The first half of the New York Giants Sunday afternoon loss to the Seattle Seahawks was exciting, if exhausting, to watch. But by the end of the game we knew, or had confirmed, just about everything we need to know about the New York Giants.
They do indeed have a good, hard-playing defense that is capable of coming up with game-changing plays. They also don’t have an offense to go with it.
But from a stats and snap-count perspective, there were really only two interesting story-lines to emerge from the game: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Evan Engram.
The story on the defensive side of the ball was DRC, or rather, the lack of DRC.
As we all know, Rodgers-Cromartie left the team prior to their week six game in Denver after friction with the coaching staff. He quickly returned that week and his ‘indefinite’ suspension lasted for just a game. However, that didn’t mean that the Giants were going to throw him back in at his prior work load. DRC played just 16 snaps, fewer than Donte Deayon (23) or Ross Cockrell (21).
“I knew they weren’t going to play me much,” Rodgers-Cromartie said after the game. “They just threw me here and there. That’s hard to come off the sidelines and be focused and prepared. At the end of the day, I knew my role and I was ready for that.”
“When you get old,” he added, “you take it how you want to take it. I don’t complain or get mad whether I’m in or out. When my name is called, I have to be ready. It’s a long season. One thing about DBs is that they always get hurt. I know I’m going to get a chance to get back in there.”
The Giants have their bye week this week, but afterward DRC hopes to earn his way back on to the field, saying, “That’s how it is, man. You go away from a team, you have to come back and earn it back. All I can do is keep fighting to earn it back.”
On the flip side of DRC is Eli Apple. Apple was benched against the Los Angeles Chargers, but returned to play a pair of excellent games against the Broncos and Seahawks. He played 74 defensive snaps (97 percent), and came away with as many passes defensed as catches allowed. About Apple, Pro Football Focus said:
Eli Apple has strung together two impressive weeks in a row at cornerback. He allowed only two receptions on six targets and registered two pass break ups against Seattle. Apple has notched three pass break ups the past two weeks while only surrenderring 55 yards on 16 targets. This is the type of player New York was hoping to get when they took him 10th overall in last year’s draft, Giants’ fan will hope he can continue this solid play throughout the remainder of the year.
He may never become a feared ballhawk, but if Apple can keep building on performances like these and playing up to his athletic potential, he is on his way to being a potential shut-down corner.
Fellow sophomore DB Darian Thompson was one of two defenders (along with Landon Collins) to play more snaps than Apple (75), and he came away with a strong 78.6 grade. Thompson is rounding back in to the form he showed before the injury that ended his rookie year, which bodes well for the Giants’ secondary, and defense as a whole going forward.
It’s only fair to list these three as a group. Once again, Damon Harrison was one of the Giants’ best players, garnering an 88.4 grade from PFF on 45 snaps. The Giants rotated Dalvin Tomlinson and Jay Bromley (80.4) more heavily than in previous weeks, each getting 35 snaps. It paid off, and they got solid play from both.
JPP once again played nearly every defensive snap, with a final tally of 73 of 76 on the night. He finished with four total tackles and no sacks, but that doesn’t really convey how well he played. After a dominant night in Denver, JPP was a force against Seattle’s run game and consistently pressured Russell Wilson all night long. The QBs mobility got him out of quite a few sacks, but he still got hit often.
It should now be clear that rookie tight end is the Giants’ offense in the absence of Odell Beckham Jr.
Over the last two weeks he has 11 receptions for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Over the same time period, the rest of the offense has 19 receptions for 120 yards and no touchdowns. His work this week earned a 79.9 grade from PFF, who said this about the rookie:
Despite being a rookie, Engram showed today that QB Eli Manning has at least one trustworthy weapon in the passing game still in his young tight end. Engram hauled in 6-of-10 targets and gained 43 of his 60 yards after the catch. Manning had a 110.4 passer rating when targeting the first-round pick.
Interestingly the Giants have been lining Engram up primarily as a tight end, not often moving him around despite his evident athleticism and versatility.
Giants TE Evan Engram positional breakdown: Week 7— Ryan Smith (@PFF_Smith) October 23, 2017
Inline TE - 66%
Slot - 21%
Wide - 13%
Also, the Giants have largely failed to use Engram to attack vertically down the seam, which was thought to be one of their primary motivations in drafting him. However, as PFF notes above, his explosive athleticism makes him dangerous with the ball in his hands and a sliver of daylight.
The Giants split time for their running backs fairly evenly, with Wayne Gallman getting 22 snaps, Orleans Darkwa getting 21, and Shane Vereen getting 16. However, the offense’s inability to convert third downs, or generally find much room to run, kept their rush totals down. Darkwa ran nine times, Gallman five, and Vereen just twice.