Joe Judge portrayed confidence following his team’s brutal loss to the Falcons Sunday afternoon. But is it believable?
“We’ll be alright, guys. Okay? We’ll be alright.”
These are the words Joe Judge muttered to the media following the Giants‘ tough 17-14 defeat at the hands of the Falcons Sunday. The team allowed a winning field goal from Younghoe Koo as time expired, spoiled Eli Manning’s jersey retirement ceremony, and dropped to 0-3 to start the year.
Judge is seemingly optimistic regarding this team and its direction, but you’d be hard-pressed to find reasons to believe him.
Various issues surround the team, all of which carry weight in this dreadful commencement to the regular season.
Offensive line issues
The Giants failed to truly address the offensive line this past offseason despite the fact the unit hasn’t been consistently impressive in what’s seemed like a decade.
Sure, you could’ve made the argument they didn’t need to make noteworthy moves via the draft or free agency — I was one of the individuals doing so. You could’ve said they were in a good spot moving forward with Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Will Hernandez, and Matthew Peart given the continuity element (each was with the team in 2020).
But at this moment, it’s looking like Dave Gettleman should’ve at least used one of his six draft picks on the group, even if it was for depth purposes.
While there is some belief in Peart, a 2020 third-round tackle out of UCONN, the second-year man couldn’t even beat out a 33-year-old Nate Solder (who didn’t play last year) for the starting right tackle job.
And it’s not like Solder is the most talented option either — the veteran has experienced his fair share of on-field issues and allowed a sack and forced fumble of Daniel Jones against the Falcons before the Giants punted it away with under two minutes remaining. The Falcons subsequently constructed their final drive en route to the winning field goal.
The Giants must also move forward without Lemieux and Gates, who have both suffered long-term injuries. While New York is optimistic it can return Lemieux (who underwent knee surgery) later in the year, Gates is definitely out for the season with a lower leg fracture.
The replacements are Ben Bredeson (in at left guard for Lemieux) and Billy Price (in at center for Gates), and neither has performed like a starting-caliber interior lineman.
Price has recorded an underwhelming 48.2 Pro Football Focus grade and has notched three penalties thus far, which are tied for the most at his position (and he’s only played 139 offensive snaps). Bredeson, on the other hand, has recorded an even worse 43.7 PFF grade through 170 offensive snaps.
Even selecting a solid interior lineman such as Tennessee’s Trey Smith or Alabama’s Deonte Brown in the middle or later rounds of the draft for depth purposes could’ve put the Giants in a better position than the one they’re in right now.
Overall, Big Blue is fielding Bredeson and Price, who haven’t even shown glimpses of reliability, Andrew Thomas, who hasn’t proven to be a legitimate left tackle in this league, Will Hernandez, who we saw struggle in 2019 and 2020, and a 33-year-old Nate Solder, who’s most certainly at the tail end of his career.
Not ideal, especially when you employ a young quarterback and uncreative play-caller.
And speaking of that play-caller…
Garrett’s offensive woes
There was slight optimism regarding this offensive unit coming off the Week 2 loss to Washington. The Giants scored 29 points and totaled 391 yards — both marks were the highest since Jason Garrett became the coordinator back in 2020.
But even after having nearly a week and a half to prepare for a Falcons defense that allowed 80 combined points through the first two weeks, Garrett and the Giants could only rack up 14 points in Week 3 and crossed the plane just once (a one-yard touchdown run for Saquon Barkley).
The Giants punted five times, couldn’t string together any sort of rhythm, and failed to portray creativity from a play-calling perspective.
It’s almost like it was expected. Even if you were optimistic coming out of the loss to Washington, the idea of this offense remaining stagnant against Atlanta was still a heavy possibility, given stagnation has been such a notable quality of this unit’s identity for much of the last two seasons.
Garrett also didn’t utilize Kadarius Toney a significant amount…again. The Giants exercised their No. 20 overall draft pick on Toney just to target him five times through his first three games.
While Kadarius did see more time than usual (66% of the offensive snaps against Atlanta in comparison to 8% and 28% of the offensive reps through the first two weeks), Garrett needs to get the ball in the first-rounder’s hands more often.
Get him out in space, run sweeps and touch pass-type plays with him, and make him a noteworthy part of the offensive game plans.
He’s a dynamic, elusive, and versatile talent — take advantage of that.
Saquon Barkley’s impact (or lack thereof)
Injury or not, it’s clear Saquon Barkley in 2021 hasn’t been the Saquon Barkley of 2018, when he led the league in scrimmage yards and earned the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
For the third straight game on Sunday, the fourth-year back sat under 60 rushing yards and actually regressed in both his rushing-yard and yards-per-carry marks from Week 2. Barkley totaled 51 yards on the ground for an average of 3.2 yards per carry after rushing for 57 yards for an average of 4.4 yards per carry against Washington.
One of the reasons why there was hope regarding Daniel Jones’ potential development was the return of Barkley following his 2020 ACL tear. But up to this point, it’s tough to really think of anything that Barkley has done this year that Devontae Booker can’t do or that Wayne Gallman couldn’t accomplish last year.
The Giants strung together a number of impressive performances on the defensive side of the ball last year but have failed to really do so in 2021.
New York allowed Teddy Bridgewater and Taylor Heinicke to combine for 600 passing yards through the first two weeks. And while the defense held Atlanta to just 17 points, the unit couldn’t come together in the final two minutes of the game — two-minute defense has been an issue for the Giants on various occasions since the beginning of last season.
The Giants are currently 21st in the NFL in average yards allowed, 21st in average passing yards allowed, and tied for 16th in average points allowed, rankings that aren’t impressive considering the talent they supposedly employ on that side of the ball.
Big Blue, with 14 games remaining in the regular season, must progress with numerous players out due to injury.
We spoke earlier about the injuries to Lemieux and Gates, which are affecting and will continue to affect the offensive line.
But now, star inside linebacker and defensive captain Blake Martinez is done for the year. The veteran, who led the team in tackles in 2020, suffered an ACL tear against Atlanta.
It’s unclear who will replace Martinez and perform alongside second-year inside linebacker Tae Crowder. But regardless, this is a huge loss. Blake is the quarterback of the defense, and moving forward without him will be a tough ask for a unit that’s already struggling.
So should fans believe Judge?
As was said earlier, Joe Judge believes the Giants will “be alright,” despite the 0-3 start and all the aforementioned reasons to be negative.
Injuries, various issues on the offensive end, and a defense that can’t remain consistent provide merit for any sort of pessimism.
Not to mention, the upcoming schedule doesn’t simplify anything — the Giants still need to face the Saints, Rams, Panthers, Chiefs, Raiders, Buccaneers, Chargers, and Cowboys twice.
Taking everything into consideration, “alright” doesn’t seem like the future state of this team…at all.
Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY