The New York Giants (8-3) continued their playoff march, as they defeated the Cleveland Browns (0-12) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Odell Beckham scored two touchdowns,and the defense sacked Josh McCown seven times in the win. What was learned about the team in this victory?
We Learned That Jason Pierre-Paul Is Really, Really Back
Well, we may have sensed this already, but his 43-yard interception return for a touchdown was Jason Pierre-Paul’s final hurdle in his comeback. We knew that he could still rush the passer with strength. And we also knew that his tackling appeared to be back. But let’s face it, when you lose a couple digits, there has to be a concern about an ability to catch a football. We finally learned the answer to that question today.
After last week’s stellar effort against the Chicago Bears, JPP was introspective. “I just think through it all, I just had one goal in mind, and that’s to come back and play football,” he said via NJ.com. “Without God and the strong heart that I have, I wouldn’t be able to make it. I’m here now. I knew I’d come back and do great things.”
The one-year $10.5 million looks like a bargain right now.
We Learned That We Can’t Put Shepard In Canton, Yet
And we definitely can’t put Sterling Shepard in Canton on roller skates. Shepard had zero catches on zero targets. Now some of you in these parts are blaming the play-calling. First, since no one but players and coaches know the play calls, this is just your opinion. But realistically, there had to be some calls where he was the primary option.
Since we’re being realistic, understand that Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints is the best of this year’s rookie crop. He has 65 catches for 789 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, according to NFL.com.
Shepard’s stat line is respectable with 44 receptions, 476 receiving yards and five touchdowns. After going through a soft spot in the schedule, it seems unlikely that he will break 1,000 receiving yards that some had forecast.
Down the stretch we may see more of Roger Lewis and Dwayne Harris, taking snaps away from Shepard. Let’s recognize that he still is a rookie, and temper our expectations moving forward. Or Shepard could step up his play, and take advantage of the extra attention paid to Odell Beckham.
Time will tell.
“Once you get into Week 9, 10, 11, you get a sense of how teams are going to play premier receivers,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said this week according to Newsday. “We can try to project as best we can how they will play us because that’s obviously how they’re going want to try and take away Odell.”
It’s up to Shepard to ensure he’s a factor down the stretch.
We Learned That McAdoo Will Play Field Position Game
The idea that the Giants are an offensive juggernaut in the making has not come to fruition. We should have learned by now that the upside potential of the offensive unit will not be overwhelming.
We just looked at Sterling Shepard and see his upside this season should show modest improvement. Dwayne Harris and Roger Lewis can be contributors, but they will not be game breakers either. Rashad Jenning remains a solid halfback, but cannot compare to Ezekiel Elliott, or even DeMarco Murray for that matter.
Paul Perkins seems like he has a good upside, but he will not replicate Elliott’s production either.
So what’s the strength of the Giants?
Brad Wing punted nine times against the Browns, and he created a field position advantage for the G-Men. McAdoo seems comfortable allowing the defense to dictate the flow of the game, and Wing controls field position. Over the past month, the unit has sacked the quarterback, caused turnovers and have limited opponent’s point totals (18 points per game in November).
McAdoo trusts his defense because they play better as the game wears on. According to ESPN, “The Giants are allowing 4.2 yards per play in the fourth quarter this season, the third-lowest rate in the NFL. Opponents have gained 2.6 yards per rush (third in the NFL) and 5.6 yards per pass attempt (second) against the Giants in the fourth quarter in 2016. New York ranked last in yards per rush allowed (5.4) and yards per pass attempt allowed (7.7) in the fourth quarter last season.”
Playing to the Giants two strengths (punting game and defense) may not be sexy, but it has proven effective in November. Will the same recipe work in December?