Keep an eye on these 5 players as the Giants face the 49ers on Sunday
- "Do something about it."**
Over their current four-game losing streak, the 3-6 Giants have given up 448, 423, 443, and 510 yards to their opponents, dropping to last in the NFL in yards allowed per game. It's gut check time. "Do something about it," coach Tom Coughlin said in his weekly exclusive interview with Giants.com's Michael Eisen. "Be upset about it and go do something about it. The other way to look at it is this – criticism, criticism, criticism. If you don't do something about it, you're obviously acknowledging it. You're trumping it, you're saying, 'OK.' You have to prove it wrong. That's the great challenge. The challenge is always within yourself. Professional athletics, once you get into a segment of the season, the challenge is always internal to get better, to improve."
2. Rashad's return.
After suffering a knee injury in Week 4 and missing the past four games, starting running back Rashad Jennings is "probable" to make his return on Sunday when the New York Giants host the San Francisco 49ers. The Giants hope the one-two punch with rookie Andre Williams, who started for the Giants while Jennings was out, will be a lift for the offense, which has rushed for 100 yards just once since the team's last victory in Week 5.
3. Aldon's addition.
While the offensive line tries to open holes for Jennings, it will also have to protect quarterback Eli Manning from 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who is set to make his return after serving a nine-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct and substance abuse policies. "We have to prepare for him like he is going to play every play," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said of Smith, who has 42 sacks in 43 career games. "He is a talented player, he is going to come in with fresh legs, he hasn't practiced a whole heck of a lot, but I am sure he is going to get off the ball well on a fast surface; we need to be ready for it."
4. The emergence of Odell Beckham Jr.
The rookie wide receiver leads the NFL in receiving yards over the last two weeks and is part of a draft class that is making a name for itself at the position. Not including Beckham, who has three touchdowns, seven rookie wide receivers have at least five touchdowns this season, already the most in any season in NFL history.
5. Zone read adjustments.
Seattle posted a franchise-record 350 rushing yards on Big Blue last week with quarterback Russell Wilson running the zone read offense to near perfection. The Giants will face a similar threat against San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick. "We tried to change our approach this week in how we taught it," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "Then we also worked hard and put a lot of energy and effort into making sure that we explained exactly what the assignments were. We also walked through the different assignments and we've just continuously, mentally and physically and verbally, gone through option-football assignments."
6. Plays from play-makers.
The Giants have liked the effort from defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, but the numbers haven't always reflected that this season. Pierre-Paul has just 3.5 of the Giants' 16 sacks, which ranks 23rd in the NFL. "You need big plays out of your big-play guys, no matter what it is," Coughlin said Friday.
7. More three-safety looks.
The Giants have ramped up the number of snaps recently for safety Stevie Brown, who was replaced by Quintin Demps in the starting lineup in Week 4. It's part of the Giants' plan to integrate both of them playing opposite defensive co-captain Antrel Rolle. For all the struggles on defense, the Giants are still tied for second in the NFL with 13 interceptions and have an even turnover differential.
8. Biggest rival outside of the NFC East?
Sunday will be just the 38th game between the two iconic franchises, but those matchups have produced some of the biggest moments in Giants history. Big Blue holds a slight 15-14 edge in the regular season, in addition to eight meetings in the postseason, where the series is tied, 4-4. One of those victories was in the Giants' 2011 championship season in the NFC Championship game, which the Giants won, 20-17, in overtime. Under Coughlin, the Giants are 5-1 against the 49ers.