In the beginning of the season, things were not looking so good for the New York Giants. On top of an 0-5 start, injuries began to pile up, most notably star running back Saquon Barkley tearing his ACL. Players have been dealing with lingering injuries all year, such as Sterling Shepard‘s turf toe and Jabrill Peppers‘ low ankle sprain. Six weeks later and the Giants are half a game out of first place in a lackluster NFC East division, where four wins is good enough for first place. The Giants defense is starting to get some talent back from injury at the right time.
New York Giants Defense Getting Healthy Down the Stretch
The Anticipated Debut of Xavier McKinney
2020 second-round pick Xavier McKinney instantly became a fan favorite before even stepping onto the field. His highly anticipated debut was put on hold after fracturing his foot in late August.
Good news came for the Giants defense, as they announced McKinney would be activated off of injured reserve and begin practicing. Even more encouraging, head coach Joe Judge mentioned that the rookie has a chance to play on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. While the debut should be exciting to watch, Judge mentions that McKinney will be worked in little-by-little, as they do not want to rush him into a full workload due to the amount of time he missed.
In his last season at Alabama, McKinney totaled 95 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions, and four forced fumbles. He should pair nicely with Jabrill Peppers, who is having the best year of his young career so far. Mix that in with Patrick Graham‘s brilliant defensive mind, and we could see this defense become even tougher for opposing offenses.
Oshane Ximines hurt his shoulder against the Los Angeles Rams and has missed every game since. Despite playing in only 33% of defensive snaps through five weeks, Ximines was tied for second in quarterback hits and pressures, and first in quarterback knockdowns. While the Giants defense has done their part in generating pressure without a true pass rusher, they have missed Ximines’ impact.
Since the injury to Ximines, the Giants traded away Markus Golden, their sack leader from a year ago. When Ximines does get inserted back into the lineup, expect him to see more snaps than before.
Crowder has been designated to return to practice for a little while now, but has not yet been added to the active roster. The seventh-round rookie made headlines after his scoop and score touchdown against the Washington Football Team in October. Things were looking up for the last pick in the 2020 draft; Crowder played great next to Blake Martinez and was poised to keep that spot until he injured his hamstring.
Getting Crowder back down the stretch will be huge for this Giants defense; he showed encouraging signs in the few games that he has played thus far.
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has this new Giants defense playing remarkably well despite not having loads of talent. There are key building blocks, such as James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, Blake Martinez, Jabrill Peppers, Dalvin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence among others.
This unit is really one or two pieces away from being an elite group. However, for now they need to keep building off the momentum that they have already created. Retaining these three players for the last six games of the season will truly bolster the defensive side of the ball.
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