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

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles 34 – New York Giants 13


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eagles win 34-13.


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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers 33 – New York Giants 31


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panthers win 33-31.


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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Pat Shurmur and Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints 33 – New York Giants 18


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saints win 33-16.


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Sep 282018
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (September 23, 2018)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, September 30, 2018

So the 2018 version of the New York Football Giants has a little fight in them after all. The short-term importance of last Sunday’s victory over a talented Houston Texans team cannot be understated. Had the Giants lost, their season would have all but officially been over on September 23. It was a gutty and unexpected performance.

But the team is not out of the woods just yet. As I mentioned last week, there is a huge difference between 0-3 and 1-2. Well, there is also a huge difference between 1-3 and 2-2. The Giants can build upon last week’s success or watch it largely flushed down the drain. It’s up to them.

The Giants have had a weird recent history with the Saints filled with some ugly blowouts. But this game is at MetLife. That will help.


  • RB Jonathan Stewart (foot – out)
  • WR Cody Latimer (knee – out)
  • WR Stacy Coley (hamstring – questionable)
  • TE Evan Engram (knee – out)
  • NT Damon Harrison (knee – probable)
  • LB Olivier Vernon (ankle – out)
  • LB Connor Barwin (knee – probable)
  • CB Eli Apple (groin – out)
  • CB Antonio Hamilton (groin – questionable)

Will this be the week where the Giants finally get the 30-point monkey off their back? It’s the right opponent. Defensively, the Saints are 30th in yards allowed (30th in pass defense, 6th in rush defense). The Saints are also dead last in scoring defense.

All Giants fans know what the game story was last weekend. The team’s offensive line went from “beyond abysmal” to “below average” status. But that somewhat sad improvement was all Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Saquon Barkley needed to do their thing. It was direct proof of where the issues lie. If this line can just be mediocre, this offense can be very dangerous and exciting to watch.

As Sy’56 correctly pointed out, Chad Wheeler is getting a bit too much of the credit. That was an Ereck Flowers-esque performance that fans were willing to ignore out of the satisfaction of seeing that sun flower eating machine standing on the sidelines. I felt the steadying force was the presence of veteran John Greco manning the middle and directing traffic. I mocked the Giants when they re-signed the aging veteran. I couldn’t have been more wrong on that one. Clearly what the team needs is for the offensive line to build upon and improve from last week’s performance, not regress. Give Eli some time. Let Beckham and Shepard do their thing. Give Saquon some room to make a man miss.

Unfortunately for the Giants, Wheeler will be matched up against the Saints’ best pass rusher, defensive end Cameron Jordan, who already has four sacks on the season. The Giants should consider giving Wheeler some help and not let Jordan ruin the game. With Evan Engram out, it would make sense for Scott Simonson or Rhett Ellison to at least chip on him.

With New Orleans’ pass defense being so bad in comparison with their more stingy run defense (allowing only 3 yards per carry), the temptation would be for New York to concentrate on throwing the ball more. I wouldn’t do that. The Saints haven’t seen a back like Saquon. Plus, you do not want the Saints teeing off on Manning. And you want to control the clock. You have to be a bit stubborn and patient when running the football. Give Saquon enough touches and he’s going to burn any defense.

That all said, the Saints’ secondary has not been good. And they lost their nickel corner Patrick Robinson with a broken ankle. The obvious counter-move for the Giants is to exploit the new nickel corner with both Beckham and Shepard. The Giants will miss Evan Engram and the vertical threat he poses, but Rhett Ellison is a reliable, sure-handed receiver who Eli trusts. In the short-term, the Giants may actually do a bit better moving the chains as Ellison is more dependable.

Stating the obvious, the Giants need to score more points than they usually do to win this game. 17, 20, and probably 24 points isn’t going to do it. But don’t look at the big picture and just focus on one play at a time. Run Barkley. Take your shots with Beckham and Shepard. The points will come.

For better or worse, this will be fascinating to watch. We’re about to get a more complete read on James Bettcher and his troops as the Saints’ offense is a much different animal than what the Giants have faced in the first three games of the season. The Jaguars, Cowboys, and Texans are run-oriented offenses with quarterbacks who could hurt you with their feet. That’s not to say the Saints’ offensive line isn’t physical or the Saints can’t hurt you running the football (19th in yards per rush), it’s just that their passing game is so dynamic. The Giants haven’t seen an offense like this. And it will be a real test for the secondary and linebackers in coverage. And to make matters worse, Eli Apple is out yet another week and Antonio Hamilton is questionable.

Enter Alvin Kamara, a running back who plays like a wide receiver. The good news for the Giants’ defense is they have practiced against this type of back since OTAs in Saquon Barkley. The bad news is the Giants may not have anyone who can match-up with him. Kamara has rushed for 141 yards in three games, but more alarming is he has caught 30 passes for 289 yards during that same time span, averaging almost 10 yards per catch. Brees is smart. When he needs to move the sticks, he checks down to Kamara on option routes. So the question for the Giants is do they put a linebacker like Ray-Ray Armstrong on him, safety Landon Collins, or a reserve corner? Obviously, things will switch up as the Giants move from man to zone coverage, and attempt to disguise their coverages. But it will be interesting to see who has Kamara on most plays. I would not play B.J. Goodson much in this game.

But the threats don’t end with Kamara. Wideout Michael Thomas has caught an unbelievable 38 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns in just three games. The Saints use Thomas like Beckham. They’ll move him around, including into the slot. Literally two-thirds of Brees’ passes go to Kamara and Thomas.

Giants fans are well aware what happens when the team loses track of the “lesser” players. Receivers like Ted Ginn, who only has 12 passes, have hurt the team before. Tight end Benjamin Watson can also be a thorn. So while the defensive focus must be on the two bigger threats, those covering Ginn and Watson must do their job.

Which brings us to Drew Brees. The guy is a machine. I never thought I’d see the day when a quarterback was completing over 80 percent of his passes. That’s almost unfair. In three games, Brees has thrown for over 1,000 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. His season QB rating is 122.2. He can only go down, right? Let’s hope so. There is no good answer to defend him. If you come after Brees, he’s smart and experienced enough to read it and burn your defense for a long touchdown. If you play back, he can dink and dunk you to death. Again, Bettcher will obviously switch things up. And it’s in Bettcher’s nature to attack. We’re about to find out just how gutsy and fearless Bettcher is. The smart play would probably be to play it safe, rush four, and play back. The good news for the Giants is that Brees is the most immobile QB they have faced. The Giants’ pass rush has actually been better than the stats show as mobile quarterbacks have gotten away from them in all three games. Brees shouldn’t be able to do that.

I’ll tell you who my wild card for this game is: Landon Collins. He hasn’t had a great start to the year. He’s due for a big game. And Landon is the kind of player who be a difference maker as a blitzer and creating turnovers. If Landon plays poorly, the Giants are probably in trouble; if he plays well, the Giants may be able to slow down this offense.

Knock on wood again. One of the biggest and flying under the radar surprises this year has been Aldrick Rosas. On the other hand, the Giants are still having ball security issues with their punt returners. They ditched Kaelin Clay, but Stacy Coley also muffed a punt last week. And Coley’s dealing with a hamstring now. We may see Odell returning a punt in the game out of necessity.

Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher on the Saints’ offense: “Before the snap some of the things Drew is able to get up and do and change protections, change routes, change formations at the line of scrimmage so it’s going to be a great challenge. The running back is a really special player. A guy that they use in the backfield to carry the ball, heavily in the screen game or they split him out and use him as a slot-type receiver. They’re going to find ways to target him and get him touches and Thomas is another really, really talented receiver on the perimeter. Has really strong hands at the point when balls are up and some of those 50/50 balls he’s a really good player in those scenarios.”

When I predict a win, they lose; when I predict loss, they win. Giants get crushed this weekend.

Sep 252018
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (September 23, 2018)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 27 – Houston Texans 22


On paper, this matchup looked as bad as it could get. On the road against a borderline desperate 0-2 team that had high expectations heading into the season. A pass rush that has shown the ability to wreck havoc on even the best of offensive lines. A young, athletic quarterback that has been lights-out in his short career at home against a defense without their top pass rusher and a starting cornerback. NYG has put out some ugly football over the past year-plus and the 0-2 start sucked out whatever confidence existed that this team would turn things around. Well sometimes when you’re pressed up against the wall, that is when the true colors come out.

Head Coach Pat Shurmur made his first big in-season move with the benching of Ereck Flowers for Chad Wheeler. While the talent and ability difference between the two may be non-existent, it was a sign to the team that everyone’s job will be on the line of the performance isn’t there.

The Giants dominated the first half. They controlled the point of attack on both sides of the ball. HOU couldn’t get a ground game going and shot themselves in the foot with 5 penalties. NYG on the other hand brought a balanced approach, scoring 2 touchdowns. The first being a 15 yard run by rookie Saquon Barkley and the second being a pass up the seam from Eli Manning to Rhett Ellison, who was in for the injured Evan Engram. NYG entered halftime with a commanding 20-6 lead.

HOU finally woke up in the second half, as they aggressively threw the ball downfield and applied more pressure to Manning in the pocket. NYG was simply trying to hold on until the clock read 0:00 at the end of the fourth quarter. HOU brought the score to 20-15 in the fourth quarter and at the time, NYG had earned just three second-half first downs. Momentum was being shifted into the home team’s hands but 2 costly turnovers and more HOU penalties helped the Giants.

Manning hit Sterling Shepard with the dagger that put this game out of reach with just over 2 minutes left. It was 27-15 at the time and even though HOU scored one more touchdown, the game was out of reach as there was just 1 second of game time where the score read 27-22.

NYG wins their first road game since October 15, 2017.


-Eli Manning: 25/29 – 297 yards – 2 TD / 0 INT. Manning finished with a 132.3 QB rating, the 9th best of his 15 year career. After 2 weeks of almost-no breathing room in the pocket, the offensive live elevated its play just enough for Manning to go through a read or two consistently. The results speak for themselves. Manning was quick to get the ball out, was on fire throughout every tier of the passing tree, and was as intense as we’ve seen him in a long time. As I’ve said since draft-time, Eli Manning is far from done and when the offensive line can play just OK, he can lead this team to wins. Plain and simple, really.


-Saquon Barkley: 17 att – 82 yards – 1 TD – 5 rec/35 yards. In addition to the offensive line upping their game, Barkley’s presence is slowly changing the opposition’s approach more and more. It was notable how the second and third level of the Texans defense were hesitant to drop into their coverage assignments when #26 was out there. Nobody wants to meet this kid in space, thus everyone has the mindset of keeping him squeezed in the tackle box. That alone has opened up more throwing lanes and gave Manning just 1-2 extra seconds in the pocket consistently. His touchdown run was another thing of beauty, as his contact balance, vision, and strength is a trio of traits that doesn’t exist elsewhere in the NFL. His biggest play of the day may have been in the 4th quarter where he lined up out wide. Manning threw him a 21 yard pass up the sideline on 3rd and 2. A few plays later, Manning hit Sterling Shepard for a touchdown that put the game out of reach. Think about everything Barkley does out of the backfield and in arguably the most crucial point of the second half with HOU momentum gaining steam, Barkley splits out wide and hauls in an athletic, wide receiver-caliber catch. He can do it all.

-Wayne Gallman and Jonathan Stewart combined for 8 carries / 33 yards. They were on the field for 18 plays and it’s smart to not overuse Barkley. This team needs him in the fold each and every week of 2018 with little-to-no drop off. Gallman can create on his own enough to warrant not overusing Barkley early on in the year.


-Odell Beckham: 9 rec – 109 yards. Beckham caught 9 of his 10 targets. They kept on peppering the defense with slants via Beckham, and I have to give him credit for the toughness he shows over the middle. That is a dangerous place for receivers and he really shows no hesitation pursuing the ball. HOU had a few moments where momentum was shifting towards their side, but plays by Beckham brought them right back down to earth. He had 3 plays where he beat one on one coverage deep, but Manning didn’t look is way. Nothing to be alarmed about and his time will come.

-Sterling Shepard: 6 rec – 80 yards – 1 TD. You won’t see an overly impressive stat line here, but Shepard played a huge part in the win. Let’s start with the obvious: his touchdown in the 4th quarter. Shepard is such a weapon from the slot when the defense is in zone coverage. He is too smart, too quick, too strong when attacking the ball. The defense stands almost no chance in that situation. He also had 2 key blocks on big gains. If this offense turns around on a consistent basis, Shepard will be a big reason why. That said, the dumb penalties need to stop. Emotion is great, but taunting penalties can really aid a loss.

-Cody Latimer finished with 1 catch for 15 yards. Manning looked his way a few times but Latimer just couldn’t get separation no matter what route it was.


-Evan Engram went down with a knee injury on a borderline dirty hit by knee-diver Kareem Jackson. On his lone catch of the day, he burst up the sideline showing that elite tight end speed but the hit he took will keep him out 4-6 weeks. Unfortunate blow for this offense.

-Rhett Ellison stepped into a more prominent role and had one of his better games as a Giant. Three catches for 39 yards and the second NYG touchdown of the day. I’ve always said this about Ellison, he is a crafty route runner and pass catcher. There is more to his game than meets the eye and while he doesn’t scare a defense half as much as Engram does, he will make things happen. For what its worth, his blocking grade was sub-par, with 2 pressures and 1 tackle for loss allowed.

-Scott Simonson played a career-high 16 snaps and threw a couple of impressive blocks. That will be his main role in the coming weeks and he has improved since early in the year.


-Nate Solder finally saw an uptick in his performance. The highest paid left tackle in the NFL controlled Jadaveon Clowney for most of the game, minus a few hiccups. He did have a holding penalty in addition to one pressure, but Solder threw a couple of key blocks on big gains to the left side. He and Will Hernandez still have some communication issues to fix, but this game was a vast improvement.

-The day finally came. Ereck Flowers was benched, as he stood on the sideline chewing on sunflower seeds for the entire game. Chad Wheeler stepped in for him. As nice as it may have been to see someone other than #74 out there, the result was the same. He allowed 3 sacks, 1 TFL, and 2 pressures. To be honest, if that were Flowers we would be ripping him again. So yes, I’ll say Wheeler was just as bad and that RT spot continues to be a glaring weakness of this offense. However one thing I liked out of him, he consistently hustles downfield to make the extra block. He plays hard, but he was simply outclassed by JJ Watt when left alone against him. And it’s not going to get much easier this week against the Saints’ Cameron Jordan. Curious to see how he, and the blocking game plan, responds.


-Best game of the young career for Will Hernandez. As we saw a glimpse of weeks 1 and 2, Hernandez excels when things are in front of him. I think this team is trying to simply get him on an island with a man as much as possible, and he can handle it power wise. There are still struggles with linebackers and stunts, but this was a step in the right direction for the 2nd rounder. Patrick Omameh also played much better than what we’ve seen early in the year. His run blocking was the best of the group and it’s game tapes like this that will get him a job over the next few years. He really was impressive against DL and LB. Another angle to the Flowers benching is that the communication appeared better with Wheeler in the few times HOU tried to stunt and/or delay their blitzes on the right side.

-John Greco, in his first start at OC, was solid. He wasn’t left alone often, but there was talk about how much of a handle he has on blocking schemes and roles with this group. Where this group was last week with communication and assignments compared to this game is night-and-day-different. Much of that could have come from Greco calling the shots.


-As much as I think Kareem Martin is still a replacement-level player, he made a few things happen against the struggling HOU offensive line. Only Alec Ogletree played more snaps than Martin among front seven defenders. He had 4 pressures which led the team. It didn’t result in any sacks but he forced Watson into quick decisions a few times. He also broke up a pass.

-Lorenzo Carter finished with 2 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 pressure. His role continues to increase as Olivier Vernon remains sidelined via injury. Carter won’t turn into a savvy or powerful pass rusher this year, but that speed, burst, and pursuit will make things happen throughout the year.

-Connor Barwin has been impressive, especially considering he was signed just a few weeks ago. He added 2 pressures. While he doesn’t make a lot happen for the amount of time he is on the field, I like having him on the team as a backup. The question will be whether or not he stays in front of Carter on the depth chart once Vernon is back.

-Kerry Wynn had, what may have been, his best regular season game as a pro. Last week I called him out, saying his preseason level of play at some point needed to show up in the regular season. He responds with 5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 pressure, a pass break up, and a forced fumble that was recovered by NYG in the 3rd quarter. He was all over the field and as I said in August, he may be the DL that benefits from this scheme the most. If this guy can play at that level all year, it can’t be said enough how important that can prove to be.


-Damon Harrison, a nose tackle, led this team with 7 tackles (2 TFL). Damon Harrison played half of the defensive snaps. The Houston Texans ran the ball (via running backs) just 14 times the entire game. Let those 3 facts sit for a minute. Harrison is such a game changer and there isn’t a nose tackle like him in the game. He isn’t a space eater. He gets off blocks and pursues down the line as fast as everyone in that front seven. Enjoy this NYG fans, it doesn’t get better than him.

-Dalvin Tomlinson’s level of play is starting to catch up. It isn’t fair to compare anyone to Harrison, but Tomlinson was just as disruptive in this one. He was in on 4 tackles (1 for loss) and made a huge stop on the HOU attempt for 2 points in the 4th quarter. His consistency still leaves a little to be desired, but no complaints about the second year pro.

-Rookie BJ Hill saw a dip in playing time thanks to the emergence of Kerry Wynn. However he recorded his first sack on a play where his bull rush put fellow rookie Martinas Rankin on his butt. Big time power and push. I wouldn’t be alarmed by a lack of playing time because remember depth is key in the defensive trenches because at some point, someone(s) will go down.

-Mario Edwards saw an uptick in playing time and also recorded his first sack with NYG. It’s too soon to tell how much of an impact he will make here, but you have to be happy with his disruptive he’s been in limited action. Again, another solid scheme fit for the multi-look front.


-Alec Ogletree turned in his best game of the young season as well. He had 5 tackles against an offense that didn’t run the ball much and when they did, they barely got by Harrison. He was stout and physical inside. He also came up with one of the biggest plays of the game, a 4th quarter interception in the end zone on an underthrown Watson pass to Lamar Miller. Much has been said about his struggles in coverage and he still had a couple of warts show up in this game, but that was a huge play from an inside linebacker that this team simply hasn’t gotten from that position in a long time.

-BJ Goodson and Ray-Ray Armstrong continued to split duties next to Ogletree. The combined for 4 tackles and a pass break up. Armstrong was flagged for a facemask penalty on a play where he sacked Watson, so that sack didn’t show up on the stat sheet. His speed to the edge is outstanding.


-Janoris Jenkins was matched up against DeAndre Hopkins for much of the game, and it didn’t go so well. I wouldn’t put a negative grade next to his name, but he got outclassed across the middle three times and was flagged for a hold on a play where Hopkins blew past him vertically. That said, Hopkins is arguably the top WR in the game.

-No Eli Apple meant a game full of snaps for BW Webb, a late-free agency pickup who has played well here. He finished with 3 tackles and a pass break up. He too struggled against some of the lateral routes HOU ran with their speedsters, but he held his own in the couple times he was matched up on an island against deep routes.

-Donte Deayon finished with 4 tackles and a huge fumble recovery. Call it good luck if you want, but this kid gets around the ball often. I wasn’t surprised to see him being the one to land on the loose ball in the 3rd quarter. The kid is a hustler and has a nose for the action.


-Landon Collins and Curtis Riley played every snap again. Collins had a solid game with 5 tackles, 1 TFL, and an impressive pass break up in the end zone where he showed outstanding awareness and ball skills. Riley, other than a bad missed tackle in the 3rd quarter, was solid in deep range coverage. He read Watson like a book on the few times he looked downfield.

-Michael Thomas saw extended playing time in passing situations. He is a solid presence to have out there because of how physical he can be against ball carriers on draw plays and/or screens.


-K Aldrick Rosas 2/2 (Made 44, 30). 3/3 XP. Rosas remains perfect on the young season and is putting them right down the middle.

-P Riley Dixon: 4 punts – 49.5 avg / 38.3 net. Not a great net average there, as he may have not been putting enough under the ball. HOU PR Tyler Ervin had too much space between him and the first defender a few times.

-KR/PR Stacy Coley, newly signed, bobbled but recovered his first punt. Quiet game besides that.


-QB Eli Manning, DL Kerry Wynn, OG Patrick Omameh


-WR Cody Latimer, OT Chad Wheeler, P Riley Dixon


-Talk about a team that shoots itself in the foot. That has been the theme for HOU for a couple years now, none more so than what we have seen the past 2 weeks. Left tackle Julie’n Davenport and his THREE false starts + 1 holding penalty. Two bad turnovers in the second half when HOU was moving the ball and gaining momentum. The 0-3 Texans are going to be looking for a new head coach this upcoming offseason if this stuff doesn’t change.

-Calais Campbell in week 1. JJ Watt in week 3. These are two defensive linemen who came out of college who many did not know where to peg position-wise. Tall, long, and near-300 pounds with excellent power, bendability, and foot-quickness. They are now both in hybrid-front schemes where they are moved around and their impact is felt on almost every play. If this NYG scheme sticks around, there really is a lot of value on a defender like that. While the NYG defensive line looks promising for the next few years, this is the kind of player this scheme could use to maximum potential. And I already have a couple of prospects in mind for next spring’s draft.

-I am still holding out on calling Deshaun Watson one of the next big QBs in this league. So many were touting him as exactly that prior to this season based on a handful of solid performances in 2017, but I still see what I saw in college. Too many misfires on simple throws and a lack of awareness of what is going on around him in the pocket.


-As stated above, Chad Wheeler did not play well in this game. If it were Flowers, we would likely see fans outside of the Giants practice facility protesting his job. However the principle that Shurmur was finally the one to bench him is a welcome sign that this regime will quickly remove a player from the lineup who underperforms despite not having a lock to replace him. Now where do you go from here? Wheeler deserves to show if he can bring his play to another level like any young player, but if NYG continues to win and this spot continues to show weakness, it may be time to look into a trade for a veteran on a losing team. Joe Staley from SF is signed through 2019 and if the Niners season takes a nosedive without their starting QB, a phone call should be placed.

-The injury to Evan Engram is unfortunate. However with the way this team is put together, it may not have much of a negative impact. NYG will now have a true blocking TE in there at all times and as much as they are going to rely on the running game, it may actually be a better fit for the trenches. Considering the RT spot is going to need help, having Ellison or Simonson in there makes it easier to keep that extra blocker on that side. Where as when Engram is in there, the coaches have to feel like he needs to be running routes. My point is, his absence won’t be as negative overall as some are making out to be.

-This was one of the best versions of Eli Manning we have seen in a couple years. He played with some extra emotion, extra urgency, extra confidence. Offensive lines around the league rely on chemistry so much and the fact this group communicated much better in HOU was a very positive sign. If they can continue their upswing, this offense is incredibly dangerous.

Sep 212018
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Evan Engram, New York Giants (September 9, 2018)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Houston Texans, September 23, 2018

Dramatic mood swings by football pundits, media, and fans are as old as the game itself. One minute the sky is falling; the next “we’re going to the Super Bowl!” So I’m a little wary about making definitive judgments about an 0-2 team with a new general manager, new coaching staff, new offensive and defensive systems, and massive roster turnover. After all, this team was never going to seriously challenge for a title run in 2018. The best that could be expected of a what had been an atrocious 3-13 team is that it improved to the 9-7 range. Expecting more than that was simply unrealistic.

But I’m worried. The first game against the Jaguars was a “respectable loss,” but the second game was a huge red flag. The Cowboys are not a good team. And yet they dominated the Giants. Thus far, this team looks no different than the 3-13 mess from 2017. The Giants not only can’t score 30 points in a game, they can’t score a total of 30 points in two games. And this is on the team with the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history and the highest-paid rookie running back in NFL history? The Giants have the look of a car with a souped-up engine but rusted-out chassis.

It’s beginning to dawn on fans what some warned about in the offseason: that ownership made a massive strategic mistake in ONCE AGAIN believing this team only needing a bit of tweaking in order to contend. Firing Ben McAdoo, Jerry Reese, and Marc Ross were the right moves, but did the Giants hire the right replacements or simply “yes men” who would not rock the boat and re-evaluate EVERYTHING in how the team was being run? Did John Mara draw the wrong conclusions in not understanding that fans were upset HOW Eli Manning was benched rather than WHY? Did he foolishly bow to fan pressure and decide that Eli was untouchable moving forward?

Let’s take a step back here and look at the big picture. The Giants are not going to the playoffs in 2018. Eli Manning will be entering the last year of his current contract in 2019 at the age of 38. The guy Reese and McAdoo drafted to replace him in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft was cut this month. Unless you have a tremendous amount of confidence and faith in the future Alex Tanny or Kyle Lauletta, the Giants are in deep shit at the quarterback position. Will it surprise anyone if they draft a QB with a top-5 pick in April? I would argue now that it is to be expected. So is 2019 now also going to be a “wasted” season, Eli’s farewell tour, while his 1st-round replacement sits for a year? Shouldn’t that have been done this year?

What I’m trying to get at is that a franchise that “wasted” the last 7-8 years of Eli’s career in New York is now wasting Odell Beckham’s first 7-8 years. And will we be having the same conversation about Saquon Barkley in five years? Where is this franchise going? What’s the plan? I don’t see it.

I hate writing this shit. I hate being 0-2 again. I hate looking at the prospect of the season being over by October again. I’m tired of it. This isn’t fun. If the team were building towards something, it would be more tolerable. But as I posted on the site earlier this week, this has the feel of a movie we’ve seen before. If the team keeps losing, watch the injury list begin to grow.

The Giants desperately need a win. To stop the bleeding. To give the team and its fans some confidence. To inspire some hope and belief that there is some direction and this team can still make some noise in the current season. There is a world of difference between 1-2 and 0-3. The season is on the brink.


  • WR Kaelin Clay (ankle – probable)
  • TE Evan Engram (ankle – probable)
  • LB Olivier Vernon (ankle – out)
  • LB Connor Barwin (knee – probable)
  • CB Eli Apple (groin – out)

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team with so many credible weapons be so inept. The Giants are doing the impossible. A team with Odell Beckham, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard can only score one touchdown per game. (Even more startling when you consider that the first TD came off one play, and the second was a garbage-time affair). Most of us understood that the offensive line would be the Achilles’ heal of offense again, but not to this extent. These guys look worse than last year’s train wreck. Worse, there is absolutely NOTHING behind the five struggling starters. The cupboard is bare and there are no reinforcements walking around out there on the street. Enter J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus. Yikes.

As is ALWAYS the case when a team struggles, the quarterback has become the lightning rod. That will never change. And it comes with the job description so both the quarterback and his hyper-sensitive supporters need to get over it. I love Eli. He’s the best QB in franchise history. But he’s been a losing QB now for four of the last five years in a league filled with mediocre teams and quarterbacks. His defenders will charge that no quarterback could operate behind this line (and they could be 100 percent correct), while his critics will assert that the Giants have hooked their wagon to a QB who has to have everything perfect in order to succeed. The truth most likely lays somewhere in the middle. What we do know is that outcomes are not pretty and Eli’s career is ending in a very ugly fashion.

There are those who claim it can’t get worse. Imagine Eli being carted off of the field and Alex Tanney hurriedly warming up on the sidelines.

With some justification, many will say the Giants’ defense hasn’t been a problem. After all, they held the Jaguars to 13 offensive points and the Cowboys to 20. Unlike the offense, the defense has been respectable. But they need to do more. They need to create more game-changing plays: tackles for losses, sacks, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries, interceptions. Create superior field position for a struggling offense. For the second week in a row, we saw some disappointing trends developing: lack of game-changing plays, run defense that hasn’t been as good as expected, and costly breakdowns by their #1 corner. Olivier Vernon is still out. And now Eli Apple is hurt. This team still hasn’t faced a truly dynamic offense yet, one that can seriously test what is likely a weak secondary.

For the third week in a row, the Giants will be challenged by an elite-level running game (averaging almost 160 yards rushing) and a quarterback who can hurt you with his feet. But quarterback Deshaun Watson can also hurt you with his arm. And he has wideout DeAndre Hopkins to throw to. Janoris Jenkins had better get his early-game struggles out of his system because Hopkins can embarrass him. And with Eli Apple out, the match-up of B.W. Webb or Donte Deayon against Will Fuller looks problematic.

Knock on wood for the second week in a row, but the special teams have being holding up their end of the bargain. The next step forward would be to make a game-changing play: a blocked kick, a converted fake, a return for a score.

Head Coach Pat Shurmur on the offensive struggles: “We just have to make sure we get the ball in the end zone in the first half, that’s just it. We find a way to drive the ball a little bit, get stalled out on third down – we have to make sure we can’t get stopped third and inches, fourth and inches. We have to get the first down, keep the drive alive, and then find a way to get some big plays.”

Well, I was as wrong as could be with last week’s prediction. That Dallas loss took the wind out of my sails. Until they prove otherwise, I don’t trust this team. The offense is still a dysfunctional mess. The line can’t run or pass block so Odell and Saquon are literally being wasted. The secondary has the feel of a house of cards that has been protected thus far by the lack of quality of the opposition. If this team goes 0-3, the media and fans will quickly turn on team management.

Sep 182018
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 16, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 20 – New York Giants 13


Two 0-1 teams entered Sunday night on the same day where the two other NFC East teams lost to even their records at 1-1. Whomever left AT&T Stadium would have a share of 1st place early in this 2018 season.

With top edge rusher Oliver Vernon still injured, Kerry Wynn started on the NYG 4 man front. DAL didn’t waste time as Dak Prescott connected with Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown pass up the sideline on a blown coverage by Janoris Jenkins and Curtis Riley. After a 6 play drive, DAL had the ball back in their possession and gained 12-19-15-15 yards on their first 4 plays. This set them up for another 3 points and NYG was down 10-0 before the rhythm of the game even started.

The two sub-par offenses traded possessions a few times without gaining much of a field position advantage. NYG was force feeding the ball to Saquon Barkley who, if nothing else, was breaking tackles left and right every time he touched the ball. Manning was getting the ball out quickly because of the porous offensive line yet again and the DAL secondary was adamant about not letting Odell Beckham wreck the game.

One interesting observation from the early NYG offensive drives. When they were down 7-0, Pat Shurmur did not want to go for it on 4th and inches at midfield. For an offense that struggles to put together drives, an offense that struggles to even reach midfield, it was a puzzling decision. However when NYG was down 10-0, Shurmur opted to go for it on 4th and inches two times in a row despite being at a lesser field position. Not a big deal but it just screams lack of identity to me. 4th and inches at midfield for this offense needs to almost-always be a go-for-it situation.

With that said, NYG didn’t have one play on the DAL side of the field in the first half. They went in to halftime down 10-0.

On the fourth play of the second half, Manning was sacked for the 5th time by untouched blitzing linebacker Damien Wilson, forcing a fumble that was recovered by DAL. This was a trend that started early and continued on for the entire game. Stunts and blitzes, both basic and complex, confused the anemic offensive line. Lack of talent, lack of chemistry, and a lack of adjustment made this a painful game to watch.

DAL turned the turnover in to 3 points, giving them a 13-0 lead which probably felt like a 30-0 lead knowing who was on the other sideline.

Just when you thought NYG was completely out, in typical Eli Manning-era fashion, they showed life right after their darkest moment. Barkley continued to show elite-level yards after contact ability, Manning hit Cody Latimer for a game-high 37 yard gain, and Barkley gained 18 yards on a dump off pass that included moves I don’t see any RB in the NFL making. They were 1st and goal at the 3 yard line just to be brought back by a holding penalty and two consecutive pass plays where pressure was on Manning before he could make two reads. Also on this drive, NYG lost center Jon Halapio to a broken ankle and leg; he is done for the year. NYG did get on the board, making it 13-3.

The DAL offense started to create some hope too, as they just couldn’t move the ball, guilty of 2 straight holding penalties, and quickly putting the ball back in to NYG’s hands. There was a slight momentum shift at this point late in the 3rd quarter. NYG then responded with a 3 and out that was capped off by the 6th DAL sack of the night. Opportunity missed.

DAL then responded with a 14 play, 8+ minute, touchdown-scoring drive. Prescott controlled the drive, going 5/6 for 35 yards and rushing for 19 yards on 3 attempts. The score was by Ezekiel Elliott who barreled in to the end zone breaking though Kareem Martin for a 6 yard touchdown. DAL led 20-3 with under 6 minutes remaining in the game.

Manning and the NYG offense took advantage of a less-aggressive DAL defense, scoring their lone touchdown of the night on an 11 play drive capped off by a wide-open pass to Evan Engram in the end zone. NYG then recovered an onsides kick, recovered by Michael Thomas. They quickly gained another 27 yards and opted to kick a field goal to make it a one-possession game. It was their only hope. Rosas hit the field goal, making a 20-13 score but they failed to convert the second onsides kick.

Dallas wins, 20-13.


Eli Manning: 33/44 – 279 yards – 1 TD / 0 INT. Manning also added 3 rushing attempts for a total of 4 yards, two of which were successful 4th and 1 QB sneak conversions. Once again, Manning saw either the worst, or one of the worst amounts of protection from the OL in the league. There is going to be a weekly debate regarding whether or not Manning is done or not. My stance remains the same. The most athletic QB in the league wouldn’t be able to deal with this amount of pressure and lack of assurance from this OL group. Manning can’t step up in the pocket. He can barely even step into throws. 3 step, 5 step, 7 step drops….it doesn’t matter. Manning does deserve some blame, however. The limited shots he is getting downfield, he hasn’t capitalized on enough. In addition, his hoppy-footwork and occasional too-quick of a release has contributed to the poor offensive play. Call me stubborn, but I watch almost every NFL game every week, and nobody is dealing with this outside of Russell Wilson in SEA.


Saquon Barkley: 11 att / 28 yards – 14 rec / 80 yards. The run blocking was no better. I haven’t seen an NFL offense yet where the RB is getting hit earlier than what NYG is dealing with. Barkley was running into traffic and untouched defenders repeatedly. But because of his superior receiving skills, his impact on the game was strong. He set a franchise record with his 14 catches, most of which were dump offs, and he broke more tackles than any NYG running back has in a game since it’s been recorded. What he was able to do with the ball in his hands was just a glimpse of what we are going to see. Imagine he was playing behind a good group of blockers. The options and upside with him are endless.

-Wayne Gallman and Jonathan Stewart played a combine 13% of the snaps and gained a combined 4 yards. You can tell this coaching staff really wanted this win and they wanted no part in taking Barkley out.

-Really poor game by Shane Smith. He allowed 2 sacks against the blitz-happy Dallas defense. He was on the field for 4 plays. He allowed 2 sacks. If he can’t block, there is no point in him being on this team.


-Odell Beckham: 4 rec / 51 yards. Beckham recorded his second catch with 6 minutes left in the first quarter. His next catch wasn’t until the 4:22 mark in the fourth quarter. He wasn’t a factor for the majority of the game. They gave him two credible downfield shots, both were overthrown by Manning. I watched the All-22 and assumed he was being double teamed non stop, but that wasn’t the case. On the plays he had one on one coverage deep, the pass protection simply wasn’t there. Manning was forced to get rid of the ball before Beckham made his move. Timed well by the DAL defense.

-Sterling Shepard and Cody Latimer caught 2 passes each. Shepard also dropped one in the second quarter. Latimer’s first catch as a Giant was a nicely thrown deep ball where Latimer had minimal to no separation, but the lengthy and strong receiver showed nice ball skills to come down with it. One thing I see a lot with him is a lack of separation, as there isn’t a ton of twitch to his game, but he does have some long stride speed if Manning can ever get enough time.


Evan Engram: 7 rec / 67 yards – 1 TD. Engram caught all of the passes thrown in his direction. I think it may be time for Manning to look his way more often, especially with the need for such quick releases. He gets open consistently and he is so dangerous after the catch with his rare combination of size and speed. He had two clean looks at the end zone that Manning didn’t see. Safeties cannot cover him. One thing he hasn’t consistently done well yet is find the windows/lanes against zone coverage. The best receiving tight ends make an art of that; he isn’t close yet. As a blocker, he had another sub-par game. He allowed a tackle for loss and a sack in addition to getting drilled backwards a few times, making Barkley alter his path.

-Rhett Ellison saw 35% of the snaps and disappointed as a blocker. For a guy that has a role to aid the poor OL play, he sure hasn’t done it these first 2 weeks. He, too, was getting pushed backwards, creating a new point of attack.


-Nate Solder, the highest paid left tackle in the game, was physically overmatched in this one for the second week in a row. He allowed one tackle for loss and was flagged for a hold (which was declined) in addition to 2 pressures.. The one thing Solder does well compared to the rest of the OL is, even when he is beat, he stays on his man. The balance and athleticism helps him there. I also think he is a small victim of playing next to the rookie Hernandez, who is having a very hard time picking up this blocking scheme.

-Ereck Flowers had another below average performance. He allowed 3 pressures, struggled at the second level as a run blocker, and appears to have no clue what he is doing on stunts. He did have 4 “plus” pass blocks one on one against Demarcus Lawrence if you are looking for any glimpse of positive.


-The two guards were nightmares, it was the worst combined grade from the guards I have seen in 2+ years. Patrick Omameh was responsible for 2 pressures and 1 sack. He wasn’t able to sustain blocks. He has a decent punch at the line, but his man is off free within 1-2 seconds almost every time. Will Hernandez looks lost mentally. Again, the base-level athleticism is there, but it doesn’t show up because he is too slow to react. He allowed 1 pressure and 2 sacks. The first of which was about as bad as it gets. Hernandez was also completely whiffing at the second level as a run blocker. He continues to get a pass here and there for being a rookie, but there were moments where he didn’t even look competitive.

-Center Jon Halapio was having a decent game, but he broke both his ankle and leg during the 3rd quarter. John Greco came in to replace him. He allowed a pressure in his limited duty. He is likely to be the starting OC from here on out and I have been impressed with him in his short tenure with NYG. I don’t think this will have any negative impact on NYG.


-With Olivier Vernon out again, Kareem Martin and Connor Barwin dominated the snaps. They are both journeymen caliber players. Barwin did have a solid game, as his short area pop is still there and he is feisty. He had a pressure and pass break up. Martin looks like a complete non factor. His contact balance is poor, he can’t get off blocks as a pass rusher, and the speed off the edge is non-existent. He had 3 missed tackles and finished with 1 pressure.

-Lorenzo Carter’s speed and athleticism showed up. He had 2 pressures on the same drive. When he sees a consistent stretch of plays, his level of play improves. As the year progresses, we should see him on the field more. He missed outside contain twice but his speed to the sideline made up for one of them. He really does have rare athleticism. Kerry Wynn had 2 tackles, one of which was for a loss. Hate to see him not make much of an impact as a pass rusher after a strong preseason yet again. This team needs him to step up.


-Damon Harrison controlled the two inside gaps like he always does. DAL had a lot of success on the ground, but it wasn’t any fault of Harrison’s. It’s amazing how, when he is single teamed against a running play between the tackles, he is always in on the tackle. Every time. He also recorded a pressure.

-Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill received average grades. Hill was quiet but pursued well and held his ground. One thing they both struggled with was getting off blocks in time at running plays in their direction. They were just a step too slow a few times. Hill was also taken off the field in passing situations.


-Really poor game by Alec Ogletree. Yes, he led the team with 6 tackles and a couple of them were an impressive blend of speed and power. He missed 2 tackles and was really late to recognize on a few others. When that happens, the blocker gets the angle and makes it nearly impossible to fill the lane in time. B.J. Goodson recorded 1 tackle despite playing more than 50% of the snaps. He, too, missed a tackle. If it’s not between the tackles, Goodson has looked very pedestrian so far.

-Ray Ray Armstrong didn’t impact the running game, but he excelled in coverage. On three occasions he completely took out Prescott’s intended target with perfect coverage. He adds an element none of the other LBs do.


-For the second week in a row, Janoris Jenkins was beat on a vertical route early. This time, it resulted in an early touchdown by Tavon Austin. He completely whiffed at the point of attack and couldn’t catch up. The question may need to be asked at some point, are his off-field struggles impacting his play? He was solid from there on out, as he wasn’t tested much.

-Eli Apple with another excellent game. What I have always wanted to see with him, dating back to his college days, is more play with his feet and less with his hands in coverage. 2 weeks in o 2018, he appears to be clicking there. His All-22 tape was the best of the DB group.

-B.W. Webb was tested often. He was on the field for 77% of the snaps. He was flagged once and allowed a few catches but overall he was solid. Donte Deayon didn’t play much, but almost came up with a red zone interception in the 4th quarter.


-Landon Collins has been very hit or miss since his All-Pro 2016 season and that trend continued Sunday night, with more lean towards the miss-side. He missed two tackles and was fooled badly twice on run plays. The misdirection has been giving him a lot of trouble and when he isn’t on, big gains are created.

-Curtis Riley had a bad night. He was late and took a bad angle on the Austin TD in the first quarter and had a bad missed tackle that led to a big gain by Ezekiel Elliot.


-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 28,38). Rosas remains perfect on the season. He also created a successful onsides kick in the 4th quarter.

-P Riley Dixon – 6 Punts – 43.3 avg / 40.0 net. Solid margin there and he landed 3 inside the 20.

-KR/PR: Cody Latimer had two impressive kick returns; he is fast in space and runs through initial contact consistently. Kaelin Clay had another near turnover as a PR.


-RB Saquon Barkley, CB Eli Apple, DT Damon Harrison


-OG Will Hernandez, OG Patrick Omameh, LB Alec Ogletree


-I’ve seen every snap of DAL over the first 2 weeks and I still don’t think this will be a .500 team. The offense is abysmal. Overly reliant on the running game with an OL that is not nearly as dominant as it was 2 years ago. Prescott threw for 96 yards on 23 attempts beyond the TD pass to Austin where Jenkins had a rare whiff at the line of scrimmage.

-Get to know the name Chidobe Awuzie. DAL second year CB is going to be considered one of the best in the game within a year or two. He matched Beckham step for step several times in coverage on all levels, both laterally and vertically. He is great at making adjustments to the ball and he is one of the most physical tacklers in the league at the position.

-Jaylon Smith, now another year removed from his scary knee injury, now may be the best LB on this team. His 10 tackles and 1 for loss were impressive, as he fills the lane with no hesitation and lets you know he is there. And his most impressive play of the night? Deep coverage against….Odell Beckham.


-Losing a tight game to JAC was one thing, but this loss to an average-at-best DAL team has created a strong thought that this will be a 5-6 win season at best. We discussed throughout the offseason that filling all these holes in just a few months was borderline impossible. You can’t say its over yet, but the issues on this roster are awfully high in volume.

-What can be done with this OL? They are going to be a poor unit all year, but is there anything that can be done that can give the offense at least some hope consistently? The one hope is that Hernandez, a rookie that didn’t play against NFL prospects in college, improves on a normal rookie scale. Also, this line is playing together for the first time so one could say chemistry will be developed in time. If those two things don’t happen, I really don’t see any hope here and that’s a shame because this group of playmakers is among the best in the NFL.

-Just how good is Landon Collins? I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but he is probably next up on long term contract talks. He is an unrestricted free agent next year and I have a hard time accepting he deserves top tier safety money. His 2016 season (which was All-Pro caliber) may be impacting everyone’s view on him too much. I do think he is good, he is 24 years old, and he does play hard. But 2017 was underwhelming and he has been bad these first 2 weeks. Missed tackles, fooled badly, and minimal impact on passing plays. He needs to play better and there is no way around it. This defense sorely needs a playmaker.

Sep 142018
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 9, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 16, 2018

There were significant positives that came out of last week’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Giants played a very competitive game against a team that is widely regarded as a Super Bowl contender. Indeed, they had a real shot to steal a victory had a play here or there broken their way. It’s something to build on.

But in the end, sports really is a no-excuse business. You either win or you lose. And win-loss column doesn’t care about the whys and buts. In all the years I’ve followed football, one quote by Phil Simms has always stuck with me: “The difference between 8-8 and 12-4 is winning the close ball games.” If the Giants expect to be winners again anytime soon, they need to start winning close football games.

And they need to start beating teams in their own division. Stating the obvious, the Giants have been losers four of the last five years because they’ve been worse than most of the other teams in the NFL. But what has really fueled their poor W-L record has been their now annually poor performance against the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, and to a certain extent, the Washington Redskins. And aside from the glaring exception of 2017, these other NFC East teams haven’t been league powerhouses. The Giants keep losing to NFC East teams that are eminently beatable.

The 2018 Dallas Cowboys have the appearance of a typical, mediocre team, with just enough talent to be able to beat anyone in the league, but most likely a franchise that will be hovering around the 8-8 mark. Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and Dez Bryant are all gone. There never really was much of a true mystique around that older team because it never won anything. But those guys were dangerous and had a history of being a pain in the ass for the Giants. Those thorns are gone. It’s well past time for the Giants to stop the bleeding and start beating this team again.


  • RB Wayne Gallman (knee – probable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (back – probable)
  • LB Olivier Vernon (ankle – out)
  • LB Tae Davis (hamstring – questionable)

In my opinion, the strength of the Dallas Cowboys is an extremely well-coached defense, led by smart, instinctive linebacker Sean Lee. Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli has proven to be one of the best in the NFL. This unit doesn’t give up a lot of big plays and they make opposing offenses work for everything they get. The Cowboys were 8th in defense in 2017 and they’ve started this year off at the #5 position.

Marinelli will play the Giants like he has every year. Have his guys protect against the big play and dare New York to drive the field without making the drive-ending mistake. Wouldn’t you? Once again, the offensive line appears to be the Achilles’ heel for the Giants. They were soundly out-played by an impressive Jacksonville front. So the burning question is are the Giants really that bad up front again? Or did they look worse than they really are because of the quality of their opposition? Punching bag Ereck Flowers will get no respite this weekend as defensive end Demarcus Lawrence has developed into one of the NFL’s most disruptive players (14.5 sacks in 2017).

We can talk X’s and O’x until we are blue in the face, but the real story here is the New York Football Giants have to start playing games where they score more than 20 points per game. If you can’t score 20, 24, 27 points in a contest, you aren’t going to win many games. In a league that makes it easier each year for offense to succeed, the Giants scoreboard impotency has reached the point of absurdity. This is a team that has Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard! Get the ball into the end zone! No excuses.

So what did we learn from last week? Beckham and Barkley are the best players on this team and two of the best in the NFL. They should touch the ball as much as possible. Engram and Shepard can make big plays, but they have to be far more consistent. Money players don’t keep dropping the ball in key situations. And Eli Manning may still be under too much pass pressure, but he has to hit those open receivers for touchdowns when the play is there.

Pat Shurmur is an X’s and O’s guy, much more so than Ben McAdoo. Work to isolate Beckham and Barkley in one-on-one match-ups in the passing game. With Beckham, you can do that by playing him in the slot. Linebackers in this league (and many safeties) can’t cover Barkley. And as last week showed, keep pounding the ball with Barkley in the running game because when you do, good things happen. In a tight game, don’t sit him for Jonathan Stewart. That’s dumb.

The defense played well enough to win last week. But there were a few troubling issues: (1) the inability to rush the passer (1 sack and not enough pressure), (2) the Jaguars ran the ball too effectively early, (3) a quarterback hurt them again with his feet, and (4) Janoris Jenkins gave up a couple of big plays. But in the end, the Jaguars were held to 13 points. That should have been enough to win.

The defensive game plan is almost identical this week. The strength of the Cowboys’ offense is a ground game centered around running back Ezekiel Elliott. Stop Elliott and you cause problems for Dallas. Quarterback Dak Prescott struggles too much when called upon to move the ball with his arm. But like Blake Bortles last week, he can hurt you with his feet. So the Giants defenders must be very disciplined and treat him almost like a college quarterback.

The good news for the Giants is that Jason Witten has retired and Dez Bryant was let go. Dallas’ top center Travis Frederick is out with an illness. The Cowboys have had issues at left guard. So the weapons and line are not as strong as they once were. Pesky shrimp Cole Beasley is now Dallas’ most dangerous receiving target. This is a team the Giants should be able to shut down as long as Beasley doesn’t eat up nickel corner B.W. Webb, which is possible.

Gang up on Elliott, look out for misdirection with the ball in the hands of the quarterback, and don’t let Beasley consistently hurt you out of the slot, and you should be in good shape.

Knock on wood, but so far the kicking game has been good enough for the Giants. But I felt Shumur made a curious decision in going for the blocked punt last week and not setting up a return with Odell Beckham. Instead, Kaelin Clay muffed the punt. He has now fumbled the ball on four of 45 punt returns (or once in every 11 times he touches the ball). Maybe it’s time to bring Phil McConkey out of retirement.

Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher on Dallas’ offense: “They’re going to give (Ezekiel Elliott) a bunch of touches, they’re going to find some really creative ways to get him going. They’re going to stretch it hard and cut the ball back, they’re going to give you some gap scheme with some pullers, they’re going to get big personnel on the field, they’re going to run the ball down the field at you. You’re going to get a little bit of everything. They do a nice job with that. Then after that, the boots, the play passes, the taking a shot down the field, some movement stuff to get completions, and try to get you in some one-on-ones on the perimeter and throw the ball down the field.”

The Giants are the better team. I wouldn’t trade their roster for ours. This is a game the Giants can and should win. And if the Giants have any hopes of making the playoffs this year, this is a game the team must win. Dallas is well-coached and has a very solid defense and running game. Those three factors mean they can beat any team. But they don’t have enough weapons and they shouldn’t score more than 17 points on the Giants. On the other hand, if the Giants can’t score more than 20 points with Beckham and Barkley on their team, then they have the wrong coaches and/or quarterback. In my mind, this game is on our coaches and Eli Manning. No excuses.