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New York Giants Rookie Review: Week 13

Rookie Carter Coughlin Affects a Russell Wilson Pass (Photo Credit: USA Today, Joe Nicholson)

By: Michael Gagliardi

We got ourselves a team! This might have been the best win the Giants have had since the 2011 season. Without Daniel Jones at the helm, the Giants, relatively convincingly, beat a very good Seahawks team, solidifying the two-horse race in the NFC East between us and Washington. The O-line was fantastic and allowed Colt McCoy to make simple throws and play well as far as back-ups go. The running game was the best it’s been since 2008, and I can’t wait to see Saquon behind this O-line next year. The defense held down the fort, with the exception of one drive, and only allowed Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett to score 10 points. It seems as if all position groups are finally firing on all cylinders, and I would have loved to see Jones tear apart the weak Seattle secondary with the kind of protection that McCoy was getting on Sunday. That being said, perhaps the rookies contributed more than any other group on the team to this game, and this contribution was a huge reason for the Giants victory.

Inactive/Injured/DNP: TJ Brunson (7th):

TJ Brunson was the only rookie inactive for this game, which does not bode well for his chances of seeing the field again this year, barring any injury. I’m sure he’s doing his job in practice though and will look to capitalize on any chance he's given to dress on gameday.

Chris Williamson is no longer on the team in any capacity, as he was cut last week and has not been added back to the practice squad. Here’s hoping the best for the guy. Hardly knew him.

LT Andrew Thomas (1st):

This was the 4th great game in a row for Andrew Thomas, who has not allowed a sack in as many games. This was also Thomas’s second game in a row without allowing a pressure, which will hopefully shut up the talks of “he’s a bust” for good. It’s also clear that whatever Marc Colombo was teaching Thomas seemed to reverse and improve Thomas’s production as soon as he was fired, so it’s case closed on the question of whether it was Thomas himself being subpar or his coaching being subpar. Other than losing his footing on Alfred Morris’s touchdown run (but still getting in the way of Jordyn Brooks), I couldn’t find one bad rep from Thomas. The play which best exemplifies the kind of player that Thomas is, in my opinion, was Colt McCoy’s interception off of the hands of Evan Engram. On this play, Thomas pancaked his man in pass protection, getting him off balance and swiping his hands to knock him over, saw the ball was intercepted, and hauled his 315lb frame over to the sideline (much faster than his “slow'' 40-time by the way) and got a hand on the ball carrier, helping to force him out of bounds. With certain Giants o-linemen in the past, they would have never put in the effort to get over to make that play as fast as Thomas did, especially after making a highlight-reel block as he had. I also want to point out Thomas’s athleticism on Wayne Gallman’s 60-yard run. Thomas pulled out to the left side, which can be difficult for a tackle to do, and was fast enough to beat future Hall-Of-Famer Bobby Wagner to the point of attack to block his outside shoulder and spring Gallman for the longest run of his career.

FS Xavier McKinney (2nd):

It seems like the Giants are adopting an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality with their secondary as of late, and are not putting McKinney in too much yet. He only got 6 defensive snaps on Sunday and was relatively invisible for all of them. However, I’ll take that, because all 6 of those were coverage snaps, and if I can’t see my free safety on my screen on a pass play, then it means the camera has no reason to look his way, which is a good thing. He had no stats on special teams either, but hopefully, we’ll see a flash of his big-play potential this week at some point.

OT Matt Peart (3rd):

Peart made his triumphant return from COVID this week and saw only 15 snaps as the Giants ease him back into the rotation. Cam Fleming actually had, by far, his best game of the season, so Peart’s lack of playing time was not noticeable and plays to the same “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” tune as McKinney’s situation. Peart looked very solid on his snaps and seems to have begun to fix his problem of opening up his hips too early when pass blocking. He did not allow any pressure and was as beastly as ever in the run game as well. Peart, and his powerful run-blocking ability especially, is definitely going to be a secret weapon for the Giants moving forward this season, and who knows, maybe into the postseason as well.

CB Darnay Holmes (4th):

I’m getting more and more confident that Holmes is developing into the player that the Giants hyped him up to be. He recorded his first NFL interception Sunday off a tipped ball, and was in great coverage all night on the Seahawks top of the line receiving corps, and allowed only 2 receptions. His tackling seems to also be improving by the week, and despite missing one, he had two tackles in particular that PFF considered “defensive stops”. He is clearly getting used to the physicality of the NFL, which is something that a lot of rookie corners, including those taken in front of him in the 2020 draft, struggle with. The only real negative I have to say about Holmes on Sunday was his unnecessary drive-extending holding penalty on the Seahawks touchdown drive. There was no need to hold his man in that situation, but Russ did a great job of making the veteran move and throwing the ball in the area to draw the officials’ attention to the hold. As I said last week with Holmes’s pass interference penalty (which, unlike this week’s penalty, was a horrible call), a lot of rookie corners commit dumb penalties, but the best ones settle in and stop them as their careers go on. Hopefully, Holmes can continue to do that.

G Shane Lemieux (5th):

Lemieux is nothing if not consistent from game to game. In the 5 games he’s played at guard, he has shown himself to be a very good run blocker, being nasty in the trenches and moving guys around. He is a fantastic puller and was a huge reason for the Giants’ run game being so dominant on Sunday. However, in the pass game, he has shown that he can be easily beat by finesse moves. The Seahawks definitely watched film on him from his 4 prior games and saw this, as there were about 4 plays where Lemieux’s man-made him look silly with a quick hand-slap or a simple rip move. This has happened to Lemieux a few times per game, but usually, Nick Gates is there to save him. Unfortunately, this was not the case on Sunday, and Lemieux ended up whiffing on his man and letting up a sack. Lemieux has played well, and I want to continue seeing him on the field, but Hernandez is a much better pass blocker (he hasn’t allowed a sack in 2 years), and just as good, if not slightly better, in the run game. I think the line of Thomas, Hernandez, Gates, Lemieux, and Peart is going to be our core for years to come, which is why I still want to see Lemieux rotating in, but the playoffs are still in the picture, so I want to have the better player get more time.

EDGE Cam Brown (6th):

Cam Brown saw 10 defensive snaps on Sunday, but he made a heck of an impact. On 7 pass-rushing snaps, he recorded only one pressure, but it was a big one, forcing Russell Wilson to throw the ball away in a tight spot. It wasn’t in the pass rush that Brown made his biggest impact though, as on a crucial 3rd down in the 2nd half, Brown made one of the best plays in the run game I’ve seen a Giants edge rusher make since JPP. The Seahawks tried a zone read on 3rd and 2 around midfield, and the interior of the defense did a fantastic job of clogging up the middle. Brown also did a great job from his edge position of stacking the Tackle on the line of scrimmage and not getting too far upfield. When he saw Chris Carson try to bounce outside, he shed his man with a power move and made a fundamentally sound alligator roll tackle for no gain (a huge improvement from last week’s lunging missed tackles). This completely took the air out of the Seahawks’ sails for the rest of the 3rd quarter. Funny enough, this play came one play after Brown made a tackle in the open field, once again being part of a forced fumble (although it was credited to James Bradberry). Brown’s athleticism is as good as anybody’s, and his improvement from just last week makes me very excited and hopeful that he sees more time.

EDGE Carter Coughlin (7th):

After a down week last week, Carter Coughlin had himself a game on Sunday. He was getting pressure all day on Wilson, even before Chad Wheeler came in for the injured Jamarco Jones. He affected multiple Russell Wilson throws and recorded 4 pressures on the day with one QB hit. His two defensive tackles were both considered to be defensive stops, and he laid out the Seahawks return man on kickoff coverage. Sunday showed why Coughlin is now in the starting lineup with the injuries to the Giants edge rushers. His and Brown’s performances make it all the more impressive how good the Giants defense has been, considering the fact that the top 4 edge rushers on the roster at the beginning of the season are all done for the season (except Kyler Fackrell who is on 3 week IR). Coughlin did an excellent job in particular of maintaining contain in his rushes and keeping Wilson in the pocket. When Russ can’t extend plays, the Seahawks lose a massive part of their offense, and props to Pat Graham for teaching that, and props to Coughlin for doing an excellent job of executing. It is also intriguing how much the Giants drop Coughlin into coverage, considering that he’s an edge rusher. He has done well there all season and gave up 0 completion on 1 target on his 14 coverage snaps Sunday.

ILB Tae Crowder (7th):

Crowder had a huge game on Sunday, totaling 7 tackles, with 6 of them being solo. He also had a crucial 3rd down sack on a delayed blitz. Crowder is quick, and his pursuit of the ball is getting better by the game. He even had to be the #1 ILB for the Giants towards the end of the 4th quarter, when Blake Martinez went out with a back injury. Crowder did not have the radio helmet on, though (Logan Ryan did) but he was still doing a good job calling things out at the line while Martinez was out. Crowder allowed 20 yards on 3 catches, but that’s something he will improve on as he settles into the NFL rhythm. He did have a crucial pass breakup, leading to Holmes’s pick, though. That’s all well and good, but Crowder missed 2 tackles on Sunday, which has been a bit of an issue for him in all the games he’s played from scrimmage. This could just be due to his being undersized, or maybe just due to the fact that he’s only been playing defense for 3 years now because he played running back for his first two years at Georgia. Either way, I’m happy with Crowder’s performance today, and when the last pick in the draft is contributing as much as he is, you know you’re doing something right.

Honorable Mention EDGE Niko Lalos (UDFA):

What can I say? Lalos has a nose for the ball, and I may have to include him in this series regularly now. This man has played 2 NFL games and has 2 turnovers, after recovering a Russell Wilson fumble on Sunday. The Giants seem to like him a lot too, as he played 26 defensive snaps on Sunday. Analytics may say that fumble recoveries are random, but anyone who has ever played the game knows that it takes a nose for the ball and a sense of pursuit and positioning in order to get turnovers consistently, and Lalos seems to have both of those. He was actually getting a little bit of pressure at times (mostly on Chad Wheeler, though), which is very promising as well. Ladies and gentlemen, we may be seeing the birth of the latest cult-hero in Giants history.

What to Expect in Week 12:

This week, the Giants host Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, and it should be a pretty even game. Daniel Jones, barring any setbacks to his hamstring, will most likely start, and it’ll be a very intriguing matchup for the media with him and Kyler Murray squaring off for the second time. The Cardinals aren’t anything special necessarily, but they are a solid team. DeAndre Hopkins is banged up with a neck and back injury, so him playing less than 100% would definitely help the Giants leaps and bounds on the defensive side of the ball. Other than the Cardinals obvious offensive talent with Kyler Murray and his very good receiving corps, the next biggest strength of this Cardinals team lies within their secondary. Their defense overall is okay at best, with a mediocre pass rush unit featuring former Giants Devon Kennard and Markus Golden, but their secondary of Budda Baker, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Patrick Peterson is where they get their defensive plays from. Look for the Cards to throw a bunch of crazy secondary blitzes and strange looks at Daniel Jones this week, much like what Patrick Graham has thrown at opposing QBs in recent weeks to throw them off. I think this game will come down to how well Jones can read the looks that the Cardinals defense gives him, and how well he can punish their blitzes and keep them honest.

As far as the rookies are concerned, the O-linemen aren’t facing worldbeaters in the pass rush, but Kennard, Golden, and Haason Reddick can all get to the QB at times, so they can’t be taken lightly by any means. This is yet another game where Thomas needs to shut down the blindside rush, and Lemieux needs to stop getting beaten at the point of attack. Peart just has to keep doing what he’s doing, as far as I see it. McKinney and Holmes will have their hands full with the Cardinals receiving corps, especially if Hopkins plays, but I trust in Pat Graham to call the right coverages. The Giants aren’t the only team in this game with a sophomore QB, after all. Coughlin, Brown, and Lalos HAVE TO keep Kyler in the pocket, much like they did with Russ on Sunday, because if there’s one way that the Cardinals can make a huge play happen at any time, it’s through Murray’s legs. Lastly, Tae Crowder will hopefully not be the #1 ILB going into Sunday, but if Martinez can’t go, he has to fix his missed tackles immediately and keep flowing fast to the ball as he has been.

This is a close one between two relatively evenly-matched teams in my opinion. I’m going to say that the Giants will out scheme the Cards, and turn Murray over more than they turn Jones over, extending their win streak to 5 games: 27-20.



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