Now that I am done recapping why the New York Giants suck, you will be pleased to know that we’re heading into the fun portion of my mid-season review; why the Giants are headed to the Superbowl! Well, maybe not quite, but there is still plenty to be excited about when looking at how this team has played this year. The most exciting thing might be the fact that it seems they are still playing below their potential, and if there is ever a time to kick it up a notch then December is it.
So once again, let’s take a look at how the Giants fared against the Bengals on Monday night, and whether there are some things that could bode well for a potential playoff berth.
The Big Blue Wrecking Crew
There will be those out there who are going to point to the fact that the Giants have thirteen total sacks this year, good for third last in the league, as a sign that New York’s front four aren’t playing especially well. They would be wrong. The additions of Olivier Vernon and Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison have paid dividends in solidifying this unit as one of the premier defensive lines in the league. They are currently tied for third in average rushing yards allowed per game, and are fifth in total rushing yards allowed. Add to this the fact that Jason Pierre-Paul is now tied at first in the league for batted passes, and maybe you can see why this defensive line is an impenetrable wall capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the best offensive units in the NFL.
Last week against the Bengals the big boys up front were able to completely shut down a normally dangerous Cincinnati running game, and made sure Andy Dalton was uncomfortable in the pocket all night, tallying three sacks in the process. The most reassuring part of this D-line’s game however is their ability to swarm to the ball in a way New York hasn’t seen in years. Almost every tackle involves one or multiple of the Giants line, and the dynamic end duo of OV and JPP deserve particular praise; these two play to the whistle every down despite being on the field almost 96% of the snaps.
Like I said in part 1 of my mid-season review, I have been hesitant to label these guys as another iteration of the ‘Big Blue Wrecking Crew’, and despite their success in almost every aspect of their game, a lack of sacks might be the reason I’m still a little unsure. But if they continue to play at this level, come playoff time I’m sure they will have earned the title.
The Three-Headed Monster
If there is one thing you can say about the Giant’s receivers, it’s that they’re having fun. They may not have been as world-breaking as many thought they would be before the season started, but I’ll be damned if they don’t look like they’re enjoying themselves. This is especially comforting knowing how hard the No Fun League has been trying to sap any kind of self-expression or genuine emotion from the sport, but I digress.
Against the Bengals on Monday night the unit was lacking one of the key pieces of the three-headed beast that is the Giants receiving corps. Victor Cruz was sidelined with a sprained ankle, but rookies Roger Lewis Jr. and Tavarres King were gifted some valuable playing time as a result. Lewis had a few costly drops, but King had some nice catches despite a woefully inaccurate and ill-advised bomb targeted towards him that winded up in the hands of the Bengals defense.
We already know Odell Beckham Jr. is good, like really good, but rookie Sterling Shepard is looking like he could be one of the great slot receivers of the game. The kid is tough, quick, and an amazing route runner; his breakout game will be a matter of when and not if. Cruz has had a slow start, but that’s to be expected after two years away from the game and a couple of major surgeries. He has shown that he still has the ability to make plays in the clutch, and a veteran presence among a very young receiving corps can only be a good thing.
In short, I’m excited to see what this immensely talented receiving corps will show us over the coming weeks, and you should be too.
I’m going to start with the safeties here, because as impressed as I’ve been with the corners on this Giants team, Landon Collins and Andrew Adams have gone from being two young, fairly unknown players to one of the best safety tandems in the league. That isn’t hyperbole either. Adams has made multiple top ten lists as one of the league’s best rookies coming out of this years draft; the same player who went undrafted and was only moved up from the Giants practice squad due to injuries.
Landon Collins, now in his second year, has finally proven his worth as the 33rd overall pick from the 2015 draft class. Playing out of position last year, Collins had some growing pains, but a transition to his natural strong safety position has proved to be a great move. Landon now leads all safeties in every major statistical category; tackles, interceptions, sacks, every single one. If that isn’t impressive enough to be at least in the running for DPOY then I don’t know what is.
The entire secondary played fantastic against the Bengals. Barring one early hiccup in which Andy Dalton connected with Tyler Eifert for a 71 yard touchdown, the Giants secondary was able to hold the Bengals to under 200 yards through the air. This is a team that has AJ Green, one of the best receivers in the league, and he was held to under 70 yards. A lot of the credit should go to Janoris Jenkins, who has been outstanding all year and is making a name for himself as a true shutdown corner.
Across the board this secondary has very little to worry about, and that can be said about all the players down to the bottom of the depth chart. Steve Spagnuolo finally has a unit he can trust will do their part on game day, whether that’s a rookie like Eli Apple or an established veteran like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. All in all it’s just a relief to not have to panic any time an opposing quarterback has time in the pocket.
There is a lot to like about this defense, and if there is one thing we know about the league today it’s that a strong defense can win you championships. But the offense is also making strides; both the talent and potential is there, it’s just waiting to be unleashed. So with over half the season done and dusted, let’s hope that this Giants team can continue to improve and nab that wild card spot. I fully believe this team can take the crown, they just need to make sure they’re invited to the dance.