The Giants will look to a key defensive player as their rock, with the team seat on a playoff berth.
For the first time since 2011, the Giants are likely going to the playoffs.
Barring an absolutely catastrophic collapse and an improbable series of wins from their rivals, the Giants should be able to secure at least a wild card this season.
However, they may do so without one of their most important pieces, at least in the immediate future.
Janoris Jenkins, the de facto number one cornerback in New York’s secondary and a member of their big money free agent class, went down with a back injury on Sunday, sitting out the better part of the final three quarters against the Detroit Lions. While initial reports feared a much more serious injury for the Jackrabbit, Ben McAdoo confirmed today on his conference call that the Giants corner has a severe back bruise, leaving his status uncertain for Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
That is not good news for Giants fans.
Jenkins has proven himself worth every penny of his five year, $62.5 million contract this season, emerging as one of the best corners in the league. Pro Football Focus has Jenkins firmly ranked in their top 10 CBs in the league, an honor that the Giants could not have even imagined with their secondary last season.
Additionally, Jenkins has provided the signature divisional performance that will endear him to Giants fans for years to come. His utter shutdown of Dez Bryant in their two meetings this season is the stuff of legends, especially his performance last week at home against the Cowboys. Jenkins allowed Dez just one catch, only to force him to fumble the football immediately after. Undoubtedly, that will be part of New York bragging rights in the Giants-Cowboys rivalry for years to come.
However, few fans realize just how important that kind of shutdown corner can be for a defensive minded team like the Giants.
While Jenkins is just part of the secondary, he is unquestionably the catalyst towards the Giants’ domination in the passing game. Jenkins allows the Giants to make their opponents one dimensional, which is exactly why, despite the fact that Zeke ran all over them last Sunday, New York was able to hold their division rivals to just seven points. Come playoff time, he could become their most important player.
When you think about the great defenses over the past few years, all of them had a dominant defensive back. The Jets had Darrelle Revis. The Ravens had Ed Reed. The Seahawks have Richard Sherman. All three guys in their own rights served to make defenses completely one dimensional, either taking away an opponent’s best receiver, or taking away a certain part of the field altogether.
For the Giants, that man is Janoris Jenkins, which is exactly why they need to be so careful about bringing him back.
While New York has yet to officially clinch a playoff berth, they have a two game lead on the next closest team in the wild card with two games to go. Additionally, they trail Dallas for the divisional crown by two games, putting their hopes of a division title on life support.
Thus, by far the most likely scenario is the Giants ending up with the wild card.
That being said, they should not rush Jenkins back for Thursday night against the Eagles unless he is healthy and pain free. Certainly, the Giants want to beat Philly any chance they can get, and the opportunity to clinch a playoff spot in front of a division rival is intriguing, but they cannot risk Jenkins’ long term health. Additionally, the Eagles have one of the worst receiving cores in the league, and should be easy work for the Giants’ defensive backs.
If Jenkins is ready and willing to go, the Giants can certainly play him. But resting him on a short week to get ready for the playoffs seems like the most prudent option, especially with him monumental importance to the team.