Aug 202018
 
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Wayne Gallman, New York Giants (August 17, 2018)

Wayne Gallman – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 30 – Detroit Lions 17

QUICK RECAP

After a few days of practice in Detroit with the Lions, the two teams faced off in week 2 of the preseason. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham were close to full participants in practice, however both stayed on the sidelines during game action. Darian Thompson also missed the game with his hamstring injury along with Saquon Barkley.

Davis Webb got the starting nod and really turned around the overall outlook on him after a rough week 1. He engineered a beautiful 17-play drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Wayne Gallman. Davis converted two 3rd downs and one 4th down on the drive that included a couple high level throws.

The teams traded multiple 3-and-outs back and forth trying to win the field position battle. Aldrick Rosas was given an opportunity at a 55-yard field goal which he drilled through the uprights with ease. NYG entered halftime with a 10-3 lead as the defense seems to be coming together nicely.

Kyle Lauletta started the 2nd half. After a three-and-out on drive one, DET backup Matt Cassel was intercepted off a deflection. Two plays later, Lauletta juked and cutback his way into the end zone via a rollout. A signal caller that isn’t known for his athletic ability got the Giants a 17-3 lead.

Detroit drove the ball downfield but instead of going for their second field goal of the night, they sent LeGarrette Blount up the middle on 4th and 2 and he was stuffed by a dominating inside run defense. The Giants lengthened their lead to 24-3 early in the 4th quarter with another Gallman touchdown. The backup defenses let up quite a bit, as NYG scored another touchdown on the ground, and DET scored two more themselves. It was a sloppy end to an otherwise well played game.

Giants win 30-17.

QUARTERBACKS

Davis Webb: 14/20 – 140 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. Webb got the start in this week 2 matchup, as Eli Manning received the night off after an intense practice week. This game was very much about Webb’s ability to bounce back from a shaky week 1 outing, and that he did. This was a completely different quarterback in contrast to what we saw a week ago. He had multiple high-level throws from the pocket and on the move in multiple directions. He had better touch, better footwork, and seemed more confident in his reads and progressions. He still threw a couple of high balls on urgent throws, however. That is one reoccurring weakness that I see.

Kyle Lauletta: 2/5 – 27 yards – 0 TD/0 INT. Lauletta added 13 yards and a touchdown on the ground. While he didn’t get a lot of opportunities to throw in this game, he didn’t capitalize on his two downfield throws. His touchdown run showed surprising cutback ability and while he won’t ever be mistaken for Russell Wilson in space, there is a lot of “football player” in him. I am still intrigued by the advanced footwork, release, and decision making.

RUNNING BACKS

Wayne Gallman: 5 att – 26 yards – 1 TD / 2 rec – 9 yards – 1 TD. With Saquon Barkley on the sidelines for this one, Gallman took over the lead role. He ran an outstanding route on his touchdown. This kid really poses as a threat with the ball in his hands and as a route runner. He will be an important piece to this 2018 offense.

Jonathan Stewart: 4 att – (-1) yard. Very uneventful night for the veteran, who was in for just 11 plays. He didn’t have any room in this contest and obviously didn’t play enough to get into a groove, but one can’t help but notice heavy feet and tight hips. Stewart’s value may be as an extra player-coach type more so than a backup to Barkley, especially with Gallman looking as good as he does.

Jalen Simmons and Robert Martin both had impressive performances again. Simmons left the game after a perceived concussion, thus Martin got a few extra late looks and he impressed. If he can show some special teams contribution, I think he has a strong chance at making this roster. Fullback Shane Smith played just 14% of the snaps.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-With Odell Beckham on the sidelines again, Sterling Shepard and Cory Latimer got the starts. Shepard brought in an over-the-shoulder catch near the sideline on a great route, while Latimer made high-level reception across the middle where he laid out and extended himself. Both were out of the game early in the second quarter, and most importantly, are healthy.

Hunter Sharp continues to receive an opportunity to display his ability, leading the group in snaps played. He muffed one of his punt return attempts and dropped a pass. The tools are intriguing but he needs to show a more consistent skill set. Just like I said last week, Russell Shepard is an under-the-radar name to look out for. He made a big time catch on a 50/50 ball downfield from Webb. I think a roster spot is going to come down to Roger Lewis or Kalif Raymond. They are different kinds of players, where Lewis again showed some big play ability with a 31-yard catch but Raymond offers more return ability.

TIGHT ENDS

Evan Engram: 2 rec – 13 yards. It’s hard to believe this, but Engram looks even faster and more explosive than he did a year ago. Because of the position he plays and all of the attention devoted to Beckham and Barkley, he is going to see a ton of 1-on-1 matchups. Nobody will be able to stay with him on crossing routes and he has made a couple of impressive adjustment-catches so far. I think he is going to have a huge year.

Jerell Adams did have 3 catches for 31 yards, but he struggled again. He was getting beaten off the ball as a blocker and had a couple of mental mistakes. Unreliable is the word that comes to mind here and in year 3, that could lead to him getting cut. Matt Simonson on the other hand does a lot of little things right and makes a difference on special teams.

TACKLES

-Very impressive night by Nate Solder, who was up against one of the best defensive ends in the game in Ezekiel Ansah. He has shown a couple struggles when it comes to getting off the ball quickly, but his balance and technique are very consistent. Ereck Flowers allowed a tackle for loss and 2 pressures early, but bounced back and ended with a solid run. Once again, he doesn’t play the game with his feet enough, being too reliant on hands, which are often inaccurate.

Chad Wheeler struggled. It was actually one of the worst performances I have seen out of him in his two years here. He is over-committing to his initial read, getting too top heavy and lunging for his man. Nick Becton has been impressive and I think there is a chance he could grab the number three tackle spot. His run blocking as been exceptional.

GUARDS/CENTERS

-There is a very alarming trend occurring with the guys inside. They are letting blitzers through the A/B gaps go untouched. Delayed, not delayed, whichever. Will Hernandez and Jon Halapio both had terrible misses. Late to see, slow to react. It blew up a couple of running plays. At this time last year, I wrote about how poorly the NYG OL was dealing with stunts to the outside and it definitely made its way into regular season play. Let’s hope these guys get this figured out over the next two weeks. Patrick Omameh had a quiet game, not necessarily in a good way. He got beaten off the ball a few times that blew up running plays inside and right side.

-John Greco is the dark horse to win the OC job at some point. He has seen some snaps there in practice, and he was my highest graded backup Friday night. John Jerry and Brett Jones got good movement in the running game as well.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

-Good to see Olivier Vernon produce some game results in week 2. He really is a different kind of edge rusher. Not overly big, this guy plays with tremendous knee bend and derives a lot of power from his base. He doesn’t always make it look right, but the late and subtle movements in traffic can get him the proper angles to the QB. He finished with a sack and was very close on another. He beat 3 separate blockers on his sack.

Kerry Wynn has been one of the most impressive defenders on this team through 2 games. While we have been impressed with him in preseason before just to be let down when the games count, I see a guy that is going to fit like a glove in this scheme. He finished with a sack, two hurries, and a couple athletic looking special teams tackles. He is a great example for guys trying to make a team. Keep the engine on high and contribute in different ways. Same can be said for the gifted Romeo Okwara who also finished with a sack and a hurry. If these two can perform during the season, the outlook for this defense totally changes.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Once again, the strong point of this team. Damon Harrison could make a “how to” for young DTs when it comes to playing the run. He simply creates a new line of scrimmage routinely. He pushed the DET interior linemen all over the place. B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson made plays in the backfield. Hill looks very athletic and light footed while Tomlinson has progressed nicely with his hand location. DET averaged 3 yards per carry and these guys were the main reasons why.

Josh Mauro had a nice game off the bench. He demands the double team consistently and knows how to crowd the running lanes. He also had a hurry and pass deflection. Robert Thomas and A.J. Francis are showing to be on a different level than the counterpart backups. Good signs for a scheme that will likely need to rest Harrison for a few stretches each week.

LINEBACKERS

-The whipping boy of this defense may be the newly signed Alec Ogletree. Two weeks, two times he has been exposed in space,  covering man-to-man. Last week he did a poor job against tight end David Njoku but I will say I don’t think there is a LB in football that would have stopped Theo Riddick on his 42-yard reception. He is the best receiving RB in the NFL and as we saw on the Webb-to-Gallman TD, that route is incredibly difficult to defend. He and B.J. Goodson simply haven’t played enough to really lean one way or another.

Ray Ray Armstrong continues to show he can be a player in this scheme with a couple tackles, a pass break up, and an interception. He is a very cheap version of ARI’s Deone Bucannon. I don’t see him breaking into a starting lineup unless there is an injury, but I do think he can be a piece to the puzzle. He has a very unique skill set and he looks like he really understands this scheme.

I think a roster spot may come down to Calvin Munson or Mark Herzlich. Both are one dimensional and I think there is room on this roster for one of them, not both. I could be wrong though. Herzlich led the team with 7 tackles and I think he has more range and better instincts. Not to mention he just bring more intensity and presence to the defense when he is out there.

CORNERBACKS

-I can understand the effort to keep Janoris Jenkins healthy by limiting his snaps, but I wish we could have seen more of Eli Apple. He is still very much an unknown. He seems to be struggling with some of the basic, must-have traits to the position in this scheme. Not enough footwork, too late on anticipation and reaction.

B.W. Webb and Leonard Johnson both lack the desired size but these guys compete hard. Webb did get flagged for a pass interference penalty, but I thought he did a fine job when covering the outside receivers who were much bigger than him. Johnson had one of the most physical hits of the game.

Grant Haley shows admirable footwork and quickness, but he just can’t handle the physical side of the game yet. He was tossed to the ground by T.J. Jones on a 4th quarter touchdown. He simply looked over-matched on that play and others.

SAFETIES

Landon Collins started along side Curtis Riley in this one. Neither were really tested. Collins still has that tendency to lose his angles on outside running plays and screen passes. He is the least of this team’s concern though. I hope to see Riley tested more often with Darian Thompson injured.

-Impressed with backup Michael Thomas. He had a really nice TFL on a play where he stood a tight end up at the point of attack, shed him, and made a physical tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He also had a near INT in the end zone. Andrew Adams had a couple of physical showings as well. Both guys can handle backup duty to Collins, but neither show the range needed to play next to him.

KICKERS/PUNTERS

Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (55) – 1/1 XP. Impressive career-long kick for Rosas who put the ball through halfway up from that distance. All this after a bad snap and somewhat delayed approach. Wow.

-Marshall Koehn: 0/0 – 2/3 XP. Missing extra points is a quick way to get the boot.

-Riley Dixon: 3 punts – 43.3 avg – 40.7 net.

3 STUDS

-QB Davis Webb, RB Wayne Gallman, DE Kerry Wynn

3 DUDS

-OC Jon Halapio, CB Grant Haley, TE Jerell Adams

3 TAKEAWAYS FOR DET

-The make or break for this team will be the offensive line. Stafford is as close to the top tier QBs in this league of anyone that isn’t quite there. The weapons are there. The defense is improving and they have a brilliant mind calling the shots on that side of the ball. But the OL is a concern and it is time some of their recent draft picks pony up.

-Darius Slay might be in the discussion for top CB in the league. It is a tough position to evaluate when comparing teams and schemes. But I might put this kid up there with anyone, if not above everyone, when it comes to playing on an island 1-on-1 with any kind of WR in the league.

-LB and former Giant Devon Kennard appears to be a better fit for the Matt Patricia scheme than what he was with the Giants. Get him rushing the edge over and over will result in more sexy stats for him obviously, but I think his results are more than that. The inside-out versatility wasn’t used often enough during his NYG tenure.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-We discussed last week how looking too deep into one week of preseason performance is foolish. However it happens every year. Those that wrote off Webb after the CLE game look silly now. That was the best we have seen out of him since he was under an NYG contract. Now, can he build off it? His next appearance will be very telling on where he’s at, much more so than the previous 2 weeks.

-I’ve seen all but 5 preseason games from around the league. And you know what? The backup OL here is outperforming most of the league’s backups. They are getting a lot of movement at the point-of-attack and providing more time in pass protection. Preseason football is often ugly late in games because of poor OL play. NYG has had 2 solid weeks in a row in comparison. Is it scheme based? Coaching? I don’t know yet. But it is a good thing, that’s for sure.

-I really do enjoy watching James Bettcher coach. It will take more time to really see the scheme and trends, but I am speaking more along the lines of his emotion and involvement on the sidelines. He is all in with these guys and yes, I do think it makes a difference with the players.

Aug 182018
 
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Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (August 17, 2018)

Sterling Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 30 – DETROIT LIONS 17…
Minus quarterback Eli Manning, wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., and running back Saquon Barkley, the New York Giants soundly defeated the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Friday night, 30-17. Despite the overall team stats being similar, the game was not as close as the final score as the Giants led 24-3 and 30-10 in the 4th quarter. Manning and Beckham were healthy scratches from the contest and Barkley is still recovering from a hamstring strain he suffered in practice on Monday.

Detroit received the ball first but the first-string defense of the Giants forced a three-and-out. Defensive end Kerry Wynn sacked quarterback Matthew Stafford for a 10-yard loss on 3rd-and-8. New York retained possession despite a muffed punt by wideout Hunter Sharp. With quarterback Davis Webb starting for Manning, running back Jonathan Stewart for Barkley, and wide receiver Cody Latimer for Beckham, the Giants also went three-and-out as Stewart lost five yards on a 3rd-and-1 conversion attempt.

On their second possession, the Lions generated their only lead of the game as Stafford found running back Theo Riddick for a 42-yard gain against linebacker Alec Ogletree. The 57-yard drive resulted in a 44-yard field goal and a 3-0 advantage.

Webb and the Giants’ offense responded with a marathon 17-play, 79-yard drive that culminated with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Webb to running back Wayne Gallman. The drive was spurred by a perfect 27-yard deep pass from Webb to wide receiver Sterling Shepard on 3rd-and-17, an 7-yard pass to tight end Evan Engram on 3-and-7, and a successful quarterback sneak on 4th-and-1.

After two punts by the Lions and a turnover on downs by the Giants, New York added to their lead when Webb threw another perfect deep pass, this one a 40-yarder to wideout Russell Shepard. While the Giants only gained three more yards on the next three plays, place kicker Aldrick Rosas connected on a 55-yard field goal attempt and the Giants went up 10-3. The Lions missed a 49-yard field goal on the ensuing possession and the Giants maintained their 7-point advantage at the break.

The Giants went three-and-out to start the 3rd quarter, but the Giants got the ball back when linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong intercepted a deflected pass from quarterback Matt Cassel and returned it 24 yards to the Detroit 12-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Kyle Lauletta rolled to his left, juked out the defense on a cutback, and scored from 10 yards out. The Giants now led 17-3.

Detroit responded by driving from their own 25 yard line to the Giants’ 9, but on 4th-and-2, running back LeGarrette Blount was stopped by linebacker Mark Herzlich and a host of Giants for a 1-yard loss. Both teams exchanged punts, with linebacker Romeo Okwara sacking Cassel for an 8-yard loss on 3rd-and-14. The Giants then put the game away early in the 4th quarter with a 4-play, 59-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard cutback touchdown run by Gallman. The Giants were now up 24-3.

The Lions did cut into the lead by driving 77 yards in nine plays, including an 11-yard touchdown pass. However, New York followed that up with a 7-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a 16-yard touchdown run by running back Robert Martin with just over four minutes to play. The Lions added a meaningless touchdown with seconds to go in the game after driving 71 yards in 14 plays.

Offensively, Webb finished 14-of-20 for 140 yards and one touchdown (QB rating of 106.2). Lauletta was only 2-of-5 for 27 yards but did have the impressive 10-yard touchdown run. The only target to catch more than two passes was tight end Jerell Adams who caught three passes for 31 yards. As for the running backs, Martin gained 47 yards on seven carries and Gallman 26 yards on five carries.

Defensively, Herzlich led the team with seven tackles and the stop on 4th-and-1. The Giants accrued four sacks, including by Wynn, Okwara, linebacker Olivier Vernon, and safety Mike Basile. Armstrong had the sole turnover on his interception.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Not playing for the Giants due to injury were running back Saquon Barkley (hamstring), receiver Travis Rudolph (quad), tight end Ryan O’Malley (ankle), defensive end R.J. McIntosh (unknown – Active/Non-Football Illness list), linebacker Connor Barwin (“soreness”), linebacker Thurston Armbrister (hamstring), cornerback Donte Deayon (hamstring), and safety Darian Thompson (hamstring).

Running back Jalen Simmons left the game with a concussion. Wide receiver Russell Shepard dislocated a finger. Linebacker Calvin Munson left the game late after a hit to the head.

Quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. were healthy scratches.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

ARTICLES…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur will address the media by conference call on Saturday. The players are off on that day.

Aug 162018
 
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Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham, New York Giants (August 9, 2018)

Can someone other than these two make a play? – © USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Game Preview: New York Giants at Detroit Lions, August 17, 2018

THE STORYLINE:

Most fans know that it is unwise to make too much out of preseason game, let alone the first preseason game. That said, other than the ground game, the New York Giants were clearly out-played by an 0-16 (albeit improving) Cleveland Browns team in the opener. Even though these are practice games, there is a psychological component involved here. The Giants were 3-13 last year. They are 0-1 in the preseason. It would be a nice psychological boost for the team to experience a winning locker room again. (It would also be nice for the fans). One could legitimately argue that, based off one game, the Giants still look like a rebuilding ball club that has hitched it’s wagon to a 37-year old quarterback while passing on a number of potential franchise quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Pat Shurmur has to be thrilled with the quantity and quality of the work accomplished this week in the three practices against the Detroit Lions. And the team came out of these practices with no serious injury issues. The best way to cap this week would be a solid performance on Friday night against the Lions and have that proverbial arrow moving up rather than down.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (hamstring)
  • WR Travis Rudolph (quad)
  • TE Ryan O’Malley (ankle)
  • DE R.J. McIntosh (unknown – Active/Non-Football Illness list)
  • LB Connor Barwin (“soreness”)
  • LB Thurston Armbrister (hamstring)
  • CB Donte Deayon (hamstring)
  • S Darian Thompson (hamstring)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:

The only real highlights to come out of last week’s game was the ground attack. Saquon Barkley’s first run was a real eye-opener, not so much for the big gain but the series of moves he strung together in order to break out into the open field. Unfortunately, he will not play on Friday. This will provide an opportunity for Jonathan Stewart and Wayne Gallman to make their respective cases for #2 back. Neither was particularly productive against the Browns on the ground (combined eight yards on six carries) but Gallman was more of  factor in the passing game (4 catches for 33 yards). He looks quicker and faster. There should also be more opportunities for guys who were pretty much regarded as “camp fodder” players, but who played well last week: Jalen Simmons (7 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown) and Robert Martin (5 carries for 39 yards). Could one of these two force their way onto the 53-man roster?

Overall, last week the Giants had 134 net yards rushing and averaged almost six yards per rush. That’s a good sign and a step forward for what has become a finesse team in recent years. The offensive line is still clearly a work in process, but it’s a start. At least the Giants were more physical.

Now to negative. I’ll keep saying it until the Giants prove me wrong: unless the Giants break a big play, they have problems sustaining drives. In recent years, the only big plays came from Odell Beckham. At least now they’ve added another big-play weapon in Saquon Barkley. But outside of Barkley’s 39-yard run, the first-team offense wasn’t good against the Browns. That bears watching moving forward. Can this offense string together four, five, six first downs and get the ball into the end zone? Forget breaking the 30-point barrier, even 20 points still seems to be an issue. With Barkley not playing against the Lions, and possibly Beckham, others need to step up and demonstrate they are legitimate first-string NFL talent. All of the positive plays in practice by Cody Latimer, Hunter Sharp, Kalif Raymond, etc. mean nothing unless it translates to actual games. Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram have to make more plays too. And Eli has to be more accurate, especially on screen passes.

Perhaps the biggest subplot this week is how Davis Webb responds to an atrocious performance against the Browns. Webb didn’t even look like a viable back-up, let alone potential future starter. Jumpy, nervous quarterbacks are worthless. He had better get that out of his system quickly. I would not be shocked to see the Giants cut him if this crap continues. This new regime has no ties to him.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

We’ll start with the good news first again. Every defensive coordinator in football will tell you their #1 priority is stopping the run. Last week, the Giants held Cleveland to paltry 50 yards rushing (15 of which came from the QBs) and 1.5 yards per rush. The Giants were clearly the more physical team up front. That’s a positive start for a Giants defense that was 27th against the run in the NFL in 2017. As hoped and expected, the Giants defensive line is very tough to move out and the team looks to have some decent depth.

The bad news were the pass rush and pass coverage – which go hand-in-hand. The Giants only accrued one sack (by reserve Robert Thomas) and three quarterback hits last week. More was expected, particularly by the starting and reserve outside linebackers. By all accounts, Olivier Vernon has had a great camp. But it didn’t translate to the playing field last week. Same story with Connor Barwin, who is now not playing due to “soreness.” Lorenzo Carter and Kareem Martin were too quiet. If the Giants’ outside backers aren’t effective rushing the passer, this defense is going to have issues stopping opposing quarterbacks.

This brings us to pass coverage. Last year the Giants were 31st in pass defense. In a limited number of snaps, the Browns were successfully able to attack both Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple outside the hashmarks. Both played the man rather than the ball and got burned. Folks have been saying Jenkins has had a strong camp, but I keep noticing big plays against him in practice too where he isn’t turning to play the ball. And we’ve all know this has been an ongoing issue with Apple. The scary news is that despite this, these are two guys the Giants simply can’t afford to lose right now because they team has zero depth behind them. The loss of Sam Beal is looking bigger by the day. And like the offensive line, the secondary still has the appearance of a 2-year rebuilding project.

That all said, the pass coverage over the middle remains the primary liability of the New York Giants defense. It’s been a problem for years and it was a problem last week. Sy’56 correctly harped on it in his game review. Alec Ogletree was supposed to add athleticism to the inside linebacking spot, but he was burned for a long touchdown against the Browns and had issues in practice this week when covering tight ends. With Curtis Riley out last week, Darian Thompson started at free safety and he did not distinguish himself. Now he’s hurt and Riley is back so let’s see if Riley – a former cornerback – is an improvement. If the Giants are going to compete against a team like the Philadelphia Eagles, they need to be able to cover tight ends and running backs better.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:

Through one week of preseason action, 45 punters have punted. Riley Dixon has punted a league-high 10 times, but is only 21st in average (44.2 yards per punt) and 26th in net average (39.7 yards per punt). Aldrick Rosas did make a 42-yard field goal.

Kalif Raymond did have a 14 yard punt return and Hunter Sharp a 42-yard kickoff return. Kickoff coverage wasn’t good as the Browns had two kickoff returns of 30 yards or more.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:

Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Davis Webb against the Lions: “I think young players tend to improve. It was his first time in our system (last week), playing really in a new system. So yeah, I certainly hope he’s better (this week).”

THE FINAL WORD:

As long as I’ve been a fan, I’ve never come to a definitive conclusion about the importance of the preseason. But I do know that I will become increasingly nervous if the Giants lay another egg this week. The offense needs to demonstrate an ability to sustain drives and get the ball into the end zone. The defense needs to get the other team off of the field and stop giving up big passing plays.

Sep 202017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 18, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions 24 – New York Giants 10

RECAP

The Giants have become the new Patriots of the NFL when it comes to disclosing information about injuries. Janoris Jenkins and B.J. Goodson, two of the highest graded NYG defenders from week 1, surprisingly were on the team’s inactive list prior to kickoff. On the flip side, star receiver Odell Beckham dressed and made his 2017 debut on Monday Night Football against the 1-0 Detroit Lions, led by the NFL’s highest-paid player, Matthew Stafford.

On Detroit’s second drive (following the Giants’ three-and-out that included a sack), Stafford led the Lions on a 9-play drive that ended with a 3rd-and-12, 27-yard touchdown pass on a vertical route to Marvin Jones over Eli Apple, who never  located the ball. Things were looking up soon after, as New York responded with their own 8 play scoring drive that resulted in rookie tight end Evan Engram’s first career touchdown.

With the game tied 7 a piece, the Lions took over the field position battle thanks to two rookie mistakes. First, Engram’s celebration penalty, and second, kicker Aldrick Rosas’ kick out of bounds. The defense however stepped up when Jason Pierre-Paul forced a sack-fumble, which was recovered by Devon Kennard. It took just one play to hand the ball back to Detroit after Manning threw a pass slightly behind Engram, who tipped it into the arms of linebacker Tahir Whitehead. Fast forward 5 plays and Stafford throws his second touchdown, this time to tight end Eric Ebron who simply outran safety Darian Thompson on a crossing route.

Both defenses held their own towards the end of the second half, with Detroit sacking Manning 3 times in 6 drop backs, gaining more field position advantages. They ended the first half with a 6-play drive capped off by a 56-yard field goal that hit the cross bar and bounced over, by Matt Prater.  A sign of the Giants coaching staff having little-to-no confidence in the ability of this offense was the fact they let the clock run from 1:20 all the way down to :35 as the Lions field goal unit got on the field. That was an opportunity that Ben McAdoo simply looked past, scared that the offense would end up giving the ball back to the Lions.

Down 17-7, the Giants put together arguably their best drive of the night that got them as close as 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line. An opportunity like that resulted in just a mere 3 points, largely attributed to a holding penalty on guard Brett Jones.

At the start of the 4th quarter, the biggest turnaround/turning point of the game occurred. Manning threw a perfect deep ball up the right sideline to Brandon Marshall, the hyped free agent signing who has made zero impact so far. It would have resulted in a 30+ yard gain but instead, Marshall let the ball slip right through his hands, an inexcusable drop. Two plays later, Lions rookie punt returner Jamal Agnew returned a punt for an 88-yard touchdown, making it 24-10. The air was sucked out of the team and fans at that point and it was never recovered. The Giants’ top targets were dropping balls, passes were being thrown well before the first down marker on 3rd/4th down, and the running game couldn’t find an inch. Slightly different path, but the same result for the offense that hasn’t had an identity in years. The Lions played a conservative, clock-eating style of offense and the Giants lost, 24-10 at home.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 22/32 – 239 yards – 1 TD/1 INT – 87.9 rating. Upon watching the offense a second and third time respectively, Manning didn’t deserve to be thrown under the bus by Ben McAdoo. He had pressure at his feet and in his face often, again, and still made some big time throws despite it. If Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram hold onto downfield passes that Manning put on the money, we are talking about a 300+ yard game and maybe even a win. One glaring hole from the night, however, was a play in which Manning went to the ground before even bring touched by Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. He needs to rise above a situation like that and stay strong when the pressure is on.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Shane Vereen: 6 att – 28 yards – 4.7 avg. Also picked up 27 yards on 3 catches. There is a sense of security and more potential with Vereen on the field. A better blocker, receiver, and playmaker in space with the ball in his hands. One of the game-plan changes this team needs to make is get the ball in his hands more than 12 times per game, minimum. Vereen has always been an assertive runner WHO can create on his own and unfortunately that is what the NYG backs will need to do all year.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 3 att – 17 yards – 5.7 avg. Darkwa’s first rush went for 11 yards. The opportunities have been sparse for the Giants’ most physical back, but he can move the chains by falling forward and pushing piles. He should have been in there on the Giants rushing attempt from the 1-yard line.
  • Paul Perkins: 7 att – 10 yards – 1.4 avg. Also added 2 catches for 12 yards. The running back position appears to be up for grabs, as Perkins simply hasn’t been making plays. Yet once again, he hasn’t really had the opportunity to find a rhythm. The running lanes aren’t there but Perkins is still showing too much hesitation and timidness.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Odell Beckham: 4 rec – 36 yards. In his first game back since the August 21 injury in Cleveland, the Giants limited his snaps, 61% to be exact. There was a visible lack of burst and confidence to his movement and a player like him needs that to be effective. His biggest impact on the game may have been the attention he demanded from the Lions on his deep routes. He was triple-covered four times.
  • Sterling Shepard: 2 rec – 23 yards. A near touchdown where he was clocked by safety Glover Quin while reaching for the ball could have changed the game. By no means was it a “should have had it” play, but someone needs to step up and make something happen eventually. Shepard had a couple of rushing attempts as well, as he appears to be the most explosive player this team has with the ball in his hands until Beckham is fully back.
  • Brandon Marshall – 1 rec – 17 yards: Was on the wrong end of one of the most influential plays of the night. A horrendous deep ball drop that helped alter the momentum of the entire game. On the next drive, Marshall showed a poor effort on a ball that was slightly above his head on a crossing route. The issue with Marshall his entire career is how he approaches the game when things aren’t going his way and the team is losing. Is the desire to win burning inside of him? Or is he going to continue to play like a has been that is looking forward to retirement?

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec – 49 yards – 1 TD. With each week that passes, Engram is getting more and more comfortable in the Giants’ offense. His ability to get open and make plays after the catch are going to be crucial to any sort of offensive turnaround. His first career touchdown was unchallenged by the Lions’ defense due to a playaction fake. Late in the game, Engram dropped a 29-yard touchdown pass after being hit by cornerback Darius Slay. A tough play indeed, but one that could have changed the outcome of the game. Engram also graded out poorly as a blocker with a couple of bad breakdowns in crucial situations.
  • Rhett Ellison: 2 rec – 21 yards. To this day, I can’t recall a target intended for Ellison where a positive play wasn’t the result. If the Giants want more blocking presence on the field without fully compromising their playmaking potential, Ellison needs more snaps. He was only on the field for 39% of the plays. With that said, Ellison was beaten badly on two key running plays as a blocker.
  • Jerell Adams: 1 rec – 38 yards. The Giants biggest play of the night was to Adams up the right sideline. Manning was under heavy pressure which forced an under throw. But a nice adjustment to the ball by Adams brought the Giants to their best field position of the night. It was Adams’ only play of the game and he showed that he could be a missing piece to an offense that needs more blocking presence without fully compromising play-making potential.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers, for the second straight week, graded out the worst on the line and had another bottom-5 performance from around the league. Poor footwork. Poor knee bend. Inaccurate hands. Lack of hustle and grit. There is zero difference between the rookie version of Flowers and the year 3 version. Patience is one thing if there are signs of progress here and there. Stubbornness is another. Throwing him out there to protect Manning’s blind side is the latter. It’s time – Flowers needs to be benched or moved. Justin Pugh shifted over to right tackle after the first drive as a result of Bobby Hart’s ankle injury. His performance on the outside was good enough to sell me on the idea of moving him to his college position, left tackle, full time.
  • Interior: John Jerry and Weston Richburg graded out with positive performances. After Jerry’s split-blunder on the Lions first sack of the night, he played well enough. He stayed on his man, as his assignment was being responsible for just one tackle the rest of the game. Richburg played very solid assignment-football, allowing just one tackle himself and very good pass protection when he was left alone. Brett Jones, who played all but one drive at left guard, was up and down. He allowed a cover-sack and committed a big holding penalty. While he doesn’t look good out there, especially with adjustment-based lateral movement, his grit and fight is something Flowers could take notes on. He is a true, blue-collar hustler who makes up for shortcomings by simply outworking his opponent.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

  • Jason Pierre Paul recorded his first sack, which also forced a fumble in the 2nd quarter. His overall impact on the game was better than the 3 tackle-stat sheet leads on. He was disruptive and pursued well to the sideline, forcing the Lions’ running backs inside on a few occasions. Olivier Vernon forced Lions tackle Greg Robinson into a few penalties, but overall his impact wasn’t anything stand out. His match-up in this contest should have led to more production. Too often was he being neutralized by a lone blocker against the run. Romeo Okwara recorded two pressures in limited action. He continues to be a solid 3rd-down threat who can line up anywhere.
  • The Lions tried to keep Damon Harrison away from having an impact. They ran to the outside so often and double-teamed him on most passing plays. Even on a “quiet” night, Harrison was still in on 6 tackles and controlled the inside running lanes when Detroit did try to go there. Rookie Dalvin Tomlinson got his first start and I think it will be his for the rest of the year. He was active both in the box and in pursuit, showing plus athleticism and range. He is going to be a major factor moving forward. Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas failed to make a positive impact on their limited snaps.

LINEBACKERS

  • The pregame surprise of the night was B.J. Goodson showing up on the inactive list, out with a shin injury. The NFL week 1 leader in tackles was replaced by undrafted rookie Calvin Munson. The Lions made him move laterally often which he struggled with early but made some impact play tackles late in the game as his reads became more confident. Munson did a nice job of making himself small through traffic and filling lanes. He was on the field for every snap.
  • Devon Kennard only played about half the team’s defensive plays, but had a disruptive night. He recorded a QB pressure, QB hit, and tackle for loss. He was very stout against the run and displayed versatile pass rushing by breaking through the Detroit line from different spots. Jonathan Casillas recorded two tackles for loss, but was also ridden out on a couple of Detroit’s bigger running plays. J.T. Thomas was hurt, again, early in the game.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins and Darian Thompson both played every snap. Collins didn’t make any impact plays other than a couple of physical downhill hits against the run. Thompson was beat by tight end Eric Ebron on Detroit’s second touchdown, but broke up a pass later in the game. His range against deep routes appears to be a step behind and his impact as a run defender is minuscule. He had a fairly simple opportunity for an interception in the 2nd quarter, but he badly mistimed his leap for the ball with poor body control. On the Lions’ first touchdown drive, Nat Berhe was assigned to spy Matthew Stafford on a 3rd-and-12 play. He over-pursued badly which allowed an easy cutback lane for Staffod to scramble for a 1st down. The Lions scored 3 plays later.

CORNERBACKS

  • With Janoris Jenkins on the sideline injured, Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were both on the field for every snap. Both had every up and down nights. Apple’s allowed touchdown to Marvin Jones was something we have seen since the beginning for him, trouble locating the deep ball with body control. He had solid coverage as usual, but that’s only half the battle when defending the pass. The Lions were noticeably attacking him. He made a few physical plays and deflected a pass later on. Rodgers-Cromartie led the team with 11 tackles, most of which were against the run. He had two bad missed tackles that resulted in extra yards for Detroit in key situations, however.
  • Ross Cockrell got his first real playing time with the Giants and played well. Interesting to see him ahead of Michael Hunter on the depth chart, as he out-snapped him 39 to 1.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – 25 yards. Easy chip shot, but a kick out of bounds in the 2nd quarter added to a field position loss.
  • P Brad Wing: 5 punts for 47.8 yard average. An overlooked mishap for the team was Wing out-kicking his coverage by 10-15 yards on the return for a touchdown. That ball needs to be higher, not as far, so the returner has less space to work with upon catching the ball.
  • Return: Dwayne Harris had a quiet night.

3 THOUGHTS ON DETROIT

  • I’ve seen this team play a lot since the start of last season. Matthew Stafford is certainly inching his way towards the elite level. His arm talent is second to none in this league, he has sneaky mobility in and out of the pocket, and he has proven to be unfazed by big moments several times. Detroit is 110% justified in giving him the contract they did, as there may be one or two QBs in the league I take over him for the next 5+ years.
  • The secondary is playing better in the first two weeks than what I saw all of last year, most notably nickel corner Quandre Diggs. Darius Slay is the best corner you’ve never really heard about, and even the Nigel Lawson/D.J. Hayden split can hang with many high-caliber WRs in certain matchups. They are a solid duo who will be on the field based on who the other team has running routes.
  • The Giants offensive line is a mess, and the Lions are somehow piecing together solid performances with players the Giants could have easily signed, most notably Ricky Wagner and T.J. Lang. They aren’t superstars and I won’t pretend they are, but the gap between them and what the Giants are throwing out there is astronomical. That’s how bad this OL personnel is for NYG. And it makes this front office look bad for not adding any veteran piece of value in free agency.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Everything looks worse when a team is losing. Everything gets questioned and that is often a result of overreacting. But sometimes, bold statements are justified. The debate of what Ben McAdoo will be is still very much alive. Throwing your first-class, team-first-always quarterback under the bus to the NY media was a low blow. McAdoo is as blah as it gets in interviews as he doesn’t like to dive too deeply into questions and information. Was his comment about Manning, which he has done before, a sign of frustration? Will that spill over into the bigger egos on this team? McAdoo needs to remember, the Giants haven’t accomplished much and the offense has never been worse, since he’s been a part of the organization.
  • I touched on this briefly above, but I will repeat. The best move for this offensive line is to move Pugh to left tackle right now. No trades or signings. Pugh’s value to the team is best suited there and Flowers has two options. Play right tackle so they don’t have to rely on D.J. Fluker or Chad Wheeler, or sit on the bench. I understand he hasn’t played on that side since early in college but he is not a left tackle in this league, something I have said since he was drafted. There has been no improvement, no progression with him. If anything, he might surprise and simply play at a higher level over there.
  • Time for this pass rush to step up. I wouldn’t put the below average label on them yet, but making 1 or 2 plays via the pass rush isn’t enough, especially with a line that has Greg Robinson playing left tackle. Granted the Lions were barely dropping back in the second half, but it is time for these guys to step up. They have as tough a test as they will have all year in Philadelphia next week. Show us you deserve all that money, Vernon and JPP.
Sep 192017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 18, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT LIONS 24 – NEW YORK GIANTS 10…
The Detroit Lions defeated the New York Giants 24-10 on Monday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants are now 0-2 on the season, having scored only one offensive touchdown so far this year. Going back to the 2016 season, the Giants’ offense has not scored 20 points now for eight games in a row.

Both offenses struggled for most of the game as the Giants actually out-gained the Lions in total net yards (270 to 257), first downs (14 to 12), and average gain per play (4.9 to 4.6). But the Giants defense allowed 138 yards rushing, quarterback Eli Manning was sacked five times, and the Giants allowed an 88-yard punt return that sealed the game for Detroit in the 4th quarter.

The teams exchanged punts to start the game. The Lions drove 54 yards in nine plays on their second drive to go up 7-0 on quarterback Matthew Stafford’s 27-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marvin Jones, who beat cornerback Eli Apple on the play. The scoring drive was kept alive by a 13-yard scramble by Stafford on 3rd-and-9. The Giants responded with their sole touchdown drive of the young season, an 8-play, 75-yard drive that ended with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Manning to tight end Evan Engram (who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the touchdown).

Things got a little crazy in the second quarter. Place kicker Aldrick Rosas’ kickoff after the touchdown went out of bounds, giving the Lions the ball at their own 45-yard line. After driving to the Giants’ 33-yard line, the Lions turned the ball over when defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Stafford and forced a fumble that linebacker Devon Kennard recovered. But on the very next snap, Manning’s pass intended for Engram was off-the-mark, intercepted, and returned 18 yards to the Giants’ 29-yard line. Five plays later, Stafford threw his second touchdown pass and the Lions went up 14-7.

After two punts by the Giants and one by the Lions, Detroit added to their lead late in the second quarter by driving 37 yards in six plays to set up a 56-yard field goal. The Lions led 17-7 at the half.

Detroit did not score on offense in the second half of the game, but it did not matter as the Giants’ offense and special teams struggled. The Giants’ offense only managed one second-half scoring drive, a 10-play, 68-yard affair that ended with a 25-yard field goal by Rosas in the 3rd quarter. When the Giants got the ball back early in the 4th quarter and trailing by 17-10, the game turned when wide receiver Brandon Marshall dropped a deep pass from Manning on 2nd-and-8. Two plays later the Giants punted and Brad Wing’s punt was returned 88 yards for a touchdown that put the Lions up by two touchdowns with 13 minutes left to go in the game. New York’s final two possessions end with turnovers on downs as the Giants failed to convert on a 4th-and-3 at their own 48-yard line and 4th-and-10 at the Detroit 29-yard line. Ball game.

Manning finished the game 22-of-32 for 239 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. His leading receivers were Engram (4 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown) and wideout Odell Beckham, Jr. (4 catches for 36 yards). The Giants continued to struggle to run the ball as Shane Vereen was the leading ground gainer with 28 yards on six carries. The Giants were held to 62 yards rushing.

Defensively, while the Giants gave up 138 yards rushing, Detroit was held to only 119 net passing yards. The Giants sacked Stafford twice, once by Pierre-Paul when he forced the fumble and another time by Calvin Munson, who started at middle linebacker for the injured B.J. Goodson.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were cornerback Janoris Jenkins (ankle/hand), linebacker B.J. Goodson (calf), linebacker Keenan Robinson (concussion), quarterback Davis Webb, running back Wayne Gallman, tight end Matt LaCosse, and defensive end Avery Moss.

Right tackle Bobby Hart re-injured his ankle and left the game in the 1st quarter. Hart was spotted on crutches and wearing a boot after the game. Linebacker J.T. Thomas left the game in the second half with a groin injury.

GIANTS SIGN CURTIS GRANT FROM PRACTICE SQUAD, CUT TAVARRES KING…
On Monday afternoon, the New York Giants waived wide receiver Tavarres King and signed linebacker Curtis Grant to the 53-man roster from the team’s Practice Squad.

King was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He has spent time with the Broncos (2013), Panthers (2013-14), Jaguars (2014), and Buccaneers (2014-15) – playing in just two regular-season games. The Giants signed King to the Practice Squad in late September 2015. Last year, King played in seven regular-season games, finishing the year with just two catches for 50 yards. He caught three passes for 73 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown pass in the playoff loss to the Packers.

Grant was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the San Diego Chargers after the 2015 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Chargers (2015), Falcons (2015), Titans (2016), Raiders (2016), and 49ers (2016). Grant was signed by the Giants to a reserve/future contract in January 2017.

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

ARTICLES…

Sep 162017
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, New York Giants (December 18, 2016)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Detroit Lions at New York Giants, September 18, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The issue is not that the New York Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday night. There is no shame in that and the Giants certainly can recover from 0-1. The issue is the way the Giants lost. I’ve been preaching since last year that the Giants offense has become a one-trick pony: Eli Manning finding Odell Beckham for the big play. Take that away and the Giants offense becomes one of the worst in the NFL.

So what did the Giants do this offseason? They swapped Evan Engram/Rhett Ellison for Larry Donnell/Will Tye, Brandon Marshall for Victor Cruz, and Paul Perkins for Rashad Jennings. They rolled the dice by going with the same offense line. The results so far have been no different. Even without Beckham in the line-up, the Giants should have been able to generate more than three points and 13 first downs (2 in the first half!) with the weapons the team has against that Dallas defense.

This will sound like an overly-dramatic overreaction, but Ben McAdoo and the offensive brain trust are running out of excuses. So is the entire franchise for not being able to put together a viable offensive line in years.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle – questionable)
  • WR Tavarres King (ankle – probable)
  • OL Bobby Hart (ankle – probable)
  • OL D.J. Fluker (leg – questionable)
  • DT Jay Bromley (knee – probable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (leg – questionable)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (concussion – out)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle/hand – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Ben McAdoo and his offensive assistants were clearly out-coached by the Dallas Cowboys staff last Sunday night. The Dallas defense knew what New York was going to do and the Giants coaches had no answer for it. Obviously, execution also matters. And Eli Manning looked like a quarterback playing out the string of a possible Hall of Fame career. The offensive line still can’t block. The running backs can’t create on their own. And the receivers who played didn’t provide many yards after the catch.

This is the Giants offense:

  1. They have some talented wide outs and tight ends who can hurt you in the passing game.
  2. They can’t run the ball.
  3. They struggle on third down and in the red zone.

So defending the Giants is easy and predictable. Focus on taking away the big plays in the passing game by playing soft, conservative coverage. You don’t have to blitz a ton because you can pressure the now-jumpy Manning with just four defenders against an offensive line that struggles with stunts. Largely ignore the run. Make the Giants nickel-and-dime you because they are likely to eventually stall on 3rd down. The proof is in the pudding. The Giants have not scored 20 points in a game for seven games in a row now, including against the Detroit Lions last December (a 17-6 victory for New York). Right now, Ben McAdoo’s offense without Tom Coughlin’s overall influence isn’t working.

How do the Giants overcome this? The simplest solution would be to run the football and keep running it until the opponent has to move an extra defender into the box. But the finesse New York Giants seem incapable of playing smash-mouth football. The other solution is just keep moving the chains with short- to medium-passes. Bing, bing, bing… down the field. And perhaps your receivers start generating serious yards after the catch. Force defenders to play tighter coverage.

The Lions play the same wide-nine defense up front that the Eagles have played. It’s a get-to-the-QB-at-all-costs scheme that is particularly troublesome for the Giants given the state of their offensive line and the immobility of Eli Manning. The Lions ends will play wide of tackles Ereck Flowers and the gimpy Bobby Hart (ankle), angled towards the QB, largely eschewing the run. The Giants are an ideal team to run the wide nine against.

Whether or not Odell Beckham (ankle) plays or not, the Giants are toast unless Eli Manning starts playing with greater toughness and confidence (easy for me to say, but I’m not the one being paid $20 million per season). He has to just say “fuck it” and be the Eli of old. Get Brandon Marshall into the action and I’d keep hitting Engram and Ellison over the middle. I’d be tempted to start Shane Vereen and keep the Lions off balance with runs with Vereen early (you can bring in Perkins later in the game). Last year, the Giants ran the ball more than they passed against the Lions. While the Giants only averaged 3.6 yards per rush, they kept the aggressive Lions defense honest.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
People are going to accuse me of nit-picking, but the Giants defense didn’t do enough to help the team win last week. For now, the defense has to carry this team. That means getting off the field on third down and forcing turnovers. Last week, the Giants didn’t force one turnover, only had one sack, and allowed Dallas to convert on over 50 percent of their chances. The struggling Giants offense was also encumbered by horrible field position. The defense has to create better opportunities for the offense. It is what it is.

The Lions don’t run the ball well, but they can hurt you with their passing game. Matthew Stafford may be inconsistent, but he is certainly capable of putting up big numbers and he has a knack for leading his team from behind in the 4th quarter. And he has a plethora of targets to choose from including wideouts Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay; tight end Eric Ebron; and pass-catching running backs Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah. Look for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to cover Tate out of the slot and Janoris Jenkins to cover Jones. That will play a lot of pressure on Eli Apple (who had a rough game against Dallas) to cover the emerging Golladay (two touchdowns last week). Golladay is big (6’4”) and he can get deep. Landon Collins and the linebackers will be challenged by Ebron and the running backs in pass coverage. This is a bad opponent to be missing Keenan Robinson. And now Goodson is bothered by a shin injury. We may see more three safety packages, especially if the Lions can’t run the ball. The Detroit Lions offensive line has been completely revamped. The defensive line should and must get after Stafford.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
One of the few bright spots from last Sunday was the play of Dwayne Harris. He looks like he still can make an impact both as a returner and cover man. They’ll need a strong game from him and his teammates because Detroit has one of the strongest special teams units in the league. Aldrick Rosas still really hasn’t been tested (he made a 25-yard attempt in the opener).

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Lions: “They are a different team (from last season). (On offense) they are playing very well. They are hot. They had a nice come-from-behind win, which they can do. That has been (quarterback) Matthew Stafford’s M.O. The quarterback’s playing well, playing with a lot of confidence, extending plays. They possess some matchup problems for you, for anybody they play with the backs out of the backfield and the tight end with some size and speed in Ebron, and the receivers that they do have. Whether it’s a guy who is quick underneath or a big man that can run pretty well.

“On defense, it starts up front for them. They are doing a nice job of getting after the quarterback, pushing the pocket, and they mix in those wide nine fronts, which are a challenge. They squeeze the pocket and they squeeze the run at the same time. (Jarrad) Davis is a young linebacker who’s continuing to grow and learn the pro game. They threw him in there right off the bat and he’s developing for them. (Free safety Glover) Quin does a good job directing the secondary. They are very multiple. They have a lot of calls. Special teams is where they probably don’t get as much attention as they deserve. They are very good on special teams. They have a bunch of core players. They roll maybe eight different guys in there that have a lot of value on special teams for them, and they are very good.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This is not a must-win game, but it is darn close. Going 0-2 would be bad. Another game of not reaching 20 points would be bad. Another game where the team can’t reach the 50-yard rushing mark would be bad. Another game where Eli isn’t the old Eli would be bad. The defense and special teams may have to come to the rescue, especially if Beckham is out another week.

Dec 192016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 18, 2016)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 17 – Detroit Lions 6

Overview

This was an impressive win against one of the NFL’s better teams. It was a matter-of-fact, business-like effort that was reminiscent of the Giants teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The offense was unspectacular but efficient. The defense was smothering and opportunistic. Special teams helped the defense by pinning the Lions offense deep in their territory. There weren’t a ton of highlights, but at the end of the day, the Giants tallied yet another victory – their eighth in nine games.

Giants on Offense

Statistically, the offensive performance was not much better than the dreadful performance against the Cowboys as New York only accrued 17 points (up from 10), 17 first downs (up from 12), and 300 total net yards (up from 260), averaging 4.8 yards per offensive play. But the offense was far more efficient, being 7-of-15 (47 percent) on 3rd down conversions and 2-for-2 (100 percent) in red zone opportunities. And the Giants did not turn the ball over. Offensively, the New York was flagged just twice.

The big change in the last two weeks has been the commitment to the run. Last week, the Giants literally ran the ball on half of their offensive snaps. This week, 32 of New York’s 62 offensive snaps were running plays – or slightly MORE than half. Against the Cowboys, the Giants averaged 3.1 yards per rush. This weekend, they averaged 3.6 yards per rush. These are not good figures. But the commitment to the ground game is keeping opposing defenses honest, balancing the time of possession, providing more respite for the defense, and most importantly, reducing mistakes and risk. The offense may not be winning games, but it hasn’t been losing them either.

That all said, let us not lose sight of the fact that the offense is not carrying its fair share of the workload. Seventeen points is not enough. Punting the football away seven times in a game is far too much. The offense needs to do better.

The Giants had four pass plays over 20 yards but none over 29 yards. Their longest run was 11 yards.

Quarterback

This was a bit of a rebound performance for Eli Manning, who had not reached the 200-yard passing mark in the previous three games. While Manning barely surpassed that mark against the Lions (201 gross yards), he was efficient (20-of-28 or 71 percent completion percentage). Manning threw two touchdowns and no interceptions and finished with a 115.3 QB rating. Quarterbacks hate the description, but Eli “managed” the game, very similarly to Phil Simms in the later years of his career. Manning averaged 10 yards per completion.

Running Backs

For better or worse, Ben McAdoo and staff have decided to run the football and grind it out. Detractors will point to the scoreboard – only 27 total points in two games. Advocates will point to fewer killer mistakes and improved time of possession. Giants backs ran the ball 31 times for 105 yards (Odell Beckham had a 9-yard end around), averaging 3.4 yards per carry. That average was dragged down by Rashad Jennings, who only gained 38 yards on 18 carries (2.1 yards per carry). The far more productive player was Paul Perkins, who carried the ball 11 times for 56 yards (5.1 yards per carry). Shane Vereen also chipped in with 11 yards on two carries (5.5 yards per carry). The ground game was an important factor in all three scoring drives.

The backs were only targeted five times in the passing game for a total of two completions for 9 yards. The best passing play was a 25-yard screen pass on 3rd-and-12 where Vereen fumbled at the end of the play, the ball being recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by Victor Cruz. However, an illegal-use-of-hands penalty wiped out the play. Vereen has had ball security issues in his limited playing time this year.

Wide Receivers

Same story as most of the other contests. Odell Beckham remained the primary option with six catches of eight targets for 64 yards and a touchdown. Sterling Shepard was a bit more productive this week with four catches (targeted five times) for 56 yards and a touchdown. Victor Cruz got his one catch – this one on a perfectly-thrown pass from Eli Manning for 29 yards. Cruz hasn’t caught more than one pass in a game since before the bye week. It’s no coincidence that the Giants best passing plays came on their scoring drives:

  • 29-yard pass to Cruz and then 6-yard TD to Shepard.
  • 22-yard pass to Beckham on FG drive.
  • 25-yard pass to Beckham on 3rd-and-10, 23-yard pass to Shepard, and 4-yard TD to Beckham.

Beckham did drop a deep pass right before halftime that might have resulted in additional points. Shepard also dropped a pass.

Tight Ends

The tight ends were move involved this week with seven catches in eight targets. Will Tye caught four passes for 25 yards and Jerell Adams chipped in with three catches for 18 yards. Both averaged only about six yards per catch however. Tye was flagged for holding, but the penalty was erased with an offsetting penalty by the Lions. The blocking was decent.

Offensive Line

Justin Pugh returned to left guard after missing five games with a knee injury. The Giants ran for 114 yards on 32 attempts (3.6 yards per carry). Eli Manning was only officially hit three times, but two of those were sacks. The first sack occurred on a strange play where RT Bobby Hart let the left defensive end go and Pugh attempted to block him from across the formation. The whole thing looked like a mess. The second sack came when RDE Ezekiel Ansah beat LT Ereck Flowers to the inside. Flowers also gave up the other hit on Manning. Bobby Hart’s illegal-use-of-hands penalty did wipe a touchdown on the Giants field goal drive. Overall, this was a reasonably good performance.

Giants on Defense

Despite missing two of their best players (Jason Pierre-Paul and Janoris Jenkins), for the second week in a row, the New York Giants defense did a number on the opponent:

  • 6 points
  • 16 first downs
  • 324 total net yards (but 48 of those came in garbage time)
  • 56 yards rushing (13 of which came on QB scrambles)
  • 5-of-14 on third down (36 percent)
  • 0-of-3 in red zone opportunities with two turnovers

Detroit’s 11 offensive drives resulted in:

  • 2 field goals
  • 2 turnovers
  • 6 punts
  • end of the game

Aside from the two turnovers, there were not a lot of dramatic plays. The Giants were credited with only one sack, four QB hits, four tackles for losses, and five pass defenses. But the run defense was excellent and the secondary only gave up one big passing play. Detroit’s two longest drives (74 yards and 58 yards) resulted in end zone turnovers. Those turnovers were the difference in the game. And the Lions had come into the game with only seven interceptions and three fumbles lost all year. Also keep in mind that the Lions are the NFL’s comeback kings this year, winning eight come-from-behind games in the 4th quarter. Not this time.

Defensive Line

The Giants controlled the line of scrimmage, limiting the Lions to 56 yards rushing on 19 carries (2.9 yards per rush). Ironically, Detroit’s best run of the game was their first play which picked up 12 yards. The Lions only attempted to run the ball seven times (not counting one scramble) in the second half as they recognized the futility of doing so. The pass rush was a bit better than the stats reveal. The Giants were only credited with one sack and four QB hits. However, Matthew Stafford was forced to escape the pocket a number of times. As expected, Oliver Vernon led the way with 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 0.5 sacks, 2 QB hits, and the fumble recovery in the end zone that prevented a touchdown. Damon Harrison (4 tackles) and Johnathan Hankins (5 tackles, 0.5 sacks) were rocks in the middle. Romeo Okwara (2 tackles) was not as noticeable this week. Kerry Wynn was flagged with a late roughing-the-passer penalty.

Linebackers

It was a pretty nondescript game for the linebacking corps as Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard, B.J. Goodson, Kelvin Sheppard, and Keenan Robinson were only credited with 10 total tackles. Casillas had one tackle for a loss and Kennard one quarterback hit. Coverage was decent as tight end Eric Ebron was limited to four catches for 36 yards. And not counting one late 33-yard garbage-time catch, the backs were held to five catches for 28 yards.

Defensive Backs

While not perfect, the Giants did a good job on a potentially-dangerous passing attack despite Janoris Jenkins missing the bulk of the game with a back injury. Three Lions receivers caught a total of 14 passes (in 22 targets) for 176 yards. But 67 of those yards came on one play, when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) was beat deep by WR Golden Tate. However, give DRC credit for chasing down Tate at the 11-yard line and saving a touchdown as the Lions fumbled the ball away on the next snap. DRC finished the game with a team-high three pass defenses and a game-sealing interception in the end zone late in the 4th quarter.

Eli Apple played every snap and also saved a touchdown with his sole breakup in the end zone. DRC and Apple combined for 14 tackles, including two tackles for losses by Apple after short throws. Eli was flagged with a defensive holding penalty on a 3rd-and-9 incomplete pass that kept a field-goal drive alive. He also gave up a 21-yard completion on 3rd-and-7 to WR Marvin Jones despite very tight coverage. CB/S Leon Hall saved a touchdown with his forced fumble that was recovered in the end zone by the Giants. Coty Sensabaugh and Trevin Wade both received more playing time than normal (25 snaps each) with Jenkins out. Landon Collins had a team-high eight tackles. He was flagged with a 6-yard pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-3. Collins made a strong tackle on TE Eric Ebron after a 1-yard catch on 3rd-and-2 to force a punt late in the 3rd quarter.

Giants on Special Teams

The Detroit Lions have one of the strongest special teams units in the NFL and the Giants held serve in this department. The negative was the partially-blocked punt that traveled only 18 yards with Jonathan Casillas missing his man. Thankfully that did not lead to any points for Detroit. Brad Wing has been very busy this year. He punted the ball seven more times on Sunday, averaging 42.6 yards per punt (41 yards net) despite the block. For the second week in a row, two of his punts were downed inside the 5-yard line. That was huge.

Robbie Gould nailed his 47-yard field goal attempt. One of his four kickoffs resulted in a touchback, but another was ruled out-of-bounds at the start of the second half and contributed to Detroit’s second field goal drive because of the outstanding field position it provided.

Dangerous returner Andre Roberts was limited to 32 yards on two kickoff returns and 11 yards on four punt returns. That was huge as well. There was a big hit by Kerry Wynn on one kickoff return.

Dwayne Harris returned one kickoff 23 yards and two punts 19 yards. Odell Beckham returned two punts and had a spectacular 63-yard touchdown return called back due to a blatant and unnecessary illegal block by safety Eric Pinkins.

(Detroit Lions at New York Giants, December 18, 2016)
Dec 182016
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, New York Giants (December 18, 2016)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 17 – DETROIT LIONS 6…
The New York Giants defeated the Detroit Lions 17-6 on a rainy afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the victory, the Giants improved their overall record to 10-4. The Giants have now won eight out of their last nine football games. The Giants have not yet clinched a playoff spot but will do so if they can win one of their last two games.

It was an unspectacular but efficient performance by the offense as the Giants accrued only 17 first downs and 300 total net yards (114 rushing, 186 passing). But New York did not turn the ball over, was 7-of-15 (47 percent) on 3rd down, and was 2-of-2 (100 percent) in the red zone.

Meanwhile, the Giants defense dominated for the second game in a row, holding the Lions to six points, 16 first downs and 324 and total net yards (56 rushing, 268 passing). The defense forced two turnovers and Detroit was 0-of-3 (0 percent) in the red zone.

The Giants had six first-half possessions. New York began the game with an impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 6-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Eli Manning to wide receiver Sterling Shepard. However, the Giants offense went three-and-out on their next two possessions. After a Detroit turnover, the offense mounted an 11-play, 51-yard march that ended with a 47-yard field goal by place kicker Robbie Gould. The Giants last two possessions of the first half did not result in points.

Of Detroit’s five first-half possessions, only two gained more than 17 yards. The Lions drove 40 yards in 11 plays on their second possession to set up a 48-yard field goal. Their most serious threat came on their next drive. Quarterback Matthew Stafford hit wide receiver Golden Tate for a 67-yard passing play. But on the next snap from the Giants 11-yard line, defensive back Leon Hall forced fullback Zach Zenner to fumble after a 7-yard gain. Defensive end Olivier Vernon recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback. The Lions only gained one first down on their final two possessions of the first half.

At the break, the Giants led 10-3.

Detroit cut into that lead on their first possession of the second half by driving 45 yards in 12 plays to set up a 33-yard field goal. But those were the last points of the day for the Lions. Detroit’s final five possessions resulted in three punts, an interception by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the end zone with just over two minutes to play, and 48 garbage-time yards after getting the ball back with 12 seconds left.

The Giants were not much more impressive offensively with four of their five possessions resulting in punts. But sandwiched in the middle of that offensive futility was an 8-play, 71 yard drive that ended with a one-handed touchdown reception by wide receiver Odell Beckham from Manning. That touchdown gave the Giants a 17-6 advantage with 5:47 to play.

The Giants did miss an opportunity to add more points when Beckham had a 4th-quarter 63-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified by an illegal block penalty on safety Eric Pinkins.

Offensively, Eli Manning completed his first 11 passes, a career-high to start a game. He finished the game 20-of-28 for 201 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.  His top targets were Odell Beckham (6 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown), Sterling Shepard, (4 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown), and tight end Will Tye (4 catches for 25 yards). Running back Paul Perkins gained 56 yards on 11 carries and running back Rashad Jennings gaine 38 yards on 18 carries.

Defensively, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was credited with 7 tackles, 1 interception, and 3 pass defenses. Cornerback Eli Apple had 7 tackles, 2 tackles for losses, and 1 pass defense that saved a touchdown. Olivier Vernon had 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, half a sack, 2 quarterback hits, and a fumble recovery.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle), safety Nat Berhe (concussion), quarterback Ryan Nassib (elbow), defensive tackle Robert Thomas, linebacker Deontae Skinner, wide receiver Tavarres King, and offensive tackle Will Beatty.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins left the game in the second quarter with a back injury and did not return. “He took a knee to the back and he’s still being evaluated,” said Head Coach Ben McAdoo.

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

POST-GAME NOTES…
At 10-4, this is the Giants’ first season with double-digit victories since 2010, when they finished 10-6. The Giants did not make the playoffs that season.

The Giants won their sixth consecutive home game, their longest such streak since they won their first six at home in 2008.

The Giants finished 7-1 at home, their best record in the 7-year history of MetLife Stadium (previous best: 6-2 in 2012) and their best home record since they were 7-1 in Giants Stadium in 2008.

The Giants are 5-1 this season when they rush for more than 100 yards.

First-year head coach Ben McAdoo is the fourth Giants coach to win at least 10 games in his debut season, joining Allie Sherman, Dan Reeves, and Jim Fassel.

QB Eli Manning is now the seventh quarterback in NFL history with at least 4,000 completions. He is also now eighth on the NFL’s all-time pass attempt list with 6,735.

ARTICLES…

Dec 162016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 6, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Detroit Lions at New York Giants, December 18, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
At 9-4, the New York Giants are close to finally returning to the playoffs. But they are not there yet and they can still screw this up. This is a dangerous game for the Giants. Sunday’s contest against the Detroit Lions is sandwiched between two division games, with the following game against the arch-rival Philadelphia Eagles coming four days later on Thursday night. After the Giants biggest win of the season thus far, will New York suffer an emotional letdown against the first-place, 9-4 Detroit Lions?

Amazingly, eight of Detroit’s nine wins have been 4th-quarter comebacks. If the game is close, the Lions believe they will pull out the win.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Shane Vereen (concussion) – questionable
  • OG Justin Pugh (knee) – probable
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) – out
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee) – probable
  • DT Johnathan Hankins (shoulder) – probable
  • LB Keenan Robinson (shoulder) – questionable
  • LB Mark Herzlich (concussion) – probable
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – questionable
  • LS Zak DeOssie (hamstring) – probable

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
It’s bad and getting worse. The Giants are now down to 27th in offense in terms of yards and 25th in terms of scoring. Eli Manning hasn’t topped the 200-yard passing mark in the last three games. The last time he threw for more than 260 yards was on October 16th against the Ravens. Victor Cruz has caught FOUR passes since the bye week. The starting tight end – Will Tye – hasn’t caught more than two passes in a game the last four contests. The Giants are 30th in the NFL in rushing (both yards per game and rushing average).

Enter the Detroit Lions, who are middle-of-the-pack in yardage allowed (15th) but 10th overall in scoring defense (20.6). “Last seven ballgames, they’ve given up about 16 points and have caused 10 turnovers,” said Ben McAdoo. “It starts upfront. They’ll try and squeeze you. They play the wide-nine as they try and play with width and work hard up the field. Try and get to the quarterback first and play everything else along the way. Their secondary and the linebackers are doing a nice job playing to the front. They’re well-coordinated.”

In Detroit’s 4-3 defense, the players to watch up front are DE Ezekiel Ansah, ex-Raven DT Haloti Ngata, and DE Kerry Hyder. Ansah is the primary pass-rushing threat even though he has no sacks thus far this year (14.5 in 2015). Hyder is a player who has come out of nowhere to lead the Lions in sacks with eight. So both Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart will be under the spotlight once again. Ngata is on the downside of his career but he can still present problems. What will be interesting to see is how effective left guard Justin Pugh will be coming off of a knee injury that caused him to miss the last five games. Middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead leads the team in tackles (107) and Darius Slay is developing into one of the NFL’s better cornerbacks. Linebacker DeAndre Levy has missed most of the season due to injury but is getting healthy again. He’s strong in coverage. [LATE NOTE: Ansah (shoulder), Slay (hamstring), and Levy (knee) are “questionable” for the game.]

Weather may be an issue again on Sunday with rain in the forecast. Through 13 games, the Giants are averaging 3.4 yards per rush. The Lions have allowed 4.3 yards per rush. With Eli struggling and the defense peaking, I would not be shocked to see McAdoo make a big commitment to the run on Sunday. But in the end, the Giants will be what they have been – the Manning-to-Odell Beckham show. If that duo can click, the Giants will move the ball and score. If they struggle to connect, the offense will be dead in the water. It would be nice to say the Giants can diversify their passing game, but they have proven incapable of doing so. At some point, the coaches have to decide whether Victor Cruz – who is struggling to separate – is helping or hurting the offense. I’d be tempted to get a more vertical threat such as Roger Lewis more playing time.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants defense is coming off its best game and the team is now 7th in scoring defense (18.8 points per game). But with the Giants offense struggling and a diverse passing offense coming to town, the Giants defense can’t afford to let the positive press go to their heads. Jason Pierre-Paul is still out.

Statistically, the Lions are just 21st in the NFL in yards per game and 17th in scoring (22.7 points per game). But quarterback Matthew Stafford is having a tremendous season with a 22-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio and completing 66.7 percent of his passes. Stafford has five targets with over 42 receptions, including WR Golden Tate (71 catches, 3 touchdowns), ageless slot WR Anquan Boldin (55 catches, 7 touchdowns), RB Theo Riddick (53 catches, 5 receiving touchdowns), WR Marvin Jones (46 catches, 4 touchdowns), and TE Eric Ebron (43 catches, 1 touchdown). There is no one target to concentrate on.

The Lions do not run the ball well. They are 29th in rushing (25th in yards-per-rush with 3.8 yards per carry). Detroit only has four rushing touchdowns and Riddick leads the team with just 357 rushing yards. Obviously, the Giants don’t want to allow the Lions to get their ground game going on Sunday (especially if the weather is bad), but the defensive focus will be more on the 13th-ranked passing game.

The Giants have to feel good about their cornerback match-ups on Tate, Boldin, and Jones. An interesting battle will be Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs. Boldin – these two played together with the Cardinals. Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple will likely cover Tate and Jones most of the time. The issue will probably be covering Riddick and Ebron as receivers. (LATE UPDATE- Riddick is “doubtful” with a wrist injury and Ebron is “questionable” with a knee injury). Ebron is having a decent year and the Giants have a way of making opposing tight ends look like superstars. So pass coverage by Landon Collins, Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson (who has a shoulder issue), and Devon Kennard will be key. My guess is we don’t see a lot of Kelvin Sheppard this week.

One variable to keep an eye on is that Stafford has a significant injury to the middle finger of his throwing hand. He played with it last Sunday and fully practiced this week, but it could be a factor, especially if the ball is wet. The Lions have only turned the football over 10 times this year (7 interceptions and 3 fumbles). Also, DE Olivier Vernon will be facing rookie left tackle Taylor Decker.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Detroit Lions are very good on special teams across the board. They are top-10 in both punt and kickoff coverage. The punter and kicker are having fine seasons. Andre Roberts has returned two punts for touchdowns this year and is averaging over 14 yards per punt return. He also returns kickoffs.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Detroit’s offensive weapons: “They’re all players that would probably be featured in other places. With the collection of guys they have, they have a pretty unique group and a guy that’s pretty special delivering the ball. Marvin Jones, we looked at him as a free agent. He’s a very talented player. He doesn’t just go long; he can really stick his foot in the ground and separate. (Anquan) Boldin is tough playing inside. He’s a completion waiting to happen. (Golden) Tate can do a lot of different things for you, short, deep, in the backfield, whatever the case may be. (Theo) Riddick is a guy that is a matchup challenge coming out of the backfield getting screens and burst routes. He can run away a little bit. (Eric) Ebron is a young, developing player. He’s a big target and can run down the middle of the field. Put the fear in two-deep coverage.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Historically-speaking, this is the type of game the Giants would lose… coming off of an emotional divisional win, now facing a non-division opponent with another division game on the horizon. It will be interesting to see if a Ben McAdoo-coached team suffers a letdown in this spot. The Lions are a well-coached team with a solid defense, diverse passing game, and very good special teams. This game will be close. And the new Cardiac Kids in Detroit believe they will win the close game. The difference maker in this contest could be returner Andre Roberts.

Sep 112014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Detroit Lions 35 – New York Giants 14

REVISITING: FOUR DOWNS
During our game preview, we listed ‘Four Downs,’ which took a look at the top four questions surrounding the Giants heading into the game. Now that the game has been played and the film reviewed, it’s time to break it down.

First Down
Can John Jerry, J.D. Walton and Weston Richburg contain Ndamukong Suh?
To answer bluntly, no. Ndamukong Suh made a mockery of both Walton, who was three yards deep in the backfield nearly every play and New York’s running game suffered as a result. Suh seldom went head-to-head with Richburg.

Second Down
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs Calvin Johnson
This match-up did not go as well as hoped for the Giants. While the 67-yard touchdown to start the game was more on Damontre Moore and Stevie Brown, DRC gave up several key completions to Johnson. More was hoped for and expected.

Third Down
Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush gave the Giants problems early on in the game as a receiver, particularly on the first two drives. Bush beat LB Jacquian Williams twice for 18 yards on the first touchdown drive, and then beat Stevie Brown for 24 yards on the second touchdown drive. He was held to just seven yards on three more catches after that. Bush was a non-factor in the running game, carrying the ball nine times for 15 yards (1.7 yards per carry).

Fourth Down
Walter Thurmond III vs Golden Tate
Walter Thurmond played well. Golden Tate did have six catches for 93 yards but that damage did not occur against Thurmond. Tate’s biggest play was his 44-yard reception where there was another busted coverage in the Giants zone defense with Stevie Brown likely being the guilty party.

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW – by Connor Hughes
The New York Giants were without a few of their offensive pieces Monday night in Detroit. Not suiting up for New York were: WR Odell Beckham Jr., OT Charles Brown, OT James Brewer, and OG Adam Snyder. 

From the outside perspective, things weren’t pretty Monday night in Detroit. With just a few minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Giants had mustered 91 yards on 40 plays. When the game concluded, the offense managed two touchdowns, quarterback Eli Manning was turning the ball over and the offensive line wasn’t blocking. The receivers were dropping passes and creating little separation. The running game was ineffective.

It appeared as if everything went wrong for the Giants and that Manning had continued to regress. It seemed there was little-to-no hope for the team.

And you know what? That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Following an intensive film breakdown, the Giants offense performed much better than expected. No, it wasn’t great, and certainly wasn’t good, but it wasn’t as hopeless as originally anticipated. In fact, the best way to describe it, there is hope for the Giants offense. The players just need to make the plays. The passes were there to be caught. There were ways to extend drives. The Giants were inches away from making them. There was progress.

The nuts and bolts don’t tell the complete story: 197 total yards (144 passing, 53 rushing). Two sacks for 19 yards. 3-for-13 on third downs. Two-for-three on fourth downs. 16 total first downs accumulated (four rushing, eight passing).

QUARTERBACK – by Connor Hughes
There was a very strong and glaring realization when analyzing the game film from Monday night: Eli Manning didn’t play poorly. In fact, he was one of the offense’s bright spots. Sure, some of his passes could have been a little more accurate, but that criticism can be given to three-to-four Manning throws a game every since he entered the league a decade ago.

Knocking out the one glaring mistake early, Manning never should have thrown the ball to Victor Cruz during his second interception. The play was a dud from the beginning when Nick Fairley blew past J.D. Walton.

I get Manning’s thought process: Victor Cruz was open and behind the defense with little safety help. In fact, had the play been on the opposite side of the field, where Manning could have rolled out to his right and thrown with his body as opposed to against, it very well may have been a touchdown.

The interception was a bit of the gun-slinger in Manning coming out. He believes he can make any throw, this was one he couldn’t. With the Giants down and needing a play, Manning tried to put some life into the team. Unfortunately, it should have been a situation where the offense lived to fight another down.

The first interception Manning threw, Manning also took blame for. Although, looking at the tape, I don’t see it as his fault. Now, there is no way to know the exact play call or what Larry Donnell was thinking, but this much is true. Manning and Donnell made direct eye contact before the play and Donnell noted he saw it. Donnell could have gotten a seam route call, Manning could have seen the blitz and expected Donnell to change on the fly. That’s probable, too. Either way, it’s a miscommunication.

The facts remained, when Manning had time, he made nice throws down the field. Whether his receivers caught them was another issue. On the first third down of the game, Manning went to Jernigan, who was open and should have caught the ball for a first down. Had he not gone to Jernigan, both Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz had run double-curls on the opposite side of the field, but were a yard or two short of the first. Jernigan was there for the first.

There was a play down the seam later in the game where Manning went to Victor Cruz. The result? Another drop. There were plays to be made, the playmakers on the Giants just didn’t make them. Can’t blame Manning for that.

There were a few “bad” throws from Manning on the night, but on many, Manning didn’t have a clean pocket. As was the case on his first “bad” throw to Donnell. Donnell was open on an out route, Manning released the ball, but was unable to step into the throw due to pressure. Had Manning had a little more time, it’s a six-yard completion.

There were many glaring take-aways from Monday’s game. The regression of Manning was not one of them. Should he have thrown that ball down the sideline across his body to Cruz? No. Was he the team’s biggest issue? No.

RUNNING BACKS – by Connor Hughes
There really isn’t anything ‘special’ about Rashad Jennings. He doesn’t have elite speed. He isn’t the toughest player in the world to bring down. He doesn’t do anything ‘great.’

What Jennings does do, is everything very, very well. There were little running lanes for Jennings to work with, much of that had to do with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Where Jennings made his presence felt was his ability to react to the early pressure up the middle from Suh and Co., and find the cutback lane.

On Jennings’ longest run of the night, the Lions immediately pushed the Giants offensive line into the backfield. Jennings began running to the left, then cutback and around Suh to turn what appeared to be a non-gain into a pretty nice pickup.

Jennings also truly stands out – and did again Monday – with his pass blocking. I didn’t catch a play where Jennings made the “wrong” decision on whom to pick up. He made the correct blocks and chips.

It’s been awhile since the Giants had an every-down back, but Jennings appears to be it. He’s a good runner, blocker and receiver, and the Giants used him in all areas Monday. Not many running backs in the NFL can take claim to that.

The lone other Giant to get a carry Monday was Andre Williams, who continues to be the same player the Giants thought he was in the preseason. Williams is a very good runner, but isn’t there just yet as a blocker or receiver. He’s a good change of pace back, and once he gets more comfortable in his other two roles, he should see an increase in playing time. The issue the Giants have right now is that when Williams checks into the game, opponent’s know he’s a one-trick pony at this point in his career.

WIDE RECEIVERS – by Connor Hughes
Throughout the Giants game with the Lions, the Giants played with primarily three wide receivers, with Corey Washington getting a couple snaps near the goal line. Actually… I take that back… a fifth ‘wide receiver’ actually got a snap:

One of the receivers who caught some of the most flack was Rueben Randle. The former second-round pick was targeted just three times and caught two passes for one yard. He did have a completion that was nullified by a defensive penalty.

There are a lot of questions on whether Randle was struggling to get ‘open.’ Watching the film, that wasn’t readily apparent. Instead, it looked as if the Giants just simply weren’t looking to get him the ball.

It could have been because Manning was looking to get rid of the ball quickly, and not going to his second, third, fourth reads. Either way, Manning was not looking in Randle’s direction. Period. It wasn’t as if Manning was looking to Randle, he wasn’t open, then he was taking a sack, or throwing to someone else. Manning just wasn’t going there. It was almost as if Randle wasn’t in this week’s game plan.

Jerrel Jernigan, on the other hand, was targeted and continues to leave much to be desired. It started with a case of the “alligator” arms on the first series of the game. Manning made the right read, Jernigan was open and he just short-armed it. The safety was coming up to apply a hit, and it looked like Jernigan knew that. The entire approach to the ball was awkward. The route was a bit lazy, too.

Manning didn’t take many deep shots in the game, but he did go down the field to Jernigan on one play and Jernigan had a step. Manning didn’t have a clean pocket and as a result couldn’t put it out directly in front, but Jernigan adjusted to the ball and turned around. From the film, it looked like the ball hit Jernigan’s hands and bounced out. Again, these are plays that are there to be made, and the Giants playmakers aren’t making them.

Victor Cruz made a public cry to have the ball thrown to him more. In the first half of Monday’s game, he probably should have. In the second half, he needs to catch some passes. You can’t complain about needing the ball more, but then when the ball is thrown to you…

The reason the Giants drafted Odell Beckham Jr. was to take some of the pressure off Cruz. Cruz benefits more when he has someone else on offense who demands that coverage shadow. If Cruz’s numbers drop a bit because he is the No. 1 option, that’s understandable. But drops? These are the types of plays that aren’t on Manning. If these passes are caught, Monday is a different game.

For whatever reason, early on, Cruz was simply not targeted by Manning. The Giants offense is predicated on getting the ball out of Manning’s hands fast, which may have been why Manning didn’t go through his reads as much. The ball was out of his hands before he could survey the field. Still, it was a bit puzzling why those quick reads were to Jernigan and Donnell, not Cruz and Randle.

Corey Washington’s main rep came in the red zone with Eli Manning throwing the high fade to the 6-4 target. It was the right decision, Washington has the height advantage. The biggest question mark was if the Giants planned on using Washington in the red zone…why not try to get Manning and Washington some reps together in the preseason?

TIGHT ENDS – by Connor Hughes
Larry Donnell saw almost all of the Giants reps at tight end, with the score potentially being a reason for that. Donnell isn’t the Giants strongest blocker, but he is their best receiver, and he showed that Monday.

Donnell ran some nice routes, and his two fade routes near the goal line showed the potential he has. On his first fade, Donnell came a big toe away from getting his first touchdown. On his second, it was a touchdown.

The thing that impressed me most with Donnell on the two fades were the positioning he got.

Where Donnell struggled is the same place Donnell has always struggled: Blocking. There was one play that particularly stood out. On the Jerrel Jernigan end-around that lost two yards, Will Beatty had whiffed a bit on the block and allowed LB DeAndre Levy to run free to Jernigan. While Beatty’s block on the play was dismal, Donnell ran right past Levy, allowing him to make the play. Had Donnell even just chipped him, it’s a potentially big play.

OFFENSIVE LINE – by Connor Hughes
Collectively as a unit, it wasn’t pretty. That’s how it should be, though. If one offensive lineman has a bad day and allows pressure on the quarterback, things aren’t going to go well.

That was situation on Monday night. Were all five of the Giants offensive linemen bad? No. Were most of them bad at different points in time? Yes. Were some worse than others? Yes.

With this unit being such a deep area of concern, I tried to spend as much time as I could looking at each unit individually to grade them out and see how they performed.

Before getting to the offensive linemen, a compliment to Suh. Prior to the game, I talked extensively to Weston Richburg about what makes Suh so special. The No. 1 thing he talked about was the defensive tackle’s ability to jump the count. Emphasizing that, one play stood out to me more than anything else. With this, there simply isn’t anything you can do as a lineman. Look below where Suh is, compared to the rest of his defensive linemen.

Will Beatty
No, it really wasn’t as bad as originally anticipated. Did Beatty miss a few blocks? Yes. Was the failed cut attempt as ugly as a block attempt can be? Yes. Did Beatty stand up well against Ansah for a large portion of the night? Yes.

Overall, Beatty didn’t perform that poorly and was far from the weakest link on the offensive line. You can see when Manning had a clean pocket, Beatty had a lot to do with it:

With that being said, he whiffed on a block that had the potential to be a touchdown. On the end-around, Beatty missed the initial block on Levy who came flying in to make tackle on Jernigan for a two-yard loss. Had he made that tackle, and Donnell continued down the field, there was a lot of room to run.

My biggest question mark with Beatty came strictly on the cut block. Not the technique, or the fact the cut failed, but why? Normally, offensive linemen will go with a cut block on third- or second-and-short situations. The objective is to get the lineman quickly on the ground and their hands down so that the quarterback can throw a quick pass over their head. It’s designed to prevent bat downs.

When Beatty went with his cut-block attempt, it was third-and-nine. Watching the film, Manning didn’t look like he was trying to hit any quick pass. It was a longer developing play. I don’t understand why exactly Beatty went with a cut block. To me, it didn’t make sense in that situation.

Weston Richburg
Playing the first game of his professional career, it was impressive the way Richburg handled himself in Detroit. In fact, Richburg may have been the Giants best offensive linemen. The rookie routinely made his way to the second level, sealed on a few runs and performed well in pass protection.

J.D. Walton
Walton, and right guard John Jerry, drew the short straw and faced Suh throughout the course of the night. Neither fared well at all, but Walton performed poorly no matter who he went up against. The center was knocked back into the backfield multiple times on running plays, was blown past by Fairley on Manning’s second interception and was over-matched by most he faced. It wasn’t pretty for the Giants center.

Walton didn’t have the best preseason for the Giants, either, and the question now comes up on if he could be close to losing his starting position when Geoff Schwartz returns. If either Brandon Mosley, Adam Snyder or John Jerry prove they can perform at right guard, it would allow Weston Richburg to slide in at center.

John Jerry
It’s tough to grade out or break down John Jerry’s film because he went up against Suh the majority of the night. The biggest take away from the film was that Suh simply beat Jerry off the ball too many times and caught him off guard. Did Jerry look bad Monday night? Yes. But he was going up against arguably the best defensive tackle in the NFL. Unlike Jerry, Walton was brought in to start. Jerry was meant to “compete” for a starting position, but the Giants wanted Snee, Richburg or Mosley at that right guard position. He showed some promise on running plays, but he was overpowered by Suh on far to many occasions.

Justin Pugh
Quietly, Justin Pugh had a nice game Monday night. He seldom allowed any pressure around his right side and didn’t jump out on the film for any negative reason. Of each of the offensive linemen I looked at, I struggled finding anything negative to write about in regards to Pugh. Did he overpower anyone? Not really, but he didn’t perform poorly, either. At this point, the Giants will take that day in, and day out.

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW – by Eric Kennedy
For at least the first half of the 2014 season, we knew a defense that had received an infusion of talent in the offseason would have to carry the team while the offense sputtered. That did not happen on Monday night. The back seven, particularly the secondary, was supposed to be the strength of the defense but the Giants gave up 341 net passing yards to the Lions.  QB Matt Stafford completed 22-of-32 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns for a QB rating of 125.3. That tremendous offensive productivity was from a team with a completely new coaching staff and offensive scheme.

Some very disturbing notes:

  • While the Giants stopped the run until the fourth quarter, they simply could not get off of the field on third down, including third-and-long. Detroit was 10-of-15 (67 percent) on third down.  Detroit was able to overcome terrible down-and-distance situations throughout the night. On the first TD drive, the touchdown came on 3rd-an-9 after Detroit had faced a 2nd-and-15. On the second TD drive, they overcame 2nd-and-18 and a 3rd-and-13. On the first FG drive, they overcame a 3rd-and-11.
  • The Giants allowed six pass plays of 20 or more yards, including passes of 67 and 44 yards.
  • The Giants got burned at least three times when Perry Fewell decided to drop 1 or 2 defensive linemen into coverage instead of having them rush the passer. These plays failed miserably. Though the numbers don’t indicate it, the Giants did apply some decent pressure on Stafford at times throughout the game. The Giants got burned on the 3rd-and-13 play that ended with a 16-yard touchdown (3 man rush, CB blitz), the 44-yard gain on 3rd-and-11 (3 man rush with Cullen Jenkins dropping), and the 22-yard gain on 3rd-and-7 on the last TD drive (2-man rush with Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers dropping. Great, now we’re dropping two defensive linemen.
  • There was also a dumbfounding (to me) call where on 3rd-and-25 from the Giants’ 38-yard line, Fewell basically called a prevent defense in a situation where the Giants had to prevent the Lions from getting into field goal range. There was hardly a Giant DB in the picture. Stafford completed a dart over the middle in traffic but he could have just as easily dumped the ball off short. There were two completely uncovered receivers with no defender within 15 yards.  Luckily, the Lions missed the field goal, but they should not have. Bad defensive call.
  • A constant theme during Perry Fewell’s tenure with the Giants has been confusion in the secondary that leads to big plays. That happened again on Monday night. Too often in zone coverage the other team’s wide receivers seem to be wide open in critical situations.  The troubling thing is that the mistakes are also being made by players who have been with Fewell for more than one offseason.
  • Damontre Moore did screw up by not keeping under control and preventing Stafford from launching his 67-yard touchdown pass. But he was basically benched after that play and the Giants could have used him. Other Giant defenders screwed up and weren’t benched. I don’t understand that move.
  • The Giants defense utterly gave up in the fourth quarter. It was embarrassing. You can say they wore down or whatever. The Lions ran 63 offensive plays…that’s not a terribly high number. A defense that wants to think of itself as a “top 5” defense doesn’t lie down like that.

Overall, a defense that was supposed to carry this team failed miserably. They surrendered two touchdowns on Detroit’s two first possessions, immediately putting the Giants in a 14-0 hole. They gave up another decent drive in the first half that thankfully ended in a missed field goal. In the second half, while the defense did a good job of limiting the Lions to a field goal after Eli Manning’s first interception, Detroit scored an additional 17 points on their next three possessions, including drives of 66 and 80 yards. There was one sack (player unblocked) and no turnovers forced.

DEFENSIVE LINE – by Eric Kennedy
The defensive line played pretty well. They were outstanding against the run – until the fourth quarter.  Johnathan Hankins (5 tackles) was a rock inside against the run and even flashed on occasion on the pass rush. Cullen Jenkins (2 tackles) was not as noticeable but he looked good a times against both the run and the pass. Jason Pierre-Paul (4 tackles), suffered a neck stinger, but he was very good against the run and the most consistent pass rusher the Giants had on the field. He came close a few times, and he also hustled on plays down the field. It was a mixed bag for Mathias Kiwanuka (1 tackle), who started off the game strongly but faded as the game wore on; hence, my objection to keeping Damontre Moore on the bench because of his early miscue. Kiwanuka’s pass rush became weaker as the night progressed and the Lions ran quite successfully at him and Mike Patterson (1 tackle) in the second half. Robert Ayers (1 tackle, 1 sack) played both end and tackle and flashed on occasion at both spots. My overall takeaway on the defensive line was this: good against the run, decent but not game-changing rushing the passer, and kind of gave up late in the game.

LINEBACKERS – by Eric Kennedy
Improved play was expected from this group, but the early returns were more of the same. Jon Beason, as could be expected after missing all of camp and the preseason, looked rusty. While he did a good job of reading plays and helping his teammates do a stellar job against the run (again until the 4th quarter), he was only in on four tackles and actually missed a tackle. Jameel McClain was also only in on four tackles. He flashed on a couple of plays, but it wasn’t enough. And he looked terrible down on the goal line on the Lions’ last score. Jacquian Williams (7 tackles) was dreadful. While the strength of his game is pass coverage, he did not do a good job against RB Reggie Bush early in the game, including badly missing a tackle. Bush had Williams leaning the wrong way on another reception. Williams was flagged with defensive holding too. In the third quarter, Williams’ missed tackle on the tight end turned a short gain into a 26-yard pass play. But what bothered me the most was his lack of physicality against the run, particularly in the second half of the game. He just seems like a player who doesn’t like contact…and that’s kind of a bad thing for a football player. The final kicker was his indecision on Stafford’s 3rd-and-5 touchdown run. Make the play!

DEFENSIVE BACKS – by Eric Kennedy
Much more was expected from this group. I do think part of it is scheme. There is a lot talent at cornerback with this group, and Perry Fewell has to learn to trust them by playing more man coverage and less zone. That said, there were instances in the game where the players did not engender such faith. The play that sticks out to me is the 24-yard reception by WR Calvin Johnson on 3rd-and-4 in the second quarter. Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie (4 tackles, 2 pass defenses) is locked up one-on-one with Johnson in press man coverage, but DRC allows Johnson an easy release to the inside for the big play on the slant. Given the caliber of competition (Johnson), Rodgers Cromartie didn’t have a “bad” game, but much more was expected from him. He had his share of nice plays but he also gave up a few (and was lucky Prince Amukamara saved his ass on a deep post route). Speaking of Amukamara (8 tackles, 2 pass defenses), he played well both against the run and in pass coverage. He made a nice play on the TE in the end zone to save a touchdown. Walter Thurmond wasn’t noticed. That’s good in that he usually kept his man quiet, but a game-changing play by him – or one of his teammates in the secondary – would have been nice. That was the hope coming into this season by this defensive back group.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (September 8, 2014)

Calvin Johnson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The bigger problem was at safety. It’s clear that Stevie Brown (9 tackles) is a major step down from Will Hill. Brown was actually very good against the run, far more active than the linebackers. That is an area where he really has improved since 2012. But Brown was too often a liability in coverage. He really screwed up on the 67-yard touchdown pass. As the last line of defense as a free safety, and facing the NFL’s best wide receiver, Brown simply must be in better position to keep that play from turning from a decent-sized 3rd-down completion into a long touchdown. He was out of position and worse, failed to make the tackle. Brown was burned badly by Reggie Bush (and looked slow in the process) on a 24-yard gain on the next possession. A safety has to be able to cover a back better than that. Later on this drive, Brown should have been beaten for an easy score by the tight end, but the ball was underthrown. I wonder if Stevie Brown should be playing strong safety and Antrel Rolle should be playing free safety. Rolle (4 tackles) was pretty quiet except for forcing one fumble that was recovered by the Lions. More is expected from him. As a unit, the secondary only had four pass defenses on the night and no interceptions.

SPECIAL TEAMS – by Eric Kennedy
The Giants need their special teams to excel this year too while the offense struggles. And Tom Quinn’s unit once again came up short. The Giants had one punt blocked and had two others almost blocked. In the process, Steve Weatherford was hammered and suffered ligament damage to his left ankle. Weatherford punted five times for an average of 40.2 yards per punt. The Lions were held to 11 yards on three punt returns.

Josh Brown attempted no field goals and all three of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

Quintin Demps returned one kickoff for 14 yards to the 16-yard line. Not good. Preston Parker made a big mistake by fielding a punt inside the 5-yard line. He did have one return that picked up 18 yards.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Detroit Lions, September 8, 2014)