New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur and his players have spoken about the importance of getting off to a fast start in games.
Well so far, the Giants have struggled to do that for a variety of reasons, one of which has to do with some players just not delivering consistently in terms of production.
Who are some of the biggest culprits so far? This week’s stats column looks at a handful. (Note: unless otherwise noted, stats are from Pro Football Focus).
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins
If the Giants defense is to become what defensive coordinator James Bettcher as envisioned, it needs better production from the back end, specifically at cornerback.
Speaking of cornerback, Janoris Jenkins, the team’s No. 1 corner who two years ago showed the NFL that he can be a shut-down corner, has been anything but.
Jenkins’ NFL Rating of 109.7 is the 19th highest among 68 cornerbacks who have taken at least 60 coverage snaps through the first two weeks of the season.
Closer to home, Jenkins’ NFL rating is the worst of the Giants four cornerbacks who have seen game action so far. Jenkins has been targeted 12 times, allowing nine completions for 153 yards, and 1 touchdown and has one interception.
That’s quite a drop-off for Jenkins, whose tumultuous 2017 season was cut short by a season-ending ankle injury.
If Bettcher is worried about Jenkins and some of the deep balls he’s given up being a problem this weekend against the Texans receiving duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, he’s not letting on.
“He’s one of the best corners in this league, and there’s no question about that,” he said. “I’ve been around a great corner before that’s given up a play before. So, I don’t have any question about if that matchup happens and they happen to be on each other in this game,”
Outside linebacker Kareem Martin
When a player has as many missed tackles as he does total tackles, that’s typically not the best start.
Such is the case with outside linebacker Kareem Martin, in whom the Giants invested a 3-year, $15 million contract.
The former Cardinals linebacker is currently tied with fellow linebacker Alec Ogletree for the defensive team lead in missed tackles with four, three of which came in last week’s loss to the Cowboys.
Last year through two games, Martin had yet to register a missed tackle for the Cardinals. His four missed tackles as a Giants through two games is already a career-high for a player who registered four missed tackles in his first four seasons in the NFL.
Running back Jonathan Stewart
The Giants brought veteran Jonathan Stewart in on a two-year, $6.9 million contract in part to serve as a mentor to the young running backs room and, presumably, in part to contribute on short yardage situations.
So far, Stewart has not taken a short-yardage snap, those going to quarterback Eli Manning and running back Saquon Barkley.
Is this because of his preseason struggles in which he received 10 carries but mustered up minus 5 yards rushing or his regular season stat line which is four carries for 9 yards? Or is Stewart nursing some sort of ailment which is limiting his early season snaps?
Whatever the reason, it’s pretty clear so far that from an on-field perspective at least, the Giants are not getting much of a return on their investment.
Punt returner Kaelin Clay
The Giants swapped out Hunter Sharp for Clay, a waiver wire pickup. So far, however, that decision has also been a head-scratcher.
Clay has returned five punts for 15 yards, but return yards aside, each week there’s been a bit of an adventure in terms of his ball security which has left the team holding its breath.
Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey has a theory about that.
“Kaelin has been in the situation where the punters have been kind of icky – (Cowboys punter) Chris Jones is a phenomenal punter, and he did not punt well last game, and he’s left-footed.
“A couple of those balls came off his foot kind of funky and they were short and hit the ground, started rolling,” he added.
“If you watch him, he’s normally 50 yards, 45 yards, 5.2, 5.1 his returns – it’s ridiculous. He can crush the ball. But he didn’t play well the other day, and then we had (Jaguars punter) Logan Cook, who has been up and down a little bit.”
Icky punting or not, it’s still up to Clay to reward their faith in him by at, the very least, ensuring every punt he fields is fielded cleanly.
ILB B.J. Goodson
Last year in the regular-season opener (against Dallas) B.J. Goodson, named the starting middle linebacker in the Giants 4-3 defensive base, had himself a game.
That week, Goodson logged an astonishing 18 tackles, 14 of which were solo efforts. Those numbers were good enough to put Goodson at the top of the leader boards in tackles after one week.
His stay as the league’s leader in tackles was short lived as a leg injury began to affect him and eventually cut short his first full season as a starter.
When the Giants switched to the 3-4 base, Goodson managed to hang on to his starting job, pairing alongside of veteran Alec Ogletree.
However, Goodson has not been able to replicate his tackling prowess he showed in that first game of the 2017 season.
So far, the official league stats have Goodson credited with three tackles which includes one solo effort, and a half sack.
Pro Football Focus even has him down for a missed tackle and just one tackle for a loss in 63 snaps played.
Goodson looked very promising over the summer, but thus far, his somewhat slow start out of the gate has been surprising.