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New York Giants Rookie Review

Bucs DB Antoine Winfield Jr. Bats Away the Potential Game-Tying 2pt Conversion (Photo Credit: USA Today, Vincent Carchietta)

By: Michael Gagliardi

Why can’t the Giants just get blown out and make it easy? Why do they have to be right in it until the last play every game? This was a game where just about everything went right. The O-line finally put it together, (with the rookies looking especially good), the defense holding Brady and the Bucs’ offense down relatively well, proving that Pat Graham is an absolute genius, and Wayne Gallman and 600-year-old Alfred Morris were able to get a good running game going against the best rush defense in the league. However, not everything went right, and I guess for this Giants team, every last thing needed to be perfect to win. Daniel Jones had what I think was his worst game as a pro, and the Giants got screwed with ticky-tack calls all game, as has been a common theme this year.

I’m going to start with the complaints about the refs because it’s much more cathartic and doesn’t make me as sad as coming to terms with the fact that DJ may not be “the guy.” First off, it boggles my mind how the refs can throw a PI flag on James Bradberry on a ball that was thrown 5 yards out of bounds, and then pick up the PI flag on the 2-point conversion attempt. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that the last flag would have been a good no-call, but you just can’t pick up a flag in that situation as an official, especially when another play was flagged on even more of a marginal call. Other bad penalties on Monday include the 2 terrible holding calls on Nick Gates and Kevin Zeitler, the penalty on Isaac Yiadom for lowering his head (when the Bucs’ Cameron Brate was actually the one who lowered his head), and the OPI call on Levine Toilolo (which apparently can only be called on the Giants). I know it may sound whiny, but I think I’m speaking for all Giants fans to some degree when I say that I’m extremely frustrated that the Giants just can’t seem to get a marginal call to go their way this year.

Now that the cathartic complaining is over, it’s time to face the music. As I said last week with Engram, it is very rare in football that a loss can be blamed so squarely on one person, but Jones has to be almost entirely to blame for this one. From not hitting open receivers on his deep throws (something he has always done well) to continuing his bad habit of throwing up ducks right into the hands of defenders instead of taking sacks, Jones held his team back from winning on Monday. He killed the Giants’ momentum coming out of halftime with an inexcusable pick (where he should've taken a sack on 2nd and 5) and wasted a 40-yard kick return by Dion Lewis. Yes, Jones put together a comeback drive with Scotch tape and glue, capping it off with a beautiful TD pass to Golden Tate, but his throw on the 2 point conversion was late and misplaced, PI or not. Monday was a tale of 2 halves for Jones, the first half he looked decisive, quick, and moved the offense well. In the second half, however, he looked awful, had no pocket awareness, made poor reads, and was wildly inaccurate. In the end, the O line stepped up, the defense stepped up, and even the special teams stepped up, but Jones didn’t. Let’s take a look at how the rookies fared.

Inactive/Injured/DNP: Xavier McKinney (2nd), Chris Williamson (7th--Practice Squad), Tae Crowder (7th):

Xavier McKinney was missed once again, forcing Logan Ryan to play more safety reps, which made Isaac Yiadom our CB2. Pat Graham did a great job of hiding Yiadom for the most part though and limited the damage that could have been done on his side.

Tae Crowder is still on his mandatory 3-week IR stay, but David Mayo and Devante Downs did a fine enough job covering for him, and never really looked too out of place out there. Once again, Pat Graham did an amazing job hiding them in coverage, and Downs even had a huge 3rd down pass breakup when targeted.

Chris Williamson is still on the practice squad. If he was ever going to be activated this year, he would have been already, in my opinion, but hey, I hope I’m wrong.

LT Andrew Thomas (1st):

FINALLY! This was the first game where Andrew Thomas played like the 4th overall pick, and for all the talking JPP did leading up to the game, Thomas absolutely shut him down. Aside from a touchdown-saving tackle on Shep (which made me miss the Super Bowl XLVI era JPP), Pierre-Paul had little-to-no impact on the game. He did technically have a sack on Thomas, but Jones was scrambling and ran right into a retreating JPP, but in reality, any halfway decent NFL player makes that play. We can credit JPP’s lack of impact to Andrew Thomas finally seeming to fix his technique and not allowing the inside move at all this week. PFF credits Thomas with 4 pressures, but I only saw 2 or 3 to be honest, and they were far from egregious. He’s finally powering down with his right foot, rather than flailing it in the air when he punches, which gives him so much of a better base. If I had to guess, it seems that him swinging his right foot so much in the Eagles game could have been a byproduct of OL coach Marc Colombo fixing Thomas’s lunging problem from previous weeks, and Thomas just finally put all the pieces of Colombo’s coaching together this week and eliminated the foot problem as well. In the run game, Thomas was rock solid, as usual, this year, and for good measure, the Giants ran in a TD right off his hip. Thomas absolutely bulldozed his man into the end zone, and man was it good to see him celebrate that play after a rough couple of weeks!

OT Matt Peart (3rd):

Peart got his largest snap share of the season Monday, and it’s clear that Fleming is on his way out of the lineup; I just have no idea why they haven’t pulled the trigger yet. On 14 pass-blocking snaps, Peart did not allow a single pressure, and he looked as solid as anybody in the run game. He even got a big fat pancake on a Wayne Gallman run, which is always great to see from the Hog Mollies. In fact, the Giants ran the ball the best they did all game when Peart was on the field. On quite a few of the runs he was in for, he was tasked with down-blocking Ndamukong Suh, and you know what? Peart manhandled him. That’s right, the “developmental prospect, lacking strength and aggressiveness” consistently out-muscled one of the biggest perennial bullies in the NFL. Suh was invisible all game, but especially when Peart was blocking him. In the passing game, it seemed like the Bucs switched JPP off of Thomas when Peart was in to test him, and guess what? Peart locked him up too! He also had good reps against Shaq Barrett. One strange thing about Peart, though, is that he doesn’t have a great punch, he tends to catch his man a little more than you’d like, but since his arms are so long, it doesn’t seem like a huge deal for him. We’ll see if this flaw gets exposed in the future. Overall, Cam Fleming played alright on Monday, but it’s time to put the kid in. I don’t even think it would be just for developmental reasons at this point, I think Peart is just simply the better player. If I were Joe Judge, I would stick with Peart from here on out, and let him make his rookie mistakes while the games don’t matter.

CB Darnay Holmes (4th):

Holmes, coming off a neck injury, was thrown right into the fire on Monday, playing 70% of the Giants’ defensive snaps. He showed very good awareness right off the bat, recovering a fumble to set up the Giants’ first touchdown, and continued to look dangerous on the blitz. In the last few games that Holmes has played, he’s improved his tackling greatly, and today he had a huge stop on powerful RB Leonard Fournette, keeping him in bounds, and leading to a crucial stop before halftime. Overall, he had a very quiet day in coverage, which is a good day to have if you’re a rookie corner. He gave up 3 catches on 3 targets for 26 yards and 2 first downs, including one crucial conversion where he had very good coverage, but Brady threw a perfect ball. Overall, Holmes probably played his best game of the season and is already showing great progress that DeAndre Baker never showed last year. Hopefully, he can keep this progress going into this week.

G Shane Lemieux (5th):

With Will Hernandez out with COVID, this was the first NFL action Lemieux has ever had at guard, and he looked pretty good. Not great, however, but some room for improvement against the pass rush, but overall, I’m very pleased with him. Starting with the passing game, Lemieux gave up 4 pressures and a hit, according to PFF, but I have no idea where they’re getting their 12.1 pass block grade from. He looked solid, especially for a rookie, for the majority of his reps, and showed great hand fighting. His issue, however, is that he seems to set too far back. Guards are not supposed to pass block like tackles; they are supposed to hit their man more face-up, and Giants fans see Will Hernandez do this very well all the time. Lemieux got into some trouble Monday from setting too far back, which made him unable to pick up stunts with Thomas. For a 5th round pick starting his first NFL game, though, I firmly believe that he’ll vastly improve in this area. In the run game, Lemieux was a beast, and once again the eye test was very different from PFF’s 53.6 run block grade that they somehow came up with. For someone whose scouting report said he was a bad puller, he looked pretty good at it Monday and sprung 2 big runs with his pulls. To encompass Lemieux’s run game performance, the best word to describe it is “mean.” He finishes his blocks, and clearly wants to run his man over every play, and I love that.

My prediction did not come true, and the Giants did not trade Kevin Zeitler at the deadline, so in 2 weeks when Will Hernandez comes back, Lemieux will likely be rotating reps with both of them. For all the good that Lemieux did on Monday, Hernandez is still the better player, but I’m looking forward to seeing them both on the same line in the coming years.

EDGE Cam Brown (6th):

Brown only played 4 snaps, mainly because veteran Jabaal Sheard was on the field more than expected, but he did make an impact. I credit him for one pressure (and another borderline one), which came on a beautiful spin move, which left Tampa Bay’s LT, Donovan Smith, in the dust. This helped force Brady to step up, right into the arms of Carter Coughlin. I’m also going to note that on his first play of the game while working against rookie RT Tristan Wirfs, the Bucs right guard came over to get a crack block on Brown, but Cam stuck his shoulder into the bigger man, put him on his back, and then proceeded to chase Brady out of the pocket. Brown and Coughlin are part of the Giants’ NASCAR (pass-rush) package, and it’s good to see the rookies making a difference. On a team with little-to-no pass rush, having just a couple of guys who can get to the quarterback is huge. It seems like the Giants don’t trust Brown against the run yet, as Trent Harris got 3 times the amount of snaps that Brown got, with the majority of them being in run situations. Harris looked good against the run, but I’d like to at least see what Brown can do in there. Special teams-wise, Brown took off like a shot on the opening kickoff, blowing through his blocker, but let his speed get away from him, which caused him to miss a diving tackle at around the 15-yard line. If Brown makes this tackle it is a HUGE field position advantage for the Giants; he has to learn to apply controlled aggression on his tackles. However, he made up for this miss, as on the next Giants kickoff, he was, once again, the first guy downfield, shed his block, and made a solid tackle.

LB TJ Brunson (7th):

Brunson was once again relegated to special teams duty, and seems to have learned from his missed assignment last week, and set a great edge on the opening kickoff, as to not let the returner get to the outside. Plays like that don’t show up on the stat sheet but make special teams coaches very happy. On the last kickoff of the 3rd quarter, Brunson seemed to over-pursue a little again, but he peeled back off his block and absolutely laid a smack-down on the return man for a solo tackle. Between him and Cam Brown, it’s great to see some hit power and energy on the Giants’ special teams again!

EDGE Carter Coughlin (7th):

Coughlin played the same 4 snaps as Cam Brown and made even more of an impact than his fellow rookie. On their first snap of the game, Coughlin pressured Brady out of the pocket with an extremely powerful bull rush, driving back the 338lb Donovan Smith right into Brady’s lap. Then, for the cherry on top, on a crucial 3rd and long, Coughlin actually fought off 3 different O-linemen on this play about 2 yards past the line of scrimmage. When Cam Brown’s pressure forced Brady to step up, Coughlin slipped by everyone, splitting his blockers and laying an extremely satisfying sack on Brady in a huge moment in the game. There’s been a lot of focus on Cam Brown as a potential stud pass rusher because of his frame and athleticism, but Coughlin was a wild card on Monday, and it’ll be interesting to see him get more reps going forward.

What to Expect Next Week:

Next week, the Giants go into Washington for a rematch against the Football Team, against whom they have their only win. Thus far, Daniel Jones has 4 career wins: 2 of them came against the Redksins and, most recently, 1 came against the Football Team. Coming off a bye week, the Football Team has had an extra week to rest up and watch film, so this should be a tougher matchup than last time. That being said, the Giants’ defense seems to have found their stride, and the O-line seems to be solidifying as well. If you told me last week that I’d be saying this, I’d be very confused, but Daniel Jones will win or lose this game for the Giants. If the same Daniel Jones that played in the first half on Monday plays this week, then the Giants win without issue. However, if the same Daniel Jones from the second half plays, then I don’t even want to think about what the Monday papers will say, and they would be 100% correct to say it.

That being said, I still am in the Daniel Jones camp, although that hope is dwindling. The Football Team’s secondary is not bad at all, and he will have to have a huge bounce-back game (and frankly the rest of the season) if he wants to keep the Giants out of the QB market for 2021. I believe that he’ll do it, though, because if there’s one quality about Jones which nobody can deny, it’s that he has guts, and you can’t teach that.

As for the rookies, I expect Thomas to have a better performance against the Football Team than in week 5, being that he will be playing the whole game this time. Peart will hopefully play just as well as he did last time, but both of the rookies will have their hands full again with Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, and Chase Young on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Lemieux will go up against an interior D-line which gave Hernandez and Zeitler some trouble in week 5, so he may struggle at times, but I will be watching him with great interest. Holmes only played 3 snaps in week 5 before he hurt himself, so he’ll be seeing the Football Team’s receivers for the first time. I’m looking for a big play out of him, we haven’t seen one yet. Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin will probably see increased reps this week, due to the ineffectiveness of Jabaal Sheard, and I’m excited to see how they fare seeing this O-line for the second time.

As for a score prediction, I say that the Giants play to the level of their competition, as always, but I don’t trust Kyle Allen to win the game against a Giants defense that has been playing well. I say 26-24, Giants win it in victory formation.

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