New York Giants: What to watch for against the Saints

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

The New York Giants are seeking their first home win of the season against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

Pat Shurmur earned his first victory as the New York Giants head coach on the road against the Houston Texans in Week 3 behind the stellar play of Eli Manning and Kerry Wynn. The G-Men face a much tougher test this Sunday with the reigning NFC South division champions coming to the Big Apple.

There’s no shortage of storylines entering this Week 4 matchup. Drew Brees versus Manning is a show in itself, as the two veteran quarterbacks are surrounded by playmakers.

New York Giants
New York Giants /

New York Giants

The Giants biggest concern on offense will be the play at right tackle. Chad Wheeler took over the starting spot for Ereck Flowers in Week 3, and while he didn’t play great, the whole offensive line as a unit seemed to improve.

The Giants undrafted tackle out of USC was also facing three-time Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt. In just six career starts, Wheeler has already faced Khalil Mack, Ryan Kerrigan, Justin Houston, and Watt. Don’t expect it to get easier for the 24-year-old on Sunday. He’ll be facing New Orleans’ All-Pro left defensive end Cameron Jordan, who has recorded four sacks in the past two games.

Shurmur and the Giants coaching staff know how important it is to slow down the three-time Pro Bowler, via New York’s team website.

"“We’ve got another great challenge. He’s a marquee pass rusher. For the most part, he’ll be lining up on the right side. So, we got do a good job of blocking him. He’s good against the run. He’s good against the pass. You’ve got to be aware of him, no matter what play you call, because he’s a guy that can really disrupt the game.”"

Opening running lanes and giving Manning time in the pocket was key to Big Blue’s victory in Houston. They will need to do the same against the Saints if they want to be 2-2 by Sunday night.

The Giants will be without four key players on Sunday. Eli Apple will miss his second start due to a groin injury, and Olivier Vernon is not quite ready to return from his high ankle sprain.

The Giants will need B.W. Webb, Donte Deayon, Lorenzo Carter, Kareem Martin, and Connor Barwin to step up in their absence. Carter, a 2018 third-round draft selection, has shown plenty of promise, earning New York’s fifth-highest defensive grade in the team’s Week 3 win, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Giants will need players to have the next man up mentality on Sunday, but to beat New Orleans, Big Blue will need their entire defense firing on all cylinders. The Saints have the league’s fourth-best offense in terms of yards and have two players that can change the outcome of a game in Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas.

Alec Ogletree and Landon Collins will have the tough task of covering Kamara, and the Giants will need Janoris Jenkins to mirror Michael Thomas. The G-Men can’t lose sight of Ted Ginn Jr. either, as the 33-year-old still has the ability to take the top of a defense.

On offense, Big Blue will be without both Evan Engram (knee) and Cody Latimer (knee). Of course, the Giants will need their stars Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley to make plays, but they will also need Sterling Shepard, Rhett Ellison, and Russell Shepard to take on a bigger workload.

Ellison, who is known more for his blocking, recorded his first touchdown of the season in Week 3. Shepard also saw increased targets after Engram’s injury, posting a season-high six catches for 80 yards with a score.

The Giants will need to control the time of possession and convert in the red zone. Likewise, they will need to force New Orleans’ offense to settle for field goals and not touchdowns.

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The Giants can’t afford to get in a shootout with Drew Brees and the Saints. Big Blue is not strong enough in pass protection to let New Orleans’ pass rushers pin their ears back. Giants fans know all too well what happened the last time these two teams got into a shootout in the Big Easy.