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.

Oct 252020
 
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Wayne Gallman, New York Giants (October 22, 2020)

Wayne Gallman – © USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles 22 – New York Giants 21

QUICK RECAP

Over the past decade, there haven’t been many team-to-team match-ups that are as one-sided as NYG vs PHI. To say the Eagles have had the Giants’ number would be an understatement worthy of laughter. No matter who the quarterbacks are, no matter who the head coaches are, NYG has been seeing PHI in their nightmares. In fact, the last time the Giants beat the Donovan McNabb-led Eagles in consecutive match-ups was 2008. Brandon Jacobs led the team in rushing, Kevin Boss led the team in receiving, Antonio Pierce led the team in tackles, Corey Webster led the team in pass break ups, and Eli Manning was 27 years old. A lifetime ago. Despite that history and the fact that NYG came into this Thursday Night game with a 1-5 record, there was some hope and extra energy. The NFC East was crumbling, and the Giants were coming off a win against Washington. Had they won this one, they had a credible shot at being tied for first place in the division by the end of week 7. This had a “big-game” feel to it and the Eagles entered the night as arguably the most banged-up team in the NFL.

The aggressive Eagles’ offense had their downfield weapon and Giants killer, DeSean Jackson, back in the lineup. They went to him on the first two plays of the game as they marched down the field. They converted a 4th-and-1 attempt en route, as PHI leads the league in 4th-down attempts since Doug Pederson became their head coach in 2016. Carson Wentz powered his way into the end zone on a 1-yard run to put the home team up early.

The first blunder of the night occurred as the NYG punt team came onto the field following their initial offensive drive. They kept the offense on the field for 4th-and-3 before making the switch to punt at the last moment. PHI was scrambling as they tried to hurry and get their punt return team on the field as the defense darted off. They left the NYG gunner, Corey Ballentine, uncovered. He was, literally, all by himself with nobody between him and the first down marker. Punter Riley Dixon noticed, somehow Ballentine didn’t. The ball was snapped, and Dixon had no choice but to boot the ball back to PHI. An enormous missed opportunity! Winning teams capitalize on mistakes made by opponents. It is one of the simplest, basic, and everlasting components to the game. NYG isn’t there yet.

PHI went 3-and-out on the next drive and thanks to a 14-yard punt return, NYG began with the ball at the PHI 39. If you have paid attention to Jason Garrett’s tendencies while with DAL, this is a part of the field he loves to get aggressive on first down. On the first play, Jones threw a dime just over the head of the Eagles’ defender into the hands of Golden Tate, who made a strong catch and broke the tackle to easily jog into the end zone. NYG tied it up. The lead didn’t last long, as PHI used an inch-by-inch, foot-by-foot approach with the screen game being featured numerous times to put up another 3 points via a 31-yard field goal by Jake Elliott.

Daniel Jones got the Giants to midfield on the next drive, as the game plan was clearly heavy on getting the ball to Evan Engram. They were handing the ball off to him and they were throwing to him often in the passing game. On this 8-play drive, Engram was targeted four times, possibly one too many. PHI showed an aggressive double inside gap blitz on 3rd-and-7 and Jones took the shotgun snap and wanted to get rid of it in a hurry. He rifled the ball to Engram, with maybe too much juice on it, and Engram was slow to get his head around and just couldn’t grab the ball in time. It deflected off his hands and was intercepted by Jalen Mills. Turnover number 9 on the year for the second-year quarterback.

PHI failed to take advantage of the interception, as Carson Wentz threw one back to NYG on an ill-timed decision. James Bradberry came down with his third interception of the season and his second in as many games. Only two players in the league have more interceptions than Bradberry, a fantastic free agent signing for this team and maybe one of the best in the NFL this past offseason.

The two offenses traded possessions before NYG had one more shot with just under a minute left in the first half starting at their own 35. On Dion Lewis’ first touch of the game, he fumbled and gave PHI the ball at the 42. The third turnover in 5 drives reminded everyone watching what exactly the NFC East was in 2020. PHI got the ball close enough to take three shots at the end zone but had to settle on a 29-yard field goal attempt. Elliott lined up and missed it. An ugly second quarter was over with PHI up 10-7.

The two teams traded 4 straight three-and-outs to start the second half. NYG then started to take over. Daniel Jones dashed 80 yards before getting tripped by the turf. He was heading toward the end zone but lost his balance and fell. They ended up scoring a touchdown on a 1-yard Wayne Gallman run so this can now be laughed at. Even the best athletes in the world have the occasional slip up but NYG needed 4 plays and a PHI pass interference to get the 8 yards needed for the score. Had they not punched it in, this would have been the poster-play that sums up current state of the Giants organization.

NYG stopped PHI two more times as the Eagles offense was stalling. Already up 4, NYG put together a 15-play drive that began at the PHI 3-yard line after PHI failed on a 4th-and-goal attempt. PHI helped out with a 3rd-down pass interference and a too-late challenge by Pederson that would have went in their favor. Jones ended up hitting Sterling Shepard on a zip-line 2-yard pass to put NYG up 21-10 with just over 6 minutes left against an offense that looked completely broken. They were without multiple receivers, their starting running back, multiple offensive linemen, and their top two tight ends. It then took just over 1:30 for PHI to score a touchdown, a 3-yard pass to Greg Ward. A failed two-point conversion attempt maintained the NYG lead at 21-16, however. PHI would need a defensive stop and a touchdown in the final 5 minutes to win this one.

NYG gained 27 yards on their first three plays, all Gallman runs. On 3rd-and-7, Jones dropped back and threw one downfield to Engram. Many have been banging the table for more downfield passes to the gifted Engram, one of the top athletes in the NFL at the position and the most-targeted pass catcher of the night. They had the match-up and space they wanted. The throw was on the money. Engram reached out his arms and hands but dropped it. The clock stopped, it was 4th down, and NYG had to punt.

PHI needed 71 yards with just over 2:00 left. They got 53 of those yards on three plays using their third string tight end and backup running back. They were inside the NYG 10-yard line just like that. A face mask penalty pushed PHI back to the 18-yard line which may have ended up hurting the NYG defense more because they struggled to defend space. On the next play, Wentz hit Boston Scott on a top shelf throw just over the hands of Jabrill Peppers. PHI was up 22-21. They failed the two-point conversion attempt again, as NYG continued to defend short spaces well, and there was 40 seconds left but NYG didn’t have a timeout.

NYG got the ball to their own 32 on the first play but Will Hernandez was called for a hold. Instead of 2nd-and-3 from the 32, it was 1st-and-25 from the 15 and they had used 6 seconds. Two plays later Jones was sacked for the third time on the night and fumbled, giving the ball back to PHI. His third lost fumble of the season and 10th turnover.

NYG loses 22-21.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 20-30 / 187 yards / 2 TD-1 INT / 91.9 RAT

Jones added 92 yards on 4 carries, including 80 of them on one run that will be on blooper reels for years to come. He also added a lost fumble on the final NYG offensive play. Another game, another performance where we saw some really good things and some really bad things. The Jones apologists will say that Engram should have caught the pass that was intercepted and the fumble at the end of the game didn’t matter because there was little to no chance of them advancing the ball far enough for a game-winning field goal attempt. The haters will simply add them to his massive career turnover total. This is the deal; the pass on that interception had too much on it because Jones thought pressure was coming before it was actually coming. I do think Engram could have turned his head sooner but very few, if any, players are catching that ball. I keep saying we need to see Jones make improvements with his ball security. The fumble at the end of the game, albeit it did not directly lose NYG the game, further strengthens this is an enormous problem that can prevent NYG from winning when the roster is better. He made a few nice throws, he made some athletic plays, but he isn’t putting it all together yet.

RUNNING BACK

-Wayne Gallman: 10 att / 34 yards / 1 TD and 5 rec / 20 yards

Devonta Freeman suffered an ankle injury and Gallman was the one who took over in the backfield. All 10 of his carries were from the 3rd quarter on. Gallman’s stat line isn’t overly impressive but he was a big part of the NYG offensive “surge.” He ran the ball really well and gained several yards after contact. He has been a better back than advertised despite limited opportunities and unfortunate team circumstances. With Dion Lewis’ fumble and overall lack of impact here, I expect Gallman to get more and more touches in future games.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 6 rec / 59 yards / 1 TD

It was Shepard’s first game back since Week 2 on September 20th. He looked quick and shifty from the slot and came up with a few key grabs, including a 2-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter that put NYG up by 11. It is easy to forget the gap between Shepard and his replacements until you see him back out on the field after missing a few games. He is a really explosive short-route runner who can consistently gain separation. While he is limited and can now be labeled an injury prone player, he is a key piece to this offense moving forward.

-Golden Tate had just 1 catch, which was a 39-yard touchdown. It was an impressive play on the ball but don’t let it cloud the fact he went the rest of the game without an impact. Not what you want from a starting outside receiver who has the third-highest cap number on the team. Speaking of no impact, Darius Slayton finished with 2 catches for 23 yards on 4 targets. PHI corner Darius Slay handled him well for the majority of the night.

TIGHT END

Evan Engram: 6 rec / 46 yards and 2 att / 3 yards

It was clear that Jason Garrett wanted to make Engram the key focus of this game. He led the team with 9 targets and the Giants continue to try to get him the ball in space via outside runs. It is hard to ignore Engram’s potential impact with his size/speed/explosion combination that very few have. However, his greatest weakness in the passing game from day one has been his inconsistent hands. He had 7 drops as a rookie and it appears to have become a mental block. This was not an issue in college, I scouted him thoroughly. He has 5 drops this year, and it is near a point where you almost have to give up on him because of it. Pass catchers can be slower than ideal, you can work around it. Pass catchers can be shorter than ideal, you can work around it. However, if you don’t catch the ball consistently you cannot be focal point in a good offense. End of discussion.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-We have seen some shaky performances from Andrew Thomas and this one may have been the worst. We can only hope that this is the low point of his rookie year. He allowed 2 sacks, 3 pressures, and a TFL. The league is attacking his inside shoulder on a weekly basis, and he needs to clean that up right now. The quickest route to the QB from the edge position is through the inside shoulder of the tackle. You have to protect that first, then protect the edge. He is over setting and playing too top heavy. He has a lot of work to do on his pass protection.

-Will Hernandez had a tough game against a really tough match-up. He allowed a TFL and a pressure and was also flagged for a hold on the final drive that really stung because of how ill-timed it was. Lateral movement just doesn’t come natural for him. Kevin Zeitler finished with his top grade of the season, which isn’t saying much. However, it was encouraging to see him play well on short rest against a tough opponent. He did allow a TFL, though.

-Cameron Fleming allowed a TFL and a sack. Not much to say here other than I still think his days are numbered as a starter. I do wonder if there is a trade market for him out there. There are a few contenders that are really thin at tackle and I did hear there was a long list of suitors who wanted him as their swing tackle prior to signing with NYG.

-Center Nick Gates was really good in this game. He has been evolving weekly and may be the best lineman on this team at the current moment. This was against a really tough PHI interior defensive line. He is the one guy who is constantly chasing the action downfield looking for a defender to pick off. Love the hustle and love the production he had in this one.

EDGE

-Kyler Fackrell is now in this position group as opposed to the linebackers. It looks like he has made the full time move to the outside. He had 3 tackles and 2 pressures to go along with 1 missed tackle. His ability to move inside and out is really special and rare, to be honest. There really aren’t many players in the league who can handle that kind of back-and-forth move. While we aren’t talking about an elite talent, his role is really important and hard to find. When looking at the draft prospects, I am constantly trying to find a credible skill set comparable to this and it doesn’t come around often.

-Markus Golden had a 1 sack and 1 pressure and was promptly traded to ARI the day after. Even though NYG could not afford to lose any more EDGE talent, Golden wasn’t an ideal fit and he won’t be a long-term fix. I am actually impressed that NYG netted a 6th round pick for him. The Cardinals really needed talent at that spot with the loss of Chandler Jones, though.

-Cam Brown played a career high 12 snaps and didn’t make an impact but his movement and size stand out. With the Golden trade now in the rear-view mirror, expect him to start seeing more and more snaps. That will be fun to watch.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-One thing that has bothered me is how often this group gets blown up. I think Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham is sending them on a lot of designed slants, and depending on what the play call is, they get completely washed out. The Eagles offensive line was playing multiple practice squad-caliber guys and they still held their own against a NYG line that is supposed to be the strong point of this team. The match-up just didn’t swing in the Giants’ direction the way I was expecting.

-Leonard Williams finished with the top grade among the DL with 2 pressures and 1 tackle. He caused a lot of re-directing in the PHI running game. Dalvin Tomlinson had 3 tackles and a pressure in addition to a pass break up. He had a bad missed tackle however and was completely pushed down the field twice that opened up big running lanes. Dexter Lawrence had a tackle, a sack, and a pressure. B.J. Hill had 3 tackles and a sack that was negated by a NYG penalty. Lastly, Austin Johnson had 1 pressure and 1 tackle.

LINEBACKER

-Mr. Reliable Blake Martinez led the team in tackles yet again, this time with 9. He also added 2 pressures and a pass break up. Don’t take his play for granted simply because it happens every week. He is playing at such a high level.

-Devante Downs got the start even though David Mayo was back. He finished with 5 tackles and a pressure that led to an intentional grounding penalty early in the game. For a guy who has struggled so far this year, it was his best performance. Mayo was on the field for just 10% of the defensive snaps and finished with 2 tackles, 1 of which was on special teams. I think this job will belong to Downs for the time being.

CORNERBACK

-This group struggled overall. James Bradberry did haul in his 3rd interception of the season on a nicely played ball in the end zone. I was actually curious to see if he could handle DeSean Jackson because of the shifty speed he brings to the table. Bradberry excels against bigger receivers who don’t get in and out of breaks as well. Jackson did catch passes of 12 and 9 yards on the first drive of the game, but was held pretty quiet after that until injured. Bradberry did miss a tackle and was flagged for a pass interference on the PHI game winning drive.

-For the second week in a row, Ryan Lewis was torched down the field late in the game. He also got flagged for an illegal contact penalty. Teams will now test him more and more down the field.

-Corey Ballentine allowed a 3rd-and-10 conversion early on. He played under 20% of the snaps and I think he needs to start getting phased out of this defense. He just isn’t playing well and he doesn’t seem to mentally grasp the speed of this game. Speaking of mental gaffes, the mistake of not realizing he was uncovered on the NYG punt was an enormous missed opportunity that could have really changed the complexion of this game. Ballentine was also responsible for a 15-yard illegal hit penalty on the punt before the game-winning drive by PHI.

-Madre Harper, an undrafted rookie from the Raiders, saw a lot of playing time late and was promptly torched by the PHI passing game. In addition, he was flagged twice.

SAFETY

-Logan Ryan had a really solid game, as it looks like he played more safety than corner in this one. He had 2 pressures and a pass break up in the end zone. His biggest mistake, however, was a holding penalty on 3rd-and-goal from the 5-yard line on the final PHI drive. It gave them new life and two plays later they scored the game-winning touchdown. Awful timing on what was really his lone glaring mistake.

-Jabrill Peppers has minimal football sense. First of all, he fair caught two punts where he had 10+ yards of open space in front of him. Secondly, his man coverage of Boston Scott on the game- winning touchdown throw was atrocious. He came too hard downhill, knowing he didn’t have any help behind him against a back who accelerates quickly in a situation where you knew PHI was going to take a shot at the end zone. Talent at safety is useless if you don’t fully understand game situations. He did have 6 tackles and a sack.

-Julian Love had 7 tackles and a pass break up. Solid game for him where he read the action well and flowed in the right direction consistently.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano didn’t attempt a field goal. He apparently strained a quad on a kickoff, and it would have been a struggle for him to go for a long game-winning field goal had NYG gotten far enough up the field on their final drive.

-P Riley Dixon: 6 punts / 44.2 avg / 42.0 net

3 STUDS

-LB Blake Martinez, OC Nick Gates, RB Wayne Gallman

3 DUDS

-OT Andrew Thomas, TE Evan Engram, CB Corey Ballentine

3 THOUGHTS ON PHI

  1. Carson Wentz has become a completely different QB over these past two seasons, not in a good way. One can understand his happy feet in the pocket because of the poor OL play and lack of receiver-talent, but his poor decision-making should be alarming. He is trying to do too much and making throws that can’t be excused even by his biggest supporters. He leads the NFL in turnovers. They’re stuck with him for a while and they better pray this is a short-term speed bump.
  1. I respect the PHI coaching staff as much as any in the league. Their awful 2-point conversions play calls aside, these guys adjust to the game situation as well as anyone. They have been ravaged on offense with injuries two straight seasons. They don’t make it look pretty, but they get the job done.
  1. PHI is now the front runner of the division, no doubt. As they start to get some guys back on offense, I think they will be set up nicely to get to the 8-9 win mark, which we know won’t be touched by anyone else in the NFC Least. I wouldn’t want to play them in the playoffs, either. Their pass rush is top 3 in the league and they have a lot of guys who know how to win.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Speaking of “knowing how to win,” that is the biggest component this young NYG team needs to acquire in the coming months. I think it is an overused line by the media at times, but when a team is making the most amount of mistakes late in the game (drops, penalties, allowed sacks, etc.), that is a sign of pressing and getting mentally defeated by the moment. Eli Manning played his best football late in games. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan came up big late in games. While the team needs to continue to add better personnel, these players need to step up when the game is on the line consistently. They won’t go anywhere worth getting excited about until that happens.
  1. Last week, I discussed how this would be a big test for this team in regard to the future. A short week, a big game that meant a lot to the divisional standings, and response to coming off a win. It went so well for 3 and two-thirds of a quarter. Their defense was coming up big, notably in the second half, and their offense was adjusting well and turning opportunities into touchdowns. Ultimately, they failed the tests. Is this something we will keep on seeing? Or will they adjust and grow from the experience and end up being on the other side of this next time?
  1. Joe Judge emphasized getting smart, sound players during his initial interviews after being hired. He did this moreso than most coaches and their cliché lines. After 7 games, I can see what he means more than ever. If Corey Ballentine, Cameron Fleming, and Jabrill Peppers had higher on field IQ, this team may have 3 wins. If Evan Engram had mental toughness, this team may have another win. If this offensive line handled stunts and twists more naturally, this team may have another win. I know the “if” department doesn’t get anyone anywhere. However, when scouting players for the upcoming draft, that is something I am really going to key in on. NYG will be placing more value on it than ever.
Oct 202020
 
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James Bradberry, New York Giants (October 18, 2020)

James Bradberry – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 20 – Washington Football Team 19

QUICK RECAP

Since the 2017 season, the Washington Football Team and New York Giants have hung out together at the bottom of the NFC East standings. They’ve both undergone coaching and front office regime changes, they both drafted a new first-round quarterback in 2019, and they both rank in the bottom 3 among all offenses in the league. The similarities go on, but the point is these two historic franchises have been the bottom feeders of the NFC East for quite some time now and 2020 appears to be no different.

Kyle Allen, who played under Head Coach Ron Rivera and Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner in 2019 in Carolina, started under center for the second week in a row. Dwayne Haskins was benched, as rumors are now surfacing he has not been putting in the time to learn the scheme on his own. Since he was demoted, Haskins has apparently been coping with a non-Covid 19 sickness, keeping him away from the team at all costs. Now there are trade rumors circulating among people I trust.

On to the game, though. Allen led WAS on a 12-play drive that put them in field goal range. Kicker Dustin Hopkins, whom has never missed a field goal attempt against NYG in his 14 tries dating back to 2015, missed the 47-yarder. This gave NYG the initial field position advantage and it took them just one play to pass midfield. They gained 50 combined yards on their first 5 plays, putting them in the red zone. From there, two of their next three plays combined for -7 yards and it made the home team settle on a Graham Gano 33-yard field goal.

Momentum remained on the NYG side, as Allen threw an interception to James Bradberry on the second play of the next drive, giving NYG the ball at the WAS 27-yard line. Three plays later Daniel Jones hit Darius Slayton on a beautifully-thrown ball in the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. NYG was up 10-0 as the first quarter expired. It was the second game in a row NYG had a double-digit lead in the first quarter.

Both WAS and NYG got into the red zone on their next respective drives but couldn’t punch it in. They traded field goals to make the score 13-3. WAS then went on its second longest drive of the day, 13 plays, that netted 70 total yards. NYG had them stopped but a running into the kicker penalty on their punt from midfield encouraged River Boat Ron to opt for a 4th-and-4 attempt. They converted and 5 plays later Allen found tight end and former Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas for a 5-yard touchdown. That was the end of the half and NYG held a 13-10 lead. This was the first lead NYG had at halftime since they faced WAS on December 22, 2019. Teams that have a lead at halftime win 80% of the time.

The two teams traded scoreless possessions to begin the 3rd quarter. On the Giants second drive, their offense was really clicking. They made it 73 yards via 14 plays, 9 of which were handoffs to Devonta Freeman. They were spreading the ball out, using misdirection, and the offensive line was controlling a very solid WAS defensive front. On 1st-and-goal from the WAS 7-yard line, Jones was pressured by 2020 #2 overall pick Chase Young. He couldn’t step into his throw as he tried to get it out and beyond the end zone on a throw-away attempt. Kendall Fuller intercepted the pass. Rather than NYG putting 7 more points on the board, they came away with 0. Three possessions in the red zone and they had just 6 points to show for it.

WAS began the fourth quarter with another long drive, this one being 14 plays long. The bend-don’t-break NYG defense allowed them to march down the field little by little and all the way to the 10-yard line. But they were able to stop them on third down, a rarity in this game, to hold them to 3 points. It was tied up at 13 and NYG and was searching for a big play. Their offense just wasn’t able to put things together well enough after their quick 10 points to start off the game. Jones had a couple of bad throws that led to a punt and all of the sudden WAS had the ball in their hands with the game tied.

As they breached midfield, the Giants defense sent an aggressive blitz on 3rd-and-9. Kyler Fackrell got to Allen and jarred the ball loose. Rookie linebacker Tae Crowder scooped it up and scampered into the end zone. The big play this team was in desperate need of came from the unlikeliest of sources and NYG had the commanding 7-point lead with just over 3 minutes left.

WAS then took the ball and continued to chip away at the Giants defense steadily but with assurance. They gained yards on 6 straight plays, which put them at the NYG 22-yard line with 0:46 on the clock. Allen then hit Cam Sims on a nicely thrown ball up the left sideline over the hands of Logan Ryan for the touchdown. They were an extra point away from a tie with 0:36 left. River Boat Ron quickly decided to use their momentum and go for 2. All or nothing. Win or lose. No ties, no overtime. Allen took the snap and too-quickly evaded the pocket, cutting the field in half for the NYG defense. His targets were vastly outnumbered and with an angry Dexter Lawrence closing in, he aimlessly chucked it into the end zone with nobody near it. NYG took the ball back after the onside kick recovery by Ryan and that was it.

NYG wins 20-19.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 12-19 / 112 yards / 1 TD – 1 INT

Jones also added 74 yards on the ground via 7 carries, including a long of 49 on a designed run. It is a rarity to see a team run the ball more than pass, but that is exactly what happened in this one. His 19 attempts were the fewest of his career over his 18 starts. In fact, he had never attempted less than 31 passes in a game prior to this. The last time NYG threw the ball under 20 times was 2018 in a 38-35 win over TB. Jones started the game off nice and clean. He was 11-for-13 but after Darius Slayton went down, he finished 1-for-6 and an interception. The interception was a costly one. Had NYG not won, this would have been the focal point. You can’t throw an interception on 1st-and-goal from the 7-yard line in a tight game. One can make the argument it “wasn’t his fault” yet again because he got pressured, but from my eyes, he needs to be quicker with the decision when you know the blocking scheme is going to put a tight end on Chase Young. Jones played well enough to win, he looked outstanding on the ground, and he played tough.

RUNNING BACK

-Devonta Freeman: 18 att / 61 yards and 1 rec / -4 yards

No other running back carried the ball so it is safe to say Freeman is now the “Bell-Cow” on this team for the rest of the year unless someone trades for him. Freeman is showing his old-school, aggressive downhill style that we saw when he was with Atlanta. He gets north in a hurry and can show the occasional jump cut that makes defenders miss. His blocking has also been very good. Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman were on the field for a combined 13 plays and they touched the ball a combined one time.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton: 2 rec / 41 yards / 1 TD

-Good to see Slayton make a couple of big plays, the standout being a 23-yard touchdown in the first quarter. He aggravated an ankle injury on that play but was able to jog off the field. Later on, he went down again and didn’t get back up until the NYG medical staff came out to assist him. At the time of this writing, my guess is he may miss some time. It is pretty easy to see this offense without him out there, in particular the passing game, really struggles. No other wide receiver scares the opposition half as much as he does.

-Golden Tate had a catch for 11 yards and C.J. Board brought one in for 8 yards. Austin Mack caught his first career ball for 1 yard, and that was it for the NYG receivers. One cannot expect a lot of production in a game where they throw the ball 19 times but the issue remains, this group of receivers may be one of the worst 5 in the league. And that is being kind. Sterling Shepard likely won’t return until November.

*Board was taken off the field on a stretcher with a concussion and was released from the hospital Monday.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram was targeted just 3 times. He caught 2 of them for 30 yards. He was covered pretty well by the WAS defense. From my perspective, it looked like he was the focal point of their pass defense. He saw a lot of bracket coverage. I expect teams to replicate that coming up. The Giants seemed to keep him off the field on running plays more than what we have seen this year.

-Kaden Smith led the team with 3 catches. They combined for just 15 yards. Smith was brought here for his blocking prowess and he really has done a poor job there. He allowed a pressure that led to the WAS interception and he allowed a TFL.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The story of the day was Andrew Thomas being benched for being late to a team meeting. A one-time occurrence isn’t anything to freak out about. All signs have pointed toward Thomas being a good kid who has maturity beyond his years. With that said, extra eyes are on him now. He allowed 1 TFL and 1 pressure. Overall his performance on the field, which was about 50% of the snaps, was average. He got good push in the run game and he was really hustling down the field. His pass protection sets still look inconsistent, however.

-As much as that may have frustrated some, the good news is that rookie 3rd ounder Matt Peart stepped in as the starter at left tackle. He played about half of the game and looked really solid. More on the comparison between Thomas and him below in my closing thoughts but tp be blunt, he proved he should be starting on this line. I predicted mid-season would be that starting point. It may be sooner.

-Cameron Fleming allowed a TFL, sack, and pressure. He was the weak point in this one and continues to be someone we would much rather see as the swing tackle, not a starter. He doesn’t adjust well, he doesn’t recover well.

-Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez were up and down. Zeitler allowed 2 TFLs and Hernandez allowed 1 in addition to a pressure. I’ve said this a few times but as long as I keep seeing it, it will keep showing up in the review. Apologies if it seems repetitive: Zeitler looks close to being done. No knee bend, no sustaining with his hands, too many recovery steps to keep himself upright.

-Nick Gates at center is growing on me. He is the one offensive lineman who is getting better each week and that is really important. Do I think he is the answer long term? Not yet. But when you have a guy who proves himself at multiple positions over multiple years, that is huge for the long-term planning and spending. His growth has been a big reason why this NYG running game actually looks pro-caliber after a few nightmarish weeks.

EDGE

-The first game without Lorenzo Carter went as expected. Nobody stepped up. Markus Golden was on the field for 24 plays. He broke up a pass and hit the quarterback one time. He was single-teamed on nearly every one of his pass rush attempts and didn’t make a sound.

-Rookies Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin were on the field for 5 and 3 plays, respectively. It is hard to get a true evaluation with so little action but Brown’s tool set, as expected, stands out. I think we are going to see a lot of him over the second half of the season.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Because NYG is so deep at this spot, they can somewhat afford to get away with keeping pure edge guys out of the game plan. Dalvin Tomlinson was all over the field. He finished with 8 tackles, 1 TFL, and a pressure. It isn’t common to see a guy in the middle get involved in so much action, especially one who sees so many double teams against the run. Really solid gamer for him.

-Leonard Williams also had an impressive game with a little but more visible impact. He had 5 tackles, a sack, and 1 pressure. There is some hit-and-miss in his game against the run, which is something I have noticed frequently this year. That may be scheme based, as they send him on a lot of slants post-snap. It can cause him to get ridden out into space, creating big lanes that NYG doesn’t have the linebackers to fill outside of Blake Martinez.

-Dexter Lawrence had 3 tackles and a pressure. Not much to say about him besides the fact he is continuing to show reliability against the run and an occasional flash of athleticism as a pass rusher. B.J. Hill added a pressure and seems to be getting more and more playing time. That may be part of their plan to help offset the pass rush woes coming from the outside.

LINEBACKER

-Kyler Fackrell is really hitting his stride with the club. He was on the field for every snap, moving all over the place schematically. He had 3 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble that led to a touchdown, and 3 pressures. He was their top pass rusher, as they sent him from all angles. He is a physical, hard-nosed enforcer. That mentality did net a personal foul penalty on a blow to the head of Logan Thomas, but I like what he brings to the table.

-Blake Martinez led the team with 14 tackles while adding a pressure. It looks like the spot next to him may be filled for good. Tae Crowder added 10 tackles and a fumble recovery that he brought all the way back for a touchdown. David Mayo returned from IR and Crowder out-snapped him 62-11. He brings a different level of speed and twitch and he should evolve into a better player in the coming weeks. This is his job for the taking and if he keeps playing like this while cleaning up space-tackling issues (2 misses), Mayo will be the backup.

-This is the best LB core we have had in awhile. Props to the front office, gotta give Gettleman credit where it is due.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry and Ryan Lewis played a fantastic duo game at cornerback. Each had 3 tackles with Bradberry bringing in an interception. He nearly had a second one, but he landed out of bounds with the ball. Lewis added a nice pass break up and was excellent in downfield coverage. These two really controlled the outside passing lanes.

-Logan Ryan had a really up and down game. He had a bad missed tackle, a really big-time pass break up in the end zone, and then gave up the WAS touchdown that nearly tied it up. Overall, he remains a key cog and leader of this defense but there are occasional plays that leave me wondering if there were concentration and discipline issues that led to him not being signed in free agency until really late. His versatility does help a lot, however. When a safety goes down, he steps in. When a corner goes down, he steps in. He had 8 tackles and a sack in addition.

-Darnay Holmes only played 3 snaps before injuring his shoulder/neck area. At the time of this writing, his status is unknown.

SAFETY

-Jabrill Peppers was back to a full-time snap load, as was Julian Love. Love is the one who may have saw a boost in playing time as a result of the Holmes injury. Peppers had 6 tackles including a couple of nice range-plays against the run. Love had 3 tackles and a missed tackle.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 33, 20). His elite season continues.

-P Riley Dixon: 2 Punts – 35.0 avg / 34.0 net

3 STUDS

-LB Kyler Fackrell, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, CB James Bradberry

3 DUDS

-OG Kevin Zeitler, WR Golden Tate, EDGE Markus Golden

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

  1. Funny how things work in today’s NFL both with the media and fans. After WAS beat PHI week 1, everyone and their mother claimed that WAS had arrived and they were the favorite in the division. This happens every year and it is simply laughable at this point. How come there is such a strong desire to make definitive statements about things that lack definitive information? Just a month later, WAS has benched their 2019 1st-round quarterback, they haven’t won another game, and their young up-and-coming talent is no longer up-and-coming. This WAS football stinks, plain and simple.
  1. The Giants need more talent on the defensive edge. That is no secret or new information, I know. One would assume that more draft resources need to be put there, but no real issue is simply solved with personnel alone. Washington has more 1st round talent along their DL than any team in the league. Chase Young (#2 overall), Montez Sweat (#26 overall), Ryan Kerrigan (#16 overall), Jonathan Allen (#17 overall), and Da’Ron Payne (#13 overall). All that talent and WAS is dead last in the league in QB knockdowns and 20th in pressure percentage. Those are all quality players, too. Not one of them can be considered a bust. It takes so much to get these NYG pass rush woes moving in the right direction, they need to get it going. One positive is that the blitzing schemes seem to be working well.
  1. Where does WAS stand now? 2020 will be a wash in my opinion but this NFC East will leave a lot of doors open. Is Dwayne Haskins (a product of the previous regime) really done there? What are they going to do at receiver/tight end? It seems they have an OK young guy in Terry McLaurin but continue to falter with middle/late round picks behind him. I think WAS is heading toward a 3-4 win season and will be heavily in the QB/WR market in the 2021 draft.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. In regard to the two young tackles on this offense, I’m not concerned like some are. I don’t see Thomas being another Flowers; meaning he won’t falter here because of immaturity. I am actually on the other side of the boat. The play of Matt Peart further strengthened the notion I had at the start of the season. Thomas/Peart are likely the long-term future at the tackle spots and that will be a very good thing. The difference between the two was obvious. Thomas has more power, twitch, and sheer ability. Peart does a much better job at staying within himself and trusting his technique. Both are big and powerful but playing tackle in this league is so hard. They will need this season to take their lumps, but I feel good about what they have here in regard to the long-term future. And the tackle positions, economically, are very expensive. If they can get away with quality play with these guys on a rookie deal while their QB is on a rookie deal, watch out in free agency in the coming year or two or three.
  1. I am really looking forward to the game against PHI coming up. It is going to be a very telling game for a couple reasons. One, how does the Joe Judge regime of NYG football respond to a win? The best teams become hungrier. They got the taste of a win and it makes them want it more. They lost 5 games and that can weigh on you throughout a week. All of the sudden, with a win, the energy in the building is different. Confidence in sports means more than most people understand. The second thing I am looking forward to is watching this regime on short rest. NYG has struggled in that department for years and I strongly believe this is where coaching means a ton. The best teams in the league have done well on short rest. Huge test for Judge in a very winnable game.
  1. Did anyone catch how happy the NYG players were for Joe Judge when Daniel Jones gave him the ball in the locker room after his first win? That wasn’t fake. These players love Judge and respect him and play hard for him. I don’t think I’ve seen this much spirited play since Tom Coughlin was here. And the genuine excitement these guys had for Judge was telling. They talked about culture change, as does pretty much every head coach when at the introductory press conference, but very few put that into practice.
Oct 132020
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 11, 2020)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 37 – New York Giants 34

QUICK RECAP

Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was back in Dallas facing off against his former employer of 13 years, 9 of which were spent as the Head Coach. The Cowboys offense came into the game leading the NFL in points scored. The Giants offense came into the game ranked 30th in points scored. As bad the NYG season has looked to this point, they were still very much alive in the divisional race. Not one team in it had more than a win and all three rivals had significant roster issues.

The Giants jumped out to an early 7-3 lead on an Evan Engram reverse that looked broken at the start. Remember, NYG tried a similar play two weeks ago against the Niners that resulted in a turnover. This time, Daniel Jones’ pitch was accurate, Engram evaded an Everson Griffen tackle, and dashed downhill into the end zone. This was the first touchdown in 21 offensive drives and it was the first time NYG had a lead since the first half against Pittsburgh on September 13. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Dak Prescott threw an interception to Kyler Fackrell. Fackrell came out of Utah State in 2016 known for his plus-athletic ability combined with a 6’5” / 245 pound frame. A player at that position doesn’t always get a chance to put on display his long speed plus agility with the ball in his hands but Fackrell took full advantage of the opportunity. He scampered his way to a 46-yard touchdown looking like a tight end who may have been playing his pro career on the wrong side of the ball. Not really, but it was an overly impressive play by Fackrell that put NYG up 14-3.

The Giants defense forced a three-and-out and took the ball back downfield via a balanced offensive attack. The running game found a constant positive flow for the first time of the 2020 season as they attacked a porous DAL defensive front. Graham Gano nailed a 55-yard field goal through the upright and it was 17-3 with most of the second quarter left to play. DAL then put together a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended in an Ezekiel Elliott 1-yard touchdown. The Giants were still up by 7 and their offense was finding a flow. This was yet another test for Jones and this young NYG team. The response? On the fourth play of the drive, rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas allowed a sack to Demarcus Lawrence that jarred the ball loose out of Jones’ hands. DAL cornerback Anthony Brown scooped it up and scored a touchdown to tie the game up at 17-17. Jones’ 22nd fumble in in his 17th game. His record-setting rate continues to lengthen.

NYG responded with a march down the field on a drive that lasted 9 plays. Head Coach Joe Judge, who has a special teams background, had some tricks up his sleeve. As the NYG field goal unit marched onto the field, Engram stopped his retreat to the sideline by just a few yards. The DAL defense did not see him out there and holder Riley Dixon took notice. He rushed the snap, threw it up to Engram, and NYG had another touchdown on the board. Unfortunately, the flag came out as a result of an illegal shift penalty, as Cameron Fleming was not set in his stance. Had Dixon waited one more second to call for the snap, NYG would have went up by 7. Instead, Gano was forced into another 50-yard attempt in which he nailed through the uprights. DAL had just 51 seconds left but they only needed 35 of them. Two chunk pass plays from Prescott to rookie CeeDee Lamb and a trick play of their own resulted in the third DAL touchdown of the quarter. This one was a “Philly Special” as wide receiver Cedrick Wilson threw a perfect pass to Prescott for the 11-yard score. DAL was up 24-20 at halftime.

NYG opened the second half with a quality drive, but the frustration only grew. After two successful third down conversions, Jones hit Darius Slayton on a 3rd-and-6 deep ball that resulted in a touchdown. However, a questionable offensive pass interference was called on Damion Ratley at the line of scrimmage. Instead of the touchdown, NYG was moved back to the DAL 41-yard line and their 3rd-and-16 attempt failed. They were forced to punt, but DAL left 12 men on the field which moved NYG up 5 yards, enough to put Gano on the field for yet another 50+ yard attempt. He nailed it making him the first NYG kicker ever to hit three 50+ yarders in the same game. NYG was down by 1.

The DAL offense marched down the field again, but this drive came with a price. Prescott was tackled by Logan Ryan in a way that ended up causing a compound fracture to his right ankle. It was as gruesome as it sounded. Prescott was taken off on the cart in tears, not knowing if that would be the last time he would wear the DAL uniform. He was playing under the franchise tag and the debate surrounding whether or not he would be given a long term deal has been discussed for years now. Andy Dalton, the 9-year starter signed from Cincinnati came into the game to try and finish off the drive. DAL still scored a touchdown, this one a 12-yard run by Elliott. The home team went up 31-23.

The two offenses traded three-and-outs as the third quarter came to an end. NYG’s opening play of the fourth quarter was a 39-yard gain on a pass from Jones to Slayton. However, their losing tendencies appeared on the next play as they were forced to use their second timeout. They were late out of the huddle in addition to an alignment miscommunication between Jones and Golden Tate. They ended up putting another 3 points on the board via another field goal by Gano, this one from 28 yards, to make the score 31-26.

On the first play of the next DAL drive, rookie center Tyler Biadasz and the second-string quarterback Dalton mishandled the snap and it was recovered by Blake Martinez. NYG began their drive on the DAL 17-yard line and it took just 5 plays to get in the end zone via a Devonta Freeman 4-yard power run. Jones then found tackle Andrew Thomas in the end zone on a trick two-point conversion play. NYG now had a 34-31 lead against an offense that was missing three starting offensive linemen and their starting quarterback.

DAL rode on the backs of Elliott and backup Tony Pollard with help from a 15-yard facemask penalty by Markus Golden and a badly missed tackle by rookie cornerback Darnay Holmes to get into field goal range. Greg Zuerlein hit a 40-yarder to tie the game up. Jones and the Giants offense had their shot to win this game.

They gained 15 yards on 5 plays including a near-interception and were forced to punt and the Cowboys got the ball back with 52 seconds left. Those 52 seconds were all DAL needed, an offense playing with an offensive line that was mostly made up of backups. Consecutive completions to Michael Gallup that highlighted his top-tier ball skills and playmaking potential both warranted reviews. Both catches that combined for 57 yards were upheld, putting DAL in easy field goal range. Zuerlein barely put one through the uprights from 34 yards as time expired.

NYG loses, 37-34.

QUARTERBACK

Daniel Jones: 20-33 / 222 yards / 0 TD-0 INT / 80.6 RAT

Start number 17 for Jones. Loss number 15. Fumble number 22. I sound like a broken record with my talk about the turnovers, fumbles in particular, but this cannot go on at this rate. We are giving Jones this season to trek through the peaks and valleys, but we need to see progression, not regression. It is that simple. Right now, Jones is not progressing, and he is turning the ball over at a record rate. There isn’t much else to say about this game. He did make a couple of nice throws, but he continues to show too much hesitation especially when he steps up in the pocket.

RUNNING BACK

Devonta Freeman: 17 att-60 yards / 1 TD / 2 rec-27 yards

-In Freeman’s third week with the team, in fact his third week on any NFL team without any preseason action, we saw a glimpse of some of his former pop in Atlanta. We knew it would take a few games for him to catch up to speed, and here we are. Freeman only averaged 3.5 yards per carry but I thought he ran really well. He showed two jump cuts in traffic that we hadn’t seen yet and that is a sign to me that his legs are under him and the confidence is back. I think it is possible we see a small trade market for him in the coming weeks if a contender loses their top back.

-Wayne Gallman rushed for 24 yards on 5 carries, averaging a team high 4.8 yards per. He broke tackles on 4 of his carries and continues to show consistent ability as a complimentary back. I think his upside is tapped out but he can get the job done in this role and seems to always be close to breaking a long one.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton: 8 rec / 129 yards

Slayton also had a 31-yard touchdown taken away by a questionable offensive pass interference call on Damion Ratley. It was a strong day for the Giants most talented receiver after a few poor games. His greatest trait, dating back to his days at Auburn, is found downfield when he tracks the deep ball. We need to see more deep shots to him. Slayton isn’t a guy who will strongly impact the game via slants and yards after catch. Send him downfield more often and see what happens.

-Golden Tate was the only other wide receiver to catch a pass. He brought in 4 passes for 42 yards on 5 targets. The lack of receiver depth on this team is scary-bad in an era where dozens of quality receivers enter the league via the draft each year. The draft presents so much every year at this spot, yet NYG is starving for more talent there. I get the national scouting list every August for the upcoming draft database. Which position has the most talent? Wide receiver. The supply is more than the demand but NYG can’t find guys to make things happen when injuries arise.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram was targeted 2 times and had 2 carries. It is hard to imagine what NYG has planned for him. I watch the Steelers rookie wide receiver (Chase Claypool) score 4 touchdowns and simply wonder “What if?” I bring that up because I brought up Engram’s name all over Claypool’s scouting report, as they had so many similarities in college when it came to their skillset and tools respectively. Claypool is a wide receiver who some were labeling a tight end during the pre-draft process. Engram is a tight end who some continue to label a wide receiver. We know Engram can’t routinely block in-line well enough, but any time he touches the ball, it’s hard not to imagine the possibilities he brings to the table. No matter where you stand with him, he can’t be targeted just twice in a high scoring game where you throw the ball 33 times.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The rough stretch for rookie Andrew Thomas continues. He allowed 2 pressures and 2 sacks. He is now approaching the league lead in sacks allowed with incredibly difficult tests coming up against Washington and Philadelphia. It seems like Thomas has a tough test each week. You know what it is? Most teams have high quality pass rushers and if you want to succeed at tackle in this league, you have to be really, really good. Thomas is not that right now. He is overextending, he isn’t sustaining hand contact, and he losing the width of his base. It’s ugly.

-Cameron Fleming was a disaster on the right side, allowing 3 pressures and a TFL. His clock is ticking as the starter.

-Inside, the trio of Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, and Kevin Zeitler had their best game as a group. In the running game, they got more push than we’ve seen in any contest this year, albeit against a poor Dallas defensive front. Gates was flagged twice (one for a hold and once for a block in back) while Zeitler and Hernandez both allowed 1 pressure each. There seemed to be more lateral pulling of the guards which worked out well for the rushing attack. I expect to see more of that in coming games.

EDGE

-Lorenzo Carter suffered a season-ending Achilles’ injury on the initial drive. In what was perhaps a career-defining season, this was very unfortunate.

-Markus Golden woke up for the first time in 2020. He had 3 tackles, a half-sack, and 2 pressures on a season-high 57 snaps. He will now be the feature edge guy with both Carter and Oshane Ximines out (Ximines may return from IR at some point). It is possible we start to see some Carter Coughlin on the edge and/or Cam Brown inside if they opt to move Fackrell to full-time starter outside.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-As stout as this defensive line can be at times, I was disappointed with their performance against a beat up DAL offensive line. Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams both lacked difference-making plays and came up short in key situations. Neither got any pressure on the passer either.

-Dalvin Tomlinson was solid. He had 6 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 sack. He really is a fine player who would be getting a lot more attention if this team was winning games. He lines up in multiple spots, has a lot of contact presence, and makes plays away from the ball often.

LINEBACKER

-Kyler Fackrell was the highlight of the defense in this one. He finished with 3 tackles, 1 TFL, and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. The athletic ability he showed on that play was big time and it made me think if he had some potential as a tight end back in the day. Obviously that isn’t a move you make now, but his speed and agility combined with that power and his frame just gave me that impression. Solid game for him that and he has the tool set to make a full time move to the spot vacated by Carter.

-Blake Martinez has been lights out since signing with NYG. You can’t expect a good game every single week, thus this was his first negative grade. He finished with 7 tackles and did recover as fumble, but elsewhere he just gave up too much in the running game. He was also targeted in the middle of the field multiple times. DAL had a lot of success throwing at him.

-Tae Crowder got the start and finished with 5 tackles, playing 74% of the snaps. With Carter out, I think we are going to see more of him as Fackrell will see more snaps at OLB. I expect to see some Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin as well. The only thing that could get in their way is the return of David Mayo, which is still up in the air.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry shut down Amari Cooper (2 rec / 23 yards) as well as anyone we’ve seen since Cooper was acquired via trade in 2018. Really good game by him when watching the All-22 angle. He was never fooled or off balance.

-Darnay Holmes continues to play fast and physical. He had 3 tackles, 2 pass break ups, and a half-sack. As aggressive as he plays, he is still missing tackles that really hurts this defense. He needs to clean that up.

-Ryan Lewis had an up and down game. He was beat by Michael Gallup late, which led to the DAL game-winning field goal, but he did an OK job in coverage. He simply got beat by a perfect throw and outstanding play on the ball by Gallup. Lewis was beat by Lamb a couple times but overall it was a solid game. He just seemed to get beat when it mattered most.

SAFETY

-Jabrill Peppers was back on the field after missing a game early with an ankle injury. His snaps were limited, playing just over a third of them. He ended with 5 tackles including 1 TFL. He was really active and explosive against the run and made some plays late to keep DAL from making gains outside.

-Logan Ryan is a player you really appreciate if your team is winning. He does so many little things that other defensive backs do not. He led the team with 9 tackles and came up with a few really tough solo tackles on Elliott. He is smart, instinctive, and versatile.

-Adrian Colbert started for Julian Love, but continued to give NYG lackluster play at that position, notably in coverage. He also added 2 personal foul penalties. Love appears to have fallen out of favor with this coaching staff rather quickly.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 4/4 (Made 55, 50, 54, 28). Gano is now 13 for 14 on the year.

-P Riley Dixon: 2 punts / 52.0 avg / 50.5 net

3 STUDS

-WR Darius Slayton, LB Kyler Fackrell, K Graham Gano

3 DUDS

-OT Andrew Thomas, OT Cameron Fleming, WR Damion Ratley

3 THOUGHTS ON DALLAS

  1. It was really tough to see Dak Prescott to go down the way he did. Competitive advantage aside, you hate to see a guy like that in a year where he has had some documented off-field issues, go down the way he did. The question will be asked in the coming months: Is that the last time we see him in a Cowboys uniform? Initially my thought is he will be back on a one-year prove-it deal, but when you look at how big the QB market may be this upcoming offseason, someone may still offer him a multi-year deal.
  1. There may not be a team that has been bit by the injury bug harder than DAL. Three starting offensive linemen, a starting tight end, their best linebacker, a starting corner, a rotational LB, and both starting defensive tackles. Now they lose their starting quarterback? Ouch. Mike McCarthy will get a pass for whatever happens this season in his first year as their head coach. If they still end up winning some games, he will look like a genius.
  1. I’ve always been a fan of having a legit, quality backup quarterback behind the starter. As much as it hurts to lose Prescott, Dalton is going to keep this team on a similar level. Watch. He has 72 career wins (with CIN) including a 41-26 career record at home. Dalton never really regressed over his career. He simply just couldn’t seem to take the next step up to elevate players around him. However, he was never a guy who just couldn’t get it done. DAL will shift their offensive focus and overall plan a bit, but that side of the ball is still loaded with weapons.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Let’s not give the Giants offense credit for putting up 34 points. 7 of them came from Kyler Fackrell’s interception and another touchdown scoring drive started at the DAL 17-yard line. This team still averaged 3.3 yards per carry (the worst rushing team in the NFL averages 3.5 per game). This team still averaged 6.7 yards per passing attempt (the 10th worst passing offense in the NFL averages 6.8 per game). This kind of production against a banged-up defense that had allowed the most points in the NFL is just awful.
  1. I will give the Giants coaching staff some credit for at least trying to get a little innovative, trying to create points from outside of the normal game plan. The flea flicker, the fake field goal attempt, the reverses to Engram, etc. It did not help them win but I do like the idea that these coaches will think outside the box. Remember, Joe Judge is 38 years old and has never been a head coach. This is a growing experience for him as well.
  1. The trade deadline is coming really fast and everyone knows how strongly I feel about the draft and doing it right. If there is a way to get extra picks (even if they are day three), this is the way to get them without selling your competitive integrity. There are three guys I would strongly consider trading who I also believe will have a market for their services. First is Engram. During the game, I again thought “if a real offensive mind got their hands on Engram he could be a monster.” (BUF?/ARI?/SF?) I feel strongly about that and if someone offers a 3rd- or 4th-round pick, I say pull the trigger. Second is Peppers. He is locked in for another year at a decent cap rate. If a defense can find a run-and-chase role for Peppers (BAL?/IND?/NE?), he can be an important role player. He isn’t someone you build a defense around or give too much to assignment wise, but he is a guy who brings energy and will make things happen on talent alone. You can hide his issues if you have a good defense around him. Lastly, I do think there is a market for Tomlinson. The question remains, however, if you want him here long term to build around. He won’t be a game-changer, but he is a really solid and reliable player. I bet someone offers a middle round pick for him. If NYG thinks they don’t want to add more money resources to the DL spot with Williams and Lawrence already here, I think a contender with DL issues could take him (KC?/LV?/DAL?).
Oct 062020
 
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Leonard Williams and James Bradberry, New York Giants (October 4, 2020)

Leonard Williams and James Bradberry – © USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams 17 – New York Giants 9

QUICK RECAP

After being embarrassed by the Niners JV team at home in Week 3, the 0-3 Giants were back on the road, flying across country to play in the brand new, stunning stadium that hosts both the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers. Their opponent was the former coming in after a 2-1 start where they averaged 30 points per game. The Giants, on the other hand, came in with the last-ranked offense in the league and having not won an out-of-division road game since mid-November of 2018.

This one began right where the abysmal performance last week ended. NYG began with the ball and ran three plays: a drop, a sack, and passing play that lost 7 yards. The Rams then nickel-and-dimed their way up the field via a 12-play drive with little-to-no resistance from the Giants defense. Tight end Gerald Everett scored on a 2-yard touchdown run and the Rams had the quick lead that they never let go of.

The NYG offensive line got absolutely pummeled on the next drive, with Andrew Thomas and Kevin Zeitler being the main culprits. They punted following a 3rd-and-27 play that netted 8 yards. On the very first play of the Rams ensuing drive, Everett caught a short pass over the middle and had the ball jarred loose by the pursuing defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, which was recovered by cornerback James Bradberry. NYG began the drive on the LAR 34-yard line. They did get into the red zone but a 2-yard loss on a passing play followed by a Zeitler false start put them in 3rd-and-long on their final play of the drive for the third time in as many drives. Fortunately, because of the starting field position, NYG was still able to put 3 points on the board via a 35-yard field goal by Graham Gano.

The Rams went three-and-out on their next drive, but then so did NYG. The Giants line continued to look overmatched, allowing two straight sacks. The Rams then went on another long drive, this one 15 plays, to put up another 3 points on the board. Their running game started to take over a bit but a theme we saw from the NYG defense for the rest of the afternoon arose on this drive. The Rams got to 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line but the following three plays netted -10 yards. They settled for a 32-yard field goal to make it 10-3. The Giants then ended the half with a quality, clock-efficient drive that saw them convert 3-out-of-3 third-down conversions. Gano put a 37 yarder through the uprights and they were down just 4 points at halftime despite gaining just 67 net yards in the first half.

As ugly as it has been this season and as much as I have a personal belief into not putting a lot of credit on moral victories, we saw something positive happen early in the second half. As NYG stopped the Rams and on their first offensive drive, a fight broke out between center Nick Gates and LAR star defensive tackle (and arguably the top defensive player in the NFL) Aaron Donald. It wasn’t a push and a shove. It wasn’t just trash talk. These two were going at it pretty aggressively. Gates, a third-year undrafted free agent who wouldn’t start on nearly any team in the league against Donald, a perennial All Pro and Defensive Player of the Year candidate. It struck some extra life into the Giants on both sides of the ball. No, there wasn’t a dramatic touchdown at the end of this drive (NYG made it to the LAR 43 and punted) but there was a different feel to both sides of the ball after that scuffle.

Two drives later, NYG made their way into the red zone but a string of positive plays was cancelled out by an illegal formation and false start penalty, respectively. They had to settle for another field goal, this one from 27, to make it a one-point game. NYG had all of the momentum and this one appeared it would come down to the field position game and which offense could come up with the big play. NYG then forced another 3-and-out but came up short on their own next offensive drive even though Wayne Gallman’s longest run of his career (26 yards) got them to midfield.

The Rams began their next drive with just under 10 minutes left, and on 3rd-and-3 from their own 45-yard line, the solid Giants defense had a break in coverage. Cooper Kupp made his way up the seam with nobody covering the deep middle. Goff found him and Kupp made his way into the end zone thanks to the miscommunication and a badly missed tackle by Bradberry. This was the big play I talked about someone needing. It was 17-9 with about 7 minutes left.

The Giants had two possessions left. They made it into LAR territory both times, but two inaccurate Jones’ throws ended both drives. The first one was on a 4th-and-11 where he air-mailed one to Golden Tate. The second one was a forced 2nd-and-5 pass with one minute left that ended up in the arms of LAR corner Darious Williams. Jones had an easy first down run in front of him but he made the wrong decision and it cost them a shot at tying it up.

NYG loses, 17-9.

QUARTERBACK

Daniel Jones: 23-36 / 190 yards / 0 TD-1 INT / 65.7 RAT

Jones was once again the team leader in rushing with 45 yards (Gallman also added 45 yards). It was a brave effort for Jones, notably in the second half. He made some big plays with his legs and had NYG won this game, it would be discussed more. After a full career of watching an immobile quarterback in Eli Manning, this is a new way to gain yards for this team. Is it better? Or will it end up being better? Jones is still very late to see things and he wasn’t doing the offensive line any favors in the first half with how long he was holding onto the ball. 177 of Jones’ total yards came in the second half but we still aren’t seeing him make much happen with his arm in relation to downfield and/or big-time throws. He scrambled his way to his biggest plays which in a simple world means just as much as making plays through the air. But how sustainable is that? Quarterbacks need to be throwers first and second, and a runner third (unless your name is Lamar Jackson). Right now, Jones is overly reliant on scrambling and this team needs to hope that doesn’t become the crutch he constantly relies upon.

RUNNING BACK

-Devonta Freeman and Wayne Gallman appear to be the ideal 1-2 punch this team needs to move forward with. They combined for 78 yards on 17 carries. There isn’t anything spectacular about that but Gallman had the biggest run of the day (also the second longest gain for NYG) and Freeman earned some tough yards. Freeman ran with more confidence in this game and as I said last week, I expect him to hit full stride after another game. He started to show some extra bounce and pop in the second half. I am excited to see how far he can take it.

-Dion Lewis was on the field for more snaps than Gallman but I think that has more to do with this coaching staff trusting him more in pass protection. He did have a nice 10-yard gain for a first down to convert a 3rd-and-10. In terms of upside and this team actually scoring touchdowns, however, Gallman gives them more hope.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate caught four passes for only 20 yards. Jones missed him badly on two occasions. Darius Slayton led the team with 48 yards but caught just 3 balls. 33 of those yards came on one play, the vast majority of which were after the catch. He was a non-factor most of the afternoon and was clearly overmatched by the LAR outside corners, Troy Hill and Jalen Ramsey. Damion Ratley added 34 yards on 3 catches and C.J. Board dropped his lone target.

-This offense is starving for more talent at wide receiver. Tate is an underneath threat only who will occasionally make a play with his feet after the catch, and Slayton has been badly exposed over the past 3 weeks.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram opened the game with a drop. He ended up with 35 yards on 6 catches, leading the team with 10 targets. It seems to me that every week we see Engram’s elite physical tool flash just to be disappointed by the fact that he simply he isn’t a very good football player. Perhaps he can thrive in the right scheme and situation, but it has been a maddening to follow him throughout his rookie contract. Engram also allowed a half-sack and was the reason for another TFL, even though it wasn’t his man who made the actual tackle.

-Kaden Smith added a catch for 10 yards, playing about a third of the snaps. He was flagged for a false start in the first half as well. Is Smith a better TE than Engram simply because you know what you’re getting and he will be much cheaper against the cap? He runs like has cement blocks attaches to his feet, however, and his blocking isn’t dominant or anything close to it. This really has evolved into a position of weakness.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The first half may have been the worst offensive line showing we have seen in years, and that is really saying something. This group got pummeled and rookie Andrew Thomas was a main culprit. Thomas tied for the worst grade I’ve given to the position since I started charting the NYG offensive line. He allowed 2.5 sacks, 2 pressures, and allowed a TFL. The most alarming truth about it? It was different guys who kept beating him. Sometimes a pass rusher simply has a specific blocker’s number. Not this time. Thomas was getting beat by multiple guys as if they were taking turns against him, knowing that was the easy access point. He did play better in the second half but there is no denying the fact he just isn’t sustaining good contact.

-Sticking with the negatives, Kevin Zeitler had a negative grade. He allowed a TFL, 1 pressure, and was flagged for a false start. Four weeks in and I will go on record now saying he is now a shell of what he used to be and the end may be closer than we thought for him. He just doesn’t get the knee bend and he just doesn’t shift laterally like he used to.

-As for the positives, Nick Gates and Will Hernandez did a fine job containing Aaron Donald when they faced off against him. I’ve been vocal about Gates and his poor play that has led to the inside running game woes. I will say this, however: his level of play has improved weekly. At the end of the day, that is all you want to see from a young player who is playing a new position. Is he the answer long term? My guess is no. However, I do think he can be valuable as a versatile backup. Hernandez and right tackle Cam Fleming each allowed a pressure but were graded above average as run blockers. They also seemed to turn it up a notch after the Gates-Donald fight.

EDGE

-It was a really quiet day by the edge group, the biggest weakness on this team by far. Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and Markus Golden were on the field for a combined 72 plays. They combined for 1 pressure, 1 tackle, and 2 assists. Ouch.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-The Giants held the Rams to a season low 240 total yards and 58 rushing yards. In fact, only three teams have held the Rams that low since the start of Sean McVay’s tenure as Head Coach in 2017. The 2019 Ravens (4th-ranked NFL defense), the 2019 Niners (2nd-ranked NFL defense), and the 2018 Bears (1st-ranked NFL defense). It really was an admirable effort and it was led by Dexter Lawrence. LAR averaged 2.5 yards per carry largely because of how well he played. He had 6 tackles, 2 TFL, and a QB hit. Re-watching the game, it was clear just how dominant he was.

-Leonard Williams was active against the run, finishing with 5 tackles and he has Lawrence to thank for a few of them. Williams was neutralized as a pass rusher, however. He gave NYG nothing there in this one.

-Anthony Johnson made a big impact on the game despite only playing 13 snaps (23%). He had a sack and a forced fumble on a good hustle play that was recovered by NYG and led to their first 3 points of the day. Dalvin Tomlinson had 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and a pass deflection.

LINEBACKER

-Best game of the year so far for Kyler Fackrell. Remember, this guy had 10 sacks just two years ago. He had 4 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 sack. He really is an ideal fit for the BUCK linebacker position, a spot that can be used as an edge defender as well as an extra inside linebacker. Really hard player to find and he fits that role like a glove. He came up with a big game after coming up short last week against SF.

-Blake Martinez continues to fly around and pile up the tackles. You know he is good when making 13 tackles, 1 for a loss, simply seems routine. Martinez made the right decision to get on a defense that has this kind of presence along the defensive line. He goes untouched often, knows when to pounce, and he is a true finisher. Watching him play just reinforces the notion that the team has been lacking at linebacker for far too long.

-Tae Crowder saw the first action of his NFL career. After Devante Downs, who has struggled, missed a tackle on the first drive, Crowder came on the field and it was easy to see how much faster he is. He had 2 tackles and was mere inches away from an interception. He out-snapped Downs 33-3. I think it is safe to say we have a new, young linebacker to watch in the coming months.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry had a good game in coverage and he did recover a first quarter fumble that led to 3 points for NYG. However, he missed a tackle on the 4th quarter Cooper Kupp touchdown that made it an 8-point game. In addition, he did a poor job setting the edge against the run on a couple of occasions.

-Corey Ballentine didn’t see one snap at cornerback. Ryan Lewis stepped in as the main man on the outside opposite of Bradberry and had a solid game. Like Isaac Yiadom, he gives a ton of cushion which LAR took advantage of on 3rd down a couple times. Darnay Holmes remained at nickel and had an uneventful day, but he did struggle to set the edge on 2 runs.

SAFETY

-Logan Ryan and Adrian Colbert played the majority of the snaps at safety. They did a nice job defending the deep ball, as Goff wanted to go downfield a few times but they locked things up right away.

-Julian Love saw a decrease in snaps and he was the likely guilty culprit on the Kupp touchdown where it was clear there was a coverage breakdown. I can’t say for sure but looking at what everyone else was doing on the defense, I think it was Love who guessed wrong.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 3/3 (Made 35, 37, 27)

-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 43.2 avg / 40.0 net

3 STUDS

-DT Dexter Lawrence, LB Kyler Fackrell, LB Blake Martinez

3 DUDS

-OT Andrew Thomas, OG Kevin Zeitler, S Julian Love

3 THOUGHTS ON LAR

  1. When you really break down the LAR offense, it is amazing how simple the concepts are. They really don’t do much to try and trick you and there are elements to it that are woefully predictable. It is refreshing to watch, really. It comes down to simple execution and the offensive line doing their job.
  1. If there is one weakness to this team that is going to prevent them from getting back to their 2018 form, it is that offensive line. It is an under-manned group full of average players but lacking a guy who can consistently win one on one. Even Andrew Whitworth, a likely Hall of Famer, has lost some of his juice. They’ve put a lot of mid-round draft resources into the group and they are “good enough” to get the job done and they have quality depth. However, I think they need one more stud there and it will be tough to acquire because of how much money they have tied up elsewhere.
  1. LAR has gone against the grain a bit in terms of how they are building their roster. Jared Goff has the 3rd-highest QB cap number, Aaron Donald has highest DT cap number, Jalen Ramsey has the highest CB cap number. It is great to be able to hold onto all of them but that is going to put a ton of pressure on their drafting in the coming years. That will make or break the success of this team in the next 5 years.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. We are 16 games into Daniel Jones career. You can’t call it “one season” because he has had 2 offseason programs with the team. If the Giants keep losing and he keeps turning the ball over, the ongoing discussion will be whether or not you give up on a quarterback if Trevor Lawrence is there for the taking. I think it is too soon to go down that path but let’s take a look at how he and Eli Manning stack up after 16 games. It may shed some light on the need for understanding patience and realizing the turmoil of this team over the past 3-4 seasons may be unfairly dampening your view on Jones himself. Remember, just wait until the end of the year to even think about what NYG will do at the position.
    • Jones: 375- 608 (61.7%) / 3,916 yds (6.4 y/a) / 26 TD – 17 INT / 21 fumbles / 82.9 RAT
    • Manning: 251-503 (50%) / 3,145 yds (6.2 y/a) / 21 TD – 18 INT / 3 fumbles / 68.7 RAT
  1. In this weeks version of, “We still have a chance…” I steer the bus down the divisional road. This is where the season really starts for NYG. I don’t think it is any secret that 7-8 wins for any team in this division will be good enough to create meaningful football in November and December. The division games are always more important but when you know nobody is going to run away with it, they are even more so. DAL has 1 win. WAS has 1 win. PHI has 1 win. Five of NYG’s next six games are against the NFC East. This is THE stretch of the season.
  1. Every year I wait four weeks before I start to put significant labels on teams. I always feel the NFL media and fans are way too knee-jerk with their reactions. Humans tend to lack confidence in expressing their own opinions, therefore causing people to exaggerate in the hopes that others will listen to them. Through four weeks, I think you can really gain a pulse on the teams and put together a credible forecast. My feeling for NYG is a young team that will give different players and different groupings a shot each week with the idea that a few will show they belong here in the coming years. Are they trying to win? Sure. However, I think Judge cares much more about this team’s long-term plans. He wants to know who can help this team in 2021. I say this because, I don’t think fans should be stressing about wins and losses as much as they have during the final years of Manning’s career. Yes, it is hard to watch at times and the “you never know” mantra lives on, but I would challenge some of you to watch the game through the different light. Look for things that will help next year (example from this game being DT Lawrence / LB Crowder / LB Martinez).
Sep 292020
 
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Leonard Williams, New York Giants (September 27, 2020)

Leonard Williams – © USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers 36 – New York Giants 9

QUICK RECAP

After a dominant win at MetLife Stadium over the New York Jets in Week 2, the San Francisco 49ers made the East Coast their home as they prepped for their Week 3 contest against NYG at the same place, same time, a week later. The 0-2 Giants would normally have little-to-no shot against the defending NFC Champions but thanks to a Niners’ injury report that looked like a starting roster, there was some hope they could get a number in the win column by sneaking their way to a victory.

Nick Mullens, a former undrafted free agent with a career record of 3-5 (0-3 on the road), was under center as starting quarterback as Jimmy Garoppolo was out with an ankle injury. Mullens made his second career start at home against NYG in 2018, a game he and the Niners lost 27-23.

He led the 1-1 Niners to an opening drive that put up 3 points on the board via a 52-yard field goal by the ageless Robbie Gould. On the ensuing drive, Daniel Jones was charged with a lost fumble on the Giants opening drive for the second time in as many weeks. This one was on a failed “trick” play where he simply misplaced his pitch to Evan Engram who was coming across the line for a reverse. SF began the drive on the NYG 42-yard line and traveled 28 yards on 12 plays, a theme of the day I will discuss later, and put 3 more points on the board via a 32-yard field goal on a play where NYG safety Jabrill Peppers was injured (he did not return).

Down 6-0, Jones and the offense came back on the field and the first quarter was over after two plays. There were 28 snaps in the first quarter, just 8 of them belonged to NYG. Jones, the NYG leading rusher by a landslide on the day, gained 19 yards, putting them into SF territory for the first time. The offense stalled there after newest Giant Devonta Freeman got his first touches in NYG blue, but Graham Gano nailed a 52-yard field goal to make it a 3-point game. Gould missed a 55-yard attempt on the next drive, giving NYG good field position in which they took advantage of. Gano nailed another long field goal attempt, this one from 42 yards, to tie it up at 6.

The Giants defense was needed here. They needed to make a play, sack the quarterback, or both. Leonard Williams came up with the sack to force a 3rd-and-22 from the SF 44-yard line. The Giants were about to get the ball back with the score tied, as Mullens found tight end Jordan reed for a 7 yard dump off against the NYG prevent defense. However, arguably the most painful mistake of the game gave SF a fresh set of downs rather than a punt. Rookie Darnay Holmes, whom certainly had a game to forget, was flagged for an illegal contact. The Niners got to start over at midfield. Five plays later, Jerick McKinnon was trotting into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. Instead of NYG having the ball tied at 6, they were down 13-6. Then, the bleeding just got worse.

On the second play of the next drive, Jones threw it behind Evan Engram (another theme of the day) and right into the arms of Niners linebacker Fred Warner. This turned into another 3 points for SF via a 26-yard field goal by Gould. This ended the first half, 16-6 San Francisco.

The first possession of the second half when you’re losing is often vital. NYG has shown at least some ability to adjust during halftime and this one started no different. Jones gained 23 yards and 7 yards on two running plays, they converted a 4th-and-2 from midfield, and put themselves into the red zone for the first time via yet another big Jones run, this one for 17 yards. However, that one was nullified by a Darius Slayton hold. NYG shot themselves in the foot, just as a bad team always seems to do. They settled for a 47-yard field goal by Gano which, at least, made it a one score game.

The Niners, also a team that makes adjustments well at halftime, came out with their own tone-setting possession and one-upped NYG. They scored a touchdown on a 19-yard reverse by rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk. It was 23-9 and SF had completely owned the time of possession battle, they had all of the momentum, and NYG was staring 0-3 right in the face. They were faced with a 4th-and-1 from their own 30-yard line. They opted to go for it on a QB sneak that looked bleak to say the least, as SF jammed four defensive linemen as close to each other as possible as if they knew what was coming. The attempt came up just inches short, giving SF the ball just 30 yards away from the end zone. It took just four plays for SF to turn that field position into a touchdown on a 19-yard screen pass to the SF fourth string running back, Jeff Wilson. The SF lead grew to 20 as the game was now entering the 4th quarter.

Following three straight incomplete passes by Jones, SF forced another punt before putting together another marathon drive, this one 15 plays long, that ended with Wilson crossing the goal line again on a 2-yard run. 36-9 with under 4 minutes to play.

The final NYG drive of the day ended in a Darius Slayton fumble, the third NYG turnover of the day. Mullens then went onto take three knees to solidify their JV win over the opposing varsity.

Giants lose 36-9

QUARTERBACK

Daniel Jones: 17-32 / 179 yards / 0 TD – 1 INT

Jones’ brightest impact on the day came on the ground. He gained 49 yards on just 5 carries, the most on the team. Through 3 weeks, Jones has 92 yards on the ground. Not only is he the leading rusher on NYG but he has 14 more yards than EVERY other ball carrier on the team COMBINED. Abysmal. In the air, Jones had a pretty poor day throwing the ball. He was behind his target four times and the most glaring weakness I noted in my scouting report in 2019 is showing up too often. He is late to see things and that half-second hesitation in combination with slightly inaccurate throws is leading to problems. Add in the fact he added two more turnovers to his resume, we are looking at a near-bottom level to his career at this point. It is still early and I look forward to seeing how he bounces back, but he needs to better. There isn’t enough help around him, we all know that. But “keep it simple, stupid”…he needs to be better.

RUNNING BACK

This was a really ugly day for the Giants running back committee. Wayne Gallman had 7 yards on 4 carries and 7 yards on 2 catches. Dion Lewis had 1 catch for 10 yards and a carry that netted nothing. The newly-signed Devonta Freeman tied for the team lead 5 carries and ended up with 10 yards. As I said last week, I wouldn’t expect much out of him for the first 2-3 weeks but I do think NYG is going to get something out of him. He showed some juice on his 3rd-and-1 running attempt and he is a guy who will play with a lot to prove. Make no mistake, he will be the NYG feature back within a month and in a year where it looks like it will be hard to watch, I look forward to that.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate: 5 rec / 36 yards

Tate was one of two players who was targeted 7 times. 18 of his 36 yards came on his first catch, meaning his next 4 catches averaged under 5 yards per. He really needs to be in a more efficient offensive scheme where the timing is better. He can initially get open but defensive backs close the gap on him in a hurry. Combine that with Jones just being a little late to see things, Tate really is close to useless unless this scheme and Jones improve. I wonder if there will be a trade market for him.

-Darius Slayton: 3 rec / 53 yards.

Slayton lost a fumble on the Giants final play. It didn’t impact the game at all but it still goes down in the books as a turnover. I’ll be honest, after a strong Week 1 against Pittsburgh, Slayton hasn’t impressed over the past 2 games. He is still struggling off the line and his playing strength is an issue. He will be the team’s number one guy, but I’ m not sure he is a true number one guy. Add that to the team-needs list.

-Damion Ratley and C.J. Board saw more snaps this week but each saw just 2 targets. Ratley brought in the biggest gain of the day of 29 yards, albeit on the final drive where few-to-nobody cared.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 3 rec / 22 yards

Engram came up with two key first down conversions, one of which came on 4th down. He also dropped a pass. Otherwise, a fairly quiet day for him. They haven’t been sending him up the seam much, something I think negates what his true talent is, that is, straight-line burst and speed. I want to see him going downfield more often.

-Kaden Smith had 13 yards on his lone catch. He was on the field for a third of the snaps as NYG continues to be one of the league leaders in multiple-tight end personnel usages. I do think it would be a beneficial idea if these tight ends were better at sustaining blocks in the running game. We know Engram isn’t going to be a factor there, but Smith’s struggles this season, and on Sunday in particular, on the edge have been a key weakness in the team’s running game. Smith allowed a TFL in this one.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Rookie Andrew Thomas came away with the worst grade of the group. He has weakened as the quality of his opponents have lessened, which is odd. Life as a rookie in the NFL, I suppose as teams get more and more tape to analyze and pick apart. He allowed 3 pressures, 1 sack, and 1 TFL in addition to being flagged for a false start. I tried to really pinpoint where his losses were coming from and my best guess revolves around the coordination, or lack thereof, between his feet and hands. They were not working in unison with one another and it led to some ugly beats. He took a direct helmet hit to his shin late and came off the field, but I don’t think that turns into anything serious. He will be fine. Fellow rookie Matt Peart got his feet wet with a couple uneventful snaps.

-Right Tackle Cameron Fleming allowed 2 pressures, 1 sack, and was beat badly on a running play that led to a TFL. Fleming graded poorly for the third week in a row but as I said prior to the year, expectations for him couldn’t be high. He is a career swing guy and won’t ever be more than that. I am sticking to my belief that Peart will be starting over there by midseason.

-Inside, once again, was a less than admirable performance. Will Hernandez allowed 3 pressures, way too many for a guard. Two of them were created by stunts/twists where he just can’t seem to move well enough laterally to catch up. This has been an issue for him since Week 1 of 2018. Nick Gates and Kevin Zeitler stayed off of the stat sheet but neither even reached an average grade. Gates gave up too much ground and was found touching nobody on far too many plays. Zeitler, for the third week, looks overly slow and stiff. He can’t get across guys and that is a major reason why this running game just can’t seem to get going. The backside pursuit is always there because Zeitler can’t cut anyone off. I’m alarmed by this.

EDGE

-Lorenzo Carter appears to be one of the very few bright spots on the team. By no means is he filling up the stat sheet but for three straight games he is making an impact. He had a pass break up, a TFL, and a pressure to go along with his 2 tackles. There is still a ways to go here, but one positive gain I’ve seen with him is what I call contact presence. He is making his presence felt when he comes in contact with ball carriers and blockers alike.

-Oshane Ximines seems to be ahead of Markus Golden on the depth chart for good. He finished with 5 tackles but also missed 1. He was uneventful as a pass rusher but there was a play where he, literally, sent Niners tackle Mike McGlinchey airborne and onto the ground. That was a really nice display of power by him. Golden looks worse than we have seen him throughout his NYG tenure. He lacks juice, doesn’t have secondary moves, and gets swallowed by blockers in the running game.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Leonard Williams put in a really solid effort from start to finish.  Say what you want about the trade (something that can’t be held against Williams), he is constantly on of the highest-effort players on the defense. In addition, he ended with 5 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, and 1 pressure. When this kid gets single-teamed, he almost always wins.  This defense needs to find a way to get him on an island against blockers more often.

-Dalvin Tomlinson finished with a positive grade as well. He had 5 tackles, 2 TFL, and 2 pressures. His north/south game has looked outstanding. He gets out of his stance in a hurry with powerful movement and punch. He still looks too stiff when adjusting and reacting laterally but you can’t ask for too much here. Really solid player that does a ton of dirty work but now he is consistently stepping up to make impact plays.

-Dexter Lawrence had a rough game. When SF began to run the ball well, Lawrence was often the culprit. He usually holds his ground well but he got shifted side to side too often, opening up running lanes.

LINEBACKER

-If there is one MVP to the season so far, it is unequivocally Blake Martinez. He finished with 9 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, and 1 pressure. He fits the defensive front seven like a glove. A guy who reads the initial action so well, scrapes over the top, and knows when to fill. His best trait we’ve seen on display, besides intelligence, is how good of a finisher he is. When he gets there, the play is over.

-Kyler Fackrell and Devante Downs may not play the same exact position or role, but no matter where you want to label them, both struggled in this one. Downs was torched in coverage several times. He just has no feel in that department. Fackrell added 4 tackles and physical play but also missed 2. He had zero success as a pass rusher.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry, the other free agent signing who has paid early dividends to this Giants team, finished with 3 tackles and 3 pass break ups. His length and timing have been superb. He looks like a keeper. Logan Ryan had an up-and-down game with 2 pass break ups, a QB hit, and 7 tackles. He is a physical guy. However, he missed 2 tackles and got caught in no-man’s land in coverage on more than one occasion.

-The rest of the cornerback group was maddening to watch. Darnay Holmes had an awful day. He was targeted multiple times on 3rd down and SF was a near-100% success rate when throwing at him. He doesn’t have the speed to react physically and I don’t see him making any quality reads.

-Isaac Yiadom really hurt this defense in the second half. After a nice pass break up in the end zone early, he was allowing so much separation underneath and SF just nickel-and-dimed their way up the field because of it. They didn’t attempt one deep ball the entire game, yet Yiadom was playing like he was scared to get beat deep. He had a 3rd-and-2 assignment where he allowed 9 yards between him and the line of scrimmage post-snap with no underneath help. The result? Easy first down. He did this twice. Unacceptable from a veteran.

SAFETY

-While Julian Love did lead the team with 11 tackles, I thought he played poorly. Safeties need to take the right angles when pursuing to the outside. He didn’t. One of them resulted in a McKinnon touchdown. He lacks presence as a tackler and he doesn’t seem to get to where he needs to be in coverage. Time for him to grow up. If he is going to play the run like that, he needs to make up for it by making plays in coverage.

-Jabrill Peppers left the game early with an ankle injury.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 3/3 (Made 52, 42, 47)

-P Riley Dixon: 1 punt / 54.0 avg / 54.0 net

3 STUDS

-LB Blake Martinez, DT Leonard Williams, K Graham Gano

3 DUDS

-OT Andrew Thomas, LB Devante Downs, CB Darnay Holmes

3 THOUGHTS ON SF

  1. I can’t give enough credit to this organization as a whole, notable their Head Coach and General Manager. There is something to those two guys (Shanahan and Lynch) starting their tenure with the team at the same time. Success can be, and has been, had in different ways when it comes to the General Manager/Head Coach relationship, but I think the ideal way to set this up is to have them start the new vision at the same moment. These guys are on the same line of the same page every week of every year. Respect.
  1. When you have such a deep roster filled with elite level talents (Kittle/Bosa/Warner/Williams to name a few) and they are backed up by quality players you draft in all rounds, it opens the door for risk taking on oft-injured players. Some teams do it and hope to get lucky that these guys come in and revert to their former every-down ways. Not elite personnel decision makers. The Niners took injury related risks on TE Jordan Reed, CB Jason Verrett, RB Jerick McKinnon, and OT Trent Williams. If they pan out, their team has an overly-stacked feel to it. If they don’t pan out, their fall back plans are just fine.
  1. Can SF be one of the rare teams that has playoff success following a Super Bowl loss? More often than not, a team that loses the Super Bowl regresses a lot. This team lost a few big parts from their NFC Championship team, but I think these guys are heading toward 11-12 wins at least. Their personnel is good and deep and their coaching is, literally, top shelf.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. I thought about this for a while and confirmed it in my own mind. In my opinion, this is the worst loss I’ve seen NYG have in over a decade. Now, I know this NYG team has low expectations but they were up against a team that was missing or lost their #1 QB, #1 and #2 RB, #1 and #2 TE, #1 WR, #1 OC, # 1 and #3 EDGE, #1 DT, #2 LB, and #1, #2 CB, and #3 CB. To put that into perspective, lets act like the Giants were playing without Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Dion Lewis, Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, Sterling Shepard, Nick Gates, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Leonard Williams, Devante Downs (maybe not a bad thing), James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, and Corey Ballentine. Imagine having none of those guys. Then going across the country and beating a team 36-9. SF didn’t punt the ball once. Last time they did that, Steve Young was their QB and Jerry Rice was their top wideout. They had drives of 10, 12, 12, and 15. They were successful on 67% of their 3rd downs. The drives they didn’t reach 10+ plays were simply because they scored or they ran out of time. It doesn’t get much worse than that in my book.
  1. If the Giants continue on this path (heading toward one of the league’s worst records) and Daniel Jones remains a turnover machine, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be banging the table for one of the likely elite QB prospects coming out. In today’s NFL, having a true stud back there is near-vital to sustained success. While one could make the argument that NYG isn’t ready for a “start-over” at that position, I lean the other way. There are pieces in place (OT, RB, LB, CB) and they will have plenty of money to spend. The draft is a long ways off but it hard to neglect the mere thought.
  1. Now, back to some reassuring talk. We knew this season was likely a long shot for NYG. A first time head coach. A young roster that we knew had several holes. A quarterback who had yet to start 16 games. We want this season to show eventual signs of progress by the time January rolls around. We want to see some young players step up who they can use to build around for the future. Look at the Dolphins a year ago, who started a new tenure with a young, former Patriots assistant as well. They began 0-3 with a deficit of 133-16 (NYG is currently at 79-38) . It didn’t get much better until the second half of the season. By no means are they a contender yet but they are building pieces and finding talent to use down the road. They went on a spending spree this past offseason and should have their shiny new QB ready to rock next season around a solid roster. My comparison is this: NYG fans are going to have to accept poor football this year in all likelihood. Maybe the NFC East being down can keep things interesting, but the point remains, they are 1-2 years away unless they are miraculously lucky. That is simply the truth and the way it is. Everybody is sick of hearing “be patient”…but when Judge was brought in, that was the number one thought that came to mind. We are in the process. Look for the small positives that this team can feed off of in the coming years.
Sep 212020
 
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James Bradberry, New York Giants (September 20, 2020)

James Bradberry – © USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears 17 – New York  Giants 13

QUICK RECAP

Less than 6 days after the Giants Week 1 loss, they had to travel to Chicago on short rest to face off against the 1-0 Bears. The two historic franchises have split their contests over the past two seasons, with CHI taking the 2019 match-up 19-14. The Bears came in riding high after a huge 4th quarter comeback in Detroit Week 1 as they aimed to sit atop the NFC North after this one. Also a team that has been trying to gain their true identity over the past few seasons under Head Coach Matt Nagy, the Bears have a lot of pieces in place when comparing them to the Giants on the field.

The theme of the day, notably in the first half, for the NYG defense was a clear inability to make stops on third down. It began right away, as CHI went 4-for-4 on the opening drive. The fourth conversion resulted in points after David Montgomery took a 3rd-and-7 catch from the sideline to midfield after a lateral cut that fooled nearly half the NYG defense. CHI took the early lead and then NYG, on their first 3rd down conversion attempt, turned the ball over as the newly-signed Robert Quinn forced a Daniel Jones fumble, giving CHI the ball back just 20 yards away from the end zone. Fortunately, Anthony Miller, one of the heroes from their Week 1 victory, dropped a touchdown catch and CHI had to settle for 3 points. 10 Minutes into the game, NYG was down 10.

The ensuing Giants drive was a three-and-out but the NYG defense did stop CHI their next possession. Then, one of the most demeaning drives of the year began. Saquon Barkley fell awkwardly on his arm after a nice 18-yard run. He missed just one play but on the opening drive of the second quarter something in his right knee gave out. After a 6-yard gain, he stayed on the ground at the CHI sideline clutching his knee, slamming the ground, with his helmet off. Watch just enough football and it was easy to tell, this was bad. He was carried off the field and 4 plays later Jones threw an interception to CHI safety Deon Bush. NYG was down 10-0. Barkley had a serious injury. Jones had turned the ball over twice in three drives.

They traded event-less possessions a few times before CHI put together an eleven-play drive toward the end of the half. On 3rd-and-7 from the NYG 15-yard line, Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham tried to get creative with an amoeba front to rush the passer. It consisted of Lorenzo Carter, Blake Martinez, Nate Ebner, and Oshane XImines. That four-man rush resulted in Trubisky having all day to throw and making it nearly impossible for the defenders in coverage to stick to their assignments. This resulted in a throw into the end zone and into the waiting arms of rookie receiver Darnell Mooney. It was 17-0 at the half.

This is the kind of start that, against a good team and quarterback, you could write the “L” in the win/loss column already. Fortunately, the Giants were up against Trubisky and an inconsistent CHI squad.

To create an even further uphill climb, Sterling Shepard re-aggravated a foot/toe injury on the first play of the 3rd quarter that he initially tweaked at the end of the first half. This team was desperate for a game-changing play. Trubisky, yes Trubisky, responded. He threw an interception on his first pass to Julian Love via a tipped ball by cornerback James Bradberry. Love returned it to the CHI 25-yard line. A drop by Darius Slayton on 3rd down, which would have netted an easy first down, made NYG settle for a 39-yard field goal. NYG was on the board, down two touchdowns.

After a defensive stop where the questionable CHI play-calling started to appear, NYG began their next drive on their own 5-yard line. They traveled 95 yards on 11 plays. During that span, they had three straight plays with gains of 20, 12, and 12 aided by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty by CHI linebacker Roquan Smith. After their inside-5 yard line offensive woes week 1, NYG failed to punch it in on two straight attempts from there. It was 4th-and-1, down 17-3, at the beginning of the 4th quarter. This was a must-score situation. Dion Lewis took the ball and snuck his way through traffic behind the inside-right side of the offensive line. NYG was now down 17-10.

As stated above, the opposition is always in it when Trubisky is taking snaps on the other side. Case in point, on the fifth play he lofted the ball up the right sideline on 3rd-and-4 when he had two underneath targets open for an easy conversion. This resulted in a miraculous interception by Bradberry and NYG had all of the momentum. It was time to tie this game back up.

Jones had a pick six nullified by an Eddie Jackson pass interference. It was a very close, but correct, call by the refs. Instead of CHI being up 24-10, NYG got the ball to the CHI 33-yard line on the very next play down by 7. Three straight incomplete passes, however, once NYG got into the red zone made them go for a field goal that Gano nailed through the uprights. It was 17—13 Chicago. With 7:43 left in the game, CHI tried to run the clock out with some initial success.

A potential nail in the coffin came from the most unlikely of plays that I can’t recall ever seeing before on 4th down. Once again, with CHI trying to move the clock and Trubisky at quarterback, they passed the ball two straight times on 3rd-and-2 / 4th-and-2, respectively. The 3rd down attempt fell incomplete and the 4th down attempt was broken up but somehow ended up in the hands of right tackle Bobby Massie. He fell into the first down and enabled CHI to get more clock-eating plays while chewing into the NYG timeouts. Kicker Cairo Santos failed a 50-yard field goal attempt and NYG was now down 17-13 with 2:02 remaining at their own 40. They had a shot and were in the middle of a 13-0 run.

Without any timeouts, NYG inched their way up the field in a touchdown-or-lose situation. Some will argue that they didn’t take enough shots downfield, but the point of a drive like this (where you are likely going to have spike the ball and lose opportunities) is to get credible shots at the end zone at least two or three times. CHI was playing a very safe-defense, putting multiple defensive backs deep making it near impossible to send the ball downfield. After all, NYG did have three plays from inside the CHI 20 (one being a 4th-and-1) and one from the CHI 10. Jones was late to see an open Golden Tate, a trend I will speak about below, and the final play of the game was a pass broken up by Eddie Jackson.

NYG loses 17-13.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 25-40 / 241 yards / 0 TD – 1 INT / 68.9 RAT

Jones also lost a fumble on the very first drive of the game. He added 21 yards on 3 carries. It was a first half to forget, as he turned the ball over twice and his team was down by 17. One thing we know about Jones and I know we keep saying it. This is important, though. Jones is incredibly tough and has a short-memory. Things were looking about as bleak as it gets after the first three possessions. A turnover, a 3-and-out, another turnover, and a bad injury to the team’s best player in addition to the 17-point deficit. They inched their way back to the point of having a credible shot at the end zone to win the game in the fourth quarter. That is where the positives end, however. Jones was late to see the whole picture in this one. He was very hesitant, and he held onto the ball way too long, including the final play of the game. He doesn’t do the offensive line any favors with the way he second guesses his reads. A couple of the sacks were on him and his fumble was on him as well. If he isn’t throwing the ball, he needs to keep two hands on it. No debate. As stated at the end of last year, Jones won’t stick around for long if these turnover numbers remain as high as they are right now.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 4 att – 28 yards

The second quarter injury to Barkley is a season-changer for NYG. I don’t want to say season-ender, however. NFL offenses can work around less talent at running back much easier than other positions (one of the cases against drafting running backs high and/or paying them big money, a debate that is sure to come up again). The Giants offense looked fine without Barkley and even though you always want him out there, they can move the ball with different strategies. This is where having Jason Garrett calling plays can be a huge help. As for Barkley, I have a few in depth concerns about the ramifications of this that I will speak about at the bottom in “3 Closing Thoughts”. The one positive here is that, with where ACL/PCL recoveries are now, he will be fully back by training camp, no doubt.

-Dion Lewis: 10 att – 20 yards – 1 TD / 4 rec – 36 yards

Credit to Lewis for stepping right in and taking every running back snap post-injury to Barkley. He isn’t, and never has been, an every down back. Even though his production wasn’t through the roof, he played well and came up with a couple of key conversions. He also scored his first touchdown in a Giants uniform on a hard-earned 1-yard run up the middle. He did drop a pass late and missed a block in protection. We are going to see a ton of him from here on out, whether NYG hits the free agency market or not.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate: 5 rec – 47 yards

It was Tate’s first action of the season after missing Week 1 with an injury. He caught all 5 of his targets and he was open on the final play of the game. We know Tate is never going to scare anyone deep and we know he isn’t going to win a lot of battles for the ball with his size. However, the guy knows how to get open underneath and he is tougher than nails. With the NYG offense being forced into change and a possible injury to Sterling Shepard, they need to feature him as much as possible when those tough yards are needed. He is limited, but dependable.

-Sterling Shepard: 2 rec – 29 yards / 1 att – 6 yards

Shepard essentially played one half of the game because of yet another injury. He tweaked it at the end of the first half and ran one route in the second half before hobbling off. He had missed 11 games from 2017-2019 and it appears he is moving toward increasing that number here in 2020.

-Darius Slayton: 3 rec – 33 yards

Slayton had a huge drop in the third quarter. Otherwise, he had a very uneventful game. Upon my further review, I saw something I really didn’t like in this game from the second-year receiver. After the 2019 season, I said Slayton needs to get stronger and more aggressive off the line. After watching this game a second time, it was easy to see this remains an issue. To be blunt, Slayton looked scared when CHI was pressing at the point-of-attack. He took steps back, he took too long to run around, or he was just man-handled. That can really throw off the timing of a play. This is the thing about second-year players in this league. When coaches get enough film on a guy, the book is out on how to stop them. It is then up to the player to make the necessary changes. If Slayton is going to be a thing in this league for this team, he needs to be better there.

-I am looking forward to seeing C.J. Board get an opportunity for more snaps if Shepard misses time. He played just 11 snaps, was targeted 3 times, and caught 3 passes for 32 yards. I like how he moves after the catch and he seems to play with some extra fire.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 6 rec – 65 yards.

Engram was targeted a team-high 8 times and led the team in catches and yards respectively. He had a couple of key plays in the team’s comeback effort. His blocking was less of an issue than what we saw Week 1, mainly because they didn’t run his way often. If Shepard is out for a while and with Barkley out all year, Engram is going to get a ton of looks.

The Giants had three tight ends on the field for a third of their plays week one, by far the most in the league. It didn’t help. That number was cut in half in week 2 and this is where I expect it to settle. Kaden Smith and Levin Toilolo were better in-line than in week 1, but neither factored much in the passing game.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Andrew Thomas had the worst grade along the line. Looking strictly at numbers, he allowed 3 sacks and 2 pressures. However, two of the sacks can credibly be argued weren’t his fault. Jones ran into one and another was an assignment where, to be honest, I’m not sure what his responsibility was. Nonetheless, he did allow the sack-fumble on the first drive and the two pressures were definitely on him.

-Cameron Fleming tied for the top grade on the line, an above average performance, but one where we still saw him getting walked back a bit and struggling to maintain good contact with his man. He was more impressive in the run game.

-Inside, the trio of Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, and Kevin Zeitler looked much better than what we saw in Week 1, in particular during the second half. Hernandez allowed a sack on a late stunt but besides that, he was solid. Zeitler allowed a TFL in the first half but was fine otherwise. He still looks overly stiff out there. Gates was better than Week 1 as well, but that isn’t saying much. I still want to see more movement off the ball but in key moments, he got the job done.

EDGE

-Lorenzo Carter had 4 tackles and a sack. He disengaged from his man better than what we have seen since his career began here. The biggest thing we need to see from him is week-to-week consistency. After 2 games, I am very encouraged by his play in multiple levels.

-Markus Golden was on the field for 15 plays (23%). I know they may be bringing him along slowly and perhaps he isn’t quite ready, but the lack of pass rush is an issue. He looks very lethargic off the line, hopefully he just needs a few games to get his groove back. But his missed tackle on Trubisky, which led to a first down run, making him look like a guy who doesn’t belong. Oshane Ximines out-snapped him by 4 plays and recorded a TFL. Otherwise he has been non-factor. NYG doesn’t have anybody on the edge who scares you.

DT

-Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson were a solid 1-2 punch for most of the day. They combined for 9 tackles, a pressure, and a broken up pass. When they get to stay at home, they both swallow up double teams and keep linebackers clean. They are both powerful enough to shed and tackle as well. Tomlinson’s issues, and it happened on two of CHI’s bigger runs, is a lack of lateral speed and quickness. He was getting reached easily by tackles coming across his face and it cut him off from making the back-side pursuit plays.

-Leonard Williams was quiet in the box score (2 tackles / 1 pressure). He struggled as a pass rusher, as he was double-teamed more than anyone on the Giants front. This is where having a more dangerous threat on the outside could really benefit this defense. If you single team Williams, he is going to make a big difference. In addition, I was impressed with his lateral movement against the run. He stays square to the ball carrier while moving left/right and engaged with blockers. That is a tough trait and ability to find.

-Austin Johnson and B.J. Hill each played just under a third of the defensive snaps. They both played well, as Hill recorded his first sack of the season and Johnson took up blockers inside. This really is a deep group of quality interior linemen.

LB

-Blake Martinez led the team in tackles, something we are going to see all year if he stays healthy. He also recorded a sack and 2 pressures. His speed to the sidelines has been a visible difference these first two weeks and he is rarely fooled. The contrast between him and Alec Ogletree is enormous.

-The spot next to Martinez is concerning and one will begin to wonder about the surprising release of Ryan Connelly. You can’t expect Martinez to get to everything, somebody else is going to need to step up. Devante Downs was only on the field for 11 plays but he did damage (against NYG) multiple times.

-Kyler Fackrell had a great game. He doesn’t play next to Martinez much, as his role is one of the more versatile ones on the roster. You can’t just keep him inside, as he does have legitimate pass rush ability. He finished with 6 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 sack. He did have a bad whiff late in the game. Fackrell showed really good lateral range on a couple of occasions but he just can’t be a guy who drops into coverage much. If he does and the offense knows, he will get exposed. The defensive coaches will need to be very calculated with his role, but if done correctly, he can be a difference maker.

CB

-James Bradberry excelled. He wasn’t matched up against CHI’s number one threat Allen Robinson the entire game but he was a huge part into keeping him in check. Robinson had 3 catches, just one was against Bradberry. The free agent signing from Carolina broke up 4 passes (one of which led to an interception) and then brought in an interception of his own on an amazing, savvy play on the ball. He is a really solid player, especially against bigger outside receivers.

-Corey Ballentine allowed a touchdown on a broken play. You can’t expect him to cover a receiver for 7+ seconds but on that play, he was late to locate the ball. There continues to be traits that he just doesn’t seem to have that revolve around game situational awareness and skill. Still a young player though.

-Logan Ryan had 6 tackles and a forced fumble (that was recovered by CHI). He is a very hybrid-player. If this defense can turn things around, he will be a big part of it.

SAFETY

-Jabrill Peppers, after a poor first game, really hurt this team in Week 2. His lack of quality pursuit angles and special awareness when attacking the ball carrier is something he should be past by now. For such a good athlete, the game appears to be too fast for him at times. He is such an explosive straight-line athlete. But when he needs to react and shift laterally, he looks heavy and stiff. That won’t work unless he plays more of a linebacker-type role.

-Julian Love came up with an interception on a tipped ball that led to NYG finally getting on the board with a field goal. He is a right-place, right-time defender who can really benefit from being around Ryan. They are very similar players but we need to see Love get stronger against contact. It is still a weakness in his game that gets exposed.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/3 (Made 39, 37 / Missed 57)

-P Riley Dixon: 3 Punts – 58.0 avg / 44.7 net

3 STUDS

-CB James Bradberry, LB Kyler Fackrell, RB Dion Lewis

3 DUDS

-S Jabrill Peppers, EDGE Markus Golden, OT Andrew Thomas

3 THOUGHTS ON CHI

  1. See where the Bears are right now? They have doubled down on a quarterback (Trubisky) in just his fourth year with just Nick Foles as the fallback option. This creates the question that NYG may eventually be forced to answer. That is, is your first round QB the answer? I like the concept of using three seasons of being a starter to know whether or not you are moving forward. If you aren’t sure about him, then it can be argued you pursue other options at the most important position in sports. Your worst-case scenario becomes having too much talent at the most important position in sports that will create intra-squad competition, which I fully support. No, this isn’t a knock on Jones, he has plenty of time to prove his worth. This goes back to Trubisky and the Bears. He is in year 4 and they just have to know by now, he isn’t THE guy.
  1. Roy Robertson-Harris / #95 / DL. In the 2017 preseason, I started writing notes down on this undrafted free agent from UTEP. Since then, every time I’ve seen that defense play, he just simply stands out to me. In scouting, this happens sometimes where you just can’t take your eyes off a guy who fits the mold you want in a specific position. Robertson-Harris is going to be a free agent this offseason and I do think he will hit the market, as CHI has so much money tied up. He does so much snap to snap that doesn’t show up in the box score and I think he can be a feature guy in the right scheme. Depending on what happens with Tomlinson/Williams in free agency, he is going to be on the list based on what I think he can be had for.
  1. CHI is 2-0. They beat a bad DET team and a bad NYG team. Looking at every 2-0 team in the league, they are by far the worst of the unbeatens. When looking at their roster and knowing my disdain for Trubisky, I don’t see a winning team. However, their schedule is filled with several games against teams that I project to finish under .500. They are going to be in the playoff hunt in 2020.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. The elephant in the room. Saquon Barkley and where to go from here. There is no way around it, this absolutely stinks for NYG and Barkley and the fans. You never know what to expect from running backs after this kind of knee injury, especially ones who like to dance and cut the way Barkley does. Another angle to consider how much this hurts when it comes to the big picture is this team gets one less year of Barkley on his rookie contract. Could this damper the value of his next deal? Sure. But a huge part of winning in today’s NFL is getting max vale from rookie deals. Another ramification I am worried about? Will Barkley be hesitant when he comes back? I could be wrong here and I don’t want to dive into psychology because I am not qualified so take it for what its worth. Barkley runs a little timid already. He isn’t soft by any means, but he tried to avoid hits to the point where I think it makes him play slower than he is, especially in traffic. I hope this pop to his knee doesn’t further than issue.
  1. What does NYG do at running back? I have one suggestion: Sign Devonta Freeman. Let’s not go down the path of giving up on 2020 just yet. The division looks weak and if NYG can get to 8-8 or 9-7, they have a shot at a home playoff game. Don’t forget that. Freeman would be a solid compliment to Lewis and Gallman. He runs hard between the tackles and will break tackles. We can’t really say that about the other two. Now, he isn’t close to what he was from 2015-2018 but there isn’t anything available on the market who is. Freeman can still run quick and hard with good vision and strong ball security. In addition, Freeman has always been a plus-receiver.
  1. The Giants have two really tough NFC West match-ups over the next two weeks before they take a run against all three divisional opponents. Based on what the NFC East looks like to this point, I think NYG needs to go into these next 2 weeks hoping for a split against the Niners and Rams. Yes, expectations have been lowered here but hear me out. If NYG can go into that 3-week run at 1-3, they can control their early destiny when it comes to the division. If they do enter that stretch at 1-3, and then go 2-1 against the divisional foes, they are sitting at 3-4 with a winning record in the division. I know this is getting way ahead of ourselves but my point is, there is no sense in giving up right now. The Giants are far from legit contention and there are holes all over the roster, but the goal here is to stay within striking distance of the division at the very least. PHI is 0-2. WAS is 1-1. DAL is 1-1. Let that be the focus for now.
Sep 162020
 
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Andrew Thomas, New York Giants (September 14, 2020)

Andrew Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers 26 – New York  Giants 16

QUICK RECAP

An offseason like no other. A training camp like no other. And now, a regular season like no other. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to empty or near-empty stadiums, a lot of awkward silence, and a bunch of never-heard-before F-Bombs on live television. At one point, or several points, the idea of the NFL playing this year was cloudy at best. However, here we sit, looking back on a full slate of Week 1 games. Excellent job by the NFL and everyone involved. Now onto the good stuff.

The Giants kicked off Monday Night football with a home game against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Big Ben, in his 17th season, was on the game field in pads for the first time in 364 days following an elbow injury that created the question if he was done, both mentally and physically. He has discussed retirement in the past and not many players are still wearing the helmet at the age 38. He did come back, he is paired with an elite defense, he is behind an elite offensive line, and he is throwing the ball to some of the more exciting young receivers in the league. This was a tall order for the New York Giants and their new Head Coach, Joe Judge, a first time Head Coach on any level.

Judge’s history revolves around special teams and that is exactly where NYG got their first break. A muffed punt by PIT receiver Diontae Johnson gave the Giants the ball on the PIT 3-yard line. However, after 3 plays that derived 1 total yard, they had to settle for a 21-yard chip shot by newly signed kicker Graham Gano. Giants held the initial 3-0 lead. After trading three-and-outs, PIT got on the board with a 41-yard field goal by Chris Boswell at the end of a 13-play drive.

The Giants opened the second quarter with their first touchdown-scoring drive of the season. They were stopped after three plays but they were given new life by a Joe Haden pass interference call on third down. On the very next play, Jones hit Darius Slayton deep down the middle on a post route for a 41-yard score. The Giants’ passing game looked crisp on all levels early on and they had a 10-3 lead. Following another three-and-out by PIT, Jones’s first pass of the ensuing drive resulted in an interception to Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt. It was a zone blitz that caught Jones off guard. This gave PIT the ball on the NYG 36-yard to line to start and that resulted in PIT’s first touchdown of the year, a 3rd down, 10-yard loft as NYG tried to bring the heat via a heavy blitz. Boswell missed the extra point, thus NYG still held the lead at 10-9.

From this point, NYG showed their current true color. The true color that has netted them the worst record in the NFL over the past three seasons. The Giants had momentum on their side after a 38-yard gain on a screen pass to Barkley where his elite level burst and speed were on display in space, the place he is most lethal. Evan Engram, who had a game to forget, caught a pass up the seam for a 24-yard gain that put NYG on the PIT 20-yard line. Unfortunately, he was flagged for offensive pass interference. Two plays later, Jones was sacked. They went from 1st-and10 on the PIT 20 to 3rd-and-27 on the NYG 39.

The two offenses traded three-and-outs before the Big Ben and the PIT offense started a 2-minute offense from their own 22. Eight plays, 68 yards later PIT had put up another 7 points stemming from a rub route that put James Washington in the end zone with the ball in his hands. PIT held a 16-10 lead at the half.

Since the start of 2016, there have been 23,518 offensive drives in the NFL. Only 2 of them had more plays (21) than the opening NYG drive of the second half (19). On 2nd-and-3 from the PIT 4-yard line, Jones evaded pressure and foolishly tried to throw against his body’s momentum into what would have been a ton of traffic. He was hit by Bud Dupree, who had a monster night, sending the ball tumbling into the air and into the waiting arms of defensive lineman Cam Heyward, the first of his 10-year career. This was the second time NYG had the ball inside the 5-yard line and it netted them a grand total of 3 points.

The Steelers then scored a combined 10 points on the next two drives, the touchdown being another pitch-and-catch between Roethlisberger to Juju Smith-Schuster via a rub route where James Bradberry got bumped out of position. Down 16 with 5:23 left, Jones and the Giants offense pieced together another long drive, 16 plays, that this time ended with points on the board. Jones hit Slayton for a 7-yard touchdown as the two have clearly brought the connection we saw in 2019 to the table here in their respective sophomore seasons. They failed the two-point attempt, leaving it a two-possession game with just 2:00 left. PIT ran out the clock and that was it.

Giants lose 26-16.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 26-41 / 279 yards / 2 TD-2 INT / 79.2 Rating

Jones added 22 yards on the ground via 4 carries. In his first ever season opener, Jones was matched up against one of the top 5 defenses in the NFL playing behind an offensive line that was playing with two new tackles and a new center. That led to him being pressured more than any quarterback in the NFL week 1. As is the case with most young quarterbacks, Jones was inconsistent. On one hand, he looked poised and tough, something we saw plenty of last year. He made accurate downfield throws, he stayed aggressive, he knew when to pull down and run, and most importantly he did not fumble (although there was a close call). However, the way this position works in this game, he had two major mistakes and that really cost the team. His first interception was against a zone blitz that he did not recognize and the second one, on just second down, was a rookie-level mistake throwing against his body into heavy traffic. One was a lack of recognition; one was a lack of sound decision making. His game wasn’t a bad one, but if he is THE guy, he needs to make sure they walk away with at least 10 points when they are inside the PIT 5 two times, not 3 points.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 15 att – 6 yards / 6 rec – 60 yards

This was the third time in his 30-game career that Barkley has been held to 10 or less rushing yards, one of the other times being an injury-shortened game in Tampa Bay last year. It was a horrific way to start off the year. Barkley rarely made it two steps with the ball before he had a PIT defender (or several) on top of him. The inside running lanes rarely existed and the PIT defense was too fast for them to handle when they went outside. His lone bright spot was a 38-yard gain on a screen pass where we saw the explosion, speed, and make-you-miss ability on full display. New Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett needs to fully understand this is a completely different back than Ezekiel Elliot in Dallas. Barkley needs to the ball in space as much as possible, that is where he does damage. This performance is solely on the offensive line, zero question. With that said, Barkley did allow a pressure and a sack. His blocking remains subpar at best.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton: 6 rec – 102 yards / 2 TD

Before the season, I said Slayton was going to end up being the team’s number one receiver this year. That was partially an indictment on the lack of upside Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate bring to the table, but also a level of confidence in Slayton. His routes and long speed looked crisp, he played through contact, and he finished. Excellent start for him. He looks like the real deal and a true keeper.

-Sterling Shepard: 6 rec – 47 yards

It was a “quiet” night for Shepard. He didn’t really factor as much until the second half. He caught all 6 of his targets (not including the 2-point conversion attempt), as he just ran into some bad luck. From my view, it looked like he was the main target three times on plays where the pass protection pressured Jones away from the read. This could have easily been a bigger game for Shepard.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 2 rec / 9 yards

Jason Garrett and Joe Judge may end up having a short leash on the athletic Engram. Neither have used a tight end like this much before and I think they both lean toward a sturdier presence. Engram was tossed around like a rag doll by the Steelers front seven. Simply put, he just does not belong in there trying to block edge defenders. He can hold his own against defensive backs and some inside linebackers, but his lack of blocking had a significant impact on the team mightily struggling on the ground. He allowed a pressure, a TFL, and dropped a pass in the first quarter to boot. Lastly, his offensive pass interference was an absolute killer to the team’s momentum. There are 15 games left, but Engram needs to know he is on the hot seat.

-Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo played 43% and 35% of the offensive snaps respectively. Having one tight end play that much is expected, but two? I do like the concept of having these three on the field together (NYG played with 13 personnel – 3 TEs – more than every team Week 1), but they have to do what they are supposed to do. Having them on the field allows more support for the running game, at least theoretically. However, they both struggled against the PIT physical front seven, allowing a combined 3 pressures and 1 TFL. They also combined for 3 catches / 30 yards. Hopefully some of the blocking shortcomings had more to do with lack of chemistry than anything, because that is why these guys are on the team.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

-Perhaps the brightest, or second brightest part of NYG’s week 1 game was the play of rookie Andrew Thomas. He did allow 3 pressures on the night, a number we want to be lower, but it doesn’t get much tougher than Bud Dupree (on an island nonetheless) for a rookie tackle. Thomas was the top graded Giants lineman by far and two of his pressures could be argued against (they are a tad subjective). He played with a wide and strong base, he played patient, and his hands were heavy. I would like to see more running attempts right behind him.

-Cameron Fleming has not produced any confidence that the massacre right tackle has been to this offense in recent years will be any different. He allowed 2 pressures and a sack in pass protection, he allowed 2 TFL, and he was pushed backward multiple times as a run blocker. He was flagged for a false start. I think Matt Peart will be starting by mid-season.

GUARD/CENTER

-The guiltiest culprit of the inside running woes was center Nick Gates. He was toyed with by Tyson Alualu, a solid but unspectacular nose tackle. This is where the lack of offseason may have hurt the Giants the most. Gates was very late with his hands. When you’re late with your hands, especially inside against a powerful player, you’re going to abruptly lose ground. That happened over and over and understandably so, as Gates really doesn’t have a lot of experience snapping the ball and getting his hands up quickly enough. NYG can only hope for improvement here in the coming weeks, but it could easily take longer.

-Kevin Zeitler had a surprisingly awful game. He was the lowest graded blocker of the bunch. He allowed 2 pressures, 2 TFL, and a sack (although one could argue it wasn’t his fault). More than the weak grade, Zeitler looked stiff. Is there something wrong? Is he on the sharp decline? He will be one I watch closely next week in Chicago, another team with really good interior defensive linemen.

-Will Hernandez was quietly solid. He allowed one pressure and was oddly left alone by the PIT defense several times. He was late to help a few times, but not a bad game by him. Again, I want to see more NYG runs to the left side next week.

EDGE

-Lorenzo Carter is going to be a key factor for this team in 2020 and whether or not this defense can take a true step forward. He looks the part, as he always has. He seems to be more powerful than we’ve seen, and he still has the elite speed and burst. I made a couple different notes of physical play and he finished with 7 tackles and 2 pressures including 1 hit on the QB. He is what I call an every-down defender in that he can have a role in any situation. He has the tools but his issues have revolved around consistency and mental quickness. We saw some positives in this game, but he needs to more of a finisher.

-Markus Golden, the team’s leading pass rusher from 2019 and a guy that pretty much nobody in the NFL wanted to bring in, was limited to just 34% of the snaps as he continues to work back into game shape. He was a non-factor.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Leonard Williams was the most disruptive and consistent player along the NYG front. He finished with 5 tackles / 1 sack / 2 TFL / 1 pressure. A lot of eyes are going to be on the franchised player who some are still looking down on because he was traded for. If he plays like this, we can seal the deal as a win for the NYG organization.

-Dalvin Tomlinson had a quiet game, not in a good or bad way. He just didn’t impact the defense much in either direction. Dexter Lawrence had a pressure and a sack. In addition, he once again flashed surprisingly solid athletic ability on a couple of nice hustle plays away from his starting point.

LINEBACKER

-Blake Martinez showed quality inside play after receiving a hefty contract from NYG in the offseason. I can easily say this: it was the best true ILB play we have seen in awhile. He led the team with 12 tackles including 1 TFL. There wasn’t anything eye-popping here, but it was notable how fast he reacted to the offense. In addition, he was rarely fooled or caught out of position. This is a legit inside presence at the second level that this defense sorely lacked in recent years.

-Kyler Fackrell and Devante Downs were on the field for less than a half and quarter of the plays respectively. Fackrell brings inside-out versatility, which is nice, but he didn’t show much as a pass rusher in week 1. Downs recovered a fumble on special teams in the first quarter. I am pulling for this kid, great story of perseverance.

CORNERBACK

The newly signed James Bradberry had a really up-and-down inaugural game in blue. The high-priced corner “allowed” two touchdowns but on both plays, he was the victim of “rub routes”. Basically, the plays were designed to combat man coverage in that two receivers crisscrossed each other close enough that Bradberry collided with his own teammate. He also allowed a big downfield gain to Chase Claypool (who got away with a push off). Overall, Bradberry finished with 4 tackles, 2 pass deflections, and a forced fumble that nearly turned the game around. A second look from the All-22 angle showed quality coverage throughout.

-Rookie Darnay Holmes started at the nickel spot and played 73% of the snaps. If nothing else, he played fast, physical, and aggressive out there. He did miss two tackles on the same drive early in the game, but he can’t be looked down on for that too badly. He just isn’t a very big kid and his first NFL action was against a formidable passing offense. He showed several encouraging signs.

-Corey Ballentine started at the other outside corner spot and I have to say, he may be the key weaknesses to this defense besides the lack of pass rush that stems from four guys. He allowed so much separation, most notably to the smaller/quicker Diontae Johnson. This was something we saw last year when they tried him at nickel, a spot he just couldn’t hang. He doesn’t forecast well and the speed just isn’t there to make up for it.

-Isaac Yiadom was on the field for 5 plays and allowed a touchdown.

SAFETY

-Jabrill Peppers shined as a punt returner, but mightily struggled as a safety. He had 3 tackles and a pass deflection but was beat on 3rd down by Eric Ebron and missed 2 tackles. Every year, Peppers will impress with some workout videos during the offseason. His talent is obvious. He plays hard and physical. But when it comes to reading the game situation and playing with instincts, it just isn’t there. The downhill angle he took on a 4th quarter run was abysmal. It led to 30-yard gain that should have easily been stopped at the 5-yard mark. He needs to step it up, no more fluff.

-Logan Ryan and Julian Love were on the field a lot in respective safety/nickel roles. I like how they can interchange roles on a dime, as it makes things tougher for the opposing quarterback to read and diagnose. They were both solid in coverage, but Ryan offers more as a tackler and physical presence. Love got knocked back a few times on contact with the ball carrier and I considered it a missed tackle on James Washington’s touchdown.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 21) / 1/1 XP.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 Punts – 38.6 avg / 36.0 net / 3 inside 20

3 STUDS

-WR Darius Slayton, OT Andrew Thomas, LB Blake Martinez

3 DUDS

-OC Nick Gates, OG Kevin Zeitler, TE Evan Engram

3 THOUGHTS ON PIT

  1. How do you build an elite defense? Continuity, chemistry, scheme, draft quality players. The Steelers have, for pretty much 17 years, made their defense a main priority when it comes to coaching and drafting. In that span, they’ve ranked top 10 in points allowed 12 times and top 5 in points allowed 7 times. It is in their blood. When it comes to personnel, they they rarely miss in the 1st round. Devin Bush, T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier, Cam Heyward…all those guys have been drafted since 2011 in round 1 and they all (minus the injured Shazier) are still making an impact on this team in a big way. Add in the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick and you are looking at 5 elite players at their respective positions and I would say 4 of 20 the league’s Defensive Player of the Year candidates.
  1. Speaking of drafting, I did a team study on the Steelers and their success at drafting skill position players in the middle rounds. In rounds 2-4 since 2017, take a look at these names: JuJu Smith-Schuster (round 2), James Conner (round 4), James Washington (round 2), Diontae Johnson (round 2), Benny Snell (round 4), Chase Claypool (round 2), and a name you will hear about soon enough in Anthony McFarland (round 2). You will have a hard time finding more homegrown skill position talent in the league.
  1. Lastly, this offensive line is likely going to be a make or break for PIT. They were solid against NYG in week 1, yes. However, there are going to be much tougher pass rushers on the schedule coming up and now they are without Zach Banner in addition to David DeCastro. When these guys are at full strength, they are a top-5 group. They have a ton of chemistry in addition to multiple top 10 guys at their respective positions. If they stay healthy enough, this PIT team has final 4 potential in the AFC.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. The Giants were one of four teams with a new coaching staff during the most difficult offseason any team has ever dealt with from a logistical perspective. Those teams went a combined 1-3 and the other team with a first timer at the Head Coach spot (Cleveland) lost 38-6. I’m not a moral victory guy at all, but I do think that these teams with new coaching staffs and schemes will see more margin between week 1 and week 2 compared to the rest of the league. Not having these guys in a real live situation throughout the preseason does leave a lot of question marks that are only answered via gameplay. NYG has multiple areas to improve and whether or not this coaching staff can make the needed changes will dictate a lot.
  1. When looking at “how to win a game”, you can go down several rabbit holes. I try to keep it as simple as possible. Here is what gets it done more often than not: Win the turnover battle. Win the penalty battle. Win the sack battle. If you can walk away with two of those micro-level wins, the odds of ending up on top are well over 90%. The Giants lost the turnover battle by one, they lost the penalty battle, and they lost the sack battle. Trifecta.
  1. The Giants did impress me in one specific area, and that was on defense. They played really fast and really physical and really smart (minus Peppers). We listened to Joe Judge talk about those three traits the entire offseason and we mostly just swept it under the rug, but that was one thing that stood out to me. The Giants have a defense that plays fast based on both the athletic ability and sureness of their assignments. That, more than anything, is encouraging as we move forward. Now, somebody needs to step up and make plays/create turnovers.
Apr 212020
 
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Joe Burrow, LSU Tigers (January 13, 2020)

Joe Burrow – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Quarterbacks

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 10, and my ranks 11-20 with grades only.

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

It has been a year since Dave Gettleman shocked the world with his Daniel Jones selection at #6 overall. The vast majority of the public chastised the pick for multiple reasons but here we are a year later and a case can be made that NYG has their guy for the next decade-plus. He started 12 games and scored 26 touchdowns on an offense that was broken because of what was going on up front. The issue, and it is a glaring one, are the turnovers. He fumbled the ball 18 times and threw 12 interceptions. We have seen it with young quarterbacks in the past; a good player who makes plays but the turnovers end up putting them back on the bench. Jones has so many of the tools and intangibles to be a winner, but that won’t matter if he can’t protect the ball.

Behind him, NYG signed veteran Colt McCoy and they still employ Alex Tanney. The one catch? Both are free agents in 2021. The long-term stability behind Jones isn’t there. As good as Jones looked at times in his rookie year, the objective fact is NYG is heading into the year with an unproven starter and two backups who won’t be under contract once this season is over.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 10 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Joe Burrow / LSU / 6’4 – 221

Grade: 87

Summary: Fifth year senior from Athens, Ohio. A two-year starter who took off in 2019, winning the Heisman Trophy and National Championship. A transfer from Ohio State, Burrow’s ascent began at the end of the 2018 season against UCF in the Fiesta Bowl. Fast forward to this past year and Burrow set the college football world on fire with elite performance after elite performance after elite performance. He set an NCAA record with 60 touchdowns and led the country with 5,671 yards. His tools as a thrower are just above average, there are several prospects with a stronger arm. However this goes to reinforce the fact that arm strength is such a small part of evaluating QB play. Burrow has unmatched pocket presence and downfield accuracy. He is exceptionally smart in the film room and on the field. He is a better athlete than anyone thinks. He is a franchise quarterback all the way who should end up in the Pro Bowl at some point early in his career if the supporting cast is there.

  1. Tua Tagovailoa / Alabama / 6’0 – 217

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry from Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Two-year starter who initially burst onto the scene when he replaced Jalen Hurts in the second half of the 2017 National Championship, where he led the Tide to a come from behind win. In 2018 he confirmed his ceiling, winning the Maxwell Award while earning 2nd Team All American honors. 2019 didn’t quite go as planned, however. Tagovailoa suffered an ankle injury and then a severe hip injury that caused some to ponder if he would ever play again. If the injuries are kept out of the equation that generates his grade, Tua would be approaching the elite 90-point mark. He has lethal accuracy, he is a true competitor who handles pressure situations well, and he knows how to read defenses. The medicals are huge though and he doesn’t show a feel for missing traffic in the pocket. A case can rightfully be made that these injuries are going to pop up in the NFL more and more and because of that, you see the debate at the top of the draft behind Burrow.

  1. Justin Herbert / Oregon / 6’6 – 236

Grade: 82

Summary: Senior entry from Eugene, Oregon. Four-year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors in 2018 and 2019. Also the winner of the Academic Heisman as a senior who scored a 39 on his wonderlic exam, an elite number. Herbert has every single tool. He is massive, he is fast, he has a quick release, and he is really strong. Herbert also has everything you want between the ears when it comes to intelligence, maturity, and leadership qualities. On paper, he may be the ideal quarterback for today’s NFL. The concern here is he never quite put together a consistent level of performance as a passer. His accuracy is a roller coaster and he seemed gun-shy at times. There is still a ways to go here but I think NFL coaches see exactly what they want to work with here.

  1. James Morgan / Florida International / 6’4 – 229

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Began his career at Bowling Green where he started for a year-plus. He traded the job back and forth and then opted to leave for Florida International where he was named Honorable Mention All Conference USA in both 2018 and 2019. He has a really snappy throwing motion that can put more than enough zip on the ball. He gets the ball downfield really well. But the most attractive trait to his game is what goes on between the ears. Morgan is a coach’s favorite who knows the game inside and out. He studies hard, applies it to the practice field, and makes those around him better. He may never develop into a top tier starter, but he will be in the league for a decade-plus.

  1. Jordan Love / Utah State / 6’4 – 224

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Bakersfield, California. Three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Mountain West honors in 2019, 2nd Team in 2018. After an eye opening season in 2018, Love took a step backwards as a redshirt junior. He threw 17 interceptions, most in the nation. Even though his 2018 tape looks first round worthy, a question can rightfully be asked whether or not he sees the field well enough. He was tricked into several turnovers after coaches had a full season to scout him on tape. He was playing with a lesser deck of cards at Utah State, but then again he wasn’t matched up against elite defenses either (besides a game against LSU). There are some issues he needs to answer in meetings with coaches but there is no denying the arm talent. The question is, can it overcome some mental shortcomings?

  1. Jalen Hurts / Alabama / 6’1 – 222

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas. Spent three years at Alabama, the first two of which he started and led Alabama to the National Championship. Tua Tagovailoa took over the job at the very end of 2017 and Hurts played a backup role for the entire 2018 season. He then transferred to Oklahoma in 2019, earning 3rd Team All American Honors and 1st Team All Big 12 honors. Hurts is a plus athlete with a strong arm and the composure to keep his heartbeat down in the highest pressure situations. Coaches and teammates alike love him. The issue with Hurts is centers around a lack of true feel in the pocket and inconsistent accuracy. He made a lot of easy throws in college and missed a lot of high difficulty ones. His best role is likely as a number two guy who can come in and spark an offense if an injury occurs, but his upside as a pure starter is risky.

  1. Jake Fromm / Georgia / 6’2 – 219

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Warner Robbins, Georgia. Three-year starter who took over the job in 2017 as a result of an injury to Jacob Eason. Fromm starred, winning the SEC Freshman of the Year Award and never gave up the job afterward. Justin Fields, the Ohio State quarterback who is likely going to be a top 10 pick in 2021, transferred from Georgia because he couldn’t beat Fromm out. Fromm won a ton of games and was a two-year team captain. While his tools won’t impress, he knows how to gain a coach’s trust. He plays within himself, he makes smart decisions, and he knows when to alter his aggression. The issue is a lack of true upside and he just doesn’t seem to have the physical potential to take over a game when necessary. He is likely heading toward backup duty but also likely to get a shot at some point.

  1. Anthony Gordon / Washington State / 6’2 – 205

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Pacifica, California. After being drafted out of high school to play baseball, Gordon opted for junior college football. He then transferred to Washington State and sat behind Gardner Minshew in 2018. After patiently waiting, he finally got the opportunity in 2019 and earned 2nd Team All Pac 12 honors finishing among the country’s leaders in several passing categories. Gordon has a slick and quick release with an accurate arm. This baseball-style passing, especially underneath, is becoming more and more popular these days and Gordon excels at it. An offense that favors a short and quick passing attack may have a much higher grade on Gordon, but one must admit the ceiling with him is an unknown. He started one year and his tools are average.

  1. Jacob Eason / Washington / 6’6 – 231

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Lake Stevens, Washington. After a three year career at Georgia (one as a starter, one on the injury list, one as a backup) Eason transferred back to his hometown and started 13 games for the Huskies. The tall and strong, plus athlete has an absolute cannon for an arm. When he winds up and chucks it downfield, it simply flies out of his hands different than others. There is no shortage of arm talent from a strength perspective, but he hasn’t shown enough consistency when it comes to balls that need touch. Eason has a competitive spirit but there are concerns around his role as a leader. There is a high ceiling to work with here, but he has a ton of work to do and will have to show consistency as a worker.

  1. Jake Luton / Oregon State / 6’6 – 224

Grade: 69

Summary: Fifth year senior from Marysville, Washington. Began his career at Idaho but transferred to junior college where he became a sought after recruit. Luton chose Oregon State but suffered a severe spine injury in 2017, playing in just 4 games. He returned to start 4 more games in 2018. In his final opportunity, Luton showed what many have been talking about for a few years now. He earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors as he threw 28 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. Luton is a big and tough leader who can make all the throws. He looks a little heavy in the pocket and doesn’t always show the knack for locating pressure but there is still some rawness to him that some teams may actually find attractive as a developmental prospect.

  1. Steven Montez / Colorado: 69
  2. Kevin Davidson / Princeton: 68
  3. Shea Patterson / Michigan: 67
  4. Cole McDonald / Hawaii: 67
  5. Nate Stanley / Iowa: 67
  6. Case Cookus / Northern Arizona: 67
  7. Brian Lewerke / Michigan State: 66
  8. Nathan Rourke / Ohio: 66
  9. Tyler Huntley / Utah: 66
  10. Kelly Bryant / Missouri: 65

NYG APPROACH

Whether you think Daniel Jones is the guy or not, one has to admit that even thinking about a QB early in the draft isn’t going to happen. This regime selected him, he flashed a lot of positive traits as a rookie, and assets need to be placed elsewhere for this team to reach the level where they used to be. The backups are locked in for the 2019 season but as I stated earlier, there is a blank slate there for 2021. One way to approach this is find a kid who you can stash on the practice squad for 2020. This needs to be a late round pick or an undrafted free agent who you know other teams aren’t going to come in and scoop up halfway through the year. Obviously the odds of hitting successfully from that point are slim to none, but it is always worth trying to add a guy to the position group every year. Two names I like, both as a mental capacity piece and someone with tools that can be developed over the years are Devin Davidson from Princeton a Nick Tiano from Chattanooga. At best, they are future backups who take up very little cap space.

Apr 192020
 
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J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State Buckeyes (February 26, 2020)

J.K. Dobbins – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITIONAL OVERVIEW

This is one of maybe 2 or 3 spots on the roster where a fresh pair of legs won’t be needed. Saquon Barkley is one of the most versatile backs in the league and still has three years left on his rookie contract, although negotiations for the long term deal will likely begin prior to that. The big play back is averaging just under 5 yards per carry despite running behind a porous offensive line in addition to averaging 5 receptions per game. The high ankle sprain he suffered in week 3 forced him out of the next 3 games but he ended the season really strong. The team has lacked a difference making backup to offset Barkley in his two years, as Wayne Gallman just hasn’t done anything to stand out. He has averaged 4 yards per carry in his 3 seasons but the main issue has been fumbles. He’s put the ball on the ground 6 times on just 250 carries (1 every 42 touches). For comparison, Barkley has fumbled 1 time on 621 touches. Let’s take a look at a couple other backup running backs from 2017 for reference. Kareem Hunt has fumbled once every 306 touches. Brian Hill has fumbled once on 122 touches. Jamaal Williams hasn’t fumbled yet on 472 touches.

The signing of Dion Lewis takes some pressure off NYG needing to add another running back. Even though he is coming off the two worst seasons of his career and he will turn 30 in September, it will be beneficial to have someone established back there. For comparison to Gallman, he has only fumbled once every 118 touches. He is also a plus-blocker and can catch the ball. The one thing NYG doesn’t have behind Barkley and perhaps give him a break from physical contact is a short yardage presence. Barkley is so effective in space, he is so effective in the passing game. I’ve always thought it would be nice to have a north/south physical runner who can take the ball on 3rd and 1 and near the goal line. If there is a situation where I don’t see Barkley as elite, that is it.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. JK Dobbins / Ohio State / 5’10 – 209

Grade: 81

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from La Grange, Texas. Dobbins led the Buckeyes in rushing all three years on campus including 2,000 yard, 2nd Team All American season in 2019. Dobbins has been a hit on campus from the start and left Ohio State as their second all time leading rusher after just three years of service. He has the ideal body type and running style of a every down back in the NFL with a diverse skill set and team-mentality. Dobbins will put forth top tier effort into every role he is asked to partake in whether it is touting the rock, catching passes, or blocking for his quarterback. Dobbins may not have ideal wiggle and vision, but in a scheme that gets him vertical, he can be a top tier back.

*As a freshman, Dobbins looked like the next big thing. As a sophomore, he took a slight step back as he fought nagging injuries and senior Mike Weber split carries with him. Then as a junior, I still don’t think people are giving him enough credit for what he did. 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. 174 yards on 18 carries (9.7 yards per) against Clemson in the playoff game. Dobbins may not have the top tier speed and size some are looking for, but this kid plays fast and he shoots out of a cannon. He has really good vision, he is pit bull with the ball in his hands. Some may look elsewhere because his hands aren’t natural as a receiver, but I want a gamer back there and he is exactly that.

  1. D’Andre Swift / Georgia / 5’8 – 212

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A two-year starter who has been a part of a committee approach since the start of his career. Swift played behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as a freshman, then took over the leading rusher role the rest of the way. He was 2nd Team All SEC in 2018, and 1st Team in 2019. Swift is an every down back who can contribute on every down, no matter the situation. His ability to make the first guy miss and make the spectacular catch will make the highlight reels, but Swift’s greatest value his how reliable he is down to down. He will make big plays, yes, but he will provide the value by picking up the tough yards inside and falling forward. The one red flag that must be addressed, however, stems from how he handles the ball. He let it loose way too often. Other than that, Swift is a near can’t-miss.

*Many have Swift as RB1, I won’t argue against it. He has the body that you want. Short and stocky, really thick and powerful legs. He is still very capable of pushing piles and picking up the tough inside yards. He is just a tad tight in my opinion. I don’t see elite, but I do see a solid starter. Underrated receiving ability too.

  1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire / LSU / 5’7 – 207

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A one year starter who was the Tigers second leading rusher in 2018 before putting together one of the best seasons at the position in LSU history. The 1st Team All SEC back, team MVP, and Paul Hornung finalist led the SEC in touchdowns with 16 and was second in the conference in rushing. Edwards-Helaire is a versatile threat who carries his ability to make defenders miss into both the running and passing games respectively. He really turned it on when the lights shined brightest, showing his hunger and ability to create something out of nothing routinely. His lack of height is actually a weapon and don’t mistake him for an undersized back because of it. He is a rock on contact with thick legs and bruiser mentality. He is an ideal compliment to a backfield that already has a back who can contribute 10-15 carries per game.

*This is the kind of back who I love to have as a compliment, but do not mistake that for a backup. If I want to split touches in the backfield and I already have a bruiser or a big play space threat, Edwards-Helaire is the guy I want behind him. He is effective in so many situations. I have a feeling we are going to see Tampa Bay take him in round 2 and he is going to be the next Tom Brady back who catches 75+ passes and ends up scoring a ton of points. This kid is a gamer and a near-sure thing to at least be a solid player.

  1. Antonio Gibson / Memphis / 6’0 – 228

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Stockbridge, Georgia. One year starter a Memphis after a two year stint at East Central Community College in Mississippi. Gibson earned 2nd Team All American Athletic Conference honors as a wide receiver and also the conference Co-Special Teams Player of the Year Award. This is as interesting a player as there is in the entire draft class. He barely touched the ball in comparison to other draft prospects over the past two years, but you will have a hard time finding a guy who scored 14 touchdowns on 77 career offensive touches, 33 of which were carries. Gibson was finally put into the backfield halfway through 2019 as a hybrid WR/RB, and he excelled. He simply sat behind two future NFL picks (Tony Pollard and Darrel Henderson) and shared other duties with current prospect Patrick Taylor Jr. Gibson is a top tier athlete who looked like one of the best running backs during Senior Bowl week and one has to assume he is very early on the progressive scale. Give this kid some time, carve out a few package-plays for him in the meantime, and you have one of the top value picks in the draft.

*Gibson may be the highest-ceiling prospect in this group. The hybrid RB/WR is being viewed as a RB by every team that I know of, so even though he was primarily a WR at Memphis, that is why he is in the RB preview. I actually thought he was the top RB at the Senior Bowl all week, by a wide margin. Gibson has really good size, he plays physical, and he has legit runaway speed. He is also coming into the league with more tread on the tires. I think someone is going to take a gamble on him much earlier than people think.

  1. Anthony McFarland / Maryland / 5’8 – 208

Grade: 77

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Hyattsville, Maryland. A two-year starter who shared backfield duties both seasons. McFarland was wanted by Alabama but a broken leg his senior year of high school caused them to back off. McFarland settled on Maryland and after a redshirt year in 2017, he set a school record for rushing yards by a freshman with 1,034 yards including a stunning 298 against Ohio State. He finished 2nd Team All Big 10 that season. 2019 didn’t go as planned, as Maryland really struggled to get any sort of rhythm going on that side of the ball and McFarland couldn’t be used as he should. He isn’t an every down back, but McFarland can be one of the most dangerous threats in the league if used correctly. He has elite burst and agility with the ball in his hands and will run away from pursuers in space. There is more strength and balance to his game than people think and considering he touched the ball just under 275 times, he comes in with fresh wheels. Potential draft-altering pick for a team.

*I am having a hard time pegging where McFarland will go in the draft, but that aside I think he is a day 2 player who can immediately add big play presence to an offense. If a team has a grinder in the backfield but they don’t have big play potential, McFarland has to be in their crosshairs. He shoots out of a cannon and can run away from defenders like very few can.

  1. Jonathon Taylor / Wisconsin / 5’10 – 226

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Salem, New Jersey. A three-year starter with one of the most prolific running back careers in NCAA history. Two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award and was a finalist in the year he didn’t win. Two time unanimous 1st Team All American and 2nd Team All American in the other year. The number 6-all time leading rusher in NCAA history who rushed for over 1,900 yards all three seasons, the only player to ever do that. Taylor can open eyes with his production and straight-line athleticism. There simply aren’t many humans that can move like he does at 220 pounds with running back-ability. The two red flags, however, are enough to knock his grade down a bit. He has had major fumble issues (18) over his career that never quite got fixed, and his lateral adjustments show up against the more athletic defenses he faced. Questions revolving around his ability to even reach the open field to use that sprinter’s speed that earned him two state titles on the track in high school are legitimate. Taylor brings plenty of upside but a lot needs to be corrected and a team needs to know he isn’t a do-it-all player.

*I am lower on Taylor than the entire market, I know. And this is a grade that has the potential to come back and bite me where it hurts, I know. But I don’t like spending high picks on guys with major turnover problems and I don’t think Taylor plays to his timed athleticism. He is a tough kid and he works hard, I also think he is a better receiver than people think too. But I don’t see special in him, I see a day 2 pick who is closer to day 3 than day 1.

  1. Cam Akers / Florida State / 5’10 – 217

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Clinton, Mississippi. Three year starter who arrived at Florida State as one of the most sought after recruits in the country. Akers was a high school quarterback who was dominant on the ground but also produced through the air. Akers broke Dalvin Cook’s FSU freshman rushing record and ended his career as the 6th all time leading rusher in program history. He was 3rd Team All ACC in 2017, 2nd Team in 2019. Akers has every down capability in his running style. He sees the field exceptionally well, takes what the defense gives him, and gains plenty of yards after contact. He improved as a receiver all three years and plays with the team-first attitude that can inspire hope for his blocking potential, which was up and down at Florida State. Akers, however, has a ball security issue that absolutely must be fixed before he can be trusted in the NFL. He puts the ball in the wrong hand at an alarming rate and he fumbled once every 65 touches in college. The offense was broken at FSU over the last two years, so there is some unknown here if he gets put into a quality scheme with good blocking. He has all the traits but it won’t see the light of day if he doesn’t fix the ball security issues.

*The Florida State faithful will continue to tell anyone who listens that Akers had one of the worst situations to deal with in college football and that somebody is going to get the steal of the draft here. I take that with a grain of salt but I do know a longtime Southeast scout who told me he thinks Akers is going to be a better pro than Dalvin Cook. I do see the flashes on tape and yes, his line + passing game at FSU made life difficult for him. But once again, I hate it when guys can’t hold onto the ball in college. I am keeping him here.

  1. Zack Moss / Utah / 5’9 – 223

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Hialeah Gardens, Florida. Three-year starter who re-wrote the running back record book at Utah. A 2019 All American and Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year Award winner. Also finished 2nd Team All Pac 12 in his injury shortened 2018 season. Cousin to former NFL receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss. A back who could have declared for the 2019 draft, Moss opted to return for his senior year and prove a meniscus injury was behind him, and that he did. The every down back is a force with the ball in his hands who, especially with downhill momentum, will pick up the tough yards by running through contact. He is more than a simple inside runner, however. He is very elusive and slippery in the open field and always seems to have his balance. He looks like a pass catcher as well, giving him an every down feel. He has suffered injuries to his knee, shoulder, and foot respectively, however. At the very least he can be a 1B option for a team that wants a dual attack out of the backfield, but has the potential to be the guy.

*If it weren’t for the multiple injuries, Moss could have been in the top 5 of this group. I think many still do, actually. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken early round 3 for a team that needs a between the tackles bruiser. He shouldn’t be the focal point of a backfield, but he can be an important piece.

  1. DeeJay Dallas / Miami / 5’10 – 217

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Brunswick, Georgia. One year starter who was a part of the running back rotation all three seasons. A dislocated elbow ended his junior campaign three games early. Dallas is one of the most physical backs in the class and it shows up within multiple phases. With the ball in his hands, he can take on big contact and stone the defender, maintaining his center of gravity, and continue to move north. As a pass blocker, he is often the aggressor who will stand the blitzer up and finish him off. Dallas has a lot of value to a team that wants a backup right away to handle third down duties without giving up too much in the running game. He has starter traits to develop but at the very least will be a solid backup.

*I’m not sure where Dallas is going to go in the draft, I don’t have a pulse on his situation. If he ends up being one of the backs who slips into mid to late day 3, he is someone who I think fits really well in NYG’s running back room. He is a really physical downhill runner who can pick up positive yards when just a couple are needed. He is the best blocker in the class in my opinion. And he showed the ability to make circus catches, he really is a complete player. Not sure why he doesn’t get more publicity. Also have good reports on him as a worker, team player, and coachable kid.

  1. Darius Anderson / TCU / 5’11 – 208

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Richmond, Texas. A key contributor all four years who started games for three seasons. A two-time Honorable Mention All Big 12 performer. Anderson has been a consistently productive back in the high-powered TCU offense since his freshman season. He has led the Horned Frogs in yards per carry every year and displayed a new talent as a receiver as a senior. Anderson is a threat with the ball in his hands because of his burst and acceleration, but also some sneaky power and balance. He contorts his body through traffic well to break tackles and gain yards after contact and proved he had enough breakaway speed to rattle off the big play when it is there. Anderson won’t be an every down back and needs to shore up ball security and blocking, but he can produce in the league.

*Anderson is a plus athlete who runs really hard and maintains excellent balance after contact. There is a really good combination of skills in his game that could end up making him a big play threat. Day three guy all the way but every year we see a few of them make a difference. Anderson will be one of those guys if he gets his number called.

11. JaMycal Hasty / Baylor / 5’8 – 205

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Longview, Texas. A four-year contributor who finished top three in the team’s carries all four years. Honorable Mention All Big 12 back in 2019, Hasty lacks the ideal triangle numbers but it is easy to see this kid runs bigger than his size. He is a violent, mighty-mouse type runner who consistently breaks through contact and will create afterward. He is an underrated pass catcher who, once he has a head of steam, will not be a welcomed sight for defensive backs in space. He has bad intentions when he plants his foot in the ground and moves north. While Hasty won’t create a ton on his own and his pass blocking needs work, he is the kind of back who outperforms several backs drafted ahead of him.

*I am a little biased toward Hasty, I will admit that. I was one of the first ones on him dating back to the fall of 2018. There is something about him that I like, similar to what I saw in Alex Collins out of Arkansas in the 2016 class. He was a 5th rounder who out-produced several backs in front of him but injuries and drug suspension derailed his career. Hasty has a similar pit bull running style and plays a lot faster than he times. He shoots out of a cannon and will run through guys. His lack of true size and inconsistent third down contributions could make him fall into late day three. I would keep a close eye on him.

  1. Ke’Shawn Vaughn / Vanderbilt / 5’10 – 214

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Nashville, Tennessee. One-year starter at Illinois, two year starter at Vanderbilt. Vaughn spent his first two seasons at Illinois before transferring. In 2018 he led the SEC in yards per carry and rushed for the second most yards in a season in school history. His production didn’t quite match that level in 2019, as he was nicked up throughout the year and he played behind a porous offensive line. Vaughn runs with attitude, sometimes may be a bit too much. But more often than not his emotion is an asset to his game, as he fights through arm tackles and gains plenty of yards after contact. He will be NFL ready right away as part of a committee, but he will need to bulk up if he wants to be an every down back.

*Vaughn was my top senior running back in my preseason stack. Sometimes that ends up landing you in the day 2 tier but things didn’t click in 2019 the way I was hoping. He simply doesn’t have the standout traits to his game besides high effort. He is a feisty guy and I think he can help a backfield, but you can get this kind of guy any year. Also comes into the NFL with some wear and tear.

  1. Joshua Kelley / UCLA / 5’11 – 212

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Lancaster, California. Spent two years at UC Davis before transferring to UCLA, sitting out 2017. A two year starter for the Bruins who was Honorable Mention all Pac 12 in 2018, 2nd Team in 2019. Kelley has the look of an ideal third down back at the next level. He has wide receiver-caliber ball skills and routes, but also showed the ability to run the ball inside and out in addition to plus-pass blocking effort. He has a smoothness to his game that does not come around often. His overall upside may be limited, as he doesn’t break tackles and there are vision issues, but there is a lot he can do for an offense right away.

*Kelley has a real chance at being a late day 2 pick because of how well he runs routes and catches the ball. He isn’t a soft kid by any means, either. Teams that want to add a receiving threat to their offense will like him a lot.

  1. Lamical Perine / Florida / 5’11 – 216

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Mobile, Alabama. Two year starter but has been a steady contributor to the Gators backfield since he stepped on the field. He led the team in rushing three straight seasons and was the second leading rusher as a freshman. Perine won’t jump off the screen in any way but the consistency and 3-down capabilities here are attractive. He is the kind of player who will compete hard and help the team in a variety of ways. He isn’t a feature back, but instead a nice option to have on the depth chart who can provide depth across every role a running back group hosts.

*Some teams don’t want specialty backs. They don’t want a receiver, they don’t want a short yardage bruiser, they don’t want a blazing speed threat. They just want a stack of guys who can get all the jobs done. Jack of all trades, master of none. That is Perine. He won’t stand out anywhere, but he is a natural, tough runner with good vision. In the right situation, he is someone who can step right in and get the job done but don’t expect anything more than average play.

  1. Eno Benjamin / Arizona State / 5’9 – 207

Grade: 71

Summary: Junior entry. Two-year starter from Wylie, Texas. A two-time All Pac 12 running back and 2018 All American. Benjamin is an exciting talent with the ball in his hands who will consistently create on his own. He isn’t the ideal back for a cut and dry system, but instead someone a team will want on the field on third down to catch the ball in space and see what he can do. He doesn’t have the body to take an every down pounding and fumbles are an issue. Benjamin is a guy to put within a backfield group, but not at the top of it.

*There are some impressive highlight tapes of Benjamin and because of that, I think the public has a higher outlook on him than most. He can be a nice change up to an offense that needs a spark though, yes. He is slippery and hungry in the open field. He is destined for a backup or complimentary role, but just don’t expect too much from him.

  1. AJ Dillon / Boston College: 70
  2. Darrynton Evans / Appalachian State: 70
  3. Patrick Taylor / Memphis: 70
  4. Benny Lemay / Charlotte: 70
  5. Jason Huntley / New Mexico State: 69
  6. James Robinson / Illinois State: 69
  7. Salvon Ahmed / Washington: 69
  8. Raymond Calais / Louisiana Lafayette: 69
  9. Sewo Olinolua / TCU: 68
  10. Javon Leake / Maryland: 68

NYG APPROACH

The long-term depth at running back is essentially non-existent. Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman are both free agents after the 2020 season and nobody would be surprised to see not one, but both of them playing elsewhere in 2021. While that isn’t a reason to panic, you also don’t want to go into the 2021 draft in absolute need of a backup. It may be worth trying to find a late round talent who can be developed for a year at the back end of the depth chart, learn the offensive scheme and blocking responsibilities, and put him right behind Barkley in 2021. While I don’t think this is a must for NYG, I do think it would be wise. I tend to lean toward a back who is big and physical, both as a ball carrier and blocker.

Apr 172020
 
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CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma Sooners (December 7, 2019)

CeeDee Lamb – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 25, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 26-45 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

Thankfully Darius Slayton burst on the scene over the course of the second half of the season. If it weren’t for him, there would be reason to consider this position group one of the top 3 weaknesses on the roster. It’s not that they lack able players at the position, as Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate are both solid options. The issue is they lack the one guy who is going to strike fear into the opposition. Nobody is losing sleep over defending Shepard, a quick and shifty slot who has averaged 4 touchdowns per year and just over 11 yards per catch. Nobody is undergoing extra game planning for Golden Tate, a soon-to-be 32 year old who averages 12 yards per catch over his career and caught 57% of his targets in 2019, the second worst of his career. Slayton, as impressive as he looks, is still considered unproven and a bit of an unknown. The drop off behind those three is significant. Corey Coleman, Da’Mari Scott, Cody Core, Reggie White, David Sills V, and Amba Etta-Tawo are all roster hopeful-caliber players and maybe you get lucky with on one or two of them, but the heavy odds are that won’t happen.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 25 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. CeeDee Lamb / Oklahoma / 6’2 – 198

Grade: 86

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from Richmond, Texas. A three time All Big 12 honoree, 2019 Consensus All American and Biletnikoff Award finalist. Lamb left Oklahoma near the top of the school’s all-time receiving lists. He is a big play threat, as seen with his 24 catches of 40+ yards (a school record), who creates with more than simple downfield speed. Despite being slightly undersized, Lamb is a weapon after the catch who will break tackles, see the field well, and run away in space. He is an electric playmaker with a fierce competitive mindset that will carry over well to the next level. He can play outside and in the slot depending on the situational and scheme. Lamb is a sure bet to be a productive player in the NFL.

*Lamb has been my WR1 since August. As you will see, there are a few guys who are close but I never really viewed this as much of a debate. Lamb is talented, but not uber talented. He makes his money with something I wish all receivers had, the dog mentality. This dude is a gamer, he is tough, and he makes things happen with the ball in his hands. There is no “Diva” here, he never plays soft, and he needs to win. There is some DeAndre Hopkins in him when looking at his body type and ability to win in traffic despite not having elite size or strength. He is a year 1 starter and will be one of the top 10 receivers in the game within a couple years if he can pick up on the mental side of things. He didn’t test well there.

  1. Henry Ruggs III / Alabama / 5’11 – 188

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Montgomery, Alabama. Former five star recruit. The speedy deep threat on a team full of fast deep threats stood out over his final two years as he displayed a level of burst and acceleration that the opposition could not handle. When he gets a clean release, there aren’t many who can even think about staying close to him on the vertical routes. There is some lack of variety to his game but don’t make the mistake of labeling him a deep-threat only kind of player. He is a competitor who will work hard at his craft. If and when he develops his underneath route running and ball skills, Ruggs could be an incredibly dangerous weapon in any NFL offense.

*I want to say this about Ruggs. He was the only one I considered putting on the same level as Lamb grade wise. The only reason why he is down here is something most aren’t talking about but I can almost guarantee some teams are worried about it. He has had multiple soft tissue injuries over his career. Calf and hip mainly. He also got nicked up with separate hand, rib, and concussion issues. While he didn’t miss a lot of action, I get worried about this track-type body types who run at his elite-level rate. However his speed is elite and rare, and he isn’t a soft guy at all. He plays hard.

  1. Jerry Jeudy / Alabama / 6’1 – 193

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Deerfield Beach, Florida. A former five star recruit. Winner of the 2018 Biletnikoff Award and two time 1st Team All SEC and All American. Jeudy already has many of the refined skill sets of a pro receiver. He runs sharp, precise routes with cat-like quickness and agility. When it comes to short spaces, he can be a blur to defenders trying to jab him and/or stick to his hip pocket. He has produced at a high level against the toughest competition in college football despite some long speed and size concerns. Jeudy is a football player, not a workout-winner. He will simply get open, make things happen after the catch, and be a team player. Everyone can work with a kid like this and even though his overall ceiling may no be through the roof, he is as safe a pick as any in this class.

*Jeudy was widely considered the top WR in the class at the start of the year. I never put him in that elite tier or anywhere close to it, but there is no denying how ready he is for NFL offense right now. When it comes to playing receiver at a high level, you need to be really good at getting open, catching the ball, and making things happen after the catch. If you miss out on one of them, make sure you are elite at the other two. Jeudy is an elite route runner and he has elite stop and go ability with the ball. The one red flag I’ve noticed are the hands downfield. He body catches a bit too much for me to consider him elite and he missed a few deep balls in 2019. No, his hands are not a major issue but I can’t say they are on par with his other traits. Still a starter week 1 and a very good compliment to a passing game, just not sure he can be a team’s top guy week to week.

  1. Tee Higgins / Clemson / 6’4 – 216

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry. Two-year starter from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Two time All –ACC, including a 1st Team honor in 2019. Higgins was a top shelf high school recruit who left the school tied with former Tigers’ DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins as the all time leader in touchdown receptions (27). He is the only player in program history to record 10+ touchdown catches in consecutive years. Higgins lacks some of the burst and quickness that a receiver needs to get open along all levels of the route tree, but the elite ball skills and ability to snag the ball from any and every angle with a sense of ease will make up a dangerous threat in the league. He plays fast enough and there are other traits in his game that make him a future number one receiver for a team that likes to throw the ball downfield.

*I’ve been on Higgins all year. Plain and simple I love how this kid attacks the ball with aggression but at the same time makes it look smooth and easy. He is such a natural receiver who will always have the advantage in one on one situations. There is also some sneaky-good route running traits he has when it comes to planting his foot and getting in/out of breaks. The Giants may have a shot at him in round 2 and while plenty of discussion can rightfully be placed elsewhere on the roster, this team needs to score points. If they want a receiver to offset what they have in the current WR group, Higgins would be a nice get.

  1. Justin Jefferson / LSU / 6’1 – 202

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry from St. Rose, Louisiana. A two year starter who earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2019. The number one pass catcher for LSU each of the past two years who’s 18 touchdowns in 2019 were second in the nation only to teammate Ja’Marr Chase. Jefferson played primarily out of the slot in 2019 and because of his crisp route running and smooth ball skills, it will likely be his ideal spot in the NFL. He has great twitch and transition for a player with his length and he will create unique opportunities in that role at the next level. While his long speed and playing strength can be questioned, he proved his ability to impact a game but short and deep and will be a NFL-ready receiver right away.

*Jefferson was one of the surprises of the combine for me. I thought he would run in the 4.55+ area but he ended with a 4.42. He is such a smooth and easy athlete who he actually appears to be playing slower than he is. That is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen often. Jefferson will be pro ready right away and while I think he best projects to the slot, he could play outside as well. He tracks the deep ball as well as anyone. Also a top-tier kid who everyone knows will come in and work his butt off.

  1. Chase Claypool / Notre Dame / 6’4 – 238

Grade: 82

Summary: Senior entry from Abbotsford, British Columbia. Three year starter. From little known high school recruit in Canada, to Notre Dame’s leader in special team tackles in 2016, all the way to Notre Dame’s leading receiver in 2019, Claypool has shown the kind of progression and hard work that will impress every coach in the league. Combine that with a set of tools that no other receiver in the class can match, and a credible argument can be made for him being one of the top players in the draft at receiver. Claypool may be projected to a hybrid receiver/tight end role in the NFL but no matter what, he has the potential to be a dominant force. The ball skills and physical brand will make him a weapon who can be used on both offense and special teams right away and he has number one pass catcher potential.

*I have had Claypool in the first round discussion since mid-October, way before he went to the combine and tore it up. The way he moves plus his size had me thinking Evan Engram back during the season. Now there is talk some teams view him as a tight end, which I don’t entirely agree with but it just strengthens the Engram comparison. Claypool moves like a guy who weights 215 and I’m not only talking about long speed. He gets in and out of breaks really well, he adjusts to the ball really well, and he is a true competitor. I would take this kind of gamble any day.

  1. Denzel Mims / Baylor / 6’3 – 207

Grade: 81

Summary: Senior entry from Daingerfield, Texas. Three year starter who earned All Big 12 honors in both 2017 and 2019. The former high school basketball and track star had a bit of a back and forth career at Baylor because of the quality around him, but his 2019 cemented him as one of the top receivers in the class. Mims has a classic wide receiver build with wiry strong length and a defender’s mentality. He is incredibly physical and tough but also shows a blend of finesse and pure speed that can make him a threat within all areas of the route tree. There are some elements to his game that need to be fixed, most notably his release and route running, but the tools are there. His issues are fixable and if he fine tunes the skill set, he can be a number one receiver in the league.

*You want a receiver who is going to actually make a difference as a blocker? Here you go. Mims is physical and strong with an aggressive, borderline reckless approach on the field. He really evolved as a pass catcher in 2019 and the tools are near top shelf. He is long and fast with good ball tracking and he really competes for the ball and after the catch. He almost seems like the perfect prospect who should be graded higher, but he still has some rawness to his game. He didn’t run a lot of routes and he can still get sloppy as a route runner. I think he ends up being a really solid player but may just need extra time compared to others up here.

  1. Brandon Aiyuk / Arizona State / 6’0 – 205

Grade: 81

Summary: Senior entry. Two year starter from Reno, Nevada. Spent two seasons at Sierra Junior College. After being the number two guy behind N’Keal Harry in 2018, Aiyuk took over as a senior, finishing second in the conference in receiving. The 1st Team All Pac 12 standout brings a rare level of hand size and arm length, making him play bigger than the listed size. Aiyuk’s greatest trait, however, is the ability to burst and get himself open via movement. He has enough speed to make a corner bail on his technique and enough quickness to plant his foot and dart away from them underneath. In the right scheme and role, he is a year-one contributor. He still needs to clean up some release issues and continue to learn the game at a higher level, but he can be a dynamic weapon at the next level.

*Aiyuk just recently underwent a core muscle surgery and while it doesn’t appear that serious, I wonder if these medical red flags will bump him down because of the situation we are under. He is a legit first round talent who still has a way to go on the progression scale. If he reaches his upside, he has some Odell Beckham in his arsenal. Like Mims, he is a bit raw still and there are credible questions. Some have him in their top 20 overall though.

  1. Van Jefferson / Florida / 6’2 – 200

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Brentwood, Tennessee. Began his career at Ole Miss where he started and finished second on the team in catches among a group of pass catchers that included Evan Engram, AJ Brown, and DK Metcalf. Jefferson transferred to Florida after graduating in just three years, giving him two more seasons of eligibility. He started both years and led the Gators in receiving both times. Jefferson’s father is a former NFL wide receiver and also the current Jets receiver coach. It is obvious he is coming into the league with a deep understanding of the game on multiple levels. He runs impeccable routes, catches everything he gets his hands on, and will make things happen with the ball in his hands. He may not have the top tier physical traits when it comes to size and speed, but he is almost a sure-bet to be a productive player at the next level. The only question is overall upside.

*This kid is being overlooked by the public, but I am confident he is going to be a 2nd or early 3rd rounder. I think he lacks some of the elite tools and highlights that many are looking for, but this kid has gotten the job done multiple times across multiple offenses. He stood out on teams with other pro-receivers. His father is a wide receiver coach and you can tell he knows what he is doing when running routes and attacking the ball. His learning curve will not be as steep as some others which again, I think will be valued more this year than others.

  1. Michael Pittman Jr./ USC / 6’4 – 223

Grade: 80

Summary: Senior entry. Three year starter from Woodland Hills, California. Son of former NFL running back Michael Pittman. Pittman made the 1st Team All Pac 12 as a special teams player in 2017 and Honorable Mention as a receiver in 2018 and 1st Team in 2019. He has been a versatile, multi faceted contributor since the start of his career. That all ties together how much this kid knows the game and can adjust to whatever role he is thrown into. For a receiver who doesn’t possess top tier athletic traits, Pittman can still get the job done because of superior route running, ball skills, and toughness. While he won’t be a number one threat, he is the kind of player who will be in the league a long time and will remain consistent and steady.

*Another kid with NFL lineage here and it shows when I watched his tape. Pittman knows exactly what to do when the ball is in the air when it comes to body positioning and timing. He can high point the ball exceptionally well and he rarely lets one hit the turf if it is within his reach. He doesn’t have the juice to be a big time threat athletically, but he is going to be dependable for a long time. I bet he has a 10+ year career and scores a lot of touchdowns.

  1. Bryan Edwards / South Carolina / 6’3 – 212

Grade: 80

Summary: Senior entry from Conway, South Carolina. Four-year starter who re-wrote the school record book. Caught a pass in all 48 games he played in. A two time winner of the school’s Steve Spurrier Award, given to the teams top offensive player. A permanent team captain. Edwards is the kind of player every coach wants to welcome in with open arms based on his intangibles alone. He is a complete, balanced player who brings toughness, competitiveness, and production to the table. Athletically he won’t scare anyone, but he gets the most out of himself and will be a guy who sticks around in the league for a long time.

*There isn’t enough talk about Edwards but I can understand why, there are simply so many good receivers in this class. Edwards may be this year’s version of Darius Slayton, a guy I have graded in the second round who could be available early day three. His speed is sneaky, he runs good routes, and he will catch everything within his radius. Edwards has good size, something NYG needs at the position. I can see these two pairing up.

  1. KJ Hamler / Penn State / 5’9 – 178

Grade: 79

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Pontiac, Michigan. A two year starter who exploded onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2018, a year that saw him break Saquon Barkley’s school all purpose yards record for freshmen while ending up Honorable Mention All Big 10 as a receiver and kick returner respectively. He was also a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation’s most versatile player. Hamler didn’t quite produce the same way in 2019 but there is no denying how electric he is with the ball in his hands. The 2nd Team All Big 10 receiver can line up in the slot and outside because of his ability to get vertical on one play and open underneath the next. He is as agile and quick as he is fast. The lack of size will hurt him and there needs to be an improvement as a pass catcher, but Hamler’s is the kind of player who a defense will need to adjust to. He is a playmaker who can make things happen at any given moment in a variety of ways.

*High risk, high reward player who won’t be a fit for every team. Some offenses don’t want anything to do with someone who stands just under 5’9 and weights under 180 pounds. He is electric, though. For an offense with a creative mind running the show, packages and plays can be created for what this kid can do on the field. He also showed some impressive route running which doesn’t get enough attention from the public, he can really get himself open.

  1. Jalen Reagor / TCU / 5’11 / 206

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Waxahachie, Texas. Two year starter but was a key contributor all three seasons. Named 2017 Big 12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year and earned 2nd Team All Big 12 honors in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Son of former NFL defensive tackle Monte Reagor. Jalen is a gadget player at this point who can line up all over the field including the backfield. He is the kind of player who no opposing defensive coach wants to see with the ball in his hands because of his legit ability to score every time he touches it. Reagor is coming into the league with a raw feel, however. He is sloppy as a route runner who doesn’t maximize his physical gifts. He doesn’t catch the ball consistently. And his effort can be questioned on some plays where is isn’t directly involved. His upside is exciting and he will be an occasional playmaker at the very least, but he has a lot of work to do.

*Reagor is a tough guy to scout for a few reasons. TCU put him all over the offense and they were really inconsistent week to week when it came to getting him the ball, especially in 2019. Another thing, he suffered from really poor QB play as a junior. Third, Reagor lacks staying power. What I mean by that is he looks to be an all or nothing type asset. There are some weeks where he looks like what Percy Harvin was supposed to be, other weeks where he looks like what Percy Harvin actually was. His hands are shaky at best, his routes don’t match his movement skills, and he doesn’t play big. He has first round burst and big play potential, but there is so much more to it than that.

  1. Laviska Shenault / Colorado / 6’1 – 227

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from DeSoto, Texas. Two-year starter who was 1st Team All Pac 12 in 2018, 2nd Team in 2019. The do-it-all weapon for Colorado lined up all over the offense and produced from multiple spots. At his size, he can certainly pose as a backfield threat in certain packages. Getting him the ball via the handoff and/or screen game will put pressure on the defense because of his ability to break tackles and gain yards after contact. As an outside receiver, Shenault will have a hard time getting open. He is very raw as a route runner and his speed won’t put anyone on their heels. He is a physical gimmick player with some additional upside if he can refine his skill set quite a bit.

*Shenault underwent core muscle surgery and was a little banged up throughout the 2019 season. That factored into his grade a bit, but nothing drastic. I like him as an oversized gimmick player who looks comfortable and natural in multiple roles. I think there are some effort issues though and this is kid who has a lot of work to do from a skill set perspective.

  1. James Proche / SMU / 5’11 – 201

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Dallas, Texas. Four year starter who re-wrote the program’s all time receiver record book, leaving atop the career catches, yards, and touchdowns lists respectively. Two time All AAC honoree. Proche is the gamer of all gamers who will always find a way to make an impact. He lined up both outside and in the slot in addition to being the team’s primary punt returner. No receiver in the country caught as many balls as Proche over the past two years. His question will be long speed and that may determine if he will be full time slot or not at the next level. If so, he will need to clean up the consistency of his route running but he shows the tools to do so. According to SMU coaches, he has the best pair of hands they have ever been around and that’s the way it shows on tape. Proche won countless contested situations despite lacking a size advantage. The skill set is dangerous and if he finds the right situation in the NFL, he will be among league leaders in catches.

*When I made my master list last June/July/August, I tried to watch a little bit of tape on each prospect (over 1,000 players) even if it was just a few minutes. I like to get a very-initial view on guys. When I watched Proche, I immediately said this kid catches the ball different than everyone else. Fast forward to now, I’ve read the SMU coaches say he has the best hands they’ve ever seen and Daniel Jeremiah recently stated he has the best ball skills in the draft. Proche didn’t run well and he isn’t big, so there is a chance he falls into late day three. If I need a slot, I am all over him though. Maybe not a fit for NYG but if he gets to the right situation, he is the guy who catches 100 balls per year.

  1. Donovan People-Jones / Michigan / 6’2 – 212

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Detroit, Michigan. Three-year starter who earned 3rd Team All Big 10 honors in 2018 as both a receiver and punt returner. The former 5-star recruit who was also an accomplished high school sprinter with a near-4.0 grade point average never quite lived up to the hype after a promising Freshman All American season in 2017. The inconsistent quarterback play combined with a lingering lower body injury that hampered him in the first half of 2019 left a lot of unknowns for him. However his athletic ability combined with top shelf length and hand size in addition to a woefully impressive combine leaves him on the positive side of that wonder. This is a receiver with number one receiver potential who needs to clean up some of his route running, but already has other traits that will help a team right away.

*One of the most overlooked talents in the draft. People-Jones has the goods but he struggled to fully put it together at Michigan. There was a lot of poor and inconsistent QB play that hurt him specifically. This is a really smart kid with plus juice and explosion. He’s made some catches in traffic that were really high-difficulty but he made them look simple and easy. He already shows some plus route running and quick decision making when reacting to the defense. Most years he is a top 10 talent at the position.

  1. Lynn Bowden / Kentucky / 5’11 – 204

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Youngstown, Ohio. Two year starter who stole the show as an all purpose performer in 2019, winning the Paul Hornung Award and earning 1st Team All American honors. The two time 1st Team All SEC honoree made the move to quarterback for the final 8 games of 2019 which led to him leading the Wildcats in both rushing and receiving. The versatility grade Bowden brings to the table will give the more creative offensive play-callers wide eyes. This kid is a gamer who knows the game exceptionally well and has the feel and movement ability to support it. He projects as a slot receiver who will need to clean up his route running but in the mean time, he can be a specific package player who will put a defense on their heels when he steps on the field.

*In this copycat league, you may see some teams view Bowden as the next Taysom Hill. A wide receiver who can actually line up at quarterback and pose as a threat in multiple ways. If you are grading him strictly as a receiver, he may be a tad lower but not much. He is really smooth and easy with the ball in his hands but he plays to a 4.45 speed. He made a lot of SEC defenders look silly. If you can create a specific role for him, he can make things happen. Not sure if NYG has it in the cards to get creative like that, but if they want to think outside the box I bet he is there in round 4.

  1. Antonio Gandy-Golden / Liberty / 6’4 – 223

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Dallas, Georgia. Three year starter who was 1st Team All Big South in 2017 before Liberty bumped up to FBS, going independent. The team’s leading receiver three straight seasons has a lot of dominant tape to look back on over his career. He has the size, strength, and leaping ability to take over a 50/50 situation and come down with the ball, making him a credible red zone threat right away. He has some sloppiness and lethargic movement as a route runner, but the steady improvement he showed over the last four seasons should give reason for optimism in regard to overcoming some athletic shortcomings.

*Maybe the most physical receiver in the group, Gandy-Golden will be a credible red zone threat right away. He has plus body control and coordination to help maximize his tools. He won’t be an every down threat when it comes to deep speed or underneath separation, but his size and competitiveness will overshadow some movement shortcomings. A good fit for what NYG needs but I could see him falling a bit because of a lack of speed.

  1. Kalija Lipscomb / Vanderbilt / 6’0 – 207

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from New Orleans, Louisiana. Two year starter who was the team’s leading receiver in 2019 and 2018 respectively. If it weren’t for such poor quarterback play, Lipscomb’s production could have been much more attractive. He did the most he could from a bad offensive situation and could a top value for an offense looking for a slot option. He moves exceptionally fast off the line and will get open underneath consistently. He also shows toughness and grit in traffic with elusiveness after the catch. A lack of long speed will limit his impact on the outside, but if he can stay in a traditional slot role, he can be effective early on.

*I like how competitive Lipscomb plays week in, week out. A really feisty player who gets the most out of himself and rarely lets one hit the turf. His tools are average to below average, but he had a petty productive career in the SEC despite playing with poor QBs. He caught my eye at the Senior Bowl as a slot prospect but he may not be ideal for an outside role.

  1. Devin Duveray / Texas / 5’11 – 200

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Sachse, Texas. Two-year starter who was involved in the offense all four seasons. Has some kick return experience. Finished number one in the nation among FBS receivers in catches with 103 (regular season) en route to a 1st Team All Big 12 honor. Duvernay was state champion sprinter in high school who broke out as a senior. His ability to take the top off a defense while also tracking the ball well and finishing plays with the ball is an attractive asset that every offense is looking for. What is unique about him is the running back build and mentality. He can make things happen after the catch with a blend of toughness and speed that a creative offensive mind can sometimes only dream about. His feel for the game as a route runner and somewhat below average agility may limit his impact underneath and intermediate, but there are traits here that can certainly make an impact.

*In this overly crowded receiver class, it is very possible some teams have Duvernay in the top 15. He has top shelf speed, he had a really productive year, and he is effective after the catch. Someone is going to take a chance on him day 2 I think. I just don’t love the tightness he shows as a route runner and he doesn’t get to a lot of balls away from his body, which is already playing with a small radius. He is a big play threat though, no denying it.

  1. KJ Hill / Ohio State / 6’0 – 196

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior. Technically just a one year starter but has been heavily involved in the Buckeyes passing attack all four seasons. Honorable Mention All Big 10 in both 2019 and 2018. Set the all time receptions record at Ohio State toward the tail end of his career. Hill was also a punt returner in his time in Columbus. He projects as a slot receiver at the next level because of his sharp route running ability, quickness out of his breaks, and lack of true size and speed that would be reserved for the outside. Hill’s production may have been somewhat of a result of right place, right time type factors, but he still deserves a shot at taking on a slot role in the NFL. He will need to get more physical in a crowd and increase his production after the catch if he is going to stick.

*Hill projects to the slot at the next level. He plays smaller than he is listed. With that said, to set the all time catch record at a program like Ohio State is noteworthy. Combine that with how coordinated he looks when it comes to route running and ball skills and he looks like a safe day three pick who you know will give you something but lacks the big time upside.

  1. Isaiah Hodgins / Oregon State / 6’4 – 210

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry from Oakley, California. A three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors in 2018, 2nd Team in 2019. The son of former Rams Super Bowl winning fullback James Hodgins. Isaiah was Oregon State’s number one receiver two straight seasons. He doesn’t jump off the screen as an athlete, but his superb and advanced route running, plus-ball skills, and tough mentality make him an ideal fit for the possession receiver spot. He is a sure thing to bring the ball in if he can get his hands on it. Separation against tight man coverage will be tough, but there will be a spot for him somewhere. Players with this kind of production, size, and NFL lineage are safe bets.

*The question here will be speed and burst. He isn’t a guy who will get open easily but if a scheme that creates separation for receivers can get their hands on him, he has plus-talent pretty much everywhere else. He can make the difficult catches look easy and he does the little things right. Really good size too, someone I bet NYG is looking at day 3.

  1. Isaiah Coulter / Rhode Island / 6’2 – 198

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry from Brandywine, Rhode Island. A two-year starter who earned 2nd Team All Colonial Athletic Association honors in 2019. The cousin to fellow receiver prospect Aaron Parker, also from Rhode Island. Coulter was a surprise early entry who could have been a day two prospect next year. Currently, he displays a high ceiling that stems from his plus-straight line athleticism and potential as a route runner. He has really good footwork and hands, but struggles to play strong and lacks explosive traits downfield. The potential is there, he is simply rough around the edges and needs time. He could be an eventual number three or four.

*There is quietly a good amount of interest on this kid around the league. Teams see a lot of untapped upside and while I still think the early declaration was a quick trigger by him, I think someone is going to take a chance on him earlier than we think. He made a lot of flash plays, plays that a lot of receivers down in this area can’t make. You want a 2-3 year project with huge upside, here he is.

  1. Quintez Cephus / Wisconsin / 6’1 – 202

Grade: 73

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Macon, Georgia. Three-year starter. Honorable Mention all Big 10 in 2019 after missing all of 2018 while he was undergoing a rape trial. He was found not guilty and soon after re-admitted to the program. Cephus, a top end high school basketball player who also had several Division I offers, broke out in his true-senior season while leading the Badgers in catches, yards, and touchdowns. In a predominantly rushing offense, it Cephus stood out and flashed top-end ability on the outside. Wisconsin isn’t exactly known for producing NFL talent at receiver, but this kid moves different and has a lot of tools to work with. If the off-field screening passes tests, he is just as talented as many others at the position in this class with attainable upside.

*Good story here if you have the time to read up on it. Cephus, on the field, showed big play ability in 2019 and one can rightfully wonder what he could have been in a more passing-focused scheme. He had a poor workout at the combine though and it is going to further push him down. I’m not sure the off field story is going to impact his grade with teams but the more “red notes” someone has, the less likely teams will gamble especially in this kind of WR class. Cephus brings a high ceiling to the table and while I do think he plays faster than his listed 4.73 forty, questions can be asked regarding his potential to be a downfield threat.

  1. JaMarcus Bradley / Louisiana-Lafaytte / 6’0 – 198

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Ackerman, Mississippi. Three-year starter who was named 2nd Team All Sun Belt in both 2019 and 2018, Honorable Mention in 2017. Left the program as the 4th all time leading receiver in school history and 2nd all time in receiving touchdowns. Bradley isn’t going to jump off the sheet when it comes tools and physical upside. He is pedestrian across the board. However where he does stand out is the ability to catch the ball and run routes underneath. The former high school quarterback who was a record setter as a runner and passer has a knack for finding creases and coming away from traffic with the ball. His huge hands and long arms are assets that can at least somewhat make up for his lack of long speed and playing strength. He has a good chance at being one of the best values of draft weekend.

*I left Shrine week with one kid in mind when it came to who stood out the most and who improved their stock via consistency. It was Bradley. He wasn’t invited to the combine, which I wasn’t happy about, as it makes it less and less likely he will be drafted with that being the case. I am keeping my grade on him here, however. Bradley has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen and he is a pro-caliber route runner. He doesn’t have ideal size and speed, but he can make up for it. I don’t see a day three pick who will end up being a number one receiver, but I do see a guy who is going to contribute if he gets his shot.

  1. Quartney Davis / Texas A&M: 72
  2. Quez Watkins / Southern Mississippi: 72
  3. Tyler Johnson / Minnesota: 72
  4. Collin Johnson / Texas: 71
  5. John Hightower / Boise State: 71
  6. Juwan Johnson / Oregon: 71
  7. Aaron Fuller / Washington: 71
  8. Mason Kinsey / Berry: 71
  9. Joe Reed / Virginia: 71
  10. Jauan Jennings / Tennessee: 70
  11. Maurice Ffrench / Pittsburgh: 70
  12. Kendrick Rogers / Texas A&M: 70
  13. Freddie Swain / Florida: 69
  14. Omar Bayless / Arkansas State: 69
  15. Austin Mack / Ohio State: 69
  16. Gabriel Davis / Central Florida: 69
  17. Juwan Green / Albany: 69
  18. Darnell Mooney / Tulane: 68
  19. Nick Westbrook / Indiana: 68
  20. Isaiah Wright / Temple: 68

NYG APPROACH

The three-year average for amount of wide receivers drafted is 31. I have 50 draftable grades in this group alone. I think the growing trend among scouting circles I’m in is that the wide receiver classes are going to continue to strengthen year by year. In the WR preview at this time last year, I said the 2019 class was the deepest I have scouted. This group is better. And as of right now, early indications are the 2021 group is going to be just as strong if not even better. I talk about this because I think NYG can and should take one of these guys, but they shouldn’t be rushed into anything. I think the odds are in their favor that a really good value will be there in round 5.

Do I think a good value will be there at the top of round 2? Sure. But if you want to gamble on the economics game (supply/demand), I think your better value will be present day three (similar to what NYG got in Slayton in 2019) while filling in the other empty boxes on the NYG roster earlier on. The Giants passing game has room for improvement and I think they need a bigger, more physical threat for red zone situations specifically. They have guys who can make things happen after the catch, they have a speed threat, but they don’t have the big guy. Now with that said, I don’t want a sizeable receiver who can’t move. He needs to have good hands and I still think this team needs more true speed and you want the new kid to be competitive. So if you’re looking early, I see Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins, and Chase Claypool being realistic options. If you’re looking middle rounds, someone like Bryan Edwards, Donovan People-Jones, Isaiah Coulter could be the guy. If you want to wait for the late rounds, I’m sure a few surprises will fall but you may get a John Hightower, Kendrick Rogers, or Quartney Davis back there.