EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants used six of their first eight picks in the last NFL draft on defensive players, and 10 of 16 from Dave Gettleman's first two drafts overall.
In the 2020 NFL draft, they're going to have to use more.
It is increasingly obvious that there's just not enough talent on that side of the ball for the Giants to truly be competitive in the NFL. Faced with a very beatable Arizona Cardinals team with a rookie quarterback at the helm and a driving rain in the second half, the Giants defense fell into a quick 17-0 hole and then couldn't hold it's ground much better in the second half.
The result was a 27-21 loss behind a Saquon Barkley-like effort from the Cardinals' backup running back, Chase Edmonds. After rushing for a total of 161 yards in the first six games of the season, rushed for 126 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries against the Giants.
This Giants defense has that effect on a lot of players. And they certainly helped Edmonds out by basically failing to touch him on his three, 20-plus-yard touchdown runs. The second one might have been the worst because the defense seemed to be in the right position. But then rookie defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and veteran linebacker Alec Ogletree were moved out of the lanes, and safety Antoine Bethea missed a tackle.
For the most part, the Giants linebackers are nonexistent against the run -- even when safety Jabrill Peppers was brought down into the box. And the fact that they couldn't even come close to pressuring Murray into a big mistake on a rainy day when he was hardly at their best is telling.
They did get better in the fourth quarter, and even had a key stop with 4:23 to play, giving rookie quarterback Daniel Jones one final chance to tie or win the game. But they keep putting the offense in holes and can't get enough stops to really make a difference. They are blowing chances for the Giants to win games.
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher deserves some of the blame for this. For all the hype of his supposedly pressure-filled defense, he hasn't delivered at all in his two years with the Giants. But a lot of that is because he doesn't have a lot to work with. The talent cupboard on this unit is strikingly bare.
Here are some more takeaways from the loss that dropped the Giants to 2-5 …
- In his return from a month-long absence due to a high ankle sprain, Barkley looked almost like his old self. Almost.
He finished with only 72 yards on 18 carries. He did have two terrific runs where he broke a tackle and shot through the line like a cannon for a big gain. One went for 20 yards. The other went for 32, but came back due to a holding penalty. He also came up limping after a nine-yard run in the third quarter, making everyone hold their breath.
After being checked out on the sidelines, though, he came right back in the game and later bullied his way through the Cardinals defense for a seven-yard touchdown.
- So much for the much-hyped, rookie QB battle between Jones and Murray. Both of them looked like the rookies they are.
Jones rebounded from a near-disastrous start to finish 22-of-35 for 223 yards, but as usual he couldn't get the offense moving consistently. He did have some brilliant throws -- like his 28-yard touchdown to TE Rhett Ellison who was in between two defenders -- and more than a few throws where it looked like he simply didn't see the defenders nearby. He also fumbled three times (losing two of them) as he was sacked ridiculous eight times. Still, he engineered a tremendous, eight-play, 82-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to pull the Giants within three points. But he couldn't mount another one despite getting the ball back twice in the final 4:23.
As for Murray, the Cardinals really didn't ask him to do much. He went just 14-of-21 for 104 yards and didn't show off his mobility either (nine carries, 33 yards). He only unleashed his cannon arm a couple of times, but it was off the mark. Maybe it was the weather. Whatever. Hopefully this matchup will be more interesting in a few years.
- Eight sacks is ridiculous, by the way (including four by Chandler Jones). Some of them were on Jones, who too often held the ball too long. But not all of them were his fault. He was pressured a lot in this game behind an offensive line that has regressed over the last few weeks.
- Jones was very nearly picked off on his first pass of the game, and it looked like it happened because WR Golden Tate pulled up to avoid a hit -- something that didn't go unnoticed by the crowd that booed him for his "effort." But Tate rebounded and finished with six catches for 80 yards. He showed his ability on a short pass in the second quarter that he turned into a 20-yard gain by breaking several tackles.
- LB Markus Golden, Gettleman's best free-agent signing by far, got a sack in the second quarter giving him six straight games with at least half a sack -- something only three other players in Giants history have done. And it was a typical, Golden "motor" sack. Murray was trapped and Golden actually missed him and was on the ground. But he got up, kept after him, and eventually pounced on the Arizona QB. He gets a lot of his sacks that way, by not giving up on the play.
- If the Giants are going to have any luck this season with the way their defense is playing, they're going to need a contribution from special teams. And boy did they get it Sunday when safety Michael Thomas blocked a punt from deep in the Cardinals' end zone. FB Eli Penny pounced on it for the touchdown. It's not always perfect, but special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey has done a great job with this unit.
- Strange end-of-game management by Giants coach Pat Shurmur. Team has a 3rd-and-18 from their own 30 with about three minutes remaining and he calls for a draw to Barkley that gets nothing (three yards). Then they go for it on 4th-and-15 from the 33, and predictably the Cardinals go all-out and blitz Jones. Also predictably, he's sacked (for the sixth time) and fumbles (for the second time) and the Cards recover at the 17.
- Shurmur has promised an "epic" rant at some point over the new rule that allows teams to challenge pass interference calls (or non-calls). It seems pretty clear that officials aren't going to overturn whatever was called on the field (either by choice or by order, depending on whether you believe in conspiracy theories).
So why bother challenging anymore? It's a waste of a timeout, unless it's a fourth-quarter, game-changing play. Shurmur keeps going, though. He challenged a PI call near the end of the first quarter on CB Janoris Jenkins. This one was especially dumb because it was early and because the Giants defense had already been called for offsides, so it was about a 22-yard difference. The Giants, by the way, lost the challenge to no one's surprise.