The New York Giants are in first place in the NFC East with a game looming on Sunday that no one really believes they can win. With that in mind, let's look at this week's "Five things I think I think" about the Giants.
I think Tom Coughlin loves this spot
The Giants' head coach talked on Monday about how being in first place at this point in the season was a "wonderful thing" and how it was nice to be "relevant" int eh playoff race after a couple of years of obscurity. He wouldn't, however, talk about Sunday's opponent -- the 8-0 New England Patriots.
This, though, is the kind of challenge Coughlin loves. It's a spot where nobody thinks the Giants have a chance. Been there, done that with Coughlin's Giants. Many times. On some notable occasions against the Patriots, too.
Seems to me that Coughlin has always done his best work in spots like this. Should be a fun week.
I think Jason Pierre-Paul changes everything
Well, duh. To say that Pierre-Paul is obviously still the Giants' best defensive lineman isn't exactly a news flash, or something anyone who watched Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn't have figured out on their own. It is, however, true.
A motivated Pierre-Paul is still a difference-maker, damaged hand and all. What he did Sunday was nothing short of incredible. No sacks and only two recorded tackles, but he was a presence. He was the best player on the field on Tampa Bay's final drive. Whether he can truly finish plays with that massive club on his disfigured right hand is still a question mark, but he can have an impact.
Pierre-Paul gives the Giants a chance to make quarterbacks uncomfortable. He also allows Robert Ayers, Kerry Wynn and George Selvie to be what they really are -- complementary players.
I think Big Hank is a big loss
The Giants get their best defensive end back, and in the same game they lose their best defensive tackle for the remainder of the season. The loss of Johnathan Hankins is a huge one for the Giants. Hankins is a force in the middle, without question the Giants' best run-stopping defensive tackle. In Hankins' absence, I think the player who really has to step up is second-year man Jay Bromley. The Giants know what they are going to get from Cullen Jenkins and Markus Kuhn -- effort without a ton of production. Bromley played well Sunday vs. the Buccaneers, with two run stops, two quarterback hits and a +1.9 Pro Football Focus grade. That needs to continue.
I think we need to talk about one other thing in relation to Hankins -- and that is Linval Joseph. There are some Giants fans who have used the occasion of Hankins' injury to re-start the tired "the Giants should have kept Linval Joseph" refrain. Stop it. Just stop it.
I know the whole Hankins and Joseph playing next to each other thing sounds terrific in theory. It was, however, never going to happen. Fact is, the Giants drafted Hankins in the second round in 2013 to REPLACE Joseph, not play next to him. If the Giants had any plans on getting into a bidding war for Joseph they never would have drafted Hankins in the first place.
This has been the Jerry Reese's M.O. at the defensive tackle spot -- draft, use, replace with a new, cheaper draft pick. Hankins replaced Joseph, who replaced Barry Cofield, who replace William Joseph.
Joseph is apparently having a wonderful year for the Minnesota Vikings, but is he really a guy worth a five-year, $31.25 million contract with $12.5M guaranteed? I think what Giants fans should really be hoping is that when Hankins' contract comes due in a year Reese breaks his pattern and gives him a second contract.
I think the Giants need Prince Amukamara
Jayron Hosley has done a creditable job. Trevin Wade has made some plays. Trumaine McBride is an adequate player. The Giants, however, need cornerback Prince Amukamara back on the field as soon as possible. The Giants got absolutely torched in the secondary by the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago. They would have gotten torched again Sunday by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if not for Mike Evans' five drops and the drop by Doug Martin that might have been a touchdown. Have the Giants sent Evans a thank-you note yet?
The problem hasn't all been Amukamara's absence, of course. Neither Landon Collins nor Brandon Meriweather is a free safety, and neither of them is great in coverage. As the season progresses, that reality is getting exposed more and more often.
With Tom Brady and the New England Patriots looming on Sunday, it sure would be nice to see Amukamara on the field.
I think Jasper Brinkley is a nice addition
Well, duh. Again. I'm just full of news flashes this week, aren't I?
Jon Beason was a great player at one time, and has always been a leader and a true pro. Uani 'Unga is a young, athletic player with a great story and a fair amount of potential. No disrespect to either guy, but Brinkley provided the Giants with an upgrade at middle linebacker sunday vs. the Buccaneers.
He had a team-best +5.5 defensive grade, team-high seven tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Tom Coughlin on Monday wouldn't commit to Brinkley as the starting middle linebacker for the remainder of the season, but he didn't really have to. It's pretty obvious.
By the way, it's not like Brinkley came out of nowhere.He is a 30-year-old seven-year veteran who has always had the reputation of being a good run-stopper. The Giants picked him up on waivers from the Dallas Cowboys prior to Week 1 and he replace Jameel McClain as the veteran insurance for Beason.
The Giants still need an infusion of young play makers at the linebacker spot. For now, though, Brinkley looks like a welcome addition.
By the way, it was interesting that the Giants chose on Sunday to have Devon Kennard wear the radio helmet and call the defensive signals. That had to help Brinkley, who did not have the benefit of an offseason or training camp to learn Steve Spagnuolo's defense.