The New York Giants are one quarter of the way through the 2015 NFL season. Which Giants deserve praise? Which deserve criticism? Which guys deserve a little of both? Let's look at the Giants through the prism of "Kudos & Wet Willies" after four games.
Kudos to ...
Odell Beckham's first 16 NFL games -- Alex went over this in "Blue Data," but it deserves recognition here, as well. Beckham has 115 receptions and 1,612 yards are the most by any player through their first 16 games. Pretty good, no matter what the Buffalo Bills think of his skills.
Prince Amukamara -- If you are a regular around here, you know that I don't consider Amukamara an elite corner. He is, however, a pretty darn good one. His coverage ability and physicality in run support have been there, and he also has an interception and a forced fumble/recovery. He is setting himself up nicely for a large pay day at the end of this season, when he can become a free agent.
Nikita Whitlock -- Whitlock is a heat-seeking missile at fullback. It isn't always pretty, and sometimes he misses his target, but he's always looking to hit something. Hard. At 250 pounds, he has also become a late-game pass-rush specialist from defensive tackle. He's a handful in that limited role, and it's pretty darn amazing. On top of that, Whitlock has played 81 snaps on special teams.
Brad Wing -- Wing leads the league with 12 punts down inside the opponents' 20-yard line. That's 60 percent of his 20 punts, a percentage that also leads the NFL. He has yet to have a touchback, and has a net average of 41.6 yards per punt. We wrote aboutthis last week, but Wing has been an outstanding addition to the Giants thus far.
Giants' run defense -- Best in the league at 69.8 yards per game. In back-to-back weeks the Giants shut down the rushing attacks of the Redskins and Bills, two of the league's best rushing teams. The run defense is something the Giants can hang their hat on as they try to solve their pass rush issues and figure out how to defend the middle of the field against the pass. So many players contributing here -- Kerry Wynn, Johnathan Hankins, Jay Bromley, George Selvie, the much-maligned linebackers, Amukamara, safeties Landon Collins and Brandon Meriweather, Even Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, not known for a willingness to hit, has been making plays. It has been a team effort.
Giants' offensive line -- There was so much worry about this group entering the season, and for the most part that has been unfounded. The Giants have, basically a six-man rotation. Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Geoff Schwartz, Marshall Newhouse and John Jerry have all contributed. Pugh and Richburg have been outstanding. Flowers' toughness and attitude will make him a good player for a long time. Schwartz has settled in and even the much-maligned Newhouse and Jerry have helped. The line hasn't been perfect, and the Giants are generally throwing the ball quickly, but it hasn't been a liability. And it will continue to get better, especially when Will Beatty returns in a few weeks.
Josh Brown's field-goal kicking -- The veteran kicker is 10-for-10, picking up where he left off last season when he went 24-of-26. He has a long of 50 yards and is 4-of-4 between 40 and 49 yards. He is consistent, and at 36 he still has good range.
Devon Kennard -- The best play-making linebacker the Giants have had in a long time. The only thing standing between Kennard and stardom is staying healthy.
Wet Willies to ...
Giants' pass rush -- The Giants are 31st in the league in sacks with five, behind only the useless one-sack in four games pass rush of Ndamukong Suh and the Miami Dolphins. Their sacks per pass attempt percentage of 2.67 is only better only that Miami. That's even worse -- or more embarrassing -- when you realize that one of those sacks comes from Whitlock. The Giants have to hope the pass rush improves when Robert Ayers returns from a hamstring injury and Owamagbe Odighizuwa gets more experience. It would also help if Damontre Moore, with five hits and no sacks thus far, would pick up the pace.
Odell Beckham's "extra-curriculars" -- The whining by the Buffalo Bills about Beckham's "prima donna" attitude and his throwing punches wasn't very becoming, or professional. Thing is, it wasn't entirely off-base. Beckham did throw at least one punch during Sunday's game, that's pretty clear. He does rub opponents the wrong way, largely because when teams do get physical with him he does too often get confrontational about it after the whistle. It happened a couple of times last season. It happened in the preseason, I believe against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It happened again on Sunday. One of these days Beckham is going to get himself penalized in a key spot, or worse yet, tossed out of a game.
Josh Brown's kickoffs -- What's going on here? Brown has hit some truly ugly kickoffs in the first four games, including one on Sunday that barely reached the 20-yard line. Only nine of his 24 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks, a percentage of 37.5 percent. Only two kickers with at least 10 kickoffs this season have been worse.
End-of-game decision making -- Let's not belabor the point here, but the Giants have had issues with clock management and play-calling at the end of three of their four games. That has got to got straightened out.
Kwillies to ...
Eli Manning -- Manning has done some outstanding things in the first four games. And some really bone-headed things.
On the bone-headed side, there was the end-of-game clock-management fiasco Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys. There was a crucial fumble and failed final drive against the Atlanta Falcons. There was Sunday's late-game interception.
On the outstanding side, there has been just that one interception. Manning has thrown seven touchdown passes and has a 96.4 passer rating, which would be a career best if he maintains it for the full season. He is, for the most part, getting the ball out quickly and decisively.
Giants' running game -- There has been some good, like the first half against the Bills, but not enough. The Giants are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, 28th in the league, and are 24th in rushing yards per game with 93.0. That has to get better and, honestly, I suspect that it will.
This was actually a tough "K&WW" to do. It's a good, a really good thing, but it was difficult in many instances to find players to single out. The Giants are winning, and losing for that matter, as a team. They are doing it with hustle, desire, grit, physicality, whatever you want to call it. They aren't necessarily doing any of it with overwhelming talent. It's been fun to watch the last two weeks.
Who did I leave off the list? Let me know in the comments.