The New York Giants found themselves without star defensive lineman Leonard Williams in their Week 9 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders. Despite the defense’s recent success, the Giants decided to trade Williams in exchange for a pair of draft picks. However, without Williams on the defensive line, Big Blue once again struggled to stop the run.
The Raiders had their way on the ground against the Giants
Prior to Week 9, the Raiders had struggled with their rushing game, boasting the lowest rushing average in the NFL. They were only managing 70 yards per game on the ground. It seemed like Big Blue’s defense would have no trouble containing their running backs. However, without Williams anchoring the defensive line, the Giants’ defense struggled immensely.
Raiders’ running back Josh Jacobs had been having a subpar season leading up to the matchup against the Giants. He was averaging a career-low 51 rushing yards per game. But with Williams absent, he found his stride once again. Jacobs had a breakout performance, rushing for a season-high 98 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns against the G-Men.
Giants’ replacements for Williams struggled in Week 9
Big Blue attempted to fill the void left by Williams by selecting A’Shawn Robinson as his replacement. However, it was Rakeem Nunez-Roches who ended up playing the majority of the snaps. Nunez-Roches had 35 snaps compared to Robinson’s 30. While Robinson had a slightly better overall run defense grade of 60.8 according to Pro Football Focus, Nunez Roches struggled with a lower grade of 49.2.
Despite Robinson’s improved second half, where the Giants held the Raiders to just 12 rushing yards on 13 carries, questions still remain about the stability of the run defense without Williams.
The Giants are currently in a difficult position, with their season essentially over at 2-7. Even though Head Coach Brian Daboll expressed his confidence in Robinson and Nunez Roches moving forward, it may be wise to give younger players like DJ Davidson and Jordon Riley an opportunity to showcase their talent and potentially secure the future of the position.
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Another tough matchup ahead for the run defense
Looking ahead to Week 10, Big Blue is set to face the Dallas Cowboys in a divisional matchup. In their previous meeting in Week 1, Dallas dominated with a final score of 40–0. They were effective on the ground, recording 30 carries for 122 yards. Running back Tony Pollard contributed significantly with 14 carries for 70 yards and two touchdowns. As the Giants look to replace Williams, their run defense will once again face a tough challenge against the Cowboys.