The 2015 NFL regular season is winding down, and the season is just about over for the New York Giants. Their loss to the Carolina Panthers has all but mathematically eliminated the Giants from playoff contention.
But there are still things to learn as we get an idea of what the team may look like as we head into the 2016 off-season, and the front office faces some difficult decisions.
The story of the Giants' game against the Panthers should be the heroic effort to erase a 28 point deficit, or the terrific performance by Rashad Jennings.
It isn't, though.
The post-game discussion has been dominated by the blowup between Odell Beckham Jr and Josh Norman.
While many were calling for him to be benched, Beckham played each of the Giants' 75 offensive snaps, and was one dropped pass away from having a seven-catch, 130 yard, two-touchdown day against one of the premier corners in the league today. Beckham consistently got separation and could put to rest any discussion over who was the better player. Instead, he let Norman into his head and knock him out of his game for much of the afternoon. The Giants' receiver was handed a -5.5 grade by PFF, largely due to his penalties.
To be fair, Norman graded worse, getting a -5.9 grade from PFF.
Before the game, there was speculation that the Giants might move Beckham into the slot more often to get him away from Norman. They did, but not much more than usual for him. Beckham ran 29.8 percent of his routes from the slot, only 6.1 percent more than usual.
Now, on to more pleasant topics.
It's taken a while, but the Giants finally seem to have figured out the secret to running the football. Strangely enough, it seems to be giving a running back consistent touches. Rashad Jennings was on the field for 35 snaps, 47 percent of the offensive total, and he gained 107 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries (6.6 yards per carry). While that isn't an especially impressive number, coming against one of the premier rush defenses in the NFL -- Carolina allowed just 84.6 rushing yards per game coming into Sunday -- it should be impressive.
The Giants' offensive line paved the way for Jennings, with both Justin Pugh (+3.9) and Weston Richburg (+2.2) returning to form after dealing with injuries. Pugh's grade was tops for the Giants offense.
Second on the offense was Eli Manning with a +3.8. PFF wasn't terribly impressed with Manning's downfield work, but were very impressed with his work on intermediate throws. Interestingly, they only credit the Giants with two dropped passes (both by Beckham) all game. Personally, I counted five dropped passes in the first half alone.
As so many times this season, the defense was lead by Robert Ayers. On 69 snaps he got 1.5 sacks, five total QB disruptions, and three stops in the run game, all good for a +3.3 grade from Pro Football Focus.
Despite getting his first -- official -- sack of the season, Jason Pierre-Paul wasn't quite so well received by PFF, getting a +0.7 grade. JPP was consistently in the backfield and disruptive, but the club protecting his damaged hand prevented him from wrapping up and securing tackles. Pierre-Paul is still the disruptive force he always was, but he is a much more limited player than before his accident. Perhaps in time -- when the club is replaced by a more normal glove -- he will be more like the complete player he was.
With the (possibly temporary) loss of Markus Kuhn, defensive tackle Jay Bromly got the start, playing a season-high 50 snaps (65 percent). While he only recorded three total tackles, Bromley showed a good push and was a big part of the Giants' largely successful run defense, particularly against Mike Tolbert.
In his first game back as a Giant, Barry Cofield played just ten snaps. It seems likely that this number will go up over the final two weeks, but in his limited action Cofield seemed to be around the ball.
Finally, Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite had his first bad game of the season. On 59 snaps (77 percent), DRC was targeted 11 times, giving up five receptions for 79 yards. DRC also gave up his first touchdown of the season.
Giants Snap Counts