Two teams going in two completely different directions. ARI came into this week 14 match-up losers of three straight, and four of their last five. Their lone win over that stretch came at home against BUF at the hands of a last second Hail Mary. On the other hand, NYG was coming off 4 straight wins, including one over SEA the previous week. Starting quarterback Daniel Jones was back in the lineup, Blake Martinez was active after missing some practice time because of a back injury, and the overall health of the NYG squad ranked near the top of the league in a sport where attrition means everything.
The last time Jones turned the ball over was November 2 (week 8) against Tampa Bay. He then went three straight games without giving the ball to the other team (plus he missed last week’s match-up because of a hamstring injury). That is simply mentioned because the one glaring black eye to the start of Jones’ career has revolved around turning the ball over, namely fumbles. It has been getting cleaned up, NYG has been winning, and the arrow for both Jones and the franchise was pointing up. That isn’t how things began, however.
Jones was sacked by former Giant Markus Golden, who was traded by the club in October, on an untouched rush. Jones was starting his release and the timing of the hit was perfect for a forced fumble. Golden scooped up the loose ball himself and returned it to the NYG 9-yard line. The NYG defense stepped up though. They came up with 3rd and 4th down stops from the 1-yard line, keeping the score at 0-0. The NYG offense responded with a 3-and-out before punting the ball back to ARI, where Christian Kirk had a 24-yard return. ARI started their second possession from the NYG 38. This time, ARI was able to put points on the board via a 34-yard field goal by Mike Nugent.
NYG gained a combined 15 yards on their next two drives. ARI started their fourth possession of the game in NYG territory, the third time they started near midfield or better. The NYG defense remained tough though, keeping them to another 3 points. ARI was up 6-0. It was time for the sleepy offense to step up, as they didn’t want a repeat first half performance from last week where they didn’t score at all. That attempt would have to wait. Dion Lewis fumbled the ensuing kick return, giving ARI the ball at the NYG 21-yard line. For the fourth time in five possessions, ARI was starting near midfield or better and it was the third time they were inside the NYG 40. The NYG defense gave up a 15-yard run to ARI running back Kenyan Drake but got it to 3rd and Goal from the 7. Kyler Murray was pressured by multiple rushers and heaved a fade away pass toward the back of the end zone. There was one ARI tight end and three NYG defensive backs in the area but it was Dan Arnold who brought it in for the touchdown. ARI went up 13-0.
The NYG offense approached midfield for the first time but they were stopped on a 3rd-and-7 attempt where Jones did not throw to the open receiver (Lewis) for the second time in as many possessions. They were forced to punt back to ARI and Kirk once again returned it to near midfield. They had under 20 seconds left and no timeouts, but a few chunk gains got them within field goal striking distance. Nugent missed a 55-yard attempt, but it was nullified by a late false start whistle, thus creating a shot for ARI to go for a last second touchdown. With Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on the field, this was not something to overlook. Murray ended up being pressured and scrambled his way down the field for 12 yards and was taken down. It was 13-0 at halftime and NYG was out-gained in yards 199-58.
To make matters worse, ARI began the second half with the ball. They manufactured an 11-play drive that consisted of 8 runs and 3 passes. The final run was a 1-yard touchdown by Drake. It was 20-0 and NYG was entering a do-or-die situation to keep this game reachable. Similar to last week’s game in Seattle, Wayne Gallman was featured at the start of the second half after having a quiet first two quarters. He touched the ball on the first 5 plays, gaining 35 yards. Golden Tate then came up with the big play, making a catch in traffic for a 39-yard gain that brought NYG to the 1-yard line. Dion Lewis then snuck his way into the end zone on the next play and just like that, NYG was on the board but still down 20-7.
The NYG defense forced a punt on the ensuing ARI drive, giving Jones and the offense an opportunity to take the full momentum of this game back. The response? 3-and-out. NYG had a 3rd-and-1 and the play call plus decision by Jones created a deep pass to Sterling Shepard. It fell incomplete.
Kenyan Drake fumbled two straight plays on the next drive but NYG couldn’t grab either one of them. ARI ended up putting 3 more points on the board via a 34-yard field goal by Nugent as the fourth quarter was under way. The next NYG drive netted -1 yard over three plays and they punted yet again. Punter Riley Dixon barely wore his sideline jacket in this one. The NYG defense, despite showing 23 points allowed, continued to play solid football. They forced another ARI punt after two straight plays that saw takedowns behind the line of scrimmage. The NYG offense continued to falter, however. Their next drive consisted of Jones being sacked twice and two false starts by the offensive line. NYG was forced to punt.
With about 5 minutes left, NYG started using their timeouts but ARI was able to push the ball down the field with a balanced attack. This drive netted another 3 points, this time via a 30-yard field goal by Nugent who was perfect on the day. It was 26-7 with just over 2 minutes left. Colt McCoy trotted out with the offense, as Jones was visibly limping during and after the previous drive. The final offensive play was McCoy being sacked by Haason Reddick, his career high fifth of the day, which forced a fumble that was recovered by ARI.
NYG loses 26-7.
-Daniel Jones: 11-21 / 127 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 70.9 RAT
Jones did not have any rushing attempts on the day. After missing a game with his hamstring injury and unsure of his status until late in the week, Jones did not look like himself in this one. I can’t imagine missing one game can make a player “rusty.” What I think happened here was simple. Jones knew he was not going to be playing with his normal arsenal of personal weaponry. Designed runs weren’t a part of the game plan and scrambling was something he had to avoid as much as possible. That, combined with a sneaky-good ARI pass defense filled with quality defensive backs and a NYG offense line that started to break down in the second half, he just seemed to have no shot. Can this be pegged on him? Not completely. However, he missed Dion Lewis on two straight 3rd-down plays that easily could have altered the trajectory of the game. He fumbled three times and even though one of them was completely not his fault, the other two showed weak ball handling. Jones looked lost in this one.
-Wayne Gallman: 12 att / 57 yards and 3 rec / 16 yards
Gallman had a really quiet first half. He did touch the ball 8 times but only gained 25 yards (3.1 yards per). We saw a different level of production in the second half for the second week in a row. He touched the ball 6 times and gained 48 yards (8 yards per). I think we are at the point now where Gallman needs to be the feature player on this offense. We need to see more early down running with him, we need to see him getting the ball on 3rd-and-short, and we need to get him the ball in the screen game. This is no longer a back who had a couple of decent games in a row. Especially if Jones is going to be limited, Gallman needs to start getting the ball 20+ times per game at the minimum.
-Darius Slayton was targeted 8 times and caught 3 passes for 31 yards. It has been a disappointing, dry run for Slayton over the past 2 months. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since October 18, he has 10 catches over the past 5 games, and he hasn’t eclipsed 100 yards since October 11. He was man-handled by the physicality of Patrick Peterson on a few occasions, both as the ball came at him and off the line. This continues to be a major issue for him.
-Sterling Shepard had 3 catches for 35 yards and Golden Tate had 1 catch for 39 yards. There aren’t many teams that have gotten less production from their wide receivers this season. More on that below.
-Evan Engram had 2 catches for 18 yards. Both of them came on the last drive of the game when Colt McCoy was under center and the game was basically all but over. He was nowhere to be found in this one.
-Kaden Smith had a catch and Levine Toilolo’s main contribution came on special teams with a couple of physical hits. Neither had a strong impact, good or bad, on the game.
-A week after Andrew Thomas put out the top performance of his rookie season, he took a significant step back. He allowed 2 sacks and 2 pressures in addition to be flagged for a false start. Before the game I was speaking with a former scout and we agreed that Reddick was a worst-case matchup for Thomas. Short, shifty, powerful, and bendy. Thomas just couldn’t seem to square Reddick up and his hands + feet were never in sync. Myles Garrett is on tap.
-The right side of Kevin Zeitler and Cameron Fleming did a nice job in the running game but both allowed a sack and a pressure each in pass protection. Rookie Matt Peart rotated in for a bit (11 snaps total) and allowed a sack. Shane Lemieux had a rough day for the second straight week. He allowed 2 pressures and a sack and Will Hernandez also allowed a sack when he rotated in. Center Nick Gates was the only offensive lineman who didn’t allow a sack on the day but he, too, did not grade out above average. Overall, this was one of the worst OL performances we have seen all year.
-Carter Coughlin led the way in this group, as his role appears to be increasing more and more. He has clearly made an impression on the coaching staff, as he has played 39%, 63%, and 81% of the defensive snaps over the past 3 games, respectively. He set a career-high 7 tackles, added a TFL, and pressured the QB two times. They are moving him all over the place and he is thriving.
-Jabaal Sheard had 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and a pressure that led to a sack. For a veteran signed in-season of the street, Sheard has played well. Cam Brown added a pressure but still hasn’t seen a consistent volume of snaps. I think this pass rush could benefit from seeing him on the field more and remember, he is not just a pass rusher. I would argue he can impact the game more as a run stuffer based on what I’ve seen this year.
-Dalvin Tomlinson had the best game of the trio that has been playing well all year. He had 3 tackles, a sack, a TFL, and 2 pressures. He was a factor all afternoon, constantly breaking through the line and forcing the offense to react to him. Really solid performance here.
-A week after Leonard Williams had his best game as a Giant, he failed to pressure the quarterback one time, a first this season. He did add 4 tackles and he maneuvered his way off blocks well against the run. When Williams struggles to impact the passing game, there just isn’t much on this defense that can fill the void.
-B.J. Hill, Austin Johnson, and Dexter Lawrence all added a pressure, respectively. Hill also added a TFL and Lawrence added 3 tackles, including a key 3rd-and-goal stop at the 1-yard line. Overall, the NYG run defense wasn’t good in this one, but these guys all did their job up front.
-We were unsure all week the status of Blake Martinez after suffering a back injury last week. He ended up playing but it was clear he was laboring out there. While he had 7 tackles, it was evident he didn’t have the same pop on contact and he looked a little slow to fill.
-Tae Crowder is evolving into a quality blitzing linebacker. He had 2 pressures and 4 tackles. David Mayo and Devante Downs didn’t play much, but when they did, they struggled. They weren’t beating blockers to the spots and it created extra room for the ARI running backs. They played less than half the snaps Crowder did.
-James Bradberry had a really solid game. He had 7 tackles and a high-difficulty pass break up in the end zone that could have easily been a touchdown. He wasn’t matched up against DeAndre Hopkins for the entire game but when he was, I thought he was the winner. Isaac Yiadom added 3 tackles and played a physical brand. He got beat in zone coverage a couple times where it didn’t look like he quite knew what was going on around him. Again, he plays way too scared of getting beat deep and it allows for a lot of action underneath to transpire.
-Rookie nickel Darnay Holmes was out with an injury, thus Logan Ryan filled that role for the majority of the game. He had 5 tackles and a near-interception pass break-up that was knocked away by Hopkins; savvy move by the veteran receiver. Ryan missed 3 tackles on the day. One of the more important players on this defense, Ryan is often a hit-or-miss player and today he missed too many times.
-With Ryan playing more nickel corner in this one, we saw rookie Xavier McKinney on the field for 38 snaps, just under 50%. He made 4 tackles and showed his superior athleticism and burst. Him flying around with Jabrill Peppers (more on him below) was fun to watch and could be a big thing in the future if the veteran stays here long term. From the All-22 tape, McKinney looked more reactionary than instinctual, which is common for a young safety in the league.
-Julian Love had 9 tackles (second most of his career) on just 57% of the snaps. I noted him a lot in this one, just playing extra fast and aggressive. He had a really nice fill on a goal-line stand and looked rangy on a couple of lateral Kenyan Drake rushing attempts. The one issue, from my perspective which doesn’t mean much I know, was the zone coverage. I won’t pretend to know how to play defensive back in the NFL, but Love was beat a few times on passes up the middle. He doesn’t seem to attach himself to receivers entering his zone, but rather stays back and just “floats” if that makes sense. The college corner is a quality athlete who doesn’t seem to have a ton of confidence in zone coverage and that is an issue for me.
-Jabrill Peppers continues his red-hot level of play. He led the team with 13 tackles, 2 TFL, and forced a fumble. He was all over the field and looks like he can be labeled as both the best linebacker and best safety on this team. He played both roles. This defense has turned a sharp corner and he may be the leading catalyst.
-K Graham Gano: No FG attempts
-Riley Dixon: 8 punts / 48.8 avg / 36.6 net
-S Jabrill Peppers, EDGE Carter Coughlin, CB James Bradberry
-QB Daniel Jones, OT Andrew Thomas, WR Darius Slayton
3 THOUGHTS ON ARI
Haason Reddick. After watching the new NYG defense run over the first 4-6 weeks of the season, he was the name I circled when it came to 2021 NFL Free Agents to try and sign. The Kyler Fackrell role (BUCK linebacker) in this scheme needs to be effective on the outside but also transform into an extra inside linebacker in specific looks. Reddick has a lot of experience playing inside, which is where ARI predominantly played him for the first three years of his career. His 5 sacks in this game were a little overblown when it comes to how good he is, but the point remains. Fackrell is a one-year rental and Reddick can be the long-term solution for NYG. He is “multiple” in that he can credibly wear different hats for a defense, but the specialty is on the outside despite lacking traditional outside tools.
I don’t believe in ARI in its current state and I don’t believe in Kyler Murray. I’ll go on record with that and will be the first to eat my words if I end up being wrong. ARI is a gimmick offense that does have a lot of talent, absolutely. When everything clicks, they can score on anybody, yes. Murray can take over a game, yes. That, to me, is not what makes a team get in and stay in the elite tier, however. They are reliant on the uniqueness of their offense and Murray’s arsenal. Unique can work like a gem at times (remember Miami’s wildcat offense?) but NFL defenses catch on. Very few offenses and quarterbacks can stay at the top week-to-week and year-to-year. Murray just doesn’t throw the ball from the pocket like those guys and there are things in his game that I just don’t see lasting.
The one area of their team that is stand-out strong and does not get enough attention in the secondary. They’ve really hit on their draft picks over the years and even though Patrick Peterson is not what he once was, there is still plenty in the tank left. Byron Murphy, Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson, and Deionte Johnson were all drafted within the past 3 years. If NYG can build the secondary like this in the next year or two, watch out.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
While the offensive shortcomings can at least be somewhat attributed to Jones, one needs to really look at what this team has at WR. Over his last 19 games, Sterling Shepard is averaging 9.7 yards per catch and has 3 touchdowns. Golden Tate has been good for 2 catches per game over his last 7 and can rarely get open by himself. Darius Slayton has not taken the step up from his impressive rookie year. Evan Engram is among the league leaders in drops since he has been in the league. This team is starving for a true outside threat and if you look at David Gettleman’s history in pro personnel both with NYG and CAR, they are going to go after someone in free agency. The following are projected to be free agents this offseason: Kenny Golladay / DET, JuJu Smith-Schuster / PIT, Allen Robinson / CHI, Corey Davis / TEN, Sammy Watkins / KC. There are a handful of lesser-tier free agents as well but I think they will go big at this spot this offseason.
We should not be surprised to see NYG lay such an egg after such a strong win in SEA last week. This is life in the NFL for a team that is “middle tier.” One week, you create hope of playoff caliber football and the ability to beat anybody. The next week, you look like a team that can’t do anything right. Big picture, everybody. This is part of growing and evolving into a team that can win games in the postseason. They are still on the right path.
Up next are the Cleveland Browns in front of a national audience. I would love to say CLE is overrated (which was my thought early in the year) but this is a legit playoff caliber team playing really good football on both sides of the ball. The greatest test will come defensively on the ground, where Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the best 1-2 backfield duo in the game. In addition, they are running behind one of the top 3 offensive lines in the league this year. The NYG defense has been outstanding this year, but this will be a different kind of test.