The grades are in from the Giants’ Week 1 loss to the Denver Broncos, and they are detention-worthy.
Oh to long for the days when the quarterback isn’t the team’s leading rusher as often as Daniel Jones has been for the Giants, including this week. Jones picked up 27 yards on six carries (4.5 yards/carry) while Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker averaged a pedestrian 2.6 and 1.8 yards per carry average, respectively.
Speaking of Barkley, while it was great to see him back after his long journey from a torn ACL, at times, he looked hesitant when running between the tackles and just seemed to look to avoid contact. Maybe that was intentional given what he went through, but when your running backs end up with 14 carries for 32 yards, and your lead back has just 26 yards on ten carries, that’s not a promising days’ worth of work, especially against a Denver defense that last year struggled against the run.
Oh, and it also bears mention that Jones had another fumble--the 30th of his career-- while acting as a runner. For whatever the reason he refuses to slide when he takes off with the ball, and quite frankly, this need to show how tough he is by refusing to slide and instead of looking to lower his shoulder and plow someone over doesn’t mean spit if he’s going to lose the ball. GRADE: D
Some will point to the lack of training camp snaps between Jones and guys like Kyle Rudolph, Kadarius Toney, and Kenny Golladay as the reason behind the pedestrian-looking 22 catch for 267 yards and one touchdown showing of this group.
Perhaps there’s something to it, but at least one might have hoped that Golladay, targeted six times and whose longest reception was 17 yards, might have made a bit more of an impact or that Rudolph, who caught two of five pass targets for eight yards, might have done the same.
The saving grace in this group was Sterling Shepard, who continues to be a master at finding soft spots in zone coverage. Shepard finished with an impressive seven-catch night (out of nine targets) for 113 yards and a touchdown. As for the rest of the passing offense, the pass protection was solid—only two hits and the two sacks, one of which was an embarrassing sack allowed by right tackle Matt Peart who seemed not to know the snap count or that Von Miller was lurking.
Also, on the bright side, Jones did have several good throws and smart decisions. GRADE: C-
The Broncos racked up 165 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown on the ground, with Melvin Gordon leading the way with a 101-yard performance, 70 of those yards on a long touchdown run that should have never happened had guys gotten off their blocks. Leonard Williams was solid between the tackles, as was Dexter Lawrence II.
Most of Denver’s rushing yardage did end up outside of the tackles, a problem that popped up in the preseason with the outside guys setting the edges and playing contain. Newcomer Danny Shelton is a force inside, but he looked cumbersome in trying to surf outside the tackle box to help defend those outside runs.
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Lorenzo Carter also found himself getting caught up against a tight end in run defense a little too often this week. Moving forward, the Giants run defense has to shore up the play on the edges, which right now is the defense’s biggest Achilles heel. GRADE: D
Teddy Bridgewater ended up looking like Aaron Rodgers, posting a 28 of 36 for 264 yards and a two-touchdown night. Meanwhile, the Giants pass rush sputtered. There was little to no rush from the edges, the Giants’ two sacks recorded by interior lineman Austin Jonson and rookie outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari (the latter by the way one of the most consistent Giants pass rushers among the outside linebackers).
And the defensive secondary, which mixed in a little more man coverage, was carved up by the tight ends and receivers Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler, and Jerry Jeudy (before the latter’s high ankle sprain), the middle of the field often alarmingly wide open for the Broncos to exploit.
Bottom line: the Giants' defense couldn’t get off the field, which made for a long afternoon. GRADE: F.
The special teams didn’t hurt the effort, but it didn’t help at every turn either. The good included a gorgeous 61-yard punt by Riley Dixon, and a fourth-quarter 38-yard kickoff return by C.J. Board elevated from the practice squad.
The bad included Keion Crossen’s failure to down a punt inside the 5-yard line and Board’s decision to take the opening kickoff from five yards deep in the end zone out, failing to reach the 25-yard line. GRADE: B
When a team looks this bad, that’s a colossal coaching failure right there. Start with Joe Judge’s attempt to get the officials’ attention on a Broncos scoring play. Although Judge said he knew the rule that all scoring plays were automatically reviewed, his last-ditch attempt to get the officials’ attention cost his team a valuable second-half time out and for what, considering the play had already been upheld.
Jason Garrett’s play-calling left much to be desired. Why not try a deep pass after Logan Ryan recovers a fumble deep in Giants territory and look to get the offense out of the hole? Why wasn’t the offense showing more of a sense of urgency in the fourth quarter with time running out?
And why was Saquon Barkley being sent up the middle on rushes against a defense that seemed ready and waiting for him to try to come charging through?
Even Patrick Graham’s usually sound defensive strategy is up for criticism as the Broncos did whatever they wanted, including converting three fourth-down conversions. Woof! GRADE: F
NFL.com had a couple of alarming stats about the Giants that are worth noting. First, the Giants are 5-38 when trailing at halftime since 2017, the most such losses in that span. And the Giants have zero weeks with a winning record since 2017, the longest such streak in the NFL.
This is only one week, and there’s a lot of football left to see which direction this team takes, but with a short work week on deck, the Giants don’t have a lot of time to get thee issues—some of which are probably more deeply rooted than anyone cares to admit—squared away.
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