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5 Things We Learned

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5 things we learned (11/17): 'Never seen a combo' like Dex & Leo


The Giants were back at it Thursday preparing for this weekend's matchup against the Detroit Lions.

After practicing inside the fieldhouse Wednesday, the team returned to the outdoor practice fields. It looks like it's going to be a cold one Sunday as the current forecast is a high of 38 degrees with winds between 15 and 25 mph.

Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey spoke to the media Thursday about the upcoming game.

Here are five things we learned.

1. DJ's success on 3rd down

Quarterback Daniel Jones is coming off one of his most efficient games of the year in which he completed 76.5 percent of his passes for 197 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and added five rushes for 24 yards. His 153.3 passer rating was the highest of his career and the highest of any starting quarterback this season. Jones has now gone six consecutive games without an interception, matching the longest stretch of his career, and has zero turnovers in six of nine games.

"I think he's doing a really good job for us right now," Mike Kafka said about the quarterback. "He's executing the offense. He's coming in early. He's watching a bunch of tape. He's putting in all the work, which was no surprise. He's been like that since the day I got here. I'm happy where he's at. Where we're right now, this week in practice getting ready for our third down and our red zone installs – we just had a great walkthrough, great communication with all those guys. He's doing a great job."

Heading into Week 11, the Giants rank 15th in the league in third down conversions at 40.8 percent. However, the offense improved in recent weeks. Jones and the offense have converted on at least 50 percent of their third down attempts in four of the last five games. That success rate would rank third in the league if it were for the entire season. The 25-year-old quarterback's career-best 65.8 completion percentage has played a big role in that.

"It's just the execution part of it," the offensive coordinator said about Jones' success on third down. "Those guys are getting open, we have great protection up front. Daniel's done a good job of staying on time and in rhythm with his feet and then when it's not there, stepping up and making plays with his legs. I've been proud of him for doing that and the guys separating and working in voids. Those are tough situations, everyone in the building knows you're dropping back and throwing it. So now, guys got to step up and execute even more."

2. 'Never seen a combo' like Dex & Leo

Despite dealing with injuries all across the unit, the Giants defense has performed well all season. They enter Week 11 as the No. 9 scoring defense, giving up an average of 19.2 points per game. For anyone that has followed the team this year, it's clear that the play of some of the big men up front has been a huge factor in that success.

A lot of praise has been thrown in the direction of Dexter Lawrence, and deservedly so. The 25-year-old is in the middle of a true breakout campaign. While most of the focus has been on the 2019 first-round pick, his linemate Leonard Williams has also been a force. As Wink Martindale said on Thursday, Williams is "getting into the groove." During the last three games, Williams has picked up 1.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits. The linemen have formed a formidable duo in the middle of the defense that has wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines.

"I will say this, I've never seen a combo of tackles in my career like these two, both those guys," said the defensive coordinator. "Credit to (defensive line coach Andre) Dre (Patterson) and (assistant defensive line coach Bryan Cox) B-Cox and that entire room because it's a really mature room. They take playing in this system very seriously. Dex has played all over the place and people don't even know it. Just because he's listed as a nose, they think he's playing nose. There's sometimes he's played MIKE linebacker on third down. How he studies, how smart he is, what a great dude he is, and Leo's the same way."

3. Hutchinson 'has a motor'

Detroit has talented players on the defensive side of the ball, and it starts with the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft. Aidan Hutchinson has gotten his NFL career off on a strong note. Through nine games, Hutchinson has racked up a team-high 5.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits. That is more than double any other player on the team. He also made an athletic play to intercept a pass from Aaron Rodgers in Detroit's Week 9 win over the Packers. Hutchinson has made most of his impact felt against the NFC East, as 4.5 of his sacks have come against the Commanders and Cowboys.

"He's a talented player," said Kafka. "I actually had an opportunity in the draft process to take a peak at him and look at him and his skillset on the edge. He does a good job inside as well. He's physical, he has a motor. He does a really good job in that defense and they use him appropriately…

"He's doing a great job. You can tell he's playing savvy, he's got some savviness to him on the perimeter and you see him make plays on the ball. Those couple in the red zone, making a play on the ball, getting his hands up, getting an interception. He does a good job, he really does. He's a smart football player and no surprise why he was a high draft pick."

View photos from practice as the Giants prepare for their Week 11 matchup against the Detroit Lions.

4. Kayvon doing the 'selfless' work

Outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux made a splash play in Week 6 when he strip-sacked Baltimore's Lamar Jackson to seal the victory, but the rookie has done a lot more than what shows up in the box score.

"I think with our system itself, like I said before, it's a position-less defense, and when you look at the defense statistically in areas where there are a lot of sacks, he's doing the selfless work," Wink Martindale told the media. "I always say we're going to open up a can of whoop ass. Well, he's the can opener. You have a guy running free to the quarterback, playing a single high safety. Well, he has to do the right pattern to get that guy free and that's what pleases me about the guy himself.

"I know everybody wants to say, 'sacks, sacks, sacks' to him after games whenever you do the media with him, but if there's 1,000 plays run and we're happy with him in 950 of them, it's better than the guy that has 12 sacks, plays 600 plays and can't play the run, can't do this, can't do that. I just think the kid is playing great. It's just like takeaways or anything else, the sacks will come. The other thing is to look at the holding calls he's drawn, you know you look at the whole picture. He drops well in coverage. I can't say nothing but positives about how he's playing. How he's chasing after the football like a veteran, studying like a veteran, leading like a veteran. So, I'm really glad he's a Giant."

5. Injury updates; Wan'Dale, Ezeudu sit

Tight end Daniel Bellinger once again did not participate in practice as he continues his recovery from the serious eye injury suffered in Week 7. Joining him on the sidelines for today's practice were two other members of the rookie class – wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (hamstring) and offensive lineman Joshua Ezeudu (neck). Robinson was downgraded to DNP after getting in a limited practice on Wednesday. On the other hand, the neck injury is a new one for Ezeudu, who was not listed on the injury report yesterday.

It remains to be seen who would replace the rookie at left guard if he's unable to play, but a few options are Shane Lemieux, who is progressing in his recovery from the toe injury suffered during the preseason, and Nick Gates.

"They'll both get reps, but Shane will start progressively getting more reps," Coach Brian Daboll told the media. "We'll use both those guys and Jack Anderson."

Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence (back/resting player) and outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux (illness) both returned to practice as limited participants today. Meanwhile, safety Dane Belton (clavicle), wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring), tackle Evan Neal (knee) and outside linebacker Jihad Ward (thumb) were all limited for the second consecutive day.

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