At just 3-11, the 2019 New York Giants season has been short on positives. However, a plethora of emerging defenders have been solid contributors. They should give Big Blue fans a source of optimism for the future.
The New York Giants defense has received warranted criticism throughout the first 14 weeks on the 2019 NFL season, but many members of the youth movement are making their mark. Here’s a look at some standout performers so far.
The Giants selected Oshane Ximines in the third round of the 2019 draft out of Old Dominion. Small school draft picks are often risky, but the 23-year old is looking like a risk that pays off. Ximines is eighth among rookies in sacks with 4.0, barely trailing first-round picks such as Montez Sweat and Ed Oliver.
This is even more impressive given that Ximines is being used as a rotational defender, having seen the field on just 45 percent of the Giants defensive snaps. He had the best game of his young career last Monday, recording two sacks against Carson Wentz and the Eagles in a primetime matchup. Ximines’ game is still extremely raw, but his pass-rushing instincts are solid and he has the early makings of a future sack specialist.
Before suffering a back fracture, Jabrill Peppers had put up a solid inaugural season with the Giants. His play fluctuated at times, but the 24-year old had his moments.
Peppers amassed 76 tackles in the 11 games before his injury, much higher than his career average of 68 tackles per season. He benefitted from playing in a safety-linebacker hybrid role, as his five tackles for loss in 2019 tied a single-season career-high for the former Michigan star.
When he went down, rookie, fourth-round pick Julian Love stepped into his place and immediately began producing at a high level. In just three games, (two as a starter) the 21-year old has an interception, 14 tackles, a forced fumble, and a tackle for loss.
This has resulted in a stellar Pro Football Focus grade of 80.9 for the rookie, as his all-around play is starting to get recognized.
The safety duo of Peppers and Love is an intriguing option for the New York Giants once they’re both healthy. It’s going to be interesting to see how they’re utilized together.
The 17th overall pick’s rookie numbers haven’t been eye-popping, just 35 tackles and 2.5 sacks through 14 games. However, the 22-year old has done an excellent job of holding his own against veteran offensive lineman while clogging the lanes for opposing running backs.
According to Pro Football Focus rankings, Dexter Lawrence has been the second-best rookie defender in the NFL, only trailing last April’s second overall pick, Nick Bosa. Lawrence will bulk up and improve as he gets more acclimated to the pros. His ability to wreak havoc in the trenches will certainly begin to translate from his days at Clemson.
On the Giants radio broadcast Sunday, analyst Carl Banks was very positive about the improvements cornerback DeAndre Baker has made in the past few games. Banks has been impressed with the way Baker stepped up his confidence, coverage (five combined passes defended against Philadelphia and the Fins), and tackling.
Sam Beal looked like someone who has missed over a year of action when he came off injured reserve a month ago. He has gotten better much over the past two games. Against Miami, the corner had 11 tackles, a safety and a pass defended to help ease the loss of Janoris Jenkins.
Patience is key when it comes to this young Giants defense, as many impact players are on the verge of their athletic primes. With time (and better coaching), the moral victories will soon turn into scoreboard wins.