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Previewing the Jets’ opposition: New York Giants

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Many expected the Giants to struggle this year, but the Jets have been even worse and it would genuinely be a surprise if the Giants don’t pick up their third win on Sunday. However, they’ve lost their last five despite coming close against both Arizona and Detroit last month.

Quarterbacks

The big story for the Giants this season has been their transition from Eli Manning to first-round draft pick Daniel Jones at the quarterback position. Jones won his first two starts and has posted two 300-yard games, including a four-touchdown performance two weeks ago in the loss to Detroit.

Jones has some running ability having rushed for two touchdowns including the game winner in his first start against the Bucs. He also rushed for a career-high 54 yards last week. However, his ball security has been bad as he’s fumbled 10 times, losing eight.

Manning is still listed as the number two, but isn’t likely to see action again unless Jones gets hurt or they opt for a sentimental farewell at the end of the season. Alex Tanney is the number three.

Offensive Line

The Giants have had excellent continuity on the offensive line with the five starters missing just one snap between them all season. That will change this week though, as struggling center Jon Halapio is out with a hamstring injury and right tackle Mike Remmers is also doubtful with a back issue.

Of the five starters, left guard Will Hernandez is the only one who is less than 28 years old. The 24-year old was drafted in the second round last season and has been solid in pass protection but inconsistent in the running game.

Veteran tackle Nate Solder has five penalties and has also given up a team-high eight sacks but the other starter, right guard Kevin Zeitler, has been their most consistent lineman this season.

Of their reserves, youngster Nick Gates has been the only one to get any reps. Reserve center Spencer Pulley, who will replace Halapio, has 25 career starts.

Ex-Jet Eric Smith still hasn’t made him NFL debut but Chad Slade did start three games back in 2017. However, rumor has it that Smith will start if Remmers is unavailable as expected. Evan Brown was just activated off the practice squad to provide extra cover.

Running Backs

Despite suffering an early-season high ankle sprain, Saquon Barkley is having another productive year with 629 yards from scrimmage. He’s averaging 4.6 yards per carry, has three touchdowns and has caught 28 passes.

However, after beginning the year with back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances, Barkley has actually averaged less than three yards per carry and perhaps isn’t close to 100 percent yet.

Wayne Gallman filled in for Barkley when he was out, rushing for 63 yards and a touchdown in the win over Washington. He hasn’t carried the ball since week five though.

Elijhaa Penny mostly plays a special teams role and sometimes lines up as a fullback. Javorius Allen is available as cover but hasn’t played yet.

Receivers

The Giants will likely be without Sterling Shepard again this week as he continues to have issues with concussions. Tight end Evan Engram is out as the Giants will need some other players to step up.

Veteran Golden Tate missed some time earlier in the year but his 29 catches lead all Giants wideouts and he made a sensational one-handed catch last week to show he’s back to something like his best. He’s been mostly producing out of the slot this season.

Rookie Darius Slayton has proven to be a big play threat, as his 16.1 yards per catch average leads the team and his three receiving touchdowns have him tied with Engram for the team lead.

Veterans Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler have been seeing plenty of action with the other players out while Cody Core rounds out the rotation.

Engram is the Giants’ leading receiver but Rhett Ellison gets plenty of reps in a blocking specialist role and has contributed 15 catches. Sixth-round pick Kaden Smith is available to back up.

Defensive Line

The Giants’ official depth chart lists their defense in a 3-4 configuration with the starters on the line being three recent draft picks. Nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson was a second round pick in 2017, defensive end BJ Hill was a third-rounder last year and Dexter Lawrence was one of their three first-rounders in April.

All three starters have played well against the run, with Lawrence also contributing 2.5 sacks and Tomlinson adding 1.5 of his own.

The Giants bolstered their depth on the interior by trading for Leonard Williams, who will go from lining up alongside one young lineman from Alabama (Quinnen Williams) to another (Tomlinson).

Another 2018 draft pick, RJ McIntosh, has also been getting regular rotational reps.

Linebackers

The Giants’ pass rush has been led by Markus Golden, who leads the team with 5.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits. He also returned a fumble for a touchdown.

The other starter is Lorenzo Carter, a 2018 third-round pick, but rookie third-rounder Oshane Ximines has also been getting a lot of reps off the edge. They’ve combined for 4.5 sacks.

Reserves Chris Peace and Devante Downs have yet to see any action on defense this year.

On the inside, Alec Ogletree and David Mayo are the starters. Ogletree has struggled against the run, while Mayo has struggled in coverage.

Reserves Joseph Tauaefa, an undrafted free agent and Deone Bucannon, a veteran who the Bucs cut last month, haven’t played much yet.

Defensive Backs

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins has been leading the Giants’ secondary this year with a team-high four interceptions. However, he also leads the team in missed tackles and has given up four penalties and some big plays including three touchdowns.

The other starter is first round rookie DeAndre Baker, who has been picked on relentlessly. He has given up six touchdowns and five penalties in coverage.

Grant Haley is the slot cornerback but he’s also been picked on a lot, giving up an 87 percent catch rate when targeted.

Sam Beal, who was drafted in the third round of last year’s supplemental draft, will make his NFL debut on Sunday after having dealt with injury issues for the last year and a half.

Antonio Hamilton and sixth-round rookie Corey Ballentine provide extra cover on the bench.

At safety, starters Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea are the Giants’ two leading tacklers, which is rarely a good sign for a defense. Bethea is coming off a big game against Dallas where he forced two turnovers. Peppers, who is developing into a leader, had a pick-six earlier in the season.

Michael Thomas is the third safety, while fourth round rookie Julian Love is listed as the other backup. Love played cornerback at Notre Dame.

Special Teams

The Giants’ kicking game hasn’t been very good so far this year. Kicker Aldrick Rosas has missed four kicks this year and is 0-for-1 from beyond 40 yards, while punter Riley Dixon is 31st in the league in net average in his second year with the club.

Reserves like Thomas, Hamilton and Core are the most productive players in kick coverage. Thomas had 11 special teams tackles last year.

In the return game, Latimer handled kickoffs and Tate handled punts in the most recent game, even though Ballentine and Peppers are listed as the starters in those roles. Slayton is also an option in both roles. Ballentine and Latimer each have a 50-yard kickoff return this year.

The Giants gave up a blocked punt return for a touchdown in the New England game, but also scored on one against Arizona, as Penny recovered a punt blocked by Thomas.