Articles

Coaches Corner: Part 2-Mid-Season Grade for the Defense, Kick and Punt Return.

By Michael Stewart@TheTruthNYG

This is part two in a series of two for the New York Giants mid-season grades. In this article we’ll look at the defensive side of the ball and also the kickoff and punter return and give an assessment at each position and try to give a fair grade. The Giants defense in the 1st half of the 2022 has had its ups and downs with more positives rather than negatives. Let’s take a look at each position and see how they graded out.

Defense

Defensive Line: If not for the breakout season for Dexter Lawrence in the first half, the Giants defensive line production as a whole would have graded much lower. Leonard Williams has been slowed a bit due to a knee injury, but did have a solid game against the Seahawks, however; the rest of the cast for the Giants defensive line has been marginal at best. One notable observation is that this unit needs to do a better job against the run if this team expects to earn a playoff spot and it all starts with a healthy and productive Leonard Williams. GRADE B-

Inside Linebackers: The Giants cut fan favorite Blake Martinez before the season opener and they still haven’t found his replacement. The Giants inside linebacker production has been at best marginal as DC Wink Martindale has employed the likes of Tae Crowder, Micah McFadden, Jaylon Smith, Austin Calitro and now newly signee Landon Collins without sustainable success. This group needs to step it up in the second half. GRADE D+

Outside Linebackers/Edge: Overall this group hasn’t had the luxury to be fully healthy thus far so we can fully determine this grade. Jihad Ward has been a blessing all season with his stout run defense and rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux has shown why the Giants drafted him 5th overall this season by displaying a disruptive performance on the field with limited results (sacks). However; the absence of Azeez Ojulari has been evident along with the depth pieces of Elerson Smith. Another bright spot that needs to be mentioned is rookie and UDFA Tomon Fox who has flourished and has seen increase snaps. GRADE B

Cornerbacks: Going into the season after the Giants released James Bradberry (cap casualty) it was apparent that this position could arguably be the weakest link on the defensive side of the ball. Fast forward to the bye week and this assumption has been confirmed for the most part. Adoree’ Jackson has been steady as the teams CB1, although he has had his moments. As for the CB2 production, players like Aaron Robinson and Cor’Dale Flott have both failed to show stability and only the recent performance from an unexpected pickup by the name of Fabian Moreau has given the cornerback grade a boost. Lastly, slot corner Darnay Holmes has had problems of consistency thus far in the 1st half . GRADE C-

Safeties: Before the season began, the assumption was that Xavier McKinney was primed to have possibly a Pro Bowl season, but in fact it’s the other safety for the Giants who has had a Pro Bowl Caliber 1st half and that’s Julian Love. Rookie Dane Belton has shown promise as well and has seen his snaps increased. If McKinney can turn his season around and have a better 2nd half; the safety position will have a better grade at season’s end. GRADE B-

Special Teams

Kickoff Return: Backup running back Gary Brightwell has been dependable and has done fairly well by posting 21.8 yards per kickoff return. Nothing eye popping; but it gives the Giants a steady presence in the kickoff department. GRADE B-

Punt Return: Richie James for the most part did a reasonable job as the team’s punt return, but that all changed with his dismal performance against the Seahawks with two fumbles that the Seahawks converted into 10 points to help seal the win. Perhaps we’ll see a change here once the Giants return from the bye week as it is possible GM Joe Schoen could summon Kalil Pimpleton from the practice squad who has experience as a punt returner and also plays wide receiver. GRADE C-

Giant fans should feel very pleased overall as no one expected a 6-2 record at the bye week. Despite the 2022 season being proclaimed a rebuilding year during training camp, this team is in position to earn a playoff spot and GM Joe Schoen must continue the plan by building a winning team for the long run and not just for 2022. OVERALL GRADE B