With Thanksgiving only 2 days away, is there a better time to review what we should be thankful for? For New York Giants fans, a 5-5 season with many ups and downs has been stressful (as usual), but cheer up, it’s Thanksgiving! Big Blue has many things that are worth giving thanks for in 2015, so let’s kick off this holiday post before the turkey comes out of the oven!
1. That The Constants on Offense Have Remained Healthy:
Considering the shape of the New York Giants’ defense, it is safe to say that if their offense wasn’t as good as it is that the Giants would be a major disappointment. But while the offense hasn’t been firing on all cylinders all the time, it at least has remained mostly healthy (the defense is another story).
Due to this, the connection between Eli Manning and his receivers has been strong this year. Odell Beckham Jr. is on pace to finish with almost-identical stats as last year, his breakout campaign. Eli Manning is having the best or second-best year of his career. Rueben Randle and Dwayne Harris have provided depth and been quality options. And Manning finally has a running back to throw to out of the backfield on screens in Shane Vereen. That’s a lot of things to be thankful for for, Giants fans. Even though the team may leave you scratching your head (or worse) at times, they do have an extremely solid core that is among the NFL’s best.
2. That Jason Pierre-Paul is back:
When you first heard that Giants’ star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had nearly blown off his hand in a July 4 fireworks mishap, did you really think you wanted him back? Now we all knew that the Giants and Pierre-Paul needed each other badly, but after he supposedly refused to see the Giants in the hospital (a theory since disproved) and worked out on his own without coming into contact with the team, many a Giants fan was ready to cut ties with Pierre-Paul. After all, JPP was in the midst of long-term contract negotiations at the time. It would have been easy for the Giants to cut ties. But Giants fans should be glad that they didn’t.
Remember the pass rush from weeks 1-8? It was a mess! Robert Ayers Jr. and Owa Odighizuwa had been injured, Damontre’ Moore was busy roughing the passer time and time again, and Kerry Wynn and George Selvie were not applying pressure. Blitzes only hurt the Giants, as it was the only way that they could hit the quarterback but it also left their thin secondary exposed.
But after JPP returned versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, everything changed. Now, the Giants have an every-down threat to hit the quarterback that requires double-teams, thus opening up opportunities for other pass rushers. And the Giants’ sack, hit, and hurry totals have risen steadily in the post-JPP-return weeks, a sign that he makes the Giants’ defense complete. Now the Giants aren’t as scared to blitz because they are much more likely to actually hit the quarterback. Simply put, the return of Jason Pierre-Paul has influenced the entire defense and is something that Giants fans should give thanks for when they’re at the dinner table on Turkey Day.
3. That Young Players Have Stepped Up:
The 2015 Giants have had to rely heavily upon the services of young, inexperienced players. And overall, they have been a bright spot for Big Blue. Sure, rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers and freshman safety Landon Collins have had their struggles, but could you have really asked for much more than what they’ve provided? Flowers and Collins were asked to start from day 1, a true baptism by fire. But Flowers and Collins have also had great moments in between their lapses. For instance, Flowers’s virtual shutout of Greg Hardy versus Dallas in Week 7 and Collins’ stout run-stopping have been what the Giants expected.
It’s also not just rookies that have stepped up this year. Forgotten 4th-year corner Jayron Hosley has been serviceable playing for the injured Prince Amukamara. Undrafted and overlooked running back Orleans Darkwa is now the Giants’ best rusher in terms of yards per carry and is arguably their best overall option. Undrafted tight end Will Tye has stepped in ably after Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells got injured. Jack-of-all-trades Nikita Whitlock has been a plus fullback, excellent special teamer, and unexpected pass-rushing spark. Don’t forget Uani ‘Unga either, he has been the Giants’ best pass-coverage linebacker when healthy. These unprecedented contributions from young guns have energized the Giants.
4. That the Giants now Have Truly “Special” Special Teams:
Special Teams may not seem like an important part of games to outsiders, but real football experts know how much of an impact the special teamers have on a game. It’s obvious how a kicker is important, and 13-year-veteran Josh Brown hasn’t missed a field goal yet; he just gets better with age. We all know that a good punter is an asset, but a great punter like Brad Wing, whose 44.8 gross average, 38.9 net average, and 19 punts (43%) inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, is a real field-position weapon. A good snapper often goes unnoticed, yet Zak DeOssie has been as steady as they come for 9 seasons.
An electric kick and punt returner is something the Giants have been lacking since David Wilson and Domenik Hixon got injured, but Dwayne Harris is just that for the Giants. He is a threat to take any kick or punt back for 6 points, and his creativity shines on each runback. And finally, a good coverage team is never noticed except when it does something wrong, but Giants fans have taken notice of the improved kick and punt coverage units. Averages of 20.7 kick return yards against and 10 punt return yards against (okay, the Giants did allow one punt return TD) are solid, and special teamers Mark Herzlich, Zak DeOssie, Nikita Whitlock, Jonathan Casillas, and Dwayne Harris have been tackling machines. The Giants finally have outstanding special teams after years of mediocrity.
5. That Tom Coughlin is Still the Giants’ Head Coach
Yes, there are some out there who think that Tom Coughlin is washed up as an NFL coach, that while he is smart and cunning, he is simply at the end of the line. Maybe he cannot get through to these young players at 69 years old. Maybe he’s so old that he’s gone senile and shouldn’t be calling plays. Maybe he just got lucky winning two Super Bowls. All of this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is only one man capable of coaching the Giants as good as Coughlin has, and it’s Coughlin himself.
While he has had a couple of questionable play calls, which coach doesn’t every now and then? Moreover, what coach holds his head high at the podium each week and blames himself even when his team of misfits lets him down after failing to “finish”? Coughlin is a fantastic motivator, and he is only that way because he follows fantastic motivators. Idolizing Bill Parcells and John Wooden has taught Coughlin how to get the most out of a subpar group. These Giants are anything but perfect, and a lesser coach might just write them off as such. But Coughlin tries to mold these guys into a real team, and it is evident that he is getting through after his team wins. These players put it all on the line for Coach Coughlin. When they see a 69-year-old man jumping around and yelling and fighting for his team, it lights an internal fire for the players. This internal fire lets them believe that they can play in anyone’s class, and when the Giants believe in themselves, they win Super Bowls. So thanks goes out to Coach Coughlin for a job well done in 2015, as usual.