The New York Giants are off on Tuesday before they begin their final three-game stretch of the season by preparing for their Christmas Day game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Here are some off-day thoughts about the Giants as the season begins to wind down.
Brian Daboll and the Giants are absolutely right to continue with Tommy DeVito as their starting quarterback. There is really no other decision that makes sense right now. As much fun as the three-game winning streak and the ‘Tommy Cutlets’ hysteria was, that also has nothing to do with it.
Let me be clear. I am not on the ‘Tommy DeVito is the next Kurt Warner and will (or should) be the Giants’ QB1 next year’ train. Maybe one day I will be, but I’m not there yet. I remain in the ‘want more information’ camp. To piggyback off Daboll, we’re five games in. DeVito-mania aside, in my view the results have been mixed.
The Giants almost certainly aren’t keeping Tyrod Taylor next season. Daniel Jones is highly-paid and will be on the roster next season. If they draft a quarterback in Round 1, that is a second quarterback with a significant paycheck, even on a rookie pay scale. DeVito is on a cheap three-year undrafted free agent deal. Snaps for DeVito make sense at this point, for the information or the experience. Or both.
Peter King devoted a section of his always fantastic ‘Football Morning in America’ column this week to officiating, everyone’s favorite topic. I think the entire section is worth re-posting, and I have a thought of my own at the end.
Zebra update. The offensive offside call Saturday night on Denver right guard Quinn Meinerz at the Detroit one-foot line was offensive. The call was nonsensical. It negated a Broncos touchdown that would have made it an 14-point Detroit lead with 16 minutes left in the game. But instead of putting all the blame on the fourth-year official who made the call, down judge Frank LeBlanc, let’s give a good deal of the blame to the league office and senior VP of officiating Walt Anderson for so emphasizing the cleanliness of the line of scrimmage that he’s spooked his officiating roster and forced people like Frank LeBlanc to over-officiate what’s already an impossible game to call consistently.
In trying to get a handle on the Tush Push play—which has seen players from both lines crowd the line of scrimmage so much that violations could be called on virtually every QB-sneak try now—the league has created a dangerous cocktail. The league office hates this play but very likely won’t outlaw it because it’s not causing injury and would seem to be unfairly picking on the team that has virtually perfected it, Philadelphia. Instead the league has leaned on the line-of-scrimmage adjudicators, the down judges, to call this penalty no one had heard of a month ago, offensive offside, in an attempt to gut down on the mayhem at the line pre-snap on the Tush Push. So, instead of calling obvious plays (such as the Kadarius Toney offside eight days ago), officials are now staring intently trying to see if even the helmet of a player is shading the back end of the football at the line. That should never be the intent of this call.
So instead of Denver being down 28-14 as it should have been, the Broncos were down 18. The outcome almost certainly wasn’t affected, but that’s not the point. The point is, officials have too much to worry about in an increasingly microscopically watched profession than to be over-warned about flagging offensive offside.
I remember when I did my week-in-the-life-of-an-officiating-crew story 10 years ago listening to ref Gene Steratore talking to his crew at their Saturday meeting. “Remember,” Steratore told his crew, “we fish for whales. We don’t fish for minnows.” Fishing for minnows is hurting this profession right now.
I LOVE the “we fish for whales. We don’t fish for minnows.” quote. I think it summarizes what is by far the biggest problem with NFL officiating at this point. There is far too much minutiae. Far too much fishing for minnows. Far too many hairline judgment calls, many based on the league’s infamous and ever-changing “points of emphasis.” The league is forcing officials to sweat the small stuff, and that is taking away from the game.
To me, officials used to throw flags when it was “clear and obvious” that there was an infraction that impacted a play. Now? Because of what the NFL wants and the way officials are graded, they seem to throw flags every time they think there “might” have been an infraction, even if it’s 50 yards away from the play and had nothing to do with it. That’s not the way to officiate the game.
The hit on Daniel Bellinger that Alontae Taylor was penalized for Sunday, and that ending up giving the Giants 3 points they didn’t deserve, was a perfect example. It was textbook tackling and got flagged because it looked like it might have been something it wasn’t.
The Seattle Seahawks’ last-second victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night moved the Giants from No. 7 to No. 6 in the 2024 NFL Draft order, ahead of the New York Jets. That is because the Giants and Jets are both 5-9, and now have identical .508 strengths of schedule. The Jets, of course, beat the Giants this season.
Speaking of that Seattle victory, it was former Giant Julian Love with the game-sealing interception of Jalen Hurts for the Seahawks. Former Giant Leonard Williams, traded to Seattle at the deadline for a second-round pick, had a nice night with five tackles (two for loss).
The Giants, in my view, did the right thing letting both go. Love signed with Seattle for two years, $12 million with $5.98 million guaranteed. Jason Pinnock replaced him and is playing well on a contract that pays him $940,000 this year and $1.055 million in 2024. The second-round pick the Giants got for Williams is currently No. 46.
Playing the young players
The Giants are now playing out the string in their final three games, and that is the time when many turn their attention to wanting to see the young players get opportunities. I have said this before, but the Giants are already playing an exceptionally young roster.
That said, there are a handful of young players I would like to see more of over the final three games — aside from DeVito and the much-discussed Evan Neal.
On the offensive side, I would like to see more of fifth-round pick Eric Gray and second-year offensive lineman Marcus McKethan.
Can Gray be the No. 2 back behind Saquon Barkley next season? Or, part of a rotation if the Giants move on from Barkley this offseason? He has only played 45 offensive snaps, and that isn’t a big enough sample size to judge.
I didn’t think the Giants were fair to McKethan early in the season. They threw the 2022 fifth-round pick into the lineup when he wasn’t ready, having missed all of last season and a good chunk of training camp due to last season’s torn ACL. I wouldn’t mind seeing him get some action now, with virtually a full season of practice reps under his belt.
Defensively, Jordon Riley and Tre Hawkins III are players I would like to see.
Riley, the seventh-round pick who generated buzz in the preseason, played 18 snaps against the Saints as Dexter Lawrence continued to deal with a hamstring injury. I want to see more.
Hawkins had opportunities early in the season after a stellar training camp. It didn’t go well, though, and Hawkins has mostly been buried on the bench in recent weeks when Adoree’ Jackson has been healthy. Jackson, though, is a free agent and I think chances are he moves on in the offseason. The Giants, then, would need a replacement. Has Hawkins developed enough to deserve consideration to be that replacement?