven of DAL’s next eleven snaps were running plays and it landed them in the end zone via an Elliott 6-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. NYG then borrowed a page from that book, running the ball on seven-of-nine plays which also ended in a touchdown, this one by Saquon Barkley on a one-yarder. NYG had the lead at 10-7.

After trading three-and-outs, DAL put together a lengthy drive that was heading toward the red zone. Prescott tried to fit one in to CeeDee Lamb but a deflection by Darnay Holmes ended up in Julian Love’s hands for the second interception of the half, matching their 2022 season total coming into this game. A sloppy final two minutes, including two penalties by DAL and one by NYG and an interception that was nullified by one of those DAL penalties eventually led to a 47-yard field goal by Gano to lengthen their lead to 6 as halftime approached.

The DAL offense was a different animal in the second half. They started off with a 14-play drive that consisted of four third-down conversions. One of them was with a lot of help from the refs on a phantom defensive holding called on Holmes. The fourth conversion was a 3rd-and-15 touchdown pass to tight end Dalton Schultz. It put DAL up by one and wiped out over half of the third quarter clock.

The NYG offense stalled near midfield again. This time it was 4th-and-1 from their own 45-yard line. Daboll pushed the urgency, with 4:11 left in the third quarter, and kept the offense on the field. Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka called a great play, giving Jones an open look at Saquon Barkley who was all alone in the flat. A catch would have resulted in a first down and much more. Jones misfired, the ball fell to the ground, and Prescott took over on the NYG side of the field. Six plays later, Prescott connected with Schultz for another touchdown and DAL was up by eight.

Midfield continued to be a black hole for the NYG offense. They just could not get past it. Barkley couldn’t get going, the entire NYG offensive line (including Andrew Thomas) was taking turns getting beat, and the DAL train was heating up. For the third straight drive, DAL put a touchdown on the board, this time via a 2-yard run by tight end Peyton Hendershot. They were up 28-13 with under 9 minutes remaining. NYG down, by two touchdowns plus a two-point conversion, with an offense that had been averaging 18 points per game since their win in Jacksonville October 23rd.

They did end up getting into DAL territory on their next drive. There were two problems, however. They never quite went into hurry-up mode (11 plays netted 38 yards and took off 5:41 of game clock) and the final sequence went 10-yard sack, false start penalty, 16-yard gain, incomplete pass. DAL took the ball back and ran the ball over and over to get NYG to rid themselves of their timeouts. NYG did end up scoring a garbage-time touchdown with just :08 remaining on a pass from Jones to Richie James. At the very least, NYG bettors left the game happy. The onsides kick did not work and NYG dropped their 11th game to the Cowboys in their last 12 attempts.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 21/35 – 228 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 88.8 RAT

The mistakes Jones made in this do not show up on the stat sheet. It was a poor start where he held onto the ball on plays where they left specific pass rushers unblocked. The illegal shift + intentional grounding that nearly pushed them out of field goal range were avoidable. The 4th-and-1 miss to Barkley was the turning point of the game. He was fortunate to not have an interception on his stat line at the end of the first half on penalty that had nothing to do with the play. And lastly, I felt he did not tuck and run on two instances where he should have. Both resulted in stops for the DAL defense. This game won’t be put on Jones but there is no denying just a couple of better plays by him would have easily altered the trajectory of the game. And the looks were there, he simply did not come through.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 11 att – 39 yards / 4 rec – 13 yards

For the second straight week, Barkley was contained, and it was a mix of quality defense and a scaled back version of Barkley. Is he hurt? I don’t know. If I had to money on it, I would say he is not hurt. He was not coming off the field dramatically in pain like we have seen him do in the past. He was not grimacing after hits. Mentally, Barkley looks hesitant. NYG missed out on two likely third-down conversions because of that hesitancy. On an offense like this and considering the player he is, that is a huge deal.

-The best running back play we saw in this game was from Gary Brightwell. He gained 31 yards on 5 carries and added another 18 yards on 2 catches. This was the most we have seen him touch the ball over his two seasons in the league and the results were excellent. He’s earned more touches in this offense that is searching everywhere for production. Matt Breida added 15 yards on 3 touches, 1 catch and 2 carries.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton came up with the offensive play of the day. A game-long 44-yard catch that set NYG up for their first touchdown that put them up early. He was targeted 5 other times, catching 2 of them for 19 yards. Earlier in the game I made a negative note on his ball skills when it came to fighting through contact while maintaining body control down the field. In fairness, his 44-yarder was a big-time play on the ball. It is the up-and-down play by Slayton that causes evaluators to pull their hair out. The good is there, the consistency is not.

-Richie James had 5 catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. Almost all of that came in the second half. Isaiah Hodgins caught 3 passes for 31 yards and had a touchdown taken off the board by an offensive line penalty. Kenny Golladay did not get thrown to at all, nor did Marcus Johnson. They saw a combined 26 snaps.

TIGHT END

-A better game from this group as a whole than what they put out there last week. Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick, and Tanner Hudson all caught one pass each (for 23-20-10 yards respectively). Cager and Myarick were responsible for 2 of the 3 biggest plays in the passing game. Hudson did not see any blocking snaps, but both Cager and Myarick held their own against the physical DAL front.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-On paper, this had the potential to be an ugly game for the Giants offensive line. DAL came into this one leading the NFL in sacks and top-three in every important pass rush metric. NYG was missing their starting right tackle and were on a fourth-string left guard. To make matters worse, left tackle Andrew Thomas was battling illness and appeared to be limping a bit on that bad foot of his. He paid the price against All Pro linebacker Micah Parsons, allowing 2 sacks, 1 pressure, and 0.5 TFL. Jack Anderson, the fourth-stringer noted above, allowed 2 pressures and a sack and was flagged for a false start.

-Center Nick Gates graded out as the top lineman, which isn’t saying much. His hands were heavy and accurate. I don’t see a ton of movement off the line against defensive tackles and he did struggle to get his hips in the hole a few times. I chalk that up to the lower body still working its way back.

-The right side was responsible for four pressures (2 each by Mark Glowinski and Tyre Phillips). Glowinksi also allowed a 0.5 TFL and Phillips was called for a crucial penalty that came from him aimlessly working his way downfield for no reason on a passing play. I liked what I saw out of him as a run blocker though and I wonder if there is any thought on him returning to guard when Neal comes back. Not as a starter, but as an immediate backup if needed.

EDGE

-The top individual pass rush performances of this season previously belonged to Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. Those performances now sit behind rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux’s dominance he put on display in this game. 9 pressures, 1 caused hold, 1 caused TFL. This was the best combination of get off, pad level, and power we have seen out of him. He absolutely abused fellow rookie Tyler Smith on the left side all game and proved to be a menace both the inside as a blitzing linebacker and on the left side the defensive line. He did miss 2 tackles, one of which was a sack, but this is exactly what we want to see from Thibodeaux at this point. The most impressive part of his stat line is the fact he did so on just 26 pass rush snaps. In another year or two, after he continues to figure his craft out at the professional level and improve his power game, a few of those will turn into sacks.

-Jihad Ward finished with 2 pressures and 1 TFL. I like him so much more when he is in the tight spaces. His power game and feel for blockers is top notch.

-Oshane Ximines lost the edge twice on big runs in the first quarter. He also missed a tackle and did not impact the game as a pass rusher.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Leonard Williams was back to his dominant ways. He had 6 tackles, 3 TFL, and 1 pressure. His closing speed on lateral runs is such an overlooked component to his game. He reaches guys that 95% of the league’s interior linemen cannot. The negative in his game, which has been around for years, showed up a few times in this one. He does not anchor well against runs right at him. He also missed 2 tackles.

-Dexter Lawrence had 5 tackles and a pressure. He seemed to be off his game in this one. Nothing drastic, but I caught him walking gingerly and grimacing a few times throughout and he looked out of gas on a few others. Henry Mondeaux added 3 tackles and a pressure. He offers much more than Justin Ellis, who finished with 1 tackle, when it comes to playing sudden and showing some range once off the initial contact of a blocker.

LINEBACKER

-Jaylon Smith was playing some spirited football in his first start against the team that drafted and signed him to a long-term deal. He led the team with 10 tackles, adding 1 TFL and a big 4th-down stop early in the game. His downhill explosion is still there and even though the lateness + lateral movement issues hurt from time to time, he has been a quality player for this defense.

-Micah McFadden was on the field for a career-high 48 snaps. After a poor game last week against DET, I saw more urgency with his reads, and he finished better. He had 4 tackles and 2 TFL with 1 missed tackle. The movement in coverage looked much better when looking at the All-22. He was rarely targeted, but he did his job when working the intermediate level of the route tree.

CORNERBACK

-We had a little bit of a coming out party for Rodarius Williams. I discussed him a bit after the DET game noting how often he was getting beat in his first action of the season. He responded with 2 pass break-ups and an interception, the first of his career. He did not allow a reception either (although he was flagged for a pass interference). There were quite a few people excited about Williams after the 2021 preseason, remember. Now that he is in the mix, he looks the part.

-Nick McCloud had 8 tackles without any misses. I like him in the middle of the field. He is a physical player and gets the ball carrier down at a near-perfect rate. He allowed a touchdown in coverage. Rookie Cor’Dale Flott allowed 3 completions on all 3 times he was targeted. His lack of power presence is a concern against a receiver with any kind of size. Michael Gallup tossed him around a couple times. His play speed is excellent, though.

-Darnay Holmes was flagged three times, one of which was a poor call. The issue here is Holmes has the reputation of being too grabby in coverage. He built that as a rookie in 2020 and it hasn’t gotten anything but worse. He now has 7 penalties on the year and teams know it. He also allowed 3 catches for 58 yards, being outclassed by Lamb. He did deflect a pass that ended up being an interception.

SAFETY

-Julian Love tied for the team lead with 10 tackles. He added two impact plays as well, a TFL and an interception. This is exactly what this team needs from Love. Be the safety net on the back end who makes tackles in space and create big plays for the defense. He did both.

-Jason Pinnock played every snap. This is valuable experience for him. He had 8 tackles, but he also missed one and allowed a touchdown in coverage. More up-and-down play for him.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 57, 47)
-P Jamie Gillan: 4 Punts / 48.3 avg – 38.3 avg

3 STUDS

-CB Rodarius Williams, EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, S Julian Love

3 DUDS

-CB Darnay Holmes, OT Andrew Thomas, RB Saquon Barkley

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

After the Week 3 loss in September, I asked how far do I see this version of Dallas going? “We have every reason to believe they will contend not only for the division, but for the conference. The defense has the upside of being special and if that offense can elevate their game just one or two levels, they have the “goods.” Here we are at the end of November, and I only feel stronger about that notion. DAL is one of three teams I can see going to the Super Bowl. The difference between this team and the previous few years is the defense. They can be lights out against anyone.

There is a good chance that was Ezekiel Elliott’s final game against NYG in a Cowboys uniform. DAL has made a habit out of restructuring his contract in recent offseasons, pushing money into future years. They did not do so this past offseason. To me, that, and the emergence of Tony Pollard who is simply a better player right now, will pave the way for them cutting him loose in a few months. 12 games, 1108 total yards, 10 TDs vs NYG.

I will be intrigued to see where Tyler Smith, their 2022 first round pick, ends up on the offensive line. He was going to be the left guard until Tyron Smith went down but shifted over and has played at a solid level for most of the year. He’s allowed 4 sacks and is second in the league with 10 penalties. This was a major issue at Tulsa as well. I think Smith’s run blocking is already on the elite level but I don’t see the upside in pass protection. I think he ends up at OG in the future.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

Two losses in five days can sting a bit more and the injuries on both sides of the ball were accelerated by the Thursday game. The positive is now schedule-based. NYG gets 10 days of rest prior to a home match-up against the Commanders, who play Sunday against ATL. With multiple players on the brink of returning (OT Evan Neal, TE Daniel Bellinger, OL Ben Bredeson), the timing of this mini-bye week is crucial. Especially considering WAS will be one of the teams NYG is contending with for a playoff spot.

The Barkley tape is the elephant in the room that everyone can see. He is not running as hard. He is showing hesitancy. And this is an offense that did not have any margin to work with. Barkley is the most important player on this offense and probably the team. If he does not play to his ability (whether it is physical or mental) – the entire scope changes. Look what happened when Brightwell came in and ran hard. I discussed this a few times last year. There was not, and is not, a bigger Barkley guy out there than me. But if the hardness in his game is back and forth, it will make for an easy decision this upcoming offseason.

One of the questions people will ask about Daniel Jones and his future with NYG will revolve around upside. Just how good can he actually be? Best case scenario, what is he? We just watched Dak Prescott throw two interceptions in the first half. He was hit just as much if not more than Jones was throughout the game. Nothing mattered. He comes out in the second half and played some of the best QB I have seen all year from around the league. The numbers did not pop off the page, but it was the complexity of his throws and how precise they were. I do not see that in Jones. Both right now and in the future.

Nov 222022
 
Julian Love, New York Giants (November 20, 2022)

Julian Love – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell was drafted by NYG in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft. He started 34 games for them, 28 of which came over his final two seasons before he signed with DAL (and later DET) in free agency. A year-plus after his career ended, he became an intern-offensive coach for MIA. Working his way up, including a stretch where he was interim Head Coach for MIA and an Assistant Head Coach for NO, Campbell landed the top job for DET in 2021. In a time where owners are often chasing after specialty minds (offense/defense), DET did it different. They went after a culture guy. Campbell is leader of men. He wants to chew glass, get into fights, and give off the tough-guy persona to a league full of tough guys. His staff is filled with former players with similar backgrounds and mindsets. DET personifies “Blue Collar” as much as any team in the league. To be determined if this approach can work and DET. If you have not followed the team, DET has had some of the worst losses in the league since Campbell’s tenure began when it comes to blown leads and aggressive mistakes.

DET came into this one with the last-ranked defense in the NFL when looking at both yards and points allowed, respectively. What surprises many, however, is the fact they came into the league with a top-10 offense in both categories. They do not have star power on that side of the ball. They have a quarterback who would not start on 20 teams in the league. How are they doing this? NYG got a front row seat in their Week 11 matchup at windy MetLife Stadium. It is that time of year.

NYG began the game with the ball. Left Guard Shane Lemieux was on the field for the first time, giving the team 4 of their 5 starters up front on the field. Evan Neal remained inactive with a knee injury. Two of the first three plays resulted in losses. They went three-and-out and DET responded with three points via a field goal by Michael Badgley. A week after Saquon Barkley’s 30+ touch performance and four days prior to their next game against DAL, backup running back Matt Breida made his mark early. He converted a 4th-and-1 rushing attempt before a 16-yard gain on a 3rd-and-7 a few plays later. This set them up for their first touchdown of the game, a 3-yard run by Daniel Jones.

The game stayed at 6-3 (the extra point was blocked), NYG up, for the next three possessions as the two ground-and-pound offenses were playing the field position battle. DET punter Jack Fox, a 2020 All-Pro, had consecutive punts of 57 and 63 yards. NYG’s #1 corner and fill-in punt returner, Adoree’ Jackson, was injured on the 57-yarder. He did not return and will be out a month. Jones threw an interception on a zone blitz that he did not recognize, throwing it directly to DET defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, the second overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. With the DET offense starting their drive in the red zone, it took just four plays for them to score on a Jamaal Williams four-yard run.

Thanks to an illegal block in the back by Nick McCloud on the ensuing kickoff, NYG started their drive on their own 6-yard line. They had gains of 19, 13, and 4 yards. Because of the penalty, that only got them to their own 42-yard line. They were forced to punt again as the NYG offensive line, with four starters in, continued to get abused. Punter Jamie Gillian then shanked one 25 yards. DET needed just three plays before they were in the red zone again and with under a minute remaining in the half, Williams scored a 1-yard touchdown to make the game 17-6. Poor clock management by Jones ended the half with the NYG offense near midfield.

DET opened the second half with another touchdown-scoring drive on the back of Williams yet again, his third score of the day. There was urgency in the NYG offensive huddle on the next drive. Down 18, at home, but up against the worst defense in the league. Barkley had just 18 yards on 10 first half carries, and they were approaching the point in the game where they needed points, and fast. The way to do that in the NFL? Throw the ball. On 4th-and-5 from the DET 40, Jones threw his second interception on a poorly placed ball. Rookie Kerby Joseph brought it in, his third of the season as he has emerged as the league’s top rookie safety so far.

DET did not convert this into points. They went three and out two possessions in a row, but NYG’s offense remained stagnant themselves. However, as the game turned to the fourth quarter, their fortune started to change even though they lost their most targeted receiver, rookie Wan’Dale Robinson, to a knee injury. He did not return and will be out the rest of the year. Breida did end up scoring NYG’s next touchdown on a 3-yard run but kicker Graham Gano missed the extra point. 24-12 DET.

NYG got the ball back with under 9:00. This was it, they needed to score a touchdown on this drive and who better than DET to do it against, a team that has made a living on blowing fourth quarter leads since the start of the Campbell-era. Jones threw two incomplete passes, center Nick Gates forgot to snap the ball on 3rd-and-10, and the anemic passing game needed a huge play. Jones delivered a strike to recently picked up receiver Isaiah Hodgins for a 20-yard gain. First down. But on the next play, right before he went down, Hodgins fumbled, and it was recovered by Hutchinson who was all over the field. DET needed four plays before D’Andre Swift got his turn at crossing the goal line on a 4-yard touchdown run.

NYG did end up getting that touchdown, a drive and turnover too late, on the next drive. Jones hit Richie James on a 9-yard crossing route. They were down 13 points with under 5:00 left in need of a successful two-point conversion to make it a TD + 2-point conversion + FG margin. Tight End Lawrence Cager dropped the pass from Jones, NYG remained down 13, and DET recovered the ensuing onsides kick. NYG would not touch the ball again. DET’s offensive line paved the way for two first downs via run-only in run-only situations and sucked the remaining NYG timeouts out of Brian Daboll’s hands.

NYG loses, 31-18.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 27/44 – 341 yards / 1 TD – 2 INT / 74.1 RAT

Jones also added a team-high 50 yards on 7 carries including a touchdown. The 341 yards were the third-highest of his career and the 44 attempts were the second-highest. The DET defense, again the worst in the league because of how poor they perform against the pass, sold out on stuffing Barkley and the NYG running game. This will be what see week in, week out for the rest of year. Extra beef up front, defensive backs in the box, and sheer number advantages. Jones did make big throws. He did a fine job getting the ball out when receivers were open. He took what was there. He was productive (391 yards total). Checks in all of those boxes. But the interceptions were both on him. He did not read the zone blitz on the first one and he air-mailed the second one. While we can continue to pound the OL + pass catcher drum and rightfully so, this one will go in the negative bucket for Jones. He did not rise above.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 15 att – 22 yards / 2 rec – 13 yards

Barkley looked like a guy who carried the team a week earlier. He had less pop and speed than what we have seen this season. After reviewing the All-22, I also noted three runs where Barkley’s lack of aggression caused no gain or a loss. All three were plays that had a strong likelihood of going for 5+ yards, one of which could have been much bigger. Daboll has done a fine job with Barkley and this running game when it comes to putting the head down and getting those 2-3-4 yard gains. But we saw the version of Barkley who had too much tip-toeing, lack of desire, and overall slowness. That margin in between in this league is enormous. A poor game for Barkley but he was strong pass protection. He has turned that around in a big way.

-Matt Breida: 3 att – 13 yards – 1 TD / 1 rec – 16 yards

We did not see a lot of Breida in this one and I wish we saw more. He brought more energy to the offense than Barkley did, and it was obvious on the early drive where he converted a 4th- and 3rd-down conversion, respectively. While it is hard to keep #26 off the field, this was something obvious to see early on. With where NYG’s receivers are, I think more looks with both guys on the field should be a priority.

WIDE RECEIVER

-The position group caught 22 passes for 292 yards, by far a season-high. Wan’Dale Robinson led the group with a line of 9/100 but suffered a torn ACL on the first play of the fourth quarter. Such an unfortunate blow for multiple reasons. One, it looked like Robinson’s role was starting to click here. He was the guy Jones could get the ball to on 3rd/4th down. He was the one who created the most on his own after the catch. Two, because of the nature of the injury and timing, this is something that could linger into 2023. My hope is he will be on the field Week 2 or 3.

-Darius Slayton came up with a few big plays. His 17.2 yards per catch in a game that he had 5 or more receptions were the most since Week 10 of 2020. The negative with Slayton continues to be drops. He added 2 more to his season total and double caught two others – meaning a slight bobble before bringing it in. On a team that lacks talent at WR – he is clearly the number one guy especially with Robinson out. He can make big plays in an offense that is begging for such in the passing game. But it is hard to rely on a guy with his caliber of hands and ball skills. He did come up with a key block on the Jones touchdown run early in the game.

-Maybe the loudest ovation of the day, whether it was genuine or sarcastic, came on the first Kenny Golladay reception. He had 2 catches on the day, both body-balls that he let come in to his numbers rather than attack it with his hands, for 29 yards. By default, Golladay will see more and more looks now.

-Richie James appeared out of the doghouse once Robinson went down. He responded with 3 catches for 48 yards and a touchdown, all coming in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Hodgins came up with 29 yards on 3 catches but lost a fumble that DET turned into a fourth quarter touchdown.

TIGHT END

-Another lackluster day for the group overall. It is one thing to see a lack of impact on the game, but when the negative plays start to pop up, it becomes frustrating to watch. Tight end was mishandled this past offseason and even in-season. Lawrence Cager allowed a TFL, was flagged for offensive pass interference, and dropped a big 2-point conversion attempt with the team down 13. He did have 2 catches for 20 yards, but that was it for the group as a whole.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-I have long discussed the issues the interior of this line would present as the year went on. It was one of the first things I saw at camp back in August. They’ve played better than I anticipated but that doesn’t mean much. It has still been a well-below average group that was somewhat overshadowed by the smoke and mirrors offensive scheme. With Shane Lemiuex on the field for the first time this season, I had some optimism. That ended quickly. He allowed 3 pressures and a sack before being benched in the second half for rookie Josh Ezeudu, who allowed a pressure himself. Mark Glowinski was man-handled by Alim McNeill repeatedly. He allowed 2 pressures and was flagged for illegally blocking downfield on a drive that had NYG approaching field goal range and ended with a punt. His penalty was the turning point of the drive.

-Center Jon Feliciano left the game with a neck injury. He allowed a TFL and one pressure before heading out. Nick Gates started off as a blocking tight end but then took over at center for Feliciano. He was flagged twice, one of which was declined. As I said a few weeks ago, Gates is the guy that should be at center. He sustains contact better than Feliciano and gets more push.

-Andrew Thomas allowed 1 TFL but was otherwise lights out again. On the other side, Tyre Phillips had to be relieved by Matt Peart because of a neck injury. Phillips allowed a pressure before departing and Peart struggled with 2 pressures and a TFL. His hands were all over the place and it threw off his body control. Peart clearly has not clicked yet. The tools were there, and it was worth the gamble, but he simply cannot pass block consistently.

EDGE

-Oshane Ximines had a solid game, pressuring Jared Goff 3 times and registering 1 tackle. He was flagged for a roughing penalty, however, on a 3rd-and-8 stop that gave DET an automatic first down on a 3-point scoring drive.

-Rookies Kayvon Thibodeaux added 2 tackles and 1 pressure and Tomon Fox had 1 tackle. Quiet and overall ineffective game for the two on limited looks, as Goff only threw 26 passes.

-Jihad Ward had 4 tackles, 1 pressure, and a pass break up. Martindale put him into coverage on a couple of occasions via the zone blitz and it hurt the defense. Ward moves more like a defensive tackle than a linebacker. Stiff and slow.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams continue to play a ton of snaps. Lawrence had 3 pressures and a team-high 7 tackles while Williams added 1 pressure and 4 tackles. The DET interior is one of the best in football and these two won several matchups. The success DET had on the ground had very little to do with them.

-Henry Mondeaux remains ahead of the immobile Justin Ellis on the depth chart. He played 32 snaps while Ellis only saw 17. Both of them struggled against that OL.

LINEBACKER

-Rough day for the group. Rookie Micah McFadden got the start next to veteran Jaylon Smith and both were manhandled against the DET running game. McFadden is a step too slow especially in coverage. It keeps popping up and DET took advantage of it on the play-action crossing routes. He was also flagged for a pass interference. Smith had 6 tackles but 5 of them were assists. He was late to the running lanes and slow to fill. The lateral adjustments are worrisome, as he looks so stiff and rigid when he needs to adjust. He added 1 pressure.

-Tae Crowder saw an uptick in playing time late in the game and finished with 3 tackles and a TFL.

CORNERBACK

-Adoree’ Jackson missed most of the game because he was injured on a 3-yard punt return. He was recently put in that role because of the two Richie James fumbles in Seattle a few weeks ago. More on that below. Jackson will be out for a month, if not longer. I’ve said this a few times; Jackson is the one guy this defense could not afford to lose. Huge blow for the defense that has almost no margin left.

-Fabian Moreau suffered an oblique injury and may be out Thursday at DAL. That leaves the secondary with Darnay Holmes at nickel and a mixture of Nick McCloud, Rodarius Williams, and Cordale Flott on the outside as NYG is approaching a difficult slate of opposing offenses in the near future. Holmes and McCloud both had a TFL and were solid in coverage. They fit the aggressive scheme well and I feel good about them. The concerns are with Williams and Flott. Williams was beat in coverage multiple times in his first action of the season and Flott, a rookie who has played 22 snaps since Week 3, is raw. He dropped an interception but did force a fumble. These next few weeks will be huge for Flott when it comes to experience and learning from mistakes. It may be painful right now, but it could end up being beneficial to his future.

SAFETY

-Julian Love was the lone defender to play all of the snaps. Nobody else played 90% of the snaps. He tied for the team lead 7 tackles and added a TFL. He did miss a tackle on a 3rd-and-long conversion though and missed out on an interception late in the game, but it did end in a pass break up.

-Jason Pinnock was in and out of the game with a jaw/neck injury. He is very much an all-or-nothing type player on defense. He had a TFL and 3 tackles but added a missed tackle. I like the aggressive style and length he brings to the table. I hope he can stay on the field because NYG may have something in him.

-Rookie Dane Belton had 2 tackles but was ridden out of multiple plays by wide receiver and tight end blocks. That is a weakness in his game I’ve seen repeated a few times this season. He also allowed receptions on the two times he was targeted.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 0/0 (One extra point blocked and he missed another)
-P Jamie Gillan: 4 punts / 38.3 avg – 38.3 net

3 STUDS

-DT Dexter Lawrence, WR Wan’Dale Robinson, RB Matt Breida

3 DUDS

-OG Shane Lemieux, LB Micah McFadden, RB Saquon Barkley

3 THOUGHTS ON DET

The Lions have passed their 2021-win total (3) with 7 games left on the schedule. They’re currently the 2nd place team in the NFC North. They have contests against JAC, NYJ, CAR, CHI, and GB remaining. Say what you want about the defensive and late-game struggles, but this team is on the rise. I believe in culture-building and I believe the resources DET has put into it will pay off. What is truly missing? They’re going to be limited with Jared Goff under center, that is the simple truth. The statistics are a bit misleading, as a lot of their production has come late in games against prevent-style coverages. But if their 2022 first rounder Jameson Williams, who may be back in December and was my second-ranked receiver behind Garrett Wilson last April, is a dude who checks every box. With next year being the vital third season of the Campbell-era, I can see them making THE aggressive move in the offseason for a quarterback. That can go in a few directions, but it is something I see happening one way or another.

The DET offensive line has been well built. Left tackle Taylor Decker, 1st round 2016. Left guard Jonah Jackson, 3rd round 2020. Center Frank Ragnow, 1st round 2018. Right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai, free agent signing in 2020 (currently on IR). Right tackle Penei Sewell, 1st round 2021. When I look at this offense that is top 10 in yards and scoring without a true number one receiver (or tight end now that they’ve traded T.J. Hockenson), Jared Goff at quarterback, and an overrated number one back in D’Andre Swift, it is impossible to not give most of the credit to their O-Line. It creates a strong notion in my head that adding yet another high pick to the group along the interior will very much be in the discussion next April.

The Dan Campbell experiment seems to be working. Now, the Colts seem to be re-energized by Jeff Saturday. Neither situation can be considered a full-blown win yet, but if they turn in to successes you can bet your bottom dollar other teams will follow suit. Coaching hires that have less to do with scheme, more to do with culture.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

Two losses in their last three games. One win since October 24. Is NYG simply regressing toward the mean? Meaning is this what they truly are? A thin roster that cannot handle the multitude of injuries. A team that was winning a bunch of one-score games, but the law of average has arrived? I think NYG has some “dark” days ahead, meaning more and more losses, but let’s not get it twisted. This team has already exceeded expectations in 2022. They are still very early in this new regime and way of doing things. They’re playing with house money and, as we have been saying since August, they are looking for things that will build this roster and the future. They need some answers, and they need their young guys to get the experience of ups and downs. Anything else that comes, which includes a very-possible postseason birth, is icing on the cake.

If NYG wanted to put a premium playmaker in the return game, why not put Saquon Barkley back there? Because you don’t want him getting hurt. Then why put Adoree’ Jackson, who in my opinion was the most important player on defense, in that role? This coaching staff has been amazing from the start and Daboll is in the running for Coach of the Year. But that was the wrong move and they’re going to pay for it. I understand some of the decision-making revolved around feeling safe with Jackson (catching the ball) but losing him is going to be a potential season-changer for this defense and team.

Injuries aside, I’m glad NYG has a short week against a team that just absolutely crushed the 8-1 Vikings on the road 40-3. One team riding a high. One team riding a low. Both teams have seen their fair share of peaks and valleys this season. It is a divisional matchup. This is the first time this new regime is playing a repeat-opponent. I think NYG will be in this game on Thursday as crazy as it sounds. It’s the way the NFL works more often than not.

Nov 152022
 
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (November 13, 2022)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The Houston Texans are the pinnacle example of just how fast things can change in the NFL. Head Coach Bill O’Brien took over the job for the Texans in 2014 after putting himself at the top of the next “Belichick Disciple” list that had not been working out very well despite coming from the most dominant franchise in the game. Houston was coming off a 2-14 season but once O’Brien took over, the team went 9-7 three straight years, made the playoffs twice, and even won a post-season game. There was something missing, however. Brock Osweiler, Brian Hoyer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick were the primary quarterbacks for those squads and the organization knew it would not get over the hump without a real player under center, a long-term solution. In the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Houston gave Cleveland a call and offered #25 overall in round one and their 2018 first rounder to move up to #12. Cleveland accepted and allowed O’Brien to get his quarterback, Deshaun Watson from Clemson. Watson tore his ACL halfway through his rookie year and the team went 4-12. But from there, HOU went on to win 22 games in two years including another post-season win, Watson made the Pro Bowl three straight seasons, and he led the NFL in passing in 2020 with just under 5,000 yards. They were on a steady ascent with one of the game’s young stars at quarterback. Fast forward a couple years and Watson forced his way out of town for multiple off-field reasons, HOU is on is third coach in three years, and they’ve won 8 games since the start of the 2021 season. Peaks and valleys.

NYG came into this game off their bye week with a 6-2 record ready to face off against the 1-7-1 Texans. The bye week is used for self-scouting, and it also allows injured players another week of recovery without missing game action. With this staff and the current NYG injury situation, that actually meant something. That showed on the first drives of the game as the NYG defense forced a three-and-out of HOU and the offense responded with a 10-play, 68-yard touchdown-scoring drive that ended in a short pass from Daniel Jones to Lawrence Cager. HOU went on to post two more three-and-outs as Wink Martindale seemed to put all his attention on stuffing HOU rookie running back Dameon Pierce. The first quarter ended at 7-0 and on HOU’s tenth offensive snap of the game, they finally got past the first down marker. That drive, their fourth of the game, ended in a 38-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn as the game was into the second quarter in a hurry.

Both teams exchanged sloppy offensive drives from there until halftime. Poor snaps, penalties, broken plays, sacks. All of the above were on display between the two teams as both were showing their colors. They came into the game ranked in the bottom third of yards-per-play and points, respectively league-wide. It was discouraging to watch and Daboll was visibly angry with the performance of the offensive line.

The second half began, yet again, with a new form of NYG offense. For the fifth time this season, their opening possession of the third quarter put points on the board. It was a highlight-reel play on 3rd-and-9 where Jones had to fall back with multiple HOU pass rushers bearing down on him as he threw the ball to Darius Slayton just beyond the line of scrimmage. Slayton made safety Jalen Pitre miss and then he turned on the burners, out running most of the HOU secondary to the end zone with some blocking help from by tight end Tanner Hudson.

The HOU offense, as it did for the entire second half, easily moved the ball downfield. They put up seven points of their own on a pass from Davis Mills to Nico Collins for a 12-yard score.

NYG had a 14-10 lead, and the offense came back on the field and put together a beautiful drive. 12 plays, 74 yards, and two 3rd-and-7 conversions on passes led to a 2-yard Barkley touchdown run. After a ten-point first half by the two bottom-third offenses, the second half opened with 21 points in three possessions. HOU drove down the field and found themselves 1st-and-goal from the NYG 9-yard line. Leonard Williams, part of the two-headed monster along the inside of the defensive line, forced a Pierce fumble that was recovered by linebacker Jaylon Smith. The NYG offense did not capitalize, however, as they went three-and-out, but they were able to somewhat reverse the field position.

Once again, HOU was in the red zone with a first down after just two plays. Once again, HOU turned the ball over on a pass into the end zone. Dane Belton came down with it, ensured his feet were in bounds, and stepped out of the field of play in the end zone for a touchback. This time, the offense gained two first downs that helped the field position battle, and more importantly, took time off the clock. HOU was down 11 points with under five minutes remaining. Their offensive surge stayed alive and well, starting on their own 8-yard line and ending up in the red zone with a first down for the fourth time in four second-half possessions. With time running short and the need for two scores no matter what, HOU opted for a 34-yard field goal by Fairbairn.

NYG recovered the ensuing onsides kick. Barkley was stopped two yards shy of the first down marker and HOU used their remaining two timeouts to force NYG into a field goal attempt. Graham Gano nailed a 49-yarder to give them another 11-point lead. HOU, again for the fifth time, made their way back into the red zone and had a first down. Questionable clock management in a game where they absolutely needed to score a touchdown at some point helped NYG seal the deal. Fairbairn hit a 46-yarder to get the game within 8 points again but with just :07 left. Jones took the knee and NYG improved to 4-1 at home, the most wins at MetLife since 2016.

NYG wins, 24-16.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 13/17 – 197 yards / 2 TD – 0 INT / 153.3 RAT

Jones added 24 yards on the ground. Because the situation called for it, Jones was not needed much. Do not mistake this for a lack of ability. Do not mistake this for a lack of confidence from Daboll/Kafka. They were up against the 32nd-ranked HOU run defense (29th-ranked in yards per attempt). NYG had the early lead and never let it go. He is still working with a poor group of pass catchers. He is still playing behind a poor pass blocking offensive line. All these things add up to the reasoning behind Jones only throwing the ball 17 times. In addition, keep your attention on the 11+ yards per attempt and 153.3 QB rating. Both led the NFL in Week 10. Number one in the NFL. Beyond the stat sheet, Jones made good decisions and maneuvered well around pressure. The play he made on the Slayton touchdown was overlooked by some because of the fact Slayton ran a long way to the end zone. That play was more on the shoulders of Jones because of what he did in the pocket, no question.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 35 att – 152 yards – 1 TD / 1 rec – 8 yards

As noted above, the situation called for a “lean on Barkley” kind of offensive approach. By lean on Barkley, I mean jump on to his back and ride him through the fire. His 35 attempts were a career-high, and those yards were tough-earned. The number one rusher in the NFL did something off the radar I was happy to see. Early in the game, in the red zone, he bounced a run outside that he shouldn’t have. It was the last time he made that mistake. One of the keys to Barkley’s ascent this season is how willing he is to take the two-to-three yard runs rather than sit behind the point-of-attack hoping to create something on his own. Sure, the offensive line has been better and so has the scheme, but Barkley’s aggressive downhill approach has made a huge difference. Lastly, his blocking was on point. He was a weapon against the HOU blitz-heavy attack with violent hits and sustained contact.

-Matt Breida added 20 yards on 6 carries.

WIDE RECEIVER

-The Bad News Bears got their poster boy back. Kenny Golladay returned to the field for the first time since October 2. He was targeted twice. He dropped both targets. The first one was a tough ball away from his body, but it was catchable. The second one was as bad of a drop as you will find in today’s NFL. Even his teammates and coaches cringed on the sideline. He was soon taken out after that and did not come back into the game.

-Darius Slayton is the group’s saving grace. He had 3 catches for 95 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown emanating from his speed, out-running angles of the HOU secondary. He and Wan’Dale Robinson (2 rec / 20 yards) are both dangerous in their own way. If this offense needs to go more pass happy at some point, they need to be the focal points moving forward.

-Isaiah Hodgins was signed off of the BUF practice squad, where he had previous experience with Daboll, and played a key role right away. He had 2 catches for 41 yards, both resulting in a first down. His separation is limited, but just like he did at Oregon State, he played the ball well in the air and understands the importance of body positioning. With the way Golladay played, I expect Hodgins to get his snaps in the coming weeks.

TIGHT END

-Tanner Hudson tied Slayton with the team lead 3 receptions. His went for a combined 24 yards. His biggest play of the day was a downfield block he made on the Slayton touchdown. He stuck to his man, and it also took out a second HOU defender who had a good shot at catching Slayton from behind.

-Hudson was third in snaps at the group, as he is the worst in-line blocker of the trio. Chris Myarick and Lawrence Cager saw more snaps, but both struggled at the point-of-attack. It did not impact the running game badly, but Myarick did allow 2 pressures and dropped a pass. Cager allowed a TFL and a pressure but caught a touchdown in the first quarter two plays after being penalized for an illegal formation. This is going to be an underwhelming group until Bellinger returns and expect to see the high number of extra linemen on the field to help combat that.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-From a macro perspective, the NYG offensive line got the job done. It took a few extra guys at times and their pass protection was below average. But when looking at what they had to do, they won the battle against the HOU front.

-Andrew Thomas graded out well above average, as he threw another shut out in pass protection. He did, however, allow 2 TFL. From a season full of elite grades, this was Thomas’ second-worst game of the year. The thing that made me smirk was that no other lineman on this team has graded as high as Thomas’ second-worst game this season. His high floor is as impressive as his high ceiling.

-The interior of this line was a major weak point when Jones threw the ball. Of the 23 drop backs, the combination of Joshua Ezeudu, John Feliciano, and Mark Glowinski allowed 5 pressures and 2 sacks. Glowinski was the weak point, as he was responsible for 2 of those pressures, a half-sack, and missed a block that ended up causing the TFL on the Robinson rush attempt that lost five yards. Feliciano also allowed 2 pressures but he was in on several key runs as a lead blocker. His athleticism to the outside was a big factor and he played sticky on linebackers. Ezeudu allowed 1.5 sacks but the one at the end of the game I did not count against him. That had more to do with Jones taking the sack on purpose to keep the clock running and it was far away from the point-of-attack. Ezeudu finished as the second-best lineman in the game as his speed and power to the second level factored in on Barkley’s big runs. He was also a key contributor to Barkley’s touchdown. I am encouraged by the fact his play appears to be on an upward track.

-Right tackle Tyre Phillips had a few bad looks. He allowed a sack, a TFL, and was flagged for a false start. His game looks very “all or nothing.” He has tremendous power and size, but if the accuracy is not there, he is an easy guy to beat.

-The extra three lineman that saw snaps were Jack Anderson, Nick Gates, and Matt Peart (just activated for the first time this season). Anderson made a bonehead mistake on a crucial 4th-and-1 that would have been converted. He was flagged for a false start, and it pushed NYG far enough back to force a punt. In a tight game, that could have been a huge mistake.

EDGE

-Kayvon Thibodeaux finished with 4 tackles and 2 pressures. He made a key 3rd-down stop with an aggressive, physical hit at the point-of-attack and started to break through late in the game. He was held twice (neither were called) late in the game. I’m not sure why he isn’t getting these flags. I never expect the refs to see everything, but these are pretty obvious and they’re right in front of the QB. It’s odd. This was a solid game for Thibodeaux even though he did not fill the stat sheet. More on his first 7 games below.

-Oshane Ximines had a tackle and a pressure along with a PD. He nearly had a sack-fumble, but the call was overturned, rightfully so. Jihad Ward had 1 tackle, 1 sack, and 1 pressure. Tomon Fox added an untouched pressure on his 13 snaps. I still think we are going to see him factor over the second half of the season.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Just when we thought it couldn’t get better for Dexter Lawrence, he comes out and has arguably his most dominant game of the season. 5 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 6 pressures, 1 sack, 2 pass breaks ups. He also forced two holding penalties. This defense is performing at a high level but I’m not sure everyone realizes how much of it points back to him and Leonard Williams, who I will get to next. Lawrence is winning with sheer physical dominance. His hand placement, along with his lockout and lower body leg drive, is simply too much for a lone blocker to handle. It is a lot of fun to watch.

-Leonard Williams was right on par with Lawrence. He had 9 tackles, 4 pressures, a half-sack, and a forced fumble. Williams created big plays for the defense. Two of his pressures led to sacks and his forced fumble was recovered by NYG as HOU was approaching the end zone. Safe to say he is fully back. More on these two monsters down below.

-Henry Mondeaux was back on the field after missing time with a knee injury. He saw 22 snaps and added 1 tackle and a half-TFL on an impressive play on the first drive. Justin Ellis was on the field for 11 snaps and missed a tackle. The game looks a bit too fast for him.

LINEBACKER

-One casualty of the bye week, regarding playing time, was Tae Crowder. He played just two snaps. Jaylon Smith (41 snaps) and rookie Micah McFadden (36 snaps) were the main second level defenders. The veteran of the pair had 5 tackles and a pressure in addition to a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter. He also had 2 missed tackles. McFadden had just 2 tackles and struggled on runs to his outside shoulder. I would not count Crowder out yet based on how much this coaching staff will move guys in and out of roles, but I do think they trust Smith more.

CORNERBACK

-I liked what I saw out of Adoree’ Jackson and Darnay Holmes. Jackson has 2 pass break ups in addition to 6 tackles and Holmes finished with 3 tackles, and an outstanding TFL. He did allow a couple of big plays in the passing game, but I thought his coverage underneath was solid.

-Fabian Moreau got off to a nice start, breaking up a pass on third down but later he allowed a touchdown to Collins. I normally like and even prefer him in those match-ups against the bigger, more physical wideouts. He simply just lost that battle, nothing to be overly concerned about.

SAFETY

-Because of the unfortunate hand/finger injury to Xavier McKinney over the bye week, Julian Love and Dane Belton were expected to step up. They both played 100% of the snaps. But it was Jason Pinnock, a waiver claim from the Jets prior to the season, who saw the big tick up in playing time. He was on the field for 23 snaps (36%), the second-most of his career. He was one of the surprise big contributors to the game. 4 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a pressure. Huge opportunity for him and this is a guy who I know the Jets really did not want to lose.

-Belton did have a big interception in the fourth quarter, but overall it was a poor game for the rookie. He led the team with 3 missed tackles and was roasted in coverage. HOU went after him hard and had a lot of success with it. Curious to see if that is a trend we see in the coming weeks. Love added 5 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 49)
-P Jamie Gillian: 6 Punts / 40.3 avg – 34.2 net

3 STUDS

-DT Dexter Lawrence, DT Leonard Williams, QB Daniel Jones

3 DUDS

-P Jamie Gillian, OG Mark Glowinski, WR Kenny Golladay

3 THOUGHTS ON HOU

The reason why I discussed the demise of the Houston franchise at the start of the review is simple. Building a winning franchise in the NFL is hard. HOU had what everyone wants. A young superstar quarterback. An elite left tackle. An elite wide receiver. A face of the franchise on defense who was a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Imagine that. Elite players everywhere but they couldn’t even get to the AFC Championship Game. Suddenly the bottom falls out and all but one of those pieces are currently playing elsewhere. It is rare to have the personnel, coaching, and front office all on the same page. Every move is important. Every interaction is important. Every game is important. Whether you’re in it, or not.

Where does this HOU franchise go from here? I’ve seen enough of Davis Mills to know he won’t be the guy. I think he can be “good enough” with the ceiling of a Jimmy Garoppolo. But the HOU team has a long, long ways to go before they are in the same stratosphere as SF when it comes to a support system. Mills does not have athletic ability to make up for the average passing traits. They will be high enough (and with some extra capital) in the draft to take their next quarterback. It is a no brainer if you ask me. Get him in town, hire the right head coach (a spot I can see Sean Payton landing), and go from there.

Lovie Smith took away the captain tag from receiver Brandin Cooks because of how he acted after not getting traded. Cooks does not have a strong reputation in NFL circles. “Diva” may not be the right word, but to make it simple, he just isn’t a team-first guy. I never thought NYG was in the running for him in the trade market (mainly because of the money owed to him). I also don’t think he would have made the difference that some think he would have. Even though some of his numbers say otherwise, he is a number two at best. My opinion comes from watching his tape over the years. A very inconsistent player who is owed a lot of money and who does not have a strong reputation in the locker room? Pass.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I know there is some chatter circling around the #5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux. He has 1 sack in 7 games. If that is all you look at, a strong case can be made for disappointment. I challenge you to look a little deeper, however. Thibodeaux is averaging 1 pressure every 11 pass-rush snaps. #1 overall pick Travon Walker? 1 every 13. #2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson? 1 every 11. Thibodeaux has a forced fumble. Walker? Zero. Hutchinson? Zero. Thibodeaux has hit the quarterback 3 times on 205 pass rushes. Walker has hit the quarterback 3 times on 299 pass rushes. Hutchinson 4 times on 298 pass rushes. I could go on with a few more but my point is, trust me on the fact that Thibodeaux is playing better than his sack number will lead you to believe and he is on par with other rookies at the position. He is actually off to a much better start than what we saw out of Azeez Ojulari last season when looking at the big picture beyond only sacks.

So, I did a little quick study on defensive tackle pairs in the NFL. Not only is the Lawrence/Williams combo the best in the league, I don’t think any are even close. Tennessee and Baltimore are the closest, but their coaches wouldn’t even take them over what NYG is playing with. This is a special pair. I’m not sure if they will stick here long term because of Williams’ contract, but be sure to keep appreciating what they’re doing for this defense. It is special.

Sticking with the defense for the trifecta. The parting thought will not be a positive one. Against one of the worst offenses in the NFL, the NYG defense allowed 18 first downs, 2-of-3 third-down conversions, 301 yards on 34 plays (8.6 per), and 13 points in the second half alone. Those numbers are better than the best offenses in the NFL when it comes to a per-half basis. While the unit came up big when it mattered, this was an alarming defensive performance from a macro perspective that can and should cause some concern. Something to keep an eye on as they have some productive offenses coming up (DET, DAL, PHI, MIN are all top half in league).

Nov 012022
 
Richie James, New York Giants (October 30, 2022)

Richie James – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The third road game in four weeks, including the second flight of 6+ hours, dropped the Giants in Seattle. The resurgent Seahawks came into the match-up with a 4-3 record, just months after a personnel move that screamed rebuild. Quarterback Russell Wilson was no longer calling the shots as QB1 for the first time since 2011, which was Pete Carroll’s second year with the club. Once Wilson took that job over as a 3rd-round rookie in 2012, the club had 9 straight winning seasons, 8 playoff appearances, 2 NFC Championship victories, and a Super Bowl win. 2021 saw their streak of .500+ ball come to an end and the Wilson + Carroll + Seahawk relationship was clearly fractured. Fast forward to the last game in October of the 2022 season and Carroll, the oldest coach in the NFL, quickly had his team back atop of the NFC West.

Since Week 3, SEA had averaged scoring 11 points in the first quarter. Their offensive game plan early in games was a key reason for their success. Despite dominating the time of possession by a 2:1 ratio, the NYG defense held them scoreless. The problem? NYG continued their offensive trend of getting off to a slow start by not only going scoreless through the first quarter but also going three-and-out on all three of their possessions. Saquon Barkley touched the ball just once over those first nine plays. Through 8 games, NYG has scored 23 points in the first quarter, an average of less than 3 points.

The second quarter began with SEA in the middle of a marathon drive that lasted 15 plays. It included two fourth-down conversions from inside the NYG 20-yard line as the team was not settling for three points. Geno Smith, a 2013 second-round pick (the year NYG took Justin Pugh in round 1), found D.K. Metcalf alone in the end zone for the three-yard score. On the third play of the next NYG drive and 12th offensive play for the team, the Giants finally picked up their first first down. It came after consecutive touches for Barkley, go figure. The drive was halted at midfield and punter Jamie Gillian masterfully pinned SEA inside their own five. The biggest play of the game to this point ensued.

Smith threw a short pass to Tyler Lockett, the smaller half, but to some the stronger half, of the dynamic SEA wide receiver duo. Adoree’ Jackson knocked the ball loose on the tackle and scooped it up himself. NYG now had the ball, first-and-goal, on the two-yard line. With help from extra linemen, including Nick Gates, Barkley scored his fifth touchdown of the year to tie the game up. NYG then kept ahold of the momentum with two sacks on the next SEA drive. They were about to get the ball back but a Richie James fumble on the punt return gave life back to SEA. The defense stopped the bleeding, holding SEA to a field goal.

NYG had the ball back with 1:31 left following the kickoff with all three timeouts at their disposal. With such low production over the course of the half (46 yards) and knowing they were going to start the second half with the ball, this was the opportunity to get their momentum back. Instead, they ran the ball twice and did not use their timeouts. On 3rd-and-2, they finally opted to pass the ball, but Jones was sacked. SEA called timeout to make NYG punt the ball. They did, and SEA took a knee to take the three-point lead into the locker room. Very odd ending to the half.

NYG opened the third quarter with their longest drive of the game. 14 plays, including a first-and=ten in the red zone. They totaled three yards on three plays from that point and the drive resulted in just three points via a 31-yard field goal. The tie at 10 did not last long, as Myers hit a 51-yard field goal for SEA on the next drive as the third quarter was coming to a close. NYG’s offense was starting to click but they continued to shoot themselves in the foot. On a 1st-and-10 from the SEA 29-yard line, Barkley took an eight-yard loss on a misdirection run. There were quite a few communication-based mistakes in this one. The Seattle crowd, also nationally known as the “12th Man,” did indeed have a major impact on the game.

They had to claw their way back into field goal range before Gano hit a 45-yarder to tie it back up. That would be it for NYG points. The first fourth-quarter possession for SEA needed just five plays. Smith hit Tyler Lockett for a 33-yard touchdown a drive after Lockett dropped a sure-thing touchdown. The eighth-year pro, known for never making mistakes, and that fact very much hiding his diminutive size shortcomings (take notes, Wan’Dale), was having one of the worst games of his career. A fumble that turned into points, a dropped touchdown that led to SEA settling on 3 points instead of 7. Lockett redeemed himself by giving his team a commanding seven-point margin. The NYG offense continued to struggle. Keep in mind they had just 13 points, more than half of which came largely because of the Lockett fumble inside the SEA five-yard line.

They responded to the SEA score with a three-and-out, but then so did SEA. NYG was getting the ball back with just over six minutes left. The scapegoat of the game, if one had to be chosen, Richie James, fumbled his second return of the afternoon. SEA recovered, scored another touchdown on the legs of rookie running back Kenneth Walker III. All of the sudden SEA had a 14-point lead. NYG’s next drive made it inside the SEA 30-yard line. From there, NYG went sack-incomplete-incomplete, giving SEA the ball back with just over two minutes left.

They did gain a first down but because NYG had all of their timeouts and the two-minute warning, they got the ball back one last time. Jones completed 1-of-4 passes and was sacked twice before the clock ran out.

NYG loses, 27-13.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 17/31 – 176 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 71.4 RAT

Jones also added 20 yards on the ground. This was the fourth time we have seen Jones finish with under 200 yards of total production in a game this season. The first half was torture for the offense overall (46 yards, just 2 yards per play). We can point to multiple factors when searching for why, and Jones is on the list. My key example there comes from their opening drive of the game. They ran a mesh-concept that every single offense uses in these 3rd-and-3-7 yards to go situations. Two crossers underneath and a third target that sits in the middle. The design worked, the routes were good, and tight end Tanner Hudson was wide open with nobody around him on the other side of the first down marker. Jones did not see it, threw to Marcus Johnson (who was covered tightly), and NYG came up a yard short, punt. Jones did not pull the trigger on that play and four others (I’m being conservative). He also overthrew two downfield passes where his guy had multiple steps ahead of the defender. We can keep repeating ourselves over and over about the lack of weapons Jones has. You know, I know, everyone knows it. But that does not excuse a game like this one. The good quarterbacks in this league raise the level of players around him, plain and simple. He did not get the job done in this one.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 20 att – 53 yards – 1 TD / 3 rec – 9 yards

Week 8 brought us the lowest production from Barkley we have seen in a game all year. A big part of this was excellent scheming and execution by the SEA defense. Part of it was some poor blocking, and the other part of it was predictable play calling by NYG. They ran the similar power run with two pulling blockers from one side to the other that we saw them run over and over in Jacksonville. The results were very different, and it was obvious the NYG tight ends were going to keep getting blown up in the trenches. Looking back on it, I think Kafka would certainly re-think his approach on the play calls for Barkley. He also dropped a pass and lost his balance a couple times where there was some space available.

-Matt Breida added 5 yards on the ground and 10 yards in the passing game on 3 touches. He played just 14 snaps to Barkley’s 52.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton stepped up with a solid game. He had 66 yards on 5 catches, two of which were huge third-down conversions. They were both in the second half, they were both physical catches that required plus-ball skills, and they both led to scores. Six of their thirteen points came on these two drives where he came up big.

-Marcus Johnson had 1 catch on 6 targets for 3 yards. That catch came on the first drive of the game and that was all we heard from him. He added another drop. Rookie Wan’Dale Robinson 2 catches for 15 yards and David Sills had 1 catch for 5 yards. I’ll do the math for you. The NYG receivers totaled 9 catches for 89 yards. In week 8 alone, 13 individual receivers had more yards across the league. To those keeping score at home for the season: Tyreek Hill leads the NFL with 961 yards in receiving. All of the NYG receivers, combined, have 875 yards on the year.

TIGHT END

-The loss of Daniel Bellinger was expected to be felt at least a little bit. After re-watching, especially from the All-22, it was much more than a little bit. Tanner Hudson was the biggest liability on the team when it came to the running game’s struggles. He allowed 2 TFL and a pressure. Some may look at his receiving line (3 rec / 58 yards) and come away with the notion he had a solid game there. All three of Hudson’s catches came on the final two drives of the game with SEA up by fourteen and playing softer coverage. He also dropped a ball earlier on.

-Chris Myarick and Lawrence Cager both allowed 1 TFL each as well. A terrible game in the trenches for this group. All the talk about bringing in a wide receiver to help spur the passing game overall is warranted. I am confused why there is not more discussion about the tight ends when considering the economics and where this offense as a whole needs help. More on that below.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The offensive line as a whole lost at the point-of-attack for the majority of the game. Their solid stretches in play brought the offense to another level. When they faltered, it compounded to the skill positions. Inconsistent game overall.

-Andrew Thomas, you guessed it, pitched another shutout. His pursuit of the coveted All-Pro label is not quite there yet, but he is getting close. It will come down to his ability to remain consistent at his current level. NYG could not be asking for better football from their left tackle.

-Tyre Phillips, the fill-in at right tackle for rookie Evan Neal, had a poor game, the lowest grade on the line. He was flagged for two false starts (common in Seattle when the crowd is in it) and he also allowed both a pressure and a sack. His gap-blocking in the running game was the one positive, but he struggled mightily on outside-zone runs. He appeared to be confused and slow to react.

-Inside, third stringer Joshua Ezeudu was good for most of the game. He was heading toward an above average grade, and he threw the best block of the group on Barkley’s touchdown run. However, he allowed 2 pressures and a sack late. His anchor isn’t ready yet for pure bull rushers and the stunt/twist game is moving a bit too fast for him. Right now, he is a one-dimensional blocker who does his best work as a pulling guard across the line.

-Mark Glowinski allowed a pressure and a sack while center Jon Feliciano allowed two pressures and was inconsistent in the running game. He wound up on the ground often, never a good sign for interior blockers.

-Nick Gates returned after nearly seeing his career end after a gruesome leg injury last season that requited multiple surgeries. When it comes to what I know about the human body and rehab, this will be just as much about how he responds to just a little bit of live action (five plays) days later as it was about seeing how effective he still is. From those five snaps, it certainly appears the baseline ability is still there. Now? The team will see how his leg and surrounding joints recover. If he checks multiple boxes, I think Gates is going to be a big part of this offense over the final third of the season. They need him and if he is just 90% of what he was pre-injury, getting him a starting spot is a no brainer. He looked good and brought some of the Gates-type attitude to the offense.

EDGE

-I start this group off with a rookie. No, not Kayvon Thibodeaux. Tomon Fox made a big impact on this game, and I did not fully appreciate the effort until I re-watched it. The undrafted free agent led the team with 8 tackles and 2 TFL while adding a pressure on his 27 snaps. He played less than half the snaps, plays an OLB/DE hybrid position, and finished with that much production. Maybe LT was onto something. Fox was the most physical player not named Dexter Lawrence in this game for NYG.

-Thibodeaux had a quiet game. He finished with 1 pressure and missed a tackle. I did not like some of the movement we saw out of him in space. Lateral stiffness and poor reaction. We know he runs in a straight line well and his get off is very good. I need to see more suddenness, though.

-Elerson Smith saw his first action of the year with 7 snaps on defense. His lone tackle on the day came on special teams. With Fox emerging and the expected return of Azeez Ojulari and Oshane Ximines, Smith may have a hard time getting on the field. He needs to flash, and soon.

-Jihad Ward continues to set a strong edge as a run defender and showed the versatility to line up inside again even more so after the Nick Williams injury. That is where he broke up a pass from. His limitations in space did hurt the defense a couple times.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Because Nick Williams went down with a biceps injury early, we saw an uptick in playing time for both Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence. For the short term, it wasn’t a bad thing at all. Williams had 8 tackles, 5 pressures, a sack, and was the finisher to a TFL by Fox. He was so dominant in the first quarter that SEA adjusted their blocking scheme on him. He still broke through the line for most of the game. Lawrence finished with 4 tackles and 3 pressures. These two were the driving force behind stuffing the SEA run game, ranked #1 in the league in yards per attempt coming into Week 8, until late in the game. Admirable and dominant effort from these two.

-As noted above, Nick Williams went down early with a biceps injury. Him, D.J. Davidson, and Henry Mondeaux all being injured have left this interior line very thin. Justin Ellis is a two-gap run plug at this point, an average one, and won’t be anything more. This team needs to get more depth on this front. Williams and Lawrence cannot play that much week to week.

LINEBACKER

-This defensive coaching staff has made a routine of altering their personnel groupings and individual snaps for certain players week to week based on match-ups. So, this may not mean anything, but it may mean something. Tae Crowder was removed from the middle and Jaylon Smith was inserted. Then, rookie Micah McFadden saw five more snaps (27 to 22) than Crowder on the weak side. This is something to keep an eye on. Smith brings a higher level of decision-making and doesn’t miss tackles like Crowder (who missed another 2 in this game). McFadden is not the athlete Crowder is, but he excels at hand-fighting with blockers and has more ability downhill. The rookie finished with 4 tackles and sack, Smith finished with 7 tackles, and Crowder finished with 2. Lastly, I think it was Crowder who was guilty culprit on the blindside block that was flagged on the punt (Jason Pinnock was wrongfully called by the refs).

CORNERBACK

-Playing cornerback in this league is hard. It is the hardest position to play in football other than quarterback. Playing cornerback in the Wink Martindale scheme is hard because of how often they are left on an island. Adoree’ Jackson was having his best game of the season until the fourth quarter. He broke up a pass on 3rd down, he broke up a pass in the end zone, he forced and recovered a fumble that led NYG to their first and only touchdown of the day. SEA had just 13 points at the 10:00 mark in the fourth quarter and Jackson was one of the catalysts to the group’s effort. He was burned by Tyler Lockett for a near-touchdown but was bailed out by an out-of-character drop by the receiver. On the very next drive, Jackson was burned again for a touchdown that ultimately decided the game. It was not a bad game for Jackson, and it should not be labeled so even though he was on the wrong end of the highlight reel. Martindale is the Bruce Arians of defense. “No risk-it, no biscuit.” It can work often with the right guys, but the law of averages will see the guys lose like that from time to time.

-Fabian Moreau had an early pass break up on a pass intended for D.K. Metcalf. He spent a lot of time one-on-one against one of the biggest freaks and best deep threats in the NFL and fared well. He did this without safety help over the top for most of the game too. Nice game for him and he added 5 tackles.

-Nick McCloud and Darnay Holmes both saw about half of the defensive snaps. McCloud getting the nod at nickel was noteworthy. First, Holmes competed with safety Dane Belton for snaps but they played different positions. Now, we see McCloud getting the nod over Holmes. Interesting development here and he did play well. He had a pressure that caused a sack and Holmes was beat up a bit on short-to-intermediate throws.

SAFETY

-Julian Love had 7 tackles but allowed a touchdown in zone coverage early in the game to Metcalf. Xavier McKinney added 2 tackles and a sack but missed a tackle on the late Kenneth Walker touchdown. And Dane Belton played just 10 snaps. The safety group overall lacked impact in this one.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 31, 45)
-P Jamie Gillian: 6 punts / 53.7 avg – 47.7 net

3 STUDS

-EDGE Tomon Fox, DT Leonard Williams, OT Andrew Thomas

3 DUDS

-WR Richie James, TE Tanner Hudson, OT Tyre Phillips

3 THOUGHTS ON SEA

1. Right up there with NYG is SEA when talking about the league’s biggest surprises. I projected them to go 5-12 and finish in last place in the NFC West. My main reasons for this incredibly wrong prediction were the perceived downgrades in the passing game on both sides of the ball. From Russell Wilson to Drew Lock (many believed he was the guy prior to camp) at QB, two rookies stepping in at OT, two rookies stepping in at corner, and unproven pass rushers led me to believe they would get smoked there. Man, was I wrong. Not only is this team playoff bound, I think they are going to win the NFC West if they stay healthy. And playing at that place in the postseason will be a TOUGH assignment.

2. Through the halfway point of the season, the SEA rookie class is the best in the NFL, and I don’t think anyone is close. Listen to the first 6 picks of this class. OTs Charles Cross (rd 1) and Abraham Lucas (rd 3), who are both among the top 4 rookie tackles in the NFL. Only Ikem Ekwonu (CAR) is ahead of them right now while Tyler Smith (DAL) can be debated. RB Kenneth Walker (rd 2) is among the NFL lead in yards over the last 3 weeks and the best eyes/minds I see in NFL analysis are raising him to be one of the top 10 backs in the NFL right now. All of them. CBs Coby Bryant (rd 4) and Tariq Woolen (rd 5) are their top two corners and the latter shares the league-lead in interceptions. There are strong rookie classes, and there is a class like this that if they keep it up, could go down as one of the most impactful ever in their inaugural season.

3. Love or hate Pete Carroll, and most do despise him (in and out of league), the dude can flat out coach. Perceived as a defensive guy, Carroll is very much involved and in control of the offense from a macro-perspective. There have been interesting situations with him and different play-callers over the years. He wants things his way and the second they go too pass-heavy, he fires them. Russell Wilson leaves town and he looks like a shell of his former self, his Seahawk self. Geno Smith gets a starting job for the first time since 2014 and is all of the sudden in the MVP discussion. That, the fact they are doing this with rookie contributions at major positions, and the fact their defense looked more prepared for the NYG offense than anyone we have seen so far brings me to the idea that Carroll is heading toward a Coach of the Year Award.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

1. This will be the final input I have on the trade deadline. At the point of this writing (late Monday night), no trade has been made. The rumors are circulating, and I do think there is validity behind NYG inquiring about wide receiver talent. If this was year three, or even year two of this regime I would lean strongly toward a deal being done. But when reflecting on how many times Joe Schoen has brought up the lack of salary cap health and the fact they are in year one leads me to believe they will not trade pick(s) for a receiver. If there is a trade to be made, I think it is more likely we see them trade a late day-three pick (or a late swap) for a defensive lineman or a tight end. The DLs I think fit the situation (scheme, contract, team) are Michael Brockers (DET), Roy Robertson-Harris (JAC), and Bilal Nichols (LV). The TEs I think fit the situation (scheme, contract, team) are Ian Thomas (CAR) and Eric Saubert (DEN). I still think they will lean no trade but could make a play for Odell Beckham in free agency soon (however I think he wants to be with a more credible SB contender).

2. The bye week is coming at a good time. I mean, mid-year is always a good time. But I like how a few of the key players who are out (Ojulari, Neal, Ximines, Lemieux, Bellinger), but are expected back at some point, will simply miss one less game with the bye coming right now. This has been an eventful first 8 games to the season with a lot of drama and emotion (on and off the field). Regroup, heal up, and come back hungry.

3. What is the one thing I want this coaching staff to spend the most time on as they self-scout this week? The answer is simple. Improve their first-half offense. They are 30th in first-half points. They are 30th in first-half time of possession. Early-game offense is often scripted, especially in the first quarter. Their script (and execution) has been poor. Next up I want to see more pass rush. Despite being the most blitz-heavy team in the league, they rank in the bottom half of every noteworthy pass rush metric. And this is the result even though DT Dexter Lawrence is in the discussion for a spot on the All-Pro team. Looking at you, edge defenders. Let’s see the arrow point up. And lastly, find a new punt returner. That is all.

Enjoy the week off everyone – it has been a fun season so far. Thanks for letting me be a part of it.

Oct 252022
 
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 23, 2022)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Rewind to Week 17 of 2020 with me. NYG was on the brink of a potential playoff spot despite a 6-10 finish. The only thing that stood in their way was the Washington Football Team that went into a Sunday night matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles with a 6-9 record. Because of tie-breakers, NYG would have gone to the postseason had PHI taken care of business. PHI tanked the game for the sake of a better draft position. There is some debate on whose call that actually was, but Pedersen took the heat. Washington won, went to the playoffs, Pedersen was fired, and NYG was on the outside looking in. Had they made it, would Joe Judge have had an extra year to prove his worth in 2022? As angry as NYG nation was back then, it was a move that could have prevented NYG from working under Brian Daboll today.

NYG has not been a productive first-drive team. In fact, the last time they opened the game with a touchdown-scoring drive was November 7, 2021 at home against the Raiders. They later went on to win that contest, one of their four on the year. So, for the first time in 14 games, Jones led the NYG offense to a game-opening touchdown on a pass to Darius Slayton. The lead did not last long, however. The Jaguars, led by second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence and former Eagles Super Bowl-winning Head Coach Doug Pederson, marched right back down the field. Six Plays (3 run / 3 pass), and 70 yards ended with Travis Etienne crossing the goal line. They opted to go for two points rather than tie it up after NYG was flagged for an illegal formation on the PAT try. Etienne easily ran that one is as well to give the home team an early one-point lead.

NYG punted on their next drive, but after left guard Ben Bredeson went down with a knee injury. JAC showed no issues in continuing their early offensive momentum, again getting into the red zone and putting up points. This drive ended with a 27-yard field goal by Riley Patterson. Former Giants’ first round pick Evan Engram had the longest play of the drive, a 28-yarder. The 28-year old is currently playing with the lowest drop rate of his career (2.6%), well below the league average. He is on pace to set a career high in catches and yards.

NYG was able to put up three points of their own on a 33-yard field goal by Graham Gano. But this came after Evan Neal, the second starting lineman of the game, limped off the field injured. He, along with Bredeson, did not return. At the time of this writing, both will likely be out for at least a couple of weeks. Even though NYG got the game within one, the outlook was bleak. A rookie who has already seen his share of struggles was in at left guard and a third-year vet who was waived in August by Baltimore was in at right tackle as NYG was taking on a very physical defensive front from JAC.

For the third time in as many tries, JAC found themselves in the red zone. It seemed everything they were trying on offense was working. Runs, passes, play-action, counters…etc. JAC was moving the ball at will and someone on the defense needed to make a play. Safety Xavier McKinney, who was having a poor game up until this point, stepped up. He forced an Etienne-fumble as he reached the NYG 5-yard line. Julian Love recovered in the end zone and walked out of bounds for the touchback. It was an enormous turn of events. Instead of it being JAC ball, 1st-and-goal from inside the five, it was NYG ball on their own 25. This turned into three more points for NYG after Gano hit a 33-yard field goal. The half was over after JAC threw a desperation Hail Mary and NYG had the 2-point lead.

The opening play of the first half was a 49-yard run by Etienne. At this point, he had 92 yards on just 7 carries. Etienne got them down to the NYG 1-yard line after two more carries before Trevor Lawrence took two straight QB sneaks up the middle, the second one crossing the goal line. NYG has made a living this year on scoring early in the second half, but they were the ones that allowed the early score after halftime. JAC was up 17-13, as Nick McCloud blocked the extra point. NYG drove down the field themselves and had an interception by Jones taken off the board thanks to a roughing-the-passer penalty, the second turnover of the game NYG escaped due to a flag. They had 2nd-and-3 from the JAC 3-yard line. Barkley was stuffed at the line on second down. Jones nearly threw an interception on third down. And Marcus Johnson dropped a pass on fourth down that would have at least resulted in a first down conversion and could have ended up in the end zone. The frustration level was at its highest.

Three straight scoreless possessions followed. The second stop of JAC was the result of more aggressive decision-making by Pederson. On 4th-and-1 from the NYG-20 yard line (and a 4-point lead), he kept the offense on the field. They tried yet another QB sneak and this time the NYG front stuffed it. Turnover on downs. Instead of going for the 7-point lead (Patterson is 7/8 lifetime on attempts 30-39 yards), it was NYG ball, down four. After a quiet running game in the first half, NYG was controlling the point-of-attack (with 2 backup OL remember). All 69 yards gained on their own were via the running game. Add in another 10 yards and 3 JAC penalties. Jones, who was having arguably the most impressive performance of his career, crossed the goal line on a 1-yard carry. NYG was up 20-17.

The NYG defense forced a three-and-out on the next drive, and with just under 4:30 left in the game, the offense had the ball back and their dominance on the ground continued. NYG brought extra linemen on the field and simply ran power after power after power. They gained 61 yards and forced JAC to use all 3 timeouts. The black eye here was the fact that Barkley ran out of bounds, stopping the clock, three times. Not once, not twice, but three times. Football has a way of balancing things out over time. A week after Barkley made the unselfish and brilliant decision to fall on the ground in front of the end zone to keep the clock running, he made three bonehead mistakes (in a row) that kept the game alive for JAC. Gano hit a 34-yarder to make the NYG lead six.

JAC and the referees made things interesting. Three penalties were called on NYG. One of them nullified an interception by Fabian Moreau. One of them added 15 yards to a 28-yard gain with under :20 left. Lawrence and the JAC offense had three shots at the end zone from inside the NYG-20 yard line. The first two fell incomplete. The third connected with Christian Kirk right in front of the end zone. It took a trio of NYG defenders to wrestle the 200-pound slot receiver to the ground just a couple feet shy of the end zone as the clock expired.

NYG wins 23-17.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 19/30 – 202 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 94.0 RAT

The most important stat from Jones came on the ground. He ran for 107 yards on 11 carries and added another touchdown. It was his first ever 100+ yard performance and he is third to only Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields in rushing by a quarterback this season. Jones has 1,343 yards on the ground so far in his career. Eli Manning had under 600 over his career. The contrast in offensive style and possibilities with an athlete like this under center should not be overlooked when evaluating his play. Jones put this team on his shoulder and delivered. He had multiple passes dropped, including a touchdown. Game ball for a guy who stepped up the most when his team needed him the most. If you are looking for a negative, he did have two turnovers cancelled by JAC penalties that did not exactly impact the original result of the play.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 24 att – 110 yards / 4 rec – 25 yards

Barkley has been a different player in the second half of games this season. Week 7 was no different. He had 9 carries for 18 yards in the first half, 15 carries for 92 yards in the second. This is the ideal way to go about a power-run game; be at your best as the defense grows tired. The fact he did this behind a makeshift offensive line means something for both him and the coaching. I do believe they were limiting his snaps early, as the shoulder is a minor issue that they need to prevent turning into a big one. But with the game on the line late, it was time to feed him over and over. He delivered. That said, the constant lack of awareness that saw him go out of bounds three times was such a head scratcher. Had they lost, Barkley would have been one of the biggest scapegoats and rightfully so.

-Matt Breida had 19 yards on 4 carries and gained 14 yards on a catch. Solid performance in a game that saw him tie a season-high 18 snaps.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Poor game by the group overall. NYG is 6-1, but one needs to ask how much longer they can try to contend with these guys running routes. Darius Slayton caught 3 passes for 58 yards including a 32-yard touchdown. That was a double catch, and he dropped a ball later on. His ball skills and overall feel for the position is maddening.

-Wan’Dale Robinson was a huge part of the offense early on. He finished with 50 yards on 6 catches. Not the most impressive stat line, but keep in mind ALL of that production was in the first half. He suffered a minor injury in the second half and even though he came back in, he did not see the ball (or any targets) after halftime. I’m not too into fantasy football but I have a strong feeling he is going to be THE feature receiver on this team from here on out. No other player was targeted more and his adjustments to the ball in the air were amazing.

-Marcus Johnson is a polarizing player. I noted how many transactions he has been a part of in the past (including 2 trades). We saw some of the good the last two weeks, but we saw the ugly this week. He was targeted three times and he had 2 drops, one of which came at a vital point in the game. He was also flagged for an illegal downfield block.

-David Sills had a catch for 19 yards and Richie James added 1 catch for 2 yards.

TIGHT END

-Rookie Daniel Bellinger suffered one of the worst injuries I have seen in quite some time. While it sounds like it won’t be in the season-ending tier, the pain he obviously felt made my stomach knot up. He took a finger-led punch to the eye which caused fractures and will require surgery. He had 1 catch for 13 yards before exiting.

-Chris Myarick and Tanner Hudson will likely fill in for him moving forward. Myarick had 2 catches for 21 yards and allowed a TFL. I will touch on this below, but an argument can be made that tight end is now a bigger need on this team than receiver.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-I will start off with the injuries. Ben Bredeson and Evan Neal both missed most of the game with knee injuries. Initially this was perceived to be a major blow. When considering the law of averages, when a team loses multiple linemen in the same game, it usually gets ugly. Here? One could make the argument the NYG offense only got stronger from that point. No, not a knock on Neal and Bredeson. It is a compliment to the situation, players and coaches combined. Tyre Phillips played 58 snaps at tackle and Joshua Ezeudu played 61 snaps at left guard. How did they fare? Phillips looked better than the rookie. He allowed 2 pressures and a half-TFL, but was often left alone on an island and won more of those match-ups than I expected him to. Because Neal is still growing as a player, I don’t expect much of a drop off with Phillips in there. Ezeudu allowed 3 pressures and was flagged for illegally going downfield on a passing play. Overall, it was a poor game for him, but his best football was played late in the game when NYG absolutely took over with the running game.

-Mark Glowinski allowed a pressure and a TFL. More of the same from him. Solid football with a limited ceiling. You know when you hear the line “high floor / low ceiling” in pre-draft talk? That is Glowinski.

-Jon Feliciano had his best game as a Giant and Andrew Thomas was near-perfect again. The latter did allow a pressure, and some will credit a sack against him but that is why I like tracking my own stats. That sack was not on Thomas. These two and Glowinski need to be rock-solid as this offensive line is about to shift around a bit.

EDGE

-Last week I discussed rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux playing on a steady incline ever since missing the first two games of the year. That description is still in play. He had 3 tackles and a team-high 3 pressures. He constantly won with his first step and played well under the pads of the JAC tackles while turning a tight corner. His effort and speed are making an impact away from the ball, always a good sign. The big issue that continues to arise? He is not doing a good job setting the edge. He has been slow to recognize and lacks the power to make up for it. That hurt NYG against the run multiple times.

-Jihard Ward is the epitome of what an edge setter is in the NFL. He excelled in that role and has done so all year. He finished with only 2 tackles, but did a lot of the dirty work that helped this defense come up big late.

-With Oshane Ximines and Azeez Ojulari out, the door was opened for Tomon Fox and Quincy Roche. Roche was on the field just 2 snaps and he finished with a tackle. Fox was on the field for 34 snaps and did not appear on the stat sheet. He made one physical hit on an incomplete pass toward the end of the first half but beyond that, he was shut out. NYG had a few pass rush issues for the first 50-65% of the game. Fox was one of the culprits there.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Dexter Lawrence was flagged twice for roughing the passer. The first was complete garbage. The second, I did not agree with, but that kind of roughing gets called weekly around the league. Hate the rule there, not the ref. Otherwise, he finished with 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure. He had a sack nullified by a defensive holding call in the secondary.

-Leonard Williams and Nick Williams both had 1 tackle and 1 pressure. The former broke up a pass at the line as well. Overall, a quiet game from these two who had a hard time against the run.

-Ryder Anderson and Justin Ellis both rotated in and finished with a tackle.

LINEBACKER

-Tae Crowder had 6 tackles and missed one. He also broke up a pass. The issue with his overall game showed up in an ugly way in this game. He is late to react off the ball and gets caught out of position. He struggles to get off those blocks and now there is a wide-open running lane for the opposition. Jaylon Smith has similar issues but does show more post-snap when it comes to making reads. He added 4 tackles and showed good coverage downfield multiple times.

-Welcome back #21, Landon Collins. He saw 23 snaps at linebacker and most of them were on third down / passing situations. He had 1 tackle on an impressive play where he fought off the block in space and dragged down the ball carrier near the end zone.

CORNERBACK

-Adoree’ Jackson is the one force in this cornerback group that can be relied on play to play, week to week. He had 6 tackles and 2 pass break ups. His coverage down the stretch was money. Undoubtedly one of the most important players on this defense because of what is, or isn’t, behind him.

-Fabian Moreau finished with 7 tackles and a pass break up. He too came up big on the final drive. His interception was cancelled by a penalty by Dane Belton (a horrific call). And he was part of the crew that kept Kirk out of the end zone on the final play. He fits the bend-don’t-break stigma of this defense very well.

-Darnay Holmes had a penalty cancelled by a different defensive penalty. Otherwise, it was more of the same from him. Physical run support and tackling, good-not-great coverage, and a lot of versatility.

-Nick McCloud blocked an extra point. All things considered that ended up being a big play in the game.

SAFETY

-Xavier McKinney came up with a huge forced fumble that was desperately needed at the time. JAC was moving the ball with ease early on and it appeared they were about to score another touchdown. Getting that ball out of Etienne’s grasp was both timely and potentially game-changing. That somewhat hides his poor angles in run support that gave JAC extra yards (and points).

-Julian Love led the team with 9 tackles and a fumble recovery. The fumble recovery may not have even been the biggest play of the game. He made initial contact with Kirk on that final play of the game that ended up 1 yard short of JAC winning the game. McKinney and Moreau made bigger impact hits, but it was Love’s contact that slowed down Kirk’s momentum. Had Love not done this, Kirk may have reached the end zone for the score. He was flagged for a personal foul earlier in the game that I thought was another poor call by the refs.

-Dane Belton played 23 snaps, as he and Holmes appear to be going back and forth with respect to playing time. He finished with 2 tackles and was hosed on a penalty on the last drive that cancelled the Moreau interception. Another poor call by the refs.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 3/3 (Made 33, 33, 34)
-P Jamie Gillian: 2 punts / 40.0 avg – 30.0 net

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, WR Wan’Dale Robinson, CB Adoree’ Jackson

3 DUDS

-WR Marcus Johnson, LB Tae Crowder, OG Joshua Ezeudu

3 THOUGHTS ON JAC

1. Yet another example (there are multiple cases every year) of not crowning anyone after 3 weeks. JAC started of 2-1 with wins against IND and LAC that combined for 62 points of margin over those opponents. They were up 8-1 in the turnover margin. They were up 70-51 in first down margin. Fast forward to Week 7, and they still have only 2 wins. Losers of 4 straight, JAC’s turnover margin is back to even and they’ve averaged under 18 points per game since their fast start. They are not contenders yet even though the AFC South can make a case for being the worst in football again.

2. Just how good is Trevor Lawrence? The 2021 #1 overall pick was destined for that tag since his freshman season at Clemson. He went on to have a stellar career there, but as we all know, life in the NFL is different. I’ve seen him four times this season and the traits are obviously there. But one inconsistency I see week to week revolves around ball placement issues when he has a lot of action close to him. This happens often. Kids from college come into the league and long-gone are the days of having 5 yards of space around you in all directions for 3-4-5 seconds every drop back. Lawrence missed on several throws in this game, and I saw the same against both HOU and PHI (albeit that one in the rain). Every young quarterback has a three-year grace period in my eyes as long as they do not bottom out. He is only in year two and is currently playing under his third play-caller. But for someone who I graded as high as I did, I was expecting better play than what he is showing in year two. He was the second-best quarterback on the field in this game and to be blunt, it wasn’t close.

3. What does JAC need to be a credible contender? Obviously, we know Lawrence needs to ascend, that can go without saying. When I look at this roster, I see quality players on both sides of the ball. Ownership has spent more free agency money than anyone in the league since 2012. I trust the coach. Travis Etienne has All-Pro potential, and he is starting to flash. Their defense has a young star in Josh Allen and another future star in Travon Walker. Linebacker Devin Lloyd is playing some of the best football in the league among rookies. But they have not escaped the cellar. What gives? I see two major issues. Their receivers can’t make anything happen after the catch and they are not deep threats. That is a danger zone to be in. Defensively they don’t have the cover-guys at the top and lack pro-caliber depth when guys go down. Thus, they are incredibly vulnerable to losing both passing battles week to week. Until that changes, they’ll remain where they’re at.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

1. 6-1. Credible playoff contention now and opportunities like this should not be assumed by a front office. Does the urgency for a trade (or signing) at receiver pick up with each win? Yes, I think so. Especially when it is coupled with the fact these receivers either can’t stay healthy or simply cannot be relied upon. Let’s be sure to not lower the standard for what a winning receiver does for a team. We have seen Slayton flash. We have seen Johnson flash. We have even seen Sills do a few good things. But do not mistake them for more than what they are: replacement-level players. I don’t want General Manager Joe Schoen to go down the path of selling future premium picks. But I think the urgency is a little higher now on an Odell Beckham reunion. But don’t overlook the need for a tight end. They are less expensive regarding both the cap and the trade market. Bellinger is the future at the position, but replacing his value and production CAN be done with a simple trade of a day-three pick to a team that is out of contention.

2. In episode 6 of “NYG Coaches Are Among the Best in the League”…I bring you to the final 19 offensive plays of the game. 17 of them were runs and they totaled 130 yards. 2 of them were passes, both fell incomplete. NYG doubled down on what they knew would work. Their bread and butter. And this was behind a banged up offensive line. So, what did they do? Bring on extra linemen as blocking tight ends (Devery Hamilton and Jack Anderson). They essentially ran the same play over and over and then threw in the little curve ball once JAC over-committed off the snap with a Jones naked bootleg. This staff has such a strong grasp how to move the ball on offense and that has more value than fancy personnel that other teams may have. It just keeps getting better.

3. A game in Seattle before NYG gets a week off. While 6-1 looks nice on paper, 7-1 will make things so much more comfortable than 6-2 moving forward. Because of their rookie tackles, I have seen all the Seattle games this year. They are right up there with NYG as the most surprising team in the NFL this season. My biggest concern is their ability to pound the run. They are first in the NFL in yards per carry and their rookie Kenneth Walker looks big time. NYG ranks dead last in the NFL in yards per carry allowed. This is an obvious mismatch, and I am curious to see what Martindale schemes up to prevent this being an issue.

Oct 182022
 
Wan'Dale Robinson, New York Giants (October 16, 2022)

Wan’Dale Robinson – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The 2018 NFL Draft was one for the books. If you can recall, NYG picked #2 overall and were approaching the end of Eli Manning’s career. Multiple quarterbacks graded out high enough to be considered for that spot. Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen were all in the discussion, but only the latter three were available when NYG came on the clock. We all know they went on to choose Saquon Barkley (the 2018 Rookie of the Year and current NFL leader in yards from scrimmage). One of the most oft-forgotten facts about that draft class was what Baltimore did within the back half of the first round. They were sitting at #16 overall and then traded their way back to #25. They selected South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst. Right as the first round was about to wrap up, BAL made a trade up with PHI. That is where they took a quarterback out of Louisville named Lamar Jackson. Getting him in the first round, even at the very end of it, created an eventual economic advantage (the 5th year option which he is playing under right now). Fast forward to the present where the streaky Jackson, the 2019 MVP, led the 3-2 Ravens into MetLife Stadium. They were coming off two straight games where they finished with under 21 points scored after seeing that same exact thing occur in 6 of 9 games down the stretch in 2021 that ultimately led to their demise.

It was a sloppy start to the game for both teams. There were four false starts within the first 25 snaps and neither team scored any points in the first quarter. The Giants defense continued a bend-but-don’t-break approach, as BAL crossed midfield on both of their drives. The second one ended in a Justin Tucker missed field goal attempt of 56 yards, his first 50+ miss in 11 attempts. The game’s first score occurred on BAL’s opening drive of the second quarter. Kenyan Drake, who was cut by the Raiders in August, entered the game with 65 yards on 21 carries. He burst through the right side of the line for a 30 yard-score.

Gary Brightwell, an unsung hero to the hot start of NYG’s surprise season, took the ensuing kickoff to midfield. When a team wins games the way the Giants have been winning so far, these little things go a long way. Daniel Jones then led the offense to a 10-play, 53-yard drive that ended on a touchdown pass to rookie Wan’Dale Robinson, who had not been on the field since the first quarter of week one in Tennessee. The drive included third down conversions of 14 and 12 yards, respectively. It was a big-time clutch performance in a moment where the team needed it coming from an offense that came into the league ranked in the bottom third on 3rd down.

BAL scored on the next drive via a 34-yard field goal by Tucker. Drake had another 30-yard run as he matched his season total in rushing yards on less than a handful of carries. NYG went three and out, giving BAL one more shot with over a minute left before halftime. A sack by Dexter Lawrence, who continues his All-Pro caliber play, moved the chains back enough to eventually lead to their own three and out. NYG did get the ball back at midfield thanks to an Unnecessary Roughness penalty on A.J. Klein on the punt, but it did not lead to any points as Jones was sacked and lost a fumble as time expired.

BAL outgained NYG 256 to 90 in the first half. They won the time of possession battle. They led in the sack battle. They led in the turnover battle. Usually, those margins lead to bigger deficits, but NYG, an excellent second half team, was right where they wanted to be and right where they are comfortable. BAL lengthened their lead to 13-7 following their first drive of the second half despite getting to the NYG 5-yard line with a 1st and goal. Jackson threw three straight incomplete passes (including a drop by Mark Andrews) and Tucker had to come on for a 23-yard field goal. NYG stayed in it with a 34-yard field goal following a 14 play, 59-yard drive. The scoring drive was heavily aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Jayson Oweh following a third-down stop.

BAL kept ahold of the momentum with a touchdown scoring drive. Jackson hit Andrews, the other All-Pro the team drafted in 2018, for a 12-yard score. The fourth quarter was under way and NYG was down by 10, the biggest deficit of the game. They did not crumble; they did not panic. Seven runs, five passes, and two more third-down conversions brought them all the way to the BAL 8-yard line. Jones hit rookie Daniel Bellinger for the touchdown to get the game back within one score. It was the third scoring drive that consisted of double-digit plays.

There is an ongoing debate whether or not Jackson is worth the next big quarterback contract. Many assume he will breach the $50 million-annual mark but BAL has not coughed it up yet. There is no denying how rare of a talent he is and how hard he can be to defend. But what transpired over the next two drives in combination with the contrast in regular season to postseason performance (1-3 record / 3 TD-5 INT) is what can credibly cause one to hesitate to spend 25+% of cap allocation on him. A terrible interception brought in by Julian Love after an errant shotgun snap gave NYG the ball back on the BAL 13-yard line. NYG scored on a 1-yard run by Barkley the play after Marcus Peters was flagged for pass interference in the end zone, a play he intercepted the ball.

NYG, for the first time, had a 24-20 lead. Jackson, with just under 2 minutes and all three timeouts under his belt, carelessly held the ball as NYG brought pressure. Rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux came up with his biggest play of his young career, batting that ball hanging out in the open and knocking it loose. Leonard Williams fell on it and NYG had the ball back, up four on the BAL 13-yard line, with 1:30 left. BAL did have all their timeouts so when looking at the math, NYG would either have to get a first down, score, or turn the ball over. They couldn’t bleed the clock to death. On 2nd-and-5, Barkley bounced a run to the outside and had a clear shot at the end zone. He channeled his inner Ahmad Bradshaw and slid to the ground in between the first down marker and the end zone. Fantasy mManagers must have been upset but this was the way to guarantee victory.

NYG wins 24-20.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 19/27 – 173 yards / 2 TD – 0 INT / 112.1 RAT

Jones added 10 yards on the ground not including his kneel downs. He lost a fumble on the last play of the first half which had no impact on the game. It was a clean performance by Jones that included a couple of big-time throws, some of which were on 3rd down. The overall comfort I see with him while making decisions and navigating the pocket continues to grow by the week. Having the rookie Wan’Dale Robinson back on the field did not look like a lot on paper, but when considering the lack of talent he has been working with at the receiver position, it brought Jones to a higher level. The quick maturation of the rookie tight end is bringing Jones to a higher level. Saquon Barkley staying on the field and playing the best we have seen him is bringing Jones to a higher level. All of that added up and his skill position talent is still bottom third in the league. What kind of level does Jones get to with another high-end receiver or two? It is all projection at this point, but we now have some more information on what happens here when this situation around him trends north.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 22 att – 83 yards – 1 TD / 3 rec – 12 yards

73 of Barkley’s 95 yards came after halftime. The running game had a bit more juice and even though he did not have explosive plays (20+ yards), as his biggest run on the day was a gain of 8, Barkley came up big when it mattered. A few of these runs that resulted in 2-3 yard gains were losses a year ago. It does not look like a lot on paper, but the margin from 1–2 yard loss to a 2-3 yard gain adds up. His slide at the end of the game was an incredible move. It was a move that CLE running back Nick Chubb did not do Week 2 against the Jets, and it ultimately led to a loss. One concern I have with Barkley is the shoulder. It has not caused him to miss a ton of snaps, but it is contact-induced and he plays such a violent position. Something to keep an eye on.

-Matt Breida had 3 carries the resulted in -6 yards but did add 17 yards on 2 catches and provided a couple of key blocks in pass protection. Gary Brightwell’s 47-yard kick return that set up NYG’s first touchdown is another feather in the cap of the second-year 7th rounder who continues to make important contributions to the 5-win Giants.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Good to see rookie Wan’Dale Robinson back on the field after suffering a knee injury Week 1. He played just a pitch count-based 15 snaps (23%) but he made a huge impact on the game. 3 catches for 37 yards and a touchdown, the first of his career. The other 2 catches both went for first downs. The one red flag here centers on the ball skills. Robinson dropped a pass and double caught/bobbled two others. I lean toward this being a result of him being a bit rusty more than forecasting it being an issue.

-Marcus Johnson caught 2 passes for 25 yards, both of which went for a first down, but he also dropped a touchdown. Johnson’s tools continue to impress. Richie James caught both of his targets for 18 yards and David Sills caught 1 ball for 8 yards.

-Darius Slayton caught a pass for 18 yards but dropped one and was also flagged for offensive pass interference. Jones gave him an opportunity for a touchdown (he had Barkley WIDE open for a touchdown on the play) but Slayton could not come down with the contested catch. I want to see him attack the ball with both hands and play stronger against contact.

TIGHT END

-Daniel Bellinger: 5 rec – 38 yards – 1 TD

The rookie continues to surge as he played a season high 61 snaps and led the team in catches and yards, and scored one of the two passing game touchdowns. I want to spend the time talking about the improvements he has made as a blocker. It was a red flag I discussed over summer and most rookies struggle in this department in their first year. Bellinger’s improvement from August to now in the trenches, on the move, and at the second level is one of the biggest wins of the season when looking at player development. His hands and ability to stay attached are so solid and it is helping the running game immensely. His ball skills are all about his hands. His routes look sudden. NYG has themselves a tight end, folks. Amazing how fast this happened.

-Tanner Hudson and Chris Myarick both played under half the snaps. Neither made much of an impact on the game, good or bad.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Andrew Thomas fought through a minor ankle injury (the one that has hampered him for multiple years) and pitched yet another shut out. I did see him get stood up at the point-of-attack in the running game a couple times, as it looked like he could not get the movement we have seen in recent weeks. That said, he cleared the lane for Barkley’s 1-yard touchdown run on a down block. Evan Neal had his best game of the season. He allowed 1 pressure and did allow a sack on a weird play. He fell to the ground as he chased Justin Madubuike inside, a play the resulted in just a 1-yard loss. Neal showed better footwork overall and allowed his mass to win the battles. I know Neal was atop the Bruce Feldman “Freak List” in 2021 and he does some impressive things in workouts, but his game is all about size and power. When he stays within himself and avoids over-setting, he is a very tough guy to move. He needs to continue to lean into that the way he did against BAL.

-Inside we saw a few more issues again, especially in the first half. Mark Glowinski allowed 2 pressures early but played better from the second quarter-on. Jon Feliciano continues to grade out well below average, finishing with 2 allowed sacks, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure. He went down with a groin injury in the second half but did come back on the field. Ben Bredeson (1 pressure allowed) moved to center for a few snaps, a position I am starting to think he may need to shift to, while rookie Joshua Ezeudu got on the field for 4 snaps.

EDGE

-All three of the main contributors made plays behind the line of scrimmage. Jihad Ward had 2 TFL on the opening drive of the game, the second one knocking BAL out of field goal range and forcing a punt. Oshane Ximines had a TFL. And rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux played a career high 83% of the snaps, finishing with 3 tackles, 1 pressure, and a sack-fumble that sealed the win. Last week I said don’t even think about being alarmed by a lack of sacks. His play, his movement, and his reaction times were getting better and better and the big plays would come. The sack-fumble came at the best possible time and now we will see the confidence morph into production, watch.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Dexter Lawrence is the best defender on this team and one could make the argument he is the overall team MVP over 6 weeks. He finished with 1 tackle, 1 sack, 2 pressures, and a pass break up. The volume of impact may not have been there, but he was a key to stopping BAL when they needed to be stopped. His performance was a microcosm of the defense’s overall performance. Make the plays when they’re needed the most despite overall numbers looking more bad than good.

-Leonard Williams was back on the field after missing 3 games. I thought he would be on a strict pitch count but he was on the field for 92% of the snaps. He finished with 2 tackles, 1 pressure, and the game-sealing fumble recovery. He didn’t look like he lost a step at all but there were 2 plays where he got completely washed out of a running lane. BAL does a great job up front on combo blocks and that is where Williams has struggled in the past.

-Justin Ellis and Nick Williams were beat up a bit in the running game. Neither show a lot of range in pursuit against the athletic BAL rushing attack that gained most of its yards from the B-gap outward.

LINEBACKER

-If there was one position group that I had to point to when looking at BAL’s 8.8 yards per carry, it was this one. Tae Crowder and Jaylon Smith both had 3 tackles and avoided the negative plays on the score sheet, but neither were stout against the run. Crowder did not get off blocks and Smith was late and slow to react. They simply gave the BAL running game too much space to operate.

CORNERBACK

-Glad to see Adoree’ Jackson on the field after a knee injury knocked him out early last week. He had 4 tackles and a pass break up. His deep coverage against BAL speedster Devin Duvernay was a key factor in the game many won’t see unless they watch the All-22. His one negative on the score sheet was blowing outside contain two times on running plays.

-Fabian Moreau finished with 8 tackles, the second highest of his career. While high-tackle numbers can be an alarm for a corner, Moreau did not play a bad game. He did get beat for a touchdown and he did drop an interception off a deflection, but he tackled well after the catch and after BAL ball carriers broke through the second level.

-Darnay Holmes played just 10 snaps (17%). This was interesting to me, but I believe it had more to do with Dane Belton providing better match-ups against the run/tight end-dominant BAL attack.

SAFETY

-Dane Belton seems to be rotating in and out of playing time based on match-ups, not performance. In 5 games he has played 46, 11, 46, 21, 42 snaps. Although I see a few ups and downs, he is turning into a quality asset on this defense. He had 6 tackles, 1 pressure, and a pass break up in the end zone. He missed 1 tackle. His deep coverage against tight ends factored in their success against the pass as well. He is playing fast and physical and seeing some snaps at linebacker. I did not love seeing him in that spot, however. He got trounced a couple times there.

-Xavier McKinney led the team with 9 tackles and was a reliable last line of defense. He broke up a pass and was the one who pressured Jackson on the 4th-quarter interception. He is a fast decision-maker with great burst, 2 major traits for safety.

-Julian Love gets the game ball if you’re asking me. He had 5 tackles, a pass break up in the end zone which was a high level play, and a huge interception in the 4th quarter that was the most influential play of the game. Overlooked on that interception was the 27-yard return that brought the ball to the BAL 13-yard line. NYG getting a 4-point lead rather than tying it up at 20 was enormous and it was very much a result of his impressive vision, burst, and footwork to pick up those yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 34)
-P Jamie Gillian: 4 punts / 46.3 avg – 43.3 net

3 STUDS

-S Julian Love, DT Dexter Lawrence, QB Daniel Jones

3 DUDS

-OC Jon Feliciano, LB Jaylon Smith, WR Darius Slayton

3 THOUGHTS ON BAL

1. Three time this year BAL has blown a double-digit lead in the second half. All three have resulted in their three losses on the year. They also blew games against the Dolphins and Bills. The one common thread I have seen in those losses has been the lack of ability to get to the passer on defense. They don’t have the closer anymore, and even though new Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald is an aggressive shot caller, he’s no Wink Martindale. David Ojabo was drafted in April, but he will miss the year as he rehabs the Achilles’ injury he suffered at his Pro Day last March. 2021 first rounder Odafe Oweh has flashed but lacks consistency and a power game. Tyrus Bowser is hurt. Justin Houston and Calais Campbell are both near the end. I don’t think BAL realized what they were losing when they let Matt Judon walk after 2020. He currently sits 2nd in the NFL in sacks.

2. The Lamar Jackson contract situation is a fascinating one on multiple levels. He does not have an agent. His mother (with some help from the NFLPA) has been doing the negotiating with the club. And BAL has passed on extending him multiple times now. As I said above, Jackson is a rare talent, and he can keep opposing defensive coaches up at night. But is he a winner? And by winner, I mean postseason wins. The kind of wins where he puts the team on his back, makes other players better, and beats a high-quality defense with his arm. There is no denying he is one of the best 10 quarterbacks in the game, but the question will be, should he be paid like one that is top 3? If BAL thought so, it would have happened already. I do think there is a more-than 40% chance he is playing elsewhere in 2023.

3. How far will this BAL team go? As I said earlier, they lack a true difference-maker along their defensive front. They have minimal talent at receiver. They have a hard time creating explosive plays in the passing game. Their schedule will do them some favors down the stretch (CAR, JAC, PIT 2x, ATL, CLE over the final 8 weeks), but at this point it almost seems we know what they are: a roller coaster that is an extension of the quarterback and defense. They will look dominant at times and a non-contender the next week. They are in a weird spot, and I think 10 wins will be right around where they end up. But they lack key components to win in the postseason.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

1. I want to give Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale a standing ovation. This match-up could have gone multiple ways. Sure, Wink knows Lamar as much as any defensive mind in the game, but the offensive staff (and Lamar) know Wink as much as anyone in the league. While I don’t think the Giants took the game over by any means, they repeatedly came up big in key moments. The turnovers in the fourth quarter are the obvious bullet points under that statement, but the little victories like pushing them out of field goal range on 3rd down on the first drive of the game, the tackle for loss by Ximines on 2nd-and-15 on the second drive, and holding them to field goals twice after having a 1st down in the red zone. These are the moments that often decide games and in these moments, Martindale beat Lamar. His exotic looks and constant state of confusion he created made a huge impact.

2. The Giants have been one of the more injured teams in the league. It can be tough to objectively measure “team health” (a few guys try but there are loopholes), but I peg them somewhere between the 8th and 12th most injured team. Some have it worse, most have had it better. That isn’t the point. My point is this team is sitting 5-1 and they have some guys on the brink of coming back. Look at Leonard Williams and Wan’Dale Robinson. They come back and both made vital plays to the winning effort. Kayvon Thibodeaux misses two games and has been on a steady ascent since coming back Week 3. NYG will get the likes of Azeez Ojulari and Kadarius Toney back at some point. Say what you want about them, but there is no denying the fact these guys are personnel upgrades over what is being marched out there right now. Just another positive to look forward to.

3. What is the best offensive line configuration? NYG is going to need to decide soon when it comes to the interior. Fortunately, their outside spots are locked in. Mark Glowiniski won’t be going anywhere from RG. So, there are, in my eyes, three decisions that need to be made. Who starts at center? Does that change who starts at LG? And who are the top two backups who can rotate and back these spots up? The availability of Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux will determine a lot. Those are the two biggest questions. Where I do not have any questions is at center. NYG needs to make a change there. After 6 games and the preseason and looking back on Feliciano’s career, it is time to make him a backup. Move Bredeson to center or warm the spot up for Gates when he is fully back. This can make left guard a wide-open competition between Lemieux (who will likely win the job if he stays healthy), Gates, and the rookie Ezeudu. Another option for that spot it to investigate the trade market for teams that are clearly out of the 2022 postseason race. OL talent is a hard spot to acquire via trade because it is such a rare commodity that everyone wants, but Jonah Jackson (DET) and A.J. Cann (HOU) are two names worth inquiring about based on them as players and the situations they currently are in.

Oct 112022
 
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 9, 2022)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

On October 28, 2007 – the first Super Bowl-winning season of the Eli Manning era, the NFL played their inaugural game in London with the Giants taking on the Miami Dolphins. They won a 13-10 defensive battle in wet conditions as Manning passed for 59 yards, the second lowest of his career. Fast forward nearly 15 years and the League is now playing multiple games overseas, branching into multiple countries spread out over multiple weeks. NYG last played overseas in 2016, a 17-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams thanks to a four-interception day by Case Keenum. Their 2022 contest was, for a third time, considered a road game, against Aaron Rodgers and the 3-1 Green Bay Packers.

The Giants roster has been one of the more injured in the league. They were without multiple receivers (Golladay, Toney, Shepard, Robinson), multiple cornerbacks (Robinson, Flott, Williams), multiple outside linebackers (Ojulari, Smith), their top defensive lineman (Leonard Williams), and their starting left guard (Lemieux). Matching up against a Rodgers-led team, the 2021 MVP, with such a bare cabinet was yet another tall task for this new regime to take on. The Packers had already beaten CHI, TB, and NE in consecutive weeks while allowing 17 points or less to all three of those offenses respectively (NE scored a defensive touchdown in their match-up).

Rodgers led GB to three points on the opening drive via the foot of Mason Crosby. His rookie season was in 2007, the year NYG first played in London. The first two NYG drives, on the other hand, resulted in a couple of three-and-outs, four yards gained, and five yards of penalty (net -1 yards). GB’s third possession was very-much aided by a 33-yard pass interference penalty called on safety Xavier McKinney. Two plays later a quick-strike throw, the offensive theme for GB in the first half, resulted in a four-yard touchdown to Allen Lazard. GB had a quick 10-0 lead, and the game was heading in the direction many thought it would.

NYG responded with 42 yards on three plays, including a 26-yard strike from Daniel Jones to Darius Slayton. The drive stalled out, but it was productive enough to warrant a 48-yard field goal attempt by Graham Gano, which he nailed. GB responded with their second-straight touchdown-scoring drive, this one a two-yard pass from Rodgers to Marcedes Lewis, a tight end drafted five spots ahead of defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka in 2006. He is the last active player from the class.

NYG continued to show the “this feels different” mantra I have had in my head the entire season to this point while watching this club. How so? They responded with yet another positive drive of their own. Eleven plays, a forty-yard gain by Saquon Barkley, and two third-down conversions (one of 13 yards, one of 9) brought NYG inside the five-yard line. They scored on a trick play of sorts, a double reverse that was designed to end in a pass by tight end Daniel Bellinger but instead had him taking the ball into the end zone as a runner. (Brian Daboll hinted to him it would be there). NYG got the score to 17-10 with over a minute remaining for Rodgers with three timeouts at his disposal. For him, time-wise, that might as well equal an entire half of football to work.

Rodgers and the GB offense gained 45 yards, economically used all three timeouts, and set up Crosby for another field goal attempt with a running clock. Crosby nailed the 48-yarder as time expired to make it three-straight scoring possessions by GB to give them a 20-10 lead at the half.

NYG came out of the half keeping the game’s scoring streak alive. A couple of third down offensive line gaffes (false start by Ben Bredeson and a missed block by Evan Neal) stalled the drive at the 19-yard line where Gano hit a 37-yard field goal to make it a one-score game. The momentum took a turn on the following drive. After three straight scores by the GB offense, NYG forced a punt after GB was once again in NYG territory. A third-down sack by Dexter Lawrence, one of the top defensive tackles in the game, was the nail in the coffin for the GB scoring streak as it knocked them out of field goal range. NYG had the ball, with momentum, down one score, as the fourth quarter got under way.

Barkley went down with a shoulder injury after a one-yard loss on the next drive. In the past, this would have resulted in the wind disappearing in the sails. Instead, NYG responded with what I consider to be their best drive of the season, partially because they accomplished it without #26 on the field. 15 plays, 8 first downs, 8 players who touched the ball, and a two-yard touchdown by Gary Brightwell (the first of his career) tied the game up at 20. NYG then forced another GB punt after a three-and-out and the game was fully in their control.

Barkley was back on the field, and he let everyone know right away. He took the second play of the next drive 41 yards after a short pass. He was then the one who crossed the goal line on a two-yard run out of the wildcat following an unnecessary roughness penalty by Rasul Douglas that gave NYG an automatic first down.

Rodgers, an eventual first-ballot Hall of Famer coming fresh off a MVP award, took the GB offense all the way inside the NYG 10-yard line. 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 from the six-yard line did not result in a single run despite the fact the GB backfield was averaging well over 5 yards per carry. The team opted for two passes, both of which were batted at the line, giving NYG the ball back as they kneeled the ball inside the five-yard line to get rid of the GB timeouts. Punter Jamie Gillian ran out of the end zone with the ball rather than exposing the team to a Matt Dodge situation. This ended up giving GB the ball back, down five, and without any timeouts at their own 41-yard line. After a false start, Rodgers dropped back and tried to escape pressure so he could throw a Hail Mary for the win, but he was sacked by Oshane Ximines.

NYG wins 27-22.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 21/27 – 217 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 100.2 RAT

Jones also added 41 rushing yards (not including the three kneel downs) just days after nobody knew if he would miss the game because of an ankle injury suffered last week. Mid-week, we were wondering if NYG would sign Brian Lewerke or Jake Fromm to backup Davis Webb. Now we look back and I think this was Jones’ top performance of the season considering the circumstances. We may see better statistical games from him, but he made multiple big time throws, took some of the biggest hits we have seen this year, and still made a huge difference on the ground. Prior to this game, I wrote down a list of things to look for. At the top? “How does Jones impact the game on a bad wheel?” Athletic quarterbacks are all the craze in the League now, everyone wants one. But what happens when they are nicked up? What happens when they age and lose some of their movement capability? Jones rose to the occasion and what he did post-Barkley injury on the touchdown scoring drive cannot go overlooked. 6/7 – 56 yards including two 3rd-down conversions and 25 yards rushing. What he did with what he had is exactly what good quarterbacks do: create more than the sum of parts. Big-time performance for Jones.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 13 att – 70 yards / 1 TD / 3 rec – 36 yards

Barkley went past 100 total yards for the third straight week and for the fourth time in five games. He missed what ended up being just 14 plays with a minor shoulder injury. He had two big plays, one in the running game and one in the passing game. A 40-yard run and a 41-yard reception were the two biggest plays of the day, and both of those drives respectively ended in touchdowns. These big gains do more than just accrue points for your fantasy team. When a drive has zero 15+ yard gains, 4.3% reach the red zone, 5.9% score points, 2.2% score touchdowns. When a drive has one 15+ yard play, 40.8% reach the red zone, 51% score points, 28.8% score touchdowns (information taken from Sharp Football). Explosive plays mean the world to an offense that is trying to score points. Barkley, in his current state in this current system, is absolutely vital to this team’s success.

-Matt Breida saw a season-high 18 snaps and gained a season-high 27 yards on 6 touches. He also threw a key block on Barkley’s 40-yard run. Gary Brightwell scored his first career touchdown on one of his two carries and also threw a key block on Barkley’s touchdown. It is great to see the depth chart contribute with subtle, but key components to game-changing plays.

WIDE RECEIVER


-Darius Slayton: 6 rec – 79 yards

Perhaps the most-overlooked player on this roster by everyone as we headed into this game. Slayton is, by far, the most-talented pass catcher on this team. A team that is without (arguably) their top 4 receivers. A team that has been signing guys off the street and playing multiple players without a full season of starts on their resume. Let’s not forget that Slayton has had success (2019 rookie season that saw a 48/740/8 season long stat line). There have been countless lows and very few highs since that year, but he stepped up in a big way here. 5 of his 6 catches went for a first down and a quality route forced a defensive holding (also resulting in a first down on a play that was originally a sack). Two of Slayton’s first downs came via yards after the catch + yards after contact. He showed grit and strength, and both ended up being huge plays when looking back. This is the best game we have seen out of him since Week 5 of 2020. Let’s see if this will turn into something because this could be THE opportunity of a lifetime that will undoubtedly set up his future in the league.

-Marcus Johnson, David Sills, and Richie James all caught every single one of their targets. Jones was accurate and these guys did their job. Johnson is tools-rich and many around the League know it. While he has never quite capitalized on opportunities consistently, Johnson has been a part of over 24 transactions since 2016 including two trades. Everyone sees the upside, but he just hasn’t had consistent looks and has had some injury misfortune. I liked his routes when looking at the All-22 and I like how he attacked the ball. He, like Slayton, is playing for his career right now.

-I also need to give credit to Sills for multiple big-time blocks on multiple plays that were game-changing. “Smart, tough, dependable”.

TIGHT END

-Daniel Bellinger caught two passes for 22 yards and scored a touchdown on the ground. I credit Daboll and Kafka for the play design (both have used this play at previous stops) and I credit Bellinger for instilling the confidence in the staff to put this kind of trust in him. Remember, this was a designed pass for him, but Daboll hinted the run would be there. It was, and Bellinger used the power and momentum he had to take it on himself to score. He is a rookie playing like a third-year vet when it comes to nuances. His transition to the league has been stunning. He was flagged for a hold and graded below average as a blocker, a work in progress who does show positive flashes there every week, especially on the move.

-Chris Myarick and Tanner Hudson played nearly half of the snaps. NYG went with a lot of heavy personnel and while these two did not impact the game much as receivers (Myarick had 1 catch for 4 yards), they both were solid as blockers both in the run and pass game respectively.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Andrew Thomas and Ben Bredeson both had sacks nullified by defensive holding in the GB secondary. Thomas, besides that, threw another shut out. The potential All-Pro continues to shine and his run blocking in this one was a key difference maker as well. Bredeson was flagged for a false start and allowed 1 pressure. His overall performance was average, which all things considered, ends up just fine for who he is and what he has been doing. He struggled to get a push against the powerful interior GB defensive line, but he did stay sticky to his guy, which is the minimum I look for.

-The right side was up and down. Guard Mark Glowinski allowed a pressure and was beat for a few tackles in the running game, but finished out average. Rookie Evan Neal’s struggles in pass protection continued. He allowed a sack and a pressure as we are seeing the footwork issues arise week to week. He did get movement off the ball in the running game but his gaffe on a 3rd-down run by Jones up the middle was a key miss. We have seen worse out of Neal, and this was a tough matchup for him, but I want to see the outside shoulder and speed up the edge improve. We are seeing too many of the same losses week to week.

-Center Jon Feliciano plays the game hard and he brings some plus quickness and attitude. But he is, as many NYG centers have been since Sean O’Hara, a major weak point. He allowed a pressure and a TFL. But even more than that, he was constantly giving up ground to the likes of Kenny Clark (a very good player) and T.J. Slaton, a sizeable-second year pro. This is an issue for the running game that needs to be fixed. Nick Gates is knocking on the door.

EDGE

-With each week that passes, we see more out of rookie and #5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux. Even within this contest, he took his game to a higher level in the second half. He finished with 2 pressures, 0.5 TFL, 3 tackles, and 2 pass breaks ups, including one on the final drive that prevented GB from tying it up. A productive game for a kid who, in my opinion, still isn’t reacting. He is thinking too much and not moving naturally which is common for young edge players. He looks stiff. With all the time missed in the preseason, Thibodeaux is right where he should be and I suspect the sacks are coming, just wait. Maybe the refs will actually call a hold or three next week on the tackle trying to block him.

-Oshane Ximines had 2 tackles, 1 sack, and (technically) a forced fumble. The sack was at the end of the game on the Hail Mary attempt, but he has now hit the quarterback in every game and 6 times on the year. He hit the quarterback 5 times in the previous two seasons combined (14 games). Tomon Fox added 2 tackles in a backup role.

-Jihad Ward had 1 tackle, 0.5 TFL, and a pressure which came from the defensive tackle position on third down. An unsung hero of the strong defensive performances. It stems from his unique skill set that credibly belongs at multiple spots of the front.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Dexter Lawrence came up with a key sack right as NYG was turning this game around. I think it was one of the biggest plays of the game and possibly the biggest one on defense. He also added a pressure and 5 tackles showing great range and push. He is changing how offenses approach the middle in a big way.

-In a game like this, it is easy to discuss unsung hero Nick Williams. When a team wins, you want to bring in all the components to the win but in a game a team loses, it is common to overlook a solid performance from a guy that who on the bubble in August. He played just over half the snaps and finished with 3 tackles and 2 pressures. He and Justin Ellis were stout inside and while the run defense still could have been a hair better, these guys got the job done.

-D.J. Davidson left the game on a cart. A lower body injury to him that forces any missed time makes yet another position group on this team thin, especially if Leonard Williams is out any longer.

LINEBACKER

-Jaylon Smith, signed just weeks ago, made multiple highlight-reel hits on the move. While we need to be careful in using splash plays on tackles beyond the line of scrimmage as an influential barometer in player evaluation, Smith’s presence needs to be discussed. There is an attitude that comes with a Wink Martindale defense. Smith embodies that and it brings energy to the defense. He had 6 tackles and there was one he essentially ran laterally step for step with GB rookie receiver Christian Watson, a credible sub-4.4 receiver. Smith’s hit was direct and sure, and Watson got up awkwardly afterward.

-Tae Crowder added 3 tackles and a TFL, filling the inside running lanes in a hurry. Micah McFadden was beat to the outside multiple times against both the run and pass. He did add 2 tackles, though. I just worry about how an offense can expose him in space right now.

CORNERBACK

-Adoree’ Jackson missed the second half with a knee injury but finished with a productive game. He had 6 tackles and a TFL. I am pleasantly surprised by how aggressive he has been when filling on the outside. It hasn’t always been a strong point to his game, but then again, his durability has been an issue in the past. A lengthy injury to him would be a major blow to the defense.

-Nickel Darnay Holmes had 3 tackles and a pass break up in the end zone. He also added a pressure and a quick tackle that does not show up in the box score. Minimizing yards after catch is such a huge part of defending today’s plethora of short passing concepts. Holmes did a nice job playing to that strength.

-With Aaron Robinson, Cor’Dale Flott, and Rodarius Williams already out, NYG had to give substantial playing time to Fabian Moreau and Nick McCloud. Even Justin Layne saw 17 snaps. All three of these guys were added after training camp after being by cut by their original 2022 teams. Moreau and McCloud both had a pass break up, but both had two negative plays as well. Layne contributed a breakup via a physical hit that jarred the ball loose from Lazard. An entire game with those three seeing significant snaps would worry me.

SAFETY

-The safety duo of Julian Love and Xavier McKinney were the glue on the back end that kept things together. Love led the team with 6 tackles and a TFL while McKinney added 3 tackles and pass break up on 4th-and-goal to essentially seal the game. He was flagged for a 33-yard pass interference on a GB touchdown scoring drive, however. Did you notice BOTH of them knew exactly where Rodgers was going to throw the ball before the 4th-and-1 snap? Rodgers tapped his right shoulder pre-snap and they BOTH told McCloud the ball was coming his way. Those little things are what can make us feel good about this team in big situations against big-time talent. Much like what Antonio Pierce provided as a middle linebacker 15+ years ago.

-Dane Belton had a tackle and a pressure and Tony Jefferson added 3 tackles in their backup roles.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 48, 37)
-P Jamie Gillian: 2 Punts / 50.0 avg – 44.5 net

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, WR Darius Slayton, DT Dexter Lawrence

3 DUDS

-OC Jon Feliciano, OT Evan Neal, LB Micah McFadden

3 THOUGHTS ON GB

1. A fun fact for you. Marcedes Lewis was the FIRST EVER 1st round pick to catch a touchdown from Aaron Rodgers. Crazy to think about. Over 450 touchdown passes – and that was the first thrown to a 1st rounder. I respect GB and the way they have run their organization throughout history and my lifetime. But even the best has their warts and the one I strongly believe here is the fact they made Rodgers continue to create with lesser-than-ideal targets to throw to. Look what he did with Davante Adams, see what it looks like without him. And just remember they chose QB Jordan Love over the likes of Michael Pittman and Tee Higgins (taken 7, 8 picks later). To think GB could walk away with just ONE Super Bowl appearance with Rodgers under center makes you think, doesn’t it? Not good enough.

2. Fortunately GB is in a division that is already very much just a two-team race. While MIN does appear a notch above right now, the fact they get four games against CHI + DET combined certainly paves the way for a likely wildcard appearance. While they have issues on both sides of the ball, I trust their defense will be good enough because they have very good players at key spots at all three levels. Throw in Rodgers and a likely progression of their young receivers, I think they get into postseason play pretty easily. What do they need, though? Like Rodgers suggested, I think they need to go get Odell Beckham when that knee is ready to go.

3. The starting offensive line for GB: 4th round, 6th round, 2nd round, 4th round, 2nd round. Their top backup and current rotational left tackle (Yosh Nijman) was undrafted. Their backups? 4th round, 6th round, 3rd round, 7th round (in addition to Nijman). Every single one of these guys was drafted by GB. I think this means a lot to future upside and maximizing the value of a collection of players. Chemistry means more to quality OL play than most people know.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

1. One of the most overlooked positive components to this game? The tackling. I had a season-best 2 missed tackles for that side of the ball as a whole. They were averaging 5 per game prior to this matchup. This was vital to their success as 17 of Rodgers 25 completions were caught within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and 10 behind it. That is a common component to this offense, but even more so because of the defense the Giants employed. Quality tackling is, undoubtedly, game-altering.

2. Where to go and what to do with the middle of the offensive line? Will Shane Lemieux make that big of a difference when he comes back, and can he even stay on the field? Can Nick Gates finish off the comeback story and return to his level of play pre-injury? I have a hard time putting money on either. Rookie Joshua Ezeudu has not shown enough to instill confidence for 2022. As I said above, chemistry does have value and I think NYG has to roll with what they have. It will limit them, maybe even more so than it has already, but the coaching staff will need to try and stay a step ahead of opponents because it has the potential to get ugly.

3. When the NFL started the international series of games in London, teams always had a bye after playing abroad. Thanks to the Colts requesting otherwise in 2016 because they did not want a bye week so early in the season, that rule has changed. NYG comes back with three more games before their mid-season bye. They have another home game up first against BAL. That means they will go a league-high 6 weeks between true away games at the opponent’s home stadium. Another solid advantage for their friendly schedule. Two of their next three opponents have very forgiving defenses (BAL and SEA) and then the two games following the bye are HOU and DET (a combined record of 2-7-1 and 29th/31st in yards allowed) at home. This win against GB and the win against TEN week one were huge when looking at the 2022 season as a whole and the hope for a postseason birth. Up first, the Ravens. Think Wink will be up for this one?

Oct 042022
 
Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants (October 2, 2022)

Dexter Lawrence – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The third straight home game for Big Blue brought in another classic NFL franchise, the Chicago Bears. Speaking of classic, the Giants wore their what is now considered “retro” uniforms. The old school “Giants” written on a navy-blue helmet with the royal blue uniforms, white numbers, and red trim. One of my personal oldest memories of watching NYG football dates back to January 13, 1991. The opening round of the playoffs, NYG (in these uniforms) faced off against Mike Ditka’s Bears, quarterbacked by Mike Tomczak, as starter Jim Harbaugh (current Michigan Head Coach) injured his shoulder late in the regular season. Fast forward to 2022 and the two historic franchises came into their Week 4 matchup at 2-1 each. Both teams in the rebuild mode and not in credible form of contention, the Giants or Bears would walk out of this one at 3-1 (unless they tied).

Chicago, the least-frequent passing team in the league by a wide margin, threw the ball two times on ten plays on their opening drive after forcing a three-and-out of the NYG offense. Justin Fields, who the Bears traded up for in the 2021 Draft via NYG, gained 20 yards on separate scramble attempts and had another 15 yards tacked on because of an Unnecessary Roughness penalty on linebacker Micah McFadden. The defense held up though, keeping CHI to a field goal attempt which kicker Michael Badgley, signed just days prior, nailed through the uprights.

NYG responded with a balanced drive, showing quality movement off the ball by the line and a lot of bootleg action with the athletic Daniel Jones. It took them just six plays to move 75 yards with the smallest gain being six yards. Jones scampered into the end zone at the tail end of a 21-yard run thanks to play design, speed, and downfield blocking. CHI was able to put another three points on the board via another short field goal. Two drives, two trips inside the NYG-15 yard line, two field goals.

As the second quarter got under way, NYG was forced to punt for the second time and CHI reached NYG territory again with a one-point deficit. The Bears had not yet ended a drive without points. They breached the 30-yard line and on 1st-and-10, the NYG created a game-changing play. A sack-fumble by Azeez Ojulari was recovered by rookie and fellow outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux. This team played the first two games without these two and both looked rusty in Week 3. Now, under a week later, they combined for a much-needed big play. The offense turned that fumble into another 7 points, this one also on the legs of Jones via a similar play design where the downfield blocking was on point following a bootleg.

The defense kept their foot on the throat of the CHI offense but a fumble by Richie James on the punt gave them the ball back at the NYG 35-yard line. This turned into three points, the third field goal by Badgley, and that is where the game went into the half, NYG up 14-9.

Badgley, a New Jersey native, continued to earn his paycheck as he started the second half with a 35-yarder to put the NYG lead at two. Fields, the least-used and productive starting quarterback in football through three weeks, was at 158 yards, just 16 yards shy of a season high. Fortunately, the offensive scheme and play calling by Bears Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy (a first time playcaller in the NFL) lacked innovation and creativity.

The score stayed locked in at 14-12 for a couple back-and-forth drives. They were anything but uneventful, however. Three plays before Graham Gano nailed a 44-yarder to lengthen the lead to five, Jones was sacked and had his ankle badly twisted. He limped off the field and because of how much this game’s offense was dependent on quarterback mobility, the decision to bring in backup Tyrod Taylor was made. To make matters worse, right tackle Evan Neal was out of the game with a neck injury. The fourth quarter was under way and NYG was playing with a depleted receiver group, a backup quarterback, and without their starting right tackle.

Taylor did convert a 3rd-and-2 via a 13-yard run. But his first pass was a deep ball to Darius Slayton, and it was intercepted by CHI safety Eddie Jackson on an incredible play by the sixth year safety, his NFC-leading third of the year. Fortunately, the NYG defense forced a three-and-out and the NYG offense gained momentum right away. Taylor converted another third down via his legs but this one ended with a direct hit to the head, a fumble (that did not result in turnover), and a concussion. Just like that, in a matter of 13 minutes of game clock, the starting and backup quarterbacks were both injured.

Jones came on the field with a heavily taped ankle, but NYG kept him split out wide as Saquon Barkley, who was putting together another masterful performance, handled the wildcat snaps. The next four plays may not make the highlight reel, but they were as impressive as any other string of plays in the game. Everyone in the building knew NYG was in a run-only situation. They proceeded to gain 18 yards on four carries to bring them into field goal position. Gano sealed the drive with a 43-yarder to give them the vital 8-point lead.

The NYG defense held CHI in check, rookie returner Velus Jones muffed a punt which NYG recovered, and NYG continued to move the ball enough in their run-only attack and keep the clock moving. CHI did get the ball back after a missed 37-yarder by Gano, but they had just a few seconds left and no timeouts. After an attempt at throwing the ball back and forth between a handful of players as time expired, rookie Dane Belton recovered the loose ball.

NYG wins, 20-12.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 8/13 – 71 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 76.1 RAT

Jones’ biggest impact was felt on the ground. He gained 68 yards on 6 carries and scored two touchdowns, the only two for NYG on the day. He also did not play real-quarterback after being injured halfway through the third quarter. Yes, he was on the field and took a few shotgun snaps, but we cannot include those snaps into his evaluation. The innovative game plan and play-calling set Jones up well for success in this one. While we did not see him air it out, he made some tight throws and had his one deep ball dropped by Darius Slayton. He made a solid-tasting meal with expired ingredients. The value of how athletic he is truly could have been the deciding factor in this game. I won’t go as far as saying it was THE reason, but the ability to turn on the jets in addition to Barkley’s status as NFL-leading rusher were why NYG scored points, plain and simple. If Slayton catches the ball, less would freak out about the passing line.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 31 att – 146 yards / 2 rec – 16 yards

The strong season is getting stronger. Like a tidal wave, Barkley’s impact on this offense and team is just compounding week to week. A week after I said this guy simply needs the ball 20+ times at minimum and probably closer to 30 on average, he gets 33 touches in a tight game. The number was a tad inflated because of the quarterback situation in the second half, but this is where Barkley’s sweet spot is. He is electric and there is no other word that best describes him. The defense knew he was getting the ball and the forward lean, foot-in-ground burst, and vision combination of traits is the best we have seen. The injury risk will always be there with backs but if NYG wants to win, this is who needs the ball 30 times.

-Matthew Breida gained 18 yards on just 3 carries and Gary Brightwell impacted the game as a lead blocker on a couple of occasions in addition to the fumble recovery on the CHI muffed punt in the fourth quarter.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Another low point to the day. The group totaled 8 targets. Before the Monday night game, 17 individual players around the league had more than 8 targets in their respective Week 4 games. Again, perhaps the number is skewed by the quarterback situation in the fourth quarter but make no mistake here, the Giants are currently playing football in the most pass-happy era of football history without a credible group of wide receivers. Darius Slayton had a catch for 11 yards and a drop. David Sills had a catch for 5 yards and a drop. Richie James had 1 catch for 9 yards. Kenny Golladay went catch-less for the third straight game. If Kadarius Toney and Wan’Dale Robinson remain out, it is time this team brings in new blood at the position. Hopefully whoever they bring in has a passport.

TIGHT END

-Rookie Daniel Bellinger led the team with 23 yards and 3 catches. Considering the team threw the ball 13 times and he was targeted on just three of them, it was another solid performance by the fourth rounder. He had a key block on Jones’ first touchdown, but his overall blocking grade fell just below average. He allowed a TFL and got beat up at the point-of-attack when he faced off against linemen.

-Tanner Hudson is firmly entrenched as the number two passing game threat at the position. He caught a pass for 18 yards and dropped his other target. One thing I see from the All-22 is separation as a route runner. He can get open in all directions and I project him to be a bigger part of the passing game next week. His downfield blocking was key to NYG’s success on the ground as well.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-After a horrid Week 3 performance against DAL (one of the top defenses in the league), the offensive line came back strong. This is exactly what we wanted to see, and while the CHI front isn’t keeping anyone up at night, they are a respectable group. NYG won in the trenches from start to finish.

-Evan Neal missed the final 23 snaps of the game with an injured neck. At the time of this writing, I do not have an update. As for his game, I saw a noticeable improvement over his Week 3 debacle. Again, a rookie struggling in the NFL should be assumed more than expected. That is not worthy of criticism or negative thoughts. How they respond is what should be tracked. Neal responded with his best game of the year (albeit minimal passing and limited snaps). Tremendous run blocking and he kept the feet more active in pass protection on the edge.

-Andrew Thomas threw a shut out in the passing game and graded out above average in the running game. He did get beat to his inside shoulder a couple times, but it ended up not hurting the play.

-Inside, I still see some to be desired. Ben Bredeson allowed a pressure and a TFL and was having a hard time staying on his feet. One of the biggest things I look for in offensive linemen when scouting (and this is from multiple pro OL coaches) is the ability to simply end the play on their feet. It is a red flag when guys are on the ground often and I saw that with Bredeson multiple times. Mark Glowinski missed 8 snaps with an ankle and appeared less stable than usual. He allowed a pressure and was flagged for illegally being downfield. Center Jon Feliciano has some of his twitch back, which helped a lot on their zone running looks. He reached the second level in a hurry and stayed on his man there. He still struggled with some of the gap looks where he could not create movement off the ball by himself.

EDGE

-It was week two of the Ojulari + Thibodeaux duo, as both missed the first two games. While their impact was not as consistent as it needs to be, they were much better than what we saw Monday night against Dallas. They teamed up for a turnover as Ojulari recorded the sack-forced fumble and Thibodeaux recovered it. Ojulari added a pressure and 2 tackles and Thibodeaux had 3 pressures along with 3 tackles.

-Jihard Ward continues to be the Swiss army knife of the entire front. He finished with 4 tackles, 1 sack, and a pressure. He is such a solid scheme-based fit and an energy stick for everyone around him.

-Tomon Fox and Oshane Ximines were the clear backups with the latter adding one pressure to his season total and the former adding 2 tackles and stout edge setting against the run. With Ojulari re-aggravating his calf injury they kept him out weeks 1 and 2, Ximines should see an uptick in playing time again.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Dexter Lawrence was the team MVP of the game and I don’t think anyone was even close, especially on defense. He was a one man-wrecking crew who totaled 5 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 pressures. If I am a defensive line coach, I am using this tape to teach players technique and versatility. He two-gapped against the inside run, put pass blockers on ice skates via the bull rush, and finished when he was within striking distance. Fields never got comfortable in the pocket and Lawrence was the reason. In the first quarter of the NFL season, Lawrence is playing at an All-Pro level.

-No Leonard Williams had me a bit nervous in this game, but Justin Ellis and Nick Williams stepped up. Ellis played a sturdy inside game which mightily helped the linebackers. Williams was active, finishing with 5 tackled and a pass deflection at the line. D.J. Davidson had a tackle on just 9 snaps and Henry Mondeaux played 8 snaps, accruing a pressure, before injuring his knee and being taken off on a cart.

LINEBACKER

-We saw some extra juice out of Tae Crowder in this one. He led the team with 11 tackles and added a sack and a pressure. Against a vanilla offense that clearly lacked creativity, Crowder went off. He did not have to think a lot, he did not have to cover much in space. He had blinders on and chose violence when he woke up. That, with the combination of the defensive line playing at a high level, gave Crowder the opportunity to shine. He did exactly that. The one negative I have is a missed tackle in the fourth quarter that, for the second time this year, looked like a business decision against a downhill ball carrier.

-Jaylon Smith, just promoted to the 53-man roster, essentially split the other linebacker snaps with rookie Micah McFadden. Smith was active and rangy, finishing with 7 tackles (second most) and 1 TFL. He missed a tackle and was beat in coverage twice. McFadden added 4 tackles and 1 pressure but was flagged for an Unnecessary Roughness penalty when he hit Fields after he slid. He still appears limited against blockers. He is a downhill force but when moving left to right, he looks a step behind, and he can’t get off the blocks yet.

CORNERBACK

-Adoree’ Jackson is playing at a high level. He got off to a rough start, 2 big plays in the first 2 drives, but was outstanding in man coverage from there on out. He added 3 tackles and a TFL as well. This is the most physical I have seen Jackson play so far in his career.

-Aaron Robinson went down with an injury after being bent backward in the wrong direction, but Fabian Moreau stepped up. He had 2 pass break ups and 2 tackles. Both break ups were downfield and could have easily changed the trajectory of the one-score game. His catch-up speed is solid but the issue is he is slow out of his breaks. Assuming he will see more playing time now with Robinson being out, that will be something opposing offenses easily see on tape.

-Darnay Holmes was not tested much but finished with 2 tackles and provided two plays where he set a physical edge against the run, forcing the ball carrier into traffic inside. Excellent job by him and I give credit to how willing he takes on tight ends and linemen.

SAFETY

-Xavier McKinney and Dane Belton both finished with 4 tackles and graded out well in coverage. There were two instances from the All-22 that I saw where Fields had a shot downfield but he either did not see it or did not want to air mail it. McKinney is more of a risk taker who appears to be jumping routes and Belton appears a step slow in recognition. But when it comes to pursuit and downhill run defense, both are doing a nice job.

-Julian Love was injured early, and if this ends up being significant time missed, NYG has a problem on defense. He has been a vital piece to their initial defensive success, and it is a hard role to fill. Holmes is the one I would want to see shift into his role.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/3 (Made 44, 43, Missed 37)
-P Jamie Gillian: 5 punts / 54.6 avg – 42.8 net

3 STUDS

-DT Dexter Lawrence, RB Saquon Barkley, QB Daniel Jones

3 DUDS

-OG Ben Bredeson, WR Darius Slayton, LB Micah McFadden

3 THOUGHTS ON CHI

1. Multiple instances throughout this game, I could not help but be reminded of the Jason Garrett-version of NYG offense. Some of the play calls in specific third-down situations were eerily similar to what we saw under him. The contrast between the offensive system we are watching right now led by Daboll and Mike Kafka and what the Bears are running is crystal clear.

2. To build on the offensive talk with Chicago, there are some whispers that the relationship between Justin Fields and the new regime is not a good one. I can recall some people who have better connections than I do telling me there were several teams that did not view Fields as a first rounder in the 2021 Draft. The former Bears GM, Ryan Pace, obviously liked him. They made an aggressive offer to move up in the draft with NYG including multiple firsts for him. Fast forward less than a year and we are looking at an entirely new group of decision makers. I won’t pretend to know what is being said within those walls, but his tape these first four weeks has been poor. Like Daniel Jones, the supporting cast is awful. But Fields doesn’t do much besides make the occasional play with his legs that makes anyone think he has it. Don’t be surprised to see him moved if CHI ends up picking in the top 5 next April, when they could be in position to draft their own guy and start their rebuild (this year was about clearing the cap) with a fresh rookie QB contract.

3. I understand CHI had limited resources this year and we all saw this coming two years ago. It was smart to rip off the band-aid in 2022 and start from scratch in 2023. Are there any pieces in place to get excited about? I have a hard time believing Roquan Smith will be there beyond this season (a big trade candidate too) considering the in-house drama they’ve had over the past few months. Robert Quinn is a stud edge rusher but is 32-years old and another guy teams may want to trade for. Eddie Jackson will be 30 next season. They lost a ton of their defensive firepower this past offseason and the offensive cupboard is bare. There are some rough times ahead for this franchise unless Fields takes a massive step up. I projected them to finish 3-14. And while they already have 2 wins, I don’t see that projection finishing far off.

3 THOUGHTS ON NYG

1. NYG sits 3-1 heading into a tough matchup in London against the Packers. That team would be hard to beat as is, but if they are marching out with a third-string quarterback and multiple key starters on defense missing, it has the potential to be ugly. GB is a different team than what most of you may be assuming based on recent history. This is a defensive-dependent squad. They are 5th in yards allowed, but 22nd in yards per carry allowed. Their wins are against CHI, a ravaged TB offense, and a NE team that played with backup quarterbacks. If we use 2021 as an indicator, this defense is legit. NYG does match up well with them on the ground but the key will be keeping Rodgers and his raw set of pass catchers out of the end zone so NYG can control the tempo and use Barkley to full capacity. Time for the pass rushers to step up.

2. We are a quarter into the season. This is the first time I take a look at the league and evaluate teams. Any timeframe shorter than that is premature. I use a four-tier system. Tier 1: Super Bowl + home field advantage contenders. Tier 2: Likely playoff teams. Tier 3: Bubble playoff teams. Tier 4: Start thinking draft. NYG is in that tier three right now and it is a refreshing feeling. They do not have a strong roster. They have not played convincing football week to week. However, they are 3-1 and clearly a notch above what I currently consider that fourth tier. To me, this is 95% on the shoulders of the coaching staff. If the front office can make educated, correct personnel decisions, there are plenty of reasons to believe this gut feeling I have on NYG is real when looking at the future.

3. If NYG does end up entering the mid-way point of the season with a winning record, at what point do they make a roster move to improve their current chances at a playoff run? I know fans may want more losses for the sake of the draft position, but I can assure you when coaches and players smell blood in the water, they want their shot. It may never come again for them. The biggest roadblock on this roster resides at receiver. They cannot have anything close to a credible passing attack with what they are currently marching out at the position. Do they pursue a free agent like Odell Beckham, TY Hilton, Will Fuller, Isaiah Ford, or Mohamed Sanu? Or do they tap into a practice squad player who lacks experience but who makes more sense economically? Cornell Powell from KC is a guy I personally liked, and Kafka has experience with. Tanner Gentry was off and on the Buffalo roster in 2021 so I would assume there is at least some interest and knowledge and appreciation for him coming from both Daboll and Schoen. They are both possession receivers who play a power game. Something to keep an eye on.

Sep 282022
 
Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York Giants (September 26, 2022)

Kayvon Thibodeaux – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The Giants entered Week 3 undefeated for the first time since 2016. To provide context, that’s when they faced off against Kirk Cousins and the Redskins with leading rusher Matt Jones (retired 4 years ago) and top receivers DeSean Jackson (currently a FA) and Pierre Garçon (retired 3 years ago). Point is, this was a lifetime ago and the NYG faithful showed up to the stadium in team’s first ever “white out” amped and ready to rock as their team, in throwback all-whites, took on the 1-1 Dallas Cowboys in their road-blues that still, after all these years, just never look right.

Dallas came into the game with one of the most banged up offenses in football. They were without starting quarterback Dak Prescott, starting left tackle Tyron Smith, starting left guard Connor McGovern, starting receivers James Washington and Michael Gallup, and starting tight end Dalton Schultz. NYG came into this one relatively healthy, as outside linebackers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari were on the field for the first time this season but without Leonard Williams. Advantage NYG.

Thanks to a holding penalty by third string left guard Matt Farniok, the DAL opening drive stalled near midfield. Once again, NYG was aided by a DAL penalty, this one defensive holding by linebacker Anthony Barr on third down which gave the NYG offense new life. A drive loaded with play-action and creative play design landed them in field goal range. Graham Gano came onto the field for a 47-yarder, but it was blocked by Dorance Armstrong who found a hole on the right side in the middle of the line, a theme of the night.

DAL put up the first three points of the game via a 26-yard field goal despite two more of their own penalties. NYG responded with three points as the game was now in the second quarter. Tony Pollard, the game’s leading rusher, broke off a 46-yard run on the next drive, landing them inside the NYG 20. The NYG defense held them to three points, however. That was where the score stayed for the rest of the first half. NYG did gain momentum on their two-minute drive at the end of the second quarter but another questionable offensive pass interference (this one called on Sterling Shepard) cancelled a play that would have landed NYG in field goal range. For the third straight week, NYG went into the half with under seven points.

The offensive line clearly did not come out of the locker room with a solution to getting absolutely man-handled by the DAL front. Had it not been for a questionable illegal contact penalty on corner Jourdan Lewis, NYG would have been three-and-out. Instead, the offensive line and offense overall got a second chance. The pass rush pressure remained constant, but Daniel Jones accrued 30 yards on two separate scrambles. Nevertheless, he was sacked twice and center Jon Feliciano was flagged for being illegally downfield on a 14-yard screen pass to Saquon Barkley. They settled on a 51-yard field goal attempt that Gano nailed through the uprights.

For the first time of the night, the Martindale defense forced a three-and-out against the DAL offense that was missing their starting quarterback, left tackle, left guard, two receivers, and tight end. More Jones scrambling and more creative play design landed NYG in DAL territory. Desperately in need of an explosive play, Barkley broke off an incredible 36-yard run that gave NYG their first and only touchdown of the night. It also gave NYG their first and only lead of the night.

It was time for Martindale and the NYG defense to contribute their side of winning football. They had played solidly to this point with minor hiccups here and there. Here we were in the back half of the third quarter and DAL had just 6 points and hadn’t scored a touchdown. DAL faced almost no resistance as they put together a nine-play drive, all of which gained yards. Ezekiel Elliott scored a one-yard touchdown (his 10th in 11 games vs NYG) to tie the game up at 13 as the fourth quarter began. NYG’s next drive stalled at midfield and DAL scored their second touchdown in as many drives via a one-handed catch by CeeDee Lamb. In a matter of nine minutes of game clock, the game went from 13-6 NYG to 20-13 DAL.

DAL padded their lead to ten via a 44-yard field goal with just over six minutes remaining. NYG was forced into pass-only situations as they needed chunk gains to have a shot at tying it up before the end of regulation. Jones faced more pressure than ever before in his career, and that is saying a lot. Somehow, they managed to get into field-goal range (with the help of a facemask penalty called on corner Kelvin Joseph) and Gano came through again on a 51-yarder.

Down seven, NYG was now in the phase of the game where they had to get a stop and call a timeout. Thankfully a bonehead play by the DAL offense, a failed third-down conversion that ended with tight end Jake Ferguson going out of bounds, stopped the clock at 1:52 as NYG was without a timeout. NYG had one more shot, albeit starting from their own 9-yard line. On the fourth play, after an Evan Neal false start, Jones was intercepted by 2021 All-Pro corner Trevon Diggs (who dropped an earlier INT) after David Sills fell out of his break. To add insult to injury, Sterling Shepard went down with a non-contact lower body injury and was carted off the field.

NYG loses, 23-16.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 20/37 – 196 yards / 0 TD – 1 INT / 57.9 RAT

Jones also added 79 yards on just 9 carries (8.8 per). He was under duress the entire night against a formidable DAL pass rush and behind a leaky offensive line, especially the right side. It can be very hard to accurately evaluate a performance like this one. Listen to any quarterback talk about Jones and they will tell you it is almost impossible to play a normal version of the position in that kind of environment. If anything, I actually put this game in the “positive pile” when thinking about where his status will reside in January. Jones made a few tough throws, he had receivers drop multiple balls, and the DAL secondary was on point. Jones’ scrambling was 90% of the Giants offensive success. His accuracy was there, the juice on the ball was there, and his decision-making was there. Unfortunately, he is throwing to JV receivers behind a freshman-team offensive line.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 14 att – 81 yards – 1 TD / 4 rec – 45 yards

18 touches for the team’s best player by a country mile, in a tight game where NYG had a second-half lead and where the passing game simply was not working. More on that awful note down below. Barkley’s touchdown run was about as nice a play as you are going to see in this league. The vision, the quick adjustment, the jump cut, and the breakaway speed can be such a downright lethal combination. If NYG wants their best shot at winning games, his touches need to be north of 20 at a bare minimum week in, week out and probably closer to 30. There is no debating it. He is ready and he is the one guy who changes the feeling of the entire offense when he gets the ball.

-Matt Breida has one carry for 3 yards on a 3rd-and-1 conversion. He did not see a ton of action but did allow 2 pressures in the fourth quarter in a pass protection role. The coaching staff needs to keep that weakness in his game in mind moving forward when Barkley comes off the field.

WIDE RECEIVER

-I am going to start it off with Sterling Shepard. The 7th-year veteran led the team with 5 catches and 49 yards in what I expect to be his final game in a Giants uniform. He tore his ACL simply jogging up the field on the final offensive play of the game. Not sure if I have ever seen anything like that before. No cutting. No contact. No sudden burst. Just a light jog and he went down. I don’t want to kick the 29-year old while he’s down, but it was a poor night for a guy who is viewed as a leader on the ship that is being turned around. He had two drops and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct that led to a 15-yard swing in field position in the second half of a tie game. Fortunately for him, Barkley worked his magic and scored the team’s lone touchdown a few plays later. It was a bonehead mistake by a player that knows better. I like what Shepard had brought to the field and locker room over the years and I loved him out of Oklahoma in 2016. But he never quite got over the hump we were hoping he would. Sad to see him go out that way.

-Richie James and David Sills, starting receivers on an NFL football team, combined for 6 receptions for 56 yards. James also gained 4 yards on a carry. I don’t have much to report here. They were man-handled in coverage. The DAL secondary is better than most people know and these two just had no business trying to separate from them.

-Earlier in the week, Kenny Golladay (the highest paid player on the team) said, “I should be playing regardless.” I thought to myself and tweeted out, “Regardless of what?” Regardless of not being able to get open? Regardless of running routes like he has cinderblocks tied to his ankles? Regardless of last being a factor in this league three years ago? He had two shots at coming up with a big play in this game. He got his hands on the ball both times and both times the ball hit the ground. The second time, a fourth-quarter blatant drop was about as bad as you are going to see at the worst possible time. Regardless of anything, Golladay should continue to be forced to prove he deserves playing time. Nothing is free, go earn it.

TIGHT END

-Daniel Bellinger caught 4 passes for 40 yards. He was a key focal point early in the game, going 3 rec / 34 yards in the first half. I was encouraged by his ball skills and quickness turning up the field. He has a sudden element to his game with the ball in his hands. Paired with his size and we are looking at someone who can turn into a focal point of the passing game soon. His blocking is still a work in progress. He gets in position, but the staying power isn’t there yet. Another thing he absolutely needs to improve is his chip blocking. He whiffed or made minimal impact several times and it hurt the pass protection in a big way.

-Chris Myarick allowed a sack and 2 pressures. He was brought into the game to help with pass protection, but did the opposite. Very poor showing for a guy who makes zero impact as a playmaker.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Evan Neal had a rookie performance similar to what we saw out of Andrew Thomas on October 22, 2020 (Thomas’ rookie year). Neal ended this one with 3 sacks, 3 pressures, 1 false start, and a half-TFL. He was overmatched, plain and simple. The game looks a bit too fast for Neal right now. He was getting beat to his outside over and over, as that right foot just wasn’t getting off the ground and up the edge. He had a productive night in the running game and there were some solid recovery plays, but there is no disputing the fact he got crushed. These are called growing pains. And the thing I will be looking for will be his response in the coming weeks.

-Speaking of Thomas, he was near-perfect again. I noted just one pressure and that is hard to believe considering how much Jones was running away from blue jerseys all night. His run blocking was dominant as well. Just tremendous movement off the ball. The combination of twitch and power he plays with reminds me a lot of a young Tyron Smith.

-The interior was torched all night. Again, Jones just had no pocket to step up into, and because of that, he needed to evade laterally. When that happens, all hell breaks loose in pass protection. The lack of stability up front compounds the issue. Mark Glowinksi allowed 4 pressures. Ben Bredeson allowed 1 pressure and had a holding penalty cancelled by an intentional-grounding throw by Jones. He was also on the losing end of many battles in the running game. And Jon Feliciano allowed a TFL, a pressure, and was flagged for illegally blocking downfield on a 14-yard gain by Barkley. He also had a sack cancelled by a DAL penalty in the defensive backfield. Awful performance by this trio, just awful. Bredeson also was at fault for the blocked field goal in the first quarter.

EDGE

-The much anticipated return and debut of #5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux was a bit scaled back as they restricted his playing time due to the knee. It was an underwhelming performance. He had 1 pass break up and a pressure (unblocked). He also lost the edge on two DAL runs to the outside. Thibodeaux looked hesitant. He didn’t have a power game on contact and the get off rivaled what we see out of Oshane Ximines.

-Azeez Ojulari made his 2022 debut a well. He was just as quiet, finishing with just 1 tackle and was shut out as a pass rusher in his 30 snaps. Ximines had 2 pressures (1 from the outside and 1 from the inside) while Jihad Ward had 6 tackles along with a pass break up.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Leonard Williams missing a game due to injury for the first time in his career was deeply felt along the front. NYG allowed 178 yards on 28 carries to the Dallas dual-threat backfield and there was just one pressure by the group that included a lineman actually beating a blocker. That was by Dexter Lawrence, who also added 5 tackles and was a force inside. The likes of Nick Williams, Justin Ellis, and Henry Mondeaux lacked gap integrity for most of the night. They failed to come up big in key short yardage situations and the linebackers behind them just could not make up for it.

-D.J. Davidson played 12 snaps, one of which he jumped offsides on a 3rd-and-1.

LINEBACKER

-We saw a little more linebacker action against the run-heavy attack. Micah McFadden and Austin Calitro saw 30 and 13 snaps, respectively. The former, McFadden, had 3 tackles and 2 pressures, one of which he was untouched. He missed one tackle. McFadden has some all-or-nothing to his game. He is a bit of a risk taker and while I think that fits in well with this defense, I’m not sure his pure athleticism and recovery speed can handle that style play.

-Tae Crowder had 5 tackles and led the team with 4 missed tackles, a horrible number for a number one inside linebacker in a game where the defense was trounced in the running game. He showed poor effort on the Elliot touchdown where he didn’t even ponder trying to wrap up one of the best tackle-breakers in the league. He just ran into him and hoped it would work. Poor game by him.

CORNERBACK

-After an impressive first 2 weeks, we saw the ugly in Adoree’ Jackson. He was beat several times, including once for a touchdown that, in all honesty, he couldn’t do anything about as it was a brilliant throw and catch. But besides that, he was beat downfield by Lamb, allowed 7 catches total, and missed a tackle.

-Cor’Dale Flott did get the starting nod but I don’t think the staff trusts him yet, not for 60 minutes anyway. Fabian Moreau out-snapped him 39 to 19. Flott had a bad missed tackle and I saw more contact-based issues in coverage. He doesn’t look ready for the strength and power of the NFL game. His contact is light and easy to get by.

-Darnay Holmes had a quiet game. He wasn’t challenged much and had just one tackle. He was beat twice in the running game where he had outside responsibility. He also got away with two separate, blatant defensive-holding penalties as he continues to play too dependently on his hands.

SAFETY

-Xavier McKinney was the one star of the game defensively. He had impressive back-to-back plays where he recorded a TFL (the only one of the game for NYG) and then broke up a deep ball to CeeDee Lamb where he ran with him step for step and tracked the pass exceptionally well.

-Julian Love led the team with 14 tackles and added a pressure. The jack-of-all-trades didn’t miss one tackle and was often the last line of defense against an offense that could have easily had a few more explosive plays. Dane Belton saw just 11 snaps and looked overwhelmed in coverage a couple times. The game is moving a bit too fast for him right now.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano 3/4 (Made 42, 51, 51, had one blocked)
-P Jamie Gillian: 3 punts / 45.0 avg – 35.7 net

3 STUDS

-S Xavier McKinney, OT Andrew Thomas, RB Saquon Barkley

3 DUDS

-OT Evan Neal, WR Sterling Shepard, LB Tae Crowder

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

1. Say what you want about a division rival and the shortcomings of Mike McCarthy and the Super Bowl drought. This team deserves a ton of respect for how well they’ve played without their starting quarterback, multiple pieces along the OL after losing 2 starters to free agency, and three main targets in the passing game. This is a sign of a winning team. They find ways to win, even though they’re missing a chunk of strong personnel, rather than just making a ton of excuses and complaints.

2. How far can DAL go? Let’s assume they eventually get their OL back together later in the year when Smith is ready. Let’s assume they get the likes of Michael Gallup, James Washington, and Dalton Schultz back in the next month. And let’s assume they get full-strength Dak Prescott back before Halloween. We have every reason to believe they will contend not only for the division, but the conference. Their defense has the upside of being special and if that offense can elevate their game just one or two levels, they have the goods.

3. How did DAL get here? Did you see the graphic that ESPN put up? They lead the NFL in players on the current roster that they drafted. I noticed this when maintaining their depth chart for Ourlads. While the number can be fluid based on practice squad / IR spots – I have 37 out of 53 players taken in the draft by this team. You can add in a few undrafted free agents as well. For reference, 24 of the currents Giants 53 were drafted (8 of those were from this past year alone). Jerry Jones is on the wrong end of jokes sometimes (he got fleeced in the Amari Cooper trade) but there is no disputing the fact this team knows how to draft. I’ve felt this way since I started really tracking the draft deeply in 2004.

NYG THOUGHTS

1. I took this game as a reminder. A reminder that the team itself is not very good and they’re not ready for a long winning streak. They are competitive and I do think they’re heading in the right direction. I don’t say that with a moral victory kind of tone. I firmly believe it is the truth. The change can be felt and they’re on the move upward. But bad teams find ways to lose games. In the fourth quarter, NYG was down 20-13. On 2nd-and-8, Shepard drops a ball that would have been a deep completion. Then they get flagged for a delay-of-game penalty. Then Golladay drops a perfectly placed ball on 3rd-and-13 that had a shot at gaining the first down. That is the kind of drive at the most important point of game that losing teams put together. It’s not completely out of their system yet.

2. We can continue to harp on the shortcomings of the offense. That is fair. But I am more concerned with the defense. After keeping DAL down for most of the game with some help from the refs, Martindale’s defense allowed 17 points on just over 9 minutes of game clock on three straight drives when the team needed them most. 10 guys were on the field for the Elliott touchdown (inexcusable by both players and coaches). They didn’t record one sack. They barely even touched Rush against a beat-up OL. They were tossed around in the running game. They forced zero turnovers. And DAL gained more yards in this game than the previous two respectively. You may not see it by looking at points allowed, but this was a horrific defensive performance as a result of being outplayed and out-coached.

3. What can we hope to see from this team moving forward? They have a third-straight home game coming up and it is against the Bears, a team I projected to finish with one of the worst three records in football. Both of their wins were unimpressive and their loss in Green Bay Week 2 was about as ugly as you will see in today’s NFL. This is a bad football team and especially bad on offense. The offensive line, the quarterback, the pass catchers. I am looking forward to how this regime bounces back from a loss, something we haven’t seen yet. I hope this offensive coaching staff realizes that tight games need to center around Barkley. He is way too good, and the rest of the skill positions are way too bad for him not be fed the ball over and over. I also believe this OL can perform better with that approach as well.