Upward Trend: Defense
It would be unfair to single out the defensive line, secondary, or linebackers when picking the unit trending most upward.
The secondary seems to be playing its best football over these past few weeks. However, many do not realize that the defensive line’s ability to pressure the quarterback has an enormous impact on how well the secondary plays. For instance, against the Packers, the secondary played great, but the defensive line failed to pressure Aaron Rodgers, leading to critique for the secondary.
Janoris Jenkins has proven to be an elite cornerback while Landon Collins has been the most improved player of the season. Then you throw in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eli Apple, and Darian Thompson/ Nat Berhe / Andrew Adams, depending on who is healthy, and the Giants have an incredibly talented group of starters in the secondary.
Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul both rank top 5 in the NFL in QB hurries. While this is a very impressive statistic for the edge rushers, at the end of the day, sacks are what the Giants are looking for. On the inside of the defensive line, Johnathan Hankins and Damon Harrison have done an excellent job of plugging the middle and stopping the run.
The linebackers unit, which was an area of concern prior to the start season, has exceeded expectations and is connecting the dots on this defense. Jonathan Casillas has stepped up to his role as captain of the defense while Kelvin Sheppard, Keenan Robinson, and Devon Kennard are all contributing.
This defense has won a handful of games for the Giants this season, and once the offense can get things going, leading to more time of possession for the offense, the talent of this defense will be exposed.
Downward Trend: Running Backs
Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, the running backs are the obvious group that has gotten progressively worse over the year. Now, don’t get me wrong, the offense has been bad as a whole—from the quarterback to the receivers to the tight ends to the offensive line—no unit has been nearly as good as the New York Giants had hoped. However, the running backs rank dead last in the NFL in yards per game, leading many to believe that this is the unit holding back this Giants offense.
You have to start off with the starting running back Rashad Jennings when examining this unit. Though Jennings has been injured for about half of the season, when he has played, he has done absolutely nothing. He is averaging 35.5 yards per game on 2.7 yards per carry. It is clear that Jennings’ job as the lead back is in jeopardy. Until the Giants see more from their other running backs, however, Jennings will likely be labeled the starter.
Paul Perkins, the 5th round rookie out of UCLA, has been beneficial in the passing game, but has gotten very few opportunities running the ball. Ben McAdoo did announce that Perkins is going to see an increased workload going forward, but it is unknown how big of a workload that will be.
Orleans Darkwa, on the other hand, seemed to be the Giants’ best running back over the first 5 weeks of the season. Suddenly, the Giants stopped playing Darkwa, though he is still on the roster. At this point, it seems that Darkwa’s name has been completely erased from the gameplan.
Finally, Bobby Rainey, who was signed to be a special teams player, has had very little impact on the Giants’ rushing attack. Despite averaging more yards per carry than Jennings, his role has stayed primarily within the special teams unit.
The Giants rushing attack has had almost no impact on the offense. For a team looking to make an anticipated return to the playoffs, this group needs to get into a groove as they enter the 2nd half of the NFL season.