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Players to Watch: Defense faces challenge in Week 8

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The Giants are looking to win their fifth consecutive game for the first time since 2008 when they fly across the country to take on the Seahawks in Seattle.

The Giants and Seahawks are two teams that many pundits overlooked heading into the season. Now the two teams face off in Week 8 as the only matchup of the weekend featuring two teams with winning records, with the Giants sitting at 6-1 and Seattle at 4-3.

The Seahawks' offense has been one of the best in the NFL this season, thanks to some unlikely sources. This weekend's matchup will provide a good test for the Big Blue defense, which has performed as a top unit in its own right.

Here are five players to watch in Week 8.

QB Daniel Jones

Jones is coming off his best performance of the season. Against Jacksonville, the young signal-caller completed 19 of 30 passes for 202 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton. Jones also set new career-highs with 11 rush attempts for 107 yards (9.7 avg.) and a touchdown to give the Giants the lead with just over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. He became just the third quarterback with 200 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a game this season, joining Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray. His performance earned him the honor of NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

"I appreciate it," Jones said about the award. "A lot went into that from a lot of guys, and it was a group effort. Happy and appreciative but understand that it's a team award, a team recognition and I appreciate everyone."

The 25-year-old quarterback has led five game-winning drives this season, the most in the NFL. His 5.9 yards per rush attempt matches Browns RB Nick Chubb for the sixth-highest in the league, while his 15 carries of 10+ yards are tied for the fifth-most. Jones has registered three consecutive games with a passer rating of 94.0 or higher. Perhaps most importantly, Jones' ability to protect the football has improved greatly, as he has recorded only four turnovers (two INT, two fumbles) in seven games.

"That's what we're trying to do: trying to eliminate turnovers," Brian Daboll told the media Wednesday. "He touches the ball on every play. There's a wide variety of reasons to turn the ball over, and I think that his decision-making process has been very good. We need to continue to improve on that. He's kept two hands on the ball in the pocket. Again, sometimes, they're just going to make a really good play on defense. I think he's practiced with good habits. It's something you've got to work on each week because each week is a different challenge."

View photos from practice as the Giants prepare for their Week 8 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

WR Darius Slayton

It's been a tale of two seasons for Darius Slayton. After being inactive for the season opener, Slayton played a total of 18 offensive snaps in Weeks 2-3 and failed to catch a pass. He registered his first reception against the Bears in Week 4 while also playing 60 percent of the offensive snaps. Since then, Slayton's playing time and production have both increased significantly.

Over the last three games, the fourth-year receiver has played 54, 69 and 57 percent of the team's offensive snaps. He led the team in receiving in their matchup against the Packers in London when he caught six of seven targets for 79 yards. During last week's win over the Jaguars, he once again had a team-high 58 receiving yards and also pulled in his first touchdown catch of the season on a beautiful 32-yard pass from Jones.

Kenny Golladay did not participate in Wednesday's practice. It remains to be seen whether he he will be able to suit up for Sunday's game in Seattle. Regardless, Slayton is likely looking at a large role in the Week 8 matchup against a Seahawks defense that ranks 23rd in passing yards allowed.

DL Dexter Lawrence

Dexter Lawrence has been a dominant force up front for the Giants' defense this season. The defensive lineman has already matched his career-high with four sacks on the season, while his 10 quarterback hits are just one shy of his previous best set last season. Lawrence has garnered the praise from his coaches, teammates, and even opponents for his strong play.

"I'd just say I'm doing the same things but I'm just playing better with my hands, my power, and my feet," Lawrence said about his improved performance this season. "You know, things like that. I haven't changed what I do in the off-season, how I approach every day. It's just I'm doing the little things better with my technique."

Last week's game was the first of the season in which Lawrence did not register a QB hit, and the first time in the last four games that he did not register a sack. The fourth-year defensive lineman will look to get back in the sack column against a Seahawks' offensive line that has surrendered 16 sacks this year, tied for the 11th-most. Lawrence will also look to play a role in slowing down Seattle's impressive rushing attack, but more on that later.

OLB Jihad Ward

Jihad Ward has been one of the most underrated additions to the roster. The veteran outside linebacker came to the Giants in the offseason due in part to his familiarity with defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and his fit within the system. Over the first seven games of the season, Ward has played a crucial role on defense, especially with some of the injuries the team has suffered at the outside linebacker position.

Ward has already set a new career-high with his six tackles for loss, two more than his previous high mark of four set in 10 games across the 2020 season with the Ravens. He has added a sack, four quarterback hits and a pass breakup to his season stats, in addition to his first career forced fumble. His 25 total tackles puts him on pace to shatter his previous high of 32 tackles (2021).

Ward has stepped up big in the run game. Because of his solid play in addition to the injuries to Azeez Ojulari, Oshane Ximines and Kayvon Thibodeaux at various points of the season, Ward is seeing some of the most playing time of his career. The Giants will need him to bring his A game on Sunday, as the Seahawks have rushed for at least 112 yards in each of their last five games. Rookie RB Kenneth Walker became the lead back following Rashaad Penny's season-ending leg injury in Week 5. Over the last two games, Walker has exploded for 265 yards on 44 carries (6.0 avg.) and three touchdowns while Seattle has won each game by double-digits. Daboll called Walker a "special player" on Wednesday, noting the rookie's quickness, vision and ability to take it the distance on any given play.

CB Adoree' Jackson

Adoree' Jackson has been one of the most consistent players on the Giants' defense this season. Outside of the Week 5 game against Green Bay in which he departed due to an injury, Jackson has played at least 90 percent of the defensive snaps in every game, including four games of not missing a single snap. The veteran cornerback has registered four pass breakups this season, along with two tackles for loss and 37 total tackles.

Jackson has racked up three pass breakups over the last two weeks, including two against the Jaguars in Week 7. In last week's contest, the 27-year-old allowed four receptions for 38 yards on eight targets, good for a passer rating against of 63.5. The Giants' defense has surrendered just one passing touchdown per game this season, which ranks eighth in the league.

The Big Blue secondary will have a tough test on Sunday as they attempt to limit Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith. The journeyman quarterback is enjoying a breakout season. His 73.5 completion percentage leads the NFL, while his 107.7 passer rating ranks third behind only Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. Smith has thrown for 1,712 yards this season to go with 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

View rare photos of the all-time history between the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks.

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