Wide Reciever/Tight End
…the wide receivers followed up their best performance of the season with one of their worst in week 15 versus the Falcons. Domenik Hixon was the only receiver who had a game worth remembering; the rest of the unit was–as the entire team–completely flat. While there weren't many plays that were noticeable blunders (the core graded out to a pedestrian total of +1) the group lacked any of the game-changing, momentum-swinging, "home run" plays that the Giants have grown to rely on. This partially has to do with the fact that the entire team didn't show up on Sunday but the receiving core must be held accountable individually as well.
…the first play that comes to mind is play 12. A quintessential example of "what could have been". Nicks is on a simple go route and beats his man off the line of scrimmage. The safety is late coming over and the Giants have a tremendous opportunity for one of those aforementioned big plays. The ball isn't perfect from Eli, a little overthrown, but it still seems catchable (especially given who the ball is being thrown too). Instead of finishing his route, Nicks seems to pull up and doesn't run through the ball. The play results in an incompletion instead of what could have been a big gain or even an 80-yard touchdown pass.
…another Nicks nuance came on the second play of the game. Again this is nitpicking and it did happen with a lot of time on the clock but the beauty of this project is that we can break down the one-on-one battles that take place on every single play. The second play of the game is an example of a Giant losing his one-on-one matchup. Nicks runs a comeback route and instead of coming back hard to the ball he is a bit lackadaisical (injury or not) and is beat to the ball by Asante Samuel. This is absolutely inexcusable due to several factors:
1) As the receiver you have the advantage of knowing your next step before your defender does. In other words, your man is reacting to your action. Your man should rarely be able to jump a route that is supposed to be short, precise and methodic. What should have been an easy eight-yard gain resulted in a pick and the Falcons set up with a short field.
2) The timing of this interception could not have been any worse. It dictated the tone for the entire game and foreshadowed what would be a long afternoon for the Giants. The thing that makes this poor play by Nicks even more frustrating is the fact that it came during this crucial time. The first dozen or so offensive plays are predetermined throughout the week by every single NFL team. Nicks knew his job on this play several days before it happened and he still failed to execute.
…this space is often used to praise Nicks on what he has done this season while battling several injuries; however, it just goes to show that if a player takes just a few plays off the outcome of the game can be jeopardized before anyone even realizes it.
…Cruz was pretty much shut down the entire game, he finished at -1, the lone negative play coming on play six where Cruz got his hands on a pass and couldn't haul it in. Credit has to go to the Atlanta defense shutting down even the short, quick stuff that seems to be there for Cruz every week. Cruz was shaken up on the unnecessary roughness call he drew in the third but only missed a handful off snaps. If all goes according to plan we should expect a bounce back week for Cruz as we have come to learn that it is hard to keep him from putting up impressive numbers in consecutive weeks.
…Martellus Bennett finished at a +2 and was plus one run blocking which was a small "silver lining" (highly recommend seeing the movie, even though the characters are Eagles fans). Although Bennett did have two negative plays in run blocking, he seems to be cutting down on his mental errors which must be completely eliminated over the next two weeks if the Giants look to find some consistency on the ground and in turn make a playoff push.