Giants vs Texans: Standout GMEN defensive PFF grades


Sep 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants strong safety Antrel Rolle (26) intercepts a pass against the Houston Texans during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants defense put together a flat out dominant performance on Sunday against the Houston Texans. Now, let’s take a look at some standout players from Pro Football Focus’ grades on the Giants defense. Also, in case you missed it, don’t forget to check out the offensive standouts.

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  • It all starts up front – As on the offensive side of the ball, the Giants did serious workin’ the trenches on Sunday. Mathias Kiwanuka (3.2), Cullen Jenkins (2.5), Johnathan Hankins (2.9) and Robert Ayers (3.6) all had overall grades over 2. With the Texans missing their star running back, Arian Foster, the Giants had no issues stopping the run and graded high in that area. Jason Pierre-Paul led the way in run defense grades (1.7), but was given a very poor grade on pass rush (-1.5).

    Let me take a moment to dig a little deeper on two standout players, Johnathan Hankins and Robert Ayers. Hankins, the Giants second round pick in last year’s draft, is really beginning to emerge as one of the top defensive tackles in the game. I always expected him to be a solid run defender, but I am pleasantly surprised by his emergence as a very good pass rusher up the middle, something the Giants have lacked since Barry Cofield left in free agency for the Washington Redskins. Hankins 1.8 pass rush grade was the second highest for the GMEN on Sunday.

    The player with the highest pass rush grade for the Giants was Robert Ayers (2.1). Ayers also had the highest overall grade for the New York Giants, a 3.6, as I mentioned a bit earlier. Ayers has looked very good so far early this season and looks to be one of the smartest Giants signings in free agency. I have also been really impressed with his high usage, as many thought he would be used less frequently when the Giants brought him in. He had the third most snaps among the Giants defensive lineman (37), behind only JPP and Kiwanuka. If Ayers can keep it up, Giants’ fans will soon forget about Jerry Reese letting Justin Tuck walk in free agency.

    “The pass rush was finally getting to the quarterback, they stopped the run, and they finally were able to force turnovers. Things will get harder for the GMEN defense, but at least they have something to build on.” – “James Pennisi”

    Linebacker issues, says who? – I am not going to lie, I was very concerned about the Giants linebackers heading into Sunday’s match-up against the Houston Texans. With Jon Beason & Devon Kennard both being ruled out, I thought the Texans could expose Mark Herzlich. However, the Giants limited Herzlich’s snaps, and he rewarded them with solid play when he was on the field, earning a 1.3 overall grade.

    The star of the linebacking group; however, was Jacquian Williams. Williams has had an up-and-down start to the season, but he played one of his best games, in awhile, against the Texans. He was in on all 66 defensive snaps and earned a lofty 2.9 overall grade from PFF. Williams really shined in run defense (1.9) and pass coverage (0.8). Williams strong effort on Sunday let the Giants play a lot of nickel defense. If he can ever become more consistent from week to week, he has all of the physical tools to be a dominant linebacker in today’s NFL.

    Welcome to St Prince Rodgers-Cromartie Island – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (1.8 overall) and Prince Amukamara (1.1 overall) played as advertised on Sunday. They combined to hold the always dangerous Andre Johnson to just 4 receptions for 24 yards. For the most part, Fitzpatrick tried to stay away from both of them, but each was able to record an interception when the opportunity presented itself. Prince & DRC, despite some miscues in the first game, have already been establishing themselves as one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. In fact, over the first three games of the season they are #4 (DRC, 4.2) and #17 (Prince, 2.8) in highest overall grades for cornerbacks by PFF in the NFL.

    Backing up what you preach – As our own Anthony Valerio wrote about last week, Antrel Rolle issued a challenge to his teammates and Giants’ fans prior to Sunday’s game. Well, Rolle did what every good leader should do, he backed up his words with actions on Sunday. Rolle was tremendous all game and PFF rewarded him with a 1.5 overall grade. He really shined in coverage (1.2) and his late first half interception really gave the Giants a ton of momentum. Numbers aside, you can’t express how huge Rolle’s performance was. He knew this team had their backs against the wall and he stepped up in the biggest way possible. When all is said and done, I believe Antrel Rolle will go down as one of the most beloved New York Giants.

    Reason for a benching – Giants safety, Stevie Brown, was apparently benched after being beat on a deep touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Damaris Johnson. Fittingly, Brown earned a -1.2 overall grade from PFF. Even worse, he had a -1.5 in pass coverage, which was evident on the terrible play that caused the touchdown. Brown was one of only two Giants with a negative grade on defense (Markus Kuhn, -0.7), and just has not looked right in his first season back since tearing his ACL. Brown looks slow and is not reading plays correctly. Rookie, Nat Berhe, will push Brown for playing time, but Berhe is young and has a lot to learn himself. Still, the Giants will need Stevie Brown to elevate his play, or he could become a weak spot on an otherwise very good defense.

    Final Thoughts
    The Giants defense had a dominant performance on Sunday against the Houston Texans. They compiled a team defense overall grade of 22.3, a very, very impressive number. The Texans were without the focal point of their offense, running back Arian Foster, but still Giants’ fans should be encouraged by what they saw on Sunday. The pass rush was finally getting to the quarterback, they stopped the run, and they finally were able to force turnovers. Things will get harder for the GMEN defense, but at least they have something to build on.

    Next up, the Washington Redskins