Aug 272013
 
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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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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.

Aug 212013
 
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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)
Aug 162013
 
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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.

Aug 122013
 
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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)
Aug 082013
 
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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?

Jan 142013
 
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Eli Manning (10), Justin Tuck (91), New York Giants (December 30, 2012)

Eli Manning and Justin Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 42 (9-7) – Philadelphia Eagles 7 (4-12)

Bipolar Giants Crush Eagles, Miss Playoffs

By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary:

It’s impossible to state how confounding this season has been. Giants fans have been exhilarated by incredibly lopsided victories over the 49ers, Packers and Saints and bewildered by thrashings from the likes of the Falcons, Ravens and Bengals. From week to week, there was just no way of knowing which team was going to show up. In the final week, the good team showed up and beat the ever-loving tar out of division rival Philadelphia in the season-finale at MetLife Stadium. It was the most lopsided win against the Eagles in quite some time. To make the game even a little more sweet on a sour day, the Giants got the final laugh on Eagle head coach Andy Reid, who was fired on Monday morning. I doubt there is a Giant fan in the country that isn’t happy to see Reid out of Philadelphia and out of the NFC East.

The game started ominously enough as the Eagles attempted a surprise onsides kick on the opening kickoff. For some reason, CB Justin Tryon decided to try and catch and advance the ball instead of simply securing it. He didn’t secure it, and the Eagles were in business early. The Eagles came out with a no-huddle attack, but on a 3rd-and-13 play, under heavy pressure, Michael Vick sailed a ball high over the middle where S Stevie Brown intercepted his eighth pass of the season. After that fifth offensive play for the Eagles, it was essentially all Giants the rest of the way.

Many people over in The Corner Forum had claimed that they felt the Giants players had quit, that they’d given up on the season during back-to-back drubbings by the Falcons and Ravens. I don’t know about the rest of the Giants fans on BBI, but I didn’t see quit in anybody in this last game. WR Hakeem Nicks played despite probably needing surgery 6-8 weeks ago. Ahmad Bradshaw played despite not being able to walk without limping. Chris Snee played despite a torn hip labrum compounded by bone spurs. Kenny Phillips was out there at three quarters speed making plays. People forget that Corey Webster has been playing with hamstring issues and a broken hand for the better part of the season. Justin Tuck could have sat this one out with a shoulder issue, but he was in on passing downs and recorded the Giants’ only sack. Prince Amukamara was doubtful going into the game and played nearly the entire contest. Henry Hynoski isn’t hurt, but he played as though he was playing in the last game of his career. This team didn’t quit. They didn’t lie down. It will take time and there will have to be a lot of self-scouting by the staff before answers can be found and conclusions made, but this team didn’t lose because they quit. If anything, maybe some of these guys should have been replaced earlier this season with guys who were healthier. At any rate, I saw a lot of guts from a proud team that wanted to finish the season strong on Sunday.

This game was over by halftime, and for Giants fans the only drama remaining was whether the rest of the pieces required to complete the 2012 playoff puzzle for New York would fall in to place. Alas, the Giants hopes were resting on the Detroit Lions, who disappoint everyone. When they came up short to the Bears 26-24, the Giants’ season was officially over at 9-7, later to be cemented in second place in the NFC East, one game…and essentially one point…behind division champion Washington. The same 9-7 record earned them the NFC East last season, and on they went to become Super Bowl champions.

Offense:

New York’s offense was clicking on all cylinders for the first time since the Saints game. The Giants scored touchdowns on their first four possessions, and on five of six in the first half. It was again apparent that WR Hakeem Nicks was not himself on Sunday. This time, however, New York got enough of a contribution from the backups to help take up the slack. Interestingly, New York only attempted 13 passes to the wide receivers, but with the running game racking up huge yardage, the Giants weren’t forced to pass as much as usual. On the day, New York ran the 35 times and only attempted 22 passes. That is highly unusual for the Giants.

Quarterback:

Eli Manning finished the season on a high note, completing 13-of-21 passes for 208 and a career-high five touchdowns passes. Manning was effective and efficient and faced almost no pressure from the Eagles defense. He was sacked just once and hit twice. Manning was at his best at the end of the first half. After taking over at his own 46 yard line with only 17 seconds left in the half, Manning competed a 30 yard pass to Hixon, who got out of bounds at the Philadelphia 24 yard line. Instead of going for a field goal to extend the half time lead to 31-7, New York elected to try one more play. Manning connected with Victor Cruz who broke all alone in the middle of the field for the dagger touchdown.

On the year, Manning completed 321 completions on 536 attempts for 3,948 yards (59.9%) and 26 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. Manning was sacked just 19 times, the second fewest in his career as a full time starter. Manning’s passer rating was a sound 87.2, which was 14th in the NFL. His QBR for the year was 67.4, good for 10th in the league.

Overall, Manning just missed passing for 4,000 yards for the fourth time in his career. Many people may feel that Manning had a down year, but frankly, his statistics were on par with his usual seasonal output. Statistically, Manning had his fourth best year in touchdowns, interceptions thrown, and yardage. Considering he played as well as he did without an established number 3 wide receiver, a new tight end, and major injuries to Hakeem Nicks, it was a successful season for Manning.

Running Back:

It’s now clear what the Giants have in RB David Wilson. Wilson ran for 75 tough yards on 15 carries for a 5.0 yards per carry average. Wilson also caught one pass for a 15-yard touchdown.

Wilson started the year ominously, fumbling on just his second carry in the opener against Dallas. It was obvious that Wilson landed in Tom Coughlin’s dog house and it took a long time for him to get out. Interestingly, that was Wilson’s only fumble on the season. Wilson carried 71 times for 358 yards (a 5.0 ypc average) and four touchdowns. Wilson caught just four passes on the year for 34 yards and one touchdown.

Wilson is a tough runner who seems to take big hits. He’s also very adept at getting to and through the line very quickly and getting to full speed in space. It appears that New York has a back who will challenge for the number one role, but like Ahmad Bradshaw, he may be better suited as a back that shares the load.

Where Wilson really excelled this season was on kickoff returns. Wilson obliterated the New York Giants record for kickoff return yardage in a season with 1,533 yards and one touchdown. Wilson had 57 attempts, averaging a stellar 26.9 yards per return. Wilson led the NFL in kickoff return yardage, outgaining his nearest competitor by nearly 300 yards. Additionally, Wilson set the Giants’ rookie franchise record with 1,925 all-purpose yards. He came in second amongst rookies in total all-purpose yards behind only Doug Martin of Tampa Bay. By ONE yard.

Earlier in the season, Wilson also set an NFL record when he rushed for more than 100 yards and amassed more than 200 kickoff return yards in a game. Additionally, Wilson set the Giants’ franchise record in total all-purpose yards in a game with 327.

So while it may have been an up-and-down year for the rookie, the fact is he’s a game-changer and will be a big part of the Giants’ future.

HB Ahmad Bradshaw had a great game against the Eagles despite not getting the start, rushing for 107 yards on 16 carries, a 6.7 ypc average, and a touchdown. Impressively, that 6.7 average is not skewed as his long for the day was just 17 yards. Bradshaw also had a reception for 41 yards on a great read on a “scramble rules” play where he got behind the linebacker down the sideline as Eli was running out of time in the pocket.

Bradshaw had to manage injuries to his feet all year again, and was a no show at practice way more often than not. Frankly, it seems to me that it hurts the Giants when he doesn’t practice. The running game was more out of sync than in sync for the majority of the year, but Bradshaw still managed to record the second 1,000 yard season in his six year career. Despite only playing in 14 games, Bradshaw finished with a 4.6 ypc average and 1,015 yards on 221 carries. Bradshaw had four games with more than 100 yards (one was a 200 yard game versus Cleveland). The 1,000 yard season is more impressive considering Bradshaw had gained just 133 yards after four games and suffered through six games with less than 50 yards on the ground and missing two others with injuries. Bradshaw had just six touchdowns, his lowest total in four years.

Bradshaw was a near non-factor in the passing game this season, catching just 23 passes for 245 yards. That was also his lowest number of receptions in three years.

FB Henry Hynoski provided the funniest highlight of the year when he caught a one-yard touchdown pass for the Giants’ final touchdown of the 2012 season. Hynoski went into full “Hynocerous” mode and performed a side-splitting dance after the first touchdown of his career.

Hank the Tank, Hynocerous, whatever, Henry Hynoski is a big-league fullback who loves to play football. If you have the chance to see it, watch his reaction to the lead block he delivered on David Wilson’s 18 yard run from the Eagles’ 22-yard line on the Giants’ first touchdown drive. Hynoski pulled to the left and demolished the cornerback for about eights yards down the field and though Wilson was brought down at the four, Hynoski let out a whoop of joy in the end zone that would have made you believe he had just scored. Hynoski is one of the bright young stars on the Giants’ offense. Hynoski is asked to block, almost exclusively. On the year, Hynoski carried just five times for 20 yards. He is somewhat more effective out of the backfield where he caught 11 of 15 passes thrown his way for 50 yards.

The Giants have two more running backs on the roster that may add solid contributions in 2013, Andre Brown and Da’Rel Scott. Brown proved he should have a shot as a featured back subbing for injured Ahmad Bradshaw, gaining 385 yards on 73 carries for a robust 5.3 ypc average. Additionally, Brown proved an excellent short yardage back and also scored eight touchdowns in just ten games.

Scott, the Giants’ 7th round draft pick in 2011, has tremendous straight ahead speed but appears to have little wiggle. Scott’s best chance to make the roster next year (coming off arthroscopic knee surgery) might be as a punt or kick returner.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends:

As mentioned, Hakeem Nicks was again a non-factor in the game against the Eagles, and for the second contest in a row was held to no catches. In fact, Nicks wasn’t even targeted once in the game.

Nicks had a tough year, beginning with a broken foot that never completely healed and which might have led to a knee injury that may need offseason surgery. It looked as though Nicks was back in week two when he gained 199 yards on 10 catches and a touchdown. Unfortunately, that’s also the game in which he hurt his knee. Nicks had 53 catches for a career-low 692 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. He had more than half that amount of catches (28) and two-thirds the yardage (444) in the playoffs alone last season. Published reports suggest that Nicks, who missed the next three contests after the Buccaneers game, should have sat for six to eight weeks. To his credit, Nicks gutted it out but it may have been a mistake to do so. The problem when Nicks is out is that teams don’t honor his replacement(s) and clamp down on fellow WR Victor Cruz, effectively taking him out of the game.

Victor Cruz had a solid day against the Eagles, catching four of six balls thrown his way for 52 yards and the one touchdown before the end of the first half.

The mercurial receiver put up another huge statistical season and was named to his first Pro Bowl. Cruz finished with 1,092 yards on 86 receptions (four more than last season) and 10 touchdowns. The receptions and touchdowns were career highs. Cruz finished 12th in the league in receptions and 15th in receiving yards. The big drop off for Cruz was the yards per completion, down a full 6 yards from last season. It wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops for Cruz this season, as he tied for second in the league for the most drops with 10. Only TE Jimmy Graham of New Orleans had more. Cruz was also not an unknown in 2012. Defenses schemed to take him away in the middle by doubling and being very physical with him. Cruz took several very big hits and also had a lot more trouble getting free due to the ineffectiveness of Nicks on the outside.

Rookie WR Rueben Randle is the real deal and by all accounts will be a huge part of the Giants offense going forward. Randle had a solid game against the Eagles, making two tough touchdown catches. Randle caught all four passes thrown his way and led the Giants in receiving with 58 yards.

Randle played in all 16 games as a rookie but only saw 32 looks all season. Randle caught 19 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns. The amazing statistic? Of those 19 catches, 13 of them went for a first down. That’s incredible and hopefully a great harbinger of things to come. Rueben’s best game came in Cleveland when he caught six of eight passes for 86 yards. It appeared the young rookie was on his way, but he only caught eight passes over the next 10 games while the Giants struggled to find a reliable third receiver. Randle also had his issues returning punts, finishing 46th in the league with 15 returns for 108 yards and 15 fair catches. Randle lost one fumble and had a number of bobbles.

WR Domenik Hixon caught two balls for 41 yards against the Eagles. Hixon had his best year since 2008 as the injury-plagued Giant hauled in 39 passes for a solid but quiet 567 yards. Hixon missed three games in 2012 with concussion and ankle issues. Hixon was coming off his second ACL tear in two years and frankly was probably the best number three receiver the Giants had all year. With Randle struggling with punt returns late in the year, Hixon supplanted him for the final three games of the season.

WR Jerrel Jernigan finished his second nearly non-existent season with the Giants gaining just 22 yards on three catches, six yards on one carry, and returning two kickoffs for 60 yards. Jernigan was active for nine games in 2012. There is no telling what’s in store for the diminutive wide receiver taken in the third round of the 2011 draft. Chances are he’ll get a shot at returning kicks in 2013 if Wilson’s duties are curtailed as he gets more action in the running game. Other than that, who knows what’s going to happen with him.

That leaves us to Ramses Barden, another high draft choice that simply isn’t consistent or healthy enough often enough to make a difference. Barden was inactive against the Eagles.

By his standards, however, Barden had a stellar season nearly doubling his output from the previous three years combined with 14 catches for 220 yards. In his career, Barden now has 29 catches for 394 yards and not a single, solitary touchdown. In four years. The 2009 3rd rounder, the 85th overall pick, was once compared to Brandon Marshall. It turns out, he’s been about as effective as Penny Marshall. Barden had what appeared to be a breakout game in week three against Carolina when he went off for nince catches for 138 yards. The very next week, Barden committed a very costly pass interference penalty late in the game against Philadelphia which cost the Giants 10 yards of field position. It turned out that the Giants were forced to attempt a 54 yard field goal that fell about three yards short and New York suffered a two point loss. Barden caught just two passes over the next 12 games.

TE Martellus Bennett had a rough game against the Eagles, catching just one ball of the five thrown to him for a total of 15 yards.

New York has a bona fide tight end in the Black Unicorn and it would seem that the Giants would make re-signing Bennett to a long-term deal in the off-season a high priority. The Giants are still very weak at a position that is gaining more and more priority and importance in NFL offenses, with just Bear Pascoe (a blocking TE, and a mediocre one at that) and the enigma that is 2009 third-round draft pick Travis Beckum. Once again, Beckum had an insignificant season after coming off the PUP list in November trying to come back from offseason ACL injury. Once again, he landed on IR with lingering effects from the surgery. In four seasons, Beckum has caught just 26 balls for 264 yards and 3 touchdowns. Additionally, blocking is not Beckum’s strong suit. The only other TE on the roster is 2011 fourth-round project Adrien Robinson, who only got to suit up for the Giants in two games this season and as far as I can tell never saw the field. The Giants like what they have in Robinson, with GM Jerry Reese calling him the “JPP of tight ends.” We’ll see.

So as mentioned, one would think Bennett would figure heavily into the Giants’ offseason plans. Bennett caught 55 passes (on an astounding 90 targets) for 626 yards and 5 touchdowns. Thirty-five of Bennett’s catches went for first downs. Bennett struggled early to gain the confidence of Eli Manning and they definitely had more than a few communication problems. Bennett was also crucial in the running game and pass blocking schemes where he excelled. Bennett also played through a pretty significant knee injury that hampered him in the first half of the season. Manning looked for Bennett 30 more times than he looked for TE Jake Ballard last season. Ballard caught 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns last season. Bennett is clearly a better blocker than Ballard. Finally, the Black Unicorn was also credited with saving the life of a fan who fell out of the stands after a game. A detailed report of the event can be found here.

Offensive Line:

New York’s offensive line had a solid game against the Eagles, opening up huge running lanes for the backs and doing a very good job of protecting Eli Manning against the wide nine look that Philadelphia runs. As mentioned, Manning was sacked only once and was only hit a couple of times. RG Chris Snee played despite two bad hips, one of which may require offseason surgery.

On the whole, I don’t think that the Giants offensive line was nearly as bad as many people thought. LT Will Beatty is easily the best member of the group and he’s quietly rounding into one of the best in the league. Re-signing the unrestricted free agent Beatty has to be the top priority for the Giants this offseason. LG Kevin Boothe has made a nice little career for himself, but the Giants may be able to upgrade here. Boothe is solid, but sometimes gets lost at the second-level and misses his assignment. Boothe is serviceable at LG, but I’d rather see him as a back-up. C David Baas had a markedly better season than last year, but he’s still a middle-of-the-road center. He is adept at pass protection, but seems to be a non-factor much of the time in the running and screen game. He’s not fast by any measure and is constantly late at the second-level, particularly on screen plays. RG Chris Snee should be back if healthy. It’s just my opinion, but I think injuries have been the problem with Snee and it’s not a loss of a step. When healthy, Snee is as good as any RG in football. Unfortunately, Sean Locklear blew out his knee after doing a very good job at both tackle positions this season. The journeyman wasn’t expected to do much, but his play clearly showed that he’d earned the right tackle position. RT David Diehl had a rough season and will probably be a cap casualty. The Giants will be looking for, at the very least, a starting right tackle and developmental guards this season unless they think T James Brewer will be ready to start at RT.

Defense:

The Giants defense played an up and down game on Sunday despite the lopsided score. The Giants made life miserable for what was most likely the last game for Michael Vick as an Eagle. Though the Giants only sacked him once, they did get a ton of pressure on him and hit him at least 10 times (the official score sheet said seven). The Giants did still have trouble with the running game, allowing the Eagles to rush for more than 100 yards. The key for the Giants was getting out to the big lead and then clamping down on third and fourth down. The Eagles converted just 4-of-14 third downs and 2-of-4 on fourth down.

On the whole, the Giants defense did not have a very good year statistically. The Giants’ defense allowed the most yards in franchise history. The run defense was a major disappointment, but lack of pass-rush production was even more alarming. Pressures were down, QB hits were off and sacks dropped from 48 in 2011 to 33 this season. Teams figured out that the Giants could not stop the run. New York allowed an 8th-worst 2,066 yards (129.1 yards per game) on the ground. That opened up the Giants to huge problems in the passing game, where they gave up a whopping 5th- worst 4,068 yards through the air (254.2 yards per game). New York was burned by big plays, giving up 29 plays of 30 yards or more through the air. That was good for worst in the NFL.

New York finished 31st in the league in total defense but amazingly finished 12th in the league in scoring defense. That was due to playing pretty well in the green zone, giving up just 23 touchdowns on 50 chances by their opponents from inside the 20 yard line. New York finished fourth in the league with 35 takeaways and were third in the league with a plus/minus of plus-14 in turnovers.

Front Seven:

As mentioned, the Giants kept Vick on his toes all game. DE’s Justin Tuck (one sack) and JPP had solid games, as did DT Linval Joseph. DT Marvin Austin also had three tackles in the game. While the defensive line played a good game, the linebackers were again all over the place. Chase Blackburn led the teams in tackles and also had a nice defense of a pass. Keith Rivers had his best game in quite some time and came away with five tackles.

Breaking down the front seven is a difficult proposition. First and foremost, the defensive line regressed measurably this season. DEs Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul all had subpar seasons as far as they are concerned. Could it be that we’ve seen the final season for Tuck and Osi in Giants blue? It’s a strong probability that Umenyiora won’t be back. Justin Tuck is another story. As for JPP, he had trouble all season with the double-team and when no one else could get home when the Giants sent four, JPP was just taken out of the game by the opposing offensive line. DE/LB Mathais Kiwanuka was most effective from the DE position and it remains to be seen if he’ll be moved back to his natural position. The Giants have a couple of developmental DEs in the system, the most promising seeming to be Adrian Tracy. Tracy should be a situational player next year if Osi and/or Tuck leave. Adewale Ojomo also has a chance to get some playing time next year if the Giants don’t draft or sign a free agent DE.

Linval Joseph is the best DT on the team and he had a great first half and a so-so second half. The Giants wore down at the DT position as Rocky Bernard also had a terrific season going until he got hurt and never made it back to the level at which he’d been playing. Markus Kuhn looks like a beast as a run stuffer, but he too was injured and ended up on IR. Chris Canty came off the PUP list and played well at first but also was injured. Canty is due a king’s ransom this season and could also find himself out unless he restructures. Finally, Marvin Austin finished his second redshirt season and needs to establish whether he can play football or not very soon. The second-round draft choice has been a non-factor for two years. This is a prime area of need for the Giants.

Let’s face it. This was the worst performing set of linebackers that the Giants have produced in quite some time. Michael Boley regressed and played through a myriad of nagging injuries all year. He’s not the fast outside linebacker he once was and made few impact plays. In fact, Boley was the fifth lowest rated outside linebacker in football. That said, he is arguably still the most-talented linebacker at this time on this team. That’s depressing. We all love Chase Blackburn. He’s got more heart than most players that have ever put on a uniform and at times heart can make up for lack of raw talent. It just can’t do it ALL the time. Blackburn was ranked the 7th worst inside linebacker in football this season.

The Giants came into the season with a most promising group of young linebackers with second-year players Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich and Jacquian Williams. They also brought in veteran Keith Rivers and also had Mathias Kiwanuka, who bounces from LB to DT/DE as required. Unfortunately, not a single player other than possibly Williams improved this season. Williams is far and away the best prospect of the group, but missed half the season with a knee injury. Herzlich is still a story unfinished. He’s been stellar on special teams, but he gets caught up in the wash and does not play with good gap discipline as a MIKE. It’s telling that after two years in the system he has been unable to supplant Blackburn as the starter. Keith Rivers is a playmaker, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. When healthy, he’s an excellent rotational linebacker with good speed and coverage skills. Paysinger flashed a few times, but again is very inconsistent. Kiwanuka is not a linebacker and should be playing on the line, period. New York has a lot of questions with few actionable answers for what was arguably the worst unit on the team.

Secondary:

The secondary played a solid game against the Eagles, led by CB Prince Amukamara who was doubtful coming into the game. The much maligned unit only allowed 11 receptions by the wide receivers, as LeSean McCoy led the Eagles in receiving. Most importantly, the Giants only allowed one play over 30 yards on a screen pass to McCoy. On the day, Philadelphia only gained 211 gross yards through the air. Even Corey Webster, who had a horrible year, played well against the Eagles. S Stevie Brown had another interception that thwarted the Eagles’ first drive and started the rout. For his efforts, Brown was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.

Looking at the secondary, it’s hard to imagine them playing as poorly as they did. Frankly, they had little help from the linebacking corps and the lack of pass pressure up front hung them out to dry more often than not. Any QB in the league will tear up even the best secondary when they are under little or no duress. Prince has rounded into the number one corner on the team and has a brilliant future ahead of him. Corey Webster, however, regressed and was repeatedly burned deep, and even when he had good coverage (as he did against Baltimore’s Torrey Smith for most of that game), he was often unable to make the play on the ball. Webster has had confidence problems in the past and it may be the case again. The Giants had to rely on Jayron Hosley way more often than they wanted to on the outside, and he was burned accordingly at times. Hosley has talent and may very well turn into a good CB, but he’s more suited to play inside right now. Time will tell with Hosley. Justin Tryon had a rough year and will probably not be back next season. No one knows if Terrell Thomas will ever be able to play again after tearing his ACL for the second year in a row. The Giants will be looking hard for another corner in the draft or free agency.

One of the reasons the CBs had trouble this season was the injury to S Kenny Phillips. When Phillips is healthy, teams do not try to go over the top as often as when he’s out. Phillips doesn’t make flashy plays, he doesn’t make a ton of interceptions or big hits, he just plays sound positional football taking options away from opposing QBs. His injury, in my opinion, was the biggest reason the Giants suffered in the second half of the season. Stevie Brown was a pleasant fill in for Phillips. He just seems to be in the right place at the right time, evidenced by his eight interceptions. That was the most by a Giant since 1968. Brown was named NVC Defensive Player of the Week twice this season, the first time a Giants safety won the honor twice in the same year. That’s the good on Brown. The bad is that he sometimes gets caught peeking in the backfield and getting caught flat footed in coverage. Several times his coverage responsibility breakdowns were exploited for big gains or touchdowns. That will hopefully change as he progresses.

Tyler Sash did not impress much after coming back from suspension and will have a tough time making the roster next season if Phillips stays. That’s because Will Hill flashed enough to merit a chance as the third, or at worst, fourth safety.

Antrel Rolle takes a ton of flak from Giants fans, but it’s clear he has become the leader of this defense. He is a tackling machine playing out of his natural position, leading the Giants with 96. Rolle is one of the most solid players on this defense.

Special Teams:

The Giants special teams against the Eagles were quiet, mainly because they had an opportunity to return just one punt and one kickoff. The coverage teams were stellar, not allowing the Eagles to turn any field position with a return. The Giants did not attempt a field goal and the Eagles missed on their only opportunity.

The Giants special teams remain an enigma. They still at times commit too many penalties on returns and are inconsistent on coverage teams. K Lawrence Tynes had a good year as far as scoring, but frankly he missed a couple of key kicks that could have been the difference in not making the playoffs. P Steve Weatherford has done a tremendous job and is easily one of the best in the league. As for coverage units, Herzlich, Paysinger and DeOssie continue to play outstanding football. The special teams unit is fairly solid and depending on the moves the Giants make this offseason should get better next season.

Coaching:

I suppose no one can dismiss the “second half swoon” label as just that, a label, any longer. Once again, after a 6-2 start, the Giants faltered and, this time, for the second time in three years, were unable to scrap their way into the playoffs. The Giants have finished the last three seasons at 10-6, 9-7, and 9-7 and only once made the playoffs. That’s discouraging after three straight 6-2 starts. If not for the Super Bowl run last year, there would be more hot tempers in The Corner Forum and in Giants land. Because of it, HC Tom Coughlin gets a pass and will be the head coach next year. And he’s bringing back the coaching staff intact. That’s not a pleasant situation for many on BBI.

Coughlin is a winner. That’s all there is to it. For whatever reason, New York falters after the eighth game of the season. This year, untimely injuries and a brutal second half-schedule was the culprit. Over the last eight weeks, the Giants lost to four playoff teams and one non-playoff team, and they beat one playoff team and two non-playoff teams. The Giants talked a lot about playing better with their backs against the wall, but this year they were unable to back up the talk.

OC Kevin Gilbride’s offense was the sixth-ranked scoring offense in football. New York scored over 429 points, second most in franchise history. Look at some of these statistics:

Points Per Game — 26.8 (5th)

Points Per Play — 0.443 (2nd)

Touchdowns Per Game — 2.9 (7th)

Red Zone Scoring Attempts Per Game — 3.9 (4th)

Red Zone Scoring Percentage (TDs only) — 54.84 percent (13th)

Plays Per Game — 60.5 (31st)

Yards Per Play — 5.9 (4th)

Avg. Time Of Possession — 29:10 (23rd)

Third Down Conversion Percentage — 40.62 percent (11th)

Rushing Attempts Per Game — 25.6 (23rd)

Yards Per Rush Attempt — 4.6 (7th)

Rushing Play Percentage — 42.25 percent (15th)

Passing Yards Per Game — 239.1 (12th)

Yards Per Pass Attempt — 7.1 (11th)

Yards Per Completion — 11.8 (4th)

QB Sacked Percentage — 3.58 percent (2nd)

Average Team Passer Rating — 87.2 (14th)

The only stat that stands out to me as worrisome is average time of possession. There’s a reason for that. Look at the stat “Plays Per Game”: 60.5!! That’s on the defense, folks. If the other team has the ball, the Giants don’t and obviously can’t score. Those that say the Giants were running too much should look at the “Rushing Attempts Per Game” stat. 23rd in the League doesn’t suggest they were not letting Manning do his thing. Overall, the Giants were in the top third or better in almost every major category. Be careful what you wish for, BBI.

DC Perry Fewell is another scapegoat as many people want his head on a platter. As mentioned, there were a number of things on the field that led to the demise of the defense. First, there were injuries at major positions (CB and S), there was a linebacking corps that did not progress, and a pass rush that withered away to nothing more than average. The Giants rely on an aggressive pass rush but at times it appeared New York didn’t play aggressively and that would be on Fewell. It’s unknown why the Giants insisted until way too late in the season to live…and ultimately die…by committing to getting to the QB with just four downlinemen. It wasn’t working, as even in Week 5 we were hearing from the staff, “It will come, it’s getting close.” It never got there. Here are the important stats to review:

Yards Allowed Per Game — 383.4 (31st)

Opponent Yards Per Play — 6.0 (30th)

Opponent Third Down Conversion Percentage — 42.42 percent (30th)

Opponent Yards Per Rush Attempt — 4.6 (27th)

Opponent Completion Percentage — 63.86 percent (26th)

Opponent Passing Yards Per Game — 254.2 (26th)

Opponent Avg. Team Passer Rating — 88.2 (20th)

Opponent Yards per Pass Attempt — 7.6 (31st)

Sack Percentage — 5.82 percent (22nd)

Takeaways Per Game — 2.2 (3rd)

Fewell, and Coughlin too, preach ball security and takeaways. The Giants were third in the league in plus/minus this season so they excelled in that area. The problem was the long pass plays allowed and the inability to consistently get off the field on third down, no matter the distance. It’s only my opinion, but I believe there needs to be personnel changes first and a philosophy change if that doesn’t work. I’m not able to put this on Fewell with the complete lack of talent at linebacker, the inability of their bread-and-butter, the pass rush, to pressure the QB, and injuries in the secondary. I feel those issues were more a factor than the type of defense the Giants played.

Final Thoughts:

This was a tough year, but we have to be pragmatic. Yes, a couple bounces such as the pass interference penalty against the Eagles resulting in a field goal attempt ten yards longer than it would have been, and a miracle win by the Redskins over Baltimore kept the Giants out of the playoffs. That’s football. Last year, Dallas blew four fourth quarter leads of 14 points or more and also lost one in which they iced their own kicker and ended up losing. If the Cowboys win any of those games, New York would have watched last year’s Super Bowl on TV. Them’s the bounces.

As it stands, New York seems at a cross roads. Almost every unit has question marks, and some have alarming question marks. What will the vaunted defensive line look like? What will be the backfield make up? Will a linebacker finally break out? What will the secondary look like? How about the offensive line? This is shaping up to be the biggest year of turnover for the Giants in quite some time. The list of UFAs is long, and there are several big decisions that need to be made. Here are my thoughts on what should/could be done with each:

WR Rames Barden – Let him go.
T Will Beatty – Sign him NOW!!
TE Travis Beckum – Let him go.
TE Martellus Bennett – Sign him NOW!!
DT Rocky Bernard – Sign him to a team friendly contract or let him go.
LB Chase Blackburn – Sorry Chase, it’s time to hang them up.
G Kevin Boothe – Sign him to a team friendly contract or let him go.
QB David Carr – Doesn’t matter, no one but Eli ever plays.
WR Domenik Hixon – Sign him to team friendly deal or let him go.
CB Bruce Johnson – I don’t like Johnson, others do. We need CB depth. Sign him.
OL Sean Locklear – Knee issue, let him go.
RB Kregg Lumpkin – Thanks for the help, good luck.
S Kenny Phillips – Probably not a big market for him, bring him back if affordable.
LB Keith Rivers – Same as Kenny.
DL Shaun Rogers – Let him go.
CB Justin Tryon – Let him go.
K Lawrence Tynes – Time to upgrade, too many late season misses/
DE Osi Umenyiora – I love Osi, but it’s time to cut bait.
CB Brian Witherspoon – Sign him .

As for the restricted free agents:

RB Andre Brown – Sign him to a team friendly contract.
S Stevie Brown – No brainer, bring him back.
WR Victor Cruz – Sign to a long term deal.
RB Ryan Torain – Thanks for the help, good luck.
TE Bear Pascoe – Bring him back.

Then there are the Exclusive rights free agents:

OL Jim Cordle – Need to re-sign him for depth/
DE Adrian Tracy – Could be a player next season, sign him.
DE Justin Trattou – Same as Tracy, flashed in preseason. Keep him.

There are other Giants that may be “on the chopping block” according to sources:

Ahmad Bradshaw – I think we have to keep Bradshaw. Possibly a restructured deal.

Chris Canty – Has a HUGE payday coming. Possible cap casualty if he doesn’t restructure.

Michael Boley – It may be time to let him go.

Corey Webster – Also due a huge payday. He will have to be restructured.

Antrel Rolle – Giants need him, but he’s a big hit to the cap. A restructure is possible here.

David Diehl – Probably going to be cut if the Giants find a decent RT at a decent price.

Chris Snee – Have injuries robbed him of his future? Do the Giants dare cut him?

There are others, I’m sure, that we may not even be considering. No one saw the Luke Pettigrout cut coming in 2007. GM Jerry Reese will do whatever he feels necessary to make this team more competitive and this will be his toughest offseason to date. The Giants still have a strong core on offense and plenty of talent to build around on defense, but this team needs to be shored up big time if it’s to get back to the big game.

On a personal note, I hope you all enjoyed my reviews this year, it was a tough one for me due to how busy I was this season. I enjoy writing them, but as those that have done it before (including Eric) can tell you it’s not easy. Especially when you’ve got a boatload of very football savvy fans reading them. I appreciate all the comments, good and bad. I take constructive criticism to heart and it makes me want to write better reviews.

Enjoy the offseason, the draft is only a couple months away!

(Box Score – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 30, 2012)
Dec 272012
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 23, 2012)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Baltimore Ravens 33 (10-5) – New York Giants 14 (8-7)

Debacled Again

By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Autopsy Report:

A few weeks ago I made the point that the Giants had arguably played their worst game in two years against the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s hard to believe just five games later, New York has actually played two worse than they did then. The game against the Ravens was for all intents and purposes a continuation of the beating they took from the Falcons last week. Nothing changed, nothing got better, and as a result the Giants playoff hopes are all but doomed.

Once again, New York was down 14 points before the locals could even get comfortable in their seats. The Giants’ first two drives were both three-and-outs, gaining two net yards and accounting for three minutes in time of possession. Baltimore’s first two drives consisted of 18 plays, 120 yards, 7:35 in time of possession, and mostly importantly, two touchdowns. Though New York closed to within seven points on their next drive, it never felt like the Giants were going to get back into the game. New York had six “drives” in the first half. Four of those resulted in three-and-outs and resulted in -8 net yardage. Their other two drives were just five plays each and accounted for 97 yards (77 on one, 20 on the other) and the lone touchdown of the half. Forty-three of the yards on the touchdown drive came on one play. If you’re keeping score at home, that means on the other 21 offensive plays New York ran in the first half, New York gained just 46 net yards (2.19 average PER PLAY!)

Three Baltimore drives and 10 points later, the Ravens walked into the tunnel at halftime with what every New York Giants fan knew was an insurmountable 17-point lead.

The first half stats were stunning. Yardage: Baltimore 289, New York 109. First Downs: Baltimore 15, New York 4. Offensive plays: Baltimore 41, New York 22. Third down efficiency: Baltimore 6-8, 75%, New York 0-5, 0%. Time of Possession: Baltimore 17:21, New York 12:39.

It got worse in the second half. New York ran just nine plays for a total of six yards and one first down on two drives totaling just 3:06 in the third quarter. Unbelievably, when the Giants took over with just 7:25 left in the game and put together an 11-play, 80 yard touchdown drive, they’d run just 12 plays for 12 yards and one first down. Incredibly, New York had just 3:53 time of possession in the second half going into that final drive.

On the day, Baltimore gained 533 yards including an astounding 224 on the ground, registered 25 first downs, converted 61% of their third downs, ran an incredible 81 offensive plays, only punted twice, and held the ball for 39:21. Additionally, Baltimore came into the game dead last in the league at sustaining drives of 10 plays or more. Naturally, the Ravens had four drives of 12 plays or more (14, 12, 16 and 13). The only thing that kept the final score relatively “close” was the fact that Baltimore had to settle for four field goals on drives that ended at the Giants’ 12 yard line or closer.

Offense:

There isn’t much to talk about with regards to the offense. Other than the 43-yard pass to WR Rueben Randle and the 14-yard touchdown run by HB David Wilson on the Giants’ third drive, New York did very little with the ball. Seriously, what’s to talk about when you control the ball for a mere EIGHT minutes in the entire second half? How does one discuss six three-and-outs and just 34 offensive plays over the first nine New York drives?

QB Eli Manning had another tough game, completing just 14-of-28 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown. I suppose one can look on the bright side and note that he didn’t throw an interception. Manning was under pressure all day, suffering three sacks and absorbing at least nine hits.

The running game once again went nowhere. HB Ahmad Bradshaw was wearing a knee brace that was obviously affecting him greatly, particularly in blitz pickup. Bradshaw gained just 39 yards on a paltry nine carries. HB David Wilson carried just three times for 17 yards and the 14-yard touchdown that temporarily made the game seem close. Many in The Corner Forum believed that Wilson’s role was reduced because of his back flip antics in the end zone following his touchdown. That was not at all the case. The Giants were playing catch up and were forced to throw on over 70 percent of their plays (32-of-45). It’s obvious by the fact that the Giants employed both HB Kregg Lumpkin (who ironically missed a blitz pickup that led to a sack) and even FB Henry Hynoski in the backfield to block on passing plays that they do not trust Wilson in pass protection. That’s why he only saw the playing field four times.

WR Hakeem Nicks only saw three passes thrown in his direction and didn’t catch a ball. Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon only had five passes thrown at them each and caught three balls apiece. Rueben Randle caught just one pass, yet the 43 yards gained on that reception actually led the Giants. Cruz again took a wicked shot to the head, this time from S Ed Reed who hit him with his shoulder. It looked innocent enough, but you cannot hit a receiver in the head. Cruz has taken a lot of shots this year and frankly, it’s impacted his play this season.

TE Martellus Bennett paced the team in catches (4) and targets (7) for just 27 yards. Additionally, on the opening Giants drive of the third quarter Bennett simply missed a beautifully thrown pass down the middle of the field that would have set the Giants up with a first down close to the Baltimore 40-yard line. Instead, they punted.

The offensive line was not very good on Sunday, but as noted they were not getting much help in blitz pick-ups from the Giants backs. RG Chris Snee deserves a lot of respect for gutting out and playing through a painful hip injury, but seriously he’s going to get Manning killed if he continues to play as he is. C David Baas is also battling through injuries and it’s showing. Baas cannot stay healthy and it’s really hurt the team. There is simply no anchor in the middle of the line. The only bright spot on the entire line this season has been the steady if not solid play from LT Will Beatty, who is starting to look like he may become a great one. Beatty, LG Kevin Boothe and TE Bear Pascoe blocked Wilson’s touchdown run perfectly.

Defense:

There are no “excuses” for failure in football, but there are “reasons.” Face it folks, injuries and the fact that young players have not developed as expected have destroyed what this defense may have been able to accomplish this season. Many of the fans in The Corner Forum have blamed Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell and his schemes for their failures this season and there may be some merit to those complaints. On Sunday, however, New York employed the style the fans have been screaming for and tried to play more press coverage and send more blitzes in on QB Joe Flacco. It didn’t work, as Flacco carved up the secondary particularly when he saw one-on-one coverage. Baltimore had six plays of more than 20 yards, and four of 35 or more.

Baltimore has not been a very good offensive team over the second half of the season, yet they looked like San Francisco circa 1989. Baltimore employed a hurry up offense early that kept the Giants from substituting as they would have liked. New York tried to go with a four linebacker look to stop the run and it was as effective as putting a brown paper wall in front of HBs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. The Giants abandoned that look early, but in retrospect it worked better than what they tried to do in the second half when Baltimore ran for 137 of their 224 yards. Both Rice and the rookie Pierce ran for more than 100 yards.

The youngsters at linebacker simply haven’t progressed. Mark Herzlich led the linebackers with seven tackles, but frankly he looks lost out there. For each tackle Herzlich made, it appeared he missed one. Spencer Paysinger has seen more time lately, but again he’s not contributing with any impact plays down near the line of scrimmage, and though he was sent on a couple blitzes on Sunday, he got nowhere near Flacco. Paysinger seems to play tentatively, waiting for something to happen and then reacting to it. Chase Blackburn is also a guy to respect, but he’s just not fast enough to be an impact middle linebacker. It speaks volumes that Blackburn is the best linebacker of this bunch and has been unable to be beaten out for a job by Herzlich, Williams or Paysinger. Michael Boley was on the bench more than on the field for the second week in a row. Keith Rivers nearly had an interception, but there isn’t much more to discuss with him either.

Other than DT Chris Canty and DE Osi Umenyiora, the Giants defensive line was once again missing in action on Sunday. Justin Tuck did not play. Jason Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph did absolutely nothing. When the Giants’ big names up front are missing in action, bad things happen downfield. Not to be outdone, DE/LB Mathais Kiwanuka also was a no-show on Sunday until he was able to sack Flacco on a third-and-one play down near the goal line. At that point, New York was down 30-7 with just seven and a half minutes to go in the game. A pyrrhic victory, at absolute best. Part of the problem with the defensive line is that the linebackers cannot stop the run. The Giants linebackers are assigned to hit holes created by the linemen to stop the run, but just don’t do it. As such, the opposition is constantly in manageable down-and-distance situations and the Giants defensive line cannot tee off and get after the QB. Interestingly, when the Giants had Baltimore in long third downs on Sunday, they still couldn’t get to Flacco. New York allowed Baltimore to convert twice on third-and-19 and once on third-and-nine.

How bad is your secondary when QB Joe Flacco decides to pick on your number one cornerback instead of a rookie who has looked lost most of the season? Corey Webster was torched constantly on Sunday. By unofficial count, Flacco threw at him 13 times. WR Torry Smith, who was rumored to be out with a concussion early in the week, abused Webster over and over to the tune of five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. If you want to know how often Webster was thrown on, just look at the fact that despite playing one-on-one coverage all day, he made seven solo tackles.

The rest of the secondary wasn’t much better. Flacco threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns on his way to a 114.2 passer rating. As mentioned, New York tried to send more pressure in on Flacco, blitzing significantly more than normal. When the Giants couldn’t get home, hitting Flacco just twice all game, Flacco just dumped the ball off short to Rice (six receptions on seven targets for 51 yards) or TE Dennis Pitta (four receptions on five targets for 56 yards) or went over the top against one-on-one coverage. Amazingly, WR Anquan Boldin caught all seven passes thrown his way before leaving with a shoulder injury.

S Antrel Rolle made 10 tackles as he constantly had to make up for missed tackles by the linebackers. S Stevie Brown nearly had an interception.

Special Teams:

P Steve Weatherford had a good game. The rest of the special teams were average, but the punt return team did allow Baltimore to average eight yards per return which is unsatisfactory.

Coaching:

The Giants tried to change things up on defense and it didn’t work. The strategy, in my opinion, was sound. The Giants had been unable to stop the run all year and decided that if they could bottle up Rice and Pierce, they’d have a good chance of rattling Flacco into mistakes. As has been the case all season, the Giants failed to execute the plan. I’m not sure you can blame Fewell for that.

HC Tom Coughlin continues to state that the Giants have had good communication, good weeks of practice, and seemingly are ready to play on game day. While the first two may be true, it sure looks like the third isn’t. The Giants simply looked flat on both sides of the ball to start the game once again. As for the offense, nothing is working. I’m not sure why OC Kevin Gilbride called for a direct snap to Ahmad Bradshaw on their first drive needing two yards to convert a third down. Bradshaw has a bad knee and one would think they would try something a little more conservative. Why not an I formation FB blast? Even if you don’t make it, it’s something different and certainly would not be expected.

Final Thoughts:

After another 6-2 start, the Giants have stumbled down the stretch and are currently 2-5 since then. Deja-vu all over again. As I mentioned, the Giants are beat up on both sides of the ball and are not getting improvement from their young players and that’s part of the problem. The Giants have also had a very tough second-half schedule, but there is no reason to put any blame there after defeating the likes of the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.

The Giants aren’t out of the playoff hunt, but it’ll take a small miracle to get in and then if they do, is it even remotely possible that they have a run in them this year? I started a thread last week saying the Giants would win the division at 10-6 because Dallas would lose to the Saints and then beat the Redskins and that the Redskins would beat the Eagles then lose to Dallas. Those scenarios may still occur, as the first half has already happened. What I didn’t expect was for the Giants to tank on Sunday. How awful will it be if everything falls right again for the Giants next week, but they lose to the Eagles?

(Box Score – New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens, December 23, 2012)
Dec 242012
 
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Approach to the Game – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 30, 2012: There is still one more game to play and the Giants are not officially dead yet.  But even if they somehow miraculously make the playoffs by beating the Eagles, combined with the Cowboys, Vikings, and Bears losing, there doesn’t seem to be much life left in the 2012 New York Giants.

Only one team will win the Super Bowl this season.  You can argue about the reasons, but the point of the matter is the 2012 New York Giants were not good enough to be that team.  Some will say lack of talent was the reason.  Some will say poor coaching.  Some will say lack of hunger and focus due to a Super Bowl letdown.  Many – including myself – will lament the wasted 6-2 start.  And we will point to the team’s potential with their easy victories against the 49ers, Packers, and Saints.  But as Bill Parcells said many years ago, you are what you are.  And the Giants are an 8-7 football team that is 2-5 in their last seven games.  They have not earned the right to be a playoff team this year.  They are not good enough.

Even had the Giants won another title, changes would be coming.  It’s the nature of the game.  But with the disappointing collapse, we’ll probably see even more change.  Many players on this roster will not be on next year’s team.  Perhaps a coach or two will be gone.  Many fans will debate how much change is in fact needed.  Some will want to clean house while others will argue that only a few tweaks need to be made.  I choose not to think about all of that right now.

Many fans right now want to harp on the negative.  I want to ask fans to remember the big picture.  Championships are rare and special.  We are blessed to follow a team that has won eight NFL Championships and played in 19 NFL Championship games.  Those eight titles include four Super Bowl victories and another Super Bowl appearance.  Only the Packers (13) and Bears (9) have won more NFL Championships and only the Steelers (6), Cowboys (5), and 49ers (5) have won more Super Bowls.  The Giants are one of the NFL’s truly special teams.  Be proud of that.

New York Giants Super Bowl Trophies (June 14, 2012)

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

Also, as we say farewell to veterans who were part of the 2007 and 2011 Championship teams, I ask that we not be mean-spirited about it, but thank those gentlemen for their service.  Years from now, as we watch old highlights of those teams and reminicense about two of the great playoff runs in NFL history, let’s remember these players fondly for the warriors they were.

Think about those playoff runs and the images from those games.  The Giants were never favored to win any playoff game in 2007 and trailed in each.  Folks forget how good the Tampa Bay defense was that year.  The Cowboys and Jerry Jones were sure they were going to the Super Bowl.  The Giants went into brutally cold Green Bay in January and beat Brett Favre.  And to beat the undefeated Patriots and Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl?  Are you kidding me?  It still seems like a dream.

And they did it again in 2011!!!  After stomping out the Falcons, the Giants ruined the season of the 15-1 Packers, again at Lambeau.  Then a classic NFC Championship Game in the rain at Candlestick.  And to beat the Patriots and Belichick again, once again with a late-game, dramatic drive?  As David Tyree said, this is fairy tale stuff.

We’ve had it good Giants fans.  The 2012 New York Giants?  They weren’t good enough.  It’s as simple as that.  But that does not erase 2007 and 2011, or the other six NFL Championships.  Free agency and the draft are right around the corner and soon the New York Football Giants will once again try to regain former glory.

I still love this team.

Dec 202012
 
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Atlanta Falcons 34 (12-2) – New York Giants 0 (8-6)

By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Overview:

Here we go again.  One week after putting up the most points since 1986, the Giants got shut out in a regular season game for the first time since 1996 (they were shut out by Carolina in the 2006 playoffs).  New York was flat.  Plain and simple, from the opening return that Wilson took out of the end zone despite being around 8 yards deep, this team wasn’t on point.  They had no focus.  They looked disinterested.

Could they be reeling from the recent tragedies that have hit close to home?  This is the second time this season that the Giants have come out flat after a national tragedy hit in their area.  The first time was against the Steelers following Hurricane Sandy and this time it was after the awful shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in nearby Newtown, CT.

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, southwestern  Connecticut was Giants country.  The demarcation point between Giants and Patriots fandom was set somewhere in the Hartford vicinity back then, and from what I understand that is still the case.  There is no doubt in my mind that the horrible event affected the team.  They said they wanted to win for the fans after both tragedies, to allow the fans to take their minds off the situation for a few hours but both times were unable to deliver.  I know how hard it is to perform your job and/or task after a tragedy.  Focus isn’t the same and it’s harder than hell to keep your concentration.  You can’t help but have your mind wander.

I’m not giving the Giants an excuse or a get out of jail free card.  The NFL is a sixteen game schedule and every single one is of utmost importance.  You can’t have a throw away game in the NFL.  You can’t rest players like you can in the other three major leagues.  We all know the Giants can still win the East and they control their own destiny as far as the playoffs go.  If they win their next two games, they’re in despite the fact that they’ve fallen from first place to third place in the NFC East.

New York absorbed the worst shutout defeat by a defending Super Bowl Champion in history, and became just the fourth team in NFL history to score more than 50 points one week and then get shut out the next.

Wouldn’t these be great little tidbits for the 2012 America’s Game program?

Offense:

The Giants were playing without HB Ahmad Bradshaw after losing HB Andre Brown two weeks ago, leaving relatively untested rookie David Wilson to try and carry the load with help from street free agent Kregg Lumpkin.  Additionally, David Diehl is now the undisputed starter at RT, Hakeem Nicks is still not anywhere near 100%, and C Kevin Bass along with RG Chris Snee are playing through various injuries.  Let’s face it folks, this offense is beat up something fierce.  Still, they were no more beat up this week than they were in the second half against the Saints and they did a pretty good job then.

New York never got in any type of sustained groove all day.  On their second play from scrimmage, Eli Manning made the worst decision of the season to throw to Nicks despite bracket coverage that allowed his nemesis, Asante Samuel, to guess and make a play on the ball for an interception.  Naturally, the interception turned into an Atlanta touchdown and once again the Giants were down very early in the game.  On Sunday, they never recovered.  On their next drive, the Giants were unable to capitalize on a first and 10 from the Atlanta 19-yard line and then missed a 30-yard field goal.  That’s the way the game went for the offense all day.

Despite the two turnovers, New York was actually done in most by the fact that they were unable to convert two fourth-and-one opportunities when trying to claw back into the game.  Twice in the first half, HC Tom Coughlin decided against attempting field goals (granted, both were after Tynes missed the 30-yarder) and both times the Giants couldn’t convert.  Most devastating and lost in most of the commentary is the fact that both fourth down failures came after third and very short (third-and-two and third-and-one) opportunities.  The Giants had two chances on each drive to convert a short distance and failed.  Combined with the two first-half interceptions that led to 10 Atlanta points, and the missed field goal, New York was out of the game at halftime.

The second half offense isn’t even worth commenting on as there really was none.  New York’s first drive was a 9 play jaunt that gained 55 yards to the Atlanta 25 yard line, but going for it again on fourth down and two yards to go, Manning’s throw to Lumpkin was knocked down at the line of scrimmage.  That play occurred with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter.  What I’m about to write is not a typo.  Over the next 22 minutes, the New York offense ran just five plays for 18 yards, one first down, and committed another turnover on a fumble.   New York held the ball for only 1:40 the entire fourth quarter.

Do you want to hear an amazing stat?  The Giants scored no points yet only punted twice in nine possessions.  New York’s offense committed three turnovers, gave up the ball on downs three times, and missed a field goal on another drive.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Quarterback:

QB Eli Manning is not playing good football.  The problem is that there is no way to know why.  Is he not trusting his line any longer and trying to get rid of the ball too early?  Is he not in sync with his receivers?  Nicks isn’t 100% and Cruz has obviously been, well, ‘cautious’ over the middle in recent weeks.  There is no lack of running game, as the Giants fell just short of 100 yards in the game for what would have been the fifth time in a row.

So what is it?  What makes him target Hakeem Nicks despite being covered by his absolute nemesis on the second play of the game?  Why is it that his deep balls are inconsistent all of a sudden?   One is overthrown by three yards, the next is underthrown by three yards.  Then he puts one right on the money.  What is causing the inconsistency?

Manning finished his day completing just 13-of-25 passes for a whopping 161 yards.  The pressure wasn’t intense, but Manning did have pressure.  He was sacked once for a two yard loss and hit just twice.  Manning’s two interceptions helped lead him to a woeful 38.9 passer rating and an astoundingly bad and completely embarrassing 4.8 QBR.  Yes, that is correct, a 4.8 out of 100.  The only two worse this week were Chad Henne and Joe Flacco.  Even Mark Sanchez had a higher rating at 6.8.

If the Giants are to win the next two games and make a run, Manning has got to turn his game around and stop throwing early interceptions that are leading to early deficits.

Running Backs:

David Wilson got his first start, subbing for injured HBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown.  Wilson had his ups and downs, carrying 12 times for 55 yards with a long of 25 yards.  Unfortunately, Wilson was unable to convert a fourth-and-one play with six minutes left to play in the second quarter with the Giants trailing 17-0.  Frankly, it felt as though the game was over right then and there.  Wilson made one reception and showed some power and determination by catching the swing pass and taking on three tacklers and still getting 11 yards and a first down.

It’s important to note that Wilson got absolutely steamrolled by blitzing linebacker Sean Weatherspoon which put pressure on Manning (who was hit and dropped by Weatherspoon) and may have caused him to throw into coverage on the first interception.  Wilson was trucked, rag dolled, blown up, whatever adjective you want to use but frankly that’s why he hasn’t played on passing downs before now.  Incidentally, Manning had Bear Pascoe all alone five yards downfield across the middle on the play.  Interestingly, nobody on the broadcast noted this issue.

Kregg Lumpkin played well in his first sustained action, well, ever.  He set career highs in carries with 9, yards gained with 42, and also had a career long run of 22 yards.  The problem was that before Wilson’s failed fourth-and-one, Lumpkin gained just one yard on third-and-two.  Later, Lumpkin failed on another third-and-one that led to another failed fourth down conversion for the Giants.  Lumpkin’s fumble was a fluke play as the ball was punched out from behind.  Lumpkin didn’t even know a player was there to make that play.

Receivers:

WR Domenik Hixon once again impressed for New York, catching five of six passes for 80 yards, his most productive day in quite a while.  Hixon lately seems to be the most consistent of the wide receivers.

Victor Cruz was targeted just five times, catching three for only 15 yards while Nicks only caught three of seven balls thrown his way for 40 yards.  Both of Manning’s interceptions came on balls thrown in the vicinity of Nicks.

TE Martellus Bennett was invisible on Sunday.  Manning went his way just twice and Bennett caught one for 15 yards.

Offensive Line:

I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to the offensive line, but frankly the protection for Eli Manning seemed pretty good for most of the day.  Other than two long runs that accounted for nearly half the Giants rushing yards, the Giants ran 19 times for just 50 yards.  That’s a 2.6 ypc average.  Not good.

Defense:

Once again, New York was powerless to stop the running game and powerless to get to the quarterback.  As such, QB Matt Ryan was able to completely eviscerate the Giants secondary.  Ryan finished completing 23 of 28 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensive Front 7:

All that needs to be said about the defensive line is this:

  • 1st down at NYG16 :  14:03 Michael Turner rush to the right for 3 yards to the NYG13. Tackled by Keith Rivers.
  • 2nd down at NYG13:  13:28 Michael Turner rush to the left for 8 yards to the NYG5. Tackled by Spencer Paysinger.
  • 1st down at NYG5:  12:53 Michael Turner rush to the right for 4 yards to the NYG1. Tackled by Linval Joseph.
  • 2nd down at NYG1:  12:14 Michael Turner rush to the right for 1 yard for a TOUCHDOWN.

Four plays, 16 yards, one first down, one touchdown.  One lineman was in on a tackle over the four plays, Linval Joseph.  Joseph only had two other tackles on the day.  Chris Canty did his best to clog the middle, recording five solo tackles including the only Giant sack.

I have no idea what Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, or Jason Pierre-Paul did on Sunday but it wasn’t playing football.  The three of them were in on just 7 of 64 tackles during the game and never really got close to Ryan.  Osi was credited with two quarterback hits but I don’t recall them impacting the play.

The linebackers didn’t play well either, particularly Michael Boley who had just two tackles while trying to cover TE Tony Gonzalez.  Between Boley and Rolle trying to cover him, Gonzalez caught six of seven passes for 49 yards and a touchdown.  Neither could stay with Gonzalez.  Chase Blackburn continued his solid play at MIKE, making seven tackles and breaking up a third down pass to Gonzalez.  The rest of the linebackers didn’t do much to distinguish themselves, but frankly Mathais Kiwanuka is not and should never again be a linebacker.

Secondary:

Before this week’s game, Corner Forum contributor Joey in Va posted a thread in which he extolled the virtues of Giants understudies from the past several years and how they’ve been able to step up late and help the Giants move forward.  One of the players discussed, Jayron Hosley, was flat out horrible on Sunday.  I mentioned in the thread that Hosley looked like a lost colt, all arms and legs, when he was forced outside late in the Saints game.  Well on Sunday he was beaten like a red-headed step child by Julio Jones on the game sealing touchdown that opened up the second half and was picked on constantly by Ryan.  Frankly, Hosley at this point of his young career has no business as a starting CB on the outside.

Not to be outdone, Corey Webster was beaten by Jones on his second touchdown and gave up a number of deep balls to WR Harry Douglas.  Webster’s lost year continues.

Safeties Will Hill and Stevie Brown played well, but Antrel Rolle was invisible most of the game.  Rolle only had one tackle and had no impact plays.  Rolle was also beaten by Douglas.

Special Teams:

Sometimes it’s best not to read your own press clippings.  There is no way that KR David Wilson should have taken the opening kickoff out of the end zone.  His decision hurt the Giants.  On the whole, the Giants return teams did nothing spectacular.  The coverage teams basically had the day off as the Giants only punted twice and kicked off once.

K Lawrence Tynes once again missed a chip shot field goal.  The kicker who was so reliable early on is now causing everyone to hold their breath every time he kicks.

Coaching:

Who knows what actually happened to this team this week, but it’s clear that HC Tom Coughlin did not have this team ready to play on Sunday.  Yes, injuries are hurting the Giants but there is no excuse for what happened on Sunday.  Preparation has to be questioned on both sides of the ball.

Final Thoughts:

Two games left.  Win both and go to the playoffs.  I believe if they win both, they will be NFC East Champs.  It will all depend on which team decides to show up on Sunday.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons, December 16, 2012)