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Giants vs. Bills: What to expect when Buffalo has the ball

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It’s not about the Bills — it’s about the Giants being better at what they do

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys
DeAndre Baker giving up a touchdown to Amari Cooper last Sunday.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

How bad were the New York Giants on defense last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys?

Bad enough that the Cowboys were laughing at them.

Bad enough that former NFL player Geoff Schwartz couldn’t figure out what they were doing, or even trying to do, on some of Sunday’s blown coverages.

“What the hell are they doing? I don’t know what to tell you,” Schwartz told Dan Duggan after watching one blown coverage. “The top of the screen lets the guy run free, the bottom lets his guy. I don’t know what this is. I have no f—-ing idea what this is. No clue.”

Bad enough that Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after compiling a perfect passer rating while throwing for 405 yards and four touchdowns.

Bad enough that Lindsay Jones writing in The Athletic’s NFL Power Rankings [subscription only] that the defense “looked lost” seemed kind.

“We did not play as well as No. 1 we expected to play and No. 2 as well as we’re capable of playing,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “We just need to do what we know. As a coaching staff it’s on us, too. We’re together in this. Is there a way we can improve a call? Is there a way we can coach a technique better? A fundamental better? Coach eyes better? Whatever that might have been. We need to address those things, too. We’re all in the ship, we’re all working to improve those things.”

Pass rush

The Giants were credited with no sacks and only two hits on Prescott while he was compiling his perfect score.

So, what do the Giants need to do?

“We’ve just got to get more of it [pressure],” said coach Pat Shurmur.

Well, umm, duh! But, how?

When the Giants simply rushed three or four on Sunday, no one won their one-on-one matchups and got into Prescott’s lap. When defensive coordinator James Bettcher dialed up the blitz, the Giants still couldn’t get home. Per Pro Football Focus the Giants blitzed on 12 Prescott drop backs. He went 9-of-12 on those plays.

Per Inside Edge, the blitz should be an effective weapon against Buffalo’s second-year quarterback, Josh Allen. If the Giants can get pressure with it. Allen has a passer rating of just 67.1 against the blitz (108 Pass Attempts) since last season -- lowest of 27 qualified NFL QBs in NFL. League average rating is 92.3.

“When it comes down to whether you pressure or whether you four-man rush it comes down to winning one-on-ones, and we have to do a better job winning one-on-ones,” Bettcher said.

The Giants have placed EDGE Kareem Martin on IR/return with a knee sprain. That means there could be immediate snaps for Tuzar Skipper, awarded to the Giants on waivers this week from the Pittsburgh Steelers. An undrafted rookie, Skipper had 8.5 sacks for Toledo last season. During the preseason, Skipper had 5 sacks, 16 tackles, 7 quarterback hits and 2 forced fumbles.

The Buffalo starting offensive line of Dion Dawkins, Cody Ford, Jon Feliciano, Quinton Spain and Mitch Morse is revamped, but not the equal of the vaunted Dallas offensive line. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen was hit eight times while throwing 37 passes last Sunday against the New York Jets. Perhaps the Giants will have an opportunity to get their pass rush cranked up this Sunday.

Remarkable Fact (via Inside Edge)

  • The New York Giants defense has sacked opposing QBs on just 4.8 percent of pass attempts (30/622) since last season -- third lowest in NFL; League Avg: 6.8 percent

Coverage

This is not good.

Shurmur seemed to indicate that there will be some changes in personnel on Sunday. Expect more of first-round pick DeAndre Baker (31 snaps vs. Dallas) and less — maybe a lot less — of Antonio Hamilton (36 snaps).

“We’ll let that kind of reveal itself. You’ll remember that (DeAndre) Baker missed 14 days of training camp. We felt like he still needed to come on,” Shurmur said. “That’s why we had them both in there playing (Week 1). But you can expect the young guys to play, just like they did the other night. We’ll see how much. The rotation on that player and maybe a couple others may change on defense.”

The Giants will need Baker, who allowed all four of his targets to be caught in the game and surrendered 132 receiving yards, 54 yards after the catch, one touchdown and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 into his coverage, to play better. Baker did not allow a touchdown pass his final two seasons at Georgia, a total of 870 coverage snaps per Pro Football Focus.

Bettcher did not want to get into what the plan is for Baker, Hamilton and perhaps Corey Ballentine. He did admit there has to be improved play from that position

“We have to play better at that spot. We have to tackle better at that spot,” Bettcher said. “That’s really what it came down to. Some missed tackles at that position.”

Could the Giants perhaps simplify some of their coverage schemes in an effort to avoid some of the obvious confusion we saw vs. Dallas?

“We have a lot of young guys out there. No excuses, but we busted a few coverages,” said Janoris Jenkins. “I think the first game woke them [young teammates] up a little bit. Like I said, I think they get it. They came in today and Monday with a different mindset as far as studying film more, learning our concepts and stuff that you have to do in formation.”

Buffalo’s primary pass-catching targets appears to be wide receivers John Brown (7 cathes, 123 yards) and Cole Beasley (5 catches, 40 yards) against the Jets.

Jabrill Peppers thinks his young teammates will grow from the thrashing in Dallas.

“I am definitely extremely confident,” Peppers said. “I think we have the right group of guys— smart guys who are going to play fast. We just have to do it a little bit extra this week. Sometimes you have to see it for yourself in order to make the proper changes. I was one of those guys, so I have the utmost confidence in those guys and that they are going to rebound and come out here and play big.”

Remarkable Facts (via Inside Edge)

  • The Giants are winless (0-18) when intercepting no passes since the start of the 2017 season -- worst in NFL; League Avg: .363
  • The Bills are 2-12 (.143) when committing 2 or more turnovers since the start of the 2017 season -- fifth worst in NFL; League Avg: .291
  • The Giants are winless (0-9) when having a TD [turnover differential] margin between -1 and 1 since the start of last season -- worst in NFL; League Avg: .494
  • Buffalo’s offense has committed 35 turnovers since last season -- 2nd most in NFL
  • The Bills offense has scored on 25.9 percent of its drives since last season -- second lowest in NFL; League Avg: 36.5 percent
  • The Giants are 4-20 (.167) when allowing 100 or more rushing yards since the start of the 2017 season -- fourth worst in NFL; League Avg: .337

Young guys

There was always going to be a learning curve for the Giants young defenders. Seven of their 10 draft picks were defensive players, and six of them made the roster. The tale will be told by how the respond to the adversity. By whether or not they develop into the kinds of players the Giants think they can be.

“The mistakes that were made were made very obvious. We made an effort to correct them. What you have to do now, you have to embrace the hard work of going out and practicing the right eye discipline, the right leverage, getting lined up quickly because we’re also in the world of quick snaps, which we all do, and then play with technique throughout the down,” Shurmur said. “Then once the ball goes up in the air, then do what you do naturally. It’s all of the things that we teach and preach. For young guys, that’s going to be about as intense of a setting as you’re going to face, especially for an opener. There are many things to be learned.”

The Giants are going to sink or swim with young players like Baker, Dexter Lawrence, Lorenzo Carter, Tae Davis, Ryan Connelly, Grant Haley, B.J. Hill and Peppers, a third-year player, in significant roles. Perhaps eventually Corey Ballentine and Julian Love, as well.

Old guys

One of the disconcerting things about Sunday’s loss to Dallas was that the Giants veteran defenders seemed to make just as many miscues as their young teammates.

Play-action was a major issue for the Giants, with Antoine Bethea, Alec Ogletree and Michael Thomas all falling victim to it in some fashion. It is also apparent that Bethea, at 35 will be exposed at times by receivers with whom he just won’t be able to keep up. Veteran pass rusher Markus Golden made no impact on the game in 55 snaps.

You have to wonder if perhaps a couple of the veteran defenders could be phased out during the years should they not play better than they did against Dallas.