It’s a short week before the home opener on Thursday. Let’s take a look at the New York Giants roster and where the 49ers may find advantages. DraftKings Sportsbook has the 49ers as impressive 10.5-point favorites over the Giants for Thursday Night Football.
SF O SKILL (QB/WR) VS NYG SECONDARY
The Giants are one of five teams that have yet to grab an interception on the season. New York is starting a rookie cornerback duo of first round pick Deonte Banks (Maryland) and sixth round pick Tre Hawkins III (ODU). Both players have fared well in the first two weeks of the season, allowing less than a 70.0 NFL passer rating against when in coverage.
Nickel Corner Adoree’ Jackson has had the most issues among the secondary, allowing 69.2% of targets in his coverage to be completed, for an average of 13.8 yards per catch. A guy like Jauan Jennings may have his best game of the early NFL season against a smaller slot defender that struggled against Dallas and Arizona.
Xavier McKinney is one of the more underrated tackling safeties in the league but saw a drop in production last season in coverage. Brock Purdy and the wide receivers should find success in the passing game against a PFF bottom-five-graded coverage unit.
SF O COMBO (RB/TE) vs. NYG 2ND LEVEL DEFENDERS
New York made an effort to upgrade their linebacker unit before this season by signing Bobby Okereke and trading for former Cardinals first round pick Isaiah Simmons. Simmons hasn’t found his footing quite yet, as defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is still trying to figure out the best place to line up the versatile 6 ‘4, 238lb athlete.
But Okereke is one of the better coverage linebackers in the league, ranking seventh among the position, according to PFF. He’s one of two G-men to play every defensive snap, along with McKinney.
We know San Francisco’s starting combo unit of McCaffrey, Kittle, and Juszczyk is a mismatch for every defense in the league when running routes. The running game should flourish as well against the Giants, who have allowed 136.5 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in two contests.
SF O LINE vs. NYG D LINE
People might hate this pick, as the early season production from the Giants defensive line has been abhorrent. They are the only team without a sack this season. Only the Texans have allowed more rushing touchdowns. But Dexter Lawrence should give Kyle Shanahan and Chris Foerster nightmares.
There are few nose tackles better than Lawrence, and the 25 year old was honored last season with a second-team all-pro nod. This year, despite a lack of “production” stats, he is the fifth highest graded player at the position in the NFL. What makes this front four more worrisome than last week’s matchup with Aaron Donald and the Rams, is that Lawrence has more talent beside him.
Leonard Williams is getting long in the tooth but still has an excellent tool set of pass rushing moves that could exploit an inconsistent interior offensive line for San Francisco.
And although we don’t worry much about pass rushers lining up against Trent Williams, the Giants will have the upper hand if they get second year pro Kayvon Thibodeaux one-on-one opportunities against Colton McKivitz. New York’s other starting edge rusher, Azeez Ojulari is inactive. If the Giants have any chance in this game, it will be because of their ability to create pressure with four.
NYG O LINE vs. SF D LINE
Up front, the Giants are a young and up-and-coming group that will be tested against the 49ers. They’ve spent draft capital the last few seasons beefing up the unit with center John Michael Schmitz (2nd round, 2023), right tackle Evan Neal (1st, 2022) and left tackle Andrew Thomas (1st, 2021).
Thomas especially is a promising talent but is dealing with a hamstring issue that kept him out of their win over Arizona. Left guard Ben Bredeson left that matchup and entered the concussion protocol. As of this writing, it seems questionable either player suits up with the quick turnaround to this week’s game.
Joshua Ezeudu played well in the hole left by Thomas but Bredeson’s backup Mark Glowinski allowed three sacks and five hurries in the Week 1 Cowboys loss. This hopefully points to Thursday night being the Nick Bosa show. And Javon Hargrave show. And Arik Armstead show. And…
NYG O COMBO vs. SF 2ND LEVEL DEFENDERS
The big off-season acquisition for New York was tight end Darren Waller, who cost only a third round pick in their trade with the Las Vegas Raiders. Waller dealt with hamstring and knee injuries last season but when healthy, is one of the most difficult receiving tight ends to defend. He currently leads the team in targets, catches, and yards, but has yet to find the end zone in the blue and red.
The last time Waller played against San Francisco he was the first to score on a 24 yard reception from Jared Stidham in Vegas last January. Even against a great cover linebacker like Fred Warner, Waller will make plays if given the targets. Unfortunately for the Giants, their best offensive player, Saquon Barkley, will be out for this contest.
That’s bad news for a running back group that has four total carries on the season outside of Barkley. Former Niner Matt Breida and third year pro Gary Brightwell are expected to shoulder the load in his absence. That’s good news for San Francisco.
NYG O SKILL vs. SF SECONDARY
After a career year under new coach Brian Daboll, Daniel Jones was signed to a four-year extension to stay in New York. Jones wasn’t asked to do much outside his comfort zone and Daboll leaned on Jones’ athleticism to supplement the running game, as the former first rounder accumulated 708 rushing yards and added seven touchdowns on the ground.
Despite his lack of turnovers in 2022, this was something that plagued him early in his career. And the potential regression may be rearing its ugly head, as he has already thrown three interceptions and fumbled once in their first two games.
It’s tough to claim one team has the best or worst position group compared to any other in the NFL, but there is a legitimate argument that the Giants receiving corps is bottom of the barrel. Last year Darius Slayton led the group with 724 yards receiving, with no one else topping 600 yards through the air. The current highest graded player among their skill players (not including Barkley or Waller) is rookie third-round pick Jalin Hyatt. He has 89 yards on two catches this season.
This should be a great opportunity for the Niners secondary to bounce back after allowing the Rams receivers tons of open space at SoFi. I am not one to make predictions, but with this being the most lopsided matchup of the contest, it would be disappointing to see San Francisco fail to bring in some takeaways in their home opener.