Giants’ burgeoning defense creating promise of low-scoring battle vs. Jets in Week 8 clash

Jets vs. Giants game preview
Dexter Lawrence II (97) and defensive end Leonard Williams (99) react during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

What once was a major liability just a few weeks ago is now the New York Giants’ backbone. 

Big Blue’s defense was a shell of the unit that took a major step forward in a playoff-bound 2022 campaign, allowing an average of 30.6 points per game and 378 total yards over the first five weeks of the season.

Missed tackles ran rampant — they whiffed on 29 of them in their first three games. The defensive front was bullied as the opposition rushed for more than 140 yards three times during the first five games. Pressure on the quarterback was non-existent with just five sacks in the first six games. 

Week 6 against the Bills, however, saw things start to turn. They limited Josh Allen’s high-powered attack to just 14 points and gave backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor a chance to pull off a significant upset for a team that started the season 1-5.

In Week 7 against the Washington Commanders, it all seemed to come together. Against a week offensive line, the Giants defense under coordinator Wink Martindale put up gaudy numbers, sacking Sam Howell six times in a 14-7 win — the lone touchdown coming on a shortened field following a Sterling Shepard muffed punt. 

“I think they’re improving. They’re improving their chemistry,” Giants head coach Brian Daboll said. “They’ve done a good job with their fundamentals. I think Wink [Martindale] has done a good job with them. Try to eliminate as many big plays as we can… they’re playing well.”

New York Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence II (97) sacks Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) during the second quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence dominated the trenches, posting two sacks and six tackles while helping New York’s run defense the Commanders to just 76 yards. Kayvon Thibodeaux added 1.5 sacks, upping his team-leading total to 5.5 as he looks poised to shatter his previous career-high of 9.5. Leonard Williams picked up his first full sack of the season, as well.

“I thought our front did a good job. That’s where it starts…,” Daboll said. “But again, chemistry, playing together, I think all those things are in play with that. But again, one week has nothing to do with the next. We’re going to have to go out there and do a good job of getting ready to play this week.”

This week brings an intra-stadium rivalry matchup with the Jets, who possess one of the best defenses in the league. Coming off a bye week following a Week 6 upset over the Philadelphia Eagles, Gang Green has allowed 21 or fewer points in four of six games this season.

Their ability to put pressure on the opposing quarterback has become a focal point alongside a strong secondary that has allowed the seventh-fewest passing yards this season. But the Jets’ ability to hurry the quarterback on 14.2% of their defensive snaps leads the NFL

They’ve also allowed just one second-half touchdown this season, so the Giants’ defense will have a tall task in trying to keep up with them on Sunday.

“I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for [Jets head coach Robert Saleh],” Daboll said. “He’s a heck of a football coach. They’re a dynamic defense, obviously. I think they’ve given up one touchdown – it’s early in my preparation right now – one touchdown in the second half. So, they take the ball away, they play fast, they’re a good defense.

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