Biggest Takeaways from New York Giants' Week 5 Win
The New York Giants are officially streaking.
That’s right—in case you missed the thriller on Sunday night, the Giants’ 30-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers, their third win in a row, had many of the elements of a Giants team that we haven’t seen for quite some time and a few that—while we’re still waiting to emerge—haven’t been too much of a detriment to the team.
What did the win teach us about this Giants team? Let’s run down the list.
The Pass Rush Is Still Missing in Action
For the first time since Week 2 (against the Atlanta Falcons), the Giants defense failed to come up with a takeaway. This was a rather surprising statistic to emerge from this game for two reasons.
First, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been a virtual turnover machine, throwing five interceptions in his two games prior to Week 5.
Second, through the game, Kaepernick was more often than not settling on his first read, so much so that anyone focused on him could correctly guess where he was going with the ball.
So why didn’t the Giants get their share of Kaepernick turnovers? The lack of a pass rush.
According to Pro Football Focus, Kaepernick, who dropped back 39 times, was only under pressure on 12 of those dropbacks, with two of those pressures turning into sacks and one such sack more of a result of the coverage than of the penetration by the defensive front.
At this point, it remains to be seen if the light switch is going to come on for the Giants pass rush and if the sacks are going to start coming in droves.
The Giants Finally Have Depth Behind the Starters
A big reason behind the Giants' struggles the past two seasons was not so much the injuries that seemed to wreak havoc on the team, but the fact the team had such a significant drop-off in the depth behind the injured starters.
This year, that hasn’t really been the case. Oh sure, the injury bug is still having its way with the Giants—on Sunday the team was without receiver Victor Cruz and linebackers Devon Kennard and Jonathan Casillas.
Then during the game, the team lost linebacker Jon Beason and receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle—the latter two toward the end when it was all about crunch time.
So what happened? Instead of folding up the tent and going home, the backups to those players stepped up to the plate, and the Giants nary missed a beat.
Uani 'Unga filled in for Beason, and while his game wasn’t without struggles, the defense didn’t look any less coordinated with 'Unga orchestrating the plays.
Randle and Beckham were replaced by Geremy Davis and Myles White, both of whom got involved in the passing game, with Davis coming up with a 16-yard catch for a first down and White doing some downfield blocking.
At tight end, young Will Tye (age 23) out of Stony Brook has stepped up nicely for Daniel Fells, who is out for the season after being diagnosed with an MRSA infection.
At defensive end, Kerry Wynn has been more than solid with Robert Ayers Jr. on the shelf with a hamstring injury, while Jay Bromley has quietly taken the starting defensive tackle role from Markus Kuhn while the 29-year-old was nursing a knee injury.
At cornerback, the light has finally gone on for Jayron Hosley, who has done a solid job when asked to play for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
While there is a reason for a starter being a starter and a backup being a backup, for the first time in quite a while, the Giants just might very well be able to make the case that when it comes to some of their backup players, the only reason why they’re not starters is because of the limit the NFL places on the number of guys who can start the game on either side of the ball.
LB Devon Kennard Was Missed
Even though the Giants have done a good job with getting their reserves to step up for the injured guys, some injuries still hurt more than others.
One such case for the Giants is the absence of second-year linebacker Devon Kennard, who missed Week 5's game with a hamstring strain.
Simply put, Kennard has been the Giants’ best and most consistent linebacker, inside or outside.
According to Pro Football Focus and based on a minimum of 80 defensive snaps played, Kennard is the Giants’ top pass-rushing outside linebacker with eight pressures so far, their best run-stopper with a team-leading five tackles for zero or negative yardage, their best run-game tackler and their second-best outside linebacker in coverage.
That’s a lot of production that was missing from the New York defense on Sunday, and it’s probably a big reason why the 49ers were able to become the first Giants opponent this season to rush for more than 100 yards.
RB Shane Vereen Is Proving to Be Worth Every Penny He's Received
Last season, five different Giants running backs combined for 469 receiving yards on 72 catches with no touchdowns.
The leader of that group was Rashad Jennings, who finished the 2014 season with 226 yards on 30 catches.
That’s all good, but general manager Jerry Reese knew the production out of the backfield could be way better. And so he signed running back Shane Vereen away from the New England Patriots on a three-year, $12.35 million deal. Already through five games, Vereen has 20 receptions for 208 yards and a touchdown.
Put another way, Vereen is probably a game or two away from passing Jennings’ 2014 production and has already amassed 44.3 percent of the receiving-yardage total of all the Giants running backs last season.
Want more reasons why Vereen is worth every penny he’s receiving?
Besides being a good third-down blocker, Vereen’s talents have actually allowed the Giants to run some successful screens out of the backfield, plus, as seen on Sunday, when he fills in for Dwayne Harris on kickoff returns, the Giants don’t have a huge drop-off.
“Last night was a great example of some of the things that he can do in certain situations when the defense may in fact think they’ve got you in a position where they have the upper hand,” head coach Tom Coughlin said of Vereen on his Monday conference call with reporters.
“Have we ever had a player like this, to be able to utilize his talents? Probably not to this degree. So we’re just looking forward to continuing to utilize his talent and his ability along with the other players that we have offensively.”
The more a player can do in this league, the better, and Vereen, a man of many talents, can certainly do a lot to help this Giants team reach its goals.
Best of all, it sounds like the coaching staff has yet to scratch the surface of what it can do with Vereen.
They've Developed a Winning Attitude
One of the consistent traits of this Giants franchise in the last season or two is that whenever adversity would strike, that spelled the end for it.
Think about it for a moment. Last year when receiver Victor Cruz went down with a devastating season-ending injury, instead of rallying around Cruz and winning one for their fallen brother, the air went out of the Giants' sails.
Then there were instances where the opponent would punch them in the mouth. Instead of getting up—bloodied lip and all—and sneering as if to say, “Is that the best you got?” the Giants would crawl into a shell, as evidenced by their droopy, lifeless body language on the sideline while they waited for the game to mercifully end.
This year, it’s a different Giants team, one that swings back in the face of adversity and one that has seemingly realized the whole is greater than the sum of its parts if everyone simply sticks together and believes in each other.
First there was the tragic story involving tight end Daniel Fells, one of the hardworking, underappreciated (by fans) players on the roster who in an effort to deal with a balky ankle reportedly took a cortisone shot that, per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, was behind his contraction of the dangerous MRSA infection.
So what did the 2015 Giants do? They banded together and resolved themselves to win one for Fells. And sure enough they did, with Tom Coughlin arranging for a Skype session with Fells so they could virtually present him with a game ball while the tight end remained hospitalized.
The impressive act to honor Fells as he battles a deadly infection came after the Giants won a game that had four lead changes in the second half alone.
This time there were no costly interceptions and no mismanagement of the clock.
After seeing the 49ers take a 27-23 lead, quarterback Eli Manning, with 1:45 left to go, engineered an eight-play, 82-yard drive ending in a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Larry Donnell, a fitting choice to seal the victory the team presented to Fells.
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.
Follow me on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina.