We know about what there is to know about the New York Giants at this point. They are not good — in fact, it would not be inaccurate to say that they are bad. However, after the Giants traded Damon Harrison to the Detroit Lions and Eli Apple to the New Orleans Saints, there change is afoot for the Giants.
Let’s take a look at the effects of some of those changes, which means a concentration on the defensive side of the ball.
With Damon Harrison on the Detroit Lions, the direct beneficiary was rookie defensive tackle B.J. Hill.
As Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson played virtually the same number of snaps through the first part of the season, so to did Tomlinson and Hill this game. With the Giants once again playing, primarily, a 4-2-5 nickel defense, Tomlinson and Hill each played 42 defensive snaps, or 62 percent of the defensive snaps.
All in all, this seems like about the right share of the snap count for the two. Defensive linemen need to be rotated over the course of a game, and that is even more true for the big guys than the edge players. The pair played well together, with Hill making his presence felt early in the game as both a run defender and pass rusher. The rookie finished the game with six total tackles and a pass deflected, while Tomlinson had three tackles of his own.
The other beneficiary of Harrison’s departure was Mario Edwards Jr., who was acquired after being waived by the Oakland Raiders. Edwards played 21 snaps (31 percent) on defense, picking up a pair of tackles and generating pressure of his own on Alex Smith.
Kerry Wynn continued his strong season, playing 29 snaps (43 percent), and has thrived in his role as the modern Dave Tollefson. He only had a pair of tackles, but Wynn was consistently around the ball or in the backfield when he was on the field.
With starting middle linebacker Alec Ogletree out with an injury, the Giants gave third year linebacker B.J. Goodson the mic. Goodson played, by far, the most snaps of his season, playing 59 (87 percent) of the defensive snaps as the starter. He performed well, picking up 8 total tackles and a tackle for loss. As could be expected from more of a “traditional” linebacker, Goodson wasn’t great dropping in coverage, but he did play well going down-hill, playing decisively and fighting through blocks well.
With former nickel linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong now on the Cleveland Browns, UDFA rookie Tae Davis (42 snaps) and Nate Stupar (27 snaps) rotated as the weak-inside or weakside linebacker.
Olivier Vernon played the second most snaps at 58 (85 percent), and he had the greatest impact of the Giants’ pass rushers, with three of the team’s five QB hits. He also had a 43-yard return on a fumble recovery.
This brings us to another rookie third-round pick, Lorenzo Carter. Carter has seen his share of the defensive snap count rise in recent weeks, and the trend continued against Washington with 39 snaps (57 percent), spread between outside linebacker and defensive end. Carter showed up as well, with three tackles and a quarterback hit, as well as pushing his blocker back into the pocket several times. Like Hill, Carter is not yet a finished product, but his upside is tantalizing.
All told, the Giants’ front seven wasn’t particularly productive against Alex Smith and a talented Washington offensive line, but they didn’t play poorly, either.
As we should expect, Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins both played every defensive snap (68). B.W. Webb, starting at outside corner in the spot vacated by the trade of Eli Apple, played 67 snaps and free safety Curtis Riley played 66.
With Webb starting outside, undrafted rookie Grant Haley took over the slot corner role, playing 39 snaps (57 percent). All things considered, Haley played reasonably well for a rookie seeing his first significant action as a pro. He finished with four tackles, and had some hiccups in coverage, but otherwise held up about as well as we should expect. It is (far) too early in his career to say whether Haley is an answer as the slot corner, but he showed enough to justify further looks in the second half of the season. Fellow undrafted rookie Sean Chandler, listed as a free safety, saw a bump in snaps as well, playing 18. Safety Michael Thomas played 11 snaps on defense.
Things could get interesting for the Giants as the trade deadline approaches.
Rumors have pegged both Collins and Jenkins as potential targets for other teams, and their departure could trigger a seismic shift in the Giants’ defense. Losing Jenkins could move Grant Haley from slot to outside — or bring newly acquired corner Tony Lippett on as a starter, if he is healthy enough. If Haley moves to outside corner, Chandler could come on as the slot corner, a position he has some experience with. Or the team could move Riley down from his free safety position to play corner again.
If Collins is traded, the team could look at playing either Thomas or Chandler as the second safety.
Of course, that is all speculation right now, but the snap counts for the Giants’ Week 10 game against the San Francisco 49ers could look wildly different from their games in the first half of the season.