New York Giants PFF Grades: The Defense


Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants overworked defensive unit allowed 417 total yards in the season opening loss at Ford Field. Big gains as a result of botched downfield coverage and failure to finish plays were the glaring culprits. Detroit connected on pass plays of 67, 44, 26, 24 and 24 yards — that’s 185 yards right there.

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But unlike the lifeless offensive side of the ball, the D showed glimpses of promise. The Giants held the Lions to 2.5 yards per rush with a long run against of 12 yards. The defense played with energy and swarmed to the football; albeit, textbook tackling was often missing from the equation. Let’s take a look at Pro Football Focus‘ individual grades for the Giants D personnel:

Defensive Line

Mathias Kiwanuka claimed he was rejuvenated and loose during the Giants preseason campaign, but there’s a reason we took his standout exhibition performances with a grain of salt. Kiwi played to a -5.1 overall PFF grade — the worst among 4-3 defensive ends by a wide margin (William Hayes next at -3.2) — including an unfathomable -3.4 run defense grade. Kiwanuka’s two quarterback hurries predictably got lost in the shuffle.

Despite getting neck (negative) X-rays during the game, Jason Pierre-Paul played 52 snaps and was extremely effective. His five “stops” (solo tackles resulting in a failed offensive play) tied for the highest number league-wide. JPP’s +2.1 run defense grade was third highest among 4-3 DE’s. Unfortunately, it seems like only a matter of time until he’s back down on the turf writhing in pain. Could it be mental at this point…?

Second-year DT Johnathan “Big Daddy” Hankins continued his emergence towards upper echelon DT status in week 1. Hankins recorded a trio of QB hurries from the interior of the line, as well as three solo tackles and two stops. Agility + power = a force that will eventually demand a double team.

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Rabens OLB Jason Pierre-Paul playing with extra motivation on Thursday /

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  • Linebacker

    In his return to action following a torn ligament/sesamoid fracture in his foot, MLB Jon Beason displayed quite a bit of rust.  The Giants defensive leader looked a step or two slow in his 44 snaps. Beason missed a pair of tackles and ultimately garnered a -2.2 run defense grade. Beason wasn’t the most agile backer prior to the injury, so he’s likely to be exposed early.

    Jacquian Williams‘ huge preseason also didn’t translate to regular season week 1 success. Against the starters play in, play out, he once again looked overmatched with a -3.7 rating. Williams missed three tackles of the stumbling and bumbling variety, and he was faked out of his sneakers twice by Matthew Stafford. In coverage, all five attempts in his direction were completed for 57 yards and 43 YAC.


    Prince Amukamara looked to set the tone with a tackle behind the line of scrimmage on the Lions opening play of 2014. It didn’t work… but the Prince was impressive in all facets. In addition to lending a helping hand in run D, his trademark entering the season, Amukamara played shut down coverage all night (+2.4): he was directly targeted four times, resulting in one completion for 9 yards (one yard after the catch). Prince notched two passes defensed as well.

    Stafford amassed a 146.8 QB Rating on the nine passes he attacked Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, mostly targeting Calvin Johnson. Those numbers are inflated by a fluky secondary collision after an extended Stafford scramble, but DRC gave up the middle to CJ on an all out blitz and naturally got burned. For the most part, Rodgers-Cromartie’s coverage was acceptable… granted that’s not sufficient for $35 million.


    For all of Stevie Brown‘s playmaking tendencies prior to injury, covering the back line wasn’t his strong suit. Suffice it to say the song remains the same following recovery from a torn ACL, as Brown allowed 68 yards on his two isolation targets. However, he did lead the Giants with seven solo tackles and earned a +1.8 run defense grade.

    Antrel Rolle was flying around the football with his typical aggression and was rewarded for it with a +2.3 run D grade (Giants high). With that being said, he struggled to cover in space to the tune of 52 yards and a TD on four targets.

    Other Notables

    Jameel McClain received a +1.0 run D grade, but when he’s forced to cover it’s not going to be pretty. Robert Ayers registered the Giants lone sack — on a play where Stafford lost his footing  — but his most impressive work (surprise surprise) came when defending the run (+1.3).