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5 Things We Learned

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5 things we learned (12/15): Isaiah Hodgins steps up

ISAIAH-HODGINS-5THINGS

The Giants continued their preparations on Thursday for this weekend's big NFC East matchup against the Washington Commanders.

Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey met with the media to discuss the Week 15 rematch against their division rival.

Here are five things we learned today:

1. Facing Chase Young, Commanders' D-line

The Commanders enter this week's matchup tied for the 10th in the NFL with 34 sacks - and they've been without DE Chase Young all season, that sack total becomes even more admirable.

Following the torn ACL suffered in Week 10 of the 2021 season, Young appears in line to make his 2022 debut this weekend against the Giants. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft registered 7.5 sacks and four forced fumbles on his way to being named the Defensive Rookie of the Year. While it isn't guaranteed that Young suits up Sunday, Mike Kafka will have his entire unit prepared for the talented pass rusher to be out there.

"It's an opportunity for them to add a really good player to their defense," Kafka said about Young's potential return this weekend. "We'll have to prep for him and account for him in both the run and pass game. Really, even in situational positions – third down, red zone, short yardage. We have to make sure we take care of him and prep for the whole entire front as well."

Whether or not Young plays, the Commanders still have a star-studded defensive line, led by their two tackles. Daron Payne has registered 8.5 while Jonathan Allen is right behind him with 7.5. The two combined for three sacks in Week 13.

"They do a really nice job," Kafka said about Payne and Allen. "They're aggressive, they're violent, they get up field and they play almost every snap. They never come off the field. It's going to be a great challenge for us."

2. Moreau has been a 'great surprise'

Joe Schoen and the Giants' front office have made several key additions to the roster since the conclusion of training camp. One of the biggest moves they made was the signing of veteran cornerback Fabian Moreau in early September.

"Fabian's done a great job. I think he's been a great surprise for this organization for the defense, for the team," Wink Martindale said. "I think that's the life of a corner, is what you just described right there. I'm just expecting big things out of him not only this game but the next four games. Sometimes you end on top on those 50/50 balls, sometimes you don't. The penalties, sometimes they're just out of your control. We don't make the rules, we just try to play by them."

With Adoree' Jackson uncertain to suit up, Moreau could be matched up against Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin for most of Sunday's game. The veteran receiver got the best of the Giants' secondary last time out, catching eight passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.

3. Hodgins taking advantage of his opportunity

Another player that did not start the season with the team but has made a large impact, especially in recent weeks, is wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins. The 24-year-old was waived by the Buffalo Bills on November 1 and claimed by the Giants the following day. He made his Giants debut in Week 11 with two receptions for 41 yards against the Texans and hasn't looked back.

Hodgins has really stepped up over the last two weeks. In the last game against Washington, the young receiver brought in five passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. He followed that performance up last week with four receptions for 38 yards and another score. The touchdowns were the first two of his NFL career, as he has seen his role grow due to other injuries at the wide receiver position.

"Isaiah has done a really nice job, not only in the red zone but being a factor on third down, first, second down," said Kafka. "He's a really good blocker, he's a tough kid. He's done a great job, he's done everything we've asked of him."

4. Dexter 'should be a Pro Bowler'

A lot has been said this season about Dexter Lawrence's breakout campaign. With four games still on the schedule, Lawrence has already set new career-highs in numerous statistics, including sacks (six), total tackles (55), and quarterback hits (21). Following the Week 5 win over the Packers in London, Aaron Rodgers referred to him as "one of the top guys in the league."

Martindale has received some recognition for helping Lawrence take the next step in his development this season. But according to the defensive coordinator, all of the praise should go to the young lineman himself.

"it's all credit to Dex," Martindale said about the defensive lineman's dominant season. "He had a really good offseason, he was here all during the installs, he's smart, I think he enjoys playing in this defense and I said it when I took the job here that he should be a Pro Bowler. You could just see it in the kid himself. Then after I got to know him, I could've guaranteed you he's going to be that type of player because of how much he loves football, how much he loves his teammates, he's selfless and he's very accountable to everybody in the room."

Back in Week 13, Lawrence recorded a career-high nine tackles against the Commanders. He picked up two quarterback hits and a sack, one of five registered by the pass rush that day.

5. Improving the run defense

It's no secret that the Giants have struggled to slow down the run over the last month. Since holding the Texans to 101 yards on the ground in Week 10, each of their last four opponents have rushed for at least 160 yards, including a season-high 253 yards allowed last week to the Eagles. Due to these recent struggles, the Giants have dropped to 29th in run defense with an average of 149.7 rushing yards allowed per game. Meanwhile, opposing teams are averaging 5.4 yards per carry against the Giants, which ranks 31st.

"We're going to continue to work on it," the defensive coordinator said about the run defense. "We understood the process of building a roster of what we needed to do. It's been a struggle. We've played with more DBs than we ever have this year, just to change things up. So, I think that's part of it. I think teams are just running the ball more and we've played three really good mobile quarterbacks. What do they call them five-tool players in baseball? They're five-tool players as quarterbacks. I think that has a lot to do with it."

In the first meeting between the two teams, the Commanders gained 165 yards on 36 rush attempts, good for 4.6 yards per carry. Brian Robinson carried the ball 21 times for 96 yards, while Antonio Gibson added nine rushes for 39. Additionally, wide receiver Curtis Samuel handled three carries for 23 yards. While Washington comes in at seventh in rush attempts on the season, they haven't been very efficient with those carries as they rank 14th in yards and 27th in both touchdowns and yards per carry.

View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders.

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