The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – New York Giants Week 6

By Aaron Weiss

The New York Giants defied the odds and any semblance of logic, rolling over the now 3-2 Denver Broncos by a score of 23-10. While there are a good number of things to criticize (such as Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins getting beat all night by Demaryius Thomas, although he redeemed himself with a critical pick six), considering the Giants got their first win of the season, in primetime, against a Super Bowl contender and their premier defense, with their top three receivers, starting center, top EDGE rusher, captain linebacker, and star slot corner out, I’m going easy on the G-Men. Let’s breakdown everything that happened and look forward to the Giants last game before their bye!


The Good:

Evan Engram – With the Giants top three receivers out this week (and two of them out for the year), Engram was thrust into the top spot as it comes to receiving options, and he did not disappoint. He had more targets, yards, and touchdowns than the Giants 3 wide receivers combined, and he caught 45% of the Giants completions, had 64% of their receiving yards, and their lone offensive touchdown. Sterling Shepard will return either next week or after the bye week, which will lighten the load on Engram somewhat, but there’s no doubt that the continuing success of the Giants offense is going to depend on Engram putting up numbers like he did on Sunday.


Jason Pierre-Paul – Denver RT Menelik Watson is the weak link on the Broncos’ offensive line, coming into the contest with a PFF score of 40.2, and he had the unenviable task of going up against Pierre-Paul. JPP definitely won the matchup, notching 6 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble, all in the first half (which was as far as Watson would make it in the contest, he’d get hurt and be replaced by Billy Turner and his 38.9 PPR grade in the 2nd half). Despite not having Olivier Vernon to draw primary or even double coverage on the other side, JPP totaled 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 2 QB hits, and a QB hurry, continually spooking Trevor Siemian even when he wasn’t generating pressure. JPP reminded the world why he remains a premier edge rusher in this league.


The Offensive Line – The offensive line hardly qualifies as above average yet, but perhaps they’ve found their best iteration. The Giants moved star LG Justin Pugh to RT, moving RG John Jerry to LG and backup OL DJ Fluker to RG (also with C Weston Richburg out Brett Jones played center, although that will undoubtedly revert to Richburg when he’s healthy). I don’t know if this is the “we need our best OL at tackle” gameplan, or if it’s the “lets put our best OL on their best DL,” which in this case is Pugh vs Von Miller, but either way, this o-line kept the pressure on Eli Manning limited while absolutely punishing Denver in the run game (especially with Orleans Darkwa in the backfield). With the Giants’ wide receives not doing a whole lot, credit this offensive line for keeping this offense on the field.


Mike Sullivan – For the first time since Ben McAdoo joined the Giants as their offensive coordinator, McAdoo wasn’t calling the offensive plays, passing off those duties to current offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, and in Sullivan’s first opportunity he showed what he brings to the offense. He didn’t call any crazy plays, and you have to wonder how much of the play calling changes are due to Sullivan and how many are due to the new receivers the Giants are stuck with, but Sullivan was incredibly solid, sticking to the ground game while not overextending Eli or making him rely on his new receivers (the Giants ran the ball 32 times while passing a mere 19). McAdoo also looked more in control without having to call the offensive plays. Sullivan will almost certainly call the plays next week and for the immediate future, and we’ll see if he can continue to be successful, but tonight Sullivan earned his pay as the Giants’ offensive coordinator.


The Bad:

The Little Three – With the big three of Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Brandon Marshall out, the Giants turned to the new lesser three in Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, and Travis Rudolph, and…it didn’t really work out. They combined for 2 catches on 4 targets in the first half, collectively getting outworked by TE Evan Engram. As mentioned above, Shepard will return to the lineup and inherit the top receiving spot, but GM Jerry Reese should be looking to find outside help this week. Perhaps disgruntled Pittsburgh WR Martavis Bryant could be an option going forward.


The Ugly:


Injuries:

The Giants had a couple of players banged up, with players like Jay Bromley and BJ Goodson briefly going down on the field, but the only significant injury was to rookie linebacker Calvin Munson, who had a quad injury in the game and was unable to return. While he is a backup, meaning his loss isn’t as critical, the Giants are currently paper thin at linebacker, with Jonathan Casillas missing the contest with a neck injury. Should Munson be out for an extended period it would be wise of the Giants to acquire some depth at the position.


NFC East Picture:

Dallas had their bye week, so they remained in third place at 2-3. However, their stock in the division fell dramatically with news that star RB Ezekiel Elliott had his suspension reinforced immediately, meaning that, barring further legal directives, he will miss the Cowboys’ next six games. Philly won a tight battle against Carolina on Thursday night football, going to 5-1, and Carson Wentz and his Eagles continued to show they’re in a different class than their division counterparts. Finally, Washington eked out a victory against the now 0-6 San Francisco 49ers, leaving them in second place at 3-2.


Next Week: The Giants come home to face the Seahawks before they go on their desperately needed bye week. Seattle comes into the game at 3-2, coming off of their bye week, which means they’ll be fresh against a Giants team that could not be more battered. On the other hand, Seattle is 1-2 on the road, although those losses came against a Mariota-led Titans and a Rodgers-led Packers. Still, the Giants showed they’re capable of contending with top defenses with mediocre offenses, and while the Seahawks offense is much better than Denver’s, their putrid offensive line will mean more JPP sacks and pressures, keeping this one close. Look for a slugfest, but considering what the Giants have as receiving options, look for Seattle to edge out a victory.

Prediction – Seahawks win 17-13

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – New York Giants Week 5

By Aaron Weiss

In a season that somehow keeps getting worse, the Giants lost their week five matchup against the now 1-4 Los Angeles Chargers 27-22, dropping to 0-5. The Giants simply could not hang around with the Chargers after suffering a rash of injuries, in what ended up being one of the worst three hour periods in New York Giant history. Let’s break down what little went right, everything that went wrong, and anything else in between while look forward to New York’s week 6 match-up.


The Good:

Wayne Gallman & Orleans Darkwa – The Giants may finally have a run game! Gallman, playing his second regular season game, and Darkwa, coming back from injury, combined for 19 carries, 126 yards and a touchdown. The pair alone had the Giants best single game effort on the ground this year (with a 91 yard performance coming in second and a 62 yard performance coming in third), which doesn’t include contributions by Shane Vereen and Odell Beckham, who brought the Giants’ run game total to 152 yards on 25 carries. Darkwa has looked impressive all year when he’s been healthy, and Gallman has made a impactful impression to start his career, averaging 3.8 yards per carry after contact. Given the other developments of the day, look for the Giants to try and push this pair further into the spotlight.


Darian Thompson – Thompson was all over the field on Sunday. He may not have the skillset or the star power of his fellow safety Landon Collins, but Thompson recorded his first interception, along with a team high 11 tackles, 2 passes defended, and 1 QB hit. To date he hadn’t made much of an impression to distance himself from fellow sophomore and last year’s starting safety Andrew Adams, but performances like this will secure his status as the starting Free Safety.


Damon Harrison & Dalvin Tomlinson – While the Giants got absolutely steamrolled by Chargers RB Melvin Gordon, the big interior duo on the Giants’ defensive line did a remarkable job holding Gordon and anyone else trying to work down the middle in check. Gordon rushed 7 times down the middle for a measly 22 yards (3.1 yards/carry), as opposed to 13 carries for 83 yards (6.4 yards/carry), when rushing to the left or right side of the offensive line (although Gordon did have a 26 yard run up the middle negated by a holding penalty). Snacks Harrison also excelled in pass defense, recording 4 QB hurries on 24 pass rushing snaps.

 

The Bad:

Penalties – Once again this season, the Giants’ agonizing mental mistakes were overshadowed by worse ones from an opponent, but that’s no reason to give the Giants a pass. The G-Men had 10 penalties for 67 yards (as opposed to LA’s 11 penalties for 87 yards). Some of the more egregious penalties were unnecessary roughness from BJ Goodson, running into the kicker from Nordly Capi (which thankfully didn’t extend the Chargers’ drive), and 2(!) defensive offsides penalties from beleaguered edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul (his 50.4 PFF grade is 24.2 points worst than his previous worst PFF grade). In a game where everything outside of New York’s control went wrong, the Giants couldn’t make sure to do the easy things right.


Pass Protection – Bobby Hart and his 36.6 PFF grade returned to the lineup after missing time with an injury, and boy oh boy did it show. Unlike Philip Rivers, who wasn’t sacked once, Eli Manning was brought down 5 times, losing 42 yards and one fumble in the process. Manning took 7 QB hits on the day, and once again he often looked spooked in the pocket. To be clear, the offensive line continues to “improve”, with the average rush yards before contact increased to 2.0, but once again this offensive line showed it couldn’t stop the duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

 

The Ugly:

Injuries – Wow. Just wow. In what has to be one of the most wrath of godlike moments in NFL history, the Giants lost 4 of their 5 active WR’s on injury throughout the game. WR Sterling Shepard sprained his ankle early in the second quarter, only to have fellow WR Brandon Marshall hurt his ankle the very next play (while Coach McAdoo called his injury a sprain, the fact that he’s undergone surgery implies it’s something more serious). Special teams ace and plugin WR Dwayne Harris broke his foot on a special teams play in the third quarter, and, most significantly, superstar WR Odell Beckham fractured his ankle in the fourth quarter, a huge blow both in the short term (he was scorching hot against star cornerback Casey Hayward, making 5 catches on 8 targets for 97 yards and a touchdown, and Eli Manning would fumble the ball the play after Odell left), and in the long run. Of the 4, only Sterling Shepard avoided injured reserve, and he is listed as day to day, although the odds he plays this upcoming week are slim. This rash of injuries left Eli Manning with one active healthy receiver for the last few minutes of the game, Roger Lewis, and on the Giants last make or break drive, Manning had Lewis and TE Rhett Ellison lined up outside, with TE Evan Engram on the inside and pass catching specialist RB Shane Vereen in the backfield, a recipe that led to a disastrous interception. No offense, and no quarterback (excepting perhaps Aaron Rodgers) can successfully win a game with only a 4th string wide receiver and no other WRs, and the rash of injuries doomed any chance that Giants had to win a close game they so desperately needed.

 

NFC East Picture:

In one of the more contentious divisions to date, it was the Philadelphia Eagles who stood out the most, convincingly beating the Arizona Cardinals 34-7, and going to 4-1 on the season in the process. Washington had a bye week, and the Dallas Cowboys met the same fate most teams do when facing the inhuman god that is Aaron Rodgers, falling to 2-3. Barring a miracle, the Giants are out of playoff contention, but for the first time this season, it looks like one of the teams in the NFC East is on the cusp on breaking away from the competition.


Next Week: The Giants signed veteran WR Tavarres King, who they cut in the offseason, and practice squad WR Travis Rudolph to replace Beckham and Marshall (they also signed WR Darius Powe, who they also cut in the offseason, to the practice squad). That means, unless Sterling Shepard makes a remarkable comeback and plays this week, that King, Rudolph and Lewis, who have a combined 19 career receptions (15 for King, 4 for Lewis and 0 for the rookie Rudolph), will go head to head with Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr, and Bradley Roby, who have a combined 55 career interceptions and 7 Pro Bowl appearances. The rest of the Denver defense is just as intimidating, and while the Giants may make headway against the run, they still only ran the ball to the left side twice against the Chargers, so clearly there are still issues to be addressed. While it would not be surprising to see the Giants’ defense push around Trevor Siemian and the mediocre Denver offense, it’s honestly more likely that the Giants score a touchdown on defense than offense. There’s no way, especially on the road, and with the Broncos coming off their bye week that this Giants’ team beats the 3-1 Denver Broncos.

Prediction – Broncos win 17-3

2017 New York Jets Quarter Report

By Alexander C. Lawrence

Despite all the gloom and doom about the 2017 season coming in, the Jets actually have two more victories (2-2) than their stadium-sharing neighbors, the Giants (0-4). What does this all mean in a world where the Jets have a better record than the Giants AND the Bills (3-1) sit atop the AFC East?

1) The Jets new-look, swagger-filled defense

Since joining the Jets on draft day as first and second round picks, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye have really played intense and fast football to go along with third-year defensive linemen out of USC, Leonard Williams. Not only did this Jets defense outplay Miami in Week 3, they look poised to go all out this season. Something tells me Adams, Maye, and Williams don’t know what the word “tank” means, though I’m also sure they’d rather have guys like Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen on their team.

2) Will Hackenberg ever see the field in 2017?

A month ago I would’ve told you that Christian Hackenberg would be the starting QB for the New York Jets by mid-to-late October, but right now I’m not so sure. I believed in the Jets ability to develop him. He had proven himself in a pro-style offense his first year at Penn State. So far with two wins under his belt, Josh McCown may ensure Hackenberg doesn’t see the field. As a Jet fan, wasting a second round pick shows just how foolish the front office was for drafting him with high capital and then not allowing him to prove himself.

3) Is winning hurting the Jets future?

A lot of people expected the Jets to be either 0-4 or 1-3 at this point, including myself. McCown and that Jets’ offense have played impressive football and I’m honestly not thrilled about it. The Jets need to start fresh at QB and Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold look primed to be that long-awaited franchise guy. That was until McCown started winning. He is not the future, just a hold-the-fort-together guy until they get the chance to draft a real QB. The Jets just don’t have the talent to compete all season long, as teams will adjust and eventually that offense will slow down once they face tougher defenses. If the Jets finish 6-10 and get a top-10 pick, I’d call this season a waste because QB is a must in this draft and the Jets may be too far back in the draft order to grab the one they want/need.

4) Kony Ealy’s tough Week 4

Kony Ealy had a key defensive play in securing the Week 4 victory over the Jaguars for the Jets. He was presented with the game-ball, but not any game-ball. Ealy lost his sister this week, Latoya Brown and no details were given outside of that. That forced Ealy to leave the team for a couple of days but would suit-up Sunday and have the game of his career. He did his scouting report on Blake Bortles, who likes to throw low, and Ealy sure took advantage of that as he put his arms up and ended with four pass deflections on the day. None would top his third quarter batted pass that he caught and ran for seven-yards and almost had their first defensive touchdown in 61 games.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – New York Giants Week 4

By Aaron Weiss

The New York Giants suffered another demoralizing loss on a game-ending field goal, losing on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 25-23. The Giants ended up once again gaining a lead in the 4th quarter, only to blow it after being incapable of halting the Tampa offense. Still, while there is next to no hope for this 0-4 squad, this team improved in many ways this week, while also taking some major steps back in other areas. So, as always, let’s break down what happened this week, and look ahead to see what’s coming up next week!


The Good:

Wayne Gallman – Welcome to the NFL, Wayne Gallman! The 4th round pick out of Clemson got his first NFL action on his 23rd birthday, taking over the reins in the 3rd quarter after Paul Perkins left the field with a rib injury. By comparison, the rookie shined, putting up 42 yards on 11 carries, significantly outpacing the Giants’ other two backs on the ground (Vereen and Perkins combined for 27 yards on 13 carries; Orleans Darkwa was held out of the contest with a back injury). The rookie also caught 2 passes for 8 yards and a touchdown. His 3.8 yards per rush is normally uninspiring, but he was a breath of fresh air compared to what the Giants normally put out on the field. Look for him to join the flustercuck that is the Giants’ running back committee on a more consistent basis.


Eli Manning – Manning was at his best on the deep throw today in spite of his 5.8 yards per catch average, nailing passes of 42, 21 and 19 yards, and he remained incredibly consistent, throwing for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns while going 30/49. Plus, the old man notched his first rushing touchdown since 2014, sneaking out of the pocket and speeding in for a 14 yard score. While this entire team is in disarray, and Eli is somewhat responsible, the old stalwart mostly remains a pillar of reliability in the chaos that is this team.


Everything I’ve criticized the Giants about this year – So far this year there has been a lot of chide the Giants about, but on Sunday the Giants excelled in many aspects that they’d previously failed at. Their run game was almost as good as Tampa’s, they dominated time of possession, holding the ball for a whopping 34 minutes, they had more first downs than Tampa, they were 3/4 in the red zone, they were the far better 3rd down team (8/17 as opposed to Tampa’s 3/11), they ran 15 more plays than Tampa, didn’t turnover the ball, didn’t give up any sacks, and, perhaps most importantly, they only had one penalty for 0 yards. On paper this team corrected almost everything they’d done poorly in the past, but once again it wasn’t enough to get the win.

 

The Bad:

Aldrick Rosas – The rookie finally stumbled, missing a key 43 yard field goal in the 4th quarter, which, considering the Giants ended up losing by 2, was mildly significant. It was his first miss on the year, which complemented his competitive counterpart Nick Folk 2 missed field goals (from 49 and 46 yards). At this point it’s still unclear how good Rosas is. He’s yet to be fully utilized (for comparison’s sake, Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein attempted more FGs on Sunday (7) than Rosas has all year (5)), and he’s not been significantly challenged, having not had to kick a 50+ yard FG. So until the offense becomes a little more scoring heavy, Giants’ fans will have to wait to see what the rookie can do.


Run defense – The Giants could not contain the run game for the second week in a row, giving up 111 yards on the ground, including 83 to lead back Jacquizz Rodgers on 16 carries (5.2 yards per rush). Lead run defender Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison missed some of the game with an injury, but at the end of the day this is starting to become the standard as opposed to the aberration. Look for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to dial up more blitzes and put even more faith in his top heavy secondary, especially against run dominant teams.


Brad Wing – Wing strikes again, putting together a relatively mediocre game (plus one great 56 yard punt) that was absolutely eviscerated by a brutal 15 yard punt with just under 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Wing is spared from the Ugly section because unlike last week this didn’t set up the game winning score, but it did give the Bucs an easy touchdown and the lead, which took Rhett Ellison and the Giants about 4 or 5 minutes to reclaim. While it’s too early to pull the plug on the 2-year Giant now, he needs to figure out how not to choke in the clutch, or he will be out of a job.

 

The Ugly:

Defense against tight ends – BJ Goodson reclaimed his role as the starting middle linebacker this week, just in time to be obliterated by Tampa’s pair of TEs. The Giants gave up 143 yards and 2 touchdowns on 6 catches to the Tampa duo of TEs (OJ Howard and Cameron Brate; the two combined for 10 targets). Howard’s touchdown came on a truly horrifying blown coverage, which allowed him to basically walk in from 58 yards out. Meanwhile, Brate had 35 and 26 yard catches, plus another 14 yard completion for his touchdown. While Janoris remains incredibly good in spite of his various ailments, and even Eli Apple looked much improved from the past few weeks, the Giants continue to have no answers over the middle of the field.


Injuries – While it was Tampa who came into the game looking like the banged up team, it’s New York that limps away. Odell Beckham left the game twice, first for an apparent ankle injury and then for a dislocated finger; he returned after both injuries and neither is projected to affect his availability going forward. Others weren’t so lucky. DE Olivier Vernon came into the game listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and he pulled up near the end of the first half, seeming to have aggravated said injury. He did not return, and it’s unclear how this will impact him next week. C Weston Richburg left the game with concussion symptoms, and while he has yet to be officially diagnosed he did not return to the game, so his availability will be dependent on his ability to clear concussion protocol. Finally, starting RB Paul Perkins left the game in the third quarter with a rib injury, which he did not return from. Without more specifics we’re left in the dark about how this will affect him going forward.


0-4 – At this point in the season the Giants should probably start packing up for the season, as their chances of a playoff berth are all but extinguished. In spite of more well rounded play the Giants shot themselves in the foot, and made a few key mistakes that doomed them to their fourth loss in a row. To add to the dumpster fire that is this season, the Giants need only look to the other locker room to find the New York Jets, universally considered the worst team heading into the season and now 2-2, tied with the defending champion New England Patriots. The Giants should be able to salvage something of this season, and it’s unlike them to tank, but a quarter of the season in and Jerry Reese reaps what he sows, especially when it comes to the Giants offense, particularly the run game and offensive line. With no hope left for 2017, Giants fans can find comfort in Coach McAdoo’s subdued Jim Mora impression.


NFC East Picture:

Washington will play tonight against the league-best Kansas City Chiefs, while the Cowboys lost a shootout against one LA team (the Rams) and Eagles won a shootout against the other (the Chargers). This leaves Philly on top at 3-1, while Washington is 2-1, Dallas 2-2, and New York 0-4. The way this division is shaping up it may only take 8 or 9 wins to take the division, so don’t count anyone out, but at this point the Giants need close to a miracle to remain in contention.


Next Week: They say misery loves company, so MetLife Stadium should be a stadium of anguish come Sunday afternoon, when the 0-4 Giants play the 0-4 Chargers (the San Francisco 49ers are the only other team currently 0-4). The Chargers are coming off a 26-24 loss to Philly, in a game where, excluding one 35 yard TD run by the 3rd string RB, the Chargers rushed 12 times for 23 yards on the ground. However, unlike fellow 2004 draft pick Eli Manning, Philip Rivers remains a master of the long ball, hitting a 75 and 50 yard pass in the contest. While I hope New York gets off the schneid, it’s all too easy to envision a game like this week where a “good enough” offensive effort and a “good enough” defensive effort is spoiled by one or two blown coverages on big plays, especially with the Giants suffering a few major injuries this week. Fingers crossed I’m wrong, but don’t be surprised if things go from bad to worse for the Giants.

Prediction – Chargers win 27-20

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – New York Giants Week 3

By Aaron Weiss

The New York Giants were handed a soul-crushing and seemingly-postseason-eliminating loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, on a time expiring 61 yard field goal by rookie kicker Jake Elliott (who had already missed a FG earlier in the day; this is also the last you’ll hear of him today, as he is a blight on me and every other Giants fan today). With a final score of 27-24, the Giants have to stagger home and somehow find a way to resurrect the season, as only 5 teams have made the playoffs after the starting 0-3 since 1980; none have done it since the turn of the millennium. So while the Giants look to do what’s next to impossible, we’ll break down what happened this past Sunday!


The Good:

The first 8 minutes of the fourth quarter – For the first 8 minutes of the fourth quarter we saw a Super Bowl caliber squad Giants team. The defense was on the field for 3 drives: one finishing a 3 and out, one ending after a fumble on the first play, and 1 ending in a punt after 6 plays. Offensively, there was a five play, 55-yard TD drive where Eli was 5-5, a 4 play, 33 yard TD drive where Eli was 2-2 (connecting in the end zone with Odell Beckham for the 2nd straight drive), and Orleans Darkwa was 2 for 22 on the ground, including a powerful 20-yard rush, and finally a 2 play, 78 yard TD drive where Eli Manning connected with Sterling Shepard for 77 yards and the TD. Granted this version of the team was incredibly pass heavy, which isn’t ideal for a Super Bowl squad, but it showed all that the Giants offense (the main source of the Giants early woes) could be; it was the driving force behind Eli Manning’s 366 yard day (and 7.8 yard/pass average), it was the predominant reason for the success of the big 3 receivers that was envisioned by Giants fans this offseason (7/133/1, 9/79/2, 8/66/0 for Shepard, Beckham and Marshall respectively), and most of all, a high octane offense with too many options to cover that’s only overshadowed by a smothering defense. Instead, the Giants are looking at a winless record and more doubt than ever.


Janoris Jenkins – After missing the Week 2 Monday night game with an injury, Jenkins, who was listed as questionable before the game, came out strong, allowing 4 catches on 6 targets for just 38 yards. He spent a lot of the day covering Alshon Jeffrey, and was a large factor in his uninspiring day (4/56/0 on 8 targets).


Calvin Munson – Starting in lieu of the injured BJ Goodson for the 2nd straight week, Munson continued to improve, recording 3 tackles and .5 tackles for loss, with two of those tackles instigating defensive stops. It was a rather ordinary stat line, but he was clearly better in pass coverage, and on a team that hasn’t had a quality healthy MLB since Antonio Pierce, it’s reassuring to know that Munson is a viable option with BJ on the sideline.

 

The Bad:

Eli Manning – All in all Eli played well on Sunday, and for a full breakdown of his performance you’ll want to check out our film study on his game, but the stat I wanted to point out was his gunslinger stat. Eli only threw the ball further than 20 yards in the air once on Sunday, and it ended up being intercepted. As I said in past weeks, you can make a noodle armed QB work (just ask the Peyton Manning-led Broncos), but it is clearly debilitating when the opposing secondary knows the QB cannot consistently attack it deep.


The Running Game – As I’ve mentioned in the past, obviously a ton of what ails the offense, especially the run game, is as much on the offensive line as it is the RBs, but after the offensive line yards before contact per attempt “skyrocketed” to 1.35 (Giants fans, this is your cue to start crying), I’ve got to come after the backs, who collectively went 17 for 49 and no TDs, averaging 2.9 yards a run. Remove Darkwa’s 20-yard run and that number goes down to 1.8 yards/run, and Darkwa specifically goes from 7/22/3.1 to 6/2/.33. The trio of Giant backs (Darkwa, Perkins, and Vereen) made some headway in the passing game, going 5 for 37 on 5 targets, but with each aspect of the offense that can’t produce (the long ball, the run game, etc) it becomes harder and harder to be productive, and easier and easier for defenses to game plan for.


Brad Wing – Usually one of my favorite players, I have to criticize Wing for perhaps the first time. He averaged a paltry 38.5 yards per punt on 4 tries, including two shanks of 28 yards apiece. Those shanks culminated in 10 Philly points, including the game winning field goal. He’ll rebound, but something about Lincoln Financial Field rattled the Aussie.

 

The Ugly:

Time of possession – I harped on the significance of this stat last week, but despite the 24 points scored the Giants managed to only hold the ball for 22 minutes and 28 seconds, clinching the worst average mark in the NFL at 25:09, a full minute behind the next worst team, the San Francisco 49ers (whose average TOP of 26:19, and they’re a whole minute behind the next worst team, the LA Chargers (27:19)). This led to the Giants defense being on the field almost twice as long as the Giants offense, which led to injury, exhaustion, and an inability to stop the Eagles late after the Giants claimed the lead. The Giants are somehow nearly three minutes worse than their average TOP last year, which was 28:08 and 4th worst in the league. Unless the Giants offense can play like they did early in the 4th quarter all game, and put up 50+ points per game, the Giants will continue to lose football games until they get their TOP closer to 30 minutes.


Eli Apple/Penalties – Both teams were atrocious when it came to penalties, but the Giants just edged out the Eagles in terms of crappiness, with 10 penalties for 137 yards (the Eagles had 9 penalties for 103 yards). For once the brunt of this atrocity doesn’t land on the offensive line (although, Ereck Flowers was true to form with back to back penalties on the Giants final drive, leading to 2nd & 18, and an eventual shanked punt that put Philadelphia at their on 38 yard line with 13 seconds to go), but rather on Eli Apple, who was atrocious in coverage while notching two defensive pass interference penalties for 77 yards. In both instances the Eagles would go on to score touchdowns shortly thereafter. And while some, including myself, would argue that one of those calls was bollocks, as the ball was not catchable, the 41 yard DPI against Alshon Jeffrey was so flagrant that you almost have to consider benching him at that point. If there’s any one player responsible for this loss, other than the Eagles kicker (and to be clear, there isn’t), it’s Eli Apple.


Run defense – The Giants defense that is generally phenomenal against the run, led by the league’s best run defender in Damon Harrison, got creamed on Sunday, giving up 193 yards and 2 touchdowns on 39 attempts, with a whopping 4.9 yards per attempt. Put that on exhaustion, or on the fact that it was around 100°F on the field, but no matter who was in the Philly backfield, they managed to run all over the Giants. The Eagles had two runs of 20 yards apiece, and two of their backs, Smallwood and Blount, managed over 50 yards. While the story of defensive exhaustion is somewhat similar to the chicken and the egg, the Giants’ defense can’t help themselves if they allow this sort of action in the run game, or if they can’t sack the quarterback, who himself had 6 rushes for 22 yards while scrambling out of the pocket. While I’d refer critics of this defense to my section on time of possession, there is no doubt that this team needs to do better up front if they’re going to have any success going forward.


Odell Beckham – Odell appears close to full form, but he may have gone too far with a touchdown celebration where he mimed a urinating dog, which led to a ruff unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Beckham would later go on to clarify that this was inspired by President Trump’s referring to NFL players who don’t stand for the National Anthem as “son[s] of bitch[es]” (adjusted to be grammatically correct). The celebration did not sit well with Giants owner John Mara, who has put Odell in the doghouse, saying he’s “very unhappy” and that the Giants “intend to deal with it internally.” We’ll see if Mara’s bark is worse than his bite, but in my opinion, if it takes a day and a confirmatory tweet to figure out why one does a celebration, you may need to find a new celebration.


Darren Sproles – The 34 year old Philly vet and longtime inspiration to short people everywhere managed to break his arm and tear his ACL in a single play. Between the injury itself and his declaration last December that 2017 would be his final year, There’s as good a chance as not that this is the end of his NFL career (and it’s definitely the end of his run as short person ambassador for the NFL; that title firmly belongs with Chicago RB Tarik Cohen), and if it is we want to applaud him on a stellar 12 year career. In the meantime, we hope and pray he has an effective and speedy recovery.


Injuries – Olivier Vernon and Orleans Darkwa both got hurt during the game on Sunday, but neither is reported to be serious, and both should be good to go this week. Additionally, BJ Goodson is expected back at practice tomorrow, so New York should be close to full strength.


NFC East Picture:

The other NFC East teams all had statement wins this week, none more so than Washington’s truly dominant 27-10 win over the Oakland Raiders, who had looked phenomenal up until that game. Dallas rolled over the Cardinals on Monday Night Football 28-17, and the Eagles obviously beat the Giants. This puts New York two games behind everyone else, and a game behind in divisional tiebreakers. All of that combined with a rough schedule (games at Denver and versus Seattle in heading into the bye week, and a back stretch that includes 4 divisional games, a game at Oakland, and a game versus one of the 2 remaining undefeated teams (the Chiefs)) means the Giants are going to need every break to return to contention.


Next Week: The Giants stay on the road and go to Tampa, who is 1-1 after having their Week 1 matchup cancelled due to Hurricane Irma. They convincingly beat Chicago in Week 2 and were convincingly beat by Minnesota in Week 3, so it’s hard to peg where this leaves the Bucs. The good news for the Giants is that the Bucs are more injured than a Tom Coughlin Giants’ roster. Pro Bowlers Brent Grimes and Lavonte David are most likely going to miss the contest, while Pro Bowlers Gerald McCoy and TJ Ward are also questionable for the contest, along with Noah Spence, Kwon Alexander, and Jacquies Smith. Only one team has ever made the playoffs after starting 0-4, the 1992 Chargers, so this game is a must win for the Giants, and, after showing flashes against the Eagles, I think the G-Men notch their first win against this injury riddled Bucs squad.

Prediction – Giants wins 31-21

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – New York Giants Week 2

By Aaron Weiss

Everyone’s favorite New York Giants’ weekly recap is back for the 2017 season (for any masochistic Giants’ fans, John did a great video recap on our Youtube Channel covering the Giants’ week one loss to Dallas). The New York Giants failed to gain any traction in the 2017 season, falling to the Detroit Lions 24-10 on Monday Night Football. Let’s break it down and look ahead to what’s upcoming next week!


The Good:

Aldrick Rosas – We’re going to have to start with baby steps. In an uninspiring game, and season to date, perhaps we’re seeing the birth of the next great Giants kicker? Granted, it’s incredibly early to hand him that title, which currently belongs to Lawrence Tynes, and the kid has only kicked three balls, none longer than 35 yards. But in a league where missed extra points and field goals are becoming more and more frequent, and teams are blowing 2nd round picks on failures at the position (looking at you Tampa Bay), it’s nice to think that Rosas, only 22, could have a successful career racking up points for the G-Men.

Odell Beckham – The Giants’ premier receiver didn’t have a standout day, but coming into the game as a game time decision, he did look somewhat like his old self. Beckham was limited, playing only 60% of offensive snaps in the game and despite the limited showing (and self describing himself at 80% health) he was Eli Manning’s second favorite target on the night. Most importantly, Odell looked like he walked away from the night unscathed, meaning that he should only be better in Week 3.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – The defense played without two key starters, most important of who was shutdown corner Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins. Still, at the ripe old age of 31 DRC played like a quality CB1, racking up a PFF score of 78.3, 3rd best among all Giants, and he wasn’t really exposed in pass coverage. He did miss a few key tackles on blitzes and other plays close to the line of scrimmage, but for a secondary with few veteran leaders, DRC stepped up in a big way.

Eli Manning – Obviously the Giants offense is currently mortifying, and as is the case with all offenses everything does start with the QB. However, if the season ended today Eli would have his best single season completion percentage by 9.2 percentage points. Eli completed 68.8 percent of his passes this week, throwing for 239 yards and 7.5 yards per pass. He also threw a touchdown and an interception, and he had a huge 20+ yard dime of a pass dropped by an untouched Brandon Marshall (more on him in a second). This year’s Eli does not look like the high flying Eli of the past few years that won then OC Ben McAdoo the head coach position, but he does look like 2016’s Alex Smith, who completed 67.1 percent of his passes at 7.2 yards per pass. Maybe at age 36 Eli is no longer the gunslinger he once was, and clearly his statistical success is not enough to carry the offense, but if 2016’s Alex Smith was good enough to make the AFC divisional round (with some help from head coach Andy Reid), then perhaps Eli can do the NFC equivalent with the help of Coach McAdoo and more.

Evan Engram – As much as it was any Giants’ night, it was Engram’s. Engram caught 4 passes on 7 targets for 49 yards and a sweet TD, on a great play call by Coach McAdoo that gave the rookie tight end a free release off the line of scrimmage. Engram continues to look fast and fluid at the TE position, although he still isn’t close to Rhett Ellison’s prowess as a blocker. Engram also had a nice pass from Manning broken up by a hard hit from Darius Slay, and some of Engram’s thunder was stolen by backup TE Jerell Adams, who had a sweet 38 yard catch in relief of Engram (that was the longest reception of the night). Still, Engram is clearly taking advantage of Odell Beckham’s limited presence by developing a good rapport with Eli Manning, something that not everyone else is doing….


The Bad:

Brandon Marshall – After being heralded as the receiving complement to Odell Beckham, Marshall has looked like a shell of himself two games in. Granted, he still is learning his way around the new system, and no one expected him to be WR1 material, which has been his de facto position with Odell limited so far, and he hasn’t been targeted a tremendous amount. All the same, Marshall has caught two passes in two weeks, and after not making his first catch until the final minutes of the week one game, Marshall dropped one perfect 30 yard pass from Eli that would’ve put the Giants in Lions’ territory early in the fourth. Instead the Giants would punt two plays later and give up an 88 yard return for a touchdown. He also had no chance at contesting a jump ball in the end zone. Marshall should see more opportunities when Odell is fully healthy, but right now he looks like he’s behind Odell, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Shane Vereen, and Roger Lewis in Eli’s pecking order.

Time of Possession – The Giants gained more total yards, more 1st downs, an equal number of turnovers, and more yards per play than the Lions, and yet despite these paper stats and the fact that this was a one possession game going into the 4th quarter, the Giants never felt like they were close to competing. This is predominantly due to the time of possession, where Detroit outperformed New York by over 5 and a half minutes. After a whole two games (which granted is a small sample size), the Giants average time of possession is just around 26.5 minutes, which is in the bottom five of the league. This is predominantly due to the Giants’ inability to sustain drives, only having one drive last longer than five minutes, and one drive last longer than 10 plays. Despite admirable efforts by the defense, this team will only go as far as the offense takes them.


The Ugly:

Paul Perkins – I maintain a good amount of faith in the second year running back, leaving a good chunk of blame for the Giants woes in the running game for the offensive line (more on them later), but two games in and Perkins is out there looking like last year’s Rashad Jennings. He was the lead back with seve carries, but only managed 10 yards, for an abysmal 1.4 yards per rush. Both Shane Vereen (6 for 28, plus 3 for 27 as a receiver) and Orleans Darkwa (3 for 17) looked more capable of making something out of nothing than Perkins, which considering the state of the offensive line is something the running backs need to be able to do. This committee should still be led by Perkins for the time being, but unless things start to improve look for Darkwa or even rookie Wayne Gallman to take the reins as the lead back.

Ereck Flowers/The Offensive Line – Had Jerry Reese not had the tremendous signings that triggered a defensive renaissance, the state of the Giants’ offensive line would be an immediate fire-able offense. After an abysmal year in 2016 where the Giants’ offensive line ranked 20th in the league by PFF standards, Reese went out and basically left the line untouched; he signed former San Diego Charger DJ Fluker (which, if you couldn’t cut it on San Diego’s 31st ranked offensive line, you probably can’t cut it anywhere), and he drafted OT Adam Bisnowaty with the Giants’ last pick. Bisnowaty ended up on the practice squad while other UDFA’s made the 53 man roster, but the entire starting line from last year returned, and it still looks awful. The horror show starts with and stars LT Ereck Flowers, who notched a PFF score of 47.3 while being continually wrecked by Lions DE Ezekiel Ansah. His only saving grace was that he was somehow better than Lions LT and penalty connoisseur Greg Robinson. Still, if Jerry Reese won’t put Flowers at RT, which is where he was initially drafted to play and where might still perform best, then he really belongs on the bench.

Meanwhile starting RT Bobby Hart aggravated an ankle injury on the 2nd play of the game, forcing him out and pushing starting LG (and perhaps the Giants’ best O-lineman) Justin Pugh to play at RT. This left Eli’s blind side covered by the aforementioned Ereck Flowers and Brett Jones, and while Manning was remarkably calm for how pressured he was, he was sacked 5 times. While there probably isn’t much that can be done to improve the offensive line this season, Reese will have to make massive changes in the offseason if he wants to retain his job (and he still has it to begin with), and in the interim he will have to pray that Eli continues to be the ironman he’s always been.


Other notes:

Starting MLB BJ Goodson was out, meaning undrafted rookie Calvin Munson was the man in the middle for the night. He played remarkably well, notching 7 tackles and a sack, although he also got beat early on for a long Eric Ebron reception; in fact much of Ebron’s success and Detroit’s leading receiver could well be attributed to Munson.

There were some miscues on special teams, with the aforementioned punt return (which came with a fair share of awful tackling), and a 37 yard shanked punt by Brad Wing. Still, Wing outperformed Lions’ punter Jeff Locke in terms of yards per punt.

Each team had one turnover, with Jason Pierre-Paul forcing a strip sack on Matt Stafford, only for Eli Manning to have a pass tipped for a pick one play later.


Injuries – Other than Bobby Hart, the only Giant injury appeared to be J.T. Thomas, who hurt his groin and missed the second half. Obviously the top 4 injury concerns right now are Odell’s health, Hart’s health, and the statuses of Janoris Jenkins and BJ Goodson, who both sat out the game. All in all not a bad day in terms of health.


NFC East Picture:

Despite being 0-2 New York is only a game and a half out of the division lead, with Dallas getting creamed in Week 2 by Denver (after efficiently handling the Giants in Week 1), Philly getting manhandled by Kansas City, and Washington making up for their Week 1 loss against Philly by beating the Rams. It is too early to count the Giants out, but since 1990 only 12% of teams who started 0-2 went on to make the playoffs. The Giants will need to be strong in divisional matches and win next week to continue to keep the division a close race.


Next Week: The Giants go on the road to face division rival Philadelphia in what is as close to a must win game as possible for a Week 3 matchup. The Philly offense looks solid, albeit not particularly inspired; it’s not any more intimidating than Dallas or Detroit. However, as always the Giants’ chances will boil down to their offensive productivity, and with this offensive line going up against the defensive monsters that are Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Derek Barnett, and Brandon Graham, my first thought isn’t if the Giants win, but rather if Eli Manning makes it out of there alive. I have to admit things look grim, and if the Giants are going to win look for the driving force to be a certain bad boy wide receiver who may be fully healthy come Sunday.

Prediction – Eagles win 24-20

Enunwa To IR – Jets’ Passing Game Needs New Flight Plan

By Alexander C. Lawrence

Jet fans were devastated to learn that New York’s top wide receiver, Quincy Enunwa, will miss the upcoming 2017 season due to neck surgery. It makes the Jets roster look even worse than it already was and may speed up the cheers, or jeers, of “Stink for Sam?” It’s pretty obvious the Jets will miss their top WR since they decided to part ways with Brandon Marshall (NYG) and Eric Decker (TEN) this past offseason. That leaves the Jets with little experience at the WR position.

The big question is who will step up and replace Enunwa in the offense? The simple answer to that is no one. No one possess Enunwa’s combination of experience and talent and expecting one of the young Wideouts to replace him is unreasonable. There are some candidates who may surprise fans this season though.

Robby Anderson is the most likely option to shine, being as most of the rest of the receiving corps is comprised of rookies. His talent level and potential seems to put him at the top of the WR Depth Chart and set him up for a lion’s share of passing targets. Right now, aside from Anderson, the best options Gang Green has are Jalin Marshall and Charone Peake. Jordan Leggett is still getting used to life as the soon-to-be every day tight end going forward. ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen could wind up being nice surprises for the team and believe me there won’t be many bright spots on this team overall.

Robby Anderson doesn’t believe they’ll miss Enunwa too much, but he’ll be eating those words after a few weeks; however it is a big opportunity for Anderson and Co. to make their presence known as to why they should be around for the rebuild long-term. He spent the offseason putting on weight and working out with former teammate Brandon Marshall. It’s time for him to show off his hard work and dedication he put in all offseason.

As for Stewart and Hansen their impact is very much up in the air due to their lack of experience. Hopefully for the Jets at least one will be a quick learner and provide a spark to the offense. Stewart could provide a deep, vertical threat and don’t forget is from Alabama; he was well coached prior to joining the Jets.

Chad Hansen, from California, has always been a good fundamental wide receiver and it was easy for scouts to like him as a complementary receiver in the future, but it looks like he will compete right away for snaps as a number 3 or 4 WR on the depth chart. His route running refinement and excellent hands could even make him a safety valve for whatever Quarterback is at the helm.

Charone Peake says the team may have multiple 1,000 yard WRs on the team in 2017 and, while most people would disagree, credit the man for having confidence despite the loss of Enunwa. That quarterback situation is nothing short of a circus and that doesn’t usually lead to multiple average receivers suddenly breaking-out in and having 1,000 yard seasons. This may be the worst offense in the league; New York would be lucky to see one receiver break the thousand mark, much less several. Peake himself does have upside to be a nice asset in terms of a possession WR this season as the Jets have struggled with dropped passes in the not so distant past.

It will be a tough season, but it will be key for the Jets to find the guys who will produce through the tough season ahead. They will have a solid defense to back them up and keep them in games early on, but wins won’t be an often occurrence in 2017. The expectation should be to see what the Jets have in many of their young, unproven players, especially those at the Wide Receiver position.

2017 Fantasy Football Sleepers

By Alexander C. Lawrence

August is a beautiful month for football fans because football is finally back in our lives! Even if it is only preseason football we still get to watch our teams and see how they project for the regular season. Some people, such as myself, use it to scout potential fantasy football players that are strong sleeper candidates. Here’s my list for some of the best sleepers for the 2017 Fantasy Football season!


Green Bay Packers: RB, Jamaal Williams

Ty Montgomery has moved full time to running back but that doesn’t mean he’ll start. I’m not sold that Montgomery can handle a full work-load. Jamaal Williams, the eager fourth-round pick, will step in and make an immediate impact on that high powered offense. We’re not talking Zeke Elliott, but he could wind up being a very productive RB2. Taking a chance on him isn’t even costly- in most drafts he’ll be a late round pick.


Philadelphia Eagles: TE, Zach Ertz

I know most people may think Ertz isn’t an ideal late round sleeper given the fact that he simply hasn’t lived up to his real life expectations let alone fantasy owner’s, but that may not be as true as you think. Since 2013 Ertz has improved each fantasy season from a positional standpoint. 2013: TE-26, 2014: TE-13, 2015: TE-9 and 2016: TE-6. Have faith in Ertz this year!


Jacksonville Jaguars: WR, Marquise Lee

Lee showed off his WR2 type ability last season and you better believe that if Allen Hurns doesn’t produce early on, Lee can take his #2 WR spot and run with it. Bortles or Henne should get the ball to Lee, who will see a healthy chunk of targets. Lee, drafted as a late round pick, could be a fantasy breakout star in 2017.


New York Jets: TE, Jordan Leggett

The Jets don’t have a clear cut QB just yet, but one thing is clear. Whether it’s Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg, or Bryce Petty under center, Jordan Leggett will see a lot of targets just because he is talented and healthy. He can stretch the field for a Jets’ team that is lacking many offensive weapons. Five of the eight first teams the Jets face gave up the most fantasy points to TEs in 2016.  Don’t get me wrong the Jets will be bad, but Leggett will be one of the few bright spots so, for owners who want to take a late-round chance on him, go for it.


Houston Texans: WR, DeAndre Hopkins

He had a down season last year and left fantasy owners with a lot more to be desired, thanks in large part to the Texan’s horrible QB play. Hopkins believes in Tom Savage and I think with Savage, or even Watson, he can get back to his dominant self. He’ll cost a bit, but he’ll be a top 10 Wide Receiver this season.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB, Doug Martin

It’s no secret Doug Martin wasn’t the same guy last fantasy season, so I very much expect a bounce-back season for him once he serves his 3-game suspension for substance abuse. The team has praised him this offseason and competition with Charles Sims and Jeremy McNichols will bring out the best in him. The potential to be an RB1 again is too great to pass up.


Pittsburgh Steelers: WR, Martavis Bryant

There’s no secret that Bryant’s return should get him on most fantasy owner’s radars because his upside potential is so great. He should get back to being the no. 2 WR for the Steelers and help both himself and Antonio Brown. You can’t double everyone there. He’s a steal and I think a strong candidate for double-digit touchdowns in that Pittsburgh offense.


Detroit Lions: QB, Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford had what most would say was a normal season for the eighth-year QB out of Georgia. At least until you see his low number of TDs in 2016 (24). With the weapons at his arsenal this season that number should surely increase and I highly expect Stafford to be a QB1 this season. Detroit has a proven leader who can help that offense be elite this season.


Philadelphia Eagles: WR, Alshon Jeffery

Jeffery, just like Hopkins, is due for a bounce-back after injuries and a suspension derailed last season. He should thrive under young gun Carson Wentz throwing the ball his way as the clear no. 1 target with Jordan Mathews gone. The change of scenery will not only help him get a big pay day soon, but should improve his fantasy stock as well.


Los Angeles Rams: WR, Sammy Watkins

A lot of experts say Sammy Watkins is on their “Do not draft list” for 2017. I like to think otherwise since he was on IR last year and  seems fully healthy this year and primed to live up to the second-round hype to be a WR1. I believe this is the year we see Watkins haul in 80+ receptions and produce a 1,200+ yard season. It’s a contract year for him so, he has every reason to make sure his body is in the best condition and perform his best. Don’t be shocked if Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans who is currently being drafted 3-4 rounds ahead Watkins is ranked below him at season’s end.


Indianapolis Colts: RB, Marlon Mack

I know a lot of Frank Gore owners will probably hate me for this, but the way I see it is Frank Gore can’t continue to perform this well forever. At age 34, father-time figures to catch-up to him and I think this may be the year it finally happens. Mack excites me and I can’t wait to see how he is used in the Colts offense that will hopefully feature Andrew Luck earlier rather then later in the season. His speed and agility gives them a valuable asset they haven’t had since Joseph Addai.


Good luck, grab your sleepers, avoid the busts, and happy drafting!

Old Faces, New Places

By Jack Drapkin

Inspired by seeing Victor Cruz salsa after scoring his first (preseason) touchdown for the Chicago Bears. I figured it was a good time to take a look at some familiar players donning new jerseys for the first time in their careers.

The criteria for this list was as follows: The player had to have played with only one team in his career previously and needed at least five seasons in the league. He also needed to be notable enough for you to care.

Jamaal Charles

Charles will be in his 9th career season and first outside Kansas City. He’s currently expected to be a part of a three-headed backfield with veteran CJ Anderson and young Devontae Booker. Charles will be looking to prove he still has ‘it’ after spending much of the last two seasons on IR.

Victor Cruz

Cruz will be playing in his first season outside of the Big Apple. In this instance, I think a fresh start is exactly what Cruz needed. After missing much of 2014 and all of 2015 with devasting knee and Achilles injuries, Cruz rebounded to post a respectable 586 receiving yards last year.

Lawrence Timmons

Timmons joining the Dolphins on a 10-million a year salary was shocking for many around the league. With the recent injury to 2nd-round linebacker Raekwon McMillan, Timmon’s role and importance to this team becomes even more significant.

Andrew Whitworth

Embarking on his 11th season, Whitworth will be hoping to solidify a Rams offensive line that has been a weak spot for many years now. A stalwart on the Bengals offensive line and 3x Pro Bowler expect Whitworth to still have a few good seasons left in him, especially with the warm weather in Los Angeles.

David Harris

After 10 seasons with the New York Jets, Harris will play for the rival Patriots in 2017. With over 700 tackles and 35 career sacks, Harris has nothing left to prove but would like to add a Super Bowl ring after all these years in the trenches.

Adrian Peterson

Arguably the greatest running back of his generation, Peterson will hope to have a career resurgence with Drew Brees and the Saints. With nearly 12,000 career rushing yards in his 10 seasons in the league, Peterson has put up some truly impressive numbers. However, after missing significant time in two of the past three seasons Peterson will have to show he still has that burst in his age-32 season.

Who Is Sam Darnold?

By Alexander C. Lawrence

By now just about everyone knows who Sam Darnold is and how he led the turnaround for USC as all hope for a successful season seemed lost with a record of 1-3. In comes the calm, cool, collected quarterback to save the day. No one saw them winning the Rose Bowl in dramatic fashion against Penn State, but regardless he impressed and raised a lot of eyebrows. The question remains who exactly is Sam Darnold?

A lot of people may think Darnold must’ve been groomed for the NFL level, but that simply isn’t the case. His parents made sure their son, Sam knew he wasn’t going to be forced to focus on one sport and that he had the choice of what his future sport would be. Growing up Sam played Football, Basketball, and Baseball so his parents let him get exposed to various sports.

He has showed a humbleness not many of us are familiar with. His tone doesn’t change; he just talks with a cool and calm sense whether it be about Josh Rosen or the Rose Bowl win that was the best college football game of 2017, if not this decade. He doesn’t have a big ego when reporters talk to him.

The only time I’ve seen Darnold give off a wrong impression was when he publicly told the Jets to not tank for him. Even that was not an overly huge deal, but still this young gun doesn’t lose a beat on or off the field and you love to see that in a young QB. He doesn’t care for the expectations placed on him, he just goes out and performs. He isn’t on social media so there is never the issue of the dramas and criticisms that it brings.

Sam Darnold is the popular top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and experts project the New York Jets to have the worst record, making them likely candidates to draft the USC product. With Quincy Enunwa out for the season and preparing for neck surgery and no clear cut answer at QB with McCown or Hackenberg primed to be the QB1 this season, the potential to grab Darnold is there.

The case to draft Darnold is strong, especially since the Jets’ defense has already started it’s rebuild there with LB Darron Lee and DL Leonard Williams (also a USC product). The offense is at a point where it needs a complete do-over and they have cleaned house already so now it’s time to develop that side of the ball through the draft and free agency in the coming years. And let’s be real why not root for the Jets to “Stink for Sam.” It won’t be pretty, but let’s prepare for the future of the Jets and let them grow the right way.

I don’t want to hear about the talk of the USC QB curse and will Darnold be next in line to endure it. Carson Palmer has been a fine QB for the Bengals and Cardinals over the course of his NFL career.  Let’s not even bother bringing up Mark Sanchez as the first three seasons there was reason to believe he was the answer for the Jets even though he came out of USC. Sure he didn’t pan out well, but Sanchez still played some exciting football early on.

Sam Darnold has already been praised as one of the best QBs USC has ever produced. Big title, but nothing Darnold can’t handle with his calm approach to the game. He is a true leader and that is what the Jets need and really any QB needy team would want.

For the time being Darnold is the favorite to win the Heisman award and looks to pick right back up from where he left off after that outstanding 52-49 Rose Bowl win against Penn State. He will be fun to watch and looks primed to make the leap from a great college QB to an elite one. Don’t worry about pressure getting to Sam’s head because he’s already mastered being under pressure and handled it smoothly thus far in his young career.

Time will tell if Darnold will be better than past QBs who have proven to be nothing more than average (talking about you Cody Keesler and Matt Barkley) but my guess is he will be the NFL’s next big star.