Here are 10 final thoughts on the Giants’ 24-22 win over the Packers while wondering how Tommy DeVito’s family is going to get their tailgate to New Orleans for Sunday’s game against the Saints:
The DeVito story has been amazing for social media memes and for adding fun to a season that had been dismal before the undrafted rookie took over at quarterback. But it’s probably time that the football piece of the story takes some focus away from the pinched-fingers celebration and the cheek-kissing in the stands. Because DeVito has now put together three straight impressive starts. 🤌🤌🤌🤌🤌#EasyToCelebrate | @BudLight pic.twitter.com/bAHT9AIUzE — New York Giants (@Giants) December 12, 2023DeVito has five touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 72.2 percent of his passes during the Giants’ three-game winning streak. His 119.8 passer rating since Week 11 is second only to San Francisco’s Brock Purdy, another diamond in the rough.It’s premature to project DeVito as the next Purdy, who was the last pick in the 2022 draft and is currently an MVP contender for the best team in the NFL. And it’s far too early to compare DeVito to the ultimate quarterback underdog, Tom Brady, who transformed from a sixth-round pick to the greatest player in NFL history.But Giants coach Brian Daboll was an assistant on the Patriots when Brady broke in, so he was asked about those early days on Tuesday. Daboll interrupted the question to point out, “We’re four games in.”There’s a long way to go to determine if DeVito is a flash in the pan or a true hidden gem. But what’s not debatable at this point is the ability of Daboll and his staff to get the most out of quarterbacks.Daboll, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney have tailored the offense to accentuate DeVito’s strengths and mask his weaknesses. If it looks familiar, it’s because this staff did the same thing a year ago with Daniel Jones.
The offensive game plan on Monday night looked eerily similar to the one Jones engineered in a 27-22 win over the same Packers team last season. The Giants reintroduced the wildcat formation on Monday, which they utilized successfully in last season’s matchup. And they broke out a trick play — a 25-yard flea flicker to Wan’Dale Robinson on Monday vs. a tight end option for a Daniel Bellinger touchdown run last season. FLEA FLICKER! 📺: ESPN on ABC pic.twitter.com/lEYWyfYUpT — New York Giants (@Giants) December 12, 2023Jones completed 21-of-27 passes for 217 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, while adding 10 carries for 37 yards, in the win over Green Bay last season. DeVito completed 17-of-21 passes for 158 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, with 10 carries for 71 yards, on Monday.
DeVito deserves credit for the big plays he’s made. But that he’s operating so cleanly — no interceptions in his last three starts — is a testament to the coaching staff. It’s clear these coaches can raise the baseline play of a quarterback to a functional level.
The question is what these coaches can do with more talent. Daboll’s track record with Bills quarterback Josh Allen is encouraging on that front, while bringing out the best in Jones and DeVito adds to the allure of what they could do with a top prospect.
On the run
A key to Jones’ progress last season was utilizing his legs to escape pressure. He got in trouble earlier in his career by hanging in the pocket too long, which led to sacks and turnovers. Daboll and Kafka designed plays to get Jones out of the pocket and clearly instructed him to scramble at the first sign of pressure. He had 65 scrambles last season compared to 72 in his first three seasons combined.
The same message was clearly conveyed to DeVito, who had been sacked an outrageous 20 times in his first three starts. DeVito was pressured on 48.1 percent of his 27 dropbacks on Monday, so it’s not as if the offensive line was a brick wall. For perspective, Jones was pressured on 45.5 percent of his dropbacks this season.But DeVito wasn’t sacked because he was much quicker to flee the pocket than he was in his first three starts. He scrambled six times for 34 yards on Monday.
The coaches also made an adjustment at halftime to use DeVito on designed runs. He had two carries for 39 yards in the third quarter on run calls. TOMMY ON THE MOVE! 📺: ESPN on ABC pic.twitter.com/FGj5etJerQ — New York Giants (@Giants) December 12, 2023The first was a 26-yard gain on a designed keeper with a lead blocker clearing a huge lane. DeVito made a slick cut in the open field and would have scored if he hadn’t collided with wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson as he approached the goal line. On the Giants’ next drive, DeVito kept the ball on a play that had three options: a handoff to running back Saquon Barkley, a throw to Bellinger in the flat or keep the ball. DeVito made the right read, running through a big alley for a 13-yard gain.Both of DeVito’s long runs were mainstays in the playbook last season. Expect to see DeVito’s legs featured as the Giants try to duplicate their 2022 offensive approach moving forward. Woke up this morning…. NFC Offensive Player of the Week 😏 pic.twitter.com/dNOnI228ai — New York Giants (@Giants) December 13, 2023Scramble modeDaboll said an emphasis was placed on scramble drills during practice last week. The work clearly paid off.DeVito threw a perfect strike while rolling to his right for an 8-yard touchdown to wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins in the back corner of the end zone in the third quarter. DeVito couldn’t have placed the ball any better, as there was only a small window opened by Hodgins pivoting and running parallel with the quarterback along the back of the end zone.
Robinson made a tremendous snag on a 13-yard pass from DeVito along the sideline in the second quarter on another play when the quarterback escaped the pocket to his right. DeVito has proven to be effective throwing on the run, and his receivers helped him Monday by getting open and making catches when plays broke down. Tommy DeVito & Isaiah Hodgins (8-yd TD) 🤌🏼 Hodgins, who went in motion on the play, was traveling 15.14 mph when the ball was snapped. When DeVito led go of the pass, the quarterback was traveling 15.75 mph, the 5th-fastest speed on a TD pass this season.#GBvsNYG | #NYGiants pic.twitter.com/vvQIxAUZLL — Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 12, 2023Late-game blundersFor all of Barkley’s talent and competitiveness, he’s had some critical late-game blunders. The latest was his bizarre stumbling fumble after breaking a 34-yard run that should have sealed the win on Monday. The Packers recovered the ball, returned it 50 yards against a stunned Giants offense and then scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:33 remaining.It was only the third lost fumble of Barkley’s six-year career. His second lost fumble came in a similar situation in Week 7 this season. With the Giants leading by a touchdown and driving deep into Washington territory midway through the fourth quarter, Barkley was stripped. The Commanders then drove the length of the field, only to get stopped on New York’s 7-yard line as the Giants escaped with a 14-7 win. Even when Barkley has held onto the ball, he’s had some head-scratching plays late in games. He appeared to give himself up on a run late in the Giants’ Week 8 matchup with the Jets. Leading by three points with 1:26 remaining, a first down would have sealed the victory. But Barkley
dived to the turf untouched four yards short of the marker rather than trying to get a first down. Barkley failed to pick up the first down on the next two plays, Graham Gano missed a 35-yard field goal, and the Jets hit a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation and went on to win 13-10 in overtime. Turn of events gives the @Packers the ball with under four minutes left! 📺: #GBvsNYG on ABC📱: Stream on #NFLPlus https://t.co/0LeBKvPPxF pic.twitter.com/wLNioKGoJc — NFL (@NFL) December 12, 2023Last season, Barkley nearly cost the Giants a game against the Jaguars by running out of bounds while milking a lead in the final minute. The Jaguars had no timeouts, so Barkley gave them a chance to mount a game-winning drive by stopping …