The New York Giants are a mess right now, after taking a 30-10 drubbing in Tampa Bay on MNF. Their head coach Joe Judge fired his OC Jason Garrett, which kinda feels like a scapegoat move since Garrett had been given a rag-tag assemblage of broken talent on his watch. Maybe Freddie Kitchens takes over the playcalling, maybe Judge does it himself, but either way they cannot deny how beat up and demoralized their offensive unit remains.
But beware of the dead cat bounce when any coach is fired mid-season. Often, if even only for a game or two, the players respond with renewed vigor. EYE guess Joe Judge is counting on that. And that spells TRAP GAME for Eagles…
This season has not gone the way it was planned for the Giants. The money they spent in the offseason, including an expensive WR1 in Kenny Golladay, and the return of a healthy Saquon Barkley meant the Giants should be set up to challenge for a division that was ripe for the picking for any of the four teams in the NFC East. As we approach Week 12, the Giants find themselves at the bottom of it.
Their offensive line has taken a lot of heat for the poor performances. But some of that also sits with QB Daniel Jones and his decision-making and a less-than-desirable offensive playbook. Coming off of a bye, the Giants had over two weeks to prepare for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. Yet, they scored just 10 points, turned the ball over twice, and again failed to involve the key components of their offense.
Barkley’s health status is questionable, to say the least. He had 6 carries all night for a 25-yard rushing total. Golladay, meanwhile, their $72M receiver, had just 1 catch for 12 yards. Granted he’s missed time through injury, but the Giants have yet to find Golladay in the end zone.
The Eagles come into this one off the back of a two-game winning streak, with nice wins over the Broncos and Saints. The run puts them right back in the conversation in the NFC East, just a game behind a Cowboys team that appears to be slowing down.
QB Jalen Hurts has made it work for the Eagles and done what’s necessary to help the team win. There are still question marks around the offense, which lacks receiver depth (outside of rookie WR DeVonta Smith and TE Dallas Goedert).
If the Eagles are on form, they should win this game. They’re trending in the right direction, and their only loss in the last four weeks came against the Chargers. This Giants team is struggling to move the ball effectively.
But there’s the TRAP… Suddenly a revised playbook, a chip on the shoulder and an emotional motivation against a divisional opponent which many Giants personnel still believe tanked the final game last season to cost the Giants a shot at the title.
Giants HC Joe Judge fired Garrett and declined to name an interim offensive coordinator Tuesday in favor of handling adjustments “collaboratively in-house” over the next week. It’s a move a boisterous segment of the fan base clamored for as the Giants averaged just 18.9 points per game with playmakers Saquon Barkley, Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay and others in and out of the lineup.
Freddie Kitchens — the former Browns head coach, Judge’s friend of 17 years and an undefined senior offensive assistant for the Giants — is expected to handle game-day play-calling, a source told The Post. But Judge curiously would not commit to Kitchens and left open all possibilities, including that he could call plays despite his primarily special teams background and one year coaching receivers for the Patriots.
“Freddie has a very aggressive approach to the game,” Judge said Tuesday when pressed on Kitchens. “Freddie has done a good job in terms of using his players and creating matchups and situations where they can have success, and he calls it with a degree of multiples and variables, which present problems to opponents. He sees it through the lens of the player, in terms of creating plays for the player. That’s a valuable asset.”
Kitchens has coached offensive line, running backs and tight ends but has limited play-calling experience. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield won 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year after Kitchens took over in-season, but the offense tanked in Kitchens’ one year as head coach and play-caller.
Kitchen’s offense showed creativity, but he already added Browns-tried wrinkles like the jet sweep, Wildcat quarterback and wishbone offense to the Giants offense. It didn’t end the perception that Garrett’s offense, especially route concepts, were stuck in the Norv Turner-mold of the 1990s.
“I wouldn’t say a [whiz kid]-type coordinator is the primary answer,” ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday said. “There is nothing about the Patriots’ offense right now that is super-complicated and one of the newer styles. The Giants, at their best, had Eli Manning doing what was not complicated.
“You have to be committed to what you are asking guys to do. What they need to do is come in with a clear and decisive plan, be very player-specific in what you are going to go after the next four weeks. And, by the way, you can evaluate players much better that way for the future.”
If the offense continues to struggle, then the pressure intensifies on Judge, GM Dave Gettleman and others involved in choosing high-priced free agents and draft picks to bolster the offense.
“They are still trying to figure out who they are,” an NFL scout said. “They should do more middle-zone runs with RPO concepts behind it. They don’t know how to utilize Saquon — who is a bigger, stronger Reggie Bush — or get the other guys the ball in space. They’ve got a bunch of misfits when you put it all together and look at individual strengths.”
Maybe it’s my own insecurity talking, but when you boil it all down, you get all the distilled ingredients of a trap game for the Eagles.
The Eagles’ best defense in this one will be their offense— score early and score often. If their run game keeps up its recent pace, the odds are with the Birds. With Jordan Howard’s status up in the air for Sunday’s game at New York because of a knee injury, the Eagles will be ready to rely on the three-headed attack of Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Kenny Gainwell in the offensive backfield.
But don’t undersell the Giants’ defense. Eagles OC Shane Steichen is reminding his players to expect a tough battle.
“(Defensive lineman Leonard) Williams is a really good player. It starts upfront with him. He’s good in the run game, pass game, rushing the passer. And then on the outside with (Adoree’) Jackson and the other corner, (James) Bradberry, those guys are good players,” Steichen said. “I think this, and this is my first year in the division, but any time you play a division opponent, I mean, it’s going to be a battle. It doesn’t matter what the records are, how anyone’s playing, it’s from start to finish when you play a division opponent, so we have to be ready to go.”
As the Eagles have run the ball so effectively, they have reduced the number of pass attempts and, thus, pass completions from quarterback Jalen Hurts. While tight end Dallas Goedert and wide receiver Devonta Smith have stayed busy with targets and receptions, the opportunities have been more limited for wide receivers Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins.
New York’s defense could load up on the run game and keep an extra player in the box, and that’s something Steichen and the coaching staff understand could be coming. It won’t change what the Eagles are doing, who have the X-factor weapon in quarterback Jalen Hurts. If defenses want to take away the run, the Eagles need to counter it.
But be forewarned, the trap is set. Do not expect an easy win.