Next day thoughts

September 27, 2022

Okay, so maybe the Giants weren’t going to go 17-0 after all. And last night’s loss to the Cowboys was disappointing as the Giants didn’t play all that well. The offensive line was a sieve, especially in the first half;  the receivers were no-shows and probably should have been asked to buy a ticket to get into the building; and the defense couldn’t get a stop when it really mattered.

And yet there we were at the end with a one-final chance to get a tie and send the game into overtime before Daniel Jones final pass was intercepted when the intended receiver fell down. Which seemed like a perfect metaphor for the whole night. The Giants certainly had their chances. In particular, they had a deflected FG attempt doink off a goal post that denied them three points and they had two other promising drives stall as a result of ticky-tack penalties.

In the end the game really turned on one play. With the scores tied at 13-13 early in the 4th quarter the Cowboys converted a 4th and 4 around mid-field with a 4.1-yard completion (on which I am still not convinced that the ball itself reached the line to get but was never reviewed) that ultimately led to the game winning TD. I suspect we have a very different result if Dallas had not made that play.

But they did. And in many ways the loss to the Cowboys exposed several of  the big issues facing the Giants as they go forward this season.

Most significantly is the fact that, as we have been saying for literally several seasons now, the Giants receiver corps is  really bad. The Giants don’t currently have any receiver averaging as much as 12 yards per reception. They also has only one reception longer than 25 yards so far this season – the 65-yard pass and run TD to Sterling Shepard in Tennessee. The Giants also have only 4 big-play receptions all year between them; by way of contrast, both of Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill of the Dolphins have more by themselves! Ouch!

And it won’t get any better with the loss of Shepard who tore an ACL late against the Cowboys. That almost certainly ends his Giants’ career and very likely his career period. At the same time, you have to be almost blind not to see that Kenny Golladay just can’t, or won’t, play any more. It would certainly help if they could get either or both Kadarius Toney and/or Wandale Robinson back in the lineup. But right now going forward the Giants receivers look to be Richie James, who is primarily a kick returner, former undrafted free agent David Sills, who figured to spend most of the year on the PS, and somebody off the PS. Ouch! Double ouch!!

Given that right now there just isn’t a cavalry to come in and rescue the Giants receivers short of a big trade, we really would like to see the Giants try to get the ball to Saquon Barcley when he’s actually heading upfield. Come to think of it we’d really like to see Saquin way more involved in the passing game. He’s averaging 5 targets per game through the first three games and we think it should be at least double that number. At least!

As an aside, we repeat the musing we had just after the draft. To wit when the Giants got on the clock with the 7th pick after selected Kayvon Thibodeaux at #5, did they give any thought at all to taking a WR like Drake London or Chris Olave who are both on pace to post 1,000-yard receiving seasons. To be honest I don’t think so as they were both clearly in a lower row than Evan Neal, whom the Giants did take at that spot. Just asking though!

Of course it doesn’t help that Neal gave up three sacks against the Cowboys, two of them when he barely slowed the DE down. Problem right now is that his technique is just plain bad. Want to see how to play OT watch Andrew Thomas. He keeps his shoulders square to the defender and his feet moving. As a result the only path for the defender to the QB is essentially through his chest. Neal, on the other hand, sets his feet coming out of his initial backpeddle and after that is all is reaching and lunging. And that’s easy pickings for a quick, NFL edge rusher. Of course, Neal wasn’t the only Giants’ OL to struggle against the Cowboys. They all did save for the aforementioned Thomas. Just Neal was particularly noticeable.

To be fair, though, part of the problem for the OL, as it has been the past 2-3 years, is the fact that opposing defenses, which have little fear of being beaten deep by the very pedestrian Giants receivers are crowding the LOS and sending a lot of people from a lot of different angles. And that ain’t gonna change much until the Giants get some speed outside that can threaten opponents deep.

It also wasn’t a particularly good game from the Giants which gave up too many uncontested big plays at least a couple of which resulted simply from bad alignments. The Cowboys’ second FG in the second quarter was set up by a 46-yard burst by Tony Pollard. On the play, the Giants overloaded their defense to the left, but the Cowboys ran route. LB Austin Calitro tried to jump a gap, but picked the wrong one, fell down and Pollard was off to the races. Then later in the half, the Cowboys were able to flip the field on a 3rd and 12 from their own 21 on a 27-yard  run by Zeke Elliott. The Cowboys lined up with a 3-man receiver bunch on their left side, but the Giants edge guys on that side lined up inside the bunch. Then when the ball was snapped they crashed inside leaving the Cowboys receivers literally no one to block until there over 10-yards down field with Elliott scampering behind them untouched.

The Giants had hoped that the return to action by DEs Az Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux would jump start their pass rush, but neither made much of an impact on the game. Hopefully, they were just rusty because they will be needed the rest of the way. The fact is that while the Giants defense has been stingy so far this year, giving up less than 20 points per game, they really haven’t made any game-changing type players going the other way. Indeed, through the first three games, the Giants D has just one takeaway, a fumble recovery early in the win over Carolina; they have no interceptions and just three sacks (roughly half the number Dallas had Monday night alone for the mathematically challenged.)

And, as it seems as we often do, we leave the last word for QB Daniel Jones. It doesn’t really show up in the numbers, but he was quite simply the Giants best player on the field Monday night. He converted a number of key first downs with well-timed runs and did a terrific job pretty much all night sliding away from the relentless pressure and either finding the space to reset and get the ball downfield or the time to throw the ball away. In fact, his final numbers which included a couple of outright drops as well as many as a half dozen throw aways – not to mention a pick on which his receiver fell down – didn’t even begin to tell the story. I have no idea how the coaches view things but from where I was sitting the Giants weren’t even close in that game without Jones. Somebody asked what the Giants could do to get Jones to play better. My answer: get some decent receivers!!

Up next: Chicago will be in town on Sunday in what is a really big game if the Giants want to stay relevant. The Bears are simply a team that you have to beat at home, especially with games against the Packers, Ravens and suddenly resurgent Jacksonville coming up.