Feb 282009

Giants Agree to Terms With Boley: According to The Daily News, the Giants have agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent LB Michael Boley. The deal is supposedly a 5-year, $25 million contract that includes $10 million in guaranteed money. The Daily News is reporting that Boley was expected to sign the contract last night or sign it this morning. Newsday is reporting that most of the deal was actually negotiated before Boley arrived yesterday and that he is expected to sign the contract today.

DT Rocky Bernard Visiting the Giants: According to The Star-Ledger and The Daily News, unrestricted free agent DT Rocky Bernard (Seattle Seahawks) visited the Giants yesterday and will continue to meet with team officials today. The Daily News is reporting that Bernard could sign with the Giants today.

DE/DT Chris Canty Visits Today: According to various press reports, unrestricted free agent DE/DT Chris Canty (Dallas Cowboys) will visit with the Giants today. Newsday is reporting that the visit with the Giants will last today and tomorrow. Canty was scheduled to visit with the Titans on Saturday but that visit has been re-scheduled. In addition, Canty has received interest from the Seahawks.

Giants Express Interest in DE Antonio Smith: The Daily News is reporting that the Giants have asked unrestricted free agent DE Antonio Smith (Arizona Cardinals) to visit the team. There is no word if Smith has accepted. The Star-Ledger is reporting that Smith is expected to visit the Giants sometime in the next few days. Newsday is reporting that Smith will visit with the Houston Texans first however.

Safety James Butler Visits the Rams: Unrestricted free agent James Butler (New York Giants) visited the St. Louis Rams yesterday. The Rams’ new head coach, Steve Spagnuolo, was Butler’s defensive coordinator with the Giants last season.

HB Derrick Ward to Visit the Bengals: Unrestricted free agent HB Derrick Ward (New York Giants) told Sirius Radio yesterday that he would be visiting the Cincinnati Bengals. “(The Giants) left the door open for me and I know they would love to have me back, but it’s a business,” said Ward, “and the business aspect of it right now is I feel I’m a starter and I proved I can help a team win some games and reach a Super Bowl level.”

No Interest Yet in WR Amani Toomer: According to The Star-Ledger, Newsday, and his own website, WR Amani Toomer (unrestricted free agent) does not have a visit set up with another other team. “As far as I know, there are no negotiations with the Giants and I don’t expect to be back,” said Toomer on his website. “I don’t think I figure in the Giants’ plans…I think I’d like to play another two or three years. Then I think I’ll be ready to retire.”

DT Albert Hayneworth Signs With Redskins; Giants Were in the Mix: Unrestricted free agent DT Albert Hayneworth (Tennessee Titans), who had said the Giants were interested his services earlier this week, has signed a 7-year, $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins.

The Daily News is reporting that “the Giants were in the mix for several hours with Haynesworth” after free agency started yesterday at 12:01AM, according to two NFL sources. And one source told the paper that the Giants did not immediately back down when the team was told that Haynesworth was looking for more than $30 million in guaranteed money. Haynesworth’s agent said the choice ultimately came down to the Redskins and Buccaneeers.

Feb 272009

Free Agency Begins – LB Michael Boley Visits Giants: Free agency began at 12:01AM this morning. The Star-Ledger is reporting that unrestricted free agent LB Michael Boley (Atlanta Falcons) will visit the Giants today. Peter King of SI.com is reporting that the Giants are prepared to offer Boley $5 million per year.

Houshmandzadeh Says He’s Interested in the Giants: The Daily News Giants’ blog is reporting that unrestricted free agent WR  T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Cincinnati Bengals) told his agent that he interested in signing with four teams, including the Seahawks, Vikings, Eagles, and Giants. However, there is no word on whether or not the Giants are interested.

More Details on Fred Robbins’ Injury: It was reported last week that defensive tackles Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. According to The Star-Ledger, Robbins injured his knee in the playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Ledger reports the injury occurred when Robbins was tackled after intercepting a pass from QB Donovan McNabb.

Quotes: HB Brandon Jacobs on WR Plaxico Burress: “We have to hope Plaxico Burress gets out of all the issues he has going on there legally. If he can get out of that, we can bring him back and I think that is basically all we need, to be honest with you…We have a lot of young talent on our team, but you need to get 17 back…He does (expect to be back). If he can get out of this situation that he is in, everybody prays and hopes that he doesn’t go to jail, and then the sky is the limit for him. He has cleaned up, no organization problems, no off the field problems, none of that would be happening with him again. I don’t see any of that happening because he knows how close he came to losing everything he has. I think his mind is right now and he is ready to get back out there and perform like he had been doing.”

Feb 262009

New York Giants Re-Sign Brandon Jacobs: The Giants officially announced yesterday that they have re-signed HB Brandon Jacobs. The Giants had slapped the franchise tag on Jacobs on February 13th in order to prevent other teams from pursuing him free agency, which begins on Friday.

According to press reports, the contract is a 4-year, $25 million deal that includes $13 million in guaranteed money. Jacobs will also reportedly receive $15 million of the deal within the first two years of the contract. The deal supposedly saves the Giants $1.1 million in cap space in 2009 as Jacobs would have otherwise been due $6.621 million as franchised running back.

“Both parties are happy to get a long-term deal done,” said General Manager Jerry Reese. “Now Brandon can totally concentrate on the offseason program and get himself ready to go this fall.”

“Brandon is ecstatic to continue his career with the New York Giants,” said Jacobs’ agent. “We appreciate the Giants’ investment in Brandon and especially acknowledge the effort put in by (Assistant General Manager) Kevin Abrams. We’re excited to keep Brandon in Giants’ blue for years to come.”

“I was confident all along that this was going to get done – I didn’t panic one bit,” Jacobs said. “I know the reason we did it the way we did; I knew I was going to be here. I was super-confident and I am here. I’m happy about it. This team is full of young talent. We brought some great talent in here the last two years and those guys are still learning and getting better. Our offensive line is great and will continue to be great. There are a lot of young guys on our team that are still playing great, great football. I’m looking for big things out of our football team next year.”

Jacobs will address the press today at a 10:00AM conference call.

Haynesworth Mentions Giants?: Soon-to-be unrestricted free agent DT Albert Haynesworth reportedly told The Tennessean that the Redskins, Buccaneers, and Giants are teams that he could possibly sign with once free agency starts. Media reports have circulated that Haynesworth is expected to sign with the Redskins so this may simply be a case  of posturing (i.e., driving up the Redskins asking price) on the part of Haynesworth and his agent.

Giants Not Interested in WR Marvin Harrison?: According to Newsday, sources with the Giants and the NFL have told the paper that the Giants are not interested in WR Marvin Harrison, who was recently released by the Indianapolis Colts on Tuesday.

Feb 252009

New York Giants 2009 NFL Free Agency Preview: General Manager Jerry Reese says there are always good players available in free agency.  “There are always good players,” said Reese at the NFL Combine on February 21.  “You just have to look deep into what you need and what’s available. There are always people in free agency who can help you fill some holes in your roster.  Sometimes you have to look a little deeper.  It would be nice to get all the top guys, but that’s (not) really reality, so you have to look at the mid levels.  And you even have to bottom-feed sometimes in free agency.”

To me, it seems that each year there are fewer interesting players available.  Part of this is due to the fact that teams are doing a better job of retaining their own good players.  On top of that, the Franchise tag has been used more this year than ever before.  But also, the Giants’ talent level on their roster right now is very good.  If the Giants bottom feed, there is no guarantee that these players will even make the team or be significant contributors.  For example, last year the Giants signed players such as Danny Clark, Sammy Knight, Renaldo Wynn, Shane Olivea, David Carr, and Jonathan Palmer.  The one starter out of that group – Clark – was just OK.  Wynn was an unexciting reserve who may not be re-signed.  Knight rarely played and was just cut.  Olivea and Palmer did not make the team.  Carr has been re-signed as Eli’s primary back-up.  My point?  Don’t get your hopes up!

Quarterback: With David Carr re-signed, the Giants already have an experienced veteran behind Manning.  The Giants will not likely add another veteran here though they could re-sign Anthony Wright to compete for the #3 job with Andre Woodson and possibly another draft pick.

Wide Receivers: With Plaxico Burress’ future with the team very much in doubt and Amani Toomer’s days in New York most likely over, this obviously is one of the chief areas of concern for the Giants.  I think the Giants hold Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith in high regard and both are still just scratching the surface of their potential.  It remains to be seen if Mario Manningham can mentally adjust to the pro game.  Sinorice Moss was rumored to be on the trading block last year.  David Tyree is a 4th/5th-type of receiver.  The Giants will undoubtedly draft a wide receiver or two.  But rookie wideouts don’t usually make a big impact.  So the Giants probably will look at free agents and possibly a trade.  The problem is there is not much out there in free agency.  T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Bengals) will be 32 years old in September, is not really a vertical threat, and will likely be in high demand.  The Giants may be better off looking at a guy like Nate Washington (Steelers).  He’s inconsistent, but he is fast.  He’s also young (turns 26 in August) and improving.  Devery Henderson (Saints) is inconsistent, but he can also get down the field.  The Giants could also take a chance on someone like Miles Austin (Cowboys) or Hank Baskett (Eagles).  Both have size, speed, and special teams return ability.  (Late Update: The Jets also released Laveranues Coles. Although he is past 30 and not the vertical threat the Giants need, he may be someone the Giants consider if they want a veteran presence).

Running Backs: No quality fullback will want to sign with the Giants with Madison Hedgecock firmly entrenched as the starter.  Brandon Jacobs was franchised and will be back (Late Update: Jacobs was re-signed to a 4-year, $25 million deal).  Derrick Ward will hit the open market and is not likely to return.  That said, the Giants are in good shape with Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Danny Ware.  It is possible that the Giants could sign a second-tier veteran to compete with Bradshaw and Ware.

Tight Ends: The Giants have a decent group of tight ends in Kevin Boss, Darcy Johnson, and Michael Matthews.  But if Boss were to go down, the Giants might be in trouble.  Adding another tight end in free agency or the draft is certainly a possibility.  However, there are not many interesting guys available in free agency at tight end.  If the Giants want to consider an older veteran, they may look at someone like the versatile Jim Kleinsasser (Vikings).

Offensive Line: The starting five is one of the best offensive lines in football and all are signed through at least 2011.  The question is one of depth.  What do the Giants truly think about Guy Whimper, Adam Koets, and Kevin Boothe?  Will an attempt be made to re-sign Grey Ruegamer or will the Giants look to add a younger veteran?  Obviously a top-tier player will not likely be the focus here.

Defensive Ends: The Giants are in great shape with Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Mathias Kiwanuka.  Adding a fourth defensive end to compete with Dave Tollefson and Robert Henderson would be ideal, but that person will likely come in the draft.

Defensive Tackle: The Giants are in good shape here as long as Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins recover well from offseason knee scopes.  Jay Alford is a quality reserve.  What would make the Giants’ defensive line truly outstanding would be adding a player like Albert Haynesworth (Titans).  But he is likely far out of the Giants’ price range.  Shaun Cody (Lions) has been a disappointment in Detroit, but he could do better with a change of scenery.  The Giants could also look at some 3-4 ends who could play in the 4-3 at tackle such as Chris Canty (Cowboys), Igor Olshanksy (Chargers), and Stephen Bowen (Cowboys).

Linebackers: The Giants need more speed and athleticism here.  Bryan Kehl probably has a future at the weakside spot.  Antonio Pierce will likely remain the starter for at least one more year inside, but the Giants do like Jonathan Goff behind him.  Still, more bodies are needed.  Look for the Giants to draft at least one linebacker, possibly two.  As for free agents, the team could look at Jonathan Vilma (Saints), Channing Crowder (Dolphins), Napoleon Harris (Vikings), Kevin Burnett (Cowboys), or Marcus Washington (recently cut by Redskins).  (Late Update: Crowder was re-signed by the Dolphins).

Cornerbacks: The Giants are in very good shape at cornerback with Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Kevin Dockery (protected with 2nd round tender), and Terrell Thomas.  Look for the Giants to draft a corner to replace Dockery in 2010.

Safeties: The Giants have solid starters in Kenny Phillips and Michael Johnson, but no depth if James Butler departs as is quite possible.  Additional bodies will have to be acquired either through the draft or free agency.  The Giants could look at back-up type who is also a special teams stud like Sean Considine (Eagles).

Kickers: Jeff Feagles and Lawrence Tynes are likely to be the kickers in 2009.

Feb 252009

Darcy Johnson, Dave Tollefson, and Leger Douzable Sign Tenders: According to The Daily News, exclusive rights free agents TE Darcy Johnson, DE Dave Tollefson, and DT Leger Douzable have signed their respective 1-year tenders.

Kay-Jay Harris’ Future with the Giants in Doubt: According to The Daily News, HB Kay-Jay Harris is still rehabbing from a serious foot injury that he suffered last August in a preseason game against the Browns. Apparently, Harris has not even begun running yet.

If he was tendered by the Giants, Harris would be an exclusive rights free agent. The Daily News article seems to suggest that Harris was tendered.

Feb 242009
Philadelphia Eagles 23  – New York Giants 11

By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Overview: The Giants shut down Brian Westbrook.  New York had more total yards (307 to 276) and rushing yards (138 to 59).  The Giants had fewer penalties (6 to 8).  Time of possession was virtually identical.  Both quarterbacks threw two interceptions.  But the Giants were 0-and-3 in red zone opportunities, couldn’t run during crucial stretches, missed two field goals, and handed the Eagles a touchdown due to a bad decision by Eli Manning.

For the Giants and their fans, the 2008 post-season was a brutal reminder just how precious the Championship and the 2007 post-season were.  In football, nothing is given.  It is earned.  Every playoff game is a season in itself and if you do not out-play your opponent on that given day, you go home.  It hurts, but that is the reality of post-season football.  #1 seeds fall all the time in the playoffs.  It’s not a rare event.

The 2008 season will be a bittersweet one for the New York Giants.  For most of the season, the Giants were clearly the dominant team in the NFC and arguably the most well-rounded one in the NFL.  The Giants accrued 12 wins, an NFC East title, and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

So why weren’t the Giants playing their best football at season’s end?  We can only speculate.  Sometimes it just happens in sports.  Some teams simply peak too early.  The loss of Plaxico Burress – one of the team’s best players – not only hurt on the field, but was a distraction.  Injuries and fatigue began to mount on the defensive line – the strength of the defense.  And Eli Manning picked a bad spot to play perhaps his worst game of the season.

It’s not so much that the Giants lost to the Eagles that hurt, but that they lost period.  The Championship Door is wide open for the Giants right now.  The Giants have moved beyond division rivalries.  It’s a time to collect trophies.  The Giants had put themselves in excellent position to win their eighth NFL title and they blew it.  Those opportunities don’t come around all that often.  Just ask the Eagles.  Philadelphia last won an NFL Championship half a century ago.

Quarterback: Before launching into my criticism of Manning, fans need to gain some perspective here.  The Eli bashers have come out of the woodwork, using this game as proof-positive that Manning is a liability, not an asset.  These people conveniently ignore that it was Manning who carried the offense during the Giants’ unbelievable 4-0 playoff run in 2007.  The Giants not only were road underdogs in all four of those games, but the team trailed in each of those contests.  AND the Giants’ running game sputtered in all four of those playoff games.  These “fans” also ignore the fact that Manning legitimately earned his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2008 by playing his best, most consistent football of his still young career.

What happened against Philadelphia?  The unsatisfying answer is that Eli had a bad day.  It wasn’t just the wind.  Eli made some poor decisions and some poor throws.  Was he hurt by the absence of Eagle-killer Plaxico Burress?  Certainly.  Was he hurt by some of the play calling?  In my opinion, yes at times, but not as much as some of his advocates contend.  Though I usually despise over-simplifying a game, the difference in this contest was that Donovan McNabb made more plays and fewer bad throws than Manning did.

Manning’s stats (15-of-29 for 169 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) were dreadful.  But I still wonder if all of the incompletions were really on Eli.  For example, Eli’s first throw looked to be a very errant deep pass to Steve Smith, who was wide open between the corner and the safety.  I wonder if it was Smith who made the mistake on the play.  Eli threw to the wide open spot in the defense.  Had Eli thrown to where Smith was running, the pass (and receiver) would have been in the area where the safety was closing.  Did Eli expect Smith to adjust his route?  Or was it simply a bad throw?  I’m not sure.

I think the most damaging play of the game – by far – was the colossal mistake Eli made on the first play of the Giants’ second possession.  The Giants were up 3-0 and the defense impressively shut down the Eagles on their first possession.  Momentum was on the Giants’ side.  Coughlin and Gilbride called a relatively safe pass play – a play-action rollout to the right, a short pass play intended for Kevin Boss.  However, the Eagles were not fooled and the defender stayed with Boss.  Manning had two Eagles immediately in his face and instead of throwing the ball away, he took a big risk by throwing the ball up for grabs in the direction of inexperienced Domenik Hixon.  The ensuing interception was returned to the Giants’ 2-yard line and set up an easy touchdown.  The Eagles did NOTHING on offense at all in the first quarter of the game, but still led 7-3.  Worse, the turnover and ensuing lead boosted Philly’s confidence and provided them with hope.  The throw by Manning was the kind of mistake that he pretty much eliminated in 2008.  Unfortunately, he picked a terrible time to make one of his worst plays of the season.  It’s the kind of play that loses ball games.

On the ensuing possession, the Giants committed to running the football, but were stonewalled.  Manning did convert a 3rd-and-8 with a nice pass to Smith for the first down.  But his 3rd-and-9 pass three plays later was a terribly wobbly effort that sailed out of bounds in the direction of an open Amani Toomer (I think the pass rush affected Manning’s throw more on this play than the wind, but too many of Eli’s passes were very wobbly).  When the Giants got the ball back for the fourth time, two runs again picked up very little yardage.  On 3rd-and-7, Manning impressively scrambled away from pressure and threw a nice deep ball to Smith and just missed him.  Really, this game was a series of “almosts” for the Giants – but that can be said of almost any game too.

In the second quarter, with the wind at his back, a 21-yard throw from Manning to Kevin Boss gave the Giants a first-down at the Eagles’ 28-yard line.  After Jacobs was stuffed for no gain, Manning just missed hitting Hixon deep – the pass was a tad too long.  His 3rd-and-10 pass to Boss was very much off the mark.  Carney missed the ensuing 46-yard field goal effort.

On the Giants’ next drive in the second quarter, the running game finally came to life.  Jacobs broke off a 24-yard run.  Ward followed this up with a 5-yard effort.  Manning hit Boss for 25 yards off of play-action.  With two minutes left in the half, the Giants are moving!  Finally!  But here is where the play-calling combined with Manning’s poor play sabotaged the Giants.  Facing a 1st-and-5 from the Eagles’ 21-yard line, with the ground attack finally coming to life, and Eli demonstrating that he is not at the top of his game, Coughlin/Gilbride decide on three straight pass plays OUT OF THE SHOTGUN.  It’s the latter point that bothered me the most.  Granted the Giants have had success all season long with running plays to Derrick Ward out of the shotgun.  But I just don’t like this formation in this type of down-and-distance situation.  The shotgun is usually a pass play.  The drive predictably stalled when Eli was terribly off the mark on his first two throws and the third resulted in a 4-yard dump-off to Ward.

As pissed as I was about use of the play-calling/use of the shotgun in at the end of the second quarter, I turned livid about it at the start of the third quarter.  Fred Robbins had just intercepted McNabb.  Jacobs followed this up with runs of 11 and 5 yards.  The Eagles are back on their heels.  The ground game is going.  The crowd is into it.  2nd-and-5 from the Eagles’ 17-yard line.  What do Coughlin/Gilbride call?  A 5-wide, empty-backfield, shotgun set!!!  What the f#@*?!!  Pass dropped by Ward – incomplete.  3rd-and-5.  Pass thrown behind Boss – incomplete.  36-yard field goal and the Giants’ last points of the day.  I think Coughlin and Gilbride did a wonderful job of play-calling most of the season, a season where the Giants’ offense excelled.  But even going back to the time when John Hufnagel was the offensive coordinator, I feel the Giants have overused the shotgun.  And I don’t think Coughlin has ever gotten a good feel for playing the wind at the Meadowlands.  Parcells knew the wind would affect his game plans and adjusted accordingly.  One almost gets the sense that Coughlin thinks the wind is something that can be overcome with strong willpower.  Beyond all of that – 2nd and 5, empty backfield???  You are telling the team that you are finally running the ball against that a pass play is coming.  Why would you do that?  If you want to pass, fine, but don’t advertize the pass to the opposing defense in this situation.  You take away the guesswork.  Strange!  No, make that stupid.

Final Giants’ possession in third quarter and the final moments the Giants will have the wind at their back in this game:  Eagles ahead 13-11.  On 3rd-and-5, Manning throws one of his prettiest passes of the season – an absolutely perfectly thrown 34-yard deep strike to Hixon giving the Giants a 1st-and-10 at the Eagles’ 30-yard line.  Manning throws high to Hixon – incomplete.  Jacobs stuffed.  On 3rd-and-9, Manning tries to dump the ball off short to Ward, but Ward is stripped of the football before he can secure it.  47-yard field goal attempt no good.  God damn it!!!

The exclamation points on an overall crappy day for Manning were his piss-poor effort on the failed 4-and-inches quarterback sneak (he should have been lower) and his poorly thrown pass intended for Steve Smith that was intercepted late in the game.  One final note on Manning:  Manning has enough experience now for him to be having so many problems with managing the play clock.  Eli continues to waste timeouts with his lack of attention in this crucial phase of the game.

Wide Receivers: The games between the Giants and Eagles have always been very, very tight.  And in recent years, the difference in games the Giants have won has often been Plaxico Burress.  He’s proven to be an Eagle-killer.  And Burress was sorely missed in this game.  The Eagles play tight, aggressive man coverage.  Burress is the only receiver the Giants have who can consistently make the opponent pay for playing that style of defense.  The Eagles very much appreciated his absence.

“Well when he isn’t there, there is a huge part of their offense taken away,” said Eagles’ safety Brian Dawkins. “The ability of him and Eli to be on the same page, sometimes playing playground ball on the weak side, if he has a one-on-one over there, they feel he is going to win that battle nine times out of ten. As a defense you don’t have to be as concerned about roaming from one guy to another because you can’t play Plaxico one on one without expecting him to have a huge game.”

“We probably played a lot more roll-up coverage to his side, no question about it,” said Eagles’ Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson after the Eagles beat the Giants in the regular season at the Meadowlands.  “He’s always been a big-play guy against us, and we always felt because of the matchup we had to roll the coverage to his side. So that makes you play a little bit more of seven people in the box.  But when he’s not there you say, ‘Hey, we can play a lot more of eight people in the box.’ We probably would’ve done it a little bit more anyway because we didn’t do a good job against the run last time, but still it was a comfort thing.  Remember, Burress – especially in the red zone – is such a great player who comes up with big plays. It gave us a little more chance of playing safeties up in the box.”

So the absence of Burress not only affected the passing game, but also the running game.

Against the Eagles on Sunday, Giants’ receivers only caught six passes for 80 yards and no touchdowns.  That’s pathetic.  Were the receivers so unproductive because of the quarterback or was the quarterback so unproductive because of the receivers?  Probably both.  Domenik Hixon (2 catches for 37 yards) and Steve Smith (2 catches for 17 yards) have bright futures, but both are still green and learning.  And Amani Toomer (2 catches for 26 yards) was a virtual non-factor for most of the season despite being a starter.  None of these three scared the Eagles’ quality cornerbacks who play in-your-face coverage.  The only big play made was the 34-yard reception by Hixon in the third quarter.  Steve Smith fumbled the ball away late without being touched.

Running Backs: The Giants out-gained the Eagles on the ground 138 to 59.  The rushing statistics don’t look bad against a very good defensive opponent, but the Giants’ ground game really let the team down during crucial stretches, particularly in the first and early second quarters.  For example, on the first possession, facing a 1st-and-10 at the Eagles’ 11-yard line, two carries by Jacobs only picked up two yards, creating a 3rd-and-8 situation.  On the third drive, four carries by Derrick Ward picked up three yards, creating 3rd-and-8 and 3rd-and-9 situations.  On the fourth possession, two carries by Jacobs picked up three yards, creating a 3rd-and-7 situation.  Eli Manning was in 3rd-and-long too often against a defense with a superb pass defense.  Of course, this is tied into the fact that the Eagles were not afraid of the Giants’ receivers so they often crowded the line with a safety, creating match-up issues in the ground attack.

The ground game finally started to come to life late in the second quarter.  Behind excellent block from Kareem McKenzie, Kevin Boss, Shaun O’Hara, and Madison Hedgecock, Jacobs (19 carries for 92 yards) broke off a 24-yard run and was just tripped up or a 56-yard touchdown would have been the result (another “almost”).  Jacobs also picked up 16 yards on two back-to-back carries early in the 3rd quarter before the Giants got pass happy.

Jacobs really looked uncomfortable on running plays out of the shotgun formation.  Jacobs was sluggish on all of these unproductive plays.  Ward and Bradshaw are better suited for this formation, though truth be told, most of the shotgun running plays were defended well by the Eagles.

Derrick Ward (12 carries for 46 yards; 5 catches for 24 yards) played decently, but couldn’t handle two passes thrown in his direction.  His best effort came in the 4th quarter after the Giants fell behind 20-11.  He had three consecutive tough runs for 14, 9, and 5 yards.  One of the dumbest play calls of the game was the 3rd-and-2 direct snap to Ward in the 4th quarter.  The “brain trust” called on Domenik Hixon to block a defensive end in the direction the play was run.  Of course it was blown up, and on the very next snap Jacobs was stuffed on 4th-and-2 and the Giants turned the ball over on downs.

Tight Ends: Kevin Boss (3 catches for 52 yards) made two big pass receptions in the second quarter: one for 21 yards and the second for 25 yards.  He also made a really nice block on Jacobs’ 24-yard run that almost went the distance.  Darcy Johnson (1 catch for 13 yards) flashed on his one catch on the first drive of the game.

Offensive Line: A solid job against a very good and confusing defense.  The Giants rushed for 138 yards and did not allow a sack.  However, as pointed out above, Manning was put in far too many 3rd-and-long situations by the inability of the offensive line to create sufficient running room for the backs early in the game.  In addition, the middle of the offensive line did not get a lot of movement on Manning’s failed 4th-and-inches sneak or Brandon Jacobs’ failed 4th-and-2 run.  In both cases, it looked like the Eagles wanted it more.

The offensive line excelled in pass protection.  The Giants did a very good job of blocking the Eagles’ quality pass-rushing defensive linemen and picking up blitzers.

Defense: The defense played great for almost an entire half, allowing only 11 yards of offense at one point midway through the second quarter.  But the defense let its guard down at the very end of the second quarter, allowing the Eagles to drive 68 yards in 1:33 to regain the lead.  The defense came up with an interception to start the third quarter, but then allowed three scoring drives in the next four possessions, salting the game away for the Eagles.  Fatigue is not an excuse.  Time of possession was relatively equal.  Truth be told – the defense also deserves a lot of the blame for this painful defeat.  Football is a 60 minute game.

The damage was done through the air.  The run defense was excellent.  Brian Westbrook was held to 36 yards on 18 carries (2 yards per rush).  Correll Buckhalter had even less success, gaining 7 yards on 5 carries.

Defensive Line: The defensive line played well against the run but was lacking on the pass rush.  Injuries to Justin Tuck (multiple leg injuries, including his knee), Fred Robbins (shoulder and broken hands), Mathias Kiwanuka (ankle) were exacerbated by the lack of quality depth.  Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan were not missed early in the season, but they were missed late.

Tuck (5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 quarterback hit) did not generate as much heat as hoped against a banged up right tackle, but his pressure did cause McNabb to intentionally ground the ball out of the end zone, resulting in a safety.  In the second quarter, he stuffed Buckhalter for no gain.  But a killer sequence occurred in the third quarter.  On 3rd-and-20, Tuck got to McNabb but could not bring him down.  Mathias Kiwanuka also failed to coral the elusive McNabb, who made a superb play by breaking away from a sure sack and spotting wide open receiver on the opposite side of the field.  The play was a momentum changer.  Instead of punting near their 10-yard line, the Eagles ended up driving 58 yards and regaining the lead.  In addition, the Eagles converted on 3rd-and-10 on this drive after Tuck left the game for a play (he had aggravated his knee injury).  Without Tuck, McNabb had all the time in the world in the pocket and found Buckhalter for a first down.  Tuck’s pressure two plays later however prevented a touchdown as McNabb missed a wide-open Westbrook in the end zone.  Tuck nailed Westbrook for a 1-yard loss near the goal line late in the game.

As for much of the season, Kiwanuka (0 tackles, 1 quarterback hit) played the run well by holding his ground, but did not apply nearly enough pass pressure.  Jerome McDougle saw some meaningful playing time but did nothing against his old team.

Barry Cofield (5 tackles), Fred Robbins (0 tackles, 1 quarterback hit, 1 interception), Jay Alford (3 tackles, 1 TFL) all did a nice job against the run.  Robbins made a wonderful play by picking off a deflected pass and returning it 17 yards.  He just barely got tripped up or a 50-yard touchdown return may have been the result (yes, yet another “almost”).

Linebackers: Along with the defensive line and defensive backs, the linebackers did a nice job against the run.  Antonio Pierce (10 tackles) was active.  He had good coverage over the middle on an incomplete pass intended for DeSean Jackson in the second quarter.  However, Pierce was flagged with an illegal contact penalty.  Later, he was also flagged with a costly 15-yard face mask penalty on the Eagles’ lone, long TD drive.  It’s tough to blame Pierce for the 19-yard pass reception on 3rd-and-10 in the 3rd quarter by Buckhalter as McNabb had way too much time on the play.

Chase Blackburn (5 tackles, 1 pass defense) deflected a pass that was intercepted by Fred Robbins.  Blackburn did miss a tackle on a pass to Kevin Curtis that picked up 15 yards.  Danny Clark (5 tackles) stuffed Westbrook on the goal line, momentarily preventing a touchdown.  Someone screwed up by not covering TE Brent Celek on his 1-yard touchdown catch.  It may have been Clark as James Butler stayed with Westbrook.

Defensive Backs: Corey Webster (5 tackles, 1 pass defense) did not have one of his better games.  In fact, it may have been his worst game of the season.  He expertly stayed with Kevin Curtis on an incomplete 3rd-and-16 crossing pattern.  But he was also very lucky that Kevin Curtis dropped a deep pass in the third quarter as Webster was badly beaten on the play.  Curtis then beat him for a 15-yard completion over the middle two plays later.  Despite tight coverage, he also allowed an 8-yard reception to Curtis on 3rd-and-5 on the Eagles’ second-half TD drive though he did a nice job of forcing an incompletion with tight coverage on the next play.  In the 4th quarter, Webster did an outstanding job of tackling the dangerous Westbrook short of the first down on 3rd-and-5.  But he was later burned deep by DeSean Jackson for a 48-yard gain down to the Giants’ 1-yard line.

Aaron Ross (2 tackles, 1 TFL) kept his opponent quiet.  He was flagged with bogus illegal use of the hands penalty.

Kevin Dockery (4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 interception) picked off an errant throw by McNabb in the second quarter.  He seemed to match up well with the elusive DeSean Jackson.  He also caused Buckhalter to lose a yard on a run in the 4th quarter with his penetration.

Terrell Thomas (4 tackles, 1 quarterback hit) played well and really flashed on the blitz.  He blew up a Westbrook run for a 3-yard loss.  Later in the first quarter, his pressured McNabb on a blitz, leading to an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-10.  (This was another one of those “almosts” as Thomas came damn closing to stripping the ball out of McNabb’s hands near the goal line.)  In the second quarter, it was Thomas’ pressure on McNabb that led to a bad throw that Dockery picked off.

James Butler (6 tackles) made a nice play in run defense in the third quarter by stuffing Buckhalter for no gain.  Michael Johnson (5 tackles, 2 TFL) flashed.  He nailed Buckhalter for a 3-yard loss after a short pass and stuffed Westbrook for a 1-yard loss.  But he also was flagged for a defensive holding penalty on 2nd-and-goal.  Kenny Phillips (3 tackles) got beat by Westbrook out of the slot on a play that should have resulted in a touchdown had the pass been on the mark.

Special Teams: John Carney had missed only one unblocked field goal all season.  He missed two on Sunday, finishing 3-of-5.  He made his kicks from 22, 34, and 36 yards out.  He missed from 46 and 47.  Yes, those are long field goal attempts in less than ideal weather conditions, but Carney did have the wind at his back on both.  The misses were a significant contributing factor to the loss.

Jeff Feagles punted twice, the first for 45 yards (Chase Blackburn and Zak DeOssie making the tackle for no gain on the dangerous DeSean Jackson) and a second time also for 45 yards with Terrell Thomas expertly preventing the ball from reaching the end zone.  The ball was downed at the 5-yard line, leading to a safety two plays later.

Kickoffs and kickoff coverage continued to be a problem. Lawrence Tynes’ kickoffs were field at the 17, 4, 1, and 1.  The kickoff to the 17 was not good and neither was allowing a 46-yard return.  The usually reliable Chase Blackburn missed a tackle.

Ahmad Bradshaw returned six kickoffs, including the game’s opening play – a 65-yard return to the Eagles’ 35-yard line.  His subsequent returns went for 25, 12, 23, 27, and 28 yards.

Domenik Hixon returned three punts.  His first return of 16 yards was wiped out by an illegal block by Chase Blackburn and an unnecessary roughness penalty by Kenny Phillips.  His second return of seven yards was wiped out by an illegal block by R.W. McQuarters.  Hixon’s third return picked up eight yards.  Too many penalties!  The one by McQuarters was particularly bad as it changed field position from the Eagles’ 47-yard line to the Giants’ 36.

(Box Score – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, January 11, 2009)

Feb 222009

Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield Have Knee Surgeries: General Manager Jerry Reese said yesterday that both starting defensive tackles, Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield, have undergone scopes on their knees recently.

“We expect them to be okay,” Reese said. “I hope it’s nothing major. I’m not a doctor. We’ll see where they are this off-season, but they should be fine for the season…But the knee is a funny thing, so you never know.”

Reese also said he believes DE Justin Tuck will not need knee surgery. “Right now, I don’t think he’s going to have surgery,” said Reese. “He played pretty well in the Pro Bowl. He looked like he was healthy, so I think it’s going to be one of those situations where he needs some rest and during the off-season I think he’ll get healthy. I don’t think surgery is an option for him right now.”

Giants Make Contingencies For Life Without Burress: After General Manager Jerry Reese’s press conference yesterday, he said the Giants will prepare for the 2009 season under the assumption WR Plaxico Burress may not be with the team due to legal issues surrounding his two felony gun charges.

“We’ll prepare as if he’s not going to be here,” Reese said. “We have a couple of game plans. We’re going to prepare as if he’s not going to be with us. And if he’s with us, that’s a bonus. If he’s not, we’ll move in (different) directions without him.”

“I hope he’s motivated, but the legal process is what’s important right now and his health is what’s important right now,” Reese said. “I’m assuming he wants to be back – I don’t know why he wouldn’t – but a lot of things have to work out before that happens. I don’t know what the league will do as far as suspension stuff.”

“He’s healthy and ready to go,” said Reese. “He’s all healed up; his hamstring is well.”

Giants Like Nicks?: According to The Star-Ledger, the Giants are apparently interested possibly drafting WR Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina) in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Kiwanuka to Stay at Defensive End: Head Coach Tom Coughlin said that the Giants intend to keep DE Mathias Kiwanuka at defensive end.

Feb 192009

Brad Van Pelt Passes Away: Brad Van Pelt, who played linebacker for the Giants from 1973 to 1983, passed away on Tuesday from an apparent heart attack. Van Pelt was 57.

“This is a very sad day for our organization and for my family,” said Giants’ President and CEO John Mara. “Brad was one of the best players in our history and was a good person with a huge heart. He was a great athlete coming out of college and had a chance to play major league baseball. He was a particular favorite of my father, who signed him to his first contract. Brad was a kind and generous person and a true Giant.”

“One of the greatest players I ever played with,” said fellow teammate Lawrence Taylor. “I not only liked him as a player but he was one of my true friends, one of the original members of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew and the Crunch Bunch. We’ve done a lot together over the years and he will be sorely missed. If you knew Brad, you loved Brad. He was a very unique individual. He always put a smile on my face. You could never stay mad at him. He was a true character. One the reasons we’ve kept such a good relationship for so long is because there are not a lot of guys out there like Brad Van Pelt.”

There is a good article on Van Pelt in The Daily News.

Giants Tender Kevin Dockery at Second-Round Level: According to The Star-Ledger, the Giants have tendered restricted free agent CB Kevin Dockery at the second-round level. This means that if another team signs Dockery to an offer sheet, the Giants have the right to match in order to retain his services, and if the team does not, the Giants will receive the 2nd round draft pick of the team that signs him.

The tender is a 1-year, $1.545 million deal.

Giants to Allow S James Butler to Test Free Agent Market:The Star-Ledger is reporting that the Giants have told soon-to-be unrestricted free agent S James Butler that they will allow him to test the market.

“(The Giants) told me they’re going to let me try out free agency but to keep them posted on what I find out there,” said Butler yesterday. “I’ll give them that opportunity because I want to be here. And I’m going to let the Giants see what’s out there and if they match it, great. If not, I’ve done all I can do in four years with the Giants.”

“I’m comfortable and satisfied because I’ve enjoyed my time here,” said Butler. “I’d love to hang around a little longer, but we don’t know what’s going to happen in this business. All I know is I’m looking forward to moving forward, wherever that may be.”

Free agency begins on February 27th.

Ward Likely to Depart: With HB Brandon Jacobs being franchised, it is very likely that soon-to-be unrestricted free agent HB Derrick Ward will sign with another team. “Right now I think I’m anxious to see what’s out there (in free agency),” Ward said yesterday. “I feel that I accomplished a lot of my goals this year. I feel that I’m a quality starter. I can be a starter on a team. I can help a team win.”

When asked if he was likely to reach those goals with another team, Ward responded, “Yeah, I think so. (The Giants) just franchised Brandon Jacobs. He’s the starter there. He’s their workhorse. He’s the one that sets the tone on the team. I was able to come in after him and do my thing. But I think I’m ready to take over that starting role for a team and help a team win.”

Ward said the Giants have not discussed a new deal with him since the season ended. “No, they haven’t approached me yet,” Ward said. “But hopefully something will happen in the next couple of days.”

Bradshaw Finishing Up Jail Time: According to The Daily News, HB Ahmad Bradshaw is currently serving the final 30-day half of his 2-month sentence in a Virginia jail. The 60-day sentence was for an undisclosed probation violation, stemming from an incident that occurred when Bradshaw was a juvenile.

According to the paper, Bradshaw’s lawyer cut a deal with the courts last off offseason so his client could have his jail time split into two tranches, the first was served from June 15 to July 14 last year.  This year, The Daily News reports that Bradshaw began serving the second-part of his sentence on February 15th and that he will be released on March 17.

“The Juvenile Court had allowed Mr. Bradshaw to serve this sentence in two separate intervals to allow him to maintain his current employment capacity with the New York Giants,” said Bradshaw’s lawyer. “Upon completion of this sentence Mr. Bradshaw will have satisfied all of his obligations to the Juvenile Court of Tazewell County as it relates to his prior misdemeanor conviction as a juvenile.”

Feb 142009

Giants Place Franchise Tag on Brandon Jacobs: The Giants officially announced yesterday that they have designated HB Brandon Jacobs at their franchise player.

In every offseason, each team is permitted to designate one of its free agents a franchise player. That player receives a one-year tender that averages the five largest salaries at his position in the previous season. In 2008, the NFL’s five highest-paid running backs earned an average of $6.6 million.

The designation does not prevent the Giants and Jacobs from attempting to reach a long-term deal. What it does do is provide the Giants with protection from losing Jacobs in free agency, which begins on February 27th. The Giants now have the right to match any other team’s offer to Jacobs or the Giants will receive two first-round draft picks as compensation from the team attempting to sign Jacobs.

The deadline for naming a franchise player is February 26th.

“With the deadline approaching it was the right business thing to do at this point, although we are hopeful to get a longer term deal hammered out in the near future,” General Manager Jerry Reese said. “I did speak to Brandon and we had a very good conversation today.”

“I never felt Brandon would be anything but a New York Giant,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “There isn’t any question that when you talk about being a physical football team, he gives you that physical edge as a runner, a pass protector or catching the ball coming out of the backfield. He’s a valuable, valuable part of our team and of the philosophy and the concept by which we play. It’s important for our team going forward that he’s a Giant.”

“They don’t want to let me go and it just buys more time to get a deal done,” Jacobs said. “A deal is going to be done and I am confident in that fact that a deal is going to be done. They just didn’t want to let me hit the market to see what else is out there. They want me in and it is fine with me, because I would rather be here. It is another reason why I don’t really have a problem with it. Now if I didn’t want to be here I would be going off the deep end now, but that is not the fact because I want to be here. My family likes it here. This is where I started and this is kind of where I want to finish. It is really just to franchise me to try to get a deal done.”

“I think both parties will probably come to an agreement here soon on a long-term deal,” said Jacobs. “A lot of guys would be going off the deep end now, which I understand why guys do it and why nobody wants to be franchised. That only happens when guys don’t want to play the rest of their career with that team and they want to see what else is out there. I am in a situation where I want to be here. I want to play here. That doesn’t really bother me.”

“I spoke to Jerry, and that is the reason I am being franchised – buying more time to get a deal done,” Jacobs said.

The only other player the Giants have ever franchised was LT Jumbo Elliott in 1993.

“That (being the Giants’ first franchise player in more than a decade) is telling me that they really want me here,” Jacobs said. “That is why I know for a fact that they are going to buy time to get a long term deal done. If they didn’t want me here they would say, ‘Let him hit the market and see what he gets out there and then offer him toward the end of the whole thing.’ They were pretty good about it, we were pretty good about it, and I feel good about the situation that I will be here at least for one more year if nothing gets done, but I am very confident that something is going to be done soon.”

According to The Daily News, two sources have told the paper that the Giants and Jacobs are not close to a long-term deal. Jacobs is supposedly looking to a deal similar to the one that Cowboys’ HB Marion Barber received last season (7-years, $45 million, $16 million guaranteed). The Giants’ offer is supposedly much lower (7-years, $25 million, $12 million guaranteed) and laden with incentives related to playing time out of concern for Jacobs’ injury-prone nature.

Article on QB Andre Woodson: Giant Change Brightens Hopes of Ex-Cat Woodson by Mark Story of the Lexington Herald-Leader

Feb 122009

Plaxico Burress’ Agent Tried to Shop Plax: According to The Star-Ledger, the agent for WR Plaxico Burress notified other NFL teams earlier this week that his client could be on the trading block.

But in response, The Ledger reports that Giants’ Assistant General Manager Kevin Abrams has since notified other teams that the Giants have not authorized the agent to pursue a trade for Burress and that any inquiries regarding Burress’ availability would be considered tampering.

The Ledger says that Burress’ agent has now told teams he does not have the Giants’ permission to seek a trade.

Burress’ next court date on his two felony gun charges in on March 31. Burress could face 3 and half to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Giants to Let Carney Walk?: According to The Daily News, the Giants do not have any intention of re-signing Pro Bowl PK John Carney. Carney is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on February 27th unless he is re-signed.

The paper says two unindentified sources (one with the Giants, the other with the NFL) says the Giants will rely on PK Lawrence Tynes in 2009.

Carney’s agent told The Star-Ledger, “(The Giants are) not going to keep (Carney) off the market. So we’re approaching free agency with an open slate…There are teams with needs out there – certainly with bigger needs than the Giants, who have a pretty good guy (Lawrence Tynes) already under contract.”