By: Michael Gagliardi
If Sunday’s performance and heartbreaking loss didn’t just sum up the last 5 years for Giants fans, then I don’t know what would, at this rate. Yet another loss at the last second of a completely winnable game, where the loss can be traced back to a few key plays. Bad teams leave the game in the hands of the refs, and that’s exactly what the Giants did on Sunday, as the refs ended up taking 11 points off the board on ticky-tack calls. One came on the beautiful fake field goal play to Evan Engram down the sideline where Cam Fleming was ever so slightly too high in his stance to be “set,” which I understand is the rule and all, but are you really going to call a touchdown back on something that small which didn’t affect the play whatsoever? Instead of 7 points, the Giants got 3 out of that possession from their MVP Graham Gano. The other call was absolutely horrific and is a complete butchering of the offensive pass interference rule. On a beautiful deep ball from Daniel Jones to Darius Slayton down the sideline, Damion Ratley was running a slant, when a Cowboy who was supposed to be covering Slayton just ran into him. This was clearly not supposed to be a pick play; teams run route combinations like this all the time! Ratley was not actively blocking and looked as surprised as anyone that a man just ran into him for no reason. It’s a tough call at the moment I guess, but either way that’s another 7 points off the board for the Giants. There was also a completely missed holding call on BJ Hill on the first of Michael Gallup’s big catches on the Cowboys’ game-winning drive, where the ref actually reached for his flag but didn’t throw it, but I don’t want to make myself mad, so I won’t talk about it anymore.
It may sound like I’m blaming the refs for this loss, but I’m absolutely not. As I said, bad teams leave themselves at the mercy of officiating, and the Giants are straight-up a bad team. This rookie class has to step up big time this season if the Giants have any chance of salvaging anything this year.
Inactive/Injured/DNP: Xavier McKinney (2nd), TJ Brunson (7th), Chris Williamson (7th--Practice Squad):
How many ways can I say it? The Giants need an FS that isn’t named Adrian Colbert or Julian Love, the former of whom got repeatedly torched by CeeDee Lamb on Sunday and had a perfect passer rating against him for the day. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if the Giants had McKinney Sunday, and he made one big play like he has the ability to do at any time, this game is right there for the taking.
TJ Brunson’s situation is not looking too good. He hasn’t been active for a single game this year, but hey, Tae Crowder had a really bad game Sunday, and David Mayo is healthy but not on the active roster yet, so maybe Brunson will get a shot soon.
Chris Williamson is still on the practice squad. I don’t know if he’s hurt or what, but I haven’t heard anything about him, so I doubt that’s a good thing.
LT Andrew Thomas (1st):
This was, by far, Thomas’s worst game in pass protection as a pro. He gave up 9 pressures and a sack which resulted in an immediate 6 points for Dallas. Demarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith are having the seasons of their lives this year, and they torched Thomas to the inside multiple times. His lunging at the point of attack is on film now, and you better believe that every edge rusher who is playing the Giants is going to be taught to make their move the second that Thomas’s bodyweight comes forward to punch. This is something that is not terribly concerning to me right now, (because let’s be honest, this season is going nowhere) but if he doesn’t show improvement in not lunging with his punch by the end of the season that’s when I’ll start getting worried. I have confidence that Big Drew will improve: he is a very good athlete, and good athletes are able to adapt and make themselves better fundamentally throughout the course of a few weeks.
The reason I make the distinction that this was “Thomas’s worst game in pass protection” is because he was the Giants' best-run blocker on the field Sunday, as he has been pretty much all season. But again, nobody notices O-linemen when they do their jobs--only when they don’t. Most of the Giants’ good runs on Sunday came off Thomas’s side, and he racked up a couple of knockdowns in the run game as well. If you watch Thomas in the run game, you’ll really see his athleticism on full display, which is why I have confidence in him to improve. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the best play of the game: Andrew Thomas’s juggling catch for the two-point conversion! Could Joe Judge, in a stroke of genius, have seen his 4th overall pick playing a horrific game against the pass rush, so instead of calling a standard two-point conversion play, got his franchise left tackle a score to keep his confidence up moving into next week? If this is the case I’d love Judge even more, but it could also just be that they put this play into the game plan and were going to run it no matter what. Thomas converted the play, despite his lineman-hands almost dropping the ball, and it’s always wholesome to see the big boys celebrating in the end zone.
To finish off on Thomas, one encouraging sign with him is that the last two weeks, he has struggled mightily in the first half, but seemed to improve going forward. There are some plays where he gets embarrassed, and then the next play he can look absolutely dominant and be a brick wall. We just need him to play a complete game this week against fellow top 5 pick, Chase Young.
OT Matt Peart (3rd):
Peart got 3 snaps Sunday as a 6th O-lineman, and there’s not much else to say other than that he did his job. He looked very athletic and powerful working double teams, and for small sample size, seems like he has potential going forward. Although Fleming has been relatively solid this year for a career backup, I would definitely like to see Peart get more and more action as the season progresses. He hasn’t messed anything up yet, and that’s all we can hope for a guy who’s played just under 20 snaps in his pro career.
CB Darnay Holmes (4th):
Holmes had a bit of a mixed bag on Sunday, but I’d call it a net positive. Starting off with the bad: CeeDee Lamb made multiple 1st down conversions on Holmes by sitting in the zone between him and the CB when the Giants were in cover 2 sets. This has been a common theme with Holmes this year, but I’m not worried about it terribly much, as defending plays like these comes with experience. Also on the bad side, Holmes missed two crucial tackles, one of which would have been for a loss. Holmes leaves his feet way too much when he’s tackling, which might have worked in college, but is sure as hell not going to work against NFL players. He did get beat by Michael Gallup for a big gain at one point, but he recovered well enough so that Dak had to put it in the perfect position for his guy to catch it, and that’s what he did.
That’s really it for Holmes’s negatives, though, as he had two great pass breakups, both on Lamb. The first one saved a sure touchdown, and the second was on the first play of the game-winning drive, preventing the Cowboys from getting a chunk play to start the drive. I’m coming to love his aggression in man coverage. Also, Holmes continues to be effective on the blitz, getting his first career half-sack on one of his 4 blitzes. If Holmes can improve his tackling going forward and eliminate even a few of these bad plays in zone, I would be extremely happy with his rookie year.
G Shane Lemieux (5th):
Lemieux got another snap at FB this week, and, boy I wouldn’t want him getting a running start at me! His one play was on Evan Engram’s jet sweep touchdown, on which Lemieux just acted like a lead blocker for the fake to the running back. He delivered a good hit on Aldon Smith, but you’d like to see him keep on his feet better in the future. For the 4th week in a row, I’m going to stake my claim to my prediction: Zeitler will be traded at the deadline and Lemieux will start for the rest of the season, you heard it here first.
EDGE Cam Brown (6th):
The special teams monster Cam Brown finally recorded his first two assisted tackles on kickoff coverage Sunday, which is a great sign, because the Cowboys only had 2 kickoff returns the whole game. One of his tackles was a big hit with his shoulder pad, which looks great on TV, but you’d like to see him wrap up. Now that Lorenzo Carter is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles (of course, as soon as he starts to have his mythical breakout season) and his replacement Markus Golden constantly getting targeted in the run game on Sunday, expect Brown to see some action from scrimmage. I have no doubt that he will be able to compete from scrimmage athletically, but it is his tackling that I’m scared of. Brown’s college tape shows a disturbing lack of running his feet through the tackle, which would, no doubt, cause missed tackles on the NFL level. If he’s found a way to fix this, however, then I think we may have a player on our hands.
EDGE Carter Coughlin (7th):
Coughlin was active this week, being put on kickoff coverage, punt return, and kick return. He didn’t do too much, but I did notice a nice block on kick return from him. He showed good pursuit on kickoffs too, but that’s about all I can say for his performance, other than that he never fails to look fresh for game day. A game of no bad impact is a win for Coughlin, and he may see some enhanced special teams duty now that Carter is gone for the season.
LB Tae Crowder (7th):
Crowder had his first NFL start this week, and he definitely looked like a rookie 7th round pick out there. It’s hard to pinpoint any awful play in particular from Crowder’s performance, but overall he just looked bad. I think the best way to describe Crowder’s problems on Sunday is that he was playing like he didn’t want to make a mistake. This means that he was slow on his reads, not flying to the ball as much as a 3-4 ILB should, and just plain thinking too much about not messing up instead of playing instinctively. It may be a little abstract to visualize if you’ve never played the game, but trust me: if you rewatch Crowder’s performance with this in mind, you’ll get it. This coming week, Crowder needs to play more aggressively. If he makes a mistake, he has to make it at 100 miles per hour. You can’t play linebacker timidly on any level, and I believe that he will settle in. He came into the Rams game on a fly, looked very relaxed, and played well. Meanwhile, he came into the Cowboys game with a full week of knowing that he’d be starting, looked really tight, and played badly. He needs to come into Sunday more relaxed, and ready to go out there and prove himself against a struggling offense.
What to Expect Next Week:
Next week, the Giants play the good ol’ Football Team from Washington, and the Giants are actually the favorite for once. The Football Team, who I refuse to just call “Washington” just for the sake of how dumb their name is, may be one of the only teams worse than the Giants, and now is the time for the G-men to prove that they are progressing. Daniel Jones has taken ridiculous criticism these past few weeks with “fans” calling him a bust already. Granted, some of this criticism is justified, as he has no pocket presence, and tends to look his main read all the way down the field. However, watching the game Sunday, it was very easy to blame him for being lackluster and “choking” on the last drive. If you’re under this impression, I ask that you look up an all-22 angle of the last drive (the Talkin’ Giants Podcast has a great video on it), and tell me how ANY quarterback could “make it happen” on that drive. No receivers open. Running for his life every play. Looking back at Sunday’s game for research really showed me just how much of the Giants’ offense was because of Jones “making it happen.” It is astounding how massive the percentage of the Giants’ positive plays came from Jones moving around in the pocket, throwing while getting clobbered, and zipping the ball into ridiculously small windows. As per Talkin’ Giants, Jones’s expected completion percentage was just over 52% on Sunday. His actual completion percentage was 60% with 2 drops. This means that Jones completed almost 8% more passes than an average QB would have on Sunday. Hopefully cutting Damion Ratley and adding Austin Mack to the active roster will help spark something with this receiving corps, because right now the only one worth his weight is Slayton. Everyone else, as far as I’m concerned, is on the trading block.
As for the rookies, Thomas goes up against Chase Young and Montez Sweat on Sunday, so we can’t use the excuse of an experience difference between him and his competition. If there was ever a time for Thomas to put together a complete game and show he was the right pick at #4, now is that time. Peart and Lemieux need to make the most of their opportunities in the game, and I hope to see more from them. Holmes needs to build on his performance Sunday, and not let up any big plays, especially on 3rd down, to the struggling Football Team receiving corps. Cam Brown has possibly the biggest game of his life, as he’s likely to see his first defensive action, so we’ll see what he’s got. Coughlin needs to just keep doing his thing on specials, and Crowder needs to relax and just get his head into the flow of the game. His head will hopefully stop spinning soon enough.
There is no reason the Giants can’t win this game. The Football Team is every bit as bad as they are, and I think that a lot of the things that we, as fans, have been clamoring for all season will finally be realized on this coming Sunday. Call me crazy, but I think the Giants win this one convincingly: 31-17.