As had become the norm in recent years, the New York Giants left Arlington, Tx. Sunday night licking the wounds of another season-opening loss, this one a non-competitive 35-17 defeat that provided a serious reality check for the Giants.
As we always do the day after games, let’s get to the ‘Kudos & Wet Willies.’
Kudos to ...
Saquon Barkley — The Giants’ incredible running back did what he could to keep his team from getting embarrassed on Sunday. Unfortunately, he wasn’t given the opportunity to do enough thanks both to Dallas’ dominance during the middle of the game when it mattered and some inexplicable play-calling. Barkley had a 59-yard run and finished with 11 carries for 120 yards, 10.9 yards per carry.
Saquon Barkley breaks free for a 59-yard runpic.twitter.com/bQylmz9Cqc— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 8, 2019
Evan Engram — We expected Engram to be a focal point of the Giants’ passing attack, and Sunday he obviously was. Engram had career highs in targets (14), receptions (11) and yards receiving (116). It was, in fact, Engram’s first 100-yard receiving game.
Riley Dixon — Yeah, it’s probably not good when the punter is getting “Kudos.” Dixon had four punts, forced three catches, didn’t allow a single return yard and had three punts downed inside the Dallas 20-yard line.
Wet Willies to ...
The Giants defense — As a whole. Communication breakdowns. No pass rush. No turnovers created. Poor coverage and tackling in the secondary. No real chance to stop Dallas most of the night. The Cowboys had five straight touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer after the Giants took a 7-0 lead. The young guys looked overwhelmed and the old guys looked, well, old.
Dallas QB Dak Prescott barely had to move his feet all night and had a plethora of wide open receivers to choose from most of the time. The Giants’ young defenders might have thought they were ready for Sunday, but they weren’t. Veterans Michael Thomas and Alec Ogletree got fooled by play action for touchdown passes, including this one to Jason Witten:
Amari Cooper ran by 35-year-old Antoine Bethea for a 45-yard gain, and Randall Cobb did the same for a 25-yard touchdown.
Dak Prescott: 22/28, 326 yards and 4 TDs (to four different receivers).— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 8, 2019
This time it's Randall Cobb with the score.pic.twitter.com/6z37yv5Jxd
Antonio Hamilton — It’s harsh, but Hamilton spent 36 snaps at cornerback on Sunday proving why he’s a valued special teams player who didn’t play a single defensive snap for the Giants a season ago.
For a while on Sunday, Hamilton seemed like a completion magnet. While he was credited with five tackles, several of those came after pass receivers pushed him down the field several yards. He also outright missed several tackles.
Off what we saw Sunday, there is little reason for Hamilton to be playing while either DeAndre Baker or Corey Ballentine watch.
DeAndre Baker — Soooo ... now that I said Baker has to be playing some of the snaps Hamilton got, what about the cornerback the Giants traded up to draft 30th overall?
It was this kind of night for Baker:
Dak Prescott finds his favorite target, Amari Cooper, for a 21 yard TD.— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 8, 2019
Prescott is 20/26 for 256 yards and 3 TDs. pic.twitter.com/ny5DBAE3UQ
He might become a really good NFL cornerback. Rookies at his position, though, generally experience rough patches early in their careers. Baker gave up a trio of long receptions Sunday. So, yeah, that’s a rough patch.
Markus Golden and Dexter Lawrence — I am lumping the veteran pass rusher and the rookie defensive tackle together. Both need to be impact players on the Giants’ front seven. Both weren’t on Sunday. Each had just one assisted tackle, Golden in 55 snaps and Lawrence in just 28.
The usage, or lack thereof, of Barkley — So, maybe this is a nice way of giving Pat Shurmur a ‘Wet Willie’ without doing it directly. So, sure, call it what it is — a ‘WW’ for the head coach.
Shurmur wouldn’t second-guess any of the decisions about how Barkley was used — five first-half carries, 11 total carries, not getting the ball on third-and-2 or fourth-and-1 inside the Dallas 10-yard line in the third quarter.
I can, sort of, give him a pass for the first half. Dallas did have the ball for more than 11 minutes in the second quarter. The idea that Elijhaa Penny got a carry and Barkley didn’t in that critical third quarter sequence is simply inexplicable.
Two other points.
First, why are you bothering to give the ball to Barkley down 25 points with 5:14 left in the game? Get him out of there.
Second, here at Big Blue View we spent an inordinate number of words this offseason discussing ways the Giants could use Barkley more effectively in the passing game. The Giants targeted Barkley six times Sunday and he had four receptions for 19 yards. Perhaps one of those targets came on a concept that actually threatened the Dallas defense.
The Giants simply have to do a better job figuring out when and how to use their best player. And when not to use him.