With the New York Giants sitting at 2-9 on the season and having lost their last nine games, December doesn’t mean much in terms of a playoff push or competitive finish. As players continue to pick up injuries and miss games, Big Blue will be forced to utilize the remainder of the season to develop their young players, similar to what they’ve been doing since the beginning of the 2019 campaign.
Head coach Pat Shurmur needs to focus on his youthful players that are progressing into potential starters. Making the shift from Antoine Bethea at free safety to Julian Love was the beginning of that transition. Love enjoyed a positive first game with the Giants, finishing with an overall grade of 80.1, per PFF. He recorded an interception and zero coverage receptions in the defensive backfield, far better than Bethea has shown this season.
The veteran free safety has been a liability in coverage but solid against the run. When defensive coordinator James Bettcher features Bethea in a strong-safety style, closer to the line of scrimmage, he has been effective. The secondary for the Giants will be a priority moving forward in December, with a focus on cornerback and free safety.
Corners DeAndre Baker and Sam Beal are two players who Shurmur will want to gain more film on. Baker has had an up-and-down season, showing promise at times but vulnerability at others. Last week against the Chicago Bears, Baker played 46 snaps compared to Beal’s 27. The latter has worked his way back from numerous injuries, the latest being a hamstring that kept him sidelined for a majority of the season.
When asked about his style compared to Beal’s, Baker stated (NY Post):
“Beal’s style is different than mine, and we’ve got two different skill sets,” Baker said. “You always stay prepared for when your number is called. I was watching everything as if I was in the game, still making the calls.”
The Giants will continue to rotate Baker and Beal in coverage, with the eventual idea to split reps 50/50. This will give Shurmur plenty of tape on Beal, who the Giants will need to factor into their plans next offseason.
The New York Giants must also iron out the defensive line:
One of the most significant moves for the Giants this season was the trade for Leonard Williams. The former Jet has the physical traits to be a great interior lineman, but his lack of consistency has plagued his career up to this point. Williams logged just one combined tackle in week 12, highlighting a disappointing performance for the former first-round pick.
GM Dave Gettleman giving up ample draft capital for the defender is looking like a wrong move and considering he’s a free agent after this season, the Giants have minimal leverage in contract talks. I estimate he will earn somewhere in the $12-14 million range.
Dexter Lawrence is another defender that will be prioritized in December. Allowing him to mesh with Williams and develop a chemistry with the former Jet is essential. Lawrence, who is ranked as one of the best interior defenders this season, has shown significant growth in his rookie campaign.
Lawrence once again put forth a very commendable performance from the middle of the Giants’ defensive front, and he ended the game with the seventh 70.0-plus overall game grade of his young career. His best work came in the run game, where he didn’t manage to record a run stop on the day, but he was a constant menace at the point of attack. He also added a hit and hurry from his 36 snaps as a pass-rusher. Through 12 weeks of action, Lawrence ranks 11th among 128 qualifying interior defensive linemen in overall grade, while his 88.8 run-defense grade ranks fifth among that same group of players.
The Giants have a great building block in Lawrence, who’s quickly becoming a dominant force in the trenches. Another solid contributor has been Oshane Ximines. The third-round selection has logged two sacks, and four QB hits in his rookie year, so far. While those numbers don’t jump off the screen, he has been a rotational piece behind Markus Golden. He has averaged less than 50% of defensive snaps this season, but he has been more prominent on special teams.