A is for ... Andrews: Tight end Mark Andrews is a key receiver in the Ravens’ passing attack, Marquise Brown has one more reception, 49-48, but that’s because Andrews missed two games. The third-year tight end leads Baltimore in receptions per game (4.0) and touchdown catches (7).
B is for ... Bradberry: Giants cornerback James Bradberry was named to the first Pro Bowl in his five-year career this week. He also had to go in front of the media and explain how he landed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and missed last week’s game against the Cleveland Browns. He explained going to see a chiropractor outside the Giants organization who tested positive as an “uncontrollable accident.”
Sorry, James. Not buying. That’s a conscious decision made without seeking enough information or following proper channels.
C is for ... Cam: Since Week 6 the Giants have been working sixth-round pick Cam Brown into their defense in some limited packages. That came to a screeching halt Sunday night against the Cleveland Browns when Brown did not play a single defensive snap. The Giants designated edge defender Kyler Fackrell for return from injured reserve this week, so perhaps we have seen the last of Brown on defense for this season.
D is for Dez: It’s been a while since the Giants have seen Dez Bryant. Since 2017, in fact. After two seasons out of the game the 32-year-old Bryant resurfaced with Baltimore this season. In four games, he has 5 catches for 39 yards and a touchdown.
E is for ... Engram: Tight end Evan Engram was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his four-year career. Honestly, that’s not on merit. It’s because with George Kittle out for the year and Zach Ertz missing significant time, the choices were limited. As much as I like Engram, I think Logan Thomas of the Washington Football Team got snubbed with the selections of Engram and T.J. Hockenson. Thomas, a former quarterback with 28 career receptions entering the season, has 62 catches this season and is a huge part of why Washington might win the NFC East.
F is for ... Fluker: D.J. Fluker is a player Dave Gettleman and the Giants chose not to keep when they started their offensive line rebuild three seasons ago. Fluker had good seasons starting at right guard for the Seattle Seahawks the past two seasons. Signed as depth in Baltimore and pressed into service as the team’s starting right tackle, a position he had not played regularly since 2014, Fluker is doing a nice job.
Here is Fluker’s stat line from Pro Football Focus:
Here is Cam Fleming’s:
When you remember that the Giants signed Patrick Omameh to a three-year, $15 million deal ($10.5 million guaranteed) instead of keeping Fluker for the one-year, $1.5 million he signed for in Seattle, letting him go looks like an even bigger mistake.
G is for ... Garrett: The Giants expect offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who missed last week’s game against the Cleveland Browns after testing positive for COVID-19, back on the sidelines this Sunday.
H is for ... Humphrey: Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey is to Baltimore what James Bradberry has become for the Giants. Humphrey has 8 passes defensed, 2.5 sacks and an incredible 8 forced fumbles this season. You get near Humphrey, you better have two hands on the ball. He’s coming for it.
I is for ... Ingram: Mark Ingram II, son of former Giant Mark Ingram, is no longer Baltimore’s primary running back. Ingram gained 1,018 yards for the Ravens a season ago, but this year has just 260 yards on 63 carries. Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins do most of the running for Baltimore, when Lamar Jackson isn’t carrying the ball.
J is for ... Jones: Will Daniel Jones return? How healthy will he be? Jones said he is “doing everything I can to get back out there.” Maybe more significantly, coach Joe Judge indicated this week that the organization is committed to Jones beyond this season.
K is for ... Koch: Yes, I’m going to mention a punter. Sam Koch has been punting for Baltimore for 15 seasons now. Maybe Thomas McGaughey and Judge can ask him for some fake punt plays. Koch is 7 of 7 passing in his career.
L is for ... Loss: If the Giants lose to Baltimore on Sunday and the Washington Football Team defeats the Carolina Panthers the Giants would be eliminated from playoff contention.
M is for ... Marquise: Marquise Brown, 25th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, is Baltimore’s big play wide receiver. He leads the team with 49 receptions, 703 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns.
N is for ... Nick: Why in the world did the Giants design last Sunday’s failed fake field goal with center Nick Gates as the primary receiving target? Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey explained:
“You know what, you guys would be blown away, absolutely blown away if you saw him. He’s caught every ball that we’ve thrown him. Since training camp we’ve been working this thing. I promise you. Everybody laughs now because he’s a center. He has the best pair of hands I have ever seen on a center.”
Unfortunately, the way the play unfolded we didn’t get to see Gates put those hands to use.
O is for ... Orlando: When the Ravens lost All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley to a season-ending injury, the 345-pound Brown moved from right tackle to left tackle. He has not allowed a single sack in eight games since moving across the line.
P is for ... Points: The Giants average only 17.4, 31st in the 32-team NFL. They have only scored more than 30 once this season, and have not reached 20 points in any of their last four games. The reasons for that are too many to get into right now. That kind of offensive output, though, isn’t good enough.
Q is for ... Queen: The Ravens made Patrick Queen the 28th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and they aren’t regretting it. Queen has a team-high 98 tackles (8 for loss), 3.0 sacks, has forced and recovered 2 fumbles and broken up a pair of passes.
R is for ... Ryan: The Giants preemptively answered one of their offseason questions on Christmas Day by signing veteran defensive back Logan Ryan to a three-year, $31 million contract with $20 million guaranteed. That was a great Christmas present for Ryan, and great news for a Giants’ defense that has benefitted greatly from both Ryan’s play and his leadership. The Giants have two other key defensive free agents, Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson. It will be difficult to keep both, especially with the 2021 salary cap expected to decrease.
S is for ... Separation: Sterling Shepard was indignant early in the week when asked about analytics that show Giants’ receivers don’t get all that much separation from defensive backs. Well, it happens to be true. Shepard, at 3.0 yards of separation per Next Gen Stats, leading Giants’ receivers. He is 59th in the league. So, yeah, that’s an issue.
T is for ... Tucker: Extraordinary four-time All-Pro placekicker Justin Tucker is in his ninth season. Tucker actually missed a field goal from inside 40 yards this season, the first time he has done that since 2016. He is the best in the game.
U is for ... Unicorn: That’s what Judge called Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. In a league that is now filled with running quarterbacks, none are as electric running with the ball as Jackson.
“You see him on tape running away from guys, you know he’s fast, but when you see guys in person and you watch them athletically up close, that’s sometimes when you have to realize that this guy’s a lot better than I thought he was on tape and you have a tremendous amount of respect for him on tape,“ Judge said.
Defensive back Logan Ryan said it’s impossible to simulate the speed and elusiveness of Jackson in practice.
“If we had a Lamar Jackson to simulate him we should probably play him on offense in the game because that guy would be really good,” Ryan said.
V is for ... Versatility: Having versatile players able to move from one position to another seamlessly is something head coach Joe Judge has preached all along. We have seen several examples of it this season, the latest last Sunday vs. the Browns when Julian Love moved from safety to cornerback for the first time in his NFL career to fill in for James Bradberry.
“He’s a guy that brings a lot of versatility to us. He’s just a steady, even-keeled guy. Last week, we had a situation come up with the corner position. When we went to Julian and said, ‘Hey, you have to play corner this week,’ he didn’t blink. He said, ‘Whatever you need,’ and went out there and worked it,” Judge told the team’s official website. “I thought he played a solid game for us right there. That just kind of shows his overall value to the defense, is his ability to play nickel corner, perimeter corner, or deep field safety. He does a lot of things for us and that’s a strength.”
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has also been impressed by Love.
“Julian Love is growing on me day by day, week by week. This guy, his toughness is showing up. The tackling, his versatility, he was competitive on a bunch of balls.,” Graham said. “Julian, he just keeps growing on me more and more as a smart football player, as a versatile player. I really like that guy.”
W is for ... Wink: Don “Wink” Martindale is the Ravens’ veteran defensive coordinator. He is also one of the candidates the Giants interviewed for their head-coaching vacancy last offseason.
X is for ... X-Mas: Yeah, i’m cheating. Did you really want me to write about Xavier McKinney again? Anyway, I do hope everyone had a terrific, safe Christmas. We know it was a great day for Logan Ryan.
Z is for ... Zone: The Giants play a heavy percentage of zone defense, as anyone who watches them regularly knows. With Lamar Jackson at quarterback for Baltimore, I can’t imagine that would change. Keeping eyes on the quarterback and being aware of Jackson when he takes off feels like a critical part of facing the Ravens.