Sep 112013
 
 September 11, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Victor Cruz, New York Giants (September 8, 2013)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Dallas Cowboys 36 – New York Giants 31

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Review: Apoplexy at AT&T – Like most of you, I would love to chalk this one up to some bad bounces, tough breaks and a summer of Eli Manning and his WRs not having the time to practice but I simply can’t. Since taking over the play calling and installing his downfield heavy but still run and shoot offense, I have rarely been critical of offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Three NFC East titles, two super bowl wins and offensive records obliterated will do that to a fan of this team, especially one who appreciates Gilbride’s ability to adjust in-game and give his QB the blue print to victory more often than not. What we witnessed on the evening is simply mind boggling from an offense with a 10 year veteran QB with 2 Pro Bowl caliber WRs, a dynamic HB and a third WR on the verge of becoming a bona fide threat. Simply put, Kevin Gilbride failed in the New York Giants season opening debacle in Dallas and his QB, while game as always, and proved that he’s still prone to silly mistakes, poor mechanics and game killing plays.

Against former Cowboy defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s attacking, multiple look 3-4, I would expect an early screen pass to slow down the overweight Gandalf’s aggressive schemes. The key with Ryan has always been slowing down the rush, and keeping the front 7 honest but the Tampa 2 is a different animal. Inexplicably, Gilbride planned to attack a sound conservative Tampa 2 with an array of head scratching play calls. From the first snap, it was clear that Gilbride either hadn’t watched film of Monte Kiffin and his base 4-3, or decided that he was smarter than everyone in the building. With a young OL starting two new players in LG James Brewer and RT Justin Pugh, Gildbride decided that slowing down a 4-3 base defense meant fooling all everything DE DeMarcus Ware instead of attacking the woefully thin Cowboy interior that was without anchor Jay Ratliff and was using the 254lb Ware as a rush end from the right side. Instantly, Ware proved why he is the best defender in the division by reading a poorly executed screen and picking off an ill-advised Eli Manning screen pass to HB David Wilson. One screen play down, one disaster – check.

Eli and company appeared to have cleared the first hurdle, with Hakeem Nicks cutting underneath the 2 Deep zone for a 57 yard gain but four plays later, on a 1st and goal from the 8 yard line, David Wilson was in the middle of mistake number 2, coughing up the ball and killing a chance to take the lead on a night when momentum would swing wildly both ways. The beefed up Giants defense stepped into the breach again though, forcing a 3 and out and giving Eli and company a new set of downs from the Giant 38 only down by 3 after the 2 big mishaps. Manning must have been getting football on his phone, and not wanting to miss a minute, so he allowed his defensive mates another chance to take the field by tossing the ball right to S Will Allen. Still refusing to let the offense down, the Giants D again rose up, with ex-Steeler Ryan Mundy channeling his inner Stevie Brown on a deflected interception, only to channel his inner James Brown 91 yards later and flail to the ground short of the goal line.

With the score knotted at 3-3, Dallas finally got its bearings on offense, chewing up 7 minutes over a 14 play drive that ended with a second Dan Bailey FG and a narrow 6-3 lead. The mistakes just kept on coming with FB Henry Hynoski dooming the Giants next drive with an illegal shift penalty on first down that resulted in a 4-play 3-and-out and another failed series. Nine plays later the Giants defense finally broke on a 9 play 71 yard drive that put the home team up 13-3. Eli and company would not go quietly after three early turnovers and a stout defensive effort. Three plays after falling behind by 10, Manning found his favorite deep target Victor Cruz alone on a 70 yard bomb that pulled the G-men within 13-10, where it remained until after halftime.

After a Cowboy three and out, you could almost hear a chorus of “I’m rubber you’re glue, bounces off me and sticks to you” being sung by David Wilson, Da’Rel Scott and Trumaine McBride. The three combined to cough up the ball 3 more times, leading to 21 more easy Cowboy points and a late rally that fell short despite another desperate fourth quarter charge by Eli and Victor Cruz. With 8:47 to go in the contest and down just 30-24 after falling behind by 17, the Giants defense rallied to stifle the Dallas Cowboys on consecutive drives and you could almost hear the oddly tight skin on Jerry Jones’ neck cracking under the pressure of another Giant miracle right in his big backyard. Fortunately for anyone within 10 feet of the 87 year old bodied, 40 year old brained and 1,000 year old skinned Cowboy owner, the Giants rally fell short as a screen pass (two screens and two disasters, check and check) bounced off of the arms of reserve RB Da’Rel Scott into the arms CB Brandon Carr who returned the ball 49 yards and pushed the Big D bulge to 36-24, effectively ending the “Apoplexy at AT&T”.

Quarterback: Two Super Bowl MVPs and numerous fourth quarter rallies will always endear Eli Manning to the Big Blue Faithful, but it’s his maddening ability to make boneheaded plays early in the game must have remotes flying in more TV rooms than just mine. After a so so pre-season in which Eli seemed off, his first play from scrimmage was a nightmare, dumping the ball to DE DeMarcus Ware and putting the G-Men in a 3-0 hole just minutes into their opener. As he is wont to do though, Eli eventually overcame another turnover of his own and two by David Wilson to get the Giants within 6 with just under 9 minutes to play. As ugly as this game got for the former Rebel, it was sprinkled with some hope in the form of a few haymakers to Victor Cruz, a 57 yard crossing route to Hakeem Nicks and even a 100 yard game from 3rd WR Rueben Randle. The killer though, despite 4 TDs and 450 yards is that game ended and began on the same play against the precise type of defense you DON’T want to run that play on. Despite the heroics to make it a game, Eli has to be smarter with the ball, especially on screens to RBs who not yet demonstrated any capacity to step up in a real game. His final pick to Carr could have been avoided if he had not thrown it so quickly and to Scott’s outside shoulder with a traditional cover 2 press behind it in which the CBs play the short third and are in prime position to make those plays.

I have to put those two screen failures directly at his feet, despite my agitation with the screen passes against this defense. Eli simply made two very careless plays that led directly to 10 points and ultimately the difference in the game. You can lay this at Wilson’s feet, Coughlin’s red face, McBride’s surprisingly springy humerus or bury it somewhere in the push broom that Gilbride manicures so precisely but in the end, when you’re the leader, the highest paid player and have appeared with a Banana in place of your manhood on SNL you make the plays when it counts.

Running Backs: Blessed with world class speed and athletic ability, HB David Wilson can somehow engage his body to launch his 205lb frame into the air for a standing somersault but cannot call upon that power to hold on to a 15 oz. football. Wilson finished his first game as a starter the same way he started his first game last year, on the bench lamenting turnovers and watching his team lose a very winnable game. He doesn’t care about us according to the Twitterverse so why waste any time on him?

FB Henry Hynoski missed most of OTAs and camp with a knee (presumably he has two) and it showed in the opener. Not to absolve David Wilson, but his first fumble came on the heels of a badly missed Hynoski block. Shortly after missing a block, Hyno looked like a legendary strong man on his first reception attempt, with the football playing the role of the cannonball. Apparently, Gilbride decided he hadn’t gone to the Hynoski well enough. After Mundy’s INT, at the Cowboy 8, Hynoski ran an what appeared to be FB pass disguised as a dive, but he didn’t touch DE George Selvie on his way out to sell the fake and Selvie ran down Eli Manning and pushed the Giants further from the goal line yet again. David Wilson whiffed on Selvie for good measure, but inside the 5 yard line, I am not asking my 205 HB to take out a 270LB DE in a phone booth as my FB skips past unaware. This is another example of why this team bogs down in the red zone, poor execution from plays that don’t play to our strengths.

HB Da’Rel Scoti was a gamer, pressed into action after Wilson coughed up fumble #2, but Scott’s failure to catch an Eli Manning screen play ended the game on an ugly note.

Wide Receivers: WR Hakeem Nicks is back. On the Giants second possession, the former Tar Heel took a quick slant 57 yards to the Cowboys 23 yard line. Nicks took advantage of the soft cover 2 and was able to race through it untouched, setting up the Giants after a miserable opening drive. Victor Cruz’s new contract comes with renewed expectations and #80 made his money with 3 TDs and 118 yards on only 5 catches. Cruz ignited the Giants finally with 1:05 left in the first half by running a go route right between the hash marks where CB Morris Claiborne bailed expecting safety help and his safety incorrectly assumed Cruz was headed down the sideline. Great route, great play call and great throw by Manning there to keep the Giants in the game going into the half. WR Rueben Randle also had a 100 yard game, which has you fantasy nerds digging up your waiver wires but three 100 yard WR efforts and 0-1 isn’t a result I’d be too happy with.

Tight Ends: New TE Brandon Myers didn’t sit down in the zone on his first target from Eli, causing an early misfire in the red zone but made up for on a 3rd and 11 with a terrific catch from Manning that fell 2 yards short of a TD. Myers ended the game with some garbage time yardage ended up with 66 yards and TD but his blocking was woeful, an ordinary effort from an ordinary player.

Offensive Line: Do I have to? Really? I praise LT Will Beatty all pre-season for his heads up play and he makes the cardinal sin of the screen pass from an OL standpoint on play one. Generally, the screen is run between defenders, the key being that the 1st defender on the edge has to be taken wide to create a throwing lane before the OL can release downfield to block. You can almost see Beatty realize that as he scuffled back to try to slow down DE DeMarcus Ware as he was shooting the B gap right into Eli’s lap but that small lapse doomed the entire play. LG James Brewer got his first start and allowed penetration on David Wilson’s first fumble, again not an absolution of Wilson but the margin for error on our red zone plays is razor thin and we saw a domino effect of Brewer, Hynoski and Wilson all botching the play. Not wanting anyone to feel too sad, C Kevin Boothe also botched his block on Wilson’s ill-fated fumble. With no one over his nose, Booth had to scrape off the DT and get to the second level to seal pursuit from the DBs and LBs, but inexplicably Boothe sort of amoebaed around until three defenders shot past him, realizing he was just there to say hi and not actually make a block. Brewer also gave up a quick pressure to DL Jason Hatcher that doomed a 3rd down play, but the new LG was adequate enough, albeit against a slew of backups at DT. Overall not a terrible effort by the OL, but it’s clear the timing isn’t there on running plays just yet and this group needs time to gel. RT Justin Pugh played solidly, not great, but I expect more from the right side in the coming weeks.

Defensive Line: Subway pitch man Justin Tuck put down his 5 dollar foot long (the sandwich you sickos) long enough to disrupt Tony Romo on the game’s first defensive series. Tuck lined up at LDT and tossed RG Mackenzy Bernadeau aside to rush the throw and hold the Cowboys to a field goal after starting on the Giant 15. The defensive line wasn’t able to get a lot of shots on Romo, but it appeared the plan was to contain him in the pocket and play disciplined gaps up front. There were a handful of stunts, but for the most part the front 4 were there to contain the edges and disrupt the pocket where possible. Give Romo and his mates credit though, 49 passes and only 2 sacks resulted from an abundance of shotgun formations and 3 step drops designed to get the ball out quickly and not let the Giants talented front take over the game. Overall the DL acquitted itself well, holding Romo to 263 yards and Murray to a very tough 86 on the ground. My biggest gripe is that I saw very little of our 6-5 and plus DEs getting their hands in the air when it was clear they were playing to contain Romo in the pocket and not let him have the edge to sprint out and extend plays.

The long awaited return of JPP didn’t bear fruit until a 4th quarter sack of Tony Romo, as Cowboy LT Tyron Smith was able to neutralize the former all pro single-handedly most of the evening. Again, it appeared that the play side DEs were instructed to hold the pocket and keep Romo in it, but even on those plays, Smith was adept enough to negate JPPs reach simply by getting his hands outside of Pierre-Paul’s shoulder pads and keeping him from using his wingspan to cut down Romo’s passing lanes. Credit Smith and his OL coach for that going on most of the evening, it’s not easy to keep rangy DEs like JPP and Mathias Kiwanuka from batting down there share of balls, when it’s clearly in their plan of attack to do so. Tom Brady’s throwing through a forest comment in Super Bowl 46 must have reached someone’s ears in Dallas. I don’t do it often, but hell of a job scouting what our DEs to well and making a point to almost totally negate it through the game. The bigger DTs made it tougher sledding for Cowboy backs, but no real impact plays from the trio of Joseph, Patterson and Rogers save for a late sack.

Linebackers: The Giants LB corps just reminds me of a party that no one really hated or no one really liked. You show up, see a few people, make note of some guys wearing jerseys in the 50s who just kind of hang around for 2.5 hours. That’s real football science for you kids! All terrible analogies aside, I see no impact at LB, not in the running game, and with a few Jacquian Willams passes defended aside nothing in the passing game. New MLB Dan Connor didn’t do much before bowing out with a stinger. Give Williams credit on the Romo Malachi Crunch that gave the Cowboy QB an apparent boo boo that had his wife upset, Jerry Jones frantic and NJ Governor and now traitor Chris Christie looking very heavy and overly tan for a man of his corpulence. Number 57 launched himself at RT Doug Free (who coincidentally looks like a Dave Attell on steroids) and gave Kiwi a clean shot at Tony Romo. Replacement Mark Herzlich led the front 7 in stops but it was his lax coverage on TE Jason Witten that allowed the Cowboys first TD.

Defensive Backs: Give credit where credit is due, and as a unit the Giants much maligned secondary played on hell of a game on Sunday night. Even without turnover machine Stevie Brown, the DBs were able to slow down the Cowboys fast break offense that features four legitimate game breakers who can beat you if you stop any of the others. Holding Dez Bryant to 22 yards on 4 catches and keeping Miles Austin to a 7.2 yard average is an impressive performance especially when coupled with the Giants inability to hold on to the football. Starting safety Antrel Rolle may have saved an early TD with an outstanding open field tackle on DeMarco Murray after the Giants blitz left him all alone in the flat against the dangerous ex-Sooner. Rolle has been vocal all off season about improving this defense and backed it up on Sunday night with 5 stops and generally sound coverage all night on a dangerous Dallas receiving corps. Rolle did however badly miss an open field stop on TE Jason Witten on a 3rd and 11 that allowed the Cowboys to convert but don’t forget that the other guys get paid too. New S Ryan Mundy started off with a bang, getting plowed by HB DeMarco Murray after a punishing 11 yard run, but made up for it with a 91 yard interception return and collapse.

CB Prince Amukamara played a little too soft on WR Miles Austin, allowing an early slant and first down, but Amukamara did a great job of re-routing a Cowboy WR, tipping the ball into the waiting arms of Ryan Mundy who apparently can only run 91 yards without oxygen. Nickel Back Terrell Thomas returned from a 2 year absence and almost took one to the house, jumping between Romo and his intended target to knock the ball harmlessly away. Thomas tackled well and competed all night, if he stays healthy it will be a huge boost to this group. CB Corey Webster presumably flipped a coin, it landed on heads and he decided this year he’d be good. Had it been tails like last year, there’s no telling which #23 we would see. Lined up over Bryant a good portion of the night, C-Web was smart, physical and sound, not missing tackles and staying in Bryant’s back pocket most of the night.

Special Teams: CB Trumaine McBride had the biggest special teams play of the night. Not big as in, “My that’s a big engagement ring”, more like “I remember thinkin to myself. Wow, that’s O.J. Simpson, he has a big f#*&in head man” (Charlie Murphy). Not even a melon like OJs is enough to make you get over the football bouncing off of McBride’s arm like it was an ejector seat from the old G.I. Joe cartoons. Kicker kicked, punter punted whoopee, we lost – I hate special teams when we lose.

Cram it in your cramhole award: Each week I will make fun of an opposing player, coach, owner, fan or all of the above depending on how much I’ve had to drink while writing this. This week, the award goes to…“He’s faking…hey ref..he’s faking..see he’s faking” – Cowboys idiot Jason Witten after DL Cullen Jenkins got his arm stepped on and had to leave with a burner. Maybe Cullen was faking it, but maybe you looked like the dork in class who rats out someone on the playground for putting dirt down your shorts instead of getting even. For record, I have not once put dirt down anyone’s shorts (that anyone can prove here, at Aquinas Catholic School or otherwise).

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 8, 2013)
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Sep 062013
 
 September 6, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Keith Rivers, New York Giants (October 28, 2012)

The Linebackers Must Cover Witten – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 8, 2013: For true football fans, the start of football season each September has become one way in which we measure time, especially for those of us who are older. There are birthdays and holidays and other significant dates such as the start and end of school each year, but the football clock has its own special meaning to many of us. It symbolizes the end of summer and coming of cooler weather – football weather. And it inaugurates a new weekly routines and rituals that culminate on game day. To some of us, specific years not only mark time, but represent happy or sad memories from a specific NFL season. The years 1986, 1990, 2007, and 2011 have a vastly different meaning to a Giants’ fan.

So starts the 2013 NFL Campaign.  At least 16 individual game-day dramas are about to unfold for us.  I can’t predict the outcome, but I can tell you without doubt that the ride will be a rollercoaster. There will be ups and downs, misery and joy. One week we will feel like kings of the world and the next our co-workers won’t want to be around us on Monday. Each NFL season is quite an adventure, and like that overused quote from Forrest Gump, you’re never sure what you’re going to get.

Division games are so critically important. Last season, the Redskins went 5-1 in the NFC East. Meanwhile, the Giants split their divisional games with each opponent, finishing 3-3 in the NFC East. Each of those losses was a tight but ultimately disappointing affair that ended up costing the Giants the division and a playoff spot. Because there are so few games, each contest on the 16-game schedule matters, but none more so than division games.

Needless to say, the Giants-Cowboys opener is a huge game for both teams.

Giants on Offense: Dallas’ defense has completely changed. They have shifted from the 3-4 to the 4-3 defense. Such a dramatic transition can normally cause problems but the Cowboys are helped by the very experienced Monte Kiffin, who is now Dallas’ defensive coordinator. Kiffin ran Tampa Bay’s tough defense from 1996-2008, and he is joined in Dallas by his old compatriot, Rod Marinelli, one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL.

Kiffin’s system is different than his predecessor’s.  It’s a bit more conservative but fundamentally sound, designed to prevent big plays. The Giants might have to be more patient against it, but growing pains to the 4-3 and some injury issues on Dallas’ defense could still present some big-play opportunities for the Giants.

Like most teams, the Cowboys have some strengths and weaknesses on defense. The heart of the unit remains play-makers RDE DeMarcus Ware and MLB Sean Lee, two of the very best at their respective positions in the NFL. Ware, who has now shifted from linebacker to defensive end, has 111 career sacks. And Lee is a hard-hitting, instinctive, play-making tackling machine. It will be critically important for the Giants to get a hat on both and sustain those blocks. The likely absence of FB Henry Hynoski (knee) could hurt with Lee.

Ware would normally line up over Will Beatty but it will be interesting to see if Kiffin has him challenge the rookie Justin Pugh. Dallas is also sure to test LG James Brewer with blitzes and stunts in an effort to confuse the big but inexperienced player.

That all said, Dallas is a bit banged up on the defensive line. LDE Anthony Spencer (knee) and DT Jay Ratliff (hamstring) won’t play. Their back-ups, DE George Selvie and DT Nick Hayden will start. That should help the Giants.  DT Jason Hatcher is tough however.

Led by Lee, the linebacking unit is probably the strength of the defense right now. WLB Bruce Carter and SLB Justin Durrant are athletic, the type of linebackers that Kiffin likes to employ in his Tampa-2 system.

The faces change, but as has been the case for years, the Dallas safeties are the weak spot in the secondary with Barry Church and Will Allen now starting. RCB Morris Claiborne, Dallas’ 2012 first-rounder, has not practiced or played all preseason. The Giants are sure to test him. LCB Brandon Carr is very solid. Orlando Scandrick is the nickel back. The corners are more naturally suited to press coverage, but Kiffin tends to employ more conservative zone coverage. It will be interesting to see if this leads to opportunities for Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, and Louis Murphy.

The big concerns for the Giants remain: can the revamped offensive line with two inexperienced players protect Eli Manning and provide running room for David Wilson? With Andre Brown (fractured leg) out, can David Wilson handle a bigger load? Can Da’Rel Scott adequately spell him as a runner, receiver, and pass protector? Ball security for both will be critical. The absence of Brown exacerbates the Giants’ woeful short-yardage and red zone offense. Can the Giants convert on third-and-short and score touchdowns in the red zone, especially against Kiffin’s bend-but-don’t-break defense?

The Giants will need Eli Manning to get out of his preseason funk, and to be frank, out-play Tony Romo.

Giants on Defense: The Dallas offense is similar to the Giants in that they have a lot of talent at the skill positions, but there are huge question marks on the offensive line.

It looks like Doug Free will still start at right tackle despite the Cowboys wanting to move him inside to guard. Inside, the Cowboys have a rookie center and two guards with questionable ability. LT Tyron Smith is their best player. It is absolutely critical for the self-acclaimed Giants’ defensive line to control the line of scrimmage, stuff the run, and get after Romo. If they don’t, the shaky back seven of the Giants’ defense could be exposed by a very talented group of receivers.

The first key will be stopping the run. It is believed that Offensive Coordinator Bill Callahan, the new play-caller, will operate a more balanced offense with an increased emphasis on the run. DeMarco Murray has given the Giants problems in the past and if he gets it going, it will be a long night. The Cowboys also have some decent backups in Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner (Late Note: Dunbar will not play due to foot injury). It’s imperative that Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Shaun Rogers, and Mike Patterson dominate the Cowboys’ interior trio, while Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, and maybe Jason Pierre-Paul (back) hold the edges. Obviously, the linebackers must be strong at the point-of-attack, while at the same time being cognizant of misdirection, something the Giants’ defense has been vulnerable to for quite some time.

If the Giants are able to limit Dallas’ ground game, the danger is not over. Guys like Tuck, Kiwanuka, and Jenkins are going to have to get heat on Tony Romo. Fans love to criticize Romo, but he is one of the most productive quarterbacks in the game and he has burned the Giants quite a bit over the years. Like all quarterbacks, the key is to get in his face and rattle him. Inside pressure in his face will help tremendously, but the Giants have to bring him down and not let him improvise. He’s at his best when improvising. I’ll say it again – bring him down!

WR Dez Bryant is one of the most dangerous receivers in football. He’s a size-speed match-up problem. Prince Amukamara will probably cover him for the bulk of the game. Do the Giants help out Prince? Don’t lose sight of the other guy who isn’t getting nearly enough press: WR Miles Austin. Austin has had a very strong summer and Romo likes to throw to him. Moreover, Austin has given the Giants’ fits over the years. He will be a very tough test for Corey Webster. Throw into this mix TE Jason Witten, still a very dangerous and reliable target for Romo. He’s Romo’s security blanket. He caught 18 passes in one game against the Giants last season. Dallas is sure to test the Giants’ linebackers and safeties in coverage with passes to the tight ends and backs. Wouldn’t you?

Giants on Special Teams: Dwayne Harris returns punts and kickoffs for the Cowboys, but obviously they will use Dez Bryant on punt returns in critical situations. As for the Giants, ball security by punt returner Rueben Randle and kick returner Michael Cox is concern #1. The rookie Cox could have first-game jitters.

Series Notes: The Cowboys lead the regular-season series, 57-42-2.

The Giants are 7-11 in prime time against the Cowboys.

The Giants are 0-5 in season-opening games vs. the Cowboys (1965, 1986, 1995, 2007, and 2012). They won the Super Bowl in two of those seasons (1986 and 2007).

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Sep 042013
 
 September 4, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin (August 29, 2013)

Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New England Patriots 28 – New York Giants 20

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

INTERIOR GILLETTE STADIUM-NIGHT

A lone hooded man, pantless paces in front of a full length mirror, a single beam of light cascading on his sweating brow.

There seems to be something troubling this man, struggles of years past etched painfully across his countenance. Three new prominent wrinkles, each earned through loss. After a few darting glances, he stops and stares intently into the mirror.

HOODED MAN

(muttering rapidly) Perfect season…18-0…we were 18-0..Moss..Brady..touchdown yes touchdown..19-0 is next…sack Eli..sack..Eli sit…sit…SIT DAMN YOU…he’s free…can’t be…Harrison..the ball it’s on his helmet!!! Ok still time…Burress..single covered…gimpy knee it’s ok it’s going to be ok…he can’t run…Manningham can’t beat us…won’t…stopped Nicks, stopped Cruz gonna win now……your ring?…Mr. Kraft…where is.your ring? He took THAT TOO??? (ok technically that was Vladimir Putin, just go with it here)…Tebow…I will unleash Tebow and all will be right again. (Screaming) You tell Tom Coughlin I’m coming and Tebow’s coming with me ya hear…TEBOW’S COMING WITH ME!

–SCENE

Ah, Bill Belichick and his seemingly endless supply of pettiness. I would imagine that watching Tim Tebow flail around like Garo Yepremian had the shabbily dressed hall of fame coach fuming, so in true Patriot style little Bill just had to twist the knife a bit. With a one point lead, 9 seconds on the clock and the ball at the New York Giants 9 yard line, Jesus H. Tebow threw hopefully his final NFL pass to stake the New England Patriots to a 28-20 lead which was in no danger of being lost. I suppose you play to the whistle, even in the pre-season, but that TD pass was vintage Belichick, useless, petty and vindictive. Hopefully that pass makes up for losing two Super Bowls to Tom Coughlin and having your owner’s Super Bowl ring purloined by Vladimir Putin over the summer.

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning’s pre-season, aside from a long TD pass to Victor Cruz has been forgettable. On the Giants’ first possession, Manning had two straight bad incompletions, one on a flutter pass to Hakeem Nicks that sailed high and another badly overthrown ball that hinted at miscommunication with either Hakeem Nicks or Brandon Myers. Even on Manning’s longest completion to WR Louis Murphy the ball seemed to flutter down the sideline, but there is no reason to think Manning won’t be ready come week 1.

Running Backs: HB David Wilson picked up 37 yards on 6 carries (6.16 per), including a 16 yard scoot around left end on the Giants first scoring drive. Wilson had a tough 6 yard run in the red zone, getting the Giants in a manageable 3rd and 2 at the Pats three yard line. Wilson is making little improvements weekly, I have no doubt that he’s about to explode onto the NFL scene and take this offense with him. If it wasn’t for bad luck yadda yadda yadda, Andre Brown is cursed. Brown wont’ be confused with Boris the Bullet Dodger anytime soon, because when there’s an injury around, Andre seems to find it. After a string of injuries that have derailed his NFL career, Andre Brown looked poised to be the #2 back in the Giants attack, but a broken bone in his leg will keep that from being a reality until most likely week 10 of the regular season when #35 is eligible to be off of short term IR and the Giants come back from a week 9 bye. Roster long shot Da’Rell Scott had a solid outing, running for 25 hard earned yards and picking up a 6 yard TD pass from fellow roster hopeful QB Curtis Painter. With Brown’s injury, Scott seems to be the next man up, but late word is that the Giants worked out former Cardinal Beanie Wells and ex-Steeler Jonathan Dwyer so Scott’s stay on the 53 may be short lived.

Receivers: After starting slowly, Hakeem Nicks finally found the end zone on a 3 yard slant, but he and Eli had two weird miscues on the Giants opening drive to continue a frustrating pre-season for the Giants offense. Hakeem still looks a bit timid to me out there, not quite favoring anything but not quite going full speed either. My gut keeps telling me that eating pizza is OK and it won’t make me fat, but it also tells me that Hakeem may not be 100% yet. I doubt the former and believe the latter. Louis Murphy got on the scoreboard with an athletic 37 yard leaping grab on a Manning duck in the first quarter, but overall another quiet game for the “knife”.

Tight Ends: TE Brandon Myers finally made his presence felt in the passing game, with 3 catches for 42 yards, including a well-run square in on 3rd and 4 that was good for 10 yards and a first down. Myers had to fight through some traffic and not tip off his route, which he did well by breaking down and selling an out just enough to create  separation for him to cut inside and pick up the first down. I have been hard on Myers’ blocking thus far and will continue to be but that play is a great example of why he’s here. Myers simply knows how to get open against tight interior coverage. What Myers still struggles with is in-line blocking, notably on a 1st and 10 from the Pats 11, he allowed LB Dane Fletcher to stand him up and toss him aside, shutting down RB David Wilson before he had a chance. Fletcher is a 245lb journeyman OLB, not a good sign when your starting TE is getting tossed around by middle of the road backups who are similarly sized.

Offensive Line:  Author favorite, LG James Brewer got his first start of the pre-season and played very well, albeit against the Patriots second teamers. Brewer’s natural bulk inside is a big asset in pass protection, he is simply a tough guy to get past on sheer size alone. The former Hoosier also displayed solid footwork and hand punch, adeptly shuffling laterally in pass protection against the Pats varied fronts and not getting caught flat footed by any blitzers. One of the biggest mistakes that young interior OL seem to make is to attack blitzers and try to seal them off, which often times leaves a big lane for a looping DL or delayed rusher to get through easily and shut down a play. By sealing off their gap and moving laterally (wide base, parallel to the line of scrimmage) instead of lunging too far forward, pass blockers are able to essentially pass off rushers down the line without allowing gap penetration. That type of cohesion though, takes time and with two new young starters that may be an area of concern early on in the season for Eli and the offense. That said, so far so good. Pugh and Brewer seem to be catching on quickly and I may be a fool for thinking it, but I think this starting 5 gives us our best chance up front to be effective running and passing the ball.

LT Will Beatty did an outstanding job on David Wilson’s 16 yard run late in the first quarter. With LG James Brewer pulling right to misdirect the DL, Beatty feigned a down block to pull the DE inside, who was then chipped by C Kevin Boothe who in essence ran a twist with Brewer. Beatty then turned outside and sealed off the play side LB giving Wilson the edge and the Giants a much needed shot in the arm on their lone first half touchdown.

Defensive Line: DTs Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins had little trouble early neutralizing the Pats running game and getting consistent push on the pocket. Unfortunately for Justin Tuck, he was victimized early by an end around that was good for 16 yards. Tuck didn’t bite on the offensive tackle blocking down and was in good position to make a play, but the Pats ran a delayed trap with their FB who was able to create the room WR Josh Boyce needed to get to the edge for a solid gain. As the game wore on and my pre-season patience was spent, DTs Shaun Rogers, Marvin Austin and Mike Patterson played plenty in the second half, presumably auditioning for Tom Coughlin. Unfortunately for Austin, Patterson and Rogers had more impact and won the roster spots, thus spelling doom for the former Tar Heel who spent more time in the training room than in the locker room during his inglorious run in blue.

Linebackers: After playing better last week, the LBs were again maddening. Keith Rivers showed good hustle early clamping down on an outside run, but following it up with getting caught looking inside on Josh Boyce’s end around. This group continues to be victimized by play action and misdirection, something that does not bode well in the NFC East. Mark Herzlich was again active against backups, with a total of 8 stops and an interception.

Defensive Backs: Starting safeties Antrell Rolle and Ryan Mundy both had big hits on the Patriots’ first drive, both down low on swing passes outside. The reason I mention that is two-fold: (1) Rolle seems to be moving without a hitch after his ankle sprain and (2) it appears that we may see more single high safety coverage this year. On back to back plays on the Pats’ opening drive, the duo was lined up in 2-deep coverage, but at the snap the safety who had more eligible receivers on his side slid down to a traditional strong safety alignment and the other bailed out to a cover-3 technique. Thankfully QB Ryan Mallett was off target on a couple of passes, because CB Prince Amukamara was clearly playing cover 2 press and watched as the WR flew past him. LB Jacquian Williams flattened out to the same area which is the indicator that it was in fact cover 3 with the CBs having deep third and the OLBs covering the flats and hook zones. Don’t think teams won’t see that miscue on tape and look to exploit it. The backend communication has to improve or this defense will be on its heels plenty this season, no matter who is back there on deep patrol.

Pre-Season Odds and Ends:

“Forget it Jake (BBI), it’s Chinatown (Pre-Season)” Pre-season does it to me every year. I get unhinged over unacceptable play, despondent over dreadful defense, perturbed at poor passes and I bemoan barely NFL caliber blocking from a chorus line of players who try as they may, just don’t quite have what it takes. Jake Gittes couldn’t change Chinatown and we can’t change the pre-season, no matter how maddening and pointless it seems at times. Consider the casualties: Victor Cruz’s heel, Andre Brown’s leg, Stevie Brown’s ACL, David Baas’ MCL, Andre Robinson’s foot, Aaron Curry’s comeback, Mark Herzlich’s starting job, David Diehl’s thumb, Marvin Austin’s potential and the 3 or 4 minutes each week you lose mucking through this rehash. It’s enough to make you swear off the pre-season. That is until next summer when you’re tired of re-runs, mosquitoes and everyone’s predictable vacation pictures on Facebook (“LOL Little Timmy Luvs the sand just like gammaw! LOL”-kill me) you will hunger for that first game and be right back here 4 weeks later wishing the backups would just go away already.

Running Backs: HB David Wilson is almost ready for prime time. Consider Wilson’s 24 pre-season carries as one game and you see an eye-popping 179 yards and a 7.5 yard average per tote. I can hear the “Take away that 84 yarder and..” crowd now, but even if we do Wilson is good for 23 carries for 95 yards and a solid 4.1 yard average. Make no mistake, Wilson will have defensive coordinators uneasy because of his ability to score any time he has the ball. Couple that with a QB who can threaten teams all over the field with an array of pass catchers and you may have one of the most explosive Giants offenses we have ever seen.

Tight Ends: If I didn’t outright predict it, I meant to. Not in a Dionne Warwick Psychic Friends way either, I honestly thought the Giants would end up carrying 4 TEs when I saw Brandon Myers and Adrien Robinson’s blocking this pre-season. Myers has neither the will or the ability and Robinson simply makes too many mistakes, which leaves us with old reliable Bear Pascoe to be the blocker at TE and the improving Larry Donnell to likely be the second blocker in the mix. Myers should be more Y receiver than TE, and give Eli a great security blanket in the intermediate areas of the field. A reliable target down low like Myers should be a great complement to the field stretching abilities of Cruz, Nicks, Randle, Murphy and Wilson.

Defensive Line: The revamped defensive line seemed to be as advertised, bigger, badder and meaner against the run, and hopefully led by resurgent DE Justin Tuck. After sitting out the opener, Tuck responded with three solid outings and finally displaying the type of solid run technique that vaulted him to elite status in 2010 and 2011. Tuck’s shoulder injuries cannot be understated here. The ability to extend your arms and keep OL from getting inside leverage is D-Line fundamentals 101, but Tuck was unable to do that for the better part of the past 2 seasons (I still blame Fat Flozell Adams for that) and his play and the defense’s suffered as a result. At his best, Tuck anchors the left side against the run, staying parallel to the line of scrimmage, preventing OL from getting to the second level and setting the edge against the outside running game. I watched Tuck very closely this pre-season and his technique is once again rock solid as was his performance. Joining the joyride is veteran DE Mathias Kiwanuka who in the place of the balky Jason Pierre-Paul has been perhaps the best defender on the team this preseason. Kiwi is back at end where he belongs, and has been turning running plays inside with picture perfect technique and leverage. A healthy and energetic #94 will play a big role for this defense as the season unfolds. New DTs Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Shaun Rogers (he didn’t play last year so he’s new to me) seemed to be the shot in the arm this interior sorely needed to reclaim the line of scrimmage. Fighting for a career, Patterson responded with a very strong pre-season, adding a 1.5 sack finale against the Patriots to secure his spot among the final 53. Time again that trio was able to maintain their gaps and collapse the pocket when needed, showing the flexibility to stuff the run and harass QBs into hurried throws. DT Linval Joseph won’t be alone this season as he was for most of 2012, with Chris Canty on the PUP for half the year and struggling for the remainder, and young ineffective contributors Markus Kuhn and Marvin Austin not giving him much help. Speaking of Austin, this pre-season marked the end of his frustrating tenure as a Giant. Armed with physical talents that few DTs possess, Austin fell victim to the injury bug for 2 years, and was out of football for nearly 3 when coupled with his suspension while at the University of North Carolina. With a full off season under his belt this was Austin’s last chance to prove he belonged in Blue but his bid fell short as Mike Patterson far outplayed him and rookie DT Johnathan Hankins was likely drafted to take his place.

Offensive Line: The Giants struggled through the preseason offensively and some of that falls at the feet of the now under fire Offensive Line. The original starting five of Beatty, Boothe, Baas, Snee and Diehl has become Beatty, Brewer, Boothe, Snee and Pugh, which may be an upgrade when all is said and done. LT Will Beatty was simply outstanding this preseason, injuries behind him, the former UConn Huskie has cemented himself as the Giants best OL and in my view one of the better LTs in all of football. He’s not at the pinnacle, but he’s not far behind after his strong pre-season showing. Beatty was active against the run, flawless against the pass and at times downright nasty, which is something we have yet to see out of the oft nicked tackle. RT Justin Pugh, the Giants mildly surprising first rounder, acquitted himself well after stepping in for the injured David Diehl and seemingly going from untested to battle hardened in a few snaps. The man Giant fans love to call T-Rex (by fans I mean me, short arm jokes are always funny) is as advertised, a polished technician with a little bit of attitude. Watching Pugh and RG Chris Snee should get fun as the season wears on and the two establish some chemistry up front. LG James Brewer is I admit, a personal favorite and his start against New England in the pre-season finale had me giddy. Giddy you ask? Yes, giddy. My job is stressing me out, families of fruit flies seem to be on every piece of produce that enters my house, I can’t keep basil from dying and I haven’t been on a vacation in 2 years. Watching an erratic but talented backup OL finally get his shot is what I call fun nowadays so quit laughing at my pain and read on. Brewer’s debut at LG was against backups, but I saw solid footwork especially in pass protection, where Brewer has tended to struggle. Brewer was aggressive and displayed the type of power that could get him a permanent gig up front. Having a wide bodied mauler at LG would do wonders for this running game, here’s hoping #73 continues his ascent and becomes a regular fixture on the offensive line.

Defensive Backs: CB Aaron Ross had a rough pre-season, watching an INT turn into a TD against Reggie Wayne, and committing a few dopey penalties along the way. Fellow CB Jayron Hosley had a solid interception return but overall was shaky, giving up a TD pass to T.Y. Hilton and at times looking lost yet again. Losing interception machine Stevie Brown will hurt, someone from the group of Terrell Thomas, Cooper Taylor and Will Hill has to step into the breach and make a contribution or the Giants will be hard pressed to compete for a post season berth.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at New England Patriots, August 29, 2013)
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Aug 282013
 
 August 28, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Brandon Myers, New York Giants (August 24, 2013)

Brandon Myers – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at New England Patriots, August 29, 2013: I don’t know about others, but I find it difficult to believe that training camp, the preseason, and summer are almost over and that the regular season is less than two weeks away. But here we are, only 11 days from the opener in Dallas. Are the New York Giants ready? Only time will tell.

The loss of Stevie Brown for the season hurts, but if the Giants can get some of their walking wounded back soon, and no one gets hurt in New England, then the Giants will be in decent shape from an overall health perspective.

But the big “ifs” there are getting the walking wounded back: Victor Cruz, David Baas, Henry Hynoski, Jason Pierre-Paul, Damontre Moore, Corey Webster, Jayron Hosley, and Antrel Rolle; and no new injuries in this last preseason game.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin says the starters will play 12-15 snaps against New England. Let’s see some solid execution on both sides of the football and get out healthy.

There are some tough roster decisions to make. Ideally, the Giants would like to carry more defensive linemen, quarterbacks, tight ends, and maybe even defensive backs than they usually carry. If they are going to do that, they will need to carry fewer players at other positions.

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning will see 12-15 snaps. Then Ryan Nassib should receive his first real opportunity to show us what he has, as he will be the #2 quarterback to enter the game. It’s not the same as playing with the starters, but he won’t be playing with the third- and fourth-team guys who never really gave him a chance in the first and second preseason games. It remains to be seen who Eli’s primary back-up will be: David Carr? Curtis Painter? The long-shot dark horse obviously would be Nassib and the Giants going with only two quarterbacks again.

Running Backs: David Wilson and Andre Brown will see the bulk of the work this season barring injury. Michael Cox has flashed as a kickoff returner and running back. I think they only real question here is do the Giants risk it by going light at this position with only three halfbacks, or do they carry a fourth (someone like Ryan Torain or another veteran not currently with the team).

Wide Receivers: If everyone was healthy, the Giants would be in good shape. But Victor Cruz is still gimpy and Louis Murphy has missed a lot of time with a mysterious leg injury. Anyone who says offseason work between quarterback and receiver doesn’t matter only needs to watch how Manning and Hakeem Nicks have been off all preseason. The Giants need to get Cruz and Murphy back on the field soon, and Nicks needs to get in sync with Manning now.

The real questions here are: (1) is there really anyone worthy of the #5 receiver spot? and (2) do the Giants risk it by only carrying five receivers? Jerrel Jernigan hasn’t taken the bull by the horns. He may win the #5 job by default unless there is a dark horse candidate (Kevin Hardy, Julian Talley). I personally would not carry six. If injuries strike, re-sign Ramses Barden. No one is going to pick him up.

Tight Ends: The early rumblings coming out of the OTAs and early training camp was how well the tight ends were doing. That positive press seems to have faded. Brandon Myers has been invisible in the passing game (hopefully hiding him?) and has not stood out as a blocker. Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell look the part and could have an impact in the future, possibly even this year, but they don’t really seem ready for prime time just yet. Bear Pascoe is versatile and reliable, but he’s just a guy out there. I still think the Giants want to carry four, instead of three as they normally do, because I think they see the promise that Robinson and Donnell offer.

Offensive Line: David Diehl will be inactive for at least the first month of the season so he’s out of the picture. We have no idea when injury-prone David Baas will return. Perhaps the best line in the short-term and perhaps long-term is Will Beatty, James Brewer, Kevin Boothe, Chris Snee, and Justin Pugh. The big question mark here is obviously Brewer. He is big and athletic. I’ve seen him maul people and I’ve seen him effectively block defenders at the second level. But can he handle the complicated stunts and blitz packages teams will throw at him? When someone punches him in the mouth, will he fight back? Will he protect Eli? All of that remains to be seen. There will be growing pains with Pugh and Brewer, but will it cost New York games?

On the other hand, if Baas is out a few more weeks, and if this line miraculously performs well, do the Giants re-insert Baas into the lineup at a later date? What about Diehl?

As for the back-ups, I’m not sure I see much there other than Brandon Mosley. Maybe Stephen Goodin or Eric Herman have a shot, but I’d keep an active eye on on the waiver wire. In short, one more injury and the Giants are in deep dog poo.

Defensive Line: This is the area where I have no idea what the Giants are going to do in terms of the numbers.

You have to think that Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Damontre Moore, Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Shaun Rogers, and Johnathan Hankins are going to make the team. That’s eight. Carrying nine or 10 would be tough, but a case could be made for carrying 11. Yet teams can’t activate 11 defensive linemen on game day. So isn’t that a misallocation of valuable roster spots? At the same time, Marvin Austin is improving and may be finally developing. And a guy like Mike Patterson really has more to offer in the short-term than Johnathan Hankins and possibly Austin. Patterson can play in this league, but can the Giants really carry six defensive tackles? Because Jenkins can play defensive end, possibly. But they would have to part ways with Adrian Tracy, Justin Trattou, Matt Broha, and Adewale Ojomo. How good really is Tracy? Or Trattou? Or Ojomo? Would the Giants be kicking themselves for releasing any of those guys down the road? Or not really? Keep in mind that a decision also has to be made regarding Markus Kuhn in seven weeks (assuming he is placed on the regular-season PUP). Can all of these defensive tackles really play? Perhaps they will need to part ways with Patterson despite the fact he can help them in the early going.

What to do? What to do? This last preseason game is huge for all of the on-the-cusp reserves.

Linebackers: I can’t recall the Giants ever going into the final preseason game with only six linebackers on the roster, but that’s where they are at right now. It would seem the Giants have already made up their mind who will be with the team. Could they go with only five? I don’t think so, especially when you consider linebackers are often core special teams players.

Defensive Backs: Like the defensive line, there are tough roster decisions to make here. With the season-ending injury to Stevie Brown and Will Hill’s 4-game suspension, the decisions are easier at safety. Antrel Rolle, Ryan Mundy, Taylor Cooper, and probably Tyler Sash will make the team. The dark horse possibility is David Caldwell, but Sash’s play on special teams may provide the advantage there. Still, it was telling that when Brown was lost, it was Hill, and not Sash who came into the game.

At corner, the sure-bets would appear to be Prince Amukamara, Corey Webster, Jayron Hosley, Terrell Thomas, and Aaron Ross. But Trumaine McBride has really flashed on defense and special teams. And Charles James seems to have some talent. Could Ross’ spot be in jeopardy? Will another team claim James if he is waived?

Special Teams: I like the kicking game. We know David Wilson is a dangerous kick returner and Michael Cox has flashed in that area. I think the punt returning spot is much more unsettled. Is the job Hosley’s? I think the Giants have a nice mix of headhunters on the coverage teams. This is an area where the Giants may actually out-play opposing teams.

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Aug 272013
 
 August 27, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
David Wilson, New York Giants (August 24, 2013)

David Wilson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Jets 24 – New York Giants 21 (OT)

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Author’s whiny excuse: Before we get started, please note that the NFL Network replay took us from 7:37 left in the half right after Justin Tuck’s INT to 2:00 left in the half with the Giants facing a 3rd and 2 form the Jet 2. That’s one Giant and Jet offensive series and 8 more plays of another Giants drive completely cut out the broadcast. If you notice something I left out that was impactful, please keep in mind it may have happened during this Heidi like interruption and fast forward. The stinking Jets…always the stinking Jets, now on with the show.

Game Overview: The Agony of Da Feet- Ok kids, it’s only pre-season but losing to the Jets always stinks. THE JETS!! I do not expect the Giants to make Rex Ryan happy unless they change the name of MetLife Stadium to Dr. Scholl’s Field and give away dirty insoles to the coach with the whitest teeth. Disturbing foot fetishes aside, Ryan saw his rookie QB Geno Smith toss 3 ugly interceptions and saw Mark “Where’s my Hair Tie” Sanchez get knocked out of the game by…wait for it, former 2nd rounder DT Marvin Austin. Throw in an 84 yard TD run by David Wilson on the game’s first snap and you have all the makings of another Jet excuse-a-thon. Yet somehow the Giants managed to boot away this game despite some highlight reel plays by the beleaguered Giants defenders and a Wilson run that even a Hokie hater on Long Island could appreciate. (No one in particular, just musing about David Wilson).

After Wilson’s electrifying TD run, the defense saw fit to short circuit the effort with 4 straight penalties on the Jets’ second possession leading the way for Geno Smith to toss a relatively uncontested 22 yard TD pass to Ben Obomanu, tying the score at 7. After two Giant punts and one Jet punt sandwiched in between, Prince Amukamara gave the Giants life by snatching the ball out of Ryan Spadola’s presumably Capicola covered hands to give Eli and company the ball at the Jet 44 yard line. The Giants would end up kicking themselves again for a missed opportunity as Eli led his charges to a second ugly 3 and out in a row. One ill-advised outlet pass to David Wilson for a loss of 4 and floated a ball out of Hakeem Nicks cut short any chance to capitalize on Amukamara’s turnover. Stevie Brown felt the agony of da feet, as his left foot got caught awkwardly in the MetLife turf, resulting in a torn ACL and lost season for the ball hawking safety from Michigan. I won’t harp on the curse of the Jets preseason game, but can someone find a witch doctor, shaman, monk, wizard, priest, rabbi or anyone who has ridden in the Mystery Machine to find and end this thing once and for all? Personally I take it as a sign that the Jets should be disbanded and sold for parts (dibs on Rex’s teeth, I need to replace some fence posts).

Granted the dog a** Jets won the game but not without using their #1 offense until the 4th quarter and using incumbent starter Mark Sanchez to mop up against guys who will be mopping somewhere in the not too distant future. No play summed up the Jets desperate need to feel good than “Solider” TE Kellen Winslow, (who doesn’t deserve to be called junior out of respect for his supremely more accomplished father), woofing up the Giants sideline after making one catch against backups in the 3rd quarter of a pre-season game. It’s war out there though, right Kellen? You’re a perfect Jet, big name, big mouth, and little production.

I think Carl Banks summed up the Jets’ chances the best when talking about Mark Sanchez “You go from a butt fumble to a shotgun snap that you just drop”. Butt fumble, we will always love you.

Quarterbacks: I hope Olivia said there’d be says like this, because Eli had one. Hitting only 8 of 20 passes for 83 yards and just looking off the whole night, the two time Super Bowl MVP had a forgettable night. Despite three first half interceptions from his defense and an 84 yard jaunt by his 2nd year HB, the Manning led Giants offense was only able to muster 10 first half points despite a first and goal at the 4 and 3 gift interceptions that gave his offense good field position against a shaky Jets defense that jettisoned its best player in lieu of paying him. Ten years in the league and 2 rings gives a guy a pass during the preseason, but this was ugly Eli at his ugly worst.

With his helmet on, backup hopeful QB Curtis Painter reminds me of the wide eyed Tobias Beecher, thankfully he doesn’t play like him. (NTTAWT!) Painter missed his first attempt to Jerrel Jernigan (which instantly had me hoping that Adibisi would slap him in the huddle) but actually played fairly well in his first extended action despite running for his life behind a backup preseason OL. Look, I know Seal Team Six faced mortal danger in killing Osama Bin Laden, but let’s see them line up behind a 3rd string OL in mop up duty in a pre-season game and see how tough they are. Despite 7 straight missed passes Painter finished a respectable 13 for 29 for 140 yards in just over a half. It’s probably not enough to unseat David Carr, but Painter was a gamer.

Running Backs: Emerging HB David Wilson had a Barry Sanders like game, with 92 yards on 5 totes with one electrifying 84 yard TD run that was the pinnacle of the Giants evening. So that’s 4 carries for 8 yards on his other efforts, but this type of hit and miss running will show up until Wilson matures on the field a bit more and is able to set his blocks and be more efficient play to play. In the meantime, having a back that can score from anywhere on the field should keep some safeties honest and open up the middle for Victor Cruz once he’s back and healthy.

Ryan Torain may not make the squad but it won’t be for lack of effort against the Jets. The former Bronco and Redskin ran punishingly every time he got the rock. I realize 33 yards on 7 totes isn’t Jim Brown territory but Torain was downright Dorsey Levens vs. the Eagles tough out there. Andre Brown essentially took batting practice in the 2nd quarter, running 7 boring times for 17 boring yards – expect more when the bullets are live.

Wide Receivers: Minus Victor Cruz, the Giants again struggled mightily through the air. Oft dinged WR Hakeem Nicks again looked off with his QB, collecting only one catch for 34 yards and generally looking out of sync. Roster hopeful Julian Talley pulled in 3 balls for 37 yards and looked decent doing so. Certainly a long shot, Talley showed good burst off the line and good body control in his routes. Not the biggest or fastest guy out there, Talley looked like a poor man’s Ike Hilliard to me. It may be his next to last game in blue but Talley turned in a solid 2nd half. Leading the way for the Giants offense is another training room regular, Jerrel Jernigan. The 5-8 former Troy product turned in a 5 catch 66 yard performance and even drew a double team over the middle on a couple of occasions. Jernigan though, short armed a pass in the red zone (read: gator arms) which to me is inexcusable at any level, especially for a guy looking to make a name with Victor Cruz sidelined. Jernigan has the quickness and appears to have the hands, but something is missing that may never surface with the talented but underperforming WR. Jernigan doesn’t seem to trust himself or want the ball badly enough at times.

Tight Ends: Brandon Myers may have caught 79 passes in Oakland last year, but his job will be to block at times, something he just does not seem to relish. On a counter play midway through the 2nd quarter, Myers was blocking the backside and instead of walling off the play, he meekly tossed a shoulder while turning sideways. That halfhearted shoulder lunge is the mark of a man who does not relish contact and does not want to be a good blocker badly enough. I’m not Myers, it’s hard to question the toughness of an NFL caliber player for a guy who sits at a desk but compared to his peers, Myers is not willing and looks very hesitant to get dirty blocking. Adrien Robinson again had his ups and downs run blocking, looking a little unsure of who to block and when in his time out there. It should come as no surprise the coaches are harping on backup TE Larry Donnell, who has the size to be the blocking TE this team will sorely need.

Offensive Line: The OL shuffle is underway and hopefully not done yet. Center Jim Cordle took over for the again injured David Baas and the returns were awful. Cordle was shoved back like a big sack of flour by DL Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison over and over and his footwork getting to the second level against the Jets big 3-4 was just not very good. Harrison led the Jets in tackles from the NT spot, not a good sign for a center hoping to win a job.

Justin Pugh continued his solid play, despite a false start to start the 2nd half which I still dispute (T-Rex can do no wrong to me). Pugh did have a shaky play as journeyman LB Antwan Barnes got inside of Pugh on a 3rd down, but the T-Rex was able to hang on long enough to keep Barnes at bay until OL Selvish Capers was kind enough to let him off the hook with an ole’ of his own that saw Painter get planted by former Giant DT Leger Douzable. The backups overall struggled as a unit, but Brandon Mosley and Stephen Goodin both appeared to be more settled than they were a week ago. Not great by any stretch, but watching all 3 games so closely it is apparent that some of these guys are really working and improving week to week.

Defensive Line: Perhaps aware that Rex would be watching below the knee closely, happy feet infected the Giants DL early in the game, with DTs Cullen Jenkins and Linval Joseph tiptoeing across the line early on back to back plays on the Jets’ first scoring drive. DE Mathias Kiwanuka is playing the best football of his career this preseason. Kiwi showed the ability to stack and shed on the Jets’ first TD drive, ignoring the down block of LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, avoiding a pathetic crack back by WR Jeremy Kerley and maintaining gap integrity to pull down RB Chris Ivory for a 3 yard gain. Interestingly enough, the play was from the Pistol formation and Kiwi did not jump inside and follow Ferguson, but instead flattened out, read the QB and made the play once he saw QB Geno Smith did not have the football. The Giants DEs have eaten up the dive fakes out of the Pistol and cost the defense dearly by abandoning their gaps but that appears to be on the way to being cured, or at least was against Geno and Jets. For good measure Kiwi also flew down on a first quarter punt, forcing the Jet returner out after he’d turned the corner and appeared headed for a solid gain.

Is it a coincidence that Shallow Hal was on TV at the same time the Giants were facing the Jets? New Tony Robbins acolyte Justin Tuck must have seen Jets’ QBs as Tom Brady and envisioned that it was the Super Bowl, because #91 was…dare I say…back? Tuck showed up early, closing down a run to his side with near perfect technique, keeping his outside arm free and forcing RB Chris Ivory inside where he was dropped for a 3 yard loss. Tuck’s ability to stay low, keep his shoulders square to the LOS and string plays out is what made him a premier run defender in 2010 and 2011. That play disappeared for the most part with Tuck’s litany of injuries, but if Saturday was any indication the former Golden Domer may have a comeback year under his belt. Also of note with Tuck, he seems to be doing more hand fighting with OTs play to play, a sure sign his shoulder is up to par and he’s no longer limited physically.

DT Mike Patterson again flashed inside with 3 stops and no ground given against the run. Patterson is another defender who seems to be picking it up week by week. Patterson had great inside push near the goal line and almost tossed his man right into Geno Smith’s lap.

DE Adrian Tracy has yet to make a peep and it appeared he was responsible for Ben Obomanu on the Jets first half TD. Granted that’s a precarious spot for a DE but the Giants appeared to be in man coverage with Tracy trailing the backside WR who happened to find an opening for a relatively easy score. Put that one on Perry Fewell more than Tracy. That said Tracy sure does look like Li’l Osi out there, dodging blockers and avoiding plays like he was allergic to them. Backup DE Matt Broha took an inexcusable angle near the goal line to allow an easy Jet TD in the 3rd quarter but again, it was Jet 1s vs Giants 2s and 3s so don’t be overly concerned. Marvin Austin notched an actual sack and knocked Mark Sanchez out of the game, perhaps the light is finally coming on for the heralded UNC product. One more chance to make the roster against the Pats on Thursday, expect #96 to come out guns blazing to save his NFL career.

Linebackers: Spencer Paysinger, I apologize. I called for the hook after two so so games in which the 3rd year pro made tackles, but very little impact. Paysinger played with a lot more verve in game #3, stepping up into the hole to stuff Jet runs on 2 plays of the Jets’ first scoring drive and playing solidly down field in coverage on multiple occasions. Losing Michael Boley left a big hole for someone to fill and it appears that Paysinger is taking on the challenge to fend off talented backup Jacquian Williams. Keith Rivers had his most active day as well, notching 4 stops and similar to Paysinger, looking far more aggressive than he had in the previous two weeks. Dan Connor didn’t check in to the stat sheet, but was again consistently around the ball, which may not be enough to keep the job for long. Clearly my scorn inspires players as deposed starting MLB Mark Herzlich played an outstanding game, piling up 8 tackles and a sort of sack as Geno Smith tapped his feet out bounds for a Giants safety.

It was late in the 3rd quarter that LB Jacquian Williams finally gave the G-men a Spider moment, not backing down from WR Stephen Hill who was crying about being tackled too hard. Atta boy Jacquian, you don’t take no s#*t off nobody, good for you!

Backup LB Kyle Bosworth had an impact, notching 7 total stops and a few QB hits. I must admit, I held the movie “Stone Cold” with his uncle Brian against Kyle, but I am now willing to forego that 90 minute mistake and judge Kyle on his play only. Honestly, Bosworth may have made the roster with his play against the Jets, he was everything Aaron Curry never was, quick, physical, hungry and aggressive.

Defensive Backs: Aaron Ross may be happy to be back but he’s got a weird way of showing it, by picking up his second hands to the face penalty in as many weeks. Granted last week it was a facemask, but who am I to split hairs, especially when I make Larry David look hirsute? Ross is playing aggressively but he’s got to clean up the penalties or he’ll be encroaching on Frank Walker territory. Prince Amukamara gave up a quick out on 3rd down to Jeremy Kerley that ultimately led to a Jet scoring drive, but #20 quickly made up for it by ripping the ball out of WR Ryan Spadola’s hands over the middle two drives later and forcing Smith into his first of 3 interceptions on the night.

Slowly but surely new Giant Ryan Mundy is starting to show up. Tallying 3 stops, Mundy was active in the box and generally in good position down field. Losing Brown is a blow for sure, you can’t replace 8 interceptions easily, but Mundy may be another diamond in the rough DB find for this ever vigilant personnel department. How they keep unearthing gems from other teams is beyond me, but they clearly have the formula for filling in the roster.

The return of CB Terrell Thomas from two straight ACL surgeries was an encouraging sign, but watching him pull up and avoid contact on a screen play early in the 2nd quarter was not. At first Thomas seemed to be avoiding contact on the play, but as the game wore on Thomas got more and more comfortable around the football. T2’s progression unfolded as the game did, tentative at first and then more aggressive as the game wore on, it was a great sign from where I sit. Thomas has battled back physically to make it this far back and his only remaining hurdle was mental, which after initially playing it safe, was definitely cleared by halftime with Thomas accounting for 3 stops and showing up time and again near the play. Let’s hope his body holds up, it would be a huge boost to this team to have a player of Thomas’ talent in the secondary especially with the unfortunate loss of Stevie Brown.

Special Teams: Rookie RB Michael Cox may have the Danny Kanell, “IT” minus the penchant for trolling for his teammates significant others (hopefully). Cox doesn’t have blazing speed but averaged an impressive 26 yards per return, looking quick to the hole and aggressive running the ball back. He may not have Wilson’s home run ability but Cox may have won himself the full time job with his pre-season play thus far. Thank God or Jehovah or Buddah, whoever designed the universe for the feet of Josh Brown, which have single-footedly kept the Giants in all 3 games this pre-season. Brown missed a 53 yarder but hit on a 50 yarder and was 4 for 5, by far the most efficient Giant of the evening. Former Jet, P Steve Weatherford used his feet to drop 5 of 9 punts inside the 20 yard line and hopefully showed former Jet Special Team’s coach and whiner Mike Westhoff who deserves to still be in NY.

(Boxscore – New York Jets at New York Giants, August 24, 2013)
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Aug 232013
 
 August 23, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Eli Manning and Mark Sanchez (August 18, 2011)

Manning and Sanchez – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – New York Jets at New York Giants, August 24, 2013: I always tell fans not to get too excited or too depressed over preseason performances. That said, there are some troubling signs for the Giants as they are about to play the most serious dress rehearsal for the regular season. It’s hard to believe, but the regular-season opener is just over two weeks away.

My worries:

  • Until proven otherwise, the offense remains the strength of this team. However, new and old injuries have kept the critical component parts from getting much practice time together.
  • Whether it has to do with the missing components, Eli Manning has not looked terribly sharp this preseason. We need more 2011 out of him, not 2012. The Giants also do not appear to be in good shape in the short-term behind Eli if he were to miss a game or two.
  • Victor Cruz is out and it remains to be seen how soon he will return, and once he returns, if his heel injury will nag him and affect his performance. Hakeem Nicks hasn’t looked like the old Hakeem yet. Rueben Randle – who I do like – gets more positive press for someone who has done very little in the first two preseason games. Now Louis Murphy is out with some mysterious leg ailment. Jerrel Jernigan has been nagged all spring/summer with a hamstring injury and has yet to show he’s an NFL-caliber wide receiver. This position is looking shakier than anticipated.
  • The offensive line. How can anyone not be concerned at this point? The left side seems in good shape with Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe. But David Baas seems to be always hurt and who knows when he will return from his MCL injury, and when he does, how effective he will be? In his place is the unproven Jim Cordle who, on the surface, seems strictly a back-up type who could be a liability. Chris Snee missed most of the summer recovering from hip surgery (glad that Pro Bowl appearance was so important Chris) and he still has not rounded into form. As someone who respects what David Diehl has done for this team, I have to admit that Justin Pugh’s promotion is probably the best thing for the team right now although there is sure to be growing pains with the rookie (I hope Giants fans recognize this fact). So the Giants will have two inexperienced players starting until Baas comes back and that is bound to affect the overall offense. More troubling is the now paper-thin depth. James Brewer still may come on, but it appears right now he hasn’t developed as hoped. Brandon Mosley has flashed and may have an NFL future, but he’s basically a rookie too. The rest look like garbage right now. Once again, the offensive line seems to be a weakness.
  • Short-yardage offense. This remains a problem. It shows up not only on second- and third-and-short, but also inside the red zone. The inability to run the football in tight quarters is killing this offense in terms of keeping drives alive as well as touchdowns instead of field goals.
  • Defense. The run defense was much, much better against the Colts, but in the first two games, the first-team defense has had trouble stopping the run (first game) and pass (second game).
  • Up front, Justin Tuck still has to show he can be Justin Tuck of 2010. When will Jason Pierre-Paul be back? And when he does come back, how rusty will he be? I assume the Giants will have to start him off as a situational pass rusher until he gets used to the contact and gets into football shape. How badly will the back surgery and long layoff affect his performance?
  • Linebacker. Are there any play-makers in this group? Dan Connor seems to have won the middle linebacker position and seems adequate. Are Keith Rivers and Spencer Paysinger NFL-caliber linebackers who can help stop varied and difficult-to-defend offenses, especially in Washington, Dallas, and Philadelphia? They have to be physical and smart. And they need to make plays.
  • Defensive Backs. The safety position seems more settled, especially when Antrel Rolle returns. But once again, Corey Webster is battling injuries (knee/groin) that have caused him to miss valuable practice time and could impact his performance. His body seems to be breaking down. Behind him are Jayron Hosley, Aaron Ross, and Terrell Thomas. Hosley and Ross were shaky against the Colts. We still don’t know if Thomas can still play this game. The cornerback position is far shakier than some want to admit.
  • Coaching Staff. There are no doubt talent issues affecting on-field performance, but Perry Fewell has to find a way to get this defense to the middle-of-the-pack. When the game is on the line, can the defense be counted on? Can they get the ball back for the offense in good scoring position? On the other side of the ball, Kevin Gilbride has to come up with be options inside the red zone.

I’m not feeling very warm and fuzzy about this team right now (which is probably a good thing, because when I don’t, they seem to do well). Some of the aging veterans who are on their last go-around with this team still need to prove they got one more good year left in them (Webster, Tuck, Snee, Shaun Rogers). We also have to see how injuries will impact guys like Cruz, Nicks, JPP, Webster, Baas, and Henry Hynoski. Talent/depth at linebacker and the offensive line remain HUGE question marks that General Manager Jerry Reese may not have addressed to a sufficient extent. Lastly, Manning has to prove that 2011 wasn’t the high-point of his career.

Outsiders and critics are going to say the Giants’ window is closing or has closed. It’s up to the front office, coaches, and players to prove otherwise.

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Aug 212013
 
 August 21, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Andre Brown, New York Giants (August 18, 2013)

Andre Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Indianapolis Colts 20 – New York Giants 12

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Overview: Fingertips – Look no further than the opening kickoff if you’re searching for a one word summary of a mistake-filled and forgettable evening at MetLife Stadium. Fingertips. Colts rookie kicker Brandon McManus lobbed the opening boot off the crossbar in the Giants’ end zone, just out of reach and over the fingertips of rookie returner Michael Cox. It wouldn’t be the first time the Colts were just out of reach of their maddeningly mistake prone opponents.

Andrew Luck looked every bit the #1 overall pick of a year ago, completing 9 of 13 passes for 107 yards and 2 TDs, leading his Colts to scores on three straight possessions while the new look 3-4 defense minus pass rushing great Dwight Freeney, hassled Giant quarterbacks with 6 sacks. Reliable veteran WR Reggie Wayne proved that his fingertips were just fine with an impressive one-handed grab late in the first quarter and a failed Aaron Ross interception (that glanced off his fingertips) turned into six as Wayne followed the bouncing ball right into the end zone.

Chuck Pagano’s team, embarrassed on the road at Buffalo a week ago, rebounded by holding the potentially lethal Giants offense to zero touchdowns and a paltry 3.9 yards per play. More often than not on this night, the Colts were simply too much up front for the Giants aging and injury- riddled offensive line.

Apparently the Giants coaching staff finally watched the same tape we did, moving David Diehl to guard after his worst effort as a pro and inserting rookie RT Justin Pugh to the starting lineup only a week removed from a concussion that kept him out for nearly 1/3 of camp. David Baas’ MCL injury will precipitate some movement up front, but make no mistake, this was a demotion and a full-time changing of the guard at RT and the end of an era. Our little T-Rex is here to stay, let’s hope his puny little arms are up to the task of keeping up with an offense that has all the potential to be one of the NFL’s most dangerous this season.

Short Dino-Arms aside, injuries may have been the story of the night as WR Victor Cruz suffered a phantom heel injury that has his status in doubt for the season opener in Dallas. Ditto for C David Baas, who completed a litany of offseason surgeries only to have his left leg rolled up on and put his immediate future in doubt.

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning’s numbers were fair, 8 of 17 for 91 yards, but he had an ugly interception late in the first quarter on a 3rd and 1 that looked to be everyone’s fault. Manning’s pass was clearly intended for Hakeem Nicks on an inside release, the trouble is that new TE Brandon Myers was more like Michael Myers, showing up right where and when you don’t want him to with disastrous results. OK, perhaps a pre-season INT isn’t disaster but it’s never too early to predict doom and get the “Fire Gilbride” crowd riled up and in mid-season form. I like starting the overwrought over-analysis right away and be in mid-season form by the opening kick in Dallas. Chances are a new TE, a WR who skipped OTA’s and has missed significant practice time and a QB who hasn’t had time to work with them are to blame here. Eli did have a near touchdown flat out dropped by rookie WR Kevin Hardy, but a little more consistency out of this group isn’t too much to expect at this stage.

David Carr played the way David Carr plays in the preseason, meh. His numbers weren’t atrocious, he managed to hit on 7 of 11 passes for 57 yards, nothing to complain about and nothing to get excited about. Rookie QB Ryan Nassib is almost impossible to evaluate playing behind the team of Matadors that the Giants trot out in garbage time. Nassib managed 48 yards on 2 for 6 passing, both screens to Michael Cox, but again Nassib had no protection at all due to some of the worst backup OL I’ve seen this team trot out in years. If the names McCants and Capers show up on the final 53, be afraid, be very afraid.

Running Backs: Probable starting HB David Wilson showed off the burst that has Giants fans eagerly awaiting a full season of the fastest running back this franchise has seen (Herschel Walker doesn’t count, he was fading and old in his time here and don’t even breathe the words LeShon Johnson). Wilson managed only 34 yards on 8 carries but his 21 yard burst on the second play from scrimmage provided a glimpse of the explosion he provides on a simple counter play. Wilson added a nifty 16 yard reception on the Giants 15 play scoring drive in the 2nd quarter, breaking two tackles and scrambling for extra yards after contact.

Not to be outdone, HB Andre Brown had a tough 36 yards on 8 runs, continuing to show his power finishing runs and the short area quickness that fits this offense well. Rookie Michael Cox had an impressive 36 yard kickoff return in the 2nd quarter and hauled in 48 yards on 2 catches.

Wide Receivers: WR Victor Cruz pulled up lame in the end zone, causing salsa lovers everywhere to suffer a little heartburn until the X-rays came back negative. Prior to that Cruz drew a long pass interference penalty that set up an early red zone chance (yeah I said red not green, Coughlin’s not the boss of me!), proving again how dangerous he is even when he’s not catching the ball. Finally, the Nicks has come back to MetLife! Sort of. At times frustrating this offseason, WR Hakeem Nicks looked OK in his return from injury #274 to his lower body. Nicks pulled in 2 passes for 40 yards but looked tentative to me out there. The suddenness that makes Nicks so dangerous in his routes did not show up, but an off season of rust and not much time practicing may be more to blame but it’s something to keep our eyes on. Nicks was noticeably slower and more deliberate on both of his catches, color me slightly worried. Technically I have to mention Ramses Barden who had 4 catches but more head scratching plays again. On two of his grabs he was inches short of a first down and did nothing to reach for it either time. Carr threw a back shoulder fade to the 6-6 Barden who continued running out of bounds (NFL Rule Alert: Catching ball out of bounds is frowned upon) and made almost no effort.

Reuben Randle chipped in with 2 catches for 17 yards and new Giant Louis Murphy pulled in 3 balls for 20 yards on top of an ill-fated end around that gained a whopping six feet.

Tight Ends: TE Adrien Robinson may turn into a threat at TE in time, but his mistake loomed large on the Giants offensive performance on their opening drive. With a long 4th and 1 from the Colt 7 yard line, Robinson lined up left of LT Will Beatty with TE Brandon Myers to his left in a Jumbo set. At the snap, Robinson incorrectly tried to block down on DE Corey Redding who was already washed out by Beatty, which left a huge gap for LB Kelvin Sheppard to fire through and force RB Andre Brown wider than he wanted to go. Robinson should have reached the second level to seal off the backside LB but instead stepped inside, looked lost and did nothing on the play. For everyone upset at the play call, it was a good call with a good grouping matchup that the Giants just lost because Robinson completely missed his assignment and allowed penetration into the backfield. Just for a capper, Robinson threw in a false start late in the 3rd quarter to help snuff out another drive.

Offensive Line: Before we get to the ugly, let’s start with the good, it works at parties when you want to pick up a woman and it works when analyzing offensive line play. You work your way down and it feels less painful as the rejection seeps in. (For the record I am married and have no recollection of said events in my past). OT William Beatty doesn’t get the credit he deserves but his block on DE Cory Redding that sprung Wilson’s run was one of beauty. With Brandon Myers lined up to his left, Beatty was blocking the play side hole on the counter and waited for Redding to pick a side. Once Redding tried going right, Beatty sealed him off that way, creating a running lane for the darting Wilson to jet right through. Moving a big bodied DT playing end in a 3-4 isn’t easy but Beatty used Redding’s aggressiveness against him to position himself perfectly for the block and the biggest ground gain of the evening. It is one small move in one small play in a pre-season game, but it shows Beatty’s smarts and his familiarity with Wilson’s running style is improving. That’s a big plus for this running game getting back to where it needs to be. Beatty absolutely collapsed the right side of the Colts DE on the long pass interference penalty on the opening drive, but the ugly was that his man fell into LG Kevin Boothe’s man who rolled up on Baas’ left leg and put his early season in jeopardy. For good measure Beatty mushed CB Greg Toler after his 1st quarter interception.

RT David Diehl started poorly and continued that way all night. On a 2nd and one on the Giants 2nd possession he was tossed backwards by DL Ricky Jean Francois and a solid 2nd and 1 run turned into miserable failure faster than you can say T-Rex. Diehl got tossed aside by rookie DE Bjoern Werner on another red zone play that short circuited a drive. You all watched this game, I won’t beat a dead horse but Diehl is certainly ready for the glue factory at this point. I could almost hear him whispering “Oil Cann..oooiiill cannnn” as player after Colt player used him like a turnstile at a Justin Bieber concert. (They couldn’t rush past excitedly giggling fast enough). You’re a good man David Diehl, I have respected your toughness and team first attitude for years but, your best days at tackle are long gone. As of this writing, Diehl is now the LG and Boothe moves to center, I would look to whoever is behind Diehl at LG to have a shot to unseat him if he doesn’t acquit himself in a less athletically demanding spot.

Unproven backup center Jim Cordle did a fair job in Baas’ absence, but his inability to even hold his ground on a 2nd and 7 from the Colts 9 killed any chance David Wilson had of scoring or converting. Again the play was blocked well across the board but it was one badly missed assignment that wasted the effort of everyone else on the play. Overall Cordle did well enough given his limited work with the starters but LG Kevin Boothe may be the better long term option should Baas be out for an extended period. (Update: After writing Boothe has been moved to center for now). Fellow backup Matt McCants was putrid at LG, I see no way he makes this team honestly. If an offensive line is a construction site, left guard is the guy who holds the Stop and Slow sign as traffic passes. If you can’t do that, you probably need to find a new job and McCants has gone from LT to RT now to LG and he was awful.

First round pick Justin Pugh debuted at LT and negated his man on nearly every play. Just from this one outing you can see why teams would question his stubby arms and size, he doesn’t look the part. Watch him play though and you may not see elbows but you won’t see the man he’s assigned to making a peep, he simply swallows up whoever lines up across from him. (Several nicknames occurred to me, the Pelican, Hungry Hungry HipPugh, and the Anti-Diehl – they all stink). Technically Pugh gave up a sack on a 3rd and 7 late in the 3rd quarter but once again Adrien Robinson did nothing lined up at H-Back and David Carr was running away from a missed Brandon Mosley block.

Defensive Line: A second straight of week of solid DL play should be a sign of things to come. Starting at LDE, Mathias Kiwanuka blew up the first play from scrimmage and toyed with LT Anthony Castonzo on 3rd down, ruining any chance the Colts had of running the ball on their first drive. Kiwi looks bigger and more comfortable than he’s been in his time here and it’s only been two weeks, but don’t be shocked if #94 has a big year on this defense with the injuries to JPP and Justin Tuck at defensive end. New DL toy Cullen Jenkins continued his solid play, proving tough to move at either DT or DE against the run. DE Justin Tuck, who ended up hurt again, looked just OK to me. Similar to Nicks, Tuck looked a bit unsure of his footing out there which is a sign of a guy not quite healthy or not yet trusting his body after a series of injuries. Tuck did swat away a 3rd down pass and had a few pressures but he’s not quite there yet but seemed to be rounding into form.

The other ex-Eagle DT, Mike Patterson made his impact felt near the end of the first half, knifing into the backfield to force a poor throw which led to a Jayron Hosley interception and snuffed out a 4th potential scoring drive for the Colts in the first half. DT Linval Joseph was solid up front as was DT Shaun Rogers and there was even a Marvin Austin sighting! No I’m not watching Outside the Lines re-runs, he really made a play the box score even says so!

austin

Rookie DT Johnathan Hankins started the second half with a bang, holding the point on a run for nearly no gain on the Colts’ first possession and did a solid job overall but was pushed aside on two plays I saw simply because he got too high off the snap. Hankins has impressed me though, despite his mistakes his physical play shows up and he is a high effort guy who should be a key DL contributor as the Giants seek to re-establish the line of scrimmage. DE Adewale Ojomo did his best Charles Jefferson impression, clearly someone trashed Ojomo’s Trans Am before the game. On the Colts’ penultimate drive, they ran 4 actual plays (one was a punt, one a penalty) and Ojomo made the stop on every single one, finishing with a team high 5 tackles. I don’t know what he does during the first 3 quarters, but Ojomo sure does bring it in mop up pre-season time.

Linebackers: Toot Toot! After week one, many of us on BBI thought MLB Dan Dan the Drywall Man Connor should be given the nod after an iffy outing by Mark Herzlich and indeed he got the start. Connor only notched 3 tackles, but was much more active and aggressive than his predecessor. Connor’s instincts and quickness should upgrade the Mike position over the departed Chase Blackburn as he learns this defense. Connor should be one of your early sleepers for most surprising newcomer, (assuming you all keep a ballot like I do for funsies) he should do well in a 4-3 with so much size in front of him to keep him clean. If Marty Funkhouser is reading this, please move Jacquian Williams ahead of Paysinger sooner rather than later. Paysinger is fine cleaning up the garbage, but he simply waits too long for plays to develop and ends up hanging on for tackles downfield rather than attacking at all. Certainly his job isn’t to abandon his zone immediately but 52 looks like he needs some more aggression on running downs. Jacquian Williams simply shows up when you watch the game, notching two tackles and holding the POA of a handful of runs when he was down in the box. Third starter Keith Rivers wears #55 and appears to be rather fit. (Author’s Note: I refuse to over analyze the play of any more former top ten picks who do nothing to stand out – I’m talking to you David Carr, Aaron Curry and Keith Rivers- so I will merely give them the effort they gave the Giants on the field).

LB Aaron Curry plays for the Giants now, though I saw no evidence of that outside of giving up an outside run to…Matt Hasselbeck. Yeah, apparently that hot nutty chick from “The View”, her husband plays football, who knew? Anyway, that chick’s husband ran right past Curry as he bit on a dive fake, a recurring issue for this Fewell led run defense that we will not discuss here…yet.

Defensive Backs: CBs Jayron Hosley and Aaron Ross are neck and neck for most plays just missed thus far. Ross coughed up an interception falling backward that turned into a Reggie Wayne TD, and for good measure yanked Wayne’s facemask (with his fingertips) for a free 15 yards later on. Hosley broke well on a ball just over his…fingertips that T.Y. Hilton snagged for 18 yards and four plays later got turned around briefly as Luck’s pass just went over his…fingertips for a Hilton TD that put the Colts up 17-3. That’s 4 plays, about 7 fingertips, two TDs, one 15 yard penalty, an 18 yard gain and countless Giant fans with shaking heads (that’s SMH for you Twitterheads). Hosley did snatch up an INT late in the first half and did a solid job as a gunner on punt coverage.

Thankfully CB Prince Amukamara is no longer homesick about leaving Zamunda and is, in my opinion, on the verge of being a top 5 CB in this league. I said as much over the summer after his play late last season, and his play so far has backed that up. Always a physical guy, Amukamara had to overcome some rookie jitters and nagging injuries but #20 is finally playing as he did as a standout at Nebraska – with a fierce competitiveness for every ball and every tackle.

Special Teams: K Josh Brown went 4 for 4 with a long of 47 yards. Expect few nervous moments from Brown, he’s as dependable a kicker as there is in the league and still has plenty of power in his getaway sticks. Aside from RB Michael Cox bringing a kickoff out 36 yards, the return game was nothing to write home about, but with this many rookies around a mistake free night is a win on special teams. P Steve Weatherford was boringly efficient, which is a good thing, averaging 43.8 yards on 6 boots. Dear Michael Cox…BREAK DOWN on punt and kickoff coverage, or you’ll keep flying past the returner. Oh and my wife and niece think you’re totally cute so don’t get cut (they aren’t over losing DJ Ware yet).

Author’s Corny Addendum: Given my personal events of this summer, I have to comment on the Chuck Pagano story that was highlighted during this telecast. I lost my father in law to a 5 year battle with cancer and it was the hardest few weeks of my life watching someone I love succumb to that disease. That said, seeing how Pagano fought back and never once complained, all the while staying there for his team when he could was truly an inspiration. Cancers sucks, but in my experience with it over the past few years, it unveils fight and mettle in people you never knew existed. It is a scourge that we may never solve, but it won’t ever solve the unyielding human spirit to fight.

(Boxscore – Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants, August 18, 2013)
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Aug 162013
 
 August 16, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Johnathan Hankins (74), Marvin Austin (96), New York Giants (August 10, 2013)

Johnathan Hankins and Marvin Austin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants, August 18, 2013: OK, things get more serious this week. Training camp is almost over. There are very few practices left before the start of the regular season. The starters usually play the entire first half of the second preseason game. This (expletive deleted) is about to get real.

With the limited number of practices and the reduced amount of contact within those practices under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the preseason games are now more important than ever before. The games are the only time you can really go full contact and practice fundamentals like hitting and tackling at full speed. It’s the only time you can really practice special teams at full speed, and the only time you really can practice goal-line and short-yardage offense and defense.

The second and third preseason games are always the most important. Coach Coughlin and his staff are looking for sharp play on offense, defense, and special teams.

Quarterbacks: As important as it is to make sure Eli Manning comes out of this game healthy, he needs real-game practice in order to get ready for the season. Where the Giants need to show improvement – both passing and running – is in the green zone. Last week, the Giants had first-and-goal from the 5-yard line and settled for a field goal. That was too reminiscent of last season. Brandon Myers and Victor Cruz should give most teams fits in this area, especially with Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle on the outside.

We learned this week that Curtis Painter actually has a chance to unseat David Carr. So obviously, this is a big game for one of these two. (My guess is one of these two will play this week and the other next week). Ryan Nassib will likely clean up, but 2013 is really going to be a redshirt year for him.

Running Backs: David Wilson wasn’t terribly productive last week so hopefully we see more from him against the Colts. Again, a critical aspect to watch will be his pass protection. Aside from the embarrassing fumble last week, Andre Brown ran tough.

The battle for the #3 job continues. Da’Rel Scott received most of the chances last week, but Michael Cox did more with his chances. We should see Ryan Torain, who missed the last game with a concussion, for the first time.

Wide Receivers: We should see Hakeem Nicks for the first time this preseason. It will be interesting to see how sharp he is. Rueben Randle was an early target for Eli against the Steelers, but they could only connect on one-of-three chances. Look for more plays to get these two in sync.

I’m hoping they get more work for Louis Murphy, who is the clear-cut #4 receiver.

Contrary to the team’s usual practice, I’m thinking the Giants may only carry five receivers this year in order to carry an extra tight end. We’ll see. The leading candidate for the #5 spot is Jerrel Jernigan, but missing practice this week with “soreness” didn’t help. “I thought he was excellent (against the Steelers),” said Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride. “I thought he did a lot of good things, if the quarterback had a few more counts. He ran a hook and up that he was wide open. He ran a corner route where he was wide open. Just couldn’t get him the ball. Biggest thing is he’s got to stay healthy. Sure enough, he’s got to stay out there, do it on a consistent basis. I think he’s always shown glimpses, he’s always shown flashes. As a coach, that’s what’s frustrating because you see it there and you want to get it out on a play-in play-out, day-in day-out basis. I thought he played really well Saturday night, so hopefully that will continue.”

Tight Ends: This week, during interviews, Coach Coughlin and General Manager Jerry Reese kept mentioning not only Brandon Myers, but the two “young, big tight ends” – clearly meaning Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell. It’s sounding more and more like the Giants will keep these three players plus Bear Pascoe. With Henry Hynoski possibly starting the season on the PUP, carrying four might be easier than it usually is. I’m hoping to see more out of Robinson and Donnell in the passing game this week.

Offensive Line: It will be interesting to see if Chris Snee (hip) plays. If he does, the starting OL will be on the field together for the first time in a game this season. The left side of the line – Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe – doesn’t concern me. But Baas and Snee are coming off of offseason surgeries, and David Diehl still has to prove that father time hasn’t diminished his skills to the point where he is a liability. The Giants need Baas and Snee to live up to their contracts.

We should see Justin Pugh this week for the first time, and maybe James Brewer. Both are coming off of concussions. But Chris DeGeare (ankle) won’t play. Brandon Mosley has been a pleasant surprise this camp, rapidly coming on. It appears that Pugh, Brewer, and Mosley will be the chief reserves. Who else will make the team? Is there room for a ninth offensive lineman?

Defensive Line: Justin Tuck should play this week. So we should see Cullen Jenkins back at defensive tackle with Linval Joseph. It will be interesting to see how well the supposedly reinvigorated Tuck plays. Mathias Kiwanuka wasn’t terrible impressive against the Steelers, and neither was Linval Joseph.

Will Damontre Moore (shoulder) play? Adrian Tracy seems to be the coaches’ favorite for the final defensive end spot, but it will be interesting to see if Justin Trattou or Adewale Ojomo continue to make that decision more difficult.

Inside, Johnathan Hankins is a sure bet to make the team. Shaun Rogers has been playing with the second-team, and sometimes the first-team. The coaches have said they have seen progress from Marvin Austin, but want to see more.

Linebackers: This unit wasn’t very impressive last week in Pittsburgh. Perhaps too much is being expected from a bunch of castoffs and undrafted players? Or maybe the coaching staff isn’t doing such a great job of getting these guys ready? It will be Mark Herzlich versus Dan Connor – round two. Spencer Paysinger and Keith Rivers have to make some plays, not just run around out there. Jacquian Williams is a good cover linebacker, but he has to play the run too. I’d like to see more snaps from Aaron Curry in order to get a better read on him.

Defensive Backs:  Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley are improving. The key for both is to stay healthy. Corey Webster has been missing some practices with nagging injuries again. Hopefully that stops soon. Aaron Ross seems sure to make the team and fingers remain crossed with Terrell Thomas (ACL) who probably will be kept out at least one more week. I liked what I saw from Trumaine McBride last week.

At safety, we’ll get a chance to see if the praise for Ryan Mundy has been justified since Antrel Rolle (ankle) is out. Both Mundy and Stevie Brown have to prove they can consistently patrol the middle of the field. Unfortunately, Cooper Taylor (hamstring) has been out all week again so he’s not likely to play. Tyler Sash stood out last week and we’ll have to see if he can perform well two weeks in a row. This is a big game for Will Hill, who may be on the bubble.

Special Teams: The returners didn’t get much of a chance to demonstrate their skills last week and hopefully they get more chances in this game. The return game is a big question mark for the Giants right now. Josh Brown missed a very makeable attempt last week, while nailing the longer chance.

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Aug 122013
 
 August 12, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Aaron Curry and Marvin Austin, New York Giants (August 10, 2013)

Aaron Curry and Marvin Austin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 18 – Pittsburgh Steelers 13

Game Overview: It was a pretty typical first preseason game as the Giants and Steelers got used to full-speed, full-contact, 11-on-11 action for the first time. It wasn’t always pretty and there are a lot things to work on, but it was good practice against a tough, physical, well-coached football team. The Steelers were more physical than the Giants, but the Giants seemed to be more talented, especially when you consider those who were sitting out (Hakeem Nicks, Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Chris Snee, Justin Pugh, James Brewer, Henry Hynoski).

The Giants did lose WR Kris Adams (broken left ankle) and possibly OT Chris DeGeare (MCL and ankle).

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning (2-for-5 for 73 yards) could not connect on his first two passes at the Steelers’ five yard line and the Giants were forced to settle for a field goal. He missed WR Rueben Randle deep on his third throw, but Coughlin said the problem on the play was Randle’s release taking too long (as did Michael Irvin on The NFL Network). Manning completed his next two and final passes of the game: a quick hitter to Randle on 3rd-and-9 that picked up a first down, and a beautiful touch pass to WR Victor Cruz down the seam on 3rd-and-4 for a 57-yard touchdown.

I originally thought David Carr (7-for-11 for 64 yards) performed worse than he did until I re-watched the tape. His first pass was his worst. He didn’t see a closing defender on a pass that should have been picked off and returned for a touchdown. But he followed that up with a nice 20-yard strike to TE Brandon Myers. Later in the second quarter, Carr was sacked for a 13-yard loss on 3rd-and-1 when the Steelers expertly sniffed out a screen pass. Carr was smart to take the sack there rather than force the ball to David Wilson, but I’m sure a lot of fans were upset with Carr on the play. On Carr’s third and final possession, he made a couple of nice throws, including a 15-yard strike to WR Jerrel Jernigan and a 12-yard pass to WR Louis Murphy. Pass pressure influenced some throws after that and he made a poor throw to WR Kris Adams in the end zone on his final play.

Playing Curtis Painter (5-for-11 for 55 yards) for the entire third quarter confused me, unless the Giants think he has a chance to unseat Carr. That playing time with the more advanced reserves should have gone to Ryan Nassib. Painter had his ups and downs.

Ryan Nassib (1-for-4 for 29 yards) played in the fourth quarter without the best blockers and receivers. He was sacked twice, had his blockers get penalized twice, and had a shotgun snap tossed over his head. That said, the delay of game penalty was on him. Nassib’s best play was his 29-yard completion on 2nd-and-12 despite heavy pressure on the Giants’ last scoring drive. He had protection on two throws after that, but could not connect with his receivers, and probably should have had his last pass picked off, which would have been a disaster given the situation.

Running Backs: It was tough going for David Wilson (5 carries for 16 yards; 2 catches for 6 yards). I spotted Wilson try to pick up two blitzes by not hitting the blitzer face up but by diving low with a cut block at the oncoming rusher. This worked once, but the second time the defender merely leapt over him.

Andre Brown (4 carries for 23 yards; 1 catch for 7 yards) had a rough start as he clumsily fumbled away a pitch for an unforced turnover. But he followed that up with some strong running on the next possession behind the second-team offensive line. Brown also did a nice job in pass protection.

With various line combinations coming in and out of the game in the third quarter, Da’Rel Scott (10 carries for 12 yards) did not benefit from the best run blocking. That said, he looks slower than I remember him being his rookie season. Scott did have a really nice catch on a clutch 3rd-and-10 seam pass for 20 yards in the third quarter.

Michael Cox (9 carries for 33 yards) flashed a nice combination of size, decisiveness, athletic ability when he received decent blocking on the Giants’ final scoring drive, which included runs of 11, 4, and 12 yards. He took an unnecessary risky chance however on the fumbled direct snap by not merely falling on the ball.

The fullback position was filled first by tight ends Bear Pascoe and later Larry Donnell. When Ryan D’Imperio came into the game, he made one decent block, but later ran by a linebacker that shot past him and made the tackle for no gain.

Wide Receivers: Rueben Randle was targeted three times, with one critical 16 yard reception on 3rd-and-9 on the Giants’ loan touchdown drive of the night. However, he couldn’t shake CB Ike Taylor on 3rd-and-goal, and he was the one responsible for the timing being off on the deep pass from Manning that fell incomplete. Victor Cruz doesn’t seem to be the fastest player out there, but all he does is make huge plays down the field. Nevertheless, one aspect of the game that remains a weakness for Cruz is his run blocking. Sometimes fans erroneously blame a failed running play on the offensive line when it was really someone else’s fault. On the same drive where he scored the 57-yard touchdown, Cruz missed his block on the defensive back on a David Wilson run.

Jerrel Jernigan caught two passes for 28 yards. Louis Murphy caught one pass for 12 yards. Julian Talley had a critical 29-yard reception, the Giants’ best offensive play in the second half, to help set up the final field goal. Ramses Barden had one catch for 10 yards.

Kris Adams had three passes thrown his way, all incomplete. He fractured his ankle on the last of these. Kevin Adams also had three passes thrown in his direction, all incomplete.

Tight Ends: Brandon Myers was OK as a blocker, sustaining his blocks but getting no real movement. He had one catch for 20 yards down the field. Larry Donnell played quite a bit, including at fullback (where he looked decent) and in a more traditional H-Back/TE role. Donnell failed to come up with a couple of tough throws in his direction, one of which was probably catchable. Late in the third quarter, he had a chance to pick up a first down on a throwback screen, but could not avoid the one defender who had a shot at him before the first-down marker. Chase Clement was flagged for a holding penalty in the fourth quarter.

Offensive Line: It’s hard to get that good of a reading on the first-team line when they did not play all that much. Brandon Mosley started at right guard and did a decent job. He missed a block at the second level and needs to sustain better on his run blocks, but he picked up a stunt like a veteran on the long touchdown throw. David Diehl gave up a quick outside pressure to a rushing linebacker on the touchdown. David Baas fell off a block too soon on an unproductive running play. Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe were solid. Beatty really is developing into a quality lineman and is probably the one irreplaceable Giant right now other than Eli.

Preseason reserve lines usually look pretty shaky. First you are not replacing just one guy who is surrounded by seasoned veterans, but usually bringing a whole new line that has very little experience, cohesion, and chemistry. This is exacerbated by the fact that some players are then moved to different positions within the same game as you will see below. That versatility will help an individual player make the team, but may give the impression that none of the reserves have talent – which simply is not true.

With Justin Pugh and James Brewer out with concussions, the first second-team line still had Beatty at left tackle and Mosley at right guard, but it also had Selvish Capers at left guard, Jim Cordle at center, and Stephen Goodin at right tackle. Soon after, Chris DeGeare replace Beatty at left tackle. These units performed OK for the most part, but there were a couple of breakdowns late in the second quarter when on one play Goodin and Capers gave up immediate pressure and then DeGeare gave up another. Cordle also got powered back on one bull rush too.

At the start of the third quarter, DeGeare, Capers, Cordle, Mosley, and Goodin remained in the game. DeGeare failed to spot a blitzer leading to a pressure and Goodin was late picking up a stunt. On the next possession, Matt McCants came in for Mosley at right guard and later in that quarter Bryant Browning came in for Goodin at right tackle. Cordle gave up a pressure and McCants was slow to pick up a stunt, leading to another pressure. McCants also missed a block on a running play that led to a 4-yard loss. Capers moved decently on pulls, but failed to make contact at the second level.

In the fourth quarter, the new line from left to right was Browning, Michael Jasper, McCants, Eric Herman, and Goodin. This combination had the most trouble. Goodin was immediately flagged for the Giants’ first penalty of the game, a false start, and probably should have been flagged with holding on another play. Herman had a really bad debut as he gave up two sacks and surprisingly, had some issues on his run blocking. Then McCants, who was now in at center, snapped the ball over Nassib’s head, resulting in a defensive touchdown for the Steelers.

After that disastrous two series, Herman was benched and McCants was shifted back to right guard with Cordle coming back into the game. Cordle again struggled with a big nose tackle over his head. Cordle just doesn’t seem big and strong enough. Cordle and Jasper also failed to block the defensive tackle who hit Nassib just as he threw the 29-yard completion. Later on this drive, Browning wiped out his man and McCants looked very good pulling and making another block at the second level on Cox’s critical 12-yard run on 3rd-and-6 that set up the final field goal. Jasper is a big dude with surprising agility for his size.

Defensive Line: Minus Tuck and Pierre-Paul, the starting unit was Cullen Jenkins and Mathias Kiwanuka at defensive end and Shaun Rogers and Linval Joseph at defensive tackle. The Steelers ran the ball very well on the Giants in the first quarter, including picking up 36 yards on six carries on their first scoring drive. Shaun Rogers appeared solid, but Linval Joseph was not particularly stout. Neither was Johnathan Hankins when he saw some early playing time. Up front, however, the bigger problem appeared to be the defensive ends. At times, Kiwanuka and Cullen simply did not set the edge, crashing down too far inside and allowing Steeler backs to easily run into an open gap. At other times, Kiwanuka and Cullen simply got blocked, and one time Kiwanuka charged too far upfield, allowing the back to easily come underneath. Jenkins did look very good on one inside rush for an 8-yard sack, forcefully taking down the hard-to-tackle Ben Roethlisberger.

Adrian Tracy’s penetration was a huge factor on the failed 3rd-and-1 rushing attempt up the gut that went nowhere. I didn’t see the Osi-like edge quickness that his coaches/teammates claim, but he showed better than anticipated strength on bull rushes.

Damontre Moore flashed as a pass rusher on a number of plays. He caused an incompletion against the Steelers’ starters in the first quarter, hitting Roethlisberger just as he released the ball with quick inside pressure. He did get suckered on play-action boot, along with S Tyler Sash and LB Keith Rivers. In the second quarter, Moore did a nice job of sniffing out and disrupting two screen passes. Moore’s run defense was much better than advertised too.

Justin Trattou made some plays including causing a running play to be stuffed for a 1-yard loss in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, he really stood out on one series where he first held his ground at the point-of-attack and stuffed the back, and then immediately followed that up with a sack. On the Steelers’ last drive, his penetration caused a 2-yard loss on a running play.

Marvin Austin may not always be the stoutest player in the world, but he hustles and he flashed in pursuit on running plays. That said, both Hankins and Austin were pretty stout inside against the Pittsburgh reserves. Matt Broha was run at on one play but flashed good backside pursuit on another. Late in the game, he did miss a tackle on a cutback run in his direction.

Frank Okam twice flashed on the pass rush, including sharing a sack with Adewale Ojomo. Speaking of Ojomo, he may not be a camp player, but all he does is make noise in preseason games (1.5 sacks this week). Is it because of the competition or is there real talent there? Regardless, he finished off the Steelers with a sack on 3rd-and-14 and then pressured the quarterback and caused a holding penalty on the failed 4th-and-20 conversion attempt.

Linebackers: It was not a good game for the linebackers, particularly the first unit of Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, and Keith Rivers. All three seemed to be simply running around out there, always a step slow and not very decisive or forceful at all against the run. Indeed, all three were easily blocked. Jacquian Williams made a huge play by deflecting a 2nd-and-16 screen pass that looked poised to pick up big yardage, but he also struggled at the point-of-attack against the run. Both the defensive ends and linebackers were regularly fooled by misdirection too.

Dan Connor struggled early too as he seemed to be caught chasing after receivers down the field after initially reading run. Two times he was lucky that receivers could not come up with the catch down the field (though on the first, I am not sure if he was covering up for someone else’s mistake). As the game wore on, Connor appeared more natural than Herzlich, but neither is very fast and the lack of speed is noticeable. For Connor, this showed up in coverage and on his inside run blitz where the quarterback ran away from him. Connor did nail the back for no gain at the line of scrimmage on one play, something of a rarity for a Giants’ linebacker. And he was more instinctive against the run, often being near the ball carrier in the scrum.

Aaron Curry came played fairly stoutly near the line of scrimmage and was a pretty fired up individual during the game. He helped to clean up the failed 3rd-and-1 short yardage run by the Steelers in the third quarter and disrupted a running play in his direction on the last play of that quarter. Jake Muasau looked pretty good in coverage.

Defensive Backs: Prince Amukamara was only tested once, giving up a short completion on 2nd-and-4, but making a forceful tackle. He also made a nice play in run defense. Corey Webster got beat on what should have been a 20-yard touchdown pass, but the receiver could not get his second foot inbounds.

Jayron Hosley flashed on a run blitz where he tackled the ball carrier from the backside for only a 1-yard gain.

Trumaine McBride flashed in both run support and in coverage, including a deep shot down the field. Terrence Frederick played pretty well too. He had nice coverage on a deep throw and while he gave up two short throws, he made very sure tackles after the catch. Junior Mertile played too far off the receiver and gave up two easy back-to-back receptions. Laron Scott also gave up two back-to-back completions on the Steelers’ last drive. Charles James sacked the quarterback when was unblocked on corner blitz.

Tyler Sash was active. He’s not the most athletic guy in the world, but he was around the ball a lot. After biting on the play-action boot, he did make a nice play in the behind the line against the run. Later, he had good coverage on the intended receiver on a 3rd-and-5 incomplete pass.

Special Teams: Josh Brown was 3-of-4 on field goal attempts, making kicks of 23, 30, and 47 yards, but missing from 38 yards out. His kickoffs were strong, with two resulting in touchbacks. Kickoff coverage was OK but not great as the Steelers returned two kicks for 27 and 30 yards.

Steve Weatherford had a strong night, averaging almost 50 yards per punt on six punts, with a net of 41.7 yards. Punt coverage was good except for one 19-yard return in the fourth quarter.

Damontre Moore blocked one punt. Zak DeOssie hustled downfield, making one tackle inside the 5-yard line and then helping to force a muffed punt that Tyler Sash recovered. Ryan Mundy made a sure tackle on one kickoff return and Trumaine McBride leveled the punt returner on another return.

The Giants were only able to return two punts and one kickoff. Jayron Hosley returned one punt four yards and Charles James returned the other 20 yards. However, James’ decision to return the punt out of the end zone was not a smart move. Jerrel Jernigan had a nice 27 yard return on the free kick after the safety.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers, August 10, 2013)
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Aug 082013
 
 August 8, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Andre Brown, New York Giants (November 4, 2012)

Andre Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers, August 10, 2013: This is the 19th year I’ve done game previews for BBI and my primary message for the first preseason game is the same: this is a glorified scrimmage, the starters will only play a quarter at most, don’t overreact to the game, and pray the Giants come out healthy.

That said, this is a good opponent for the Giants to “practice” against. As we all know, the Steelers are a well-coached, confident, physical football team. They have been running a tough and physical training camp (as much as the new rules allow) and therefore they may be slightly ahead of the Giants right now in terms of the physical side of the game – blocking, hitting, tackling.

Offensively, the Giants may not look very smooth against last year’s #1 ranked defense, especially with so many component parts on the offensive line not playing or limited.  Defensively, the Giants are looking to improve their toughness, physicality, play against the run, and cut down on big plays in the passing game. On special teams, the Lawrence Tynes era is over.

Obviously, with the starters not playing long, much of the focus will be on back-ups, both players who the Giants have been developing and the new faces.

Quarterbacks:  With Eli, you want him to get some work against a top defense, hopefully make a few plays, then get out of the game healthy. He wasn’t as good in 2012 as he was in 2011. He needs to continue to work on his overall consistency as a play-maker and reduce the number of brain fart moments he occasionally still has.

The big question here is will the Giants keep two or three quarterbacks on the roster? Under Coughlin, the trend has been to keep two, but Ryan Nassib is a rookie and has had his share of rough moments in training camp. The only way I see the Giants carrying two quarterbacks this year is if Nassib lights it up in the preseason or David Carr simply looks dreadful.

Running Backs: I can’t imagine a better opponent for David Wilson and Andre Brown to practice their blitz pickups against. In the Steelers’ 3-4 defense, big, physical linebackers will blitz from any direction. To me, the #1 area to focus on offensively in this game is how David Wilson pass protects. Is he big enough, physical enough, and smart enough to do it?

With Ryan Torain (concussion) out, Da’Rel Scott and Michael Cox should see a lot of touches in their quest to win the #3 running back spot. I am particularly interested in seeing Cox, who has had a good training camp. However, if past preseasons are any indication, the backup running backs will probably have a hard time running behind the #2 and #3 offensive lines.

Wide Receivers:  The top four guys are pretty obvious: Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, and Louis Murphy. I am very interested in seeing Murphy. He’s got good speed and his route running is coming along. The knock on him in the past has been his hands.

Will the Giants keep five or six wide receivers? Jerrel Jernigan needs to start making plays. If the Giants keep six receivers, Ramses Barden may win the job by default unless Kris Adams, Kevin Hardy, Keith Carlos, Brandon Collins, or Julian Talley impress. I’d be tempted to waive Barden when its cut-down time. No other team is likely to pick him up and thus the Giants could re-sign him at any time if injuries strike.

Tight Ends: This is an area that I will be watching closely. First, you have newcomer Brandon Myers who seems like the kind of smart, savvy tight end who veteran quarterbacks love. However, he’s not the biggest guy in the world and we’ll have to watch his blocking. Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell have had good camps – both have the size you look for in tight ends. Bear Pascoe will used at fullback, tight end, and H-Back. Don’t be surprised if the Giants keep all four on the 53-man roster. Chase Clement is the wild card, but his best chance may be the Practice Squad.

Offensive Line: This is potentially the Achilles’ heel of the offense. But also keep in mind that this unit may not look very good on Saturday night against the #1 defense in the NFL from last season, especially with so many parts out or limited.  OG Chris Snee (hip) only just came off the PUP. David Baas (various offseason surgeries) is also being worked back slowly. OT/OG James Brewer (concussion), who has seen a lot of work with the first unit in camp, and OT Justin Pugh (concussion), who is competing for a starting job, will not play. Brandon Mosley, who spent all of his rookie season on Injured Reserve, will start at right guard. The domino effect of the other players not playing or not playing long will likely mean the #2 and #3 lines will not look very good. Focus more on individual play, especially by Mosley, Matt McCants, and Selvish Capers.

Defensive Line:  The line will have a different feel to it this year, especially with Osi Umenyiora and Chris Canty gone. Mathias Kiwanuka is back at defensive end. Justin Tuck (who may not play due to back tightness) is supposedly re-invigorated. Shaun Rogers, on Injured Reserve all of last season with a blood clot, gets a second chance to make his Giant debut. And then there are newcomers Cullen Jenkins, Johnathan Hankins, and Damontre Moore.

The biggest question about this unit will not be answered this preseason: when will Jason Pierre-Paul be back, and when he does come back, how effective will he be? Back injuries are tricky, and many players who miss training camp and the preseason never really look right, and often get hurt again.

On paper, the rest of the line looks strong, but we’ll see how that translates on the field. One has to think that Tuck, Kiwanuka, Pierre-Paul, Moore, and Adrian Tracy are the locks at defensive end. Matt Broha, Justin Trattou, and Adewale Ojomo are going to have to play exceptionally well to make it. Broha is a guy who most fans don’t talk about, but I’m interested in seeing him play again this preseason.

Inside, Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins will start. But Jenkins has also been playing quite a bit at defensive end. This flexibility suggests that Giants will not keep more than the five defensive ends previously mentioned, and the team therefore may be able to keep one more tackle. Hankins has had a really strong camp and he could develop into a really important player for the Giants. One of the less talked about developments has been the strong return of 34-year old Shaun Rogers, who has actually seen time with the starting unit. How much does he really have left in his tank?

My guess is that Markus Kuhn (PUP – knee) is actually healthier than the team is letting on but they will put him on Injured Reserve one more year in order to protect him.  If the Giants keep five tackles, the battle is between Marvin Austin and Mike Patterson. Austin will have to look really bad in order to get cut.

Linebackers: All of the starting positions seem up for grabs. In the middle, it’s Mark Herzlich versus Dan Connor. Spencer Paysinger and Keith Rivers have been starting outside, but will be pressed by Jacquian Williams and Aaron Curry. Kyle Bosworth has flashed and should help out a lot on special teams. Focus on linebacker coverage and physical play against the run. And what about making an impact play?

Defensive Backs:  In 2012, the Giants allowed 60 passes of 20 or more yards (the NFL’s fourth-highest total), 29 passes of at least 30 yards (led the NFL), and 13 passes of 40 or more yards (second in the league). The players on this unit talk a big game, but they really haven’t backed it up. We’ll see if they can turn it around.

At safety, gone is Kenny Phillips (Eagles). Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown will start at safety. Can Brown build upon his surprising 2012 season? For a big safety, he’s not very noticeable against the run. Hopefully that is a part of his game that improves. The Giants seem to really like Ryan Mundy. Will Hill seems to have seen his stock drop somewhat. With a drug suspension looming, he needs a strong preseason. Cooper Taylor (hamstring) will unfortunately miss the game. Is Tyler Sash just a special teamer?

At corner, Giants’ fans pray Corey Webster rebounds or the cornerback position may be far shakier than we want to admit. He needs to stay healthy too. Prince Amukamara has had a really strong camp, but he also needs to stay healthy. Jayron Hosley was somewhat injury-prone in 2012 as well; can he develop into a more reliable and consistent corner? Aaron Ross is thrilled to be back and seems to play as well as he ever has. He may be a bigger addition than we realize. Terrell Thomas is coming back from three ACL tears on the same knee. There are some lesser known players in this group who may surprise including Trumaine McBride, Terrence Frederick, Junior Mertile, Charles James, and Laron Scott.

Special Teams: How reliable a kicker will Josh Brown be? Who will be the primary kickoff and punt returners? With the bottom half of the roster dramatically changing, how strong will kickoff and punt coverage be?

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