Oct 022022
 
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Gary Brightwell, New York Giants (October 2, 2022)

Gary Brightwell – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 20 – CHICAGO BEARS 12…
The New York Giants gutted out a tough 20-12 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, but the team lost a plethora of key players to injury. Quarterback Daniel Jones (ankle), quarterback Tyrod Taylor (concussion), wide receiver Kenny Golladay (knee), offensive tackle Evan Neal (neck), offensive guard Mark Glowinski (ankle), defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux (ankle), outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux (back), outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari (calf), cornerback Aaron Robinson (knee), and safety Julian Love (concussion) all left the game due to injuries.

The Giants are now 3-1 on the season.

The overall team statistics were relatively equal. The Giants out-gained the Bears in first downs (21 to 16), total offensive plays (61 to 60), total net yards (333 to 304), and time of possession (31:17 to 28:43). However, the Giants held a big advantage in rushing yards (262 to 149) while the Bears doubled the Giants in net yards passing (155 to 71). The Giants won the turnover battle 3 to 2.

The Giants received the football to start the game, but quickly went three-and-out and punted. Chicago’s first possession resulted in a 10-play, 65-yard drive that stalled inside the red zone. The Bears settled for a 29-yard field goal and a 3-0 early lead. New York responded quickly. A mixture quarterback Daniel Jones’ passes and running back Saquon Barkley carries moved the ball to the Chicago 21-yard line in five plays. Then on a designed run, Jones scrambled 21 yards for a touchdown. The Giants were now up 7-3.

On Chicago’s ensuing drive, their second of the contest, quarterback Justin Fields connected on a 56-yard pass on the first play of the possession. However, for the second time, the Bears were forced to settle for a short field goal inside the red zone. The 22-yard kick cut the score to 7-6 near the end of the first quarter.

The Giants gained a couple of first downs on their third possession, but were forced to punt. The Bears once again moved the ball on their third possession, driving 53 yards. But on the 10th play, at the New York 27-yard line, Fields was sacked by outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari. The ball came loose and outside linebacker Kavyon Thibodeaux recovered at the 25-yard line. The Giants kept up the momentum as the offense then drove 75 yards in seven plays. Barkley broke off a 29-yard run to start the drive. Jones connected on passes of 18 and 15 yards, the latter coming on a highlight-reel run after the catch by Barkley on 3rd-and-9. Jones finished the possession off with his second touchdown run of the game, this one from nine yards out. Giants 14 – Bears 6.

The Giants’ defense finally forced a three-and-out on the Bears’ fourth possession. However, wide receiver Richie James fumbled the punt away, with the Bears recovering at the New York 35-yard line. The Bears gained one first down, reaching the 23-yard line, but settled for yet another field goal. Giants 14 – Bears 9. Neither team scored on their final possessions of the half.

Chicago received the ball to start the 3rd quarter and immediately proceeded to cut into the Giants’ lead once again. The Bears gained 58 yards in nine plays, but for the third time in the game, settled for a red zone field goal. Giants 14 – Bears 12. That would be the last points Chicago scored on the day.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Giants moved the ball 60 yards in five plays to set up a successful 44-yard field goal by place kicker Graham Gano. The big play play on this drive was a 40-yard pass interference penalty against wide receiver Darius Slayton. Giants 17 – Bears 12 near the end of the 3rd quarter.

Chicago went three-and-out. Tyrod Taylor, who was now in the game for the injured Daniel Jones at quarterback, gave the ball right back as his deep pass intended for Slayton was intercepted at the Chicago 7-yard line. Nevertheless, the New York defense held again, forcing another three-and-out. The Giants’ offense then put together their final scoring drive of the game, a 13-play, 54-yard effort that took 6:34 off of the clock and resulted in a 43-yard field goal by Gano. Giants 20 – Bears 12.

With 5:31 left in the game, the Bears picked up a first down, but were stuffed on 3rd-and-2 at their own 45-yard line. The Bears’ head coach decided to punt with 3:15 left, the kick being downed at the New York 3-yard line. The Giants could only gain four yards and punted with 2:13 left. However, it was Chicago’s turn to fumble the punt away, the muffed kick being recovered by running back Gary Brightwell at the Chicago 37-yard line.

Barkley picked up 13 yards on the first play of the ensuing possession. However, the Giants failed to put the game away as Gano missed the 37-yard field goal with 17 seconds left. The Giants had to sweat out a series of desperate laterals on the final play of the game before safety Dane Belton recovered a fumble at the Chicago 28-yard line.

Jones finished the game 8-of-13 for 71 yards. He also rushed the ball six times for 68 yards and two touchdowns. The leading receiver was tight end Daniel Bellinger who caught three passes for 23 yards. Barkley carried the ball 31 times for 146 yards.

Defensively, the Giants were credited with six sacks, including two by defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence and one each by linebackers Tae Crowder, Jihad Ward, Azeez Ojulari. There was also a team sack. Crowder led the defense with 11 tackles.

GAME VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS are available on YouTube.

https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1576688473599344641

ROSTER MOVES, PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
On Saturday, the Giants signed ILB Jaylon Smith from the Practice Squad to the 53-man roster. The team had a vacant roster spot and did not have to make a corresponding roster move.

The Giants activated (standard elevation) WR Marcus Johnson and DL Henry Mondeaux from the Practice Squad to the 53-man roster on the same day.

Inactive for the game were WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring), WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee), DL Leonard Williams (knee), CB Cor’Dale Flott (calf), CB Nick McCloud (hamstring), OT Tyre Phillips, and ILB Austin Calitro.

QB Daniel Jones (ankle), QB Tyrod Taylor (concussion), WR Kenny Golladay (knee), OT Evan Neal (neck), OG Mark Glowinski (ankle), DL Henry Mondeaux (ankle), OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux (back), OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf), CB Aaron Robinson (knee), and S Julian Love (concussion) all left the game due to injuries.

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

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

Sep 302022
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (September 26, 2022)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
On Tuesday, Brian Daboll said something that we all have to regularly remind ourselves of: “It’s never as good as you think, never as bad as you think.” This is why I got annoyed with fans, who just a few weeks ago were predicting a 4-13 record, quickly changed their tune in anticipation of a 4-0 start after the first two wins of the season. Yes, I’m being annoyingly preachy myself. But always keep in your mind who and what this team is at this particular moment in time. It’s a rebuilding ball club that will be replacing core elements of the roster in March and April. The Giants are still so hamstrung by their salary cap situation that they can’t cut certain players who they would probably prefer to part ways with.

A poster in The Corner Forum lamented this week that some fans are now more interested in offseason than the actual season. To be honest, I find myself in that spot right now. I see 2022 as a prelude to part two of the Schoen/Daboll housecleaning and roster overhaul. I find it difficult to become too invested in a quarterback, wide receivers, and possibly even running backs who won’t be on the roster in a few months. The defense is more settled, but one gets the sense that Wink Martindale is going to make some significant changes on that side of the ball too.

What I am looking at is the process. As I’ve asked previously, will the team be better in December than it was in September? That’s what fans should be looking at. Right now, this isn’t a good team. There are going to be ups and downs. With a softer schedule, the coaches may be able to eke out a respectable record near the .500 mark. That would be an improvement…something to build upon moving forward. There is no point for fans to lose their shit on a weekly basis over an ugly win or painful loss. If that’s you, you may be better off taking a break from the team. In other words, stop living in denial and accept the reality that the Giants are at the very beginning stages of a rebuilding process.

As for this particular game, just nine months ago, on January 2nd, the 6-11 Chicago Bears humiliated the Giants 29-3. Sy’56 wrote in his game review, “This turned into as close to an unwatchable game as it gets in today’s NFL. It almost seemed like we weren’t even watching professional football.” So what am I looking for in this game? A win would be great. But I’m evaluating how the Giants of 2022 perform vis a vis the Giants of 2021 against the same opponent.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring – out)
  • WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee – out)
  • DL Leonard Williams (knee – out)
  • OLB Jihad Ward (knee – probable)
  • CB Cor’Dale Flott (calf – out)
  • CB Aaron Robinson (appendix – probable)
  • CB Nick McCloud (hamstring – out)
  • CB Justin Layne (concussion – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
We have no idea what Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll really think about Daniel Jones. We can speculate, but that’s all it is, speculation. The most important question facing this franchise is what to do at quarterback. His detractors will say he’s proven he sucks. His supporters will say despite being surrounded with a weak cast, he has done OK.

The reason why this is the #1 issue for the team is bigger than many think. If Jones is the guy moving forward, then keeping Saquon Barkley makes sense. If Jones is not the guy, and the team intends to replace him in the 2023 NFL Draft, then listening to trade offers for Barkley may be an appropriate course of action. The fate of Barkley is the #2 most important decision this team must make, and the fate of Jones and Barkley seem interconnected. If you thought drafting Barkley in 2018 was a luxury a rebuilding ball club could ill afford, then you should feel twice as strongly about it now, given that Barkley will be five years older with a major injury in his profile and costing a ton of cap space. Also keep in mind that the Giants likely won’t be picking in the top 10 in the 2023 NFL Draft and don’t have a lot of draft capital to move up in the first round for that franchise quarterback. Barkley is the team’s best offensive skill player. It’s not close. Without him, they are a much worse team. But the Giants need to listen to offers. If someone blows them away, they may have to pull the trigger.

Why am I bringing all of this up in a Week 4 game preview? Because the clock is ticking. Jones hasn’t moved the needle. It’s not completely his fault. His pass protection was a disaster on Monday and is trending in the wrong direction. He has the worst receiving corps in the NFL right now. To his credit, the team only had one turnover on Monday and that was due to a receiver falling down. So he didn’t lose the game. And the coaches continue to publicly praise him. Nevertheless, the questions remain: is Jones what Schoen and Daboll want at quarterback? Is he actually capable of dramatically elevating his game, and those around him, soon? Most fans suspect not. And the trade deadline is approaching. Teams will likely start inquiring about Barkley.

I’m rambling, so let’s cut to the chase. Every play and every game is now an evaluation of Jones. Every play and every game is an opportunity to market Barkley. The receiving situation is a joke. Take the Miami Dolphins. Tua Tagovailoa has two targets who he can throw short passes to and then watch them run 70 yards for touchdowns. Schoen and Daboll had visions of Wan’Dale Robinson and Kadarius Toney doing that for the Giants, but both can’t or won’t get on the field. The Giants passing game was going to be predicated on quick, short passes to elusive targets who would do damage after the catch. That’s gone right now. And the receivers who remain can’t separate from coverage so Daniel is left holding the ball. Sterling Shepard has likely played his last game as a Giant. Who the heck knows what happened to Kenny Golladay but if the Giants could afford to do it, he probably would have been cut by now. David Sills? Richie James? Darius Slayton? No one is afraid of these guys. Teams are going to load up against Barkley – both as a runner and receiver – and dare anyone else to beat them. 

Long story short, unless Robinson and Toney come back soon and start making an impact, the Giants simply don’t have the talent this season to run a fully functional NFL offense. Passing the 20-point margin is still a major issue for this team. And guess what? Robinson and Toney aren’t playing again. Sigh.

As for the offensive line, like last year, the injury to Shane Lemieux was a major wrench thrown into the machinery. That is not an indictment of Joshua Ezeudu. Odds are he will end up a starter this year or next. Losing Marcus McKethan also hurt as this could have been a good developmental season for him. The Giants have one stud at left tackle in Andrew Thomas. I am not yet worried about Evan Neal. I think he has the character and temperament to handle the inevitable growing pains. The Giants need better play out of Jon Feliciano (one-year rental) and Mark Glowinski (who has been too up and down). But the overall feeling is a starting player or two is missing from this group. Whether Nick Gates remains in the picture is a mystery. I doubt he is a factor this year.

What I want to see moving forward is the offensive line being physical like it was against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1. Be the tougher team. I don’t have much to look forward to on offense, but I can look forward to the offensive line mauling opponents again. This group can run block. Do it.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
I was very curious to hear Wink Martindale speak to the press this week about his unit’s performance against the Dallas Cowboys. At least publicly, Martindale was a lot more measured than I expected him to be. Privately, he’s got to be very upset about how his until got pushed around by the Cowboys’ running game. Leonard Williams is still a vastly underrated player and was missed, but the defensive deficiencies were greater than that. And snippets of Wink’s opinions did sneak through:

(Kayvon Thibodeaux) really hasn’t practiced that much since the injury. He’s done a lot of rehabbing and all that stuff, but he hasn’t done a lot of 11-on-11 work… I’m just expecting great things from him.”

There was a lot of runs Monday night where the guys were falling forward for four and five yards. We’ve got to get better knock back up front and play as a unit, all 11, and make sure we start moving piles backward that way.”

I mean, a 3rd-and-12 toss, that was one of those plays I was telling you about. Just having some football awareness with the backs in the home position, which he never is on 3rd-and-12. We’ve got to see that and recognize that as a defense.”

We’re still in the process of finding the right fits for who’s going to play inside (linebacker). I want guys who can run and hit and tackle. As a unit, as all 11, we need to tackle better. We had too many missed tackles. Like I said, going against this offense, it’s going to be a great test for us to see how much we’ve improved from Monday to Sunday.”

Overall, I think most of us understand the state of the defense. The defensive line is very thin. If something happens to Leonard Williams (like it did) or Dexter Lawerence, the Giants are in trouble up front. Darrian Beaver would be starting at ILB right now if he hadn’t torn his ACL. Wink is quickly learning that Tae Crowder is an issue. The two outside edge guys the team were counting on are way behind because of how much time they missed and are still on a pitch count. They have to play to get into game shape, but in doing so, the defense is weaker in the short term until they are fully ramped up. Meanwhile, the secondary is still a bit shaky due to the lack of depth at corner.

Wink is all about his defenses being physical. Being pushed around like his defense was on Monday has to be killing him. They have to get back to playing like they did in Week 1 against Derrick Henry. Be the more physical team… at all three levels of the defense. They are going to tested this week. The Bears have only thrown the football 45 times in three games. That’s an average of 15 attempts (not completions, attempts) per game! Part of that is their quarterback is not very good throwing the ball, but a lot of it is the Bears have a physical offensive line, a quarterback who can do damage with his feet, and two backs who can tote the rock (although David Montgomery is a bit banged up).

The key to beating the Titans was stopping the run. The Giants did that and won. The key to beating the Cowboys was stopping the run. The Giants failed to do that and lost. The key to beating the Bears is stopping the run. Tune in Sunday.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Giants special teams were up against the Panthers. Except for Graham Gano, they were down against the Cowboys. There was a long return and a blocked field goal. My guess is most of the Giants’ games this year will be close. In those type of contests, special teams can actually decide as many as four or five games (one season, the Eagles won almost half their games because of their special teams). Historically speaking, Thomas McGaughey’s coverage units have been very good. They haven’t so far this year. The injury to Nick McCloud is bigger than many of us realize.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale on the Chicago Bears:One of the reasons why they’re 2-1 is playing complementary football. They’re running the football, trying to control the clock and playing good defense. The biggest thing is, I don’t want to say you take away the runs, but you better limit the big runs, the explosive runs.

THE FINAL WORD:
One of the best comments I read in The Forum this past week was a poster stating that when every game you play is close, you’re going to win some of those and lose some of those. Those are just the odds. There is something to that, especially when your team has so many question marks still at so many positions. So from here on out, I think all we can expect are mostly tight football games that will either end on positive or negative note. Nevertheless, my guess is the team that is more physical on Sunday will prevail. The Giants had better strap on their chin straps and get to work.

Sep 282022
 
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Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York Giants (September 26, 2022)

Kayvon Thibodeaux – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The Giants entered Week 3 undefeated for the first time since 2016. To provide context, that’s when they faced off against Kirk Cousins and the Redskins with leading rusher Matt Jones (retired 4 years ago) and top receivers DeSean Jackson (currently a FA) and Pierre Garçon (retired 3 years ago). Point is, this was a lifetime ago and the NYG faithful showed up to the stadium in team’s first ever “white out” amped and ready to rock as their team, in throwback all-whites, took on the 1-1 Dallas Cowboys in their road-blues that still, after all these years, just never look right.

Dallas came into the game with one of the most banged up offenses in football. They were without starting quarterback Dak Prescott, starting left tackle Tyron Smith, starting left guard Connor McGovern, starting receivers James Washington and Michael Gallup, and starting tight end Dalton Schultz. NYG came into this one relatively healthy, as outside linebackers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari were on the field for the first time this season but without Leonard Williams. Advantage NYG.

Thanks to a holding penalty by third string left guard Matt Farniok, the DAL opening drive stalled near midfield. Once again, NYG was aided by a DAL penalty, this one defensive holding by linebacker Anthony Barr on third down which gave the NYG offense new life. A drive loaded with play-action and creative play design landed them in field goal range. Graham Gano came onto the field for a 47-yarder, but it was blocked by Dorance Armstrong who found a hole on the right side in the middle of the line, a theme of the night.

DAL put up the first three points of the game via a 26-yard field goal despite two more of their own penalties. NYG responded with three points as the game was now in the second quarter. Tony Pollard, the game’s leading rusher, broke off a 46-yard run on the next drive, landing them inside the NYG 20. The NYG defense held them to three points, however. That was where the score stayed for the rest of the first half. NYG did gain momentum on their two-minute drive at the end of the second quarter but another questionable offensive pass interference (this one called on Sterling Shepard) cancelled a play that would have landed NYG in field goal range. For the third straight week, NYG went into the half with under seven points.

The offensive line clearly did not come out of the locker room with a solution to getting absolutely man-handled by the DAL front. Had it not been for a questionable illegal contact penalty on corner Jourdan Lewis, NYG would have been three-and-out. Instead, the offensive line and offense overall got a second chance. The pass rush pressure remained constant, but Daniel Jones accrued 30 yards on two separate scrambles. Nevertheless, he was sacked twice and center Jon Feliciano was flagged for being illegally downfield on a 14-yard screen pass to Saquon Barkley. They settled on a 51-yard field goal attempt that Gano nailed through the uprights.

For the first time of the night, the Martindale defense forced a three-and-out against the DAL offense that was missing their starting quarterback, left tackle, left guard, two receivers, and tight end. More Jones scrambling and more creative play design landed NYG in DAL territory. Desperately in need of an explosive play, Barkley broke off an incredible 36-yard run that gave NYG their first and only touchdown of the night. It also gave NYG their first and only lead of the night.

It was time for Martindale and the NYG defense to contribute their side of winning football. They had played solidly to this point with minor hiccups here and there. Here we were in the back half of the third quarter and DAL had just 6 points and hadn’t scored a touchdown. DAL faced almost no resistance as they put together a nine-play drive, all of which gained yards. Ezekiel Elliott scored a one-yard touchdown (his 10th in 11 games vs NYG) to tie the game up at 13 as the fourth quarter began. NYG’s next drive stalled at midfield and DAL scored their second touchdown in as many drives via a one-handed catch by CeeDee Lamb. In a matter of nine minutes of game clock, the game went from 13-6 NYG to 20-13 DAL.

DAL padded their lead to ten via a 44-yard field goal with just over six minutes remaining. NYG was forced into pass-only situations as they needed chunk gains to have a shot at tying it up before the end of regulation. Jones faced more pressure than ever before in his career, and that is saying a lot. Somehow, they managed to get into field-goal range (with the help of a facemask penalty called on corner Kelvin Joseph) and Gano came through again on a 51-yarder.

Down seven, NYG was now in the phase of the game where they had to get a stop and call a timeout. Thankfully a bonehead play by the DAL offense, a failed third-down conversion that ended with tight end Jake Ferguson going out of bounds, stopped the clock at 1:52 as NYG was without a timeout. NYG had one more shot, albeit starting from their own 9-yard line. On the fourth play, after an Evan Neal false start, Jones was intercepted by 2021 All-Pro corner Trevon Diggs (who dropped an earlier INT) after David Sills fell out of his break. To add insult to injury, Sterling Shepard went down with a non-contact lower body injury and was carted off the field.

NYG loses, 23-16.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 20/37 – 196 yards / 0 TD – 1 INT / 57.9 RAT

Jones also added 79 yards on just 9 carries (8.8 per). He was under duress the entire night against a formidable DAL pass rush and behind a leaky offensive line, especially the right side. It can be very hard to accurately evaluate a performance like this one. Listen to any quarterback talk about Jones and they will tell you it is almost impossible to play a normal version of the position in that kind of environment. If anything, I actually put this game in the “positive pile” when thinking about where his status will reside in January. Jones made a few tough throws, he had receivers drop multiple balls, and the DAL secondary was on point. Jones’ scrambling was 90% of the Giants offensive success. His accuracy was there, the juice on the ball was there, and his decision-making was there. Unfortunately, he is throwing to JV receivers behind a freshman-team offensive line.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 14 att – 81 yards – 1 TD / 4 rec – 45 yards

18 touches for the team’s best player by a country mile, in a tight game where NYG had a second-half lead and where the passing game simply was not working. More on that awful note down below. Barkley’s touchdown run was about as nice a play as you are going to see in this league. The vision, the quick adjustment, the jump cut, and the breakaway speed can be such a downright lethal combination. If NYG wants their best shot at winning games, his touches need to be north of 20 at a bare minimum week in, week out and probably closer to 30. There is no debating it. He is ready and he is the one guy who changes the feeling of the entire offense when he gets the ball.

-Matt Breida has one carry for 3 yards on a 3rd-and-1 conversion. He did not see a ton of action but did allow 2 pressures in the fourth quarter in a pass protection role. The coaching staff needs to keep that weakness in his game in mind moving forward when Barkley comes off the field.

WIDE RECEIVER

-I am going to start it off with Sterling Shepard. The 7th-year veteran led the team with 5 catches and 49 yards in what I expect to be his final game in a Giants uniform. He tore his ACL simply jogging up the field on the final offensive play of the game. Not sure if I have ever seen anything like that before. No cutting. No contact. No sudden burst. Just a light jog and he went down. I don’t want to kick the 29-year old while he’s down, but it was a poor night for a guy who is viewed as a leader on the ship that is being turned around. He had two drops and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct that led to a 15-yard swing in field position in the second half of a tie game. Fortunately for him, Barkley worked his magic and scored the team’s lone touchdown a few plays later. It was a bonehead mistake by a player that knows better. I like what Shepard had brought to the field and locker room over the years and I loved him out of Oklahoma in 2016. But he never quite got over the hump we were hoping he would. Sad to see him go out that way.

-Richie James and David Sills, starting receivers on an NFL football team, combined for 6 receptions for 56 yards. James also gained 4 yards on a carry. I don’t have much to report here. They were man-handled in coverage. The DAL secondary is better than most people know and these two just had no business trying to separate from them.

-Earlier in the week, Kenny Golladay (the highest paid player on the team) said, “I should be playing regardless.” I thought to myself and tweeted out, “Regardless of what?” Regardless of not being able to get open? Regardless of running routes like he has cinderblocks tied to his ankles? Regardless of last being a factor in this league three years ago? He had two shots at coming up with a big play in this game. He got his hands on the ball both times and both times the ball hit the ground. The second time, a fourth-quarter blatant drop was about as bad as you are going to see at the worst possible time. Regardless of anything, Golladay should continue to be forced to prove he deserves playing time. Nothing is free, go earn it.

TIGHT END

-Daniel Bellinger caught 4 passes for 40 yards. He was a key focal point early in the game, going 3 rec / 34 yards in the first half. I was encouraged by his ball skills and quickness turning up the field. He has a sudden element to his game with the ball in his hands. Paired with his size and we are looking at someone who can turn into a focal point of the passing game soon. His blocking is still a work in progress. He gets in position, but the staying power isn’t there yet. Another thing he absolutely needs to improve is his chip blocking. He whiffed or made minimal impact several times and it hurt the pass protection in a big way.

-Chris Myarick allowed a sack and 2 pressures. He was brought into the game to help with pass protection, but did the opposite. Very poor showing for a guy who makes zero impact as a playmaker.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Evan Neal had a rookie performance similar to what we saw out of Andrew Thomas on October 22, 2020 (Thomas’ rookie year). Neal ended this one with 3 sacks, 3 pressures, 1 false start, and a half-TFL. He was overmatched, plain and simple. The game looks a bit too fast for Neal right now. He was getting beat to his outside over and over, as that right foot just wasn’t getting off the ground and up the edge. He had a productive night in the running game and there were some solid recovery plays, but there is no disputing the fact he got crushed. These are called growing pains. And the thing I will be looking for will be his response in the coming weeks.

-Speaking of Thomas, he was near-perfect again. I noted just one pressure and that is hard to believe considering how much Jones was running away from blue jerseys all night. His run blocking was dominant as well. Just tremendous movement off the ball. The combination of twitch and power he plays with reminds me a lot of a young Tyron Smith.

-The interior was torched all night. Again, Jones just had no pocket to step up into, and because of that, he needed to evade laterally. When that happens, all hell breaks loose in pass protection. The lack of stability up front compounds the issue. Mark Glowinksi allowed 4 pressures. Ben Bredeson allowed 1 pressure and had a holding penalty cancelled by an intentional-grounding throw by Jones. He was also on the losing end of many battles in the running game. And Jon Feliciano allowed a TFL, a pressure, and was flagged for illegally blocking downfield on a 14-yard gain by Barkley. He also had a sack cancelled by a DAL penalty in the defensive backfield. Awful performance by this trio, just awful. Bredeson also was at fault for the blocked field goal in the first quarter.

EDGE

-The much anticipated return and debut of #5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux was a bit scaled back as they restricted his playing time due to the knee. It was an underwhelming performance. He had 1 pass break up and a pressure (unblocked). He also lost the edge on two DAL runs to the outside. Thibodeaux looked hesitant. He didn’t have a power game on contact and the get off rivaled what we see out of Oshane Ximines.

-Azeez Ojulari made his 2022 debut a well. He was just as quiet, finishing with just 1 tackle and was shut out as a pass rusher in his 30 snaps. Ximines had 2 pressures (1 from the outside and 1 from the inside) while Jihad Ward had 6 tackles along with a pass break up.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Leonard Williams missing a game due to injury for the first time in his career was deeply felt along the front. NYG allowed 178 yards on 28 carries to the Dallas dual-threat backfield and there was just one pressure by the group that included a lineman actually beating a blocker. That was by Dexter Lawrence, who also added 5 tackles and was a force inside. The likes of Nick Williams, Justin Ellis, and Henry Mondeaux lacked gap integrity for most of the night. They failed to come up big in key short yardage situations and the linebackers behind them just could not make up for it.

-D.J. Davidson played 12 snaps, one of which he jumped offsides on a 3rd-and-1.

LINEBACKER

-We saw a little more linebacker action against the run-heavy attack. Micah McFadden and Austin Calitro saw 30 and 13 snaps, respectively. The former, McFadden, had 3 tackles and 2 pressures, one of which he was untouched. He missed one tackle. McFadden has some all-or-nothing to his game. He is a bit of a risk taker and while I think that fits in well with this defense, I’m not sure his pure athleticism and recovery speed can handle that style play.

-Tae Crowder had 5 tackles and led the team with 4 missed tackles, a horrible number for a number one inside linebacker in a game where the defense was trounced in the running game. He showed poor effort on the Elliot touchdown where he didn’t even ponder trying to wrap up one of the best tackle-breakers in the league. He just ran into him and hoped it would work. Poor game by him.

CORNERBACK

-After an impressive first 2 weeks, we saw the ugly in Adoree’ Jackson. He was beat several times, including once for a touchdown that, in all honesty, he couldn’t do anything about as it was a brilliant throw and catch. But besides that, he was beat downfield by Lamb, allowed 7 catches total, and missed a tackle.

-Cor’Dale Flott did get the starting nod but I don’t think the staff trusts him yet, not for 60 minutes anyway. Fabian Moreau out-snapped him 39 to 19. Flott had a bad missed tackle and I saw more contact-based issues in coverage. He doesn’t look ready for the strength and power of the NFL game. His contact is light and easy to get by.

-Darnay Holmes had a quiet game. He wasn’t challenged much and had just one tackle. He was beat twice in the running game where he had outside responsibility. He also got away with two separate, blatant defensive-holding penalties as he continues to play too dependently on his hands.

SAFETY

-Xavier McKinney was the one star of the game defensively. He had impressive back-to-back plays where he recorded a TFL (the only one of the game for NYG) and then broke up a deep ball to CeeDee Lamb where he ran with him step for step and tracked the pass exceptionally well.

-Julian Love led the team with 14 tackles and added a pressure. The jack-of-all-trades didn’t miss one tackle and was often the last line of defense against an offense that could have easily had a few more explosive plays. Dane Belton saw just 11 snaps and looked overwhelmed in coverage a couple times. The game is moving a bit too fast for him right now.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano 3/4 (Made 42, 51, 51, had one blocked)
-P Jamie Gillian: 3 punts / 45.0 avg – 35.7 net

3 STUDS

-S Xavier McKinney, OT Andrew Thomas, RB Saquon Barkley

3 DUDS

-OT Evan Neal, WR Sterling Shepard, LB Tae Crowder

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

1. Say what you want about a division rival and the shortcomings of Mike McCarthy and the Super Bowl drought. This team deserves a ton of respect for how well they’ve played without their starting quarterback, multiple pieces along the OL after losing 2 starters to free agency, and three main targets in the passing game. This is a sign of a winning team. They find ways to win, even though they’re missing a chunk of strong personnel, rather than just making a ton of excuses and complaints.

2. How far can DAL go? Let’s assume they eventually get their OL back together later in the year when Smith is ready. Let’s assume they get the likes of Michael Gallup, James Washington, and Dalton Schultz back in the next month. And let’s assume they get full-strength Dak Prescott back before Halloween. We have every reason to believe they will contend not only for the division, but the conference. Their defense has the upside of being special and if that offense can elevate their game just one or two levels, they have the goods.

3. How did DAL get here? Did you see the graphic that ESPN put up? They lead the NFL in players on the current roster that they drafted. I noticed this when maintaining their depth chart for Ourlads. While the number can be fluid based on practice squad / IR spots – I have 37 out of 53 players taken in the draft by this team. You can add in a few undrafted free agents as well. For reference, 24 of the currents Giants 53 were drafted (8 of those were from this past year alone). Jerry Jones is on the wrong end of jokes sometimes (he got fleeced in the Amari Cooper trade) but there is no disputing the fact this team knows how to draft. I’ve felt this way since I started really tracking the draft deeply in 2004.

NYG THOUGHTS

1. I took this game as a reminder. A reminder that the team itself is not very good and they’re not ready for a long winning streak. They are competitive and I do think they’re heading in the right direction. I don’t say that with a moral victory kind of tone. I firmly believe it is the truth. The change can be felt and they’re on the move upward. But bad teams find ways to lose games. In the fourth quarter, NYG was down 20-13. On 2nd-and-8, Shepard drops a ball that would have been a deep completion. Then they get flagged for a delay-of-game penalty. Then Golladay drops a perfectly placed ball on 3rd-and-13 that had a shot at gaining the first down. That is the kind of drive at the most important point of game that losing teams put together. It’s not completely out of their system yet.

2. We can continue to harp on the shortcomings of the offense. That is fair. But I am more concerned with the defense. After keeping DAL down for most of the game with some help from the refs, Martindale’s defense allowed 17 points on just over 9 minutes of game clock on three straight drives when the team needed them most. 10 guys were on the field for the Elliott touchdown (inexcusable by both players and coaches). They didn’t record one sack. They barely even touched Rush against a beat-up OL. They were tossed around in the running game. They forced zero turnovers. And DAL gained more yards in this game than the previous two respectively. You may not see it by looking at points allowed, but this was a horrific defensive performance as a result of being outplayed and out-coached.

3. What can we hope to see from this team moving forward? They have a third-straight home game coming up and it is against the Bears, a team I projected to finish with one of the worst three records in football. Both of their wins were unimpressive and their loss in Green Bay Week 2 was about as ugly as you will see in today’s NFL. This is a bad football team and especially bad on offense. The offensive line, the quarterback, the pass catchers. I am looking forward to how this regime bounces back from a loss, something we haven’t seen yet. I hope this offensive coaching staff realizes that tight games need to center around Barkley. He is way too good, and the rest of the skill positions are way too bad for him not be fed the ball over and over. I also believe this OL can perform better with that approach as well.

Sep 272022
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 26, 2022)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS COWBOYS 23 – NEW YORK GIANTS 16…
The New York Giants lost their first game of the 2022 season by falling 23-16 to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants are now 2-1. The Cowboys have defeated the Giants 10 times in the last 11 meetings between these two teams.

The overall team stats were not lopsided. Dallas held advantages in firsts downs (23 to 22), total net yards (391 to 336), net yards rushing (176 to 167), net yards passing (215 to 169), and time of possession (32:42 to 27:18). There was only one turnover in the game and it came on New York’s final possession. Both teams struggled on 3rd down, but the Cowboys converted on a key 4th-down conversion attempt in the 4th quarter.

The bulk of the 1st quarter was taken up by two Dallas drives and one by New York. The Cowboys ran five plays and punted on their initial possession. The Giants responded with an 11-play, 54-yard drive, but had a 47-yard field goal attempt blocked by Dallas. The Cowboys then drove 55 yards in 10 plays to set up a successful 26-yard field goal that gave them a 3-0 lead with just over two minutes left in the quarter.

New York tied the game up 3-3 on their second possession of the game, another time-consuming drive that picked up 51 yards in 14 plays and set up place kicker Graham Gano for a successful 42-yard field goal. Unfortunately for the Giants, running back Tony Pollard broke off a 46-yard run on the first play of the ensuing Cowboys’ possession. The defense held inside the red zone to force another field goal. Cowboys 6 – Giants 3.

Neither team scored for the remainder of the first half. The Giants could not pick up a first down and punted. The Cowboys picked up two first downs and punted. The Giants gained 33 yards, but turned the ball over on downs on 4th-and-10 at the Cowboys’ 47-yard line with eight seconds left. Dallas then attempted a 59-yard field that was no good.

The Giants received the ball to start the second half and proceeded to immediately tie the game up at 6-6 after driving 42 yards in 10 plays. Gano kicked a 51-yard field goal. After a three-and-out by the Cowboys, the Giants maintained momentum with their only touchdown drive of the night. On the sixth play of the 77-yard possession, running back Saquon Barkley broke off a 36-yard cutback run that gave New York a 13-6 advantage with 5:31 left in the 3rd quarter.

The Cowboys immediately responded with their first touchdown drive of the night, marching 75 yards in 9 plays with running back Ezekiel Elliott scoring from one yard out on 3rd-and-goal. The game was now tied at 13-13 near the end of the quarter.

New York reached midfield but was forced to punt. Starting at their own 11-yard line, Dallas began an 11-play, 89-yard drive that put them ahead for good. The key play was a 4-yard pass completion on 4th-and-4 from the Giants’ 41-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Cooper Rush found wide receiver CeeDee Lamb for the 1-yard score and a 20-13 advantage.

The Giants could not gain a first down and punted again. The Cowboys returned the kick 28 yards to the New York 35-yard line. They only needed nine yards to set up a successful 44-yard field goal. With just under six minutes to play, the Cowboys were up by 10 points, 23-13.

Aided by a face-mask penalty on the Cowboys, the Giants reached the Dallas 22-yard line before an intentional grounding penalty pushed New York back. Gano kicked a 51-yard field goal with 3:37 left, making the score 23-16.

The Cowboys gained one first down and punted. The Giants had the ball with 1:45 left on the clock, but they were starting from their own 9-yard line with no timeouts. On 2nd-and-15 from the 16-yard line, quarterback Daniel Jones’ pass for wide receiver David Sills was intercepted when Sills fell down. Making matters worse is that wide receiver Sterling Shepard appeared to suffer a serious, non-contact knee injury on this play. He had to be carted off the field. Rush then knelt on the ball to end the game.

Jones finished the night 2o-of-37 for 196 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. Jones was sacked five times, officially hit 12 times, and was victimized by a number of dropped passes. No Giants’ player had more than 49 yards receiving. Barkley carried the ball 14 times for 81 yards and one score that gained almost half of his yardage total.

New York’s defense did not accrue a sack or turnover. The Dallas quarterback was only hit twice and the Giants only were credited with one tackle for a loss.

Video highlights are available on NFL.com.

ROSTER MOVES, PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
On Monday, the Giants activated DL Henry Mondeaux and CB Fabian Moreau from the Practice Squad to the 53-man roster.

Inactive for the game were WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring), WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee), DL Leonard Williams (knee), CAaron Robinson (appendix), CB Nick McCloud (hamstring), CB Justin Layne (concussion), and OLB Tomon Fox.

WR Sterling Shepard injured his left knee on last offensive play of the night for the Giants. He had to be carted off of the field.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Brian Daboll will address the media by conference call on Tuesday.

Sep 242022
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 18, 2022)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
There has never been a so consistently over-hyped NFL team as the Dallas Cowboys. Year after year, the Cowboys receive an inordinate amount of media attention. It’s really quite comical. In the last quarter century, the Cowboys have won only three playoff games. Even the times when the team has excelled in the regular season (2007 and 2016 for example), they were one-and-done in the playoffs. 2021 was likely another tease for their fan base. The Cowboys don’t have the feel of a legitimate contender and are heading towards their third decade of futility.

That’s what makes the New York Giants’ recent impotence against the Cowboys (and Eagles, but that’s for a later preview) so frustrating. The Cowboys undoubtedly were a better team in recent years, but the Giants have been getting bitch-slapped by an overrated team in what has been a mediocre division for years. Want to know why the Giants keep firing general managers and head coaches? It’s because they haven’t been competitive in their own division. I hate to keep bringing it up, but the Cowboys have won nine of the last 10 games against the Giants. That’s not a rivalry; it’s a joke.

Nothing will really change with this team until it starts beating the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee – out)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring – doubtful)
  • OC Jon Feliciano (shin – probable)
  • DL Leonard Williams (knee – doubtful)
  • OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee – questionable)
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf – questionable)
  • CB Aaron Robinson (appendix – out)
  • CB Nick McCloud (hamstring – out)
  • CB Justin Layne (concussion – out)
  • Dane Belton (clavicle – probable)
  • S Jason Pinnock (shoulder – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
I hate to deal in hyperbole, but to date, this may be the most important game Daniel Jones will play in Giants’ uniform. For one, as we all know, this is THE make-or-break season for Jones. His contract is up after this year and the team may simply let him walk. But specific to this game, what if Dallas Cowboys’ back-up quarterback Cooper Rush out-plays Jones on a super-hyped Monday night game on the team’s home turf? See where I’m going with this? This game may very well come down to quarterback play and the quarterback who performs better. If the Giants (and Jones) get embarrassed by the Cowboys again, I’m not sure Jones will ever get the fan base back on his side.

Is this fair to Jones? Yes and no. Yes, because Jones clearly still has significant warts to his game. Aside from a couple of games early in his career, there has been no “wow” factor with him. More than ever, it’s a quarterback-driven league and it’s hard to see Jones ever carrying a team to the promised land. On the other hand, it’s not completely fair because Jones is on his third head coach and fourth offensive coordinator since being drafted. That’s absurd. Whether fans want to admit it or not, there is a dramatic learning curve every time you change offensive system. Sterling Shepard admitted this week that receivers are still making too many mistakes in their routes. That happens to every team that changes coaches. It’s why teams with established coaching staffs and systems have an inherent advantage over opponents who do not.

To state the obvious, the New York offense hasn’t lit the world on fire the first two weeks. The offensive line has been up and down. Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney have been still missing in action, and while Jones has been good enough to help pull out two close victories, he has also been fortunate that mistakes didn’t turn those games into painful losses. The Giants now will be facing their third tough defense in a row, a defense that presented problems for Tom Brady and Joe Burrow.

The Cowboys’ defense is the strength of their team and is coached by Dan Quinn, who the Giants interviewed as a head coaching candidate. They are led by all-world linebacker Micah Parsons, who is beating his opponent on pass rush opportunities more than 50 percent of the time. That’s rare territory folks. Quinn lines Parsons (who is listed as “questionable” with an illness) up all over the field and he can beat opponents with power, quickness, and technique. DeMarcus Lawrence is off to a slow start, but he has given the Giants issues in recent years. Both young offensive tackles will be challenged by Parsons and Lawrence on the edge, plus the struggling interior of the New York offensive line will have to deal with Parsons coming up the middle. Edge rusher Dorance Armstrong also has two sacks in two games. In obvious pass-rushing situations, the Cowboys will use multiple edge rushers in special pass-rush packages (similar to what Steve Spagnuolo used to do with his “Nascar” defense). 

The Dallas secondary is led by interception-magnet cornerback Trevon Diggs (2 interceptions against the Giants in 2021). His fellow corner is Anthony Brown (1 interception against the Giants returned for a touchdown in 2021). The 2021 Dallas defense thrived off of take-aways. They only have one so far this year, but obviously a key for Jones and the rest of the New York offense is not to turn the ball over against this group. Dallas prefers to have their opponents drive the field in small chunks rather than give up the big play. They count on their opponent to make the stupid mistake such as a turnover, sack, or penalty.

Until the New York offensive line settles down more in pass protection, the strategy is obvious. Run the ball with your best player. If the Giants want to keep Parsons and company off of Daniel Jones’ back, and prevent those killer mistakes such as turnovers and sacks, run the ball. This proved harder last week against the Panthers than it did in Week 1 against the Titans. But New York needs to keep plugging away. Be the more physical team. Wear down a more undersized defensive front. It won’t be conducive to scoring a lot of points, but it will keep mistakes to a minimum and pay greater dividends later in the contest.

I will also throw this out there. Brian Daboll embarrassed Kenny Golladay last week. If Golladay has any pride, plus any talent left in the tank, it should show up this week. I would not be surprised if we saw a big game from Kenny.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The beauty of Wink Martindale is the opponent never really knows what they are going to get. He changes things up each week, sometimes out of necessity (injuries), but mostly because that is who he is as a defensive coordinator. If you choose to listen, Martindale keeps telling you, “It’s a position-less defense… And you’ve already seen two different defenses… We got to reap the rewards on Sunday because we gave Carolina a different look than what they’ve seen.”

The issue for the Giants in this game is the injury situation. Yes, edge rushers Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux will likely play. But both have missed most of the summer with injuries and will be rusty. The missed time has to affect the rookie Thibodeaux in particular. Starting corner Aaron Robinson is out, and that’s not ideal given that the Cowboys could be getting back wide receiver Michael Gallup this week (he’s listed as “questionable”). Worse, arguably the team’s best defensive player, Leonard Williams, is out. That will affect both the run defense and pass rush.

The Cowboys’ offensive line isn’t the team strength it used to be. Right guard Zack Martin is still one of the best in the business. The left tackle is rookie Tyler Smith and right tackle Terrence Steele is more of swingman that ideal starter. Expect both to be tested by the Giants’ edge players. The issue is inside. Dexter Lawrence is off to hot start. But with Williams out, the team will have to rely on reserves and possibly undersized Jihad Ward to stop a two-headed running game in Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. You can’t rush the passer if you don’t stop the run, and Wink is going to have to scheme his best to control the Dallas ground game. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with, more linebackers like he played in Week 1 or more defensive backs like he did in Week 2. The former seems more obvious, but Wink isn’t always obvious.

Which brings us to back-up Cooper Rush, who is subbing for the injured Dak Prescott, and the passing game. Personally, I didn’t see a huge drop-off from Prescott to Rush. And we know the NYG history against back-up quarterbacks. The Giants had better not take Rush too lightly. As mentioned, Gallup may return this week from an ACL injury. The big dog right now is CeeDee Lamb, who can play outside or in the slot and present match-up issues. Noah Brown is a bigger receiver who is surprisingly leading Dallas in receptions as teams pay more attention to Lamb. Gallup could take pressure off of Lamb, however. Tight end Dalton Schultz is dealing with a knee injury and might not play (he’s listed as “questionable”). If he doesn’t, the Cowboys will have to rely on inexperienced back-ups. That said, Dallas tight ends have a history of tormenting the Giants.

The game plan is fairly obvious on this side of the ball as well. Even when Prescott is in the line-up, the Cowboys are more of a run-first team. This is especially true now with the back-up playing. Stop the run. Get the Cowboys in uncomfortable long yardage situations and test the tackles on the pass rush. Focus your coverage on Lamb and make Rush beat you.

I’ll finish on this note… the Giants are due for some picks.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Giants’ special teams are coming off a strong game. The team will need more of the same in what is likely to be a tight defensive game. The diminutive KaVontae Turpin is very dangerous on returns. He scored on a kickoff and punt return in the same preseason game. Thomas McGaughey admitted this week that while he loves Jamie Gillan’s leg strength, he is still working on his control. The Giants need to be careful here.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale on QB Cooper Rush:I see a guy that’s a starting quarterback in this league. Honestly, I do… He’s got two career starts, but he’s also 2-0 with those career starts. So, this guy’s a proven winner… He’s a smooth operator back there, and he doesn’t get rattled.

THE FINAL WORD:
Both teams play good defense. Both teams will want to run the ball. Usually in these types of contests, quarterback play, special teams, and which team makes the fewest mistakes will be the deciding factors. This is a really big moment for Jones. The entire country will be watching.

Sep 202022
 
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Oshane Ximines, New York Giants (September 18, 2022)

Oshane Ximines – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

After a week of the coaches and players unofficially clamoring the NYG faithful to show up ready to rock for the 2022 home opener at MetLife Stadium, the juices were flowing. Once again, a “this feels different” kind of vibe poured into the seats as the fans watched their 1-0 New York Giants at home for the first time since September 18, 2016 when Eli Manning took on Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. The Giants ended up winning that game 16-13 behind a 368-yard performance by Manning and his number one target, rookie Sterling Shepard, who caught all 8 of his targets for 117 yards.

Fast forward six years to the day, and the 2016 head coach for NYG, Ben McAdoo, was up in the booth employed by Carolina Panthers as their offensive coordinator. Whether it was a revenge game or not for him does not matter, but human nature must create a notion he wanted to stick it to the Giants. His offense was due to get the ball first but a fumble by second-year running back Chuba Hubbard that was recovered by NYG forced him to wait. NYG did put a quick three points on the board via a 36-yard field goal by Graham Gano.

McAdoo and the CAR offense did get their shot at a drive following the next kickoff. They failed to cross midfield (a penalty brought them back after crossing) and it ended with a 3rd-and-22 wide receiver screen (remember those?) that ended in another fumble, this one by receiver Robby Anderson, that was also recovered by NYG. For the second straight series, the offense began in CAR territory and for the second straight series, the offense settled for three points.

CAR added three points of their own via 31-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro after a 13-play drive that ended with a Shi Smith drop that would have given them 1st-and-goal at around the 5-yard line. CAR was shooting themselves in the foot over and over, including a 4th-and-1 false start by rookie left tackle Ikem Ekwonu. NYG’s offense was being halted by penetration by the CAR front and quarterback Daniel Jones struggling to make quality decisions from the pocket. Pineiro hit a 32-yarder to tie it up and the score was 6-6 at the half.

NYG went three-and-out on their opening second-half drive and CAR came out hot like the way NYG did last week in Tennessee. Three plays (two passes and a 17-yard scramble by Baker Mayfield) put them in the end zone to score the game’s first touchdown and give NYG their first deficit via a 16-yard pass to D.J. Moore. Down 13-6, it did not take long for them to get right back to even. Jones made a couple of aggressive, big-time throws and the offense put together four straight 10-yard+ plays. The drive ended on a pitch, catch, and run from Jones to rookie Daniel Bellinger for the 16-yard score. Can’t ask for a much better first-career reception than what the fourth rounder from San Diego State produced.

NYG held CAR scoreless on the next drive but lost defensive tackle Leonard Williams to a knee injury. He would not return. The game remained tied up at 13 as they went into the fourth quarter. Gano gave them a three-point lead via a 51-yarder. A sneaky key contributor prior to the attempt was the 3rd-and-7 play where Jones had to tuck and run after dropping back. He clearly had no shot at a first down, but those five yards were essential to the attempt. Hidden yards appear once again. I wonder if McAdoo was paying attention.

CAR quickly tied the game back up with a 38-yard field goal. Once again, they were in a position to do damage but errant throws by Mayfield, drops by the pass catchers, and penalties stopped their momentum, and NYG had control of the game with over 10 minutes left. An 11-play drive that took 7:12 off the clock set Gano up for a 56-yard field goal attempt. He put it right down the middle for his career-long in a Giants uniform and longest of his personal career since 2018 when he was with Carolina (a 63-yarder that beat…NYG).

CAR did creep toward midfield but a 3rd-down sack by Julian Love created a 4th-and-15, forcing CAR to punt the ball back to NYG with just over two minutes left. With a three-point lead, this is where teams need learn how to win. In just four plays and with the help of an encroachment penalty by CAR, NYG secured two first downs and CAR were without timeouts as the clock dwindled to triple zero.

NYG wins, 19-16.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 22/34 – 176 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 87.4 RAT

Jones also added 21 hard-earned yards on the ground. One of the more fascinating things to follow under the Jones umbrella will be his willingness to make aggressive throws. Watching from the birds eye, Jones simply did not see open targets or he was too hesitant to let it rip. I say that from the comfort of my chair, whereas he had multiple elite, enormous athletes bearing down on him trying to rip his head off behind a shaky offensive line. But at some point, and Brian Daboll has stated this as well, Jones will need to alter his mindset. There is too much hesitation in his game, and it almost cost the team. Sure, he is playing with a sub-par group of pass catchers, but he needs to be more aggressive. If it is a matter of him not seeing the action, that is a different discussion. But Jones CAN do it. He DID it in this game. Make tight throws in big moments that are considered “elite” throws. Will Daboll get this out of him? Keep an eye on it.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 21 att – 72 yards / 3 rec – 16 yards

The Week 1 NFC Offensive Player of the Week took a step back in overall production and did not score. The CAR front gave the NYG offensive line all they could handle and more. That said, NYG scoring 13 points in the second half (after just 6 in the first) was largely a result of Barkley gaining 69 yards on the ground in the final two quarters. He came to life, broke multiple tackles, and ran physically. The one negative on his sheet was a poor pass block that created pressure and led to a sack.

-Gary Brightwell gained 14 yards on one carry that may have been the best play of the day by this offense. A 3rd-and-1 in the fourth quarter where he lined up as a fullback, Brightwell took it through the line in a hurry up field as if was shot out of a cannon. It was his only snap of the game, and nobody saw it coming.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Last week it was Kadarius Toney, this week it was Kenny Golladay, when it comes to a surprising number of snaps. The $18 million per year receiver saw a grand total of two. He was not seen in the locker room after the game but according to Daboll, this was pre-decided and discussed during the week. Speaking of Toney, the 2021 first rounder did see an uptick in playing time. He caught 2 passes that totaled 0 yards (yes, zero) and dropped a pass. His biggest gain of the day (36 yards) was nullified by a David Sills offensive pass interference.

-Sterling Shepard had 6 catches for just 34 yards and Richie James (the current leading receiver on team after 2 weeks) added 54 yards on 5 catches. Both bring similar, if not identical, traits to the passing game and once Wan’Dale Robinson comes back, the same could be said for him. The NYG passing game will feed off these guys especially on third down but make no mistake, they aren’t taking the top off a defense unless the secondary gets fooled. Shepard did almost get another deep ball in this one, though.

-David Sills was the beneficiary of the hit to Golladay’s playing time. Good for this kid and I personally enjoy seeing him get his shot. If you remember back, I wanted NYG to take him in the 4th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He went undrafted and linked up with Buffalo (where Daboll was at the time) and here we are in 2022, Sills saw a career-high 67 snaps, which led all receivers. Separation and speed issues were his downfall as a prospect, and they are still limiting him now but I do think he can offer something as a number four guy this season. That said, his bonehead decision to run backwards after a catch on 3rd down at the end of the first half was a terrible play that brought out the boo birds as the team went to the locker room.

TIGHT END

-Daniel Bellinger was targeted one time (two less than backup Tanner Hudson) but he made the most of it. He caught the ball, quickly turned upfield, and showed a nice burst to the front corner of the end zone before outstretching his 6’5” frame to the pylon for the touchdown. Hudson grabbed 2 passes for 22 yards. Both were beat up at the point-of-attack by the physical CAR front, with Bellinger allowing a TFL. Chris Myarick saw time as the team did use an above average amount of 13 personnel and graded out in the green as a blocker.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Very rough day for the group overall. The CAR front is a solid group, but they played above their pay grade thanks to poor blocking by the NYG line. The interior is where most of the losses were found. Center Jon Feliciano put out a second straight poor performance. In the fourth quarter with the game tied at 16, he allowed a TFL and then was flagged for holding, nearly knocking them out of field goal range. He also allowed 2 pressures and was flagged for a false start (where he did not snap the ball on time). Derek Brown had his way with him.

-Mark Glowinski is a blue-collar guy who won’t ever be a dominant presence, but I do feel good about him from a macro-perspective. Nevertheless, in this game, he allowed 3 pressures and a sack. He isn’t a stout guy at all. While he does produce enough power on the move as a run blocker, his anchor against an elite bull rusher gives him problems. Ben Bredeson and Joshua Ezeudu rotated at left guard again, but it was 77%-23% in favor or Bredeson when looking at snaps played. Rightfully so. Ezeudu was flagged twice (one was declined) and allowed a pressure. Bredeson graded out as the top OL on the team. I forecast the rotation continuing but if this difference in play keeps appearing, Bredeson will likely take a firm hold of the job until Shane Lemieux is back.

-The tackles were both beat up by Brian Burns multiple times. While they both ended up in the average tier of my grading system, they need to be better than what we saw in Week 2. Andrew Thomas allowed 2 pressures and a sack. His sack was a result of Jones running into his engagement due to pressure coming from Barkley, however. Thomas has set the bar high and many outside of New York are catching on. The catch with that? Your margin for error is much smaller. Evan Neal was the top graded run blocker. On a 17-yard run by Barkley, Neal blocked two different defenders within a second of each other that cleared the path. He did allow 1 TFL, 2 pressures, and 1 sack. More struggles but also more positives.

EDGE

-Hats off to Jihad Ward. One of the most overlooked NYG signings this past offseason stemmed from a previous relationship with Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale in Baltimore (2019-2020). A hybrid DT/DE has been placed into a pure outside linebacker role with the injuries to starters Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux. He was one of the stars of the defense in this complete team effort. He had 4 tackles, 2.5 TFL, and a pressure. You won’t see a ton in the highlight reel from him (although that is an impressive stat line vs the run), but Ward’s impact on this defense was huge. A true edge setter and vocal leader on this unit that has more swag than any group in recent memory.

-Oshane Ximines also had the best game of his career. He had 2 tackles, a sack, a pass breakup, and 3 pressures (1 untouched). It has been a rocky tenure here in New York for Ximines. While I’m not going to all the sudden label him a star, his role on this defense can be huge, especially if he is a rotational backup-type once the starters come back. The biggest difference in him is mental. There is a lot less hesitation in his game.

-Tomon Fox had a quiet game in his 20 snaps.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Leonard Williams going down is something to keep an eye on. At the time of this writing, I do not have any sort of update but I saw a clear difference at the point-of-attack after he left. Prior to him getting hurt, Christian McCaffrey carried the ball 11 times for 39 yards. After he left? 4 carries for 63 yards including a 49-yarder. The 4-man pass rush took a hit as well. Williams had 3 pressures, one of which created a sack for the defense.

-Dexter Lawrence had a dominant day. He is playing with some extra fire right now and his bull rush is as effective as you will find in the league. He had 4 pressures and a half-TFL. Arguably the most impressive play was a pursuit of Baker Mayfield to the sideline. It was 3rd-and-4 in the first quarter. Mayfield had a clear line to the first down marker, and he took off from midfield. Lawrence chased him from the middle of the line and essentially beat him to the marker. CAR did convert the 4th-down conversion the next play but I loved seeing Lawrence, a 345-pounder, go step for step with a 215-pound quarterback who ran a 4.8 at the Combine. You won’t find many guys who can do that.

-Nick Williams rotated with Justin Ellis with some D.J. Davidson sprinkled in. It was a small sample size (as it was in Week 1), but I trust Davidson more than the former two. He has a little more pop off the ball and is twice as stout as Williams, the biggest catalyst in NYG’s occasional run struggles.

LINEBACKER

-To combat Christian McCaffrey (arguably the league’s top dual threat back), Martindale played almost the entire game with one linebacker on the field. Tae Crowder played 48 snaps, and the combination of Micah McFadden and Austin Calitro combined for 15 snaps. More on that below. Crowder had just 2 tackles and missed one. He was non-existent against the inside run but was not challenged much in coverage, a questionable approach by McAdoo.

CORNERBACK

-Aaron Robinson was sidelined because of an appendectomy, giving the start to rookie Cor’Dale Flott. The third rounder missed a sizeable portion of camp and preseason with a groin injury, and I felt this was a vulnerable part of the defense. McAdoo did not try to exploit it until the second half. Flott was beat twice on the CAR touchdown drive, including the score. He was rotated out for most of the game afterward. He also missed 2 tackles.

-Adoree’ Jackson shut down Robbie Anderson (3 rec / 32 yards). He also recovered a fumble and broke up a pass. Anderson is on the field for one reason, and one reason only. Run deep, stretch the secondary, make explosive plays. He isn’t physical. He isn’t effective underneath. This is the ideal matchup for Jackson, and I believe that is why he was put on a shadow-role in this one. He covered Anderson in over 80% of drop backs. Great game by him despite the illegal-contact penalty.

-Darnay Holmes was flagged for pass interference again and he missed 2 tackles. But he had pressure (untouched) and forced a fumble that NYG recovered. Have to take the good with the bad with him, partially why I think he is a fit with Martindale.

-Fabian Moreau rotated in for Flott when they benched him. He had a quiet game from there.

SAFETY

-Julian Love is blossoming into the player many of us thought he could right before our eyes. He had 7 tackles, 1 sack (in a key moment), 2 TFL, and a pressure. He also made an impact on special teams. He was one of three defenders to play every single snap and he was all over the field. Not every scheme maximizes a player like this, but Martindale’s does.

-Xavier McKinney was second on the team with 5 tackles and a pressure (untouched). He also batted two balls at the line (a staple in Mayfield’s game as a passer) and played excellent over-the-top pass defense. The combination of these two is a big-time contributor to the strong defense we have seen through two weeks.

-Dane Belton had a great start to his career after missing Week 1. He recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and played just under 80% of the snaps, contributing 4 tackles and was inches away from an interception. Belton did miss two tackles though, one thing to keep an eye on as that was a red flag on his scouting report coming out of Iowa. The middle of this defense on the back third is something I will touch on below. Hint, this may change the defense as much as any group on the team.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 4/4 (Made 36, 33, 51, 56)
-P Jamie Gillian: 5 punts / 50.6 avg – 43.2 net

3 STUDS

-EDGE Jihad Ward, S Julian Love, K Graham Gano

3 DUDS

-OC Jon Feliciano, DT Nick Williams, OG Mark Glowinski

3 THOUGHTS ON CAR

1. If you want to see a team that has completely mismanaged the quarterback position year after year, check out what CAR has done. In 2020, they could have made an aggressive trade up from #7 overall with one of multiple teams that already had a QB (WAS-Haskins, NYG-Jones, DET-Stafford). They did not pony up and watched Tua go #5 and Herbert go #6. They went forward with Teddy Bridgewater. In 2021, they tried to get Stafford but were outbid by the Rams. They chose not to draft Mac Jones or Justin Fields. They instead ate $17 million of dead cap and traded multiple picks for Sam Darnold. In 2022, they were outbid in trade attempts for both Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. They ended up trading for Mayfield. Moral of the story? You are going to need to overpay in a quarterback situation and be OK with it.

2. Matt Rhule was minutes away from being the NYG Head Coach. Now? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as the first one fired this season. They went 5-11 in his first year, 5-12 in his second year, and are currently 0-2 in the one season where the NFC South looks most vulnerable. They look like a team that is simply running in place. Not getting any worse, not getting any better. There was a huge blowback when NYG did not get Rhule by many fans. Remember, sometimes the best deals you make are the ones you do not. Rhule is showing to be a college-only type. I bet we see him down there again within 1-2 years at a marquee program (Oklahoma? Nebraska? Auburn?).

3. Where will CAR go this year? What is their long term outlook? While I don’t consider them a basement-caliber team (they have some serious pieces on defense), they’re exactly where you don’t want to be. Good enough to win 5-7 games, not good enough for .500. That is a spot that is hard to build from especially when you don’t have a QB. I think Mayfield is a backup somewhere else next year and Darnold as well. Matt Corral was drafted this past spring and unless this team makes an aggressive move this year (maybe Tepper has finally learned his lesson) the long-term outlook is bleak at best. My prediction? They go all in on the top QB in a draft trade or try to get Lamar Jackson.

3 THOUGHTS ON NYG

1. The Wink Martindale scheme is one of, if not the most, versatile schemes in the NFL. Many will talk about being “multiple” and in some context it is true. Some teams are so deep up front they can rotate bodies all game and change up their looks based on personnel. Over the course of a season, however, those trends can be forecasted. Martindale does a great job of completely altering his approach on all levels to surprise an offense. You think he’s sending the house? He will rush four via zone blitz. You think he’s rushing four? He’ll send seven. You think he is going to jam the box with extra linebackers? He brings another defensive back on the field. I compare Martindale to the Bruce Arians of defenses. No risk it, no biscuit. Scared money don’t make money. This may end up biting them at some point but when looking at it from a bird’s eye lens, I trust it will help more than hurt.

2. Sticking with that defensive theme, keep a close eye on this trio of safeties. McKinney and Love are ascending stars in this league who can do so much for a defense to help win games. Opposing offenses will never know where they are going to line up. Throw in Belton who, at the very least, can play fast and shows the ability to play up and down, and this group is going to hide the issues they have at linebacker and pass rush for the time being. 3 of their 4 leading tacklers were these guys and they added pass break ups, plays behind the line of scrimmage, and pressure on the quarterback. Finding good safeties can be very difficult and the Giants have two of them.

3. Through two games, how is the offense projecting moving forward? They are bottom third in yards per play. Bottom third in EPA. Bottom three in sack percentage. Third most sacks allowed. Bottom six in yards per pass attempt. The saving grace? They are sixth in yards per rush attempt and have turned it over just twice in 2 games (small sample size, but rank top half in that department in the good way). The concern still resides up front with the line. If these tackles don’t have a superb game, do we trust the interior to keep it together or do the wheels fall off? It is clearly impacting Jones as he cannot step up in the pocket and I think it is messing with his internal clock. Yes, part of that is on Jones, but the inside guys need to be better. There is no way around it. This team needs to score more and get more yards through the air if they are going to sustain success. I really think over 80% of that is on the shoulder of the guard-center-guard. Play better.

Sep 182022
 
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Julian Love, New York Giants (September 18, 2022)

Julian Love – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 19 – CAROLINA PANTHERS 16…
It wasn’t pretty, but the New York Giants gutted out a hard-fought 19-16 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants are now 2-0 for the first time since 2016.

The story of the game for the Giants was the defense and special teams as the offense struggled for much of the contest. Statistically, the game was fairly even with the Giants and Panthers both having 18 first downs and the Panthers having just 10 yards more on offense (275 to 265). However, the Giants won the turnover (2-0) and time of possession (35:57 to 24:03) battles. New York was also 6-of-18 on third down while the Panthers were 2-of-12.

The Giants had a chance to take command of the game early after two turnovers by the Panthers, but had to settle for field goals. First linebacker Carter Coughlin forced the Carolina kickoff returner to fumble away the opening kickoff. Safety Dane Belton recovered the loose ball and advanced it three yards to the 22-yard line. However, the Giants only managed to pick up four yards in three plays and settled for a 36-yard field goal by place kicker Graham Gano.

After picking up one first down on their ensuing possession, Carolina turned the ball over again when cornerback Darnay Holmes forced a fumble after a short pass on 3rd-and-22. Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson recovered the ball at the Panthers’ 40-yard line. The Giants’ offense did pick up three first downs, including on 4th-and-1, and reach the 2-yard line, but back-to-back sacks on quarterback Daniel Jones ended this possession with another field goal. The Giants were up 6-0 with two wasted opportunities for more points.

Carolina cut New York’s lead in half on the following possession with a 13-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 31-yard field goal. After two punts by the Giants and one by Carolina, the Panthers then tied the game late in the first half with a 10-play, 34-yard drive that set up a 32-yard field goal with 56 seconds before the break.

Offensively, the Giants finished the first half five offensive possessions, four first downs, 60 yards of total offense, and no yards rushing.

Momentum continued with the Panthers as the 3rd quarter began. After a quick three-and-out by the Giants, quarterback Baker Mayfield completed a 29-yard pass to wide receiver D.J. Moore, scrambled for 17 yards, and then threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Moore. Panthers 13 – Giants 6.

New York responded with their best offensive drive of the day. On 3rd-and-9, Jones completed a 15-yard pass to wide receiver Rich James. Running back Saquon Barkley gained 16 yards. Jones then found James for 12 yards and tight end Tanner Hudson for 15 yards. After an incomplete pass, Jones hit tight end Daniel Bellinger for the 16-yard, game-tying touchdown.

After three punts by the Panthers and two punts by the Giants, New York regained the lead with a 9-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 51-yard field goal by Gano with 12:35 left in the game. The big play on this drive was a 24-yard pass from Jones to wide receiver David Sills on 3rd-and-10. Giants 16 – Panthers 13. However, the Panthers immediately responded with a 5-play, 55-yard drive. The big play being a 49-yard run by running back Christian McCaffrey. This set up a 38-yard field goal to tie the game at 16-16.

With 10:46 left on the clock, the Giants began an 11-play drive that only accrued 37 yards. However, it took over seven minutes off of the clock and resulted in a 56-yard field goal with 3:34 to play. This ended up being the game-winning kick.

On Carolina’s final possession of the game, the Panthers picked up two first downs and reached their own 46-yard line. But on 3rd-and-6, Mayfield was sacked by safety Julian Love. With just over two minutes to play and all three of their timeouts, the Panthers punted the ball back to Giants.

The New York offense sealed the game with two first downs. After a 6-yard run by Barkley, a Carolina defensive lineman was flagged for encroachment. The second first down came on a 11-yard scramble by Jones on 3rd-and-6 to avoid punting the ball away. The Giants then ran out the clock to seal the game.

Jones finished the game 22-of-34 for 176 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also ran 10 times for 21 yards. His top two receivers were Sterling Shepard (6 catches for 34 yards) and James (5 catches for 51 yards). Barkley carried the ball 21 times for 72 yards.

Defensively, the team held the Panthers to 275 total net yards and forced one fumble. Linebacker Oshane Ximines and Love were credited with sacks.

Gano kicked four field goals, including a 51- and a 56-yarder. The kickoff until also forced and recovered a fumble.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

ROSTER MOVES, PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
On Saturday, the Giants activated CB Fabian Moreau and S Tony Jefferson from the Practice Squad to the 53-man roster.

Inactive for the game were WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee), OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee), OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf), CB Aaron Robinson (appendicitis), CB Nick McCloud (hamstring), S Jason Pinnock (shoulder), and OL Tyre Phillips.

DL Leonard Williams (knee) left in the second half and did not return. Williams had a brace on his right knee after the game. Head Coach Brian Daboll said the team did not know how severe the injury was after the game.

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

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

Sep 162022
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (September 11, 2022)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
Last week, I finished my game preview by writing:

The Titans were the AFC’s #1 seed in 2021 and came close to making it to the AFC Championship Game. But I would not be shocked if the Giants keep this close or even pull off a big upset. They just have to do the obvious things: stop the run and don’t make killer mistakes on offense. Two or three big offensive plays could be all New York needs to make this interesting. On the flip side, it is not the end of the world if the Giants lose this game. This is one of Giants’ toughest opponents on their entire schedule. The pressure is on Titans and not the Giants in this one. I like those kind of games.

Despite the rough first half, the New York Giants’ defense did keep the team in the game before the break. And the offense got the two big plays it needed – the 68-yard run by Saquon Barkley and the 65-yard touchdown catch by Sterling Shepard. The Giants kept Derrick Henry mostly in check and shockingly out-rushed the Titans 238 to 93. The Giants did something they haven’t done in years: they were as physical or more physical than one of the NFL’s most physical teams. That’s how you win football games.

In some ways, this week’s match-up is going to be tougher for Brian Daboll and the Giants. The pressure is now on the Giants. They are at home against a team many expect them to beat. And one upset win doesn’t change the reality that this is still a rebuilding ball club whose quarterback, running back, and top wideouts may not even be on the team in a few months. The question mark at corner got worse in the short-term with Aaron Robinson having to undergo an appendectomy. There is also the always problematic psychological component that the team coming off a big, emotional win is ripe for a letdown the following week. This is especially true of teams with as many issues the Giants have.

Fans are already talking about going 3-1 or 4-0. Pray the players don’t have that same mindset right now. Every game is going to be a war and if the Giants are not mentally and physically prepared to play their best, they can just as easily find themselves being 1-1 en route to 1-3.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee – out)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring – questionable)
  • OC Jon Feliciano (lower leg – probable)
  • OL Devery Hamilton (illness – probable)
  • OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee – doubtful)
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf – doubtful)
  • CB Aaron Robinson (appendicitis – out)
  • CB Nick McCloud (hamstring – out)
  • S Jason Pinnock (shoulder – out)
  • S Dane Belton (clavicle – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
One game does not make a trend so it’s unwise for me to jump to conclusions. However, it is extremely fascinating that Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka, two coaches coming from innovative, pass-happy offenses in Buffalo and Kansas City, chose a 32-to-26 run-to-pass ratio against the Titans, especially when you take into the account the Giants had to play from behind most of the game. Indeed, on the Giants’ game-winning drive, the Giants only threw the football three times in 12 plays (a 3-to-1 run-to-pass ratio).

What do we make of this? Lack of confidence in Daniel Jones and/or his receivers and/or his pass protection? After all, despite being 17-of-21, Jones threw a dumb interception in the red zone and fumbled the ball away. The diminutive Wan’Dale Robinson is already hurt. Kadarius Toney played seven snaps and wasn’t even used as a receiving target. Mr. $72 million Kenny Golladay had two catches for 22 yards and still doesn’t have a touchdown in a Giants’ uniform. And the revamped offensive line allowed five sacks in 26 drop backs (a sack every five passing plays). Or was it simply the coaches deciding to ride a hot hand in Saquon Barkley against a defense that was surprisingly easier to run against than expected? Much of this remains to be determined.

Nevertheless, right now, the strength of this offensive football team appears to be running the football. Having Evan Neal, Mark Glowinksi, Jon Feliciano, Joshua Ezeudu/Ben Bredeson, and Andrew Thomas run block more is probably better at this stage. While many media types and fans focused on Saquon Barkley’s speed last Sunday, it was his toughness that caught my eye. I’ve never seen Barkley run with such physicality, even during his stellar rookie season. Matt Breida was no slouch when coming into the game in relief either. Combine this with the fact that the Carolina Panthers allowed 217 rushing yards against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1.

Here is the dilemma. Carolina must come into this game defensively with one thing on their mind: stop Saquon Barkley. They are going to load up against the run. Do the Giants say screw it and play strength against strength? Or do they cross up the Panthers and come out throwing the football against a stacked front? Mike Kafka was asked this question. He responded, “I think you plan for it. I don’t know exactly what they are going to do. I think you plan for those things and you got to have answers within the scheme and within the game plan.”

I’d be tempted to cross them up, but I really do think the ground game is the strength of this team at the moment and I would see if the Panthers can handle the newly-discovered physicality of the Giants. Run the ball at them. Make them stop it. If they can, adjust and attack with the pass. But don’t concede anything. Nothing demoralizes a defense more than knowing the other team is going to run the ball, yet you still can’t stop it.

As for the Panthers’ defense, the team had issues defending the edges against the run. The interior defensive line is a little more stout with former 2020 #1 pick Derrick Brown and ex-49er Matt Ioannidis. Their headline pass rusher is Brian Burns, who will play both edge spots, and he could be a problem for Evan Neal. The Panthers lack the complementary second edge rusher however. Still, the Panthers have noticed the Giants pass protection issues at left guard, especially with Ezeudu, and Brown is coming off a game where he got good interior pass pressure. The Carolina linebackers are not very good and could be exposed both against the run and in coverage. When the Giants do pass the ball, I would expect Barkley and Breida to get touches as receivers.

The strength of the Panthers’ defense is probably their secondary. Donte Jackson, Jaycee Horn, and C.J. Henderson are a solid cornerback trio, although Horn is coming off a shaky performance. Jeremy Chinn is a tackling machine at safety. The Panthers use him in a variety of ways, including as a blitzer. I would not be shocked if Carolina has Chinn shadow Barkley for much of the game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
I told you guys, Wink Martindale knows how to defend the run and while not perfect, the defense largely kept Derrick Henry in check in Week 1. With the Titans lacking a quality quarterback and talent at wide receiver, the New York secondary didn’t have many issues until late in the game against Tennessee either when slot corner Darnay Holmes had a mini-meltdown. The primary issue up until that point was linebacker coverage against running back Dontrell Hilliard. With Giants’ pass rush sitting injured on the sidelines, it ended up being a good match-up for New York.

This week is different. Baker Mayfield is more unpredictable. He can look terrible or he can look great (see his horrible first half against the Browns compared to his very good second half). The Panthers have serious downfield receiving threats in D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson. Moore is the more consistently productive target (perennial 1,000-yard receiver), but Anderson can blow the top off a defense. The issue here for New York is Aaron Robinson, who would have faced his first real test after a rough preseason, isn’t even available for this game. The Giants will probably want Adoree’ Jackson to cover Moore, but who covers the deep threat Anderson? Wink may be forced to rely on journeyman – and current Practice Squader – Fabian Moreau.

Making matters worse is the presence of Christian McCaffrey. He’s Carolina’s version of Saquon. He is a major receiving threat and has to be licking his chops after seeing what Dontrell Hilliard did last Sunday. I would expect Wink to try to match up a third safety on McCaffrey as much as possible. Indeed, for much of the game, the Giants may only be employing one middle linebacker with Tony Jefferson and/or Dane Belton receiving more snaps.

If that weren’t enough problems, this is a game where the lack of pass rush could really show up. Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari are expected to miss their second game. Those two are the team’s best edge rushers and they will be missed.

So in a nutshell, defensively, this game scares me a lot more than last week’s game even though the Titans were clearly the better team. The match-ups don’t work in the Giants’ favor this week. If I’m Wink, I play extra defensive backs and put the onus on my defensive front to take care of the run (Carolina only ran the ball 19 times for 54 yards against the Browns). I’m not sure where the pass rush will come from unless Leonard Williams has a monster game. The Giants desperately need a relatively healthy Thibodeaux and Ojulari back on the field. Taking chances with a lot of blitzes might not be wise with the WR versus CB match-up issues, not to mention McCaffrey. Nevertheless, if Wink plays extra defensive backs, look for CB/S blitzes. (Interesting side note: Ben McAdoo is the Carolina offensive coordinator so you know he will bring a little extra juice to this one).

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Giants’ special teams remain a bit of an adventure. There was botched snap from the usually always reliable Casey Kreiter and a 46-yard punt return by the Titans. However, while not perfect, Jamie Gillan looked like he belonged; Nick McCloud really flashed as a gunner (he’s out this weekend however); and Richie James averaged over 12 yards per punt return. The Giants also recovered a muffed punt.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka on why the Giants use so much motion:I think any time you can distort the box whether it’s creating a numbers count… getting guys in different spots, influencing second-level and third-level defenders – that helps whether it’s pass or run, it can help whatever the scheme you want to run. I think it helps also with the o-line getting certain angles on blocks. I think it can help in the pass game where you are creating certain types of leverages. There’s definitely a lot of benefits to it.

THE FINAL WORD:
I stand by what I said last week. They goal of this season is to evaluate the team and look like a better team in December than you do in September. What happens in between will likely be a roller coaster ride. There will be painful losses and hopefully exhilarating wins. But don’t lose sight of reality. The Giants are a rebuilding club with weaknesses. This is a week where the weaknesses at cornerback and injury issues at linebacker (Thibodeaux, Ojulari, Darrian Beavers) would really become more pronounced. The Giants also need Golladay and Toney to earn their paychecks.

Sep 132022
 
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Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (September 11, 2022)

Sterling Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Week 1 in the NFL. Besides postseason play, this is the most anticipated week of the season, and soon after, the most over-reacted week of the season. The nature of the beast. What now seems to be an every-other-year tradition in New York, NYG was introducing a new era of football under a new regime. This one, in comparison to the previous three, feels different. A new General Manager AND a new Head Coach coming from a more modern era of football and no previous association with the franchise. Less personnel staff carry over. And an owner who vowed to let the new guys do their thing. The 2022 season kicked off in Tennessee against the defending #1 seed from the AFC.

The game started with a three-and-out by the Giants offense followed by a 46-yard punt return by rookie Kyle Philips. Starting in NYG territory, TEN needed just five plays before scoring a touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill to Dontrell Hilliard up the seam. NYG was without both of their starting edge defenders, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari, and it showed both right away and for the rest of the game. NYG’s second drive never made it past midfield and included back-to-back plays that went sack / delay-of-game penalty. The two teams then traded three-and-outs before TEN put another three points on the board via a 46-yard field goal by Randy Bullock. TEN was up 10-0 as the second quarter was under way and it appeared to be more of the same for NYG.

The approach on offense changed. They went hurry-up mode and it led to two first downs and action inside TEN territory. Jones then fumbled on a sack by TEN star pass rusher Jeffery Simmons, giving TEN the ball back in NYG territory. The defense held TEN to a field goal, at least, putting the score at 13-0. That is where the score remained for the rest of the half. While there were subtle differences between this version of NYG and what we saw a year ago, the result was the same. A double-digit deficit on the road and 0 points.

This all changed right away in the third quarter. This is the period where, in my opinion, coaching shows brightest or darkest. A quick 15-minute period to communicate and adjust for the team. NYG knew they had to make a change from a macro-perspective on offense. After forcing a three-and-out on defense, NYG’s first play of the second half was a 68-yard run by Saquon Barkley. The #2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft has been on a steady decline since his Rookie-of-the-Year season in Eli Manning’s second-to-last year in the league. That seems like a lifetime ago. NYG then kept their weight on the run-pedal for the next three plays and it ended with Barkley crossing the goal line for the first touchdown of the season. A bad snap kept the extra point off the board.

NYG forced their second straight three-and-out. It then took just two plays before Jones hit Sterling Shepard, who last scored in the team’s Week 1 game of 2021, for a 65-yard touchdown. In under 7 minutes and after just 6 offensive plays for NYG, they were tied 13-13 and more than doubled their total yards for the game.

TEN responded with a touchdown-scoring drive despite three offensive penalties. The NYG defense could not capitalize on the momentum and they were up against one of the best close-game teams in the NFL on the road. The pass rush was non-existent, and the linebackers were being roasted in coverage, as Hilliard caught his second touchdown of the game. The two offenses traded three-and-outs as the fourth quarter began with TEN winning 20-13.

NYG’s drive halted near midfield. They caught a huge break as Philips muffed a punt and turned it over. They were 1st-and-10 from the TEN 11. Two runs resulted in three yards, forcing Jones into a must-throw situation. He forced a ball to Barkley in the end zone, who was not even close to being open, resulting in an interception by safety Amani Hooker. Tennessee had the football with a 7-point lead, Derrick Henry, and 8:50 left in the game as a team that was 13-4 in one score games since the start of 2021, second best in the NFL.

On 3rd-and-1, the TEN brain trust looked past a traditional run by Derrick Henry for the second time in this game, opting for a reverse to rookie fourth rounder Chigoziem Okonkwo that resulted in a 4-yard loss. It was the second time of the day the rookie touched the ball after a college career that saw him carry the ball three times back in 2018. Questionable decision to say the least.

The door was open for Jones and the offense to redeem him and themselves. A 12-play drive that consisted of 9 runs and 3 passes brought NYG into the end zone via a 1-yard pass to tight end / fullback Chris Myarick, his second career touchdown. NYG was an extra point away from tying it up, but the special teams group never came on the field. Daboll had already decided they would go for two, and the lead, had they scored. A shovel pass to Barkley, a brilliant broken tackle, and some help from the refs (false start by Evan Neal) put 2 points on the board for NYG. 21-20 was the score with just over a minute left.

TEN did get the ball into field goal range. Two defensive holding penalties on third down and 21-yard pass from Tannehill to Philips set up Bullock for a 47 yard try. Bullock, who has hit just 76% of his field goals over his career from 40-49 yards and went 8-for-13 from there last year (62%), went wide left as time expired.

NYG wins 21-20. The first Week 1 win since 2016 and the first time they’ve been above .500 since that year as well.

QUARTERBACK

Daniel Jones: 17/21 – 188 yards / 2 TD – 1 INT / 115.9 RAT

Jones also added 25 yards on 6 rushing attempts. The 21 attempts were second fewest he’s ever thrown in a game that he both started and finished. There could be multiple reasons for that, but I will touch on that below. Only Justin Fields (who played in horrific conditions) threw less times than Jones in Week 1. But he made the most of those attempts, averaging a third-best in the league 9 yards per attempt. Numbers aside, Jones played an average game. He made quick decisions and was under fire often in the first half. The big-time touchdown pass to Shepard was nullified (from an evaluation standpoint) by the bonehead interception thrown in the end zone. His ability to run came up big on a couple of occasions including the 4th-and-1 conversion on their final drive. Solid first game in the new system. And no, the fumble cannot be pegged on him.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 18 att – 164 yards – 1 TD / 6 rec – 30 yards

Barkley did fumble once but it fortunately rolled out of bounds. This was the best one-game version of Barkley we have seen since he became a Giant. I went through old performances and my old notes to make sure I am not overreacting. We’ve seen more output, we’ve seen more yards per touch, we’ve seen more touchdowns. But when combining the burst, agility, long speed, and most importantly, toughness, we haven’t seen this yet. Barkley came up huge in this game. There is no way they win this one without him. This is a different player in a different system with a different OL in front of him. Get ready.

-Matt Breida was the backup who spelled Barkley here and there. He produced well, gaining 24 yards on 5 carries.

WIDE RECEIVER

-One of the bigger stories of the game. Kadarius Toney was the sixth receiver on the depth chart. Sixth. He did not see a single target. He received 2 carries (one of which was intended for him to throw). Very interesting story to follow here and I will touch more on it below. Those 2 carries, by the way, gained 23 yards and he displayed the elite ability with the ball in his hands we have seen several times.

-Richie James led the team with 5 catches, totaling 59 yards. He dropped a ball on 3rd down but also gained 62 yards as a punt returner. This is a kid who last played in a regular-season game for SF in 2020. Talk about a comeback and something tells me he will be the Cole Beasley in this version of the Daboll offense.

-Sterling Shepard caught 2 balls, 1 of which was the 65-yard score that helped NYG tie the game up. His biggest impact beyond that play was in the running game. No, not as a rusher. Shepard made multiple key blocks both in and out of the box. They’re using him like the Rams use Cooper Kupp as a blocker. Motion to create momentum and move the eyes of the defenders, then as a trap-type blocker for Barkley to work off of once he gets through the traffic. Excellent dirty work by him.

-Kenny Golladay caught both of his targets for 22 yards but rookie Wan’Dale Robinson left the game early with a knee injury we still do not have clarity on at the time of this writing. He caught his lone target for 5 yards.

TIGHT END

-Another unsung hero of the running game success was rookie Daniel Bellinger. He was not involved in the passing game at all, but he had a couple of big-time blocks at the second level on big gains.

-Chris Myarick caught a touchdown that set NYG up for the lead. He moved around a bit as a blocker and got the job done there as well but had a holding penalty declined and missed a tackle on special teams. Tanner Hudson was the number three and didn’t see any action.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Andrew Thomas played a clean game. The steady performance we talked about all summer and preseason carries on. He and Mark Glowinski both finished with positive grades. Glowinski did allow a pressure and was flagged for a hold, but was very steady besides that. He also made a key block on one of Barkley’s big runs.

-Rookie Evan Neal struggled in his debut. He allowed 2 TFL and 1 sack. The sack and one of those TFLs were not fully graded against him, however. Jones ran into Neal’s man because of back side pressure. The issue I saw with Neal centers around lateral speed. He was beat badly on two plays where he had to get across Simmons’ face, and he failed to do so. In addition, he was luckily not called for a false start on the NYG successful 2-point conversion attempt. Who knows what would have happened had the refs called it. Neal had a lot of impressive snaps and there is no denying the talent. Great movement as a straight-ahead run blocker, fared well in pass protection for the most part, and he never looked mentally fooled. He just needs to continue to hammer away at the footwork which will create more lateral upside and balance.

-The left guard/center combination was very up-and-down and often the source of pressure on Jones. Center Jon Feliciano allowed 2 sacks and a pressure. He seemed out of control at times, but it did look like he was limping around a bit. I did recently hear about his family situation and while I do separate personal news from football evaluation, anything with kids hits different. I took him off the Dud list because of that.

-Ben Bredeson and Joshua Ezeudu split snaps nearly down the middle at left guard. I am fine with the approach, as neither has taken the bull by the horns yet. Who played better? I have the edge to Bredeson. He was flagged for a false start and did not have the peak plays that the rookie Ezeudu did, but he was much more consistent. Ezeudu did have a couple of monster, highlight-reel plays but also allowed the sack on the play Jones fumbled and allowed a pressure that led to another sack. It is important for the rookie to play, make mistakes, and see how he responds. I do like, however, how the keys were not just handed over to him.

EDGE

-With Thibodeaux and Ojulari out, Jihad Ward and Oshane Ximines were the starters. The pass rush was non-existent from these two. Ximines did get one pressure and deflected a pass but was completely shut down otherwise. Ward’s impact was felt in the running game, setting the edge and finished with 6 tackles, second most on team. He is one of the main emotional and physical tone-setters on the team.

-Tomon Fox was the next guy up ahead of Quincy Roche. Both played, but Fox saw much more time. The undrafted rookie actually had the lone sack on the day, but it resulted in a 0-yard loss as he went untouched on the naked bootleg play by TEN.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Containing the TEN run game was largely a result of Ward setting the edge but also the ability of Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence to maintain depth at the point-of-attack on both inside and outside runs. Williams had 1 pressure and Lawrence had 2. They both made tackles outside of the numbers in lateral pursuit as well. Quietly, a very solid game from these two.

-Nick Williams, Justin Ellis, and rookie D.J. Davidson rotated at the other DL spot with the veterans seeing more time. Ellis was effective over the center but was a little late to the outside on a couple of occasions and Williams was pushed around a bit.

LINEBACKERS

-The low point of the defense. I know Tae Crowder made a couple of highlight-reel hits (he’s done that multiple times over his career). But he was roasted against the pass, and it wasn’t receivers who beat him. He had a hard time covering TEN running back Hilliard, allowing a touchdown, and giving up another big gain to him on a crossing route. He is late to recognize route concepts and takes poor angles, showing very little space-awareness. He did lead the team with 7 tackles and added a 0.5 TFL.

-Austin Calitro allowed the first touchdown in coverage but did add 1.5 TFL. If he is playing next to a very good ILB, his play is good enough. But next to Crowder, this exposes a major issue in the middle of the defense.

CORNERBACK

-The two outside corners played a very solid game against a less-than-inspiring group of outside receivers. Adoree’ Jackson fared well against his former team besides one pass interference penalty. It was Aaron Robinson who played the standout game, however. He finished with 4 tackles and a pass break up on 3rd down, a near interception, and played excellent on special teams to boot. Robinson was a major factor as a run defender as well.

-Darnay Holmes was nearly the main culprit in the late-game defensive meltdown. He was flagged for 2 defensive holds (an ongoing problem for him) and allowed a 21-yard reception that set up TEN for the game-winning field goal attempt.

SAFETY

-Xavier McKinney and Julian Love played every snap and both were all over the field. From the All-22 tape, I was impressed with how quickly they were able to get over the top of TEN’s deep routes. They were well prepared. They combined for 9 tackles, and both filled multiple roles in coverage against the run and as pass rushers.

-Veteran Tony Jefferson played a lot in the final quarter. Interesting to see Martindale use him at that point of the game, and he blitzed as often as he did not. He did accrue a pressure. Jason Pinnock, another post-camp signing, recovered the muffed punt.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Graham Gano: 2/2 XP
P Jamie Gillian: 6 punts – 51.5 avg / 41.2 net

*LS Casey Kreiter botched a snap on the first extra point attempt – forcing a missed point

3 STUDS

-RB Saquon Barkley, OT Andrew Thomas, CB Aaron Robinson

3 DUDS

-CB Darnay Holmes, LB Tae Crowder, LS Casey Kreiter

3 THOUGHTS ON TEN

1. TEN has out-kicked their coverage almost every year of the Vrabel era. What I mean by that is their end-of-season record exceeds what many believe is within their reach when considering their roster. As I mentioned earlier, they are one of the best, if not the best, in the league when it comes to winning close games. They’ve had a top-10 offense just once in four years. They’ve never had a top-10 defense. They’ve had a double-digit sack defender just once over that span (and he just tore his ACL before the season). There is a template here to follow for NYG as they build the roster, and even though they want to eventually be better than this, there is a lot to be said for playing quality fundamental football with minimal mistakes.

2. Ryan Tannehill is the quarterback I compared Daniel Jones to when he came out of Duke in 2019. While they have different styles and backgrounds (remember Tannehill started at WR in college), I can see the trajectory of Jones’ career heading in a similar direction. The ceiling being a guy who absolutely needs the team around him to be top notch. This is a tough kind of player to plan around when it comes to long term finances. Tannehill has the biggest cap number in the NFL ($38.6 million). And the team just drafted Malik Willis in round 3. They will be looking at a tough decision next offseason. Pay him the 5th-most among all QBs or take the $18 million cap hit to release him. In terms of dollars spent and production he creates, the value is poor. But the flip side could be much, much worse. NYG could be heading toward a similar situation.

3. I projected TEN to win 9 games, finishing 2nd in the weak AFC South, and missing out on the playoffs. Their roster situation was brittle and the loss of A.J. Brown in addition to the preseason injury to Harold Landry is going to expose the lack of versatility on this roster. While I do put DT Jeffery Simmons into the elite tier of defensive linemen, and this young secondary has the upside of being a top-5 group, I don’t see enough options offensively to rely on in big moments. They will be on the outside looking in.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

1. There are several takeaways from the first game when projecting how this season will go and where NYG is headed long term. The biggest one is simple. This team finally has a pulse. It is amazing how big the contrast is between this coaching staff and what NYG has employed in recent years. The design of the offense. The construction of the personnel (while being handicapped by the cap). The innovation and adjustments. While it is just one week and there is still a long, steep hill to climb, the aura is different.

2. The offensive approach seemed advanced. Not just better than what we have seen, but fully mapped out and ready for adjustment. Watching several games around the league and keeping the past decade of NYG football in the memory bank, this was a different level of preparation and planning. Some of the hidden components to quality offensive football are what they did on 3rd-and-long in the first quarter. On the second and third offensive drives, respectively, NYG faced 3rd-and-long deep in their own territory. How many times have we seen a low-success running plays in those situations? Gain 2-4 yards, then punt. Or a wide receiver screen. Or a dump-off pass that did not reach the line of scrimmage. NYG gained 14 and 16 yards on those plays. Sure, the result was still a punt, but those hidden yards change games. Whether it is field position or information gathering for future 3rd-down situations. As simple and as unimportant as that sounds, those are signs this coaching staff is looking to get ahead at all times. Never throw up the white flag. Never a “get ‘em next time” mantra. And then you have the obvious analytic + momentum decision of going for 2 at the end. This is such a different era of NYG football and we’re here for it.

3. Where does this passing game go from here? NYG could end up being one of the more run-dominant teams in the league, but this run-pass ratio will not continue. 32 runs and 21 passes (+5 sacks). PHI was the most run-heavy team in the NFL last year and they still threw more than they ran. This one-game sample size is way too small (wait 4 weeks, then take a look), but fully expect to see this ratio get closer to 55-pass / 45-run. NYG’s wide receiver situation and usage needs to be ironed out. This was a wakeup call for Toney, I hope. He is clearly one of the most three talented players on this offense and with more passing on the way, the looks will be there. But he needs to earn it. He needs to change his ways behind closed doors. Nobody believes the likes of Richie James and David Sills bring more to the table. But this game (and this offense) requires much more than talent and status that stems from a previous regime using a 1st rounder on you.

Sep 112022
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (September 11, 2022)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 21 – TENNESSEE TITANS 20…
The New York Giants pulled off a stunning upset in their opening game of the 2022 NFL season by defeating the Tennessee Titans 21-20 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee on Sunday afternoon. The win was New York’s first victory in their opener since 2016.

The overall team stats were as even as the final score. Both teams picked 19 first downs. The Giants held a slight advantage in total net yards (394 to 359). However, the Giants dramatically out-rushed the Titans 238 yards to 93, while the Titans held a clear advantage in net passing yards (266 to 156). Both teams had issues with 3rd-down conversions (2-of-10 for the Giants and 3-of-11 for the Titans).

The first half was pretty much all Tennessee and the Giants were fortunate that the scored was only 13-0 at halftime. The Giants’ six first-half possessions only resulted 27 offensive snaps for 131 yards, seven first downs, four punts, one turnover off a fumble by quarterback Daniel Jones, and time expiring on the final drive.

Meanwhile, The Titans scored a touchdown on their first possession after a quick three-and-out by New York, followed by 46-yard punt return. It only took five plays for the Titans to easily move the remaining 45 yards as quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a 7-yard touchdown pass. The Giants’ defense forced a three-and-out on Tennessee’s second possession, but the Titans did manage a 10-play, 65-yard drive and a 7-play, 37-yard drive that both resulted in field goals.

Tennessee received the ball to start the second half, but the New York defense forced a quick three-and-out. On the Giants’ first offensive snap of the second half, running back Saquon Barkley broke off a 68-yard run down the left sideline. After two carries for 13 yards by running back Matt Breida, Barkley ran four yards for the touchdown. However, the extra-point attempt failed. Titans 13 – Giants 6.

New York’s defense forced its second straight three-and-out of the half. After Barkley lost one yard, Jones threw a deep pass to wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who broke a tackle and raced into the end zone, completing a 65-yard play. In a little over two minutes, the game was now tied at 13-13.

However, the Titans regained momentum on their third possession by driving 75 yards in nine plays. Tannehill threw a 23-yard touchdown to running back Dontrell Hilliard. Tennessee was now up 20-13 with just under three minutes to go in the third quarter.

Both teams exchanged three-and-outs and punts. The Giants were forced to punt yet again, but immediately got the ball back when the Titans’ returner muffed the punt. Safety Jason Pinnock recovered the ball for New York at the Tennessee 11-yard line. This golden opportunity was lost when Jones threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted in the end zone on 3rd-and-7.

The Titans picked up one first down but were forced to punt with about five and a half minutes to play. On the ensuing possession, the Giants drove 73 yards in 12 plays. During this game-winning drive, Barkley broke off a 33-yard run, fortunately fumbling out-of-bounds. Four plays later, Jones picked up a first down on 4th-and-1 on a bootleg to the left. Barkley gained 14 yards on three straight runs and Jones then threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Myarick with 1:06 left on the clock. Eschewing the tie, Head Coach Brian Daboll went for the risky two-point conversion, knowing that if it failed, his team would lose. The play succeeded with a shovel pass to Barkley. Giants 21 – Titans 20.

The game was not over, however. Starting at their own 30-yard line, Tennessee converted on two 3rd-and-4 situations via defensive holding penalties to cross midfield with 23 seconds left. Apparent disaster struck when Tannehill then completed a 21-yard play to the New York 27-yard line with 18 seconds left. Tannehill lost two yards before spiking the ball to stop the clock with four seconds left.

The Giants escaped with the victory when Titans’ place kicker Randy Bullock missed the 47-yard game-winning attempt as time expired.

Jones finished the game 17-of-21 for 188 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Barkley carried the ball 18 times for 164 yards (9.1 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He also was the team’s leading receiver with six catches for 30 yards.

Defensively, All-Star running back Derrick Henry was held to 82 yards on 21 carries (3.9 yards per carry). Linebacker Tomon Fox had the team’s only sack.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

ROSTER MOVES, PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
On Saturday, the Giants activated OLB Quincy Roche and S Tony Jefferson from the Practice Squad to the 53-man roster.

Inactive for the game were OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee), OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf), S Dane Belton (clavicle), HB Antonio Williams, WR Darius Slayton, OL Tyre Phillips, and CB Justin Layne.

WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee) left the game in the first half and did not return. CB Nick McCloud (hamstring) left the game in the second half and did not return.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Brian Daboll and the following players are available at Giants.com:

GIANTS LOSE OFFENSIVE LINEMAN TO CARDINALS…
On Saturday, the Arizona Cardinals signed offensive lineman Max Garcia off of the New York Giants’ Practice Squad. The Giants signed Garcia as an unrestricted free agent from the Arizona Cardinals in March 2022. The 6’4”, 309-pound Garcia was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. The Cardinals signed him as an unrestricted free agent in March 2019. Garcia has played in 93 regular-season games with 52 starts. In 2021, he started 11-of-15 games for the Cardinals.

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