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Washington 22, Giants 7: Winners and losers as the 2021 season finally ends

Who helped themselves going into the 2022 offseason?

NFL: Washington Football Team at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants finished off their 2021 season by playing down to expectations with a 22-7 loss to the Washington Football Team.

This loss, their 11th double-digit loss of the year, caps a 4-13 season for the Giants’ fifth-straight losing season.

All season long we’ve taken this opportunity to look back on the game and see what it could tell us about the 2021 Giants. By now, we know everything we need to know about the Giants: They’re bad, they were bad all season long, and whoever takes the reins will have their work cut out for them.

So rather than doing that again, I wanted to take a look at some individual performances with an eye toward the 2022 off-season. Who helped or hurt themselves with their play in the season finale? Who were the game’s winners and losers?

Winner: Special teams

The Giants’ special teams has been an adventure in 2021, swinging wildly between great and terrible play. Last week we saw some downright ugly play from the Giants’ special teams, culminating in the disastrous decision by Pharoh Cooper which led to the safety. But the special teams ended the season on a high note. In particular, Steven Parker made a great tackle on the opening kick-off to prevent anything like a return. Keion Crossen made some nice plays in punt coverage as well.

Washington returner DeAndre Carter only averaged 5.8 yards per punt return and 16.5 yards per kick return with a long of 22 yards.

On the other side of things, Alex Bachman had several nice returns in his first chance to return kicks this year. He also did a good job of preventing a gunner from downing the ball and greatly improving the Giants’ field position.

It didn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, but these are all players who are going to be fighting for roster spots next year. Ending the season with a positive impression at least gives them a good starting point.

Loser: Will Hernandez

The Giants had high hopes for Hernandez when they drafted him in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. At the time, it was thought that he was an incredible steal at 34th overall.

It’s entirely possible that Hernandez’s career with the Giants is now over. Hernandez’s rookie contract is up, and he has largely disappointed after a promising rookie campaign. His 2021 season flashed some of the ability the Giants hoped would make him the rock in the middle of their offensive line, but was largely bad. That season ended with a whimper as Hernandez limped off the field and out of the game with an ankle injury.

Wherever Hernandez plays next year, it will likely be on a prove-it deal.

Winner: Lorenzo Carter

Earlier this week Ed asked if Lorenzo Carter could keep up his hot streak to end the season. If you listened to the discussion between Nick Falato, Joe DeLeone, and myself, I said that I believe Carter is picking up where he left off when he ruptured his Achilles at the beginning of last year.

Carter has always been an exceptional athlete, but he was never the the player the Giants wanted him to be when they drafted him. Georgia used him as much more of a defensive Swiss Army Knife than the EDGE his height, weight, and burst resembled. The Giants needed to develop and mold him into a true EDGE, and it wasn’t until Carter got to work with Brett Bielema that the investment started to pay off. Of course, he promptly ruptured his Achilles, putting his development on hold. If you go back and watch those early games last year, Carter was playing similarly to how he has been over the last four or five weeks.

He was credited with his fifth sack in four weeks when he beat the left tackle to take advantage of pressure supplied by Azeez Ojulari. Carter also made some nice plays in space until the defense was clearly gassed in the fourth quarter.

Simple economics could make this Carter’s last game as a Giant. If so, he’s gone out on a high note, and hopefully he’ll get a healthy second contract to help the Giants in compensatory picks.

Loser: Jake Fromm

Credit to Fromm for (what shouldn’t be) a remarkable 69-yard touchdown drive, capped by the first touchdown to a wide receiver in what feels like forever. However, Fromm’s accuracy was spotty at best and he had trouble releasing the ball cleanly on a few occasions. He through several off-target and obviously wobbly passes, a trend which culminated in a late fumble, recovered by Washington.

Fromm finished completing 15 of 31 (48.4 percent) for 103 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions. He was also the Giants’ leading rusher with 53 yards (and a fumble) on five carries.

It would be surprising if he is anything more than a camp arm in 2022 at this point.

Winner: Dexter Lawrence II

I wanted to ride off into the offseason on a positive note, and the play of Dexter Lawrence II was that for the Giants. As with Carter, I want to leave the end of the game off to the side — the Giants’ offensive offense largely failed to sustain drives and left the defense on the field too much.

But Lawrence was a menace along the line of scrimmage when the game was still in contention. He started the game by making a great tackle behind the line of scrimmage which helped force a game-opening field goal and was a factor on a number of busted plays. The one that might have jumped out the most was Lawrence bulling Brandon Scherff into the backfield and flushing Taylor Heinicke from the pocket. Lawrence still hasn’t quite figured out how to consistently finish his plays and needs to continue to hone his craft as a defensive tackle. He still uses his size and power first and technique second, and he might never be a true technician. However, it does make for an intriguing end to the season and a bright spot going forward.