Playing or not playing
The issue of whether Giants’ starters like Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and Dexter Lawrence should play Sunday against the Eagles has been hotly debated, with the majority of fans voting no in our poll and a vocal minority wanting the Giants to go all out to win.
I’m with the majority on this one. There is no benefit to the Giants allowing Jones and Barkley to take more hits on Sunday, or to put more wear and tear on Lawrence and perhaps some other players.
The 2007 game against the New England Patriots Giants fans like to refer to had history on the line, with the Patriots playing for an unbeaten season. This one has nothing on the line for the Giants.
Did you notice that the Kansas City Chiefs lost defensive tackle Frank Clark to a groin injury on Saturday. The priority has to be doing what the Giants think is right to be at their best for next weekend’s Wild Card round.
I will also say that I will be thrilled for Davis Webb if he starts at quarterback, which was reported Saturday evening. Drafted by the Giants in Round 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft, Webb has yet to throw a pass in an NFL game. He deserves the opportunity, and I hope he plays well on Sunday.
The Giants made unexpected runs to Super Bowl titles in 2007 and 2011, and the defenses on those two teams had a lot to do with those championships. With the Giants headed to the playoffs, I thought it was interesting how Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale described his group.
“I think that the thing that’s exciting to me is that we’ve come here, and we’ve built a playoff defense,” Martindale said. “Nobody can argue that, and I think we’re starting to really catch our stride. They understand the value of each snap as it gets closer towards the end of the year.”
The Giants are 16th in the league in points allowed and have issues defending the run (31st in yards allowed per rushing attempt at 5.3), but there are certainly some things to feel good about.
When Azeez Ojulari is healthy, the Giants have an exciting pair of edge defenders in Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux. They have stud defensive linemen in Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. The injuries in the secondary to Adoree’ Jackson and Xavier McKinney allowed them to develop a deep, flexible group of players on the back end of their defense.
Lawrence, the fourth-year defensive tackle, has had the best year of his career. Martindale lauded him this week as the player who makes it all happen for the team’s defense.
“Every great defense has a centerpiece,” Martindale said. “You go back and look at the defense that we’re building with the great defenses of the past, they always have a great centerpiece. And he has definitely become the centerpiece of our defense.”
I asked Martindale for his thoughts on Lawrence’s sack of Sam Ehlinger of the Colts last week, throwing Ehlinger to the ground with one arm and Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson to the ground with the other.
“It looked like he just picked him and threw him on top of the quarterback and tackled them both.”
Williams has had the best seat in the house with which to watch Lawrence most of the season.
“I think he’s definitely put the league on notice (to) the type of player that he is. If he hasn’t shown it years before, he’s definitely done it this year. I’ve always known the type of player he is because I see him in practice every day,” Williams said. “To me, I’m just happy and excited to see that now the world is giving him the same recognition that his peers and coaches have been seeing from him. He’s definitely put on a show this year. It’s been impressive to watch. He’s just a freakish athlete for his size.”
We will see soon enough how well Martindale’s “playoff defense” holds up.
Two of the links in Saturday’s morning links post dealt with possible NFL head-coaching openings with Black Monday almost here and a number of head coaches, beyond the three jobs that are already open, likely to get the boot.
From the Giants’ perspective, I think the question is whether offensive coordinator Mike Kafka or defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will get one of those jobs.
The Athletic mentions both among the assistant coaches expected to draw interest in this hiring cycle.
Martindale deserves a chance to be a head coach. Yet, his age (59) and the fact that he is a defensive coach at a time when everyone seems to want to hire offensive gurus to work with their quarterbacks works against him. Martindale, though, is a leader of men and a big personality who could be terrific as the front man for an organization.
If Martindale goes, I wonder if he would take linebackers coach Drew Wilkins — who he brought from Baltimore — with him, or if the Giants could entice Wilkins to stay by making him defensive coordinator.
Kafka, 35, was a first-time coordinator this year under Brian Daboll. He drew interest as a head-coaching candidate last year, and will likely do so again in this cycle. My instinct is that it remains a bit early for Kafka to ascend to the big chair, but if he knocks an interview out of the park Kafka checks a lot of the boxes for type of coach teams have been looking to hire.
Trying this question again
I got grilled on Saturday for saying that I really couldn’t answer Edwin Gommers’ draft question with specifics. I can’t. There is way too much that could happen between now and then, and way too much studying that I need to do.
That said, I will say this. In the narrow world of cornerback vs. wide receiver, I would say that given a choice where the Giants sit today I would lean toward a potential WR1 over a potential CB1. Again, that is without really having studied the players.
Get some Giants merch
I don’t often plug the Giants merchandise available from our SB Nation partners. I think, though, that with the Giants having qualified for the playoffs this is a good time to do that.
Our partners at Homage also offer a complete line of Giants gear. Here are a couple of items they have for your consideration: