Dec 112018
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (December 9, 2018)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 40 – Washington Redskins 16

QUICK RECAP

On October 28, the Giants lost to WAS and the two teams were heading in complete opposite directions. However 5 weeks have passed and in the NFL, that can be an eternity. Since then, WAS has lost its starting quarterback to a horrific leg injury, lost 4 of 5 games, and lost its identity overall. They lead the league in players on the IR after finishing 2nd on that list in 2017 and when we talk about trying to avoid a losing culture, what we see in WAS is exactly what we are talking about.

The Odell Beckham-less Giants offense (a quad injury sidelined him) started off slow. The offensive line was leaky, as they were last time these two teams faced off, and Saquon Barkley dropped a pass that could have been a big gain. The WAS offense was being led by Mark Sanchez, who was signed off of the street following Alex Smith’s injury a few weeks ago, and they weren’t going anywhere fast either. This had the feel of an old school, grind it out NFC East battle.

With just under 3 minutes left in the first quarter, a Sanchez pass was tipped at the line by Kareem Martin and right into the waiting arms of Curtis Riley who could have walked into the end zone. The Giants took control early in a game where it looked like it would be incredibly difficult for WAS to even pass midfield, let alone score points.

The Giants offense gradually woke up in the 2nd quarter. Thanks to a 30-yard, in-the-bucket throw by Eli Manning to Corey Coleman up the left sideline, NYG had a first and goal from the WAS 3-yard line. However their next 2 plays resulted in -14 yards and they settled for a 35-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas. They were up 10-0 with some momentum churning.

After another 3 and out by the WAS offense, NYG got the ball back and handed the ball to Barkley to get the drive going. Well, that drive lasted that one play, as he burst into the open field and outran the defensive back angles all the way for a 78-yard touchdown. The speed in the open field had that race to the goal line won before he reached the WAS 40-yard line. NYG was up 17-0 and the wind was out of the sails for WAS. It took just 2 plays before Sanchez turned it over a second time, this time a toss to Alec Ogletree, who intercepted his 5th pass of the season. Manning then found a wide open Sterling Shepard in the end zone for maybe the easiest touchdown of the year. It took just 4 minutes of game clock for NYG to extend their lead from 7-0 to 24-0, and they weren’t done yet.

WAS had another 3 and out and on the sixth play of the next NYG drive, Manning found Bennie Fowler in the end zone. 31-0. Felt good to be on this side of a complete and utter blowout. What happened next? You guessed it, another Was 3 and out and NYG strove to get one more drive towards the end zone going. A short pitch and long run by Evan Engram brought the offense all the way down to 5 yard line. They failed to punch it in, but a 23-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter out NYG ahead 34-0 at halftime.

Even though this game seemed out of reach, the NYG defense needed to squash any idea of a potential comeback. They sacked Sanchez twice on WAS’ opening drive of the second half and then gave Manning’s offense one more opportunity to drive down the field and put more points on the board. A 9-play, 81-yard drive ended with Manning’s third touchdown of the day, this one to Russell Shepard who caught his second touchdown in as many weeks.

WAS then made a QB change to former Giant Josh Johnson, another signal caller they signed off the street just a week ago. Johnson actually put together some sandlot-style football against a Giants defense that knew they had done enough to win the game. They scored two 4th quarter touchdowns while the Giants offensive success came to a halt as rookie Kyle Lauletta took over.

While the game never got close again, WAS did consistently move the ball behind Johnson and NYG failed to cross mid-field besides their final 2 minutes of the game. However no complaints and no bad taste left in their mouths.

Giants win 40-16.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 14/22 – 197 yards – 3 TD / 0 INT. Not much was needed out of Manning. But after a cold start to the day, he and the NYG offense turned into a machine for the 2nd and 3rd quarters. He really spread the ball out well, which was hard considering he only threw the ball 22 times. He fit balls into tight windows on 2 of his touchdowns and connected a couple times downfield. His 2 standout-mistakes were near the end zone, however. He got away with a near-INT at the end of the 1st half thanks to Sterling Shepard playing the role of defensive back. And he also took a huge sack that resulted in a 14-yard loss. He can’t go that far back in his evasion, especially for a guy that simply can’t evade. This was Manning’s 5th game of the year with a 110+ QB rating.

-Kyle Lauletta: 0/5 – 0 yards – 0 TD / 1 INT. Not a big enough sample size to really fairly evaluate Lauletta. But I do hope fans and media-alike saw the gap between what NYG has in Manning and what they could have in a 4th round rookie from Richmond. I don’t want to knock him while he is down, especially in a game like that, but Lauletta didn’t look good. He threw an INT and had another one dropped by a WAS defender.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 14 att – 170 yards – 1 TD / 4 rec – 27 yards. The elite-level running back scored on a 78-yard touchdown that displayed the burst, balance, and runaway speed that most backs just don’t have. He had a few other runs that showed how versatile his game is and perhaps the best part about it was that he only touched the ball 18 times. It is not a coincidence that this offense turned it around the instant he broke off the long run.

-Wayne Gallman got a season-high 14 carries and rushed for 38 yards. He got a lot of mop-up time where the defense really keyed in on him, so there isn’t much judgment to be done besides that fact that he ran hard and hungry. Elijah Penny also got 5 carries and gained 21 yards in addition to a 16-yard gain on a screen pass. There is some interesting athletic ability to his game that can be used in a variety of ways.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Sterling Shepard: 2 rec / 17 yards / 1 TD. Perhaps Shepard’s best play of the afternoon was his pass break-up on a ball that Eli Manning threw right to cornerback Greg Stroman. It could have given WAS some needed momentum heading into halftime. Shepard’s touchdown catch was as easy as it gets in this league but he is a guy who continues to make plays that matter. Not a dynamic downfield threat, but he may be the guy I trust the most when it comes to getting open. And one thing that doesn’t get discussed enough is how impactful he is as a blocker. He threw a key block on Barkley’s long TD run and is always hustling in that department.

-Corey Coleman: 2 rec / 43 yards. With Odell Beckham sidelined, Coleman was the team’s vertical threat. They gave him a couple of deep shots, one of which he came down with in the 2nd quarter.

-Russell Shepard and Bennie Fowler each caught one pass in the end zone. While these two are roster fillers, they have done well in their limited opportunities. They have come up with big/important plays when the team needed them.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram: 3 rec / 77 yards. After missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury, Engram came back and didn’t have a lot of opportunities. With that said, he made the most of what was given to him. He had two huge gains after the catch, showing off his legit 4.4 caliber speed. Sometimes we forget just how explosive this kid is. His blocking grade was solid, although the team appears to be taking him off the field in run-only situations now.

-Scott Simonson and Rhett Ellison both graded out above average as blockers but did not factor in the passing game.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Solid day for Nate Solder. His name wasn’t called much at all in a negative fashion, as he ended the day with his highest grade of the season. His play has stabilized but I still see him getting walked back a few too many times.

-Chad Wheeler was one of the guilty culprits for the NYG slow start on offense. He was flagged for a holding penalty and allowed a sack. He was solid the rest of the way, though.

GUARDS / CENTERS

-All the talk surrounding Jamon Brown’s presence stabilizing this entire offense is a little overblown. I think that is coincidence more than anything, as he continues to be very up and down (although that is a better performance than what we have seen at RG over the past few years). Brown allowed a sack, a pressure, and was flagged for a false start. While he does make several key blocks in this potent rushing attack, his inconsistencies that led to him being cut by the Rams are popping up weekly.

-Will Hernandez continues to be a rock at LG. Facing off against that interior WAS defensive line is no small task, and he answered the bell. He did allow a TFL but for the most part, he was very solid. He has had a positive grade in all but 2 games this year.

-Spencer Pulley, we know by now, is the weak link to this OL. He allowed both a pressure and a TFL, something we see every week with him. OC will be one of the top priorities for this team in the offseason and fortunately the draft class at that spot may be the best we have seen in awhile.

EDGE

I don’t agree with all of the distaste for Oliver Vernon. I do think he is overpaid when looking at his production, but edge rushers are extremely hard to find. And I think I’ve said this before, but this team’s overall pass rush vastly improved since he came back from injury earlier in the year. He finished with 1.5 sacks and 5 tackles.

-Lorenzo Carter returned to the lineup and had a very disruptive game in his rotational role. He had 5 tackles, 1 pressure, and 1 sack. What stood out to me at Georgia last year in addition to his superb athleticism, was how disciplined he stays within the scheme. Carter played very tight assignment football and it helped get the job done for the defense as a whole.

-Kareem Martin continues his role as a solid role player who can be rotated in and out. He tipped a ball at the line that ended up being intercepted and returned for a TD by Curtis Riley to break the game’s 0-0 tie. He added 2 pressures and a half-sack.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Dalvin Tomlinson , Josh Mauro, and BJ Hill had their best game as a trio since the Damon Harrison trade. They absolutely owned the inside gaps and were active in pursuit against the run and as pass rushers. Their 7 combined tackles don’t even begin to tell the story of how much they dominated. Tomlinson 1 pressure and 1 TFL; Mauro had 1 TFL, 1 pressure, 1 sack; and Hill had 3 pressures and was in the backfield all afternoon.

-Rookie RJ McIntosh is seeing an increase in playing time little by little each week. I like how this defense can bring him along slowly because of how deep and versatile the group is. McIntosh shows impressive speed in pursuit. He made a tackle in space in the 1st quarter where he pursued Chris Thompson across the tackle box and met him at the turn-up point for the takedown. It was an impressive display of athletic ability that I don’t think any of the guys above could have made. He still has a ways to go with is hands and technique, but his upside is on display.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree continues his hot streak. He leads NFL linebackers with 5 interceptions after coming down with one in the second quarter. He also added a pass break up in addition to a team leading 8 tackles and 2 TFL. The career up-and-down linebacker has shown stretches like this before and if he can ever keep the bad games away like we saw about a month ago, he can rightfully be considered a top tier linebacker in the NFL.

-BJ Goodson and Tae Davis split duty next to Ogletree but they weren’t on the field much to make a real impact, as the Giants defensive personnel went defensive back-heavy with WAS being so far behind and having to throw often.

CORNERBACKS

-Janoris Jenkins and BW Webb continue to be the two most steady rocks of the secondary, maybe even the entire defense. While they were up against a low-level passing offense from top to bottom, they did what they were supposed to do – dominate. Webb was in lockdown mode all day and Jenkins got tested a couple times deep and won his battles.

-Grant Haley was on the field for nearly every snap and he has been making eye-opening plays weekly. He continued that trend with 5 tackles and a TFL. Despite his size, his physical and aggressive nature really stand out.

SAFETIES

-Michael Thomas stepped in for the injured Landon Collins. He finished with 6 tackles and the game-sealing interception. While he did show some physical limitations in coverage, he played accurate assignment football and brings a physical presence to the back end.

-Curtis Riley had a really productive day: 3 tackles, 1 interception, and 2 pressures paved the way for his most impactful game as a Giant. He also scored the first touchdown of the day on a ball that was deflected right into his hands in the first quarter. The speed and physical style are easily attractive, but he missed 2 tackles on the day and ranks near the lead league in that category.

-Sean Chandler is going to get more and more looks over the next 3 weeks. He responded with 3 tackles, a pass break up, and a sack. The coaching staff has liked his style from day one and I can see why. Very easy mover with good instincts and a nose for the action. I want to see more reliable tackling and more assertive run-reactions.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 35, 23). Rosas missed an extra point. There seemed to be a few snap-to-hold exchanges that were delayed. A good, but not perfect day for the Pro Bowl hopeful.

-P Riley Dixon: 6 Punts / 43.0 avg / 43.3 net. Very good day for Dixon who is quietly having a very good year. He pinned one inside the 5 that eventually led to the Giants defensive touchdown.

-PR Jawill Davis had 5 returns for 51 yards, including a 23 yarder. He is a tough dude and he knows that he is only going to stick around showing what he can do on returns. He takes pride in the role and that is all you can ask for.

3 STUDS

-RB Saquon Barkley, LT Nate Solder, LB Alec Ogletree

3 DUDS

-OG Jamon Brown, OC Spencer Pulley, DE Kerry Wynn

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

-We talk about winning and losing cultures a lot. Some people think it is complete BS, some believe strongly in it. To each their own. However, when watching these two teams that are both more than likely “out of it” play on the same field at the same time, there was an obvious difference in approach. Does that carry over into the future? I think it can. And it makes me think if this is the last we are going to see of Jay Gruden.

-WAS has been the most injury-hurt team in the NFL over the past three years. If at any point you feel like NYG has gotten the short end of the stick there, just go look at what they have had to deal with over the years. Just brutal.

-Is there any reason for optimism in WAS? Alex Smith may be done for good. They have ignored the idea of drafting a young QB in recent years despite long-term question marks. Their best offensive player is a soon-to-be 34-year old running back who will be a free agent in a couple months. It looks bleak. But I’ve said this before about WAS and I will say it again: they are strong in the trenches and that is always the best place to start a rebuild. That process is already complete.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-NYG is still playing like they have something to reach. Mathematically they are still in the wild card hunt and even though the odds are stacked against them, it’s important to see how they respond to specific situations. How many times have we seen this team play down to the level of competition on the field in games where they were clearly the better team? NYG took a vulnerable WAS team and stomped on their throats. I don’t care who you are up against in the NFL, that is hard to do.

-So maybe we temper the “Kyle Lauletta needs to get starts” talks for now. Again, NYG is still in it, Manning and the offense have more than just stabilized, they are playing very well, and the 4th round rookie looked awful in his limited snaps. There is a possibility, and I will say it is a strong one, that this offense simply needed time to mend together. New players, new coaches, new schemes. If they continue this momentum into the end of the year, you can bet I will be calling for them to remain intact heading into 2019.

-If this defense can get a top-tier edge rusher, and yes I know that is easier said than done, that front line is going to cause a lot of problems for opponents in the coming years. While Tomlinson and Hill aren’t exactly game-wreckers, they are as reliable and consistent as anyone can ask for against both the run and pass. I spoke about Vernon as being a solid player and Carter has the look of a solid rotational player. Keep combining “solid” with a star, and big things can happen to the pass rush. NYG’s will have one available when they are on the clock in the first round next April.

Dec 092018
 
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New York Giants Offense (December 9, 2018)

A Good Day – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 40 – WASHINGTON REDSKINS 16…
The New York Giants improved their overall record to 5-8 by destroying the Washington Redskins 40-16 on Sunday afternoon at FedExField in Maryland. The game was 40-0 in the 3rd quarter when the Giants pulled out some of their key starters. Wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. also did not play in the game due to a quad injury.

The bulk of the first quarter was pretty ugly for both offenses. The Redskins and Giants each punted three times to start the game with both teams each only picking up two first downs.

The New York avalanche of points began late in the first quarter when free safety Curtis Riley picked off a a deflected pass from quarterback Mark Sanchez and returned it nine yards for a defensive touchdown. Then after a three-and-out by Washington, the Giants went up 10-0 by  driving 43 yards in nine plays to set up a 35-yard field goal by place kicker Aldrick Rosas.

After the Redskins went three-and-out again, the Giants blew the game open on the first ensuing offensive snap. Running back Saquon Barkley ran away from the Washington defense on a 78-yard touchdown gallop. Giants 17 – Redskins 0.

It only got uglier for Washington. Linebacker Alec Ogletree picked off a deflected pass at the Washington 28-yard line and returned it to the 10. On 3rd-and-goal, quarterback Eli Manning found a wide open wide receiver Sterling Shepard for a touchdown and a 24-0 advantage. The Redskins went three-and-out, and spurred by a 52-yard run by Barkley, the Giants got into the endzone again right after the 2-minute warning when Manning threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bennie Fowler. Still the Giants were not done. The Redskins went three-and-out and the Giants got the ball back with 56 seconds left on the clock. A 39-yard pass to tight end Evan Engram set up the Giants at the 5-yard line. New York settled for a 23-yard field goal as time expired.

At the half, the Giants led 34-0.

Both teams exchanged punts to start the second half. On New York’s second possession of the third quarter, the Giants drove 81 yards in nine plays, culminating with an 11-yard touchdown pass to wideout Russell Shepard. The extra point was missed, but the Giants were now up 40-0. The Redskins benched Sanchez and the Giants began to pull some of their starters.

The rest of the game anti-climatic and a bit sloppy, reminiscent of a preseason contest. Washington’s next drive ended on a failed 4th-and-2 conversion attempt at the New York 22-yard line. The Redskins got the ball back when Giants back-up quarterback Kyle Lauletta’s second pass of the game was intercepted, setting up Washington at the New York 33-yard line. Five plays later, Redskins back-up quarterback Josh Johnson scrambled for an 8-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempted succeeded. Giants 40 – Redskins 8.

New York went three-and-out. The Redskins cut the score to 40-16 after a 79-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to wide receiver Jamison Crowder, and another successful 2-point conversion attempt. The last Washington threat ended with under five minutes play when safety Michael Thomas picked off Johnson in the end zone. The Giants then ran out the clock.

Manning finished the game 14-of-22 for 197 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions for a QB rating of 132.0. His leading targets were Barkley (4 catches for 27 yards) and Engram (3 catches for 77 yards). Barkley carried the football 14 times for 170 yards and a touchdown.

The Giants accrued five sacks and and three interceptions. Linebacker Olivier Vernon (1.5), linebacker Lorenzo Carter (1.0), safety Sean Chandler (1.0), defensive end Josh Mauro (1.0), and linebacker Kareem Martin (0.5) all got to the quarterback. The interceptions were by Riley, Ogletree, and Thomas.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the New York Giants were wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. (quad), quarterback Alex Tanney, tight end Garrett Dickerson, center Evan Brown, nose tackle John Jenkins, cornerback Tony Lippett, and safety Kenny Ladler.

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

  • Head Coach Pat Shurmur (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • RB Saquon Barkley (Video)
  • LB Alec Ogletree (Video)

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

Dec 072018
 
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Evan Engram, New York Giants (October 28, 2018)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 9, 2018

THE STORYLINE:
Some fans won’t agree with my premise that Pat Shurmur’s job was in jeopardy. His pre-bye week 1-7 start was a disaster and included two double-digit losses. The so-called offensive guru “quarterback whisperer” had two of league’s premium players (Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham), but his offense had only cracked the 20-point mark twice in eight games. Factoring in the last year of Ben McAdoo, the team did not seem to be improving with a combined 2017-18 record of 4-20.

An uptick occurred when the Giants beat two of the other dregs in the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers and and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, scoring 65 points in the process (or just seven fewer than the 72 scored in five losses). Then disaster struck. Having dominated the despised Philadelphia Eagles for almost two quarters, and leading 19-3, Pat Shurmur made a number of highly-questionable coaching decisions en route to a devastating 25-22 loss. This ended any realistic chance of a late-season playoff push in a terrible division.

Which brings us to last Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. I will argue this will end up being one of the most important games in franchise history, for better or worse. Consider this:

  • Had the Giants lost another game in catastrophic fashion: The Giants led by 10 points with 1:49 left in the game. Encumbered by more questionable coaching decisions combined with poor execution, fans watched another late-game meltdown reminiscent of the 1997 playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings. If the Giants had lost this game, combined with the previous week’s nightmare, the ENTIRE fan base would have been calling for Shurmur’s head.
  • With the Giants winning the game in dramatic fashion: Ownership can now legitimately point to the fact that the team is 3-1 in its last four games (and darn close to 4-0). The Redskins are now reeling and the other final three teams (Titans, Colts, and Cowboys) are not world-beaters. It’s not so far-fetched to believe the Giants could now end up closer to .500 than .250.

My point? If you agree with my premise that Shurmur was on shaky ground, then last week’s game has all but officially ensured that he will be the team’s head coach moving forward. I wrote in last week’s preview:

If the Giants play hard and keep it close, Pat Shurmur will gain respect in my eyes. But if this team starts to tank, John Mara had better reconsider all of his options.

The Giants could have easily tanked after the Eagles’ fiasco. And they could have easily tanked after watching their 10-point lead evaporate in 109 seconds. But they didn’t. That doesn’t mean that Shurmur is the right guy for the job. His game-management issues reared their ugly head again against the Bears. But a still-undermanned team is still listening to him, and playing hard for him.

Assuming Shurmur survives, he ought to send a huge Christmas gift to Saquon Barkley. It was Barkley who turned a 3rd-and-23 into a 57-yard field goal attempt. It was Barkley who ripped off a 29-yard run on the first play of overtime to set up the 44-yard game winner. It reminded me of the end of the 2006 season, when an embattled Tom Coughlin may have been saved by the 234-yard rushing effort by Tiki Barber. Coughlin had watched his 6-2 Giants fall to 7-8. Everyone was calling for Tom’s head (including me). But Tiki saved his ass by practically single-handily destroying the Redskins, and putting the Giants into the playoffs at 8-8.

The storyline(s)? This is Pat Shurmur’s team for another season. And because the team appears to be improving, it would seem that Kyle Lauletta will remain on the bench and Eli Manning will return in 2019 as the starting quarterback. Like I said, the outcome of the game against the Bears had huge implications.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Sterling Shepard (rib – probable)
  • TE Evan Engram (hamstring – probable)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (hip – probable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (neck/foot – questionable)
  • LB Tae Davis (ankle – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:

Lost in the dramatics of last week’s game was the Jekyll and Hyde performance of the offense against a very good Chicago Bears’ defense. Aside from Barkley’s 22-yard run at the end of the half, the offense was a disaster. Up until that point, there were only three first downs, with the results being five punts and one turnover. In the second half, the Giants scored two touchdowns on their first two drives, came close to scoring on their fourth drive, and moved into game-winning field goal position in overtime on their sixth drive.

Why the dramatic improvement? The team was able to consistently run the football. Including his 22-yarder right before halftime, Barkley had carried the football seven times for 43 yards in the first half. In the second half, he carried the ball 17 times for 82 yards. These are not earth-shattering numbers, but the Giants kept the down-and-distance situations manageable and the Bears were not able to tee off on Manning. Just as importantly, in the second half, the Giants looked and felt like the more physical football team. I am going to say this again because this is something that has been lacking since the days of Tom Coughlin: The Giants looked and felt like the more physical football team.

Moving forward, the direction this team should take is obvious: build the offense around the running game. Bring in additional big, strong, physical offensive linemen who can maul defenders. Be the more physical football team. Barkley has the ability to dominate. Give him the supporting cast to do so.

With all that in mind, there are a few offensive guys on this team who I am going to watch very closely the last four games:

  • Evan Engram: One of the biggest disappointments of the season. He is a liability in the running game and has only 23 catches for 257 yards and two touchdowns all season. Is he the right fit for this offense? At the very least, turn him into more of an H-Back/move tight end than traditional 3-point stance, hand-in-the-dirt tight end. The latter isn’t working.
  • Scott Simonson: Talk about Jekyll and Hyde. Last week, his three penalties stood out like a sore thumb. But so did his blocking at the point of attack against Khalil Mack.
  • Elijhaa Penny: Again, I saw some really solid, physical lead blocks from the fullback… something I had not seen in a long time.
  • Both tackles: After a dreadful first half of the season, Nate Solder has dramatically improved. The final four games are huge in order to determine if he is an asset or liability moving forward. On the other hand, Chad Wheeler gives the appearance of a try-hard guy who simply may not be big and strong enough to start in the NFL. I won’t write him off yet. But the clock is ticking.
  • Jamon Brown: He looks the part. Big, powerful, strong. And he can abuse people in the running game. But can he become a consistently solid pass protector? Keep watching.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

We all saw and felt it last week. The defense (with an assist from the special teams) had let a 10-point lead evaporate. They had already let the Bears convert on a 4th-and-7 in overtime. At this point, James Bettcher had had enough. He brought the kitchen sink on 4th-and-8 and left the defensive backs in 0 coverage (no safety support). Janoris Jenkins saved the day. It was risky as you could get, but Bettcher had had enough.

Moving forward, the defense may need more help than the offense. We’ve discussed the issues ad nauseam: the Giants can’t rush the passer, they can’t cover the middle of the field, and now they are having issues stopping the run.

We should not lose sight on one critical piece of information: during the Giants’ 3-1 uptick, they have played against a series of underwhelming back-up quarterbacks: Nick Mullens, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Chase Daniels. Now comes Mark Sanchez. This is not murderer’s row… and yet the Giants still have had issues with this group. That’s not a good sign.

Again, here are some players who I will be watching closely down the stretch:

  • B.W. Webb: I’m glad Sy’56 had the courage to bring this up, but Webb has been playing very well. He’s looked like an NFL starter. Flash in the pan or is this a career renaissance moment for him?
  • Grant Haley: He has had some down moments, but there is a lot to like his game. Can he become a quality nickel corner on a winning defense?
  • Sean Chandler: The injury to Landon Collins opens the door for a this rookie longshot from Temple. And with Collins’ pending free agent status, who knows?
  • Olivier Vernon: The injury-prone tease drew praise from James Bettcher this week: “I’ll tell you what, when I’m watching him play – number one he’s getting healthier. Came off a tough injury, played well in that first game then was working through all that stuff and I think he’s getting healthier, number one, and number two the guy I saw rushing – he was rushing as the reckless OV that I think we saw in OTAs and preseason. Just staying with his rush plan throughout the game then in the run game just getting off the ball and being physical at the point and I think those are probably the two things. I think he feels better and I’m watching him practice and he’s practicing better during the week these last couple of weeks and I think that’s leading him to play better on Sunday.”
  • B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson: So much of the defense’s immediate and long-term future depends on these two. Both flashed against the Bears. But their run defense needs to improve.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:

As I mentioned in the YES Network-BBI podcast this week, what we had not seen from Aldrick Rosas thus far was his performance under immense pressure. While the 57 yarder will be remembered as a team record, his 44 yarder in overtime was probably the more impressive kick due to the pressure of the moment. The Giants have a kicker.

THE FINAL WORD:
This is a winnable game. But keep in mind that the offense only scored SIX points against the Redskins until garbage time in the previous game (it was 20-6 with three minutes left). For the Giants to win this game, the offense will have to demonstrate that it is making REAL progress against a defensive unit that had recently shut it down.

Oct 312018
 
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Evan Engram, New York Giants (October 28, 2018)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

Washington Redskins 20 – New York Giants 13

QUICK RECAP

Just a few days after the Giants shipped off two defensive starters via the trade market in addition to their starting MIKE linebacker being on the sideline, the last-place Giants took on the first-place Redskins and their high-performing defense coupled with an efficient offense. The disparity between these two teams when it comes to the trenches gave this match-up a very bleak outlook from the beginning.

After trading opening possessions, WAS drove down the field via a nice run/pass balance and ended it with a touchdown pass from Alex Smith to the ageless Adrian Peterson. The short pitch, catch, and run into the end zone was aided by a horrible missed tackle by Nate Stupar. Once again, NYG found themselves playing from behind, something they have become very used to, as no team in the NFL has trailed more this season than Big Blue.

NYG broke into WAS territory on consecutive drives but it netted a total of zero points. The biggest negative the first time around was a sack by Matt Ioannidis, 1 of his 2.5 on the day. On the second drive, Eli Manning was intercepted by DJ Swearinger, his first of 2 on the day, on a pass intended for Odell Beckham. The boo-birds started to come out in full effect after that one.

The NYG defense held strong, as they did for most of the day. They forced WAS into attempting a 41-yard field goal which was no-good right away off the foot of Dustin Hopkins, who had made 8 straight prior to that.

Manning came out firing on the next drive, dropping a perfectly-thrown deep ball into the hands of Sterling Shepard but the third year pro couldn’t hold onto it. However, the air game picked up 41 yards on the next three plays as the 2-minute warning approached. 1st and 10 from the WAS 25-yard line and Pat Shurmur, who has vowed to commit this offense to a run-heavy attack, passed the ball three straight times. It resulted in 7 yards and NYG had to settle for a 37-yard field goal. Three straight possessions with a 1st down in WAS territory resulted in a meager 3 points. These are the 2018 New York Giants.

The second half opened with WAS up by a score of 7-3. The first two NYG offensive drives both ended in sacks. A lot of pressure was being put on the Big Blue defense and they did a fine job keeping it within one score for the majority of the game. Hopkins nailed a 53-yard field goal and Manning’s offense came onto the field knowing it just couldn’t get going. They needed to force something and hope for the best. On 3rd and 18, thanks to yet another sack, Manning basically shut his eyes and chucked it downfield with no awareness of where the defense stood. The result was Swearinger coming down with his second interception and the offense walking off the field looking hopeless, again.

This offense wasn’t going to make anything happen, thus the defense had to make a play if there was any hope in this game turning around. Right on queue, Landon Collins forced a Peterson fumble that was recovered by Olivier Vernon and run back for 43 yards. NYG had a 1st and 10 on the WAS 39-yard line. It had a now-or-never feel to it even though there was a minute left in the 3rd quarter and it was only a 10-3 lead for WAS.

On 4th and 3, Manning dropped back and saw pressure coming, making him go to his hot read which was Evan Engram, who led the team in drops last year. The ball went, literally, between his two hands and fell to the ground. Turnover on downs. Momentum gone. Fans packing up. It was an ugly scene.

WAS drove down the field and netted another 3 points via a 39-yard field goal. The next NYG drive included another sack, the 4th of the half. After trading a couple more possessions with the NYG defense holding on for dear life and the offense responding with more poor play, the WAS defense gave NYG a gift. A 46-yard pass interference penalty on a deep ball to Saquon Barkley followed by a 32-yard pickup via a pitch-catch-run to and by Beckham put NYG inside the 5 yard line.

And here we are, back to Shurmur not standing behind his words. NYG had 3 shots at the end zone, and gave the ball to Barkley just one time. Instead of throwing a lob pass to Bennie Fowler, who would be on the street right now if NYG didn’t sign him a few weeks ago, why not hammer it 3 times with the best player on the field? NYG settled on a short field goal to make it 13-6.

After a strong performance for most of the day, the NYG defense finally broke. Peterson shot through a gap and thanks to a poor angle by safety Curtis Riley, he had an easy 64-yard path to the end zone. The score was 20-6 with 3 minutes left in the game.

NYG ended up driving down the field against a prevent defense and scored a late touchdown to, ironically, Engram. It was a 16-play drive that left 20 seconds on the clock. Rosas attempted an onsides kick which was recovered by WAS. Game over.

NYG loses 20-13.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 30/47 – 316 yards – 1 TD / 2 INT. It was another frustrating day for the passing game. Manning’s early interception was an absolute killer. His blind heave downfield that resulted in another interception was inexcusable in a one score game. Manning was sacked another 7 times, bringing the season’s number up to 31, the total amount of times he was sacked in 2017 and just 8 short of his career high. The Giants are halfway through the season. It’s hard to see Manning go through this but the case remains that he is not without blame. His entire game looks awfully slow. His mental reactions, his release, his footwork, and his arm. There isn’t any juice there.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 13 att / 38 yards – 9 rec / 72 yards. The rookie had a tall task, as WAS entered the game with the league’s #3 run defense having already shut down Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliot, and Alvin Kamara, respectively. While he did break the 100-total yards mark for the 6th time this season, the WAS defense kept him in check. I was hoping Shurmur would have given him more carries because even though this offensive line was over-matched at the point of attack, we’ve seen Barkley create on his own.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Odell Beckham: 8 rec / 136 yards. Respect to Beckham for playing a spirited, high-effort game. He came up with a couple of highlight-reel catches in addition to displaying his after-catch impact. It’s hard not to get down about the fact that this team has two talents on this offense that could be considered the best ever in franchise history at their respective positions, but the brokenness of this roster prevents that from leading to wins. Also, credit to Beckham for keeping his head as the WAS defense made a few off-camera cheap shots on him him and were running their mouths all afternoon.

-Sterling Shepard: 4 rec / 34 yards. Shepard’s most notable play of the day was a drop on a deep ball that would have resulted in 40+ yards. He got both hands on the ball but rookie cornerback Greg Stroman jabbed it loose before they went to the ground. He also had another drop later in the game. Otherwise it was a quiet day for the 3rd year pro.

-Bennie Fowler III got 7 targets on the day, catching 4 balls for 48 yards. 2 catches / 34 yards of which were on the final drive against the WAS prevent defense. Fowler was on the field for 70% of the plays, and was targeted on a key red zone passing play. I think this guy is getting way too much action for who he is. His route running has been low-caliber and he doesn’t make tough plays on the ball. More on this later.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram: 5 rec / 25 yards / 1 TD. Not that this is an overly impressive stat line, but these numbers make his day look a lot better than what it was. The second year pro added 2 drops to a resume that already has plenty of them, one of which was a key moment in the game on 4th down. Engram was also mangled in the running game, often getting pushed back multiple yards by the WAS front-seven defenders and failing to properly locate second-level defenders. Engram still has plenty of time to prove what he can be for this team, but I think the approach to how he is used may need to change. More on that below.

-Rhett Ellison played 40% of the snaps and was targeted once in the passing game. His blocking grade was average, as they have been with him for the majority of his career with NYG.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Nate Solder can no longer be considered in a slump. We can no longer say he is having a hard time getting acclimated to a new system with new surroundings. Nate Solder is a really bad left tackle. He allowed another sack and 2 more pressures. I compared his grades to Ereck Flowers last year and, believe it or not, Flowers was grading out higher. He is getting bullied, pushed around, and failing to sustain blocks no matter who he is up against. It is a major surprise to me and it’s hard to accept that he is at the very beginning of a long-term contract.

-Chad Wheeler left the game in the second half with an ankle injury, but not before allowing a sack and a TFL. While I still think we can use the “developing” label on him, Wheeler really hasn’t shown improvement throughout the 8 games this season. Brian Mihalik saw his first action in the NYG uniform. He had 2 false start penalties and wasn’t really challenged much as the WAS pass rush was very vanilla. Initially, I don’t see anything worth being optimistic about.

GUARDS / CENTERS

-There must be something in the water at the right guard position because whomever mans that spot has been a weak link among a weak group all season. John Greco now possesses the lowest game grade of the year among all OL. 3 pressures, 2 sacks, and 1 TFL along with a false start penalty made us long for the days of John Jerry. Greco has been getting worse and worse since being put in to the lineup week 2 and has proven why he was a street free agent at this time last year.

-Spencer Pulley also had a poor game at OC. He was getting beat off the ball repeatedly, decreasing the size of the pocket in the passing game and making Barkley redirect his path in the running game. He allowed 1 sack on the day. Will Hernandez had another slightly above average game grade but when you compare him to the rest of this offensive line, he looks like a Hall of Famer. He was late to see a blitz on a play where Manning was sacked, although it looked like it was Barkley’s responsibility. Those lateral-movement blocks appear to still be a problem for him.

EDGE

-Olivier Vernon had one of his most disruptive games since putting on the NYG uniform. Too bad this isn’t a winning football team because if it were, more would be talking about how well he has been playing since returning from injury. Against one of the top left tackles in the NFL for the majority of the game, Vernon finished with 4 pressures, 1 TFL, and a fumble recovery.

-As expected, Lorenzo Carter is seeing an increase in snaps at the expense of Kareem Martin. That is a very good thing, as Carter already brings more to the table. The quick speed and range in pursuit shows up every week. He had 3 tackles and a pressure. These next 8 games will be very big for his maturation as a player.

-Kerry Wynn added 2 tackles but struggled to impact the game as a pass rusher. His playing time remains too light in my opinion. He needs to be on the field for more than 50% of the snaps each week, and he was around 40% against WAS.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Just a few days after the trade of Damon Harrison to DET, BJ Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson held down the inside running game for the most part. Hill was active, often breaking into the backfield. He finished with 6 tackles, 1 TFL, and a pass break up. However he was flagged 3 times on the day. Tomlinson added 3 tackles but did lot of the dirty work that goes unnoticed when watching the game casually. He is going to be a very solid NT now that he will be in that role full time.

-Notable effort by Mario Edwards. He was only on the field for 31% of the snaps but he made a few hustle plays. He is really active and has the potential to be the third starter before the year is over.

LINEBACKERS

-Really active day for BJ Goodson, who saw an uptick in playing time with Alec Ogletree out. He led the team with 8 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. WAS seemed to target him a lot in the passing game, as the book is out on him being a liability in coverage. However, I had several check marks next to Goodson’s name when it came to hustle, physical play, and simply being at the right place at the right time.

-Nate Stupar and Tae Davis basically split the snaps next to Goodson, with Davis getting the edge late in the game. Stupar had 3 missed tackles, one of which was really ugly and led to Peterson’s first touchdown. Davis’ speed and aggression was a plus to see. We know he is going to struggle in traffic because of how small he is, but the undrafted rookie finished with 6 tackles, most of which were outside the tackle box. He has a lot of range and broke up a pass while being matched up against a wide receiver. His one glaring negative was a running-into-the-kicker penalty that gave WAS a fresh set of downs. He will likely see a lot of playing time during these last 8 games.

CORNERBACKS

-With trade rumors swirling around Janoris Jenkins, the 30-year old, 7th-year pro had a solid game in coverage outside of one pass interference penalty. Jenkins really is a solid cover corner, and sometimes you just can’t see it unless you watch the all-22 angle. CB is a really tough position to find and lock down for any team and the fact they didn’t trade him is not necessarily a negative.

-BW Webb started and played the entire game on the other side. While I do think he is better suited in a nickel role, he competed hard. He finished with 4 tackles but also had a 43-yard pass interference penalty. That has been a trend his entire career. Grant Haley got a lot of playing time as the team’s nickel back and I liked what I saw. He finished with 4 tackles and showed good movement, very assertive. His lack of size showed up on 3rd down a few times and that will be a learning experience for him over the second half of the season. There is a lot to like about him.

SAFETIES

-Landon Collins has been a nice streak of quality play lately, hence why a few teams were offering a 3rd-round pick for the free agent-to-be. He finished with 5 tackles, 1 TFL, and a key forced fumble that could have really turned this game around.

-Curtis Riley continues to start next to Collins not because of impact or quality play, but by default. He did have a solid play in coverage early on, but Riley took a really poor angle on Peterson’s long 4th quarter touchdown run. As the last line of defense, it was an inexcusable mistake that we are seeing too often with him. That is a big reason why I just don’t see Riley as a starting-caliber FS.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 37, 22). Fairly easy and simple day. Rosas has now hit 95% of his attempts on the year.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 Punts / 44.0 avg / 44.0 net. This was Dixon’s best game of the year, nailing 1 inside the 2-yard line and didn’t allow WAS to return any. His best hang time to date kept that net average high.

-KR/PR Quandree Henderson: 2 solid returns on the day. A PR that went for 19 yards and a KR that went for 30. There is definitely some talent there, and this kid makes things happen when he gets the ball in his hands.

3 STUDS

-DE Olivier Vernon, LB BJ Goodson, WR Odell Beckham

3 DUDS

-TE Evan Engram, OG John Greco, OT Nate Solder

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

-I picked WAS to finish 9-7 this year and compete for a Wild Card playoff spot. I am still sticking with that and I actually think they have a strong chance at winning the division. Crazy to think with the amount of age they have at RB and QB that they can get to this level. But you know why there are up there? Their OL and DL are among the best in football. How did they get there? Two 1st-round picks and one 3rd-rounder on the OL, three 1st-round picks and one 2nd-rounder on the DL. Take notes NYG, because that is how this thing is going to get turned around.

-Ironic that I was going to write that the one glaring hole I have seen on this defense has been the safety play next to DJ Swearinger. Then they trade for HaHa Clinton-Dix from GB and all of the sudden this defense looks as balanced and stacked as any in the league. He is a great fit next to the physical Swearinger, who is having the year of his life right now.

-The one thing that can hold this offense back (other than injury) is the lack of a go-to pass catcher when this team needs a big play in the air attack. Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson aren’t going to scare anyone and Jordan Reed just hasn’t taken the next step in his career. I hope Evan Engram doesn’t run into that problem, a guy who looks promising but never gets over the hump.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-The trade deadline has come and gone, and it looks like the only real offers were coming in for Collins and Jenkins. NYG opted to pass and that tells me they are going to keep Collins moving forward. Which ultimately means they are ready to pay him top SS dollar which can rightfully be debated on either side. One thing that he offers, other than solid but unspectacular play, is the kind of locker room presence this team needs moving forward. Hard worker, stays clean off the field, and can wear a few hats. Money aside, it is going to take more guys like this to get this thing back on track.

-I don’t think Evan Engram’s days are numbered. Not even close. His drops are a major issue, yes. His blocking presence is a weakness to an offense that will be relying on the run more and more in the coming years, yes. However the talent this kid has is still among the top in the league at the TE position. My thought, and I know it won’t be a popular one is, to experiment with him as a WR the rest of the season. His athletic ability out there may seem much worse than where we see it at TE, but I still think he can be a weapon out there. And to be honest, do we really need to watch Bennie Fowler run routes? Put Shepard/Beckham/Engram at WR and let Ellison see full time snaps at TE. I bet this ends up vastly improving the running game both on inside and outside intentions and the passing game won’t take a hit at all.

-When should NYG decide to sit Manning? Should they sit him at all? The only reason I say yes is to get Kyle Lauletta on the field. However he can’t be rushed on to the field with this OL playing the way it is. It can be a detriment to his progression. With his recent arrest, which I don’t believe is a big deal, I think the likelihood of this happening is very good right now. But the post-bye week would have been perfect to do something like this if everyone was confident he knew this offense well enough.

Oct 282018
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 28, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON REDSKINS 20 – NEW YORK GIANTS 13…
The New York Giants lost yet another game on Sunday, falling 20-13 to the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants are now 1-7 overall.

The Giants have now failed to score 20 points or more in five of their first eight games. And the Giants’ lone touchdown in the game came with 17 seconds left in the contest. How bad was the New York offense?

  • Not counting the 1-play “possession” right before halftime, the Giants had 11 possessions. Five ended with punts, two with interceptions, and one was a turnover on downs.
  • The Giants only had one drive that picked up more than three first downs.
  • The Giants were 2-of-14 on 3rd down (14 percent).
  • The Giants were held to 37 net yards rushing.
  • Eli Manning was sacked seven times.
  • The offense average 4.9 yards per pass play.
  • The Giants were 1-of-4 in the red zone (25 percent).
  • Most importantly, the team was held to six points until the final seconds of the game.

The defense, minus two players traded earlier in the week (Damon Harrison and Eli Apple), as well as starting middle linebacker Alec Ogletree (hamstring), played better. The defense kept the game close into the 4th quarter. But as has been the case most of the year, when the defense needed to make one more stop late in the game, they could not. After the Giants cut the score to 13-6 with just over four minutes to play, running back Adrian Peterson broke off a 64-yard touchdown run to seal the game.

Offensively, Eli Manning finished the game 30-of-47 for 316 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. He was sacked seven times. His leading targets were running back Saquon Barkley (9 catches for 73 yards) and wide receiver Odell Beckham (8 catches for 136 yards). Barkley was held to 38 yards on 13 carries.

Defensively, the Giants allowed 360 total net yards (182 rushing, 178 passing). The defense did not accrue a sack or interception, but safety Landon Collins did force a fumble that was recovered and returned 43 yards by linebacker Olivier Vernon.

Video lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the New York Giants were linebacker Alec Ogletree (hamstring), wide receiver Jawill Davis (concussion), quarterback Kyle Lauletta, center Evan Brown, cornerback Mike Jordan, cornerback Tony Lippett, and safety Kamrin Moore.

Right tackle Chad Wheeler left the game with an ankle injury and did not return.

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

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

Oct 262018
 
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1983 New York Giants Media Guide

Game Preview: Washington Redskins at New York Giants, October 28, 2018

THE STORYLINE:
Last week, I ended my game preview with the following paragraph:

At some point, this team is going to have to bite the bullet, maintain fiscal responsibility in free agency, accumulate draft picks by trading away players who won’t be here when the team does eventually turn it around, and accept short-term suckitude. But at least fans will see the team attempting to build for something in the future and have hope. Right now, they are just treading water and weekly becoming a doormat for other teams. Stop trading away picks; accumulate them. There is no short-term fix.

So as painful as it is going to be, I fully endorse what the Giants hopefully only BEGAN to do this week when they traded away Eli Apple and Damon Harrison (though I must admit, I am one of those who felt we got short-changed on the Harrison deal). But the Giants should not half-ass this and call it a day. Keep in mind that the Giants traded away picks for Alec Ogletree (4th and 6th) and Riley Dixon (7th), as well as spending their 3rd rounder early on Sam Beal. They have gained a 4th (Apple), 5th (Harrison), and two 7th rounders (Brett Jones and part of Ogletree trade).

So the Giants have:

  • One 1st rounder (own)
  • One 2nd rounder (own)
  • Two 4th rounders (own and Saints)
  • Two 5th rounders (own and Lions)
  • One 6th rounder (own)
  • Two 7th rounders (Rams and Vikings)

That’s not enough. The trade deadline is rapidly approaching: 4PM on October 30.

This team is now officially in FULL rebuilding mode. The Eli Manning era is all but officially over. He MUST be on the trading block or ownership and management should be deemed incompetent. A Jaguars-Manning marriage is obvious to all. Get it done. Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, and Landon Collins are also obvious trade candidates. Not so obvious, but certainly possible include the likes of Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. In the offseason, it will be VERY interesting to see if Dave  Gettleman admits to mistakes and cuts Nate Solder, Patrick Omameh, Kareem Martin, and Connor Barwin.

We’re in uncharted territory for the Giants. The closest similarity I can think of is the roster purge after the 1983 season, but even then, the Giants still had Phil Simms at quarterback. The Giants will need to build around Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham (I believe the latter’s new contract makes him untradeable, at least in the short-term).

What we do know is the Giants are going to suck for the rest of the year and probably next season as well. But this is the right course. They APPEAR to have admitted the rebuild is needed. Of course, all bets are off if Eli Manning is still quarterbacking this team in 2019. Then, be afraid, very afraid.

The next TWO huge questions are:

  1. Is 67-year old Dave Gettleman the right man to rebuild this team?
  2. Is Pat Shurmur the right head coach to lead this team?

“C’mon Eric, they are not going to fire Gettleman and Shurmur after only one season!!!” I would respond, why not? Both have made huge miscalculations in creating the 2018 roster. As I mentioned in last week’s preview, Gettleman batted 1-of-5 on offensive line decisions and determined Eli Manning wasn’t the problem. He also traded away valuable picks. Shurmur certainly hasn’t inspired confidence, either in Cleveland and now in New Jersey.

Much will probably depend on how this team finishes. How competitive are the Giants, even when losing? Do the remaining players play with fear for losing their jobs or just tune out the coaches?

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Russell Shepard (neck)
  • WR Jawill Davis (concussion – out)
  • RG Patrick Omameh (knee)
  • LB Alec Ogletree (hamstring – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:

The obvious move is to bump Kyle Lauletta up to at least #2 on the depth chart, and then start him sometime after the bye week. He’s not ready. He will likely flounder. It’s a big jump from Richmond to the NFL. But the Giants must get a read on him. Does he have a viable NFL future or not? This question must be answered before the 2019 NFL Draft. Paying homage to Eli Manning by allowing him to continue to start may be the “classy” thing to do, but it’s not good for the franchise. In fact, it could be quite harmful.

How Odell Beckham responds during this dark period probably is going to be an issue. In his five years with the Giants, Odell has been on only one winning team. Most of the time, the Giants have not only been bad, but very bad during his tenure. And now there is no end in sight. This could get ugly.

The offensive line is a disaster. There appears to be only one or maybe two players on the current roster who may be part of the solution.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

The morale of the defense has to be in the toilet. Though they deserve a fair amount of the blame for another dreadful season, my guess is they feel they have been the superior unit on the team. And now they see Damon Harrison traded away for a 5th round pick. Moving Eli Apple also weakens an already sore area of the defense. If Janoris Jenkins is moved, the make-up of the secondary becomes comical.

My focus moving forward is how does the defensive line perform without Harrison. Can Dalvin Tomlinson play the nose tackle position at a high level? How well will B.J. Hill, Mario Edwards, Kerry Wynn, Josh Mauro play now without that stud in the middle?

Little noticed this week was that Ray-Ray Armstrong was cut from IR. It’s B.J. Goodson’s last chance to impress now. Do Nate Stupar, Tae Davis, or Ukeme Eligwe have an NFL future? Outside, when do the Giants finally give Lorenzo Carter the bulk of the playing time?

In the secondary, the Giants are now down to Janoris Jenkins, Landon Collins, and a bunch of no-names. Glass half full… sometimes it is fun to watch no-names fight and scratch to gain the respect they feel they deserve. Glass half empty… this secondary is one injury or trade away from being possibly the worst in football, requiring a mammoth rebuilding effort. Enter Antonio Hamilton, Michael Jordan, Grant Haley, Tony Lippett, Sean Chandler, and Kamrin Moore.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:

The search for a returner for 2019 continues. Quadree Henderson flashed a bit last week.

THE FINAL WORD:
You have to embrace the suck at this point, or you are going to be miserable. The only way for this to get better right now is for things to get worse first. But if Shurmur isn’t able to get his players to play at a scrappy, competitive level, and the Giants start losing games by 14, 17, 21 points, bigger changes could be coming as well.

My plea would be to move Eli Manning before the deadline. Don’t let him end his career with the Giants like this. And get something, anything, in return.

Jan 032018
 
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Steve Spagnuolo and Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 31, 2017)

Steve Spagnuolo and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 18 – Washington Redskins 10

RECAP

The best part about turning the calendar to 2018 is the fact that the Giants 2017 season is officially done with. I have never been so wrong when it came to forecasting a Giants season and it seemed like forever ago when we were at training camp labeling this team a Super Bowl contender. And here we are, week 17 and the duo of John Jerry and Eli Manning were the only 2 offensive starters left on the field against the Redskins.

In front of a half-empty stadium, the Giants and Redskins played through a painful game to watch. An early touchdown by the Giants was the peak of the action as both teams seemed more interested in getting out alive than trying to win a game. The small sense of urgency by NYG stemming from a new General Manager aided the team towards their 18-10 bleeder and 3rd win of the season.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 10/28 – 132 yards – 1 TD/1 INT. If this were a game full of meaning, the outlook on Manning might be a little lesser. But considering he was playing behind, and throwing the ball to, players who see the majority of their time in the 4th quarter of preseason games, he gets a slight pass. Manning had a season high 8 passes dropped in this one, lengthening his lead among all NFL quarterbacks in that category. Was this Manning’s last game with NYG? My gut says no, he will be back for at least one more year. Whether anyone thinks he still has it or not, there is no denying the fact evaluating his 2017 without acknowledging the fact he had the worst situation to deal with across the board in the NFL this year is not fair. Manning didn’t play well, I will say that. But I’m not sure who would have in this mess of a season.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Orleans Darkwa: 20 att/154 yards – 1 TD. On the game’s second play, Darkwa ran right and cut back inside thanks to two pre-snap audibles by Eli Manning at the line of scrimmage. It was the longest run of his career and 5th TD of the season. Darkwa averaged 4.1 yards per carry throughout the rest of the game and, as usual, dropped a pass. Where the team goes with him from here is very much up in the air, but I respect how hard he runs. This was a breakout year for Darkwa, as prior to this game, his career SEASON high was 153 yards, 1 less than he gained in this game alone.
  • Wayne Gallman: 15 att/89 yards – The explosive, quick accelerator had his share of big runs and outstanding adjustments to the defense. Gallman’s speed and elusiveness were one of the best surprises of 2017 and he needs to be factored into what this team plans on doing in 2018. If they bring in a back, it should be someone who excels in the play-to-play pounding and short-yardage situations. Gallman should have the change-of-pace spot locked up for a couple years, at least. Two things he absolutely needs to clean up, however, both occurred in this game. He had a drop and a fumble. Time to get in the weight room, too.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Hunter Sharp: 3 rec/29 yards – 1 TD. Overall a very solid game for the second-year pro who was signed just 3 weeks prior. He brought in his first career touchdown pass on the second drive of the game. He showed quality routes throughout but also suffered two drops on consecutive plays later.
  • Travis Rudolph: 1 rec/29 yards. I was hoping to see more opportunities for one of the training camp studs who has been inching his way towards more and more playing time. His one play was an excellent catch and turn up field for a 29 yard gain, the biggest passing gain of the day.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rhett Ellison: 5 rec/63 yards. A career-high 5 catches for Ellison, a guy the Giants underused all year. He was making catches and plays most are unaware he can make. This guy is much more than a blocking tight end who works hard and the next play caller needs to understand he can be a valuable weapon next year.
  • Jerrell Adams: 0 rec/0 yards. Adams looks the part and will occasionally make the catch in practice that can get you excited. But he had two opportunities, one of which was for a touchdown, and he dropped both. Two years in and looks like he won’t ever be anything more than a quality blocker. That is fine, but it won’t give him a ton of long-term security here.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: The two long-haired rookies who I got mixed up a few times during training camp were the starters for this game. A rookie 6th round pick on the right side and an UDFA on the left side – that is who was in charge of protecting the immobile Giants quarterback. As run blockers, they both graded out above average. Bisnowaty had a bad game elsewhere. He allowed 2 sacks and 2 pressures in addition to 2 holding penalties. It was the second-worse RT performance of the year only to former Giant Bobby Hart. And boy does it sound good to say former Giant there. Wheeler didn’t play as badly on the left side, but still was shaky with a slightly below average performance. He exceeded what almost every UDFA did in the NFL this year, thus nobody can look down on him. I do think he is in the picture for RT next year.
  • Interior: After a few bad weeks by OC Brett Jones, he put together a very solid performance. He was borderline dominant in the run game and didn’t have any mishaps as a pass blocker. John Greco subbed for John Jerry (concussion) at LG and I’ll tell you what, he played well. The 32-year old had 66 starts to his name prior to this game and he graded out right there with Jones. Right Guard Jon Halapio finished right below the average mark. He allowed 2 pressures and led the line in allowed tackles. Overall a solid year but he won’t be more than a backup moving forward.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Very solid game from the ends for the second week in a row. Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul combined for 2 sacks and 4 pressures. They were up against backup tackles and provided good gap integrity against the run as well. Neither had a good year or came even close to earning their high cap numbers. With this team being locked into those contracts for at least another year, they are going to be the 2018 starters.
  • Tackles: Damon Harrison ended his second straight season of dominance with NYG. He has been the best player on this team since the beginning of 2016 and will be a building block for next year. If this team runs a 4-3 or a 3-4, he will be the guy in the middle who makes other players better no matter what. Rookie Dalvin Tomlinson had his second best game of the season, totaling 4 tackles and 2 pressures. He had arguably the best year of all the rookie DTs in the league and will be a reliable starter on this team for a long time, no matter the scheme.

LINEBACKERS

  • Kelvin Sheppard intercepted 2 passes and finished with 6 tackles. For a guy who was a street free agent during the beginning of the season, he had a very solid year with the Giants. He probably won’t be a guy that sticks to the roster moving forward, but he had a very respectable year here. Solid inside defender who brings a physical presence to the defense.
  • Devon Kennard recorded his 4th sack of the season and broke up a pass. The versatility this kid has shown all year needs to be factored into his place on this team moving forward. He made a big impact as a pass rusher but is very limited in coverage. If this defense needs an edge presence who can fill LB roles here and there, Kennard will be a keeper.
  • Ray-Ray Armstrong and Calvin Munson are opposite linebackers. Armstrong is a plus athlete who lacks instincts and discipline while Munson is a step slow but has mightily improved his movement post-snap via reads and awareness from the beginning of the season. Neither are guys you make future personnel decisions around, but they do have a shot to stick around.

CORNERBACKS

  • In all honesty with no bias, Ross Cockrell may have played the CB position better than anyone in the NFL over the past 4 weeks. While he hasn’t been overly tested when it comes to quality of his opponent, Cockrell has been dominant. He broke up 4 passes and intercepted another one. He is in the running for a starting job next year and it would be a help when it comes to their approach in FA and the draft if they know he is gonna be the guy.
  • Brandon Dixon and Darryl Morris played the majority of the snaps at CB otherwise, as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played just about a third of the snaps. Cromartie has a valuable role on this defense, but if his playing is going to hover around 50% or less of the plays, he may not be worth keeping considering his cap number. Dixon earned a right to fight for a roster spot next year with his impressive size, speed, and aggression. He doesn’t have the feel though, as every week I noticed him getting beat by double routes and lacking the balance and body control as he turned.

SAFETIES

  • With Landon Collins out, Andrew Adams took his place. Adams is impressive when the action is in front of him. Other than him missing a tackle, he finished with an impact across the board. He had 6 tackles, one TFL, and a pass breakup. Adams also added a pressure. His coverage is solid underneath, but his stiffness and lack of speed makes him a liability against WRs on an island and in deep coverage. Darian Thompson finished with 7 tackles and no misses. He has been solid in his first season as the starter, but the upside with him is limited. He doesn’t make an impact as a tackler and the deep coverage responsibilities are somewhat hampered by a lack of long speed and acceleration. He would be a very good third safety, but merely an average starter.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 23,28). Rosas had yet another extra point blocked early in the game. Hard to say if it his fault or the guys up front blocking. Rosas did not have a good year, too many misses. Kicker might need to be a priority this offseason if a reliable veteran shakes free.
  • P Brad Wing: 9 Punts – 40.3 avg / 33.0 net. A quiet game from Wing with a couple ducks. This was a bad year for Wing overall, especially the stretch early in the year where his late-game mishaps heavily contributed to multiple NYG losses. He should be put on notice.

3 STUDS

  • CB Ross Cockrell, LB Kelvin Sheppard, RB Orleans Darkwa

3 DUDS

  • OT Adam Bisnowaty, TE Jerell Adams, OG Jon Halapio

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

  • Kirk Cousins had a very poor game. While the surrounding cast can be somewhat blamed, it is games like this that lead some to believe he just cant be the guy a team spend $20+ million on per year.
  • WAS has been in the middle of the pack for 3 straight years. Their progress has been halted and they always seem to be the team that is merely solid, but not scary. It looks like Gruden will get another year, but what is going to change? This is a team that is very well put together in the trenches but there isn’t enough star power at the playmaking positions. At some point Gruden needs to push for an aggressive move personnel wise.
  • Ryan Kerrigan has 47 sacks over the past 4 years and has never missed a game in his career. In 14 career NFC East games, he has 29 sacks which is over 2 per game. If there was one edge rusher in the league who I would call overlooked, it is him. I think he is one of the best players in the NFL. WAS has him locked up through 2020.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • Initially I was indifferent about the Dave Gettleman hiring but the more I study his tenure in CAR and hear him speak, I think he is exactly what the team needs. Back to “old school”, no-nonsense type approaches on both sides of the ball and in the locker room. He is a guy huge on team culture and laser focus on the big picture. Get the bad apples out, the guys that don’t want to work, and slowly but surely increase the quality of people and players. Odell Beckham will be the most interesting case here. He will definitely will be here in 2018 but if the antics worsen, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see him playing elsewhere in 2019. For the record, I want ODB here long term if he can mature at least a little bit.
  • The #2 pick discussion is now the main focus of NYG talk. This has the potential to be a monumental pick for the franchise. It will somewhat be based on what the team does in FA leading up to it. This is my thought, though a lot of us will over-think it and over-complicate it. This is a simple situation, really. Get the best player and I don’t care what position it is. RB, QB, WR, OT, DE…etc. If  a QB meets the grade, it will likely be the best decision for the future of this team over the other spots. If one doesn’t meet the grade, all bets are off. Get a special player and don’t look back.
  • Let’s not overlook that NYG is potentially heading into the offseason without any starting caliber OTs. Flowers had a solid year, but does he want to be here? Is he going to work hard for 365 days? Is he better suited at RG or RT? Wheeler, is he a 3rd tackle or a starter? Remember this, Gettleman values the trenches as much as anyone. With this current group in shambles, he may put a ton of resources into it via FA and the draft before he tries to plug other holes.
Dec 312017
 
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Jim Schwartz, Philadelphia Eagles (November 19, 2017)

Jim Schwartz – © USA TODAY Sports

REPORT: GIANTS INTERESTED IN JIM SCHWARTZ…
ESPN is reporting that Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz is one of the front runners – and may be the favorite – for the New York Giants’ head coaching vacancy. Schwartz is expected to interview with the Giants next week.

The 51-year old Schwartz has served as the defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans (2001-2008), head coach of the Detroit Lions (2009-2013), defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills (2014), and defensive coordinator of the Eagles (2016-2017) in recent years. He was 29–51 (.363) in the regular season and 0-1 in the post-season as Detroit’s head coach.

Meanwhile, The Daily News is reporting that the Giants top head coaching candidates, in order of preference, are Josh McDaniels (New England Patriots offensive coordinator), Matt Patricia (New England Patriots defensive coordinator), Bill O’Brien (head coach of the Houston Texans), Pat Shurmur (Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator), and Schwartz.

REPORT: DAVE GETTLEMAN WILL RUN THE DRAFT…
The Daily News is reporting that New York Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman will not immediately replace recently-fired Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross and that Gettleman will run the 2018 NFL Draft for the Giants instead. Ross had run the team’s drafts under recently-fired General Manager Jerry Reese since 2007.

The Daily News is also reporting that Gettleman is not currently planning any other changes to the front office structure of the Giants. That would suggest that Assistant General Manager Kevin Abrams, who had served as interim general manager after Reese was fired, will be retained as the team’s salary cap expert.

GIANTS WILL PICK SECOND IN THE 2018 NFL DRAFT…
Even though the New York Giants won on Sunday, they will still pick second in the 2018 NFL Draft due to the Indianapolis Colts defeating the Houston Texans 22-13. The Cleveland Browns currently have the first pick.

NEW YORK GIANTS 18 – WASHINGTON REDSKINS 10…
The New York Giants ended their historically-dreadful 2017 season with a rare win, defeating the Washington Redskins 18-10. With the victory, the Giants finished the season 3-13. It was also Steve Spagnuolo’s first victory as interim head coach.

With a hodgepodge offensive line of right tackle Adam Bisnowaty, right guard Jon Halapio, center Brett Jones, left guard John Jerry, and left tackle Chad Wheeler, the Giants rushed for 260 yards against the Redskins. Jerry suffered a concussion in the 1st quarter and was replaced early by John Greco.

The Giants out-gained the Redskins in first downs (17 to 10), total net yards (381 to 197), and net yards rushing (260 to 61). Neither team passed for over 140 net yards. The Giants also won the critical turnover battle 3-to-1.

Most of the game’s excitement came within the first seven minutes. On the second offensive snap of the game, running back Orleans Darkwa broke off a 75-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked. Then on Washington’s third offensive snap, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard intercepted quarterback Kirk Cousins at the Redskins 31-yard line and returned the ball 12 yards to the 19-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Eli Manning hit wide receiver Hunter Sharp for a 16-yard score. The two-point conversion attempt failed and the Giants were up 12-0.

Washington went three-and-out on their second possession, but the Giants gave the ball right back when Manning’s pass intended for running back Wayne Gallman was intercepted and returned to the NYG 20-yard line. Two plays later, Cousins scrambled into the end zone from 12 yards out to cut the score to 12-7 midway through the 1st quarter. Neither team would reach the end zone again.

The Giants responded with a 9-play, 70-yard drive that set up a successful 23-yard field goal by place kicker Aldrick Rosas. The Giants now led 15-7. The only points generated in the 2nd quarter came late when Brad Wing’s punt was returned 29 yards to the Giants’ 31-yard line with four seconds to go before halftime. On the half’s final play, Washington kicked a 49-yard field goal to make the score Giants 15 – Redskins 10.

Counting the four punts in the 2nd quarter and three in the 3rd quarter, the Giants punted the ball away seven times in a row in the game. The Giants finally extended their lead to 18-10 after a 10-play, 52-yard drive resulted in a 29-yard field goal early in the 4th quarter.

Meanwhile, the even more anemic Redskins had their seven second-half possessions result in a missed field goal, four punts, and two interceptions – one by cornerback Ross Cockrell and a second by Sheppard late that salted the game away.

Manning finished the game 10-of-28 for 132 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. His leading receiver was tight end Rhett Ellison, who had five catches for 63 yards. Darkwa rushed for 154 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Gallman chipped in with 89 yards on 15 carries.

Defensively, Sheppard (two) and Cockrell (one) had all three of the Giants turnovers on interceptions. Cockrell was also credited with four pass defenses. The Giants also had three sacks with defensive end Olivier Vernon (1.5), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (0.5), and linebacker Devon Kennard (1.0) all getting to the quarterback.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

GIANTS 2018 OPPONENTS SET…
The New York Giants will play the following teams during the 2018 NFL regular season:

Home:

  • Dallas Cowboys
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Washington Redskins
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Tennessee Titans
  • Chicago Bears

Away:

  • Dallas Cowboys
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Washington Redskins
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Atlanta Falcons
  • Houston Texans
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • San Francisco 49ers

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were wide receiver Sterling Shepard (neck), tight end Evan Engram (rib), offensive tackle Ereck Flowers (groin), defensive end Avery Moss (hip), quarterback Geno Smith, offensive guard Damien Mama, and linebacker Akeem Ayers.

Offensive guard John Jerry (concussion) and defensive tackle Jay Bromley (ankle) left the game and did not return.

Wide receiver Roger Lewis told reporters after the game that he will be having ankle surgery.

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

POST-GAME NOTES…
The New York Giants’ 13 losses are a franchise record. The three victories are the team’s fewest since 1983.

The Giants finished 2-6 in MetLife Stadium, their fewest home victories since they were 1-7 in 2003.

The Giants finished 1-5 in NFC East games and 1-11 in games vs. NFC opponents.

The Giants scored 246 points, their lowest total since they scored 243 in 2003.

Running back Orleans Darkwa’s 75-yard touchdown run was the Giants’ longest run from scrimmage since November 16, 2008, when Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 77 yards vs. Baltimore (but did not score) and Darkwa’s score was the Giants’ longest touchdown run since Bradshaw’s 88-yarder in Buffalo on December 23, 2007.

Darkwa averaged 7.7 yards per carry in the game. The last Giants’ back to average at least that many yards on at least 20 carries was Tiki Barber on December 30, 2006.

The Giants scored two touchdowns in the first 2:42 of a game for the first time since the 1970 merger.

Wide receiver Hunter Sharp is the 50th different receiver to catch a regular-season touchdown pass from quarterback Eli Manning.

Manning played in his 216th regular-season game. He shares the franchise record with Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan.

Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson is the first Giants’ rookie defensive lineman to start 16 games since Barry Cofield in 2006.

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

Dec 292017
 
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John Mara, New York Giants (December 29, 2017)

John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 31, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The most disappointing season in the 93-year old history of the New York Giants finally ends on Sunday. 2017 was an utter disaster on every level, causing the conservative franchise to take steps it rarely has done such as firing a general manager and firing a head coach in-season.

And while many fans want to forget 2017 and focus on the future, it is important to understand the magnitude of the organization’s ineptness. Ownership failed. Team management failed. The coaching staff failed. The public relations staff failed. The training staff failed. Offense, defense, special teams failed. The players behaved like immature assholes from Odell Beckham to Eli Apple to Landon Collins.

The organization failed, from top to bottom. And that does not bode well moving forward. Don’t think so? Keep this in mind:

  • Ownership picked and Ernie Accorsi lobbied for Jerry Reese over Dave Gettleman as the team’s next GM in early 2007. Fast forward a decade later and Accorsi lobbied Mara and Tisch for Gettleman. Oh the irony.
  • In early 2016, ownership decided Tom Coughlin, and not Jerry Reese, was the problem. Ouch.
  • Ownership rushed to hire Ben McAdoo, a man who was clearly over his head, fearing the Philadelphia Eagles would snag him. In hindsight, the Eagles may have successfully goaded the Giants into making a disastrous coaching move. On top of that, McAdoo’s assistant coaching staff was virtually identical to Coughlin’s. Did ownership meddle and mandate the retention of coaches like Steve Spagnuolo, Mike Sullivan, and Tom Quinn?
  • Ownership/management were convinced the 2017 New York Giants were a Super Bowl contender. Instead, no team in Giants’ history has lost more games in one season. If the Giants and Browns played on Sunday, the Browns would probably win. One would hope that the leaders of the franchise would have a better capability for self-analysis.
  • Ben McAdoo was made the scapegoat for the Eli Manning benching, a move that both ownership and management signed off on, but then hid from. The disastrous PR handling of this move caused the Giants to backtrack on a decision that actually had merit, resulting the worst possible outcome. Eli Manning saw his consecutive game streak end and felt pissed on, yet the team still didn’t get a read on Davis Webb. What a waste!

Dave Gettleman has been hired as the team’s next general manager. He may be the perfect selection, the worst, or something in between. Only time will tell. What we do know is the GM search was a farce. Three of the four candidates interviewed were intimately connected to the Giants’ organization and existing culture. Marc Ross was a courtesy and Rooney Rule interviewee. Louis Riddick has been out of the NFL since 2013. Kevin Abrams may have been the only other serious candidate considered, and that’s not a given. Right or wrong, ownership decided to not even seriously consider other options.

  • Pros: No surprises. Gettleman worked for the Giants from 1998 to 2012. He knows the team’s culture from the owners down to the secretaries and janitors. Gettleman is experienced and knows how to evaluate talent. He’s been a GM in the league and knows how to do the job. He was the safe pick. If Gettleman was the pick all along, delaying the inevitable through a dog-and-pony show would have been a waste of time and could have cost the Giants an opportunity to hire a head coach of their choosing.
  • Cons: While he may tweak things here and there, Gettleman is a product, and therefore a representative, of the current team culture. It is highly unlikely there will be many – if any – structural changes in the way the Giants conduct their business. This was clear to many as soon as it was announced that Accorsi would be consulting ownership. It is somewhat disturbing that no outside candidates/approaches were even seriously considered. Mara should not insult our intelligence in claiming that all options were on the table. While Gettleman was the safe choice, he may not have been the best. And at 66, his age is a factor and he will likely only be a short-term solution, which in itself could influence the way he approaches his job.

An interesting indicator to watch will be Marc Ross, the team’s Vice President of Player Evaluation (really Director of College Scouting). If he stays, be worried.

Let’s be clear about one thing: other than ownership, nothing matters more than the general manager. If the Giants have picked the right general manager, they will be OK. If they have picked the wrong guy, the Giants may be entering the 1970s again. But the risks don’t stop there. Gettleman has to pick the right coaching staff and make the right decision at quarterback, including with what to do with either the #2 or #3 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Making the wrong decisions with the coaches or quarterback could set this team back years. And in 2022 or so, we may be going through all of this again as the Giants remain a laughing stock. This is the most critical phase the Giants have gone through since 1979. That year, Pete Rozelle forced George Young on the Giants, which led to Ray Perkins and then Bill Parcells, and Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor.

So as of late December 2017, here’s where we are at in terms of the big picture:

  1. General Manager: Dave Gettleman
  2. Head Coach: ???
  3. Quarterback: ???

The success of those three selections will ultimately determine the fate of the team possibly for the next decade.

Nov 292017
 
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Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants (November 23, 2017)

Janoris Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports

Washington Redskins 20 – New York Giants 10

RECAP

Following a hard-fought, borderline even emotional, win at home against the Kansas City Chiefs just four days prior to the Giants-Redskins Thanksgiving night match-up gave off the notion there was still plenty of grit left in this team. On the other side, Washington came limping in with a 4-6 record and following a horrific 4th-quarter loss in New Orleans. Their playoff hopes are alive but dwindling. Both teams were missing multiple key starters and we knew these factors, combined with a short week of preparation, would turn this into an old-school street fight between the two bottom feeders of the 2017 NFC East.

Eli Manning made his 210th consecutive start; this one being behind a line that was missing 3 starters (Pugh-Richburg-Fluker) and still without all 3 of his top wide receivers (Beckham-Marshall-Shepard).

The teams traded 3-and-outs to open up the game, with Evan Engram dropping a 3rd-and-4 pass. This was the first of three on the night for the rookie, the NFL’s leader in drops. On the game’s 6th possession, an offense finally ran more than 5 plays, as Washington got the ball across midfield. On 4th-and-1 from the NYG 41-yard line, a Cousins pass was broken up by Darian Thompson. NYG was in business with their best field position of the night as the end of the first quarter approached.

On 3rd-and-7 from the WAS 33-yard line after a few quality plays, Manning was sacked by Washington’s sack leader Ryan Kerrigan at the hands of Chad Wheeler for the second time. The 3rd down opportunity turned into a punt, again.

Following another 3-and-out by WAS where Landon Collins showed signs of all-over-the-field dominance; NYG started their 5th drive of the night on their own 28-yard line. Sixteen plays and 8:29 of game clock later, the Giants were up 3-0 via a 30-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas. The drive was smooth and steady with physical running by Orleans Darkwa, who excelled when running to the right side, and two 19 yard passes, one to Roger Lewis and one to Tavarres King. The lowlight, however, was a terrible misfire by Manning to Shane Vereen on a screen pass that had big play and potentially a touchdown written all over it.

With 1:04 remaining in the half Cousins went deep to Josh Doctson. The pass fell incomplete but Ross Cockrell was flagged for pass interference, a spot foul. That mistake by Cockrell was a 37-yard gain for WAS, putting them in easy field goal range and they were able to tie it at 3 heading into the half.

On the second WAS possession of the 3rd quarter, slot receiver Jamison Crowder provided the two biggest plays. First, a 33-yard reception, most of which was after the catch, and second, a 15-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal from the 15-yard line. Cousins ability to evade pressure with eyes downfield was a weapon the Giants defense could not handle.

The Giants offense was stalling and with a 10-3 lead past the halfway point of the 3rd quarter, WAS had the personnel and approach to bleed out the clock. The Redskins, thanks to a couple penalties, were forced into a 3rd-and-18 situation that led to Cousins making an errant throw off the hands of his receiver and into the waiting arms of Janoris Jenkins, who returned the interception for the lone Giants touchdown of the night. Jenkins leads the NFL in pick-sixes since 2011 and despite the negative attention he has gathered in recent weeks, stepped up to make a play that shifted the momentum in a big way.

The end of the 3rd quarter saw a development that beat the Giants up the rest of the way, and that was rookie running back Samaje Perine having his way with the Big Blue front seven. On six carries, he rushed for 50 yards. WAS ended up punting on that drive as the 4th quarter began, but it was a foreshadow of what the Giants would be struggling with on that side of the ball.

Offensively, NYG just couldn’t get anything going. They had four possessions in the 4th quarter, all of which resulted in a combined 12 plays, 44 net yards, one first down and a game-sealing interception with 1:08 left on the clock. Redskins win, 20-10.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 13/27 – 113 yards – 0 TD/1 INT. The 113 yards and 4.3 yards per attempt were the lowest we have seen out of Manning since 2007. The situation he is in just doesn’t get worse, Cleveland included. The Giants pass catchers lead the league in drops and the offensive line took a step back in comparison to what they have shown in recent weeks. Manning, in addition, misfired on a few occasions and continues his streak of games with more than four negative throws.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 9 att/37 yards. 2 rec/6 yards. More of the same from the 4th round rookie. Gallman is an excellent change-of-pace back who is explosive through traffic with great vision and agility. One of these upcoming games, he is going to break off a long TD. He is due.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 11 att/30 yards. 1 rec/9 yards. Darwka had a nice stretch on NYG’s fifth drive of the game, but that was about it. There was minimal room for him to work with and he isn’t exactly a quick-reaction type back, thus he was being hit before he really got going. Darkwa won’t ever be a guy that can create on his own.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Roger Lewis: 3 rec/26 yards. With Sterling Shepard still out, I said this would be the opportunity for Lewis to show the organization what he has. After last week’s big performance in the 4th quarter, Lewis did end up getting the most targets among the group. He had a big reception on 3rd down early, but after that he was a non-factor. He continues to struggle gaining any sort of separation against man coverage.
  • Tavarres King: 2 rec/36 yards. King has turned into the one receiver on this team who can create on his own via movement. Whether he is running routes or making high-level receptions, there is some play-maker in him. On two occasions, however, it looked like he ran the wrong route from what I am guessing via the all-22 tape.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 3 rec/18 yards. Engram is officially in a slump, a rather significant one. He is leading the NFL in drops after adding three more to his season total. It has gotten into his head at this point and it will be up to him to force himself out of this mess. Rookie? Yes. But he needs to get this fixed sooner rather than later. His blocking received an above-average grade for the first time in three weeks, and overall on the year, he has been better than expected in that area.
  • Rhett Ellison: 1 rec/9 yards. From week one, I’ve stated this guy needs to be on the field more than he is and he deserves more targets. He just isn’t in their playbook, it seems. But I don’t think it is a coincidence that the NYG rushing game took a step back this week along with the fact Ellison’s playing time dipped back below the 50% mark.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: After a very impressive performance on the NYG home turf, undrafted rookie Chad Wheeler came back down to earth in his first road start. He allowed 2 sacks and 4 pressures, as Ryan Kerrigan beat him up inside and out. Ereck Flowers had his worst game in 6 weeks, being called for 2 penalties, allowing 1 pressure, and allowing 1 sack. This was the worst combo-grade we have seen from the tackles since early in the year.
  • Interior: The lack of run-blocking presence was felt without D.J. Fluker in the mix. Jon Halapio made his first career start since being drafted in 2014. As he performed at training camp, he looked stiff and unable to block anything in space and/or after lateral movement. He confirmed that he doesn’t belong on the field with a grade well below average. John Jerry hit the point he has been hitting most of the year on the grading sheet, a few inches below average. He did get some quality movement early, but too often he whiffs and ends up chasing after his man. Brett Jones struggled mightily in pass protection when left alone. He appears over-matched when he is asked to do so. All three interior blockers finished below average on the grading sheet.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: It took 11 weeks, but the Giants finally got plus performances from both of their ends. Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon both played over 85% of the snaps, a feat in and of itself considering the nagging injuries they’ve been dealing with. They combined for 3.5 sacks and 10 tackles. They were active, hustling, and consistent from start to finish. Kerry Wynn played a few snaps but failed to make an impact.
  • Tackles: The three-man rotation of Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Jay Bromley were over-matched by the interior blockers of WAS. Re-watching the tape, it was stunning to see how many times they were being blown off the ball 2-3 yards. It resulted in rookie Samaje Perine netting 100 yards for the second straight week, 97 of which came in the second half alone. Robert Thomas was also very poor in controlling the point-of-attack when he was in. As a group, it was their worst performance to date. Dalvin Tomlinson did record his first career sack.

LINEBACKERS

  • The most decimated unit on the team via injuries seems to he adding a new street free agent each week. Kelvin Sheppard, one of those recent signings, led the group with 7 tackles, as Jonathan Casillas added 6 of his own. Neither are stuffing the running lanes, however. They are struggling to impact the game with speed or power and neither are doing well in coverage, as the middle of the field continues to be the weakness of the NYG pass defense.
  • Devon Kennard has been, and continues to be, one of the season’s bright spots. He recorded another sack via the interior pass rush. His versatility, especially on 3rd downs, is a weapon worth keeping around.
  • Curtis Grant suffered a season-ending injury early in the game.

CORNERBACKS

  • The Giants lone touchdown of the night came from a pick six by Janoris Jenkins, his second of the year. Jenkins played an outstanding game in coverage and after watching the all-22 tape, his effort was not a problem at all. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a quiet game in a good way, rarely being targeted.
  • With Eli Apple out via a coach’s decision, Ross Cockrell got the start and played every defensive snap. He played a physical game and did a nice job in coverage, allowing under 50% of the balls thrown his way to be completed. Cockrell has been a very solid player considering what NYG had to give up for him. I think he is a keeper as a backup.
  • Unfortunate injury for Donte Deayon, who was going to get the opportunity to show his worth to this team for the future. He broke his arm on a tackle attempt of Jamison Crowder, who had his way with Deayon prior to on a few occasions.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins and Darian Thompson shined again. Collins led the team with 14 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. He was all over the field and did an outstanding job of anticipating plays and snaps. When you have a safety like this, the lack of ability at linebacker isn’t nearly as big of a deal. When this guy is playing a roaming role, especially against the run, he really is top notch. Thompson has improved in coverage mightily since the beginning of the year, being more assertive and quicker to react. He had two very nice, high-level pass break-ups.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – Made 30 yds. Quiet night for the rookie kicker. McAdoo could have given him a 38-yard attempt, but opted to go for it on 4th-and-1.
  • P Brad Wing: 9 punts – 41.2 avg. His net average was just 2 yards under his average, a solid number. He pinned WAS inside the 5 once.
  • Return: Kalif Raymond returned 2 punts for a total of 8 yards.

3 STUDS

  • DE Jason Pierre Paul, DE Janoris Jenkins, S Landon Collins

3 DUDS

  • OT Chad Wheeler, DT Jay Bromley, QB Eli Manning

3 THOUGHTS ON WAS

  • Samaje Perine is going to be a factor in this division for a long time. He specializes in short yardage but he will prove to be much more than that. He doesn’t go down on initial contact, always running through arm tackles and grinding out a defense. The combination of him and Chris Thompson in the future will be a tough, tough duo to play against.
  • The Redskins have backed themselves into a corner with Kirk Cousins. They could have locked him up for a solid deal the past two years, but the mishandling is now going to cost them an extra few million per year. At this point, you just can’t let him walk via FA. There is no long term plan in place for WAS behind him and they won’t be picking high enough to select a franchise guy.
  • The WAS offensive line is just, if not more, beat up than the NYG OL. However their backups come in and still played at a solid level. They’ve done a nice job building that group from top to bottom and it is something NYG should look at. Both how they did it and if one of them can be had via FA.

3 THOUGHTS ON NYG

  • I can’t stress this enough: the situation Eli Manning has had to work with is the worst, or second worst to CLE, in the NFL. Everything about this offense when it comes to support of the QB is simply over-matched. Does it mean it is unfair to evaluate his play? Not exactly. There are still things he is doing wrong and/or at a low level each week. However, I’m not sure any QB in the league could succeed in this situation and I mean that.
  • Are we seeing what this defense should have been all year? Collins is all over the field and appears to be in on every play. The ends are disruptive. The cornerbacks have played lock-down coverage the past 2 weeks. What could have been this year….what could have been. They woke up a little too late.
  • Another issue I have had with this front office for years, and I know not everyone agrees, is the lack of resources devoted to the linebacker position. I am just sick and tired of signing street free agents of bottom-feeder type players to fill a role that impacts the run and pass so much. It is a direct relation to why the Giants have been absolutely killed by tight ends and slot receivers over the middle and the run defense has been so inconsistent. One of these years some money and/or a high pick needs to be used on a linebacker or two.