Three Giants.com writers discuss what to watch in the final six games as the Giants return from their bye week. They start with a road trip in Week 12 to face the Chicago Bears.
John Schmeelk: The potential bad weather of late November and December won’t change the fact the NFL is a passing league. If the Giants want to win more games, they have to become more efficient throwing the ball and defending the pass in their final six games. The Giants are 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed per play (8.27) and 26th in yards per pass play offensively (5.91).
For the Giants, their final six games feature low-tier pass offenses. The Bears, Dolphins and Redskins are ranked 32nd (5.28), 31st (5.60) and 28th (5.78) in pass yards per play this season. The Bears have shuffled their quarterbacks and the Redskins have gone with rookie Dwayne Haskins. The Dolphins have been better with Ryan Fitzpatrick, but they still aren’t efficient.
Even the Philadelphia Eagles, who the Giants still have to play twice, only rank 24th in yards per pass play (6.16). Aaron Rodgers and the Packers rank 11th (7.32) and will be a very difficult challenge at Metlife Stadium on December 1.
The Dolphins, Redskins and Packers all have bottom 10 pass defenses, while the Eagles are right in the middle of the league in yards allowed per pass play. The Bears are still a top 10 pass defense. Every remaining opponent is ranked 14th or worse in sacks allowed per pass attempt. There should be opportunities for Daniel Jones to end the season strong.
Dan Salomone: Lance talks about the promising rookie class next, but I’m going to bring up some new-old players. First up is Leonard Williams. The former Jet, who has never missed a game since being drafted sixth overall in 2015, came to the Giants in a trade at the end of last month. He immediately took on a heavy load in the defensive line rotation and most recently racked up four quarterback hits on former teammate Sam Darnold. Williams could be a fixture of this team for years, let alone the next six weeks. General manager Dave Gettleman said the plan is to sign him to a long-term deal, and Williams has viewed this season as an audition from the start. Gettleman likes hog mollies on defense just as much as he does on offense. Coupled with first-round pick Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson, Williams is part of a big three in the 3-4 defense.
Secondly, safety Jabrill Peppers enters the home stretch of his inaugural season with the Giants, third overall in the NFL, after he also came over in a trade. He is on pace for 114 tackles, which would shatter his previous best of 78. He has forced three fumbles and returned an interception for a touchdown. The team defensive numbers are nowhere near where the Giants want them to be, but like Williams, Peppers is part of a new core.
“At the end of the day, you play for the name on your jersey and the name on the back of your jersey,” Peppers said before the break. “We are all prideful guys. I’m not worried about guys checking out. We have a much needed bye week, rest some guys up, get some guys healthy and we are going to come out of this thing like we want to and that’s ready to play some damn football.”
Lance Medow: If there’s any group to watch over the final six games of the season, it’s this year’s rookie class and the continued development of the future nucleus of the team. Keep in mind, this class is entering uncharted territory as they’re going to play several more games in a season than they did during their collegiate careers. Daniel Jones tops the list. It’s been baptism by fire for the former Duke quarterback since he took over as the starter in Week 3. From helping orchestrate an impressive comeback against the Bucs in his first career start to a pair of 300+ yard, four touchdown games in two of his last three starts, Jones has showed some positive flashes and encouraging signs of what he can build off moving forward. On the flip side, he’s also been plagued by turnovers, and if you ask him, that’s an area he wants to show improvement and start trending in the right direction. The Giants haven’t had a clean game in the turnover department all season and Jones has had either one lost fumble or one interception in each of his eight starts. Turnover differential is synonymous with wins and losses, and given the Giants are minus-12 in that department, it’s not surprising they’ve only won two of their first 10 games.
In addition to Jones, Darius Slayton has shown some great flashes as he leads the team in receiving touchdowns (5) and is third in receiving yards (394 yards). He has developed a nice chemistry with Jones as four of his five touchdown receptions have come in the last three games. In the final stretch of the season, it’s important for Slayton to continue to make plays and improve upon his ability to locate the ball in traffic. The box score doesn’t always do Dexter Lawrence’s game justice, but he’s certainly made an impact in helping to collapse the pocket and present opportunities for the edge rushers. With Lawrence and Oshane Ximines, the one facet of their games worth monitoring is their ability to finish and get home against the quarterback.
The secondary is what I consider the most important group of rookies to keep close tabs on: Deandre Baker, Julian Love and Corey Ballentine. Three questions come to mind for this group. How will Baker close out the season given his ups and downs? Will Love’s role expand? And can Ballentine take advantage of his reps at nickel? The answers to those questions will give us an indication where this young secondary is headed.
A look at the New York Giants' current active roster