Giants Report Card vs. Cowboys
The Giants believe they win as a team and lose as a team. However, in this week's 35-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, it's hard not to look at the defense and the coaching as the primary reasons for the embarrassing blowout loss.
PASSING OFFENSE: C
If you're going to blame quarterback Eli Manning for anything in this debacle, point to the fact that he no longer seems to lift his teammates the way he once did and instead tends to blend into the moment.
With that said, Manning didn't have a horrible game, making only one bad decision when he threw a ball outside of the pocket to avoid the sack instead of throwing it out out of bounds or seeing that he had a receiver being mugged int he end zone that, had he thrown the ball int hat vicinity might have resulted in a 1st-and-goal instead of a loss of downs from the intentional grounding penalty he ended up taking.
There was also the dropped touchdown pass by Sterling Shepard, who needs to make that play. And while there was a Manning fumble, ask yourself if that fumble hits the book if the officials see the holding penalty in which one of Manning's blockers was thrown to the ground like a rag doll.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B
It's hard to have a problem with the running game, which finished with 151 yards on 17 carries, of those totals, 120 yards on 11 carries coming from Saquon Barkley.
Even if you don't factor in Barkley's 59-yard rush on the opening drive, he still recorded a very healthy 6.1 yards per rush.
The only regret is that he didn't get a chance to run the ball more when the game was still relatively in reach, as for what it's worth, the Giants are 3-21 (.125) when making less than 3 explosive runs in a game since the start of the 2017 season (worst in the NFL).
PASS DEFENSE: F
Zero sacks and only two quarterback hits isn't going to get it done against a team at any level, folks. In the days leading up to the game, Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher spoke about how there would need to be a committee approach toward generating a pass rush, but that didn't happen.
Yes, the Cowboys have a good offensive line, but that cannot be the excuse to allow quarterbacks all day in the pocket as Dak Prescott had. The Giants have to find a pass rush otherwise opposing offenses are going to continue carving this defense up for lunch.
And can we talk about third and short for a moment? Since the start of the 2017 season, the Giants defense has allowed 15.8 Yards per Completion (474 yards/30 completions) on 3rd and short, the highest in the NFL and way above the league average of 9.6 yards per completion.
What about third and long? Since the start of last season, the Giants defense has allowed 31 first down receptions on 3rd and long since last season, the most in NFL.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-
If you're looking for a bright spot from the defense, this would be it as the Giants only allowed the Cowboys 3.0 rushing yards per carry on 30 rushing attempts, with the longest run going for 10 yards (by Ezekiel Elliott).
The only quibble about this aspect of the goants game is that Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott averaged 3.0 yards per rush on his four attempts, with most of those coming up the middle.
The Giants were supposed to have shored up the middle of that run defense, but so far, that hasn't shown up yet.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
With the exception of Cody Core's stupid penalty in which he interfered with a Cowboys returner calling for a fair catch--Core should have run away from the returner or at the very least stopped in his tracks when he saw the fair catch signal--this unit mostly had a good night.
All of punter Riley Dixon's three punts weren't returned for any yarage--two resulted in a fair catch while one went out of bounds. And on kickoff returns, Aldrick Rosas put three of his four kickoffs into the end zone, the lone returnable one going for no yards
After spending an entire off-season studying tape, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur continues to struggle with optimizing Saquon Barkley's skill set.
Seriously, when is Barkley going to be targeted down the field? And when is he going to be allowed to attempt a short-yardage situation?
The same could be said about tight end Evan Engram, who didn't get sent up the seam very often. Whatever happened to creating favorable matchups instead of playing it so conservatively.
And what exactly was Shurmur trying to prove when he challenged a non-pass interference call inside of the two-minute mark, despite the fact that reviews are initiated from the booth inside of two minutes at the half?
He claimed he knew the rule, but he's also lucky the officials, per the broadcast's explanation, didn't throw a flag on him for unsportsmanlike conduct.
As for defensive coordinator James Bettcher, the minute he revealed that the Giants were going to alternate at cornerback between Antonio Hamilton and DeAndre Baker, to guys that played very few preseason snaps due to injuries, it was hard not to have some trepidation about the plan.
I could probably live with that decision to get these kids some experience if it wasn't for the fact that Corey Ballentine (9 defensive snaps) and Julian Love (zero defensive snaps), both of whom did play most of the preseason snaps, weren't used more than they were in this game.
Considering the Giants needed to get off to a good start, I can't understand why Bettcher didn't reverse his thinking there and play the two kids who got their feet wet and then gradually work Baker and Hamilton back into the mix.