Biggest Early Season Surprises and Disappointments for the New York Giants
When a team starts its season 0-3, it’s challenging to find players whose performances have been legitimate surprises.
On the other hand, there is probably no shortage of players who, thus far, have been disappointing.
Here's a look at four players who have been pleasant surprises and four who have been disappointments through the New York Giants' first three games.
Surprise: Linebacker Spencer Paysinger
Paysinger has been the most consistent of a lackluster linebacker unit.
Once an undrafted free agent in 2011 who seemed like a long shot to make the roster, Paysinger was not only contributing on special teams in his rookie season, he was also called upon to take snaps with the starters when Michael Boley, the starting weak-side linebacker at the time, was injured.
Since then, Paysinger has worked hard to improve his craft and has taken a firm hold of the starting weak-side linebacker spot this season.
He’s currently second among his unit in tackles (behind Mark Herzlich), and has been slightly better in coverage than initially expected.
Disappointment: Defensive End Jason Pierre-Paul
The one-time pass rushing dynamo, who had back surgery in the offseason, hasn’t looked remotely close to his 2011 form, even though he said he was feeling better.
Pierre-Paul also looks like he’s moving well since he's come off the physically unable to perform list, but the mental part of his game, so far, has left something to be desired.
Against the run, Pierre-Paul has consistently been burned by outside runs because of his tendency to overreact instead of holding his ground and letting the play develop.
Against the pass, Pierre-Paul has one quarterback hit and one sack on the season, and is ranked 11th on the team in total tackles of what’s so far been a very nondescript year for him.
Surprise: Running Back David Wilson
On the surface, Wilson's rushing totals of 75 yards on 25 carries are nothing to write home about.
To be fair, with the Giants constantly in catch-up mode, it’s been hard to give Wilson the ball as much as they’d probably like.
However, a closer look at his rushes shows that he's actually made some hay despite his run blocking being so spotty.
When they have given him the ball, he’s shown improvement each week, rebounding nicely from the season opener when he had two fumbles.
Last week against the Panthers, he took advantage of those few solid run-blocking opportunities which resulted in three very impressive rushes that included a 17-yard touchdown (negated by a holding penalty by left tackle Will Beatty); and 11-yard, third-quarter gain; and a 14-yard rush negated by a holding penalty by center David Baas.
In addition, Wilson has quietly improved as a pass-blocker. Though he probably won’t be asked to perform that role very much, when he’s had to do it, he shown enough to inspire some confidence that he can get the job done.
Disappointment: Defensive End Justin Tuck
Tuck might be third on the Giants in total tackles with 18, but he’s part of the pass rush problem that has seen the defensive ends account for just two-and-a-half of the team’s three sacks.
According to ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required), after a strong opening day performance, Tuck’s weekly showing has declined to where he only has two tackles through three games, ranking him as 13th on the Giants through the three games.
With Tuck having taken 146 snaps so far, that amounts to one play made per every 71 snaps—not what you want to see from a defensive starter.
Surprise: Right Tackle Justin Pugh
The rookie first-rounder has had his hiccups, such as what happened last week against the Carolina Panthers when he gave up pressures.
However, there’s a lot to like about this young man, including how he stays with his assigned defender and squares him up, never once backing down from a fight.
While he still needs to learn how to master the speed rushers who line up wide against him—this is what gave him trouble against the Panthers last week—the good news is that Pugh is a battler.
According to ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required), in three games, Pugh has given up just two sacks and allowed one quarterback hit. That’s not bad for a rookie who is still feeling his way around.
Disappointment: Linebacker Keith Rivers
Blessed with amazing athletic ability, Rivers has mostly been invisible through three games and has not been the every-down linebacker that some thought he might be.
What’s more, based on some of the decisions he’s made, he appears to either be confused or is taking some gambles that aren’t paying off.
Rivers has just eight tackles to his credit this season, seven of which, according to ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required), came against Carolina and none of which were really game-defining.
He’s been thrown at three times and has allowed two receptions for 29 yards, both of those against the Cowboys in Week 1.
He also has one pass breakup, but other than that, it’s been a rather nondescript season so far for the former first-round talent who, for whatever the reason, just doesn’t seem to look comfortable in this defense.
Surprise: Defensive Tackle Linval Joseph
Joseph has by far been the best of the Giants interior defensive linemen.
Fifth on the team with eight tackles, including two tackles for a loss, Joseph’s balance and ability to push the pocket often goes unnoticed since the Giants defensive ends have been unable to finish the job against opposing quarterbacks.
His run defense has also been stout in that he’s helped to take away inside rushing lanes. According to ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required), Joseph has finished with positive overall grades in two of the three games the Giants have played this season.
If Joseph can ultimately put the finishing touches on his pocket pressures, he might just help the lethargic Giants sack attack get going again.
Disappointment: Punter Steve Weatherford
It’s hard not to like Weatherford, whose larger-than-life personality and even larger heart have endeared him to Giants fans since he signed as a free agent in 2011.
However, his punting has not been as crisp so far. Whether that’s a result of some technique issues that he’s still looking to work out, his coverage, or something else, his 33.4 net average is not what the Giants are used to seeing.
The good news is that Weatherford is never one to be satisfied with his performance and has thrown himself into watching extra film and working on sharpening up his technique in order to eliminate the problems moving forward.