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4 things we learned from the Giants’ 27-10 win over the Eagles

A consolation prize for a disappointing season

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It was difficult to watch the New York Giants play the Philadelphia Eagles to end their 2023 season. Giants fans were on draft watch, with the team having entered the day with the chance to rise to as high as the second pick of the draft, or to drop to as low as eighth. A loss by the Giants would possibly help their cause. Yet by the time the 1 p.m. games were over, it was known that the Giants could only rise to No. 4 but would not fall lower than No. 6. That made it a little easier to root for the Giants to play well and beat the hated Eagles.

In the end, the Giants’ 27-10 victory over the Eagles cost them the No. 5 pick and dropped them to No. 6 because the Los Angeles Chargers, down 10-9 to the Kansas City Chiefs, could not score from the 1-yard line on third down, chose to kick the field goal for a 12-10 lead, and then let the Chiefs drive downfield for the field goal that beat the Chargers 13-12. The Giants will pick No. 6.

One consolation prize: Green Bay secured the final NFC Wild Card spot, meaning that the second round pick the Giants obtained from Seattle in the Leonard Williams trade is No. 47, rather than the No. 50 or worse it could have been if Seattle had made the playoffs. The Giants’ draft picks are now as follows:

Courtesy of Tankathon

What (if anything) did we learn from this somewhat meaningless game?

The Giants’ players and coaches did not tank

Don’t tell NFL players about tanking, at least not the players on this Giants team. Don’t tell the coaches either. Wink Martindale’s defense blitzed the living daylights out of the Eagles’ offense in the first half. The pressure got to Jalen Hurts, who who had to run for his life as often as not and who eventually wound up with an injured finger. The offense moved the ball more effortlessly than we’ve seen a Giants’ offense do all season, and the players clearly enjoyed their success.

Loss of the No. 5 pick aside, a victory over the Eagles is always sweet. If it plants more seeds of doubt in their minds as they approach their Wild Card game, all the better. If they don’t have A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith available next Sunday, it will be a short post-season for them.

A potent passing offense is not necessarily far away

One thing we saw today was that the Eagles’ passing offense without Devonta Smith isn’t nearly as effective as when they have two elite wide receivers on the field at the same time. Once A.J. Brown went down with a knee injury after his only catch of the game, Hurts had trouble finding anyone to throw to. He wound up only 7 for 16 with 55 yards, no TDs, an interception, and a 26.8 passer rating in a half of action before he was removed for Marcus Mariota.

The Giants, on the other hand, racked up 311 passing yards, most of them by Tyrod Taylor, who went 23 for 32 plus a TD pass in what was perhaps his final game as a Giant. Today was the first time all season that we saw the diversified, multi-pronged offensive attack that we expected the Giants to feature regularly entering the season. Wan’Dale Robinson, Darius Slayton, and Darren Waller each had five receptions. Taylor once again threw the deep ball, connecting once to Robinson for 33 yards.

As much as the Giants need to draft a quarterback, we don’t know how many of the prospects they will view as worthy of the No. 6 pick. We don’t even know if they agree that they need to draft a quarterback. If they don’t, a top flight wide receiver could make this offense truly dangerous if they can figure out how to field a competent offensive line next season.

Finally, a ball-hawking defense

The 2022 Giants, for all their unexpected success, were dismal in getting turnovers, finishing 25th in the NFL with only 19 takeaways. The 2023 Giants defense looked just as hopeless at the start of the season, with zero takeaways in the first 4 games. They wound up with 31 after adding four more Sunday, including two interceptions by Xavier McKinney, who had a monster game, and two forced fumbles, one by Nick McCloud (who looks more and more like a nice player to have as depth) and one by Jihad Ward. That gave the Giants a total of 31 for the season.

The final stats for the league aren’t aggregated yet for today’s games, but entering today’s games, Baltimore (which has played 17 games) was leading the NFL with 31 takeaways, and a bunch of teams had 26-28. That means that the Giants will almost certainly finish in the top 10, probably in the top 5, and may tie with the Ravens for the league lead in turnovers.

The Giants’ defense is clearly still a work in progress. The pressure it gets on the passer is sporadic, and the interior run defense without Leonard Williams is soft too often. The off-ball linebackers though are now a strength, and the secondary is at least opportunistic if not yet shutdown.

Jamie Gillan and Gunner Olszewski are keepers

After so many misadventures on special teams for several seasons and into this season, things have finally seemed to stabilize. Jamie Gillan is nowhere near the best punter in the league, but he has improved in placing the ball close to the sidelines where it is difficult to make a long return, and while he isn’t as consistent as I’d like, he gets off enough booming punts to reverse field position and be an asset to the team. Today he had four punts, averaging 45.6 yards, all of them inside the 20-yard line.

Meanwhile, the Giants’ punt return game, which was on life support early in the season with a bunch of players who never should have been asked to do it, has actually become entertaining in a good way. Gunner Olszewski is an absolute kamikaze. He is fearless after catching a punt, and his moves seem invariably to stress the opponent’s punt coverage unit. Sunday, Olszewski had three punt returns for 29 yards, not as spectacular as the 94-yard effort against the Rams last week but still pretty good. Both Gillan and Olszewski look like keepers.