There are definitely some encouraging things to take out of this game, and some things that have to be improved and built upon also. I thought Eli was particularly sharp, even though he made an awful decision on that INT in the 2nd half. The WRs were productive against a very good Washington DB-field. They were not getting wide open, but they were open enough for an accurate passer to get them the ball, which Eli did. Gorgeous throw to Steve Smith on the final FG drive. The defense looked good, but if you're grading this like they do diving competitions, where there is a degree of difficulty for each dive, maybe playing a Redskins offense led by QB Campbell and HC Zorn, the scores for the Giants defense aren't so high. (8.6, 8.4 and 4.5 from the Russian judges.)
A word about Campbell and Zorn. Campbell is a great athlete; he is big, he can run and he has a really strong, fairly accurate arm. He is not so quick, nor does he have a particularly quick release, is not a quick decision maker and does not have great touch on his ball - either for short passes or for the intermediate ones where you have to get it over the head of the LBs and drop it in front of the S. But, contrary to what others think, I think he could be a decent NFL QB in the right system. Jim Zorn comes in and installs a west coast offense for the Redskins, a style that is not suited, IMHO, to the skills of Campbell. (Somebody check the map - Washington is on the east coast, right?) He doesn't have the WR's to play west coast style either - Santana Moss is more of a straight line deep threat than he is shifty and quick. So Campbell, while getting used to the league also has to get used to 3 different coaches and OCs in his time with Washington and suffer through a system that is not suited to his style. I don't love Gilbride and Eli had awful Hufnagel as OC in his first year, but at least Gilbride is capable, if not brilliant and creative. Eli also did have Coughlin for some continuity. Campbell has a tough go of it in Washington. Maybe he'll surprise us and come around.
How did you like the call by Zorn on the second play of the game? Portis runs for 30 on the first play and he calls a WR option pass on the second play. Really had the Giants fooled, too.
Manningham showed great play making ability on the little WR screen, when he made 3 people miss and skipped down the sideline for a TD. There are a few things I really liked about that play. First, the people Mannigham eluded were not slow DL-men that got caught in a mismatch; he beat both D'Angelo Hall and Fred Smoot in addition to a LB. Second, he had the presence of mind and the body control to keep his feet in bounds and take everything that the defense gave him, not just give up after he got the first down. Finally, and perhaps most important is that this was an audible that Eli called, because he read a blitz coming from the back side of the defense; so the qb and the young WR were on the same page and made a big play out of it.
Boss is really coming into his own as a top shelf TE. He has soft hands, the hands of a basketball player (which he was in college) and is transforming his body into the body of a football player. He has decent speed, great size, runs nice routes and has even become a good blocker.
The OL played pretty well Sunday, though they were certainly not dominant in the running game. Jacobs looked OK and Bradshaw looked productive. It is too bad that Ware went down, because he would have gotten some carries Sunday, in that heat. BTW - because of the Ware injury, I think the Giants will probably sign a RB to the roster. I doubt that the Giants will go into a game with only 2 RBs and signing Allen Patrick from the practice squad makes the most sense. Unfortunately, this means that they are going to have cut someone to make room for him, unless they put Ware on IR. This is unlikely, since it is deemed to be a 3-6 week injury at worst. Boley is coming back this week, so it means that there will have to be a second player cut from the roster. My guess is that Leger Douzable and one OL-man will go. Canty played enough Sunday to give the Giants confidence that he will be ready to play at full strength soon enough. The Giants dressed only 7 OL-men on Sunday and keeping 3 OL-men inactive but on the roster is probably a luxury that they cannot afford. My guess is that one will go. It is also possible that LB Wilkinson could go.
Eli does not get enough credit for moving around in the pocket and avoiding the rush. He is thought of as slow and immobile. While he is certainly not a scrambler or fast runner, he has such good pocket awareness, has nimble feet and is fairly agile that he is often able to buy some extra time to make a play. He did it beautifully a few times on Sunday, once when he hit Boss for a big gain.
Just a little note: measuring a QB strictly by numbers is stupid. Many QB's play in much more wide open offenses than others, in domes, in warm weather, with great productive WRs and with a more aggressive offensive style than others do. Last night night Tom Brady completed 10 more passes (39) than Eli attempted (29) on Sunday. I am not comparing Eli to Brady, just syaing that numbers do not tell the whole story.
The big things to improve on the offensive side of the ball are the productivity of the running game and the short yardage offense. I am willing to give the Giants offense a little slack for the running game, because the Redskins were constantly walking a S up to the line of scrimmage and playing single S high. Still, the Giants running game was not awful, but we are used to seeing much more productivity there. I suspect all teams will do this to the Giants, but Redskins are better able to do it because they have really good CBs who don't need as much help. It will be interesting to see what the Cowboys do. One answer is to burn them with the pass and keep them honest especially in the traditional running downs.
As far as short yardage, I think Gilbride could be a bit more creative. Try spreading the offense out and let Jacobs find a hole, or where he has to only run over one guy instead of 3 guys in the middle of the line. Try a fake into the line and a little pitch to the outside. They have to fix that. Redskins do have a particularly large and strong DL, so let's wait a bit before we panic on that one.
Back to the defense a little bit - Giants stopped the run really well and got decent pass rush against Campbell. Giants were short handed at CB with both Dockery and Ross out, the 2nd and 3rd CB's. This promoted Terrell Thomas to start and I have a lot of confidence in him. I think he will be a starter in this league before very long. It also pushed rookie FA Bruce Johnson onto the field and the Redskins played a lot of 3 WR sets to keep him on the field. He played pretty well and held his own. But, because they were short in the DB-field, the Giants moved Terrell Thomas to the slot often where he is not used to playing and Randle El beat him a few times. This allowed Johnson to stay on the outside where there is less traffic and fewer decisions to make. Giants also played a little more zone than usual and blitzed a little less than usual, I assume, to make sure that they didn't expose the DB-field and put too much pressure on the rookie. Giants will be really tested this week against Cowboys who have the weapons and the QB to put any DB-field to the test. I am not looking ahead to the Cowboys quite yet, but it would be nice to get Dockery back. Ross is apparently a few weeks away.
It's too bad that Nicks got hurt, he was really starting to develop and the coaches are really high on him and actually started using him a bit. With Nicks out a few weeks, I guess Moss gets to step into the fold and show his stuff. I like Moss a lot more than the coaches apparently do. We'll see how he does the next few weeks. Productive WR will be very important against the Cowboys because I think the Cowboys defense is not that great, but they will put up a lot of points with that offense. Could be a Texas shootout next week.
I know this is 20-20 hindsight, but with Nicks now out, I guess it's good that the Giants have a lot of WRs instead of one go-to guy. It's called mitigating risk.
One last thing - and I don't want to sound like a sports-talk-radio whiner, but I really do think that the Giants get hosed on refs calls. Or better said - other home teams get the benefit of refs being influenced by home town environment and the Giants don't seem to. There were at least 3 late hits that could have been called on the Redskins that weren't and the blatant face mask on Eli that caused the fumble was not called. Refs are supposed to be over protective of QB's and I could see this one from the stands, I don't understand why it wasn't called. My theory is that the refs and the league are paranoid about appearing to favor NY, because they don't want to appear to be pumping up a NY team artificially. Conspiracy theorists will always argue that it's good for the league (any sports league really) to have a successful franchise in the NY market because of the media attention it brings. Particularly football where every play is analyzed and reviewed with all the outstanding TV network coverage, refs go overboard to prevent even the slightest appearance of partiality to the NY team. I welcome comments on this theory.