Let’s go through our weekly ABCs lesson, this time looking at what we can learn about New York Giants vs. Cincinnati Bengals.
A is for ... Allen: Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor surprised with the choice of journeyman Brandon Allen as the Bengals’ starting quarterback for Sunday’s game. A sixth-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016, Allen has bounced around the league with his only action being three 2019 starts for the Denver Broncos. He was added to Cincinnati’s 53-man roster from their practice squad on Monday.
B is for ... Burrow: You won’t get to watch No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow played quarterback for the Bengals. No one is going to get to watch Burrow for a long time. The talented rookie tore his left ACL and MCL and is expected to be sidelined for 9-12 months, meaning his absence from the Cincinnati lineup could last into the 2021 season.
C is for ... COVID-19: The Giants are in the midst of their most serious COVID-19 outbreak of the season. Placekicker Graham Gano, offensive tackle Matt Peart, tight end Kaden Smith and wide receiver/punt returner Dante Pettis are all on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Gano is expected to be activated for Sunday. Also of note, the NFL is closing facilities league-wide on Monday and Tuesday as a post-Thanksgiving holiday precaution.
D is for ... DeGuglielmo: I don’t have a whole lot of new things to say about the Giants’ new offensive line coach, I just want to keep practicing spelling DeGuglielmo. I am curious, though, how this in-season switch works out.
E is for ... Elijhaa: I’m wondering if, without reserve tight end Kaden Smith, the Giants might use fullback Elijhaa Penny a bit more on Sunday. The Giants have only two healthy tight ends, Evan Engram and Levine Toilolo, on the active roster. The Giants have used 13 personnel, one running back and three tight ends, 10 percent of the time this season. Only the Cleveland Brows (13 percent) have used it more frequently. Unless they use a reserve offensive lineman as an extra tight end, the Giants won’t have that option on Sunday. The most offensive snaps Penny has played this season is 11, which is how many he played Week 10 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.
F is for ... Finley: We all expected Ryan Finley to be Cincinnati’s quarterback with Burrow out. But, no. Sorry, dude.
G is for ... Gano: Giants placekicker Graham Gano went from the high of signing a three-year contract extension to the low of testing positive for COVID-19 in a span of roughly 24 hours last week. The Giants are expecting Gano, who has been at practice since Thanksgiving Day, to be activated for Sunday’s game.
H is for ... Hart: After the way he was booted out of New York, it is hard to believe Bobby Hart is still a starting tackle in the NFL. In Cincinnati, though, that’s exactly what he is. Hart is actually in the middle of the best season of his career, with a career-best 70.0 Pro Football Focus grade and only 3 sacks allowed in 8 games played.
I is for ... Important: the Giants are actually playing an important football game this Sunday. A football game that matters in the standings. It’s been a long time since that’s been the case.
J is for ... Jason: With Marc Colombo, his last offensive line coach when he was head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, out, speculation has now turned to the future of Jason Garrett as Giants offensive coordinator. I don’t know how solid the Garrett-Joe Judge relationship is. I do know the Giants have been improving on offense and, if possible, I would rather not see quarterback Daniel Jones have to learn yet another offensive scheme next season.
K is for ... Kaden: Giants’ backup tight end Kaden Smith is on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Smith’s absence Sunday could be a big blow to the Giants’ running game. Smith has played more than 50 percent of the offensive snaps in each of the past four games, and his run blocking has been a big part of the team’s improved run game.
L is for ... Luxury: The Giants have used the expanded practice squad and the rule allowing more experienced players to be part of that group, to carry placekicker/punter Ryan Santoso and long-snapper Carson Tinker all season. Santoso might have to kick Sunday. Truthfully, carrying those players hasn’t been a luxury. It’s really been excellent planning.
“That’s why Joe [Judge] gets paid the big bucks, right? He had a plan in place and we talked about it from the spring because you don’t want to be in a situation where you don’t have the specials, whether it’s a punter or kicker you don’t ever want to be put in that spot,” special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said. “We had the forethought to bring the guys in and have them in, and really it’s been a blessing in disguise because you’ve been able to work with guys and see a guy like Ryan Santoso get better and just know you’ve got Carson TInker there if something were to happen.”
M is for ... Markus: Rest in peace, Markus Paul. I didn’t know him personally, but the tremendous outpouring after the 54-year-old former Giants assistant died this week tells you everything you need to know about the man.
N is for ... NFC East: The Giants’ division really is terrible. It’s also a lot of fun trying to figure out which of these teams will end up being least-worst. All four teams have a legitimate chance.
O is for ... Offensive line: I know I already talked about new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, but the Giants offensive line is going to be under heavy scrutiny for the rest of the season. The group has improved in recent weeks. All will be good if that continues. If they regress, that’s going to be a blemish on Judge’s handling of his rookie season.
P is for ... Pass rush: The Giants’ pass rush has been much better than anticipated this season. The Giants lead the league in quarterback knockdowns with 41, are fourth in the league in pressure rate at 24.4 percent and are 11th in sacks with 25.
Q is for ... Question: Why does this have to be such a pain in the neck letter? Can we just skip it? I guess I kind of just did.
R is for ... Ring of Honor: The Giants honored their Ring of Honor players as well as standout scout team players by letting those scout team players choose to wear jerseys of ROH members during Wednesday’s practice. Very cool.
To acknowledge their work, the Scout Team Players of the Week were able to wear special jerseys featuring numbers of Giants legends. They were able to pick from the franchise's Ring of Honor inductees. pic.twitter.com/D3KnMc8dRQ— New York Giants (@Giants) November 25, 2020
S is for ... Santoso: Ryan Santoso will be the Giants’ placekicker if Graham Gano isn’t cleared to come off the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He is 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, huge for a kicker.
“Ryan’s very talented. We’ve been watching him here all year. We brought him in because he has a ton of talent and he’s gotten better since he’s been here,” McGaughey said. “I would expect Ryan to do the same thing he does in practice [if he is active Sunday], just make kicks. Is he perfect? Absolutely not. Is he inexperienced? Absolutely he is. But this kid has a ton of talent, he will kick in this league one day. Ryan’s a very talented kid, hard worker and we’ll see what happens, but Ryan’s talented, make no mistake about it.”
T is for ... Team: If you haven’t figured it out by now, Giants coach Joe Judge means it when he says everyone has to be “team first,” and he will obviously back it up.
U is for ... Upset: The Giants are in the unusual position of being a fairly substantial 6.5-point favorite, per Draft Kings SportsBook. It would obviously an upset if Cincinnati, without star quarterback Joe Burrow and top running back Joe Mixon, can defeat the Giants. If that happens, the Giants would be undeserving of being considered realistic contenders in the unsightly NFC East.
V is for ... Vote: There won’t be a Pro Bowl this year, but there will be a Pro Bowl. Right now, Logan Ryan of the Giants is leading fan-voting at free safety in the NFC. Go here to vote for Ryan or any other Giants you believe are deserving.
W is for ... Wayne Train: With Saquon Barkley out for the season and veteran replacement Devonta Freeman landing on IR with leg injuries of his own, fourth-year running back Wayne Gallman is playing better than he has since his 2017 rookie season when he averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Gallman has had double-digit carries in four straight games, the heaviest workload of his career.
X is for ... X-Men: Safety Xavier McKinney and linebacker Oshane Ximines were both designated to return from IR this week by the Giants.
Y is for ... Why Julian Love should be nervous: With McKinney expected to return, the question is how will the Giants get him on the field? Jabrill Peppers isn’t going to lose snaps. Neither is Logan Ryan. The Giants aren’t likely to move Ryan to cornerback. The only logical conclusion is that Love, the 2019 fourth-round pick, is the player most likely to lose snaps to McKinney.
Z is for ... Zac: Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor is under fire. The Bengals are just 4-21-1 in his two seasons and in the wake of Burrow’s devastating injury some believe Taylor didn’t do enough to protect his young quarterback.