The bad news for the New York Giants: They don’t have any more games against the Washington Commanders on the schedule. The Giants are 2-0 against their division rivals from Washington and 1-8 against all other opponents this season.
Here’s a final review of the Giants’ latest triumph over the Commanders:
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The plan for undrafted rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito was to spend this season on the practice squad developing behind Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor. Ideally, DeVito would have shown enough in practice to make him a viable candidate to serve as the backup quarterback in his second season.
Well, that timeline got expedited. With Jones out for the season because of a torn ACL and Taylor on injured reserve with broken ribs, DeVito has started the past two games. He’ll at least get one more start against the Patriots on Sunday before Taylor is eligible to return from IR.
There’s no better audition for DeVito’s future than starting games, although it looked like he may have been a victim of overexposure in his first appearances. But DeVito looked like a far more confident — and competent — quarterback in Sunday’s 31-19 win over the Commanders. He completed 18-of-26 passes for 246 yards, three touchdowns and, perhaps most importantly, no turnovers.
If DeVito was put in an impossible situation in his first start against a swarming Cowboys defense, he couldn’t have found a softer landing spot than facing off with the atrocious Commanders defense on Sunday. The Patriots represent something in the middle, although a Bill Belichick-coached defense coming off a bye could have DeVito’s head spinning.
The biggest area DeVito needs to improve is his pocket presence. He was sacked nine times by the Commanders, and coach Brian Daboll repeatedly mentioned after the game that the sacks weren’t all the fault of the offensive line.
Pro Football Focus assigned two of the sacks to offensive linemen (left guard Justin Pugh, center John Michael Schmitz) and one to running back Saquon Barkley. That means six of the sacks were attributed to DeVito.
It’s obvious — and understandable — that DeVito hasn’t yet developed the internal clock needed to operate against an NFL pass rush. He took one sack when he simply didn’t throw a screen to Barkley on the first play of the second half. There was no other option on the play, so once DeVito ate the ball, a sack was inevitable. Other sacks came as DeVito tried to escape the pocket but couldn’t get back to the line of scrimmage before getting tackled.
On a failed fourth-and-2 in the second quarter, DeVito didn’t pull the trigger despite a mesh concept springing two receivers open over the middle and Barkley having two steps on a deep route. DeVito held the ball and was nearly sacked, but he spun away before throwing a wild incompletion.
Obviously, DeVito has a long way to go in his development, and it’s unfair to hold an undrafted rookie to the same standard as the experienced veterans on the depth chart. He also overcame his issues to deliver the Giants’ first three-touchdown pass performance since Jones in the 2019 season.
The question is if DeVito will develop better pocket presence as he gets more experience navigating NFL pass rushes.
“I think it’s something innate that (good quarterbacks) have that they can keep their eyes down the field, stay in the pocket, move a little bit, maybe get out when they have to — an instinctive feel that the good ones that I’ve been around have done a good job with that,” Daboll said.
Plan on point
The Giants unveiled a completely different offensive game plan from their 14-7 win over the Commanders in Week 7.
No. 2 quarterback Tyrod Taylor started that game and top tight end Darren Waller was in the lineup. The Giants leaned heavily on 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) in the first meeting. With Waller (hamstring) on injured reserve, the Giants played almost exclusively in 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) on Sunday. The Giants went with a hurry-up offense, and DeVito was trusted to throw the ball despite his inexperience. The Giants called 25 pass plays compared to eight runs in the first half.
Whatever the Giants have dialed up against the Commanders has worked this season. The Giants have scored four offensive touchdowns in the first halves of games this season. All four have come against Washington.
Small change, big result
Barkley made a subtle adjustment to set up his 24-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Washington’s edge rushers had been chipping Barkley as he released on routes, so he widened his alignment significantly.
Barkley was lined up behind right tackle Tyre Phillips before the snap, which allowed him a free release. From there, he burned linebacker Jamin Davis on a wheel route and made a tough catch of a 24-yard strike from DeVito in the end zone. Davis, a 2021 first-round pick, has been overmatched by Barkley in coverage during their matchups.
Part of the future?
It’s easy to write off Giants safety Xavier McKinney because of missteps like his bye week ATV accident last year or his recent public criticisms of defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. But McKinney remains one of the Giants’ best defensive players, and he provided a reminder of that Sunday.
McKinney was all over the field, recording 12 tackles, one tackle for a loss and a fumble recovery. McKinney, who notched five interceptions in 2021, hasn’t made many splash plays this season, but he’s a versatile, reliable piece in a young secondary.
McKinney is set to become a free agent. Letting talented homegrown 24-year-olds walk isn’t a good formula to build a winning team. And for whatever personality questions surround McKinney, he’s been elected a captain the past two seasons and continues to break down the team huddles before and after games.
Not every player on a 53-man roster is always going to behave perfectly. Teams can tolerate more from players who make a big impact on the field.
The Giants haven’t initiated extension talks with McKinney, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the sides are far apart when they enter negotiations after the season. But re-signing McKinney should be a priority at the right price despite some of his transgressions.
Doing his part
It’s no secret linebacker Isaiah Simmons would like a bigger role on the defense. But Bobby Okereke never leaves the field, and Micah McFadden has been playing at a high level.
Simmons has mostly replaced McFadden in obvious passing situations, but his playing time dipped in the previous two games due to opponents leaning on the run while leading. Simmons barely played in the first three and a half quarters Sunday before playing every snap on the Commanders’ final two drives because they were throwing every play in catch-up mode.
Simmons made the most of his opportunity, sealing the game by snatching a pass floated by Commanders quarterback Sam Howell into the flat in the final seconds. Simmons returned the interception 54 yards for a touchdown to end the game.
It’s unlikely that Simmons’ role will expand because he’s not a strong run defender, but his athleticism provides value on passing downs.
Giants cornerback Deonte Banks blasted the Commanders and wide receiver Terry McLaurin during a rant on Instagram from the locker room immediately after the game. Banks, who was selected with the 24th pick by the Giants, slammed the Commanders for not taking him with the 16th pick.
“Could have came and got me at 16, and they didn’t,” Banks said. “Now I’m 2-0 against you bum-ass boys. F— the Commanders. They think they slick. They (will) see me two times a year until the end of my career.”
Banks went on to ask rhetorically if McLaurin played in the game after Washington’s No. 1 receiver was limited to five catches and 43 yards.
“I’m just trying to figure out though, did (McLaurin) play today?” Banks said. “That’s all I want to know. Did he play today? Did he play? I just want to know if he played.”
Banks, who grew up in Baltimore and attended Maryland, clearly harbors bitterness toward the local NFL team for choosing Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes over him in the first round. The McLaurin comments seem to be a continuation of the on-field trash talk from their Week 7 matchup when the receiver tallied six catches for 90 yards.
Broadcasting those thoughts on social media was ill-advised. And Banks had some rough moments in the game, getting beat by wide receiver Jahan Dotson for an 8-yard touchdown to pull the Commanders within 24-19 with 2:16 remaining. Banks also had a weak tackle attempt on a 7-yard touchdown scramble by Howell in the second quarter.
Banks otherwise played well in coverage, but he didn’t shadow McLaurin, so it was a team effort to limit Washington’s top receiving threat with a zone-heavy game plan. Most top cornerbacks are cocky, but Banks will likely learn to stay off of social media streams after games.
The Giants have owned the Commanders recently, but their matchups tend to come down to the wire. The Giants were in control for most of Sunday’s game, but things got dicey late.
A field goal gave the Giants a 24-12 with 6:48 remaining. The Commanders then embarked on a marathon 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to close to within 24-19 with 2:16 left.
Giants miscues extended the drive numerous times. Simmons and cornerback Darnay Holmes stuffed a Howell sneak on fourth-and-1 from New York’s 30, but linebacker Jihad Ward lined up in the neutral zone to gift the Commanders five yards and a first down.
The Commanders would have been facing a third-and-10 two plays later after a Howell incompletion, but linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux hit the quarterback in the helmet to draw a roughing the passer penalty. Okereke nearly ended the drive on the next play by punching the ball out of the arm of running back Brian Robinson, but Simmons failed to secure the loose ball that was recovered by McLaurin.
The Commanders finally capitalized with the 8-yard touchdown pass to Dotson. The Giants then had a quick three-and-out on two Barkley runs and a DeVito scramble.
The Commanders got the ball back at their own 19-yard line with 1:49 remaining. They drove 29 yards over the next 1:20 before Simmons’ pick-six ended the game.
Daboll didn’t provide an update on the arm injury that knocked wide receiver Darius Slayton out of Sunday’s game. The injury derailed a potentially huge game, as Slayton had four catches for 82 yards and one touchdown before leaving late in the first half.
Otherwise, Daboll said they came out of the game “pretty clean” on the injury front. Daboll said there were “a couple of nicks and bruises.” That description likely applies to left tackle Andrew Thomas, who was slow to get up after a few plays on Sunday. Thomas, who recently returned from a seven-game absence due to a hamstring injury, is playing through the sprained MCL in his left knee he suffered last week.
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No more kicking the can
It’s decision time in the Giants’ bizarre kicking saga. After Graham Gano (knee) went on injured reserve in Week 9, the Giants signed veteran Randy Bullock to the practice squad and second-year pro Cade York to the active roster in a 24-hour span.
Bullock has been elevated from the practice squad for the past three games, making both of his field goals and all six of his point-after attempts. York, who has been working through mechanical issues that led to his release a year after the Browns drafted him in the fourth round, has been a healthy scratch each week.
With Bullock out of practice squad elevations, the Giants have three options: 1. Promote Bullock to the active roster, cut York (and possibly re-sign him to the practice squad); 2. Promote Bullock to the active roster, keep York and carry two kickers; 3. Don’t promote Bullock, use York as the kicker.
Option No. 1 makes the most sense, but it’s unpredictable since juggling two kickers for the past three weeks has been odd.
There was confusion as the Giants’ field goal block team came onto the field for a 42-yard attempt by the Commanders in the third quarter. The Giants wound up with only nine players on the field, with defensive linemen A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches not in their typical spots on the line.
Commanders kicker Joey Slye, who had missed an extra point earlier in the game, got a low kick just over the hand of linebacker Carter Coughlin to make the field goal to cut the Giants’ lead to 14-12. There have been far too many substitution errors under this coaching staff, although it’s better to be missing players than to have too many in that situation.
(Photo: Michael Owens / Getty Images)
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