Team Giants


Special Report

Sent: 11-13-19

Dave Klein was the Giants' beat writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.


(This week, following the destruction of the Giants by the same-stadium Jets, our Scott Landstrom takes to military battlefield jargon to describe the current condition of our team. And it's not pretty, nor by any means filled with hope. So while he had decided that this season is virtually gone, he does express hope for the 2020 schedule. You know, any port in a storm.)

By Scott Landstrom
In battlefield medical trauma centers, there are specialized nurses who serve as the "front end" of the screening process for incoming wounded.

Their primary job is to classify the patients into three broad categories so that the doctors and nurses in the SICU (Surgical Intensive Care Unit) can be prepared accordingly for the treatment protocol indicated by this screening process result.

The first category is "minor injury" - something like a skin contusion, or a bullet that just "grazed" someone without penetrating the skin. Those patients are basically "off-loaded" to a moderate care facility or group that deals with non-emergency medical procedures, the thought process being that there is no logical reason to tie up critical life-saving doctors on routine, non-threatening treatment plans.

The second category is "critical and serious" and these are the wounded who are badly hurt, but with superlative care and treatment have a chance to survive. This is the category that the trauma center spends 90 percent of its resources, time and energy on - because this is where modern medicine can take someone who would otherwise surely perish and engineer a life-saving treatment plan. Any meaningful "leverage" the military trauma center can have on its wounded, come from performing medical miracles on this group.

The final category is "extensive trauma beyond hope of recovery," and these poor individuals have received wounds that are so grievous that not even the most modern technology and medical skills can save them. The injuries being so severe that the judgment is made that "the die is cast" in this case, and nothing can be done.

Injuries such as "multiple missing limbs" which simply cannot be treated even with the most aggressive treatment plans. Such patients are typically given liberal doses of morphine to at least make their final moments more tolerable, made comfortable, and (in some cases) religious entities are called to give "last rights."

Well, Giants Nation, after this loss to the Jets, it is my regrettable task to inform you that the Giants' season has now entered the third category - "extensive trauma beyond hope of recovery" and the only thing missing at this point is the morphine. Oh, and the Priest or Rabbi, depending on your faith.

I mean, there were aspects of their performance in this game that are so damning ... just so inept ... that it drives one to inevitably conclude that this team has not one, but several "gaping chest wounds" that other teams will be surely looking at on tape and wringing their hands in anticipative delight. To get the searing pain of our grievous injuries reviewing this woeful performance out of the way, let me focus on the negative aspects first, then finish the column with the "morphine-like" salve of acknowledging a few positives on the day:


The Rushing Attack: Gosh, I feel a bit awkward even calling this an "attack. "Perhaps we can replace that word with the "ineptitude." For the second straight week, the offensive line was OFFENSIVE in its inability to create running lanes for the beat-up, besieged star running back - Saquon Barkley.

Between 13 rushes on Saquon's part, and one more from Wayne Gallman, the Giants gained a total of three yards. Yep, you read that right - an average per attempt of ZERO POINT TWO yards.

Not sure I have ever even seen a rushing stat line like that in the NFL. In college? Sure - when Nebraska plays Liberty, with bigger, stronger, faster athletes at every position - and they decide to play "full out," you can get a whipping like this.

But in the NFL, where both teams draft from the same player pool each year? Just can't recall it being this bad. I mean, it is obvious that Saquon is dealing with multiple injuries at this point, his trip to the X-ray room after the game to have his shoulder checked for broken bones being the first obvious sign that more than his high-ankle sprain is bothering him.

But if you add the last two games together, with this pathetic run-blocking line in front of him, he has carried 27 times for 29 yards. In this game, I would estimate that the average position he encountered "first contact" was a yard and a half into our backfield.

None of the group of Jim Brown, Eric Dickerson or Emmitt Smith could have done a damn thing when they got the ball on the handoff, took one step, and were blasted by a 300-pound lineman (or two!). Just asking the impossible from a back when the line is overrun that severely, with linemen unable to sustain their blocks for even one second. 27 carries for 29 yards over two games. That is not a typo, Giants Nation - it is called "utter futility" and after 14 carries for 28 yards against Dallas, I thought: "It can't possibly get worse." Sadly, I was wrong. It did.

Pass Blocking for young Mr. Jones: Well, I don't mean to pick on the offensive line, but as the proverb goes: "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and tastes good with l'orange sauce, then it is most undoubtedly ... a duck!"

The Jets, coming into the game with one of the lowest QB sack totals in the NFL, with 13 through eight games, got the embarrassing total of SIX sacks on the besieged Daniel Jones. So for all you math majors out there, they almost improved their season sack total by HALF (in just one game) against the "Keystone Cops" pass blocking of the Giants.

I will point out that this element is not as broadly assigned across the line as was the run-blocking problem. Nate Solder had his best pass blocking Pro Football Focus game score (84.7) of his entire season through 15 plays. So what happens on the 16th play, now that he is playing like he is capable of (finally)?

Of course - he gets a concussion and is out for the rest of the game. Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez also weighed in with pass blocking scores over 70.0, so it was the tight ends, the running backs (I am looking at you, Saquon) and a back-up player (Eric Smith) who had to play left tackle for 53 plays when he had never taken a snap, either in a game or in practice, at that position.

Relative to Mr. Barkley's incredibly lame attempt to block Jets' Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams on a blitz in which the 213-pound Adams simply ran right through the 232-pound Barkley, planting him roughly on his derriere, en route to just snatching the ball from Jones for a strip-sack TD. Given the fact that there is not a stronger player under 240 pounds in the entire NFL than the gym rat that is our running back, and the fact that Barkley outweighs Adams by 20 pounds, this play told me more about the fact that "something MUST be really wrong with Saquon"!

The only way I can characterize the abusive nature of the way the lighter safety simply blew up the bigger, stronger running back is to say he was "annihilated" in his feeble attempt at stopping Adams, who had said before the game that he would dominate because "they won't be able to match my intensity" and on this play in particular, he was right about that.

Given that this was a one-touchdown margin of victory, one could argue that if Saquon is just himself on that play and leans into the task of de-cleating the smaller safety, this game goes overtime, and maybe the Giants prevail. But he didn't, and they didn't, which is a real shame.

Defensive Backfield Pass Defense: To say that Sam Darnold and the Jets' passing attack were not scaring anyone thus far this season would be a dramatic understatement. Yet somehow, the Giants left enough players open, and drew flags on others, where a Jets' offense that had scored 99 points in eight games (12.4 points per game) managed to hang 31 on New York.

To be fair, the Jets only scored 24, since the play described above was a defensive score by Adams, but that still represents a season high for this offense. And most of that came through the air. Given the fact that (after the embarrassment of last week's run defense efforts against the Cowboys) the New York run defense held LaVeon Bell and fellow running backs to 41 yards on 26 carries (1.7 AGR), it sure wasn't on the ground that the damage was done.

Deandre Baker (95.8), Antoine Bethea (96.9), Corey Ballentine (105.2) and Michael Thomas (118.8) all had "passer rating against" scores of 95.0 or higher. Said another way, other than Jabrill Peppers and Janoris Jenkins, the rest of the pass defenders sucked.


OK, let's finish with at least a few pain-killer injections of favorable news from this game, shall we? The following players deserve a shout-out in an otherwise embarrassing loss to our cross-town rivals:

Daniel Jones: The kid was beaten and battered and then hammered some more - but he never blinked on his way to a 121.9 QB rating and over 300 yards passing and four TD passes with nary an interception. I have yet to see one single look on Jones' face, no matter how poor his surrounding cast lets him down, revealing any emotion other than will-to-win and desire to compete.

Jones passed for 308 yards and ran for 20 more (on three carries, gaining over 90 percent of our total yards rushing). So here is another way to state this: The Giants gained 331 yards on the entire day - and Jones either passed or rushed for 328 of them.

Somehow, the rest of the offense managed to chip in the extra three yards. Don't even THINK of placing blame for this game, even given the Adams strip-sack that was really Barkley's fault, on the young quarterback from Duke. He was a glimmer of sunlight in the eye of the hurricane, quite simply.

Darius Slayton: I am going to petition the Guinness Book of World Records to recognize the Giants as having the best fifth round draft class in the history of the NFL. Ryan Connelly, who was merely listed in the top 15 rookies (drafted in any round) by after four games before he was hurt, and now Slayton, who busted out for 10 catches and 121 yards, and was by far our biggest weapon to help Jones, has emerged as a budding star.

With both Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, our two top receiving threats, out for the game, Slayton stepped up and showed he could be a force to be reckoned with for years to come, given his 4.39 speed and newly discovered sure hands.

It says a lot that has a survey up to vote for best rookie of the week, and they picked five candidates. Both Jones and Slayton are finalists, from the same team, no less.

Defensive Line Play: Look, I beat on these guys with a sledge-hammer last week for their inability to get off blocks in the run game, and their inability to post a single QB sack on Dak Prescott. Well, apparently, they heard from enough analysts like me to decide to make a statement. For the first time in 10 years, two Giants' linemen posted PFF grades above NINETY! Both Dalvin Tomlinson (90.4) and newcomer Leonard Williams (90.0) had dominant games in both phases.

Not content with that, the Giants actually had four different linemen score 75.0 or better, the mark of a VERY strong game, as Dexter Lawrence weighed in at 79.2, and R.J. McIntosh played limited snaps (16), but played them well with a 79.0 game score - 13 QB hurries, six QB hits, three QB sacks totals 22 total "QB pressures" to go with their outstanding play against the run makes this the best game for this unit yet this year.

Jabrill Peppers: Our mercurial strong safety had six tackles, a QB sack, two QB hurries, a QB hit, a batted pass and allowed only one reception to his man in the entire game, and that went for a two-yard loss. So he held his man to negative passing yardage in the entire game. His "opposing passer rating against" was a very respectable 56.3, so it is safe to say that Peppers was "all over the field" and the pass coverage issues some of his comrades had did not extend to him.

Golden Tate: In my desperate search for SOMETHING to be optimistic about going forward, besides the emergent Mr. Jones, it would be the prospects for this unit going forward once (if) everyone gets healthy. Gosh, we already discussed the monster game Slayton had, and all Tate did was continue his acceleration of performance lately by making four catches for 95 yards (23.5 average per reception) and two touchdowns.

If we can add Shepard back (finally) from his concussion issues after the bye week, as well as Engram (one of the top five receiving tight ends in the game), and you add the superlative receiver that is Saquon out of the backfield (as good as any RB in the league not named McCaffrey as a receiving RB), that makes FIVE quality options for defensive coordinators to have nightmares about when facing the Giants. Of course, that is purely dependent on the team's ability to keep Jones upright to explore and exploit such options. A task they have simply not been up to these past two weeks (11 sacks combined).

So, in conclusion, Giants Nation, this "patient" is indeed beyond recovery hopes for this season, with eight losses already on the ledger, and games against the Bears, Packers, and two against our nemesis, the Eagles (11-1 against New York in the last 12) yet to be played.

Yet, given that sober admission, there remains hope for specific elements of this team to rise to levels of distinction: the receiver corps, the defensive line play, our star strong safety and our fearless and accurate QB, who has shown more bravery in the face of physical beatings than anyone had the right to expect.

And of course, our best player - Mr. Barkley, if he can just get healthy over the bye and someone takes this line to "run-blocking 101" class for remedial training. The instructor for such a class should start with pictures on the projector of J.J. Watt, Aaron Donald and DeMarcus Lawrence, stating "This is a defensive lineman" because the way they have been blocking, I am not sure they have seen one in a while.

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- Team Giants

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