A is for ... Adjustments: The Giants were forced to make a whole slew of them this week.
- Freddie Kitchens will call plays instead of Jason Garrett, sidelined with COVID-19. Two Giants assistant coaches tested positive for the virus this week.
- Bret Bielema is gone, the Giants former outside linebackers coach having accepted a job as head coach at Illinois.
- An injured Daniel Jones is out. Colt McCoy is in as starting quarterback.
- Joe Webb, Adrian Colbert, Quincy Wilson, Jarren Williams and Clayton Thorson are in for Sunday night. Brandon Williams, Montre Hartage and James Bradberry (Reserve/COVID-19 list) are out.
Just another boring week for the Giants.
B is for ... Baker: Quarterback Baker Mayfield is averaging only 214.2 yards passing per game, 26th in the NFL, but he is leading a team that is 9-4 and has scored more than 40 points in each of its last two games.
“I think the thing that stands out about him above all is this guy is an elite competitor. He really is. He’s a tough dude. You know his story. How he went through college, had to walk on twice, earn two starting jobs. Look, it’s no coincidence this guy is having tremendous success in the National Football League. I love the attitude he plays with, I love the chippiness he plays with. This guy extends plays,” said Giants coach Joe Judge.
“He has a strong arm, that’s not a question. He can make every throw. He really ties into the bootlegs and the play actions off the run game they have. Look, with (Nick) Chubb and (Kareem) Hunt, these are two of the elite backs in the league right there. You put those three together, Chubb, Hunt, and then Baker, the three of them really compliment each other across the board.”
C is for ... Chubb: Nick Chubb is fifth in the NFL in yards rushing (881) despite missing four games, third in yards rushing per game (97.9), and leads all running backs in yards per carry (5.9). Picked 35th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, the year the Giants took Saquon Barkley No. 2, Chubb is Exhibit A for those who argue against drafting running backs in Round 1. A hypothetical — how much better off would the Giants be if they had drafted guard Quenton Nelson No. 2 overall and Chubb 34th, than selecting Barkley and Will Hernandez? Chew on that one for a while.
D is for ... Daniel: Daniel Jones will not be at quarterback Sunday night, with the Giants bowing to his hamstring and ankle injuries and starting Colt McCoy. Quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski seemed to indicate this week that he doesn’t expect Jones to be fully healthy any time soon. That’s not good.
E is for ... Entertaining: The NFL flexed Giants-Browns into the national Sunday Night Football slot. Considering the Giants’ loss last week to Arizona and the health of Daniel Jones you wonder if league and NBC officials would like a do-over on that decision. Still, there are interesting story lines. Baker Mayfield. Rookie head coaches squaring off. Former Cleveland coach Freddie Kitchens calling plays for the Giants. Colt McCoy, a former Cleveland quarterback, starting against the team that drafted him. Some old-school smashmouth football. If the wounded Giants can find a way to stay in this game, it could be an entertaining evening.
F is for ... Freddie: With the news that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has tested positive for COVID-19, tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens will call plays Sunday night against the Browns. Kitchens was fired by Cleveland last season after one year as their head coach, so this sets up as a revenge game for him. Kitchens called it “ironic” that this would happen vs. the Browns.
G is for ... Goodson: The Pat Shurmur-James Bettcher Giants didn’t, for some reason, want B.J. Goodson. After a year with the Green Bay Packers, Goodson has become a starter for the Browns. He is the team’s leading tackler while playing roughly 90 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. Goodson isn’t a great player, but he is a capable NFL linebacker.
H is for ... Helping hand: Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence held a videoconference with media this week to implore fans to help with the team’s annual Holiday Food Drive. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the annual drive is virtual this year. Go to Stop & Shop’s website to donate virtually between now and Dec. 24. All proceeds benefit Food Bank for New York City.
I is for ... Isaac: Tricked you. I snuck in a thought on cornerback Isaac Yiadom without waiting to get to the letter “Y.” I mention Yiadom only because Giants defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson praised him this week.
“You can see his confidence growing every week,” Henderson said. “He’s really consistent. He’s really tough. You watch some of his tackles. He doesn’t turn a cheek at all, he goes in there aggressive. He’s doing a great job. We’ve just gotta keep him moving in that direction, just gaining confidence every time he goes out.”
With James Bradberry on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, Yiadom is also pretty much the last healthy cornerback standing on the Giants’ roster.
J is for ... Jarvis: Jarvis Landry is not a game-breaking deep threat, averaging 11.1 yards per catch for his career. He is, though, a really good wide receiver who has 624 career catches as his seventh NFL season winds toward its conclusion.
K is for ... Kareem: Kareem Hunt has 772 yards rushing, 5 touchdowns, an average of 4.4 yards per carry, and 31 receptions for 5 more touchdowns. Not bad for a No. 2 running back.
L is for ... Lauletta: Quarterback Kyle Lauletta, a fourth-round draft choice by the Giants, in 2018, is on Cleveland’s practice squad. Lauletta’s 0 for 5 against Washington late in the 2018 season remains his only NFL appearance as a quarterback. Since being cut by the Giants, he has been with the Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, and now the Browns.
M is for ... Myles: The Giants have to deal with Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett this week. Garrett (10.5) already has double-digit sacks for the third straight season. Garrett is one of six edge rushers with 10 or more sacks so far this season. he is ninth among edge rushers in total pressures with 47.
N is for ... Njoku: There were many Giants fans who wanted the team to select tight end David Njoku in 2017 when the Giants instead used the 23rd overall pick in the draft on Evan Engram. Njoku went 29th to Cleveland. As crazy as Engram makes Giants fans with his inexplicable miscues, he has been a more productive player than Njoku. Engram has 203 receptions and 13 touchdowns in 47 games, averaging 4.3 catches per game. Njoku has 105 catches and 11 touchdowns, averaging 2.3 catches per game. Njoku is Cleveland’s third tight end these days, behind Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant.
O is for ... Odell: Of course we weren’t going to get through this without finding a place for Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham against the Giants at MetLife Stadium is an event I would have looked forward to. Sadly, Beckham is out with a torn ACL. The COVID-19 pandemic meaning fans couldn’t attend the game had already taken some of the shine off of the game, anyway.
Maybe the best part of even thinking about Beckham is the story Jabrill Peppers told this week about finding out included in the deal.
“I was at home; I was on Twitter and I saw it. I was actually excited about the trade. I’m thinking ‘We just got Odell.’ Then I keep looking and I’m like ‘Oh s—t, I’m not here anymore.’ “
P is for ... Playoffs: The Giants’ playoff possibilities are not looking good. The Washington Football Team is at this point heavily favored to win the NFC East. The script could flip, though, if Washington loses Sunday to the Seattle Seahawks and the Giants upset the Browns.
Q is for ... Quality: If you want quality information on the Browns the best place to get it is from Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. That’s why I was thrilled to have Mary Kay on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast this week.
R is for ... Run game: Sunday night’s game could be a smashmouth affair. Whether Jones plays or not, the Giants are going to hope to rely on Wayne Gallman, Alfred Morris, and their ground game to control the pace of the game. The Browns, with Chubb and Hunt combining for more than 1,600 yards rushing already this season, are built to run. So, this one could be a bruising, old-school-style game,
S is for ... Special teams: The Giants’ special teams haven’t been very special of late. They will need to be Sunday night for the Giants to have a chance. Several of the roster adjustments the Giants made this week, especially activating Colbert from IR and adding Webb to the 53-man roster, appear aimed at improving their kick coverage.
T is for ... Twists: As they have for much of the season, the Giants struggled last Sunday to handle tackle/end stunts from the Arizona Cardinals defensive line. Original offensive line coach Marc Colombo couldn’t solve it. His replacement, Dave DeGuglielmo, also apparently has yet to get this trouble spot taken care of.
“It’s been an issue throughout the season and it’s something we’re continuing to work on to get better at,” DeGuglielmo said. “We need to get better at it, we need to straighten it out. It’s not that we can’t get it right, we just didn’t get it right.”
U is for ... Unfortunate: That’s how I feel about this whole Daniel Jones thing. I believe the Giants made a mistake by playing Jones on Sunday when he wasn’t, in my view, able to protect himself. I still believe they should have removed him at halftime, whether or not he had informed the team of his ankle injury.
The situation Giants’ chances to be a functional offense the rest of the way and to make the playoffs. It also denies the Giants the opportunity to see if Jones could have continued the upward trend he was on before the hamstring injury. He was obviously affected by his injuries on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, and it doesn’t seem he will be fully healthy the rest of the season. So, it’s impossible to get a real read on how good he is — or isn’t — after two seasons.
V is for ... Vernon: The Giants traded Olivier Vernon to Cleveland for Kevin Zeitler before the 2019 season. Vernon has continued to be what he has always been, a complementary defensive end rather than a No. 1 pass rusher. Vernon is having a productive year with 7.0 sacks this season.
W is for ... Wills: Jedrick Wills was one of the four offensive tackles under consideration to be the first tackle selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Giants, of course, chose Andrew Thomas. Wills has played well at left tackle for the Browns, giving up just four sacks and 17 total pressures. Thomas has been charged with eight sacks and 51 pressures allowed.
X is for ... Xavier: With Darnay Holmes sidelined by a knee injury, rookie defensive back Xavier McKinney played 39 snaps. McKinney wasn’t drafted to be a full-time slot cornerback but held his own filling in for Holmes.
“You see why we drafted him where we did, you saw his athleticism, you saw his willingness to get to the ball,” said defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson. “His first time out playing that many snaps and he’ll just continue to get better from here.”
Holmes is out again this week, so McKinney should continue to play a significant number of snaps.
Y is for ... Why did the Giants waive Corey Ballentine?: The Giants just waived cornerback/special teams gunner Brandon Williams, have cornerback Ryan Lewis on IR, will be without Holmes and James Bradberry this week and have struggled in the kickoff return game. They might wish they hadn’t waived Ballentine early in November. Ballentine has yet to play on defense for the New York Jets, who claimed him off waivers, but he is averaging 29.7 yards on seven kickoff returns.
Z is for ... Zzzzzzs: I hate these night games. The dogs and cats in my house will have me up at 5 a.m. Monday morning, as usual, and I’m not looking forward to functioning on two or three hours of sleep. Besides, I’ve been known to doze off in front of the TV by 10 p.m. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen Sunday night.