Hey, the New York Giants got an honest ticket to good

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Tuesday is usually a day off for NFL teams. The New York Giants will be training, as their Week 16 game against the Minnesota Vikings will be played on Saturday afternoon. Here are some things I’m thinking about as the NFL schedule moves forward.

fast pass

Don’t look now, but the Giants suddenly seem to have their most fearsome pass since the NASCAR pack days of Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka.

Since sophomore quarterback Azeez Ojulari returned to the lineup three games ago, the Giants are second in the league in sacks with 12, an average of 4.0 per game. They are also second in the NFL in sack percentage at 10.62.

Ojulari had a team-rookie record (I know, I know Lawrence Taylor) 8.0 sacks last season, but he’s never had a stretch in 2021 like the three terrifying quarterback games he’s had since returning from his last knee injury quadrilateral.

In three games, Ojulari has 3.5 sacks, six quarterback hits, 15 total pressures, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

In that same stretch, Thibodeaux has two sacks, three quarterback hits, 10 pressures and Sunday’s strip-sack/forced fumble/fumble recovery for a touchdown. Go back four games and the Oregon rookie has 19 pressures in that span.

Dexter Lawrence had 1.5 of his career-high 6.5 sacks over the last three games, along with six quarterback hits, 14 pressures and a forced fumble.

Williams suffered two pressures on his return to the lineup on Sunday following a neck injury.

Check out these Pro Football Focus quick passing win rates for Sunday night.

Lawrence won with 28.0 percent of his pass rush attempts, Ojulari with 19.2 percent, Leonard Williams with 15.4 percent and Thibodeaux with 13.0 percent.

There are only six qualified quarterbacks, per PFF, with pass win rates for the season higher than the 19.2 Ojulari posted on Sunday. For the season, Lawrence is third among interior defensive linemen with a win rate of 18.3 percent. Aaron Donald is No. 1 at 19.1 percent and Cameron Heyward is No. 2 at 18.8 percent.

“Four good players. It helps,” said coach Brian Daboll, who also credited players like Ryder Anderson (two sacks in two weeks), Tomon Fox, Oshane Ximines and Justin Ellis. “When all four of these guys are on the field for as many snaps as they can, it certainly helps. They are all good players.”

It cannot be a comforting thought to opposing offensive coordinators that Thibodeaux and Ojulari are only 22 and Lawrence is only 25. Williams is an old man at 28.

Narrative by Kayvon Thibodeaux

Let’s hope the ‘he throws it away’ narrative that followed Thibodeaux in Oregon is finally dead and gone.

Thibodeaux has honestly buried that narrative all season long. He just didn’t compile the overwhelming stats or constant splash plays to make it look that way.

You don’t make the kind of impact that Thibodeaux did on Sunday or get the respect from teammates that he earned by taking out plays.

“He played a good game. I watched the tape last night on the train and that’s what we expect from him – to go out there and play hard,” Daboll said of Thibodeaux’s work against the Commanders. “That’s what we saw in him in college. When we went through the process of selecting him in the draft, that’s what we felt really good about: a guy who loves football, who competes, who submits. He has done a great job of fitting into our organization and what we want to do.”

Saquon Barkley said the following:

“The biggest thing that stood out to me outside of his performance was before the game a rookie stepped up and called everyone and got us moving. And that’s big. He showed his leadership qualities, he showed the kind of person he is and is every day. He comes to work every day, he works and works at his craft and gets better. Like I said, the big players need to excel in this game and our guys have to be the guys. And he’s one of those guys, and I think this is just the beginning. He has shown what he is capable of and the future is very bright for him.”

Indeed it is.

Bredeson and Gates

Daboll said on Monday that Ben Bredeson, who played 42 snaps at left guard on Sunday, and Nick Gates, who started and played 21, deserved to play.

“I think they both got game time,” Daboll said. “I think they both played a good game.”

Bredeson and Gates had virtually identical Pro Football Focus grades.

So who should play? If you have to choose one or the other, look at it that way. Bredeson was on the field during the Giants’ 18-play, 97-yard drive. He was also on the field on the Giants’ final drive as they chewed over four minutes. The Giants’ offense worked best when Bredeson was playing. The Giants also went 6-1 this season with Bredeson at the starting left guard, and they ran better with the ball.

I think this is the answer. Bredeson is not a star, but the Giants team seems to work better with him on the field.

Good for Landon Collins

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Collins since the Giants added him to practice, mostly about why he wasn’t playing anymore, or at all.

Collins had his biggest opportunity on Sunday night and he played well. In 27 snaps. he had three tackles, and his physicality and athleticism—from the inside linebacker position—helped on defense.

I’ve long thought that the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Collins was better suited for the role of linebacker, or any role close to the line of scrimmage, than a role that required him to patrol large swathes of the secondary. The prevailing belief early in his career was that he was simply unwilling to accept this role.

The Giants are using him as a linebacker. I would have to ask him directly, and I would if given the opportunity, but I would have to think that being out of the game at the start of this season was humiliating enough for Collins to accept the position change to continue his career.

In his role for the Giants on Sunday, Collins could still be a productive player.

It’s still all unbelievable

Virtually no one saw a playoff berth coming for the Giants before the start of the 2022-23 season. However, here we are heading into Week 16 and there is actually a scenario where the Giants could clinch a wild card berth this weekend. Merry Christmas!

This is a Giants team that had five straight double-digit losing seasons at the start of the year. Winning seven games would be considered an achievement. Breaking the streak of double-digit losing seasons would be considered incredible. But that? It won’t end in Super Bowl glory, but it certainly tops off another terrible year in which Big Blue View commentators would already be arguing at the top of their lungs over the draft, which is more than four months away.

“What does it really mean? It means we give ourselves a better chance of achieving our goals,” said Barkley. “It’s one day at a time. In between, we had a quick comeback on Saturday against a very good team that just came back from a 33-point loss. None of us are shocked in this locker room. We knew what we were capable of doing and we put ourselves in the driver’s seat to control our own destiny. You have to live one day at a time to win games.”

Daboll didn’t want to attach any general significance to the fact that the Giants were 8-5-1 and on the brink of an unlikely playoff berth.

“I’ll just say what it means for the game: It gives you the opportunity to be successful in the game when your best players are playing well,” Daboll said. “The meaning of this victory – again, you heard me say it (and) I know it sucks: it’s a divisional game. I’m not focused on what that means or anything like that. We are 8-5-1; we went 1-0 this week. And I would say that there are a lot of guys who contributed to the result of the game, they made good plays at critical moments. That’s what we’re going to need going forward.”

Still, I’ll put this simply. It bodes well for the future. For two reasons. It looks like there’s a core of talented young players to build on, perhaps a little better than we thought before the start of the season. It also looks like the Giants have the right people at the helm, on the coaching staff and in the front office.