This Is A Big Week Of Practice
How could this be anything but the top takeaway from this game? The Giants were careless with the ball throughout the preseason and through the first two weeks of the regular season. There has been a lot of talk about cleaning it up and taking care of The Duke.
But after the Giants’ second consecutive multi-turnover game, A game given away to a division rival off turnovers, the time for words is over. Perhaps McAdoo needs to revise his “Duke” drill. Perhaps they need to start practicing with weighted medicine balls coated in petroleum jelly.
Regardless, they need to get their turnover problems straightened out. Now.
They also need to make sure that having 128 yards in penalties is an isolated incident. The Giants were only penalized three times for 25 yards against the New Orleans Saints. That’s the kind of game they need to play.
The Giants Receivers Are Good. Very Good
The next biggest takeaway from the game is how good the Giants receivers are. The sloppy play still kept them from firing on all cylinders, but there are few teams in the league that can match up with the Giants starting trio.
Sterling Shepard came up big once again with five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown, the second of his career. Victor Cruz continued his comeback with 70 yards on just three catches (he has 195 yards thus far this season). Add in Manning’s secondary options like Shane Vereen (despite his ball security issues of late), Will Tye, Larry Donnell, and others, Eli’s arsenal is as stocked as it’s ever been.
Odell Beckham Still Needs To Be The Focus
The New York Giants, and Giants (erm... Metlife) Stadium are two completely different beasts when Odell Beckham is playing. Not just on the field and catching the occasional five yard out route, but really playing.
We saw it for the first time this season in the fourth quarter when Manning turned to Beckham on consecutive plays, and OBJ simply went off. The broadcast crew focused on Beckham’s off-field beat-down of a kicking net after the interception that ended that drive. However the offense, the game, and the stadium at large, simply had an entirely different feel when Beckham was made his 1-handed grab on one play, then slipped a would-be tackler to make something out of nothing on the next. Josh Norman was losing his cool and adding penalty yards to the Giants’ plays, the defense was back on its heels, and the offense simply felt electric.
Manning needs to take advantage of his almost telepathic chemistry with Victor Cruz, continue to grow his relationship with Shepard (and get the talented rookie the ball), and exploit match-ups with his secondary options.
That being said, Manning -- and Ben McAdoo -- need to continue to feed the visored beast wearing No. 13. They are just a different offense when he gets the ball in his hands. It might be a tough balance to strike, but there are worse problems to be had.
Yep, worse problems. Problems like losing some of your best players to injury.
Losing Rashad Jennings before the game hurt. His running might have made the Giants’ rushing attack even more dangerous, while his versatility as a pass protector or catcher help keep the playbook open. His experience and calming influence might have helped steady an offense that gave away far, far too many yards in penalties to an officiating crew that was calling the the game tightly.
Losing Darian Thompson hurt too. The Giants’ secondary might have given up short competions in the first two games, but that was it. Neither the Cowboys nor the Saints attempted to go deep on them with Darian Thompson on the field. The rookie safety’s ability to understand offensive concepts and man the centerfield lets the rest of the defense play faster and more aggressively — especially Landon Collins. His ability to communicate what he sees helps Spagnuolo’s defense function the way it’s supposed to. Nat Berhe played well against Washington, showing the offense why he should have a reputation as a feared hitter, but he doesn’t have the same presence as Thompson.
Losing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple hurts too. DRC came to New York with the reputation as a “soft” player. He isn’t, at least not here and not playing for Spags. DRC has done everything asked of him and has been nearly lights out in coverage. Eli Apple has been a tremendous surprise as a rookie corner, showing off his athleticism, great coverage, and physical play. The Giants’ defense was just faster and harder hitting with those two on the field.
The Refs Called A Tight Game
Before the game the officiating crew told both teams that they would get very little leeway in terms of calls, especially Odell Beckham and Josh Norman.
The Giants finished with 11 penalties for 128 yards, while Washington had 8 penalties for 70 yards.
Beckham said after the game:
Odell on official's warning: "They came up before the game and said, if you do anything, we’re throwing you out of the game.''— Paul Schwartz (@NYPost_Schwartz) September 25, 2016
Despite his sideline frustrations and a penalty late in the game, Beckham didn’t get thrown out, but Weston Richburg did.
Giants C Weston Richburg on his ejection: "I let my teammates down. I have to be a presence in there and be a leader and I let my team down"— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY) September 25, 2016
Richburg also said the official that threw the flag "was after me". Giants felt refs were flag-happy because of Beckham-Norman feud.— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY) September 25, 2016
The Giants Have Offensive Line Depth
If there was one upside to Richburg being ejected, it was that former CFL star lineman Brett Jones was able to get on the field. Jones has the distinction of being the Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Rookie, then the next year being their Most Outstanding Lineman.
After Richburg was ejected, he got his first taste of real NFL action, and comported himself well. Manning had to take on the duties of calling the protections, which slowed down the Giants’ offense, but Jones seemed to hold up well in the middle of the line. At right tackle, sophomore Bobby Hart played well in relief of Marshall Newhouse, who missed the game with a strained calf.
After much anxiety by the fans on the state of the Giants’ depth at offensive line, it seemed to hold up when tested. We’ll have to wait for the All-22 footage to know for sure, however.
The Giants Could Run The Ball
Some People may have thought that with a sophomore 7th round pick starting at right tackle and the starting running back out, that the Giants wouldn’t be able to move the ball on the ground.
Those people would be wrong.
With a platoon of Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa, the Giants were able to almost run the ball at will against the Washington Redskins. Vereen in particular ripped off huge chunks of yardage, while Darkwa showed off his trademark determination with the ball in his hands.
They saw particular success running up the middle, and the Redskins had no answer for when guards Justin Pugh or John Jerry pulled.
This Defensive Line Is REALLY Good
We already knew this. But it just keeps getting reaffirmed every week. After not getting a sack through the first two game of the season, both Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon came away with one each, including a forced fumble and a batted pass for JPP. Both got consistent pressure on Kirk Cousins and drew several holding penalties from the Washington offensive tackles. Just as impressively, they were stout as always in the run game, helping to smother the Washington rushing attack until the end of the game.
Damon Harrison and John Hankins continue to be loads inside, clogging running lanes, pushing the pocket, and making plays all on their own. This time Jay Bromley got in on the act as well, flashing into the offensive backfield several times. He might have done enough to convinced the coaching staff to use a more active defensive tackle rotation and let Hankins and Harrison get more rest.
Defense Needs To Get Off The Field
As good as the defensive line and secondary can be, twice now they have routinely failed to get off the field on third downs. Perhaps it was schematic — Dak Prescott was an unknown as a passer and both Dallas and Washington have dangerous skill position players — but the defense has been unable to get off the field on 3rd downs.
Receivers given free releases, poor tackling, or not quite getting to the quarterback quickly enough, the defense has the potential to be better. They need to figure out how to unlock that potential before their talented players wear down.
Surprise Of The Game - The Better Team Lost
Looking back, most of my takeaways are positive ones for the Giants. Watching the game, they looked to be the better team.
But when it counted, they didn’t play like it.
They failed to capitalize on opportunities, both in-game, and the opportunity the game represented. They could have dealt a mortal blow to a division rival’s season, possibly fracturing the locker room and knocking them out of the post-season hunt. Instead, they threw the game away with sloppy play and boneheaded penalties. Most frustrating, it wasn’t any one player or even unit. They came from every position in every phase of the game, even from veterans who should, DO, know better.
But so to were there the kind of brilliant plays the team lacked in the past.
Will this Giants team manage to stop shooting themselves in the foot and play a complete game?