Dec 052014
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 30, 2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Tennessee Titans, December 7, 2014

The season that would not end…the slow death of the 2014 New York Giants season continues. Giants fans wait 7-8 months for football to begin and now they can’t wait for it to be over and to see how management is going to address this steaming pile of crap.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Is Eli hearing footsteps again?
By the end of the 2013 season, not only was Eli Manning seriously hurt, but he had become shell-shocked behind one of the worst NYG offensive lines in recent memory. There was a legitimate fear that the exceptionally poor protection could have a long-term psychological impact on his game. Enter Ben McAdoo and a somewhat improved offensive line that helped to restore his confidence in the first half of the 2014 season. But the offensive line has begun to deteriorate again and consequently so has Eli’s confidence. To be blunt, he doesn’t trust his line and it’s affecting his game.

Second Down
Is Andre Williams an NFL starter?
With Rashad Jennings (ankle) ailing, Andre Williams most likely will start against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses. Williams may have five touchdowns but his is averaging a pathetic 2.9 yards per rush on 134 carries. Thus far, the super-productive collegiate back who many thought was a steal simply looks like “just a guy.” Obviously, the offensive line has a role in that, but Williams has to play better. If not, then he is yet another draft mistake by Jerry Reese, Marc Ross, and company. It will be curious to see if he or fellow rookie Titan Bishop Sankey has the better game.

Third Down
Are Larry Donnell and Rueben Randle part of the long-term solution?
Truth be told, Larry Donnell really has played above expectations this year with 51 catches for 516 yards and six touchdowns. But after the early-season game against the Redskins where Donnell looked like a budding star, more was expected down the stretch. Was that just a one-time flash in the pan? Randle has 56 catches for 609 yards and two touchdowns. That’s not enough for a #2 receiver in a passing league. He only has one 100-yard game this year. Randle has the ability, but he’s got to want it.

Fourth Down
On a defense that has to be overhauled in the offseason, who will be part of the solution?
The million dollar question is will Jason Pierre-Paul be back? For as much grief as he gets from fans, he’s still the best defensive lineman on the team and the guy who other teams worry about. If he walks, that opens up yet another huge hole on a defense sorely lacking talent (plus, it will mean the premature departure of yet another 1st round draft pick). But the Giants should not dramatically overpay JPP. One assumes Johnathan Hankins and Jay Bromley will be part of the fix, but what about Damontre Moore? Based on comments from coaches this week, it’s clear that they still don’t view him as a full-time starter. If that is the long-term view of his game, the Giants really have some huge holes on the defensive line. Aside from Robert Ayers (now on IR), is there anyone else really worth bringing back up front? At linebacker, Devon Kennard seems like a player. Jameel McClain has been decent. But these two are not overly speedy and the rest of the linebackers just aren’t that good. In the secondary, as long as everyone returns healthy, and if they can re-sign Walter Thurmond (a big if), they should be in good shape at corner. But safety is an issue, especially if Antrel Rolle leaves.

BREAKING DOWN TENNESSEE:

OFFENSE
Strength?
Like the Jaguars last week, the Titans are not very good on offense. They are 30th on offense in yardage and 32nd in points scored. The Titans are terrible on 3rd down (dead last in the NFL) and they turn the ball over a lot. That said, when healthy, they have the makings of an up-and-coming young offensive line. The problem is their line, including LT Taylor Lewan (ankle) and RT Michael Oher (toe) have been battling injuries. Chance Warmack is the right guard. Lewan and Warmack are both high 1st rounders who many Giants fans wanted to draft. Delanie Walker has been productive catching the football at tight end and could present some match-up issues for the Giants as could RB Dexter McCluster. Giants fans will remember how this runner-receiver-returner killed the Giants in Kansas City last season.

Weakness?
The Titans struggle to run the ball (27th in the NFL). And while they are better passing (20th), they are starting a rookie quarterback with a bum right shoulder and have suffered some significant injuries at wide receiver. Justin Hunter was placed on IR and Kendall Wright has a hand injury that caused him to miss some practice time this week.

DEFENSE
Strength?
Like the Jaguars, the Titans are statistically pretty bad on defense, but they do one thing really well – rush the passer. They are 8th int he NFL in sacks with 31 and in their new 3-4 defense has enable pressure from multiple players (15 Titans have sacks). See Tom Coughlin’s comments below on which defenders have stood out to him.

Weakness?
The Titans are 30th in yards allowed and 32nd in points allowed. They are dead last against the run. The Titans are 18th against the pass, but that is more a function of the pass rush than a suspect secondary.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Dexter McCluster returned a punt for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Giants in 2013 as a Chief. New Yorkers are also familiar with ex-Jet Leon Washington’s return game (8 career kickoff TDs). Rookie Bishop Sankey has actually been more productive on kickoffs this year than Washington.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Eli Manning
The Giants need to get Eli through the next four games both physically and mentally intact for the 2015 season.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin – “(The Titans’) defense is led by Jurrell Casey, an outstanding rush defender up front. Derrick Morgan, Jason McCourty is having an outstanding year. You can’t help but noticing him on tape. And the two inside backers, (Wesley) Woodyard and the rookie, (Avery) Williamson, and also (Michael) Griffin, the safety, are doing an outstanding job.”

Ken Whisenhunt – “When I look at the (New York Giants) I just look at what I see on tape. I see a team that plays hard and make some plays and has weapons. We certainly have our concerns. You know just from looking at it what their record is, but I think they are a team that is better than what their record is…Certainly (Odell Beckham) is growing as a young player. I think you can see his confidence has increased and he is making a lot of plays and he is one you certainly have to be aware of, but to me it all starts with the quarterback. He is a very good player, established player in the league and I have a lot of respect for what he has done. I think you have to make sure you that you try to contain him.”

FINAL WORD:

I have a hard time seeing the Giants winning another game in 2014. Defensively, a lack of demonstrated success (i.e., confidence), injuries, and a growing belief that Perry Fewell is probably on his way out will likely continue to cause defensive breakdowns, even against terrible offensive teams like the Titans. Offensively, while the Titans are terrible statistically, they do one thing that has caused the Giants problems – they rush the passer. An aggressive 3-4 defense, the Titans will blitz from every angle and this Giants’ offensive line gets confused very easily by blitzes, and stunts, and probably their own damn shadows. If the Giants can protect Eli and not turn the ball over, they should win easily. But I don’t see them doing either. Titans 19 – Giants 10.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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