The injury and likely (as of this writing) loss of Saquon Barkley has New York Giants fans rightfully wondering what is next.
The answer, for the Giants anyway, is to pick up the pieces and get ready to face the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3. As we go over the aftermath of each game, we like to take a look at the snap counts and stats from the game. That way we can see what we can learn about how the Giants employed their players and how they played before turning the page to the upcoming opponent.
So then, what do the snaps and stats have to tell us?
When NFL coaches are preparing their game plans, they typically plan on having 60 to 65 offensive or defensive snaps with which to work in a given game. In a rare instance of symmetry, both the Giants and Bears had exactly 65 snaps — so both the Giants offense and defense were on the field for 65 snaps.
In a weekend in which it seemed like half the league was lost to injury, Thanos would be proud.
As you might expect, the time of possession was split relatively evenly as well. The Bears had the advantage, controlling the ball for 26 minutes, 54 seconds, while the Giants had possession for 25 minutes, 31 seconds.
There aren’t many surprises in the Giants’ offensive snap counts, though it’s clear that Damion Ratley, who the Giants claimed off of waivers from the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 6 is the next man up on the outside. The Giants adjusted to the injury to Sterling Shepard (who played just 15 snaps before leaving the field) by bringing Golden Tate (40 snaps) onto the field in the slot and playing Ratley (27 snaps) opposite Darius Slayton.
The Giant came out in their 12-personnel set, with Evan Engram playing 63 of 65 snaps while Kaden Smith saw 31 snaps. Third tight end Levine Toilolo saw 11 snaps when the Giants employed their 13-personnel package.
For the second week in a row the Giants have emphasized their defensive secondary. Interestingly, both Julian Love (64 snaps) and Logan Ryan (55 snaps) are credited as free safeties by the Giants, while Jabrill Peppers (65 snaps) is the team’s strong safety.
The Giants’ starting trio of defensive tackles, Leonard Williams (42 snaps), Dexter Lawrence II (39 snaps), and Dalvin Tomlinson (38 snaps) all saw a similar workload. Third-year tackle B.J. Hill saw just 20 defensive snaps, but his sack of Mitchell Trubisky could earn him more work going forward.
EDGE Lorenzo Carter was a fixture on the Giants’ defense, playing 64 of 65 snaps, but the Giants rotated the other EDGE position freely. Kyler Fackrell saw the most work with 36 snaps, while Oshane Ximines was on the field for 19 snaps and Markus Golden played 15 snaps.
The Giants also rotated their second and third cornerback spots heavily.
James Bradberry played all of the defense’s 65 snaps, while Isaac Yiadom played 36 snaps, Corey Ballentine played 29, and Darnay Holmes played 25 snaps.
It’s clear that a key piece of Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme is mixing and matching his defensive players with a heavy rotation. While that’s good for keeping guys fresh and matching skillsets to the situation, it could also expose the Giants if they get caught against no-huddle offenses.
Just watching the game, it was clear that the Bears were in control of the game pretty much from the beginning. The Win Probability chart reflects that feeling, though it does a good job of illustrating where the game turned — particularly at the end of the fourth quarter.
The Giants’ best chance to win the game came with 32 seconds left in the game when they topped out with a 36.1 percent win probability. There’s a sharp rise at 2:07 left in the game as the Bears miss their field goal attempt. That field goal attempt — and subsequent miss — opened the door for the Giants to attempt the comeback.
Interestingly, while the Giants utterly failed to run the ball for the second week in a row, EPA (expected points added) analysis actually credits the running game as being much more successful than their passing game. That was due, almost entirely to Saquon Barkley’s lone 18-yard run just two plays before his knee injury. That one play lifted Barkley up to a remarkable 1.3 EPA or 0.33 EPA per play. Dion Lewis was the Giants’ most efficient receiving target, and most efficient player overall, with 3.5 EPA and 0.58 EPA per play as a receiver (six plays).
The bulk of the blame for the Giants’ loss lays at the feet of quarterback Daniel Jones. While Jones completed a high volume of his quick passes, those passes weren’t particularly valuable. However, the four sacks and two turnovers, and no touchdowns resulted in a brutal -7.6 EPA (-0.16 per play) for Jones. Part of Jones’ struggles came from an insistence on throwing into coverage, attempting a full 30 percent of his throws into tight windows, per NFL NextGenStats. Part of that number is scheme, and part of it is down to the quarterback’s decision making process, but part of it is due to his receivers as well.
Darius Slayton and Golden Tate struggled to create separation a year ago, and that has continued into Week 2 of this year. Tate fared a little better with an average of 2.7 yards of separation from defenders out of the slot. But Slayton, however, has struggled mightily to create separation as the team’s defacto No. 1 receiver. This past week he was only able to generate an average of 1.6 yards of separation from the Bears’ DBs. That’s tied for the fourth-worst mark in the NFL this week and only 0.4 yards better than league-worst Preston Williams in Miami.
The Giants need better, and more consistently better, performance from Daniel Jones and their offensive coaching staff, but they also need their receivers to get open so Jones isn’t forced to throw into coverage even when he doesn’t want to.