Bye Week Thoughts: Unsung Heroes of the New York Giants 2011 Season

By Jeff Shull

The New York Giants are 4-2 entering the bye week, and with the way everyone wrote them off prior to the season it is something the team should be proud of.

Admittedly, they should probably be at least 5-1, but no one expected them to have a winning record given the amount of injuries they sustained.

Along the way there have been many players, mostly on defense, that have flown under the radar despite being a huge key to the Giants success.

Jacquian Williams, LB – I would have never guessed that Williams would be the starting linebacker over Greg Jones when Jonathan Goff went down, but that’s been the case. Williams has been incredible and way better than anyone could have expected.

The 2011 sixth round pick stepped in and has been making plays all over the field. Everyone knew he was physically gifted, but he’s grasped Perry Fewell’s schemes better than expected and been a key piece in the 4-2-5 defense. He’s racked up 35 tackles in five starts and is improving each week.

Jake Ballard, TE – Did anyone expect the Giants to actually have a solution at tight end? Ballard could still use some work as a blocker, but he’s been everything Kevin Boss was for Eli Manning. He had his best game last week when he caught five passes for 84 yards.

He’s emerged as a reliable threat when things break down; he has a knack for getting in perfect position for Eli when he starts rolling out of the pocket. Ballard has been very impressive the last couple weeks and like Williams, seems to be getting better and better.

Mathias Kiwanuka, LB – Kiwanuka is off to an incredible start. He doesn’t have huge tackle numbers, but he makes stops in the running game and rushes the passer as well as he has in the past.

I’ve said this before—I don’t know that there is a more versatile defensive player in the league. He can play all three linebacker spots and every spot along the defensive line. Fewell is lucky to have a guy like Kiwanuka, and the Giants are lucky his neck injury hasn’t been a problem this year (knock on wood).

Tom Quinn, Special Teams Coach – The Giants helped out Quinn by signing Steve Weatherford and drafting guys who can help in special teams, but the entire unit is light years ahead of last year’s.

Special Teams was a cancer on the Giants last year, but this year they’ve been one of the best units in football. Quinn is a huge part of that success.

Dave Tollefson – Tollefson tested the free agent market this year—thank God no one signed him. With Justin Tuck missing games, Tollefson has been a huge reason the Giants still rush the passer effectively.

Despite backing up Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul, he has three sacks on the year. The Giants love to rotate their defensive ends, and they are lucky to still have a player like Tollefson on the team.

Michael Boley – Is there anyone on the Giants defense off to a better start than Boley? You might argue against that considering the Giants run defense has been pretty bad of late, but Boley shouldn’t be considered part of that problem. The front four haven’t done the Giants any favors in the run defense department.

Boley has 40 tackles, three for a loss, two passes defended, and three fumble recoveries. He also had the fumble return for a touchdown that gave the Giants the lead against the Rams. He’s caught some flack from fans since his signing, but he’s been one of their best players the past two seasons. He has a ton of speed, does a good job covering tight ends and running backs and is the Giants’ best blitzing linebacker.



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