By: Michael Gagliardi
Hey guys, remember when the Giants were on their game-winning drive and Daniel Jones threw up a perfect ball right into the hands of a wide-open Evan Engram, which he easily hauled in to lock up the win for the Giants: beating the Eagles for the first time since 2016 and putting the Giants in first place? Me neither.
As bad as it’s been for Giants fans these last few years, this just seems like rock bottom. As soon as Engram dropped that ball, I said to my friend (a fellow Giants fan), “I’ve seen this movie before. It’s over, Giants lose 22-21,” hoping that by some miracle, I’d be proven wrong. I was not.
It’s very rare in football, which I consider to be the ultimate team sport, that a loss can be so squarely blamed on one player. Not only did Evan Engram drop that fateful pass right in his hands which would have sealed the win and a share of the division lead for the Giants, but he struggled blocking, as usual, and another Daniel Jones pass hit him right in the hands, which he let bounce up right into the waiting arms of an Eagles defender. Jones was once again running for his life all night, and if anyone still says that Jones is the problem with this team, they clearly aren’t watching. Besides Jones’s famous run-in with the Turf Monster on his 80-yard read-option, this was the most complete game Jones has had this season. The onus of his interception is on Engram, and his sack-fumble on the last drive came when his defense put him in a horrible position, and he needed to just hold onto the ball and try his best to make a play. Should he have been less careless with the ball? Of course, but I don’t blame him for that play. The secondary is in shambles, giving up a huge day to a bunch of practice squad receivers and the husk of DeSean Jackson that the Eagles have been parading onto the field every week. Ryan Lewis got torched all day and looked absolutely lost in big moments. Nate Ebner was playing a lot of reps from scrimmage for some reason, and don’t even get me started on Madre Harper.
Should the Giants blow it up and give the rookies more time on the field? Should they search for the answers in the shambles of a roster they have now? Who is Madre Harper and why does he want to fight everyone? At least one of these questions will be answered in this edition of Giants Rookie Review!
Inactive/Injured/DNP: Xavier McKinney (2nd), Darnay Holmes (4th), Shane Lemieux (5th), Chris Williamson (7th--Practice Squad), Tae Crowder (7th):
With Ryan Lewis getting torched on the last 2 Eagles drives and Nate Ebner playing from scrimmage, the Giants secondary was a mess on Thursday night. Madre Harper was once again picking fights and getting burned up and down the field, and Julian Love is still playing out of position at FS. Maybe it’s a hot take, but I believe that if the Giants had McKinney up to this point, they’d be 3-4. All they needed on Thursday was one big play by the secondary on that last drive and they would’ve had it in the bag, but instead of 1, they got zero. McKinney has not played a down yet, but I can be confident that he’d be better than whatever the Giants have been trotting out there lately.
Big Shane Lemieux did not see any action on Sunday, although he was dressed. Man, I hope the Giants move Zeitler so we can see Lemieux play. Zeitler has done fine, but has underperformed so far, and is just a massive cap hit for next year, so hopefully, they can get a 5th rounder or something out of him and get the rookie some action.
As I was writing this article, it came out that Will Hernandez tested positive for COVID, so it looks like Lemieux will make his first start on Monday (provided that he tests negative in the coming days), so that’s nice for him.
Darnay Holmes and Tae Crowder round out the walking wounded for the rookies this week, and with as bad as the secondary looked and as lost as Devante Downs looked (apart from 2 good plays), it seems like the Giants really need these guys to play just well enough to hold down the fort on defense.
Chris Williamson is still on the practice squad, but check this out: when I was doing my weekly check to make sure the Giants haven’t cut Williamson, I found out that Alfred Morris is on the Giants practice squad too! Yes, that Alfred Morris. You learn something new every day, I guess.
LT Andrew Thomas (1st):
This was Andrew Thomas’s worst game of his short career. He got beat to the inside too many times to count, and if it wasn’t for Jones channeling his inner Eli from Super Bowl XLII and making a ridiculous escape, he would have been responsible for 3 sacks instead of 2. He got embarrassed yet again on Thursday, but his problem appears to be different than in past weeks. He is not lunging anymore, which is good, but in fixing this, another problem has revealed itself. Thomas is now punching better, although he still seems a little forward, it’s not as egregious as a lunge as it has been in recent weeks. However, rushers are clearly being told in their game prep to make their inside move as soon as Thomas makes his punch. When they do this, yes Thomas isn’t lunging anymore, but in stopping himself from lunging, his right foot comes up, and all of a sudden, he can’t stop the inside move because he has no base on that side. He did this countless times on Thursday, and if it wasn’t for his athleticism, he would have given up far more sacks and hits than he did. This needs to be fixed ASAP because it looks absolutely awful right now and teams are starting to target him.
On the bright side, Thomas played fantastic against the run, as he has pretty much every game of his short career. The way he moves people in the run game and uses his athleticism to get in proper position convinces me that he is not a bust, and will improve in the pass game eventually. Everyone saying “he’s the next Ereck Flowers” has clearly forgotten just how awful Flowers was at tackle and has paid zero attention to how well Thomas has played against the run. It is clear that the Giants have paid attention to that though, as guess who Gallman was running behind on his career day on Thursday? Andrew Thomas. Guess who cleared out two defenders from the hole on Gallman’s goal-line TD run? Andrew Thomas. New York sports fans need to do something that we consistently have a lot of trouble doing: have patience.
OT Matt Peart (3rd):
Along with his 2 snaps as a tight end, Peart got 4 snaps at RT on Thursday in place of Cam Fleming and looked very good on 3 of them. However, the problem is that on that 4th snap he looked really bad. Brandon Graham hit him with a type of bull rush that Peart never saw at UCONN, blowing the rookie back into Jones’s face and giving himself a half-sack in the process. This would have been a full sack against Peart had Andrew Thomas not gotten destroyed even worse than Peart did on this play. Peart’s biggest problem is that he opens his hips too early, which allows rushers to bull rush him and take him to the inside too easily. Peart’s arms are so long that he can keep his hips closed for far longer than most tackles, taking away the inside move, so he can easily wash his man to the outside because that would be the only place for his man to go. This is the kind of thing that Peart needs reps to work on, so I don’t know why we’re still starting Fleming every week. Yes, Fleming has been solid for who he is and what we brought him here for, but Peart has looked no worse than he has on any of his limited reps this season. Let the kid play and learn, and if he gets torched, at least he’s on Jones’s right side so he’ll see it coming.
EDGE Cam Brown (6th):
Some good, and some bad from Brown this week, as he got 12 defensive snaps. It seems like, at this point, the Giants see him as a 3rd down rusher, but that may change after trading Markus Golden. Brown was lined up against veteran tackle Lane Johnson for most of the game, and got 2 pressures, by my eye, on 10 pass-rush snaps. Brown was very aggressive but struggled against Johnson (besides 1 pressure), as the veteran seemed to use the rookie’s aggressiveness against him, and Brown fell victim to Johnson’s club move and ended up flying 10 yards into the backfield on 2 occasions. The Giants were trying to get Brown going on long-developing stunts a couple of times, where he looped around to the opposite A-gap and tried to catch the center off guard. He actually beat the best center in the game, Jason Kelce, on this stunt, and chased Wentz out of the pocket, leading to a bad throw and an Eagles punt. Another play I’d like to highlight was on 3rd and medium with the Eagles backed up to their goal line. Leonard Williams was chasing Wentz out of the pocket, and Brown was struggling to get by Lane Johnson, but he saw Wentz starting to scramble, so he held his edge and forced Wentz to run back towards a blitzing Jabrill Peppers, who got the sack. Very good play from Cam Brown that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.
Special Teams-wise, it’s clear that Brown is going to block a punt this year. He was within inches of blocking 2 on Thursday and has been close all season. He had an assisted tackle on kickoff, but he went for the big hit instead of wrapping up, and slid down to the returner's ankles and held on for dear life until Graham Gano, of all people, smacked the returner to the ground. Brown has to learn to wrap up and drive his feet through the tackle instead of throwing himself at people because that’s not going to work at the NFL level, no matter how big and strong he may be.
LB TJ Brunson (7th):
Due to the injury to Tae Crowder, TJ Brunson dressed for his first NFL game, and now all of the Giants 2020 draft class has played (besides Williamson). Brunson was on kickoff coverage and punt return on Thursday. There were two plays where he had an impact: one good and one bad. Since we always like to end on a good note here, I’ll start with the bad. The Eagles’ longest return of the night came right up Brunson’s lane, and he wasn’t there because he didn’t keep his lane and over-pursued to the ball, getting washed out of the lane by his blocker. On the bright side, he had a solo tackle on kickoff coverage to make up for this mistake, on which he knocked his man flat on his butt and stood up the returner at the Eagles’ 20-yard line. These are the plays that Brunson has to make if he wants to be on the active roster every week.
EDGE Carter Coughlin (7th):
Coughlin was very quiet Thursday on specials and didn’t play from scrimmage so there isn’t much to talk about for him. For special teams players, any game of doing nothing to negatively impact your team is a good game, and that perfectly describes Coughlin’s Thursday night.
WR Austin Mack and DB Madre Harper (UDFA):
See, I told you that I’d tell you who Madre Harper was. Due to the injuries to Crowder and Holmes, as well as Lemieux not getting any reps, I decided to say a few words about the 2 undrafted rookies that played Thursday night. Harper, who just kind of materialized on the field for the Giants against the Rams in week 4, came to New York by way of the Raiders’ practice squad. After seeing him take extensive defensive snaps this week, I don’t ever want to see him from scrimmage again. He got torched twice in a row by 3rd string TE Richard Rogers to start off the Eagle’s game-winning drive and get them 41 quick yards. He also let up a touchdown in man coverage on a jet motion flat route to Greg Ward, and then made the boneheaded decision to get up and ram him with his helmet, causing a 15-yard penalty on the kickoff. Including the fact that he was right in the middle of the Golden Tate-Jalen Ramsey fight in LA, Harper has now participated in 2 fights in his career (that’s 2 more fights than pass breakups). Stick to special teams, Madre, you can let more of your crazy out there.
As for Austin Mack, and his 1 receiving yard from last week’s game, he didn’t do much this week but looked good run blocking. Apparently, Joe Judge is particularly high on his run blocking ability, and it shows up on tape well. He seems to be running a lot of decoy routes so far: drawing the defense’s attention away from the primary receiver. Mack’s college tape shows he has potential, so let’s hope he can be a Victor Cruz-style diamond in the rough because the Giants need receivers badly.
What to Expect Next Week:
Will this game even be played after Will Hernandez tested positive for COVID? Fleming, Lemieux, Thomas, Pulley, and Gates have been isolated as close contacts and were barred from practice Thursday, but it seems like they are considered to be low-risk, and are expected to be okay (as of now), so hopefully the Giants have dodged a bullet here. Jones may have to dodge some bullets on Monday night though, mostly one named Jason Pierre-Paul, with rookie Shane Lemieux likely to get the start at left guard (if he tests negative of course) and a possible skeleton crew working around him. I believe that Lemieux is talented though, and his college tape from Oregon is as solid as it gets against some of the best college competition in the world, so we’ll see what happens if the rookie gets the nod. Hopefully, the defense can pull a miraculous performance out of nowhere and stifle Tom Brady and the Bucs’ offense which has been absolutely on fire in recent weeks. That being said, WR Antonio Brown will not be eligible to play Monday night, and WR Chris Godwin is doubtful with a finger injury, so hopefully what’s left of the Giants secondary will be able to not get completely torn apart. After all, James Bradberry does have a ton of experience going up against Mike Evans. If Darnay Holmes can come back from injury and play well on Monday, that would be HUGE.
In regards to Thomas, we just have to hope that he’s not sick before we start hoping for any improvement, but provided that he plays Monday, he just has to look good for the first time since the Bears game in week 2. Come on man, pull it together and play a complete game. If he does that, then the pressure will be off of him for a week, and sometimes that’s all these young guys need. Peart has not been isolated, so all the more reason he should get the start over Fleming on Monday, but it’s looking more and more likely that he’ll begin to start after the bye week. With the departure of Markus Golden, Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin should be seeing extended reps from scrimmage (Brown especially), and they have to make an impact. The Giants haven’t gotten a pass rush when it has mattered all year, and it’s about time that starts happening. TJ Brunson just has to make the most of his opportunities while he has them, with Crowder still being on IR, and the same goes for Austin Mack and dare I say it, Madre Harper.
The way I see it, the Giants defense will take their medicine from the better team this week, but Daniel Jones won’t necessarily lay down, and the offense will use Gallman’s momentum from last week, as well as Sterling Shepard, to score a surprising amount of points. My prediction: Bucs 33, Giants 20.