Daniel Jones: 26/37 – 321 yards / 2 TD – 1 INT / 103.5 RAT
Check this out. With 1:09 left in the 2nd quarter, Jones was 6/12 – 43 yards / 0 TD – 1 INT. Now go take another look at the final stat line. From that moment he went 20/25 – 278 yards / 2 TD – 0 INT. Jones also had 59 yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown. You want a real-life look at a quarterback who has put a team on his shoulders to lead the best comeback this franchise has had in the modern era? This was it. We have seen the toughness Jones exudes since his rookie year. We have seen him make big time throws in the second half to all three levels. We have seen him make plays with his legs that, maybe, five other starting quarterbacks in the NFL can make. But we have never seen it all together in one half throughout a three-score comeback. This goes in the top five list of Jones’ best performances. What was so different in the second half? Three things came to mind after the two re-watches.
One, his targets stopped dropping balls. More support from the surrounding cast, which he had very little of in the first six quarters of the season, will always open the door to better potential results. The Waller/Barkley drops in the first half especially were killers. Two, Jones looked much more decisive and brave in the pocket. He abandoned the play too soon three times in the first half rather than stepping up and keeping his eyes downfield. Once he had some momentum build upon the third quarter (the long Hyatt completion was so key for that), he maneuvered the pocket with more precision and/or opted to tuck and run north. His time-to-decision was evidently faster. Three, his accuracy and timing were near-perfect. The underneath-to-intermediate throws were on the money, properly setting up his targets to allow them to move upfield right away after the completion. Jones made over a handful of big-time throws, the kind of throws everyone in the media would be pointing out if it were Joe Burrow (0-2) or Justin Herbert (0-2). Jones had the look of a winner in this one. Whatever it takes, whatever the situation. A lot went against him, and he rose up and led this team to a huge win.
-Saquon Barkley: 17 att – 63 yards – 1 TD / 6 rec – 29 yards – 1 TD
Unfortunately, Barkley on the second to last play of the game got caught between a pile of linemen and a defender coming in from the side, trapping his foot underneath a lineman while being twisted in the other direction. He will miss time, possibly a month.
As for his performance in this game, he was Robin to Jones’ Batman. A duo who came up with the big plays in key moments, the plays you pay these guys to make. The 3rd-and-9 touchdown pass was execution by both at the highest level we see in the sport. That was Mahomes-Kelce caliber, a score that very few pass catchers could make in this league. Barkley’s performance did come with a few warts. For the second straight week, he dropped a ball he should have held onto that resulted in an interception. For the second straight week, I have multiple runs where he danced/stutter stepped in the backfield while a crease was there (or about to be there) for the taking. 2nd-and-1 he turns sideways/runs backwards. These things cannot happen, and more situational awareness and better vision are needed. I’ll touch more on his replacement while injured at the bottom.
-Matt Breida had one carry for 5 yards, the play before Graham Gano’s winning-field goal. Eric Gray deserves credit for a 14-yard punt return in the fourth quarter to start the NYG possession that ended up tying the game at 28 in the fourth quarter. Both will be in for big roles just two days from now.
-I discussed how much this offense needs to generate more explosive plays from the passing game. It is near-essential for the team to take the next step. Enter Darius Slayton and Jalin Hyatt. Slayton had 3 catches for 62 yards. His completions were 29, 18, and 15 yards. Hyatt had just 2 catches, both resulting in explosive plays (one for 58 yards, one for 31 yards) and were the two longest plays of the afternoon. Slayton also had a catch in the fourth quarter where he (barely) landed out of bounds that would have been an all-time highlight had the field been a few inches wider. Jones also underthrew him in the first half on a play where he had 2-3 steps on the corner. Hyatt is the key, here. A lot to be put on a third rounder but the way he moves and way he is tracking the ball and how fast he can easily get over the top can change how defenses work the short to intermediate routes. Hyatt looks ready for more.
-Isaiah Hodgins did not contribute much from a volume perspective, but he did come down with the game-tying touchdown on a brilliant catch that was very high-difficulty. I did charge him with a drop in the third quarter on a fade pass from Jones, but I will admit it could have gone either way. Regardless, Hodgins is going to benefit the most if teams have to start respecting the deep passing game.
-Parris Campbell added a drop and was flagged for a false start on a potentially controversial two-point conversion attempt, which valid arguments could be made both for and against. After the penalty, Daboll opted to simply go for the extra point to make it 28-21 rather than the conversion in an effort to make it 28-22. Maybe it was one of those good mistakes. Sterling Shepard had 1 catch for 4 yards. He played just 10 snaps.
-We saw some of the biggest value Waller brings to the table in the second half. He finished with 6 catches for 76 yards (5/64 were in quarters three-four). Four of those went for a first down, which led the team and tied for the league-high among tight ends in Week 2. Watching the All-22 angle and everything makes simple sense. More vertical pressure on the secondary because of Slayton + Hyatt combined with linebackers who cannot hang with Waller creates separation and space. He seems to already have a strong chemistry with Jones and I expect it to further improve in time. The two negatives were a first quarter drop (knocked out by a defender) and the fact he does seem to struggle with stride length. The hamstring/nerve issue is real, and it may inhibit some of what I thought he could offer as a seam pusher up the field.
-Uneventful game for Daniel Bellinger, who played under half the snaps as the team was very heavy on 11 personnel usage (3 WR). He had two losses as a blocker that were a result of poor initial footwork, but he did throw a key block on Barkley’s touchdown run as he lined up in the backfield.
-Here is a good sign. The days and hours leading up to the game, Joshua Ezeudu and Markus McKethan were the main talking points. With Andrew Thomas being declared out with a hamstring injury early on, Ezeudu was placed into the left tackle spot over Matt Peart. He played 508 snaps in college there, but none in the NFL and almost zero practice time. McKethan, who was Ezeudu’s teammate at North Carolina, missed all of 2022 (his rookie season) after tearing his ACL during a scrimmage in training camp last August and would be taking his first pro snaps for the benched Mark Glowinski. The best part? All that pre-game chatter about the changes and it was the last time we heard anything about them.
How did they play? Ezeudu was flagged for a false start prior to the first play and allowed a one-yard sack on the second drive that was not a bad beat. From there? Nearly flawless. McKethan allowed a half-sack and 2 pressures. He struggled with two separate blitz pickups and getting to the linebackers at the second level. But what impressed me was how he never abandoned techniques. This guy is very big and long for a guard. His 35.5” arms and 85.5”wingspan are top five in the history of the position. Seeing him long-arm guys (even with his feet in the wrong spot) got him a few extra wins. Excellent firsts for both former Tar Heels and I will touch on the OL more below.
-Center John Michael Schmitz was rock solid all game. I still see him losing too much ground on these aggressive outside zone runs but he isn’t getting beat and that is what’s most important. I also saw him make a couple instinctive moves that I only see a handful of centers make in the league. Combine that with the perfect grade in pass protection and two QB sneak successes, his grade was very good.
-Ben Bredeson took a nasty blow to the head and was quickly diagnosed with a concussion. He allowed a TFL before exiting. Mark Glowinski came off the bench to play left guard, a spot he hadn’t played since 2017 with Seattle. After allowing a TFL right away, he also provided above average play.
-Evan Neal did look better than he did in week one but was still the one guy with a negative grade up front. He allowed 2 pressures, was flagged for a hold (that wiped out a touchdown), a false start, and received a ton of help throughout the game. I did note how important that help would be for the offense, but I still can’t get behind him as a player yet. Remember, I was very high on him as a prospect, and I still believe he can be a good player. But taking my bias out, Neal still struggles in pass protection way too much.
-Kayvon Thibodeaux has a lot of eyes on him, rightfully so. He was the 5th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. He is 0-for-2 this season on hitting just the minimum standard for what is expected of him. He had 1 pressure which resulted in a QB hit and even that was on a stunt where ARI left him unblocked up the middle. I was also disappointed on the lack of backside pursuit on the ARI outside zone runs. Two blockers in front of him pulling to the opposite side and he did not react fast enough. Now, it is possible he was playing assignment football and I do not question his effort. Thibodeaux plays hard. He simply does not always have the quick and natural football sense against the run on complex running plays. The conclusion here is that he has been a no-show through two weeks to start off the year.
-Azeez Ojulari missed the game with a soft tissue injury again (hamstring). He has now missed 11 of his last 18 games and that does not include playing under 20% of the snaps in their two playoff games last year.
-Oshane Ximines was activated and had a QB hit and a half-TFL on a play he went unblocked. He had one tackle and a missed tackle. Boogie Basham played a very quiet 13 snaps. The depth looks poor, the starters look poor. Nothing is set in stone, but that is the cold hard truth with the first 10% of the season now in the rear view mirror.
-Another week of solid rotations. Another week of solid Dexter Lawrence play. Another week of overall underwhelming group performance. Lawrence did end up shining and came up big when the team needed him the most. 4 tackles, one TFL (two separate half-TFL plays), and 3 pressures. Just another day at the office for the All-Pro. His impact on stuffing the run, even the outside runs, has been near make or break. When he gets doubled and neutralized, bad things are likely to happen. When ARI tried to single-man him, his push shrunk the creases to near-nonexistent.
-Leonard Williams added 2 pressures but finished with no tackles. I expect more out of him, to be blunt. He is getting moved too easily in the running game and he has not been getting off blocks like he did last year. He needs to find his groove after playing just 12 snaps in preseason. Lawrence is doing his part, Williams needs to step up and do his. It will impact multiple facets of the defense.
-The trio of accessories all had stretches of solid play, but they’re all limited. Hence why they are backups, I suppose. A’Shawn Robinson finished with three tackles and a half-TFL. D.J .Davidson was active in place of Jordon Riley, which I like because these two will be competing for snaps all season and that will bring the best out them respectively. He added one tackle. Rakeem Nunez-Roches struggled to make any sort of impact besides giving Williams the occasional breather. He was overwhelmed by double teams on running plays. These three guys combined for 31 pass rush snaps, and they did not accrue a single pressure. On a team that is struggling to get to the passer, it is a bigger deal in my eyes than it admittedly probably should be. Somebody needs to step up there. And it’s not like they’re doing well against the run. They’re averaging 6th-most yards per carry allowed among the 28 teams that have played two games so far.
-Add Bobby Okereke to the list of guys who looked like completely different players in the second half than the first. Almost as if the real one showed up at halftime and put on the #58 jersey before they came back out of the tunnel. He finished with 8 tackles, one for a loss. Early on, Okereke was not filling his gap hard or fast enough. But when the team needed big stops, he rose to the occasion especially in the third quarter. On the flip side, he was flagged for a pass interference that called off an interception, he was flagged for a personal foul for hitting the quarterback’s helmet, and he abandoned his gap on the Dobbs rushing touchdown. Too many killer plays for one guy, the green dot guy. But he was a big factor in the second half and it took him off the dud list.
-Micah McFadden got on that list early as well but stayed on it, unfortunately. He had four missed tackles. One of them resulted in a touchdown, one of them would have been a take down for a short loss, and another one would have resulted in a major loss. We know what he is at this point. He is effective in traffic because he is quick, low to the ground, and powerful. He is not even half as good in space and/or while moving laterally. The missed tackles need to stop, it changes drives.
-Isaiah Simmons played 13 snaps, again as expected, nine of which he dropped into coverage. He finished with 2 tackles and a pressure on a scramble. The speed showed up and made a difference in two occasions. Do I expect him to play more? Not yet. Do I expect him to take over for McFadden? Absolutely not. That isn’t his position.
-Rookie Deonte Banks played all 64 snaps, a positive considering he left Week One early with cramps. He is a work in progress, which is stating the obvious. He flashes excellent sheer talent and ability. He is physical and his coverage is borderline too grabby. He was flagged for illegal contact for the second straight week. His biggest negatives came against the run. While it is not priority A or B for a corner, Banks needs to stop missing tackles (2) and losing track of his edge responsibilities. The game is too fast to make up for a bad initial read.
-Adoree’ Jackson also missed a tackle, playing every snap. He finished with 5 tackles and allowed 4 catches on 6 targets. Most of those passes were incredibly tough assignments on quick strikes but he did come up with two big pass breakups. He looks more comfortable in coverage, but as I said a few weeks ago, his lack of presence in tackling from nickel will be an issue this defense needs to cope with.
-Rookie Tre Hawkins was not involved much on his 40 snaps. He came up with an impressive deep ball pass break up where he stayed on top of the assignment and was inches away from the interception. He, too, missed a tackle and he also made a bad read on the Marquis Brown short touchdown catch. He looked hesitant and unsure, and like Banks, the game is too fast for that. He was taken off the field on their two-corner looks, where Jackson went back to the outside.
-Xavier McKinney played all 64 snaps and Jason Pinnock missed just one play while he had a contact lens replaced. The former had 7 tackles and a pass break up. He missed a tackle and was a flagged for a questionable personal foul in the first half. It was a solid game for a guy who may be the best blitzer on the team. Pinnock led the team with 10 tackles, but also missed 3. He plays so fast that at times it is too fast for his own good. I’ll take the fast mistakes though; you can live with those. He had an interception that was called back, he had 1.5 TFL, and easily looks like the fastest reactive player on the defense. This unit is not creating turnovers but if/when they do, the two safeties will be involved. I still think they miss Julian Love (off to a tough start in SEA), but the group overall is not even close to one of the concerns defensively.
-Bobby McCain and Dane Belton combined for just 8 snaps and made no impact.
K Graham Gano: 1/1 (made 34 and a long extra point)
P Jamie Gillan: 3 punts / 37.0 avg – 37.0 net
-QB Daniel Jones, OT Joshua Ezeudu, DT Dexter Lawrence
-LB Micah McFadden, ED Kayvon Thibodeux, OT Evan Neal
3 THOUGHTS ON ARI
1. The talk surrounding ARI, for months, has centered around tanking for the 2024 NFL Draft. This franchise has their own pick (expected to be top 5) and the Texans pick (acquired in a draft-day trade, also expected to be top 5). That is realistically going to probably land them two top 5 picks. You can even set a solid market on them being two of the top three picks. They traded away a solid OL depth / starting guard in Josh Jones right before the season (again to HOU) and they traded Simmons to NYG. They cut DeAndre Hopkins. They traded for their starting quarterback in the final week of August. Who knows what they are doing with Kyler Murray? All of this in a year where the next big thing at quarterback is likely to declare for the 2024 Draft AND there is a generational wide receiver likely to be there as well. No, I do not think this team cares about the loss yesterday.
2. About 14 months ago, quarterback Kyler Murray signed a 5-year/$230 million extension with the club. $160 million guaranteed. Can they actually move on from this deal without crippling the team’s ability to spend? In short, yes. They could move him next offseason and absorb $46.2 million in dead money. Yes, a lot of money but we have seen worse. Atlanta recently did something in that tier with Matt Ryan. They could wait until after June 1 to trade him and absorb $13 million dead cap in 2023, $33.3 million in 2025. Considering what I know about General Manager Monti Ossenfort, I think they will make the move as soon as possible. The interesting debate is how much he plays in 2023. They may not want to fall into accidental wins (Murray can still take over a game backyard football style), but they do want to increase his value to QB-hungry teams that are ready to win. This will be incredibly interesting to follow.
3. Prior to 2023, here is the list of the first draft picks this team has made since 2014: TE Trey McBride, LB Zaven Collins, LB Isaiah Simmons, QB Kyler Murray, QB Josh Rosen (I was very wrong on him too), Haason Reddick, Robert Nkemdiche, D.J. Humphries, Deone Bucannon. There is more to a draft class than the first rounder, NYG fans know that. But that many misses in that short span of a time (including 5 picks in the front half of round 1) is the quickest way to getting fired. To be frank, I am surprised some guys in that front office have held onto their jobs for that long. But with some of the things I know about the management within that organization behind the scenes, I can’t say I am surprised. Not everyone in the NFL has a job because they truly deserve it. Previous ARI front offices (and even some coaches) are prime examples of that. Better days ahead.
4 CLOSING THOUGHTS
1. The Saquon Barkley injury is, unfortunately, something we have grown somewhat used to over the years on a season-to-season basis. The multiple serious injuries (those that cause multiple consecutive games missed) suffered to the lower body are such a killer for a back who has a game built on shiftiness and burst. Instead of harping on him and running back contracts, the better discussion centers around how to replace the production. Nobody on this roster is replacing Barkley. But the Moneyball approach is where to go in discussion; how do they replace his yards and touchdowns? It needs to be a team effort, one that is so much more doable than the previous times this has happened because of better depth. Sure, Matt Breida and Eric Gray and Gary Brightwell will get the carries, but nobody needs to be the guy. Maybe Jones gets more designed (but safe) carries. Maybe we see more dump offs to Campbell and (eventually) Wan’Dale Robinson. Maybe Gray excels where Barkley struggles (vision, feel, decision making). Maybe they get more aggressive downhill burst from Breida/Brightwell. The options are plenty and it should not crush the offense.
2. Million dollar question. What is the ideal offensive line configuration now? Let’s discuss this from the perspective that Andrew Thomas is back, and Ben Bredeson is healthy. Both may be out Thursday, though. When they’re ready to go, I think they roll with Thomas-Ezeudu-Schmitz-McKethan-Neal for the time being. Glowinski and Bredeson off the bench are above average when considering depth around the league. Peart is the gameday swing tackle, but Ezeudu is the number one backup outside. I am not going down the path of replacing Neal with Ezeudu, it’s not even a thought. I am not considering Neal to guard, it’s not even a thought. The question I have is about Ezeudu. His snaps at guard have not been very good so far, but he was great at left tackle in his pro debut. As pleased as I was with his game, let’s not forget the Arizona group of pass rushers is a strong contender for worst in the NFL. We will have a clearer picture after the game Thursday night.
3. This defense just looks terrible. While they did step up in the second half, I am considering the entire game within my evaluation. They’re one of four teams that have played 2 games as of this writing that has not forced a turnover (Dallas has forced 7 and Philadelphia has forced 6). They are the ONLY team in the league without a single sack. They’re second to last in pressure rate. What is the solution? It seems Martindale is hesitant to blitz. His rate is middle of the league right now (after leading the NFL in 2022). The blitzes on pass plays resulted in 50% completion rate against ARI. Is he afraid of leaving the young corners on a true island play to play? Is he trying to play the game of deception when everyone plans for more blitzing? The front can’t get home with four pass rushers. The results can’t be too much worse than they are right now. I suggest Martindale go back to his roots and force things to happen.
4. A 38-7 loss against the Eagles in the Divisional Playoffs. A 40-0 loss to the Cowboys week one. A 20-0 deficit to one of the worst teams in the NFL after two quarters of football. That is a 10-quarter span where this team was being outscored 98-7. That is historically bad. Not just bad; historic. This brought back a memory that many have chosen to forget. In year one of the Ben McAdoo era, NYG went 11-5 and lost a closer playoff game to the Packers. Eli Manning threw for 4,000+ yards, Landon Collins and Damon Harrison both made the All-Pro Team, and Odell Beckham finished third in the NFL in both catches and yards. Things were looking better than they had in 5 years. Fast forward to the very next season (2017), NYG started off 0-5, 1-8, and 2-13. McAdoo was fired in early December. The results on the field here in 2023 were appearing like something we have seen. Building momentum under a new Head Coach just to see it fall off a cliff. But as I, and many others, have said, this regime is different. Simply, different. I hate the “must win” label a game has in Week 2, but I will say I think this win will have a spillover impact very much like Week 1 in Tennessee did last season when NYG went for 2 instead of tying it up with an extra point. But there is more to be done, more to prove. The Giants have played some of the worst football league wide in 6 of 8 quarters. And this coaching staff called consecutive timeouts in the 4th quarter (resulting in a penalty). The short week is a big test.