With the Giants at the halfway point of the season, it makes sense to stop and take a look at how the Giants rookies have performed so far.
First Round Pick, 2nd Overall, Running Back Saquon Barkley
Barkley has been exactly as advertised coming out of college. He has been dynamic, extremely elusive and explosive in the passing game, an excellent receiver out of the backfield. He can make a big play whenever he touches the ball.
Pro Football Focus has developed metrics that demonstrate some of the above traits. Their elusive rating takes into consideration a running back's forced missed tackles, number of touches and yards gained after contact to measure their impact independent of the effectiveness of their offensive line.
Of running backs with 70 or more carries, Barkley has the third-best elusive rating in the league after Kareem Hunt and James Connor. Of his 519 rushing yards, 352 have come after contact. He has forced 44 missed tackles.
Pro Football Focus' Breakaway Percentage measures how many of a running back's yards come on big plays. Barkley is on top of the league in this category at 57%. This is a double-edged sword because it also means the team doesn't get consistent yards on each of his carries, with the majority coming on chunk plays.
Barkley's raw numbers are equally impressive. He is 7th in the league in rushing yards with 519 on 4.7 yards per carry. He leads all running backs and is fourth among all players with 58 catches, to go along with 497 yards receiving. He is on pace to set single season records for a running back in both receiving categories. He has not simply caught dump-offs either. Against the Redskins, he drew a 46-yard pass interference penalty.
One area of his game some analysts questioned during his college days was his determination to hunt big plays and his tendency to try and bounce too many runs outside instead of taking a dirty two or three yards inside. Those problems have not showed up much with the Giants at all.
The mental part of his pass protection has been excellent, but he has struggled in physically blocking some pass rushers closing in on Eli Manning. He has gone low a lot, trying to cut blitzers, and has missed some of those blocks, which have resulted in sacks.
"He's progressing really well," said running backs coach Craig Johnson. "He has done a very good job in all three phases, in running, pass protection and his routes, but like all rookies, he still has to get better in his running, pass protection and his routes. In the big picture, he has had good production. I think he has done a good job of being very vocal on the sidelines in his way, and I like his leadership along with his play on the field. Like all players, there's more out there, so we've got to continue to work to get to that."
Second Round Pick, 34th Overall, Guard Will Hernandez
Hernandez has started every game at left guard for the Giants and has displayed the promise he had coming out of UTEP, even while making typical rookie mistakes. When Hernandez gets his hands on defensive players, he has been able to control them using his strength. He has been more consistent in the running game, where he has shown the ability to pull and lead the way.
Where Hernandez has had some issues is in pass protection. He has allowed five sacks so far this season to go along with 8 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. There have been plays where there seems to be some disconnect as to how to handle pass rush games with his teammates playing next to him.
Overall, according to Pro Football Focus, Hernandez is the 7th highest graded guard in the league of players with 400 snaps or more. He looks like a keeper on the offensive line that will only develop as he gets more snaps.
"He's getting the volume, his mental errors are next to none," offensive line coach Hal Hunter said. "I think he's gone the last two games, three games with no mental errors which is a really big deal. That means he's really getting a grasp of it and he's reacting much faster. You can see him on tape when things are happening, he's reacting to them a lot faster than he did. He's diagnosing them a lot faster than he did his first couple weeks of the year so that's progress that you make and he'll continue to make progress game after game after game through these first couple years in that aspect of it."
Third Round Pick, 66th Overall, Edge Rusher Lorenzo Carter
Carter has gotten anywhere from 20-40 defensive snaps per game this season, with more than 2/3 coming in passing situations. He has managed two sacks, three quarterback hits and five hurries in 143 pass rush snaps. His length and natural athleticism are apparent on every play, and he hasn't made the type of discipline-related rookie mistakes you often see in read option and edge setting situations.
Where Carter needs to improve is getting pressure more consistently. He has the raw talent, but much like at Georgia where he played far more in space than with the Giants, he still doesn't have the pass rush repertoire and polished technique you are looking for from a top edge rusher. That's something he will be able to work on in the offseason.
"He is making steady progress," linebackers coach Bill McGovern said. "There's things obviously that he needs to improve on, he's young and he's learning, but what we're excited about with (Lorenzo) is he comes out with a good attitude everyday so far, and usually some of the rookies, they'll struggle at times, you can see them hit a wall. He has not hit that wall yet. He's been working through it, he's been pushing hard, and we're excited for him. Again, if it calls for it, then he'll play more – if his play calls for it, we'll put him in more."
Third Round Pick, 96th Overall, Defensive Lineman B.J. Hill
After playing primarily defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme at N.C. State, Hill has taken on the defensive end position in the Giants' base 3-4 defense. He has 123 rush defense snaps this season, and 102 against the pass. According to Pro Football Focus, he has two sacks and four quarterback hurries. Overall, he has 24 tackles and three tackles for loss.
Hill has flashed a combination of short area quickness, strength and explosiveness that makes him a handful on the defensive line in the both the run and pass game. His ability to penetrate and disrupt has been apparent throughout the season. Hill has already started four games, and with Damon Harrison no longer with the team, he figures to start the remainder of the season and get more snaps in pass rush and run defense situations. He should be a long-term fixture on the Giants defensive line.
"B.J. is a fine football player," head coach Pat Shurmur said." "And he's playing better than what you would expect from a rookie. He's tough, he's competitive, he's got really good instincts, and he plays hard. When you've got a guy on the inside of the defense that plays hard and plays tough, then they find a way to contact the ball and I think he's done a good job."
Fourth Round Pick, 108th Overall, Quarterback Kyle Lauletta
Lauletta has served as the team's third string quarterback for most of the season, and has not been active on game days.
"I guess because he's not active on game day, naturally it feels like he's third," Shurmur said. "But during the week, he gets as many reps as Alex does, so we are developing him behind the scenes just like we would any rookie. Aside from putting him in the game, he is getting all the work that he can get."
5th Round Pick, 139th Overall, Defensive Lineman RJ McIntosh
McIntosh was placed on the Non-Football Illness list in July and practiced for the first time two weeks ago. He will be brought along slowly with the hopes he can play at some point in the second half of the season.
Undrafted Free Agent, Cornerback Grant Haley
Haley was called up from the practice squad the week before the Falcons game. He played only four defensive snaps against Atlanta before getting 39 on defense against the Redskins after the Giants traded El Apple. He played primarily in the slot. He'll have a chance to hold onto that job for the remainder of the season. Haley also played on seven punt coverage snaps the last two weeks.
"I thought he was competitive," Shurmur said. "There were times in the game where he was real tight in coverage and you could tell that he understands how to play the game. He's got some instincts as a football player and I think that showed."
Undrafted Free Agent, Linebacker Tae Davis
Tae Davis has played in three games so far after missing the start of the season with a hamstring injury, with his most extensive action (42 of 54 defensive snaps) coming against the Redskins last week. Davis has shown his athleticism with eight tackles, but is making the type of mistakes you would expect from a rookie out of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He will get better with experience. It remains to be seen how his role will be affected once Alec Ogletree returns from injury.
Undrafted Free Agent, Wide Receiver Quadree Henderson
The Giants signed wide receiver and return specialist Quadree Henderson to their practice squad on October 3 and elevated him to the active roster on October 21. Henderson has not taken any snaps on offense yet this season, but has been on the field in kick coverage once, 11 times as a kick retuner and eight times as a punt returner.
He has 6 punt returns for 47 yards, a 7.8 average. He has five kickoff returns for 112 yards, a 22.4 return average.
"Same thing he showed in college, production," special team coordinator Thomas McGaughey explained why the Giants like Henderson. "He's a sure-handed guy, does a good job of catching the ball. He's a good young player that has a lot of potential as a returner."
Undrafted Free Agent Safety Sean Chandler
Chandler has gotten playing time on defense in three games this year, with all but two defensive snaps coming in the team's last game against the Falcons. He played 18 snaps on defense against Atlanta, many in the slot. He has three tackles on defense.
Chandler has been a fixture on all the Giants special teams units, logging 114 snaps. He has one special teams tackle. According to Pro Football Focus' grading system, he is the third-highest graded special teams player in the league this season.
"He's a good player, a young player," Shurmur said. "We've been impressed with him since he got here. He's tough, he's competitive, he's got good instincts. I think, given an opportunity to get in the game, he's going to do a good job."
Undrafted Free Agent Wide Receiver Jawill Davis
Davis played in three games for the Giants before suffering a concussion that kept him on the sideline in Weeks Seven and Eight. He played 77 snaps as a wide receiver in those three games, catching two passes for 27 yards. He's also played 47 special teams snaps on all four of the Giants kick teams.
"Jawill – good, young player," McGaughey said. "He's a guy that has a ton of upside, but again, he's a young player that needs reps and the (inaudible) process has started for him and we look forward to him making great strides moving forward and once he gets a couple of weeks under his belt, he's going to be alright."
Undrafted Free Agent Cornerback Kamrin Moore
Moore has played in one game for the Giants this year, playing punt coverage on two snaps against the Saints.
Undrafted Free Agent Offensive Lineman Evan Brown
Evan Brown has not taken any snaps for the Giants so far this season and has been inactive for all but one game.
The Giants enter the Week 9 bye with a 1-7 record and half the season done. Heading into the second half of the season, here are the players to watch out for.