Nov 262019
 
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Julian Love, New York Giants (November 24, 2019)

Julian Love – © USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears 19 – New York Giants 14

QUICK RECAP

A comfortable, if not somewhat chilly and breezy day, in Chicago was on tap after the Giants bye week to face off against the underwhelming Bears. A defense that ranked 8th in the NFL paired with an offense that ranked 30th has given CHI a lack of identity to this point of the year. They came in at 4-6, losers of 4 out of their last 5. NYG was coming off of 13 days of rest with an offensive line that was fully healthy after injuries at three of five starting spots and Sterling Shepard out of the concussion protocol. This was a solid match-up on paper.

Two weeks after Saquon Barkley gained 14 yards on 13 carries against the Jets, he was tackled for a 5-yard loss on the first carry of the game. It was a quick and easy sign that despite the extra time off, nothing had changed. On the second CHI drive, they marched down the field but a drop by tight end Ben Braunecker that would have surely ended in a touchdown gave the NYG defense another life. Mitch Trubisky, who averages less yards per game than any QB in the league, threw an interception to a leaping Alec Ogletree in the end zone.

A few drives later, NYG started with the ball in Chicago’s territory. The Giants took advantage of the field position as Daniel Jones hit tight end Kaden Smith in the flat off of play-action for a 3-yard touchdown. They took the initial lead and after forcing a three-and-out on the next drive, Jabrill Peppers returned a punt 40 yards, ending at the CHI 29-yard line. After three plays that accrued a total of 5 yards, Aldrick Rosas missed the 42-yard field goal attempt as a result of Zak DeOssie rolling (literally) the snap back to Riley Dixon. The game remained 7-0. After a 13-yard punt following another three-and-out by the CHI offense, NYG began this time at the CHI 48 yard line. Rosas would soon be presented with a 43-yard attempt but instead of redeeming himself, he pulled it wide left, his fourth miss of the season. The score remained 7-0.

CHI’s offense clicked on their final drive of the half as they finally found and decided to absolutely, relentlessly attack the weak point of the NYG secondary. Corey Ballentine got picked on over and over as CHI drove inside the 10-yard line. The Giants were able to keep them out of the end zone but CHI did put up 3 points via a 26-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro. They cut the score to 7-3 and would receive the ball to start the second half.

Rosas cemented this as the worst game of his young career as he booted the opening kickoff of the second half out of bounds, giving CHI the ball at the 40-yard line. The CHI game plan seemed to fully focus on Ballentine, as they continued to throw the ball to whomever he was trying to cover. This approach ended with a 32-yard touchdown to Robinson over Ballentine, giving CHI their first lead of the game at 10-7.

The next four offensive drives for NYG resulted in zero first downs, a sack-fumble that resulted in a turnover, and 15 total yards. The anemic performance and even worse play-calling made the Giants completely stall while the CHI offense, third-worst in the league, was able to put another 10 points on the board to lengthen their lead to 19-7 heading into the fourth quarter.

Despite all of the quality field position they had in this one, up until this point in the game, NYG couldn’t muster more than a lone score. Thus it only makes sense that on a drive that started on their on 3-yard line ended with their second touchdown. On a 4th-and-18 from the CHI 23, Jones evaded pressure and chucked it into the end zone. Somehow Golden Tate got behind the secondary and came down with the ball. NYG was all of the sudden within 5 and they quickly forced a three-and-out on the ensuing CHI drive.

Another late-game, puzzling decision arose here. On 4th-and-2 from their own 33, CHI kept their offense on the field. Nobody actually believed they would go for it, and at the last second, they took their entire unit off the field and replaced them with their punting team. The NYG defense remained on the field, no returner came on, and it resulted in a punt that rolled and rolled, resulting in a 61-yard punt that  was downed at the NYG 6-yard line. It was a brilliant move by CHI Head Coach Matt Nagy, as Pat Shurmur hopelessly looked on as if he knew he just got toyed with by a superior coach.

The Giants had one last shot to make this game a heroic 4th quarter comeback but the offensive line continued to falter and Jones couldn’t find open targets. The drive lasted 8 plays and gathered a total of 29 yards. They turned it over on downs. Would have been nice to have those 6 points lost by Rosas.

Giants lose 19-14.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 21/36 – 150 yards – 2 TD / 0 INT – 2 att / 27 yards. Jones fumbled for the 14th time and lost that fumble for the 10th time. While this one wasn’t a result of poor ball protection, this has become a major issue.  Otherwise, Jones played a solid game but had a few hiccups that luckily didn’t end in turnovers. He threw two late balls right into the hands of CHI defenders but they couldn’t close the deal. His second touchdown was a bit of a “chuck it” type play but he deserves credit for hanging in the pocket and getting rid of it nicely with trash all around him. Jones didn’t givie us any “wow” moments or throws but he played solidly as he has all year.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 17 att / 59 yards – 2 rec / 1 yard. While this wasn’t as ugly a performance as we have seen the past couple of weeks, Barkley is still lagging big time. He continues to dance around too much instead of putting his 230-pound frame close to the ground to simply pave his own path. To be honest, it is really frustrating to watch. He also dropped a pass on 3rd-down that would have ended in, at least, a first down and a 15+ yard gain. There was a play in the 3rd quarter where he caught a pass in the flat and danced his way out of bounds rather than drive over a defensive back who was on heels. Shurmur, rightfully so, was not happy with Barkley on that one.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate: 3 rec / 33 yards / 1 TD. Tate also had a drop and one other that he should have caught albeit it was a difficult throw to deal with from Jones. Tate’s touchdown salvaged his poor day.

-Darius Slayton: 4 rec / 67 yards. The lone big play threat in this WR corps continues to impress as a route runner and after the catch. He did have another drop though.

-Sterling Shepard: 3 rec / 15 yards. First game back for Shepard since October 6 because of a second concussion. He didn’t make the great impact many were hoping for but he did gain 22 yards on a reverse run and converted a 3rd down. This offense needs more out of him moving forward, not just dinky-dunk passes.

TIGHT END

-With Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison both out, the job was left up to Scott Simonson and Kaden Smith. Smith, still somewhat newly-signed from SF, scored the first Giants touchdown on a play-action bootleg. He ended up catching another 4 short passes and Simonson got one of his own. Neither are going to scare anyone as route runners and pass catchers but they blocked the edge well, as they were asked to do a lot there.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The first half wasn’t bad for tackles Nate Solder and Mike Remmers. After all, they were up against Khalil Mack and company and on Jones’ 14 first-half drop backs, Solder allowed 1 pressure and Remmers none. However, once we got into the third quarter, Solder allowed 5 pressures and a sack that led to a fumble. He was, once again, abused and it impacted the entire passing attack. Remmers wasn’t much better, as he allowed 2 pressures but also graded out poorly as a run blocker. He kept losing ground time after time, showing absolutely no anchor.

-Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez were relatively quiet in a good way. They each allowed just one pressure in the fourth quarter against a CHI defensive tackle group that may be one of the most underrated in the league. They didn’t get movement in the running game and they, along with Jon Halapio, were the main culprits for a lack of interior run success. None of the offensive linemen could walk out of Chicago proud of their performance.

EDGE

-Despite a separate offsides penalty called on all three edge rushers, they played well as a group. Markus Golden recorded his 7.5 sack of the year while adding 2 TFL, one of which was in a clutch situation late in the game. Lorenzo Carter had 4 tackles, 1 TFL, a pass break up, and 1 pressure, while Oshane Ximines added a pressure and a tackle himself.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-B.J. Hill didn’t show up in the stat sheet but he was pretty active despite playing only 26% of the snaps. He had a pressure and made things happen away from the ball in terms of making the ball carrier re-direct. He is a quality guy to have coming off of the bench.

-Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson were stout and rangy against the run. Both had a pressure and Tomlinson finished with 3 tackles. His best football has been played since Williams was brought in. Speaking of Williams, one can fairly ask whether or not he is worth the draft pick they gave and/or the money he will demand in the offseason. He continues on with his “solid, but…” label. He had 1 tackle and 1 pressure in this one.

-Dexter Lawrence was borderline dominant inside against a quality CHI interior offensive line. When this kid gets off of the ball correctly and timely with the right pad level, it is comical to watch two OL not even get him to move his feet. You won’t see him make a statistical impact weekly, as he finished with just 2 tackles and 1 pressure in this one, but he was the key reason why CHI averaged just 2.5 yards per carry. Great game for him.

LINEBACKER

-Alec Ogletree came up with the biggest defensive play of the day. His interception in the end zone prevented CHI from going up 7-0 early and it was an impressive, athletic feat. He had just 2 tackles on the day but he filled lanes hard and opened things up for David Mayo. Mayo finished with 7 tackles including one for a loss and he had a nice pass breakup stemming from his physical style and heavy contact. He did get beat up underneath by backs and tight ends in coverage though.

-Solid game from Deone Bucannon, who seems to be more comfortable in this environment. He had 5 tackles despite the fact he only played a third of the snaps.

CORNERBACK

-Corey Ballentine saw a season-high 64 snaps, but that’s about the only thing his fans are going to want to talk about. Actually, he led the team with 9 tackles, another feather in the cap. But one thing I was taught a long time ago was if a cornerback has a lot of tackles, it is usually an indictment on his poor coverage. It was as clear as day as to who CHI wanted to attack in the passing game. There was a stretch from the middle of the 2nd quarter to the middle of the 3rd quarter where the CHI offense was simple: line up, find who Ballentine is covering, and pass to him. Ballentine’s footwork was atrocious. He had no balance, and he had no feel for routes and throws. In addition to all of the receptions and yardage he gave up, he was fortunate another 60-yard catch was called back because of a penalty along the offensive line. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back because you know Green Bay saw the tape.

-Janoris Jenkins played a really solid game, finishing with a couple of physical tackles and 2 pass break ups. He had a defensive holding on a 3rd-and-10 stop that led to a CHI touchdown, however. Bad timing for a mistake that didn’t need to be made.

-Deandre Baker wasn’t challenged much in coverage, but he did look solid on the few times he had to run deep with the CHI speed guy Gabriel. He finished with a TFL.

SAFETY

-A pretty quiet game for the safeties. Antoine Bethea had 3 tackles and showed quality coverage on a couple of occasions. Jabrill Peppers played a lot of linebacker in this one. He had 5 tackles and 1 TFL. He also returned a punt 40 yards and it got me thinking that it would have been nice to see him back there all year. He is so dangerous with the ball and we aren’t just talking about speed. He is powerful, strong, and aggressive. He is dealing with a hip/back injury that may end up shutting him down for the rest of the year.

-Julian Love got his first real action of the year, 55% of the snaps. He had 1 tackle and 1 interception. Love nearly came down with a second interception and I saw things in him that reminded me why I had a 1st-round grade on him last April. He reacts so well, both physically and mentally, to both where receivers are going and when the ball is thrown. We haven’t seen that from a safety yet this season. Arguably his most impressive play won’t show up on the stat sheet. On the 60-yard pass to Allen Robinson, Love was engaged with a receiver who did a nice job of blocking him. Robinson had a head full of steam and no defender in sight was there to help Love with angles or anything. Love disengaged himself from the blocker, wrapped up a full-speed Robinson, and brought him to the ground. Little things like that go a long way in my book and I hope Love earned his way into more playing time the rest of the year.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 0/2 (missed 42, 43). One can say the first miss wasn’t Rosas’ fault because the snap was so bad, but his second miss AND a kickoff out of bounds to start of the second half now leaves a questionable taste in our mouths. Is he the guy? Or did he get lucky in 2018? Kickers are the relief pitchers of football, just unbelievably volatile and hard to find.

-P Riley Dixon: 6 punts / 41.7 avg / 33.0 net.

3 STUDS

EDGE Markus Golden, DT Dexter Lawrence, S Julian Love

3 DUDS

-OT Nate Solder, K Aldrick Rosas, CB Corey Ballentine

3 THOUGHTS ON CHI

  1. I somewhat noticed this while watching the game live but upon watching it again from the All-22 angle, I respect how disciplined this defense is. Plain and simple, they do not overlook the subtle assignments. They maintain gap control. Their blitzers are well timed and accurate. They take proper angles. Their anticipation is outstanding, most notably at the second level. Yes they have a lot of talen,t but even more than that, their discipline makes a lot of positives happen.
  1. Mitch Trubisky has gone backwards. I can recall watching him early last year and thinking he is making that important jump. Even after his injury where he missed 2 games, he came back and got destroyed by the LAR defense but bounced back well. 2019 has not been friendly to him and it just looks like he isn’t seeing things. His timing is off and he isn’t sure of himself. I bring this up because I think it takes 3 years of starting in the NFL before you can make your decision on a QB. NYG QB Daniel Jones has some similarities to Trubisky and even though I think he is heading toward a higher level, it is another example we can’t say yes or no to Jones until 2021.
  1. I know many may think NYG doesn’t need any more bodies at the hybrid DT/DE spot in this defense but there is a kid on CHI I have been watching all year. Roy Robertson-Harris is going to be a RFA this offseason. Since he was an UDFA in 2015, he could come cheaply. If NYG doesn’t want to spend money on Leonard Williams, I think this kid offers a very similar skill set and I’ll even say a similar level of play for a much cheaper price. Keep that name in mind.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Not sure if anyone else saw the interesting exchange between Barkley and Shurmur. In the 3rd quarter, Barkley caught a ball in the flat, did a little dance, then trotted out of bounds as two CHI defenders approached him. It was 2nd-and-8, NYG was down 10-7. Shurmur went at him and clearly told him to go north, put the shoulder down and get the few extra yards. Barkley may have been able to get 2-3 more yards and while it wasn’t a major deal, I think it is clear some are getting frustrated with his style. He isn’t playing like he did as a rookie. He is playing soft, and yes, I will keep talking about it until he stops.
  1. I think NYG might as well keep trotting out their young guys in the secondary for the balance of the season. I want to see Beal, Ballentine, Baker, and Love all getting more than 50% of the snaps weekly. I don’t need to see Michael Thomas anymore, I don’t need to see Grant Haley anymore, and I don’t need to see Peppers play through pain. Let’s see how these kids respond to adversity even if they get roasted.
  1. There are 5 games left to play. WAS and MIA are included in there and it’s hard not to think about where the Giants end up in the draft if they lose out and/or win one or both of those match-ups with Chase Young potentially sitting there. He is likely going to grade out higher than Myles Garrett and if there is one guy who can change the entire outlook of this team in a game where one guy almost never makes that much of a difference, it is Young. Tanking isn’t a thing but I do believe in sitting veterans and getting the young guys valuable snaps to see if they can show us something. Something I think NYG needs to consider.
Nov 222019
 
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New York Giants Defense (August 16, 2019)

New York Giants Defense – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Chicago Bears, November 24, 2019

THE STORYLINE

This is what we need to focus on during the last six games:

Is the team getting better? Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur were hired almost two years ago to make the 3-13 New York Giants a better football team. The Giants were 5-11 in 2018 and are now 2-8 in 2019. The Giants may win two more games (Dolphins and Redskins) this year. They will be hard pressed to upset the Bears, Packers, and Eagles (twice). We may be looking at a 4-12 season.

How the Giants lose in the final six remaining games will also be important. We’re all tired of the refrain, “Well, at least the team played hard and didn’t quit!” It’s a loser’s lament. Yet if the team not only loses but starts losing badly, then that will be another sign that the team still isn’t headed in the right direction.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • WR Sterling Shepard (concussion – may or may not be cleared on Friday)
  • TE Evan Engram (foot – out)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (concussion – out)
  • OC Jon Halapio (hamstring)
  • LT Nate Solder (concussion – may or may not be cleared on Friday)
  • RT Mike Remmers (back)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (concussion – may or may not be cleared on Friday)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE

As far as I’m concerned, the #1 goal for the offense for the remainder of the season is to not ruin Daniel Jones. Many disagree with me, but I think any quarterback can take too many hits and that can affect his play, and in the case of Jones, his long-term development. Right now, Jones is taking far too many hits. And many of these hits are violent collisions that are directly contributing to Jones’ ball-security issues. Reduce the number of hits > reduce the physical and mental toll on Jones > reduce the number of fumbles. The latter must also be getting into Jones’ head this point. I know the running game isn’t working, but the already terrible 2019 season will be made disastrous if they permanently damage Jones.

This is absolutely the wrong defense for the New York Giants to be facing at this point. While the Chicago Bears are having a horribly disappointing 4-6 season of their own, encumbered by a dreadful offense, their defense is still #8 in the NFL in terms of yards allowed and #4 in the NFL in terms of points allowed. They are top 10 in both run and pass defense. Surprisingly, the Bears’ defense has only produced 14 turnovers (7 interceptions, 7 fumble recoveries) all season.

The headliner on the Bears’ defense is linebacker Khalil Mack, who has produced four of those fumbles. Mack has been held to 5.5 sacks this year and only one sack in his last six games. He also was tackle-less last week. But don’t let those stats fool you. Mack leads the Bears with 42 quarterback pressures. He is literally quite capable of doubling his season sack total against a weak NYG offensive line. Why is the Bears’ defense so good? Look no further than their linebacking corps. It’s filled with studs. The Bears also have two excellent players in the secondary, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson.

While I think that Pat Shurmur needs to be more conservative with Daniel Jones, I don’t think the Giants are going to be able to simply run, run, pass against the Bears. If they do that, the Giants will be in constant 3rd-and-long situations. The Bears linebackers are going to destroy tight ends Kaden Smith and Scott Simonson in the run game. It’s doubtful that New York will be able to generate any yardage outside of the tackles. I would use the short passing game to attempt to keep the down-and-distance situations manageable. The Bears’ offense is so bad that the Giants theoretically could win a 13-10 game on Sunday if they simply protect the football and play for field position. Don’t be stupid. Play it conservatively and protect Jones (and thereby protect the football).

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE

I think most readers know I’ve pretty much given up on James Bettcher. Last week, the 32nd-ranked New York Jets offense more than doubled their average point total against the Giants’ 27th-ranked defense. As predicted, the Giants were kind enough to allow Sam Darnold to finally get back on track. Will Bettcher’s defense extend the same courtesy to Chicago’s 30th-ranked offense? The Bears are 30th in passing and 29th in rushing. Why do I get the horrible feeling that neither will appear to be a problem on Sunday?

On paper, the Bears can’t run or pass. Their leading rusher has less than 500 yards and is averaging 3.5 yards per carry. His back-up is averaging 3.1 yards per carry. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky stinks, completing less than 63 percent of his passes and throwing just nine touchdowns in nine games. There is only one player on the entire team with more than 251 yards receiving on the year, and that’s wideout Allen Robinson, who is targeted 25 percent of the time on passing plays, yet only has 633 yards and three touchdowns.

The Bears are averaging less than 17 points per game.

The good news for the Giants? Jints Central is starting to play some of the younger players. Corey Ballentine is now seeing serious defensive snaps. Sam Beal played in a handful of plays against the Jets. There were whispers that Julian Love has seen reps with the 1st-team defense in practice. I can live with mistakes from rookies and 1st-year players. But watching end-of-the-line players like Antoine Bethea get abused during a 2-8 season is pointless.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

Aldrick Rosas has now missed three extra points in his last three games. He’s also only kicking 80 percent on field goal attempts. This is a big game for him.

The Bears punt and kickoff return game is very dangerous and will present a very difficult test for the coverage teams this week. This is the type of game that can be decided by a special teams play.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH

Head Coach Pat Shurmur on the team no longer playing music during practice: “I felt like it was the right thing to do to keep the music off, especially during the individual periods and the group periods, so that we can coach the players and they can hear me and us better. Now we still use music or we use crowd noise for the offense when we’re on the road. But the reason we don’t do it is so that we, as coaches, our voices can be heard and they can be coached immediately. I think it’s the unintended consequence of not having music. As time has gone on, it’s become a trendy thing to have music at practice. But for us and for our football team, I think the right thing to do is to keep the practice field a little quieter so that they can hear our coaching points.”

(Editorial Note: Yes, it’s always good for the players to be able to hear the coaches during practice. SMH)

THE FINAL WORD

I think the Bears are the better team because they have the far better defense. The Bears are holding opponents to 17 points per game. If the Giants’ defense can match against a dreadful Bears’ offense, then New York has a chance in this one if they don’t turn the ball over. But I don’t have confidence that the NYG defense can do the job, and I think Daniel Jones is going to get rocked in this one and turn the ball over again.

It’s a winnable game, but I don’t think the coaches and players are up to the task.

Nov 122019
 
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Darius Slayton, New York Giants (November 10, 2019)

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets 34 – New York Giants 27

QUICK RECAP

This “battle for New York” had a lot less to do with bragging rights, a lot less to do with potential playoff spots, and more to do with where these two bottom feeders were going to land in the 2020 NFL Draft order. When this game was scheduled, this one had the look of a lot of potential. Two young QBs. The number 2 and number 3 pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, I could go on. But let’s call this for what it really was: a game that had about as much excitement surrounding it as their annual preseason match-up, a game that meant nothing for either team when it came to the 2019 playoffs.

The Giants were without Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram in addition to two starting offensive linemen, Mike Remmers and Jon Halapio. Even with that, they were the “road” favorite against a Jets team that has some of the worst football on tape in the NFL this season. They have a QB who had 10 turnovers in 5 games. They have a head coach who seems in way over his head. They have a depleted secondary and one of the worst group of pass rushers you can find. This was slated to be a win, right? Ha, come on now, these are the 2019 New York Giants you are talking about.

NYJ began the game with a 13-play, 75-yard drive touchdown scoring drive after they converted a 3rd-and-11 and also a 3rd-and-1 via an offsides penalty by Markus Golden. The Giants responded with a 3-and-out on their initial drive, with the last play being a sack allowed by Saquon Barkley (his third of the season) and fumble by Jones that did not end up as a turnover.

The Jets then scored a second touchdown in as many drives, this time making veteran leaders Alec Ogletree and Antoine Bethea appear to be stuck in mud as Jamison Crowder ran right by them and into the end zone. It is a hard sell to convince anyone they were actually stuck in mud however, because well, they were playing on turf and it hadn’t rained in a few days. No, they weren’t stuck in mud, they were simply outclassed. NYJ took a 14-0 lead in the first 13 minutes of the game. NYJ came into this game averaging 12 points PER GAME and ranked dead last in offensive yards. This was the third time in four weeks that NYG allowed two touchdowns in the 1st quarter. To be honest, that is hard to do.

Even though it was still considered early in the game, NYG had a sense of urgency on the next drive. Thanks to poor defensive back play and a couple of NYJ penalties, NYG was able to push the ball and score their first touchdown of the game, a pass from Daniel Jones to Darius Slayton. After a statement-drive on defense, NYG had the ball back at their own 39-yard line. Left tackle Nate Solder left the game with a concussion, making it now the majority of the offensive line on the sidelines. NYG was faced with a 4th-and-4 and this was a turning point in the game. Jones found Slayton on a quick slant where he showed elite-level footwork that actually caused the cornerback to fall similar to what Allen Iverson did to defenders with his crossover in the hardwood. Slayton caught the uncontested pass and then used his 4.4 speed in combination with poor pursuit angles by NYJ to make his way to the end zone for a 39-yard score. A poor snap caused the PAT attempt to turn into punter Riley Dixon chucking it into the end zone, thus the Giants remained down 1.

The half ended on a NYJ missed 54-yard field goal attempt and then Daniel Jones getting sacked on 3rd-and-4 from midfield. It was a back-and-forth half between two bad teams and the margin was a one-point deficit for NYG.

The opening drive of the second half, the drive that many coaches say is the most important of the game, lasted three plays. On 3rd-and-1, Jones was sacked by Jamal Adams at the hands of Barkley yet again but this time Adams stripped the ball and returned it for a touchdown. Another lost fumble for Jones, his league leading 10th of the year. Another allowed sack for Barkley, his fourth of the year which also leads the league for backs.

The Giants were able to take advantage of poor NYJ secondary play yet again, as they turned a wide receiver screen to Golden Tate into a 61-yard score on 3rd-and-9. If we didn’t know any better, it almost appeared both teams were putting in their best effort to lose. That notion was strengthened after the score, as Tate was called for pass interference on the 2-point attempt which forced NYG into going for the extra point. That extra point attempt was missed by Aldrick Rosas, his third miss of the year, a season after he missed just one FIELD GOAL last year.

The NYG offense stayed hot, as they put another touchdown on the board via a 15-yard pitch-and-catch to Tate. The Giants offense was hot and the momentum was clearly on their side. They lengthened their lead to 27-21 on a successful 2-point attempt to Bennie Fowler from Jones. The momentum didn’t last long, however.

The Jets put 3 points on the board on their next drive and forced NYG into a 3-and-out as the battle in the trenches was becoming more and more laughable. The Jets then got to the 1-yard line thanks to a Deandre Baker 33-yard pass interference, his second penalty of the day. Le’Veon Bell powered his way into the end zone and just like that, the lead turned into a 4-point deficit.

The NYG offense continued to sputter, punting the ball back to the 32nd-ranked offense in the league, just to see that 32nd-ranked offense in the league march downfield and put another 3 points on the board. It was 34-27 with just over 7 minutes left. The Giants offense couldn’t even think about being aggressive, as the offensive line completely fell apart and Jones could barely reach the end of his drop back before having to evade pressure. The defense did get the ball back twice via stout run defense but it didn’t matter.

Giants lose, 34-27.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 26/40 – 308 yards – 4 TD/0 INT – 121.7 QBR. Jones added 20 yards on 3 carries. When looking at the passing numbers, one could argue this was the top performance have seen out of Jones this season. He, however, did fumble 2 more times, losing one. The lost fumble resulted in a NYJ defensive score. Jones is hard to truly evaluate right now because the offensive line is so poor and the running game is non-existent. He is making all of the simple throws, and I am not undermining that. He is doing so consistently, rarely does he miss, and I would peg “simple throws” at about 80% of the NFL’s passing plays and there are QBs that struggle with them more than you think. Jones’ toughness on his 3rd-and-10 run and in the pocket against the NYJ physical front 5 stood out. A nice game for him but man, those damn fumbles.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 13 att / 1 yard – 5 rec / 20 yards. That isn’t a typo, by the way. Barkley, the supposed foundation of this offense, the 2018 Draft’s 2nd overall pick, the 2018 Rookie of the Year, accrued 1 yard on 13 carries. He had defenders at his feet the instant he touched the ball on almost every carry, he was hesitant when was able to reach the line of scrimmage, and he couldn’t break any tackles. This running game is a complete mess on every level and they tried to throw the ball in space for him one time. The result? A 22-yard gain. Barkley allowed two more sacks and a pressure. We can now rightfully say he is a liability in pass protection. Just terrible.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton: 10 rec / 121 yards / 2 TD. If there is one bright spot of the 2019 season, it is the Jones-to-Slayton connection. Slayton looked like a complete player out there and it is fun to see his fast-track progression. His route running made a cornerback fall on two occasions and he forced two penalties with his explosion out of his breaks. He also showed strength and presence when attacking the ball with a defender on his back twice. Excellent game from him and he looks like a keeper at this point.

-Golden Tate: 4 rec / 95 yards / 2 TD. The more I see Tate, the more I want him around. I know, easy to say after a 2-touchdown game and there are limitations to his game. But I think it is important to have a guy who can make adjustments and quick decisions on the fly. He knows the game exceptionally well, just a really good situational player who plays and thinks fast. He should never be a number one or even a number two target for a team in the passing game, but if he is your three or four, he can be big time.

TIGHT END

-Rhett Ellison: 3 Rec / 42 yards. A quiet game for Ellison, but he did have a 31-yard reception. I also wanted to note he had a few key blocks that resulted in big plays and/or touchdowns. He is really effective in space as a blocker, but not so much in the trenches.

-Kaden Smith, an UDFA who was signed off the SF practice squad, was on the field for 41 snaps to help with the blocking, but he didn’t perform well there. He allowed a TFL and a pressure. Smith graded out as one of the top run blocking TEs in the draft last year and it goes to show the jump in levels it takes to handle NFL defenders from college kids.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-I want to start with the undrafted right tackle Nick Gates, who was in for the injured Mike Remmers. If you have been reading my reports, you know that I have been down on Remmers and don’t think he belongs on the field as a starter even on a bad team. Gates, grade wise, wasn’t any worse. He is notably more athletic with more twitch and initial pop. He did allow a sack and a pressure and got pushed around as a bit in the running game, but it wasn’t anything different that what we have seen from Remmers. Let the kid play there the rest of the season.

-Nate Solder went down early with a concussion. He was replaced with Eric Smith, formerly of the Jets practice squad. He never played a snap at left tackle in practice. Smith has been here since early September and he entered the game as the backup left tackle. I repeat, this coaching staff hasn’t given him one snap at the position in any of the practices. Not one. And he was in charge of protecting the blind side of their rookie QB. Smith allowed 3 sacks, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure. Awful game and yes, he is worse than Solder.

-Inside was a mess too. Spencer Pulley, who Pat Shurmur has called a “starting center in this league” multiple times over the past two years, played awful. If there was one culprit for Barkley gaining 1 yard in this game, it was Pulley. I had a hard time believing what I was seeing when it came to how hard it was for him to maintain blocks. He allowed a TFL, a pressure, and a sack. He also forced Barkley into changing his direction in the backfield upon getting the ball multiple times. He doesn’t belong in the league.

-Guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler, the two best lineman on this team, didn’t have their best games. Hernandez is not progressing. He hasn’t gotten any better from his rookie season. He allowed 2 TFL and had a sack wiped off his stat sheet because of a questionable Jets holding call in the secondary. Zeitler was the only player on this line who was above average grade wise, but even he wasn’t getting a push in the running game. Too much give.

EDGE

-Solid game for Markus Golden besides his bonehead offsides penalty and one missed tackle. He finished with 4 tackles / 2 TFL / 1 sack / 2 pressures. This has been another bright spot considering what they got him for contract wise. But every sack he gets will make him more expensive to bring back.

-Youngsters Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines were quiet, finishing with a combined 6 tackles but also 1 pressure and 0 plays behind the line of scrimmage. Ximines has made a few mental mistakes against the run this year but he was more disciplined and active this week.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Dalvin Tomlinson seems to have more urgency and desire in his play. Maybe the Leonard Williams trade put him on notice that if he wants a long term deal from this team, he better step up. Step up he did. Tomlinson led the team with 9 tackles while adding a sack. He was all over the field, making hustle plays downfield while also being stout in short-yardage situations. This may have been the best game of his three-year career.

-Speaking of Williams, he was really disruptive. He had 3 tackles, and 5 pressures. That is the most pressures of any NYG defender in one game over the past 3 years. Now, some can say that is a good thing but a pro personnel scout I talk to on a regular basis sent me this text after the game, “Always finds a way to get there, never finds a way to finish. Been a step too slow since day one.” He is going to be a tough guy to figure out over these next 2 months because the narrative is that he oozes talent, but doesn’t seal the deal. We saw more of that in this one.

-Dexter Lawrence can be a maddening player at times. He is definitely making an impact beyond the naked eye and we are seeing more pass rush from him than anyone thought he could bring to the table, but I saw him in a couple different key short-yardage moments just get drilled off the ball. I am hoping he shows more consistency over the second half.

LINEBACKER

-Alec Ogletree had 7 tackles and a pass break up. He really looks thick and choppy out there. I’m not sure if he’s still hurt or his athletic days are simply behind him. The lack of speed and agility at LB has hurt this team more times than I can count. The game is changing and these inside guys just can’t hack it anymore. Davis Mayo added 4 tackles but remains an issue on filling lanes and reaching sidelines.

CORNERBACK

-Deandre Baker’s up-and-down, but more down, season continues. He was flagged twice, one of which was a 33-yard pass interference that put NYJ on the 1-yard line. He had a few plays where he was sticky in coverage, but I was most annoyed on a big play where he showed no urgency in pursuing the soon-to-be 32-year old Demaryius Thomas after the catch. It resulted in a big play and it was inexcusable from a kid whot has hurt this team more than helped.

-Janoris Jenkins quietly had a really good cover game and added 4 tackles.

-Good to see Sam Beal and Corey Ballentine out there. Beal only got in for 10 plays but it was the first time we’ve seen him since NYG took him in the Supplemental Draft two summers ago. Ballentine was targeted early on third down and even though the quicker slot matchups aren’t ideal for him, he didn’t allow a lot of separation and I liked how fast he reacted to the ball once in the air and after the catch.

SAFETY

-Jabrill Peppers is looking better and better each week. There may not be a guy on this team who competes as hard as him play to play, week to week. He finished with 6 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PD, and 2 pressures. He has been a terror when they use him downhill and if this defense can get another 1 or 2 guys like him at LB, the difference would be enormous overall.

-Antoine Bethea finished with 5 tackles and a pass breakup. He also missed 2 tackles, he leads the team in that category, and was outclassed on the Crowder touchdown athletically. I just don’t see a guy with enough reaction speed and I think the game is simply too fast for him.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: No FG attempts. Rosas missed an extra point and is now 19/22 on the year. He is one of 3 kickers in the league with 3 missed extra point attempts.

-P Riley Dixon: 6 Punts / 53.5 avg / 45.5 net

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, WR Darius Slayton, S Jabrill Peppers

3 DUDS

-OC Spencer Pulley, OT Eric Smith, CB Deandre Baker

3 THOUGHTS ON NYJ

  1. I’ve seen a lot of Jets football in recent years because of the fact they are a local team and a lot of my cross-scouting coincidentally has had me get their game tapes as well. They, as of right now, are so close to the situation that NYG is in that it is almost scary. Young QB on a rookie deal. A piss-poor offensive line. Average at best pass catchers. A really good running back who can’t display even 50% of his potential. Minimal pass rush with no real difference maker there. A do-it-all safety. A young TE who has a high ceiling but has a hard time staying on field. A coach who is hard to trust. Tons of money to spend but a lack of assurance that it will be economically spent. All that and I bet these two will be picking near each other in the draft and will be targeting the same guys.
  1. The Sam Darnold vs. Saquon Barkley debate will be there for as long as those two are in the league. Giants nation was split down the middle whether or not they should take Darnold, widely considered the top QB of the 2018 class and he was available. Well here we are about a year and a half into Darnold’s career and we can agree that he has not been good. Sure, he had a solid stretch in December in no-pressure situations but he has started 19 games and has 27 turnovers. Not much more needs to be said because if he keeps that up he won’t be a starter a few years from now.
  1. I am intrigued to see what General Manager Joe Douglas does this offseason when it comes to building their roster from a pro personnel perspective. It was confirmed that, if he was going to trade star safety Jamal Adams, that DAL was going to have to give one of their top OL Zack Martin or Tyron Smith in return. I liked hearing that, as I still believe no matter what that a team absolutely has to avoid poor offensive line play and it needs to be priority A if the group ever falters. They are going to buy a free agent or two in the offseason, no question. And I think that is the best possible approach.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. You know when your own wife, who doesn’t know too much about the details of the game, makes a comment about the QB never making passes on the move unless he is scrambling for his life, that the offense may be too predictable and easy to defend. Jones has proven to be an athletic threat and he has proven he can throw on the move. Why, with this offensive line, do you constantly have Jones sitting in the pocket? It doesn’t work. And while we’re at it, why aren’t you making every effort to give Barkley the ball in space? Traffic runs aren’t working with this offense. Stubborn and lack of innovation and adjustments.
  1. The question with this defensive line is, is there enough room to keep both Tomlinson and Williams long term? Williams will likely demand a much bigger contract because even though the stats aren’t overly impressive, the analytics crowd likes him and they are becoming more and more prominent within personnel circles. I think Tomlinson has value though. I know it is easy to say after what may have been the best game of his career, but there is a lot he can do within different schemes. He is a professional. Works hard, always tries to get better. We want more guys like this around. If I had to choose one because of economics, I am going with Tomlinson.
  1. Would it make sense at some point to shut Barkley down for the rest of the year? He limps off the field every week since he has been back from the ankle injury, he now has a bum shoulder, and it looks like this situation is actually making him a worse running back? I’m not opposed to it if we see more of the same the for another 2-3 weeks.
Nov 082019
 
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Game Preview: New York Giants at New York Jets, November 10, 2019

THE STORYLINE

In the 1981 so-bad-it’s-a-classic movie “Clash of the Titans”, Zeus told his bastard son Perseus “Find and fulfill your destiny!”

In football, we often talk about measuring sticks or litmus test games against quality opponents. In a perverted, ass-backwards sense, the Giants will face a different kind of litmus test against three of their last seven opponents. The 1-7 Jets, 1-7 Dolphins, and the 1-8 Redskins. I am firmly convinced there is a element of the New York Giants fan base who are refusing to accept just how bad their beloved team has become. More importantly, I am especially convinced that New York Giants ownership and management can’t or won’t see it.

These three “Clash of the Titans” games, starting with the Jets on Sunday, could be quite shocking to these people. To use another movie analogy (“Planet of the Apes”), “Don’t look for (your destiny)… You may not like what you’ll find.”

THE INJURY REPORT

  • WR Sterling Shepard (concussion – out)
  • TE Evan Engram (foot – out)
  • OC Jon Halapio (hamstring – out)
  • RT Mike Remmers (back – doubtful)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE

The Giants just never could get the band all together in 2019. Golden Tate was suspended the first four games. When he came back, Sterling Shepard was lost due to two concussions, missing all but four games. Saquon Barkley suffered a high-ankle sprain, missed three games, and hasn’t looked right since he’s been back. Now Evan Engram is hurt again. He already missed a game earlier this season and will be out this Sunday and possibly longer. Those four ARE the team’s best play-makers. The team’s starting running back and best player, the team’s top two wide receivers, and the team’s top tight end. All missing extended time and never being on the field together as one unit. Pathetic and sad.

In hindsight, the 5-year, $43 million contract given to Shepard this past offseason was a big mistake. So was not trading the injury-prone, poor-blocking Evan Engram before the trading deadline despite reports that the Giants has seriously good offers for his services. But these are the types of mistakes that poorly-managed teams keep making. And the Giants have been an atrociously-managed team for years now.

It’s also become apparent that John Mara hired the wrong coaches to lead this team. Again. Pat Shurmur doesn’t appear to be an offensive guru, lacking any sort of imagination about getting Saquon Barkley in space in the passing game. His game management skills are pathetic as well. Shurmur is now 17-41 (.293). That would be a good batting average, but you can’t do much worse in terms of a W-L percentage. Reports of players-only meetings and Shurmur telling his team this week that it is “make-or-break time” just highlights his futility. And don’t get me started on James “let’s play only two defensive linemen against the Cowboys” Bettcher.

The Giants offense is going to suck again on Sunday, struggling to score even 20 points. (The team is averaging 19.5 points per game). I will be curious to see if Spencer Pulley and Nick Gates cause an uptick in performance on the offensive line, though Gates obviously will go through a lot of rough moments due to his inexperience.

What would I consider a win on Sunday? If Daniel Jones doesn’t fumble. This is what we’ve come to.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE

James Bettcher has them fooled. He looks and sounds the part. And the defenses associated with his name performed well in Arizona. But the guy is a clown. He has press corners playing off in coverage. He doesn’t use the high-value assets the Giants have given him up front to his defense’s advantage. The Giants have now allowed 27 points or more in all but one of their games this year. Five times, they have allowed 30 points or more.

I keep repeating myself: the Giants can’t stop the run, they can’t stop the pass, and they don’t force turnovers.

Sam Darnold has looked like dog shit for the Jets the last few games. But expect him to get well against the New York Giants. They all do.

(And oh by the way, Dave Gettleman should have traded Janoris Jenkins before the trade deadline too.)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

Aldrick Rosas has now missed two extra points. Time to start worrying.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH

Head Coach Pat Shurmur on his job security: “I’m built for this.”

THE FINAL WORD

The 2-7 Giants versus the 1-7 Jets in the nation’s largest media market! “Clash of the Titans” indeed.

The Giants score less than 20 points per game. Their opponents score about 30 points per game. The Giants lead the league in turnovers with 22. They have only forced 12. Do the math.

The sad question is this: is it better or worse for the Giants to win this game?

Good times.

Nov 072019
 
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Cody Latimer, New York Giants (November 4, 2019)

Cody Latimer – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 37 – New York Giants 18

QUICK RECAP

A national primetime game against a division rival. Throwback all-white uniforms. A new defensive weapon acquired via trade. This was a game that generated at least some excitement in the middle of yet another failure of a season. It was hard to look past the fact this team had lost 5 in a row to Dallas and 11 of their past 15 NFC East match-ups, though. Even in the unfamiliar blue uniforms, the Cowboys entered this one as a 7-point road favorite with little fear of a broken NYG squad.

The night started off in favor of NYG, as Dak Prescott threw an interception directly to safety Antoine Bethea, his first since 2017, on the very first play of the game. The Giants began their initial offensive drive inside the DAL 8-yard line but could only muster 3 points. Essentially they were starting this game over with the Giants getting a 3-point head start. DAL quickly tied the game back up after an 11-play drive that saw chunk gains from Ezekiel Elliott and the 37-year old Jason Witten. The same Jason Witten who has been torching NYG for what seems to be fifty years. The same Jason Witten who was a Monday Night Football color analyst at this time a year ago.

After a NYG three-and-out, DAL took the ball back into NYG territory and lined up kicker Brett Maher for a 54-yard field goal attempt. The wind pushed it wide left and NYG began their drive at their own 44-yard line. Two key plays that brought NYG down inside the DAL 5-yard line were a 16-yard run by Daniel Jones and a 17-yard pass to Golden Tate that converted a 3rd-and-14 situation. It took them three plays to get the one yard needed for a score, but a Jones-to-Cody Latimer pass put NYG back in the lead. Aldrick Rosas missed the extra point, thus the score was 9-3.

The momentum stayed on the NYG side, as receiver Randall Cobb had the ball jarred loose by a violent Jabrill Peppers hit and Bethea came up with his second turnover of the game. The next drive injected more and more juice into the stadium. Tate gained 16 yards on a reverse aided by a lead block by Jones, who got lit up on the play but he contributed to the yards and there is something about toughness that gets everyone excited. Evan Engram then exploded for 15-yard gain after a short pass. A black cat then ran onto the field and caused a delay. It was about a minute or two and it created the thought that maybe this would be one of those good-luck turning points. NYG would go onto win out, get to 10-6, and into the postseason because of this black cat. That idea rapidly disappeared as Saquon Barkley had a likely big-run stopped by his own center Jon Halapio, who for some unknown reason was just standing there not blocking anybody. The two collided and went down. It was Halapio’s best hit of the season. NYG got inside the DAL 10-yard line but couldn’t punch it in, relying on 3 points again off the foot of Rosas.

The score was 12-3, but the missed opportunities created an aura of pessimism. And with that, Prescott connected with tight end Blake Jarwin for a short gain that he turned into 42-yard touchdown. This is the same Blake Jarwin who scored 3 touchdowns against NYG last December and the same Blake Jarwin who scored a touchdown against NYG week 1. He has 6 career touchdowns in his 3-year career, 5 of which are against NYG.

Momentum was slipping through the fingers of NYG and they shot themselves in the foot on the next drive with under a minute left. A drop by Darius Slayton and an interception by Jones gave the ball back to DAL. They were able to get 3 more points on the scoreboard and entered the half with a 13-12 lead.

Latimer opened the half with a kick return that gave NYG starting field position at midfield. Penalties and a sack killed any hope of starting the second half with a score, but they forced a three-and-out when DAL got the ball. The offense didn’t take advantage of it though. I talked about Daniel Jones massive fumble issue during preseason and the only thing I can say about it now is that the issue is nearing catastrophic levels. On a 3rd-and-6, Jones scrambled up the middle and had the ball jarred loose as he approached the first down marker. The fumble was recovered by safety Darian Thompson, former NYG 3rd-round pick. This was Jones’ 7th fumble of the year, tied for the league lead.

DAL turned that into 3 more points, which put their lead at 16-12. Latimer once again had a big return that brought NYG to midfield. Overall, this was the best starting field position the team has had all year from a game-perspective. However, once again, NYG was only able to create 3 points out of it despite getting inside DAL 10-yard line.

The fourth quarter began with a DAL touchdown-scoring drive. Prescott found Michael Gallup near the sideline and the explosive 2nd-year pro made Janoris Jenkins miss, as Jenkins did on the Jarwin touchdown as well, and acrobatically made his way into the end zone. 23-15 DAL at this point.

Saquon Barkley, who was quiet for most of the game, brought NYG all the way to the DAL 11-yard line with a fresh set of downs. However, three straight incomplete passes and no looks to Barkley led to, you guessed it, another field goal by Rosas. NYG was down 5 and a stop on the ensuing drive was near-mandatory. However, a shaky-at-best pass interference call on Deandre Baker on a 3rd-down incompletion kept the drive alive. Six plays later, Baker or Bethea blew his coverage assignment, leaving the DAL number one receiver Amari Cooper wide open across the middle for a big gain and touchdown. NYG was now down 12 with under 8 minutes left and most hope had left the stadium.

NYG put together one more drive with time dwindling and the DAL defense in a prevent, half-effort approach. It would have made those who bet the +7 line happy at least to see NYG get a cheap touchdown but they couldn’t even do that. From the DAL 24-yard line, Jones was sacked and had the ball knocked loose. Jourdan Lewis scooped it up and returned it for a 63-yard touchdown. Jones left the night as the lone leader in the NFL with 8 fumbles.

NYG loses, 37-18.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 26/41 – 210 yards – 1 TD / 1 INT – 74.2 QBR. Jones also added a team-high 54 yards on the ground via 6 carries. Jones lost 2 fumbles, one of which was on a passing attempt, and threw an interception. It can be debated that that interception wasn’t solely on Jones, but at the end of the day he didn’t put it where it needed to be. Jones’ fumbles are going to lose games for this franchise if he doesn’t clean it up. While it may not be a big deal right now because expectations are so low, that can be a game changer and a season changer by itself. The guy who holds the ball the most can’t be giving it away like he is right now. His toughness and athletic ability did impress and he continues to show an even-keel approach, but those fumbles will end it for him and this team if it stays this way. Clean it up.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 14 att / 28 yards – 6 rec / 67 yards. Don’t mistake the receiving line for anything impressive, one of those catches went for 65 yards. So his other 5 catches accrued 2 yards. That is actually hard to do if you think about it. As one of the biggest Barkley supporters during the 2018 draft, I will say this: Barkley is running soft and scared. Is it the fear of injury? Is it the offensive line? Is it being used to not getting to the line without defenders in his face? Or worse, is it him wanting to make it to his Zeke-contract, AKA avoid injury at all costs? I will give him credit for better blocking this week, much better, and the 65-yard gain was what this kid can do every time he touches the ball. But I want to see more grit in his game. Show it to me, kid. You haven’t accomplished that much yet.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate: 6 rec / 42 yards – 1 rush / 16 yards. Tate caught all 6 of his targets, one of which was an incredible catch that he almost got into the end zone. I like how this guy competes and I can see why past fan bases of the teams he played on loved and hated him. Tate is who he is: a really good complimentary player but will never be THE guy. If anything, he may be best suited for the #3/#4 option on a good offense.

-Cody Latimer made a big impact and had this team scored on just a couple more touchdowns of their multiple redzone opportunities, we may be talking about him more. He caught the lone NYG touchdown and returned two kicks to midfield. His separation as a route runner has been minimal but I do think there are things you can do with him. There is a ton of straight line athletic ability and he has proven he can make the tough catch.

-Really poor night for the rookie Darius Slayton. He dropped a pass, allowed a TFL, and tracked the ball really poorly on the Jones interception. He could have been where the ball landed but he was late to turn and didn’t control his body well enough.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 6 rec / 48 yards. Engram has regressed as a blocker. DAL has given him issues a few times in his young career, in particular DeMarcus Lawrence, but some of the tackles he allows are unacceptable. On a run to the opposite side, Engram’s man is coming across his face and still making the play. That isn’t a difficult assignment. Maybe TE should be elevated on the NYG needs list and Engram needs to be a wide receiver who, every now and then, starts the play on the line. Year 3 and he still stinks in there, that won’t change.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Mike Remmers continues to show he can’t play right tackle in the NFL for a team that wants to compete. He allowed 2 sacks and 2 pressures. His run blocking received a below average grade and that adds up to, if you want to call it that, his second-worst grade of the year. He is regressing. Nate Solder actually had a decent game. He did allow a sack-fumble at the end, and he did allow a pressure, but he kept the blind side relatively quiet, in particular on the deep attempts.

-Will Hernandez spent most of the night fighting the entire DAL defense. He relishes the role of personal protector and bodyguard, which is fine. It seemed to get a little over the top and I would much rather see him not allow a TFL and sack against an interior DAL defensive line that is average at best. Kevin Zeitler also allowed a sack late in the game, although he was solid otherwise.

-Center Jon Halapio didn’t get any push against a defensive line that is known for being undersized. I’m not sure why he continues to get the nod even though I am not a fan of Spencer Pulley either. He just looks slow. DAL sent a couple long-developing stunts and blitzes right up the middle and he barely even acknowledged them. His reaction time isn’t good enough. I can’t imagine this OL going into 2020 with him on the roster.

EDGE

-Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden both had 1 TFL and 1 pressure each. Neither were able to come up big on 3rd down, which is always the time I am looking for them to step up. In fact, Golden got called for offsides on a 3rd-and-7 that moved DAL up 5 yards which they converted. Carter was rangy against the run but he was far from stout. He and rookie Oshane Ximines were getting blown off the ball and easily moved, creating some of the massive running lanes Elliott was running through.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-In his first game with NYG, Leonard Williams not only got the start but was also on the field more than both B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson. He had 3 tackles and 2 pressures, including a solid hit on Prescott that was just after he threw the ball. He didn’t do much to standout and he did get washed out a couple times on big Elliott gains. The one thing I see with him that the others don’t have is the ability to create on his own. Williams can bend, run, turn, and burst better than any of the other down linemen. I can see the attraction in him. Time will tell if he can turn it into consistent production.

-B.J. Hill appears to be the odd man out when it comes to playing time. He was on the field for about a quarter of the plays. Interesting to see but I think it has more to do with his position more so than his performance. Dalvin Tomlinson was in at the nose and they have repeatedly said that is a spot they just don’t want to see Hill play.

-Dexter Lawrence already looks to be the leader of the defensive line. From a performance and emotional standpoint, he is rising and rising as the year goes. He had 2 tackles and a QB hit. I re-watched him specifically to see if he was a culprit for Elliott running wild and he played just fine, it had more to do with the linebackers (again) and inconsistent play from Tomlinson.

LINEBACKER

Alec Ogletree continues to be one of the most inconsistent players on this defense. He had 6 tackles and 1 missed attempt. But his play in coverage was tight and slow, as was David Mayo. These guys are attacked on 3rd down and neither are showing the ability to cover laterally. It is pretty easy to exploit and when a good offense needs to make something happen, they are easy targets.

-Deone Buccanon saw his playing time uptick a bit from last week, but he didn’t make much of an impact. Just one tackle and he allowed 2 receptions.

CORNERBACK

-Janoris Jenkins will take heat for the missed tackles and he should, but lets not act surprised here. His tackling has been a weak point since the day he signed with NYG. In addition, I don’t know many corners who would have been able to tackle Jarwin on that touchdown.

-Deandre Baker had a pretty typical night for a rookie. He was picked on early because of how much cushion he gave on the quick slant routes, then made a couple plays on the ball where his ball tracking and aggressiveness were on point, and then was beat deep and both mentally and physically when the game was on the line. More of the same with Baker, a kid who is trying to learn on the fly. It is easy to tell there are mental lapses that are inhibiting his physical ability.

-Corey Ballentine got the snaps at nickel and he moved really well. I like the speed he brings to the table and he has more size than Grant Haley. One of the things we can really keep an eye on in the next seven weeks is how well he can keep it together and improve, as it could cross off a need for the 2020 offseason.

SAFETY

-A quick look at the box score and one will think Antoine Bethea had a good game. Interception / fumble recovery / 9 tackles. Well, the interception was (literally) thrown right at him because Prescott didn’t know he was there, fumble recoveries are often luck-based, and the tackles don’t include his 2 misses and poor angles.

-Jabrill Peppers was a stud in this one. The up-and-down player had 12 tackles, a pass breakup, and a forced fumble. I’ll say this about Peppers, his versatility and value is overlooked because of how bad this team is. He brings a lot to the table and if this team were better elsewhere, I think many would be pointing to how much he impacts the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 4/4 (Made 21, 25, 26, 29). Rosas also missed an extra point, his second of the year.

-P Riley Dixon: 3 Punts – 47.3 avg / 39.3 net

-Cody Latimer returned 6 kicks for 181 yards

3 STUDS

-S Jabrill Peppers, WR Cody Latimer, WR Golden Tate

3 DUDS

-OT Mike Remmers, WR Darius Slayton, LB David Mayo

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

  1. It’s hard not to admire what Ezekiel Elliott brings to the table. I don’t love who he is off the field but this guy balls as well as anyone in the league. He is so dependable as a runner with the way he runs with a forward lean, falls forward, and breaks through initial contact. But what I admire most about him is how dominant he is as a blocker and how consistent he is as a pass catcher. Barkley could learn a thing or seven from really studying his game.
  1. One assistant coach in the league who doesn’t get enough publicity in regard to future head coaching gigs is the DAL assistant defensive coordinator, Kris Richard. He was on the SEA staff when they were dominating the NFC and he has the kind of persona that really gets to the players and brings out the best. All of this talk about offense and getting a fresh voice for Daniel Jones can make you overlook a guy like Richard, someone who I think can be the next Mike Tomlin.
  1. How far can DAL go? Are they in the class of the NFC discussion? Other than PHI, they haven’t beat anyone good. Their other wins are against WAS and MIA, with losses to playoff contenders NO and GB. I think they are a playoff team, but I don’t trust them against a legit opponent. I still question their pass rush and Prescott still needs to prove himself in the biggest moments.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. I don’t want to talk down on Barkley. As most of you know, I was the first and biggest supporter of drafting him early back in 2018. But I have to say the poor offensive line, the ankle injury, and his desire to score a touchdown every play is making his game a lot worse than what we saw last year. He can’t control the injury and the line, but he does need to improve his own performance. He is playing soft. There is no denying it. That can’t happen.
  1. Speaking of Barkley, how come NYG is the only team with a dynamic back like this that can’t seem to get him the ball in space? Go watch CAR, LAR, NO, MIN…and see how they get their dynamic backs the ball in several different spots on the field to maximize their talents. Barkley is at his best when there is plenty of green around him, yet the vast majority, borderline all touches, are either runs between the tackles and little dump offs/screens. Why not triangle route concepts? Why not up the seam? Why not slants from the slot? Maybe the situations make it tough, but Pat Shurmur you are an offensive-minded head coach being paid millions of dollars. Figure it out.
  1. Evan Engram is injured again. There is no denying the talent and upside he brings to the table and there are things he can do that no other tight end can. But at what point do you say he doesn’t fit the offense because of his poor blocking? At what point do you say now is the time to trade him and get back real value? He can be had at a very reasonable price because he won’t be an unrestricted free agent until 2022. Some team that runs a different offense could get a lot out of him for 2 years. I don’t like shipping out real talent like this, but guys, he hurts this offense as much as he helps it and now he can’t stay healthy? Something to ponder.
Nov 022019
 
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Markus Golden, New York Giants (September 8, 2019)

Markus Golden – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, November 4, 2019

THE STORYLINE

The 2019 New York Giants season is already all but officially over by the midway point. Again. With eight games left in another abysmal campaign, you’re going to keep hearing me harp on the following:

The Giants will not become a playoff contender again until:

  1. The defense gets MUCH better.
  2. The offensive line gets MUCH better.
  3. The coaching staff gets MUCH better.
  4. Management does a MUCH better job in free agency.

These four areas have been an issue for years, outside a brief defensive blip in 2016. The abysmal drafting performance of the Giants for much of the past decade was #1 on the list, but current management appears to be doing better in that area. However, when it comes to evaluating pro personnel already in the league, Dave Gettleman and Company have been dreadful. In the past two years, they have signed Kareem Martin, Nate Solder, Patrick Omameh, Curtis Riley, Cody Latimer, Connor Barwin, Jonathan Stewart, Nate Stupar, Antoine Bethea, Rod Smith, among many others already forgotten. And let’s not forget trading for Jabrill Peppers and Alec Ogletree. Signing Golden Tate (who was given a $37.5 million contract) and Markus Golden doesn’t offset all of those mistakes. Fingers are crossed that the Giants didn’t just blow two picks on Leonard Williams.

One of the reasons I bring this up is the Giants will have over $60 million in cap space in 2020. That sounds like a lot. And it is. But also keep in mind there will be other teams with even more cap space than the Giants, so competition for a few good players will be very intense and price tags could get ridiculous quickly. Two or three horrific Nate Solder-like contracts could screw the Giants for years. The Giants have to dramatically improve their ability evaluate pro personnel.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • WR Sterling Shepard (concussion)
  • CB Grant Haley (knee)
  • CB Corey Ballentine (concussion)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE

The focus remains the development of Daniel Jones. After a few rough games, he bounced back with his second 300-yard game of his young career and threw for four touchdowns. I keep saying it, but his progress won’t be linear. Expect ups and downs, especially this week as the New York Giants offensive line appears to be regressing and the Dallas Cowboys have one of the most formidable defensive front sevens in football.

Nate Solder has turned into a train wreck. In addition, the Giants once again misjudged their center position. Some of the offensive line breakdowns appear to be due to Jon Halapio not making the correct line calls. Will Hernandez has not taken the step forward that was anticipated and Kevin Zeitler may be playing hurt. Mike Remmers has been better than Chad Wheeler, but not by much. ONCE AGAIN, the Giants are going into an offseason desperate to find MULTIPLE new starters on the offensive line. It seems like the Giants just keep spinning their wheels here. I hope some of the back-ups see some time before the end of the season.

Three players to watch are Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton. Barkley seems a bit out of it. Focus on the fundamentals (i.e., pass protection) and don’t try to make every play a highlight run. The big plays will come to him if he settles down. It will also be interesting to see if Shepard plays with more caution after suffering his second concussion this year. Will he be the same aggressive player catching balls over the middle and blocking for his teammates? Other than Jones, Slayton has been one of the few reasons to watch this year. But he needs to be more consistent and productive throughout the entire game in order to reach the next level.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE

The last time these two teams faced, the Cowboys scored 35 points in three quarters before calling off the dogs in the fourth quarter or Dallas may have scored 50 points. Dak Prescott only threw seven incompletions. Wide outs Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper, and Randall Cobb combined for 17 catches, 333 yards, and two touchdowns. And, ONCE AGAIN, Cowboys’ tight ends hurt the Giants, this time with another two touchdowns. The Giants couldn’t get any heat on Prescott. Deandre Baker, Antonio Hamilton, Grant Haley, the linebackers, and safeties were abused. And this was with Ezekiel Elliott coming off of holdout and not yet in game shape.

I keep hearing fans and media types saying that James Bettcher has nothing to work with. Yes, there are talent issues on this defense, but the Giants have also given Bettcher a lot of toys to play with, many of which, he undoubtedly lobbied for. They have spent a #1, #2, and #3 on the defensive line, and now have added former #1 Leonard Williams. The Giants also traded for two other #1 picks in Jabrill Peppers and Alec Ogletree. Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines were both #3 picks. The Giants brought in former Cardinal “security blankets” Kareem Martin (now on IR), Deone Bucannon (another former #1), Olsen Pierre, Markus Golden (former #2), and Antoine Bethea. In the secondary, the Giants have two #1 picks starting (Peppers and Deandre Baker) and a former #2 pick who has been an All-Pro (Janoris Jenkins).

And yet this defense is once again near the bottom of the NFL. Enter Leonard Williams. All eyes will be on him.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

Aldrick Rosas has now missed an extra point and two of his six field goal attempts. Not good.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH

There may be a few more expletives from Coach Shurmur after this game is over.

THE FINAL WORD

The Cowboys have the NFL’s #1 offense and #8 defense. They have won 11 of the last 14 games against the Giants, and five straight against the Giants. The Giants are 3-6 in their last nine Monday night games. The Giants are a missed field goal away from being 1-7 and are officially vying with the Redskins, Dolphins, Falcons, Bengals, and Jets for worst team in the NFL.

Other than that, everything is peachy.

Oct 282019
 
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Darius Slayton, New York Giants (October 27, 2019)

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions 31 – New York Giants 26

QUICK RECAP

With the signs becoming more and more clear that the Giants 2019 season is a one-way street to the cellar yet again, Big Blue traveled to middle-of-the-pack Detroit just days after the Lions traded away their second best defensive back while also missing their top defensive back and starting running back. After an embarrassing loss at home against the Cardinals, NYG had to set the tone early and prove they were past it. Prove they are better than they were in 2018. Prove they are on the way up. All of that against a 2-3-1 team.

The Giants got the initial momentum with a Janoris Jenkins’ interception, his fourth of the year, from the volatile Matthew Stafford. However, as we have grown accustomed to, NYG turned it over just three plays later. The league-leader in turnovers, NYG has made this a habit we are all too familiar with. Jones was hit by an untouched blitzer who came directly up the middle, a major no-no for offensive line play, and the ball traveled backward out of his hand even though he was in a clear throwing position. Saquon Barkley didn’t seem to match the urgency going after the loose ball that former Giant Devon Kennard had. The result was a scoop-and-score for DET as the home team went up 7-0 early.

After a NYG 3-and-out, DET got the ball back and on a 3rd-and-15 from midfield, Stafford went deep to emerging big play threat Marvin Hall for a 49-yard touchdown as he got behind safety Michael Thomas. And just like that, NYG was losing by double digits in the first half for the fourth straight week and 7th time in 8 weeks.

As Daniel Jones has already proven multiple times, he was able to get this team back on track and stay unrattled. They opened the second quarter with a touchdown scoring drive, capped by a Jones-to-Darius Slayton pass. DET kicker Matt Prater missed a 53-yard attempt on the ensuing drive, giving NYG prime field position, and Jones once again connected with Slayton for the second score in as many drives. Kicker Aldrick Rosas missed the extra point, however, making the score 14-13 DET, but the momentum had clearly shifted.

The refs clearly hurt NYG with a poor call on the next drive. They forced a DET punt but David Mayo was flagged for running into the kicker. By running into the kicker, they actually meant he grazed the punter’s shoelace and thanks to an NBA-caliber flop job, the flag was thrown and DET had the ball back with a fresh set of downs at midfield. DET was able to move the ball up enough to give Prater another shot, this time from 52 yards, which he made to give DET a 17-13 halftime lead.

DET came out and scored on their opening drive in the second half. It was a 10-play drive that ended with a pass from Stafford to Kenny Golladay, one of the emerging young stars in the league. NYG was down 24-13 and if they were going to prove they had some fight, it had to be on this drive. NYG was aided by two DET penalties, one of which was on a failed 3rd-down conversion attempt that led to a Jones-to-Engram 2-yard pass for 6. With a 3-and-out forced on the next DET drive, NYG had their first real shot at taking the lead as the third quarter was closing out.

On 1st-and-10 from midfield, Jones hit Golden Tate for a 14-yard gain on a flea flicker. NYG was starting to step on the throat of DET, but the play was called back as Nate Solder, the second highest paid offensive tackle in football, was flagged for a hold. Instead of 1st-and-10 from the DET 38, it was 1st-and-20 from the NYG 38. The Giants punted three plays later.

DET took their shot at their own flea flicker/double pass-type trick play; they were able to convert it into a 41-yard touchdown. No holding on the left tackle, either. DET took a commanding 31-19 lead but there were still 12 minutes left in the game.

After a back-and-forth drive that included two sacks allowed by the second highest paid offensive tackle in football, NYG did cross into DET territory and were faced with a 4th-and-6 situation. Being down 12, they had to go for it because a long field goal would have still kept it a 2-score game. Jones was bombarded by a 7-man pass rush and threw an incomplete pass to Tate.

The defense remained stout as DET had issues getting a first down to keep the clock moving, but the Giants kept coming up short when it mattered most. Jones took two straight shots into the end zone to his man Slayton, neither of which was converted. Slayton was interfered with on the first attempt and even though the pass interference challenges almost never work, I thought it was puzzling why Pat Shurmur didn’t throw the red flag. That was a crucial play and not using the challenge was a poor decision.

NYG did get the ball back one more time, and thanks to a 25-yard pass interference penalty, they were able to get into the red zone. Jones connected with Barkley for a 4-yard touchdown, Jones’ fourth of the day. NYG got to within 5 but a failed onside-kick attempt led to a couple Stafford kneel-downs.

NYG lose 31-26.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 28/41 – 322 yards – 4 TD / 0 INT – 124.2 QBR. Jones also added 13 yards on the ground. He fumbled the ball twice, both on hits that occurred as he was throwing, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Jones has ball security issues to clean up but neither of these fumbles can be put on him, as they weren’t an issue of holding onto the ball during and after contact. Jones kept NYG in this one with several throws into tight windows. His confidence is growing every week and he is proving to be a guy who plays with no fear. He dealt with a dirty pocket most of the game and after seeing someone like Sam Darnold completely alter his approach because of pressure, it is an encouraging sign to see Jones playing with toughness in the face of adversity so often.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 19 att / 64 yards – 8 rec / 79 yards / 1 TD. Barkley was just an inch away from breaking off a big play on two occasions. Even with that, Barkley gained 143 yards from scrimmage, which is above his career average. Looking at the numbers, it was a productive day. However after re-watching the game, I came away saying Barkley left some out on the field. His blocking was atrocious on two straight plays where he allowed a pressure and then a sack. There seems to be a lot of hesitation in his game right now, perhaps he isn’t fully mentally back from the ankle injury. He gets a pass because he did gut out some tough runs in the second half but as the guy this team is going to build around, he needs to, at least, make more impact without the ball as a blocker.

-Wayne Gallman, on the other hand, quietly had a solid game in limited snaps. He had a 20-yard run on a 3rd-and-26 play that put NYG in position to convert a 4th own late (which they failed). But his biggest impact came as a blocker. He really stuck his nose in there on a couple of occasions that enabled big gains.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate: 8 rec / 85 yards. Really gutsy performance by Tate. He has turned into quite the 3rd-down weapon for Jones. He is playing tough and hard nosed as he approaches the ball and after the catch.

-It looked like it would be a big day for rookie Darius Slayton, as he caught 2 touchdowns in the second quarter on consecutive drives. Both catches were great adjustments to the ball with a corner draped all over him. Those ended up being his only 2 catches of the day, however, and he dropped an easy catch later on. Slayton also allowed a TFL and did not block well overall.

-Cody Latimer had 2 rec / 28 yards and Bennie Fowler brought in 2 rec / 21 yards. Latimer is a guy I wish got more looks because it seems he can make big-time catches in traffic when given the opportunity. He had a really nice one-handed catch in this one. Fowler was flagged for an offensive pass interference but also came up with a clutch catch.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 4 rec / 40 yards / 1 TD. Not a bad day for the inconsistent, but high-ceiling Engram. He continues to flash the elite ability we know he has on all fronts as a pass catcher. Quickness, explosion after the catch, route running…etc. However his blocking received a really poor grade in this one. Many will point to the middle of the offensive line when trying to figure out why NYG had so much trouble inside, but the Engram had a really hard time sealing the edge. He allowed a TFL, and on a few occasions got squeezed to the middle which gave Barkley no wiggle room when the lanes were clogged. Really poor day in the trenches for him.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The ugly gets uglier for Nate Solder. He completely fell apart in the second half and it had a major impact on this team’s comeback effort. It is now at the point where this offense may need to alter its approach and shift constant help in his direction. He allowed 2 sacks and 1 pressure and was flagged for a big holding penalty. His balance and footwork are very poor right now and good pass rushers eat that up with ease.

-Mike Remmers graded out average, which is better than what we have seen lately. He allowed 1 pressure but had a couple of key blocks in the running game.

-The interior got pushed around all game, as NYG just couldn’t get the inside running game going. They also were schooled by delayed inside blitzes. You are NEVER supposed to see an untouched linebacker up the middle on passing plays and it happened multiple times. Jon Halapio allowed a pressure and a TFL. In addition, any communication issues need to come back to him. Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez were good in pass protection for the most part, but they got minimal-to-no push in the running game.

EDGE

-Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden both registered a sack and two TFLs, respectively. They combined for 9 tackles and both are emerging as consistent, reliable, yet limited threats. Golden has a lot of “gamer” in him, finding the ball often and making impact on contact. Carter is still very much a work in progress that gets stifled and rendered ineffective too easily, too often, but his talent is making things happen on occasion nearly every week.

-Really quiet day for Oshane Ximines, who has been struggling these past 2 weeks. We have known this for awhile – the lack of power and strength is an issue and this offseason will be huge for him.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Overall the trio of B.J. Hill, Dexter Lawrence, and Dalvin Tomlinson held the point-of-attack well. They were up against a group of backup running backs as DET tries to get past the injury of Kerryon Johnson. Tomlinson was the highlight of the group, finishing with 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 TFLs. The interior of the DET offensive line has struggled this year but their center, Frank Ragnow, is a quality player. Tomlinson schooled him with quickness and effective arm-over techniques a few times.

LINEBACKER

-Alec Ogletree had 5 tackles and made solid physical impact on a few occasions. Most importantly, he played 100% of the snaps and the play of the front seven was better because of it. A healthy Ogletree may be limited in some fashion still, but I think we got a reminder just how much better he is than the replacement players we had behind him.

-The debut of the newly-signed Deone Buccanon was lackluster. He was on the field for just 11 plays and he finished with a tackle and a missed tackle.

CORNERBACK

-Janoris Jenkins brought in his NFC-leading 4th interception of the season on the opening DET drive. The Lions avoided him much of the day afterwards, and it led to a really quiet day by Marvin Jones.

-Deandre Baker continues to impress, which is obviously stemming from an increase in confidence which is making him faster and more balanced. He was tested deep a couple of times and he stayed right on his man. While he did allow a touchdown to Kenny Golladay, he actually got a hand on that ball and I can’t fault him for it. He had really tight coverage on the route. Baker finished with a team-high 8 tackles.

-Grant Haley, a week after he made the “stud” list, was up and down in this one. He was picked on early as DET targeted him multiple times on third down and succeeded. He did remain active though and made a couple of nice tackles in space. Haley also had a sack.

SAFETY

-The big passing day for Stafford was largely a result of all three safeties getting torched downfield. All three were responsible for long touchdowns and all three had missed tackles on the day. Poor game for Antoine Bethea, Jabrill Peppers, and Michael Thomas. The one positive was a forced fumble by Peppers and recovered by Bethea, however. So those two did save face to an extent.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: No FG attempts. Missed 1 out of 4 extra point attempts.

-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 45.0 avg / 43.7 net

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, CB Janoris Jenkins

3 DUDS

-OT Nate Solder, OC Jon Halapio, S Antoine Bethea

3 THOUGHTS ON DET

  1. During the game and during the re-watch I came away with the same thought on DET receiver Kenny Golladay. This kid is heading towards superstardom. At 6’4+ / 220+ with good speed and ball skills that are approach the elite level, he may be the next uncoverable target in the Mike Evans mold. He came from a lower level of college football, thus it took some extra time to initially develop but he is in the midst of becoming the league’s next big thing.
  1. There is often debate with Pro Football Focus and their grading system. For the most part, fans use their grades as proof when it supports their opinion and they think it is useless when it goes against their opinion. I lean towards the latter, as there is too much missing information when they grade players. I do use them for snap counts and other objective information, though. I bring this up because they have been very hard on DET linebacker Jarrad Davis. I have seen DET 4 times this year and I think he is a top 10 ILB in this league, at worst. He was a wrecking crew in this game on multiple fronts.
  1. How close is DET to contention? They have the QB. They have the CB. They have an above average OL. They have a balanced and deep pass rushing attack. They have a budding superstar at WR. There are a lot of pieces in place but I think they need more dependability at running back which has been a sore spot for years (yes RBs are important) and another piece or 2 along the interior of the offensive line.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. The trade winds are in full force now. NYG is 2-6 and all but out of this divisional race. As I type this, NYG is acquiring DT Leonard Williams for an 8-week rental to see if he fits the system and is worthy of being signed to a long-term deal. If not, they will get a compensatory pick back for him in 2021, which somewhat offsets the early 3rd they are sending to NYJ and a day three pick in 2021. Next up? I think a team will come in and offer a 3rd-round pick for Janoris Jenkins, leaving NYG with the same volume of picks they entered the week with.
  1. Of all the scouting I do weekly, and knowing I watch 8-9 NFL games each week, there is something I am beginning to notice with Saquon Barkley. He tries really hard to avoid contact and there are times that I think he does this too much. He isn’t a soft player, although it looks like the fear of injury combined with the desire for the big play, hurts his inside running at times. Rarely do you see him shoot out of a cannon and make a quick decision to drive himself into a hole and gain the extra yard or two. He doesn’t fall forward like Ezekiel Elliot does and I think it holds this offense back a tad.
  1. What to do at left tackle? I disagree with the notion that Nate Solder may be traded. I can’t see it happening because he stinks and he is really expensive. How many teams would he actually help ? Not many, especially not the teams that are winning and aiming for a playoff spot. I’m not opposed to making a change and giving one of their young guys a shot. Both Chad Slade and Nick Gates did impress during preseason and while I know they may be slight drop offs from Solder’s current level of play, it wouldn’t be much. And then there is the possibility they could actually be better, don’t forget that.
Oct 252019
 
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New York Giants Fans (October 20, 2019)

No Joy in Gotham – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Detroit Lions, October 27, 2019

THE STORYLINE

I miss the old days where BBI game previews used to be about Xs and Os and match-ups against the opponent. Instead, for years now, the previews have become a status report on the current messy state of the once-proud franchise that only a few short years ago had won their eighth NFL Championship. At that time, it looked like Tom Coughlin was ensconced for life as the team’s head coach and Eli Manning was halfway through a sure-fire Hall of Fame career and destined for more post-season glory.

Fast forward to 2019 and the Giants are now back near the 1960s-1970s nadir of the franchise, with a 40-63 record since 2013 and a 10-29 record since 2017. Let me say that again, the Giants have won 10 games in three years.

On paper, the Giants may have two important parts: (1) a potential franchise quarterback and (2) an impact player at running back. However, after a fast start and despite continued flashes of brilliance, Daniel Jones has become a turnover machine. It remains to be seen if he can clean that up. And as we approach the midway point, Saquon Barkley is having a sophomore season to forget.

Two regimes now can’t seem to fix what has been holding this team back: (1) atrocious offensive line play, (2) atrocious defense, and (3) subpar coaching.

With respect to the latter, I wrote last week:

Brewing in the background is growing fan discontent with Pat Shurmur, who continues to make questionable in-game decisions. While it is difficult to see the Giants parting ways with their third coach in five years, especially given his “quarterback whisperer” relationship with Daniel Jones, the franchise must decide if Shurmur is capable of becoming a winning head coach. This is a big game for Pat Shurmur too.

Against an Arizona Cardinals team that had been the NFL’s worst team in 2018 and facing a must-win situation, Shurmur’s 2019 New York Giants were not ready to play, sleep walking through the 1st quarter and quickly finding themselves in a 17-0 hole that they could not recover from. In addition, once again, Shurmur made questionable game-management decisions. His offense only scored 14 points against one of the NFL’s worst defenses. And his defensive coordinator continues to look overmatched, as some no-name back-up running back did what Saquon Barkley should be doing to opposing teams.

I hate being a debbie downer. It sucks. But this team sucks. They have a coaching problem. But barring a complete collapse with multiple blowout losses, it’s pretty easy to predict what will happen this offseason. John Mara will use 2006 as a guide. Like he did with Tom Coughlin, he will force coaching changes on Shurmur, and possibly also take away his play-calling responsibilities. Mara will hope that lightening strikes twice. Coughlin looked like dead man walking after 2006 and turned it around with two Super Bowl wins. I was wrong about Coughlin back in 2006 and I could be wrong about Shurmur now. But I don’t think so. By the end of 2006, Coughlin was a .528 coach whose teams had made the playoffs six times. Shurmur’s .304 winning percentage is below that of Ray Handley and Ben McAdoo. A Shurmur-led team has yet to win more than five games in a season.

The Giants don’t have the luxury of time. I hope a year from now I am not writing the same type of game preview. I said it before and I’ll say it again, welcome to year 8 of the team’s 20-year rebuilding program.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (concussion – out)
  • WR Cody Latimer (quad)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (ankle)
  • CB Corey Ballentine (concussion – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE

Last week, I wrote “…as long as the offensive line does a reasonable job, Jones should be able to do some damage against the Arizona Cardinals’ 30th-ranked defense. This will be a nice change for the Giants’ offense after facing the Cowboys (9th), Bills (3rd), Vikings (5th), and Patriots (1st).”

The result? The Giants offense scored 14 points as Daniel Jones was sacked eight times. Against the Arizona Cardinals!

Once again, the offensive line is playing like dog shit. They can’t pass block. They can’t run block. It’s worse than the band-aid line that finished the 2018 season. The Giants should bench both starting tackles and start playing the young guys. Yeah, they may do worse. But Nate Solder and Mike Remmers are not the answer. It’s time to move on.

Daniel Jones continues to make enough “wow” throws to cause fans to be hopeful. However, while interceptions for a rookie quarterback are understandable, the fumbles are getting ridiculous. In five starts, he has six fumbles, losing five. In all, Jones has turned the ball over 12 times (7 interceptions, 5 fumbles), the chief reason why the Giants are leading the league in give-a-ways with 18. You can’t win like that.

Barkley’s 2019 season has been sabotaged by a high-ankle sprain. But I’m not convinced that Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula know how to use him properly either, especially in the passing game.

Tight end Evan Engram remains inconsistent, one week looking like an All-Pro, the next week being invisible and dropping passes.

Sterling Shepard, in the first year of his current 4-year, $41 million contract, is having yet another season to forget. He’s never accrued more than 900 yards in his four NFL seasons. Cody Latimer has 10 catches.

The Lions have the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense. So what? Arizona had the NFL’s 30th-ranked defense. Expect more misery.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE

Some guy named Chase Edmonds ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns against the New York Giants last Sunday. So in addition to New York’s superlative pass coverage (sarcasm off), the Giants are now making no-name back-ups household names in the running game.

The Giants can’t stop the run. They can’t stop the pass. And they have only forced eight turnovers all year.

Management keeps importing Arizona Cardinal defenders for James Bettcher. At some point, you have to come to the conclusion that the guy isn’t a very good coach.

The Lions have the NFL’s sixth-ranked passing offense. Expect more misery.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

For the past two seasons, the best part of this team has been the special teams unit. Thomas McGaughey is the best coach on the staff.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH

Meh. I’ve started to tune this guy out. The media is starting to get under Pat Shurmur’s skin. Look for him to lose his cool soon.

THE FINAL WORD

One of the most important predictors of team success – perhaps the most important – is turnover differential. The Giants are second-worst in the NFL with a -10 turnover differential. Only the Miami Dolphins are worse at -11.

The Detroit Lions are 2-3-1, the same record as the Cardinals last week. Teams get well playing the New York Giants. Expect more misery.

Oct 212019
 
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Michael Thomas, New York Giants (October 20, 2019)

Michael Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals 27 – New York Giants 21

QUICK RECAP

Coming off of extra rest, coming back home, up against a rookie quarterback without his best skill position player behind him, up against a rookie head coach, up against a west coast team on a cool and rainy day. All of this with their star running back Saquon Barkley back from injury a few weeks earlier than originally projected, NYG was a near-4 point favorite against the 2-3-1 Arizona Cardinals.

As previously stated, the rain was coming down early and it remained at a steady pace for the entire game with short spurts of intensity. Any hope of this weather actually impacting Kyler Murray and the Cardinals went out the window right away. Before we could blink, it was 14-0. They scored on the opening drive via a 20-yard run by Chase Edmonds, and after a Daniel Jones interception, it took just three plays to get another 7 on the board via another 20-yard touchdown run by Edmonds. If you are wondering who Chase Edmonds is, don’t mistake him for Emmitt Smith based on this game. He is a second-year back from Fordham who, in the 24 games prior to this one, had 369 on 84 carries with 1 touchdown.

The second quarter began with ARI closing out their third drive, which can also be termed as their third scoring drive as Zane Gonzalez nailed a 47-yarder through the uprights. It was 17-0 and Jones hadn’t yet completed a pass beyond the line of scrimmage. If NYG was going to bounce back after a horrific start, it had to start at this moment, and it did.

Jones led a drive that consisted of a 20-yard run by Barkley and a 20-yard completion to Golden Tate. He lofted a ball downfield toward the end zone perfectly between layers of the defense and right into the bread basket of tight end Rhett Ellison who barreled over ARI safety Budda Baker for NYG’s first touchdown. As bad as the start to the game was, at least it was early and NYG finally showed a pulse. That pulse strengthened on the next ARI possession, as Michael Thomas blocked a punt that landed in the end zone with Elijhaa Penny landing on it just inches away from the boundary It was a special teams touchdown, exactly what NYG needed to formally get this team back in the game and within one score.

After forcing an ARI punt on the ensuing drive, NYG got the ball back on their own 20 with just under 6 minutes left in the second quarter. They were due to start the second half with the ball, so this was the opportunity to squeeze as they already had their hand on the throat of ARI. They inched their way up the field and actually got as far as the ARI 31. It was 2nd-and-4, well within Aldrick Rosas’ field goal range but the next two plays were a harsh but very real reminder that this team quite simply stinks. Barkley ran laterally and couldn’t find a lane, so he opted to run backwards and take a 6-yard loss. This was after he already turned a 2-yard loss in to an 8-yard loss earlier in the game. 2nd-and-4 became 3rd-and-10 from the ARI 37-yard line. NYG just needed a few yards to put them back in to field goal range. On an incomplete pass to Tate, right tackle Mike Remmers was flagged foe a holding penalty. It was now 3rd-and-20 from the 47. NYG ended up punting and went in to the half down 3.

NYG and ARI traded 3 and outs to begin the 3rd quarter. On the second Giants’ drive, they once again were approaching field goal territory. On a screen play design, Barkley was a bit late getting to his spot as the pass catcher and Daniel Jones held onto the ball for a hair too long, as Chandler Jones easily beat Evan Engram for the sack, jarring the ball loose which ARI recovered it. It seemed like the game was on repeat at this point, as Edmonds scored his third touchdown of the afternoon on the third play of the drive via a 22-yard run. ARI scored their second touchdown off a NYG turnover and the score was 24-14.

NYG continued to show they both still had some fight and they were able to move the ball on offense at this point. Once again they marched in to ARI territory. On a drive that consisted of a 15-yard gain on an unnecessary roughness penalty by ARI and a gutsy 4th-down catch and throw from Jones to Tate, NYG lined up for a 37-yard field goal to make it a one score game again. The ball came off right and it end up hitting the goal post, no good. NYG was still down by 10 as the 4th quarter approached.

After a stop, NYG put together their best drive of the day. It was 8 plays long with gains of 10-11-20-6-13-6-9-7, with the final play being a touchdown run by Barkley. NYG came up with yet another stop as Kyler Murray was making multiple rookie mistakes and the ARI offensive line began to falter. NYG had the ball back with over 4 minutes, down 3. On a day where they played awful on both sides of the ball, they had a real chance and were in the middle of a 21-7 run after their horrendous first quarter.

On the most important drive of the game, NYG lasted 5 plays and it consisted of 2 sacks and a lost fumble. NYG was faced with a 3rd-and-18 situation, and Pat Shurmur, who has been rightfully questioned for game management this season, opted for a draw that gained a few yards. NYG had the ball on the NYG 33, 4th-and-15. He stated he knew he was going for it on 4th down no matter what, which makes the draw play-call seem highly odd. On that 4th-and-15, NYG turned it over yet again and ARI turned it into 3 more points, making it 27-21.

NYG had the ball back, without any timeouts, starting at the NYG 12 yard line. The drive was 6 plays long and Jones was sacked twice and pressured twice. The ARI defense finished with 8 sacks on the afternoon, after averaging just over 2 sacks per game heading in to the contest.

ARI wins, 27-21.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 22/35 – 223 yards – 1 TD/1 INT – 78.6 QBR. Jones also added 35 yards on the ground but he did fumble 3 times, 2 of which resulted in turnovers. That is where we need to start with him, as turnovers can kill a QB and we can officially call this a legitimate problem for Jones, as some of you got upset with me calling this out in preseason. Jones isn’t holding onto the ball with two hands often enough and as I said a couple months ago, NFL defenders will know that and they WILL exploit it. As a passer, Jones often had his first read taken away and he had a hard time progressing elsewhere. Combine that with poor OL play and a rather limited WR group, it just ended up being the perfect storm. Jones made a couple of gutsy, high-level passes in this one but don’t let it overshadow that he played poorly. Rookie growing pains, we call them. And hopefully they are just that, only that.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 18 att – 72 yards – 1 TD / 3 rec – 8 yards. It was Barkley’s first game back after missing 3+ games with an ankle injury suffered September 22. He seemed hesitant at first but he did rattle off a gain of 20 yard and also had a gain of 32 yards called back because of a hold. His speed was still there, but maybe the cutting was slightly hesitant. Barkley had a loss of 8 on a short pass and a loss of 6 on a short run. He needs to stop running backwards, period. Sure it may work out once every ten tries and NYG has themselves a highlight-reel run, but those two plays hurt the offense. Sometimes the mission isn’t to simply miss tacklers, it is t simply fall forward and take the gains ARI gives. Barkley also allowed a sack and may have been responsible for another, but it was hard to tell based on watching the all-22. I think we will see a really fired up and motivated and confident Barkley next week in Detroit now that he knows his ankle can handle it.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard was out again with a concussion, thus Golden Tate took over the primary receiver job and, after a poor effort on a early pass over the middle, played outstanding. Tate made several “tough-guy” catches in traffic in key moments. He had 6 rec / 60 yards, with each one going for a first down including two on third down and one on fourth down. He was clutch and tough.

-This is where a lack of consistency and big play ability hurt NYG. Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, and Darius Slayton did combine for 10 receptions but it was only for 96 yards, under 10 yards per. Fowler added a drop.

TIGHT END

-It was a day to forget for Evan Engram. He was targeted 5 times but walked away with just 1 catch for 6 yards while dropping 2 balls. The rain may have been a precursor of what was to come but it didn’t seem to impact that many plays throughout the game. Engram has been among the league’s leaders in drops since he began his career on a per-game basis and if he is ever going to reach the ceiling we know he has, those need to stop. He also allowed a TFL and a sack.

-Rhett Ellison of all people came up with the biggest play of the game, a 28-yard touchdown catch. His blocking was above average in this one, but he did allow a TFL and a pressure. He made some key blocks later on, however, on big plays including the Barkley touchdown.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Before I get into these guys individually, I have to say this group has been a woeful disappointment as a whole. It is the best group we’ve had up front in a few years, but that isn’t saying much and I still the line stinks. I can’t really think of another way to put it. It all starts outside.

-Nate Solder is proving he wasn’t, he isn’t, and he won’t be the answer at left tackle. The contract is monstrous and I have to believe he is here for at least another season and that is a tough one to swallow. He allowed 2 sacks (the first of which was more on Jones), 2 pressures, 1 TFL, and was called for a hold. Can we have one, just one game where he makes it all four quarters without a negative play? Mike Remmers was actually a bit worse if you can believe it. It’s great Greg Olsen thinks he was a good teammate in 2015 and all, but this guy is only playing because there is nothing on the roster behind him. Again. Remmers allowed a season-high for all OL on this team, 3 sacks along with 3 pressures and was called for a hold on a 32-yard Barkley run that would have put NYG close to the end zone. This was a Bobby Hart-caliber game from the guy Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur just had to have.

-The play inside wasn’t much better, but they had better moments here and there. Will Hernandez and Jon Halapio both allowed a pressure and Hernandez was flagged for a hold. Kevin Zeitler was off the radar in this one, earning the highest OL grade on the team for the 5th time in 7 weeks.

EDGE

Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter both had pretty active days against the lackluster ARI tackles. Also keep in mind that ARI only threw the ball 21 times plus the 6 passing plays that resulted in a Murray scramble. There weren’t a ton of looks for these guys when it came to traditional passing but they still impacted the game. Carter had 3 tackles and 2 pressures along with a pass break up. He did get flagged for a personal foul as he dove on top of Murray who was giving himself up – dumb penalty that led to an ARI touchdown. He also had a hard time defending the run. Golden added 2 pressures and 5 tackles, but also missed 2 tackles, one of which was on a play that ARI scored a touchdown on.

-When looking, and re-looking at the ARI touchdown runs, a few things went wrong for NYG obviously but the play of Oshane Ximines stands out the most. He was obliterated at the point-of-attack twice, just completely washed out and he didn’t have the power to either get off of the block or anchor his position. He had 1 pressure in this one.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-If there is a quiet concern I have that I don’t see anyone else talking about, it is the defensive line and their lack of ability to create. It can be hard to measure the quality of B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Dexter Lawrence because a lot of their value is dirty work, stuff you don’t see in box scores. But these guys, against a below average offensive line, played terrible as a group yesterday. The lateral movement wasn’t there and they weren’t getting off of blocks. Too many gaping holes and that wasn’t just on them, but part of the blame goes there.

-I found interesting that B.J. Hill and Olsen Pierre basically split snaps with each other. Was that an indictment on Hill? Was it more based on this week’s game plan and match-ups? Hill has been better than his numbers suggest but Pierre did have an active game. He was twitchy and around the action often, finishing with one of NYG’s 2 sacks. Certainly something to keep an eye on moving forward.

LINEBACKER

-Alec Ogletee was the lone bright spot of the group, finishing with 8 tackles / 1 TFL. He was the one guy on this entire defense who was playing a physical brand, knocking back blockers and actually making an impact on tackles. He was around the ball often and didn’t have any misses.

-David Mayo was credited with a sack on a group effort and also had a pass break up. Beyond that, I was disappointed with his play. He was slow to fill lanes and it resulted in two of Edmonds’ three touchdowns. The hesitation and lack of quick speed in his game was a perfect match for what ARI was trying to do on offense. He was a target in zone coverage as well.

CORNERBACK

-Grant Haley has been on the wrong side of these evaluations all season but I have to tip my cap here, he played his butt off. He made several plays behind the line of scrimmage that, had he not, would have resulted in big plays. He finished with 7 tackles and 1 TFL in addition to forcing action three other times that led to TFL or no-gain plays.

-Deandre Baker had 4 tackles and a deep pass break up. He seems more confident in his reads and assignments, but I’m not so sure he is going to be a productive run defender. He clearly chose not to fill a gap on two occasions and while I understand a lot of corners do that in today’s NFL, I still hate to see it.

-Janoris Jenkins wasn’t challenged much but the one time he was, he got flagged for a downfield pass interference. The flag was challenged by Shurmur and even though the call was upheld, I don’t think it was a penalty.

SAFETY

-Don’t be fooled by the box score, as Antoine Bethea and Jabrill Peppers combined for 17 tackles / 1 TFL / 1 PD. Both played poorly with an extra spotlight on Bethea, who keeps taking poor angles to the action and his lack of speed makes it impossible for him to make up for it. Peppers was a victim of others getting washed out directly into his path a few times, but he too missed a couple tackles and was beat on 3rd down a couple times. Very poor game for these guys.

-Michael Thomas had a productive game, recording 4 tackles, 1 TFL, and a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown for NYG.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 0/1 (Missed 37)

-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 37.3 avg – 36.3 net

-Golden Tate and Darius Slayton handled return duties.

3 STUDS

-WR Golden Tate, CB Grant Haley, LB Alec Ogletree

3 DUDS

-OT Mike Remmers, TE Evan Engram, S Antoine Bethea

3 THOUGHTS ON ARI

  1. Put me in the group that didn’t think it would work for Kingsbury in the NFL. But after 7 games, I have to give him a lot of credit here especially considering they went winless over the first 4 weeks. Now I won’t crown them in any regard just yet, as the combined record of the three teams that beat are 3-18 but I do think they are out of the basement in the league. Kingsbury is a creative mind and isn’t afraid to improvise to keep the defense guessing. He has made adjustments each week and even though not all have worked out, one can easily note the difference between an offensive mind that can be a hybrid rather than one that has a hard time changing.
  1. In regard to Kyler Murray, I have seen 5 of his games this year and I am not yet convinced it is going to work out for him. He has a hard time seeing things mentally, and physically all the talk about his height was credible. From the All-22 tape, it is evident he just can’t clearly locate defenders and receivers over the line. His game is very dependent, maybe too much so, on running around and I have never liked that in QBs. Too much risk. I will admit he is a very tough guy to defend, though.
  1. How far is this team from legitimate contention? Well let’s not even talk about this season. I think the NFC West is the best division in football and ARI can’t hang with any of the three teams above them. They have a really tough schedule from here on out and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them with a 5-10-1 record at the end of the year. I do think they are a step ahead of NYG when it comes to personnel but their offensive line needs work and their best defenders are on the wrong side of 30 next season. Not ideal timing considering the strength of the division, but I expect them to be one of the more aggressive teams in the 2020 offseason.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Did Dave Gettleman get fooled by NE? Nate Solder was signed to a long-term, monstrous contract prior to 2018 and almost all of us were happy with it. I think most fans don’t truly know about guys on other teams, thus the assumption that anyone who started for NE for a long time should be good enough, no? Fans can have the out, but Gettleman cannot. He has been nothing short of terrible since the day he began playing for NYG and I think it’s an indictment on the Pro Personnel staff for not seeing these issues and being fooled by the fact that Tom Brady makes blockers look way better than they are. It is one of the special traits to his game. That signing alone can really hold this team back for multiple years.
  1. I think we can officially put Pat Shurmur on the hot seat. I went back and looked at my game reviews from 2018 and a lot of problems I see now are what we talked about last year. Lack of innovation. Lack of ability to get the ball in the hands of key players. Lack of offensive line blocking adjustments. I do think the camaraderie and overall hustle/passion is better than what we have seen in recent years, but I never go into a week thinking Shurmur gives NYG the coaching edge. While two seasons may not be a fair amount of time for a coach that has weak personnel, now is the time to do it (by now I mean end of 2019). Let Daniel Jones grow up with a new voice, don’t change things on him 2-3 years from now.
  1. At what point does NYG start getting active on the trade market? Are there pieces on this roster that other teams want? Does it send a bad message to the team? They have one more week. Janoris Jenkins is the only piece that I can see getting anything better than a 4th-round pick. The Saints and Seahawks are two teams I would be targeting with him.
Oct 182019
 
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Evan Engram, New York Giants (September 29, 2019)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants, October 20, 2019

THE STORYLINE

If there is any remote possibility that the New York Giants make the 2019 season about more than the development of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, then Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals is a must-win. The Giants currently stand at 2-4 (1-1 in the NFC East), one game behind the 3-3 Dallas Cowboys and 3-3 Philadelphia Eagles. If the Giants can get to 3-4, they will still be very much in the hunt. However, if the Giants lose to the 2-3-1 Cardinals and fall to 2-5, then the season will probably be all but officially over in terms of playoff possibilities.

Brewing in the background is growing fan discontent with Pat Shurmur, who continues to make questionable in-game decisions. While it is difficult to see the Giants parting ways with their third coach in five years, especially given his “quarterback whisperer” relationship with Daniel Jones, the franchise must decide if Shurmur is capable of becoming a winning head coach. This is a big game for Pat Shurmur too.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle)
  • RB Wayne Gallman (concussion)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (concussion – out)
  • TE Evan Engram (knee)
  • DL Olsen Pierre (concussion)
  • CB Corey Ballentine (concussion – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE

Predictably, Daniel Jones is experiencing a rough patch after a hot start. This was exacerbated by facing two of the League’s top defenses (Patriots and Vikings) without his best weapons. While the ups and downs will continue, what we want to see are more ups than downs and increasing consistency. Jones seems to have the right attitude:

Looking back on the month, kind of up and down. I’ve been inconsistent overall. I’ve been good and been bad. I think there are certainly a lot of things to learn. When you look at the scheme or some of the decisions, some of my habits or bad habits, I think there are a lot of things to learn. So, I’ll kind of separate those problems, (and) those individual issues and try to improve. But also, just getting more comfortable and getting more accustomed to what we are doing. I think I’ll continue to learn and grow, but I’ve certainly had the opportunity to learn a lot this month… I think in the pocket, making sure I’m keeping two hands on the ball. When I’m running, securing the ball. I think that’s part of it. Just making good decisions. I think being aggressive when the opportunity is there, and not when it’s smart not to be aggressive. Just kind of managing that, understanding those situations, and learning from them.

What Daniel Jones said above is exactly what this learning process is all about. And he seems to understand the process. It’s not fun and can be painful, but he is not running away from the challenge. When this season is over, Daniel Jones will have four preseason games and 14 regular season games to go back and study and learn from. He is getting first-hand experience about the speed and complexity of pro defenses, when to take chances, and when not to. But also keep in mind that player development is not always linear. There will be dips.

Think of  how Eli Manning developed. He was atrocious at times during his rookie season, but provided a ray of hope with his comeback win against the Cowboys in the 2004 season finale. Then in 2005, he led his team to a division title, upsetting the Denver Broncos in memorable fashion. But Eli really didn’t “arrive” until the 2007 playoffs, with three and a half years of starting experience under his belt. Same story with Phil Simms, who was despised by half the fan base from 1979 until he finally rid himself of the bulk of those critics in January 1987, when he was 31 years old!

The good news for Jones is he will have Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, and Evan Engram back. But Sterling Shepard is still out. Nevertheless, as long as the offensive line does a reasonable job, Jones should be able to do some damage against the Arizona Cardinals’ 30th-ranked defense. This will be a nice change for the Giants’ offense after facing the Cowboys (9th), Bills (3rd), Vikings (5th), and Patriots (1st). All four New York Giants’ losses came against those teams, as New York scored a total of 55 points (13.75 points per game, which included a defensive score). On the other hand, the Giants’ two wins came against the Buccaneers (22nd) and Redskins (26th), as New York scored a total of 56 points (or one more point than the other four games).

The Cardinals have not been able to stop the run or the pass. However, outside linebackers Chandler Jones (4.5 sacks) and Terrell Suggs (4 sacks) can rush the passer. And the Cardinals get back All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson this Sunday after he missed the first six games due to an NFL suspension.

Many eyes will be on Saquon Barkley. Is he truly healthy enough to play? How much of an issue will the ankle be? He’s a difference-maker as a runner and receiver if he is good to go.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE

The Giants’ defense is coming off of their best effort of the season, but one game does not make a trend. And while the defense was much better against the Patriots, the team still gave up 27 first downs and 427 yards of offense. The Cardinals play fastbreak football, spreading teams out with four-WR packages, which opens things up for their super-athletic, but diminutive, rookie quarterback, Kyler Murray, as a runner and passer. After struggling early, Arizona’s offense has played much better the past two games. Moreover, the Cardinals’ quarterback and receivers are eyeing New York’s 31st-ranked pass defense, being very familiar with ex-Cardinal Antoine Bethea.

Aside from Murray, who was the first player taken in the draft. The Cardinals still have dangerous weapons. Running back David Johnson is a threat running and catching the football (2nd on the team in receptions with 30, including three receiving touchdowns). Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is still productive, leading the team with 35 catches.

Murray has thrown for over 300 yards in three of his six starts, completing over 64 percent of his passes. He also has rushed for 238 yards, averaging over 6 yards per carry. Historically speaking, these type of mobile quarterbacks have always given the Giants fits. The Cardinals employ the read-option with designed running plays specifically for Murray.

Not to sound like a broken record, but the defense is showing some signs of improvement because the defensive line and edge rushers are playing better. Markus Golden is starting to look like the guy he was in 2016 before he tore up his knee. Dexter Lawrence is really coming on and pushing the pocket. Much now depends on the ability and consistency of inside players such as Alec Ogletree, David Mayo, Jabrill Peppers, and Antoine Bethea. The middle of the defense continues to be the area that burns this team. When they play better, it shows up immediately on the field.

The game plan is fairly obvious. Contain Murray, maintain disciplined rush lanes, even if it negatively affects the pass rush. The secondary will be stressed by the multiple WR sets combined with Murray’s ability to keep plays alive. There will be times when the linebacker or defensive back will have to make an instant judgment as to whether or not to stick to his man in coverage or come up and chase Murray. That’s a dangerous situation.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

With Corey Ballentine out, either Darius Slayton or Cody Latimer will be returning kickoffs. Riley Dixon’s punting has become erratic again.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH

Defensive Coordinator on David Mayo and Jabrill Peppers: “I love what David Mayo has done, I really do. He’s come and worked his tail off. David’s another guy that loves the game. This guy really loves the game, he’s tough, he’s physical. It’s not shade on anybody that’s on our roster anywhere. What it allows us to do is put another DB on the field. I think just going back to what I believe, the more spread they get, the more space the game becomes, the more second level players you want to try and get on the field. I think Jabrill, we know he can do just about anything. It’s just us doing a good job managing the situations and the things we put him in so he can play fast and we don’t slow him down.”

THE FINAL WORD

This is a must-win game for the Giants if the team wants to keep any playoff hopes alive. What will be interesting to watch is if the offense can get back on track and score more than 20-24 points, and see if the defense can build upon their last performance. This is an unusual opponent and the Cardinals’ offense is quite capable of embarrassing this defense.