On Tuesday, Brian Daboll said something that we all have to regularly remind ourselves of: “It’s never as good as you think, never as bad as you think.” This is why I got annoyed with fans, who just a few weeks ago were predicting a 4-13 record, quickly changed their tune in anticipation of a 4-0 start after the first two wins of the season. Yes, I’m being annoyingly preachy myself. But always keep in your mind who and what this team is at this particular moment in time. It’s a rebuilding ball club that will be replacing core elements of the roster in March and April. The Giants are still so hamstrung by their salary cap situation that they can’t cut certain players who they would probably prefer to part ways with.
A poster in The Corner Forum lamented this week that some fans are now more interested in offseason than the actual season. To be honest, I find myself in that spot right now. I see 2022 as a prelude to part two of the Schoen/Daboll housecleaning and roster overhaul. I find it difficult to become too invested in a quarterback, wide receivers, and possibly even running backs who won’t be on the roster in a few months. The defense is more settled, but one gets the sense that Wink Martindale is going to make some significant changes on that side of the ball too.
What I am looking at is the process. As I’ve asked previously, will the team be better in December than it was in September? That’s what fans should be looking at. Right now, this isn’t a good team. There are going to be ups and downs. With a softer schedule, the coaches may be able to eke out a respectable record near the .500 mark. That would be an improvement…something to build upon moving forward. There is no point for fans to lose their shit on a weekly basis over an ugly win or painful loss. If that’s you, you may be better off taking a break from the team. In other words, stop living in denial and accept the reality that the Giants are at the very beginning stages of a rebuilding process.
As for this particular game, just nine months ago, on January 2nd, the 6-11 Chicago Bears humiliated the Giants 29-3. Sy’56 wrote in his game review, “This turned into as close to an unwatchable game as it gets in today’s NFL. It almost seemed like we weren’t even watching professional football.” So what am I looking for in this game? A win would be great. But I’m evaluating how the Giants of 2022 perform vis a vis the Giants of 2021 against the same opponent.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring – out)
- WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee – out)
- DL Leonard Williams (knee – out)
- OLB Jihad Ward (knee – probable)
- CB Cor’Dale Flott (calf – out)
- CB Aaron Robinson (appendix – probable)
- CB Nick McCloud (hamstring – out)
- CB Justin Layne (concussion – probable)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
We have no idea what Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll really think about Daniel Jones. We can speculate, but that’s all it is, speculation. The most important question facing this franchise is what to do at quarterback. His detractors will say he’s proven he sucks. His supporters will say despite being surrounded with a weak cast, he has done OK.
The reason why this is the #1 issue for the team is bigger than many think. If Jones is the guy moving forward, then keeping Saquon Barkley makes sense. If Jones is not the guy, and the team intends to replace him in the 2023 NFL Draft, then listening to trade offers for Barkley may be an appropriate course of action. The fate of Barkley is the #2 most important decision this team must make, and the fate of Jones and Barkley seem interconnected. If you thought drafting Barkley in 2018 was a luxury a rebuilding ball club could ill afford, then you should feel twice as strongly about it now, given that Barkley will be five years older with a major injury in his profile and costing a ton of cap space. Also keep in mind that the Giants likely won’t be picking in the top 10 in the 2023 NFL Draft and don’t have a lot of draft capital to move up in the first round for that franchise quarterback. Barkley is the team’s best offensive skill player. It’s not close. Without him, they are a much worse team. But the Giants need to listen to offers. If someone blows them away, they may have to pull the trigger.
Why am I bringing all of this up in a Week 4 game preview? Because the clock is ticking. Jones hasn’t moved the needle. It’s not completely his fault. His pass protection was a disaster on Monday and is trending in the wrong direction. He has the worst receiving corps in the NFL right now. To his credit, the team only had one turnover on Monday and that was due to a receiver falling down. So he didn’t lose the game. And the coaches continue to publicly praise him. Nevertheless, the questions remain: is Jones what Schoen and Daboll want at quarterback? Is he actually capable of dramatically elevating his game, and those around him, soon? Most fans suspect not. And the trade deadline is approaching. Teams will likely start inquiring about Barkley.
I’m rambling, so let’s cut to the chase. Every play and every game is now an evaluation of Jones. Every play and every game is an opportunity to market Barkley. The receiving situation is a joke. Take the Miami Dolphins. Tua Tagovailoa has two targets who he can throw short passes to and then watch them run 70 yards for touchdowns. Schoen and Daboll had visions of Wan’Dale Robinson and Kadarius Toney doing that for the Giants, but both can’t or won’t get on the field. The Giants passing game was going to be predicated on quick, short passes to elusive targets who would do damage after the catch. That’s gone right now. And the receivers who remain can’t separate from coverage so Daniel is left holding the ball. Sterling Shepard has likely played his last game as a Giant. Who the heck knows what happened to Kenny Golladay but if the Giants could afford to do it, he probably would have been cut by now. David Sills? Richie James? Darius Slayton? No one is afraid of these guys. Teams are going to load up against Barkley – both as a runner and receiver – and dare anyone else to beat them.
Long story short, unless Robinson and Toney come back soon and start making an impact, the Giants simply don’t have the talent this season to run a fully functional NFL offense. Passing the 20-point margin is still a major issue for this team. And guess what? Robinson and Toney aren’t playing again. Sigh.
As for the offensive line, like last year, the injury to Shane Lemieux was a major wrench thrown into the machinery. That is not an indictment of Joshua Ezeudu. Odds are he will end up a starter this year or next. Losing Marcus McKethan also hurt as this could have been a good developmental season for him. The Giants have one stud at left tackle in Andrew Thomas. I am not yet worried about Evan Neal. I think he has the character and temperament to handle the inevitable growing pains. The Giants need better play out of Jon Feliciano (one-year rental) and Mark Glowinski (who has been too up and down). But the overall feeling is a starting player or two is missing from this group. Whether Nick Gates remains in the picture is a mystery. I doubt he is a factor this year.
What I want to see moving forward is the offensive line being physical like it was against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1. Be the tougher team. I don’t have much to look forward to on offense, but I can look forward to the offensive line mauling opponents again. This group can run block. Do it.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
I was very curious to hear Wink Martindale speak to the press this week about his unit’s performance against the Dallas Cowboys. At least publicly, Martindale was a lot more measured than I expected him to be. Privately, he’s got to be very upset about how his until got pushed around by the Cowboys’ running game. Leonard Williams is still a vastly underrated player and was missed, but the defensive deficiencies were greater than that. And snippets of Wink’s opinions did sneak through:
“(Kayvon Thibodeaux) really hasn’t practiced that much since the injury. He’s done a lot of rehabbing and all that stuff, but he hasn’t done a lot of 11-on-11 work… I’m just expecting great things from him.”
“There was a lot of runs Monday night where the guys were falling forward for four and five yards. We’ve got to get better knock back up front and play as a unit, all 11, and make sure we start moving piles backward that way.”
“I mean, a 3rd-and-12 toss, that was one of those plays I was telling you about. Just having some football awareness with the backs in the home position, which he never is on 3rd-and-12. We’ve got to see that and recognize that as a defense.”
“We’re still in the process of finding the right fits for who’s going to play inside (linebacker). I want guys who can run and hit and tackle. As a unit, as all 11, we need to tackle better. We had too many missed tackles. Like I said, going against this offense, it’s going to be a great test for us to see how much we’ve improved from Monday to Sunday.”
Overall, I think most of us understand the state of the defense. The defensive line is very thin. If something happens to Leonard Williams (like it did) or Dexter Lawerence, the Giants are in trouble up front. Darrian Beaver would be starting at ILB right now if he hadn’t torn his ACL. Wink is quickly learning that Tae Crowder is an issue. The two outside edge guys the team were counting on are way behind because of how much time they missed and are still on a pitch count. They have to play to get into game shape, but in doing so, the defense is weaker in the short term until they are fully ramped up. Meanwhile, the secondary is still a bit shaky due to the lack of depth at corner.
Wink is all about his defenses being physical. Being pushed around like his defense was on Monday has to be killing him. They have to get back to playing like they did in Week 1 against Derrick Henry. Be the more physical team… at all three levels of the defense. They are going to tested this week. The Bears have only thrown the football 45 times in three games. That’s an average of 15 attempts (not completions, attempts) per game! Part of that is their quarterback is not very good throwing the ball, but a lot of it is the Bears have a physical offensive line, a quarterback who can do damage with his feet, and two backs who can tote the rock (although David Montgomery is a bit banged up).
The key to beating the Titans was stopping the run. The Giants did that and won. The key to beating the Cowboys was stopping the run. The Giants failed to do that and lost. The key to beating the Bears is stopping the run. Tune in Sunday.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Giants special teams were up against the Panthers. Except for Graham Gano, they were down against the Cowboys. There was a long return and a blocked field goal. My guess is most of the Giants’ games this year will be close. In those type of contests, special teams can actually decide as many as four or five games (one season, the Eagles won almost half their games because of their special teams). Historically speaking, Thomas McGaughey’s coverage units have been very good. They haven’t so far this year. The injury to Nick McCloud is bigger than many of us realize.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale on the Chicago Bears: “One of the reasons why they’re 2-1 is playing complementary football. They’re running the football, trying to control the clock and playing good defense. The biggest thing is, I don’t want to say you take away the runs, but you better limit the big runs, the explosive runs.”
THE FINAL WORD:
One of the best comments I read in The Forum this past week was a poster stating that when every game you play is close, you’re going to win some of those and lose some of those. Those are just the odds. There is something to that, especially when your team has so many question marks still at so many positions. So from here on out, I think all we can expect are mostly tight football games that will either end on positive or negative note. Nevertheless, my guess is the team that is more physical on Sunday will prevail. The Giants had better strap on their chin straps and get to work.