The Giants did not dump a Gatorade bucket on Joe Judge after their first win of the season, so there is some cold water left to be thrown.
Sure, Daniel Jones played aggressively, Saquon Barkley cut on his knee like a healthy runner, fast receivers broke tackles, the offensive line sealed cracks and Judge made smart fourth-quarter decisions. But where was the pass rush? Certainly not on any list of positives.
The numbers suggest it’s almost unthinkable that the Giants beat the Saints despite zero sacks, zero quarterback hits and one tackle for loss.
“You’ve definitely got to be able to execute third down — also in the red zone and at the end of the game in four-minute [drill],” cornerback James Bradberry said. “We weren’t executing at a high level, somewhat because on the back end but also on the front end. It is a group effort.”
In the first 64 games of the NFL season, only three winners have not recorded a sack, three have not recorded a tackle for loss and two have not recorded a quarterback hit. Winners are averaging 2.7 sacks, 4.7 tackles for loss and 7.1 quarterback hits per game — and yet the Giants couldn’t so much as dirty the uniform of Jameis Winston despite facing an offensive line missing center Erik McCoy and left tackle Terron Armstead.
It doesn’t bode well for Sunday against Dak Prescott, who has been sacked just seven times (on 5 percent of his drop-backs) since returning to the Cowboys from last year’s broken ankle. Prescott always eludes the Giants, who have nine sacks in nine career games against him, while fellow divisional rivals Washington (20 sacks in eight games) and Philadelphia (23 sacks in nine games) have done a better job against him.
The Giants lack a proven edge-rusher, but that was the case last year when coordinator Patrick Graham schemed the way to the 12th-most sacks in the league (40). Some course correction was expected, but the drop-off has been more drastic than anticipated — third-fewest sacks (six) through four games — despite the addition of rookie Azeez Ojulari, who is responsible for three.
As it often does when a team fails to generate sacks, the company line has reverted to measuring a pass rush in terms of disruption.
“Pressures accumulate,” defensive line coach Sean Spencer recently said. “If the quarterback feels you in his lap on second down, he’s thinking about it on third down. If you are making the quarterback feel your presence, eventually the pressure, the pressure, the pressure will make the pipe burst and then you will get that sack.”
The theory makes sense, though it doesn’t account for hypothetical examples like this: A pressure forcing an incompletion on second-and-2 sets up third-and-2, but a sack sets up third-and-7. The likelihood of the offense converting drops from about 65 percent to 39 percent under those circumstances, according to The 33rd Team thinktank headed by former executives.
“There is a big difference,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams told The Post before facing the Saints. “We want to put them in a third-and-long situation and a sack is going to back up the offense a lot more. But what the coaches mean by ‘disrupt the quarterback’ is he might have a wide-open receiver and if I disrupt the throw a little bit then it’s going to be third-and-2 instead of first-and-10.”
The Giants rank No. 28 in the NFL with pressures on only 18.6 percent of the opposing quarterbacks’ drop-backs despite blitzing more frequently (29.7 percent of defense snaps) than last season (25.5 percent). Sending extra rushers isn’t the answer against Prescott, who is completing 64.8 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and two interceptions when blitzed, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Pressure can be four guys coming,” Graham said. “It’s just how we configure them.”
Prescott’s reputation since 2017 as one of the best blitz-beating quarterbacks suggests his performance is not a statistical anomaly. The same can’t be said for winning without touching the opposing quarterback.
The Giants added CB Ka’dar Hollman — 18 career games played for the Packers — and released OL Sam Jones and DB Steven Parker from the practice squad.