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Progress? Joe Judge says he sees it, so let’s look for it

Finding it doesn’t exactly take a microscope, but you do have to want to see it

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

As the losses have mounted, New York Giants rookie head coach Joe Judge has continually repeated his mantra that there has been weekly improvement despite the lack of victories.

Judge said this week that the Giants are “fully on track,” that he sees “improvement” across the board” and that “a lot of things are getting accomplished.”

Reality is, that’s all coach-speak. Pat Shurmur used to talk about being on the right path. He talked about being on the right path while the Giants won 5 games in 2018. He talked about it for much of 2019, until it became obvious he was coaching himself out of a job and he started making references to the lack of talent he was trying to coach.

Is there really progress?

Let’s examine a few things and see what we find.

  • I say over and over that this season is largely about Daniel Jones. He has not made tangible progress yet in his second season. He did, though, play by far his best game of 2020 Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Is that a sign of progress to come? Let’s hope.
  • After an awful first couple of games running the ball, and the loss of Saquon Barkley, the Giants have figured out a way to run the ball somewhat successfully. Much of that includes using Jones in the run game, but there has been some improvement in run blocking.
  • The defense is a middle of the pack unit after being one of the worst in the league a year ago. Solid free agent additions and improved play from Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams is a big part of the reason why. The Giants need more play makers on that side of the ball, but what Patrick Graham is squeezing out of this group is encouraging.
  • Andrew Thomas continues to struggle in pass protection, but his run blocking has been solid in recent weeks. Another young offensive lineman, Nick Gates, is showing signs of settling in at center.

There are some concerns, some areas where there does not seem to be progress.

  • The Judge coaching staff isn’t having any better luck getting Evan Engram, Will Hernandez, B.J. Hill and, before he was hurt, Lorenzo Carter, to raise their level of play than the Shurmur coaching staff did.
  • The jury remains out on whether 2019 mid-round draft picks Julian Love and Oshane Ximines will be productive players.
  • You want to believe in Andrew Thomas, and offensive line coach Marc Colombo, but it is discouraging to see Thomas have the same pass protection issues each week.
  • Whether it’s with penalties, bad drops, turnovers or defensive breakdowns, the Giants have continued to beat themselves as much or more than opposing teams are beating them.

So, at a quick glance there is some progress if you look for it. Some reason to be optimistic. I do actually believe that Judge has a better chance of getting the Giants’ ship righted over the long haul than Shurmur did.

Until the Giants start winning games, though, “progress” is just a vague notion no one really wants to hear about.