The New York Giants‘ secondary has been decimated by injuries this season. After making difficult decisions in the offseason, moving on from starters such as Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, and James Bradberry, Big Blue was left with a rag-tag group of defensive backs. Unfortunately, matters have been made worse as a number of starters in the secondary have gone down with injuries. Xavier McKinney and Adoree’ Jackson have been absent from the lineup and their absence has been thoroughly felt for several weeks.
The Giants have made some mid-season moves to boost their secondary. Additions such as Nick McCloud, Fabian Moreau, and Zyon Gilbert, have been forced into tough positions as unlikely starters on New York’s defense. But as the Giants enter their most crucial matchup since 2016, a Sunday night pseudo-playoff game against the Commanders, New York needs unsung heroes to emerge in Week 15.
The New York Giants’ secondary needs to step up in Week 15
It seems unlikely that Adoree’ Jackson will return this week and Xavier McKinney is already confirmed to not be playing against Washington. McKinney is confident that he will return at some point this season, likely with a club on his broken hand. He had the pins removed from his hand this week, but his return will have to wait. McKinney is still awaiting clearance to play and will not be getting it ahead of Week 15.
The impact of Xavier McKinney’s absence from the lineup cannot be understated. According to Dan Duggan, the Giants have allowed 18 passes of 20+ yards in their five games without Xavier McKinney, ranking 24th in the NFL during that span. Big Blue is struggling to defend the deep ball without its ballhawk on the back end.
The Giants have given up 127 points over their last 4 games (31.75 points per game). Coming off of a blowout loss against the Eagles, the Giants need to bounce back with a divisional win against Washington this Sunday night. But that win will not be obtained without the secondary stepping up and improving its play for the defense.
Fabian Moreau, Zyon Gilbert, Nick McCloud, and Darnay Holmes are the likely starters at cornerback for the Giants this week. Each player has struggled this season but has also flashed potential on separate occasions.
The New York Giants also have Rodarius Williams ready to go whenever they see fit. Williams stood out in Week 12 against the Dallas Cowboys, grabbing the first interception of his career. But he has since been left off the field, complaining about playing time in the process on social media, and subsequently being scratched from the lineup.
Fabian Moreau has been the unsung hero of the Giants’ defense this season. The veteran corner has started 8 games this year, surrendering only a 52.5% completion percentage (career-best) and 3 touchdowns. Moreau will need to continue to be that unsung hero and turn in his best game of the season against Terry McLaurin on Sunday to help the Giants earn the victory.
In New York’s Week 13 matchup with the Commanders, Terry McLaurin totaled 8 receptions for 105 yards and 1 touchdown. Taylor Heinicke had his way with the Giants’ secondary in the second half as he led his team to a comeback resulting in a tie. Heinicke totaled 275 yards and 2 touchdowns with 0 interceptions in the game. Curtis Samuel and Jahan Datson each topped 50 receiving yards with Datson taking one of his receptions home for a touchdown.
The game plan became simple for Washington in the second half. With the Giants’ secondary banged up, they started picking on New York’s most inexperienced defensive backs. As a result, the likes of Nick McCloud and Zyon Gilbert were exposed routinely. That cannot be repeated in Week 15 if the New York Giants want to keep their playoff hopes alive.