The New York Jets are coming off their bye week with a golden opportunity to move to above .500 on the season against the 2-5 Giants. The Jets’ cross-town rival struggled badly through an injury plagued first five games, but they have shown signs of life with a win over the Commanders and a close call against the Bills. According to our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Jets are favored by 3 points in this game.
One place where the Giants still have injury concerns is at the quarterback position. However, Tyrod Taylor stepping into the starting line-up for the newly-extended Daniel Jones has actually coincided with some short-term improvements.
Jones has missed the past two starts after being knocked out of the Miami game with a neck injury and Taylor has been efficient in those two games, even though the Giants’ offense only put up 9 and 14 points. It’s unclear when Jones will return but it won’t be this weekend.
Taylor is a respectable 27-26-1 as a starter, although he hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2017. He’s 34 now and not as mobile as he once was, but still capable of making plays with his legs. Taylor has always been a quarterback who looks after the ball, with a career-high of just six interceptions and none in 80 attempts so far this season.
With Jones out, undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito, who had some nice flashes in preseason but threw a pick-six against the Jets, will be the number two.
The Giants have had terrible luck on their offensive line this season, with a different starting combination in every game and all five starters missing some time. Their depth has also taken a major hit with five of their backups on injured reserve.
The Giants were hoping that second-team All Pro Andrew Thomas would anchor a line that also featured recent high picks Evan Neal at right tackle and John Michael Schmitz at center. Thomas has missed most of the season with a hamstring injury and, while it was hoped this would be the game in which he returned, he was limited all week and has been listed as doubtful.
Neal and Schmitz were also limited all week and have each been listed as questionable to return after injury absences of their own. Neal had been having a rough season anyway, but Schmitz had shown some promise until he got hurt.
The starting guards are listed as Ben Bredeson and Marcus McKethan, although Bredeson had been starting at center for Schmitz. McKethan replaced veteran Mark Glowinski, who was an opening day starter but got benched after a few games only to then be forced back into the starting lineup due to injuries.
With Neal out, recent acquisition Tyre Phillips, a former third round pick for the Ravens, started the last game at right tackle. Veteran Justin Pugh has been starting at left tackle having just been signed off his couch a few weeks ago to fill in at guard.
Even before the injuries started piling up, the Giants were really struggling on the offensive line, with the low point being when they gave up 11 sacks in the Seattle Seahawks game. Since Pugh moved to left tackle, things seem to have settled a little though.
Sean Harlow on the inside and Joshua Miles at tackle have been brought in for additional depth.
The improvement over the past two games could be attributable to Taylor or Pugh, but Saquon Barkley’s return to the line-up probably had the most impact of any recent changes. Despite missing three games, Barkley leads the team with 284 rushing yards, 20 first downs and three total touchdowns and the Jets will need to be wary of his playmaking abilities.
Matt Breida is Barkley’s backup, but he was ineffective with Barkley out and is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry on the year.
Gary Brightwell has been ruled out for this weekend and rookie Eric Gray was just placed on injured reserve so the number three back will either be Jashaun Corbin, who hasn’t featured yet, or Deon Jackson, who was just claimed off waivers.
The Giants acquired Darren Waller during the offseason and the athletic tight end has done plenty of damage from the slot. He leads the team with 35 catches so far, but he has been a bit of a disappointment as he’s been inconsistent and scored just one touchdown.
While Waller is their most productive pass catching threat, the Giants have a variety of receivers who are all capable of making a play, but none has stepped up and been consistently productive so far this year.
Rookie Jalin Hyatt is the team’s most dangerous big play threat and he averages 21.7 yards per catch this season, although he’s only caught nine passes. Starter Darius Slayton is also a downfield threat.
From the slot, Wandale Robinson and Parris Campbell have caught 39 passes between them, but Robinson is only averaging seven yards per catch and Campbell is only averaging five.
Isaiah Hodgins had some big moments last season but his production so far this year has been disappointing. Veteran Sterling Shepard hasn’t really got going yet in his return from a torn ACL, as he has just four catches.
Lawrence Cager was recently moved to the practice squad and Tommy Sweeney and Chris Myarick are on injured reserve, so the only backup tight end on the roster at the moment is Daniel Bellinger.
Dexter Lawrence is the Giants’ defensive leader and he was a second-team All Pro in 2022 as he racked up 7.5 sacks. He leads the team in quarterback hits and had two sacks, his first of the season, against the Commanders last week.
Ex-Jet Leonard Williams is also starting alongside Lawrence and he’s still a disruptive pass rusher even though his best days may be behind him.
Reserves DJ Davidson, Rakeem Nuñez-Roches and A’Shawn Robinson all get regular rotational reps, but they have combined for just half a sack on the season. Robinson has started three games this year.
Rookie Jordon Riley looked really good in preseason but he’s played in just two games so far this season.
The Giants operate out of a 3-4 alignment with Kayvon Thibodeaux being their biggest threat off the edge. In fact, you could say that Thibodeaux has been their only threat this season. He has 5.5 sacks, but the rest of their edge rushers have none.
Jihad Ward, Boogie Basham and Oshane Ximines have all seen time on the edge. Ximines is currently on the practice squad. The Giants will also sometimes have Isaiah Simmons rushing off the edge, although he will also line up off the ball. Other than Thibodeaux, the Giants’ best edge is probably Azeez Ojulari, but he’s currently on injured reserve.
On the inside, the Giants are anchored by Bobby Okereke, who is consistently productive against the run, in coverage and as a pass rusher. Okereke and Lawrence are the keys to a run defense which held the Commanders to 76 yards on Sunday, which was the first time the Giants held an opponent under 120 yards all season.
Micah McFadden has been lining up alongside Okereke, and while he had some issues with missed tackles earlier in the year, he’s been a lot more efficient in the past few weeks.
Aside from Simmons, the Giants don’t really use their other linebackers. Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin will mostly see action on special teams.
The Giants took a bit of a risk when they opened the season with two rookie cornerbacks starting on the outside, and it’s led to some productive days for big name receivers like Deebo Samuel, Tyreek Hill and Terry McLaurin. First rounder Deonte Banks has held up well, and posted his first career interception on Sunday, but sixth rounder Tre Hawkins has had some struggles and been benched a few times.
The Giants’ best cornerback is Adoree’ Jackson, but the team has been employing him mostly in the slot. Darnay Holmes, Nick McCloud and Cordale Flott have all also seen some playing time, with Flott making two starts.
At safety, the Giants are much more settled with Xavier McKinney being one of the team’s leaders and ex-Jet Jason Pinnock having a productive first season as a full-time starter. McKinney is tied with Okereke for the team lead in pass breakups with six, while Pinnock had a 102-yard pick six against Miami and is third on the team in tackles behind Okereke and McFadden.
Veteran Bobby McCain is another versatile defensive back who can provide additional depth, but seventh round rookie Gervarrius Owens has not seen action yet.
Aaron Robinson could eventually be an option to join the cornerback rotation having started off the 2022 season as a starter, but he’s still on the PUP list.
The Giants have a solid kicker and punter combination in Graham Gano and Jamie Gillan. However, Gano has uncharacteristically missed four field goals already, which is more misses than he had all of last year. Gillan is 10th in the league in yards per punt.
The Giants haven’t had much return game success this year. Gray had been handling punts and kickoffs, but he had been looking shaky before being replaced by Shepard on Sunday only for the veteran to then lose a critical muff. Slayton, who lacks experience fielding punts, eventually replaced Shepard, but the Giants just signed Gunner Olszewski to their active roster so he will probably take on these duties.
The Giants haven’t given up much in kick coverage this year, with the longest punt return against them being just 14 yards and the longest kickoff return only 21 yards. Coughlin, McCloud and Brown are among their most effective players in kick coverage.