The Giants play the Redskins this weekend at Met Life stadium.
It would have been a competitive game in DC, but in NY it should be no contest. The skins are a mess having started 0-2 against a very good Steelers team, and a mediocre at best, Dallas team. Cousins is likely regretting having turned down a long term contract and the Skins management is likely relieved that they chose not to offer top tier money off of such a small sample size.
The Giants defense will shut down the Redskins ground game and pressure Cousins into mistakes on long third down conversions.
On offense, the Giants will still struggle to run the ball but Eli will have much better luck this week converting yards into scores. When an offense throws for 368 yards and only punts twice all day as happened against the Saints, you would expect a lot of points. That conversion rate will revert to the mean, and the Giants will score 24 points in a 24-17 victory over the Redskins.
The interesting story of the day will of course be OBJ going up against Josh Norman. Of course, as we learned last week, if a defense pays too much attention to OBJ, Sterling Shepard will run wild. I can see them both eclipsing 100 yards this week.
The Giants outplayed the Saints on Sunday and won, but those two facts were coincidental to each other.
The Giants had a missed field goal and 3 drives inside the Saints 10 yard line translating into only 6 points, and added 3 turnovers on fumbles. This could have been a 3 score victory as opposed to a close game that came down to a play or two at the end.
The Giant defense was excellent in holding the normally prolific, Drew Brees led Saints offense to 13 points. They were once again tough to run on and Brees and the passing game couldn't get much done. With the luxury of Hall as a 4th Cornerback and Apple playing well, DRC is being saved for third downs and playing about half the game to keep him fresh and not injured.
On offense they couldn't run the ball. While Jennings is a mediocre runner there really weren't many holes to run through. The pass protection was adequate but that's largely a function of a passing game that gets rid of the ball very quickly. Newhouse reverted to what we knew he was. In what may be a blessing, he got hurt late and may not play against Washington.
The rookie Sterling Shepard had a great game taking advantage of the extra attention paid to Beckham. Beckham didn't have a great game dropping two TD passes but his presence still helps open things up for Shepard and Cruz. Cruz had the catch of the game and also showed some explosiveness on a long catch and run where he eventually fumbled. He did make a mental error when he went out of bounds before the two minute warning but bailed himself out with his clutch 34-yard catch that essentially clinched the game.
The good news is that the defense seems to be real and the off season acquisitions are major contributors. With a weak schedule and 2-0 start they are well on pace to their first playoff appearance in a few years.
The Giants won an exciting back and forth game against the injury depleted division rival Cowboys on Sunday. It was good, both because it was a road game and because division games count more. Romo will be back eventually and they will try to make a run but hopefully for the Giants sake it will be too late. Some of the things we saw from the Giants were telling, while others were deceiving.
The Giants ability to shut down the run against talented rookie Ezekiel Elliot and the Cowboys offensive line was very telling. The Giants line is arguably the best in the NFL. The soft first half pass rush was modestly improved in the second half but still didn’t produce a sack. Again, given the strength of the Dallas O line, it’s not something that is very worrisome. They should do better against lesser competition going forward.
Another definite highlight was the play of the new Reese’s Pieces – GM Jerry Reese’s offseason free agent and draft acquisitions. As we had projected, they were a great addition, especially reshaping a poor defense into a good one.
On the other hand, I’m still not convinced that generally solid play of the offensive line was legit. The reality is that for most of the game, running yards were hard to come by. Only at the end did they turn a mediocre day into an acceptable day, stats wise, by getting some good blocks on a tired defensive line that is missing a number of suspended players and would by anyone’s estimation rank as one of the worst lines in the NFL. As much the play of the D line was telling, the play of the O line is not particularly compelling. I still believe they will have ongoing issues against tougher teams (which they may not face until they play the Vikings) and that eventually Beatty will replace Newhouse.
Lastly, while McAdoo overall called a very good game. Specifically, he made halftime adjustments, and he stuck with a running game that was slow to get going early on and that eventually paid dividends. Two complaints I had were his poor clock management at the end of the first half (he should have used one of his timeouts a play earlier), and his decision to take a 10 yard holding penalty and negate a play that would have been a 5 yard loss. Neither came back to hurt the Giants but they could have.
The pre-season, as meaningless as it usually is, was certainly an interesting one. It helped to answer some questions that had been lingering since the draft and free agency period. Last year, the Giants offense played reasonably well despite poor line play and defense was horrific primarily because of poor line play.
The Giants chose to materially address their defensive line and did not do anything to address their offensive line.
Both of these decisions have shown up in their pre-season production. The Giants starting defense was borderline dominant in the pre-season.
Olivier Vernon at age 25, their big free agent acquisition, looks to be coming into his prime and could have a huge year, both against the run and the pass.
Hankins looks back to pre-injury form, and a healthier (but still impaired JPP) looks to be back to something in between his pre-injury and post injury levels. Even his post injury self, last year was better than the headline number (1 sack) would indicate. Lastly Damon “Snacks” Harrison is an elite run stuffer which will help both against the run and the pass (when 3rd and 3 becomes 3rd and 7).
The cornerbacks are good and with rookie Eli Apple are legitimately 3 deep, despite the fact that drafting him so high was a mistake. The safeties should be much better for a few reasons. Collins, should make a leap in year 2 as his know-how catches up with his physical abilities. He should also really benefit from playing the strong safety position near the line as opposed to the miscast free safety he was forced to play last year. 3rd round pick Darian Thompson looks like a winner at the free safety, and Nat Berhe rotating in after coming back healthy from a missed 2015 will add to the mix.
Offensively the Giants are feeling the mistake of not drafting Laremy Tunsil over Eli Apple. They are desperate for help on that line. Newhouse and Jerry are not starter quality and Flowers has not been able to add technique to good physical skills. Pugh and Wesburg are very good but not enough to make a line. There is hope that the act of desperation in bringing back Will Beatty gets the Giants improved to a level of mediocrity at right tackle, but he hasn’t been healthy enough to get on the field since 2014 and just got signed too recently to even start in game 1. In the pre-season the line looked even worse than last year. They couldn’t block at all and Rashad Jennings actually had more negative than positive runs, a feat hard to accomplish.
The good news is that the Eli is still Eli in an offense that was made for his skills. He had a great year last year and that was with only one wide receiver to throw to. OBJ will be great again and that will draw attention away from impressive rookie 2nd round pick Sterling who I expect to have close to 70 catches for close to 900 yards. I’m not a believer that Victor Cruz has anything left to offer but I hope I’m wrong. If I am right, the Giants to have some young guys who impressed in camp and preseason and won jobs and could add value at the receiver position. A quality second reviver though could really improve the offense.
That is why despite a below average running game, the Giant’s will eventually learn to use short passes as a running game substitute and move the ball enough to compensate for the poor offensive line play.
When the preseason began I was very bullish and expecting a 10-win team. When I watched the preseason incompetence, I was down to 8 wins. Then I realized, that the defense will be good, and the offense was trying to accomplish certain specific goals rather than necessarily trying to win the football game, and that they will do what they need to do in the actual season to score 24 points a game. Then, when the Football gods injured Tony Romo and traded away Sam Bradford, the expected value went up by almost 1.5 wins and I am now predicting a 10 win season and a visit to the playoffs. I think I’m being objective and saying it as an analyst rather than a hopeful fan. The only reason I believe I am is that we have been accurate and not bullish for 2 years running. It’s been a long off-season and I’m looking forward to finally watching some Giants football.
Ari has been an avid Giants fan since 1979. He attends many home games and has attended the Giants last 2 Superbowl victories. This blog will talk about anything related to the New York Giants. Ari also blogs about the New York Knicks, at http://www.ariglassknicksblog.com