After a surprising 2-0 start to the season, the New York Giants were brought back down to earth with an uninspiring defeat to NFC East rivals the Dallas Cowboys. Here are five talking points from the game:
First Half Inadequacies
For the third straight week, the Giants’ failed to get into the endzone in the first half. After last week’s inability to score a touchdown after two fumbles gave them great field position, this week saw one field goal blocked by the stout Dallas defence before Graham Gano converted from 42-yards in the 2nd quarter.
The slow start has been addressed by the coaching staff in recent weeks, but they still can’t seem to get any kind of flow or momentum on their side until the second half. So far in this new season, the Giants have been outscored 25-9 in the first half, forcing the coaching staff to have to rally the troops at half time.
Admittedly, in all three games, the Giants’ offence has been better after the half thanks to adjustments made by the coaching staff, but this week it wasn’t enough as the Cowboys sealed the win, 23-16.
Daniel Jones Under Pressure
In what is quite possibly the most important season in Daniel Jones’s relatively short career so far, he will have hoped that this season he would be able to operate under a more robust offensive line than he has had in recent years. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case so far and the Cowboys’ defence smelt blood and unsurprisingly targeted rookie Tackle Evan Neal, who gave up three sacks to Demarcus Lawrence.
Incredibly, Jones was under pressure constantly on his 24 dropbacks last night. He was sacked five times, hit 12 times, and was never afforded a second to try and stay calm. That dropback rate ended up being 40.5% of the total offensive plays, which is the highest number a Quarterback has faced this season, the 2nd most in the last two seasons and the most of Jones’s career so far.
The End for Sterling Shepard?
With 1:11 left in the game, Daniel Jones was intercepted after a David Sills slip that ended up sealing the game for the Cowboys, but instantly the Giants’ attention shifted to Stirling Shepard, who had suffered a non-contact injury and had stayed on the ground. The cart was called, and for the second straight season, he left a game on the cart.
Shepard, who fought back from the Achilles tear he suffered last December, has battled with injuries his whole career, and it is likely that this will be the fourth straight season that Shepard misses at least four games after the Giants confirmed that they feared this was a serious knee injury.
With Shepard leading the team in snaps, receptions, and yards, the Giants will almost certainly need to look for replacements for their underwhelming wide receiver group, which has been plagued by inconsistency and injuries since the start of the season.
There were mixed emotions regarding the defence in the lead up to the game. The excitement for the return of Azeez Ojulari and the debut of Kayvon Thibodeaux was quickly quelled when the news broke that standout Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams would miss his first ever game with a knee injury.
Williams had appeared in 114 games since his debut in 2015 and was sorely missed as the Giants gave up 178 rushing yards at a rate of 6.4 yards per carry. Unfortunately, it looks unlikely that Williams will return until after the Giants’ trip to London, but you can’t rule it out as he battled through a triceps injury last year and has proven his ability to tough it out if needed.
Ojulari and Thibodeaux both had quiet games as they combined for two tackles and a pass batted down, but ultimately, the Giants failed to register a single sack of Cowboys backup Quarterback Cooper Rush.
Rushing Game Joy
Finishing on a plus, there is one saving grace for the Giants, and it seems to be their ability to run the ball. They are averaging 169.3 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry, both of which are in the top 5 in the league.
The rushing stats are predominantly due to the re-emergence of Saquon Barkley, who had another solid game, finishing with 81 yards on 14 carries, including a 36-yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter. Barkley currently has 53 carries for 317 yards, which is the 2nd most in the NFL (he is 24 yards behind leader Nick Chubb).
Interestingly, the Giants’ 2nd leading rusher is Quarterback Daniel Jones, who has 25 carries for 125 yards (4 times the player in 3rd Matt Breida). Jones’s ability to scramble for yards seems to be a predominant offensive focus, and he gained an impressive 79 yards on nine carries in last night’s game.