Oct 062020
 
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Leonard Williams and James Bradberry, New York Giants (October 4, 2020)

Leonard Williams and James Bradberry – © USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams 17 – New York Giants 9

QUICK RECAP

After being embarrassed by the Niners JV team at home in Week 3, the 0-3 Giants were back on the road, flying across country to play in the brand new, stunning stadium that hosts both the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers. Their opponent was the former coming in after a 2-1 start where they averaged 30 points per game. The Giants, on the other hand, came in with the last-ranked offense in the league and having not won an out-of-division road game since mid-November of 2018.

This one began right where the abysmal performance last week ended. NYG began with the ball and ran three plays: a drop, a sack, and passing play that lost 7 yards. The Rams then nickel-and-dimed their way up the field via a 12-play drive with little-to-no resistance from the Giants defense. Tight end Gerald Everett scored on a 2-yard touchdown run and the Rams had the quick lead that they never let go of.

The NYG offensive line got absolutely pummeled on the next drive, with Andrew Thomas and Kevin Zeitler being the main culprits. They punted following a 3rd-and-27 play that netted 8 yards. On the very first play of the Rams ensuing drive, Everett caught a short pass over the middle and had the ball jarred loose by the pursuing defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, which was recovered by cornerback James Bradberry. NYG began the drive on the LAR 34-yard line. They did get into the red zone but a 2-yard loss on a passing play followed by a Zeitler false start put them in 3rd-and-long on their final play of the drive for the third time in as many drives. Fortunately, because of the starting field position, NYG was still able to put 3 points on the board via a 35-yard field goal by Graham Gano.

The Rams went three-and-out on their next drive, but then so did NYG. The Giants line continued to look overmatched, allowing two straight sacks. The Rams then went on another long drive, this one 15 plays, to put up another 3 points on the board. Their running game started to take over a bit but a theme we saw from the NYG defense for the rest of the afternoon arose on this drive. The Rams got to 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line but the following three plays netted -10 yards. They settled for a 32-yard field goal to make it 10-3. The Giants then ended the half with a quality, clock-efficient drive that saw them convert 3-out-of-3 third-down conversions. Gano put a 37 yarder through the uprights and they were down just 4 points at halftime despite gaining just 67 net yards in the first half.

As ugly as it has been this season and as much as I have a personal belief into not putting a lot of credit on moral victories, we saw something positive happen early in the second half. As NYG stopped the Rams and on their first offensive drive, a fight broke out between center Nick Gates and LAR star defensive tackle (and arguably the top defensive player in the NFL) Aaron Donald. It wasn’t a push and a shove. It wasn’t just trash talk. These two were going at it pretty aggressively. Gates, a third-year undrafted free agent who wouldn’t start on nearly any team in the league against Donald, a perennial All Pro and Defensive Player of the Year candidate. It struck some extra life into the Giants on both sides of the ball. No, there wasn’t a dramatic touchdown at the end of this drive (NYG made it to the LAR 43 and punted) but there was a different feel to both sides of the ball after that scuffle.

Two drives later, NYG made their way into the red zone but a string of positive plays was cancelled out by an illegal formation and false start penalty, respectively. They had to settle for another field goal, this one from 27, to make it a one-point game. NYG had all of the momentum and this one appeared it would come down to the field position game and which offense could come up with the big play. NYG then forced another 3-and-out but came up short on their own next offensive drive even though Wayne Gallman’s longest run of his career (26 yards) got them to midfield.

The Rams began their next drive with just under 10 minutes left, and on 3rd-and-3 from their own 45-yard line, the solid Giants defense had a break in coverage. Cooper Kupp made his way up the seam with nobody covering the deep middle. Goff found him and Kupp made his way into the end zone thanks to the miscommunication and a badly missed tackle by Bradberry. This was the big play I talked about someone needing. It was 17-9 with about 7 minutes left.

The Giants had two possessions left. They made it into LAR territory both times, but two inaccurate Jones’ throws ended both drives. The first one was on a 4th-and-11 where he air-mailed one to Golden Tate. The second one was a forced 2nd-and-5 pass with one minute left that ended up in the arms of LAR corner Darious Williams. Jones had an easy first down run in front of him but he made the wrong decision and it cost them a shot at tying it up.

NYG loses, 17-9.

QUARTERBACK

Daniel Jones: 23-36 / 190 yards / 0 TD-1 INT / 65.7 RAT

Jones was once again the team leader in rushing with 45 yards (Gallman also added 45 yards). It was a brave effort for Jones, notably in the second half. He made some big plays with his legs and had NYG won this game, it would be discussed more. After a full career of watching an immobile quarterback in Eli Manning, this is a new way to gain yards for this team. Is it better? Or will it end up being better? Jones is still very late to see things and he wasn’t doing the offensive line any favors in the first half with how long he was holding onto the ball. 177 of Jones’ total yards came in the second half but we still aren’t seeing him make much happen with his arm in relation to downfield and/or big-time throws. He scrambled his way to his biggest plays which in a simple world means just as much as making plays through the air. But how sustainable is that? Quarterbacks need to be throwers first and second, and a runner third (unless your name is Lamar Jackson). Right now, Jones is overly reliant on scrambling and this team needs to hope that doesn’t become the crutch he constantly relies upon.

RUNNING BACK

-Devonta Freeman and Wayne Gallman appear to be the ideal 1-2 punch this team needs to move forward with. They combined for 78 yards on 17 carries. There isn’t anything spectacular about that but Gallman had the biggest run of the day (also the second longest gain for NYG) and Freeman earned some tough yards. Freeman ran with more confidence in this game and as I said last week, I expect him to hit full stride after another game. He started to show some extra bounce and pop in the second half. I am excited to see how far he can take it.

-Dion Lewis was on the field for more snaps than Gallman but I think that has more to do with this coaching staff trusting him more in pass protection. He did have a nice 10-yard gain for a first down to convert a 3rd-and-10. In terms of upside and this team actually scoring touchdowns, however, Gallman gives them more hope.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Golden Tate caught four passes for only 20 yards. Jones missed him badly on two occasions. Darius Slayton led the team with 48 yards but caught just 3 balls. 33 of those yards came on one play, the vast majority of which were after the catch. He was a non-factor most of the afternoon and was clearly overmatched by the LAR outside corners, Troy Hill and Jalen Ramsey. Damion Ratley added 34 yards on 3 catches and C.J. Board dropped his lone target.

-This offense is starving for more talent at wide receiver. Tate is an underneath threat only who will occasionally make a play with his feet after the catch, and Slayton has been badly exposed over the past 3 weeks.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram opened the game with a drop. He ended up with 35 yards on 6 catches, leading the team with 10 targets. It seems to me that every week we see Engram’s elite physical tool flash just to be disappointed by the fact that he simply he isn’t a very good football player. Perhaps he can thrive in the right scheme and situation, but it has been a maddening to follow him throughout his rookie contract. Engram also allowed a half-sack and was the reason for another TFL, even though it wasn’t his man who made the actual tackle.

-Kaden Smith added a catch for 10 yards, playing about a third of the snaps. He was flagged for a false start in the first half as well. Is Smith a better TE than Engram simply because you know what you’re getting and he will be much cheaper against the cap? He runs like has cement blocks attaches to his feet, however, and his blocking isn’t dominant or anything close to it. This really has evolved into a position of weakness.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The first half may have been the worst offensive line showing we have seen in years, and that is really saying something. This group got pummeled and rookie Andrew Thomas was a main culprit. Thomas tied for the worst grade I’ve given to the position since I started charting the NYG offensive line. He allowed 2.5 sacks, 2 pressures, and allowed a TFL. The most alarming truth about it? It was different guys who kept beating him. Sometimes a pass rusher simply has a specific blocker’s number. Not this time. Thomas was getting beat by multiple guys as if they were taking turns against him, knowing that was the easy access point. He did play better in the second half but there is no denying the fact he just isn’t sustaining good contact.

-Sticking with the negatives, Kevin Zeitler had a negative grade. He allowed a TFL, 1 pressure, and was flagged for a false start. Four weeks in and I will go on record now saying he is now a shell of what he used to be and the end may be closer than we thought for him. He just doesn’t get the knee bend and he just doesn’t shift laterally like he used to.

-As for the positives, Nick Gates and Will Hernandez did a fine job containing Aaron Donald when they faced off against him. I’ve been vocal about Gates and his poor play that has led to the inside running game woes. I will say this, however: his level of play has improved weekly. At the end of the day, that is all you want to see from a young player who is playing a new position. Is he the answer long term? My guess is no. However, I do think he can be valuable as a versatile backup. Hernandez and right tackle Cam Fleming each allowed a pressure but were graded above average as run blockers. They also seemed to turn it up a notch after the Gates-Donald fight.

EDGE

-It was a really quiet day by the edge group, the biggest weakness on this team by far. Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and Markus Golden were on the field for a combined 72 plays. They combined for 1 pressure, 1 tackle, and 2 assists. Ouch.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-The Giants held the Rams to a season low 240 total yards and 58 rushing yards. In fact, only three teams have held the Rams that low since the start of Sean McVay’s tenure as Head Coach in 2017. The 2019 Ravens (4th-ranked NFL defense), the 2019 Niners (2nd-ranked NFL defense), and the 2018 Bears (1st-ranked NFL defense). It really was an admirable effort and it was led by Dexter Lawrence. LAR averaged 2.5 yards per carry largely because of how well he played. He had 6 tackles, 2 TFL, and a QB hit. Re-watching the game, it was clear just how dominant he was.

-Leonard Williams was active against the run, finishing with 5 tackles and he has Lawrence to thank for a few of them. Williams was neutralized as a pass rusher, however. He gave NYG nothing there in this one.

-Anthony Johnson made a big impact on the game despite only playing 13 snaps (23%). He had a sack and a forced fumble on a good hustle play that was recovered by NYG and led to their first 3 points of the day. Dalvin Tomlinson had 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and a pass deflection.

LINEBACKER

-Best game of the year so far for Kyler Fackrell. Remember, this guy had 10 sacks just two years ago. He had 4 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 sack. He really is an ideal fit for the BUCK linebacker position, a spot that can be used as an edge defender as well as an extra inside linebacker. Really hard player to find and he fits that role like a glove. He came up with a big game after coming up short last week against SF.

-Blake Martinez continues to fly around and pile up the tackles. You know he is good when making 13 tackles, 1 for a loss, simply seems routine. Martinez made the right decision to get on a defense that has this kind of presence along the defensive line. He goes untouched often, knows when to pounce, and he is a true finisher. Watching him play just reinforces the notion that the team has been lacking at linebacker for far too long.

-Tae Crowder saw the first action of his NFL career. After Devante Downs, who has struggled, missed a tackle on the first drive, Crowder came on the field and it was easy to see how much faster he is. He had 2 tackles and was mere inches away from an interception. He out-snapped Downs 33-3. I think it is safe to say we have a new, young linebacker to watch in the coming months.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry had a good game in coverage and he did recover a first quarter fumble that led to 3 points for NYG. However, he missed a tackle on the 4th quarter Cooper Kupp touchdown that made it an 8-point game. In addition, he did a poor job setting the edge against the run on a couple of occasions.

-Corey Ballentine didn’t see one snap at cornerback. Ryan Lewis stepped in as the main man on the outside opposite of Bradberry and had a solid game. Like Isaac Yiadom, he gives a ton of cushion which LAR took advantage of on 3rd down a couple times. Darnay Holmes remained at nickel and had an uneventful day, but he did struggle to set the edge on 2 runs.

SAFETY

-Logan Ryan and Adrian Colbert played the majority of the snaps at safety. They did a nice job defending the deep ball, as Goff wanted to go downfield a few times but they locked things up right away.

-Julian Love saw a decrease in snaps and he was the likely guilty culprit on the Kupp touchdown where it was clear there was a coverage breakdown. I can’t say for sure but looking at what everyone else was doing on the defense, I think it was Love who guessed wrong.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 3/3 (Made 35, 37, 27)

-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 43.2 avg / 40.0 net

3 STUDS

-DT Dexter Lawrence, LB Kyler Fackrell, LB Blake Martinez

3 DUDS

-OT Andrew Thomas, OG Kevin Zeitler, S Julian Love

3 THOUGHTS ON LAR

  1. When you really break down the LAR offense, it is amazing how simple the concepts are. They really don’t do much to try and trick you and there are elements to it that are woefully predictable. It is refreshing to watch, really. It comes down to simple execution and the offensive line doing their job.
  1. If there is one weakness to this team that is going to prevent them from getting back to their 2018 form, it is that offensive line. It is an under-manned group full of average players but lacking a guy who can consistently win one on one. Even Andrew Whitworth, a likely Hall of Famer, has lost some of his juice. They’ve put a lot of mid-round draft resources into the group and they are “good enough” to get the job done and they have quality depth. However, I think they need one more stud there and it will be tough to acquire because of how much money they have tied up elsewhere.
  1. LAR has gone against the grain a bit in terms of how they are building their roster. Jared Goff has the 3rd-highest QB cap number, Aaron Donald has highest DT cap number, Jalen Ramsey has the highest CB cap number. It is great to be able to hold onto all of them but that is going to put a ton of pressure on their drafting in the coming years. That will make or break the success of this team in the next 5 years.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. We are 16 games into Daniel Jones career. You can’t call it “one season” because he has had 2 offseason programs with the team. If the Giants keep losing and he keeps turning the ball over, the ongoing discussion will be whether or not you give up on a quarterback if Trevor Lawrence is there for the taking. I think it is too soon to go down that path but let’s take a look at how he and Eli Manning stack up after 16 games. It may shed some light on the need for understanding patience and realizing the turmoil of this team over the past 3-4 seasons may be unfairly dampening your view on Jones himself. Remember, just wait until the end of the year to even think about what NYG will do at the position.
    • Jones: 375- 608 (61.7%) / 3,916 yds (6.4 y/a) / 26 TD – 17 INT / 21 fumbles / 82.9 RAT
    • Manning: 251-503 (50%) / 3,145 yds (6.2 y/a) / 21 TD – 18 INT / 3 fumbles / 68.7 RAT
  1. In this weeks version of, “We still have a chance…” I steer the bus down the divisional road. This is where the season really starts for NYG. I don’t think it is any secret that 7-8 wins for any team in this division will be good enough to create meaningful football in November and December. The division games are always more important but when you know nobody is going to run away with it, they are even more so. DAL has 1 win. WAS has 1 win. PHI has 1 win. Five of NYG’s next six games are against the NFC East. This is THE stretch of the season.
  1. Every year I wait four weeks before I start to put significant labels on teams. I always feel the NFL media and fans are way too knee-jerk with their reactions. Humans tend to lack confidence in expressing their own opinions, therefore causing people to exaggerate in the hopes that others will listen to them. Through four weeks, I think you can really gain a pulse on the teams and put together a credible forecast. My feeling for NYG is a young team that will give different players and different groupings a shot each week with the idea that a few will show they belong here in the coming years. Are they trying to win? Sure. However, I think Judge cares much more about this team’s long-term plans. He wants to know who can help this team in 2021. I say this because, I don’t think fans should be stressing about wins and losses as much as they have during the final years of Manning’s career. Yes, it is hard to watch at times and the “you never know” mantra lives on, but I would challenge some of you to watch the game through the different light. Look for things that will help next year (example from this game being DT Lawrence / LB Crowder / LB Martinez).
Oct 042020
 
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Austin Johnson, New York Giants (October 4, 2020)

Austin Johnson – © USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES RAMS 17 – NEW YORK GIANTS 9…
The game was far closer than it was expected to be, but the New York Giants fell to the Los Angeles Rams 17-9 on Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. New York is now 0-4 on the season and has only scored three touchdowns in four games, and none in the last two contests.

The Giants actually out-gained the heavily-favored Rams in first downs (19 to 15), total net yards (295 to 240), net yards rushing (136 to 58), and time of possession (33:17 to 26:43). The turnover battle was also equal as both teams turned the football over once.

The game started off on a negative note for New York as the Giants quickly went three-and-out on their first drive of the game and the Rams then responded with an impressive 12-play, 65-yard effort that culminated with a 2-yard touchdown run. The Rams were quickly up 7-0.

After gaining one first down, the Giants found themselves in a 3rd-and-27 situation after a sack/fumble and a false start penalty. They punted two plays later. However, the Giants immediately got the ball back when defensive lineman Austin Johnson forced tight end Gerald Everett to fumble after a 10-yard catch. Cornerback James Bradberry recovered the loose ball at the Los Angeles 34-yard line. The Giants could only gain 17 yards on six plays, but place kicker Graham Gano kicked a 35-yard field goal to cut the score to 7-3.

After both teams exchanged three-and-out possessions, the Rams took 15 plays to drive 47 yards to set up a 32-yard field goal to extend their lead to a touchdown again, 10-3. On this possession, the Rams converted on 3rd-and-3, 4th-and-1, and 3rd-and-2, but Johnson pushed the Rams back from the 4-yard line with an 8-yard sack.

With 3:52 to go before halftime, the Giants did drive 56 yards in 13 plays to cut the score to 10-6 on Gano’s 37-yard field goal. On this possession, the Giants converted on 3rd-and-4, 3rd-and-2, and 3rd-and-10, with the first two being completions to wide receiver Golden Tate in addition to running back Dion Lewis picking up 10 yards on rushing effort.

There was no scoring in the 3rd quarter as the Rams punted twice and the Giants once. However, the Giants did begin their final scoring drive with 5:25 left in the 3rd quarter as they drove 48 yards in 11 plays, taking over six minutes off of the clock. On this possession, the Giants converted on 4th-and-1 when quarterback Daniel Jones threw a 10-yard pass to tight end Kaden Smith. However, the Giants once gain were forced to settle for a field goal, this time from 27 yards out. The Rams now led 10-9 early in the 4th quarter.

Both teams exchanged punts. With about 7 minutes to play in the game, the Rams came up with a dagger to the heart on a big 55-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass from quarterback Jared Goff to wide receiver Cooper Kupp. To put this in perspective, the next longest play the Rams had on the day was just 16 yards. The Rams now led 17-9 with less than a quarter to play.

The Giants’ first desperate attempt to tie the game failed after picking up 44 yards on nine plays. However, Jones could not connect with Tate on 4th-and-11 from the Los Angeles 31-yard line. After a three-and-out by the Rams, the Giants got the ball back with 2:05 left in the game, down by eight points. Jones threw a 33-yard pass to wide receiver Darius Slayton to the Rams’ 47-yard line. He then scrambled for a total of 24 yards on two 2nd-and-10 scrambles. With 57 seconds left, on 2nd-and-5 from the 18-yard line, Jones tried to squeeze a sideline throw to wide receiver Damion Ratley, but cornerback Darious Williams made a diving interception at the 5-yard line to end the game. Unfortunately for Jones and the Giants, he had room to run on this play.

Jones finished 23-of-36 for 190 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. He was also sacked five times, four of which occurred in the first half. Jones also rushed six times for 45 yards. Tight end Evan Engram had six catches, but for only a total of 35 yards. Running back Wayne Gallman rushed for 45 yards on six carries and running back Devonta Freeman gained 33 yards on 11 carries. Freeman also caugh four passes for 35 yards.

Defensively, the Giants held the Rams to 58 yards rushing and 182 net yards passing. Besides Austin Johnson’s sack, linebacker Kyler Fackrell also got to the quarterback. The Giants had seven tackles for losses and hit Goff five times.

Video highlights are available on Giants.com.

PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
The Giants activated WR Austin Mack from the Practice Squad.

Inactive for the game were WR Austin Mack, OT Jackson Barton, DE R.J. McIntosh, LB Carter Coughlin, LB T.J. Brunson, and S Jabrill Peppers (ankle).

LB Oshane Ximines (shoulder), LB Kyle Fackrell (neck), and S Adrian Colbert (neck) all left the game with injuries.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge will address the media by conference call on Monday.

Oct 022020
 
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John Mara, New York Giants (September 8, 2019)

John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams, October 4, 2020

THE STORYLINE

John Mara is running out of scapegoats. Contrary to those who have insisted that “blind loyalty” has gotten in the way of the Giants improving the product on the field, he has actually been pretty quick to pull the trigger in recent years. Since 2016, the Giants have fired Tom Coughlin, Jerry Reese, Marc Ross, Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur, and a host of coordinators, assistant coaches, and scouts. It is expected that Dave Gettleman will be “retired” by season’s end. If anything, the New York Giants have now become the NFL’s model of instability.

Being educated does not make someone smart. I had an aunt and uncle who worked in the university system and they were among the last people you would want to make real-world decisions. John Mara holds degrees from Boston College and Fordham University. He was raised by a father who lived, breathed, and died Giants football and I have no doubt he does the same. But there is mounting evidence that John simply does not know how to run a successful NFL franchise. Consider the following:

  • When Mara decided to make a change after the 2015 NFL season, he came to the conclusion that Tom Coughlin was the sole problem. He not only retained Jerry Reese and Marc Ross, the men largely responsible for the rapidly deteriorating roster, but he too quickly promoted Ben McAdoo from offensive coordinator to head coach and retained much of Tom Coughlin’s coaching staff. There are some who say the Eagles actually goaded Mara into hiring McAdoo quickly because he feared they would poach him. Fast forward two years and it was clear that Mara had made the wrong decisions on Reese, Ross, and McAdoo. Two years wasted.
  • Mara did not even wait until the end of the 2017 before firing McAdoo and Reese. Fine. But his first inclination was to hire former team general manager Ernie Accorsi to serve as his primary consultant in the team’s general manager search. It was Accorsi who strongly recommended that Mara promote Reese to the position in 2007, beating out Dave Gettleman, who eventually left for the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers fired Gettleman in July 2017. It was no surprise to anyone that before 2017 ended, Gettleman was already hired by Mara to be the team’s next general manager. There was no real “search” for a general manager. It was probably the easiest money Accorsi ever made. In effect, Mara had hired Accorsi’s 2007 runner-up ten years later. It was also somewhat unusual that the team was picking a 66-year old man to oversee what looked to be a long-term rebuilding project. Gettleman fired Ross the very next day.
  • After interviewing a handful of extremely unimpressive coaching candidates, Mara and Gettleman decided to hire Pat Shurmur away from the Minnesota Vikings. Fast forward two years and it was clear they had made the wrong decision. Shurmur was fired at the end of December 2017. Two more years wasted.
  • All during this time period from 2016 to 2019, the Giants kept insisting that the team needed more “tweaking” than rebuilding. That in itself was alarming to many on the outside who thought otherwise.

As troubling as the developments above are, what bothered me the most is what came next. While John Mara decided that the team needed to hire its third new head coach in five years, he also felt that the now 68-year old Gettleman should be intimately involved in that decision. It made no sense. And I said so at the time. An old, soon-to-be retired general manager should not be hiring the man who his successor will be forced to work with. Especially when you consider the fact that Gettleman’s efforts to rebuild the team to that point, including the hiring of Shurmur, had been a failure.

Joe Judge may or may not be a good hire. The jury is still out. He talks a good game, but we haven’t seen any early improvement. The bigger problem right now is that when Gettleman is let go in a few months, the new general manager will be saddled with a head coach he didn’t pick. UNLESS, John Mara has already decided that Assistant General Manager Kevin Abrams is the man to replace Gettleman. That is troubling in itself as Abrams must share in the responsibility in the demise of this once-proud franchise since he’s been with the team for the last two decades. In other words, Mara has painted himself into a corner. He either has to promote Abrams or hire a new general manager who did not have role in hiring the head coach. And this could have all been avoided had Mara simply let Gettleman gracefully “retire” a year ago instead of not stupidly postponing it one year.

Let’s be blunt. Mara has made one blunder after another. These have not been little mistakes either. Keeping Reese and Ross two extra years was a mistake. Hiring McAdoo was a mistake. Hiring Accorsi as a “consultant” was a mistake. Hiring 66-year old, once second-choice Gettleman as the team’s new GM was a mistake. Hiring Shurmur was a mistake. Not “retiring” Gettleman after 2019 was a mistake. Now he has also painted himself into a corner. Tell me what the man has done right in the last decade? I’ll wait.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • S Jabrill Peppers (ankle – out)
  • S Julian Love (knee/ankle – questionable)
  • S Adrian Colbert (quad – probable)

THE FINAL WORD

Barring something exceptionally bizarre, the Giants are going to fall to 0-4 on Sunday. They are double-digit underdogs to the Rams. Then we will see if they have any fight in them as they face three extremely unimpressive NFC East teams in a row.

A final note. In reading The Corner Forum, I still see that many fans simply don’t understand how bad the team’s personnel, especially on offense, is right now. Saquon Barkley was the only guy who scared other teams. Overnight, the Giants running attack went from feared (despite the state of the OL) to a joke. He was also the most dangerous receiving weapon the team had. His loss was catastrophic. Losing Sterling Shepard was also a huge blow to a now very unimpressive receiving corps. Evan Engram is just a tease. As I said last week, Daniel Jones is in a terrible position. He has very little surrounding talent and a fan base looking for scapegoats. Joe Judge and his coaching staff are also in a terrible position. They’ll be the next targets of fan ire.

Nov 082017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 5, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams 51 – New York Giants 17

RECAP

Two teams heading in completely opposite directions. Two teams with completely different approaches to game day. The Los Angeles Rams, armed with their new, young, hot shot head coach and a second-year quarterback who was selected #1 overall in 2016 marched into East Rutherford with the limping, aging, broken Giants organization approaching a near-low point in its history. This game had “ugly” written all over it during warm-ups.

Initially, the Giants we saw in Denver 3 weeks ago appeared to be back. They were aggressively and consistently running the ball up the middle with plenty of success. Orleans Darkwa gained 35 yards on 3 running plays, moving the Giants across midfield. However, a 3rd-and-4 that turned in a 3rd-and-9 thanks to a D.J. Fluker false start. Aaron Donald then sacked and forced Eli Manning into a fumble for the first of three NYG turnovers on the day. Spurred by a 36-yard run by Todd Gurley, it took LAR just 4 plays to score via a Jared Goff-to-Tyler Higbee 8-yard pass.

NYG was not deterred, initially anyway. They put together a quality 14-play drive that resulted in a Manning-to-Tavarres King touchdown. It was 7-7 at the end of the first quarter before the wheels started to fall off, hard.

Landon Collins, who had arguably his worst game as a pro, had his first blunder of the day after the Giants forced the Rams into 3rd-and-7. His unnecessary roughness penalty put the Rams near midfield and even though the Rams were shooting themselves in the foot via penalties, a 2nd-and-18 deep pass down the right sideline to a rookie tight end burned Collins badly, putting them at the 8-yard line. The Giants defense was able to hold them to a field goal, however.

Wayne Gallman gave the ball right back on the next drive on a 1st-and-10 run near midfield. Two Rams penalties ended up pushing the Rams back behind midfield with 3rd-and-33 staring them in the face. Then, we saw one of the most pitiful, downright disgusting plays in Giants history. A wide receiver screen to Robert Woods resulted not only in a first down, but 52-yard touchdown. The angles and effort showed by the Giants defense was that out of a JV vs…..actually Freshman team vs. Varsity practice film. This was the turning point that abruptly reminded everyone watching that that Giants 2017 season will go down as one of the most disappointing in franchise history.

The air was sucked out of the team, the fans, and the stadium. Another 3-and-out by the Giants gave the ball back to LAR on their own 29-yard line and on the second play, Goff launched a deep ball to Sammy Watkins for a 67-yard touchdown. Landon Collins, who this Rams team was obviously targeting from the beginning, was burned yet again.

The Giants went into halftime down 27-10, but might as well stayed in the locker room instead of coming out for the second half. With the stadium already emptying, the Rams made it 48-10 within the first 12 minutes of the third quarter. Watching the minutes go by was truly more difficult than watching paint dry. The Giants did score one more touchdown on a Manning-to-Engram pass but the game ended with Geno Smith at quarterback and a 51 spot put up by the surging Rams. The most points NYG has allowed at home since 1964 and it had the feel of something we will likely see again this year. Giants lose, 51-17.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 20/36 – 220 yards – 2 TD/1 INT – 80.8 QBR. When it comes to the 2017 season, it was just about an average performance for the 14th year veteran. With the pass blocking a tad better than what it has been, Manning was able to drop back, read the defense, and throw the ball downfield. He overshot several receivers who were open and just hasn’t had the accuracy on that deep ball. His interception thrown to Trumaine Johnson was a hair late and behind his target.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 17 att/71 yards – 2 rec/8 yards. Darkwa started off on fire, surging hard through the middle of the Rams defense. The Giants were controlling the clock early thanks to his aggressive, assertive running style that was consistently breaking tackles. His usage diminished as the game wore on because of the score and once again, he dropped another pass.
  • Wayne Gallman – 9 att/41 yards. The one play that stands out from Gallman’s OK day was a 2nd quarter fumble that eventually led to a Rams touchdown. With the rain coming down hard, the ball had some slickness to it and Gallman simply didn’t keep the ball tight to his body when engaged with tacklers. Otherwise he continued to show elusiveness and vision in his limited action.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 5 rec/70 yards. In his first game back from an ankle injury suffered a month ago, Shepard led the team in catches and was second on the team in targets. He continues to show value over the middle with his ability to quickly get open. He looked rusty, however, with 2 drops.
  • Tavarres King: 3 rec/33 yards – 1 TD. About 6 weeks ago, King was unemployed but because of the slew of injuries to the position, the smooth fifth year veteran is back and able to get plenty of snaps. He scored the Giants first touchdown of the day on their second drive and could have had another if it weren’t for an overthrow by Manning. He has always been an efficient route runner with the ability to get open in short areas. He isn’t overly dynamic or explosive, but he should get plenty of looks at the season wears on. This will be a huge opportunity for his career moving forward.
  • Roger Lewis: 1 rec/4 yards. Lewis has been facing some of the league’s best cornerbacks. Aqib Talib, Richard Sherman, Trumaine Johnson. A 3-week run doesn’t get much tougher than that for an NFL receiver. With that said, Lewis hasn’t been able to get even close to open and his physical presence at the point-of-attack has been very poor.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec/70 yards – 1 TD. If I had to choose one bright spot from the entire team, it’s Engram. We already knew about his talent from what he has shown all throughout training camp and the regular season. But know we are seeing this guy is a competitor in every sense. He plays hard all the time and a guy with his physical gifts combined with that approach can do big things in this league. His long speed was too much for cornerbacks to handle and he was ripping through tackle efforts by safeties. There is a ton to get excited about with him.
  • Rhett Ellison: 2 rec/21 yards. Ellison played about 60% of the team’s plays, most of which were earlier in the game when the Giants were dominating the ground game. A player like him simply won’t make a huge impact when a team is playing catch up football. However his value as a fullback and tight end should be something that sticks to this team long term.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers continues his above average performance on the year overall. He allowed one TFL and was responsible for 1 pressure, even though it wasn’t an obvious 1-on-1 beat. His pass blocking actually graded out higher than his run blocking, which is rare for him. Bobby Hart continued his 2017 campaign to let the league know he can’t be a starting tackle in this league. His reaction, coordination, and hand strength is just so low-level that I’m not sure he should even be a backup in this league. He allowed a sack to Connor Barwin where he literally didn’t touch Barwin. A simple inside move was all it took and Hart couldn’t even get a hand on him. The unfortunate part about it is that as long as Justin Pugh remains sidelined with an injury, there isn’t anyone that can replace Hart. Chad Wheeler simply isn’t ready.
  • Guards/Center: The last time John Jerry faced off against Aaron Donald, Donald was a rookie and Jerry dominated from start to finish. This time, the result was the complete opposite. Jerry’s 2.47 grade was among the lowest the Giants have had this year on the OL. There were two separate plays where Donald lined up across from Jerry and went untouched into the backfield despite Jerry’s efforts to block him. It was a combination of Donald being the best in the game and Jerry simply not being in the same league. Jerry was responsible for a sack, a TFL, and 2 pressures. Brett Jones and D.J. Fluker had positive grades, as they were paving lanes and moving defenders with ease early in the game. While both are limited in the pass game, they held it together for the most part.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Rookie Avery Moss got the start with the injuries to Vernon, Okwara, and Wynn. The 5th-round rookie out of Youngstown State who has struggled to play against the strength of the power of the NFL to this point put in an exceptional effort. He was an impact player against the run, finishing with 6 tackles. He added 2 pressures and a pass deflection. While there is still a great need for more power and strength here, he is showing the grit, hustle, and on-field awareness that you can really work with. Jason Pierre-Paul finished with 3 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. He didn’t make much of an impact against Andrew Whitworth in the passing game.
  • Tackles: The most consistent performers week-to-week on the team reside along the interior of the defensive line. Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Jay Bromley finished with a combined 14 tackles – a very high number for the position. Tomlinson is showing more and more presence each week. His athletic ability that stems from top tier balance, body control, and agility combined with his man-strength can make him a weapon for this defense. He is one guy I enjoy watching week in, week out. He is a keeper. Damon Harrison continues to bring it each week and my hope is some of these young guys take in what he is putting out there. The immovable object is very active and fully capable of changing a game by himself. Having him here for Tomlinson is huge.

LINEBACKERS

  • Another unit that is becoming depleted by injuries. Jonathan Casillas and B.J. Goodson were both out, opening the door for Curtis Grant and Calvin Munson. I’ll tell you what, when it comes to Grant, he belongs. I’m not sure I see a guy who should be starting, but his size, speed, and physical brand is a welcomed sight for this stagnant team. He still does and probably always will struggle with quick-twitch change of directions and reactions, but he played hard on Sunday. He and Munson both finished with 6 tackles a piece. Munson struggled mightily to get off blocks; they take so much out of him and the recovery speed isn’t half of what it needs to be.

CORNERBACKS

  • Janoris Jenkins was suspended for the game for missing practice on Monday, the second veteran of this position group to be suspended by the team this season. The first, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, was in uniform and played a good game. His effort was top notch and he made two of the more physical tackles on the day in addition to sticking to his coverage assignments all over the field. He still has plenty in tank. Eli Apple, once again, looks the part and showed some quality coverage. However, lapses in concentration and an overall lack of effort were apparent and it’s getting really old, really fast. You don’t win with guys that have this kind of approach. He has become one of the players on this team who I think needs to go – as in trade or cut this offseason.

SAFETIES

  • I am trying to recall a game where Landon Collins was beat this many times. As of now, I am still drawing a blank. Collins lack of long speed and overall athletic ability in coverage and in space was attacked all afternoon. His bone-headed penalty followed by being beat deep by tight ends, wide receivers, and players after the catch was about as bad as I’ve seen out of a position that the Giants have had a lot of bad performances over the past decade. Collins has earned the right to have a bad game here and there, but he needs to bounce back. And the defensive scheme needs to make sure they aren’t making him drop into deep coverage responsibilities too often. Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams played solid games respectively. Thompson is moving well in coverage with fluid hips and light feet, less hesitation. Adams could use more playing time, as he is making an impact as a tackler and force over the middle.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1-2 FG (made 50, missed 45). His 50 yarder had about 8-10 yards left on it, but he pushed his next attempt wide right. The rest of this season will be a tryout for him.
  • P Brad Wing: 4 Punts – 53.3 avg. Wing had a punt blocked, but it wasn’t his fault. The Rams special teams outplayed NYG in every phase from execution/spacing to hustle.
  • Return: Ed Eagen and Shane Vereen made minimal to no impact.

3 STUDS

  • TE Evan Engram, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, DE Avery Moss

3 DUDS

  • LB Calvin Munson, S Landon Collins, OG John Jerry

3 THOUGHTS ON LAR

  • What a turnaround this team has made. They have always had solid personnel on defense, but a few acquisitions via free agency, trades, and the draft, along with the maturation of Jared Goff, all of the the sudden this offense is leading the league in scoring and their defense still has some dominant traits. Watch out NFC…for a long time.
  • Aaron Donald was my choice for the NYG first round pick in 2015. NYG still struck gold with Odell Beckham but there is still an interesting debate that can be had. Who would you rather have? Beckham has more impact on games when he is fully on, but is it enough to make up for some of the issues he potentially brings with the “diva-ness”? Donald has had several games where he just absolutely wrecks games, ruins them, for opposing offenses. The contract holdout was a red flag, however.
  • Are there many, if any CBs, that have the size of Trumaine Johnson in the league? There are plenty of guys with height and length, sure. But this kid looks like a safety that can shut down almost any WR in the league by himself. As LAR becomes an NFL spotlight team, expect the rest of the media and fans to catch onto him as one of the best, if not the best.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • What the Rams have done to turnaround their franchise keeps the glass half full for NYG fans. Draft a new young quarterback for the future; hire a fresh, young voice who keeps players motivated and hungry; fix the OL with a veteran signing even if the price tag is steep; and perform well with your first few picks in the draft. The Giants can do all of this in the next year or two, no doubt. But ownership needs to be bold; they’ve been loyal enough. They need to get a new regime in here to run the show.
  • Perhaps the biggest question that needs answering is how to handle the Eli Manning situation. I think it would be in his best interest to allow a trade to a team like JAC in the offseason. Play with a defense that is among the best in the league, hand the ball off to a strong rushing attack, and make a few plays per game himself. I don’t think Manning is done entirely, much like Peyton wasn’t done when he left IND. But if things don’t look up the rest of the way, he and NYG both may be best suited with a break up.
  • The defense has been just as, if not more, disappointing in 2017. The approach for the rest of the year should be a tryout. A key eye on Apple, Casillas, Goodson, Cromartie, Thompson. All of these guys have not met expectations and while some of it is injury based, this team needs to know who these guys are and how hard they push though tough times. They need to go into the offseason knowing that these guys will always put forth top notch effort. If not, goodbye.
Nov 052017
 
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LOS ANGELES RAMS 51 – NEW YORK GIANTS 17…
The New York Giants were obliterated by the Los Angels Rams on Sunday, losing 51 to 17 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the loss, the Giants fell to 1-7 on the season.

“The team didn’t quit today,” said Head Coach Ben McAdoo after the game. “They were playing hard.”

The game represented the Giants’ worst home defeat since losing by 34 points to the Green Bay Packers in 1998. The 51 points allowed were also the most points the Giants have allowed at home since 1964.

The game started off on a rocky note for the Giants. New York received the ball to start the game, drove into Los Angeles territory, but on 3rd-and-9 from the Rams’ 45-yard line, quarterback Eli Manning was sacked and he fumbled the ball away to the Rams. Running back Todd Gurley then gained 36 yards on his first carry and nine yards on his second carry down to the Giants 7-yard line. On 3rd-and-2, quarterback Jared Goff found tight end Tyler Higbee for an 8-yard score.

To New York’s credit, the offense immediately responded with an impressive 14-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Tavarres King. The Giants were 4-of-4 on 3rd-down conversion attempts on this drive.

After that 1st-quarter possession, however, the roof collapsed.

The Rams responded to the Giants’ sole touchdown drive of the game with a 9-play, 66-yard effort that ended with a 27-yard field goal as the Rams regained the lead 10-7. Four plays later, the Giants turned the football over again when running back Wayne Gallman fumbled the ball away at midfield. The back-breaker came next. Facing 3rd-and-33, the Rams scored off a short screen pass that went for 52 yards and the touchdown. The Rams were now up 17-7. After a three-and-out by the Giants, the Rams took control of the game with a 67-yard deep strike from Goff to wideout Sammy Watkins. Rams 24 – Giants -7.

The Giants did chip into that lead on their following possession by picking up 44 yards in eight plays to set up a successful 50-yard field goal by place kicker Aldrick Rosas. And the Giants’ defense finally forced the Rams to punt on their ensuing drive. But the Giants turned the ball over again when Manning’s pass intended for wide receiver Roger Lewis was intercepted at the Giants’ 30-yard line. The Rams did not pick up a first down but extended their lead with a 46-yard field goal. The Giants had a chance to regain those points right before halftime, but Rosas missed a 45-yard field goal as time expired.

At the half, the Rams led 27-10. When asked what he said to the team at halftime, McAdoo responded, “Um.”

If the first half was bad for the Giants, the second half was worse. The Rams scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half, including drives of 75, 45, and 18 yards. On the latter two drives, the Rams benefited from short fields due to a 30-yard punt return and a blocked punt. The Giants’ defense only forced one other punt in the game and also allowed another field goal drive.

Meanwhile the Giants offense in the second half consisted of three punts, the blocked punt, and a garbage-time touchdown drive in the 4th quarter when the Giants were trailing 48-10.

Offensively, the Giants generated 111 net rushing yards and 208 net passing yards. Manning, who was pulled late in the game for Geno Smith, finished 20-of-36 for 220 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He also fumbled the ball away once. His leading targets were wide receiver Sterling Shepard (5 catches for 70 yards) and tight end Evan Engram (4 catches for 70 yards and a touchdown). Running back Orleans Darkwa was the leading rusher with 16 carries for 71 yards.

Defensively, the Giants only forced two punts, did not sack the quarterback, created no turnovers, and allowed 473 total net yards and six touchdowns.

Video lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back), defensive end Olivier Vernon (ankle), defensive end Kerry Wynn (knee), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (neck), linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle), cornerback Donte Deayon (ankle), and quarterback Davis Webb.

Linebacker Keenan Robinson suffered a quad injury during the game.

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…
The Giants fell to 1-7 overall and 0-4 at home, the first time they have had each of those records since 1980.

A 37-yard completion to Sterling Shepard with just over 10 minutes remaining lifted Manning over the 50,000-yard mark for his career. He is the seventh player in NFL history to throw for more than 50,000 yards. The others are Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Dan Marino and John Elway. Manning finished the game with 50,034 yards. He is 1,441 yards behind Elway, who is sixth on the NFL’s career list.

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Ben McAdoo will address the media by conference call Monday afternoon.

Nov 032017
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (October 23, 2016)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants, November 5, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
While my last preview was well received by some, others correctly pointed to the fact that it really wasn’t a “game preview” about the upcoming opponent. To be honest, given the abyss the Giants find themselves in, I don’t really see the point of doing traditional game previews other than the impulse to routinely go through the motions. So right or wrong, I intend to use this spot to provide a weekly “state of the Giants” article as we move closer and closer to incredibly important January decisions to be made by the Mara and Tisch families.

The sense of “blah-ness” among New York Giants fans (1-6 record) and the NFL in general (empty stadiums, declining ratings, injured stars) is palpable. I’ve never seen anything like this. There have been periods in recent years where the NYG fan base felt the Giants were on the wrong track and far away from a championship, including ironically, a couple of times before the Giants last two Super Bowl wins. But even during these dark periods, the fans cared. They screamed, hollered, bitched. Something has changed and I can’t really put my finger on it yet.

Unfortunately, the Giants too appear to simply be going through the motions. No one seems particularly angry or upset… owners, team management, coaches, players. I don’t really know what I want them to do, but Jerry Reese’s press conference seemed more-of-the-same bullshit as does McAdoo’s repeated claims that “we are practicing well” and “we are playing hard.” Again, this isn’t a roster filled with Dave Browns and Jeremy Lincolns. The 2017 New York Giants are not supposed to be 1-6. They were supposed to be a contender. And regardless of what others are claiming, players don’t appear to be afraid of Coach McAdoo, with two Pro Bowl corners simply not showing up to work. And as I predicted, the injury list is growing and players don’t appear to be returning very quickly. We’ve seen this before (see Jim Fassel’s last year).

When things don’t go well, the immediate fan reaction is to call for change. Sometimes that is a mistake. And I’ve been guilty of that as well. I remember saying the Giants were going nowhere with Tom Coughlin in 2006. Imagine if the Giants had fired him then? Same with Bill Parcells after his disastrous 1983 season. On the other hand, the Giants clearly stayed with Dan Reeves a year too long. My point? How much of a problem is Ben McAdoo and his staff? Is it premature to fire him? Or is sticking with him for another year, while making cosmetic changes to the assistant staff, doubling down on a bad decision to promote him to head coach in the first place?

Then there is Jerry Reese. Right now, Reese and his staff are entering the final stages of scouting 2018 NFL Draft prospects. Reports are being written and analyzed. Do you fire Reese in January when the bowl games are wrapping up? Same with the scouts? Do the Giants find a sacrificial lamb (Marc Ross)? Who replaces them and what material do they use to make draft-day decisions a few months later? But again, is doing nothing doubling down on a structure that isn’t working?

Complicated business. Monumental decisions.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Paul Perkins (ribs – probable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (ankle – probable)
  • OC Weston Richburg (concussion – out)
  • OL Justin Pugh (back – out)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (ankle – out)
  • DE Kerry Wynn (knee – out)
  • DT Robert Thomas (calf – probable)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – out)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – out)
  • LB Calvin Munson (quad – probable)
  • CB Donte Deayon (ankle – questionable)
  • S Nat Berhe (calf – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Sometimes we lose sight of the forest through the trees. When Tom Coughlin hired Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator in 2014, I was intrigued to see the New York Giants employ the West Coast Offense and join the ranks those teams that had high-powered passing offenses. Plus, it was becoming obvious that Eli Manning was suffering in a 5- and 7-step drop passing offense behind an offensive line that could not protect him. When Kevin Gilbride was “fired”, the overwhelming reaction on BBI was one of relief. And McAdoo’s early impact on Manning was very positive. Manning enjoyed a career renaissance as he approached his mid-30s.

Now for my side tangent. With my son entering high school and playing in the marching band, I have been attending quite a few Friday night high school games this year. Our local team started off 5-0, using a pistol-type, pass-heavy offense with a variety of formations and personnel groupings. The coach is very unconventional, taking chances I cringe at (i.e., going for it on 4th-and-5 on their side of the field with a 6-point lead). “Maybe this is the direction the league really is going,” I thought. “More like the Arena League and less traditional.” That all changed in Week 6 and our team’s home-coming game. My folks were in town and I said, “Wait to you see how good our 5-0 team is!”

The first thing I noticed was how big the linemen were on the opposing team. “Holy crap, those guys look like college players.” (When I got home that night, I checked their roster, and yup, their linemen were all in the 6’3”, 260lb-range). They just abused our 5-0 team up front. It was smash-mouth personified. They ran, ran, ran and our team couldn’t stop it. And it got worse as the game went on. They hung 50 points on us and had they not called off the dogs in the 4th quarter, it could have been 70. On the other side of the ball, we couldn’t run and became completely one dimensional. Our only points came on a kick return. The other team was just bigger, tougher, more physical, and nastier. We never had a chance.

My point is we sometimes get caught up in the jazzier aspects of the game… the one-handed catches, the 8-yard slant pass that goes for a 70-yard touchdown. But no matter how much the game changes, the game really is still won or lost in the trenches. Yes, you need a good quarterback. Yes, you need to be able to pass the ball in 2017. But if you can’t run the football, you are a finesse team. And the Giants have been a finesse team for far too long. That’s where the offensive inconsistency, including short-yardage and red-zone issues come from. Nothing is really going to change with the Giants until they become a physical offensive football team again.

As for this week’s game, Justin Pugh being out complicates issues on the offensive line. Bobby Hart, who has struggled mightily this year, will regain his starting job at right tackle. John Jerry and D.J. Fluker will be the guards. Weston Richburg has now been absent for over a month. And Pugh is hurt yet another year. The Giants offensive line is even more of a mess than it was a year ago. How is that possible?

It will also be interesting to see how effective or ineffective Sterling Shepard will be with no Odell Beckham on the field.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
I know I’ve sounded very critical of the defense this year. Yes, I hold them to a higher standard than the offense because a greater investment has been recently spent on that side of the ball. Coming into 2017, we all knew the Giants still had issues on the offensive line and potentially at running back. But most of us figured the defense would pick up where they left off. They didn’t. Worse, the minor mutinies have been on that side of the ball. Ben McAdoo is receiving a lot of justified criticism for players not respecting him, but what about Steve Spagnuolo? What does it say about him that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins felt they could just walk out like that? And very troubling was this line from ESPN writer Jordan Raanan earlier this week:

“Players who spoke to ESPN about the situation have offered up explanations ranging from some players not caring anymore now that the season is lost to a lack of overall respect for McAdoo and some of his coaching staff, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.”

Is it merely a coincidence that the suspensions involved two Pro Bowl players in the defensive backfield? Perhaps. But something smells fishy. And this bears watching – especially by those who think Steve Spagnuolo might be a viable candidate to replace McAdoo.

What I will be looking at moving forward is how many defensive players are skipping games with injuries and how hard are these guys still playing in the 4th quarter of games, regardless of the score. Note that Olivier Vernon – who had never missed a game before this year – has now been out for over a month. His replacement – Kerry Wynn – is now out too. So are two of the starting linebackers. It’s disconcerting that B.J. Goodson keeps getting hurt. If you can’t rely on your middle linebacker to be there every week, you need a new middle linebacker.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Regardless of what transpires in January, Tom Quinn must go.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on if a good week of practice should translate to good football during games: “Absolutely.”

Coach McAdoo on why that has not happened: “That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

THE FINAL WORD
The Giants should be 1-7 by 4:15PM on Sunday.

Oct 252016
 
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Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants (October 23, 2016)

Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 17 – Los Angeles Rams 10

Overview

This was a dangerous game for the New York Giants given the distraction and fatigue of traveling to London combined with the media frenzy surrounding Josh Brown. Stating the obvious, this was not a “fun” week for the entire franchise.

The good news is the Giants won a game that they desperately needed to win. By improving their record to 4-3, New York remains very much in the hunt for a playoff spot. And the team now has two weeks to get healthy and concentrate on fixing those areas where it is struggling. The defense is finally starting to create turnovers and accrue sacks.

The bad news is the offense seems stuck in neutral and if this isn’t rectified quickly, the Giants will be sitting home again come playoff time.

Giants on Offense

Simply pathetic. New York was held to 13 first downs, 232 total net yards, 196 net yards passing, and 36 net yards rushing. The Giants were only 4-of-13 (31 percent) on 3rd down conversion attempts and only held the ball for just under 25 minutes. In 11 offensive possessions, the Giants longest drive was 71 yards (which resulted in a short field goal). The next longest drive was 37 yards. Ouch.

I’ll sound like a broken record but the same problems remain. The Giants can’t run the football. Teams are focusing on taking Odell Beckham out of the game and when Eli Manning and Odell Beckham can’t click on the big play, this offense becomes one of the worst in the NFL as the Giants can’t otherwise sustain drives. The longest offensive play for the Giants on Sunday was 25 yards.

The Giants have only scored more than 20 points twice this year. In this game, the defense scored once and set up the offense’s only touchdown drive at the opponent’s 35-yard line.

The Giants only ran 57 offensive plays: 37 passes, 18 runs, and 2 kneel-downs by Eli Manning. They were hampered by terrible starting field position (backed up to the goal line) three times in the second half. The Giants were not penalized once on offense.

Quarterback

The Giants literally passed twice as much as they ran the ball. Eli Manning was 24-of-37 for 196 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. For the second week in a row, he spread the ball around, connecting with 10 different targets. But the average gain per pass play was only 5.3 yards. Manning is receiving absolutely no help from his running game. But he certainly is not playing at a very high level. He needs to get his ass in gear.

Running Backs

Once again, the running game was a non factor. Giants backs carried the ball 18 times for 38 yards (2.1 yards per carry). The “leading” rusher was Rashad Jennings with 13 carries for 25 yards (1.9 yards per carry). His longest run was five yards! Paul Perkins had four carries for 12 yards with the team’s longest run of 10 yards. Most of the runs come out of the shot-gun formation and it is not working very well. It’s interesting to note that Perkins’ playing time increased this week.

Jennings caught 2-of-3 passes thrown in his direction. One went for no yards while the other picked up an impressive 24 yards. Perkins caught one pass for four yards while Bobby Rainey caught one pass for -2 yards.

Wide Receivers

I’ve contended for this offense to click, the top targets have to be the receivers. On Sunday, Eli’s top targets were Victor Cruz (5-of-8 for 55 yards), Odell Beckham (5-of-9 for 49 yards), and Sterling Shepard (5-of-7 for 32 yards). The problem was that these three receivers only averaged nine yards per catch. It is no coincidence that Cruz’s longest reception (25 yards) and Beckham’s longest reception (22 yards) led to the only offensive points of the day. Beckham’s 22-yard reception on 3rd-and-3 on the game-winning drive despite heavy contact against double-team coverage was the offensive play of the game. Cruz dropped a pass in the 1st quarter that killed a drive. The blocking by Cruz and Shepard on the flare to Beckham out of the backfield that lost six yards was pathetic. Beckham could have made a better effort on a 3rd-and-1 sideline pass that fell incomplete in the 3rd quarter.

Tight Ends

Stating the obvious, the Giants are not getting any help from their tight ends. Just like the previous game against the Ravens, the offense put the team in a hole by turning the ball over on the first possession of the contest as Larry Donnell fumbled the ball away. This turnover set up the Rams only touchdown. Donnell was targeted two other times but did not catch another pass. Will Tye caught two passes for a grand total of 14 yards. He’s been a major disappointment this year after a surprise rookie season. Rookie Jerell Adams caught one pass for five yards.

Offensive Line

The story line here remains the same. Decent pass protection and terrible run blocking. Eli Manning was not sacked. He was hit officially five times. That said, Eli isn’t holding the ball very long either. Many of the pass plays are short, quick throws – which makes the offensive line look better in pass protection than it really is. RT Bobby Hart gave up a couple of hits on Manning. The Giants only ran the ball 18 times, but when they did, they also only generated 38 yards or just over two yards per carry. The good news was there were no penalties.

Giants on Defense

This was the Giants best defensive game of the season to date. Not only did the defense do a good job of stopping the run (74 yards on 20 carries), but it picked off four passes, defensed 12 passes overall, and accrued three sacks and seven QB hits. Most importantly, the defense held the Rams to 10 points and scored on defense. The Rams were shutout in the the final three quarters of the game. The defense was only penalized three times (one offsetting). The biggest negatives were allowing first downs late in the game on 3rd-and-22 and 4th-and-10.

Defensive Line

It’s interesting to note that Jason Pierre-Paul is back at right defensive end, with Oliver Vernon now at left defensive end. The defensive line was fairly stout against the run and applied a decent amount of pass pressure. The Rams stuck with the run throughout the game but only averaged 3.7 yards per carry. Their longest run by a running back was only eight yards. Damon Harrrison (1), Jay Bromley (1), Jason Pierre-Paul (0.5), and Kerry Wynn (0.5) all registered sacks. Although Olivier Vernon did not sack the quarterback, he was a factor in pressuring the pocket throughout the game and caused a holding penalty that wiped out a big gain. This was the best pass-rush game for both JPP and Vernon so far this season. The inside guys got some good pressure too. Bromley was flagged with defensive holding.

Linebackers

Keenan Robinson (8 tackles, 2 pass defenses) had another strong game. His 4th quarter deflection of a Case Keenum pass caused an interception that set up the Giants game-winning touchdown. And Robinson’s sure open-field tackle of the ever-dangerous Tavon Austin off a bubble screen may have saved a touchdown. Jonathan Casillas was only in on three tackles, but also tipped a pass that was almost intercepted. Devon Kennard had two tackles and a QB hit. Only one tackle for Kelvin Sheppard.

Defensive Backs

Led by Landon Collins (2 interceptions, 2 pass defenses, 8 tackles) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (2 interceptions, 3 pass defenses, 4 tackles), the Giants secondary had a phenomenal day. Collins was the beneficiary of two deflections, but his 44-yard return for a score not only changed the complexion of the game, it will go down as one of the most memorable in Giants history. And while DRC’s second, game-deciding interception was a gift, the first was a fantastic play that stopped a 4th-quarter scoring threat. He also almost came down with a third interception off of a flea flicker. Janoris Jenkins gave up the longest play of the game – a 48-yard reception to wideout Brian Quick (Jenkins was also guilty of illegal contact on the play). That said, Jenkins defensed three passes and had a solid game overall. Eli Apple was flagged with a 13-yard pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-7. Safety Andrew Adams gave up the 10-yard score on 3rd-and-6 in the 1st quarter. Aside from his turnovers, Collins was laying the lumber with a couple of big hits. Collins messed up on one deep shot and was lucky the QB couldn’t connect on what should have been an 81-yard score to start the second half. The biggest negatives were allowing the Rams to convert on 3rd-and-22 and 4th-and-10 late in the game.

Giants on Special Teams

Robbie Gould replaced Josh Brown. He made his only FG attempt (29 yards). Only 1-of-4 of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Kickoff coverage was solid as the Rams longest return was 25 yards. Brad Wing punted eight times! He averaged 49.8 yards per punt (43.8 yard net) with one touchback and two punts downed inside the 20. Tavon Austin returned three punts and the Giants did give up a 19-yard punt return. Roger Lewis forced a fumble, but the Rams recovered the loose ball.

Dwayne Harris returned three punts for only 11 yards. Odell Beckham returned one punt for zero yards. Coty Sensabaugh was flagged with holding on one return. For the second week in a row, the Giants were unable to return a kickoff with all opponent kickoffs resulting in touchbacks.

(New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams, October 23, 2016)
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (October 23, 2016)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 17 – LOS ANGELES RAMS 10…
The New York Giants defeated the Los Angeles Rams 17-10 in a defensive struggle in London, England on Sunday. With the victory, the Giants improved their overall record to 4-3 heading into their bye week.

The Giants offense was dreadful as New York was held to 13 first downs, 232 total net yards, 196 net yards passing, and 36 net yards rushing. The Giants were only 4-of-13 (31 percent) on 3rd down conversion attempts and only held the ball for just under 25 minutes.

The Giants defense won the day, intercepting four passes (including one for a touchdown), sacking Rams quarterback Case Keenum three times, and holding Los Angeles to only 10 points.

Like last week, the game started off very poorly for the Giants as New York quickly fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter. On the Giants second offensive snap, tight end Larry Donnell fumbled the ball away at the New York 35-yard line. Seven plays later, Keenum threw a 10-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-6. The Giants punted the ball away after picking up one first down on their second drive. Los Angeles then gained 62 yards in eight plays to set up a successful 36-yard field goal. These were the last points the Rams would score on the day.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Giants offense managed to put together its longest drive of the game, marching 71 yards in 14 plays to set up a 29-yard field goal by place kicker Robbie Gould. No other Giants drive on Sunday would gain more than 37 yards.

The Giants tied the game on the ensuing Rams possession. Keenum’s pass was deflected off of the hands of wide receiver Tavon Austin. Safety Landon Collins intercepted the pass and scored from 44 yards out on a spectacular interception return. Mid-way through the second quarter, the game was tied at 10-10. Neither team would score for the rest of the half as the Rams punted the ball away three more times and the Giants twice.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/790198681215479808

Both teams continued to struggle on offense in the second half. The Rams and Giants each punted the ball away on their first three drives after intermission. The big break came in the 4th quarter when Keenum threw his second interception of the game. Linebacker Keenan Robinson deflected a pass that Landon Collins intercepted and returned to the Los Angeles 35-yard line. Facing a 3rd-and-3, quarterback Eli Manning found wide receiver Odell Beckham for a 22-yard gain down to the Rams 6-yard line. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-goal, running back Rashad Jennings scored from a yard out to give the Giants a 17-10 lead.

The Rams drove to the Giants 37-yard line on their ensuing possession, converting on a 3rd-and-22. But with just over four minutes to play, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie intercepted Keenum in the end zone for a touchback. The Giants went three-and-out on offense, giving the Rams one more chance with three minutes left in the game. After converting on a 4th-and-10, Los Angeles reached the Giants 15-yard line, but on 3rd-and-10, Rodgers-Cromartie intercepted Keenum in the end zone again to preserve the win.

Offensively, Eli Manning was 24-of-37 for 196 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. His leading receiving targets were wide receivers Victor Cruz (5 catches for 55 yards), Odell Beckham (5 catches for 49 yards), and Sterling Shepard (5 catches for 32 yards). Running backs Rashad Jennings was the team’s leading rusher with 13 carries for only 25 yards.

Defensively, both Landon Collins and and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie each had two interceptions. Defensive tackles Damon Harrison and Jay Bromley each had sacks, and defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Kerry Wynn split a sack.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were safety Darian Thompson (foot), safety Nat Berhe (concussion), offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse (calf), wide receiver Tavarres King, defensive tackle Robert Thomas, linebacker Deontae Skinner, and quarterback Josh Johnson.

In the game, wide receiver/returner Dwayne Harris injured his lower back but returned.

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

  • Head Coach Ben McAdoo (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Victor Cruz (Video)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Video)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (Video)

ARTICLES…

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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 21, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams, October 23, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
Unless the Cowboys collapse, this is a “must” game for the Giants if they want to keep any division title hopes alive. This is a dangerous game for the Giants against an opponent that is very much capable of beating them, with the added distractions of playing in London and now the Josh Brown affair. Just find a way to win this game and heal up during the bye for the second-half push.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (hip) – probable
  • RB Rashad Jennings (thumb) – probable
  • RT Marshall Newhouse (calf) – out
  • DE Olivier Vernon (wrist) – probable
  • LB Keenan Robinson (knee) – probable
  • CB Eli Apple (groin) – probable
  • CB Trevin Wade (ankle) – probable
  • FS Darian Thompson (foot) – out
  • SS Nat Berhe (concussion) – out
  • LS Zak DeOssie (ankle) – questionable

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Statistically, the Rams are a middle-of-the-pack defense (17th overall, 23rd against the run, 17th against the pass). But they remain a typical Jeff Fisher defensive team – physical, aggressive, and borderline dirty. They try to get under your skin and thrive off of turnovers. The heart of the Rams defense is their defense line, which has been banged up but is unfortunately getting a bit healthier just in time for the game against the Giants. Their two best players are DT Aaron Donald and RDE Robert Quinn. Donald has three sacks, but he is leading the NFL with QB hits and pressures. Quinn has missed two games with a shoulder injury but is expected to play. Last season, John Jerry actually did a good job on Donald. Jerry and his his interior line mates will be on the spot again as will Ereck Flowers. In the back seven, the Rams utilize more run-and-hit tweeners at linebacker and safety that enhances their overall defensive athleticism and speed. In fact, their defensive depth chart lists only one starting linebacker and six defensive backs.

What we’ve seen from the Giants on offense is this: continued issues running the ball, continued issues in the red zone, and an inability to sustain drives without the big play. Like a true West Coast Offense, the Giants often use the short passing game in lieu of the run – hence the very pass-centric nature of the offense.

After last year’s game where Odell Beckham torched the Rams defense and after witnessing last week’s Ravens game, you can guarantee that Jeff Fisher is going to double- and possibly triple-team Beckham in this game. The Giants “broke out” offensively last week ONLY because of the return of the Manning-to-Beckham long-distance connection. Now if Beckham is able to still be a major factor, the Rams are toast. But more likely others are going to have to pick up the slack – especially Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz. The Giants can’t always count on Beckham to put up 150+ yards and two touchdowns per game. That’s just not realistic. And it’s time for the big boys up front – Flowers, Pugh, Richburg, Jerry, and Hart – to start moving people off the line and for the backs to gain yards. The Rams are 23rd overall against the run and 19th in yards-per-rush. If there was an opponent to finally get the ground game going, this is it.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Rams looked like a train wreck offensively early on in the season but have been playing better of late because their quarterback is playing much better. Ben McAdoo provided a good overview himself of the Rams offense: “Their offense is ascending. They’re getting better. (QB Case) Keenum has found his groove a little bit here over the last three weeks or so. He’s completing a high percentage of balls. Big body receivers who can catch the ball everywhere. They have great range that can come up with the catches. Their tight end is playing well, (TE Lance) Kendricks, he’s a good player and a complete player, which is tough to find in today’s game. Of course, (RB Todd) Gurley. He really has a chance to make everything go for them. We really have to stop him and commit to stopping him.”

Gurley has struggled against defenses geared up stop him, only averaging 2.9 yards per carry. But he is certainly capable of taking over a game and the Giants primary defensive task must be to keep him in check. Keenum has actually done a good job of spreading the ball around to WR Kenny Britt (30 catches, 2 TDs), WR Tavon Austin (26 catches, 1 TD), Kendricks (18 catches, 1 TD), WR Brian Quick (16 catches, 3 TDs), and Gurley (15 catches). And Keenum completed a remarkable 84 percent of his passes against the Lions last Sunday. While Britt and Quick are the bigger receivers McAdoo references, Austin is the smaller, quick-as-hiccup dynamo who can break open a game.

Game plan is simple. Stop Gurley. Make the Rams one dimensional and get after Keenum – a journeyman quarterback coming off a strong game but who someone the Giants should be able to rattle if they can pressure on him. It’s well past time for Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon to have a breakout game. With Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe out again, Andrew Adams once against will be under the microscope. He’s performed reasonably well given the circumstances – just don’t give up the big play. The return of Eli Apple should help – provided he is reasonably healthy and not too rusty.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Of course the big PR nightmare this week is the Josh Brown story. Statistically, Brown has proven to be one of the best place kickers in all of Giants history. Now he may not return. Robbie Gould will kick against the Rams. The game may come down to him. Benny Cunningham has six career returns over 40 yards. Tavon Austin is very dangerous on punt returns. And the Rams will use trick plays on special teams, especially out of the punt formation.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan on DT Aaron Donald: “He is a fantastic football player. I don’t know if there’s another defensive tackle that’s playing at such a high level. Just the disruption that he causes in both the run and the pass, and the number of quarterback hits he has and in terms of the pass game. Then also, he’s behind the line of scrimmage in the run game as well. When you talked about someone we have to be aware of and know that we take into account from a protection standpoint, from a double team standpoint in the run game, he’s at the forefront of our mind. He’s a heck of a player and we’re going to have our hands full for sure.”

THE FINAL WORD:
There are a number of Giants who I keep expecting to have breakout games, including JPP, Vernon, Shepard, and to a smaller extent, Will Tye. The Giants defense is too talented to have this few sacks and turnovers. Something has to give soon. If the Giants win the turnover battle, they win this game.