Sep 202013
 
Share Button
Justin Tuck, New York Giants (September 20, 2012)

Justin Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Carolina Panthers, September 22, 2013: First off all, hopefully stating the obvious, the sky is not falling. Yet. The New York Giants are 0-2, but the Dallas Cowboys are 1-1, Washington Redskins 0-2, and Philadelphia Eagles 1-2. There are 14 regular-season games left to play. The Giants will have to make up that loss to the Cowboys in the Meadowlands, but despite being winless, they are very much in the chase for the division title.

The immediate goal is to get that first win this weekend against the Carolina Panthers. Get to 1-2. Then get that second win against the Kansas City Chiefs and get to 2-2. Do that and the Giants will have weathered the early storm.

The problem for the G-Men is that their margin for error right now is very slim. The Giants should beat the Panthers, but on any given Sunday in the NFL, a lesser opponent can beat anyone. And an 0-2 New York Giants team had better not be too blase and it had better take care of business or it will be time to panic.

The negative-nellie will point to the fact that the Giants are 3-7 in their last 10 regular-season games. Eli Manning has regressed. The running attack is dead last in the NFL. The Giants have committed 10 turnovers in two games. The offensive line is not playing well. The defense, while improved, is still not dictating to opponents and the Giants only have two sacks.

The fan wearing rose-colored glasses will point to the belief that the Giants still have the best coaching staff, quarterback, and wide receivers in the division. Believe it or not, the defense may also be the best in the division. Barring injury, the offensive line should improve as it gains cohesion and that in turn should help the running game improve as David Wilson is still lightning in a bottle. The secondary and defensive tackles are playing well and the productivity of the defensive ends should pick up.

This game is not so much about who the Giants are playing but about the Giants themselves. The team needs to stop shooting itself in the foot. Cut out the turnovers and the Giants will be OK. “First you have to stop beating yourself before you expect to go out and beat the opponent,” says Head Coach Tom Coughlin.

New York Giants on Offense: The Panthers have been giving up a lot of yards (over 800) but not a lot of points (36). The Giants are facing a defensive opponent that is far stronger in the front seven than it is in the secondary. The problems for Carolina in the defensive backfield have been exacerbated by injuries.

So the Giants are a far more dangerous passing team and Carolina struggles much more defending the pass. What would your game plan be?

The Panthers know this as well. They’ll probably play a lot two-safety high coverage and dare the Giants to beat them on the ground. That’s what I would do. So the big question is do the Giants take advantage of that and try to get untracked running the ball against a good front seven? Or do they attack through air against a defense expecting it?

I would do the latter. I don’t think the Panthers can cover the Giants’ receivers. But if the Giants go with that strategy, the Giants need to keep Eli upright. RT Justin Pugh will face a tough test against against LDE Charles Johnson. RDE Greg Hardy is no slouch rushing the passer either. LDT Dwan Edwards (bothered by a thigh injury) and first-rounder RDT Star Lotulelei man the inside.

The Giants do need to run the ball some too in order to not put too much pressure on the passing game. They also need Eli to rebound from two disappointing performances.

“There is a balance,” says Coughlin. “One of those balances is run it better so we’re not throwing it 49 times a game. Let’s get this thing back into a reasonable number and then let’s run the ball so the play action passes allow us to have more people open. And then we have to take care of the football and realize, again, that patience is a virtue. Sometimes you’re not going to get the big play, you’re going to be able to get five and seven and eight yards and so on and so forth. And that’s fine, that’s what we want to do. We want to stay within ourselves, take what the defense gives us.”

That seems to suggest Coughlin thinks Eli has been forcing things down the field too much.

The Panthers are solid up front. And they are very strong at linebacker, led by impressive MLB Luke Kuechly. Kuechly is the type of linebacker Giants’ fans currently crave. Jon Beason (bothered by a knee injury) and Thomas Davis round out an athletic group that can hit and tackle. It is tough to run against this group.

“It’s shocking to us when we don’t play well,” says OG Kevin Boothe. “You can’t have zero and negative yard rushing plays and expect your offensive coordinator to continue to call running plays. If we can get positive yards (Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride will have) more incentive to call it, will be more likely to call it. We’re anxious to get out there and give it another shot.”

The Panthers are really beat up and undermanned in the secondary, having to rely on some players who were recently signed off of the street. I’d attack early and often through the air, even if there is an early turnover. Take the wind of the 0-2 Panthers, and then come back later in the contest with the ground game.

New York Giants on Defense: Carolina is not scoring a lot of points, but they can run the football.

“Their offensive team is sixth in rushing,” says Coughlin. “They’re fourth in the league on third down. They’re doing an outstanding job of that. Over the past two seasons, they’ve had the most plays in the league over 20 yards, so they do have that capability as well. They do not beat themselves. They only had seven penalties, two fumbles and an interception in their first two games.”

The three keys on defense are (1) stop RB D’Angelo Williams, (2) keep QB Cam Newton from hurting you on the ground, and (3) don’t allow WR Steve Smith to beat you deep.

The other guy to keep an eye on is TE Greg Olsen, who Newton has been looking for early and often through the first two games.

The #1 goal is really to stop the run. The Panthers probably won’t be able to do much damage between the tackles on the Giants, but they surely noticed the two big outside running plays the Giants gave up last week.

“Our defense was playing so well against the run for so long and (then) giving up two really cheap touchdowns outside,” says Coughlin. “Where were we? Where was the leverage? Where was the contain? Where were the people knifing in?”

The ends have to play far tougher at the point-of-attack, the defensive backs need to come up in run support, and the linebackers need to avoid blocks and flow to the ball carrier. Both in terms of run defense and dealing with Olsen in coverage, this is a big game for the linebackers. If Mark Herzlich struggles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see newcomer Allen Bradford replace him soon.

The good news for the Giants is that the Panthers’ offensive line is a bit shaky with additional injury issues and Newton will hold onto the football. So the pass rush should finally emerge this weekend as long as the Giants get the Panthers into obvious passing situations. Given Newton’s mobility, however, the first responsibility is to contain him. LT Jordan Gross is probably the steadiest of the group.

Stop the run. Contain Newton. Don’t let Smith beat you deep.

(Late Note: CB Corey Webster is “doubtful” for the game with a hip flexor injury).

New York Giants on Special Teams: Ted Ginn is a dangerous punt and kickoff returner. Steve Weatherford needs to bounce back from probably his worst performance as a Giant.

Sep 192013
 
Share Button
Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 15, 2013)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Denver Broncos 41 – New York Giants 23

Game Review: Zero point zero. If Dean Wormer walked into the Giants meetings this week, he’d likely hand out his lowest of GPA’s, but it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor and it ain’t over now. The Giants were right there, right there, just as they were in Dallas a week ago…within range, a chance to compete and win a football game and they once again imploded when it mattered the most. After a Brandon Jacobs 1 yard plunge in the 3rd quarter that brought the Giants within a single point of their Super Bowl XXI opponent, the Denver Broncos scored 21 unanswered points and sent the Giants home with a lopsided 41-23 drubbing that put the G-men in an 0-2 hole. The pre-season sluggishness this team exhibited on offense has yet to be shaken off, not a very good sign for a team with so much veteran talent at key spots.

The Giants defense started with a thump and ended flat on its back after watching Eli Manning toss four back breaking interceptions. After a Justin Tuck thumping of RB Knowshon Moreno on the game’s opening play, Peyton Manning and his mates marched easily to the Giants six yard line, until the DL rose up again this time in the form of DT Cullen Jenkins, who knocked the ball free from rookie RB Montee Ball and gave Eli and company a chance to start with some momentum. Right on cue, Eli fed off the turnover and dropped a perfect 51 yard post into the outstretched arms of WR Victor Cruz and the Giants seemed to be shaking off the rust that plagued them a week ago in Big D.

After Jenkins’ strip, the defense found its bearings and had the elder Manning working for every completion, before the wheels came off in the 3rd quarter after more costly Giant turnovers. For most of the afternoon, the Giants were going toe to toe with a Bronco passing attack that had Baltimoreans drowning their sorrows in Natty Bo after a 7 touchdown thrashing on opening night. It wasn’t until a Knowshon Moreno 20 yard run over right end early in the 2nd quarter that the Broncos had their first end zone visit of the day. Red zone frustrations kept the Giants from doing much scoring, but they did manage three Josh Brown field goals in the first half while limiting the Broncos to 10 points and an all too familiar 10-9 halftime score.

After a first half in which each defense dared the other to run, John Fox and the Broncos finally accepted. Nineteen of the Broncos 53 yard scoring drive came on the edges yet again as Giant DEs were victimized on back to back to runs to open the second half. With Giant DBs now inching up to support the run on the outside, Peyton Manning finally found a crack in the armor (I would have said chink if I worked for ESPN but I’m smrt!) (sic). Manning worked the edges of the defense, first running Moreno then passes to WR Eric Decker before Wes Welker was suddenly the forgotten man and was left alone for an easy TD to start the second half.

Eli answered yet again, taking the Giants 81 yards to the end zone in nine plays, capped off by the odd sight of Brandon Jacobs wearing #34 and plunging up the gut for six. Manning took advantage of a very handsy Bronco defense, that was flagged for two pass interference and one defensive holding penalty on the drive. With a slim 17-16 edge, Peyton and company got lucky on a Demarius Thomas fumble that was recovered by Moreno and ended up with a 17 yard gain after Prince Amukamara jarred the ball loose and the Giants had a shot at a turnover. Manning quickly set his team and snapped the ball, giving the Giants no chance to review the play. Seven plays 63 yards later, Moreno found the goal line again, racing around right end for a 25 yard TD and a 24-16 Denver lead that would not be threatened again.

The Giants coughed up the ball on a bad Manning pass that glanced off the foot of WR Rueben Randle, and 5 plays later, Manning hit TE Julius Thomas for an 11 yard TD and a 31-16 lead. With a chance to climb back in it, the Giants offense stalled and was forced to punt to the 5’5” Trindon Holliday, who did his best DeSean Jackson impression and blew right through the Giants coverage team on the way to a 38-16 lead that ended up turning a solidly played three quarters into a 4th quarter disaster and an ominous 0-2 start for the boys in blue.

Quarterbacks: After hitting everybody’s favorite dancer with a 51 yard strike to start the game, Eli Manning had another forgettable afternoon. Manning had a few solid throws in a row as the Giants opened the 2nd quarter but was victimized by Hakeem Nicks and his middle finger on a big 3rd and 6 as the Giants were starting to heat up through the air. Eli contributed to the teams red zone woes by over shooting WR Victor Cruz on a play action pass in the end zone, and #10 then fired over TE Brandon Myers’ finger tips and the Giants were forced to settle for 3 yet again. With just 43 seconds in the first half, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in begging the Giants to sit on the ball at their own 15 yard line and go in down by one. After badly overthrowing Myers in the slot, Eli played Dr. Jekyll to his Mr. Hyde, hitting Hakeem Nicks on another deep in (dig) route for 34 yards. Knowing the Broncos were playing a lot of bump and run and trying to knock the Giants off of their routes, Eli didn’t stop working the ball downfield and it paid off with a 21-yard penalty on the heels of Nicks big gain. Unfortunately Mr. Hyde returned on the very next play and Eli badly overshot Hakeem Nicks and was intercepted by another 3 named Bronco, costing the Giants a chance to take the halftime lead. Never one to get down though, Eli drove the Giants to within a point of the Broncos, orchestrating a solid drive at the outset of the third quarter, taking advantage of a very aggressive and penalty-prone Broncos defensive backfield. Down 24-16 though, the dagger may have been another odd miscue, as Mannings pass for Rueben Randle ricocheted off the WRs shoe into the hands of a Bronco defender. Eli wasn’t awful, but 4 interceptions, despite one being a late first half heave and one flying off of a shoe, is not going to get it done when your team simply cannot run the football or hold on to it. The daring that makes Eli so great when it counts is the same daring that makes him maddening when the game is not on the line. We know what we have here, it’s just a matter of those around him doing more so he can do a little less.

Running Backs: RB David Wilson’s first carry was a solid 5 yard effort on a counter to the left, which was followed up with a 5 yard power by old and new Giant Brandon Jacobs and it looked like the running game may be coming to life. Jacobs displayed solid burst on his initial tote, falling forward for a first down, but followed that up with a ball bouncing off of his hands in the flat for an ugly incompletion that reminded me of oh so many reviews of days past. Idiotic TD dances aside, Jacobs’ return was much of the same before he left, a lot of noise, not much production and the announcers marveling at how tall he looked in practice. Give the big fella a pass this week, his OL did him no favors and he’s been out of the game for about for a year. Before this season ends, I promise you Jacobs does a few things to win a game. It may have been a 2-yard run, but David Wilson’s acrobatic Barry Sanders like hand spin late in the first half was the best 6 feet I’ve seen since the first time I saw a party sized sub. Da’Rel Scott chipped in a garbage time TD, but otherwise not much from the former Terp.

Wide Receivers: WR Victor Cruz opened the Giants afternoon with a 51 yard deep post that was perfectly thrown and ended the day with 8 grabs for 118 yards. Jerrel Jernigan may just never get it. On a 3rd and 13 inside the Giants 10, Manning set up outside and delivered a solid ball to Jernigan, who instead of going for the ball and fighting for what should be his, started to slide towards the ball which gave CB Antonio Rodgers whatever (I’m really sick of all of these stupid names, someone has to take a stand) the space he needed to reach over Jernigan and knock the ball away. Hakeem Nicks dropped a wide open dig route on a 3rd and 6 to kill a promising Giant drive, but a dislocated middle finger on the play gives him an out. Nicks did return and ended up with 83 yards on 4 catches but most of his damage was done underneath in the seam areas. Give the Broncos credit, they kept Nicks in check and in front of them for the most part, but that amount of attention should show anyone watching who teams fear the most, and it is Nicks. WR Rueben Randle appeared to have scored after Myers’ catch and fall, but as is the blue print, if you’re a Giant with the football just give it away somehow. Randle finished with only 3 grabs for 14 yards after posting 101 in the opening loss to Dallas.

Tight Ends: TE Brandon Myers seems to be waking up a bit. After a miserable pre-season, Myers seems to be getting his footing, with 6 grabs for 74 yards and a noticeable improvement in blocking effort. Perhaps footing is a bit generous as Myers took what could have been an easy TD and stumbled forward for a 27 yard gain instead of a TD. TE Larry Donnell finished with 31 yards and 3 grabs, but again, mostly after the game had been decided. Give Donnell credit for an athletic penalty on the Giants onside kick that ultimately failed, #84 looked great doing it, but as with most of the effort in this game, it came up a bit short.

Offensive Line: Twenty-Three Yards. Say that to yourself a few times, let it sink in. Twenty-three yards on the ground with a team that forces its opponent to match up with 3 and 4 WR sets and defend the deep ball to keep WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks from eviscerating their defenses. Look no further than the Giants first play on their second possession in which C David Baas seems to forget that it’s a football game and watches as DT Kevin Vickerson blows past him to drop David Wilson for a 3-yard loss. And in case you’re wondering yes, THAT Kevin Vickerson…you know the guy on his 3rd team in 9 years with a total of 62 games played out of a possible 144. (That would be a .430 batting average, not too shabby). You mean the Kevin Vickerson who once made 14 tackles in a single season for the Tennessee Titans, the same one who returned an interception 4 yards once in 2010? Yeah, try blocking that guy! RT Justin Pugh didn’t fare much better against the unstoppable Robert Ayers, who tossed Pugh aside and dropped Brandon Jacobs for another 3 yard loss on the first play of the Giants 3rd possession. In Pugh’s defense, it’s not fair to ask a rookie 1st rounder to take on another .420+ hitter. In Ayers first four seasons he has ripped off 24 starts in a 64 game stretch….pretty…pretty….pretty good. Against players in their 30s who routinely start 40% of their teams’ games, you can only sit back and hope your OL is alive by night’s end. Perhaps more impressive than Ayers ability to start, was his White Goodman like celebration after dropping Brandon Jacobs like it was the Dodgeball Regional Semifinals. For good measure, Baas let Terrence Knighton throw him aside to make a stuff on David Wilson on the Giants’ first drive of the second half.

Overall, solid pass protection, abysmal run blocking against a cast of veritable super stars that the Broncos line up at DT.

Defensive Line: DL Justin Tuck started week two off by knifing in on the game’s first play from the DT spot and dropping K (no more stupid names just letters from now on) Moreno for a 3 yard loss. Tuck’s pass rush was mostly neutralized by the repeated bear hugs from Denver RT Orlando Franklin, but the vet still finished with 8 stops. I won’t blame Gene Steratore, mostly because I think he may have me whacked, but Franklin was using the Hillbilly Jim bear hug as his go to pass blocking move. On the Broncos first scoring drive, DE Mathias Kiwanuka had a bead on Manning, only to be suplexed out of the way by Franklin as Steratore’s crew stood by presumably oblivious to the Giants frustration and possibly ignoring a foreign object. It must be noted though, that the DL seems content to whine about being held instead of trying to create separation with some hand punch and keeping the OL from getting so far inside. Tuck was absolutely the culprit though on K Moreno’s first TD as he allowed, once again, the OL to get inside his pads and keep him from extending his arms down the line of scrimmage to push the play wide enough for help to arrive. This is fundamentally bad football on that play, Tuck simply has to be more aware of where he is and what his job is as the play side DE and he looked quite frankly bored on the play as Moreno scampered by. Franklin was later seen spooning Tuck on a pass rush as Manning misfired on a 3rd down late in the 2nd half.

Rough game for DE Mathias Kiwanuka who was brushed aside all too easily on Moreno’s 2nd TD of the day and was victimized repeatedly on edge runs right at him. Reportedly Jason Pierre-Paul played, but I saw no signs of it. Give credit again to Giant big men, DT Shaun Rogers, Linval Joseph and Mike Patterson. The big three made it tough sledding inside for the Broncos, forcing the Broncos to go wide if they had any designs on ground yardage. Rogers had a 3 play stint in the 3rd quarter with two QB hurries, two hits and one bear paw swatting of Moreno who fell forward after being pawed by the Sumo sized Rogers. Sumo..that gives me an idea…maybe I’ll bring that up next week but it involves hockey and guaranteed shutouts.

Linebackers: LBs Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams started as the only two backers against the Broncos pass happy attack and in those roles both played well. Paysinger and Williams combined for 14 stops and had decent coverage, keeping TE Julius Thomas in check for the most part with 47 yards and limiting Wes Welker’s damage over the middle to 39 yards on only 3 catches. Williams and Paysinger however both got completely swallowed on both of Moreno’s TD runs and once again, it looked like a glaring lack of effort on their part. Both play well in spurts but those edge runs, all afternoon, just had the Giants defenders looking like they were beaten before the play started, color me confused. Mark Herzlich managed to look like Bambi on a frozen pond as Holliday zoom zoom zoomed (damn you Mazda jingles) right past the former Eagle to pay dirt.

Defensive Backs: The Giant DBs have to get a lot of credit here, they came to play with another big challenge. Miscommunication is simply killing this secondary. On the game’s opening drive, Prince Amukamara seemed to be sinking in a Cover 2, ready to leave the deep half for S Ryan Mundy, who hesitated and jumped inside to follow TE Julius Thomas. The problem was, that WR Andre Caldwell AND Thomas were both open, allowing Caldwell to haul in a 36 yard gain down to the Giants 6 yard line on the game’s opening drive. Essentially Mundy covered no one, Amukamara covered no one and the Broncos were in business as the Giants failed to execute a simple coverage switch. Fortunately for the Giants, Prince was able to knock away a deep pass to WR Eric Decker in one on one coverage on an identical play, the difference is, the Giants blitzed and #20 expected no help, and didn’t need any.

Overall, despite the final score, a workman-like effort by Antrel Rolle, Ryan Mundy and Terrell Thomas, who totaled 19 stops and kept the Broncos trio in front of them for the most of the day.

Special Teams: Trindon Holliday is fast, Josh Brown kicks real good. Give LS Zak DeOssie credit, he must have been praying to…well nothing he’s an atheist, that he’d nab a shoelace on Holliday as the former LSU sprinter was racing to a back breaking TD. Outstanding effort by the Giant long snapper, despite the horrific result.

Cram it in your cramhole award: I mentioned to our fearless Editor Eric Kennedy how often I now have to look up names of the players while I am writing these diatribes. This week’s award was close, I almost gave it to Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie because for farts’ sake, enough with the hyphens and no more Cromarties! The winner though is the heretofore known as Snowshoe Moreno. I have renamed him Snowshoe because every time I typed his name, Microsoft Word squiggly red underlined it and suggested the following words instead: Know Shon, Knows On, Knowhow, Know-how or Snowshoe. I think you’ll agree with my choice.

(Boxscore – Denver Broncos at New York Giants, September 15, 2013)