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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 20 – Pittsburgh Steelers 16

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

First Down
Who’s the Giants’ No. 2 running back?
Following the Giants matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, this question simply got murkier as each back provides a “pick your poison” approach. Andre Williams is the team’s best option as a ‘running’ back, but can’t catch out of the backfield or block (this was very evident). The coaches seem to trust Kendall Gaskins more than Michael Cox, but Gaskins isn’t a dynamic runner and has been inconsistent in pass protection.

Second Down
Can Charles James II handle punt return duties?
Charles James has been spending some extra time with special teams coordinator Tom Quinn after muffing the punt versus the Steelers, but the job most likely isn’t his. He should get some more reps with Odell Beckham Jr. still nursing the hamstring injury, but we’ll see.

Third Down
Will the first-team offensive line and tight end be able to generate running room for Rashad Jennings?
On one play, yes. On most others, no. Various factors contributed to a lack of running room. There wasn’t one specific thing the Giants did wrong, just different things on different plays.

Fourth Down
Can the first-team defensive line generate a pass rush?
Finally, Jason Pierre-Paul made an appearance getting after Bruce Gradkowski. It was tough to gauge the quality of the pass rush simply because the Steelers starting offense wasn’t on the field long, but there was definitely promise shown.

Victor Cruz, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images


After watching the game initially, I don’t think many felt as negatively about the offense as I did. After watching the film, it still didn’t improve my overall perception much, but there were some positives.

Curtis Painter looked very, very good. The offensive line showed some signs of improvement and Larry Donnell impressed me with his blocking. All that and more below.

QUARTERBACKS - by Connor Hughes

There’s only so much dissecting one can do on a quarterback that throws two passes. It’s tough, very tough, but I do want to take some of the blame off Eli Manning for both of the incompletions. On the first, it appears as if Rashad Jennings missed a block. The running back looked like he was expecting a blitz up the middle, except the blitz came off the outside. Manning then had to rush a pass and it didn’t look like Jerrel Jernigan was ready for it.

On his second incompletion, another intended for Jernigan on a roll out, I love the call. Manning rolled out of the pocket and it was supposed to be a bang-bang play. Give credit to the defense, they simply covered it perfectly and Manning made the right call throwing it away.

The most alarming thing I believe I found when watching Ryan Nassib play was the fact he – like many young quarterbacks – loves to stare down his intended receiver. Once, it cost him badly. On the incomplete wheel route he threw to Marcus Harris, had he just looked directly in front of him he would have seen a wide open Julian Talley running at the first down marker on a drag. Talley was going to pick up the first down…he just missed him and forced the ball instead. It’s things like this Nassib can’t do. He foregoes the easy ones, electing to force passes into tight windows instead.

The biggest difference between Curtis Painter and Nassib? Painter can make several reads. While Nassib tends to stare down his target, Painter doesn’t. Several times he went through a few reads. Also, of all of the quarterbacks, he seemed to have the best grasp of the playbook. As bad as Painter has looked at times in his career, he looked pretty good Saturday night.

Andre Williams, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

RUNNING BACKS - by Connor Hughes

Andre Williams may be the best ‘running’ back the Giants have on their roster right now. The issue is that Williams can’t do it at this point in time. The back was a huge liability as a blocker, whiffing twice, and has yet to show he can catch the ball consistently. I have a hard time believing he’ll see extensive playing time during the season unless he can iron out both of those issues.

Michael Cox continues to impress me with the little things he’s doing. There were two times where he gave Curtis Painter a few extra seconds with a chip block and cut, then made an impressive grab on a screen pass to pick up a first down.

WIDE RECEIVERS - by Connor Hughes

A lot has been made of the fact Victor Cruz has gone catchless in the team’s first two preseason games. I wanted to see if there was ever a time when the receiver should have gotten the ball and the answer was simple: Yes. On the very first pass of the game, an incompletion to Jerrel Jernigan, Cruz was open on a curl on the other side of the field. The issue was the fact Rashad Jennings missed a block that made Eli Manning rush a throw. Similar to Cruz, there were a few plays where Marcus Harris was open, too. The issue was the fact Nassib never made his read over to Harris’ side.

Corey Washington got a lot of attention on his game-winning touchdown pass, but the more I watch the film, the more I realize it was an absolutely perfect pass from Curtis Painter. Sure, Washington fought off a defender, but the ball was placed right in his outstretched hands.

TIGHT ENDS - by Connor Hughes

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

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Larry Donnell quietly had a very, very good game run blocking. There was one mishap, where he had two guys in front of him on a cutback and didn’t block either, but there were several seals, too. He did a good job getting in front of the defender and setting up a running back seal. Donnell has all the potential, just need to build consistency.

The more I watch Adrien Robinson, the more I truly believe he won’t be on this team’s final 53-man roster. He’s the last tight end on the field and very rarely flashes. He made a few nice blocks against the third team Steelers defensive line, but shouldn’t that be expected? Not to mention, that drop on an out-route cannot happen. The Giants don’t have faith in Robinson and he has done nothing to give it to them.

When the Giants travel to Detroit to kickoff the season versus the Lions, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kellen Davis is the team’s No. 2 tight end. From watching the film he reminds me of one of those guys that does everything well, just not one thing great. He has some good hands, runs good routes and can block.

OFFENSIVE LINE - by Connor Hughes

One player jumped out to me more than any other when reviewing the film: John Jerry. The offensive guard was solid pass blocking, made a few huge blocks in the run and showed some good speed getting to the second level. On one particular play, he began blocking with center Weston Richburg, then pulled off and got to the second level to block a middle linebacker.

There were a few mess ups, but Brandon Mosley had a good game, too. He showed power, made a huge block on the long Rashad Jennings touchdown.

Geoff Schwartz made a great cut block and a few other power seals which was impressive considering he’d been dealing with a knee issue. J.D. Walton made a couple nice blocks, also. The offensive line appears to be coming together pretty well. Charles Brown had issues at left tackle, giving up one sack and another big pressure.


Four defensive players did not play, including DT Mike Patterson (shoulder), DT Kelcy Quarles (ankle), LB Jon Beason (foot), and CB Trumaine McBride (hip).

Not counting the two plays run right before the half, the Steelers had 11 legitimate offensive possessions. Pittsburgh did not score an offensive touchdown and was held to three field goals (and they missed a 38-yard field goal). The Steelers punted six times and the Giants forced one turnover. Pittsburgh was limited to 59 plays, 14 first downs, 251 total net yards (70 yards rushing, 181 yards passing), a 14 percent 3rd down conversion rate (2-of-14).

The biggest defensive negative was probably the easy the Giants’ first-team defense allowed Pittsburgh to drive 70 yards in seven plays on the opening drive. Not only did the Steelers gouge the Giants with a 46-yard screen pass, but the run defense allowed 24 yards on four carries (6 yards per rush). But on 3rd-and-3 from the Giants’ 7-yard line, the defense held and forced a field goal.

DEFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy

Mathias Kiwanuka, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Mathias Kiwanuka – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Steelers were able to run up the gut on the Giants on their first possession. Johnathan Hankins missed a tackle in the backfield on a play that gained 9 yards. He’s a big, strong presence but he wasn’t as effective as he was last week against the Bills. In the 2nd quarter, he flashed on one pass rush. The Steelers picked up 8 more yards running at Hankins and Jason Pierre-Paul on the next play. After that series, the run defense stiffened up. JPP played much stronger at the point-of-attack. He got fooled on an end around but showed great hustle chasing down the receiver. On the next play, Pierre-Paul smashed the quarterback just as he released the ball. On 3rd-and-15 in the 1st quarter, both Mathias Kiwanuka and Pierre-Paul put tremendous pressure on the QB, causing an incomplete pass. JPP was flagged with an illegal use of hands penalty earlier on this drive. It’s interesting to note that the Giants’ third-down pass rush package had Robert Ayers at defensive tackle. He flashed on one play, forcing a quick throw. However, he was also flagged with a neutral zone infraction.Markus Kuhn cleaned up with a sack off a blitz from Quintin Demps.

In the second half, the initial defensive line of Israel Idonije, Markus Kuhn, Jay Bromley, and Robert Ayers gave the Pittsburgh reserves fits. Ayers and Idonije flashed on the pass rush, and then Damontre Moore and Ayers nailed the running back for a 2-yard loss on a 3rd-and-10 draw. On the next series, Moore again blew by his man to force an incompletion on 3rd-and-4. After the muffed punt by Charles James, Jay Bromley dominated the next series with two strong pass rushes (the first also causing a holding penalty). Moore also flashed on the rush on this series. Later in the quarter, Bromley stuffed the run and Moore then hustled back to stop a screen play on 3rd-and-9.

In the 4th quarter, I thought Kerry Wynn looked pretty good at times rushing from the strongside end spot. Jordan Stanton came up with a sack and forced fumble on a play where defensive holding was caused.

LINEBACKERS - by Eric Kennedy

Like the defensive line, it wasn’t particularly pretty on the first drive but the starters improved after that. Jameel McClain seemed to be getting blocked fairly easily. He did make one strong  play agains the run late in the 1st quarter. The only solid run defense on the first drive came when Devon Kennard held his ground at the point-of-attack and Jacquian Williams cleaned up from the backside. On the next drive, Williams had excellent coverage on TE Heath Miller on 3rd-and-five. McClain was apparently flagged for defensive holding, but that looked like a bogus call to me.

Spencer Paysinger made a really nice play against the run where he avoided the block and tackle the back for no gain. He then hit the quarterback on a blitz. He did not look as strong in coverage however and was lucky he did not get beat for a touchdown on a 3rd-and-8 play from the Giants’ 20-yard line. Earlier on this drive, Kennard and Mark Herzlich failed to make the play on a 7-yard run around right end.

Mark Herzlich made some noise in the second half. He made a nice play on the back in the hole, stuffing him for a 1-yard loss. He followed that up by expertly sniffing out and disrupting a screen pass. Later he made a nice sure tackle after a short pass reception. On the next play, Paysinger failed to bring the back down short of the sticks on 3rd-and-8. Terrell Manning recovered the fumble late in the game to preserve the win for the Giants.

DEFENSIVE BACKS - by Eric Kennedy

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Interestingly, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers didn’t even test the defensive backs on the first drive until 3rd-and-3 on the final offensive play of the possession, and that ended with textbook coverage by Walter Thurmond to force a field goal. I wonder if we will see more teams shy away from the defensive backs and throw more at the tight ends this year. Thus far this preseason, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is completely shutting down his side of the field. Nice hustle by Prince Amukamara on this drive to track down the uber-speedy Dri Archer on the 46-yard screen. On the next series, Amukamara made a nice sure tackle just short of the sticks on 3rd-and-8. Amukamara was flagged with an illegal contact penalty before this play, Antrel Rolle made a textbook open-field tackle for a 1-yard loss after a short pass to the tight end.

In the 2nd quarter, Quintin Demps flashed a blitz, causing a sack. Zack Bowman was flagged for illegal contact on a play where it looked like the defensive back just ran right into him. Strange call. Later on this drive, Bowman was beat on a 28-yard gain on 3rd-and-2.

The story line in the secondary in the second half was the continued struggles of Jayron Hosley, who doesn’t seem to know that he needs to turn around to play the football in order not to get flagged for pass interference. Hosley was first flagged for PI on a 3rd-and-6 incomplete pass. Early in the 4th quarter, he failed to turn around again on a 47-yard PI call that set up Pittsburgh at the Giants’ 18-yard line. To his credit, he did have two nice plays on the rest of this series to help force a field goal (but again, on one of these plays, he didn’t look back for the ball).

Ross Weaver had nice coverage on one deep pass. Bennett Jackson was flagged with defensive holding, wiping out a sack/fumble. C.J. Barnett finished the game by forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Giants.

SPECIAL TEAMS - by Eric Kennedy

Both place kickers did an excellent job. The Giants did not allow a kickoff return with five touchbacks (2 by Josh Brown, 3 by Brandon McManus). Brown hit a 45-yard field goal and McManus a 46-yard field goal.

The Giants returned four kickoffs, with Quintin Demps returning two for 46 yards (both 23-yard returns). Preston Parker returned the other two for 37 yards (for 20 and 17 yards).

Preston Parker returned one punt for 12 yards and fair caught two more. Charles James muffed  his only chance, giving the ball back to the Steelers at the Giants’ 21-yard line and leading to a field goal.

Steve Weatherford averaged 47.2 yards on six punts (45.8 yard net). Punt return coverage was excellent with the Steelers being held to eight yards on four returns (the long return being only four yards). Marcus Harris flashed as a gunner on one play causing a fair catch. Zak DeOssie smashed the returner after only a 1-yard gain on another. Later in the game, he was the first guy downfield again making the tackle.

(Boxscore – Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, August 9 , 2014)
Aug 082014
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, August 9 , 2014

It’s a gradual learning process with the New York Giants this season as the offense continues to learn Ben McAdoo’s new West Coast scheme. Sunday’s Hall of Fame game was a taste. Saturday’s game versus Pittsburgh should be the appetizer.

Progress. Progress. Progress. Last week versus the Buffalo Bills, the Giants’ starting offense took the field for three possessions. Two looks very bad, one looked very good. The good one came against the Buffalo’s No. 2 defense. Tom Coughlin said on Tuesday the Giants installed two new elements of the offense in practice this week. Is there an improvement with the starters? We’ll see.


Andre Williams, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

First Down
Who’s the Giants’ No. 2 running back?
When David Wilson announced his retirement, it ended the career of a promising back far too soon, but it also opened up questions on who exactly will be spelling Rashad Jennings. Andre Williams flashed in Canton, but he hasn’t proven he can catch. Peyton Hillis has proven he can be a serviceable back, but he’s dealing with an ankle injury. Kendall Gaskins and Michael Cox? The two had a combined 22 carries a year ago. Can someone from this group step up?

Second Down
Can Charles James II handle punt return duties?
When Giants’ special teams coordinator Tom Quinn spoke to the media last week, he said Charles James II and Preston Parker would get extended looks as a punt returner with Odell Beckham Jr. and Trindon Holliday ailing. Holliday is no sure bet to make the team, James isn’t exactly a lock either. The chance to show his value on special teams should be music to his ears for the young corner. If James can show he can be a serviceable returner, reliable with the chance at a big return every now and then, it could go a long way for him making the team. He’s on the bubble as a corner, being a returner could be just the edge James needs.

Third Down
Will the first-team offensive line and tight end be able to generate running room for Rashad Jennings?
Last week, the answer was no. Last year, Eli Manning found himself constantly in 3rd-and-long situations because the Giants had no running game. The Steelers will be a good test.

Fourth Down
Can the first-team defensive line generate a pass rush?
Last week, the answer was again no. The Giants need to see more of pass rush from Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka, Cullen Jenkins, and Johnathan Hankins.

Michael Cox, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Michael Cox – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Connor Hughes – RB Michael Cox
Playing with some very, very bad offensive linemen in front of him, Michael Cox flashed versus the Bills on Sunday. The one play that stood out to me was the screen pass in which he applied a perfect chip bock, then took a few steps up, caught the ball and picked up a good gain. With Hillis ailing and Wilson retired, Cox should see extended reps at running back. This is his chance to not only prove he deserves a spot on the final 53-man roster, but a role on the offense as well. There are reps to be had, Cox needs to grab them. If he can’t? Well, there could be a roster move made next week to bring in another body.

Eric Kennedy - WR Rueben Randle
We heard last  year at camp how great Randle was doing. We’ve heard that times this year as well. Last week, Randle didn’t have a pass thrown in his direction. In 2013, Randle played in all 16 games but he only averaged 2.5 catches per game, did not score in the last six games of the season, and only had one 100-yard receiving game all year (the opener). With Hakeem Nicks gone, Rueben is being penciled in as the the starting split end or X-receiver. He’s got to be a guy who can get open and make plays against top cornerbacks. If not, teams will constantly double Cruz. Who knows when Odell Beckham will be able to play, and how productive he will be since he is so far behind? Randle needs to prove he can do it.


• Jon Beason (PUP LIST/foot/out)
• Will Beatty (pre-planned/leg/out)
• Trumaine McBride (pre-planned/hip/out)
• Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring/out)
• Xavier Grimble (hamstring/tbd)
• Geoff Schwartz (knee/tbd)
• Mike Patterson (shoulder/tbd)
• Trindon Holliday (leg/out)

Tom Coughlin: (on how he manages a second preseason game when for many its their first) “If there is a normal role, I suppose you are describing it. Our guys will play the same amount or maybe a little bit more than they did before. I still want to see, if we can, everyone who is dressed. If they are able to play, I would like to see them all.”

Connor Hughes - There was promise shown in Canton, now it’s time to build on that and develop consistency. I want to see what Eli Manning looks like another week into the offense. I want to see an improvement amongst the offensive line. I want to see if Marcus Harris can continue to move what he’s shown in training camp to the game day field. But more importantly, as the story line says, I just want to see progress. Because I got the score right last week, although teams wrong, I’m picking again :)
Giants 20 – Steelers 14

Eric Kennedy – On the offensive side of the ball, I still expect growing pains (ups and downs) with Eli Manning and the new offense. But he’s still not my #1 concern. My number one concern is do the Giants still have enough offensive weapons to really scare other teams. We have Cruz. But we don’t have a tight end. I’m not sure we have a starting split end (Randle has to show me; how far behind is Beckham?). I like the running backs, but losing David Wilson takes away the home-run hitter who I think would have done very well in Ben McAdoo’s offense. When will Will Beatty be able to play a full game? And how will he rebound? Do we have a starting-caliber right guard? Defensively, everyone has been saying JPP is back, but we haven’t seen it yet. Can these ends rush the passer?
Steelers 20 – Giants – 13

Aug 072014
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 17 – Buffalo Bills 13

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

Eli Manning and Ben McAdoo, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Eli Manning and Ben McAdoo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

First Down
How does Eli Manning look in a West Coast Offense?
The short answer? Good. The long answer? It’s a work in progress. Manning created a few waves when he and others said the goal this year was to complete “70 percent” of his passes. Well, after one game, Manning is completing over 85 percent. He went 6-for-7, missing on his first throw and then hitting his next six. There will be many more check downs this year, something that early on appears to suit Manning.

Second Down
The progression of Ryan Nassib
Entering into Sunday’s game, Ryan Nassib was coming off two of his best practices of the summer. His showing in the Hall of fame game displayed that. Nassib put some zip on the ball, displayed his mobility and the ability to keep plays alive. There was accuracy shown and some arm strength. Unfortunately, he also showed the inconsistency. Both the intentional grounding and nullified interception were the ‘bad’ aspects you get with the ‘good’ of Nassib.

Third Down
The ‘Legend’ of Devon Kennard
Kennard played well in his first game in a Giants’ uniform. He was physical, wasn’t out of position much and made his usual ‘pop’ play down by the goal line. Kennard ran through a pulling offensive guard, knocked the guard back, while retaining his own balance, and tackled Anthony Dixon near the goal line.

Fourth Down
The rebuilt, re-tooled secondary
One stat says it all, Bills’ quarterback E.J. Mannuel completed 3-of-7 passes. On the few deep passes thrown against Prince Amukamara, the former first-round pick had perfect coverage. On the two passes thrown at Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (both of which were batted down), the corner had cut on the ball and was in position to make a play. The secondary looks good. Very good.


Six offensive players did not make the trip to Canton, including key contributors WR Odell Beckham (hamstring) and LT Will Beatty (migraine). Also missing were RB David Wilson (neck), WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring), TE Xavier Grimble (hamstring), and OG/OC Eric Herman (hip).

The Giants had nine legitimate offensive possessions, not counting the kneel down before halftime and three plays to run out the clock at the end of the game. The Giants starting offense played three of the nine possessions (1/3 of the game). They struggled on their first two drives, one three-and-out followed by sack/fumble turnover after picking up one first down. The first-team offense then easily drove down the field on a 12-play, 80-yard drive against the Bills’ second-team defense.

In the second quarter, Ryan Nassib and the second-team offense took the field. Nassib had two drives in the second quarter, the first was an 8-play, 52 yard possession that resulted in a 47-yard field goal. The second only covered 15 yards in six plays.

In the second half of the game, a mixture of second-, third-, and even some fourth-teamers participated in four more offensive possessions that traveled 29 yards (5 plays), 23 yards (5 plays), 69 yards (2 plays, including a 4-yard loss), and 36 yards (12 plays). The highlight was obviously the 73-yard scoring pass from Nassib to WR Corey Washington.

Overall, the Giants accrued 308 total net yards (121 rushing, 187 passing) and 19 first downs. The team was a respectable 6-of-13 (46 percent) on third down and won the time of possession battle 33:37 to 26:23.

Based on my comments below, I have major concerns about offensive line depth and the tight end situation. As much as Jerry Reese supposedly did this offseason, the cupboard is still too bare at these critical positions.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

QUARTERBACKS - by Eric Kennedy

Eli Manning’s completion percentage was impressive (6-of-7, 86 percent). But he only threw for 43 yards. It’s going to take me some time to get used to this dink-and-dunk offense. However, Eli actually looked more adept at it than I expected, particularly for the first game. His first throw was a bit off the mark (or Jerrel Jernigan was a bit off the mark on his route). But after that, Eli was a perfect 6-for-6. It’s interesting to note that five of the first eight plays (all against the Bills’ starting defense) were designed quick throws. One-two-three…throw. Two passes were intended for Jernigan, three for Jennings. On the 12-play, 80-yard drive, Eli only threw twice, once to Jernigan for 8 yards (on 3rd-and-5) and once to TE Daniel Fells for 10 yards.

My biggest problem with Eli was his decision-making on the sack-fumble play. Both tackles gave up some heat, and the not-so-nimble-footed Eli tried to blindly spin-scramble out of trouble. Problem is by scrambling, he ran into a third defender who had gotten away from Geoff Schwartz. The loss of yardage on the sack would have been bad enough, but losing the football was worse. He can’t be that careless. This play was somewhat reminiscent of his happy feet in the pocket in 2013. Hopefully, this is not a developing trend in his game as he ages.

Ryan Nassib came into the game at the start of the second quarter and played until the beginning of the fourth quarter. He finished the night 7-of-12 for 139 yards, although 73 of those yards came on the one play to Corey Washington. Nassib had two drives in the first half, with mostly second teamers. He was 5-of-8 for 49 yards on those two drives. He showed good mobility and accuracy on a rollout pass to TE Larry Donnell and found WR Marcus Harris for a 25-yard strike over the middle on a strong throw. Pressure in his face caused an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-7 to end his first drive. After completing three short passes on his second drive, he just missed WR Julian Talley deep down the middle (the pass was a tad too high). His 3rd-and-14 incomplete throw to Harris looked on the mark, but it was tough to tell without instant replay.

With a step down in surrounding talent (more third-stringers), the third quarter was not as kind to Nassib. He had two more drives. After completing one short pass that was called back due to offensive pass interference, Nassib threw his worst pass of the night. With pressure in his face, he tried to force the ball to a well-covered Adrien Robinson, not seeing a second defender just sitting in the throwing lane and easily picking off the pass. Luckily for Nassib, a roughing-the-passer penalty erased the interception. Two plays later, however, on a naked boot to the left, the defender on that side didn’t bite on the play-action and was immediately in Nassib’s face. Again, Nassib panicked a bit, throwing the ball into the turf despite not being outside of the pocket. Intentional grounding was correctly called. On the second drive, Nassib completed a 17-yard pass to Mario Manningham, but was sacked two plays later (a penalty on the Bills erased the sack). After two runs, Nassib couldn’t connect with Marcus Harris after a blitzing linebacker got in his face. Nassib’s final throw of the night was his slightly under thrown long ball to Corey Washington for the go-ahead (and game-winning) touchdown.

Curtis Painter (3-of-3 for 26 yards) came into the game with less than 11 minutes to play. He looked respectable.

Andre Williams, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

RUNNING BACKS - by Eric Kennedy

I liked what I saw from Rashad Jennings (7 carries for 23 yards, 3 catches for 20 yards) and Andre Williams (7 carries for 48 yards) when given an opportunity by the blocking up front. Both are bigger, more physical backs. Both seem more “Giant-like” to me. Jennings has very natural hands and I think he is going put up big reception total numbers in this offense. Eli trusts him. Nice job by Jennings to pick up 5 yards after the catch on 3rd-and-2. Williams demonstrated surprising agility and quickness for a big man, and his 3-yard goal-line touchdown was a no-nonsense effort. Both were helped on the third drive by some very good lead blocking from FB Henry Hynoski. On that drive, 10 of the 12 plays were running plays to Jennings and Williams, gaining 62 of the 80 yards on the possession. I don’t know what was going on with John Conner, but he didn’t look as focused and physical as he did last year. Hynoski out-played him in round one of the FB battle.

With David Wilson done, the drop off from #1 and #2 running back to #3 is pretty big right now. Peyton Hillis (7 carries for 36 yards) can block, catch, and run with some power, but he isn’t very quick or fast, as demonstrated by his 7-yard run on 3rd-and-12 where he made a really nice cut, but couldn’t outrace the defense to the sticks. Kendall Gaskins (5 carries for 5 yards) didn’t have much room to operate behind the third-team line, but he didn’t flash any special qualities either. He also could not sustain his block on a blitzing linebacker that led to an incomplete 3rd down pass.

I was more impressed with Michael Cox (9 carries for 3 yards) despite what the horrendous stats indicate. When given a chance, like his back-to-back 9- and 7-yard runs, he demonstrated better acceleration and quickness than Hillis and Gaskins. Cox stood out on the middle screen play where he expertly chipped a blitzer who could have blown up the entire play, made the one-handed reception, and then ran tough for the first down on 3rd-and-8.

WIDE RECEIVERS - by Eric Kennedy

Oddly, no passes thrown in the direct of Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle. Jerrel Jernigan was the only wide receiver targeted by Eli, catching two of three passes thrown in his direction. Randle did a nice job of run blocking on Williams’ 21-yard run.

Marcus Harris flashed in the third quarter with the second team, especially on his fearless 25 catch-and-run over the middle. He finished the night with 4 catches for 49 yards. He might have had a bigger night had he been able to come down with a 3rd-and-14 throw by Nassib that looked on the mark. Good effort by him on his run blocks as well.

Mario Manningham caught one pass for 17 yards. Corey Washington stood out with his very nice leaping catch where he out-fought the Bills’ defensive back for the ball and a 73-yard score. Julian Talley was flagged for offensive pass interference.

TIGHT ENDS - by Eric Kennedy

Larry Donnell was the #1 tight end in this game. I spotted him getting stymied in the hole as a lead blocker from the fullback position on the first possession. On the second possession, as he was blocking down on DE Mario Williams, Williams squeezed inside to stuff Jennings for a 1-yard loss on 2nd-and-1. But what was weird on this play was that LG Geoff Schwartz ran past Williams to pull around Donnell, as if the running play was supposed to go behind Schwartz and not to the inside where Williams made the play. In other words, I’m not sure Donnell was at fault here.

After this, I thought Donnell did a nice job as a run blocker from the traditional down position, including on the long touchdown drive. He looked good catching a 13-yard pass on a QB rollout in the second quarter. Daniel Fells caught a 10-yard pass before he suffered a knee injury in the second quarter and was forced to leave the game. His blocking looked solid. Right now, Donnell and Fells appear to be the top two tight ends on the depth chart.

Adrien Robinson seemed to be the next guy off the bench, followed by Kellen Davis. Robinson didn’t impress me with his blocking, particularly as a move tight end. He was flailing around out there at times.

Bottom line, the Giants may have a developing player in Donnell and a somewhat serviceable journeyman in Fells, but not much else. Robinson still looks like he isn’t developing and the fact that Davis appeared to be #4 on the depth chart is not a good sign for him. Hello waiver wire come cut-down time. Not good for a Ben McAdoo offense that relies so heavily on tight ends.

OFFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy

Starting were Charles Brown (LT), Geoff Schwartz (LG), J.D. Walton (C), Brandon Mosley (RG), and Justin Pugh (RT). I was more down on this group when I originally watched the game, less so when looking at the game film a second time. Simply put, there were not enough snaps to adequately judge the starting group.

On the first two drives against the Bills’ formidable starting defensive line, five of the eight plays were very quick (and designed to be quick) throws to Jernigan and Jennings. Given the quick set up and throws, the line was easily able to keep heat off of Eli on these five plays. On the play before the sack-fumble, the offensive line had formed a perfect pocket on the 5-yard completion to Jernigan. The problems were on the other three plays: two runs and one pass. On the first run, as mentioned above, Donnell got stood up in the hole by the linebacker. On the second run, as mentioned, Mario Williams defeated an oddly-designed or executed short-yardage play, leading to a 1-yard loss. On the one passing play where Eli didn’t quickly throw the ball, both Pugh and Charles Brown gave up some pressure (Pugh also was flagged with holding on this play). Eli decided to blindly scramble away from it with a spin move. Geoff Schwartz’s man then broke free to sack Manning. Tough to judge Schwartz here as he probably was surprised by Manning’s move away from the pocket. That said, Schwartz does not look very athletic to me. He lumbers in the open field (he looked really out of place on a screen play). Interesting note is that Mark Asper played tight end on Andre Williams’ goal-line touchdown play.

On the third drive, the first-string offensive line – as one would hope – began to exert itself against the second-team defensive line of the Bills. The Giants ran the ball 10 times for 62 yards; both passes were completed for another 18 yards.

James Brewer, New York Giants (January 30, 2012)

James Brewer – © USA TODAY Sports Images

In the second quarter, the fourth drive started off with Brown (LT), Weston Richburg (LG), Dallas Reynolds (61), Mosley (RG), and Pugh (67). On this drive, James Brewer came in for Pugh at right tackle. Brown was a bit shaky at times throughout the game, including against the backups. During his rookie season in 2011, Brewer was tasked with carrying the team’s lucky teddy bear on road trips. The problem with Brewer – who is a huge athlete – is he plays like a teddy bear. He rarely delivers the punch – a guy that big and strong and nimble shouldn’t be getting pushed back by smaller defenders. Reynolds looked decent at times, but also blew a block on a running play that went nowhere. On the last drive in the second quarter, John Jerry came in for Mosley. He did not look good.

In the third quarter, the line started off as Brewer (LT), Richburg (LG), Reynolds (C), Jerry (RG), and Rogers Gaines (RT). Jerry and Gaines were the obvious weak links on this line. Perhaps Jerry still is fighting his way back from the offseason knee surgery that caused him to miss the OTAs. Or perhaps he simply stinks. But for a big guy, he doesn’t get any movement on his run blocks and he was getting bull-rushed on passing plays. It was his man who got in the face of Nassib on Nassib’s worst throw of the night. Gaines had problems in pass protection a number of times, and both Jerry and Gaines gave up a 3rd quarter sack. In the fourth quarter, John “the human turnstile” Sullen came in at right guard. He was dreadful.

On the last real drive of the game, the line had Brewer (LT), Jamaal Johnson-Webb (LG), Richburg (C), Sullen (RG), and Gaines (RT). Interestingly, I thought Richburg looked shakiest here at his “natural” center position. His man badly disrupted one running play. On this possession, and a few other times at left guard earlier in the game, Richburg was pushed back. He needs to get bigger and stronger. I don’t see the player yet who everyone is excited about.

My overall impression of the offensive line as a unit? The Giants desperately need Will Beatty back at left tackle. I think Schwartz-Walton-Mosley-Pugh will be serviceable, but this is not a physically-imposing line. Richburg needs to play stronger, but he does have good agility. I don’t like the depth situation at all outside Richburg and maybe Brown. Jerry doesn’t look good at all. Brewer is very versatile, but he’s a soft player. When Dallas Reynolds looks like one of the better backups, you know you are in trouble. The rest of the guys – quite frankly – don’t look very good. Sullen and Gaines were terrible. I didn’t seen enough of Johnson-Webb.

Cullen Jenkins and Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Cullen Jenkins and Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images


The following players did not play for the Giants on defense after not making the trip to Canton: Trumaine McBride, Bennett Jackson, Travis Howard, Jon Beason, Spencer Paysinger, Robert Ayers and Mike Patterson. 

After watching the game live, I came away being very impressed with the overall play of the Giants’ starting defensive players and reserves. There was pressure on the quarterback, little room for the running backs to run and some tight, physical coverage from the cornerbacks.

The secondary made plays, the defensive line got after the quarterback and the linebackers did a phenomenal job of filling any holes the running backs attempted to escape through. Granted, the offense is not the strength of the Buffalo Bills, but it was still encouraging to see.

Being put in tough positions twice, the Giants’ defense held. Once, coming up with an interception following a blocked punt, and a second time holding the Bills to a field goal following Manning’s fumble. The Giants did allow one touchdown drive, a 15-play, 80-yard possession, that was aided by two penalties. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie committed defensive holding and Prince Amukamara illegal contact.

When all was said and done, the Giants’ defense allowed 246 yards (94 rushing, 152 passing). The Bills went 4-for-13 on third downs, 2-for-3 on fourth downs and were 1-for-3 in the red zone.

I had high expectations for the defense. They met them against a subpar Bills’ offense. This Saturday’s test against the Pittsburgh Steelers should be a good one and provide a larger challenge.


Johnathan Hankins was one of the guys I was very interested in taking a look at. For the first time in his career, Hankins was the No. 1 defensive tackle from the start. He wasn’t used in only ‘certain’ packages. He was in them all. He impressed me against the Bills. Hankins shed blocks very well, wasn’t easily moved and found himself in on just about every running play. On the first series of the game, Bills’ running back Fred Jackson attempted to run one up the middle, Hankins stuffed the intended gap and made Jackson bounce it outside. On the second drive, Hankins mauled Chris Williams to make a play on the running back for no gain.

Damontre Moore, New York Giants (September 29, 2013)

Damontre Moore – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Another player I kept an eye on for the defensive line was Damontre Moore, and in particular, Damontre Moore against the run. Sure, his pass rushing skills have been well documented, but can he play the run? Moore showed on two separate occasions that he has improved himself against the run. Both times standing his blocker up, shedding him and then moving down the line in an attempt to bring down the ball carrier. While he did get fooled very badly on the read option, he learned. A series or two later, Moore was unblocked on a running play. Instead of crashing down, he held his ground, waited for the quarterback to commit to the running back, then came down and made the play.

As a pass rusher? Well, Moore was as good as advertised. I had three counts of pressure on the quarterback where he just out-played Cyrus Kouandjio. If both parts of his game come together, he’s gonna be a very, very good player.

While watching the game, I was impressed with Jay Bromley. After watching the film, I’m still impressed with Jay Bromley.  The rookie was strong against the run, got a few pressures and attacked with great leverage.

LINEBACKERS - By Connor Hughes

With all of the talk and praise the Giants’ coaches have given Jacquian Williams, I wanted to keep an extra eye on him. He didn’t flash too much, aside from the bat down, when watching live, so I figured I’d scope him out a bit on tape.

There was one play, on the third series, where the Bills again went deep in Amukamara’s direction. Williams went hard in one gap, there was nothing there, so he bounced around and found another opening. He used his speed to chase the Jeff Tuel down and got in his face, not allowing the quarterback to unload the ball. Williams on the blitz isn’t something that’s been seen a lot in the past, but may be featured more now.

One play, above anything else, stood out to me on the progress Williams has made. On a screen pass to Anthony Dixon, Williams fought through two oncoming linemen, split them both and made the play after only a two-yard gain. If Williams didn’t make it, it was looking like a big play for Dixon.

I read a few people that said Devon Kennard didn’t live up to the ‘hype’ that surrounded him coming form training camp. I disagree. Aside from making a few solid tackles, he made one ‘wow’ play during the game. Near the goal line, Kennard came in on a blitz and ran through Bills’ guard Chris Williams. Kennard knocked Williams back while never losing balance himself, then made the tackle on Anthony Dixon. It was impressive.

THE SECONDARY - By Connor Hughes

When Stevie Brown was appointed the Giants’ starting safety opposite Antrel Rolle, there was talk on how he’d be able to handle the run game. During is first year with the Giants, prior to injuring his knee, Brown essentially just played center field and waited to run wherever the ball was thrown. On the first play of the game, he showed he is a bit physical, too.

Brown started at the safety position, starting moving closer to the box before going on a dead sprint when the play was snapped. Brown shot through the heart of the offensive line and tackled C.J. Spiller for no gain. It was a very, very solid play against the run.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (July 22, 2014)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The secondary, by the way, is much, much more physical this year and in-your-face. In the past, the Giants liked to hold their corners 8-10 yards back from the wide receivers. Not any more. I just saw a couple plays where the corners didn’t line up directly over the receiver. Every now and then one corner would be up, one would be back. But nearly every play had at least one up in the face of an opponent’s wideout.

I was a little weary of Walter Thurmond III during the game as I saw him get beat a few times. After watching the film, he played much better than I originally expected. On his first completion, Jeff Tuel put a perfect pass to Rob Woods that few could have defended. On a second completion given up, a slant, Woods ran directly into Thurmond causing him to lose balance. That play could have been offensive pass interference. He played well, much better than I originally thought.

Tuesday, the Giants’ secondary coach Dave Merritt called rookie Nat Berhe ‘The Missile.’ After watching the film, I know why. On the first play he came in, Berhe ran full speed into a Bills’ offensive lineman, bounced off and continued to chance down the running back. On his forced fumble, Berhe saw Chris Gragg being brought down by a teammate. Instead of just trying to put Gragg on the ground, Berhe put his helmet on the ball and forced a fumble.

(Boxscore – New York Giants vs Buffalo Bills, August 3, 2014)
Aug 022014
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Eli Manning  and the Giants’ offense take the field for the first time Sunday – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants vs Buffalo Bills, August 3, 2014

For the first time this season, the New York Giants take the field for a preseason exhibition game versus the Buffalo Bills. The last time New York played in the Hall of Fame game, a young tight end made an impact

Ryan Nassib (9), Ben McAdoo, and Eli Manning (10), New York Giants (July 22, 2014)

Ryan Nassib, Ben McAdoo, and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

As vanilla as it may be, as Eli Manning trots out from the sideline and into the huddle it will mark the first time Ben McAdoo’s offense is displayed in an actual game. While the offense won’t be as complex as it will be come the regular season, Sunday will be the first time it’s run in a live game.

First Down
How does Eli Manning look in a West Coast Offense?
For the duration of his career, Eli Manning has been as prototypical of a quarterback as one can get. Five and seven step drops, a perfect pocket and long balls down the field were what was asked of Manning and exactly what he accomplished. With Ben McAdoo in and Kevin Gilbride out as New York’s offensive coordinator, the question on how Manning fits a West Coast scheme is on many people’s mind.

Second Down
The progression of Ryan Nassib
Very little was shown of Nassib last year (19 preseason pass attempts) as the Giants elected to hide the fourth-round pick in order to develop. Now in year two, the No. 2 quarterback position is Nassib’s to lose. He’s looked good in the team’s last two camp practices, but can he show it in a game? Nassib should get an awful lot of reps versus Buffalo.

Third Down
The ‘Legend’ of Devon Kennard
It’s hard to watch a Giants’ training camp practice and not notice the rookie fifth-round pick. Whether it’s his bone-crushing hits, or involvement in nearly ever defensive formation, there’s something about the 23 year old that sticks out. Kennard has enjoyed hitting teammates in practice, now’s his chance to hit an opponent with a different colored jersey.

Fourth Down
The rebuilt, re-tooled secondary
For years and years, the Giants’ defense game plan was predicated on pressuring the quarterback and hiding any weaknesses in the secondary. While the scheme worked for two Super Bowl championships, eventually opponents countered. Knowing quarterbacks wouldn’t have time for long developing plays, offenses worked in short, quick-hit passes to negate New York’s ferocious pass rush. This offseason, the attention turned to the secondary and the likes of Walter Thurmond, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Zack Bowman and others. While it won’t be displayed long, how does the group look together?

Connor Hughes – WR Marcus Harris
There have been many, many practices throughout the Giants’ training camp where the offense has looked lost, but the one constant has been second-year pro Marcus Harris. Last year’s undrafted free agent has flashed time and time again with impressive grabs, well run routes and incredible effort. Now, he needs to transition from training camp hero, to game day warrior. Can Harris have a Victor Cruz-like performance in the preseason to earn himself a roster spot? Sunday will be his first chance.

Marcus Harris, New York Giants (July 22, 2014)

Marcus Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Eric Kennedy – DE Damontre Moore
Christ, I could put a dozen legitimate candidates here. I am tempted to go with Brandon Mosley at right guard or his possible replacement Weston Richburg since the state of the offensive line is so critical. But I’m going to go with Damontre Moore as I am very concerned about the Giants ability to rush the passer outside of Jason Pierre-Paul. Moore flashed big time in his preseason debut last year, but got hurt in that game, and never seemed to get back on track. He’s not much bigger this year, but he is stronger and has reportedly looked sharp at camp both against the run and the pass. Will he be a future stud defensive end or just a guy? If the former, this defense could reach a new level given all of the talent in the secondary.

• Jon Beason *PUP LIST*
• Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring/out)
• William Beatty (illness/out)
• David Wilson (neck/out)
• Bennett Jackson (ankle/out)
• Xavier Grimble (hamstring/out)
• Trindon Holliday (leg/out)
• Spencer Paysinger (concussion/out)
• Mike Patterson (shoulder/out)
• Robert Ayers (ankle/out)
• Trumain McBride (hip/out)
• Eric Herman (out)


Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (July 22, 2014)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Tom Coughlin: Well, it’s obvious that you don’t play a game without wanting to win. But it’s the overall picture of the organizational things, the substitutions, the penalties – holding them to a bare minimum; don’t turn the ball over, don’t make the game a sloppy game. Establish some of the things we’d like to do. For example, I’d like to be able to run the ball and be able to do that in the first game this weekend as well. I’m sure Buffalo wants the same thing. So we have those kinds of goals, the specifics about it we’ll present to the team. Coming out of camp – we have not been here very long – have an opportunity to play a game, see what people are like under those circumstances, the enthusiasm, the energy, certainly come out of the game without injuries, all those things.”

Connor Hughes – Football is finally back as both the Giants and Bills take the field on Sunday. With all the new pieces added to New York’s roster, I’m excited to see each take the field. Different players have flashed at different times during training camp, but now it’s for real. Heck, maybe even a tight end makes a play or two? Buffalo: 17 – Giants: 13.

Eric Kennedy – In a four-game preseason, the first game is usually a glorified scrimmage. This may be even uglier than that. I don’t expect the Giants starters to play long or look particularly sharp. The coaches will be more interested in working on certain plays and seeing certain players than winning the game. But it will be interesting to see how up tempo the offense is from the get-go. Keep in mind that Coughlin said this week that only half the offensive installation is in place. This is still very much a work in progress. The Giants will also be missing some very important components on both sides of the ball (Beckham, Beason, Beatty). If Nassib struggles, this one could get ugly. Buffalo 27 – Giants 13.

Dec 312013
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Jerrel Jernigan, New York Giants (December 29, 2013)

Jerrel Jernigan – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 20 – Washington Redskins 6

Game Overview: This was a miserable football game played in ugly weather conditions by two bad football teams, each looking to end a terrible season on a positive note. Although the Giants won the game, it was a hollow victory, especially given the possibly offseason-altering injury to left tackle Will Beatty, who suffered a fractured leg. The injury not only potentially adds yet another critical need to a very long list of team needs, but also could very much negatively impact the Giants’ salary cap situation given the $19 million in guaranteed money in Beatty’s current contract which was signed last February. This is not to mention that by winning, the Giants also dropped to 12th spot in the first round of the upcoming draft with the Lions and Titans now picking in front of New York.

There is only one “good” thing that came out of this game and that is the punch-in-the-face warning team management received: Eli Manning is not indestructible. If they continue to short-change the offensive line, not only will the offense continue to struggle, but it is now crystal clear that you are really putting the centerpiece of the franchise at risk. If I’m John Mara and Steve Tisch, I put Jerry Reese on immediate notice and demand that he never allows the offensive line to fall into this embarrassing state ever again. The physical breakdown of Chris Snee, David Baas, and David Diehl was easy to predict. Snee and Diehl have been physically declining for some time. Baas has been injury-prone from day one, and instead of hedging their bets with him, the Giants re-structured him twice and worsened his long-term cap impact. Even before the injury, the lucrative, long-term contract given to Beatty was looking like a huge mistake. And behind these starters, there wasn’t much talent waiting in the wings.

I’m sure when the story of the Giants’ 2013 season is written, most of the emphasis will be placed on the poor play of Eli Manning and the team’s league-leading 44 turnovers (29 interceptions and 15 fumbles). But what I will remember is how bad the offensive line was, and how that contributed to the Giants’ worst rushing attack since 1945, and how Eli Manning – a quarterback historically difficult to sack – was sacked 39 times and became gun-shy. Because of the offensive line breakdowns, this team was regularly in 3rd-and-long situations. My disappointment – unlike most fans – is not directed at the coaching staff, but the poor personnel decisions made by the front office.

Offensive Overview: Just dreadful when you consider the fact the Redskins are terrible on defense (31st in points allowed coming into this game and 21st in total defense). The Giants had 16 legitimate offensive possessions. Eight ended with punts and three with turnovers. The Giants had 14 first downs and were 3-of-14 on third down. The Giants were held to 156 net yards passing. The team did have 122 yards rushing, but 57 of those came from WR Jerrel Jernigan. Giants’ running backs only managed 67 yards on 30 carries (2.2 yards per carry). Given the heavy rains, the lack of running game doomed the Giants’ offense from the get-go as passing the football in such weather conditions is difficult at best.

Quarterbacks: You almost couldn’t write a sadder and more appropriate finish. Once again, Eli had no ground game and shaky pass protection. Jerrel Jernigan came to play at wide receiver, but none of the other wide receivers and tight ends did. The heavy rain also made it difficult to throw the football. The result? Eli was knocked out of the game with a high ankle sprain right before the half, finishing the game 10-of-24 for 152 yards, 1 touchdown (on an excellent deep throw), and 1 interception (a high throw caused by Manning’s inability to put weight on his injured ankle). Despite some errant throws and drops, despite the lack of running game and poor pass protection, and despite the ugly weather, Manning was on pace for a 300-yard passing game before he got hurt. Eli should have had one other pass intercepted when Hakeem Nicks stopped his route short across the middle. Based on Eli’s reaction, Eli expected Nicks to keep running.

Curtis Painter was terrible. He fumbled two snaps and finished the game 2-of-8 for 11 yards with one interception. The interception really wasn’t on him, but he was lucky a couple of other passes were not picked off.

Wide Receivers: The best player on the field offensively for the Giants was Jerrel Jernigan. He caught 6-of-7 passes thrown in his direction for 90 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball twice for 57 yards and a touchdown. On the Giants’ first scoring drive of the game, Jernigan was responsible for 54 of the 75 yards on the Giants’ first touchdown drive, including a 30-yard catch and run and then the 24-yard touchdown. He also scored from 49 yards out on his end around late in the third quarter for the Giants’ second touchdown.

Rueben Randle was a non-factor before leaving the game with a knee issue that troubled him all week in practice. Hakeem Nicks caught 2-of-4 passes thrown in his direction for 50 yards before leaving the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter. Nicks had to fight for the football on both catches. He stopped running his route on a pass that should have been intercepted and was flagged with offensive pass interference on the play where he got hurt. Louis Murphy was not impressive, only catching 1-of-5 passes thrown in his direction. He had one very bad drop over the middle in the second quarter on a play where he could have done damage after the catch. He also dropped one on the play where Beatty was hurt. Julian Talley did not have a catch, being targeted twice and dropping one. Jernigan, Murphy, and Talley were the only receivers to play in the second half.

Running Backs: While the blocking up front was mostly abysmal, Andre Brown (13 carries for 11 yards) did not seem to run with much power or determination. Worse, he fumbled for the second week in a row and he can thank his lucky stars the defense bailed him out twice (though he still cost the Giants’ three points in this game). Peyton Hillis did not have a lot of yards (56 yards on 17 carries), but he ran with much more authority. Hillis was targeted five times in the passing game but only came up with one catch for six yards.

Tight Ends: In a game where the Giants needed their starting tight end to step up big, both due to the weather and the injury situation at wide receiver, Brandon Myers came up small. He was thrown to five times, and only caught two passes for nine yards. Both of the interceptions were off the hands of Myers. The first was slightly deflected by a linebacker, making it a difficult, but not impossible catch. The second was a very high throw from Manning who could not put weight on his injured ankle. But both plays were very frustrating and too reminiscent of the interception late in the Chicago game. He also dropped a pass early in the game. Myers remains a liability as a blocker. Bear Pascoe and Larry Donnell played, but you never would have noticed.

Offensive Line: I went into this game thinking that the Will Beatty, James Brewer, Kevin Boothe, David Diehl, and Justin Pugh combination should be able to do an adequate job on the Redskins’ defensive front. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Redskins dominated the line of scrimmage for most of the game. The Giants had 32 yards rushing at halftime on 13 carries and the pass protection wasn’t much better. Brewer left the game early with an ankle injury and was replaced by Dallas Reynolds who got Eli Manning hurt. Will Beatty broke his leg in the third quarter and was replaced by Stephen Goodin. The Giants ran the ball a bit better in the fourth quarter, but that is probably misleading as the Redskins were not playing very hard at that point. Kevin Boothe played horribly, especially on running plays. David Diehl did not play well in what is likely his last game, struggling at times on both run and pass blocks. Kudos to Stephen Goodin who did a respectable job at left tackle after Beatty was injured.

Defensive Overview: The Giants’ defense dominated the game against a Redskins offense whose backup quarterback had been playing fairly well and one of the better rushing teams in the NFL. That said, it should be noted that the Redskins’ offensive players didn’t appear overly inspired and they dropped quite a few passes. Nevertheless, the Giants held Washington to only 12 first downs (two in the first half), 5-of-20 on third down, 91 yards rushing, and 160 yards passing. The Redskins had 17 offensive possessions. They punted nine times, turned the ball over four times, turned the ball over on downs twice, and kicked two field goals. The defense really did a fine job of holding the Redskins to a field goal after Andre Brown fumbled the ball away at the NYG 18-yard line.

Defensive Line: The Giants’ defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage as the defensive tackles and defensive ends all played well against the run. Washington was held to 20 yards on 10 carries in the first half. Washington ran for 91 yards in the game, but 25 of those yards came with less than two minutes left when the Giants were in prevent. DE Justin Tuck once again played very well against Washington, accruing 6 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 1 quarterback hit, and 1 forced fumble. He was a factor on the pass rush throughout the game. DT Cullen Jenkins had 4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack, 1 quarterback hit, and 1 forced fumble. DT Linval Joseph (4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 fumble recovery) and DE Mathias Kiwanuka (4 tackles, 1 quarterback hit, 1 pass defense) played well too. Reserves DT Johnathan Hankins (1 tackle) and DE Damontre Moore (2 quarterback hits, 1 pass defense) flashed although Moore was flagged with a neutral zone infraction.

Linebackers: Jon Beason (9 tackles) and Jacquian Williams (7 tackles, 3 pass defenses) were the team’s leading tacklers. Williams had his hands on two potential interceptions for defensive scores but dropped both. Spencer Paysinger and Keith Rivers each had four tackles, and Rivers recovered a fumble. Williams and Paysinger seem to be coming on a bit.

Defensive Backs: CB Prince Amukamara did an excellent job holding Pierre Garcon, who came into the game with 107 receptions, to a harmless 6 catches for 56 yards. Amukamara was officially credited with 5 tackles and 2 pass defenses.

The only other wide receivers to catch passes were Aldrick Robinson (3 catches for 33 yards) and Santana Moss (2 catches for 13 yards). 13 other passes thrown in the direction of Robinson and Moss were not completed. CB Trumaine McBride played very well too, with two interceptions and 6 pass defenses (a very high number for one game). CB Terrell Thomas saw the most action he has seen in weeks and finished with 5 tackles and 3 pass defenses.

At safety, Will Hill had 5 tackles and Antrel Rolle 5 tackles, 1 pass defense, and one dropped interception.

Special Teams: The Giants forced nine punts and came darn close to blocking a punt a few times. With Randle out of the game, Jayron Hosley became the new punt returner and only manged 9 yards on 3 punt returns. Michael Cox returned two kickoffs, almost breaking one that he returned 32 yards but he couldn’t keep his feet.

Steve Weatherford punted eight times, averaging 44 yards per punt (41.1 net), but it was not his best game with a few low, line-drive punts. Punt coverage was very good as Santana Moss was held to 23 yards on five returns (4.6 yard average). Charles James continues to impress as a gunner and Julian Talley flashed with one big hit. The Redskins had three decent kickoff returns (26, 27, and 25 yards).

Josh Brown was 2-of-3 on field goals. He hit from 34 and 38, but badly missed from 50.

(Box Score – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 29, 2013)
Dec 272013
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Justin Tuck, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Justin Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 29, 2013:  Stating the obvious, the New York Giants’ 2013 season has been a disaster. The franchise and its fans were sent into a state of shock by the 0-6 start. A 4-0 run against teams with shoddy quarterbacks raised some faint hope until Dallas swept the Giants with a crushing loss at the Meadowlands in Week 12. The final kick in the balls were the uncompetitive losses to the Chargers and Seahawks.

The six or seven wins the Giants will finish with in 2013 should not mask the fact that this team was one of the worst in the NFL this season. The defense was respectable, but the passing game on offense completely collapsed, the Giants were 31st in rushing, and special teams were atrocious for much of the season. Given the sorry state of the NFC East, the fact that the Giants were out of division race with more than a quarter of the regular season remaining is the most damning indictment of all.

There are legitimate questions concerning the coaching staff and I will address some of these below, but I think it is fairly obvious that the overriding issue with this team in 2013 was not coaching but lack of talent and the ever-obvious reality that General Manager Jerry Reese, Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross, and the entire college scouting department have blown far too many draft picks in recent years.

There is no sense harping too much on the Giants-Redskins finale other than to say that the Redskins are certainly capable of ending the Giants’ season on one final down note. Right now, Kirk Cousins is a better quarterback than Robert Griffin III, and Cousins has every motivation in the world to play well. The Redskins are one of the best rushing teams in football and their defense will want to play well for retiring MLB London Fletcher. The Redskins haven’t quit as demonstrated by last week’s game against the Cowboys.

I hope the Giants perform well and win for those players who might be playing in their last game as a New York Giant. This is likely it for David Diehl, who has been a warrior on this team for 11 seasons. Justin Tuck – whose play was so decisive in two Super Bowls – will be a free agent and there is no guarantee that he will be back. Hakeem Nicks, who tore it up in the 2011 playoffs – will probably depart via free agency. Linval Joseph, Kevin Boothe, and Terrell Thomas will be free agents and may not be back. The Giants may choose to let go of the high-priced Mathias Kiwanuka. No one knows if the Giants and Antrel Rolle will be able to work out a new contract in order to reduce his cap hit.

Twenty-nine Giants (including two with voidable contracts) will be free agents. Much of the core group of Super Bowl XLII and XLVI are gone or will soon be gone. I hope the ones who are about to leave go out with a victory.

Quarterback: The #1 priority this offseason is to rebuild Eli Manning and the most obvious way to do that is dramatically improve his supporting cast (more on that below). But the Giants also must improve the quarterback’s deteriorating fundamentals. In my mind, 41-year old Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan should be on the hot seat. An absolutely critical decision also needs to be made with respect to Eli’s contract. Eli is under contract for two more seasons, but his salary cap hit in 2014 will be over $20 million again. That’s almost 1/6 of the cap. The problem with restructuring is you are extending the contract, and if Eli does not rebound, the Giants could be in salary cap hell for years to come. The more prudent thing might be to wait one more year and see if Eli rebounds, but if the Giants do this, there won’t be a lot of cap room for free agents (both current Giants whose contracts are expiring and players from other teams). Eli could ease some doubts with a strong game in the finale.

Wide Receivers: Too much focus has been on the demise of Eli Manning and not enough regarding the demise of his wide receiving corps. 25-year old Hakeem Nicks’ game has deteriorated so rapidly since Week 2 of the 2012 season that it boggles the mind. He not only has been held out of the end zone all season, but he only has three 100-yard receiving games this season (and only one 100-yard game in 2012). To be frank, he’s just not that good anymore. Nicks might rebound with another team in 2014, but right now, I am not even sure he should have started for the Giants in 2013. He’s been that bad.

Nicks’ situation seems to have clouded the fact that Victor Cruz did not play very well in 2013. Cruz only scored touchdowns in two games, the last being in Week 4 and he had only one 100-yard receiving game since Week 4. Cruz is being paid to be an impact player and he wasn’t in 2013. He needs to rededicate himself in the offseason and come back strong.

This was supposed to be a breakout season for Rueben Randle and it wasn’t. Randle did have six touchdowns, but he really faded in the second half of the season. His only 100-yard game came in the opener and he hasn’t scored since Week 11.

Jerrel Jernigan finally showed some signs of life the last two weeks and Sunday will be another important game for him with Cruz out. Louis Murphy was supposed to be the Giants’ deep threat but was a bust.

Wide receiver used to be an area of strength and was expected to be for years to come, but Nicks’ fall and Randle’s lack of development has changed that. The Giants look slow on offense. And it seems like Eli doesn’t really trust anyone other than Cruz. The Giants have to cross their fingers that Cruz rebounds and Randle does develop in 2014, but they also need to add more speed and play-making ability. Don’t be shocked if the Giants go wide receiver high in the draft. The draft mess ups with Sinorice Moss, Ramses Barden, Jerrel Jernigan (to date), and maybe even Randle have hurt. 34-year old Kevin Gilbride, Jr. – the offensive coordinator’s son – should also be on the hot seat.

Tight Ends: The Giants kept four tight ends. The most physically-talented two – Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell – did not develop and barely played. Brandon Myers and Bear Pascoe are subpar, unathletic overachievers who might not start for any other team in the NFL. No one here scares an opposing defense or presents match-up problems. The Giants have to pray 71-year old Mike Pope – who is nearing the end – can get something out of Robinson and Donnell, and the Giants need to draft a legitimate threat and not another project.

Running Backs: Is the 2014 starter even on this team? Who knows if David Wilson’s career is over? Will the Giants re-sign the injury-prone Andre Brown? Should they?  Does Michael Cox have an NFL future? Was Peyton Hillis just a bandaid? Henry Hynoski will return in 2014, but I personally think John Conner is the better player.

Offensive Line: Excuse my language, but just a fucking disaster. Shame on Jerry Reese for letting this unit deteriorate to this point. Every fan who had been complaining for years that not enough was  being done to address the offensive line has been proven 100 percent correct. It was stupid to rely on the physically-failing/now injury-prone David Diehl, Chris Snee, and David Baas. And not enough was done in case those players inevitably got hurt again. You can’t run or pass the football if you can’t block up front. In 2011, the Giants were 32nd in rushing; in 2013, they are 31st. Now the pass protection has also fallen apart as Eli often doesn’t have a pocket to step up into.

The Giants have Justin Pugh and a bunch of question marks. Can the high-priced Will Beatty rebound? Cutting the high-priced David Baas will actually hurt against the cap, but should the Giants risk trusting him again? Chris Snee should retire, but if he doesn’t, will Tom cut his son-in-law? Will or should Kevin Boothe be re-signed?  Do James Brewer, Brandon Mosley, Jim Cordle, Eric Herman, and Stephen Goodin have NFL futures? The Giants need a ton of help in this area, but they only have six draft picks, a $20 million salary-cap hog at quarterback, and some pretty desperate needs at WR, TE, and RB. Why did the Giants suck on offense in 2013? Because an atrocious offensive line and their skill position players were not very good. It’s that simple.

Defensive Line: Most of the issues are on offense, but the defense could quickly deteriorate again if the Giants are not careful. After two down seasons, Justin Tuck rebounded with a stronger 2013, but he is now on the wrong side of 30. How much gas is left in his tank? Mathias Kiwanuka did not play as well as expected in 2013 and could become a salary-cap casualty. Damontre Moore flashed on special teams, but not at defensive end. And that brings us to Jason Pierre-Paul, who was one of the very best players in the game in 2011, but who has largely vanished since then. How much of a concern is his back? Should he have surgery on his shoulder now, and if not, will waiting delay the inevitable and risk creating another subpar season in 2014? If Tuck and Kiwanuka depart, this team may have to address defensive end early in the draft at the expense of ignoring an equally pressing need on offense, linebacker, or defensive back.

At defensive tackle, the situation becomes much simpler if the Giants are able to re-sign 25-year old Linval Joseph, but the team may decide he is not worth the money. They made a questionable decision in a similar situation with Barry Cofield a few years ago. Cullen Jenkins and Johnathan Hankins are still very much in the picture. Will the Giants attempt/be able to re-sign Mike Patterson? One would assume Shaun Rogers, who turns 35, will be out of the picture. How good is Markus Kuhn?

Linebackers: Jon Beason will be a free agent. It sounds like he wants to be a Giant so I would expect him back unless his contract demands are unreasonable. If Perry Fewell remains the defensive coordinator, the linebacker position simply isn’t all that important in the Giants’ scheme with Fewell playing so much nickel with two linebackers. Spencer Paysinger (UFA), Jacquian Williams, and Keith Rivers (UFA) may be good enough, especially with more pressing needs elsewhere. But if Beason were to get hurt, then this position could get ugly again. Drafting and grooming a mobile MLB behind Beason would be prudent.

Defensive Backs: The Giants are in great shape at safety if… if… if they can keep the high-priced Antrel Rolle… if Stevie Brown can be re-signed… and if Will Hill stays out of trouble. Even if Brown were to leave, if the Giants re-signed Mundy, and Rolle and Hill were still in the picture, this is a team strength. Don’t forget Cooper Taylor has the tools to develop into a good one too.

The bigger potential need is at cornerback. Prince Amukamara has developed into a very solid, if unspectacular – player. But ideally, the team probably wants to upgrade the other cornerback spot. Trumaine McBride was a pleasant surprise, but he will be a free agent, and one wonders if he was really playing over his head in 2013. Terrell Thomas stayed healthy but seemed to fade down the stretch. Will he even be stronger in 2014 and will he be re-signed? Jayron Hosley and Charles James seem to have talent, but Hosley has been injury-prone. Corey Webster and Aaron Ross probably won’t be invited back.

Special Teams: Quietly, Josh Brown had a great season, kicking 21-of-23 field goals through Week 16. I hope the Giants can re-sign him. Steve Weatheford started off very rocky but finished up stronger than ever. If David Wilson is not forced to retire, the Giants should use him as kickoff returner and offensive role-player (like the Saints use Darren Sproles). This team needs to find a better punt returner. Obviously, Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn should be on the hot seat.

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Jerrel Jernigan, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Jerrel Jernigan – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 23 – Detroit Lions 20 (Overtime)

Game Overview: I must admit that I have somewhat mixed feelings on this win. My head was telling me that it was best for the Giants to put up a good showing and get a better read on specific players heading into the offseason, but to lose the game in order to gain a higher draft pick. But once the game started, my emotions got the best of me and I was rooting very hard for the Giants to prove doubters wrong and win this game. Winning always makes me feel better and I’ll take it, especially only a few days before Christmas.

That all said, it would be very foolish and potentially dangerous for team management to read too much into this one game. It was an ugly game between two teams that, at times, looked more interested in handing the game to their opponent. A patchwork New York offensive line down to its last backups was clearly overmatched, especially in the second half when the Giants did not pick up their first 1st down of the half until there were three minutes left in the fourth quarter. The defensive score that tied the game was not a great play by the defense but a terrible play by the Detroit offense. Nevertheless, in the end, an undermanned Giants’ team with very little to play for finally showed some toughness and resiliency and came away with a gutty win in overtime.

Offensive Overview: It was a tale of two halves for the Giants. Recognizing that it would be extremely difficult for a patchwork offensive line to generate any kind of consistent yardage on the ground against a very physical and talented Lions’ defensive front, Giants came out throwing. Twenty-one of New York’s 30 first-half offensive plays were pass plays. This was the correct strategy as demonstrated by the fact that New York only had one solid rushing play in the first half: an 11-yard carry by Andre Brown. New York’s other eight carries only picked up six yards. The coaches also did a nice job with the play-calling. In last week’s game review, I mentioned how a moving pocket wasn’t really something Eli Manning was comfortable with, but it worked this week as the coaches tried to keep Detroit’s rushers off balance. There was an emphasis on three-step drops, and a throw-back screen caught the Lions off guard.

“We tried to do a bunch of rollouts,” said Manning. “We did a number of those early on to try and move the pocket and obviously so that defensive line can’t be in sprinter’s stance and rush up the field. We tried to slow them down a bit and so I thought we had a couple first downs…It worked out well for us moving the pocket early on and made some big plays.”

“We just kept it simple with quick-hitters,” said Myers.

The Giants had the ball four times in the first half, and three of those drives resulted in points. Almost as important, the Giants held the football for more than five minutes on two of those drives, not only keeping Detroit’s potentially explosive offense off of the field, but giving the defense a rest. The Giants’ first drive was 15 plays; the third drive was nine plays. By intermission, the Giants had accrued 10 first downs, were 5-of-8 (63 percent) on third down, had no turnovers, and only punted once en route to a 13-3 halftime advantage.

In the second half, that all changed as the play-calling appeared less creative and the Detroit defensive line began to wear more and more on the New York offensive line. On New York’s first five possessions of the second half, the Giants failed to pick up one first down. Worse, they gave up safety. The defense kept the Giants in the game and tied the score. Eli Manning and the Giants had a chance to win the game late in regulation, but bad Eli appeared in the form of a terrible interception at the Lions’ 25-yard line with 23 seconds left.

In overtime, after an excellent kickoff return by RB Michael Cox and a 15-yard pass to TE Brandon Myers, the Giants looked poised to score until Brown fumbled the ball away. The defense held and Manning and his receivers came up big in the end. First there was a 26-yard pass from Manning to WR Rueben Randle on 3rd-and-9. After a holding penalty put the Giants in a 2nd-and-20 situation, Manning completed passes of seven yards to Myers and six yards to Randle. On 4th-and-7 from the Detroit 42-yard line, the Manning found WR Jerrel Jernigan for 15 yards, setting up the game-winning field goal.

Quarterback: It was a mixed bag for Eli Manning, who finished the game 23-of-42 for 256 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Absent any ground game whatsoever and behind a shaky offensive line, the Giants had no other option but to throw the football against a defense that knew it. And Manning was forced to do some things he is normally not comfortable in doing such as throwing out of a moving pocket and he did it with decent success. Eli threw the ball 10 times on New York’s first 14 plays, completing five of those passes including key passes on 3rd-and-4, 3rd-and-10, and 3rd-and-10. But he badly overshot Randle on one deep throw and missed a wide open Hakeem Nicks on 2nd-and-8 for what should have been a 23-yard touchdown. The Giants were forced to settle for a field goal.

On New York’s third possession, Eli completed 4-of-5 passes with no support from the ground game (four rushes for two yards). This included a key 14-yard throwback screen to Brown on 3rd-and-13, a 6-yard pass to Randle on 3rd-and-5, and a 20-yard strike to Jernigan for a touchdown on 1st-and-15. The latter pass was Eli’s best of the game. My biggest problem with Eli on this drive was yet another delay-of-game penalty which wiped out a TD throw to Jernigan (thankfully the two connected on the very next snap for a TD). Manning can’t allow that to happen. The Giants got the ball one more time in the first half. Despite a 9-yard sack, Manning got the Giants into position for a successful 52-yard field goal with a 16-yard pass to Nicks and an 11-yard pass to Jernigan.

The third quarter was a disaster for New York. On 3rd-and-4, the Eli took a deep shot to Randle but Randle could only get one hand on the ball (a shorter, higher percentage throw would have been a better option in this situation). On the second series, after a 7-yard pass to Bear Pascoe and a no-gain run by Brown, there was miscommunication between Manning and Jernigan on a 3rd-and-3 throw down the field. Again, a shorter pass would have been wiser. Why did the Giants move away from the quick passing game? On the third series, the Giants lost three yards on two Brown runs. Facing 3rd-and-13, Eli was swarmed under for a safety. The Lions took a 20-13 lead on the ensuing drive after the safety.

In the fourth quarter, the offensive woes continued. After a 5-yard pass, a fumbled handoff and an illegal substitution penalty put the Giants in a 3rd-and-14 situation. A short completion to Jernigan and a punt. The Giants went three-and-out for the fifth time in five second-half possessions as Eli threw deep to a well-covered Nicks. Again, why get away from the quick hitters and moving pocket? Then came the predictable shotgun run on 2nd-and-10. On 3rd-and-8, Eli was under heavy pressure and threw wildly incomplete.

After the defensive score, the Giants’ offense finally showed some signs of life. Brown gained six yards and Eli audibled to a nifty touch pass to Myers that picked up 25 yards and the Giants’ first 1st down of the second half. Nicks dropped a well-thrown pass by Manning. A deep throw to Jernigan fell incomplete. (Deep again!) On 3rd-and-10, Manning was under heavy pressure again and threw too high in the direction of Randle. Punt.

Manning’s worst throw of the day came with 28 seconds left at the Detroit 49-yard line. Eli thought the Detroit defense had jumped and badly overthrew an open Jernigan on a play that might have put the Giants in game-winning field goal position at the end of regulation. The pass was intercepted.

But to Eli’s credit, he kept his composure in overtime even after another turnover (a fumble by Brown). On the game-winning drive, Eli’s 26-yard pass on 3rd-and-9 was huge, as was his 15-yard pass to Jernigan on 4th-and-7 despite heavy pressure. It’s important to note that Eli and his receivers overcame a 2nd-and-20 on this possession.

Wide Receivers: Jerrel Jernigan was targeted 12 times and caught six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. Four of his catches were critical: his superb 12-yard sideline reception on 3rd-and-10 on the first field-goal drive, his 18-yard reception on 3rd-and-10 on the same drive, his 20-yard touchdown reception in heavy traffic and contact, and his sliding 15-yard reception in overtime that set up the game-winning field goal. Rueben Randle caught 4-of-9 passes in his direction for 40 yards, none bigger than his 26-yard reception on 3rd-and-9 in overtime. He also had a key 6-yard reception on 3rd-and-5 before Jernigan’s touchdown. That said, Randle wasn’t able to make a play on a well-thrown deep ball by Manning. He also didn’t look very quick or instinctive with the ball in his hands on a short WR screen that should have probably picked up more yards. Hakeem Nicks caught 4-of-7 targets for 52 yards. He had a 15-yarder to start the game on the opening field-goal drive, a 12-yarder on the touchdown drive, and a 16-yarder on the field-goal drive right before the half. He wasn’t much of a factor in the second half. Eli did miss him on what should have been a 23-yard TD early in the game, but Nicks also dropped a critical pass late in the 4th quarter that might have helped to end the game early. Louis Murphy, who was in for just five snaps, caught both 5-yard passes thrown in his direction, one being on 3rd-and-4 on the first field-goal drive.

Running Backs: Andre Brown (16 carries for 40 yards) and Michael Cox (2 carries for 1 yard) didn’t have a chance behind that offensive line. Brown’s biggest play was his 14-yard reception on a throw-back screen on 3rd-and-13 on the Giants’ lone offensive touchdown drive. Brown fumbled a handoff from Manning in the third quarter, and Brown’s fumble in overtime ended a promising possession and could have cost the Giants the game. He was apparently concussed on the play – another injury for a guy who can’t seem to stay healthy.

Tight Ends: Brandon Myers’ continues to be a liability blocking. He was flagged for holding too. He did catch 4-of-7 passes thrown in his direction for 53 yards. Bear Pascoe played 24 snaps and caught 1-of-2 passes thrown in his direction for seven yards. Adrien Robinson was activated for his first game and suffered a knee sprain on the opening kickoff and did not return. Larry Donnell only played on special teams.

Offensive Line: It’s important for readers to understand that even veteran players who have not practiced together for a long time as one unit will often struggle because of the lack of chemistry and cohesion between the independent parts. An offensive line must function as one to succeed, and this is particularly obvious in run blocking, and in pass protection when the opposing defense blitzes and stunts. So it was absolutely no surprise whatsoever that Will Beatty, James Brewer, Kevin Boothe, Brandon Mosley, and Justin Pugh struggled, especially when you consider that three of these five players are green and Mosley was lost on the opening possession with a broken right hand. On top of that, the Lions have perhaps the most talented DT combination in football.

The line – as in-cohesive as it currently is – had no chance to run block against Detroit’s defensive front, and it showed. To the coaches’ credit, they didn’t try that much in the first half, calling only nine running plays. But it is extremely difficult to consistently move the ball and generate points when you are one-dimensional, and the inability to run the football finally caught up to the Giants in the second half. Andre Brown and Michael Cox only gained 41 yards on 18 carries (2.3 yards per carry).

The lack of ground game also started to impact the pass protection. The Giants were able to keep Detroit’s pass rush off balance in the first half with the play-calling but in the second half, Eli was under more and more duress. Stunts by the Lions gave the Giants fits. Eli was sacked twice and officially hit five other times, but he was often forced to scramble away from pressure, both real and anticipated/imagined.

I give the Giants up front credit for scrapping by, doing just enough to win, but Detroit did dominate the line of scrimmage. Brandon Mosley played surprisingly well on the first drive until forced to leave the game. His replacement Dallas Reynolds struggled at times both as a run and pass blocker, particularly in pass protection as the game wore on. James Brewer was pretty steady in pass protection, especially considering the level of competition.

Will Beatty continues to alternate good games with bad. Beatty, who seemed to be bull-rushed too easily on a few plays that did not result in sacks, gave up one sack late in the first half. But to be fair, media and fans blame him for the second sack that resulted in a safety completely missed the fact that the defensive end illegally hooked Beatty on a stunt, preventing him from engaging with the looping tackle. There was no way for Beatty to make that block. Beatty was flagged with a holding penalty in overtime on the game-winning drive. That could have been a killer.

Defensive Overview: Coming into this game, one would have expected the Giants to do better against the run than the pass, but the opposite actually occurred. Part of that was due to the game plan as the Giants exclusively with a three safety package (Antrel Rolle, Will Hill, and Ryan Mundy) again. Part of it had to do with some outstanding physical running by Joique Bell who carried the ball 20 times for 91 yards and one touchdown, and also caught 10 passes for 63 yards. Indeed, Bell was the best player on the field for Detroit on Sunday. The more serious perceived threat – Reggie Bush – was held to 34 yards on 12 carries.

The Giants largely shutdown the Detroit passing game, holding Matthew Stafford to 25-of-42 for just 222 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Stafford’s quarterback rating was 53.9 for the game.

The Giants gave up one long drive in the first half that ended with a field goal. Detroit’s first touchdown came on a short field (drive started at NYG 30-yard line). The biggest defensive letdown came after the safety as Detroit drove 63 yards in 9 plays for the go-ahead touchdown and 2-point conversion. But the Lions’ last five drives of the fourth quarter and overtime ended with four punts and an interception that was returned four a touchdown. In the previous couple of years, I’ve complained about the inability of Perry Fewell’s defense to hold in clutch situations. His unit did that and more on Sunday with its play in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Defensive Line: The big negative for the defense of course was the 148 yards surrendered on the ground, 133 by the running backs. Ironically, the Giant struggled much more with Joique Bell than Reggie Bush. The standout up front was Mathias Kiwanuka, who led the line with 6 tackles, 2 sacks, and 5 quarterback hits. He also broke up a screen pass and forced a fumble. DE Justin Tuck made an amazing interception to halt a Lions’ threat at the end of the first half and set up the Giants’ 52-yard field goal. None of the other defensive linemen really stood out.

Kiwanuka saw most of the defensive snaps (94 percent) followed by Tuck (85 percent), DT Cullen Jenkins (76 percent), DT Linval Joseph (64 percent), DT Mike Patterson (26 percent), DT Johnathan Hankins (25 percent), and DE Damontre Moore (19 percent). Tuck deserves credit for clearly playing in a lot of discomfort with a stinger and foot injury. Many other veteran players would have tapped out in a relatively meaningless game. Patterson was flagged with an illegal hands-to-the-face penalty.

Linebackers: The Giants went with the three-safety package for the entire game, limiting the snaps of the linebacker. Jon Beason played the entire game and was credited with a team-high 11 tackles. Spencer Paysinger saw 60 percent of the snaps and finished with four tackles. Jacquian Williams got 44 snaps and was credited with 5 tackles, including one for a loss. No other linebacker, including Keith Rivers, played.

Despite the tackle numbers, this was not Beason’s best game. He got handled at the point-of-attack a few times on running plays. And Beason continues to have some issues in coverage. He missed one tackle after a short pass. On the Lions’ first TD drive, on 3rd-and-7, Beason was badly beaten by RB Joique Bell for 14 yards. He was beaten by the TE on the 2-point conversion after the second TD. In overtime, on a play where he fell down, he was very fortunate that the tight end he was supposed to cover dropped the ball on what should have been a big play.

Defensive Backs: Outstanding game by the defensive backs except for the dropped interceptions: two by CB Trumaine McBride and one by CB Prince Amukamara. All-World WR Calvin Johnson was obviously hurting, but Amukamara, for the first time in his pro career, was called upon to follow one single opponent no matter where he lined up. And Johnson was held to a harmless three catches for 43 yards by Amukamara. Detroit receivers only caught 9-of-17 passes thrown in their direction for 98 yards an no touchdowns. Jayron Hosley (3 snaps) and Terrell Thomas (1 snap) barely played.

Safeties Ryan Mundy, Will Hill, and Antrel Rolle played every defensive snap – all 85 plays. Mundy finished with 10 tackles, Hill with 9 tackles, and Rolle with 6 tackles and a fumble recovery. Hill changed the game completely around with his interception and 38-yard return for a touchdown off of a deflected pass. He also flashed with his range and open-field tackling. Mundy made a huge play stuffing the powerful Bell for no gain on 3rd-and-1 late in the fourth quarter.

Special Teams: A mixed bag. DE Damontre Moore jumped offsides on a 4th-and-1 punt, giving the Lions a first down. While the long-snapper may have moved, Moore can’t take that type of chance in such a situation. The Giants also gave up a 50-yard punt return in the third quarter that set up the Lions on the NYG 30-yard line. Eight plays later, the Lions scored their first touchdown, cutting the Giants’ lead to 13-10. Other than that play, CB Charles James stood out as a gunner, forcing fair catches.

Josh Brown had a superb game, kicking field goals of 42, 52, and 45 yards. Two of his six kickoffs went for touchbacks. Kickoff coverage was excellent, holding Detroit’s primary kickoff returner to 51 yards on three kickoffs (17 yard average) with Will Hill, Marcus Dowtin, and Antrel Rolle making tackles.

Steve Weatherford averaged 46.5 yards (38.2 net) on six punts.

RB Michael Cox’s 56-yard kickoff return to begin the overtime period did not lead to points, but it importantly flipped field position, all the more important when you consider that Andre Brown fumbled two plays later.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Detroit Lions, December 22, 2013)
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Eli Manning, Kevin Gilbride, New York Giants (December 15, 2013)

Eli Manning and Kevin Gilbride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Seattle Seahawks 23 – New York Giants 0

Game Overview: Most of us did not expect the Giants to win this game. Seattle is clearly the better team, perhaps the best in the NFL. An 11-2 team coming off of a loss, playing at the site of this year’s Super Bowl, and still fighting for playoff positioning, the Seahawks had something meaningful to play for. Pride, self-respect, and job security were the Giants’ only real motivation.

But we see over-matched teams put up a strong fight on a weekly basis in the NFL. And the Giants’ coaches and players correctly approached this game as a measuring stick against the class team in the NFC. In a way, this was New York’s last best chance to make a statement in an otherwise dismal 2013 season. Sadly, but fittingly, the only statement the Giants made was how poor a team they have become.

The Giants’ defense and special teams units did come to play. The offense did not. Indeed, the story of this game was New York’s offensive impotence. Impotence is a harsh word. By definition, it means lacking physical strength, vigor, and power. It implies being weak or helpless. But there is a deeper, darker connotation given the word’s association with the male anatomy, suggesting a lack of manliness.

The Giants did not lose this game because of coaching. They lost it because – man for man – the Seahawk defenders were better than the Giant offensive players. That is difficult for many fans to accept, but it the simple truth. No amount of coaching can overcome a situation where you can’t block your opponent, you can’t run the football, you can’t break loose of coverage, and your quarterback is inaccurate and reckless with the football. More than that, super-talented, tough, and physical defensive teams challenge the manhood of their opponents. They’ll kick sand in your face and laugh so you had better come prepared to fight and get your hands bloody. The offensive line, tight ends, running backs, wide receivers, and quarterback did not. They sadly accepted their beating and went home humiliated.

Offensive Overview: The Giants were in deep trouble as soon as it was clear they could not run the football. Seattle made New York completely one dimensional, holding the Giants to a paltry 25 yards rushing and a 1.8 yards per rush average. It is the goal of every team to make its opponent one-dimensional, but that especially plays into the hands of the Seahawks who have the NFL’s #1 pass defense. Seattle can rush the passer and their back seven is quick, fast, physical, aggressive, and supremely confidant in coverage. With no running game, the only chance the Giants had at generating points is if Eli Manning and his receivers played at an elite level. As has been the case all season, they did not.

The results were atrocious. By halftime, the Giants had only gained 15 yards rushing, 39 yards passing, and two first downs. Manning had thrown three interceptions and had a 22.4 quarterback rating. The Giants did not even cross mid-field until midway through the fourth quarter. With Manning in the game, New York had 13 offensive possessions. Eight ended with punts, five with interceptions. If the game had been twice as long, eight full quarters, the Giants probably still would not have scored.

In re-watching the game, what stood out to me was this: Seattle was not only stouter and more physical at the point of attack, but their overall athleticism was superior. The Seahawk defenders were quicker and faster. The lack of speed and overall athleticism on the Giants’ offense was obvious.

Quarterback: This was perhaps Eli’s worst game in his worst season. Yes, Eli had no running game. Yes, his pass protection was terrible. Yes, his receivers had problems getting open and were too often out-fought for the football, but all five of Eli’s interceptions were poor throws. Two sideline throws should have been more to the outside, the Hail Mary was short of the end zone, a crossing route was thrown behind the receiver, and his last end zone throw was well short of the back pylon. Eli’s mechanics are terrible and he is playing with very little confidence. The Giants had no chance to win this game with him playing like crap. Sometimes the elite, high-paid quarterback has to carry his team. Eli doesn’t do that anymore. Continually challenging CB Richard Sherman also didn’t seem to be a very smart move.

In Eli’s defense, no one on offense helped him out. Not his blockers, not his receivers, not his running backs. It’s hard for one man to beat the NFL’s best defense all by himself.

Wide Receivers: Based on their statements after the game, the coaches and quarterback were clearly annoyed that the receivers did not fight harder for the football and it is hard to argue with them. While the throws were inaccurate, incompletions instead of interceptions may have been the result, had the receivers been able to compete a little harder for the football. At the half, Eli had thrown eight passes to Cruz, Nicks, and Randle. The results? Two completions for 21 yards, a dropped pass by Cruz, and three interceptions. Cruz was knocked out of the game early in the third quarter. Nicks was shut out in the second half and Randle was shut out for the game. The only receiver who did anything was Jerrel Jernigan who had seven catches for 67 yards, all in the second half. He did have one drop, but he also made a heck of a play by staying on his feet after S Kam Chancellor almost beheaded him.

Running Backs: With Seattle completely controlling the line of scrimmage, the Giants’ running game had no chance. Andre Brown was held to an embarrassing 17 yards on 11 carries (1.5 yards per carry). Peyton Hillis, who was forced to leave the game with a concussion, ran the ball three times for eight yards. The Giants’ backs were not a factor in the passing game either. Brown caught four of five passes thrown in his direction for a grand total of nine yards. Hillis caught two passes for 24 yards. Brown failed in blitz protection on two plays where Eli was sacked. Hillis looked like one of the few offensive players willing to put up a fight.

Tight Ends: Brandon Myers continues to see the bulk of the snaps (78 percent) with Bear Pascoe (16 percent), and Larry Donnell (11 percent) pulling up the rear. Run blocking was obviously an issue. Myers did pick up three first downs with three catches for 37 yards. Pascoe was held short of a the first down marker with a 2-yard catch on 3rd-and-3. He had another catch for 10 yards against CB Richard Sherman.

Offensive Line: Just a shit show. An offensive line is truly the sum of its parts. Individual excellence can easily be erased if there are breakdowns by others, including the tight ends, fullback, and even wide receivers blocking on the edge. But there was no individual or group excellence on this day as the Giants’ got their asses kicked all across the board. Seattle absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage. New York was held to 25 yards rushing. Pass protection was very shaky. Eli was constantly under pressure. The coaches tried to adjust with a moving pocket times in order to keep Eli upright, but Eli doesn’t excel in this type of situation. Shorter passes didn’t work either as Seattle quickly closed on the slow running backs and tight ends.

The tone was set from the very first offensive series. DT Red Bryant blew by Kevin Boothe and was immediately in Eli’s face causing an incompletion. On 2nd-and-10, Boothe was shoved back into the backfield on a run that picked up no yards. Then on 3rd-and-10, Eli was swarmed under by three Seahawk defenders for an 8-yard sack.

Like the first half, the tone was set on the first drive of the second half, Boothe was abused by DT Brandon Mebane on a 4-yard loss for Brown. James Brewer missed his trap block on a Brown run that picked up no yards. And then Justin Pugh was beat for a strip sack. By game’s end, Eli had been sacked three times (and Curtis Painter a fourth time) with seven official hits. But the pressure was greater than those numbers indicate. James Brewer was flagged with holding and forced to leave the game with an ankle injury. His replacement, Brandon Mosley, was flagged with a 15-yard face mask penalty. Justin Pugh probably had his worst game, both run and pass blocking. David Diehl looked overmatched, struggling with both power and quickness. Kevin Boothe played terribly, as Bryant and Mebane had their way with him. The best of the bunch was Will Beatty.

Defensive Overview: I am proud of the way the Giants’ defense played. Given no respite by the Giants’ offense and continually placed in difficult field position situations, the defense kept the Giants in this game longer than they should have been. Despite the fact that New York only had 54 yards and two first downs at half, Seattle only led 13-0 at intermission. And Seattle only managed an additional field goal in the third quarter until really putting the game away in the fourth with their second touchdown of the game.

The 23 points given up are even more impressive when you consider the fact that the Seahawks started their five scoring drives from the New York 42, Seattle 38, Seattle 34, New York 45, and New York 16.

RB Marshawn Lynch was held to 47 yards on 16 carries (2.9 yards per carry). QB Russell Wilson only passed for 206 yards and he was sacked four times and picked off once. If it were not for Wilson’s elusiveness as scrambler and thrower, Seattle’s offense really would have struggled. But Wilson made a number of amazing plays to get away from Giants’ pressure.

Defensive Line: A strong game up front, particularly from DE Justin Tuck (6 tackles, 0.5 sacks), DT Linval Joseph (5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack), and DT Cullen Jenkins (3 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 quarterback hits, 0.5 sacks). Tuck was more of a factor on the pass rush than his numbers would indicate though he did get embarrassed by a stiff arm from the QB on a run that picked up 16 yards. DE Mathias Kiwanuka was credited with 4 tackles (two for losses) and a quarterback hit. Johnathan Hankins (3 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) saw more snaps that Mike Patterson. Damontre Moore (2 tackles) received 19 snaps and DT Marcus Kuhn (1 tackle) 10 snaps.

Linebackers: Jon Beason (93 percent of the snaps) and Spencer Paysinger (71 percent of the snaps) saw the bulk of the action as Jacquian Williams (25 percent), Keith Rivers (22 percent), and Mark Herzlich (12 percent) were relegated to lesser roles. Paysinger was the Giants’ leading tackler with eight; Beason finished with seven. Beason had a number of big hits on the physical Lynch, but he also missed a tackle on a 30-yard pick-up by Lynch after a short pass completion. Williams did cause one incompletion by coming free on a blitz. I thought Spencer Paysinger played well.

Defensive Backs: Prince Amukamara, Antrel Rolle, Will Hill, Trumaine McBride, and Ryan Mundy saw the bulk of the action. Interestingly, Mundy was used heavily for the first time in weeks and had a strong game with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, and 1 sack. Rolle is having his best season as a Giant and picked off his sixth pass of the season. Rolle’s forceful open-field tackles made a difference in the game. In my mind, he’s been the MVP of the team this season. Will Hill had 6 tackles. Terrell Thomas only was in the game for 19 snaps. McBride was the weak link as Seattle successfully targeted him a number of times. McBride was beaten for what should have been a 29-yard touchdown had not WR Golden Tate stepped out of bounds. In the second half, he gave up a couple of easy completions on a field goal drive and was beaten for a TD on 3rd-and-goal from the 12.

Special Teams: The Seahawks have outstanding special teams and while the Giants did not “win” the special teams battle, they did hold their own. Steve Weatherford punted eight times, averaging 47.5 yards per punt (38.4 net). Seattle’s seven punt returns went for 73 yards. That would have been better had the Giants not given up one good return for 22 yards. Seattle had no kickoff return yards as Josh Brown’s lone kickoff was a touchback.

Seattle has been exceptional covering punts all season and Rueben Randle only had once chance that he returned for four yards. Jerrel Jernigan had three chances to return kickoffs and averaged 24.7 yards per return. He had a chance to break a longer return on a 31-yard effort that was exceptionally well blocked by the Giants.

(Boxscore – Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants, December 15, 2013)
Dec 182013
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New York Giants Super Bowl Trophies (June 14, 2012)

New York Giants Super Bowl Trophies – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Detroit Lions, December 22, 2013: With the season already over, I will use next week’s game preview to focus on burning roster questions moving forward. But I’d like to use this game preview as an opportunity to look back.

For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: That all glory is fleeting.  – General  George C. Patton

The New York Giants have won eight NFL titles. The only teams that have won more are the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. In terms of Super Bowls, only three teams have won more than the Giants’ four Lombardi trophies: Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys. What fans should take away from this is the NFL Championship is a rare and special commodity. Some fans never live to enjoy one, let alone two (if you are a young fan of the Giants), four (if you are older), or more (if you are really old – sorry guys and gals).

For a championship season to take place, there has to be talent, coaching, incredible execution, chemistry, health, and indeed some luck. Each NFL season is fragile and easily broken. So much can – and usually will – go wrong. That’s why it is so special when your team does win it all.

In two magical post-season runs in 2007 and 2011, the New York Giants went 8-0, each time defeating the NFC’s #1 and #2 seeds on the road, and then defeating the AFC’s #1 seed in the Super Bowl. The Dallas Cowboys were supposed to crush the Giants in 2007. The Green Bay Packers were supposed to do likewise in 2007 and 2011. The Giants were supposed to be an asterisk in Patriots’ perfect season as the greatest team ever in football. And Bill Belichick and  Tom Brady were expected by many to get their revenge in the Super Bowl four years later.

So many memories. So much glory. R.W. McQuarters picking off Tony Romo…the look on Jerry Jones’ face…Eli Manning out-dueling Brett Favre at Lambeau…Corey Webster with the pick….Lawrence Tynes with the kick…Justin Tuck & Company knocking the snot out of Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLII…Manning’s two fourth-quarter touchdown drives…Manning to Tyree and then Burress…Manning out-dueling Aaron Rodgers…the war of attrition in San Francisco ending in OT…the re-match in Super Bowl XLVI…Manning to Manningham…Brady’s last desperate heave falling harmlessly to the ground.

Two of the Giants eight NFL Championships and half of their Super Bowl victories have come with Tom Coughlin the head coach; Kevin Gilbride the offensive coordinator; Eli Manning the quarterback; Justin Tuck, Chris Snee, and David Diehl on the lines; and Corey Webster and Aaron Ross in the secondary. Others were only there for the second go-around, but were equally instrumental in that magical and unexpected run.

These men deserve our gratitude. More importantly, they deserve our respect. For if it were not for them, the Giants would still be stuck at six NFL Championships, and we’d be approaching a quarter of a century since the Championship run in 1990. If you can’t thank and root for the men, who were you rooting for? Just the blue uniform? Just the “ny” trademark on the side of the helmet?

Charlie Conerly, Frank Gifford, Kyle Rote, Andy Robustelli, Sam Huff, Em Tunnell, and others became New York Giant legends for what they accomplished in 1956.

Bill Parcells, Phil Simms, Joe Morris, Mark Bavaro, Leonard Marshall, Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, and others became New York Giant legends for what they accomplished in 1986.

Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Antonio Pierce, and others will become New York Giant legends for what they accomplished in 2007 and/or 2011.

Keep that in mind during this dark time. Don’t tarnish past glory. Glory is indeed fleeting. It does not last. But the memory of it can live forever.

Whatever happens during the course of the next few months, I personally would like to thank Coach Coughlin, Coach Gilbride, Eli Manning, Justin Tuck, and the others for every cherished memory. You’ve made my life happier for what you did on the playing fields. Thank you.

Dec 132013
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Justin Tuck, Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, New York Giants (February 7, 2012)

Justin Tuck, Tom Coughlin, and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants, December 15, 2013: When I was on my weekly Thursday bit for’s Big Blue Kickoff Live show, co-host Paul Dottino asked me what Giants fans were talking about in terms of this week’s match-up with the Seattle Seahawks. My answer was that Giants fans were not talking about the game, they are already assuming defeat and are more focused already on what this team needs to do in order to rebound in 2014. I don’t think I’ve seen one discussion this week in The Corner Forum on the game, which is very telling and kind of sad. But that’s what happens when your team is 5-8 and already out of the playoff picture with three games (almost 1/5 of the season) left to play.

The reasons for the Giants’ demise have largely been discussed and speculated upon by fans: the “elite” players on the team not playing well, the poor performance of the offensive line, the lack of a pass rush, injuries, instability at running back, horrific special teams, turnovers, etc. Many have argued that the current coaching staff is the issue and that Coach Coughlin’s message has grown stale. There is definitely truth in some, and perhaps all, of these points.

But the heart of the problem may simply be this: the run is over. The core group who won two NFL titles is largely gone or fading fast. That talent and leadership has eroded. Up front, Seubert, O’Hara, and McKenize are gone. Snee and Diehl are next. Bradshaw, Burress, Toomer, Smith, Boss, Ballard, Manningham, Strahan, Umenyiora, Robbins, Cofield, Canty, Pierce, Boley, Blackburn, Madison, McQuarters, Phillips, Grant and other were all key contributors to one or both of those championship teams. Others such as Jacobs, Tuck, Webster, and Ross are nearing the end. In a league set up to ensure parity through the salary cap and free agency, the Giants have suffered with a quarterback that is taking up 1/6 of their cap space, poor drafting, and questionable free agent/salary cap decisions.

Two NFL titles in five years is quite a feat. Most teams can only dream of accomplishing something like that. But it’s time to re-load and attempt to build up another championship core. That can’t be done in one offseason. The gigantic question facing this franchise is should the attempt be made with Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin? Both are two-time NFL champions and possibly future Hall of Famers. But will they be too old by the time the Giants hopefully turn this around again in two or three years?

27 Giants on the current 53-man roster and injured reserve will see their contracts expire shortly. Others may be making too much money to bring back. This roster is about to undergo a massive overhaul, even by today’s standards.

As for the Giants-Seahawks game itself, this contest is a mere road bump for Seattle. That’s not me taking a mean-spirited knock at the Giants, but the the 11-2 Seahawks have bigger fish to fry. They are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, coming off of loss to a hated divisional rival, looking to lock up the NFC West, and preparing for a championship run. And in their heads, because this game will be played at the site of Super Bowl XLVIII, this contest will take on special meaning as a dress rehearsal. The Giants coaches and players can talk about pride and respect, but focus and emotion will all be with Seattle. And more importantly, so will the talent. Seattle is arguably the best and most complete team in football. Across the board, the Seahawks simply have better players than the Giants. The Giants’ offense has struggled all season against some of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. Now they will be facing the league’s #1 pass defense. At best, the game will be close for a while, but talent and motivation will win out.

I suggest Giants’ fans look at this game as they would a preseason game. Who on this field do you want to be a part of the answer in 2014? Who will be playing with intelligence and passion? Who executes the best? Who is a good football player? Who deserves the honor of wearing a New York Giants uniform?