Sep 262021
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 26, 2021)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA FALCONS 17 – NEW YORK GIANTS 14…
The Atlanta Falcons defeated the New York Giants 17-14 on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Atlanta secured the game on a 40-yard field goal as time expired. The Giants are now 0-3 on the season, and have lost two games in a row on a walk-off, game-winning field goal by the opponent.

At halftime, former Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning had his #10 jersey retired and was inducted into the team’s “Ring of Honor.”

The Giants out-gained the Falcons in first downs (21 to 18), total net yards (346 to 296), net yards rushing (100 to 69), net yards passing (246 to 227), and time of possession (31:51 to 28:09). The turnover battle was tied with each team losing a fumble that did not lead to points. The Giants were flagged eight times for 53 yards in penalties, however.

The Giants’ defense played well for most of the contest except for the now predictable late collapses at the end of the first half and at the end of the game. The Falcons had six possessions in the first half, with the first four resulting in a total of four first downs and four punts. However, their fifth drive started with 2:09 left in the first half, and the Falcons were able to drive 44 yards in six plays and 36 seconds to score a go-ahead touchdown. The Falcons got the ball one more time before intermission after a turnover, but the Giants defense forced a turnover of its own when linebacker Azeez Ojulari sacked the quarterback and forced a fumble that linebacker Lorenzo Carter recovered.

Not counting the kneel down at the end of the first half, the Giants had five first-half possessions of their own. Two were very long drives. The Giants’ first possession of the game picked up 73 yards on 11 plays; the Giants’ third possession gained 73 yards on 15 plays. The problem was New York settled for two short field goals with both possessions stalling inside the red zone. This gave the Giants a 6-0 lead that they held until the Falcons scored a touchdown late in the half. Then tight end Evan Engram fumbled the ball away at the New York 38-yard line after a 13-yard catch late in the half.

At the break, the Falcons led 7-6.

Neither team scored in the 3rd quarter with both teams punting twice. However, late in this quarter, the Giants did begin a 10-play, 71-yard drive that ended with a go-ahead touchdown by running back Saquon Barkley from one yard out. Quarterback Daniel Jones then ran for a score on the 2-point conversion and the Giants were up 14-7 with just under 13 minutes to play in the game.

Unfortunately, the New York defense could not hold the lead and immediately gave up a 15-play, 72-yard drive to the Falcons that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14-14 with just over four minutes to play.

With the game on the line, the New York offense picked up two first downs, but stalled at mid-field when Jones was sacked for nine yards on 2nd-and-10. With less than two minutes to play, the Giants punted the ball back to Atlanta.

The result was predictable. Starting at their own 20-yard line, Atlanta easily drove into field goal range with pass completions of 28 and 25 yards on two of their first three plays. The Falcons gained three more yards before kicking the game-winning, 40-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.

Jones completed 24-of-35 passes for 266 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. He also ran the ball eight times for 39 yards and was sacked twice. His leading receiver was Barkley, who caught six passes for 43 yards. Wide receiver Collin Johnson caught five passes for 51 yards and wide receiver Kenny Golladay caught four passes for 64 yards. Barkley carried the ball 16 times for just 51 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, the Falcons were held to 296 total yards and 69 yards rushing. Defensive linemen Austin Johnson and Leonard Williams each had sacks in addition to Ojulari, who forced the fumble that Carter recovered.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

Video of quarterback Eli Manning’s #10 jersey retirement and “Ring of Honor” induction at halftime is also available at Giants.com.

ROSTER MOVES, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
On Saturday, the Giants signed WR C.J. Board and OC Jonotthan Harrison to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad. The team also placed LB Cam Brown (hamstring) on Injured Reserve.

Inactive for the game were RB Devontae Booker, LB Justin Hilliard, CB Sam Beal, CB Josh Jackson, and Nate Ebner (quad).

LB Blake Martinez (knee), WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring), and WR Darius Slayton (hamstring) all left the game in the first half with injuries and did not return.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Joe Judge and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge and select players will address the media by conference call on Monday.

Sep 242021
 
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New York Giants Fans (December 15, 2019)

© USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
In The Corner Forum last week, I argued that the Week 2 game against Washington was not a “must-win” game as many were arguing. In my opinion, the NFC East is going to be subpar once again and there is a good chance that a team that is hovering around .500 in December will still be alive for the division title. Barring serious injury issues, I also believe the New York Giants will become stronger on offense and defense as the year progresses.

That all said, this game against the Atlanta Falcons feels like it has a greater significance than an ordinary Week 3 contest. For one, this is a very winnable game for New York. Second, and most importantly, at 0-2, the margin for error is rapidly diminishing for the Giants. Third, the symbol of the team’s most recent successful past – Eli Manning – will be honored at the game.

I think poster Osi Osi Osi OyOyOy captured my thoughts when he wrote:

I feel like due to a lot of different factors, this game is particularly meaningful when it comes to the organization’s outlook. We’ve had “must-win” early season games over the years, which we typically lose, we even had some “must-win” games later on last year due to the ineptness of the NFC East.

But the vibe I get for this game just doesn’t feel like the usual “must-win to keep the season alive” game. It really feels like the entire organizational structure is on the hot seat, from the Owner to the GM to the Head Coach to the QB to the RB to the Defensive Coordinator to the rookie 1st round draft pick, etc. This feels like a “must win to keep the franchise from crumbling” type of game.

The Falcons are the worst team in football right now, their organization has had their own issues over the last handful of years. The Giants are simply a better team than them and should take care of business to get back into the 2021 divisional race.

We’ve been bad for so long that I’m pretty much expecting the worst. But if we can’t beat the Falcons this week, the backlash on here and in the media would be insane. I can only imagine what a shitshow this place would be on Monday if we lost and Jones/Barkley played poorly with Toney doing nothing and the defense playing poorly again.

I’ve felt down about this Franchise plenty over recent years, but thinking about the fallout of a loss this weekend just makes me feel uncomfortable and sick. I can’t really remember feeling this specific type of way about a game before.

We better win.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (knee – probable)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (hip – questionable)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (ankle – probable)
  • TE Evan Engram (calf- questionable)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee- probable)
  • NT Austin Johnson (illness – probable)
  • LB Cam Brown (hamstring – out)
  • S Logan Ryan (hamstring – probable)
  • S Nate Ebner (quad- questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Daniel Jones and the offense had a good night against a good defense last Thursday, scoring 29 points with two almost-touchdowns being erased. But one game does not make a trend. Saquon Barkley played far more than anticipated, and had a 41-yard run, but his other touches were non-productive. He should continue to get better as he rounds into football shape, but the question is can he and will he attain his rookie form? If he can, this offense can be truly dangerous.

Once again, the offensive line is in disarray. Don’t write off Matt Peart, but his short-term inability to win the starting right tackle job clearly was not expected by team leadership. And the serious injuries to Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux, two of the three interior starters, has the entire franchise scrambling. Billy Price and Ben Bredeson, who were added only a few weeks ago, are now the new starters.

Fan ire seems to be directed at rookie Kadarius Toney, but his slow development was easy to predict once he missed most of the offseason. The guy who needs to get it going is veteran Kenny Golladay. The return of Evan Engram should help this offense as long as he doesn’t screw up.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The defense was supposed to carry the team this year. Through two games, it is currently ranks 26th in yards allowed and 25th in points allowed. It can’t stop the run or the pass. It can’t get off of the field on 3rd and 4th down. Most damning of all, it can make the critical stops in key situations at the end of the 2nd and 4th quarters.

It’s not one issue. Coaching appears to have been a problem, but players are not making plays, including guys who have a proven track record under the current coaching staff. Whatever the reasons, they need to get this fixed, and fast.

The secret of good defense has always been the same. Play smart. Pursue and gang tackle. Stop the run. Get after the passer. Play tight coverage. Get the football. That will never change.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I just want to mention what a tremendous performance by Graham Gano last Thursday night. Indeed, it may have been the best performance by a kicker in team history, nailing field goals of 23, 35, 47, 52, and 55 in less-than-ideal conditions. He deserved the win.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham:I need to do a better job of coaching. That’s my job.

THE FINAL WORD:
The wiggle room is disappearing. The fans are starting to tune out again. A reminder of the more successful past will be standing on the sideline. This team desperately needs to win this game.

Sep 182021
 
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Darius Slayton, New York Giants (September 16, 2021)

Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Most fans do not watch games beyond their favorite team. They’ll watch every contest that includes the team they root for, maybe a few nationally televised matchups, and then the postseason. I bring that up because the typical Washington Football Team follower could easily be under the impression this NYG team, despite all the losses (49 of their last 67), is a team “on the rise” under their young stud franchise quarterback, Daniel Jones. After all, he entered the game 4-0 against WAS. What that typical fan may not realize, however, is Jones also entered the game 4-19 against everyone else. It was a rainy night on a short week for two teams that were torched on third down in their respective week 1 losses. Nobody wants to start the year 0-2 and everybody wants the division win. NYG has owned this matchup, winning 14 of 20 since 2012 and this version of WAS was being led by an undrafted quarterback who had two career starts in four years under his belt.

That quarterback, Taylor Heinicke, was forced into a quick 3-and-out to start the night off. Jones, who had a 100.0 career-quarterback rating against WAS, the highest among all his opponents he has played more than once, started where he left off against this defense. He led a drive with a solid blend of run and pass, mainly featuring himself in both regards, to put the early score on the board. A designed QB-draw, running behind new center Billy Price, put the away team wearing their home blues up 7-0 just 8:20 into the game. WAS responded with their second straight three-and-out in as many drives at the hands of quality NYG pass rushing from the outside.

The first “ugly” of the night appeared on the second NYG drive. First, right guard Nick Gates was rolled up on and broke his leg. It was such a gruesome injury that the telecast opted to not show the replay. The team captain shifted over to guard from center, where he had been excelling, because of the injury to Shane Lemieux, who was placed in Injured Reserve earlier in the day. On the very next play, however, the momentum was back as Saquon Barkley darted through the right side of the line, thanks to Chase Young vacating his lane, and up the sideline for a 41-yard gain. What a sight to see that was! Maybe this would be the night NYG fans have been waiting for after all.

The run brought NYG to the WAS 35. They got to 3rd-and-2 from the WAS 29 via two more running plays before calling an early timeout. And this is where the “no excuses” thought enters one’s mind. After a timeout, Jones had a really hard time lining up the offense. They were shockingly scrambling to get aligned with the play clock reaching :00 as Andrew Thomas jumped out of his stance early, getting flagged for a false start. They moved back the necessary 5 yards, just to have Jones sacked for an 8-yard loss, knocking them out of field goal range. They had WAS by the throat, they called a timeout to get on the same page, and it ended up looking like football’s version of the Bad News Bears. Just an awful, awful display of professional football.

WAS then took control via a 13-play drive where Heinicke connected with one of the most underrated receivers in football, Terry McLaurin, four times. The fourth was an 11-yard touchdown to tie the game up. Both offenses traded three-and-outs before NYG started a drive on their own 22-yard line. The lack of discipline shown by the hyped WAS edge rushers last week against LAC kept showing up in this contest as well. Jones was roasting them with read option runs and he took one 58 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. However, a questionable holding call on receiver C.J. Board took the ball back to the WAS 22. They eventually had a 1st-and-10 from the WAS 13, thanks to a pass interference called on cornerback William Jackson III. Two poor play calls gained a total of 2 yards and the 3rd-down conversion attempt, a short pass to Sterling Shepard, came up 2 yards shy. The Giants settled for a 23-yard field goal by Graham Gano.

After being torched by Denver quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at the end of the first half in week 1, Heinicke did the same in Week 2. They couldn’t cover the likes of Adam Humphries and Logan Thomas. They couldn’t stop the likes of running back J.D. McKissic. The coverage was soft, the pass rush was non-existent, and they couldn’t come up with situational stops. The talk from coaches about specializing in situational football seems like an oxymoron when watching this team play. The drive ended in a 2-yard score by McKissic to give WAS a 14-10 lead heading into halftime.

The opening drive of the second half got off to a hot start. NYG crossed midfield in a hurry and had a 1st-and-10 from the WAS 33 following a defensive holding penalty by former Giant Landon Collins. Yes, he is still in the league but holding on by a thread. A poorly-designed outside run resulted in a loss of 6 yards and then a poorly-designed run play resulted in a gain of 2 yards. NYG was in danger of missing out on a field goal opportunity, but an 8-yard gain via a pass to Darius Slayton put them on the 29-yard line. Gano nailed a 47-yarder to make it a 1-point deficit.

WAS responded with a 3-and-out and the momentum shift was back on NYG’s side. Following a 3rd-and-13 incomplete, the refs flagged WAS corner Kendall Fuller for a pass interference. NYG took advantage of it with a…9-yard loss on…yet another poorly-designed running play. A 9-yard loss on a running play. That is really hard to do. Jones then took control of the game with surprisingly good pass blocking by the hodge-podge offensive line. He completed 3 passes in 4 attempts for a combined 64 yards, the final one being an absolute dime to Slayton for a 33-yard touchdown. NYG was up 20-14.

The rest of the game, as it entered the 4th quarter, was a constant seesaw. The next four drives resulted in both teams netting two field goals each. NYG remained ahead by 6 points with under five minutes left. A 56-yard pass to McKissic, beating Tae Crowder, and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Seals-Jones, beating Adoree’ Jackson, put WAS ahead by 1 point. All of the sudden, NYG was trying to play catch-up once again. Their drive stalled and they were forced to punt for the first time in seven possessions. WAS started the with the ball inside their own 10, just over 3 minutes left.

After being absolutely roasted by McLaurin all night, James Bradberry came up with the game’s first turnover on a beautiful read of the route and break on the ball. NYG had the ball on the WAS 20, down 1, with just over two minutes left. The running game had one constant that worked all night. Read option with Jones keeping to the outside. They had a solid short passing game over the middle to Shepard and the tight ends. Jones was 22/31 (71%) with zero turnovers. This was his game. He was the reason NYG was in position to win and all they had to do was gain a first down, get the clock well below 2:00 while burning through WAS timeouts. Jason Garrett, who struggled with calling productive runs all night (18 carries for 27 yards on non-Jones runs other than the 41-yard gain by Barkley early on), failed again. Two obvious run calls netted just three yards. WAS stopped the clock twice and Jones threw an incomplete pass to Shepard that wouldn’t have reached the sticks anyway. Two poor running plays and a too-short pass to Shepard was the exact same three-play routine we saw in the second quarter when they were near the end zone. Remember? WAS did. Gano hit a 35-yard field goal to give NYG a 2-point lead but there were 2 minutes left on the clock and the NYG defense all of the sudden can’t stop a nosebleed.

There was never a feeling that they would come up with the big stop. Heinicke carved them up yet again, quite easily getting into field goal range. McKissic might as well been Alvin Kamara and Heinicke might as well been Tom Brady. This defense let down the entire organization and fan base, allowing them to get within field distance in a hurry. And that wasn’t even the worst part. Kicker Dustin Hopkins pushed the 48-yard attempt wide right. NYG had the 2-point win in the bag but the yellow flag was thrown on to the field. Dexter Lawrence jumped offsides, giving Hopkins a second life. He nailed it from 43 and WAS won the game. Just like that, NYG starts 0-2 for the fifth straight year and the 7th time in 8 years.

NYG loses, 30-29.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 22/32 – 249 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 102.2 RAT

Jones also added 95 yards and a touchdown on the ground. So, 344 total yards of offense and 2 touchdowns. This was easily one of the best games Jones has put on display in his short career. And he was a Slayton drop away from another 43-yard touchdown. I wouldn’t call the game flawless, as Jones still threw four woefully inaccurate balls on passes across the middle. That needs to improve because it is where the best quarterbacks to their most damage. That aside, Jones put this team on his shoulder. High level throws, gutsy running plays, 3rd-down success, and most importantly the zero turnovers kept this team in the game. Without Jones’ big game, NYG had no shot.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 13 att – 57 yards / 2 rec – 12 yards

You can call this a (small) step forward for Barkley’s return. He played on short rest and not only did he play, but he was also on the field for 84% of the snaps. He also broke off a 41-yard run where that burst and speed in the open field was on display. Overall, however, it is easy to say that he’s just not fully back yet. On his other 12 carries, he had 16 yards. He looked hesitant and did not see cutback lanes. It is easy for me to say from the All-22 angle that he should be cutting into different lanes, I know. But I see other backs do it on a routine basis and it is because they run without hesitation. Barkley hesitates nearly every time he gets the ball. Is he running scared? On 2nd-and-10 from the 43-yard line in the 4th quarter (6:25 left), Barkley ran through an inside crease and simply fell to the ground. He wasn’t touched, he didn’t trip over his feet. He was anticipating contact, looked scared, and fell to the ground. He tried to save face by punching the ground a few times. He’s done that a handful, if not more, of times over the years. I am starting to turn south on him and I was one banging the table FOR NYG to draft him in 2018.

-Elijhaa Penny had 2 carries for 5 yards. He is the best short yardage back on the team and I am glad they are using him in that role as I stated last year.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard paced the group again with 9 catches on 10 targets. He was back in his 10 yards-per-catch area (10.4), but a few of them were big plays. It is early in the year to say this, but with how the passing scheme looks and how well Shepard is moving, he has a good shot at finishing top 5 in the league in catches. This is the best we’ve seen out of him.

-Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton each caught 3 passes and dropped one. Slayton’s drop, however, was in the spotlight as it would have been an easy touchdown. Easy catch? Absolutely not. Should a pro receiver bring that in? Absolutely. There are negative plays each week from Slayton it seems. If John Ross gets on the field, Slayton will be the one that loses his snaps. More on Golladay and his sideline antics below. On the field, however, I’m not worried about his low production through 2 games. He will get his. WAS got away with 2 pass interference penalties on him but I expect to see a lot of that, as he is a physical receiver himself and won’t separate a lot. In addition, Golladay had a monster-block on Barkley’s 41-yard run.

TIGHT END

-A better game from the duo of Kyle Rudolph and Kaden Smith. They both came up with a tough grab each and totaled 49 yards on 4 catches. They both were much more effective in the running game with key blocks on some of the better runs Barkley had, Rudolph especially. He did allow a sack, however. I expect Evan Engram to be back for week 3 against Atlanta. He was very active on the field in pre-game warm ups and the team has some extra rest to work with.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-A very back-and-forth, up-and-down performance by the group as a whole. After watching the tape two times, I still don’t know how to best describe the performance of this group. They were very good when it mattered most, but there were a ton of negative plays. Let’s start with the move of Nick Gates to left guard after the team moved Shane Lemiuex to IR. He allowed a sack early before breaking his leg and is now out for the year. Unfortunate for him and NYG, as a strong case can be made for him being the top OL on the team. Ben Bredeson came in and played pretty well, allowing just 1 pressure.

-Billy Price got his first start since being acquired for defensive tackle B.J. Hill (who had 2 sacks for CIN week 1). Overall, it was a very poor game for the fourth-year center. While he did have a key block on the Barkley 41-yard run, he allowed a sack, a pressure, and was flagged for 2 penalties. He looked off balance as well with a couple really ugly displays of blocking even though it did not impact those particular plays.

-The tackles, Andrew Thomas and Nate Solder, both played 100% of the snaps. Matt Peart didn’t see the field on offense. Thomas allowed 2 TFL (one of which wasn’t on him), 1 pressure, and a half-sack. He was also flagged for 2 false starts. Considering who he was up against, I give Thomas another thumbs up for this game. I still want to see a cleaner record and less penalties, but he was left alone often against Chase Young and I thought he got the best of him. Solder, as expected, struggled when he was left alone. He did get a decent amount of help and when he did, he kept it together. He allowed a pressure, 1 TFL, and half-sack.

-Will Hernandez allowed a pressure and made his presence known in the running game. His footwork and lower body bend looked better as well. That said, he simply isn’t on the same level as WAS defensive linemen Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Another quiet game from this group. Dexter Lawrence wasn’t heard from most of the night until his offsides penalty. Danny Shelton added 1 tackle. He was on the field for 21% of the snaps and didn’t hold his ground the way I expected him to.

-Austin Johnson and Leonard Williams at least combined for 9 tackles and made a few plays away from the ball. They pursued well and made a couple physical plays. Williams was the only one who  put pressure on the quarterback but missed the tackle attempt on a near-sack.

EDGE

-Rookie Azeez Ojulari recorded a sack for the second straight week. He has 2 of the team’s 3 sacks so far in this young season. He was quiet thereafter and while I won’t give him a negative grade, I do want to see more snap to snap consistency and variety. He hasn’t shown any effective rush moves quite yet, although we’ve seen glimpses.

-Lorenzo Carter looked better in Week 2 than he did in Week 1, an encouraging sign knowing he missed most of last year with an Achilles’ injury. He was flagged for a neutral-zone infraction late in the game, however – a black eye on his 3-pressure, 4-tackle game. He needs to finish plays more often, as he’s been getting locked on to by pass blockers too easily.

-Oshane Ximines played nearly half the snaps and didn’t impact the game much. The more he plays, the more evident it becomes he just won’t ever turn into a quality player. He is below average across the board. He just doesn’t win against lone blockers.

LINEBACKER

-Blake Martinez led the team with 12 tackles and cut out the mistakes we saw from a week ago. Tae Crowder added 4 tackles and a pressure, but his biggest mistake resulted in the big passing play to running back J.D. McKissic in the 4th quarter. He got beat on an obvious wheel route and just couldn’t make up for it. Huge play and a huge part of the NYG collapse defensively. Reggie Ragland added 2 tackles.

CORNERBACK

-There is no sugar coating the fact James Bradberry played his worst game as a Giant. Had it not been for his interception in the 4th quarter, a fantastic, high-level play on the ball, he would have finished on the “Dud” list. Terry McLaurin dominated him from start to finish. He allowed a touchdown and was flagged twice, once for holding and once for pass interference.

-Adoree’ Jackson added 5 tackles and 2 pass defenses, but allowed the late touchdown to Ricky Seals-Jones on a play where he did a poor job of locating the ball. He also missed a tackle. His movement looks great, but his ball location looks poor. Darnay Holmes is in the same boat. His twitch and burst is so enticing and I like how hard he plays, but he is an easy target for opposing quarterbacks on 3rd down.

SAFETY

-Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers were back to the majority-snap roles when they had 2 safeties on the field. Ryan was solid, finishing with 7 tackles and was superb in coverage for most of the game. He is an excellent open field tackler as well. Peppers had a pressure, 6 tackles, and a pass break up. He missed one tackle.

-Julian Love played just 8 snaps. Xavier McKinney has been disappointing over the first 2 weeks. He made 3 tackles and missed 2 others. He isn’t finishing when he gets in contact with the ball carrier and he just doesn’t have the man-power behind his hits yet. His movement in deep coverage did look very good, however.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 5/5 (Made 23, 47, 52, 55, 35). He has now made 35 straight field goals.
-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 41.3 avg / 41.3 net

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, K Graham Gano, S Logan Ryan

3 DUDS

-OC Billy Price, CB Adoree’ Jackson, RB Saquon Barkley

THOUGHTS ON WAS

(1) What is Taylor Heinicke? Can he be a franchise quarterback? If I am WAS, this is the guy I am riding with the rest of the year. You know Fitzpatrick isn’t the long-term answer, but you can’t say the same about Heinicke. Remember, he went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady last January in the playoffs. I think he ends up being another Case Keenum type, but I love the grit he shows play-to-play, drive-to-drive. His interception late was such a killer, but he came right back and made play after play when they got the ball back. If WAS can get by with him, maybe they could end up keeping all those 1st rounders on the DL.

(2) The WAS defense looks downright scary on paper. Their defensive line is loaded with first round picks that they hit on, their corners are a top-10 pair in the league, and I think the second level will improve as rookie Jamin Davis gets more and more comfortable. What is missing? They’re vulnerable at safety and their depth is nearly non-existent. If they get even just a couple injuries (odds are that will happen), I don’t see enough talent to step up. I also think a quality passing game can exploit the safeties.

(3) WAS quietly put together a quality, impactful rookie class. I wrote about that in May. They went hard after high-end athletes on both sides of the ball. Dyami Brown and Samuel Cosmi will be starters for the rest of the year barring injury, and Brown is the one I think can be a nice player. Jamin Davis made some eye-opening plays Thursday night and Benjamin St. Juste is good enough to allow Fuller to go inside in nickel packages. In addition, undrafted free agent running back Jaret Patterson was one of the top backs I saw in preseason who doesn’t currently have a starting job.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) The tempers flaring on the sideline don’t bother me one bit. Kenny Golladay got caught on camera yelling at Jones, presumably for not getting the ball when he thought he should. Want to know what is one hundred times worse? Watching Odell Beckham laugh on the sideline as the team is getting crushed on the field. We have now seen both, and I’ll take guys that hate losing all day. Tempers are allowed to flare up every now and then, as long as it doesn’t impact their play. I don’t think it will.

(2) Is this defense bad? Was the outlook on them a little inflated after 2020? Things change in the NFL so much and even though NYG didn’t really lose any talent from the 2020 unit that was around a top-10 defense, this doesn’t surprise me. Why? The pass rush is woefully poor when they rush 4 or 5. The only way they impact the opposing quarterback is with the blitz. It is a volatile way to play defense and a good passer can see right through it to their advantage. If Graham continues to play soft coverage with poor pass rush, we will see this on repeat week after week.

(3) The NYG running game design left me scratching my head. They have an odd fascination with running toward the strength of a defense. They run into crowded areas, and they make life hard on an offensive line that, quite frankly, is still bottom third in the league. The WAS edge defenders were biting on the inside fakes all game, leaving things open for Jones (NYG’s leading rusher). Why not use that in more key moments? How come they aren’t engineering more space touches for Barkley? Do we really need to see more jet sweeps? It almost looks pre-determined no matter what and it appears the opposing defenses were in on it too.

Sep 172021
 
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NFL: New York Giants at Washington Football Team

The second time is the charm – © USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM 30 – NEW YORK GIANTS 29…
The New York Giants lost an absolutely heart-breaking contest to the Washington Football Team at FedExField in Maryland on Sunday night, losing on the final play of the game 30-29 when Washington’s place kicker got a second chance to kick the game-winning field goal. The Giants are now 0-2 for the fifth season in a row.

Worse for New York is that on a night that they placed left guard Shane Lemieux on Injured Reserve with a knee injury, they also lost center/guard Nick Gates with a broken left leg. Gates started at left guard in this game with Billy Price starting at center.

Quarterback Daniel Jones and offense had one of their best games during the brief Joe Judge era, but saw two potential touchdowns wiped out, one by a questionable holding penalty and another on a dropped pass. Nevertheless, it was the defense that really let the team down, allowing over 400 yards and 30 points to a Washington team led by back-up quarterback Taylor Heinicke. The defense simply could not hold any lead the offense provided in the game.

The defense actually started off strong, forcing two three-and-outs on Washington’s first two possessions. In between, the Giants scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game, driving 79 yards in 11 plays, culminating with a 6-yard touchdown run by Jones on 2nd-and-goal. The Giants threatened on their second possession as well when running back Saquon Barkley broke off a 41-yard run to the Washington 35-yard line. However, Jones was sacked on 3rd-and-2 from the 32-yard line and the Giants punted. Washington responded with a 13-play, 90-yard effort that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass by Heinicke. Washington converted on 4th-and-1 on this possession. The game was tied at 7-7 early in the second quarter.

After both teams exchanged punts, New York drove deep into Washington territory on a 10-play, 73-yard possession. However, the drive stalled in the red zone and the Giants settled for a 23-yard field goal by place kicker Graham Gano. It was on this possession that Jones had a 58-yard touchdown run nullified by a holding call on wide receiver C.J. Board.

With four minutes to go before halftime, the defense once again collapsed late in the second quarter, just like they did last week against the Denver Broncos. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham’s unit allowed Washington to march 84 yards in 12 plays to take a 14-10 lead at the half when running back J.D. McKissic ran for an easy touchdown on 3rd-and-1 from the 2-yard line.

The Giants received the ball to start the third quarter. They picked up 46 yards in nine plays to set up a successful 47-yard field goal by Gano to cut the score to 14-13. The defense forced a three-and-out, and it looked like the Giants were in the process of taking control of the game when they put together yet another scoring drive, this one 65 yards in seven plays and resulting in a 33-yard touchdown pass from Jones to wide receiver Darius Slayton. Giants 20-Washington 14.

Washington responded with a scoring drive of their own, moving the ball 44 yards in seven plays to set up a 49-yard field goal. The Giants now led 20-17 near the end of the third quarter. Back came New York with their own field goal drive, this one traveling 41 yards in six plays to set up a 52-yard field goal by Gano. The Giants were now up 23-17 early in the fourth quarter.

The tit-for-tat field goal drives continued. Washington drove 56 yards in 11 plays with the 37-yard field goal cutting the score to 23-20. New York picked up 38 yards in eight plays and Gano impressively connected from 55 yards out. The Giants were up by six points with 4:50 left in the game. However, the Giants missed a tremendous opportunity to put the game away here when Slayton dropped what should have been a 43-yard touchdown catch. That would come back to haunt New York.

Once again, the defense collapsed. In just two plays, Heinicke first found McKissic for a 56-yard reception, and then immediately followed that up with a 19-yard touchdown. It took just 17 seconds for Washington to regain the lead, 27-26.

It looked bleak for the Giants when they were forced to punt on the ensuing possession after gaining just one first down. Washington got the ball back, with a 1-point lead and 3:13 on the clock. After allowing 14 yards on two rushing plays, the defense finally made a play when cornerback James Bradberry, who had been abused all night, intercepted Heinicke on 2nd-and-7 at the Washington 20-yard line with 2:16 left in the game.

Two runs by Barkley only picked up three yards, and Jones’ 3rd-and-7 pass fell incomplete. Gano kicked his fifth field goal of the night, this one from 35 yards out. The Giants were up 29-27 with exactly two minutes left to play.

Again, the defense folded as Washington moved from their own 25-yard line to the New York 30-yard line in nine plays. Washington also converted on 4th-and-1 for the second time in the game on this possession. With five seconds left, Washington’s kicker attempted a 48-yard field goal to win the game. The kick sailed wide right. However, defensive linemen Dexter Lawrence was offsides. Washington’s kicker did not miss the subsequent 43-yard kick with no time on the clock.

Jones had a strong game. He completed 22-of-32 passes for 249 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. He also ran for 95 yards on nine carries. Jones should have had two more touchdowns had it not been for a holding penalty and dropped pass. His leading receiver was Sterling Shepard with nine receptions for 94 yards. Barkley had a 41-yard run, but only gained 16 yards on his other 12 carries.

Defensively, the Giants allowed Heinicke to complete 34-of-46 passes for 336 yards. They only sacked him once. Washington also ran for 87 yards on 22 carries.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

ROSTER MOVES, PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
LG Shane Lemieux (knee) was placed on Injured Reserve before the game and OC Matt Skura was signed from the Practice Squad to the 53-man roster.

WR C.J. Board and TE Chris Myarick were activated from the Practice Squad for this game.

Inactive for the game were TE Evan Engram (calf), LB Cam Brown (hamstring), WR Collin Johnson, LB Quincy Roche, LB Justin Hilliard, CB Sam Beal, and CB Josh Jackson.

OC/OG Nick Gates broke his lower left leg in the first half and did not return.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Joe Judge and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge and select players will address the media by conference call on Friday.

Sep 152021
 
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New York Giants Fans (September 12, 2021)

Losing Patience – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
The honeymoon is over. Giants’ fans have begun to turn on Joe Judge. It was predictable development as the need to scapegoat eventually had to move past just Dave Gettleman, Jason Garrett, and Daniel Jones. In some ways, it is humorous to watch. Fans who only weeks ago said they loved his press conferences now call him a blowhard.

So what’s going on? The obvious answer is the team isn’t winning. If the team had won last Sunday, fans would keep their negative comments directed at Garrett and Jones. But if you don’t win, the grace period will last only so long. Social media has destroyed time horizons. Fans don’t see the brief Joe Judge era (2020-present) as distinct from the sad end of the Tom Coughlin era (2012-2015), Ben McAdoo era (2016-2017), and Pat Shurmur era (2018-2019). Notice a pattern here? See the risk? If many fans get their way, Judge and Jones will be gone soon. The team will have to start over, but these fans won’t really see it as starting over. They will expect immediate results because the team has been bad for a decade. Unfortunately for these fans living in a figurative drunken stupor, it doesn’t work that way. When you start over, you start over. It’s 2017 all over again. Screaming “fix it now” isn’t living in the real world.

Joe Judge may or may not be the right head coach for this team. Jason Garrett may or may not be the right offensive coordinator. Same with Patrick Graham. Same with Daniel Jones. Most fans have already made up their minds. But truth be told, none of us really know. Certain posters in The Corner Forum will scream from the rooftops that they know for sure, but they really don’t. How do I know this? Because I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen Giants’ fans try to get rid of Bill Parcells, Phil Simms, Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, etc. Think of the tragedies if those fans were listened to at the time.

My educated guess on what is going to happen is this: the NFC East is going to suck again this year. Because of that, every team in the division will be mathematically alive for most, if not all, of the season. I think the Giants are going to look and play a lot more impressively in November and December than they will in September and October. Why? Because injuries and shortened camps/preseason kept many of the team’s new component parts from developing chemistry and cohesion. Once again, the offensive line is out of sorts. The Shane Lemieux injury was a big deal. Kenny Golladay and Daniel Jones are not in sync. Saquon Barkley is rusty as hell. Kadarius Toney is so far behind that it isn’t funny. He still has no idea how to run professional routes. “Blah, blah, blah…these are just more excuses!” Yup, but it’s also the truth.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (knee – questionable)
  • TE Evan Engram (calf – out)
  • OG Shane Lemieux (knee – out)
  • LB Cam Brown (hamstring – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Full disclosure. One of my all-time pet peeves is fans saying the reason an offense sucks is the coaching staff when it is obvious there are larger on-field talent issues. One of the few things I’ve learned over the years is that a competent offensive line “miraculously” makes it easier to call a game. It’s hard to play defense when the other team is generating five yards per carry and you are constantly in 2nd-and-5 situations. The internal alarm clock in your QB’s head isn’t going off prematurely because he’s afraid he won’t have time to throw. Your red-zone offense is a lot more difficult to stop when you push the pile on 3rd-and-goal.

My point is you will be amazed at how good an offensive coordinator becomes when his players execute. Look no further than how fan opinion of Kevin Gilbride changed from game-to-game, season-to-season from 2007 to 2013. Hell, I’ve seen the same posters who wanted the guy fired now lament that he is gone. Remember the 4th-and-1 deep shot to Amani Toomer against the Steelers in Pittsburgh in 2008? Objectively speaking, that was a stupid, high-risk play. But it worked. And fans thought the call was “brilliant.” Why did it work? The OL blocked. Eli threw perfect pass. Amani Toomer made a fantastic catch. Execution at all three levels.

How are the Giants going to get out of this funk and score more than 20 points on a consistent basis? Run the football. When the Giants were at their best last year, they were able to run the football. I saw posters claim in The Corner Forum that the problem with the offense against Denver was that it wasn’t “aggressive” enough. What does that mean? The team only handed off to running backs 14 times in that game. “You can be aggressive with the passing game!” Again, what does that mean? I think fans are conflating “aggressive” with what actually results in chunk yardage plays. If your quarterback is bird dogging receivers or inaccurate, if your receivers drop the ball, if your offensive line misses a block or gets called for a penalty, being “aggressive” doesn’t work.

The Giants are not going to get out of this funk until the offensive line gets its act together and creates some holes for Saquon Barkley. And Barkley has to get that rust off quickly and hit the freaking hole. If not, don’t re-sign him. “This offensive line can’t block!” If fans are right about that, the team is screwed. But I think it is far too early to tell. I’m afraid Shane Lemieux is going to have to end up on IR soon. He couldn’t even make it through the first game. Andrew Thomas had a strong game last week. I think those writing off Matt Peart are doing so way too prematurely. Again, Peart was raw coming out of college and he didn’t get a lot of snaps in full pads this offseason (NFLPA doesn’t allow it). He will continue to see his reps increased as the season progresses. (BTW, Nick Gates snapped the ball early on the play where everyone wants to knock Peart). I suspect we’ll see a lot of Ben Bredeson and Billy Price soon. There is a good chance Price will be the new center with Nick Gates shifting to guard. If Will Hernandez falters, Bredeson will take his job.

As for Daniel Jones, as Sy’56 pointed out in his game review of the Denver game, 1 down, 16 more games to go to determine his future here. The fumble last week was a game-altering turnover. If he can’t fix that, it’s time to move on. I will say this: Jones’ turnover issues briefly disappeared last year when the team ran the football. Funny how that works.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Full disclosure. Because I am an old Giants fan, I will always hold the defense to a different standard than I do the offense. It sounds stupid to blame the defense for losing a game that the offense only scored 13 points (6 of which came in garbage time). However, it’s a different game if the Giants had held on any of those three fourth-down conversions last week. It’s a different game if the defense holds at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half. If a defense wants to be great, it has to win games when the offense is not getting the job done. We saw that repeatedly under Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick from 1984-1990 and in spurts under Dan Reeves, Jim Fassel, and Tom Coughlin.

You’ve heard me say this repeatedly over the years. You will forever look at football differently when you realize there are only so many offensive possessions per game. Denver only had eight offensive possessions last week, four in the first half and four in the second half. That’s it. Three of those drives took 22 minutes off of the clock. So while we can lament New York’s offense only running 20 plays in the first half, some of that also had to do with the fact that the defense needs to get the ball back quicker for the offense. The Giants actually moved the ball in the second half of the Denver game. But the pressure to score touchdowns increased dramatically when what had been a 7-3 game quickly turned into a 20-7 game with the Giants offense only having ONE possession during that span. You can’t score when you don’t have the ball.

I talked last week about an early season trend last year by the Giants’ defense of allowing scoring drives at the end of halves. And that unfortunately reared its ugly head again in the opener. As much as the Daniel Jones’ fumble was game-altering, so was the defense’s inability to stop Denver at the end of the first half, including on 4th-and-2. Then at the start of the 3rd quarter, Denver scores on 4th-and-goal. (Also keep in mind that Denver’s first field goal drive occurred after converting on 4th-and-7). That’s 17 points. Denver was 3-of-3 on 4th down and 7-of-15 on 3rd down (it actually felt worse than that given when those conversions came in the game).

I can talk until I’m blue in the face about this match-up or that match-up, but we all know what the problem with this defense has been: they can’t get off of the field on 3rd down (and now sometimes 4th down). Yes, that is related to the pass rush. Against Denver, the Giants actually were buzzing around the QB more than fans realize and had six official quarterback hits. The Giants are spending a lot of money on that secondary. They have to make more plays on the football. And ideally, pick off some passes. Get the ball back for the offense on a short field. The defense must be the strength of the team this year or the Giants have no chance.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
C.J. Board gained 66 yards on two kickoff returns last week. That’s very good. Jabrill Peppers gained two yards on one punt return. Joe Judge and Thomas McGaughey may need to break into their bag of tricks soon if the offense continues to struggle.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Joe Judge on Washington’s defense:They play off what the disruption of the front causes in front of them and they do a good job right there limiting big plays. You play against this team, you have to be prepared to go down the field tick by tick by tick. They’re a very good team situationally getting off the field on third down and red area. They’re a very good team of not allowing explosive plays.

THE FINAL WORD:
It won’t surprise me if the Giants fall to 0-2. It won’t surprise me if the Giants soundly beat Washington. This is not a good division. The quarterback change means nothing to me as a Giants fan. We’ve seen plenty of times where that bites us in the ass. But the Giants have won five in a row against Washington despite their very strong front seven on defense. For whatever reason, Washington doesn’t intimidate New York.

This is a big game for a number of reasons. The most important being that the division title will likely be determined by the division record.

(One last piece of advice to fans… stop overreacting to a small sample size. If a player plays a good game in the latest game, it doesn’t mean anything. He has to string a bunch of good games together. The reverse is also true, if a player has a bad game, it doesn’t mean anything unless he strings a bunch of bad games together. Look for trends not snapshots).

Sep 132021
 
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New York Giants Fans (September 12, 2021)

Dejection – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Week 1 of the 2021 season began with a matchup against the Denver Broncos. Year-2 Head Coach Joe Judge took on year-3 Head Coach Vic Fangio, a defensive mastermind who hired a familiar face to run the team’s offense in 2020. Former Giants Head Coach, Pat Shurmur was back in town to call plays for the Denver offense that saw a change at quarterback this offseason. Teddy Bridgewater, owner of 35 career wins and a 66+% completion percentage, started a game under center for the fourth team in just his seven seasons. He was never a failed project at any point in his career. The former first rounder suffered a career-threatening injury prior to the 2016 season and threw just 25 passes over the next two seasons combined. After 15 starts for Carolina a year ago in which he completed just under 70% of his passes (5th in the NFL) and finished with 92.1 rating, he was now starting over Drew Lock for the defense-centered Broncos.

Much of the attention revolving around Denver heading into this game was the defense. It was a great litmus test for an offense that has a year-3 quarterback, new offensive weapons in Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, and of course the star running back Saquon Barkley on the field after missing nearly all of 2020 with a knee injury. A 42-yard gain on a pass from Daniel Jones to Darius Slayton put NYG across midfield, but the next two plays netted -8 yards. The opening Bridgewater-led drive ended with an incomplete deep pass to Courtland Sutton covered by one of the newest cornerbacks in the very expensive secondary, Adoree’ Jackson. The next NYG drive went 3-and-out, being capped off by a sack allowed by Nate Solder. It was Solder’s first sack allowed since the 2019 season. He did not play in 2020.

DEN took used ball control, a theme of the day, on the next drive. 15 plays, 62 yards, and 8:42 of game clock led to a 23-yard field goal by kicker Brandon McManus. McManus was traded by the Giants to DEN in 2014. The early 3-point lead wouldn’t last long. NYG converted two straight 3rd downs, one at the hand of a Ronald Darby pass interference and one on an 8-yard pass to Sterling Shepard. Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett called a 1st down pass for the third straight time and this one put points on the board. Sterling Shepard took a pass on a crossing route, broke a Patrick Surtain II tackle, and rumbled his way into the end zone. NYG was up 7-3.

DEN marched right down the field again with the help of a bonehead personal foul penalty on second-year corner Darnay Holmes. Logan Ryan then made one of the top plays of day, as he stripped the ball away from tight end Albert Okwuegbunam after a catch-and-run inside the NYG 4-yard line. Even though it was early in the game, it was game-changing at that moment. A defense that couldn’t stop the opposing offense needed a play like this, and Ryan produced it. The negative, however, was the NYG offense going 3-and-out without even looking halfway competitive from the poor starting field position.

As the 2-minute warning approached, Bridgewater found Sutton on a 14-yard gain on 4th-and-2 to cross midfield. Three plays and 35 yards later, he found wide receiver Tim Patrick for a short touchdown on misdirection. There were just 13 seconds remaining afterward, meaning DEN practically got the ball right back after scoring a touchdown (because NYG started the game on offense) and dominating the time of possession 18:59 to 11:01.

The NYG defense needs to be the backbone of this team. They’re supposed to be the side of the ball that steps up when things look bleak. They did come up with a big turnover in the first half, but they were allowing too many conversions and chunk plays. Starting off the second half with a stop was crucial, as DEN already had a 3-point lead. It did not pan out very well. DEN went on a marathon 16-play, 75-yard, 8:12 drive that included FOUR straight 3rd-down conversions. It was a drive that saw DEN receiver K.J. Hamler drop an easy touchdown and another receiver, Jerry Jeudy, go down with a serious ankle injury. Neither ended up being capitalized on, as DEN put another touchdown on the board on a 4th-and-1 pass to Okwuegbunam, where he broke a Blake Martinez tackle attempt and reached for the pylon. It was 17-7 well into the 3rd quarter and NYG had run just 20 offensive plays all game up until this point. It was time for them to step up.

They were well on their way. NYG converted three straight 3rd downs, the Jones-Shepard connection was getting stronger and stronger, and Barkley (with the help of the OL) pushed a pile past the first down markers. The crowd was getting into it and NYG was heading into the red zone. On a 1st-and-10 scramble, Jones fumbled and lost the ball. DEN had it back and just like that, “Same Old Giants” came back into everyone’s mind. DEN turned that possession into 3 points after, you guessed it, another successful 3rd down conversion.

NYG was down by 13 as the fourth quarter was under way. Their 14-play drive brought the clock all the way down to the 6:30 mark. They had a fresh set of downs inside the DEN 10-yard line. This had a “very last chance” feel to it. Those four plays gained a total of 1 yard. Three incomplete passes and a 1-yard run. The final two passes had no shot and screamed a lack of innovation and creativity. DEN got the ball back, and on the fourth play of the drive, Melvin Gordon took a rushing attempt 70 yards for a touchdown. DEN was up 27-7 and the NYG faithful headed for the exits with 4 minutes left in the game, a weekly tradition when NYG plays at home unless fans of course sold their tickets to the Dallas faithful when the Cowboys are in town.

The final two drives put some lipstick on the pig of a performance NYG put out. We saw a few nice grabs by Kenny Golladay and eventual garbage-touchdown by Jones as the clock ran out to make the final score look even better than what we all watched for 3 hours.

NYG loses, 27-13.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 22/37 – 267 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 90.7 RAT / 6 att – 27 yards / 1 TD

Looking at the stat line, it would be natural to assume Jones played a decent game. I went in the other direction. He was way worse than the stat line, and considering the fumble at such an inopportune time, it was a well-below average game from Jones. This is THE year for the third-year quarterback from Duke and it was a poor way to start it off. He was inaccurate on several throws, he had two interceptions dropped, and the fumble was inexcusable. That was arguably the top turning point of the game, and you just can’t have that from the leader of the offense. Jones continues to be slow to react, he continues to struggle when his primary read isn’t there, and he isn’t putting a defense on its heels. 1 down, 16 to go for Jones who is in a season-long job interview for his future.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 10 att / 26 yards – 1 rec / 1 yard.

Understandably so, Barkley looked very rusty. He was losing his balance and footwork, he dropped a pass, and he failed to see running lanes on two occasions. It is important he got in and out of the game while avoiding any physical issues. That is a big mental part of coming back from a serious injury for a player who is fully dependent on cuts and bursts. I expect to see him on a similar pitch count Thursday night.

-Hats off to Devontae Booker. He didn’t impact the game in an obvious, playmaking manner. He rushed for 7 yards on 4 carries and caught a pass for 6 yards. However, he was a factor in the passing game as a blocker. He made 3 big-time blocks, 2 of which that put DEN defenders on the ground.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard: 7 rec – 113 yards / 1 TD.

One of the best games we have seen out of Shepard’s career. He was a menace for the DEN secondary on 3rd down and after the catch. The majority of his yards came with the ball in his hands. I noticed throughout preseason that he looks more physically developed this year. He is going to break a ton of tackles with how aggressive and quick he moves, in combination with his strength.

-Kenny Golladay made a catch early on in the 1st quarter but was very quiet until the game was pretty much over. He made a couple of really nice grabs with a defender all over him. He looked like a guy who will improve the odds of those 50/50 balls substantially. He finished with 64 yards on 4 catches in his NYG debut.

-Darius Slayton had 65 yards on 3 catches, 42 of those yards on the first drive of the game on a deep ball. His speed is there but he continues to play a soft game against contact with defenders.

-Rookie Kadarius Toney’s usage was odd. After not being a factor for nearly the entire training camp and preseason period, Garrett engineered two scripted plays for him. One resulted in a loss of 6 yards, the other resulted in a gain of 4 yard. Then, we essentially did not see him until the 4th quarter when the game was all but lost. After a bizarre spring and summer with him in relation to this team, that just didn’t sit well with me.

TIGHT END

-Really poor game by new tight end Kyle Rudolph. He allowed a TFL and a pressure as a blocker, and just didn’t impact the game in the trenches. Minimal push, minimal sustainment. He looked rusty and stiff. He added 2 catches for 8 yards. I was expecting more.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-One of the positives (yes, there are positives from this loss) was Andrew Thomas. Bradley Chubb missed the game with an ankle injury, thus backup Malik Reed was the predominant opponent lining up across from the second year tackle. Thomas was superb in pass protection, showing heavy and sticky hands, good balance, and outstanding pad level. Nice warm up battle for the tall task he will face Thursday night against Washington.

-Nate Solder returned from his year away from football. He started right where he left off, strengthening the notion he just isn’t a starting caliber player. He allowed a sack on a short drop back, 1 TFL, and 2 pressures. He can’t bend at all, and it shows. Will Hernandez, who plays right next to Solder as he shifted over to the right side, was equally awful in the passing game. He allowed 2 pressures and a TFL. A case can be made he was responsible for a sack as well. After a strong (but very short) preseason, the arrow appeared to be pointing up for him. Well, it didn’t remain that way in this one as his heavy feet and delayed reaction time was abused on several ugly plays. His poor play didn’t impact the situation often, but it was still very disappointing.

-Matt Peart and Ben Bredeson rotated in. Bredeson actually saw the majority of the snaps at left guard. He looked a little out of control, but he did maul his man a few times. Peart allowed a TFL and a sack, the latter being more communication based as Von Miller ran right by him and put Jones on the ground as Peart remained in his 2-point stance. If nothing else, it will be found on countless blooper videos I imagine.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-The big boys up front, in all honestly, played a solid game. You won’t see it in the box score, and I think they could have finished better in the pass rushing department, but it was a solid effort from multiple guys. Dexter Lawrence made DEN guard Graham Glasgow and center Lloyd Cushenberry look like high schoolers several times. Great push from him that netted 4 pressures. Leonard Williams added a TFL and 2 pressures, one of which led to a sack.

-Austin Johnson finished with 5 tackles and a pressure. He did get credit for a sack, but it came on a play where Bridgewater tripped over his own blocker and fell to the ground. Johnson was the first to touch him, thus getting credit for the sack. Logan Ryan and Williams were really the main contributors there. I thought Johnson was all over the box though, impressive game.

-Danny Shelton added a pressure but missed a TFL attempt that would have been a key play.

LINEBACKER

-Good to see an active Lorenzo Carter on the field. He didn’t finish the way I was hoping for, but he made DEN adjust to him and that is a good sign. He struggled at setting the edge as well, as did rookie Azeez Ojulari. It was a mixed bag for the second rounder, but I really liked how active he was. He finished with 3 tackles, 1 sack, and a pressure. He was flagged for head-contact on Bridgewater, a major no-no in this league. I expect both to improve from here, but I still question how consistently they can beat one-on-one blocking as pass rushers.

-Blake Martinez had an up-and-down game. He finished with 9 tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 pressures. However, his missed tackle on the Okwuegbunam touchdown (a 4th-down play) was inexcusable. He also struggled in coverage.

-Tae Crowder finished with 4 tackles and may be one of the most physical defenders on this team. He put a couple of DEN offensive linemen on their butt a few times. He is the best athlete they have at the position, and he appears to be much more powerful than a year ago. A very good sign. Reggie Ragland split snaps with him and had 7 tackles, most of which were against the run, between the tackles.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson are the two most expensive starting cornerbacks NYG have had on the same field at the same time (not including hybrid DB Logan Ryan from a year ago). They did not earn their paychecks respectively. While they avoided the big-play touchdowns, they were often a step or two too late in coverage as the DEN offense torched them on 3rd and 4th downs. Grading corners can be tough because opportunities are so few, but at the end of the day, they were outplayed by the young DEN pass catchers.

-Darnay Holmes is such a roller coaster. He plays fast, he plays aggressive. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham does several things with him but he, nearly every game, makes a bonehead mistake. He was flagged for a personal foul as he blatantly threw Jeudy out of bounds way after the play was dead. Judge promptly took him out and ripped him a new one on the sidelines.

SAFETY

-What I consider to be the strength of this defense and the biggest hope this unit has – the safeties – were torched by the DEN tight ends. Jabrill Peppers was beat on 3rd down three separate times, although he did have a TFL and pressure. Julian Love was late in coverage on a couple of occasions as well.

-Logan Ryan and Xavier McKinney were solid. Ryan led the team with 10 tackles, a TFL, and made one of the plays of the game on his forced + recovered fumble near the end zone. McKinney broke up 2 passes but got lucky on a couple of occasions where Bridgewater underthrew a target who blew by him. He also missed a tackle.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 1/1 XP
-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 54.0 avg / 39.3 net

3 STUDS

-WR Sterling Shepard, OT Andrew Thomas, S Logan Ryan

3 DUDS

-OT Nate Solder, TE Kyle Rudolph, CB Adoree’ Jackson

3 THOUGHTS ON DEN

(1) Watching, re-watching, and then re-re watching the game, I came away with one thought. We really have to give credit to how well DEN quarterback Teddy Bridgewater played. He was incredibly accurate no matter where he threw the ball. He got the passes out in a hurry, and he created a lot on his own. Bridgewater isn’t a very good athlete, but he played an athletic game. On multiple instances he moved just enough to avoid sacks before making quality throws on the move. He really knows how to take what the defense gives him to a point where it can be woefully frustrating for the opposition. Maybe he took in a thing or two from playing under Drew Brees because that was a very Brees-like performance.

(2) Many don’t realize just how much Drew Lock held this team back last year. They actually could have been a solid offense but a horrid start and Lock being bottom 5 in most advanced metrics just killed their shot in the tough AFC West. I’ll be curious to see if he ends up getting a shot down the road, but I know Shurmur really liked him coming out of Missouri a few years ago. That said, he gave up on Lock in a hurry.

(3) DEN and NYG both have one of the most expensive secondaries in the NFL (top 6). The difference? DEN also puts enormous resources into their pass rush while NYG is left hoping their day 2 / day 3 picks that have not proven anything can rush the edge. DEN’s defense is going to keep them in a lot of games this year and it may be the most ideal spot for a quarterback like Bridgewater. I wouldn’t discount this team from a 9-10 win season especially because they have a very easy schedule lined up.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) I don’t want to write up, for the 1,000th time, how little Week 1 means in the grand scheme of things. A successful season in 2021 is 8-9 or 9-8. They are 0-1 with 16 games left and it was a frustrating game to watch, absolutely. Green Bay lost to the Jameis Winston-led Saints 38-3. Buffalo lost at home to the .500-at best Steelers by a touchdown. Tennessee lost 38-13, at home. I think the one credible fear and gripe NYG fans can yell from their balconies if they feel the need to do so revolves around the fact that it really seems like we are watching the same issues year after year. A vanilla offense, a shaky-at-best offensive line, minimal pass rush, and a defense that struggles in clutch scenarios.

(2) Joe Judge trying to throw a challenge flag on a scoring play was a borderline inexcusable mistake. I haven’t read about his post-game thoughts on the subject, but even my wife who is a casual bystander during football games said, “Aren’t you not allowed to do that?” NYG went on to lose a timeout because of it. That did not end up meaning anything, but it was a juvenile mistake.

(3) The offensive line rotations at RT and LG can be viewed one of two ways. One, it is messing with the most vital component of offensive line play: chemistry. Two, nobody is stepping up and proving snap-to-snap, week-to-week reliability. I’ve discussed the holes at OT and OG multiple times since the end of last year and we are still in the middle of it. I am not sure if the answer(s) are on the current roster, but multiple guys need to be given opportunities with the hope of, well yes, luck. NYG’s only hope here is someone far outplays the level they’ve already played at. Nearly out of the blue. “Fingers crossed” is usually a poor way to build a football team.

Sep 122021
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 12, 2021)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

DENVER BRONCOS 27 – NEW YORK GIANTS 13…
The New York Giants got crushed by the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, losing 27-13 in a game that was not as close as the final score. The Giants start the season 0-1. This is the 10th time in the past 11 seasons the Giants have started off 0-1.

The Broncos out-gained the Giants in first downs (24 to 19), total net yards (420 to 314), net yards rushing (165 to 60), net yards passing (255 to 254), and time of possession (35:08 to 24:52). Both teams turned the football over once. Denver was 7-of-15 (47 percent) on 3rd-down conversions and 3-of-3 (100 percent) on 4th-down conversions.

The game was actually close in the first half. The Giants received the football to start the game. On 3rd-and-5, quarterback Daniel Jones connected with wide receiver Darius Slayton on a 42-yard completion to the Denver 30-yard line. However, two negative-yardage plays pushed New York back, resulting in a punt into the end zone.

After both teams exchanged punts, Denver put together a long, 15-play drive that gained 62 yards, taking almost nine minutes off of the clock, but only resulting in a 23-yard field goal early in the second quarter. The Broncos led 3-0.

The Giants impressively responded with a 7-play, 75-yard drive that was aided by a defensive pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-7. Four plays later, Jones hit wide receiver Sterling Shepard for a 37-yard run-and-catch play for a touchdown. For a moment, the Giants held their only lead of the game, 7-3.

It appeared that the Broncos would easily regain the lead on their next possession, gaining 71 yards and reaching the Giants’ red zone. But safety Logan Ryan forced the tight end to fumble after a 6-yard gain to the New York 4-yard line, also recovering the ball in the process. However, it was only a temporary stay as the New York offense only gained three yards before punting. With 2:25 left before the half, Denver easily drove 57 yards in seven plays and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to give the Broncos a 10-7 halftime advantage with just eight seconds left on the clock.

The roof collapsed on the Giants in the second half. Each team had four second-half drives.

Denver:

  1. 16 plays, 75 yards, 4-yard touchdown pass.
  2. 10 plays, 69 yards, 36-yard field goal.
  3. 4 plays, 94 yards, 70-yard touchdown run by Melvin Gordon.
  4. 3 plays, 4 yards, punt.

New York:

  1. 10 plays, 60 yards, fumble by Jones at the Denver 13-yard line.
  2. 14 plays, 69 yards, turnover on downs at the Denver 6-yard line.
  3. 7 plays, 31 yards, turnover on downs at Denver 21-yard line.
  4. 8 plays, 64 yards, touchdown with no time left on the clock.

A close game at halftime quickly turned into a blowout with a meaningless New York touchdown at the end.

Jones finished 22-of-37 for 267 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, and one killer fumble. His leading receiver was Shepard, who caught seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. Jones was also the leading ground gainer for the Giants, with just 27 yards on six carries and a touchdown. Running back Saquon Barkley was held to 26 yards on 10 carries.

Defensively, the Giants not only allowed 165 yards rushing, but Bridgewater was able to complete 28-of-36 passes for a 115.7 quarterback rating.

Video lowlights are available at Giants.com.

PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATION, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
WR C.J. Board was activated from the Practice Squad for this game.

Inactive for the game were TE Evan Engram (calf), WR Collin Johnson, LB Quincy Roche, LB Justin Hilliard, CB Sam Beal, and CB Josh Jackson.

The Giants reported no injuries from the game.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Joe Judge and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge and select players will address the media by conference call on Monday.

Sep 102021
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (August 29, 2021)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
On paper, this is a match-up between two teams with very similar strengths and weaknesses. Both teams appear to have had very strong offseasons in acquiring new players to shore up obvious flaws.

The Broncos are loaded at the skill positions, but have a huge question mark at quarterback. They are more settled on the offensive line however.

Defensively, after a subpar season in 2020 (21st in yards allowed), the Broncos are expected to be one of the NFL’s top defenses, with strength at all three levels. Of note, they have a couple of dangerous pass rushers and are loaded in a revamped secondary.

The expectation is that both teams will play it close to the vest in this one, relying on their running games and defenses to keep pressure off of their respective quarterbacks. In such contests, mistakes and special teams plays usually prove decisive. Don’t expect a lot of scoring.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (knee – questionable)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring – probable)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring – probable)
  • TE Evan Engram (calf – out)
  • TE Kyle Rudolph (foot – probable)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – probable)
  • LT Andrew Thomas (ankle – probable)
  • NT Danny Shelton (neck – probable)
  • LB Justin Hilliard (foot – probable)
  • CB Adoree’ Jackson (ankle – questionable)
  • CB Josh Jackson (calf – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
I’ll be frank. There are so many unknown variables at this point that it is extremely difficult to anticipate what to expect. How much will Saquon Barkley play and how rusty will he be? Same story will Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and Kyle Rudolph? These guys missed so much time, one has to assume they are still at the beginning stages of developing chemistry with one another. Will the offensive line continue to be a train wreck or unexpectedly begin to show improvement against the likes of edge rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb? What the heck do the Giants have in Daniel Jones?

Due to injuries and talent issues in the secondary, Denver’s defense was not good last year. But Von Miller missed all of the season and is back. And the Broncos completely transformed their secondary with the additions of Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, Mike Ford, and Patrick Surtain. In addition, slot corner Bryce Callahan is one of the better players at his position. Miller is 32, but he still has 106 career sacks. Chubb has 20.5 sacks in three seasons, despite missing most of 2019 with an injury. They can get after the passer and will put tremendous pressure on both Andrew Thomas and Nate Solder. Daniel Jones won’t have much time to throw against a secondary that is expected to be a top-5 unit.

So what’s the obvious strategy? Run the football. Minimize killer plays such as holding penalties, sacks, and turnovers. Don’t be stupid with the football and rely on your defense to force the other team to make mistakes. The one question mark Denver’s defense has is their ability to stop the run. Test it. This will have the added advantage of putting less stress on the still-developing, mostly youthful offensive line and allow them to play to their strength (run blocking).

The great unknown here is the status of Barkley. There is a major drop-off from Barkley to Devontae Booker. In addition, when Barkley first came back from injury in 2019, he appeared a bit gun-shy and that was with a far lesser injury. Barkley has virtually no significant contact since being hurt. How will he respond? How many touches will he get as a runner and receiver? How rusty will he be?

When the Giants do throw the football, Daniel Jones should mostly use the short passing game and rely on his weapons to do damage after the catch. One would think Barkley (unless he is on a stringent pitch count), Sterling Shepard, and Kyle Rudolph would see a lot of touches.

Which leads us to the quarterbacks. Daniel Jones (the 6th player taken in the 2019 Draft) versus journeyman Teddy Bridgewater (5th NFL team in eight seasons). Yes, Bridgewater has the stronger offensive line and that can make a world of difference (see the Giants up-and-down play last year). But Jones needs to be the better player on Sunday. He is supposed to be the better player. Jones is not going to light it up against this Denver defense, but don’t lose the game. And put ENOUGH points on the board to win it.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants were 12th in yards allowed and 9th in points allowed defensively in 2020. This was despite a revolving door of barely adequate players at corner opposite of James Bradberry and edge rusher when the Giants lost both of their starters early in the season. New York’s strong offseason was sabotaged a bit due to injuries to CB Aaron Robinson (still on the PUP) and LB Elerson Smith (on short-term IR). But the defense is still expected to be stronger in year two of Patrick Graham’s system. Adoree’ Jackson (who is still nursing a ankle injury and may be a bit rusty in this one) is a major upgrade at corner. Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines are better pass rushers than what the team rolled out last year when they went down. And Azeez Ojulari was added in the draft. The Giants have a nice combination of experience, youth, talent, and versatility at safety, enabling Graham to run a variety of packages. And despite the loss of Davin Tomlinson in free agency, New York still appears stout up front, led by Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence.

Which brings us to a Denver Broncos team that appears loaded everywhere except quarterback. They have the running backs (Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams), tight ends (Noah Fant, Eric Saubert), and wide receivers (Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick). The offensive line is anchored by left tackle Garett Bolles, whose play has improved dramatically. The rest of the line is steady enough to do the job.

So in a nutshell, all Bridgewater needs to do is “manage” the game and not screw up. Denver’s coaches won’t want to put the game in his hands so, like with the Giants, expect a more run-centric game plan on Sunday and probably an emphasis on the short passing game with run-after-the-catch gains. Bridgewater does get the ball out quickly. Denver is loaded at wide receiver, but the Giants’ strength is their secondary. That said, the secondary can’t sleep on deep throws. Denver has wideouts who can run right by you.

Run defense will be key. And Patrick Graham is a bit worried that his run defense is not where it should be right now. “We’re so behind on the run game just in general in terms of the football – off-season, training camp, because in the off-season we don’t really do it,” said Graham on Thursday. “I know this, where we’re going to be on Sunday, hopefully, a few Sundays from now and 10 Sundays from now we’re going to be a lot better. I have confidence in the players that are here because they understand how we want to play the run… We’ve got to set an edge and build a wall… I don’t know how Sunday is going to go, but if we work it and we’ve just got to make sure that we keep striving to get better.”

Last year, Graham’s defense would have issues starting and finishing halves. In a game where points will be at a premium, New York’s defense needs to start and finish strong. If they bend, don’t break in the red zone. And turnovers probably will decide the game. See ball, get ball.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The great unknown here still is who will return kick and punt returns for the Giants. C.J. Board is on the Practice Squad but could be brought up. Will Judge really have Jabrill Peppers return punts? Will Kadarius Toney be thrown in there at either return spot?

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett on the Bronco’s defense:They have a system they believe in. (Broncos Head Coach) Vic Fangio’s been a great, great defensive coordinator in the National Football League for a long time. He and (Broncos Defensive Coordinator) Ed Donatell work really well together. They have a system that they used in a lot of different places. So, I think it starts with that, but then the most important stuff is who’s implementing that system. They’ve done a really good job building that defense. They’re really good on the front. They’re really good at the linebacker level. They’re really good on the back end. So, we have challenges all over the place on Sunday.

THE FINAL WORD:
I can’t overemphasize enough how precious points will be on Sunday. Settling for a field goal instead of a touchdown in the red zone could very well be the difference in the game. Likewise, a turnover in the red zone could prove devastating. This works both ways. New York’s offense needs to put up touchdowns and New York’s defense needs to force field goals. And I’m pretty darn sure that the team that turns the football over more is going to lose.

This is a winnable game for the Giants, but they have to start off strong, not make too many mistakes, and finish strong. The Giants also need (and should expect) Daniel Jones to out-play Teddy Bridgewater.

Aug 312021
 
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Kaden Smith, New York Giants (August 29, 2021)

Kaden Smith – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The preseason finale (yes, 2 weeks prior to the start of the season rather than 1) was a home matchup against the New England Patriots. Throughout my short lifetime of being a Giants fan relative to many of you, the exhibition game against the Pats has always meant we are right around the corner from week one. After 2 losses, NYG was looking to come out on the winning end of this one, as their starters on both sides of the ball were planning to play at least through the first half.

Daniel Jones, entering the vital-third year, was forced off the field after a third down that saw him sacked by NE edge rusher Josh Uche. The sack was allowed by Andrew Thomas, who had trouble sealing the edge all night. Cam Newton and the NE offense started near midfield after a poor punt before gaining 31 yards on 4 plays, three of which were on the ground. Consecutive incomplete passes brought kicker Nick Folk onto the field for a 41-yard field goal, which he made.

NYG had a bit more flow on their second drive with a solid 1st-down, play-action pass pick up of 13 yards and a 3rd-and-1 conversion by running back Devontae Booker. They crossed midfield before converting a 4th-and-1 by sending power back Elijhaa Penny up the middle. They shot themselves in the foot again, however, allowing a dual-outside sack by the tackles and a drop by Darius Slayton on a 3rd-and-13. NYG had to punt again.

After a solid punt that pinned NE inside their own 5-yard line, Newton was intercepted by linebacker and defensive leader Blake Martinez. It was a slight underthrow to Jakobi Meyers but he managed to get both hands on the ball. It was a brilliant, impressive play by the linebacker that resulted from him sticking with the receiver down the field. Good linebackers know that you just need to be near the action and good things will eventually bounce your way. NYG now had 1st-and-10 near the NE 40-yard line for the second time in as many drives. It took them 9 plays, including two 3rd-down conversions, to reach the 1-yard line. A failed run up the middle and then a horrific interception by Jones left 0 points on the board. 0 points came from two 1st-and-10s near the NE 40-yard line.

NE rookie quarterback Mac Jones came in and led a drive into field goal range, largely helped by a defensive holding penalty by cornerback James Bradberry. Quinn Nordin nailed a 48-yarder to make the score 6-0. How would the anemic starting offense respond? They failed to reach midfield after starting at their own 31-yard line. An Andrew Thomas holding penalty and a near-interception by Jones really brought the vibe down. The NE offense went 3-and-out on the next drive, however, as the backup offensive line was now protecting the rookie Jones.

Once again, NYG began with good field position, just 8 yards shy of midfield. They went into a 2-minute offense and Jones completed 6 straight attempts for an average gain of 5+ yards per. With just 30 seconds left, he threw his best ball of the night, a 23-yard touchdown that was put in the best possible spot for Kaden Smith to haul in despite minimal separation from the defender. NYG carried a 7-6 lead into halftime.

Backups filled the field for the second half, although there was plenty to still watch. NE first- and second-year skill players took care of business right away, marching down the field for a touchdown that ended with a throw from Jones to receiver Isaiah Zuber. They went for two to lengthen their lead to 7, but it failed. NE led 12-7. NYG, led by backup Mike Glennon, went 3-and-out just to watch the NE offense put another score on the board to make it 19-7.

Glennon’s second drive of the night had much more rhythm and success to it. He hit Alex Bachman for a 21-yard pickup but three straight incompletions forced NYG to go for a field goal. Graham Gano, who missed just one attempt in 2020, went wide right from 41 yards to keep the score at 19-7. Mac Jones then ended his night with a poor drive, holding onto the ball for too long, resulting in 2 sacks before punting back to NYG.

The Giants’ running game started to heat up at this point. Corey Clement and Penny combined for 46 yards in addition to a 15-yard face mask penalty by NE defensive lineman Montravius Adams. Glennon then hit Bachman for a 12-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-6 with Gano following it up with an extra point to make it 19-14 with 13:00 left. Brian Hoyer, one of the best backups in the league from a play + presence perspective, dinked and dunked his way down the field on a time consuming 12-play drive that put another 3 points on the board for NE.

The NE pass rush was all over Glennon on the next drive and they were forced to punt the ball back with under 4 minutes left, down by 8. NE gained a couple first downs and in typical preseason fashion, opted to start taking a knee just a tad early. Joe Judge wasn’t having it. He used his timeouts to get the ball back with under 30 seconds left following a missed 54-yard field goal attempt, setting them up near midfield again.

Glennon chucked a borderline-desperation pass into the end zone from midfield and a receiver that keeps making splash plays, Damion Willis (a former starter in this league), came down with the touchdown catch. NYG was within 2 with mere seconds left on the clock. Even though there is no overtime in preseason, it was still intriguing to watch this offense go for two. Glennon slightly rushed his 50/50 ball to Dante Pettis, preventing his target from being able to high point the ball, and the pass fell incomplete.

NYG loses, 22-20.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 17/22 – 135 yards / 1 TD / 1 INT and 1 att / 4 yards

This was the first time we saw Jones in live game action. He will go into the third year, the T in the road of his career, having played 40 snaps before Week 1 against a very good defense. I still disagree with the approach but won’t touch on it anymore. Jones was forced into making a lot of throws underneath. The pressure was at his feet in a hurry and the NE defense dropped a lot of defenders into zone. He did a nice job of checking down and threw an accurate ball. The black eye of the night was a rookie-type interception on 3rd-and-goal from the 1, running to the outside while throwing back inside. His touchdown to Smith, however, was a great downfield throw with elite touch and placement. Jones can excel when throwing vertical, I am confident there. The question is, will he program himself and will the play-calling allow for more shots.

RUNNING BACK

-Elijhaa Penny continued his surge this preseason. The no-nonsense, north-south runner gained 35 yards on just 4 carries. He ends the 3-game run with 53 yards on 7 carries. We can’t get excited about such a small sample size, especially from preseason, but he proved he deserves a shot to be the short yardage guy or at least get a few looks in those situations.

-Roster hopeful Corey Clement gained 24 yards and Devontae Booker, potentially the Week 1 starter, combined for 38 yards on 11 carries. The one standout here was rookie Gary Brightwell. The former wide receiver had 20 yards on 3 catches and added 10 more yards on the ground. He was on the field with the ones, in front of Clement. I thought that was interesting and it is another reason why I think Clement may have a hard time making the 53 (I am writing this early Tuesday morning).

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard, who has averaged 10 yards per catch over the past 2 years (22 games played + 10 games missed), led the team with 5 receptions. They only accrued 42 yards (8.4 per). I bring the numbers up because he is likely going to be the most targeted player on this offense in the passing game. He is making $9 million this year, $10.5 in 2022, $11.5 in 2023. For an offense that needs to make bigger plays in the passing game, it is hard to see that kind of money going to a guy who won’t make big plays. I love the player, I love the route running and aggression after the catch, both of which showed up in this game. However, I question what he can do outside of the short window and then I ask myself if a player like that is worth top 5-7 money on this team. Something to look at this year.

-Darius Slayton had 1 catch for 6 yards and dropped a 3rd-down pass. He was also flagged for offensive pass interference. Dante Pettis was the one who came on the field once Slayton tweaked a foot injury (again). He had 1 catch for 8 yards and I charged him with a drop as well, although it was a tough one to bring in. It was interesting to me that he seemed ahead of David Sills on the depth chart. Sills had 1 catch for 14 yards where a defender was all over him. Once again, solid ball skills but he struggled to get open.

-Alex Bachman had 2 catches for 33 yards and a score. He also dropped one, his second of the preseason. Damion Willis made 2 big-time plays in the 4th quarter as NYG mounted their comeback. He finished with 70 yards on 3 catches and keeps making plays when the opportunities are put in front of him. I think he deserves a shot.

TIGHT END

-The story of the night will be Evan Engram. Judging by the look of how the injury went down, I would expect him to miss a few weeks. By the time this review gets posted, we should know more. Anyway, the writing will be on the wall for Engram if he misses more time. Hard time catching the ball, hard time staying on the field, below average blocker in an offense that needs to focus on running the ball. This makes the position group look mighty thin if he ends up being out.

-Kaden Smith, who went scoreless in 2020, brought in a touchdown catch for 23 yards. It was a high-level catch. He blocked well but did allow a TFL on a bizarre play call. He struggles to really hold the point against defensive linemen.

-If NYG loses Engram for some time, the waiver wire could be the route they take but Nakia Griffin-Stewart looks interesting to me. Perhaps as a PS guy at first, though. He had 3 catches for 30 yards and plays a physical brand. He showed angry, violent hands as a blocker. He plays like he wants it.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Really poor night by the two young tackles, especially Andrew Thomas. He played 40 snaps (just over half of what you would see on a normal Sunday), and allowed 1 sack, 1 pressure, and was flagged for a hold. He looked like he lacked confidence in his outside foot, as he wouldn’t reach and plant with any sort of anchor. His outside shoulder looked soft. Carl Banks (who I respect a ton), noted he looked afraid of losing inside. I disagree. He looked like he didn’t have the confidence in his footwork and overall lower body strength to anchor himself into the ground. Matt Peart allowed a pressure and was flagged for a false start. Both were solid in the run game, however. Really good movement off the ball.

-Will Hernandez is one of the winners of the preseason. This was the best I’ve seen him (albeit just one half of football). He looks much more fluid and active with both his feet and hands. If NYG can have that RG spot locked in, it is a huge benefit when considering the questions marks up front. Nick Gates played well in the running game but did allow a pressure. He was late to see a twist. This was a solid NE front they were up against, and both played well.

-Ted Larsen got the start at left guard and he struggled. He allowed a TFL and a sack before injuring his left leg when he got rolled up on. Kenny Wiggins came in and continued to struggle, allowing a pressure and TFL. The team traded for Billy Price and I will touch on that below.

-Nate Solder looks very lean and a little quicker. He started at RT, and I think that is what we will see early on but with a few rotations per game. Solder gets off the ball well, but he isn’t sustaining good contact. There are balance issues, and he just doesn’t stay square to his man. He isn’t powerful enough on the move and it will cause issues weekly. He allowed a sack.

-Jackson Barton looked much better at left tackle than what I have seen the previous 2 weeks. I also liked Chad Slade at right guard next to Peart. I think he is better inside where he can think more about power and violence.

EDGE

-Nice to see Lorenzo Carter on the field. After watching the group of edge rushers on this team over the first 2 weeks, it is easy to see how advanced Carter is in comparison. More twitch, more pop on contact, faster decision making. He finished with 2 tackles and a sack.

-Azeez Ojulari and Oshane Ximines are likely going to split snaps opposite of Carter. They should lean more toward Ojulari in my opinion, as he looks better against the run, and he simply plays faster. Both finished with a pressure.

-Trent Harris finished with a sack and 3 tackles while Ryan Anderson, who will start the season suspended because of PEDs, nearly came up with a sack as well. At the time of this writing, I think both will end up on the 53-man roster. They won’t ever be reliable every down guys but they offer a niche respectively. Harris has pop and explosion in addition to an aggressive style. Anderson is powerful and stout. There are roles for both.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-B.J. Hill didn’t play, as he was a part of a trade to CIN that I will discuss below. Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Johnson, and Austin Johnson were the starters, all of whom played under half of the team’s snaps. Lawrence bull-rushed his way into a sack but was also flagged for a defensive hold on a screen.

-The trade of Hill will open a door for both Raymond Johnson III and possibly Willie Henry. Both had yet another active game, with the latter finishing with a pressure, a sack, and a pass break up, and the former added another pressure. I’m not sure what their roster status will be as of this writing, but I bet we see them on the field at some point. Let’s see if they can do it against starters.

-David Moa truly has done everything he could to make this team and maybe even carve out a weekly role. He is active and has shown surprising pass rush capability. There was an ugly 3rd-down run where he got pushed back 5+ yards, however.

LINEBACKER

-Play of the night by Blake Martinez on an interception in the first half. Man, it feels good to have a true general who can make an impact all three downs in the middle. Best linebacker they’ve had since Antonio Pierce and I mean that. He also had a pressure.

-Tae Crowder and Reggie Ragland will likely split snaps next to Martinez. I hope they lean hard toward the former. Crowder had a TFL and just shows week-to-week how much more speed he has on the field. Ragland is a thumper and may see snaps here and there, but he is best suited for specific roles and situations.

-Devante Downs has a trade market? News to me. I haven’t heard anything there at all. He finished with 6 tackles in this one, including one on special teams. He excels at straight-ahead, physical play, but he misses too many tackles and can’t cover.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry was flagged for a hold on a third down. Otherwise, I liked what I saw of the true, credible number one corner. He easily turns and runs down the field with speed and shows good control out of his breaks.

-Adoree’ Jackson was out with an ankle injury, thus we saw Darnay Holmes start. He shifted inside on nickel and rookie Rodarius Williams came on the field. The 6th rounder led the team in snaps this preseason and I think we should be ready to see a lot of him early in the season. You know he will be tested often. He was up and down this preseason, but he has a really nice blend of tools. Can he think and react fast? Can he get used to not grabbing? We will see.

-Sam Beal played a solid game. He played physically against the run after a poor effort against the Browns in preseason game #2. He had a TFL on a 2-point conversion and was solid in catch-up coverage. I just see too many losses at the point-of-attack for my liking.

-Madre Harper was picked on for the third week in a row. He just doesn’t have it mentally. There is some impressive size and speed there, but he isn’t a pro corner. He just isn’t.

SAFETY

-We got to see the full gambit of how this team will use the abundance of talent they have at safety. This is one thing I feel really good about. Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, Julian Love, and Xavier McKinney all got on the field in a rotational manner. I love what they offer when it comes to versatility and hustle. Love has had a nice preseason, capping it off with a nice 3rd-down PD.

-Jordyn Peters had an awful game. He was beat on a touchdown pass where he was late to the seam route and then was barreled over on a touchdown run later. I can’t see any situation where he makes this team, but he is new to the position and could be worth a PS spot.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-Graham Gano: 0/1 (missed 41) – 2/2 XP
-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 43.0 avg / 33.4 net

3 STUDS

-OG Will Hernandez, WR Damion Willis, LB Blake Martinez

3 DUDS

-CB Madre Harper, OG Ted Larsen, S Jordyn Peters

3 THOUGHTS ON NE

Man, I could write a book on my admiration for how NE builds their roster year in, year out. I won’t because I know nobody wants to read that. But just in short, they excel at finding players to help their plan in every possible facet. The 2021 offseason was the most aggressive I have ever seen them in free agency by a wide, wide margin. They did it because their other strategies weren’t working. They didn’t fold, they didn’t double down. They quickly altered their approach and added talent to a team that had the second-most injured roster in 2020 (including Covid opt outs). They are so good at this stuff.

As I write this, Cam Newton being released just came across the ticker. I promise, I’m not even a little surprised. I said it last year: He simply looks done. Will he get scooped up? Perhaps, but keep in mind you really have to change the offense around him for that. Maybe BAL takes a look in a backup role? I don’t see the upside with him. We may have seen the last of the 2015 league MVP.

How far will NE go? After years and years of automatic bids into the postseason, they are in the tier of a dozen (if not more) teams. If things break right, they can win 10-11 games. If things break wrong, they’ll win 6-7. They have a really tough schedule from a rest perspective, and they have a lot of really good offenses they’ll have to defend. Mac Jones can play; I think we saw enough in college and preseason to confirm that. But “play” and trying to score 22+ points per week don’t always coincide. I think they will be in the playoff hunt, but they may be too easy to defend without a deep threat. Maybe someone emerges there or maybe running back J.J. Taylor breaks out into a big-time playmaker (yes, that is very possible). But the likes of Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, and Nelson Agholor won’t scare anybody. I’m calling for 8-9 or 9-8.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I want to offer a few thoughts on the B.J. Hill vs Billy Price trade. Again, I will try to keep it short. Hill is a quality defensive lineman who could make almost every roster in the league. I can only think of maybe 3 or 4 where he would be cut. He can offer something against both the run and pass. He is limited though, and he didn’t play a ton last year. This defense isn’t the ideal fit for him. I think some had an inflated outlook on him because in 5.5 sacks in 2018. He has had 2 since. He has had 2 TFL in the running game since. In 32 games. That isn’t good. Billy Price on the other hand, hasn’t been good either. He has been a horrific pass blocker, but a very solid run blocker. That doesn’t solve the issue with the NYG offensive line fully, but I do view him as an upgrade over what NYG has tried along the interior this year. Wiggins, Larsen, Fulton, Looney, Harrison….etc. They aren’t going to get it done. Price has seen his fair share of injuries (pec and foot), he has been moved back and forth between OG and OC, and the CIN offensive line coaches they’ve had are not highly regarded to say the least. NYG isn’t going anywhere without a better starting group than what they’ve had along the OL or more adequate depth. Is Price better than the names I mentioned above? Yes. He played well end of 2020 and this preseason. Could he crack the starting lineup by mid-year? Yes. All in all, this was a move that may or may not help this offensive line, the black hole of this franchise. It will not hurt the DL one bit, in my opinion. Worth the gamble.

Roster cuts from around the league will start pouring in as, and after, I send this review in. Don’t make any final judgements on the 53-man roster until the weekend is my suggestion. A lot will happen between now and then. The one group I would like to see NYG add to is tight end. Rudolph and Smith are fine, but if Engram goes down, I want another guy here who can be trusted to block. This passing game may need an extra body in there to help on the outside. Another place I would look is linebacker. If a guy with speed gets cut loose, I may want to start a Downs-type experiment over. Meaning, hope to get lucky off another team’s trash. Downs doesn’t have it.

As we enter the 2021 season in decent shape health wise, it is time to really turn on what we think will happen this year. I may get another post out there next week, but I think this team is actually similar to what we will see out of NE. If things break right (Jones + the OL turn it up a couple levels), we could see 10 wins. It would be on the heels of this defense though. They have a shot at being a top 10, maybe even top-7 unit. The pass rush is what concerns me, but I trust Graham to manufacture pressure when needed if the outside guys can’t get it done. Can the offense be “good enough?” They won’t get away with scoring 15-19 points per. They won’t get away with low red zone scoring percentages. Even if the NYG defense ends up doing well, they need to score 22+ per game to have a shot at 10 wins. If it gets ugly, you’re looking at 6-7 wins and a new quarterback in 2022.

Aug 292021
 
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Blake Martinez, New York Giants (August 29, 2021)

Blake Martinez – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 22 – NEW YORK GIANTS 20…
The New York Giants fell to the New England Patriots 22-20 in the preseason finale for both teams. The Giants finished the preseason 0-3. This was the only game of the preseason where New York’s starters saw extended playing time, playing until intermission.

The bad news for the Giants offensively was two-fold. First, tight end Evan Engram (calf) and wide receiver Darius Slayton (ankle/foot) both left the game with injuries, as did guard/center Ted Larsen (knee), who actually started the game at left guard. Second, the first-team offense struggled for most of the first half with poor offensive line play, no running game, and a bad interception by quarterback Daniel Jones.

Perhaps the most telling sign of the night was the starting offensive line. Nate Solder started for Matt Peart at right tackle, while Larsen started for the injured Shane Lemieux at left guard. That said, the Giants ran all kinds of offensive line combinations throughout both the first and second halves of the game.

Jones and the first-team offense had five possessions in the first half:

  1. The first ended with a 3-and-out after Jones was sacked on 3rd-and-5 and LT Andrew Thomas was cleanly beat.
  2. The Giants moved the ball on their second drive, reaching the New England 34-yard line, but on 2nd-and-7, Jones was sacked again and New York could not overcome the 3rd-and-13. Punt.
  3. The Giants moved the ball again on their second drive, gaining 40 yards and reaching the Patriots’ 1-yard line. RB Devontae Booker was stuffed on 2nd down. On 3rd down, Jones badly missed Engram and his pass was intercepted in the end zone.
  4. The Giants gained one first down on their fourth drive before a holding penalty on Thomas put them in a 2nd-and-17 hole that they could not recover from. Punt.
  5. With 2:30 on the clock before halftime, Jones led the Giants on a 9-play, 58 yard scoring drive that resulted in a perfectly-thrown 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kaden Smith.

Meanwhile on the defensive side of the ball, the Giants held the Patriots to just seven first downs and 106 total net yards in the first half. Two drives did result in field goals, from 41 and 48 yards out. Linebacker Blake Martinez ended one possession with a remarkable interception 35 yards down field when he stole the ball away from the intended receiver.

At the half, the Giants led 7-6.

The Giants appeared to use the second half to get a gauge on defensive bubble/fringe players and it showed as the Patriots easily took control of the contest as their second-team offense shredded a largely third-team defense in the 3rd quarter. In their first two possessions of the half, the Patriots first drove 75 yards in six plays to go up 12-7 (2-point conversion failed) and then 50 yards in four plays to extend their advantage to 19-7.

The Giants second-team offense went three-and-out on their first possession. After driving 52 yards on their next possession, place kicker Graham Gano missed a 41-yard field goal. The Giants forced the Patriots to punt and New York finally responded late in the 3rd quarter and early in the 4th quarter with a 7-play, 77-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Glennon to wide receiver Alex Bachman. Fullback Eli Penny gained 32 yards on three carries on this possession.

Unfortunately for the Giants, New England extended their lead to 22-14 on their next possession, driving 58 yards in 12 plays, taking 6:32 off of the clock, and finishing with a 37-yard field goal. Glennon was sacked twice on New York’s next drive, resulting in a punt.

The Patriots had a chance to put the game away, but missed a 54-yard field goal with 27 seconds left. After gaining 13 yards on one passing play, Glennon then connected with wide receiver Damion Willis on a 43-yard Hail Mary pass to cut the score to 22-20 with just seconds left on the clock. The 2-point conversion attempt, a pass from Glennon to wideout Dante Pettis fell incomplete.

Offensively, Jones finished 17-of-22 for 135 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked twice. Glennon finished 9-of-17 for 147 yards and two touchdowns. He was also sacked twice. The leading receiver was Sterling Shepard with 5 catches for 42 yards. The leading rusher was Eli Penny with 35 yards on four carries. Overall, the Giants gained 96 yards on the ground in 22 carries.

Defensively, Martinez intercepted quarterback Cam Newton. Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, linebacker Lorenzo Carter, linebacker Trent Harris, and defensive lineman Willie Henry were all credited with sacks. 

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT AND HEALTHY SCRATCHES…
RB Saquon Barkley (knee), WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring), WR Kadarius Toney (unknown), WR John Ross (hamstring?), WR Austin Mack (hamstring?), TE Kyle Rudolph (foot), OG Shane Lemieux (knee), NT Danny Shelton (unknown), LB Elerson Smith (hamstring), CB Adoree’ Jackson (ankle), CB Aaron Robinson (PUP – core muscle), and CB Josh Jackson (unknown) did not play.

DE B.J. Hill and QB Brian Lewerke were the only healthy scratches.

TE Evan Engram (calf) and WR Darius Slayton (ankle/foot) left the game in the first half and did not return. OG/OC Ted Larsen left the game late with a left knee injury.

RYAN ANDERSON SUSPENDED…
The NFL has suspended without pay linebacker Ryan Anderson for the first six games of the regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program on Performance Enhancing Substances. If Anderson makes the team, he will be eligible to return to the Giants’ active roster on October 18, following the team’s Week 6 game against. the Los Angeles Rams.

GIANTS RE-SIGN DEFENSIVE BACK…
The Giants re-signed safety Jordyn Peters on Friday. The 22-year old, 6’1”, 200-pound Peters was originally signed by the New York Jets as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2021 NFL Draft. The Jets waived him in early July. The Giants then signed him shortly before training camp in July 2021 and cut him on August 13th.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Joe Judge and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge will address the media on Monday.