Why are the NY Giants 5-1? Just look at these 6 players, including one called ‘a beast’

Why are the NY Giants 5-1? Just look at these 6 players, including one called ‘a beast’

Art Stapleton
 

NFL writer

EAST RUTHERFORD – The Giants started believing in themselves at some point this summer, when new coach Brian Daboll’s personality and his football mind meshed with the reality of what was happening on the field.

Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen want players who are “smart, tough and dependable” – the words were freshly painted onto the wall inside their MetLife Stadium locker room this summer – and this team has embodied that.

“We’re bought in,” said Giants center Jon Feliciano, who was with Daboll and Schoen in Buffalo. “That’s the best way to put it. The guys new to this team, the guys who were here before, everyone is bought in and that makes a big difference in the process.”

And the results, of course. The Giants entered the 2022 season with the most losses in the NFL over the past five years, yet the schedule is creeping toward late October and they’re smack dab in the middle of the NFC playoff picture.

Off to the franchise’s best start in 13 years, the 5-1 Giants are slowly but surely convincing observers around the league that what Daboll and Co. have cooking is real. Their success isn’t the product of smoke and mirrors; rather, Big Blue is finding a way to win games with contributions up and down a far-from-loaded roster after nearly a decade of seeking out ways to lose them.

“So far, so good,” Giants co-owner and team president John Mara told reporters at the owners’ meeting in New York on Tuesday. “On to Jacksonville.”

Here are six players who have stood out beyond the stat sheet over the first six games: 

Saquon Barkley, running back

The 25-year-old Barkley has been the best player on the field for the Giants since the offseason program began, in practice and on game days. He’s been featured in all the ways the Giants have promised in the past, yet failed to live up to those promises.

Barkley looks healthy, fresh and explosive, confident in how he is moving with the football in his hands. He’s gritty and tough, fighting through a shoulder injury sustained during the victory over the Packers, tweaked again Sunday in the latter stages against the Ravens, and he keeps on going.

Barkley is second in the league in rushing and first in total yards from scrimmage. He’s back as the focal point of the opposing defense on just about every play, and Barkley is still delivering key plays in the second half.

Daniel Jones, quarterback

Jones is 8-3 in his last 11 starts, a .727 winning percentage that is the NFL’s third highest since Week 7 of the 2021 season, trailing only Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts.

In five wins this year, the 25-year-old Jones has led four game-winning drives, the most in the league. He’s also made the players around him better, getting the most out of a wide receiver room without Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, and with former practice squad guys David Sills and Marcus Johnson logging key reps, and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson having just returned.

Jones’ statistics don’t jump off the page: completing 67.3% of his passes with five passing touchdowns and just two interceptions with 1,021 passing yards. He’s also rushed for 236 yards and two touchdowns. There’s no question he’s the leader of the offense, and his command of the huddle is noticed by those both inside and outside the team.

“I tell you this,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said, “you don’t go to sleep on Daniel Jones.”

Andrew Thomas, left tackle

From perceived bust to recognition as one of the best offensive linemen in football, Thomas’ growth as a player and a leader is remarkable. He’s yet to allow a sack and his presence has been invaluable. Thomas, 23, has been a cornerstone of the line, and he has not missed a snap yet this season four shy of 400 snaps for the offense.

He has allowed only nine QB pressures in six games, and Pro Football Focus says Thomas is graded as one of the most efficient run blockers in the NFL. Few players would be harder to replace on this team.

Lawrence has emerged as one of the most feared interior rushers in football. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said his interior linemen offered rave reviews, saying how he was unblockable.

“Beast,” Giants inside linebacker Tae Crowder said of Lawrence, who turns 25 next month. “He’s a beast. … We all talked about it this offseason, what he was very capable of.”

Lawrence is showing that and more. He has four sacks and has taken to the coaching of defensive line mentor Andre Patterson, making the most out of a move from 3-technique to nose guard. The Giants have been proven wise to have picked up Lawrence’s fifth-year option for 2023, and if he keeps playing like this, it’d be no surprise if talks begin on a long-term extension.

Xavier McKinney, safety

McKinney is an “alpha dog” in the locker room, and has spread his wings to become one of the driving forces in the locker room in terms of leadership and production. He has directly influenced two victories – his coverage on Christian McCaffrey changed the Week 2 win, and his knockdown of a Rodgers pass flipped the Giants’ win in Seattle.

In terms of ascending players, the 23-year-old McKinney is the one on this roster who has met expectations with how he has performed and the splash he has made appears to be only the beginning of his rise at the position leaguewide.

Julian Love, safety

At 24, Love is playing the best football of his career. He is a captain for the first time at any level, including his time at Notre Dame where he was a team leader. There’s something about Wink Martindale’s defense that fits Love’s skill set, and, like McKinney, he is responsible for two of the season’s biggest plays.

His sack of Baker Mayfield sealed the Giants’ triumph over Carolina in Week 2. And Love’s interception of Lamar Jackson last Sunday was a pivotal turning point as the Giants rallied for the 24-20 triumph.

The leap between seasons taken by Love is one of the most distinct the Giants have had for any player in some time. He has gone from essentially a stop gap player – the previous staff nicknamed him “Duct Tape,” for his ability to cover up holes in different spots – to an emotional and essential piece of the defense.

This content was originally published here.

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