By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game – New York Giants at New England Patriots, September 1, 2011: I did not come away from the Giants-Jets game as panicked as some fans. I was not pleased and there are some serious areas of concern, but I still am somewhat embarrassed that Giants’ fans overreact to what transpires in the preseason. These are practice games. There is no game planning against the opponent, things are kept pretty vanilla, and coaches are utilizing different personnel groups to see what they have at each position.
Also, the Giants just played two of the NFL’s final four teams from last season. They killed the Bears, and the Giants’ first team out-gained the Jets 224 to 73 in net yards in the first half. If I was a Jets fan, I don’t feel particularly good about my team’s performance against the “lowly Giants.”
Beyond all of that, I think my expectation level for this team is different than a lot of fans. I think a lot of fans overestimate the talent on this team (while many in the media underestimate it).
The Giants put up 6,000 yards of offense last year and had the 5th best offense in the entire NFL in terms of yardage. That’s tremendous production given all of the injuries to the offensive line and wide-receiving corps. The Giants should have a productive offense again in 2011, perhaps top 10.
But there seems to be this unfounded fan belief that the Giants’ offense should be even better given its personnel. Personally, I don’t see it. My quick take on the offense is as follows:
Quarterback – Very good.
Running Backs – Good but not special.
Wide Receivers – One Pro Bowl caliber receiver in Hakeem Nicks and one very talented but inconsistent player in Mario Manningham. An open debate at what the Giants have behind these two.
Tight Ends – Arguably, the worst group in the NFL.
Offensive Line – Good on paper, but in transition.
With that personnel, I think having an offense that ranks in the 4-8 range is perfectly acceptable and that’s where the Giants will probably be again. The big problem for the Giants’ passing game right now is that Eli has no reliable, consistent intermediate threats. I’ve talked about this all preseason. Someone may develop, but right now, when it’s 3rd-and-6, there is not a lot of trust between Eli and young receivers. Look at the first interception in the Jets game. The Jets blitz, both Travis Beckum and Mario Manningham don’t read the blitz and adjust their routes. Manning isn’t left with a lot of options when two receivers take themselves out of the play. I’m not trying to make excuses; I’m just telling it like it is. And stop this “the Giants’ offense is too complicated crap” – every team in the NFL has blitz/sight adjustments. Until the Giants find the next Steve Smith (and that may not happen in 2011), some drives are going to end prematurely.
Folks also say the defense will be much better than the offense. I would not make that bet. The Giants should do very well against non-dynamic passing teams like the Panthers, Bears, and Jets (the Giants’ first three preseason opponents). It’s the dynamic passing attacks of the Saints, Packers, and Eagles that may be a problem. To be frank, the Giants don’t have enough cornerbacks. They did, but when Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara were lost, the Giants lost half of their stacked deck. The Packers and Eagles and Saints are going to force the Giants’ 3rd and 4th corner to cover. The pass rush isn’t always going to get there and cover up weak spots.
With the brutal schedule the Giants have, the special teams must play more like it did against the Bears, and less like it did against the Panthers and Jets. We’ve all seen how special teams can turn a game around. The Jets did nothing against the Giants until the 68-yard kickoff return.
Finally, my advice would be to relax. The Giants are going to lose some football games. The Giants are a good, but not great, football team that will have to fight tooth and nail to make the playoffs. They have talent but they are also a team that’s a bit in transition. There are new faces on both lines. Eli is going to have to find new targets. Will they be good enough to make the tournament? Who knows? But the journey is what makes each season interesting. Some Giants’ fans act like its their God-given right to have Super Bowl contender each year. It doesn’t work that way.
Giants on Offense: People need to relax with Eli Manning. He’s a very good quarterback who will still have bad moments and even a bad game or two. Guess what? That’s the NFL. Watch some other games. I don’t care if he is considered top 5 or not. He’s the quarterback of my favorite team and he’s going to be here a long time and I’m going to get behind him and support him. That’s what a fan does. Personally, I think he is pretty darn good and I think he has the perfect demeanor for New York. He exudes calm.
Manning was great at protecting the ball in the first two preseason games; not so great in the third preseason game. His reaction? “We’re ready,” said Manning calmly. “I’ve never put too much on preseason. Obviously, you want to go out there and perform well and move the ball and score touchdowns. That makes you feel good, but I wouldn’t rely on what happens in preseason and what’s going to happen in the regular season. We put a lot of effort into the regular season. All of our preparation, put us in the right situations and plays and getting in and out of checks, studying all of the defenses. Preseason, not as much is done.”
The media asks him is he concerned about the lack of intermediate threats over the middle and he responds, “We’ll be fine.” Calm and confident. What do want him to do? Start screaming that Rome is burning? The Giants have issues, but Manning isn’t one of them.
As a layperson with no coaching experience, I will mention two pet peeves of mine. I don’t get the NFL’s (including the Giants) infatuation with the shot-gun. Long-time readers will know this is something I’ve written about for years. I love the shotgun on 3rd-and-8. I don’t like it at all on 3rd-and-2. I don’t like it most of the time on 1st-and-10 even though occasionally it could be used as a change of pace in a no-huddle. When it’s 2nd-and-4 and the Giants are in the shotgun, if I’m an opposing linebacker, I read draw play all the way. Who runs the shotgun more than anyone? Probably the Patriots so I’m probably too old-fashioned and/or missing something. But I don’t like it.
I also think the Giants need to sometimes just snap the freaking football. All of this pre-snap chess playing as the play clock winds down drives me nuts. Yes, it’s necessary at times, but sometimes I feel like, “just run the damn play…keep up the tempo.” I really like it when the Giants go no huddle, but I think they sometimes minimize it with all this pre-snap stuff.
As for the game against the Patriots, the starters will see one or two series at most, and maybe not even that. The real question marks are who the backups will be:
WR: How many do the Giants keep? Ramses Barden is on the PUP so he doesn’t factor into the equation until after Week Six. It looks like Domenik Hixon and Victor Cruz are locks. Devin Thomas and Mark Clayton have a lot of special teams value. The Giants are not going to cut Jerrel Jernigan. He may be their new Steve Smith in 2012 or 2013. With Nicks and Manningham, that’s seven wide receivers and that’s a lot. Do they keep them all? Darius Reynaud was having a very good camp until he pulled his hamstring.
TE/FB: Travis Beckum is actually starting to play a little better as a blocker and they are not going to dump him at this point. Jake Ballard surprised me against the Jets with his downfield reception and we know he can block (he just needs seasoning). I’m not a big fan of Bear Pascoe but he makes it unless someone else shakes loose.
I like Henry Hynoski. He’s very green and isn’t there yet. But there’s something I like about this kid.
HB: After Bradshaw and Jacobs, it looks like the coaching staff trusts D.J. Ware the most and Ware has had a decent preseason. Andre Brown may be caught in a numbers game despite flashing because the Giants are going to want to try to develop Da’Rel Scott (like Jernigan, it will be a redshirt year for him).
OL: After the starting five, Mitch Petrus and Kevin Boothe are locks. The Giants seem to want to develop Jamon Meredith as a swing tackle/short-yardage TE. Stacy Andrews is head of James Brewer on the depth chart, but how can they keep all these linemen?
QB: I thought David Carr played really well against the Bears and played like crap against the Jets. He may have won and then lost a roster spot in span of a week.
Giants on Defense: I’m not buying this “Giants’ defense will be great” talk. For one, I’ve heard that broken record before. Secondly, unless Amukamara can somehow be anywhere near the player hoped for without the benefit of practice, the Giants are going to be desperately short of corners when they play passing teams. I also think Perry Fewell has a lot to prove in stopping more dynamic passing teams.
One of my pet peeves about the defense? Why are all our blitzes so poorly disguised? You can see them coming a mile away.
DT: The Giants usually only carry four defensive tackles and only three are usually active on game day. It looks like the top three are Canty, Joseph, and Bernard. I think Jimmy Kennedy and Gabe Watson are fighting for one roster spot.
DE: The Giants are thin here until Osi Umenyiora returns. I’m not a big fan of Dave Tollefson; he never seems to do all that much. After Tollefson, do the Giants keep another end or go with an extra tackle or linebacker or defensive back?
LB: The Giants carried a lot of linebackers the past couple of years when they had crappy reserves. Now they have some really interesting prospects so I hope most of these guys make it. I’ll be pissed if Spencer Paysinger, Greg Jones, and Mark Herzlich don’t make it. I think Jacquian Williams has an upside. Problem is that guys like Clint Sintim and Phillip Dilliard are technically ahead of them on the depth chart. I wouldn’t keep Sintim over Adrian Tracy but I fear that’s what the Giants will do.
S: The top three are obviously Phillips, Rolle, and Grant. Do the Giants go with a veteran like Derrick Martin who also does well on specials or more youth in Tyler Sash?
CB: As long as they stay healthy (big if), the Giants are fine with Ross and Webster. The problem is depth. If one of those two gets hurt or when teams go to 3- and 4-wide packages, the Giants may be in trouble. Brian Williams should be decent nickel, but the Giants have to somehow et Amukamara up to speed quickly in October. The other corners aren’t very good. Waiver wire help needed here.
Giants on Special Teams: The good news is that there are flashes. And I’ve got to think Domenik Hixon will be returning punts and maybe kickoffs again. But there was a major breakdown on kickoff coverage against the Jets after a stellar game against the Bears.
The major question is who will the punter be? Weatherford is the safer bet, but Dodge might have a tremendous NFL career with another team if you let him go.