Dec 072021
 
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Billy Price, New York Giants (December 5, 2021)

Billy Price – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Week 13 brought NYG down to Miami to face off against the Dolphins, a team that started off 1-7. Their defense had taken a huge step back after leading the NFL in turnovers in 2020, their young offensive line was getting torched on a weekly basis, and their quarterback situation was messy because of injuries. However, they came into this one winner of 4 straight and inching their way back into AFC playoff contention. NYG on the other hand was without starting quarterback Daniel Jones thanks to a neck injury and still without 2 of their top 3 receivers, Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney. Two former Bill Belichick disciples from a coaching tree that has had very little success trying to lead their respective teams out of the bottom third of the league and into the top half.

Mike Glennon was under center at the start of the game for the first time with NYG. It was his 28th career start over his 8-year career. He completed his first 8 passes but the biggest play of the 1st quarter came on a deep shot to Darius Slayton into double coverage. One of those 2 defenders was cornerback Xavien Howard, a physical 6’1”/203, sixth-year veteran who leads the NFL in interceptions since 2018. He was the one that came down with the ball. But after review, his long return past midfield was erased. MIA had to start their drive inside their own 5-yard line. MIA went 3-and-out, giving NYG the ball back at the MIA 37-yard line thanks to a 15-yard punt return by Pharoh Cooper.

After reaching the 21, NYG went 3 straight plays without gaining a yard. Kicker Graham Gano then booted one through the uprights for field goal, giving NYG the initial lead. MIA responded with a field goal of their own to tie it up. NYG could not respond with anything of note, and with Kenny Golladay off the field with an injury to his ribs, they were simply trying to play a field position battle.

MIA got the ball back with just over 4 minutes left in the half. They were in a somewhat-hurry up offense heavily consisting of a quick, short passing game. Tua Tagovailoa completed 9 of his first 10 passes, spreading the ball out effectively. He then completed 2 more to end the drive, the second one being a 5-yard touchdown to Mack Hollins with under 30 seconds left in the half. NYG opted to let the clock run out once they got the ball back and MIA went into the half with a 10-3 lead and getting the ball back to start the 3rd quarter.

After a MIA 3-and-out, NYG put together their best drive of the day. Thanks to a pass to Evan Engram and a run by each Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker, NYG gained 57 yards on 3 plays. They got into the red zone with a 1st-and-10, but the worst red zone offense in the NFL gained 1 yard on 3 plays, forcing another field goal attempt. Gano nailed it from 34 yards, making it 10-6.

The two offenses then traded 6 straight punts, with four 3-and-outs. The NYG drive that ended the 3rd quarter was about as ugly as one can create after gaining some momentum. After converting a 3rd-and-7 with a run by Barkley, the wheels fell off and we were quickly reminded what this Giants franchise has become. NYG “earned” a 2nd-and-23 thanks to a sack by rookie Jaelan Phillips; they used a timeout to avoid a delay-of-game penalty, and then Phillips record yet another sack. The final kick between the legs came on a delay-of-game penalty. 3rd and 33. NYG ended up punting by the way.

There was blood in the water and winning teams take advantage of it. Is MIA a winning team? They’re approaching that tier, and even though September + October was a complete nightmare for them, this was the point in the game where NYG seemed most vulnerable. The MIA response would say at least something about them. Tagovailoa went 5/5 on the drive, spreading the ball out to 5 different pass catchers. The final one was a 2-yard touchdown to Isaiah Ford and gave the home team a 17-6 lead.

In today’s NFL, an 11-point lead with over 11:00 left is not near-secure. Unless, of course, the losing team has scored the least number of touchdowns in the NFL and is being led by a backup quarterback with multiple injuries to the skill positions. Glennon was misfiring left and right and the NYG pass protection had a hard time with the blitz-heavy defensive scheme deployed by MIA. They did add 3 points via a 51-yard field goal by Gano to get within 8. However, MIA responded with another 3 points of their own.

This game was all but over as NYG got the ball back with 1:11 left. They got the ball across midfield as MIA softened up the defense. Gano was sent out on a 2nd down to try and get the team within 1 score so they could try an onsides kick + Hail Mary attempt. Gano missed the 56-yarder and MIA then took a knee to end it.

NYG loses 20-9.

QUARTERBACK

-Mike Glennon: 23/44 – 187 yards / 0 TD – 1 INT / 53.9 RAT

Expectations cannot be high for a backup, especially one who has been in the league for 8 years and won’t take anyone by surprise. Especially one who cannot move in space with any sort of fluidity or speed. And especially one who is playing in this kind of offense surrounded by such a poor supporting cast. I said before the game I would be surprised to see this offense put-up double-digit points. Glennon fought an uphill battle but the blame still needs to be put on him. He was downright terrible. He lost track of his timing in the pocket, he missed open receivers, and he was throwing the ball into double coverage. He started off 8-for-8, then went 15-for-36 from there. He is also being evaluated for a concussion.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 11 att – 55 yards / 6 rec – 19 yards

Barkley’s per-touch production was better than what we’ve seen pretty much all year minus the win at New Orleans. The positive mark is that he had multiple solid plays rather than just a lone run that padded the stats. He showed a little more toughness between the tackles, pushing piles and falling forward. However, Barkley still ended with a negative grade here. He dropped 2 passes and allowed 2 pressures. There is so much more to playing running back than breaking off the big play here and there. Barkley appears to fear contact and lack natural skill/fluidity.

-Devontae Booker added 54 yards on 10 touches. He continues to bring the same, if not better, level of play to the offense as Barkley. Something to keep in mind this offseason when looking at the team’s economics.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Kenny Golladay had 3 catches for 37 yards, all of which came in the first half. He was forced off the field for a while because of a minor rib injury, but he insisted on coming back into the game. Admirable effort, but he didn’t do a thing from that moment-on.

-Darius Slayton added 2 drops to his season. He is approaching a 10% drop percentage, one of the worst in the NFL among receivers (3rd in the NFL). Poor against contact, inconsistent hands, and a fragile frame.

-John Ross played under a third of the snaps and received 1 target, a poorly placed ball by Glennon. It may be time for him and Slayton to switch roles.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram had a solid game. His 61 yards were a season high, and he came up with 3 first downs. The one negative was on a deep ball downfield where he turned in the wrong direction while tracking the ball, leading to an incomplete pass on what should have been the biggest offensive gain of the day.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The offensive line was attacked with a blitz heavy game plan by MIA. A lot of extra bodies, a lot of stunts and twists. They, and the backs/tight ends in charge of providing aid, did not respond well. There weren’t any bright spots on the line besides backup Ben Bredeson, who filled in at left guard during the 3rd quarter. He played 30 snaps (just under half) and performed well. I would like to see him more in there. Starter Matt Skura allowed 2 TFL and a pressure during his half of the snaps and offers no upside.

-Nate Solder allowed another 4 pressures and was getting manhandled at the point-of-attack in the running game. Zero push or sustainability led to many of the no-gain rushing attempts. On the other side, Andrew Thomas allowed 1 pressure and 1 sack. A case can be made that Glennon held on to the ball too long on that sack, but Thomas was beat on the play by the rookie Phillips.

-Will Hernandez allowed 2 sacks, both a result of him simply not moving his feet when engaged. We are 57 games into his career, and he still shows zero comprehension of staying home against stunts. Other teams know and exploit it weekly. Billy Price allowed 2 pressures and mightily struggled in the run game.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-It was a quiet day from this group overall. I was expecting more because of how much the young MIA offensive line has struggled all year. Even though they have played better over the past month, Leonard Williams and Austin Johnson especially didn’t make their presence known very often. Yes, the quick passing game hurt NYG’s chances of making a difference up front, but the opportunities that did come their way were not exploited.

-Dexter Lawrence led the group in snaps. That hasn’t happened often and I’m not completely sure why that was the case.

LINEBACKER

-Tae Crowder led the team with 9 tackles and added an untouched pressure. He played solidly in this game; I would say one of the better performances we have seen in his two years. The speed and twitch are a nice add-on to a defense that has the slower guys Reggie Ragland and Benardrick McKinney playing alongside of him.

-Azeez Ojulari and Quincy Roche were the 2 bright spots on defense. They both recorded a sack while Ojulari added a pressure and pass break up. I liked what I saw out of them in run defense as well. They set the edge, got off blocks, and finished plays.

-Throw in the 21 snaps we saw out of Elerson Smith, and this was the best takeaway from the game for me. Smith didn’t produce anything, but I want to see him out there more and more and he did show off some fancy technique work. The movement, suddenness, and pad level further proved in my mind that this guy has a good shot at being a good player. Now we just need to see him on the field instead of Lorenzo Carter.

CORNERBACK

-Rookie Aaron Robinson played every snap. That was nice to see, as it would be a big deal to have a strong idea what NYG has here heading into the offseason. He had 7 tackles and a pass break up. While there were some negatives when it came to his ball skills in general, Robinson is proving he can be what he needs to be. His reaction speed is excellent.

-James Bradberry was beat on two 3rd downs and allowed a touchdown while in zone coverage. He added 2 tackles, one of which was a nice play and big hit. Teams seem to be attacking him more and more underneath and intermediate.

-Jarren Willams saw his first action of the year and performed well. Good lower body movement and burst.

SAFETY

-Logan Ryan was back on the field after missing a couple games wit Covid-19. He made 8 tackles and was solid in coverage. Ryan and Julian Love, who added a pass break up and 2 tackles, are such key assets to a defense that remains playing at a solid level. They just don’t get the attention from most because of how bad this team is.

-Xavier McKinney recorded 6 tackles and a TFL. He allowed a touchdown and was beat on 3rd down once. Not a bad game for him, but he was tricked by Tagovailoa’s eyes a few times. It almost looked like the two knew each other from college or something.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 3/4 (Made 39, 34, 51 / Missed 56)
-P Riley Dixon: 6 punts / 41.3 avg – 36.8 net

3 STUDS

-OLB Azeez Ojulari, OLB Quincy Roche, K Graham Gano

3 DUDS

-OT Nate Solder, OG Will Hernandez, QB Mike Glennon

3 THOUGHTS ON MIA

(1) Can MIA really bounce back from 1-7 and into the playoffs? This is something all fan bases should keep in mind. Sure, a rough start creates very low odds of moving on to the postseason, but these things happen. As short as a football season seems in contrast to other sports, a lot can and does change after October. Miami went 10-6 last year and is now 6-7 in the middle of a 5-game winning streak. They have a bye followed by a game against the Jets (3-9) and Saints (5-game losing streak). An easy slate of games along with confidence that they know how to win games combine for something very noteworthy to say the least.

(2) What can we make of Tua Tagovailoa? His first 2 years have been cloudy partially because of injuries and a coaching staff that yanked him back and forth for a bit. When breaking him down, there doesn’t appear to be a “wow” factor with his arm. He is an average athlete at best. He isn’t very big. But what I like here is the accuracy he has short and intermediate. He shows tremendous touch, he throws catchable balls. I wouldn’t call him a sure thing yet, but I feel safe with Tagovailoa at the helm. He has created the most from a poor overall offensive situation in Miami.

(3) What is the key to the Miami turnaround? Two things in my opinion. Their defense is forcing turnovers like they did in 2020. They have forced 11 of them over their last 5 weeks. They had forced just 9 in the previous 8 games. Second, their young offensive line is maturing. Right tackle Jesse Davis was signed to the Practice Squad in 2016. Besides that, all 4 starters were drafted in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd rounds over the past 3 years. It hasn’t been all positive, however. Their line was atrocious early in the year, similar to what NYG has been showing. Patience and development paid off, however, and they are clicking at the right time for a cheap price.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) Is there anything to take away from MIA that can apply to NYG and their short-term future? Their head coach is from the Belichick family. They’re under .500 since the transition. They have a quarterback under a rookie contract. They’ve used multiple offensive coordinators. Their offensive line has been awful. They’ve had a hard time scoring points. There are a few deeper, more detailed analytic-type similarities between the two, but I will stop there. The point is the gap between these 2 teams is minuscule at the same time as it is enormous. Much discussion in the coming months will center on how NYG can improve the team. This will come down to the draft. Over the past 4 drafts, MIA has derived big time results. I would subjectively say they have hit on 22 out of 36 picks. More importantly, they’ve hit on all 16 selections from rounds 1-3. Success rates above 66% in that tier is considered good. Regardless of who leads the Giants next year, the emphasis must be on improved drafting. It can turn around fast if that is the case. Organic growth.

(2) I write this just a few hours after the Patriots won in Buffalo using 3, yes 3, total passes in the entire game. The weather dictated the approach, obviously. But NE went into a hostile environment against a top 5-defense, a top 5-run defense in particular. They ran it 46 times. I watched this game and naturally reflected further on NYG. Even though the game has changed a lot even within my lifetime (I’m only 35), the ability to pound the ball with the running game is still the most economic and safest way to play football. NYG won’t ever run the ball without 3, maybe even 4 new starters on this offensive line. I already have some thoughts in relation to how this organization needs to build for 2022 and beyond, but I will let the rest of the year play out first. However, I will say this right now: if this team wants to succeed and get on track, their draft resources noted above need to be thrown into this position group. Over and over.

(3) Looking forward, NYG has games against 4 teams with credible playoff chances. They’ll be underdogs in all of them (not including the game vs Chicago). These teams will be hungry and much of football revolves around collective effort and desire. NYG will be overmatched on paper, but I am looking for who will be playing hard and who hustles for all 60 minutes. I am old fashioned in that regard. It means something to me and it should mean something to whomever builds this team’s future. Between that and the young guys, there is a ton to watch and look for. The guys I am most excited to watch are Elerson Smith, Aaron Robinson, Xavier McKinney, Andrew Thomas, Azeez Ojulari, and Kadarius Toney. They can be a huge part of the turnaround but the on-field play and passion for the game need to be demonstrated at a high level.

Dec 032021
 
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Chris Myarick, New York Giants (November 28, 2021)

Chris Myarick – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
The New York Giants defeated the hated Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday. That would normally be a source of great joy but fans came away largely unimpressed. Not only did the offense score only 13 points, but the Giants were a Jalen Reagor catch away from one of the more devastating losses in a rivalry that is filled with devastating losses. The Giants forced a turnover, got the ball back near midfield with 1:34 left on the clock, and still almost lost the game. Imagine the fallout from that potential catastrophe!

After a 1-5 start to the season, the Giants have gone 3-2 over the course of the last five games. The W-L-W-L-W results have team fans alternating between tepid hope and apathetic despair. Nevertheless, because of the sorry state of the NFL playoff race, the Giants are still alive. Can the Giants go 5-1 or 4-2 in the last five games? Probably not, but there is still a glimmer of hope. The Giants must beat the 5-7 Miami Dolphins. With teams like the Chargers and Cowboys coming up, the wiggle room is gone.

THE INJURY REPORT:
Two weeks removed from the bye week and the Giants are still one beat up team.

  • QB Daniel Jones (neck – out)
  • FB Cullen Gillaspia (calf – questionable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (quad – doubtful)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (oblique/quad – doubtful)
  • WR John Ross (illness/quad – questionable)
  • TE Kyle Rudolph (ankle- questionable)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – out)
  • OT Nate Solder (elbow – questionable)
  • LB Trent Harris (ankle – out)
  • CB Adoree’ Jackson (quad – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
On losing teams, fairly or unfairly, the two most reviled individuals are almost always the head coach and quarterback. After a promising rookie season, Daniel Jones has opened himself up to immense criticism as the quarterback of a team that struggles to put points on the board and win games. Now for the third year in a row, Jones is out with an injury. Joe Judge has not definitively said if he will return this year. Enter Mike Glennon, who holds a lousy 6-21 record as a starting quarterback (Jones is an almost equally lousy 12-25). Daniel Jones’ detractors eagerly await to see if the quarterback change will cause any sort of offensive improvement from a team that is currently averaging a pathetic 18 points per game.

(Quick aside, if Jones is done for the season, the team can’t feel good about its quarterback situation entering 2022. Combine that with Saquon Barkley’s productivity falling off a cliff and 2021 is turning out to be a worst-case scenario disaster for the franchise).

A month ago, Miami was 1-7. Today they are 5-7. Some will question the caliber of competition, but a 4-game winning streak is impressive in today’s mediocre NFL environment. The Dolphins are hot, and much of that is due to their aggressive, blitz-heavy defense. Indeed, Miami leads the NFL in blitzes. This is going to put tremendous pressure on New York’s struggling offensive line and a starting running back (Barkley) who doesn’t do well picking up the blitz. It doesn’t help that Kadarius Toney (a perfect blitz-beating weapon) is most likely out yet again. Slot receiver Sterling Shepard is likely to miss another game too.

The Miami game plan seems pretty obvious. As bad as Barkley has been in running the ball this year, they have to come into this game concentrating on him and forcing Mike Glennon to beat them. I expect Miami’s defense to stack the line of scrimmage, give Barkley no room to operate, and blitz the heck out of Glennon. They know New York can’t block and that Glennon has thrown 27 interceptions in 27 starts.

How do you beat the blitz? Screen passes to Barkley. Quick slants to the wideouts. If the protection holds up, take your shots on one-on-one match-ups down the field. This is where Kenny Golladay, John Ross, and Darius Slayton could make an impact. But it comes down to protection. Furthermore, Miami is tied with the Giants in forcing 19 turnovers this year. Protect the football.

One more aside, for those who missed it, watch Offensive Coach Rob Sale describe why Matt Peart isn’t playing right tackle in this video, starting at the 21:15 mark. Sales’ facial expressions tell the story. The Giants came into 2021 hoping that Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Will Hernandez, and Matt Peart would be the future. Lemieux missed the season with a knee injury and remains an unknown. Gates suffered a potentially career-altering leg fracture. In his fourth season, Hernandez has only proven to be an incredibly inconsistent player who can’t be completely relied upon. And the Giants’ offensive line coach all but called Peart a “pussy.” In other words, the Giants are no further along on their offensive line rebuild than they were a decade ago with the exception of Andrew Thomas. The next GM of the Giants may be forced to spend both 1st-round picks on an OL-rich offensive line draft.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Patrick Graham’s defense won the game last week. It may sound over-the-top picky to complain, but I am still not thrilled with his defense’s play at the end of halves. A bad throw by Jalen Hurts saved New York at the end of the first half, and two drops by Jalen Reagor saved the team at the end of the game. Finish must be the mantra moving forward.

Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (a lefty) has missed four games this year. The Dolphins are 3-4 with him starting. His best football has come in the last two games where Miami has scored 57 combined points. RPO and play-action is a big part of Miami’s offense and Tagovailoa gets rid of the ball quickly, preferring the short game. Much of this is a reflection of a bad offensive line, which has allowed too much pressure. The Dolphins also struggle to run the ball, with only the Texans averaging less yards per game. Turnovers are also a problem for Miami, as they have 20 on the year (the Giants have 14 by comparison).

The most dangerous weapon on the team is rookie wideout Jaylen Waddle. He’s been target 103 times on the season, catching 77 passes and four touchdowns. He’s an incredibly quick and fast player who can run by defenders, but the emphasis on the short passing game is highlighted that Waddle is still averaging less than 10 yards per catch. Don’t be lulled by that figure. Also highlighting the dink-and-dunk nature of this offense is that the other primary targets are tight end Mike Gesicki (52 catches on 79 targets) and running back Myles Gaskin (43 catches on 54 targets). The Dolphins will also throw to back-up tight end Durham Smythe.

Bad news is that Adoree’ Jackson and Darnay Holmes (on IR) are out. Good news is that Logan Ryan is back and Aaron Robinson is coming off a strong game. Nevertheless, the Giants are down to James Bradberry, Robinson, and Keion Crossen at corner. Ryan and Julian Love will probably have to play some corner in this game, particularly Love in the slot.

In a nutshell, as long as the Giants stay disciplined with the RPO and play-action and don’t give up the big play to Waddle, this is an offense that they should be able to mostly keep in check. Tagovailoa gets rid of the ball quickly, making it hard to get pressure, but this is an offensive line that can have issues in pass protection. We may see a good game from some of the Giants’ pass rushers. That said, the underneath coverage against the backs and tight ends is key. The Giants still very much miss Blake Martinez.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Riley Dixon is an overpaid, underperforming punter. In general, Giants’ special teams are not hurting them this year, but they aren’t winning games either. Joe Judge did mention this week that the Dolphins like to run gadget plays on special teams.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Line Coach Rob Sale on what Matt Peart needs to do to improve:Go out there and put your hands around somebody’s neck and freaking choke ‘em. Plain and simple.

THE FINAL WORD:
The season is on the line. The Giants either improve to 5-7 or fall to 4-8 with five games left. It’s up to them.

Teams often will rally around the back-up quarterback for a game or two. It will be interesting to see how Glennon performs.

Nov 302021
 
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Tae Crowder, New York Giants (November 28, 2021)

Tae Crowder – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The 5-5 PHI Eagles, winners of 3 of their past 4, traveled up the turnpike to take on a 3-7 Giants team that hadn’t won since November 7. The division foes split their matchups against one another in 2020, both have a very unsure quarterback situation, and both can’t seem to get over the hump into credible NFC playoff contention. PHI and NYG are both removed from the basement tier of the NFL, but they also both have had a hard time putting together consistent performances on either sides of the ball. PHI entered the game on the NFC playoff bubble, while NYG was on a downward slope on a short week after getting dismantled by Tampa Bay the previous Monday night.

Without receivers Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard in addition to tight end Kyle Rudolph, the NYG offense yet again came out less than full strength. It began with a 3-and-out, but PHI responded with the same. NYG’s second drive with new play caller Freddie Kitchens (who took over after the Jason Garrett firing) resulted in 3 points. In just two short drives, one could easily notice a key difference in the Giants’ offense. They were using more pre-snap motion, a common and well-known shortcoming in the Garrett-era. Graham Gano ended the drive with a 35-yard field goal.

PHI got into NYG territory on their next drive. On the first play in the red zone, a 3rd-and-5 from the NYG 20, Jalen Hurts threw an interception over the middle to Darnay Holmes. 11 games into the 2021 season and NYG has forced at least one turnover in all of them. It was Holmes’ second interception of his young career. NYG was not able to convert the turnover into points, as Gano missed a 51-yard field goal attempt. Hurts followed that with 2 more incomplete passes, leading to another PHI 3-and-out.

Saquon Barkley opened the next NYG drive with a 32-yard run. The passing game gained 23 yards combined on the following 2 plays and NYG’s momentum was in full swing. After a Devontae Booker 6-yard run, NYG was 1st-and-10 from the PHI 26. But the ugliness of this offense reared its head yet again. A 1-yard loss on a Barkley run, a holding penalty on Andrew Thomas, a 3-yard loss on a Barkley run, and an incomplete pass to Evan Engram brought out the NYG punt unit. Another scoring opportunity down the drain.

PHI started with the ball on their own 7-yard line. They used 14 plays, just one of which was a 3rd down, to reach the NYG 1 yard line. With :08 left in the half, Hurts threw his second red-zone interception of the half into the hands of linebacker Tae Crowder. That, along with 2 holding penalties by center Nate Herbig (in for the injured Jason Kelce) put NYG on the other side of end-of-half debacles for a change. PHI went into the half scoreless much thanks to their own doing.

The PHI running game began the second half with 35 yards on 3 carries. From there, Hurts threw two poor incomplete passes with PHI just needing 2 yards for a first down. They turned it over on downs, giving NYG their first possession of the second half just 9 yards away from midfield. Jones looked crisp and sure on the drive and for the first time, NYG got inside the PHI 10-yard line. The last-ranked red zone offense in the league has been, in my opinion, the biggest issue with this offense. More than the leaky offensive line, more than the banged-up skill positions, more than the up-and-down quarterback performances. Playoff teams put points on the board when they get inside the 20. Super Bowl contenders score touchdowns the majority of their red-zone trips. NYG hasn’t been doing either at an even above average rate since 2014. That was Odell Beckham’s rookie year (arguably his best season of his career).

Thanks to a 3rd-down pass interference penalty on PHI corner Steven Nelson, NYG had a fresh set of downs from the PHI 1. 1st down play-action has been a huge benefit for this offense and that is where they turned to here. Tight end Chris Myarick, who was cut by Miami in August and signed to the NYG practice squad in September, caught a pass in the end zone after nearly dropping it to the turf. The ball missed the ground by mere inches but nonetheless, NYG had the 10-0 lead.

On the second play of the next PHI drive, Hurts tried to throw the ball downfield to Jalen Reagor. Budding star safety Xavier McKinney broke on the ball, clearly had the best track to it from the beginning, and intercepted his 5th pass of the season. He is tied for third in the NFL and for the most by a safety in that department. The PHI offense looked helpless. NYG could not capitalize, however, as their initial offensive play after the turnover was a whopping 13-yard loss on a reverse rushing attempt by Darius Slayton.

With Hurts unable to get anything going with his arm, PHI almost exclusively went with the running game. As the contest entered the 4th quarter, PHI gained all 66 yards of their drive on the ground. Hurts threw the ball once, the opening play of the drive which fell incomplete. Boston Scott ran it in for a 1-yard touchdown. Scott now has 11 career touchdowns, 7 of which have come against NYG.

The lead was just 3 points. NYG went 3-and-out and PHI had the ball back. If it wasn’t known already, this one was going to come down to NYG’s defensive performance. They had to play all 4 quarters here, not just a half. Their lone sack of the day came at the right time on a 3rd-and-4 from midfield. PHI opted to punt, giving NYG the ball back at their own 9-yard line with just over 10 minutes left.

NYG’s best drive of the game ensued. 12 plays, 7:22 of game clock, and 3 points via a 39-yard field goal by Gano was the end result. Jones completed all 6 of his initial passes on this drive, using 4 different receivers and showing precise accuracy. These were key moments, some of these throws were into tight windows, and it was when the plays counted most. Jones did throw an incomplete on the final 3rd-and-7 prior to the field goal.

PHI got the ball back twice in the closing three minutes. That first drive ended in a Scott fumble, caused by Dexter Lawrence and recovered by Julian Love. The final drive did bring them within striking distance of a game-winning touchdown. Two plays resulted in drops by 2020 first rounder Jalen Reagor, the second one being on 4th-and-10 which led to an NYG kneel down the play after.

NYG wins 13-7.

QUARTERBACK

Daniel Jones: 19/30 – 202 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 94.0 RAT

Jones also added 30 yards on 9 rushing attempts. Make no mistake about it, this was another horrid offensive day for the Giants when taking a step back and looking at the big picture. 264 yards of offense, 4.6 yards per play are bottom of the barrel. There were a few things that went wrong, but I think Jones was one of the main reasons this team won. Was it a standout performance? No. But he went 11/16 in the 2nd half and a near-essential 6/7 on the final drive that resulted in points to put NYG up by more than a field goal. He made a few tough throws and stood in the pocket strong, showing awareness and toughness with quality footwork.

RUNNING BACK

Saquon Barkley: 13 att – 40 yards / 4 rec – 13 yards

32 of Barkley’s 40 rushing yards came on one play. That one play is similar to why bad golfers always keep going back for another round. That one play, that one drive off the tee, somehow makes it easy to forget that pretty much every other play (or swing) was a disaster. I stand strong on the observation that his running style has changed, he has more stiffness in his lower half than I’ve ever seen since 2018, and there is too much mental hesitation that causes a lack of vision. That said, he was contacted behind the line of scrimmage on 6 of his 13 carries, 3 of which were untouched by a blocker. You can’t succeed in that environment. We still don’t know what #26 is.

WIDE RECEIVER

-No Shepard, no Toney yet again. Shepard has missed six games this year; Toney has missed two (and two of Toney’s other nine games included less than six  snaps in each). Combined, they have played under half of the team’s offensive snaps.

-Kenny Golladay led the team with 7 targets. He ended the day with 50 yards on 3 catches, all of which resulted in a 1st down. The team took 2 shots into the zone at him. Both were low-success rate, fade-type passes. I would love for NYG to get more creative with him in the red zone. Simply lofting the ball in the air and hoping he can end up on the right end of a 50/50 ball rarely works. Inside the 5, it is actually one of the lowest-success rate plays, historically speaking.

-John Ross and Darius Slayton, the two deep threats, combined for 5 catches / 68 yards. Just over 13 yards per clip which is not considered deep, at all. The issue here is the offensive line cannot be trusted to have these two run deep routes. That part of the route tree takes time to progress to and because of that, we aren’t seeing what these guys can actually offer with their skill sets.

TIGHT END

-Chris Myarick had one career target coming into this game. He doubled that number, catching both on similar play-action plays where he had to sell the idea he was staying in to block. Both receptions were huge plays and one resulted in a touchdown. They combined for just 11 yards, but both were huge plays.

-Evan Engram had 3 catches for 37 yards and a drop. Both tight ends allowed a TFL in the running game when they were matched up against defensive ends.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Excellent bounce back performance by Will Hernandez, a game after the worst performance of his career in Tampa Bay. It was quietly a dominant grade, as I had zero negative notes on him. Not one.

-Matt Skura and Billy Price were beat up inside. Both are poor athletes and the PHI front seven exposed their limitations. Skura allowed 2 pressures, Price allowed one. The biggest red flag was their lack of push in the running game. They were stood up and/or driven back in the power game and they (Price especially) could not reach their gap assignments on outside zone runs. It is such a deterrent to the running game.

-Andrew Thomas allowed a pressure and was flagged for a hold. He did allow a sack late, but I did not dock him on my personal bookkeeping because it was a play where Jones opted to take that sack to keep the clock moving. Another positive game grade for the second-year tackle.

-Nate Solder had the worst grade of the group. He allowed 2 pressures and 2 TFL. More on this below but to sum it up, I don’t think anybody thinks Solder can play anymore. And that is a bigger indictment on Peart than it is Solder.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Leonard Williams led the way with 4 tackles and 4 pressures. An active game for him even though he couldn’t seal the deal as a pass rusher. He hasn’t had a sack since 11/1 vs KC.

-Dexter Lawrence may be one of the more volatile players on the team. He needs to get to, and stay at, nose tackle. His lack of range showed up against the PHI outside zone running game. He also wasn’t much of a presence as a pass rusher. Lawrence did record 1 pressure and his forced fumble was an enormous play. But one can make the case that the bad is outweighing the good this season and I think at least a part of it is the fact he is out of position.

-Austin Johnson added 4 tackles and split the lone sack on the day with Julian Love. Danny Shelton was on the field for just 9 snaps and didn’t do much. He was out of position on the Darnay Holmes interception return, which led to the cornerback taking a huge hit that could have been avoided. Not a smart player and I am pretty sure that is why Bill Belichick got rid of him.

LINEBACKER

-Again, the biggest culprit in PHI’s running game success revolved around this group. They averaged 6.3 yards per carry and the success was spread out among pretty much everyone who carried the ball. In fact, if I am a PHI fan, I am most perturbed by PHI not running it even more than they did, and their ratio was basically a 50/50 split! That doesn’t happen much anymore.

-Tae Crowder had 6 tackles and an interception and Reggie Ragland had 5 tackles with a TFL. Doesn’t look like a bad day in the box score but the All-22 tape says otherwise.

-Lorenzo Carter was back on the field after missing a few games. He split duties with Quincy Roche but saw slightly more playing time. Had 1 tackle and 1 pressure. His presence when it came to setting the edge was much better than Roche, who really struggled in that department and made no impact as a pass rusher. Azeez Ojulari added 5 tackles and was active in pursuit. Things are clicking a bit better with him mentally and even though the pass-rush impact hasn’t been there in a few weeks, I am seeing encouraging signs there. I bet he has a big game soon.

CORNERBACK

-Adoree’ Jackson was lost early in the 2nd quarter with a quad injury. The story here is that it opened the door for more playing time for rookie Aaron Robinson. In my opinion, playing corner as a rookie in the NFL is one of the most difficult tasks in football. Robinson responded in a big way. He had 6 tackles, 2 PD (1 of which on 4th down), and added a pressure. He was all over the field and looked sticky short and intermediate. Now, he was the beneficiary of poor WR play from PHI on 2 occasions and he did get beat on 3rd down twice, but this was a highly-encouraging performance for a corner that, remember, NYG traded up for.

-Darnay Holmes stepped up as well. He had an interception in the red zone and provided quality deep coverage against both Devonta Smith and Jalen Reagor, both credible deep threats. I like how he showed he can play the outside and even though there are, and likely always will be, slight skill-set issues in coverage, I continue to admire the way he plays when it comes to his aggression and physical nature.

-James Bradberry had a quiet game. 3 tackles and was rarely targeted, allowing just 2 short completions.

SAFETY

-Xavier McKinney is the budding star, not just on this team, but in the entire league at the safety position. Watching the All-22 tape further confirmed my notion on him. He is making reads earlier than most, he is baiting quarterbacks already, and the burst to the ball is something to see. Get excited about him, NYG fans. This is real.

-Logan Ryan was out with Covid again, and Julian Love stepped in without letting the defense skip a beat. While the talent level may not be overly noteworthy, this kid is savvy and smart. When you want to teach how important gap-assignment football is, Love’s tape can be used as an example. He is where he needs to be at all times and he creates plays from it. He had 4 tackles, a half-sack, a PD, and a fumble recovery. His versatility is such a key part to the defense as a whole.

-J.R. Reed had 5 tackles and looked more comfortable in his second sizable chunk of action with NYG. He made a key stop at the goal line.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/3 (Made 35, 39; missed 51)
-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 39.2 avg – 35.6 net. Terrible game for him.

3 STUDS

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

3 DUDS

-OT Nate Solder, OG Matt Skura, LB Reggie Ragland

3 THOUGHTS ON PHI

(1) I labeled Jalen Hurts a career backup when he came out. He is a dangerous player because of how much he can do with his legs and there is indeed arm talent, but my notes on him centered around a lack of true feel in the pocket and very inconsistent accuracy. Hurts has only started 16 games and what he had to work with down the stretch last season was as bad as it gets. The jury is still out. Even though there are flashes, and he does have talent, I don’t see him being a guy to build around in a passing league. Ideal backup who can still win games if the #1 guy goes down, but nothing more. Carson Wentz looks good in Indy, by the way.

(2) Another draft blunder by Eagles GM Howie Roseman? Wide receiver Jalen Reagor was drafted 1 slot ahead of Justin Jefferson. How on earth did that happen? They weren’t close in my eyes. I had Jefferson stacked at #5 on the position stack and even that was probably too low. I had Reagor at #13. What a whiff that was! Reagor impressed during workouts with speed and jumping, but his tape was pretty poor all things considered when looking at 1st-round grades. His 2 drops were awful, yes. But his routes and ball tracking were even worse. This was on tape at TCU for all to see, too.

(3) Let’s not count these guys out. We’ve seen the song and dance before. They do have a couple of quality wins as of late (@ DEN, NO) and an attractive schedule coming up. But the one thing that makes me hesitate to nail their coffin shut is how effective they are on both sides of the ball when it comes to the running game. They’re 2nd in yards-per-carry and they’re 6th in yards-per-carry allowed. That fares well in December/January. I also think their pass rush can take over games when they’re clicking.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) How is Matt Peart not playing? He clearly presents more upside than Nate Solder. I say that because there is no upside with Solder. He cannot beat NFL defenders on any sort of consistent basis, and this is known across the entire league. I have a different angle here. I don’t think it is on the coaching staff, I think it is solely on Peart. He hasn’t proven enough in practice, he may not know assignments, and I don’t think he has the edge that the staff wants. I have some background on Peart and I will just say that he doesn’t have a burning desire to go in there and compete. That shows up eventually, it cannot be hidden. I think that is why we are seeing Solder instead.

(2) Let’s collectively tip our cap to the defense for getting right. PHI averaged 34.5 points over the previous 4 games. They scored 44 at DET, 24 vs LAC, 40 vs NO, and 30 @DEN. Holding a team under 10 points in the NFL is incredibly rare and to do it against an offense that came in red hot is even more impressive. Starting with the win vs CAR on October 24, NYG is averaging 15.2 points allowed per game. The best defense in the NFL allows 15.8 per game on the year. Imagine what could be if this team gets a credible pass rusher or two!

(3) NYG has another game coming up against a team that is hot. Miami started off 1-7, much thanks to a defense that wasn’t forcing turnovers at the rate they were in 2020 and a quarterback injury situation that caused a ton of disruption to the offensive flow. Lastly, they have the worst OL in football. However, they have now won 4 in a row. They have plenty of momentum, and Tua Tagovailoa is playing smart, efficient quarterback. 3 of the 4 wins in a row were against HOU, NYJ, and CAR. While that is almost as easy as it gets, they’re playing with more confidence. But NYG needs to separate themselves from teams like this. MIA is not bottom of the barrel, but they aren’t a good team either. The NYG defense won’t have any excuse here. They need to keep them under 17 points, no question. And time for these NYG skill players to get on the field and step up.

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

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

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

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

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

THE INJURY REPORT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giants lose, 30-10.

QUARTERBACK

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

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

RUNNING BACK

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

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

WIDE RECEIVER

-Kadarius Toney: 7 rec / 40 yards

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

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

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

TIGHT END

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

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

OFFENSIVE LINE

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

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

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

DEFENSIVE LINE

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

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

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

LINEBACKER

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

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

CORNERBACK

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

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

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

SAFETY

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

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

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

SPECIAL TEAMS

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

3 STUDS

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

3 DUDS

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

3 THOUGHTS ON TB

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

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

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

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE INJURY REPORT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quincy Roche – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NYG wins 23-16.

See you in 2 weeks.

QUARTERBACK

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

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

RUNNING BACK

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

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

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

WIDE RECEIVER

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

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

TIGHT END

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

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

OFFENSIVE LINE

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

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

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

DEFENSIVE LINE

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

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

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

LINEBACKERS

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

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

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

CORNERBACK

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

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

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

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

SAFETY

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

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

SPECIAL TEAMS

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

3 STUDS

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

3 DUDS

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

3 THOUGHTS ON LV

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

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

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

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE INJURY REPORT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Ross – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NYG loses 20-17.

QUARTERBACK

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

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

RUNNING BACK

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

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

WIDE RECEIVER

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

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

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

TIGHT END

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

OFFENSIVE LINE

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

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

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

DEFENSIVE LINE

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

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

LINEBACKERS

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

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

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

CORNERBACK

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

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

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

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

SAFETY

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

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

SPECIAL TEAMS

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

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

3 STUDS

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

3 DUDS

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

3 THOUGHTS ON KC

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

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

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

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE INJURY REPORT:

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

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

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

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

I want to briefly discuss three issues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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