Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Giants: More Tampa Game review

You wouldn't think that we could find that much of interest in a somewhat boring 24-0 crushing of the Buccaneers, but here goes with some random observations:

I said that the Giants game plan on offense was to be conservative and control the clock to protect the thin Giants DL, since they dressed only 6 full time DL-men with Tuck as the designated pass rusher. I think I was only partially right - I looked at the game again and I think they were protecting the safeties more than the DL-men. Giants only dressed 3 safeties but one of them was Rouse, who they signed midweek from the Packers after putting Kenny Phillips on the IR. From what I could see, Rouse did not get on the field, so they played only 2 S and surely were thinking about protecting them more than the DL.

Because there were always 2 S on the field and only 3 CBs dressed, Giants never had 6 DBs on the field and always had 2 LBs out there. With Boley's mobility and pass coverage skills, it hardly mattered. Of course, to be completely honest, Tampa Bay has very weak WRs and a terrible QB in Leftwich, so we can't take too much out of that. Still.... Boley looks like a real good pickup for the Giants.

Couglin always prods injured players to get out of the trainer's room and back on the field. (Frankly I think this is stupid and I would prefer the injury heals completely before the player practices and plays again... this may have led to Canty's calf injury, if he practiced before his hammy completely healed.) Anyway - Coughlin is prodding his CBs Ross and Dockery to get back on the practice field, no doubt because he wants to shore up the DB-field and doesn't ever want to go into a game with only 5 legitimate DB's. Maybe by next week, Rouse will have picked up some more of the playbook and will be available to contribute a little bit.

I have said in the past that the Giants OL was very good, but not as great as everyone has made them out to be, with many experts knighting them as the best in football. My assessment of them was that they were outstanding blockers in the running game and very-good-but-not-great in pass protection. I know it's only 3 games, but in my judgment, the pass blocking seems much improved this year over last year. Cowboys, whose defense is predicated on pass rush, didn't bother Eli much. Redskins back in game 1 only bothered Eli a little bit, once when they were permitted to grab his face mask with impunity. Even Tampa Bay, while we can admit that they are an awful team, still has a good DL and didn't come near Eli.

Speaking of Eli - I know I have been a big supporter of his for a long time - maybe at a point in his career where he wasn't completely deserving of it, but he is playing outstanding football. His passes are crisp, sharp and extremely accurate. His decision making is excellent. His leadership is inspiring to his teammates. His control of the game is superior, though this part of his game was always excellent.

We were all obsessing about how the Giants passing offense would be without Burress and Toomer this year but we can assert that the passing game is clearly superior to what it was last year, even before Burress went out with his gun wound. I am not ready to commission sculpting busts of Smith, Manningham, Hixon et. al. to send to Canton quite yet. I am not even ready to compare them and make them superior to other WR groups on other NFL teams. I am going to assert something else, however: maybe we were overrating Burress and Toomer all these years.

Burress was big, had good hands and certainly was difficult to defend because of his size. But he was not fast, not particularly quick, rather was more of a physical receiver. When he got downfield, he didn't need to be wide open and have a lot of separation to catch the ball because of his size and wingspan. But this meant that there were no easy throws for Eli. Every deep ball had to be placed perfectly on the outside, on the back shoulder, down low, wherever Plax was to take advantage of body positioning. And at least partly because of this, there were no YAC yards at all.

I am not even going to talk about Toomer, because it is quite obvious in retrospect that he was a marginal NFL caliber receiver, dating back to at least the middle of 2008. Toomer was the possession receiver complementing Burress as the speed guy. The problem is that Burress was not a speed guy and Toomer dropped way too many balls to be considered a possession receiver. In 2007, Giants led the league in dropped passes and they were up there in 2008 also, with Toomer one of the main offenders.

Look at some of the catches Steve Smith has come up with already in 2009. He made a sideline catch against Tampa as the first reception of the game that Toomer could never make in his entire career because of the superior body control that Smith has. And Manningham made several big plays with YAC yards that Burress just couldn't make. Eli threw a quick slant to Manningham in the Tampa game that Mario turned into a 15 yard gain. Two step drop, short throw, high completion percentage, 15 yards, 10 after the catch that the WRs could not have gotten last year. Add to that the stable of substitutes that are on the team now: Nicks, Hixon and Moss (though the latter two were on the team last year) ; and I think the WR corps is far superior to what the Giants had in 2008.


David L said...

I like the point about the quick slant pass to Manningham. A lot of teams, not just the West Coast Offense ones, use it as a quick 5 yard play that turns into 10-15 yards. I would like to see the Giants use this play more and perhaps they will now that it worked well. As you pointed out we have the receivers for it this year.

wolfman said...

Gilbride has called some slants and crossing routes to take advantage of WR quickness this year and I am guessing we will see it a bit more. It's particularly good to use those routes in the Meadowlands in December because they are less affected by the wind and weather.