But was the Giants’ win really as lopsided as the score would suggest? To be sure, Washington did not play winning football, and the game never really seemed competitive. So what can we learn about the Giants as they go through their rebuilding process and take the first steps into their next era of football? Can we learn anything from playing an opponent who had 12 penalties accepted and committed even more than that?
Let’s take a look at the various stats from the game and see if that can help separate the signal from the noise.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Daniel Jones had a “Rookie” performance against Washington. His box score (23 of 31, 225 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions) might be acceptable considering the fact that the Giants won, but a closer look makes it clear that it’s a good thing the Giants were playing a team that couldn’t get out of its own way.
“ANY/A” or Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt is generally considered to be the best single metric we have for evaluating quarterback performance. That doesn’t mean that it is perfect or completely comprehensive, but it is more accurate than commonly quoted numbers like passer rating or completion percentage. As the name suggests, ANY/A takes yards per attempt into account, but adjusts the number for touchdowns, interceptions, and sacks.
Jones with a 5 ANY/A, and if it weren’t for a pair of Washington miscues wiping out a sack and a dropped interception, that number would have been 3.31. That’s a far cry from the 8.58 he had against Tampa Bay.
These types of games are to be expected from a rookie as he develops. These games should be noted, but aren’t necessarily problems unless these issues (such as holding the ball, eye discipline, not seeing defenders, and forcing the ball into coverage) continue to crop up.
And to be fair to Jones, the Giants’ receivers did him few favors. While Jones could have been more judicious with the ball, the Giants’ receivers once again they largely failed to get much separation.
Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Darius Slayton (34 snaps) was the most open, averaging 3.31 yards of separation per route run. Meanwhile top receiving threats Sterling Shepard (70 snaps) and Evan Engram (57 snaps) averaged 2.76 and 1.97 yards of separation, respectively. Between the lack of separation, the play calls, and Jones’ own decisions, the rookie quarterback had the third-highest aggressiveness rating in the league this weekend, throwing into coverage on 25.8 percent of his passes.
WR Bennie Fowler (49 snaps) and TE Rhett Ellison (41 snaps) did little to help Jones despite playing the third- and fifth-most snaps among the skill position players.
But speaking of issues repeatedly cropping up, we need to take a moment to address the Giants’ passing offense as a whole.
After two games against the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers which suggested that the Giants were trending toward a more aggressive mindset. The Giants took a step forward in Eli Manning’s final game, averaging 8.5 intended air yards per attempt, and throwing past the first down marker. The next week Jones averaged 10.1 intended air yards per attempt and threw an average of 1.3 yards past the first down maker.
Considering the Giants averaged just 7.2 and -2 yards (respectively) in 2018, weeks 2 and 3 represented significant strides in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the Giants reverted to their dink and dunk offense against Washington. This week Jones’ average target was just 5.2 yards down the field, his average completion came 2.6 yards downfield, and on average he threw 3.2 yards behind the first down marker.
Per Next Gen Stats, Jones only attempted 5 passes beyond 10 yards downfield, completing just one of them.
We’ve mentioned repeatedly that passing efficiency peaks between 10 and 15 yards downfield and that short passes are largely worthless. The fact that the Giants only managed 17 offensive points, while benefiting from three turnovers (I’m leaving Jabrill Peppers’ pick-6 out of the equation here since that wasn’t offensive production) and sloppy defensive play, bears that out.
Running Back Wayne Gallman Jr. was the engine which drove the Giants’ offense Sunday. He played 47 of 78 snaps, picking up 63 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries as well as 55 yards and a touchdown in 6 receptions on 7 targets. Despite playing 60 percent of the Giants’ snaps, Gallman accounted for both of their offensive touchdowns and nearly a third of their yards gained. He probably could have gained more on the ground, but Washington clearly decided to emulate Tampa Bay’s defensive game plan of taking the run away from the Giants. Gallman faced the third-highest percentage of stacked boxes (eight or more defenders) in the league this week. He was run into a stacked box 44.44 percent of the time per NextGenStats. That would suggest that the Giants either need to do a better job of manipulating the defense with personnel and formation or need to attack the second and third levels with the pass while defenses are trying to take the run away from them.
Somewhat surprisingly, only two Giants defenders played each of the 51 defensive snaps: safeties Jabrill Peppers and Atoine Betha.
Janoris Jenkins and DeAndre Baker each played 49 snaps, while Grant Haley played 45 snaps (88 percent) and Michael Thomas played 25 snaps (49 percent)
That suggests that the Giants played a nickel defense nearly all game long and spent much of their time in a dime (six defensive back) set.
Watching the game it seemed as though the team routinely took both linebackers Ryan Connelly (34 snaps, 67 percent) and David Mayo (35 snaps, 69 percent) off the field in obvious passing situations, and the snap count bears that out.
The Giants’ secondary generally did a good job of preventing Washington’s receivers from getting much separation, and Dwayne Haskins threw into coverage nearly as often as Jones with 23.5 percent of his passes going into coverage.
Rookie Dexter Lawrence led the way for the defensive line and EDGE players with 33 snaps (65 percent), while Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and Markus Golden were close behind with 31, 30, and 30 snaps, respectively. DTs B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson played a little less than half of the defensive snaps with 25 and 23 snaps.
The Giants were able to generate solid pressure on Washington’s quarterbacks, averaging 4.20 yards from the quarterback per pass rush. Not quite as good as Washington’s 3.99 yards from the quarterback per pass rush, but still better than the NFL average of 4.49 yards.
The Giants will have a real test coming up, facing the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots in less than ten days’ time. It will be interesting to see what trends hold up over those two games and how the team responds to the jump in competition.