New York Giants' Most Underappreciated Players This Season
Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, in his first press conference after the bye week, said that there will be some subtle changes made in all phases of the ball moving forward, with the hope of helping the team snap out of its on-field funk.
To accomplish this, the head coach might look to increase the roles of some of his underappreciated players who have quietly shown up every week to do their job, but who unfortunately don’t get the kudos they deserve.
Here is a look at six such players who thus far have been underrated and, at least on the surface, underappreciated.
RB Shane Vereen
When the Giants signed running back Shane Vereen in 2015, Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson lauded the move, writing in a piece for ESPN.com that, "Vereen is joining a crowded backfield in New York, but his versatility and pass-catching ability should provide him with a significant role in the Giants' offense."
Surprisingly, Vereen has been reduced to a cameo player this year in the offense. Whether that's because of his injury situation the previous season or a change in the offensive philosophy is unknown, but considering Vereen was supposed to give the Giants' third-down package a boost, he has only received the ball nine times, rushing five times for 20 yards and catching four passes for 11 yards.
To understand just how much Vereen's role has shrunk, we need to go back to 2015. As reported on Inside Football, he handled the ball 27 times on third down, rushing 53 yards on 10 carries with five first-down conversions and catching 17 passes for 168 yards with two touchdown receptions.
Vereen still has value to an offense, but the Giants, for whatever the reason, don't seem to appreciate what he could bring to a unit that has been lethargic now for two years.
TE Rhett Ellison
Of all the Giants' unrestricted free-agent signings last offseason, none surprised people more than the four-year, $18 million deal the team gave to tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison.
The problem is that to date, the Giants have yet to figure out how to use Ellison in the offense. Back at the start of the season, for example, the Giants kept a pure fullback, Shane Smith, in a role that Ellison supposedly could have handled.
When Smith was waived, Ellison still took a back seat to the other receiving weapons on the team. Thus far, he’s been targeted just eight times in the passing game, catching six balls for 50 yards and one touchdown out of 87 pass routes run.
With the receivers struggling to gain their footing, Ellison would seem to have the skill set to help the passing game fall into the trap of relying too heavily on fellow tight end Evan Engram. At the very least, if the Giants can get him more involved, they would give the opposing defenses something else to think about.
S Andrew Adams
When it comes to underappreciated Giants, second-year safety Andrew Adams takes the top prize—and it’s not even close.
Adams filled in last year for starter Darian Thompson and played decently considering Adams was an undrafted rookie free agent who was suddenly thrust into the spotlight at the free safety position.
This year, when Thompson struggled out of the gate, there was talk at one point by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo of working Adams into the games a little bit more.
However, per Pro Football Focus, that hasn’t happened. Adams has played in just 54 snaps on defense, only twice topping 10 snaps per game (in Weeks 4 and 6).
With the struggles at linebacker, particularly in coverage, it’s quite surprising the Giants haven’t gone to more three-safety sets to help shore up that deficiency.
DT Dalvin Tomlinson
For all the people still lamenting that the Giants let defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins get away in free agency, his replacement, rookie Dalvin Tomlinson, has been doing just fine.
Per Pro Football Focus, Tomlinson leads all rookie defensive tackles with nine stops for zero or negative yardage. He also has yet to miss a tackle against the run and has recorded 12 tackles in 129 run-game snaps.
Tomlinson still has some developing to do as a pass-rusher—in 123 pass rush snaps, he’s only managed four total pressures and no sacks—but the rookie is developing well enough to where he should be a staple in the Giants defensive front for years to come.
TE Jerell Adams
Speaking of tight ends, second-year man Jerrell Adams is another one of those “blink and you’ll miss him” players whose efforts likely go unappreciated on the outside.
Per Pro Football Focus, Adams has caught all three of his pass targets this season. When in the lineup, his run blocking has shown signs of improvement from last year’s rookie effort, as Adams has done a better job in squaring up his man and sustaining the block long enough for the play to develop.
Adams has also quietly been solid on special teams. He has two tackles so far this season, but he’s rarely looked out of place in coverage. As the season wears on, don’t be surprised if he gets an increased role, especially on offense, where he’s shown in limited snaps that he belongs.
CB Ross Cockrell
It’s never easy for a player who joins a team after training camp ends to step right in and play as though he has been there all along. While that applies to cornerback Ross Cockrell, the veteran defender, acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, has been a godsend for the Giants given the combination of injuries and suspensions that have hit the position.
Cockrell’s 2.6 run-stop percentage in limited run-game snaps is better than that of Janoris Jenkins (0.7). Cockrell also has the best NFL Rating (85.7) of the Giants cornerbacks who have been targeted at least 15 times in a game.
He has also been better in the slot than Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie. Cockrell has only allowed six receptions for 76 yards and no touchdowns while Rodgers-Cromartie has allowed 12 completions for 119 yards and one touchdown.
Patricia Traina covers the New York Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.