There’s been so much attention showered on halfback Saquon Barkley, it’s easy to forget the New York Giants have been getting contributions from some other rookies.
Will Hernandez, the second-round pick, has started all 12 games at left guard and helped Barkley get within 46 yards of a 1,000-yard rushing season.
The guy who gets overlooked is defensive lineman B.J. Hull, the third-round pick out of North Carolina State who was the 69th player chosen in the draft.
Hill, who started two of the first seven games, has been a mainstay in the lineup since New York traded defensive tackle Damon Harrison to Detroit in October.
“When he came in, the thing that stood out the most, is that he’s ahead of his time in terms of his maturity level,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said Thursday.
“In the meeting room, on the practice field, the way he works, the conversation, you can rip his butt, you can coach him hard, lift him up, he can handle all that beyond what many rookies I’ve been around have been able to.”
Bettcher also is impressed Hill is not hitting the wall late in the season. He is actually playing better.
A North Carolina State product, Hill had a career game this past weekend against the Chicago Bears with three tackles and three sacks. He has a team-high five sacks, which ties the team rookie record set by linebacker Andy Headen in 1983 and tied by tackle Cornelius Griffin in 2000.
Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor had 9½ sacks as a rookie in 1981, but that was a year before sacks became an official statistic, so it is not officially the record.
No Giants rookie has ever finished a season leading the team in sacks.
“It feels pretty good,” Hill said of getting a sack, which he compared to a receiver scoring a touchdown. “I am not going to lie, especially since we won the game. It was an amazing feeling, especially when you have the guys celebrating with you and congratulating you.”
Hill is different than most rookies. He is quiet, mature and not very flashy. There was no elaborate sack dance after any of his takedowns of Bears quarterback Chase Daniel.
The Giants had 14 sacks in their first 11 games and picked up five Sunday, with linebacker Olivier Vernon getting the other two.
“I just think the team is coming together and we’re playing as one now,” Hill said. “You can see the way we are playing, the way we practice, the way we go about ourselves on a day-to-day basis.”
The biggest adjustment Hill has had to make is living in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. There are many more people than in North Carolina and there is no comparing the traffic.
Hill played on one of the best defensive lines in college last year. The Wolfpack had Bradley Chubb — the No. 5 pick overall by Denver — Justin Jones, who also was taken in the third round by the Chargers, and Kentavius Street, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Niners.
Chubb leads all rookies with 10 sacks. He also took note of Hill’s accomplishment on Sunday.
“He did text me congratulations,” Hill said.
Notes: The Giants decided not to activate veteran RB Jonathan Stewart from injured reserve. He was designated to return from a foot injury (Sept. 28) and has practiced the past three weeks. … S Landon Collins was officially placed on injured reserve. He needs shoulder surgery to fix a partially torn labrum incurred Sunday. … S Michael Thomas was selected as the Giants’ nominee for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The award is for outstanding community service activities off the field as well as excellence on the field. … TE Evan Engram (hamstring), WR Sterling Shepard (ribs) and LB Lorenzo Carter (hip) practiced full Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. LBs Tae Davis (foot) missed his second straight practice, while LB B.J. Goodson (neck/foot) was limited.
Source: The Associated Press