I’m not looking forward to spending five hours in the car on Tuesday, but I am looking forward to getting into the Giants’ locker room and gauging the temperature of the players in the room.
It’s been a tumultuous few days for the Giants. The Odell Beckham Jr. melodrama. A difficult loss that dropped them to 1-4, followed by an uncharacteristically angry press conference from coach Pat Shurmur. The jettisoning of former first-round pick Ereck Flowers. The specter of a short week and a Thursday Night Football encounter with the rival Philadelphia Eagles.
What kind of mood is this team in?
Are they ready to pack it in, knowing their fate for 2018 is sealed? That seemed to be the case when they fell to 0-3 a year ago on a 61-yard field goal by Eagles’ rookie kicker Jake Elliott.
Are they ready to fight? Do they still believe they have something to play for this season? Are they itching to build off Sunday, when they played perhaps their most inspired game of the season in a losing effort?
I wrote Sunday night that I believe this Giants team has a better chance of digging itself out of its current plight than last year’s team did. I said the same thing on Monday’s ‘Locked on Giants’ podcast.
Tuesday, and whatever happens on Thursday against the Eagles, will tell us a lot.
The NFC East is still there for the taking
That’s the amazing part. Even with just one victory in five games, the Giants still have a chance in the NFC East. The New Orleans Saints’ 43-19 beat down of the Washington Redskins Monday means every team in the division lost in Week 5 and no team has more than two victories. Here are your NFC East standings:
1 - Washington Redskins (2-2)
2 - Dallas Cowboys (2-3)
3 - Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)
4 - New York Giants (1-4)
The Eagles are the defending Super Bowl champs. Even with quarterback Carson Wentz back from last season’s knee injury, though, they haven’t looked like it yet. Philly is averaging 20.6 points per game, less than the Giants (20.8), and just lost running back Jay Ajayi for the season with a knee injury.
The Cowboys don’t really look like a good team and now coach Jason Garrett is being questioned by owner Jerry Jones. The Redskins? Hard to believe in them after what we saw Monday night.
If the Giants can win Thursday night against the Eagles, they put themselves right in the middle of the race.
Wrapping up the Odell drama
Just like people are dug in on Eli Manning, so are they dug in on Beckham. The arguing rages on and on, as we saw with the reactions to his ESPN interview, and no minds get changed.
At the risk of stirring this whole hornet’s nest up again, I want to clarify something. I’m getting crucified as an Odell hater, and if that’s what you believe that’s not going to change. It isn’t, however, true. I just don’t always agree with his actions.
When it comes to his interview with Josina Anderson, Beckham said a lot of things about heart and energy and the need to be more aggressive and imaginative on offense that rang true. Good for him. Saying that losing wasn’t OK and that the Giants, with the talent they have, needed to be better on offense is fine and probably needed to be said. I just thought it was ill-advised to make his remarks in a silly setting with the rapper L’il Wayne there nodding along in agreement. I will also agree with Peter King that Beckham went too far by not supporting his quarterback and by not shutting Anderson down when she asked if he was unhappy in New York just weeks after the Giants made him the game’s highest-paid wide receiver.
Finito. Done. That’s all I’ve got on that topic.
Sunday’s version was the Eli the Giants need
Eli Manning threw two interceptions on Sunday after having thrown only one in the first four games. He compiled his lowest completion percentage of the season. His passer rating was his second-lowest of the season.
And I will take that version of Manning every single week for the next 11 games. That was the Kevin Gilbride-era Manning. He pushed the ball down the field, averaging 10.7 Intended Air Yards per throw (third among Week 5 quarterbacks per Next Gen Stats) and was seventh among QBs in Aggressiveness Percentage.
Ten of Manning’s 36 throws were at least 15 yards down the field and the Giants had six completions of 20 yards or more. Interceptions or not, this was Manning’s best game of the season. He made mistakes, getting fooled by the Panthers on his first interception and just plain throwing a bad ball on the second. But, he kept firing. Kept attacking. Made plays at the end when they mattered, and had the Giants in a position to win the game with a minute left.
I will take that over “Checkdown Eli” every week, even with the interceptions.
About those penalties
If this is a penalty on Landon Collins then you simply are not allowed to try to play defense any longer in the NFL.
Collins is diving for the ball and gets his hands on it. He’s not even turned toward Carolina’s Devin Funchess when contact occurs, so how can he be targeting something he’s not even looking at? If anything, Collins is the defenseless receiver here who gets hit by Funchess. You might argue that the penalty could have been on Michael Thomas (31), but he is also clearly leading with his hands and trying to avoid an infraction. There is helmet-to-helmet contact with all three players, but it’s all incidental. It’s all football. There is zero intent and absolutely nothing any of the players involved could have done differently. Other than just let Funchess catch the ball.
In chatting with Chris about this, I think he’s absolutely right. Whether they slow the game down or not, the helmet-to-helmet calls and the roughing the passer penalties (which are way out of control, in case you hadn’t noticed) should be quickly and automatically reviewed. If the league doesn’t want to automatically review these plays, how about adding one “penalty challenge” for each team to give coaches the option of asking for review on a critical play like that one?
I honestly don’t blame the on-field officials for what is happening. Yes, they are the ones throwing the flags. They are, however, being asked to subjectively judge intent and far too many incredibly hard to parse minute details in real time with athletes moving at incredible rates of speed. They are being asked to do too much.
I also understand the anger about the Christian McCaffrey first down call. This tweet appears to clearly show that McCaffrey, with the ball in his left arm, never gets the ball to the line to gain.
Here’s the McCaffrey 3rd down run from yesterday with 30 seconds left. Ball is in his left arm. You’re telling me that NY was able to review this and say the spot was correct without a measurement?— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) October 8, 2018
Who’s kidding who here? pic.twitter.com/NMygJmsBkA
I’m also not buying this, from the league:
Among the #Giants’ complaints about officiating yesterday was lack of replay review on the spot that gave #Panthers a first down before their winning FG. I’m told New York actually did review the play — without stopping the game — and determined it would not have been overturned.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 8, 2018
It would have been interesting to see the Panthers try to run the field-goal team on and get that kick off with the clock running down. The distance wouldn’t have changed, but the degree of difficulty certainly would have.
That said, the Giants shouldn’t blame this loss on the officials. Beckham muffed a punt that cost them a touchdown and dropped a fourth-down pass that ended a scoring opportunity. Russell Shepard had a drop and a penalty that ended a drive. The Giants turned a Carolina fourth-and-8 at the Giants’ 41-yard line into a Panthers’ first down at the 16 with THREE penalties. Manning threw two picks. They couldn’t run block. Or tackle.
The officials made mistakes. So, however, did the Giants.
Adieu, Ereck Flowers
Offensive tackle Ereck Flowers is in his final hours as a member of the Giants. The Giants will cut Flowers today if they aren’t’ able to trade him by 4 p.m. ET.
The NFL Trade Deadline isn’t for another three weeks (Oct. 30), but the Giants have obviously decided to cut their losses — financial and otherwise — and move on.
The whole Flowers saga in New York has been unfortunate. Maybe things would have been better for him if he hadn’t been forced to play left tackle immediately as a rookie due to the injury to Will Beatty. Then again, maybe not.
Flowers’ personality, barely speaking to media, never seemed to fit in the big city. In four years it looked like the only friend he ever had in the locker room was ex-Giant Bobby Hart, and that didn’t end well. At least when media is around, other players seem to hardly ever speak to Flowers. Having gone through three position coaches and a position switch you have to believe at this point his lack of improvement over the years has more to do with him than the quality of coaching he has received.
Missing on a pick in the top 10 of the draft is a huge setback for the franchise When they selected him ninth overall in 2015 he was looked at as the potential cornerstone of the offensive line for a decade. Now, he becomes little more than a symbol of the failure to get that critical position group right for the past several seasons. A failure the current regime is still paying for, and trying to correct.