Biggest Takeaways from New York Giants' Week 7 Win
The New York Giants (4-3) are sitting pretty atop the NFC East thanks to their 27-20 win over the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles’ 27-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
While a win is a win—and boy was this win exciting there toward the end—there are both good and bad takeaways from the game. So let’s run down this week’s list of things we learned about the Giants in their big division win.
The Run Defense Is Regressing
Yes, the Giants have played two very solid offensive lines in each of the last two games, but the fact remains that the run defense has gone backwards.
Over the last three weeks, the Giants’ once top-ranked run defense in the NFL has allowed 124, 158 and 233 rushing yards to opponents—515 yards total.
This week, they allowed Darren McFadden to run wild for 152 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. To put that number into perspective, McFadden’s yardage total is more than half of what New York allowed opponents in the first four weeks of the season.
I’ll be taking a closer look at what’s gone wrong with the run defense in an upcoming film study. To prepare for that, I asked head coach Tom Coughlin during his Monday conference call with reporters what the problem has been these last three weeks.
“We made some mistakes in terms of our responsibilities and how we play certain aspects of the run,” he said. “It’s a number of things; they blocked very well, we were sometimes out of position and sometimes not maintaining our leverage and contain responsibilities. Our tackling at times was shoddy.”
All of that is certainly correctable; the question is: Can they get it corrected before their next game?
Dwayne Harris Is Worth His $17.5 Million Contract
Remember how the Giants special teams were bad for years, especially in the return game?
So did general manager Jerry Reese, who aggressively pursued former Dallas return specialist and wide receiver Dwayne Harris, awarding him a $17.5 million contact over five years that, per Spotrac, included $4 million to sign and $7.1 million in guaranteed money.
So what has that gotten the Giants so far? Based on a review of the official game books, in every game this season, the Giants have won the battle of starting field position. Also, Harris’ return capability has the Giants currently ranked third in the league in kickoff return average (27.9 yards per return).
The cherry on the sundae? By luring Harris away from the Cowboys, the Giants in essence weakened their division rival, whose 21.7 yards per kickoff return is 21st in the league.
Ereck Flowers Is Truly a Stud
The Giants rookie left tackle might be a man of very few words, but when he says something, boy does it echo throughout the stadium.
Flowers, the Giants’ first-round draft pick this year, does his talking on the field, which is how it should be.
So while Dallas defensive end Greg Hardy, per Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN, was chirping about how he wanted Giants quarterback Eli Manning to “feel pain” from the Cowboys pass rush, Flowers was determined not to let that happen.
According to Paul Dottino of WFAN, Flowers played 22 of his snaps against Hardy and won 19 of those matchups. That’s not too shabby for a rookie whose NFL.com draft profile claimed he needed plenty of work in pass blocking.
Head Coach Tom Coughlin Isn't Playing Around
So let’s get this straight.
The Giants pass rush is virtually non-existent, so what does Coughlin do?
He benches his team’s sack leader, defensive end Damontre Moore (3.0 sacks).
You know what? Good for Coughlin, who practices what he preaches, and that is the team concept.
Simply put, if you hurt the team, as Moore did with his ill-advised body slam of Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford two weeks ago, you’re getting a timeout, regardless of who you are.
Although Coughlin twice in media sessions with reporters declined to share specifics regarding his conversations with Moore or if he felt like he could still trust Moore, his intent and message is crystal clear.
Moore, the very talented pass-rusher, had zero excuse for his late hit on Bradford.
Moore’s admission regarding his football IQ, despite this being his third NFL season, spoke volumes about his preparation (or lack thereof as would seem to be the case), and all of this is a big reason why Coughlin, who is rarely blunt with reporters, admitted that his trust in Moore had been dented.
Although Coughlin wouldn’t come right out and say it, he sent a message to Moore and to the rest of the team for that matter that a lack of preparation in what is a critical season for the entire organization will not be tolerated, no matter what your stats are.
Orleans Darkwa Is No Fluke
Just because a player excels in the preseason and makes the 53-man roster doesn’t necessarily mean that player is destined for great things.
Running back Orleans Darkwa, the Giants’ leading rusher in the preseason, proved to his coaches and teammates that his preseason performance, which mostly came against backups and players who are probably no longer in the NFL, was very much the real deal.
This week, he led the Giants with eight carries and manufactured 48 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown.
“We have a lot of talented vets on the roster, and I just had to wait on my opportunity, and fortunately [this week], I was able to get my opportunity and make the most of it,” Darkwa said.
Perhaps even more admirable is that Darkwa was patient enough to keep chopping away at the wood to where, despite having three healthy veterans ahead of him with more experience, his number was called.
“I was able to get some experience last year with running the ball and in the preseason, so it wasn’t anything new. Just act like I’ve been there before; that was my mentality, and I was able to make something good out of it.”
Darkwa’s showing has now created a very pleasant problem for the coaching staff, which is how to distribute the snaps among the running backs, a group that also includes Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen.
“I think right now it depends on the plan and the type of game we expect and how we strategize and plan on using,” head coach Tom Coughlin said.
“But the four healthy guys…that’s a great thing, believe me. When you look around at the different positions, four guys that continue to maintain good health, that helps an awful lot.”
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.
Follow me on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.