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Giants’ midseason report card: Grading the free agents

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Have the Giants gotten their money’s worth thus far?

NFL: New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
Olivier Vernon
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants doled out more than $200 million during the offseason in an effort to fix a league-worst defense. What did they get for their money?

The Giants have been much better defensively, though by no means dominant. They are 10th in the league in points allowed per game at 20.1 and 14th in yards allowed at 361.0 per game.

With the Giants on their bye week, let’s grade the play of the free agents acquired to reconstruct that defense.

Olivier Vernon

PFF summary: 81.3 overall grade - 479 snaps, 1 sack, 6 hits, 27 hurries, 8 missed tackles, 10 defensive stops

The Giants signed Vernon to a five-year, $85 million contract hoping he would help transform a pass rush that was anemic in 2015.

Vernon has only one sack through seven games, not nearly what the Giants were hoping for. That, however, doesn’t mean he has not had any impact as a pass rusher. Per Pro Football Focus, his 27 quarterback hurries are the most in the league among edge defenders and his six quarterback hits are tied for ninth-most.

Vernon is playing with an injured left wrist that has forced the Giants to move him to the left side, switching with Jason Pierre-Paul.

Grade: B-

Janoris Jenkins

PFF summary: 83.2 overall grade - 522 snaps, 45 targets, 25 receptions, 307 yards, 0 TD, 2 INTs, 7 PDs, 58.3 passer rating against

The Giants paid Jenkins like a shutdown corner, giving him $62.5 million ($28.M guaranteed) over five seasons. He had never really been that for the St. Louis Rams, but he has played to that level for the Giants. Jenkins has given up a couple of long completions, but has generally been outstanding through seven games.

While PFF lists Jenkins with seven passes defensed, official NFL stats give him 10, placing him third in the league. He is PFF’s 14th-ranked cornerback among those who have played at least 150 snaps.

Grade: A-

Damon Harrison

PFF summary: 80.2 overall grade - 313 snaps, 1 sack, 1 hit, 5 hurries, 3 missed tackles, 24 defensive stops

Harrison has been as advertised, a stout run stopper who has helped fortify a Giants’ defense that was porous against the run in 2015. He isn’t much of a pass rusher, though he can occasionally use his 350-pound frame to push the pocket. Harrison’s 24 run stops are second in the league to Danny Shelton of the Cleveland Browns, who has 25.

Grade: B

Keenan Robinson

PFF summary: 77.7 overall grade - 367 snaps, 0 sacks, 1 hit, 0 hurries, 3 missed tackles, 14 defensive stops

I have said a number of times that Robinson is the best coverage linebacker the Giants have had in a while. The Giants have put Robinson’s speed and coverage ability to good use. He doesn’t start at middle linebacker, but he plays far more snaps than starter Kelvin Sheppard.

Robinson has a quality passer rating against of 71.3, the best among Giants’ linebackers. He has given up 18 completions for 138 yards and has two passes defensed in 30 targets.

Grade: B+

Kelvin Sheppard

PFF summary: 45.1 overall grade - 215 snaps, 0 sacks, 0 hits, 3 hurries, 0 missed tackles, 0 defensive stops

There were plenty of fans who couldn’t believe the Giants choose Sheppard over Jasper Brinkley when the season began. Sheppard has been middling at best. Not horrible, but definitely not an impact player. The Giants generally use Sheppard on anticipated run downs and replace him with Robinson on likely passing downs. Whether it happens this season or next, you have to think fourth-round pick B.J. Goodson will eventually get a chance to take the snaps that are currently going to Sheppard.

Grade: C

Leon Hall

PFF summary: 77.7 overall grade - 282 snaps, 28 targets, 21 receptions, 247 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 1 PD, 113.2 passer rating against

Hall is a guy who has been a good player for a long time, but is on his last legs as a productive NFL cornerback. He has value to the Giants because of his experience and because he is the most natural slot corner they have. He helps them, especially with Eli Apple fighting his way through injuries. That 113.2 passer rating against, though, tells you there isn’t a whole lot left in Hall’s tank.

Grade: C+