Unanswered Questions and Eight Other Thoughts Ahead of the Giants Week 13 Game vs. Green Bay
1. One of my takeaways from listening to the players and coaches this week was that they genuinely believe they are closer than people think because they’ve been in close games.
Sorry fellas, but the numbers tell a much different story. First, the Giants have the fourth-worst point differential in the NFL (minus -91), which right off the bat would contradict the notion that they’ve been close in more games than not.
And of their nine losses this season, five have been by at least 14 points. That’s not a close margin at all.
Now, if you’re talking about last year, then yes, you can make the statement that they were in some close games. Of their 11 losses in 2018, the Giants lost three of those by 14 or more points. And their differential point total of minus-43 put them in the middle of the pack.
Again, I’m not sure what the players and coaches see “behind the scenes” to count as progress. I’m not sure why any progress isn’t transferring over to the field where it counts. And I sure as heck don’t know what they consider to be “close” because even if they keep it close for three-quarters of play, that’s not good enough to rest on your laurels and try to seel it as keeping it “close.”
All I know is the numbers don’t lie, and the Giants haven’t been as “close” in as many games as they think they have.
2. On that messed up punt coverage at the end of last week's game—the play in which the Bears suddenly ran off their offense and put their punting unit on the field but the Giants, for whatever the reason, didn’t respond by making a substitution as well—watch the following clip closely.
Who is that directing his teammates to get into the proper position? Yes, none other than rookie safety Julian Love (No. 24), the same guy who couldn’t get any meaningful snaps on defense until last week.
“He was ready to play,” head coach Pat Shurmur told reporters when asked what took so long to get Love on the field.
“He was ready to play, and we just made a decision coming off the bye week that it was time. That’s all.”
If Love was ready to play, then what took them so long to work him into some meaningful defensive snaps? Before last week, Love only took three snaps on defense, according to Pro Football Focus.
One can only conclude that the guys in front of him were thought to be the better option. But it’s still mind-boggling how if this season became all about getting ready for 2020, you know after the team let the season slip away, why not get Love more meaningful snaps a lot sooner?
Therein lies an issue I have with this Giants team: the double standards. The coaching staff wasted no time in pulling the plug on Eli Manning after two games (a decision that I agree had to be made).
So why didn’t they pull the plug on some of their other aging veterans on defense?
3. The more I watch that botched punt coverage, the more disappointed I become.
First, take note of how DeAndre Baker (No. 27) is jogging down the field while the guy he’s supposed to be guarding saves the ball from going into the end zone before it’s pinned at the Giants’ 6-yard line. Do you mean to tell me he didn’t know he was supposed to try to block the guy?
Second, I'm not sure the fact that Jenkins returned one punt in a game before Sunday, that coming in 2015, is enough to make him the best option to do it when push comes to shove.
I have no way of proving this, but I suspect him dropping back to “return” the punt was a last-minute decision made amid the confusion.
If Jenkins had been more experienced, he’d have called for a fair catch and saved his team about 15 yards. It was just a complete and utter embarrassing play that contributed to another bad loss.
4. I typically see the logic in most of the personnel moves the front office makes, but this year, one that has me shaking my head was the decision to designate outside linebacker Kareem Martin for return from the injured reserve.
Now nothing personal against Martin, but in the two years he’s been with the team, he’s appeared in 62 defensive snaps and has recorded 44 total pressures, 1.5 sacks and has a 116.7 coverage rating.
Now there is a chance Martin isn’t ready, but if he is, I doubt he’s being brought back to sit on the bench. So the question now becomes whose snaps will he cut into when he returns?
The most logical answer is Oshane Ximines’ snaps, and that would be a crying shame if the kid ends up losing much-needed snaps to a veteran who likely isn’t int he long-term plans.
Besides potentially cutting into someone’s snaps--I doubt Markus Golden will lose any given how he’s playing--the potential return of Martin means that receiver Russell Shepard has no chance of returning.
Given the injury situation at receiver with Golden Tate in the protocol, wouldn’t it have made more sense to designate Shepard for return instead of Martin?
5. I usually applaud Dave Gettleman for not sitting on his hands and hoping the team gets better, but now that the Leonard Williams trade has sunk in a bit, I sure wish I had been able to ask Gettleman a question or two about the trade.
The first thing I’d probably ask is what specifically he saw from four years of film that no one else saw--was it something Williams did that maybe they thought was missing from their defense? And if so, what?
Per Pro Football Focus, thus far, Williams has nine pressures and no sacks as a Giant. He also has eight tackles, 1 missed tackle but has recorded eight of his ten stops for zero or negative yards this season as a Giant.
Williams, as the snaps counts have indicated, has been siphoning snaps from second-year player B.J. Hill, who, while shut out thus far in the sack column, has 14 pressures, 15 total tackles (1 missed) and 13 stops.
Regardless of what happens, the Giants owe the Jets their third-round pick, which, as of right now, is going to be a very high third-rounder.
(For those who asked, while the Giants are projected to get a third-round pick as compensation for losing safety Landon Collins, they can’t trade that pick yet since they don’t technically have it.)
We also know that if the Giants re-sign Williams, they’ll have to send the Jets a fourth-round pick.
So here’s what I’m wondering. If Williams is going to be an every-down player with Dexter Lawrence, then you’ve wasted a third-round pick on Hill to be that every-down guy.
Now the Giants could keep the youngster since he’s on his rookie contract. Still, it seems odd that they would move on from coaching the kid up into an every-down player with Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence in favor of a guy for who there is four years worth of film.
6. I fully understand that the NFL is a result-based business. But when it comes to kicker Aldrick Rosas, who has hit a bit of a skid of late, I’d think this all the way through before cutting him if he should miss another kick.
Based on my dealings with Rosas, he’s somewhat sensitive to the point where he’s so hard on himself that I can’t help but wonder if that’s playing into his issues.
Sometimes when you are hard on yourself, you tend to press to make it better, and in this case, I think the better course of action is to forget about the last miss and not let it linger in your head.
I’m not so sure Rosas is doing that. I’m no kicking expert, but when I watch his tape, I see a guy who’s rushing things, and as we all know, when you rush anything in life, that’s when you tend to make mistakes.
And then there is the matter of the snaps. The Giants added Zak DeOssie to the injury report Thursday with knee and wrist issues (DeOssie had wrist surgery in 2015), which makes one wonder if either or both of those injuries have affected his long snapping.
But I would suspect given how Rosas showed himself to be shaky in his first year when the snap wasn’t perfect, I suspect that problem might be rearing its ugly head again.
I am sure special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey is already doing this, but I would hope the coaches are working with Rosas on not just the mechanics, but on the physical aspects.
And if Rosas does make it through the rest of the season, I hope high atop of his to-do list this off-season is to get with a former NFL kicker or at least a kicking coach so that he can better handle when the snap and/or hold isn’t perfect.
7. I was talking with one of the second-year Giants the other day, and in the middle of a sentence, he stopped and looked around the locker room wistfully.
“There have been so many changes,” he told me. “This is a much different place than when I first got here.”
His words reminded me of something the great Sam Huff once said to me during a Super Bowl event many years ago.
In 1964, Huff was traded by then-head coach Allie Sherman, who, after losing the championship games in 1961, 1962, and 1963, began dismantling the defense.
In the few minutes I had with Huff, he was mostly in a good mood until the topic of his trade came up. At that point, it became clear he was still bitter over how Sherman destroyed the team by upheaving the defensive roster.
Fast forward to the present. I can’t help but wonder how the constant turnover of the roster has affected this team.
Now before I go any further, I’m not saying that coaching hasn’t had something to do with the team’s decline. It has, especially when you don’t see guys being used to their strengths or expectations being set unrealistically high when you have a group of young players you’re trying to break in.
But think about this for a moment. If this is the last season for both quarterback Eli Manning and long snapper Zak DeOssie, the two longest-tenured members on the team, that means that receiver Sterling Shepard, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and center Jon Halapio, all of whom joined the club in 2016, will be the longest-tenured members of the 2020 team (if they're all back).
Therein lies part of the problem. The Giants haven’t had a solid veteran foundation in years, so in trying to build once for the youngsters, they’ve drafted since Dave Gettleman was hired as general manager, who from the good old days has been there to show this team the Giants way?
Not many. While Gettleman has tried to bring in veterans who were once with winning programs elsewhere int he league, it’s just not the same, and I think it’s a big problem why this franchise has continued to struggle.
Now I’m not discounting coaching--a good coaching staff can work wonders, and I’m not convinced that the current Giants staff falls under that category.
But I have to imagine it would be extra challenging even for a Hall of Fame group to get the desired results given all the turnover this Giants roster has had.
I don’t think there’s a definite one reason for the Giants’ fall from grace, but yes, I think you have to start by looking at the lack of a solid core nucleus well-versed int he Giants way as being a big part of the problem.
8. This has mostly flown under the radar, but I think it’s worth a mention. Rookie edge Oshane Ximines has had some of his snaps cut back some, and it’s made a difference for him.
Ximines was pressed into extra duty as a starter due to injury at the position in Weeks 5 and 6, where he took 63 and 51 snaps on defense, respectively, his two highest totals of the year.
According to Pro Football Focus, those two games (as well as the one against Arizona in Week 7) were among his worst showings of the year in both run defense and rushing the passer.
With the Giants having scaled back Ximines’ snaps a bit, he’s played much better. In 74 defensive snaps, Ximines has four tackles, three pressures, four stops for zero or negative, and yardage.
Ximines, remember, is coming from a smaller program and has a little steeper of a learning curve. But overall, he’s come along and has started to settle into his role. With a solid off-season in the weight room and a chance to fully digest the little nuances behind the scheme, Ximines could be one of those players who takes a significant jump forward in his second year.
9. Color me intrigued by what I’ve seen from rookie tight end Kaden Smith.
Smith doesn’t get the best of grades from Pro Football Focus, but thus far as a backup complementary-type player, he’s been reliable enough. His blocking has been acceptable, though, with some added bulk, he’ll probably be able to better hold up against the bigger NFL defensive linemen his role requires neutralizing.
And while Smith isn’t the fastest tight end out there, he has shown himself to have a pair of reliable hands, catching six out of seven pass targets with zero drops.
With Rhett Ellison due a $7.188 million cap hit next year, the Giants could save $5 million if they move on from him and go with Smith instead.