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The ABCs of Giants-Cardinals: What you need to know, from A to Z

It’s time for our unique alphabetical preview of Sunday’s game between the Giants and Cardinals

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Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

New York Giants vs. Arizona Cardinals in Week 14. What do you need to know? Let’s go alphabetically and find out.

A is for ... Answer of the year: I highlighted this earlier in the week, but the answer Giants defensive back Logan Ryan gave when asked about the Week 15 game against the Cleveland Browns being flexed was awesome. Here is what I wrote on Thursday:

Logan Ryan was incredulous on Wednesday when he was asked about the significance of the Giants’ Week 15 game against the Cleveland Browns being flexed into prime time. On a Zoom call, Ryan put his hands to his head and said “You’re asking me about the Browns game being flexed?”

He did then answer the question.

“It means nothing, to answer your question. It means absolutely nothing. Look, the Arizona Cardinals have the number one red area offense, they have the number four rushing offense, [Cardinals QB] Kyler Murray is the top rushing quarterback, [Cardinals WR] DeAndre Hopkins is the best receiver we’ve seen all year, [Cardinals WR] Larry Fitzgerald is a Hall of Fame receiver. They run the most tempo in the NFL, number one tempo offense, we haven’t seen an offense that runs as much tempo as them,’ Ryan said. “So, the Browns being flexed, it means absolutely nothing because I’ve got to worry about this tempo these guys are about to give us, I’ve got to worry about DeAndre Hopkins, I’ve got to worry about Larry Fitzgerald, I’ve got to worry about Kyler Murray, so that’s 100 percent of what my worries and concerns.”

B is for ... Budda: Fourth-year safety Budda Baker is a do-everything player for the Cardinals. Baker has two Pro Bowl appearances and an All-Pro honor on his resume over his first three NFL seasons.

C is for ... Coughlin: Lost in all the chatter about Niko Lalos is that Carter Coughlin appears to be becoming a big part of the Giants’ defense. The seventh-round pick (218th overall) played a season-high 45 defensive snaps (62 percent) last Sunday and spent a considerable amount of that time harassing Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.

Coughlin showered praise on outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema this week.

“He’s helped so much. I’d say the biggest thing that works so well for Coach B is he’s such a great teacher,” Coughlin said. “I think that a lot of times you can get coaches that aren’t specifically great teachers. That dude is a great teacher. He’s super detailed with it. For a rookie at the beginning, it was a lot to take in. As we’ve progressed throughout the year and all that kind of stuff, it’s paid off so much. The amount of detail, the amount of structure, the amount of focused teaching and all that kind of stuff.

“He’s not one of those guys that’s, ‘you better know what you’re doing, otherwise you’re screwed, get off the field.’ [He is,] ‘I’m going to make sure they you know what you’re doing.’ It’s paid huge dividends for me and Cam and Niko (Lalos) and all those guys. Big shoutout to coach B, he’s a great coach.”

D is for ... Darnay: Rookie cornerback Darnay Holmes got his first career interception last Sunday, and has had a solid first season in the NFL. Holmes, questionable on Sunday with a knee issue, has compiled a 91.0 passer rating against, per Pro Football Focus.

E is for ... Edmonds: Former Fordham running back Chase Edmonds had the best game of his three-year NFL career when the Cardinals and Giants played a year ago. Edmonds had 27 carries for 126 yards, his only 100-yard rushing game, as Arizona won. 27-21.

F is for ... Fitzgerald: Larry Fitzgerald is old. He is slow. He is also headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and still catches a pretty significant number of passes. Fitzgerald is also back from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and will be on the field for Arizona on Sunday.

G is for ... Golden: How is Markus Golden doing after the Giants traded him to the Cardinals for a sixth-round pick? In five games with Arizona, Golden has a sack and 11 tackles. Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said Golden has “brought a lot of juice to that defense.”

H is for ... Hopkins: Logan Ryan says Arizona’s Deandre Hopkins is “the best receiver we’ve seen all year.” It’s still hard to believe former Houston Texans coach/GM Bill O’Brien basically gave the three-time All-Pro away for nothing.

I is for ... Isaiah: There were many Giants fans who argued that the team should have selected versatile defender Isaiah Simmons with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He went No. 8 to the Cardinals, and has not exactly had a blistering start to his career. Nick Falato took a look at Simmons’ rookie season.

Pro Football Focus indicated this week that the Cardinals are “still working out a clear role” for Simmons.

J is for ... Jones: Will Daniel Jones play Sunday? He is listed as questionable.

K is for ... Kingsbury: I thought the Arizona Cardinals had lost their minds when they hired Kliff Kingsbury to be their head coach in 2019. I’m still not sure Kingsbury is more than a glorified offensive coordinator and don’t know if he really has what it takes to be a long-term NFL head coach.

L is for ... Leonard: Leonard Williams, a guy many thought the Giants were crazy for acquiring at the 2019 trade deadline, has been the Giants best defensive lineman this season. He is the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week after his 2.5-sack performance in Sunday’s upset of the Seattle Seahawks.

“Our defense couldn’t work without Leonard,” said defensive back Logan Ryan.

M is for ... Murray: Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has “true speed” that enables him to create “a touchdown at any moment,” says Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Murray, though, is still developing as a quarterback and former NFL player Ed Smith told the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast that there are some issues on that front.

N is for ... NFC East: If anyone had told you back in August that it would be the Giants and Washington Football Team fighting for the NFC East title with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles limping along at the bottom of the division, you would have said they were nuts. Yet. here we are. D.C. sports columnist Rick Snider and I discussed this on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast.

O is for ... ‘Oh, no!’: That has been the general reaction of Giants fans as head-coaching buzz has begun to circulate around defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

P is for ... Perkins: Ray Perkins, Giants coach from 1979-82, passed this week at the age of 79. Perkins helped the Giants begin their ascent out of the Wilderness Years. In 1981, he guided them to their first playoff berth since 1963. RIP, Coach.

Q is for ... Quarterback: Not the one you’re thinking of. Who quarterbacks the defense when Blake Martinez is out of games, which happened in the final drive last week against the Seattle Seahawks? Martinez is questionable Sunday with a back injury suffered in that Seattle game.

“I’m the backup quarterback,’ said Logan Ryan. “I get the green dot when Blake goes down, so I’m always excited a little bit. I hope he’s well, but anytime I get the green dot, get to call the huddle a little bit, it takes you back to my quarterback days, so it’s fun.”

R is for ... Running game: The Giants have run for more than 100 yards in seven straight games and eight of their last nine. Sunday against Seattle, the Giants stuck with the ground game even though the Seahawks shut it down in the first half. They ended up with 190 rushing yards, their highest total of the season.

“It’s a challenge to run the ball in the NFL. It really is from any personnel grouping. Defenses do such a good job from a scheme standpoint and from a talent standpoint in stopping the run,” offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said. “It’s a challenge for us. It’s something we believe in. We believe in it very strongly to be balanced and to attack different ways. We’ve run the ball a lot better here the last six or seven weeks. I think that’s helped our team. It’s helped our offense.

“The residual effect to your pass protection and your passing game I think can be a positive one. Then really throughout the team as well, instilling that mentality of toughness, time of possession is a big part of it. You’re always trying to do whatever you can do to help the team win. I think running the football allows you to do that.”

S is for ... Slayton: Wide receiver Darius Slayton has just 7 receptions in the Giants last four games, five of those coming in Week 10 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Slayton has dealt with a variety of small injuries throughout the season, and it’s uncertain how close to fully healthy he really is. The Giants, though, could really use some big games and explosive plays from Slayton down the stretch.

T is for ... Thomas: So, rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas is good now? Thomas has given up just one sack in the last five games, and no pressures in the last two games. Thomas told media this week that blocking out the noise and figuring how to handle the inside pass rush move have been the keys to his turnaround.

U is for ... Unheralded: Wayne Gallman, Alfred Morris, Shane Lemieux, Austin Mack, Kaden Smith, Jabaal Sheard, Tae Crowder, Niko Lalos, Cam Brown, Carter, Coughlin, Isaac Yiadom. The Giants are getting unexpected contributions from an incredible number of unheralded players.

V is for ... Flying V: Remember the “Flying V” from the ‘Mighty Ducks’ movies? That’s sort of what the Giants remind me of when they come out hammering away in their ‘13’ personnel package, which is one running back and three tight ends. They have used it on 10 percent of their plays this season. Only the Cleveland Browns (14 percent) use that personnel grouping more often.

W is for Webb: The Giants signed veteran quarterback-running back-wide receiver-kick returner-special teamer Joe Webb to their practice squad this week. If and when injuries or COVID-19 strike the Giants roster down the stretch, Webb gives them a ton of flexibility in filling a roster spot.

X is for ... Ex-Giants: The Arizona roster is littered with them. In addition to Golden, Justin Pugh, Devon Kennard and Josh Mauro are all on the 53-man roster. Prince Amukamara is on the Cardinals’ practice squad.

Y is for ... Why hasn’t Xavier McKinney played more? The second-round pick has played only 11 defensive snaps in two games since coming off injured reserve after missing 10 games with a fractured foot.

“His role will keep increasing as we go. The thing I’ve explained to Zay, and I’ve told the coaches as well, is we have to be fair to this guy. This guy has been out of football now, he’s a rookie, he hasn’t played in preseason, he missed the first however many games. He comes into Cincinnati a couple weeks ago, we can’t throw him on the field for 50 snaps,” said Giants coach Joe Judge. “The coaches have done a good job keeping him up to speed with what we’re doing game plan wise. But again, to be fair to this guy as a rookie, we have to let him come and progress his career at the right rate, and not just throw everything on his plate. It’s just not fair to him as a player.”

Z is for ... Zane: Arizona placekicker Zane Gonzalez is under fire as he is having an inconsistent season. He is just 16 of 22 this season in field goal attempts (72.7 percent). All six of his misses have come from outside 40 yards. Gonzalez is questionable for Sunday with a back injury.