Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports
New York Jets 34 – New York Giants 27
This “battle for New York” had a lot less to do with bragging rights, a lot less to do with potential playoff spots, and more to do with where these two bottom feeders were going to land in the 2020 NFL Draft order. When this game was scheduled, this one had the look of a lot of potential. Two young QBs. The number 2 and number 3 pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, I could go on. But let’s call this for what it really was: a game that had about as much excitement surrounding it as their annual preseason match-up, a game that meant nothing for either team when it came to the 2019 playoffs.
The Giants were without Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram in addition to two starting offensive linemen, Mike Remmers and Jon Halapio. Even with that, they were the “road” favorite against a Jets team that has some of the worst football on tape in the NFL this season. They have a QB who had 10 turnovers in 5 games. They have a head coach who seems in way over his head. They have a depleted secondary and one of the worst group of pass rushers you can find. This was slated to be a win, right? Ha, come on now, these are the 2019 New York Giants you are talking about.
NYJ began the game with a 13-play, 75-yard drive touchdown scoring drive after they converted a 3rd-and-11 and also a 3rd-and-1 via an offsides penalty by Markus Golden. The Giants responded with a 3-and-out on their initial drive, with the last play being a sack allowed by Saquon Barkley (his third of the season) and fumble by Jones that did not end up as a turnover.
The Jets then scored a second touchdown in as many drives, this time making veteran leaders Alec Ogletree and Antoine Bethea appear to be stuck in mud as Jamison Crowder ran right by them and into the end zone. It is a hard sell to convince anyone they were actually stuck in mud however, because well, they were playing on turf and it hadn’t rained in a few days. No, they weren’t stuck in mud, they were simply outclassed. NYJ took a 14-0 lead in the first 13 minutes of the game. NYJ came into this game averaging 12 points PER GAME and ranked dead last in offensive yards. This was the third time in four weeks that NYG allowed two touchdowns in the 1st quarter. To be honest, that is hard to do.
Even though it was still considered early in the game, NYG had a sense of urgency on the next drive. Thanks to poor defensive back play and a couple of NYJ penalties, NYG was able to push the ball and score their first touchdown of the game, a pass from Daniel Jones to Darius Slayton. After a statement-drive on defense, NYG had the ball back at their own 39-yard line. Left tackle Nate Solder left the game with a concussion, making it now the majority of the offensive line on the sidelines. NYG was faced with a 4th-and-4 and this was a turning point in the game. Jones found Slayton on a quick slant where he showed elite-level footwork that actually caused the cornerback to fall similar to what Allen Iverson did to defenders with his crossover in the hardwood. Slayton caught the uncontested pass and then used his 4.4 speed in combination with poor pursuit angles by NYJ to make his way to the end zone for a 39-yard score. A poor snap caused the PAT attempt to turn into punter Riley Dixon chucking it into the end zone, thus the Giants remained down 1.
The half ended on a NYJ missed 54-yard field goal attempt and then Daniel Jones getting sacked on 3rd-and-4 from midfield. It was a back-and-forth half between two bad teams and the margin was a one-point deficit for NYG.
The opening drive of the second half, the drive that many coaches say is the most important of the game, lasted three plays. On 3rd-and-1, Jones was sacked by Jamal Adams at the hands of Barkley yet again but this time Adams stripped the ball and returned it for a touchdown. Another lost fumble for Jones, his league leading 10th of the year. Another allowed sack for Barkley, his fourth of the year which also leads the league for backs.
The Giants were able to take advantage of poor NYJ secondary play yet again, as they turned a wide receiver screen to Golden Tate into a 61-yard score on 3rd-and-9. If we didn’t know any better, it almost appeared both teams were putting in their best effort to lose. That notion was strengthened after the score, as Tate was called for pass interference on the 2-point attempt which forced NYG into going for the extra point. That extra point attempt was missed by Aldrick Rosas, his third miss of the year, a season after he missed just one FIELD GOAL last year.
The NYG offense stayed hot, as they put another touchdown on the board via a 15-yard pitch-and-catch to Tate. The Giants offense was hot and the momentum was clearly on their side. They lengthened their lead to 27-21 on a successful 2-point attempt to Bennie Fowler from Jones. The momentum didn’t last long, however.
The Jets put 3 points on the board on their next drive and forced NYG into a 3-and-out as the battle in the trenches was becoming more and more laughable. The Jets then got to the 1-yard line thanks to a Deandre Baker 33-yard pass interference, his second penalty of the day. Le’Veon Bell powered his way into the end zone and just like that, the lead turned into a 4-point deficit.
The NYG offense continued to sputter, punting the ball back to the 32nd-ranked offense in the league, just to see that 32nd-ranked offense in the league march downfield and put another 3 points on the board. It was 34-27 with just over 7 minutes left. The Giants offense couldn’t even think about being aggressive, as the offensive line completely fell apart and Jones could barely reach the end of his drop back before having to evade pressure. The defense did get the ball back twice via stout run defense but it didn’t matter.
Giants lose, 34-27.
-Daniel Jones: 26/40 – 308 yards – 4 TD/0 INT – 121.7 QBR. Jones added 20 yards on 3 carries. When looking at the passing numbers, one could argue this was the top performance have seen out of Jones this season. He, however, did fumble 2 more times, losing one. The lost fumble resulted in a NYJ defensive score. Jones is hard to truly evaluate right now because the offensive line is so poor and the running game is non-existent. He is making all of the simple throws, and I am not undermining that. He is doing so consistently, rarely does he miss, and I would peg “simple throws” at about 80% of the NFL’s passing plays and there are QBs that struggle with them more than you think. Jones’ toughness on his 3rd-and-10 run and in the pocket against the NYJ physical front 5 stood out. A nice game for him but man, those damn fumbles.
-Saquon Barkley: 13 att / 1 yard – 5 rec / 20 yards. That isn’t a typo, by the way. Barkley, the supposed foundation of this offense, the 2018 Draft’s 2nd overall pick, the 2018 Rookie of the Year, accrued 1 yard on 13 carries. He had defenders at his feet the instant he touched the ball on almost every carry, he was hesitant when was able to reach the line of scrimmage, and he couldn’t break any tackles. This running game is a complete mess on every level and they tried to throw the ball in space for him one time. The result? A 22-yard gain. Barkley allowed two more sacks and a pressure. We can now rightfully say he is a liability in pass protection. Just terrible.
-Darius Slayton: 10 rec / 121 yards / 2 TD. If there is one bright spot of the 2019 season, it is the Jones-to-Slayton connection. Slayton looked like a complete player out there and it is fun to see his fast-track progression. His route running made a cornerback fall on two occasions and he forced two penalties with his explosion out of his breaks. He also showed strength and presence when attacking the ball with a defender on his back twice. Excellent game from him and he looks like a keeper at this point.
-Golden Tate: 4 rec / 95 yards / 2 TD. The more I see Tate, the more I want him around. I know, easy to say after a 2-touchdown game and there are limitations to his game. But I think it is important to have a guy who can make adjustments and quick decisions on the fly. He knows the game exceptionally well, just a really good situational player who plays and thinks fast. He should never be a number one or even a number two target for a team in the passing game, but if he is your three or four, he can be big time.
-Rhett Ellison: 3 Rec / 42 yards. A quiet game for Ellison, but he did have a 31-yard reception. I also wanted to note he had a few key blocks that resulted in big plays and/or touchdowns. He is really effective in space as a blocker, but not so much in the trenches.
-Kaden Smith, an UDFA who was signed off the SF practice squad, was on the field for 41 snaps to help with the blocking, but he didn’t perform well there. He allowed a TFL and a pressure. Smith graded out as one of the top run blocking TEs in the draft last year and it goes to show the jump in levels it takes to handle NFL defenders from college kids.
-I want to start with the undrafted right tackle Nick Gates, who was in for the injured Mike Remmers. If you have been reading my reports, you know that I have been down on Remmers and don’t think he belongs on the field as a starter even on a bad team. Gates, grade wise, wasn’t any worse. He is notably more athletic with more twitch and initial pop. He did allow a sack and a pressure and got pushed around as a bit in the running game, but it wasn’t anything different that what we have seen from Remmers. Let the kid play there the rest of the season.
-Nate Solder went down early with a concussion. He was replaced with Eric Smith, formerly of the Jets practice squad. He never played a snap at left tackle in practice. Smith has been here since early September and he entered the game as the backup left tackle. I repeat, this coaching staff hasn’t given him one snap at the position in any of the practices. Not one. And he was in charge of protecting the blind side of their rookie QB. Smith allowed 3 sacks, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure. Awful game and yes, he is worse than Solder.
-Inside was a mess too. Spencer Pulley, who Pat Shurmur has called a “starting center in this league” multiple times over the past two years, played awful. If there was one culprit for Barkley gaining 1 yard in this game, it was Pulley. I had a hard time believing what I was seeing when it came to how hard it was for him to maintain blocks. He allowed a TFL, a pressure, and a sack. He also forced Barkley into changing his direction in the backfield upon getting the ball multiple times. He doesn’t belong in the league.
-Guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler, the two best lineman on this team, didn’t have their best games. Hernandez is not progressing. He hasn’t gotten any better from his rookie season. He allowed 2 TFL and had a sack wiped off his stat sheet because of a questionable Jets holding call in the secondary. Zeitler was the only player on this line who was above average grade wise, but even he wasn’t getting a push in the running game. Too much give.
-Solid game for Markus Golden besides his bonehead offsides penalty and one missed tackle. He finished with 4 tackles / 2 TFL / 1 sack / 2 pressures. This has been another bright spot considering what they got him for contract wise. But every sack he gets will make him more expensive to bring back.
-Youngsters Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines were quiet, finishing with a combined 6 tackles but also 1 pressure and 0 plays behind the line of scrimmage. Ximines has made a few mental mistakes against the run this year but he was more disciplined and active this week.
-Dalvin Tomlinson seems to have more urgency and desire in his play. Maybe the Leonard Williams trade put him on notice that if he wants a long term deal from this team, he better step up. Step up he did. Tomlinson led the team with 9 tackles while adding a sack. He was all over the field, making hustle plays downfield while also being stout in short-yardage situations. This may have been the best game of his three-year career.
-Speaking of Williams, he was really disruptive. He had 3 tackles, and 5 pressures. That is the most pressures of any NYG defender in one game over the past 3 years. Now, some can say that is a good thing but a pro personnel scout I talk to on a regular basis sent me this text after the game, “Always finds a way to get there, never finds a way to finish. Been a step too slow since day one.” He is going to be a tough guy to figure out over these next 2 months because the narrative is that he oozes talent, but doesn’t seal the deal. We saw more of that in this one.
-Dexter Lawrence can be a maddening player at times. He is definitely making an impact beyond the naked eye and we are seeing more pass rush from him than anyone thought he could bring to the table, but I saw him in a couple different key short-yardage moments just get drilled off the ball. I am hoping he shows more consistency over the second half.
-Alec Ogletree had 7 tackles and a pass break up. He really looks thick and choppy out there. I’m not sure if he’s still hurt or his athletic days are simply behind him. The lack of speed and agility at LB has hurt this team more times than I can count. The game is changing and these inside guys just can’t hack it anymore. Davis Mayo added 4 tackles but remains an issue on filling lanes and reaching sidelines.
-Deandre Baker’s up-and-down, but more down, season continues. He was flagged twice, one of which was a 33-yard pass interference that put NYJ on the 1-yard line. He had a few plays where he was sticky in coverage, but I was most annoyed on a big play where he showed no urgency in pursuing the soon-to-be 32-year old Demaryius Thomas after the catch. It resulted in a big play and it was inexcusable from a kid whot has hurt this team more than helped.
-Janoris Jenkins quietly had a really good cover game and added 4 tackles.
-Good to see Sam Beal and Corey Ballentine out there. Beal only got in for 10 plays but it was the first time we’ve seen him since NYG took him in the Supplemental Draft two summers ago. Ballentine was targeted early on third down and even though the quicker slot matchups aren’t ideal for him, he didn’t allow a lot of separation and I liked how fast he reacted to the ball once in the air and after the catch.
-Jabrill Peppers is looking better and better each week. There may not be a guy on this team who competes as hard as him play to play, week to week. He finished with 6 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PD, and 2 pressures. He has been a terror when they use him downhill and if this defense can get another 1 or 2 guys like him at LB, the difference would be enormous overall.
-Antoine Bethea finished with 5 tackles and a pass breakup. He also missed 2 tackles, he leads the team in that category, and was outclassed on the Crowder touchdown athletically. I just don’t see a guy with enough reaction speed and I think the game is simply too fast for him.
-K Aldrick Rosas: No FG attempts. Rosas missed an extra point and is now 19/22 on the year. He is one of 3 kickers in the league with 3 missed extra point attempts.
-P Riley Dixon: 6 Punts / 53.5 avg / 45.5 net
-QB Daniel Jones, WR Darius Slayton, S Jabrill Peppers
-OC Spencer Pulley, OT Eric Smith, CB Deandre Baker
3 THOUGHTS ON NYJ
- I’ve seen a lot of Jets football in recent years because of the fact they are a local team and a lot of my cross-scouting coincidentally has had me get their game tapes as well. They, as of right now, are so close to the situation that NYG is in that it is almost scary. Young QB on a rookie deal. A piss-poor offensive line. Average at best pass catchers. A really good running back who can’t display even 50% of his potential. Minimal pass rush with no real difference maker there. A do-it-all safety. A young TE who has a high ceiling but has a hard time staying on field. A coach who is hard to trust. Tons of money to spend but a lack of assurance that it will be economically spent. All that and I bet these two will be picking near each other in the draft and will be targeting the same guys.
- The Sam Darnold vs. Saquon Barkley debate will be there for as long as those two are in the league. Giants nation was split down the middle whether or not they should take Darnold, widely considered the top QB of the 2018 class and he was available. Well here we are about a year and a half into Darnold’s career and we can agree that he has not been good. Sure, he had a solid stretch in December in no-pressure situations but he has started 19 games and has 27 turnovers. Not much more needs to be said because if he keeps that up he won’t be a starter a few years from now.
- I am intrigued to see what General Manager Joe Douglas does this offseason when it comes to building their roster from a pro personnel perspective. It was confirmed that, if he was going to trade star safety Jamal Adams, that DAL was going to have to give one of their top OL Zack Martin or Tyron Smith in return. I liked hearing that, as I still believe no matter what that a team absolutely has to avoid poor offensive line play and it needs to be priority A if the group ever falters. They are going to buy a free agent or two in the offseason, no question. And I think that is the best possible approach.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- You know when your own wife, who doesn’t know too much about the details of the game, makes a comment about the QB never making passes on the move unless he is scrambling for his life, that the offense may be too predictable and easy to defend. Jones has proven to be an athletic threat and he has proven he can throw on the move. Why, with this offensive line, do you constantly have Jones sitting in the pocket? It doesn’t work. And while we’re at it, why aren’t you making every effort to give Barkley the ball in space? Traffic runs aren’t working with this offense. Stubborn and lack of innovation and adjustments.
- The question with this defensive line is, is there enough room to keep both Tomlinson and Williams long term? Williams will likely demand a much bigger contract because even though the stats aren’t overly impressive, the analytics crowd likes him and they are becoming more and more prominent within personnel circles. I think Tomlinson has value though. I know it is easy to say after what may have been the best game of his career, but there is a lot he can do within different schemes. He is a professional. Works hard, always tries to get better. We want more guys like this around. If I had to choose one because of economics, I am going with Tomlinson.
- Would it make sense at some point to shut Barkley down for the rest of the year? He limps off the field every week since he has been back from the ankle injury, he now has a bum shoulder, and it looks like this situation is actually making him a worse running back? I’m not opposed to it if we see more of the same the for another 2-3 weeks.