Tag Archives: Saquon Barkley

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…

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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:

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

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.

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It’s not all bad, bELIeve me … by Jade Capristo

Happy 2019 football season to my nonexistent readers!

I can’t believe we’re celebrating 100 years of the beautiful game. It seems surreal – almost as surreal as the critics blaming Eli Manning for the state of the New York Football Giants (again), but I guess that’s just how things are now.

So let’s get into it, shall we?

The Giants have gone 0-2 to start the season, which is disheartening to we fans, but also not the end of the world, contrary to popular opinion. We’re not a sinking ship that is the Miami Dolphins, although we could trend that way if management doesn’t get their s**t together, and benches Eli for his rookie clone, Daniel Jones. We’ve showed signs of hope these past two weeks, and improvement between weeks one and two. And I, personally, don’t believe this current record is nothing the Giants can’t recover from heading into week three. It’ll take a few changes here and there, mostly on defense, but it’s about time New York became a team that fixed its ailments as they arise, rather than upon season conclusion.

But before I touch on the reparations I’d willingly chat with Dave

Gettleman about, let’s start with the blaringly obvious non-issue that is Eli Manning.

For all the fools out there who are blaming yet another subpar kickoff to season on this poor guy, I ask you this: how is it his fault?

No seriously, I’d love to know how Eli has single handedly ensured the team starts 0-2; because I’m pretty sure he’s combined for 556 yards in two games, complete with two TD’s and two interceptions, one of which is still, in my opinion, one of the worst ways to count an interception against any quarterback. Need I remind you that Eli is playing with an entirely shredded receiving core?

Sterling Shepard, out with concussion.

Golden Tate, suspended because he had the audacity to attempt procreation with his wife.

Corey Coleman with a torn ACL.

And now Cody Lattimer, out with a concussion thanks to the Bills cheap helmet-to-helmet shot that literally had him blacked out on the field, but of course wasn’t a penalty against Buffalo’s defense.

So, who the hell is he supposed to throw to? TJ Jones? Never heard of him until yesterday, when Eli tossed him a touchdown pass at the back of the end zone. Is it really the most logical thing to bench a veteran quarterback, in favor of a rookie, in the midst of an injury brigade?

Even without all of his primary receivers, Eli has managed to stay somewhat composed in the Giants semblance of a pocket; he’s even turned on the wheels when needed and become a little more comfortable staying on his toes this season – because he’s had the time. Time in the pocket in football is a luxury indeed, for any quarterback. For Eli, it is absolutely essential, as we all already know he’s not particularly mobile. But since he hasn’t had to be this season, the offense looks improved, despite the injuries. I have very few complaints with the Giants o-line, which is a massive turnaround from last year when Eli was running for his life at every snap of the football.

Saquon Barkley is as ferocious as ever, trucking defenses with ease, and Evan Engram has stepped up in his role as tight end/slot receiver. The offense has gelled, and will continue to do so, so long as the defense can make sure we’re not constantly playing catchup.

Which has been the case of these combined two first games. And Daniel Jones can’t fix that.

Now, we all know the Giants offloaded most of their once-indispensable purchases. Remember when they dropped $206 million of guys like Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Landon Collins? All those guys are gone now. In fact, the only remainder from that massive defensive purchase is Janoris Jenkins. Our defense now looks as Swiss cheesy as our o-line used to – equally as full of holes that opposing offenses hang out in with ease. Against Dallas, we had zero pass rush and no sense of direction in our linebackers. Granted, the Cowboys o-line has been notorious for its impenetrability. But the Giants showed some improvement against Buffalo, getting to Josh Allen twice and almost forcing a turnover.

My father will tell you that none of this is favorable and we can’t expect a rookie defense to come together and be the Big Blue of old. But I still feel the hope that Pat Shurmur has enough of a hold on the locker room to get his guys to push for success. After all, if he could do it last year, midseason, with the offensive line, why not again for his defense?

The NFC East is not yet lost, and the Giants have the tools to turn it around. So long as they disregard the naysayers, stand behind their Iron Man, and work on their defense, I think the Giants can be better than what they’ve achieved thus far.

But maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

********

Thanks to our friend, Jade Capristo for allowing us to repost her blog. The link to Jade’s post can be found at:

It’s not all bad, bELIeve me

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A Giant debacle in Dallas

Noone is saying that the season is over for the New York Giants. Not even close. But after their season opening performance in Dallas last Sunday, you have to be thinking it.  The fact is, the Giants were not competitive against a good Dallas team. I’m not quite ready to annoint this Dallas team as being Superbowl ready, but the ease with which they disposed of the GMEN was quite frankly, embarrassing. The final score of 35-17 did not tell the entire story.

After an auspicious opening drive for the Giants which included a 59-yard run by Saquon Barkley and an early touchdown for the Giants, everything went south from there.  The Giants Defense got on the field and Dallas proceeded to answer with their own touchdown, which would be the first of many.  After stopping the Giants on their next drive, Dallas took control of the game. With no pressure whatsoever from the Giants, Dallas was able to find open receivers all day. Three Dallas wide receivers had 100 or more receiving yards.  Dallas had 5 long drives of 50 yards or more. Giants fans had to be wondering what the defensive game plan was and who were these new players who were so ineffective?  I know that I expected more… much more!

The middle of the field must have looked like Candyland for the Dallas Cowboys. All passes thrown in that direction went virtually uncontested.  The Giants cornerbacks and safeties were nowhere to be found.  With all due respect, the Cowboys were working on the opposite side of Janoris Jenkins, the side that saw Antonio Hamilton and DeAndre Baker (the third number one pick selected in the first round by the GMEN).

I know that Hamilton had been recognized as an outstanding Special Teams player for his former employer, the Oakland Raiders.  But to have him cover the Cowboys receivers was a nightmare. He was playing 5 yards off any receiver he covered and could be seen running in the direction of Dallas receivers all afternoon. Hamilton should not be used in the starting defense. Surely the Giants have better players than him!

Baker wasn’t much better.  Quite frankly, he looked lost.  I know he came into this game slightly injured, but this was a college player who did not give up many touchdowns.  Expectations for him were (and hopefully still are) sky high.  This was not an auspicious start.

As for the Giants other first round picks, the story was equally as discouraging.  Rookie Defensive Lineman Dexter Lawrence was supposed to provide pressure up the middle. He did not.  His name was rarely mentioned during the game. Other linebackers and defensive ends expected to make an impact including Lorenzo Carter, Marcus Golden and Oshane Ximinez were also nowhere to be found. No sacks, no pressure.  C’mon James Bettcher, you have to dial up something better than this. How about a safety blitz or 3?

By the way,the Giants star of the preseason, first round pick Quarterback Daniel Jones, entered the game during garbage time. After a few pass completions for short yardage, Jones was welcomed to the big leagues as the ball was stripped from him.

There were some positives on this day for the Giants but unfortunately not many.  The Giants offensive line appeared to be worlds ahead of where it was last year.  Eli Manning had time to pass and the line did some run blocking as well, even with an injury to highly prized right guard, Kevin Zeitler.  Saquon Barkely had his stardard 100 + yard rushing and receiving and appeared to be underutilized during the game.  Likely a consequence of the fact that Cowboys were on offense most of the game dominating the time of possession.

Other positives for the GMEN; Evan Engram started to look good.  If the Giants are going to have any success this season, they will undoubtedly need more of a contribution from Engram. Many of Engram’s yards appeared to have come during garbage time. Getting him involved early and often is essential as he is a wide receiver in disguise on a team that does not have many reliable receiving threats..

The Giants have an opportunity to right their ship in week 2 against the Buffalo Bills.  Not to be taken lightly, the Bills  present their own threats but this much is clear; THE GIANTS MUST FIND A PASS RUSH!. If they don’t receivers will get open and there understaffed, undermanaged or underskilled defensive backfield will get burned repeatedly. And stick to the game plan of offense; give the ball to Barkley and find their ensemble of open receivers including Engram l to keep the Bills off balance.

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Were the ’85 Chicago Bears on the field in Dallas last week?

For anyone who watched last Sunday’s matchup between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, it would have appeared so.  The Cowboys defensive line played like the ’85 Bears registering 6 sacks and several pressures.  Eli Manning couldn’t throw deep to any of his receivers, rendering O’Dell Beckum Jr. (4-51), Sterling Shepard (3-24) and Evan Engram (7-67) largely ineffective… or so it felt.  His only option was short passes to Saquon Barkley, who set a Giants record for receptions by a running back (14-80).

Regarding all of the offseason talk of General Manager Dave Gettleman’s  offensive line building, the GMEN’s hog mollies looked a lot more like mollies than hogs. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).  At the end of the game, the final score was 20-13.  The O-line for the Giants was so dominated by the Dallas defense that the score might have just as well been 48-0.

Kudos to Dallas Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli, who clearly deserved the game ball.  Marinelli out coached Giants coach Pat Shurmer and Offensive Line coach Hal Hunter.   Simple D-line stunts and cornerback blitzes wreaked havoc on the GMEN’s offense almost the entire game.  Eli took so many hits that he was probably rethinking his retirement with this current squad of protectors.  It appears that it will be a long season for the GMEN.

The running game was all but entirely negated as well.  Saquon Barkely had 11 carries for 28 yards.  Any gains he achieved was the result of him making multiple defenders miss tackles. There is no run blocking to be found.  Barkley is an exciting rookie with tremendous talent but can’t be expected to do everything himself.  The Giants are averaging 0.8 yards before the running back is touched, ranking last in the NFL in this statistic.  The NFL average is 2.4 yards before contact.  As much as we want Barkley to be the reincarnation of Barry Sanders, we can’t expect this to happen. At least not overnight.

Many are to blame for this monumental Giants collapse.  Let’s start with management who continues to back an aging, immobile pocket passer.   It is easy for Giants fans to drool when watching Pat Mahomes, Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold play the quarterback position.  These stars can evade defenders and still make plays downfield.  Eli’s days of finding David Tyree downfield are likely to be long gone. Fans and the analyst community are likely to believe there is cause to reevaluate the Giants decision to pass on a QB with the second pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.   While Eli Manning has several tools on his offense that other NFL teams would kill for, the question is whether he will have time to get the ball to them.  He also has difficulty beating linebackers who can cover.when he actually has time to find a receiver in the middle of the field.

As for the coaching, let’s not give up on Pat Shurmer and company yet.  It is clearly too soon for that. He has not lost the locker room as was the case with the Giants previous coaching mistake, Ben McAdoo. He has simply lost 2 games and looked awful in one of them against a team that many thought the Giants would beat.  Offensive line coach is another story. Simple stunts and cornerback blitzes can’t nullify your offense as was the case against the Cowboys.  Again, this was NOT the ’85 Chicago Bears defense that was on the field although at times, you wouldn’t have know it.  It is time for both Pat Shurmer and offensive line coach Hal Hunter to step-up their game!

Then there was fullback Shane Smith.  Or should I say ex-New York Giant full back, Shane Smith.  Smith was cut this week after missing 2 key blitz pickups against the Cowboys.  A notable statistic from the Giants game…Smith was solely responsible for 1/3 of the Giants 6 sacks.  Smith was released on Thursday following his horrendous performance which contributed largely to the Giants offensive collapse.

Still, you can’t blame a loss like this on one player. You have to site management for believing Eli could continue to thrive with this offensive line protecting him.  This is naïve or wishful thinking at best.

What Can Be Done Now?   

Any team that plays the New York Giants is going to follow Rod Marinelli’s game plan, bringing pressure early and often from several positions.  Why would you not?  The Giants must fill their holes as quickly as possible. The Giants are going to have to anticipate blitz-happy defenses and find a way to get the ball to their major weapons.

All hope is not lost at 0-2, but one can only hope that we have seen the worse of the New York Giants in 2018. It’s time for a coaches meeting that will not only identify team weaknesses but resolve or make wholesale changes.  Players that can be obtained are usually available for a reason.  Did I actually hear Will Beatty’s name being bandied about again as an offensive line addition?  Didn’t we already give him a second chance last season?

It will be interesting to see what changes are made to this team in Week 3!

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These are a few of my favorite things…

If there is any satisfaction to be gained by Giants fans during the 2018 season, it will most likely result from the plays coming from several offensive weapons.  That’s right, I said offense. A team rich in the tradition of solid if not spectacular defenses, this year’s New York Giants feature some of the games most exciting stars who are certain to win over fans who are still smarting from last season’s 3-13 finish.

Specifically, I have four players in mind that could change the outcome of a game.  Let’s start with my new favorite player, O’dell Beckum Jr.  95 million dollars (65 million guaranteed) will do a lot to improve a player’s attitude.  The Giants showed that they are indeed all-in regarding OBJ. I believe that he feels the same way.  Prior to the opening kickoff at Met Life Stadium last week, O’Dell was sprinting in front of the rest of the team trying to fire up the crowd. I love it. And I love what the most exciting receiver in the game can do for us when he is healthy.  I am expecting a monster season out of him, one for the record books.  Against the number 1 ranked Jacksonville Jaguar defense, Beckum caught 11 passes for 111 yards. Paltry numbers for him. And Eli missed him on what would certainly have been a touchdown.  Let’s see what he can do against bad defenses.

Now let’s discuss the rookie phenom Saquon “Say Gone” Barkley. That is correct, I said phenom. With no blocking last week against a stout Jaguars line, Barkley had 18 carries for 106 yards, a 5.9 average per carry.  Barkley will do that to you. Sure, prior to his 68 yard run he was bottled up with a 2 + yard per carry average, but he always has the ability, with or without blocking to spring a long one. Watching Barkley run or catch a pass, you believe that he can score a touchdown anytime he touches the ball. The last Giants player to have that type of explosiveness, let me think, was noone. I can’t remember another back with the agility and breakaway speed that Barkley possesses. Sorry David Wilson, sorry Tiki Barber.  Did I mention that Barkley can also catch and block?  Just wait until the Giants utilize all of his tools.

The third weapon that I have in mind could just as easily qualify as a second receiver alongside Beckum. I am referring to none other than last year’s first round selection Evan Engram.  Engram is a modern day version of Jordan Reed, the pass catching tight end who thrived on the Washington Redskins. If Engram can stay healthy, he has the potential to have the impact of a Jimmy Graham or even a Rob Gronkowski.  He has all of the tools to have a breakout season. Fingers crossed on the durability issue.

Weapon number 4 is wide receiver Sterling Shepard.  Against the Jaguars last week, Shepard caught 5 passes for 48 yards, an average of 9.6 yards per catch.  A very talented outside or slot receiver, Shepard will have to accept any balls not thrown to weapons 1-3.  Trust me, he will be very useful this season.

Reality Check

I have made it clear as to what I love about this team. I would be remiss if I didn’t address the unknown.  If you believe it is appropriate to refer to this season as a rebuilding or transition season (I prefer to view last season as an aberration), then we must be honest about a few things.

The offensive line could not block for Saquon last week. Granted it was only game 1 and they did play the number one ranked defense in the NFL last season.  The O-line needs time to gel.  Although they should improve game-by-game, I would not be surprised to see substitutions or replacements on the line.  Both tackles had poor games.  Fans are already calling to replace Right Tackle Ereck Flowers. If he continues to falter at this position, he could see the bench or even be released. Management owes him nothing and they have already shown (Jason Pierre Paul) that they are not afraid to break from the past.  Eli Manning was sacked twice against the Jaguars and hurried repeatedly. The offensive line has to do better if the GMEN are going to win games.

As for the defense, it is hard to condemn a team for only giving up 20 points (7 of those points came on an Eli Manning deflection). The Secondary played well, led by Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins and Eli Apple.  Curtis Riley played competently alongside defensive captain Landon Collins.

The run stoppers did their job led by Damien “Snacks” Harrison who had 6 tackles. Granted, Leonard Fournette left the game early with a hamstring injury but they played well against his worthy backup, T.J. Yeldon.  The GMEN had only one quarterback sack but that number will improve when star pass rusher Olivier Vernon returns to the lineup in week 2 vs. the Cowboys. If he is unable to play, perhaps James Bettcher’s defense should utilize more blitzing from promising rookies Lorenzo Carter and B.J. Hill.

The glass is clearly half-full in my view. The GMEN lost by 5 points to a Jaguars team that was one half away from going to the Superbowl in 2017.  Time to get on the winning side this week and beat a Dallas team that is now Bryant and Witten-less and does not appear to be as scary as in past seasons.

On a final note, as the song goes… when the final buzzer sounds, when the loss stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad!

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My thoughts about the GMEN after the first two preseason games

The 2018 New York Giants are likely to improve upon their 3-13 record from 2017. I might not be sticking my neck out very far in making this not-so- bold prediction, but there is much to support this thinking.  Although it is too early to tell whether this is a 6-win team or a team capable of winning 9 or more games and potentially making the playoffs, roster changes and the return of star power from injury alone will make this team better. Let’s begin with the offense.

This offense has star power. Saquon Barkely, the first round pick of the Giants and the second overall player taken in the 2018 NFL draft, should be a stud.  He’s a 1000-yard rusher behind a bad offensive line and possibly a 1500-yard rusher if this revamped offensive line gels as quickly as hoped. Did I mention he is a talented receiver and blocker as well?  He is one of several players on this offense who can excel at YAC-ing. (That is, getting yards after the catch). Remember, YAC-ing is a welcomed occurrence in the NFL;  and a bad thing to happen at a New Year’s Eve party.

Few players in the league are as dynamic and dangerous with their hands on the ball as wideout  O’Dell Beckum Jr. The good news for Giants fans is that he appears to be back in form.  Sterling Shepard , another Wide Receiver is a rising talent who can also turn a difficult catch into a big-play. The slot receiver, or third receiver depending upon where they move players around to appears to be Cody Lattimer who was acquired from Denver in the offseason.  Although he flashes on occasion, the jury is still out on him.

Then there is Evan Engram, the Giants 2017 number one draft pick. He’s a wide receiver at the Tight End position.  Think Jimmy Graham or Jordan Reed.  This guy is a playmaker. Let see how good he can be after having an outstanding rookie season.

Now let’s address the revamped offensive line.  Yes, the GMEN spent a lot of money on Nate Solder, the former left tackle for the New England Patriots. I suppose they were tired of hearing the boos for former left tackle Ereck Flowers and chose the best left tackle available in free agency. Who can blame them?

Solder is not an elite player. He gets beaten and looks very ordinary at times. But he is a leader in the lockeroom and should make a big difference protecting Eli’s blind side. Insert rookie Will Hernandez at left guard. Think Chris Snee with slightly worse feet.  Big, nasty mauler who should be able to create running  lanes for Saquon.  At center, John Halapio appears to be the choice over the Canadian, Brent Jones. Time will tell who wins the center position but it looks like it’s Halapio’s job to lose. Patrick Omaneh is the right guard who has played for Giants GM Dave Gettleman in Carolina.  He is somewhat of a journeyman but should still be able to open holes for the rushing attack.   Last but not least, is right tackle Ereck Flowers. It might be a reach for the Giants to think he can perform on the right side better than he did on the left. I don’t blame the Giants for giving him a shot at another position.

And then there is Eli, who looks like he can still hit the open man when protection is present.  Granted, he is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but he should benefit greatly from the addition of Barkley as a safety valve who can run, catch and perhaps most importantly, block.  Keeping Eli vertical will be essential for having a bounceback season.

On defense, the GMEN unloaded salary in the form of Jason Pierre Paul and let some of their linebackers and defensive backs with big salaries find other teams in free agency.  So why do I believe their defense stands a chance to be better than they have in the past few seasons?

James Bettcher, new defensive coordinator for the New York Giants excels with the ensemble cast theory. He has crafted three top- 6 defenses in the past 3 seasons.  This year could follow suit. He has acquired a group of players in addition to starter Olivier Vernon, who can rush the quarterback including Kareem Martin and Josh Mauro (players he had in Arizona) as well as Connor Barwin and rookie Lorenzo Carter.  Bettcher brings the pass rush early and often.  In the second preseason game, you saw sacks coming from various players including rookie Lorenzo Carter.  Very encouraging.

In the secondary, Cornerback Janoris Jenkins (aka Jackrabbit) and safety Landon Collins are pro bowl players.  Let’s hope that the players the Giants put next to them can rise to the occasion as well.

It might take the Rod Marinelli-like ensemble themed defense a few weeks to bear fruit, but I think they have the potential to be good.  If the offense lives up to it’s potential and the line can open up some running lanes for Saquon as well as protect Eli, the GMEN could be back in contention for the NFC East lead.  Stay tuned.

Larry Finklestein is a self proclaimed ignorantly optimistic New York Giants fan.

 

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