Monday, September 29, 2008

Under the Radar?

I don't think so.

If you thought the Giants were going to fly under the radar as the best NFL team that nobody pays attention to - forget it. The mantra last year of we don't get no respect is definitely over. They're going to have to find another tool to get everybody pumped up.

Here's why: Peter King, the football guru of SI took a look at the Cowboys giving up 37 points to the Eagles and saw them give up 381 yards of offesne to the Redskins yesterday, both games in Dallas, BTW and decided that the team with the most talent is not necessarily the best team. The Giants have a lot of talent and a workman like attitude and are at the top of his NFL power rankings at the moment.

Here's the link to the SI article:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Burress suspended

What the heck is this about?

I understand he protested in the offseason and didn't particpate in mini-camp because he got a new contract. Now he got the extension and big raise and he pulls this?

The bad news is that it could disturb the chemistry and good feelings that Coughlin worked so hard to build by adjusting his relationship with the players. Players may look at Burress action as a minor indiscretion and this is a return of the "same old Coughlin" who comes down hard on the players.

Or - they could say Coughlin is not practicing what he is preaching. By suspending Burress, he is not sticking to his "team-first" philosophy. Team is worse without Burress and Coughlin is putting his "rules" ahead of the team. How important is it to attend meetings in a bye week? It could have been a misunderstanding by Burress and it could really disrupt the team.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More Bengals game post mortem

A few more notes from the Bengals game:

Bengals did some interesting things that we have to prepare for in the future and that will give the coaches some ideas to work on. Here they are:

They did more than "just" bring a safety down to play 8 in the box to stop our running game. They played 5 DL-men AND occasionally brought a safety down to play sometimes 9 up at the line of scrimmage. Why, you might ask, did the Giants not pass when Bengals went into these formations? It's because the Bengals also blitzed frequently off of these formations, coming with all out blitzes at times, leaving only 2 guys back in coverage. This looked almost like a variation of the Buddy Ryan 46 defense of the 1985 Bears. Giants have to figure out how to handle this better. One way would be to go to max protect and only have 2 WRs running in patterns. Another idea would be to let them come and run a screen. Bengals used this tactic, I assume, because they didn't have confidence in their db-field and had to take chances. Their DB's no doubt were instructed to play aggressive and hold if they get beat deep, which they did twice (the only two times Giants tried to go deep until OT).

I would have more confidence in Spagnuolo figuring something out for the defense than Gilbride for the offense, but I think we have very good coaching on both sides of the ball and we will work it out.

As a practical matter, most teams are not going to play this way, because it is too much of a risk, but we have to fgure it out anyway.

On offense, Bengals played 3 WR formations much of the game. They made a lot of plays to Chatman on short quick passes. This did two things: it got the matchup they wanted, with Chatman vs. Dockery. It also got the ball out of Palmer's hands quickly before our pass rush could get to him. I think we may be seeing Madison in the game more often. Dockery had a rough game. He has good speed and can run down the field pretty well, but he had trouble with the short slants that Chatman was running.

The other play that Bengals did several times that worked well against us was the little WR bubble screen. Two WRs on one side block for the 3rd WR who gets in behind them. Once we stopped it for a loss, but they worked it effectively several times. Patriots made a living on this last year with Welker and I guess Chatman is a similar type WR. Not great speed or big and powerful, but he is very quick and we had trouble stopping this.

The running stats will show that Bengals did OK against us, gaining 102 yards on 27 carries for a 3.8 average. But 23 of the yards were gained by Palmer on 3 scrambles. If you take those out, the numbers come down to 3.3 yds per carry. And if you really want to get technical about it, 25 of those yards came on one play, the TD run, which was very well blocked and which S Michael Johnson got out of position and did not contain on the outside. If you take out that 1 run and the scrambling by Palmer, Bengals gained 54 yards on 23 carries for a 2.3 yd average. I guess it's dishonest to take out one long run, but it does demonstrate that we were not getting pounded in the running game.

The TD came in a passing set when we were in a dime package with only one LB in the game. Ross, a very good tackler, was out with shoulder injury for that play and Michael Johnson was playing close to the line of scrimmage. Johnson did not play the run well, Perry got outside of him for the score. We have to work on that formation. Either Michael Johnson has to get better in his run contain repsonsibilites or we have to move rookie S Phillips closer to the line of scrimmage. He is a deadly tackler. But he is also more athletic and better cover guy than Johnson.

I figured this out about our other S Butler. He has decent speed and he knows what to do, but he does not have good body control and he has terrible ball skills. Whenever there is a long pass play against us, look for Butler in the area. On the TD to TJ Houshmenzadeh, Butler was right there, giving deep help to Pierce who had the short zone. He was right on the guy but when he jumped to make a play on the ball he could not control the point where he launched into his jump and when he reached for the ball he could not get to it. TJ easily grabbed it away from him. This was a similar play to the Superbowl when Pierce was called for PI right before Patriots first TD. On that play, Butler blew the coverage entirely and left Pierce without deep help. On the play against Bengals, he was in position, but he could not make a play on the ball. Palmer tried another pass into the endzone to a TE who was being double covered by Dockery and Butler. The pass should never have been thrown into double coverage but Palmer tried it anyway. Butler was giving deep help, should have been able to come up and make an INT or bat the ball away. He didn't but fotunately the TE dropped the ball as Butler grazed his arm from behind. We have to fix this situation on defense. Kenny Phillips has to get more playing time.

A look at the Cowboys

Cowboys looked really strong taking apart the Packers. When they played the Eagles and gave up 37 points I was wondering if they could play any defense, but their defense really held the Packers down. They are a real dangerous team with a lot of talent at nearly every position. Then, the Redskins beat them in Dallas and they gave up nearly 400 yards to the Redskins, again giving pause to question their defense. I guess Zorn is a better coach and Campbell a better qb than they looked against Giants in the season opener. Cowboys probably have the most talent on paper, but the main thing the rest of the league has going for it that gives anyone any hope or any chance to beat the Cowboys is the coach, Wade Phillips. My personal opinion is that he is a moron. He has never won a playoff game and he has taken some very talented teams to the playoffs. I am not talking about winning a Superbowl. I'm not talking about winning or even getting to a conference championship game. I'm talking about never winning a single playoff game. He is 0-4 and these teams that he took to the playoffs have a cumulative record of 43-21. That's winning over 2/3 of his games; you would have figured that he would have won one almost by accident in those 4 games, but he is a perfect 0-4.

Actually it goes much deeper than that in evaluating his coaching prowess. I can't remember all of his playoff teams and losses, but I can remember two of them and I think you can pin both of the losses directly on coaching. The one that everyone should remember is the "Music City Miracle", the loss of which can be laid right at the feet of the coaching staff. First, Phillips switched qbs and decided to start Rob Johnson to replace Doug Flutie who had been the starter for the entire regular season. Johnson had a pitiful first half and a weak game, but did lead the team down the field for a FG with 16 seconds left to put the Bills in front 16-15. The only thing to guard against was a run back on the kickoff. The Titans received the kickoff and lateraled the ball all the way across the field to Kevin Dyson who ran untouched down the sideline for the winning TD. That play is 100% coaching. There was no skill, speed, no characteristic you can identify in the players that made this play work other than pure unadulterated coaching. The Titans coaching staff came up with the play and the Bills coaching staff did not figure out how to defend it. I'm not saying the Titans were a bad team - in fact they went to the Superbowl that year. But the Bills had them beaten and they were outcoached to lose this game.

The second playoff game that he lost that he surely should have won is more recent - the playoff game in 2007 with his Cowboys against the Giants. Cowboys were the # 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and were heavily favored. I know the Giants got on one of the great playoff runs of all time and maybe you can't blame this loss on coaching, but I can find a few clear tactical errors that the Cowboys made from a coaching perspective that kept the Giants in the game. First: Cowboys were mauling Giants in first half. They ran the ball a lot and had two long TD drives in first half each of which took 10 minutes. Sounds good, right? However - the Cowboys were not a grind-it-out run-centered offense. They were a high powered, pass oriented offense that led the league in scoring, with passing weapons like TO and Jason Witten and a big time thrower in Tony Romo. So why were they running the ball so much - they should have been passing all over the field and trying to draw the Giants into a shootout. Perhaps more important - the Giants DB-field was all banged up. They had several starting DBs out, and lost one more player, rookie Aaron Ross during the game. Guys that had been on the practice squad the week before were playing prominent roles in the defense. But still, old Wade stuck to a conservative, grind-it-out style instead of the familiar Cowboys air-attack. They even sat down Julius Jones and played Marion Barber at RB the whole game. Barber is a very good player, but he is a power runner, not a breakaway RB. The offensive game plan was flawed. In the 2nd half, the Cowboys OL was tired out from being on the field so much in the 1st half. The Giants DL stayed fresher because of their depth and DL rotation and got after the Cowboys with a pass rush in 2nd half that helped control the game. It is amazing that the high powered Cowboys offense was held to 3 points in the 2nd half, with the weakened secondary that the Giants had playing in the game. Clearly, coaching played a big part in this Cowboys loss.

But for us Giants fans, there's more and it's all about good karma with Phillips coaching the Cowboys. You see - Wade Phillips pappy was one Bum Phillips. Bum was a good old southern boy who coached the Houston Oilers back in the day. He had some good Houston teams who made the playoffs a few times and even went to the conference championship game twice, though they never went to the Superbowl. His best player at the time was RB Earl Campbell who he rode to this good record. Like all good things, this came to an end and Bum was fired from Houston after the 1980 season but was immediately hired to coach and serve as GM of the New Orleans Saints. His first draft was in 1981 and the awful Saints had the first pick in that draft. Having gained much success by riding the powerful running back Campbell to winning seasons in Houston, Bum decided that the way to construct a franchise was to have a great RB as the cornerstone and build around him. Therefore, he took George Rogers, a Gamecock from South Carolina as his first pick. Rogers was a very fine RB and in fact was the Heisman Trophy winner that year. He went on to have a good pro career, leading the league in rushing one year and gaining more that 1,000 yards a few times.

However, the Giants also had an awful year in 1980 and had the second pick in that 1981 draft. When Phillips took Rogers, it meant that one Lawrence Taylor dropped to the Giants, who they took with their 1st round pick. George Young, who had just been selected as GM of the Giants said that he never spent such a sleepless night, that night before the draft fearing that the Saints would take LT. The definition of a "New York minute" is the time between the announcement of Rogers as the Saints pick and the time it took for a Giants representative to run up to the podium and tell commissioner Rozelle that LT was the Giants pick. The rest is history. LT was perhaps the best defensive player in the history of the game and led the Giants to two Superbowls and numerous playoff appearances. Rogers, though a good player, had his career shortened by a knee injury. But he is the answer to a good trivia question. Sam Bowie (and Hakeem Olajuwon) was drafted before Michael Jordan and George Rogers was drafted before LT. Saints never had a winning record under Phillips, but they did go 8-8 one year.

Actually, for true Giants fans, there's a little more karma. The qb on those Bum Phillips Saints was Archie Manning.

'Nuf said.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Giants-Bengals post mortem

Kevin Dockery had a rough day, getting beat often, mostly by Chatman, Bengals 3rd WR.

We had a Sam Madison sighting. Maybe because Dockery wasn't playing well or maybe because we rotate the DBs occasionally or maybe because Dockery was slightly hurt, Madison came in and was the nickel back in OT. He made a big play on the Bengals only possession in OT, knocking away a pass on 3rd and 8, giving the ball back to the Giants for what would be their winning OT FG drive.

On reviewing the game, I also confirmed that the Giants did not take many shots down the field. In addition to the pass interference on the try to Steve Smith, there was another pass interference on a route by Plaxico that was going to be a deep ball. But that was it. They did run a lot of slants, but they didn't throw many of them and they were all short routes. Actually, these frequent slant patterns may have been what set up the two deep balls to Plaxico and Toomer in OT that led to the winning FG, because they were double moves off fake slants.

The pass to Burress was an incredible throw. He wasn't wide open, he only had a step or two on the DB. He was two steps from the sideline and the safety was closing in from the center of the field in their 2 deep zone, so there wasn't a big window to fit that into but Eli did it.

The catch by Toomer was a better catch, so it may seem like the throw by Eli wasn't as good, as it required a fingertip catch by the WR. It was actually a much more difficult throw to make. On the Burress catch, Eli had a clean pocket and good time to step into the throw comfortably. On the Toomer catch, exactly the opposite - he was rushed and did not have a good pocket to throw from. It was practically all arm, and the DL was all around him forcing him to get more air under the throw, otherwise it would have been blocked at line of scrimmage. He hit him perfectly nevertheless.

It looked like the timing on our blitzes was off. We blitzed quite a bit, as usual. But Bengals were able to read them and block them up. I have confidence that DC Spagnuolo will make some adjustments because no doubt the rest of the league will try to see what Bengals did. To me it seemed like Bengals didn't do anything exotic. They did keep 2 backs in for blocking quite often. If I were Giants, and the other team kept 7 or 8 players in, I would fake the blitz and keep 7 guys back in coverage. With 7 guys defending 2 or 3 receivers, the defense should have an advantantage.

It's funny - the statistics will say that the Giants had 6 sacks which sounds like a dominating performance. but it is misleading - it was all or nothing. Either we got a sack or Palmer had too much time to throw. There was nothing in between. Consistent pressure might be more important than piling up sacks. Of course, they usually go together, but sometimes not.

Tuck was invisible Sunday, but Robbins had a big day. It looked like the Bengals were doubling Tuck often and at least one time, blew their assignments, did not block Robbins at all and he ran completely untouched for a sack. Giants like to move Tuck inside on pass rush downs where they think he will have a mismatch against a G. But I think that sometimes the inside of the line gets jammed up and Tuck can be blocked. I like him playing in space, where he can use both strength and speed to get to the passer. It's nice to have pressure up the middle, but there's a reason the best pass rushers are on the outside. We can't be predictable with this and we have to move Tuck around so he can't be double-teamed so easily.

First thoughts about Bengals game

Someone please tell me why we want to get rid of Carney and bring back Lawrence Tynes as kicker. I know about the 47 yd FG in the cold in Green Bay. But Carney has been absolutely perfect for us: made every PAT, every FG and his kickoffs have been at least as good as Tynes.

I don't want this to sound like revisionist history, because I was sorry that we had to get rid of Shockey, but Shockey would not have held onto the TD pass that Boss caught after that enormous hit he took. Shockey was strange - he would occasionally make great athletic catches, but sometimes looked like he had Patrick-Ewing-hands.

Giants signed Derrick Ward as insurance policy... not for injury... but in case Jacobs demands too much money and they can't sign him in this, his walk year. This was a good strategy. I like Jacobs but I would be completely comfortable having Ward carrying the ball for us next year. He is a more polished runner than Jacobs and is a hair quicker.

Eli is one of the top qbs in football. I know it was only against the Bengals, but he was outstanding yesterday. WR's were not running free all day and he still put up excellent numbers and won the game with two clutch drives, one in 4th qtr and one in OT.

A few comments about offensive game planning and play calling: Giants threw nothing down the field yesterday. Going on memory, without having reviewed the game film, the only deep pass attempt in regulation time I can remember was a go route to Steve Smith which would have been a TD except for PI by the Bengals DB who was beaten badly on the play. Every single other pass play had the Giants WRs running parallel to the line of scrimmage or backwaqrds towards it. They were virtually all crossing routes and hook patterns. None had the Giants WRs running away from the line of scrimmage. Until OT - then they sent Hixon long, he was open and Eli overthrew him by a yard; then Eli threw 2 deep completions to Burress and Toomer for about 30 yards each and we win the game. Maybe we should have tried some of those earlier. It would loosen up the defense and open some of the underneath stuff. A short passing game does not compliment a power running game. You have to get the ball downfield a little bit.

When the other team had the ball, I was equally puzzled. Giants defense had few answers for Palmer in the second half. He was throwing the ball well and we couldn't stop him. He moved them down for 4th qtr TD and moved them downfield for FG to tie the game, which would have been a TD if not for some bad clock management by Bengals. They ran out of time and had to kick a FG to tie. At the time I felt that if we didn't score on our first possession of OT we would lose. So what happens - Bengals get the ball in OT after our first possession and instead of putting the game in Palmer's hands, they run it twice into the line and on 3rd and long, we finally get a pass breakup and get a 3-and-out. Dumb, dumb, dumb. By contrast, Eli threw the ball every play in OT and we did not run the ball. I think Coughlin was afraid of giving the ball back to Palmer and had a sense of urgency to win the game right there.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Some random observations

Giants are a different defense from last year. Last year they were centered purely on their front 7. Actually, it was their front 4 with a little help from A Pierce at MLB. Their CB's were pretty good and their safeties were not awful, but this was clearly the weakest part of the defense. This year, with Corey Webster continuing his superior play from the playoffs last year, with Dockery much improved and Ross showing more speed, I actually think the CBs are a strength of the defense. The top cover guy for most of last year was Sam Madison and he can't even get on the field.

Safety is a particular improvement. Michael Johnson is getting more playing time replacing Gibril Wilson. (Anybody notice Gibril getting posterized by Denver WR in week 1), Sammy Knight is a solid pro and James Butler looks a little quicker than he did last year. Of course the big addition to the D-backs is Phillips at S who is a star waiting for some playing time.

Anybody notice that Kehl is getting lots of snaps at LB and the job was not simply handed over to Wilkinson? I like Wilkinson, he has great speed, but Kehl is almost as fast and quiite a bit bigger. It looks like the coaches really like him. Kehl looked to me like he got lost on the almost-TD by Stephen Jackson in week 2 vs. Rams, but I think that was a rookie mistake. He's a keeper.

I heard Jimmy Johnson on radio on Thursday. He likes Cowboys #1, Eagles # 2 and Giants # 3 in our division. I don't get it. McNabb is healthier now, I understand that, but he's not as good a passer as everyone gives him credit for. Ever notice that he really stinks in the 2 minute offense? That's because in that part of the game the defense doesn't take chances, blitzes conservatively and stays in their rush lanes to keep the qb in the pocket. Most important, the defense plays conservatively in the DB-field so as not to give up a long play that will beat them. To beat this kind of defense the qb has to be patient, have an accurate and strong throwing arm and read the defenses well. In other words, he must be a classsic pocket passer. Eli - yes. McNabb - not so much.

Speaking of NFC East - I was underwhelmed by the both teams in that Eagles-Cowboys game. Both teams were very sloppy. Was it big time offense or no defense? And how exactly did the Eagles lose that game when the Cowboys gave them 14 points, 1 TD on the Romo fumble in the end zone and 1 TD with the Romo INT which gave them the ball on the 'Boys 20. I guess they also gave 7 points back with the TD on kickoff return. And they did fumble once themselves which kind of equalizes things. I'm just saying -I think both teams looked sloppy and played no defense. Eagles Dawkins is slowing down. You never used to be able to beat him deep in the middle of the field like TO and Witten did on several occasions.

McNabb, when he still had TO to throw to, loses to Brady and a very good Patriots team in Superbowl XXXIX after the 2004 season. Then 3 years later, Eli with his best receiver hobbled with a bad ankle beats the same Brady and a far, far better Patriots team that has Moss at WR for them. But .... McNabb is better than Eli. Go figure.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I know it's only been two games this season but I assert that we are seeing the emergence of Eli as a legitimate star. Last year's playoff run is irrefutable evidence that he has the talent, he has the grit, and lord knows, we didn't need the playoff performance to know that he certainly has the pedigree. But some were left with some reasonable doubt and questions: was last year's playoff run a good player playing over his head for a short stretch? Was he riding the wave of the Giants themselves playing superior football for those four games? Giants were a mediocre 10-6 last year and barely squeaked into the playoffs with a rain-soaked win in Buffalo in game 15 that was sparked by two defensive touchdowns and one 80 yard run by Bradshaw, after they came from way behind early in the 2nd half. So - doubters could reasonably maintain that the Giants as a team were playing over their heads last year and that Eli was the beneficiary of that good play.

My assertion is exactly the opposite. It's not true that Eli was just along for the ride - quite the contrary - he was the main impetus to that offense playing Superbowl caliber football. The MVP for the Superbowl was certainly earned, but more than that - he was the MVP of the entire playoff run. He completely outplayed every qb that he came up against in the playoffs including pro-bowler Romo and future HOF-ers Favre and Brady. He carried the offense on his shoulders through the entire playoff run. Remember, the Giants running game was still adjusting to the loss of Shockey's blocking and lost a full yard per average carry. Eli did more to lead the team through the playoffs than most other qbs that I can remember. Everyone talks about the great 2 minute drive to win the Superbowl, but to me, the most impressive drive I have ever seen was the TD at the end of the half against Dallas. We got the ball back with 47 seconds left, down a TD after two exhausting, punishing 10 minute drives by the Cowboys offense. The best case scenario and all you could reasonably hope for was a FG to give us 3 points and a little boost going into the locker room. But you remember what happened: 23 yards to Steve Smith; 12 yard to Steve Smith + a face mask penalty; 20 yards to Boss down to the 4 yard line followed by the TD to Toomer. That drive turned the entire game and I think gave the entire team - offense and defense - the feeling that we had a great qb and we could beat anybody.

But - the above is still looking back to last year - the doubters could still question whether last year was a one-time fluke. I am going to pick out 4 plays from the 2008 version of Eli from the first two games that should prove why I think he is an emerging star.

1. Redskins game: 1st half, 1st drive of game, Giants have the ball 3rd and 6 from the Washington 17. Eli drops back to throw and the pocket closes up real fast. the RDE gets a good push on Diehl and looks like he is about to sack Eli. Eli takes a quick two steps back and to his right to give him an extra half second to see the field. As he is being grasped by the DE, off his backfoot, he has enough armstrength to throw a perfect pass to Burress in the middle, who has a DB right on his back and makes the juggling catch for the first down. This showed tremendous poise, pocket awareness, strong and accurate throwing arm and the ability to throw while under pressure.

2. Two plays later on the same drive, Giants had a first and goal from the 1 after a PI in the endzone against Fred Smoot. Everybody is looking for a dose of B Jacobs up the middle. Instead, Eli fakes to Jacobs and rolls out on a bootleg to his right. It looks to me like he is trying to the throw the ball to a TE in the endzone, but nobody is open. So instead he tucks it and runs toward the goal line. He dekes the LB Washington, who is an excellent tackler, and cuts inside of him for the score. This only adds to his resume and blunts some of the criticism that he is not athletic.

3. Game 2, against the Rams, 1st qtr 33 yd TD pass to Burress. Most people saw an easy throw to a wide open WR. I saw something else. I saw TE Kevin Boss staying in to increase the pass protection and block on the RDE. Boss stumbled and whiffed on his block of the RDE who came free on an outside rush from Eli's blind side. Eli sensed him coming, stepped up in the pokcet and let the rusher run past him. This gave him plenty of time to throw and gave Plax an extra second to get down field. The throw was easy, but perfect. The pocket awareness and the calm technique is what will allow his natural ability to come forward.

4. 2nd qtr against the Rams, 3rd down, Eli being squeezed in the pocket and about to be pulled down to the ground for a sack, has his right arm pinned to his body but is still standing. He switches the ball to his left hand and flips it to Brandon Jacobs for a 2 yd gain. Instead of losing 8-10 yards resutling in a 45 yard FG attempt it turns into a gain of 2 and a much more makeable 31 yard FG attempt. Pocket presence, confidence to improvise, balance and athletic ability are all important qualities. (Understand - I'm not saying that thrwoing lefty is an important characteristic, I'm saying that the athletic ability that someone has who can do that is what's important.)

Last year he got to the next level in the playoffs. I think we are going to see him raise his game even more and we are seeing the growth and emergence of one of the great qbs in football.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

2008: Week 3 look ahead

I hate to look ahead to the next block of games, because we have to focus only on the next game coming up. You know what they say: one game at a time. That goes for the players as well as their fans. Maybe not. Our next 4 games are Bengals at home, Seahawks at home, Browns in Cleveland and 49ers at home. Like I said, you can't overlook your next opponent - on any given Sunday and all that stuff - but we have a good shot to be 6-0. The Browns in Cleveland could be somewhat difficult and Seattle at least did make the playoffs last year so they must have some talent. But if we are less than 5-1 after those 6 games I will be verrrry disappointed.

The true test will come in a difficult stretch in games 7,8,9. We play Steelers on the road, Cowboys at home and the Eagles in Philly. That stretch will determine if we are a good team, a very good team or f-ing great.

Now let's take a look at the Bengals. I think this team has some chemistry problems. The coach, Marvin lewis, has lost control of the team. He's been fighting with the best player on the team (Chad Johnson). Then he makes a bold statement that they have to get rid of the difficult players and raise the character of the team; so they cut WR C Henry, who is then rehired 3 weeks later by the owner/GM. I think the players are not playing for the coach.

The OL is not good and they do not have a good running game. They have two talented WRs in TJ Houshmendzadeh and Chad Johnson. They have a great passer in Carson Palmer, but something is not working. How else can you explain that Carson Palmer has a qb rating of 37, lowest in the entire league. Maybe his qb rating is a little deflated because weather conditions were misearbly windy in their last game in Cincinatti. But still: the Bengals have socred 1 offensive TD in 2 games. The main problem is in their OL which is not good and banged up. Look for a big game from our DL.

Their defense is not too good either. Marvin Lewis is supposed to be a defensive wizard because of the great success he had coaching the great Ravens defenses of a few years ago. However, I could have coached those defenses led by Ray Lewis, those great CBs and an overwhelming pass rush. It's kind of like praising Joe Torre as a brilliant tactician because he filled out the lineup card with Derek Jeter every day and signaled for Mo Rivera to save the games. Real genius.

We should win easily, but somehow I think this game will be closer than the 13 1/2 points we are giving. Bengals have some talent on offense and at some point they're going to put a good effort together. Furthermore, I don't like this Earth Wind and Fire nonsense and I hope the Giants are not getting too full of themselves; and will focus and come to play. A heavy dose of our running game and we should be able to control the game and win by a comfortable 10 points.

2008: Week 1 postmortem

A win is a win. Not a pretty 2nd half, but so far we're the only undefeated team in the league this year.

Some good things to take out of this game and some things that.... I don't want to say concerns.... let's just say that are some things that could mitigate the good feelings and that bear some watching.

Eli threw the ball very well, especially in the first half, and Plax was getting open all night. I didn't like the INT Eli threw in the second half. At the game, it looked like he just threw it to an open area where there was no Giants receiver. After looking at the play again on video, I see that he was trying to throw to Boss, but he threw it over his head and Smoot picked it off. Since he was rolling to his left, and a DE was about to hit him, I guess he wanted to make sure he got enough on the throw to get it to Boss and the ball sailed on him. Bad decision. At that point in the game, since he was outside the pocket, he should've thrown it away. Eli's stat line doesn't look great, completing a shade over 50%, but there were a few throw-aways, a few drops, and a few plays where the WR didn't turn around in time, which is something you can expect this early in the season, especially becasue the two WRs Toomer and Plax missed so much training camp. In terms of Eli's mechanics, though, he looked sharp. Plax could not be stopped. The Giants didn't attempt anything deep, which I was hoping to see a bit of. But Redskins played mostly 2-deep zone on passing plays, with a very fast safety in LaronLandry, so I guess Giants thought the medium and short routes were best. Still - an occasional shot downfield is smart, especially with the speed we now have on the outside in Moss and Hixon.

After a few sluggish moments in the running game, Jacobs and Ward both looked really good and the Giants got more than 150 yds rushing. More important than the runners themselves was the blocking by the OL and the blocking schemes. The OL was pretty sharp against a very good Redskin DL, despite the fact that they gave up some sacks in the 2nd half. The two major things I was worried about coming into the game were: would the loss of Shockey and so-so blocking by our TE's hurt the running game. Looks to me like it didn't. Boss was OK in blocking. And a few times, Giants moved Hedgecock (I love that guy) into a slot so he could get a seal block on the DE or LB more quickly and be as effective as a TE. Hedgecock is a devastating blocker. On one of Jacobs long runs in 2nd half he absolutely whacked the LB opening up a huge running lane.

Moss caught a ball on a beautiful route to the outside. I have hopes for him. Hixon hardly got in the game.

Giants were great on D last year largely because of their pass rush. And the pass rush was good in 4th qtr largely because we had a great rotation on the DL and guys were fresh. I don't understand why we don't do that with WRs also. Stands to reason that they get a little tired at the end of the game and would be fresher if they had a few series off earlier in the game. With the depth we have at WR (Manningham didn't even dress) it seems to me that this could be effective strategy and we'd be even more dangerous in 4th qtr. Also - I would like to see the following: on 1st down run a go route straight down the field with Hixon. If it's incomplete, while the DB is still tired and breathing heavy, run the same go route at the same heavily-panting DB with a fresh Moss who comes into the game to replace Hixon. Seems to me worth a try.....kind of like a line change in hockey.

Now the worries on the offensive side of the ball: with 240 yards of offense and a time of possession of about 20 minutes in the first half, we just have to score more than 16 points. I know we scored on all 4 first half possessions, but at least one or maybe both of the short FGs should have been TDs. That would have made the 2nd half a cruise instead of slightly tense. And we made enough successful offensive plays in the 2nd half that we should not have gone scoreless. It wasn't terrible - I don't think we went 3-and-out the entire evening. And - we missed 1st down conversions by an inch twice, but still.... Of the four second half drives, two were ruined by a sack and some penalties and one was ruined by Eli's pick. You can explain why it happened and understand it, but still.... Our offesne should be great, not "just" good. We have everything you need: a qb who can make all the throws, very good OL, good possession WRs, good speed WRs, best fullback in FB, depth and speed at RB. There is no excuse for getting shut out in a half and for scoring only 16 points in the game. I know Skins have very good defense, but we have to do better. We don't close out drives as often as we should. I hope this improves as the season goes along. We'll see.

On defense, you can be nothing but pleased. The DL was effective shutting down the Redskins running game. One of the things I was worried about coming into the game wa: would our DL be weaker against the run because of the upheaval caused by Strahan and Osi being gone. No worry last night - Redskins averaged 3.5 yards per carry. In fact, Redskins gained only about 200 yards on offense all night and nearly half of those yards were on the last 2 desperation drives when Giants defense was sitting back and giving up the underneath stuff. The other good things I saw were very good play from Ross and Webster at CB. I thought Ross was a tough physical CB who was a good, but not great cover guy. I thought his speed was only good. The one time he was tested deep last night he stayed right with Santana Moss on a deep ball. It was a well run route, double move and Ross showed great CB skills staying with him through the fake and then showing great make up speed to be right with him. Webster knocked down 2 or 3 passes. Phillips, the rookie safety is going to be great. On one play he came off his man and laid a hit on the WR (Moss I think). It was a big hit that knocked off Moss helmet and that prevented Moss from getting the 1st down. The most impressive thing to me on that play, however, was the instincts that a rookie safety showed coming off his man, and seeing the play develop. I am really impressed.

On the DL, our DTs were outstanding. At DE, Kiwanuka was actually better against the run that he was against the pass. Tuck was a beast as always. The good news to me was that Alford is really progressing. he looked terrific, several times putting some pressure on qb and getting penetration against the run to disrupt running plays. I think he is a budding star.

Last year our defense was led by the DE and the blitz packages. This year, I think we are greatly improved in the DB-field. We have upgraded the safety position and at CB, besides Webster and Ross, Dockery looks much improved. I think our DB will be the strength of this defense rather than the weakness, which it was last year. This will allow Spags to be even more creative and aggressive with his blitz packages. Look at it this way with the DBs - our best CB and starter through the entire season last year was Madison and he didn't even dress last night.

Despite the dominating defensive performance last night, we have to remember that the Redskins helped us out quite a bit and the coach appears to be completely clueless. The offensive game plan last night was puzzling. I understand that he wanted to establish the run and test our new DL to see if it could stop the run. But at one point near the end of the 3rd qtr, Campbell had attempted only around 13 passes. The running plays were also predictable, mostly Portis between the tackles. No screen passes, no draws, nothing outside. But mostly - no run-pass mixture. Maybe Campbell is not used to the west coast offense yet so Zorn wanted to run more. I don't know - but it was puzzling. So - while the Giants defense looked great, the Skins were helping them out with their play calling and general ineptitude.

Permit me to pontificate a bit about coaches. Zorn, with no experience as a HC or OC, was a surprise selection as Redskins coach and announced on his first day that he is going to bring the west coast offense with him from Seattle. I thought this was absolutely ridiculous. First of all - Jason Campbell is not your prototypical west coast offense qb. He is not quick to make decisions, is not quick and nimble footed, does not a have a particularly quick release, does not have a good touch on the short balls, and he has never played in that kind of offense before. He is a strong armed passer who stands tall in the pocket, does not throw well rolling out or on the run, thorws a pretty good (but soemwhat flat) deep ball - in short, he is a classic pocket passer, more similar in style to Elway than to Montana. That's the qb - now what about the rest of the team? Their OL is a power one, built by Gibbs and his style. Their WRs are the classic style also, not the elusive quick guys that a west coast style uses. In fact their WRs are not very good. They have Santana Moss - and he can play on my team anytime - but one of their WR is James Thrash who never was very good and is slowing down in his 12th year. Even a cusrory examination reveals that they are not a team well suited for this kind of offense. BUT - even if they are well suited and I have this COMPLETELY wrong, shouldn't a coach come in and actually evaluate the personnel, evaluate the schemes that are already in place, evaluate the playbook and decide what to do? Seems logical. But not Zorn... on day 1 he had it all figured out. Maybe the Redskins will turn things around and they'll get comfortable with this offense, but on the basis of what I saw last night, I would pencil the Redksins in for no more than 5 wins this year.

BTW - continuing in my rant about coaches, let me opine and contrast our expereince with DC Spags to what I described above with Zorn. Spags came in last year (I hope you remember) and everyone assumed that he would bring with him the same defense that the Eagles run under DC Jim Johnson: lots of blitzing, very aggressive, etc. So about a month or six weeks after he was hired, all the Giants assistant coaches were made available to the media for interviews. The media asked Spagnuolo if he had installed the defense yet and how he was doing teaching the defense to the team during the offseason. Spagnuolo said that he had not finished installing the defense because he was still evaluating personnel and still reviewing the defense from last year. he said: some things worked very well the previous year and he wanted to keep them in and not just change things for the sake of change. Not what the media wanted to hear. They wanted to hear - blitz, blitz, blitz, eagles, jim johnson, yada, yada yada. Not Spagnuolo: he was actually THINKING. That's a coach!!!

Giants have a soft early schedule and hard last half of the year - we have to build a good record early in the year

2008: Week 2 postmortem

No need to talk about the obvious stuff to true Giants fans - like the dominating job by our OL in the running game, accurate passing by Eli and domination by our WRs. It looked like we could make a play anytime we wanted to. And I'm not going to talk about the obvious stuff like pass rush and dominating game by the DL. You know all that.

Here's what I'm going to talk about:

The OL is great run blocking line but is not as good as everyone thinks at pass blocking. They're not bad, in fact they're very good, but they can get beat sometimes. The truth is - Eli makes them look a little better than they really are. Aside from being a gifted passer, he is a very instinctive player, has great pocket presence and is quicker than everyone gives him credit for. In fact everyone makes fun of how slow and unathletic he is. The truth is - he is not a fast runner in the open field, but he has such good anticipation and good quick feet, that he avoids some rushers better than we realize. If you still have the game on your DVR (shame on you if you deleted it) go back and look at the TD pass to Burress. Boss was staying in to block, but he stumbled and completely whiffed on the RDE who came clean from Eli's blind side. Eli sensed it, stepped up and let the guy go past him behind him and he threw the easy TD. This happens a lot. Eli has great pocket awareness.

Our DL is ridiculous. Robbins and Tuck might be the best DT pair in football. Since the middle of last season I was calling Tuck one of the 5 best DL-men in football. Actually, I was underrating him. I think nobody is close to him. His strength, size, speed, quickness and technique are as good as anyone in the league. Add in his pure athleticism and you have the best defensive player in the league. Could any DE in the league have held that pass that he intercepted yesterday? And did you see him lope into the endzone - he looked more like a WR than a DE. Can any DE in football run down the field and cover a TE in zone blitzes like he does? Everyone was hoping he could replace the retired Strahan and become this generation's Strahan. Wrong - he is this generation's LT.

Can you imagine what this defense would look like if Osi was not hurt? McDougle and Wynn are very talented substitutes and should keep our main guys fresh. And - keep your eye on Jay Alford. he is a star in the making.

As good as the DL is, the DB's might be the strength of this defense. Webster picked right up where he left off in last year's playoffs. Ross is very strong in coverage and a great tackler. And has anyone noticed how greatly improved Kevin Dockery is? I am still a bit nervous about Butler at S, he's OK, I guess. But Michael Johnson is improving and Phillips is going to be a pro bowl player by his 3rd year. Our best cover guy from last year was Sam Madison and we are so improved that he can't get on the field.

The Giants are so loaded at WR. It is a pity Moss can't get on the field, because he might be the fastest one on the team. Hixon looks great.

The RB rotation is perfect. Don't rotate them by play or by down and distance, rotate them by qtr. Have Jacobs and Ward wear the defense down and come in with Bradshaw at the end. I know I said this last time - but I'd like to see the Giants do this with their WRs also. Moss and Hixon coming at a tired DB would be dangerous.

Gilbride is getting a little more creative. I'm not talking about the pass-run mixture, that was always good. The running game and the formations have become more varied. We are now running some counters, we are running more stuff right up the middle between the center and guard. Of course we still have our staple - the stretch play off-tackle led by a pulling G from the other side. The running game is so good that Eli doesn't even have to play fake for the passing game. The defense has to commit more db-help to stop our power running game and the WRs have more open space to run in. Speed on the outside complements a power running game beautifully and that's what we have.

From the big picture, when you are domiating the opponents at the line of scrimmage, you have skill position players on offense, good cover guys on defense and a great qb - you're going to win a lot of games.

Before we get too pumped up, however the Redskins weren't ready for the season in week 1 and the Rams stink. Nevertheless, we should be 5-1 at worst after 6 games (I am assuming that we stub our toe somewhere along the line). Games 7-9 will tell us how good we are: Steelers in Pittsburgh, Cowboys at home, Eagles in Philly. After those games we will find out if we are pretty good, very good or f-ing great. We also have a tough stretch in games 12-13-14 when we play all 3 NFC east opponents 3 weeks in a row.

NFC East seems like the best division in football. In fact the 3 best teams in the NFC, or maybe the entire NFL, might all be in our division.

I am pumped up: We are going to the game to see the Bengals this Sunday. At that game we will be seeing the best pure passing qb in football. On the other team, Carson Palmer will be there also. Did I mention that I think Eli is pretty good.

I hope that the Giants don't get too full of themselves becasue that gritty work-like attitude is why we won the Superbowl last year.