Fans of the New York Giants have reason to feel good about their team right now. Granted, they have been beating teams with back-up quarterbacks, but they have still won four of their last five games.
The latest victory came over the division rival Washington Redskins, and saw the team dropping their first 40-point offensive performance since Week 8 of 2015. This was their first victory with 40 points scored since Larry Donnell’s three-touchdown game against Washington in 2014.
This game also saw the Giants take the field without two of their best players in Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins.
So then, how did the Giants deal with their missing players, and how did they stack up the points on Washington?
This game saw much better play from Eli Manning than last week’s game against the Chicago Bears. Manning’s numbers weren’t astronomical, completing 14-of-22 attempts (63.6 percent) for 197 yards and 3 touchdowns. But for the first time in a long time, he only played 72 percent of the offensive snaps (46 of 62 snaps).
Manning’s work in this game was representative of what the Giants’ passing game has become. The vast majority of his passes were short, less than 10 yards down field. In fact, 18 of his 22 passes went for 10 yards or less.
Per Next Gen Stats, Manning’s average completed pass traveled 5.1 yards in the air, and his average pass was 2.3 yards behind the first down marker. However, he made some very impressive throws. The first off which as the back-shoulder pass to Saquon Barkley while under heavy pressure, and the deep fade to Corey Coleman which he dropped in Coleman’s hands.
In the absence of Odell Beckham Jr. (quad) this game was all about a pair of players: Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram.
Barkley was the engine which drove the Giants’ offense, compiling a stellar stat-line of 14 carries, 170 yards, one1 TD on the ground, and then another four receptions for 27 yards. All told, Barkley not only became the first Giant to rush for 1,000 yards since Ahmad Bradshaw, but also re-set the Giants’ rookie touchdown record, and moved in to second place in the league in all-purpose yardage.
And this game was the quintessential “Saquon Barkley” game for the Giants in 2018. He amassed 170 yards on the ground (12.1 per carry), but 130 of those yards came on two plays.
As an aside, we need to recognize the work of Sterling Shepard (43 snaps, 67 percent) in blocking for those plays.
Outside of those two runs, Barkley ran for 40 yards on 12 carries (3.3 ypc). But that isn’t to say he didn’t run well — As our own Dan Pizzuta points out in his weekly “Plays That Changed The Game” post, Barkley had one of his most successful days, with few rushes being stopped for negative, or little yardage.
Most of the runs which were stopped for not-much came in the first quarter, when the Giants’ offense once again seemed stuck in the mud. Those early drives were where the Giants seemingly missed Beckham. His ability to un-cover at will makes unsuccessful runs easier for the offense to overcome.
That isn’t a knock on Barkley, but rather a reason to be excited once the Giants are (finally) able to consistently run block. He could be an absolute nightmare with consistent holes to run through, which will only make Beckham better, and vice versa.
This brings us to Evan Engram, who played 33 (52 percent) of the Giants’ snaps in his first game back from injury. Early in the game he struggled to separate and get open, which contributed to the Giants’ stalled drives in the first quarter. But by the second and third quarters, however, he was able to get his timing down and uncovered on a pair of crossing routes and a short wheel route run from the H-back position. Once open, Manning got the ball in his hands and he was able to use that 4.4 speed of his to burn up the open field and turn short passes into big gains.
The Giants had barely used Engram in the two games before his injury, though similar big gains in the fourth quarters of those games put the Giants in position to win each time.
The Giants also used Rhett Ellison for 33 snaps, but he finished the game without a reception.
Corey Coleman moved into a primary position with the offense with Beckham out. He played 42 snaps, just one fewer than Sterling Shepard, and came up with two catches on two receptions (and drew a pass interference on a long pass he dropped). The Giants are clearly intrigued with his athleticism and are looking for ways to get him involved beyond his role as a kick returner.
The offense spent much of the game in its 12-personnel (two-tight end) package, with Russell Shepard and Bennie Fowler each getting 26 snaps, while Wayne Gallman got 27 snaps in relief of Barkley and Eli Penny played 15 snaps, mostly in the fourth quarter. In addition to his work as a blocker, Penny showed upside as both a runner and receiver, with 21 yards on 5 carries and a 16-yard reception.
The Giants’ defensive line was going against an injury-plagued offensive line, but played well nevertheless.
A combination of linebackers, defensive linemen, and blitzing linebackers combined for seven tackles for a loss, eight quarterback hits, and five sacks. This was the Giants’ second five-sack game in two weeks.
Linebacker Alec Ogletree once again played all of the Giants’ defensive snaps (62), and had another strong game. After a poor start to his season, Ogletree has been playing much better of late. He seems to be playing faster and more instinctively in coverage, as opposed to the extreme discipline he showed early in the season. He finished the game with eight tackles, two passes defensed, and an interception.
Olivier Vernon (50 snaps) might have had his best game of the season, coming up with a sack and a half, as well as two quarterback hits, five total tackles, and a tackle for a loss. The Giants need Vernon to continue to grow in Bettcher’s defense.
B.J. Hill (43 snaps) and Dalvin Tomlinson (30 snaps) played the most snaps among the defensive tackles, and both had strong games. While Hill flashed more in the backfield, Tomlinson was a force in the middle. He repeatedly disrupted running lanes in the middle of the defense, and pushed the pocket up front.
After Ogletree, Vernon, Hill, and Thompson, the Giants once again featured a strong rotation, with Lorenzo Carter (27 snaps), Kerry Wynn (23 snaps), Kareem Martin (21 snaps) all seeing significant snaps on defense. Carter and Martin each had solid games. Carter finished with 5 tackles, a sack, a QB hit, and a tackle for a loss, while Martin finished with 2 tackles, half a sack, 3 QB hits, and a pass defensed.
Along the defensive line, Josh Mauro (19 snaps), R.J. McIntosh (17 snaps), and Mario Edwards Jr. (14 snaps) all saw time on defense. Mauro, in particular, had strong production in limited time, with two tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and a quarterback hit.
At the linebacker position, the Giants rotated B.J. Goodson (28 snaps) and Tae Davis (14 snaps).
As we have come to expect, the Giants’ starting corners, Janoris Jenkins and B.W. Webb, played every defensive snap — 62, in this case.
The Giants spent the majority of their snaps in a nickel package, with Grant Haley just behind Jenkins and Webb at 60 snaps for the game.
More interesting is how the Giants compensated for the loss of Landon Collins. Rather than featuring a rotation of players to try and replace Collins, safeties Michael Thomas and Curtis Riley each played 58 snaps. UDFA rookie Sean Chandler played 14 defensive snaps. But despite only playing 14 snaps, Chandler compiled an impressive stat line: three tackles, one tackle for a loss, one sack, and one QB hit.
As with the defensive line, the secondary did what it what it was supposed to against a bad Washington passing game. Jenkins, Thomas, and Riley each had a pass defensed, while Riley and Thomas each had an interception.