In some ways, this season has been a slog, but with Halloween in behind us, it is still somewhat surprising that we are in the second half of the 2019 season.
So far The New York Giants have played their rookies more than any other team in the NFL, and have done so by a fairly wide margin. Let’s take this opportunity to check in on the kids, see where they are, and what they need to work on for the remainder of the year.
*Note: Anyone looking for grades, you aren’t going to find any. I’ve been preaching patience with rookies and I want to let them have a full season of development before I put their film under the microscope.
Jones is the most difficult of the rookies to evaluate. Not just because of the natural complexity of the position, but also the reality of 2019. The idea that rookie quarterbacks who become starters are like any other rookie is somewhat antiquated. Allowances must be made, but considering one of the greatest competitive advantages a team can have is a starting quarterback playing winning football on a rookie contract, they have to be held to a high standard.
Jones has made progress since being inserted into the Giants’ starting lineup, but there have been some persistent issues with his play. Those issues have primarily been with seeing the defense and making decisions. Jones has been fine when he has quick reads, but his process bogs down when going through longer reads or against better defenses when the 0re and post-snap reads don’t line up. He’s also shown a strong tendency to throw into coverage
Second-half Homework: Improve his awareness of defenses and commit to a course of action more quickly.
Lawrence got off to a slow start to the season but has come on as he has settled into the Giants’ defense. People might have been surprised that he has played defensive end and 3-technique rather than nose tackle, but that is only a surprise if you judged him by his height and weight and not his college tape.
So far Lawrence has gotten by with being a massive human with a good first step, but he won’t take the next step in his development until he hones his craft. Lawrence is turned aside too often for such a big and powerful player and needs to improve his technique to fully unlock his potential.
Second-half Homework: Improve leverage and hand usage.
If Lawrence got off to a slow start, Baker got off to a horrible one. Teams were exploiting him with impunity at the beginning of the season.
Baker has improved with reps, but there are still definite issues in his play. The most noticeable is that he has to be in tight man coverage to be consistently effective as a coverage player.
Second-half Homework: Improve communication with the rest of the secondary, and recognition of route concepts in off and zone coverage.
Ximines polish as a rookie pass rusher has been evident through the first eight games of the season. He times snaps well and his technique lets him maintain his speed throughout his rush.
He has seen his snap count slip some in recent weeks, and that might be due to questions about his run defense.
Second-half Homework: Improve power and play strength at the point of attack, work on setting a firm edge in run support.
Love was widely believed to be the steal of the Giants’ draft class when they selected him in the fourth round. He was an experienced and productive corner for Notre Dame with excellent ball skills. The Giants ultimately decided to convert him to safety and fill their long-standing desire for a safety with a cornerback’s skill-set.
Thus far he has only had three defensive snaps.
Second-half Homework: Get on the field and force Antoine Bethea off it.
Connelly came on the field when Alec Ogletree got hurt early in the year and made enough splash plays to earn a starting job early in the season. Connelly is fast playing downhill, taking good angles to the ball and shows impressive processing speed in the run game. There isn’t much of a sample size yet to get a feel for his pass defense. He didn’t look to have exceptional range, but that same quick processing and sound tackling at least limit yards after the catch.
Of course, he quickly tore his ACL soon after gaining a starting job and the Giants’ linebacker depth chart was stretched thin.
We’ll have to wait until 2020 to get a true read on Connelly as a full-time player.
Second-half Homework: Get healthy.
If we thought Julian Love was going to be the steal of the Giants’ draft, but Slayton has turned out to be that. He was a mystery throughout camp and pre-season as he dealt with nagging hamstring injuries. Since making his debut, Slayton has risen up the Giants’ depth chart as other receivers have dealt with injuries. His explosive athleticism and rapport with Daniel Jones have proved valuable for the Giants as his share of the snap count has ballooned since Sterling Shepard’s second concussion.
Slayton is capable of big plays, but he still struggles with drops. Likewise, route running continues to be an area of weakness coming out of Auburn’s simple passing scheme.
Second-half Homework: Improve his catch rate and continue to hone his craft as a route runner.
Ballentine was the team’s human interest story for much of the off-season, but once he was able to get on the field he got people talking about his ability. He flashed against other teams’ back-ups in the pre-season and climbed the Giants’ depth chart to the point where he was a primary backup as an outside corner.
Once we got to the regular season, Ballentine made an impact as a kick returner. The Giants were scrambling for options at kick returner after the injury to Corey Coleman, and Ballentine’s presence stabilized their special teams until his injury. Since then the Giants have struggled and the loss of “hidden” yardage has impacted their offense.
Second-half Homework: Get healthy and give the Giants’ production in special teams.