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New York Giants Rookie Review: Week 16


Rookie Cam Brown Makes a Diving Tackle on Lamar Jackson (Photo Credit: USA Today, Mitch Stringer)

By: Michael Gagliardi


Can’t say we didn’t expect this loss. The Ravens are one of the best teams in the league again, now that they are healthy, and it’s really crazy to think that they aren’t currently in the AFC playoffs. Meanwhile, the Giants are one of the worst teams in the league and are one win and a Washington Football Team loss away from hosting an NFC playoff game. Anyway, this game was a disaster on defense, with the Ravens seeming to be able to get absolutely anything they wanted by picking apart the Giants’ zone coverage. This game also showed the discrepancy between the Ravens receivers, who go up and get tough catches over defenders for Lamar, and the Giants receivers, who rarely ever make a tough grab for Jones, and often drop balls right in their hands. The O-line played as well as they were expected to against a very good pass rush unit, so Jones had pressure in his face all day. Looking ahead to next year, it is clear that the Giants need a WR1 in the draft, because the Ravens were constantly sending 8 guys on the blitz and absolutely daring one of the Giants receivers to get open in man coverage, and they just couldn’t. CB2 is also a major need, as Bradberry seems to be the only corner on the team who can be consistent.


Next year’s draft aside, this year’s class contributed in major ways to the game on Sunday, and there’s some good and some bad to talk about, so let’s get into it.


Inactive/Injured/DNP: Darnay Holmes (4th)


Holmes was active Sunday, but he didn’t see the field. I have no idea why he was dressed if he wasn’t able to play. Either way, the Giants really missed him in coverage, and the lack of a real nickel corner forced the Giants to play a ton of zone, which did not work out well at all.


LT Andrew Thomas (1st):


Thomas had a good game, considering he was up against Yannick Ngakoue on Sunday, and only allowed one hit and 2 pressures on the day. Overall, he looked extremely solid and was a brick wall for the vast majority of snaps. The only reps that Ngakoue got to the QB were on outside moves, where Thomas was able to wash him out, for the most part. Thomas was exhibiting a little bit of the lean in his punch that plagued him for the first few weeks of his NFL career, but this was not taken advantage of very often by his man. Overall, Thomas has incredible recovery ability and is able to save reps that he’s beat on, simply due to the fact that he’s athletic enough to wash his man outside. That being said, Ngakoue dipped the edge on him to tip a Daniel Jones pass, so this may be something he has to watch out for against Demarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith on Sunday. In the run game, Thomas continues to be a monster, and it’s very impressive how much he moves guys on run blocks. You’ll very often see Thomas’s man start at the line of scrimmage, and at the end of the play, be 7 yards into the defensive backfield. Overall, this was a solid game from Thomas, and especially so, considering the elite competition he was facing.


FS Xavier McKinney (2nd):


McKinney was all over the field this game, totaling 8 tackles, with 7 of them being solo. A lot of his tackles came when cleaning up the mess of other members of the secondary, and it shows a good motor that he’s always one of the first guys there to make the tackle after a completion. In coverage, he allowed 0 completions on 1 target in 24 coverage snaps, which makes for yet another lockdown game in coverage for him. Of course, it helped that the Ravens were beating Isaac Yiadom up and down the field, and probably just playing the “whoever offense” on him. As McKinney gets more experience playing FS, he’ll learn to bail out a struggling corner much more often than he did on Sunday. As far as the run game goes, McKinney seemed to show his inexperience, often picking the wrong hole to fill, but since this was his 4th NFL game, playing a new position, I’m not particularly worried. The one other negative play that I can find was when JK Dobbins met him on the sideline and absolutely ran straight through McKinney’s arm tackle. I’ll chalk this up as a “welcome to the NFL” moment, but I don’t want to see any more arm tackles from our hard-hitting rookie.


RT Matt Peart (3rd):


Peart got only 17 snaps at RT this week, and it wasn’t exactly a sparkling performance. He allowed 1 sack and 1 pressure, and the pressure would have been a sack had Lemieux’s man not gotten to Daniel Jones a split second earlier than Peart’s. The pressure that Peart allowed came from him failing to recognize a stunt, resulting in Peart allowing Calais Campbell to get upfield on him, giving Campbell a clear path to Jones. On the sack that Peart gave up, he let his bad habit of not punching, and instead of catching his man, bite him in the butt, as Matt Judon got his hands inside on Peart, bent the edge (quite impressively), and walloped Jones in the backfield. Other than these two plays, Peart was okay in pass protection, but it’s very unfortunate for him that he only gets 10-20 snaps per game, so if he has bad plays, then he has little-to-no opportunity to make up for them. Either way, Peart was a monster, as usual, in the run game, and it seems like he gets at least one pancake block every single game he plays.


G Shane Lemieux (5th):


This game was much of the same story for Shane Lemieux. Very good in the run game, but getting beat with finesse moves in the pass game. In the past few games, this hasn’t caused THAT much of a problem, but on Sunday, Lemieux got beaten for 2 sacks and 2 pressures, all on quick finesse moves, where his man made him look absolutely silly. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that this has to be an issue for Lemieux to fix in the off-season, as I don’t necessarily see it improving by this Sunday’s game. When Lemieux pass sets, his punch and hand replacement are fantastic, but for some reason, when his opponent swims him or swats his hands away, he just seems to malfunction and freeze at the line, letting his man pass him. If it were up to me this week, I would start Will Hernandez over Lemieux, because he is by far the better pass blocker, while being about equal in the run game. I like Lemieux, and think he’s going to be a very good player in this league, but I would have to go to Hernandez for the most important game of the season, if I were Joe Judge.


EDGE Cam Brown (6th):


Sunday, Cam Brown saw his largest defensive snap count of the season, finding himself on the field for 30 (44%) of the Giants defensive plays. Based on his first performance with an extended amount of reps, it is clear that he is the definition of raw athleticism. He has some fundamentals from Penn State, but it is clear that he did not rely on them as much as he should have. This is evident where he had a chance to lay a huge hit on Gus Edwards to get the Ravens to 4th down and hold them to a field goal, and instead of wrapping up and driving him back, Brown decided to throw his shoulder at Edwards. Maybe that shoulder hit would have crushed a college running back and made Brown’s highlight tape, but in the NFL, Brown has to realize he’s playing grown men, and a shoulder isn’t going to cut it in most cases, especially against NFL running backs. Other than this play, however, Brown did not have a bad game and even had an excellent ankle tackle on Lamar Jackson to force the Ravens into their only punt of the game. He kept good contain, and was disciplined enough to not go too hard after the hyper-mobile Jackson, but it seemed that his lack of experience was causing him to freeze when Jackson would try to get the edge on him, almost as if Brown were scared of Lamar making an inside move on him. Had Brown not frozen up like this, I think we would have seen at least 2 of his 3 solo tackles on the day be for a loss. More reps are necessary for Brown to progress into a full-fledged NFL player, and with Kyler Fackrell coming back from IR this week, it remains to be seen whether or not he will get them.


EDGE Carter Coughlin (7th):


Coughlin only saw 11 defensive snaps on Sunday and recorded no stats to speak of. It’s clear that the Giants wanted Cam Brown’s athleticism over Coughlin’s fundamentals versus Lamar Jackson and the big-play Ravens offense. Coughlin was really invisible and struggled holding contain versus left tackle Orlando Brown. On special teams, Coughlin threw a couple of nice blocks on kick return, but that’s about all that I saw from him. Maybe he’s another guy who needs extensive reps to get in a rhythm.


ILB TJ Brunson (7th):


Brunson was active for the 4th time in his career, and he only appeared on the Giants’ kick return unit. He did not really appear on screen at all, so I’m just going to assume that he didn't necessarily do anything bad, and for a blocker on kick return, being invisible and not causing any problems is a good thing.


ILB Tae Crowder (7th):


Sunday was not so great for Tae, as he had some plays which made me very excited about him, but he had some absolutely inexcusable missed tackles and lapses in coverage. The Ravens were constantly sneaking Mark Andrews behind Crowder, just beyond his hook/curl zone, and Crowder gave up 51 yards on 4 catches as a result. This is very reminiscent of Giants’ linebackers in recent years not being able to cover tight ends, and I really hope that the coaching staff can teach Crowder how to consistently get better depth on his pass drops. He’s going to need it if he wants to maintain his starting spot in the coming years. On the ground, Crowder’s pursuit and play recognition seem to have improved greatly over the past few weeks, and he’s finding himself in a better position to make plays more consistently. That being said, as a linebacker, if you’re in a good position it’s all well and good, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t finish the play. Some plays on Sunday saw Crowder get in a good position and deliver a solid tackle, but unfortunately, Crowder had two really bad missed tackles, both of which would have been for a loss or no gain. Crowder does have potential, but he has plenty of room to improve if he wants to make it as a starter.


EDGE Niko Lalos (UDFA):


Lalos only saw 4 defensive snaps but came away with 2 assisted tackles on the day. From an undrafted free agent, you really can’t ask for too much more. He struggled to hold the edge on a couple of his snaps against the superior Ravens O-line, but that is expected. One of Lalos’s tackles came on special teams, so that is a good sign for him because if you can produce on special teams, especially as a backup, you’re going to have a better chance of maintaining your job security in this league.


What to Expect in Week 17:


Well, this one is for all the marbles, provided that the Football Team loses to the Eagles in the Sunday night game. If there were ever a time to beat the Cowboys for the first time since 2016, this would be it. I don’t care about draft position or whether or not we can get the 3rd overall pick; I just want to see this team have a winning record in the division for the first time in almost 10 years, barring an outlier in 2016. This is the game for Daniel Jones to step up and lead his team to victory. If he can do this, it will solidify in my mind that the Giants have their QB, but if he can’t, then we may have a problem on our hands going into next year. Of course, he can’t do it all himself, and he needs his receivers to actually look like NFL players this week, and get open versus the horrible Cowboys defense. The Giants offense put up 27 points against the same Cowboys D in week 5, and had 2 touchdowns taken off the board by super shaky penalty calls. Jason Garrett needs to stop running 4 curls routes every pass play, and realize what Jones and the Giants offense does best: pounding the ball to open up the deep threat and the read option. The O-line, especially Thomas, Peart, and Lemieux, have been run blocking out of their mind all season, and it’s time to attack Demarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith, who essentially only look to get upfield and pass rush.


On the other side of the ball, the Giants D needs to get a pass rush. I don’t care who gets it, but it needs to happen. The Giants will definitely be looking for Brown, Coughlin, Crowder, and even Lalos to make a big play and turn the Cowboys over. The secondary is lacking a CB2, and the reality is that CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup are going to get open eventually. It’s up to the D-line to attack the immobile Andy Dalton and not let him get the ball to his deep threats. Darnay Holmes returning and adding a competent CB to the lineup will be huge for the defense as well, and fans should keep in mind that the Giants did not have McKinney in the lineup in week 5, so the Cowboys will likely not be able to go deep as well as before. Controlling Zeke will also be huge, and with the Cowboys injury-depleted O-line, the Giants big 3 run defenders, Tomlinson, Lawrence, and Williams, should be able to do this quite well.


Ladies and gentlemen, I think this is the time. Through whatever cruel twists of fate this year has thrown at us, Giants fans sit on the precipice of our team hosting its first playoff game since Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” was topping the charts. They can potentially hold the title of the team with the worst record to ever make the playoffs, but I think I’m speaking for all Giants fans when I say that I couldn’t care less. It’s time to finally do it, no matter where we end up picking in the draft. Giants 38, Cowboys 23. Am I going to be proved horribly wrong? Maybe so, but here’s to hoping that the Giants can have their first statement win in far too long.


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