Aug 222016
 
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B.J. Goodson, New York Giants (August 20, 2016)

B.J. Goodson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Buffalo Bills 21 – New York Giants 0

Overview

There is no reason to panic. Yet. Most teams have games like this every now and then in both the preseason and regular season, where nothing goes right on one side of the ball. In most cases, one can write off or make excuses for such a preseason disappointment. But when you have a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator/play-caller on a team that hasn’t sniffed the playoffs in four years, red flags start getting raised.

Giants on Offense

The New York Giants played a preseason football game on August 20, 2016 and someone forgot to tell the offense. It was bad. Very bad.

  • Seven first downs. Seven.
  • 1-for-11 (9 percent) on third-down conversions.
  • 166 total net yards with 67 of those yards coming on one 4th quarter play.
  • 64 net yards passing.
  • 47 total offensive plays.
  • Four turnovers.
  • 20 minutes time of possession.
  • Zero points. Zero.
Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 20, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterback

Eli Manning played four offensive series in which the team netted 23 yards and one first down. He finished the game 4-of-9 for 44 yards.

Ryan Nassib continues to be dreadful. He entered the game in the second quarter and played into the fourth quarter. He didn’t complete his first pass until near the end of the third quarter, missing on his first seven attempts. Nassib finished the game 2-of-12 for 25 yards with one lost fumble.

Not to be “out done”, Logan Thomas had a “perfect” completion percentage, connecting twice with Giants and twice with Bills, finishing the game 2-of-4 for 17 yards and two interceptions.

Running Backs

It was difficult to judge this group based on the piss-poor blocking by the offensive line and tight ends. Probably the most interesting item to note is that the coaching staff isn’t giving Orleans Darkwa much of a chance. He had only a handful of snaps and no touches.

Bobby Rainey broke off a 67-yard run in the 4th quarter, where he showed nice patience but not a lot of breakaway speed despite the big gain. Aside from this play, Giants backs gained 32 yards on 14 carries for a terrible 2.3 yards-per-run. Andre Williams fumbled the ball away, but he had an impressive, physical 14-yard run to start the third quarter.

Paul Perkins failed to pick up the blitz on the sack-forced fumble-turnover that set up the Bills final touchdown. “The sack fumble was a protection adjustment that was on Paul Perkins,” said Ben McAdoo. Perkins also dropped a pass and had a false start. Not a good day for the rookie.

Wide Receivers

Victor Cruz (groin) and Geremy Davis (hamstring) did not play.

Giants wide receivers were targeted 19 times, but only five of those passes were completed. So in two preseason games, Giants wide receivers have only caught 10 passes. Ten. In the attempt to find a third receiver in case Cruz is done, thus far no one is impressing.

The “lucky” five who had a reception: Odell Beckham (22 yards), K.J. Maye (17 yards), Kadron Booone (11 yards), Tavarres King (8 yards), and Darius Powe (6 yards). Sterling Shepard was targeted once and shut out. Same with Myles White and Anthony Dable. Roger Lewis was targeted five times with no catches, including one drop.

Tight Ends/Offensive Line

Left guard Justin Pugh (shoulder) and tight end/fullback Will Johnson (burner) did not play.

I’m grouping these two unit together this week as their pathetic blocking up front was the primary reason for the shit show on offense. One of the beautiful elements of football is that a successful play is often the result of all eleven players performing their independent tasks as assigned. At the same time, one of the most frustrating elements is that if one of those 11 players – particularly a blocker – messes up, it can destroy the entire play. On Saturday, someone seemed to screw up on almost every play, be it with penalties, missed blocks by offensive linemen, and missed blocks by tight ends.

The key question is why was everyone so off? This is basically the same unit that was a top 10 offense last year. This offense played against the Bills in Buffalo last year during the regular season. Was it a comfort issue for the guys up front because Pugh was not in the line-up? Was it the play calling? Were the players simply not playing with the same level of intensity and focus as the Bills?

On the Giants first possession, on 2nd-and-11, it appeared that RT Marshall Newhouse simply failed to make contact on the linebacker who nailed the Giants running back for a loss. But Newhouse had words with TE Will Tye after the play, suggesting that Tye, who was playing up-back on the play, failed his assignment. Either way, someone messed up. After picking on the first down on 3rd-and-12, the Giants lost another yard when TE Larry Donnell simply whiffed on his man. Two plays later, RG John Jerry was flagged with a false start.

On the next series, LT Ereck Flowers was flagged for holding sabotaging the drive before it even had a chance to start. He gave up a pressure on Manning two plays later. The third series was also sabotaged when center Weston Richburg was flagged with holding. It’s difficult to overcome 1st-and-20 on back-to-back series. On 3rd-and-16, both tackles and LG Bobby Hart got beat and Manning was sacked. Manning’s fourth and final series ended on 3rd-and-2 when he was pressured as Jerry and Newhouse let one guy shoot between them.

Donnell whiffed on at least three run blocks and had trouble sustaining on others. He also had issues in pass protection on a Ryan Nassib rollout.

The second team offensive line that started the third quarter featured RT Bobby Hart, RG Emmett Cleary, OC Brett Jones, LG Ryan Seymour, and LT Byron Stingily. After a nice 14-yard run, Hart was promptly flagged for illegal formation on the next snap. Hart did a poor job in pass protection on this play as well as the next play. The Giants tried to run the ball with this unit without much success. Again, individual breakdowns led to issues, such as one right-side play that was stopped from the backside when Seymour whiffed on his block. Later, Cleary moved to right tackle, Adam Gettis played left guard, and Dillon Farrell played center. With this new line, Seymour had problems again, allowing his man to nail Andre Williams for a 3-yard loss. On the very next snap, Stingily, Seymour, and Farrell all immediately fell off of their blocks and Williams was surrounded by Bills (Matt LaCosse also had an impossible angle to attempt to block someone on this play). Farrell later couldn’t handle the nose tackle over his head on another botched run. They all struggled in pass protection too. And so it went. If you can’t block, you can’t run successful offensive plays. As far as I can tell, aside from Hart (and the jury is still out on Hart), there isn’t a legitimate NFL-caliber back-up on this roster. They all looked weak and like their feet are stuck in mud. The Bills just ran through or around these guys.

Giants on Defense

I’m not in a giving mood. The defense was OK. Were they put in a difficult situation because of the impotent offense? Yes. The three Bills scoring drives started at the Bills 48-yard line, Giants 49-yard line, and Giants 19-yard line. But the defense did allow three touchdowns on each of those possessions – all in the first half. In addition, the Bills drove 64 yards on another possession that ended with a fumble into the end zone.

Romeo Okwara, New York Giants (August 20, 2016)

Romeo Okwara

Defensive Line

DE Kerry Wynn (groin) did not play.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa lined up at right defensive tackle on 3rd-and-13 on the Bills first drive and immediately pressured the quarterback to disrupt the play and force a three-and-out. Olivier Vernon shot past the left tackle on an inside move to sack the quarterback in the second quarter. On the next snap, Vernon did an excellent job of holding the back to a 1-yard gain on 3rd-and-16.

Damon Harrison recovered a fumble in the end zone. He was a force against the run.

Among the back-ups, Louis Nix smacked the quarterback on one pass play. Jermelle Cudjo made a nice play defeating his man and tackling the running back in pursuit for no gain. Greg Milhouse made a couple of nice plays late when the Bills were running out the clock. Romeo Okwara impressed again. He caused an incompletion with one pressure and QB hit and later had a sack. Okwara also was a factor on Cooper Taylor’s interception. He was good against the run too – the Giants have something there in Okwara.

Linebackers

J.T. Thomas (hamstring) did not play.

Jonathan Casillas (4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 pass defense) had his second strong game in a row. He demonstrated nice pursuit on an end around in the 1st quarter that lost four yards. Later in the quarter, he nailed the back for no gain on an inside run. Casillas did have issues in coverage with running back LeSean McCoy on back-to-back plays in the second quarter – one 32-yard play overturned because McCoy was out-of-bounds and a 23-yard gain on a 3rd-and-8 check down.

Keenan Robinson lost track of the tight end in coverage on a 3rd-and-9 play that picked up 59 yards. Robinson later made a nice play against the run on the Bills second scoring drive by shooting the gap. He later tackled the back for a 3-yard loss on an outside run. Robinson overran a swing pass however, allowing extra yardage, and then was flagged with a face mask penalty.

Jasper Brinkley and Kelvin Sheppard continue to compete for the starting middle linebacker spot. As expected, Brinkley looked good against the run but had some issues against the pass, biting on a play-fake for a 15-yard gain to the tight end. Brinkley missed a tackle in the backfield on 2nd-and-1 but blew up a screen play on the next snap.

Another quiet game for Devon Kennard who had a chance to knock the ball away or intercept it on a 14-gain gain on the second scoring drive.

B.J. Goodson can hit; when he tackles you, you feel it. But he continues to struggle in coverage as he was lucky a deep ball to the tight end was overthrown on a play where he was beat.

Defensive Backs

Cornerbacks Eli Apple (leg) and Leon McFadden (leg) did not play.

Darian Thompson did a great job of attacking a sweep and nailing the running back for a 7-yard loss on the second offensive snap of the game. Later in the quarter, Landon Collins made two nice plays on the goal line. First, he kept the scrambling quarterback out of the end zone by quickly pursuing towards the sideline. Then Collins forced a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by the Giants. Running back LeSean McCoy caught a 13-yard touchdown pass against Thompson on 3rd-and-11 early in the second quarter. Collins blew up an outside running play that lost three yards on the second scoring drive. Collins was very active against the run.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins let the quarterback get away from him on a 3rd-and-9 blitz, and the Bills made the Giants pay with a 59-yard completion. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) knocked away an out-pass late in the first quarter. However, DRC may have knocked away a sure interception by Thompson on an errant deep pass. Jenkins got beat for 12 yards on a 2nd-and-13 slant that set up the second touchdown.

Leon Hall’s defensive holding penalty on a 3rd-and-3 incomplete pass kept the Bills second scoring drive alive. Hall was later flagged with a second holding penalty too on an incomplete 2nd-and-15 pass.

Donte Deayon (who was beat) and Nat Berhe (who was late getting over) were lucky a deep ball was overthrown. Deayon got beat for what looked like a touchdown later on this drive, but he prevented the receiver from completing the act of catching the football as he was forced out-of-bounds. But Deayon got burned for a touchdown on the same play on the next drive after a turnover. Deayon also gave up a 31-yard deep sideline pass in the 4th quarter despite decent coverage.

Trevin Wade was beat on the successful 2-point conversion after the quarterback had a lot of time to survey the field. Wade also got beat for 11 yards on a shallow crossing route on 3rd-and-9 in the 4th quarter.

Justin Currie played more than expected after Mykkele Thompson left with a concussion early. Currie couldn’t make the tackle in the backfield, leading to a 9-yard gain on one play. Currie then failed to get over in time on a 21-yard completion two plays later. Cooper Taylor picked off an errant deep pass in the fourth quarter.

Giants on Special Teams

Brad Wing was the “star” of the game for the Giants with eight punts for 384 yards (48 yards per punt), including two downed inside the 10-yard line. Long snapper Zak DeOssie was flagged with a false start.

Tom Obarski missed a 27-yard field goal, which does not bode well for his roster status.

Bobby Rainey returned three punts for 36 yards, including a 25-yard return. Dwayne Harris returned two punts for 18 yards, including a 14-yard return. Rainey had one kickoff return for 21 yards. He came precariously close to causing a turnover when he didn’t field a short kickoff. Joe Powell was flagged for unnecessary roughness, wiping out a decent Rainey punt return.

Punt coverage was better this week, although the Giants did give up two 11-yard returns. Overall, the Bills returned five punts for 26 yards (5.2 yard average). The Giants (Josh Brown) kicked off once and it resulted in a touchback.

(New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, August 20, 2016)
Aug 192016
 
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Weston Richburg, New York Giants (August 12 2016)

Weston Richburg – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, August 20, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
Normally the two most important preseason games for the starters in terms of regular-season preparation are the third and second preseason games. Minus a number of injured starters, we should get a much better impression of the starting offensive and defensive units this week. In addition, Rex Ryan usually takes preseason games more seriously.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • LB J.T. Thomas (hamstring – on the PUP – did not make trip)
  • WR Victor Cruz (groin)
  • WR Geremy Davis (hamstring – did not make trip)
  • TE Will Johnson (burner – did not make trip)
  • LG Justin Pugh (shoulder)
  • DE Kerry Wynn (groin – did not make trip)
  • CB Eli Apple (strained leg muscle)
  • CB Leon McFadden (bruised lower leg – did not make trip)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
This week the Giants offense will benefit from the addition of its two best players: Eli Manning and Odell Beckham. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking on Victor Cruz and the coaching staff must now operate under the assumption that Cruz will not be a factor for at least the first part of the season and perhaps beyond. Making matters worse is that the favorite to replace Cruz in three-wide receiver sets – Geremy Davis – has been missing valuable practice and now game time with a hamstring injury. Keep in mind that Davis is still pretty darn green.

So the attention really shifts to other green receivers such as Tavarres King, Roger Lewis, and Darius Powe – three who didn’t get much of a chance to impress last week due to crappy quarterbacking from Ryan Nassib. Unless one of these three or Myles White shines and gains the trust of Ben McAdoo and Eli Manning, the third receiver on opening day may remain Dwayne Harris. In this offense, the third receiver is a de facto starter.

On the running back front, it appears Rashad Jennings is 1a and Shane Vereen 1b. Paul Perkins will also make the 53-man roster. Bobby Rainey played earlier than expected last week. He’s vying with Andre Williams and Orleans Darkwa for possibly one roster spot. Personally, I’d like to see a heavy dose of Williams and Darkwa in order to get a better read on those two.

At tight end, Larry Donnell and Will Tye seem to be locks. Matt LaCosse has received a lot of attention from the coaches but he’s battling the ultra versatile Will Johnson (who is out this game) and rookie draft pick Jerell Adams for a roster spot. The Giants may keep four tight ends, but someone has to go other than Ryan Malleck unless the Giants ditch Nikita Whitlock and use Johnson at fullback too.

Justin Pugh (shoulder) made the trip but it is unknown if he will play. If he doesn’t, Bobby Hart will have a busy night, playing with the first-unit at left guard and then the second-unit at right tackle. The starters remain pretty much set. What we don’t know is – other than Hart – who the back-ups will be. There are a bunch of journeymen no-names in this group who have yet to inspire a lot of confidence. Depth on the offensive line is a serious concern.

On a final note, Ryan Nassib simply stunk last week. He’s a lock to make the roster, but he has to play with a lot more confidence and credibility.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The early returns with the starting unit were impressive last week, but that was only one game against a suspect offense. That said, if the Giants defensive line performs as well as it did last week throughout this upcoming season, the Giants are in good shape. The front was tough against the run and able to pressure the passer without bringing extra rushers. That’s huge.

The Giants also appear to have a nice battle brewing at back-up defensive end. Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Romeo Okwara not only flashed as pass rushers, but they showed a great deal of versatility by being able to play defensive tackle in pass-rush situations. Kerry Wynn – who was doing some nice things at camp before getting hurt – has missed a lot of time with a groin injury. Even Stansly Maponga and Mike Rose have flashed some.

Depth at defensive tackle behind Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins is more shaky. Jay Bromley is finally back after late offseason ankle surgery. The Giants very much need him to come into his own this year. Greg Milhouse, Jermelle Cudjo, Davon Coleman, Louis Nix, and Montori Hughes are probably battling for one roster spot.

It’s still not known who the Giants middle linebacker and principle defensive front-seven signal-caller will be on opening night. Kelvin Sheppard and Jasper Brinkley are the leading contenders. Jonathan Casillas has taken full advantage of J.T. Thomas’ (hamstring) absence and appears firmly entrenched as a starter and nickel linebacker. Keenan Robinson also has seen a lot of time with the nickel defense. We get our first look at him this week as he missed last week with an injury. Devon Kennard was very quiet in the first preseason game. B.J. Goodson had a mostly positive game and was in on a lot of tackles, but he needs to show more in coverage. This appears to be a deep group, but are there any consistent play makers?

The secondary is shaking up to be a strong unit. Eli Apple (leg) made the trip but it remains to be seen if he plays. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins weren’t even tested in the preseason opener. Ben McAdoo said rookie free safety Darian Thompson was virtually perfect in his assignments. I’d like to see more flash out of Landon Collins. The Giants invested a high #2 in him. The nickel corner spot has been dramatically upgraded with the addition of Leon Hall. With Leon McFadden out, Donte Deayon should see a lot of action, and possibly Bennett Jackson, at corner. I still don’t have a good sense of whether or not the Giants have an NFL-caliber back-up safeties. Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor, Mykkele Thompson, and Andrew Adams all had their ups and downs last week. This is an important game for them.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The one-game suspension of Josh Brown and ensuing media controversy about his domestic violence past may be upsetting the apple cart here. Is Tom Obarski the guy you want kicking against the Cowboys with the game on the line in the opener? Will the media storm surrounding Brown die away or force the team’s hand? Often unrecognized by fans is that the Giants have a heck of a punter in Brad Wing now. That was a good trade last year. Team punt coverage last week was very shoddy and needs to improve.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Second Preseason Game: “It’s good to get the first group out there. A chance to knock the rust off. We played a few snaps in that first game but to get out there with Eli and Odell and get the whole group together and work the instincts. Anticipation is exciting.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Giants were too sloppy last week. Hopefully that starts getting cleaned up as we progress towards the regular-season opener. Mike Sullivan called the plays. Will that continue? Who will be the middle linebacker? Who is the #3 wide receiver on this team? If Landon Collins or Darian Thompson get hurt, who is the primary back-up at safety?

Aug 132016
 
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Andre Williams, New York Giants (August 12 2016)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Miami Dolphins 27 – New York Giants 10

Overview

Minus their two best players – Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, the Ben McAdoo era began with a bit of an anti-climatic, uneventful game sabotaged by horrendous quarterback play by Ryan Nassib. The first preseason game is usually a bit sloppy and this contest was no exception. McAdoo needs to get this team to play more disciplined football and execute at a higher level. There were too many turnovers and the Giants were lucky there weren’t a lot more. Nassib could have been picked off more than twice. And the Giants fortunately recovered four of their six fumbles.

The primary take-aways from this game were:

  • Ryan Nassib stunk.
  • The starting defense played at a high level.
  • The team is holding its breath awaiting news on Eli Apple’s knee.
  • There appears to be little depth on the offensive line.
  • The Giants have some promising young players on both sides of the ball.

Giants on Offense

Not good. Aided by two Miami Dolphins penalties. the Giants drove 74 yards on nine plays on their opening drive to score their only touchdown of the evening. The only other points were set up by a turnover returned to the Dolphins 11-yard line. The Giants gained five first downs on their first drive and only seven others on the remaining 13 drives. The passing game was beyond pathetic, accruing a net of 69 yards. The running game was far more productive with 158 yards rushing but it couldn’t compensate for the terrible quarterbacking.

Something to keep an eye on is that Mike Sullivan called the plays in this game, not Ben McAdoo. If the offense continues to struggle, that may have to change.

Quarterback

Ben McAdoo decided to not play Eli Manning.

Ryan Nassib was handed an opportunity that all back-up quarterbacks who aspire to one day start in the NFL hope to receive: play the bulk of a preseason game, including starting with the first unit. Nassib failed miserably. Rather than confidently raising the level of play of the offensive unit, he appeared to be the one holding it back. Nassib seemed jumpy, missed seeing open receivers, and had trouble on almost all of his outside throws. Indeed, the only strikes he really threw were between the hashmarks. Two of his deep throws were underthrown, late, and picked off. He was lucky at least two other passes were not intercepted. Nassib sloppily fumbled away one ball after a scramble, setting up an easy touchdown for the Dolphins. He also had issues on a couple of snaps where the football ended up on the ground. Nassib had a chance to hit Sterling Shepard in the end zone on 3rd-and-goal, but also underthrew him there.

The final stat line was ugly: 7-of-15 for 75 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 1 lost fumble, and a quarterback rating of 22.2. Logan Thomas received playing time in the 4th quarter but was only threw for 12 yards.

The primary reason the Giants lost this football game was Nassib. He held the entire offense back.

Running Backs

Hampered by a pathetic passing attack, the running game was probably more productive than should have been expected as the Giants ran for 158 yards on the night (146 yards from the running backs). Andre Williams was the leading rusher with nine carries for 41 yards (4.6 yards per carry). He had runs of 16 and 12 yards and appeared more nimble and instinctive. New York’s best run of the night was a 19-yarder by Shane Vereen who put on a nifty spin move to avoid a free defender behind the line of scrimmage. Rashad Jennings only had three carries but scored from three yards out, running through a tackle to do so. Bobby Rainey received playing time earlier than expected (2nd quarter) and had four carries for 17 yards (4.3 yards per carry). Paul Perkins gained 36 yards on seven carries (5.1 yards per carry), including a 14-yard run, but he botched a handoff. The turnover gave the Dolphins a short field to put the game away. Orleans Darkwa had two carries for 16 yards and Marshaun Coprich two carries for six yards.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham (coach’s decision) and Victor Cruz (groin) did not play.

The quarterback play was so shoddy that it was tough to get a good read on the receivers. Giants quarterbacks completed nine passes – and only five to wide receivers!!! Sterling Shepard had the catch of the night, when he kept alive the Giants sole TD drive with a diving 24-yard catch on 3rd-and-6. Only one receiver had more than one catch and that was Geremy Davis who caught two passes for 21 yards before leaving with a hamstring injury. Only one other receiver – Dwayne Harris – had a catch longer than 10 yards (Harris had an 11-yarder). Roger Lewis received a lot of playing time earlier than expected. He had one catch for nine yards.

Tight Ends

Again, quarterbacking was so poor that it was tough to get a good read on the tight ends in the passing game. Will Tye had a nifty 15-yard catch-and-run called back due to an illegal formation penalty on Byron Stingily. The only official catch was the 7-yarder caught by Jerell Adams late in the 4th quarter. Larry Donnell was flagged with an unnecessary holding penalty on an outside run. Donnell did have an excellent block as an up back on Andre Williams’ 16-yard run. Tye and Matt LaCosse seemed to do a reasonable job run blocking.

Weston Richburg, New York Giants (August 12 2016)

Weston Richburg – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Offensive Line

The Dolphins sat their top three defensive linemen so this wasn’t a real good test for the starting five. On the first drive, Ereck Flowers allowed one pass pressure and was flagged with a false start. The Giants had some issues running around end early; there was on play where RT Marshall Newhouse was pushed back, disrupting the play. Overall, the starters were pretty steady however.

The second-team line featured LT Byron Stingily, LG Ryan Seymour, OC Brett Jones, RG Adam Gettis, and RT Bobby Hart. Gettis was a train wreck. He got flagged for holding three times and botched his initial block on a screen pass that led to a sack. Stingily was flagged for an illegal formation penalty that wiped out a 15-yard reception by TE Will Tye (Stingily also allowed Nassib to get hit on this play). Seymour got beat on the play that led to the Nassib fumble that was returned to the 5-yard line; he had some issues with the bull-rush.

In the third quarter, Gettis moved to center and Emmett Cleary came in at right guard. This is where Gettis promptly was flagged with his third holding penalty. Late in the quarter, Dillon Farrell played center with Jones at left guard and Cleary still at right guard. In the 4th quarter, the line featured LT Jake Rodgers, LG Shane McDermott, OC Dillon Farrell, RG Brett Jones, and RT Emmett Cleary. Rodgers and McDermott had good blocks on a 14-yard gain by Paul Perkins. Rodgers was flagged with a false start and the running game pretty much sputtered for much of the rest of the final quarter. Cleary also gave up a pass pressure on 3rd-and-9.

Giants on Defense

The starting defense played very well. The Giants stuffed the run and got after the passer. Miami did not gain a first down until their sixth drive of the game. The reserves did not play as well, but they were also not helped by the Giants offense setting up the Dolphins on short fields after turnovers. Miami scored 17 points after drives of 33, 5, and 25 yards. A 51-yard touchdown pass came on a fluke play where the intended receiver tipped the pass to another receiver who easily ran into the end zone.

Defensive Line

DT Jay Bromley (ankle) and DE Kerry Wynn (groin) did not play.

The starting four of LDE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Johnathan Hankins, DT Damon Harrison, and RDE Olivier Vernon looked as good as advertised. They were tough against the run and applied tremendous pressure on the quarterback. Hankins and Harrison – who flipped between both tackle spots – are a brick wall in the middle. Vernon stood out with his lightning quick pass rush, hitting the quarterback twice and almost getting a safety. JPP also flashed with his pressure on the quarterback and caused a holding penalty on a running play.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa had his best game as a Giant, lining up both at defensive tackle in pass rush situations and outside in the base defense. He had three quarterback hits and two sacks. His first big hit came with the starters, forcing the quarterback to unload the ball quickly. He also caused a holding penalty on one pass rush. Odigizuwa did get handled on the 5-yard touchdown run however.

Two other relatively unknown defensive ends had their moments too. Stansly Maponga accrued a sack and rookie free agent Romeo Okwara played a lot. Okwara has good size and made some noise both in run defense and applying pressure. Like Odighizuwa, Okwara played defensive tackle in passing situations. Mike Rose had one big hit near the end of the 3rd quarter on the quarterback.

Among the reserve tackles, Greg Milhouse had one sack and four tackles. He combined with safety Andrew Adams to stuff one 3rd-and-1 run. Louis Nix had a few decent moments against the run.

Jonathan Casillas, New York Giants (August 12 2016)

Jonathan Casillas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Linebackers

Linebackers Keenan Robinson (groin) and J.T. Thomas (hamstring) did not play.

Jonathan Casillas looked good in pass coverage, picking off one pass and returning it to the 11-yard line and almost coming down with another interception off a deflection. He was also pretty active flowing to the football on running plays (two assists). In limited time, Jasper Brinkley had two solo tackles and Kelvin Sheppard one assist. Devon Kennard was quiet.

B.J. Goodson (7 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss) stood out as a physical presence with strong, sure tackles. However, he did miss a tackle at the start of the 3rd quarter on a 26-yard run. Later on this drive, Goodson was badly beaten in coverage by the tight end (fortunately, the pass was dropped). Goodson did a nice job of reading a screen pass and causing a 3-yard loss.

Brad Bars seemed to get hung up a little too long on blocks and was caught chasing ball carriers who got around him. Ishaq Williams made a nice tackle on an inside run but later couldn’t make a play on the back on 3rd-and-3 when the Dolphins were running out the clock.

Defensive Backs

Corners Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins were never tested. Neither were safeties Darian Thompson and Landon Collins. Ben McAdoo said that Thompson was near perfect in his assignments.

Eli Apple had a couple of throws in his direction, but made a sure tackle to keep the receiver short of the first down and had tight coverage on another short throw. Apple also helped to disrupt an outside running play.

Leon McFadden was beaten a couple of times, including on key 3rd-and-8 and 3rd-and-6 plays that kept drives alive. Donte Deayon and Michael Hunter couldn’t get off their blocks on a 3rd-and-16 screen play that picked up 24 yards. Deayon was beaten for 14 yards on 3rd-and-4 later on this scoring drive. In the 4th quarter, the Dolphins tried the WR screen again but Hunter this time read it beautifully, disrupting the entire play.

Nat Berhe made one very good play in run defense, but later left his side of the field wide open on the 5-yard touchdown run by misreading the play. Cooper Taylor missed a tackle near the line of scrimmage on a 26-yard run. Andrew Adams made a nice play in short yardage on 3rd-and-1 but he bit on the 4th-and-1 play-fake and may have been responsible for the tight end being wide open for the catch-and-run touchdown. Bennett Jackson did a horrible job of over-running this play too and letting the tight end score.

Giants on Special Teams

I’m sorry but Tom Quinn doesn’t do it for me. He should have been let go a long time ago.

Brad Wing punted seven times, including a 65-yarder and two kicks downed inside the 20-yard line. But kickoff and punt coverage could have been much better. Miami’s Jakeem Grant returned kickoffs for 26 and 27 yards. More damaging were his four punt returns for a total of 60 yards (15 yards per return), including a 28-yarder. Orleans Darkwa did have a strong tackle on a third kickoff return that only gained eight yards.

Bobby Rainey received most of the return work for the Giants. He returned three punts for a total of 17 yards (5.7 yards per return) and two kickoffs for 36 yards (18 yards per return). More alarmingly, his old ball security issues appeared as he fumbled a punt return and bobbled another. He also had issues with one kickoff return. Dwayne Harris’ job appears very safe.

Cooper Taylor was flagged with an unnecessary roughness penalty, wiping out a 15-yard punt return by K.J. Maye. Leon McFadden was also flagged with a holding penalty on a punt return.

(Miami Dolphins at New York Giants, August 12, 2016)
Aug 112016
 
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Ben McAdoo, New York Giants (July 30, 2016)

Ben McAdoo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Miami Dolphins at New York Giants, August 12, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
Experienced fans understand that the first preseason game is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. But this first game has a far deeper meaning. For the first time in 12 years, a new head coach for the New York Giants will be walking the sidelines. The three most successful head coaches in franchise history were Steve Owen (24 years), Bill Parcells (8 years), and Tom Coughlin (12 years). Will Ben McAdoo become a franchise fixture, lasting 10+ years or will he be gone in three years? Nothing is given. No one knows the answer to that question.

Some young Giants fans have known nothing but Tom Coughlin. They can’t remember a day when he wasn’t the head coach walking the sideline. Or they have a hazy memory of Jim Fassel or Dan Reeves. Love or hate Tom Coughlin, he knew how to run the ship. Everything was organized. The Giants were a well-run machine. On Friday night against the Miami Dolphins, we’ll receive our very first impression of how tight a ship Ben McAdoo operates. The first preseason game is often sloppy, but we want to see things run generally smoothly. Disorderly and undisciplined teams usually do not succeed.

The starters will only play about 15 snaps. This first game will be more important for the current reserves who are either trying to push for starting playing time or simply trying to make the team.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • DT Jay Bromley (ankle – on the PUP)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (hamstring – on the PUP)
  • WR Victor Cruz (groin)
  • DE Kerry Wynn (groin)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (groin)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
WR Victor Cruz will not play and with each passing day, one wonders if he will ever be the same player again. Indeed, it may not be a given that he makes the team. Cruz has yet to make much noise in training camp and the clock is ticking. 2011-12 was a long time ago.

The quarterbacks in 2016 will be Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib again. The starting offensive line returns intact. So does the running back corps plus Paul Perkins. There is more competition at tight end but the front runners likely remain Larry Donnell and Will Tye. The key difference between the 2015 and 2016 New York Giants on offense appears to be the subtraction of WR Rueben Randle and the addition of WR Sterling Shepard – which appears to be a huge upgrade.

The leading wide receivers for New York in 2015 were Odell Beckham (96 catches for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns), Randle (57 catches for 797 yards and 8 touchdowns), and Dwayne Harris (36 catches for 396 yards and 4 touchdowns). No other wide receiver on the roster had more than seven catches! The hope here is that Shepard becomes an instant impact player who is able to take pressure off of Beckham. The Giants also need a productive Cruz to return or another receiver to step up and produce as the third receiver. The chief candidates right now are Geremy Davis, Myles White, Tavarres King, Roger Lewis, and Darius Powe. Are these just guys or is there someone here who can serve as a legitimate threat?

Beyond the receiver concerns, the main focus on offense will be for jobs and playing time behind the starters. There are a lot of bodies at running back and tight end. After Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, who will receive the few remaining touches at running back? Andre Williams, Orleans Darkwa, Paul Perkins, or Bobby Rainey? Ben McAdoo loves to employ tight ends in multiple packages. I expect four tight ends to make the roster. Will Johnson is a jack-of-all-trades player who can play fullback, H-Back, and tight end. Aside from Donnell and Tye, Matt LaCosse has been making noise in camp. Does Nikita Whitlock have a role on this team?

Then there is the ever-present concern about depth and competition on the offensive line. At this point, it appears the same five starters will remain intact in 2016. But the back-ups – who could quickly become important in the event of an injury – are relatively unknown and unproven. The primary candidates right now are Bobby Hart, Byron Stingily, Ryan Seymour, Emmett Cleary, Shane McDermott, and Adam Gettis. Who? The performance of the second-team offensive line will be something to concentrate on during the game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The New York Giants were a disaster on defense in 2015. The team could not stop the run or the pass. The Giants were statistically dead last in the NFL and one of the worst in NFL history. In reality, except for spurts here and there (notably the 2011 playoff run), the Giants haven’t been playing good defense for years. Indeed, there is an entire generation of young Giants fans who have no idea what consistently good Giants defense looks like. It’s an embarrassment for a franchise that prided itself on good defense even during bad years.

The pressure is on Steve Spagnuolo to deliver at least a middle-of-the-pack defense. The Giants spent big bucks in free agency and invested much in the draft on defense. DE Olivier Vernon, DT Damon Harrison, CB Janoris Jenkins, CB Leon Hall, CB Eli Apple, and FS Darian Thompson were added. Much is expected from second- and third-year players like DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, LB Devon Kennard, and S Landon Collins. Keenan Robinson, Kelvin Sheppard, and B.J. Goodson were also added to the linebacking corps.

The primary challenge of course is to get everyone playing cohesive and effective defense as soon as possible. There will be at least four new starters with many new faces also receiving a lot of playing time like Leon Hall at slot corner. Who will the middle linebacker be? Jasper Brinkley, Kelvin Sheppard, or Keenan Robinson? J.T. Thomas’ hamstring injury has sidelined him for all of training camp and Jonathan Casillas appears to have taken over his outside job. Can Kennard stay healthy?

With a plethora of quality defensive backs, one would expect Spagnuolo to use packages that take advantage of Apple and Hall in addition to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jenkins. It will be interesting to see how rookie safety Thompson performs as the new starter and Collins as a second-year player in a more natural strong safety position. Time is running out on guys like Nat Berhe, Mykkele Thompson, Cooper Taylor, and Bennett Jackson.

Up front, Jay Bromley’s late ankle surgery has really set him back. Much was expected of him as a reserve. Can he catch up? Who now are the primary back-ups behind Johnathan Hankins and Harrison? Greg Milhouse is a rookie to watch. The Giants also need quality reserve minutes from Odighizuwa and a 4th defensive end – Kerry Wynn, Stansly Maponga, or Romeo Okwara.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
This is an area where there is very little change. The kickers remain Josh Brown and Brad Wing. Dwayne Harris is the primary returner. Tom Quinn has been the special teams coordinator since 2007. Dwayne Stukes is his new assistant. While the New York Giants were vastly improved on special teams in 2015, special teams snafus still were a factor in a number of defeats. That needs to be cleaned up.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on Preseason Playing Time: “We’re going to be consistent. We’re going treat every guy differently. We’re going to take every player case by case. We’ll start with the first group, probably, for maybe 15 plays or so and then either dial it back or push it forward based on what we need to see and what we want to see.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The #1 concern is always coming out of the preseason healthy. In addition to that, what we need to see is how well run the entire operation is under the new head coach. Who will call the offensive plays now? If it is McAdoo, can he handle that responsibility in addition to his head coaching duties? The Giants need to find other offensive threats to complement Odell Beckham. Sterling Shepard is hopefully one piece. Defensively, who are the leaders? Can this team quickly jump from dead last to at least middle-of-the-pack defensively?

Jan 262016
 
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Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning, New York Giants (January 3, 2016)

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Philadelphia Eagles 35 – New York Giants 30

Overview

My apologies for this game review being three weeks late. But better late than never and now that we unofficially know that the Giants’ offensive, defensive, and special teams systems will remain in place in 2016, what transpired against the Philadelphia Eagles on January 3, 2016 does have more meaning.

The regular-season finale was a crappy end to one of the team’s crappiest seasons in its history. Let’s painfully – but briefly – rehash what transpired:

Will Beatty tears his pectoral muscle in May and never returns, causing a domino effect on the offensive line at tackle. Jason Pierre-Paul permanently disfigures himself on July 4th, misses half the season, and returns to play one-handed football. Giants safeties start dropping like flies before the season even starts. Victor Cruz’s “the return” never happens. Jon Beason breaks himself again. The Giants also lose Johnathan Hankins, Owa Odighizuwa, Devon Kennard, Prince Amukamara, Geoff Schwartz, Larry Donnell, and Daniel Fells for much of the season.

For the most part, the Giants play competitive football in 2015, but keep painfully losing in the final seconds due to questionable decisions, red zone ineptitude, bad defense, and untimely special teams mistakes. The Giants lost the opener in Dallas with a red zone meltdown combined with allowing Tony Romo to drive the length of the field in the final seconds. A red zone turnover against the Falcons and another defensive collapse left the Giants at 0-2. The Giants rebound with a three-game winning streak before being blown out by the Eagles. Dwayne Harris haunts his former team as the Giants defeat the Cowboys at home. Eli Manning throws six touchdown passes against the Saints but the Giants still lose.

Nevertheless, the Giants beat the Buccaneers to improve their record to 5-4. They are in first place in the terrible NFC East with seven games left to play. The 2-6 Cowboys and 4-4 Eagles are wounded and fading. The Redskins are 3-5. Even with the Patriots looming next, with Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, and Odell Beckham, the Giants are the favorites to win the NFC East.

But in a far-too-common occurrence during the Tom Coughlin era, the Giants collapse in the second half of the season. They only win one of their last seven games. The Giants have the Patriots on the ropes but Beckham and Landon Collins can’t hold onto the football. With the division on the line, the Giants fail to show up in Washington. Coughlin’s eschews a late field goal against the Jets who win in overtime as Josh Brown misses a game-tying field goal. A heroic comeback against the Panthers falls short as the defense collapses late again. New York gets destroyed in the Minnesota cold.

Which brings us to Week 17. Both the Giants and Eagles are 6-9. In their last seven games, the Eagles have lost five contests and been badly beaten by the Buccaneers (45-17), Lions (45-14), and Cardinals (40-17). The Eagles are 15th in offense and 30th in defense. Chip Kelly is fired before the finale. On the other hand, it is widely speculated both inside and outside of the locker room that this will be Tom Coughlin’s last game as head coach of the Giants. There is talk about sending him out on a high note with an inspired effort against a team that has owned the Giants the last eight years.

Instead an Eagles team with nothing to play for soundly beat the Giants 35-30. Coughlin is left with one last sour memory as the Eagles have now beaten the Giants 13 times in the last 16 match-ups. Once again, bad defense and red zone inefficiency lead to defeat.

As the third Giants’ head coach to win two NFL Championships, Tom Coughlin is undeniably one of the top three coaches in franchise history. But in the end, he was done in by his inability to defeat his divisional rivals in recent years. In addition to the Eagles dominance over the Giants, the Cowboys have defeated the Giants six out of the last eight games. And although the Giants had fared much better against the Redskins, the Giants came up woefully short in both 2012 and 2015 against Washington with the division on the line.

Giants on Offense

The Giants accrued 30 points, 30 first downs, and 502 total net yards (208 rushing and 294 passing) against the Eagles. New York had 81 offensive snaps to Philadelphia’s 65. The Giants won the time of possession battle 31:54 to 28:06 and were 7-of-15 (47 percent on third down). With numbers like that, you would expect a victory. But the team’s defense was again poor. And offensively, the Giants were only 2-of-5 (40 percent) in the red zone. The biggest error of the game came late in the 3rd quarter. With the Giants up 27-21 and driving at the Eagles’ 14-yard line, Eli Manning was sacked. The ball was knocked out of his hands and returned 83 yards for a touchdown. It was at least a 10-point swing in the game, and possibly a 14- or 15-point swing.

After punting on their opening possession, the Giants scored on each of their four remaining drives of the first half with two field goals and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, the first field goal drive stalled after the Giants faced a 1st-and-goal from the 5-yard line. The second stalled after facing a 2nd-and-5 from the Eagles’ 7-yard line. The second half was not as kind as the Giants scored twice (touchdown and field goal), punted twice, had the fumble returned for a touchdown, and ended the game with a turnover on downs. There was one head-scratching call (or audible) on 3rd-and-10 in the 3rd quarter when a draw play was called.

Quarterback

Eli Manning had a solid day, completing 24-of-43 passes (56 percent) for 302 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. His fumble that was returned for a touchdown was probably the difference in the game but that play was more on Ereck Flowers than him. Manning did miss a wide open Myles White in the end zone on the second drive that ended with a field goal. He also missed a wide open Odell Beckham in the 4th quarter on an errant throw and threw into double coverage a few plays later on a deep pass intended for Randle.

Running Backs

Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and Shane Vereen had the type of day that the Giants dreamed they would have on a regular basis in 2015. Jennings carried the ball 27 times for an inspiring 170 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and a touchdown. Williams chipped in with 26 yards on five carries (5.2 yards per carry) and Vereen 12 yards on four carries (3.0 yards per carry). Vereen also caught 6-of-8 passes thrown in his direction for 72 yards (12.0 yard average). He was a big factor on the team’s second TD drive when he ran for four yards on 3rd-and-2 and then caught three passes for 41 yards on three consecutive plays. But obviously the story was Jennings who ran with toughness and purpose. Remarkably, half his 863 yards on the season came in the last four games.

Wide Receivers

Aside from one big touchdown play to Rueben Randle, the wide receivers were surprisingly quiet against a secondary that they should have destroyed. One game after his NFL suspension, Odell Beckham was held to 5-of-7 passes thrown in his direction for just 54 yards. He was also flagged with a false start. Randle caught a 45-yard touchdown pass but was held to three receptions on his other six targets for just 34 yards. He lazily couldn’t come down with a 3rd-and-7 pass on the opening drive. Hakeem Nicks caught just 2-of-4 targets for 24 yards and Myles White did not have a catch despite three passes thrown in his direction. Nicks had a chance to be a hero late in the game but dropped a deep pass from Manning on the last desperate drive.

Tight Ends

Will Tye finished his surprising year on a strong note with five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Tye’s run blocking is noticeably improving as well, though he did miss one block that led to a 2-yard loss.

Offensive Line

From left to right, the offensive line was Ereck Flowers, Dallas Reynolds, Weston Richburg, John Jerry, and Justin Pugh. Adam Gettis also saw some time at left guard. The good news was the 208 yards rushing. And the line looked sharp on a number of pulling efforts, especially by Pugh and Reynolds. Richburg also stood out with his effort to make an initial block, then come off his man and engage a second defender. The bad news was that pass protection was shaky at times. Eli Manning was only officially hit four times, but two of those were sacks. The line had pass protection issues on the first drive as Flowers and Reynolds gave up back-to-back pass pressures. Then Jerry was flagged for holding on a play where Manning was pressured. Early in the 2nd quarter, on 3rd-and-7, Flowers gave up the first sack when he was beat by an outside rush and Reynolds blocked his man into Flowers. Of course, the decisive play of the game was the gimpy Flowers being beat for a sack-forced fumble that resulted in at least a 10-point swing. The line did a poor job of protecting Manning on the last desperate drive as both tackles and Reynolds gave up pressure.

Giants on Defense

The NFL’s 32nd-ranked defense played terribly. The Eagles scored three offensive touchdowns on their five first-half possessions as they easily drove 80 yards in five plays, 85 yards in six plays, and 80 yards in 16 plays. While the Giants did force two punts and caused a fumble in the second half, the defense also allowed a 13-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that for all intents and purposes put the game away. The Giants made the inconsistent Sam Bradford look like an all-star as he completed 30-of-38 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Zach Ertz caught all nine passes thrown in his direction for an astounding 152 yards receiving (16.9 yards per catch). Wide receiver Jordan Matthews caught two touchdown passes. Running backs DeMarco Murray and Darren Sproles carried the ball 15 times for 93 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.

Most damning of all? The Giants’ “defense” (and I use that term loosely) allowed the Eagles to convert 10-of-13 third down opportunities, a 77 percent success rate that was the highest by a Giants’ opponent since 1970.

What’s worrisome moving forward is how uninspired and confused Steve Spagnuolo’s defenders looked. Are there talent issues? You bet. But the players on the field didn’t appear to play with much effort and there were too many easy plays for the Eagles simply because defenders were out of position. For example, there was one 3rd-and-1 play where the Eagles had two wideouts split to the left with only one defensive back in the picture. It was an easy uncontested pitch-and-catch for a first down. The defense also came up small again at the end of a game, allowing the Eagles to pick up two first downs, 37 yards, and run almost three minutes off of the clock after the Giants had cut the score to 35-30 with 4:30 left to play.

Defensive Line

The starters up front were Jason Pierre-Paul at left end, Cullen Jenkins at left tackle, Jay Bromley at right tackle, and Robert Ayers at right end. Ayers played a strong game with 7 tackles, 1 sack, 3 tackles for a loss, and 2 quarterback hits. Sadly, no other Giant officially hit Sam Bradford. Pierre-Paul had six tackles and two pass defenses, Bromley five tackles, and Jenkins three tackles. As reserves, George Selvie chipped in with two tackles and a fumble recovery. He was flagged with a neutral zone infraction. Montori Hughes had two tackles and one tackle for a loss, but was easily blocked on Murray’s 54-yard TD run. Hughes did flash on a few occasions with his hustle in run defense. Pierre-Paul was successfully blocked on Darren Sproles’ 6-yard touchdown run as Sproles ran around him. JPP did bat a pass up into the air that was intercepted by Jonathan Casillas, setting up the Giants’ first touchdown drive on a short field. Jenkins was easily blocked on a 3rd-and-5 draw play that picked up a first down on the Eagles’ third touchdown drive of the first half.

Linebackers

The Giants started in the nickel with Jasper Brinkley and Jonathan Casillas starting at linebacker. Brinkley finished the game with 9 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, and 1 forced fumble. Casillas had 7 tackles and 1 interception. Others spotted in the game included Mark Herzlich (1 tackle) and Nico Johnson (0 tackles). The Giants linebackers looked slow, unathletic, and lethargic in coverage. The Eagles’ game plan was obvious and successful. Alternate throws to the middle of the field with short passes to the outside perimeter. Force the linebackers and safeties to run to the ball and make plays. Let this one astounding fact sink in: Bradford was 21-of-23 for 243 yards throwing to the tight ends and running backs!!!

Casillas was slow to react to receivers out of the backfield and to fill the gap on Murray’s 54-yard touchdown run. Johnson got faked on a misdirection boot to his side. Later, Zack Ertz (who caught all nine passes in his direction for 152 yards) was left all alone on a 60-yard gain. Casillas did not run with Ertz and there seemed to be confusion between defensive backs Landon Collins and Prince Amukamara on the play when the tight ends crossed. Brinkley couldn’t stay with Ertz on a 19-yard completion on 2nd-and-11 down to the Giants’ 3-yard line. Brinkley did make a number of nice plays in the 3rd quarter, including the forced fumble, an aggressive tackle in the hole against the RB, and then a sure tackle after a short pass. Casillas was beat by TE Brent Celek for 24 yards on 3rd-and-5 on the Eagles’ last touchdown drive. Both Casillas and Brinkley looked awful in coverage on this drive, including Brinkley embarrassingly whiffing on an open-field tackle attempt that set up the Eagles at the Giants’ 3-yard line.

Defensive Backs

The Giants started the game with Landon Collins and the recently re-signed and gimpy Brandon Meriweather at safety, Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie outside at cornerback, and Trevin Wade playing nickel corner. Trumaine McBride was forced to play safety after Meriweather injured his knee. The only defensive back with a pass breakup was Wade with just one.

The safeties were just dreadful in coverage as indicated by the receiving productivity of the tight ends. In addition, Meriweather was caught flat-footed on Murray’s 54-yard TD run. He also made a pathetic, flailing effort to tackle Ertz on his 60-yard catch-and-run. Collins looked lost out there at times. He got blocked and couldn’t make a play on Sproles’ 6-yard TD run. He later badly missed a tackle on Ertz too. On the Eagles’ third touchdown drive, on 3rd-and-10, Collins was cleanly picked off of Ertz, resulting in an easy first down. Collins was beat again by Ertz for 21 yards in the 3rd quarter. He gave up two more catches to Ertz late in the 4th quarter when the Eagles were running out the clock.

Wade got beat deep on 3rd-and-3 by Jordan Matthews who thankfully dropped a perfect pass, leading to the Eagles only punt of the first half. Only two Eagles’ wide receivers caught passes and only one caught more than two passes. The wideouts were limited to a combined 11 catches for 77 yards. But Matthews caught two touchdowns. One of those was also against Wade, who struggled at times with Matthews out of the slot. He did knock away one pass intended for Matthews on one of the Giants only three third down stops. Jayron Hosley was beaten easily by Matthews for his second touchdown on 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Rodgers-Cromartie and Amukamara were never really tested.

Giants on Special Teams

Josh Brown finished a strong season 3-of-3 on his field goal kicks, including a 48 yarder. Five of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. The other two kickoff returns went for only 24 yards combined. Brad Wing punted three times with all three punts downed inside the 20-yard line, including at the 2-, 3- and 9-yard lines. None were returned. All six Eagles kickoffs resulted in touchbacks with no returns. The only punt returned was by Odell Beckham for five yards.

(Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, January 3, 2016)
Jan 012016
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (March 26, 2014)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, January 3, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
This is the end of yet another utterly miserable and meaningless season. The Giants remained relevant until early December only because of the crappy state of the rest of the division. Despite four heart-breaking, late 4th quarter losses, at 5-5, the team was in complete control of its fate heading into a decisive game against the Washington Redskins on November 29th. Eli Manning vs. Kirk Cousins. Nevertheless, the Redskins took a commanding 20-0 lead and held on for a victory that would propel them to a division title. The game was reminiscent of key divisional failures against the Redskins (December 2012) and Cowboys (November 2013). Once at 5-4, the Giants lost five of six games with their playoff hopes very much alive. Atrocious defense, an inconsistent running game, red zone failures, untimely special teams breakdowns, questionable game management decisions led to a season of agony as the Giants lost seven games by six points or less.

This Giants-Eagles regular-season finale has a very eerie feel to it. Chip Kelly has already been fired. Tom Coughlin may “retire” immediately after the game. No one knows how the players on either team will respond. How they do will probably decide the outcome. Because of that, a win or loss here is virtually insignificant (see the Giants 42-7 beat down of the Eagles in Andy Reid’s last game in December 2012…the only Giants home victory against the Eagles in the last eight years).

What did the Giants accomplish in 2015? Aside from stat padding by Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, not much. And even Beckham managed to tarnish what had been his stellar popular image. Four consecutive non-playoff seasons. Three consecutive losing seasons. Dead-last defense. Horrible 4th quarter collapses. Two blowouts. Over 20 players on Injured Reserve. Let’s just get this thing over and get the few cornerstone players on the team out of the game healthy.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Dwayne Harris (back/shoulder – questionable)
  • RT Marshall Newhouse (concussion – out)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (ankle – questionable)
  • S Craig Dahl (concussion – out)
  • S Cooper Taylor (concussion – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Moving forward, the Giants are obviously in better shape personnel-wise on the offensive side of the ball. Despite turning 35 on Sunday, Eli Manning is playing some of his best football and shows no signs of slowing down. Odell Beckham is one of the game’s true impact players. The offensive line has three good players to build around. Will Tye has flashed as a respectable #2 tight end at the very least. Shane Vereen is one of the game’s better third down backs. But the Giants still need a lot of help here. Can (or should) the Giants count on high-priced, injury-prone Victor Cruz, Will Beatty, and Geoff Schwartz next season or move on? If the Giants prefer Flowers at left tackle, Beatty is probably gone regardless. Cruz may never be the same player again. And aside from Beckham, the cupboard is pretty bare at wide receiver as Rueben Randle has proven to be a coach killer. The Hakeem Nicks encore was downright ugly. Dwayne Harris is a #3/#4 type. Wide receiver is a huge need on this team. So is offensive line unless Schwartz rebounds in big way and Bobby Hart turns out to be a surprise. Hart will start on Sunday against the Eagles and he may be the most important player to watch in this game. Even if Tye develops into a player, the Giants need more help at tight end as Larry Donnell regressed. While Rashad Jennings is capable at running back, he’s nothing special. Andre Williams was a huge disappointment in this system.

The Eagles’ front usually gives the Giants more problems than any other opponent. Will Flowers, Pugh, Richburg, Jerry, and Hart put on their big boy pants or skirts on Sunday?

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
32nd in defense. 419.3 yards per game allowed. Almost 6,300 yards allowed. The Giants have given up over 6,000 yards four times in their history. And those four years were 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015. The defense is an absolute train wreck and it has been for years. It’s not all due to the changing state of the game.

The Giants are facing an absolute defensive rebuild. Because of that, now would be an opportune time to switch to a 3-4 defense if they choose to do so. Despite a shaky rookie season, the coaches are optimistic about safety Landon Collins. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie dropped two potentially game-altering interceptions but otherwise had a very strong season. Despite a disappointing season before he ended up on Injured Reserve, Johnathan Hankins is a versatile talent who can play in any system. Everyone else is a question mark. Depending on their salary demands, it may be wise to let former 1st rounders Jason Pierre-Paul and Prince Amukamara walk. JPP is permanently-damaged goods who may not respond well to a big contract. Prince is an injury-prone player who likely wants to be paid like a top corner but isn’t one. Jay Bromley probably sticks around at least one more year but all of the other defensive tackles are disposable. Defensive end Robert Ayers has flashed but he hasn’t proven to be a very tough player and is also a free agent. Defensive end, linebacker, and safety are an utter mess. Depending on if Amukamara returns, corner might be as well. There are players starting on the Giants’ defense that would struggle to make Practice Squads on other teams. There is no way the Giants can fix this unit in one offseason.

The Eagles are Jekyll and Hyde on offense depending on the play of their quarterback and offensive line at a given moment or game. Again, the Giants seem to bring out the best in them.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The special teams played much better this year but still had untimely breakdowns that contributed to painful losses. There were big punt returns by the Saints, Patriots, and Panthers. Josh Brown had his second very strong season, but for the second year in a row picked a bad time to miss his first kick, leading to losses (Jaguars in 2014 and Jets in 2015). Dwayne Harris did return a kickoff and punt for touchdowns. Brad Wing was a nice pick-up.

The Eagles’ special teams are outstanding and were a big factor in the team’s upset victory over the Patriots. Darren Sproles has two punt returns for touchdowns this year. Last year in the Meadowlands, the Eagles blocked a punt for a touchdown, a play that turned the game.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin on his future with the Giants: “Do I want to come back? I don’t know if that’s a great question right now. What I want to do is win a game on Sunday, that’s the bottom line for this group right now. I always have the competitive spirit. Sometimes it takes me a day or two to figure it all out when it’s over. Right now, let’s stick with the game and let’s go win a football game.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The closest season to this one that I can recall was BBI’s first season in 1995. That year, the Giants lost seven games that were decided on the final drive of the game. In six of those games, the Giants were either tied or leading at some point in the 4th quarter. Sound familiar? While the 1995 Giants had Dave Brown at quarterback, the team could run the football and play defense.

I despise the Eagles, but it may be best for the Giants to lose this game. By doing so, the Giants not only avoid a road trip to Seattle in 2016, but they could very much improve their draft position. My most important concern is to get Manning, Beckham, Flowers, Pugh, Richburg, Harris, Vereen, DRC, and Collins out of this game healthy. The most important player to watch is Bobby Hart.

Dec 282015
 
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butchsun1

Minnesota Vikings 49 – New York Giants 17

Overview

Oh, good. For a moment there I thought we were in trouble. – Butch Cassidy

The Giants got clobbered but I wouldn’t read too much into this one particular game. The Giants found out the day before that their playoff hopes were dead and were bound to suffer an emotional letdown against a quality opponent headed to the tournament. The Giants were missing one of their two superstars. And a weak and poorly-constructed roster once again is feeling the effects of an inordinate number of players on Injured Reserve (currently up to 18). Throw in the mental strain of six devastating 4th quarter collapses and it was only a matter of time before the Giants were on the receiving end of good old-fashioned ass whooping.

The more troubling concerns are the longer term trends. While the blowouts are down this year, they have continued since 2012. For the last four seasons, the Giants have fielded weak, injury-depleted rosters. They seem no further along on their rebuilding process than when they started.

The bottom line is this is a bad football team. It simply does not have the horses to consistently compete. Until the Giants acquire better players and players who are not so injury-prone, they will remain an also-ran who at best flirts with a playoff appearance.

Tom Coughlin will likely be fired or forced to retire in early January. This is a bottom-line business and the Giants have missed the playoffs six of the last seven years. He and his hand-picked defensive coaches have been unable fix a defense that remains a disaster.  The team hasn’t been able to consistently run the ball for years. The Giants remain an unconfident, uptight, finesse team that lacks toughness on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Coughlin must share a significant portion of the blame for those faults. In addition, other than Eli, Coughlin’s old warriors are gone and his cachet doesn’t carry much with the new guys. He will be 70. Sadly, it’s time for a change.

Offense

We now know what happens when Odell Beckham does not play. The results were not pretty.  The Giants had seven offensive possessions in the first half. Two resulted in interceptions and four with punts. The Giants had six first downs in the first half, three coming on their lone scoring drive that resulted in a short field goal. The Giants did not complete a pass until the second quarter and only had five pass completions in the first half. Running back Rashad Jennings accounted for 100 of the Giants’ 112 first-half yards.

For the game, New York was 1-of-11 (9 percent) on third-down conversion attempts and 0-of-2 (0 percent) on fourth-down conversion attempts. The Giants did not score a touchdown until the game was out of reach (32-3). Over half of Manning’s passing yards came on two pass plays. If that was not bad enough, the offense was directly responsible for two touchdowns by the opposition and put their own defense in bad field position situations all night.

Quarterbacks

Missing the target that had been responsible for 26 percent of the team’s receptions, 36 percent of the team’s passing yardage, 41 percent of the team’s receiving touchdowns, and opening up opportunities for his teammates, Eli Manning struggled mightily. He did not complete a pass until New York’s second drive in the 2nd quarter. He was 5-of-13 for 77 yards in the first half, and 50 of those 77 yards came on one play. His first-half quarterbacking rating was 19.2. Two of his three interceptions led directly to two touchdowns. Vikings’ defensive backs only had five interceptions on the season coming into this game. Manning also could not handle a shotgun snap on 3rd-and-16 that led to a 13-yard loss. In the end, over half of his 234 passing yardage came on two pass plays. He only completed 15 passes in the game. There was another delay-of-game penalty to boot. Ryan Nassib came into the game late in garbage time and was 5-of-5 for 68 yards and a touchdown.

Running Backs

Rashad Jennings came to play and was astoundingly responsible for 100 of New York’s 112 first-half yardage, including one screen pass for 50 yards and nine carries for 50 yards. He finished the night with 14 carries for 74 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and two catches for 62 yards. Jennings did not pick up a corner blitz well on a play where Manning was hit. The other four backs only had six carries for 17 yards, with Andre Williams being the only other back with more than one carry (three carries for 5 yards). Shane Vereen was held to two catches for 21 yards. He also dropped a pass in the red zone where the Giants had to settle for a field goal.

Wide Receivers

Absolute shit. Minus Odell Beckham, the Giants and Eli Manning desperately needed the other wideouts on the roster to excel and they did the opposite. Through almost to the end of the 3rd quarter, when the Vikings were up 32-3, Giants receivers had three catches for 21 yards!!! Rueben Randle and Hakeem Nicks looked like they were going through the motions. Dwayne Harris dropped Manning’s first attempt. Randle dropped another on the field goal drive inside the red zone. Myles White dropped a fourth down pass.

Tight Ends

Crap. Giants tight ends had one catch for six yards in the first half. In the end, Will Tye, Jerome Cunningham, and Matt LaCosse had a total of eight catches, but seven of those came when the game was well out of hand. Tye was also flagged for an illegal shift and dropped a 4th-and-6 pass late in the game.

Offensive Line

The Giants needed a strong performance up front and did not get it. Manning was sacked four times (three times in the first half) and officially hit eight other times, even though he it seemed far more than that. Too many penalties too with Marshall Newhouse (false start), Ereck Flowers (unnecessary roughness and holding), and Justin Pugh (illegal use of hands) being flagged. The line did run block pretty well in the first half of the contest, except on a poorly-designed 2nd-and-1 play right before the pick six where two Vikings were left unblocked. Newhouse gave up the first sack on 3rd-and-10 in the 1st quarter. The second sack wasn’t on the line as the Vikings did not bite on a play-action rollout and the defensive end got around Will Tye. Pugh gave up the third sack on 3rd-and-9 and another sack late in the 4th quarter. Flowers gave up a few late pressures and a bit hit on Eli.

Defense

The defense hung in there but once again predictably faded. The fate of the Giants’ defense has been based on turnovers, and that’s never wise. The Giants have lost 17 of their last 18 regular-season games in which their defense did not force a turnover, including against Minnesota.

The defense forced three punts to start the game, including one possession that started on Minnesota’s 45-yard line. The Vikings’ fourth possession started on their 46 and resulted in an 8-play, 40-yard drive that ended with a field goal. Minnesota’s only offensive touchdown of the half came on a very short field, the drive starting on New York’s 44-yard line. The Vikings’ last first half points also came on a short field, with Minnesota only having to pick up 23 yards and one first down to set up a field goal. The defense gave up only 13 first half points despite being in bad field position most of the half.

In the second half, the Giants’ defense allowed a 58-yard drive that ended with a field goal. Another interception gave the Vikings the ball on the Giants’ 4-yard line and an easy touchdown for a commanding 29-3 lead. Then came a 47-yard drive that set up a 53-yard field goal, an onside kickoff that gave the Vikings the ball at the Giants’ 18-yard line and a turnover on downs that gave the Vikings the ball on the Giants’ 35-yard line. The biggest embarrassment for the defense was the 68-yard touchdown run late in the game when the Vikings were simply attempting to run out the clock.

Oddly, despite the team giving up 49 points, the defense only allowed the Vikings 17 first downs and 150 net passing yards. The Vikings were also only 2-of-5 (40 percent) in red zone efficiency.

Defensive Line/Linebackers

The front seven did a decent job against the run in the first half, holding the Vikings to 44 yards on 14 carries (3.1 yards per carry). The Giants also sacked Teddy Bridgewater twice, including 9-yard sack split between Robert Ayers and George Selvie on 3rd-and-5 after Manning’s first interception. Ayers got the other sack late in the first half (note to Giants…stop dancing around like dumb asses when the other team is kicking your ass on the scoreboard).

Adrian Peterson really didn’t hurt the Giants all that much until late in the 3rd quarter when he broke off a 39-yard run when Jason Pierre-Paul got double-teamed and J.T. Thomas couldn’t get off the block by the tight end. This set up a long field goal. The defense started to fade very late in the 3rd quarter and early in the 4th quarter, first with Bridgewater’s 9-yard scramble on 3rd-and-8 and then running back Jerick McKinnon’s 7-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal. On the later run, Pierre-Paul and Jasper Brinkley simply failed to make the play. The nadir came on McKinnon’s three runs late in the game that picked up a total of 80 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown run. Jay Bromley and Ayers were each flagged with being offsides. Thomas was thrown out of the game for throwing a punch.

Defensive Backs

Teddy Bridgewater only completed 15-of-25 passes for 168 yards. The problem remains the safeties. Craig Dahl was beaten for a 28-yard touchdown by tight end Kyle Rudolph on 2nd-and-14. Landon Collins was late getting over to help out on the play as well. Collins later gave up a 25-yard reception against Rudolph on 3rd-and-3 on Minnesota’s first scoring drive of the second half. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara didn’t really hurt their team but didn’t really help either. I didn’t like how Amukamara played patty-cake with the wide receiver on Jerick McKinnon’s 7-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter on 3rd-and-goal. Trevin Wade, playing the nickel, made a nice play defending a 3rd-and-5 shot into the end zone, but he later gave up a 21-yard reception on 3rd-and-3 on the field goal drive right before halftime.

Special Teams

Not good. An ailing Dwayne Harris (shoulder) returned two punts for a total of 12 yards, muffing his first chance. He also let one punt hit the turf and roll that he should have fair caught. Shane Vereen returned seven kickoffs, but his longest effort was only 23 yards. Ben Edwards also returned one kickoff for 20 yards. None of Josh Brown’s kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Both of his onside kicks failed, and one was returned 27 yards to the Giants’ 18-yard line, setting up another touchdown. Brad Wing punted six times, averaging 40 yards per punt. One punt was expertly downed on the 4-yard line by Landon Collins and Craig Dahl. Wing’s 30-yard punt right before halftime helped the Vikings add an additional field goal. Punt coverage and kickoff coverage on the two traditional kickoffs were good.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

Minus Odell Beckham, the entire wide receiving corps. Three catches for 21 yards until late in the 3rd quarter when the game was out of reach? Holy crap.

(New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, December 27, 2015)
Dec 252015
 
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New York Giants - Minnesota Vikings (December 6, 1964)

New York Giants – Minnesota Vikings (December 6, 1964)

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, December 27, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
The significance of this game depends on the outcome of Eagles-Redskins game played the day before on Saturday night. If the Eagles win, the Giants must win to keep their now desperate playoff hopes alive. If the Redskins win, the Giants’ playoff hopes are officially dead.

Either way, a seriously undermanned Giants team – sans Odell Beckham – are clear-cut underdogs against a well-rounded 9-5 Minnesota Vikings team on its way to the playoffs. Only a few of the ole’ football coach’s warriors from the 2011 NFL Championship remain – Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Mark Herzlich – for this potential last stand. An era may be ending.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Orleans Darkwa (illness – probable)
  • WR Dwayne Harris (shoulder – questionable)
  • LT Ereck Flowers (illness – probable)
  • DE George Selvie (concussion – probable)
  • DT Markus Kuhn (knee – out)
  • LB Devon Kennard (foot – out)
  • L James Morris (quad – out)
  • S Cooper Taylor (concussion – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The 4-3 defense of the Vikings is 13th in the NFL (7th against the pass and 20th against the run). Minnesota is 4th in red zone defense. It’s solid group anchored up front by defensive tackles ex-Giant Linval Joseph and 1st rounder Sharrif Floyd and defensive ends Everson Griffen (8.5 sacks) and Brian Robison (4 sacks). The leading tackler is rookie middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (76 tackles, 4 sacks). He is flanked by 1st rounders Chad Greenway and Anthony Barr, two athletic play makers.

The secondary has performed surprisingly well but they haven’t made a lot of plays on the ball (only 5 interceptions by the defensive backs). 37-year old ex-Cowboy Terence Newman (3 interceptions) and third-year Xavier Rhodes are the starting corners. Free safety Harrison Smith leads the defensive backfield. Andrew Sendejo is the strong safety.

The game story here is the absence of Odell Beckham and how the Giants will compensate. Facing game-time temperatures of below 10 degrees, Eli Manning’s best friend would be a strong running game. New York had their best rushing performance of the season against a tough Carolina defense last week. Can the Giants build upon that performance? Beckham accounts for 26 percent of the team’s receptions, 36 percent of the team’s passing yardage, and 41 percent of the team’s receiving touchdowns. No Beckham. No Victor Cruz. Only the disappointing Rueben Randle, banged-up special teamer Dwayne Harris (shoulder), reclamation project Hakeem Nicks (4 catches for 26 yards), and ex-Packer practice squader Myles White (5 catches for 54 yards). The Giants desperately need a career-game out of Randle. If not, Manning will have to feature running back Shane Vereen and rookie tight end Will Tye. A wild card here could be tight end Jerome Cunningham.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Vikings are 28th in the NFL on offense (31st passing and 5th rushing). They are a throwback-type offense that runs the ball well and likes to use the play-action pass. The Vikings don’t turn the ball over much (only 8 interceptions and 7 lost fumbles).

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t put up big numbers, but he is surprisingly efficient for a second-year player. While he only has 13 touchdown passes, he is completing over 66 percent of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 90.4. His top two targets are rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Each has 47 catches and four touchdowns. Ex-Steeler and Dolphin deep threat Mike Wallace has 36 catches and 2 touchdowns. Since the Giants have struggled covering quality tight ends, Bridgewater will likely look for Rudolph early and often. Bridgewater has some mobility and will run with the football at times (178 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns). The Vikings also like to bootleg off of play action.

Given the opponent and very cold temperatures, the defensive focus has to be on stopping the run. Running back Adrian Peterson is still one of the very best in the business. He’s virtually their entire running game with 1,314 yards and 9 touchdowns (no other back has 200 yards). Peterson can wear you out, but he can also break the big run. He has an 80-yard touchdown run his year and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry against defenses specifically designed to stop him. It’s old-fashioned power football, running the ball behind a big, physical offensive line, fullback (Zach Line), and multiple tight ends.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Minnesota is very strong on special teams. Cordarrelle Patterson has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, and has four in his career. He averages over 31 yards per kickoff return. Marcus Sherels has a punt return for a touchdown this season (he has three in career, including an 86-yarder against the Giants in 2013) and is averaging almost 10 yards per punt return. The Vikings are also outstanding covering punts, being second in the NFL by allowing only 5 yards per return. They are more vulnerable on kickoff returns, being 31st in the NFL, and having given up four returns over 40 yards. Dwayne Harris (shoulder) is ailing and may not be able to play much on special teams this week. Shane Vereen may handle kickoff return chores while Ben Edwards handles punt returns.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Steve Spagnuolo on QB Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings’ offense: “Of course like any good quarterback with a running game, he’s aided by that. They’ve become really good—(Offensive Coordinator) Norv (Turner) has done a great job—with the play action concepts that they have. They don’t do a lot, but what they do, they do it really well. Because you’re so focused on 28 (Adrian Peterson), everybody gets (sucked up). That’s the whole deal with a good running game and play action pass off of it. We’re hopeful that we can play good on first and second down and get into some unmanageable third downs for them, it’d be better for us. That’ll be the intent.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Obviously if the Redskins win on Saturday, there will be an emotional letdown and the Giants may get pummeled by a Vikings team still in a division title race. Regardless, it is difficult seeing a Giants team missing Beckham and severely limited by the 32nd-ranked defense (the Giants are only 78 yards from giving up 6,000 yards on the season again) from pulling off the upset. In extremely cold conditions, the team that runs the ball, stops the run, and plays better special teams will prevail. The Vikings are superior in all three categories.

Dec 212015
 
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32942949

Carolina Panthers 38 – New York Giants 35

I’m Mad as Hell

Your move Mr. Mara.

The 2015 New York Giants nightmare of a season is just about over, unless the football gods want to get in one more last kick to the nuts by dragging this out another week. Regardless of the team’s final record, it is brutally clear this team is poorly constructed. They play hard, but they simply are not good enough.

One of the strengths of the New York Giants organization for the last 36 years is they are not impulsive. There have only been three general managers and six head coaches employed by the Giants during that timeframe, including two short tenures by Ray Handley and Dan Reeves. There was immense pressure to fire Bill Parcells after the 1983 season and Tom Coughlin after the 2006 season, moves which probably would have cost the Giants all four of their Super Bowl titles. Meanwhile, both George Young and Ernie Accorsi retired under their own volition, meaning the team has never fired a traditional, modern era GM.

John Mara and Steve Tisch don’t want to fire Tom Coughlin, a man who will go down in history as one of the team’s top three head coaches in addition to Steve Owen and Parcells. They are conscious of the fact that firing Coughlin after the 2006 season would have been a huge mistake and that the 2015 New York Giants are an undermanned squad that has been competitive in every single game. This is an improvement over the 2012-14 Giants who were on the receiving end of a number of humiliating blowouts.

Seven of the Giants’ eight losses have been by a total of 21 points, and six of them have been by four points or less. But therein lies the danger. Mr. Mara may not be seeing the forest through the trees. Despite having a franchise quarterback who is playing some of the best football of his career and one of the NFL’s most explosive skill players, this team is not getting better in a league and division filled with mediocrity. The Giants are on track for their third losing season in a row, fourth non-playoff season in a row, and sixth non-playoff season in seven years. As great as the 2007 and 2011 campaigns were, one gets the sense that poor talent acquisition and coaching wasted chances at more glory. Numerous offensive and defensive coordinators as well as positional coaches have been fired. And due to poor drafting and an inordinate number of serious injuries, the roster has rotted.

The defense is once again dead last in the NFL. Dead last. This has become the norm for a franchise that prided itself on defense throughout most of its history. They can’t stop the run, they can’t rush the passer, and they can’t cover. When a game is on the line, they wilt under the pressure. Many of the starters would be backups or wouldn’t even be on the 53-man roster of many other teams. The offense is in better shape because of Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, and a recent investment in the offensive line, but it has talent issues at well on the right side of the offensive line and the other skill positions. In short, General Manager Jerry Reese has done a horrible, horrible job of acquiring talent.

As for the coaches, they are quality men with a proven track record of success either with the Giants or on other teams. In many ways, they are a victim of Jerry Reese’s poorly-run operation. But in a bottom line business, the team has become too accustomed to losing. Tom Coughlin’s edge seems to be gone. Even under the new CBA rules, practices are not tough. Instead of an angry “no medals for trying” attitude we get “we played hard.” Players freely admit their confidence is shaken. A culture of mediocrity and defeat has gripped a franchise only a few years removed from an NFL title.

The Giants are clearly at a crossroads. They can stay the course, hope Jerry Reese and his staff draft better and make better decisions in free agency than they have. They can hope that a soon-to-be 70-year old Tom Coughlin, Ben McAdoo, and Steve Spagnuolo can take those new pieces and create a better product and somehow reverse the recent cultural demise. Or they can do what they have done in recent years and serve up some scapegoats to appease those thirsting for blood, firing a position coach, or maybe even reorganizing the personnel department.

Less likely, but what should be considered is an entire organizational enema. It is indisputable that the chief reason for the team’s demise is the failure to acquire sufficient talent. There have been too many bad draft picks and too many poor free agent decisions. The occasional success does not erase the fact that the Giants are not getting enough good players. All three levels of the defense are a joke. Offensively, the team can’t run the football and has no one who scares the opposition other than Manning and Beckham. It’s a two man team. How can John Mara not see that? The Giants are no further along on their “rebuild” as when they started after the 2012 season. They got Beckham and improved the offensive line, but the defense has completely fallen off of the cliff. It can’t be fixed in one offseason.

If the Giants are going to make a change, the time is now. Losing has become too easy for this franchise. The coach is approaching retirement age. Most of the roster is completely disposable and therefore malleable. They can completely change their offensive and defensive systems because of that. If there is any doubt within the organization about Reese, then he should be let go too. You don’t want to get into a situation where Reese hires a new head coach and is then fired himself a year later. Getting rid of Reese may seem too reactionary, but Reese has been truly terrible at his job.

General Observations from the Game

The Odell Beckham shenanigans obscure what ended up being a great game. It was expected that the undefeated Carolina Panthers would make short work of a flawed Giants team. With 4:34 left to play before halftime, the game was tied 7-7 as both teams had scored once off of long touchdown marches and each had punted the ball away four times. Then came a disastrous sequence. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie dropped a pick-6. Three plays later Rashad Jennings fumbled the ball away at the New York 46-yard line. Three plays after that, on 3rd-and-1, the defense lost track of Cam Newton’s favorite receiving target, tight end Greg Olsen, as he ran untouched 37 yards for a touchdown. The Giants went three and out. The Panthers made New York pay by driving 72 yards for a commanding 21-7 lead. In the matter of minutes, a close game got out of hand.

The beat down that was expected by many continued in the third quarter. The Giants went three-and-out twice while the Panthers added two more touchdowns to go up 35-7 with 5:32 left in the 3rd quarter. The game was over.

But then began New York’s dramatic comeback as they rallied to tie a game from a 28-point deficit for the first time in their entire team history. Within the span of 15 minutes, they scored four touchdowns, including a dramatic 14-yarder from Manning to Beckham on 4th-and-5 with 1:46 to play. MetLife Stadium went nuts. The Giants only needed one more defensive stop to get the ball back in regulation or send the game into overtime. But for the seventh time this season, the Giants’ defense was unable to make that stop late in a contest with the game in doubt. Carolina kicked the game-winning 43-yard field goal with no time left as the Panthers easily gained the 49 yards and four first downs they needed to win the game.

Offensive Observations

Too little too late. As I’ve said for weeks, the Giants need Eli Manning and Odell Beckham to play near-perfect games in order to win. Beckham dropped a 52-yard touchdown on the team’s first drive, got foolishly caught up in a personal battle with Josh Norman, and was a complete non-factor until late in the 3rd quarter. Not counting the give-up play right before halftime, the Giants first nine possessions resulted in one touchdown drive, one turnover, and seven punts (four of which came after three-and-outs).

The offense does deserve credit for the furious comeback effort with four straight touchdown drives of 64, 66, 14, and 66 yards against one of the toughest defenses in the NFL. Manning ended the day 29-of-46 for 245 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception – the latter partially caused by the pass rush combined with Hakeem Nicks falling down. Manning’s numbers would have been even better had not for a couple of missed opportunities deep to Beckham, including the drop.

The Giants finally got Shane Vereen back into the passing game, as he caught 8 passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. Beckham almost redeemed himself on the day with two 4th-down conversions, including the game-tying 14-yard touchdown that was also set up his 40-yard catch-and-run. Will Tye chipped in with five catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. Rueben Randle caught a 27-yarder touchdown but that was due to a breakdown in the Panthers’ pass defense. His other three catches only went for 20 yards.

Jennings’ fumble overshadowed what was sadly the team’s first 100-yard rushing performance by a single ball carrier this year. He ran the ball 16 times for 107 yards (6.7 yards per carry average), including a 38-yard touchdown run. Vereen chipped in with 29 yards on four carries (7.3 yards per carry) and Andre Williams 21 yards on six carries (3.5 yards per carry). The offensive line performed surprisingly well given the quality of the opponent. Manning was not sacked and only officially hit four times. The team rushed for an impressive 161 yards against what had been the NFL’s #4 run defense.

Defensive Observations

The defense has been so bad for so long that we have become accustomed to seeking out minor victories such as forcing four punts in Carolina’s first five possessions and preventing points in four 4th quarter possessions. Bullshit. The defense still gave up three first half touchdown drives, including two in the last 3:30 of the half. It then gave up two more touchdown drives in the 3rd quarter. Two of the 4th quarter “stops” were a blocked field goal after a 62-yard drive that should have put the game away and an unforced turnover. In the end, Cam Newton became the first player in NFL history to run for 100 yards, pass for three hundred yards, and throw five touchdown passes. It will likely be his signature performance of his MVP season.

To be honest, I don’t have the heart to discuss this unit in detail. Pointing out bright spots on this defense is like picking out your favorite entree at the Golden Corral. The linebackers and safeties are a joke. The highly-paid cornerbacks laid an egg. The best defensive lineman is playing with one hand. Every Giant fan knew Carolina was going to score in the final 1:46. We knew it. They knew it. Needing a late stand, the defense has faltered against the Cowboys, Falcons, Saints, Patriots, Redskins, Jets, and Panthers. They are dead last defensively despite not having to face a slew of top quarterbacks or offenses. It’s a sad day when Giants fans wish their defense could be “as good” as the Browns, Colts, and Jaguars or any other team in the NFL

Without their bell cow running back Jonathan Stewart, the Giants knew they had to stop Cam Newton on the ground. They didn’t. Instead, he had his best rushing day of the year. The defense also knew it couldn’t let the Panthers’ mediocre group of wideouts do much damage. Instead, “stalwarts” such as Ted Ginn, Jerricho Cotchery, Corey Brown, and Devin Funchess caught 15 passes for 213 yards and four touchdowns. Tight end Greg Olsen chipped in with 79 more yards and a touchdown. Newton ended the day with a 116.9 quarterback rating. The New York Giants no longer know how to acquire defensive talent or coach them. This has been problem for years now.

Special Teams Observations

The 36-yard punt return by Ted Ginn set up Carolina’s final touchdown. Dwayne Harris was kept in check. The blocked punt by Rodgers-Cromartie was a momentary game-saver.

Coaching Observations

It’s clear the coaching staff is saddled with a weak roster. It’s a tribute to the coaches and players that all but one of the games have been competitive. That said, the coaching staff shares the blame. As mentioned in other game reviews, there have been questionable decisions from the head man. In this particular contest, his original choice to punt on 4th-and-2 trailing 35-7 was a curious one. Eli correctly waived off the punt team to keep the comeback alive. Despite Coughlin’s and Ben McAdoo’s protestations to the contrary, this game was more evidence that there has been too much running back by committee and not enough of a focus on Jennings and Vereen. Spagnuolo has made some odd personnel choices late in games such as having Craig Dahl cover Josh Reed out of the slot against the Redskins and Uani ‘Unga cover guys like Jason Witten of the Cowboys and Greg Olsen of the Panthers.

Tom Coughlin should have benched Odell Beckham. His decision not to seems to suggest that he at least believes he is coaching for his football life. Coughlin knows that without Manning and Beckham, this team is beyond dreadful.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

Josh Norman, Cortland Finnegan, and many of the Panthers defenders are tools, and Norman sounds like a little bitch. But Odell Beckham allowed him to get under his skin and it impacted the entire team. It may have cost his 52 teammates a playoff spot and his coaches their jobs. The game is not about individuals, no matter how good you are. Now it’s up to Odell to decide whether he will learn and grow from this incident. He should use it to fuel an even greater fire and lift his entire team in years to come.

(Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, December 20, 2015)
Dec 182015
 
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Cullen Jenkins, New York Giants (December 6, 2015)

Cullen Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, December 20, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
Despite the fact that the Giants are tied with the Eagles and Redskins for first place in the NFC East, they are in deep trouble. If the Giants lose to the Carolina Panthers as expected, and the Eagles and Redskins both win, the Giants are all but officially eliminated from division title contention and most likely any serious shot at a Wild Card playoff spot. Thus, for all intents and purposes, this is a playoff game for the Giants. If they lose, they have to pray the Bills beat the Redskins in Maryland and/or the Cardinals beat the Eagles in Philadelphia.

The Giants could not have picked a worse opponent for a must-win game. The undefeated 13-0 Panthers are the most physical team in football. The are top five defensively against both the run and the pass and they are the second-best running team in the NFL. The Panthers are +18 in turnover differential having forced a league-leading 33 takeaways (21 interceptions and 12 forced fumbles). They average 31.6 points per game while only allowing an average of 18.7 points per game.

“The hard thing for the Giants is the Panthers are such a physical team on both sides of the ball,” ex-Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick told The New York Post. “That’s typically been a hallmark for the Giants, but I don’t know if you can look at the Giants and say they are a physical team. That’s going to be the challenge for them: Can they raise up and be that physical team? That Panthers defense looks like a Giants defense. They put pressure on you with the four-man rush. They make you pay in the open field. They are going to have match physicality on both sides.”

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Dwayne Harris (shoulder – questionable)
  • LT Ereck Flowers (ankle – questionable)
  • DE George Selvie (concussion – out)
  • DT Markus Kuhn (knee – out)
  • LB Devon Kennard (hamstring/foot – out)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (ankle – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The 4-3 defense of the Panthers is #3 in the NFL (#4 against the run and #5 against the pass). They are third in the NFL in sacks with 40, eighth defensively on 3rd down, and 9th in red zone defense. They are a physical AND fast group that has a league-leading 33 forced turnovers, including four defensive scores.

They are strong at all three levels, particularly in the front seven. Carolina has arguably the best defensive tackle duo in football in Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short (9 sacks). Left defensive end Charles Johnson and right end Jared Allen have been two of the better ends in the NFL for years and they are backed up by very good players in their own right such as Kony Ealy and Mario Addison who each have 5 sacks on the season. As good as the defensive line is, particularly inside at tackle, the entire linebacking corps may be the strength of the defense. All three starters are fast, physical play makers who can defend the run, rush the passer, and cover. The headliner is Luke Kuechly, arguably the best middle linebacker in football. He is not only his team’s second leading tackler but he has 4 interceptions and one touchdown. Weakside linebacker Thomas Davis and strongside linebacker Shaq Thompson are also very good. Davis is the team’s leading tackler, has 5.5 sacks, and has picked off 3 passes and forced 4 fumbles. The secondary is led by Josh Norman (4 interceptions, 16 pass defenses, and 2 defensive scores), who some suggest has replaced Seattle’s Richard Sherman as the best cornerback in football. Free safety Kurt Coleman has 7 interceptions, including one for a touchdown. Ex-Saint Roman Harper is a physical player. Ex-Bear Charles Tillman returns this week after missing four games with a knee injury. Ex-Titans dickhead Cortland Finnegan now mans the nickel spot due to the loss of Bene’ Benwikere.

In short, these guys are damn good.

The Giants are not going to be able to run the football. Right guard John Jerry will not be able to move Lotulelei off of the line of scrimmage and right tackle Marshall Newhouse will likely have trouble with Johnson over his head. Short is having an All-Star year and will probably be the toughest opponent left guard Justin Pugh sees this season. That is, as long as Pugh doesn’t have to shift over to left tackle again with Ereck Flowers struggling with a high ankle sprain. If Pugh has to shift and Dallas Reynolds has to come in and block Short, forget it. At that point, the running backs and Eli Manning will want to check their medical insurance coverage. Allen may be in the twilight of his career, but the savvy veteran will still be a handful for the hurting Flowers.

The only shot the Giants have in this game is to use the quick passing game with an occasional deep shot down the field. They may sprinkle in some shot-gun runs just to keep the rushers honest, but Rashad Jennings and crew simply are not going to be able to do much on the ground. To pull off the upset, Eli will have to play at the level he did against the Dolphins. He doesn’t have to complete 87 percent of his passes, but he has to be able to carry the offense and NOT turn the ball over against a defense that thrives off of interceptions and forced fumbles. The issue here, however, is also match-ups. Norman has erased some of the best receivers in the game including Mike Evans, Dez Bryant, and Julio Jones. For a team that lives or dies based on the performance of Odell Beckham, a sub 8 or 9 catch and 100+ yard performance would be devastating to the Giants chances. Also, the linebackers of the Panthers can cover and take out Shane Vereen and Will Tye. In short, the Giants chances may come down to Eli getting repeatedly hit with no running game and having to rely on Rueben Randle and Dwayne Harris (who is hurt and may not play) getting open and have near 100-yard performances, all while not turning the football over. What are the chances of that? If I’m McAdoo, I move Beckham around all over the place…slot, backfield, put him in motion…find different and unique ways to get the ball in his hands.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
No other team has an offense like Carolina’s. They are the only team in the NFL that runs the ball more than it passes. The Panthers lead the NFL in scoring with over 31 points per game. However, much of that productivity is due to their defense giving their offense the ball in plus territory and having scored a league-high 117 points off of the mistakes from other teams. That said, this is a very physical offense that wears down opponents. They are 11th overall (2nd running and 26th passing). The Panthers are superb in the red zone, being 4th in the NFL.

It all begins and ends with quarterback Cam Newton, who is not only having a career year but an MVP season. He already has a career-high 28 touchdown throws in addition to seven rushing touchdowns. Newton has thrown 20 touchdowns and no interceptions in the red zone. This despite the fact that Newton is only completing 59 percent of his passes and his leading wide receivers are journeymen.

Newton’s leading target is tight end Greg Olsen (65 catches for 969 yards and 6 touchdowns). That’s bad news for a Giants team that has had issues covering tight ends in the middle of the field all season. His leading wide receivers are journeyman Ted Ginn, Jr., who only has 37 catches but is averaging 17.4 yards per catch with 8 of those receptions going for touchdowns. No other receiver on the roster has more than 29 receptions but they do have 14 touchdown receptions to complement the 14 scored by Olsen and Ginn.

The issue for the Giants is Newton’s mobility. The Panthers are the last of the teams to feature the read-option. Newton has an astounding 111 carries, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and the aforementioned seven touchdowns (the Giants only have three rushing touchdowns all season!). Newton is able to handle the pounding because he is so big and strong. This is huge problem for a Giants team that has struggled with the read-option for years, and even just last Monday when Miami’s Ryan Tannehill was running it against them. New York still doesn’t seem to have a feel as to how to defend this type of offensive scheme. Ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers were caught out of position a number of times by Tannehill. Newton’s mobility also causes huge issues in the passing game where he still tends to do more damage outside of the pocket when a play breaks down. Sacks will not be as important this week as pass rush discipline. Keep Newton from scrambling, either to extend a pass play or rushing for yardage. The Giants may want to spy Newton.

The good news for the Giants is that Carolina will be missing their feature running back, Jonathan Stewart. Newton and Stewart have been the ground game for the Panthers all year. Their next leading rusher is their fullback, Mike Tolbert, with 45 carries. No one else on the roster has more than 18 carries this year. So the Giants lucked out or they are going to turn some unknown player into a star this week. The offensive line of the Panthers is really a no-name group that has performed well given their lack of pedigree.

On paper, other teams should not be having as much trouble with the Panthers as they have been. It’s an offense with a running QB, a good tight end and running back, a one-trick pony deep threat at wide receiver, and not much else. But the Panthers rush the football well (2nd in the NFL), don’t turn the football over (only 15 all season), and score in the red zone (4th best). And Cam Newton is playing out of his mind. The Giants are fortunate that Stewart isn’t playing. The keys are obvious: defend the read-option and cover the tight end. But these are two things the Giants are terrible at. If they can somehow, for one game, manage to reverse that, they will have a shot to really slow down the Panthers’ offense.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Punt returner Ted Ginn, Jr. has four career punt touchdown returns, including a 71-yarder against the Giants as a Cardinal last season. But he has also fumbled the ball away 12 times in his career on punt returns. The longest kickoff return Carolina has all season is 33 yards. Place kicker Graham Gano has converted on 84 percent of his field goal attempts and 64 percent of his kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks. Punter Brad Nortman is averaging 45.7 yards per punt with none blocked.

Tom Coughlin never calls for trick plays on special teams. Against this opponent, he may have to in order to keep his team’s playoff chances alive. The Giants also need a special effort from the injured Dwayne Harris, who may not play.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Steve Spagnuolo on defending Cam Newton: “We’ve talked about how dangerous he can be when he gets out(side the pocket). When he gets out, the guys on the back end are in a bind. Do you stay in coverage, and he runs for a number of yards? Or do you come out of coverage and try to tackle? Then he has a tendency to dump the ball off or get it downfield…he does that a lot when he scrambles. Better if we just play the percentages and keep him in the pocket and have some tighter coverage downfield, we think that might be helpful. Now really, keeping him in the pocket means we’d like to finish it and maybe get a sack or a knockdown. Look, the guy’s a quality quarterback. We’ll try to mix it up a little bit and hopefully we’ll get some success on the front end with the pass rush.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Giants are still largely a finesse team that has issues with more physical football teams. And the Panthers are the most physical football team in the NFL. The Giants are not going to be able to run the ball so they must move it through the air without making too many mistakes (turnovers, sacks, penalties). It will have to be quick passing with an occasional deep shot. It will be interesting to see how the loss of Stewart impacts the Carolina offense. Pray the Giants don’t turn one of the no-name running backs into a hero. The defense is going to have to reverse its shoddy play against the read-option and covering tight ends to slow down the Panthers’ offense. Keep in mind, the Panthers’ offense has thrived off of good field position provided by their defense. How the Giants’ offense performs could very well impact the play of the defense this week.