Dec 312019
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (December 29, 2019)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles 34 – New York  Giants 17

QUICK RECAP

Week 17 approached and NYG fans have become embarrassingly used to it meaning absolutely nothing. The most exciting part of the year for this franchise has been the offseason and this game didn’t host any implications beside the fact we were that much closer to a new head coach, the free agency period, and the NFL Draft. Arguably the darkest days in the history of the organization are here. We are living them. On a rainy Sunday, PHI came to town needing a win to lock up their NFC East title for the 9th time in 19 years.

With a depleted offense and more injuries on the way, PHI came limping into this one, to say the least. One of the most aggressive teams on 4th down in the league, PHI opted to try and set the tone early on a 4th-and-7 from the NYG 38-yard line but it was stuffed thanks to pressure from rookie Oshane Ximines. The NYG offense responded by reaching midfield being forced to punt.

The second PHI possession resulted in 3 points via a 31-yard field goal by Jake Elliott. NYG then responded with a drive that was a true microcosm of their 2019 season. On 2nd-and-4, Barkley was taken down for a 4-yard loss on a run that was intended to be between the tackles and then Daniel Jones was sacked because of a 2-man stunt by the PHI defensive front that Nate Solder and Will Hernandez looked helpless against. Three and out.

The two teams traded 6 straight scoreless drives combined. On the three NYG drives, the team gave the ball to Barkley two times for a total of -7 yards. Fortunately PHI was playing with the backups-backups on offense and their top play-maker over the past 4 weeks, Miles Sanders, was out of the game with a lower body injury. Their sloppy play kept NYG in it. The Giants were able to put 3 points on the board via a 37-yard field goal. PHI then responded with a 8-play, 75-yard, touchdown-scoring drive. Carson Wentz hit third-string tight end Josh Perkins for the 24-yard score. Perkins has 9 receptions on the year, all of them are against NYG.

There were 2 minutes left in the half and NYG had more than enough time and timeouts to try and get this game back to even. They responded with 8 plays that got them to midfield before having to punt. Barkley touched the ball one time (a 7-yard rush). PHI took their 10-3 lead into halftime.

NYG began the second half with the ball and they were able to score their first touchdown of the game. Jones hit Golden Tate in the back corner of the end zone for the 20-yard score and the game was tied up. You could feel the sigh of relief coming from Dallas, as they were handling the Redskins but needed the NYG win to secure their division title. This game was, at least, competitive. Oh have the barometers for success within this franchise changed!

That lead didn’t last long, however. The Boston Scott show reappeared just as it did Week 14 on Monday Night Football in Philly. In that game, he totaled 128 yards and a touchdown, almost all of which came in the second half. PHI scored a touchdown on their second possession of the second half on a 7-yard scamper into the end zone by Scott. The lead was 17-10. But then the big-play back from NYG struck once again, as he’s made a habit of in recent weeks. Barkley was given the first carry of the drive and took it to the house for a 68-yard score. The burst into space and runaway speed was something to marvel at. Man, what could be with this kid if they were able to constantly get him in space!

The 4th quarter opened with a PHI field goal, a NYG fumble, and then a PHI touchdown – all within the span of 2 minutes. The PHI play-makers on this drive other than Carson Wentz? Scott, Greg Ward Jr., Robert Davis, Deontay Burnett, Jordan Perkins. None of them were on the active roster until October 11.

The next two NYG drives did not pick up a first down, the second of which was a turnover on downs as a 4th-and-2 rushing attempt that took way too long to develop resulted in no gain. PHI took advantage of the blood in the water, and needed just four plays to get into the end zone again via another Scott touchdown, his third of the day.

The wind was out of the sails one last time in regard to the 2019 season, and also the Pat Shurmur era. NYG put together a few garbage drives, one of which ended in an interception.

Giants lose 34-17. The worst team in the NFL over the past three seasons (12-36).

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 28/47 – 301 yards – 1 TD/1 INT – 76.6 RAT. Jones was also charged with his 18th fumble / 11th lost fumble of the year. One could argue this one was more on the shoulders of Jon Halapio as it all started with a shotgun snap that went knee-high. Jones did re-gather possession and ended up losing it, however. Jones was inaccurate for most of the day, notably on downfield passes. He had Sterling Shepard twice and Darius Slayton once “wide” open (in NFL terms) but he just didn’t get the ball to the right spot. He was also late to see and throw on a few underneath passes where NYG was either on 3rd/4th down. Compared to what we have seen this year, it was a poor game by Jones.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 17 att / 92 yards / 1 TD – 3 rec / 25 yards. It was heading toward another horrid day for Barkley until his 68-yard touchdown run livened up the box score. While we know Barkley has been big play-dependent when it comes to his total production over his first two years, it is still amazing what he can do for an offense when the space is there. There were a handful of attempts where Barkley had defenders at his feet upon his approach to the line of scrimmage – an image we all just got sick of seeing. There is a lot of potential with this offense because of what Barkley can do and the new coach better figure it out upon arrival.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate: 5 rec / 68 yards / 1 TD. Tate had an awful 3rd down drop early in the game but he woke up and ended strong. His touchdown catch was high-difficulty as Rasul Douglas was draped all over him and was actually called for pass interference on the play. Tate’s role on this team moving forward is interesting to me. He can’t be the #1 or even the #2 guy in the passing game. But if he can be you’re #3, you are talking about a high-ceiling attack. The issue? Nobody on this roster is head and shoulders ahead of him and it forces him into the expectation tier that he simply will not fulfill. My conclusion? Keep him here and hope for development elsewhere and/or a new face that can be a #1 or #2.

-Sterling Shepard: 5 rec / 39 yards. Shepard got a little banged up when he landed hard on his hip early in the game but he toughed it out and stayed in the game. Watching the All-22, he did pull up multiple times. Shepard was missed by Jones downfield two times and twice underneath. This could have been a huge game for him if Jones had been on. Something to chew on: Shepard has been in the league for 4 years. He is averaging 11.6 yards per catch and 4 touchdowns per season. While I don’t think the long-term contract was a bad decision, everyone needs to be on the same page that this team needs a better number one threat in the passing game. He won’t ever be that guy.

-Darius Slayton: 4 rec / 50 yards. Slayton had two opportunities deep with one of them being an underthrow and the other being Slayton just getting beat by the corner. Slayton’s rookie year is something to be pleased about, but not necessarily excited about if that makes sense. The speed and route running were effective all year but the book is out on him a bit. He really struggles to get off the jam and doesn’t play through contact well. He deserves an opportunity to be a guy here but I wouldn’t make plans around it; rather he can be the speed/deep threat accessory.

TIGHT END

-Kaden Smith: 8 rec / 98 yards. Smith led the team in targets, yards, and catches. Not bad for a 6th rounder who cut from SF. In all seriousness, Smith is one of the best finds this front office has had in awhile. While opportunity certainly created some of his production, Smith looks like a keeper. Having him as the number two guy next year while Evan Engram gets one more shot is going to be a nice roster asset.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The left side of this line was a disaster, as the dumpster fire here just continues to intensify. Will Hernandez and Nate Solder combined for 4 pressures and a simple stunt resulted in 2 sacks where they both looked lost. They also allowed 1 TFL each. This has been an issue for 32-straight games. Lack of chemistry can no longer be blamed. I will be very disappointed if Solder is the starting left tackle in 2020. I think Hernandez will have to be the left guard another year, but the issues I had with him on my scouting report out of UTEP popped up left and right all year. Buyer beware.

-Jon Halapio had his third-worst game of the season, which is hard to believe because he played really, really poorly in 2019. This position is another no-brainer when it comes to 2020 mandatory replacements. He allowed a pressure, a sack, and 2 TFL. I should be getting OL stats from around the league from my guys and I am going to guarantee Halapio grades out as one of the worst three OCs in the league. He was pitiful. All year.

-Kevin Zeitler also struggled in this one, his second-worst game of the year. He allowed a TFL and a pressure but most glaringly just didn’t get any movement off the ball for almost the entire game. Not a good way to end the year. Nick Gates allowed a pressure but other than that, ended the game pretty cleanly. He was the top NYG OL in this one and based on what we have seen this year, he deserves to be in the discussion for an OT spot or a 6th OL spot next year, the latter being preferred. I feel much better about him than I did Chad Wheeler for what it is worth.

EDGE

-Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter didn’t get to the QB but they each finished with a pressure and a TFL, respectively. Golden has been a consistent force all year that, similar to Tate. He can’t ever be THE guy on your pass rush but would be a solid secondary weapon. The cost of bringing him back and the scheme that is implemented will have a say in that decision obviously. Carter ended the year stronger than he started, but I can’t say I am overly optimistic about him heading into the offseason.

-Oshane Ximines had a key pressure on the first drive, but was pretty quiet otherwise. My expectations were not that high for a 3rd rounder who I had graded lower. Nevertheless, I didn’t see a lot out of him that gets me excited. The Giants need a lot of help at the edge-rushing position, especially if Golden leaves. Priority B behind the offensive line.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Dexter Lawrence surprisingly played awful upon my re-watch. He was playing high and slow and even had a few plays where he looked disinterested. After a really strong year, I didn’t like seeing him end the season with Boston Scott running untouched behind an offensive line that was 40% injured. A big part of that was on Lawrence.

-Leonard Williams continued his solid play and ending to the season. He had 5 tackles – a half sack – 1 pressure. He did miss a tackle in the first half and there are still too many plays where he is rendered ineffective by a lone blocker, though. This is going to be a big decision for David Gettleman, as he just isn’t worth anything more than $10-12 million per year in my eyes. But Gettleman already gave up a 3rd-round pick for him in a hopeless season.

-Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill both finished with 2 tackles. It’s funny how people coming into the year overrated Hill after his solid but opportunistic rookie season, yet now some are overlooking his value to the team. The NYG defensive line was really healthy all year and he happened to be the guy who didn’t get on the field much. I don’t see it as an indictment of poor play at all. The NYG DTs are solid and deep as we head into 2020.

LINEBACKER

-The best inside linebacker in the Giants home blue was David Mayo, not Alex Ogletree. I have to give Mayo credit for being a consistent hustler and blue-collar defender. He has athletic limitations and I’m not sure he is a guy I want penciled in as a starter in 2020, but he is a good guy to have on the team. He finished with 6 tackles and a half-sack. Ogletree finished with 4 tackles and was a liability in coverage. His time in NY needs to be over.

-Deone Bucannon finished with 2 tackles and a TFL where he made an extremely athletic and physical play. He has been impressive enough to warrant an opportunity at a backup job depending on the new scheme.

CORNERBACK

-Antonio Hamilton – according to the box score – had a really good game. 5 tackles and 4 pass break ups. But this is where watching the game is important. While he did make impressive plays on the ball a few times, Hamilton was burned a few times but luckily Wentz wasn’t looking his way. Also, can we stop with the taunting after you break a pass up just plays after you missed a tackle and allowed a first down while your team is losing by 10? Losing culture right there. But yes, let’s root for losses.

-Deandre Baker showed impressive coverage throughout but was burned badly on a crossing route where he simply did not recognize the route combination. That was a clear sign that he just doesn’t have it all mentally down. He was beat on that touchdown by a 3rd-string tight end. It wasn’t a speed issue, it wasn’t a ball skill issue, he just didn’t recognize.

SAFETY

Another quick glance at the box score and you will see that Michael Thomas led the team with 11 tackles and added a TFL. Solid game right? Wrong. He missed 3 tackles, was flagged twice, and was beat on three 3rd-down conversions in coverage. He was a guy who was brought in for character and special teams prowess so I can’t knock the personnel decision too bad here. But he can’t be a guy you are trotting out there for a meaningful volume of snaps.

-Antoine Bethea, another head-scratching veteran acquisition, missed 2 tackles and was completely run over by the 207-pound Scott for the final PHI touchdown. He takes bad angles and has almost no range in deep coverage. What exactly does he offer? Being a good guy can only get you so far. Hopefully NYG has a real safety tandem for the first time in years in 2020 and he won’t be a part of it.

-Julian Love was a mixed bag as we have seen in recent weeks. He had 8 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 PD. He also missed a tackle and was getting beat, routinely, by Greg Ward, Jr. in coverage. I am optimistic with Love when it comes to his potential to impact the team. The question is, where? He played a similar safety role to Jabrill Peppers and I wouldn’t want either of them in the deep FS-type role that Bethea was playing. I think Love could do it more than I believe in Peppers, but they may need to find a nickel role for him depending on, once again, the new scheme that is coming.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 37). Real inconsistent year for Rosas and a leg needs to be signed to compete with him in camp. No doubt.

-P Riley Dixon: 6 punts / 42.8 avg / 42.3 net. For the second year in a row, Dixon statistically finishes as a top 10 punter in the league.

3 STUDS

-OT Nick Gates, RB Saquon Barkley, DT Leonard Williams

3 DUDS

-OC Jon Halapio, S Michael Thomas, DT Dexter Lawrence

3 THOUGHTS ON PHI

  1. Before we go and hand the NFL Coach of Year award to the team with best record, can someone please find me a coach that did more than Doug Pederson did with this banged up PHI squad? Would Harbaugh be the #1 seed if he was without Mark Ingram, Mark Andrews, 2 starting OL, 2 starting corners, and his top 3 wide receivers? Or would Shanahan be coaching the #1 seed if he was without George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Emmanuel Sanders, and his top 2 RBs? Pederson orchestrated 4 straight wins to end the year with 400+ total yards (first time PHI did that since 2013). All of this with the most depleted offensive roster in football.
  1. There is another feather in Pederson’s cap, but this has more to do with the winning culture that has been built from the top on down. PHI is 12-2 from week 15 on in do-or-die games (regular-season and playoffs). Winning culture is derived from avoiding losses guys. Another reason why you do not ever, ever root for losses.
  1. With all of this said, I can’t see PHI getting out of the Wild Card weekend alive. Even though they get a SEA team that has been slowly dying over the second half of the year, they are matched up favorably. I think SEA takes that game by 7+ points because their defense will be able to handle the group of backups with ease. It will be an ugly game, but I think PHI is just too beat up to defeat a quality team at this point like SEA.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. As I write this, the news of Pat Shurmur being fired is out in the open and the 3rd coaching search in 5 years is under way. Unfortunately this time of the year has become more fun than the actual season, a true sign of a losing franchise. I have 2 front runners (zero inside information, just preferences). My first is Eric Bieniemy, the OC from KC. I started to discuss him 2 years ago even though it may have been a bit early for him. I like the Andy Reid coaching tree, I like his offensive background, I like this guy’s attitude, I like his ability to relate to players but also put them in their place. My second preference is Matt Rhule, the NY local and current Baylor coach. I like his idea of building culture and sticking to tough-guy football with a dose or two of modern era tendencies.
  1. Daniel Jones. Overall this was a very solid rookie year. He earned the right to get 3 seasons (what I think every 1st rounder deserves if they show some things as a rookie) but I am not going to glorify him as the leader of the future just yet. I love the toughness. I love the sneaky athletic ability. I love the footwork and throwing mechanics. However, the turnovers are absolute killers in the NFL and setting a record for lost fumbles needs to be fixed. I also saw some arm power things that popped up during scouting and during training camp (both of which I addressed and got knocked for) during the season when it came to deep balls. He has a ways to go and I think he can be the guy, but I am not labeling him the guy yet.
  1. As much as this league has turned offensive, you have to get guys that make plays on defense. Even guys like Khalil Mack, Von Miller, Aaron Donald (none of which are in the playoffs) won’t turn a team around but every good team has guys on defense who make plays or strike fear into opposing offenses. The Giants don’t have any. Literally. None. While the offensive line needs to be addressed first and foremost, NYG needs to be aggressive with their abundance of cash in getting at least 2 play-makers. CB / EDGE / S / LB…any of those spots. Spend big, twice.
Dec 272019
 
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Darius Slayton, New York Giants (December 9, 2019)

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 29, 2019

THE STORYLINE

Here we are again. Seven of the last eight years with no playoff appearance. Yet another season over before the bye week. Soon the third head coach fired during a five-year span. Just eight years ago, this team was considered one of the model franchises in the NFL with it’s eighth NFL Championship firmly in tow. Now, almost unbelievably, the butt of a bad joke.

I almost always find myself agree with Sy’56. But I have to at least partially disagree about winning always being better than losing. I get it. There is no such thing as a “can’t miss” prospect. There is no guarantee that the #2 pick will be better than the #5 pick. And if a team doesn’t start creating a culture of winning, it will never turn the corner because it will always expect to lose. But the potential marriage of the pass-rush desperate Giants with potentially defense-altering Chase Young seemed too perfect. Young is not the next Lawrence Taylor, but the Giants changed the entire course of their franchise by selecting LT with the #2 pick in the 1981 draft. Overnight, he turned the defense into one of the best in the league. The Giants needed that then, and they need that now.

Young is all but officially out of the picture unless some weird shit happens. If he is, I do find myself now in Sy’s camp in thinking that winning this game against the Eagles on Sunday is more important than the difference in picking #3 versus #4 or #5. There are a number of defensive players and offensive tackles who can help the Giants. And unless players such as Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Dexter Lawrence, and Deandre Baker start believing they can beat the Eagles, nothing the Giants will do in the draft will matter. The Giants must get over this big, ugly, green mental hurdle that humiliates them twice a year now. You can’t get to the playoffs if you lose more division games than you win. And if the Cowboys defeat the Redskins, the Giants will be in position to ruin Philadelphia’s season. That would represent some sweet payback for all of those ultimately meaningless losses to the Eagles in the past eight years.

The 2019 Philadelphia Eagles are not a good team. They just aren’t. Just four weeks ago, the sad sack New York Giants had a 17-3 halftime advantage over them in Philadelphia. Then New York saw their own shadow, got frightened, and let the Eagles score the next 20 points en route to a 23-17 overtime loss. That pathetic shit has to stop. And this game is as good a place to start as any.

Moving away from the little picture to the big, Pat Shurmur most likely will be fired by Monday or Tuesday. The big question is does Dave Gettleman follow him out the door? It’s tough to see John Mara and Steve Tisch firing another general manager for the second time in three years. Some will point to the improved drafting, especially the election of Jones and Barkley. But Gettleman’s free agent decision-making has been dreadful and that’s a red flag for a team heading into an offseason with tens of millions of dollars to spend. He also picked Shurmur just two years ago. Finally, as I’ve mentioned repeatedly, shouldn’t the GM who will head this team for the next 10 years (obviously not Gettleman given his age) pick the next head coach now? Potentially influencing all of this is the pie-in-the-sky, but not totally unrealistic possibilities that the Giants may finally be able to lure away Bill Belichick or Nick Saban. The timing matches up right for all parties. But those big fish will want more control. Don’t rule out options that seem like a pipe dream!!!

GIANTS ON OFFENSE…

Four short weeks ago, for one half, Eli Manning and Darius Slayton were tearing apart the Eagles. Slayton caught five passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Then nothing in the second half as the offensive line started to break down. It was also this game where Saquon Barkley showed signs of coming out of his funk, but Pat Shurmur forgot he was on the roster in the 4th quarter. Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard had a down game. Kaden Smith dropped two passes. And perhaps the goat of the game was Nate Solder, who simply was dreadful, allowing pressure on half of New York’s 11 second-half passing plays. How bad was New York in the second half? The Giants punted all six times they had the ball, gaining only two first downs and 30 yards.

Jones, Barkley, Slayton, Tate, Shepard, and Smith are quite capable of ruining Philadelphia’s season if (1) the offensive line can just play an average game, and (2) Pat Shurmur doesn’t turn stupid again. But the New York OL has a long history of getting weak in the knees when playing against the Eagles, and Shurmur’s play-not-to-lose style usually rears its ugly head late in games.

GIANTS ON DEFENSE…

You’ve heard me bitch about it for months. The Giants lose because they can’t field a reliable offensive line. They lose because of bad coaching. But perhaps more than anything, outside of one year (2016), they can’t play good defense. We saw it again last Sunday. The offensively-challenged Redskins marched up and down the field against New York, scoring five touchdowns, including a 99-yard drive with the game on the line at the end of regulation. It’s nauseating. While I have confidence that the offense can pull off the upset, I have none that the defense can do the job. This despite the fact that the Eagles only scored three points in the first half just a month ago against this same pathetic defense.

At this point, the Giants’ defense has to prove it to the fans that they can do the job. Stop the other team on 3rd down. Make that crucial sack or clutch short-yardage play. Pick off a pass. Force a fumble. Create field position for your offense, or even better, score on defense.

For the love of God, cover the tight ends. Don’t let a no-name back-up like running back Boston Scott beat you both running and catching the football. The defense did its job for one half the first time, wore down in the second half, and collapsed in humiliation in overtime. Enough. Play a full 60 minutes or more if needed. Get the job done. For once.

GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS…

C’mon Aldrick, let’s finish a disappointing season for you and the team on a high note. This would also be a great time for a special teams touchdown.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • WR Darius Slayton (knee)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (concussion – out)
  • TE Scott Simonson (concussion – out)
  • RT Mike Remmers (concussion – out)
  • OG/OT Nick Gates (shoulder)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (knee)
  • LB Alec Ogletree (back – questionable)
  • CB Deandre Baker (knee)
  • CB Sam Beal (shoulder – questionable)
  • CB Corey Ballentine (back – questionable)

THE FINAL WORD

Both teams are beat up. I’ll probably regret making this prediction, but the Giants are going to kick the Eagles’ ass on Sunday. And the win will knock the Eagles out of the playoffs, ruining their season, in a venue that will feel more like an Eagles’ home game. All three elements of the team will come to play. Who could potentially screw this up? Shurmur. His game-day instincts are just awful.

Just a word of warning to Mr. Mara and Mr. Tisch. If the Giants do pull off the upset, don’t read anything into it. The needle is not pointed up on this franchise yet simply because you beat two dreadful and one mediocre team down the stretch. Your coaching staff stinks. So does your defense and offensive line. You need to bring in people capable of fixing these issues.

Dec 232019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (December 22, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 41 – Washington Redskins 35 (OT)

QUICK RECAP

After missing two games with an ankle injury, Daniel Jones got his first NFC East road start in Washington against the equally unimpressive 3-11 Redskins. They too were trotting out their 2019 first round quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, who got his first NFL action against the Giants all the way back in week 4. While this game obviously had zero playoff implications, this had been unofficially labeled the “Chase Young Bowl” as the two teams were lined up back-to-back in the 2020 NFL Draft order with the loser grabbing ahold of the #2 spot. More on that later.

For a game that almost nobody outside of the WAS and NYG markets cared about, it was woefully entertaining early on. Jones, on his first drive back from injury, went 3/3 and ended it with a 23-yard pitch-and-catch score to Sterling Shepard. Haskins responded with a 9-play drive of his own that ended with a scramble and short toss to undrafted rookie Steven Sims, Jr. to tie the game.

Saquon Barkley, who we saw run with different life last week in NYG’s win over MIA, took the first carry of the next drive for 8 yards. It was a positive sign considering he had rushed for 33 yards on 2 carries on the Giants’ first possession. What happened next was another feather in the cap for arguably the most talented back in the league despite a rough year. Barkley went right, made two adjustments, broke 2 tackles, and outran the entire WAS defense (in which 2 defenders had the angle) for a 67-yard score. It was the run we had been missing for most of the year. As the 2020 offseason approaches, it is something we can know, with proof, still exists in his game and that the 2019 debacle wasn’t about him.

Haskins and the dead-last ranked WAS offense marched out onto the field and responded with a smooth, simple-looking 12-play drive that ended in another score. This time, Haskins hit undrafted rookie tight end Hale Hentges for the short score. Haskins began the game 8/8 – 72 yards – 2 TD.

As the second quarter began, Jones and the NYG offense showed no signs of slowing down and made it a third straight touchdown scoring drive as he found Barkley running up the seam all by himself for the 33-yard passing score. Barkley, who I have been pounding the table for in regard to getting him out in space as a receiver, was on his way to a career game and it had that feel early on in the 2nd quarter with a lot of football left. The first five series of the game all ended in touchdowns, a first in the history of the NFL.

The game slowed down a tad as the teams traded punts on three straight possessions. The Giants got one last possession in the first half starting at their own 27-yard line with just over 2 minutes left. On 2nd-and-10, Jones was tripped up as he escaped the pocket and fell to the ground. It was a sack, however the refs were late to blow the whistle and WAS linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton launched himself at Jones, who was on a knee, creating the first fracas of the game between the division rivals. After all was sorted out, NYG was given 15 yards and a first down. Former Giant Landon Collins was sought out by Barkley and Shepard for a dirty move in which he pulled down Kaden Smith to the ground from behind.

On the very next play, Jones hit Golden Tate for a 31-yard gain. Two plays later he threw a perfect ball to Cody Latimer in the end zone but it went right through his fingers. Jones, who has shown maturation beyond his years all season, found Latimer two plays later in front of the goal line and the 6-year vet who weighs in at 223 pounds drove his way and defenders into the end zone for the touchdown. NYG took a 28-14 lead into the half.

As has been the case for much of the year, this game was a tale of two halves. On the opening play of the second half, Haskins was sandwiched on a sack between Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden. He was bent around awkwardly and was soon after carted off. Two plays later, Morgan Moses went down with his own injury and WAS, the most injured team in football over the past three seasons, had the look of a team that simply wanted to throw up the white flag and get out of there. Case Keenum, the week 1 starter for WAS, was back to face off against his former QB coach, Pat Shurmur. Ironically, many say Keenum’s performance in 2017 was the reason why Shurmur eventually got offered the HC job in NY.

On Keenum’s first full drive as the signal caller, WAS drove down the field and put up 7 more points for WAS. It was interesting to see the rookie WAS pass catchers against the rookie NYG defensive backs. Clear advantage went to the offense as they couldn’t seem to contain Sims who caught his second touchdown of the day.

The lone NYG second half touchdown came on an impressive 9-yard toss to rookie tight end Kaden Smith, who has been making a name for himself to say the least. The score was 35-21 at the start of the fourth quarter but WAS kept on hanging around as the NYG offense fluttered while ignoring Barkley with the lead. Riley Dixon had a punt blocked, setting WAS up at the NYG 17-yard line. Two plays later, the ageless Adrian Peterson scored a 1-yard touchdown to put him fourth on the all-time rushing touchdown list.

After another scoreless drive by NYG, WAS began their last drive of regulation from their own 1-yard line. A backup QB, 3 rookie receivers, a non-threat in the backfield, 3 backup offensive linemen, and a 3rd-string tight end on the 32nd-ranked offense in the NFL. That is whom the NYG defense was up against. 14 plays later, WAS crossed the goal line via a 1-yard run by Keenum.

NYG did have 30 seconds left and Pat Shurmur sent Aldrick Rosas out for a 62-yard field goal before changing his mind, having Jones throw a Hail Mary. His toss came up about 7 yards short and the game went into overtime.

NYG won the coin toss, obviously electing to take the ball. It was the Jones-Shepard-Barkley show as only those three touched the ball for the first 10 plays of their drive. Those 10 plays took them to the WAS 3-yard line on 3rd down. Jones then found Smith for his second score of the game and NYG took their second win in as many weeks.

NYG win 41-35.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 28/42 – 352 yards – 5 TD / 0 INT / 132.1 RAT. It was a historic day for Jones. He is only the third rookie QB in NFL history with 3+ games of 4+ TD. He set the NYG rookie passing TD record. He is the first ever rookie to pass for 350+ yards and 5 TD in the same game. He was on the money from the start and to see that after missing two games with an ankle injury puts another feather in the toughness-cap. Jones was on fire within the intermediate route tree and he spread the ball out plenty. His ball is so clean out of his hands and it adds some zip to his passes. Two negatives were (1) on five different occasions, it looked like Jones was late to see and anticipate throwing lanes, and (2) the lack of true downfield arm strength showed up on that Hail Mary attempt. Neither are a big deal but just worth noting. Excellent game for Jones on so many levels and this was a big deal for his QB maturation.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 22 att / 189 yards / 1 TD – 4 rec / 90 yards / 1 TD. We talked last week about Barkley getting 25+ touches and how much it means to this team winning. While there is more to it than that simple fact, it is amazing what this offense can look like when he is clicking. Barkley’s explosion and speed are fully back and he is back to breaking tackles nearly every time he gets the ball. Now, lets see what he looks like against a very motivated and stingy PHI defense. Career game for #26.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate: 6 rec / 96 yards. Tate led the team with 11 targets. I have to confirm this before stating it as fact but I believe Tate has been targeted more times per game than any NYG pass catcher. I think he can be an important player for this team next year as he and Jones clearly have a connection, notably on 3rd down.

-Sterling Shepard: 6 rec / 76 yards / 1 TD. Strong day for Shepard, as he caught all 6 of his targets and came down with the big TD catch on the opening drive. The underneath-only threat to this point in his career has made a habit of making the tough catch in traffic, which I believe could lengthen his career when his young twitch/explosion starts to decrease over the years.

-Cody Latimer: 5 rec / 44 yards / 1 TD. The 5 catches were a career high for Latimer, who if you remember finished strong in 2018 week 17 vs DAL. I still think Latimer is a good player to have on the back end of a roster. He is a professional who plays strong and tough. He did drop a TD pass just two plays prior to his score.

TIGHT END

-Kaden Smith: 6 rec / 35 yards / 2 TD. Smith’s two touchdowns came after halftime and while they were big plays, his biggest impact was in the running game. Smith was a key component to Barkley going off and there is a credible discussion to be had here. Does Smith and his presence in the trenches offer more to an offense built around Barkley than Engram? I don’t lean either way right now but a case can be made for both sides.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The best grade we have seen from Nate Solder all year. He was excellent in this one against a trio of pass rushers who have made plenty of impact this year and in the past against NYG. Mike Remmers was solid on the other side until he got hurt. In stepped the trustworthy Nick Gates, who is showing excellent versatility and assurance when it comes to NYG building a deep offensive line for 2020. It is amazing what happens to an offense when the OL is stable, particularly outside.

-Kevin Zeitler returned after missing last week and I could tell he really wanted to be out there. There was some extra pep in his step and he made some key impact blocks on the big Barkley runs.

-Will Hernandez had the lowest grade along the OL, but even that wasn’t an awful game. He was pretty average and similar to what he has been all year. He allowed a pressure and a TFL. Center Jon Halapio also allowed a TFL and a pressure. He remains overly stiff and slow out there against lateral pass rushers.

EDGE

-Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter were up against two low end tackles in the second half (after RT Moses went down) and they clearly took over. Golden finished with a half-sack and 3 pressures to go along with 5 tackles. Man, this guy made some serious money with his play in 2019. Carter had his best game of his young career. He had 4 tackles / 1.5 sacks / 5 pressures / 1 pass break up. He did it from both sides and was all over the place. While I can’t go into the offseason with confidence he can be built around, the fact he is flashing here and there is a positive sign in that he can, at least, be a solid rotational guy with elite tools.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Leonard Williams, whether you hated or loved the trade, has been making his case to get the long-term deal that is sure to be debated here in the coming weeks. Even though it has mostly been against poor OL, Williams has been making a difference, plain and simple. He finished with 3 tackles and 2 pressures and was outstanding against the run. He was both stout and rangy, cutting off the lanes away from the intended target of the RB so there wouldn’t be any innovation that turned into big plays. You really have to zero in on him to appreciate all that he does right and his physical tools that everybody loved coming out of USC.

-Dalvin Tomlinson finished with 2 tackles, both of which were for a loss, and B.J. Hill had a sack. Dexter Lawrence had 2 tackles / 1 TFL and looks his best when lined up over the center. He is so stout but also athletic enough to reach and cut off the “B” gaps. His consistency snap to snap when it comes to leverage and hand usage still leaves a lot to be desired, though.

LINEBACKER

-Alec Ogletree tweaked his back before the game began. This opened the door for Deone Bucannon to get a season-high 76% of the snaps. He played well, finishing with 7 tackles, 1 pressure, and I am pretty sure he forced the near-fumble on Keenum at the end of the 4th quarter. Had that been a turnover at that point in the game, he could have easily been labeled the hero. Not sure where he stands on this team down the road, but he has played pretty well in his opportunities.

-David Mayo tied for the team lead in tackles with 10 and was on the field for every defensive snap.

CORNERBACK

-The young NYG corners got a little beat up in this one. Deandre Baker did have 10 tackles but that was largely a result of him being targeted often and allowing catches. He was also flagged for a pass interference that led WAS to the goal line where they scored on the very next play. He also lost outside contain on a couple occasions which we have seen too many times this year. Confidence wise, I still see Baker playing faster but he clearly isn’t there yet.

-Corey Ballentine was torched in this one. Again, I just can’t see the fit at nickel with him because he is the kind of corner that needs the sideline to use as a boundary. He allowed 2 touchdowns and was flagged on a 4th-and-goal incomplete pass because of a blatant pass interference. If he simply turned his head to locate the ball, it would have been an easy pass breakup. He has been a major weakness in his rookie year and had this been an important game, he would be getting roasted today.

-Sam Beal finished with 6 tackles and, in my opinion, looked the best in coverage all things considered. One thing I see with him too is the attention to detail on his run-defense assignments. He is almost always where he needs to be and he caused a TFL that stemmed from maintaining his outside leverage. He did go down with a neck injury late in the game but returned.

SAFETY

-Antoine Bethea made a couple nice open field tackles but also allowed a touchdown to a 4th-string, blocking tight end and missed 2 tackles on the day.

-Julian Love finished with 7 tackles but whiffed twice and was beat on 3rd down a couple of times.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 5/5 XP – 0/1 FG (Missed 57). Man I wish we could have seen him go for the 62 yarder to win the game.

-P Riley Dixon: 3 Punts / 45.0 avg / 33.8 avg. He had one called back because of a Michael Thomas hold which then turned into his next attempt getting blocked.

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, RB Saquon Barkley, EDGE Lorenzo Carter

3 DUDS

-CB Corey Ballentine, OG Will Hernandez, S Antoine Bethea

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

  1. The positive side of things for WAS centers around their QB. I’ve seen all of Haskins’ snaps this year. He did start off poorly, there was no questioning it. However ,this first half against NYG and the previous week against a motivated PHI defense was some of the best football we have seen out of a rookie QB in the league this year. He has been on steady incline since October and a lot now comes down to hard he works in the offseason. His biggest issue? Poor footwork. His biggest positive? Accuracy.
  1. With that said, being as unbiased as I can be, I don’t think WAS is in a better position moving forward than NYG. Especially if they lose Trent Williams long term, which appears to be the case (get on that NYG). They need 2 or 3 OL, they need a RB, they need depth along the DL, and they need a corner or two. Same can be said for the amount of holes on NYG’s team but the talent they have in place is a tier under what NYG has. Plus, Dan Snyder is their owner.
  1. Landon Collins signed with WAS last offseason. The 6 year / $84 million deal was way beyond what NYG was willing to offer and as much as I liked Collins, he was never worth that. Many NYG fans are conditioned to complain when the team doesn’t sign a homegrown talent in free agency but watching him all year and watching him in this game especially confirmed that it was one of Dave Gettleman’s right decisions in letting him walk. It was fitting that he was the one that allowed the touchdown in overtime to seal the WAS loss.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. I want to address the argument that fans should be cheering for this team to lose. The desire for a higher draft pick is something of fantasy land. This is a stretch of NYG football that has unfortunately left some fans conditioned to losing and reading through mock drafts and checking for future free agents for months. It fills the void that used to be filled by winning football. But I will bring this to my grave: rooting for losses to enhance a draft position is downright foolish and goes against what you want this team to do. Yes, you may get a better player if you are picking higher in the draft but don’t fall into the trap that it will bring this team back to playoff contention. The best teams, year after year, are NOT the ones picking at the top of the draft. The best players in the NFL are NOT the ones taken at the top of the draft. Repeated winning is built on culture, not top draft picks. Culture is built via winning games, even the mislabeled “meaningless” games at the end of the year. That performance by Daniel Jones, the offensive line, the pass rush, Saquon Barkley…etc is a positive step in their respective progressions. If you are still hell-bent on this team NEEDING to pick #2 overall, go take a look at the top 10 picks over the past decade. And see if you can convince yourself that the #2 overall pick was a difference maker over the guys taken in the next 5-6 picks.
  1. There is going to be a tough decision for NYG in regard to their edge rusher hole once the offseason comes. First of all, what scheme are you playing? Second, as well as Golden played, what if a better option becomes available via free agency? I think Golden is good but I don’t think he is in the first or second tier of edge rushers. The name I keep coming back to is JAC edge rusher Yannick Ngakou. I would rather pay him tier 1 money than Golden tier 2 money, but I know a case can be made either way.
  1. Are the Giants OK at cornerback? There is young talent and we have seen Baker and Beal flash especially. However, I think there are questions with both and two guys aren’t enough for a strong secondary. I’ve seen the neglect of CB just ruin teams over the years and there will be one, maybe 2 corners in the draft with top 5 grades. You have to understand the importance of a true shutdown corner in this game and I think NYG has a strong shot at one of those guys in April.
Dec 202019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 29, 2019)

Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins – © USA TODAY Sports

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Game Preview: New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 22, 2019

THE STORYLINE

Alright, we’ve had enough of the doom-and-gloom game previews. Plus, we had our Eli Manning tribute last week. While we don’t yet know who will be shepherding this team moving forward, we can take a look at how the roster currently stacks up with two games remaining in the 2019 NFL regular season. Obviously, these views are mine alone. Many won’t agree.

Quarterback: Daniel Jones has shown me enough that I think he can be the franchise quarterback this team needs moving forward. I see a big, smart, mobile quarterback with a better-than-advertised arm who throws a gorgeous deep ball and who has demonstrated far better accuracy than Eli Manning as a rookie. The only Pat Shurmur quote that sticks in my mind this year is him telling the press that Jones is smarter than any of the coaches. The two valid criticisms I see are: (1) he’s been a turnover machine, and (2) the offense hasn’t produced enough points with him at the helm. Regarding point #1, the primary issue has been fumbles. Yes, he has 11 interceptions in 10 starts, but three of those came in his last start after he suffered a high-ankle sprain. Manning had nine interceptions in seven starts as a rookie. The picks don’t bother me so much. The fumbles (an astounding 15, 10 lost) are a different story. I think that is correctable. Others are not as optimistic. What I do firmly believe is that most quarterbacks would have fumbled on some of the shots he has taken. Regardless that has to be rectified moving forward. You can’t have a QB who fumbles the ball away every single game. Regarding point #2, I think most observers can see that the liabilities of the coaching staff, offensive line, and injured/missing skill level players have been a significant dead weight for the rookie quarterback. In short, I believe in Daniel Jones. I certainly don’t see enough negative for the Giants to spend their upcoming top 5 pick on another quarterback.

Eli Manning will either retire as a New York Giant in January or unceremoniously move on to another team. Either way, his departure will likely be overshadowed by news on the general manager and head coach. Sad. If Shurmur does depart, the team will likely look to bring in a new veteran, back-up quarterback.

Running Back: Saquon Barkley has had a dreadful sophomore season in the NFL. But let’s not forget that he was “Rookie of the Year” and accrued over 2,000 yards just 12 months ago. The high-ankle sprain has obviously been an issue, as has the offensive line. Many subjectively believe the coaching staff doesn’t maximize his talent. But Saquon has to accept some of the responsibility for his down performance. There was too much pitty-pat to his game in 2019. And he dropped too many balls as a receiver, something he didn’t do as a rookie. The good news is that it appears he is starting to get out of his funk and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a strong finish to this season. I believe that Saquon Barkley can be the best player in this league. But the organization has to give him an offensive line and a coaching staff who knows how to use him. He also has to fully commit himself to the game.

The (new?) coaching staff will have to decide about the back-up situation moving forward. Wayne Gallman’s stock has fallen to the point where he has been inactive in recent games. Buck Allen flashed late against the Miami Dolphins, but obviously that sample size is far too small. These last two games are very important for him.

Wide Receiver: If the Giants had the 2014-2016 version of Odell Beckham on this team, they would look in outstanding shape with him and Barkley as two of very top players at their respective positions in all of the NFL. But Beckham has been a shadow of former self for the past three years. He will just break 1,000 yards in 2019 and currently only has two touchdowns. Dave Gettleman deserves a lot of criticism, but not for trading Beckham for three starters.

Perhaps the best news coming out of 2019 was the unexpected productivity of 5th-round draft pick Darius Slayton, who has six more touchdown receptions than Beckham. Slayton is not just a deep threat. He runs good routes, adjusts well to the football, and does damage after the catch. Hopefully, he keeps his head on straight.

Sterling Shepard just can’t seem to put together that one season that everyone hopes and expects he will eventually have. In four seasons, he has yet to catch more than 66 passes and 900 yards in a season. His long-term future in the NFL is now in doubt due to multiple concussions. Golden Tate is a playmaker, but he appears to rub many the wrong way. His future likely depends on what the (new?) coaching staff wants to do with him. Cody Latimer teased but never developed.

The Giants need more help here, especially with Shepard’s long-term future in doubt.

Tight End: After a promising rookie season, Evan Engram just hasn’t developed as hoped. He can’t block and that hurts the team’s ability to run the football. Worse, he can’t stay healthy. He’s missed 13-of-28 games the past two seasons with four different injuries. He teases with game-changing, highlight plays. But they are too infrequent and he can’t be counted upon. If Engram is not traded in the offseason, he faces a make-or-break season in 2020.

Rhett Ellison is scheduled to make almost $5 million in salary in 2020. He has 18 catches and one touchdown this year. I would say his roster spot is in serious jeopardy. At best, Kaden Smith is probably a #2 tight end.

The Giants need an infusion of reliable talent here. It’s comical that at one point in the 2019 season that the Giants had five tight ends on the roster.

Offensive Line: Stating the obvious, this has been the offense’s Achilles’ heel for almost a decade. This organization simply appears incompetent in addressing the offensive line. Heading into 2019, on paper, it looked like this line should have been at worst “average.” Established veterans Nate Solder, Kevin Zeitler, and Mike Remmers were supposed to stabilize a line that also included supposed up-and-comer Will Hernandez. Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur also kept telling us how good Jon Halapio was. Oddly, the “revamped” offensive line performed worse than the hodgepodge line thrown together at the end of 2018. The sum of the parts never equaled the whole. Daniel Jones got hit far too much and Saquon Barkley rarely had room to run.

The problem here is we don’t really know how much coaching and dysfunctional schemes played a role. Offensive Line Coach Hal Hunter wasn’t even employed in 2017. Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler should have been better than they were. Nate Solder hasn’t performed well since he signed that mega-contract with the Giants two years ago, but how much was he distracted by the unimaginable health issues of his child? Remmers was what he was expected to be, but he obviously isn’t the answer at right tackle moving forward. Team decision makers seriously misjudged Halapio’s ability.

At the very least, the Giants MUST find replacements for both tackles and the center. It’s clear that both Eli Manning and Daniel Jones don’t trust Solder and it affected their play. If the Giants don’t draft Chase Young with their first pick, then it should be a left tackle.

Defensive Line: Two years ago, fans were a combination of thrilled and/or curious about the shift from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4. James Bettcher came to the organization with the reputation of an up-and-coming defensive genius who could create mismatches with innovative blitzing schemes. Fast forward to 2019. Fans are now calling for the return to the 4-3 and James Bettcher is widely regarded as a moron.

Again, the problem with evaluating this area is how much of an issue has the coaching staff been? Has the defensive line been put in the best position to succeed? From the start, it seemed odd that Dexter Lawrence wasn’t playing over the center. Defensive Line Coach Gary Emanuel doesn’t have an impressive resume. The overall picture moving forward has been complicated by Gettleman’s decision to spend two draft picks on soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Leonard Williams, who is demanding top dollar despite not accruing a single sack with the Jets and Giants in 2019.

As of December 2019, the defensive line is clearly the strongest unit on a bad defense. They are a big, physical group that can hold the point-of-attack and stop the run. However, they cannot generate a consistent pass rush. That’s more acceptable in a 3-4 alignment, but what scheme will the team be employing in 2020? Bettcher and Emmanuel may not even be here. Should the Giants spend big bucks to justify the trade for Williams? Dexter Lawrence looks like the real deal. Dalvin Tomlinson is now playing the best football of his young career. More was expected from B.J. Hill and R.J. McIntosh. If the Giants keep the 3-4, then it makes more sense to bring all of these guys back. But if the team shifts to the 4-3, then is it a wise use of resources to have Lawrence, Tomlinson, Hill, and Williams man just the two inside DT spots? These guys aren’t really 4-3 outside rushers.

Team needs here depend on what alignment the Giants choose to use going forward. The good news is that Chase Young can play 4-3 end or 3-4 edge rusher. But if they go back to the 4-3, the team will need more help at defensive end unless they think Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, and Oshane Ximines can make the transition. This is possible, but not a given.

Linebacker: Like the offensive line, the franchise has not been able to adequately address this position for years. It’s one of the main reasons why the team has been abused by tight ends and why the run defense has been so hit-or-miss. With the possible exception of Saquon Barkley’s ankle sprain, the injury that hurt the Giants most this year was rookie Ryan Connelly tearing his ACL in Week 4. The guy looked like a stud. Now we’ll have to see if he can truly regain his form before his career even had a chance to take off.

As discussed with the defensive line, much depends on what scheme the Giants employ in 2020. Lost in the terrible season was Markus Golden’s rebound season (60 tackles, 9 sacks). He will be an unrestricted free agent. There is a risk of overpaying here for a player who did suffer a career-impacting injury. Moreover, what if the Giants shift back to the 4-3? How do Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines fit? A lot of questions.

Regardless of the scheme, I think it is time to part ways with Alec Ogletree. I don’t think the guy is a winner and I think it’s pretty clear that giving up two draft picks for him 2018 was a mistake. The big bucks signing of Kareem Martin never really paid off either and one has to think that his time here is nearing an end.

There is a dearth of talent at middle/inside linebacker on this team even if Connelly can return at 100 percent. The Giants desperately need physical, athletic, instinctive play-makers at the position. If the team shifts back to the 4-3, the need for 3-down outside linebackers who can cover also becomes an issue.

Defensive Back: While things did not go as planned here in 2019, there are reasons to be optimistic. Jabrill Peppers started off slowly, but then began to improve his play until he suffered a transverse process fracture in his back in late November. He may never be a Pro Bowler, but it does appear he can do enough to have a productive career as a starter in the NFL if used correctly. James Bettcher and Dave Gettleman really miscalculated on Antoine Bethea. They thought they could get one more respectable season out of him; they were dead wrong. There were also hopes that Sean Chandler could surprise but that obviously didn’t happen.

At cornerback, Janoris Jenkins predictably finally wore out his welcome. Unfortunately, Gettleman didn’t receive anything in return for him before he put his foot in his mouth. Bettcher stuck with Grant Haley for too long and paid for it.

The good news here is the young guns. While their careers can still go in either direction, there was enough ups from Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine, and Julian Love to think they could have a bright future with the team. Over the years, we’ve seen enough promising defensive backs fail to deliver. Nothing is a given. But there is talent to work with.

In terms of needs moving forward, much depends on how the (new?) coaching staff feels like a safety combo of Julian Love and Jabrill Peppers. Remember, Love was a collegiate corner and a new staff could like him as a nickel corner. Baker, Beal, and Ballentine – the three “Bs” – could form a good young core of outside corners, but a veteran presence would help.

Special Teams: We may have seen the last of  Zak DeOssie as a long snapper. The Giants have already committed to Riley Dixon as punter with his new contract. Aldrick Rosas took a major step backwards in 2019 with four missed extra points and a 73.3 percent average on field goals. I wouldn’t get rid of him, but he will be on notice.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • QB Daniel Jones (ankle)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (concussion – out)
  • RG Kevin Zeitler (ankle)
  • LB Oshane Ximines (ankle)

THE FINAL WORD

Once the whistle blows, I can never bring myself to root against the Giants. It’s not in my DNA. But logically speaking, it would be best for the Giants to lose this game. The loser of this game will likely draft Chase Young. I’m hoping for a great game from Daniel Jones and mind-numbing, game-losing coaching decision by Pat Shurmur.

Dec 162019
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 15, 2019)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 36 – Miami Dolphins 20

QUICK RECAP

That time of year where players and fans alike start to mail it in has arrived. We are fast approaching mid-December and despite the fact the NFC East is at its weakest in decades, the Giants are on the outside looking in. Winless in their last 9 games, NYG hosted the equally-bad Miami Dolphins in a game that could have major NFL Draft implications. Also adding some flavor to this otherwise stale game was Eli Manning potentially making his final start in front of the home crowd, or what was left of it anyway. He entered the game with a 116-117 career record and while the wins and losses aren’t a make or break on his legacy, the taste in everyone’s mouth would be a bit sweeter if he could get that ratio back to .500.

The Dolphins were led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, a 37-year old who has been aging like wine since his career began in 2005. While nobody mistakes him for Dan Marino, Fitzpatrick has made a habit in recent years of pulling off upset wins with his sneaky, slippery ways. He led the first MIA drive in to NYG territory but the December winds of North Jersey pushed kicker Jason Sanders’ attempt wide right.

The Giants’ opening drive ended in a Nate Solder allowed-sack before MIA took the ball back and marched right down the field into the red zone. Instead of trying to get the initial points on the board with a 27-yard field goal, Head Coach Brian Flores kept Sanders on the sideline this time to give the MIA offense an opportunity to convert a 4th-and-1 from the NYG 10-yard line. It was stuffed by safety Julian Love and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson for a 3-yard loss.

NYG did cross midfield for the first time but that is where the drive stalled and they had to punt it right back to MIA. They drove down the field yet again and the third time proved to be a charm. Thanks to several missed tackles by both the second and third levels of the defense, MIA found themselves in the red zone and Fitzpatrick hit DeVante Parker up the seam between Corey Ballentine and Antoine Bethea for the game’s first score.

NYG was about to go 3-and-out following an incomplete deep ball to Darius Slayton, but thanks to a pass interference by rookie Nate Brooks, NYG had the ball with a fresh set of downs at midfield. On the very next play Manning hit Golden Tate, who fought through another pass interference, tipped and bobbled the ball, and came down with it before bursting into the end zone to tie the game back up.

After a quick stop by the NYG defense, Manning got the ball back but he threw an interception to MIA linebacker Vince Biegel on a zone blitz that he simply did not recognize. MIA was able to put up three more points via a 24-yard field goal and take a 10-7 lead. A second interception from Manning kept the score there heading into halftime. The Giants were losing by 3 at home to a team that many have said is purposely tanking the 2019 season.

Halftime created a completely opposite result from what we saw just 6 nights prior in Philadelphia. They came out on fire and scored on a touchdown pass from Manning to Slayton. The momentum was back on NYG’s side after they forced a MIA 3-and-out, but Manning threw another horrific interception. There are times where a quarterback gets unlucky when an interception is added to his box score. We have seen several of those in Eli’s career where a receiver tips a ball or someone ran a wrong route. But all three of these were low-level, rookie-caliber mistakes. MIA ended up turning this one into 3 points to bring the game back within 1 point.

After forcing a stop, MIA got the ball back on their own 3-yard line. They opted to try and run outside with an undrafted, on-the-slower side running back with an untouched defender in front of him. It resulted in cornerback Sam Beal recording a tackle for loss in the end zone, netting NYG 2 more points with the ball coming back to them. It was the first safety of the season for NYG and ended up being the turning point of the game.

The Giants scored on their next two possessions via Saquon Barkley touchdowns. Barkley had a career high 28 touches. Pat Shurmur nearly faltered, by not giving him the ball enough as they tried to bleed out the clock with a lead against a bad team. But he quickly reverted to feeding him the rock behind an offensive line that was dominating the point-of-attack. The Giants scored one final touchdown on the legs of Buck Allen and MIA added one of their own on a charity score from Fitzpatrick to Parker.

Eli Manning was pulled and received a standing ovation and “Eli” cheer. If only more than a third of the stadium was full. Oh well.

Manning got his record back to .500 and NYG took the W for the first time since Week 4.

Giants win 36-20.

QUARTERBACK

-Eli Manning: 20/28 – 283 yards – 2 TD / 3 INT – 87.9 RAT. The two touchdowns really saved Manning’s supposed last start at MetLife Stadium. His three interceptions were all on him and he had a multiple misses on short passes. However, as we have grown to know well with Manning, he came up big in multiple spots and didn’t let poor plays carry over into the next series. One slight positive out of this game that the common fan won’t notice was Manning’s ability to change blocking schemes and plays at the line to set up Barkley. That’s one thing a rookie like Jones just doesn’t do yet and a veteran like Manning can do as easily as put his helmet on. It was nice to see Manning get a win and play well enough to contribute to that win in what we think will be his final start at home.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 24 att / 112 yards / 2 TD – 4 rec / 31 yards. Just over a year ago was the last time Barkley got 24 carries (12/8/18 – a Giants win). His 28 touches were the second highest of his 2-year career (29 touches on 11/18/18 – also a Giants win). Barkley looked like the elite, rare-level talent who we saw all of last year and were excited about going into 2019. He made lateral cuts that sent defenders straight to the ground without contact, his short area burst created separation from defenders at all levels, and he got into the end zone twice. Barkley was also running hard because he actually had some room to work with up front and it was such a breath of fresh air to see him produce. Don’t worry NYG fans, this is still one of the top talents in the league. Now the front office better take note what happens when they have an advantage rather than a deficit up front.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 9 rec / 111 yards. Shepard had a bad drop and was flagged for offensive pass interference, but beyond that he was dominant over the green MIA corners. He was getting open underneath time after time and was a major weapon on 3rd down. He also had 2 key blocks that went unnoticed.

-Darius Slayton had 2 catches including a 5-yard touchdown and Golden Tate had one catch that went for a 51-yard score. They weren’t targeted a ton (7 combined) but the weather somewhat inhibited the downfield attack and Manning was clicking underneath with Shepard. Cody Latimer added a catch for 21 yards.

TIGHT END

-Kaden Smith had 3 catches for 38 yards on 3 targets. He made an impressive catch up the seam and showed some toughness after the catch. As a blocker, he graded out well but did allow a TFL.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-If only the Giants could play against the Dolphins defensive line each week. The right side of the line was dominant. Second-year undrafted free agent Nick Gates, who has seen more time at OT this season, played exceptionally well at RG. He was the top graded lineman on the team and had the second-highest grade of any OL performance from the team all year. Mike Remmers also kept things quiet next to him and NYG made an effort to run behind these two when tough yards were needed. I really hope to see more of Gates against WAS and PHI where his level of competition will be much higher.

-Nate Solder allowed a sack early and 1 pressure in the second half but otherwise played solidly. He was fooled by some twists and stunts and his balance wasn’t there to recover. Will Hernandez had the lowest grade on the OL, grading out just above average. He allowed a TFL and was flagged for a hold. He, too, looked lost on a couple run blitzes where he just didn’t see things coming fast enough.

-Jon Halapio didn’t make much of a difference. He got some decent movement off the ball which helped open up the running game.

EDGE

-Rookie Oshane Ximines out-snapped Lorenzo Carter. It wasn’t by much (34 to 32) but it is something to keep an eye on. Carter has been a disappointment this season and Ximines has flashed. He continued to do so in this one, recording a half-sack along with 2 pressures. Carter recorded 1 tackle and 1 pressure.

-Markus Golden added to his team lead in sacks with a half-sack of his own but also added 3 pressures, all in the second half. He had 3 tackles on the day and was stout against the run.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Similar to what I opened the offensive line discussion with, if only the Giants could play against the Dolphins every week. The trio of Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Dexter Lawrence owned the line of scrimmage. Tomlinson remained red hot with 3 tackles and a sack, along with a couple penetrations that caused the Dolphins running game into the waiting hands of other defenders. Williams had 3 tackles / 2 pressures / 1 forced fumble that was recovered by NYG.

-B.J. Hill and R.J. McIntosh both got involved in the action despite limited playing time. They both made a play behind the line of scrimmage, with McIntosh’s play being a sack.

LINEBACKER

-Alec Ogletree appears to have at least somewhat checked out. I remember saying this last year after this loss to the Titans. His hustle and urgency just wasn’t there and it was partially the reason why he missed 4 tackles and was flagged for a hold. He just looked sloppy and stiff. He did add a pressure and a pass break up in the second half but I see a guy who lacks both emotion and leadership from a position where they are needed. He shouldn’t be back in 2020.

-David Mayo added 6 tackles / 1 TFL. He has half the talent of Ogletree but I can’t say their production and impact combined are that far off. He plays hard and even though he was eaten up in coverage a few times. I always want a roster spot for a guy like Mayo.

-Deone Bucannon continues his tryout for NYG and the future. He made a really physical and athletic tackle near the sideline and got involved in some disruption behind the line of scrimmage. He finished with 6 tackles and was effective in coverage.

CORNERBACK

-The youth movement at corner is officially under way after the release of Janoris Jenkins, who had too much pride to simply apologize for what he said to someone on social media. Imagine if someone had used a racial slur on him and justified it by stating it was a “culture thing.”

-Sam Beal had his finest game and moment as a Giant and it was important for him, as he has been either injured or ineffective for nearly 2 seasons, and that can put a guy in danger when it comes to his roster spot. He finished with a team-high 11 tackles, the one big play being a safety. Beal isn’t an overly big guy, but he played really physical on several occasions. I think his footwork and reactions are a little behind the curve still but he was a key contributor to the NYG win.

-Deandre Baker’s play continues to move in the right direction. If he ends on this high note, we can feel good about his rookie season overall. He did allow a late touchdown on a 50/50 ball, but his technique and urgency have been notably better.

-Corey Ballentine has been getting a good amount of action at nickel. I don’t see the fit because his hips and feet just don’t change quickly and efficiently. He is a better straight line athlete, which can be used better outside. He allowed a touchdown on a seam route but he did break up a pass and finish with 3 tackles.

SAFETY

-Julian Love’s role with this team will be interesting to watch in the offseason. He finished with yet another strong game. He had 5 tackles / 2 TFL / 1 pressure / 1 pass break up. He is playing the versatile role of Jabrill Peppers with a lot of action in the box and excelling. Can he be moved back into the role of Antoine Bethea? On paper that is ideal, but I’m not sure he can produce from that spot. All of that aside, his play has been stellar.

-Antoine Bethea had 5 tackles and a pass break up but also missed 2 tackles and was late in zone coverage. I can respect the leadership he provides but I am keeping safety in my top-3 needs for this team moving forward.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas went 4/5 on extra points with no FG attempts.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 Punts / 41.8 avg / 41.8 net. Solid game on a windy day. Dixon ranks 6th in the NFL in average net per punt.

3 STUDS

-RB Saquon Barkley, OG Nick Gates, CB Sam Beal

3 DUDS

-LB Alec Ogletree, EDGE Lorenzo Carter, OG Will Hernandez

3 THOUGHTS ON MIA

  1. Back in September, everyone and their mother were completely positive that MIA was tanking the 2019 season so they could end up with the top pick of the 2020 Draft and select Tua Tagovailoa. Fast forward via real life and here we are. They are playing their butts off, no longer picking in the top 2 (most likely), and both Tua and Chase Young may not even be in the draft class. I have never believed that tanking is a thing and I still don’t. They cleared a lot of cap room, they began a new culture, and they used 2019 to find some key contributors for their future.
  1. Where does this team go now? First, I would love to know what their plans for Josh Rosen are. Part of me thinks Ryan Fitzpatrick simply beat him out and the other part of me says they are using 2019 as a rookie year for Rosen to let him sit and observe rather than run for his life behind a bottom-tier offensive line for the second year in a row. MIA has the resources to improve both the OL and DL this offseason and that is exactly where it needs to begin.
  1. Give me a guy like Brian Flores all day. He gets the most out of his players via leadership and intensity. He is a guy who can scare the kids but also work with the veterans. He knows the game exceptionally well (and we all know that is not a given for NFL head coaches). I think MIA is in really good hands.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Even though the Giants won, the offensive-strategy bothered me as the Giants did not consistently attack newly-acquired, undrafted free agent Nate Brooks, who was playing in his first game. We have seen other teams throw at Sam Beal and Corey Ballentine and Deandre Baker over and over this year. Whenever NYG did target the receiver that Brooks was covering, it was near 100% successful. Darius Slayton beat him multiple times off the ball but they didn’t even look that way.
  1. Lets not go crazy with Nick Gates just yet. I know we are starving for good news, particularly along the offensive line, but the MIA defensive line is the worst in football. I have a couple friends who grade defensive line play around the league in a detailed manner and they have Miami ranked 32nd, with the 31st-ranked team not being close. Gates did what he had to do and he deserves the “stud” label this week but we need to see him against better competition.
  1. If Daniel Jones had a significant shoulder injury I would say he needs to be on the shelf the rest of the year. But a high-ankle sprain? He should play these next 2 weeks if he is even somewhat able. Jones has a ways to go and every week he misses is a lost opportunity for him. This is the time you want him to make the mistakes and learn from them. NYG will head into 2020 looking to win right away; thus Jones needs to get as much experience as possible. No question.
Dec 132019
 
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Game Preview: Miami Dolphins at New York Giants, December 15, 2019

THE STORYLINE

I’m going to be honest with you guys and gals, I just want this season to be over. This is as depressing a season in my late middle-aged life as I can remember.

So rather than dwell in the current bleak state of affairs, and in the spirit of the holidays, let’s look to t he future!

Here are my 12 Days of Christmas wish list:

  1. Fire the defensive and offensive coordinators. I don’t care what James Bettcher did in Arizona. I can only judge him on what he has done the past two years in New Jersey. His defense is a confused mess that routinely allows struggling offenses have their best days. On the offensive side of the ball, I’m still not sure what Mike Shula even does. Only a case can be made for Thomas McGaughey (special teams), but let the new coach decide his fate.
  2. Fire the position coaches. Has any position on this roster gotten better under the tutelage of the position coaches the past two years? Running back (Craig Johnson), offensive line (Hal Hunter), wide receivers (Tyke Tolbert), tight ends (Lunda Wells), defensive line (Gary Emanuel), linebackers (Bill McGovern and Mike Dawson), and defensive backs (Everett Withers)? Think about it.
  3. Fire Pat Shurmur. Last Monday night should have convinced even fence-sitters that he is the wrong guy. I don’t want him anywhere near the team. We’re in Bill Arnsparger, Ray Handley, and Ben McAdoo territory here. Heaven help the Giants if ownership’s take is that Shurmur is fine and he just has to replace assistant coaches.
  4. Fire the General Manager. Dave Gettlemen said before the season that he did not know if this was a playoff team but he should be judged on whether the product is getting better or not. It’s not. Moreover, Gettlemen is near retirement age and the next GM should not be encumbered with Gettlemen’s coaching staff and roster. The trade for Leonard Williams should be the final nail in the coffin. Not moving Evan Engram and Janoris Jenkins also looks bad. The Giants are going to have another top five pick in the draft and tens of millions of dollars to spend in free agency. I wouldn’t give that responsibility to Gettleman, especially since his free agent decisions have been terrible.
  5. Tell Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Chris Mara that his “expertise” in no longer needed. He’s been a failure. His position is duplicative and probably causes unspoken internal confusion. Time to focus on his horse racing career.
  6. Conduct a real general manager search. Don’t just pretend to do so and give the job to Assistant General Manager Kevin Abrams. He’s responsible for the failed product too.
  7. Do not hire Ernie Accorsi to serve as a consultant. I shouldn’t even have to explain this.
  8. That said, ownership should not rely on just their own instincts on who to hire as general manager and head coach. Those instincts have caused the Giants to fire Tom Coughlin while keeping Jerry Reese and Marc Ross, hire Ben McAdoo in a panic for fear of the Philadelphia Eagles “stealing” him, and hiring Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur. In other words, their instincts are dreadful. Seek professional outside counsel.
  9. Strongly consider hiring a defensive-minded head coach. While Tom Coughlin worked out marvelously, I’m sick to death of “offensive gurus” like McAdoo and Shurmur. Get back to your franchise roots and build this team around a kick-ass defense.
  10. For the love of God, fix the freaking offensive line. It’s been almost a decade now since players like Kareem McKenzie, David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Chris Snee, and Shaun O’Hara hung it up. You ruined the second half of Eli Manning’s career. You are ruining the young careers of Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones before they have entered their prime. What good are the second and sixth picks in the draft if they don’t have a line?
  11. Find some players who can cover the middle of the field. Again, the team’s linebackers and safeties have been chronically abused for years. Jason Witten should pick John Mara to give his Hall of Fame induction speech.
  12. In the spirit of the season of miracles, go get Bill Belichick. Call me stupid, naive, foolish, hopelessly unrealistic, but I think he can be pried away from New England. There have been whispers of a break-up with Patriots for years. The Tom Brady era is coming to an end. This is the time to strike. We have a need. He may be looking to leave. Offer Bill full authority to run the entire football operation. When he’s done with coaching, he can still build the team. He loves the Giants. Don’t play it safe here, swing for the fences.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • QB Daniel Jones (ankle – out)
  • WR Golden Tate (foot)
  • TE Evan Engram (foot – out)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (concussion – out)
  • RG Kevin Zeitler (ankle/wrist – out)
  • CB Corey Ballentine (concussion)

THE FINAL WORD

The Dolphins suck but they are playing hard and having fun. The Giants just mailed in the second-half against the Eagles in Philadelphia. The Giants haven’t hit rock bottom yet. It’s coming.

Dec 112019
 
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Darius Slayton, New York Giants (December 9, 2019)

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles 23 – New York Giants 17 (OT)

QUICK RECAP

The NFC East has been abysmal in 2019 and it is surely a fair statement to label it the worst division in football. As week 14 was just one game on the NFL schedule away from being complete, not one team in the division had a winning record. DAL was in first place with a 6-7 record and PHI, with a win over the 2-10 NYG, would get to the same point. They would have to do so against Eli Manning, in for the rookie Daniel Jones because of a high ankle sprain. That fact alone actually created some hype for this game as NYG fans needed something to stimulate them after watching such poor football week after week for what seems to be the 100th year in a row. Manning confirmed in interviews leading up to the game he had no interest in being a backup and even less interest in being a coach. This was his best shot at a true showcase of his current abilities, making this his Super Bowl on a Monday Night. And we all know how he has played in those situations.

The night started off quietly for both offenses, as a total of 0 points were produced over the first five drives that took up the entire first quarter. PHI entered the game with just three wide receivers on the active game-day roster and their main leading rusher, Jordan Howard, was sidelined with a shoulder injury. NYG opened the 2nd quarter with a 3rd-and-13 from the PHI 35-yard line. Manning hit rookie Darius Slayton on a quick slant that was short of the first down marker, but a broken tackle and burst that outran the rest of the PHI secondary resulted in the first score of the night.

PHI, now without Alshon Jeffery because of a non-contact foot injury, started to finally create their own offense on the next drive. Even though Carson Wentz continued to look sloppy as he has all year, he was able to take advantage of broken NYG coverages to connect with tight end Zach Ertz for a combined 54 yards on two plays. NYG escaped a PHI touchdown on the next play thanks to a phantom holding call on PHI right guard Brandon Brooks and held them to a field goal.

The NYG offense was starting to click consistently and in multiple ways. Manning hit Slayton with an on-the-money deep ball for a 42-yard gain and Saquon Barkley was running as hard and efficiently as we have seen all season. While they shot themselves in the foot with a fumbled snap (that Barkley recovered), Aldrick Rosas re-lengthened their lead to 10-3 with a 34-yard field goal. Three straight 3-and-outs by both offenses put the ball back in NYG’s hands with under 2 minutes left starting at their own 16-yard line.

These next few plays would be the highlight of the night and maybe one of the top moments of the season for NYG. Barkley gained 15 yards on 2 carries and then Manning hit Slayton for 12 yards to bring the ball near midfield. On 3rd-and-8, Manning dropped back and lofted up one of his infamous deep balls to the young speedster Slayton, who got behind the PHI secondary. The throw was on the money yet again and it resulted in a simple, easy looking 55-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 17-3 lead as halftime was a short moment away. Manning, whose first NFL action was in this stadium back in 2004, was running downfield pumping his fists and enjoying successful football. Nothing on this night could hide the fact this team is an NFL bottom feeder over the past 5 years and this may be the worst NYG team ever. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant distraction to see Eli, host of a 10-20 record against PHI lifetime, celebrate on their turf while the Eagles were losing a game by 14 at home in a game they absolutely had to have.

NYG started the second half with the ball after nearly doubling PHI in total yards and winning the turnover battle. It was almost, quite literally, the complete opposite of what we have seen all year. We forgot what this actually felt like but something in the air suggested this wouldn’t last more than 2 quarters and that instinct was about to be proven right.

The two offenses traded short, 3-4 play drives, 5 times combined to be exact. PHI was dealing with a depleted receiver corps and NYG’s former high flying and efficient offense literally just stopped. The offensive line started to fall apart and they couldn’t get the ball to Barkley in space or Slayton, anywhere. PHI running back Miles Sanders had to leave the game with cramps and in walked Boston Scott, a 5’6”, 203-pound, 2nd-year, undrafted back with 94 career rushing yards along with 1 career catch. He was a key cog on the first PHI touchdown scoring drive that rounded out the 3rd quarter as he dashed into the end zone on a 2-yard run. NYG led 17-10 as the 4th quarter began, but after a quick possession, the ball was back in PHI’s hands.

Thanks to another 38 yards on four touches, Scott helped the PHI offense enter NYG territory. The Giants were missing tackles, blowing assignments on tight ends in coverage, and just not getting it done when rushing the passer. Thanks to a drop in the end zone by Greg Ward, PHI lined up for a 47-yard field goal but Jake Elliot pulled it left. Always nice to see him miss a field goal against NYG because that 61-yard game winner from 2017 still stings.

This was the kind of a game where having a top tier NFL running back should make winning borderline easy, if not completely so. The Giants had a touchdown-lead in the fourth quarter with under 10 minutes to play. NYG opted to call three straight pass plays. The first resulted was a sack, the second resulted in a 7-yard completion, the third resulted in an attempted flea flicker that had potential downfield. But Nate Solder couldn’t hold his block for more than 2 seconds, which forced Eli to quickly give the ball back to Barkley, who had just took the handoff and tossed it back to Manning. Play that out in your head. The play resulted in a 1-yard loss and NYG punted the ball back after taking a whopping 1:30 came off of the game clock. Pathetic.

The Eagles, not so coincidentally, went on to a 6+ minute, 14-play drive. Cornerback Sam Beal was flagged twice on 3rd down. PHI lost yet another wide receiver leaving them with just one and NYG couldn’t cover Ertz. This resulted in a game-tying touchdown pass to him, making it 17-17 with under 2 minutes. If this wasn’t a set up for one last Eli Manning career highlight, I’m not sure what was.

The Giants then went 3-and-out.

This was their 6th possession of the second half. It was their fourth 3rd-and-out and the other possessions resulted in 4 plays each, one first down each. It was a disgraceful second half performance.

PHI opted to try and use the last 1:25 of the game to go for the win. After all, they had completely dominated NYG after their adjustments were filed at halftime. They were left 1 yard short of the first down at their own 36-yard line with 45 seconds left. There was a moment of indecision: would PHI risk going for it or just punt it back to NYG and hope for overtime? Pat Shurmur didn’t realize the game was in is hands at this point. He stood there, waiting to see what PHI would do. He was unsure, unprepared, unable. 30 precious seconds ticked off and then he opted to use a timeout with 19 seconds on the clock. What a complete waste and clear sign of ineptitude.

The game went into overtime and there wasn’t a person in the stadium or at home who believed NYG would win this. After all, it had been over 30 minutes of game clock since NYG was remotely competitive. PHI needed just two plays, mainly thanks to a 25-yard run by the Darren Sproles clone with the first name Boston playing against New York. PHI slowly but surely inched their way up to the NYG 2-yard line. They were still without all but one undrafted wide receiver, but Wentz dropped back and found Ertz, the number one target, wide open and all alone in the back of the end zone for the game winning touchdown.

Giants lose 23-17.

QUARTERBACK

-Eli Manning: 15/30 – 203 yards – 2 TD / 0 INT / 94.2 QBR. Take a look at those stats and also take in that in the first half, Manning was 11/19 – 179 yards – 2 TD / 0 INT / 124.7 QBR. So for those who don’t want to do the math, he was 4/11 – 24 yards – 0 TD in the second half despite having 6 possessions. The way this game started was exactly what I was expecting to see. Manning coming out hot and on fire with a couple of lethal downfield “dimes”. Manning has a lot of pride, but it is not unreasonable to suggest that he has been a casualty of a disastrous organization the past 8 seasons. While his performance was far from flawless, he played a solid game. However, once the offensive line fell apart, it was more of the same that he has dealt with in the past. Do I think Manning can win with a good offensive line and strong supporting cast? Absolutely. He can still make the throws and he knows the game as well as anyone mentally.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 17 att / 66 yards – 3 rec / 1 yard. For such an unimpressive stat line, I came away from this game as encouraged as I have all year about Barkley. This was the hardest we have seen him run all year (despite being taken down for a 3-yard loss on his first carry). It was just a slight sigh of relief to see him live up to his abilities again. Barkley looked healthy and strong. Not calling any plays designed for him on two straight fourth quarter drives was just maddening because he was clearly playing better, and remember, YOU USED THE SECOND PICK OF THE DRAFT ON HIM!

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton: 5 rec / 154 yards / 2 TD. All of that production was in the first half. This kid continues to make big, big plays despite the fact that the PHI secondary was bracketing him. His first touchdown was the result of a broken tackle in space, something we have seen several times now. The second was pure speed and excellent ball tracking, something we discussed about him around draft time. Slayton is really showing something this season and if I had to pick one bright spot in regard to the young players on this team, it is him. If he can shore up some little things, which I think he will, we could be looking at not just a good, but a VERY good WR. His production when considering playing time and targets is right up there with the best rookies in the class.

-Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate combined for 5 rec / 39 yards. Very underwhelming performance from two guys who this team really needed in their dismal second half.

TIGHT END

-Kaden Smith had 2 catches for 9 yards but also dropped 2 passes and allowed a TFL. He took a step backwards in this one after opening some eyes at how well he stepped in for Rhett Ellison. Scott Simonson was a non-factor and was flagged for a false start.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-In the past two years, Nate Solder has been responsible for more losses than any other player on this team. In the ultimate team game maybe that doesn’t mean much, but it does to me. What a weakness he has truly become to this entire team! He was decent in the first half (and NYG dominated) but then his true form came out in the second half where he allowed 2 sacks and 3 pressures. The Giants only threw the ball 11 times! Almost one half of the passes were impacted by his poor play. If he could have held on to his man 2 seconds longer on the flea flicker, that would have likely been a score. Just an awful, awful performance and it’s getting old writing about his poor play.

-Mike Remmers, Will Hernandez, and Kevin Zeitler all graded out above average. Remmers allowed 1 pressure. Zeitler went down with a foot injury late and it will be interesting to see if the team trots him out there in the coming weeks.

-Based on the subpar standard he sets, Jon Halapio played an OK game. However, “OK” still grades out as below average. He allowed a pressure and was flagged for a holding penalty on Barkley’s longest run of the night.

EDGE

-Really solid game from Markus Golden, maybe his best of the year. He had 4 pressures and a sack to go with 2 tackles. His run defense left a bit to be desired but this was a very solid performance for the pending free agent.

-Oshane Ximines had 2 sacks. Those were the only 2 impacts he made all night but it was a good job by him taking advantage of his limited opportunities, as he played under a third of the snaps. His lack of ability to defend the run appeared twice when he was washed out by blockers coming down from his outside shoulder, which we have seen a few times this year. However, he may have passed Lorenzo Carter on the depth chart. Carter finished with just tackle and at this point, simply just looks like a run-and-chase kind of player.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Dalvin Tomlinson is playing the best football of his 3-year career, during the same timeframe the Giants added Leonard Williams. More on that later. He had 5 tackles, 4 pressures, and a forced fumble. This PHI interior offensive line is one of the best in football and he was winning one-on-one match-ups repeatedly.

-Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams were both impactful in very different ways. Williams started the game on fire and finished with 5 tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 pressures. He had a bonehead personal-foul penalty on a late, dirty hit to Wentz’s sternum after a pass. Lawrence had 3 tackles, 1 PD, and 1 pressure but was more disruptive than that when it came to eating blockers and taking up space.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree finished with 9 tackles and a pressure while David Mayo added 5 tackles and recovered the fumble on Wentz’s failed 4th-and-1 QB sneak in the first half. They did a fine job overall but they had a hard time locating and filling the lanes when Boston Scott got involved.

CORNERBACK

-Have to be happy about the play of Deandre Baker albeit against a depleted wide receiver group for PHI in a game where Wentz was fleeing pressure for most of the night. He had 3 pass break ups and seemed to be very comfortable in his assignments on all levels of the defense.

-Sam Beal was this weeks whipping boy in the secondary. Corey Ballentine a few weeks ago, Grant Haley last week, Beal this week. He wasn’t targeted a lot but when he was, twice on 3rd down, he was flagged. He simply didn’t trust his footwork and recovery speed, thus got way too grabby. I am surprised they didn’t attack him more often when the game clock was dwindling. How Beal responds will be important for his future on this team.

-Janoris Jenkins played some physical football in this one. He finished with 6 tackles and a pass break up. He really stuck his head in there a few times. Props to him for adjusting his style as the players he had to cover were tight ends more so than receivers.

SAFETY

-Antoine Bethea played solid football for the second week in a row. He led the team with 13 tackles, including 1 for a loss and also broke up a pass. Fortunately for him, Greg Ward dropped a touchdown pass that would have been on him, but overall Bethea deserves credit. He stepped up hard and made two impressive tackles against a downhill running back. Nice job for a guy who lacks size.

-Julian Love continues to flash but he missed two tackles and they both stood out. He finished with an impressive 6 tackles and 1 for a loss and also showed impressive coverage. He has impressive footwork and you can see signs of his former cornerback skills.

-Michael Thomas, who played just under a third of the defensive snaps, was roasted in coverage on a couple of occasions. The standout play was the final one of the game where a miscommunication appeared to be culprit but Thomas looked to be at fault. He let the one guy you think PHI would target in key moments roam free in the end zone.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 34)

-P Riley Dixon: 9 Punts / 46.1 avg / 43.6 net. That is a REALLY good game for Dixon.

3 STUDS

-WR Darius Slayton, EDGE Markus Golden, DT Dalvin Tomlinson

3 DUDS

-OT Nate Solder, CB Sam Beal, EDGE Lorenzo Carter

3 THOUGHTS ON PHI

  1. If I am PHI, I’m not getting very excited about this win and/or this team. They aren’t good, they haven’t been good all year, and the injuries are really starting to pile up. They may sneak in to the playoffs but they aren’t going anywhere. A good offense can march up and down the field with ease against them and their pass catchers are among the worst in football.
  1. What is Carson Wentz? We are in year 4 now and he looks even worse than what he showed as a rookie in 2016 after two strong seasons in between. I have to think the issues here are correctable because he has shown too many positives in the past. But it goes to show you that it is amazing how bad a QB can look when the pass catchers aren’t there and the offensive line takes a step back.
  1. Doug Pederson embarrassed the NYG coaching staff on Monday night and I am kind of glad it happened on national TV. His back and forth “punt or go for it” took advantage of Pat Shurmur and his usage of useful timeouts was just the start. The entire second half, NYG looked like they had no idea how to adjust their plan once PHI altered their approach. This is a partial dig at Shurmur, but I respect Pederson a lot and his awareness of game situations on a weekly basis is what every team needs, but most do not have.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. The Giants seemed all but locked into the #2 spot in the draft, potentially #1 or #3. I think the need for a pass rusher, a true difference maker on defense, paired with the belief that DE Chase Young is going to be there makes this approach to the offseason rather simple from a big picture perspective. The Giants need to improve in the trenches, and Young seems like the obvious choice if NYG can find a new left tackle in free agency. And I don’t care how much it costs. My early favorite: Trent Williams.
  1. The emergence of Dalvin Tomlinson over the past month-plus needs to be talked about. He has another year on his rookie deal. But how the NYG approach his situation should be impacted by whether or not they will re-sign Leonard Williams,who could cost $12+ million per year. Big picture, Tomlinson will be cheaper. But the question needs to be asked, is he playing this well because Williams is next to him or did the light go on for Tomlinson? A lot of film analysis will have to go into that but my initial thought is Tomlinson is a guy you want to keep around no matter what scheme you implement.
  1. I am indifferent on whether or not I want to see Eli Manning play the rest of the year. It doesn’t seem like Jones’ ankle injury is serious enough to shelf him for the rest of the year but there is no point in pushing him through any kind of injury. We have enough to work with moving forward and his platform is set. If Manning does play in front of the NYG crowd, I think, out of whoever actually shows up, the NYG fans need to show respect and keep the booing to a minimum.
Dec 072019
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 15, 2019)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, December 9, 2019

THE STORYLINE

It’s easy to become disillusioned with the New York Giants right now. As fans of a sport with a long offseason, we look forward to each new season with great anticipation. But because each of the last three seasons has been effectively over by October, fans who once anxiously pined for the season to start now can’t wait until it’s over. Strange and sad.

When Eli Manning was benched after Week 2, I wondered if we would ever hear from him in an official capacity as a New York Giant again. With him as the #2 QB, there would be no reason for Pat Hanlon to designate him as one of the players to address the media during the week. There would be no reason to do a post-game interview. And a January presser for a player not retiring and headed towards free agency may not have been likely. In other words, I’m not sure Giants fans fully realized that they may have seen and heard the last of Eli as a member of the team. There would be no official send-off or goodbye.

Regardless of your feelings about the state of team management and the coaching staff, the decision to bench Eli was the correct one. Manning and the Giants were 0-2 at the time. It was quickly becoming clear that the same issues with the defense and on the offense line were not going to allow the team to compete in 2019. Playing Manning, who would not be with the team in 2020, and sitting the #6 player selected in the draft made no sense. With each mounting loss, much fan venom was being targeted at Manning. For once, the Giants didn’t wait too long and expeditiously made the right move. They moved onto Daniel Jones.

Jones won his first two games. The Giants evened their record at 2-2. Giants fans were in a great mood. But the defense continued to remain one of the worst in the league. The offensive line was not opening holes in the ground game and, like Manning, Jones was afforded little time to throw the ball and was getting hit far too much. Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Golden Tate all missed time. The Giants went winless in their next eight games (literally half the season). Almost too predictably, Jones got hurt in the last game. It’s currently unknown if he will play again this season.

Analytically speaking, Jones missing 1-4 of the season’s remaining games is not good. The more he plays, the better prepared he will be for 2020. But in a twist of fate, Giants fans have now been presented with a second chance to fully understand they are really saying good-bye to Eli Manning. Perhaps for just one more game, but no more than four in total. When Eli Manning walked off of the field against the Buffalo Bills on September 15th (game pictured above), none of us knew at the time that was likely his last game as a New York Giant. Now we know.

Regardless of how you feel about Eli Manning, he is the franchise’s greatest quarterback. He holds every major team record. It’s not even close. He’s thrown for 22,000 more yards and 163 more touchdowns than Phil Simms. Charlie Conerly, Kerry Collins, Fran Tarkenton, and Y.A. Tittle pale in comparison. Most importantly, Manning was 8-4 in the playoffs, and responsible for one-quarter of the franchise’s eight NFL titles.

The rub with Eli’s career is if you take away his two 4-0 playoff runs, other than longevity which led to stat accumulation, his career doesn’t seem very impressive. But… but… but… you CAN’T take away those two playoff runs. He played an incredibly efficient game against the #1 defense in the NFL in Tampa Bay with two TDs and a 117.1 QBR rating. His 46-second TD drive before halftime against Dallas completely changed the game around. The greatest game of his career may have been his performance in -23 degree temperatures in the NFC Championship. He drove the Giants to two 4th-quarter, Super Bowl touchdowns against what was regarded as the best team and coach in NFL history and was on the front end of a play that is widely regarded as the greatest play in the history of the game. During the 2007 playoffs, Manning ended up 72-of-119 (60.5 percent) for 854 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. And he was awarded his first Super Bowl MVP trophy. Who wasn’t? Tony Romo, Brett Favre, and Tom Brady.

Fast forward four years. The only reason the Giants were in the playoffs that season was Eli Manning. The Giants had no defense or ground game that year until the playoff run. In his greatest season of his career, six of the team’s nine regular-season wins were 4th-quarter comeback wins. With the season on the line, Manning swept the Cowboys in the last month. Two more 4th-quarter comebacks came in the playoffs. That’s eight of the team’s 13 wins. Against the Falcons, Manning threw three touchdowns and finished with a 129.3 QBR. He then threw three more touchdowns, and had a 114.5 QBR, out-dueling league MVP Aaron Rodgers and the 15-1 Packers. Most quarterbacks would have folded with the beating he took in the NFC Championship Game, and his 17-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-15 to Mario Manningham was one of the greatest throws of his career. Perhaps his greatest throw came in the very next game, again with Manningham being the target. With the Giants trailing the Patriots late in the 4th quarter, Manning threw one of the greatest pinpoint passes in the history of the game in the tensest of situations, moving the ball from their own 12 to midfield. Eli finished the 2011 playoffs 106-of-163 (65 percent) for 1,219 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception. And he was awarded his second Super Bowl MVP trophy. Wearing sad faces were Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, and Tom Brady again.

If there was a Mount Rushmore of New York Giants, Eli Manning would be on it. And if you told any Giants fan in April 2004 that Manning would go onto win two Super Bowls, they would have danced up and down with glee. Beyond that, he’s been the model teammate and citizen on and off of the field. Whether or not you think he is overrated, or if you believe the franchise botched the second half of his career by not surrounding him with even an average team, do not lose sight of the fact that he is a New York Giants legend.

Win or lose on Monday night, you are about to see him play for the New York Giants for possibly the last time. Appreciate the moment.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • QB Daniel Jones (ankle – out)
  • WR Golden Tate (concussion)
  • TE Evan Engram (foot – out)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (concussion – out)
  • LT Nate Solder (ankle)
  • LB Chris Peace (knee – out/Injured Reserve)
  • CB Corey Ballentine (concussion – out)
  • S Jabrill Peppers (back – out/Injured Reserve)

THE FINAL WORD

Thank you Eli. We’re proud of you.

Dec 032019
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (December 1, 2019)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

Green Bay Packers 31 – New York Giants 13

QUICK RECAP

Two teams with new looks. Two teams with historical significance. Two teams that come from cold weather cities meeting in December with snow coming down hard. This had the look of a classic “Winter is Coming” NFL game that should have been as entertaining as any game on the NFL schedule. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers came to town to take on the hapless Giants trying to find their way as the last quarter of the season was in sight. After a 7-1 start, GB lost 2 of 3 as their defense started to falter and the lack of depth at receiver behind the injured Devante Adams finally caught up. They needed a game to right the ship, what better place to do it than New York? As Aaron Rodgers said in regard to NYG, “…they’ve been struggling”…if he only knew.

The Giants’ first possession ended with a 3 yard loss by Saquon Barkley on a 3rd-and-1 rushing attempt up the middle where he was hit by a defender within a half second of getting the ball. For those keeping score at home, we have now seen that exact play 1,000 times this season. GB responded with a 7-play, 72-yard touchdown scoring drive that ended with a Rodgers-to-Adams completion in the end zone at the hands of safety Antoine Bethea.

With the snow coming down hard and kicker Aldrick Rosas sitting on the struggle bus in addition to a new long snapper in place of the injured Zak DeOssie, Pat Shurmur opted to go for it on 4th-and-5 from the GB 33-yard line and they converted. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-3 from the GB 18, Jones hit Sterling Shepard downfield for a touchdown. It was a big-time, elite-level throw with pressure bearing down on him and a lot of traffic left and right. The game was tied up 7-7.

That tie lasted just a few plays, as Rodgers knew it would be an easy day with the terrible NYG secondary trying to gain their footing on a slippery surface. He hit Allen Lazard for a 37-yard score on a double route that left absolutely no hope for Antoine Bethea to recover from. It was 14-7 and it just seemed that GB would score when they wanted to.

Daniel Jones threw an interception on the next drive and it set up GB kicker Mason Crosby for an impressive, easy-looking 47-yard field goal in the snow that was still coming down hard. With the score at 17-7 GB, the Giants put together the most time-consuming drive of the game and their most time-consuming drive of the season. An 18-play, 66-yard drive ended in a successful 27-yard field goal by Rosas. NYG converted 2-of-4 3rd downs and both 4th down attempts as the old Saquon Barkley started to re-appear and Jones showed his toughness and ability to hit the tight window throws with an unstable base. They brought a 17-10 deficit into halftime.

After forcing a GB punt on the opening possession of the second half, the Giants were able to put another 3 points on the board via a 45-yard field goal by Rosas. Momentum was on their side and the defense needed to step on the throat of Rodgers and company. This is where the lack of pass rush and lack of cover-ability combined just absolutely kills the Giants defense. Rodgers, quite easily and simply, marched downfield on a 14-play drive to put another touchdown on the board. This score was a 17 yard pass to Adams even with multiple NYG defenders in the area; it seemed nobody had a shot at breaking it up. It looked like a couple dads playing against a bunch of 5-year olds.

The next two NYG possessions ended with Jones second and third interceptions, respectively. In between, Rodgers threw his 4th touchdown of the day to blocking tight end Marcedes Lewis. The score was 31-13 and even though NYG put together a couple of nice plays in their final possession against the GB prevent defense, it wasn’t even worth watching. The stadium agreed, as it was maybe 10% full at the end with most of them being the faithful Packers fans.

Giants lose, 31-13.

QUARTERBACKS

-Daniel Jones: 20/37 – 240 yards – 1 TD / 3 INT / 49.4 QBR. Jones also added 6 yards on 5 carries. He converted two 4th down rushing attempts that required some grit and power. This was the lowest QB rating we have seen out of Jones other than the Thursday night game in NE. His 3 interceptions were all very poor throws and while one can blame the weather, let’s not use that as a crutch. Good quarterbacks play very well in the snow and this was not a full on blizzard. The foot traction wasn’t that bad and there wasn’t much wind. While Jones did deal with pressure all afternoon and he was limping around a bit, this was a poor performance. The positive side of things revolve around two big time throws. His touchdown pass to Shepard was on the money with pressure bearing down on him from all angles. He also threw a great seam pass on 3rd-and-12 to Cody Latimer. It was one of those Sundays that can be labeled a “Rookie Sunday” for Jones.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 19 att / 83 yards – 3 rec / 32 yards. I was desperately hoping to see at least some improvement come from Barkley and I’m not just talking about the production. I wanted to see him run harder, push some piles, break some tackles, fall forward. He did all of those things and we saw a couple flashes of the big play ability we know he has. It wasn’t enough to call him and running game “back”, but I took his play as a positive. He had several blocking assignments and he did well for the most part. He got away with a blatant hold and did allow a pressure. Hopefully this is one of many steps in the right direction.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 3 rec / 40 yards / 1 TD. In his second game back, Shepard caught three passes including the lone Giants’ touchdown. He looked quick and crisp as a route runner and I wish they could have gotten him the ball more often. His style of play usually produces well in conditions like what they played in.

-Darius Slayton: 6 rec / 44 yards. Slayton is proving more and more to be a guy who can pose as a threat both underneath and deep. I did notice that the GB corners were really physical with him at certain points and it impacted how he came off of the ball later in the game. The third interception where Slayton was targeted down the left sideline was a direct result of his hesitation and slowness off of the line. Still a lot to be happy about with the speedster.

TIGHT END

-Kaden Smith: 6 rec / 70 yards. Pretty busy day for the in-season pick up. Smith is making the best of a bad situation in New York but I wouldn’t get overly excited here in terms of being a long-term, every-down guy. He is a quality blocker with a significant lack of foot speed. I do like him as the underneath check-down or short-area target as his size and soft hands can make him reliable.

-Scott Simonson played about a third of the snaps Smith did and struggled as a blocker. He allowed a pressure and a TFL.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Nate Solder continues to be a turnstile and I just can’t see any reason for hope that he is going to turn it around. He allowed 5 pressures (the GB offensive line had a total of 2) and it looks like we are now seeing this really impact Jones as he drops back. There is a natural sense of over-urgency from Jones at times and he has a natural gravitation to the right side almost as if he is anticipating having to escape from the pass rusher behind him. This is what ruins young QBs.

-Mike Remmers and Will Hernandez were better, but not by much. Remmers allowed 2 pressures and was responsible for a TFL. He did make a couple things happen on two of Barkley’s bigger gains though and at least we see grit from him. Hernandez allowed the big TFL on the first drive and a pressure a couple drives later. His play leveled out from there on and he ended up with an average grade. Kevin Zeitler was solid but lacked movement at the point-of-attack.

-Jon Halapio, like Solder, continues to show he just can’t get the job done. I watch a lot of NFL football throughout the week and I can’t give you 3 names that are worse than him at center. He allowed 3 pressures and was pushed around all day. He just doesn’t move his feet, can’t stay in front of his man, and the amount of times he gets driven back off the ball multiple yards on running plays is completely embarrassing. This guy needs to be as far away from NYG in 2020 as possible.

EDGE

-Just an awful day from the pass rush department and that starts with the edge guys. Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter each had a pressure but were awfully quiet otherwise. Golden did get in on 8 tackles, which sounds like a lot, but he was the beneficiary of the defensive line doing their job and action being funneled his way. Carter looks like he just can’t get the job done unless he beats a blocker off the edge. With the somewhat slow track, it was imperative for the pass rushers to win in small windows with their quickness, hand-work, and power. Carter didn’t have any of those weapons working for him.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-One of the better rushing attacks in the NFL when Aaron Jones runs the ball was shut down for the most part. Jones averaged a season low 1.8 yards per carry and Dexter Lawrence was the main reason. He finished with 3 tackles but did an outstanding job funneling runs to other NYG defenders. Leonard Williams also finished with 3 tackles, one of which was for a loss, and a pressure.

-Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill were solid as well. They combined for 5 tackles and we saw an uptick in playing time for Hill. Both are very solid and reliable against the run but neither have a prayer when it comes to the pass rush on a play-to-play basis.

LINEBACKER

-Alec Ogletree led the team in tackles once again, this week with 9. These next few weeks are important for him in my eyes. We have seen how much better he is than the back-ups when he was out with his lower body injuries, but his limitations in space, most notably in coverage, are well documented. More of the same with him in this game. He is limited as an every-down player, but pretty effective on action between the tackles. David Mayo added 5 tackles and 1 TFL.

CORNERBACK

-Janoris Jenkins. It is funny that my game notes from the past two weeks both included question marks next to him regarding how he doesn’t shadow the opposite team’s top target. Last week we saw Allen Robinson, CHI’s top WR by far, roast Corey Ballentine snap after snap. This week, we saw GB’s number one by far, Devante Adams, roast Grant Haley. In key moments, I don’t understand why James Bettcher has Jenkins away from where GB obviously wants to throw. Just an odd way to approach it and I side with Jenkins on his frustration. He finished with a tackle and a PD and put his head into oncoming traffic a few times.

-It appears we have a split-snap situation going on at the other corner spot between Deandre Baker and Sam Beal. I wouldn’t freak out about it regarding the first rounder Baker because this team needs to see what Beal has now that he is healthy. Baker had an opportunity to make a play on the ball early but he simply didn’t track it and looked lost. The result was a big gain as the ball nearly hit him in the head. Beal didn’t fare much better as neither seemed overly disciplined with their reads and techniques.

-Grant Haley was back on the field and Aaron Rodgers viewed it as an early Christmas present. In the second half especially, when they needed a 3rd/4th down conversion, they went directly at him and were almost always successful. Haley got beat up badly and also was flagged for a pass interference that brought GB to the 1-yard line on a drive they later scored on.

SAFETY

-The one positive I am taking away from this game, if I had to choose one, was the performance of Julian Love. With Jabrill Peppers out, Love got the start and was on the field for 97% of the snaps. He finished with 7 tackles and a forced fumble. I’m not used to seeing #24 out there and there were a couple plays where a NYG defender made a nice open-field tackle and my reaction was, “Who was that?!”…it was Love. Easy to see the difference between fast, twitchy, and effective when they are standing next to each other in relation to Bethea.

-Speaking of Bethea, he allowed two of the GB touchdowns, one short and one long. He was also flagged for a defensive hold in the end zone. I sure hope he is a major help behind the scenes because from what we have seen on film, he is no better than what we had in Curtis Riley last year, who I labeled one of the 5 worst starting safeties in the NFL.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 27,45). Nice bounce-back performance for Rosas in tough conditions. He is going to need to shine the rest of the way if he wants to keep his job.

-P Riley Dixon: 1 Punt / 47 avg / 47 net.

3 STUDS

-DT Dexter Lawrence, S Julian Love, OG Kevin Zeitler

3 DUDS

-OC Jon Halapio, OT Nate Solder, EDGE Lorenzo Carter

3 THOUGHTS ON GB

  1. GB really revamped their defense this past offseason. They cut ties with long-time fan-favorite Clay Matthews and brought in two veteran pass rushers, Preston Smith And Za’Darius Smith, for a combined $118 million over 4 years. That is a ton of cap space wrapped up into two players for a team that is also paying big-time money to a QB. Take notes, NYG. You may have a couple of big name pass rushers available in free agency this upcoming offseason and I think it is near-mandatory they get at least one.
  1. Just how good is this GB team? Can they really contend with teams like NO and SF? It comes down to Aaron Rodgers and his ability to stay at an elite level. His best days are behind him but he still can play at his highest level ever any given Sunday. The consistency isn’t there from week to week like it used to be but I know this: I would NOT want to see him in the playoffs.
  1. GB went with a never-been-head coach when they hired Matt LaFleur. There were reports early on that he and Aaron Rodgers were not seeing eye-to-eye and that he was in over his head. But it has worked out well. LaFleur hasn’t been in the league a super long time and I have to think that may play to his advantage more than anything. He is innovative and modern, especially so when you compare him to Shurmur. The league doesn’t know his tendencies, they can’t look back on decades of material. If NYG wants to go the assistant route with their next coaching search, this is a situation and result to keep in mind.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. What else is there to talk about? We are seeing the same process and result week after week. The offensive line stinks and it is holding back multiple individuals The pass rush is near non-existent and that makes life so easy for the opposing offense. The head coach looks overmatched on a weekly basis. Now that we see teams like CIN and MIA pulling off upset wins, I hope this only exemplifies just how broken this franchise is right now and Mara needs to wake up and make wholesale changes.
  1. The media and fans (including several here) have talked about the lack of innovation Shurmur has shown with play designs and calls. He usually shrugs it off, replying that the team simply needs to execute better. I understand his response and don’t disagree but everybody will get innovative at times, even the most old-school teams in the league. Shurmur opted to change the identity by trying to get cute twice in this game. A flea flicker (that had TWO guys running routes) and a timed snap-handoff to D’Mari Scott who just got added to the roster. He did this in a poor weather game where foot traction was limited at best. Come on, NOW is the time you choose to get past your stubborn ways and play with tricks? His thought process is just so puzzling and lacks sense.
  1. The closing weeks of the season will very much be about the young guys in the defensive backfield. Is Julian Love an answer at safety? Is the combination of Baker, Beal, Ballentine at corner enough to avoid putting resources into the position this offseason?
Nov 292019
 
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New York Giants Super Bowl Trophies (January 5, 2016)

© USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, December 1, 2019

THE STORYLINE

During the dark times, it is easy to forget that the New York Giants have been one of the NFL’s most successful franchises, winning eight NFL championships and playing in 19 NFL championship games. It’s not just the quantity of success, but the quality, with the 1990, 2007, and 2011 playoff runs being some of the most memorable in pro football history. The latter two playoff runs included never-to-forgotten upsets against the Green Bay Packers on their home field. While it may seem like ancient history, it’s not. Both of those games were played within the last 12 years.

Which brings us to 2019. In the team’s long and storied history, there have been the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. There was the 1964-1980 playoff drought that included 2-10-2 (1964), 1-12-1 (1966), 2-11-1 (1973), 2-12 (1974), 3-11 (1976), and 4-12 (1980) seasons. During this 17-year time frame, the Giants averaged FIVE wins per season. It was a dreadful time to be a New York Giants fan.

But the 2019 New York Giants earned a disgrace that even those pathetic teams of the 1960s and 1970s never achieved: it went winless during both months of October and November. Two months ago, the Giants were 2-2. They now enter December 2-9. Almost unbelievably, they are out of the playoff hunt in a division where the front runner has a .500 record.

The New York Giants have won 10 games in three seasons. They are currently averaging THREE wins per season during that time span. They will finish the year either in 3rd or 4th place in the NFC East with losing records for the sixth time in seven years.

Something is wrong. Everyone has a theory as to why, but we all know something is wrong. We all feel it. Even with a rookie quarterback who is showing signs of being the real deal and a second-year running back who flashed greatness as a rookie, there is little hope among the fan base. The Giants are not getting better. And the games are not fun to watch. It’s become a chore. This is as depressed as I’ve seen Giants fans since I began covering the team in 1995.

Wellington Mara and Robert Tisch passed away in 2005. Their sons, as newbie owners, were in charge of the team when it won NFL titles in 2007 and 2011. John Mara and Steve Tisch got cocky. They let their guard down. The franchise rapidly deteriorated into a laughingstock in the blink of an eye. And one gets the sense that they pretended it wasn’t happening, that the downturn was a temporary anomaly. It wasn’t. And with each passing day, fan ire now turns on them as they have hand-picked the staff who were supposed to turn this around.

Wellington once famously said, “It’s nice to see arrogance humbled” when talking about the Dallas Cowboys in 1996. Those words are now haunting his son, even if he chooses not to recognize it. John is now going through the same growing pains that his dad did as an owner many decades ago. Whether he can learn from his mistakes and make the right adjustments will determine how long the Giants remain a joke. Hopefully, it won’t be another 17-year stretch.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • WR Golden Tate (concussion – out)
  • TE Evan Engram (foot – out)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (concussion – out)
  • S Jabrill Peppers (back – out)
  • LS Zak DeOssie (knee/wrist – out)

THE FINAL WORD

The Giants are going to lose their eighth game in a row on Sunday. And there is a good chance that this game gets ugly in front of a half-empty stadium.

The Giants will then finish a 4-game stretch that includes two annual beat-downs by the Philadelphia Eagles, including one game in prime time.

It’s going to get much worse my friends.