By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game – Chicago Bears at New York Giants, August 22, 2011: Things are starting to get a little more serious and the Giants need to start looking a little sharper. As I said in last week’s preview, I don’t put much stock in the outcome of preseason football games. Hell, I can’t even remember how well or how poorly the Giants really played last preseason. But training camp is over and the real thing starts in three weeks. I don’t know if it is just me or if all of you are feeling the same thing, but it doesn’t feel like the season is really that close yet. Residual effects from the lockout? Regardless, pray the Giants have a greater sense of urgency then the teams they play early in the regular season.
The good news about the Giants’ offense last week was that it didn’t turn the ball over and it committed only a few penalties. The bad news was it was dreadful on third down (19 percent) and thus could not sustain any drives, and most damning, never put the ball in the end zone.
Defensively, the Giants played better than the offense, but the defense did allow a quick 3-play touchdown drive. Too many big plays were allowed.
Special teams – aside from the work of the two punters – was dreadful. This makes Giants’ fans particularly nervous based on what transpired last season.
Giants on Offense: As expected, the run and pass blocking was not particularly sharp last week. Some of that was due to new component parts (David Baas at center, Will Beatty at left tackle), but there were also some breakdowns by long-entrenched veterans (Chris Snee). What can make an offensive line look bad are missed blocks by the tight ends and fullback. Some of the pass protection and run blocking problems against the Panthers were due to Bear Pascoe and Jake Ballard. These two have to improve and fast. While the Giants may be able to bring aboard another veteran at some point, that guy will be far behind in terms of knowing the Giants’ offense and will have little familiarity with his teammates and the system. We should see a lot of TE/H-Back Travis Beckum this week. This is a make-or-break season for him with the Giants.
I don’t expect the blocking to miraculously look better this week. Developing cohesion and chemistry with so many new parts is going to take time. And the Bears are a very good defensive football team – one of the best in the NFL. The improvement in blocking is going to be a season-long odyssey – it will not happen overnight. And – unfortunately – there may be a talent issue at tight end that serves as a sore point all season. Henry Hynoski is not ready for primetime yet so we’ll probably see more of Pascoe there.
Eli Manning also needs to get into better sync with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and Domenik Hixon. He and his receivers were off last week. With the inconsistent blocking up front, the Giants can ill-afford their skill players just missing too many big plays. The Giants are going to have to hit a lot of home runs this year.
A big concern is who are Eli’s security blankets on third down? Steve Smith is gone. Kevin Boss is gone. When it’s 3rd-and-5, and the Giants need five yards for the first down, who is the main man? An obvious possible solution is to use one of the halfbacks more in the passing game, but the Giants have gotten away from that ever since Tiki Barber retired. I don’t understand why.
Like Beckum, Ramses Barden is fast approaching that do-or-die point with the G-Men. But he is still on the PUP and who knows when he will be back. I’m starting to worry that both were completely wasted draft picks. Regardless, the Giants do need the others to step up. Victor Cruz has had a quiet camp. After making a lot of noise early in camp, we haven’t heard much from Devin Thomas lately. Again, it’s still early, but the season is fast approaching. Darius Reynaud – who has flashed – is missing valuable time with a hamstring injury.
Some other key battles… who will the backup quarterback be? David Carr and Ryan Perrilloux see action this week while Sage Rosenfels sits. Who is the third running back? D.J. Ware or Andre Brown? I would like to see more of Da’Rel Scott, but this may be a redshirt year for the rookies due to the lockout (WR Jerrel Jernigan falls into that category too). Who will the backups be on the offensive line after Kevin Boothe and Mitch Petrus?
Giants on Defense: I’ll probably feel differently in October when an injury or two hits the defensive line, but right now, I’m tired of Osi Umenyiora and don’t really consider him a member of the team. My gut tells me the Giants made a mistake by not dealing him. Oh sure, he’ll have more of an impact on the Giants in the short-team by staying around than a 2012 second-round draft pick (and possibly more), but I’m thinking of the long-term make-up of this team over the course of the next five seasons. I hope I’m wrong, but I think we’ve seen the best of Umenyiora. It isn’t important to him to be a Giant, his body seems to be breaking down, and, dare I say, he’s overrated.
I also don’t want to hear anymore talk about how good the Giants are on the defensive line. We’ve seen this act before. Prove it. Prove it when it counts, when a division title is on the line and you have to stop the other team from marching down the field for a game-tying or game-winning score. Jason Pierre-Paul looks like the real deal. There will be growing pains, but his presence allows me the luxury to feel the way I do about Umenyiora. The key question now is who steps behind JPP and Justin Tuck. Mathias Kiwanuka can move down if need be, but it would be great if a guy like Dave Tollefson would make more noise. There is a real opportunity hear for a guy like Alex Hall, Justin Trattou, and Ayanga Okpokowuruk.
The starting linebackers will be Kiwanuka, Jon Goff, and Michael Boley. The Giants have a lot of interesting young prospects, but they can’t all make the team. Pay attention to Spencer Paysinger who has been getting some first-team reps in Boley’s spot. Greg Jones has also been making some noise.
In the secondary, Aaron Ross was disappointing last week. He needs to improve his coverage and tackling. The Giants are counting on him, especially with Prince Amukamara sidelined until early October. Brian Witherspoon impressed last week and I will be keeping an eye on him. Michael Coe got some first team reps in practice, but he has to be more consistent.
At safety, I was really disappointed with Kenny Phillips last week. Did we see the best of him before the knee injury? I hope not. Antrel Rolle needs to start making more plays on the ball too, like he did in Arizona. Right now, the Giants’ safeties are vastly overrated. They have tremendous talent, but where is the production? The Giants added veterans Deon Grant and Derrick Martin this week. Youngsters like Tyler Sash, Jerrard Tarrant, and David Sims are going to have to make more plays to get noticed. Brian Jackson has missed a lot of time due to injuries (back, hip).
Giants on Special Teams: The Giants still can’t block anything on special teams to set up any kind of return. It’s unbelievable. When the players constantly change, but the production doesn’t, you have to start really questioning the technique, schemes, and coaching. The Giants put two guys on an opposing gunner, and the gunner still gets clean down the field into the punt returner’s face. And blocking on kick returns is virtually non-existent.
Last week, the kickers did a good job on kickoffs and punts, but the coverage units kept missing tackles. Special teams will determine roster spots. Hear that rookies and second-year men? Special teams will determine roster spots.
I tell you one thing, if I’m Tom Coughlin, and kickoff-specialist Rhys Lloyd is as good as advertised, I seriously consider keeping two kickers this year and just keep trying to kick the ball through the endzone. Why not? Tom Quinn’s units certainly don’t inspire any confidence.