-Tyrod Taylor was the starter for the third straight week as Daniel Jones still had not been cleared for contact until shortly before the game because of his neck injury. Taylor, himself, only lasted until about the halfway point of the second quarter. He completed 4/7 for 8 yards and gained 33 yards on 5 carries. He was quick to evade the pocket twice where he had more time to hang in there, and he made a poor throw on a third down that had potential for more. Taylor suffered a rib injury as he fell on the ball when tackled at the tail end of an odd play where the ball slipped out of his hand before re-catching it himself. At the time of this writing, I do not have a full report on his injury but it could very well a punctured lung, which happens on specific rib fractures/displacements. Ironically, this would not be the first punctured lung of his career. He suffered one in 2020 when a team doctor inserted an injection too deeply on the sideline.
The Giants did not have a Justin Herbert on the sidelines. Instead, undrafted rookie and Don Bosco Prep graduate Tommy DeVito ran onto the field for his first taste of NFL regular season action. The talk will center around the decision to keep the training wheels on his game. He threw 7 passes, 2 were completed, and the result was -1 passing yards. He was also sacked twice (losing nine more yards) and threw two-near interceptions. Forgotten by many is the fact DeVito was the lone Giant to score a touchdown in this game. He made an excellent read on the ball fake to Barkley and exploded into the end zone. This was a tough tape and situation to fully evaluate, but DeVito showed his lack of experience on two occasions and did not make the throws that were there. I will touch on this situation more below.
-Saquon Barkley: 36 att – 128 yards / 3 rec – 0 yards
With Jones on the sideline and Taylor injured early, this offense hopped on the shoulders of Barkley on this rainy day in the northeast. His 36 carries were a career high. The last time we saw anything close to this took place last year. He carried the ball 35 times in their home win over the Texans in the team’s 9th game of the year. He followed that with his worst game of the season (15 att – 22 yards) and he did not break the 87-yard mark the rest of the way. Barkley was the definition of “workhorse” in this game. He ran into crowded boxes against a physical defense that knew where the ball was going. He found ways to pick up extra yards and first downs as the game plan became bleeding the clock (and nothing else) once they took the 10-7 lead in the third quarter. There was one blunder, however. Barkley’s lack of situational awareness and questionable competitive nature showed up again. On first and ten with 1:26 left in the fourth quarter, Barkley found a cutback lane and darted upfield. He could have easily run past the first down marker, but he instead dove forward. The Jets then stopped the Giants offense on the next two plays. Had Barkley gained that first down, the Giants could have run out the clock with no field goal attempt needed. Barkley made a poor decision, and it overshadowed the gutsy performance he had all afternoon. Not the first time this has happened with him.
-Matt Breida gained 13 yards on 5 carries and added another 4 yards on one catch.
-This won’t take long for obvious reasons. Darius Slayton (2) and Wan’Dale Robinson (1) were the only receivers to have the ball thrown their way. The former caught one of his for a loss of one yard. The latter made two plays in the running game with gains of 10 and 7 respectively. Jalin Hyatt played 25 snaps but was not given any opportunities for obvious reasons. Isaiah Hodgins played nearly double the snaps because of his blocking prowess.
-Punt returner Gunner Olszewski was added to the roster after their return game debacle last week. He had 6 returns (averaging 9.3 yards) while fair catching 2.
-In an offense that, no matter what, was going to be run-heavy, the Giants entered the game with two tight ends. Darren Waller (more WR than TE) was obviously one of them. He left the game early with a hamstring injury just when we thought that was in the rear-view mirror after a few weeks of issues earlier this season. Daniel Bellinger was the backup, a guy who has not yet proven he can be even an average blocker. This situation would fully show where that part of his game has evolved. It was a complete fail. Bellinger allowed 3 TFLs and a sack, and was flagged for a holding penalty that created 1st-and-20 from the NYG 15-yard line instead of 2nd-and-8 from the NYG 27-yard line on the team’s first play in overtime. In that offensive situation, it all but destroyed any shot of them moving the ball past the chains. Bellinger’s lack of impact as blocker is a significant problem on an offense that already has a below average blocker in Waller on the team.
-Justin Pugh and Tyre Phillips remained the tackles. In a game where the play-calling was nearly allergic to dropping back to pass, these two escaped potential nightmare scenarios considering their opponent. Even with the limited looks in that department, Pugh allowed 1.5 sacks and Phillips 3 pressures and a TFL. He was also flagged for a false start. When it comes to the running game, Pugh made a couple things happen on the move when the blocking scheme got more creative up front. That gives some hope that he can play left guard once Andrew Thomas is back. Phillips had a hard time getting push with his high pad level.
-Inside we saw Mark Glowinski with another solid game in the run game. Once again, when the blocking scheme had these guys pulling laterally it seemed to catch the NYJ front seven out of position. That is great, but meaningless if the blockers don’t get clean contact. Glowinski was making heavy hits and staying attached at both the second level and point-of-attack. He allowed a half-sack and a pressure in pass protection.
-John Michael Schmitz returned for the first time since Week 4. The rookie excelled in gap blocking and was a key component to a couple of the big NYG runs. He ended up on the ground often, however, and looks heavy footed when matched against pure speed, allowing a TFL and a pressure. That will be an issue for him that I do not see going away, not this season anyway. But there was some good cohesion up front, and I want to believe it was a result of him being back. Ben Bredeson got the nod at left guard and he allowed a TFL and rarely got an upfield push in the running game.
-The Kayvon Thibodeaux breakout performance was coming. He was heating up for a few weeks straight and exploded against the Jets tackles. He finished with 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 pressure, and 1.5 TFL. This was a fast, physical performance that saw him empty the tank yet again. He made several hustle plays during his 9-tackle performance, the second most of his career. He was on the field for all but three snaps, once again showing the reliability and gamer mentality. An area of progress I see when it comes to the pass rush comes from his timing of double moves. He’s been late there often. But his footwork and positioning are a notch quicker and it stems from the decision when to make his move. If he gets the corner/edge, he is hard to catch up to. His inside arsenal has always been solid, but it can be used at a higher level now that he seems to be presenting less time for tackles to respond. The offsides penalty on that final drive was an absolute killer, though. It gave NYJ an extra timeout in a situation where NYG was one second away from a win.
-Jihad Ward had another quiet game despite 52 snaps, 37 of which were rushing the passer. He did recover the fumble created by Thibodeaux, but all he did was add one tackle from there on out. While there is some truth to the dirty work he does that will not show up on the stat sheet, he is quite the ineffective player. Boogie Basham played just 5 snaps and added 2 tackles.
-The Jets have had their own share of offensive line injury woes, inside in particular. Three different centers were rotated in because of injuries and their second-round rookie (Joe Tippman) was already out and they lost their top OL (guard Alijah Vera-Tucker) last week to an Achilles injury. No matter who was in front of Dexter Lawrence, it simply did not matter. He was a one-man wrecking crew, finishing with 13 pressures, 3 of which were QB hits, and added a sack. I have not charted a single defensive pass rush performance like this since grading Giants players on game day. He also added 2 tackles and was disrupting the NYJ running game inside and outside. Humans this big and strong never move this fast. He is an anomaly who is doing things we have never, ever seen from a nose tackle.
-Leonard Williams added 5 pressures, a season high. I will touch on the trade below. As for this game, his disruptiveness was not as important and impactful as Lawrence, but the fact he was getting through as well exacerbated the NYJ pass protection to a point they could not function on several occasions. When these two are on like this, they can crush any passing game in the league without too much outside help. He added a tackle and a pass break up.
-A’Shawn Robinson is another player who seems to be heating up weekly and it does soften the blow of losing Williams to Seattle. He had 2 tackles, one for a loss and one being a stop on 3rd-and-1. He also added a pressure for the second straight week, and it looks like his response to more playing time is exactly what this defense needs post-trade.
-Rakeem Nunez-Roches and D.J. Davidson both played under 10 snaps and did not move the needle in either direction.
-Similar to Thibodeaux, Bobby Okereke played another excellent game and has been proving to be worth every penny that the Front Office spent on him this past offseason. He finished with a team-high 10 tackles, and 2.5 TFL. He was the one who stopped NYJ quarterback Zack Wilson in the fourth quarter dead in his tracks on a long-winded scramble near midfield just a few yards shy of the first down marker. While we know that did not help much with the outcome of the game, it was an underrated play that we see many defenders screw up around the league. His biggest gaffe, and he was not alone, was the complete whiff on Breece Hall’s touchdown. Okereke had Hall right where he wanted him, but he hesitated and was shook out of his cleats, not even making contact to slow Hall down. That touchdown did not seem as big at the moment, but what a miss it ended up being.
-Micah McFadden is another defender who has grown a lot this season. I seem to be saying that often but then again, this defense has averaged just 11 points allowed per game over the past three weeks. This guy is one of the reasons for the improvement on that side of the ball. He added 4 tackles and a fumble recovery along with 2 pressures. His heavy contact downhill sent shockwaves to NYJ lead blockers. He did miss two tackles, including one on the Hall touchdown as well, adding to his season total of 10 which is 9th most among NFL linebackers.
-Isaiah Simmons saw 26 snaps, all but two of which were at outside linebacker. He had one pressure and one tackle, but also missed one in space.
-Garrett Wilson, Terry McLaurin, Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill, D.K. Metcalf, and Brandon Aiyuk. Those are receivers rookie Deonte Banks has faced off against over the past six weeks alone. Talk about being thrown into the fire right away and I like how he has responded. This game was not one of his better ones, however. While I do like the athleticism he showed in coverage against Wilson, one of the best at getting open in the NFL, he added 2 more penalties to his state sheet (1 of which was declined). He also missed two tackles. He had a pass break up and added 3 tackles. Banks has been flagged six times this season, tied for third-most among players in coverage.
-Cor’Dale Flott is yet another young, emerging player this team needs to keep feeding opportunities to. He broke up a team-high three passes and appears to be playing up to speed now. He always moved well enough, but the questions were anticipation and instincts. The physical presence on his contact will never be good, but the other traits are coming along and weigh a lot more for corners.
-Adoree’ Jackson was torched in big moments. While he did get thrown at a ton in this game and his overall coverage grade was solid, those key plays are where a guy like him needs to step up. The pass interference penalty that set NYJ up for the game-winning field goal was a result of him being tricked on a route by an undrafted receiver. That cannot happen from that kind of player. Jackson is a solid cover man, but his level of play has been inconsistent and seems to degrade in key moments and against key players. Not ideal from your number one corner.
-The every-snap streak lives on for the Jason Pinnock / Xavier McKinney duo. They combined for 9 tackles and Pinnock added both a QB hit and pass break-up. His missed tackle on the Hall touchdown was by far the worst play of the sequence and one could argue the worst play of the game for NYG. No wrap up attempt and, to honest, a half-ass soft attempt at a player who was running downhill. This surprised me from Pinnock, who plays anything but soft. A play like that in a game against a team that cut you? Major blemish.
-Nick McCloud and Dane Belton saw rotational/sub package duty but neither made an impact.
-K Graham Gano: 1/3 (Made 31, Missed 47, 35). The first game in a Giants uniform Gano has missed two field goal attempts in a game, and first time since a 2017 Week 17 loss at Tampa Bay when he was with Carolina
-P Jamie Gillan: 13 punts (42.2 avg – 40.7 net).
-DT Dexter Lawrence, EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, CB Cor’Dale Flott
-K Graham Gano, TE Daniel Bellinger, CB Adoree’ Jackson
3 THOUGHTS ON NYJ
1. Even without Aaron Rodgers, the Jets are one of the most interesting teams in the NFL. Whether they are playing the best or worst the NFL has to offer, they keep it close. This all comes back to their defense and how this team is built. Head Coach Robert Saleh and Defensive Coordinator Jeff Ulbrich came over from SF and the NYJ defense ranked dead last in both yards and points allowed year one. A season later? 4th best. They have wins against BUF and PHI along with a 3-point loss to KC. They then have a loss to NE and a close win against DEN. This is life of a team that is built on defense. I am still old school in thinking that this is the proper way to do it, but I will admit it is more difficult to do than build an offense because of the amount of personnel moves and picks you need to get right.
2. Speaking of getting it right. What a whiff they made at quarterback. Here is an excerpt from my final report on Zack Wilson in 2021 “…There is a bit too much ‘backyard football’ that I’m not sure will work in the NFL…Is he tough enough to handle the New York market?…He hasn’t exactly faced a lot of adversity in his life.” Wilson was a late 1st/early 2nd round grade on my sheet, like Daniel Jones. Just another one of those guys who just did not show enough to warrant the high pick but when you’re against a wall and in need of the quarterback, it is hard to pass on the upside. I fully expect Wilson to be elsewhere following the 2024 season.
3. The Joe Douglas-led front office is going to be in a very tough spot. If Rodgers comes back, and I consider it a big if, he still needs to consider the long-term future of the franchise. That is his job, more than anything. Do you use another pick on a QB? This class is going to be a deep one at the position. But will Captain Rodgers approve of using a premium pick on a guy that plays his position? That is what I can’t wait to see. The Jets coaches and players were almost embarrassingly giddy every time Rodgers threw a nice ball in practice. It is a poor way to act because of how sensitive older players can be physically. More cheerleader than coach. Does Douglas have the decision-making power to use a premium asset on a win-now player? AKA not a quarterback. I can’t wait to see.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
1. There are two “Monday Morning Quarterback” components to the offensive situation that led to this loss. One, did Daboll/Kafka pull back the reins too much for a quarterback who as in this system for months? Two, should the team have signed another quarterback with veteran experience? I can understand not having three quarterbacks on game day ready to run the (almost) full offense. Most teams in the league would say the same. But Jones was still on the sideline and NYG knows they’re one play away from the next man up coming in under center. If DeVito, the low-graded rookie undrafted free agent could not run the offense to anything near full capacity, how is he logically the number one backup at the most important position in the game?
2. Building off that point, the question can be asked about the mentality and overall ethos of this coaching staff. Have they gotten to the point where they are afraid to lose more than they are trying to win? I have seen this over the years, notably in year 2/3 of coaching regimes. The honeymoon phase is over, expectations grow, adversity hits, and the pressure changes everything about the way a team played that made them originally competitive. If Barkley runs for the first down or Gano hits the field goal or Thibodeaux does not get called for offsides – if any of those happen – perhaps we are calling this a coaching masterpiece and a gritty win that alters the direction of a season that felt loss. But here is the truth. They won the turnover battle for the third time in four weeks, and they won the penalty yardage battle for the third time in four weeks. That combination will net wins in over 85% of games in the NFL. They won 25% of them. The truth is, despite the injury bug, this team has been in position to win games. But they lost some identity. Culture is not created during good, easy times. It is created when adversity hits and the response is conditioned. This coaching staff needs to be better. Daboll in particular.
3. The trade deadline is at 4PM on Halloween. I was going to write up the three names who I feel have value around the league and what they could net for NYG. I am not including Saquon Barkley, as I just do not see ownership signing off on giving away the one high-ticket player on this team, and one who had some public turmoil against the franchise recently. The first name was Leonard Williams, but I thought at the most he would net a 3rd rounder. NYG getting a 2nd and future 5th for him is a huge win and it opens the door for more playing time for both Jordon Riley and D.J. Davidson. A’Shawn Robinson playing well helps soften the blow. Next up is Adoree’ Jackson, a credible corner (with limited upside) who is almost sure to be gone in 2024. Like the defensive line, it fully opens the experience door for Tre Hawkins and Cor’Dale Flott. Jackson would likely net a 5th or 6th rounder for a defense that needs a number three/four corner. Lastly, and this may not be popular, is Xavier McKinney. A free agent in 2024 on a team that will need to make some difficult money decisions on guys like this, McKinney would likely draw some mid-round interest from teams that need to upgrade the position. While his career to this point has not been anything special, McKinney is a solid player who could start on 20+ teams in the league.