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5 Qs and 5 As with Big Blue View: Previewing Seahawks-Giants in battle of division leaders

New York Giants v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Much like the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Giants have yet to beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Russell Wilson era. They are 0-4 overall but they haven’t played Seattle since 2017. This is the first home meeting for the Seahawks against the Giants since 2014, when damn near everyone rushed for 100 yards minimum against that New York defense.

The stakes are high for this year’s meeting. Both teams are in first place, although the Seahawks are fighting for the #1 seed while the Giants could end up with a top-ten draft pick if they fail to win the NFC East. Joe Judge’s team has won three straight to go to 4-7, but it’s unlikely they’ll have quarterback Daniel Jones due to a hamstring injury. Colt McCoy would get the nod if Jones can’t go. For all of Jones’ faults, he’s certainly not worse than McCoy.

Want to learn more about the G-Men? Ed Valentine is the man in charge of Big Blue View and he provided some insight in this week’s 5 Qs and 5 As.

1.) It seems to me that the main catalyst for the Giants’ three-game winning streak has been the play of their defense. Would that be a fair assessment?

The defense is part of it, but not nearly all of it.

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has done a tremendous job getting the most out of a unit that doesn’t have any true superstars, and that has now lost to injury or trade its top four EDGE players, doesn’t have a star pass rusher, has ha revolving door at the second cornerback spot and didn’t get second-round pick Xavier McKinney on the field until last week.

You can’t overlook the improvements on offense, though. The Giants neither scored 20 points nor gained 300 yards in any of their first four games. They have scored 20 or more and gained 300 or more yards in six of seven since then. They have found a way to run the ball effectively without Saquon Barkley. Most importantly, though, they have turned the ball over only one time in the past three weeks.

2.) Prior to his injury, Daniel Jones had gone three straight games without a turnover, which has been the biggest knock on him in his short career. Did it look like he was turning the corner and starting to play better or was it mostly just good fortune not to have a lost fumble here, a dropped pick there, etc?

Without doubt Jones has shown improved decision-making in recent weeks. QB coach Jerry Schuplinski said this week that Jones “looks comfortable playing the position,” and based off the last three weeks I think that is absolutely on target. He’s been in control, made good decisions, gotten the ball out on time and been on target. Now, is there a ball here and there where he’s probably been fortunate? Of course. I think you can say that about every quarterback in every game. There is always a ball here and that gets batted by a defensive lineman or that bounces off a receiver’s hands. In those cases it’s just a matter of whether or not a defender happens to be where the ball comes down. That’s luck, and quarterbacks can’t do anything about that.

3.) The Giants special teams gave up a kick return touchdown, a fake punt for a 1st down, and a big punt return that positioned the Bengals for a short field to get into winning field goal range before Jabaal Sheard’s game-ending strip sack. Was that just a bad day at the office or has the Giants special teams been a serious liability this season?

It was absolutely a bad day at the office. The Giants have been terrific on special teams all season. Joe Judge was a special teams coach and good special teams play is a huge priority for him. Thomas McGaughey is a terrific special teams coordinator. The Giants have excelled in kickoff and punt coverage all season. Graham Gano is 25 of 26 on field goals. Punter Riley Dixon has been outstanding. Sunday against Cincinnati was the first time all season anything like that happened. I will be shocked if the Giants struggle like that again.

4.) Which player has been the most pleasant surprise of the Giants’ season, and which one has been the most disappointing?

I think the most surprising player is running back Wayne Gallman. This is a guy who is in his fourth season. He had a decent rookie year, but was absolutely buried behind Saquon Barkley the past two seasons and had lost the confidence of the Pat Shurmur coaching staff. To be honest, I’m not sure the Joe Judge staff had much confidence in him, either. After Barkley got hurt, the Giants turned to Dion Lewis and Devonta Freeman before Gallman got a real chance. He’s been fantastic. The guy isn’t a breakaway back, but he runs HARD. He gets every inch there is to get when he runs the ball.

Most disappointing? That’s a tough one. Performance-wise, I can’t come up with anyone who is massively under-performing expectations. I think maybe the most disappointing thing has been not getting safety Xavier McKinney, the team’s second-round pick, on the field until last Sunday. He fractured his foot in training camp. He played only 5 snaps vs. the Bengals and the Giants will work him in slowly. Logan Ryan, Julian Love and Jabrill Peppers have done a nice job in the back end of the defense, but the Giants were really excited about McKinney. It’s been a bummer not seeing him play.

5.) The NFC East reeks and you know that, but you’re in the driver’s seat as far as making the postseason. Do you believe that the Giants will win the division?

It’s hard to say anyone is “in the driver’s seat” in the NFC East. If you want to look at it that way, the division is filled with old rust buckets that have bald tires, faulty brakes, busted tail lights and shouldn’t be on the road. The Giants and Washington Football Team are at the top with 4 wins. The advantage the Giants have, should it come down to them and Washington, is that the Giants have beaten the Football Team twice and own the tie-breaker.

The problem the Giants have right now is the Daniel Jones’ injury. How long is he out? How well can Colt McCoy play in his absence? With Jones out, and this is hard to believe, Washington’s Alex Smith is the best quarterback in the division. That might give Washington an edge.

Thanks to Ed again for taking the time to answer these questions. You can read my responses to his Qs over at Big Blue View.