By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
It was the unlikeliest of odds that Jabrill Peppers, James Bradberry, and Logan Ryan would comprise three-fourths of the Giants’ secondary.
It is even more implausible that the trio could have meshed into one of the more effective units in the NFL over the past few weeks.
Their enhanced chemistry has been an integral part of the Giants’ surge to the top of the now respectable NFC East.
They once again will need to be on top of their games early Sunday afternoon when the Giants (5-7) welcome the Arizona Cardinals (6-6) into MetLife to possibly extend their winning streak to five games.
Don’t let the Cardinals’ latest state of a reeling three-game losing – their last win was a last-second Hail Mary pass at Buffalo streak fool you.
Arizona will feature big-play, deep threat wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (85 catches, 1,019 yards, 5TDs) who forms a formidable foursome of legendary Larry Fitzgerald (43 catches) Christian Kirk (55), and Chase Edmonds (52). The Cardinals tend to show a four wide receiver, or a three wide receiver and one tight end look.
Kyler Murray is one of the game’s primary threats in the RPO (run-pass option) as he has an impressive 22-10 touchdown-to interception ratio with 2,987 yards. His 665 yards rushing are second on the team to Kenyo Drake’s 768 yards.
Arizona is first in the league in rush yards per play (5.01) and sixth overall in yards per game (389.4).
With Murray’s unpredictability every time he touches the ball, this is a dangerous game for the Giants.
They can’t be looking ahead to a showdown with Odell Beckham Jr and the
Cleveland Browns that has been moved to the Sunday night game next week.
Instead, Bradberry, Peppers, and Ryan will need to play their roles once again.
Bradberry was the Giants’ big ticket purchase in the offseason, and he has been worth every penny of his three-year, $43.5 million deal ($32 million guaranteed money). He has been among the league leaders in pass breakups and interceptions, and has been making his nod for a Pro Bowl nomination.
The 6-foot-5 Bradberry has been able to shutdown his share of big-play receivers, notably Seattle’s mammoth DK Metcalf, whom he limited to five catches for 80 yards in a physical battle after Metcalf beat up Philadelphia’s Darius Slay for 10 catches for 177 yards.
Bradberry will have more of a speed matchup against Hopkins, who is a threat on
any point on the field.
Peppers has had a redeeming campaign after a mediocre year that was cut down to 12 games because of neck injury last season. He appeared to be a bust and just a throw-in from the Beckham deal.
This season, the 25-year-old has emerged as a team leader, playing with the confidence level he showed in his rookie year with Cleveland in 2017. Peppers has 61 tackles and 2.5 sacks, and also has been mentioned in the Pro Bowl conversation.
Ryan has been the real find. The former Patriot and Titan was a holdout, looking for a $10-plus million deal from several teams –including the Jets — and inked a one-year, $7.5 million pact on August 31.
He has looked like his former prime days with the Patriots and was a valuable utility player in the secondary until he settled into a safety spot. He has made numerous timely plays, and appears to be one of the Giants’ steals.
Rookie fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes and former Broncos’ third-round pick Issac Yiadom have nestled nicely into splitting time at the other corner.
The secondary as well as the rest of the unit will have its hands full trying to land the high-flying Cardinals Sunday. But their recent exploits have raised them to the ninth spot defensively overall, allowing 22.1 points per game.
The Giants’ rank 18th against the pass allowing 242 yards per game, but they have issued an average of 173 over the last three games.
In two previous seasons, the Giants’ secondary was as wide open as a shopping mall parking lot on Christmas morning.
Now, they are packed as one of the league’s top units via an improbable path.