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New York Giants Rookie Review

Blake Martinez Celebrates an Interception Just Before Halftime (Photo Credit: USA Today, Geoff Burke)

By: Michael Gagliardi

At least we know there’s one team the Giants are capable of beating. This was the Giants’ most complete game of the year, and I would say that they looked like a competent NFL team for the whole game. The defense, excluding 4 or 5 big chunk plays given up mostly by the reserve members of the secondary, was pretty stout, and turned the ball over an impressive 5 times. The run defense held the Football Team to 37 yards on the ground, and Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, and James Bradberry were lock-down in coverage. Isaac Yiadom was burned for 148 yards on 6 completions, mostly by Cam Sims, but otherwise, the secondary looked good. Blake Martinez is playing at a Pro-Bowl level, and Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams played their butts off as well, making it huge for the Giants to re-sign both of them. The only times when the defense looked bad was when the Football Team was targeting Yiadom, and in 2-minute drills when the defense was playing soft zone (which I can’t stand). Yes, the tackling could have been better at times, but the D stepped up when it counted, getting 2 picks in the last 2:30 of the game.

On the offensive side of the ball, Daniel Jones put together the second turnover-free game of his young career and looked solid overall. He was throwing the ball away, taking sacks when needed, and even held onto the ball when being crushed from the blind side on the final series of the game. Overall, Jones showed growth on Sunday, and had a very good second half especially, only having one incompletion on a horrible drop by Evan Engram, which would have, once again, likely led to the Giants put the game out of reach. Yes, Engram made a great catch on a perfect Danny Dime, but yet again, he showed that he doesn’t seem to have a clutch bone in his body. The running game, however, was incredible, with “the Wayne Train” Gallman and 600 100-year-old Alfred Morris (I had to take off a few years for how well he played) looking like a great “thunder and lightning” tandem. The O-line looked the best it has all year, and Giants fans are once again feeling good about the team; rookies included.

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

Xavier McKinney should be coming back to practice relatively soon, and I’d expect to see him coming off the bye week. If he had played Sunday, Logan Ryan would have played a lot more corner, taking Yiadom off the field, and eliminated so many of the Football Team’s huge plays.

Tae Crowder will likely be back this coming week, after being on IR for his 3rd week, and I am excited to see if he can continue his production from his last outing. Devante Downs just isn’t it, and David Mayo isn’t much better.

Chris Williamson is still on the practice squad, and I have heard nothing about him.

LT Andrew Thomas (1st):

A second good outing in a row for Andrew Thomas “the tank engine,” who has earned back the right to be called that nickname. If you were watching this game and were wondering whether or not Chase Young was in the game, you’re not alone. He was invisible all day because Andrew Thomas absolutely locked him up. Young recorded one sack (where he was the first person to touch Daniel Jones after he hopped on a fumble), one QB hit against Cam Fleming, and no other stats. That is what you call getting shut down. This is going to be a matchup that we’re probably going to see a lot in the coming years, so it’s great to see Thomas beat the pants off his fellow rookie in their first full game going head to head. Thomas’s pass block technique this game was great, and, at the risk of jinxing anything, it seems like he’s really turned a corner with not letting people get to his inside. He did record his first holding penalty though, but it was to save Jones’s life on a blind-side blitz, so I doubt anybody was ridiculously angry about it. Yes, a penalty is a penalty, and you'd rather not see it, but since it took 9 weeks for Thomas to hold, I’m content. In the run game, he continued to move guys around, as he has all season and was a big reason for Wayne Gallman’s success running to the left side. Overall, another good performance from Thomas showed why he deserved to be the 4th overall pick.

OT Matt Peart (3rd):

I guess the Giants are really going to stick with Cam Fleming until after the bye week, huh? Fleming actually had a pretty good game Sunday, but at this point, it’s clear that Matt Peart is the better player. Peart did not let up a single pressure on 12 pass-blocking snaps, despite constantly going up against Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan, and just looked like a brick wall on the right side. He’s still not punching well with his arms, but they are so long and he’s so good at anchoring himself, that he can afford to let his man run into him a little bit. He just has grown-man strength, and that will improve even more as he progresses further. In the run game, he was pretty fantastic, and in the same way that Thomas was a big reason for Gallman’s success to the left side, Peart was a big reason for Alfred Morris’s success to the right side. His long arms are an absolute nightmare for linebackers to deal with at the second level, and he is very good at turning the corner and simply overpowering D-linemen. The icing on the cake in the run game was a huge pancake on Ryan Kerrigan, where he tossed the 10-year veteran in the air, and flattened him on the ground with all 320lbs of him. Peart made a huge impact, despite playing only 31% of offensive snaps. When he was on the field was when the Giants looked their best in the run game, and if I’m the coach, I’m starting my best right tackle in this must-win game on Sunday.

CB Darnay Holmes (4th):

Holmes had an okay day Sunday, despite what you may think by looking at the raw stats. He gave up 8 catches on 9 targets for 61 yards, but most of these came on a 31-yard catch by Cam Sims, where Holmes seemed to think that he had help towards the middle of the field in the soft zone the Giants were playing. Overall, the vast majority of the catches Holmes gave up were just dink-and-dunk routes, which explains why the average yards per completion against him was 7.8 yards. He tackled pretty well, collecting 5 tackles, with only one miss, which wasn’t egregious. You’d like to see him give up far fewer completions than he has been so far this year, but he’s a rookie corner and needs room to progress and get used to the talent of NFL receivers. If you want to listen to PFF, Holmes is playing at the same level as 3rd overall pick Jeff Okudah this year, so I wouldn’t be too worried about Holmes. He’s not playing amazing, but he’s certainly not a guy that I’m constantly worried about getting burned.

G Shane Lemieux (5th):

This game was much of the same as we saw against Tampa for Lemieux. Not so great, but passable, against the pass rush, and some nice bully plays in the run game. Compared to last week, by my eye, he seemed a little better in the pass game, and a little worse in the run game, to be honest. At his worst, he got hit with two nice swim moves from DT Jonathan Allen and got driven back on a bullrush from Tim Settle. He was also credited with a sack on that horribly failed flea flicker, but I think that this was just a busted play. Lemieux let his man get upfield on him and then released from the block like he was blocking for a screen. All the other O-linemen besides the backside tackle (Thomas) did the same thing and released at the same time, so that leads me to believe that the Giants were running some sort of crazy flea-flicker-screen play, or it was just a miscommunication between the skill players and linemen. You may see people blaming Lemieux for letting up a horrible sack where he let Jonathan Allen run right by him, but I really don’t think that’s the full story. At Lemieux's best on Sunday, he was working great combo blocks with Andrew Thomas and hitting D-linemen into the air on pulls. That being said, Will Hernandez is a much better player, and I think the people who have been creating rumblings about benching Hernandez for Lemieux will see that this coming week. Lemieux still over-sets in the pass game and lets his man get upfield on him too much, something Hernandez never does. Overall though, I’m very impressed with our 5th round pick this year and am very excited about his development in the years to come.

EDGE Cam Brown (6th):

Brown only got 2 defensive snaps Sunday, as the Giants chose to go with Jabaal Sheard and Trent Harris in pass rush situations for some reason. Considering those two combined for a total of 0 pressures on 28 pass rushing snaps, I think the Giants should put Brown and Carter Coughlin out there a lot more. The one aspect of the defense that was really holding them back from a shutdown game on Sunday was the fact that there was no pass rush, allowing Alex Smith to find holes in the coverage for big plays. In his 2 pass rushing snaps, Brown didn’t do much and didn’t get pressure on either, but he’s shown so far that he can get in a groove and affect things out there given consistent reps. I don’t know, I’m not at practice every day, but so far he and Coughlin have shown me far more than Trent Harris and Jabaal Sheard. Brown had a nice day on special teams, forcing a huge fumble, which led to an easy Giants score. It was clear that Brown was going for a punch at the ball, and I love this awareness by him. If Brown can keep his athleticism and strength from getting away from him, I think we may have a consistent special teams playmaker on our hands.

LB TJ Brunson (7th):

Brunson saw his first defensive action on Sunday, getting 2 snaps, both of which were blitzes. On the first one, he was easily slapped down by his O-linemen, and on the second, he tried to bullrush but didn’t move his man at all. Brunson is undersized for his position at 6’1, 230lbs, and has to understand that this isn’t college anymore, and he can’t beat NFL linemen in a power battle. On special teams, Brunson did not record any stats, but I noticed good pursuit to the ball-carrier all game, which is a net positive for a rookie 7th rounder.

EDGE Carter Coughlin (7th):

It was a similar story for Coughlin as it was for Cam Brown on Sunday, with Coughlin only getting 3 reps from scrimmage. Like Brown, he didn’t do much on those reps, but I would have loved to see him get more reps to get a bit of a groove going. The Giants, however, did trust him enough to put him in on the last 3rd down of the game, when Logan Ryan sealed the game with a pick. He didn’t do much on this play, and his bullrush against LT Geron Christian was not effective. On special teams, he did not record any stats, but he had a quietly good play on the last kickoff of the first half, where he picked up his man and drove him into the ball-carrier, causing the returner to have to move around him and get tackled before the 25-yard line.

What to Expect Next Week:

Next week, the Giants have a make-or-break game to possibly salvage their season against none other than the Eagles. Something always goes horribly wrong in this type of game against them, and it never fails to be heartbreaking. The Eagles are coming off a bye, so they should be able to recuperate a little from all their injuries and get Alshon Jeffrey, Miles Sanders, and Dallas Goedert back. Granted that the Giants should have beaten them last time (and I think they know that), the Eagles will no doubt be coming in guns blazing, with a whole extra week of film study and practice under their belts. This is a huge test for Jones to see whether he can repeat and improve upon his solid performance from Week 7, and do what no Giants player has done in the last 8 tries: beat the Eagles.

As far as the rookies go, Andrew Thomas played the worst game of his career against the Eagles last time out, and it is a huge test for him, as well, to see if he can continue his good technique from these last two games and bring it into this week. The Eagles constantly beat him to the inside last time, and if he can stop those moves and force the rushers to compete with him athletically on the edge, I think he’ll be in good shape. Peart had better play more this game, because Cam Fleming got torched almost as much as Thomas did in the last Eagles game, and I will certainly be watching Peart to see if he is up to the challenge. Darnay Holmes missed the week 7 game, where the Giants were especially thin at DB, and I expect him to play well against this depleted Eagles receiving corps. He has to stop allowing underneath completions, though. This may just be the coverage he’s told to play, but it has been a constant detractor from his game. Lemieux will likely see rotational snaps as Will Hernandez is coming back from COVID this week, and he just has to make the most of the chances he’s given and not get DJ killed. I hope that Pat Graham wises up and we see less of Sheard and Harris and more of Brown and Coughlin, as this Eagles O-line is still a shell of itself, and I want to see some youthful energy out there from the rookies, like in the Bucs game. TJ Brunson may not be active this coming week, with the return of Tae Crowder, but if he’s dressed, he’s got to make a play on special teams to stand out and keep himself dressing on gameday for the rest of the season.

As much as I’d love to see the Giants take it to the Eagles in Jersey this week, I just don’t see this team overcoming the Eagles curse just yet. Nobody is picking the Giants to win this game, and in year’s past, you’d know that would make the team even stronger. However, there have been so many wasted years this past decade that this team will have to prove to me that they can win as the underdog before I believe in them enough to say that they’ll break any curses. I hope that I’m wrong, but the rational part of my brain is taking over and saying Eagles 28, Giants 17.



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