Dec 222006

December 21, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing yesterday were RG Chris Snee (illness – probable), HB Brandon Jacobs (ankle – questionable), OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle – questionable), OG/OC/TE Rich Seubert (shin – doubtful), and LT Luke Petitgout (leg/ankle – out).

“Jacobs practiced yesterday and he was a little bit sore today so they thought it was better to wait until tomorrow,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin.

Practicing again yesterday were DE Michael Strahan (foot – questionable) and CB Corey Webster (turf toe – questionable). “Michael has done everything, been in every drill (and) is working his way back into his ability to be in the middle with all things,” said Coughlin. “He’s done well.”

“I don’t think (Strahan is) going to be able to play a full game,” said LB Antonio Pierce. “Do you think he’ll be able to play a full game if he’s been out for so long?

Article on OG Steve Edwards: Giants Call SOS for Depleted Offensive Line by John Branch of The New York Times

Dec 212006

Approach to the Game – New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, December 24, 2006: The Giants will lose their next two games and finish the season 7-9. The Saints are loaded with weapons on offense. They love to spread the field with multiple wide receiver packages that enable them not only to take advantage of mismatches in the secondary, but also isolate Reggie Bush on linebackers and safeties. This is the type of scheme that Tim Lewis’ defense can’t handle and why so many Giants’ opponents have spread the field on New York. The Saints are not impressive defensively, but look for the Giants’ offense to shoot themselves in the foot just enough with penalties, turnovers, or red zone problems to prevent them from keeping pace with the Saints’ offense.

Why will the Giants lose to the Skins? Because the Giants’ players will still be feeling sorry for themselves after the Saints all but knock them out of the playoff picture. Meanwhile, the Skins have emotionally moved beyond their disappointing season and already are preparing for next season. The Skins will be looking to play well in front of their fans and put the final nail in the Giants’ coffin. The Giants’ players certainly won’t be fighting for Tom Coughlin’s job.

Think I’m being too pessimistic? Get back to me in two weeks and tell me that I was wrong.

Excuse my language, but this season has been a fucking disaster. Really, a true nightmare. Let’s recall what has happened:

  • Remember when the schedule first came out and the big question was how were the Giants going to survive the early part of the season? Not only did they survive, they flourished thanks to a miracle win over the Eagles and a five-game winning streak, highlighted by the destruction of the Cowboys on national television in Dallas. At 6-2, the Giants were all alone in first place in the NFC East, 3-0 in the division, and had the second-best conference record in the NFC. This despite the fact that the “hard part” of their schedule was now behind them. Even the most pessimistic fan felt at this point that the worst the Giants could do down the stretch was go 4-4 and finish with a 10-6 record.
  • However, the victory over Dallas in October was costly as Osi Umenyiora, LaVar Arrington, and Justin Tuck suffered serious injuries. Then the Giants lost Amani Toomer and Michael Strahan in the Houston game and Luke Petitgout in the Chicago game.
  • From 6-2, the Giants have plummeted to 7-7, losing five out of their last six games. Due to injuries, red zone problems, turnovers, poor third-down defense, special teams breakdowns, and questionable coaching decisions, the Giants now find themselves on the verge of missing the playoffs. I can’t recall a more disappointing collapse as long as I have followed the Giants. 2004 was different because that team clearly was not as talented as their 5-2 start and the Giants made a quarterback switch in midseason.

After the loss to the Eagles last Sunday, I wasn’t terribly upset. But as the days have passed, that has changed. I’m now extremely pissed about this entire season. Let the rambling ranting begin:

  • The NFC is a joke. The best teams are the quarterback-less Bears, the defensively-challenged Saints, and a resurgent Cowboys team that was recently walloped by the Saints. The fact that the Eagles, who lost their starting quarterback, and an imploding Falcons team may make the playoffs instead of the Giants is absurd. The Giants have suffered a lot of significant injuries, but there is no way that this team should be finding itself at home when the playoffs start in this weak conference. It’s not acceptable.
  • Questionable coaching decisions (i.e., the long field goal attempt against the Bears, red-zone play-calling in losses to the Cowboys and Eagles, the unfathomable play-calling late in the Titans loss) have cost the Giants dearly. While the Giants continue to play hard for Tom Coughlin, one doesn’t get the sense that they are out-coaching their opponents. Indeed, one could make the case that the Jim Fassel-John Fox-Sean Peyton triumvirate did more with less talent than Tom Coughlin-Tim Lewis-John Hufnagel. While there was a feeling that things were getting better under Coughlin in 2005 (just like with Jim Fassel in 1997, 2000, and 2002), 2006 has been a colossal disappointment. Has the coaching change really made a difference?
  • Since he has arrived in New York, Tim Lewis’ pass defense, especially on third down, has been dreadful. Completely revamping the secondary and hiring a new defensive backs coach in the offseason has not changed matters. The Giants’ third-down defense is allowing an abysmal 44.6 percent conversion rate. While the Giants generally do a good job of defending the run, they can’t get teams off the field on third down. Lewis’ defenses do not dictate – they react. His coverage schemes are soft and easy to exploit and his blitzes never appear to confuse the opposition. Meanwhile, on offense, one continues to get the sense that the Giants are not using their talent to their fullest potential. For the first half of the season, Jeremy Shockey was an afterthought in the offense (he had only eight first half receptions in the first nine games of the season). The red zone offense has been a problem since Coughlin has arrived. And I question the way the coaching staff has handled Eli Manning. I truly believe they have put too much on his plate since last season, when he had the third most passing attempts in the NFL. They have made things too complicated for the kid.
  • For those who think the problem is only with the coordinators, consider the fact that it was Coughlin who hired them. What does that say about his judgment? On January 7, 2004, Tom Coughlin stated in his inaugural press conference as head coach of the Giants, “The first thing I am going to do is to try and provide the New York Giants with the best staff in football.” That clearly did not happen – not even close.
  • So is the answer to fire Coughlin and his staff? How do we know that the replacements will be any better? The Giants have as much luck in hiring coaches as they do with drafting wide receivers. The Giants fell ass-backwards into Bill Parcells when Ray Perkins left, and George Young almost fired him after the 1983 season. Since then it has been Ray Handley, Dan Reeves, Jim Fassel, and Coughlin. People keep mentioning Charlie Weis, but there is no guarantee that he will be a good head coach in the NFL. And there are not likely to be a lot of head coaches to be fired after this season. That means fewer candidates to choose from, and more importantly, fewer experienced assistant coaches to hire on the open market.
  • So the Giants should keep Coughlin at least one more year? The problem with that scenario is that Coughlin, without dramatic improvement in his team’s play, will be a lame duck position similar to Dan Reeves in 1996. He’s already on weakened ground due to the performance of his players and assistant coaches. Are we simply postponing the inevitable? I’m not sure I could handle another 1996 or 2006.
  • Eli Manning is better than he was last year. Last season he only completed 52.8 percent of his passes. But he did have 24 touchdown throws (and 17 interceptions). This year, against much better opposition, he has completed almost 60 percent of his throws with 22 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. However, is he going to develop into the special player that the Giants envisioned that he would become? If he does not, consider the price that was paid. What also hurts is that while Manning is still puttering along, regardless of the circumstances, Ben Roethlisberger has a Super Bowl ring. Philip Rivers may get his this season and has been voted to the Pro Bowl. And Shawne Merriman is arguably the best defensive player in football. Adding more salt to the wound is the fact that Tony Romo has come out of nowhere to elevate his entire team’s play and cause the Cowboys to surge past the stumbling Giants. Good grief…who did Giants’ fans piss off?
  • This year has been so disappointing that it has actually turned Tiki Barber into a villain by some. Tiki has publicly criticized the coaching staff twice in less than a year. He let it leak that he was going to retire at the end of the season and then called a few in the media idiots for criticizing his decision. And he appears – to some – to be more interested in his post-football career and media whoring than he is helping to turn his team around. While Barber was voted to his third straight Pro Bowl and is fourth in the NFL in rushing, he has not played as well as he did last year. There are fewer big plays.
  • This team talks too much – a continuation of the same problem that plagued the Fassel regime. The 1986 and 1990 Giants didn’t talk; they won. This group likes to talk, and worse, fails to back it up on the field. Prime culprits include Plaxico Burress, Jeremy Shockey, Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Antonio Pierce, and LaVar Arrington.
  • Personnel issues. The Giants do need to upgrade some areas of their team. The secondary remains a problem. Gibril Wilson never regained his rookie form. Will Demps has been a huge disappointment. Corey Webster hasn’t played as well as expected. The Giants did a nice job in picking up Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters, but they could use another young corner to groom behind Madison. At linebacker, Antonio Pierce has had a down year, but he proved he wasn’t a flash in the pan last year and his previous season with the Skins. Much depends on LaVar Arrington. The Giants do have Gerris Wilkinson waiting in the wings, but another young linebacker would help. The Giants should also try to replace William Joseph at defensive tackle. Offensively, the team should pursue another wide receiver, tight end (to back up Shockey), and running back (complement to Brandon Jacobs).
  • Next general manager. Ex-journalist, wanna-be general manager Ernie Accorsi will retire soon and be free to dream and babble about Bert Jones as much as he desires. Good riddance. Don’t let the door slam you on the ass. But the Giants simply cannot afford to make the wrong decision in hiring the next general manager as everything else will flow from that decision – personnel decisions, coaching selections, cap management, etc. Is Jerry Reese the right man for the job? Or Chris Mara? Should the Giants look outside the organization?
  • Has the Giants’ Super Bowl window closed with the departure of Tiki Barber and the imminent demise of the 35-year old Michael Strahan and 32-year old Amani Toomer?

Merry Christmas! Get ready for an interesting offseason.

Dec 212006

December 20, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: DE Michael Strahan (foot – questionable) and CB Corey Webster (turf toe – questionable) returned to practice yesterday. “Michael did everything and I thought he did all right,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin after practice. “He did not look tentative or cautious. He moved up and down the line in nine-on-seven with no problem. Now, we’ll see how he feels (today).”

HB Brandon Jacobs (ankle – questionable) was not expected to practice, but he did. “I’m playing – put it in quotes,” said Jacobs. “This is nothing.”

Not practicing were OG/OC/TE Rich Seubert (shin – doubtful), OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle – questionable), and LT Luke Petitgout (leg/ankle – out).

If O’Hara and Seubert cannot play on Sunday against the Saints, Grey Ruegamer will likely start at center. Chris Snee and David Diehl can also play center.

Two More Practice Squad Moves: The Giants added HB Cedric Humes and OC Matt Tarullo to the Practice Squad. Humes was drafted in the 7th round of the 2006 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tarullo was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2005 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys and spent the 2005 season on the Cowboys’ Practice Squad.

Dec 202006
Philadelphia Eagles 36 – New York Giants 22

Henry V, Act IV, Scene V

SCENE V – Another part of the battlefield.


CONSTABLE: O diable!

ORLEANS: O seigneur! le jour est perdu, tout est perdu!

Mort de ma vie! all is confounded, all!
Reproach and everlasting shame
Sits mocking in our plumes. O merchante fortune!
Do not run away.

CONSTABLE: Why, all our ranks are broke.

O perdurable shame! let’s stab ourselves.
Be these the wretches that we play’d at dice for?

ORLEANS: Is this the king we sent to for his ransom?

Shame and eternal shame, nothing but shame!
Let us die in honour: once more back again;
And he that will not follow Bourbon now,
Let him go hence, and with his cap in hand,
Like a base pander, hold the chamber-door
Whilst by a slave, no gentler than my dog,
His fairest daughter is contaminated.

Disorder, that hath spoil’d us, friend us now!
Let us on heaps go offer up our lives.

We are enow yet living in the field
To smother up the English in our throngs,
If any order might be thought upon.

The devil take order now! I’ll to the throng:
Let life be short; else shame will be too long.

(Box Score – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 17, 2006)
Dec 202006

New York Giants Place HB Derrick Ward on Injured Reserve: The Giants officially placed HB Derrick Ward on Injured Reserve yesterday. Ward re-fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot – the same injury that he suffered in training camp and which forced him to miss the first six games of the 2006 season. Ward suffered the injury in the game against Philadelphia.

New York Giants Sign HB James Sims to the Active Roster: The Giants have signed HB James Sims to the active roster. Sims, a rookie free agent out of the University of Washington, had been on the Giants’ Practice Squad since the beginning of the season. Ward was signed by the Giants immediately after the 2006 NFL Draft.

Three Practice Squad Moves: In addition to signing Sims to the active roster, the Giants have also released DT Sir Henry Anderson, a rookie free agent who had already been waived twice by the Giants this year. Anderson had been re-signed to the Practice Squad earlier this month when the Giants lost DT Marcus Green to the Seahawks.

CB R.J. Cobbs was signed to the practice squad. Cobbs was originally signed by the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2006 NFL Draft out of the University of Massachusetts. The Vikings released Cobbs in July.

The Giants also announced that CB Gerrick McPhearson was placed on the Practice Squad/Injured List with a hamstring injury. McPhearson was drafted in the 7th round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Giants and has spent the entire season on the team’s Practice Squad.

Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey Voted to the Pro Bowl: HB Tiki Barber and TE Jeremy Shockey were selected to the NFC Pro Bowl squad.

MLB Antonio Pierce was named a first alternate to the NFC squad, and P Jeff Feagles, OC Shaun O’Hara, RG Chris Snee, and DE Osi Umenyiora were all named third alternates.

It is the third consecutive Pro Bowl for Barber, who will retire at season’s end. He is the first Giants’ running back to be selected three seasons in a row. Barber is second in the NFC and fourth in the NFL with 1,357 rushing yards. Barber is also third on the Giants with 52 receptions for 429 yards. This is the sixth time in his career he has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and caught more than 50 passes in the same season.

“I am both emotional and ecstatic to once again be named to the Pro Bowl,” Barber said. “With this being my final season in the NFL and the final time my brother Ronde and I will be teammates the honor carries even more significance than in previous years. I want to express my sincere gratitude and thank the fans around the country as well as my fellow players and the coaches around the league who voted for me. I look forward to finishing out this season with two important games and competing for the playoffs.”

Shockey was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in his five seasons with the Giants. Before Shockey, Mark Bavaro held the record for selections by a Giants tight end with two. Shockey leads the Giants with 64 receptions. He has accrued 626 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions this season.

“It’s a very special honor to be selected to the Pro Bowl,” Shockey said. “There are so many great players in this league and to be voted as one of the best at your position by the fans, the players you play against and the coaches means a great deal to me. It’s nice to be recognized individually after putting in all the hard work it takes to be successful in this league, but what is most important is team success. We have two games remaining on our schedule and we need to play the way we are capable of playing as a team so I can play a lot more football before making the trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.”

The Pro Bowl will be played on Saturday, February 10 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. Starting lineups will be announced next month.

Notes: The three players that the Chargers received in the trade for Eli Manning – QB Philip Rivers, PK Nate Kaeding, LB Shawne Merriman – were all voted to the Pro Bowl yesterday. Manning, of course, was not.

Dec 192006

New York Giants No Longer Control Their Playoff Fate: Even if the Giants win their final two games of the season– most likely an overly optimistic scenario regardless given the way the team has been playing – the Giants can still miss the playoffs under the following scenario:

If the Eagles beat the Cowboys and then the Eagles lose the following weekend against the Falcons; the Falcons beats the Panthers this weekend; and the Cowboys beat the Lions in their finale. All of those things would have to happen for the Giants to miss the playoffs if they win their last two games.

On the other hand, the Giants could also clinch a playoff spot this weekend if they beat the Saints under either of the following two scenarios:

(1) A Giants win + a Minnesota loss or tie + an Atlanta loss + a Philadelphia win or tie + a Seattle win or tie.

(2) A Giants win + a Minnesota loss or tie + an Atlanta loss + a Philadelphia win or tie + a San Francisco loss or tie.

Injury Update: HB Brandon Jacobs (ankle) and OG/OC/TE Rich Seubert (knee) were injured in the game against the Eagles. Their availability for this weekend’s game against the Saints will be known later this week.

The Giants hope to have DE Michael Strahan (foot) return to the playing field this weekend. “We’re trying for it to be this week,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. Strahan said his chances of playing are “50-50.”

The Giants also hope to have CB Corey Webster (turf toe) and OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle) back. “We’ll see,” said Coughlin about their availability.

Notes: Green Bay Packers’ Offensive Coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski will reportedly be named the next head coach at Boston College. Giants’ Quarterback Coach Kevin Gilbride had been considered for the position.

Results of Pro Bowl voting will be released today.

Dec 172006

Shameful Giants Squander Yet Another Opportunity: The best thing you can say about the Giants’ 2006 season is that it will likely be over soon.

It’s hard to believe that this team was once 6-2. But with their fifth loss in six games, the Giants now find themselves with an embarrassing 7-7 record with two games remaining as the Giants were soundly beaten by the Philadelphia Eagles 36-22 on Sunday in the Meadowlands. The Giants are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot, but they keep squandering their dwindling opportunities.

The Giants are 3-4 in home games this year.

The abbreviated version of why the Giants lost? New York committed four turnovers, including one for a defensive score with under three minutes to play. And the Giants were only able to run for 88 yards against an Eagles’ defense that has struggled to stop the run. The offense also came up small again in the red zone, settling for short field goals twice when the team was in a great position to score touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, the Giants’ defense was abysmal, allowing the Eagles to accrue 382 net yards on offense, including 161 yards rushing despite the fact that the Eagles are not a strong running team. Special teams contributed to the loss by giving up a 64-yard kickoff return that led to a touchdown.

“We didn’t play well enough today to win,” said RT Kareem McKenzie. “That’s all there is to it. You can’t turn the ball over. We had opportunities to go ahead and score in the red zone. We had momentum in our hands and we didn’t take advantage of it. Everything that you would like to do in a football game, to be able to put yourself in a position to keep the momentum in your hands and be able to keep the team down, we had the opportunity to do so. We just didn’t take advantage of it.”

“I’m a little short of words, so I’m just going to say a couple of things,” said TE Jeremy Shockey. “It’s disappointing to our fans, the owners, the organization. We just didn’t play well enough today to win, and it showed out there.”

The Giants did take the lead early in the game. After a three-and-out by Philadelphia, Chad Morton returned a punt 38 yards down to the Eagles’ 21-yard line. Two plays later, HB Barber scored from 11 yards out as the Giants went up 7-0.

The Giants’ defense then came up small, allowing the Eagles to drive 80 yards in 12 plays to tie the game. Both teams then struggled to generate points until late in the second quarter. The Giants also turned the football over twice in the second quarter. The first being a fumble by HB Brandon Jacobs and the second being an interception of a QB Eli Manning pass. The interception occurred when Manning’s pass hit a defensive tackle and was picked off on the rebound. The turnover gave Philadelphia the ball at the Giants’ 41-yard line after a personal foul penalty was assessed on TE Jeremy Shockey. Seven plays later, the Eagles took a 14-7 lead with just over a minute to go before halftime. Manning was then able to quickly complete four passes to set up a successful 47-yard field goal by PK Jay Feely before the intermission. The Eagles were up 14-10 at halftime.

The bulk of the third quarter was eaten up by long, but unsuccessful drives by each team. When the Giants got the ball back for the second time in the second half, there was only three minutes left in the third quarter. A 52-yard deep pass to WR Plaxico Burress gave the Giants a 1st-and-goal at the Eagles’ 10-yard line, but the team was forced to settle for a short field goal that cut the lead to 14-13. The Giants immediately got the ball back as QB Jeff Garcia was sacked by FS Will Demps who forced a fumble that LB Antonio Pierce recovered. The turnover gave the Giants the ball at the Eagles’ 7-yard line, but once again, New York could not punch it in and was forced to settle for a short field goal. Giants 16 – Eagles 14.

The Eagles then rapidly regained momentum. A 64-yard kickoff return set the Eagles up at the Giants’ 36-yard line. Three plays later, HB Brian Westbrook scored from 28 yards out to regain the lead for Philadelphia. Eagles 21 – Giants 16.

The Giants and Eagles then exchanged turnovers. TE Visanthe Shiancoe fumbled the ball away after a reception. Then Garcia was intercepted by Demps. Demps returned the football 29 yards before he lateralled it to CB R.W. McQuarters for another 24 yards. The play set up New York’s offense at the Philadelphia 35-yard line. Four plays later, the Giants scored. However, the Giants attempt at a 2-point conversion failed. The Giants had regained the lead 22-21.

Again, the defense could not hold the lead as the Eagles drove 80 yards in eight plays. Garcia threw a 19-yard touchdown pass and then completed a 2-point conversion attempt to the tight end to give Philadelphia a 29-22 advantage.

After the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles sealed the deal as a pass intended for Burress was intercepted on the Giants’ first offensive play of that possession and returned 19 yards for a touchdown by DE Trent Cole with under three minutes to go in the game.

Post-Game Notes: Inactive for the game were DE Michael Strahan (foot), CB Corey Webster (turf toe), OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle), LT Luke Petitgout (leg/ankle), WR Michael Jennings, DT Titus Adams, LB Tyson Smith, and QB Tim Hasselbeck (3rd quarterback).

The Giants and Eagles split their season series for just the third time in the last 22 years. They also split in 1990 and 2002. In every other season since 1985, one of the teams has swept the season series.

Dec 162006

December 15, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing again yesterday were OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle – questionable) and LT Luke Petitgout (leg/ankle – out).

DE Michael Strahan (foot – doubtful) performed in individual drills for the third day in a row but he did not participate in the team portion of practice all week. He did participate in some group drills yesterday however. “He came out (and) was in his group and individual, did some things and I think he’s making, again, some progress,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “But again, we’ll have to wait and see…(Yesterday) he was with his group. He worked with his group (yesterday). He did some of the individual, went through the routine and I just – again, I’ll use the word ‘encouraged.’ I am encouraged to see him doing those things…We’ll see if he can go to the next stage, which is the real important thing.”

CB Corey Webster (turf toe – questionable) and RT Kareem McKenzie (neck – probable) practiced all week. Speaking of Webster, Coughlin said, “He’s practiced and he’s done part of practice, all phases, every day and I’ll just continue to keep my eye on him and see how he’s doing. He’s done OK. He’s done OK. There’s still some limitation there.”

Dec 152006

December 14, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle – questionable) and LT Luke Petitgout (leg/ankle – out) did not practice yesterday. “I think (O’Hara) improves a little bit day by day,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin.

DE Michael Strahan (foot – doubtful) performed in some individual drills for the second day in a row. “We are encouraged,” said Coughlin. “He did some work (on Wednesday) and did a little more (on Thursday). It’s always a question of what it’s going to be like the next day. We’re very conservative and reserved in what we say because of that, but it is encouraging that he has had an opportunity to work a couple of days in a row…I would expect that he would do something tomorrow.”

Continuing to practice were RT Kareem McKenzie (neck – probable) and CB Corey Webster (turf toe – questionable). PK Jay Feely (knee) was removed from the injury report.

Quotes: MLB Antonio Pierce on the Eagles’ offense: “That’s what the West Coast offense is. They take their shots when they need to, but they’d rather a little dump-off pass like a run. We know how they play – just give the ball to (HB Brian) Westbrook and (TE) L.J. (Smith) within five yards and make people miss. They haven’t changed anything without (QB Donovan) McNabb. They’ve just kept on rolling.”

DT William Joseph on QB Jeff Garcia: “He wants to get out and scramble and make plays on the run. They’re going to throw a lot to backs, to the tight end, a lot of dump-offs and screens. We have to play more containment. Everybody’s got to be in their rushing lanes, make sure he doesn’t get out of the pocket.”

CB Sam Madison on Garcia: “Garcia’s very poised, making great decisions because of the style coach (Eagles’ Head Coach Andy) Reid has given him. He’s given him the little swing passes, and Westbrook carries a lot of the load. When Garcia has his opportunities, he’s making them count, especially down the field.”


Dec 142006

Approach to the Game – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 17, 2006: This is likely to be a very tough game. Both teams have been terribly inconsistent and this is a heated divisional rivalry that usually results in close games. While the Eagles have lost QB Donovan McNabb, his replacement is a former long-time starter who has thrown eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in relief of McNabb. While the Eagles’ defense has had some issues, it usually gives the Giants fits with Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson’s attacking, blitzing schemes.

It’s a huge game. The winner will have the inside track on a playoff spot while the loser may be left out in the cold.

Giants on Defense: McNabb is done, but Jeff Garcia is a quality reserve who has been playing pretty darn well. While he does not have a strong arm, he is mobile and has been making good decisions (8 touchdowns, 0 interceptions). Perhaps more importantly, he is surrounding with a very good supporting cast – a big and solid offensive line and some dangerous weapons at the skill positions.

I usually start off a defensive game preview by saying the Giants have to stop the run first and foremost. That’s not a big concern with the Eagles simply because they are a pass-first offense. If the Eagles are able to hurt the Giants on the ground, New York has no chance in this football game and I’m going to assume the Giants’ run defense – which has been pretty darn good most of the year – will not have problems against the Eagles.

What could be a problem is covering HB Brian Westbrook, TE L.J. Smith, and wide receivers Dante Stallworth and Reggie Brown. Since he has become a feature back in Philadelphia, Westbrook has been the heart of that offense (even when Terrell Owens was there). He’s the guy you need to control. He’s deadly catching the ball (69 receptions and four touchdowns), both out of the backfield and split out wide. In particular, he is very dangerous on screen passes. It’s going to be real challenge for the Giants’ linebackers and safeties to deal with him. Then you also have to factor in L.J. Smith (44 catches and five touchdowns). The undercoverage will really be under a lot of stress.

Also, look for the Eagles to do what a lot of opponents of the Giants have been doing lately and that is spread out Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis’ zone defense with multiple wide receiver sets. That would mean that not only will Stallworth (34 catches and five touchdowns) and Brown (39 catches and seven touchdowns) be a factor, but so could Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis. If the Eagles do this, the Giants really need to make the Eagles pay with a strong pass rush up front, combined with much tighter coverage against these multiple receiver sets. Too often, opponents have found the soft spots in these zones. The West Coast Offense that the Eagles employ is specifically designed to pressure coverage both vertically and horizontally. The Eagles probably don’t have a lot of respect for the coverage ability of the Giants’ back seven on defense. Stallworth is the homerun hitter. The Giants need a big game out of Sam Madison against him.

One huge key will be to keep Garcia in the pocket. Like Tony Romo, he is far less effective throwing from inside the pocket than when he is moving around outside the pocket. Ends Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka need be disciplined and not let him get around them.

Giants on Offense: Philadelphia has had a lot of problems stopping the run this year. I expect them to sell out against the run this week and force Eli Manning and the passing game to beat them. The Eagles likely recognize that Manning is pretty much only looking to WR Plaxico Burress and TE Jeremy Shockey in the passing game. They probably feel pretty good about their match-ups there with CB Sheldon Brown on Plaxico and the ability of the safeties, especially Brian Dawkins, to keep Shockey in check. They certainly aren’t going to fret much over Tim Carter.

If I’m Coughlin, despite the Eagles’ likely strategy, I still attempt to pound the football early and often. The real key is to get a hat on MLB Jeremiah Trotter, who has a history of killing the Giants. Trotter really shut down the Giants’ running game in the first meeting and Tiki Barber still publicly states how much he hates getting pounded by the big middle linebacker. What the Giants did late in the last Eagles game (4th quarter and overtime) was spread the field and force the Eagles to take Trotter out of the game. The Giants then ran the ball out of the shotgun. It will be interesting to see if the team does that again.

I know the Giants won’t do it, but I would be real tempted to play Brandon Jacobs a lot in this game. I think he could wear down this smaller Eagles’ defense and take the heart out of them. At the very least, Coughlin should keep Jacobs in the game for a series or two at a time and not replace him immediately after a good run. Let him get into a rhythm.

The Eagles do have some dangerous defensive linemen. DE Trent Cole gives the Giants fits and he has eight sacks on the season. He has already vowed this will be a revenge game for him against the Giants because of the earlier season loss. Both tackles will likely see him. Inside, the Eagles have a nice defensive tackle combination with Darwin Walker and Mike Patterson. Both can disrupt and penetrate. Keep in mind that the last time these two teams met, the Eagles had eight sacks – EIGHT!

If Rich Seubert fills in for Shaun O’Hara at center, this will limit the Giants some as Seubert will not be able to play his power tight end spot (this would have been a good formation against the Eagles). Also, Seubert will likely have some problems recognizing the complicated Eagles’ blitzing schemes and making the proper line adjustments simply because he is not an experienced center. Look for the Eagles to really test Seubert by blitzing a ton.

If the Giants can’t run the football, they will likely be in a lot of trouble. Manning will have to have another good game and someone other than Burress and Shockey need to step up in the pass-receiving department. That could be Barber or someone like Sinorice Moss. If Tim Carter is going to do anything this year, now is the time.

The one thing that the offense can’t do is turn the football over. Don’t beat yourself with turnovers and penalties.

Giants on Special Teams: The special teams finally put together a good game last week. The Eagles could use Westbrook on punt returns in this game as this is a must-game for them. He is obviously very dangerous in that department, winning a game against the Giants on a last-second punt return in 2003.

Keep in mind that the big play in the Giants-Eagles game last year in the Meadowlands was a blocked punt by David Tyree.