Tag Archives: Leonard Williams

Seeing light at the end of the tunnel

As hard as it might be to believe, the New York Giants are still in contention to win the NFC Eastern Division.  Despite their 3-7 record, which included 4 losses by seven points or less, the Giants are only 1  game out of first place in the extremely challenged NFC East.

The fact that they are still in the race, in and of itself, should not be the sole reason for optimism. Whoever emerges as the NFC East division champion will still have to face what is likely to be far better competition.  The real reason for optimism regarding the New York Giants is that they are playing better each week.  And their marked improvement is tangible.

Revisiting last week’s 27-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, all one had to do was look into Daniel Jones eyes to know that the outcome of this game would be different from the 6 losses incurred earlier in the season. Jones gritty determination and improvement with ball handling was clearly evident.  No longer willing to be a laughingstock, Jones put this team on his back for the entire 60 minutes and drove them to a complete game 27-17 win which included two long rushing touchdowns by himself (one of which was negated by a holding penalty).   Although probably deserved, Jones can’t be given all of the credit for the win.

Assisted by quality performances for a second week in a row by Wayne Gallman and free agent acquisition Alfred Morris, the Giants running game is clearly improving. Gallman ran for 53 yards on 18 carries and had two rushing touchdowns in the game.  He appears to be implementing a jump cut which has helped him gain a few extra yards per carry.  Morris, who had a very impressive game against his former team (Washington) the week earlier, continued his effective running to the tune of 34 yards on 8 carries. Without a homerun threat like Saquon Barkley, the Giants appear to be forging ahead with a running game that is finding its identity thanks to improving offensive line play.

Whatever they are doing with this offensive line, it is resulting in increased production with at least 160 yards on the ground in each of the past 3 games.  Whether it’s rotating players in and out of the lineup, the insertion of Shane Lemieux into the left guard position when Will Hernandez was out, improved performances by Andrew Thomas at left tackle or the encouraging performance of Matt Peart whenever he has been in the game, it is working.   Hopefully the surprise firing of offensive line coach Marc Columbo and the hiring of Dave DeGuglielmo will not be too disruptive to the development of the line.

As for the receiving corps, Darius Slayton continues to be their highest production player with 5 receptions for 93 yards against Philadelphia.  Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Dion Lewis and Tight End Evan Engram formed a competent supporting cast.  Newly inserted free agent rookie Austin Mack has the appearance of a keeper after his long reception in last week’s victory over Washington.

Now for the “bend but not break” defense which up until last week both bent and broke. Not this week (or last).  Although the Giants D gave up double digit leads in six straight games this year, perhaps a statement is being made with this second straight win. We have said it repeatedly; there is talent on this defense.  However, there is a clear lack of talent in some key places, like cornerback opposite the impressive James Bradberry. Isaac Yiadom gives up more big plays than he makes. The rookie cornerback covering the slot receiver, Darnay Homes appears to be instrumental in defending more big plays.  The same can be said of Safety Jabrill Peppers, who led the team with 7 tackles including a ½ sack against the Eagles. Rookie safety Xavier McKinney will be coming off the IR soon. There are great expectations in place for him.

Patrick Graham’s defense did what it was supposed to do. With the exception of allowing a Boston Scott 50-yard catch and run, the Giants D limited the Eagles big plays. Perhaps most importantly, unlike several of the games played earlier in the season, the Giants were able to get off the field on third down. Pressure up front continues to be provided by Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams. Newly acquired Trent Harris contributed by providing an important sack.  The linebackers, led by the overachieving Blake Martinez, continue to be effective.

Our friend and renowned football enthusiast Gregory Frank provided his insights on the Giants 27-17 win last Sunday.  Here are his observations:

  1. Although Daniel Jones has gotten the brunt of the blame for his tendency to be turnover prone, much of that blame can be also be attributed to an offensive line that still has far to go in being an effective pass-blocking unit.  According to ESPN, the Giants are last in the NFL in pass blocking win rate, at 44%.  What is pass blocking win rate, you ask.  An offensive lineman needs to sustain his block for at least 2.5 seconds.  If he can do so, that’s a win.  Whether that statistic is what led to the recent firing of offensive line coach Marc Columbo is unclear, but it certainly didn’t help.
  1. James Bradberry showed Sunday that he is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL right now.  Against the Eagles, Bradberry allowed just two completions for a mere 15 yards, while breaking up two passes.  Those two break-ups, by the way, added to his tied-for-the-league total of 14.
  1. The NFC East intra-divisional record is 8-8, and is an abysmal 2-18-1 outside the division.  If the Giants can beat Dallas later this season, they will finish with an intra-division record of 4-2.  One or two more wins, perhaps against Cincinnati and Cleveland, may be enough to secure the division title.  Yes, it’s that kind of season for the NFC East, but a playoff berth is a playoff berth, however you get there.

The Giants undoubtedly played their best game of the season against the Eagles in last week’s victory.  Can they keep the momentum going and ultimately take charge of the NFC Eastern Division?  Time will tell.   One thing seems clear; head coach Joe Judge appears to be leading the New York Giants in the right direction.

Huddleball.com welcomes all fan insight and opinions.  If you want to blog with us this season, please email us at huddleball@gmail.com

Run Forrest Run !

When your quarterback is the leading rusher for your team, as was the case with Daniel Jones of the New York Giants this past Sunday against the San Francisco Forty Niners, this is usually telling of the outcome of the game. Jones was the Giants leading rusher with 5 carries for 49 yards. When this appears to be the best play that you have going for you on offense, it is likely to be a long day.

Week 3 against the San Francisco Forty Niners offered very few positives for the New York Giants. The GMEN were thoroughly dominated by the Forty Niners on both sides of the ball. Time of possession said it all. The Niners had the ball 39:44 to the Giants 20:16, their lowest time of possession since a December 24, 2006 game against the New Orleans Saints.  Worst of all, the Giants were soundly beaten by a team comprised on backups. No Garoppolo, no Kittle, no Mostert.  The Niners backups Nick Mullens (QB), Jerick McKinnon, Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, J. Wilson Jr. (RB & WR’s), and Ross Dwelley (TE) torched the GMEN to the tune of 25 completions on 36 attempts passing in a thoroughly dominant 36-9 victory.

What is wrong with the Giants?

Pretty much everything.  Whereas most analysts predicted that the Giants were at most a 6-game winner this season, it is possible they won’t win any games.  This season is not for the faint hearted.

The Giants are at best a work-in-progress.  They look competent on some plays but don’t sustain drives. Their defense makes the occasional sack, deflection or run-stop, but can’t seem to make any critical plays when needed.  As the statistics indicate, the defense was on the field for what felt like the entire game on Sunday against the Niners, unable to make any needed key third down stops.  This makes it easy to say this is a horrible team.  Perhaps they are, at the moment.  Their record and stats for the 2020 season thus far would indicate as much.

It isn’t like the Giants don’t have any talent.  They do, on both sides of the ball.  A number of players have shown signs of playmaking capability. Perhaps they simply needed the offseason and 4 preseason games, all lost to the Coronavirus epidemic.  Perhaps they need more direction from their coaches and head coach.

Some defensive linemen and linebackers have flashed.  Leonard Williams finally appears to be wrapping his arms around the quarterback (2 sacks); Lorenzo Carter has shown the ability to pressure the quarterback although the sacks have been slow to come.  Oshane Ximinez and Kyler Fackrell have to get home more in their limited opportunities.  Is it as simple as saying that their play is the result of not having an offseason or any preseason games to assess their strengths and weaknesses?  Perhaps to an extent, but at some point coaches have to start making a difference.  Kyle Shanahan’s play calling gave the Giants fits all game. The Niners scored four touchdowns and two field goals on six visits to the red zone.  The Giants, on the other hand, did not run one play inside the Niners 20 yard line.  Total domination by the Niners!

The secondary has been spotty at best. Free agent cornerback signing James Bradberry has made several pass breakups in addition to a few interceptions.  Julian Love has an interception and has been involved in some quality defensive plays.  I think I saw Logan Ryan check in for a play or two against the Forty Niners. However, the other corner position, as expected, has yielded too many key plays.

The Giants are too predictable.  When their opponents need a key third down reception, an opposing receiver can always be seen steaking across the middle of the field untouched.  The fact is, nobody is making key stops.

The offense has been equally unreliable.  As easy as it is to say the team’s fate rested in Saquon Barkley’s hands, they must move on after his devastating season-ending injury.  All teams are experiencing a plethora of major injuries this season.  The who’s who list includes Christian McCaffrey, Nick Bosa, Jimmy Garoppolo, Richard Sherman, Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, Julio Jones and others.

The injury wave can’t be the result of coincidence.  It is the ramification of forcing a league to begin on time without the benefit of an offseason as well as preseason games.

As for the GMEN, growing pains had to be expected for Daniel Jones in Season 2.  The bloom has come of the rose. It is time to determine if Jones has what it takes to be the quarterback of the New York Giants. His “dear in the headlights” face from operating behind an offensive line that lacks coherence and continuity is growing thin on fans.  He is going to have to make plays on his own.  He has definitively shown us that he has the running ability to do so.  He must also demand play-calling which keeps opposing teams guessing.

It is indeed a trying time to be a Giants fan.  Even though we have been spoiled with 4 Superbowl wins in the last 30 years, we have not had a winning season since 2016 when they went 11-5. It is not too much to ask for a team with a winning record.  Look at the models of consistency in the NFL.  Look at the Patriots, Saints, Seahawks and Forty Niners; teams that have consistently winning records.

I am not asking for this team to be in the Superbowl this year.  Far from it.  I am simply requiring progress in some areas; offense, defense, special teams.  Just show me improvement week to week that can be built on regardless of the outcome of the game. That is all I am asking for.  Without progress, you become a lesser franchise perennial cellar-dweller.

If you watch Sean Payton (head coach, New Orleans Saints) call a game, you know to expect the unexpected.  Although he does have a Superbowl-winning quarterback at the helm of his offense, he brings in another quarterback turned jack-of-all-trades Taysom Hill in on offense to mix things up.  I am not saying that gadget plays are the key to a New York Giants turnaround.  I am saying that more creativity from the coaching staff will be required if the Giants are to achieve any wins in this bizarre virus-impaired season.  Up next week:  a visit to the Los Angeles Rams.

Huddleball.com welcomes all fan insight and opinions.  If you want to blog with us this season, please email us at huddleball@gmail.com.

Giants vs. Steelers: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Before we begin this version of the Sergio Leone classic, allow me to say how great it was to enjoy NFL football this weekend.  In light of the year we are all experiencing, NFL football is a much welcomed diversion from Covid- related news updates.  Amazingly enough, it appears that the NFL has found a way to provide us with a revised version of entertainment, albeit with few-to-no fans in the stadium and sideline personnel wearing masks.  (One recommendation I do have to make; lay off the closeups of Chiefs coach Andy Reid if he continues to wear the plastic mask shield.  His shield was covered in an unappealing moisture fog cloud).  And let’s all keep our fingers crossed that there are no health repercussions as a result of the games being played this past weekend.

Now for the much anticipated season opener between the Giants and the Steelers, whose outcome came at no surprise.  The Steelers won the game, 26-16, but for Giants fans, it could have been worse.  The truth of the matter is that the GMEN were in the game much of the first half and were actually leading the Steelers 10-3 after their third drive of the game.   Then reality set in. There was a tougher, more polished team in this game that was not from New York with a Superbowl-winning quarterback leading them named Ben Roethlisberger. Truth be told, the Steelers were manhandling the Giants on several fronts.  After the Giants held a brief 10-3 lead, an impressive New York drive was stalled when the Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt intercepted a Daniel Jones pass.  Ben’s pass to Ju-Ju Smith Shuster over new Giants cornerback James Bradberry made the score 10-9. The tide had indeed turned.

The Giants were unable to get Saquon Barkley going pretty much the entire game.  Run blocking was  non-existent.  The Steelers stated after the game that their primary mission was to render Saquon Barkley ineffective during the game.  They succeeded in achieving this goal. This is how the Giants linemen fared against the Steelers:

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Linemen Rankings From Pro Football Focus:

LT-Andrew Thomas:  60.8

LG-Will Hernandez:  46.3

C- Nick Gates:  54.4

RG- Kevin Zeitler:  49.6

RT- Cameron Fleming:  51.6

=====================================================================================

The Giants proceeded to go nowhere on their next possession.  Saquon continued to get stuffed on or near the line of scrimmage. At this point in the game, he had 7 rushes for -6 yards.  This is not a recipe for winning the game.  And when James Connor went down with an injury for the Steelers, his replacement, Benny Snell ran hard on the Giants to the tune of 19 carries for 113 yards.

The Giants and the Steelers exchanged possessions leaving the ball in the hands of the Steelers. Big Ben looked to be in form as he continued to find Ju-Ju Shuster Smith open.  Rookie Darnay Holmes was unable to stay with him. A 13-yard pass from Ben to James Washington made it 16-10 at the half. Ben was 5-7 for 67 yards and a touchdown on this last drive.

With the Giants trailing 16-10 in the third quarter, Daniel Jones ended a heroic 19-play drive that could have put them ahead with an awful interception just outside of the end zone.  This blunder was a key point in the game for the Giants, who never recovered. Pittsburgh took control of the remainder of the game.

The Steelers went on a 9-play 62 yard drive that made the score 19-10, Steelers. The inability of Barkley to gain positive yards on offense combined with the inability to stop linebacker Bud Dupree from getting to Daniel Jones was a theme that remained constant throughout the second half of the game.

The Giants did score again on Darius Slayton’s second touchdown reception of the day. The Steelers added one more score. The final score was 26-16 Steelers.   Now for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly !

(cue music)

The Good

  • The Giants were in this game, for the most part
  • Rookie LT Andrew Thomas was not abused by TJ Watt and Bud Dupree. The remainder of the Giants O-line were.
  • Darius Slayton is a star. He picked up where he left off last season with 2 TD receptions and over 100 receiving yards
  • Both Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence registered sacks in this game
  • LB Blake Martinez was all over the field in this game. As advertised, he recorded 12 tackles (8 solo)
  • We didn’t really expect to win this game, did we?

The Bad

  • Nick Gates struggled in his first attempt at the Center position for the Giants
  • Cam Fleming struggled in his first outing at Right Tackle for the GMEN
  • The Giants run-blocking was non-existent against the Steelers
  • The Giants could not stop the Steelers from converting any key plays, a disturbing issue that                               seems to have carried-forward from last season.
  • Both Cornerbacks James Blackberry and Isaac Yiadom were beaten for touchdowns

The Ugly

  • Saquon Barkely had 15 rushes for 6 yards
  • Evan Engram continued to no-show in key games with 2 receptions for 9 yards. He dropped                          passes and missed blocks.

Next week we are off to Chicago.  It will be interesting to see if  Joe Judge’s young squad can build off this outing against the Steelers.

Huddleball.com welcomes all fan insight and opinions.  If you want to blog with us this season, please email us at huddleball@gmail.com.