What alchemy is this?
Tucked inside all the losing and, finally, a break in the losing, is a heavy dose of roster manipulation and deployment going on with the Giants. If Joe Judge turns out to be a head coach for the long haul, this will be one of the hallmarks of his success.
Making the most with what you have is easier said than done. Judge’s first Giants team is a flawed and under-talented collection of holdovers, newcomers and too many youngsters – 19 of them in their first or second NFL season. Experimentation is ongoing. Judge and his staff identified a few indispensable players on both sides of the ball. Everyone else is negotiable.
The results are 1-5 in the standings and yet impressive as far as the systematic way Judge filters players on and off the field. This bodes well for the future, when (presumably) the roster is fortified and failure is not the overriding reason for lineup changes. There is opportunity, evaluation and response, all quick and decisive. It is onto the next and then, if necessary, the next.
Corey Ballentine and then Isaac Yiadom and now Ryan Lewis at right cornerback. Lewis played all 73 snaps on defense in the 20-19 break-the-seal victory over Washington and, for now, is the entrenched starter.
Rookie Tae Crowder got to dip his toe in the water for a few games and the seventh round pick is now part of the rotation. He was on the field for 85 percent of the snaps at inside linebacker and his 43-yard touchdown return of a fumble provided the winning points. He was ushered into the end zone by another rookie, Cam Brown, who received five snaps on defense, at outside linebacker. This is the way for Judge. Give a little, then a little more and then either retrench or advance. Watch Brown’s role increase in the coming weeks.
Another rookie linebacker, Carter Coughlin, got his first snaps (all three of them) on defense and no one will be surprised if his usage rises.
Even with Lorenzo Carter out for the season and Oshane Ximines on injured reserve, Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham did not turn to veteran Markus Golden, who was in for only 24 snaps on defense (33 percent). Clearly, Crowder’s movement is more attractive to this staff than Golden’s pass-rush chops.
What has gone down on the offensive line is almost revolutionary. It is rare to sprinkle in players at a position where continuity is king. Yet this is what Judge has done, getting a series here or there for rookie Matt Peart, subbing in at right tackle for veteran Cam Fleming – in the heart of the game and not run-out-the-clock time. This is not business as usual.
Then rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas is late for a team meeting Saturday night and gets yanked from the starting lineup. He is replaced by Peart, who plays the first quarter. Thomas plays the second and early in the third but misses a block that gets Devonta Freeman dropped for a one-yard loss on third-and-1. Peart replaces Thomas. Then Thomas finished up the game in the fourth quarter.
Final snap count: Peart 26, Thomas 22. The Giants allowed a season-low five quarterback pressures in the game and rookie defensive end Chase Young was not much of a factor, with two tackles (one for loss), no sacks and no quarterback hits.
Finding playing time for first-year offensive linemen during the non-stop beat of a season is difficult. Judge has found a way. Is there any doubt Peart will start a game (or several) at some point at right tackle?
Judge has a plan and is executing that plan.
More that filtered out of victory No. 1 for the Giants
– The trade deadline arrives Nov. 3 and it makes sense for the Giants to try and unload receiver Golden Tate. The problem is, Tate is not producing and there is no reason to believe a receiver-needy contender would have any interest in him. Tate’s playing time is going down – 30 of the 48 snaps on offense against Washington – and in five games he has only 19 catches for 156 yards (a pedestrian 8.2 yard average). He was targeted only once on Sunday, hauling in an 11-yard pass on third-and-10. Tate was signed as an immediate (knee-jerk?) replacement after Odell Beckham Jr. was traded away but his four-year, $37.5 million deal was really a two-year commitment. He is scheduled to count $10.8 million on the salary cap in 2021 and there is no way that will happen. The Giants are thin at receiver, especially until Sterling Shepard returns from a turf toe injury, but this coaching staff is willing to taking a look at youngsters and there are a bunch of them on the practice squad. Rookie Austin Mack made his NFL debut and will likely stay on the roster.
– This game-planning game by game is serious stuff. Wayne Gallman gave the running game a little juice for two games and it figured his attempts would increase as a result. Think again. Gallman was on the field for four snaps on offense and did not get a rushing attempt. All 18 carries for the running backs went to Devonta Freeman. This has got to be frustrating for Gallman, whose career with the Giants has been a series of starts and stops.
– If it seemed unfamiliar for the Giants to score on defense to turn the tide late in a game, go with that feeling. You are correct. Crowder’s 43-yard scoop-and-score touchdown for the winning points was the Giants’ first go-ahead defensive touchdown in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime in 21 years. The last time it happened? Some guy named Michael Strahan returned an interception 44 yards to beat the Eagles (at old Veteran’s Stadium) on Halloween in 1999. Crowder is the first Giants rookie to score on defense since cornerback Bruce Johnson did it in 2009.
– How is this possible? The Giants won despite 108 net passing yards, their lowest total in four years and their lowest total in a victory in 13 years. That victory was significant, though, at it came Dec. 23, 2007 in Buffalo in crazy weather and clinched a playoff spot, as rookie Ahmad Bradshaw ran wild. The Giants beat Washington despite Daniel Jones in his 18th start establishing lows in passing attempts (19), completions (12) and yards (112).
– The last time a Giants quarterback ran for more than the 74 yards Jones had against Washington was Dec. 30, 1990, when Jeff Hostetler gained 82 yards in a victory in New England. Jones’ 49-yard run was the longest by a Giants quarterback in the Super Bowl era. Jones on that sprint on a read-option reached 20.64 miles an hour, according to Next Gen stats. The only players clocking in with faster speeds on Sunday were Robby Anderson, D’Andre Swift, Lamar Jackson, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derrick Henry.