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Bye week ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ review of New York Giants’ roster

A special ‘K&WW’ that goes position-by-position through the entire team

Las Vegas Raiders v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

We have reviewed the first nine games of the New York Giants’ season, what roughly equates to the first half, in a number of ways. We have gone through an ABC review, done a rookie report card, looked at the defense, discussed the offense.

Let’s try one more. Here is a ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ review of the roster . I will go position-by-position, giving each the score I deem appropriate. Where I can, I will also give each player a ‘Kudos,’ a ‘Wet Willie,’ or a ‘Kwillie.’ Even as I begin, I am relatively certain I am not going to be able to grade EVERY player. I will, though, wherever I can.

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Starter: Daniel Jones
Backup: Mike Glennon
Practice squad: Brian Lewerke

The Giants entered this season hoping that they would leave it knowing one way or the other what Daniel Jones. Is he a star? A mediocre quarterback? A bum who needs to be jettisoned ASAP?

Through no fault of his own, we still really don’t know what Jones is. Injuries have devastated the offensive line, taken away the team’s best running back and left a revolving door at receiver.

Jones has shown improvement in many respects. The Giants, though, still don’t score enough points. Jones still isn’t really putting up numbers. I said a few days ago that he will be the quarterback next season. I believe that. Grade: Kwillie

Backup Mike Glennon played decently when he had to step in for half of the game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Position grade: Kwillie. That, of course, matches Jones’ individual grade.

Running back

Starter: Saquon Barkley
Backups: Devontae Booker, Gary Brightwell
Fullbacks: Elijhaa Penny, Cullen Gillaspia
Practice squad: Sandro Platzgummer

This was supposed to be a comeback season for Saquon Barkley. It has, instead, raised more questions than answers about Barkley as he is missing time with a third leg injury in as many seasons. The Giants are being tight-lipped about it, but it seems unlikely Barkley’s injury this time was just a simple low ankle sprain. That would have healed long before now. Anyway, Barkley gets an ‘incomplete’ grade.

I was not a fan of the Giants’ signing of Devontae Booker. Barkley’s absence, though, has forced the Giants to lean on the Denver Broncos’ 2016 fourth-round pick. That has also caused me to gain an appreciation for Booker. He runs hard, has a one-cut style and some vision, and is a useful pass receiver. Booker is averaging only 3.7 yards per carry behind a Giants’ offensive line that hasn’t generated a lot of space, but he is doing a good job. Grade: Kudos

For years I have wanted to see the Giants use fullback Elijhaa Penny more, both as a blocker and as a ball carrier and receiver. Penny is finally getting that opportunity this season, and is capitalizing. He has 89 rushing yards on 22 carries (4.0 yards per attempt). Penny has already played more offensive snaps this season (84) than he did all of last year. The only noticeable thing he has done wrong all year was the taunting penalty against the Kansas City Chiefs. Grade: Kudos

Gary Brightwell and Cullen Gillaspia have been what we thought they would be — good special teams players who are really not part of the offense.

Position grade: Kwillie. Sadly, Barkley drags this down a notch.

Tight end

Starters: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph
Backup: Kaden Smith
Practice squad: Chris Myarick
Injured reserve: Levine Toilolo, Rysen John

Evan Engram missed the first two games of the season with a calf injury. He had a fumble in Week 3 that caused the home crowd to turn on him. He has rebounded by playing well for the past six weeks, with that culminating in a 30-yard touchdown catch against the Las Vegas Raiders. Grade: Kwillie

Kyle Rudolph has 16 receptions and has really only become more than an afterthought in the passing game the past couple of weeks. Kaden Smith is playing through a knee issue that limits his practice him each week, and does most of his work as a blocker.

Position grade: Kwillie. That is partially Engram’s health/performance. It is also partially because offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has not always gotten the tight ends incorporated into the passing attack, especially in the red zone.

Atlanta Falcons v New York Giants
Andrew Thomas (78)
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Offensive line

Starters: Andrew Thomas (short-term IR), Matt Skura, Billy Price, Will Hernandez, Nate Solder
Backups: Matt Peart, Ben Bredeson, Wes Martin, Korey Cunningham
Practice squad: Devery Hamilton, Derrick Kelly, Isaiah Wilson
Injured reserve: Nick Gates, Shane Lemieux, Kyle Murphy

We know that the Giants are not working with the offensive line they had hoped to work with this season. Would the plan to go with a young, home-grown, largely unproven group up front have worked? We will never know. All we can do now is judge the reality of what the Giants are working with.

Left tackle Andrew Thomas is clearly the Giants’ best offensive lineman. As poorly as he played in his rookie season, his growth in Year 2 has been tremendous. Thomas is 11th among 83 qualifying tackles in pass-blocking efficiency, per PFF. He has not surrendered a sack in 201 pass-blocking snaps. Unfortunately, he has missed four of the last five games with leg injuries. Grade: Kudos

At the tackle spots, Matt Peart and Nate Solder are adequate players. Solder is 64th among those 83 qualifiers in pass-blocking efficiency. Peart is 53rd. I still believe that when Thomas returns, Peart should play and Solder should sit. I am also still doubtful that will happen. Grade: Kwillie

On the interior, Will Hernandez has moved from left to right guard. He is still the same middling player. Hernandez’ 55.9 PFF grade is the lowest of his career. He still doesn’t handle twists and stunts consistently, and for a powerful man his run-blocking remains disappointing. Center Billy Price and left guard Matt Skura are replacement-level players who can’t be part of any long-term plan. Ben Bredeson and Wes Martin have gotten chances, and neither has been impressive. Grade: Wet Willie

Position grade: Wet Willie. The circumstances are what they are. Reality is, though, that one of the biggest fears entering the season has played out — the Giants have had to play around the weakness of the offensive line, and that is hampering their ability score points.

Wide receiver

Starters: Kenny Golladay. Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard
Backups: Darius Slayton, John Ross, Collin Johnson
Practice squad: Pharoh Cooper, David Sills V, Alex Bachman
Injured reserve: C.J. Board

Kenny Golladay missed all of training camp and the preseason with a hamstring injury. He has missed three games with a knee injury. In six games, he has 19 receptions (3.1) per game for an average 16.3 yards per catch. Golladay hasn’t yet really given the Giants what they are paying for. Grade: Kwillie

Sterling Shepard leads the Giants with 32 receptions despite playing in only five games. Shepard has missed four games with three separate injuries. As good as he is, that follows a career pattern for Shepard. He just doesn’t make it to the starting line often enough. Grade: Kwillie

Kadarius Toney hinted at greatness with his 10-catch, 189-yard performance against the Dallas Cowboys Week 5. Other than that, though, he has not been special. Injuries cost him a ton of practice time before the season, and right now it seems like injuries are costing him explosiveness and targets. Grade: Kwillie

Darius Slayton has just 12 catches in six games, dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass against Washington, and seems to be less and less of a factor as time goes by. He has been targeted just three times with no receptions the past two weeks. Grade: Wet Willie

John Ross, Collin Johnson, Dante Pettis (IR) and C.J. Board (IR) have all made contributions.

Position grade: Kwillie. There have been flashes, but collectively the Giants’ top receivers haven’t been on the field enough to give the Giants what they expected, and what they needed, so far this season. Through nine games, the Giants have only four touchdown catches from their wide receivers.

DEFENSE

Defensive line

Starters: Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Austin Johnson
Backups: Danny Shelton, Raymond Johnson
Practice squad: David Moa

Leonard Williams leads the Giants in pressures (32), stop (22) and is tied with Azeez Ojulari for the team lead in quarterback sacks with 5.5. He also has the defense’s best PFF grade (78.3). Williams PFF pass-rush productivity percentage of 6.1 is ninth among 41 qualifying interior defensive linemen. Grade: Kudos

Dexter Lawrence’s run defense grade has slipped to 57.3 from a grade in the 70s in each of his first two seasons. He is, though, having an excellent season rushing the passer. Lawrence has 1.5 sacks, but it is his 20 total pressures that is impressive. That is one shy of his 2019 career-high of 21, and there are eight games to play. Lawrence is 14th among interior defensive linemen in pass-rush productivity rate at 5.7. Grade: Kudos ... except for that whole offside on a game-deciding field goal thing.

Austin Johnson isn’t Dalvin Tomlinson, but he is having his best season. Johnson has 3.0 sacks and 11 pressures, both already career highs. Grade: Kudos

The only disappointment in this group has been veteran nose tackle Danny Shelton. Brought in as a free agent to spell Johnson and stuff the run, the 345-pound Shelton has a poor 35.1 PFF run grade in 81 run defense snaps. Not good.

Position grade: Kudos

Las Vegas Raiders v New York Giants
Quincy Roche (95)
Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

Edge

Starters: Lorenzo Carter, Azeez Ojulari
Backups: Quincy Roche, Elerson Smith, Cam Brown
Practice squad: Trent Harris, Niko Lalos

Azeez Ojulari has been everything the Giants could have hoped for in the 50th overall pick in the draft. He has 5.5 sacks, 21 total pressures and has played solid run defense. At just 21 years old. Ojulari should continue getting better. Grade: Kudos

Quincy Roche has had back-to-back excellent games, saved the Giants’ victory over the Raiders in Week 9 with a strip-sack of Derek Carr, Grade: Kudos

Before suffering an ankle injury and opening the door for Roche, Lorenzo Carter was what he has always been since the Giants selected him in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft — a decent, useful player. No more. No less. Not a guy you can give a big second contract. Grade: Kwillie

Sunday’s healthy scratch for Oshane Ximines is likely an indication that the 2019 third-round pick is being phased out. He has one quarterback hit and 12 tackles this season. Ximines doesn’t have a sack since 2019. He really hasn’t given the Giants anything. Oh, and his offsides penalty against the Chiefs probably cost the Giants a game. Grade: Wet Willie

We really haven’t seen enough of anyone else to give a real grade.

Position grade: Kwillie. Whether the glass is half-empty or half-full depends on whether you are upset about Carter and Ximines or happy about Ojulari and Roche. Me? I’m happy. I will be even happier if Elerson Smith flashes some pass rush potential during the remaining eight games.

Linebacker

Starters: Tae Crowder, Reggie Ragland
Backups:
Practice squad: Benardrick McKinney, Omari Cobb
Injured reserve: Blake Martinez, Carter Coughlin, T.J. Brunson, Justin Hilliard

The Giants’ defense has played much better in recent weeks. Don’t let that, however, fool you into believing Blake Martinez isn’t sorely missed. Tae Crowder has taken over as the every down signal-caller, and he has been an excellent value for being the final player selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. Still, his overall 28.7 Pro Football Focus grade in 554 snaps is atrocious. Only Benardrick McKinney (28.3 in 60 snaps) is worse. Reggie Ragland has been decent, but he is limited athletically and the Giants try to get him off the field in passing situations.

Position grade: Kwillie. These guys are doing the best they can. It isn’t great.

Cornerback

Starters: James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Darnay Holmes
Backups: Aaron Robinson, Keion Crossen
Practice squad: Jarren Williams, Ka’Dar Hollman
Injured reserve: Rodarius Williams, Quincy Wilson

James Bradberry had a Pro Bowl season in 2020. His surface numbers are not much different this season, but it does not feel as though Bradberry has played as well in his second season with the Giants. He has already matched last season’s three interceptions and is on pace to roughly match last season’s 18 passes defensed.

Bradberry, though, got torched by Washington’s Terry McLaurin in Week 2. We gave up six completions in seven targets Week 1. Bradberry’s passer rating against, per PFF, is 97.2. That is 27 point higher than a season ago. He has a career-worst 38.0 run defense grade, down from 71.9 a season ago. Want a reason the Giants are struggling against edge runs? That’s a good one. Bradberry has missed 26.3 percent of his tackle attempts this season, worst on the team and easily the worst of his career. Grade: Kwillie

Adoree’ Jackson had that costly dropped interception Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons, but has played pretty well. He has surrendered 31 completions in 50 targets and has an acceptable passer rating against, per PFF, of 89.6. The flaw is run defense, where his grade is only 36.0. Grade: Kwillie

Darnay Holmes played a lot of snaps the first couple of games, played a grand total of 14 snaps Weeks 3-6, and has now re-emerged as a regular member of the defensive rotation in the absence of Jabrill Peppers.

Until Aaron Robinson gets fully up to speed, Holmes is the most natural slot cornerback the Giants have. Between the drafting of Robinson, though, and the lack of playing time Holmes saw before the Peppers injury, you wonder how committed to Holmes the Giants are. Grade: Kwillie

It is really impossible to grade Robinson or Rodarius Williams (IR) because of the small sample size.

Position grade: Kwillie

Safety

Starters: Logan Ryan, Xavier McKinney
Backups: Julian Love, J.R. Reed, Nate Ebner
Practice squad: Steven Parker
Injured reserve: Jabrill Peppers, Joshua Kalu

Logan Ryan is a good, not great, player. He is incredibly important to the Giants both as a leader and as an on-field contributor. He made two or three under-the-radar plays, including knocking Josh Jacobs away from the game-saving fumble caused by Quincy Roche, that helped the Giants beat the Raiders. He leads the Giants’ defense with 72 tackles. He has, though, given up 24 completions in 29 targets, and has a career-worst 126.7 passer rating against. Grade: Kwillie

Xavier McKinney had the most impactful game of his two-year NFL career Sunday vs. Las Vegas. The Giants need “that” McKinney more often. He has been virtually unnoticed in far too many games this season. Grade: Kwillie

Peppers had seen his defensive role diminish somewhat before his injury. Julian Love, as always, is versatile, valuable reserve.

Position grade: Kwillie

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys
Graham Gano
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekicker Graham Gano has been terrific, as always. He has made 19 of 21 field goal attempts (90.5 percent), including 5 of 6 from beyond 50 yards. Grade: Kudos

Punter Riley Dixon is averaging a solid 45.9 yards punt punt, and the Giants’ 42.1 net yards per punt average is 17th in the league, middle of the pack. Dixon is 21st with 11 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. The Giants are giving up 9.9 yards per punt return, 25th in the league. Grade: Kwillie

The Giants have been league average in kickoff return at 21.4 yards per return. They miss the injured C.J. Board, who was averaging 24.8 yards on 11 returns before suffering a broken forearm.

The Giants are 22nd in the league in punt returns, averaging 7.3 yards. Jabrill Peppers was averaging only 6.4 yards on nine returns before going on season-ending injured reserve. That job belongs to Pharoh Cooper now, and in his debut he returned two punts for 26 yards, an average of 13.0 per return. Perhaps he can add some value in that department during the second half of the season.

We also have to note that the Giants have committed a league-worst 12 special teams penalties.

Position grade: Kwillie. Not enough from the return game, and far too many penalties for this to be a ‘Kudos.’