Nov 102018
 
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Game Preview: New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers, November 12, 2018

THE STORYLINE:
Is there anybody out there still reading these game previews?

During the bye week, I took my family on vacation to Florida. To protect my ever more exposed scalp from the Florida sun, I donned my New York Giants cap. Each day I was stopped by folks in the service industry, other tourists, and folks living in Florida. “Hey, another Giants fan! Go Giants!” Some were men, some were women. The ages varied. There was no embarrassment over, or hiding from, the current 1-7 season. Just a recognition that the team we love is going through some hard times and will hopefully be back someday soon. It got to the point where even my kids said to me with a bit of a look of astonishment, “There are a lot of Giants fans!” I responded with a smile and said, “Yes there are.”

For the second season in a row, the Giants are 1-7 at the midway point of the season. Despite changing general managers and coaching staffs, there does not appear to be any marked improvement in the team’s performance from last year. The quarterback also appears to be done with no obvious replacement.

I highlighted my concerns with how the team is being run in my last game preview. In my mind, it is not the players so much on trial during the last eight games but the coaching staff, and by extension Dave Gettleman. For if Pat Shurmur and his assistants are not the ones to lead the team out of the darkness, then Gettleman, who completely botched the free agency period, must also share a lion’s share of the blame for hiring the wrong coaches. Many fans will rightly point to ownership, but they aren’t going anywhere.

Giants fans are a loyal bunch. But we’d prefer to see things moving in the right direction.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Jawill Davis (concussion – probable)
  • OT Chad Wheeler (ankle – probable)
  • LB Alec Ogletree (hamstring – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:

Eli Manning is due for one of those games where his most loyal supporters can claim he still has “it.” But as discussed ad nauseam, those good games have become too infrequent. Most of us know that Manning is done. The question is does John Mara know it, and is he too afraid to pull the plug based on last year’s fan reaction. (Again, I would contend that fans were more upset with how Eli was benched last year rather than the actual benching).

The focal point of the New York Giants offseason must be on (1) finding a viable replacement for Eli, and (2) yet another attempt to put together a competent offensive line. Neither will be easy. Very few teams are fortunate enough to make a transition from a Joe Montana to Steve Young, or Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. After Phil Simms was cut, the Giants went from Dave Brown to Danny Kanell to Kent Graham to Kerry Collins. The Giants will likely have a very high draft pick in April, but will there be a true franchise quarterback available?

On the offensive line, we have to pray the Will Hernandez is the real deal. Now the Giants also have eight games to get good read on waiver-wire pick-up Jamon Brown. But the “help wanted” sign is clearly out on the offensive line. The Giants need to replace both tackles and the center. That’s a tall task for one offseason.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

After trading away Damon Harrison and Eli Apple, expectations were high that the team was also likely to deal Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, and maybe even Landon Collins. They did not. Let’s hope the team does not rue the day that it did not receive at least something in return for players who may or may not be here when the team does become a contender again.

The last eight games must be spent on evaluating who will be the team’s primary pass rushers in 2019. Do the Giants rely on Olivier Vernon again? Does Lorenzo Carter have a future as an NFL starter? Based on who may be available, would the Giants be better off spending their top 2019 NFL draft pick on an elite pass rusher?

The Giants will also need to address the secondary. Screwing up top-10 picks in back-to-back drafts, including the selection of Eli Apple, was a disaster for the team. Jenkins turns 31 next year and the Giants have no one else at cornerback. The team also seems prepared to make Landon Collins – who is limited to the strong safety position – one of the highest paid defensive backs in football. But there is nothing else at safety.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Giants finally appear to have found a returner in Quadree Henderson. He was just re-signed to the 53-man roster after he was surprisingly cut on Tuesday.

THE FINAL WORD:
These previews have ceased to be previews. I apologize for that fact, but I don’t really see the point of getting into X’s and O’s and match-ups. The Giants can’t score. They don’t have a QB and they don’t have an offensive line. Pat Shurmur also appears to be yet another “up and coming” offensive coordinator who can’t handle being a head coach.

So on Monday night, we’ll be treated to the 1-7 Giants battling the 2-7 49ers. And everyone knows the outcome only matters to both teams in terms of draft-pick positioning.

Is there anybody out there?

Oct 312018
 
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Evan Engram, New York Giants (October 28, 2018)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

Washington Redskins 20 – New York Giants 13

QUICK RECAP

Just a few days after the Giants shipped off two defensive starters via the trade market in addition to their starting MIKE linebacker being on the sideline, the last-place Giants took on the first-place Redskins and their high-performing defense coupled with an efficient offense. The disparity between these two teams when it comes to the trenches gave this match-up a very bleak outlook from the beginning.

After trading opening possessions, WAS drove down the field via a nice run/pass balance and ended it with a touchdown pass from Alex Smith to the ageless Adrian Peterson. The short pitch, catch, and run into the end zone was aided by a horrible missed tackle by Nate Stupar. Once again, NYG found themselves playing from behind, something they have become very used to, as no team in the NFL has trailed more this season than Big Blue.

NYG broke into WAS territory on consecutive drives but it netted a total of zero points. The biggest negative the first time around was a sack by Matt Ioannidis, 1 of his 2.5 on the day. On the second drive, Eli Manning was intercepted by DJ Swearinger, his first of 2 on the day, on a pass intended for Odell Beckham. The boo-birds started to come out in full effect after that one.

The NYG defense held strong, as they did for most of the day. They forced WAS into attempting a 41-yard field goal which was no-good right away off the foot of Dustin Hopkins, who had made 8 straight prior to that.

Manning came out firing on the next drive, dropping a perfectly-thrown deep ball into the hands of Sterling Shepard but the third year pro couldn’t hold onto it. However, the air game picked up 41 yards on the next three plays as the 2-minute warning approached. 1st and 10 from the WAS 25-yard line and Pat Shurmur, who has vowed to commit this offense to a run-heavy attack, passed the ball three straight times. It resulted in 7 yards and NYG had to settle for a 37-yard field goal. Three straight possessions with a 1st down in WAS territory resulted in a meager 3 points. These are the 2018 New York Giants.

The second half opened with WAS up by a score of 7-3. The first two NYG offensive drives both ended in sacks. A lot of pressure was being put on the Big Blue defense and they did a fine job keeping it within one score for the majority of the game. Hopkins nailed a 53-yard field goal and Manning’s offense came onto the field knowing it just couldn’t get going. They needed to force something and hope for the best. On 3rd and 18, thanks to yet another sack, Manning basically shut his eyes and chucked it downfield with no awareness of where the defense stood. The result was Swearinger coming down with his second interception and the offense walking off the field looking hopeless, again.

This offense wasn’t going to make anything happen, thus the defense had to make a play if there was any hope in this game turning around. Right on queue, Landon Collins forced a Peterson fumble that was recovered by Olivier Vernon and run back for 43 yards. NYG had a 1st and 10 on the WAS 39-yard line. It had a now-or-never feel to it even though there was a minute left in the 3rd quarter and it was only a 10-3 lead for WAS.

On 4th and 3, Manning dropped back and saw pressure coming, making him go to his hot read which was Evan Engram, who led the team in drops last year. The ball went, literally, between his two hands and fell to the ground. Turnover on downs. Momentum gone. Fans packing up. It was an ugly scene.

WAS drove down the field and netted another 3 points via a 39-yard field goal. The next NYG drive included another sack, the 4th of the half. After trading a couple more possessions with the NYG defense holding on for dear life and the offense responding with more poor play, the WAS defense gave NYG a gift. A 46-yard pass interference penalty on a deep ball to Saquon Barkley followed by a 32-yard pickup via a pitch-catch-run to and by Beckham put NYG inside the 5 yard line.

And here we are, back to Shurmur not standing behind his words. NYG had 3 shots at the end zone, and gave the ball to Barkley just one time. Instead of throwing a lob pass to Bennie Fowler, who would be on the street right now if NYG didn’t sign him a few weeks ago, why not hammer it 3 times with the best player on the field? NYG settled on a short field goal to make it 13-6.

After a strong performance for most of the day, the NYG defense finally broke. Peterson shot through a gap and thanks to a poor angle by safety Curtis Riley, he had an easy 64-yard path to the end zone. The score was 20-6 with 3 minutes left in the game.

NYG ended up driving down the field against a prevent defense and scored a late touchdown to, ironically, Engram. It was a 16-play drive that left 20 seconds on the clock. Rosas attempted an onsides kick which was recovered by WAS. Game over.

NYG loses 20-13.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 30/47 – 316 yards – 1 TD / 2 INT. It was another frustrating day for the passing game. Manning’s early interception was an absolute killer. His blind heave downfield that resulted in another interception was inexcusable in a one score game. Manning was sacked another 7 times, bringing the season’s number up to 31, the total amount of times he was sacked in 2017 and just 8 short of his career high. The Giants are halfway through the season. It’s hard to see Manning go through this but the case remains that he is not without blame. His entire game looks awfully slow. His mental reactions, his release, his footwork, and his arm. There isn’t any juice there.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 13 att / 38 yards – 9 rec / 72 yards. The rookie had a tall task, as WAS entered the game with the league’s #3 run defense having already shut down Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliot, and Alvin Kamara, respectively. While he did break the 100-total yards mark for the 6th time this season, the WAS defense kept him in check. I was hoping Shurmur would have given him more carries because even though this offensive line was over-matched at the point of attack, we’ve seen Barkley create on his own.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Odell Beckham: 8 rec / 136 yards. Respect to Beckham for playing a spirited, high-effort game. He came up with a couple of highlight-reel catches in addition to displaying his after-catch impact. It’s hard not to get down about the fact that this team has two talents on this offense that could be considered the best ever in franchise history at their respective positions, but the brokenness of this roster prevents that from leading to wins. Also, credit to Beckham for keeping his head as the WAS defense made a few off-camera cheap shots on him him and were running their mouths all afternoon.

-Sterling Shepard: 4 rec / 34 yards. Shepard’s most notable play of the day was a drop on a deep ball that would have resulted in 40+ yards. He got both hands on the ball but rookie cornerback Greg Stroman jabbed it loose before they went to the ground. He also had another drop later in the game. Otherwise it was a quiet day for the 3rd year pro.

-Bennie Fowler III got 7 targets on the day, catching 4 balls for 48 yards. 2 catches / 34 yards of which were on the final drive against the WAS prevent defense. Fowler was on the field for 70% of the plays, and was targeted on a key red zone passing play. I think this guy is getting way too much action for who he is. His route running has been low-caliber and he doesn’t make tough plays on the ball. More on this later.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram: 5 rec / 25 yards / 1 TD. Not that this is an overly impressive stat line, but these numbers make his day look a lot better than what it was. The second year pro added 2 drops to a resume that already has plenty of them, one of which was a key moment in the game on 4th down. Engram was also mangled in the running game, often getting pushed back multiple yards by the WAS front-seven defenders and failing to properly locate second-level defenders. Engram still has plenty of time to prove what he can be for this team, but I think the approach to how he is used may need to change. More on that below.

-Rhett Ellison played 40% of the snaps and was targeted once in the passing game. His blocking grade was average, as they have been with him for the majority of his career with NYG.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Nate Solder can no longer be considered in a slump. We can no longer say he is having a hard time getting acclimated to a new system with new surroundings. Nate Solder is a really bad left tackle. He allowed another sack and 2 more pressures. I compared his grades to Ereck Flowers last year and, believe it or not, Flowers was grading out higher. He is getting bullied, pushed around, and failing to sustain blocks no matter who he is up against. It is a major surprise to me and it’s hard to accept that he is at the very beginning of a long-term contract.

-Chad Wheeler left the game in the second half with an ankle injury, but not before allowing a sack and a TFL. While I still think we can use the “developing” label on him, Wheeler really hasn’t shown improvement throughout the 8 games this season. Brian Mihalik saw his first action in the NYG uniform. He had 2 false start penalties and wasn’t really challenged much as the WAS pass rush was very vanilla. Initially, I don’t see anything worth being optimistic about.

GUARDS / CENTERS

-There must be something in the water at the right guard position because whomever mans that spot has been a weak link among a weak group all season. John Greco now possesses the lowest game grade of the year among all OL. 3 pressures, 2 sacks, and 1 TFL along with a false start penalty made us long for the days of John Jerry. Greco has been getting worse and worse since being put in to the lineup week 2 and has proven why he was a street free agent at this time last year.

-Spencer Pulley also had a poor game at OC. He was getting beat off the ball repeatedly, decreasing the size of the pocket in the passing game and making Barkley redirect his path in the running game. He allowed 1 sack on the day. Will Hernandez had another slightly above average game grade but when you compare him to the rest of this offensive line, he looks like a Hall of Famer. He was late to see a blitz on a play where Manning was sacked, although it looked like it was Barkley’s responsibility. Those lateral-movement blocks appear to still be a problem for him.

EDGE

-Olivier Vernon had one of his most disruptive games since putting on the NYG uniform. Too bad this isn’t a winning football team because if it were, more would be talking about how well he has been playing since returning from injury. Against one of the top left tackles in the NFL for the majority of the game, Vernon finished with 4 pressures, 1 TFL, and a fumble recovery.

-As expected, Lorenzo Carter is seeing an increase in snaps at the expense of Kareem Martin. That is a very good thing, as Carter already brings more to the table. The quick speed and range in pursuit shows up every week. He had 3 tackles and a pressure. These next 8 games will be very big for his maturation as a player.

-Kerry Wynn added 2 tackles but struggled to impact the game as a pass rusher. His playing time remains too light in my opinion. He needs to be on the field for more than 50% of the snaps each week, and he was around 40% against WAS.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Just a few days after the trade of Damon Harrison to DET, BJ Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson held down the inside running game for the most part. Hill was active, often breaking into the backfield. He finished with 6 tackles, 1 TFL, and a pass break up. However he was flagged 3 times on the day. Tomlinson added 3 tackles but did lot of the dirty work that goes unnoticed when watching the game casually. He is going to be a very solid NT now that he will be in that role full time.

-Notable effort by Mario Edwards. He was only on the field for 31% of the snaps but he made a few hustle plays. He is really active and has the potential to be the third starter before the year is over.

LINEBACKERS

-Really active day for BJ Goodson, who saw an uptick in playing time with Alec Ogletree out. He led the team with 8 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. WAS seemed to target him a lot in the passing game, as the book is out on him being a liability in coverage. However, I had several check marks next to Goodson’s name when it came to hustle, physical play, and simply being at the right place at the right time.

-Nate Stupar and Tae Davis basically split the snaps next to Goodson, with Davis getting the edge late in the game. Stupar had 3 missed tackles, one of which was really ugly and led to Peterson’s first touchdown. Davis’ speed and aggression was a plus to see. We know he is going to struggle in traffic because of how small he is, but the undrafted rookie finished with 6 tackles, most of which were outside the tackle box. He has a lot of range and broke up a pass while being matched up against a wide receiver. His one glaring negative was a running-into-the-kicker penalty that gave WAS a fresh set of downs. He will likely see a lot of playing time during these last 8 games.

CORNERBACKS

-With trade rumors swirling around Janoris Jenkins, the 30-year old, 7th-year pro had a solid game in coverage outside of one pass interference penalty. Jenkins really is a solid cover corner, and sometimes you just can’t see it unless you watch the all-22 angle. CB is a really tough position to find and lock down for any team and the fact they didn’t trade him is not necessarily a negative.

-BW Webb started and played the entire game on the other side. While I do think he is better suited in a nickel role, he competed hard. He finished with 4 tackles but also had a 43-yard pass interference penalty. That has been a trend his entire career. Grant Haley got a lot of playing time as the team’s nickel back and I liked what I saw. He finished with 4 tackles and showed good movement, very assertive. His lack of size showed up on 3rd down a few times and that will be a learning experience for him over the second half of the season. There is a lot to like about him.

SAFETIES

-Landon Collins has been a nice streak of quality play lately, hence why a few teams were offering a 3rd-round pick for the free agent-to-be. He finished with 5 tackles, 1 TFL, and a key forced fumble that could have really turned this game around.

-Curtis Riley continues to start next to Collins not because of impact or quality play, but by default. He did have a solid play in coverage early on, but Riley took a really poor angle on Peterson’s long 4th quarter touchdown run. As the last line of defense, it was an inexcusable mistake that we are seeing too often with him. That is a big reason why I just don’t see Riley as a starting-caliber FS.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 37, 22). Fairly easy and simple day. Rosas has now hit 95% of his attempts on the year.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 Punts / 44.0 avg / 44.0 net. This was Dixon’s best game of the year, nailing 1 inside the 2-yard line and didn’t allow WAS to return any. His best hang time to date kept that net average high.

-KR/PR Quandree Henderson: 2 solid returns on the day. A PR that went for 19 yards and a KR that went for 30. There is definitely some talent there, and this kid makes things happen when he gets the ball in his hands.

3 STUDS

-DE Olivier Vernon, LB BJ Goodson, WR Odell Beckham

3 DUDS

-TE Evan Engram, OG John Greco, OT Nate Solder

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

-I picked WAS to finish 9-7 this year and compete for a Wild Card playoff spot. I am still sticking with that and I actually think they have a strong chance at winning the division. Crazy to think with the amount of age they have at RB and QB that they can get to this level. But you know why there are up there? Their OL and DL are among the best in football. How did they get there? Two 1st-round picks and one 3rd-rounder on the OL, three 1st-round picks and one 2nd-rounder on the DL. Take notes NYG, because that is how this thing is going to get turned around.

-Ironic that I was going to write that the one glaring hole I have seen on this defense has been the safety play next to DJ Swearinger. Then they trade for HaHa Clinton-Dix from GB and all of the sudden this defense looks as balanced and stacked as any in the league. He is a great fit next to the physical Swearinger, who is having the year of his life right now.

-The one thing that can hold this offense back (other than injury) is the lack of a go-to pass catcher when this team needs a big play in the air attack. Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson aren’t going to scare anyone and Jordan Reed just hasn’t taken the next step in his career. I hope Evan Engram doesn’t run into that problem, a guy who looks promising but never gets over the hump.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-The trade deadline has come and gone, and it looks like the only real offers were coming in for Collins and Jenkins. NYG opted to pass and that tells me they are going to keep Collins moving forward. Which ultimately means they are ready to pay him top SS dollar which can rightfully be debated on either side. One thing that he offers, other than solid but unspectacular play, is the kind of locker room presence this team needs moving forward. Hard worker, stays clean off the field, and can wear a few hats. Money aside, it is going to take more guys like this to get this thing back on track.

-I don’t think Evan Engram’s days are numbered. Not even close. His drops are a major issue, yes. His blocking presence is a weakness to an offense that will be relying on the run more and more in the coming years, yes. However the talent this kid has is still among the top in the league at the TE position. My thought, and I know it won’t be a popular one is, to experiment with him as a WR the rest of the season. His athletic ability out there may seem much worse than where we see it at TE, but I still think he can be a weapon out there. And to be honest, do we really need to watch Bennie Fowler run routes? Put Shepard/Beckham/Engram at WR and let Ellison see full time snaps at TE. I bet this ends up vastly improving the running game both on inside and outside intentions and the passing game won’t take a hit at all.

-When should NYG decide to sit Manning? Should they sit him at all? The only reason I say yes is to get Kyle Lauletta on the field. However he can’t be rushed on to the field with this OL playing the way it is. It can be a detriment to his progression. With his recent arrest, which I don’t believe is a big deal, I think the likelihood of this happening is very good right now. But the post-bye week would have been perfect to do something like this if everyone was confident he knew this offense well enough.

Oct 262018
 
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1983 New York Giants Media Guide

Game Preview: Washington Redskins at New York Giants, October 28, 2018

THE STORYLINE:
Last week, I ended my game preview with the following paragraph:

At some point, this team is going to have to bite the bullet, maintain fiscal responsibility in free agency, accumulate draft picks by trading away players who won’t be here when the team does eventually turn it around, and accept short-term suckitude. But at least fans will see the team attempting to build for something in the future and have hope. Right now, they are just treading water and weekly becoming a doormat for other teams. Stop trading away picks; accumulate them. There is no short-term fix.

So as painful as it is going to be, I fully endorse what the Giants hopefully only BEGAN to do this week when they traded away Eli Apple and Damon Harrison (though I must admit, I am one of those who felt we got short-changed on the Harrison deal). But the Giants should not half-ass this and call it a day. Keep in mind that the Giants traded away picks for Alec Ogletree (4th and 6th) and Riley Dixon (7th), as well as spending their 3rd rounder early on Sam Beal. They have gained a 4th (Apple), 5th (Harrison), and two 7th rounders (Brett Jones and part of Ogletree trade).

So the Giants have:

  • One 1st rounder (own)
  • One 2nd rounder (own)
  • Two 4th rounders (own and Saints)
  • Two 5th rounders (own and Lions)
  • One 6th rounder (own)
  • Two 7th rounders (Rams and Vikings)

That’s not enough. The trade deadline is rapidly approaching: 4PM on October 30.

This team is now officially in FULL rebuilding mode. The Eli Manning era is all but officially over. He MUST be on the trading block or ownership and management should be deemed incompetent. A Jaguars-Manning marriage is obvious to all. Get it done. Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, and Landon Collins are also obvious trade candidates. Not so obvious, but certainly possible include the likes of Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. In the offseason, it will be VERY interesting to see if Dave  Gettleman admits to mistakes and cuts Nate Solder, Patrick Omameh, Kareem Martin, and Connor Barwin.

We’re in uncharted territory for the Giants. The closest similarity I can think of is the roster purge after the 1983 season, but even then, the Giants still had Phil Simms at quarterback. The Giants will need to build around Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham (I believe the latter’s new contract makes him untradeable, at least in the short-term).

What we do know is the Giants are going to suck for the rest of the year and probably next season as well. But this is the right course. They APPEAR to have admitted the rebuild is needed. Of course, all bets are off if Eli Manning is still quarterbacking this team in 2019. Then, be afraid, very afraid.

The next TWO huge questions are:

  1. Is 67-year old Dave Gettleman the right man to rebuild this team?
  2. Is Pat Shurmur the right head coach to lead this team?

“C’mon Eric, they are not going to fire Gettleman and Shurmur after only one season!!!” I would respond, why not? Both have made huge miscalculations in creating the 2018 roster. As I mentioned in last week’s preview, Gettleman batted 1-of-5 on offensive line decisions and determined Eli Manning wasn’t the problem. He also traded away valuable picks. Shurmur certainly hasn’t inspired confidence, either in Cleveland and now in New Jersey.

Much will probably depend on how this team finishes. How competitive are the Giants, even when losing? Do the remaining players play with fear for losing their jobs or just tune out the coaches?

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Russell Shepard (neck)
  • WR Jawill Davis (concussion – out)
  • RG Patrick Omameh (knee)
  • LB Alec Ogletree (hamstring – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:

The obvious move is to bump Kyle Lauletta up to at least #2 on the depth chart, and then start him sometime after the bye week. He’s not ready. He will likely flounder. It’s a big jump from Richmond to the NFL. But the Giants must get a read on him. Does he have a viable NFL future or not? This question must be answered before the 2019 NFL Draft. Paying homage to Eli Manning by allowing him to continue to start may be the “classy” thing to do, but it’s not good for the franchise. In fact, it could be quite harmful.

How Odell Beckham responds during this dark period probably is going to be an issue. In his five years with the Giants, Odell has been on only one winning team. Most of the time, the Giants have not only been bad, but very bad during his tenure. And now there is no end in sight. This could get ugly.

The offensive line is a disaster. There appears to be only one or maybe two players on the current roster who may be part of the solution.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

The morale of the defense has to be in the toilet. Though they deserve a fair amount of the blame for another dreadful season, my guess is they feel they have been the superior unit on the team. And now they see Damon Harrison traded away for a 5th round pick. Moving Eli Apple also weakens an already sore area of the defense. If Janoris Jenkins is moved, the make-up of the secondary becomes comical.

My focus moving forward is how does the defensive line perform without Harrison. Can Dalvin Tomlinson play the nose tackle position at a high level? How well will B.J. Hill, Mario Edwards, Kerry Wynn, Josh Mauro play now without that stud in the middle?

Little noticed this week was that Ray-Ray Armstrong was cut from IR. It’s B.J. Goodson’s last chance to impress now. Do Nate Stupar, Tae Davis, or Ukeme Eligwe have an NFL future? Outside, when do the Giants finally give Lorenzo Carter the bulk of the playing time?

In the secondary, the Giants are now down to Janoris Jenkins, Landon Collins, and a bunch of no-names. Glass half full… sometimes it is fun to watch no-names fight and scratch to gain the respect they feel they deserve. Glass half empty… this secondary is one injury or trade away from being possibly the worst in football, requiring a mammoth rebuilding effort. Enter Antonio Hamilton, Michael Jordan, Grant Haley, Tony Lippett, Sean Chandler, and Kamrin Moore.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:

The search for a returner for 2019 continues. Quadree Henderson flashed a bit last week.

THE FINAL WORD:
You have to embrace the suck at this point, or you are going to be miserable. The only way for this to get better right now is for things to get worse first. But if Shurmur isn’t able to get his players to play at a scrappy, competitive level, and the Giants start losing games by 14, 17, 21 points, bigger changes could be coming as well.

My plea would be to move Eli Manning before the deadline. Don’t let him end his career with the Giants like this. And get something, anything, in return.

Oct 242018
 
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Odell Beckham, Jr., New York Giants (October 22, 2018)

Odell Beckham, Jr. – © USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons 23 – New York Giants 20

QUICK RECAP

Yet another national television game for the worst team in the NFL; Big Blue headed to Atlanta to face off against the equally disappointing Falcons.

The emotions and effort by NYG early on were high. Odell Beckham, coming off a week where Owner John Mara essentially told him to ‘shut up’, got involved in the first quarter for what seemed to be the first time in a long time. The Giants pass rush was getting to Ryan, and Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher was hitting on his all-or-nothing blitz approach. However, the Giants OL prevented the NYG offense from getting into a groove, which should surprise nobody. Manning was sacked twice and pressured 2 more times on their first 2 drives.

The 2nd quarter began at 0-0 and after a couple more back forth drives that included another ATL sack, Ryan connected with seldom-used WR Marvin Hall for a 47 yard touchdown. It was a perfect play call and a perfect pass that left no margin for error by Janoris Jenkins who was left on an island to defend the Falcons fastest pass catcher. A slight misstep forced on the double route by Hall and it was an easy score.

Manning used two big passing gains, one to Beckham and one to Shepard, to get this offense into the red zone. NYG entered as the 5th worst offense in that situation but ATL ranked 2nd worst in defending it. Something was about to give. 1st and 10 from the 13 yard line and, to nobody surprise, NYG threw the ball 3 times. One of the incomplete passes was an easy score but Manning an Beckham weren’t on the same page with the timing. The final attempt resulted in the 4th sack of the half and Saquon Barkley didn’t touch the ball once. So much for committing to the run.

Aldrick Rosas hit a 31 yard field goal but left enough time (:50 seconds), for Matt Ryan to march down into field goal position, thanks very much to a 38 yard pass interference on Michael Thomas. Newly signed Giorgio Tavecchio nailed a 40 yard field goal to put the lead back 7 going into halftime, 10-3.

The second half began with a drive where the momentum was in the hands of NYG. They were sitting 1st and 10 on the ATL 10 yard line much thanks to a 53 pitch, catch, and run to Sterling Shepard. Two plays on the ATL 1 yard line and instead of using Barkley in a downhill fashion, they attempted a jet sweep with him that everyone and their grandma saw coming. Fail. Next up, a nice play-action design that gave Beckham enough room for Manning to get the ball to in the end zone but the 37 year old quarterback, who is showing the reaction speed of a senior citizen, didn’t get the ball out, resulting in an incomplete attempt to 3rd string tight end Scott Simonson in the end zone for the second straight week. Repeated mistakes week after week, a key sign to diagnosing a losing team.

After a lengthy 6 minute drive, ATL was heading towards another score but Jenkins stripped Julio Jones after a catch, causing a fumble that was recovered by Eli Apple.

NYG’s first play following the turnover was a 51 yard deep ball to Beckham. This catch put Beckham over 5,000 career yards, the quickest any WR has ever gotten to that mark since the merger. It also put him over 100 yards for the game, the 23rd time he has surpassed that mark, a new franchise record. Manning was within striking distance with momentum but two miscommunications between Manning and Shepard and Evan Engram resulted in NYG having to settle for another field goal attempt. Manning was visibly upset with those two and he let them hear it. The frustration was boiling over even for a guy that has made a career of not letting the emotional roller coaster of the game impact him.

The 4 point lead didn’t last long, as ATL put another field goal on the board at the start of the 4th quarter. After a 3 and out by NYG, ATL marched down the field as Matt Ryan was in the midst of connecting on his last 18 throws. ATL running back Tevin Coleman scored on a 30 yard touchdown run and NYG was in the familiar 2 score deficit towards the end of the game.

Only then did this offense start to show some life. ATL called off the blitz and stunt dogs, giving Manning some more time to work and it resulted in a strong finish. He was able to spread the ball out, chunk after chunk, which led to NYG’s first touchdown of the night with under 5 minutes left, a Barkley 2 yard run up the gut. Because of the analytics, Pat Shurmur went for 2. The nerds vs. old-school fans can debate this all day but in my opinion there was no right answer there. At the end of the day, this 1-5 team had nothing to lose. The play call was off because in that situation, it is Barkley or bust. Instead Shurmur put the ball into the passing game’s hands and Beckham dropped a ball in the end zone.

ATL had the ball with a 7 point lead and Ryan continued to torch the NYG defense. However not one, but two false start penalties aided a NYG stop near midfield with 2 minutes left. Instead of playing it safe and knowing kickers have superhuman powers against Big Blue, Tavecchio came out with a 56 yard field goal and he nailed it. ATL had a 10 point lead, NYG had no timeouts, and the 2 minute warning was in the rear view mirror.

It didn’t take long for NYG to get downfield via a perfect deep ball to Shepard for 58 yards. Even though a win was a long shot, NYG handled the final minute poorly. With a running clock, 1st down, and on the ATL 1 yard line, NYG tried 2 QB sneaks in a row. Both failed and with 10+ big men in a pile trying (or not trying) to get off each other, 40 valuable seconds came off the clock. Manning finally audibled and threw a desperation throw to Beckham in the end zone and he made an amazing catch which likely receives no credit because there were only 5 seconds left.

NYG failed to recover the onsides kick.

NYG loses 23-20.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 27/38 – 399 yards – 1 TD / 0 INT. A new season high in yards for Manning. On paper, it looks like Manning had a quality game. The pressure got into his head a few times, as the line continues to be leaky. However Manning missed an open Odell Beckham for a touchdown on a crucial 4th and goal play in the 3rd quarter. This is where the game almost appears too fast for Manning right now. He isn’t always mentally in it and for a QB that is heavy footed and slow to react, that could be a nail-in-the-coffin note. If he can’t win games with his head, the talent isn’t nearly good enough to make up for it. Manning made several big throws and he did get more aggressive as the game went on, so he clearly isn’t done yet as a thrower. But his reactions need to be more assertive. One extra note here; it seems like Manning is starting to get after his players more often. He went after Shepard, he went after Engram, and he was visibly frustrated by the delay in Beckham’s high-low concept route where he danced around too much when he should have darted for the rear pylon.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 14 att / 43 yards / 1 TD. 9 rec / 51 yards. Barkley also rushed for a successful 2 point conversion. The running game just couldn’t get off the ground. The offensive line was being pushed back repeatedly and the backside blockers couldn’t cut off their assigned defenders. There were three occasions where Barkley tried to bounce a run outside where he likely should have put his head down and kept going north. That is one part to his game that we will have to accept at times because of how dangerous he can be in space. That said, the decision when to do so needs to be more calculated.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Odell Beckham: 8 rec / 143 yards / 1 TD. Last week I spoke about Beckham as a route runner where he was dancing around contact too much. Monday night was a different story. Beckham was assertive, full of energy, and back to his play-making ways. A very impressive statistical night, Beckham should have had 2 more touchdowns. One, he mistimed his break and didn’t reach Manning’s pass in time. Two, Manning didn’t trust or react quickly enough on an exceptional goal line route. Beckham played hard, really hard. And when a couple things line up, this is who he can be every week. He did drop a ball on a 2 point conversion late in the game but otherwise it was a very clean performance.

-Sterling Shepard: 5 rec / 167 yards. By far a new career high for Shepard in total yards and yards per catch. He made plays on a long ball and a crossing route with plenty of yards after catch. Is it a coincidence that he has arguably his best game ever on a night where Beckham breaks out? No. The production from these two is correlated and it is something to keep in mind over the next 2 years, as both will be around.

-Newly acquired Bennie Fowler was quietly on the field for 55% of the plays. He hauled in one catch for 11 yards late in the game but he is going to get a shot to be what Latimer was supposed to be.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram: 2 rec / 16 yards – 1 att / 10 yards. It was the first game back for Engram since his MCL injury that forced him to miss 3+ games. He wasn’t a focal point of the offense, as he was only thrown the ball 4 times. For what it’s worth, he looked like he didn’t lose a step and I do expect him to get more looks in the coming weeks.

-Scott Simonson and Rhett Ellison played 11 and 32 snaps, respectively. Simonson got a look in the end zone on 4th and goal. Yes the third string tight end, but the ball was slightly deflected by ATL safety Demontae Kazee. Ellison brought in a couple catches and provided solid run blocking.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Nate Solder continues to be one of the worst signings not only by NYG, but of the entire 2018 NFL’s offseason. All teams. He allowed 2 pressures and 1 sack in addition to get tossed around like a rag doll in the running game. As I said last week, Solder has been hovering around the same game-by-game grade mark we saw out of Ereck Flowers last year. Yes, that Ereck Flowers. Not nearly what you want out of the highest paid left tackle in the NFL. Chad Wheeler, who also struggled, was at least more consistent. He has some plays where he looks like the undrafted free agent followed by a solid stretch where he looks like he can be the guy at RT if they need a bargain somewhere. He allowed 2 pressures.

GUARDS/CENTERS

-NYG made a move to get OG Patrick Omameh out of the starting lineup which was necessary. Center John Greco moved to RG and Spencer Pulley was put at OC. It didn’t work out very well because these two were most responsible for the lack of push in the running game. Both were exposed as poor lateral blockers and you can be sure WAS paid close attention to that. And they have one of the best DLs in the league.

-Rookie Will Hernandez mightily struggled in this one. The lack of lateral adjustment speed was exposed by Grady Jarrett a couple times, once resulting in a sack. He allowed another sack against Jack Crawford where he was late to see his outside shoulder action. Hernandez was getting jostled around as it looked like ATL zeroed in on trying to confuse him. Hopefully a learning experience for a rookie who has been solid this year.

EDGE

-In his second game back, Olivier Vernon was quiet statistically with just 2 tackles and 1 pressure but he was near the action on a few occasions when the NYG pass rush broke through. His presence has been a solid addition to the defense. Fellow starter Kareem Martin had an impactful first drive with 1 TFL and 1 pressure but was quiet afterward.

-Kerry Wynn played just a third of the snaps among the deep DL group. He did have a sack though. Lorenzo Carter recorded his 2nd sack of the season. I like what I am seeing out of him progression wise. For a guy who is speed-based, he has done a nice job of not only relying on that. A lot of times you will see young edge rushers simply run up the edge and a good tackle just ride them out of the pocket. Carter stayed low, engaged, and cut inside on his sack. A very nice play out of the 3rd round rookie.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Solid night out of the two young starters, Dalvin Tomlinson and BJ Hill. Hill recorded a TFL along with a season high 4 tackles, while Tomlinson added 4 of his own. Both were active in pursuit.

-Damon Harrison played under half of the team’s snaps against the pass-happy Falcons. He was solid as usual, but didn’t make any impact plays. If NYG truly is in sell-mode, I expect Harrison to garner attention from a handful of contenders struggling against the run.

-Josh Mauro and Mario Edwards saw a decent amount of action in their respective backup roles. Mauro finished with 1 TFL and Edwards had a sack nullified by an Eli Apple hold. Edwards has been impressive with his violent hands and ability to free himself of the blocker as a pass rusher. It will be interesting to see what he does with the rest of this year.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree played a physical game and helped set the tone for a defense that, minus Tevin Coleman’s 4th quarter 30 yard touchdown run, shut down the run game. But the case continues to be repeated where he and his fellow linebackers could not defend the passing game in the middle of the field. There were several plays where they didn’t reach their depth and others where the reaction to underneath routes was a bit too late.

-The rest of the linebacker snaps were split between BJ Goodson, who continues to be overly-one dimensional, Nate Stupar, who is a favorite of the coaching staff but hasn’t made a noteworthy play yet, and rookie Tae Davis. Davis is interesting to me, as he stood out during preseason multiple times. He is young and fast, albeit slightly undersized. He made a couple of backside pursuit tackles that nobody else on this team at linebacker can make. With Ray-Ray Armstrong on IR (since waived), the rest of this year will be a nice tryout for Davis and his future.

CORNERBACKS

-Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple both had the opportunity to perform against Julio Jones, one of the handful of top tier receivers in the NFL. As expected, they had their ups and downs, but neither left the game leaving the NYG faithful feeling good. The one positive is Jones didn’t beat either one of them over the top. In addition, Jenkins forced a Jones fumble that was recovered by Apple in the 3rd quarter. On the flip side, Jenkins was burned for a 47 yard touchdown and Apple was flagged on a key 3rd down sack in the 3rd quarter. Apple was traded the next day to NO for a 4th round pick in 2019 and a 7th round pick in 2020.

-BW Webb, for a free agent that was signed to a cheap 1 year deal in March, has been a very solid nickel corner. He recorded a sack and was solid in underneath coverage.

SAFETIES

-We have discussed Landon Collins’ all-or-nothing approach a few times this year as his free agency looms closer and closer. Monday night was one of his better games we have seen. He made a few key tackles, showing great downhill speed and reaction. He also got into Matt Ryan’s face a couple times and recorded a TFL.

-The speedy, physical Curtis Riley continues to hurt and help this team play to play. He did make a key 3rd down stop late in the game, but the ATL passing game attacked him a few times in key situations and it worked out for them. Riley takes poor angles to the action and it is something opposing offenses are taking advantage of. Michael Thomas, who is known for special teams prowess, had one notable play. It was getting pump faked by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones which forced him into a deep pass interference. Even he knows he is over-matched in situations where he is matched up alone against quality WRs.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 31, 36).

-P Riley Dixon: 4 Punts / 40.8 avg / 40.8 net. He pinned ATL down inside the 5 early in the game and limited them to no returns throughout all four attempts.

-KR/PR Quandree Henderson impressed in his debut, averaging a NYG season high 14.5 yards on 2 punt returns.

3 STUDS

-WR Odell Beckham, WR Sterling Shepard, S Landon Collins

3 DUDS

-OT Nate Solder, OG Will Hernandez, CB Eli Apple

3 THOUGHTS ON ATL

-It’s hard to believe this team is 3-4 going into their bye week. There may not be a better WR core in the NFL, and pairing that with an established, top 10 QB in the NFL in this era of football should equate to more wins. Is their defense that bad? Personnel wise I don’t think so. But no team has blown more 4th quarter leads over the past year and a half and I think that Super Bowl let down a couple years ago is still lingering. If you don’t believe in a culture impacting wins and losses, I think you’re nuts. This team doesn’t know how to close games. They find ways to lose. This is why I wouldn’t root against a team simply for a higher draft pick. That stuff is hard to get over.

-Matt Ryan had a 3-4 year stretch where he was the most sacked QB in the NFL. 2013 was the low point. During that run, ATL drafted just 1 offensive lineman per year. Only one of those was in the first 3 rounds (LT Jake Matthews). Ryan’s sack and pressure numbers have gone down a lot. How else did they do it? Their running game improved via two draft picks (Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman) in addition to a solid WR core and an offensive system that asked less of the big boys up front. While I am all about getting new OL talent in for NYG, this team has several holes and it may not simply be that simple. This organization needs to think outside the box, something they have never done.

-One of my favorite players in the NFL who nobody talks about is DT Grady Jarrett. I remember scouting him in 2014 and wanting to put a high grade on him. The size numbers and inconsistent senior season bumped him down. But the talent I saw and he has made a big difference so far. He’s fought injuries but hasn’t missed a lot of games, so his production on paper looks average. The 2019 free agent is a guy I would look real hard at if I am looking for more interior pass rush.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-Last week I spoke about the possibility of trading off some of the few assets this roster has. Well, here we are and NYG is now down 2 starters via the market. CB Eli Apple was sent to NO for a 2019 4th round pick and a 2020 7th. DT Damon Harrison was sent to DET for a 2019 5th rounder. Keep in mind that expecting anything more was foolish. Harrison is a run defender in a passing league who is on the wrong side of 30 with just a year and a half left on his deal. Nobody liked him as a player more than me, but at this point you can’t expect more than that. Not everyone is Jerry Jones when it comes to trading picks. I like both trades because the only way this thing is getting back on track for the long term is via the draft. Get as many picks as possible especially if it means clearing up cap room and getting rid of players who won’t be here a two years from now.

-We are entering the part of the season where we will be watching young players “try out” for their future roster spots. Guys like LB Tae Davis, CB Grant Haley, OT Chad Wheeler, WR Jawill Davis, OC Evan Brown, OT Brian Mihalik…etc. While it will get ugly at times, these will be valuable film sessions to see if there is a diamond in the rough. Turning this thing around is not only about high draft picks and free agent signings… every good team has a few of these overlooked players who came from nothing and turned into something. Keep an eye on these players – it may peak some more interest than usual.

-Another thing to keep laser focus on is the coaching staff. While I know “1 and done” wouldn’t be typical of Mara and his handling of a coach, there is more blame and overall negativity surrounding ownership right now than possibly ever. It could force his hand into literally gutting the entire franchise. If Shurmur continues to under achieve, and I believe he has to this point, him getting the boot can certainly happen.

Oct 202018
 
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New York Giants Fans (October 11, 2018)

It Hurts – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons, October 22, 2018

THE STORYLINE:
Some regular-season games are simply more important than others. And the New York Giants ended their season on October 11th when they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. Had they won, they would have very much still been alive in a mediocre to-date division. Now the 1-5 (0-2 in the NFC East) Giants find themselves ensconced in last place. Could the Giants still catch the Eagles, Cowboys, and Redskins and win the division with 10 games left? Sure. There is a ton of football still left to be played and the Giants are only two games out of first place. But it doesn’t feel like that is possible. The fans already sense it. And it seems like the players do as well. The telltale sign was not just the fact that the Giants lost to the Eagles (again), but they way they lost. With everything on the line, they came up disgustingly small.

So once again, the focus and tenor of the game previews must change. The individual match-ups no longer matter, but the big picture does. We need to take a couple of steps back and evaluate the organization, where this team is heading, and how it is being led? This isn’t fun. While the Giants haven’t officially entered Cleveland Browns territory in terms of organizational futility (yet), it is clear the Giants are now one of the doormats of the NFL. We are the team that other teams can’t wait playing against. We are the team that fills up the highlight reels for the opposition. We are the team that other fans say, “Who are we playing this weekend? The Giants? That’s a win.”

The Giants are not being well led. Ownership has made a series of catastrophic misjudgments. With each passing day, it is clear that former General Manager Jerry Reese and former Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross were not only terrible at their jobs, but they turned a 2x Super Bowl winner into a laughing stock in just five short years. Yet when ownership finally decided enough was enough in January 2016, the team fired Tom Coughlin, promoted Ben McAdoo, kept the bulk of Coughlin’s coaching staff, and retained Reese and Ross. If folks recall, the Eagles appeared to have goaded ownership into hiring McAdoo quickly for fear of losing him to Philadelphia. The Eagles, who hired Doug Pederson, are probably still getting a good chuckle over that one.

When the Giants collapsed in 2017, arguably one of the franchise’s very worst seasons in team history, ownership fired McAdoo and Reese before the season was even over. Ross was fired later. The decision to hire Dave Gettleman was telegraphed from the start, and guaranteed as soon as ownership hired Ernie Accorsi to “advise” on the hiring process. Gettleman was groomed under Accorsi and worked under Reese and Ross. He certainly wasn’t a break from the past. And at the age of 67, his hiring certainly wasn’t made with a view for the long-term. It has been suggested that he simply would be a temporary bridge until Assistant GM Kevin Abrams, who has been with the team since 1999, was ready. So right or wrong, ownership made the decision that the organization was not structurally broken and that most of the college and pro scouts were still good at their job. They came to the conclusion that if they just fired Reese and Ross, just like they had made the previous decision that if they just fired Coughlin, everything would be fine. Thus far, it looks like they have made yet another huge misjudgment. I’ll get into the specifics below. But take a quick look at the roster. I repeatedly made the point before the season that it was top heavy. It is even more so today. You have a number of big names sprinkled throughout the roster and then a bunch of castoffs from around the league. Most of these names are barely recognizable and many of them should not even be on an NFL roster.

Which brings us to the third and final glaring mistake by ownership. Once again, they believed this team was only a few roster moves away from seriously competing for a Super Bowl. Nothing could be farther from the truth. And the fact that they could not recognize this is both startling and scary.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Jawill Davis (concussion – out)
  • WR Russell Shepard (neck – questionable)
  • TE Evan Engram (knee)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (foot)
  • LT Nate Solder (neck)
  • RG Patrick Omameh (knee – questionable)
  • LB Olivier Vernon (ribs)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:

  • Quarterbacks: The Eli Manning era is over. It’s last hurrah was 2016, but the organization didn’t recognize it and still may not recognize it. In terms of championships, statistics, memorable moments, and overall class, Manning will always be regarded as one of the most important figures in franchise history. But it’s over. All that remains to be seen is when and how he officially departs. It sucks, but such is the price for how poorly the Giants were mismanaged during the last third of his career. Now the franchise must work quickly to replace him or the Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley eras will also have a tragic feel to them. What is the plan here? Oddly, Gettleman and Pat Shurmur gave all of the second-team quarterback reps from May-August to a guy who they cut. It took them that long to realize that Davis Webb was not a viable NFL quarterback? And unless you think Alex Tanney is the second coming of Kurt Warner, the Giants had better bump Kyle Lauletta up to the #2 spot soon, if for no other reason than to give him the limited number of practice snaps. The Giants must have a good read on Lauletta heading into the 2019 offseason. They can ill-afford another Davis Webb-like screw-up. The way Shurmur handled Webb and Lauletta in the summer is a huge red flag.
  • Running Backs: Saquon Barkley will always be judged against the quarterbacks taken in the 2018 NFL Draft, probably on a weekly basis. But Barkley is the real deal. He’s a difference maker and capable of someday actually wearing that gold jacket. Personally, I’m thrilled he is a New York Giant. Wayne Gallman is a decent back-up. Why Gettleman signed Johnathan Stewart to the contract he did in the offseason is another worrisome sign.
  • Wide Receivers: Any team could win with Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard at wide receiver. But the Giants do have a brewing problem with Beckham if they keep losing. And this is not so much a generational thing either. I remember when even “class acts” like Harry Carson demanded to be traded because of the team losing. Beckham is being wasted and he knows it. The rest of the receiving corps outside him and Sterling Shepard is embarrassingly bad.
  • Tight Ends: Again, most teams can win with Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison at tight end.
  • Offensive Line: While very few people thought it possible the Giants could fix the offensive line in one year, Gettleman and company appear to have batted 1-for-5 in the offseason. They made the disappointing Nate Solder one of the highest paid offensive linemen in football, they believed either Jon Halapio or Brett Jones could handle the center spot, they signed Patrick Omameh to a big offseason deal, and they believed Ereck Flowers may be able to handle the right tackle position. The ONLY good offseason move on the offensive line appears to have been drafting Will Hernandez. The franchise as a whole colossally screwed this up AGAIN. So the Giants will now enter the offseason once again desperately needing to fill 3-4 starting jobs (not to mention depth) and probably have to waste valuable cap space on dead money for cutting mistakes. I can’t emphasize this enough. The Giants are still making huge errors when it comes to evaluating offensive line talent.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

  • Defensive Line: The Giants are also wasting Damon Harrison, who is one of the most talented interior defensive linemen in team history. Combined with Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill, these three are not a problem and form a core group to build a viable 3-4 defense around. Depth is also good here.
  • Linebackers: Due to injuries or whatever reason, Olivier Vernon never lived up to the hype. He teases, but can’t be counted on. The Giants need to make a decision about him in the offseason. Roll the dice again, or take their losses and have to deal with yet another glaring hole to fill. Signing Kareem Martin in free agency to a big contract also appears to have been a mistake and throws into doubt James Bettcher’s ability to evaluate talent since he undoubtedly lobbied heavily for Martin. Signing the over-the-hill Connor Barwin, who appears to have a chronic knee issue, was another indication that management felt this team was closer to competing than it really was. The Giants need to start Lorenzo Carter. He’s the future. Inside, giving up two picks for Alec Ogletree looks like a questionable move. And B.J. Goodson has not developed as hoped. Taken overall, the Giants moved to a linebacker-centric defense yet still don’t appear to have the linebackers to make it work.
  • Defensive Backs: As disappointing as the linebacker position has been, the marquee defensive backs really have let the team down. Landon Collins was supposed to thrive in this defense. He has not. Right now, Collins is still living off his 2016 season hype. Janoris Jenkins is also not playing up to his capabilities. Eli Apple has played better, but he also missed two critically-important games due to injury. The rest of the secondary is filled with journeymen castoffs. This unit has significantly deteriorated since 2016. If Jenkins were to go down, it probably would be considered the worst group in the NFL.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:

  • Punter: Giving up a draft pick for Riley Dixon was a mistake. They probably could have picked up a similar punter off of the waiver wire.
  • Place Kicker: Aldrick Rosas may actually be the most pleasant surprise of the season. He might be here a long, long time.
  • Returners: Management and coaching never addressed the kick/punt return issues that we all saw brewing since the summer.

THE FINAL WORD:
It is not outside the realm of possibility that the Giants win a few games and raise hopes again. I’m still rooting for this team to win. It’s in my DNA. But the quarterback is done, the offensive line is still a mess, and there are serious talent deficiencies on defense at linebacker and defensive back. The problem is the Giants have made so many screw ups in recent drafts that they keep trying to fix it by overspending in free agency, causing cap issues.

At some point, this team is going to have to bite the bullet, maintain fiscal responsibility in free agency, accumulate draft picks by trading away players who won’t be here when the team does eventually turn it around, and accept short-term suckitude. But at least fans will see the team attempting to build for something in the future and have hope. Right now, they are just treading water and weekly becoming a doormat for other teams. Stop trading away picks; accumulate them. There is no short-term fix.

Oct 152018
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (October 11, 2018)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles 34 – New York Giants 13

QUICK RECAP

The Giants were put on the national spotlight at home against the defending World Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Both teams entered this game feeling they had been underachieving throughout the first third of the season. One of them was right, one of them was wrong.

This had a do-or-die feel to it for NYG. Win this game and they are in the thick of things for the NFC East title. Lose and what many have perceived to be the inevitable “season was over before halfway” would come true. NYG had its destiny in their own hands.

With that said, on the second play from scrimmage, Eli Manning threw an interception on a pass into traffic intended for Scott Simonson. PHI began their first possession in the red zone and it took them just 3 plays to put 7 points on the board via a Carson Wentz-to-Alshon Jeffery touchdown pass on a broken play.

NYG took the punch in stride, putting together a 7-play drive tha resulted in a 33 yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas. NYG gained 60 yards on those 7 plays, 57 of which were by Saquon Barkley in what would prove to be the rookie’s most impressive game of the young season. The division rivals then traded possessions before the Eagles began another possession in NYG territory. Six plays later, Corey Clement punched his way into the end zone to make it a 14-3 lead for the road team.

The score remained 14-3 for the first half of the second quarter, as NYG continued to perform like a bottom tier offense on third down. For an offensive system that talks all week about establishing and sticking to the run, NYG sure had a hard time sticking to the plan in this one yet again. The prime example of this misnomer Pat Shurmur has created was when NYG had a 1st and goal from the 4 yard line. They gave one rush to Barkley before throwing, something they continue to struggle to do, two times in a row. The second of which was a pass intended for the third string tight end Simonson. NYG did get 3 points on the board to make it 14-6, but it was an opportunity that was badly missed by this staff.

It took under 1:30 of game clock for PHI to put more points on the board, many thanks to Eli Apple losing track of Nelson Agholor, who gained 58 yards. Wentz then hit Zach Ertz for a 10 yard touchdown on the next play. After another 3 and out by the NYG offense, PHI padded their lead to 24-6 and NYG entered halftime down 18 at home, a place they had won just 2 of their last 10 games.

PHI came out hot in the second half, looking like their 2017 selves. It was 31-6 before the NYG offense got the ball back via another touchdown pass from Wentz to Jeffery. There was one more shot of energy put into the Giants, however. Barkley took a handoff 50 yards to pay dirt, showing a burst through the PHI defense that you just don’t see often in this league. Even if it was false hope, it was a positive to see. PHI put together a 13-play drive that netted another 3 points. With at least some energy in the stadium, Wentz hit Jordan Matthews for a first down on 3rd and 14 on a simple slant. It was a subtle but powerful reminder how bad this team is when something big is needed.

The score was 34-13 towards the beginning of the 4th quarter and the look on everyone’s faces said it all. This season is over just 6 weeks in. The offense is broken on all levels. There is no leadership or accountability in the organization. There is no identity on either side of the ball. And lastly, one of the most storied franchises in the NFL is now in some of the darkest times of its history.

Eagles win 34-13.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 24/43 – 281 yards – 0 TD/1 INT. In arguably the biggest game of the year to date, Manning had his worst performance of the season. Starting the night off with a terrible interception was such a blow to the stomach. It really took the wind out of the sails initially and even though he has always made a habit out of bouncing back, there was a strong feeling it was going to be one of those nights literally just seconds into the first quarter. Manning’s downfield passing was off all night, his footwork in the pocket was horrid, and he is showing that even though the situation around him is less than ideal, he isn’t making things happen on his own.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 13 att / 130 yards – 1 TD – 9 rec / 99 yards. The start to Barkley’s career just keeps getting better and better. He is already in rare territory for a rookie and when it comes to production-per-touch, he is scratching the surface of league leader-territory. He was responsible for all three of NYG’s longest plays (55, 50, 46 yards) where the vision, balance, reaction, and burst were all on display. What I like to see the most here is Barkley does lower his shoulder and get the dirty yards when needed. I can still see some slight hesitation to his game but for a kid who is literally just 6 games into his career, things couldn’t be off to a better start.

-Wayne Gallman saw 17 snaps, 26% of the offensive plays. He gained 42 total yards on 6 touches with an impressive 3rd and long conversion on a play where he gained most of the yards after the catch. This is, and will be, Barkley’s backfield but having the right compliment behind him is important. Gallman has the burst and versatile skill set to be that guy for a long time and the rest of the season will be a long term tryout for him.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Odell Beckham: 6 rec / 44 yards. After a slightly discouraging PR week for Beckham, whom has been fined by the team for comments made to the media and was forced to apologize to teammates in a team meeting, a big game paired with a win could have made that situation disappear but the complete opposite happened. Beckham never got into the flow, was missed deep a couple times, and only impacted the game via the short passing game a few times. Something I noticed about Beckham from the All-22 is a lack of separation as a route runner. I don’t think anything is physically wrong, as the elite burst is still there. However Beckham is doing way too much dancing at the point of attack. He is taking way too long to get into his actual route, and time is something Manning doesn’t have when he drops back. The timing of these two is completely off. There is a very uneasy feeling with Beckham right now when it comes to his relationship with the team.

-Cody Latimer made his first real impact of the season, catching 3 passes for 52 yards, including one that went for 39. The newly signed veteran who was supposed to be a balancing act to the Beckham/Shepard duo only played half the snaps, as he appeared to still be a little banged up. Latimer was thrown a deep ball into the end zone where he didn’t track it well and mightily slowed down as the ball had a touchdown written all over it. Not sure what happened there but NYG can’t afford those mistakes.

-Sterling Shepard was held to 37 yards on 3 catches. He was the victim of a couple missed penalties that could have resulted in big plays.

TIGHT ENDS

With both Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison out, Scott Simonson got the start. He was in for all but 2 offensive snaps and performed well as a blocker. He did allow 1 pressure, but he was a difference maker on a few of the positive runs NYG had. He is a very limited athlete, as seen on a couple of the throws that went his way. He doesn’t adjust well to the ball and his reactions are delayed. He is a third stringer for a reason.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-It’s been 6 weeks since Nate Solder has taken over the starting left tackle job and it is fair to say he has been one of the more eye opening disappointments of the season. He allowed a sack that nearly resulted in a safety on a play where he barely even touched Michael Bennett. In addition, he allowed 2 pressures and failed to make an impact as a run blocker. His man was often leaking into the backfield and when it comes to grades, Solder hasn’t been much better than Flowers was last year. That’s pretty scary.

-Chad Wheeler allowed 3 pressures, more of the same from him. A young kid who competes hard and will make plenty of hustle-blocks, but the separation in talent between him and a good DE is significant.

GUARDS/CENTERS

-Patrick Omameh took a big step back and I am seeing more and more similarities between him and John Jerry when it comes to the inconsistency. He was overmatched by Fletcher Cox on multiple occasions, allowing 2 pressures and a sack all in the second half. His lack of urgency off the snap often puts him at a point of initial disadvantage position-wise.

-Will Hernandez allowed a sack as well, along with a pressure. However he had some of the most key blocks on Barkley’s big plays. He has improved as an adjustment-blocker, meaning he is putting less movement into initial reads and showing more balance and patience when reacting to the defense. This is exactly what you want to see out of a rookie lineman.

-John Greco continues to worsen each week. He was being pushed back on a routine basis and missing blocks at the second level. He also had an inexcusable false start penalty in the 2nd quarter when NYG started to gain momentum.

EDGE

-Olivier Vernon finally returned from injury was one of the bright spots for NYG in this game. The pass rush has been bottom tier all season, but Vernon came back and recorded a sack in addition to 2 pressures. He made All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters look silly at times. He didn’t impact the run game at all, however. He has been a very all-or-nothing type player since signing with NYG but he does help this defense a lot when he is on the field.

-Kerry Wynn had another solid game with 6 tackles, 2 of which for a loss, along with a pressure.

-The trio of Lorenzo Carter, Kareem Martin, and Connor Barwin was near non-existent for most of the game. Martin got to Wentz a couple times early to impact his throws, but for the most part these three were completely neutralized.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

The starting trio of Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, and BJ Hill continued to play solid football. PH averaged just over 3 yards per carry, which can strongly be attributed to these three. Something of note here is that Harrison played less than 50% of the defensive snaps despite PHI running the ball so much. There seemed to be less pop in his game at the point of attack. With Tomlinson clearly showing he is not nearly on the same level as a nose tackle, this could present a major problem.

-Josh Mauro and Mario Edwards played sparingly and failed to make an impact.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree had an active game, recording 8 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. He also had a pressure and a personal foul penalty when the game started to get out of hand. He did miss 2 tackles on the night and allowed 2 catches over the middle.

-Ray-Ray Armstrong, whom has won the starting gig next to Ogletree, was injured in the second half. BJ Goodson stepped in and actually had a really strong showing. He had 6 tackles, a few of which were impressive combinations of rangy and physical, to go with 2 pressures. Goodson has always been known for his ability to blitz, and I expect to see more of it if Armstrong is out for any time.

CORNERBACKS

-Eli Apple is in the midst of his best stretch of football since being drafted in 2016. He had another productive night, breaking up 3 passes. However the mental lapses that we have grown used to with him reappeared on a couple of occasions. His situational awareness is still a weakness when it comes to plays that are breaking down and on third down. The talent is there and it shows up on tape, but he doesn’t show the feel that good corners have. He also missed 2 tackles on the night.

-Janoris Jenkins was challenged downfield often. He did a fine job other than a pass interference penalty, but there seems to be something missing from his game. He isn’t forecasting well like he usually has in the past, and there isn’t as much aggression to his game underneath. BW Webb continues to be a bend-don’t break type slot corner.

SAFETIES

-Landon Collins led the team with 10 tackles, no surprise there. But the trend continues with him. He is an important player who can make things happen, but he simply gets beat too often. He missed 2 tackles and was responsible for at least one of the touchdown passes thrown by Wentz. Nobody can expect perfection out of him or anyone, but I feel there are just too many plays allowed by Collins weekly. Something to think about as his FA days are coming.

-Curtis Riley made 6 tackles with 1 miss. This actually was one of his better games. He cut off a few deep routes that it appeared Wentz was looking for. He also made two really physical tackles. Riley is one of just a few defenders that I never see take a play off.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/3 (Made 33,21 and Missed 52). Rosas had been perfect until that long miss, where he came up just a few yards short. It looked like the quad injury limited him on that a tad.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 Punts – 50.6 avg / 41.1 net. There have been a handful of big punt returns this year by the opposition. Dixon can be partially to blame, as the hang time falls into the bottom-half-tier in the NFL.

3 STUDS

-RB Saquon Barkley, EDGE Olivier Vernon, EDGE Kerry Wynn

3 DUDS

-QB Eli Manning, OT Nate Solder, OG Patrick Omameh

3 THOUGHTS ON PHI

-Prior to the season, I projected 11-12 wins for the defending Super Bowl champs no matter how long Wentz was going to be out. After a rough start, I expect that projection to live on and play out. This team is loaded on both sides of the ball and Wentz looks like he is hitting the stride that he couldn’t grasp because of how long he was out during preseason.

-The PHI defensive line is as deep as any in the league. Fletcher Cox is the star of the group, but you could really see how important it was to have fresh bodies in there running around in the second half. The strategy of building as much depth within the DL as possible has always been a solid, winning strategy. PHI has 3 of their own drafted first rounders and signed 2 former 1st rounders in free agency. Something to think about as this hole-filled NYG franchise rebuilds.

-The one Achilles heel to this PHI team resides on the health of their offensive tackles. 36 year old Jason Peters looks like a shell of his former self and Lane Johnson seems to be limping off the field weekly. If one or both of these guys does down, it is going to really hurt this offense that is reliant on lengthy pass protections.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-Now that the season appears to be all but over, the end-of-month trade deadline looms. There is talent on this team that can help a winner, but should NYG be shopping any of their players for future draft picks? I am all about going into the draft with a surplus of selections, as it is the best way to build a long-term winner. Two names I would be throwing out there? Landon Collins and Sterling Shepard. Two popular names, but two players who I think can be replaced quickly and net the Giants an extra day 2 pick.

-One of the worst parts to this roster situation overall is the lack of assurance that someone on the bench could come in and out-perform some of the current underachievers. While I would love to see a new OC/RG combination at some point, nobody is good enough to give even a little hope of improvement. Same can be said at safety. It’s gonna be a tough thing to watch for 10 more weeks.

-When will Eli Manning be benched in favor Kyle Lauletta? If this team is mathematically out of it with 4-5 weeks left, you have to think it will happen at some point. I’m not sure it will make a heavy impact ton how NYG approaches the draft, but you never know. This regime drafted Lauletta and they likely want to see him in NFL game action at least a few times so they can throw that into the decision process next spring.

Oct 102018
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (October 7, 2018)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, October 11, 2018

THE STORYLINE:
One of my chief complaints about the New York Giants in recent years is that not only have they not been competitive, but they have not been competitive in an oft-overrated division filled with mediocre-at-best teams. Here we are again. The Giants are 1-4. Yet the Washington Redskins are leading the division with a 2-2 record. Both the Eagles and Cowboys have losing records at 2-3. Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl last year, but the Giants actually could send them to basement of a bad division with a win on Thursday night.

Most Giants fans will correctly be looking at the W-L division ramifications of this game. Last weekend’s loss should have killed the Giants season. But it did not because every team in the NFC East also lost. The Giants are still not dead. They actually could crawl back into playoff contention despite their .200 winning percentage. But my focus won’t be so much on that, but whether not the Giants found a coach who can get the Philadelphia Eagles monkey off of their back. The Eagles have won 16 of the last 20 games these two teams have played. That’s ridiculous. It’s embarrassing. Enough.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Jawill Davis (shoulder – probable)
  • TE Evan Engram (knee – out)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (foot – questionable)
  • WR Russell Shepard (neck – out)
  • DE Josh Mauro (groin – probable)
  • LB Olivier Vernon (ankle – probable)
  • LB Connor Barwin (knee – probable)
  • PK Aldrick Rosas (right quad – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Speaking of getting monkeys off your back, the Giants finally broke the 30-point barrier. Still, the offense is capable of so much more. Last week, a dropped 4th-down pass, an embarrassing 0-of-7 on 3rd-down conversion attempts, subpar run blocking, and bad interceptions were issues or the Giants would have won the game. But we learned what many of us have been preaching – get the ball into the hands of Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham, and Sterling Shepard and good things will happen. The Giants should always be tough to defend.

If you were to ask me what is the #1 reason for the Eagles owning the Giants, I would tell you it has been the way their defensive front has abused the Giants’ offensive line. And this is the main point of concern once again. Last year’s starting offensive line is completely gone. None of them are left. But the problems remain. There was one very telling statistic from last week. Barkley ran for 48 yards on 15 carries DESPITE two of his runs picking up 50 yards. Let that sink in for a minute. And consider one of those two big runs happened when Barkley avoided an unblocked defender with a nifty spin move. Barkley is a stud. He can take over a game all by himself but the offensive line and tight ends are not helping him enough. It’s embarrassing. Get a hat on a hat and give Barkley a chance. All he needs is a little room.

I will continue to harp on running the ball all season for two reasons. One, Barkley is simply that good. He’s capable of 200-yard rushing games. Second, it takes pressure off of Eli Manning. Our quarterback is still driving me nuts. His turnovers last weekend were bad, and the second one should have ended the game. But he alternates that with what should have been a dramatic come-from-behind win with 15 4th-quarter points. “God damn it Eli!”… “Way to go Eli!” Ugh…

In the 16 out of 20 losses, aside from the occasional special teams disaster or the Victor Cruz injury, the lasting images have been Eli getting clobbered and/or turning the ball over with a fumble or interception. Again and again. The Eagles are still deep and talented up front. Giants fans are well familiar with DT Fletcher Cox (3 sacks) and DE Brandon Graham (1 sack). Add DE Derek Barnett (2.5 sacks) and DT Haloti Ngata (1 sack; late note, Ngata has been ruled out of this game) as starters, and reserves such as DE Michael Bennett (1 sack) and DE Chris Long (1 sack). Then there are linebackers Jordan Hicks (1.5 sacks) and Nigel Bradham (1 sack). The Eagles are 10th overall in team defense (7th in scoring defense). And it all starts up front with them.

This is pretty simple. If the Eagles once again dominate the line of scrimmage against the Giants, they will once again rough up Eli and force him to make the killer turnover. But if the Giants can run the ball just enough with Barkley hitting on a few big plays, and Eli stands tough in the pocket just long enough to connect with Beckham and Shepard (the latter who hurt the Eagles twice last year), then the Giants have a chance. But theses guys can’t make the killer mistakes like they did last week… the dumb interceptions, the dropped passes, etc. When the big play is there, the Giants must nail it. Sustaining long drives with short pick-ups is very difficult against the Eagles.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
All Giants fans were thinking the same thing last weekend: the Giants left too much time on the clock. We have no faith in the defense making a 4th-quarter stop because this has been an issue for years now under multiple defensive coordinators. The excuse “the defense did enough to win” wears thin when you keep losing. The Giants finally got a couple of turnovers last week, but they still are only averaging a sack per game, and given the chance to seal the deal with 68 seconds left, they couldn’t do it. Make a play to win the game!

Offensively, the Eagles have not been sharp. They have given up 17 sacks on the season and they are -4 in the turnover differential department (8 interceptions, 1 fumble lost). And the Eagles just lost their leading rusher, Jay Ajayi, with an ACL tear. Interestingly, by far, their leading pass receivers are tight end Zach Ertz (already 41 receptions for 437 yards) and wide receiver Nelson Agholor (29 receptions for 212 yards). These two account for over half of all the team’s receptions. Part of that is due to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery missing the first three games. He had 8 receptions in his first game back and just two last week.

Incredibly, Carson Wentz is already back despite tearing an ACL late last season. He started the last three games and is completing 67 percent of his passes with a 5-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio. He’s the real deal. The one knock on him thus far is three lost fumbles (he’s actually fumbled the ball 26 times in three years, losing nine). Personally, I’d be scared to death if I were an Eagles’ fan that the organization has rushed Wentz back too fast. It sounds shitty, but hit him. Get him thinking about his knee.

There have been many reasons why the Giants have had so much turnover in the front office, coaching staffs, and players in recent years, but perhaps one of the root causes has been the team’s inability to compete with the Eagles. Now at least on this side of the ball, it is James Bettcher’s turn. Olivier Vernon may be back. We don’t know how effective he will be. But the Giants must get some sort of pass rush on Wentz, by scheme if they have to. Assuming Janoris Jenkins and Jeffery are locked up, the obvious focus becomes defending favorite targets Ertz and Agholor. While tight ends across the league have killed the Giants in recent years, and fans love to focus on what Dallas’ Jason Witten did to the team, the Eagles’ tight ends have been especially deadly for New York. Aside from Ertz, don’t sleep on rookie tight end Dallas Goedert (12 catches).

The Eagles love to run the ball. But with Ajayi out and the NYG strength being run defense, we may see a more pass-heavy game plan from the Eagles this week. This is another opponent where I try to get my better athletes on the field to deal with the tight ends and backs out of the backfield.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
One of the biggest reason’s why the Giants lost last week was the turnover on the return game. Based on what we’ve seen since the preseason, it was only a matter of time. First and foremost, the returner game has to secure the football.

Those who have watched the Eagles over the years know one of the reasons they have stolen so many games where they have been out-played has been their special teams. The are example #1 on how special teams can be the difference in an 8-8 season and an 11-5 season.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Pat Shurmur on the Eagles’ defense: “I think the Eagles’ defense starts with their front four and they rotate them. They have eight guys up and they rotate them all the time, keep them fresh and they’re very disruptive in the run and the pass. That’s going to be the challenge for us initially, block the front four so that we can run it and throw it.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Pat Shurmur served a couple of coaching stints with the Eagles. He’s familiar with the team and how and why they have had so much success against the Giants. There is a school of thought that the Giants finally showed some emotion last week and are beginning to come together as a team. That may be true, but team building is cemented with success, not failure. The Giants need to start experiencing some success soon or this will all fall apart again. That was a very tough loss (a 63-yard field goal?!!!!), and this is a short week. If I was going on historical experience, I would say this is a very tough spot for the Giants. The Eagles are the better team with the better quarterback. But anything can happen during these crazy short-week Thursday night games.

Oct 092018
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 7, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers 33 – New York Giants 31

QUICK RECAP

Coming off a bye week, the 2-1 Panthers played host to the 1-3 Giants. It was a sunny, hot and humid day to the point where it had an impact on several players towards the end of the game.

For the third straight week, NYG put points on the board first, this time via a 42-yard field goal by the so-far perfect Aldrick Rosas. That lead didn’t last long, however, as the Panthers took advantage of poor tackling on multiple occasions including a 25 yard wide receiver screen to Curtis Samuel where Alec Ogletree, Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins, and BW Webb all had a shot at bringing down the second year pro but failed prior to him reaching pay dirt.

Manning and the offense put together a solid drive, marching back into CAR territory but were met with a 4th and 3 on the 39 yard line. Rather than trying a long field goal, Manning hit Beckham in the hands but the ball fell to the ground. Momentum started to shift and that hit the overdrive button when CAR later punted just to have Beckham make another mistake, letting the live ball hit him in the foot while he tried to take out a gunner to prevent him from downing the ball. After a failed attempt to pick up the ball by Janoris Jenkins, CAR recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. That put them up 14-3.

The Giants followed that with a 3 and out and CAR took their lead to 14 points via the first of four Graham Gano field goals. The NYG sideline looked quiet and dejected with the common “Here we go again” type feel that we have grown used to.

NYG pulled a trick out of the bag to get this team woken up. A double pass from Eli-to-Beckham-to-Barkley resulted in a 57 yard touchdown. We all know the amount of talent on this offense is more than it has ever been and to see the two young playmakers who will be here for years come out with a play like this shot energy into the entire team. Still down 7 points, it was at this point you knew NYG was going to fight back.

CAR and NYG traded field goals to end the half and the halftime score was 20-13. NYG forced a 3 and out and after a 13-play drive that included a big Barkley run, missed penalties by the refs, and a 4th and 1 conversion, Rosas kicked his third and final FG of the day through the uprights to get NYG within 4. The action then began to pick up.

Newton threw an interception on what appeared to be a wrong route by rookie TE Ian Thomas. The momentum was there for the taking but Manning gave it right back just 4 plays later, his first of two interceptions on the day. CAR took advantage of a horrific, ill-timed miscall by the refs on a 3rd down stop by the NYG defense. Landon Collins was called for a helmet-to-helmet personal foul on a play where he and Funchess were both clearly diving for the ball. CAR scored a touchdown via catch and run by Christian McCaffrey 4 plays later. The Giants secondary suffered a major miscommunication on this one. If NYG was going to make a move, they had to move fast at this point, as it was a 2 possession, 11 point game.

Manning then threw his second interception of the day and the wind was out of the sails. The game looked over. In typical Cam Newton fashion, the 8th year pro rushed himself into a pointless, poor throw right into the arms of Janoris Jenkins. He added 29 yards to the return and gave NYG a ray of hope once again.

Two plays later, Manning found Beckham for a 33-yard touchdown, which was followed by a successful 2 point conversion attempt, getting NYG within 3. CAR then took nearly 6 minutes off the clock via the Newton show. He was gaining valuable yards on the ground and hitting receivers in stride to get CAR within field goal range. CAR added 3 more points and left just 2:16 on the clock for NYG, who was out of timeouts.

Once again, Manning and the NYG offense didn’t need long to put the ball in the end zone. This time it took just 4 plays which was highlighted by a 40-yard downfield connection to Russell Shepard, immediately followed by a 15 yard dump off to Barkley who leapt 16+ feet in the air into the end zone.

NYG took a 1-point lead, their first lead since the 7:30 mark in the first quarter.

After a couple of chink plays by the CAR offense, the reffing controversy continued, as Christian McCaffrey was given a questionable first down on a 3rd and 1 rushing attempt. With the clock ticking down from 30 seconds and no timeouts left, the quick trigger first down gave Newton an opportunity to spike the ball. From the NYG 45 yard line, Gano lined up for a 63 yard field goal attempt. And for the second year in a row, NYG loses on a 60+ yard field goal in the closing seconds to lose the game.

Panthers win 33-31.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 22/36 – 326 yards – 2 TD / 2 INT. We saw the best 2018 version of Manning late in the game after his second interception of the day. Down 27-16 with just under 9 minutes left, it only took Manning 6 plays from scrimmage to lead this team to a 1-point lead with under 2 minutes left. It was the typical roller-coaster ride for him, as he made a couple of bonehead throws that resulted in turnovers (and 1 that was luckily batted away by Odell Beckham) just to see him come back late and nearly lead the team to another 4th quarter win via a clutch performance. There was more room in the pocket and he seemed to be a bit more comfortable moving within it. A solid game for the 15th year pro.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 15 att / 48 yards – 4 rec / 81 yards – 2 TD. For the fifth consecutive game to start off his career, Barkley totaled over 100 yards from scrimmage, just the 3rd time that has happened in NFL history. Barkley was getting misdirected at the point of attack several times thanks to the middle of the line getting beat off the ball consistently. He was, however, able to rattle off a couple of big runs via bouncing it to the outside. Barkley’s 2 touchdowns via the air just further exemplified his overall impact on the game. NYG fans shouldn’t take for granted how sure his hands are and what he is capable of doing after the catch. Barkley’s two biggest runs were a part of 2 separate scoring drives, respectively. When this kid makes a play, this team scores points. Plain and simple.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Odell Beckham: 8 rec / 131 yards – 1 TD. Beckham also threw a 57 yard touchdown pass to Barkley on a double pass. Watching those two change the scope of the game goes to show just how good things can happen here if the accessory components improve. Beckham did have a couple of big plays, but there were three negatives that have to be discussed as well. He had 2 drops in this one. First one was a 4th and 3 pass that would have resulted in a first down. The next was a 50/50 ball in the end zone that Odell had both hands around but had it knocked out on the way down by CAR corner James Bradberry. Some will say it wasn’t a drop, but when you have both hands on the ball as you come down to the ground, the best will hold on. Lastly, arguably the worst play of the day, was the result of Beckham being unaware of where a punt was coming down, as it hit his leg while he was trying to block a gunner from downing the ball, which rolled around and ended up resulting in a CAR touchdown. It’s an inexcusable mistake and it really cost the Giants.

-Sterling Shepard: 4 rec / 75 yards. NYG has to be happy with the 3rd year pro who is really coming into his own. He is proving to be more than a slot receiver who can get open underneath. Shepard is gaining separation from corners on all levels of the defense and a standout attribute to his game is how fast he explodes downfield after the catch. Best days are ahead for him.

-Russell Shepard saw a season-high 4 targets with 3 rec / 42 yards. It’s funny how this guy who isn’t blessed with noteworthy size or speed always seems to work his way into a healthy dose of targets no matter who he plays for. Manning looked his way in key moments, a good sign because it will make defenses stay away from zeroing in on Beckham and Barkley so much. Jawill Davis also added 2 catches for 27 yards, including a 22 yarder. It looks like these two may have passed Cody Latimer on the depth chart.

TIGHT ENDS

-Rhett Ellison played all but 1 snap in this one. He added 2 catches for 17 yards but also caught the key 2 point conversion on the first of two 4th quarter touchdowns to put them within a field goal. Ellison continues to be very up and down as a blocker. He allowed 2 TFL, as he seems to be struggling to block to his outside shoulder. In the same breath, he does a nice job blocking inside gaps.

-Scott Simonson continues to be an extra blocking presence and he is improving weekly. He offers little-to-nothing as a receiver.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Overall a solid game for both Nate Solder and Chad Wheeler. They didn’t have to deal with a lot of stunts and/or blitzes, which helped. Solder got turned around badly a few times, and it looks like he just got caught guessing wrong a few times. It’s a little alarming but he does a nice job in recovery mode, for what it’s worth. Wheeler allowed a TFL but held his own against Julius Peppers, who still has plenty left in the tank. Wheeler is still struggling against quickness to his inside shoulder, something to keep an eye on.

GUARDS/CENTER

-Rookie Will Hernandez continues to be the best of this trio. He may even grade out to be the top OL on this team by year’s end. He was fortunate on two occasions that the ball was out really quick on plays he got beat off the ball badly. He still has a tendency to rely too much on his reach/punch rather than move himself into proper position via footwork. That said, he is on a nice run right now. He allowed 1 pressure on the day.

-Center John Greco and right guard Patrick Omameh really struggled in this one. Greco allowed 2 pressures and was being pushed back all afternoon. It’s hard to run the ball inside when the point of attack is consistently being pushed back 1-2 yards. Omameh was getting beat off the ball as well, more so because he was slow. He was in recovery mode often, allowing 2 TFL.

EDGE

-Kareem Martin led the edge defenders in snaps played, yet he made the least amount of impact. That is a continuing trend for the for the 5th year pro who has never recorded 2 sacks in a season. Martin had a terrible offsides penalty on a CAR punt that led to CAR opting to go for it on 4th down and successfully converting. When we talk about a front seven that just doesn’t make anything happen, he is front and center.

-Kerry Wynn had another solid game. He had 2 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss, and a pressure. He was flagged for a horrendous roughing the QB penalty that I will not fault him for, as he literally pushed Newton’s chest right after he threw the ball.

-Lorenzo Carter played just under half of the team’s snaps. They tried to move him around more than normal, sending him on delayed inside blitzes and a couple QB-spy type roles. He finished with a TFL but failed to make an impact as a pass rusher. Even with a head of steam, his impact on blockers was minimal all afternoon, as there isn’t enough variety to his game. Connor Barwin had 2 tackles and a sack. I’ll say it again, this guy has been a very solid depth-addition for this front seven. His best days are behind him but there is plenty of juice left in those legs along with a relentless approach.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Dalvin Tomlinson and Damon Harrison both played just over half the team’s snaps. I think that may be a trend we see with Harrison especially. He finished with 4 tackles and 2 TFL, clearly outclassing one of the best OC’s in the game Ryan Khalil.

-Josh Mauro saw his first action as a Giant, as he returned from his 4 game suspension. He didn’t stand out but he adds another capable body against the run. He and Mario Edwards each had a tackle along with some under the radar space-eating that was valuable for the solid run defense.

-BJ Hill had a very up and down game. The Giants leading sack-artist had 5 tackles, making things happen at the point of attack. However he had 3 occasions where he was blown off the ball from the side, which led to solid CAR running gains.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree had 6 tackles on the day in an otherwise nondescript performance. He was a key defender in stopping a Cam Newton QB sneak attempt. Ray-Ray Armstrong, the former safety who has been steadily taking snaps away from BJ Goodson, has struggled the past 2 weeks. Goodson got some snaps back but I thought Armstrong stepped it up a notch. He finished with 4 tackles and a TFL. Goodson added 4 tackles as well.

CORNERBACKS

-Eli Apple returned to action, only allowing a couple catches. His technique in and out of his backpedal, and the body control he shows after making his reads, have been outstanding. Sure would be nice to see him further his development into a quality cornerback. He did miss 1 tackle on the day.

-Janoris Jenkins continues to be an up and down corner, as are a lot of quality players at this position. He broke up a pass and intercepted another. What impresses me a lot about Jenkins is even though he lacks ideal size against a WR like CAR’s Devin Funchess, he can always play big. I noticed that about him at training camp in 2017 and it is a consistent positive attribute to his game.

-BW Webb continues to dominate the nickel snaps over Donte Deayon. He was flagged for a holding penalty which he strongly disagreed with and then bumped into the ref while arguing. That lack of self-control led to another 15 yard penalty. Thankfully Newton threw an interception soon after. While I hate to see stupid penalties like that, this team is showing more emotion that we’ve seen in recent years. Webb played spirited football after that penalty, including a pressure and a tackle for loss.

SAFETIES

-Landon Collins had another active game, leading the team with 8 tackles while adding a pass break up and a pressure. His pressure forced Newton into an early throw on the Jenkins interception. Once again, however, he was in the middle of a couple miscommunications in coverage. Hard to say who’s at fault, especially on the McCaffrey touchdown reception, but this is where leadership needs to take over. He also missed 2 tackles, a major no-no from safeties in my book.

-Curtis Riley did have an interception. You can call it “easy” if you want, but he was in the right place at the right time and this defense has been begging for someone to make a play for weeks. He did exactly that. His tackling remains an issue, however. He had 2 more misses.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 3/3 (Made 42, 53, 36). Rosas is still perfect on the year, a noteworthy fact to the season that could be a major part of this team turning things around. The 53 yarder is a new career-long. That said, Rosas booted a kickoff out of bounds in the 2nd quarter, setting up CAR in good field position on a drive that led to 3 points.

-P Curtis Riley: 2 punts / 49.5 avg / 51.0 net. Quiet day for Dixon and a rare day of a longer net average than punt average.

-PR Odell Beckham had the biggest bonehead play of the day, allowing a live ball to hit him in the foot which resulted in 7 points for CAR. He did add a 15 yard return later.

3 STUDS

-CB Janoris Jenkins, RB Saquon Barkley, OG Will Hernandez

3 DUDS

-OC John Greco, OG Patrick Omameh, EDGE Kareem Martin

3 THOUGHTS ON CAR

-It’s interesting to see how this CAR team develops, as current NYG General Manager Dave Gettleman laid the groundwork. A lot of attention has been put on the offensive and defensive lines with successful draft picks. That is the biggest difference between NYG and CAR when it comes to roster building in recent years. CAR has some holes to fill, as do most teams, but they are reliable in the trenches for the most part. That can win games as much as anything.

-Another topic of debate that is often discussed here is the value of linebackers in today’s NFL. CAR spent 1st round picks on both Luke Kuechly (2012), Shaq Thompson (2015) along with Thomas Davis (2005) whom returns from suspension this upcoming week. When I watch the second level of a defense like CAR, DAL, JAC, etc., the notion only grows stronger that spending 1st and 2nd round picks on the position is a good idea.

-When CAR let go of Josh Norman, many in CAR were unhappy. They viewed him as a top tier corner and CAR had very little behind him. James Bradberry, however, in his third season as a 2nd round pick, is becoming one of the more underrated at the position in the league. He is really physical and savvy.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-The Giants scored 2 touchdowns in 6 plays during the 4th quarter. What was the theme we saw on those two “drives” that we don’t see elsewhere? Downfield throws. Maybe Beckham is onto something when he says this offense hasn’t been doing enough of that.

-With that said, I don’t have major issues with Beckham going to the media discussing his negative thoughts on how NYG is playing. Losing breeds this kind of stuff, plain and simple. But one thing I didn’t see? Beckham hasn’t stated that his shortcomings are part of the problem. And he has a few things to clean up. He had 2 awful mistakes in this loss alone, and a third mistake that the best do not make. If he wants to be touted as a world class player, he can’t make those mistakes. Take some ownership Odell.

-The lack of pass rush on this team is downright scary. It doesn’t get discussed enough because there is such an unhealthy obsession to discuss Eli and his future replacements, etc. The NYG pass rush might be bottom 3 in the league from what I observe. And yes I know everyone wants a shiny new toy at QB in the next draft, but there are going to be 2 or 3 top tier pass rushers in this upcoming class. And you better believe I am going to be leaning in that direction at times especially if no QB overly stands out.

Oct 052018
 
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Pat Shurmur and Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (September 30, 2018)

Pat Shurmur and Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Carolina Panthers, October 7, 2018

THE STORYLINE:
The New York Giants season is not over, but it is on the brink.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Sterling Shepard (back – probable)
  • WR Cody Latimer (knee – probable)
  • TE Evan Engram (knee – out)
  • NT Damon Harrison (knee – probable)
  • LB Olivier Vernon (ankle – out)
  • LB Connor Barwin (knee – probable)
  • CB Eli Apple (groin – probable)
  • CB Antonio Hamilton (groin – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
These game previews have become tiresomely repetitive because the same exact issues continue to exist. In the simplest terms, the Giants don’t score enough points. Forget what has become an almost comical 30-point taboo for the NYG offense. In three of the team’s first four games, the Giants haven’t reached the 20-point threshold. I can talk about offensive strategy, match-ups with the other team, defense, special teams, etc. until I am blue in the face, but a team that can’t even score 20 points on a consistent basis is going to lose. And lose a lot.

Many people are going to take this as an Eli Manning bashing preview. It’s not meant to be. But we have to openly assess how other teams view him. After last Sunday’s game, a Saints’ defensive back said, “I feel like the guys up front put a scare in the quarterback, rushing him the way they rushed. I know there were some shots there downfield, but he didn’t take them.”

Many Giants’ fans see the same thing; others do not. Giants’ games now have not become about the W-L record (because they keep losing), but a weekly referendum on Eli. “See! Eli still has it if you give him time!” “See! Eli had time and he still missed the open receivers deep!” It’s become a tiresome, but predictable, weekly debate because so much of the success or failure of a team’s offense relies on the play of the quarterback.

From my QB preview in June: “Yet, in an era where teams are moving more and more to athletic quarterbacks, Eli remains a bit of an old-school dinosaur whose lack of mobility clearly impacts the overall offense. Manning must compensate with better toughness, pocket awareness, decision-making under duress, and accuracy. Can he shake off the gun-shyness and inaccuracy that plagued him in 2017? Can he get his mojo back?”

As much as it pains me to say it, when I watch Eli now, I still see a gun-shy quarterback who has lost his mojo. And I’ve seen enough football over the years to know that once a quarterback becomes gun-shy, it’s over. The accumulation of years of poor pass protection now causes Eli to feel phantom pressure and make business decisions.

But what about the game against the Texans?! That’s the frustrating part. Statistically, that was one of Eli’s best games in his career. He was almost perfect. But teams don’t want quarterbacks who play well in one-out-of-four games. The “yeah but” excuses are wearing thin. Officially, Eli is now a quarterback who has won 112 regular season games and lost 106 in his 15-year career. It’s quite possible, by season’s end, he will be a career losing quarterback.

We’re one quarter through the 2018 regular season. Eli has 12 games left. If he can’t get his mojo back in those 12 games, it’s time to move on.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants’ defense isn’t losing games. But it’s not winning them either. The Giants are a respectable 11th in team defense. But the Giants have five sacks on the season. That ties them with the Raiders for dead last in the NFL. The Giants have also only picked off two passes and recovered one fumble. So while the defense is keeping New York in games, it hasn’t been able to provide the short field for a struggling offense.

The Giants now face yet another quarterback who can hurt you with his feet. Cam Newton is a strange bird. At times, he looks like an MVP candidate and at others the kind of guy who holds a team back. But he absolutely can take over a game with either his feet or his arm. Newton is unique in that he is bigger than most of the guys trying to tackle him. And Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner, who replaced Mike Shula, has Newton throwing the ball as well as he has in his career, completing 67 percent of his passes. Oddly, his leading receiver is a running back, Christian McCaffrey with 22 receptions. Wide receiver Devin Funchess is second with 14 catches. No other Panther has more than 10 catches through four games and Carolina is only 25th in passing offense in the NFL.

But the Panthers are #1 in the League in running the football. The Giants have now faced a series of teams who are near the top of the NFL in rushing. While the Giants have done a fairly decent job against those teams’ running backs, it has been their quarterbacks running the football who have hurt them. The focal point of the New York defense must be on two players: McCaffrey (who is averaging almost six yards per carry) and Newton (136 yards rushing and 3 rushing TDs). The The Panthers will use misdirection to the back and then let Newton carry the ball. The Giants must be ready for it. This is why getting Eli Apple back will be important. He’s a bigger, more physical corner than B.W. Webb and Donte Deayon on the perimeter of the defense. Indeed, when the Giants go to the nickel, I would be more apt to play safety Michael Thomas. Safety Landon Collins will also be on the spot as he has been prone to bite on misdirection.

“This offense, they create a lot of run-pass conflict, use the quarterback a ton in the run game, he is a heck of a load to bring down whether it’s quarterback design runs, whether it’s option plays, or whether it’s just him underneath center handing the ball off to a really explosive running back,” said Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher on Thursday.

McCaffrey is a similar player to Alvin Kamara, who just ran for three touchdowns against the Giants. “I see an explosive guy who’s not afraid,” said Bettcher. “He’s shifty, he can do all those things in space, but he’s not afraid to put his foot down, lower his pads, and he’s going to try and run someone over… (In the passing game) the same kind of things that we had to deal with last week with the back we played against, a guy that, they’ll split out empty, they’ll motion him, they’ll use him as a slot receiver and bring another back to put in the backfield.”

Newton, McCaffrey… those are the two main cogs. That doesn’t mean Newton won’t take his shots down the field, but the key defensively is to keep these two from killing the Giants with their feet. If the defense really wants to take charge of the game, get some turnovers. Teams that win the turnover battle usually win the game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
One of the key plays in last week’s game was the fake punt the Saints ran. The Giants had started the game on fire and that play took some of the wind out of their sails. Plays like that often get lost in the box score, but it is evidence how the Giants’ special teams unit still doesn’t do enough to win football games. And the return game still remains anemic, and worse, a bit nerve-wracking as the returners still have issues securing the football or making the right decisions.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Pat Shurmur on the Giants throwing the ball down the field: “That’s a false narrative that we weren’t trying to throw the ball down the field (last weekend). That’s a false narrative, and if for some reason, they legislate against it, we have to check the ball down, keep the chains moving. And as I acknowledged, maybe it’s better to just run the ball a little bit more. I think it’s important to throw the ball down the field, and we try to and we do it more than that narrative suggests.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This Carolina team is beatable. But the Panthers are also tough to beat at home having won seven in a row at their stadium, going back to last season. The Giants just FEEL broken right now. And I’m not sure there is a short-term way out of this mess. I would keep giving the ball to Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham. Those are your two difference makers.

Oct 022018
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 30, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints 33 – New York Giants 18

QUICK RECAP

Two of the 5 longest tenured quarterbacks in the NFL went head to head at MetLife Stadium as the 2-1 Saints and their dangerous offense came to take on the 1-2 Giants who gained some momentum last week in Houston.

NYG kept that momentum rolling with an early 7-0 lead on a short Eli Manning pass to Sterling Shepard. It was a drive full of chunk-yards acquired in a variety of ways. The Giants offense was “rolling” if you want to call it that as a continuation from last week. The Giants defense forced a 3 and out, or so they thought. In typical aggressive Sean Payton fashion, NO executed a fake punt from their own territory. 11 plays later NO got on the scoreboard with a 42 yard field goal.

The Giants began with second quarter a shot to their own foot, an offensive pass interference on Russell Shepard that pushed them into a very unfavorable 1st and 20. The conservative NYG offense paired with a defense that had this scheme pegged correctly all afternoon made that a near-impossible hill to climb. Once again the NO offense drove up the field with little-to-no issues presented by the NYG defense. They were also aided by a phantom horse collar tackle called on Janoris Jenkins. NO got within one, as kicker Will Lutz knocked through his second field goal.

This was the point where NYG needed to show their offense was actually on the right track. However on 1st and 10 at midfield, backup running back Wayne Gallman fumbled on initial contact and it was scooped up by CB Marshon Lattimore who brought it back to the NYG 11 yard line. The NYG defense continued their bend-don’t-break theme, holding the elite offense to their third field goal in as many drives.

NYG then started to revert to their weeks 1 and 2 ways, meaning a 3 and out and a lack of flow. Manning misfires, no time in the pocket, and being put into very unfavorable 3rd down situations. Brees brought the Saints offense into the red zone via a 25 yard gain on a screen pass to star running back Alvin Kamara and all of the sudden they were back in the red zone. Once again, the NYG defense did a solid job of holding them to yet another field goal for the fourth drive in a row. This brought the half to an end, NYG was down 12-7 but it could have been so much worse.

The Giants lack of commitment to the run game was as evident as ever in their first possession of the second half. Barkley gained 5 yards on their first play and from there on out, NYG threw the ball 6 straight times and even though yards were gained, the dink and dunk approach eventually led to a sack that once gain put them in an insurmountable 3rd down position. They returned the ball to NO and the sleeping giant, the Saints’ offense, scored their first touchdown of the day on a 9 yard run by Kamara.

NYG did respond with a field goal largely thanks to their biggest gain of the day, a 28 yard run by Barkley. The score was 19-10 and the NYG hope was hanging on by a thread. Someone on this defense needed to step up and make a play. A turnover, a sack, something.

The 4th quarter began with a 14 play, 6:39 drive that resulted in the Saints second touchdown of the day, a physical 3 yard run by Kamara. Down 16 with under 7 minutes remaining, NYG put together a touchdown drive against a prevent defense. It was capped by an impressive Barkley touchdown where he jumped over everyone on the field. After a successful 2 point conversion, it was a 1 possession game with just under 4 minutes remaining.

Confidence wasn’t high until the NO kick returner Ted Ginn muffed the kickoff, struggled to regain control of the ball, and ended up being tackled on the NO 2 yard line. The crowd once again had juice. And then the worst of 4 badly missed calls by the refs took place. Dalvin Tomlinson jumped the snap and was about to hit Brees before he hit the back of his drop back in their own end zone, but center Max Unger got away with a tripping penalty and a few seconds later Brees threw the ball downfield on the move and connected with tight end Josh Hill for a 21 yard gain.

NO then, piece by piece, like watching a slow death, made their way to midfield. The two final kicks to the NYG chances were a 3rd down pass interference call on Donte Deayon and one final touchdown run by Kamara, a 49 yard dash up the middle.

Saints win 33-16.

QUARTERBACKS

Eli Manning: 31/41 – 255 yards – 1 TD / 0 INT. After a step forward in Houston last week, Manning and the offense took another two steps back against a defense that had given up an average of 34 points per game over the first three weeks. Manning was getting the ball out in under 2.0-2.5 seconds for the vast majority of the day. Think about how much a play can truly develop in that amount of time. Manning looked a little gun shy, a little shaky and hoppy in the pocket. Most of the time, it was warranted. The pocket was small (especially in contrast to what Drew Brees had to work with) and the Saints secondary was defending against the deep ball from the beginning. Through 4 games, Manning is completing 74.2% of his passes. That mark, in his 15th season, is the highest it has ever been throughout the first 4 games of any season. He’s been sacked 15 times already, fourth most in the NFL. With all of that said, Manning missed three throws that I would consider on the easy/simple side and is letting the situation around him make him worse, to be blunt. As hard as it may be, he is a $22+ million quarterback that needs to play better if this team is going to turn it around.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 10 att / 44 yards / 1 TD – 6 rec / 56 yards. It wasn’t a very impactful day for the rookie. However when 100 total yards on just 16 touches is considered a quiet day, we have to keep things in perspective. When Barkley did hit a little groove, it is easy to notice how his presence impacts the defense. As a blocker, this was the first time he graded out negatively. He is never going to get a ton of action in that department, but he needs to be better than he was Sunday. He allowed 2 pressures.

-Wayne Gallman: 2 att / 6 yards – 3 rec / 17 yards. Gallman’s biggest play of the day was a negative. He fumbled after a first down catch, which Saints CB Marshon Lattimore returned to the NYG 11 yard line. It turned into 3 points for the Saints, which took the lead from NYG.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Sterling Shepard: 10 rec / 77 yards / 1 TD. Shepard made a few difficult catches on the day. Eli really trusts him in 50/50 situations despite the lack of size. The touchdown reception was both an excellent route and snag with both his hands, as was the catch late in the game the brought NYG near the goal line.

-Odell Beckham: 7 rec / 60 yards. Beckham led the way with 11 targets, 2 of which were very bad misfires from Manning. Beckham had a hard time getting behind the Saints secondary, or even close to it. They shaded a safety in his direction nearly every time he ran vertical. Combine that with Manning getting the ball out so quickly, he didn’t have any big play opportunities. The longest NYG passing gain was to Beckham, 27 yards, most of which were gained after the catch. It seemed to be a frustrating day for league’s highest paid receiver. He is a competitor that wants to win, wants to make the big impact and it just hasn’t happened yet. His time will come.

TIGHT ENDS

-Rhett Ellison: 3 rec / 29 yards. With Evan Engram out with a knee injury, we knew we would see an uptick in Ellison’s playing time. He earned a solid, slightly above average grade as a blocker and came up with few solid grabs over the middle. He is a consistent “fall-forward” type who carries defenders on his back old school style. He had a chance at a touchdown pass for the second straight week in the 3rd quarter, but NO safety Vonn Bell made an outstanding late play on the ball to jar it loose.

-Scott Simonson saw a decent amount of time as well. Much of his duty revolved around chip blocks on NO DE Cameron Jordan. He did a fine job there and came up with a key block on Barkley’s 28 yard run.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Nate Solder was solid for most of the game, but didn’t stay consistent from start to finish. He had a rough stretch towards the end of the 3rd quarter into the beginning of the 4th where he allowed a tackle for loss and a sack. He also allowed 1 pressure in the game.

-Admirable effort by Chad Wheeler. Although he was receiving help for most of the day on NO star edge rusher Cameron Jordan, he competed hard and won most of his 1 on 1 battles with the multi-time Pro Bowler. He still has episodes of being physically overmatched, but there is a lot of “want-to” in his game. He improved from last week and that is all you can as for at this point.

GUARDS/CENTERS

Lowest grade on the OL goes to Center John Greco, who received some praise a week ago. He allowed 1 sack, 1 pressure, and was called for a holding penalty. Can’t expect much out of him at this point, but communication along the OL does seem better minus the occasional hiccup here and there.

-Will Hernandez has now put 2 solid weeks in a row together. He was the highest graded NYG OL in this one and the sack he allowed late can’t be held against him. His hands looked strong and accurate and he was able to anchor against some solid bull-rushing DTs.

-Patrick Omameh was solid in the first half, not so much in the second half. He allowed 1 pressure and struggled to adjust to defenders in space. His reactions are very delayed. Spencer Pulley actually got in as a 6th OL four times. An interesting personnel decision now that Engram is out. If you need an extra blocker, might as well bring a guy in that gets paid to do it for a living.

EDGE

-Connor Barwin and Kareem Martin took most of the snaps and neither had much of an impact. Much of the NYG pass rush-woes can be blamed on these two. There isn’t anything dynamic in either of their skill sets and repertoires. Both were dominated at times in the running game, as neither have quick twitch reactions or show the ability to break off blocks.

-Lorenzo Carter played less than both Martin and Barwin, but finished with 1 more tackle and played good assignment football. Even though I still think he is a year or two away from being a real impact player, it may be time to shift more snaps in his favor.

-Kerry Wynn didn’t record anything on the stat sheet, as he only played about a third of the defensive snaps. Puzzling why he is on the sideline so much after such a strong game in HOU, maybe there was an undisclosed injury. He still led the team with 2 pressures.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson recorded 2 tackles each, with one of Harrison’s being a TFL. The main 2 rushers for NO led the way with over 7 yards per carry and while that did have more to do with the edge defenders, these two were neutralized in a few key moments. Tomlinson shared the team lead with 2 pressures, one of which may have resulted in a safety had he not been tripped by NO center Max Unger. The tripping penalty was not called.

-BJ Hill’s playing is still limited, but he did record a sack for the second week in a row and is now the team leader in that department through the first quarter of the season.

LINEBACKERS

-Ray-Ray Armstrong is without-a-doubt viewed as the better option alongside Alec Ogletree. He dominated the snaps 4:1 between him and BJ Goodson. While the size, speed, and hustle are attractive to the naked eye, Armstrong was outclassed in coverage and against the quickness of Alvin Kamara. And please, stop celebrating after a tackle on a 8 yard gain by the opponent.

-Alec Ogletree had a solid run defending game. He had 12 tackles and 2 TFL. Ogletree is proving to be an excellent reader of the opposition. Sort of like Antonio Pierce used to be, moving towards the action before the play is headed there, sniffing out misdirection, and finishing when he gets there. The middle of the field in coverage continues to be a problem. The reasons for that include Ogletree, but they do not center around him.

CORNERBACKS

-A very tall task for Janoris Jenkins, who faced off against the record setting Michael Thomas. For the most part, his performance was admirable but unspectacular. He was beat in a few key moments in the second half. One play I was very unhappy about was a 3rd and 1 rush to the left side, Jenkins totally side-stepped a downhill-moving Kamara and missed the tackle. The play resulted in a first down and NO later scored 3 points.

-BW Webb was attacked most of the day and he had his fair share of ups and downs. He had an impressive pass break up near the end zone but was also flagged for illegal hands to the face away from the ball on a 3rd down stop. On the very next play, NO scored a touchdown. Huge momentum shift.

-Donte Deayon’s playing time continues to see an upward boost with Eli Apple out. He made two impressive plays on the ball, showing his elite-foot speed and reaction. That can really go a long way but it doesn’t come without a price. Deayon’s lack of size is a factor that shows up often. He is easily blocked by receivers and ball carriers too often break through his contact. In addition, he was flagged on a 3rd down stop for pass interference while trying to recover after being beat off the ball by Cameron Meredith. There is a lot of give and take with a player like Deayon. However on a defense that lacks a playmaker on any level, he may be the one I trust the most to eventually force a turnover as crazy as that sounds.

SAFETIES

-A dominant version of Landon Collins was on display in this one. A team leading 14 tackles, a pressure, and an elite-level pass break up that prevented a touchdown. This was the most we’ve seen him near the line of scrimmage this year and it worked out well. He was the one defender that was consistently getting Kamara on the ground by himself.

-Curtis Riley on the other hand had arguably his worst game as a Giant thus far. He had 2 missed tackles that resulted in absolute daggers to the defense. It may be considered unfair, but so be it. The last line of defense, the safety, has to be one of if not the best tacklers on the team. Riley is not that. In addition, there in no playmaker in him as a pass defender.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 33). Rosas remains perfect on the year.

-P Riley Dixon: 4 Punts – 51.0 avg / 42.3 avg. He still had a couple hang time shortcomings, but overall a decent day.

-PR/KR Jawill Davis: Quiet day for Davis, who was active for the first time. He had one questionable decision to take it out from 6 yards deep on a kickoff, but this team needs a spark and I don’t mind the chance.

3 STUDS

-S Landon Collins, WR Sterling Shepard, OG Will Hernandez

3 DUDS

-EDGE Kareem Martin, S Curtis Riley, OC John Greco

3 THOUGHTS ON NO

-There is a lot to be said for Drew Brees and Sean Payton working together for what is now their 13th season. 13 years, one system. Several running backs, receivers, linemen, and tight ends. But one scheme that these two grew together from the start. I don’t want to put excuse on the table for Manning (this is his fifth offensive coordinator and third head coach), but there is countless value in the continuity and chemistry between this long of a QB/system relationship. Something to think about if NYG does end up going for a QB in the 2019 NFL Draft – is Shurmur the guy you want to tie to your young QB? If not, is it plausible for him to be a 1 and done?

-How can you not discuss Alvin Kamara when talking about the Saints. The 2017 3rd rounder who had some minor character concerns coming out is one of the most unique running backs I have ever seen. His contact balance, agility, and multiple levels of burst are all rare and he carries all of them. NO needs to make sure they don’t run this kid into the ground which should be easier now that Mark Ingram is past his suspension. He has MVP written all over him.

-The Saints were my preseason pick for the NFC Championship winner. Like most, I am not completely sold on their defense, however I think it can be “good enough” if they can get home field advantage. Their offense is capable of putting up 35+ against anyone if needed, and I mean that. And their 2017 draft may be one of the best of all time. That class turned around the fortune of this franchise at the snap of a finger. It CAN happen that fast.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-The first quarter of the season is over. NYG is on pace for 4 wins and even though this team looks like they are light years away from being a legit contender, the worst part of their schedule is over in my opinion. While coming out of this at 2-2 was the goal, I’m not sure it was very realistic. These 2 games coming up against what I consider to be middle-of-the-pack NFC teams is an opportunity to get this team back to even. I know everyone wants to obsess with labeling this season contention or a bust right now, but you have to let this play out and take it one week at a time. Instead of thinking about final record, the focus is now on a very beatable CAR team.

-The theme of this game, personally, was the desire for someone on this defense to make something happen. We know the offense is sputtering and there are a few reasons for that. We know there should have been more commitment to the running game. We know the combination of a shaky QB and a porous, unreliable offensive line is a recipe for disaster. But this defense really has nothing that can change a game. No pass rush. No safety making plays. Just a bend-don’t break group that can’t hang with the league’s top offenses. That, to me, is just as frustrating and detrimental to this team overall as anything.

-Olivier Vernon, when he returns, really needs to show something. Well, more than just something. He has a cap number of $20 million each of the next two years. While youth on his side, injury history and on-field production are not. Loyalty to big contracts is one thing, but being strapped down on a team with so many holes is another. Getting him off the books and Manning likely off the books in 2-3 years from now presents a huge load of cap space that can be dispersed elsewhere. And with that in mind, the edge rusher might be THE spot this team can focus on this offseason in addition to QB.