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Giants 10, Cowboys 7: Snap counts, grades from dominant defensive performance

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Giants win, it isn’t pretty. But winning is something they’ve done quite a bit of in 2016. In fact, they haven’t done this much of it since 2012, when they waited until the last game of the year to get their ninth win.

So then, who played (and who didn’t) as the Giants swept the season series with the Dallas Cowboys?

Offense

Offensive Line Shines?

For the second week in a row, it seemed as though the goats of the game would be the Giants’ offensive line. In the first half, it looked as though Eli Manning might have been better off with four blocking dummies and Weston Richburg in front of him.

But things settled down in the second half. The Giants recommitted themselves to running the football and the offensive line responded. According to Pro Football Focus, three of the Giants’ five best offensive players Sunday night were Weston Richburg (74.8), Marshall Newhouse (74.3), and Ereck Flowers (70.9). Flowers’ grade in particular is surprising, but he just seems to transform as a player when he gets to consistently go after defenders as a run blocker, as opposed to catching them as a pass protector.

Toting The Rock

There was a serious conversation among fans and the media how the Giants would get carries for returning running back Shane Vereen. Would they come from Rashad Jennings, or Paul Perkins?

As it turns out, it wasn’t an issue. Vereen was lost to a concussion after just three plays, and Jennings and Vereen played what has become (roughly) their normal distribution of snaps. Of the Giants 67 offensive snaps, Jennings played 36 (54%) and Perkins played 25 (37%). The Giants leaned on their running game in the second half much more than in weeks past, running the ball 31 times in total (helping to win the time of possession battle). Both Jennings and Perkins carried the ball 15 times apiece, each for 45 yards. Jennings actually proved to be the more explosive, with his longest carry being for 13 yards, while Perkins was the more consistent runner.

Odell Breaks The Game

Seven players played Every one of the Giants’ 67 offensive snaps: The five offensive linemen, Eli Manning, and Odell Beckham. Beckham only had four catches, but still managed to get 94 yards and a touchdown on then night ... Though he probably should have had two touchdowns as his hands were less-reliable than usual. The highlight of the night, however, was his spectacular catch and run, turning what should have been a 6 yard reception on a slant into a 61 yard, game winning touchdown. All of that was good for the Giants’ third highest offensive grade, a 71.0 from PFF.

The Giants’ other top-5 graded offensive player was Sterling Shepard, who played 61 snaps (91 percent) and garnered a 69.2 grade. The highlight of his night was a quick wide receiver screen for a nice scamper down the sideline and a big third down catch over the middle.

Should the Giants Get More Snaps For Their Tight Ends?

Finally on the offensive side of the ball, the Giants actually came out in a two tight end set at the start of the game, and had some success with it. Will Tye (51 snaps, 76 percent) was the starter and took the lion’s share of the workload, but rookie Jerell Adams got a nice look as well, with 21 snaps (31 percent). The two tight ends played well, with two catches apiece, and some nice blocks. The Giants might want to consider having both on the field quite a bit more often. Tye is developing as a blocker while Adams is coming along as a receiver. Their size and athleticism makes for an interesting contrast to Beckham and Shepard.

Defense

Okwara Steps Up

Much has been made of the Giants’ off-season spending in 2016. First because of the money spent and because of who they spent it on, and now because of how well those guys are playing — More on that in a bit.

But an underrated aspect of Jerry Reese’s off-season has been his rookie class. Not only is Eli Apple playing very well, but so is Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins. Jerell Adams is contributing, and Darian Thompson looked like a potential steal before an injury ended his season. But even more impressively has been the play of Andrew Adams and now Romeo Okwara. We’ve been over how impressive Adams has been, stepping up in the absence of Darian Thompson, but in losing Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants might just have unearthed a(nother) gem in Okwara.

Playing 60 of the Giants’ 66 defensive snaps (90 percent), Okwara got his first career sack, and was half a second and a throw-away from getting his second. Playing both the left defensive end position and inside at defensive tackle, Okwara provided consistent pressure on Dak Prescott. He struggled early in the game with run defense, but found his groove as the game went on. In his first start the UDFA from Notre Dame was graded an 80.3.

Kennard Gets His Chances

One of the mysteries of the first half of the season was ‘Where is Devon Kennard?’. Well, the Giants seemed to remember their strong-side linebacker in the second half of the season, and it paid off against Dallas. Playing 39 snaps (59 percent) at linebacker and on the defensive line, Kennard finished with six tackles, including a big tackle for a loss, and a strip sack that just knocked the Cowboys out of field goal range. The third year linebacker seemed to be everywhere on the field, and it’s something of a mystery that he didn’t make the Giants’ top 5 grades.

Free Agents Earned Their Money

Three of the Giants’ five best defensive players were free agents. Janoris Jenkins lead the way with a grade of 91.6, playing every defensive snap. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie came in third with an 85.1 grade in just 35 defensive snaps. And Finally Olivier Vernon played every defensive snap and came through with an 83.4 grade working against Tyron Smith.

LC Just Keeps Ballin’

The Giants’ final top-5 spot rightfully goes to Landon Collins (85.6 on 66 snaps), who continued his stellar play, coming up with six total tackles. Probably the most memorable was a bone-rattling hit on Jason Witten to keep him from picking up a first down, and a fumble recovery.