Eli Manning and Justin Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images
New York Giants 42 (9-7) – Philadelphia Eagles 7 (4-12)
Bipolar Giants Crush Eagles, Miss Playoffs
By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com
It’s impossible to state how confounding this season has been. Giants fans have been exhilarated by incredibly lopsided victories over the 49ers, Packers and Saints and bewildered by thrashings from the likes of the Falcons, Ravens and Bengals. From week to week, there was just no way of knowing which team was going to show up. In the final week, the good team showed up and beat the ever-loving tar out of division rival Philadelphia in the season-finale at MetLife Stadium. It was the most lopsided win against the Eagles in quite some time. To make the game even a little more sweet on a sour day, the Giants got the final laugh on Eagle head coach Andy Reid, who was fired on Monday morning. I doubt there is a Giant fan in the country that isn’t happy to see Reid out of Philadelphia and out of the NFC East.
The game started ominously enough as the Eagles attempted a surprise onsides kick on the opening kickoff. For some reason, CB Justin Tryon decided to try and catch and advance the ball instead of simply securing it. He didn’t secure it, and the Eagles were in business early. The Eagles came out with a no-huddle attack, but on a 3rd-and-13 play, under heavy pressure, Michael Vick sailed a ball high over the middle where S Stevie Brown intercepted his eighth pass of the season. After that fifth offensive play for the Eagles, it was essentially all Giants the rest of the way.
Many people over in The Corner Forum had claimed that they felt the Giants players had quit, that they’d given up on the season during back-to-back drubbings by the Falcons and Ravens. I don’t know about the rest of the Giants fans on BBI, but I didn’t see quit in anybody in this last game. WR Hakeem Nicks played despite probably needing surgery 6-8 weeks ago. Ahmad Bradshaw played despite not being able to walk without limping. Chris Snee played despite a torn hip labrum compounded by bone spurs. Kenny Phillips was out there at three quarters speed making plays. People forget that Corey Webster has been playing with hamstring issues and a broken hand for the better part of the season. Justin Tuck could have sat this one out with a shoulder issue, but he was in on passing downs and recorded the Giants’ only sack. Prince Amukamara was doubtful going into the game and played nearly the entire contest. Henry Hynoski isn’t hurt, but he played as though he was playing in the last game of his career. This team didn’t quit. They didn’t lie down. It will take time and there will have to be a lot of self-scouting by the staff before answers can be found and conclusions made, but this team didn’t lose because they quit. If anything, maybe some of these guys should have been replaced earlier this season with guys who were healthier. At any rate, I saw a lot of guts from a proud team that wanted to finish the season strong on Sunday.
This game was over by halftime, and for Giants fans the only drama remaining was whether the rest of the pieces required to complete the 2012 playoff puzzle for New York would fall in to place. Alas, the Giants hopes were resting on the Detroit Lions, who disappoint everyone. When they came up short to the Bears 26-24, the Giants’ season was officially over at 9-7, later to be cemented in second place in the NFC East, one game…and essentially one point…behind division champion Washington. The same 9-7 record earned them the NFC East last season, and on they went to become Super Bowl champions.
New York’s offense was clicking on all cylinders for the first time since the Saints game. The Giants scored touchdowns on their first four possessions, and on five of six in the first half. It was again apparent that WR Hakeem Nicks was not himself on Sunday. This time, however, New York got enough of a contribution from the backups to help take up the slack. Interestingly, New York only attempted 13 passes to the wide receivers, but with the running game racking up huge yardage, the Giants weren’t forced to pass as much as usual. On the day, New York ran the 35 times and only attempted 22 passes. That is highly unusual for the Giants.
Eli Manning finished the season on a high note, completing 13-of-21 passes for 208 and a career-high five touchdowns passes. Manning was effective and efficient and faced almost no pressure from the Eagles defense. He was sacked just once and hit twice. Manning was at his best at the end of the first half. After taking over at his own 46 yard line with only 17 seconds left in the half, Manning competed a 30 yard pass to Hixon, who got out of bounds at the Philadelphia 24 yard line. Instead of going for a field goal to extend the half time lead to 31-7, New York elected to try one more play. Manning connected with Victor Cruz who broke all alone in the middle of the field for the dagger touchdown.
On the year, Manning completed 321 completions on 536 attempts for 3,948 yards (59.9%) and 26 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. Manning was sacked just 19 times, the second fewest in his career as a full time starter. Manning’s passer rating was a sound 87.2, which was 14th in the NFL. His QBR for the year was 67.4, good for 10th in the league.
Overall, Manning just missed passing for 4,000 yards for the fourth time in his career. Many people may feel that Manning had a down year, but frankly, his statistics were on par with his usual seasonal output. Statistically, Manning had his fourth best year in touchdowns, interceptions thrown, and yardage. Considering he played as well as he did without an established number 3 wide receiver, a new tight end, and major injuries to Hakeem Nicks, it was a successful season for Manning.
It’s now clear what the Giants have in RB David Wilson. Wilson ran for 75 tough yards on 15 carries for a 5.0 yards per carry average. Wilson also caught one pass for a 15-yard touchdown.
Wilson started the year ominously, fumbling on just his second carry in the opener against Dallas. It was obvious that Wilson landed in Tom Coughlin’s dog house and it took a long time for him to get out. Interestingly, that was Wilson’s only fumble on the season. Wilson carried 71 times for 358 yards (a 5.0 ypc average) and four touchdowns. Wilson caught just four passes on the year for 34 yards and one touchdown.
Wilson is a tough runner who seems to take big hits. He’s also very adept at getting to and through the line very quickly and getting to full speed in space. It appears that New York has a back who will challenge for the number one role, but like Ahmad Bradshaw, he may be better suited as a back that shares the load.
Where Wilson really excelled this season was on kickoff returns. Wilson obliterated the New York Giants record for kickoff return yardage in a season with 1,533 yards and one touchdown. Wilson had 57 attempts, averaging a stellar 26.9 yards per return. Wilson led the NFL in kickoff return yardage, outgaining his nearest competitor by nearly 300 yards. Additionally, Wilson set the Giants’ rookie franchise record with 1,925 all-purpose yards. He came in second amongst rookies in total all-purpose yards behind only Doug Martin of Tampa Bay. By ONE yard.
Earlier in the season, Wilson also set an NFL record when he rushed for more than 100 yards and amassed more than 200 kickoff return yards in a game. Additionally, Wilson set the Giants’ franchise record in total all-purpose yards in a game with 327.
So while it may have been an up-and-down year for the rookie, the fact is he’s a game-changer and will be a big part of the Giants’ future.
HB Ahmad Bradshaw had a great game against the Eagles despite not getting the start, rushing for 107 yards on 16 carries, a 6.7 ypc average, and a touchdown. Impressively, that 6.7 average is not skewed as his long for the day was just 17 yards. Bradshaw also had a reception for 41 yards on a great read on a “scramble rules” play where he got behind the linebacker down the sideline as Eli was running out of time in the pocket.
Bradshaw had to manage injuries to his feet all year again, and was a no show at practice way more often than not. Frankly, it seems to me that it hurts the Giants when he doesn’t practice. The running game was more out of sync than in sync for the majority of the year, but Bradshaw still managed to record the second 1,000 yard season in his six year career. Despite only playing in 14 games, Bradshaw finished with a 4.6 ypc average and 1,015 yards on 221 carries. Bradshaw had four games with more than 100 yards (one was a 200 yard game versus Cleveland). The 1,000 yard season is more impressive considering Bradshaw had gained just 133 yards after four games and suffered through six games with less than 50 yards on the ground and missing two others with injuries. Bradshaw had just six touchdowns, his lowest total in four years.
Bradshaw was a near non-factor in the passing game this season, catching just 23 passes for 245 yards. That was also his lowest number of receptions in three years.
FB Henry Hynoski provided the funniest highlight of the year when he caught a one-yard touchdown pass for the Giants’ final touchdown of the 2012 season. Hynoski went into full “Hynocerous” mode and performed a side-splitting dance after the first touchdown of his career.
Hank the Tank, Hynocerous, whatever, Henry Hynoski is a big-league fullback who loves to play football. If you have the chance to see it, watch his reaction to the lead block he delivered on David Wilson’s 18 yard run from the Eagles’ 22-yard line on the Giants’ first touchdown drive. Hynoski pulled to the left and demolished the cornerback for about eights yards down the field and though Wilson was brought down at the four, Hynoski let out a whoop of joy in the end zone that would have made you believe he had just scored. Hynoski is one of the bright young stars on the Giants’ offense. Hynoski is asked to block, almost exclusively. On the year, Hynoski carried just five times for 20 yards. He is somewhat more effective out of the backfield where he caught 11 of 15 passes thrown his way for 50 yards.
The Giants have two more running backs on the roster that may add solid contributions in 2013, Andre Brown and Da’Rel Scott. Brown proved he should have a shot as a featured back subbing for injured Ahmad Bradshaw, gaining 385 yards on 73 carries for a robust 5.3 ypc average. Additionally, Brown proved an excellent short yardage back and also scored eight touchdowns in just ten games.
Scott, the Giants’ 7th round draft pick in 2011, has tremendous straight ahead speed but appears to have little wiggle. Scott’s best chance to make the roster next year (coming off arthroscopic knee surgery) might be as a punt or kick returner.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends:
As mentioned, Hakeem Nicks was again a non-factor in the game against the Eagles, and for the second contest in a row was held to no catches. In fact, Nicks wasn’t even targeted once in the game.
Nicks had a tough year, beginning with a broken foot that never completely healed and which might have led to a knee injury that may need offseason surgery. It looked as though Nicks was back in week two when he gained 199 yards on 10 catches and a touchdown. Unfortunately, that’s also the game in which he hurt his knee. Nicks had 53 catches for a career-low 692 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. He had more than half that amount of catches (28) and two-thirds the yardage (444) in the playoffs alone last season. Published reports suggest that Nicks, who missed the next three contests after the Buccaneers game, should have sat for six to eight weeks. To his credit, Nicks gutted it out but it may have been a mistake to do so. The problem when Nicks is out is that teams don’t honor his replacement(s) and clamp down on fellow WR Victor Cruz, effectively taking him out of the game.
Victor Cruz had a solid day against the Eagles, catching four of six balls thrown his way for 52 yards and the one touchdown before the end of the first half.
The mercurial receiver put up another huge statistical season and was named to his first Pro Bowl. Cruz finished with 1,092 yards on 86 receptions (four more than last season) and 10 touchdowns. The receptions and touchdowns were career highs. Cruz finished 12th in the league in receptions and 15th in receiving yards. The big drop off for Cruz was the yards per completion, down a full 6 yards from last season. It wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops for Cruz this season, as he tied for second in the league for the most drops with 10. Only TE Jimmy Graham of New Orleans had more. Cruz was also not an unknown in 2012. Defenses schemed to take him away in the middle by doubling and being very physical with him. Cruz took several very big hits and also had a lot more trouble getting free due to the ineffectiveness of Nicks on the outside.
Rookie WR Rueben Randle is the real deal and by all accounts will be a huge part of the Giants offense going forward. Randle had a solid game against the Eagles, making two tough touchdown catches. Randle caught all four passes thrown his way and led the Giants in receiving with 58 yards.
Randle played in all 16 games as a rookie but only saw 32 looks all season. Randle caught 19 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns. The amazing statistic? Of those 19 catches, 13 of them went for a first down. That’s incredible and hopefully a great harbinger of things to come. Rueben’s best game came in Cleveland when he caught six of eight passes for 86 yards. It appeared the young rookie was on his way, but he only caught eight passes over the next 10 games while the Giants struggled to find a reliable third receiver. Randle also had his issues returning punts, finishing 46th in the league with 15 returns for 108 yards and 15 fair catches. Randle lost one fumble and had a number of bobbles.
WR Domenik Hixon caught two balls for 41 yards against the Eagles. Hixon had his best year since 2008 as the injury-plagued Giant hauled in 39 passes for a solid but quiet 567 yards. Hixon missed three games in 2012 with concussion and ankle issues. Hixon was coming off his second ACL tear in two years and frankly was probably the best number three receiver the Giants had all year. With Randle struggling with punt returns late in the year, Hixon supplanted him for the final three games of the season.
WR Jerrel Jernigan finished his second nearly non-existent season with the Giants gaining just 22 yards on three catches, six yards on one carry, and returning two kickoffs for 60 yards. Jernigan was active for nine games in 2012. There is no telling what’s in store for the diminutive wide receiver taken in the third round of the 2011 draft. Chances are he’ll get a shot at returning kicks in 2013 if Wilson’s duties are curtailed as he gets more action in the running game. Other than that, who knows what’s going to happen with him.
That leaves us to Ramses Barden, another high draft choice that simply isn’t consistent or healthy enough often enough to make a difference. Barden was inactive against the Eagles.
By his standards, however, Barden had a stellar season nearly doubling his output from the previous three years combined with 14 catches for 220 yards. In his career, Barden now has 29 catches for 394 yards and not a single, solitary touchdown. In four years. The 2009 3rd rounder, the 85th overall pick, was once compared to Brandon Marshall. It turns out, he’s been about as effective as Penny Marshall. Barden had what appeared to be a breakout game in week three against Carolina when he went off for nince catches for 138 yards. The very next week, Barden committed a very costly pass interference penalty late in the game against Philadelphia which cost the Giants 10 yards of field position. It turned out that the Giants were forced to attempt a 54 yard field goal that fell about three yards short and New York suffered a two point loss. Barden caught just two passes over the next 12 games.
TE Martellus Bennett had a rough game against the Eagles, catching just one ball of the five thrown to him for a total of 15 yards.
New York has a bona fide tight end in the Black Unicorn and it would seem that the Giants would make re-signing Bennett to a long-term deal in the off-season a high priority. The Giants are still very weak at a position that is gaining more and more priority and importance in NFL offenses, with just Bear Pascoe (a blocking TE, and a mediocre one at that) and the enigma that is 2009 third-round draft pick Travis Beckum. Once again, Beckum had an insignificant season after coming off the PUP list in November trying to come back from offseason ACL injury. Once again, he landed on IR with lingering effects from the surgery. In four seasons, Beckum has caught just 26 balls for 264 yards and 3 touchdowns. Additionally, blocking is not Beckum’s strong suit. The only other TE on the roster is 2011 fourth-round project Adrien Robinson, who only got to suit up for the Giants in two games this season and as far as I can tell never saw the field. The Giants like what they have in Robinson, with GM Jerry Reese calling him the “JPP of tight ends.” We’ll see.
So as mentioned, one would think Bennett would figure heavily into the Giants’ offseason plans. Bennett caught 55 passes (on an astounding 90 targets) for 626 yards and 5 touchdowns. Thirty-five of Bennett’s catches went for first downs. Bennett struggled early to gain the confidence of Eli Manning and they definitely had more than a few communication problems. Bennett was also crucial in the running game and pass blocking schemes where he excelled. Bennett also played through a pretty significant knee injury that hampered him in the first half of the season. Manning looked for Bennett 30 more times than he looked for TE Jake Ballard last season. Ballard caught 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns last season. Bennett is clearly a better blocker than Ballard. Finally, the Black Unicorn was also credited with saving the life of a fan who fell out of the stands after a game. A detailed report of the event can be found here.
New York’s offensive line had a solid game against the Eagles, opening up huge running lanes for the backs and doing a very good job of protecting Eli Manning against the wide nine look that Philadelphia runs. As mentioned, Manning was sacked only once and was only hit a couple of times. RG Chris Snee played despite two bad hips, one of which may require offseason surgery.
On the whole, I don’t think that the Giants offensive line was nearly as bad as many people thought. LT Will Beatty is easily the best member of the group and he’s quietly rounding into one of the best in the league. Re-signing the unrestricted free agent Beatty has to be the top priority for the Giants this offseason. LG Kevin Boothe has made a nice little career for himself, but the Giants may be able to upgrade here. Boothe is solid, but sometimes gets lost at the second-level and misses his assignment. Boothe is serviceable at LG, but I’d rather see him as a back-up. C David Baas had a markedly better season than last year, but he’s still a middle-of-the-road center. He is adept at pass protection, but seems to be a non-factor much of the time in the running and screen game. He’s not fast by any measure and is constantly late at the second-level, particularly on screen plays. RG Chris Snee should be back if healthy. It’s just my opinion, but I think injuries have been the problem with Snee and it’s not a loss of a step. When healthy, Snee is as good as any RG in football. Unfortunately, Sean Locklear blew out his knee after doing a very good job at both tackle positions this season. The journeyman wasn’t expected to do much, but his play clearly showed that he’d earned the right tackle position. RT David Diehl had a rough season and will probably be a cap casualty. The Giants will be looking for, at the very least, a starting right tackle and developmental guards this season unless they think T James Brewer will be ready to start at RT.
The Giants defense played an up and down game on Sunday despite the lopsided score. The Giants made life miserable for what was most likely the last game for Michael Vick as an Eagle. Though the Giants only sacked him once, they did get a ton of pressure on him and hit him at least 10 times (the official score sheet said seven). The Giants did still have trouble with the running game, allowing the Eagles to rush for more than 100 yards. The key for the Giants was getting out to the big lead and then clamping down on third and fourth down. The Eagles converted just 4-of-14 third downs and 2-of-4 on fourth down.
On the whole, the Giants defense did not have a very good year statistically. The Giants’ defense allowed the most yards in franchise history. The run defense was a major disappointment, but lack of pass-rush production was even more alarming. Pressures were down, QB hits were off and sacks dropped from 48 in 2011 to 33 this season. Teams figured out that the Giants could not stop the run. New York allowed an 8th-worst 2,066 yards (129.1 yards per game) on the ground. That opened up the Giants to huge problems in the passing game, where they gave up a whopping 5th- worst 4,068 yards through the air (254.2 yards per game). New York was burned by big plays, giving up 29 plays of 30 yards or more through the air. That was good for worst in the NFL.
New York finished 31st in the league in total defense but amazingly finished 12th in the league in scoring defense. That was due to playing pretty well in the green zone, giving up just 23 touchdowns on 50 chances by their opponents from inside the 20 yard line. New York finished fourth in the league with 35 takeaways and were third in the league with a plus/minus of plus-14 in turnovers.
As mentioned, the Giants kept Vick on his toes all game. DE’s Justin Tuck (one sack) and JPP had solid games, as did DT Linval Joseph. DT Marvin Austin also had three tackles in the game. While the defensive line played a good game, the linebackers were again all over the place. Chase Blackburn led the teams in tackles and also had a nice defense of a pass. Keith Rivers had his best game in quite some time and came away with five tackles.
Breaking down the front seven is a difficult proposition. First and foremost, the defensive line regressed measurably this season. DEs Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul all had subpar seasons as far as they are concerned. Could it be that we’ve seen the final season for Tuck and Osi in Giants blue? It’s a strong probability that Umenyiora won’t be back. Justin Tuck is another story. As for JPP, he had trouble all season with the double-team and when no one else could get home when the Giants sent four, JPP was just taken out of the game by the opposing offensive line. DE/LB Mathais Kiwanuka was most effective from the DE position and it remains to be seen if he’ll be moved back to his natural position. The Giants have a couple of developmental DEs in the system, the most promising seeming to be Adrian Tracy. Tracy should be a situational player next year if Osi and/or Tuck leave. Adewale Ojomo also has a chance to get some playing time next year if the Giants don’t draft or sign a free agent DE.
Linval Joseph is the best DT on the team and he had a great first half and a so-so second half. The Giants wore down at the DT position as Rocky Bernard also had a terrific season going until he got hurt and never made it back to the level at which he’d been playing. Markus Kuhn looks like a beast as a run stuffer, but he too was injured and ended up on IR. Chris Canty came off the PUP list and played well at first but also was injured. Canty is due a king’s ransom this season and could also find himself out unless he restructures. Finally, Marvin Austin finished his second redshirt season and needs to establish whether he can play football or not very soon. The second-round draft choice has been a non-factor for two years. This is a prime area of need for the Giants.
Let’s face it. This was the worst performing set of linebackers that the Giants have produced in quite some time. Michael Boley regressed and played through a myriad of nagging injuries all year. He’s not the fast outside linebacker he once was and made few impact plays. In fact, Boley was the fifth lowest rated outside linebacker in football. That said, he is arguably still the most-talented linebacker at this time on this team. That’s depressing. We all love Chase Blackburn. He’s got more heart than most players that have ever put on a uniform and at times heart can make up for lack of raw talent. It just can’t do it ALL the time. Blackburn was ranked the 7th worst inside linebacker in football this season.
The Giants came into the season with a most promising group of young linebackers with second-year players Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich and Jacquian Williams. They also brought in veteran Keith Rivers and also had Mathias Kiwanuka, who bounces from LB to DT/DE as required. Unfortunately, not a single player other than possibly Williams improved this season. Williams is far and away the best prospect of the group, but missed half the season with a knee injury. Herzlich is still a story unfinished. He’s been stellar on special teams, but he gets caught up in the wash and does not play with good gap discipline as a MIKE. It’s telling that after two years in the system he has been unable to supplant Blackburn as the starter. Keith Rivers is a playmaker, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. When healthy, he’s an excellent rotational linebacker with good speed and coverage skills. Paysinger flashed a few times, but again is very inconsistent. Kiwanuka is not a linebacker and should be playing on the line, period. New York has a lot of questions with few actionable answers for what was arguably the worst unit on the team.
The secondary played a solid game against the Eagles, led by CB Prince Amukamara who was doubtful coming into the game. The much maligned unit only allowed 11 receptions by the wide receivers, as LeSean McCoy led the Eagles in receiving. Most importantly, the Giants only allowed one play over 30 yards on a screen pass to McCoy. On the day, Philadelphia only gained 211 gross yards through the air. Even Corey Webster, who had a horrible year, played well against the Eagles. S Stevie Brown had another interception that thwarted the Eagles’ first drive and started the rout. For his efforts, Brown was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.
Looking at the secondary, it’s hard to imagine them playing as poorly as they did. Frankly, they had little help from the linebacking corps and the lack of pass pressure up front hung them out to dry more often than not. Any QB in the league will tear up even the best secondary when they are under little or no duress. Prince has rounded into the number one corner on the team and has a brilliant future ahead of him. Corey Webster, however, regressed and was repeatedly burned deep, and even when he had good coverage (as he did against Baltimore’s Torrey Smith for most of that game), he was often unable to make the play on the ball. Webster has had confidence problems in the past and it may be the case again. The Giants had to rely on Jayron Hosley way more often than they wanted to on the outside, and he was burned accordingly at times. Hosley has talent and may very well turn into a good CB, but he’s more suited to play inside right now. Time will tell with Hosley. Justin Tryon had a rough year and will probably not be back next season. No one knows if Terrell Thomas will ever be able to play again after tearing his ACL for the second year in a row. The Giants will be looking hard for another corner in the draft or free agency.
One of the reasons the CBs had trouble this season was the injury to S Kenny Phillips. When Phillips is healthy, teams do not try to go over the top as often as when he’s out. Phillips doesn’t make flashy plays, he doesn’t make a ton of interceptions or big hits, he just plays sound positional football taking options away from opposing QBs. His injury, in my opinion, was the biggest reason the Giants suffered in the second half of the season. Stevie Brown was a pleasant fill in for Phillips. He just seems to be in the right place at the right time, evidenced by his eight interceptions. That was the most by a Giant since 1968. Brown was named NVC Defensive Player of the Week twice this season, the first time a Giants safety won the honor twice in the same year. That’s the good on Brown. The bad is that he sometimes gets caught peeking in the backfield and getting caught flat footed in coverage. Several times his coverage responsibility breakdowns were exploited for big gains or touchdowns. That will hopefully change as he progresses.
Tyler Sash did not impress much after coming back from suspension and will have a tough time making the roster next season if Phillips stays. That’s because Will Hill flashed enough to merit a chance as the third, or at worst, fourth safety.
Antrel Rolle takes a ton of flak from Giants fans, but it’s clear he has become the leader of this defense. He is a tackling machine playing out of his natural position, leading the Giants with 96. Rolle is one of the most solid players on this defense.
The Giants special teams against the Eagles were quiet, mainly because they had an opportunity to return just one punt and one kickoff. The coverage teams were stellar, not allowing the Eagles to turn any field position with a return. The Giants did not attempt a field goal and the Eagles missed on their only opportunity.
The Giants special teams remain an enigma. They still at times commit too many penalties on returns and are inconsistent on coverage teams. K Lawrence Tynes had a good year as far as scoring, but frankly he missed a couple of key kicks that could have been the difference in not making the playoffs. P Steve Weatherford has done a tremendous job and is easily one of the best in the league. As for coverage units, Herzlich, Paysinger and DeOssie continue to play outstanding football. The special teams unit is fairly solid and depending on the moves the Giants make this offseason should get better next season.
I suppose no one can dismiss the “second half swoon” label as just that, a label, any longer. Once again, after a 6-2 start, the Giants faltered and, this time, for the second time in three years, were unable to scrap their way into the playoffs. The Giants have finished the last three seasons at 10-6, 9-7, and 9-7 and only once made the playoffs. That’s discouraging after three straight 6-2 starts. If not for the Super Bowl run last year, there would be more hot tempers in The Corner Forum and in Giants land. Because of it, HC Tom Coughlin gets a pass and will be the head coach next year. And he’s bringing back the coaching staff intact. That’s not a pleasant situation for many on BBI.
Coughlin is a winner. That’s all there is to it. For whatever reason, New York falters after the eighth game of the season. This year, untimely injuries and a brutal second half-schedule was the culprit. Over the last eight weeks, the Giants lost to four playoff teams and one non-playoff team, and they beat one playoff team and two non-playoff teams. The Giants talked a lot about playing better with their backs against the wall, but this year they were unable to back up the talk.
OC Kevin Gilbride’s offense was the sixth-ranked scoring offense in football. New York scored over 429 points, second most in franchise history. Look at some of these statistics:
Points Per Game — 26.8 (5th)
Points Per Play — 0.443 (2nd)
Touchdowns Per Game — 2.9 (7th)
Red Zone Scoring Attempts Per Game — 3.9 (4th)
Red Zone Scoring Percentage (TDs only) — 54.84 percent (13th)
Plays Per Game — 60.5 (31st)
Yards Per Play — 5.9 (4th)
Avg. Time Of Possession — 29:10 (23rd)
Third Down Conversion Percentage — 40.62 percent (11th)
Rushing Attempts Per Game — 25.6 (23rd)
Yards Per Rush Attempt — 4.6 (7th)
Rushing Play Percentage — 42.25 percent (15th)
Passing Yards Per Game — 239.1 (12th)
Yards Per Pass Attempt — 7.1 (11th)
Yards Per Completion — 11.8 (4th)
QB Sacked Percentage — 3.58 percent (2nd)
Average Team Passer Rating — 87.2 (14th)
The only stat that stands out to me as worrisome is average time of possession. There’s a reason for that. Look at the stat “Plays Per Game”: 60.5!! That’s on the defense, folks. If the other team has the ball, the Giants don’t and obviously can’t score. Those that say the Giants were running too much should look at the “Rushing Attempts Per Game” stat. 23rd in the League doesn’t suggest they were not letting Manning do his thing. Overall, the Giants were in the top third or better in almost every major category. Be careful what you wish for, BBI.
DC Perry Fewell is another scapegoat as many people want his head on a platter. As mentioned, there were a number of things on the field that led to the demise of the defense. First, there were injuries at major positions (CB and S), there was a linebacking corps that did not progress, and a pass rush that withered away to nothing more than average. The Giants rely on an aggressive pass rush but at times it appeared New York didn’t play aggressively and that would be on Fewell. It’s unknown why the Giants insisted until way too late in the season to live…and ultimately die…by committing to getting to the QB with just four downlinemen. It wasn’t working, as even in Week 5 we were hearing from the staff, “It will come, it’s getting close.” It never got there. Here are the important stats to review:
Yards Allowed Per Game — 383.4 (31st)
Opponent Yards Per Play — 6.0 (30th)
Opponent Third Down Conversion Percentage — 42.42 percent (30th)
Opponent Yards Per Rush Attempt — 4.6 (27th)
Opponent Completion Percentage — 63.86 percent (26th)
Opponent Passing Yards Per Game — 254.2 (26th)
Opponent Avg. Team Passer Rating — 88.2 (20th)
Opponent Yards per Pass Attempt — 7.6 (31st)
Sack Percentage — 5.82 percent (22nd)
Takeaways Per Game — 2.2 (3rd)
Fewell, and Coughlin too, preach ball security and takeaways. The Giants were third in the league in plus/minus this season so they excelled in that area. The problem was the long pass plays allowed and the inability to consistently get off the field on third down, no matter the distance. It’s only my opinion, but I believe there needs to be personnel changes first and a philosophy change if that doesn’t work. I’m not able to put this on Fewell with the complete lack of talent at linebacker, the inability of their bread-and-butter, the pass rush, to pressure the QB, and injuries in the secondary. I feel those issues were more a factor than the type of defense the Giants played.
This was a tough year, but we have to be pragmatic. Yes, a couple bounces such as the pass interference penalty against the Eagles resulting in a field goal attempt ten yards longer than it would have been, and a miracle win by the Redskins over Baltimore kept the Giants out of the playoffs. That’s football. Last year, Dallas blew four fourth quarter leads of 14 points or more and also lost one in which they iced their own kicker and ended up losing. If the Cowboys win any of those games, New York would have watched last year’s Super Bowl on TV. Them’s the bounces.
As it stands, New York seems at a cross roads. Almost every unit has question marks, and some have alarming question marks. What will the vaunted defensive line look like? What will be the backfield make up? Will a linebacker finally break out? What will the secondary look like? How about the offensive line? This is shaping up to be the biggest year of turnover for the Giants in quite some time. The list of UFAs is long, and there are several big decisions that need to be made. Here are my thoughts on what should/could be done with each:
WR Rames Barden – Let him go.
T Will Beatty – Sign him NOW!!
TE Travis Beckum – Let him go.
TE Martellus Bennett – Sign him NOW!!
DT Rocky Bernard – Sign him to a team friendly contract or let him go.
LB Chase Blackburn – Sorry Chase, it’s time to hang them up.
G Kevin Boothe – Sign him to a team friendly contract or let him go.
QB David Carr – Doesn’t matter, no one but Eli ever plays.
WR Domenik Hixon – Sign him to team friendly deal or let him go.
CB Bruce Johnson – I don’t like Johnson, others do. We need CB depth. Sign him.
OL Sean Locklear – Knee issue, let him go.
RB Kregg Lumpkin – Thanks for the help, good luck.
S Kenny Phillips – Probably not a big market for him, bring him back if affordable.
LB Keith Rivers – Same as Kenny.
DL Shaun Rogers – Let him go.
CB Justin Tryon – Let him go.
K Lawrence Tynes – Time to upgrade, too many late season misses/
DE Osi Umenyiora – I love Osi, but it’s time to cut bait.
CB Brian Witherspoon – Sign him .
As for the restricted free agents:
RB Andre Brown – Sign him to a team friendly contract.
S Stevie Brown – No brainer, bring him back.
WR Victor Cruz – Sign to a long term deal.
RB Ryan Torain – Thanks for the help, good luck.
TE Bear Pascoe – Bring him back.
Then there are the Exclusive rights free agents:
OL Jim Cordle – Need to re-sign him for depth/
DE Adrian Tracy – Could be a player next season, sign him.
DE Justin Trattou – Same as Tracy, flashed in preseason. Keep him.
There are other Giants that may be “on the chopping block” according to sources:
Ahmad Bradshaw – I think we have to keep Bradshaw. Possibly a restructured deal.
Chris Canty – Has a HUGE payday coming. Possible cap casualty if he doesn’t restructure.
Michael Boley – It may be time to let him go.
Corey Webster – Also due a huge payday. He will have to be restructured.
Antrel Rolle – Giants need him, but he’s a big hit to the cap. A restructure is possible here.
David Diehl – Probably going to be cut if the Giants find a decent RT at a decent price.
Chris Snee – Have injuries robbed him of his future? Do the Giants dare cut him?
There are others, I’m sure, that we may not even be considering. No one saw the Luke Pettigrout cut coming in 2007. GM Jerry Reese will do whatever he feels necessary to make this team more competitive and this will be his toughest offseason to date. The Giants still have a strong core on offense and plenty of talent to build around on defense, but this team needs to be shored up big time if it’s to get back to the big game.
On a personal note, I hope you all enjoyed my reviews this year, it was a tough one for me due to how busy I was this season. I enjoy writing them, but as those that have done it before (including Eric) can tell you it’s not easy. Especially when you’ve got a boatload of very football savvy fans reading them. I appreciate all the comments, good and bad. I take constructive criticism to heart and it makes me want to write better reviews.
Enjoy the offseason, the draft is only a couple months away!