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Giants let so much more than a win slip through their fingers

October 23, 2020 | 1:50am

 
 
 

Everything the Giants worked for, everything they’d bled for, and now an entire football game was distilled to the most basic element: a ball in the air. Catch the ball, and the Giants win the game. Catch the ball and they close out a thrilling victory, an improbable climb within sight of first place.

Catch the ball and honor the buzz of the week: Why not us?

Even Engram didn’t catch the ball.

Daniel Jones had lofted a beautiful throw. Engram had a step on safety Will Parks. He extended his arms. Just as his feet crossed the 30-yard line the ball fell out of the sky, into his hands … and through his hands. Fourth down instead of first. Eagles ball following a punt, just before the two-minute warning, instead of Giants ball and victory formation.

Why us?

Instead of Why not us?

The Eagles still had to drive 71 yards with just 122 seconds left. Engram’s drop didn’t lose the game. But there wasn’t a Giants fan anywhere, from Freehold to Freeport and all precincts in between who didn’t know what was coming, who didn’t feel this shattering, 22-21 loss in their bones before they saw it on the scoreboard.

 

“No excuses from us,” Giants coach Joe Judge would say.

So you can add Engram’s name to Joe Pisarcik’s, and to Matt Dodge’s to the roster of Giants who’ve helped perpetrate this on-again, off-again nightmare against the Eagles across the decades.

It shouldn’t all fall on his shoulders. He wasn’t on the field when the Giants defense — so stout all night, so resilient all year — allowed two Eagles touchdowns in the final five minutes. He didn’t turn the ball over twice, as Jones did, the 11th time in his 20 career starts in which he’s had multiple turnovers.

 

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But that image, that sequence — ball in the air, ball in his hands, ball through his hands — will be the haunting snapshot of the week and maybe the season, if the Giants aren’t able to crawl back into position to play another meaningful game the rest of the year (though, this being the NFC East, you never know).

“We got the look we wanted,” Engram would say, his words heavy with hurt, his eyes fixed in a thousand-yard stare of disbelief. “D.J. threw a great ball. I didn’t finish the play.

A pause. A sigh. Frustration. Pain.

“One hundred percent, I’ve got to make that,” he said.

A thousand percent, the Giants should have won this game. The Eagles kept trying to hand it to them. Philly led 10-7 at the half, and it could’ve been 24-7. The quarterback, Carson Wentz, made terrible decisions. The coach, Doug Pederson, made puzzling choices.

 
 
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The Giants hung around, then Jones broke off an 80-yard run that was equal parts comic relief (since he stumbled yards shy of the goal line) and game-changing gem, then added a 97-yard drive that put them up 21-10 with 6:17 left.

 

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It was there. It was right there, even when the Eagles answered with a quick TD. The Giants ran two running plays, got two first downs, and only needed a third to run out the clock. Engram didn’t finish his play, but the Eagles still needed to go those 71 yards to finish the miracle.

They went the 71 yards. Wentz connected with Boston Scott for an 18-yard touchdown. The Giants still had life. A field goal would’ve written a proper final chapter. They never got the field goal. Jones fumbled. The Eagles recovered. Ballgame.

Why not us to Why us in about 10 easy steps.

“This is a tough one to swallow,” Giants linebacker Blake Martinez admitted. “It’s the same thing all over again. Lapses. One guy here. One guy there.”

Tough one to swallow. Tough one to accept. The Giants were in as good a position as a 1-5 team could ever be. They had a meaningful football game on the last Thursday of October, long past the point where a 1-5 team should have anything remotely meaningful to play for. They scratch. They claw. They bleed. They play hard every week.

They are 1-6.

“We’re not going to ask you to be patient,” Judge said, his message intended for Giants fans.

Judge grew up an Eagles fan on the other side of this rivalry. He knows what losing a game like this means. He knows what 0-for-their-past-8 against a bitter foe means. And knows those fans probably didn’t sleep much, visions of a ball slipping through fingertips littering dreams all over town. Why us, indeed.

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The Giants have done the unthinkable

November 3, 2020 | 10:56am

 

 

There is no doubt the Giants are getting better, improving, showing many of the earmarks of a stable, well-coached team capable of finding ways to stay just close enough to lose in agonizing fashion.

This is either progress, madness or an extreme form of torture to a fan base that is punch-drunk woozy going on four years now. Breaking down failure, when a franchise is 13-43 since the start of the 2017 season, is akin to collecting and categorizing the leaves falling from the trees on your property. They are everywhere, some more colorful, some barely distinguishable. They sit there for a while, piled up in bunches, scattered around randomly before getting raked up or blown away.

For an operation that is now known for winning about once a month – this is as enjoyable as paying the rent – the Giants under Joe Judge are not lovable as they continue to be losers, by the strict definition of the term. Call a player a loser and brace for impact. Call a team losers and brace for impact. But when recent history states the collection of players and coaches win 23 percent of the time and lose the other 77 percent of the time, what other description can be applied?

Judge’s outfit is the best damn 1-7 team out there. They played better for longer stretches Monday night than Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, which means plenty in the big picture and not much in the here and now. When Daniel Jones threw too slow and too inside for Dion Lewis on a two-point conversion try with 28 seconds remaining, the door was opened for a penalty flag thrown and then picked up, opening the door even wider to add some controversy into another setback. The 25-23 loss meant the Giants’ most recent three losses – to the Cowboys, Eagles and Bucs – were decided by a total of six points. Their last four games – the lone victory, against Washington, is in there – were decided by a total of seven points. In Week 2, the Giants had the ball in the closing minute with chance to beat the Bears in Chicago. There was a one-score loss to the Rams in Inglewood.

It is not easy to beat Judge’s Giants but, for now, almost impossible to get beat by them.

hey are playing, there is little reason to believe it will be that bad. On the flip side, given the way they manufacture losing into an inevitability, there are no assurances they leave the field any day or night with more points than the opponent.

It is understandable Judge, for public consumption, is taking an overwhelmingly positive view of all this. He spoke passionately in his introductory press conference about the need for the team to reflect the New York/New Jersey area and, as these losses mount, he is either reminded or on his own brings up this connection.

 

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“We’re not asking for moral victories,” he said after loss No. 7. “We understand the people of New York deserve better, so we got to keep working to be better for them.”

The Giants have reached midseason accomplishing something that defies logic – falling by the wayside in the NFC East, a division where no one should be left behind.

Asked what he sees out of his team at this mid-point, Judge forged ahead.

“A lot of improvement, I see a lot of improvement,” he said. “So, if you’re going to ask me, the first year, how I’d classify it, I see an improving team that is developing in the division going forward.”

The cynic will say without winning, these signs of improvement are not much to feel good about. The Giants are young, and that is a positive, and in the final eight games one reveal looms more crucial than the rest: What if all this improvement is taking place while Jones, the quarterback, is not progressing with the rest of the group?

More that came out of a closely contested “Monday Night Football” encounter with the Bucs:

— The Giants were ahead of the Eagles 21-10 in the fourth quarter and lost in Week 7. The Giants where ahead of the Bucs 17-15 in the fourth quarter and lost in Week 8. Blowing leads is not a good thing to have on a defensive coordinator’s resume. This should not stick to Patrick Graham, though. He is doing an excellent job mixing and matching his players, shuffling packages on and off the field, getting pressure despite not having a dominating pass rusher, getting coverage despite a glaring deficiency at the No. 2 cornerback spot. “In my opinion, Pat Graham is one of the best defensive coordinators out there,” linebacker Blake Martinez said. “His ability to design a game and understand and adjust throughout the game has been amazing throughout the whole season.” Graham had Tom Brady confused in the first half, which is an accomplishment.

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— The Giants are succeeding at a difficult assignment: Mixing in young offensive linemen during the flow of the game. Rookie Matt Peart got 24 snaps (out of 74) at right tackle, replacing veteran Cam Fleming for a few series. This is valuable experience for Peart, the third-round pick from UConn. Another rookie, Shane Lemieux, made his NFL starting debut, replacing Will Hernandez (reserve/COVID-19 list) and played all 74 snaps. Along with Andrew Thomas at left tackle, the Giants at times had three rookie offensive linemen on the field. The last time the Giants had three rookie offensive linemen start at least one game in the same season was 2003 (David Diehl, Wayne Lucifer and Jeff Roehl). The best moment for the youngsters: Wayne Gallman’s 2-yard touchdown run, with Thomas and Lemieux plowing ahead to allow Gallman to ease his way into the end zone.

— As for Gallman, is anyone else out there a bit frustrated and confused why he does not get the ball more often? With Devonta Freeman (ankle) out, Gallman started but was only on the field 43 percent of the offensive snaps. He ran the ball 12 times for 44 yards. Alfred Morris, the 31-year old veteran elevated off the practice squad, got eight rushing attempts and gained 28 yards. Sure, Gallman received more of the workload but perhaps not enough of it.

— How is this for production? Rookie outside linebacker Carter Coughlin got on the field for four defensive snaps. He came away with his first NFL sack, always a big deal. Some deals are bigger than others. Coughlin got future Hall of Famer Brady to the ground. Brady is 43. Coughlin is 23. One to remember, for sure.
 
 
 
 

 

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Giants unexpectedly fire offensive line coach Marc Colombo, replace him with Dave DeGuglielmo, per report

The former Cowboys and Giants OL coach is now seeking a new job

Patrik Walker
 
 
14 mins ago2 min read
 
 
 
 
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Corey Perrine / Contributor

Things haven't gone as planned for Joe Judge in his inaugural season as the New York Giants head coach, and one of his position coaches just paid the price for it, albeit with curious timing. The team hired Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator this offseason after his divorce from the Dallas Cowboys, and the move suctioned in former Cowboys offensive line coach Marc Colombo -- the latter having been let go due to Mike McCarthy's want of longtime friend Joe Philbin. After a slow start to the year by a mostly talentless offensive front, the Giants o-line showed signs of improvement over the last three games and that culminated in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 10.

Three days later, Colombo has reportedly been fired by Judge, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, ending a very abbreviated 10-game stretch in New York. He will be replaced by longtime NFL assistant Dave DeGuglielmo, who has history with Judge from their time together with the New England Patriots

The move on Colombo is one that's being met with a level of surprise around the league, considering both the short stay and the fact it comes after improvement on the o-line, but the latter is being attributed to more involvement by Judge, per Mike Garofolo of NFL Network. Garafolo reported that Judge had been working more closely with the offensive line in recent weeks and it has coincided with the improvement from the Giants up front. 

If true, it would at least stand to reason Judge might feel he no longer requires the services of Colombo, and would instead prefer to remain keenly involved but, going forward, with someone he's much more comfortable with. There's another twist to the tale, however, with additional reports stating Judge wanted DeGuglielmo to work alongside Colombo, but the latter's reaction to the idea led to the split.

In other words, Colombo allegedly felt it was an insult, and didn't take it well.

That of course now shifts comfort away from Garrett -- at least while he acclimates to his new position coach -- having spent several seasons with Colombo in Dallas, which included promoting him from OL assistant coach in the wake of firing Paul Alexander midway through the 2018 season. Colombo landed a contract extension for the cleanup he did post-Alexander, but was jettisoned then for a familiar face to the incoming head coach, and has now again suffered that fate in short order. A former first-round pick of the Chicago Bears, Colombo played several seasons in the NFL -- including for the Cowboys -- before entering the coaching ranks as an assistant OL coach in Dallas in 2016.

 

He remains one of the most respected position coaches in the NFL, and it's expected he'll land on his feet fairly quickly, even if it's not until the offseason when teams begin their mission to improve for 2021.

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For everyone’s sake, Joe Judge must sit Daniel Jones this week

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |
DEC 15, 2020 AT 6:00 AM
 
 
 
 

Daniel Jones shouldn’t play Sunday night against the Cleveland Browns.

Jones has a hamstring strain and appears to be dealing with another injury coming out of Sunday’s lifeless offensive performance in a 26-7 loss to the Cardinals.

A cryptic Joe Judge wasn’t sure Monday if Jones had received a postgame X-ray. The coach only assured: “I can tell you there’s no broken bones or anything of that nature,”

But that’s hardly encouraging, especially after Jones was a liability on the field Sunday.

 
 

He held the ball too long, couldn’t run, fumbled three times, didn’t see open receivers, and hindered the Giants’ ability to win despite his good intentions.

So Joe Judge has to sit Jones against Cleveland, for the team’s sake and for Jones’ sake.

 
 

It should be Colt McCoy’s ball against Baker Mayfield’s Browns while Jones rests up.

Playing McCoy would sacrifice explosiveness in the passing game, sure, but it also would allow Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to craft and execute a conservative yet clear and defined game plan.

Jones’ impaired health and subpar performance created an element of play-by-play uncertainty on Sunday against the Cardinals. It didn’t fit into the Giants’ disciplined recipe for their preceding four-game winning streak:

Run the ball, eat clock, win the field position battle, and play tough defense.

The Giants did only one of those four on Sunday against Arizona, courtesy of their defense, with a hobbled Jones at QB.

Jones was clearly hampered in the pocket in an ugly loss Sunday.
Jones was clearly hampered in the pocket in an ugly loss Sunday. (Adam Hunger/AP)

With McCoy, they can commit to a similar blueprint that helped them upset the Seahawks in Seattle, 17-12, in Week 13.

McCoy is a detailed-oriented veteran bordering on perfectionist who could help the run game return to its prior efficiency, allow Garrett to move the pocket, and take a shot downfield here and there.

Not to mention, it seems like a bad idea to let an immobile Jones drop back to pass with Browns terror Myles Garrett taking on a Giants offensive line that allowed eight sacks to the Cardinals.

Jones moved a little bit early on against the Cardinals, including one rollout right, but he couldn’t escape when pressured nor open up his hamstring and take off. McCoy is mobile enough to allow the Giants to slide the pocket and count on him to create at times if necessary.

Granted the Giants (5-8) are in a tight NFC East race right behind Washington (6-7). They need Jones to be healthy, however, or he won’t help them optimally execute their plan to win.

What they should have done was keep him out a second straight game on Sunday after holding him out in Seattle. Unfortunately, he played and now he could be worse for wear.

So it’s time to shelve him until he heals, even if it’s for two weeks against the Browns and Ravens to be ready for a possible division-defining finale against the Dallas Cowboys.

Surprisingly, Judge doubled down Monday on having “no regrets” about playing Jones on Sunday, citing the many doctors, coaches, scenarios and conversations that went into ensuring Jones was healthy enough to play.

The Giants’ head coach also said that “if Daniel’s healthy to play and he looked the way he did in practice last week, I’d have no hesitation playing Daniel at all” against Cleveland.

“We made our calculation. We have a lot of confidence in Colt. This has nothing to do with Colt,” Judge said. “But there’s also a commitment we’ve made to Daniel as our quarterback and how we’re running this offense.”

Judge reiterated that the Giants knew Jones would be limited and relegated to the pocket going in. And he stressed it was on the coaching staff to create an offense around whatever personnel is on the field.

“In terms of how we call or structure the game plan, that’s on us as coaches,” Judge said. “To make sure we’re inventive enough and creative enough to put ourselves in situations that if we’re limited with any player in a certain something they can do physically, then we have to give them another option.”

Judge said the Cardinals played well on defense Sunday and that several of their sacks were “coverage sacks,” where “they were good in coverage, we blocked for a long time and Daniel wasn’t gonna pull the ball and run.”

He said he spoke to Jones on Monday morning and the quarterback “assured us he came out with the hamstring really the same as he went in, felt good through the flow of the game.”

Judge said he hadn’t spoken to Jones about anything other than the hamstring, and noted that Jones was due to see the Giants’ doctors later Monday afternoon.

So the coach said “the biggest meeting” he’ll have with the medical staff will come on Tuesday “when (players) are about 48 hours outside the game.

“That’ll kind of tell us in terms of going through the week who we can plan on practicing, managing, having for the game and things of that nature,” Judge said.

Knowing Jones, he undoubtedly wants to power through and play. But he has to consider the consequences both short- and long-term. And frankly, he should have faith in his teammates holding the fort while he rests up.

Washington easily could lose to Seattle this week, especially if Dwayne Haskins has to make his first start since Week 4. The Eagles (4-8-1) will find tough sledding with rookie Jalen Hurts taking on Kyle Murray and the Cardinals at Arizona. And the Cowboys (4-9) still aren’t scaring anyone preparing to take on the 49ers.

McCoy also has helped the Giants win one game. There is still time for Jones to help make this Giants season special, but only if he’s healthy enough to help.

Sitting him on Sunday is the only move.

 
 
 
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Giants report card: This is getting ridiculous

December 21, 2020 | 12:36am | Updated

 

Offense

This is getting ridiculous. This team cannot score. How about a touchdown, guys? Colt McCoy (19 of 31, 221 yards) does not have enough zip on the ball. He had Evan Engram for a touchdown in the first quarter and did not get enough on the throw. This is hardly all on McCoy, though. The receivers do not make enough plays, pure and simple. Wayne Gallman (9-29) had it going a bit in the first half but then was a forgotten man. McCoy usually had enough time but too often found no one open. Right tackle Cam Fleming was called for a holding penalty trying to stop Olivier Vernon. Darius Slayton had a horrendous drop in the fourth quarter. At least Andrew Thomas did not allow a sack by Myles Garrett until the closing seconds.

Grade: F

Defense

Not terrible work at all against the Browns’ tough ground game (only 106 rushing yards) and Nick Chubb (15-50) and Kareem Hunt (7-21) did not go off. Baker Mayfield had an easy time picking apart the secondary, completing 27 of 32 passes for 297 yards. He probably barely broke a sweat. LB Devante Downs was lost in space allowing TE Austin Hooper to run wide open on a 2-yard TD reception in the second quarter. Jarvis Landry (7-61) got a step on Isaac Yiadom in the end zone. Dexter Lawrence got a big pass deflection with his right hand on fourth down in the fourth quarter and got the only sack of Mayfield. Safeties Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan could not confuse Mayfield in the least and Julian Love and Xavier McKinney filling in for James Bradberry were not strong in coverage.

Grade: C

 

 

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Special Teams

Dion Lewis started the game off with a rugged 48-yard kickoff return. He later nearly lost another fumble and that is worrisome. If punter Riley Dixon chooses a different target (other than center Nick Gates) on the fake field-goal pass it might have worked. Graham Gano hit field goals of 37 and 39 yards and now has hit 27 consecutive kicks. The coverage units were better than they have been the past three games.

Grade: B

Coaching

Joe Judge not taking points in the first half was troubling. That first-quarter fake field goal thing Judge signaled in? Didn’t like it. Did not have a problem with him going for it on fourth down on the Cleveland 5-yard line. Good move by Judge applying a 15-yard penalty on an extra-point try, which was missed. Freddie Kitchens was the play-caller for Jason Garrett (COVID-19) and did not stick with the run enough in the first half. Whoever is calling the plays or working with the offense has to figure out a way to get more points on the board. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham stayed in a zone in the secondary and it was picked apart time and again.

Grade: D
 
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Giants’ Dalvin Tomlinson decision will speak volumes

February 22, 2021 | 9:42pm | Updated

 
 

The best teams, the most successful franchises, draft wisely, develop soundly and re-sign diligently.

The Giants for far too long have not been one of the best teams. They have been one of the worst teams. This brings us to what happens next with Dalvin Tomlinson.

The entire future of the franchise does not hinge on whether Tomlinson returns for a fifth season or moves on to another team. He is not a transcendent talent capable of determining the fate of a team. What Tomlinson is, without debate, is a rock-solid player and person, uber-dependable and durable, hard-working and professional, quiet yet forceful, the respect for him manifested in his selection as a team captain. An unflashy, effective defensive tackle, a linchpin of a Giants defense that in 2020 finished 10th in the league against the run, allowing only 111.4 rushing yards per game.

This is a player who wants to return, even after four years of losing, sensing a turnaround is coming.

The question: Can the Giants afford to pay Tomlinson the $10 million per year, or more, he would command on the open market in free agency while also re-signing linemate Leonard Williams to a multiyear deal averaging at least $18 million per season?

Another question: Can the Giants afford not to bring Tomlinson back?

Dalvin Tomlinson’s contract status is a hot topic this Giants offseason. Robert Sabo

In many ways, what Joe Judge is preaching and building almost necessitates keeping Tomlinson. The big man has never missed a game in his four-year career, never created a hint of controversy and sacrifices on the field, taking on double-team blocks to help free up teammates to make plays. Ask inside linebacker Blake Martinez how many of his team-high 140 tackles in his first year with the Giants were aided and abetted by Tomlinson’s dirty work at the line of scrimmage.

Ask members of the secondary to gauge Tomlinson’s value. His 49 total tackles and career-highs in tackles for loss (eight) and quarterback hits (10) plus his 3.5 sacks only tell part of the tale

 
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“I think Dalvin is having as good of a year as anybody on our defense,” safety Logan Ryan said late last season. “Leonard’s having a great year statistically, but Dalvin is having a better year for our team and what we ask him to do.”

If Tomlinson leaves it will continue a disturbing trend — a trend Judge has said he is determined to stop.

There was a long span when the Giants often had the golden touch with their second-round draft picks. Michael Strahan. Amani Toomer. Tiki Barber. Without Osi Umenyiora, Chris Snee and Corey Webster, there would not be the two newest Lombardi trophies in the glass-enclosed case. The failure to keep and, in more cases, to develop their second-round picks has severely compromised the Giants’ chances for success.

In December 2008, the Giants gave Webster, a reliable cornerback, a five-year contract extension. In the next 10 drafts, the Giants’ second round pick did not receive a multiyear contract extension. That is abysmal. In some cases, injuries (Steve Smith, Terrell Thomas) ruined careers. There were a slew of unproductive players taken in the second round. When there were big hits (Linval Joseph, Landon Collins), the decision was made not to ante up with a lucrative deal. The ruinous streak ended when Sterling Shepard signed a four-year extension in April 2019.

What message does Judge send to his players if Tomlinson, a player who did everything right in order to stay, ends up leavi

 
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Tuesday is the first day teams can place franchise or transition tags on players, a period ending March 9. Putting the franchise tag on Tomlinson is a way of making sure he plays for the Giants this season but most likely does not make financial sense. Based on a salary cap of $180 million, the tag for defensive tackles is expected to cost around $14 million. That would be more costly on the 2021 cap than any long-term deal for Tomlinson.

Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham was the Giants defensive line coach in 2017 when Tomlinson was a rookie and said the success of the defensive line this past season was “a direct correlation to his leadership and what he does on that field, regardless of statistics or what have you.”

The Giants will have to consider this, and their unsightly record in re-signing their own second-round picks, when it comes time to make the call on Tomlinson.

 

 

 

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Giants fortify pass rush with free agent Ifeadi Odenigbo

March 17, 2021 | 10:04pm

 
 

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The Giants on Wednesday made a move to bolster their pass rush, signing Ifeadi Odenigbo to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million.

Odenigbo, 26, is a 6-foot-3, 258-pound defensive end who has 10.5 career sacks — all in the past two seasons. He had seven sacks for the Vikings in 2019 as a situational pass-rusher. His first career sack, in Week 5 that season, came against Daniel Jones and the Giants at MetLife Stadium.

Given a starting job in 2020, he had just 3.5 sacks in 15 starts — though he did have a career-high 15 quarterback hits. He was born in Bayonne, N.J., went to high school in Ohio and played college ball at Northwestern.

The Vikings decided not to tender Odenigbo, a restricted free agent. He was a 2017 seventh-round draft pick by Minnesota. He had brief stays with the Browns and Cardinals before returning to the Vikings.

 

This signing fits with what the Giants are likely to continue to pursue in free agency — young, healthy players with upside who they believe can fit well in their scheme.

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Joe Judge assembling unprecedented Giants coaching staff

April 12, 2021 | 5:51pm | Updated

 

 

If bigger is better, the Giants are going to be an exquisitely coached team this season.

Joe Judge has assembled the largest coaching staff in Giants franchise history and what, unofficially, is believed to be the largest football staff in the NFL heading into the 2021 season. Including Judge, there are 25 designated spots on this staff, and this does not include strength and conditioning personnel. Nor does it include Pat Flaherty, a former Giants offensive line coach, hired by Judge as a consultant.

In Judge’s first year, the Giants coaching staff consisted of 22 members. He added for this season one additional offensive quality control position, one additional defensive quality control position and a Chief of Staff.

By contrast, the Giants had an 18-man staff in 2019 under Pat Shurmur.

 

 

Around the league, the Buccaneers, 49ers, Jaguars and Jets have 24 filled positions on their coaching staffs. In the NFC East, the Eagles and Washington both are at 22 and the Cowboys are at 19. The smallest coaching staffs (18) in the NFL belong to the Vikings and Steelers. The Patriots list 20 on their coaching staff, but Bill Belichick is notorious for stashing untitled assistants.

For Judge this season, there are the three (offense, defense, special teams) coordinators. There are the standard five position coaches on offense and three on defense. There is one assistant position coach on offense (Ben Wilkerson, offensive line) and two on defense (Anthony Blevins, linebackers and special teams and Michael Treier, defensive backs). There are (and this is a bit unusual) two quality control coaches on offense and two more on defense. Often, teams have one quality control coach on each side of the ball.

It is no wonder Judge saw the need to create a new position — Chief of Staff — which he filled with Ryan Hollern.

Judge clearly prefers a big staff, and was given permission to add salaries to the budget, assuring ownership all the hires have legitimate responsibilities.

 

There is continuity, as Jason Garrett returns to run the offense and Thomas McGaughey is back as special teams coordinator. That Patrick Graham, who attracted some interest in this most recent head coaching hiring cycle, took his name off the candidate lists and is back as the defensive coordinator is a boon to Judge and the Giants.

Judge’s first season as a head coach included turbulence with the offensive line teaching, as Marc Colombo was fired after an ugly confrontation with Judge at the bye week. Judge brought in Dave DeGuglielmo to coach the offensive line for the final six games, but that was merely a temporary fix.

Judge knew finding a capable replacement was vital, as he has a young offensive line. He said he talked to “probably over 25 coaches personally, our staff researched an additional probably 15-20.’’ The winner of that search was Rob Sale, who has 14 years of college coaching experience but none at the NFL level.

What Sale does have is a résumé connection with Judge, and that is a strong indicator as to the Giants’ staff makeup. Sale’s coaching career started as a strength and conditioning assistant and offensive analyst at Alabama. It was in Tuscaloosa where he met Judge, a football analyst/special teams assistant from 2009-11.

There are nine assistants on Judge’s Giants staff linked to those three years at Alabama, working for Nick Saban.

On offense, in addition to Sale, Burton Burns (running backs), Russ Callaway (quality control), Nick Williams (quality control) and Jody Wright (general assistant) all crossed paths with Judge at Alabama. On defense, Carter Blount (quality control), Jeremy Pruitt (senior defensive assistant) and Kevin Sherrer (linebackers) were on Saban’s Alabama staff with Judge. Amos Jones, the special projects and situations assistant, was also with Judge at Alabama.

 

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There are other connections on Judge’s staff. Three of his assistants (Freddie Kitchens, Blevins, Hollern) were with Judge at Mississippi State, where Judge was a player and later a young member of the Bulldogs coaching staff. Two of Judge’s assistants (Graham and quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski) were with Judge on Bill Belichick’s Patriots staff.

And so, 14 of the 24 members of the staff have direct past ties to Judge. Williams actually has two ties to Judge. He was a wide receiver at Alabama when Judge was an assistant, at the same time Williams’ father, Bobby, was on Saban’s staff with Judge.

Kitchens, after an ill-fated and brief run as the Browns head coach, was bumped up by Judge, moving from tight ends coach to senior offensive assistant. “Helping bring together the game planning, like all of our coaches will, but working directly with Jason [Garrett] with some of the things that are going to happen up front,’’ Judge said. There is much work to be done. Judge will have plenty of help.

 
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New York Giants' overhaul: Inside their 'astonishing' 16-month makeover

 
 
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    Jordan RaananESPN Staff Writer

 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Finally, the optimism seems warranted for the New York Giants. One look at their roster and it is apparent there is more talent from top to bottom than there has been since the 2016 season.

The upgrade can be credited to an overhaul during the past 16 months that has transformed them from barren to plentiful. The depth chart when coach Joe Judge arrived on Jan. 8, 2020 was scary, and not in a good way.

 

That is an indictment of general manager Dave Gettleman's progress until Judge was hired. Since then, they have worked together to stockpile quality talent, producing a roster that finally seems to have realistic potential.

"It's actually pretty astonishing ... seeing how much improved that roster is," said a personnel executive with a team that made the playoffs last season. "They have nice depth."

That comment came after the exec was given a comparison of the Giants' personnel at each position group from the day Judge was hired to now, which we will detail below. This offseason alone, the Giants added wide receivers Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and John Ross, tight end Kyle Rudolph, defensive lineman Danny Shelton, edge rusher Azeez Ojulari and cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson and Aaron Robinson. Their most significant losses were guard Kevin Zeitler and defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson.

"We've had a good roster-building season," Gettleman said. "We've added playmakers. We've added pass-rushers. We added corners. We feel good about what we've done."

With insight from the personnel executive and ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum (a former NFL GM), here is a position-by-position look at the Giants' roster when Judge arrived compared to now:

Quarterback

Current: Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon, Clayton Thorson, Joe Webb

Jan. 8, 2020: Jones, Eli Manning, Alex Tanney

The group that finished the 2019 season had better depth, but as Tannenbaum notes, this should be a better and more experienced version of Jones. And Manning, who spent most of the 2019 season as a $17 million backup, was about to retire.

Thoughts about the Giants' current QBs will change if Jones makes the jump the Giants, Tannenbaum and the executive all expect of him this season.

"That can quickly be fixed by Daniel Jones becoming a legitimate starter this year and getting over the hump," the executive said. "Good chance."

Running back

Current: Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Gary Brightwell

Jan. 8, 2020: Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Buck Allen

There doesn't seem to be much hesitation from the executives in predicting Barkley bounces back from a serious knee injury. They also agree Booker is more dynamic and versatile than Gallman.

"He is one of these underutilized players who always maximized his opportunities," Tannenbaum said of Booker.

That makes the current group slightly better. Brightwell is also highly thought of because of his special-teams ability compared to Allen.

Fullback

Current: Eli Penny, Cullen Gillaspia

Jan. 8, 2020: Penny

Gillaspia was claimed off waivers this offseason because of his ability on special teams, an area the Giants put extra emphasis on this offseason.

Penny also brings value in that regard. He finished second on the team last season with seven tackles on special teams and catches the ball well out of the backfield, if the Giants ever choose to call his number.

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Wide receiver

Current: Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Toney, Ross, Dante Pettis, C.J. Board, Austin Mack

Jan. 8, 2020: Golden Tate, Shepard, Slayton, Cody Latimer, Corey Coleman, Da'Mari Scott, Russell Shepard, Cody Core

The current group represents arguably the biggest upgrade of any position.

"It's dramatically better now," Tannenbaum said.

In the final game of the 2019 season, Scott and Latimer started in a three-wide-receiver set along with Shepard. Neither is still in the league.

This year's group is talented, deep and has a little bit of everything.

"The depth and the versatility of the group and the way the skill sets complement each other is the difference," the executive said. "You’ve got your speed guy in Slayton, Golladay, who is your contested-catch specialist, Sterling Shepard keeps the chains moving, and you have an offensive weapon in Toney and you're taking a flier on John Ross who is a legitimate speed guy. And same with Pettis."

The executive thought Pettis had a legit chance to be a starter after his rookie season in San Francisco. It's conceivable he's the Giants' sixth wide receiver entering training camp.

Tight end

Current: Evan Engram, Rudolph, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo

Jan. 8, 2020: Engram, Smith, Garrett Dickerson, Ellison, Scott Simonson

 

 

Judge said the Giants wanted improvement at every position, and they now have four established tight ends.

"By adding competition, one of two things happen: You either bring someone in who [helps] you improve because they are good enough to take someone else's job, or you bring someone in who pushes the guys in front of him to keep their job, and either way you get a raised level of play," Judge said.

This is part of the thought-process with Engram -- hope his game elevates in a crowded room.

So, which group is better? From the 2019 roster, only Engram and Smith remain in the NFL, and the executive considers the current group significantly better after adding Rudolph as an in-line player who can block and make contested catches. He raved about his hands.

Tannenbaum was less impressed: "What's left with Rudolph? If he's healthy, they're better. But that is a wait and see."

Offensive line

Current: Andrew Thomas, Will Hernandez or Zach Fulton, Nick Gates, Shane Lemieux, Matt Peart or Nate Solder, Jonotthan Harrison, Chad Slade, Kyle Murphy

Jan. 8, 2020: Solder, Hernandez, Jon Halapio, Zeitler, Mike Remmers or Gates, Slade, Spencer Pulley, Eric Smith

This is where the opinions varied. The executive seems to share the Giants' optimism about this year's young group.

"Definitely better," he said. "They have an up-and-coming left tackle [Thomas] who played more consistently down the stretch [last season]. At least they have an insurance policy behind Will Hernandez. Gates has transitioned nicely to the center spot. There is a young guard [Lemieux] they seem to like and he'll be able to [focus] on one position all offseason, which is important for him. And a young right tackle prospect [Peart] they seem to be fond of and a former starter [in Solder].”

Tannenbaum also is optimistic, even if he thinks the group from the 2019 season was better.

"Solder has played better than Andrew Thomas. And I'm a Zeitler fan," he said. "This offensive line has a chance to be good if Peart develops. I loved Andrew Thomas coming out, but he has to play better. They have a chance to be good, but on paper, I'd take Zeitler and a healthy, younger Solder.”

Defensive line

Current: Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Shelton, Austin Johnson, B.J. Hill, RJ McIntosh

Jan. 8, 2020: Williams, Lawrence, Tomlinson, Hill, McIntosh, Chris Slayton

This is the one area where the Giants clearly are not better. They lost Tomlinson in free agency this offseason because they wanted to move that money to a different position group. The current group might be deeper now, but it's not as good.

"I don't think you're disappointed with [the current group]," the executive said. "Good unit still. But you had three frontline starters with Dalvin."

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Outside linebacker

Current: Ojulari, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Elerson Smith, Ryan Anderson, Carter Coughlin, Cam Brown

Jan. 8, 2020: Markus Golden, Ximines, Carter, Kareem Martin, Chris Peace

Tannenbaum and the executive were in agreement that this unit has improved and has depth. Both are high on Ojulari, confident he's more talented than anything New York had when Judge arrived.

"I thought Ojulari was a [first-round pick]," Tannenbaum said. "He was different than [Kwity] Paye. He was a better space athlete. He was twitchy, good lower-body flexibility and he can drop in coverage."

The executive says Ojulari has the ability to become the frontline player the Giants were missing. He also noted Carter and Ximines can play the rotational roles that suit them.

Inside linebacker

Current: Blake Martinez, Reggie Ragland, Tae Crowder, Devante Downs, TJ Brunson

Jan. 8, 2020: Alec Ogletree, David Mayo, Deone Bucannon, Ryan Connelly, Josiah Taueafa

No need to spend much time on this one. Martinez is the only high-level starter on either list because Ogletree was done by the start of the 2020 season and about to be released.

"Martinez is a really, really good player," Tannenbaum said.

The executive sees reason for optimism beyond Martinez: "Crowder came on and played some nice ball for them," he said. "Ragland has starting experience."

Cornerbacks

Current: James Bradberry, Jackson, Darnay Holmes, Robinson, Isaac Yiadom, Rodarius Williams, Sam Beal, Madre Harper

Jan. 8, 2020: Deandre Baker, Antonio Hamilton, Grant Haley, Corey Ballentine, Beal

Poor James Bettcher. This exercise also serves as a scary reminder of what the former coordinator was working with at the end of his Giants' tenure. They were awful at cornerback, really bad at inside linebacker and extremely thin at outside linebacker.

They have invested heavily at cornerback since, signing Bradberry and Jackson to be the starters and drafting Holmes and Robinson in the middle rounds to man the slot.

"Frontline starters and the depth is better," the executive said, before adding that when opposing teams came into games last season, the plan was to throw at Yiadom or whomever was the CB2 that week.

Can't do that anymore. Now Yiadom is a backup fighting for a roster spot instead of a starter and a weekly target for opposing quarterbacks.

The Giants have a lot riding on Jackson. He's "a really, really good athlete ... if healthy," Tannenbaum said.

Safeties

Current: Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, Xavier McKinney, Julian Love, Nate Ebner

Jan. 8, 2020: Peppers, Antoine Bethea, Mike Thomas, Love, Sean Chandler, Rashaan Gaulden

The previous group had Bethea on the verge of retirement and really had no chance behind those cornerbacks. This year's class has three potential starters.

"McKinney, they'll have a role for him," the executive said. "They did a nice job with Logan Ryan last year and they cater to Peppers' strengths."

Tannenbaum says McKinney will be a good player if he can remain healthy.

Ebner is included here even though he is unsigned, because the expectation is the special-teams ace will re-sign this summer after fulfilling his USA rugby duties and potentially playing in the Olympics.

 
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Playing Saquon Barkley in the preseason would be folly for Giants

August 9, 2021 | 6:42pm | Updated

 
 

With each step now, with each cut now, with each wheel route he runs now, with each passing day now, the sight of Saquon Barkley looking more and more like Saquon Barkley, feeling more and more like Saquon Barkley, makes the hearts of Giants race and sing.

When there is a bounce in No. 26’s step, there is a bounce in every Giants’ step.

They are all sick and tired of the agony of defeat, from the owners on down, and it is a triumphant return to the playing field by Saquon Barkley nearly one year after his devastating torn ACL that will send a jolt of electricity through the entire organization.

Removed from the PUP list at last, a grueling rehab still in progress, the Giants can suddenly dream the sweet dream of getting their dawg back on the field for Week 1. And Barkley can dream now, too. “You’re definitely hopeful,” he said.

On a hopeful Monday afternoon: One small step for Saquon, one giant leap for Giantkind … eventually.

As desperate and as famished as the Giants are to make their fans proud again, to be Giants again, they will continue to err on the side of precaution and do right by their franchise running back, and no one will complain.

The Giants, common sense would tell you, aren’t interested in any fleeting Willis Reed moment of inspiration.

Saquon Barkley told the media Monday he would be comfortable going into the season without preseason action. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

They’re interested in Barkley chasing the “gold jacket” career that GM Dave Gettleman envisioned when he stiff-armed the analytics crowd and made Barkley the second-overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.

It is why they must keep him in mothballs until the games begin to count … or until the designated time when Barkley no longer has to be protected from himself.

Judge was asked if he would be all right playing Barkley in a preseason game.

“Theoretically, yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I am, absolutely.”

Judge referenced his time in New England and added: “And to be honest with you, I’ve had experience with this. Look, there was a day I had to walk in and tell Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas and Julian Edelman, ‘Hey, all three of you are going to play against the Giants in preseason Game 4 because you haven’t done anything competitively in training camp.’ ”

 

I believe that when push comes to shove, Judge will say to hell with that theory.

Rams head coach Sean McVay said a couple of days ago that there is “zero chance” his new quarterback, Marthew Stafford, will play in the preseason. Bingo!

“The thing is, before you get hit in the first game at full speed when the speed does elevate, we want to go out there and just get you used to the tempo of the game, the pace of the game. Get you a catch, get you hit, get the feel of being tackled,” Judge said. “So, am I looking to put Saquon into something that’s not going to be in his best interest? Absolutely not, but at some point the doctors say, ‘He’s ready to play,’ and if we have the opportunity to get him in at a certain point, we will. But I’m not going to press that timetable.”

Good. It would be folly to press it. Barkley is the franchise’s crown jewel, franchise face and invaluable investment, and Judge and everybody else knows it.

Barkley himself conceded that he would be comfortable for Week 1 without any preseason action. There were no preseason games in 2020, of course.

Daniel Jones throws to Saquon Barkley at training camp Monday. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“The year before that, I don’t think I played in one,” he said. “My rookie year I played in one, had like two carries. So I wouldn’t really be worried about that if I didn’t play preseason because I know that the coaches and the training staff and the strength staff wouldn’t let me out there if I didn’t show ’em something that I’m capable of going out there and, one, keep myself safe, and also go out there and compete at a high level for my teammates.”

Judge is smart enough to simulate practices enough to prime Barkley for the real thing.

“One thing about me, I’m all for whatever’s gonna help the team win,” Barkley said. “If they feel that’s what I need to do to get myself back for whenever I’m able to come back for my team, I’m willing to do that.”

He trusts Judge and the medical men and the strength and conditioning staff implicitly. Does he think he can be ready for Game 1?

“I don’t know,” Barkley said. “Obviously you guys know how I am as a competitor. I’m pretty sure you guys know what my thought process is, but at the same time, I’m very fortunate to play for an unbelievable coach and an unbelievable organization that is actually thinking about me and thinking about the rest of my career and the longevity of my career, and don’t feel forced.”

Saquon Barkley cutting without a knee brace Monday. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

He wore white leggings over those freakish Saquads and moved well at his customary 230 pounds. You couldn’t tell that he underwent surgery less than 10 months ago. But he’s not in football shape yet and he’s not as confident in his right knee — no brace — as he will be.

He has been champing at the bit to fight alongside his brothers. And happy to run laps and do push-ups with them as a team leader following the infamous team brawl.

“I do believe we will have a very special year,” Barkley said. “I think that’s one of the things we’re gonna be able to point back to, I’d say that really helped bring us together.”

Barkley in his blue No. 26 jersey was a sight for sore Giant eyes. He joked that he felt like a rookie again. They busted his chops. Barkley, with a big smile: “ ‘Whoa, who’s that?’ Shaking my hand, introducing themselves.”

He needs no introduction. Only the football, and not before the games start to count. 

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Three Giants’ issues to watch in preseason game vs. Browns

August 22, 2021 2:29am

 

 

Here are three Giants’ issues to watch for in Sunday’s preseason game against the Browns.

1. Better to receive

There are not many open spots on the roster — figure maybe 8-10 at this point — and the wide receiver position has at least one of those openings. Sterling Shepard, Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Darius Slayton are set. David Sills shows plenty in practice as a pass catcher, but needs to show more in games. Plus, C.J. Board’s abilities on special teams give him an edge. The hamstring injury to John Ross hurts the speedster, but does not disqualify him.

2. Try not to be offensive

Daniel Jones is once again expected to sit this one out — he will start and will get a heavy workload in Game 3 — but the starting offensive line could get some snaps. That would be a good thing for backup QB Mike Glennon, as the state of the second-team offensive line is grim. Newly acquired Brian Lewerke does not know the entire system, but he is going to have to get some playing time. Do not anticipate a bust-out scoring spree from the Giants.

 
 

 

 
 

3. Corner the market

Some years, the Giants have not had enough NFL-caliber cornerbacks to put on their final roster. This year, they will be cutting corners who can play in the league — the way a team wants it to be. Rookie Rodarius Williams has shown enough to warrant strong consideration. Sam Beal has not, unless you are talking about the practice squad. There will be some tough calls, with Madre Harper and newcomers Josh Jackson and Keion Crossen trying to squeeze onto the roster.

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It’s already a ‘long season’ for the Giants

September 13, 2021 11:40am
 
 

It is late early for the Giants.

Really and truly.

“We wake up (Monday), it’s already Thursday of the game week for us because we have a short week,” Joe Judge said not long after a terrible season-opener for the Giants.

Yup, it is Monday on the calendar but already Thursday (in a normal week when they play on Sunday) in the hearts and minds and practice schedule of the Giants. They have an extremely early quick turnaround, as they get their first road game of the season, Thursday night in Washington, in a “battle” of 0-1 teams in the NFC East. Essentially, the Giants get one full day to practice for this game — Tuesday — and they hit the rails for a Wednesday afternoon chartered train ride to Washington.

This is good. They did not get beat up badly — at least not physically — in their 27-13 loss to the Broncos and bodies are fresher now than they would be if the Thursday night game came a month or two from now. Plus, ridding their minds as soon as possible of how crummy they played, on offense and defense, in the 2021 opener is a positive development.

Giants Joe Judge

“We get to play some football again,” safety Logan Ryan said. “It’s honestly a positive after a loss. You have to play quicker and we’re excited for it. 

“We have work to do, but listen, man, this team is together, you don’t have to worry about that. Unfortunately, we’ve been here before, but it’s just one week in a season. It really doesn’t define you. What we do this next game is going to be more of a defining factor in how we respond. I encourage everyone to tune in, be excited and put work in. I won’t see my wife and kids as much as I want to this week. We have put it in on a short week, but she’ll understand.”

 

There is not a whole lot of understanding with the Giants nowadays, as their fan base dared to get excited for a new season and then got slapped into reality as the Broncos did whatever they pleased for three hours at MetLife Stadium. It is impossible to take the Giants seriously when they continue to lose so often.

Head coach Joe Judge afterward said, “It’s a long season … we literally have an entire season ahead of us, okay. Any other year, it was 16 games, we have 16 games ahead of us that we have to improve week by week and keep climbing.”

This is true, but also daunting. “Long season” often correlates to “bad season” and it is already a long season for the Giants, who get no benefit of the doubt until they show the only tangible results that matter: Winning games.

More that came out of the fifth consecutive season-opening loss for the Giants:

Look on the bright side

It is not a stretch to suggest the only positive to come out of this mess was that Saquon Barkley returned and appeared to get out of the game unscathed.  

All that pre-game speculation that Barkley would not be on a predetermined snap count limit? Of course that was nonsense. The Giants were not going to give their franchise running back a full load in his first game back off ACL surgery. He played almost half (48 percent) of the 61 offensive snaps — 29 to be exact. The first play of the 2021 season was a handoff to Barkley and he gained 5 yards, a promising start. It turned out to be his longest run of the day. He finished with 10 rushing attempts and 26 yards. He was targeted three times in the passing game and had one reception for 1 yard. He dropped one pass, and on his one and only catch on a screen, he stumbled a bit and had trouble keeping his footing.

Giants Saquon Barkley

“I made the first guy miss but I’ve got to find a way to stay on my feet,” Barkley said. “I don’t think that’s any indicator of my knee or anything like that. I guess that could be part of rust or probably overthinking it, so I don’t want to do either. I don’t want to overthink it. If it’s part of rust, let it be.”

New guy report

So, how did the new playmakers — they all missed significant time this summer dealing with physical issues — do in their Giants debuts?

Let’s start with Kadarius Toney. He only played five snaps in his NFL debut. It is even less conspicuous than that, as he was on the field for only two snaps in the first three quarters and got three snaps on the late garbage-time touchdown drive. What a letdown. He had two receptions for minus-2 yards.

“We did want to keep in mind that this was his first game back,” Judge said. “Look, we’re obviously looking to get K.T. involved as we go forward. He’s a key part of the offense. This guy’s done a good job in preparation. He’ll have more opportunities to make plays for us down the line.”

Kenny Golladay, the high-priced free agent from the Lions, was slowed most of training camp with a strained hamstring and did not play in any of the three preseason games. He got 52 of the 61 offensive snaps in the opener and checked in with four receptions (on six targets) for 64 yards. He was quiet during the meat of the game and had two catches totaling 30 yards with the Giants down 27-7 and throwing on every down late in the fourth quarter.

Giants Kenny Golladay Kenny Golladay after catching four passes for 64 yards in his Giants debut on Sept. 12, 2021. Bill Kostroun

Tight end Kyle Rudolph, the former Vikings standout, is coming off foot surgery and was brought along slowly in his first Giants camp. He played 47 snaps (77 percent), needed because Evan Engram was out with a calf injury. Rudolph was targeted five times and finished with two receptions for 8 yards.

Locating the edge rushers

This was yet another concern coming into the season that manifested itself in the opener. The hope from inside was the return from injury of Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines would enliven what in 2020 was tepid pass-rush production from the outside linebackers. The Giants did not get what they needed to start a new season. Carter, coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon, played 58 of the 66 defensive snaps and contributed four combined tackles and no statistical pressure on the quarterback. Ximines, in 29 snaps, contributed one assisted tackle and no statistical pressure on the quarterback. Rookie Azeez Ojulari, with 34 snaps in his NFL debut, got one of the Giants’ two sacks and added three combined tackles, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit. Figure his playing time will increase. The Giants need more from Ximines and especially Carter.

It was not a good sign that Teddy Bridgewater, not exactly known as a gazelle in the pocket — he was sacked 39, 44 and 31 times in the three seasons he started at least 12 games in his career — ran free and easy and was able to elude would-be Giants pass rushers.

“He’s got a funny way of moving around in the pocket and getting out and scrambling,” Broncos tight end Noah Fant said. “It was good to see, man.”

 

It was not good to see out of the Giants’ defense.

“I said it since the Rutgers days, man, it was déjà vu,” safety Logan Ryan said. “He extends some plays, it’s magical stuff at times, but we expect to be better and we will be.”

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The unfathomable reason behind the Giants’ downfall

September 17, 2021 12:35pm 

 

 

The Giants rode the rails back home from their ridiculous — is there any other word for how many ways this franchise finds ways to fail? — 30-29 loss to Washington, and head coach Joe Judge said “Me and Pat will have a long train session, going through the tape on the train ride back. That will be a focus moving forward getting fixed.’’

The focus is on fixing the pass defense, and the Pat that Judge is referring to is Pat Graham, the Giants’ defensive coordinator. There were plenty of issues this team took into the 2021 season, plenty of possible pitfalls and pratfalls this team might encounter.  Defending against the pass was not supposed to be anywhere on the list, much less darn near the very top.

If you want to investigate the main reason why the Giants did not leave FedEx Field with a victory, start here. Sure, if Dexter Lawrence did not jump offside — who does this? — on Dustin Hopkins’ missed 48-yard field goal, the Giants win 29-27 and they are 1-1, there is order in the Giants’ universe as they get a 10-day break from taking the field for another game. That Lawrence actually did jump offside is inexcusable. Where he is lined up, he is the closest Giants player to the snap of the football. It is right there! All he has to do is watch for the snap and then move. It is not as if he is coming around the edge and trying to gain a split second advantage for an attempted block. For this to happen on a team coached by Judge — a special teams specialist — is another chapter in the How The Giants Lose manual.

James Bradberry gives up a touchdown to Terry McLaurin in the Giants' loss to Washington. James Bradberry gives up a touchdown to Terry McLaurin in the Giants’ loss to Washington. Getty Images

Lawrence will take the heat for this and he probably will never, ever make this mistake again, however long his NFL career lasts. This is not the immediate issue for the Giants.  Daniel Jones, who played well, is not the immediate issue. Saquon Barkley, clearly in the nascent stages of getting back to form following knee surgery, is not the immediate issue. The immediate issue that must be confronted and corrected is a defense that, through two games, is in disarray.

In Week 1, Teddy Bridgewater did as he pleased, finding gaping holes in the Giants secondary for the Broncos. Four nights later, Taylor Heinicke, in his third NFL start — he was 0-2 — completed 34 of 46 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns. He was floating the ball around, almost daring the Giants to pick it off. That the Giants only got one of them — James Bradberry’s extremely athletic interception with 2:16 remaining — is disturbing.

 

We can retire “vaunted’’ when it comes to the Giants’ defensive backs, at least for now.  Bradberry spent the evening mostly getting beat by Terry McLaurin (11 receptions for 107 yards, one touchdown). Jabrill Peppers was strangely a part-time player in the opener and did not make a big impact getting 80 percent of the defensive snaps against Washington. There are too many miscommunications and too much zone coverage being deployed.  No question, the lack of an effective pass rush is hurting the guys on the back end. Still, the pass coverage simply must be much better, or else this team has no chance.

“Well, I think, first off, we have to do a better job at that right there,’’ Judge said. “That’s going to come from a lot of different aspects. We will watch the tape, make sure we have it narrowed down.’’

 Is one train ride long enough to right these wrongs?

Other musings coming off another early-season loss for a team that makes early-season losses habit-forming:

  • A team knows it has its franchise quarterback when every game is not a referendum on if he is the right man for the job. The Giants do not know this yet with Daniel Jones, but this latest loss — his first after going 4-0 in four starts vs. Washington — is not about Jones. He played well. He needs to produce more than 249 yards on 22 pass completions and he should have had a 43-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton on his resume. That Slayton allowed the ball – overthrown by perhaps six inches — to glance off his fingers most likely cost the Giants the game. Jones read a bust in the Washington coverage and his pass should have given the Giants a 30-20 lead with 6:18 remaining.  
  • The play-calling when the Giants got the ball with 2:16 remaining, courtesy of Bradberry’s interception, on the Washington 20-yard line, was far too conservative. Playing scared was more like it. We get it, Judge’s main concern was forcing Washington to use all its time outs, with the Giants already well within field goal range for Graham Gano. There was no need to throw the ball all around and risk a sack or a fumble or an interception. But there was a need to show some aggressiveness, rather than two runs into the line by Barkley that produced a total of three yards. Did anything go on to that point to make Judge think Barkley and a rebuilt-on-the-fly offensive line could grind out a first down? Barkley had a 41 yard run in the first quarter. He finished with 57 yards on 13 rushing attempts.  So, on his other 12 rushing attempts, he averaged 1.3 yards.

“It had nothing to do with not trusting Daniel,’’ Judge said. “It was also trusting our run game as well. It was trusting the offensive line, the front. We talk all the time about the strategy of being in that situation. It’s obviously one of those things you go back and forth on. Ultimately, you want to control as much as you can, control the points you have, not put yourself in a position for a negative play. Obviously, on third down, we threw that ball right there. We have a lot of trust in our offense right there to really make it look easy and go out there and run the ball one at a time.’’

Make it look easy? Ugh.  

Daniel Jones throws a pass in the Giants' loss to Washington. Daniel Jones throws a pass in the Giants’ loss to Washington. USA TODAY Sports
  • The Giants gave up what was basically an uncontested touchdown to close out the first half, when they left a huge hole on the eight side of their defensive line and J.D. McKissic ran untouched into the end zone. This came after a Giants time out to set their defense, making this a bad look. It seemed as if the Giants did not think Heinicke was capable of checking out of one play and into another.  

    “So, we called a play where, actually, I don’t want to give this away,’’ Heinicke said.  “It was going to be a pass play and they called timeout and they come back and there’s a three-man front and there are only about four or five people in the box, so I was like ‘Hey, if we don’t run and score a touchdown here, we don’t deserve to win.’ So made the check, and it was a touchdown.’’
  • Kadarius Toney actually is credited with being on the field for 19 of the 69 offensive snaps. Do not feel badly if you did not notice.  He was not targeted, not once. He never got the ball in his hands. Toney in the third quarter had a sideline conversation with Judge that did not appear to go well, and Toney never took another snap. He took to his Instagram account to post something that either is very meaningful or not at all — does anyone really want to dig too deeply into what 22-year old rookies are trying to convey on social media?  The Toney post included this:  “I don’t be mad. S–t just lame to me.’’  Discuss amongst yourselves.  What is crystal clear is the Giants selected Toney with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. They better have a plan for him. If they do, it is not readily apparent.
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