New York Giants: A More Creative Rushing Attack Is The Key To A Win Against Chicago

New York Giants, Austin Mack, Jason Garrett

The New York Giants‘ rushing attack was shut down in Week One of the 2020 NFL season. The Giants were handed a disappointing loss on Monday night against the stout Pittsburgh Steelers defense. Pittsburgh has one of the best defenses in the league and they absolutely suffocated Saquon Barkley and the Giants’ offensive line.

Saquon Barkley is under criticism this week for his performance as a pass-blocker in Week One. But all are aware of the fact that Saquon is one of the best running backs in the NFL when his offensive line does their job. On Monday night, they did not do their job, and the Giants’ offense suffered from the offensive line’s poor performance.

But is it fair to put all of the blame on the offensive line? This line features a rookie left tackle, a starting center who has never before played that position, and a newly-signed swing tackle starting at right tackle. The lack of continuity across the offensive line led to a multitude of negative rushing attempts. But the offensive line does not deserve all of the blame for the team’s pitiful rushing attack in Week One. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett deserves some blame, too, and he needs to implement a more creative rushing attack in order to beat the Chicago Bears in Week Two.

A Lack Of Creativity

The Giants’ rushing attack in Week One lacked creativity. New York’s running plays were predictable, which is why the Steelers seemed to be in the backfield often before the ball was handed off.

Saquon Barkley was given fifteen rushing attempts in Week One. Of these fifteen attempts, eight of them went wide right and five of them went inside right (according to Next Gen Stats). The Giants barely ran the ball to the left side of the line. One attempt went inside left and one attempt went wide left. For the Giants to only run the ball to the left side of the offensive line twice on fifteen attempts is almost inexplicable.

On the left side of the line are arguably the Giants’ two best run-blocking offensive linemen. Andrew Thomas was an elite run-blocker at Georgia and Will Hernandez is now a veteran left guard. Only thirteen percent of Saquon’s rushing attempts followed these two excellent run-blockers.

An even more perplexing statistic relates to the Giants’ usage of pre-snap motion. Across the NFL, the teams with the best rushing attacks emphasize the usage of pre-snap motion (the Ravens, Chiefs, and 49ers are known to lead the league in pre-snap motion percentage). On Monday night, the Giants utilized snap motion on only 1.6% of their offensive snaps. They used all forms of pre-snap motion on a league-lowest 9.4% of the time.

This lack of creativity in the run-game led to a 15 attempt, 6-yard rushing performance by Saquon Barkley. Saquon is an uber-talented player, but he will only go as far as his offensive line and offensive coordinator allow him. In need of a win in Week Two, the Giants need to emphasize the utilization of a more creative rushing attack in order to allow Saquon Barkley to dominate the Bears’ defense.

New York Giants: Offensive Stars Need To Improve In Week Two

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants are coming off of a disappointing loss to kick off the season. On Monday Night, New York lost to the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers with a final score of 26-16. Despite this loss, there were plenty of positives to draw from the Giants’ performance. However, there were some glaring negatives to take away from it as well.

In particular, the Giants had a couple of disappointing performances on the offensive side of the ball. Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram, two of the Giants’ most dynamic playmakers, need to improve in Week Two if the Giants want to beat the Chicago Bears.

Saquon Barkley Not An Every-Down Back?

Superstar running back Saquon Barkley has received plenty of criticism from the media and fans after his performance in Week One. Most prominently, former Giants star running back Tiki Barber was very critical of Barkley this week. Tiki was quoted saying:

“Saquon Barkley is a great back, but he might not be an every down back. He cannot pass protect. It’s becoming glaring & could become a liability” – Tiki Barber on Saquon Barkley

What Tiki said does have some substance. Obviously, Saquon is a phenomenal running back and should be on the field as much as possible. He is a mismatch as a receiver and a big-play machine as a runner. And it is hard to criticize Barkley’s Week One rushing performance, given the way his offensive line played on Monday night. But Saquon Barkley’s struggles in pass protection have become a glaring weakness in his game.

Saquon let up more than one sack in pass protection on Monday night. According to Pro Football Focus, Saquon Barkley earned a 27.0 pass-blocking grade in Week One. He was a liability in pass protection for the Giants vs the Steelers. Granted, the Giants were facing arguably the best defense and best pass-rush in the NFL in Week One. It is a long season, so Saquon has plenty of time to improve, but he needs to step up and silence the doubters against the Bears in Week Two.

Evan Engram’s Night To Forget

The uber-versatile tight end Evan Engram had maybe the worst game of his career in Week One. With Jason Garrett serving as the team’s new offensive coordinator, Giants fans heard all season long about how big of a role Evan Engram would have with the Giants moving forward.

While Engram did have a substantial role in the Giants’ game plan versus the Steelers, he put together an extremely disappointing performance in that role. Engram was targeted 7 times on Monday but only hauled in 2 receptions for 9 receiving yards. Evan also dropped 2 passes in this game and committed an offensive pass interference penalty that erased a big gain through the air.

Pro Football Focus’s grading for Engram was pretty harsh, too. They gave Engram the worst grade amongst all tight ends in the league, 30.9 overall. Evan was also a complete liability as a blocker, both in pass protection and in the running game. He earned an 18.2 pass-blocking grade and a 32.9 run-blocking grade, both the lowest marks at the position.

Monday’s game was a night for Engram to forget. He will need to bounce back in a major way on Sunday to quiet the critics. Fans and analysts alike have torn Engram to shreds this week, rightfully so. But, like Barkley, Evan has plenty of time to make things right. A strong performance in Week Two versus the Bears will get Engram back on the right track.

New York Giants: Golden Tate OUT For Season Opener

New York Giants, Golden Tate

The New York Giants kick off their season at 7:20 p.m. tonight. Wide receiver Golden Tate has been questionable to play in the season opener all week. Now, Golden Tate has officially been ruled out of tonight’s game with a hamstring injury, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.

Second-year quarterback Daniel Jones will be without one of his top wide receivers again to start the season. In 2019, Jones never played a single game with all of his playmakers. Daniel Jones never hit the field with Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton, and Golden Tate all healthy last season. The Giants’ skill positions looked different week-to-week last year, and the discontinuity is continuing to begin the 2020 season.

Who’s Next?

Filling in for Golden Tate will likely be Damion Ratley. The Giants claimed Ratley off of the waivers last week. He was listed as the second-string wide receiver behind Golden Tate on the Giants’ first depth chart. Ratley spent the last two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, totaling 25 catches for 344 yards and 1 touchdown.

The New York Giants are facing one of the toughest defenses in the NFL tonight. Being without Golden Tate will be a serious blow to the Giants’ offense. Tate was one of Daniel Jones’s favorite targets last year as he totaled 676 yards and 6 touchdowns in 11 games. There was a strong chance that Tate played tonight, so he should be ready to roll in Week Two despite tonight’s disappointing game-time decision.

New York Giants: Turnover-Free Football The Key To Beating The Steelers In Week One

New York Giants, Daniel Jones, Lorenzo Carter

The 2020 NFL season kicked off today after a long, tumultuous offseason. Almost every team played on Sunday, but four teams remain unplayed heading into Monday night. The Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans will face off on Monday, as well as the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Giants are the underdogs in their Week One matchup. They are hosting the rugged Steelers defense at home while installing brand new offensive schemes. For New York, the key to winning their first game of the 2020 season is to play turnover-free football.

Jones Can Not Fumble

The Pittsburgh Steelers possess one of the best defenses in the NFL. In 2019, Pittsburgh led the NFL with 38 forced turnovers. The Steelers intercepted 20 passes (second-most) while holding opposing quarterbacks to only 3,113 passing yards (third-best).

The Giants will have a tough time airing out the football in Week One. The Steelers’ secondary is loaded with playmakers, but they also have the best pass-rush in the NFL. Pittsburgh sacked opposing quarterbacks a league-high 54 times last season. Their 30.5% pressure rate also led the NFL.

Pittsburgh’s incredible pass-rush is led by First-Team All-Pro TJ Watt. JJ Watt’s younger brother was dominant in his third professional season. Last year, TJ put together an insane 14.5 sack performance along with 8 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. Watt is a versatile talent that forces turnovers with ease and impacts both the run and pass games.

There are other pass-rushers on the Steelers’ defense who pose a serious threat to New York’s new offensive line. Opposite of TJ Watt is Bud Dupree, an edge rusher who totaled 11.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles last season. Those are two talented edge rushers on the Steelers’ defense, but there is also a pretty dominant rusher on Pittsburgh’s interior. Cameron Heyward was also a First-Team All-pro, as he totaled 9 sacks and 1 forced fumble in 2019.

Daniel Jones struggled to hold onto the football last season. As a rookie, Jones fumbled 17 times in 13 starts. This is something that Danny Dimes needs to improve on to take that step forward as a franchise quarterback in 2020. With such fierce pass-rushers who force so many fumbles all over the Steelers’ defense, it is crucial that Daniel Jones keeps the ball off the turf.

Smart Decisions Necessary

Daniel Jones struggled with fumbles last year, but he kept his interception number down for the most part. But as great as the Steelers’ pass-rush is, their secondary is phenomenal, too. That unit is led by third-year superstar Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick is another Steelers player coming off of a 2019 First-Team All-Pro campaign. Minkah intercepted 5 passes last season and forced 2 fumbles. Fitzpatrick also scored 2 defensive touchdowns. He is a turnover machine that must be avoided by Daniel Jones and the Giants’ offense.

The Steelers’ secondary also features veteran Joe Haden and Steven Nelson. The Steelers are bound to force turnovers all season long, but if the Giants can play turnover-free football in Week One, they can keep themselves in this game.

New York Giants: Preview Of Week One Opponent Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t quite coming from as bad a place as the New York Giants, in terms of results last season. But they aren’t coming from a good one, either. Taking a dive into the opponent in week one reveals that both teams have a lot riding on this season but for different reasons.

The Steelers had an 8-8 finish last year. Not the worst season, but not good enough to compete for the AFC North. They have some tough competition in that division this year, too. They’ll be looking to get off to a good start against the Giants, but what do the Steelers bring to the game?

Ben Roethlisberger as a key piece

Big Ben is still with the Steelers and the Giants can expect the result to heavily hinge on dealing with him or not. The Le’veon Bell era is no more in Pittsburgh and the Giants will have to key in on Roethlisberger to shut down the other side.

There’s good reason to believe that Big Ben will be a factor. While he only played in two games last season and the Steelers were left trying out other players such as Mason Rudolph, he threw for 5,129 yards the season prior. That was also a 34 touchdown season, which is the most Roethlisberger has thrown for in his career. He also beat out Patrick Mahomes that season as the passing leader for the league as a whole.

The Steelers have an alright receivers group which should be enough to give trouble to the Giants secondary. The Giants, after all, had to deal with replacing Xavier McKinney and DeAndre Baker close to the start of the season. They also added Eric Ebron as a target at tight end. While Ebron largely hasn’t gotten the desired results, he was a top ten draft pick as a receiving tight end.

Minkah Fitzpatrick will try to lock down Giants

It’s hard to understate the impact from cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick after joining the Steelers. The Dolphins didn’t utilize Fitzpatrick as well as they could have but he proved to be a better fit in the Steelers system and they had a significant reduction in points against after Fitzpatrick entered the lineup. The Giants can expect to have Fitzpatrick on one of their top receivers. Despite a minor injury scare for the Giants receiver, it looks like that will be Darius Slayton.

The Steelers have an otherwise good defense even outside of Fitzpatrick. It looks like they’ll have multiple Pro Bowlers. One of the contenders for that title is T.J. Watt, who had 14.5 sacks last season and managed to outclass his more famous brother.

The defense will be a challenge for the Giants in general but Watt will require specific focus. Especially with the offensive line not being the strongest point for the Giants right now. It’s reasonable to cut rookie Andrew Thomas some slack if he ends up going against Watt directly.

The verdict

All in all, it looks like this is a tough game for the Giants. The Steelers defense isn’t an easy one for second year quarterback Daniel Jones to take on. Additionally, the Steelers may exploit a new offensive line. However, the Steelers themselves are coming off a mediocre year and Ben Roethlisberger is bouncing back from a season where he only played in a couple games. The Giants themselves may find a few things to exploit on the Steelers, and they certainly shouldn’t be written off here.

New York Giants: Feeding Saquon The Key To Success In Week One

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants are about to face off against arguably the best defense in the NFL on Monday night. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense led the league in forced turnovers last season. The Steelers’ defensive unit features three 2019 First-Team All-Pros and other Pro Bowlers littered throughout.

The Steelers have the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL in TJ Watt and Bud Dupree. The two combined for a total of 26 sacks in 2019 and 12 forced fumbles. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick also totaled 5 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles playing alongside Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden. Throwing against this secondary and pass-rush will be a true test for Daniel Jones entering his second NFL season.

For this reason, the Giants need to rely on their best player more than usual in Week One. Saquon Barkley, arguably the most talented running back in the NFL, is the key to success for the Giants on Monday night.

Feed Saquon

Saquon Barkley had an up and down season in 2019. He spent much of the season either on the sideline, nursing an injury, or on the field playing through that injury. When healthy, Barkley was his dominant self, but the Giants’ offense still struggled to use him in an efficient manner.

Entering 2020, Saquon has a brand new offensive line and coaching staff to help him find success. In Week One, Saquon Barkley needs to be fed the ball abundantly in order for the Giants to win. This is not a defense that teams want to air the ball out on. They have playmakers in the secondary and relentless pass-rushers in the front seven. Daniel Jones should not shoulder the load for New York this week.

If there is a weakness on the Steelers’ defense, it is their run defense. While their run defense is not an actual weakness, it is their weakest link, and Saquon Barkley is the Giants’ strongest link. Pounding the rock with Saquon Barkley will tire down the Steelers’ defense and allow the Giants to control the game pacing and game clock.

While the Steelers’ defense allowed the third-fewest passing yards in the NFL last season, their run defense ranked 14th in the NFL, which is still above average, but not dominant like their pass defense. If the Giants want to take down this suffocating Steelers’ defense, they need to control the clock by pounding the rock with Saquon Barkley.

New York Giants Have A Tall Task In Slowing Down TJ Watt

The New York Giants will face off with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night to kick off their 2020 NFL season. Second-year quarterback Daniel Jones will lead the Giants’ young offense into battle against a fierce Pittsburgh defense that led the NFL in forced turnovers in 2019.

Daniel Jones struggled to keep the ball out of harm’s way in his rookie season. In 12 starts, Jones fumbled the ball 17 times. Jones and the Giants’ coaching staff have worked hard this offseason to improve on this flaw in Daniel’s game. But the Steelers have a certain sack-master on defense that is known to force quite a few fumbles. TJ Watt led the NFL in forced fumbles last season. The New York Giants have a tall task in slowing down TJ Watt on Monday night.

What Makes Watt So Dominant?

Daniel Jones is going to be under pressure in this Week One matchup. The Steelers had the best pass-rush in the NFL last season, leading the league with 54 total sacks and a 30.5% pressure rate. This is a brand new, young Giants offensive line that could struggle early on this season. Pittsburgh could exploit that and bring the heat in Week One.

The leader of that Steelers pass-rush was TJ Watt. TJ Watt is one of the best and most versatile edge rushers in the NFL, and he could cause serious problems for Daniel Jones and the Giants.

TJ Watt is entering his fourth NFL season and coming off of a 2019 campaign that saw him finish as a First-Team All-Pro. Watt recorded 14.5 sacks, 59 pressures, and 36 quarterback hits, and 8 forced fumbles in 2019. He was absolutely dominant as a pass-rusher and even against the run.

Watt typically lines up over the right tackle position, so it will be up to Cam Fleming to slow down the Steelers’ most talented defender. Fleming started three games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2019. This will be a tall task for him, as it will be for the rest of the Giants’ offense.

TJ Watt rushes with incredible burst and speed off of the edge. He often wins with the speed rush. The pass-rush move that Watt uses the most is the dip and rip. He uses a speed rush to get leverage on the outside shoulder of a right tackle, then dips down, and rips his right arm up to fight off the offensive tackle.

If the New York Giants want to win this game, they need to slow down TJ Watt. He is a game-wrecking, dominant force, and he could spoil the Giants’ season opener if they do not handle him properly.

New York Giants: Week One Will Be A Tough Test For Daniel Jones

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants will play their first regular-season game of the 2020 NFL season next Monday. The Giants will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in this highly-anticipated Week One matchup.

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is entering his second NFL season, coming off of an impressive rookie campaign. As impressive as Jones was as a rookie, he made plenty of mistakes. There were peaks and valleys for the Duke alum, his biggest flaw being his fumbling issue. Jones fumbled the ball 18 times in only 13 games (one game being one drive that ended in a fumble).

The Giants did everything they could do fix this problem this offseason. They hired an excellent quarterbacks coach in Jerry Schuplinski, a wise offensive coordinator in Jason Garrett, and totally revamped the offensive line. Additionally, Daniel Jones worked hard himself to improve his ball security, even adding nine pounds of muscle.

All eyes will be on Daniel Jones during the Giants’ primetime matchup with Pittsburgh. Daniel will go up against a tough Steelers defense that will challenge him and put him to the test to start his sophomore season.

A Challenging Steelers Defense

The Pittsburgh Steelers had the NFL’s sixth-ranked defense in 2019. They forced a league-high 38 turnovers last season. In order for the Giants to win this game, they need to keep the ball out of harm’s way.

There are a few playmakers on that Pittsburgh defense. T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick are the two biggest standouts. In 2019, T.J. Watt was a first-team All-Pro, as he had a career-year in his third professional season. Watt played in all 16 games, racking up a dominant 14.5 sacks and a league-high 8 forced fumbles.

Watt’s knack for poking the football loose is troubling news for Daniel Jones and the Giants’ offense. New York needs to slow down T.J. Watt if they want to start the season off with a win. The best fumble-forcing edge rusher in the NFL is going up against the most fumble-prone quarterback. This could be a recipe for disaster if Daniel Jones does not demonstrate the improved ball security that has been promised.

Minkah Fitzpatrick is the other turnover machine on the Steelers’ defense. In 2019, the Steelers acquired Fitzpatrick via trade with the Miami Dolphins. Minkah started 14 games for the Steelers and was an absolute ballhawk. Minkah forced 6 turnovers in 2019, including 5 interceptions and 1 forced fumble. He even scored 2 defensive touchdowns, one on a pick-six and the other off of a recovered fumble.

Interceptions were not a huge problem for Daniel Jones in his rookie season. Jones threw 12 interceptions, which is an average of one per game. Of course, Jones would like to lower that average further, but for a rookie, that was a respectable number.

Daniel Jones faced some tough defenses in 2019. He will face another one to kick off the 2020 season. It will be a tough test for the second-year gunslinger, but if he can protect the football, it will bode well for the team’s season.

One New York Jets coach could be a rising star

New York Jets, Hines Ward

A rising star on the coaching staff for the New York Jets:

Let me take you back to 2006. The Pittsburgh Steelers played the Seattle Seahawks for the Lombardi Trophy. The MVP recipient in that win, the epitome of what it meant to be a Steeler, and the legendary receiver Hines Ward, was a key piece in that Super Bowl run and the victory.

He was clutch and displayed leadership on and off the field. Now, Hines Ward is on a different sideline. At 44, Hines Ward has traded his Yellow and Black for Green and White, and as he enters his second season coaching, the Super Bowl champion has already been labeled a rising star.

Hines Ward’s Impact

Hines Ward was brought in as an offensive assistant, but his role was more than that. Ward worked with many of the receivers on the team but was also named a key player in the development of Robby Anderson’s route tree this past season. When the Jets beat the Steelers in Week 16, the Jets’ celebration centered around Hines Ward.

The team rallied around Hines and his impact was apparent at that moment. As Joe Douglas has preached building, “One of the best cultures in sports,” Hines Ward is a culture changer. Coming from a winning organization, Ward is the guy these players can look to for advice on how to get to a championship-caliber level. Changing a culture from losing to winning isn’t easy, but having guys like Ward around can make the transition much more feasible.

Hines Ward is Gaining Notoriety

As I just hit on, Ward can play a part in being a culture changer, he’s a leader and an educated offensive mind. This offseason, despite limited experience coaching, he was reportedly considered for several WR Coach opportunities.

Ultimately, Hines Ward has remained with the Jets, but if execs have taken note of what he did in year one, his reputation as a coach will only begin to preside his reputation on the field. Ward will only continue to grow into his role and excel. With more opportunities likely in his future, don’t be surprised to see the former NFL super-star receive a promotion within the organization or elsewhere in the next year or so. The Jets should take note of his talent and groom him. Who knows, the former talent on the field could end up being even better off it.