The 2014 season has been a nightmare for the New York Giants. Not only were the Giants eliminated from the playoffs before December even started, but they suffered a historic amount of crushing injuries.
Those injuries played a big part in making 2014 a lost year for the Giants. But, they could also be something of a blessing in disguise. Those injuries have given backup players far more playing time, and players at the back end of the roster opportunities that they otherwise wouldn't get.
One of those latter players was defensive end Kerry Wynn, an undrafted free agent out of Richmond.
Wynn looked promising in pre-season, promising enough that the Giants kept him on the roster despite how crowded the position was. Predictably, he was inactive for the first 11 weeks of the season, prompting some observers to wonder why he was even kept on the roster if he was going to be inactive every week.
Then Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers were both put on the injured reserve list, and Wynn got his shot. He started showing up in games almost immediately, getting pressure on the quarterback and making plays in the run game. But it was against the St. Louis Rams in Week 16 that Wynn had his coming out party. He finished the game with three tackles, a sack, an interception, and a fumble recovery.
So, let's take a look at Wynn's day.
With Damontre Moore's reputation (and reality) as a disruptive pass rusher, Wynn was primarily thought of as the run defender, so let's take a look at that first.
This is a pretty routine play, but the Giants do some nice things -- you can tell by the run only picking up two yards. The front seven is pretty standard, and they didn't run any stunts or blitzes.
The play starts inside as Kuhn gets double-teamed by the right guard and tackle, and pushed right out of the play. Next to him, Patterson gets the 1-on-1 match-up with the center. Patterson stands his man up with one arm while managing to stay parallel to the line of scrimmage. That effectively seals off the primary hole for the play, forcing Tre Mason to cut back to the right.
On that side, Wynn is essentially unblocked as the tight end weakly chips him before releasing into a route. It's subtle, but this is the part that stands out to me on this play: Wynn could have fired around the edge and tackled Mason for no-gain, or even a loss. Instead, he hesitates a moment to make absolutely sure that Hill isn't running a play-action bootleg. That brief hesitation is why Mason was able to get two yards, but after a year of the Giants getting shredded by play-action and the read option, it is downright refreshing to see a player keep his head, play with discipline, and still make the play.
Also a 'Kudos' to McClain and Herzlich. If Mason had somehow broken Wynn's tackle or kept his feet, he wasn't going anywhere. McClain did a good job of shedding the block and McClain avoided the mess surrounding Kuhn. Both of them were right there if necessary.
This second running play shows off Wynn's motor as much as anything.
The play is started, once again, by Mike Patterson. He is essentially unblocked up the middle, as the center rushes up to the second level to block Mark Herzlich.
-- Herzlich, coincidentally, essentially gets double-teamed by the left guard and center, and does a very nice job getting off those blocks. He isn't really a factor in the play, I just wanted to point that out. --
Patterson gets into the backfield, and even though he turns the wrong way, he shows some nice effort in a diving grab for Mason back to the left. That grab slows Mason down enough for Wynn to get there and, long with McClain, stop the run for very little gain.
Wynn got blocked by the left guard, and did a terrific job of getting off the block, even drawing an uncalled hold. Wynn kept his pad-level down and showed good leverage as he bench pressed the guard before cutting inward to get off the block.
When Ayers went down, the Giants lost their most efficient pass rusher. Moore was expected to fill that role and provide a threat opposite JPP. Wynn, however, has surprised with some pass rush ability of his own.
Once again Wynn is lined up at left defensive end here. This is supposed to be a quick screen pass to Tavon Austin. Wynn is briefly blocked by the right tackle, before he releases down field to block for the screen pass. The Giants blitzed on this play, sending Herzlich through the B gap. He bites a bit on the almost-a-play-fake. However, he flashes in front of Hill enough that he might have contributed to the high throw that resulted in the tip-drill.
Wynn's awareness here is outstanding. First, he gets his hand up to try to bat the pass down, then he recognizes the screen pass very quickly, getting back to make the play on the ball. This very well could have been an interception for Stevie Brown, but he mistimes his jump slightly, and the rookie makes the pick.
If there's anything to complain about, it's that Wynn started falling before anybody touched him. He could have gotten more yards out of the return! But really, just a great play by Wynn.
This is just an excellent play all the way around by the defense.
The Giants line up in a very unusual defense for them: the 3-3-5. Cullen Jenkins is the nose tackle, while JPP is the left defensive end and Wynn is the right defensive end -- opposite their usual positions. McClain, Devon Kennard, and Nat Berhe are the the linebackers.
Also, the Giants send extra pressure, with Kennard rushing off the edge and Mike Harris coming on a corner blitz. Berhe shows blitz, but drops back into a shallow zone and covers the quick crossing route.
The play is started by Kennard and JPP, who blow right by right guard and tackle. JPP's inside rush completely obstructs Hill's line of sight, forcing him to tuck the ball down. Pierre-Paul and Kennard then combine to force him up in the pocket.
Meanwhile, Wynn gets to deal with the left tackle, Greg Robinson, and the left guard. Wynn gets passed off from the tackle to the guard, but again shows nice leverage and some powerful hands to fight off the block. As he does so, Hill is forced up and Wynn is right there for the sack.
Wynn has largely been an afterthought this year, especially among fans. There was never the cries to see him on the field that there were for Moore. But Wynn has certainly turned into a pleasant surprise for the Giants.
He's played well since getting his opportunity, and made the most of it. Wynn hasn't made many "WOW!" plays, like some of his fellow rookies. He hasn't run anybody over like Ande Williams, he could never compete with Odell Beckham's daily highlight reel. But he has played with a discipline that has been lacking from some parts of the defense, and he seems to make a habit of doing the small things. "WOW!" plays mike get the headlines, but the devil is always in the details, and it's the small things that decide games.