The New York Giants’ 2023 season effectively ended yesterday with a 13-10 overtime loss to the New York Jets that evoked memories of the 2010 DeSean Jackson punt return loss to Philadelphia. The good news is: That Giants team won the Super Bowl the following year. The bad news is: That Giants team had many of the players who won it all in 2007 and still finished the 2010 season 10-6, though they missed the playoffs. This Giants team will only finish with six losses if it runs run the table. The odds of that happening are about as good as the odds of blowing a 10-7 lead with 1:26 left with the ball and a first down on the opponent’s 26 yard line. (So you’re saying it’s possible!?!)
What do Pro Football Focus grades and snap counts tell us about why this game played out the way it did? Does anyone care at this point? Let’s take a look anyway, there are at least a couple of points to make.
- If we can take any comfort from the Giants’ offense yesterday, it is that Mark Glowinski had his second consecutive strong game (81.0). After a nightmare opening game vs. Dallas temporarily lost him his starting job, Glowinski has rebounded nicely. Stronger in the run game (79.4) than the pass game (55.7), but that was his reputation in Indianapolis.
- The rest of the offensive line was either slightly below average (Justin Pugh, 55.8; John Michael Schmitz, 55.5) or flat-out poor (fan favorite Tyre Phillips, 45.0; Ben Bredeson, 43.4). Daniel Bellinger, now the supposed blocking tight end, graded 35.0.
- Also in the bloom-is-off-the-rose category, fan favorite Tyrod Taylor graded 51.1 before his injury and Don Bosco’s own Tommy DeVito garnered a 46.5. Welcome back, Daniel Jones!
- One surprise to me was that Saquon Barkley was graded slightly below average (58.2). I realize that he averaged only 3.6 yards per carry, and that he went down too early on the critical first down with 1:26 to play (supposedly because he slipped). But when the opponent knows the ball is going to you on almost every down, you’re running behind an offensive line whose collective run blocking grade yesterday was 48.1, and you still manage to get 128 rushing yards, 112 of them after contact, with one 34-yard run and five missed tackles forced, that seems like a pretty good day at the office.
- The wide receivers all graded in the 50s (slightly below average). Since they rarely if ever saw a ball come their way, those grades are telling us that they weren’t running any routes so amazingly well that they were wide open and the quarterbacks missed them. Of course when you’re running the ball most of the time and throwing to Barkley behind the line of scrimmage otherwise, it’s hard to be motivated to run great pass routes.
- If there is any good news, it is that all five offensive linemen played every snap - no injuries! (Apparently, anyway.) Throw in Marcus McKethan, who got six snaps as a tight end as Daniel Bellinger was the only actual tight end left standing after Darren Waller’s injury since the Giants did not activate Lawrence Cager.
- Barkley played 67 snaps, more than half of them plays in which he actually ran the ball. This was one of several cases of Giants players being (figuratively) run into the ground yesterday because the depth is just not there. Matt Breida getting only eight snaps says it all. Compare to the Jets, who rode their own great running back, Breece Hall, yesterday. Hall played only 41 snaps and was given breathers by Michael Carter (15 snaps) and Dalvin Cook (8). The Jets even had a fullback, Nick Bawden, on the field for five snaps.
- The Giants’ wide receivers used yesterday’s game as exercise to get some wind sprints in, just in case they get any passes thrown to them later in the season. There was even a brief Parris Campbell sighting. They could have activated me for all it mattered.
- Sometimes players get signed to big contracts and the team regrets doing it after the fact. Daniel Jones got the bag and he has been some combination of harassed, ineffective, or hurt in every game but one since then. Andrew Thomas got the bag and has played a total one of eight games. We hope for/expect better from those players moving forward. Dexter Lawrence, though, is if anything a bargain. He was a monster (again) yesterday, grading an almost perfect 95.0. For the season, he is the NFL’s highest graded interior defensive lineman at 92.4, and the NFL’s second highest graded defender at any position (behind only Myles Garrett). His 44 total pressures are tied for the NFL lead at any position with Nick Bosa. That’s right, more than all the other NFL edge defenders, even Micah Parsons (43). Yesterday Lawrence had 15 total pressures by PFF’s reckoning (1 sack, 4 QB hits). NextGenStats counts things differently - they had him with “only” 12 pressures, after having had 8 last week - no other player at the 0-technique position (nose tackle) has generated more than 5 pressures in a game since they began keeping track in 2016.
- Kayvon Thibodeaux had the highest-graded game of his NFL career yesterday (91.0). His three sacks give him 8.5 for the season, tied for third in the NFL. Of particular note is that his pass rush grade yesterday was “only” 86.1. Against the run, a previous weakness of his, he graded an outstanding 90.6.
- Not surprisingly, yesterday was the defense’s best overall performance of the year by far (79.9). Second best was last week vs. Washington (69.6), so the defense is becoming what we thought it could be (at least when Wink Martindale doesn’t decide to play prevent defense and rush only three). Many Giants defenders played well yesterday: Bobby Okereke once again (76.9, with 8 tackles and 2 assists), Jason Pinnock (75.5), Cor’Dale Flott (73.3), and substitute Isaiah Simmons (74.5). Even Boogie Basham, invisible since becoming a Giant, played well - he only had five snaps but made two tackles, one of them a “stop” (a failure by the offense). Micah McFadden had a rough day overall, though (55.8), because of tackling and coverage failures despite being stout against the run.
- The defense’s biggest problems yesterday were in the secondary. Xavier McKinney had another nondescript game (55.5); every time I noticed him he was five yards away from a cornerback who was being beaten by a Jets receiver. Tae Banks (49.9) got his comeuppance from Garrett Wilson (7 receptions in 13 targets for 100 yards); maybe Tae should stop saying publicly that he doesn’t even know who the next opponent’s receivers are. Adoree’ Jackson (52.4) wasn’t the lowest graded defensive back, but his mistakes were the most costly - getting beaten by Allen Lazard for 29 yards to get the Jets into field position for the tying field goal, and then steamrolling practice squad elevation Malik Taylor without ever looking back for the football after letting Taylor breeze right by him to set up the winning field goal.
- The big issue here is that Thibodeaux played 62 of 64 defensive snaps. That’s just not appropriate for an edge defender. It is not sustainable over an entire season. Of course he played that much because the Giants are woefully thin on the edge, as they are at several other positions. Jihad Ward got 52 snaps, Oshane Ximines seven, and Boogie Basham five. Compare that to the Jets, who rotated four edge defenders who got 28-47 snaps apiece. Thibodeaux may not make it through the season at this rate. On the inside, the most notable thing is that A’Shawn Robinson has continued to see the field more (30 snaps) than earlier in the season when he was barely used in a couple of games.
- The usual suspects at the second and third levels (Jason Pinnock, Xavier McKinney, Tae Banks, Bobby Okereke) played all 64 snaps yesterday. Adoree’ Jackson played 50 while Tre Hawkins III did not see the field on defense; we’ll see how that looks after the trade deadline passes given Jackson’s awful “coverage” mistake that sealed the loss. Cor’Dale Flott (37 snaps) now seems entrenched as the slot cornerback with Jackson now back on the boundary and Darnay Holmes being relegated to special teams. As has become the norm, Micah McFadden played on running downs, Isaiah Simmons on passing downs.