New York Giants: Patrick Graham takes blame for week 2 defensive problems

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

With two games gone by this season, it looks like the New York Giants are a step behind on defense compared to last season. The defense came into the season looking like one of the team’s main strengths, but was a letdown through the first two games after allowing 27 points to Denver and 30 to Washington.

While defensive coordinator Patrick Graham isn’t being criticized near as much as offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, it’s safe to say things have turned out very different so far than the original expectations that were placed on him coming into the season.

As the Giants prepare to take on the Atlanta Falcons, Graham will be the first one to acknowledge that underperformance.

Graham admitted when speaking to the media that his defenses had failed in the Washington game and in the early season, but believes that it’s too soon to write the defense off this season.

Despite the fact that only a couple of games have gone by this season, it’s clear that the Giants need big changes scheme wise if they want to perform better against the Falcons.

Graham’s defense was especially criticized in week 2 for playing too soft, and allowing backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke to build confidence by getting completions against a defense that was focused on deep coverage.

Considering how Heinicke was able to throw for 336 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants, it seems like there’s some merit to those complaints. While James Bradberry did get a crucial interception that gave the offense a chance to seize the win, most of the success the Giants had in that game was in spite of the defense and not because of it.

While Atlanta is known around the league this season for their own defensive struggles, their offense led by Matt Ryan and featuring names such as Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts will be a large test for the Giants.

How the Giants respond to that test will very much have a large impact in the criticisms of Graham either quieting down or getting louder as the season continues.

Giants have great opportunity to pummel league-worst Falcons defense, but how?

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants have arguably their easiest game through three weeks against the Atlanta Falcons this upcoming Sunday. While the Giants usually find ways to make more advantageous games difficult for themselves, the Falcons have the worst defense in the league after two regular-season games.

Atlanta has given up a league-high 40 points per game against the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which includes eight passing touchdowns against. Last week against Tampa, Tom Brady tossed five touchdowns, including two to tight end Rob Gronkowski and another two to Mike Evans. The Buccaneers’ defense also managed to record two interceptions taken for touchdowns, showcasing an inept Falcons unit that only had so many offensive opportunities because of how quickly the Buccaneers were scoring.

Looking over at the Giants, who manage 29 points against a solid Washington defense, managed to beat themselves in the final moments on an offsides call that would’ve resulted in a missed field goal by Dustin Hopkins. The Giants start off the season 0-2, similar to the Falcons.

However, this game offers the Giants a tremendous opportunity to get their offense in a better spot, getting the ball to big free agent signing Kenny Golladay more frequently and hopefully seeing Saquon Barkley rip off a few big runs. The biggest factor remains quarterback Daniel Jones, who had arguably the best game of his career against Washington.

In the loss, Jones finished with a 68.75% completion rate, 249 passing yards, 95 rushing yards, and two total touchdowns. If it weren’t for a bad holding call on receiver CJ Board and a drop by Darius Slayton, the Giants’ QB would’ve enjoyed his best stat-line to date, including five scores.

The expectation is that Jones will also enjoy the return of Evan Engram, opening up another element on offense with his athletic TE.

Looking over at Atlanta secondary, they have a selection of vulnerable cornerbacks. 2017 draft pick Fabian Moreau has already given up 65 yards and two scores through two weeks as the right boundary CB. The Falcons’ linebacker core is also a liability, with primary starter Deion Jones giving up 119 yards and a score through two weeks.

The Buccaneers targeted the middle of the field against the Falcons, specifically with their tight ends and slot receivers. The Giants will have plenty of opportunities running RPO‘s to give their past catchers good opportunities to pick up yards. Atlanta also ranks toward the bottom of the league in rushing yards allowed with 127.5 per game, which should widen the eyes of Barkley, who is still looking for a game with over 60 rushing yards.

Ultimately, this is a must-win game for the Giants as they prepare to head into a tougher portion of the schedule with the New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, and Los Angeles Rams coming up consecutively. Picking up some momentum and plastering a bad Atlanta defense would be a good way to get the gears turning.

New York Giants: Shane Lemieux has surgery on knee, will miss rest of season

New York Giants, Shane Lemeiux

The New York Giants have taken another loss on the offensive line, but not a surprising one. This time, it’s guard Shane Lemieux that has been marked as out for the season after undergoing surgery on his knee. The surgery is to repair his patellar tendon, after sustaining an injury during training camp and attempting to play through it before deciding on surgery.

Lemieux was on the field when the Giants took on Denver in week 1, but it wasn’t a long day for him. He played 18 snaps before being taken off for newcomer Ben Bredeson, and was absent for the next game. Some of the questions towards the coaching staff after the game were about whether Lemieux would undergo surgery, but no immediate response was given.

Now, we know that Lemieux will miss the rest of the season after surgery turned out to as the only viable option.

This is the second major injury that the Giants are dealing with on the offensive line. The other one, of course, is the leg fracture that will leave Nick Gates out for the rest of the season. Thanks to these two injuries, the Giants have effectively lost two of the players that they expected to start this season on the O-line and will have to rely on a far more unproven lineup.

There’s been talks recently about moving Matt Peart to guard, but those talks no longer seem like speculation. With Lemieux not coming back this season, a change of place for Peart might just be a necessary move for the offensive line’s depth in a season where the position group is especially thin.

The New York Giants are making a smart move with Matt Peart plans

New York Giants, Matt Peart

Going into the off-season, the New York Giants assumed that second-year offensive tackle Matt Peart would give veteran Nate Solder a run for his money at right tackle. After Solder opted out for the 2020 season due to COVID-19, Peart displayed signs of growth and adequacy as a rookie, but he lost out badly during the position battle for the starting job this pre-season.

In fact, Peart has only played 19 snaps this year, all of them coming in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. He allowed one QB hit and a pressure during that time, quickly being supplemented for Solder as the Giants ended the competition and gave the more experienced option the job.

However, the Giants aren’t giving up on the Connecticut product just yet, as they’re making a proactive decision to cross-train him at guard. This is a decision the former coaching staff failed to make with Ereck Flowers, forcing him to play left tackle despite significant issues. Peart, who stands at 6’7″ and over 300-pounds, would be a huge body in the interior. With superior athleticism, if he can develop his fundamentals, he could end up being an adequate option, which would be a definitive change in strategy.

Head coach Joe Judge indicated as much as Peart begins to earn reps with the second-team during practice at guard.

“We’re going to rotate Matt on through the tackle position,” Judge said. “We’ll kind of take a look at him maybe playing some stuff inside as we get going right here. We’ll kind of work around through practice these next few days and kind of see where things shake out.

I wouldn’t expect to see Peart starting at LG anytime soon, as the Giants have been Bredeson, for who they traded a fourth-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens. While he’s shown flashes in run-blocking, his pass-protection has been spotty at best. He has allowed five hurries and five pressures over 100 snaps this year. The Giants started Center Nick Gates at left guard against Washington before he suffered a gruesome lower leg injury, forcing Bredeson into the starting spot.

Taking a more progressive approach toward Peart is a great move by the coaching staff and one that will hopefully pan out in the future. The Giants might try to sprinkle him in to get his feet wet against the Falcons, but unless something serious happens to Bredeson, I expect him to remain the starter moving forward.

New York Giants: Kenny Golladay explains week 2’s sideline argument

new york giants, kenny golladay

One of the most talked about moments during the New York Giants‘ week 2 loss to Washington didn’t happen on the field. Rather, wide receiver Kenny Golladay would put attention on himself while on the sideline when he appeared to have an emotional outburst at either Daniel Jones or Jason Garrett. Jones would quickly stand up for Golladay in his comments after the game, but many still wondered about the situation and whether Jones was simply saying what was good for public appearances.

However, Golladay himself also claims that the burst of emotion on the sideline wasn’t directed at his quarterback. When asked about it on Monday, he said that it was aimed towards Jason Garrett and also denied the incident was over a lack of passes headed his way in big moments.

What did Golladay have to say on the matter?

“No, not so much that,” Golladay said when asked if his message was to get him the ball more. “Pretty much just me talking to JG a little bit and that’s two competitive guys right there. Moreso, just me wanting to do anything I can. Not so much, ‘Give me the ball more,’ though.”

“No, it’s not dealing with that,” the receiver further elaborated when asked if it was about mainly being thrown the ball on early downs.

Golladay was targeted 8 times but only had 3 receptions in the loss. His 38 yard performance was a step down from week 1 and served to fuel calls for the Giants to use their top weapons better.

While the sideline outburst brought some initial concern from the fanbase, many will be willing to look past it after learning it was directed towards Jason Garrett – Garrett, after all, has proven to be one of the least popular figures around the Giants this season.

With the way the season has started for the Giants’ new additions at receivers, it’s not that surprising that some frustration managed to come out towards the offensive coordinator. One can only hope that the offense continues to build on its improvements from the Washington game and that there’s no need for moments like this later in the season.

New York Giants need more from their pass-rushers

New York Giants, Lorenzo Carter

The New York Giants are struggling through the first two weeks of the 2021 NFL season. The Giants are sitting low with an 0-2 record that places them at the bottom of their division. In 2020, the Giants’ defense was a top-ten unit. But this season, the team’s defense looks like a shell of its past self as opposing teams have picked the unit apart. One of the biggest issues for the Giants defensively is their pass rush.

The Giants need more from their pass-rushers

The New York Giants accumulated 40 total sacks in the 2020 regular season (T-12). The Giants accomplished this with a group of pass-rushers that lacked a big-name star entering the season. Interior defensive lineman Leonard Williams stepped up and earned a big contract with a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2020, but in 2021, Williams has not been able to record a sack yet through two games.

The Giants’ biggest pass-rushing problem, though, is on the edge. Edge rushers Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and Azeez Ojulari are not doing enough to help their team succeed.

Lorenzo Carter, the team’s primary pass-rusher, has yet to record a sack. Oshane Ximines, another veteran edge rusher, has also not recorded a sack through two games. Azeez Ojulari has managed to record 2 sacks, putting his rookie season off to a strong statistical start. Unfortunately, his struggles in run defense seem to be overshadowing his two sacks (one of which was a coverage sack, the other a cleanup).

Last year, Patrick Graham received great amounts of praise for his complex defensive scheme that disguised zone coverages and generated pressure with creative blitz packages. So far this year, the scheme looks completely changed. The new scheme does not seem to be working, either.

The Giants are allowing 413.5 yards per game through two weeks. They have faced Teddy Bridgewater and Taylor Heinicke. It’s not like the Giants are getting thrashed by elite, top-ten quarterbacks. But what do you expect when the opposing team’s passer has all day to throw? If the New York Giants want to turn things around on defense, they need to start generating some pressure on the quarterback.

Giants’ Daniel Jones showed flashes of franchise quarterback play, but what does he need to establish himself?

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has been one of the most polarizing players on the team since being drafted in 2019. As the 6th overall selection, Jones had high expectations coming out of Duke, representing a quarterback with intriguing mobility and solid accuracy.

The major problem surrounding Jones has been his turnover issues, as he threw 22 interceptions during his first two seasons and fumbled 29 times. However, through two games this season, Jones has only fumbled once, not throwing an interception over 69 passing attempts. So far, he has thrown for 516 yards and two passing touchdowns but has also rushed for 122 yards and two rushing scores. He’s currently the teams leading rusher and is on pace for 4,352 yards, which would completely destroy his previous high of 3,027 yards.

In the team’s most recent loss to the Washington Football Team last Thursday, Jones was one of the best players on the field, carrying the Giants’ offense to 29 points on 22 completions for 249 yards and two total touchdowns. He would’ve ran for two scores, but a botched holding call on wide receiver CJ board resulted in the play coming back.

PFF graded Jones with a 91.3 overall in Week 2, the highest player in the game and the highest grade in his entire career. His adjusted completion percentage landed at 78.1%, including drops from receivers. In fact, in both weeks, his receivers dropped 12% of passes thrown, an unacceptable number. In addition, opposing defenses have curated 28 total pressures, showcasing his mobility and increased ball security. His only fumble happened outside of the pocket on a run up the middle. The growth and development he’s experienced over the off-season regarding ball security and pocket movement are clearly on display, as the offensive line remains a deficiency and Jones dominated against Washington regardless.

The OL has allowed a league-high six sacks, tied with only the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets. Of those three quarterbacks (Ryan Tannehill, Zach Wilson), Jones has the highest QBR, highest completion percentage, and most amount of yards.

The qualities that Jones has displayed through two weeks are convincing that he’s capable of being a franchise quarterback, but he needs to play consistently great to earn that term.

Specifically, he needs to perform well against teams not named Washington and crush opponents like the Atlanta Falcons coming up in Week 3. The Falcons have allowed 30+ points in each of their last two games, including 48 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Giants’ offense must display another strong performance, and if Jones can string together a few solid outings, the narrative around him will quickly begin to change in the Giants community.

New York Giants: Andrew Thomas’s season off to a stellar start

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants are 0-2 with a ton of negativity and pessimism surrounding the team. After the Giants’ Week Two Thursday Night loss, Giants fans are down in the dumps. A huge shadow of darkness has shrouded this team for the better part of three years now. However, every now and then, some glimpses of light shine through. One of those shining lights after two weeks of the 2021 NFL season is left tackle Andrew Thomas.

When Dave Gettleman was hired as general manager of the Giants in 2018, he vowed to fix the offensive line. In 2020, Gettleman made significant moves to deliver on that promise. Most notably, the Giants drafted Georgia left tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Andrew Thomas’s rookie season was filled with inconsistency. Fans set the expectations high for the Giants’ top-five pick and he did not always deliver. However, he did flash great potential at times last season and looked forward to building on those good performances in 2021.

In the 2021 preseason, fans started to panic when Andrew Thomas struggled in the exhibition season’s finale. But after two weeks in the regular season, Andrew Thomas looks like a brand new player.

Andrew Thomas through two weeks

Andrew Thomas’s sophomore season is off to a strong start. To kick the year off, Thomas put together a top-notch performance against the Denver Broncos. On 43 pass-blocking snaps versus Denver, Thomas allowed 0 sacks (PFF). He also allowed only 2 pressuress in that game.

Andrew Thomas’s Week Two performance built on what he accomplished in Week one. Once again, Andrew Thomas allowed only 2 pressures in Week Two, this time on 38 pass-blocking snaps. Check out this phenomenal pass set below:

Daniel Jones seems to feel safe and comfortable with Andrew Thomas protecting his blindside. If he can continue to play at this level, Andrew Thomas will prove the doubters wrong and prove himself to have been a good selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.

How should the New York Giants use Kadarius Toney moving forward?

new york giants, kadarius toney

When the New York Giants drafted Kadarius Toney with the 20th overall pick, they added a versatile weapon on offense who could be used in many different creative ways. With gadget utilities and raw athleticism, Toney was one of the best receivers regarding missed tackles forced during his final year with Florida in 2020. He lead receivers in college last season with a 30% missed tackle rate, showcasing his strengths as he adapts to the NFL and finds his way into the Giants’ scheme.

However, the team has seldom used Toney, featuring him in just 24 offensive snaps through two weeks against Denver and Washington. He has only touched the football twice, both on design plays that failed to produce any positive gains.

The media quickly began to spin stories and rumors regarding his usage and the frustration that was boiling. Toney took to social media to express his emotions, later taking a shot at the media for starting a negative narrative.

However, the Giants are underutilizing Toney, who clearly could help on offense. Every team‘s first-round pick should have an instant impact unless you are developing a quarterback to take over for a veteran, in which case represents a different scenario. When drafting impact weapons on offense and skill position players, they need to be featured early and often to help them adjust to the physicality and speed of the game at the next level.

How the New York Giants can get Toney involved moving forward:

Toney is far more than just a gadget player, with solid route running and unique abilities in the open field. Some ways the Giants can get Toney more involved include using him as a punt returner and featuring him in bunch formations alongside Sterling Shepard in the interior. With Kenny Golladay also taking snaps from the slot, Toney could be pushed outside and supplement reps from Darius Slayton, who had a costly drop against Washington in Week 2, which ended up being the difference in the game.

Having dropped just four passes over four seasons with Florida, there’s no question he is a reliable target that can contribute toward a more efficient unit. Given the Giants scored just seven meaningful points in Week 1, they bounced back with a far more extensive and aggressive strategy against Washington, scoring 29 points. The Giants scored more than 29 points just once in 2020, so they’ve already gotten off to a decent start in context with Jason Garrett’s vanilla scheme.

There are two reasons the Giants might be holding back from unleashing Kadarius:

First, he could be dealing with an injury and recovering from Covid, so they want to take a more cautious approach with his health. Alternatively, the Giants are still developing their scheme and adding new elements every week, so perfecting the base concepts and expanding that route tree could be more prevalent in the short term. With Toney’s unique skill set, they might be waiting to add his qualities at the right time when the offense has momentum, and they’ve begun stringing together consistent performances with their more established players.

How will the New York Giants supplement the massive loss of Nick Gates on offensive line?

New York Giants, Nick Gates

The New York Giants already had problems in the trenches before losing starting center Nick Gates to a fractured lower leg against the Washington Football Team on Thursday evening. Gates, who was shifted over to left guard, was pushed back into quarterback Daniel Jones when a defender landed awkwardly on the back of his leg, sending him to the ground in a heap, experiencing obvious pain.

Losing Gates for the rest of the 2021 season is a massive casualty, as the OL was already thin. They’ve been actively trying to work in two players who the Giants recently traded for, Billy Price and Ben Bredeson.

Gates, who had allowed just one hurry and one pressure over 74 snaps the season, will be replaced by Price on the short-term at least. Price, who was recently acquired from the Cincinnati Bengals in exchange for B.J. Hill and a conditional draft pick, struggled in his first action with Bug Blue. He recorded an 8.7 pass-blocking grade, per PFF, allowing one sack, four hurries, and five pressures.

The Giants also have Matt Skura, who has been activated and will compete with Price for the starting job. Skura had issues last year snapping the football in Baltimore but was battling injury and was once considered to be a rising star at the position. I wouldn’t be surprised if Skura gave Price a serious run for his money, overtaking him and establishing himself as the starter moving forward. The Giants would be smart to provide both with an opportunity to showcase their qualities in live-action.

At left guard, the expectation is that Bredeson will take over full-time, despite having his fair share of struggles in pass protection through two weeks. He has a 28.6 overall pass-blocking grade, allowing five hurries and five pressures over 100 snaps. He has been far more efficient as a run blocker, but the Giants have unfortunately been unable to curate a consistent running game, aside from Daniel Jones and the read-option.

However, Bredeson has plenty of potential, and the Giants will likely exercise him at left guard with hopes he can develop as a pass blocker. Luckily, the performance of Andrew Thomas has been extremely encouraging and should help Bredeson adapt quicker. He is still learning the playbook and developing chemistry with his teammates, so there will be hiccups along the way.

There’s also the possibility the Giants trade for another player, which is where safety Jabrill Peppers and their extensive draft capital might come into play.