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What can we learn from the Giants’ PFF grades and snap counts against the Patriots?

Life without Dexter Lawrence was all right...for one week

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New England Patriots v New York Giants Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

The New York Giants held the New England Patriots to just a touchdown in their 10-7 victory on Sunday without the injured Dexter Lawrence. The defense gave up only 283 total yards to the Patriots’ offense after yielding 334 to Las Vegas, 640 to Dallas, and 404 to Washington the previous three weeks.

If I understand the logic of Giants’ Twitter correctly, this means the following: The defense played better on Sunday with seventh-round draft pick Jordon Riley on the field instead of Lawrence. So Joe Schoen made a terrible decision to sign Lawrence to a massive four-year, $90M contract extension. He compromised the Giants’ future cap health to extend one of those Dave Gettleman 2019 draft picks after only one really good year. The good news, though, is that Lawrence’s four-year contract is really only a two-year contract. There is no guaranteed money in 2026 and 2027, and the Giants can release him in 2025 with only $20.15M in dead money if he regresses.

Or maybe not. Maybe the quality of the opponent matters too. I’m not one to jump to conclusions, so let’s see what Pro Football Focus grades and snap counts have to tell us about who was most responsible for the Giants’ victory.

OFFENSE

PFF grades

Courtesy of Pro Football Focus
  • Not surprisingly, Jalin Hyatt led the pack after his best game as a pro with an excellent 92.0 grade. The other wide receivers were average to slightly below average: Isaiah Hodgins (64.7), Darius Slayton (63.2), Parris Campbell (56.0), Wan’Dale Robinson (53.9), and Sterling Shepard (39.1).
  • Tommy DeVito had only an average grade (63.2) after an excellent performance in Washington, but that was mostly due to his futility when he had to bring the ball down and run. His passing grade was once again above average (71.7). DeVito was credited with two big time throws and two turnover-worthy plays. He was pressured on 36% of his dropbacks and only had a 35.8 passing grade on those plays, vs. an impressive 86.6 grade when kept clean.
  • The offensive line was a big part of the story of this game. They weren’t stellar, but they are getting better. Andrew Thomas was back to his old self, grading elite in both pass (82.5) and run (90.9) blocking, although he did give up two2 sacks. Another sack was blamed on Saquon Barkley. That leaves 3 sacks that PFF judged to be DeVito’s fault. The other offensive linemen performed better than usual: Ben Bredeson (76.9 pass, 53.5 run), Mark Glowinski (70.2, 65.8), John Michael Schmitz (62.7, 65.9), Tyre Phillips (62.5, 53.6), Justin Pugh (a poor 43.4 in pass blocking but 72.0 run blocking).
  • The running backs and tight ends were an incidental part of the game and graded as such.

Snap counts

  • The offense was on the field for only 52 snaps, compared to New England’s 68. This reflects a combination of the Giants’ inability to sustain long drives with their running game yesterday and the occasional explosive passes to Jalin Hyatt that made for short drives.
  • The offensive line has settled into a stable pattern, with all five starters playing every down. Of note is that Glowinski saw the field for 7 snaps after not having played since Week 8, presumably in jumbo packages, since only two tight ends were active. Daniel Bellinger had most of the tight end snaps, Lawrence Cager getting only 13.
  • Wan’Dale Robinson is now getting the bulk of playing time at slot receiver. Hyatt was only on the field for 27 snaps, but he made the most of them. Darius Slayton played less than usual due to his injury the previous week; it was not known whether he would even be active for this game. In his absence, Sterling Shepard got more snaps, with Isaiah Hodgins making the most of his in limited playing time and Parris Campbell getting a few snaps.
  • Eric Gray returned from injury, but he saw the field only for two snaps and did not get the ball at all. Saquon Barkley had a lighter load yesterday with the running game mostly not working, and Matt Breida had a few snaps.

DEFENSE

PFF grades

Courtesy of Pro Football Focus
  • Xavier McKinney had by far his best game of the season with an excellent 91.7 grade. That’s two weeks in a row that he has graded elite, particularly in coverage. This is more like what we expected of the second round pick in 2020.
  • Up front, Bobby Okereke (78.0, with 3 pressures, 5 run stops, and an interception) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (74.0, with a sack and 4 run stops) led the way. Thibodeaux is now tied for sixth in the NFL in sacks. Jihad Ward (69.0) had one of his best games with 2 sacks and 2 run stops. Micah McFadden (69.4) had another solid game. Azeez Ojulari (46.5) once again did very little other than one QB hit; it’s fair to wonder whether he’s fully healed, he’s just not the same player we’ve seen in the past. Isaiah Simmons (39.9) had a rough game.
  • The secondary overall played well, led by Adoree’ Jackson (70.4), Jason Pinnock (68.2), and Tae Banks (62.3). Cor’Dale Flott (54.9) was slightly below average.
  • The interior defensive line was a different story. The fire hose of Patriots running backs gashing the line up the middle all day were mainly the responsibility of Rakeem Nunez-Roches (45.0), A’Shawn Robinson (42.1), D.J. Davidson (41.5), and Jordon Riley (29.6).

Snap counts

  • OK, so Riley was indeed finally active after sitting most of the season, but he only got on the field for 14 snaps and didn’t make the stat sheet. I guess the Giants should give Lawrence a second chance to prove himself when his hamstring injury heals. Nunez-Roches and A’Shawn Robinson did most of the work in the interior, with D.J. Davidson seeing substantial action as well.
  • Kayvon Thibodeaux played every snap; thank goodness there’s a bye next week. Jihad Ward and Azeez Ojulari split snaps on the other side, with new addition Benton Whitley getting a cup of coffee as well.
  • Bobby Okereke once again played every snap, while Micah McFadden and Isaiah Simmons split time on the other side.
  • The Giants played more base defense, with only four defensive backs on the field (31%), than usual, per the Team Formations app. By comparison, last week in Washington the Giants were in nickel 90% of the time. As usual, safeties McKinney and Jason Pinnock played every down, as did cornerback Tae Banks. Adoree’ Jackson missed only two snaps, replaced by Nick McCloud on those. Cor”Dale Flott now seems entrenched as the slot corner; Tre Hawkins did not play. Dane Belton saw action for only 7 snaps.