The New York Giants secondary struggled mightily on Sunday, as the team dropped their first game of the year, 35-17, to the Dallas Cowboys.
On Sunday, the New York Giants finally had the opportunity to show the world they were heading in the right direction. For the time being, people could stop talking about how they traded star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and how they let Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins walk, and just watch this team play football.
It was just a few hours of the Giants going up against the NFC East rival-Dallas Cowboys, a contest in which they were looking to prove that the struggling aspects of last year had improved. The offensive line did look better, that’s for sure. However, the main issue with them on Sunday, which proved to be a huge factor in the 35-17 loss, was the secondary.
The group behind the mostly-young front seven was abysmal, to say the least. A team that allowed 252.8 passing yards-per-game last season let Dak Prescott throw for 405 yards. Last season, the Cowboys quarterback averaged 242.8 passing yards-per-game. Prescott additionally completed 25 of his 32 passes, throwing for four touchdowns in the process.
On a day that a front seven held All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott to 53 yards on 13 carries, the secondary allowed Prescott to prove his worth more than ever in the midst of his contract talks.
Let’s start with the obviously blown coverage on the initial Cowboys touchdown to tight end Blake Jarwin. Oh look, the Giants screwing up a coverage against a tight end. That’s surely nothing new.
It seemed like free safety Antoine Bethea was supposed to cover the deep middle part of the field. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get there, as it seemed he crept up on that 2nd & 10 pass play late in the first quarter. Because of this, no one was covering the tight end.
It was an easy pitch and catch from Prescott to Jarwin. This, being one of the first missed assignments from Big Blue, led to the Cowboys tying the game at seven.
Now, to the rookie first-rounder DeAndre Baker.
Listen, I understand it was his first regular-season game in the pros. But Baker didn’t have the performance fans were all hoping for. The Giants traded away three picks in order to get back into the first round to select the then-University of Georgia cornerback.
They called on him to be in the starting lineup right away. However, it seemed like he was a step behind on receivers.
During a long, 47-yard gain at the beginning of the second quarter, Baker was step-for-step with wide receiver Michael Gallup split wide on the left side. However, Gallup was able to gain separation at the last minute to make the grab down the sideline.
This is something that Baker will definitely need to work on going forward. It’s not just about staying with your man but making a play on the ball as well.
Another play that Baker made a big mistake on was the touchdown he allowed late in the second quarter to Amari Cooper. Baker only allowed one touchdown in his entire tenure at Georgia, and he’s already matched that statistic through one game in the NFL.
All Cooper had to do was make one little move to the back corner of the end zone and Prescott knew exactly where he needed to put the ball. Approximately two seconds after taking the snap, the ball was out of Dak’s right throwing hand. Although a very accurate ball, Baker once again allowed for separation at the end. He didn’t even get his head around to make any sort of play on it either.
Not ideal for a guy who had such a great opportunity already in Week 1.
Quite possibly the most disappointing play from the secondary, however, was the one that didn’t even lead to a touchdown.
On a 3rd & 10 play from the Giants 18-yard line, cornerback Antonio Hamilton had a perfect opportunity to make a tackle on receiver Randall Cobb near the sideline, which would’ve forced a fourth down. Cobb put one simple stiff arm on Hamilton and was able to get a few extra yards out of the play for the first down.
Hamilton needs to get low on that play and either drive him back or to the sideline. He tried to play games in a sense with Cobb, attempting to reach to strip the ball at one point. Just make the tackle, that’s all that needs to be done in that situation.
It just goes to show that coverage problems aren’t the only issues with this current secondary at the moment.
With numerous other coverage mistakes from Hamilton, it’s interesting the Giants even played him over rookie Corey Ballentine initially. Big Blue should definitely look to go with Ballentine more often next week. The mistakes from Hamilton are inexcusable.
You could go on for so much longer about the number of missteps and slow starts off the ball the New York defensive backs had. You could also discuss how Jason Witten, once again, scored a touchdown against the Giants.
But the bottom line is this: the defensive backs lost the Giants this game. You can’t allow the opposing team’s star running back to only gain 53 yards and still lose like that. You can’t have an offensive line only give up 1.0 sack (averaged 2.93 per game last year) and still lose take that sort of defeat.
This 0-1 start to the season is on the core of defensive backs, both rookies and veterans. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher needs to make improvements with this group prior to their Week 2 matchup against the Bills. If not, this team could be going down the drain for what would be the third consecutive season.