It’s felt like forever since the Bengals last took the field, but the team will finally be back in action on Monday Night Football. Cincinnati will be looking to get the evasive fourth win of the season in New York, where the Bengals got their first win of the year back in early September against the Jets. We spoke with Ed Valentine of Big Blue View, SB Nation’s Giants blog, to get an inside look at this year’s Giants team.
Connor Howe: How do you (and Giants fans) feel about Eli Manning as a quarterback? What tier would he fall in when compared to other NFL passers?
Ed Valentine: I say this all the time. Eli is not Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. He is a very good quarterback who does a lot of things well. Historically, he will be tough to judge because he will have top 10 numbers all-time when we know he's not a top 10 all-time quarterback. He won two Super Bowls and all-in-all is still capable of playing really well. What he is not capable of doing is carrying bad teams on his shoulders.
If I had to put him in a tier among current QBs I'd put him in the second tier, but I haven't taken the time to figure out who belongs in which tier.
CH: Obviously Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard are guys who opponents need to look out for, but are there any other players on the Giants' offense who have been performing well this season?
EV: Well, the Giants offense has underperformed for much of the season. So, naming other guys performing well is kind of difficult. Victor Cruz has had moments, but he's begun to lose playing time to rookie Roger Lewis. The Giants have struggled to run the ball, and we have begun to see more of rookie Paul Perkins. We'll see if those trends continue.
CH: Just how big of a deal is the fact that Justin Pugh will miss the next few weeks due to injury? Does his absence mean we'll see any time from Marshall Newhouse?
EV: Pugh, at least this season thus far, has been the Giants' best offensive lineman. That said, they didn't miss him all that much Sunday because Brett Jones stepped in and played very well. As for Newhouse, I think there would be a lot of broken TV sets among Giants fans if Newhouse were to start Monday, which would mean Jones went back to the bench and Bobby Hart moved from right tackle to left guard for Pugh.
Newhouse is not exactly a popular player, as you can tell.
*Editor’s note: Believe me, we know. Probably should’ve let Ed know how much Newhouse was targeted by Bengals fans when he played in Cincinnati.
CH: Tell me about this Giants defense. How have their big-ticket offseason free agent acquisitions performed so far?
EV: The Big Three (Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison) have played well. Jenkins has been the best, better than expected even. Vernon plays hard, generates pressure but his sack total is down and I think a lot of that has to do with playing through a wrist injury that, at times, has had him rushing one-handed. Harrison is an extraordinary run defender and a very popular player in the locker room and among the fan base.
Now, about Leon Hall. He was a valuable signing by the Giants and he has helped them as both rookie first-round pick Eli Apple and veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie have dealt with some injuries. Hall has also been an emergency free safety, another spot where the Giants have had injury issues.
The thing is -- and Bengals fans probably know this -- there is not a lot left in Hall's tank. His coverage skills have eroded and when he's forced to tackle I'm never sure he's going to get up. With all the Giants' corners healthy last week, Hall was a healthy scratch. The Giants said it was because he can't play special teams, but it tells you where he is in the pecking order.
CH: I'm personally curious about the dynamic between Eli Apple, his mother and the Giants. Has there been any Miko Grimes-esque drama, or are things pretty standard in that regard?
EV: Well, if you've followed the Josh Brown situation you should know the answer to this one. Annie Apple is a domestic abuse survivor with platforms she uses vociferously to express herself on Twitter, ESPN and Sports Illustrated. She was highly critical of the Giants' handling of the Brown situation, then — falsely, according to Eli — accused the Giants of using her son to try and shut her up.
So, no, there's nothing standard about the situation at all. It's a tough one that puts her son in a tricky spot.
CH: What's your score prediction?
EV: Giants 31, Bengals 24. The Giants are 5-3 and, as far as we can tell, just really beginning to believe they might be a pretty good team. The defense has been getting better and the offense hasn't really had anything resembling a breakout game yet. Sooner or later, one is coming.