How will they “be back”? 4 ways the Buffalo Bills can avoid a hangover

Everyone assumes the Buffalo Bills will be back to the AFC title game, but we’ve heard that one way too many times in the past.

Toward the end of many NFL playoff contests, a mantra of the damned has become as much of a prevalent broadcast tradition as reminding viewers that Bob’s Burgers or 60 Minutes will be coming up next (except on the west coast, in the latter case). When time is low and the game’s outcome is no longer in doubt, time is often dedicated to the team who will have to wait until September to restart their Super Bowl trek. As the camera lingers on images of the downtrodden runners-up between plays, the announcers will often repeat some variation of the phrase “they’ll be back”.

The Buffalo Bills were the latest to hear the chants, as their magical 2020-21 season came to an end in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. Buffalo was no match for the Kansas City Chiefs’ title defense, falling in a 38-24 final in their first semifinal visit since 1994. During contentious final minutes defined by post-whistle extracurriculars, CBS broadcasters Jim Nantz and Tony Romo waxed poetic on the Bills, they of 13 wins and an AFC East title, assuring fans that the best was likely yet to come for a team that grew by leaps and bounds. The Buffalo locker room repeated the phrase as Kansas City celebrated their return trip to the Big Game.

“I have no doubt in my mind that we will be back,” quarterback Josh Allen said, per team reporter Jourdon LaBarber. “We’re still young and we’re only going to get better. That’s one thing I take from this. We’re close. The results weren’t good tonight but I’m super proud of how our team fought all season and how we bonded together.”

“Give the Kansas City Chiefs credit. They won, they were the better team tonight. But the Buffalo Bills will be back,” head coach Sean McDermott added in a postgame interview with CBS sideline reporter Evan Washburn. “This is a learning experience. It’s a tough environment to play. We didn’t play our best game, we didn’t coach our best game, we’ll be back.”

But, if recent history has proven anything, this mantra has only led to more losing.

Losing the AFC title game can certainly serve as a springboard for future success. Kansas City, for example, hasn’t lost a postseason game since they fell to New England in the 2019 edition. But everyone brushed off the Jacksonville Jaguars’ loss to those same Patriots the year before as a mere stepping stone to something brighter. After all, they were armed with a youthful, fearsome defense featuring Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Yannick Ngakoue, and many others. It was only a matter of time before they made the next step, no?

In the three years since that epic run, Jacksonville has won a mere dozen games (including a single triumph this season) and will choose first in the upcoming NFL Draft. The Los Angeles Rams appeared ready to take over football after their own run that same season but wound up missing the playoffs in the NFC title defense. A “double doink” derailed the Chicago Bears. Even Super Bowl champions aren’t exempt from such hangovers. Only four years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles looked like a dynasty in the making. Now, they’re one of the least desirable situations in football. Doug Pederson has already been dismissed and Carson Wentz appears to be next.

How can the Bills avoid such a hangover? ESM investigates…

 Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Be Buffalo Bold

What eventually did Buffalo in during the AFC title game was their lack of assertiveness in Kansas City. If you want to beat the Chiefs, you have to be the Chiefs, a team so dedicated to securing the victory as quickly and cleanly as possible that they’re willing to throw with Chad Henne on a 4th-and-1 just two games away from the Super Bowl.

Before things got out of hand at Arrowhead, the Bills had several opportunities to assert their authority on the Chiefs and earn precious points on fourth-and-short situations. However, they opted for the relative safety of Tyler Bass field goals, but they proved meaningless when the defense failed to stop Kansas City’s high-voltage offense. The red dagger came when they chose to narrow the lead to 24-15 on a 26-yard Bass boot when three yards would’ve set first-and-goal in the latter stages of the third quarter. Tyreek Hill immediately made them pay with a 75-yard catch-and-run that set up Travis Kelce’s short score through underhanded mastery from Patrick Mahomes.

“Maybe if I had to do it over again, I would have went for maybe one of them,” McDermott said of the costly decisions to kick, per Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN. “But the one before the half, I wanted to get points. We were having trouble coming up with points, and I wanted to at least have something to show for it going into the half, especially knowing they were getting the ball after half. I’ll look back at that and reevaluate that, especially the one after half there, and as an entire team, we’ll learn from the experience.”

Making things all the more tragic from a football standpoint was the fact that the Bills were no stranger to such aggressiveness during this magical season. They tied with Miami for the best fourth-down conversion rate (albeit on only 10 attempts) and pulled one off on their opening possession, later leading to Bass’ first field goal. Hopefully for Buffalo, they took the missed opportunities as the learning experience McDermott alluded to.

 Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Lock the Block(ers)

The Bills are blessed with the multiple talents of Allen, who has proven capable of beating teams both through the air and on the ground. Blessed with such a prime, game-changing force of football nature, Buffalo must do everything in its power to protect him. Allen was sacked 34 times last season, the 10th-worst rate in football, but that tends to happen when you have a mobile quarterback. All in all, the Bills did a decent job, but it still feels like there are ways to improve.

Among the potential departures through free agency is tackle Daryl Williams, one of the most pleasant surprises amongst the league’s contenders. The former All-Pro was signed to an affordable one-year deal but wound up filling in very well for an injured Cody Ford late in the year. Interior regulars Jon Feliciano, Brian Winters, and Ike Boettger will all be free agents, while center Mitch Morse could be a salary cap casualty (over $4.8 million) as the team currently holds under $2 million in cap space.

Buffalo can’t afford any regression when it comes to their blocking help. It’s possible they could use the 30th pick on someone like Creed Humphrey out of Oklahoma to bolster the unit. If the biggest problem on the offense is the fact that the long-sought franchise quarterback has too much protection, you know you’re doing something right.

Lower the Flags

While the Bills tackled numerous streaks of futility in 2020, one unfortunate streak kept on rolling. With 102 penalties (941 yards lost) during the regular season (sixth in the league), the Bills ranked in the league’s top-ten flag drawers for the third straight season. While Buffalo’s penalty ledger was relatively clean against Kansas City (38 yards on a quartet), the final stages of the season were marred by post-whistle extracurriculars that only built the rivalry between the Bills and Chiefs further. Should the Chiefs prevail in their Super Bowl endeavor two Sundays from now (6:30 p.m. ET, CBS), no one would be surprised to see the Bills in the traditional opening Thursday night slot for the defending champions come Week 1 of 2021.

It was great to see the Bills stick up for each other once things got chippy in the final minutes, but it left a sour taste in Allen’s mouth. One of Buffalo’s last possessions ended with Allen taking a late hit from Chiefs lineman Alex Okafor. Allen tossed the ball at Okafor’s facemask, leading to the first of several late-game melees.

“The way it ended doesn’t sit right with me with how chippy and ticky-tack it got. I’m disappointed in myself,” Allen said per Matt Parrino of Syracuse.com. “I let my emotions get to me there. That’s not how you’re supposed to play football.”

 Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Figure Out the Rushing Stampede

The Bills have formed one of the most explosive passing attacks in the league through Allen, Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and others. But that doesn’t mean they have to solely rely on aerial antics to pull off wins. Over the past two seasons, the Bills are a mediocre 5-5 when Allen throws the ball at least 40 times. Two of those victories came in too-close-for-comfort showdowns with the New York Jets, while two of those losses came in the AFC playoffs (2020 Wild Card at Houston, 2021 AFC title game at Kansas City).

Sophomore rusher Devin Singletary regressed in several major rushing categories, working alongside the roller-coaster rookie antics of Zack Moss, who missed a majority of the postseason after leaving the Wild Card tilt on a cart. The two united for 1,168 yards and seven total touchdowns but struggled to maintain consistency. It’s good that the Bills have a relatively consistent rushing tandem, but they have to develop some true traction to avoid the risk of the offense becoming too shallow. Once Moss got injured, the Bills turned almost exclusively to passing. Singletary earned his first carry of the Divisional round late in the second quarter. Allen put up 88 yards against the Chiefs, but Singletary and T.J. Yeldon mustered only 32 on nine carries.

In another report from Parrino, McDermott flat out noted that “we got to be able to run the football better” after the AFC title game. If anyone in the NFL can do it all, it may well certainly be Allen, but that’s no reason to force him into such a situation.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Three reasons why this isn’t the same team from October

The Kansas City Chiefs topped the Buffalo Bills in one-sided fashion back in October, but a lot has changed in Orchard Park.

Why is the NFL even bothering to play the AFC Championship Game on Sunday afternoon? We already saw what a nationally televised matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS) had to offer back in October.

The Monday late afternoon tilt in Orchard Park (wth health protocols moving the game from its original Thursday night slot) wasn’t as close as the 26-17 margin in Kansas City’s advantage indicated. The defending champion Chiefs outgained Buffalo 466-206 and Josh Allen’s box score (14-of-27, 122 yards) was conjured from the sweetest dreams of his detractors. To make things even scarier, the Chiefs’ comfortable victory came with megastar Patrick Mahomes posting relatively pedestrian numbers (225 yards, two scores). Mahomes’ status for Sunday remains in question after he left last week’s Divisional round victory with a head injury.

With their loss, combined with a listless showing in Nashville the week prior, the Bills had apparently missed their chance to prove why they belonged amongst the NFL’s elite. Sure, they were content to win an AFC East featuring the woebegone Jets, declining Patriots, and developing Dolphins, but keys to the AFC penthouse would have to wait, granted only to Kansas City and their guests from Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

But a lot has changed since October. Vaccines to combat the ongoing health crisis were still in the development stages. In the Star Wars galaxy, Grogu was still known as “Baby Yoda” and, as far as we knew, Boba Fett was still in the belly of the Sarlacc.

The Bills, meanwhile, have cleaned themselves up…

 Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Their offense has gotten better at controlling the game

Offensive control goes far beyond the yardage battle, though the BIlls are handling their business in that department. Since putting up only 206 against the Chiefs in October, the Bills broke the 300-yard mark in each of their next 11 games, a streak that ended in the Orchard Park winds of the Divisional playoff victory over Baltimore. In that span, Buffalo eclipsed 400 six times, including a whopping 534 in their playoff-clinching win over Denver.

Perhaps more important, however, is what Buffalo can do in the time of possession affairs. When one leads such a battle, it means their offense is still on the field and that the opponent’s unit…in this case, one featuring Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and other scoring titans…can only watch from the sidelines.

If any franchise knows the value of winning the time of possession column, it’s the Buffalo Bills. Scott Norwood’s memorable miss in Super Bowl XXV could’ve been avoided bad the Bills had held the ball for more than 20 minutes. The New York Giants, reduced to a backup quarterback, methodically milked the clock with a rushing attack headlined by MVP Ottis Anderson. They wound up keeping the ball for over two-thirds of game time (40:33) to secure a 20-19 victory. The Giants kept their offense on the field while Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and Co. could only helplessly look on.

The modern Bills have appeared to have taken that lesson to heart. Though they’ve lost the battle in each of their postseason pair thus far, odds considerably tilt to their favor when they hold the ball longer. The Bills are 6-0 when they hold the ball for at least 33 minutes, notably keeping it for 41:17 in their Week 1 win over the Jets. In contrast, Buffalo had only 22:15 of offense during their prior excursion against the Chiefs. Winning the TOP struggle has proven effective in neutralizing a Mahomes offense before. Kansas City has lost nine games with Mahomes under center since he took over the starting role in 2018. The Chiefs have lost the time of possession battle in all but one of those games. Included in the negative tally is their overtime defeat to New England in the 2018-19 AFC Championship Game.

(Photo: Getty)

They’ve cracked down on opposing rushing efforts

How did Kansas City manage to look so dominant with Mahomes looking uncharacteristically average? Simple…they’re known as the Kansas City Chiefs, not the Kansas City Mahomes (more on this from a Buffalo standpoint later).

The Chiefs have built their new NFL dominion through a team effort. Though Mahomes has obviously played a role in the Chiefs’ ongoing success, new heroes have surfaced in times of trouble. Sub-Mahomes efforts, or even his medical-induced disappearances, are not immediate causes for on-field panic. Kansas City’s run game has routinely stepped up when Mahomes is held in check. That was true during the early stages of last year’s Super Bowl, as Damien Williams put up 104 rushing yards and the final two touchdowns in the 31-20 victory. When Mahomes had to leave the Divisional proceedings against Cleveland, the unrelated Darrel Williams put up 47 yards on seven carries to help take the pressure and load off backup Chad Henne, ticking precious time off the clock in the process.

In the first Buffalo meeting, it was first-round rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire who rose up with 161 yards on the ground, while Darrel Williams put in a second-half touchdown that gave the Chiefs a two-possession lead. If Mahomes plays but isn’t at 100 percent on Sunday in Missouri, there’d be little surprise in

But the Bills defense has cracked down since Edwards-Helaire’s Western New York stampede. While it’s still not at a level they’re truly satisfied with the betterment has nonetheless played a role in their success. Only two rushers (Damien Harris and Kenyan Drake) have gotten to the century mark since Edwards-Helarie’s infantile career day at 102 and 100 respectively. They additionally held another stud rookie rusher, Jonathan Taylor, to under four yards a carry during their Wild Card victory over Indianapolis (21 carries, 78 yards). Buffalo later held Baltimore’s top-ranked run game in check in the Divisional round, allowing no rushers greater than 15 yards from Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, and Lamar Jackson.

“We said, OK, we’re going to dare them to stay with the run game, and lo and behold, they stayed with it, and had a lot of success running the football,” Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said of the October game, per Jourdon LaBarber of BuffaloBills.com. “You know, we learned a lot from that ballgame, hopefully some lessons that will help us going forward, but that was the strategy going into game. We’ll have to find a balance, do a better job against the run than we did in that first encounter.”

 Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

They’ve improved far beyond Josh Allen

In a cruelly ironic twist, would an MVP Award for Josh Allen actually hurt the Bills?

In a perfect world, distribution of Most Valuable Player awards would truly live up to its definition. But it too often simply goes to the best players on the best team or relies solely on stats. Magnificent as Mahomes has been, Kansas City has shown that they’re more than capable of competing when a backup quarterback like Henne or Matt Moore has to take the reins.

Since his drafting in 2018, the Bills fortunes have been perceived as rising and falling through the play of Allen. That’s ridiculously unfair in a sport that relies so heavily on team antics, but those who believe in such philosophies had evidence through Allen’s shortcomings. Over his first two seasons, Buffalo posted a 6-13 record when Allen posted a passer rating of 90 worse. That tally included his 69.5 posting in the Bills’ Wild Card defeat in Houston last year.

Granted, Allen has improved himself to the point where he’s not posting these kinds of numbers on a regular basis. Additionally, his jaw-dropping highlight reels often speak for themselves. But, as mentioned above, the 2020 version of Allen has gotten by with a little help from his friends. Buffalo’s record now stands at a much more tolerable 4-3 when Allen’s passer rating is at that precipice. A perfect example came last week against Baltimore in the Divisional tilt. By typical 2020-21 standards, the game was a struggle for the Bills offense, which put up only 220 yards and 17 first downs.

The defense, however, had Allen’s back, upping the pressure on Jackson and providing the most crucial score through Taron Johnson’s 101-yard interception return for a touchdown. They likewise added four sacks, including two from Jerry Hughes, his second multi-sack game in his last three postseason contests. Momentum-shifting turnovers have been nothing new in Buffalo. Since picking up only one in the Kansas City loss, the Bills have earned multiple turnovers in six games.

As for blocking, Allen’s pocket has been relatively clean, having been sacked four times in the two playoff showings. When the pressure has raised a few octaves, to the tune of a pair of fumbles that could’ve shifted the courses of those games, but Darryl Williams and Dion Dawkins each came up big with recoveries.

In short, since their pair of defeats…the Bills could well have been holding a 12-game winning streak if not for Kyler Murray’s miracle…the Bills are providing a whole new meaning to “All-22”. Time will tell if it’ll be enough to topple the budding dynasty in Kansas City. But it won’t come through relying solely on the prescience of Allen.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Could a Hall of Famer be the New York Jets’ next head coach?

bill cowher, New York Jets

The New York Jets are certain to be in the market for a new head coach. With a competent and respected general manager in Joe Douglas, the projected second-most cap space, a plethora of draft picks, and the likely 1st pick, the Jets head coaching opening is surely going to be attractive. Apparently, that thought is shared by Hall of Fame head coach and current CBS Analyst Bill Cowher.

Lost in the news of the Jets firing Gregg Williams was the report from Boomer Esiason alluding to Bill Cowher having potential interest in the Jets Head Coaching job. Per Boomer himself on his show, “Boomer and Gio,” “He was saying to me yesterday, he’s the one that told me the Jets job is going to be really attractive, and they could hire whomever they want, and he told me he loves Joe Douglas.” This report doesn’t necessarily mean Cowher himself is interested in the job, but Boomer also said this, “All I know is that yesterday, he was showing me and Nate film of him coaching on the sideline where he was mic’ed up, and we looked at each other like, ‘Hmm, what does that mean?’.” Esiason continued, “Is he sending a message? I’ve worked with him for 14 years, and I’ve never seen that.”

So, what does this mean? Well, there have been rumors linking Cowher to the Jets long before he retired in 2006. Not only that, but rumors have swirled in the past about Cowher’s potential return. What is eye-opening to me, though, is that Boomer has a close bond with Bill, and for him to say all of this on the air openly, there must be some weight to these statements.

Cowher, at 63 years old, is still regarded as a bright football mind, but he is a bright mind in general. This move could mean two things, Cowher could be indirectly working with the Jets to add more hype around the presumed opening, or there really could be interest on Cowher’s end, and he is trying to float the idea in order to get a sense of the reception.

Could Cowher Fit In NY?

Bill Cowher is a highly respected coach, having went 149-90-1 from 1992 to 2006 with the Steelers and going to two Super Bowls, with a win in Super Bowl XL. Cowher is a proven leader. The issue surrounding Cowher, though, is that he has not coached in 14 years. The game has changed a lot in that time period, and some could say it has developed beyond the kind of coaching style he has. What I would say, though, is that a leader is a leader. Cowher is the kind of coach that has a reputation to rely on. Going from a coach who reportedly has no respect in the locker room to a Super Bowl champion is something that can rebuild a culture. The Jets on the field performance is putrid, but off the field, a potential 0-16 team is going to need not just a cultural rebuild but an entire overhaul.

By bringing in Cowher, the Jets are committing to experience and leadership. Pairing him with Joe Douglas would form one of the most formidable personnel tandems in franchise history. The likelier outcome is that the Jets go to the college ranks or to a coordinator for their next coach, but they are likely to cast a wide search for their next coach. This is an unlikely move, but the premise of a franchise-changing hire like this is enticing.

NFL: New Jersey native, Super Bowl champion Jim Kiick passes away at 73

The nine-year NFL veteran starred at Boonton High School before partaking in the Miami Dolphins’ Super Bowl runs in the 1970s.

New Jersey native and former NFL running back Jim Kiick has passed away at 73, the Miami Dolphins announced on Saturday.

A native of Lincoln Park, Kiick starred at Boonton High School, where he was a multi-sport athlete that made the all-Morris County team as a defensive back. He then spent three years at the University of Wyoming, where he led the Cowboys to victory with an MVP performance in the 1966 Sun Bowl, where he put up 177 total yards in a 28-20 win over Florida State. One year later, he was the spark behind Wyoming’s undefeated regular season.

Two years after breaking Floridians’ hearts by running all over the Seminoles, Kiick became a crucial part of the state’s athletic history when the Miami Dolphins chose him in the fifth round (118th overall) of the 1968 NFL/AFL Draft. He and fellow Miami draftee Larry Csonka rekindled a friendship begun at the 1968 College All-Star Game and, along with Mercury Morris, formed a deadly rushing attack. Kiick tallied 3,644 rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns over seven seasons in a Dolphins uniform. His nine scores during the 1969 America Football League campaign.

To this day, Kiick ranked fifth in Dolphins history in rushing yardage (3,644) and sixth in rushing touchdowns (28).

Kiick would go on to make a name for himself via big performances in the postseason. Notably, he scored in all playoff contests during Miami’s completion of their perfect season in 1972-73. Kiick touchdowns were the difference in all three wins, including his one-yard score in Super Bowl VII against Washington. Previously, he posted a two-touchdown performance in the AFC Championship Game win in Pittsburgh (won by a 21-17 margin). His score in the divisional round against Cleveland was the last end zone entry of a 20-14 victory. One more Super Bowl score awaited Kiick in the eighth edition against Minnesota, which Miami won 24-7.

Clashes with head coach Don Shula about his Miami role led Kiick to seek a new opportunity in the World Football League. He, Csonka, and fellow Miami champion Paul Warfield spent a year-plus with the Memphis Southmen/Grizzlies (no relation to the NBA team of the same name). The trio were three of the richest WFL players before the league shut down in the middle of its second season in 1975.

Kiick was set to reunite with his good friend Csonka (the Miami media dubbed the pair “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) with the New York Giants, but the team was wary of the pair’s hard-partying ways. He would go on to play four games over two final NFL seasons with Denver and Washington before retiring in 1978. The dual-threat retired with 6,061 yards from scrimmage, with his best statistical season coming in 1971 (738 rushing yards in 1971, a year that ended with Miami’s first Super Bowl appearance).

After football, Kiick returned to Florida and served as a private investigator in the public defender’s office of Broward County. He routinely appeared at modern Dolphins games and was inducted into the University of Wyoming’s sports Hall of Fame in 1996. The running back was living with dementia at the time of his death.

Kiick is survived by his children Allie and Austin, the former being a tennis pro on the ITF Women’s Circuit.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Giants Super Bowl Flashback: Justin Tuck’s Top Plays

There are some NFL players who save their best performances for the biggest games and moments. Former New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck is one of those players. Justin Tuck totaled 4 career Super Bowl sacks (2nd-most all-time), 2 from each game he played in (the only player with two multi-sack games in Super Bowl history). The Notre Dame alum was constantly in the face of Tom Brady during those two championship victories and is a major reason the Giants are four-time Super Bowl champions.

In honor of tonight’s big game, let’s take a look back at the Giants’ last two Super Bowl Victories. More specifically, let’s look at Justin Tuck’s top plays from Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI and celebrate his incredible performances that helped our team win two championships in the past twelve years.

Justin Tuck’s Top Super Bowl Plays and Moments:

I got a ring!

Justin Tuck’s iconic pregame speech ahead of Super Bowl XLVI was an inspiring challenge for the rest of the team to get themselves a ring, just like Tuck had done four years prior. Tuck, the captain of the defense, inspired his group to find out what it feels like to have a ring:

Justin’s legendary pregame speech also inspired this memorable postgame celebration song where the whole team sang out “I got a ring!”:

First-quarter safety:

The Giants were the first team to score in Super Bowl XLVI. But they did not score on offense. Instead, Justin Tuck hit Tom Brady in the end zone and forced him to throw to no one in particular. This was an intentional grounding penalty that awarded the Giants with a safety and 2 points since Tom threw the ball away while he was in the end zone.

Key third-down sack and signature bow:

All Giants fans should remember Justin Tuck’s signature sack celebration: the bow. The Tuck bow I remember most definitively is this one from Super Bowl XLVI:

Justin Tuck’s two sacks in Super Bowl XLII:

Super Bowl XLII will forever be one of the greatest defensive performances in Super Bowl history. The New York Giants shut down the Patriots’ historic 18-0 offense to pull off the ultimate upset and win the Giants’ third Super Bowl in franchise history.

From Giants fans everywhere, thank you, Justin Tuck, for being an ultimate New York Giant. We will never forget your historic Super Bowl performances and your legendary career. Go, Giants! Enjoy the game tonight, everyone!

New York Giants: How The Giants’ Offensive Line Graded Out On PFF In 2018

New York Giants, Nate Solder

The New York Giants’ offensive line struggled all throughout the 2018 NFL season. Giants’ General Manager Dave Gettleman will certainly be grinding the film sessions to evaluate the offensive line’s performance. The line improved in the second half of the season, however, it was still inconsistent and below average. Pro Football Focus’s grading system helps add context and aid in the evaluation process.

The Left Side Of The Line

Giants fans know the offensive line has been a weakness for years now. Finally, in 2018, Gettleman showed Ereck Flowers the door, and things began to improve. However, there is still much room for improvement along the offensive line.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants offensive line ranked 21st in the league in 2018. The two best players along the offensive line were the rookie second-rounder, guard Will Hernandez, and the big free agent signing, left tackle Nate Solder.

PFF stated that Solder started the season off poorly, allowing six sacks and 20 total pressures through the first eight games. However, he finished the season strong, allowing only one sack and 13 total pressures over the second half of the season.

Will Hernandez had a great rookie season with the Giants in 2018. His 65.8 overall grade was above averaged and ranked him 21st out of all guards in the NFL. Out of all rookie interior-offensive linemen, Hernandez ranked second, showing his potential to be a star on the line for years to come. An impressive stat that PFF notes is Hernandez’s two penalties on 1,027 snaps. That is incredibly clean and efficient play from the young “Hog Molly.”

The center position also looks set for 2019 and beyond, if the players can remain healthy. Jon Halapio was playing great football until he went down with a lower leg injury in only the second game of the season. He missed the rest of 2018, but Dave Gettleman has made it clear he intends to resign Halapio this offseason. Halapio started the season off with a 69.4 overall grade before his injury. He was playing the best out of any lineman on the Giants’ roster at the time.

The Right Side Of The Line

The left side of the offensive line looks set for 2019 and beyond. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the right side of the offensive line. Right tackle Chad Wheeler struggled all season. He finished with an overall grade of 47.4, ranking him as the 78th tackle in the NFL.

The Giants acquired their right guard, Jamon Brown, midway through the season. Brown was an upgrade over Patrick Omameh, however, he is not likely to be a long-term solution at the position. The team played better with Brown out there, and he has potential to grow with a second year in the Giants’ offense, but his overall PFF grade of 51.7 ranked 64th out of all guards in 2018. Brown could be a great depth piece along the offensive line if the Giants are able to acquire more talent.

Things look set along the left side of the line and the center position for the Giants heading into 2019. If the Giants are able to acquire a couple of difference-makers on the right side of the line via free agency or the draft, they could have a turnaround similar to the Colts in 2018. The Giants will need to make an upgrade at right tackle, and luckily for them, there are plenty of options this offseason. The Giants’ offensive line has potential to be great in 2019.

New York Giants: Eli Manning’s Former Teammates Think It Is Time To Move On

New York Giants, Eli Manning, Victor Cruz

Throughout the 2019 offseason, the state of the New York Giants‘ quarterback room will be a highly debated and widely discussed topic around the NFL. Giants fans are split. Their beloved franchise hero, Eli Manning, is now 38 years old. He has received increased criticism over the past two years for his regressing performance. Taking his age and performance into account, fans and analysts have been debating whether or not the Giants should move on from Manning.

Since this is such a highly discussed topic, analysts have even asked Eli’s former teammates what they think. Eli is known for being a great teammate. He has strong relationships with his current and former teammates. Despite this, not everyone has defended him recently. Some former teammates have even admitted that they believe it is time for the Giants to acquire a new quarterback.

Victor Cruz:

Former New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz has been asked about Eli on multiple occasions. In one impromptu interview with TMZ, Cruz was asked if he would bench Eli. His response: “Maybe, yes at the moment.Just to see what I got in my future. Just to see what’s going on.”

This interview took place midseason in November. Eli never did get benched, so the Giants do not know what they have as their future. Backup rookie quarterback Kyle Lauletta saw limited playing time in a blowout against Washington, but that’s about it. The future of the Giants’ quarterback position is still a huge question mark.

Fans believe the Giants will need to find their future franchise signal-caller this offseason, and a couple of Giants legend agree.

Plaxico Burress:

The wide receiver who caught Eli’s game winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLII has made his opinion very clear. Plaxico Burress believes the Giants should draft a quarterback this offseason. More specifically, Burress would like to see the Giants draft Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. in 2019. On January 18, Burress stated hon FS1’s Undisputed: “My mindset is if Dwayne Haskins is available at the 6th pick, we gotta take him.”

This is the mindset of a lot of Giants fans. All over social media Giants fans are calling for the Giants to take Haskins in the 2019 NFL Draft. Some fans and analysts even think the Giants should trade up to ensure they get Haskins.

Michael Strahan:

Former Giants Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan has a different, but similar idea for the Giants in 2019. He too believes the Giants should draft a quarterback in 2019. However, he thinks the Giant should draft a different quarterback: Kyler Murray. Kyler Murray out of Ohio State is a controversial prospect who declared for the draft earlier this week. It is still not confirmed that he will choose the NFL over the MLB, but if he does, he could be a top ten pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Michael Strahan is a fan of Murray’s abilities. During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, Strahan discussed how he would handle the Giants’ current quarterback situation. He would handle it in a similar fashion to how the Giants handled it in 2004, when Eli was a rookie. When asked about his plan, Strahan said: “I’d draft (Kyler) Murray and then I’d let him learn from Eli for the year or eight, nine, 10 games.”

This is a plan plenty of Giants fans could get behind, whether it be Haskins or Murray. Regardless of who the Giants select in the 2019 NFL Draft, they must address the quarterback decision. The fans know it, the players know it, and the front office needs to know it too.

Why New York Giants Fans Shouldn’t Be Hoping For Tank Season

New York Giants, Odell Beckham Jr.

New York Giants fans have been fortunate enough to witness a multitude of miracles go their team’s way during the franchise’s long history. From Norwood’s wide right kick to hand Super Bowl XXV to the Giants, to “The Helmet Catch” in Super Bowl XLII, and Manningham’s miraculous reception down the left sideline in Super Bowl XLVI; the Giants have been on the right side of many of the NFL’s greatest miracles.

But, what could be the greatest miracle of them all is one that ‘could’ happen this season. To call it a pipe dream is an understatement, but that’s why it would be a miracle.

This miracle would be if the 1-7 Giants came back and won their final eight games to slip into the playoffs at 9-7. And as all Giants fans know, once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen. As Odell Beckham Jr. said, the last time the Giants went to the playoffs at 9-7, they did “pretty good.” No team has ever been able to accomplish something like this. According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, the 1-7 Giants had a 1% chance of making the playoffs (prior to Monday night’s win in San Francisco). How could Giants fans not root for their team to defy all odds and make the playoffs with a 1% chance?

The Sinking Draft Stock Of The 2019 Quarterback Class:

Giants fans all over twitter have been crying out for a quarterback change to take place this season or the next. Some fans have even created a few slogans in favor of the Giants drafting Oregon’s Justin Herbert, such as: “suck for the duck,” “just lose for Justin,” and “hurtin’ for Herbert.”

These slogans are all very cute, however, it is rumored that Justin Herbert might not even declare for the 2019 draft. On top of that, his draft stock has gone down in October and November, according to CBS Sports. CBS Sports now has him ranked as the third best quarterback prospect in this draft class, behind Drew Lock and Ryan Finley.

All three of these prospects (Herbert, Lock, and Finley) have potential, but none of them have been able to prove themselves to be a “can’t miss” prospect. The Giants could potentially draft a quarterback with the, 16th, 28th, or even the 32nd pick who seemingly has the same amount of talent and potential as a player selected with a top ten pick.

The Chemistry For The Future:

The New York Giants’ players have two options: they can play their hardest together and try to win every game possible, or they can simply give up. Good luck trying to convince a competitor like Odell Beckham Jr. to give up mid-season. If half the locker room decides to give up and the other half decides to play like they’re in the playoffs, this would cause a huge division in the locker room.

This division would destroy the team’s chemistry. The 2017 season should give us a basis for how a coach ‘shouldn’t’ manage a locker room. Moving forward, having a well balanced team is essential for success, and in times of adversity the leaders on the team must come together and promote a positive vision for the future. Establishing a motive for success will be the goal after every game, especially if the Giants lose.