Tag Archives: Matt Peart

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

The Giants lost to the Rams 17-9 this past Sunday. Is there still reason to cheer?

It’s OK, Nick.  I do believe you are telling it like it is.  Having been a Giants fan since 1970, I can remember many more bad years than good.  The past four seasons, as you have stated, have been garbage.

It’s not for lack of trying.  More likely, bad hiring decisions by the Mara/Tisch ownership group.  Starting with the decision to keep coach Coughlin on for too long as well as an aging Eli Manning, management thinking should have turned proactive.  The decisions to hire Ben Macadoo and then Pat Shurmer as head coach were both bad moves.  Neither one of these hires was ready to be a true head coach.  Unquestionably competent as position coaches, they did not operate with the vision needed by a head coach.  Quite frankly, they lacked the overall management skills required to keep their teams together.

Now let’s fast forward to present day.  I actually like what I’ve heard coming out of the mouth of Joe Judge. Coming from perhaps the most respected coaching tree in the league, namely the New England Patriots, as well as the Nick Saban college ranks, Judge will eventually see success in the NFL.  Giants fans of course hope this will be sooner as opposed to later.

Believe it or not, the defense is improving

On Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, the Giants became closer to becoming a winning team.  Their defense is improving.  Notable stars are emerging on the D-line, in the linebacking corps and in the secondary.  Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams are providing some push up the middle. Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell are making names for themselves from the linebacker group.  (Who doesn’t like the addition of Martinez, who always seems to be around the ball?).  Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham appears to be doing a good job with his personnel. Although they are likely to be a few players away from being consistently competitive, I do feel the defense is headed in the right direction.

No real threats on offense

With Saquon Barkley in the game (and as was the case when we had O’Dell Beckum Jr. on the team), there was the belief that the GMEN could score on any play in which they touched the ball.  The closest thing the current team can claim to having a home run threat is wide receiver Darius Slayton (3-48 against the Rams). Slayton is off to a quiet start of the season thus far.  The talented yet extremely unreliable Evan Engram is not doing the job at Tight End and the often- injured Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard are, often injured.  Without the game-breaking talent of a Barkley or a Beckum, the current squad is having difficulty scoring touchdowns at the moment.  Kicking field goals, as we know, is a recipe for losing games.  Thus, the 0-4 start with 2 defeats (Bears and Rams) which were winnable games.

The GMEN are still feeling around for their best five offensive lineman. This is something that teams often do during the preseason (oh that’s right, there wasn’t a preseason this year!).  Well, the shuffling around of linemen on the roster is likely to continue until there seems to be consistency on the offensive line with some inkling of ability to run and/or pass block, hopefully both.

I do believe there is talent on the offensive line. If Marc Columbo can unlock the motivational key on Will Hernandez (am I the only Giants fan who thinks that he should be playing better than he is… ?), along with rookies Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux, the core of the offensive line might be set for a few years.  Imagine if the Giants don’t have to focus on drafting offensive lineman in the next NFL draft ?

I know that Pro Football Focus has Cameron Fleming rated as the top offensive lineman for the Giants thus far this season.  If that’s the case, yikes!  I have found his contributions to be serviceable at best. I liken him to a Kevin Booth. (Booth could take up a lot more space though). It will be interesting to see if coaches try to work in Shane Lemieux in to one of the guard positions or swing new Center, Nick Gates out to the Right Tackle position which I believe he played in college.  Inserting Lemieux would bring a bit of nastiness to the offensive line (something we thought would be provided by Will Hernandez) which this team could undoubtedly use.

Back to the offense, the backfield consisting of the newly acquired Devonta Freeman, Wayne Gallman and Dion Lewis is not likely to inspire too much fear in the minds of opposing defenses.  Coaching has to be more creative in using their running back’s best attributes  (screen passes?). Handoffs from the line of scrimmage aren’t going to do the job until the offensive line demonstrates the ability to open running lanes.  Devonta Freeman’s workload should increase each week as he is learning more of the playbook.  The good news is that it appears that he has something left in the tank.

Last but not least

Now let’s talk about Daniel Jones.  Is the glass half-full or half-empty?  Both, I guess. He certainly does appear to be a work-in-progress.  Having grown up during the Phil Simms years, I have seen the evolution of a Giants quarterback.  It took Simms 4 or 5 seasons trading starts with his backup Scott Brunner before he took command of the position and went on to greater things, including a victory and mvp in Superbowl XXI.

So does Daniel Jones have a Superbowl victory in him?  Impossible to tell at this point. You have to believe he is doing his best to control his turnovers at this point.  Improvement on the offensive line will be essential to his development.  We must also see better decision making from Jones, especially in the Red Zone. Personally, I want to see more of the fire that we saw in Phil Simms turnaround as the QB for the GMEN.  Jones needs to take control of this offense and show his linemen that he has the ability to lead this team to winning games this season and beyond.

If the Giants don’t win any games this season, fans will be calling for Jones head on a plate as well as those of head coach Joe Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.  They are facing an underachieving yet offensively talented 1-3 Dallas Cowboys team this week. Always a favorite rival, this game will be a good barometer of how much the Giants defense has improved thus far in the 2020. season.  Stay tuned and get your popcorn ready…

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