No team in the NFL has relied more heavily on rookies than the Giants. Heading into the ninth week of the season, they have put rookies on the field for 2,907 snaps, tops in the league by a ton. The Jaguars (2,418), Raiders (2,352), Cardinals (2,228) and Redskins (2,177) rounded out the top five in rookie usage.
Dexter Lawrence and DeAndre Baker were immediate starters on defense. Oshane Ximines receives extensive playing time. Daniel Jones took over at quarterback after two games, and Darius Slayton is now a fixture in the rotation at receiver. Another rookie, Corey Ballentine, is the kickoff returner.
All except for Slayton made their NFL debuts in the season-opening loss to the Cowboys. Their development is a reason why the Giants hope the second half of the season is more successful and a reason why they hope to be more competitive in the rematch Monday night with the Cowboys.
“As we all know, the young players can improve if they continue to work,’’ coach Pat Shurmur said. “I’d like to think we’ve improved since that first time we played Dallas.’’
DT Leonard Williams not long ago played for the Jets when they upset the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium, and he gets another shot at the Cowboys in is debut with the Giants.
“Another one of those really high draft picks,’’ Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Everyone in the league really liked him coming out and in the draft. He’s been a good player for the Jets. He’s a very good run defender, he affects the quarterback, he’s got really good size and athleticism, a great feel for playing the game, and has been a very productive guy. He just adds to that mix on that Giants defensive line.’’
Players this week saw a new piece of equipment hanging in their lockers: A shiny blue helmet with a “GIANTS” decal in a font that will be familiar to fans of the team in the ’80s and ’90s. The Giants will wear throwback uniforms for this game, featuring white shirts and pants with blue and red stripes and the old-school helmet that also has a white facemask replacing the gray facemasks currently used.
The Giants made a practice-squad move this week, especially designed for this particular opponent. Sean Smith, a rookie punter from Dayton, was signed for a specific reason. Smith is a left-footed punter and he gave the Giants returners several days of preparation in advance of facing the Cowboys’ left-footed punter, Chris Jones.
“It’s always something that you’re conscious of,’’ special teams coach Thomas McGaughey said. “It’s a different spin of the ball. We had Ryan Anderson here all through the offseason and during training camp, so our guys got used to catching the lefty punter. We got a kid in this week that is punting to us.’’
For more on the Giants, listen to the latest episode of the “Blue Rush” podcast: