And now, the end is near. The 2017 New York Giants face the final curtain. A disastrous season will be complete after a Week 17 game with the Washington Redskins. There’s not a lot on the line in Week 17 except for draft position where the question will be if the Giants pick second or third. For most, getting through the 2017 season will have been the biggest win of the year.
By the numbers
Rushing: 85.9 yards per game (29th), 3.7 yards per carry (t-26th)
Passing: 223.9 yards per game (18th), 6.1 yards per attempt (30th)
Total Yards: 309.8 yards per game (23rd), 4.8 yards per play (t-25th)
Points: 15.2 points per game (31st)
Rushing: 125.7 yards per game (27th), 4.4 yards per carry (26th)
Passing: 219.9 yards per game (14th), 7.1 yards per attempt (18th)
Total Yards: 345.7 yards per game (21st), 5.3 yards per play (17th)
Points: 24.7 points per game (t-26th)
Last game of the year, Brent, can’t hold anything back now.
We’ll start here. There’s not going to be a lot of carry over from what this offense looks like in Week 17 to what it will look like in Week 1 of the 2018 season. If this remains a conservative short-pass offense, what’s really the point? The game shouldn’t be a game plan full of trick plays, but maybe have a little bit of fun on the way out.
Who’s going to play?
The injury report has not been kind to the Giants this season and that has continued into the final week of the regular season. Tavarres King is out with a concussion, as are Sterling Shepard (neck) and Evan Engram (ribs) who hadn’t practiced this week. Roger Lewis (ankle) and Ereck Flowers (groin) have participated in practice, but have been limited. That’s nearly half of the starting offense, which isn’t a great sign.
If this game is going to be used to evaluate some of the players at the bottom of the roster, they might get some time to play on Sunday.
The Davis Webb question
Of course the will he play, won’t he play question is the biggest surrounding Davis Webb. The third-round rookie will be activated for the first time in his career on Sunday and dress as the backup. There’s no promise he’ll play, though. If he does get in the game, it’s likely to be late and there’s little reason to believe he gets more than a half of play. It’s hard to imagine one half of play is going to do much to help anyone evaluate what kind of player Webb will be in the NFL.
After the Giants drafted Webb, I wrote about his game, how it looked in college, and how it might translate to the NFL. The conclusion was Webb isn’t ready to be an NFL quarterback right now. His biggest struggle is adjusting to defenses post-snap. The problem there is that’s not something that really gets worked out by sitting the bench and on the scout team -- he needs to see some live NFL defenses. That could be done with some first-team reps in practice and during the preseason, which appeared to be the plan when he was drafted. Unfortunately the play of Eli Manning and the rest Giants’ offense sped up the timeline for those wanting to see Webb in action and that’s not the ideal or intended path for Webb’s development.
The last hurrah for Eli?
There’s no getting around the fact the quarterback has struggled this season. He’s 30th among 33 qualified passers in yards per attempt heading into the final week of the regular season -- ahead of only Joe Flacco, DeShone Kizer, and Brett Hundley. But after Dave Gettleman’s introductory press conference as general manager, it appears the plan is to keep Manning on the roster in 2018. However, if that ends up not being the case and the Giants move on from Manning in the offseason -- perhaps after a quarterback is drafted No. 2 overall -- this could be the last home game for one of the best quarterbacks in franchise history.
Slowing down the pass rush
Washington leads the league in defensive pressure rate, per Sports Info Solutions charting from Football Outsiders. Much of that comes from the two main outside linebackers, Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. Kerrigan has 11 sacks on the season and three games this year with at least two sacks, including the Thanksgiving night game against the Giants in Week 12. Smith has been a bit streakier, but is second on the team with eight sacks. He had 4.5 sacks through the first five weeks of the season then didn’t record another (half) sack until Week 13. But over the past four games, he has 3.5 sacks. The mix of Kerrigan and Smith make for one of the most underrated pass rushing attacks in the league. Both have the ability to beat tackles straight up around the edge and last week against the Denver Broncos, they did just that on the same play.
Even when the duo isn’t taking down the quarterback, they’ve been getting to the opposing passer. Washington is one of six teams with at least two players who have at least 30 pressures. Kerrigan’s status is something to watch heading into Sunday. He’s never missed a game, but was held out of practice on Thursday. However, there appears to be little concern he’ll have to sit against the Giants.
Working in Wayne Gallman
Only one player in the NFL has caught at least six passes in each of the past three games. There have only been 20 such streaks during the course of the 2017 season and no other player has been a running back. Gallman has also seen his most playing time over the past three games. He’s been on the field for 46.3 percent, 41.4 percent, and 73.2 percent of the team’s offensive snaps over the past three games.
It’s good that Gallman has continued to get more involved, even as the Giants back away from the run when trailing. Against the Cardinals, he had 10 carries for just 18 yards, but caught six passes on eight targets for 44 yards.
What the Giants could do, though, is be a little more creative with the types of passes Gallman is receiving. Against the Cardinals, the passes were typically dump offs or swing passes with the Giants facing an unfavorable down and distance. Over the course of the season, over half of Gallman’s targets -- 52.2 percent -- have come with 7-10 yards to go. Another 21.7 percent have come with 11 or more yards to go. The Giants have also done a poor job of creating space for the running backs when they do go that route. Take this screen on a first and 20 against Arizona where the blockers fail to set up in front of Gallman before the pass.