Giants’ Arizona getaway is far too late for team bonding



Get out of here.

That is what the Giants are doing this week and there is certainly a large segment of their fan base that says “good riddance.” The less seen and said about this team, the better, and if they are out of sight for a while, perhaps out of mind will follow. Which is a blessing as another dreary season winds down.

The Giants did not fly home from Miami after another offensive, offensive outing resulted in another feeble loss, this one a 20-9 snoozer to the Dolphins. It was off to Tucson for the Giants, who will spend the week practicing at the University of Arizona before flying to Los Angeles for Sunday’s game against the Chargers. This was all arranged prior to the season, a plan put in place by coach Joe Judge to limit travel wear-and-tear on his players while also exposing his team to a late-season getaway to ease their bodies and clear their minds.

The expectation was for so much more than this. The Giants would be somewhere within hailing distance of playoff contention and this trip would be the perfect break in routine, a jumping-off point for the final push. Instead, it is a jumping-off-the-cliff point for a team that has fallen and cannot get up.

And so, they stay away.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea to get away, spend some time with your team,” Saquon Barkley said. “It’s kind of like a little — if you were in college, kind of like a little college trip. You get away. Obviously, you want to be with your family, but it’s — we can take advantage of this. We can take advantage of this, use this as a trip to relax, breathe, come together collectively, figure out what we’ve got to do better. Also spend more time with each other. I don’t see any fault or any negative things that can come out of spending time together as a team, getting to know each other more, especially this part of the season where we’ve got to try to make a run at it and try to win every game we can.”

There will be no making a run at it for the Giants. That is Barkley trying to be a motivating team captain. He needs time away as much or more than anybody. He is struggling mightily on the field. He says he is not questioning himself, but it is difficult to believe that when you watch him run and so often plow into a group of defenders waiting to drop him to the turf. Unless the Giants go hiking in Saguaro National Park and find four new offensive linemen, it is going to be a slow slog for Barkley as he closes out a dismal fourth NFL season.

Giants Saquon Barkley
Giants running back Saquon Barkley during the team’s loss to the Dolphins on Dec. 5, 2021.
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The Giants have their practice squad players on this extended trip and that is novel for them, as they ordinarily do not travel for road games. It means something for a young player to see this side of NFL life.

“The teams I’ve been on in the past, this has been very beneficial,” veteran safety Logan Ryan said. “And that’s why we’re doing it, to get away from the noise a little bit. Kind of in training camp we don’t really go away. So this is an ability to free up our schedules and go watch the tape together, go do some bonding activities and go be tighter as a team because down the stretch, it really doesn’t matter how much you care about each other. Those little things do play a difference in building team unity.”

Cornerback James Bradberry did not sound thrilled with this Tucson excursion, although he did say “any time we get to spend time with each other and talk football and talk life, it’s going to bring us together. So that’s the one thing about this trip that’s positive.”

Joe Judge planned the Giants’ Arizona trip before the season.
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Yeah, about that team bonding. We are entering Week 14 of the season. It is too late for bonding. Real teams with legitimate plans for beyond Week 18 have already bonded. Giants fans do not care much, if at all, where this team is spending time this week. Giants fans know all too well where their team is on Sundays and what happens after the ball is kicked off.

More that came out of the Giants’ eighth loss of the season:

—There was actually a changing of the guard in the second half against the Dolphins, as Matt Skura (35 snaps) and Ben Bredeson (30 snaps) essentially split time at left guard in the game. Figure this will continue, or perhaps Bredeson will move into the starting lineup. The Giants traded for Bredeson, shipping a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Ravens (the Giants gained fifth-round and seventh-round picks).  It would be nice to see what they got for that expenditure.

—The most effective offensive playmaker for the Giants at Hard Rock Stadium was tight end Evan Engram. He caught four passes for 61 yards and one of the grabs was a difficult reach-down reception. This is likely the conclusion of Engram’s time with the Giants, as his contract expires after this season. 

—Matt Peart: No snaps on offense. Nate Solder played all 65 snaps at right tackle despite a flareup of an elbow issue earlier in the week. Peart did not even get on the field the two times the Giants went with an extra offensive lineman, as Korey Cunningham received those two snaps. The depth chart looks quite steep for Peart right about now, as the Giants’ 2020 third-round pick is headed toward bust status.

—Logan Ryan missed the past two games after testing positive for COVID-19. He experienced mild symptoms but his conditioning was not an issue, as he played all 69 snaps on defense.

Giants cornerback Aaron Robinson (#33) was a bright spot against the Dolphins.

—This is a promising sign for the Giants: Aaron Robinson, their 2021 third-round pick, made his first NFL start and played every snap at cornerback, with Adoree’ Jackson out with a quad injury. Robinson’s progress was delayed by core muscle surgery back in August but he has steadily made his presence felt. These last five games could do for Robinson what the final six games of 2020 did for Xavier McKinney, who after a delayed start due to foot surgery used the back end of his rookie year to springboard into an impressive second year.

—Every game, the Giants are on the wrong end of the equation when it comes to protecting their quarterback and applying pressure to the opposing quarterback. The Dolphins had 16 pressures of Mike Glennon, according to NFL Next Gen stats. The Giants had six pressures of Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins defense had eight quarterback hits. The Giants had three quarterback hits. This weekly inequality leads to losing.

—The Giants in the month of November did not have a touchdown scored by any of their wide receivers or running backs. This seems like a misprint, right?  How can this be? Oh, it be. The last time a Giants receiver got into the end zone was Dante Pettis against the Panthers on Oct. 24. The last time a Giants running back got into the end zone was Devontae Booker in that same game. In November, the Giants scored only five touchdowns on offense, getting four from tight ends (Engram with two, Kyle Rudolph and Chris Myarick with one apiece) and one from offensive tackle Andrew Thomas. Given that the Giants did not get into the end zone in their first December game this season, it has been a five-game stretch with no touchdowns by Giants receivers or running backs. Thomas, the starting left tackle, has more touchdowns this season than Kenny Golladay and Karadius Toney combined. Yikes.


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