By: Michael Gagliardi
Wait, where did the Giants get a defense from? Can the Giants score a touchdown before the end of the season? Is Graham Gano the team MVP? Jalen Ramsey cheated on Golden Tate’s sister?
There are a lot of questions to be asked about the Giants’ 17-9 loss to the Rams on Sunday, and very few answers to be had. What we do know is that certain position groups on the Giants just seem to come together from week to week for no reason and look amazing, while other position groups just fall apart, and this week, the defense somehow got it together. They held the same Rams offense, which was averaging 30 points per game coming in, to 17, and besides the first drive (plus one blown coverage), looked like a solid NFL defense for once. Meanwhile, the offense came out of the gate as flat as can be, and although the O-line started blocking in the 2nd quarter and the run game got going a little with Devonta Freeman and Wayne Gallman, the passing attack kept faltering and the Giants just couldn’t punch the ball in the endzone for the second straight week. An NFL offense not scoring a touchdown in 8 quarters is, frankly, an embarrassment, and something needs to be done immediately. People are now sounding the “Tank for Trevor” alarm in full force because of Jones’ game-ending pick to the sideline with 57 seconds to go, and they need to relax. Yes, this was a bad decision and Jones needs to play much better if he wants to prove himself in the league, but watch the game and you’ll see that throughout the game, his receivers got little to no separation at all! The lack of a WR1 on this team is causing immense problems, and I don’t really know how the Giants got stuck with a roster full of #2 and #3 receivers. As depressed as Giants fans may be right now, we can still hold out hope for the rookies on our team, though……….right???
Inactive/Injured/DNP: Xavier McKinney (2nd), TJ Brunson (7th), Carter Coughlin (7th), Chris Williamson (7th--Practice Squad):
The one bad really bad play by the defense today, other than the first drive, was allowing Cooper Kupp’s game-sealing touchdown. The play was a busted coverage by Julian Love, who was playing out of position at strong safety due to Jabrill Peppers remaining sidelined with his sprained ankle. With McKinney back there instead of Love, it is not hard to imagine that he would have been in proper position to provide coverage over the top and make a play on the ball to force the Rams to punt. With McKinney in the secondary this past Sunday, it is not out of the realm of possibility for the Giants to pull this one out.
TJ Brunson has now spent all 4 games on the inactive list, but his chance may come sometime soon, as Devante Downs was effectively relegated to special teams by the end of the first quarter, being replaced with Brunson’s fellow rookie LB Tae Crowder. If Downs continues to underperform, and David Mayo fails to recover properly from his injury, Brunson may soon get an opportunity to prove himself.
Carter Coughlin seems to have been replaced on specials this week by veteran Madre Harris, who was just picked up. We really haven’t seen much out of Coughlin on specials thus far, and I’m not at Giants practice every day, so I would assume they’re just trying to try different bubble guys on special teams every week.
Chris Williamson remains on the practice squad, but since Corey Ballentine and Isaac Yiadom were also benched on Sunday, he could very well be brought up to the active roster in the coming weeks.
LT Andrew Thomas (1st):
Sunday was a tale of one awful quarter (plus one drive) versus 3 near-spotless ones for Andrew Thomas. He came out of the gate looking completely overmatched against mediocre Rams pass rushers (none of whom were named Aaron Donald) and gave up 2 sacks (arguably 2.5) on the first 3 drives of the game and looked no better in the run game. On these drives, Thomas showed a surprising lack of fundamentals, constantly leaning into his man instead of punching. However, this was a trait he was criticized for coming out of college, so those who are saying that he’s “regressing” can get lost. The man has played 4 NFL games; there’s nothing to regress from.
I don’t know what in the world O-line coach Marc Columbo threatened to do to Thomas on the sideline in between the third and fourth series, but whatever it was, it must’ve lit a fire under his butt, because Thomas was just about perfect for the last 3 quarters of the game. Not only was he locking the other Rams pass rushers up, but he put the clamps on Aaron Donald multiple times as well. Thomas, along with Hernandez, was a massive part of the run game getting some juice back on Sunday, as the Giants were constantly getting 4-yard chunks running off his hip. The only real blemish past the first 3 drives for Thomas was a second sack, which was a complete coverage sack and Jones should’ve thrown the ball away before Thomas’s man got loose, but a sack is a sack. If you were just to look at the numbers and analytics, you’d think Thomas played the worst game ever, when in reality he just played the worst 3 drives ever, and then was great for the rest of the game. That being said, he does have to work at not lunging for his man, and being patient with his punch and anchor. His lack of doing this has gotten him into sticky situations this year and has led to him getting beat inside way too much. Unlike a certain other first-round left tackle that the Giants have picked, I have full confidence that Andrew Thomas can and will make these changes to his game in good time, and silence the “experts” of Twitter who are calling him a bust already.
OT Matt Peart (3rd):
On the Giants’ last drive of the first half, Peart came in for Fleming, which was apparently done to introduce him to NFL competition in small amounts. That’s a pretty weird strategy to me because the O-line isn’t a rotational unit, but I guess that’s why I’m not an NFL coach. Peart did very well actually, and although he got beat to the outside on two plays, he used his long arms to wash his man behind Jones and gave him a chance to step up in the pocket; after all, if you’re gonna get beat, you’d want to get beat outside rather than inside. Peart allowed 0 pressures on 7 pass-blocking snaps on this drive (on 3 of which the Rams were testing him with Aaron Donald), and the Giants got a field goal out of it, so I have only good things to say about Peart’s brief performance, other than the fact that he looked very tentative at times, but that will improve with reps. He is a developmental guy at this point, so when and if he sees the field against the Cowboys this coming week, don’t be surprised if he gets burned. However, he has potential, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he progresses going forward.
CB Darnay Holmes (4th):
This was Holmes’s first good game I’ve seen him play. He played 58% of the Giants’ defensive snaps, which I feel like is a great sweet spot for him at this point in his career. He let up 1 catch on 1 target for only 4 yards on 14 coverage snaps, and he made a good open field play on that particular catch to stop his man short of the line to gain. Other than that, Holmes wasn’t really on the screen much, and for a rookie corner, I’ll take a solid game of no mistakes any day! The Giants seem to like blitzing him off the edge a lot, and he got considerable pressure on one of his 7 blitzes. If Holmes gets a pick this year and continues to build off of this nice performance, I’ll be convinced he can be as good as the Giants were hyping him up to be in camp.
G Shane Lemieux (5th):
My pick for the 2020 late-round gem of the draft, Shane Lemieux got his first NFL action today, but it wasn’t at Guard. It wasn't even on the O-line. Big number 66, neck pad and all, lined up in the offensive backfield as a fullback to start a 2nd quarter Giants drive and led the way for Devonta Freeman. He did his job and looked good doing it, showing great quickness through the hole and blew his man back a few yards. Unfortunately, the rest of the blocking wasn’t great and the play went for about 3, but I like seeing this and I hope the Giants use this heavy personnel on the goal line (if they ever get a chance to be there).
EDGE Cam Brown (6th):
Cam Brown did not see any defensive snaps for the Giants this week, but he did a very good job on specials once again, even knocking Jalen Ramsey over on punt coverage. It seems like the Giants are seeing Brown as an all-around special teams player, having put him on every special teams unit besides the field goal team, and having him play the gunner position on punt coverage, which is really unusual for an edge rusher. Once again, he did a great job on the field goal block unit, and he got a chance to be on the punt block team this week as well and looks great on it. Mark my words: Brown will block a punt or a field goal this year. On coverage teams, Brown didn’t record any tackles, but he was flying around out there, taking on blocks and showing good pursuit to the ball carrier. The only negative I saw from Brown was that on kickoff coverage, he made a sloppy swim move, which let his man get up and under him, throwing him off balance and opening a hole for a big runback. As an inside man on kick coverage, your job isn’t to use finesse moves, it’s to create a pile in the middle and make the returner move laterally.
LB Tae Crowder (7th):
Hail the conquering hero!! From Mr. Irrelevant to starting linebacker in 4 weeks, Tae Crowder played a really good game on Sunday. Devante Downs started the game and his lack of open-field tackling and coverage ability was a big reason why the Rams drove down the field and scored so easily on their first drive. I’ll say it now for the last time: why in the world did the Giants cut Ryan Connelly for Downs? Anyway, after playing only 4 defensive snaps, Downs was benched completely for Crowder and it was the rookie’s time to shine. One of the reasons I’ve been so high on him was because of his coverage ability, and, despite getting caught out of position for a first down on his 3rd play from scrimmage, he only allowed one catch on 2 targets on 20 coverage snaps, and came up with a huge pick coming out of the half which somehow got overturned. There was ZERO conclusive evidence that the ball touched the ground, and in fact, I thought there was actually more evidence of the ball not touching the ground! This could have been huge for the Giants’ momentum, and I don’t think I’m reaching when I say that if this pick stood (which it should have), the Giants would have likely won this game. Crowder looked very solid overall on Sunday, although he did miss a tackle on special teams. He and Martinez can hopefully be as solid of an ILB duo as the Giants have had in a long time.
What to Expect Next Week:
Next week, the Giants play in America’s Game of the Week (yeah, right) versus the Cowboys, who have, arguably the worst defense in the league, averaging a whopping 37 points allowed per game. If the Giants’ offense can’t score on this defense, then they have even more problems than we already think. The Cowboys’ offense has been on fire though, so expect Logan Ryan to play a lot of CB to defend Amari Cooper and Gallup going downfield. The Giants need Peppers back this week if they want a chance of stopping the Cowboys’ passing attack, and that still may not be enough. For this game, if the Giants defense manages to hold the Cowboys to under 21, the Giants should win with how bad the Cowboys’ D is. However, if the offense stays as incompetent as it was this past Sunday, then they can kiss those hopes goodbye, no matter how good their defense may play. Jones needs to step up in this game and show what he’s made of. The excuse of “there’s been no preseason,” although valid, is now gone for this team after playing 4 games, and we, as fans, need to be shown something.
As for the rookies, Andrew Thomas will go up against Demarcus Lawrence, who has fast been becoming a Giant killer as of late, and it would make Giants fans just so happy to see Thomas put together his first dominant NFL performance against him. Realistically though, the Cowboys have had a lot of success stunting on the Giants in recent matchups, and with the resurgence of Aldon Smith in full swing, the O-line and Thomas especially will have to put all the pieces together Sunday and eliminate the fundamental mistakes they’ve been making if Jones wants to have any time to throw. Peart will have a series most likely, so he can only hope to build on this past week and just have a positive impact. Holmes is looking to build off of his first good NFL game, and he will have his hands full with the speedy Cowboys receivers who, last year, dominated DeAndre Baker. As for Lemieux and Brown, they should be looking to make the most of their opportunities on the field, and I’m especially looking for big special teams impact play from Brown. Crowder’s starting debut will likely come this week, and with the way he played this past week being so promising, we can only hope he picks up where he left off. My prediction: the Giants defense looks solid again, giving up 24 points to a high-powered Dallas offense, but the Giants offense continues to struggle, scoring a barn burning 14. Hey, if I’m wrong, then the Giants could be only a half-game back from the division lead at this time next week!