Aug 162018
 
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Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham, New York Giants (August 9, 2018)

Can someone other than these two make a play? – © USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Game Preview: New York Giants at Detroit Lions, August 17, 2018

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THE STORYLINE:

Most fans know that it is unwise to make too much out of preseason game, let alone the first preseason game. That said, other than the ground game, the New York Giants were clearly out-played by an 0-16 (albeit improving) Cleveland Browns team in the opener. Even though these are practice games, there is a psychological component involved here. The Giants were 3-13 last year. They are 0-1 in the preseason. It would be a nice psychological boost for the team to experience a winning locker room again. (It would also be nice for the fans). One could legitimately argue that, based off one game, the Giants still look like a rebuilding ball club that has hitched it’s wagon to a 37-year old quarterback while passing on a number of potential franchise quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Pat Shurmur has to be thrilled with the quantity and quality of the work accomplished this week in the three practices against the Detroit Lions. And the team came out of these practices with no serious injury issues. The best way to cap this week would be a solid performance on Friday night against the Lions and have that proverbial arrow moving up rather than down.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (hamstring)
  • WR Travis Rudolph (quad)
  • TE Ryan O’Malley (ankle)
  • DE R.J. McIntosh (unknown – Active/Non-Football Illness list)
  • LB Connor Barwin (“soreness”)
  • LB Thurston Armbrister (hamstring)
  • CB Donte Deayon (hamstring)
  • S Darian Thompson (hamstring)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:

The only real highlights to come out of last week’s game was the ground attack. Saquon Barkley’s first run was a real eye-opener, not so much for the big gain but the series of moves he strung together in order to break out into the open field. Unfortunately, he will not play on Friday. This will provide an opportunity for Jonathan Stewart and Wayne Gallman to make their respective cases for #2 back. Neither was particularly productive against the Browns on the ground (combined eight yards on six carries) but Gallman was more of  factor in the passing game (4 catches for 33 yards). He looks quicker and faster. There should also be more opportunities for guys who were pretty much regarded as “camp fodder” players, but who played well last week: Jalen Simmons (7 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown) and Robert Martin (5 carries for 39 yards). Could one of these two force their way onto the 53-man roster?

Overall, last week the Giants had 134 net yards rushing and averaged almost six yards per rush. That’s a good sign and a step forward for what has become a finesse team in recent years. The offensive line is still clearly a work in process, but it’s a start. At least the Giants were more physical.

Now to negative. I’ll keep saying it until the Giants prove me wrong: unless the Giants break a big play, they have problems sustaining drives. In recent years, the only big plays came from Odell Beckham. At least now they’ve added another big-play weapon in Saquon Barkley. But outside of Barkley’s 39-yard run, the first-team offense wasn’t good against the Browns. That bears watching moving forward. Can this offense string together four, five, six first downs and get the ball into the end zone? Forget breaking the 30-point barrier, even 20 points still seems to be an issue. With Barkley not playing against the Lions, and possibly Beckham, others need to step up and demonstrate they are legitimate first-string NFL talent. All of the positive plays in practice by Cody Latimer, Hunter Sharp, Kalif Raymond, etc. mean nothing unless it translates to actual games. Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram have to make more plays too. And Eli has to be more accurate, especially on screen passes.

Perhaps the biggest subplot this week is how Davis Webb responds to an atrocious performance against the Browns. Webb didn’t even look like a viable back-up, let alone potential future starter. Jumpy, nervous quarterbacks are worthless. He had better get that out of his system quickly. I would not be shocked to see the Giants cut him if this crap continues. This new regime has no ties to him.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

We’ll start with the good news first again. Every defensive coordinator in football will tell you their #1 priority is stopping the run. Last week, the Giants held Cleveland to paltry 50 yards rushing (15 of which came from the QBs) and 1.5 yards per rush. The Giants were clearly the more physical team up front. That’s a positive start for a Giants defense that was 27th against the run in the NFL in 2017. As hoped and expected, the Giants defensive line is very tough to move out and the team looks to have some decent depth.

The bad news were the pass rush and pass coverage – which go hand-in-hand. The Giants only accrued one sack (by reserve Robert Thomas) and three quarterback hits last week. More was expected, particularly by the starting and reserve outside linebackers. By all accounts, Olivier Vernon has had a great camp. But it didn’t translate to the playing field last week. Same story with Connor Barwin, who is now not playing due to “soreness.” Lorenzo Carter and Kareem Martin were too quiet. If the Giants’ outside backers aren’t effective rushing the passer, this defense is going to have issues stopping opposing quarterbacks.

This brings us to pass coverage. Last year the Giants were 31st in pass defense. In a limited number of snaps, the Browns were successfully able to attack both Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple outside the hashmarks. Both played the man rather than the ball and got burned. Folks have been saying Jenkins has had a strong camp, but I keep noticing big plays against him in practice too where he isn’t turning to play the ball. And we’ve all know this has been an ongoing issue with Apple. The scary news is that despite this, these are two guys the Giants simply can’t afford to lose right now because they team has zero depth behind them. The loss of Sam Beal is looking bigger by the day. And like the offensive line, the secondary still has the appearance of a 2-year rebuilding project.

That all said, the pass coverage over the middle remains the primary liability of the New York Giants defense. It’s been a problem for years and it was a problem last week. Sy’56 correctly harped on it in his game review. Alec Ogletree was supposed to add athleticism to the inside linebacking spot, but he was burned for a long touchdown against the Browns and had issues in practice this week when covering tight ends. With Curtis Riley out last week, Darian Thompson started at free safety and he did not distinguish himself. Now he’s hurt and Riley is back so let’s see if Riley – a former cornerback – is an improvement. If the Giants are going to compete against a team like the Philadelphia Eagles, they need to be able to cover tight ends and running backs better.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:

Through one week of preseason action, 45 punters have punted. Riley Dixon has punted a league-high 10 times, but is only 21st in average (44.2 yards per punt) and 26th in net average (39.7 yards per punt). Aldrick Rosas did make a 42-yard field goal.

Kalif Raymond did have a 14 yard punt return and Hunter Sharp a 42-yard kickoff return. Kickoff coverage wasn’t good as the Browns had two kickoff returns of 30 yards or more.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:

Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Davis Webb against the Lions: “I think young players tend to improve. It was his first time in our system (last week), playing really in a new system. So yeah, I certainly hope he’s better (this week).”

THE FINAL WORD:

As long as I’ve been a fan, I’ve never come to a definitive conclusion about the importance of the preseason. But I do know that I will become increasingly nervous if the Giants lay another egg this week. The offense needs to demonstrate an ability to sustain drives and get the ball into the end zone. The defense needs to get the other team off of the field and stop giving up big passing plays.

Aug 122018
 
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Jalen Simmons, New York Giants (August 9, 2018)

Jalen Simmons – © USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns 20 – New York Giants 10

QUICK RECAP

Live football returned for the first time after one of the worst seasons in franchise history. Week 1 of the preseason is always more about seeing the new guys in the game-uniform and watching real, live football for the first time since winter. The first string (minus Odell Beckham) played for less than a quarter for NYG, while CLE left them in a bit longer.

Thanks to a 39 yard run on rookie Saquon Barkley’s first touch, NYG was able to put 3 quick points up on the board. That lead proved to be the last one for the home team, as Tyrod Taylor, who is competing for the starting gig, made a perfect throw to New Jersey native David Njoku for a 36 yard touchdown. At that point, the night very much became about the backups vying for roster spots and/or rotational roles on the final 53-man roster.

Davis Webb entered the game and struggled. It was the opposite for CLE’s #1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, who owned the night and possibly Week 1 of the NFL’s preseason schedule. Webb looked erratic while Mayfield carved up the Giants defense all over the field. One was a 3rd round pick and the other was a top overall player, but the two didn’t even appear to be in the same league.

Mayfield and the Browns quickly lengthened to lead to 13-3 and the second half then began with a couple of 3 and outs. A potentially game-changing play happened on special teams soon after, as CLE’s C.J. Board fumbled a punt return that was recovered by NYG’s Zak DeOssie on the CLE 14 yard line. A few plays later Jalen Simmons scampered into the end zone on a 5 yard run, bringing the score back to 13-10. Mayfield returned the favor a couple drives later and hooked up with fellow rookie Antonio Callaway on a 54 yard touchdown that was majority run-after-catch. The middle of the pass defense was torched all night and the big plays just never happened on offense following Barkley’s run on the first drive.

The story of the night was Mayfield’s excellent debut and NYG’s struggling backup offense. While it is too early to throw our hands up in the air, there wasn’t a lot of optimism after this one other than the team remaining healthy.

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACKS

Eli Manning: 4/7 – 26 yards – 0 TD/0 INT. Manning played two drives that lasted a combined 16 plays, hardly enough time to get a full evaluation. There isn’t much to report of his night, although his footwork looked crisp and he was decisive with the ball. He went 1 for 1 on 3rd down but was sacked on his second attempt. There was one miscommunication with TE Rhett Ellison up the seam that almost led to an interception and judging by the look of the All-22 tape, it was Ellison that made the wrong read.

Davis Webb: 9/22 – 70 yards – 0 TD/0 INT. Webb has the inside track and winning the backup job by default, but he didn’t strengthen that plan with his play. Webb struggled mightily with simple, basic-level passing. He had a hard time hitting guys in the numbers, as he looked overly flustered and nervous. While I won’t bash him for his play in week 1 of preseason football, he does need to show that he can bounce back next week in Detroit and fix his shortcomings.

Kyle Lauletta: 6/9 – 48 yards – 0 TD/0 INT. If this were an open ended competition, Lauletta walks away from this game with the lead. His footwork and crisp release especially stood out. The knock on Lauletta is a “below average” arm when it comes to power and strength, but he can more than make up for it with how fast he gets rid of the ball. He looked very confident and sure of himself for a 4th round rookie in his first live NFL action.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 4 att/43 yards. The anticipation of the 2018 #2 overall pick and what many consider to be one of the top running back prospects ever matched the inaugural play of Barkley’s pro career. An overly impressive 39-yard run that displayed his vision, agility, reaction, and open field burst was a sign of things to come. His night didn’t last long and there were a couple negative runs after, but Barkley’s initial showing with NYG in a game situation was a positive one.

-Jonathan Stewart: 3 att/3 yards – 1 rec/8 yards. Stewart didn’t see a lot of action himself, but he struggled to reach the outside. He looks heavy footed and considering this is his 11th year with 1,700 carries on his resume, one can surely believe he will be a number three back by season’s end. He was also part of a messy miscommunication with the middle of the offensive line on a CLE blitz that led to a sack.

-Wayne Gallman: 3 att/5 yards – 4 rec /33 yards. Gallman looks explosive and sure of himself. He is going to be a great compliment to Barkley and an asset to the passing game both as a pass catcher and blocker, as he picked up a couple blitzes successfully.

The Rest: A couple of impressive runs by both back end backs Jalen Simmons and Robert Martin. They combined for 12 carries / 77 yards against the roster hopefuls of CLE. Simmons was especially assertive and did a nice job of running through contact with good pad level and active feet. Fullback Shane Smith was on the field for 9 plays (12% of the team’s offensive snaps). He does look more confident and sure of his reads than he did at this time last year, but there wasn’t a major difference felt with his presence in the run game.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Sterling Shepard: 2 rec / 9 yards. After being slowed by a training camp ankle injury last year, it was refreshing to see him out there early on. His quickness out of the slot is going to be a factor this year, now if he could only make more happen after the catch and the Giants offense may have a big time weapon.

-Hunter Sharp: 2 rec / 16 yards. Sharp got the early look with the first team offense with Beckham on the sideline. He dropped two passes and showed poor ball skills on one of his receptions, a quick way to get thrown to the back end of the depth chart. He did have a nice kick return, displaying good long stride speed in space.

The Rest: Roger Lewis and Marquis Bundy both came down with big plays late in the game. Lewis’ seems to have been somewhat demoted. I think it mostly has to do with his lack of progression as a route runner and inconsistent ball skills. Kalif Raymond ran a great route but failed to track a nicely thrown ball by Davis Webb which would have resulted in a touchdown. Another long shot to make the roster, Raymond also made a business decision to not extend for a ball over the middle with a safety bearing down on him. Keep an eye out for veteran Russell Shepard, he made a couple of nice grabs and I think the reliability of what he brings to the table is something this coaching staff will be looking in to over the next few weeks. Corey Latimer started on the outside, but didn’t see anything thrown his way.

TIGHT ENDS

-Rhett Ellison and Evan Engram saw the snaps with the first team, but neither had any impact. Ellison seemed to run a wrong route up the seam on an option, nearly resulting in a red zone interception.

-Jerrell Adams: 2 rec / 6 yards. Adams was targeted 5 times and was often the victim of high throws from Webb. While he can’t be blamed for the incompletions, there is a lack of quick twitched-adjustment that I see with him. He is a big, physical player that just struggled to get his head around. Adams is trending towards being a player that has tools, but just isn’t developing the way he needs to. If I were grading his blocking plays, it wouldn’t have been positive.

OFFENSIVE LINE

TACKLES

-Solid debut for Nate Solder in a Giants uniform, albeit it was only 16 plays. After watching Ereck Flowers play with such poor technique and balance for three years, it was refreshing to see a real pro-caliber left tackle in motion. Flowers made his debut at right tackle and had a key block on Barkley’s big run, but continues to struggle with hand placement and proper pad level. Chad Wheeler played both tackle spots and has more power behind his initial hits, but there was too much bending at the waist. He allowed 2 pressures against backups. Nick Becton also played both backup spots and he doesn’t look pretty, but he gets the job done in pass protection. As a run blocker, he struggled to make adjustments. Chris Scott had the most impressive night of all the backups. He showed inside-out versatility and had a key block on the Giants lone touchdown. Looking forward to putting the eyeball on him these next few weeks.

GUARDS/CENTERS

-There was a lot of anticipation building for the debut of rookie Will Hernandez. While 16 plays isn’t nearly enough for a full evaluation, I thought he struggled. He hands were way too wide, as he didn’t adjust to defenders moving laterally very well. The ability is there, its not like he is a poor athlete or anything, I just didn’t see the fluidity. Patrick Omameh got the nod as the starter at right guard. He had a couple of nice, powerful blocks. He can really move guys inside. However, there seemed to be multiple miscommunications inside. He was left searching for defenders to block a couple of times. Jon Halapio needs to improve at both holding his ground and getting everyone on the same page when it comes to assignments. Brett Jones outplayed him in this game, although he was matched up against lower level defenders. John Greco and John Jerry both played half of the team’s snaps and if I had to choose one based on this game’s performance, it would be Greco. Just more pop and adjustment speed.

DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE

Olivier Vernon was in for just 12 plays and didn’t make a difference anywhere. Hopefully history won’t repeat itself, a guy that dominates training camp but doesn’t translate to gameday. The three-headed monster between the tackles, Damon Harrison, Dalvn Tomlinson, and B.J. Hill started off the game. They didn’t play much but they were very stout. That is going to be a very difficult group to move for offensive lines in the running game.

A.J. Francis and Robert Thomas were the standout performers of the night in backup roles. I had a thing for Thomas a year ago, but I think this scheme fits him even better. He is an excellent combination of stout and aggressive. Josh Mauro made his debut with the club. Even though he will be suspended at the start of the regular season, he will be a more-than-solid part of this line. Romeo Okwara continues to flash with his combination of tools, as he recorded a TFL and pursued all over the field hard. This appears to be the strength of the defense.

LINEBACKERS

Alec Ogletree made his debut in a Giants uniform and was beaten badly by CLE tight end David Njoku for a 36 yard touchdown. He took a poor angle considering there was no help over the top. B.J. Goodson was a solid interior run defense presence. If he can stay healthy, this scheme with all of the protection in front of him will be a big deal for him.

Kareem Martin had a pressure, but was otherwise quiet. Connor Barwin looks like shell of his former Eagle self. He doesn’t have nearly the same level of explosion off the ball. Lorenzo Carter had a pressure and QB hit in his pro debut. He can really eat up space in a blink; now it is all about developing the skill set.

Calvin Munson and Ray Ray Armstrong looked very solid in backup roles. Munson plays the instinctive, leader-of-the-defense role. He is a right-place, right-time guy. Armstrong’s speed stood out. In this defense that values attacking on all angles, Armstrong could be a guy who makes a difference. A linebacker with his ability to move with all of those big bodies up front swallowing up blockers is a nice combination to have.

-The darkhorse I think who has a good chance of making this team is speedster Tae Davis. Undersized, yes. But this kid can fly around like a defensive back and he handled blockers very well. He can reach windows that most cannot, and he more than held his own in the power game.

CORNERBACKS

Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple started. Jenkins lost a 50/50 ball to the newly acquired Jarvis Landry and Apple was beaten badly on a back shoulder throw where his lack of footwork and ball awareness showed up again. Nothing to be overly alarmed about at this point, but these were the takeaways in their limited action.

-The race for the backup spots is on. Leonard Johnson was targeted the most of all the NYG defensive backs. He whiffed on a pass to Antonio Callaway the resulted in a long touchdown, but he had a positive night. He broke up 2 passes and showed tight coverage underneath. For the roles a nickel needs to play, he seems to be the best fit so far. Chris Lewis-Harris has the foot speed and fluid hips, but the ball location wasn’t there on two occasions, one of which resulted in a CLE touchdown. B.W. Webb is a competitor, if nothing else. He plays a fast-reaction type game and he can move with speed. His issues continue to be a lack of size and accurate forecasting. Rookie Grant Haley had a nice tackle for loss.

SAFETIES

-If it weren’t for Landon Collins, this group of NYG safeties could be labeled as one of the worst in the NFL. Even with him, they are bottom tier. The middle of the field was abused all night and there simply isn’t a cause for hope. Darian Thompson looks to be the same guy, an average cover safety that won’t strike any fear in to receivers over the middle. He strained a hamstring.

Andrew Adams led the team with 7 tackles, as he played more snaps than anyone in the group. Michael Thomas was quiet in his debut with the team. Of the roster hopefuls, Orion Stewart made a couple standout plays, disrupting a running play behind the line of scrimmage with aggressive downhill pursuit and had an impressive pass break up. However he badly missed a tackle in the open field that led to a long touchdown. Rookie Sean Chandler struggled in mid-field coverage.

SPECIAL TEAMS

KICKER

Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – (Made 42). XP – 1/1. Rosas has the inside track at earning the job for the second straight year, but his leash may not be long. It will be essential for him to make these preseason kicks.

PUNTER

Riley Dixon: 10 Punts – 44.2 avg – 39.7 net – 3 inside 20. Solid night for Dixon. He tried to pin CLE inside the 20 four times, three of which worked out.

3 STUDS

-DT Robert Thomas, RB Wayne Gallman, OT Chris Scott

3 DUDS

-QB Davis Webb, OG Will Hernandez, S Sean Chandler

3 TAKEAWAYS FOR CLE

-Baker Mayfield excelled in his first NFL action. I was very impressed with his footwork in and out of the pocket and even more so with his consistency with keeping his eyes downfield when evading pressure. That isn’t common in rookie quarterbacks. The accuracy I lauded during the scouting process was on full display. He is going to be a good one.

-With that said, Tyrod Taylor is not going to hand him the job. He is one of the most underrated QBs in the NFL right now and he appears to be well respected by the coaching staff. Much of the attention went to Mayfield’s impressive debut, but don’t overlook that Taylor was a perfect 5/5 for 99 yards and a touchdown.

-This will be the first season since 2007 that Joe Thomas isn’t lining up at left tackle for CLE. Joel Bitonio, a college OT who has played OG for CLE since 2014, now starts at that spot. If Thursday night was any indicator, the move may not be much of a decline in relation to the past couple of years. His footwork and hand power were top tier.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-In any direction, it is foolish to have strong reactions to a preseason game unless it has to do with injuries. The Giants appear to have avoided anything catastrophic in that department in week 1. More than anything, that is most important; be healthy heading in to their matchup against JAC.

-That said, Davis Webb is going to need to show improvement throughout the preseason if he wants a strong hold of this backup job all year and the spot first in line once Eli Manning hangs them up. His performance Thursday night is less important than his ability to improve and come back stronger from a poor game.

-The biggest concern I have with this defense, and it is a major one, is the middle of the field against the pass. The pass rush an be created via scheme, but if the safeties and linebackers can’t make plays and/or follow assignments, it is going to be ugly.

Aug 082018
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 1, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Game Preview: Cleveland Browns at New York Giants, August 9, 2018

THE STORYLINE:

Hope springs eternal with the advent of each and every NFL season. But make no mistake about it, the NFL and the New York Football Giants appear to be at a crossroads. Both have been terribly mismanaged in recent years and the product has suffered. One thing that would help the NFL as a whole right now is to have a star-studded (Odell Beckham, Saquon Barkley) Giants team regain its footing in the nation’s #1 media market.

The 2017 New York Giants were an abysmal football team. Before we close the book on last year, let us remember that the Giants were so bad that conservative ownership fired both the general manager and head coach before the season was over. The offense, defense, and special teams were train wrecks and by year’s end, the team was arguably the worst in the league. The Giants were not just losing, they were getting embarrassed. It was so bad that diehard Giants fans did something they rarely do: they stopped watching.

Thus the immediate goal is not the playoffs, but to simply field a competitive football team. Baby steps. Don’t be soft; be physical. Focus on fundamentals. Move the football and pick up first downs. Put points on the board. Stop the opponent from moving the ball. Create turnovers. Field a special teams unit that is an asset rather than a liability. Don’t get blown out. Baby steps.

Most importantly, the team’s new leadership has to create a culture/atmosphere of a winner rather than a loser. Old Giants fans who grew up in the 1970s have intimate knowledge about how losing breeds losing. When you expect to lose, you usually do. When you expect to win, you usually do. Team culture is a fragile thing. And the Giants were blessed with coaches like Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin who knew how to create a winning culture.

Many fans have already made the assumption that the team is in better hands with Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur. We won’t know if this is true until we see the product on the field over the course of the next few seasons. Both are hindered by and must deal with the mess Jerry Reese, Marc Ross, and Ben McAdoo left. The team’s draft record over the course of the past decade (exacerbated by bad injury luck) has directly led to a shitty product. Look no further than the offensive line as just one example. So as much as we watch and judge the players during this 2018 preseason, we must also consider the big picture. Did ownership make the right choices at the all-important GM and HC positions?

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • TE Ryan O’Malley (protective boot on right foot/ankle)
  • DE R.J. McIntosh (unknown – Active/Non-Football Illness list)
  • LB Thurston Armbrister (hamstring)
  • CB Donte Deayon (hamstring)

Also, cornerback/safety William Gay (hamstring) and cornerback/safety Curtis Riley (hamstring) who have returned to practice recently could be held out.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:

The New York Giants were 31st in scoring in 2017. The team averaged 15.4 points per game. This is the size of the hole the Giants must climb out of.

For the third time in his 15-year NFL career, the 37-year old Eli Manning must learn a new system. The first time was in 2004 as a rookie. The second time came in 2014 when Ben McAdoo was hired as offensive coordinator. Now Pat Shurmur brings his own offense. As much attention as Odell Beckham, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, etc. receive, the offense will ultimately thrive or fail on the ability of Eli Manning to adapt to the new system and hold off Father Time. Fans being honest with themselves see it… regardless of the reasons, Eli has lost his mojo in recent years. He’s looked jumpy in the pocket and has missed too many throws. For many quarterbacks, once they become gun-shy, it’s over. If Eli doesn’t get his mojo back this season, we may be seeing Davis Webb or Kyle Lauletta or someone else leading the team in 2019. That’s why the performance of all three quarterbacks this preseason will be so important to watch. There is a lot more at stake than is normally the case.

The other main area of concern is obviously the offensive line. This unit began to deteriorate even during the team’s last championship season in 2011. Over the course of the next six years, the Giants used both the draft and free agency to attempt to fix the line, but failed miserably. So here we are in 2018 with new starters at each of the five positions: Nate Solder at left tackle, Will Hernandez at left guard, Jon Halapio at center, Patrick Omameh at right guard, and Ereck Flowers now shifting to right tackle from the left side. I think most of us still see this as a two-year rebuilding project. Hopefully, the left side is set, but there are still serious question marks at center and right tackle. Not to mention that it will take time to build chemistry and cohesion. Depth will be an area of focus too. In most recent preseasons, the #2 offensive line for the Giants has been a sieve. Are there any quality back-ups at all in this group? In particular, the Giants need to identify a swing tackle who can play if Solder or Flowers get hurt.

OK, enough gloom. It is quite possible that no team in the NFL fields a more dangerous trio at WR-TE-RB than the New York Giants with Odell Beckham, Jr., Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley. Throw in Sterling Shepard and this group is going to be a match-up nightmare for other teams. We probably won’t see these four play much on Thursday, and their absence from the line-up dramatically changes the nature of the offense. The Giants are a very top-heavy team, meaning they have a good amount of Pro Bowl-quality players but that quality level drops off rapidly. There is no better example of this than the wide receiver position. After Beckham and Shepard, the next three receivers on the depth chart are Denver Bronco castoffs, including two guys who were street pick-ups who played for the Giants last year. It will be interesting to see if the coaches and Eli can turn around the careers of Cody Latimer, Hunter Sharp, and Kalif Raymond. Are any of these three viable NFL receivers? What happens if Beckham or Shepard get hurt?

Finally, on a personal note, I can’t wait to see Saquon Barkley. Some fans will boo when he doesn’t turn every touch into a 40-gain, but this guy has the tools to become the best running back in franchise history. People will be tuning into the Giants just to see him play.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

The Giants were 31st in yards allowed in 2017 and 27th in points allowed. Again, this is the size of the hole they must climb out of.

The still under-reported change this offseason is the Giants are shifting back to the 3-4 defense for the first time in 25 years. While it may not be the old 2-gap defense of the 1980s and there will be plenty of hybrid looks, this is a very big deal. It means the linebackers will become the focus of the defense in terms of play-makers. So while the Giants have 1,000 pounds of beef up front with the on-paper imposing wall of Dalvin Tomlinson, Damon Harrison, and B.J. Hill, pressure will be on the likes of Olivier Vernon, Kareem Martin, B.J. Goodson, Alec Ogletree, Connor Barwin, and Lorenzo Carter to make game-changing plays.

What we do know is that this will be a blitz-heavy defense, perhaps the most blitz-oriented defense in recent memory, and perhaps team history. James Bettcher will bring it from all angles. Based on his comments earlier this week, we may even see that in the preseason as he claims they must practice what they intend to employ during the regular season.

Fans love it when they hear a defense blitzes and attacks. The mindset is one where the defense dictates rather than reacts. But with aggressiveness does come risk. A secondary that has arguably gotten weaker on paper will be under tremendous pressure. One mistake could result in a 70-yard score. Because of that, much attention will be on the starting unit and reserves in the secondary. We know Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins are quality football players. But Eli Apple is coming off a dreadful season and the Giants desperately need him to be at least a so-so NFL corner. And Bettcher freely admits four players are competing for the free safety spot with no one yet pulling ahead in the competition. The nickel corner spot is a de facto starting spot in today’s NFL and who that guy will be also remains unknown at this point. We may see a variety of players being in a variety of roles on a game-to-game basis this year. The good news? At least on the surface, Bettcher doesn’t seemed worried at all. In fact, he appears to be relishing the challenge.

Again, on a personal note, my focus is going to be on Tomlinson, Harrison, and Hill up front. I think this group has a chance to be REALLY good and help set up the linebackers.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:

In 2017, the Giants were dead last or near dead last in field goal percentage, extra point percentage, net punting, kickoff returns, punt returns, and punt coverage. Besides that, every thing was hunky dory. Again, the size of the hole…

I am very uneasy about this spot on the team still. Tom Quinn has more lives than a cat and is still somehow still around. Aldrick Rosas is too. If he falters this preseason, the Giants will have to pick up a kicker quickly. The team has a new punter that the Broncos discarded after two years. And there are no obvious standouts for kick and punt returner. It looks like the ex-Bronco wide receivers will have the first shot there.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:

Head Coach Pat Shurmur on goals this preseason: “I think it’s important that we operate as a staff and getting in and out of the huddle, making sure we’ve got the right people on the field, and there’s a lot to be learned especially between the first and the second preseason game when you’re a new staff working together. We have a blueprint for how we want to do it, and games are uncontrolled settings, and there’s things that happen. So, the more uncontrolled things that happen in the game, the more opportunity you have to learn, and I think that’s what we’re looking for. So, we’re trying to balance getting our team ready to play Jacksonville with doing the final evaluations on the guys that’ll be on our initial 53.”

THE FINAL WORD:

Let’s see physical, fundamentally-sound football first and then move forward from there.

Jan 032018
 
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Steve Spagnuolo and Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 31, 2017)

Steve Spagnuolo and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 18 – Washington Redskins 10

RECAP

The best part about turning the calendar to 2018 is the fact that the Giants 2017 season is officially done with. I have never been so wrong when it came to forecasting a Giants season and it seemed like forever ago when we were at training camp labeling this team a Super Bowl contender. And here we are, week 17 and the duo of John Jerry and Eli Manning were the only 2 offensive starters left on the field against the Redskins.

In front of a half-empty stadium, the Giants and Redskins played through a painful game to watch. An early touchdown by the Giants was the peak of the action as both teams seemed more interested in getting out alive than trying to win a game. The small sense of urgency by NYG stemming from a new General Manager aided the team towards their 18-10 bleeder and 3rd win of the season.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 10/28 – 132 yards – 1 TD/1 INT. If this were a game full of meaning, the outlook on Manning might be a little lesser. But considering he was playing behind, and throwing the ball to, players who see the majority of their time in the 4th quarter of preseason games, he gets a slight pass. Manning had a season high 8 passes dropped in this one, lengthening his lead among all NFL quarterbacks in that category. Was this Manning’s last game with NYG? My gut says no, he will be back for at least one more year. Whether anyone thinks he still has it or not, there is no denying the fact evaluating his 2017 without acknowledging the fact he had the worst situation to deal with across the board in the NFL this year is not fair. Manning didn’t play well, I will say that. But I’m not sure who would have in this mess of a season.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 20 att/154 yards – 1 TD. On the game’s second play, Darkwa ran right and cut back inside thanks to two pre-snap audibles by Eli Manning at the line of scrimmage. It was the longest run of his career and 5th TD of the season. Darkwa averaged 4.1 yards per carry throughout the rest of the game and, as usual, dropped a pass. Where the team goes with him from here is very much up in the air, but I respect how hard he runs. This was a breakout year for Darkwa, as prior to this game, his career SEASON high was 153 yards, 1 less than he gained in this game alone.
  • Wayne Gallman: 15 att/89 yards – The explosive, quick accelerator had his share of big runs and outstanding adjustments to the defense. Gallman’s speed and elusiveness were one of the best surprises of 2017 and he needs to be factored into what this team plans on doing in 2018. If they bring in a back, it should be someone who excels in the play-to-play pounding and short-yardage situations. Gallman should have the change-of-pace spot locked up for a couple years, at least. Two things he absolutely needs to clean up, however, both occurred in this game. He had a drop and a fumble. Time to get in the weight room, too.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Hunter Sharp: 3 rec/29 yards – 1 TD. Overall a very solid game for the second-year pro who was signed just 3 weeks prior. He brought in his first career touchdown pass on the second drive of the game. He showed quality routes throughout but also suffered two drops on consecutive plays later.
  • Travis Rudolph: 1 rec/29 yards. I was hoping to see more opportunities for one of the training camp studs who has been inching his way towards more and more playing time. His one play was an excellent catch and turn up field for a 29 yard gain, the biggest passing gain of the day.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rhett Ellison: 5 rec/63 yards. A career-high 5 catches for Ellison, a guy the Giants underused all year. He was making catches and plays most are unaware he can make. This guy is much more than a blocking tight end who works hard and the next play caller needs to understand he can be a valuable weapon next year.
  • Jerrell Adams: 0 rec/0 yards. Adams looks the part and will occasionally make the catch in practice that can get you excited. But he had two opportunities, one of which was for a touchdown, and he dropped both. Two years in and looks like he won’t ever be anything more than a quality blocker. That is fine, but it won’t give him a ton of long-term security here.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: The two long-haired rookies who I got mixed up a few times during training camp were the starters for this game. A rookie 6th round pick on the right side and an UDFA on the left side – that is who was in charge of protecting the immobile Giants quarterback. As run blockers, they both graded out above average. Bisnowaty had a bad game elsewhere. He allowed 2 sacks and 2 pressures in addition to 2 holding penalties. It was the second-worse RT performance of the year only to former Giant Bobby Hart. And boy does it sound good to say former Giant there. Wheeler didn’t play as badly on the left side, but still was shaky with a slightly below average performance. He exceeded what almost every UDFA did in the NFL this year, thus nobody can look down on him. I do think he is in the picture for RT next year.
  • Interior: After a few bad weeks by OC Brett Jones, he put together a very solid performance. He was borderline dominant in the run game and didn’t have any mishaps as a pass blocker. John Greco subbed for John Jerry (concussion) at LG and I’ll tell you what, he played well. The 32-year old had 66 starts to his name prior to this game and he graded out right there with Jones. Right Guard Jon Halapio finished right below the average mark. He allowed 2 pressures and led the line in allowed tackles. Overall a solid year but he won’t be more than a backup moving forward.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Very solid game from the ends for the second week in a row. Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul combined for 2 sacks and 4 pressures. They were up against backup tackles and provided good gap integrity against the run as well. Neither had a good year or came even close to earning their high cap numbers. With this team being locked into those contracts for at least another year, they are going to be the 2018 starters.
  • Tackles: Damon Harrison ended his second straight season of dominance with NYG. He has been the best player on this team since the beginning of 2016 and will be a building block for next year. If this team runs a 4-3 or a 3-4, he will be the guy in the middle who makes other players better no matter what. Rookie Dalvin Tomlinson had his second best game of the season, totaling 4 tackles and 2 pressures. He had arguably the best year of all the rookie DTs in the league and will be a reliable starter on this team for a long time, no matter the scheme.

LINEBACKERS

  • Kelvin Sheppard intercepted 2 passes and finished with 6 tackles. For a guy who was a street free agent during the beginning of the season, he had a very solid year with the Giants. He probably won’t be a guy that sticks to the roster moving forward, but he had a very respectable year here. Solid inside defender who brings a physical presence to the defense.
  • Devon Kennard recorded his 4th sack of the season and broke up a pass. The versatility this kid has shown all year needs to be factored into his place on this team moving forward. He made a big impact as a pass rusher but is very limited in coverage. If this defense needs an edge presence who can fill LB roles here and there, Kennard will be a keeper.
  • Ray-Ray Armstrong and Calvin Munson are opposite linebackers. Armstrong is a plus athlete who lacks instincts and discipline while Munson is a step slow but has mightily improved his movement post-snap via reads and awareness from the beginning of the season. Neither are guys you make future personnel decisions around, but they do have a shot to stick around.

CORNERBACKS

  • In all honesty with no bias, Ross Cockrell may have played the CB position better than anyone in the NFL over the past 4 weeks. While he hasn’t been overly tested when it comes to quality of his opponent, Cockrell has been dominant. He broke up 4 passes and intercepted another one. He is in the running for a starting job next year and it would be a help when it comes to their approach in FA and the draft if they know he is gonna be the guy.
  • Brandon Dixon and Darryl Morris played the majority of the snaps at CB otherwise, as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played just about a third of the snaps. Cromartie has a valuable role on this defense, but if his playing is going to hover around 50% or less of the plays, he may not be worth keeping considering his cap number. Dixon earned a right to fight for a roster spot next year with his impressive size, speed, and aggression. He doesn’t have the feel though, as every week I noticed him getting beat by double routes and lacking the balance and body control as he turned.

SAFETIES

  • With Landon Collins out, Andrew Adams took his place. Adams is impressive when the action is in front of him. Other than him missing a tackle, he finished with an impact across the board. He had 6 tackles, one TFL, and a pass breakup. Adams also added a pressure. His coverage is solid underneath, but his stiffness and lack of speed makes him a liability against WRs on an island and in deep coverage. Darian Thompson finished with 7 tackles and no misses. He has been solid in his first season as the starter, but the upside with him is limited. He doesn’t make an impact as a tackler and the deep coverage responsibilities are somewhat hampered by a lack of long speed and acceleration. He would be a very good third safety, but merely an average starter.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 23,28). Rosas had yet another extra point blocked early in the game. Hard to say if it his fault or the guys up front blocking. Rosas did not have a good year, too many misses. Kicker might need to be a priority this offseason if a reliable veteran shakes free.
  • P Brad Wing: 9 Punts – 40.3 avg / 33.0 net. A quiet game from Wing with a couple ducks. This was a bad year for Wing overall, especially the stretch early in the year where his late-game mishaps heavily contributed to multiple NYG losses. He should be put on notice.

3 STUDS

  • CB Ross Cockrell, LB Kelvin Sheppard, RB Orleans Darkwa

3 DUDS

  • OT Adam Bisnowaty, TE Jerell Adams, OG Jon Halapio

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

  • Kirk Cousins had a very poor game. While the surrounding cast can be somewhat blamed, it is games like this that lead some to believe he just cant be the guy a team spend $20+ million on per year.
  • WAS has been in the middle of the pack for 3 straight years. Their progress has been halted and they always seem to be the team that is merely solid, but not scary. It looks like Gruden will get another year, but what is going to change? This is a team that is very well put together in the trenches but there isn’t enough star power at the playmaking positions. At some point Gruden needs to push for an aggressive move personnel wise.
  • Ryan Kerrigan has 47 sacks over the past 4 years and has never missed a game in his career. In 14 career NFC East games, he has 29 sacks which is over 2 per game. If there was one edge rusher in the league who I would call overlooked, it is him. I think he is one of the best players in the NFL. WAS has him locked up through 2020.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Initially I was indifferent about the Dave Gettleman hiring but the more I study his tenure in CAR and hear him speak, I think he is exactly what the team needs. Back to “old school”, no-nonsense type approaches on both sides of the ball and in the locker room. He is a guy huge on team culture and laser focus on the big picture. Get the bad apples out, the guys that don’t want to work, and slowly but surely increase the quality of people and players. Odell Beckham will be the most interesting case here. He will definitely will be here in 2018 but if the antics worsen, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see him playing elsewhere in 2019. For the record, I want ODB here long term if he can mature at least a little bit.
  • The #2 pick discussion is now the main focus of NYG talk. This has the potential to be a monumental pick for the franchise. It will somewhat be based on what the team does in FA leading up to it. This is my thought, though a lot of us will over-think it and over-complicate it. This is a simple situation, really. Get the best player and I don’t care what position it is. RB, QB, WR, OT, DE…etc. If  a QB meets the grade, it will likely be the best decision for the future of this team over the other spots. If one doesn’t meet the grade, all bets are off. Get a special player and don’t look back.
  • Let’s not overlook that NYG is potentially heading into the offseason without any starting caliber OTs. Flowers had a solid year, but does he want to be here? Is he going to work hard for 365 days? Is he better suited at RG or RT? Wheeler, is he a 3rd tackle or a starter? Remember this, Gettleman values the trenches as much as anyone. With this current group in shambles, he may put a ton of resources into it via FA and the draft before he tries to plug other holes.
Dec 292017
 
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John Mara, New York Giants (December 29, 2017)

John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 31, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The most disappointing season in the 93-year old history of the New York Giants finally ends on Sunday. 2017 was an utter disaster on every level, causing the conservative franchise to take steps it rarely has done such as firing a general manager and firing a head coach in-season.

And while many fans want to forget 2017 and focus on the future, it is important to understand the magnitude of the organization’s ineptness. Ownership failed. Team management failed. The coaching staff failed. The public relations staff failed. The training staff failed. Offense, defense, special teams failed. The players behaved like immature assholes from Odell Beckham to Eli Apple to Landon Collins.

The organization failed, from top to bottom. And that does not bode well moving forward. Don’t think so? Keep this in mind:

  • Ownership picked and Ernie Accorsi lobbied for Jerry Reese over Dave Gettleman as the team’s next GM in early 2007. Fast forward a decade later and Accorsi lobbied Mara and Tisch for Gettleman. Oh the irony.
  • In early 2016, ownership decided Tom Coughlin, and not Jerry Reese, was the problem. Ouch.
  • Ownership rushed to hire Ben McAdoo, a man who was clearly over his head, fearing the Philadelphia Eagles would snag him. In hindsight, the Eagles may have successfully goaded the Giants into making a disastrous coaching move. On top of that, McAdoo’s assistant coaching staff was virtually identical to Coughlin’s. Did ownership meddle and mandate the retention of coaches like Steve Spagnuolo, Mike Sullivan, and Tom Quinn?
  • Ownership/management were convinced the 2017 New York Giants were a Super Bowl contender. Instead, no team in Giants’ history has lost more games in one season. If the Giants and Browns played on Sunday, the Browns would probably win. One would hope that the leaders of the franchise would have a better capability for self-analysis.
  • Ben McAdoo was made the scapegoat for the Eli Manning benching, a move that both ownership and management signed off on, but then hid from. The disastrous PR handling of this move caused the Giants to backtrack on a decision that actually had merit, resulting the worst possible outcome. Eli Manning saw his consecutive game streak end and felt pissed on, yet the team still didn’t get a read on Davis Webb. What a waste!

Dave Gettleman has been hired as the team’s next general manager. He may be the perfect selection, the worst, or something in between. Only time will tell. What we do know is the GM search was a farce. Three of the four candidates interviewed were intimately connected to the Giants’ organization and existing culture. Marc Ross was a courtesy and Rooney Rule interviewee. Louis Riddick has been out of the NFL since 2013. Kevin Abrams may have been the only other serious candidate considered, and that’s not a given. Right or wrong, ownership decided to not even seriously consider other options.

  • Pros: No surprises. Gettleman worked for the Giants from 1998 to 2012. He knows the team’s culture from the owners down to the secretaries and janitors. Gettleman is experienced and knows how to evaluate talent. He’s been a GM in the league and knows how to do the job. He was the safe pick. If Gettleman was the pick all along, delaying the inevitable through a dog-and-pony show would have been a waste of time and could have cost the Giants an opportunity to hire a head coach of their choosing.
  • Cons: While he may tweak things here and there, Gettleman is a product, and therefore a representative, of the current team culture. It is highly unlikely there will be many – if any – structural changes in the way the Giants conduct their business. This was clear to many as soon as it was announced that Accorsi would be consulting ownership. It is somewhat disturbing that no outside candidates/approaches were even seriously considered. Mara should not insult our intelligence in claiming that all options were on the table. While Gettleman was the safe choice, he may not have been the best. And at 66, his age is a factor and he will likely only be a short-term solution, which in itself could influence the way he approaches his job.

An interesting indicator to watch will be Marc Ross, the team’s Vice President of Player Evaluation (really Director of College Scouting). If he stays, be worried.

Let’s be clear about one thing: other than ownership, nothing matters more than the general manager. If the Giants have picked the right general manager, they will be OK. If they have picked the wrong guy, the Giants may be entering the 1970s again. But the risks don’t stop there. Gettleman has to pick the right coaching staff and make the right decision at quarterback, including with what to do with either the #2 or #3 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Making the wrong decisions with the coaches or quarterback could set this team back years. And in 2022 or so, we may be going through all of this again as the Giants remain a laughing stock. This is the most critical phase the Giants have gone through since 1979. That year, Pete Rozelle forced George Young on the Giants, which led to Ray Perkins and then Bill Parcells, and Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor.

So as of late December 2017, here’s where we are at in terms of the big picture:

  1. General Manager: Dave Gettleman
  2. Head Coach: ???
  3. Quarterback: ???

The success of those three selections will ultimately determine the fate of the team possibly for the next decade.

Dec 272017
 
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Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (December 24, 2017)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals 23 – New York Giants 0

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 27/45 – 263 yards – 0 TD/2 INT. Manning also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. It was a rough day for Manning, as his 57.9 QB rating was his second lowest of the year. Manning’s footwork and release points were just simply off for the majority of the game. The NFL’s best defense over the past 2 months appeared to be in his head more than it should have been, as he was sidestepping pressure that wasn’t always there and rushing throws that he didn’t need to. His accuracy was an issue for almost the entire game.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 10 att/18 yards – 6 rec/44 yards. There weren’t enough opportunities for Gallman to find his groove. They were playing from behind for the majority of the game and the fast, physical defensive front was too much for the Giants OL to handle. Seeing him take big hits week after week and getting right back up is a good sign. He has plenty of toughness and with another couple of years of NFL weight training, he can be our guy. His movement and vision are very good.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 6 att/10 yards. Darkwa didn’t have any luck against this defensive front, either. Darkwa has really disappeared in the second half of the season. He hasn’t averaged over 3 yards per carry since November 19 against the Chiefs. Bad hands, bad vision, won’t create much on his own.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 5 rec/45 yards. Also had a drop on a poorly thrown, but catchable 3rd-down pass from Manning. After a career game last week, Shepard didn’t factor much before aggravating a neck injury that forced him to miss most of the 4th quarter. They tried sending him deep on a couple of occasions, but him and Manning just couldn’t connect. And Shepard isn’t a deep separation guy, doesn’t have that next gear.
  • Roger Lewis: 4 rec/40 yards. Lewis was the most targeted receiver of the day, getting 11 looks from Manning. He responded with his worst performance of the season. He had 3 drops and ran poor routes, struggling to gain separation on simple routes. Lewis is catching the ball with his body too often and has proven that despite more opportunity in 2017, he is a #5 WR at best. He did not take a jump up that totem pole this season.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rhett Ellison: 4 rec/60 yards. With Engram going down early with a rib injury, Ellison saw a spike in playing time and targets. In my end of year review, I will discuss Ellison as one of the most underused players on this team. He responds well to his targets percentage wise as much as any pass catcher on this team and he has a way of always finding extra yards.
  • Jerrell Adams: 4 rec/31 yards. Adams also saw a spike in playing time and caught all of his targets. Adams is a slow-twitch athlete who doesn’t dominate as a blocker the way he should, but he has done well in his limited opportunities as well. The tight end position appears to be set for the next few years.
  • Evan Engram: 1 rec/12 yards. Went down with a rib injury early, sat out the rest of the game and will likely sit next week. Capped an outstanding rookie season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers went backwards, especially in the 2nd half. He had a terrible series, allowing 1 pressure and 2 holds within one drive. He had 2 other pressures in addition, struggling to stick with stunts and late movement. His game seemed off in comparison to what we have seen over the past 3 months. He needs to finish strong, because that LT spot is far from securely his. Bobby Hart allowed 2 pressures and a sack. Not much needs to be said here; he is not a starting caliber OL in this league and I’m not sure he backup caliber, either.
  • Interior: Brett Jones had another below average performance, as did Jon Halapio. They were unable to hold the point-of-attack or lock on to their respective defenders. John Jerry allowed a TFL and 1 pressure, but graded out as the top OL in this game with a mark right at the average point. He isn’t a guy who played bad enough to lose his job but he also isn’t a guy who played well enough to keep it heading in to the 2018 offseason.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Damon Harrison continued his All-Pro caliber play. I don’t spend much time even looking at the Pro Bowl rosters, but I will say it again, there is not a better DT in the NFL. He had 2 TFL, 2 pressures, and continued to make plays sideline to sideline. His impact within the tackle box is as dominant as any player in the league at their respective position. Dalvin Tomlinson was quiet, but also effective at controlling the inside gaps. Jay Bromley did record a TFL, but he led the DL in negative plays mainly from him getting pushed back 2+ yards multiple times.
  • Ends: A very solid performance from the starting duo. One thing that can be tough to do is take the previous disappointments and not let them impact the current evaluation. Jason Pierre-Paul has been the most underperforming player on this 2017 team, but he was very disruptive in this game. Blowing up tight ends and tackles at the point-of-attack and finishing with 4 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 pressures. Olivier Vernon added a sack/fumble of his own along with a pressure and 3 tackles.

LINEBACKERS

  • Kelvin Sheppard led the team with 9 tackles. More of the same with him, solid play between the tackles with a lot of physical presence behind his hits, but anything in to space and he gets exposed badly.
  • This was the first extended look I got at the newly signed Ray-Ray Armstrong. He played 40% of the team’s snaps and flashed some of the athleticism and power this LB corps has lacked for a long time. He still doesn’t look like a natural linebacker out there, showing hesitation on his reads and too many recovery steps.

CORNERBACKS

  • Ross Cockrell continues to show he deserves a long term spot on this team, meaning he needs to be on this team in 2018. He brought in 2 interceptions, both of which he showed excellent body control and ball skills, 1 of which was in the end zone. This will be one of the major positives that comes out of the 2017 season; he has played exceptionally well and has steadily improved with the more playing time he got.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has impressed me. Not necessarily in that his level of play has been what it used to, although he has been more than solid, but in his constant hustle, leadership and effort. After his suspension earlier in the year, I thought this was going to end ugly in NY for him, but he plays as hard as anyone on this team.
  • Brandon Dixon went through some growing pains in this one, being outclassed by Larry Fitzgerald on multiple occasions. Outclassed to the point that on double routes, Dixon couldn’t stay within 4-5 yards of him. He allowed a touchdown to Fitzgerald and John Brown.

SAFETIES

  • After one of his most physical tackles of the year, Landon Collins went down with a broken arm which will end his season. He had a good, but far from great, season. Collins needs to be used carefully, because there is a lot he simply cannot do in coverage.
  • Andrew Adams received more playing time via the Collins injury, and he did not respond well. The sixth sense I talk about when looking at safeties is something he just doesn’t have. Far too many times he is dropping into zone coverage unaware of who and what is around him. He also missed 2 tackles. Darian Thompson had 4 tackles and picked up deep routes well, although he wasn’t challenged much.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Aldrick Rosas: 0/1. Rosas missed his lone opportunity of the day, a 33-yard attempt that sailed wide left.
  • Brad Wing: 6 Punts – 43.8 avg – 39.0 net. Wing suffered an ankle injury on an uncalled roughing the kicker penalty.

3 STUDS

  • DT Damon Harrison, CB Ross Cockrell, DE Jason Pierre-Paul

3 DUDS

  • OC Brett Jones, WR Roger Lewis, OG Jon Halapio

3 THOUGHTS ON ARI

  • This team is built to win a lot of games right now, if only they had an accomplished QB who can stay on the field and throw the ball down field with success. Yes, Eli Manning would be an ideal fit for that team while they groom a long-term answer. The defense is top 5 in the NFL and is loaded with young talent who will be around for the next few years. If Manning doesn’t shake free, this would be an ideal landing spot for Kirk Cousins.
  • Larry Fitzgerald is not a veteran WR who should hang it up. He is one of the top WRs in the game and I place him right under the Jones/Brown/Beckham tier. How he runs routes, catches the ball with his hands, and controls his body is something every young WR should study. He does everything at a high level and continues to work hard to improve, not just sustain, his skill set. He has multiple years left, no doubt.
  • Bruce Arians has always been one of my favorite coaches since his days as an OC in Pittsburgh. He has a sense of realness to him, but still a guy who grown men playing in the NFL will fear. He is a guy who I would take in NY right now if he were to ever get out of ARI. He gets the most out of his players, especially QBs.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • These games are painful and there are certain players you can’t get a fair evaluation on. Manning played poorly, made some mistakes a veteran like him should not make. But can we consider who he is throwing the ball to? And the line that is blocking in front of him? I wouldn’t call them excuses, but it has to be considered when trying to figure out if he should still be the guy moving forward. I am on record as saying that I think this team can still win with Manning but that doesn’t mean I would look past QB at #2 overall.
  • The Landon Collins/Eli Apple saga is going too far now. Collins shouldn’t be saying what he is saying to the media, the whole cancer comment was a bit too much. At this point, with how public the team’s distaste for Apple is, the trade value couldn’t be lower. So with that said, they may be forced in to keeping him another year and hoping he grows up and/or gets stimulated with the new coaching staff.
  • At this point, there is still a possibility 1 or 2 OT’s can be in the running for the #2 overall pick. Has Ereck Flowers proven he deserves to be the guy there? Or do you take his skill set and move it to RT and draft Connor Williams (Texas) or Brian O’Neill (Pittsburgh)? If Manning is going to play out this contract, the OL may have to become priority A and B this offseason and if a new shiny rookie can hack it at LT, Pugh comes back strong, and Flowers sustains this level of play at RT, we have something to work with – something much better than what we have seen in recent years. At this point, anything is and should be considered possible.
Dec 222017
 
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New York Giants Defense (January 11, 1987)

New York Giants Defense (January 11, 1987)

Game Preview: New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals, December 24, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
For the first time in 23 years of writing game previews, I’ve got nothing. This is the nightmare season that simply won’t end. So while the Giants are set to establish a new franchise record for losses in one season, in the spirit of the Ghost of Christmas Past, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and remember happier times. Merry Christmas and a belated Happy Hanukkah!

(NOTE: Since the NFL/YouTube have blocked NFL-related content from BBI, you may have to click on the link to watch).

Dec 202017
 
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Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (December 17, 2017)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles 34 – New York Giants 29

RECAP

With each week comes a gap that is that much shorter before this horrendous 2017 season is over for the bottom-feeder Giants, the second worst team in the NFL. What was destined to be a blowout-type projection with the Eagles aiming at a first round bye in the playoffs behind their MVP candidate QB Carson Wentz quickly became a closer-to-even match-up as Wentz tore his ACL last week. Nick Foles, former Eagles backup, was back in the saddle after a few unsuccessful seasons with the Rams and Chiefs, respectively.

The Giants’ 31st-ranked scoring offense came out, surprisingly, on fire. Eli Manning was spreading the ball out, hitting his targets on the numbers, and looking confident. They opened with a 13 play drive that ended with an Orleans Darkwa 1-yard touchdown run, the first time NYG scored 6 on their first drive of the game all season. Aldrick Rosas had his PAT blocked, leaving the score at 6-0. PHI responded with a touchdown drive of their own, with the biggest play being at the hands of a missed sack by Jason Pierre-Paul and a 32-yard pass interference penalty on Darian Thompson. Two plays later, Foles found the newly-signed long-term receiver Alshon Jeffrey for 6, his ninth TD catch of the year. There isn’t a single 3-WR combination on the Giants that have 9 TDs on the year.

Manning was out to prove that first drive wasn’t a fluke, as he engineered another touchdown via 10 plays. The Giants’ no-huddle offense sent the PHI defense scrambling, as the pass rush substitutes weren’t able to get on the field and the PHI defensive backs looked lost. Tavarres King brought in his 2nd TD catch of the year.

After a quick PHI possession, it took NYG 3 plays to get in the end zone again, this time a short pitch to Sterling Shepard and a 63 yard-after-catch scamper down the sideline aided by good downfield blocking and porous tackling by the PHI secondary. It was early in the 2nd quarter and NYG held a commanding 20-7 lead with the Eagles looking lost with a backup QB leading the charge. They had to stop the bleeding first, then figure how they were going to dig out of this deep hole on the road.

All within the last 6 minutes of the first half, a Manning interception to Ronald Darby led to a quick touchdown pass from Foles to Zach Ertz (a tight end scoring a TD, surprise, surprise) and then a blocked punt in NYG territory led to a touchdown pass from Foles to Trey Burton (a tight end scoring a TD, surprise, surprise). In 2:30 of game clock, the score went from 20-7 NYG to 21-20 PHI. The nightmares of 2017 continue. NYG did put together a quick and efficient 11 play drive at the end of the half capped by a 28-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas to take a 23-21 lead at halftime, however.

PHI took the lead back on the first possession of the second half via a field goal by Jake Elliot, a likely Pro Bowler. Foles was inconsistent, as he was for the rest of the half, but he made key throws and/or the NYG defense failed to step up in key situations. The second PHI possession of the second half yielded more points, this time a touchdown from Foles to Nelson Agholor after newly-acquired Jay Ajayi picked up a combined 54 yards on 2 straight plays, the second of which was another low-ball effort by Eli Apple. It was 31-23 just like that.

PHI offered a couple of mistakes themselves with an offsides on a NYG punt that led to a re-birth of a drive and a missed tackle by Darby that enabled King to scamper into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day, bringing NYG back with 2 of the Eagles towards the end of the 3rd quarter. NYG lined up for a 48-yard field goal attempt at the beginning of the fourth, but for the 3rd time a NYG kick was blocked. This time Malcolm Jenkins snuck around the outside and got just enough of it. The 4th quarter woes appeared to be following this team yet again.

PHI marched down the field, ate up 7:30 of game clock, and hit a short field goal to extend their lead to 5. It was now touchdown or bust for the 2-11 Giants. Manning, yet again, led this offense down the field and was looking like his old, clutch self. With replacement-level receivers, he was spreading the ball out, escaping pressure, and making several changes at the point-of-attack in their solid no-huddle offense. It was 4th-and-goal from the 6-yard line and…right tackle Bobby Hart proved it again. The worst right tackle in the league was flagged for a false start, pushing NYG back to the 11-yard line, a major difference. Manning was forced to throw the ball before he wanted to and it was out of the reach of Engram. Game over, Giants fall to 2-12.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 37/57 – 434 yards – 3 TD/1 INT. In 2 games this year, Manning has passed for 700 yards and 6 touchdowns against PHI. His 434 in this game were the most he has had in one game since week 4 of 2015. The play-calling called for more downfield passing than we have seen all year and it begs the question, why wasn’t this approach earlier in the year? Manning’s greatest strength has always been downfield passing and this was the first week we saw him do it consistently.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 8 att/39 yards – 6 rec/40 yards. More of the same from the 4th-round rookie. Gallman has a burst and change of direction that continues to create on its own that the other NYG backs don’t have, plain and simple. He is running hard and tough, in addition. His play, his improvement, and his approach each week is a good sign for the future.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 9 att/7 yards – 1 TD – 1 rec/9 yards. Rightfully so, Darkwa is being slightly phased out of the offense as this team needs to see what Gallman can present. We know what we have in Darkwa. An average between-the-tackles rusher who can break tackles, which is important, but can’t do anything else at a high level.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 11 rec/139 yards – 1 TD. Shepard was targeted early and often, 16 times. That is the most Manning has targeted any pass catcher all year. Shepard did have another drop, however. This kid is a tough player who is starting to show he is more than a 3rd-and-5 slot receiver. He can make some things happen and excels at getting himself open. He is a keeper, but won’t ever be more than a #3 on a good passing offense.
  • Roger Lewis: 4 rec – 74 yards. Lewis was targeted 10 times and is developing in a positive way before our eyes. I’m not ready to say he needs to be a part of the 2018 group, but he is closer than he was since Beckham and Marshall were injured. Lewis is showing more body control and speed as a route runner and when he is attacking a 50/50 ball. Good signs.
  • Tavarres King: 2 rec – 70 yards – 2 TD. King made the most of his day, getting in the end zone twice despite only having a couple catches and leaving the game early via injury. His body control is upper tier, but elsewhere is game is very limited. Plus with that frame, not sure he will ever be durable.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 8 rec/87 yards. The second-most targeted pass catcher on the day is on a mini hot streak. He did have another drop, but this kid is just getting more and more confident each week. It is enabling him to play faster, which is hard to believe because he was already the most impressive athlete in the NFL at TE. He was manhandled by DE Vinny Curry twice, so there is still a blocking deficiency there but he has done better than most thought this year.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: With Manning dropping back deeper in the pocket and holding onto the ball longer, it put more on the OL’s shoulders. For the most part, they responded well against a pass rush that has been more than solid this year. Ereck Flowers had a another below average game, allowing 2 sacks (1 of which was on a 2 pt conversion), 2 pressures, and recorded a holding penalty. He saved himself with some quality run blocking, however. Bobby Hart is still in the starting lineup for some reason. He allowed 2 pressures and 2 TFL while recording an atrocious false start penalty at the end of the game. Chad Wheeler deserves playing time over these next 2 weeks.
  • Interior: Pleasantly surprised by this group. They didn’t do a good job run blocking, but they held up well against an interior pass rush that has been among the best in football this year. You could see the frustration boiling in Timmy Jernigan late in the game. John Jerry had his second-best game of the year and third game where he was above average. Brett Jones and Jon Halapio were right at the slightly above average mark.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Another woefully quiet game by Jason Pierre-Paul. He was over-matched by Lane Johnson, arguably the top RT in the league. He had a free sack put in front of him in the first quarter but Nick Foles, not known for his movement ability at all, pump faked and juked him badly which led to Thompson’s 32-yard pass interference penalty. Olivier Vernon was disruptive, as he was up against the backup left tackle for PHI. He recorded a sack-fumble and a season high 6 pressures. It was his best game of the year.
  • Tackles: Damon Harrison played a season high 75% of the team’s snaps, good to see a guy like him who has been banged up almost all year continue to play his heart out. His grades have been sky high all season. Dalvin Tomlinson recorded 3 tackles and continues to improve his hand techniques. This DT unit is going to be a major strength moving forward, among the best in the league. Jay Bromley recorded a TFL in limited action and he has been a pleasant surprise over the past 5-6 games.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson was back in the lineup, but ended up leaving the game with another injury. He has had a very hard time staying on the field and whether it is luck or not, it will have to be considered when evaluating how to approach the LBs this offseason. He did have 7 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. His speed and range looks limited, as he just doesn’t carry any sort of fluidity unless he is attacking downhill. That can be a problem.
  • Kelvin Sheppard is an older, slightly less athletic version of Goodson. Not dismissing him, as he does make an impact between the tackles and plays with a physical brand. However he, Calvin Munson, and Devon Kennard simply take away from the speed of the defense. Kennard gets a pass because of his pass rush versatility, but this team needs more speed in this unit. No doubt. And you know who is a free agent this upcoming offseason? Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham.

CORNERBACKS

  • Another solid game by Ross Cockrell. I am curious to see the numbers on him over the past 5-6 weeks when it comes to QB rating on balls thrown his way. He had another solid PD and looked excellent on the All-22. Coverage strengths against all levels of the passing tree.
  • Eli Apple was back in action and showed a few flashes of his talent, which is certainly first-round caliber. He was involved in some very physical plays and after that, his hustle and intensity dwindled. When I see things like that, I just think this kid isn’t a football player. Very poor effort on the Jay Ajayi screen play that went for a big gain. Maybe the new coaching staff will give him the reboot he needs, but I’m not optimistic there.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made an aggressive mistake that led to an Eagles touchdown. He jumped the wrong route and left his man sitting in the end zone all alone. Mistake? Yes. But if he guessed right and came away with a pick 6, he would have been praised for it. I don’t mind things like that happening to be honest.

SAFETIES

  • Darian Thompson finished with 9 tackles and a PD. He didn’t make a lot of mistakes but the two that he did make were game-changing. He had a deep pass interference call that put PHI inside the 5-yard line and a horrid missed tackle on Zach Ertz. The situations exaggerated the mistakes a tad, but that is the name of the game. Those two mistakes led to 10 points for PHI.
  • Landon Collins only played about a quarter of the team’s snaps. Andrew Adams was his replacement and finished with 6 tackles, but also missed 2 others. After a surprising rookie season in 2016, he appears to have gone backwards. He can be beat by quickness too often and that is simply the name of the game in the NFL now. Not sure he deserves to be here long term.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/2 (Made 28, 48 blocked). Rosas had an extra point blocked as well as a 48-yard attempt late in the game. Looking back, it looks like he was a hair slow getting to the ball and the blocking was poor on the field goal. Rough year for this kid.
  • P Brad Wing: 2 Punts – 37.0 avg. Quiet day for the most used punter in the league this season.

3 STUDS

  • QB Eli Manning, WR Sterling Shepard, DE Olivier Vernon

3 DUDS

  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul, OT Bobby Hart, FS Darian Thompson

3 THOUGHTS ON PHI

  • I said this before the Wentz injury, but this PHI secondary is going to hold this team back in the postseason. If and when they get matched up against a quality air attack, they’re finished. I’ve heard some commentators speak highly of Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby…etc. These guys are not good at all.
  • Unfortunate for PHI fans that they won’t be able to see what their young franchise QB can do in the playoffs. It is a huge part of whether or not they have “The One”. Postseason play is huge in terms of evaluating QB play and they are going to have to wait now.
  • The PHI pass rush has the makings of something that can be special. Rookie Derek Barnett, the underrated Brandon Graham, and interior forces of Timmy Jernigan and Fletcher Cox may be one of the best 3rd-down rushing groups in the league. And they are all going to be there for at least another few seasons. Another reason to stock up on OL talent for NYG.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Touching on this again…but why wasn’t the passing offense approached like this all year? Throw the ball downfield. Let Eli take his chances, even if it means more INTs. I think this game proves he has plenty left in the tank and he should be the guy next year. But it also proves that when McAdoo was here, the approach was very flawed. It was extremely easy to predict and defend against. This was the best the passing game looked in 2 years and Manning had Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, and Kalif Raymond running routes!
  • I still have a thought of considering Saquon Barkley, RB out of Penn State, with the NYG first pick. I see a lot of “special” in him. Yes, if the next franchise QB is there grade-wise you take him, but what if he isn’t? You can’t force that pick and you could get a guy that helps this team win games next year. I can see a combination of Barkley and Wayne Gallman just running wild. Objective A, B, and C after that is building the OL. I think it is a good plan for the last year or two of Manning’s career here.
  • Is the defense that bad? I don’t think so. I think there are legit worries at two spots. One, the edge rushing. This team needs a new, young fresh force at DE or pass rushing OLB. Two, the depth at CB is going to look thin if Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t back. He has another year left I think, but he is frail and behind him, there is next to nothing. CBs are very hard to find. Cockrell is a keeper, Jenkins can be very good if his head is on straight, Apple is such a wildcard. That isn’t a spot you want to struggle at. But if they can bring in one more feasible talent and build the edge rush, I think this defense can quickly be back in the top-10 discussion.
Dec 152017
 
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Game Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 17, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
At this point, I suspect everyone would like to fast-forward to January in anticipation of the intrigue surrounding the selection of the new general manager and coaching staff. But we have three torturous games left, including the Giants’ annual humiliation at home by the Philadelphia Eagles. This one-sided “rivalry” gets worse with each passing year. The Eagles have won an astounding 15 of the last 18 games dating back to 2008. Last year was the first time the Giants had won a home game against the Eagles in 10 years!!!

The Giants-Eagles decade-long mismatch is perhaps one of the best indications that this franchise needs a cultural shift… a spiritual enema if you will. Steve Spagnuolo can’t and shouldn’t be the next head coach. We saw more of the same in his inaugural game as NYG head coach last week. His defense – which was second in scoring defense last season – is DEAD LAST in yards allowed in 2017. And it sucked before injuries started hitting that side of the ball. And this isn’t the first time his defenses have been dead last in the NFL and among the worst in NFL history. It’s time to part ways. Nice guy. Not a consistently good coach.

The bigger issue is what to do at GM. Most expect Dave Gettleman will get the job. Those calling for dramatic change – a cultural shift – are uneasy about that prospect because of Gettleman’s long ties with the existing organizational (group think?) structure that dates all the way back to 1979. Hiring Gettleman would be the “safe” move. And it would probably allow for a Gettleman-Kevin Abrams marriage that would eventually morph into Abrams taking over when the 66-year old Gettleman is ready to retire. If this occurs, one would suspect that most (if not all) of the scouting staff would retain their jobs. The key figure to watch in such a scenario would be Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross (really Director of College Scouting). If Ross stays, that would be a major red flag to many.

There are those who argue that it can’t get worse than it is now and that the whole thing should be blown up and completely new faces introduced. The problem is it can always get worse. There is risk with staying the course and there is risk with changing things completely. The important thing is make the right decisions and not be terribly wed to how dramatic the change is or isn’t.

Let’s cut through the bullshit. The Giants need to recognize one important thing: IT ISN’T WORKING! This team hasn’t been right in six years. It’s been poorly constructed. Drafting is always a bit of a crapshoot, but you have to hit on more than you miss. And it is quite telling that very few Giants players drafted are re-signed when their initial contracts are up. Rather than building a roster, it feels like the Giants are constantly trying to fill holes because of crappy drafting and poor free agent decisions. The team has not been able to put together a viable offensive line despite spending significant resources in that area (including three premium draft picks). The Giants are not mentally or physically tough. They are a finesse team that is annually plagued by injuries. They can’t pick up an inch in short-yardage. They can’t run the football. They can’t rush the passer or create enough turnovers. They can’t stop the opposing team when it matters. They start and end games poorly. And special teams are an annual disaster.

If the Giants can’t see this, then the franchise is in real trouble. It’s becoming more and more clear that 2017 was an iceberg that was slowly approaching that the Giants couldn’t see. But it was an iceberg created by their own mismanagement of the roster and coaching staff.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Roger Lewis (ankle – questionable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – probable)
  • WR Travis Rudolph (hamstring – questionable)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (finger – probable)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (finger – probable)
  • DT Damon Harrison (not injury related – probable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – probable)
  • CB Brandon Dixon (heel/hamstring – questionable)
  • S Landon Collins (ankle – doubtful)
  • S Nat Berhe (hamstring – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
If you asked me what I want the next version of the New York Giants offense to be, I would answer with one word: TOUGH. I’m tired of finesse. I want to turn back the clock and have a team that may not have a lot of pretty highlight plays but will physically hurt the other team and be able to run the football. That’s not the direction the game is headed, but I’m a dinosaur and a contrarian. I can’t stand having a team that you know can’t pick up an inch on 3rd-and-short. The Giants have four rushing touchdowns this year, and one of those are by the quarterback. They had six rushing touchdowns in 2016. Those stats are ridiculous.

Other than sentimental reasons and possibly as a transitional bridge to the new quarterback, it makes little sense for Eli Manning to remain with the team much longer. New GM, new coaching staff, needing a roster rebuild. Soon-to-be 37-year old, declining quarterback? The longer they hold on, the longer the rebuild is going to take. Excuse my French, the Giants fucked up the last six years of Manning’s career here. But they can’t go back in time and fix it. It sucks but dwelling on it won’t make things better. You have to move forward.

Some other quick roster thoughts:

  • As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, Davis Webb hasn’t played because they Giants never gave him enough reps to get ready. This goes all the way back to training camp. I hope he plays in the last two games but he hasn’t been prepped correctly and it’s too late to learn anything of note that will affect the 2018 NFL Draft. Another screw up.
  • As I’ve mentioned for weeks, the Giants are wasting snaps on Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen. Neither will be with the team in 2017 (if they are, another major red flag). The Giants need to know what they have in Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins. Too many snaps have been wasted here on guys who are not part of the future. Screw up.
  • Other than Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard, there isn’t anything at wide receiver. And Beckham’s future contract status is a major question mark and Shepard has been hot-and-cold (and a bit injury-prone).
  • Tight ends are good.
  • I don’t think the Giants can re-sign the injury-prone Justin Pugh. If he leaves, there is another hole. Time to part ways with guys like John Jerry and Bobby Hart. Tough call on Weston Richburg but I’d offer him a prove-it type deal. I still see more upside with him than Brett Jones, who I don’t think is a starting-caliber center. If the new coaching staff wants to run the football, bringing back D.J. Fluker and Ereck Flowers makes some sense. Long story short – this aspect of the team is still a shit show despite three premium draft picks. That alone was reason enough to fire Jerry Reese.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
In terms of personnel decisions, the biggest issue other than quarterback the Giants face is what to do with over-priced, under-performing Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon? If they are going for a major rebuild, it might be best to take their medicine, swallow the painfully expensive cap hits, and clear the decks more for 2019 and 2020. JPP is a coach killer. There was a hope/thought that the fireworks accident may have woken him up to take the game more seriously, but whether it is his physical limitations or his mental approach, he’s just a guy out there who teases. Vernon is a tougher call because when healthy, he’s played well. But he seems to be nicked up a lot and isn’t as effective when he is. What we do know is that the Giants are not getting the pass rush they expected out of him. The offensive line may have been reason #1a why Reese was let go, but his free agent decisions on JPP and Vernon are a close second.

  • Damon Harrison is the kind of football player you can build around. He was Reese’s greatest free agent decision. The Giants can win with Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson at defensive tackle.
  • The help wanted sign is out at linebacker. This unit needs a complete rebuild. The only two the new coaching staff may consider retaining are the injury-prone B.J. Goodson and the smart, versatile, but athletically limited Devon Kennard.
  • Landon Collins is a very good STRONG safety – please note the word strong. Darian Thompson has had an up-and-down season in what basically is his rookie year. They need better depth here.
  • Corner is going to be an interesting area to watch. Janoris Jenkins has All-Pro ability. Much depends on how the new coaching staff feels about his personality. Same with the aging and somewhat fragile Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Then there is Eli Apple. Many fans think he isn’t a good player. When his head is screwed on right, he is. Apple has shut-down ability. But the fucker needs to grow up and stop acting like an entitled little bitch. Football careers are short and momma isn’t going to be around to pick up the pieces at some point. Grow up. Football is a job. Good news is that Reese may have stolen Ross Cockrell from the Steelers.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I suspect this game will be the final nail in the Tom Quinn story.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
(What Steve Spagnuolo says at this point really doesn’t matter. He’s a place holder).

THE FINAL WORD
This “rivalry” has become a one-sided joke. Nothing changes on Sunday.

Dec 132017
 
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Rhett Ellison, New York Giants (December 10, 2017)

Rhett Ellison – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 30 – New York Giants 10

RECAP

A 2-10 team could not have had more attention than what the Giants had coming into their home, week 14 match-up against the middle-of-the-pack Dallas Cowboys. Eli Manning made his first start back after a one-week hiatus for the first time since 2004. This was the result after ownership opted to fire Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese which was inevitable but possibly accelerated because of how they handled the Manning benching. With the NYG throwback uniforms being worn and a crowd that was fully behind Manning at the start, the game had an intense feel to it for the first time in months.

There was an odd, uncommon start to the game. Both teams put together marathon drives, 16 plays for DAL and 17 for NYG. They both resulted in 3 points respectively and before we knew it, the game was into the 2nd quarter. Dallas was shooting themselves in the foot with multiple offsides penalties by their defensive line and failure to capitalize on two NYG fumbles.

Spurred by a 35-yard pass to Evan Engram, NYG marched down to the goal line on their 3rd drive of the game. In true calm, cool, and almost relaxed fashion, Manning hit Rhett Ellison for a 1-yard touchdown on a play-action rollout to the right. NYG led 10-3 against a Cowboys team that has been mightily struggling to find their offensive identity without their suspended running back Ezekiel Elliot.

The sparse NYG crowd came to life but it was short lived. Dak Prescott hit Dez Bryant on a short slant and an aggressive mistake by cornerback Brandon Dixon, who went all in on trying to deflect the pass, led to Bryant spinning free post-reception with nothing but green in front of him. It was a 50-yard touchdown that evened the game at 10 with under 2 minutes left in the half and that ended up being the score at halftime.

The 3rd quarter saw DAL and NYG trade possessions a few times, with Damon Harrison dominating the Cowboys offensive line and Sean Lee impacting the game on every possible level against the Giants’ offense. The most accurate kicker in NFL history, Dan Bailey, missed his second in three chances as the end of the quarter came to a close. On 3rd-and-2 near midfield on the ensuing NYG possession, Sterling Shepard dropped a pass (adding the NYG first place ranking in that category). After forcing a 3 and out, NYG had 3rd-and-2 again approaching midfield and this time it was Roger Lewis who came up with the drop. The NYG receivers helped to set up what ended up being one of the ugliest quarters of the 2017 season.

Prescott hit Giants killer Jason Witten for a 20-yard touchdown up the – you guessed – middle of the defense with 7:45 left. All was not lost and NYG was still very much in it. Poor play calling and execution led to an NYG punt despite being in DAL territory. DAL faced a 3rd-and-3 and even though their thought process was to get the clock to 0:00, they went with an empty backfield approach. One quick slant later to RB Rod Smith and the NYG defense was trying to catch him from behind but to no avail. DAL took the commanding 23-10 lead (failed extra point).

As if that wasn’t enough, Manning threw his first of two interceptions into the waiting arms of Sean Lee. DAL was able to put the ball in the end zone one more time, shoving the knife a little deeper, via a 15-yard run by Smith. DAL keeps their playoff hopes alive and NYG falls to 2-11.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 31/46 – 228 yards – 1 TD/2 INT. The two interceptions at the end of the game have an asterisk next to them. It was desperation time and he had to force things. The drops by Shepard and Lewis were killers and, at this point, both inexcusable but expected, ironically. Manning didn’t have a lot of “minus” throws and he just doesn’t have time to go through a lot of reads. This truly has become the worst situation in the league for any QB to work with from what I have seen.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 12 att/59 yards, 7 rec/40 yards. Career high in rushing attempts, rushing yards, catches, and receiving yards for the rookie. I think he needs to be the feature backfield presence on this team from here on out. His vision and decision-making, combined with his athletic ability, make him a big-play threat this backfield hasn’t had in years. He did fumble early but it was luckily recovered by the offense.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 10 att/29 yards – 2 rec/15 yards. Darkwa had 2 poorly graded blocks and also fumbled early in the game, with his teammates falling on it. His presence as a tough inside runner was still there and he didn’t drop any passes, so good for him there.
  • Shane Vereen: 6 att/23 yards – 3 rec/24 yards. A lot of Vereen’s production comes in garbage time and/or on rushing plays when the NYG offense is facing 3rd and 10+. It is clear he won’t be a part of the picture after 2017.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Roger Lewis: 7 rec/46 yards. I knew Lewis was going to get more and more opportunities from Manning after their big play a few weeks ago. He led the team with 11 targets, the next leading target count among WRs was 3. His drop was a big one and he continues to show what I talked about in August, solid tools but minimal skills.
  • Sterling Shepard: 2 rec/16 yards. His impact on the game was never really felt, as he was only targeted 3 times. Shepard had a huge drop on 3rd down that took the wind out of the NYG sails.It was really disappointing to see him have trouble getting open against single coverage. He has not capitalized or risen to the occasion since Beckham and Marshall have been injured.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec/54 yards. Watching the all 22 tape, this was the most double coverage Engram has seen all year. They were often bracketing him, a move I am surprised defenses didn’t do earlier in the season. He had the biggest play of the day for NYG, a 35-yard reception where DAL completely forgot about him in deep coverage. Engram added a drop and is among the league leaders in that category.
  • Rhett Ellison: 4 rec/20 yards – 1 TD. Ellison continues to be Mr. Reliable when targeted, as he has been all year. His 1-yard touchdown catch was actually pretty high-difficulty and impressive.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers righted the ship after a rough game last week in Oakland. He was the highest graded NYG blocker, well above the average mark. One encouraging sign other than simply not getting beat as often in pass protection, is he has really limited the penalties. His technique is still very shaky but it doesn’t always have to look pretty. Bobby Hart was back in the stating lineup, as Chad Wheeler was out with a concussion. He received a lot of help against Demarcus Lawrence. I wouldn’t call this a good game for Hart, but he only allowed 1 pressure and didn’t make any major mistakes that we were used to seeing.
  • Interior: Brett Jones and Jon Halapio both took a step back against the very average Cowboys DTs. Jones mightily struggled in pass protection when left alone for the second straight week, and Halapio allowed 3 pressures and was flagged for a hold. John Jerry didn’t get a lot of push in the run, and was inaccurate on trap blocks, missing his target twice. He hasn’t been good at making adjustments on the fly all year and that is a part of the job that is becoming more and more essential in the NFL.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: The glaring positive of this entire team over the course of the year is Damon Harrison. We are getting a treat in watching this guy play – the top DT in the game. His dominance against the inside run is almost assumed now but what stood out Sunday were the hustle plays he made near the sideline and down the field. You simply don’t see the big guys like him with that much range. Having him around is absolutely huge for the future of this team. Dalvin Tomlinson and Jay Bromley split duties next to him and both had quietly effective games.
  • Ends: Jason Pierre Paul had 5 tackles and a pressure. His impact on the game remains woefully inconsistent and near non-existent on 3rd downs. Olivier Vernon was outclassed by Tyron Smith, the top OT in the game. He finished with 1 tackle and a foolish roughing-the-passer penalty. When he can’t out-quick the blocker, his hand game just isn’t good enough to give a guy like Smith a problem.

LINEBACKERS

  • Kelvin Shepard and Calvin Munson were #1 and #2 in tackles on the day (10 and 9) but both had really bad beats on multiple occasions. Shepard is a between-the-tackles run defender only, as seen when he was assigned to cover RB Rod Smith in the 4th quarter on 3rd down and couldn’t stay within 3 yards of him on a quick slant. Munson has been improving as the year goes, but he hasn’t been getting off blocks at all. He really struggles there. Both of them and Devon Kennard had negative grades in coverage, with the glaring mishaps coming from Shepard (mentioned above) and Devon Kennard on Witten’s touchdown.

CORNERBACKS

  • Ross Cockrell and Brandon Dixon continue to dominate the playing time, as both were in for every snap. Cockrell continues to look better and better each week. I think this guy needs to be in the long-term picture. He had two very high-level PDs. Dixon added 2 PDs of his own, showing physical and aggressive play. He got a little too aggressive on the 50-yard TD pass to Bryant, however.
  • Darryl Morris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were each on the field less than half the plays but were very solid when they were in.
  • Eli Apple remained inactive, and his hole is being dug deeper and deeper.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins and Darian Thompson both graded out as average. Collins had a nice impact on the running game, notching a TFL and forcing the DAL ball carriers to re-direct. His feel through traffic is outstanding, excellent instincts. Thompson missed 2 tackles, neither of which were overly complicated. His lack of long speed was put on display a couple times as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – Made 39. Rosas only had one shot in this game, and he came through. He really hasn’t had a full dose of action to give NYG a real idea if he should be here long term or not.
  • P Brad Wing: 8 Punts – 43.4 avg/33.9 net. Wing wasn’t sailing the ball high enough and it gave DAL a few clean returns. He leads the NFL in punts this year and has appeared to take a step down in terms of quality.

3 STUDS

  • DT Damon Harrison, CB Ross Cockrell, RB Wayne Gallman

3 DUDS

  • OC Brett Jones, OG Jon Halapio, DE Olivier Vernon

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

  • I said something similar after the week 1 matchup, but the impact a LB like Sean Lee has on the game week in, week out is as strong as any top-tier defender in the league, and I mean that. This guy impacts the game in so many ways, in so many situations. And the thing about having a LB like this is that it is incredibly hard for an offense to avoid him. He is everywhere. Take notes and apply, new front office.
  • This was a major confidence booster for the DAL offense. Their numbers without Ezekiel Elliot vs. their numbers with him have been atrocious but Rod Smith has been getting discussed for awhile now. It looks like he has things figured out and the talent is taking over. This team has the capability of getting hot from here on out and doing damage if they can sneak into the playoffs.
  • I was very high on the DAL draft this past year and two main reasons for that were CBs Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie. Those guys can ball. Their impact on the game will be very strong for the next few years.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • I am working on a list of coaches who I think NYG will be looking hard at. One common thing I am looking for is a guy who players really respond to, get behind, and will bleed for. I think that has been a major missing link with this team in recent years. Look at how PIT players play for Tomlin among other things. Vikings for Zimmer, Seahawks for Caroll…etc.
  • Get the ball to Gallman as much as possible over these next 3 weeks. I think it is important to get as much information on him as a player as possible. Saquon Barkley is going to be available when NYG is on the clock and unless you fall in love with a QB in the process, he has to be in the picture at least. If Gallman can be the guy, then that idea lessens. But you need to know.
  • I really do think NYG has something in Cockrell. I have watched every one of his snaps from the All-22 tape over the past few games and he’s been steady and impressive on all levels. There is a lot he does well, very little that he doesn’t do well.