Connor Hughes/BBI

Connor Hughes has been working in both the broadcasting and journalism fields for the last seven years. His work has been heard on WMCX, WBZC and Lenape District Television, while read on the pages of The Star-Ledger and The Burlington County Times. Connor can be reached via email (Connor_Hughes@bigblueinteractive.com) or on twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes)

Sep 212014
 
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Jameel McClain, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Jameel McClain – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Rashad Jennings kept reliving one play in the days leading up to the Giants match-up with the Houston Texans.

A week prior versus the Arizona Cardinals, Jennings caught a swing pass in the fourth quarter with the Giants trailing. As he put his foot in the ground and cut up field, Jennings slipped and fell to the turf. The ball fell out of his hands and rolled away, with it the Giants hopes of a victory.

Jennings replayed the moment over and over in his mind. There was only one way to get it out. Sunday afternoon would be the perfect eraser.

Versus the Texans, Jennings rushed for a career-high 176 yards on 34 carries and a touchdown as the Giants defeated Houston, 30-17, in East Rutherford.

“I took that play to heart,” Jennings said. “That’s something you’ve gotta move forward from. You need to wash it out of your memory and continue to move. I just prepared this week, like I do every single week, and try to understand the defense inside and out.”

New York’s offensive line dominated the Texans front from start to finish. The team rushed for a combined 193 yards, averaged 4.6 yards per carry and kept quarterback Eli Manning upright for the majority of the contest. Houston All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt was contained as the Giants limited him to just seven tackles and one sack.

“All week long, we were asked, ‘How badly is he gonna hurt you guys?’” Giants offensive tackle Justin Pugh said. “We didn’t wanna hear that. We didn’t wanna answer those questions. Obviously, we let up the sack, but we came back, we fought and we showed the mentality of this offense.”

Despite dominating in the first quarter of Sunday’s game, the Giants, early on, appeared to have reverted back to their old ways. At the Texans 7-yard line in the first quarter, Manning found tight end Larry Donnell open at the four. As Donnell turned to cut up the field, he fumbled the ball and Houston recovered.

Victor Cruz, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

A series later, New York again drove deep into Texans territory before the drive stalled at the Houston 12. The field goal unit trotted on, but a bad snap scooted past holder Steve Weatherford. Again, New York came up empty handed.

“We said we just had to finish,” Manning said. “We said to keep doing what we were doing, they hadn’t stopped us, they were getting tired, just keep going.”

After punting on their next series, the Giants finally punched it in the end zone. Facing a first and 10 at the Texans 26 yard line, Manning found Victor Cruz over the middle. The wide receiver caught the ball, made a defender miss and then darted into the end zone for a touchdown.

“It feels good to get the salsa back going again,” Cruz said. “It was deactivated for awhile, but now it’s back in full swing.”

Cruz caught five passes for 107 yards on the afternoon. After dropping two passes in each of the first two games, Cruz didn’t allow any that hit his hands, to hit the ground.

In the days leading up to the Giants match-up with Houston, coach Tom Coughlin preached the need for the team’s defense to force turnovers. On Sunday, the defense answered.

Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Against a Houston offense that was without running back Arian Foster, the Giants shut down the run and forced quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to air the ball out. New York’s highly-touted secondary then recorded three interceptions: one by Prince Amukamara, one by Antrel Rolle and a third by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The interceptions by Rolle and Rodgers-Cromartie’s led to 10 points for the Giants.

“Coach really challenged us to get turnovers,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “He put up a category and showed we had no turnovers and said we needed to be Zack Bowman-ish, who’s the turnover king with punching balls out and getting picks. I think we rose to the challenge.”

While the Giants built a 17-3 lead, Houston made it a one-possession game on a miscommunication in the Giants secondary in the third quarter. On first and 10 from the Giants 45, Fitzpatrick found Damaris Johnson for a score. Cornerback Trumaine McBride let Johnson go expecting safety help from Stevie Brown. Brown never came over and Johnson got behind the defense.

On the Giants next possession, Manning marched the team down the field for a field goal. On Houston’s next drive. Damontre Moore blocked a punt setting up a nine-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Fells. The score all but iced the game.

Manning finished 21-of-28 for 234 yards with two scores.

Daniel Fells, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Daniel Fells – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“Nice to win. Nice to win, nice to do a lot of good things in the process,” Coughlin said. “A lot of guys played. I’m looking forward to looking at this tape.”

The Giants will have a short week before traveling to Washington to face the Washington Football Team on Thursday night.

Inactive for the Giants were wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), linebacker Jon Beason (foot/ankle), linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring), offensive tackle Charles Brown (shoulder), defensive end Kerry Wynn, offensive tackle James Brewer (back) and defensive tackle Jay Bromley.

With Beason and Kennard out, Jameel McClain started at middle linebacker for the Giants and recorded 11 tackles and a half sack. Mark Herzlich started at strong-side linebacker.

Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka and Amukamara all came off the field at various points in time with apparent injuries. None appeared to be serious. Stevie Brown missed time in the fourth quarter. Rookie Nat Berhe filled in in his place.

Inactive for the Houston Texans were quarterback Tom Savage, wide receiver DeVier Posey, running back Arian Foster, safety Shiloh Keo, offensive tackle Jeff Adams, linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and nose tackle Louis Nix.

Alfred Blue started in place of Foster and rushed for 78 yards on 13 carries, highlighted by a 46-yard run in the third quarter.

The Giants improved their record to 1-2. The Texans dropped to 2-1.

Tom Coughlin’s Post-Game Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughin’s post-game press conference are available at Giants.com.

Player Post-Game Media Q&A’s: Transcripts and audio of the post-game media sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Video highlights are also available at Giants.com.

 

Sep 212014
 
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Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

On Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium, the New York Giants defeated the Houston Texans, 30-17. Below you will find some of the best, and worst, performances from the Giants first victory of the season. Please note, these observations are made from an initial reaction and not after reviewing film. These are the gut reactions gathered from watching the game live, not with the use of instant replay.

THE STUDS:

Eli Manning
This is how it was all supposed to look. There was Manning dropping back, firing passes underneath to Victor Cruz, who then made people miss to gain extra yards. There was enough time in the pocket for Manning to go through his reads, scan the field and find the open receiver. There weren’t many ‘questionable’ decisions from Manning, aside from a deep shot down the field to Rueben Randle. In fact, it may have been the quarterback’s most efficient outing in Ben McAdoo’s West Coast offense. The numbers tell the story: 21-of-28, 234 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions.

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Rashad Jennings
After Friday afternoon’s practice, Rashad Jennings spoke to reporters about how his fumble against the Arizona Cardinals was still in his mind. It was interesting to hear a player admit that, especially because so often players preach about letting plays go and moving on to the next play. It was a human aspect that Jennings let out. He showed he did care and that it was very much still in his mind.

Jennings played like a man possessed Sunday, rushing for 176 yards on 34 carries and a score. He continues to show that he’s one of the more underrated players in the NFL and a running back who is capable of doing it all. Not only can he run, but he can catch the ball out of the backfield and block like a lineman. On Manning’s touchdown to Cruz, the Texans brought pressure and Jennings stepped up to pick it up and given Eli enough time to deliver a pass.

Jennings is that bring-your-lunch-box-to-work kind of guy. He doesn’t talk much, but his play speaks volumes. He does everything without asking for the fame or glamour. He deserves every bit of the praise he gets on a week-to-week basis.

Victor Cruz
Few players caught more flack this week than Victor Cruz, and it was a bit deserved. Cruz complained about not having the ball thrown to him, then dropped three passes. Versus Houston, Cruz got back to being the Cruz of old.

There were the yards after the catch, the big plays down the field and, finally, a salsa endzone celebration. He caught five passes for 107 yards and a score and looked to find a home in McAdoo’s offense. The biggest thing? He didn’t drop a pass.

Offensive Line
After the game, right tackle Justin Pugh talked about how annoyed he and the rest of his offensive linemates were that the only questions asked to them in the days leading up the game were how bad they were going to get beat by J.J. Watt. On Sunday, it was the offensive line that did the beating.

Not only did the Giants run for 193 yards on the ground, but Manning was only sacked once. Watt recorded seven tackles and that one sack, but was contained throughout the majority of the game. Every player on the line deserves a kudos for their play. It was very, very impressive.

Mathias Kiwanuka, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Mathias Kiwanuka – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Pass Rush
The Giants NASCAR package of Robert Ayers Jr., Mathias Kiwanuka, Damontre Moore and Jason Pierre-Paul may be their best front since 2007. While he was only sacked twice, Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was under constant duress. Credit him for a few very shifty escapes because New York had the chance to bring him down on at least five other occasions. The pleasing thing about the way the front played was that the Giants didn’t have to blitz to get pressure. The Giants dropped back seven and rushed just four on numerous occasions with success.

Prince Amukamara
The former first-round pick is beginning to develop into quite the player for the Giants and it’s something to watch. His physicality has taken a step to the next level this year and versus Houston so did his coverage. Amukamara made a great adjustment to record his first interception of the year, then nearly picked off two others. There’s been talk that he’s better than Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but as DRC displayed himself Sunday, that’s a pretty nice compliment.

THE DUDS:

Larry Donnell
It’s actually tough to find any from the victory. The score was 30-17, but the Giants had the potential to put up 50. One of the reasons they didn’t were mistakes. One of those mistakes was by Larry Donnell.

As good as Donnell has been, he made a big no-no near the goal line. With the Giants deep in Cardinal territory, Manning found Donnell open at the four yard line. After catching the ball, Donnell fumbled. He made several nice catches afterwards, but it doesn’t excuse the mess up. Making mistakes against teams like the Texans won’t cost you the game. Making those errors against a team like the San Francisco 49ers or Philadelphia Eagles? That’s another story.

Damontre Moore, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Damontre Moore blocks a punt – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Zak DeOssie/The Special Teams
Same reasons as Donnell, it’s one uh-oh in a game that was filled with so few. DeOssie’s snap on the missed field goal was not pretty, and he can’t make that happen. It didn’t cost the Giants the game, but down the road against a better team it may.

Sticking with the same theme, on a five-yard return in the third quarter, Texans punt returner Damaris Johnson made about four Giants miss before getting tripped up. Had he not been brought now by a shoe string tackle, he was gone. Similarly, on a kick return, there was a huge lane for Johnson to run through.

There are things, like a botched snap, that a special teams coordinator should not take the blame for, but constant missed tackles and open lanes on returns? That they do. Maybe it’s the players, maybe it’s the coach, but how many more games are the Giants special teams going to cost them before a change is made?

They escaped Sunday, but this may not be the case next time.

Trumaine McBride/Stevie Brown
Not sure there’s another team in the NFL that has as many secondary miscommunications as the Giants. Again versus the Houston, there was another “I thought, he thought” meltdown.

On the deep touchdown from Fitzpatrick to Johnson, McBride appeared to let the wideout go and release him to Brown. The issue was Brown didn’t get the memo. This issue, similar to the special teams, didn’t cost the Giants on Sunday, but against a better team it will. These things just seem to happen once or twice a week, every week.

Sep 182014
 
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Trumaine McBride and Jon Beason, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Trumaine McBride and Jon Beason – © USA TODAY Sports Images

It didn’t take long for the phone call to be made.

Shortly after New York Giants cornerback Walter Thurmond III found out his injured pectoral muscle was torn, sidelining him for rest of the 2014 season, the self-proclaimed best nickel corner in the game dialed fellow corner Trumaine McBride.

Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (December 15, 2013)

Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

McBride, who last saw sporadic nickel snaps six years ago, saw his phone light up with Thurmond’s name and answered.

“He just told me if I need anything, as far as tips about playing nickel, to reach out to him,” McBride said.

While McBride may be lacking experience as a nickel cornerback, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been preparing for this moment throughout the offseason.

Back on March 12, after enjoying a breakout season, McBride re-signed with the New York Giants. With Corey Webster and Aaron Ross gone, McBride was expected to compete for the starting position opposite Prince Amukamara.

But the ensuing months were filled with moves that pushed McBride further and further down the depth chart. Zack Bowman, Thurmond and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were signed and Bennett Jackson drafted.

The group of Amukamara, Thurmond and Rodgers-Cromartie began boasting claims as the league’s best trio. Last year’s surprise star was suddenly rendered an afterthought.

With every addition the Giants made to the secondary’s meeting room, McBride took notice. Despite playing nearly his entire career as an outside cornerback, he knew his opportunity to play may not be at the place he’d been most comfortable at. During the offseason, McBride began studying some of the best nickel cornerbacks in the league and working specifically with the group. He wanted to be prepared for anything.

If Amukamara went down, McBride wanted to fill in outside. If Thurmond went down, he wanted to have his named called there, too. One of the best ways to do that? Watch and learn from Thurmond himself.

“Walt’s a guy that plays hard every down and is a very smart, physical cornerback,” McBride said. “Just watching the way he approaches the game. He’s a great guy and a great player on the field.”

McBride said that playing nickel, as opposed to outside cornerback, is vastly different. While cornerbacks have the sideline to their advantage, nickel cornerbacks need to guard both the inside, and outside, portions of the field.

Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Not to mention, being a nickel corner requires a different physicality. Being closer to the line of scrimmage, McBride knows he’ll have to stick his head in on some running plays, comparing nickel cornerback to a “cornerback-linebacker” hybrid position.

“It’s just an overall different game plan,” McBride said. “You aren’t going up anymore against guys that are 6-foot-2, you’re going up against guys that are 6-feet and shifty. You have to adjust to the shiftiness of an inside slot receiver.”

While Thurmond has offered help, McBride admits what may be the biggest beneficiary to him learning nickel is the fact he gets to face receiver Victor Cruz every day in practice. During his five-year NFL career, Cruz has established himself as one of the league’s best slot receivers.

“Going up against him every day definitely helps you,” McBride said. “There aren’t many guys out there better than Vic.”

The Houston Texans, who McBride and the Giants will face on Sunday, like to move each of their receivers in and out of the slot in Bill O’Brien’s new offensive scheme. Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins and Demarius Johnson have all seen over 20 reps inside this year.

There isn’t a set player McBride can expect. Does that make his life harder? Not at all.

“I’ve been preparing for this since the offseason,” McBride said. “I knew it could be a possibility of me moving inside. So as far as mentally, I have no issues.”

Sep 172014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Arizona Cardinals 25 – New York Giants 14

REVISITING: FOUR DOWNS
During our game preview, we listed ‘Four Downs,’ which took a look at the top four questions surrounding the Giants heading into the game. Now that the game has been played and the film reviewed, it’s time to break it down.

First Down
Rueben Randle
Randle had decent game against a top-flight opponent, including a spectacular, one-handed touchdown grab. But his four catches all came in the first half and he dropped a deep pass late in the fourth quarter when the Giants were desperately trying to tie the game.

Second Down
Throw me the ball
Victor Cruz made some plays on both touchdown drives, but his 3rd-and-6 drop right after the Cardinals had cut the lead to 14-13 was a major reason why the Giants lost this game. That set up the ensuing 9-point swing caused by the two special teams disasters.

Third Down
J.D. Walton
He was OK in pass protection although there was one holding call on an inside blitz. As most centers do, he struggled with NT Dan Williams, one of the best in the business, on running plays.

Fourth Down
Prince Amukamara
I saw one mistake from Prince Amukamara, but other than that, he was his normal, solid self. It helped that he, and the rest of the secondary, were playing a quarterback that hadn’t seen action in four years. The one play where Amukamara got beat was on the first play of the game. Michael Floyd ran a comeback, Amukamara played streak. Those plays happen from time-to-time.

Aside from that, the physicality Amukamara has been playing with this year is noticeably impressive. The cornerback has crept up to the line countless times and stuck his head in to make plays on the running back. Amukamara  spoke of how he wanted to take his game to another level this year, he’s done that in Weeks 1 and 2.

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW by Eric Kennedy

The good news is that Eli Manning looked sharper and more comfortable against one of the NFL’s best secondaries. The offensive line looked better in pass protection, albeit against a defense that was missing its best pass rusher. At wide receiver, Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz were more involved. And the Giants may have found a tight end in Larry Donnell.

The bad news is the Giants have really struggled to run the ball in back-to-back games against two of the NFL’s better run defenses. The Giants are still losing the turnover battle and teams that do that usually lose. Victor Cruz came up small in this game. Most importantly, the Giants are averaging 14 points per game. You can’t win by scoring only 14 points per contest.

The defense is not helping out the offense. They have forced no turnovers and they have problems getting off of the field on third down. The Giants moved the ball well in the first half of the game against the Cardinals, but they only had three possessions to work with. They drove 48 yards on their first drive until turning the ball over, drove 30 before a third-down sack ended a drive, and finished off of the half with an impressive 13-play, 90-yard effort. One got the sense had the offense had more opportunities, they would have done more damage.

The second half was frustrating. A phantom personal foul call stopped the first drive before it started. The Giants drove 42 yards on their second drive before taking two deep shots that they were unable to connect on. They followed that up with an impressive 8-play, 74-yard touchdown drive. In the fourth quarter, with the Giants up 14-13, Cruz dropped a perfect pass from Manning on 3rd-and-6, leading to a punt and the two special teams disasters. When the Giants got the ball back with nine minutes to go in the game and trailing by 8 points, Eli and Company easily moved the ball down field until an unforced turnover by Rashad Jennings basically ended the game. The Giants had one more late shot, but two more dropped passes sealed their fate.

QUARTERBACK by Eric Kennedy

Was Eli perfect? No. But this is the best he’s looked in a long time, perhaps pre-Hurricane Sandy. And he’s starting to look comfortable in this offense. Now he has to work on the consistency. He finished the game 26-of-39 for 277 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. However, had it not been for several dropped passes, he would have been in the 30-of-39 neighborhood with perhaps 350 yards or more.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Most importantly, he looked comfortable and in command. He looked more like the Eli of old.

Eli started off the game strong, connecting on his first four passes for 43 yards. His costliest mistake came on 3rd-and-8 from the Arizona 30-yard line. Pressured immediately by three defenders, including two unblocked blitzers, Manning fired a pass to “hot” receiver Victor Cruz, who stumbled coming over the middle. Whether the stumble caused Eli to second-guess himself or not as he was delivering the ball, the pass was low, bounced off of the shoulder pads of a lineman, and was intercepted off of the deflection. After two completions and two Arizona penalties, the second drive ended prematurely after two short runs and a sack. On the third and last drive of the first half, Manning was 6-of-7 for 72 yards and a touchdown.

Manning only missed two throws in the first half, going 12-of-14 for 135 yards. It was a near-perfect performance.

As mentioned, the second half was frustrating. A bogus personal foul penalty put the Giants in a 3rd-and-17 before the drive even really started. Eli never attempted a pass on this possession. On the second drive of the half, after completing two passes for 34 yards, Eli couldn’t connect on two deep shots. Other than a late throw to Donnell, these were probably his two poorest throws of the game. But he followed that up by going a perfect 4-of-4 for 43 yards and a touchdown on the next possession, not counting the 25-yard pass interference penalty his throw to Victor Cruz caused. At this point in the game, Eli was 19-of-23 with only four incompletions!

The Giants defense then allowed the Cardinals to drive the field and cut the score to 14-13. After two Rashad Jennings runs, Manning threw a perfect pass to Victor Cruz who dropped the ball. Punt return for TD. Fumbled kickoff. Nine point swing. Nothing to do with Eli.

Trailing by eight points with nine minutes to play, Manning drove his team 65 yards in 12 plays only to have the drive end with an unforced fumble by Jennings. There was another drop by Cruz on this possession. But Eli completed 5-of-9 passes for 46 yards before the turnover.

New York got the ball back at their own 15-yard line with 3:19 to play, still trailing by eight points. After a short completion, there were two more drops. On 4th-and-6, Eli threw behind Larry Donnell. Game over after Arizona took 1:23 off of the clock and went up 25-14 with 1:13 to play.

Last note: Dumb coaching decision to keep Eli in the game on last meaningless possession. Not because of the stat-packing interception but because of the injury risk poised to your franchise quarterback in such a no-win situation.

RUNNING BACKS by Eric Kennedy

Andre Williams, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Even against good offensive lines, the Cardinals are extremely difficult to run against, and try as they might, the Giants simply could not generate a consistent ground attack against Arizona. It wasn’t that the running backs did poorly on their rushing efforts; there just wasn’t much room to run. The Giants finished the first half with only 31 yards on 13 rushing attempts with a long run of seven yards. They finished with 81 yards on 27 attempts (3 yards per carry) but even this was inflated by a late 13-yard run, down by 11 points with 30 seconds to play.

Rashad Jennings finished with 64 yards on 13 carries (3.6 yards per carry) and Andre Williams with 12 yards on 8 carries (1.5 yards per carry). Jennings did run tough and generated yards on his own. He also looked sharp as a receiver, catching 4 passes for 45 yards. Jennings had an 11-yard run where he broke three tackles and a 19-yard reception on a play where he broke two tackles. (He even blocked a punt in this game). That said, Jennings badly missed his block on a blitzing defender on Eli’s first-half interception, and his unforced fumble in the 4th quarter sealed the game when it looked like the Giants had a good shot to tie the game.

Williams, who never caught a pass his final year in college, caught 2-of-4 passes thrown in his direction for 7 yards. In a move I assume was designed to “punish” Jennings for fumbling the ball, Williams was placed in the game with the Giants needing to drive 85 yards with 3:19 left, down by 8 points. Williams, who is not a natural pass receiver, caught one pass but dropped the next. This seemed like an odd time to make a statement.

Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

WIDE RECEIVERS by Eric Kennedy

The good news is that Rueben Randle finally got involved and while the numbers don’t look superlative (4 catches for 39 yards and a touchdown), it was a step in the right direction against a top-flight opponent in CB Patrick Peterson. His touchdown catch was a superb one-handed grab. The bad news is that Randle dropped a well-thrown ball by Manning on their last real chance to tie the game. Yes, there was contact between him and the corner, but he has to make that play in that situation.

For brief portions of the game, Victor Cruz had a positive impact. He really came on during the first touchdown drive, catching 3 passes for 41 yards, including a pass thrown behind him. He was also a factor on the second TD drive with a 14 yard catch and then drawing a 25-yard pass interference penalty. He finished the game with 5 catches for 60 yards. However, Cruz came up small in the 4th quarter and his dropped pass on 3rd-and-6 was a major reason why the Giants lost this game. If he catches that ball, the drive continues and the sequence of events that led to a 9-point turnaround don’t happen. Then, with the Giants trailing by 8 and the team desperately trying to tie the game, he dropped another pass. He’s been paid big bucks to a positive difference maker, not a negative one. Cruz also stumbled on his crossing pattern on Eli’s first interception – it’s unknown whether that caused Eli to hesitate on his delivery.

Jerrel Jernigan caught two passes for 15 yards and left the game with a season-ending foot injury. Preston Parker caught one pass for 29 yards. But he also lost his footing in the end zone on a throw from Manning that fell incomplete. Unfortunately, this came on the play right before Jennings’ fumble.

TIGHT ENDS by Eric Kennedy

Larry Donnell has now been the leading Giants’ receiver for two games in a row. Two games do not make a trend, but it is a very positive sign. It’s not just the amount of catches, but the quality of catches. Donnell looks athletic down the field, he is adjusting to the ball well, and he is making difficult catches in traffic. Now if he can just work on his run-after-the-catch skills, we may really have found something. Donnell was targeted nine times, catching seven passes for 81 yards. He also had another catch wiped out due to a penalty. His blocking is not as bad as some fans think. Donnell received 58 offensive snaps while Daniel Fells received 20. Fells caught a 1-yard touchdown pass to put the G-Men ahead 14-10.

OFFENSIVE LINE by Eric Kennedy

Bottom line is the pass protection was much better this week but the run blocking wasn’t very good. Much of that had to do with the opponent. Arizona is VERY tough to run the ball on. RDE Calais Campbell and NT Dan Williams in particular gave the Giants fits, but these two give all of their opponents fits. Also, since LB John Abraham did not play, the Cardinals pass rush was not at its best. Also, like Eli of old, I think he did a good job of making the line look better in pass protection at times by getting rid of the ball quickly. This was the specific intention of Ben McAdoo’s new offense as well.

The two linemen who had the most problems were LG Weston Richburg and OC J.D. Walton. But these two also faced the toughest opponents in Campbell and Williams. #93 and #92 for the Cardinals were all over the field on Sunday, unfortunately for the Giants. Richburg gave up two sacks to Campbell, one that was wiped out due to a questionable penalty on the Cardinals. A few plays later, the right side of the offensive line, Justin Pugh, John Jerry, and Walton seemed to be confused by a stunt as Eli was sacked on 3rd-and-7. This is not unusual for a line that has hardly played together. Walton was flagged with a holding call in the third quarter on an inside blitz. Other than that, the line pass protected fairly well. Will Beatty, Pugh, and Jerry did not suffer any significant breakdowns (Beatty did give up some pressure on the first pick).

Run blocking was another story. The Cardinals front seven is just really, really good in run defense and against an offensive line that has very little playing time together, they pretty much dominated up front. The Giants could not handle Campbell and Williams, and those two allowed the Cardinals linebackers to run cleanly to the ball carriers. It really was that simple.

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Connor Hughes

The Giants defense wasn’t without much Sunday afternoon. Linebacker Devon Kennard, defensive end Kerry Wynn and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn were the only defensive players to miss Sunday’s game.

It was strange watching Sunday’s game film, it truly was. In fact, following the conclusion of the game, I was still a bit puzzled on how the film I watched was that of a loss, not a win. The Giants rushed the passer, contained – when they had to – the run and played solid coverage. In fact, if it wasn’t for penalties, it would have been a near perfect game.

But still, it was a loss. It wasn’t as if the reason was hidden, the Giants turned the ball over four times, but it was surprising none the less.

DEFENSIVE LINE - by Connor Hughes

Start with the most glaring observation from watching the film: Jason Pierre-Paul is back. Be it 2011 JPP, or a new-and-improved 2013 one, Pierre-Paul showed Sunday that he has put the last two seasons of injury-related struggles very far in his rear view mirror. Pierre-Paul stuffed the run and rushed the passer, but there was one play that stood out more than any: His sack.

Obviously, it was a sack, so it’s going to stand out. But this one stuck out for a different reason. On the play, the Cardinals tried their best to take advantage of Pierre-Paul’s aggressiveness. Drew Stanton dropped back, and waited slightly before turning to look at his tight end. What the Cardinals wanted to do was have the tight end chip JPP, then let him go and have Stanton throw the ball right over JPP’s head. The only issue? Pierre-Paul didn’t bite.

At all.

Pierre-Paul stuck with the tight end causing Stanton to hold on to the ball. It wasn’t until the play broke down and Stanton went to run that Pierre-Paul left the tight end’s side. it was great play recognition by the former All-Pro.

Through the first two games of the season, Pierre-Paul is ranked as the league’s best run stopper as a 4-3 defensive end. Here’s a pretty accurate description of how he’s gotten those praises.

Pierre-Paul is starting to play as his mouth has indicated he would throughout the entire offseason. Those incredible plays Pierre-Paul used to make on an every-Sunday basis are beginning to return. Even when he doesn’t reach the quarterback, he’s disrupting the play. Pierre-Paul, by my count, had two bat-downs of passes. Here’s a clip of one I’m still not sure how he hit.

Another player who had a pretty good game as a defensive end was Robert Ayers Jr. During the preseason, Ayers was one of the unsung heroes who quietly played very well when in the game. It could have been a favorable match-up, but when Ayers came off the edge, he reached the quarterback with ease. Ayers had one sack clean, then one nullified by a penalty. The most impressive part of both of them was the jump he got off the ball.

When Johnathan Hankins was drafted by the Giants, it was as a big run stuffer. Two games into the season, it looks like run-stopper is just one of the many labels that will be given to Hankins. While it’s still early, the Giants may have the complete package at the defensive tackle position, something they haven’t been able to take claim to in quite some time. Hankins routinely collapsed the pocket on Stanton, running over whomever the offense put in front of him. His play progression on his first career sack was a thing of beauty:

Damontre Moore has yet to get his first career sack. Matt Stafford juked him out last week. Stanton climbed the pocket and fell into the arms of Mathias Kiwanuka/Jason Pierre-Paul this week. While he’s yet to bring the quarterback down himself, Moore still continues to flash. He got double the reps as last week and made it count. It may only be a matter of time before he supplants Kiwanuka as the Giants starting defensive end opposite Pierre-Paul.

LINEBACKERS - by Connor Hughes

Jordan Raanan of NJ.com had a great breakdown of the Jon Beason injury with a near frame-by-frame look at how the Giants captain was injured. When he was replaced by Mark Herzlich, it wasn’t pretty.

After signing with the Giants as an undrafted free agent, it appeared as if Herzlich was on the fast track to take over as the Giants middle linebacker of the future. The team gave him every shot to grab hold of the position, Herzlich just isn’t a starting middle linebacker in the NFL. He’s a fine special teams player, but defensively he’s a liability.

Another player who didn’t have a spectacular game was Jameel McClain. McClain got himself in position to make plays, he just didn’t. There were two counts that I saw where he had contain on the outside, but failed to shed his block and make the tackle. The result of both runs were first downs.

Jacquian Williams didn’t stand out for any negative reasons. He made a few nice plays on the run, and never should have been in pass coverage against a wide receiver.

DEFENSIVE BACKS - by Connor Hughes

Prince Amukamara continues to impress, as was outlined in the four downs section at the top. The physicality in which he has brought to the table this year is far more than in year’s past. There was a lot of talk last week on Amukamara being ‘better’ than Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but Rodgers-Cromartie had himself a game. There was tight coverage and physicality. He looked every bit as good as what New York hoped he’d be when it signed him to a mega deal this offseason.

Stevie Brown struggled versus the Lions, but played much better on Sunday. There was one play though he needs to make. Monday afternoon, Tom Coughlin was irate at the fact his defense has yet to force a turnover. It’s not for lack of opportunities. Similar to the offense, the playmakers need to make plays. Brown had a golden opportunity to haul in an interception and just dropped it.

The Giants are going to miss Walter Thurmond III this year. The nickel cornerback, who tore his pectoral muscle on Sunday, flashed several times the physicality the Giants were hoping he’d bring to the secondary. Thurmond loves to hit, something he clearly brought over from Seattle, and closes extremely quick on wide receivers who make catches at the line of scrimmage.

SPECIAL TEAMS - by Connor Hughes

The good first: Rashad Jennings perfectly fits what New York wants in a running back. He’s tough, he’s physical and he goes 100 percent on every single play. Doesn’t matter if he’s rushing, blocking, receiving… or playing punt team. Jennings went all out in an attempt to get a punt block and actually tipped it.

Zack Bowman caught a lot of flak for the missed tackle on Ted Ginn Jr. and it was warranted, he has to make that tackle. With that being said, he’s hardly the only one at fault:

(Boxscore – Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants, September 14, 2014)
Sep 152014
 
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Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers (December 8, 2013)

Keenan Allen Beats Terrell Thomas for a TD – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Giants secondary was set.

The team had two former first-round picks (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara) at their outside cornerback positions, both of whom were capable of shutting down an opponent’s No. 1 target. Then, for those pesky slot receivers, New York signed the self-proclaimed best nickel defender in the game, Walter Thurmond III, this offseason.

On paper, everything seemed perfect. It looked as if a team that had been led for so many years by their front four, would now be led by their secondary.

Two games into the season, that tactic took a massive blow. Versus the Arizona Cardinals Sunday afternoon, Thurmond suffered a torn pectoral muscle. He will have surgery on Tuesday. His season is over.

In years past, the Giants secondary had been ravaged by injuries. As a result, New York didn’t just build up its starting unit this offseason, but depth as well. Aside from Rodgers-Cromartie and Thurmond, Zack Bowman was signed from Chicago, Trumaine McBride was re-signed and Bennett Jackson drafted.

The injury to Thurmond, while a blow, shouldn’t be that bad. Right? New York should be able to slide any of the above mentioned players into the nickel cornerback position. Right?

Actually, wrong. While New York was considered to be incredibly deep at the cornerback position, it actually lacks experience at the nickel.

Here’s a look at what each cornerback on the Giants roster has done when brought in to play nickel. If the Giants deem the present group not worthy, here’s a few other options that may be worth a look.

Stats are courtesy of Pro Football Focus

Zack Bowman, Chicago Bears (October 10, 2013)

Zack Bowman – © USA TODAY Sports Images

PRESENTLY ON THE ROSTER:

Zack Bowman, CB
Last Year Team: Chicago Bears
Snaps in Slot: 2013 – 8, 2012 – 0, 2011 – 5, 2010 – 5

When the news broke that Thurmond would miss the season, the instant logical solution to many was to simply plug Bowman in. The issue with that? Bowman has rarely been used at the nickel cornerback position throughout the duration of his career. The 29-year old has primarily been known as an outside corner and special teams player. While Bowman excelled in the preseason this year, it was very rarely when lined up in the slot. In four preseason games, Bowman played just two snaps matched up against the slot receiver.

Trumaine McBride, CB
Last Year Team: New York Giants
Snaps in Slot: 2013 – 10, 2012-0, 2011- 0, 2010- 12

McBride enjoyed a breakout season in 2014 while filling in for injured Giants cornerback Corey Webster. When quarterbacks decided to test McBride, their average QB rating was under 60. However, similar to Bowman, McBride has been known as an outside cornerback throughout the majority of his NFL career. In fact, between 2011 and 2012, McBride didn’t play a single snap in the slot.

Jayron Hosley, CB
Last Year Team: New York Giants
Snaps in Slot: 2013-4, 2012-177, 2011- 0

Jayron Hosley is arguably the player with the most experience in the slot, having played 177 snaps as the Giants nickel cornerback in 2012. The issue? He wasn’t particularly effective. Quarterbacks completed 52-of-76 passes when testing Hosley and had a combined quarterback rating of 86.7. In the 2014 preseason, Hosley played primarily outside and struggled, but did get six reps in nickel. He allowed two catches on the only two passes thrown his way. There’s also the small tidbit that Hosley is still suspended for two games. There is a chance that if the new drug policy is put in place, Hosley can play as early as this Sunday, but that’s no guarantee.

Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Antrel Rolle, S
Last Year Team: New York Giants
Snaps in Slot: 2013-176, 2012- 173, 2011- 319

It seems as if every year the Giants try everything to get Rolle out of the slot, and every year something happens that puts him right back in it. Since joining the Giants, Rolle has played 668 snaps as a nickel cornerback. He’s had some success, too. Last year, a quarterback’s rating when testing Rolle was 66.6, but in 2012, that number was 107.3. Rolle is much better suited to simply play safety, as was evident last year, and New York will most likely try all other scenarios before moving the Pro Bowler down.

ON THE PRACTICE SQUAD:

Bennett Jackson, CB
Last Year: Rookie
Snaps in Slot: 2014 preseason-53

Quietly, Bennett Jackson had a pretty impressive preseason when playing the nickel cornerback position. On 53 snaps, he was only tested four times. He allowed two catches for 36 yards. Jackson is presently stashed on the Giants practice squad and could be activated if Thurmond is placed on the injured reserve, and the Giants decide not to activate Hosley.

Chandler Fenner, CB
Last year: Rookie
Snaps in Slot: 2014 preseason- 0

A very, very unlikely situation would be the activation of Chandler Fenner to the Giants 53-man roster. While Fenner played well in the preseason and team’s training camp, he saw no snaps as a nickel back in the preseason.

Terrell Thomas, New York Giants (October 6, 2013)

Terrell Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

OUTSIDE THE TEAM:

Terrel Thomas, CB
Last Year: New York Giants
Snaps in Slot: 2014-315, 2010- 57

While Jordan Raanan (NJ.com) and Conor Orr (The Star-Ledger) have reported that, at least to this point, the Giants have not contacted Thomas’ reps, the former second-round pick is still a free agent after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks in training camp.

Thomas was one of the feel-good stories for the Giants a year ago when he bounced back from a third ACL tear to play the full 16 games. Thomas saw over 300 snaps as the nickel corner and played well at times. In his first game action in two years, Thomas allowed 45 completions in 59 attempts for 453 yards with three touchdowns. He intercepted one pass and a quarterback’s average rating when testing the USC alum was an even 91. He’s available, knows the system and has had more experience and success than any other cornerback option on the roster.

Charles James II, CB
Last Year Team: New York Giants
Snaps in Slot: 2014 (preseason)- 44 2013 (PS)- 27

During the Giants 75-man roster cut down, they waived fan-favorite Charles James. The former undrafted free agent is still a free agent and saw some action in the nickel package this preseason, but struggled mightily. James played 27 snaps and allowed a completion on both of the throws tossed his way. Similar to Thomas, NJ.com and The Star-Ledger are reporting there has been no phone call made from the Giants to James.

Dunta Robinson, CB
2013 Team: Kansas City Chiefs
Snaps in Slot: 2013- 143 2012-48 2011-3

An unlikely option for the Giants would be to sign a veteran with little connection to the team. Former first-round pick Dunta Robinson is presently a free agent and had the most success in the slot last year of available veterans. Playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, Robinson allowed 17 completions on 24 targets as a nickel corner.

Sep 152014
 
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Walter Thurmond and Michael Strahan, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Walter Thurmond and Michael Strahan – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Things just went from bad, to worse for the 0-2 New York Giants.

Free-agent acquisition and nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond III, who left Sunday’s game with the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth quarter, suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the 25-14 defeat.

Thurmond will have surgery on Tuesday and will miss the entire 2014-215 season.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Thurmond came in in an attempt to make a play on a screen pass. As Thurmond went to “punch” the ball out, his arm hit an opponent’s shoulder pads. Thurmond said he felt a stinging pain shoot up his arm, but remained in the game. Three plays later, he removed himself after struggling in press coverage.

After the game, Thurmond said his arm was “sore” and that he’d have additional tests done on Monday. Those tests, according to Pro Football Talk, showed a tear.

Thurmond, 27, signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Giants this offseason as part of the team’s secondary overhaul. Along with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Thurmond was expected to build one of the league’s best back units. Rodgers-Cromartie, and former first-round pick Prince Amukamara, manned the outside while Thurmond played nickel.

Throughout training camp, the preseason and first two games of the regular season, Thurmond displayed the physicality New York had hoped he’d bring to the defense. Not only did Thurmond walk-the-walk, but the former Seattle Seahawk enjoyed the talk just as much.

The first time Thurmond met the New York media, he boasted claims as the league’s best nickel cornerback, sparking a twitter war with Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin. He was often times seen jawing with teammates in training camp and took it upon himself to bring the “swag” to New York’s secondary.

While the Giants have yet to confirm or deny the report, if Thurmond is out for the season, the door will open for Trumaine McBride. Last season, McBride enjoyed a breakout season for the Giants.

According to Pro Football Focus, McBride graded out with a positive 6.8 rating in 2013. When quarterbacks tested McBride, their rating was a 57.4. New York re-signed McBride this offseason prior to signing Thurmond.

With the new drug policy being revamped, there is also a chance former third-round pick Jayron Hosley returns early from his four-game suspension. If that is the case, Hosley can be activated to the 53-man roster and play as early as Sunday.

Sep 142014
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Giants dropped to 0-2 following a 25-14 loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. Below you will find a few of the studs, and duds, from Sunday’s game.

Please note, these studs and duds are compiled via initial gut reaction having not reviewed the game on film. These can easily be changed upon the final film review session. These are not the final and absolute observations made.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

STUDS:

Eli Manning
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning put together the kind of performance he would have put together last week had it not been for many of the drops. It’s a crazy fact, actually, considering Manning still dealt with an abnormal amount of dropped balls.

Manning displayed that he does in fact have the ability to play in the West Coast scheme and actually have quite a bit of success. Manning looked calm, cool and collected throughout the game’s entirety. An interception on a tipped pass and an end-of-game bomb cloud an otherwise very solid performance. Manning finished 26-of-39 for 277 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Rueben Randle
A lot was made over Rueben Randle’s two receptions for one yard last week and he responded in a big way Sunday afternoon. Playing against one of the better cornerbacks in the league, Randle caught four passes for 39 yards including a beautiful one-handed grab. This stud though does come with a big ‘but’ as Randle dropped a deep pass down the sideline.

Offensive Line (pass blocking)
There is a big, big difference between the Detroit Lions front four and the Arizona Cardinals, but either way Manning had tons of time to throw in the pocket Sunday afternoon. Was it perfect all the time? No, but no line ever is. Every now and then, your quarterback is going to get sacked and not everyone is going to get picked up. Looking at the complete body of work, the offensive line played very well when it came to pass blocking.

Larry Donnell, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Larry Donnell
Maybe the biggest surprise in the early portions of this season has been the receiving aspect of Larry Donnell’s game. Manning has gone to the tight end time and time again, targeting him 17 times the last two games. Sunday, Donnell caught seven passes for 81 yards and was the Giants leading receiver for the second straight game.

The Pass Rush
Wasn’t that a sight for sore eyes? The Giants front four displayed visions of 2007 and 2011, frequently making trips to Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton. New York recorded four sacks, had two nullified via penalty, and had countless other pressures. Johnathan Hankins, Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka all got to the quarterback.

Johnathan Hankins
If the first two games are any indication, the Giants may have a budding star on their hands in Johnathan Hankins. The second-year player is not only a stud against the run, but made several visits to the quarterback, including his first career sack. He looks like a very, very good player.

DUDS:
Offensive Line (run blocking)
The final stat line says it all: New York rushed the ball 27 times and gained 81 yards. That’s an average of three yards per carry. In the first half, the Giants had 13 total rushing yards.

It wasn’t the 85 Chicago Bears lining up in front of the Giants, but the Arizona Cardinals. The same Arizona Cardinals that were playing without Darnell Docket and John Abraham. Three yards per carry is unacceptable. If the Giants want to establish anything this year, they need to improve their rushing attack. All 64 of Rashad Jennings’ yards were courtesy of him and him only. Without reviewing the game, I’m not sure he had a nice hole to run through all game.

Mark Herzlich
This is a tough one to put, because Herzlich isn’t a good defensive player. The Giants know that, the league knows that. Where Herzlich makes his plays is on special teams. Either way, when Beason went down he needed to step up and didn’t.

On Herzlich’s first series, the Cardinals gained two first downs running right at him. A few plays later, he was called for a holding. A series after that, he gave up a first-down to tight end Troy Niklas. It wasn’t a good showing.

Ted Ginn, Arizona Cardinals (September 14, 2014)

Ted Ginn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quintin Demps and Zack Bowman
It’s not just that Demps fumbled the ball, which was unacceptable, it’s his decisions to take the ball out of the endzone. The Giants started inside their own 20 far too many times because Demps decided to risk it, and, while looking at the replay at MetLife, it appeared he was holding the ball freely on the fumble. Victor Cruz’s drop loaded the gun, but Demps’ fumble pulled the trigger in the Giants demise Sunday.

Bowman gets a dud as well, combined with Demps. Bowman was signed by the Giants because of his solid play on special teams. He had Ted Ginn Jr. wrapped up and was bringing him to the ground before being shrugged off.

Victor Cruz
The No. 1 dud from Sunday, no questions asked. Entering the Giants match-up with the Cardinals, Victor Cruz pulled his own Keyshawn Johnson and said if the Giants offense wants success, he needs to be thrown the ball.

If you’re going to say that, fine, but you better back it up. Cruz didn’t, to say the least.

When New York needed a play, it went to Cruz who responded with three drops. Two of which would have been touchdowns.

It’s completely unacceptable to complain about the number of targets thrown your way after dropping two passes. But to then complain about the number of targets, then drop three after the complaint? That’s pathetic.

Victor Cruz is a first-year captain for the Giants, it’s time he starts playing like a leader, not complaining like a prima donna.

Sep 142014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

There was a key to the New York Giants turning their offense around. In fact, according to Victor Cruz, it was a simple fix.

After being dismantled by the Detroit Lions in the season opener, New York need just throw the ball in Cruz’s direction versus the Arizona Cardinals. If they did that, everything would be OK according to the former Pro Bowler.

“There needs to be an increased number of targets in my direction,” Cruz said last week.

Versus the Cardinals Sunday afternoon, those passes were thrown, but when New York needed him most, Cruz came up short. The wideout dropped three must-catch passes Sunday afternoon as Arizona defeated New York, 25-14, dropping the Giants record to 0-2 for the second consecutive season.

“Any ball in my direction, in my opinion, I’ve got to bring in,” Cruz said. “I’ve got to be able to make the play for my team and make the play whenever (Quarterback Eli Manning) looks my way. I own up to it and those are ones I have to bring in.”

After struggling on defense in its season opener, the Giants defense again got off to a slow start versus the Cardinals. Arizona marched 80 yards in 11 plays, capping the drive with a one-yard touchdown run from Jonathan Dwyer. Following an Eli Manning interception on New York’s first series, it was a 10-play, 40-yard drive that ended in a Chandler Catanzaro field goal.

Trailing by 10, the Giants offense finally found life. Manning and Co. marched 90 yards in 13 plays before the quarterback found receiver Rueben Randle for a seven-yard score past Patrick Peterson. Three series later in the second half, it was another touchdown pass from Manning, this time to Daniel Fells, to give New York its first lead of the season.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“We were confident,” Cruz said. “I think the confidence level was there. We were getting ourselves open, we were making the big play.”

But the success was short lived. Arizona answered New York’s scoring drive with one of their own when Catanzaro hit a 37-yard field goal. Then, facing a third-and-six, the game took a turn for the worse.

With time to throw in the pocket, Manning dropped back and sent a pass deep down the left sideline. Cruz was open, but dropped the ball. The punt team came on, and Ted Ginn gave Giant fans a flashback to 2013.

Steve Weatherford boomed a high, spiraling kick to the New York 29 yard line. Zack Bowman came in to wrap up Ginn, but the former first-round pick spun out of the tackle and took off up the middle of the field.

Ginn eluded Zak DeOssie and Spencer Paysinger before sprinting past Weatherford and toward the west end zone at MetLife Stadium for a 71-yard touchdown.

“It was just that point of time where we needed a play,” Ginn said. “I just went out and I just tried to make the best play that I can, and it turned out to be a touchdown.”

Ted Ginn, Arizona Cardinals (September 14, 2014)

Ted Ginn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

On the ensuing kickoff, Quintin Demps fumbled, setting up another Catanzaro field goal. The next offensive series, Manning went back to Cruz, giving the receiver a chance to make amends. Cruz responded with two more drops, leading to another Giants punt and three-and-out.

“We just need to keep working,” Manning said. “Those are physical mistakes, those things happen sometimes, a drop. That’s football…. We have opportunities to make plays, we just have to make them.”

With 9:11 remaining in the game, the Giants put together their best shot at a comeback, but came up short again. After driving 65 yards to the Arizona 17-yard line, Manning threw a pass in the flat to Rashad Jennings. As the running back cut to turn up the field, he slipped and fell to the turf. The ball popped out and Arizona recovered.

The Giants defense forced a three-and-out, getting the ball in the offense’s hands one last time, but New York went four-and-out, setting up a fourth and game-sealing Catanzaro field goal.

“You know what?” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “I look out there, they’re men. We’re all men. Stop feeling sorry four ourselves. We had an opportunity and we let it slip. There’s no one to blame but ourselves.

“You work as hard as you can, you run around like a crazy man. You get your coaches to apply themselves even harder. You get the players to apply themselves harder.”

In the loss, Manning completed 26-of-39 passes for 277 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Larry Donnell caught seven passes for 81 yards, Cruz five for 60 and Rueben Randle four for 39 and a touchdown. Defensively, New York recorded four sacks, highlighted by Jason Pierre-Paul’s 1.5. Johnathan Hankins had the first of his career.

New York middle linebacker Jon Beason left the game in the fourth quarter with a foot injury and Walter Thurmond III with a pectoral injury, neither player returned.

The following players did not suit up for the Giants: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), LB Devon Kennard (hamstring), G Adam Snyder, T Charles Brown (shoulder), DE Kerry Wynn, T James Brewer (back), and DT Markus Kuhn (ankle).

Sep 142014
 
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Jon Beason, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Jon Beason – © USA TODAY Sports Images

If dropping their record to 0-2 wasn’t enough, the New York Giants added injury to insult as two defensive starters exited Sunday’s game with the Arizona Cardinals and did not return.

Linebacker Jon Beason (toe) and nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond III (pectoral) each exited the game in the fourth quarter. Following the game, linebacker Jon Beason was not made available to the media, but was seen leaving the stadium in a walking boot, according to NJ.com’s Jordan Raanan.

“He has to have x-rays and MRIs again,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said in regards to Beason. “I have no idea. I don’t know the results.”

While Coughlin wouldn’t offer much in terms of clarity on Beason’s injury, he did state he believes it is related to the ligament tear and fracture the linebacker suffered early in the team’s offseason conditioning program.

Back in June, Beason jumped up in pass coverage during an OTA practice. Upon landing, Beason limped off to the sideline and was carted back to the locker room. Further tests revealed the fracture in his right foot and Beason sat out all of training camp and preseason.

Beason missed time in practice this week, but was a full-go for the game.

As for Thurmond, the cornerback said his injury occurred when he attempted to make a tackle in the fourth quarter. Thurmond went to punch the ball out, before feeling something in his upper right arm. He remained in the game for three additional plays and then removed himself.

Thurmond didn’t say how long he expected to be out or if he expected to practice this week.

“I’d say it’s tender right now,” Thurmond said. “I think I’ll get some imaging and stuff like that done and go from there.”

When Thurmond was injured, cornerback Trumaine McBride filled in. With Beason out, the Giants turned to fourth-year pro Mark Herzlich. The Boston College alumni struggled on defense.

During Herzlich’s first series on defense, the Cardinals twice ran at him for first downs. He was then flagged for a holding call, and one possession later gave up a first down in pass coverage.

After Beason was initially injured, the Giants had slid Jameel McClain over from strongside linebacker to middle and put rookie Devon Kennard in at SAM. The group played well in the preseason, but Kennard was inactive versus Arizona while he rehabs from a hamstring injury suffered in the season opener.

“It feels better, I’m trying to get better so I can get out there as soon as possible,” Kennard said. “I’ll find out more tomorrow and Tuesday with what they plan on doing. My hamstring has to be at 100 percent. I haven’t started running and stuff like that.”

If Beason is out an extended amount of time and Kennard is unable to return, New York may look to make a move at linebacker. Presently, McClain, Jacquian Williams, Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger are the only healthy linebackers on the squad. Undrafted rookie Dan Fox is on the practice squad and could be a candidate to be called up, but he is viewed as a very raw talent with his value being primarily on special teams.

Sep 132014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

 

Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants, September 14, 2014

Stats and analysis courtesy of Pro Football Focus

Earlier this week, New York Giants offensive coordinator  Ben McAdoo said one of the things that he was encouraged by when watching the film of the debacle in Detroit, was the mistakes his offense made weren’t the same ones, but different.

While NJ.com’s Jordan Raanan pointed out the contrary, there was no denying that Monday featured plays to be made, the Giants simply didn’t make them. Versus Arizona this Sunday at 1:00 PM, the Giants hope to change that and get their first win of the season.

In fact, after starting last season 0-6 last year, there’s been a different feel around the locker room this week in practice. The Giants know that in order to keep those 0-6 thoughts out of their minds, they need to win a game. 1-1 looks a lot better than 0-2.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Rueben Randle
It wasn’t pretty for Rueben Randle last week in Detroit. Maybe not because of Randle himself, but because he wasn’t targeted by Eli Manning. The former second-round pick caught just two passes for one yard on three targets. Comparing that to tight end Larry Donnell making his first start, the big-bodied end was thrown at eight times.

A lack of targets this week to Randle may not be because the Giants don’t want to get him the ball, but can’t. The Cardinals have one of the better cornerback tandems in the league in Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie. Last week versus the San Diego Chargers, the two combined to allow only four catches for 32 yards.

Second Down
Throw me the ball
Victor Cruz did a very un-Victor Cruz like thing this week when he stated the key to the offense’s success was, well, throwing him the ball. The only issue with Cruz’s statement…he was thrown the ball last week.

He just didn’t make the plays.

According to Pro Football Focus, Cruz rated out -1.9 score, the worst of any Giants receiver. He was target six times, but managed only two receptions and dropped two passes, second most in the NFL.

It’s time Cruz backs up his talk with his play. But Monday’s lack-of-production was not because the ball wasn’t send the former Pro Bowler’s way.

Third Down
J.D. Walton
No one of the Giants offensive line played particularly well Monday night in Detroit, but Walton stood out as visually struggling the most. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh made a mockery of the Giants center, regularly sending him yards into the backfield.

Versus Arizona, Walton won’t be facing the likes of Suh and Fairley. Instead, he’ll see an awful lot of Dan Williams and Paul Soliai. Versus the Chargers last week, the two combined for three quarterback hurries and two tackles.

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (August 18, 2014)

Prince Amukamara – Photo by Connor Hughes

Fourth Down
Prince Amukamara
One of the brightest spots for the New York Giants on Monday was the play of Prince Amukamara. The former first-round pick played as just that and showed he may in fact be New York’s best cornerback.

Sunday afternoon will be a great test for Amukamara, no matter whom he faces. The Arizona Cardinals bring to the table two very good outside receivers in Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. After only being thrown at four times last week and catching only one pass, Fitzgerald will be eager to put a terrible season opener behind him.

If it’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who draws Fitzgerald, that means Amukamara will get Michael Floyd. The former first-round pick caught five of the seven passes thrown his way last week for 119 yards. He gained 27 yards after contact, including a 63-yard bomb from quarterback Carson Palmer.

BREAKING DOWN THE CARDINALS:

OFFENSE - Eric Kennedy
Strength?
The strength of the Cardinals’ offense is obvious…it’s their outstanding receiving corps. The Giants faced Detroit’s Calvin Johnson in the opener, now they face another of the game’s best in Larry Fitzgerald who is coming off a sub par game (1 catch) and looking to rebound. Michael Floyd meanwhile picked up the slack with 5 catches for 119 yards. Both are big, physical targets who can make big plays and help out their inconsistent quarterback. The guy who has really impressed me is rookie John Brown, who looks like a third-round steal. Ted Ginn has game-breaking speed, but is inconsistent. Combine that with an underrated group of tight ends, led by John Carlson.

The Giants have invested a lot of resources in a secondary that did not play well on Monday night. They need big rebound game. Calvin Johnson may be the best receiver in football, but Arizona’s receiving corps is more talented overall.

Weakness?
It used to be the offensive line, but the Cardinals signed LT Jared Veldheer in the offseason and that has improved the overall state of the unit. Still, the offensive line is a bit shaky. The Cardinals still are not that impressive up front and defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Cullen Jenkins (as long as hip is not too much of a problem) could present a lot of problems for Arizona. The bigger overall weakness for the Cardinals – and this is related to their offensive line – is their running game. The Cardinals were 23rd in rushing in 2013 and they might not be much more improved this year. RB Andre Ellington can break the big play but he is undersized and hurt his left foot last week. Former Steeler Jonathan Dwyer is ordinary. The Giants should be able to take away the Cardinals running game and make them one dimensional. If they don’t, then it will be difficult to win this game.

DEFENSE - Connor Hughes
Strength?
There’s no doubt where the strength of the Cardinals defense lies, Antonio Cromartie and Patrick Peterson are two of the most physically gifted cornerbacks in the NFL. The two are fast, tall and play the ball in the air exceptionally well. As hard as it will be for Manning, if he starts forcing the ball against the two, things won’t turn out well.

I’d expect the Giants to try to attack the slot and seam more than the outside. Last year, Patrick Peterson played just 69 snaps in nickel and Cromartie 15. If that same trend holds true on Sunday, Cruz should be matched up against Jerraud Powers, who played 31 snaps in the nickel defense last week. That’s a matchup worth testing. Not Jerrel Jernigan/Randle on the outside versus Peterson and Cromartie.

Weakness?
The defensive line for the Cardinals has been ravaged by injured taking into consideration the loss of Darnell Docket, then the fact John Abraham may never play another snap. The Giants aren’t facing Ansah/Suh/Fairley this week. Manning should have additional time in the pocket. Then again, last week he was only pressured 31 precent of the times (Ryan Tannehill and Matt Ryan were pressure more).

Last week versus San Diego, the Cardinals outside linebackers (Sam Acho, Matt Shaughnessy, Thomas Keiser) combined for zero sacks, zero hurries and zero total pressure on Phillip Rivers.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 28, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

PLAYER TO WATCH:
Connor Hughes -
Eli Manning

The one thing that has gotten Eli Manning in trouble in years past is that Brett Favre gun-slinger mentality. Where some quarterbacks will see a situtation and say, “Eh, probably shouldn’t throw there,” Manning will see the same scenario and say, “Eh, I may be able to get it there.” This was evidently apparent on the Victor Cruz interception versus Detroit.

As Manning rolled out, Cruz was open. Had Manning planted his feet, got underneath it and led Cruz, it’s probably a touchdown. But Manning didn’t. He threw off his back foot, the pass was underthrown, jumped and intercepted.

Manning can’t make those plays versus the Cardinals. The days of the Giants offense gaining 400 yards, at least at this point, are over. Manning needs to realize that punting the ball and letting the defense play defense in a field position game is a win. If he throws another two interceptions, the Giants have no shot.

Eric Kennedy -
The Offensive Line
OK..so this is really five players…sue me. To me, the key to this game for the Giants is their ground game. They need to be able to run the ball against a beat up Cardinals front seven. It’s time to get back to old-fashioned Giants’ football and pound Arizona for four quarters. I expect the Cardinals to play eight in the box and dare the Giants to beat them with the pass. But I’d still stick with the run and use my two big backs to play some smash-mouth football. That should help settle down the line. But consistency will be key. Keep mistakes to a minimum…don’t miss blocks…don’t get penalized. Power football.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - In studying the Arizona Cardinals, they are a good team and they certainly did emerge last year, a team that beat Seattle late in the season and just barely lost to San Francisco. (A) 10-6 football team that is a very, very aggressive, physical, defensive team. Very good upfront, runs the ball. In Carson Palmer they have found the quarter that Bruce Arians indicated that he was looking for and take advantage of an outstanding receiving group and can throw the ball down the field. They do have a nice group of running backs that have played well in that system. They are a good team, and we look forward to playing them Sunday.

Bruce Arians - (On how his secondary is coming together) I was really pleased the other night. We put them in situations where Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie were on islands, but we also put our young safeties in that same situation because we do like to pressure a lot. They handled themselves extremely well. They did get behind us a couple times and we were able to get pressure on Philip Rivers and they did not complete some balls, but that is going to happen the way we played defense.

FINAL WORD:

Connor Hughes – Everything says the Giants shouldn’t win this game. In fact, if anything, the Arizona Cardinals are actually a better team than the Detroit Lions are right now. Their defense is better, their offense (aside from the Calvin Johnson/Matt Stafford factor) is overall better and the team is battled tested playing in the – oh what a difference a few years make – toughest division in professional football.

With all that being said.. I think the Giants pull this one out. On Monday night in Detroit, the Giants had plays that could have been made, they just didn’t make them. Will those same plays be there against a much more talented Arizona secondary? Probably not.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Giants need to stay away from turnovers and need to get after Carson Palmer. Last year, Palmer completed just 49 percent of his passes when pressured. According to Pro Football Focus, when feeling the rush, Palmer threw 15 interceptions to just three touchdowns. If the Giants can do both of those things, I think they win. New York 20 – Arizona- 10.

Eric Kennedy – Coming into the season, I thought the Giants would beat the Lions but lose to the Cardinals. Arizona is a good football team, and if they were healthy, they are a better football team than the Giants. But they are beat up. QB Carson Palmer has issues with his shoulder. Their offensive line and running game are still shaky. But most importantly, they have been slammed with injuries up front. The strength of the Cardinals is their secondary and receiving corps. Both the Giants and Cardinals are coming off of short weeks and the Cardinals are traveling across country. If the Giants can get their ground game going – and they should – I think the Giants can win this game. But Eli must protect the football better. When the Giants win the turnover battle, they usually win. Giants 20 – Cardinals 16.