When Giants head coach Joe Judge walked off the podium following the team's Week 3 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, he muttered a throwaway line of sorts heard by those standing closest to the front of the room.
"We're going to be all right," he said after the deflating. "We're going to get this fixed."
That they did against a New Orleans Saints team that, with all due respect to the Falcons, Washington Football Team, and Denver Broncos, was a significant step up in competition for these Giants.
According to RBSDM.com, the Giants had no business winning this game.
Yet the feistiness and the resiliency shown by this Giants team that, at one point, was down by 11 points only to come roaring back to tie the game as regulation expired and then win the game in overtime was a nice reminder of the good ol' days when now-retired Eli Manning would load the team on his back and carry them over the finish line after the defense came through with a big-time stop.
The Giants got that this week from third-year quarterback Daniel Jones, who has quietly shown signs that a Josh Allen-type of leap is indeed going to happen.
In four games this year, Jones has tossed four touchdown passes to one interception--and is anyone going to count the one interception he threw, a Hail Mary at the end of the first half against the Saints--as a stain on his record?
By comparison, through his first four games last season, Jones had thrown two touchdown passes (both in the Week 1 opener against the Steelers) and five interceptions.
But numbers aside, Jones has already shown improvement in a couple of other key areas.
One, he's making faster reads and decisions. According to Pro Football Focus, his offensive line, which we'll get to shortly, has given him an average of 2.73 seconds to throw the ball, but Jones is averaging 2.53 seconds to make those throws.
And when Jones does throw, because he's reading defenses much better, he's getting the ball within the intended receiver's catch radius, something he wasn't always doing in his first two seasons.
When it comes to Jones, Judge isn't lying when he professes his belief that the former Duke signal-caller has what it takes to be this team's franchise quarterback. All Jones needs to do now to erase any remaining doubts held by those outside the organization is string together some consistent performances much like what he produced in Sunday's triumph over the New Orleans Saints.
Here are a few other items from the snap counts, grades, and statistical data...
The fourth version of the Giants starting offensive line--Andrew Thomas, Matt Skura, Billy Price, Will Hernandez, and Nate Solder--appear to have come through the game just fine, not just health-wise, but performance-wise in their 63 snaps.
This unit allowed no sacks and just eight pressures on 48 pass-blocking snaps against a ferocious Saints defense whose pass rush came into the game with 68 pressures and six sacks on the year.
The Giants also had no false start penalties on that offensive line (only Skura was flagged for holding, one of three penalties the Giants had all day).
In my five post-game thoughts, I mentioned that offensive line coach Rob Sale deserves kudos for getting this group settled as quickly as he did. But credit also goes to the players, and one I want to highlight is left tackle Andrew Thomas.
In 182 pass-block snaps this season, Thomas has allowed six pressures and no sacks. Last year after four games, his numbers were 19 pressures and four sacks in 183 pass-block snaps.
Another guy I want to mention is Will Hernandez. Hernandez's pass-blocking rating currently stands at 97.6 percent, his highest after four games since his rookie season.
And maybe this is just a coincidence, but in that rookie season, Hernandez, working on the left side at the time, was next to Nate Solder, who just so happens to be on his side again this year.
Kenny Golladay was off to a slow start in the season, perhaps due to him needing to shake off the rust from the inactivity he had after missing most of training camp with a hamstring strain.
Well, the good news is that against the Saints, Golladay looked more like the receiver the Giants were hoping to get when they signed him to a four-year, $72 million contract.
Before the Week 4 game, Golladay's longest pass reception was 19 yards, and he had been three of seven in contested catches, two disappointing areas.
This week, perhaps due to him finally being over any of those early season ailments, Golladay went two for two in contested catches. He also had a season-high average depth of target (ADOT) of 17.5 yards, as the Giants ran more vertical concepts this week (five of Jones's pass attempts went for more than 20 yards, with two completed--those five attempts a new season-high on passes thrown over 20 yards).
I'm still finding it somewhat curious that tight end Evan Engram sees more snaps than Kyle Rudolph.
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This week Engram had 43 to Rudolph's 37, and the only reason I can think of is that the Giants are continuing to gradually ramp up Rudolph's workload since there wasn't much time to do so, given how late he came off the PUP list in training camp.
This week, Engram saw more pass targets (6) than Rudolph (3)--Kaden Smith, who has been on and off the injury report with a knee ailment, only had nine-game snaps and no pass targets.
But it just seems that Rudolph, in limited chances, seems more productive than Engram from average yards per route run (1.14 to 0.93) to passer rating (91.0 for Rudolph, 85.4 for Engram).
To be fair to Engram, he did come down with all three of his contested catches--but he also had a third-down drop that thankfully didn't hurt the Giants.
Back from injured reserve, John Ross III received 28 snaps (44 percent), running routes on all of them. According to NextGen Stats, Ross was clocked as the fastest ball carrier on either team, at 21.13 mph (that coming on his 52-yard touchdown reception that got the Giants on the scoreboard in the second quarter.
Speaking of speed and separation, the Giants had that in droves this week, with three receiving targets--Rudolph, Golladay, and rookie Kadarius Toney all averaging more than the league average of 2.88 yards.
Rudolph led the way with an average of 4.03 yards separation, followed by Golladay (3.35) and then Toney (3.28 yards). Engram fell underneath the league average with his 2.23 average.
Lastly, if there was any remaining doubt that Saquon Barkley is back, Sunday's showing should have erased that. Barkley finished with 52 rushing yards on 13 carries and caught five out of six pass targets for 74 yards, including the big 54-yard touchdown catch.
But another element of Barkley's game that isn't being discussed much is the improvement he's made as a pass blocker. Admittedly, I didn't think the Giants would ask him to do much in pass blocking early in the season, but he's pass blocked now 17 times and has allowed one pressure in four games, coming in Week 3 against Atlanta.
If one remembers that pass blocking wasn't a strength of his game in his first three seasons, this is a very encouraging development to see.
Defensively, the biggest disappointment was the Giants managed to get zero sacks against the Saints quarterbacks and just ten pressures total. The league average for separation from the quarterback is 4.52, and of the Giants' pass rushers, only Leonard Williams (4.62) managed to get the closest.
He was followed by fellow defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence II (4.88), edge Lorenzo Carter (5.29), and defensive lineman Austin Johnson (6.18).
I asked former NFL scout and personnel man David Turner about that pass rush--you can catch the conversation in the YouTube video above starting at the 14:21 mark. Turner explained why the problem with the pass rush remains the back end of the defense.
But here's another thought. Why not try giving Carter Coughlin, who this week had no snaps on defense and who only has nine pass-rushing snaps this season, some of Oshane Ximines's snaps?
Last year Coughlin played in 99 pass-rush snaps and managed 11 pressures, his edge-rushing snaps coming after the Giants had injury issues at that position. This year, though, the Giants have moved Coughlin back to more of an off-ball role, but he hasn't any run defense snaps just yet and probably won't so long as Tae Crowder, and Reggie Ragland are healthy.
Back to Ximines, he had one out of seven pass-rush snaps this week, and he had three pressures through four games (50 pass-rush snaps). To be fair, he did miss a lot of training camp with a hamstring injury after missing most of last year with a season-ending shoulder ailment.
Perhaps the coaches are looking to see if Ximines can round back into shape, considering how promising he looked in limited snaps in his rookie season.
Even before safety Jabrill Peppers had to leave the game early with a hamstring strain, Xavier McKinney was well on his way to logging 100 percent of the defensive snaps.
That raises the question of whether the Giants might be looking to move Peppers via trade at some point, something I mentioned in my pre-game thoughts.
The Giants are squeezed against this year's cap, and next year doesn't look any more promising at this point.
And if you had to pin me down, I'd say there's less than a 10 percent chance of the Giants being able to re-sign Peppers, who right now counts for $6.77 million against this year's cap after this season.
If Julian Love, who this week saw 47 snaps (Peppers, in his injury-shortened stint, only saw 19 snaps), can be that third rotational guy among the safeties, then why not see if you can get something for Peppers (a team co-captain) in a trade?
Not only do you add to your draft cache (important given the looming salary cap issues next year), you also get some salary-cap relief since there won't be any dead money. And if that's not reason enough, you won't have to resort to restructuring yet another contract, thus putting the team deeper into a hole?
Cornerback Darnay Holmes played in just three snaps this week after seeing one snap last week on defense. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham moved Julian Love to the slot this week, where he played in 24 snaps. Once Aaron Robinson is healthy, expect him to move full time into that slot cornerback role.
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