In this edition of Cover 3, the crew reviews the first half of the season to see what it means for the rest of the year.
John Schmeelk: The Giants are at the halfway point and are 1-7. Here is a cliché for you ... "You are what your record says you are." - Bill Parcells
It doesn't matter that the Giants' last three losses have come down to the final possession. They have ended in losses. When this portion of the season is remembered years from now, people will remember 1-7, not how the team got to 1-7. But this season can also remembered for what the Giants do with their final eight games.
There is no magic formula to finish games or a special switch that can get flipped to make those couple of plays in the fourth quarter turn around a game. Many of these losses can actually be traced back to mistakes earlier in the game. Looking back won't do this team any good. All the team can do is continue to improve to the point where they begin to win some of these battles.
Here are where the Giants need to continue to improve – and turn some losses into wins - as the season progresses.
- Can the offensive line continue to improve in pass protection?
- Can the offense begin to make more explosive plays? This has to do with consistent pass protection and the quarterback finding synergy with his receivers.
- Can the Giants' pass rush and coverage better compliment each other to prevent other teams from moving the ball down the field when needed?
- Can the team cut down on crucial mistakes, such as turnovers and penalties?
- Can the Giants continue to run the football consistently?
The Giants are playing a lot of young and inexperienced players. There is reason to believe those players can continue to improve with more snaps. Progress from those young players on their rookie contracts will be essential for the evaluation of the roster heading into 2021. Despite the record, the remaining games of this season can still be very valuable to the future of the Giants.
Dan Salomone: There was a time when no one was sure the NFL would even get to the midway point – or starting point, for that matter. So, you have to remember to put the Giants' season in that context. They virtually installed a new offense and defense with a coaching staff and roster that looked nothing like it did at the start of the new year. Fans may understand that, but that doesn't mean they want to hear it.
As coach Joe Judge said after the Giants' loss to the Buccaneers on Monday night, "We're not asking for moral victories. We understand the people of New York deserve better, so we've got to keep working to be better for them."
And, really, that was Judge's goal from Day 1. Be better on Day 2, and be better than that on Day 3. You don't build the Empire State Building by washing the windows. Laying the foundation brick by brick was always going to be the target of his laser focus – which he learned from two of the greatest coaches in the history of football – and grew in importance throughout this upside-down year. In Judge's long-term view, the first-year head coach believes they are on track, and Monday night's down-to-the-wire performance against one of the hottest teams in the league and the most accomplished quarterback of all-time backs it up.
"I see a lot of improvement," Judge said after the game. "I'm proud of the way our guys are working day by day, sticking together. We got a really good foundation and culture being built in this building right now, and we've got a lot of really good guys to build this thing with for the long term. So if you were going to ask me, the first year, how I'd classify it, I see an improving team that is developing in the division going forward."
Lance Medow: Although the Giants are 1-7 at the midway point of the season, it's important to note, six of their eight games have been decided by one possession and five by four points or less. This is not about moral victories because they don't count in the standings, but it does highlight the fine line between a win and a loss and how the Giants' margin for error is essentially non-existent. That's why if you were to ask me what has defined the first half of the season, I would easily say turnovers and penalties.
The Giants' turnover differential (-5) ranks 28th in the NFL and they're tied for the third-most giveaways (15). Let's do a little exercise. Right behind New York in turnover differential are the Vikings (-6) and their record is 2-5, followed by Denver (-7), which is 3-4. The Eagles (-7) and Cowboys (-11) round out the final two teams and their respective records are 3-4-1 and 2-6. The common theme: every team has a losing record and that's no coincidence.
The Giants have yet to play a clean football game this season. They've had at least one turnover in every game and have lost the turnover battle six times. Let's not forget, last season the Giants finished tied for last in turnover differential (-17) and went 4-12, which further proves those two items go hand-in-hand. In Monday's loss to the Bucs, Daniel Jones' two interceptions each came when the Giants had great field position. The first one at the beginning of the third quarter, following a 44-yard kickoff return, when they were at their own 46 and the second came after they advanced to the Tampa Bay 34.
If turnovers are atop the list, penalties are a close second. The Giants have had at least seven penalties in three of their last four games and have 44 on the season (tied for 15th). The timing of these flags have been brutal. Six of New York's seven penalties against the Bucs came in the second half and in the prior game against the Eagles, seven of their season-high nine penalties piled up in the final six minutes of the game (with five against the defense).