Oct 132019
 
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Golden Tate, New York Giants (October 10, 2019)

Golden Tate – © USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots 35 – New York Giants 14

QUICK RECAP

Just four nights after the NYG loss to MIN, the Giants found themselves at a windy Gillette Stadium to take on the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The short week combined with a couple of injuries to key players on offense likely contributed to the massive underdog tone going in to this one. However, NYG has had this overlooked-label attached to them heading into a match-up against Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and company before.

NE drove down the field on the opening drive but consecutive stops at the NYG 19-yard line with just 1 yard to go, the second of which being fourth down, gave NYG the initial momentum. As was the case for most of the night, the NYG offense couldn’t respond as they went 3-and-out. They were without Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley against a team that is 12-0 at home against rookie quarterbacks since Belichick took over.

The two teams traded 3-and-outs before Daniel Jones threw his first interception of the night, this one to John Simon. However Brady, continuing his streak of sub-par play against the Giants in white, threw an interception to Janoris Jenkins on the next play and the messy football we are used to seeing on Thursday nights across the league appeared to be back in full effect.

NYG was not able to take advantage of their 50-yard line starting field position and the defensive battle continued all the way to the point where the first score of the game came on a “blocked” punt. Linebacker Nate Stupar, the personal protector to punter Riley Dixon, was pushed backwards to the point where the trajectory of the ball was right at his helmet. Rookie Chase Winovich caught the live ball and carried it into the end zone.

Brady and the NE offense continued to stall because of a quality pass rush by NYG with perhaps a little help from the wind, which made it hard to really force the ball downfield. That wind, and perhaps the best defense in the NFL, had the tough impact on Jones as well. He threw his second interception of the night, this time to safety Duron Harmon, giving NE the ball at the NYG 20-yard line. Five plays later Brandon Bolden crossed the goal line as NE took a commanding 14-0 lead.

As we have seen multiple times already, Jones showed a short memory by standing tall in the pocket on the next drive while continuing to go through his reads. On the third play, Jones hit Golden Tate for a 64 yard touchdown on a perfectly-thrown deep ball that Tate tipped to himself before outrunning the NE secondary to the end zone. It was the first time NE had allowed a touchdown through the air this season.

Brady was sacked and fumbled on a hit by Lorenzo Carter on the next drive and the surging Markus Golden scooped it up before returning it for a 42-yard touchdown. All of the sudden NYG had this game tied up at 14 but NE responded with a smooth, steady drive that ended with a Brady 1-yard touchdown. Even though NYG had been out-gained 228-129, Jones had thrown 2 interceptions, and the NE special teams had scored a touchdown on a blocked punt, the game still very much felt within striking distance at halftime.

The ever-important first possession of the second half ended in Jones’ third interception of the night, this time to cornerback Stephon Gilmore. New NE kicker Mike Nugent missed a 40-yard field goal after a marathon drive and NYG just couldn’t get past midfield. The offense was sputtering all night besides the one deep ball to Tate. On the ground, Jon Hilliman couldn’t get going. Even worse on their next drive, Hilliman fumbled and it was scooped up by linebacker Kyle Van Noy who returned it for a 22-yard touchdown, the Pats second non-offensive score of the night.

NYG was down 28-14 with the just over 7 minutes left when they were faced with a 4th-and-2 from their own 33-yard line. Would they run? Would they pass? Head Coach Pat Shurmur, owner of a 17-38 record as a Head Coach, opted to punt. NE then scored another touchdown on another 1-yard Brady run while taking off another 3+ minutes of game clock. The night was all but over after that.

Giants lose 35-14.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 15/31 – 161 yards – 1 TD / 3 INT / 35.2 QBR. We knew these past 2 games against MIN and NE would be a different level test for Jones when compared to the two teamse started off against (TB/WAS). On a short week; traveling to NE on a windy night; up against a coach that has feasted on rookie quarterbacks; without his number one receiver, number one tight end, and number one and two running backs had the look of near-impossible. Jones did compete and showed plenty of physical and mental toughness, but when evaluating his play, it was poor. Big picture we can talk about this being a learning experience for him, which is fine, but Jones played bad. Three interceptions and another one that was dropped were the lowlights. He looked confused multiple times and at the end of the day, QB play like that against a team like NE makes a loss inevitable.

RUNNING BACK

-Jon Hilliman: 11 att / 38 yards – 2 rec / -3 yards. Hilliman got his second shot at carries with Barkley and Gallman out and, like last week, it did not go well. His fumble was scooped up for a defensive touchdown and he failed to make an impact otherwise. The all-22 tape showed cutback lanes on three of his carries that he simply didn’t see. Prime example of how important vision is for a back, as Barkley could have taken those 1-2 yard gains and turned them into something huge.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate: 6 rec / 102 yards / 1 TD. Tate was targeted underneath and intermediate often but the one deep shot he got was turned into a 64-yard touchdown. A week after he subtly complained about not getting enough looks against MIN, he responded. His routes are a thing of beauty and once he, Shepard, and Engram are on the field at the same time, they will be a tough trio to cover on sub-3rd-and-7 situations.

-Darius Slayton added 3 catches for 32 yards. He was targeted 8 times and if there is one positive to the offensive weapons being hurt, it is more playing time for the gifted Slayton. He was up against a guy who I think is the best CB in the league right now, Stephon Gilmore, a bunch in this one. Good for him to see how hard it is to get open in addition to competing for the ball when a guy like that is on you. Slayton showed some downfield acceleration that is going to be a weapon here once he gets more confident in his reads and routes. He did have a drop and there are some inconsistencies I see play to play, but he is going to be a difference-maker here.

TIGHT END

-Rhett Ellison: 3 rec / 30 yards. Ellison saw an uptick in snaps with Engram out. He gave NYG what he has been giving for a couple years now, limited ceiling across the board but reliability and consistentcy. NE squeezed running lanes from the outside a few times and it was partially the fault of Ellison who just couldn’t get a push as a blocker.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-While a lot of the difficulties Jones experienced came from quality coverage by the NE back 7 and him simply holding onto the ball for too long, the line was still very shaky. Nate Solder and Mike Remmers each allowed 2 pressures in addition to poor run blocking. Their grades on a week-to-week basis are just above what Ereck Flowers was putting out. While their basements aren’t as low as Flowers was, they need to be more reliable. As much as I want NYG to get a premier pass rusher in next year’s draft, I think OT is going to be offseason priority number one.

-Inside, Kevin Zeitler had a really good game, the top grade on the OL. Hard to always tell who is playing well when a team can’t get the running game going but he was a bright spot. Jon Halapio had another below average game, leaving just week 1 vs DAL where I came away impressed with his effort. Will Hernandez allowed a pressure and was flagged for a hold. One of the sacks could have been attributed to him as well but Jones should have gotten rid of the ball.

EDGE

-If there is one bright spot from this game and recent weeks, the edge play has steadily improved. Markus Golden had a half-sack. That makes 5-straight games with a sack for Golden and he now ranks sixth in the NFL with 5 this season. He also scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery caused by a Lorenzo Carter sack, who also added 2 pressures. Carter is still the guy who makes a play every now and then that makes you dream. There is still hope regarding his upside.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Dalvin Tomlinson was a solid presence all night, turning in easily his top performance of the year, maybe even the past two years. He made a crucial 4th-and-1 stop on the NE opening drive. Dexter Lawrence remains active and disruptive. He had 5 tackles and a pressure. What’s most impressive lately are the amount of plays he is impacting away from the point-of-attack. He is getting to the sidelines, he is reaching receivers on screens and short passes. Just a really disruptive force on every level you can think of.

-B.J. Hill put in another quiet night. While I don’t have any legit concerns with him, I do think the expectations got a little high on him because of a 5.5 sack rookie campaign. Just another example why the volume of sacks in one season shouldn’t be considered too heavily when evaluating a player. He is getting a lot of dirty-work done this year so it isn’t easy to see what he is doing well and what he isn’t, but the past two weeks haven’t been quality performances.

LINEBACKER

-Huge games for both Alec Ogletree and David Mayo. Ogletree returned after missing time with a hamstring injury and led the team with 12 tackles / 1 sack / 1 TFL /1 pressure. He was all over the field, and like I said last week, having a real ILB in there makes a huge difference. While he is inconsistent, it was nice to see him out there filling lanes, getting off of blocks, and making plays after watching what we had to watch last week against MIN. Mayo also had 12 tackles along with a half-sack. He did get exposed multiple times in zone coverage, however, and he missed 2 tackles. Mayo played his heart out though and he is a really physical player.

CORNERBACK

-Janoris Jenkins came out strong for the second week in a row, finishing with 3 tackles / 1 INT / 1 PD. He nearly returned his interception for a touchdown. As he has always been, Jenkins really is amazing with the ball in his hands. I wonder if it is worth trying to give him a touch or two in the return game.

-Deandre Baker is getting more confident and it is easy to see from the all-22 angle. The balance looks better, there are less false steps, less recovery steps. He is also playing more physically and that is one of the best signs indicating the confidence is increasing. Confidence is not important for a cornerback, it is vital.

-Grant Haley had 6 tackles, including 1 TFL. He is still having a hard time sticking to the better slot receivers. While a really good nickel is hard to find, NYG is going to have to try out a new body there at some point this season. Teams have been torching the middle of the field for far too long.

SAFETY

-Jabrill Peppers had 10 tackles / 1 TFL / 1 pressure, but his most notable play was a missed tackle on 3rd down when the score was 14-14. This was the drive after NYG scored a defensive touchdown and the momentum was swinging to NYG. That missed tackle ended up being really costly, as NE scored a touchdown on this possession right before halftime.

-Michael Thomas also missed a tackle on the play noted above. He finished with 6 tackles on the night, one too short. Antoine Bethea had a quiet game and wasn’t contested much, but still found his way to 6 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas – No field goals attempted.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 39.2 avg / 31.1 net. Second poor week in a row for Dixon.

3 STUDS

-LB Alec Ogletree, WR Golden Tate, CB Janoris Jenkins

3 DUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, RB Jon Hilliman, OC Jon Halapio

3 THOUGHTS ON NE

  1. Bill Belichick was hired by the Patriots in 2000. This may be the best defense he has put together over those 20 seasons. NE has never had the #1 ranked defense (yards allowed) but they have had two seasons where they allowed the fewest points. They currently rank #1 in both categories albeit against the easiest schedule in the NFL to date. Opponents aside, the defense, and more specifically the secondary, is in a league in its own right now. Combine that with the Belichick brain, they are going to be so difficult to beat this year.
  1. Are we finally starting to see Brady show signs of age? I’m not talking about athletically (he’s never been a good one), but his ball has less juice on it and it just seems the accuracy isn’t what it was a couple years ago. This was the fourth time I’ve seen him this year, and minus the cupcake schedule, he looks off.
  1. One of the most underrated reasons why NE remains competitive year after year is the play of their OL. It is such a rock-solid unit year after year and most fans can’t name 2 of their starters. I remember scouting all of their current starters and the one thing I can say about all of them – they are all gamers. They lack the ideal measurables, but they usually didn’t get beat one-on-one in college, they are blue-collar tough, and they all have high football IQs. The interior of Thuney-Karras-Mason were drafted rounds 3-6-4 respectively. Starting right tackle Marcus Cannon was drafted in the 5th round. They are smart guys who developed within the system. It’s worked out really well for New England.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. While NYG did have it tied up at 14, I’m not sure I understand the narrative that this was a good game. Yes, multiple offensive weapons were on the sideline for this one but NE didn’t play a clean game themselves. NYG was 2-of-10 on 3rd down, they were out-gained by 2:1 in total yardage, and they had a punt blocked. This was an all around ugly game.
  1. As I always say, I am slow to criticize coaching. There are far too many factors that I don’t have access to, but there are some simple game-management tactics that I just don’t think Shurmur is doing a good job with. The decision to not go for it on 4th-and-2 in the fourth quarter, down 14 points, was mind-numbing. That screams “unprepared” to me.
  1. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in regard to the 2020 NFL Draft, but you guys know most of my time right now is spent scouting that class. And I am going to say this right now… the WR talent coming into the league next year is ridiculous. I may have 10+ grades on receivers that are higher than anyone from the 2019 class. That is not an exaggeration. I think it is important NYG really finds out what they have in Slayton and Tate because there may be a talent that is very tough to pass on in the first 2 rounds next April.
Oct 092019
 
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Game Preview: New York Giants at New England Patriots, October 10, 2019

THE STORYLINE:
Last Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings was a litmus test, and the undermanned New York Giants failed miserably. The team wanted to be 3-2 heading into New England, not 2-3. They will soon to be 2-4. That’s not doom-and-gloom pessimism but simple reality.

  • The away team on Thursday night football is always at a serious disadvantage.
  • The away team rarely wins in New England.
  • The Patriots are defending Super Bow champions.
  • The Patriots currently have the NFL’s #1 defense, allowing only two touchdowns in five games.
  • The Giants’ best running back, wide receiver, and tight end are out.
  • The Patriots currently have the NFL’s #11 offense.
  • Tom Brady, arguably the best quarterback in NFL history, faces a secondary that Kirk Cousins just tore apart.
  • Bill Belichick versus Pat Shurmur?
  • The Patriots are well on their way to another Super Bowl appearance. The Giants are in the eighth year of their 20-year rebuilding program.

It’s no wonder why the Giants are more than two touchdown underdogs.

Honestly, if I were Pat Shurmur, I would treat this game as a glorified preseason game. I would use it as an opportunity to experiment both in terms personnel and play calling. For example, this may be the time to give players like Corey Ballentine and Julian Love some playing time. The team may also want to try some things on offense and defense that are out of character. What do you have to lose? You want to be predictable and undermanned against Bill Belichick? “You play to win the game!” Screw that, let’s have some fun!

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – out)
  • RB Wayne Gallman (concussion – out)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (concussion – out)
  • TE Evan Engram (knee – out)
  • LT Nate Solder (neck)
  • LB Alec Ogletree (hamstring)
  • LB Tae Davis (concussion)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (neck – questionable)
  • LB Josiah Tauaefa (knee)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
This is a horrible spot for Daniel Jones to be in. Barkley out. Gallman out. Shepard out. Engram out. Offensive line struggling. Now on a short week, the rookie quarterback faces the #1 defense and the #1 defensive mastermind of all time without his best offensive weapons. The Giants have no running game without Barkley. None. His two security blanks – Shepard and Engram – will not play. Yikes!

Instead of focusing on this mismatched contest, let’s use this as an opportunity to look at the bigger picture moving forward:

Quarterback: Barring a devastating injury or complete meltdown during the last 11 games, Daniel Jones is the franchise quarterback. As I’ve talked about in previous game previews, he’s the central focus for the rest of the season. Regardless of his and the team’s performance, these games are invaluable learning moments for him. Really, for Jones, this is about preparing more for 2020 at this point. Eli Manning won’t be on the team next year. The Giants have to decide if they can do better than Alex Tanney as Jones’ back-up after Manning is gone.

Running Back: The Giants’ offense is a completely different animal without Saquon Barkley. As great as it has been for Giants fans to get to watch Daniel Jones earlier than expected, it sucks that Barkley’s high-ankle sprain has taken away one of the few reasons to watch this team. That all said, the Giants may have learned a valuable lesson here about making sure they have proper NFL depth behind Barkley. Is Wayne Gallman the guy you want backing him up? I think we’ve seen enough of Jon Hilliman. In this game, I would like to see Eli Penny receive the bulk of the carries.

Wide Receiver: The Giants need to upgrade this position. Pray Sterling Shepard’s concussions are not an issue moving forward because they can ill-afford to see yet another one of their promising receivers have his career end prematurely (Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, etc.). With Shepard out, this will be Golden Tate’s opportunity to shine. But he and Cody Latimer don’t look like the answers moving forward. On the other hand, the Giants may have hit the jackpot with Darius Slayton in the 5th round.

Tight End: As long as he can stay healthy (a big if), Evan Engram looks like one of the more dynamic receiving-threat tight ends in football. He’s a weapon. Pat Shurmur obviously loves tight ends. There are currently four on the 53-man roster (and the team had five at one point). Rhett Ellison is steady, but as this season progresses, Shurmur may want to get a better look at Garrett Dickerson and Kaden Smith in real games.

Offensive Line: It’s beyond ridiculous now. The Giants simply can’t seem to field a legitimate offensive line. As has smartly been pointed out in The Corner Forum this week, when you have a good offensive line, everything looks better. See the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers as prime examples. The Giants made a huge mistake signing Nate Solder to that contract. He’s been terrible. Mike Remmers was signed to be a temporary stop-gap but he’s only marginally better than Chad Wheeler, who replaced Bobby Hart. I still don’t know what Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur see in Jon Halapio, who has played for five other teams, including the Boston Brawlers and Brooklyn Bolts. Making matters worse is that Kevin Zeitler is playing with a bad shoulder that is clearly affecting his play. The Giants NEED two new starting offensive tackles, and ideally a starting center. That’s a tall order in one offseason.

Offensive Summary: On paper, the Giants look like they have their starting quarterback, running back, and tight end. But 3/5ths of the offensive line needs to be replaced and another outside receiver needs to be added to complement Slayton and Shepard.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
I grew up spoiled on great New York Giants defense. As much justifiable criticism as Eli Manning, the offensive line, and the offense as a whole have received for the past eight years, in my mind, the defense may be even more guilty for the team’s demise. Good defense can cover for a multitude of sins and keep teams competitive. Even in terrible seasons like 1995, the Giants were in just about every game because the defense kept them in every game. In the last eight years, the New York defense has finished:

  • 2011: 27th
  • 2012: 31st
  • 2013: 8th
  • 2014: 29th
  • 2015: 32nd
  • 2016: 10th
  • 2017: 31st
  • 2018: 24th

They are currently 30th.

Like the offensive line, the Giants can’t seem to fix the defense. They keep changing players, coaches, and schemes. But the team remains at the bottom of the league in defense. Until the defense markedly improves, it won’t matter what Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley do on the field.

Defensive Line: This is currently the strongest area of the team. Dexter Lawrence, B.J. Hill, and Dalvin Tomlinson are good enough to win with, although I’d like to see more flash from Tomlinson. Lawrence is starting to give offensive linemen fits. Depth is shaky with only R.J. McIntosh and Olsen Pierre on the 53-man roster as back-ups.

Edge Rusher: Some fans still think Lawrence and Hill are supposed to be like Michael Strahan or Justin Tuck in the Giants’ old 4-3 scheme. In James Bettcher’s 3-4, the outside rush has to come from the outside linebackers or “edge rushers.” Lost in the crappy defensive play is that Markus Golden (4.5 sacks) is quietly averaging just under sack per game. More was expected of Lorenzo Carter, but it’s still early and he has been dealing with injuries. Oshane Ximines and Tuzar Skipper have flashed but as their play against the run last week showed, they both still has a lot to learn. Ideally, this team needs an edge rusher who scares opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks. That’s not on the roster right now.

Inside Linebacker: Long gone are Sam Huff, Brian Kelly, Harry Carson, Gary Reasons, Pepper Johnson, Antonio Pierce. Hell, even Michael Brooks, Michael Barrow, Corey Widmer, or Chase Blackburn would look great right now. The Giants have gone from Linebacker U. to Linebacker Hell. And when they finally draft a good one for the first time in years and years (Ryan Connelly), he tears his ACL in his third start. Look at the outstanding defenses around the NFL and they all have good linebackers. The “help wanted” sign has been out here since Antonio Pierce left. This group can’t play the run and can’t play the pass. They make the entire defense worse.

Cornerback: The Giants focused on rebuilding this position in the 2019 Draft. The jury is still out on Deandre Baker, but he is starting and learning. That’s about as good as  you can expect from a rookie corner. Sam Beal missed most of the offseason with a nagging hamstring injury but has returned to practice and will likely be added to the 53-man roster soon. Corey Ballentine should be seeing more playing time. The Giants need to start reducing Grant Haley’s role. At this point, the Giants may want to shop Janoris Jenkins in advance of the trade deadline. He won’t be a part of the rebuild.

Safety: The good news is that after a slow start, Jabrill Peppers is starting to make some plays. The bad news is that Antoine Bethea looks done. At some point very soon, perhaps even this game, the Giants need to sit him. Julian Love should start playing more. Sean Chandler didn’t look good against Minnesota but he should also see his workload increase so the Giants can fully evaluate him. If Love or Chandler can’t handle the position, the Giants have a huge need at this position entering the offseason.

Defensive Summary: A great edge rusher will make everyone better. If you can’t rush the passer in this League, you’re in trouble. Much depends on Ryan Connelly moving forward. Will he be the same player? Regardless, the Giants need to add one or two more inside linebackers as well. Safety remains a sore spot unless Julian Love can handle the transition to free safety.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Ironically, after years are dismal special teams units, the Giants are in pretty good shape here.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Pat Shurmur on his team being 16.5-point underdogs: “I have no reaction to it.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I doubt my words will be heeded, but I suggest most Giants fans don’t get too upset over this game. The Giants are going to get their asses kicked by the best team in the NFL. And this year, it’s the Patriots’ defense that is carrying them. I’ll be happy if Daniel Jones gets out of this game healthy.

Based on needs alone, this team is more than one offseason away from seriously competing again. It has to start with the offensive line, edge rushers, and inside linebackers.

Oct 072019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 6, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings 28 – New York Giants 10

QUICK RECAP

The former division foe Kirk Cousins returned to MetLife Stadium, this time as a member of the 2-2 Minnesota Vikings. Cousins, who came in with a 3-5 career record against NYG, has always feasted on poor defenses and non-playoff teams. The Giants, a non-playoff team with the 25th-ranked defense, entered the game without their top three inside linebackers and a starting outside linebacker in addition to Saquon Barkley still being sidelined by an ankle injury. With the Eli Manning era in the rear view mirror, hopes were that the results against MIN would change, as he was 3-6 with a 56.1 QBR against them, the lowest QBR of any team he ever faced.

For the first time all season, NYG did not score on their opening drive. They were up against the 6th-ranked defense in the NFL, by far the stiffest test of Daniel Jones’ inaugural season. That defense gave Jones and the offense multiple opportunities to make something happen but, as was the case all afternoon, Big Blue did not capitalize. In addition to the initial “0” on the scoreboard, running back Wayne Gallman jogged off the field after a violent hit to the head. It ended his game, leaving just UDFA Jon Hilliman and fullback Elijhaa Penny remaining in the backfield.

Already up 3-0, MIN got the ball back and picked up chunk gains en route to an 11-play, touchdown-scoring drive. They barely broke a sweat, as the defense forced a 3rd down only two times, the second of which resulted in a 15-yard pass from Cousins to Adam Thielen for the 6 points.

Thanks to a 52-yard kick return by rookie Corey Ballentine, NYG began their next drive at midfield and it took just 5 plays to reach the end zone. A picture-perfect pass and a picture-perfect catch from rookie Daniel Jones to rookie Darius Slayton on a 35-yard ball that beat one of the better corners in the NFL, Xavier Rhodes, put this game at 10-7. The crowd got back into it and the team was showing some of the fight they put in display in their previous two weeks, both wins.

MIN was stuffed on 3rd-and-6 on the ensuing drive via a sack by Dexter Lawrence and Markus Golden, however an illegal contact penalty called on Janoris Jenkins gave MIN new life and they were able to march into field goal range and re-take the lead, 13-7. MIN drove the ball deep into NYG territory on their next possession but on that drive, MIN running back Dalvin Cook fumbled twice. The first time resulted in no damage but the second one, just a few yards shy of the end zone, was recovered by Tuzar Skipper. NYG was gaining momentum but they had to start their drive on their own 1-yard line.

Head Coach Pat Shurmur opted to try and get some breathing room via the inside run, something we all knew wasn’t going to be very productive today. MIN, as they did all afternoon, aggressively sent multiple defenders up the inside lanes and it was Anthony Barr who leaked through and put Hilliman on the ground almost immediately after he got the ball. The play resulted in a safety and NYG was down 15-7. They soon put up another 3 points after another rather easy drive into NYG territory. The MIN offense was doing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, however they wanted against the NYG defense. MIN took a commanding 18-7 lead into the half. While it was only 11 points, MIN had out-gained NYG 351-92 to this point. Those 351 yards were the second most by any team in the first half of a game all year across the league.

MIN had two big penalties on the opening NYG offensive drive in the second half. A horse collar tackle by Rhodes after a 12-yard completion to Slayton put NYG into MIN territory. Later, on a 27-yard field goal attempt, former Giant Linval Joseph roughed up snapper Zak DeOssie, giving the Giants a fresh slate of downs at the 5-yard line. The offensive line started to fully crumble at this point, as center Jon Halapio was flagged for a hold and Mike Remmers allowed a sack. It was yet another opportunity missed. NYG ended up settling for a 32-yard field goal by Rosas, making the score 18-10.

MIN needed just 5 plays, again, to get into the end zone as Cousins found Thielen for another score, making it 25-10. Thanks to three separate MIN penalties that gave NYG three first downs, NYG found themselves just a few yards away from the end zone. They had two shots at it from inside the 5-yard line but it resulted in 0 points. The score remained 25-10 as the fourth quarter began. If you’re keeping track, that is two straight possessions where NYG had a combined 8 plays from inside the MIN 10 yard line an they netted 3 points total in that span.

After a quick stop, NYG got the ball inside the MIN 30-yard line again and once again, NYG walked away with 0 points. With time starting to dwindle and the MIN running game continuing to gain what they needed when they needed, 5 more minutes came off the clock and 3 more points when up next to the “MIN” on the scoreboard.

It was 28-10 and the Giants offense had to really start forcing things. Their next drive didn’t last long, as Jones was intercepted for the first time of the day by Barr, the same player that made the tackle that resulted in the safety early on. MIN bled the clock out and that was it.

NYG loses 28-10.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 21/38 – 182 yards – 1 TD / 1 INT. Jones also gained 12 yards on the ground via 3 carries. After two starts against bottom-third defenses, we knew Jones was going to have his handful against the Mike Zimmer-led defense that entered the game #6 in the NFL. In addition, play caller Pat Shurmur worked under Zimmer prior to accepting the job here in NY, thus there had to have been a little extra forecasting going on. That is exactly what seemed to be the case, as MIN had a quick and aggressive response for Jones in almost every situation. He didn’t have a lot of space to work with in the pocket and the timing of things just wasn’t there. Jones missed Sterling Shepard two times on plays that should have been touchdowns and he took a sack on 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line. This was a necessary experience for Jones and in a series full of “first times”, just add this one to the list in addition to the upcoming short week.

RUNNING BACK

Jon Hilliman: 9 att / 20 yards – 1 rec / 4 yards. Hilliman took over the first string running back spot once Wayne Gallman went down with a concussion. Hilliman, who did not earn a 53-man roster job at the end of training camp. Hilliman, who was the number three rusher on a 1-11 Rutgers team in 2018. That was the presence in the backfield behind Jones against a top tier NFL defense. It went as well as expected, as he never posed as a threat and averaged 2.2 yards per carry.

-Wayne Gallman left early with a concussion and I would bet my bottom dollar he will be out this week against NE because of the short rest. Elijhaa Penny, a fullback who has a few running back traits, finished with 15 yards on 3 carries in addition to a 4-yard catch. I’m sure NYG will bring in a back this week for depth purposes, but I project Penny to be pretty involved.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton: 4 rec / 62 yards / 1 TD. Slayton and Jones have an obvious connection and it put up the early 7 points for NYG. His development this season will be very important for next year, as he figures to be a key component to the future passing game. Slayton only saw 5 targets but he made the most of them. I like the ability to push the secondary but he is also proving to be more than just a deep guy. His routes and awareness near the sidelines look good.

-Sterling Shepard had 5 catches for 49 yards on 10 targets but his stat line could have been so much stronger if Jones had hit his spots. Shepard was getting open up and down the field against man coverage all afternoon but he just couldn’t get on the same page as Jones.

-In Golden Tate’s first game in a Giants uniform, he caught the first pass of the game and went into hiding for the majority of the contest after. He finished with 3 rec / 13 yards while playing two-thirds of the team’s snaps. I wouldn’t say he looked rusty but he didn’t look like the Tate I have seen in the past. This was also a tough game to evaluate, as the passing game just didn’t reach a flow consistently.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 6 rec / 42 yards. Engram once again led the team in targets, this time with 11. He is the most dangerous threat on this offense when Barkley isn’t out there and MIN did a great job containing him. He saw a lot of bracket coverage besides routes into the flat. Engram had a drop and was manhandled twice in the running game in addition to being flagged for a hold. The MIN defensive ends are as physical and powerful as it gets and these are guys Engram just won’t be able to compete against. Engram had 2 balls that hit his hands that he didn’t bring in. I did not label them drops, but big-time players have to make those plays.

-In a game where NYG basically gave up on running the ball, Rhett Ellison’s impact was minimal.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Bad day overall for this group. MIN has a formidable defensive front, a position group I would rank in the top 5 across the league. Mike Zimmer also dialed up a lot of complex blitzes and stunts and the lack of chemistry along the OL with a rookie QB was exposed.

-Nate Solder and Mike Remmers couldn’t seal the edge nor could they anchor their positions. Solder was flagged for 2 holds and also allowed a pressure and a sack. Remmers allowed 2 pressures and a sack but actually graded out worse of the two, as his inability to hold the point-of-attack made things really tight for Jones to work within the pocket. While he has been an upgrade over what NYG dealt with in recent years (Bobby Hart / Chad Wheeler), Remmers has been a let down so far.

-The interior wasn’t much better. In fact, if you’re Kevin Zeitler and Jon Halapio, you graded out worse than both the tackles. There were multiple miscommunications between the two, as they were visibly frustrated with each other after a couple passing plays where MIN generated pressure and on the safety where LB Anthony Barr ran straight through their gap to make the tackle. Zeitler allowed a pressure, a TFL, and had an allowed sack cancelled by a questionable illegal contact penalty by MIN. Halapio constantly got minimal to no push in the running game and was flagged for a penalty for illegally going downfield too early on a screen. Will Hernandez allowed 2 pressures and a sack as well.

EDGE

-With no Lorenzo Carter in the picture, it was Tuzar Skipper and Oshane Ximines playing opposite of Markus Golden. Skipper and Ximines were both overwhelmed against the outside running game and it helped create the space for Dalvin Cook to really get going. When that guy reaches space, he is near-unstoppable. Skipper and Ximines got picked on in this one and offered near-nothing as pass rushers.

-Golden had 5 tackles and a sack with 2 pressures. He has been a steady outside presence and also made a couple physical hits in the running game. His is getting more and more nimble as the weeks go which tells me his confidence in growing.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Dexter Lawrence had a sack nullified by a holding penalty in the secondary but he recorded one in the fourth quarter. He had 5 tackles in addition along with a forced fumble and looks like he may be the best player on the entire defense.

-Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill were a tough evaluation in this one. MIN employs a zone-blocking scheme where they really get guys moving laterally. Both seemed to struggle against it, as they were on skates multiple times and ended up creating massive cutback lanes for the MIN backs. Hill did record 5 tackles and he forced Cousins into quick decisions as a passer a few times, but Tomlinson’s lack if impact continues.

-R.J. McIntosh had a sack and a pressure from his 3-4 DE role. He can shoot the gap well and should factor more and more on passing downs throughout the season.

LINEBACKERS

-No Alec Ogletree. No Tae Davis. No Ryan Connelly. Upon further review of the defense’s horrid performance, much of it can be attributed to the lack of impact along the second level. I respect the grit and hustle that both David Mayo and Nate Stupar bring to the table but this got ugly fast. Neither were filling lanes which allowed the OL to reach them 3-5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. At that point, the lanes are wide open for the running backs and with a head full of steam, that is nearly impossible to stop. Both were concrete blocks against the lateral-route passing game MIN had success with all game as well. This is going to be a problem as long as these two are in there.

-Josiah Tauaefa got his first NFL regular season action after being called up from the practice squad. He responded with 3 tackles, including 2 TFL. Don’t sleep on this kid, as he led NYG in tackles during preseason and he shows more downhill presence as a run defender.

CORNERBACK

-Janoris Jenkins and Deandre Baker did an OK job defending the outside. Both, however, were awful against the run. Jenkins had 2 missed tackles and Baker had 1 himself. They were both part of the horrid secondary tackling stemming from poor angles and poor technique. Baker still lacks confidence, as he is too-often falling in coverage and tripping over his own feet. He fell to the ground on an Adam Thielen touchdown where he could have been in position to break up the pass had he not. He was also flagged for a taunting penalty when NYG was holding on for dear life. A free 15 yards from the rook.

-Grant Haley was torched in this one. He allowed a touchdown to Thielen and continues to show he has no ability to defend downfield passes and routes. The turnaround speed isn’t there and the lack of size exposes a lack of ability to make up for getting beat off the ball.

SAFETY

-Even though Antoine Bethea led the team with 11 tackles and a few of those were very high quality, his lack of speed and twitch is hurting this defense on a weekly basis. The 35-year old took a couple of awful angles at Dalvin Cook and was promptly burned for it.

-Jabrill Peppers saw some more LB-type action in this one and that is one of the positives he brings to a defense. He is effective in multiple roles. He had 5 tackles, a TFL, and a forced fumble on a Dalvin Cook run that would have put MIN inside the NYG 5 yard line with a fresh slate of downs. He got beat across the middle on a couple crossing routes, however.

-Sean Chandler saw some action in this one (10 plays) and ended up missing 2 tackles and allowing a 3rd-down conversion where his lack of presence and aggression caused the chains to move. Hesitation and poor tackling, not a good combination for that position.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 32).

-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts – 44.7 avg / 33.0 net.

3 STUDS

-WR Darius Slayton, S Jabrill Peppers, DT Dexter Lawrence

3 DUDS

-OG Kevin Zeitler, LB Nate Stupar, CB Grant Haley

3 THOUGHTS ON MIN.

  1. I have picked MIN to win the NFC North for 4 straight years. In 2016 they finished 3rd, in 2017 they finished 1st, in 2018 they finished 2nd, and right now they are currently 3rd. They are one of the most inconsistent teams in the league and what I mean by that is, when this team is on they can beat anybody and I mean that. Their defense is strong on every level and they have one of the best RB/WR combinations in the league. Shaky QB play and an inconsistent OL has held them back but it looks like they are on the verge of turning both of those corners. If they do, I think they can be considered a legit Super Bowl contender.
  1. Anthony Barr has long-been one of my favorite defenders in the league. How many guys that measure 6’5/255 can play in coverage like does? But also rush the passer with a developed skill set? And then also explode downhill and drive a running back through the ground? MIN was smart to sign him long term and even though he doesn’t always blow up the stat sheet, the amount of things he can do at a high level in one game week to week is rare.
  1. MIN has been one of the better drafting teams in the NFL, particularly on defense. It is amazing how hitting on these high picks can make your team competitive year in, year out. Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Shamar Stephen, Antony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon, Trae Waynes, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Mike Hughes….go find me a team with a better homegrown defense than that. You won’t.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. There were a number of signs in this game that this team isn’t ready to compete. NYG had several opportunities to take advantage of MIN mistakes, but they did not. They had two straight possessions where they had a combined 8 plays inside the MIN 10-yard line. That netted NYG 3 total points. MIN left Sterling Shepard all alone for a touchdown on 2 occasions and they did not result in any touchdowns. MIN got penalized 12 times (5 of which resulted in NYG 1st downs) while NYG was penalized just 5 times. All these should have at least made this a game because good teams capitalize on mistakes made my the opposition and NYG walked out of this one with…10 points. Not good. Not ready.
  1. Let’s not start this “sky is falling” mindset when thinking about this team. My thought that these guys will be sub .500 squad has never wavered. Sure, things can happen and we still want them to “go for it”. But in all reality there are holes all over the place and when NYG has faced off against quality opponents, they haven’t gotten the job done. They are a few steps behind and much of this year will be about finding the guys who will be the nucleus for years to come.
  1. Whether or not Saquon Barkley dresses for the game Thursday night, NYG needs to bring in another body for the backfield. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Penny get the majority carries but there needs to be more security for a running game.
Oct 042019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 29, 2019)

The Sun Never Sets on Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants, October 6, 2019

THE STORYLINE:
Believe it or not, the regular-season is already one-fourth done. And for the first time in three years, the Giants’ season isn’t all but over by October. But we should step back for a second and look at the big picture.

In my opinion, as long as Daniel Jones remains healthy enough to play most of the remaining 12 games, this season has already been a tremendous success. My biggest fear heading into this season was that the Giants would remain in mathematical contention for the bulk of the season, preventing the franchise from benching Eli Manning and getting a good read on Jones. To be blunt, I feared the Giants wasting another season with an aging quarterback who was never going to be apart of the turnaround. I never, never, never expected the franchise to make the switch as soon as Week 3. This is really a big, big deal.

And after the Giants announced the switch and before Jones started his first game, there were quite a few Giants fans who were projecting the Giants finishing with a top three 2020 draft pick, firing Pat Shurmur, and drafting Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, or Jake Fromm.

Oh how things can quickly change in two weeks! Look, as I’ve stated before, it’s way too early to really know if Daniel Jones will be the franchise quarterback that this team needs. NFL history is filled with flashes in the pan who quickly fade into oblivion – after a few games, even after a season or two. But barring injury, Jones will get 14 regular-season games to prove his worth as a rookie. That’s invaluable. And as of right now, any talk of drafting another quarterback in 2020 seems crazy.

Turning to the short-term, the Giants are actually very much alive, being only one game out of first place in the NFC East. Dallas looks like the prohibitive favorite to win the division, if for no other reason that their defense is vastly superior to the Giants’ defense. But could the Giants stay in contention for a Wild Card spot in November and December? We shall soon find out.

The 2-2 Vikings are a talented team coming off of a tough loss and feeling a little bit desperate. There is a lot of pressure on them to beat an “inferior” Giants team. A few days after this game, the Giants travel to New England to play the NFL Champion Patriots. The Giants may quickly find themselves at 2-4. This is a big game for the Giants too. 3-3 sounds a lot better than 2-4.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – out)
  • RB Wayne Gallman (neck)
  • RG Kevin Zeitler (shoulder)
  • LT Nate Solder (neck)
  • LB Alec Ogletree (hamstring – out)
  • LB Tae Davis (concussion – out)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (neck – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Giants have played four teams in a row with very tough defensive front sevens. It gets no easier this weekend against the Minnesota Vikings, arguably the best defense the Giants have faced thus far. The Vikings are 6th in overall defense in terms of yardage allowed and 5th in terms of points allowed (15.8 per game). They are top 10 in both run and pass defense. On the defensive line, DE Danielle Hunter, DE Everson Griffen, and former Giant DT Linval Joseph are Pro Bowlers. So is LB Anthony Barr, CB Xavier Rhodes, and S Harrison Smith. The key, albeit scary, match-ups for the Giants in this game are tackles Nate Solder and former Viking Mike Remmers against ends Hunter and Griffen.

The Giants are not likely to score many points against the Vikings. What the offense, Daniel Jones, and the other ball handlers need to do is not make it easier on Minnesota by turning the football over. Ball security has been an issue for Jones and the running backs. Do not give a struggling Vikings’ offense a short field to work with, or worse, give the Vikings a defensive score. If this ends up being a tight, low-scoring affair, the team that makes the most mistakes will most likely lose the game. Winning the field position battle could also be decisive.

The game within the game this week will be Pat Shurmur, who calls the plays, facing his old team and his old head coach, Mike Zimmer (defensive background). Each knows each other and what they like to do. Shurmur is also intimately familiar with the Vikings’ defensive personnel.

Turning to the big picture, we once again look at Daniel Jones. Again, it’s early. But there are some important early signs that give us reason to be extremely hopeful. For one, the criticism of his arm strength ended up being a myth. While Jones doesn’t have a rocket, he can make all of the different types of throws an NFL quarterback is required to make. Indeed, we have now repeatedly seen that he can fire the ball into tight windows. More than that, his accuracy is better than Eli Manning’s, even when Eli was in his prime. Time and time again, Jones has perfectly placed the ball to allow his receivers to do maximum damage after the catch.

But beyond all of that, two other aspects of Jones’ game have stood out to me. First, regardless of the pass rush, he keeps his eyes transfixed down the field. While this has hurt him a few times in terms of having the ball knocked out of his hands, his ability to maintain his focus under duress and maneuver around in the pocket (sometimes only ever so slightly) has allowed him to spot targets opening up downfield and to make the key throw at the last half-second. Secondly, Jones is already reading coverages likes a seasoned veteran. For example, on the touchdown throw to Gallman last weekend, Gallman was his fifth option on the play. FIFTH! I bet you there are some veteran quarterbacks who have started three years in this league who have yet to throw to their fifth option on a play. And Jones just did it in his second game!

Finally, something that has not received enough attention this week is how dramatically the New York receiving corps has changed. To start the season, New York’s receivers were Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard, and Cody Core. Two-fifths of that corps has now been replaced by Golden Tate and Darius Slayton. T.J. Jones has also come and gone. The net effect is the receiving corps looks far stronger now.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants’ defense hasn’t given up a touchdown in six quarters. Is that misleading? I would argue  yes, but we shall see. Unfortunately, one of the key players leading the apparent turnaround, inside linebacker Ryan Connelly, is done for the season. A 5th-round rookie, he was already wearing the green dot on his helmet. It’s a huge loss for a defense trying to gain some respectable consistency. Making matters worse is that Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis are both out again. All of the sudden, ex-Panther and 49er castoff David Mayo becomes a key figure moving forward. And God help us if Nate Stupar is on the field. Look for the Giants to continue to use the three-safety package.

As I talked about last week, the good news for the Giants’ defense is the defensive line is starting to exert itself. Dexter Lawrence is showing why he was a 1st-round pick. B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson are flashing, as are edge rushers Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines, and Tuzar Skipper. Coming off perhaps his worst game as a pro, Janoris Jenkins rebounded with “defensive player of the week” honors. Deandre Baker has had two quiet (in a positive sense) games in a row. Jabrill Peppers just made his first impact play. But the opponent last week was a dysfunctional Redskins team. A bigger sample size is needed.

Minnesota has its own issues. There appear to be too many cooks in the kitchen on the offensive coaching staff. And quarterback Kirk Cousins is under fire from the media, fans, and most notably, fellow teammates. He’s one of those quarterbacks who can look very good in one game, and then awful in another. You never know which version of Cousins you will get. But, the Vikings have three very dangerous difference-makers on offense: RB Dalvin Cook, WR Stefon Diggs, and WR Adam Thielen. These are all 1,000-yard producers. Cousins will also throw to his tight ends (Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith). Most notably, Cook is the team’s leading pass receiver.

But make no mistake about it, the Vikings are a run-first team. Cook is averaging almost six yards per carry and already has five touchdowns on an offense that has been struggling. His back-up, rookie Alexander Mattison, is averaging over five yards per carry. The Vikings are a physical, old-school football team. They run the football behind a physical offensive line and play great defense. If the Giants have any shot at the upset, they need to stop the Minnesota ground attack, or at the very least, limit the damage. When the Vikings see three safeties on the field, they will challenge that with the ground game, as well as the injury-depleted inside linebacking corps.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Here comes the first real serious challenge for the New York coverage teams. Marcus Sherels has five career punt returns for touchdowns, including one already against the Giants. As for the New York return game, it will be interesting to see if Jabrill Peppers or Golden Tate becomes the feature punt returner now that T.J. Jones has been let go.

There is a very good chance that special teams and field position will decide the outcome of this game.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula on facing the Vikings’ defense: “Yeah, they’re really good… We all want to be aware of the kind of defense we’re facing. They’re talented across the board. They have a really good scheme. They feed off of mistakes made by the offense. As most defenses are, they’re even better in long yardage. I think the biggest thing, the point of emphasis, is getting the ball out on time, making good decisions, don’t think you have to make big plays and don’t think you have to win the game on every play. We talk about, as we do every week, staying ahead of the chains, so to speak. Staying out of those long yardage situations.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This is a big game for both teams. Neither wants to fall to 2-3. And the Giants play the Patriots on a short week after this game. Most pundits expect the Giants to be 2-4 soon. Much depends on the Vikings. Do they come into this game pissed off and ready to take it out on the Giants? Or has this week’s turmoil started to wear on their psyche? To be determined. This may be a horrible time to play the Vikings or a good time. The problem for the Giants are the match-ups up front. That usually doesn’t bode well.

Sep 302019
 
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Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants (September 29, 2019)

Janoris Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 24 – Washington Redskins 3

QUICK RECAP

For the first time since November 14 2004, Eli Manning ran out of the tunnel as the Giants’ backup quarterback. This time around he was the veteran who was watching a rookie take over the reigns. After a memorable NFL debut in Tampa, Daniel Jones started for Big Blue for the first time at MetLife Stadium. Their opponent? The other basement dweller of the NFC East, the 0-3 Redskins.

The Redskins entered the game without their staring left tackle, starting right guard, and starting center. Journeyman Case Keenum remained their starting QB after a horrific Monday night performance just 6 days prior and then spending the week in a walking boot. The Giants on the other hand were without 2 of their 3 rotational inside linebackers and still without Golden Tate, who was in his final week of suspension. However, the biggest hole on their game-day roster was at running back, as Saquon Barkley walked out of the tunnel in street clothes for the first time in his very young career as he recovers from a high ankle sprain.

Keenum and the broken offense lasted just two plays before turning the ball over via a interception to LB Ryan Connelly. The Giants offense started off hot yet again, as they scored on their opening drive for the fourth straight game. Jones hit a wide open Wayne Gallman for a 6-yard score. Whatever process they undergo to script that opening drive, it’s working. The Redskins were getting flagged early and often and that remained to be the case for the entire game. WAS was penalized two times on their ensuing offensive drive four times on the next NYG offensive drive. NYG was reaping rewards of being officiated by the crew that led all referees in flags thrown over the first three weeks.

With WAS playing sloppy and tired, typical of both this franchise in recent memory and teams playing on short rest, NYG’s 13-play, 94-yard drive resulted in another Gallman touchdown, this one a 1-yard rush. NYG got the ball back after forcing a three-and-out but Jones gave it right back, throwing his first interception as a pro to Quinton Dunbar. The NYG defense then forced another three-and-out and it appeared the game was on repeat, as Jones threw his second interception to Dunbar on as many drives. This time WAS turned it into 3 points with their own 1st rounder, Dwayne Haskins, being inserted into the lineup. The Giants lead was 14-3.

Jones’ next step in maturation was on display at this point. After two straight turnovers, he led NYG on a 10-play, 63-yard drive that resulted in a 20-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas. Jones successfully converted a 3rd-and-4, a 2nd-and-20, and a 2nd-and-6 for first downs respectively with both his arm and his legs. That kind of short memory and composure through adversity is yet another reason why this team is all of the sudden better with him at the helm. NYG led 17-3 at the half and it seemed like a much bigger margin.

The Giants’ defensive domination continued on into the second half, as WAS didn’t reach the 100-total yard mark until the final two minutes of the 3rd quarter. Just moments after they eclipsed that mark, Haskins threw his first interception as a pro to Jabrill Peppers, the safety who wears #21 on his jersey. Peppers has had a pretty quiet start to his NYG career but perhaps this was the best moment to break out, as the former #21 of NYG, Landon Collins, was standing on the WAS sideline. Collins has had trouble keeping his mouth shut since he and the Giants organization parted ways. NYG lengthened their lead to 24-3 as the fourth quarter approached.

Offensively NYG struggled to move the ball in the second half, as the stout WAS defensive line controlled the point-of-attack and both running backs, Gallman and Jon Hilliman both turned the ball over via fumbles. The Giants lead was too much for WAS to handle, though, as Haskins threw two more interceptions and the refs continued to penalize the visitors with flags. All in all, it was as dominant a win as NYG has had in quite some time. They had the ball for over 36 minutes and were flagged 5 times opposed to the 12 times the Skins were flagged. This game never felt close.

Giants win 24-3.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 23/31 – 225 yards – 1 TD / 2 INT – 78.0 QBR. Jones also gained 33 yards on the ground. It was a shaky performance by the second-start rookie, as he turned the ball over twice. Because the opponent was one of the worst two teams in football, those turnovers didn’t come back to bite and make a big difference. As mentioned above, the best positive that came out of this for Jones was showing he can forget about the mistakes and go into the following drive(s) with a clear head. Jones’ composure is something I have discussed several times dating back to preseason and he put another check in that box.

RUNNING BACK

Wayne Gallman: 18 att / 63 yards / 1 TD – 6 Rec / 55 yards / 1 TD. While Gallman is never going to be mistaken for Barkley, he answered the call with the only two scores by the Giants offense on the day. While he had a hard time finding space to maneuver in the running game, he did have a couple of key big gains. His pass blocking left a little to be desired as well, as he just couldn’t hold his ground on a couple of occasions and it really tightened the pocket for Jones.

-Jon Hilliman: 10 att / 33 yards. Hilliman had a shot at his first pro touchdown but he fumbled inside the WAS 5-yard line and turned it over. With NYG taking a quick, commanding lead he was given his fair share of opportunities to split the carries with Gallman but he couldn’t quite stand out.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 7 rec / 76 yards. Shepard also carried the ball once for 23 yards on a play that seems to be a weekly staple for the team. A look at the stats and one may not be overly impressed by Shepard, but his presence on this offense is vital especially on third downs. Other than a 3rd-and-18 dump off pass, Shepard converted all of his fourth, third, and second down catches for first downs. He, combined with Engram and the incoming Golden Tate, will be instrumental in the early progression of Jones.

-Darius Slayton, Bennie Fowler, and Cody Latimer combined for 3 catches on just 4 targets. Latimer was targeted twice but he was flagged for offensive pass interference two times in his first game back from missing time with a concussion. With Tate coming back, Fowler and Slayton will likely see less snaps.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 4 rec / 54 yards. Engram saw a lot of double teams / bracket coverage from the WAS back seven. I think a lot of teams are going to do this because of how much Shurmur wants to feature Engram as the primary target and Jones’ early inclination to force him the ball. Engram was quiet but he did have a 31-yard gain that was mostly yards-after-catch. His blocking took a step back in this one, as he couldn’t handle the WAS edge defenders.

-Rhett Ellison added 3 rec / 24 yards. One thing I have always liked about his game is the desire and constant effort as a downfield blocker. Ellison is the one guy who, every single week, he is looking to make an extra push on a defender away from the ball. He may not be the stout blocker I assumed when NYG first signed him, but he brings the team-first, blue-collar approach that I think is really important on a winning team.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Nate Solder had a really productive game, grading out as the top lineman for NYG this week. He allowed 1 pressure and that was it. For a team that has given NYG several pass rush issues in recent years, it was a solid day from the blind side protector. Mike Remmers, on the other hand, continued to struggle. He was flagged for 2 holding penalties and allowed a pressure. He also isn’t doing a good job of cutting off backside defenders in the running game.

-Albeit it was against one of the best defensive lines in football, the interior really struggled all afternoon. Kevin Zeitler allowed a pressure and was flagged for a hold, but he did get out in space on a couple of occasions to throw key blocks on separate big gains. Will Hernandez and Jon Halapio tied for the worst grades along the OL in this one. Hernandez allowed 2 pressures and a TFL while Halapio allowed 2 pressures. Their poor performance wasn’t felt as badly because of Jones’ mobility but the communication issues and lack of lateral adjustment is something teams like MIN and NE can eat up. They need to be better, plain and simple.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-The three-headed monster of B.J. Hill, Dexter Lawrence, and Dalvin Tomlinson dominated the point-of-attack for most of the afternoon. They were up against three interior backups, including former NYG 1st-round bust Ereck Flowers. They were the key reason why WAS running backs Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson combined for 2 yards per carry. Lawrence had 3 pressures, Tomlinson had 1 hurry and a half-sack, and Hill recorded 3 tackles. These guys were as stout as they’ve been all year.

-Olsen Pierre and R.J. McIntosh were on the field for some passing plays in place of Tomlinson and Hill, with Pierre being the more disruptive one. He had 2 pressures, but it was a quiet day for McIntosh.

EDGE

-Markus Golden continues his hot play after a slow start to the season. He had a half-sack and 2 pressures. While he isn’t winning off the snap often, he is proving to be a tough guy for blockers to cling onto. The mix of leverage wins and hustle make him a tough guy hold off for more than a few seconds. His speed in space was noteworthy too.

-Oshane Ximines is making impact plays each week. I think he and Carter are going to blossom into something this defense can really use for years. Ximines recorded a half-sack along with a pressure and pass break up. Let’s keep this in mind: in the last 6 games Ximines has played in (including weeks 2 and 3 of preseason), he has 5 sacks. In only one of those contests, he went sack-less. The consistency he is showing is impressive.

-Tuzar Skipper recorded a half-sack and Carter had a pressure.

LINEBACKER

-With Tae Davis and Alec Ogletree out with injuries, Ryan Connelly got the start with the green dot on his helmet. A player who has been catching the eyes of the coaching staff from the get-go, Connelly had an impactful game. He had an interception and sack to go along with 5 tackles as a key cog to stuffing the Was running game. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL as he tried to move awkwardly in reaction to Deandre Baker coming downhill on a ball carrier who was headed towards Connelly’s lower body. That late adjustment caused the injury and he is out for the year.

-David Mayo led the Giants with 8 tackles. He had a solid presence between the tackles and on contact with ball carries. He didn’t miss any tackles, which is a major, yet overlooked, part of the position. His role will undoubtedly be increased if Ogletree and Davis remain out.

CORNERBACK

-A week after arguably the worst game of Janoris Jenkins’ career, he came right back and intercepted 2 passes and tipped another that led to the Connelly INT. Jenkins, for most of his career, has been a very up-and-down corner but that has as much to do with the nature of the position as it does him as a player. If this defense turns it around long term this season, Jenkins will be in the center of it. He is a playmaker.

-Quiet day for rookie Deandre Baker, in a good way. He wasn’t tested much and he provided solid role-playing run support.

-Nickel corner Grant Haley quietly had a bad game. What I mean by that is that the struggles he put on tape didn’t end up helping WAS score, thus they won’t be discussed much. He should have been beaten for two long touchdowns by Trey Quinn, the final pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Had It not been for poor overthrows by Keenum, this game could have gone far differently. And Haley’s job would be far less secure.

SAFETY

-A week after I discussed Jabrill Peppers needing to step his game up, he walks out of this one with the defensive game ball. He had 6 tackles, an interception returned for a touchdown, and an impressive pass break up that should have been a touchdown for WAS had it not been for the late/strong hands of Peppers. I like the attitude he brings to the table and I can’t help but smile a little bit that he got into it with Landon Collins (who has been very average for WAS) after the game. I spoke about NYG needing a leader and a playmaker on defense and Peppers is the one guy who has the upside to be both.

-Antoine Bethea and Michael Thomas did a nice job on the back end preventing deep openings. Both Haskins and Keenum were forced to tuck the ball and scramble as a result of these two keeping it tight on the back end.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1(Made 30)

-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts – 55.0 avg / 53.0 net

3 STUDS

-OT Nate Solder, S Jabrill Peppers, CB Janoris Jenkins

3 DUDS

-OG Will Hernandez, RB Jon Hilliman, OT Mike Remmers

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

  1. The Miami Dolphins are the unquestioned worst-team in football. However, the Redskins aren’t far behind. If it weren’t for their really solid defensive line, it would be up for discussion. They continue to be hit by the injury bug as bad as any team in the league and it doesn’t seem they have the culture to make up for any physical shortcomings. MIA and WAS play each other on October 13 if anyone is interested in watching what Minor League Football would look like.
  1. There was a lot of media pressure for WAS to put Haskins into the lineup this past week. Even though he started on the bench, he got his playing time based on a coach’s decision and I can’t say it went well. He was 9/17 with three interceptions. I thought it was interesting that Gruden did not commit to Haskins as the starter from here on out, noting that the job had to be earned. Are there work ethic issues with Haskins? Lets wait and see.
  1. Watch the WAS defensive line work and you can see why this NYG trio of Lawrence-Hill-Tomlinson could be a big thing here for the next few years. While I think the WAS trio is better across the board, this is proof that they can be disruptive enough against the pass and dominant against the run to force a lot of stress on the opposing offense.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. It was good to see this team could still have a dominant win despite an overall poor offensive performance. 4 turnovers (2 by Jones) can be a tough thing to overcome but many thanks to WAS playing really bad football at this time. NYG walked away with this victory early. But don’t fool yourself into thinking this was a quality game. If NYG plays like this next week against MIN and a few days later against NE, they will be 2-4.
  1. One more positive about Daniel Jones being under center for the upcoming match-up against MIN is Eli Manning won’t be under center. He was 3-6 with 5 TD / 15 INT and a 56.1 QBR against MIN over his career. By far the team that gave him the most trouble. Jones will have his work cut out for him in this one, another big test. MIN has the 6th-best defense in the league this year and they finished 4th in 2018.
  1. The confidence of this defense has to be higher than its been in quite some time. In the last six quarters of football, they have allowed 6 points (zero touchdowns), they’re getting to the QB, and they are forcing turnovers. The MIN offense has been inconsistent but don’t forget the weapons they have in Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Dalvin Cook. Huge barometer for the Giants, hopefully with either Davis and/or Ogletree back at ILB.
Sep 272019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 22, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Washington Redskins at New York Giants, September 29, 2019

THE STORYLINE:
As long as he stays healthy, for the remainder of the 2019 season, Daniel Jones remains the storyline.

The first returns could not have been better. In his first NFL start, Daniel Jones earned “NFC Player of the Week” honors for his dramatic 18-point come-from-behind performance that included four touchdowns. The production was impressive, but so was the poise. Jones was under constant pressure and duress, and yet it never seemed to faze him. Now pundits and fans who condemned the pick have gone to the other extreme. It’s not a good look for a group of people who should know better than to make such bold statements based on four preseason games and one regular-season game.

The next desired step for Daniel Jones is obvious: consistency. He doesn’t have to look like a superstar every week, but upper echelon quarterbacks are the ones who deliver consistent production and minimize mistakes on a weekly basis. Again, keep in mind that Daniel Jones is a 22-year old kid who is still brand new to the NFL. He’s going to have bad moments and bad games. But if Jones looks anything like he did last week for the bulk of the remaining 13 games on the schedule, then the Giants may have found something truly special. Only time will tell.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – out)
  • WR Cody Latimer (concussion)
  • WR Bennie Fowler (hamstring)
  • DE Olsen Pierre (knee)
  • LB Alec Ogletree (hamstring – out)
  • LB Tae Davis (concussion – out)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (elbow)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Daniel Jones is in a bit of a tough spot. Without Saquon Barkley, the Giants ground game may have disappeared. Teams are not going to take Wayne Gallman seriously unless he starts hurting them. And to date, Gallman has not demonstrated starting-caliber ability. Gallman carried the ball 51 times last year. He has seven carries in three games this year. His back-ups are a fullback with 40 career rushing attempts and a player just signed off of the Practice Squad with no regular-season rushing attempts. Last week, Jones was New York’s leading rusher with 24 yards.

Worse for Jones, both veteran offensive tackles – Nate Solder and Mike Remmers – looked like crap last week. Solder is one of the highest paid offensive linemen in the history of football, but he’s been a liability, not an asset. He allowed three sacks against Tampa Bay. While Remmers has been an improvement over Chad Wheeler, the negative plays have been noticeable too. Yeah, the Washington Redskins are 0-3. But they have a decent front seven on defense with very good edge rushers in Ryan Kerrigan (who has a history of killing the Giants) and rookie Montez Sweat (who a lot of Giants fans wanted to draft). The three down linemen (Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Matt Ioannidis) are underrated no-names. This group saw what the Buccaneers did last week and are licking their chops.

The first two games for the Redskins pretty much started the same. Washington looked very competitive early on against the Eagles and Cowboys until the roof fell in. The Bears game got out of hand in the second quarter. The warning sign here is the Redskins were not clearly out-classed by their division rivals, the two teams considered the best in the division.

That all said, statistically, the Redskins have not been good on defense. They rank 26th overall and have had issues against both the run and the pass. The Giants can make hay against the back seven of the Redskins defense. Cody Latimer returns this week and should combine with Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton to present problems for Washington if the offensive line can give Jones time. The wild card here is Gallman. Can he keep the Redskins’ defense honest? The added area of interest is Landon Collins – who has yet to make many plays for Washington – now playing for the Redskins against his former team.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The narrative that the Giants’ defense played better in the second half of the Tampa Bay game doesn’t hold much water with me. For one, teams with 18 point leads tend to lay off of the gas. More importantly, with the game on the line, the defense folded like a cheap suit. Two plays, 66 yards and the Buccaneers were at the 9-yard line and should have won the game. I can’t stand the NYG defense right now. They are 31st in the NFL, including being dead last against the pass and 23rd against the run. If anything, this defense was supposed to be stout against the run. It’s not. And every week, a new leak springs in the secondary. They don’t look particularly well-coached either.

Washington’s offensive line was supposed to be terrible this year. Yet like their defense, they have looked physical and strong at times and should not be under-estimated. Against the Eagles in the opener, they owned the line of scrimmage for much of the first half of the game. The stats don’t reflect it (Washington is near dead last in rushing), but Adrian Peterson can still run the football behind a line that can get some push. (Our old friend Ereck Flowers is playing left guard for Washington).

Case Keenum is coming off a bad game against the Bears (2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 2 lost fumbles). Nevertheless, he was composed and productive against the Eagles and Cowboys (5 touchdowns, no interceptions, no fumbles). Keenum can carve up this Giants’ secondary, throwing to impressive rookie wideout Terry McLaurin, who already has three touchdowns on the season (Note: McLaurin did not practice on Friday due to a hamstring injury). Keenum, who Pat Shurmur coached in Minnesota, spreads the ball around to his wideouts, backs, and tight ends. He may not have prototype physical tools, but he can read a defense and find the open man.

Exacerbating the defensive issues for New York are the injury issues. Middle linebackers Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis are out. Rookie Ryan Connelly remains the starter inside, but back-up linebacker David Mayo will likely split time with an extra safety such as Michael Thomas with the Giants possibly playing more 5-defensive back packages.

Some questions percolating in my head: was Deandre Baker really better last week or did the Buccaneers simply choose to attack Janoris Jenkins? Did the Giants misevaluate Jabrill Peppers? (Like Collins, he hasn’t made any plays). Should the team bench Antoine Bethea? Can Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter, and Oshane Ximines continue to show progress as edge rushers? Is James Bettcher the right man for the job?

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
New York punt coverage has been a joy to watch, bringing back fond memories of Larry Flowers and Reyna Thompson.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Pat Shurmur on the Redskins’ offense: “They still commit to trying to run the football. That’s where it starts for them.”

THE FINAL WORD:
For the foreseeable future, Daniel Jones will have to carry this team. No defense. No running game. Shaky offensive line. Sound familiar? That’s  lot of pressure on a 22-year old rookie.

Sep 232019
 
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Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (September 22, 2019)

Sterling Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 32 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31

QUICK RECAP

The 0-2 Giants traveled to Tampa Bay to take on the 1-1 Bucs, whom were coming off a 10-day rest. What had become to feel like normal (the sixth 0-2 start in 7 seasons), this winless start was different. There was a buzz leading into week 3 unlike we have seen in quite some time. Besides the wacky, still unexplainable decision to bench Eli Manning week 12 of 2017, Big Blue would march out of the tunnel with a new franchise QB at the helm. After being selected with the 6th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, Daniel Jones was inserted into the staring lineup after just two games in to his rookie season.

The Giants began the afternoon in similar fashion as the previous two weeks on both sides of the ball. For the third week in a row, NYG allowed a touchdown but also scored points of their own in the first quarter. Jameis Winston, a former number one pick who is currently in a contract year, hit his star receiver Mike Evans in the end zone twice on the Bucs’ first two drives, beating Janoris Jenkins both times. That theme would be repeated all game. In between the TB scoring drives, Jones set the tone for the afternoon, engineering an 11 play – 57 yard drive with two 3rd-down conversions. While it only resulted in 3 points, Jones proved early on he was ready for game time. Fortunately TB missed their first extra point and had their second attempt blocked by Dexter Lawrence with an assist from B.J. Hill. Missed extra points almost always come back to bite you. Remember that.

Jones opened the second quarter with another long, yard-by-yard drive, this one being 12 plays long. TB shot themselves in the foot with two 3rd-down penalties on this one and Jones displayed his athletic ability on two separate occasions, the latter being a 7-yard designed run after a fake to Saquon Barkley inside. Kerry Collins, Kurt Warner, and Eli Manning were the three previous starting quarterbacks for the Giants. None of them would be the best athlete on a team full of senior citizens, thus the burst and speed Jones showed on both those plays seemed almost foreign, but it was a pleasant sight to see.

The rest of the first half was all Tampa. They had four more possessions, giving them six altogether in the first half. They scored four more times (3 field goals and another touchdown to Mike Evans over Jenkins), giving them six altogether in the first half. Yes, six possessions and six scores for the Bucs in the first two quarters, the 27th ranked offense in the NFL after two weeks. Winston finished the half with a 144.5 QB rating, the same Jameis Winston with a career 87.7 QB rating. Jones also lost a fumble, an issue we discussed in the preseason, giving this game a blowout-feel to it as they went to the locker rooms. And the worst of it all, Saquon Barkley went down with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury. TB was up 28-10.

It is often said that the first two possessions of the second half set the tone for the rest of the game. Well, Sunday added to the strength of that theory, as Jones hit Engram for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play and then the Giants stopped the Bucs on their next drive, forcing their first punt of the game. With Barkley on the sideline using crutches and wearing a boot, NYG came out and scored another touchdown via a Jones-to-Sterling Shepard pass. Just like that, NYG had all of the momentum and the TB offense began to stall.

The two teams traded multiple possessions back and forth with both offensive lines starting to fatigue and both quarterbacks turning the ball over. Winston threw an interception but Jones had the ball jarred loose as he wound up to throw just two plays later. TB ended up being the next to score via a 23-yard field goal, making the score 31-25 with six minutes left. The Giants responded with a quick 3-and-out and no choice but to punt it back to TB with the hope their defense could get a quick stop, and that they did. Michael Thomas made arguably the defensive play of the afternoon on a 3rd-and-2 play that left him and TB tight end Cameron Brate alone in space after short completion. TB was forced to punt and Jones, in his pro debut, got the ball back on the NYG 25-yard line with 3:16 left and a timeout at his disposal down 6 points. Stage was set.

He completed his first five passes, the highlight being a 21-yard gain to fellow rookie Darius Slayton whom was also making his pro debut. Jones was quick to the get the ball out while also showing outstanding pocket mobility and awareness. On 4th-and-5 from the TB 7-yard line, it was a do-or-die situation. Jones took the snap, felt pressure on the outside, recognized man coverage with the defenders turning their backs to him, and darted up the middle and easily scored his second rushing touchdown of the day, the first time a Giants quarterback scored on the ground twice in one game since 1991. Aldrick Rosas hit the extra point and NYG was up 32-31 and just over a minute remaining.

The Giants defense, which could not have started worse, quietly came up big for the entire second half. They were on a hot streak but streaks are always meant to be broken. Winston hit Evans one last time, this one for a gain of 44 yards, putting TB within easy field goal striking distance. The wind was officially out of the sails. TB took a delay of game penalty on purpose because Head Coach Bruce Arians was convinced rookie Matt Gay was better from a slightly longer distance. Gay lined up for what appeared to be a chip shot from 34 yards.

28 years – 8 months ago, NYG had a 1-point lead against the Buffalo Bills in Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXV. Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal by less than a foot, wide right. Giants won 20-19. Same city, different stadium, different opponent, and different magnitude, Bucs kicker Matt Gay missed a 34-yard field goal by less than a foot, wide right.

Giants win, 32-31.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 23/36 – 336 yards – 2 TD / 4 att – 28 yards – 2 TD. Jones also lost two fumbles in this one. Well, what can we say? The first start of Jones’ career was as memorable as any first-start of any Giants QB in the history of the franchise. I can’t say this performance surprised me. Why? Jones showed a certain level of poise and natural decision making during preseason. Add this to the list of reasons why I think preseason games are not only important, but vital. From the minute the game started all the way to the Giants game-winning touchdown, Jones had the look of someone that has been there, someone that can handle anything thrown at him, someone that has the ideal match of tools and intangibles. His throws were accurate, his runs were athletic, his hesitations were minimal. Giants fans it won’t take much more, other than time, to fully convince me that NYG has their guy. By guy, I mean their next QB for a decade-plus. Now, hold onto that football. More on that later.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 8 att – 10 yards / 4 rec – 27 yards. Barkley left the game in the 2nd quarter with an ankle injury. That kind of high ankle sprain usually sidelines backs for a minimum of 3 weeks and it could be 2 months before we see him out there. It was a really quiet start to the game for him regardless with absolutely no running room. TB Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles jammed the box pretty tight with an extra defender and got them blitzing multiple gaps often. Barkley did drop a touchdown pass on a ball that caught him off guard a bit but the damage was nullified by a Jones touchdown run soon after.

-Wayne Gallman: 5 att – 13 yards. NYG didn’t spend a lot of time trying to run the ball after Barkley went down. The TB defensive line was dominating the point-of-attack from start to finish. Gallman didn’t get the fairest of opportunities here but these next 2-4 games where Barkley is out, he will get a big shot to make a name for himself.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 7 rec – 100 yards – 1 TD / 2 att – 21 yards. It was Shepard’s first game back after missing a game with a concussion. Shepard is one of the guys who you realize his value after he isn’t out there. He never has been and never will be a star, but the ability to get open, make things happen after the catch, and block downfield are major game-winning traits. He had gains of 36 and 26 yards in the passing game and a 19-yard gain on a rushing attempt. He is going to be vital for Jones’ success.

-Darius Slayton: 3 rec – 82 yards. Like Jones, it was Slayton’s pro debut and he brought exactly what you were hoping for to the table. He looked rusty early on when it came to running routes and tracking the ball but as the game went on, he had what I would call a mini-breakout performance. His 3 catches went for 15-21-46 yards, two of which were in the second half. Slayton was paired up against former college teammate Carlton Davis on numerous occasions and it is worth noting how much of a cushion he gave Slayton in comparison to other NYG receivers. Davis knew Slayton better than anybody out there, and he knows what Slayton can do deep. This was an extremely encouraging sign to see him make an impact like this even though he played under half the offensive snaps.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 6 rec / 113 yards. We are getting to the point where Engram is receiving national spotlight. Only Travis Kelce has more receiving yards among tight ends (by 7). Engram was the favorite target of Jones early on, catching four balls in the first two drives. TB started to bracket-cover him from there on, but the first play of the second half resulted in a 75-yard play-action pass to Engram where his burst and long speed were on full display. Thanks to a key downfield block by Slayton, Engram outran the TB secondary by a pretty wide margin. That was something we have seen glimpses of in his first two years but I think we are at the beginning of a big-time breakout year for him. Watch out.

-Really poor blocking day for Rhett Ellison. He allowed a sack, a pressure, and a TFL.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-It was a horrid day for the tackles. Nate Solder, the second highest paid tackle in the NFL, allowed 1 TFL, 1 pressure, and 3 sacks. He was nothing short of miserable in the second half. Mike Remmers struggled in the run game from the start, allowing a TFL and made both Barkley and Gallman re-direct the instant they approached the line. He allowed 1 TFL and 1 pressure in addition to being flagged for a false start. An offense can usually hide one poor blocking OT, but if both of these guys continue to struggle, it will come back to bite hard against a real defense.

-Guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler both graded out very high in the passing game. Hernandez was swift with his lateral footwork and overall recognition. Zeitler is still nursing the shoulder it seems, as his push wasn’t there but he stayed off the radar, which is exactly what you want from a lineman.

-Center Jon Halapio went backwards in this one, both literally and figuratively. He was matched up against arguable the most under-talked about defensive tackle in the game right now, Vita Vea, most of the game. He gets somewhat of a pass but it has to be mentioned he allowed a TFL and a pressure. His lack of push was right there with Remmers in relation to why this running game just couldn’t get going.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-As we saw last week, Dexter Lawrence is getting more and more comfortable. It seems they are getting him over the center more often and it is changing how the entire defense plays. That is something to keep an eye on in coming weeks. He had 2 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 pressure and was found 15-20 yards away from the point-of-attack getting in on the action a couple times. His biggest play was the blocked extra point after the second TB touchdown. You really have to watch him to fully appreciate what he is doing out there.

-Dalvin Tomlinson is a major unknown to me right now. He was a major weakness against the inside running game several times in this one. He was getting pushed back multiple yards, multiple times. Ronald Jones averaged nearly 6 yards per carry and if there was one guy to point the finger at, it was him. He did make a couple of noteworthy plays based on range to the outside and ability to maneuver in space.

-B.J. Hill had a quietly effective game. He re-directed the TB rushing attack a few times but perhaps his biggest play has yet to be mentioned anywhere. On the blocked extra point, it was Hill that jumped the snap and got the push that created the space for Lawrence to drive through and get his hand up.

-Backups Olsen Pierre and R.J. McIntosh got roughed up. They played a combined third of the snaps and the TB offense visibly went right at them. It was a poor day for both.

EDGE

-The Giants edge presence improved for the second straight week after a tough start in DAL. Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter, and Oshane Ximines combined for 14 tackles / 3 sacks / 4 pressures. Golden was credited with 2 sacks, although I had one of them shared with Ogletree. These three aren’t a what I would call a scary force, but they were consistently getting involved. They have Winston to thank because of how long he holds on to the ball, but it is amazing what changes within a defense when the pass rush starts leaking through.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree strained his hamstring while running back a fumble return that ended up not being a fumble, and missed over half the game. Ryan Connelly, who was already in the starting lineup, stepped up his game thereafter. He had 7 tackles, a pass break up, and a key interception in the second half. He got the green dot put on his helmet and this could be the changing of the guard at inside linebacker for NYG. Ogletree, who has been a bit of an underwhelming presence since NYG traded for him, has 2 more years on his contract at $22+ million. With NYG entering the prime years of building a roster around a rookie-contract-QB, this could be the beginning of the end for Ogletree.

-Tae Davis had a quiet game and was replaced by David Mayo after what appeared to be a head injury. I don’t expect him to miss any time.

CORNERBACKS

-Karma. Janoris Jenkins called out the lack of pass rush to the media after last week’s home loss to BUF. He wasn’t wrong, but he handled it wrong. He responded with his worst game as a Giant and likely the worst game of his career. He allowed 3 touchdowns to Mike Evans and was burned deep on the final TB drive that put them in to easy-field goal range. Had Matt Gay not missed the easy chip shot. Jenkins would be been THE culprit of this loss. He simply did not compete in this one.

-Deandre Baker, other than a play where he allowed a first down to Breshard Perriman as a result of him giving way too much cushion in relation to the situation, improved his play after his tough first two weeks. Baker made a key tackle in this one and showed tight deep coverage on a couple of occasions.

-Grant Haley wasn’t tested much but when he was, he didn’t perform. He allowed a deep pass and was late to help in the middle of the field. The issues NYG has defending the middle of the passing tree are mostly attributed to the safeties, but Haley has to take some of the heat here. He hasn’t taken his game to the next level and his days could be numbered if it stays that way.

SAFETIES

-One thing I am noticing about Jabrill Peppers, a fine athlete who plays really hard, is the lack of instincts and “gamer” in him. He just doesn’t read-and-react efficiently and everything seems manufactured. He allowed a couple of downfield completions and was flagged for a pass interference when he was playing catch up against a tight end. Peppers did finish with 8 tackles and he made a nice play when he blew up a wide receiver screen, but I’m not sure he is going to help this team more than hurt them. He is often a notch or two late and a good QB can expose that all day.

-Antoine Bethea led the team with 9 tackles. I give him credit for being a reliable last line of defense when the action is in front of him. He is a good tackler but the lack of deep range limits this secondary as a whole, and it almost seems like it is impacting the cornerbacks and their overall approach.

-Have to give a shout out to Michael Thomas, who only played 17 defensive snaps, for the tackle he made in the 4th quarter on the Bucs 3rd-and-2 completion in to the flat. A half second later and it would have been first down TB and likely a NYG loss.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 36).

-P Riley Dixon: 5 Punts – 48.8 avg / 47.0 net. Dixon is tied for 4th in the NFL with a 45.5 yard net average.

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, TE Evan Engram, DT Dexter Lawrence

3 DUDS

-CB Janoris Jenkins, OT Nate Solder, DT Dalvin Tomlinson

3 THOUGHTS ON TB

  1. Jameis Winston is in a contract year. He’s been in the NFL for 4+ seasons now. He is 22-37. He has thrown 93 TDs / 62 INTs and has fumbled 40 times. He is currently working with his third head coach. Yesterday was a microcosm of his entire career. A short, nice run followed by mental mistakes and a horrid turnover. He has had a few issues off of the field. This is what Winston was in college and this is what Winston has been, and will be, in the NFL. TB will be in the QB market when the 2020 NFL Draft arrives, no question.
  1. OLB Shaquil Barrett could have been signed by any team in the league this past offseason. Almost nobody wanted the 27-year old, 5th-year veteran who had 14 career sacks to his name as a part time player in DEN. He was paid $4 million on a 1-year deal, which is less money than Kareem Martin on a per-year basis and just slightly above what NYG signed Markus Golden for. Barrett leads the NFL with 8 sacks in just 3 games. This is not an indictment on anyone, but yet another sign that as far away as a team may seem at a position or multiple positions, they truly can be just one guy away at all times.
  1. Imagine this TB defensive front with their best player? Don’t forget they lost Jason Pierre-Paul to a neck injury and last I checked, he is expected back at some point. Barrett, Vea, and a potential JPP comeback combined with other solid role players, this front can make a major impact in a division race that is as up in the air as any.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. During the preseason, I noted that Daniel Jones had an issue with ball security. He fumbled it numerous times but it wasn’t just that that got me concerned. One of the basic principals of moving your way through the pocket in the NFL is keeping two hands on the ball until you are actually starting the throwing motion. It is a foreign concept to some young QBs because they didn’t have to do that in high school or college. The pass rushers weren’t as fast, weren’t as long, weren’t as strong, weren’t as savvy. However, in the NFL, almost every pass rusher is adept to going after the ball. The second one I give him a pass for, as he was in the throwing motion. But that first fumble, it can’t happen. He will walk away from every game with something to work on and I think this needs to be objective number one.
  1. In week 1, NYG allowed 21 points (3 touchdowns) in the first half. In week 2, NYG allowed 21 points (3 touchdowns) in the first half. In week 3, NYG allowed 28 points (3 touchdowns) in the first half. Sure, one could make the argument that in all three games the defense “stepped up” in the second half but I won’t even give them that much credit. Analytics show that most teams, with a lead, alter their offensive game plan in the second half even though the original game plan worked so well in the first half. At that point they are playing to bleed the clock, playing not to lose, rather than sticking with what worked. Very few teams stay aggressive with a double digit lead in the second half, but NO and NE are one of a few that do. That is not irony. Anyway, NYG’s defense is worse than we even think right now. Personnel wise, they have (literally) nobody that scares anybody.
  1. The Saquon Barkley news is a killer. For a team that just came off as emotional of a win as they have had in a long time, it was a rather quick buzz kill. But if I am going to be real here, this NYG team is not ready to compete. There is no sense is rushing him back on the field until he is 100%. Let Gallman get his time to shine and let’s see if another running back can emerge now that touches are up for grabs. It worked out well for SF, no reason it can’t work here.
Sep 202019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 8, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, September 22, 2019

THE STORYLINE:
In 25-year history of BBI game previews, there has never been a more obvious storyline. Barring a disaster, the 16-year Eli Manning era is over. The Daniel Jones era has begun. For some, the move away from Manning was long overdue. For others, it is too soon. Most Giants fans probably have mixed emotions. They are excited about the change, but feel terribly for Eli. Yes, transition and change are the nature of the sports world. But many young Giants fans have known no other quarterback. Think about where you were in your personal and professional lives in 2004. That’s how long it has been.

As an organization, the New York Giants never fully embraced the necessary rebuilding of this franchise by clinging to the aging Manning. Hell, they have refused to even use “rebuild” in their lexicon. But here we are, in year two of a new regime, with a gutted roster and brand new starting quarterback. The defense appears to be one of the very worst in the NFL and two of the rising teams in league reside in the NFC East. This is going to take a while. What fans are looking for now is hope. Hope that things will eventually get better. That starts with Daniel Jones.

What fans need to understand is this: the 2019 season is already over for the New York Giants. Everything that happens between now and December 2019 is now about 2020 and beyond. The up-and-down growing pains and growth of the new quarterback is the storyline for the remainder of the year. Pat Shurmur is probably safe for one more year, although his defensive coordinator remains on the hot seat.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Sterling Shepard (concussion – probable)
  • WR Cody Latimer (concussion – out)
  • WR Bennie Fowler (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring – probable)
  • TE Garrett Dickerson (quad – probable)
  • RG Kevin Zeitler (shoulder – probable)
  • CB Grant Haley (illness – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
If you are impatient or looking for miracles, you are going to be disappointed. Daniel Jones is a rookie quarterback who is going to struggle. The preseason means virtually nothing. Teams were not game-planning for him or disguising coverages. And he was not playing against front-line players. There is also a chance that Jones looks very good early on until defenses catch up with him. That has happened with many other quarterbacks. Look at how RGIII was anointed the savior in Washington after his first season. I’m not trying to be a wet blanket here, but expectations need to be reasonable.

The perception is that Pat Shurmur has not been able to run his full offense with the immobile Eli Manning. We’re about to find out if that is true or not. Shurmur will undoubtedly scale some things back to not overburden the rookie more than necessary. But will we see things like run-pass options? That would be quite a change for Giants fans.

The Tampa Bay game plan is obvious: stop Saquon Barkley and force Daniel Jones to beat them. Smart coaches usually want to build up the confidence of a young quarterback by giving him easy completions early. I suspect we’ll see some short throws to Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, or Saquon Barkley to start the first quarter. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers will crowd the line of scrimmage, blitz, and mix up their coverages to confuse Jones. They want him to make mental mistakes and throw the ball to places where he should not. They want to rattle him. Bruce Arians was pretty frank when discussing Jones. “He’s a more mobile guy so you have to be a little more cautious of rush lanes and things like that. Expect a little bit more movement passes, but he’s still a rookie… It’s a very hard position to play.”

As an offense, the Giants have looked awesome on both of their initial drives of the season and then faltered for the rest of those contests. There has been no consistency. To make things easier on Jones, Barkley needs to get the ball and gain yardage on a consistent basis. That said, I would not run Barkley into 8- and 9-man fronts. If the Bucs want to crowd the line, let the rookie play. He throws a beautiful deep ball.

On last thing to note with Jones. Keep in mind that he has not had many reps with the starters. In other words, he has much more experience throwing to guys like T.J. Jones and Garrett Dickerson than Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. Don’t be surprised at missed connections with the starters while there appears to be better chemistry with second-tier players.

Meanwhile, another week, another tough defense for the Giants. Tampa is currently 8th in defense in terms of yardage allowed (6th in rushing defense). And the defense has only given up one touchdown in two games.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
While the Giants continue to face quality defenses on a weekly basis, the are encumbered (once again) with one of the very worst defenses in the league. It doesn’t matter how many coaches they change or how many players they get rid of or newly acquire, the Giants remain near the bottom of league standings. The Giants are 28th in yardage allowed and 31st in scoring defense. And they simply cannot stop the pass. The quarterback rating for opposing quarterbacks playing the Giants is an embarrassing 132.3. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 71 percent of their passes against the Giants. On a yards-per-carry basis, the defense has allowed a respectable 3.8 yards per carry. It’s the pass defense that is killing New York.

Against a lesser offensive line than they faced in week one, the pass rush picked up a bit last week. But both Antonio Hamilton (week one) and Deandre Baker (week one and two) have struggled terribly at corner opposite of Janoris Jenkins. Opposing quarterbacks and coordinators are simply playing pitch-and-catch against these two guys. Worse, the middle of the field has been left exposed by the safeties for yet another year. So far, Jabrill Peppers has not lived up to the expectations set by Dave Gettleman and James Bettcher. He’s been invisible, and not in a good way. Antoine Bethea has been just as poor in 2019 as Curtis Riley was at free safety in 2018. Grant Haley is also not making plays on the football. If the Giants are going full rebuild, it may be time to simply live and die with Deandre Baker, Julian Love, Corey Ballentine, and Sean Chandler. That said, if Baker continues to struggle as poorly as he did last week, the Giants may want to allow him to clear his head on the bench while playing one of the other younger guys outside for a game or two (for example, move Haley outside to stop the worst bleeding and move Love to nickel corner).

Lost in the issues in the secondary and with the edge rushers is that the Giants have a nice trio of defensive linemen developing up front. They are the strength of the defense. What we need to see is the edge guys Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter, and Oshane Ximines build upon last week. I’d like to see Tuzar Skipper get some snaps soon too. Inside, Ryan Connelly has taken over at one spot. Is Alec Ogletree really the “leader” you want moving forward next to him? I’d have him on a short leash.

The Buccaneers have some talented players at the skill positions but their offense is not good because they don’t have a quarterback. But that doesn’t seem to matter against the Giants, who made Jameis Winston look like Dan Marino last year when he came off of the bench. I can talk about Xs and Os and match-ups, but it comes down to this: can the Giants rush the passer and cover the receivers? Tampa has good tight ends. Expect them to feast on the middle of the field. Until the Giants prove they can even function in these areas, opposing offenses will continue to embarrass the team, regardless of the down and distance.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Aldrick Rosas missed his second kick in two years last week. Let’s see how he rebounds. T.J. Jones had a 60-yard punt return. The coverage units have been strong. Special teams have not been an issue for the Giants yet.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula on Tampa Bay’s blitzing schemes: “They do such a good job, it poses a lot of problems for a lot of offenses. As we go into the game, you can imagine starting a rookie quarterback is probably going to increase it a little bit. They’re really good at what they do, and they’re really fast at doing it, and they give you a lot of disguises, so I think all of those things present problems. So, we’ve really got to be on point with our recognition and our communication.”

THE FINAL WORD:
There is an understandable sense of excitement and nervousness about the beginning of a new era. Again, I want to caution fans who have grown far-too-accustomed to disappointment that this is a process for Jones. This is just the beginning. The last 14 games of this year is the growing experience he needs to go through in order to become the player the Giants hope he will become. There will be both good and bad plays, good and bad games. To expect otherwise is foolish.

On the other side of the ball, the Giants will never become a good team again unless they get their defense sorted out. This has become an annual embarrassment for the Giants. They are not even functioning at a somewhat professional level.

Sep 162019
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (September 15, 2019)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills 28 – New York Giants 14

QUICK RECAP

It was a warm, sunny, end-of-summer type day at MetLife Stadium as the 0-1 Giants took on the 1-0 Buffalo Bills. The Bills were playing their second straight game at MetLife, as they defeated the New York Jets there in week 1. The Giants were without Sterling Shepard because of a concussion suffered last week, while the Bills nickel cornerback situation entered the game with their third stringer in the starting lineup.

Much like week 1 in Dallas, NYG came firing out of the gate. Starting at their own 25, they seamlessly marched down the field. Chunk gains of 6, 20, 14, and 8 led to a 27-yard touchdown run by Saquon Barkley. A week after we discussed that #26 wasn’t getting enough action in key moments, the team gave him the ball 4 times on this opening drive. The quick 7-0 lead confirmed that approach was the only way this team was going to consistently be a threat.

NYG forced a three-and-out highlighted by a Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter combined sack, the first sack of the 2019 season for NYG. With the lead at 7-0 and Barkley having just owned the BUF defense on all levels, they gave him the ball right away on the second drive he gained 5 yards. They then proceeded to take him off the field for Wayne Gallman. Three plays later, NYG was punting the ball back to BUF.

BUF then went on to score touchdowns on three straight drives. Quarterback Josh Allen and rookie running back Devin Singletary rushed for scores respectively and Allen hit receiver Isaiah McKenzie on a shovel pass for a 14-yard score to put the visitors up by 14. Two things about this run that really set the tone for the rest of the contest: (1) BUF obviously came into this game wanting to challenge rookie cornerback Deandre Baker. They torched him on all three levels of the route tree and the 1st-round pick who was traded up for in last April’s draft looked absolutely lost. (2) The third scoring drive deflated the stadium to a point where it just never quite fully came back from. The drive began on the BUF 2-yard line after an amazing special teams coverage play by Antonio Hamilton. The stadium was very loud and the fans got behind the Giants. How did the defense respond? A 7-play drive that took just 4:26 to reach the end zone. The NYG defense didn’t even look competitive. “Here we go again” was the only thought one could muster at this point.

NYG actually put together a solid drive as the end of the half was approaching. Manning spread the ball out in the passing game and Barkley picked up a couple more chunk gains. Aldrick Rosas, the 2018 second-team All Pro, came out for a 48-yard field goal attempt but it sailed wide left. Again, the fans got their hopes up but Big Blue just couldn’t seal the deal. The defense forced a quick stop and the newly-signed, preseason-star T.J. Jones returned the punt 60 yards all the way to the BUF 33-yard line. NYG was going to get another crack at a score with just over a minute left.

Manning hit Bennie Fowler for a 12-yard gain but had his next pass tipped at the line by rookie Ed Oliver that luckily fell into the arm of BUF defensive end Trent Murphy. BUF took a knee and their 14-point lead into the half.

In this week’s version of “Hey at least….” in the world of moral victories (the majority of any positive thought NYG has had in recent years), the NYG defense stepped up in the second half. Three consecutive scoreless drives for the defense didn’t seem as impressive as it could have been because the Giants offense continued to sputter. They showed some hope with their opening drive of the second half, reaching the BUF 41, but a holding penalty by Nate Solder and a sack allowed by Kevin Zeitler and Jon Halapio reminded us all that these are still the New York Giants, one of the most-oft losing teams in the NFL over the past 6 years.

NYG did not give up or mail it in. With Cody Latimer out after a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit (that wasn’t called a penalty), Manning was back in the all-too-familiar position of dealing with street free agent-caliber receivers running routes. He found Jones in the back of the end zone, who made an impressive play on the ball considering he was mere inches away from being out of bounds as he double toe-tapped the blue paint. NYG was all of the sudden down 21-14 with momentum on their side for the first time since the opening drive of the game.

BUF responded with chunk gains to receiver John Brown and the rookie Singletary, who averaged 9.5 yards per carry by the way. NYG came up with a stop to force a BUF field goal attempt from the 3-yard line. The ball went through the uprights but a (very) questionable personal foul call on rookie Dexter Lawrence for grazing the snapper’s helmet gave BUF a fresh slate of downs from the NYG 2-yard line. Two plays later, Frank Gore, the 4th all time rushing leader, crossed the goal line for his first touchdown since 2017.

It was 28-14 with just under 6 minutes left and NYG was without their top 3 wide receivers. Manning threw a couple of desperate deep balls over the course of the next two drives, one of which landed in the hands of BUF safety Jordan Poyer.

Giants lose, 28-14.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 26/45 – 250 yards – 1 TD/2 INT – 62.3 QBR. Manning didn’t leave as much out there as he did in Dallas in relation to missed opportunities. Those opportunities were few and far between as he entered the game without his two top receivers and then lost his number three late in game with an injury. Excuses can be made, but at the end of the day, to make this as simple as possible, he didn’t make plays. He had multiple balls batted at the line that stemmed from him staring down his targets, having a slow release beginning with his footwork all the way up to his arm-action, and playing a predictable game altogether. Manning didn’t do enough to make things happen when the Bills started to slow down the NYG running game.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 18 att / 107 yards / 1 TD – 3 rec / 28 yards. The game could not have started better for the second-year back out of Penn State. Barkley touched the ball on 4 out of 5 plays, gaining 55 yards via the ground, and scored a touchdown on a 27-yard run. That was the peak of his game, however. Barkley struggled to find a consistent flow because of poor inside blocking, poor tight end blocking, and an overly stacked box. Taking him off the field during their second series of the game didn’t make sense to me at all. He is the kind of player who changes the entire approach to the game on both sidelines when he is on the field and nobody can convince me he needed a break that early, scheduled or not.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Bennie Fowler: 5 rec / 51 yards. Fowler led the team with 10 targets. He appeared to be the guy Manning was most often looking toward in important situations. As expected, he was underwhelming in this one. As he struggled to get any separation on any level of the route tree, but especially on deep passes. His biggest miss was a ball that he dropped after contact that would have been a first down inside the BUF 15-yard line. The next play, Rosas missed the field goal. It was an enormous play.

-T.J. Jones: 3 rec / 38 yards / 1 TD. Jones also handled the punts and returned one for 60 yards, but it didn’t end up in points because of a Manning interception. Jones was the surprise of camp and the team still opted to cut him. Because of the injuries to the position, Jones was brought back and he made things happen in his regular season debut with Big Blue. He caught a 4th-quarter touchdown to get the team within 7, and it was a high-skill play as he leapt, got the ball at its apex, and tip-toed his feet in the blue paint with a defensive back right there. He earned another week here, especially if Latimer is going to miss time.

-Cody Latimer caught 3 passes for 30 yards, and Cody Core, most known for his ability as a special teams gunner, also added 3 catches for 28 yards. Russell Shepard rounded out the group with 2 catches for 19 yards.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram: 6 rec / 48 yards. The Bills were the best defense in the NFL last year when it came to limiting tight end production. They are carrying that over in 2019 it seems, as Engram was contained. Engram’s biggest gain of the day – 33 yards – came in garbage time when the BUF defense was in prevent. Besides that, Engram was held to 5 rec / 15 yards.

-Both Engram and Ellison struggled on the edge blocking in this one. The BUF defense was collapsing the edge against the run over and over, making it near-impossible for Barkley to improvise when things weren’t there inside. Those two aren’t expected to get a ton of pus against defensive ends, but they were just getting walked into the inside gaps too often.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Tackles Nate Solder and Mike Remmers were inconsistent. Solder had a key holding penalty on a 17-yard gain that got NYG to the BUF 24-yard line. It was the opening drive of the third quarter, often a major tone setter for the rest of the game, and three plays later the NYG drive was over at midfield. Remmers allowed 2 pressures, with Solder allowing one.

-Inside, it was a rough day for center Jon Halapio after he played arguably his best game of his career at DAL. The BUF defensive line is one of the most underrated in the league, and they performed well in this one. Halapio allowed a sack, a TFL, and rolled a snap back to Manning. He also was losing out on the ground battle on inside runs, getting pushed around and not creating the running lanes we saw in DAL.

-Kevin Zeitler is fighting a shoulder injury. I’m not sure how public it will become but upon re-watching the group, it was obvious he is favoring it. Zeitler is usually heavy-handed and very controlling with his upper body, but he just didn’t have it in this one. He allowed sack with Halapio. Will Hernandez got off to a rough start, allowing 2 pressures but his play leveled off from there on out.

EDGE

-Markus Golden had an active game after a dismal performance week 1 in DAL. He had 6 tackles, 1 sack (on two separate half-sack plays), and a pressure. It was an encouraging sign for one of the worst pass rushes in football to see Golden disrupt the BUF passing game. The pessimistic would say he was up against a struggling rookie in Cody Ford and Allen is a QB that holds onto the ball way too long at times.

-Lorenzo Carter saw an increase in snaps with the injury to Kareem Martin. I stated he would be one of the most important players on the entire team back during my Training Camp reports, and now he has the real full-time opportunity for the first time. He had 4 tackles, a half-sack, and a pressure. Not a bad game, but too often he disappears for stretches. He needs to get more effective in traffic and not be overly reliant on space-pursuits. This will come down to power development and technique refinement, most notably from his hands.

-Oshane Ximines has 2 tackles and a shared sack with Golden. He is now the third pass rusher who will see more and more snaps as the season progresses. What he does with his hands, already in his young career, is exactly what I want to see out of Carter. The issue I see is the lack of athletic ability to beat guys off the snap or at least pose as a speed-rush threat.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Rookie Dexter Lawrence and B.J. Hill were active in this one. Lawrence seemed to be more aggressive than we saw in week 1, an encouraging sign as these kids have to process so much information pre-snap and post-snap compared to what they did in college. Lawrence finished with 4 tackles and 2 pressures, showing the ability we know he has to push the pocket. Hill had 3 tackles and pressure but what impressed me the most with him was how often he was around the action away from the ball. He is a keeper.

-Olsen Pierre had a sack and it could have been a major impact play had the refs not blown it dead too quickly. Because Josh Allen is so big and strong, it is tough for defenders to get him down quickly. Pierre got a hold of Allen and just before the play was whistled dead, his foot jarred the ball loose. This could have, maybe even should have, resulted in a defensive touchdown for NYG, but it was not reviewable. Even though BUF ended up punting soon after, that could have been a game-altering play.

LINEBACKERS

-Rookie Ryan Connelly got the start next to Alex Ogletree. He finished with 6 tackles, while Ogletree finished with 5 of his own, a pressure, and a pass break up. These two are the ones I expect to see in the middle for the rest of the season. The one issue that both seem to have right now is a lack of range and instincts in coverage. The middle of the field was still a weak point and while more can be attributed to the safeties than linebackers there, it is going to get exposed all year if these two don’t improve.

CORNERBACKS

-I watch a lot of pro football, especially over the last 6 years. This is not a pat on the back or a search for credibility. I state that because I am not exaggerating nor am I blindly saying that the performance we saw out of rookie Deandre Baker in the first half may have very well been the worst I have ever seen from the position. He was picked on over and over again with a variety of receivers and routes. He was lost out there. Baker is afraid of getting beat deep after what happened to him in week 1. There is so much hesitation in his game right now and it is allowing for too much space, a receiver’s best friend. The “bust” label isn’t even a thought of right now, as rookie CBs have it as tough as any position in football other than QB. He can take his lumps and NYG fans will have to accept that. But when simply analyzing the game, Baker just didn’t know what to do out there and it showed. Now he has something to work off of and we will see how he responds.

-Janoris Jenkins, as volatile as the position is around the league, played a solid game. He did get called for a hold at an important moment, though. With NYG just having gotten within 7 in the fourth quarter, Allen threw an incomplete pass to make it 3rd-and-9. Jenkins was called for the penalty, however, giving BUF a first down. They proceeded to march down the field and score a touchdown.

-Grant Haley was on the field for 47 plays. He made 1 tackle, didn’t break up any passes, and missed 2 tackles in space. The nickel corner is a legitimate starting position these days and the best defenses have a guy there who makes plays. Haley is a good story, he tries hard, he cares, but he isn’t making an impact.

SAFETIES

-Antoine Bethea, whom has a starting job by default, played better than what we saw in week 1 but he wasn’t tested nearly as much. He is still getting baited by play-action more than a veteran should and the athleticism isn’t there to make up for it. He did lead the team with 10 tackles.

-Jabrill Peppers, albeit just two games into the season and in a new scheme, hasn’t yet to prove he is capable of making plays. We can talk about the physical package all we want when it comes to the impressive strength and speed, but the football player in him hasn’t shown up yet. He was simply ineffective against the outside run, stemming from the inability to get off blocks. Too much fluff with him so far, not enough play-making.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 0/1 (missed 48). It was a big missed attempt for Rosas, as BUF had just scored three straight touchdowns to make the score 21-7 and NYG put together a solid drive.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 48.4 avg / 47.2 net.

-As previously stated, T.J. Jones returned one of his 3 attempts for 60 yards. NYG didn’t capitalize on it. Corey Ballentine handled kick returns, one for 23 yards and one for 17.

3 STUDS

-RB Saquon Barkley, WR T.J. Jones, EDGE Markus Golden

3 DUDS

-CB Deandre Baker, S Jabrill Peppers, OT Nate Solder

3 THOUGHTS ON BUF

  1. I have a strong appreciation for BUF, and not just because they are off to a 2-0 start. I was asked a few times during the week what I thought about the NYG vs BUF matchup and I said I wasn’t optimistic because of how well BUF is coached. The jury is still out on how well NYG is coached but things aren’t looking positive at the moment. BUF doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, especially on defense. Almost 10 years ago, I was told Sean McDermott was going to be a big time head coach someday. They have something here, just wait and watch.
  1. We don’t know what Josh Allen is yet. Personally, I had him graded out as a day 2 pick and I wasn’t impressed by his rookie season. With that said, I think Allen has some swagger and more than enough talent to be a dangerous player. I think he will be a guy who will go on stretches that make him look like a top 10 QB in the league, just to be followed by stretches where he looks like a questionable starter.
  1. How come BUF went from perennial loser (11 losing seasons since 2005) to a 2-0 team that is knocking on the door of being a legit contender? They have drafted exceptionally well. They have 4 solid starters from the 2017 and 2018 classes respectively, and 6 picks from the 2019 class who are already making positive impacts. Also to prove their strong drafting beyond their own roster, the following players were drafted by BUF since 2012: CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Ronald Darby, OT Cordy Glenn, LB Kiko Alonso, WR Marquise Goodwin, LB Nigel Bradham, WR Robert Woods, OT Seantrel Henderson, LB Preston Brown, WR Sammy Watkins, TE Nick O’Leary, and LB Reggie Ragland. That is some good stuff and if you want to go and count how many players NYG has drafted who became solid starters since 2012, don’t let it ruin your Monday.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. On purpose, I didn’t make the Eli Manning vs. Daniel Jones debate a thing last week. I don’t think it needs to be beat to death week in, week out. However here we are, 0-2 for the fifth time in six years, with a 1st-round rookie on the bench who looked fantastic in preseason. Once you take Manning out, you aren’t putting him back in. My plan would be to let Manning play the next 2 weeks (@ TB, vs. WAS), and if NYG still looks like they are stuck in the mud, turn it over to Jones and let him start 12 games.
  1. The NFC East has 2-0 DAL, 1-1 PHI, and 0-2 WAS. Because I have been around for long enough, I know it is foolish to give up this early in the season for any team. The positive remains this: the NYG schedule has very winnable games coming up. TB and WAS are the next 2 with ARI and DET on the horizon (after MIN and NE). NYG isn’t done yet, guys.
  1. My biggest coaching complaint in week 1 was the lack of devotion to Barkley in 3rd-and-short/4th-and-short situations in key moments of the game. NYG had just one 3rd-and-1, and then a 3rd-and-2, and a 4th-and-2. Barkley didn’t get a touch in any of those situations, although they did convert two of those for a first down. I won’t criticize that because of the results, but I still scratch my head here. I also think this team needs to get him split out more often, as this WR group is depleted. 13 running backs have more carries than Barkley. 10 running backs have more catches than Barkley. 8 running backs have more touches than Barkley. Food for thought.
Sep 132019
 
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Evan Engram, New York Giants (September 8, 2019)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Buffalo Bills at New York Giants, September 15, 2019

THE STORYLINE:
It’s usually unwise to make dramatic pronouncements after one game, especially the season opener. There are too many variables. Look no further than the 2007 and 2011 New York Giants – eventual NFL Champions despite being embarrassed in their respective season openers by division rivals.

That all said, there are some serious warnings signs coming out of the ass-whipping the Giants experience last Sunday. Once again, Pat Shurmur’s offensive play-calling came into question. But more importantly, the defense played at a level far worse than expected by many. The pass rush was virtually non-existent and the back seven looked completely lost in coverage. When you can’t rush the passer or cover, your team is going to be in deep, deep trouble.

In terms of the big picture, the Giants’ overall, long-term situation doesn’t look good. For much of the past decade, very ordinary teams in Dallas and Philadelphia have owned the Giants. But now the Cowboys and Eagles have actually morphed into two of the better teams in the conference. The Cowboys and Eagles have good, young quarterbacks; good offensive lines and running games; strong defenses; and solid coaching staffs. Unless the Giants dramatically start closing the talent (and coaching?) gap between themselves and these two division rivals, the Giants won’t have a chance at making a serious playoff run in the foreseeable future. The Giants had better pray Daniel Jones is the real deal. And they’ve got to fix this defense.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Sterling Shepard (concussion – out)
  • WR Cody Latimer (calf – questionable)
  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring – out)
  • TE Garrett Dickerson (quad – out)
  • RG Kevin Zeitler (shoulder – probable)
  • DE Dexter Lawrence (shoulder – probable)
  • LB Markus Golden (hip – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Last week’s opening drive was beautiful. But the team didn’t score another touchdown until garbage time in the 4th quarter. That’s not good enough. The Giants did move the football, accruing 470 yards and 25 first downs. Almost unbelievably, the Giants actually ran more offensive plays (66) than the Cowboys (62). But the Giants were 2-of-11 on 3rd down (18 percent) and 1-of-3 (33 percent) on 4th down. The bottom line is 17 points isn’t going to get it done. Not with current state of the Giants’ defense. Pat Shurmur knows it. “Yardage is one thing,” said Shurmur this week. “Scoring is another. It’s important that when we get our opportunities to score, we score.”

Eli Manning threw for over 300 yards, completed 68 percent of his passes, didn’t throw an interception, and was sacked only once against the Cowboys. Saquon Barkley averaged almost 11 yards per carry and the Giants dramatically out-gained the Cowboys on the ground (151 to 89). Evan Engram caught 11 passes for 116 yards. Those are winning numbers. But you’ve got to get the ball into the end zone. Pat Shurmur continues to get a bit too cute. Run (or throw) to Saquon. He’s your money player – especially in the clutch on 3rd and 4th down. Eli’s strength is NOT having him move around too much… you’re going to have to wait until Daniel Jones is in the line-up for those plays.

The good news is against a VERY tough Dallas Cowboys defense, the Giants clearly demonstrated this can be a very effective offensive football team, even with the wide receiving corps as it is currently constituted. Nevertheless, the Giants are going to be very short-handed at wide receiver against the Bills with Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, and Darius Slayton ailing. The Giants were forced to re-sign T.J. Jones this week as insurance.

The Bills are a very good defensive football team. They are stingy and well-coached defensively. Head Coach Sean McDermott is a former Eagles and Panthers defensive coach. Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier is also highly respected. In 2018, the Bills had the NFL’s second-ranked defense, including #1 overall pass defense. They were also #9 in terms of yards-per-carry run defense. As expected with a #1 pass defense, the secondary is very strong at both corner and safety. And defensive end Jerry Hughes can get after the quarterback. Amazingly, Buffalo has held nine consecutive opponents to less than 210 passing yards.

Bottom line is this is going to be one of the toughest defenses the Giants will face in 2019. Protect the football, emphasize your money players in Barkley and Engram, and score touchdowns in the red zone.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
What the hell was that against the Cowboys? Yeah we knew there would be issues with the pass rush and growing pains with the secondary, but that was absurd. Despite their strengths, the Cowboys are not known for being a high-scoring offense, yet Dallas could have hung 50 on Giants had they not called off the dogs in the 4th quarter. The worst part was the supposedly “experienced and savvy” veterans such as Antoine Bethea and Alec Ogletree looked like chickens running around with their heads cut off.

The good news is the run defense was very good against one of the toughest running team’s in the NFL. But if the Giants can’t stop the pass, this season will be over again by October. Regardless of how you feel about second-year QB Josh Allen and the revamped Bills’ offensive football team, no Giants fan should feel comfortable that this defense can stop anyone until they prove it.

Allen completed only 53 percent of his passes as a rookie. He increased that to 65 percent against the Jets but his 24 completions only went for 254 yards. To date, his hasn’t thrown for a lot of yardage per game in his short career. However, he is very dangerous when running the football, rushing for 631 yards as a rookie and 38 yards last week. Of his targets, the guy who makes me the most nervous is former Cowboy and Giant-killer Cole Beasley. WR Josh Brown also caught seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown against the Jets in the opener. Running back Frank Gore is nearing the end, but rookie Devin Singletary impressed both as a runner and receiver.

We are going to get a much better read on the true state of the team’s defense this week. The Buffalo offensive line is far weaker than the Dallas line. If Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, et al. can’t get to Allen, be scared. But also be cognizant of the fact that the Giants must maintain disciplined pass rush lanes against Allen in order to prevent him from scrambling. That will constrain the pass rush somewhat. Antonio Hamilton should be benched. Deandre Baker is behind because of the two weeks he missed in the summer due to his knee injury, but he needs to play. It will be interesting to see if he rebounds this week. More is expected from Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea at safety. And if Alec Ogletree can’t get the job done at linebacker, the coaching staff should move onto Ryan Connelly sooner than later.

Aside from their performance against the run, the defense was abysmal last week. No sacks, no interceptions, no forced fumbles, and only a few tackles for losses and pass defenses. Dallas scored touchdowns on five straight drives. Make plays, force turnovers, get off of the damn field!

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Much depends on if Andre Roberts (quad) plays for the Bills this week. He is one of the most dangerous kick returners in football. Lost in last week’s disaster against Dallas is the fact that the Giants did not allow a single return yard. Interestingly, the coaching staff has entrusted rookie Corey Ballentine with the kickoff returns. If T.J. Jones is activated, does he replaced Jabrill Peppers as the punt returner?

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher on the anemic pass rush: “When it comes down to whether you pressure or you four-man rush, it comes down to winning one-on-ones. We have to do a better job of winning one-on-ones.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Given the state of the division and the New York Giants defense, it’s difficult to see this team being in the playoff hunt. But in the big picture, some important questions still need to be answered. Is this the right coaching staff to rebuild this team? If the Giants fall to 0-2, there is a serious risk of yet another Giants season being over by October with only meaningless football in front of half-empty home stadiums being played in the last two months of the season. As discussed in The Forum, the October 20th game against the Cardinals looks like the most obvious place to start Daniel Jones (this would be after a Thursday night game against the Patriots, giving Jones 10 days to prepare).

I actually think this offense is capable of being quite good, but the Bills are going to make it tough on the Giants this week. I can’t over-emphasize how well-coached they are on that side of the football. Buffalo just doesn’t give up a lot of yardage or points. Can the Giants’ defense hold the Bills to under 20 points?