Like every game, there was a mixed bag between good performances and poor ones. Ed will get to his trademark “Kudos & Wet Willies” once he recovers from his son’s wedding (I think we all offer our congratulations, by the way). In the meantime, I’ll offer my own thoughts on some of the winners and losers from the Giants’ disappointing loss.
Since I prefer to get bad news out of the way first and get the pick-me-up later, we’ll start with the losers.
Carelessness with the football has become a running theme with for the Giants in 2016. It started in the very first preseason game when the ball touched the ground at least eight times. They still haven’t managed to curtail the tendency in four preseason games and through three regular season games. The defense had thus far done a spectacular job of cleaning up the offense’s messes, largely limiting opposing offenses to field goals if not keeping them from scoring completely.
But three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) combined with more than football field and a half in penalty yardage (counting the yardage lost by canceling out the blocked punt) doomed the Giants against Washington.
Head coach Ben McAdoo has made a ball security drill one of the focal points of the Giants’ practices since preseason. Either the drill needs to be revised or the offensive players need to do a better job of carrying that drill through to their on-field play.
Note: I’m not ready to say that the penalties the Giants incurred are more than an anomaly. Weston Richburg stated after the game that they felt as though the refs were flag happy. Considering that the Giants combined for 7 penalties for 65 yards in the first two games, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. They had been about as clean as can be expected despite their carelessness with the football. They don’t get much slack, and will need to return to playing a clean game against Minnesota.
I’m not saying that Collins played poorly. He had a good (though not great) game against Washington. But the loss of Darian Thompson clearly cost Collins. The Giants’ secondary had a great dynamic with Thompson and Collins at safety. Thompson’s presence in the middle field largely removed the threat of deep passes, allowing Collins to play to his strengths. Replacing Thompson with Nat Berhe forced Collins to play more free safety than he should, and restricted his ability to roam close to the line of scrimmage and fly to the ball.
As an extension from this, and the loss of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, Steve Spagnuolo’s hands became increasingly tied in the pressure packages he could bring. His blitzes have been based on confidence in his secondary. By losing Thompson, DRC, and Apple, he lost athleticism, communication, and physicality and it clearly impacted the defense.
The Giants’ center is not a dirty player, and he was by no means out of control against Washington. In a game that is officiated more normally, he doesn’t get thrown out. But this wasn’t a normal game, and the Giants knew they wouldn’t get any slack from the officials. As one of the leaders on the team, and most important offensive players, Richburg simply could not afford to put himself, and by extension the offense, in jeopardy with his ejection. He is one of the very best at his position in the entire league -- the Giants need him on the field, not in the locker room because of a block on a player who spent the offseason not shutting up.
I really wanted to count Vereen as a “Winner.” His running was excellent, routinely gashing the defense for big gains.
But he has been involved with four turnovers over the last two weeks. He has lost fumbles as both a runner and as a receiver and was the target of Eli’s game-sealing interception. While the interception might not be his fault, the Giants might need some intensive self-scouting to see if they have any tendencies or tells on which defenses are keying.
The first two games of 2016 were relatively quiet ones for Odell Beckham, but the third game — particularly the fourth quarter — was anything but. In his Big Blue Chat with Pat Traina, Ed proclaimed that Josh Norman simply could not cover Beckham one-on-one.
Odell followed through on Ed’s proclamation. He recorded seven catches for 121 yards and could have had far more. He was consistently open and could have had a monster game had Eli keyed on him and not spread the ball around quite so much.
The Offensive Line
They weren’t perfect — if they were Eli wouldn’t have gotten sacked twice and Richburg wouldn’t have gotten ejected — but the offensive line played very well. Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart had their work cut out for them against Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, and Trent Murphy, but largely held up well. The work of the interior, particularly Justin Pugh and John Jerry, in run blocking was superb.
Whether it was Vereen or Orleans Darkwa carrying the ball, they had big holes to run through, and the defense didn’t have an answer for the Giants’ pulling guards.