-Tommy DeVito: 18/26 – 246 yards / 3 TD – 0 INT / 137.7 RAT
The ascent continues. DeVito went from a guy who the coaches did everything within their power to prevent from throwing a pass in a close game to producing the highest QB rating a Giants quarterback has had since September 23, 2018 (among games with 20+ passing attempts). In addition, the three touchdowns were the most by a Giants quarterback since Week 16 of 2019 (also a game against Washington). Say whatever you want about the future of the Giants quarterback situation, but what DeVito has done in a short time is nothing short of impressive. He did all of this on a day where he was sacked nine times. There were a few instances of mental mistakes, mainly holding onto the ball too long when the pass rushers outnumbered the blockers, but it was a clean game for the undrafted rookie. He sprayed the ball all over the field and came up with three high level balls while avoiding turnovers. I look forward to seeing if he can continue the climb.
-Saquon Barkley: 14 att – 83 yards / 4 rec – 57 yards – 2 TD
For the third straight week, Barkley averaged over five yards per carry. The last time he did that was in 2018, his rookie season. While he was fully contained on the ground in the first half (-2 yards on 6 carries), he made two elite catches, one being the first of two touchdown receptions. His explosive plays were vital to the team’s offensive success. He rattled off two 30+ yard runs and was responsible for 4 of the 7 largest gains for the offense. Barkley’s one dent was the fact he allowed two sacks. Running backs are not expected to sustain blocks for a long time, but he barely even made an impact on these two whiffs. This is an area of his game that has never solidified. All in all, the team does not win this game without this performance by Barkley.
-Despite missing the second half with a hand/wrist injury, Darius Slayton led the team with 82 yards on 4 catches, including a touchdown, his first of the season. On that play, we saw an impressive burst to the end zone after a subtle stutter-step that froze the WAS defender just enough to create that lane to the end zone. That kind of athleticism is part of what creates the optimism around his game. A drop on third down is what creates the frustration around his game. The up and down element to his game lives on.
-Wan’Dale Robinson had 3 catches for 35 yards, including an explosive play that gained 21 yards. That gain was essentially all him after the catch. We have seen the flashes over the last month that strengthen the notion he will be an important building block next season and beyond. I also noted a couple of high-effort blocks he made.
-Rookie Jalin Hyatt was thrown to twice and he caught one of them for seven yards. While it is disappointing that they seem to struggle getting him consistent targets, I am optimistic DeVito will throw the ball downfield to him in the coming weeks. The training wheels are coming off. One question I would like the answer to is how well does Hyatt know the playbook? While watching the game from the All-22, there were a couple plays where there appears to be miscommunication between the two. It is hard to tell who that’s on, but that could be a reason for the disconnect between what I think Hyatt can do and what opportunities he gets.
-Isaiah Hodgins added 22 yards on 2 catches and Sterling Shepard had 1 catch for 7 yards. The latter was targeted in the end zone as well.
-It was another full day for Daniel Bellinger. He had 38 yards on 3 catches and played most of the snaps. His 26-yard gain that ended just shy of a touchdown was his longest of the day. As Waller sits out, I am interested to see if the second-year pro from San Diego State gets some of his swagger back. Some players need a lot of reps to get and stay fresh. Bellinger did allow a TFL on a play where he lined up at fullback, but his blocking was better in this game than previous weeks.
-Tyree Jackson and Lawrence Cager shared spot duty and both were manhandled by the physical Washington front a few times. Neither were thrown to.
-On paper, the offensive line was torched. But on tape, it was not nearly as bad as the 9 sacks make it look and they had stretches of solid pass protection. While the OL still is a significant weakness that holds the offense back, they have now gone up a step on the ladder from dysfunctional to inconsistent. Having Andrew Thomas back is such a difference maker, and it is an easy example to point to when discussing the sheer value of a high-quality left tackle. He allowed one pressure and created good push it the running game.
-Tyre Phillips is a hit or miss blocker. Because he has lower body movement limitations, he needs to get the initial win. When he doesn’t, the odds of him coming out on top are slim when there are deeper drop backs. He allowed 2 pressures and 1.5 sacks in addition to being flagged for illegally blocking downfield. Justin Pugh allowed a sack and was poor in the run game. His initial punch does not displace or stand anyone up. Therefore, he needs to be incredibly precise and when he is off by just a little bit, the operation blows up. Jonathan Allen ate his lunch a few times.
-Ben Bredeson allowed two pressures and a half-sack and rookie center John Michael Schmitz had his worst game of the season. The latter allowed 2 TFL and a sack. I’ve highlighted his movement issues recently and it appears the league has caught onto them as well. The lateral speed and adjustments are a notch too slow, and it’s lessened his power impact. He was put on ice skates a few times and it disrupted the zone running game.
-Kayvon Thibodeaux shined once again as he lined up across from Washington left tackle Charles Leno. If you do not watch much outside of the Giants games, you may not know that Leno is probably one of the ten best pass-blocking left tackles in the game. About a month after Thibodeaux recorded 1.5 sacks vs. Washington in New York, he added 2 sacks, 3 pressures, 1 QB hit, and 5 tackles to his season total. He now has 10.5 sacks and is the first player in a Wink Martindale defense to reach double digits in that department. There are six games left. He won inside, he won outside, he won with burst, he won with power.
-Jihad Ward recorded a sack very much because of a pressure from Thibodeaux that made Sam Howell run right into his arms. He and Boogie Basham excel at controlling a gap but when it comes to lateral speed and adjustments, they’re awfully slow and lethargic. Brian Robinson ran for 73 yards, the second most of the year, and a lot of it stemmed from that lack of speed on the outside.
-Azeez Ojulari was nowhere to be found following a pressure he had early in the game. On 49 snaps, he had zero tackles and nothing outside that first pressure.
-Dexter Lawrence should pay rent for the amount of time he spent in the Washington backfield over their two matchups this season. He had 4 pressures, 2 TFL, and a sack. Double teams, single teams, and even triple teams do not stop the eventual All-Pro.
-A’Shawn Robinson played just over a third of the snaps but he came up big in big spots. He ended with 4 tackles, one of which was a big third-down stop, and added 2 pressures. That snap count works well for him because while I do not think he has the engine to play a full snap load, he can still be effective in flashes.
-Rakeem Nunez-Roches and D.J. Davidson spelled Robinson a lot through the second half. The former had a pressure and a tackle and the latter added one tackle. Nunez-Roches is a hustler, too. He was 20-30 yards downfield chasing guys down. That kind of effort matters, especially from a backup.
-Another active and productive game for the linebacker duo of Bobby Okereke and Micah McFadden. Okereke led the team with 14 tackles and forced two fumbles. McFadden added 8 tackles, one of which was for a loss, and recovered a fumble in addition to a pass break up. They both missed tackles, one of three by McFadden’s led to a touchdown. The two seem to feed off each other, displaying chemistry. Watch some of the top linebacker pairs in the league and you will see that often. They move off each other well and can control an extra gap. These two have been fun to watch.
-Isaiah Simmons made an impact play for the first time since being acquired via trade from Arizona 12 weeks ago. He intercepted Sam Howell (the team’s sixth forced turnover of the day) and returned it 54 yards for the pick-six. He added 3 tackles on the day and missed one. This could be the turning moment for Simmons that he needed.
-It was an active game for the young group. Rookie Deonte Banks allowed a touchdown but was otherwise very solid in coverage down the field. Cor’Dale Flott continued his ascent with a forced fumble and two tackles. These two have been positives we will look back on after the season when projecting the potential of this defense moving forward. Their movement traits are both outstanding, but looking at them from the All-22 is encouraging as well. Their feel and route recognition are notably better.
-Nick McCloud intercepted his first pass of his career in the first quarter to set the defensive tone. It was an outstanding play on a deep ball where he displayed speed, ball tracking, and hands on a diving, over-the-shoulder grab. McCloud is a nice player who was a key part to their secondary in 2022 who we have not seen much of this season. He also added a team-high two special teams tackles. He is a guy who wears multiple hats for this team that all good defenses have.
-Also picking off a pass was Darnay Holmes, who has done just enough to stick around over his four-year career. If he does shake free in the offseason, you can bet your bottom dollar he will get signed. It was his second pick of the year. Tre Hawkins struggled, leading the defensive backs in yards allowed, and he was flagged for illegal contact (a questionable call). A big part of the remaining balance of this season will be getting the young guys more and more snaps, Hawkins included. The tough question will be how much and at what expense? McCloud does more for this defense right now.
-Xavier McKinney and Jason Pinnock were on the field for 100% of the snaps yet again. McKinney deserves the mention, as he seems to be in the crosshairs of some because of comments to the media and a lack of playmaking overall. He was outstanding. He finished with 12 tackles, 1 TFL, and a fumble recovery. While he did get beat in coverage a few times, he did a nice job of containing and keeping the action in front of him. He was all over the field and played with a ton of grit and hustle.
-Dane Belton had 5 tackles and continues to add a needed physical element to the defense.
-Welcome to the playmaker’s list rookie Gervarrius Owens. He made a tackle and recovered a fumble on special teams. The safety room is crowded but this kind of experience will be good for the 7th rounder who opened eyes throughout preseason.
K Randy Bullock: 1/1 (Made 36)
P Jamie Gillan: 7 punts / 45.4 avg – 42.6 net
-EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, DT Dexter Lawrence, QB Tommy DeVito
-EDGE Azeez Ojulari, OC John Michael Schmitz, CB Tre Hawkins III
3 THOUGHTS ON WAS
1. It’s safe to say the Giants have the Commanders number similar to what Dallas has done to the Giants in recent years. Different regimes, different quarterbacks, different personnel. No matter the case, NYG over WAS has become a near-given as of late. The one thing I sense about the Commanders, especially offensively, is the fact they have nobody on offense who truly scares you. Terry McLaurin is a solid player, but he won’t keep anyone up at night when preparing for them. They have plenty of quality wins against good opponents over this span of NYG dominance, but the fact they do not have any elite playmakers (and haven’t for a long time) is a key reason why they have not gotten over the hump.
2. With that in mind, this thought crossed my mind in relation to roster building. Would you rather have a couple of elite pieces you can build around but a lesser support system around them, or a solid supporting cast with volume of quality players but missing the elite pieces that are the cornerstones? Washington has a lot of usable pieces, but they no longer have the defining players. The Giants have a few elite players, but they’re missing the much-needed depth. Something to chew on.
3. Washington traded not one, but both, of their defensive ends who were heading toward free agency this upcoming March. They received a second-round pick from Chicago (likely a top 35 pick) and a third rounder from San Francisco (likely a top 96 pick). The writing was on the wall, as Washington already locked up the interior guys Jonathan Allen and DaRon Payne and the resources have to be spread out when it comes to the larger contracts. Sweat and Young will both be getting monster deals this offseason. It is a new era coming in Washington and the next move will be the firing of Ron Rivera. I cannot see him making it to 2024.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
1. This is an awkward time of year for fans. They have their eyes firmly set on the NFL Draft. Any and every win lessens their chance of getting the top pick and the player they feel will change things around. I do understand it, but I’ve always felt it was a meaningless approach and a waste of time. Texans Head Coach Lovie Smith was crushed by the fans and media for a meaningless win last year at the end of the season. It pushed them out of the number one overall pick. Here they are a year later with the second quarterback taken and will end up as the comeback team of the season. It looks like they may have the next big thing at quarterback. We see examples of this all the time. Giants fans were upset they did not get Chase Young and had to settle for Andrew Thomas. The team needs to find the pieces on this roster who are worth building around. They need to find guys who are good at football and who can be relied upon. That is the goal. If they find them, it will lead to wins, period. This would be a net-positive even though it may mess with your mock drafts and fantasies.
2. Turnovers change everything. It took seven games for the Giants to reach six turnovers for the season. They took the ball away six times in this game alone. I can recall discussing the lack of turnovers early in the year (zero through 4 games) as being the defensive catalyst to poor play. The Giants are now +3 in turnovers on the year, an encouraging sign because that ratio is tied to win-loss as much as any stat in football. For me, it has been the pass rush that has led to increased number of turnovers. It is more effective, and it now has a true inside-out force. Add another piece (or two) and watch how much this will change the outcomes of games. The offense needs personnel improvements, yes. But the pass rush is close to being something that makes a true difference.
3. I am interested in seeing how this coaching staff handles the workload of Saquon Barkley moving forward. He is on pace for the most touches per game in a season over his entire career. We all know about the contract situation, and we all know there is nothing behind him who comes even close to matching what he can produce. There is a lot of football left and Barkley has proven to be a team-first guy, but if they do not slow down his usage, we could see him suffer another breakdown. Yes, “it is part of the game” but I do wonder if there will be a point where they pull him back a bit, especially if they plan to keep him around in 2024.