Giants’ Evan Neal struggling since returning from injury

Did the Giants bring Evan Neal back too quickly? 

The rookie right tackle missed four games with a sprained knee, and his performance in his four starts since returning from the injury has not been as consistent as his work in his seven earlier starts. 

The suggestion that Neal might have been better served by staying out longer or given a break from time to time was not embraced by head coach Brian Daboll. 

“I’d say Evan’s improved since he’s gotten here,’’ Daboll said. “Really, all of us can continue to improve and get better in the things we need to get better in — not just Evan, really everybody on our team starting with the coaches all the way down to our players. But he’s smart. He’s tough. He’s dependable. He’s done a lot of good things, too.’’ 

As the Giants look to secure a playoff bid with a win Sunday over the Colts at MetLife Stadium, Neal figures to be tested. The Colts (4-10-1) are squarely in the lowest tier of NFL teams, but they do have a decent defense and they do have a representative pass rush. Their defensive ends can get after the quarterback. 

Evan Neal has struggled since he returned from injury.
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The Giants catch a break, as the Colts’ top pass rusher, Yannick Ngakoue (9.5 sacks) was put on season-ending injured reserve Saturday with a throat injury. The other starting defensive end, Kwity Paye, has six sacks. The Colts as a team have 43 sacks; the Giants have allowed 47. 

With CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee) missing his sixth consecutive game, Fabian Moreau, Nick McCloud and Darnay Holmes will be the primary cornerbacks against Colts WRs Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell and rookie Alec Pierce. … The Colts arrive as a team skidding to the finish. Not only are they owners of a five-game losing streak, but also in their past three games they gave up 33 points in the fourth quarter in a 54-19 loss to the Cowboys, made history by blowing a 33-point halftime lead to the Vikings and were dreadful on offense in a 20-3 loss to the Chargers. 

A look at the NFC wild-card picture ahead of the Giants' win-and-in game against the Colts.
A look at the NFC wild-card picture ahead of the Giants’ win-and-in game against the Colts.
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The Giants, with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale calling the shots, lead the NFL with a pressure rate on defense of 24.7 percent. Nick Foles, when pressured 25 percent or more, is 2-6 in eight games since 2018, with three touchdown passes, nine interceptions, five fumbles and 21 sacks. 

It was impossible to get Daboll to acknowledge the playoff chase. He brushed aside any and all questions about how close the Giants are to making it into the postseason. When he finally relented and talked about the playoffs, he was quite eloquent. Of course, he would not speak of the 2022 playoff race. 

He went back 21 years and recounted with glee his first playoff game as an NFL assistant coach, following the 2001 regular season. Daboll was a defensive assistant for the Patriots on Jan. 19, 2002, for one of the most infamous games in NFL postseason history. In a snowstorm, the Patriots beat the Raiders, 16-13, in overtime in what became known as the “Tuck Rule’’ game after a Tom Brady fumble was ruled to be an incomplete pass. 

“I just remember I had to stay up late, break down more tape and get ready for the next week,’’ Daboll said. “It was a lot of work. I was at a different spot, breaking down a lot of tape.’’