This week Patriots Insider collaberated with The Giants Beat and came up with five questions for each team, questions that will answer who has the advantage on Sunday. Joshua Cohen Fyffe of The Giants Beat answered five questions for us that should give us a good idea of what the Patriots will be dealing with at 4:25 PM on Sunday.
1. Is there any way that the struggling Giants defense will be able to slow down the Patriots prolific offense? In the past, the defensive line was so talented that they were make Brady uncomfortable, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. Will the return of Jason Pierre-Paul give the Giants the shot in the arm they need for their defensive front?
The Giants were able to stimulate the most consistent pressure that they have produced all season last week against the Buccaneers. The Giants moved Robert Ayers inside and had him pass rush up the middle while JPP, who played 46 snaps in his debut, used his edge rushing abilities. While defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said that JPP looked rusty in his first game back, after another week at near full health, he may create more of an impact this Sunday; he truly is a freak of nature. That being said, the Patriots offense has been a wrecking ball all season and has really looked unstoppable as far as an offensive unit is concerned. The Giants will be trying to disrupt the receivers on short routes to counteract Brady’s nearly two second release on passing plays. The Giants will also be getting Prince Amukamara back, which should help in coverage.
As far as Gronkowski is concerned, I believe he will see a myriad of different players double or triple covering him throughout the afternoon. The Giants intend to mix and match coverages on Gronk to make their coverage and scheme more disguised on each play. At the end of the day, this defense is not as talented as it was in the 2007 or 2011 seasons, however they are tenacious and force turnovers. I know that Spagnuolo has been coaching them all week to be able to strip the ball from receivers, mostly because he knows that Brady will not be giving any gifts to the defense.
2. Do the Giants really expect Victor Cruz to contribute in 2015 or have they reached the point where they think it could be a lost season?
Victor Cruz actually spent time rehabbing with Prince Amukamara during the course of last week, and Amukamara is already ready to be back on the football field. While so far this season has been a wash for Cruz, who suffered a calf injury after coming back from a torn patella tendon a season ago, the Giants are still preparing and anticipating a return later in the season. The Giants do not intend on placing Cruz on season-ending IR as of right now and have every intention of bringing the former Pro Bowl wide receiver back when he is at full health. The Giants offense has been clicking the last few weeks so the addition of Cruz could push this unit to the threshold of being a high-octane offense. Unfortunately though, Cruz will not be active against the Patriots this weekend.
3. Can the Giants running game play well enough to keep the Patriots defense on their heals and slow down their pass rush?
A large short-coming for the Giants offense this season has been the instability and inconsistency in the run game. The Giants have had spurts, mostly from Rashad Jennings where he can rip off a few five, seven, ten yard runs, but never on a consistent basis throughout the entirety of the game. However, the Giants have emphasized an almost Patriot-esque approach to diffusing opposing pass rushers, and that is with the short passing and screen game. With the addition of Vereen, the Giants have utilized him similarly to his role in New England and will often be targeted on two to three second drop backs. I fully expect Vereen to have a big game against his former team as well. The Giants utilize OBJ, Rueben Randle and Dwayne Harris in the screen game as well, which can be equally as effective as a run in diffusing an opponent’s pass rush.
4. Obviously Beckham and Randle are able to handle the top wide receiver positions, but do the Giants have other wide receivers that could step up Sunday, especially if the Patriots are able to slow down Beckham?
While OBJ and Rueben Randle definitely are the one two punch in the Giants’ offense, free agent signings Dwayne Harris and Shane Vereen also have been serviceable contributors to the Giants passing game this season. Harris has already matched his career high for receiving yards in a season, as well as having the most receptions this year compared to any of his previous four years in the league. Harris has made some clutch catches this year and has been a nice acquisition in both the special teams and offensive format. Vereen has had a quietly impressive receiving year as well, already posting 34 receptions and three touchdowns on the season. While the numbers aren’t gaudy, they are efficient and Vereen has been a key component to the Giants success this season.
5. With Daniel Fells on IR and Larry Donnell out for the game with an injury, who should Patriots fans expect to see start at tight end for the Giants?
While it’s definitely a blow to the Giants to lose Donnell for such a high-profile game, the Giants intend to start Will Tye at tightend. Tye saw action last week against Tampa Bay but has had a quiet season as a whole for the Giants. The Giants second active tight end will be Jerome Cunningham, who has less playing time than Will Tye on the year. That being said, Cunningham saw his most action all season last week and was able to contribute two catches for the G-Men, so both of these players can be effective contributors, but not near the level or Donnell.
Big thanks to Rick Laughland, Joshua Cohen Fyffe and The Giants Beat for providing an inside look at the team that gives the Patriots more trouble than any other team.
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