The New York Giants have had a hard time containing tight ends this season. They’ve allowed a touchdown reception by a tight end in each of their nine games.
We expect touchdown receptions from the future Hall of Famer Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys-Week 1) and the Seattle Seahawks’ small forward convert Jimmy Graham (Week 7). The Philadelphia Eagles’ Zach Ertz (Week 3) is his quarterback’s favorite target and leads the team in receptions and touchdowns.
However, the Giants defense made the Detroit Lions’ Eric Ebron (Week 2), the Denver Broncos’ Jeff Heuerman (Week 6), and the San Francisco 49ers’ Garrett Celek (Week 10) look like the second coming of Mike Ditka, Ozzie Newsome, and Shannon Sharpe.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ O.J. Howard, the first tight end selected in the 2017 NFL Draft who is currently isn’t starting, got his first NFL touchdown against the Giants. Two Los Angeles tight ends, Hunter Henry (Chargers-Week 5) and Tyler Higbee (Rams-Week 9) have also gotten in the act.
The Giants face their toughest tight end test of the season in the form of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce. Kelce leads all NFL tight ends in receiving yards (629). He is also second in catches (51) and tied for second in touchdowns (five). He has 14 receptions for 203 yards in the Chiefs’ past two games: a win against the divisional rival Broncos and loss to the Cowboys.
The Giants had issues with covering pass catching tight ends even before their linebacking corps was hit by the injury bug. B.J. Goodson has been ruled out of Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium. Kelvin Sheppard re-signed with the team last week and is dealing with a quad injury. Keenan Robinson was also placed on injured reserve this week.
Calvin Munson and Curtis Grant should see increased time at the linebacker position. Jonathan Casillas and Devon Kennard are not great cover linebackers and have been dealing with injuries of their own.
A potential solution to neutralizing Kelce could be the use of three-safety sets. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo relied on three safety sets in the past but hasn’t used them much this season. He may not want to use them against the Chiefs.
The use of three safety sets could expose the Giants’ defense in the running game. The Chiefs are tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for tops in the league in yards per carry with 4.8. The Giants run defense is ranked 30th in the NFL, allowing 132.6 yards per game. The run defense is ahead of only the 49ers and Chargers.
The Giants are ranked 31st in total defense, allowing 400.3 yards per game. Only the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots have allowed more yards (408.3).