EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – On what was certainly a first for a defensive player who began his career undrafted out of the University of Richmond, Kerry Wynn was today mentioned with Eli Manning in response to a question on coach Pat Shurmur's conference call with the media.
Wynn, a fifth-year lineman, was one of the Giants' most disruptive defensive players in the 27-22 victory yesterday in Houston. He had a team-high five solo tackles, his first career forced fumble, and tipped a Deshaun Watson pass attempt on the Texans' final possession.
"I thought Kerry was outstanding," Shurmur said. "He had five tackles, he had one special teams tackle, he had two assists, he forced a fumble, he had a pass breakup, one quarterback hit, and one quarterback pressure. I mentioned that Eli had a pretty good day at the office. That's a pretty darn good day at the office as well. Kerry is long, he's kind of a relentless player, he's tough, he's all the things you're looking for – he's tough, he cares, he works, and he finds a way to make plays. That certainly was an outstanding performance on his part."
Wynn has played in 52 games since his arrival in 2014, but was never more noticeable than he was yesterday.
"I don't know if it was my best game ever," he said. "I know I had a productive game, and it feels even better to have a game like that where we come out victorious from it. Hope to have more like that."
Although he played in at least 14 games in each of the previous three seasons, Wynn was not prominently mentioned in preseason discussions about the Giants' defensive line. Most of the attention went to Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, rookie B.J. Hill, as well as linebackers Olivier Vernon and Kareem Martin. But Wynn has started two of the Giants' three games, and has 10 tackles (nine solo), a half-sack and the team's only forced fumble.
"Honestly, Kerry Wynn has been doing that since he's been here, since I got here and he's been playing," said safety and defensive captain Landon Collins, who joined the team a year after Wynn. "He's just finally getting the recognition, the playing time he deserves to be able to showcase it. You could see it all preseason; the past three preseasons I had with him, he's been making plays like that. Now he actually has the opportunity to do it on a game day.
"He's a quiet guy, stays out of the way, but does his job and does his job excellent. He's going to know every detail he has to go into the game with and play it 100 percent."
Wynn said his abilities are well-suited for defensive coordinator James Bettcher's scheme.
"This defense is a very attacking defense, very aggressive, and D-linemen love that," Wynn said. "Me personally, I try to make sure I'm always around the ball. When you're around the ball, good things tend to happen. Just running around and trying to make stuff happen. I'm having fun with the defense. I love it so far."
*Shurmur also praised another player who joined the team – and the league – as a free agent, second-year pro Chad Wheeler, who started yesterday at right tackle. Ereck Flowers, who started the first two games, was limited to five snaps blocking on extra points and field goal attempts.
"Here's what Wheeler did, he did a really good job," Shurmur said. "I thought, in the run game against a really unpredictable player (three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt), he did a good job, and he finished blocks. When you watch him play, you say there's a guy who's finishing blocks and doing those things. I'm going to take responsibility for it, a couple times he got stretched out and just pure one-on-one (pass protection) against (Watt), and I can't put him in those positions as many times as I did. But he battled and in my opinion, even though he got beat on a couple of snaps, I thought he had a winning performance."
*Manning completed 25 of 29 passes – he threw just two incompletions in each half – for a .862 completion percentage that was the second-highest of his career. He threw touchdown passes of 16 yards to tight end Rhett Ellison and seven yards to Sterling Shepard, the latter clinching the victory.
"The thing I like about Eli – and I appreciate this about anybody – … you don't win all the time, and at some point you take a punch, and Eli can take them and keep playing," Shurmur said. "I think that's the thing that even before I knew Eli, as much winning as he was involved with here all those years, I always admired the fact that he just stays the course, and keeps playing with the idea that tomorrow is going to be a better day if today isn't such a good one. I admire that. That's really the most important thing, toughness and grit. You can be smart, you can be well-dressed, you can be well-spoken, but at the end of the day and it's absolutely demanded in our sport, is your ability to be tough and gritty. Those are the attributes in people and especially in football players that is an absolute necessity in our business."
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*Another player displaying those traits is 16 years younger than Manning – 21-year-old Saquon Barkley, who rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown, caught five passes for 35 yards, and became the first Giants player in history with more than 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first three games.
"He's everything that we thought he would be to this point,' Shurmur said. "He shows up on game day. He really, when you see it up close and personal, you see the way he's into it and how competitive his spirit is, and how he wants to compete and get the ball in his hands. There's a reason why he's got a chance to be a really good player for a very long time."
*Tight end Evan Engram injured his knee on his only reception yesterday and did not return to the game.
"We're just waiting to see how extensive it might be,' Shurmur said.
*Vernon, who missed the first three games with an ankle injury, is "better," according to Shurmur.
"I just happened to see him running around outside my window here, so we'll just have to see," Shurmur said. "I think we'll consider him day to day and see how far he can come with it. He's making progress, he hasn't had any setbacks, and we just all know that these high ankle sprains take time."
*And what about cornerback Eli Apple, who didn't travel to Houston because of a groin injury?
"Same," Shurmur said. "He was out there running around as well. At some point here later this afternoon, (senior vice president of medical services Ronnie Barnes) will come back with some of what he thinks moving forward. But they were both out there working out and kind of getting their normal rehab and running. They were both running, so we'll just have to see how far along they can come."
A unique perspective of the Giants 27-22 win over the Houston Texans.