The Giants are in San Francisco for Thursday Night Football after a revitalizing comeback win this past Sunday in Arizona. Here are three things to watch for when they kick off at 8:15pm EST.
NOTE: This blog was published pre-kickoff, unfortunately, the Giants did not improve for Week 3
Bobby Okereke may have finally found his groove
Okereke finished last week’s game with eight total tackles and one TFL (tackle for a loss), while grading out at a 62.6 overall PFF grade after playing all 65 of the Giants’ defensive snaps. He looked comfortable out there in the second half and from then on seemed to have much more of an influence on the game as a whole.
He was signed in the offseason to take over the middle linebacker position for the Giants, to be the guy that the Giants could turn to as the leader of their defense. He was a leader while in Indianapolis, and his past two seasons have proven why he deserved that 4 year, $40M ($21.8M guaranteed) contract he signed this offseason:
2021: 132 TOT | 89 SOLO
2022: 151 TOT | 99 SOLO
*TOT = Total tackles
* SOLO = Solo tackles
Bobby Okereke (#58) & Isaiah Simmons (#19) after a big stop on 3rd down late in Sunday's game. (Photo credit: Emily Henderson/New York Football Giants)
He is an excellent run stuffer and tackles well, two traits the Giants desperately needed to add to their defense after ranking 27th against the run in 2022, per Covers.com. It takes getting used to the Wink Martindale defensive scheme, something the young linebacker did not experience while in Indianapolis. The blitz-heavy scheme and heavy nickel and dime packages take some time to adjust to, case in point Isaiah Simmons’ slow ramp up. It was very promising to see Okereke finally kick it into that next gear this past Sunday. I was especially juiced up at the play below when he and Micah McFadden rallied to the ball late in the game on 3rd down.
(Video credit: NFL.com)
The 49ers will test him in coverage this week, with the likes of Christian McCaffery and Deebo Samuel taking snaps out of the backfield and possibly in the slot. If he performs well against those two and the 49ers as a whole, the Giants will more than likely feel encouraged by his play moving forward.
Saquon Barkley’s replacement
Giants fans across the nation were feeling great as time wound down in the eventual 31-28 win at Arizona this past Sunday. But on a 2nd & 13 run play while trying to run out the clock, all of that would be questioned for a moment. Saquon Barkley took the ball on an inside zone run and was sandwiched low by linebacker Krys Barnes, ultimately injuring his ankle in the process. He was visibly shaken up and could not walk off the field without help from the training staff.
Barkley is a massive catalyst to the Giants’ success and his skills as a runner and pass catcher are what keep defenses guessing when facing him. You never know what he will be capable of doing next.
The Giants are on a very short week, with kickoff fast approaching on Thursday Night Football. Barkley has been officially ruled out as of Wednesday meaning that Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell and potentially rookie Eric Gray will be picking up the slack this week. From the looks of it, this is the right move as the Giants would rather not have him early on for a few games as opposed to letting it linger and potentially affect him while making a playoff push.
No one can replace Saquon Barkley, but Matt Breida should be able to step in and act as a serviceable backup for the time being. The seven year veteran has well over 2,500 rushing yards in his career, has played in 83 games (starting 20 of them) and has been with the Giants since 2022. He knows the playbook inside and out and the team has the utmost faith in him to slide right in and provide meaningful snaps on the offensive side of the ball.
The wide receiver room had a week 2 to remember, can they replicate that performance in week 3?
This seems to be a recurring theme as I wrote about the Giants needing to get their skill players involved before last week’s game. It looked like that would not be happening when they put up a goose egg in the first half last week, but things changed when they went to the locker room and regrouped. Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka sat down and switched up their game plan. They decided it was imperative to start taking shots downfield and to let Daniel Jones rip it. And rip it he did. Check out the Jalin Hyatt deep ball that led to the Giants’ first score in the third quarter.
The kid has blazing fast speed and is consistently behind defenses. The Giants need to take advantage of that when defenses are on their heels or playing man.
The wide receiver room (I’m including Darren Waller here because he is basically a wide receiver) racked up 292 yards receiving in week 2, with Jalin Hyatt leading all receivers with 89 yards in the game. A large chunk of those yards came in the second half, and if the Giants are able to replicate that success moving forward then man, no one will be able to stop them.
The 49ers are indeed a Super Bowl caliber team, and every expert prediction I’ve seen so far has had the 49ers pretty much winning this one with ease. As a Giant fan, I will always have faith that they can pull out a hard fought win against a great team. I believe they have the talent do so in this contest, but everything will need to go right for them in order to pull off the upset as massive Vegas underdogs (+10). This is a tough test across the country on a short week of rest and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants come out a bit slow. Not to mention they’ll be missing four starters in Andrew Thomas, Ben Bredeson, Saquon Barkley and Azeez Ojulari. I’m curious to see how Daboll/Kafka/Martindale game plan for this one. Hopefully, the Giants can pull out a win in their second prime time game of the season.