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‘Things I think’ before Giants-Cardinals: The Giants need to win on Sunday, and more

A few thoughts before a critical Week 2 game

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Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The New York Giants have spent the week determined to ignore the stench of the 40-0 stinker of a loss they suffered in Week 1 at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys.

It was almost as if, other than acknowledging that it had happened, discussion of the game was a taboo topic around the Giants. Probably correctly, and for the better, the Giants only wanted to look forward.

“The biggest thing is, and Dabs [head coach Brian Daboll] hit on this right after the game, you can never let one game beat you twice,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. “So, you’ve got a choice in life. Stand up, dust yourself off and go play. That’s what our guys are going to do. I know how they are, and I know how they’ll react to it.”

Martindale, usually forceful, funny and friendly spoke barely above a whisper. Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey did his “We’re on to Arizona” schtick. Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said nothing useful about last week. Or, really about this week.

Daboll said mid-week that the Giants were “full steam ahead” on this week’s game against the Cardinals.

I asked veteran tight end Darren Waller if he saw any sign of a “hangover” from the Dallas debacle this week.

“Not from where I stand, not with the way guys are flying around, practicing on both sides of the ball,” he said. “I feel like guys are excited for a new challenge. Nobody wants to carry that forward because that’s not who we are, and we feel like we are going to have the opportunity to show who we are on Sunday.”

Running back Saquon Barkley also spoke about the response he expected from his teammates.

“Good teams recover, too. It’s not going to be our only adversity throughout this year,” he said. “So, we’ve got to see how we respond, and it’s on us as players and on us as leaders to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

I think the Giants have to win on Sunday.

On paper, the Cardinals are the weakest team on the Giants’ 2023 schedule. It’s a team whose front office is trying not to win.

The Giants can’t lose to this team. They can’t heap the embarrassment of losing to Arizona, the team with the best chance of earning the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, on top of the embarrassment they suffered at the hands of the Cowboys.

They can’t fall to 0-2. We know that is the kiss of death when it comes to playoff aspirations. Below, the numbers for how NFL teams starting a season 0-2have performed since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

— Graphic via

After the Cardinals, the Giants are at the San Francisco 49ers, home vs. the Seattle Seahawks, then on the road against the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. They only game they could be expected to win out of that quartet would be against the Seahawks.

So, if this season isn’t going to spiral out of control before it ever really gets started the Giants had better beat the Cardinals.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants
Mark Glowinski
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Offensive line

I think the most interesting, and perhaps telling, thing about Sunday’s game might be how the Giants configure their offensive line against Arizona.

Let’s start with left tackle, where Andrew Thomas admitted Friday that he is a “game-time decision” due to his hamstring injury.

If Thomas doesn’t play, will it be Matt Peart or Joshua Ezeudu in his place? Best guess is that it will be Ezeudu, who has all of 14 NFL snaps of experience at left tackle.

We know Evan Neal will be at right tackle despite last Sunday’s rough game. And apparently, the majority of Giants fans are OK with that. The Giants invested the seventh overall pick in Neal in 2022, and it would be shocking if they gave up on the idea that he can be a quality right tackle this quickly.

Might the Giants, however, be ready to move on from Mark Glowinski at right guard?

Glowinski has always been a stop-gap at right guard, a decent veteran starter from whom the organization hoped to get a couple of adequate seasons before moving on.

Glowinski played about as poorly as possible Sunday against Dallas. He had the worst Pro Football Focus grade of 65 qualifying guards. He had a 1.0 pass-blocking grade. He gave up three sacks and nine total pressures, tied with Chicago Bears guard Nate Davis for most of any offensive lineman in the league.

Former NFL offensive lineman Mark Schlereth told The Athletic that it looked to him like Neal was impacted Sunday by Glowinski’s poor play.

Schlereth saw what he thought was a lack of connection between the two and a lack of communication. He saw Neal get beat a few times, because he wasn’t sure where the help was coming from, and, “I saw him a couple times do some things to try to make it more solid up front, and that created him being a little bit late. And when you’re a little bit late, you’re edged and when you’re edged, you’re giving up soft pockets and hits on the quarterback.

“They hurt themselves, like (when Cowboys rushers were playing) games and other situations, a lot of it because they weren’t on the same path; they weren’t on the same levels,” Schlereth said of Neal and Glowinski. “One of the things you have to realize when you’re playing next to another guy is that guy needs to know what I’m thinking.”

Glowinski couldn’t have enamored himself to the coaching staff or front office this week when he seemed to indicate that he wasn’t thrilled with the training camp guard rotation that limited his practice reps next to Neal. Read the following quote. While Glowinski talked around it, it’s hard not to see that Glowinski didn’t love it.

“I think regardless, even if I weren’t, even if it were to be having mental reps or watching film – just going about it. I’m not going to say yes or no to it. You always want to have more reps. I think you also have to be ready, if it’s even a walkthrough making sure they make the most of those reps. Even the ones that you’re not in, putting yourself in the position when you’re watching the film to be in those spots as well just making sure you’re in the right position to succeed.”

There has been a lot of chatter in the fan base about the idea of signing ex-Giant Justin Pugh — or perhaps Dalton Risner — to try and upgrade the interior of the offensive line.

What if the way Glowinski played Sunday has made the Giants, who are almost certain to move on from Glowinski after this season, think about doing that sooner? Perhaps before turning to Pugh or Risner they want a live-action look at Ezeudu, if he isn’t playing left tackle, or Marcus McKethan. Maybe they would even give Shane Lemieux a chance.

Regardless, lots of intrigue surrounding what the Giants do with their offensive line.

Ground and pound

I hope Barkley slept well Saturday night. I am anticipating a heavy dose of Barkley Sunday afternoon/evening as the Giants try to get back on track. I don’t know that it will be a 35-carry game like Barkley had last season against the Houston Texans, but it won’t surprise me if we see a similarly conservative game plan from the Giants’ offense.

They need to limit mistakes. They need to let their offensive line, whoever is playing, get its footing after a horrible first week. Throwing the ball all over the place isn’t the way to get that done.

So, I am thinking this game plan will revolve around the legs of Barkley and Daniel Jones, with quick passing and a handful of deep shots.

We know the Giants want to open it up more and create more explosive plays this season, but you have crawl before you walk and walk before you run. The Giants turned the ball over just 16 times last season, second-best in the NFL, and they still aren’t going to win games if they are giving the ball away. Against Dallas, they had two interceptions and fumbled the ball five times. Right now, the most important thing for the Giants is to play a clean game and get a win. Even if it isn’t flashy.

MetLife Stadium turf

When New York Jets Aaron Rodgers suffered his season-ending torn Achilles tendon on Monday night at MetLife Stadium, that renewed both criticism of the MetLife turf and calls by players for grass playing field at all NFL stadiums.

One of those is valid. The other is not.

It is absolutely valid for players to want to play on natural grass. I understand the NFLPA calling for grass fields.

I understand players across the league agreeing with this. The NFL might disagree, but the data over the years has been pretty clear that grass is a safer surface for players.

No argument there.

The criticism that is not valid, and that got me into the kind of social media sniping I try to avoid, came when Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay ripped into the MetLife Stadium turf.

I get it. Players have complained about the MetLife turf for years. Does Slay not know, though, that there is new turf at MetLife in 2023? Generic criticisms of the field MetLife Stadium used to have are no longer valid, and are uninformed. That surface has gone to the great turf graveyard.

The stadium has a new surface called FieldTurf CORE, which is also used by the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots.

So, I will support the players’ argument for grass. I will, though, push back on the old ‘the playing surface at MetLife has sucked for years’ argument.