As we do that, let’s take a look at the snap counts and see what we can learn from who played and who didn’t.
The offense had 67 total plays and Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, John Jerry, and Bobby Hart were on the field for all of them, as was Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.
Pro Football Focus rated those four offensive lineman as four of the top five players in the game. Pugh lead the way with an 85.3 grade out of 100. Next up was Hart who graded 80.8 in relief of Marshall Newhouse. Flowers and John Jerry graded 75.4 and 74.4 respectively. The line played very well in run blocking and the tackles largely handled their business in pass protection against Washington’s tough edge rushers.
It was Beckham, however, who was the game’s best player. PFF graded him with an 87.1 out of 100, but if anything that under-rates his play. The analytics service counted 5 catches for 88 yards when matched up against Josh Norman. The NFL, however, disagrees.
Per @nflnetwork Next Gen Stats, Josh Norman lined up across from Odell Beckham Jr. on 54 of 61 plays = 6 catches for 107 yds on 10 targets.— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) September 26, 2016
Odell Beckham was on fire in the fourth quarter, and the Giants did themselves a disservice by not going to him sooner, or more often. Norman couldn’t hang with Beckham in coverage and he was being burned even when the ball didn’t go to Beckham.
Also of note, Beckham got his 200th career reception in the game, becoming the fastest receiver ever to 200, doing so in just 30 games.
Just behind Beckham and 80 percent of the offensive line in snaps were Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard who played 66 snaps a piece. Cruz finished with three receptions for 70 yards while Shepard nabbed five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.
While the Giants need Eli to spread the ball around and be unpredictable, they also need him to lean on his strengths.
Eli Manning completed 15 on 21 targets for 264 yds, 17.6 avg, 1 TD, 0 INT to OBJ, Shep & Cruz. Otherwise, 10-17 for 86 yds, 8.6 avg, 2 INT.— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) September 26, 2016
With Rashad Jennings out with a thumb and wrist injury, Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa carried the load for the Giants. Vereen was on the field for 37 snaps (54 percent), carrying the ball eleven times for 67 (6.1 ypc) yards and a touchdown, as well as adding two receptions of his own. While we can’t ignore turnovers — and he has been involved in too many — it’s also obvious that Vereen is a weapon. Darkwa was on the field for 21 snaps, toting the rock on 10 of them for 53 yards (5.3ypc ... Easy math there) and a touchdown.
Going back to Pro Football Focus, the Giants were lead defensively by their front seven, though Leon Hall was their top player with an 85.5 grade.
Jason Pierre-Paul (71 snaps, 100 percent) graded an 84.5 with six tackles, a strip-sack, and a pass defensed. Damon Harrison was next with an 83.6 grade for a monster 10 tackle (five stops) effort in 43 snaps (61 percent).
Olivier Vernon, who added a QB hit, a sack, and a batted pass of his own in addition to the seven hurries he and JPP combined for, to the defensive statistics played 64 snaps (90 percent). Johnathan Hankins, who was a force himself despite only notching two tackles, was on the field for 62 snaps (87 percent).
It’s been remarked that the best players play. However the extreme number of snaps the Giants’ starting defensive line plays could likely be a problem going forward. It’s absolutely understandable that Steve Spagnuolo would want to keep his best players on the field, too many snaps will wear them down and increase the likelihood of injury. While Plaxico Burress got most of the blame for torpedoing the Giants’ 2008 season, the defense was a paper tiger by the end. With injuries to its depth, the starters had to play far too many snaps and were gassed by season’s end.
Backup defensive tackle Jay Bromley only played 17 snaps, mostly in the fourth quarter after Harrison left the field with an apparent injury. He was disruptive, flashing in the backfield on several plays. Reserve defensive ends Owa Odighizuwa, Romeo Okwara, and Kerry Wynn played just twelve, seven, and seven snaps respectively, while DT Montori Hughes didn’t dress.
The Giants need to address that extreme snap inequality.
Linebackers Devon Kennard and Keenan Robinson rounded out PFF’s top-five for the Giants’ defense with grades of 80.0 and 79.9. Kennard only played 25 snaps (35 percent) while Robinson played 46 snaps (65 percent). It is interesting that Kennard’s snaps have been reduced so much from the first two seasons, perhaps to limit his injury risk, but the Giants could use his speed off the edge in pass rushing situations. It might also be time for the Giants to consider making Robinson the full-time middle linebacker, allowing them to stay in base defenses in more situations.