Jabrill Peppers
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Three players have really stepped up for the New York Giants through the first six games of this 2019 regular season.

Ryan Honey

The New York Giants are already off to a better start than they were last year … and it’s still not that great. Big Blue was 1-5 at this point in 2018, but this season sport a 2-4 record six weeks into this current campaign. They’ve struggled in some areas (the secondary) and have been injury-plagued in others (inside linebacker and running back corps).

But that’s not to say nothing is going well for New York.

Through six regular-season games, the Giants have numerous positives within their roster. Three specific players have stepped up for Big Blue and have solidified that they belong in their starting roles. Despite the defense becoming a huge issue, two of these three players are actually on that side of the ball.

That being said, let’s take a look at these three individuals.

Safety Jabrill Peppers

After somewhat of a slow start, veteran safety Jabrill Peppers has come alive for the Giants. Prior to this season, Peppers found himself alongside first and third-round picks sent over to New York by the Cleveland Browns. This trade, of course, was for star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. back in March.

I understand that there’s more to a player than just his stats. We’ll get to the deeper part of Peppers’ play in a little. But, for now, let’s have a look at the numbers because they’re indeed impressive.

Up to this point, Peppers has racked up 40 total tackles (second on the team), two tackles-for-loss (tied for fourth), one interception (third), three passes defended (tied for second), and one forced fumble (tied for first). Peppers also has one of the two defensive touchdowns for the Giants this year with a pick-six in the Week 4 win over Washington.

He’s proven to be one of the more productive assets of this defense, and he’ll need to continue that effectiveness going forward.

However, let’s move on from the numbers for a second.

Despite Peppers sometimes making mistakes, he’s an absolute playmaker. Needless to say, he makes those plays at the right times. In the Week 5 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Peppers knocked the ball out of Dalvin Cook‘s grasp right near the goal line. Instead of the Vikings driving into the endzone to take what could’ve been a 20-7 lead near the end of the opening half (Giants were down 13-7), Big Blue got the ball back.

It’s situations like that where Peppers becomes a reliable playmaker for this ballclub.

Peppers has also taken on additional roles than just his traditional strong safety spot. With Alec Ogletree, Tae Davis and Ryan Connelly sidelined for the Minnesota game (the latter is out for the season with a torn ACL), Peppers stepped into the money backer role. He thus performed alongside David Mayo, who took over at the other inside linebacker position.

His athleticism and ability to produce in clutch situations are what’s going to make Peppers a reliable asset for years. He’s definitely someone the Giants organization should keep an eye on when it comes to the future of this defense.

Edge rusher Markus Golden

The veteran pass rusher who previously played under defensive coordinator James Bettcher in Arizona is proving to be the best outside linebacker on this roster. Through six games, Markus Golden leads the team in sacks with five and in tackles-for-loss with five.

Golden also has the other of the two defensive touchdowns, with a 42-yard return after recovering a Tom Brady fumble during the Week 6 loss.

The Giants acquired Golden this past offseason, signing him to a one-year, $3.75 million deal. Thus far, it’s proven to be a great move by general manager Dave Gettleman, which there haven’t been many of if we’re being completely honest. Golden was a cheap signing who’s brought versatility and aggressiveness to this pass rush. End of story.

New York’s leader in sacks last season was the current Browns edge rusher Olivier Vernon with seven. Golden just needs two to match that mark, with the number of games left to play still in double digits. His five sacks are good for 31.25% of the team’s total amount in that department (16).

The pass rush is what needs to be reliable for this defense. The secondary has had its struggles (Janoris Jenkins and DeAndre Baker have both had issues). The success of the pass rush will lead to success in the defensive backfield. Any quarterback in this league can pick apart secondaries if they have time in the pocket. Golden has done his best to make sure opposing quarterbacks don’t have an appropriate amount of time. The rest of the pass rush will need to follow.

Tight end Evan Engram

When Evan Engram is healthy, he can be one of the most athletic and talented tight ends in the league. But, health does happen to be an issue. Engram has now missed at least one game in three straight seasons to begin his career. The third-year pro sat out last Thursday’s Week 6 game with an MCL sprain.

Nonetheless, in the first five contests, Engram stepped up mightily for this offense. He needed to, especially with a rookie quarterback in Daniel Jones. A productive tight end is great for a first-year quarterback who can’t make the decisions or throws that a veteran can.

Engram thus far has 33 receptions for 373 yards and two touchdowns. He leads the team in each of those categories. He also brings receiver-type abilities to his style of play, making it that much more difficult for defenses to gameplan against him. You can place him on the line, in the slot, split wide, or possibly even in the backfield. Handing the ball off to him is a possibility, as the Giants did that twice in the loss to Minnesota.

Because of his athleticism and speed, defenses will need to put the responsibility of covering Engram in the hands of a defensive back. That means there’s a fewer number of defensive backs lining up against the even faster receivers in Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton. Therefore, a ton of pressure is taken off each of the New York wideouts.

If Engram is able to play this coming Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, it’ll be huge for this Giants team trying to avoid a third consecutive loss.

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