New York Giants Bye Week Analysis: A Fan’s Perspective

New York Giants, Pat Shurmur
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The bye week came and went – and it was a thankful reprieve for not just the New York Giants team but also the fans. Without proper perspective, this season could be a hard one to stomach for a lot of Giants fans.

Let’s let the therapy begin:

Work in progress

The Giants season was dependent on staying healthy on the offensive side, and how quickly the young defense could develop, jell, and get on the same page. Both proved to be an issue early in the season.

The defense faced three main challenges: Young players adjusting to the speed of the NFL, many needing to learn a new complex defense, and communicating and developing chemistry with new teammates. NFL offenses try to be proactive – dictating to the defense what they’re going to do. NFL defenses, most of the time, are reactive – needing to continually react and adjust to what the offense is doing on the fly. It’s underrated how vital communication is on the defensive side. That takes time.

There’s “tweaking,” there’s “needing improvements,” and there’s “going back to the drawing board.” This defense early on showed it wasn’t going to be able to be competitive. Frankly, it’s a work in progress. Normally I would view that as a huge problem. But let’s be honest, once the WRs started to drop, the defense was non-existent, and the rookie QB Daniel Jones came in for Eli, the season shifted from a “hopeful best-case scenario” to full-blown developmental season mode.

Once that happened, I no longer viewed this season as about wins and losses. It was about the development of its rookies and its other young players – including 2nd-year players OLB Lorenzo Carter, DL B.J. Hill, DE R.J. Mcintosh, and CB Sam Beal. But most importantly, the development and maturity of rookie QB Daniel Jones.

Expect 6-8 weeks for delivery

On a week to week basis, I’m not overly heartbroken if the Giants lose. Like I said earlier, that’s not what this season is about. It’s about seeing improvement with the Giants’ young players. Deciding which players you can build around, which players can be good supplemental pieces, and which players aren’t part of the answer.

In shipping, there’s a saying: It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than over-promise and under-deliver. You ever see “expect 6-8 weeks for delivery”, but your package comes in 3 weeks? You’re pleasantly surprised. If they said: “expect 1-2 weeks for delivery”, and your package arrives in 3 weeks, your expectation is different, and your reaction is much different.

We’re at a point in time now as Giants fans where we need to understand what stage we’re at in building a winning organization. We need to temper expectations. Don’t focus too much on wins and losses – but on individual player progress and development. When looking at upgrading NFL rosters, the hope is some of that upgrade comes from your roster in the improvement of current players. Especially when you have a lot of young players, let’s not forget that and focus on progress – not necessarily the win and losses. There are always 31 disappointed NFL fanbases every year. The goal is always to win a Super Bowl. Let’s keep perspective.

The good

Daniel Jones. Daniel Jones is good. We can’t get too crazy when it comes to making assessments of young QBs – good or bad – but so far, so very good with Daniel Jones. He’s checking every box, and so far, he appears to be a future franchise quarterback (FQB). Some say his ceiling is Matt Ryan. I think its higher than that. Think Ryan’s pocket skill, but with open space scrambling ability, and a Manning-like preparation, professionalism, and perfectionism. Picking the next FQB was Dave Gettleman’s number one goal as Giants GM, and it appears he nailed it. This alone makes this season, not a waste. Daniel has some flaws, too – but I see them as fixable. I wrote about them in an article that will be posted in a few days.

Dexter Lawrence looks like a force on the defensive line. A player you can build around. He has shown the ability to stop the run and push the pocket on passing downs. A necessary skill set when creating a defensive line. Ryan Connelly proved to be a steal in the 5th round at MLB. It was a shame he tore his ACL. Let’s hope when he comes back, he’ll be able to make the impact we saw before his injury. Oshane Ximines hasn’t jumped off the page, but he’s shown some pass-rushing flashes that you can build upon.

Darius Slayton has shown some ability to be a playmaker as a WR. We know about his speed to stretch the field, and he’s shown some agility and route-running ability. His hands have gotten more consistent, as well. Still not to the level I’m comfortable with, and I feel he catches the ball with his body still a little too much –but he’s part of the individual progress I’m talking about.

Will Hernandez is solidifying his place as the LG of the future, as well as Kevin Zeitler at RG. Second-year pro Nick Gates held his own in his start against the Jets. I like Gates’ makeup as an offensive lineman. He’s well-built and well-proportioned, moves well, smart, has shown the ability to be versatile, and is a hard worker. It says something when you get thrown into action for the first time and play well. It shows ability, but most importantly, it shows preparation and professionalism. Let’s see what Gates does at right tackle for the rest of the season. Perhaps the Giants found an answer there moving forward. Jabrill Peppers, a product of the OBJ trade, has shown a propensity to make plays. He’s a high energy, versatile, impact playmaker. Any successful defense needs playmakers and players like Peppers. I feel if the Giants pair him with a more athletic free safety, that will allow Peppers to flourish even more.

The not so good

DeAndre Baker hasn’t been quite as good as hoped so far. He has talent, we’ve seen that. But he’s also looked lost out there at times. It’s recently come out that perhaps Baker didn’t approach his profession as studiously as he should have. Relying more on a natural ability in college rather than preparation. In the NFL, natural talent isn’t enough. The successful players accept it as a profession and put in the work. If not, they don’t become successful – and, eventually, get phased out of the league. It’s disappointing that was his initial approach, but I respect his honesty and openness. Hopefully, we can chalk that up as immaturity and a lesson learned. Let’s judge him now on how he finishes the season.

Aldrick Rosas seems to have come back down to earth a little bit from his Pro Bowl performance last year. Rosas has talent, he has a great leg, but being a Pro Bowl-caliber kicker is about consistency. We’ve all made the green after a drive in the fairway once in a while. But what makes professional golfers the best in the world? Consistency. They can do it almost every time. Rosas needs to make 95% of his extra points, 90% of his field-goal attempts 52 yards and under, and 70% of his kicks 53 yards and over if he wants to be upper echelon. Other than that, he’s just another kicker. Right now, he’s 8 of 10, his long is 36 yards, and he’s missed three extra points. He needs to be better.

Grant Haley is a heckuva tackler. But that’s kind of it.

So, no love for Julian Love? This has been a point of frustration for some fans. Why is Julian Love not seeing the field? Well, let me try to make sense of it. Since Love came to the Giants, he’s been learning multiple spots: free safety, nickel corner, and even some outside corner. My guess is they envision him in a sort of versatile, Tyrann Mathieu role from Bettcher’s Arizona Cardinals days. Learning one spot in James Bettcher’s defense is hard enough. Three, I’m guessing takes some time. To be on the field, you need to know what you’re doing. But let’s hope that time comes soon. This is a developmental year; the idea is to take a look at the young players.

This is looking like a lost season for Sterling Shepard. Dealing with multiple concussions, he’s missed 6 of 10 games, and it’s unsure how the rest of the season will play out. This isn’t Shep’s fault. It’s just unfortunate for a player that just got a new contract and is part of the future plans of the Giants. I like his skill set and what he brings to the Giants. Let’s hope moving forward; this is behind him, and he is the impact player he can be.

Evan Engram. He hasn’t been bad, but this year hasn’t been what we hoped. Before the season, I had him as my “Prove it Year” guy. Not because he’s not talented, but because the Giants are going to need to decide on Engram soon, and he needs to prove two things: That his drop issues are behind him and that he can stay healthy and productive for an entire year. Be that mismatch guy that can be an offensive game-changer. Although he does have the occasional drop, I don’t view his drops as big an issue as it was in the past. Engram has worked hard on that, and it’s shown to have an impact. Engram has missed two games this year after missing five last year. Although on the surface, two games may not seem like a lot, there are many games that Engram plays hurt and far less than 100%, which limits his effectiveness on the field. The games where Engram is 100%, versus the games he’s not, is noticeable. It’s not merely how many games you play; it’s how effective is the player when he does play. I like Evan; I’m rooting for him. I hope he gets healthy and tears it up for the rest of the season.

What happened to Saquon?

I won’t get too deep into this. He hasn’t “regressed.” He didn’t forget how to run the football from last year when he won OROY and gained over 2000 yards from scrimmage. First, let’s be honest. Eli at QB presents a better platform for Saquon. Eli played under center more than Daniel Jones (who’s almost strictly shotgun), and this allows Saquon to gather momentum and approach the hole in a rhythm and cutback if necessary. The same thing was said with Adrian Peterson. In a way, Shurmur is sacrificing Saquon’s comfort for Daniel’s comfort. Eli also is better at reading the defense, establishing protections, and getting the offense, and subsequently, Saquon in the right play. Daniel Jones will get better at this, but he’s not on the same level as Eli.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, he’s far from 100%. A high ankle sprain can make cutting and anchoring difficult. Saquon can still be useful because he’s a physical freak, but he’s not 100%. Once Saquon gets 100% healthy, and perhaps Shurmur works Daniel into more under center looks, Saquon will be back.

What’s up with Shurmur?

So, this seems to be the popular topic of conversation among Giants circles lately. First, I’ll start with I like Shurmur, and I don’t have a problem with how he deals with the New York sports media. Ask stupid questions, get stupid answers. I’m philosophically and fundamentally on the same page with him when it comes to football, the importance of the offensive line, and the traits and characteristics you want in a quarterback. He’s made some questionable in-game decisions – but that’s not what I’m most worried about.

Remember Ben McAdoo? I try not to, but occasionally I can’t help it. He was hired as head coach because of his “offensive system.” It turns out; he was a slicked back hair snake oil salesman, and his system was garbage. Not only was his system garbage, but he was also so in love with his garbage system that he was unwilling to change it, adjust it, or adapt it. Now I’m not putting Shurmur in the same category as McAdoo – he’s in his own category.  But I want a creative offensive mind. That views his players as chess pieces, and that can adapt a system based on those chess pieces — not just pieces to plug into their system and hope it works out.

The best coordinators adapt based on the environment. They don’t say “this is my system” and give me the personnel to run it. Yes, sometimes that works. But that can be rigid and specific. Bill Belichick essentially comes up with a new defensive scheme every week if need be. Andy Reid comes up with new plays every week if need be. I see a lot of the same things from Shurmur over and over that don’t seem to work. Similar plays. Similar concepts. I understand he has a system that has worked for him in the past. But Shurmur needs to be more creative in changing things up and using his offensive personnel in the best possible spots. Don’t simply react to the defense. Be creative, proactive, dictate to the defense, and force the defense to react to you.

Saquon is a generational talent. I understand he got injured, so it’s hard to make an accurate evaluation from the outside. But if Saquon isn’t providing the same production as Christian McCaffrey, with a similar dominate run/pass skillset, then something is wrong. This is an example of having a generational offensive talent and utilizing some offensive creativity to ensure he produces like a generational talent. Now, this year may be a wash because of Saquon’s ankle, but if he’s not getting 2000 yards from scrimmage every year, there needs to be some self-scouting on the offensive coaching side. For reference, McCaffrey is on pace for 2,522 yards from scrimmage this year.

I don’t think Shurmur will be fired after this season, nor should he be. This is about Daniel Jones and maintaining a stable environment for him to grow, mature, and develop his first years in the league. In my opinion, it takes four years for a young QB to learn and mature in the NFL before they become that FQB that can navigate the playoffs and win a Super Bowl. There are outliers – but they are the exceptions, not the rule. The Giants aren’t about 2020. It’s more like 2021 and 2022. Daniel needs to develop, the rebuild of the OL needs to be completed; the defense needs the draft picks to grow and mature. A team usually needs three straight years of good drafts to be a contender, supplemented with free agents to fill holes. The Giants are a couple of years away. But the last thing the Giants should consider is destabilizing the relationship and the environment created for Daniel Jones – his continued development is a top priority.

Evaluating Shurmur the rest of the season — as I said earlier – shouldn’t be about focusing on wins and losses as the top priority. Focus on his offense and if he’s willing to be creative, adapt, and adjust. I want to see progress on that front. I haven’t lost all faith in Shurmur. Let’s see if Shurmur shows some creativity on offense and which individual Giants players stand out these last six games.