Biggest Takeaways from New York Giants' Week 9 Win
Yes, a win is a win and the Giants are still in first place in the division, but they still haven’t shown that they can consistently put teams away.
That’s right: Late in the fourth quarter, the Giants’ lead over a Bucs team led by rookie quarterback Jameis Winston was only five points.
Had it not been for the Giants defense, which made amends for the previous week’s horror show by stopping the aerial attack and coming up with a big-time fumble return for a touchdown by corner Trevin Wade, the game might very well have ended a lot closer.
Again, a win is a win and it’s a lot better for the Giants to be heading into next week’s matchup against New England on a positive note than a negative one.
With the game in the books, let’s rewind the tape one final time before spinning ahead and review the good and bad from the Week 9 win.
The MLB Spot Has a Promising New Face
The Giants really wanted Jon Beason to work out at middle linebacker for his football intelligence, leadership and work ethic.
Sadly, Beason’s one-time Pro Bowl body gave way to one lower-body injury after another, leaving the team unable to count on him and wait for his return from the knee and ankle ailments that sidelined him after just five games this season.
Fortunately for the Giants, they put a plan in place at the start of the season when Beason first developed his knee issue. That plan, which fell into their lap, was picking up linebacker Jasper Brinkley off waivers from Dallas prior to the Week 1 game.
It took Brinkley some time to get up to speed on the defense, but as injuries to Beason and Uani ‘Unga left the Giants with no choice, the 30-year-old Brinkley was thrown into the deep end, starting with last week’s debacle against the Saints.
He finished with a pedestrian three tackles but apparently showed enough for the coaches to stick with him in the middle.
In his second start, Brinkley led the team in tackles with seven and had a forced fumble and recovery in a performance that earned him the game ball.
To further help Brinkley along, teammate Jonathan Casillas revealed that Devon Kennard—who has been in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system from the start of the year—wore the helmet with the radio and thus was responsible for getting everyone lined up.
By taking that responsibility off Brinkley’s shoulders, he was able to do what he does best, which is fly around and make plays.
“I thought he played well,” head coach Tom Coughlin said during his Monday conference call with reporters.
“I thought he benefited from having play time extended a week ago and he is a force in the middle. He’s a guy that has size and he is able to recognize things and he is physical.”
Coughlin wouldn’t commit to starting Brinkley in the middle again, but he reiterated his happiness with how Brinkley performed.
While Brinkley—who will probably be the starter the rest of the way barring injury—isn’t a long-term answer for the Giants at middle linebacker, given how well he’s been playing of late, his performance makes the loss of Beason a little easier to digest.
Johnathan Hankins' Injury Is Season-Ending
The Giants’ worst fears regarding defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins were confirmed by Coughlin, who told reporters that the pectoral injury suffered by Hankins in Sunday’s win will necessitate surgery.
“Johnathan, unfortunately, did tear his pec and he will have to have surgery,” Coughlin said. “He’ll be placed on [injured reserve] and hopefully he will rehab as fast as possible.”
Hankins, the 12th-ranked interior defensive lineman in the league, finishes his season with 14 quarterback pressures, 28 tackles and 14 stops for zero or negative yardage.
While Coughlin didn’t say who would replace Hankins in the lineup, Markus Kuhn, Cullen Jenkins and Jay Bromley all figure to see their respective workloads changed to compensate for Hankins’ loss.
Jason Pierre-Paul Is Still a Difference-Maker
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul didn’t record any sacks in his 2015 debut, but he did something that we haven’t seen much of from the defensive front this season: He put pressure on the quarterback.
That’s not bad considering he not only hadn’t played a regular-season game in almost a year but is still trying to get used to playing with a large, mitten-like covering over his right hand damaged in a July 4 fireworks accident.
“I thought he got some great jumps off the snap and I thought his inside move was an outstanding move,” Coughlin said of Pierre-Paul’s debut.
“Late in the game when we needed to be able to rush the passer, he forced the passer to pull it down and run outside to the right on a couple of occasions, which made him a little bit more uncomfortable when he was not standing in the pocket releasing the ball in that way.
“I thought that for the first time out of the box, obviously our players were happy that he was out there with us. And he’s going to do nothing but get better.”
Look out Tom Brady!
The Safeties Are Probably Going to Continue to Be Tested Deep
Don’t look now, but it seems like opposing offensive coordinators have finally figured out that they can attack the Giants safeties—specifically rookie Landon Collins—with success.
This started last week in New Orleans, with quarterback Drew Brees successful going after Collins in coverage.
Collins allowed four of five pass targets to be completed by Brees for 51 yards, 21 coming after the catch for a 109.2 NFL Rating.
The Bucs followed that blueprint in their game against the Giants, this time going after Collins and Craig Dahl, who was in on a number of “big nickel” packages.
Together, they allowed six of seven passes to be completed for 131 yards, with Collins and Dahl finishing with respective NFL Ratings of 116.7 and 106.9.
That’s not good news for the Giants, who must find a way to limit the damage that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been known to inflict on a defensive secondary.
Rueben Randle Is Still Bothered by His Hamstring
There’s nothing worse for a player in a contract season than to have to deal with a nagging injury.
That’s what receiver Rueben Randle is facing this year, as a balky hamstring has landed him on the injury report in three of the four last weeks and cost him all or parts of nine practices over that period.
Over that period, Randle has caught 17 of 25 pass targets for 207 yards, one touchdown and one dropped pass. His yards-after-the-catch average stands at 2.7, which is the lowest average in his career thus far.
The good news for Randle, who had knee tendinitis flare up on him in the summer, is that he might be coming to the end of the tunnel regarding this injury.
“It’s still a little sore, but it’s better than the past weeks,” he told reporters during a Monday conference call.
“As much as I can, I try to rest it to allow me to go longer in the game. Just trying to find a way to manage my way around it.”
Randle is confident that this injury won’t be a season-long hindrance.
“No, probably one more week and then after the bye, hopefully I’ll be where I can go out there and play full speed,” he said.
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced. Advanced statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
Follow me on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.