The New York Giants’ defense has not been good this season, no matter what statistical measure you use. The New York Jets have fielded the league’s 31st-ranked offense in terms of points.
What will happen when these two non-juggernauts collide on Sunday at MetLife Stadium? Whatever that is, it’s not likely to amount to beautiful football. Regardless, let’s see if we can identify some things the Giants’ defense needs to do to help come away with a much-needed victory.
Make Sam see ghosts
OK, so you caught me. I just wanted to write about Sam Darnold and seeing ghosts. I mean, I had to. Didn’t I?
Well, I had my fun, but it’s time to be a tad more serious. The Jets with Darnold in 2018 and the Giants with Daniel Jones in 2019 drafted the guys they hope/pray/believe will be the franchise quarterbacks who lead them out of the abyss each team is currently in.
After a promising rookie season, Darnold has appeared to regress. The “ghosts” game against the New England Patriots, four interceptions, a passer rating of 3.6, was about as low as it gets.
Darnold has made some ugly mistakes, like the one below, in the past couple of games. He not, though, been awful. He has completed 69.6 percent of his passes the last two weeks with 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
This interception by Darnold might be one of the worst I've ever seen pic.twitter.com/5Xuo8QSyVk— Billy M (@BillyM_91) November 3, 2019
“I see an outstanding young quarterback,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said of Darnoild. “He can play and he can help his team win games. That’s what I see.”
Under pressure this season, Darnold has only a 49.2 percent completion rate and a 44.7 passer rating this season. Only two qualifying quarterbacks, Mitchell Trubisky of the Chicago Bears and Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns, have worse passer ratings vs. pressure.
The Jets are last in the league, giving up sacks on 12.76 percent of quarterback drop backs this season. The 4.6 sacks per game the Jets are allowing is league-worst. It will be incumbent upon the Giants’ pass rush to take advantage of that.
Bag the two-man line, please!
At least on downs where the run is a viable option.
With the acquisition of Leonard Williams the Giants have four defensive tackles for three spots — Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill. The Giants are considered a base 3-man front team and have generally been OK against the run this season, middle of the NFL pack in yards allowed per rushing attempt.
Why then, against the run-oriented Dallas Cowboys, who feature Ezekiel Elliott and an outstanding offensive line, did the Giants spend so much time with only two defensive tackles on the field and Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter with their hands in the ground as defensive ends?
That didn’t seem to make sense and the Cowboys averaged 5.7 yards per attempt at Elliott ran for 139 yards and said after the game “it was the easiest 140 yards I’ve ever gained.”
Taking Tomlinson or Hill off the field in obvious passing situations could be understandable. Not using the strength of the defense, the big, run-defending interior linemen the Giants possess, on potential run downs, isn’t.
It would also behoove the Giants to play their responsibilities and close off cutback lanes. Over and over Monday night, Elliott was able to cut back when he found his initial path blocked, often picking up massive chunks of yardage.
Le’Veon Bell of the Jets is a different style of runner. He is less about putting his foot into the ground and exploding into a hole than Elliott, but his patient style will exploit the Giants’ defense if players don’t fill the gaps they are supposed to fill.
What’s the answer in the secondary?
DeAndre Baker is a confused rookie. That’s not terribly surprising because rookie cornerbacks never have it easy in the NFL. The level of confusion Baker has admitted to, though, is concerning.
Janoris Jenkins, like he did in 2017, is back to making business decisions. That’s neither good for the on-field product nor good as an example for the young players who are supposed to be learning from him.
Antoine Bethea is still a smart guy who can get players lined up and mentor the kids, but he really doesn’t have the athleticism to play free safety.
Corey Ballentine simply needs to play more before we can even begin to form any type of opinion on what he can or can’t be.
The Giants are tied with the Green Bay Packers for most plays of 40 yards or more allowed (11). Offenses facing the Giants have thrown deep balls on 16.6 percent of pass attempts (47/283) this season -- second highest in NFL, per Inside Edge. League average is 12.1. So, expect the Jets to take plenty of deep shots if the Giants’ pass rush gives them the opportunity.
As I pointed out earlier, neither of these groups has been anywhere close to good this season.
There are areas the Giants can take advantage of here, particularly if they can pressure Darnold when he throws and play their responsibilities properly when he hands the ball to Bell. If they can’t solve some of their issues in the back end, though, there will be opportunities for Darnold to make big plays.