The lead picture of this article is not a photo of Daniel Jones handing it off to Saquon Barkley or even Kadarius Toney and that’s perhaps everything you need to know about the New York Giants at this very moment and leading into their Week 6 game against the LA Rams.
It will be more difficult to preview the Giants than it has been to update you on any other team so far this season, because New York could be without half of its starting offense on Sunday at the Meadowlands.
According to DraftKings sportsbook, the Rams are -10 point favorites over the New York Giants heading into the weekend.
Starting quarterback Daniel Jones is in the concussion protocol following a hit taken in Week 5. Starting running back Saquon Barkley suffered an ankle injury that could keep him out for up to a month. Number one receiver Kenny Golladay has pretty much been ruled out with a knee injury. Rookie first round receiver Kadarius Toney, breaking out in a big way over the last two weeks, is day to day with an ankle injury. And rookie cornerback Rodarius Williams was just diagnosed with a torn ACL; safety Jabrill Peppers was also held out in Week 5.
Fellow receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton were also just held out in Week 5 with their own respective injuries, so New York might legitimately be down to a unit headed by C.J. Board, Collin Johnson, and John Ross III at receiver against Los Angeles.
Is this the reprieve that David Long, Jr. and Robert Rochell desperately need?
If that wasn’t enough, inside linebacker and defensive captain Blake Martinez is on injured reserve and out this week, as is starting center Nick Gates. Left tackle Andrew Thomas, the fourth overall pick in 2020, was active in Week 5 but held out from starting because the team is taking the cautious approach with his own injury concerns, and therefore only two offensive linemen from New York’s Week 1 game are potentially going to suit up for Week 6.
Everything I write from here on out is subject to at least a little bit of change because the 2021 New York Giants are not just one team. Every week, it appears to be a different recipe for the sauce. At least for the Rams’ sake, almost every week, the sauce tastes bad.
Here is everything you need to know about the New York Giants. (I think.)
New York Giants
2020 record: 6-10
2021 record: 1-4
Head coach: Joe Judge (7-14)
Philosophy: “If you wanna pop a zit, you need Intense Pressure.”
This is not a quote from Judge, but from me based on Judge’s philosophy to make Giants practice a hellish environment for the players so that they are prepared for game day.
“We don’t try to make this an easy place,” Judge said. “We want to make sure to put as much pressure on the players through practice as possible, so that when they get in the games they’ve dealt with a level of adversity and pressure that help them operate better.”
“He’s a tough coach,” second-year safety Xavier McKinney (out of Alabama, it should be noted) said on Thursday. “He asks a lot of us, but we accept the challenge day in and day out. Sometimes it can be pretty brutal, but it is what it is. It’s not something I’m not used to or a lot of the guys aren’t used to . . . We love the process of going through it.”
Perhaps the consequence of that style so far has been the realization that Daniel Jones was the most-pressured QB in the NFL in 2020 (minimum 9 starts) and now that half of the team seems to be injured. Judge has neither an offensive or defensive background, having coached special teams for Alabama from 2009 to 2011, then for the New England Patriots from 2012 to 2019.
Even more importantly when it comes to Joe Judge, my friend and former roommate Ryan Rosenberg plays him on Fox Sports NFL and I hope we get to see Judge Joe Judge again this Sunday.
NFL teams, it's time to make your case to "Judge Joe Judge" ⚖️ pic.twitter.com/943e3mU9UZ— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 26, 2021
OC: Jason Garrett
Changes on Offense from 2020:
QB Daniel Jones to QB Mike Glennon*
RB Saquon Barkley/Wayne Gallman to RB Devontae Booker*
WR Darius Slayton/Sterling Shepard to ???*
OL ... give me a break, I can’t sort this entire damn mess out. I just got here.*
*injury related changes
The Giants and Rams played on October 4th of last year and it is now possible that the only offensive players for New York who will appear in both games are tight end Evan Engram, guard Will Hernandez, and receiver C.J. Board.
That’s how things are going with the Giants right now.
Devontae Booker replaced Barkley in Week 5, rushing 16 times for 42 yards and catching three passes for six yards. Booker scored two touchdowns in that 44-20 loss to the Cowboys.
Mike Glennon came in for Jones and went 16-of-25 for 196 yards with a touchdown, two interceptions, and a fumble. Glennon went 0-5 with the Jaguars as a starter in 2020, his first starts since going 1-3 for the Bears in 2017. Glennon went 5-13 for the Buccaneers from 2013-14, the only other starts of his career.
Overall, he is 6-21 as a starter with 44 touchdowns and 27 interceptions in 35 total games.
Who starts at receiver is anyone’s guess — I wouldn’t be that surprised to see Slayton and Shepard return, with Toney potentially not missing any time — but tight end Evan Engram (who missed Weeks 1 and 2) led the Giants in targets in 2020 and was named to his first Pro Bowl. Engram has 11 catches for 103 yards in three games.
Golladay is leading the team with 282 yards, but Toney leads receivers with 20 receptions; the rookie out of Florida had 189 receiving yards against Dallas in Week 5.
The Giants and Cowboys had a fight. Joe Judge got angry. Kadarius Toney threw a punch. Kyle Rudolph proved he was weak. Will Hernandez is an easy guy to root for. Here’s a breakdown of it all.— Justin Penik (@JustinPenik) October 11, 2021
Can a mishmash offensive line and a journeyman third-string quality backup lead the Giants on multiple touchdown drives against the Rams defense? Without Saquon Barkley to help?
As many LA fans will be unhappy to remind you, the Rams lost to the previously-winless Jets in 2020, so no team is a team to ignore. But even Sam Darnold only managed one touchdown drive that day and it came early.
2021 offensive ranks
Pass attempts: 12th
Rushing attempts: 24th
Net yards per pass attempt: 6th
Passing touchdowns: 8th
Rushing yards: 24th
Yards per carry: 21st
Rushing touchdowns: 11th
Points per drive: 19th
Red Zone O: 30th
3rd down: 15th
Time of Possession: 22nd
Offensive “strength of schedule”: TBD (But it was 13th prior to Week 5)
*Essentially, FootballOutsiders is saying that last season the Giants have faced a “moderately difficult” schedule of defenses in the NFL by average DVOA.
Offensive Depth Chart (kinda)
DC: Patrick Graham
Strategy/scheme: “Blitz and man-to-man...the Belichick way.”
Also: 4-3 base system
Unsurprisingly, Graham also comes off the Belichick tree, having spent 2009 to 2015 in New England in a variety of roles. Graham also served as Miami’s defensive coordinator in 2019 under another Belichick disciple, Brian Flores, and he’s in his second year in that role with the Giants.
From Giants.com in 2020, after Graham was hired, referencing his Miami days:
The two major tenets of the Miami defense were blitzing and man to man coverage. The Dolphins blitzed on 35% of their snaps, the 7th highest frequency in the NFL. Their blitz rate jumped to 41% on third down, the third highest rate in the league.
Graham was creative with the blitzes he used, a variety of linebacker and defensive back blitzes from different areas and with different timing.
Many of Graham’s initial formations feature multiple players in two point stances around the line of scrimmage. Here, there is only one player with their hand in the dirt over center.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Dolphins played man to man coverage more than 50% of the time. They played cover one, which features man to man defense and one safety deep, the second most frequently in the NFL, (tied with New England at 43%). The Lions, coached by Patriots alum Matt Patricia, played cover one most frequently.
New York ranked third in blitzes in 2020 and ranked second in pressure, getting pressure on the QB on nearly 30% of passing plays. This season, the Giants have the ninth-most blitzes, but only rank 28th in pressure rate. Graham entered the year as one of the “assistants to watch” for head coaching interviews in 2022, but this is not the start that anyone was hoping for in New York.
Changes on Defense:
ILB Blake Martinez to ILB Tae Crowder*
NT Dalvin Tomlinson to NT Austin Johnson
CB Isaac Yiadom to CB Adoree’ Jackson
LB Devante Downs to LB Reggie Ragland
S Julian Love to S Xavier McKinney
What to expect from New York’s defense:
You could pick nits about some of those changes, but the Giants got four starts from Xavier McKinney as a rookie in 2020 and they’ve already gotten four starts from him this season, so that is one potential upgrade.
Tomlinson was potentially a huge loss at nose tackle, but veteran Austin Johnson has three sacks in five games, which is nearly as many as he had in the first six years of his career en total.
Martinez has been replaced for now by Tae Crowder, who was “Mr. Irrelevant” in 2020 and is now starting and calling defensive plays for the Giants.
Jackson and Ragland were 2021 free agent additions who have been called upon to help Graham’s defense get back to being the fairly stout unit that it was last season. The Rams struggled to move the ball well against New York’s defense in 2020, will that be the case again on Sunday?
Defensive end Leonard Williams had 11.5 sacks in 2020 but only 1.5 so far this year. That production has been picked up somewhat by 21-year-old linebacker Azeez Ojulari, a second round pick out of Georgia who has three sacks in the early stages of his career. But while Johnson and Ojulari have combined for six sacks, the entire rest of the team only has two.
2021 Defensive Ranks
Points Allowed: 26th
Yards Allowed: 29th
Turnovers Forced: 11th
Net Yards per Pass Attempt Allowed: 24th
Passing Touchdowns Allowed: 21st
Rushing Yards Allowed: 27th
Yards Per Carry Allowed: 28th
Rushing Touchdowns Allowed: 16th
Points Per Drive Allowed: 29th
TOP allowed: 31st
Red Zone D: 17th
3rd down rate: 29th
Defensive “strength of schedule” rank: TBD (12th prior to Week 4)
K - Graham Gano is 11-of-13 on FG and just 6-of-6 on PATs
P - Riley Dixon is in his fourth season as the Giants punter
PR - Jabrill Peppers leads the team with five returns, if he’s out C.J. Board takes over
KR - C.J. Board has seven returns for 161 yards with a long of 38
What happened this season?
Perhaps New York’s biggest concern is not just that they’ve lost four games, but that they’ve lost potentially three games to BAD teams.
Week 1 - 27-13 defeat to Teddy Bridgewater’s Broncos
Week 2 - 30-29 defeat to Taylor Heinicke’s WFT
Week 3 - 17-14 defeat to Matt Ryan’s Falcons
Those three teams are a combined 4-8 outside of their wins over the Giants, with victories over the Jets (twice), Jaguars, and Falcons. So that’s an 0-3 record against three teams that have not beaten any team that has more than two wins right now.
Week 4 - 27-21 OT win over the Saints
New York’s win this year required an 11-point fourth quarter comeback against Jameis Winston to force overtime. The Saints are an extremely odd team this season and that’s all there is to it.
Week 5 - 44-20 loss to Cowboys
Jones, Barkley, and Golladay were all pulled from the game early due to injuries and a close game early in the third quarter quickly turned into 34-13 midway through the fourth quarter.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.