Sep 142014
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Giants dropped to 0-2 following a 25-14 loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. Below you will find a few of the studs, and duds, from Sunday’s game.

Please note, these studs and duds are compiled via initial gut reaction having not reviewed the game on film. These can easily be changed upon the final film review session. These are not the final and absolute observations made.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

STUDS:

Eli Manning
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning put together the kind of performance he would have put together last week had it not been for many of the drops. It’s a crazy fact, actually, considering Manning still dealt with an abnormal amount of dropped balls.

Manning displayed that he does in fact have the ability to play in the West Coast scheme and actually have quite a bit of success. Manning looked calm, cool and collected throughout the game’s entirety. An interception on a tipped pass and an end-of-game bomb cloud an otherwise very solid performance. Manning finished 26-of-39 for 277 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Rueben Randle
A lot was made over Rueben Randle’s two receptions for one yard last week and he responded in a big way Sunday afternoon. Playing against one of the better cornerbacks in the league, Randle caught four passes for 39 yards including a beautiful one-handed grab. This stud though does come with a big ‘but’ as Randle dropped a deep pass down the sideline.

Offensive Line (pass blocking)
There is a big, big difference between the Detroit Lions front four and the Arizona Cardinals, but either way Manning had tons of time to throw in the pocket Sunday afternoon. Was it perfect all the time? No, but no line ever is. Every now and then, your quarterback is going to get sacked and not everyone is going to get picked up. Looking at the complete body of work, the offensive line played very well when it came to pass blocking.

Larry Donnell, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Larry Donnell
Maybe the biggest surprise in the early portions of this season has been the receiving aspect of Larry Donnell’s game. Manning has gone to the tight end time and time again, targeting him 17 times the last two games. Sunday, Donnell caught seven passes for 81 yards and was the Giants leading receiver for the second straight game.

The Pass Rush
Wasn’t that a sight for sore eyes? The Giants front four displayed visions of 2007 and 2011, frequently making trips to Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton. New York recorded four sacks, had two nullified via penalty, and had countless other pressures. Johnathan Hankins, Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka all got to the quarterback.

Johnathan Hankins
If the first two games are any indication, the Giants may have a budding star on their hands in Johnathan Hankins. The second-year player is not only a stud against the run, but made several visits to the quarterback, including his first career sack. He looks like a very, very good player.

DUDS:
Offensive Line (run blocking)
The final stat line says it all: New York rushed the ball 27 times and gained 81 yards. That’s an average of three yards per carry. In the first half, the Giants had 13 total rushing yards.

It wasn’t the 85 Chicago Bears lining up in front of the Giants, but the Arizona Cardinals. The same Arizona Cardinals that were playing without Darnell Docket and John Abraham. Three yards per carry is unacceptable. If the Giants want to establish anything this year, they need to improve their rushing attack. All 64 of Rashad Jennings’ yards were courtesy of him and him only. Without reviewing the game, I’m not sure he had a nice hole to run through all game.

Mark Herzlich
This is a tough one to put, because Herzlich isn’t a good defensive player. The Giants know that, the league knows that. Where Herzlich makes his plays is on special teams. Either way, when Beason went down he needed to step up and didn’t.

On Herzlich’s first series, the Cardinals gained two first downs running right at him. A few plays later, he was called for a holding. A series after that, he gave up a first-down to tight end Troy Niklas. It wasn’t a good showing.

Ted Ginn, Arizona Cardinals (September 14, 2014)

Ted Ginn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quintin Demps and Zack Bowman
It’s not just that Demps fumbled the ball, which was unacceptable, it’s his decisions to take the ball out of the endzone. The Giants started inside their own 20 far too many times because Demps decided to risk it, and, while looking at the replay at MetLife, it appeared he was holding the ball freely on the fumble. Victor Cruz’s drop loaded the gun, but Demps’ fumble pulled the trigger in the Giants demise Sunday.

Bowman gets a dud as well, combined with Demps. Bowman was signed by the Giants because of his solid play on special teams. He had Ted Ginn Jr. wrapped up and was bringing him to the ground before being shrugged off.

Victor Cruz
The No. 1 dud from Sunday, no questions asked. Entering the Giants match-up with the Cardinals, Victor Cruz pulled his own Keyshawn Johnson and said if the Giants offense wants success, he needs to be thrown the ball.

If you’re going to say that, fine, but you better back it up. Cruz didn’t, to say the least.

When New York needed a play, it went to Cruz who responded with three drops. Two of which would have been touchdowns.

It’s completely unacceptable to complain about the number of targets thrown your way after dropping two passes. But to then complain about the number of targets, then drop three after the complaint? That’s pathetic.

Victor Cruz is a first-year captain for the Giants, it’s time he starts playing like a leader, not complaining like a prima donna.

Sep 142014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

There was a key to the New York Giants turning their offense around. In fact, according to Victor Cruz, it was a simple fix.

After being dismantled by the Detroit Lions in the season opener, New York need just throw the ball in Cruz’s direction versus the Arizona Cardinals. If they did that, everything would be OK according to the former Pro Bowler.

“There needs to be an increased number of targets in my direction,” Cruz said last week.

Versus the Cardinals Sunday afternoon, those passes were thrown, but when New York needed him most, Cruz came up short. The wideout dropped three must-catch passes Sunday afternoon as Arizona defeated New York, 25-14, dropping the Giants record to 0-2 for the second consecutive season.

“Any ball in my direction, in my opinion, I’ve got to bring in,” Cruz said. “I’ve got to be able to make the play for my team and make the play whenever (Quarterback Eli Manning) looks my way. I own up to it and those are ones I have to bring in.”

After struggling on defense in its season opener, the Giants defense again got off to a slow start versus the Cardinals. Arizona marched 80 yards in 11 plays, capping the drive with a one-yard touchdown run from Jonathan Dwyer. Following an Eli Manning interception on New York’s first series, it was a 10-play, 40-yard drive that ended in a Chandler Catanzaro field goal.

Trailing by 10, the Giants offense finally found life. Manning and Co. marched 90 yards in 13 plays before the quarterback found receiver Rueben Randle for a seven-yard score past Patrick Peterson. Three series later in the second half, it was another touchdown pass from Manning, this time to Daniel Fells, to give New York its first lead of the season.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“We were confident,” Cruz said. “I think the confidence level was there. We were getting ourselves open, we were making the big play.”

But the success was short lived. Arizona answered New York’s scoring drive with one of their own when Catanzaro hit a 37-yard field goal. Then, facing a third-and-six, the game took a turn for the worse.

With time to throw in the pocket, Manning dropped back and sent a pass deep down the left sideline. Cruz was open, but dropped the ball. The punt team came on, and Ted Ginn gave Giant fans a flashback to 2013.

Steve Weatherford boomed a high, spiraling kick to the New York 29 yard line. Zack Bowman came in to wrap up Ginn, but the former first-round pick spun out of the tackle and took off up the middle of the field.

Ginn eluded Zak DeOssie and Spencer Paysinger before sprinting past Weatherford and toward the west end zone at MetLife Stadium for a 71-yard touchdown.

“It was just that point of time where we needed a play,” Ginn said. “I just went out and I just tried to make the best play that I can, and it turned out to be a touchdown.”

Ted Ginn, Arizona Cardinals (September 14, 2014)

Ted Ginn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

On the ensuing kickoff, Quintin Demps fumbled, setting up another Catanzaro field goal. The next offensive series, Manning went back to Cruz, giving the receiver a chance to make amends. Cruz responded with two more drops, leading to another Giants punt and three-and-out.

“We just need to keep working,” Manning said. “Those are physical mistakes, those things happen sometimes, a drop. That’s football…. We have opportunities to make plays, we just have to make them.”

With 9:11 remaining in the game, the Giants put together their best shot at a comeback, but came up short again. After driving 65 yards to the Arizona 17-yard line, Manning threw a pass in the flat to Rashad Jennings. As the running back cut to turn up the field, he slipped and fell to the turf. The ball popped out and Arizona recovered.

The Giants defense forced a three-and-out, getting the ball in the offense’s hands one last time, but New York went four-and-out, setting up a fourth and game-sealing Catanzaro field goal.

“You know what?” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “I look out there, they’re men. We’re all men. Stop feeling sorry four ourselves. We had an opportunity and we let it slip. There’s no one to blame but ourselves.

“You work as hard as you can, you run around like a crazy man. You get your coaches to apply themselves even harder. You get the players to apply themselves harder.”

In the loss, Manning completed 26-of-39 passes for 277 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Larry Donnell caught seven passes for 81 yards, Cruz five for 60 and Rueben Randle four for 39 and a touchdown. Defensively, New York recorded four sacks, highlighted by Jason Pierre-Paul’s 1.5. Johnathan Hankins had the first of his career.

New York middle linebacker Jon Beason left the game in the fourth quarter with a foot injury and Walter Thurmond III with a pectoral injury, neither player returned.

The following players did not suit up for the Giants: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), LB Devon Kennard (hamstring), G Adam Snyder, T Charles Brown (shoulder), DE Kerry Wynn, T James Brewer (back), and DT Markus Kuhn (ankle).

Sep 132014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants, September 14, 2014

Stats and analysis courtesy of Pro Football Focus

Earlier this week, New York Giants offensive coordinator  Ben McAdoo said one of the things that he was encouraged by when watching the film of the debacle in Detroit, was the mistakes his offense made weren’t the same ones, but different.

While NJ.com’s Jordan Raanan pointed out the contrary, there was no denying that Monday featured plays to be made, the Giants simply didn’t make them. Versus Arizona this Sunday at 1:00 PM, the Giants hope to change that and get their first win of the season.

In fact, after starting last season 0-6 last year, there’s been a different feel around the locker room this week in practice. The Giants know that in order to keep those 0-6 thoughts out of their minds, they need to win a game. 1-1 looks a lot better than 0-2.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Rueben Randle
It wasn’t pretty for Rueben Randle last week in Detroit. Maybe not because of Randle himself, but because he wasn’t targeted by Eli Manning. The former second-round pick caught just two passes for one yard on three targets. Comparing that to tight end Larry Donnell making his first start, the big-bodied end was thrown at eight times.

A lack of targets this week to Randle may not be because the Giants don’t want to get him the ball, but can’t. The Cardinals have one of the better cornerback tandems in the league in Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie. Last week versus the San Diego Chargers, the two combined to allow only four catches for 32 yards.

Second Down
Throw me the ball
Victor Cruz did a very un-Victor Cruz like thing this week when he stated the key to the offense’s success was, well, throwing him the ball. The only issue with Cruz’s statement…he was thrown the ball last week.

He just didn’t make the plays.

According to Pro Football Focus, Cruz rated out -1.9 score, the worst of any Giants receiver. He was target six times, but managed only two receptions and dropped two passes, second most in the NFL.

It’s time Cruz backs up his talk with his play. But Monday’s lack-of-production was not because the ball wasn’t send the former Pro Bowler’s way.

Third Down
J.D. Walton
No one of the Giants offensive line played particularly well Monday night in Detroit, but Walton stood out as visually struggling the most. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh made a mockery of the Giants center, regularly sending him yards into the backfield.

Versus Arizona, Walton won’t be facing the likes of Suh and Fairley. Instead, he’ll see an awful lot of Dan Williams and Paul Soliai. Versus the Chargers last week, the two combined for three quarterback hurries and two tackles.

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (August 18, 2014)

Prince Amukamara – Photo by Connor Hughes

Fourth Down
Prince Amukamara
One of the brightest spots for the New York Giants on Monday was the play of Prince Amukamara. The former first-round pick played as just that and showed he may in fact be New York’s best cornerback.

Sunday afternoon will be a great test for Amukamara, no matter whom he faces. The Arizona Cardinals bring to the table two very good outside receivers in Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. After only being thrown at four times last week and catching only one pass, Fitzgerald will be eager to put a terrible season opener behind him.

If it’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who draws Fitzgerald, that means Amukamara will get Michael Floyd. The former first-round pick caught five of the seven passes thrown his way last week for 119 yards. He gained 27 yards after contact, including a 63-yard bomb from quarterback Carson Palmer.

BREAKING DOWN THE CARDINALS:

OFFENSE – Eric Kennedy
Strength?
The strength of the Cardinals’ offense is obvious…it’s their outstanding receiving corps. The Giants faced Detroit’s Calvin Johnson in the opener, now they face another of the game’s best in Larry Fitzgerald who is coming off a sub par game (1 catch) and looking to rebound. Michael Floyd meanwhile picked up the slack with 5 catches for 119 yards. Both are big, physical targets who can make big plays and help out their inconsistent quarterback. The guy who has really impressed me is rookie John Brown, who looks like a third-round steal. Ted Ginn has game-breaking speed, but is inconsistent. Combine that with an underrated group of tight ends, led by John Carlson.

The Giants have invested a lot of resources in a secondary that did not play well on Monday night. They need big rebound game. Calvin Johnson may be the best receiver in football, but Arizona’s receiving corps is more talented overall.

Weakness?
It used to be the offensive line, but the Cardinals signed LT Jared Veldheer in the offseason and that has improved the overall state of the unit. Still, the offensive line is a bit shaky. The Cardinals still are not that impressive up front and defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Cullen Jenkins (as long as hip is not too much of a problem) could present a lot of problems for Arizona. The bigger overall weakness for the Cardinals – and this is related to their offensive line – is their running game. The Cardinals were 23rd in rushing in 2013 and they might not be much more improved this year. RB Andre Ellington can break the big play but he is undersized and hurt his left foot last week. Former Steeler Jonathan Dwyer is ordinary. The Giants should be able to take away the Cardinals running game and make them one dimensional. If they don’t, then it will be difficult to win this game.

DEFENSE Connor Hughes
Strength?
There’s no doubt where the strength of the Cardinals defense lies, Antonio Cromartie and Patrick Peterson are two of the most physically gifted cornerbacks in the NFL. The two are fast, tall and play the ball in the air exceptionally well. As hard as it will be for Manning, if he starts forcing the ball against the two, things won’t turn out well.

I’d expect the Giants to try to attack the slot and seam more than the outside. Last year, Patrick Peterson played just 69 snaps in nickel and Cromartie 15. If that same trend holds true on Sunday, Cruz should be matched up against Jerraud Powers, who played 31 snaps in the nickel defense last week. That’s a matchup worth testing. Not Jerrel Jernigan/Randle on the outside versus Peterson and Cromartie.

Weakness?
The defensive line for the Cardinals has been ravaged by injured taking into consideration the loss of Darnell Docket, then the fact John Abraham may never play another snap. The Giants aren’t facing Ansah/Suh/Fairley this week. Manning should have additional time in the pocket. Then again, last week he was only pressured 31 precent of the times (Ryan Tannehill and Matt Ryan were pressure more).

Last week versus San Diego, the Cardinals outside linebackers (Sam Acho, Matt Shaughnessy, Thomas Keiser) combined for zero sacks, zero hurries and zero total pressure on Phillip Rivers.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 28, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

PLAYER TO WATCH:
Connor Hughes –
Eli Manning

The one thing that has gotten Eli Manning in trouble in years past is that Brett Favre gun-slinger mentality. Where some quarterbacks will see a situtation and say, “Eh, probably shouldn’t throw there,” Manning will see the same scenario and say, “Eh, I may be able to get it there.” This was evidently apparent on the Victor Cruz interception versus Detroit.

As Manning rolled out, Cruz was open. Had Manning planted his feet, got underneath it and led Cruz, it’s probably a touchdown. But Manning didn’t. He threw off his back foot, the pass was underthrown, jumped and intercepted.

Manning can’t make those plays versus the Cardinals. The days of the Giants offense gaining 400 yards, at least at this point, are over. Manning needs to realize that punting the ball and letting the defense play defense in a field position game is a win. If he throws another two interceptions, the Giants have no shot.

Eric Kennedy –
The Offensive Line
OK..so this is really five players…sue me. To me, the key to this game for the Giants is their ground game. They need to be able to run the ball against a beat up Cardinals front seven. It’s time to get back to old-fashioned Giants’ football and pound Arizona for four quarters. I expect the Cardinals to play eight in the box and dare the Giants to beat them with the pass. But I’d still stick with the run and use my two big backs to play some smash-mouth football. That should help settle down the line. But consistency will be key. Keep mistakes to a minimum…don’t miss blocks…don’t get penalized. Power football.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin – In studying the Arizona Cardinals, they are a good team and they certainly did emerge last year, a team that beat Seattle late in the season and just barely lost to San Francisco. (A) 10-6 football team that is a very, very aggressive, physical, defensive team. Very good upfront, runs the ball. In Carson Palmer they have found the quarter that Bruce Arians indicated that he was looking for and take advantage of an outstanding receiving group and can throw the ball down the field. They do have a nice group of running backs that have played well in that system. They are a good team, and we look forward to playing them Sunday.

Bruce Arians – (On how his secondary is coming together) I was really pleased the other night. We put them in situations where Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie were on islands, but we also put our young safeties in that same situation because we do like to pressure a lot. They handled themselves extremely well. They did get behind us a couple times and we were able to get pressure on Philip Rivers and they did not complete some balls, but that is going to happen the way we played defense.

FINAL WORD:

Connor Hughes – Everything says the Giants shouldn’t win this game. In fact, if anything, the Arizona Cardinals are actually a better team than the Detroit Lions are right now. Their defense is better, their offense (aside from the Calvin Johnson/Matt Stafford factor) is overall better and the team is battled tested playing in the – oh what a difference a few years make – toughest division in professional football.

With all that being said.. I think the Giants pull this one out. On Monday night in Detroit, the Giants had plays that could have been made, they just didn’t make them. Will those same plays be there against a much more talented Arizona secondary? Probably not.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Giants need to stay away from turnovers and need to get after Carson Palmer. Last year, Palmer completed just 49 percent of his passes when pressured. According to Pro Football Focus, when feeling the rush, Palmer threw 15 interceptions to just three touchdowns. If the Giants can do both of those things, I think they win. New York 20 – Arizona- 10.

Eric Kennedy – Coming into the season, I thought the Giants would beat the Lions but lose to the Cardinals. Arizona is a good football team, and if they were healthy, they are a better football team than the Giants. But they are beat up. QB Carson Palmer has issues with his shoulder. Their offensive line and running game are still shaky. But most importantly, they have been slammed with injuries up front. The strength of the Cardinals is their secondary and receiving corps. Both the Giants and Cardinals are coming off of short weeks and the Cardinals are traveling across country. If the Giants can get their ground game going – and they should – I think the Giants can win this game. But Eli must protect the football better. When the Giants win the turnover battle, they usually win. Giants 20 – Cardinals 16.