Just when one thinks the Giants can't get any worse, they find a new way to top themselves.
New York's 38-11 loss to the Los Angeles Rams Sunday was the latest in a string of disappointing losses, but it was also a loss that underscores a more significant developing issue, and that is this Giants team is regressing rather than building on what it started under head coach Joe Judge last year.
Consider this. In 2020, the Giants, despite winning only six-games, had an average point differential of -4.8 points per game. That means they were playing opponents close and losing by less than a touchdown on average.
This year, they've gone in the opposite direction. The Giants are currently tied with the winless Detroit Lions for the league's 28th ranked point differential, -10.5, which means the Giants are losing games by more than two scores on average. In their last three games, the Giants have been outscored on average by 15 points.
That's. Not. Good.
Some will point to the injuries, but unfortunately, the injuries aren't exclusive to the Giants.
No, this was a team that spent a ton of money in the off-season to build itself into a playoff contender, which it did look like on paper. But by now, we know that what a team looks like on paper versus what it looks like on the field are two very different--and in the Giants' case, scary-looking--things.
The sad thing now is with the trade deadline coming up, the Giants have to be sellers, especially given their salary cap situation for next year. According to Over the Cap, who is projecting a league-wide salary cap of $208.2 million, the Giants are projected to have $2,729,725 in space and will be in the red ineffective cap space, that amount being -$7,635,283.
That means the Giants don't have enough projected money to pay for their draft class, let alone redo any contracts or add free agents.
That means a major house cleaning is coming, folks, starting in the locker room. Whether that housecleaning is going to include anyone on the coaching staff or front office remains to be seen, but once again, the Giants are facing the prospects of having to tear a part of the building down and starting from scratch.
Here are a few other postgame musings for what's become a weekly Monday Mourning in Giants Country.
At the start of the season, a question I'd get from readers frequently was what kind of record would it take for the Giants to clean house yet again.
Initially, I said that was hard to answer because if injuries hit the team at the right spots, that could provide a pass for those in charge.
I no longer feel that way.
Look, injuries stink--there's no question about that. And no, you can't plan for injuries, no matter how hard you try.
That said, every team has injuries this time of year that they're dealing with. And in thinking specifically about general manager Dave Gettleman, he's had four years now to fix that offensive line, and it's still a mess. And by fixing it, I mean not just the quality of starters but also the quality of depth.
Look, I get it. This year no one saw the retirements of Zach Fulton and Joe Looney coming. And as I said, you can't plan for injuries.
But what you can plan for is depth and having guys in reserve to step up to take over if injuries happen.
Considering the Giants have two very important evaluations to make in running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones and their respective long-term financial futures, why leave anything to chance when it came to the offensive line?
To my thinking, that's a big-time failure for the Giants, and that's on Gettleman, who, if this season does indeed finish its ascent into the toilet, will not survive any changes team ownership is likely to make.
I think the world of defensive back (and fellow Rutgers alumnus) Logan Ryan as a player and humanitarian, but I wouldn't say I liked his response to a question about if he was embarrassed by the team’s showing.
Here’s what he said.
It was an unacceptable performance. I’m not embarrassed because I gave my max effort. I went out there, I prepared hard, I felt like I led the guys the best I could, and went out there and played. It just didn’t work out. It was hugely unacceptable, but I’m not very—at this point in my life, I don’t get embarrassed too often, so I don’t want to say 'embarrassed' is the word.
To be fair, earlier in his press conference, he did express disappointment, and he did say, as he did in the answer above, that the performance wasn't acceptable.
With all due respect to Ryan, he is a team captain. He was also part of a problematic defense that, for the second week in a row, was gashed to shreds, and that’s regardless of how he played as an individual.
Times like this shouldn’t be about puffing out one’s chest to say he played well or prepared hard. It doesn't matter. The team lost, the performance wasn't acceptable, and he was a part of it, regardless.
Whether it was his intention to separate himself from the mess or what--and I don't believe that was his intention--he should have left his thoughts at the performance being unacceptable.
Another sequence of quotes from Logan Ryan caught my eye.
To recap, Ryan was one of the first players to come out and address the media after the game, something he said he felt he had to do since a few weeks ago he was one of the last players to come out to speak.
Here’s what Ryan said in his opening comments when asked why he came out to address the media while still in uniform.
I just wanted to get out here and face it. I wanted to get out here and speak to you. I’m one of the captains. I pride myself on setting the tone and pride myself on doing things the right way and practicing the right way and treating people the right way, and being a role model, being a leader. And, you know, a few weeks ago, I was one of the last people to talk, and I believe our receiver, Collin (Johnson), was the first one to speak, and I remember someone said, ‘Unbelievable, he’s the first person to talk.” So I was like, you know, I’m going to be the first one to talk today. I’m going to come out here, own it, speak to you guys, explain the best of what I felt happened. And really, we’ve got to unify the locker room regardless of how it may look right now. We’ve got to work on that, but the players want to take ownership, and that’s why I’m out here first today.
Those last two sentences were of particular interest, as was his response to a question about the morale of a 1-5 locker room.
It hasn’t reached our expectations. It hasn’t reached what we thought our work ethic, what we put into it, the results haven’t added up. And that can get frustrating, and morale is going to be what it is at 1-5. I can’t say morale was great, but what you don’t have is splintering. You don’t have selfishness. You don’t have guys in little corners complaining. I think guys are voicing it, and I think guys are unified and believe that we want to play better. So yeah, I don’t think morale is great, I think that’s natural. I think when you’re competitive, and you lose, you get really mad, and it’s not always the best, but at the same point, I just don’t feel like we have that type of cancerous locker room where guys are starting to break away. I don’t feel that way.
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Ryan’s honesty and candidness are certainly appreciated. Still, his words about the morale and locker room unity are very interesting, as was this response from head coach Joe Judge when asked about positives he saw that he could build on moving forward.
I challenged guys at halftime. I wanted to see who was going to finish the game. I wanted to see what type of fight some of these guys have. We’ll go through the tape, but there are some guys I could see with the eye test right away that fought and finished, and that’s how we’re going to do things around here. We’re going to compete for 60. We have to do some things technically better, fundamentally better, better calls at times, but I wanted to see who’s going to finish this game and who was going to fight.
Sounds like changes could be coming, but we'll see what the week ahead holds and if the locker room can stay together.
When Jason Garrett was hired as offensive coordinator, I was excited. I figured a former NFL quarterback who had had success in Dallas would be a great fit for this team.
Boy, was I wrong.
A big problem I see from Garrett is an inability to adjust, a sentiment that former NFL scout David Turner and I spoke about on Monday's podcast.
Here's a perfect example. The Giants entered Sunday's game without receivers Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton. The plan, from what I could gather, was to feature a heavy dose of Kadarius Toney.
What happened? Toney left the game due to injury after the opening drive, so what did the Giants do? They featured Sterling Shepard and--wait for it--Dante Pettis, one of their two practice squad elevations for the week, in the offense.
Shepard and Pettis combined for 25 of Daniel Jones's 51 pass targets. Shepard and Pettis caught 15 passes for 124 yards and no touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the tight ends--Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph-- were targeted a combined seven times, coming up with four receptions for 32 yards.
My point is that the Giants didn't have sufficient personnel to play 11-personnel as much as they did. So why not switch to more 12-personnel and get those tight ends involved, especially considering the Rams linebackers have had their struggles against opposing tight ends this season?
The Rams defense coming into Week 6's game had allowed 271 passing yards per contest, which is 23rd in the NFL. Engram was also coming off his "best" game against Dallas, so why not continue to ride that hot hand, especially after losing Toney?
Speaking of Garrett and play calling, I still can't get over those two calls on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1.
On the 3rd-and-1, the Giants trotted out the fullback onto the field, and right away, I knew it was going to be a running play.
If the predictability of the play wasn't bad enough, then how about the design of the play. Instead of following Eli Penny's lead block, Devontae Booker went in the opposite direction and was stonewalled.
Now let's talk about that 4th-and-1 quarterback sneak.
Yes, Jones was cleared from the concussion protocol and hence was good to play. Thank goodness he didn't suffer another injury on that play either (just as thank goodness he didn't get hurt finishing out the game when he should have been pulled for his own protection when it was obvious there was zero chance of a comeback).
I get what the coaches were probably thinking there, which is to not send up the white flag to the rest of the team. But that was still a ridiculous and flippant risk they took, which, had it ended in catastrophe, would have made a bad afternoon even worse.
Piggybacking off that last point, the Giants attempted a 4th-and-1 on their second possession, which they didn’t make (that was the one in which Jones tried the sneak behind an offensive line that has struggled with its run blocking, by the way).
Here's what I don't understand about the call. The Giants decided to get aggressive at that spot, with the ball in their territory, knowing that if they don't make it, they turn the ball over on downs to the Rams and give them a short field on which to work.
Yet a couple of weeks ago, when the Giants had a fourth down in enemy territory, they decided to punt rather than be aggressive in that spot?
The Giants' thinking about when to go for it on fourth down and when to punt is becoming confusing.
I'd be very surprised if Joe Judge is sent packing after this year if the Giants' season ends up in the trash bin by year's end. That said, as he continues to grow into the role, I wish he'd show some more outward emotion.
You look at Sean McVay and how he angrily slammed his headset down after Matthew Stafford was picked off or how he chewed out his team to the FOX broadcast crew coming out of halftime. Meanwhile, Judge continues to deliver the same boring song week after week, refusing to show any outward emotion as to what's going on inside his head or with the team.
His intentions are pure here, but they're also not going to appease a fan base that is tired of watching an inferior product week after week. The fan base doesn't want to hear, "We gotta coach better."
The fan base doesn't want to hear "trust the process" because the process so far isn't working.
What the fan base wants is validation that what they're seeing isn't acceptable and that something can and will be done about it. That doesn't mean Judge should sit there after a game and announce intentions of benching anyone, but this "Relax, all's well" demeanor he's giving off isn't helping to give the loyal paying customers who every year hope things will be different.
A few leftover thoughts...
Joe Judge screamed to his players to watch for the fake punt. Yet the Giants were still caught napping and missed the warning, as Rams punter Johnny Hekker fired a 15-yard pass to Ben Skowronek. Fortunately for the Giants, off-setting personal foul penalties called on both teams nullified the completion, and the Rams eventually did punt. But that the Giants players were asleep at the switch, there was maddening.
Tucked amid the litany of misplays, mistakes and breakdowns was the Giants' sixth dropped interception of the year, this one by safety Xavier McKinney, who would later "redeem" himself with two picks McKinney, who ended the first half with a pick, had a dropped interception.
Before the game, I had checked with the folks at Pro Football Focus to see how many dropped interceptions the Giants had, and I was told they had five, which was most in the league. So McKinney's drop makes it six, which I suspect is still leading the league.
The Giants have now been outscored 82-31 in their last two games--and they haven't even gotten to the murder's row part of their schedule.
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