Pro Football Focus grades are never the be-all and end-all of determining who played well and who did not in any NFL game. Still, they give us guidance that can confirm or contradict what our eyes think they see — and they are a fun reference guide to discuss.
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard returned for the first time since suffering a turf toe injury in Week 2, and was the team’s highest-graded offensive player at 78.4. Shepard ended up with 6 catches in 9 targets. Wide receiver Golden Tate checked in at 70.9.
Daniel Jones graded out as the second-best offensive player at 75.5. To be honest, I put zero stock in actual PFF grades for quarterback play.
The top two offensive linemen were center Nick Gates (62.7) and guard Will Hernandez (60.6). Gates did not allow any pressures, while Hernandez gave up three.
Andrew Thomas was a mixed bag. For the second straight week, the rookie left tackle was solid in run blocking (73.3 in 21 run-blocking snaps). He was, though, once again atrocious in pass protection. Thomas gave up two sacks and six total pressures in 39 pass-blocking snaps, and finished with a horrendous 32.5 pass-blocking grade.
The 21-year-old has now surrendered a league-most 37 pressures in seven games and has a horrific 43.8 pass blocking grade, worst in the league so far.
It doesn’t help the Giants that Cam Fleming is second-worst at 47.8 and has allowed 20 pressures. Thursday, Fleming was the lowest-graded full-time offensive player (41.8) with a 29.3 pass-blocking score. He surrendered a sack and a pressure.
Veteran guard Kevin Zeitler, who could be on the trade block, continued to perform below his career standard. Zeitler graded at 50.7 (67.3 pass, only 43.6 run).
Let’s start with the little bit of good news that there is.
Dexter Lawrence (86.6) and Leonard Williams (82.7) both graded impressively. Lawrence, who had a sack and four hurries, had a terrific 90.4 pass-rushing grade. Williams had a quarterback hit and four hurries.
Safety Julian Love had his best game, grading at 75.8
The defensive story is really the bottom six players in terms of PFF grade. They are:
- LB Devante Downs (56.5, 45 snaps)
- LB Cam Brown (56.5, 12 snaps)
- S Nate Ebner (49.2, 12 snaps)
- CB Corey Ballentine (43.5, 17 snaps)
- SS Madre Harper (35.0, 24 snaps)
- CB Ryan Lewis (30.0, 74 snaps)
Brown is a sixth-round pick who may become a useful defensive player as he gains experience. More and more, it is looking like other five are players who really shouldn’t be on the field. At least not on the field nearly as much as they were Thursday night.
Downs barely played the past two weeks with rookie Tae Crowder emerging. With Crowder (hamstring) on IR and the Giants apparently not really comfortable with David Mayo, he was back in a significant role.
Lewis has emerged as the Giants’ best option at the No. 2 cornerback. He had a rough go Thursday, though, and has now given up huge plays that contributed heavily to losses in two of the past three games. There is a reason the Giants are his eighth NFL team. More and more, he looks like a depth piece rather than a guy who should be playing every down week-in and week-out.
Ebner, Harper and Ballentine simply shouldn’t be seeing the field. They are only out there because the Giants are without Xavier McKinney (IR), Adrian Colbert and Darnay Holmes. For the things defensive coordinator Patrick Graham wanted to do, those were the only players he had available.