Saquon Barkley heads one list, Curtis Riley heads the other
Good morning, New York Giants fans! Let’s get down to the business of our final “Kudos & Wet Willies” review of the 2018 season after the Giants lost 36-35 to the Dallas Cowboys.
Kudos to …
Saquon Barkley — “He’s going to be fun to watch around here for a very long time.”
That was coach Pat Shurmur after watching Barkley gain 109 yards on 17 carries while becoming the third rookie in NFL history to surpass 2,000 yards from scrimmage and break the record for catches by a rookie running back. He reached 2,000 yards with a 68-yard run, and had a leaping 2-yard touchdown.
Cody Latimer — Latimer had two spectacular left-handed catches, one for a 21-yard touchdown and one for 31 yards that gave the Giants first-and-goal at the Dallas 7-yard line in the fourth quarter, setting up Barkley’s go-ahead touchdown. He finished with four catches. Latimer also had a 34-yard kickoff return to give the Giants a chance near midfield on their final possession of the game.
Evan Engram — The second-year tight end continued a strong finish to the season with five receptions in eight targets for 81 yards and a touchdown. His longest reception was a 51-yard catch and run. Finally healthy after a pair of injuries this season, Engram had 22 receptions over the Giants’ final four games. That picked up much of the slack in the absence of Odell Beckham Jr.
Pass rush — The Giants’ pass rush had what was likely its best game of the season. Olivier Vernon, subject of much offseason speculation regarding his future with the Giants, issued a strong closing argument with 2.5 sacks to bring his season total to 7.0 in 11 games. He also had six quarterback hits. Lorenzo Carter had a sack, ending his rookie season with 4.0. B.J. Hill shared a sack with Vernon, ending his rookie year with 5.5. The Giants had four sacks, 10 quarterback hits and often had Dak Prescott on the run.
Wet Willies to …
Curtis Riley — The ridiculous lack of effort below got the Giants’ free safety benched.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) December 30, 2018
The play, a third quarter 39-yard touchdown for Dallas tight end Blake Jarwin, obviously did not sit well with coach Pat Shurmur.
“You’ve got to fight, you’ve got to play, and you’ve got to lay it all out there,” Shurmur said.
Riley certainly didn’t do so on that play. His inability to tackle has been a weak spot on the Giants’ defense all season, and his 22 missed tackles before Sunday led all safeties. Sunday’s debacle probably helped ensure that the Giants will look to upgrade the position this offseason.
The Giants’ secondary — Even with an excellent pass rush, the Giants allowed Prescott (27-of-44) to shred them for 387 yards passing and four touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns were by a mostly uncontested Jarwin, an unheralded second-year tight end who had zero NFL touchdowns before Sunday. He ended up tying his career high with seven catches in eight targets for 119 yards. The Giants also somehow allowed Cole Beasley to run free in the back of the end zone for a 32-yard game-winning touchdown on fourth-and-15. Of course, Riley earned a seat on the bench, Landon Collins is on IR and Grant Hsley went out with a concussion. With players like Kenny Ladler (17 snaps) and Tony Lippett (22 snaps) seeing their only extended playing time of the season and rookie undrafted free agent Sean Chandler playing a season-high 45 snaps this is the result you get.
Kwillies to …
Eli Manning — If it wasn’t for the unfortunate red zone interception on the Giants’ opening drive this would be a “Kudos” for the 15-year veteran. Whine about the 0-for-4 on the final drive if you must, but it did include a perfectly thrown fourth-and-10 pass that a contested Latimer couldn’t haul in. Manning finished with 301 passing yards, the Giants scored on six straight possessions and became the only team this season to score 30 or more points against Dallas.