For the second-straight week, the Baltimore Ravens (9-5) will face an unfamiliar opponent. They have not faced the New York Giants (5-9) since 2016. For that reason, Ed Valentine, managing editor of Big Blue View, and I exchanged a few questions to familiarize one another on the current state of their respective beats.
It’s been four long years since the Ravens and Giants squared off. Can you give a brief synopsis for us? For goodness sake, last time they met Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes to Odell Beckham Jr.
Since 2016? I could write a book, but I’ll give you the Cliff’s notes.
Went 3-13 in 2017 and fired both coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese before the season ended. Overall, they have gone just 17-45 since making the playoffs in 2016. Pat Shurmur was hired to replace McAdoo, then fired two years later. Joe Judge is now a rookie head coach, and an impressive one. Odell Beckham was traded to Cleveland. Dave Gettleman is in his third year as GM and many fans want him fired.
Here’s the thing. This Giants team finally seems to be showing signs that things are beginning to change. That change is moving slowly, but they seem to have some good things happening that bring some optimism for the future.
While I understand the Giants could still win the NFC East this year, I would like your opinion on how far the Giants are from being a playoff team that stands above .500?
The answer is that they are close, and yet they are still miles away. That is because they have a few very specific needs, but those needs are difficult to fill and there is no guarantee they will get what they need.
First and foremost, they need second-year quarterback Daniel Jones to take a big step forward in 2021. He shows talent, toughness and a lot of great things. Yet, he has an infuriating tendency to make the big mistake.
They need a healthy Saquon Barkley. They need their young offensive line to continue getting better. They need playmakers at wide receiver. They just don’t have enough out there. They need a premier pass rusher. They probably need one more quality cornerback.
The path is there. You can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel. Can they get the things they need?
A few weeks ago, the Giants flew to Seattle and took down the Seahawks with a final score of 17-12. After that game though, they have only scored a total of 13 points in their last two weeks. Why is this?
Well, the biggest issue has been the health — or lack thereof — of Daniel Jones. he suffered a hamstring injury Week 12 against Cincinnati. Colt McCoy played against Seattle, and the defense really won that game for New York. Jones played against Arizona, but really couldn’t move and probably should not have. He suffered an ankle sprain in addition to the hamstring and did not play last week against the Cleveland Browns.
Now, Jones is not Lamar Jackson running with the ball. His legs, though, are incredibly important to the Giants’ offense. When he got hurt he was the Giants’ leading rusher, and the zone read was a huge part of their offense. They haven’t run a single zone read with the quarterback keeping the ball since. Jones’ ability to use his legs to escape the pocket is also critical. So, Jones’ health has been a big part of it.
The other reality is that the Giants just don’t have enough dynamic playmakers. There is no Saquon Barkley. Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris are doing a nice job and can be fun to watch, but they aren’t going to make guys miss at the second level and turn 10-yard runs into 75-yard touchdowns like Barkley can.
The Giants also need help at wide receiver. Darius Slayton is an explosive guy, but not a true No. 1 receiver. Giants’ receivers don’t fare well when you look at separation or yards after catch.
I’m stealing your question but adding a bit of a twist. Who is the one player you would take from the Ravens’ roster not named “Lamar Jackson?” Why?
This is hard, and I think I hate you a little bit for it. I think the answer comes down to a healthy Ronnie Stanley or cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
In the end, I’m going with Humphrey. The Giants drafted Andrew Thomas No. 4 overall to play left tackle, and despite some struggles this season I think he’s going to be a very good one. They are also very high on rookie Matt Peart, a third-round pick, and think he could be their right tackle of the future. So, as much as I’d love to have Stanley I’m going to ride with Thomas and Peart and see where it goes.
The Giants have James Bradberry at cornerback, and he’s been fantastic. The problem has been at the other corner, which has been a revolving door although Isaac Yiadom has been good lately.
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has had to play far more soft zone coverage than he wants to. Humphrey is a terrific player and would give the Giants two cornerbacks capable of manning up on pretty much any receivers in the league. So, yeah, give me Humphrey.
Who are two players (one offense, one defense) Ravens’ fans should key in on during Sunday’s matchup?
On offense, I will say Darius Slayton. I could give you a bunch of different guys, but the Giants need explosive plays on offense and haven’t been getting them. Slayton has the ability to give them those, but it has been a while.
On defense, Leonard Williams is having a career year. This could be such a run-heavy game if you like watching big people, pay attention to Dexter Lawrence. A 340-350 pound guy shouldn’t be able to move the way he does.