By: Michael Gagliardi
It happened. It finally happened. For the first time in nine games, the Giants beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a football game. Giants fans can finally take a breath and know that this is a rivalry once again. My prediction last week was that the Giants offense would not be enough and that the Eagles’ newly-healthy offense would pass all over the Giants injury-depleted secondary. Thankfully I was proven incorrect with the continued pro bowl level play of James Bradberry locking up the Eagles receiving corps and with Daniel Jones playing what I think was the best game of his career, finally beating a team that isn’t from Washington or Tampa Bay, steering critics away from the Trevor Lawrence conversation for a second week in a row. “The Wayne Train” Gallman had plenty of holes to drive a truck through with the O-line finally hitting its stride (seemingly no thanks to Marc Colombo). Darius Slayton toughed out the game, playing through an injury, and despite a costly drop that would have sealed the game, looks like an absolute gem of a draft pick by Dave Gettleman. The young guys on this team are showing real promise, and this year‘s rookies are now contributing in especially big ways. They are getting plenty more snaps to work with as the season goes on, and as the Giants look to be in a share of first place in the next couple of weeks.
Inactive/Injured/DNP: Xavier McKinney (2nd), Chris Williamson (7th--Practice Squad), Tae Crowder (7th):
Xavier McKinney should be coming back to practice in the coming weeks, and will hopefully see his first NFL action immediately after the bye week, or the following week. With the energy that McKinney brought in his college years, I have no doubt that the secondary will be energized and will play at another level for the rest of the season after he comes back.
Tae Crowder was held out of the game this week, despite having practiced the whole week, and this was the first week that Devante Downs and David Mayo looked passable. Granted, neither of them could tackle Myles Sanders for their lives, but I’m very excited to see Tae Crowder back out there making plays next to Blake Martinez after this bye week.
TJ Brunson was not active for this game, probably because the Giants activated Safety Sean Chandler off the practice squad to combat the Eagles now-healthy receiving corps. Hopefully, Brunson continues to be active in the coming weeks even after Crowder comes back because I like what I’ve seen from him on special teams.
Yet another week of no news on Chris Williamson, but he’s still on the practice squad. That’s all I know.
LT Andrew Thomas (1st):
Coming off 2 almost spotless weeks in a row, Andrew Thomas was not perfect on Sunday, but played a good game. I was very intrigued, coming into Sunday, to see how Thomas would react to playing the same team that absolutely embarrassed him three weeks before. His day did not start out on a great note, as he gave up a sack on the first play from scrimmage. Eagles edge rusher Derek Barnett hit Thomas with a powerful bull rush right out of the gate which blew him back onto his heels. That being said, Thomas did a great job of anchoring down and recovering, stopping Barnett about 4 yards into the backfield. It is very easy to just see this in the stat book and blame this sack completely on Thomas; however this was the definition of a coverage sack as the Giants were running all short routes with everything blanketed, and Jones held the ball for too long and ran right into Barnett instead of escaping to his right. Of course, you don’t want to see Thomas get bull rushed like this, but Barnett is a very good player, and Thomas showed elite recovery ability, not only on this play but throughout the game. Overall in the pass game, Thomas looked good; not great, but good. He got bull-rushed pretty hard 3 times, and let up a good amount of ground, but every time, he anchored down and stopped his man. He has almost completely stopped getting beat to the inside, and when he does, he has improved in getting his right foot down and washing his man past Jones. In the run game, Thomas continued to be an absolute mauler and just pushes grown men around out there. It’s clear that the Giants think this too, as Wayne Gallman’s first touchdown run (as well Jones’s read-option touchdown) came off him as a lead blocker, and that’s no coincidence. A 3rd touchdown would have come from behind him as well, but it got called back on one of the worst holding calls I’ve ever seen. PFF may blame him for that penalty, but, not to sound like a cliche youth league coach, if that’s holding, then everything is holding.
OT Matt Peart (3rd):
Peart only got 2 series on Sunday, so there wasn’t much time for him to find a groove like he got the last 2 weeks. The one real play of note that Peart had was probably the QB hit he let up to Brandon Graham on a crucial 3rd down. Last week I talked about how Peart tends to catch his man and let him get into his chest, rather than having a traditional punch. This has been working for him the last few games, as his arms are so long that guys just can’t get away once he gets a hold of them. However, Brandon Graham must have seen this on film because Peart really struggled to defend Graham’s bull rush. Graham also used outside moves at times to counter the fact that Peart tends to open his hips too early. Brandon Graham is one of the most underrated edge rushers in the league in my opinion, so this could serve as a good wake-up call for Peart that his size isn’t going to beat everyone in this league. On the good side, however, I have yet to see Peart get seriously beat on an inside move, and he has been a beast in the run game all year. He has been pancaking people left and right, and he had a few blocks on Sunday which exemplifies the fact that he is an absolute nightmare for linebackers once he gets to the second level. Peart’s length and athleticism are great, and he has the potential to be a very good player, but he’s not there yet, as seen in his matchup with Graham. The only way to get him there, though, is to give him more reps, and unfortunately, with his testing positive for COVID, it seems like he may have to wait a while longer than expected to get that chance.
CB Darnay Holmes (4th):
Holmes needed to step up big on Sunday, after giving up over 10 completions the week prior. Overall, Holmes was very impressive against a quality Eagles receiving corps, only giving up 2 catches on 3 targets, for 20 yards on 29 coverage snaps (per PFF). He added a leaping pass breakup on a crucial 3rd down as well. He was called for pass interference on a throw to the sideline, which extended a long Eagles drive, but it was another bad call by the officials, as the ball was thrown way over the receiver's head, and was completely uncatchable. To be honest, Holmes was in perfectly good coverage; just maybe a little too much hand fighting for the ref’s liking. He only had one tackle on the day, but more importantly, didn’t have any missed tackles, which shows growth for the young corner already. Holmes looks very promising and has progressed from his rough start. His 2 completions on 29 coverage snaps Sunday exemplifies that.
G Shane Lemieux (5th):
Lemieux got the start over Will Hernandez, who was probably still in a bit of a COVID fog, and he really looked the same as he has the past couple of weeks: not great in the pass game, and mean in the run game. Overall I think he did a great job on the Eagles expensive interior D-line of Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, and Javon Hargrave when the Giants were running the ball, and much like Thomas, was the lead blocker on plenty of big Gallman runs. Lemieux and Thomas have been great on combo blocks lately and looks like they’ve been playing together forever with the timing that they have developed. Pulling is also clearly one of Lemieux’s strengths, and he gets a great jump off the ball and brings the pain to whoever he’s assigned to. In the pass, however, Lemieux let up 6 pressures, including a sack and a hit, on his 36 pass-blocking snaps, which is far from ideal. Hernandez is a rock against the pass rush, and it was good to see him return at the end of the game, however it stunk that it was at the cost of Kevin Zeitler getting a concussion. I’ll credit Lemieux, though, because he made a pretty smooth transition to right guard, a position he’s never played before in a game as far as I know, even in college. If Zeitler comes back in week 12, expect to see Hernandez get the start, but if big Kevin is still out, it will be intriguing to see how the O-line will look with Lemieux on the right side, because that may very well be where he lines up for the rest of his Giants career.
EDGE Cam Brown (6th):
Brown only saw 2 defensive snaps Sunday, as Trent Harris and Jabaal Sheard continued to take snaps away from him. The former actually recorded a sack on a long-developing stunt, so I guess I’ll not disparage him this week. Brown got blown up by Lane Johnson, who he struggled during week 7, on his first snap. Brown tried a juke move, but the seasoned vet Johnson read it perfectly and caught Brown with his weight up in the air. On his other snap, he embarrassed Dallas Goedert on a quick swim move, getting a hand on Wentz, and no doubt affecting the throw on a big 3rd down incompletion in the waning moments of the 4th quarter. On specials, Brown didn’t do too much besides tackling Jabrill Peppers on what could have been a punt return for a touchdown. Brown was running back towards Peppers, trying to pick off one of the nearby Eagles, but instead, he ran right into him, sending him to the ground. Peppers got up and immediately chewed Brown out, probably telling him (in much more harsh terms) that, in that situation, he has to run upfield looking to block the last remaining guys between Peppers and the end zone. Peppers can outrun pretty much anybody on the field, and Brown has to trust that his returner will be able to break away from the guys trailing him in this situation. I hope Oshane Ximines coming back after the bye doesn’t take all of Brown’s snaps away, because in the little action he’s seen he has been far more productive than Jabaal Sheard.
EDGE Carter Coughlin (7th):
It was a very quiet day for Carter Coughlin, as he only saw 3 defensive snaps all day. He seemed to struggle with veteran tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, getting no real pressure. It seems like Coughlin has been relying on his bull rush, but he’s got to eventually give up the ghost and realize that he’s not big or strong enough yet to make that his primary move in this league. I think Coughlin has the potential to be a solid Dave Tollefson type of guy for the Giants, and I think more reps will do him good. On specials, Coughlin was very quiet and recorded no stats on the day, likely due to the fact that both of the Eagles kick returns went to the opposite side of the field from him.
What to Expect in Week 12:
After the bye, the Giants take on the Cincinnati Bengals and you better believe the comparisons are going to be on between Joe Burrow and Daniel Jones all week. No matter how little sense it may make, the sports media will always find an excuse to create controversy out of nowhere, but I think Jones has shown that he can channel Eli and block out the noise. Listen, any team that is starting Bobby Hart at right tackle can’t be good. If the Giants want any chance at making the playoffs this year, they need to beat the bad teams left on the schedule, and this Bengals game will be telling as to whether or not they can do that. The Giants get this bye week to rest up and get a lot of the guys back healthy including Oshane Ximines, Tae Crowder, and (hopefully) Xavier McKinney. Hopefully, they also get Graham Gano, Matt Peart, and Kaden Smith off the COVID list by then, But the latter two may be longshots, as they just tested positive on Friday.
As for the rookies, Andrew Thomas is going to go up against a bad pass rush unit, so I am going into this game expecting a lock-down performance from my 4th overall tackle. If Thomas can shut down Chase Young and Jason Pierre-Paul, and play well against Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett, then I expect nothing less than a shutout against whoever the Bengals are lining up against him. Hopefully, Xavier McKinney can get back and provide some energy to the secondary, as Darnay Holmes will likely have his hands full in helping to cover the Bengals’ underrated WR unit, including Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and AJ Green. Shane Lemieux will get the start at right guard if Zeitler isn’t ready to come back from concussion protocol, so he just has to stay ready and stay aggressive while improving on the technical errors he’s shown thus far. I know it sounds very generic, but it’s very true for him. Brown and Coughlin are going to probably lose even more snaps now that Ximines is coming back, although I really hope Pat Graham realizes that Jabaal Sheard has done NOTHING this year and that both Brown and Coughlin can provide a far better spark than Sheard does. TJ Brunson has to make the best of his opportunities if he’s active for the game, and Tae Crowder may struggle a little bit at first while he’s shaking off the rust from his IR stay.
I’m going to be an optimist and say that the Giants will go into Cincinnati and blow away the Bengals, making a statement once and for all that they are at least a mediocre team (hey, I’ll take that over the last few years any day)! Giants 33, Bengals 16, and we can all be excited about our team for the 4th straight week.