Let's continue assessing the New York Giants one-fourth of the way through the 2014 NFL season by handing out 'Kudos & Wet Willies' thus far on the defensive side of the ball.
Kudos To ...
Prince Amukamara -- The final frontier for Amukamara in his ascent to becoming an elite NFL cornerback was to become a play-maker. Mission accomplished with two interceptions and a pass defensed in 17 targets. Amukamara is the league's fourth-ranked corner per Pro Football Focus grades with a +5.4 score. His passer rating against of 36.0 is also fourth among corners, and he has allowed only 18 yards after catch on seven completions. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie sometimes follows the opposition's best receiver, but not always. With DRC opposite him, Amukamara is definitely flourishing.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- Playing the opposition's No. 1 receiver quite often, DRC's numbers aren't quite as impressive as Amukamara's. In context of who is has been guarding, though, they are outstanding. A +4.1 PFF grade (eighth overall), a passer rating against of 66.7, 13 completions allowed in 27 targets (48.1 percent). What an incredible pair of corners the Giants have on the outside, and they will need them with a string of quality quarterbacks coming up over the next several games.
Robert Ayers -- Justin who? Ayers doesn't start and doesn't play as many snaps as a rejuvenated Mathias Kiwanuka. Is anyone right now doubting, however, that the Giants made the right call by signing Ayers as a free agent and letting Justin Tuck go? Ayers has been outstanding, with three sacks (PFF's total), a 9.9 grade second among NFL defensive ends, a combined 10 quarterbacks hits and hurries and eight stops. All in 123 incredibly productive snaps. He can play inside or outside and has been a tremendous addition.
Johnathan Hankins -- So, umm, Big Hank is a big-time defensive tackle. The Giants seem to have made the right call here as well, clearing a path for Hankins by letting Linval Joseph go via free agency. It is no surprise that Hankins is a run-stuffing monster, but his pass rush effectiveness (two sacks, six hits/hurries) has been unexpected.
Jason Pierre-Paul -- Before the season Pierre-Paul talked and talked and talked about how well he expected to play in 2014. Has he backed up the talk? Pretty much. He isn't the pass-rushing phenomenon he once was (-3.0 PFF score) -- to me he doesn't seem to get off the snap with incredible quickness. He does possess amazing strength, which allows him to bull-rush and pressure at times, but not simply beat a tackle straight up. His strength, length, quickness and effort make him an incredible run defender (+9.0, best in the league by a wide margin). No other 4-3 defensive end comes close to Pierre-Paul's 22 combined tackles.
Antrel Rolle -- Two interceptions, a fumble recovery, five passes defensed -- I think you can safely say that Rolle has been a play-making force for the Giants thus far. He leads with his mouth, maybe even a bit too much, but you can also lead with outstanding play. He has done that thus far.
Wet Willies To ...
Stevie Brown -- Through three games, Brown earned the spot on the bench he occupied in Week 4 against the Washington Redskins. The primary job of a deep safety is to prevent the big play, and Brown bore direct reponsibility for the 67-yard Week 1 touchdown by Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions and a Week 3 44-yard touchdown by Damaris Johnson of the Houston Texans.
Brown probably is not all the way back athletically from the torn ACL that cost him last season, but the knee didn't cause him to be out of position on those two plays.
Kwillies To ...
Mathias Kiwanuka -- One really awful game for Kiwanuka in the season opener, followed by three very good ones. Despite his overall -0.7 PFF score you could easily argue that Kiwanuka belongs in the 'Kudos' column. His play over the past three weeks has been excellent. He has 1.5 sacks, 12 combined quarterbacks hits/hurries and four stops. It seems that there is still gas left in Kiwi's tank.
Jacquain Williams -- Pretty much the same story as Kiwanuka. One awful game in the opener vs. Detroit, followed by three good ones. My question for Perry Fewell is this -- why do you keep asking the guy to try to cover wide receivers one-on-one? Tight ends and running backs, sure, but not wide receivers.