Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Giants: Training Camp V

Footbal Analysts
It's really quite humorous to read the experts analyze the Giants team and training camp activity. You read the beat writers reports in the various papers and their blogs and you wonder if the "journalist" in paper 1 is actually reporting on the same team that writer in paper 2 or 3 is talking about. First, you see Gary Meyers, the super NFL reporter of the NY Daily News bashing the Giants for the awful planning and team construction at spending $100M on a franchise qb and not going out and getting him a pro bowl caliber WR to throw to. Then you have reporters in other papers talking glowingly about how the WRs are showing their stuff. And still other papers, saying that Mario Manningham has been a disappointment, while another paper grades Manningham as having stepped up his game and having a great camp.

My analysis of the analysts? They don't have a freaking clue. They go to a practice and see a WR catch a ball and they think he's great. They see him drop one, they think he stinks. That's it. They don't have the insight to see if the route was run crisply, if the cut was rounded or squared, if separation was made between the WR and DB, if the ball thrown well or poorly, if the WR is using his speed or is still unconfident in his routes. For that kind of information, you need to wait for my reports. I haven't made a trip up to camp yet, but I am going to the preseason game Monday night and I hope I will have some good stuff for you then.

As far as Gary Meyers, he has absolutely no clue. He had Eli dead and buried after the Viking game in 2007. He labeled him a complete and utter failure and because of that the Giants franchise was in a state of total disrepair that would take them five years to dig out of. Perhaps you recall that the Giants actually won the Superbowl that year, Eli won the MVP and last year Eli continued to develop as one of the best qb's in football. Meyers is the journalist's version of Chicken Little, the sky is always falling.

QB's in NY
Actually, this reminds of another story that I'd like to recount here; permit me to wax somewhat nostalgic. I was at an exciting mid-season football game at Giants Stadium, around 20 years ago, where our beloved team was playing the hated Cowboys after having beaten the hated Redskins at home the week before. (Don't ask me how I remember that detail, I just do). The game was very close and the Giants, with our LT-led defense hanging on, relied on the strength of a great running effort by Joe Morris, won the game by a FG (I think the final score was 17-14 but don't quote me on that one.) Offensively, Giants used a two-TE formation and power running game to amass yards. Joe Morris had around 150 or 175 yards rushing but the Giants threw the ball very conservatively, as they often did under Parcells, and they did not throw the ball effectively. The Giants victory raised their record to 6-2 and it was a gratifying win. I remember walking out of the stadium after the game pumped up about the exciting win and the prospects of the team. I overheard a couple of fans behind me discussing the game and saying: "Our running game and defense are both good and we won today, but we're not going anywhere with that bum at qb".

Punchline: the qb they were talking about was Phil Simms and the year was 1986.

I actually think that Eli gets underrated in the press, both locally and nationally. Largely, I think it is because he does not put up huge numbers like some of the other qbs, but there are so many other factors that go into statistics that none of the analysts take into account. The main thing, in my opinion, that determines the record of the team, the statistics that a team/qb put up and the consequent recognition they get in the press is so obvious that everyone should figure it out: quality of opponent. A team wins a game because it is better than the opponent. It doesn't mean that they are a good team if they win, it just means that they are good relative to the opponent they played. The NFC East has been, for the entire time that Eli has been playing for the Giants, the best division in football, with particularly strong defenses on every team. In the last 4 years, the NFC East has twice placed 2 teams in the playoffs and twice placed 3 teams in the playoffs. More importantly, all of these teams have rugged, powerful, attacking defenses that consistently finished in the top 8 defenses of the league. I am not whining for Eli, but when you compare that schedule to the watered down AFC West, NFC West or the AFC East of the last several years, you can see why other teams records and qb numbers might look better. If you add the factor that Eli plays in the winds of Giants stadium, does not play in a dome or relative calm weather of west coast, and plays on a power-running offense, you can see why his numbers may be less than spectacular. I am thrilled to have Eli as the qb of the Giants and am confident he is going to be successful over the next several years, taking the team where it wants to go.

Training Camp
Back to the WRs in camp. Finally a few sports writers picked up on my post of a few weeks ago and there were headlines saying that Tyree would probably not make the team. Actually, the situation looks more grim for Tyree than I thought earlier, because in addition to the 6 WRs that are locks to make the team (Smith, Hixon, Moss, Manningham, Nicks and Barden) a 7th WR has emerged who is playing very well in camp, Derek Hagan. He is quick, can catch the ball and has decent speed. Tyree is not having a great camp with an assortment of drops and some minor injuries causing him to miss a practice here or there. Most threatening to Tyree's tenure on the team is the fact that Hagan is an outstanding ST player. The ability to excel on ST was Tyree's X-factor, his hidden asset that might give him an advantage to make the team. But if Hagan is a good ST player and is younger, faster and stronger than Tyree, this advantage is mitigated.

My feeling on the WRs is that a few of them will step up and become quality NFL WRs. We keep hearing that Gilbride has tweaked the passing offense to make it more compatible to the WRs that are on the team. I hope that's right and I can't wait to see for myself.

Fred Robbins is off PUP and is back practicing. This is a huge and somewhat unexpected development. Maybe Robbins makes it back into the mix and contributes in his contract year. Giants will rotate DL-men all season and will have fresh, hungry players eager to show they deserve more playing time on every snap. I think Jay Alford is ready for a step forward and will become a very good NFL DT. Rocky Bernard is still on NFI and I am puzzled what will happen there. Clint Sintim is having a great camp and will be a 10 year NFL starter at LB.

Mike Waufle is licking his chops waiting for the season to start and rotating in all the talent on the DL. Giants have even experimented with a 5-man DL in camp, which will be impossible to run on. This alignment requires very good DBs to cover up for fewer guys in pass coverage. Kenny Phillips is going to be a star; his instincts and his flat out speed running sideline to sideline, is probably one of the factors that makes that formation possible.

Terrel Thomas, last year's 2nd round draft choice is apparently really progressing at DB. I thought he played very well last year and he seems to be continuing to progress. He is pushing Dockery for the nickel job, but even if he doesn't win it, he will get lots of playing time this year. In baseball, they say you can never have enough starting pitchers. In football, you can never have enough pass rushers or great DBs.


Yankel the Nachash said...


Your story triggered a memory of my own. The Redskins game you referred to was a Monday night, which was the night Game 7 of the 1986 World Series was played. I was 9 years old. My father set up the kitchen television in the living room so we could watch game 7 + giants/skins simultaneously, which at the time, was the coolest thing I've ever been involved in in my life (it still ranks up there). I recall the dreaded Dexter Manley had back to back sacks on consecutive plays. Those mid-late 80's NFC East battles were somehting else...


wolfman said...

great memory, thanks for sharing