Giants vs. Seahawks Week 8 Scouting Report: Grades and Key Matchups

This Scouting Report for Sunday afternoon’s Giants-Seahawks game is produced by The 33rd Team’s Scouting Department, led by former Eagles, Cardinals, and Ravens personnel executive T.J. McCreight and assisted by scouts Justin Casey, Kevin Cohn, and Evan Pritt.

 The Resurrection Stories of Geno Smith and Daniel Jones

  • Very little was expected of Geno Smith and Daniel Jones from anyone outside of their respective buildings, and both of them are in the process of changing the perception and trajectory of their careers. I doubt anyone had Jones leading the Giants to a 6-1 start or Smith leading the league in completion percentage and ranking third in QB rating through seven games at the beginning of the season. If we are being honest, we would have put higher odds on neither of the two being starting QBs at this point in the season.
  • Both of them rank in the top five in designed rollout plays behind only Mahomes, Rodgers and Hurts. And both offenses are built around their running games and running lots of play action off of that. Jones ranks second in play action dropbacks with 94, which accounts for almost 40% of the Giants’ total dropbacks. Geno ranks eighth with 69 play action dropbacks, which accounts for almost 29% of their overall dropbacks.
  • Jones does not benefit from having top end skill talent outside of Saquon Barkley. He has been more than a game manager, and he has taken care of the football with just two interceptions.
  • He has used his legs to make plays and they have designed plays to take advantage of his athleticism. He is third in the league in QB rushing yards with 349, behind just Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields. That puts him on pace for over 800 yards rushing on the season. He’s not the most graceful on the move, but he has deceptive straight-line speed. Their use of zone read with the attention on Barkley is going to force defenses to play honest, or Jones is going to continue to eat up cheap yards. You have to admire his toughness, but he needs to do a better job of living to play another day or he may not make it through the season. He’s not forcing throws; he is going to climb the pocket and take off if there is a void to pick up some easy yards and keep them ahead of the sticks. They are using old school QB draw more than I can recall in the last decade.
  • It’s been a revolving door of injuries and underperformance for the Giants’ perimeter weapons. They don’t have one receiver with over 200 yards receiving this season, and they are tied with a league-worst 17 drops. They have a nice variety of skilled receivers, but they have no consistency in their availability. It makes what they are doing as a team even more remarkable, if not sustainable. They really need someone to step up and give Jones the confidence to rip some more throws, so he does not have to rely on his legs so much.
  • Second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson missed games 2-5, but he has looked very promising the last two weeks. He could be a dynamic slot receiver with quickness and explosion to create separation and natural route running skills. Of course, he limped off the field last week and did not have a target after halftime. He is listed as questionable this week.
  • Fourth-year receiver Darius Slayton had to renegotiate his contract to stay with the team after camp, but he may be the player Jones has the most confidence in at this point. He has good length and is a very smooth mover with good straight-line speed, but he’s more of a linear player than a complete route tree runner; lots of go routes, slants, and deep overs off of play action.
  • Conversely, Smith has had the benefit of having tier 1 receiving talent in D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and proven tight ends in Will Dissly and Noah Fant. Metcalf injured his knee on Sunday and an ACL tear was feared, but at this point, they are calling it a patellar tendon issue and no surgery is planned. He claims that he wants to practice this week, and he is an athletic freak, but I wouldn’t expect him this week, which would be a huge relief for the Giants’ defense. Between Metcalf and Lockett, they have accounted for nearly 50% of the Seahawks’ targets through seven games. Last week, veteran speedster Marquise Goodwin stepped in and caught four passes for 67 yards and two TDs. If Metcalf is out for any meaningful time, they have no real size on the outside.
  • Lockett is one of the least talked about receivers who has produced consistently for the last 4+ years. He has over 4,200 yards receiving with over 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons and 36 TDs over that span, with at least eight in each season. Despite weighing less than 190 pounds, he has missed just two games in his 7+ year career. He does not take unnecessary hits when he goes over the middle. Some may call that soft, but that’s part of the reason why he has missed so few games and is still playing at a high level at his size at 30 years of age. He’s one of the best deep ball over the shoulder trackers in the game, too.
  • Smith is playing with great confidence and decisiveness. He has a hose to throw it from the opposite hash to the sideline but also touch when he needs it. With a clean pocket, he stands tall and can drive it into tight windows with some of the best throwers in the league. He’ll pull it down and make plays with his legs, but he does a nice job keeping his eyes downfield and has made several big play throws doing just that. He has made some of the prettiest deep throws with touch and placement of any QB this season. He’s not afraid to give his guys a chance to make a play for him. He’s playing with a freedom and a detachment from the outcome from each throw. He looks to be unburdened by previous expectations and is relishing the opportunity of being a starter again at the mature age of 32.
  • He’s at his best when he can sit on his back foot and throw on time. When he has to re-set within the pocket his footwork gets sloppy, and he gets erratic with the ball.
  • There is a risk that as his confidence grows, he starts to trust that arm a little too much and some of those tight window throws that turned into big plays early in the season start to turn into turnovers.

Saquon Barkley and Kenneth Walker III

  • This is a matchup between two of the league’s best running backs. Saquon Barkley has been a prominent figure dating all the way back to his Penn State days, while Kenneth Walker has emerged on the scene fast and furious after a big season at Michigan State last year and a very good start to his rookie campaign.
  • Saquon Barkley has returned to form as a dynamic, explosive running back for the Giants. The Giants have used Barkley significantly: He leads the league in rushing attempts with 143, is second in yards at 726, ranks 12th in yards per carry among RBs at 5.08 and has scored four rushing TDs. Barkley has rare athleticism with elite elusiveness and quickness. He is dangerous in the open field with home run ability and can make multiple guys miss with a single cut. He also shows great power in his lower half, and is very hard to bring down with one tackler. He runs hard and delivers blows rather than shielding for contact. Barkley can make something out of nothing, he can turn a short gain into a long gain with his ability to evade defenders. He has just ok vision, he will miss a few holes and sometimes tries to do too much rather than taking what is in front of him. However, with his big play ability, this is something you can live with. In the passing game, the Giants mostly use Barkley on screens or as a safety valve. He has good hands, and his ability in the open field allows him to take short passes for big gains. He is just an above average route runner, and the variety of his routes is not overly complex. The re-emergence of Barkley has the Giants rolling. Their ability to run the ball whenever and wherever they want makes them a legit threat in a down NFC.
  • Kenneth Walker is already showing that he is a complete running back. Since taking over as the primary back in Seattle after Rashaad Penny went down, Walker has 353 yards and four TDs, averaging 6.78 yards per carry and 117.6 yards per game. His elite vision paired with athletic ability gives him all the makings of a bell cow type of runner. He does an exceptional job of seeing the hole develop in front of him. He is a patient runner who will sift through the muck and then hit the hole when it opens. He has good lateral quickness and ability to make cuts. He can run through the trenches or bounce it outside. He shows good power and is tough to bring down. He runs through contact and has the ability to break tackles both running through guys and making them miss. Walker shows top end speed and is a threat to take it the distance when he gets in the open field. He has the fastest timed speed at 22.09 MPH on his 74-yard TD run in Week 7. He has already ripped off a handful of long touchdown runs in just six games this season. Walker is not much of a threat in the passing game, and they have not used him in that role significantly. Since he has taken over as the primary back in Seattle, he has shown that he can be relied on as the main option. If Walker can continue what he is doing for the Seahawks, nobody is going to take that job away from him.
  • Both Barkley and Walker play big roles in their offense and are helping them win games. Both Seattle and the Giants can be considered surprise teams at this point in the NFL season, and a lot of that can be attributed to their ability to run the ball.

Tariq Woolen vs. Kayvon Thibodeaux

  • There are very few cornerbacks in the world that are similar to Tariq Woolen. He is a shade over 6-foot-4 and is 205 pounds. There were several scouts that timed him in the LOW 4.2s when he ran his 40. He also had a broad jump of 10-11 and a vertical jump of 42 inches, which are rare marks.
  • Because Woolen’s measurables are so rare and different, NFL people were a bit scared of picking him. Corners are just not that tall, and history has shown this — that is one of the reasons that he lasted until pick 153 in the fifth round.
  • Arm length. It makes it very difficult for a wide receiver and quarterback when you have a big man in coverage. Along with that size you look at the length of his arms (almost 35 inches). It is a tremendous advantage because there is so little room for error, and he is able to make a play on the football that many others are unable to make.
  • With all of that size and speed Woolen can also catch the football. Oftentimes it is good enough to just knock the ball down, but Woolen has very good hands and ball skills and it shows up in his production (four interceptions). Interceptions are not easy to get, and many things must go right for a player to pick off the football. And, usually, defensive backs don’t catch the ball very well.
  • Kayvon Thibodeaux has the ideal size and speed for an NFL pass rusher, and that is why he was picked fifth overall by the New York Giants.
  • Thibodeaux has played five games this season and has one sack and 14 tackles. When I study this player, I do see that natural ability. He can bend, he has an explosive first step and he can move laterally.
  • He does need to work on the finer points of the game, and he needs to be able to win as a rusher in a few different ways. In college, he was able to get to the passer because he was just better physically than the other players. But in the NFL, it doesn’t work that way.
  • A cornerback in the NFL can get away with things that a rusher can’t. A rusher must really study his opponent and work day after day on refining his pass rush moves.
  • Learning how and when to use your hands, how to position your feet and learning to mirror your rush moves is essential to becoming a great pass rusher. That does not just happen. You have to practice, practice and practice.
  • The two most important positions on defense are the players that rush the passer and the players that cover the wide receivers. The Giants and Seahawks have two good young players at those positions for years to come.

Extra Points

  • The Seattle defense appears to be getting comfortable in its new scheme after giving up points and yards in bunches through the first five games. Seattle has nine sacks in the last two games after having eight in the first five games. They gave up an average of 30.8 points in the first five games and just 23 and nine points in the last two. They gave up 430 yards per game in the first five games and just 315 and 329 in the last two.
  • Seattle is the second most penalized team in the league with 57 and the Giants aren’t much better with 48, which ranks 25th.
  • Seattle is tied for third for the most plays of 20+ yards with 31 while the Giants are tied for last with just 15.
  • The Giants blitz at the highest rate in the NFL (42.8%).

Giants’ Keys to Victory

  • Avoid the big plays that get the 12th man crowd riled up.
  • Force Geno to hold the ball and re-set his feet.

Seahawks’ Keys to Victory

  • Rely on the legs of Walker and not the arm of Smith against a Giants’ defense that has been extremely generous vs. the ground game.
  • Get pressure up the middle so Jones can’t climb the pocket or pick up chunks with his legs.

WATCH MORE: Eagles Put Rest of NFC on Notice


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