As a team the New York Giants might not be playing for a whole lot over the final nine games of the season. There are, however, a number of players who have much to prove over the final nine games.
For Darkwa, 2017 has already been the best season of his four-year NFL career. He is fourth in the league in yards per rushing attempt at 5.4. He has already set career highs in carries (51), yards (274) and pass receptions (8).
To really prove that he can be a lead back, though, Darkwa has to continue to be productive over the season’s final nine games. Durability has always been a concern for Darkwa. Making it through the season healthy, and continuing to be productive with the heaviest workload of his career would go a long way toward answering lingering questions. Oh, and it would earn the free-agent-to-be some money.
The second-year back was handed the No. 1 running back role at the beginning of the season, and flopped miserably. He averaged 1.9 yards per carry (32 carries, 61 yards) before suffering a rib injury and missing the last three games. A rough four-game stretch is no reason to give up on the 2016 fifth-round pick, though. Maybe he isn’t the featured back of the future, but playing well in the second half would give him a leg up on a role with the team in 2018.
When he returns to the lineup from his ankle injury, which he is expected to Week 9 against the Los Angeles Rams, he will do so as the Giants’ No. 1 wide receiver. He was having an excellent sophomore season before getting hurt, but that was with Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall in the lineup. Tight end Evan Engram will gt much of the attention from defenses going forward, but the next nine games will also tell us a lot about Shepard’s growth, and his ability to be a guy who can take pressure off Beckham going forward.
Flowers struggled early in the season and has given up 4.5 sacks. He has a streak of 202 pass-blocking snaps without allowing a sack, though, one of the longest such streaks in the league. GM Jerry Reese said this week that 38 starts into his NFL career the Giants still don’t know if Flowers is their long-term answer at left tackle. They need to figure that out over the final nine games.
The veteran guard has injected needed physicality and enthusiasm into the Giants’ offensive line. The jury is still out, though, on whether Fluker will be in the team’s long-term plans. Fluker is playing on a one-year “prove it” contract. He has nine games to prove he should be a part of the Giants’ future.
Jones is another player who is trying to prove he should be part of the Giants’ future. He is in the final year of the three-year deal he signed as a free agent coming out of the CFL. He has played some guard, and filled in at center with Weston Richburg recovering from a concussion. Could Jones give the Giants a cheaper option at center if they don’t have money under the salary cap to re-sign Richburg? Maybe. Could he figure into the future at guard? That seems less likely, but it’s possible. He could just continue to fill the role he has now as a valuable backup who can help in a couple of spots.
Like Flowers, the second-year corner had a rough start to the season. He has played much better the past couple of weeks, though, and the Giants certainly need to see that continue. It is doubtful Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be a Giant beyond this season, so the Giants will need to know they can depend on their 2016 first-round pick going forward.
Kennard is in the final year of his rookie contract. The only linebacker the Giants have under contract for next season is B.J. Goodson. Will they bring Kennard back? He’s an excellent run defender and has become a valuable pass rushing defensive lineman in long-yardage situations. If he plays well down the stretch it will be hard for the Giants to do anything other than bring him back next season.
It’s been an awful stretch for Wing. He had two costly poor punts at end of games. He had a punt returned for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions. He had a punt partially blocked. The Giants have been working out punters. Wing was good for the Giants in 2015 and 2016, but if his struggles continue it wouldn’t be surprising to see someone else punting for the Giants in 2018.
The rookie placekicker is a likable young guy, and he is talented. But, he’s 7-of-10 on field goals and near the bottom of the league in touchback percentage on kickoffs. The Giants need to see better from Rosas over the rest of the season.
The second-year safety struggled early in the season, but has played better the past couple of weeks. Thompson was expected to provide a dynamic combination with Landon Collins at the back of the defense, and that hasn’t really happened. Let’s see if Thompson can be the player the Giants thought they had over the remainder of the season.