There isn’t much to be happy about following the New York Giants’ 24-10 loss to the Detroit Lions. They did show some scant improvement on offense and the did what it could with the hand it was dealt against a good offense.
There were few bright spots to be found and a whole lot of mess in the Giants’ performance on Monday night.
What can we learn from the snap counts and stats from the game?
- The Giants only managed to run 56 plays on offense. That is essentially the same as their 57 in the opening week. Their inability to sustain a drive is indicative of their offensive problems.
- Eli Manning was treated surprisingly kindly by Pro Football Focus. They graded him with a 74.0 overall. About Manning, they said:
While Manning was far from spectacular in this game, he was hardly the problem for the offense. He actually pushed the ball downfield fairly effectively, going 2 of 6 with 56 yards and a touchdown on passes that went 20 yards or more down field. And that doesn’t include a perfect deep ball thrown to WR Brandon Marshall that was dropped, and another that would’ve been a touchdown if not for an incredible play by Lions CB Darius Slay.
Had those two plays been completed, Manning would have been 4-of-6 for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns throwing the ball down-field. After calls for him to be more aggressive, he was, and it should have paid off.
Eli finally hits one, Marshall drops it pic.twitter.com/xD5tNYH3Xq— Ryan Smith (@PFF_Smith) September 19, 2017
That Marshall drop very well may have lost the game for the Giants, considering it may have prevented a Giants’ score and immediately turned into a touchdown for the Lions.
Manning has been rightly dinged for his interception following the Jason Pierre-Paul sack fumble, an off-target, rushed throw with pressure in his face. However, as PFF notes, Manning was not the Giants’ problem. Unfortunately, the team needs him to be perfect on every snap to erase mistakes by the other 10 players on the field.
- The Giants need to do something about Ereck Flowers. Graded a 47.0 on the game by PFF, the Giants left him on an island with Ziggy Ansah for most of the game, and paid dearly for it. At the end of the game they finally began to scheme him some help and Manning actually had some time to throw, and that is something that will have to be worked into their offensive scheme from here on out.
The problem at offensive tackle will likely be the defining feature of the next 11 months. The Giants bet that the chances of 23-year-old Flowers, who had committed himself to working in the off-season, would improve were greater than the chances that the 35-year-old Andrew Whitworth, playing at a statistically anomalous level, wouldn’t decline.
In hindsight it looks as though they were wrong. And while they’ll have to deal with the consequences, the decision is made.
However, a first-round bust can be crippling to a team in the long term. With their best linemen, Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, entering free agency as well as linchpins Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins, the Giants can’t afford to get an immediate solution at left tackle in free agency. They will likely have to look to the draft, which means starting yet another rookie. That also leaves the problem of what to do with Flowers, who has never played the right side and the transition could wreck what little technique improvements he has made. And as offensive line specialist Duke Manyweather has pointed out, moving him to guard might not help either, as things happen much, much more quickly on the inside.
- Even injured Odell Beckham is good. He played just 34 snaps, by far the fewest of the Giants “big 3” receivers, but he still paced the unit, catching four passes on five targets for 36 yards.
- Rookie tight end Evan Engram played 43 snaps (77 percent), catching four balls on seven targets for 49 yards and a touchdown. It was almost two touchdowns except for a great defensive play by Darius Slay.
This time there was (almost) balance in the number of snaps played by the offense and defense. The Giants’ defense played just 62 snaps, roughly what coaches gameplan for. For the second straight week, the defense held a good offense to fewer than 20 points, giving up just 17 this week.
- Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie lead the way for the Giants, playing all of the Giants’ 62 defensive snaps. He showed how important he is to the offense, playing outside corner, slot corner, and free safety over the course of the game, and racking up 11 total tackles.
DRC's 11.1 run stop percentage ranked 1st among CBs in Week 2.— PFF NY Giants (@PFF_NYGiants) September 19, 2017
He had 5 run stops against DET and 6 in all of 2016.
- Defensive end Olivier Vernon didn’t have a sack to show for it, but he was a one-man wrecking crew against Lions’ left tackle Greg Robinson. Robinson was called for at least two holding penalties and probably should have been called for more, including on Matt Stafford’s third down scramble to keep a drive alive in the first half. Vernon was consistently getting pressure on Stafford, even when double teamed on three-man rushes.
- Five players never left the field for the Giants, with DRC, Eli Apple, Calvin Munson, Landon Collins, and Darian Thompson all playing 62 snaps. Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul were right behind them with 60 and 59 snaps, respectively.
- Thompson was credited with five tackles and a pass defensed, and came close for the second straight week to nabbing an interception. Thompson was a ballhawk in college, taking Eric Weddle’s conference record for career interceptions. Perhaps as with Landon Collins in his second year, these close calls are the prelude for a jump in production.
- UDFA rookie linebacker Calvin Munson had a solid first outing as a starter. He gave up a completion to tight end Eric Ebron, but finished with seven total tackles and a sack. The defense was more crisp with B.J. Goodson at the MIKE linebacker position, but Munson played about as well as could be expected.
- Defensive tackles Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson were once again a force in the middle of the defense. The two played a hefty snap count, with Harrison getting 42 (68 percent) and Tomlinson playing 37 (60 percent). Conversely, PFF graded Tomlinson a hair higher at 77.3 to Harrison’s 77.1.
- Moved to a prominent role by the injuries to Janoris Jenkins, cornerback Ross Cockrell justified Jerry Reese’s move to trade for him, grading an 80.0 overall on 39 snaps as the Giants’ nickel corner. About Cockrell, PFF said:
Cockrell was called in to duty as he was filling in for injured CB Janoris Jenkins. He played well in Jenkins absence, as he recorded a coverage grade of 82.0, allowing only two catches on five targets for 18 yards. Cockrell limited Lions rookie Kenny Golladay to one reception on three targets for 8 yards when covering him.
At the very least, the Giants have to feel better about their cornerback depth than they did three weeks ago.