It’s week 2 of the NFL season and the 0-1 Washington Football Team will be facing an 0-1 Giants team at home in FedExField this Thursday night. Though the Giants got blown out last week by a Teddy Bridgewater-led Broncos team, it’s also true that Daniel Jones hasn’t lost a game against Washington since starting in the NFL. Both teams will be playing on a short week, but that may favor Washington as the Giants have more players recovering from nagging injuries.
Much like Washington, the Giants are a team that underwent significant change a year ago. The Giants brought in a new coaching staff headed by former Patriots’ Special Teams Coordinator Joe Judge as the new Head Coach. Jason Garrett (former Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys) was brought in as Offensive Coordinator and his unit struggled the most last year, though the offensive line blocking seemed to improve once OL coach Marc Colombo (a Garrett connection from the Cowboys) was fired and replaced with Dave DeGuglielmo (a Judge connection from the Patriots).
Patrick Graham (former DC of the Dolphins and LB coach of the Patriots years earlier) was brought in as Defensive Coordinator and the Giants defense started to gel towards the end of last season, despite a rocky start and a lack of edge-rushing talent. Graham runs a hybrid defense that includes 3-4 and 4-3 elements. The Giants ran a fairly even split of man and zone coverage early last season (with star CB James Bradberry shadowing star WRs), but switched to more heavily zone coverage later in the season as teams had frequent success targeting the WRs not covered by Bradberry.
The Giants have quite a few players recently cleared for play after injuries sustained last season or in the offseason. The most notable is RB Saquon Barkley, who was cleared to play only days before his week 1 matchup vs the Broncos. Barkley had 10 rush attempts for 26 yards in that game, though the offensive line blocking did him no favors. Speaking of the offensive line, it has been in flux too. 2020 first-round pick Andrew Thomas mans the LT position and former Patriot Nate Solder was moved to RT after a terrible rookie season and recent training camp by 2020 draft pick RT Matt Peart. The move from left to right has gone poorly for Solder and the right side of the offensive line gave up the most pressures last week against the Broncos (though that was also the side opposing former All Pro Von Miller).
To learn more about these and other issues, I asked Ed Valentine of Big Blue View five questions about the state of the Giants and what to look for in this game.
1) You’re now a year into it, what is your evaluation of Joe Judge and his coaching staff and what changes do they most need to make?
I think there is optimism that Judge could be the Giants head coach for the foreseeable future. The last two head coaches — Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur — only lasted two seasons. Ownership has said it needs to show more patience than that, and I think it will.
From the outside, some question Judge’s old-school methods. The players, though, seem to love the guy. He’s hired a good coaching staff, though OC Jason Garrett will be under fire until the Giants score more points.
There is one thing bugging me. The Giants started last season 0-5. This training camp/preseason the Giants were very cautious with player workloads — maybe too cautious. They did not look ready against the Denver Broncos, and Judge has the “September is an extension of preseason” attitude. Except that the games count, and you can bury yourself in September. I think he could be a terrific head coach, but the bottom line is he and the Giants need to start winning games.
2) What were the Giants notable free agent additions and losses in the offseason and how do the new veterans look so far?
The big free-agent additions were WR Kenny Golladay, CB Adoree’ Jackson and TE Kyle Rudolph. Injuries have affected all three. Golladay is rounding into shape after missing most of camp with a hamstring. Jackson played Sunday after missing three weeks with an ankle injury. Rudolph is coming off foot surgery. I don’t think any of those guys played as well Sunday as they eventually will.
The biggest loss was NT Dalvin Tomlinson, who has been replaced by Austin Johnson and Danny Shelton.
3) How has your rookie class looked and are there any rookies you think will be major contributors down the line?
Much like the free agents, injuries have slowed this group. CB Aaron Robinson, the third-round pick, is on PUP with a core muscle injury. Edge Elerson Smith, the fourth-round pick, is on short-term IR with a hamstring. First-round pick Kadarius Toney has been slowed by COVID-19 and then a hamstring that cost him much of training camp.
I don’t know what to make of Toney yet as it has been a weird start to his career. If he starts making plays, though, some of the nervousness about that pick will die down. I love the second-round selection of Azeez Ojulari. He is the youngest player on the roster and isn’t what he could be eventually, but I like that pick.
4) What were the biggest reasons for the blowout loss against the Broncos last week?
Offensively, I think the Giants aren’t where they want to be — or think they will be — yet. Daniel Jones has had very little practice time with a lot of his best receivers due to injuries. Tight end Evan Engram didn’t play because of a calf issue. Saquon Barkley is playing, but he isn’t yet SAQUON BARKLEY.
Defensively, the Giants couldn’t get off the field on third- or fourth down. They didn’t cover nearly as well as had been expected, and that’s a concern.
5) How would you gameplan to beat the Giants on both sides of the ball?
Offensively, the Giants line played better Sunday than many thought it would. Still, you want to try and take advantage of that group, especially right tackles Nate Solder and Matt Peart. You want to make Jones uncomfortable and take advantage of his propensity for mistakes. Until Barkley shows you he is BARKLEY, or the Giants start blowing open some holes, you don’t have to respect the running game all that much.
I can’t get over this rep pic.twitter.com/6yCRRsDloK— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) September 13, 2021
Defensively, the most concerning thing Sunday vs. Denver was that the middle of the field was open pretty much whenever the Broncos wanted it. In the run game, I think you want to probe the edges and see if the Giants hold up out there.
Thanks again to Ed Valentine for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Giants.
As of right now, Vegas has Washington as 3.5 point favorites over the Giants. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Washington wins by more than 3 points
Washington wins by 3 or fewer points or it’s a tie
Giants win outright
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 40.5 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
41 or more total points are scored (both sides combined)
Fewer than 41 total points are scored (both sides combined)
Which team has it harder gameplanning around a rarely-started backup QB in only 4 days?
This poll is closed
The QB’s own team
The team defending him