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Giants-Cardinals ‘things I think’: Daniel Jones, not-so-special special teams, more

Let’s go through some early, painful, thoughts after the Giants see their four-game winning streak snapped

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals 26, New York Giants 7. The first thing I think about Sunday’s game is that, to be honest, it wasn’t even as close as the lopsided final score indicated. This was a horrific loss for the Giants that needs to remind everyone that they are in competition for a playoff spot not because they are an especially good team, but because the NFC East is an especially bad division.

Here are more things I think about Sunday’s performance.

I think Daniel Jones was a sitting duck

Coach Joe Judge talked for more than a week about not wanting quarterback Daniel Jones to play if he couldn’t defend himself in the pocket after injuring his hamstring against the Cincinnati Bengals. Judge played him because he felt he could, and defended the decision after the game. But, I disagree.

The Giants’ quarterback was a statue in the pocket, the kind of “sitting duck” Judge said he didn’t want him to be. The zone read stuff the Giants had been using successfully before Jones was injured wasn’t even a consideration, taking a big weapon out of the Giants’ offensive arsenal.

It’s absolutely fair to wonder if Judge should have gotten Jones out of the game much earlier, like at halftime. Or, in retrospect, if he should have played at all. It was apparent early on that he could throw, but he couldn’t really move.

Judge said he had “no regrets” about playing Jones this week.

“I thought he was able to protect himself in the pocket, which was the main concern,” Judge said. “We made a calculated decision based on what we thought he could do.”

What Jones could do wasn’t nearly enough. He really couldn’t escape the pocket, which was obvious from the time ex-Giant Markus Golden separated him from the football on the Giants’ first possession, and the Cardinals knew it.

What we don’t know now is how much damage Jones did to his leg and how healthy he will be going forward. The way he hobbled off the field late in the game wasn’t encouraging. The fact that he wasn’t made available to media until nearly 5:30, almost 90 minutes after the game, was also ominous.

Judge also said the Giants would have more news on Jones “internally” Sunday night and Monday morning. Again, not good.

For his part, Jones also didn’t second-guess playing Sunday.

“I don’t regret it. I felt good enough to play,” Jones said.

In the end, I don’t blame the Giants for running Jones out there on Sunday. I just think they should have gotten Jones out of the game after the first half when it was really obvious he couldn’t move off his spot.

I hated the third-and-1 third-quarter play call

Here’s the situation. Giants trail, 20-7, and face third-and-1 from their own 16-yard line late in the third quarter. A team that has proudly stuck to the run in recent weeks went for a deep shot to Sterling Shepard that fell incomplete. They punted.

I really don’t like criticizing or questioning play calls, but not banging the ball in there and trying to get the first down with Wayne Gallman was a mistake. Maybe this was an audible by Jones because of the 1-on-1 matchup, but this was a bad decision.

Jones said he did not change the play call from offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, one which Judge defended.

“It was a matchup we thought we liked right there,” Judge said.

I think I’m worried about special teams

The Giants have not been good on special teams, especially kick coverage, for three weeks now. The Giants gave up 77 yards to Christian Kirk on six punt returns. He had run backs of 24 and 17 yards. Punter Riley Dixon seems to be having trouble consistently keeping the ball out of the middle of the field.

Throw in the Dion Lewis fumble that set up Arizona’s first touchdown and that exacerbates the issues.

I think the Giants need a new kickoff returner

Speaking of Lewis, I don’t know who it would be but I think the Giants need a new kickoff returner. I’ve actually thought this for a while.

It was obvious that Arizona didn’t see Lewis, who is averaging only 21.9 yards per return, as a threat. Mike Nugent kept kicking the ball short enough to force Lewis to return it, and he just doesn’t look like he has the burst to get there even if the blocking gives him an opening.

I know Joe Judge trusts him. Considering the fumble on Sunday, some of the questionable decisions he has made and the fact that he just doesn’t have the ability to threaten the coverage team I don’t think I do.

I think the defense can’t do everything

The Giants’ defense played valiantly. It really did. I don’t care what the final numbers — 390 yards allowed, 37:52 time of possession for Arizona — say. The defense held the Cardinals to one touchdown in four red-zone trips. The Cardinals played much of the game, in fact nearly all of the first half, in Giants’ territory.

The defense played well enough to win on Sunday. The offense and special teams did not. Thus, the Giants lost.

I think Haason Reddick just made himself rich

Haason Reddick had 7.5 sacks his first three NFL seasons. He had 5.0 sacks this season entering Sunday’s game. He had 5 sacks on Sunday, three of which forced fumbles, and 6 quarterback hits.

Reddick is a free agent at the end of this season. He made himself a boatload of cash on Sunday.

I think this was a step back for the offensive line

That’s sort of a master of the obvious statement. Eight sacks allowed. Eleven hits on Jones and McCoy.

I have to re-watch the game to figure out what exactly went wrong, but the Cardinals rushed four most of the game and got home continuously. It was disconcerting how many times there free runners steaming at the Giants’ quarterbacks.

I don’t know that this was necessarily a poor game for any individual lineman, just a collectively poor effort on a day when — with a limited Jones behind center — they really needed to be perfect.