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

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 17 – Buffalo Bills 13

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

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

Eli Manning and Ben McAdoo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

QUARTERBACKS  by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

RUNNING BACKS  by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

WIDE RECEIVERS by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

TIGHT ENDS – by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

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

OFFENSIVE LINE – by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

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

James Brewer – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Damontre Moore – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

LINEBACKERS – By Connor Hughes

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

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

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

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

THE SECONDARY – By Connor Hughes

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

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

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

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

New York Giants vs Buffalo Bills, August 3, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marcus Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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


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

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

Jerrel Jernigan – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 20 – Washington Redskins 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 232013
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Jerrel Jernigan, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Jerrel Jernigan – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 23 – Detroit Lions 20 (Overtime)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Detroit Lions, December 22, 2013)
Dec 212013
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Eli Manning, Kevin Gilbride, New York Giants (December 15, 2013)

Eli Manning and Kevin Gilbride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Seattle Seahawks 23 – New York Giants 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 102013
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Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers (December 8, 2013)

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

San Diego Chargers 37 – New York Giants 14

Game Overview: The game was over by halftime. The game was also too reminiscent of the 2012 blowout losses to the Bengals, Falcons, and Ravens, and this year’s blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers. To lose is one thing. But to lose this badly, to another 5-7 team, with your playoff hopes (though fleeting) still alive, is disgusting.

Something is wrong. This goes beyond X’s and O’s and the players on the field. The Giants may not be a good team anymore, but they should not be getting their asses kicked like this. Not with the skill position players this team has on offense and not with this defense.

The 2007 and 2011 Giants, with most of the same coaches and many of the same key players, were two of the most mentally-tough and resilient teams I’ve every seen in sports. The source of that toughness and resiliency must be attributed to Tom Coughlin. But the 2012 Giants were not tough or resilient and neither is the 2013 edition. Too often over the course of the last two seasons, quite frankly, this team has not been prepared to play a competitive football game. That’s on the coach. It’s part of the job description.

Quarterback: Yet another poor performance by the passing game. At the half, Manning was 9-of-15 for 148 yards and one interception. Take away the Hail Mary and Manning was 8-of-14 for 105 yards. This against the NFL’s 28th pass defense. The most disturbing element of the Giants’ offensive woes is that they have come against some of the NFL’s worst pass defenses. The Giants continue to average only one TD pass per game. There were two more interceptions in this game, raising Eli Manning’s total to 20. And another delay-of-game penalty. The most important statistic? Points. Zero first-half points, 14 at game’s end.

To be fair to Manning, some of the first-half failures were not on him. On the 3rd-and-2 incomplete pass on the opening drive, TE Brandon Myers should have worked back to quarterback. An easy completion would have been the result. After Manning hit WR Hakeem Nicks for a 51-yard pass play on the second drive, Manning threw slightly behind WR Rueben Randle. The pass bounced off of the defender’s face mask and was intercepted. On the third drive, a 4-yard pass to RB Andre Brown should have picked up more yards, but Brown fell down. On the next play, on 2nd-and-6, LG James Brewer misses a block, and the Giants are in 3rd-and-11. Five-yard completion to Myers, punt. On the fourth drive, Manning did under throw Louis Murphy on a fly route and he slightly threw behind Nicks on 3rd-and-11. The next first-half drive ended with a Brown fumble.

In the second half, Manning found Victor Cruz for five yards on 4th-and-2 on the Giants’ first touchdown drive. On the second TD drive, Eli made a nice play by stepping up into the pocket away from a free blitzer to hit Randle for 18 yards on 3rd-and-4. Manning’s 3rd-and-6 pass was almost intercepted in the end zone, however, as he was bailed out by an illegal contact penalty. Two plays later, he made a heck of a throw, threading the needle to Myers for a touchdown. What probably sticks out most to fans is how the game ended. On the second-to-last drive, down 34-14 with 6:40 to play, and with pressure bearing down on him, Eli’s pass to Cruz should have been intercepted. Then with 2:00 left to play, down 37-14, either miscommunication with Louis Murphy or a poor pass led to an easy interception.

Running Backs: Andre Brown continues to run tough, but at the half, with Brown receiving all of the rushing touches, the Giants had “amassed” only 24 yards on eight carries (3.0 yards per carry). Worse, Brown’s fumble at the Giants’ 39-yard left with 2:35 left before halftime set up the Chargers’ third touchdown of the first half, and essentially sealed the game. The 68 yards gained by Brown and Peyton Hillis in the second half were irrelevant because the defense could not make a stand.

Wide Receivers: Hakeem Nicks (5 catches for 135 yards but 43 of those coming on a harmless Hail Mary) still has not caught a touchdown pass since Week 14 of the 2012 season. Victor Cruz (5 catches for 42 yards) still has not caught a touchdown pass since Week 4. These are the Giants’ two starting wide receivers! Rueben Randle hasn’t caught more than three passes in a game since Week 5. In an NFL where a 4,000-yard passing season is no longer unusual, these facts boggle the mind. Louis Murphy saw the most action he has all season (13 snaps), was thrown at twice, but had no catches, and one led to an interception where one wonders if he was on the wrong page with Eli again. Jerrel Jernigan did not play on offense.

Shaun O’Hara talks about how Randle should have run a crisper route on Eli’s first interception at

What’s becoming more clear to me is this: teams are doubling Victor Cruz, and Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle are not getting open against single coverage. Too often against the Chargers, replays showed that Eli didn’t have anyone obviously open down the field. Every throw appeared to be contested.

Tight Ends: With the receivers being shutout in the touchdown department, Brandon Myers has been the beneficiary in recent weeks, catching his third touchdown pass in the last three games. But he was held to a pedestrian 26 yards on four catches. Bear Pascoe had 13 snaps, and caught one pass for 14 yards. Larry Donnell saw two offensive snaps. Adrien Robinson still has not played this season.

Offensive Line: The offensive line could only help to generate 24 first-half rushing yards against the NFL’s 22nd-ranked rushing defense. Pass protection was actually pretty good in the first half, although LG James Brewer allowed one big hit that caused an incompletion. Three plays later, Brewer whiffed on a run block that led to a 5-yard loss and helped to stall a drive. David Diehl gave up a second-half sack on a drive that fortunately ended with a touchdown. On the second-to-last drive, on 4th-and-5, both LT Will Beatty and Brewer were beaten on a sack. (Beatty was flagged for a false start earlier on this drive).

If you didn’t see the game and just read the fan reviews, you would come away with the impression that Brewer was terrible from start to finish. That is not true. He had one very bad series in the first half and he was responsible for a sack in the second half. In total, he had three bad plays that really stood out. Beatty rebounded with a nice game in pass protection and RT Justin Pugh and OC Kevin Boothe were solid in pass protection.

Defensive Overview: In the last seven games, the Giants are 5-0 when facing a sub-standard passing game and 0-2 when facing a respectable offense. One can argue that despite the defensive collapse at the end of the Cowboys’ game, the defense did not deserve the lion’s share of the blame for that loss. That could not be said against the Chargers as San Diego scored on seven-of-nine offensive possessions and only were forced to punt once. Charger scoring drives went for 50 (touchdown), 76 (field goal), 67 (touchdown), 39 (touchdown), 80 (touchdown), 75 (field goal), and 18 yards (field goal). In the first half, the Chargers were an unbelievable 7-of-9 on third down (78 percent); they finished 10-of-15 (67 percent) for the game. Four of San Diego’s drives had 11 plays or more. San Diego racked up 250 first-half yards and rushed for 144 yards overall. QB Philip Rivers finished the game 21-of-28 with three touchdown passes and a QB rating of 137.4. No interceptions, one pass defense, as Rivers completed 75 percent of his passes. Just nauseating. There is no excuse for the Giants’ defense to perform that poorly. None. Shame on the coaches and shame on the players.

Defensive Line: Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka each received 63 snaps (88 percent of the defensive snaps). Damontre Moore saw 15 snaps (21 percent). Tuck and Moore were each flagged for being offsides; Kiwanuka had his third personal foul penalty in three games. Tuck’s offsides gave the Chargers a first down on 3rd-and-4 on a drive that ended with a touchdown. Tuck did have two sacks, another QB hit, and a forced fumble that set up the Giants’ first touchdown. The pass rush early on wasn’t that bad, but Rivers did a great job of getting rid of the ball quickly and the Giants’ coverage was not tight enough to disrupt the rhythm between passer and receivers. However, the Giants’ run defense, which had been a strength most of the season, was poor. San Diego was able to run between the tackles and outside the tackles too consistently all game, especially out of the shotgun. Linval Joseph saw 78 percent of the snaps while Cullen Jenkins saw 64 percent, Mike Patterson 44 percent, and Johnathan Hankins 26 percent. Jenkins jumped offsides too, leading to a free play that picked up 39 yards.

Linebackers: Jon Beason (100 percent of the defensive snaps) had nine tackles. Spencer Paysinger (58 percent) had four tackles, Jacquian Williams (42 percent) four tackles, and Keith Rivers (33 percent) three tackles. But the Chargers rushed for 144 yards. San Diego running backs and tight ends caught 12-of-16 passes thrown in their direction for 147 yards. And the two failures played off of each other. For example, late in the second quarter, a play-action pass by Rivers to Gates led to a 23-yard pickup down to the Giants’ 2-yard line. On this play, both Beason and Williams bit on the fake, leaving Gates wide open. This play worked because the Chargers were running the ball so well.

Paysinger, for some reason, was left all alone with WR Vince Brown and a 36-yard pass interference penalty in the end zone was the result on a 3rd-and-3 deep pass that set up San Diego’s final touchdown of the game. That’s not on Paysinger, but a mental mistake by someone else or shoddy coaching.

Defensive Backs: The life seemed to right out of the Giants early in the game. After Manning’s interception on New York’s second drive of the game, Rivers hit rookie WR Keenan Allen for a 43-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-3. Allen badly beat CB Terrell Thomas on the play. Thomas also later gave up an easy 8-yard out pass to TE Antonio Gates on 3rd-and-4 and missed a tackle on a short completion that picked up another first down.

Antrel Rolle, Prince Amukamara, and Will Hill played virtually every snap. Jayron Hosley seemed to see more time as the game wore on at the expense of Trumaine McBride.

I didn’t understand why Amukamara was playing so far off the ball against an offense that thrives on the short-passing game. He allowed a couple of easy completions because of this, as well as not being in proper position on Allen’s second touchdown on 3rd-and-goal from the 4-yard line. McBride failed to pick up RB Danny Woodhead for a 6-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left before the half. Will Hill did cause one incompletion by successfully defending a pass intended for Gates on 3rd-and-2 on the Chargers’ first drive. Hosley was out-fought by a 5’9” running back on a jump ball that picked up 39 yards.

Special Teams: Steve Weatherford had another strong outing, averaging 47 yards on three punts (46.3 yard net). Punt and kickoff coverage was very good as the Chargers averaged only one yard on two punt returns and 17 yards on two kickoff returns. Rueben Randle never had a chance to field a punt (the Chargers only punted once all day and that went out of bounds).

As Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn has mentioned, blocking on kick returns remains a problem. Michael Cox only averaged 18.8 yards per return on six kickoff returns with the long only being 23 yards (and Ryan Mundy was flagged for holding on that return).

CB Charles James handed the Chargers three points in the second quarter. The Chargers missed a 41-yard field goal, but James was offsides and the Chargers made the ensuing 36-yard attempt, giving San Diego a 10-0 advantage.

Coaching: The Giants did not seem mentally prepared to play this game. There were a lot of mental mistakes.

Also, in terms of tactics, Perry Fewell’s decision to rush three on 3rd-and-12 in the second quarter left Rivers with a ton of time and an easy 15-yard completion on a drive that put the Chargers up 17-0. When is Fewell ever going to learn that rushing three in such a situation is a bad idea? Stupid.

Unlike most, I don’t really blame the coaches for not getting another play off before the two-minute warning on Brown’s fumble. First, it wasn’t instantly clear that Brown fumbled. More importantly, the next snap was third-and-10, and trailing 17-0, it was critical for the Giants to call the right play and pick up the first down. If you want to blame anyone, blame Brown for fumbling the football or the run blockers for allowing the defenders to make a play.

I also credit the offensive coaches for not panicking the second half. Some fans didn’t like the fact that the Giants continued to run the football in the third quarter, but that decision did lead to two touchdowns. Had the defense been able to hold at all, the game would have gotten more interesting.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at San Diego Chargers, December 8, 2013)


Dec 062013
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Will Beatty, New York Giants (November 10, 2013)

Will Beatty – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at San Diego Chargers, December 8, 2013: With a quarter of the regular season still left, unfortunately, it’s time to start thinking about how these games may impact next season.

Whether you agree with it or not, Coach Coughlin will be back. And so will most, if not all, of his staff. So the area of focus should really be on personnel and how the Giants can get better on the playing field.

How a team performs in the final stages of one season can impact the next season. For example, the early warning signs of the 0-6 start were probably there for all to see when the Giants got walloped by the Bengals, Falcons, and Ravens last season. Good teams don’t get shellacked like that, not three times in a six-game period.

The Giants are 5-1 in their last six games. Granted that record was gained against questionable competition, but New York has begun to right the ship. For the sake of the 2014 season, I think it is important to keep the momentum going in the final four games. There are a lot of players on this current roster who were not around in 2011. They have no direct personal connection to the two Super Bowl titles and the culture and expectation of winning that was created. Winning breeds confidence which breeds more winning.

When you put on that New York Giants uniform, you are expected to win.

Giants on Offense: The most important goal of the final four games and the upcoming offseason is to get Eli Manning back on track. If they don’t, then the next few years will be very similar to the 2012 and 2013 seasons…hovering around .500 with maybe a shot at the post-season if things fall your way.

How do you get Manning back on track? That’s the million dollar question. Some say fix the offensive line. Some say get a better quarterback coach for him to work with. Some say surround him with better weapons. Is family life distracting him? Is he still hungry? Was 2011 simply his career year?

It’s up to the New York Giants organization to successfully identify the problem and fix it. Everything depends on this.

Now, like the Giants’ recent six-game stretch, Eli has been better. Not great, but better. In the first six games of the season, he had a 9-to-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In the last six games, his touchdown-to-interception ratio was 6-to-3. His mistakes (or the mistakes of his teammates – i.e., bad routes) have significantly dropped. But he’s not making a lot of big plays in the passing game. He’s averaging one touchdown pass per game. That’s not elite. That’s not difference-making. The Giants need Eli to be a difference-maker. He’s being paid to be that ($20 million cap number in both 2013 and 2014). So now that the mistakes have diminished, it is time to get back to making big plays.

Intimately connected to Eli’s lack of big-play production is the same lack of big-play production from the wide receivers. For Christ sake, Hakeem Nicks hasn’t had a touchdown since Week 14 last season. Victor Cruz hasn’t had a touchdown since Week 4 this year. Three of his four TDs came on opening night. Where’s the salsa? Rueben Randle has six touchdowns, but really more was expected from him this year. He hasn’t had more than three receptions in a game since Week 5. If Nicks is gone after this season, like most expect, is Randle an adequate replacement? These last four games will be important in helping to determine the answer to that question. Louis Murphy and Jerrel Jernigan don’t offer much. If Nicks goes, the Giants will need more help here as the Giants keep botching draft picks at the position (Sinorice Moss, Ramses Barden, Jerrel Jernigan).

Brandon Myers has played better at tight end and perhaps the Giants will re-sign him in the offseason, but he seems like just a guy to me. He has no outstanding physical traits (size, speed, overall athleticism) and certainly doesn’t scare opposing defenses with his blocking or receiving. Hopefully, Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell surprise in 2014, but can the Giants really count on that? Both have a very nice combination of size and overall athleticism, but both have been non-factors this year. I’d like to get a better read on both during the next four games. I hope the Giants want that too.

Running back has been a patchwork this offseason. Andre Brown is productive when he plays but he can’t seem to stay healthy. He will also be a free agent. Will David Wilson be able to play football again? And if so, is he the right match for this team? Brandon Jacobs is done. Does Peyton Hillis have an NFL future? Michael Cox has some ability, but we won’t see him again at running back this year unless people start getting hurt again. There are a lot of questions at running back.

Fullback is set. Hopefully they recognize that John Conner is simply a huge upgrade over Henry Hynoski, who is also a good player.

This brings us to the biggest concern on the offensive side of the football other than Eli Manning: the offensive line. A good offensive line makes everyone better. If you can’t block, you won’t win a lot of football games. Justin Pugh will be a fixture at tackle, the only question in my mind is will it be at right or left tackle. He’ll stay at right tackle if Will Beatty gets his head out of his ass and starts playing consistent, quality football. Beatty ($7 million 2014 cap number) admitted this week that the pressure of living up to his contract has gotten to him. The honesty is admirable, but that’s a red flag. Can they count on Beatty in pressure situations? The way he finishes out the 2013 season is incredibly important in helping to determine the makeup up the 2014 offensive line.

David Baas ($8 million 2014 cap number) did help the Giants to win a Super Bowl, but he hasn’t been the player the Giants had hoped when they signed him because he simply can’t stay healthy. Jerry Reese compounded the salary-cap problem by re-structuring him twice. If you could guarantee that he would stay healthy, then you would want to keep him and have him start in 2014. But should the Giants really do that? Even if they part ways, because of the re-structures, it’s not going to help the Giants salary-cap wise. But it may be better simply to shed the unreliable, injury-prone player and move on.

David Diehl (free agent) and Chris Snee ($12 million 2014 cap number) are done. I will fondly remember them as two of the Giants who were around for both NFL titles. They are blue-collar tough guys, but it’s time. Kevin Boothe is Kevin Boothe. You could do better; you could do worse. Jim Cordle will be back and we don’t really know what the organization thinks of his ability.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a good read, and won’t have a good read, on Brandon Mosley, Stephen Goodin, and Eric Herman. But we will get a better read on James Brewer in these last four games. If you want to focus on anyone in the last games, watch Beatty and Brewer. Regardless, the Giants need an infusion of talent on the line.

Giants on Defense: It’s too bad that a decent defensive season like the Giants have put together has been wasted by bad offense and special teams. Perry Fewell will surely be back. But a lot of current defenders won’t be.

The San Diego Chargers will provide a good litmus test for the Giants’ defense. The Chargers are fourth in overall and passing offense, and they are incredibly tough to get off of the field (NFL’s second best on third down). QB Philips Rivers is completing an astounding 70 percent of his passes. RB Danny Woodhead is a tiny pain-in-the-ass, especially as a receiver. TE Antonio Gates is not the same player he once was, but he’s still catching a ton of passes.

Linval Joseph will be a free agent. Will the Giants be able to re-sign him? If they do, with Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, and Johnathan Hankins, New York will be in good shape at defensive tackle. If they can somehow bring back Mike Patterson in a Rocky Bernard-type role, they will be even stronger. But they may want to go with Markus Kuhn there instead.

Outside is where the question marks lie. Jason Pierre-Paul is under contract one more season. But he didn’t have a single sack in the last seven games of the 2012 season and only has two this year. Will he ever regain his 2011 form? He’ll get one more year to prove that he can. In camp, it sounded like Damontre Moore was going develop into a special player. He hasn’t thus far so we will have to see. The shoulder injury obviously set him back big time.

What to do about Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka? Tuck will be a free agent and, despite his four-sack outburst against the Redskins, has been just a guy for three seasons now. At 30, he’s not old, but he’s not a difference maker. I’d offer not much more than a veteran-minimum type deal, but I’m not sure Tuck would be able to swallow his pride and accept that. Kiwanuka just never developed into the player hoped. He’s making way too much money ($7 million 2014 cap number).

Jon Beason has been a God-send at linebacker, but will be a free agent. It sounds like he really wants to be here so I expect him to be re-signed unless his contract demands are unreasonable. Jacquian Williams is under contract one more season but everyone else will be a free agent. Beason’s presence has made Williams, Spencer Paysinger, and Keith Rivers better. They may be back too with minimum-type deals. The Giants still need to bring in and develop talent, however. They can’t just rely on Beason, who has a serious injury history.

The Giants will be in great shape at safety if they can afford to keep Antrel Rolle ($9 million 2014 cap number) and if Stevie Brown (torn ACL) can come back healthy. Those two, along with Will Hill and Cooper Taylor, form a good nucleus.

Prince Amukamara will man one starting corner spot. I can’t imagine Corey Webster and Aaron Ross will be back. Will the Giants be able to bring back Terrell Thomas at a reasonable contract? He’s still a walking medical risk. Others in the picture who may still have a future here include Trumaine McBride (free agent), Jayron Hosley, and Charles James. Adding a top-notch corner here would make the secondary a real strength.

Giants on Special Teams: Steve Weatherford has had a crazy year. He’s been terrible at times and absolutely outstanding at other times. Josh Brown actually has performed well except for a couple of games. He will be a free agent. If David Wilson plays football again, it may be best to use him as a return man and offensive role player (like the Saints use Darren Sproles).