Dalvin Tomlinson has been a starter his whole career with the Giants. Sunday’s game against Washington, though, will feel a little different. Tomlinson had always been “the other guy” next to All-Pro DT Damon Harrison, who was traded to the Lions this week. Now, Tomlinson will be moving over one spot in the lineup and one peg up in the hierarchy.
“Wherever they want to put me, I’m excited for it, to go out there and ball out and step up my game,” Tomlinson said. “Snacks is a great guy. I’ve learned a lot from him on and off the field. He’s just a great role model. It’s going to be slightly different not playing next to him, but it’s the nature of the game and I have to get used to it.”
Pat Shurmur said he thinks Tomlinson could prosper from the change, moving him more inside.
“He’s probably a natural nose guard, so this would put him back in that position full time,” Shurmur said. “We’re looking forward to seeing him do good things.”
The Giants will have other players filling in for injured or departed starters on their defense. B.W. Webb figures to replace Eli Apple, now with the Saints, at cornerback. The Giants will use a combination of inside linebackers with Alec Ogletree sidelined by a hamstring.
Tomlinson, though, is probably the most intriguing of the remaining Giants affected by the roster changes. A second-round pick in his second year, he’s the type of player around whom the Giants could wind up building their future defense. They had Snacks. Tomlinson could be the meal.
“He’s an extremely heavy-handed striker, a guy that can punch and separate, a guy that has the ability to displace blockers, and he’s going to get his great fair share of snaps,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “The great thing about him, he still has a lot of football ahead of him in his career and he has a lot of room to grow and become a better player.”
Shurmur said during the summer that the Giants would only go as far as their offensive line carried them. So far, that’s been to a 1-6 record. Despite the overhaul in personnel and shuffling of starting jobs, this line seems to be playing worse than any in recent Giants history. Now that’s saying something.
Eli Manning has been sacked 24 times, the most he’s been sacked through seven games in his career. His previous high was 18 in 2013. And the Giants, despite having one of the league’s better running backs, are ranked 30th in rushing yards. Shurmur said he is sticking with the lineup he used against the Falcons, leaving G Patrick Omameh on the bench.
The X-factor: Ryan Kerrigan
Ryan Kerrigan has 9.0 career sacks of Eli Manning, the most of any active player in the NFL. Trying to keep him from double-digits will be a priority for the Giants’ offensive line that has already allowed more sacks through the first seven games of the season than any other unit during Manning’s career.
“The one thing about Kerrigan is he’s tough and he’s relentless and he keeps coming,” Shurmur said. “You have to block him from the first play to the last.”
Added offensive coordinator Mike Shula: “He’s unique just because he’s very smart. If you make a mistake, he’s going to make you pay. His motor runs very high and he finishes every play, so whether or not it’s sliding to him or having an extra guy help out on protection, we just got to be able to mix it and then everybody has to do their job as well and get the ball out on time.”
Giants' all-time record against the Redskins.
Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey is on his fifth punt and kickoff returner this season. “Trying to find the right mixture to the tea and see how it tastes,” he said of the variations. Last week, though, he might have hit on something. Rookie Quadree Henderson was promoted from the practice squad and made an immediate impact, returning two punts for 29 yards and four kickoffs for 82 yards.
McGaughey said having Henderson on the back end might help the blocking up front.
“When you know you have a guy back there who has the potential to take it to the house, it just makes you play a little bit harder,” he said. “They go hand in hand. And vice versa, it’s hard to create momentum when you’re not seeing anything. But when you see a guy that has the quickness and the burst that Quadree has, it’s like look, you’ve got to stay on your blocks just a little bit longer, you’ve got to play just a little bit harder, and hopefully, things will work out right.”
Saquon Barkley has accounted for 905 of the Giants’ 2,704 offensive yards this season, the highest percentage of a team’s total in the NFL.
Player Yards // Team yds. // Pct.
Saquon Barkley, Giants 905 // 2704 // 33.5
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys 794 // 2375 // 33.4
David Johnson, Cardinals 501 // 1672 // 30.0
Todd Gurley, Rams 956 // 3202 // 29.9
Christian McCaffrey, Panthers 667 // 2245 // 29.7
By the numbers
99: Giants regular-season wins against the Redskins in their history. Their next victory over Washington will make the Redskins the first franchise that the Giants have beaten 100 times. The Giants are 99-67-4 all-time against Washington.
7: Years since the Giants have gained 400 or more yards of offense in three straight games. The last time they did it was against the Saints (465), Packers (447) and Cowboys (510) from Nov. 28 to Dec. 11, 2011. This year they have done it against the Panthers (432), Eagles (401) and Falcons (433).
6: Receptions needed by Odell Beckham Jr. (366) to pass Jeremy Shockey (371) for fourth place on the Giants’ all-time list.
32:16: Washington’s average time of possession, most in the NFC and second-most in the NFL.