After riding high following their emotional Week 4 win against the Saints, the Giants went on the road for the second straight week to take on the NFC East favorite Dallas Cowboys. A division rivalry that has been anything but in recent years would be an opportunity for NYG to make a statement. A statement that they could contend for the division crown. A statement that they were on the way up with Joe Judge at the helm. A statement that their dynamic, come-from-behind win in New Orleans was no fluke, but the new norm. They would have to do so without their left tackle Andrew Thomas, who was active but did not play. They would have to do so without their top wide receiver in Sterling Shepard and defensive general, Blake Martinez. Dallas, winners of 3 straight, was pretty much fully healthy with a quarterback in Dak Prescott who has found himself in the early MVP discussion. If NYG wanted to truly turn this ship around, this would be the game they had to win.
NYG had the initial momentum, forcing an interception on a 4th-down pass from Prescott to running back Ezekiel Elliott by Lorenzo Carter. After a 3rd-down drop by rookie Kadarius Toney, Graham Gano lined up for a 54-yard field goal attempt. It went wide right, leaving the game tied at 0-0 and giving DAL excellent field position. DAL shot themselves in the foot again, this time being a Dalton Schultz drop in the end zone that made them settle on a 31-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein. DAL had the initial lead.
NYG went 3-and-out on the next drive but the biggest negative was a Saquon Barkley sprained ankle on a freak accident where he stepped on DAL cornerback Jourdan Lewis’ foot. For those who have ever sprained their ankle in that fashion, you know it doesn’t take much for it to get ruined. The odds of it happening were slim-to-none, but what is done is done. Barkley’s ankle blew up on the sideline within just a few minutes and we knew in that moment, he was done for the day and likely longer.
DAL drove down the field with ease again. And for the third time in as many drives, their final play was a major mishap that prevented points. Prescott mishandled a shotgun snap and the ball rolled into the hands of NYG linebacker Reggie Ragland. NYG proceeded to go 3- and-out again on the ensuing drive, but the score was still 3-0 as they dug into the second quarter. On 3rd-and-8, DAL put up the first touchdown of the game. A deep pass to CeeDee Lamb over James Bradberry finally put a score on the board that indicated what was really occurring on the field.
Thanks to a 38-yard gain on a 3rd-and-10 pass to Toney, NYG was back in field goal range. The offense stalled and settled on another long field goal attempt; this was from 51 yards. Gano nailed this one through the uprights and put NYG within a touchdown. They had the ball back after a 3-and-out by the DAL offense and found some of their mojo we saw last week in New Orleans. They got inside the DAL 5-yard line and after two straight failed rushing attempts by Devontae Booker, offensive coordinator and former Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett called a designed run for Jones after a faked handoff. Jones came up a few inches short but was badly concussed on a hit by DAL linebacker Jabril Cox. He needed assistance walking off the field and that was as clear a sign as anyone needed, he too was done for the day. NYG ended up scoring a touchdown to tie it up via a Booker run but it was hard to be optimistic knowing Barkley, Jones, Shepard, and Thomas were out.
DAL put up a touchdown to end the half on a Prescott pass to Amari Cooper. It was the 5th time in as many weeks where NYG allowed a touchdown in the final 2 minutes of the first half. NYG was down 17-10.
The Giants came out of the half, being led by Mike Glennon (7-28 career in games he played), without Barkley, Shepard, Jones, Thomas, Nick Gates, and now receiver Kenny Golladay who injured his knee in the first half. They were up against the best team in the division being led by a QB that had beat NYG 8 times in a row. Tall order.
Their initial drive netted 3 points, making it a 4-point margin. DAL then took over. They scored touchdown on the ensuing drive via a pass to Elliott, intercepted a Glennon pass on the first play of NYG’s next drive, then put up another 3 points on a 38-yard field goal by Zuerlein. They were up 27-13 as the game entered the 4th quarter.
The Toney-show was NYG’s last hope at making this a game as the final 15 minutes of game clock dwindled down. He picked up 26 yards to get the ball across midfield. From there, he was the target or ball carrier on 4 of the next 6 plays. They were inside the DAL 10, but the 4th-and-goal pass to him toward the sideline on a play where he lost his footing fell incomplete. DAL began the ensuing drive from their own 2, and needed just 9 plays to travel 98 yards. Elliott scored his second touchdown of the day on a 13-yard run. It was 34-13 with 7:34 left.
Glennon had a solid drive, engineering 11 plays and fighting through further adversity that stemmed from an on-field fight that saw Toney get ejected for throwing a punch. Yet another playmaker not on the field. Glennon found Booker for a 3-yard touchdown to make it 34-20. After a failed onsides kick attempt, DAL put up 3 more points on a 31-yard field goal by Zuerlein. This game was all but over with under 2 minutes left, but the football gods added further insult to injury with a pick-6 by DAL corner Anthony Brown. The score was now more indicative of how big the gap was between these two teams on this day.
NYG loses, 44-20.
-Mike Glennon: 16/25 – 196 yards – 1 TD – 2 INT / 68.1 RAT
Glennon essentially played the second half under a deficit without 3 starting offensive linemen, his starting running back, and 3 of his top 4 receivers. On the road. Knowing that, I think Glennon deserves some credit. He made a few quality throws and commanded the offense well all things considered. Nobody will mistake him for a starting caliber quarterback, but he has been around, has started games, and can do the minimums. That said, I wouldn’t expect anything more from him on a consistent basis if Jones ends up being out.
-Daniel Jones: 5/13 – 98 yards – 0 TD – 0 INT / 65.5 RAT
Jones added 9 yards on the ground. Before his concussion, he was erratic. He overthrew John Ross down the field twice and air mailed one over Barkley’s head on a short pass. It was a poor performance, and it is hard to diagnose why. Was the new offensive line in his head? Was he too amped up? Or is this just the inconsistency from Jones that is going to create debate in the upcoming months in regard to this team’s long-term future with him? Remember, he won’t be earning a rookie salary in just a couple years. Economics is a part of the evaluation.
-Devontae Booker: 16 att – 42 yards – 1 TD / 3 rec – 16 yards – 1 TD
Booker isn’t a feature back and nobody should expect that from him. However, like Glennon, he made the most out of the situation he was in. He dropped a pass and allowed a pressure, but otherwise he was mistake free. I’ve said this before on him and I will say it again. Booker is a difference maker as a blocker and as a pass catcher. He has 128 career receptions with a 75% catch rate. If Barkley is out for extended time, I think he is the automatic 3rd down back and he can be spelled on early downs with Eli Penny and Gary Brightwell.
-Kadarius Toney: 10 rec – 189 yards / 1 att – 7 yards
Toney was the star of the game for NYG, and nobody was even close. After his drop on the first drive, he caught 10 of 12 targets and just made so much happen by himself. The quickness and agility, which show up with the ball and while running routes, is rare. There aren’t many players in the league who can move like him. The temper issue at the end of the game? I don’t want to make too much of it because the answer is generic. It was a dumb decision in the heat of the moment against a dirty player (Tyron Kazee) who has a reputation. The only move to make is preventing himself from doing that again. He was pulled back by coaches last week after a NO defender hit Jones near the sideline. His toughness and attitude are part of what make him a good player, but he needs to show he can control it. We’ve been here before, hopefully this one turns out better.
-After his big-time performance last week, John Ross had 1 catch for 13 yards and had a touchdown pulled off the board by a review because he didn’t get his second foot down in time. He had a step on DAL corners multiple times downfield and Jones overshot him twice. Glennon didn’t see him on another one.
-Evan Engram: 4 rec / 55 yards
Engram caught all 4 of his targets and two of them were high-level hand catches. If Glennon gets the nod with Jones being out, look for Engram to see an uptick in production. Glennon has a history of throwing to the tight end often.
-Andrew Thomas was active but did not play. Thus, the staff moved Nate Solder back over to left tackle and inserted Matt Peart on the right side. Solder allowed 3 pressures and was flagged for a hold. Peart was excellent on the right side. He neutralized that side of the line from start to finish while the coaching staff sent over a lot of help to Solder’s side. Peart should be the starting RT by midseason. He needs to get his game experience up and he just showed there isn’t much of a drop off, if at all, from him to Solder when Thomas returns back at left tackle.
-Left Guard Matt Skura had an awful game and was benched for recently signed Wes Martin. He was on the field for just 29 plays (15 passes) but allowed 3 pressures. Martin didn’t fare much better, but he did get a better push in the running game.
-Will Hernandez had a solid game. He was effective at the second level and was left alone on an island in the passing game often. He neutralized the DAL interior pass rushers, most of which are power based. Hernandez does have his struggles against speed, but he is as good as you will find when it comes to blocking against size and power.
-DAL averaged 5.2 yards per carry and while some of that will be put on the defensive line, most of the blame should be placed on the guys in the next position group. Leonard Williams had 6 tackles, a half-sack, and a pressure. He had a dumb personal foul penalty late in the game where he couldn’t hide his frustration. Dexter Lawrence was hot and cold. He finished with 3 tackles. The glaring negative I have was the result of him facing off against DAL right guard Zack Martin. Martin, one of the best in the game still, abused Lawrence when they were on an island. That is a red flag for me. Lawrence did get him on one pass rush but otherwise, he looked overmatched.
-Danny Shelton was terrible against NO and because DAL had a lot of success on the ground, many will assume was terrible against DAL. That would be incorrect. He was much more active, finishing with 6 tackles and a half-sack. He missed 1 tackle and didn’t offer anything as a pass rusher, but he was better at holding the point of attack than a week ago.
-Austin Johnson had 4 tackles and a sack, continuing his solid play. He offers a lot of what B.J. Hill did prior to the trade with CIN.
-This was the position group that hurt the defense the most in my opinion. They were roasted against the pass all afternoon, showing no range. The outside ‘backers failed to set the edge over and over. Lorenzo Carter made a huge play on the tip + interception early on, but he was getting crushed in the running game all afternoon. Azeez Ojulari had 3 tackles and 1 TFL, his 5th play behind the line of scrimmage in as many weeks but got pushed inward routinely on the DAL outside zone runs. And Oshane Ximines continues to show no feel for run defense. He did add 1 pressure, though. Poor game by this crew.
-Tae Crowder and Reggie Ragland were late to the outside over and over. Their mental reactions are a hair slow, and they just couldn’t make up the gap with movement, more notably Ragland. Ragland’s box score reads well (7 tackles, 1 FR, 1 PD, 1 TFL), but he was the catalyst in NYG’s poor run defense for most of the afternoon. The speed isn’t good enough. Crowder has more juice, but it won’t matter much if he can’t diagnose quicker.
-There are certain receivers James Bradberry can excel against. The quicker, more change-of-direction based pass catchers are simply not a good matchup for him. Lamb is one of those guys. He torched Bradberry for a long touchdown and forced a pass interference on a 3rd-and-3 near the end zone later in the game. Bradberry also dropped an interception. A poor game for him that added to his poor overall start for the season.
-Adoree’ Jackson and rookie Rodarius Williams were both beat on 3rd down multiple times. They are quality athletes but like Crowder, they don’t forecast well. Their reactions are just a tad too behind and against a quality passing game, that margin just can’t be erased especially with a poor pass rush.
-There wasn’t a lot of positive coming from a defense that allowed over 500 yards. Julian Love, upon re-watching the 2 tapes, played a good game. They moved him around often. He had 2 pressures and 5 tackles. Love is an effective blitzer who times his breaks well to coincide with the snap and he takes good angles. His glaring negative, however, was being late to the outside on the long Lamb touchdown. He also took a poor angle on the play.
-Logan Ryan led the team with 8 tackles. He missed 1, but it was a tough play where he was caught out of position. Xavier McKinney had 6 tackles and looked better in coverage than a week ago in NO, but he was still getting beat by tight ends. He needs to improve over the middle of the field because in all honesty, his impact elsewhere isn’t good enough to make up for poor coverage.
-K Graham Gano: 2/3 (Made 51, 51, Missed 54).
-P Riley Dixon: 2 punts / 45.0 avg / 36.5 net. Dixon is having a poor year and ranks bottom 7 in the most important metrics.
-WR Kadarius Toney, OT Matt Peart, S Julian Love
-OG Matt Skura, LB Oshane Ximines, CB James Bradberry
3 THOUGHTS ON DAL
(1) I projected DAL to win 10 games and win the NFC East prior to the season. I stand by it now and could see them approaching 12 wins if they remain healthy. Their offense is loaded and will end up top-5 in points scored. We knew that. But what is the difference maker? Their defense looks credible and deep, finally. Even with the release of linebacker Jaylon Smith, this defense is so well put together top to bottom, left to right. The emergence of cornerback Trevon Diggs could potentially shut down one side of the field the way Jalen Ramsey does for LAR. He is doing things only a couple corners in the league can do.
(2) It’s hard not to root for a guy like Dak Prescott. His personal story and issues with depression, the bounce back from a horrific injury, and the fact he was a FOURTH round pick (many forget that) should give a lot of teams and fans alike hope. I graded him as a 2nd rounder and stacked him right under Carson Wentz in 2016 and saw Donovan McNabb in him. Now? I think he is the best QB from that class by far (Goff/Wentz/Lynch/Jones) and will end up with a far better career than McNabb.
(3) NYG had a shot at Micah Parsons. He was one of the top 10 players on my overall board and was an ideal fit for a scheme that gave multiple looks. He has 10 QB hits, 3 TFL 2 PD, and 25 tackles. All of that and he still doesn’t even know what he’s doing yet. He is making all of that happen with sheer talent alone. If his head stays on straight, and from everything I’ve been told he has been an “A+ student” with the coaches, DAL may have yet another elite-level player for the back seven to pair with Diggs. Say what you want about Jerry Jones, but those guys have drafted very well over the years.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
(1) This won’t matter much in the NYG locker room but when it comes to us, the outsiders, it certainly does. NYG is missing nearly two-thirds of their offense and their 5 most important players. How long will Jones, Barkley, Thomas, Shepard, and Golladay be out? My guess is not long. But because of the poor 1-4 start, their margin for error was small. They are now staring down the barrel of a schedule that is the hardest in the NFL. 16-9 is the combined record of their upcoming 5 opponents and the team with the worst record? Kansas City. It’s hard to have even an ounce of optimism as opposed to last year because DAL is already running away with the division crown.
(2) Matt Peart was behind Nate Solder on the depth chart for the first 4 games. Kadarius Toney barely saw the ball over the first 3 games (all losses). They get forced into action week 5 and they end up playing at a really high level? Proper patience? Or over-coaching? Should these two have played a larger part in the offense weeks 1-3? I think it is a question worth asking.
(3) NYG now ranks bottom 3 in pressure percentage. When examining and breaking down defenses from around the league, it is one of the most important metrics I personally use. They are 2nd worst in QB knockdown percentage. Simply put, we will never know how good this secondary is without a true pass rush presence. There is a lot of talk, and there will be a lot of talk, why NYG is where it is right now. The lack of pass rush is where I start the conversation and then I move over to the OL. Remember when NYG used a 1st round pick on defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka from Boston College in 2006 despite the fact they already had a top tier group of pass rushers? They were already 3-deep with 3 All-Pro caliber players and had other roster weaknesses. Those were the days and always remember, “You can never have enough pass rushers.” Draft talent more than you draft need. It works.