Nov 262021
 
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THE STORYLINE:
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the New York Giants are simply a chronically mismanaged organization. My “game previews” annually touch upon this as the number of successive losing seasons mount. Even the usually optimistic Sy’56 is losing patience. The end of his last game review was about as harsh a criticism as you will see from him:

The NYG organization has been all about saving face and public perception. The press conferences try to convince those who listen that things are under control and there is a plan in place. It is clear to me that this team does not have a plan beyond basic football. They don’t know how to draft, they don’t know how to manage the cap, they don’t know how to play 2-minute offense and defense, they don’t know what to do in the red zone, they don’t know how to manage timeouts. You can preach fundamentals all you want, and you can say one-liners about being a teaching-based coaching staff. Sounds very Belichick-y. That helps during the spring and summer months where results are subjective. However, the mismanagement always rears its ugly head during the fall and this is the problem that starts from the top.

All of this negativity is not due to the team losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are one of the best teams in football. The Giants are one of the worst. The frustration is mounting and mounting because the team – one again – does not seem to be getting any better. Draft pick after draft pick, high-priced free agent after high-priced free agent, coaching change after coaching change… the team simply is not getting any better.

What struck me about Sy’56’s comments is something that has been bothering me for quite some time, but he nailed it. The top officials from this team put on a good act. They say the right things. But unfortunately, they do the wrong things. If Super Bowl trophies were awarded for being good at public relations, the Giants would be in the middle of a 10-year dynastic run.

So be prepared for John Mara’s end-of-year press conference where he tells fans he is just as frustrated as the fans and changes will be made. (You can already hear the Boston College harrumph). Dave Gettleman, who appears to have made two catastrophically-bad top-6 draft selections in 2018 and 2019, will most likely be put out to pasture, temporarily mollifying many fans. As for used-car salesman Joe Judge, much depends on the final seven games. Right now, it’s not looking good for Joe.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – questionable)
  • FB Cullen Gillaspia (calf – out)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (quad – doubtful)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (quad – out)
  • WR John Ross (quad – questionable)
  • TE Kyle Rudolph (ankle – doubtful)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – out)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (ankle – probable)
  • CB Adoree’ Jackson (quad – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Jason Garrett was fired. Not during the bye week when it made more sense, but on a short-week after playing on Monday night football. Perfect move for a dysfunctional franchise.

The removal of Garrett is a huge red flag because it means one of two things. Either Joe Judge botched one of the most important head coaching decisions he had, or as some have long speculated, Garrett was imposed on Judge by John Mara. Either way, it’s not good. And reading between the lines, based what was and was not said in both Judge’s Monday night post-game press conference and Garrett’s Tuesday farewell statement, it appears there was no love lost between Judge and Garrett. Combine that with last years odd drama surrounding the in-season firing of Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo, who Garrett brought over from Dallas and either Judge or Mara signed off on. I’m starting to suspect that Mara did in fact meddle with decisions that should have been left to Judge. If Mara felt he needed an insurance policy for Judge, then he never should have hired the man in the first place.

More good news. When a team blows the #2 pick in the draft, it’s a disaster. When a team blows the #6 pick in the draft, it’s a disaster. When a team does both and one of those picks is a “franchise” quarterback, it’s beyond a disaster. Thank you Dave Gettleman. You’ve sealed your legacy by putting the final nails in the coffin that Jerry Reese began to build. Don’t forget, however, that John Mara hired Dave Gettleman. And he decided to retain him after Pat Shurmur failed and before hiring Joe Judge.

So where are we now? The 3-7 Giants are in last place in the NFC East. They are not dead, but they are on life support. Joe Judge, who must know his neck is on the chopping block, fired his offensive coordinator on a short week before facing a team that has owned the Giants for years. This reeks of desperation. Good luck Freddie Kitchens! The offensive line is still a mess. Daniel Jones isn’t getting better. Saquon Barkley is just a big name who falls over himself. The injury-prone Sterling Shepard is out again, joined this week by the injury-prone Kadarius Toney. If Judge, Kitchens, Jones, Barkley, etc. put up 30 points against the Eagles and win the game, we’ll all be thrilled. But who in their right mind truly expects that?

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The luckiest man in New York this past week was Patrick Graham. The drama surrounding Jason Garrett completely overshadowed the utterly miserable performance by Graham against Tampa Bay. Remember, Graham’s defense looked like crap for the first six games of the year, being a major reason why the team started 1-5. His defense improved over the course of the next three games as the Giants “rebounded” with a 2-1 record. Against a Bucs’ offense that mightily struggled Washington, Graham’s unit allowed 400 yards of offense and six scoring drives. Tom Brady got to come out of the game early.

We went through something similar with Graham last year. The difference being that an admittedly undermanned defense started off poorly and made improvements in the second half of the year as the Giants shockingly finished as a top-10 defense. In the second year of his system, with free agent and draft additions, this was supposed to be a consistently good defense, anchored by the defensive line and secondary. Now it seems like a crapshoot as to what kind of defense will show up on a week-to-week basis. Sy’56 contends it is because New York’s defenders have no firm, systemic identity. I don’t know what the reason is. All I know is it is not working the way it was envisioned. I like Graham and want him to succeed. He appears to be a very smart and humble man who really cares. I think losing really bothers him. But he’s got to get this figured out or he’s going to be out of a job in January.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The death knell for Judge is if his team starts losing games because of special teams. With the buzzards circling, you almost kind of expect it.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Former Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett on Head Coach Joe Judge: (Deafening silence)

THE FINAL WORD:
I expected the Giants to lose to the Bucs. But I thought it would be a close game and that the arrow would still be pointing up after the miserable 1-5 start. The Giants weren’t even competitive.

For the Giants to make a serious run, they were going to have to sweep the Eagles and beat Washington after the bye. That all seems unlikely now. The wheels appear to be coming off.

What seems more likely is a Philadelphia Eagles team that was supposed to be the worst in the division will once again humiliate the Giants, in the process also wrecking Michael Strahan’s jersey retirement ceremony with thousands of mocking Eagles fans in the stands.

But hey, at least John Mara will tell us how upset he is in January. So we have that to look forward to.

Nov 242021
 
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Andrew Thomas, New York Giants (November 22, 2021)

Andrew Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The Giants faced the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a Monday night in November for the second year in a row, a rather odd schedule repeat. In 2020, NYG was 1-7 and TB was 5-2 at the time of the match-up. This year? NYG came in at 3-6, TB 6-3. Even though NYG was now the away team, they were coming off a 15+ day rest as TB had lost 2 straight including a double-digit loss to the Washington Football Team. Some of the best memories in NYG history have come at the expense of Brady. However, those glory days seem to be centuries behind us.

TB opened the game without a part of their three-headed monster at wide receiver. Antonio Brown was out with an ankle injury, but the rest of their core was in place. Their drive was as easy and smooth as a knife through melted butter. NYG played a soft, 2-high look and Brady methodically took advantage of the space underneath and intermediate areas. Their first 6 plays each netted 7 or more yards and the drive ended with a 13-yard pitch, catch, and run from Brady to Chris Godwin.

NYG responded with a quality drive, their final quality drive of the game. It lasted 13 plays and spread the ball around well. They were 1st-and-10 from the TB 15-yard line. Most teams view this position as a position of opportunity. NYG, however, is the worst red-zone offense in the NFL and quarterback Daniel Jones entered the game completing a league-low 41% of his passes inside it. From there, Jones threw an incomplete pass, Jones rushed for a 1-yard gain, Will Hernandez was flagged for a false start, and Jones threw another incomplete pass. Graham Gano then nailed a 37-yard field goal to get NYG within 4.

TB marched down the field yet again. In fact, of their first 15 plays, not one of them was a 3rd down. They used 18-total plays on this drive as the game entered the 2nd quarter. The pass rush was non-existent but with 7-8 defenders in coverage, NYG was able to stop the bleeding a bit and hold them to a field goal. NYG went 3-and-out on their next drive.

TB had the ball at their own 15-yard line. On the first play, there was a miscommunication on the play where both receivers to the left side stayed home for the screen pass. It was likely the mistake of Tyler Johnson, a second-year receiver from Minnesota who averages 3 targets per week. Mike Evans had the pass bounce off his chest and into the arms of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. He returned it to the TB 5-yard line and NYG was just 15 feet away from tying it up. A creative play call had Jones toss the ball to the eligible Andrew Thomas, a play nobody saw coming. Thomas made a leaping grab up and away from his body and, no sarcasm here, this may have been one of the best 5 catches we have seen from a Giant in 2021. Thomas’ first career touchdown puts him tied for 2nd on the team in that department. Sadly, he ranks ahead of both $72 million receiver Kenny Golladay and 1st round receiver Kadarius Toney as of Week 11.

TB responded with yet another easy, low-to-no pressure drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown by running back Ronald Jones on a play where Jackson, the hero from the previous drive, seemed to forget about the concept of outside contain. NYG did force an incomplete pass on the drive however, yes one. The tape should give Head Coach Joe Judge some quality things to speak of during his next press conference.

The two offenses traded scoreless possessions and thanks to a Tristan Wirfs holding call on their next drive, TB was forced out of field goal range and gave NYG the ball back with :43 left and 2 timeouts. Play to win? Or play not to lose? NYG had a decision to make. It appeared they would run the clock out unfortunately, as their first play was a low-key, low-success dump pass to Saquon Barkley. They let 20 seconds come off the clock. Jones to Barkley then netted 11 yards and brought the ball to the NYG 20-yard line with 9 seconds left. That is when Joe Judge opted to use the first of his 2 remaining timeouts.

NYG did not know what they wanted to do. NYG then got the ball near midfield with 3 seconds left, but Darius Slayton fumbled the ball. Fortunately, the clock ran out and NYG entered the half only down by 7.

It was a 7-point game with TB out-playing NYG in a big way. That 7-point lead quickly became a 17-point lead as Brady hit Mike Evans for a touchdown and Ryan Succop nailed a 40-yard field goal following an absolutely terrible interception by Jones. The NYG line was falling apart, the TB offense continued to go where they wanted when they wanted, and Jones looked like a deer in the headlights. He threw another interception in the 4th quarter, a play where he did not see even half the field. Succop turned that into another 3 points.

The score represented what we had been watching all night, a 30-10 lead by the Bucs. TB soon pulled their starters, the Giants offensive line turned in their worst half of the season (which is hard to do, as TB was missing their top DL), and Barkley was found limping on the sideline while Toney talked to trainers with no gloves while riding a bike.

At least Blaine Gabbert didn’t score a touchdown. Another positive that I am sure we will hear about from the front office at some point in condescending fashion.

“We may have a little more confidence in our offensive line than you guys.” – Dave Gettleman – May 2021.

Giants lose, 30-10.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 23/38 – 167 yards / 1 TD – 2 INT / 57.7 RAT

Jones also added 10 yards on 3 carries. It was a major step back for Jones in multiple ways. He looked like a young quarterback who regressed. He did not look like a quarterback who was going to make other players better. Both interceptions were solely on him with an extra emphasis on the first one. While the offensive line did him no favors and the talent around him, despite being praised by the media as a “high-ceiling group,” under-performed yet again, Jones was the culprit in such a poor offensive performance. He continues to struggle seeing the entire field and the actual throws themselves are consistently average at best. His time is running out.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 6 att – 25 yards / 6 rec – 31 yards

With the NYG offensive line clearly overmatched and NYG playing from behind most of the game, Barkley didn’t have consistent opportunities on the ground. While his touches didn’t do much for the offense and game overall, the numbers don’t look bad on a per-touch basis. However, I still have a negative grade on Barkley, and it is becoming overly tiresome to see the same issues game after game. He is a poor blocker who shows minimal effort; he continues to trip over his own feet (followed by slamming the ball on the ground as if he was surprised); and he stops his momentum way too soon on inside runs into traffic. There are dozens (plural) of backs who show more than he does on a weekly basis.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Kadarius Toney: 7 rec / 40 yards

Toney also threw a deep pass (which was the nicest deep ball we have seen in long time). He was targeted a season-high 12 times and it created 40 yards of offense (3.4 yards per play). 3.4 yards per target is, for those don’t track stats like that often, good for about 165th in the NFL. That tier is almost always reserved for running backs and fullbacks. Toney had a couple impressive yards after the catch gains based on his elusiveness and agility, but he also had a drop and a double catch. There are several ways to use this kind of talent, but NYG hasn’t been consistent with him yet.

-Kenny Golladay played 44 snaps and received 2 targets. He caught 1 of them for 12 yards. When I watch the All-22 tape, the one consistent thing I see with him is a lack of separation. While he does do well in traffic, one has to consider this aspect of his game. He doesn’t get open on his own and he has caught just 58% of his targets over his career. Players who catch 58% of their targets rank 175th in the NFL in that department. We need to see more out Golladay, plain and simple. I will not call it a “bad signing” in free agency (yet), but you can’t pay a guy what they paid him and throw him the ball 34 times in the 7 games he played in on an offense that is desperate for points. There is little to no cohesion within this organization. No plan.

-Darius Slayton added 4 catches for 37 yards. He was flagged for an illegal block in the back and got tripped up on the downfield Toney pass that was nearly a big play. His contact presence and balance remain the biggest issues of his game.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram had a poor night in the trenches. He allowed a TFL and 2 pressures. He caught 2 passes for 12 yards and is now averaging 8.4 yards per reception on the season.

-Kyle Rudolph had the biggest play of the night with a 28-yard grab, and run and that was about it from him. Rudolph now leads the group with 8.6 yards per reception on the season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The one positive from the offense was Andrew Thomas. While he did fall victim to a late sack in the 4th quarter, he shut down Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul in almost all of their 1-on-1 matchups. He did whiff on a running play in the second quarter but made up for it a snap later when he made an acrobatic touchdown catch on a surprise play. Good to see him back on the field and playing at a high level. If there is one player on this team who can be part of the future core that turns things around, I think he’s it.

-The interior of this line was abysmal. I would love to see what the film review is like in their room. Will Hernandez, especially. This was the worst performance of his career and I’ve been told here at BBI that I have it out for him. I do not have it out for him. I just never saw him as a starting-caliber player and the fact he continues to get starts says something about the decision makers. He allowed 4 pressures, he was flagged for 2 holding penalties (one was declined), and he was flagged for a false start. I was most disappointed by the fact that he appeared to just give up late in the game. Matt Skura allowed 4 pressures and Billy Price allowed 2. 10 pressures allowed from the interior spots. Nobody is performing well.

-Nate Solder oddly got the start over Matt Peart. Peart has not been good, but the margin between him and Solder is thin (if it exists). In a situation like that on team like this, go with the youth over the contract. NYG does it in reverse.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Really poor game from the trio of starters. They were tossed around by the Bucs OL all night. In their defense, I would put TB top 2 or 3 in the NFL along the offensive line. That said, the reason why Patrick Graham went ultra-soft on the back end of the defense was the confidence in the line and they failed to step up.

-Dexter Lawrence had 2 pressures and a pass break up, but he was too often handled by lone blockers. Leonard Williams added 1 pressure, but was too often driven multiple yards in the wrong direction as he tried to anchor against the run. Austin Johnson led the group with 5 tackles and added a pass break up.

-Danny Shelton added a TFL in garbage time and Raymond Johnson III added a sack late when it did not matter.

LINEBACKER

-If you remember back to the game against the Raiders prior to the bye, Quincy Roche and Azeez Ojulari both had solid performances and it created some hope. This was a tall task to take on but even with the extra rest, they were absolutely shut down all night. Ojulari and fellow rookie Elerson Smith (who got his first defensive snaps) added one pressure each. I am excited to see the team use Smith more in this role, he certainly looks the part.

-Tae Crowder and Reggie Ragland combined for 9 tackles with Ragland adding one for a loss. Crowder react too slowly mentally, and Ragland is a poor athlete. In some cases, around the league, the linebackers between the tackles complement each other to the point of hiding one another’s weaknesses. These two aren’t clicking and are easy to beat. Benardrick McKinney is the best of this trio and should take over the majority of snaps. He added 5 tackles but played under a third of the snaps. He brings more to the table.

CORNERBACK

-The James Bradberry vs. Mike Evans battle has always been a fun-watch dating back to the cornerback’s days in CAR. They split success and fails down the middle but, on this night, Evans got the win. Bradberry allowed a touchdown, a 3rd-down conversion, missed 2 tackles, and was nearly beat on a separate touchdown by Breshad Perriman but a drop helped out NYG’s top corner who is due to make over 12% of the team’s salary cap next season.

-Adoree’ Jackson intercepted a deflection off Evans’ chest, which set up the lone NYG touchdown of the night. He then allowed a touchdown on his lack of ability to set the edge on a Ronald Jones outside run. Darnay Holmes added 4 tackles and was solid most of the night against Chris Godwin.

-Rookie Aaron Robinson, who I am also excited to see more of, saw 22 snaps. He was caught out of position a couple times, but I like the way he competes and moves. There wasn’t much to take away from the All-22, but I do think we will have a decent idea what he can do by the end of this season.

SAFETY

-With Logan Ryan out because of Covid, Julian Love stepped up in a big way. He had 6 tackles and broke up 2 passes, both very nice plays on the ball. He was all over the field and when NYG did step up a few times, he was at the center of it. He did miss a tackle on the first TB touchdown because of a poor angle, but it was a quality performance.

-Xavier McKinney led the team with 7 tackles and showed quality range in deep coverage from the All-22 angle. Brady was hung up a few times and from my perspective, I believe it was McKinney who took away the reads. He has been on a very solid run these past 5-6 weeks.

-J.R. Reed, brought up from the Practice Squad to take the 53-man roster spot of Ryan, saw a considerable amount of time. He added 4 tackles but missed 2 others and appeared to have weak contact presence. That was the red flag (along with his knee) coming out of Georgia.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 37)
-P Riley Dixon: 4 Punts / 48.3 avg – 46.0 net

3 STUDS

-OT Andrew Thomas, S Julian Love, S Xavier McKinney

3 DUDS

-OG Will Hernandez, QB Daniel Jones, CB James Bradberry

3 THOUGHTS ON TB

(1) TB is the class of the NFC and when I look around at the competitors within the conference, I don’t see anyone close. Sure, ARI looks good on paper and DAL can go toe to toe if everything clicks correctly. Any given Sunday, I get it. But what TB has that those 2 and others have not shown in the postseason yet is the innate ability to finding ways to win. TB and Brady in particular have the intangibles that I always speak of. They’re vital. Learning how to win games is a skill that needs to be developed over the years and they truly have it.

(2) The TB offensive line entered Week 11 as the only starting 5 to have begun each game on the field together. At this point in the season, that is extremely rare. That is a key reason why this team and this group in particular is playing so well. Another reason? They’re drafted the OL as well, if not better, than everybody. They have 2 first-round picks on the outside and, amazingly, three starters inside who all played lower than Division I football. I’m not sure I have ever seen that before. OC Ryan Jensen is the best center in football and the Alex Cappa + Ali Marpet duo at guard is the best duo at the position in the league. The unproven question mark is depth. Marpet went out with an injury and in comes Aaron Stinnie. He was very good and easily remained the second-best guard in this game. Perhaps that isn’t saying much, though. Offensive Line Coach Joe Gilbert is a name worth keeping in the back of your head.

(3) A thought to consider. Please do not take this as what I want or what I think NYG should do. I am not going there yet. But with the possibility of Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Aaron Rodgers all being available via trade this upcoming offseason, could this team look at the turnaround we saw in TB once Brady arrived as a template to follow? Starting in 2011, TB had 8 losing seasons in 9 years. Their record over those 9 years was 49-95. They had multiple 1st-round busts at quarterback. They had 4 failed head coaches. Their offense and defense were both routinely bottom-third in this league. Then bam, all of the sudden it changes the second an elite quarterback comes into town. The difference would be the fact that NYG would likely have to give up multiple 1st round picks and possibly a quality player to obtain that QB. That said, the aura of a team changes when a guy like that puts on the uniform. Intangibles can be contagious. Even though there are holes on this team left and right, this needs to be a possible option for a team that has proven to be terrible at building a winner via the draft. Do the Maras have the guts to do this?

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) I have watched this defensive scheme over and over, multiple times from multiple angles ever since Patrick Graham was hired. While I know they are an “amoeba” front (one that often changes shape/alignment), I am having a hard time truly understanding what their plan is. Yes, I know the response is they “change it week to week and base it on matchups.” I think this is part of the big picture problem though. There is no identity, they are putting guys in spots they don’t belong, and it makes building depth very difficult. I am putting daily work into the 2022 Draft reports and stacks now and there just isn’t a flow to where NYG needs to infuse new talent. Whatever they’re doing or trying to do isn’t working and I don’t see long-term promise. I think they need to get more rigid with a 3-4 or 4-3 and build from there.

(2) The Jason Garrett firing will hopefully bring improvement and/or clarity to the current NYG offensive personnel. Freddie Kitchens has had success in this league, but it was short-lived as a play-caller. The league figured him out in a hurry, and he struggled to adjust. Are there similarities here to what CLE had when Kitchens took over the play-calling from Todd Haley in 2018? After all, from week 9-on, CLE led the NFL in yards per play and yards per pass attempt with a rookie quarterback and running back. NYG arguably has more talent than CLE did back then, but the offensive line will make things difficult for any play-caller. I think the biggest jump we can expect is where NYG currently resides in red zone success, which is the absolute basement in the NFL. This is equally big for Kitchens as it is Jones and company.

(3) For the fourth straight week, NYG has seen a decline in total yards. Was Garrett really THE culprit? Or is he more the scapegoat of a bigger problem that those who remain are scrambling to try and cover for? The NYG organization has been all about saving face and public perception. The press conferences try to convince those who listen that things are under control and there is a plan in place. It is clear to me that this team does not have a plan beyond basic football. They don’t know how to draft, they don’t know how to manage the cap, they don’t know how to play 2-minute offense and defense, they don’t know what to do in the red zone, they don’t know how to manage timeouts. You can preach fundamentals all you want, and you can say one-liners about being a teaching-based coaching staff. Sounds very Belichick-y. That helps during the spring and summer months where results are subjective. However, the mismanagement always rears its ugly head during the fall and this is the problem that starts from the top.

Nov 202021
 
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THE STORYLINE:
The 2021 New York Giants may be on life support, but they are not dead yet. If the playoffs were to start today, the 5-4 New Orleans Saints (who the Giants have already beaten) and the 5-5 Carolina Panthers (who the Giants have also already beaten) would make the tournament. The Giants stand at 3-6 with eight games left to play. For them to realistically make the playoffs, they will probably have to finish the season 5-3 or 6-2. On paper, the most difficult remaining two games for the Giants appear to be Monday’s game against the 6-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the December 19th game against the Dallas Cowboys.

The problem for the Giants is that no game is a sure win. All of this speculation could amount to pissing into the wind if the team loses to the Eagles, Dolphins, Bears, etc. But right now, there is still hope. The team is getting healthier as it comes off its bye and the defense has been playing much better. The Giants are still playing hard for Coach Judge.

If New York can somehow manage to pull off an upset against an angry Tampa Bay team coming off an embarrassing loss to Washington, things could get interesting.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – questionable)
  • RB Devontae Booker (hip – questionable)
  • FB Cullen Gillaspia (calf – questionable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (quad – out)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – questionable)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (illness/ankle – out)
  • S Logan Ryan (Reserve/COVID-19 – out)
  • S Nate Ebner (knee – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
There was a long period of time during the 1990s when no New York Giants quarterback could reach the 300-yard passing mark in a game. In a league that had become increasingly reliant on the passing game, it was an embarrassing non-accomplishment that was finally broken when Kerry Collins became the starting quarterback. The new mark of futility for the Giants is the team’s inability to score 30 points in a game. The team is averaging less than 20 points per contest this year. I keep talking about it, but scoring points is kind of an important indicator of victory. (sarcasm off)

Everyone has their own reason. The coaching sucks. The quarterback sucks. The offensive line sucks. Injuries to the skill players. Many people want to point to one reason, but there is probably a degree of truth in all of these reasons. Regardless, the Giants are not going to consistently win unless they can increase their average point total, and do so quite dramatically.  Scoring 19 points per game just isn’t going to cut it in 2021.

The good news is that the bye week came at a fortunate time for the team. Knock on wood, but it appears the Giants are going to get some important cogs back such as Saquon Barkley and possibly Andrew Thomas (still on IR, but may be activated). Others who have been nursing injuries such as Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney will be healthier. Unfortunately, the entire band won’t be back together with Sterling Shepard still out. Still, this is the strongest the offensive unit has been since they upset the Saints in New Orleans.

On paper, Tampa Bay’s defense is tough. It ranks 9th in yards allowed. It falls to 18th in points allowed, however. And in multiple key moments during last week’s loss to the unimpressive Washington offense, the Bucs failed to make a defensive stop. They also lost defensive tackle Vita Vea late in the game. Their confidence must be a bit rattled. Tampa has been far more difficult to run against (2nd in the NFL, allowing less than 80 yards per game) than pass on (22nd in the NFL). That would seem to suggest that the coaching staff should take a more pass-oriented approach against the Buccaneers, particularly earlier in the game. Keep in mind too that Saquon Barkley is still rusty as hell (he never really knocked off all of the rust from not practicing in camp or playing in the preseason before he got hurt again). I would tend to use Barkley more in the passing game at this point, and use the run more later in the game if the Giants are still within striking distance, or better yet, ahead in the contest.

The Bucs are a middle-of-the road team in the pass rush department, accruing 22 in nine games. Only one player, linebacker Shaquil Barrett, has more than three sacks this year (he has five). For comparison’s sake, the Giants have 19 sacks in nine games. So while Tampa Bay has players who can be disruptive, like former Giant Jason Pierre-Paul (who has been dealing with injuries), this isn’t a front that New York line should be scared of (and Washington certainly handled them pretty easily up front). It’s one of the main reasons why the Buccaneers blitz so much. They have issues generating pressure with only their defensive line.

If I’m Judge and Garrett, I have Daniel Jones target the play makers early and often: Barkley, Toney, and Golladay. You have a lot invested in these guys; it’s time for them to pay dividends. The Tampa defense tends to play more conservatively in the secondary, attempting to protect against the big play, so Jones will most likely have to be patient and find open targets underneath. In short yardage, hand the ball to Eli Penny to keep the chains moving. I would continue to go to these guys in the red zone, with the possible addition of the tight ends.

Lastly, what Jones and his offensive teammates need to do (besides score points) is protect the football. Tampa is tied for seventh in the NFL in takeaways, with 15.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
You guys know I like to look at the big picture stats first. On paper, the Tampa Bay offense is daunting, but there are some oddities that suggest the strengths and weaknesses of the unit. The Bucs are third in the NFL in yards gained per game (over 400). They are the #1 passing team in the NFL, averaging over 315 yards per game. They are only 27th in the NFL in rushing (90 yards per game). Most importantly, they are third in the NFL in scoring, averaging 31 points per game. (In other words, they AVERAGE more points than the Giants have been able to score in any one single game this year).

Obviously, the centerpiece of the offense is arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game: 44-year old Tom Brady. You are not going to fool Brady. He’s seen it all. He reads defenses exceptionally well and gets rid of the ball quickly. One of the reasons why Tampa’s offense performs so well is that it doesn’t make a lot of negative plays. Negative plays are drive killers. Brady keeps the Bucs out of those situations.

I have not watched all of the Tampa Bay games this year. But in the games that I have watched, what sticks out to me is the dink-and-dunk nature of their passing attack. At one point last week in the Tampa Bay-Washington game, Brady went a long stretch without throwing the ball more than 10 yards down the field. But when you look at their team stats, the Buccaneers have over 40 passing plays that have gained more than 20 yards. From what I can tell, much of this comes from yards after the catch, combined with Brady lulling defenses into the belief that he won’t go deep. At one point late in the Washington game, the left corner let WR Mike Evans run right by him for an easy deep touchdown catch (the safety was late getting over too). So in other words, while Brady may not be heavily reliant on the deep (or even intermediate) passing game, he will still burn you if you fall asleep on it.

The other important element to consider is that Brady gets rid of the ball so quickly (combination of the short passing schemes and his ability to read defenses so well) that teams rarely get to him on the pass rush. Brady has only been sacked 12 times this year and is getting rid of the ball on average in 2.38 seconds. That’s an ominous sign for a Giants team that only has accrued 19 sacks this year.

How did Washington beat Tampa? They never seriously felt threatened by Tampa’s ground game even though they averaged over 4 yards per carry in that contest. Washington only allowed two completions down the field (the aforementioned 40-yarder to Evans and a 29-yarder in the first half). The only other play that gained more than 15 yards was a short pass where Evans gained yards after the catch and the defender yanked on his face mask. What Washington did differently is they tackled well on short completions in front of the sticks.

If I’m Patrick Graham, I use a similar game plan. Focus on the pass, not the run. The Bucs really use the short-passing game on 1st down as an extension of their ground game anyways. Don’t bother blitzing Brady all that much. You’re not going to get there. Rely on Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Austin Johnson, and one of the outside pass rushers to generate inconsistent pass pressure. Perhaps send someone up the A gap occasionally to get in his face immediately (he’s not mobile). But I would focus on coverage, especially underneath. Trust James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson to take the outside receivers with some help from the free safety. Bradberry has a lot of experience against Evans. The key here is to play tight, aggressive coverage on the underneath targets, and most importantly, gang tackle after the catch. The bad news for the Giants is that Brady’s long-time security blanket, Rob Gronkowski, is expected back for this game.

Brady’s top target is slot receiver Chris Godwin, who has 57 catches and four touchdowns. He does a lot of damage after the catch. Evans is the big play guy. He has nine of Brady’s League-leading 27 touchdown passes (19 more than Daniel Jones). Brady also throws a lot to running backs Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard (59 catches between the two of them). A key will be if wide receiver Antonio Brown, who has been dealing with ankle issues, plays.

On the surface, we appear to have a match-up between an offense that likes to dink-and-dunk its way down the field and a defense that bends but doesn’t like to break (at least in recent weeks). That would seem to suggest Brady moving the ball well and the Giants hoping they can stop him in the red zone. I don’t like that scenario. I think Graham has to take more chances, not so much with blitzing, but with playing more aggressive underneath coverage and taking chances deeper in the secondary. Get off of the field before the red zone. The fly in the ointment here is that the traffic controller in the secondary, Logan Ryan, will miss the game. Xavier McKinney and Julian Love will both really be on the spot.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I assume Pharoh Cooper will be elevated to the game-day roster again this week. The Giants desperately need to break one in their return game.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett on having more of his component parts last available against the Saints in Week 4:Yeah, certainly that was a game where we were most healthy, and our guys played really well in a tough environment against a good team. So that’s something you certainly want to build on, but each game is unique.

THE FINAL WORD:
The bye came at the right moment for the Giants. But this is not the best match-up for the Giants coming out of the bye, facing the NFL Champions on Monday night, coming off an embarrassing loss. Most expect the Giants to lose to the Bucs and fall to 3-7. If that happens, the Giants won’t be dead yet, but their margin for error gets uncomfortably small.

That all said, this Bucs team is not unbeatable. Washington proved that. The Giants are getting some important pieces back too. It comes down to how rusty the Giants will be coming off of the bye (and how rusty those keys players who missed time with injuries will be) combined with how angry the Bucs team they will be facing will be. Historically speaking, the Giants usually play well in Tampa.

Nov 092021
 
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Quincy Roche, New York Giants (November 7, 2021)

Quincy Roche – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Throughout the course of a football season, every franchise hits adversity. Some of it is injury-based, some of it is off-field-based. The 1st-place Las Vegas Raiders, off to their best start in 5 years, have hit as much adversity off of the field as any team in the league. Team President Marc Badain shockingly resigned in July without warning, Head Coach Jon Gruden “resigned” in October amid turmoil that stemmed from emails sent a decade ago, and 2020 1st-round pick Henry Ruggs III was just released days ago after hitting and killing a 23-year-old woman and her dog while driving intoxicated. The Raiders have been put through the wringer, but to this point, they had proven to be able to rise above and win games, plain and simple.

The Giants’ final game prior to their bye week came on short rest against a team that had come off 13 days of rest. It was near, but not quite at, the tail end of a really difficult stretch of opponents that were all .500 or better in the win column. They were still without running back Saquon Barkley and left tackle Andrew Thomas in addition to slot receiver Sterling Shepard. Their offense has rarely operated at full strength this year, but it certainly did not look that way at the start of the game.

I have been vocal about how effective 1st-down play-action has been for Jones and the Giants offense. It forces him into simpler and more timely reads, but most importantly, it aids the offensive line. NYG opened the game with a 9-yard completion using 1st-down play-action. After 5 solid gains, 3 of which were positive running plays using Devontae Booker, NYG found themselves at the LV 30. 2nd-down play-action was the call again and Daniel Jones hit Evan Engram up the right sideline for a touchdown. NYG had the 7-0 lead just over 4 minutes into the contest. This was the final NYG offensive touchdown of the day.

The lead didn’t last long. LV has a first-round running back of their own, Josh Jacobs, who had been off to a tough start to the season. He appeared to be getting his game back on track on the first drive, gaining 39 of the team’s 73 yards as they marched down the field in just over 5 minutes, capping it off with a touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Hunter Renfrow. The teams traded scoreless possessions and then NYG made their first two big mistakes of the day.

Special teamer Keion Crossen was flagged for a personal foul after seeking out punter Andy Lee and laying him out about 15-20 yards away from the play. Instead of 1st-and-10 from the 49, NYG began with the ball from the 34. On the very first play, left tackle Matt Peart was beat by Yannick Ngakoue, who sacked Jones and forced a fumble which was recovered by LV. The NYG defense was able to plug the hole, keeping LV to a field goal. LV was up 10-7 as the second quarter was under way.

NYG was moving the chains via Booker and the short passing game. As they reached midfield again, they had a string of three plays that not only halted the drive but also pushed them back nearly 20 yards. A hold on guard Matt Skura, a 7-yard loss on a screen to Elijhaa Penny, and a 6-yard loss on a failed double-pass attempt using Kadarius Toney. NYG did then force a 3-and-out to get the ball back to Jones and the offense.

Booker continued to impress in addition to a solid pickup on a pass to Kenny Golladay to lead NYG back toward field-goal position. Jones started off 8-for-8 on the day. Another sack by Ngakoue killed the momentum, however, and NYG settled on a 35-yard field goal to tie the game. The first half ended with LV putting another 3 points on the board via a 32-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson, his 39th in a row from 40 or less yards. They had the lead, 13-10, at the break.

The NYG offense had gained 75 yards on their first 7 plays (10.7 per) of the game. Since then? 82 yards on 22 plays (3.7 per). The defense came out knowing they would have to create on their own if they had any shot in this one. They did so right away. Safety Xavier McKinney, an emerging player on this defense, took an interception into the end zone on the third play of the second half to give NYG a 17-13 lead.

The following LV possession was the longest of the day. A 15-play, 85-yard drive included just three third downs. Their offense was clicking and spreading the ball around as the NYG pass rush yet again struggled to get consistent pressure on deep drop backs. The defense did come up with another red-zone stop, however, holding LV to another field goal to get the visiting team within one. NYG marched into the red zone themselves and had a 1st down from the LV 20, but they too had to settle on a field goal. They increased the lead back to 4 as the 4th quarter was under way.

LV gained 67 yards on their first three plays. They were 1st-and-10 from the NYG 14 but the defense stepped up when it mattered most again, forcing LV into another short field goal attempt. This one from 25 yards. Carlson’s streak ended there, however, as he hooked it and saw the ball turn outside the uprights. NYG did not add any more points, but they did take over 3 minutes off of the clock before punting it back to Carr and the LV offense. This is the moment the NYG defense had been failing, but not today.

McKinney, the emerging player who had made the biggest play of the game to this point, came up with his second interception of the half. It was exactly what many of the NYG faithful had been wanting from the position for so long. Instincts, intelligence, reaction, closing speed, and ball skills. This gave NYG the ball back and they kept the clock moving to the point where LV had to burn their timeouts. The automatic Graham Gano hit his third field goal of the day to give NYG a 7-point lead with just over 3 minutes left.

The game did not end without drama, however. LV moved the ball rather easily. They traveled 52 yards and had a 1st-and-10 from the NYG 13-yard line with just under 1 minute remaining. On 2nd-and-10, an unexpected hero arose from the blind side. Quincy Roche, a 2021 5th round draft pick who was scooped off of waivers from PIT, sacked Carr and forced a fumble. Leonard Williams finished it off by hopping on the loose ball and that was it.

NYG wins 23-16.

See you in 2 weeks.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 15/20 – 110 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 104.2 RAT

Jones also added 17 yards on 4 carries. It is rare to see a quarterback throw the ball just 20 times in a game unless weather or time of possession was a major factor. Neither were true in this game. NYG was having success on the ground and there were too many mismatches in the trenches for Garrett to go pass-heavy. Jones had a few high-level throws in this one, but couldn’t get the ball downfield often. His fumble was a result of poor ball-handling in traffic (although the pressure came from the blind side). He took what the defense gave him, didn’t make any poor decisions, and came up with a handful of clutch throws. All of this with very little support up front. A solid, yet unspectacular game for Jones.

RUNNING BACK

-Devontae Booker: 21 att – 99 yards / 3 rec – 23 yards

Second week in a row for Booker where he could make a strong case for being the best offensive player of the game. Booker’s production was solid (4.7 yards per carry / 7.7 yards per catch), but it wasn’t a performance that took over the game. That isn’t the point. Booker was netting positive play after positive play. He was moving the ball forward time and time again with the occasional big gain. That means so much to an offense in more ways than one, and it is something Barkley should take note of moving forward. More on that below.

-Elijhaa Penny deserves mention. He gained 35 yards on 5 carries. The 2 biggest carries of the game were on the final drive where NYG’s main task was to bleed the clock. He had consecutive carries that gained 11 and 12 yards, respectively. Two plays later was his top play of the game, in my opinion. He took a pass and lost a yard, but made a quick decision to anchor himself in the ground near the sideline to keep the clock moving. It was an extremely intelligent football play.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Very quiet day from this group. They, as an entire position group, saw just 4 targets. I cannot remember a game where the receivers saw just 4 targets. Kenny Golladay caught both of his for 28 yards, Kadarius Toney caught his for a 9-yard gain to convert a 3rd-down, and Darius Slayton’s target was uncatchable.

-I can’t really comment much on the group overall, but I am disappointed that on a day where the offense mightily struggled, Toney was on the field for only 31 snaps. He was thrown to once, he was given one carry, and he was given one pass “attempt” (which resulted in a sack). There is a time to take what the defense gives you, but the best offensive minds find ways to get their best play-makers involved and in advantageous situations. Garrett dropped the ball here.

TIGHT END

-The tight end group received twice as many targets as the receiver group, another number I cannot recall ever seeing from this franchise. Kyle Rudolph caught a 9-yard pass on the first play of the game before bringing in another 11 combined yards on 3 more catches.

-Evan Engram caught his second touchdown in as many weeks on the longest NYG gain of the game. His 30-yard score included an impressive play on the ball right before the goal line. His two other receptions combined for just 8 yards.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-It appears that the mismatch in the trenches dictated a huge portion of the NYG play-calling. They, as a group, could not handle the LV pass rush, in particular on the outside. Matt Peart received the lowest grade on the line, allowing 2 sacks and 2 pressures. He was very good in the running game, however. He is a mauler who has natural power and good straight-line movement. His ability to come down on the defensive tackles and wash them out was on display multiple times. The skill set for pass protection, however, isn’t there yet. Nate Solder allowed 2 pressures.

-Matt Skura and Billy Price were both poor as well. Skura allowed a TFL and 2 pressures in addition to being flagged for a holding penalty. Price allowed a pressure and 2 TFL. For an offense that had a solid running game performance, these two did not contribute to it the way you would think. They both were getting pushed backward but were bailed out by the adjustment speed of Booker and Penny both.

-Will Hernandez had one of the best games we have seen out of him this season and one of the top-5 performances of his career according to my grading sheet. He, along with Peart, moved defenders off of the ball, locked on to his opponent, and finished blocks. I was really pleased with him although he struggled in space. The lateral quickness and reaction aren’t his thing and NYG needs to keep him out of those situations as much as possible.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Leonard Williams remains on fire, adding 5 more tackles, 3 more pressures, 1 PD, and fumble recovery to his season stat-line that is top-5 in the NFL at the position. There aren’t many defensive tackles who play 90% of the snaps and that is right where he was. My one negative on him was the three different plays where he was completely blown off the ball by 3-4 yards on LV running plays. He is a bit of a risk taker inside and that style of play fits the scheme well, but there will always be a few big plays in the other direction that come from it

-Dexter Lawrence is picking up steam. He added 6 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure as he played just over half of the snaps. His anchor against the double-team has improved over the past 3 weeks and his athleticism shows up at some opportune times.

-Unfortunately, Danny Shelton was back on the field after missing a couple games. He was on the field for 10 snaps, and he was dominated (pushed back 3-4 yards) three times. It was a bad look for him and I think I’ve seen enough to say he looks like he is finished.

LINEBACKERS

-With Lorenzo Carter injured and Oshane Ximines a healthy scratch, rookies Azeez Ojulari and Quincy Roche manned the outside spots. Have both flashed enough to warrant the idea that these two should be the feature guys after the bye week? Permanently? Absolutely not. However, I don’t want to see Carter and Ximines receiving the majority number of snaps simply because they entered the season as the starters. We already know what we are getting from them. Ojulari seems entrenched at one spot and rightfully so. Roche deserves his shot on other side. He came up with the sack-fumble to end the game along with 4 tackles and a pressure. Ojulari with 2 tackles, 1 PD, and 1 pressure.

-Tae Crowder bounced back after a poor game at KC. He had 9 tackles and 2 PD. He was playing twitchy and fast. He was the victim of a few poor defensive line plays where he had blockers at his feet in an instant, but when it came to his role playing, he performed well.

-Reggie Ragland is out-snapping Benardrick McKinney. They combined for 8 tackles, and I do see more on-field intelligence from Ragland. However, McKinney is notably faster to the outside and I think he plays more physically as well. I am fine with these two rotating, but eventually McKinney should be the guy to see more snaps. He has more upside.

CORNERBACK

-It was an interesting game from both James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson. Like a relief pitcher in baseball, this is a position that we see a lot of back-and-forth on week-to-week basis. In this game, we saw a lot of back-and-forth from series-to-series.

-Jackson made a physical tackle early on in the game but was notably shaken after that. He didn’t come out, but he did play soft rest of the way. He missed 3 tackles from that point, and they all seemed like your classic business decisions. However, he was very good in deep coverage and was the main reason why Bryan Edwards was shut out.

-Bradberry had a couple of key stops on 3rd down, but he was also beat for a touchdown on the opening drive and was luckily not exposed in the box score on two2 others. Carr overthrew Darren Waller on a play where Bradberry was 5+ yards behind the tight end up the seam. Bradberry was also beat later on by Zay Jones badly, but Carr pulled the ball down and scrambled too early to see it. Bradberry was also flagged for illegal contact and missed a tackle. Poor game for him.

-Where Jackson and Bradberry fell short, Darnay Holmes stepped up. He is such a fun player to watch with how borderline-reckless he plays. He did get beat badly by Renfrow on 3rd down but added two pressures as a blitzer. His speed and burst are weapons within the NYG blitz package.

SAFETY

-Xavier McKinney came up with his second multi-interception performance of the year. Both picks in this game were high-level plays on the ball that showcased intelligence, skill, and talent. His role and versatility within this defense are growing and he appears to be the kind of difference maker this defense desperately needs.

-Logan Ryan led the team with 9 tackles including one of the overlooked but vital plays of the game. With the game deep into the 4th quarter and NYG up by 4, Ryan made a key 3rd-down tackle on Josh Jacobs at the 7-yard line. Ryan is among league-leaders in tackles by defensive backs, but his 2 missed tackles added to a total in that department that is alarmingly high. I appreciate everything Ryan is doing for this team on the field and off of it, but the missed tackles are a weekly issue. Remember, he has spent more time at corner than safety in the NFL and he was a college corner. Tackling from a safety is an asset or a liability. Ryan is on the wrong side of that right now.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 3/3 (Made 35, 32, 38)
-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 48.7 avg – 47.0 net

3 STUDS

-S Xavier McKinney, OG Will Hernandez, DT Leonard Williams

3 DUDS

-OT Matt Peart, OG Matt Skura, CB James Bradberry

3 THOUGHTS ON LV

(1) The Raiders are in a rare 4-way tie for 1st place in the AFC West theoretically. They are one of four teams that currently have 5 wins. Prior to the year, everyone worth listening to had KC or LAC at the top of this division and here we are, at or near the halfway point and this team has as many reasons to believe they are the class of the division as everyone else. Despite the adversity, their leadership is there in key spots. In addition, anyone who has followed sports for long enough understands that adversity, in some cases, is what binds a team together and brings on a result greater than the sum of its parts. I see LV being that team.

(2) Two of the most important players on this team are recovering alcoholics/addicts. Tight End Darren Waller (5th among TEs in receiving) and Defensive End Maxx Crosby (NFL leader in QB knockdowns) had their own respective careers nearly ruined by drugs and/or alcohol. It is refreshing to see, especially with the turmoil surrounding this team, that there are young men who do turn things around. We should always remember that there are players worth taking calculated risks on, especially prior to joining the NFL. Some of the backgrounds these kids have coming out of college are beyond what many can even comprehend. Sure, there are cases where entering the league and making that kind of money will worsen their habits but the potential for value (from a football perspective) is part of the equation. The 2021 cap hit of these 2 players COMBINED is $7.4 million. $2 million less than Nate Solder alone.

(3) How is the Mike Mayock experiment panning out? The long time NFL Draft analyst took over the General Manager job prior to the 2019 NFL Draft. They won 7 games in 2019, 8 in 2020, and are on track to win 10+ in year 3. His drafts have been very good. 7 out of 9 players from the 2019 Draft are starters or key contributors, 2 out of 7 players from the 2020 draft are key contributors, and early returns on the 2021 class are solid. The biggest black eye comes from the 2020 class, as both 1st rounders were used on players who were cut in the past week. Ruggs, and just-released cornerback Damon Arnette for his own off-field trouble. Now that Gruden is out and knowing Mayock a little bit personally, I can see their key focus moving forward revolving around character even more so. Vegas is not the ideal town for young kids with big money and lack of character.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) This was a very poor offensive game by NYG. How poor? They averaged 4.5 yards per play. The worst offense in the league entering week 9, the Chicago Bears, average 4.4 yards per play. The Miami Dolphins were the next worst at 4.7 yards per play. NYG did this against a defense that is middle of the road in perfect weather conditions at home. While they are still missing Barkley and Thomas, 2 key players, their absence wasn’t enough to warrant this kind of performance. The culprit remains mainly personnel (offensive line) but what I find inexcusable is the lack of effort to get a player like Toney more involved.

(2) Speaking of Barkley being out and, in this game, it not impacting the game a lot, I did some digging on this team’s success with and without Barkley. With #26 on the field at the start of the game, NYG is 9-27 (.250 winning percentage). In games he did not play in at all, NYG is 9-12 (.429 winning percentage). Football sample sizes are often not large enough to come up with objective statements compared to analytics in other sports, however this is worth noting. No, the discussion of whether Barkley is more talented than guys like Booker or Wayne Gallman isn’t even a discussion (although Barkley can learn a thing or two from Booker). We know the answer there. The question has more to do with his future with NYG. Coming from someone who wanted Barkley at #2 overall, there are several things to think about regarding what NYG should do with him over the next 12-18 months. I look forward to those discussions and assume most can be mature and respectful about it. It is going to be an interesting situation to follow.

(3) 3-6 is not a good place to be in this league. With that said, I am a mathematics guy and if there is a fighting statistical chance for post-season play, I always like to think about possibilities. Based on the top-heavy feel of the NFC (the top 4 are in their own tier), the wildcard spots will likely come down to an 8- or 9-win team making the postseason. Can NYG go 5-3 from this point on? 5 of their 8 games remaining are against teams with losing records. Their toughest opponent left (TB) will come with the Giants having a huge rest advantage and with the team having their key missing pieces back in play. I’ll say it because it is true. NYG is in the hunt. Not because they are a very good team, but because they are a team approaching the middle tier and there are a lot of holes in the NFC. The middle tier in this conference is rather bad, to be blunt.

Nov 052021
 
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THE STORYLINE:
Individual fans are going to look at the meme pictured above and say, “Easy choice.” I beg to differ. In my mind, this is an incredibly difficult decision to make and it should not be taken lightly. I’ve noticed fans regularly comment that things “can not possibly get worse” only to see things get worse. Here’s a little secret…it can always get worse.

The Case for Blowing It Up: At the heart of this argument is that “the Giants’ way” is not working. Many have argued for years that John Mara is too wed to a system that is clearly no longer producing results and that he is too loyal to people who are not good at their jobs. There are some who go so far as to insist that the Mara family needs to be removed from all football decisions and hire a new general manager from outside of the Giants’ family who has final say in all football matters. Many (but not all) of these fans also believe that Joe Judge and/or Daniel Jones are not the answer, and the Giants are wasting time by not ripping off the band-aid and moving on as quickly as possible. Some feel that any new outside general manager should not be encumbered with a head coach or quarterback he did not select. Mara has been far too patient with Dave Gettleman, who he never should have hired in the first place. Injuries and strength of schedule are not sufficient excuses for yet another lost season before the midway point.

The Case for One More Year: While it sounds like a loser’s lament, there is truth in the claim that the Giants have been the victim of bad luck this season. Significant injuries to important players have sabotaged the incoming draft and free agency classes that were supposed to make a big difference. This has been especially true on offense, where the offensive line and wide receiving corps has been a walking M.A.S.H. unit, not to mention that Saquon Barkley can’t stay on the field. While all teams have to deal with injuries, once again, Daniel Jones has been surrounded with subpar players who are impacting the Giants ability to block, catch, and run.  Exacerbating the situation is the strength of schedule that the team has faced. The Rams and Cowboys are perhaps the best teams in the NFC. An undermanned Giants team was expected to get destroyed in Kansas City, but it didn’t. The Giants upset the Saints and Panthers. The other big issue that many don’t want to think about is if the Giants blow it up, they are going to have to start all over again. That means a 3-4 year roster rebuild. At best, the team won’t likely seriously compete until 2025. Mara is likely to have final say in any head coaching hire and thus far, his track record in that area has resulted in two coaches who have been fired after two seasons, and now a third who may be fired after his second season. Psychologically, fans of losing teams are pre-wired to want dramatic change. “Blow it up and start over!” doesn’t always result in a better outcome, however. Do the Giants really want to hire their fourth new head coach in eight years?

We’re basically at the midway point of the 17-game schedule, with nine games left to play. It’s premature to make any final decision yet. But we all know it’s not too early to start thinking about the options. Right or wrong, much will probably depend on how the Giants finish these last nine games. There is a lot at stake.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – out)
  • RB Gary Brightwell (COVID protocol – questionable)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (knee – questionable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (quad – out)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (thumb – probable)
  • WR John Ross (quad – questionable)
  • WR Dante Pettis (IR/shoulder – out)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – probable)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (ankle – out)
  • S Nate Ebner (ankle – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
I think a lot of readers think I’m a Daniel Jones apologist. Perhaps. I would argue that it is foolish to ignore the significant handicaps that he has had to endure. Since he has been drafted, for one reason or another, the team has been unable to surround him with competent blockers, receivers, and runners. Lack of talent and injuries have all been issues. In my view, in the simplest terms, I thought Jones had a remarkable rookie season (except for the fumbling), took a step back his sophomore season, and has been better this season. I could go on with specifics, but Daniel Jones threads have become a boor on BBI. In a nutshell, unfortunately, I still don’t think we know what we truly have in Jones. I see people who say he doesn’t have “it.” Well, I saw “it” in the remarkable comeback victory against the Saints. I also thought he pretty much carried an undermanned offense on his back against the Panthers. He had one terrible bad turnover game against the Rams. He’s thrown two interceptions in the other seven games. He’s only lost one fumble this year. On the flip side, the issue remains that New York simply is not scoring enough points. How much of that is on Jones and how much of that is on the players who are missing at running back, wide receiver, and the offensive line is a matter open to debate. I would love to see Jones play with Barkley, Golladay, Shepard, Toney, and a decent offensive line for just 3-4 games in row. Thus far, the football gods haven’t seen fit to allow that to happen.

As for the offensive line, Andrew Thomas remains on Injured Reserve. What might have been with him fully healthy and a healthy Nick Gates is something else that preys on my mind. The good news is that the starting reps that Matt Peart is receiving – both good and bad – will benefit him down the road. I’d like to see Ben Bredeson get back into the line-up. I’m surprised he hasn’t but maybe his hand isn’t fully recovered.

Fans already know what I think about Engram. Tight end will be an offseason priority, regardless of who is coaching this team. The injury situation at wide receiver is ridiculous. Everyone is hurt. Most problematic is Kenny Golladay. He was supposed to be the #1 difference maker as an offseason acquisition. He has played only about half the snaps this year and only has 17 catches. Making matters much, much worse is Barkley, who has also missed half of the season and only has 54 carries. So much was dependent on how these two performed in 2021. They, along with Jones, were supposed to be the heart of the offense.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
After a miserable start, the Giants defense has played much better in the last two games. I am a tough grader on defense and I would have liked to have seen this side of the ball not give up those two late field goals against the Chiefs. That’s the next step forward. Get the ball back and win the game when the offense is struggling. But holding Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to 20 points on Monday night at Arrowhead is pretty darn good.

As much as folks question Joe Judge and Jason Garrett, the jury is still out on Patrick Graham too. His defenses have been too much Jekyll and Hyde his first two seasons as defensive coordinator. In 2020, he had the built-in excuse of issues in the secondary combined with the ongoing absence of an outside pass rush. But the talent was better this year and his defense was struggling even before the loss of team captain Blake Martinez. These last nine games are important for him and his unit too.

Sy’56 has already highlighted the need to address edge rusher again. He and I share the same desire to see more of Quincy Roche, something I mentioned in last week’s preview. That should happen with Lorenzo Carter still out. I wish Oshane Ximines was the real deal. He seems like a great guy, but it’s just not working out for him. I know fans are already writing off Tae Crowder. I wouldn’t just yet. He’s a former running back turned linebacker and is still learning the position. He only played the position one season in college. The good news in the secondary is Adoree’ Jackson has now played two strong games in a row, and that has made a big, big difference.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Not to pile on Joe Judge, but I have to admit that expected much more out of the special teams unit the past two years than we are getting. He was supposed to be some special teams guru and thus far it hasn’t translated to the football field. The special teams haven’t been a problem, but they haven’t been noticeably good either, especially if you take Graham Gano out the equation. I’ve bitched about our punter for a couple of years now. I still don’t know why competition wasn’t brought in to challenge him in camp.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett on Saquon Barkley missing another game:You just control what you can control.

THE FINAL WORD:
I know I’m opening myself as being labeled an excuse-maker, but I feel the team is a bit snake bit right now. This false positive fiasco had to be a huge distraction on a short week. The Raiders are also experiencing their own drama, but they are coming off of the bye. A win before the bye would give the Giants at least something positive to build upon. Then maybe they can get some of the walking wounded back and do some damage in the second half of the schedule.

Nov 032021
 
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John Ross, New York Giants (November 1, 2021)

John Ross – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Week 8 brought NYG to Kansas City on a Monday night where the Chiefs entered 50-19 as home favorites under Head Coach Andy Reid since his tenure began there in 2013. The high-flying Chiefs have been the hottest flavor in the NFL, earning 2 straight Super Bowl appearances and 41 wins since the start of 2018. Since the start of 2015, NYG has 37 wins. 2021, however, has been a different story for last-place KC. They entered the contest 3-4 while leading the league in turnovers and near the league lead in penalties. And that wasn’t even the most glaring in-house issue. The Chiefs defense ranked dead last in the NFL in yards allowed per play. This was a “get right” game for the Chiefs while NYG was still sending out a roster full of injuries to key players.

The game began as expected. KC marching down the field chunk by chunk with minimal resistance from the Giants defense. They picked up 5 first downs with a healthy mix of run and pass but stalled once inside the NYG 10. Mahomes tried an odd-looking jump pass as their 3rd down play broke down and absolutely gunned it at Josh Gordon. It bounced off of him, another KC player, and into the hands of safety Julian Love. NYG had the early momentum. It lasted 1 play.

Daniel Jones stared down Darius Slayton on a slant pattern, giving KC Willie Gay the avenue to intercept the ball right back. Starting at the NYG 13, KC needed just 4 plays to net a touchdown on a pass from Mahomes to Tyreek Hill. KC had the early lead. The two teams traded scoreless possessions but as the 1st quarter came to an end, Jones hit John Ross III for a 50-yard gain. The next 2 plays gained another 30-combined yards and the Giants, the worst red zone offense in the league, found themselves with a first down from the KC 6-yard line. They made 5 yards in 3 plays, and it was a no-brainer to keep that offense on the field to try and tie the game up. Tie the game up is what they did on a 1-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph.

Both teams went 3-and-out on their next respective drives before KC put together another lengthy, death-by-a-million paper cuts scoring series. Derrick Gore ended it with a 3-yard touchdown run. With the game at 10-7 and halftime approaching, NYG got their offensive flow back on the back of Jones, who either threw or ran with the ball on each play. They made it all the way down to the KC 5-yard line but with-it being 4th and 2, Joe Judge opted for a field goal. It was an odd decision. A couple series prior, Judge kept the offense on the field for a 4th-and-goal attempt from the 1-yard line, they were down 7. This time? NYG needed 2 yards to continue the drive, they were down 7. So, the ball being 3 feet further away was the only different factor and it was the factor that pushed Judge toward going for 3. Odd decision that, to be honest, lacks true logic. Graham Gano hit the 23-yarder to get within 4.

After stopping KC once more, NYG got the ball back with 1:36 left. Because they had no timeouts left for some reason, they watched valuable time dwindle off of the clock via 3 complete passes that gained a total of 11 yards. 1:11 came off the clock (:25 left), but they were close to midfield. There would be a shot to get more points on the board if they executed. Over the next 16 seconds, Will Hernandez was flagged for a false start, Nate Solder was flagged for a hold, and Jones was flagged for a delay of game. Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2021 New York Giants.

The second half began with three uneventful drives. KC’s second offensive drive, however, saw them gaining first down after first down again. They shot themselves in the foot again, this time with a Travis Kelce fumble. James Bradberry scooped it up and returned it just shy of midfield. Here was the break NYG needed to right the ship. NYG gained four 1st down themselves and on the second play of the 4th quarter, Jones hit Evan Engram for a 5-yard touchdown. NYG was winning 17-14.

Yet another long drive by KC followed, this one 14 plays deep. The NYG defense stayed intact, however, keeping the home team to a 36-yard field goal which tied it up at 17. NYG was in good position against the worst defense in the NFL to take time off the clock and put more points on the board. Two big mistakes by NYG, however, reminded all who were watching that this team finds ways to lose games. A 15-yard taunting penalty by Elijhaa Penny and a drop by Darius Slayton prevented them from continuing the drive until at least reaching field goal territory.

KC, a team that does know how to find ways to win, took that change of possession and turned it into a game-winning 3 points. 9 plays took 3:34 off the clock and they were fortunate Oshane Ximines barely jumped offsides (which did not impact the play) because Mahomes threw an interception on that play to Darnay Holmes. KC brilliantly bled the clock and took away NYG’s timeouts. They were left with 1:07, no way to stop the clock, and 75 yards to go. The offensive line completely faltered and NYG had no shot at getting even close to being close to field goal range.

NYG loses 20-17.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 22/33 – 222 yards / 2 TD – 1 INT / 96.1 RAT

Jones had an up and down night. The interception just 2 plays after the Mahomes interception was an absolute killer. He gave up his intended passing target immediately post snap without checking off the linebacker. He was also off on two third-down throws where he had an open target. The touchdown pass to Engram, however, late in the game to take the lead was a big time, elite-level throw. Very tough window and ball placement to hit with little margin for error. The offensive line got leaky in the second half, and it prevented him from stepping into his throws in addition to rushing his progressions. Chalk this one up to a middle-tier performance that did not push the needle in any direction in regard to his long-term status with NYG.

RUNNING BACK

-Devontae Booker: 15 att – 60 yards / 5 rec – 65 yards

125 yards on 20 touches is a very solid performance for the 6th-year pro. He ground out a few tough runs where he fell forward, pushing piles and created with the ball in space. He is a very limited athlete, though. A few occasions he had some green to work with, made a nice cutback, but did not have the juice to finish it off. Booker also made a couple of nice blocks in pass protection again.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Overall, it was a poor night for the position group. Sterling Shepard went down in the 2nd quarter with a quad injury. Multiple soft tissues injuries to a receiver in just a few weeks are bad news. Based on how he reacted, looking like something “popped,” we may not be seeing him for a while. At the time of this writing, I have not seen a report yet.

-Kadarius Toney, also coming off a game missed because of injury, was on the field for just over half the plays. He hurt his thumb in the second half but he came back on the field toward the end. He is a tough, hard-nosed kid who you can tell really wants to be on the field competing. He completed a 19-yard pass and caught 4 passes for 26 yards.

-John Ross III led the team with 72 yards on just 2 catches. He caught a 50-yard pass while fighting off a pass interference. His second catch went for 22 yards and even though he body-caught it, I came away with thought he needs to leapfrog Darius Slayton on the depth chart. Slayton out-snapped Ross 52 to 16 and Slayton walked away with 2 targets, 0 catches, and 1 drop. The two nearly have the same yards (Slayton 190 / Ross 189), but Ross has seen 9 less targets. Jones also appears to have more rapport with Ross from what I can see as well.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph both caught touchdowns. They combined for 5 catches and 25 yards on 7 targets, hardly noteworthy. The trade deadline has now passed, and Engram remains with the team unfortunately. I would love to find out what teams were speaking with NYG about him and what offers were put on the table. I don’t see a future with NYG and him being together.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The NYG offensive line graded out well for most of the game, but really started to fall apart toward the end. The KC pass rush has arguably been the worst in the NFL this season (hence the trade for Ingram they just made) and it played that way against NYG for the most part.

-On the outside, Matt Peart manned the left tackle spot for the injured Andrew Thomas again. He allowed a half-sack on the final play and 1 pressure. Nate Solder allowed 1 pressure and was flagged for a hold. It was an above average grade for both, but their mishaps occurred at key moments of the game which could create a false, negative perception of their overall game.

-All three interior linemen allowed a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Matt Skura allowed a half-sack and a pressure, Will Hernandez allowed a sack and a pressure in addition to being flagged for a false start, and Billy Price allowed a TFL. KC has some decent players between the tackles and I think this trio did a fine job against them. All are considered “power” blockers though, and none of them got any sort of push at the point-of-attack in the running game.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Leonard Williams continues to play at an elite level among interior defensive linemen in this league. He added 6 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, and forced a fumble. One thing I admire most about his game is how often he can be moved around alignment-wise, but still perform at a high level. Some defensive linemen struggle when they’re moving left to right and/or outside to inside. Not Williams. He is such a weapon up front and is producing at a high level.

-Austin Johnson has been the second-best lineman on this team, I’ll say it now after 8 games. He added 2 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 pressure. Is that an indictment on Dexter Lawrence? Not really. He finished with 4 tackles. Johnson has exceeded expectations by a long shot and Lawrence’s performance is consistent. He isn’t disappointing, but he isn’t playing the way one would want 1st rounder to.

LINEBACKERS

-Tae Crowder is getting the opportunity of a lifetime with Blake Martinez out, and overall, he is not coming through. The speed is stand out and he plays a physical brand, but his reactions are behind, and he is making poor decisions on the fly. He was flagged for a dumb personal foul in the 4th quarter while NYG was up by 3, putting KC into field goal range. He was flagged later on for a 15-yard face mask penalty on the game winning drive; however it was a bad call by the refs. He finished with 7 tackles.

-With Lorenzo Carter out, Quincy Roche played 62% of the snaps while Oshane Ximines played just 22%. If that isn’t an indictment on Ximines and his future here, I don’t know what is. Roche was the best edge presence on the team in this game, finishing with 3 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure. Ximines did add 1 tackle and a pressure as well.

-Azeez Ojulari was neutralized most of the night. He did add a TFL and 2 tackles. The rookie now has made 7 plays behind the line of scrimmage in 8 games. One thing I see with his pass rush that will need to eventually change is the accuracy and power from his hands. There isn’t enough juice there when he gets engaged with the blocker. He is active, plays low and sturdy, and will get slippery to blockers but he needs more contribution from his hands.

CORNERBACK

-Adoree’ Jackson was one of the stars of the game for NYG. He did an excellent job against Tyreek Hill, arguably the most dangerous playmaker in football. He had 12 tackles and 2 PD. Mahomes wanted to go Hill’s way downfield multiple times, but Jackson stuck to him well. Jackson should have had an interception on one of the deep attempts, but simply mistimed his leap for the ball.

-James Bradberry had 4 tackles, 1 PD, and fumble recovery. They matched him up on tight end Travis Kelce, the top player at his position in the league, and the cornerback neutralized him for most of the night. This was one of the least productive games in Kelce’s career, and while it wasn’t just Bradberry, he was a huge part of it.

-Darnay Holmes was on the field for 54 plays (including special teams), a season high. He had a 4th-quarter interception nullified by an offsides penalty. Unfortunate occurrence, as it was an impressive play on the ball, a play that I feel Holmes really needs to make. Over his 20 games in the league, we have seen way more negatives than positives by a long shot but there is something about him. I still believe in his potential and I like his competitiveness, but he needs to make a few more plays to see his confidence get to where it needs to be.

-Aaron Robinson saw his first NFL action after spending time on the PUP list. He only saw 9 snaps and I don’t have much to report. He looked a bit unsure and out of position, but it didn’t hurt the defense. Curious to see how they work him into the rather deep defensive back rotation.

SAFETY

-Logan Ryan and Xavier McKinney both played every snap on defense. McKinney appears to be catching on mentally over the past 2-3 weeks. His play speed in notably picking up. Next, we need to see better angles. He had 6 tackles. Ryan added 9 tackles and forced the Kelce fumble that Bradberry recovered. He is a really good player who would be appreciated more if this were a good team.

-Julian Love came up with the deflected interception on the game’s opening drive. He also allowed a touchdown later on.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 23)

-P Riley Dixon: 5 Punts / 43.0 avg – 43.0 net. Dixon’s most crucial punt of the night resulted in just 34 yards. A prime opportunity to pin KC near the end zone was anything but. Dixon ranks 21st in yards per punt, 23rd in net average, 19th in punts inside the 20, and is tied for the 4th most touchbacks. He is having a terrible year.

3 STUDS

-CB Adoree’ Jackson, DT Leonard Williams, RB Devontae Booker

3 DUDS

-LB Tae Crowder, WR Darius Slayton, P Riley Dixon

3 THOUGHTS ON KC

(1) Is the league starting to figure out how to play against this KC offense? Head Coach Andy Reid is one of the best offensive minds in the game and he is as innovative as anyone. He excels at changing things up, keeping his quarterback in a simple-read offense, and spreading the ball out. How come they aren’t gaining yards and scoring the way we have seen in previous years? Well, they’re still top 10 in points and top 5 in yards. It would be nice to consider that an “off” year. I think the slight step backward has more to do with the KC offense feeling more pressure than in years past. They have allowed the 25th most points in the league and allow the most yards per play. Mahomes is pressing, running around when he doesn’t need to, and taking unnecessary risks. Remember, he is still in that QB maturation phase even though some have already sent him to Canton.

(2) KC traded for OLB Melvin Ingram. What I hope this does, for their sake, is move Chris Jones back inside to play in the B and A gaps. That is where he has been a dominant force but for whatever reason, they have shifted him to a more 5-technique role on the outside. What made him forceful was how uncomfortable he made QBs who tried to step up in the pocket. He is massive and nimble. He just doesn’t impact the game as much from the outside.

(3) Tyreek Hill is the scariest player in football. Aside from what I think of him and the story about hitting his kid, I think he is the one guy who can change a passing game with his mere presence more so than anyone else. It is rare to find his (literally) world class speed. It is rare to find the kind of stop-and-go agility he possesses. Hill has both and what never gets talked about his how well he sees the field and anticipates angles. He is a free agent after next season.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) The Giants next play a game on short rest against a 1st-place team coming off a bye. That is a tough draw, one that schedule makers should have seen. LV has seen a ton of adversity off the field this season with Jon Gruden parting ways (no, it was not mutual) with the organization. And the latest story about Henry Ruggs III killing someone in a DUI accident will only further distract this team. I have been woefully impressed with how the team responded to the Gruden situation and their next test will be here against NYG without their top deep threat.

(2) At or near the top of the NYG wish list this offseason will be another outside pass rusher to pair with Ojulari, the NFL rookie leader in sacks, and the versatile Williams. However, Quincy Roche is now in the spotlight, and I am curious to see if NYG may have possibly caught some lightning in a bottle here. I wasn’t too high on him in the draft (graded as a 5th rounder and 18th overall edge defender), but he has caught my eye numerous times. Between him and the rookie Elerson Smith (remember him?), there are plenty of snaps to zero in on regarding this spot.

(3) With the salary cap concerns NYG has coming up in the next 2-3 years, the trio of Lorenzo Carter, Evan Engram, and Will Hernandez need to woefully impress over the next 8-9 weeks to even be in the discussion for a second contract. In my eyes their roster spots and production can be filled with future rookie contracts and players that have fresher legs and more long-term upside.

Oct 302021
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 24, 2021)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
To put it mildly, this season has been incredibly frustrating for New York Giants fans. Expectations were raised by an unforeseen active free agency signing period combined with what originally appeared to be a solid draft, both of which seemed to address major weaknesses at the offensive skill positions and in the back seven on defense. Things went awry early with key draft picks Kadarius Toney (1st round), Aaron Robinson (3rd round), and Elerson Smith (4th round) missing all of training camp. Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson both got hurt, missed a lot of time, and have yet to make the impact expected of them. Most importantly, the Achilles’ heel of the team for the past decade – the offensive line – started to decompose as unexpected retirements combined with major, season-ending (Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates) and nagging, game-missing (Andrew Thomas, Ben Bredeson) injuries. It also hasn’t help that Matt Peart hasn’t progressed as quickly as hoped.

Despite all of this, it was expected that the supposedly up-and-coming defense would keep the Giants in games. It didn’t. Until last weekend, the defense horribly regressed, especially giving up dagger-to-the-heart drives at seemingly the worst moments. Injuries also became a factor with season enders to team leaders Blake Martinez and now Jabrill Peppers. The loss of youngster Rodarius Williams didn’t help matters either.

The net effect of all of this was the team began the season 0-3, including losing two very winnable games against Atlanta and Washington. When hope was all but extinguished, the Giants pulled fans back in with their dramatic and unexpected upset of the Saints in New Orleans. The positivity generated by that victory quickly disappeared by all-around ass-kickings by the clearly superior Cowboys (44-20) and Rams (38-11).

The one-sided victory over the Carolina Panthers in Week 7 was a pleasant surprise. The effort was led by a defense that finally played to the level that was expected of it entering the season.

Which brings us to Week 8, and a Monday night contest against the defending AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs, a team only two years removed from an NFL Championship. Entering the season, this match-up was expected to be an automatic loss for the Giants. However, the 3-4 Chiefs have only won one more game than the 2-5 Giants. So there has been some talk among Giants fans that maybe, just maybe, New York has a chance in this game.

I’m not buying the Kool-Aid. Perhaps if the Giants were anywhere near full strength with Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Andrew Thomas, Nick Gates, Blake Martinez, and Jabrill Peppers playing, I would give them a shot. But this is a very proud and now desperate KC team that is still 3rd in the NFL in total offense. And it’s not Sam Darnold who the Giants will be facing but all-world Patrick Mahomes. The game is in Kansas City, one of the very toughest places to play in the NFL. The clincher? It’s a Monday night game. The Giants are horrific on Monday night, always have been.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – out)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (knee – out)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (ankle – questionable)
  • TE Evan Engram (calf – probable)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – questionable)
  • NT Danny Shelton (pectoral – probable)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (ankle – out)
  • LB Carter Coughlin (ankle – out)
  • S Nate Ebner (ankle – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
I hate using injuries as an excuse. For one, it is a loser’s lament. Secondly, you know there those inside Mara Tech who think all would be peachy if the team was only healthy. This is not true as the team was sucking ass before the injury bug hit in full force.

That all said, this game would be far more interesting if Barkley and Golladay were playing, Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard were near full strength, and Nate Solder wasn’t starting. Why? Because the Chiefs are an embarrassing 28th in yards allowed and 27th in points allowed. And they are not making it up by generating turnovers (only seven takeaways all year, or one per game).

The Giants have not cracked the 30-point barrier this season. It’s hard to see them winning this game unless they near and probably surpass that threshold. The problem the Giants have is the offensive line is still a patchwork unit due to all of the injuries, and their two top veteran play-makers (Barkley and Golladay) are not playing. To make matters worse, Toney and Shepard are nursing nagging injuries that will affect their quickness, the strength of their respective games.

I want to briefly discuss three issues:

(1) Daniel Jones. If you accept the fact that the New York Giants are not going to the Super Bowl this season, then the most important issue to watch is the fate of the starting quarterback. We are now in a tiresome cycle where media and fans are making sweeping statements after each and every win or loss. Those with an agenda will cherry-pick every play or little stat to justify their point of view. In recent weeks, it’s become a comical roller coaster as Jones has gone from “Player of the Week” to a four-turnover game to carrying an undermanned team on his back. The Jones supporters were justifiably thumping their chests after last Sunday’s game. The other side will be out in force if the Giants lose as expected on Monday night. In my opinion, the truly smart fans are sitting back and waiting. Waiting for what? The completion of the 17-game regular-season schedule. Because only then can you truly look at the big picture and truly answer the question, “Did Daniel Jones become a much better quarterback in his third season?” We can’t the forest through the trees right now. Keep that in mind before making grand statements.

(2) Everyone seems to be too focused on the passing game right now. This is odd for two reasons: (1) all – not some – of the team’s top receivers (Golladay, Shepard, Toney,  Slayton, Engram, and Barkley) have been hurt for a number of games now, and (2) the leading rusher on this team is the quarterback. The most disappointing element of this offensive football team is its lack of a ground game. How bad is it? Barkley is still second on the team in rushing (with just 195 yards) despite the fact that he has only played in three full games. Opposing defenses simply can ignore the run against the Giants, and that is putting tremendous pressure on an injury-plagued passing game. If it weren’t for Jones, the Giants would be dead last in the NFL in running the football. If you don’t think this is also a major factor in the red zone issues, then you’re fooling yourself.

(3) Evan Engram. The next game is on Monday. The trading deadline is on Tuesday. Engram is in the last year of his contract and will make over $6 million this year (highest base salary on the entire team and 7th highest cap hit on the team). He has 20 catches for 171 yards (8.5 yards per catch) and no touchdowns. Last year, he caught only one touchdown. These are embarrassingly bad numbers for a “receiving” tight end who doesn’t block very well. The unspoken truth is he is getting worse, not better. Engram may end up being a decent player in the NFL, but I doubt it will be here. It’s time to move him before he simply walks in free agency. I will say this – he can help himself and the Giants with a big game against the Chiefs. The Giants need him to play one of his best games for them to win, and a strong performance will increase his trade market on Tuesday.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Why did the defense perform so well last Sunday? Sam Darnold isn’t very good. Christian McCaffrey didn’t play. Carolina has their own offensive line issues. Adoree’ Jackson finally had a good game. Xavier McKinney played better. James Bradberry made a big play to stop what would have been the 7th straight TD drive right before halftime. Leonard Williams and Azeez Ojulari gave Carolina’s OL fits. We also saw two newcomers at linebacker flash: Quincy Roche and Benardrick McKinney. It all added up to an impressive performance where Carolina was held to less than 200 yards of offense and just a field goal.

But Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are another different animal altogether. In order to have a chance in this game, the defense will have to play at or probably surpass the level they did in Week 7. If they play like this did in Weeks 1-6, the Giants are going to get smoked. Everyone knows the problems with defending Mahomes. He’s a magician with the football in his hands, a guy who can elevate the play of everyone around him. Just when you think you have Mahomes dead to rights, he somehow keeps the play alive and throws a dart deep down field to break your back. The KC passing game is averaging over 300 yards per game alone. (That’s not total offense, just passing). They average another 118 on the ground, although like the Giants, much of this comes from the quarterback running the ball.

Mahomes’ main targets are very familiar to even the casual football watcher: explosive WR Tyreek Hill (52 catches for 641 yards and 5 touchdowns) and the dangerous TE Travis Kelce (45 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns). Even those these are the two “big guys” to watch, Mahomes will spread the ball around to a plethora of other wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends. KC backs have caught 41 passes this year. (For the sake of comparison, the leading target on the Giants is Shepard, who has only 28 catches for 299 yards and one touchdown). The leading rusher is running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who averages 4.7 yards per carry. Mahomes is second, averaging 6.8 yards.

The key to stop the Chiefs is getting heat on Mahomes and playing tight coverage on his targets. That’s easier said than done as Mahomes can still kill you when a play breaks down. That said, teams have gotten in his face this year and because of that, he has looked more human. Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Danny Shelton, and Azeez Ojulari need to get after him. I would prefer to see Quincy Roche play more as a pass rusher this week as well. Against this opponent, the Giants are probably better off with Xavier McKinney playing over Jabrill Peppers, who is done for the season. Stating the obvious, both James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson need to play at the top of their game.

The real potential headache here is Kelce against a Giants’ linebacking corps that continues to have issues in coverage. Passes to the running backs could also be a problem. That’s where I expect Andy Reid to go with the ball early and often.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Injuries are forcing changes to the return game. I think the desire is there to get Kadarius Toney to return both punts and kicks, but his tender ankle puts him at risk. The Giants will be without two of their top special teams players in this game as well: Carter Coughlin, who leads the team in special teams tackles, and Nate Ebner.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham on the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense:I can’t even begin to go down the list of all the different weapons they have. It’s numerous, plus they have the best player in the league at the quarterback spot. It’s hard, it’s going to be hard, and the best offensive minds between (Chiefs Head) Coach (Andy) Reid and (Offensive Coordinator) Coach (Eric) Bieniemy. It’s going to be a challenge. This is the most explosive offense, I think. I don’t know statistically, but if you just go off of SportsCenter in the last four years, they’re the most explosive offense, so it’s going to be a challenge. They’ve got good blockers, they’ve got good receivers. It’s going to be tough.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The defending AFC Champions are desperate, playing on their home field, on national television. Patrick Mahomes is still Patrick Mahomes. The Giants have been one of the NFL’s worst teams for years. Barring a miracle, the Chiefs will win.

But if the Giants somehow manage to pull off what would be the team’s biggest win in years, things could get interesting in the second half of the season. I’m not allowing myself to go there because this team hasn’t earned my trust.

Oct 262021
 
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Leonard Williams, New York Giants (October 24, 2021)

Leonard Williams – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

After a 3-0 start to the 2021 season, the visiting Carolina Panthers came to East Rutherford with their own injury woes. They, too, were missing the focal point of their offense from the backfield, Christian McCaffrey. They, too, were missing their left tackle in Cameron Erving. And they, too, were missing their star linebacker in Shaq Thompson. Head Coach Matt Rhule, who was nearly the Head Coach of the Giants before CAR swooped in with a long-term offer, had convinced many around the league that the franchise was on the upswing. However, three straight losses that included eight offensive turnovers brought them back down to .500 despite a defense that ranked top-10 in the league.

Sam Darnold, the #3 overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, one slot after Saquon Barkley, was back at MetLife Stadium in a different uniform after three nightmarish seasons with the Jets. His performances were worsening each week leading up to this Week 7 matchup. With a wide receiver corps that ranked 2nd in the league with the most drops and key injuries up front and in the backfield, this appeared to be a nice opportunity for NYG to right the ship defensively.

CAR’s opening drive netted 3 points via a 47-yard field goal. The CAR offense went run-heavy, converting a 4th-and-1 from their own 36-yard line. Chuba Hubbard and Royce Freeman combined for 33 of CAR’s 46 yards. These 3 points would be the final of the day for CAR. NYG made it to mid-field before punting it back to CAR. After forcing a 3-and-out on CAR, NYG had the ball back and began with the ball in CAR territory due to a poor punt.

It took just 2 plays to reach the red zone, and another 3 plays to get inside the CAR 5-yard line. The worst-ranked red zone offense in the league had a prime opportunity, 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard line, to start reversing their fortunes in this area. A touchdown was called back because tight end Kyle Rudolph stepped out of bounds a couple feet shy of the end zone. NYG then failed on three straight attempts to put points on the board, turning the ball over on downs. The team was showered with boos while both Jason Garrett and Joe Judge were left looking dumbfounded that 2 runs up the gut and a passing play where one, yes one, target was sent to run a route did not pan out.

Because of the poor field position and the NYG defense being able to get pressure on Darnold, who tends to “see ghosts” when dropping back, the first NYG points of the day came from a safety. Leonard Williams applied pressure and Darnold was flagged for intentional grounding on a throw from the end zone. NYG was getting the ball back, down 3-2.

After a 27-yard gain on a pass to Dante Pettis and a 9-yard run by Jones, the Giants were back in field goal position. Graham Gano gave NYG the lead with a 49-yard boot through the uprights. CAR and NYG traded scoreless possessions and the back half of the 2nd quarter, a time period where NYG has failed miserably every game this season, was upon them. CAR did drive down the field with 66 yards on 7 plays before NYG finally put their foot on the opposing offense’s breaks. A tackle for loss by Azeez Ojulari, an incomplete pass by Darnold, and then an interception by James Bradberry wiped away the possibility of CAR getting the lead back.

NYG breached midfield yet again, but an intentional grounding penalty on Jones pushed them back and they ended up punting. CAR remained overmatched when they had the ball, Darnold was limping around, and even though NYG’s lead was only 2 points, they clearly had an edge as halftime arrived and began the third quarter with the ball.

The score remained at 5-3 for nearly the entire 3rd quarter. Neither offense could find a flow, as there was just one combined first down gained by both teams over the first 4 possessions. The third time NYG had the ball, they used an 11-play drive to travel 75 yards right into the end zone. Jones hit Pettis on a 5-yard pass just a few snaps after Pettis completed a 16-yard pass to Jones on a trick play. NYG’s creativity paid off and it resulted in 7 points, making it a 12-3 lead.

CAR went 3-and-out yet again as the fourth quarter began, and that was the last time we saw Darnold under center. NYG added 3 more points via a 53-yard field goal by Gano as the former Panthers kicker remained as automatic as you will find in today’s NFL. Phillip Walker was the new quarterback for CAR. The former Temple signal caller who was recruited and coached by Rhule in college had his first completion nullified by a holding penalty. CAR ended up punting once again.

NYG put together an inch-by-inch dive, netting just 32 yards on 10 plays but it was enough for another Gano field goal attempt, this one from 44 yards. He nailed that one as well and NYG had an 18-3 lead. Walker and the Panthers went 4-and-out on the ensuing drive, giving NYG the ball back on the CAR 19-yard line. Devontae Booker needed just one carry to put the final 6 points on the board with a 19-yard touchdown run. NYG was up 25-3.

CAR did end up getting into NYG territory on the next drive as the secondary softened, allowing multiple short passes to be completed. That drive ended in another turnover on downs as the NYG pass rush, led by Ojulari, heated up at the right time. NYG gained a first down on their final drive, opening the window to bleed out the clock.

NYG wins 25-3.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 23/33 – 203 yards / 1 TD / 0 INT / 95.9 RAT

Jones also added 28 yards on 8 carries and caught a pass for 16 yards. So, 247 total yards with a score. Jones responded very well coming off last week’s debacle against the Rams. This is now the 5th game out of 7 (including vs DAL where he only played a half) where Jones finished with a QB rating over 90. He protected the ball, went through his reads well, and made some tough plays with his legs. Jones was without 3 of his top 4 receivers, his top running back, and multiple starting offensive linemen. Only Dante Pettis was getting plus-separation all afternoon, yet he still completed nearly 70% of his passes. Really solid effort full of good decisions in a tough situation.

RUNNING BACK

-Devontae Booker: 14 att – 51 yards – 1 TD / 2 rec – 15 yards

Booker showed a nice mix of innovation after the catch and in space with the ball. He won’t ever be mistaken for Barkley when it comes to tools and athletic ability, but he is a solid presence who makes very few mistakes. He did drop one pass and allowed 1 pressure, but he played well overall.

-Shout out to Elijhaa Penny. He carried the ball 9 times for 24 yards, getting the ball in numerous short-yardage situations. His success rate there is solid, and I still think he is the team’s best option near the goal line and when just a yard or two are needed.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton returned from missing 3+ games with an injury. He led the team with 9 targets and 63 yards. He did a poor job of tracking a deep ball up the sideline but was missed for a sure-thing touchdown by Jones as a result of pressure in his face. Jones has a level of comfort throwing the ball to Slayton and they did connect 5 times, but none resulted in more than 16 yards. If they plan on making noise in KC next week, these two need to connect downfield.

-Dante Pettis caught all 5 targets, most of which were short passes, one of which was a touchdown. Pettis had a 27-yard gain after a quick slant that eventually led to 3 points for NYG. He is the one receiver outside of the injured three who moves exceptionally well both downfield AND in short areas. He doesn’t have the speed of John Ross, but he does get off the line faster and shows better burst out of his breaks. I think Jones is going to start looking his way more often if the trio of Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Kadarius Toney remain out.

-David Sills got his first regular season game-action and dropped his only target. I’ve been waiting to see him in this situation for a couple years now and that one fail, like a young running back fumbling, is such a killer.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram caught 6 passes for 44 yards. Five of them totaled 26 yards total. They aren’t giving him many downfield looks, just a bunch of dump offs and screen-type passes. That is the one area I thought Engram could make a difference in this league when he initially came out of Ole Miss. His athletic ability, which is still there, just doesn’t get used much in this kind of role. He also allowed a TFL in the running game.

-Kyle Rudolph seems to be finding a niche in the offense. While his best days are clearly behind him and there are movement issues that center around a loss of athleticism, he can be the dump-off target and extra blocker when needed. He caught 2 passes and was mere inches away from a touchdown. He allowed a pressure as a blocker as well, although he was left on an island against CAR star pass rusher Brian Burns.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-With Andrew Thomas out, Matt Peart got the start at left tackle. It was a smart move to put him there rather than Solder. Obviously, Peart is a step down from Thomas but the gap is much greater between Thomas and Solder. Remember, Peart did play some left tackle in college but he primarily resided on the right side. His experience level on the left is very small and with that in mind, I thought he played a solid game. He was better in pass protection than in the run game, where he allowed 2 TFL. Solder also allowed 2 TFL and 2 pressures. They were both flagged for illegally moving downfield on passing plays.

-Will Hernandez graded out as the worst of the bunch. For me, personally, the writing is on the wall, and it gets bolder each week. He is not the answer at guard. He was never even above average, but he appears to have gotten even worse. His lower half is a mess, he can’t recognize anything when it comes to stunts and twists, and his reaction times rival what I see in draft prospects who end up with late round grades. He allowed 2 sacks, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure. He was also flagged for a false start.

-Billy Price allowed 2 pressures and Matt Skura allowed one. They were both, surprisingly, excellent in the running game. Price especially got really solid movement off of the ball, but was beat on one of the goal line stands CAR had early in the game. Solid game for these two.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-As a group, this was the best we’ve seen the DL this season. The outside linebackers (next group) were a part of it, but I’ll also note that the linemen made things much easier for the linebackers. In this defense, that is their main role and, in this game, they did it well.

-Leonard Willams was the highlight of the group, finishing with 6 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 3 pressures. He turned it up a notch in the second half and fought through double teams exceptionally well. To beat the double team is one thing, but to beat the double team while the outside rusher is also able to beat a lone blocker is what makes a front very disruptive. Williams is second in the NFL in tackles by interior DL and 5th in the NFL among interior DL in QB hits.

-Austin Johnson deserves credit. This guy has been playing his butt off and seems to be producing more and more as the season progresses. He had 3 tackles, 3 pressures, and 1 TFL. He did a lot of damage in the first half.

-Dexter Lawrence also stepped it up notably in the second half. He had 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 pressures. His ability to push the pocket, shrinking the area in which a QB can step up into when there is pressure from the outside was a huge factor in both CAR quarterbacks struggle with their foot work.

-We also saw some action for David Moa (7 snaps) and Raymond Johnson III (11 snaps). Neither made a big impact but I liked how well they were using their hands. They had that young, aggressive twitch that altered blockers and their plans.

LINEBACKER

-Azeez Ojulari has made a habit out of making one play in a game and disappearing for the rest. Well, that is now a thing of the past. This was the best edge performance we have seen from this team in years. He finished with 2.5 sacks, 5 tackles, 1 TFL, and 4 pressures. He was up against CAR rookie left tackle Brady Christensen, making his second career start. He also saw some action against Taylor Moton, one of the best right tackles in the game. His movement was top notch both off of the snap and post-engagement. He was playing low, taking tight turns, and anticipated the action well.

-Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines both flashed, but it was Quincy Roche who raised some eyebrows. The rookie 6th-round pick who was cut by PIT had seen 16 total defensive snaps prior to this game but saw that increased to 23 total in this one. He had 3 tackles, 1 of which for a loss. Carter was on the field for 42% of the snaps, the lowest since his rookie season besides the game he was injured in last year at Dallas. Something to keep an eye on.

-Inside, Tae Crowder again led the team with 6 tackles and added a pressure. The spot next to him is interesting. Benardrick McKinney, who was signed last week, had 2 tackles and a TFL. He made a physical, explosive hit up the middle that got the fans on their feet. Reggie Ragland saw more snaps but finished with one tackle and continued to struggle with all lateral movement. Neither can factor much in coverage, but McKinney (a 2015 2nd-rounder and 2018 Pro Bowler) has more talent by a landslide. If he can learn the scheme, he could easily start seeing more snaps than Ragland.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry wasn’t tested much in this one and still came up with the top defensive play of the afternoon. His interception was a dagger in CAR’s growing momentum. He avoided a disaster by recovering his own fumble on the play.

-Adoree’ Jackson was excellent in coverage from the All-22 point of view. He also made a physical tackle on tight end Tommy Tremble. Darnay Holmes remains in the nickel role and finished with 2 tackles and did a nice job underneath with sticky coverage. Is his job in jeopardy with rookie Aaron Robinson on the brink of returning?

SAFETY

-Logan Ryan had 4 tackles and 2 PDs, but also missed 3 tackles, one of which on 3rd down. Ryan is a staple here and won’t be part of the problem if the defense goes backwards again. That said, he leads the team in missed tackles and needs to be better there. It is a potential killer, especially from that position.

-Jabrill Peppers, a sore spot on this defense for a couple years now had a very active game on defense. He had 5 tackles and a sack on a play where he is one of just a few players in this league who could have finished it the way he did. Keep this guy in the box, keep him rushing the passer, or keep him on the sideline. He can be an asset in a limited role, but he cannot cover.

-Xavier McKinney had 5 tackles and a PD. We wanted to see him take a step up this season so that spot could be considered filled for the next couple of years. His best football has been on display over the past few weeks.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 3/3 (Made 49, 53, 44). He now has 10 field goals of 50+ yards since joining NYG.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 45.8 avg / 39.0 avg

3 STUDS

-OLB Azeez Ojulari, DT Leonard Williams, WR Dante Pettis

3 DUDS

-OG Will Hernandez, OT Nate Solder, S Logan Ryan

3 THOUGHTS ON CAR

(1) Back in 2018, almost everyone had Darnold as the top quarterback in the class. I never saw it. No, I’m not patting myself on the back at all (I had Josh Rosen as QB1). I go back and examine my hits and misses every offseason to try and figure out where I went wrong and what I can do to improve my own scouting. Darnold turned the ball over a lot in college. His footwork was horrific. And he made his receivers work too hard on routine passes. A lot of these traits show up in the NFL when college quarterbacks enter the league and that is exactly what happened here. Highlight reel throws are cool, but they don’t determine the quality of a QB. Play to play, he was really off at USC, but the occasional big game and cool-looking throws elevated his status way too much.

(2) Can CAR graduate from the middle tier this season? I don’t think so. Easy for me to say after 4 straight losses, right? Plain and simple, the offense won’t score enough points with their OL + QB combination. I questioned CAR at the time of the draft when they passed on both Justin Fields and Mac Jones for a cornerback. The year prior, they spent every one of their picks on the defensive side. This team is heading toward the difficult spot of being good enough to win 7-8 games but too good to pick high enough in the draft for a top-notch prospect. While you can find QBs later than the top 5 obviously, it was an issue that could have been solved a few months ago.

(3) There was one free agent I wanted NYG to pursue hard this past offseason. It was Haason Reddick. He is a hard-to-find BUCK linebacker, one who can rightfully pass as an inside (off-ball) threat as well as a credible edge defender. CAR got him for just one year and it was hard to see that while NYG gave CB Adoree’ Jackson a much bigger deal. Reddick has 6.5 sacks and 9 QB hits in a year after his set career high marks across the board.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) If NYG wants to make a statement, if they want to play a game that will change the outlook of this team both inside and outside their walls, it is here. Monday night in Kansas City against a struggling Chiefs team that just can’t seem to get their defense on track. A win here can make many, if not all, forget about the bad losses they have already suffered. They need to be ready for this one as if it were a playoff game. They have nothing to lose and that is often a dangerous team to be matched up against.

(2) See what kind of difference a solid defensive front makes? Pressure up the middle from Austin Johnson, Dexter Lawrence, and Leonard Williams with Azeez Ojulari creating havoc from the outside turns the opposing quarterback into a shell of himself. We saw it with a mediocre quarterback, and we have seen it with Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. The focus in this front office needs to start with adding more and more pass rushers to their front. No more misses, no more “waiting until the middle rounds,” no more fear in spending in free agency. Get this front back to where it was a decade ago.

(3) NYG has used 6 different starting offensive line combinations over 7 games. The injuries are the main culprit here, but it goes to show just how vital depth along the trenches can be. When looking to improve this team moving forward, it needs to start right here. Solder and Hernandez need to be out, that is the first step. Now you are looking for at least 1 new starter (assuming Peart gets a shot in 2022) and the Lemieux – Gates duo returns 100% from their injuries. That is a lot of turnover needed along the line. The attention needs to be put here more than most are thinking because you must plan on at least 1 injury, but probably 2. Every year a lack of depth along the line ruins good teams.

Oct 222021
 
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Dave Gettleman and John Mara, New York Giants (August 22, 2021)

Dave Gettleman and John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
Stating the obvious, the New York Football Giants are well on their way to their 8th losing season in the last nine years, and possibly matching the futility of the 2017 (3-13) and 2019 (4-12) seasons. Those two campaigns cost Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur their jobs, respectively, after just their second seasons. Joe Judge now potentially finds himself in the same boat.

As I mentioned in last week’s game preview, it’s hard to see the team winning a game before Thanksgiving. That said, while the Carolina Panthers are a much improved team, they are still a .500 club. If the Giants were not in the midst of a 1-5 tailspin and encumbered with significant injury issues at running back, wide receiver, tight end, and the offensive line, they normally would have a decent shot at the upset here. Possibly they will still surprise us. But to do so, the inexplicably bad defense would have to dramatically change course  and perform at the level expected of it entering this season. That doesn’t seem likely.

What the hell is happening to this once-proud franchise?

Let’s take a few steps back and revisit the recent past.

In January 2016, John Mara decided that problem with this franchise was not Jerry Reese and Marc Ross, but Tom Coughlin. Mara fired Coughlin and quickly promoted Ben McAdoo from offensive coordinator to head coach when he falsely was led to believe that the Philadelphia Eagles were about to pilfer him from New York. The aging Tom Coughlin was coming off his third consecutive 3rd-place finish in the NFC East, with a number of questionable in-game decisions in 2015. Nevertheless, in hindsight, New York never really recovered from the loss of stability that Coughlin brought to the team. One thing is clear, Mara erroneously came to the conclusion that Coughlin was the primary problem, and not those “buying the groceries” as Bill Parcells so fondly used to call it. The other head coaching candidates Mara interviewed included Steve Spagnuolo, Teryl Austin, Adam Gase, Doug Marrone, and Mike Smith.

In early December 2017, after a 2-10 start, Mara fired Reese and McAdoo with four games left play. At the the time, the removal of a general manager and the firing of head coach in-season was not something expected of the staid New York Giants franchise. Fans applauded the dramatic moves, believing that Mara had finally come to the conclusion that the organization had become too stagnate in its old ways. However, those hopes quickly evaporated when it was revealed that Ernie Accorsi had been hired as a consultant for the new general manager search. Dave Gettleman, who had worked under Accorsi from 1999-2012, was on the market as he had been fired as general manager of the Carolina Panthers in July. When Accorsi stepped down as New York’s general manager after the 2006 season, he had recommended to Mara that the team promote Reese to general manager. Gettleman was his second choice. Most Giants fans realized that as soon as Accorsi was picked as consultant, it was merely to rubber stamp Gettleman as the team’s new general manager. Three weeks after Reese was let go, Gettleman was hired before the 2017 regular-season was even over. It’s doubtful that anyone else was seriously considered. One of Gettleman’s first moves was to fire Ross. Mara and Gettleman then hired Shurmur as the new head coach in January 2018. The other candidates considered were Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels, Steve Spagnuolo, Steve Wilks, and Eric Studesville.

Shurmur won just nine games over the course of the next two seasons. With the team clearly not improving, Mara chose to retain the almost 70-year old Gettleman and fire Shurmur. It seemed like an odd decision at the time. Gettleman was past retirement age, his first head coaching hire as New York GM had failed miserably, and his free agency/draft player acquisition had not improved the team. Most importantly and damning, Mara decided Gettleman was going to be intimately involved in hiring a head coach who potentially would have to work with a new general manager in the not-so-distant future who did not hire him. It was an odd decision to say the least.

In January 2020, Mara and Gettleman hired 38-year old special teams coordinator Joe Judge as the franchise’s next head coach. It was a surprise move given that Judge had never served as head coach at any level. The other candidates at the time where Matt Rhule, Kris Richard, Mike McCarthy, Eric Bieniemy, Don “Wink” Martindale, and Josh McDaniels. Originally, Rhule was believed to be New York’s #1 choice. “We weren’t going with a seven-year deal with anybody,” said Mara about Rhule, who received a 7-year contract from the Panthers. “But more importantly, we had somebody we were excited about. So, we went ahead and made Joe the coach.” One wonders what may be floating around Mara’s head if Rhule’s team beats the crap out of New York on Sunday.

What’s the point of revisiting all of this painful history? In a nutshell, it is to strongly indicate that John Mara is terrible at making strategic decisions that affect the fate the team that he owns. Indeed, one has to ask what has Mara done right? His supporters may point to 2007 and 2011, but the foundation of that team was largely established outside of his control. It’s pretty clear that he was motivated to re-establish something similar to the Ernie Accorsi management team, that included Jerry Reese and Dave Gettleman, in order to replicate the environment that produced two NFL Championships. That attempt failed miserably.

In Mara’s head, Coughlin was the problem, not Reese/Ross. But then they were fired along with the new head coach. Accorsi rubber stamps the post-retirement age GM who was the runner-up to Reese in 2006. Two years later, his head coach is fired. Instead of cleaning house, Gettleman helps to select the new head coach. The team is arguably the worst in the NFL. Nothing has improved. It’s also important to note that head coaching candidates selected to be interviewed in 2016, 2018, and 2020 were far from impressive. One looks around with envy at some of the other head coaches who were hired during the same time period.

Which brings us to December 2021 and January 2022. Mara will be making the decisions again. And that is not comforting. The expectation is that Gettleman will finally be fired. Does Mara, who must be painfully aware of the biennial instability, force Judge on the new GM? Does he stick with Gettlemen’s groomed replacement, Kevin Abrams, who would be more likely to accept retaining Judge? Does the Tisch family just sit back and continue to watch this incompetence from the sideline?

All in all, it’s astounding to see how far this team has fallen in a decade. And there is no end in sight.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – out)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (knee – out)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (ankle – out)
  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR John Ross (hamstring – questionable)
  • TE Evan Engram (calf – questionable)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – probable)
  • OG Ben Bredeson (hand – probable)
  • NT Danny Shelton (pectoral – doubtful)
  • CB Sam Beal (hamstring – probable)

THE FINAL WORD:
“The fish stinks from the head down.” – Joe Judge, October 21, 2021

Not exactly what you want to hear from your favorite sports team.

Oct 192021
 
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Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 17, 2021)

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

On paper, the cross-country trip the Rams had to embark on for a Sunday 1 PM contest was an ugly one for Big Blue. The NFL-leader in offensive yards per play against the defense that had allowed the 8th most yards per play. The 6th best 3rd-down offense against the 29th-ranked 3rd-down defense. One of the top-3 pass protecting offensive lines facing off against a bottom-three pass rush. And lastly, since 2017, the 3rd-best road team vs. the worst home team in the NFL. This had ugly written all over it despite the relatively close 17-9 loss to the Rams a season ago.

The Giants began with the ball, and it was ugly from the start. Daniel Jones was sacked by Leonard Floyd, causing a fumble, just 2 days after the third-year quarterback cleared concussion protocol from a hit he took in their previous game against DAL. They pushed through the initial adversity, converting a 3rd-and-14 via a pass from Jones to the dynamic and explosive playmaker Kadarius Toney. That, along with a few chunk-gains in the running game by Devontae Booker, stepping in for the injured Saquon Barkley, brought NYG into the red zone. NYG had 1st-and-10 from the LAR 11-yard line. As expected, the worst red zone offense in the league had to settle on a 27-yard field goal and they lost Toney to a re-aggravated ankle injury. He would not return.

The Rams offense, led by potential MVP Matthew Stafford, did breach NYG territory but a 3rd-down sack by Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence pushed them back far enough to warrant a punt. NYG had the ball back deep in their own territory. The offensive line continued to get pummeled, but Jones was able to convert a 3rd down and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey was called for a hold on another 3rd down a few plays later. On a 4th-and-1 from their own 41-yard line, the NYG offense opted to go for it via a QB sneak up the middle. It was mere inches shy, which led to a turnover on downs.

Leonard Williams came up big again on a 3rd-and-5 from the NYG 35-yard line, sacking Stafford once more, pushing them out of field goal range once more. The Big Blue defense deserved a ton of credit as they game entered the 2nd quarter with the home team up, 3-0. That was the final positive state of the game for the Giants.

The next 5 offensive possessions resulted in 3 three-and-outs and 2 turnovers. Mixed in between were 3 Rams touchdowns: two passes from Stafford to Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp respectively, and a run by Darrell Henderson. As the clock neared 2:00, LAR had the ball again and you know what that means. NYG has made a habit out of allowing touchdowns over the final 2 minutes of the first half, and for the 6th time in 6 weeks, that is exactly what they did. Stafford hit Henderson up the left sideline for a 25-yard score and the fans were already heading toward the exits. LAR had a 28-3 lead at the half and they were without Toney and left tackle Andrew Thomas because of injuries.

LAR was held to a 32-yard field goal on the opening possession of the second half, but then Jones threw another interception to Taylor Rapp (his second of the game) on the ensuing drive. LAR turned that into another touchdown, as they scored their 38th straight unanswered point with just under 12 minutes left in the game. There isn’t much to say about this game from here. NYG did score a garbage touchdown via an Elijhaa Penny run for 4 yards as LAR slowly but surely took their starters off the field on both sides of the ball. NYG kept most of their starters in, minus a near-full blown personnel change along the offensive line. It was hard to watch at the end, as most of the defense started to jog through the motions, the leftover fans peppered the home team with boos, and Joe Judge joined the list of NYG coaches staring into the abyss wondering what in the hell he had gotten himself into.

NYG loses 38-11.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 29/52 – 242 yards – 0 TD / 3 INT

Jones added 4 yards on the ground and fumbled twice, losing one. Against a defense that was middle of the pack, Jones looked overmatched. Perhaps he was. He was missing his top receiver, his running back, and then lost his left tackle and number three receiver in the first half. He appeared to be fighting an uphill battle most of the way and he just couldn’t seem to pull himself out of it. Remember, year 3 is all about evaluating whether or not Jones will be the long-term answer at quarterback. Part of that includes whether or not he performs well through adversity. Part of that includes how much he can elevate those around him greater than the sum of its parts. He failed here. There are a couple things that can be pointed at, but we must keep things simple. Jones was overmatched mentally and physically. No question.

RUNNING BACK

-Devontae Booker: 12 att / 41 yards and 4 rec / 28 yards.

Booker was running well early on. He had a few chunk gains inside but because they were down so much in the second half, his role was diminished further and further. His vision and yards after contact were solid and he was successful on all of his pass-blocking responsibilities besides one miscommunication with the offensive line.

-Elijhaa Penny had 15 yards on 3 carries including a touchdown. I would like to see him in all short-yardage and goal-line situations; he remains very successful in those situations.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 10 rec / 76 yards

After missing a game with a hamstring injury, Shepard came back and led the team in yards and catches. 7 catches and 56 of those yards came after halftime, mostly against soft prevent defense. Shepard had 2 big drops and that is what stood out the most to me from him in this game.

-Because of the injuries to Golladay, Toney, and Slayton, we saw an increase in playing time for Dante Pettis and Collin Johnson. The former had 5 catches for 48 yards and the latter added 2 catches for 21 yards. John Ross went catch-less. 7 combined catches on 18 targets, a terrible catch percentage.

-Toney and C.J. Board were both lost with injuries, further shrinking this position group which will likely force a signing or 2. We may finally see preseason stud David Sills IV. Should Toney have been out there after missing most of practice in the week leading up? Yes. He passed pre-game protocols and the only way NYG was going to have a shot in this game was points. Toney gave NYG the best opportunity to score points at the skill position and without Barkley on the field, nobody else was close.

TIGHT END

-It was an uneventful day for the group. Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph combined for 4 receptions / 32 yards on 7 targets. They were both on the field at the same time for just under half the snaps because of the abundance of injuries they were going through at receiver. Kaden Smith also played about a quarter of the snaps. Rudolph’s inability to move his feet and bend his knees as a blocker makes him look like a player who aged really fast. Add him to the list of disappointments that have come here this offseason via free agency.

-Engram still lacks flow as both a route runner and receiver. There is something mental going on there and I am sticking with it.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Andrew Thomas was clearly hobbled from his nagging foot injury that kept him out last week against DAL. He lasted just 29 snaps before leaving the game with another injury. This brought swing tackle Matt Peart into the fold. The second-year, 3rd-round draft pick allowed 2 sacks and 3 pressures. It was a bad sign for him, as the team will be examining him hard this upcoming offseason when determining how to approach the future offensive line. Clearly, he is not a fit for the left side. The issue is, neither is Nate Solder. Solder allowed 3 pressures and a sack himself, further proving something that no longer needs to be discussed. He isn’t a pro-caliber lineman anymore.

-Inside, against the top defensive lineman in the league in Aaron Donald, Will Hernandez and Matt Skura both allowed a pressure and were both flagged for a false start. They did a solid job on the positive inside runs, but neither did well on the outside zone running plays. The Rams defense is fast but where they really excel up front is with their gap discipline and ability to forecast. They were simply beating these two, and center Billy Price, to spots on the field. Price was rarely left alone in this one. He allowed 1 pressure but was solid otherwise, finishing with the top grade among the OL.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Leonard Williams was the top player on the team in this game. Back when this was an actual game, he was on fire. He had 1.5 sacks, 2 pressures, and penetrated against the run. He finished with 7 tackles but didn’t seem very interested late in the game. I will address his post game comments below.

-Dexter Lawrence, who we’ve discussed in regard to needing to step up for this defense, also started off hot and finished with 7 tackles. He added a half-sack and was controlling multiple gaps in the running game. Lawrence isn’t an impactful player, but I think his value isn’t appreciated because of how poor the team is around him. When I watch quality football teams and defenses around the league, the outlook on a player like Lawrence is much higher. Guys like this create opportunities for others but if those others don’t make things happen and/or the team as a whole gets torched, players like Lawrence get lost in the shuffle. Simply put, a good defense that has a need inside will want Lawrence, something I will touch on later on below as well.

-Austin Johnson and Danny Shelton were doing a nice job against Rams center Brian Allen when matched up against him, but really struggled with the gap integrity when they had to move laterally. Johnson had a pressure and 6 tackles (all assists) and Shelton ended up getting injured late in the game.

LINEBACKER

-There are were moments where Tae Crowder looks overwhelmed. He is still a young player who is lacking in some key areas, but I thought he played his butt off. He led the team with 10 tackles, added a TFL, and had one pressure. He was beat in man coverage that resulted in a touchdown by Darrell Henderson. That won’t ever be a spot he should be pre-snap unless NYG is sending an all-out blitz. Poor scheming by Patrick Graham there and Stafford knew it right away.

-We saw a little bit of Carter Coughlin later in the game. Reggie Ragland is a known stout run defender, but the results aren’t good enough. I think it is time to get Coughlin more looks. He was a couple inches away from an interception and I think his versatility could make some things happen for this defense.

-Yet another quiet game from the outside linebackers. Azeez Ojulari, Lorenzo Carter, and Oshane Ximines combined for 111 snaps. LAR dropped back to throw the ball 31 times. Not one pressure. Not one. Ximines had a garbage time TFL and the starters combined for 3 tackles. They are complete non-factors.

CORNERBACK

-Adoree’ Jackson continues to put up poor performance after poor performance. What an awful signing that was a clear attempt at throwing an expensive band aid on a problem this front office did not properly forecast. He was attacked on 3rd down, allowing 3 conversions and allowed a touchdown.

-James Bradberry was solid, as he matched up against Robert Woods for most of the afternoon and kept him to a season-low 2 catches. Bradberry also broke up 2 passes.

SAFETY

-Xavier McKinney’s box score looks nice.. He had 3 tackles and 2 interceptions. For a defense that is starving for impact plays and for a defense that just can’t get to the passer enough, McKinney’s big plays were important to see even though they had no impact on the game. He also dropped a third interception. I want to see him finish more plays as a tackler and pursuer. He gets to where he needs to be, he plays physical and aggressive, but there is something missing. Hopefully the experience of playing at NFL speed will fix the issues because he is one young defender on this team who has a high ceiling.

-Logan Ryan had 7 tackles and continued to play hard to the end. Call me old fashioned but I appreciate and respect what he does on the field. He was beat on 3rd down and on a touchdown, but he is one of the few defenders NYG has who can be relied upon. We know what we are getting out of him week in, week out.

-Jabrill Peppers on the other hand is further weakening his odds of being on this team in the future because of poor play. Offenses are quite obviously looking to get after him on 3rd down and near the end zone. He is a huge part of the weakness this defense has at the second level and is no match for a solid receiving threat. Athletic freak, bad football player. It won’t work.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 27)

-P Riley Dixon: 4 punts / 52.5 avg – 43.5 net

3 STUDS

-DT Leonard Williams, S Xavier McKinney, RB Devontae Booker

3 DUDS

-OT Matt Peart, QB Daniel Jones, LB Lorenzo Carter

3 THOUGHTS ON LAR

(1) Did you know LAR hasn’t made a 1st round pick since 2016? Five straight drafts without a 1st rounder AND they won’t have one in the next two drafts (unless they trade FOR one). Front offices can be aggressive like this when, and only when, the foundation is firmly in place. Strength in the trenches (BOTH sides of the ball). A coaching system that elevates others on a consistent basis. And wins. NYG lacks all of the above. Until then, the idea of trading FOR players is not the right approach because the holes are too many.

(2) Are the Rams a legit contender in the NFC? You bet. That makes it 2 weeks in a row that NYG took on 2 of the 3 teams that I think the NFC will come down to. TB is the remaining conference contender they haven’t seen yet, but that time will come in 5 weeks. 82 points allowed, 31 points against. That is the margin between where NYG is and where we want them to eventually be. An average of 25+ points per game.

(3) Andrew Whitworth doesn’t get half the attention that he should. 16 seasons as a starting left tackle and soon-to-be 40 years old. I have all the respect in the world for Tom Brady and what he does at his age but I think what Whitworth is doing at a much more physically demanding position belongs in the same conversation.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) Leonard Williams wasn’t happy about the boo birds spraying out their distaste for the team on Sunday. Some overdone line about how he wouldn’t go boo a salesman that is performing poorly at his job. I’ve seen this before and I’ll see it again. Someone needs to tell him to focus on fixing himself and the team he plays on. While this “story” is not a big deal at all, I think it goes to show one of the major internal issues NYG is currently dealing with. A bunch of people around this organization not taking complete ownership for their part in being the worst team in the NFL over the past few years. Their players don’t perform well, their front office is missing out on the right players both in free agency and the draft, and the coaches can’t seem to stay on the same level of intellect as the rest of the league. Be a man and admit it. Part one of fixing a problem is acknowledging the problem and, in this case, every person involved in football operations that receives a paycheck from NYG is part of the problem. You’re wasting time talking about “boo’s”. You’re in New York, Mr. Williams. You’re 34-67 as a pro and the highest paid player on the team. Set the example of ownership, not finger pointing.

(2) The year is 2014. NYG is coming off 7-9 season (2013) and ranked 26th in the league in sacks. The year prior (2012), they were 22nd in sacks in a season they just missed the playoffs. And lastly, the year before that (Super Bowl winning 2011), they ranked tied for 3rd in the NFL with 48 sacks. NYG was picking 12th in the first round. Admittedly, their offense was struggling as well but this is the moment NYG went away from what was working for so long. They passed on Aaron Donald (much to my dismay), and selected Odell Beckham. Since then? Donald has earned first-team All-Pro honors 6 times. Donald has 89 sacks and 136 TFL over 116 games. Beckham has played in just 86 games with 51 touchdowns (just 16 since 2017). I am reminded of this every time I watch LAR play and it was a franchise-changing moment that few ever talk about.

(3) The NFL trade deadline is 2 weeks away. Here we are again, wondering if anyone in the league wants the trash from this roster so NYG can net an extra mid to late round pick in the next draft. A couple thoughts on this. One, you want to have good players here so one can properly gauge what is currently here. I am getting at Sterling Shepard, a player I think many will forecast in a trade market. I think his contract is too big for anyone to see great value in him. A good player, absolutely. However, when economics come into play, the value is very average. Plus, if you are going to use the rest of 2021 to evaluate Jones in regard to NYG’s future at the position, he needs to be here running routes, not Dante Pettis. Second, who on this roster is worth something to someone else? I can only see two guys that would warrant attention. They are CB James Bradberry and DT Dexter Lawrence. As I said above, Lawrence may not get the attention on a bad team, rightfully so. On a defense that has other parts (playmakers at LB and quality edge presence), Lawrence can make things happen. I wouldn’t expect anything better than a 4 or 5 for either, but those are 2 names I would look into for a trade. KC, IND, and TEN are all contenders that will be searching for defensive help.