Giants’ effort in question on stir-causing play: ‘Never know’

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The last time one defensive snap late in a blowout loss by the Giants created this much of a stir, the aftermath included one player nearly walking out of a tense film review. 

The Giants’ secondary is under siege this week because coach Joe Judge challenged his team Sunday to give a full effort when facing a 25-point halftime deficit against the Rams. But replays show Cooper Kupp running toward the end zone as Logan Ryan takes a poor tackling angle, and James Bradberry and Xavier McKinney jog in pursuit of cutting off the angle at the goal line with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. 

Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson said Thursday that he “obviously” has a problem with his players not getting to Kupp on the sideline. 

“I don’t know if they could’ve gotten there,” Henderson said. “We’ll never know. That’s the problem. I’d like to know.” 

If this all sounds familiar, a completely different group of Giants defensive backs playing under a different coaching staff had its effort questioned during a loss to the 49ers in 2017. The ensuing internal criticism became so harsh that then-second year cornerback Eli Apple tried to leave the facility rather than take any more heat — and his once-promising career never recovered from going off the rails. 

Cooper Kupp's touchdown against the Giants.
Cooper Kupp’s touchdown against the Giants.
Robert Sabo for the NY Post

Four years later, some Super Bowl XLVI champions on hand to be honored lent player-on-player credibility to the new criticisms. Lawrence Tynes, in his role as a co-host for The Post’s Blue Rush podcast, called out three Giants for jogging on Kupp’s touchdown and called for Judge to threaten players’ job security as a result. 

“I was making my way over there,” Bradberry said. “I was on the left side of the field, he crossed over, ran a flat route, caught it and ran it into the end zone. We gave it full effort the whole game, not just the fourth quarter.” 

The issue is magnified because the Giants’ secondary consists of players earning a combined $35.2 million in 2021. That’s the highest positional total on the team and the fifth-highest among NFL secondaries. And yet opposing quarterbacks are completing a league-high 74 percent of passes against the Giants, with Bradberry’s noticeable drop-off from his 2020 Pro Bowl form. 

“You have to bring your best all the time,” Henderson said. “As a defense, we haven’t been to our best this year. Not just Bradberry, all of us have to play at a higher level. I have to do more to get these guys ready to play.” 

Bradberry and McKinney might not have been able to reach Kupp before he scored to open up a 38-3 lead, but they didn’t run through the whistle and would not have been able to join a gang tackle if a teammate held him up. 

“I don’t think guys were jogging,” Ryan said. “If it’s my effort or J.B.’s effort in question there, I think that I play hard every play, and that play I played as hard as I could until the end of the play. I understand that’s their right to analyze and critique, and I’ll take it. I’m going to go out there and play as hard as I can every play. I made a living on that, and I’ll continue to do that.” 

Logan Ryan said the Giants were not jogging on the Kupp TD.
Logan Ryan said the Giants were not jogging on the Kupp TD.
Robert Sabo for the NY Post

So, it doesn’t sound like there will be any players-only accountability film sessions. What about Judge? Did he call out the secondary or use film of any plays to make a broader point about hustle? 

“I challenged the coaches, I challenged every player,” Judge said. “I talk to them all the time about focus, knowledge and assignments — making sure we are on the same page about what to do. To me, execution goes along with the technique and the assignment, as well as the effort and the finish.” 

Ryan didn’t interpret Henderson’s “we’ll never know” comment as ripping the veterans before Sunday against the Panthers. 

“I think he’s just saying it’s in the past and we can’t harp on it now,” Ryan said. “I think their coach called their team out about getting back to their [run-first] identity. We’ve got to get back to our identity, so it will be an urgent game on both sides. That’s something we can control.”

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