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There is always a lot of variance in football. We do not know how the ball will bounce. With that qualifier stated, I believe the Giants can and will win the game today.

The Giants made many mistakes in the first matchup. They turned the ball over. Jones threw a pick. Bellinger fumbled a converted reception for a turnover. And still, they lost on a last second 61 yard FG.

The Giants are a better team since that game. The Vikings are not. That’s why I think the edge is with the Giants.

In today’s NFL, improvements from week to week are more important than ever. Back in the day (before Free Agency), the continuity of a roster was much greater, so the incremental pieces from one year to the next weren’t as significant. Rookies didn’t play that much either compared to today. Preseason went from 6 games down to 4, then 4 with less starters playing, to now 3 with starters not seeing much ball at all. ITS VITAL TO IMPROVE EVERY WEEK. A team needs to be much better by the end of the season. The Giants are much better. Jones is much better. The players have made significant strides. Rookies, and other players who had limited experience, are no longer rookies. This NY Giants offense is much better.

… and it will need to be much better to win this game.

Before Super Bowl XLII, Osi Umenyiora came to Michael Strahan, looked him straight in the eyes, and with paramount seriousness said- you and I need to get to Brady or we are not winning this game. This is how I see this game as well. Yes, Martindale blitzes the most in the NFL (42% of plays). But with Lawrence, Williams, Thib and Ojulari all starting, these 4 guys need to get to Cousins WITHOUT as much blitzing. Of course I know Wink is going to dial up his blitzes as sure as the day is long. Yet, I’d prefer he not have to, in order to get to Cousins with more help against Hockenson and Osborn. Hockenson is a TE, and we have no LBers. Collins will probably get some assignments on him. Hockenson lit us up last game. His YAC isn’t great but he pulls the ball down, moves the sticks, and greases that offense. Osborn is the 3rd receiving option that needs to be managed.

Jefferson needs to be doubled, because no one on the planet can guard him single. (Maybe Sauce? Did you know Sauce Gardner gave up zero TDs this season?!) Adoree Jackson is back but it’s his first game so I’m not expecting him to be in peak form (or significant snaps). He’ll help, but he’ll need help too. The pass rush, whether with 4 players or with more, helps contain the big play. Martindale knows that his bend-don’t break philosophy means he can’t let Cousins sit back and find Jefferson or Thielen on deep pass plays.

The help in containing big plays has to come from the big guys up front. They need to get to Cousins on their own. If they do, I believe that will be enough to win the game.

Part of the reason why I believe the Giants win with a pass rush is that I’m oddly not that worried about the Offense. I believe in Jones and I believe in Kafka to put the Giants in a position to make plays. The Giants offense is arguably in the best place it’s been all season. Ironically, despite the loss of Shepard, Toney and Robinson, the offense has enough. I was admittedly disappointed to hear that Hodgins was moved to questionable with an ankle but he’ll play. Slayton, James, Hodgins, Bellinger and Barkley are enough to get it done.

In Philadelphia last week we saw Golladay snag his first TD vs first stringer Slay. His craft is the jump ball. I’m sure Daboll and Kafka are thinking they can help themselves in the red zone with this tool. It was cool to see Golladay’s teammates rally around him. He’s obviously well liked. Wouldn’t it be nice to have another tool develop just in time for some playoff fireworks?!

The Vikings have some issues on their Offensive line. Center Garrett Bradbury was one of the guys we liked out of the 2019 Draft. He’s been hurt (back injury) but he returns today. I put Lawrence over Center and make Bradbury deal with that menace. All. Day. Long. Yah, you can mix it up a little but I want to wear Bradbury down. We’re gonna win this game in Q4 because Lawrence beats Bradbury in Q4. The Vikes have no one behind Bradbury, as their second stringer is out for the rest of the season. Add that RT O’Neil is gone (biggest loss) and this Giants DL must make them pay.

Speaking about getting paid, Danielle Hunter had 2 sacks, beating Evan Neal regularly on the wide rush. Neal has improved since that game. He must do better than his first game vs the Vikes. If I’m Kafka, I slow Hunter down with design plays to punish Hunter for this wide sellout, running Jones through the B gap or releasing a RB/TE through there on a delay. This will help Neal, who has yet to show me the consistent footwork/technique in handling the wide speed rush. Frankly, other than handling (limiting) that nightmare Jefferson, Neal is really the only other significant game changing variable. If Kafka can help Neal and slow down Hunter with those design plays, maybe a chip or two etc, the Offense should be fine.

This postseason is gravy! Of course I want to win and I predict one as well, but I’m also thrilled to be here in a rebuilding year. Schoen and Daboll have been terrific. It’s a renaissance for this franchise. Let’s be greedy today, but part and parcel, I’m just as grateful about the future of this franchise.

A Comparison of 2016 and 2022

It was a tremendous achievement for this 2022 NY Giants team to make the playoffs in a rebuilding year. It still is a rebuilding year. That the Giants were somehow competitive despite so many obstacles in their way is a harbinger of the legacy that this franchise will inherit in coming years. You have heard it a number of times by now… “The Giants are making their first playoff appearance in 6 years.” The comparison to 2016 could not be any more stark. It really is no comparison at all. Let’s have a closer look.

2016 was Jerry Reese’s ultimatum year. Coughlin was gone. Reese had overseen the corrosion of the franchise (which we chronicled in many blog posts over that period). He had a directive to fix it fast- and the wallet opened up in a way Giants fans had never seen before. Olivier Vernon. Snacks Harrison. Janoris Jenkins. Unfortunately it ended with a one and done in not only an abbreviated playoff appearance but also a failed 2017 season.

2022 was a direct contrast to 2016, 2018 and 2021. Joe Schoen, the new GM, took the cap pain with discipline. If 2016 was profligate, 2022 was thrifty. The NY Giants have more flexibility in 2023 and 2024 while the 2017 and 2018 Giants were left hamstrung.

After 2017, the coach was gone. The GM was gone. Going into 2023, Daboll is Coach of the Year, if not in name. Schoen has done it right and is firmly in control of a budding franchise on the rise.

In 2016, the Offense finished the season running on fumes. In 2022, The Offense has found its franchise QB and has overachieved despite lacking any true starters at Wide Receiver (and multiple positions on the OL).

Dave Gettleman has left the NY Giants with at least a few key players. For the first time since 2012 (TEN YEARS!) the GMen finally have an Offensive Lineman going to the Pro Bowl. Andrew Thomas is the first OLman since Chris Snee to get that nod. For Thomas’s part, he is All Pro in our eyes, whether he gets that elite honor in name or not. This is significant. 2016’s Offensive Line was trouble; 2022 is headed in the right direction. If Evan Neal can continue to improve, the Giants could have bookend Tackles, which solidifies EDGE protection for Jones.

2016 vs 2022. McAdoo vs Daboll. No comparison. Some will point out that McAdoo was firmly in control in 2016, yet in 2017 McAdoo had already lost the respect of players and the locker room.

  • 2016 Built for Today 2022 Built for Tomorrow
  • 2016 Leveraged Cap 2022 Disciplined Cap
  • 2016 No Offensive Line 2022 All Pro Left Tackle
  • 2016 QB Sunset 2022 QB with a Future
  • 2016 Head Coach? 2022 Head Coach!
  • 2016 Free Agent Players 2022 Rookies and Youth
  • 2016 Desperate GM 2022 Patient GM
  • 2016 Import Players 2022 Develop Players

Player Development in 2022 is huge. Dan Schneier of the Big Blue Banter podcast is this blogger’s first source for film breakdown. I have a day job and frankly do not even have all the time to listen to 1.5 – 2 hour breakdowns of the offense AND defense (3-4 hours!) each week. Yet I listen to Dan and Nick Falato as much as I can. I am going repaste their Twitter thread of the breakdown of Daniel Jones’s player development this year:

Most of the Daboll COTY talk focuses on his roster maximization. Gettleman left him with more than 25% of his cap allocated to players off the roster or not playing. AND he burned multiple 1st-round picks (Baker, Toney). But I want to focus on his actual coaching. The key to Daboll’s success has been his (w/ help of Kafka/Tierney) development of DJ. We’ll get to that. But his decision in Week 1 to go for the win (2-pt conversion call) was momentous. The #Giants hadn’t had a winning record at any point since 2016 before that W.

Daboll’s development w/ DJ stands tallest. It starts w/ Daboll’s recognition of DJ’s biggest weakness on tape and his solution for it. What did he recognize? In the past systems, DJ had a tendency to sit in the pocket and lock into reads, often waiting for a WR to get open. This tendency led to sacks, forced fumbles, late throws that got tipped and at times intercepted and not a lot of successful plays. So the first thing Daboll did was hammer home: if you don’t like what you see, check the B gap and if it’s open take it (as a runner).

As @BenjaminSolak did a great job pointing out earlier, EPA on “scrambles (non-designed runs)” is higher than just about anything else. So Daboll took away the long waiting periods in the pocket that led to sacks & turnovers and morphed them into scramble runs. That’s not all. There was a focus in camp on drills that required DJ to move his feet, leave the pocket & keep his eyes down the field. The latter is key here. It’s impossible to watch DJ film this year and not notice a massive jump in his ability to create plays off platform with his ARM.

The biggest difference is that DJ is now keeping his eyes down field the entire time on the move + not moving at 100%. He patiently moves out of the pocket (mostly right, he’s righty), keeps his eyes downfield and allows things to develop. And it’s no coincidence that #Giants WRs have developed a plan now for when DJ is on the move. Darius Slayton talked about this w Art Stapleton. Each WR has his own plan for scramble plays and DJ and his WRs are perfectly in sync with this plan. That hasn’t been the case at any point from 2019-2021 under two diff coaches. It showed up almost immediately under Daboll. Those are the main areas Daboll has developed DJ but not the only ones so here are a few more…

Improvements:
– Less burping the baby (Andy here, patting the ball, inefficient waste of time in delivery) (specifically as of late)
– Better footwork (he used to have a drifting issue in the pocket under pressure, now he steps through and either runs or flows right)
– Faster eyes post snap (DJ confirming the safety & second level defenders)

Overall, the job Daboll and staff have done revamping a QB’s game in Year 4 is in a lot of ways unprecedented. The improvement he helped DJ make w/ pocket manipulation and off script play success are enough alone for me, but taking this #Giants roster to the playoffs is it.

If you enjoyed this thread, please consider checking out the Big Blue Banter #Giants podcast and YouTube show. You’ll find Xs and Os film based analysis from myself and

@nickfalato Link: https://open.spotify.com/show/38eY2hw59DX7j64a54elHe?si=a6c1ca9223e740c9

@DanSchneierNFL

… Needed to promote Dan’s link to his podcast in return for quoting that fantastic thread on Jones’s development here in 2022. It is not just Jones, obviously. I just love what Andre Patterson has done with helping Dexter Lawrence get to the next level this season. Back in 2019, our Draft Analyst loved Dexter Lawrence out of the Draft:

Immovable object. Will be special in the NFL. The quintessential NT. Ran a 5.00 weighing 340 lbs. Unbelievably quick for someone of that size. Great footwork and agility. Despite size, can push pocket and rush the passer up the middle.  If you run a 3-4 and have trouble stopping the run, this is your guy. Will immediately change the feel of your whole defense. No telling his potential if he hits weight room, loses 20 lbs, and gets experience with his hands. If the Giants can trade for Rosen, take White at 1.06 and Lawrence at 1.17, it will instantly change their team. Comparison: Bigger, stronger and faster than Haloti Ngata.

Wonder 2019 NFL Draft Board

Note how Wonder wanted Lawrence under the Nose in the 1-technique. This is where Peterson is (pardon the pun) leveraging Lawrence. Dan Schneier talks incessantly about the hidden value of Lawrence in his SNAP COUNT NUMBERS. The quickness for his size is not supposed to come with that many snap counts, but this is what you get for this special player. Note also that Dan’s #1 need for the team is… LINEBACKER. And look what Wonder tagged for at 1.06- LB Devin White. As it turned out, the Bucs took White at 1.05. If the Giants can pick up a good LBer in the 2023 draft, there will be plenty of music being made between that player and the effects of Lawrence in the interior DL.

One other player I want to single out in player development in 2022 is Isaiah Hodgins. The Giants picked this guy up off of WAIVERS in November. While it certainly helps that Hodgins was from the same system in Buffalo, he plugged right in and delivered 350 yards in 8 games plus 4 TDs. All for the low price of $800K/yr. Golladay cost $18M/yr and somehow has managed to deliver 0 TDs. Buy or develop? Once again, Dan leaves us with little doubt-

The Giants were NEVER in a situation at the trade deadline to consider buying. Do you know who obtains value for buying? A team that thinks that extra piece (whether replacing an injured player or otherwise) will give them a difference-maker for WINNING a Super Bowl. This is not about becoming a viable playoff team, which by itself was no certainty for the Giants in October. This is a rebuilding year. The Giants still have holes in plenty of places, too many to name (see other posts this season). They are not one hole-filling away. Yet they are building for the future with a guy like Hodgins who can be a good WR on your roster. This is why 2022 is so different, and so special. It is a gateway to bigger things in 2023+. What a contrast from the 2016 spending spree. No comparison.

Daniel Jones, Franchise QB

Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about the transformation of Daniel Jones in 2022.

Daniel Jones is not the wily magician Patrick Mahomes.

Daniel Jones is not the indomitable tank Josh Allen.

Daniel Jones is not the accurate Herbert or the confident Burrow.

The QB of the NY Giants is the resilient Daniel Jones.

At the beginning of this season I was not a believer in the future with Jones. I was not alone. At the end of April, Schoen and Daboll themselves chose not to pick up his 5th year option. Now I see the future and Jones is going to be front & center in those plans. Why? Why the change? He’s done more with less, and has addressed probably my greatest criticism- his lack of pocket poise/presence. Watch this move in the tweet below from the loss to Minnesota.

Daniel Jones did well to step into the pocket and flow to his right, extending the play and allowing Isaiah Hodgins to break open for a TD

Hodgins has three touchdowns in four weeks pic.twitter.com/8RHfOHtrN4— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) December 25, 2022

It is only one play, but this is an example of what Jones now possesses as part of his game. He rushes with precision. He takes fewer unnecessary sacks. He steps into the pocket with more frequency and with a much better clock in his head. He protects the ball.

Daniel Jones leads this team.

If Daniel Jones is going to be the franchise QB, it is going to be in part due to the stability and tutelage of the coaching staff.

“I was with (Josh Allen) for four years and each year we took a little bit of a step. [Jones’] ability to grasp information and then go out there and perform what we’re asking him to do … I think he’s made steps each way.

“I know he’s kind of a quiet guy, but in the huddle he’s a good leader. He knows everybody’s responsibilities. He can get things lined up, he can correct mistakes. He’s a problem-solver.”

Brian Daboll

It is not hard to imagine that Jones will improve with the same Offensive system providing him useful skills combined with the continuity he has lacked in his first 3 years with the Giants. His improvement in 2022, the coaching staff, confidence, experience, and an improved roster will give Jones an opportunity to become a Franchise QB. We do not want to be manic-depressives here on the blog, as naysayers after 2021 and zealots in 2022. Jones progressed substantially in 2022. He still has plenty of weakness in his game that he can improve upon. The trend is in the right direction. There is a path.

Early in the 2022 season, we said that the ‘new’ Daniel Jones which was vastly better needed to show a season’s worth of elevated play to garner a new contract. He has done that. There is little question that Joe Schoen is going to re-sign Jones. He will end up paying Jones more than you think. It will be QB eye-popping numbers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Even his biggest proponents will take pause when they see the tab. But that is the price of the most important position on the field. There are readers of this NY Giants blog that harbor doubts about Jones. They will be skeptical about Jones being worthy of the insane money that Schoen is going to pay him this offseason. A franchise tag may be part of those negotiations. Jones has earned the contract. The skeptics here will want the deal to be shorter. After witnessing how well Jones has played in 2022, while I was thinking earlier in the season that 3 years would be optimal, now I would not be surprised if Schoen goes longer than that.

Onward. The NY Giants have a QB. He is resilient and I believe his upside is significant.

MIN 27 NYG 24

The headline is that the Giants lost a bleeder, on a 61 yard FG at the end of the game. While it was a nasty loss, I have the same view of this game’s result as I do with the loss vs Dallas on Thanksgiving:

In a rebuilding year with a weak roster, the Giants are going to lose games to playoff teams. Yet because they are nonetheless very competitive, they make important strides.

  1. Shorthanded. Hands tied behind their back- consider that in the second half, 4 of their best players on defense
    Azeez Ojulari
    Leonard Williams
    Adoree Jackson
    Xavier McKinney
    were not on the field. Do you think anyone of them, let alone ALL of them, would have made a difference? Indeed, when Williams and Ojulari were on the field in the first half, the Vikings offense was less effective.
  2. Player development. Isaiah Hodgins has become an effective WR in a half dozen games. James dropped a key 3rd down pass, showing the thinness of the roster, yet he also was a meaningful contributor to the effort.
  3. Daniel Jones. The Giants have their QB. It is over. Schoen will be re-signing Jones to a multi-year deal. Daniel Jones has not only galvanized his own play, he has become a trusted leader of the team. Jones’s ascendency is arguably the greatest single development of the NY Giants franchise in 2022.

It is imperfect. Ojulari seemingly cannot stay healthy. And Evan Neal has not made improvements in his rookie season.

This NY Giants blog has not mentioned the playoffs at all this season. It is gravy. Either they will get to taste the postseason or not. And while that would be positive, it is not critical to this season’s outcome. We want to see the players get that. They want it. Yet we saw what happened vs Philadelphia 3 games ago and know this roster is not ready for primetime.

The Giants may have lost the battle this week vs Minnesota. But they are going to win this war. They have a Head Coach, a GM, and a QB. That is more than enough for 2022. It is huge for 2023 and beyond. Onward.