The New York Giants interim coaches are coaching for their very jobs, and they very nearly pulled off a spectacular upset against an overwhelmingly favored division rival.
Considering the fact that this was a division rivalry game in which a win would certainly help the coaches make the case for their continued employment, it isn’t surprising that they rode their starters.
Let’s take a look at just how many snaps various Giants played, and how well they played in a very close loss.
No rest for Vernon, JPP
Interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said that the team would be looking for opportunities to rest both Jason Pierre-Paul (who is dealing with a finger injury on his damaged hand) and Olivier Vernon. Over the last two seasons, the only appreciable rest either defensive end has had has come when they are inactive and injured. Few edge rushers play anywhere near as large a percentage of their defense’s snaps as Vernon and JPP, and both once again played well over 90 percent on Sunday.
Of 68 possible defensive snaps, Vernon played 65 (95.5 percent) and JPP played 64 (94.0 percent). Vernon was the Giants’ highest graded player by Pro Football Focus with an 84.5 grade.
Vernon was a force rushing the passer as he recorded five total pressures including a sack and three QB hits. A solid 10.8 pass-rushing productivity could have been more as he beat LT Halapoulivaati Vaitai on four more occasions but the pass was out too quickly to generate the pressure. To top it all off, his sack was a strip sack and added on a stop in the run game.
In contrast, promising rookie Avery Moss played just three (3) snaps, 4 percent, down from eight (8) the week before. Despite playing three snaps, Moss still managed a quarterback pressure, underscoring the need to get him on the field.
Kerry Wynn played four snaps.
On the inside, Damon Harrison played the most snaps of the defensive tackles at 51 of 68. Dalvin Tomlinson was next with 44 snaps. Jay Bromley was third with just 20 snaps, but was still one of the Giants’ highest graded players with an 81.7 grade.
Who says Sterling Shepard isn’t a No. 1 receiver?
The Giants have struggled for answers at wide receiver all season long. The problems started in the preseason when injuries to Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard set the tone for the regular season. The were devastated in week five when they team lost all three, as well as Dwayne Harris, to injury against the Los Angeles Chargers. Of them, only Shepard has been able to return to the field.
His talent and experience has made him the de facto Number One receiver, and he has risen to the challenge. Shepard played 85 of 88 offensive snaps (97 percent), was targeted 16 times, with 11 receptions for 139 yards, including a Beckham-esque 67-yard catch and run for the touchdown. Shepard was clearly the Giants number one receiver, playing inside and outside, and responded with a very strong game.
All aboard the Wayne Train
Though he wasn’t the starter, the argument could be made that Wayne Gallman is (or should be) the Giants’ lead running back. He played the most snaps, 36, but only ran the ball eight (8) times, picking up 39 yards (4.9 ypc). He also added 6 receptions on 7 targets for 40 yards. Most impressive, however was how hard the rookie has run.
Gallman didn’t get most of his touches until the second half, but he provided the Giants with some solid production on the ground on a day where Orleans Darkwa really struggled to get it going. Gallman forced two missed tackles on eight attempts and earned 24 of his 39 yards after contact. Gallman has forced 15 missed tackles now this season on 86 rushing attempts, two more than Darkwa has forced this season and on 59 fewer attempts.
Shane Vereen was next in snap count with 31 snaps, picking up 15 yards on 5 rushes, as well as 15 yards on 5 receptions (in 5 targets). Orleans Darkwa, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury, got just 22 snaps, picking up 7 yards on 9 carries, as well as 9 yards on a single reception.
Ross Cockrell: Starting cornerback
It’s a mark of just where the Giants’ defense is that a player obtained in a trade on Sept. 2 to shore up the depth of the secondary has become one of it’s most important players.
Cockrell was one of just two players to play each of the Giants’ 68 defensive snaps — the other was free safety Darian Thompson. Now-former GM Jerry Reese acquired Cockrell from the Pittsburgh Steelers in a trade for a conditional draft pick, and after the turmoil in the Giants’ secondary, it has turned into an excellent trade.
Cockrell was one of the Giants’ highest-graded players with an 80.3 by PFF, and about whom they said:
Targeted a team-high seven times, Cockrell had a solid day despite giving up a touchdown to Alshon Jeffrey on an excellent double move in the red zone. He allowed just three catches for 29 yards with one pass breakup, good for 4.1 yards per target allowed and 0.74 yards per cover snap. Cockrell added two stops, one in the run game and one in coverage while not missing any tackles.
With Landon Collins failing to finish the game after trying to will his way through an ankle injury, Andrew Adams played 50 snaps (74 percent) and was the Giants’ second-highest graded player at 84.2.