By: Michael Gagliardi
Ohhhhhhhhhh boy this was a hard one to write. Here we go again with another Giants season that’s over by October. Now that the Browns have snapped their 90-week streak of never being over .500, the Giants have the longest such streak in the league, now at 51 weeks. This just sums up the last 10 years of this team’s management (other than 2011 and 2016). On Sunday vs. the 49ers, who were down 10, yes 10, starters, the Giants got their heads kicked in, barely looking like an NFL team at times. Daniel Jones played what might have been the worst game of his career, the offense around him couldn’t pick him up at all, and the defense did not force a punt all day. Sunday was an all-around terrible performance, so let’s skip ranting about the veterans and management, and get right to looking at how the rookies fared.
Inactive/Injured/DNP: Xavier McKinney (2nd), Shane Lemieux (5th), TJ Brunson (7th), Chris Williamson (7th--Practice Squad):
Boy, could the Giants have used McKinney on Sunday! With Jabrill Peppers going down early with a minor sprained ankle, Julian Love was forced into a ton of strong safety reps and got abused by the 49ers passing attack, led by none other than the great Nick Mullens. Don’t get me wrong: Love is not a bad player, but it is hard for such a young guy to be pressed into a full-time role in an unnatural position for him. Peppers’ injury also forced Logan Ryan to play more safety, allowing Isaac Yiadom to be repeatedly exposed on an island with the 49ers’ receivers. If I were the Giants and wanted any chance of a good secondary this year, I’d go to a witch doctor and beg them to heal McKinney’s foot, because Yiadom at CB2 isn’t going to cut it with Peppers still being out.
Shane Lemieux spent another game on the sideline, but as I said last week, with the way this season is going, I would not be surprised if the Giants trade Kevin Zeitler for some draft capital, and we see Lemieux in the starting lineup. Wouldn’t it be absolutely badass to have both of your guards wearing neck pads?! Both Lemieux and Hernandez wear them, so we have a chance. I guess that’s pretty much the extent of all that we can hope for at this point for the 2020 Giants, huh?
TJ Brunson has spent all 3 games on the inactive list, which may not be a good sign for him, as all his fellow draft picks have now dressed for at least one game (with the exception of Chris Williamson who remains on the practice squad). Since this is now yet another quickly dying season, Brunson will likely get his chance sooner rather than later.
LT Andrew Thomas (1st):
Let’s get this straight, the entire O-line had a bad game, but it’s easy to discount the job they did in pass protection. Jones had an average of 2.9 seconds to throw this week: good for 10th in the league. Thomas did not have a great game against the pass rush, but he was the Giants’ best run blocker Sunday by my eye. Thomas’s lack of pass blocking this game is surprising because it was against the 49ers’ second-string D-line. He was beaten to the inside multiple times in pass protection and gave up a sack and 4 pressures. Of course, some “fans” are completely overreacting to this rough performance and are already calling Thomas “the 4th best tackle in the draft”. Here’s a news flash: THIS WAS THE 3RD NFL GAME HE HAS EVER PLAYED! Nobody knows who is going to be good or bad in this league after 3 games. So far, from Thomas, we have seen plenty of rookie mistakes and lost reps to veteran players. On the other hand, we have also seen plenty of absolutely dominant plays, where he throws his man around like a ragdoll or stones him immediately after contact, which makes me hopeful for the future of the Giants O-line with him at the forefront. Thomas even had several dominant plays on Sunday, but of course, people only notice O-linemen when they don’t do their jobs.
Long story short, the 49ers seemed to be stunting a lot on Sunday, which froze Thomas and Hernandez at times, leading them to be beaten inside often. Granted, it is much easier to pass rush when you know that the other team is throwing the ball every play because they’re down by 20 points. Thomas has to improve his footwork going forward in the run and pass games, but that is a common area in which rookie tackles struggle while adjusting from the college game to the pros. Overall, I have not lost an ounce of hope for Andrew Thomas’s career, and anyone that has needs to chill out. This guy has it, and even though he didn’t look too pretty on Sunday, I would rather have a rookie Andrew Thomas out there than Nate Solder any day of the week.
OT Matt Peart (3rd):
When Thomas was shaken up on the last Giants “drive” (if you can call it that) of the game, Peart saw his first two NFL snaps. He had chip help on both of the plays, one from Dion Lewis and the other from Evan Engram, but he locked his man up both times using his long arms. If this season keeps going the way that it’s going, expect to see Peart start at right tackle over Cam Fleming sooner rather than later.
CB Darnay Holmes (4th):
The best I can say about how Holmes played was that he didn’t miss any tackles this week and he had good coverage on a throw to the end zone to break up a pass! Otherwise, he had an awful game and looked overall worse than he did in week 1. For the first few 49ers drives, it seemed like whenever they needed a 1st down, they would run a play for Holmes’s man and immediately get 15 yards out of it. Two out of those three plays weren’t even picked plays or anything tricky; Holmes just got burned. This is Holmes’s second week in a row letting up 3 1st down catches, and it even seemed like the Giants got fed up with him, as he only played 35% of the defensive snaps Sunday, barely seeing the field in the second half. I think this benching was due, in part, to an absolutely terrible illegal contact penalty on Holmes on 3rd and 22 when the 49ers just checked the ball down to punt. This was completely unnecessary, and in my eyes, was the stone that caused the landslide, as after scoring on that drive, the 49ers never looked back. Yes, he is a rookie corner and has the toughest adjustment out of just about every position coming out of college, but with all the hype the Giants propaganda machine threw his way during camp, you’d think he would look a lot better than he has so far. This was a bad game for Holmes, and it’s one thing for a rookie to get burned, but it’s a whole other can of worms to get repeatedly targeted by the opposing offense (consisting of mostly reserve receivers), and that’s what happened to Darnay Holmes on Sunday.
EDGE Cam Brown (6th):
It was another week of being relegated to special teams for Cam Brown, and after his quietly impressive special teams performance last week, I was looking very much forward to seeing him again this past Sunday. He did very well on the field goal block team and got very close to blocking a couple of the 49ers’ many attempts. It would not be at all a surprise to see him get one by the end of the year. On kickoff, the 49ers never returned the ball, but he was always the first one down the field after the whistle was blown, so that shows a good motor. Kick return team for Brown was a mixed bag, as he had an especially good block on one run back, but just about got Corey Ballentine killed on another. Overall, not much to report for Brown, but his athleticism should get him noticed soon enough.
EDGE Carter Coughlin (7th):
Coughlin was active Sunday, after being inactive last week for some reason. Like Brown, he did not record any stats for the game but appeared on most of the special teams units. I saw him appear on the screen on only one of the Giants’ kick returns, and he was locking his man up pretty well, so I’ll give him a net positive game based on that.
LB Tae Crowder (7th):
Hey, if there are any teams out there looking for an LB scout, I clearly am not an idiot! The first Giants rookie other than Thomas or Holmes to see time from scrimmage this year is the guy I was very high on all throughout camp. It’s clear that the Giants see something in 2020’s Mr. Irrelevant, as he got to see his first non-special teams NFL action today. Yes, it was only two plays from scrimmage, but that’s two more than a lot of Mr. Irrelevants get to see from scrimmage in their entire careers. He didn’t do anything of note on these plays, and once again recorded no stats for the game, but he appeared on most special teams units for the second straight week. ILB Devante Downs had a very bad game (remind me again why we cut Ryan Connelly for him?), so don’t be surprised if you see Crowder get some ILB snaps again next week. On specials, he had a bit of a rough game and did not block well on kick return at all. His man lit up Corey Ballentine on the Giants’ first return of the game and made another tackle on the second-half kickoff. No matter if he’s getting on the field from scrimmage or not, Crowder has to perform better on special teams if he wants to stick around.
What to Expect Next Week:
Next week, the Giants play the Rams, who many are predicting to win by as much as 30. I think that’s all we need to know about what a laughing stock this Giants team has been for the past few years because nobody is surprised about them being such underdogs to a borderline playoff team. This game is where we’re going to see what kind of coaching staff we have here. They can either pick their team up by its bootstraps, come out fighting, and at least keep the game close, or they can roll over and give up the game to the better team for the 2nd straight week. Judge talks a big game about coaching toughness and fundamentals, and it’s about time that his team executes on it across the board. Are the Giants going to win this game? No. But I do think that the team will respond to being completely taken apart by the 49ers scout team this past week. Daniel Jones has a big make-or-break game with the fans this week, and he has the opportunity to follow in Eli’s footsteps and quietly shut the critics up with a big game when they are jeering the loudest. Evan Engram and the receivers have to step up and create some separation, and Jason Garrett has to realize that throwing downfield is Jones’s greatest weapon and start using it.
In terms of the rookies, Andrew Thomas will likely have to deal with some stunts involving Aaron Donald, but other than him the Rams pass rush has been lackluster so far this year. I just want an all-around solid game from him to silence the critics that are starting to pick on him, and I think that’s what we will get. Holmes needs to step it up this week. I’m tired already of seeing #30 always be the closest Giant to the receiver on huge 3rd down conversions, and he needs to make a big play. A pick would be huge for Holmes’s confidence and growth as a pro. As I say every week, the special teams rookies just have to play as solid as they can and do nothing negative, and I’ll consider it a victory for them. I’m hoping to see a little more from Crowder from scrimmage, and why not give Brown a couple plays in there to see what he can do? Overall, I’m predicting another loss for the G-men on Sunday, but the important thing for the rookies is that they keep growing and showing flashes, especially when facing a mediocre team like the Rams.