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Giants vs. Cardinals: A PFF Review

Week 2 ended with another disappointing loss, however Pro Football Focus was able to see several bright spots on the New York Giants roster.gre

Larry Donnell
Larry Donnell
Ron Antonelli

A frustrating, frustrating performance by the team led to the New York Giants becoming 0-2, dropping a winnable game to the Arizona Cardinals. They weren't without their bright spots however, and despite being marred by untimely drops, turnovers, and special teams blunders, the team ended getting great performances by a large number of their players. Small comfort, I know, but at least the team is headed in the right direction after that absymal performance against the Detroit Lions. Let's take a look at what Pro Football Focus saw:

Offensive MVP

Larry Donnell (+4.0) - What a great game by the tight end. He looked extremely comfortable working the middle of the field and appears to have now become Eli Manning's favorite safety blanket. He made several athletic catches at key moments, nabbing 7 out of his 8 targets on the day. A well deserved grade, and one that makes him Pro Football Focus' highest rated tight end after two weeks.

Must Reads

Key Offensive Contributors

Will Beatty (+3.4) - On the game thread, I mentioned Beatty getting several nice blocks. It was pretty darn good that nobody from the commentating crew to the referees mentioned his name. This grade is also justified. Allowed one QB hurry, which is very good for a left tackle, and had most of his good grade come in pass protection, though he graded positively as a run blocker as well.

John Jerry (+1.4) - Another offensive lineman? Yup. It was the same story for Jerry this week as it has been every other. He allowed zero pressures on his end, garnering a positive pass protection grade. Of course he graded negatively as a run blocker, but not bad enough to offset his brilliant game protecting the quarterback.

Justin Pugh (+1.4) - We have our THIRD offensive lineman in the "Kudos" section (stealing from Ed!) as Pugh graded positively in run blocking and pass protection. Unfortunately, a -0.7 grade in "penalty" marked down his score and it was for a penalty that was questionable at best.

Offensive GOAT

J.D. Walton (-2.5) - Three offensive linemen make it to the positive grading section, but this is the New York Giants we're talking about here. We'd be remiss if we left any offensive lineman in the negative section. Walton has been getting bullied on quite a few snaps and consistently pushed back in the pocket. The Giants have to hope he improves, and fast, because if not, they are in trouble. This is his second negatively ranked game in a row, though surprisingly enough, he isn't the worst center thus far. Some notable names such as Tampa Bay Buccaneer Evan Dietrich-Smith and Dallas Cowboy Travis Frederick have been worse.

Key Offensive Villains

Andre Williams (-2.1) - His grade really doesn't have all that much to do with his running (though he still graded negatively because of it), as he made an equally poor effort catching the ball and suffering a drop or two.

Weston Richburg (-2.1) - The Richburg experiment at guard is not working. He simply is not strong enough yet to counter the big defensive tackles he takes on one-on-one. The center position is more of an assist position, using their vision, awareness, and athleticism to figure out which players to double team rather than take on a nose tackle head on. Richburg will need to hit the weight room for sure. He allowed a sack and a hurry in pass protection.

Rashad Jennings (-2.1) - Both runners make an appearance. Jennings allowed the pressure that forced the first Manning interception, fumbled on a screen pass, and didn't get much done running the ball (though he did run hard). Hence, his grade.

Victor Cruz (-1.2) - Cruz was on his way towards a very good grade in the first half before it went all wrong. PFF is very harsh against drops and Cruz had 3.

Defensive MVP

Mathias Kiwanuka (+3.0) - Nope. I don't understand this at all. PFF gave him monstrous marks for run defense and had him pegged for a sack, hit, and a hurry. I absolutely remember the three pressures he got and agree with that, but I figured his defense against the run to be a lot worse than anybody else. He was consistently stonewalled and couldn't maintain contain. I'll try and re-watch the game and focus on him, but for now, chalk this up as polite disagreement.

Key Defensive Contributors

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (+2.2) - I thought "DRC" had a great game and while I disagreed with PFF on "Kiwi", I totally agree with them here. He was targeted 8 times, giving up three catches for 18 yards. One of those catches was another mis-communication as he handed Larry Fitzgerald off to one of the safeties. Let him just man up on those WRs, Fewell, he can do it if you trust him!

Robert Ayers (+2.2) - Impressive. PFF had Ayers down for two sacks this game, to lead the Giants with three this season (he was officially credited with one). He played only 25 of a total 69 snaps against the Cardinals which is a bit of a crime. In only about one third of the snaps the defense has taken, Ayers is already Pro Football Focus' fifth-rated 4-3 DE and second in the league in pass rush productivity, with three  sacks and two QB hurries in 30 pass rush snaps.

Cullen Jenkins (+1.8) - It appears both lines dominated this game as Jenkins becomes the third defensive lineman with a positive grade. He was strong pass rusher, notching a QB hurry and didn't really mess up against the run.

Jon Beason (+1.7) - This makes it all the more frustrating that Beason suffered an injury. He had a good game, notching positive grades in all phases (pass rush, pass coverage, run defense, penalty) and we saw an obvious and precipitous drop off once he left the game.

Stevie Brown (+1.6) - Brown didn't have many of those same mis-communications that plagued the team last week. He was pretty non-descript, but like Beason, he graded positively in all categories to have his sum grade become pretty good. He notched a QB hurry and a QB hit from the safety position.

Jacquian Williams (+1.6) - A bounce-back game for Williams who did a much better job in coverage. He had Andre Ellington under wraps and provided some good run defense. It wasn't until the Cardinals attacked Mark Herzlich and McClain that Ellington started to break out.

Jason Pierre-Paul (+1.4) - Another strong game against the run, he now is 3rd in the league behind only Tyson Alualu and Carlos Dunlap in run stop percentage and leads the league in run stops (with 5). He also added a QB hit and a sack to his record in this game.

Johnathan Hankins (+1.3) - I have a feeling that Hankins will consistently be in this section every game. He won't be the defensive MVP, but you'll never see him in the red. That's exactly what we need him to be. He very quietly is becoming an excellent two-way player. Did you know that his sack and QB hit this game puts his pass rush productivity in the top 3 among defensive tackles that played at least 50 percent of their team's stats? He's ahead of guys like Ndamukong Suh, Geno Atkins, Terrance Knighton, and yes, Linval Joseph in that regard.

Defensive GOAT

Trumaine McBride (-1.3) - When the worst player on the defense was a backup filling in time and graded only -1.3, you know you had a good day. That being said, I don't have a clue why that player is McBride. He didn't give up a catch on his only target. They pegged him down for run defense, which I can buy, though.

Key Defensive Villains

Jameel McClain (-1.3) - Quite lonely here with only one player as McClain got a bad penalty to his name, looked slow trailing Andre Ellington, and gave up a few catches in pass coverage.

Bonus Stats!

After two weeks, the Giants aren't doing terribly on defense. They rank fifth overall among all teams in defense and it's largely thanks to their run defense, which ranks third in the league. The offense is a different story, however, as they rank 21st. The only thing keeping them from hitting near rock bottom is their pass block (of all things!) which ranks an impressive 10th in the league.

As a team, through two weeks, their pass protection has allowed one QB sack, four QB hits, and 14 QB hurries. The pass rush, meanwhile, has six QB sacks, seven QB hits, and 19 QB hurries.