Jan 042019
 
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Cody Latimer, New York Giants (December 30, 2018)

Cody Latimer – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 36 – New York Giants 35

QUICK RECAP

For the second straight year, week 17 couldn’t come soon enough. The Giants-Cowboys matchup was one of the less interesting games on the NFL schedule. NYG was far out of contention and neither a win or loss would alter the DAL playoff situation. They won the division and were locked into their home playoff game Wild Card weekend. That said, there have been rumors that Eli Manning may be done in NY as a result of him retiring or NYG finally cutting him loose with the final year of his contact coming up in 2019. Nothing has been confirmed on that front, so yes, there really wasn’t a lot of buzz to this game. DAL sat RB Ezekiel Elliott, OG Zack Martin, and OT Tyron Smith. NYG was without Odell Beckham for the fourth straight game and Alec Ogletree for the second. The weather was pleasantly cool without any notable wind. A rather nice day for the end of December.

Manning and the offense put together a nice opening drive after a 38-yard kick return by Corey Coleman, both promising trends from the season. They were inside the 10-yard line of DAL after just 4 plays, but on the 5th Manning under threw his target in the end zone and the ball was picked off by second-year corner Chidobe Awuzie.

NYG got the ball soon after and once again got into DAL territory rather easily. The time, on the 7th play, Manning was sacked and ended up fumbling the ball right in\ to the waiting hands of DAL defensive tackle Antwaun Woods. Two drives, two turnovers. Exactly how the Eli naysayers wanted it to start, and a nightmare for the Eli supporters.

DAL ended up missing a 34-yard FG on their next drive but the NYG offense continued to struggle, this time with 2 false start penalties and a 3 and out. DAL then got their act together offensively and scored touchdowns on consecutive drives. Both were touchdown passes to the unknown TE Blake Jarwin on 3rd down. Both capped long drives that took a combined 12 minutes of play clock. Both were the result of poor safety coverage and tackling, something we have literally seen all year.

Manning got the ball back with just under 2 minutes left and, like always, showed a different side of himself in one game. He took them 73 yards on 10 plays in just 1:35 of game clock, capping it all with a touchdown pass to Cody Latimer who made a spectacular one handed catch with a defender draped all over him while tight roping the sideline. NYG went into the half down 14-7.

NYG forced a 3 and out on the opening drive and then added 3 points to their score via a 48-yard FG by the Pro Bowl Kicker Aldrick Rosas. DAL then surged back and connected on yet another Prescott-to-Jarwin touchdown, number three on the day. It was almost hard to believe but then the memory light clicked on; NYG has been one of the worst at defending the middle of the field for years and this season hasn’t been much different.

The NYG offense seemed to find a flow but they needed a big play. Look no further than #26, as rookie Saquon Barkley gained 68 yards and brought NYG into the red zone. That run put Barkley over the 2,000 total yards mark, only the 3rd time in NFL history by a rookie and it gave him his 7th 100+ yard rushing performance of the season, tied for the league lead with Elliott. Manning then found the resurgent Evan Engram for a solid pitch-and-catch touchdown. They went for 2 and Manning connected with the versatile athlete Engram one more time to make it a 3-point game.

After a defensive stop, NYG got the ball back and kept the momentum on their side. Engram had the highlight play of the drive with a 51-yard gain that brought NYG to the DAL 14-yard line. A few plays later, Wayne Gallman crossed the goal line and gave NYG their first lead of the day, 25-21 with under 11 minutes left in the 4th quarter.

The lead didn’t last long, as DAL backup RB Rod Smith, who had 3 touchdowns at MetLife Stadium over his previous 2 visits, crossed the goal line at the end of a 5 play, 75 yard drive. Both defenses were just getting man-handled.

Manning and the offense, once again, kept their surge going, mainly via the passing game. They took their 4-point lead back with a Barkley 2-yard touchdown and on the first play of the following DAL possession, Kerry Wynn forced a fumble that was recovered by BJ Goodson. NYG started with the ball at the DAL 18 yard line and ended up netting 3 more points via the trustworthy leg of Rosas. They had a 7 -oint lead with just over 2 minutes of game clock left.

This task was taken on by Dak Prescott, who played every snap, head on. He easily drove the DAL defense all the way down field, but a 4th and 15 form the NYG 32 yard line faced him. This was likely the end of the game but as he did so well all afternoon and all season, he hit Cole Beasley in the end zone while on the move with an unbelievably accurate ball. The original ruling was that Beasley landed out of bounds but after review, it was reversed and DAL was back within one.

They opted to go for 2 since nobody wanted any part of overtime and just as the NYG defense did all year, they didn’t come up with a key stop. Prescott hit rookie Michael Gallup in the end zone and they were all of the sudden up by 1.

Manning did get a shot to come out and lead NYG downfield against DAL in a December home game very much like he did as a rookie back in 2004. But this result wasn’t a positive one. Four straight incompletions, not one hand off to Barkley, and NYG was handed their 11th loss of the season.

NYG loses 36-35.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 24/41 – 301 yards – 2 TD – 1 INT. Manning also lost a fumble, his 4th of the year. The game couldn’t have started worse for Manning in what may have been his last start as a Giants’ quarterback. In typical Eli fashion, he bounced back and had a solid game but as we’ve seen all year, he just didn’t have the same ability to close out a game. He had opportunities on the last drive, and throughout the game, to come up with the big throw and he just couldn’t pull it off consistently enough. Manning can still make all the throws but there is too much he can’t seem to do anymore. Too many misses. Too many limitations. If the rest of the roster was structured to the point where the QB could “manage” more than make plays, maybe it could be different. But the truth is, this roster isn’t good enough to hide his limitations and if you put a gun to my head, I think that was it in New York for Manning.

RUNNING BACKS

Saquon Barkley: 17 att / 109 yards – 1 TD – 4 rec / 33 yards. Overall, it was a quiet day for the Rookie of the Year candidate. 94 of his yards came on 2 carries, meaning the other 15 carries produced 15 yards. He didn’t have much room to work with but there were a couple plays he was late to see the lanes. Barkley capped off the year by passing the 2,000 total yards mark which was just the 3rd time in NFL history that has ever been done by a rookie. His elite talent and ability flashed all year and when this kid improves his decision making and gets a real offensive line in front of him, we are looking at a legit year in, year out MVP candidate.

-Wayne Gallman had 6 carries for 23 yards and a touchdown. Really strong end to the season for a back who won’t get enough credit playing in the shadow of Barkley. This kid can play and it was a solid year for him. He impressed me with his ability to break through contact despite not having a ton of size under those pads. Even though this is the Barkley show, Gallman will be an important piece.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Cody Latimer: 4 rec / 72 yards / 1 TD. Better late than never for Latimer. It was the best game of the year for the 26-year old who was supposed to bring a vertical threat to the NYG offense. He made two spectacular, high-level catches in this one. Was it enough to keep him around? That remains to be seen but he did show enough in the 6 games that he played this year to at least compete for a spot moving forward.

-Sterling Shepard: 4 rec / 67 yards. Shepard led the team with 9 targets. He had a drop on a downfield pass and after 3 years, it appears evident he just isn’t going to be a guy that can get vertical and make plays on the ball consistently. There is still a ton of value in his game, but there are limitations and it is something to consider as his unrestricted free agency will be here in 2020.

-Corey Coleman was a pleasant surprise throughout the second half of the season as a kick returner. I think he needs to be back here because of how consistent he was I getting the ball past the 30 yard line. Field position is crucial and the ability to break one is even more important when there is so much instability at the QB position.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram: 5 rec / 81 yards / 1 TD. Engram may have had the strongest finish to the season on the entire team. It appeared to be a wash that stemmed from a knee injury sustained week 3 against HOU, but credit to him for coming back and really putting his best foot forward. He made a 51-yard gain on a play that was mostly yards after catch. The speed he has shown in space lately has really stood out. His drops lessened and the scheme put him in some favorable spots. I expect him to be one of the most important pieces of the offense in 2019.

-Scott Simonson added 2 catches for 14 yards. He struggled as a blocker, allowing a sack and a few tackles right at the point of attack. He will likely be back in 2019 because there is an every-down threat in his potential. Not a definite for the 2019 roster spot, but he will be able to compete for it.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Nate Solder finished out his much improved second half with a solid game. He allowed one pressure and came up with a few key blocks on the outside. While I wouldn’t call his performance dominant by any means, it was one of his better games.

-Chad Wheeler, on the other hand, continued to show his low-level 2018 play. He really didn’t show any improvement throughout the year. He allowed 2 pressures and had 2 penalties. His adjustment speed and footwork were poor, as they were all year. This is one spot that absolutely needs improvement in 2019.

GUARDS/CENTER

-Rookie Will Hernandez, after a rough start to the season, finished strong. He allowed 1 TFL but it had more to do with Barkley slipping in the backfield than him getting beat. Hernandez has the LG spot locked up for the next few years, so we can cross that off the needs-list. His pass protection doesn’t always look pretty, but his presence and power can make up for it.

-Spencer Pulley and Jamon Brown both finished with negative grades. I don’t need to keep saying it, but I’m not so sure these guys should be back. Brown has proven to be a penalty-heavy player with some solid stretches of run blocking. While I do think he can be in the running for the RG job next year, by no means does he deserve a big contract. Pulley has never been very good, so I don’t expect him back. This is a very solid OC draft, thus I think NYG would be smart to go after one early day 3. Value will be there.

EDGE

Olivier Vernon finished with 2.5 sacks, the most in a single game for him as a Giant. Just as everyone started to write him off, Vernon finished with 6 sacks over his final 5 games. After missing the first 5 weeks of the season with an injury, Vernon may have done enough to keep his roster spot especially considering the edge spots are pretty bare to begin with. While he may never be a top tier guy, he is probably better than what most perceive him to be.

-Rookie Lorenzo Carter recorded a sack, his 4th of the season. He was exactly what I thought he would be for the Giants in 2018. A tools-rich, raw edge defender who can make plays with his legs but still has a ways to go with his hands and technique. He will be in the running for a starting spot in 2019 but even if someone takes it, he will be an important piece. The skill set is versatile.

-Kareem Martin finished the season strong. The plus-locker room presence struggled when his playing time was high, but as he got put into a more rotational role, he stood out. Martin recorded 5 tackles and 1 TFL. He was really stout against the run.

-Kerry Wynn, “Mr. Preseason”, saw his playing time diminish more and more throughout the year. He did end up with a huge forced fumble in this one, however.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Solid game for Dalvin Tomlinson. He settled into the 1-technique position really well after the Damon Harrison trade. Although the run defense as a whole did take a hit with him in there in contrast to Snacks, I do think it is his best role. The twitch and range he shows makes this defense a little more versatile which, in the long run, fits in better with what they want the scheme to be.

-Rookie BJ Hill recorded a half sack, giving him 5.5 on the season. That was the highest among all interior defenders from the 2018 Draft class and 4th overall among rookies. Not bad for a 3rd rounder. I discussed Hill as an immediate contributor at this time last year, and that he was. Hill’s upside is limited but he will be a building block for the defense. A defense that really needs to step it up.

LINEBACKERS

-With Alec Ogletree out, BJ Goodson was the main man in the middle. And I’ll tell you what, Goodson was as impressive and consistent as any LB on this team over the final 4 weeks. His playing time and injury status has been back and forth over his three years in blue, but I still want this guy on the field as much as possible. His run defense is borderline elite with his ability to reach the sidelines, deal with traffic, and deliver violent blows to ball carriers. His weaknesses in coverage are apparent, but he is a guy who plays with the hustle and intensity I want.

-Tae Davis, an undrafted free agent rookie, made some impressive plays and his speed stands out. But he really didn’t figure out how to avoid over-pursuing and missing tackles. He’s missed tackles, including 2 in this one, every week he saw serious playing time. In addition, his coverage wasn’t on the level you want out of a package defender. He will compete for a spot in 2019, but by no means is a definite.

CORNERBACKS

-Janoris Jenkins had one of his best games of the season, as he was the main reason why Amari Cooper had a quiet game. He also led the team with 8 tackles and two pass breakups. Jenkins isn’t always the most physical guy out there and there is still a lot of gambling in his game, but this is an expensive player who needs to stay here. Good cornerbacks are really hard to find and he is one of them.

-BW Webb saw his play go south over the final quarter of the season. He was flagged for another long pass interference which eventually led to a DAL touchdown. Webb really had a solid year overall considering he was a street free agent who was signed after the draft. He is limited and likely best suited for a #3 or #4 role if they want to bring him back.

-Grant Haley ended his rookie season with a lot of promise. The undersized, but quick and aggressive undrafted free agent showed he can hang in the slot. He is a weapon as a blitzer, which this scheme needs from that spot and he can hold his own against bigger receivers. He shouldn’t be a guy who the front office cements into the role next year, but he will be here to compete and develop.

-Tony Lippett was a college wide receiver who made a move to CB in the NFL and actually showed promise early in his career. He never got over the hump with Miami but I was excited to see NYG bring him in. He was on the field for 21 snaps in this game and got burned for a long play by Allen Hurns. I am curious to see if NYG keeps him for the offseason because I still think there is something to work with here.

SAFETIES

-Curtis Riley and Michael Thomas were absolutely torched in this one and there is no way around it. The 3 touchdowns to TE Blake Jarwin can largely be blamed on these two and it’s been a nightmare all season at the position. Thomas is a locker room presence and solid special teamer who makes the occasional play against the run, but he is stiff in coverage. I’m not sure the good outweighs the bad here. Riley just can’t be a starter. He misses too many tackles and lacks anticipation. He has tools but they don’t translate play to play.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 48,38). The best year we have ever seen out of a NYG kicker. Rosas, a Pro Bowler, finishes with the highest percentage of combined field goals and extra points. Kickers as a whole have gone south in terms of consistently in recent years, and Rosas was as rock solid as it gets.

-P Riley Dixon: 2 Punts – 47.0 avg / 47.0 net. Really solid year for the punter who was traded for. He is a keeper. He finished 7th in the NFL in net average but could use more work with hang time and getting the ball pinned inside the 10. He will be back next year.

3 STUDS

-DE Olivier Vernon, TE Evan Engram, CB Janoris Jenkins

3 DUDS

-OT Chad Wheeler, S Curtis Riley, CB BW Webb

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

-All the talk surrounding the NFC playoffs seems to be revolving around the Rams and Saints, naturally. The top 2 seeds with the best 2 offenses will be tough to beat but if there is one team I don’t want to play right now, it’s Dallas. I think they have the best and highest-ceiling defense combined with a running game that can control the game. And there seems to still be debate surrounding Dak Prescott, which I just don’t get. He has been BETTER than Russell Wilson was over the first 3 years of their respective careers. Maybe it’s past failure? Maybe it’s Garrett? I don’t know but I really wouldn’t want to play these guys in the playoffs.

-The one thing that could really come back and bite them is the lack of consistent health along their OL. Are Zack Martin and Tyron Smith completely healthy? If those guys aren’t near 100%, it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

-As much as it may pain NYG faithful to accept this, the model that DAL used to get where they are is within grasp for NYG. Get a young QB who can do well enough to manage the game. Use the elite running back as much as possible. Build the offensive line with multiple early picks. Make sure you hit on edge rushers and defensive backs in the draft. Don’t overlook the potential importance of young, fast, physical linebackers.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-So here we are. A 5-11 final record that saw a 1-7 start. The majority of the wins were against backup quarterbacks, there is a huge question mark at QB, and the offense seemed to be more than fine without Odell Beckham. Year one of the Gettleman/Shurmur era is over and this upcoming offseason will be about more than just changing the culture. It’s now time to take the holes, fill them, and create the on-field identity on both sides of the ball. This is a tall task for anyone, as there is still a mixture of “This team is close to competing” and “This team has way too many holes”.

-Offensively, has there ever been a better gathering of talent at skill positions? TE Engram. WRs Beckham and Shepard. RB Barkley. Look around the league and you can debate those three positions have more talent than any team in the league. However the instability at QB and the porous offensive line prevents the upside from being reached. What is more important? Can a better OL give enough improvement to Manning? Is there a better option out there than #10? My priority is to bring in a new QB if the value is there but not at the expense of reaching and neglecting better value at OL.

-Defensively this team needs a pass rush. It hides issues elsewhere and I think it is more dependable. Even if you improve personnel at safety, if the pass rush doesn’t get there it won’t matter that much. This draft is loaded with pass rush talent and I think this is the time to pull the trigger on getting an elite talent there.

Dec 302018
 
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Eli Manning and Pat Shurmur, New York Giants (December 30, 2018)

Giants End Season With Another Loss – © USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS COWBOYS 36 – NEW YORK GIANTS 35…
The New York Giants ended their 2018 season on a losing note, falling to the Dallas Cowboys 36-35 at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Giants were up 35-28 with 2:35 left in the game. But Dallas drove 70 yards in nine plays, scoring on a 32-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-15 with with just over a minute to play. The successful 2-point conversion gave the Cowboys their game-winning points.

With the loss, the Giants ended the season with a 5-11 overall record (1-5 in the NFC East). The Giants have five losing seasons in the last six years.

The game did not start off well for New York. After a 38-yard kickoff return by wide receiver Corey Coleman, the Giants drove deep into Dallas territory, aided by a 24-yard reception by wide receiver Sterling Shepard and a 26-yard run by running back Saquon Barkley. However, quarterback Eli Manning was picked off in the end zone on 3rd-and-4 from the Dallas 6-yard line.

Dallas gained two first downs on their initial drive and then punted. The Giants picked up three first downs, but on 2-and-10 from the Dallas 43-yard line, Manning was sacked and he fumbled the ball away. The Cowboys drove inside the red zone on the ensuing possession but missed the 34-yard field goal.

After a three-and-out by the Giants, Dallas drove the ball 65 yards in 13 plays, the possession ending with a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dak Prescott to tight end Blake Jarwin. After another three-and-out by the Giants, the Cowboys went up 14-0 after a 9-play, 75-yard drive ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to Jarwin.

With under two minutes to play before halftime, the Giants finally got on the board with a 10-play, 73-yard possession that ended with a spectacular, one-handed, 21-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Cody Latimer on 3rd-and-10.

At the half, the Cowboys led 14-7.

The 3rd quarter began with a three-and-out by the Cowboys. Coleman returned the ensuing punt 19 yards. The Giants’ offense was only able to gain 15 yards, but it was enough to set up a successful 48-yard field goal by place kicker Aldrick Rosas. Cowboys 14 – Giants 10.

Dallas appeared to take command of the game again on their second possession of the half, driving 76 yards in eight plays, and capping off the drive with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to Jarwin. The Cowboys now led 21-10.

The Giants were ignited by a 68-yard run by Barkley on 2nd-and-20. Three plays later, Manning found tight end Evan Engram for a 6-yard touchdown reception and then the 2-point conversion. Cowboys 21 – Giants 18.

The Cowboys gained one first down and punted the ball away early in the 4th quarter. Aided by a 51-yard reception by Evan Engram, the Giants took their first lead of the game when running back Wayne Gallman scored from two yards out. Giants 25 – Cowboys 21.

However, a New York defense that has struggled to hold leads all year collapsed in the 4th quarter. On Dallas’ ensuing possession, the Cowboys easily drove 75 yards in five plays to regain the lead 28-25 with just over nine minutes to play. The Giants’ offense impressively responded with a 12-play, 74-yard effort. Latimer came down with a one-handed, 31-yard reception and three plays later Barkley skyed over the Dallas defense from two yards out. Giants 32 – Cowboys 28 with 3:21 left in the game.

New York appeared to pull off the upset on the very next offensive snap. After a short reception, defensive end Kerry Wynn forced a fumble that was recovered by linebacker B.J. Goodson and advanced to the Dallas 18-yard line. The Giants lost two yards on the subsequent possession but kicked a 38-yard field goal to take a 35-28 lead with 2:35 left in the game.

Again, the Giants’ defense could not hold. The Cowboys drove 70 yards 83 seconds, unbelievably scoring on a broken play from 32 yards out on 4th-and-15. The subsequent 2-point conversion gave Dallas their game-winning points.

The Giants did have one final legitimate chance to win the game. Latimer returned the ensuing kickoff 34 yards to the New York 48-yard line. The Giants had the ball near midfield with 65 left in the game and two timeouts. But the contest ended with four straight incompletions by Manning.

Manning finished the game 24-of-41 for 301 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. His leading receiver was Engram, who caught five passes for 81 yards. Latimer, Shepard, and Barkley each had four receptions. Barkley also gained 109 yards rushing and a touchdown on 17 carries.

Defensively, the Giants gave up 419 total net yards, including 368 net yards passing. The Giants accrued four sacks (2.5 by linebacker Olivier Vernon) and forced one fumble.

Video highlights are available at NFL.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the New York Giants were wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. (quad), wide receiver Russell Shepard (ankle), tight end Rhett Ellison (concussion), defensive end Mario Edwards (calf), linebacker Alec Ogletree (concussion), tight end Garrett Dickerson, and safety Kamrin Moore.

Cornerback Grant Haley (concussion) and wide receiver Corey Coleman (foot) left the game with injuries.

ROSTER MOVES…
The New York Giants placed wide receiver Jawill Davis on Injured Reserve on Saturday after he injured his knee dancing in the locker room on Saturday (no joke). To fill his roster spot, the Giants signed wide receiver Alonzo Russell to the 53-man roster from the team’s Practice Squad.

The Giants signed Russell after he impressed as a tryout player during the May 2018 rookie mini-camp and then signed him to the Practice Squad in September. The 6’3”, 206-pound Russell was originally signed by the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on the Bengals’ Practice Squad. The Bengals waived him in September 2017 and he was signed to the Practice Squad of the Arizona Cardinals in November 2017.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur and select players will address the media on Monday. General Manager Dave Gettleman will address the media on Wednesday.

Dec 282018
 
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New York Giants Fans (October 11, 2018)

© USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, December 30, 2018

THE STORYLINE:

When I woke up this morning, I said to my wife, “Ugh, I’ve got to write the game review.” Her response was, “Tell them they are going to lose and go spend time with their families.”

It’s been another one of those years. The fifth losing season in the last six.

Some saw it coming, others were more optimistic.

Let’s recap. The Giants may have experienced the most roster turnover since the 1984 season. The Jaguars outbid the Giants for free agent guard Andrew Norwell. The Giants responded by drastically overpaying Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh, which reeked of desperation even though many didn’t say so at the time. In fact, most of the Giants’ almost 40 free agent signings really didn’t work out (Kareem Martin, Curtis Riley, Cody Latimer, Connor Barwin, Jonathan Stewart, etc., but most long forgotten). The Giants also cut ties with Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Jay Bromley, Nat Berhe, Orleans Darkwa, Shane Vereen, Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard, Keenan Robinson, and others.

Then came the draft and the endless debate of the quarterback versus Saquon Barkley. Whether you supported the move or not, in a widely criticized decision, Dave Gettleman selected Barkley. The early returns on the 2018 NFL Draft are good for the Giants, but the next few years will tell the real story. The most curious pick remains weak-armed Kyle Lauletta.

An early red flag came on September 2, 2018. On that day, the Giants claimed six players off of waivers, representing 11 percent of the roster alone.

Many fans didn’t expect miracles in 2018 but they anticipated the offense and defense being significantly better and the special teams possibly worse. The opposite occurred. During the 1-7 start to the season, an offense equipped with Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley failed to score more than 18 points five times. A new 3-4 defense couldn’t rush the passer or force turnovers. While the Giants remained the healthiest they’ve been in years, Olivier Vernon was hurt yet again. The Giants began parting ways with Ereck Flowers, Eli Apple, and Damon Harrison, and listened to offers for Landon Collins and probably others.

At this point, most Giants fans were confident the team would have a shot at the #1 pick in the draft.

After the bye, the team started playing better. This, combined with the fact that the Giants were fortunate enough to face losing teams playing with back-up quarterbacks, led to a 4-1 “surge.” Perhaps the two most important games of the season were the devastating 25-22 loss to the Eagles, followed immediately by 30-27 overtime win against the Chicago Bears. The latter game came close to being an even bigger disaster than than the Eagles’ game, and had Shurmur lost both, the bulk of the fan base probably would have turned on him for good.

The “feel good” game of the season came on December 9th, the 40-16 ass-whipping of the Washington Redskins. But the Giants quickly were bitch-slapped back into reality with their 17-0 loss to the Tennessee Titans (which felt more like 35-0). The Giants blew an early 14-0 lead last week to the Colts and lost 28-27. They now stand at 5-10.

So where does this leave us? Trying to be objective as possible, personnel-wise, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the Giants’ defense in such bad shape. During my fan years, I watched defenses with the likes of Harry Carson, Lawrence Taylor, Leonard Marshall, Keith Hamilton, Jessie Armstead, Michael Strahan, Jason Sehorn, Antonio Pierce, Justin Tuck, and many, many others – too countless to name. Look at this defensive roster and tell me when the defensive personnel has been worse in the last 30 years.

Offensively, the Giants have two superstar players at the skill positions, Barkley and Beckham, but they still have problems scoring points. The offensive line remains a mess. Most of the moves Gettleman made there during the offseason didn’t work. The Giants still have question marks at center, right guard, right tackle, and maybe even left tackle. Eli Manning turns 38 next week. He doesn’t play like a $23 million player but he will be back for another year in 2019. In some ways, Eli had a good year (completion percentage, only 10 interceptions); in others, he did not (touchdowns, wins).

Many question whether Pat Shurmur is the right guy to turn this around, or simply another place-holder. How long will 67-year old Dave Gettleman, who battled cancer this year, want to do this job? And is he the right man for the rebuilding effort? When and how do the Giants make the transition to Eli’s successor? These are no small questions.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but the bottom line here is this: Are the Giants getting better? Worse? Or stuck in neutral?

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham (quad – out)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hip)
  • WR Russell Shepard (ankle – out)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (concussion – out)
  • OC Spencer Pulley (calf)
  • DE Kerry Wynn (thumb)
  • DE Mario Edwards (calf – out)
  • LB Alec Ogletree (concussion – out)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (foot)

THE FINAL WORD:
This game means nothing to the Dallas Cowboys. In my mind, a win here for the Giants is virtually meaningless in terms of creating that mystical “winning culture.” After all, my guess is at least 1/3 of the players on the current roster will be gone by early September. And heaven help us if we are claiming six players off of waivers again.

But it is a big game in one sense – the Giants could lose a lot of ground in draft slotting. So “just lose” baby (with some dignity).

Some say the Giants have become the old Cleveland Browns. Perhaps. But they definitely have become the old St. Louis Cardinals – that team in the NFC East that the other teams in the division used to fatten their records against. The Cowboys and Eagles love playing the Giants.

Sep 182018
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 16, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 20 – New York Giants 13

QUICK RECAP

Two 0-1 teams entered Sunday night on the same day where the two other NFC East teams lost to even their records at 1-1. Whomever left AT&T Stadium would have a share of 1st place early in this 2018 season.

With top edge rusher Oliver Vernon still injured, Kerry Wynn started on the NYG 4 man front. DAL didn’t waste time as Dak Prescott connected with Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown pass up the sideline on a blown coverage by Janoris Jenkins and Curtis Riley. After a 6 play drive, DAL had the ball back in their possession and gained 12-19-15-15 yards on their first 4 plays. This set them up for another 3 points and NYG was down 10-0 before the rhythm of the game even started.

The two sub-par offenses traded possessions a few times without gaining much of a field position advantage. NYG was force feeding the ball to Saquon Barkley who, if nothing else, was breaking tackles left and right every time he touched the ball. Manning was getting the ball out quickly because of the porous offensive line yet again and the DAL secondary was adamant about not letting Odell Beckham wreck the game.

One interesting observation from the early NYG offensive drives. When they were down 7-0, Pat Shurmur did not want to go for it on 4th and inches at midfield. For an offense that struggles to put together drives, an offense that struggles to even reach midfield, it was a puzzling decision. However when NYG was down 10-0, Shurmur opted to go for it on 4th and inches two times in a row despite being at a lesser field position. Not a big deal but it just screams lack of identity to me. 4th and inches at midfield for this offense needs to almost-always be a go-for-it situation.

With that said, NYG didn’t have one play on the DAL side of the field in the first half. They went in to halftime down 10-0.

On the fourth play of the second half, Manning was sacked for the 5th time by untouched blitzing linebacker Damien Wilson, forcing a fumble that was recovered by DAL. This was a trend that started early and continued on for the entire game. Stunts and blitzes, both basic and complex, confused the anemic offensive line. Lack of talent, lack of chemistry, and a lack of adjustment made this a painful game to watch.

DAL turned the turnover in to 3 points, giving them a 13-0 lead which probably felt like a 30-0 lead knowing who was on the other sideline.

Just when you thought NYG was completely out, in typical Eli Manning-era fashion, they showed life right after their darkest moment. Barkley continued to show elite-level yards after contact ability, Manning hit Cody Latimer for a game-high 37 yard gain, and Barkley gained 18 yards on a dump off pass that included moves I don’t see any RB in the NFL making. They were 1st and goal at the 3 yard line just to be brought back by a holding penalty and two consecutive pass plays where pressure was on Manning before he could make two reads. Also on this drive, NYG lost center Jon Halapio to a broken ankle and leg; he is done for the year. NYG did get on the board, making it 13-3.

The DAL offense started to create some hope too, as they just couldn’t move the ball, guilty of 2 straight holding penalties, and quickly putting the ball back in to NYG’s hands. There was a slight momentum shift at this point late in the 3rd quarter. NYG then responded with a 3 and out that was capped off by the 6th DAL sack of the night. Opportunity missed.

DAL then responded with a 14 play, 8+ minute, touchdown-scoring drive. Prescott controlled the drive, going 5/6 for 35 yards and rushing for 19 yards on 3 attempts. The score was by Ezekiel Elliott who barreled in to the end zone breaking though Kareem Martin for a 6 yard touchdown. DAL led 20-3 with under 6 minutes remaining in the game.

Manning and the NYG offense took advantage of a less-aggressive DAL defense, scoring their lone touchdown of the night on an 11 play drive capped off by a wide-open pass to Evan Engram in the end zone. NYG then recovered an onsides kick, recovered by Michael Thomas. They quickly gained another 27 yards and opted to kick a field goal to make it a one-possession game. It was their only hope. Rosas hit the field goal, making a 20-13 score but they failed to convert the second onsides kick.

Dallas wins, 20-13.

QUARTERBACKS

Eli Manning: 33/44 – 279 yards – 1 TD / 0 INT. Manning also added 3 rushing attempts for a total of 4 yards, two of which were successful 4th and 1 QB sneak conversions. Once again, Manning saw either the worst, or one of the worst amounts of protection from the OL in the league. There is going to be a weekly debate regarding whether or not Manning is done or not. My stance remains the same. The most athletic QB in the league wouldn’t be able to deal with this amount of pressure and lack of assurance from this OL group. Manning can’t step up in the pocket. He can barely even step into throws. 3 step, 5 step, 7 step drops….it doesn’t matter. Manning does deserve some blame, however. The limited shots he is getting downfield, he hasn’t capitalized on enough. In addition, his hoppy-footwork and occasional too-quick of a release has contributed to the poor offensive play. Call me stubborn, but I watch almost every NFL game every week, and nobody is dealing with this outside of Russell Wilson in SEA.

RUNNING BACKS

Saquon Barkley: 11 att / 28 yards – 14 rec / 80 yards. The run blocking was no better. I haven’t seen an NFL offense yet where the RB is getting hit earlier than what NYG is dealing with. Barkley was running into traffic and untouched defenders repeatedly. But because of his superior receiving skills, his impact on the game was strong. He set a franchise record with his 14 catches, most of which were dump offs, and he broke more tackles than any NYG running back has in a game since it’s been recorded. What he was able to do with the ball in his hands was just a glimpse of what we are going to see. Imagine he was playing behind a good group of blockers. The options and upside with him are endless.

-Wayne Gallman and Jonathan Stewart played a combine 13% of the snaps and gained a combined 4 yards. You can tell this coaching staff really wanted this win and they wanted no part in taking Barkley out.

-Really poor game by Shane Smith. He allowed 2 sacks against the blitz-happy Dallas defense. He was on the field for 4 plays. He allowed 2 sacks. If he can’t block, there is no point in him being on this team.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Odell Beckham: 4 rec / 51 yards. Beckham recorded his second catch with 6 minutes left in the first quarter. His next catch wasn’t until the 4:22 mark in the fourth quarter. He wasn’t a factor for the majority of the game. They gave him two credible downfield shots, both were overthrown by Manning. I watched the All-22 and assumed he was being double teamed non stop, but that wasn’t the case. On the plays he had one on one coverage deep, the pass protection simply wasn’t there. Manning was forced to get rid of the ball before Beckham made his move. Timed well by the DAL defense.

-Sterling Shepard and Cody Latimer caught 2 passes each. Shepard also dropped one in the second quarter. Latimer’s first catch as a Giant was a nicely thrown deep ball where Latimer had minimal to no separation, but the lengthy and strong receiver showed nice ball skills to come down with it. One thing I see a lot with him is a lack of separation, as there isn’t a ton of twitch to his game, but he does have some long stride speed if Manning can ever get enough time.

TIGHT ENDS

Evan Engram: 7 rec / 67 yards – 1 TD. Engram caught all of the passes thrown in his direction. I think it may be time for Manning to look his way more often, especially with the need for such quick releases. He gets open consistently and he is so dangerous after the catch with his rare combination of size and speed. He had two clean looks at the end zone that Manning didn’t see. Safeties cannot cover him. One thing he hasn’t consistently done well yet is find the windows/lanes against zone coverage. The best receiving tight ends make an art of that; he isn’t close yet. As a blocker, he had another sub-par game. He allowed a tackle for loss and a sack in addition to getting drilled backwards a few times, making Barkley alter his path.

-Rhett Ellison saw 35% of the snaps and disappointed as a blocker. For a guy that has a role to aid the poor OL play, he sure hasn’t done it these first 2 weeks. He, too, was getting pushed backwards, creating a new point of attack.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Nate Solder, the highest paid left tackle in the game, was physically overmatched in this one for the second week in a row. He allowed one tackle for loss and was flagged for a hold (which was declined) in addition to 2 pressures.. The one thing Solder does well compared to the rest of the OL is, even when he is beat, he stays on his man. The balance and athleticism helps him there. I also think he is a small victim of playing next to the rookie Hernandez, who is having a very hard time picking up this blocking scheme.

-Ereck Flowers had another below average performance. He allowed 3 pressures, struggled at the second level as a run blocker, and appears to have no clue what he is doing on stunts. He did have 4 “plus” pass blocks one on one against Demarcus Lawrence if you are looking for any glimpse of positive.

GUARDS/CENTERS

-The two guards were nightmares, it was the worst combined grade from the guards I have seen in 2+ years. Patrick Omameh was responsible for 2 pressures and 1 sack. He wasn’t able to sustain blocks. He has a decent punch at the line, but his man is off free within 1-2 seconds almost every time. Will Hernandez looks lost mentally. Again, the base-level athleticism is there, but it doesn’t show up because he is too slow to react. He allowed 1 pressure and 2 sacks. The first of which was about as bad as it gets. Hernandez was also completely whiffing at the second level as a run blocker. He continues to get a pass here and there for being a rookie, but there were moments where he didn’t even look competitive.

-Center Jon Halapio was having a decent game, but he broke both his ankle and leg during the 3rd quarter. John Greco came in to replace him. He allowed a pressure in his limited duty. He is likely to be the starting OC from here on out and I have been impressed with him in his short tenure with NYG. I don’t think this will have any negative impact on NYG.

EDGE

-With Olivier Vernon out again, Kareem Martin and Connor Barwin dominated the snaps. They are both journeymen caliber players. Barwin did have a solid game, as his short area pop is still there and he is feisty. He had a pressure and pass break up. Martin looks like a complete non factor. His contact balance is poor, he can’t get off blocks as a pass rusher, and the speed off the edge is non-existent. He had 3 missed tackles and finished with 1 pressure.

-Lorenzo Carter’s speed and athleticism showed up. He had 2 pressures on the same drive. When he sees a consistent stretch of plays, his level of play improves. As the year progresses, we should see him on the field more. He missed outside contain twice but his speed to the sideline made up for one of them. He really does have rare athleticism. Kerry Wynn had 2 tackles, one of which was for a loss. Hate to see him not make much of an impact as a pass rusher after a strong preseason yet again. This team needs him to step up.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Damon Harrison controlled the two inside gaps like he always does. DAL had a lot of success on the ground, but it wasn’t any fault of Harrison’s. It’s amazing how, when he is single teamed against a running play between the tackles, he is always in on the tackle. Every time. He also recorded a pressure.

-Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill received average grades. Hill was quiet but pursued well and held his ground. One thing they both struggled with was getting off blocks in time at running plays in their direction. They were just a step too slow a few times. Hill was also taken off the field in passing situations.

LINEBACKERS

-Really poor game by Alec Ogletree. Yes, he led the team with 6 tackles and a couple of them were an impressive blend of speed and power. He missed 2 tackles and was really late to recognize on a few others. When that happens, the blocker gets the angle and makes it nearly impossible to fill the lane in time. B.J. Goodson recorded 1 tackle despite playing more than 50% of the snaps. He, too, missed a tackle. If it’s not between the tackles, Goodson has looked very pedestrian so far.

-Ray Ray Armstrong didn’t impact the running game, but he excelled in coverage. On three occasions he completely took out Prescott’s intended target with perfect coverage. He adds an element none of the other LBs do.

CORNERBACKS

-For the second week in a row, Janoris Jenkins was beat on a vertical route early. This time, it resulted in an early touchdown by Tavon Austin. He completely whiffed at the point of attack and couldn’t catch up. The question may need to be asked at some point, are his off-field struggles impacting his play? He was solid from there on out, as he wasn’t tested much.

-Eli Apple with another excellent game. What I have always wanted to see with him, dating back to his college days, is more play with his feet and less with his hands in coverage. 2 weeks in o 2018, he appears to be clicking there. His All-22 tape was the best of the DB group.

-B.W. Webb was tested often. He was on the field for 77% of the snaps. He was flagged once and allowed a few catches but overall he was solid. Donte Deayon didn’t play much, but almost came up with a red zone interception in the 4th quarter.

SAFETIES

-Landon Collins has been very hit or miss since his All-Pro 2016 season and that trend continued Sunday night, with more lean towards the miss-side. He missed two tackles and was fooled badly twice on run plays. The misdirection has been giving him a lot of trouble and when he isn’t on, big gains are created.

-Curtis Riley had a bad night. He was late and took a bad angle on the Austin TD in the first quarter and had a bad missed tackle that led to a big gain by Ezekiel Elliot.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 28,38). Rosas remains perfect on the season. He also created a successful onsides kick in the 4th quarter.

-P Riley Dixon – 6 Punts – 43.3 avg / 40.0 net. Solid margin there and he landed 3 inside the 20.

-KR/PR: Cody Latimer had two impressive kick returns; he is fast in space and runs through initial contact consistently. Kaelin Clay had another near turnover as a PR.

3 STUDS

-RB Saquon Barkley, CB Eli Apple, DT Damon Harrison

3 DUDS

-OG Will Hernandez, OG Patrick Omameh, LB Alec Ogletree

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

-I’ve seen every snap of DAL over the first 2 weeks and I still don’t think this will be a .500 team. The offense is abysmal. Overly reliant on the running game with an OL that is not nearly as dominant as it was 2 years ago. Prescott threw for 96 yards on 23 attempts beyond the TD pass to Austin where Jenkins had a rare whiff at the line of scrimmage.

-Get to know the name Chidobe Awuzie. DAL second year CB is going to be considered one of the best in the game within a year or two. He matched Beckham step for step several times in coverage on all levels, both laterally and vertically. He is great at making adjustments to the ball and he is one of the most physical tacklers in the league at the position.

-Jaylon Smith, now another year removed from his scary knee injury, now may be the best LB on this team. His 10 tackles and 1 for loss were impressive, as he fills the lane with no hesitation and lets you know he is there. And his most impressive play of the night? Deep coverage against….Odell Beckham.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-Losing a tight game to JAC was one thing, but this loss to an average-at-best DAL team has created a strong thought that this will be a 5-6 win season at best. We discussed throughout the offseason that filling all these holes in just a few months was borderline impossible. You can’t say its over yet, but the issues on this roster are awfully high in volume.

-What can be done with this OL? They are going to be a poor unit all year, but is there anything that can be done that can give the offense at least some hope consistently? The one hope is that Hernandez, a rookie that didn’t play against NFL prospects in college, improves on a normal rookie scale. Also, this line is playing together for the first time so one could say chemistry will be developed in time. If those two things don’t happen, I really don’t see any hope here and that’s a shame because this group of playmakers is among the best in the NFL.

-Just how good is Landon Collins? I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but he is probably next up on long term contract talks. He is an unrestricted free agent next year and I have a hard time accepting he deserves top tier safety money. His 2016 season (which was All-Pro caliber) may be impacting everyone’s view on him too much. I do think he is good, he is 24 years old, and he does play hard. But 2017 was underwhelming and he has been bad these first 2 weeks. Missed tackles, fooled badly, and minimal impact on passing plays. He needs to play better and there is no way around it. This defense sorely needs a playmaker.

Sep 172018
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 16, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS COWBOYS 20 – NEW YORK GIANTS 13…
In a game that was not as close as the final score would indicate, the New York Giants got their asses whipped on Sunday night, falling 20-13 to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Giants may have also suffered a significant injury as starting center Jon Halapio was carted off the field with his right leg in an aircast.

The offense of the Giants was a train wreck:

  • The Giants could not run the ball (35 yards on 17 carries, with four of those yards and three of those carries coming from quarterback Eli Manning).
  • The Giants could not protect the quarterback as Manning was sacked six times.
  • The Giants punted all five times they had the ball in the first half, only picking up a total of six first downs, 79 net yards, and never crossing midfield.
  • The Giants began the 3rd quarter by turning the ball over at their own 27-yard line when Manning was sacked and he fumbled the ball away, and leading to a Dallas field goal.
  • Down 13-0, the Giants finally entered Dallas territory halfway through the 3rd quarter on an 11-play, 66-yard possession that ended with a 28-yard field goal. The Giants lost nine yards on their next possession in the 4th quarter, at this point only having accrued only 135 net yards.
  • The team’s final 108 offensive yards and 10 points came in garbage time, after the team was trailing 20-3 with less than six minutes left to play.

The New York defense only played a little better:

  • Dallas scored on a 64-yard passing play on the third play of the game as cornerback Janoris Jenkins and free safety Curtis Riley were badly beaten by wide receiver Tavon Austin.
  • The Cowboys went up 10-0 as the Giants’ defense then allowed an 8-play, 64-yard drive on their second possession, resulting in a 37-yard field goal.
  • The Cowboys salted the game away in the 4th quarter with a marathon, 14-play, 82-yard drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown run by running back Ezekiel Elliott.
  • The defense finished the night with no sacks, no tackles for a loss, only two pass defenses, and no turnovers.

Video lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT – JON HALAPIO SERIOUSLY INJURED…
Inactive for the New York Giants were linebacker Olivier Vernon (ankle), linebacker Tae Davis (hamstring), quarterback Kyle Lauletta, center Evan Brown, center/guard Spencer Pulley, cornerback Michael Jordan, and safety Kamrin Moore.

Center Jon Halapio left the game with what appeared to be a broken right ankle or leg. Cornerback Eli Apple left the game with a groin injury. Linebacker Kareem Martin and wide receiver/punt returner Kaelin Clay both left the game with an ankle injuries but later returned.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Pat Shurmur and the following players are at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Pat Shurmur (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • RB Saquon Barkley (Video)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (Video)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (Video)
  • LT Nate Solder (Video)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (Video)
  • S Landon Collins (Video)

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

Sep 142018
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 9, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 16, 2018

THE STORYLINE:
There were significant positives that came out of last week’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Giants played a very competitive game against a team that is widely regarded as a Super Bowl contender. Indeed, they had a real shot to steal a victory had a play here or there broken their way. It’s something to build on.

But in the end, sports really is a no-excuse business. You either win or you lose. And win-loss column doesn’t care about the whys and buts. In all the years I’ve followed football, one quote by Phil Simms has always stuck with me: “The difference between 8-8 and 12-4 is winning the close ball games.” If the Giants expect to be winners again anytime soon, they need to start winning close football games.

And they need to start beating teams in their own division. Stating the obvious, the Giants have been losers four of the last five years because they’ve been worse than most of the other teams in the NFL. But what has really fueled their poor W-L record has been their now annually poor performance against the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, and to a certain extent, the Washington Redskins. And aside from the glaring exception of 2017, these other NFC East teams haven’t been league powerhouses. The Giants keep losing to NFC East teams that are eminently beatable.

The 2018 Dallas Cowboys have the appearance of a typical, mediocre team, with just enough talent to be able to beat anyone in the league, but most likely a franchise that will be hovering around the 8-8 mark. Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and Dez Bryant are all gone. There never really was much of a true mystique around that older team because it never won anything. But those guys were dangerous and had a history of being a pain in the ass for the Giants. Those thorns are gone. It’s well past time for the Giants to stop the bleeding and start beating this team again.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Wayne Gallman (knee – probable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (back – probable)
  • LB Olivier Vernon (ankle – out)
  • LB Tae Davis (hamstring – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
In my opinion, the strength of the Dallas Cowboys is an extremely well-coached defense, led by smart, instinctive linebacker Sean Lee. Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli has proven to be one of the best in the NFL. This unit doesn’t give up a lot of big plays and they make opposing offenses work for everything they get. The Cowboys were 8th in defense in 2017 and they’ve started this year off at the #5 position.

Marinelli will play the Giants like he has every year. Have his guys protect against the big play and dare New York to drive the field without making the drive-ending mistake. Wouldn’t you? Once again, the offensive line appears to be the Achilles’ heel for the Giants. They were soundly out-played by an impressive Jacksonville front. So the burning question is are the Giants really that bad up front again? Or did they look worse than they really are because of the quality of their opposition? Punching bag Ereck Flowers will get no respite this weekend as defensive end Demarcus Lawrence has developed into one of the NFL’s most disruptive players (14.5 sacks in 2017).

We can talk X’s and O’x until we are blue in the face, but the real story here is the New York Football Giants have to start playing games where they score more than 20 points per game. If you can’t score 20, 24, 27 points in a contest, you aren’t going to win many games. In a league that makes it easier each year for offense to succeed, the Giants scoreboard impotency has reached the point of absurdity. This is a team that has Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard! Get the ball into the end zone! No excuses.

So what did we learn from last week? Beckham and Barkley are the best players on this team and two of the best in the NFL. They should touch the ball as much as possible. Engram and Shepard can make big plays, but they have to be far more consistent. Money players don’t keep dropping the ball in key situations. And Eli Manning may still be under too much pass pressure, but he has to hit those open receivers for touchdowns when the play is there.

Pat Shurmur is an X’s and O’s guy, much more so than Ben McAdoo. Work to isolate Beckham and Barkley in one-on-one match-ups in the passing game. With Beckham, you can do that by playing him in the slot. Linebackers in this league (and many safeties) can’t cover Barkley. And as last week showed, keep pounding the ball with Barkley in the running game because when you do, good things happen. In a tight game, don’t sit him for Jonathan Stewart. That’s dumb.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The defense played well enough to win last week. But there were a few troubling issues: (1) the inability to rush the passer (1 sack and not enough pressure), (2) the Jaguars ran the ball too effectively early, (3) a quarterback hurt them again with his feet, and (4) Janoris Jenkins gave up a couple of big plays. But in the end, the Jaguars were held to 13 points. That should have been enough to win.

The defensive game plan is almost identical this week. The strength of the Cowboys’ offense is a ground game centered around running back Ezekiel Elliott. Stop Elliott and you cause problems for Dallas. Quarterback Dak Prescott struggles too much when called upon to move the ball with his arm. But like Blake Bortles last week, he can hurt you with his feet. So the Giants defenders must be very disciplined and treat him almost like a college quarterback.

The good news for the Giants is that Jason Witten has retired and Dez Bryant was let go. Dallas’ top center Travis Frederick is out with an illness. The Cowboys have had issues at left guard. So the weapons and line are not as strong as they once were. Pesky shrimp Cole Beasley is now Dallas’ most dangerous receiving target. This is a team the Giants should be able to shut down as long as Beasley doesn’t eat up nickel corner B.W. Webb, which is possible.

Gang up on Elliott, look out for misdirection with the ball in the hands of the quarterback, and don’t let Beasley consistently hurt you out of the slot, and you should be in good shape.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Knock on wood, but so far the kicking game has been good enough for the Giants. But I felt Shumur made a curious decision in going for the blocked punt last week and not setting up a return with Odell Beckham. Instead, Kaelin Clay muffed the punt. He has now fumbled the ball on four of 45 punt returns (or once in every 11 times he touches the ball). Maybe it’s time to bring Phil McConkey out of retirement.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher on Dallas’ offense: “They’re going to give (Ezekiel Elliott) a bunch of touches, they’re going to find some really creative ways to get him going. They’re going to stretch it hard and cut the ball back, they’re going to give you some gap scheme with some pullers, they’re going to get big personnel on the field, they’re going to run the ball down the field at you. You’re going to get a little bit of everything. They do a nice job with that. Then after that, the boots, the play passes, the taking a shot down the field, some movement stuff to get completions, and try to get you in some one-on-ones on the perimeter and throw the ball down the field.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Giants are the better team. I wouldn’t trade their roster for ours. This is a game the Giants can and should win. And if the Giants have any hopes of making the playoffs this year, this is a game the team must win. Dallas is well-coached and has a very solid defense and running game. Those three factors mean they can beat any team. But they don’t have enough weapons and they shouldn’t score more than 17 points on the Giants. On the other hand, if the Giants can’t score more than 20 points with Beckham and Barkley on their team, then they have the wrong coaches and/or quarterback. In my mind, this game is on our coaches and Eli Manning. No excuses.

Dec 132017
 
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Rhett Ellison, New York Giants (December 10, 2017)

Rhett Ellison – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 30 – New York Giants 10

RECAP

A 2-10 team could not have had more attention than what the Giants had coming into their home, week 14 match-up against the middle-of-the-pack Dallas Cowboys. Eli Manning made his first start back after a one-week hiatus for the first time since 2004. This was the result after ownership opted to fire Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese which was inevitable but possibly accelerated because of how they handled the Manning benching. With the NYG throwback uniforms being worn and a crowd that was fully behind Manning at the start, the game had an intense feel to it for the first time in months.

There was an odd, uncommon start to the game. Both teams put together marathon drives, 16 plays for DAL and 17 for NYG. They both resulted in 3 points respectively and before we knew it, the game was into the 2nd quarter. Dallas was shooting themselves in the foot with multiple offsides penalties by their defensive line and failure to capitalize on two NYG fumbles.

Spurred by a 35-yard pass to Evan Engram, NYG marched down to the goal line on their 3rd drive of the game. In true calm, cool, and almost relaxed fashion, Manning hit Rhett Ellison for a 1-yard touchdown on a play-action rollout to the right. NYG led 10-3 against a Cowboys team that has been mightily struggling to find their offensive identity without their suspended running back Ezekiel Elliot.

The sparse NYG crowd came to life but it was short lived. Dak Prescott hit Dez Bryant on a short slant and an aggressive mistake by cornerback Brandon Dixon, who went all in on trying to deflect the pass, led to Bryant spinning free post-reception with nothing but green in front of him. It was a 50-yard touchdown that evened the game at 10 with under 2 minutes left in the half and that ended up being the score at halftime.

The 3rd quarter saw DAL and NYG trade possessions a few times, with Damon Harrison dominating the Cowboys offensive line and Sean Lee impacting the game on every possible level against the Giants’ offense. The most accurate kicker in NFL history, Dan Bailey, missed his second in three chances as the end of the quarter came to a close. On 3rd-and-2 near midfield on the ensuing NYG possession, Sterling Shepard dropped a pass (adding the NYG first place ranking in that category). After forcing a 3 and out, NYG had 3rd-and-2 again approaching midfield and this time it was Roger Lewis who came up with the drop. The NYG receivers helped to set up what ended up being one of the ugliest quarters of the 2017 season.

Prescott hit Giants killer Jason Witten for a 20-yard touchdown up the – you guessed – middle of the defense with 7:45 left. All was not lost and NYG was still very much in it. Poor play calling and execution led to an NYG punt despite being in DAL territory. DAL faced a 3rd-and-3 and even though their thought process was to get the clock to 0:00, they went with an empty backfield approach. One quick slant later to RB Rod Smith and the NYG defense was trying to catch him from behind but to no avail. DAL took the commanding 23-10 lead (failed extra point).

As if that wasn’t enough, Manning threw his first of two interceptions into the waiting arms of Sean Lee. DAL was able to put the ball in the end zone one more time, shoving the knife a little deeper, via a 15-yard run by Smith. DAL keeps their playoff hopes alive and NYG falls to 2-11.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 31/46 – 228 yards – 1 TD/2 INT. The two interceptions at the end of the game have an asterisk next to them. It was desperation time and he had to force things. The drops by Shepard and Lewis were killers and, at this point, both inexcusable but expected, ironically. Manning didn’t have a lot of “minus” throws and he just doesn’t have time to go through a lot of reads. This truly has become the worst situation in the league for any QB to work with from what I have seen.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 12 att/59 yards, 7 rec/40 yards. Career high in rushing attempts, rushing yards, catches, and receiving yards for the rookie. I think he needs to be the feature backfield presence on this team from here on out. His vision and decision-making, combined with his athletic ability, make him a big-play threat this backfield hasn’t had in years. He did fumble early but it was luckily recovered by the offense.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 10 att/29 yards – 2 rec/15 yards. Darkwa had 2 poorly graded blocks and also fumbled early in the game, with his teammates falling on it. His presence as a tough inside runner was still there and he didn’t drop any passes, so good for him there.
  • Shane Vereen: 6 att/23 yards – 3 rec/24 yards. A lot of Vereen’s production comes in garbage time and/or on rushing plays when the NYG offense is facing 3rd and 10+. It is clear he won’t be a part of the picture after 2017.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Roger Lewis: 7 rec/46 yards. I knew Lewis was going to get more and more opportunities from Manning after their big play a few weeks ago. He led the team with 11 targets, the next leading target count among WRs was 3. His drop was a big one and he continues to show what I talked about in August, solid tools but minimal skills.
  • Sterling Shepard: 2 rec/16 yards. His impact on the game was never really felt, as he was only targeted 3 times. Shepard had a huge drop on 3rd down that took the wind out of the NYG sails.It was really disappointing to see him have trouble getting open against single coverage. He has not capitalized or risen to the occasion since Beckham and Marshall have been injured.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec/54 yards. Watching the all 22 tape, this was the most double coverage Engram has seen all year. They were often bracketing him, a move I am surprised defenses didn’t do earlier in the season. He had the biggest play of the day for NYG, a 35-yard reception where DAL completely forgot about him in deep coverage. Engram added a drop and is among the league leaders in that category.
  • Rhett Ellison: 4 rec/20 yards – 1 TD. Ellison continues to be Mr. Reliable when targeted, as he has been all year. His 1-yard touchdown catch was actually pretty high-difficulty and impressive.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers righted the ship after a rough game last week in Oakland. He was the highest graded NYG blocker, well above the average mark. One encouraging sign other than simply not getting beat as often in pass protection, is he has really limited the penalties. His technique is still very shaky but it doesn’t always have to look pretty. Bobby Hart was back in the stating lineup, as Chad Wheeler was out with a concussion. He received a lot of help against Demarcus Lawrence. I wouldn’t call this a good game for Hart, but he only allowed 1 pressure and didn’t make any major mistakes that we were used to seeing.
  • Interior: Brett Jones and Jon Halapio both took a step back against the very average Cowboys DTs. Jones mightily struggled in pass protection when left alone for the second straight week, and Halapio allowed 3 pressures and was flagged for a hold. John Jerry didn’t get a lot of push in the run, and was inaccurate on trap blocks, missing his target twice. He hasn’t been good at making adjustments on the fly all year and that is a part of the job that is becoming more and more essential in the NFL.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: The glaring positive of this entire team over the course of the year is Damon Harrison. We are getting a treat in watching this guy play – the top DT in the game. His dominance against the inside run is almost assumed now but what stood out Sunday were the hustle plays he made near the sideline and down the field. You simply don’t see the big guys like him with that much range. Having him around is absolutely huge for the future of this team. Dalvin Tomlinson and Jay Bromley split duties next to him and both had quietly effective games.
  • Ends: Jason Pierre Paul had 5 tackles and a pressure. His impact on the game remains woefully inconsistent and near non-existent on 3rd downs. Olivier Vernon was outclassed by Tyron Smith, the top OT in the game. He finished with 1 tackle and a foolish roughing-the-passer penalty. When he can’t out-quick the blocker, his hand game just isn’t good enough to give a guy like Smith a problem.

LINEBACKERS

  • Kelvin Shepard and Calvin Munson were #1 and #2 in tackles on the day (10 and 9) but both had really bad beats on multiple occasions. Shepard is a between-the-tackles run defender only, as seen when he was assigned to cover RB Rod Smith in the 4th quarter on 3rd down and couldn’t stay within 3 yards of him on a quick slant. Munson has been improving as the year goes, but he hasn’t been getting off blocks at all. He really struggles there. Both of them and Devon Kennard had negative grades in coverage, with the glaring mishaps coming from Shepard (mentioned above) and Devon Kennard on Witten’s touchdown.

CORNERBACKS

  • Ross Cockrell and Brandon Dixon continue to dominate the playing time, as both were in for every snap. Cockrell continues to look better and better each week. I think this guy needs to be in the long-term picture. He had two very high-level PDs. Dixon added 2 PDs of his own, showing physical and aggressive play. He got a little too aggressive on the 50-yard TD pass to Bryant, however.
  • Darryl Morris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were each on the field less than half the plays but were very solid when they were in.
  • Eli Apple remained inactive, and his hole is being dug deeper and deeper.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins and Darian Thompson both graded out as average. Collins had a nice impact on the running game, notching a TFL and forcing the DAL ball carriers to re-direct. His feel through traffic is outstanding, excellent instincts. Thompson missed 2 tackles, neither of which were overly complicated. His lack of long speed was put on display a couple times as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – Made 39. Rosas only had one shot in this game, and he came through. He really hasn’t had a full dose of action to give NYG a real idea if he should be here long term or not.
  • P Brad Wing: 8 Punts – 43.4 avg/33.9 net. Wing wasn’t sailing the ball high enough and it gave DAL a few clean returns. He leads the NFL in punts this year and has appeared to take a step down in terms of quality.

3 STUDS

  • DT Damon Harrison, CB Ross Cockrell, RB Wayne Gallman

3 DUDS

  • OC Brett Jones, OG Jon Halapio, DE Olivier Vernon

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

  • I said something similar after the week 1 matchup, but the impact a LB like Sean Lee has on the game week in, week out is as strong as any top-tier defender in the league, and I mean that. This guy impacts the game in so many ways, in so many situations. And the thing about having a LB like this is that it is incredibly hard for an offense to avoid him. He is everywhere. Take notes and apply, new front office.
  • This was a major confidence booster for the DAL offense. Their numbers without Ezekiel Elliot vs. their numbers with him have been atrocious but Rod Smith has been getting discussed for awhile now. It looks like he has things figured out and the talent is taking over. This team has the capability of getting hot from here on out and doing damage if they can sneak into the playoffs.
  • I was very high on the DAL draft this past year and two main reasons for that were CBs Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie. Those guys can ball. Their impact on the game will be very strong for the next few years.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • I am working on a list of coaches who I think NYG will be looking hard at. One common thing I am looking for is a guy who players really respond to, get behind, and will bleed for. I think that has been a major missing link with this team in recent years. Look at how PIT players play for Tomlin among other things. Vikings for Zimmer, Seahawks for Caroll…etc.
  • Get the ball to Gallman as much as possible over these next 3 weeks. I think it is important to get as much information on him as a player as possible. Saquon Barkley is going to be available when NYG is on the clock and unless you fall in love with a QB in the process, he has to be in the picture at least. If Gallman can be the guy, then that idea lessens. But you need to know.
  • I really do think NYG has something in Cockrell. I have watched every one of his snaps from the All-22 tape over the past few games and he’s been steady and impressive on all levels. There is a lot he does well, very little that he doesn’t do well.
Dec 102017
 
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LATEST ON THE NEW YORK GIANTS GENERAL MANAGER SEARCH…
ESPN is reporting that the Cleveland Browns hired John Dorsey as their new general manager before the New York Giants could interview him. Dorsey, who was general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs (2013-2016), was scheduled to interview with the Giants on Tuesday.

ESPN also reports that Dave Gettleman is now the favorite to become the Giants’ next general manager. Gettleman was the Giants pro personnel director (1999-2011) and senior pro personnel analyst (2012) before becoming the general manager of the Carolina Panthers (2013-2017). The Panthers fired Gettleman in July 2017.

Meanwhile, NFL.com is reporting that the Giants do want to take a deliberate approach and interview general manager candidates who are also currently employed. That said, NFL.com also says Gettleman is the early favorite to land the position. It is speculated that if Gettleman is hired, he may tap Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks as the team’s next head coach.

DALLAS COWBOYS 30 – NEW YORK GIANTS 10…
Another game day, another loss. The pathetic New York Giants fell to their division rival Dallas Cowboys 30-10 at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The Cowboys blew the tight 10-10 open late with 20 unanswered 4th-quarter points. With the loss, the Giants fall to 2-11 on the season. The last time the Giants were 2-11 during a season was 1974.

Offensively, the Giants continue to show an inability to put enough points on the scoreboard. For the eighth time this season, the Giants were unable to score more than 17 points. The Giants scored 10 points on their first three drives and then the offense called it a day as the team’s final nine possessions resulted in seven straight punts and then two interceptions.

After the Cowboys took an early lead by driving 73 yards in 16 plays on their first possession to set up a 21-yard field goal, the Giants responded with a 17-play, 62-yard drive that ended with a 39-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas. The Giants scored their only touchdown of the day on their third possession, sparked by a 35-yard pass from quarterback Eli Manning to tight Evan Engram. Five plays later, Manning rolled out and found tight end Rhett Ellison for a 1-yard score. The Giants briefly led 10-7 with just over two minutes to go before halftime.

Defensively, the Giants were done in by three big plays of 50 yards or more. On Dallas’ fourth offensive possession, with just 2:07 left on the clock, quarterback Dak Prescott completed three passes for a total of 25 yards before hitting wide receiver Dez Bryant for a short completion in which Bryant broke an attempted tackle by cornerback Brandon Dixon en route to a 50-yard touchdown. At the half, the game was tied 10-10.

The game remained tied until midway through the fourth quarter. Dallas punted the ball away three times and missed another long field goal attempt, while every Giants possession until late ended with punts. Then on 3rd-and-2, with eight minutes to play, Prescott threw a short pass to wide receiver Cole Beasley who broke off a 54-yard gain. On the very next play, Prescott hit Giant-killer tight end Jason Witten for a 20-yard score, as Dallas went up 17-10.

The Giants drove across midfield but punted. Three plays later on 3rd-and-2, Prescott hit running back Rod Smith for an 81-yard touchdown to put Dallas up 23-10 with 4:08 to play (the Cowboys missed the extra point). Smith badly beat linebacker Kelvin Sheppard in coverage.

With the contest all but officially over, Manning threw his first interception a few plays later. After two Dallas runs picked up six yards, Smith broke off a 15-yard touchdown run as the Cowboys went up 30-10 with three minutes to play. Manning threw a second interception at the Dallas 17-yard line with just over a minute left in the game.

Manning finished the game 31-of-46 for 228 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. He was not sacked. His leading receivers in terms of catches were wide receiver Roger Lewis (7 catches for 46 yards) and running back Wayne Gallman (7 catches for 40 yards). Gallman was also the leading rusher with 12 carries for 59 yards.

The Giants defense did not garner a sack or force a turnover. Prescott was officially only hit twice.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back), linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle), cornerback Eli Apple (hip/back), wide receiver Travis Rudolph (hamstring), quarterback Davis Webb, WR Tavarres King, and defensive tackle Khyri Thornton.

“We deactivated (Apple) today,” said Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo after the game. “The decision there was because he just didn’t get enough reps during the week. I talked with him earlier. He’s going to be ready to go next week and hopefully we’re up and running.”

Safety Landon Collins left the game in the 4th quarter with an ankle injury; he was spotted wearing a boot after the game.

Wide receiver Darius Powe broke his foot (fractured his fifth metatarsal) in his NFL debut. He did so in the first half, but stayed in the game. Powe was on crutches after the game.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo and select players will address the media on Monday.

Dec 082017
 
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Game Preview: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, December 10, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The 2017 New York Giants season is the never-ending nightmare. We are still only 3/4 of the way through this mess. I’ve never been more ready for a football season to just end.

It’s been an emotional couple of weeks for Giants fans with the benching of Eli Manning, the firings of Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo, the promotion of Steve Spagnuolo as interim head coach, and the reinstatement of Manning as the starting quarterback. But it is important to take a step back for a moment and understand the big picture.

This past week was a cataclysmic event for one of the NFL’s flagship franchises. The last time the Giants fired a general manager was 1978. The last time they fired a coach in-season was 1976. The last time they fired a coach after so short a stay was pre-1930. The Giants just did two things they simply do not usually do and it is the ultimate indication of how great a disaster this season has been. The decline is surreal when you take into account that the Giants were 11-5 and a playoff team just one year ago and widely expected to challenge for the NFC East title in 2017.

What follows is pure uninformed opinion and speculation on my part, so take it with a grain of salt:

I believe Ben McAdoo was dead man walking after his team got embarrassed by the dreadful San Francisco 49ers in mid-November. I think Jerry Reese also had one foot out the door at this point, but ownership was looking for an excuse to keep him. An upset against the Chiefs and another embarrassing loss to the Redskins on Thanksgiving followed. Then came the benching of Manning.

Regardless of how it was handled, everyone admits that ownership, management, and the head coach signed off on the move. What may or may not have surprised the Giants was Eli’s refusal to play along with their start-the-game-but-the-sit strategy (I don’t trust any public comments by the Giants here). Having McAdoo announce the move in a usual post-practice press conference setting without the owner on the premises and the GM nowhere to be seen reeked of throwing McAdoo under the bus. It was a cowardly act. And then to have a teary-eyed Eli Manning address the press throng at his locker with his teammates oblivious to the solemn nature of the moment was a PR disaster.

What I do believe is that the Giants were absolutely shocked by the level of intensity of the reaction from advertisers, fans, former players, and national and local media. It became not just a local sports story, but a national one covered by the general press. Fans put up billboards. Former players were going to show up on the sidelines of the Dallas game with Eli jerseys on just to shame the organization. At this point, I think John Mara and Steve Tisch were in damage-control mode. Revenue and reputations (ego) were at stake. They knew they were going to fire McAdoo and possibly Reese. So to temporarily stop the firestorm, they sacked both a month early (a smart PR move). Then John Mara held what appeared to be a sincere press conference. When the mob is angry, throw them a couple of heads. In the short-term, they’ve stopped the hemorrhaging, but the underlying wounds still remain.

There is a certain degree of logic in what the Giants had tried to do. The 2-10 Giants are a dysfunctional mess with a soon-to-be 37-year old quarterback who is one of the highest-paid players in the NFL and who also has been on a downward slope since his 2014-15 career revival. The coach was going to be fired and the team is going to have a top-10 and possibly top-5 draft pick with the opportunity to select one of the best quarterbacks coming out of college. Benching Manning would allow the Giants to evaluate Davis Webb as well as not encumber the new head coach with unenviable label as the guy who got rid of the legendary Manning.

But THE WAY the Giants handled this is where they screwed up. First and most importantly, they never got Webb ready (which they should have started doing in October and November). Because of that, sitting Manning to play Geno Smith never made any sense unless Reese and McAdoo were seriously considering Smith as a potential 2018 contender for the starting job. (There is a small chance Smith could still develop into a viable NFL starter, but Giants fans were never going to accept him as Manning’s replacement – that was a non-starter). Secondly, again, the PR optics were dreadful. Mara and Reese hid and threw McAdoo under the bus. McAdoo – who never learned how to deal with the press – coldly and matter-of-factly announced the benching. Eli was sadly left to address the press in a poor locker room environment.

So what? Well, now the Giants may have given their fans some short-term satisfaction in their quest for blood, the same issues remain and actually may have become more difficult. Unless you are totally convinced that Eli Manning is still a stud quarterback capable of a 2011-type season and that none of the past six years are his fault, then the Giants are left with the problem of how and when to make the transition to the next quarterback. Entering the 2018 NFL Draft, they will have no idea of what they have in Davis Webb. And the next regime is going to be encumbered with what has now become a super-charged transition issue because of the way the Giants already botched things the first time. Many of us – including myself – felt that we had seen the last of Manning on Thanksgiving. But we did not anticipate the December 4th in-season housecleaning. The good news is that we now get to show Eli our appreciation over the course of the last four games (three at home). The bad news is where do we go from here and how?

The pressure on John Mara to get this right is immense. In 2018, the Giants will have (1) a new general manager, (2) a new head coach, and (3) probably the heir-apparent to Eli. If they screw any of this up, the franchise may be in for a very dark period for a significant amount of time. They will also have to decide (4) the best way to part ways with Eli and when, and (5) whether or not to re-sign Odell Beckham.

Underlying all of this is whether the Giants remain loyal to their post-1978 organizational structure (which has brought them five Super Bowl appearances, with four wins). It is difficult to see Mara parting ways with the bulk of the scouts. As Greg from LI points out in The Forum, the Giants drafting noticeably began to decline when Marc Ross began to oversee the operation. What preconditions will be placed on the new GM? Will he be allowed to fire Ross and pick his own scouts? Will they simply import someone already comfortable with the existing structure such as Dave Gettleman or Kevin Abrams? Will they take the “interim” off of Steve Spagnuolo’s title, allow him to tweak the staff, and stay the course? That won’t sit well with many fans who suspect the institutionalized, staid thinking within the organization is a big part of the problem. But “new and fresh” faces are no guarantee of future success. As pointed out by Fatman in Charlotte, Dan Reeves and Ben McAdoo were outside faces. What matters is not the type of changes made, simply that THE CORRECT changes are made.

Things can get better. But they can also get worse. Much worse. John Mara faces a historical crossroads and new chapter for the franchise his father bequeathed to him.

THE INJURY REPORT:
Seventeen players are on Injured Reserve, most notably WR Odell Beckham, WR Brandon Marshall, WR Dwayne Harris, OC Weston Richburg, OG D.J. Fluker, LB Jonathan Casillas, LB Keenan Robinson, and CB Janoris Jenkins. Eight others have been waived from IR since October.

  • RB Orleans Darkwa (illness – questionable)
  • RB Wayne Gallman (hip – probable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Travis Rudolph (hamstring – questionable)
  • OL Justin Pugh (back – out)
  • OL Chad Wheeler (concussion – questionable)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (finger – questionable)
  • DT Damon Harrison (elbow – probable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – out)
  • CB Eli Apple (hip/back – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Yes, it will be great to see Eli Manning back at the helm so we can show him our proper appreciation. But the problems remain. The offensive line remains in shambles, especially with Justin Pugh still not playing. (Incidentally, it is looking more and more like the Giants will need to let Pugh walk… the concussion/back issues are major red flags for a player who simply can’t seem to play a whole season). And the NY running game has noticeably declined since the physical D.J. Fluker was placed on IR. Eli will have a gimpy Sterling Shepard (hamstring) and Evan Engram to throw to but not much else as this is clearly the worst wide receiving corps in the NFL.

The Giants are averaging less than 16 points per game and an offensive “explosion” for them must now be considered 20 points.

What makes me angry is the Giants were given a tremendous opportunity to evaluate Davis Webb before the 2018 NFL Draft. They botched it and now it is too late. After Sunday, there will be only three games left and Webb still hasn’t been bumped up to the #2 spot.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants need to be very careful in their evaluation of Steve Spagnuolo. They like him. He’s a nice guy. But he was a very uncompetitive 10-38 as the head coach of the Rams. His defenses have been up-and-down throughout his coaching career, and despite showing some life recently, the Giants defense is a major reason why the team is 2-10 this year. Keep in mind the off-field player issues with the defensive backs (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple) have all been on his side of the ball.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
If Tom Quinn survives the 2017 purge…

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo: “It’s our hope to unite, restore and find a way to win football games. When I mean restore, you know, restore Giant pride. It’s hard to be real prideful when you don’t win a lot of football games.”

THE FINAL WORD
I know what most Giants fans want – they want Eli Manning to come out of the tunnel with the crowd roaring in approval, and for him then to carve up the hated Dallas Cowboys. The problem is reality. Many Giants fans have already sold their tickets – many going to Dallas fans. And Eli is still a 36-year old quarterback on the downside of his career, encumbered by a pitiful supporting cast. And while injuries were not a factor/viable excuse for most of the season on defense, they are now becoming one in the back seven.

Now comes a statement that is going to be difficult for many to accept: from a strategic perspective, it is not good for the Giants to win any of these last four games. The short-term, feel-good gain will mean nothing moving forward. But it could significantly damage the team’s draft position and steer ownership towards false conclusions.

Stand up and cheer for Eli. Pray he plays well. But I’ll leave it at that.

Sep 122017
 
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Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (September 10, 2017)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 19 – New York Giants 3

RECAP

Five days before the game, things were looking up for the injured Odell Beckham and the decision to uphold Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension was public. Fast forward to the hours prior to kickoff and Beckham decided the confidence in his ankle just wasn’t there, forcing him to sit out while Elliott was granted permission to play until his case was heard in Federal Court (AKA the suspension won’t be served until 2018 in all likelihood). The Giants were without their star and the Cowboys finagled their way into being full strength – and it was eerie how unsurprised Jerry Jones was about the whole thing.

How the game began became the underlying theme of the night. Long, steady possessions by Dallas with proper run/pass balance, ball protection, and overall control. The first two Giants drives resulted in 6 plays, 4 total yards, a sack, a holding penalty, and Eli Manning looking insecure in the pocket. In fact, the Giants initial first down didn’t come until the 2nd quarter. The Giants defense was on the field for 20:43 out of 30:00 minutes in the first half as the Cowboys recorded 47 plays, the most by any NFL team since 2007.

Down 16-0 at halftime, Eli Manning led a 16-play, 9:44-drive that resulted in their only three points of the night. They were 1st-and-goal from the 5-yard line with an opportunity to seize momentum, but blown blocks up front, a 9-yard sack, and completed pass well short of the needed yardage brought rookie Aldrick Rosas onto the field for his first career regular-season kick, a 25 yarder.

Momentum was there for taking again, as the Giants defense stopped Dallas and got the ball back in the hands of Manning. The response? Reaching their own 32-yard line but going no further because of missed blocks and Manning rushing through his reads while neglecting his passing mechanics.

There were only six total points scored in the second half between the two NFC East rivals, as Dallas bled the clock out with consistent ball control and the Giants missing that big-play presence. Manning threw his first interception the play after their biggest gain of the night with just under 8 minutes left in the game, the final nail in the coffin.

The Giants head back to East Rutherford trying to figure how to increase their 2.9 yards-per-carry and 33% 3rd-down conversion rate. The problems with this offense from 2016 are still here, albeit without Beckham in the picture. Speaking of the Giants star receiver, he made plenty of money by not playing because there may not be a non-quarterback in the league that impacts his respective team more than #13.

QUARTERBACKS

  • 29/38 – 220 yards – 0 TD – 1 INT – 78.8 rating. Manning lacked command and toughness. His shaky feet in the pocket could partially be blamed on the poor play upfront, but he rushed several throws when he didn’t need to. There was enough zip on his passes and his lone deep pass of the night actually had too much on it. When the team needed him to step up, he didn’t answer the bell. A couple of the biggest opportunities resulted in Manning not getting the job done.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Paul Perkins: 7 att – 16 yds – 2.3 avg. Minimal space to run, yes. But he didn’t create anything on his own, either. He was late to make his decisions and didn’t break tackles. That is a rough combination. Only on the field for 30% of the team’s plays.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 3 att – 14 yds – 4.7 avg. Had the nicest run of the night, 12 yards on his first attempt which didn’t happen until the second half of the second quarter. Pass blocked well, showed more life with the ball in his hands than Perkins.
  • Shane Vereen: 9 rec – 51 yards – 5.7 avg. Had plenty of garbage time production, but played well earlier in the game as well. His knack for positive plays and reliability on passing downs wasn’t used enough early on. Lacks the star power but he is a chain mover via the pass game. Not one carry for the back that seems to find the hidden yards every time he touches the ball is inexcusable. Vereen may very well be the best RB on this team by a wide margin; he needs more meaningful touches.
  • Shane Smith: On the field for 8 offensive plays; got the job done on 3rd down. His presence wasn’t too noticeable, but he was an important player in his limited reps. He moved the pile on a 3rd-and-1 Darkwa conversion.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 7 rec – 44 yds. The 6.3 yard average per reception isn’t good, but Shepard played tough and did what was asked of him in the offense. This is a very underneath-heavy passing game and Shepard’s strength and toughness fit the slot role well. With Dallas was dropping so may defenders into deep half coverage, Shepard’s short routes in combination with the poor pass blocking up front, Manning looked his way plenty. He dodged a bullet with his self-recovered fumble in the 2nd quarter.
  • Roger Lewis: 4 rec – 54 yards. Two of the 3 biggest gains on offense went to Lewis, who saw more snaps because of the Beckham injury. He made a couple nice catches on the move and ran good routes into the vacant windows against the Cowboys Cover-2 defense. If he can continue to show he picking things up mentally, his tools will be used this year.
  • Brandon Marshall: 1 rec – 10 yds. The hyped WR signing couldn’t have had a quieter night. His first target came with 1:32 left in the 2nd quarter. He was held without a catch until the garbage-time drive at the end of the game and had he not come up with that 10 yard reception, it would have been the first time since his rookie year in 2007 in which he was held without a catch. He got one downfield opportunity in the second half which resulted in zero separation and a throw that was about 7 yards past his reach. Marshall’s play presented the question, can he create on his own?

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec – 44 yds. Engram got the start and played more than twice as many snaps as Rhett Ellison and Jerell Adams combined. The longest Giants play of the night was a 31-yard pitch-and-catch where he showed his elite-level speed down the sideline. His blocking was average at best, including a bad miss on the Giants 1st-and-goal rush from the 5-yard line. If he has the time to get into his intermediate and deep routes, Engram is going to make a lot of plays in this offense.
  • Rhett Ellison: 1 rec – 9 yds. One of the surprises of the night, Ellison was only on the field for a third of the Giants offensive plays. His one target resulted in an impressive 9-yard gain where he bowled over defenders and dragged them for an extra few yards. In an offense that struggled to pass the ball anything beyond quick releases, Ellison was vastly under-utilized. His blocking was solid, but he had two significant misses that resulted in TFL or no-gain runs.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers started off on the right foot, but fell well below the average mark. His second half was an image of what we watched for pretty much all of 2016. Poor use of leverage and too much over-committing his upper body, leaving him unbalanced and without control. Bobby Hart had the worst night of the group, making Demarcus Lawrence look like he was Von Miller off the edge. He spent way too much time on the ground and lacked a consistent push in the run game.
  • Interior: Justin Pugh played the best of the bunch, putting together an above-average score, although he did tail off a bit in the second half. His technique and initial punch stood out to me in a positive way. Weston Richburg had an average performance, making a couple of effective second-level blocks but was, once again, pushed back into the pocket a couple times. John Jerry got off to a horrific start, allowing a sack, a pressure, and committing a penalty all within the first 6 plays. He hit a nice stride in the 2nd half, getting movement as a run blocker and neutralizing his man in the pass game. But the damage was done early, ending with a below average grade.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: As we saw last year, both Jason Pierre Paul and Olivier Vernon played the majority of the defensive snaps (89% and 97%, respectively). Pierre Paul had the highest grade of the group, showing his usual excellent range in pursuit and sturdiness at the point of attack. He brought Dak Prescott down once on a pressure. Vernon recorded the lone New York sack, a play in which he went untouched to the QB. Otherwise, he had a quiet night and struggled to break free from Dallas left tackle Tyron Smith. Kerry Wynn and Romeo Okwara saw time in the diverse, borderline exotic fronts that Steve Spagnulo threw together but neither made any impact.
  • Interior: Damon Harrison led all defensive linemen on my grading sheet, playing his usual dominant version of himself. He was stout and active, adapting to the game’s situation all night. His versatility created pressure for Dak Prescott up the middle, deflected a pass, and brought down running backs for a loss. He is a weapon that no offensive line will keep contained. After watching him break down last year, they were sure to keep his snaps limited to just under 65%. Technically Jay Bromley started, but rookie Dalvin Tomlinson out-snapped him 3:1. As I said when they drafted him last spring, Tomlinson would impact the game week 1 in Dallas. He was an integral piece to holding down the 2016 NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliot for the most part. Robert Thomas saw 21 snaps, but struggled to make any impact. He was brought in on favorable pass-rush downs but struggled to disengage from blockers and at times, look way over-matched by the size of Dallas guard Chaz Green. He had a very rough game.

LINEBACKERS

  • The brightest spot of the entire defense, the highest grade I have given a Giants linebacker in over a year went to B.J. Goodson. His 18 tackles were the most in the NFL by a long shot on opening weekend. His range and power presence on the move especially stood out. There was a play where he completely lit up All-Pro Guard Zack Martin and finished it off with a tackle for loss. Jonathan Casillas and Devon Kennard played a physical brand and helped contain the Cowboys run game, especially in the first half. Kennard didn’t play even half the snaps, as the Giants were in the nickel for the majority of the game, but his presence was felt on plays where is wasn’t directly involved on the tackle. They played a physical, blue collar brand.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins was all over the field, being used as a linebacker, nickel cornerback, and roaming safety. His performance in coverage was top notch, if only they kept him on tight end Jason Witten all night. Those were the few times #82 had a hard time getting open. Darian Thompson, in what is basically considered his rookie season, struggled to react. On several occasions he was a step or three too late to support the run, especially to the sidelines. His physical impact when making hits just isn’t there, as he looks like an average-sized cornerback trying to play the safety spot. He wasn’t tested much in deep coverage. Andrew Adams was on the field for 8 defensive snaps, but wasn’t really tested.

CORNERBACKS

  • Arguably the most entertaining one-on-one battle of the night was Janoris Jenkins vs. Dez Bryant. Jenkins dominated this match-up in 2016 and while I can’t use that word again this time around, he did keep Bryant contained. Minus the one long penalty (21-yard pass interference) that set up the lone touchdown of the night, Jenkins won every match-up down field (3 attempts). He did miss two tackles where there was a VERY questionable effort put forth. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the team’s nickel corner, was on the field for 70% of the plays. His knack for reading routes and forecasting throws gets better and better, but he is not the ideal defender to cover the quicker slot receivers. Cole Beasley made him look silly on a couple of occasions. Eli Apple received the lowest grade of all the Giants defensive backs that played significant snaps. He was beat by Brice Butler early to set up the first Cowboys field goal, beat by Jason Witten on the lone Dallas touchdown, and targeted often on 3rd down where his success rate was not high. His impact on the run game was strong, however.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – 25 yards. Easy chip shot, otherwise a quiet night.
  • P Brad Wing: 6 Punts – 44.8 yard avg. 41.5 yard net avg, both solid numbers.
  • Return: Dwayne Harris had a quiet night.

3 STUDS

  • LB B.J. Goodson, DT Damon Harrison, OG Justin Pugh

3 DUDS

  • RT Bobby Hart, LT Ereck Flowers, QB Eli Manning

3 THOUGHTS ON DALLAS

  • The linebackers in a 4-3 defense can absolutely change the game. Anyone who watched the combination of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith cannot argue against that statement. Those two were as responsible as any for the Dallas win. They compliment each other perfectly and will be headache for opponents all year.
  • Dak Prescott was inaccurate for the majority of the game. He missed a handful of very easy throws, but he looked antsy and overly-excited. Putting too much mustard on the ball and finishing high. This game could have been much worse had he been on top of his game.
  • No, I don’t think the Dallas defense is improved up front. The likes of Maliek Collins, Charles Tapper, and Demarcus Lawrence have the Giants offensive line to thank for that talk. They are a sub-par group.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • The most over-reactionary thoughts in the sports world are post-week 1 NFL football. The sky is not falling, this team is not going 0-16. If you have paid attention to the Eli Manning career, the Giants have had several of these games, sometimes multiple in each year. It was as ugly as it got, but that was not a representation of this Giants squad. They will be better Monday night at home.
  • Odell Beckham made a lot of money by not playing. His mere presence on the field changes the complexion of the entire offense, and his true value will be felt when he gets back on the field. He makes other players better, plain and simple.
  • Hats off to the defense after an exhausting first half. But a solution needs to be found for defending the tight end. Enough of this already. Each year more and more teams are adding the athletic pass catcher to that position; it will become the norm very soon. Jason Witten became the all time leading receiver for the storied organization and his historic production against the Giants was highlighted (150 career catches against the Giants alone). If there is an Achilles’ heel to this strong defense, the tight end is it.