Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Giants: Chiefs game review

We can't really take too much away from this Chiefs game in terms of the quality of the Giants play, mostly because of the level of the opponent. I thought this was the sloppiest game that the Giants have played of the first 4. They just didn't look very sharp to me offensively. Certainly, they did not play poorly and they had the fortune of playing a team that has the talent level of a Division I College football team, but they just did not look as crisp as they could be. Maybe it was the dropped passes by Manningham, a few ever-so-slightly-off-target throws by Eli or a little bit of plodding and unevenness in the running game that makes me feel that way. But the truth is I am nitpicking here, and I don't want to sound like I am a whining fan who complains when his team doesn't win every game 41-0. The good news offensively is that the Giants running game and Jacobs looked a little bit stronger than the week before. Eli overall threw very accurate passes and made excellent decisions. Steve Smith looks like he can not be defended, leading the NFL in catches, yards and TD receptions. It's really great when your best WR is the second or third fastest guy on the team and not the main deep threat. The defense will not want want to roll a S over the top of Smith and directly double-cover him, because Manningham, Moss and the other deep threats will kill the defense. Nicks looked great on his TD catch, showing moves, speed, instinct and high football IQ knowing when to juke, when to sprint and when to stop and juke again. Maybe Reese knew what he was doing by not trading up in the first round to get another WR and sticking with Nicks instead. I have to attribute this idea to my brother who absolutely thinks this was the right strategy and sees a huge upside with Nicks. If Nicks really steps up, the Giants will have 5 or 6 productive WR's to share the load and this has several corollary benefits: (1) just like the Giants found out with the DL rotation, every WR stays fresh, can run hard on every play and will have plenty left in the tank in the 4th qtr (2) if one of the WR's has an injury or does something really stupid, like... I don't know... shoot himself in the thigh, it won't cripple the Giants offense because there will be good depth and someone else to step in and be productive (3) if the WR load is shared among several WR's, Giants coaches will not feel compelled to protect Hixon and may put him back returning kickoffs and punts... he is the Giants best return man (4) finally, defenses will have more trouble preparing for the Giants offense because of the variety of styles, personnel packages and route combinations that the different WR's run.

The other piece of good news from the Chiefs game is how well the defense played. We can't give them the highest grades because of the level of competition, but even if the opposing offense was a weak NFL offense, the Giants defense was absolutely smothering, giving up very few yards, points and plays. Michael Boley is playing better every game and he was great against KC. He has such great speed, is a good hitter and seems to have a great instinct for the game, is always around the ball. He had a sack on Sunday and had few other tackles for losses. For the last few years, the Giants defense was good with average LB play. Pierce played well, but the corner LBs, were average, especially against the pass. Now, the Giants seem to have a real play maker at the LB position and it makes their defense that much more dangerous. It is really unfortunate that they lost Phillips at S because he was coming on as a star at the S position. Having stars who can make great plays at the skill positions on defense, when they are backing up a stud DL, makes the Giants defense really strong.

Michael Boley came out of the KC game with a knee injury. He may be out 2 weeks, which is really unfortunate, because the Giants may need him against the big time passing offense of the Saints in two weeks. I would not let him near the practice field this week or the game this Sunday against Oakland and hope that he can recover in time for Shockey in New Orleans in two weeks.

Eli's heel injury is not terrible, but it's not great either. When I first saw him trip and avoid putting weight on his heel during the pass play, I immediately feared that it was an achilles tendon rupture. When he was able to stand up and walk with a slight limp, I knew it was not that, and my second guess was that it was plantar fasciitis, which is what it turned out to be. The reason this was my guess is because I had the same injury a few years ago, and Eli acted the same way that I did when the injury first appeared. In my case, it was caused by a bone spur in my heel that caused irritation and inflammation in the heel, right where the tendon inserts into the achilles heel. The good news is that a mixture of anti-inflammatory drugs, stretching exercises for the achilles tendon and the arch, and orthotics for the shoes - a heel pad which raises the heel and relaxes the achilles tendon by not requiring you to stretch it to its maximum extension - are all very effective treatments. It does take a while to go away and this could bother Eli for the rest of the season. It may not be disabling, but it could affect his throwing and accuracy, since so much of passing mechanics come from your feet and your base. As my friend Ray pointed out to me, it could also affect his mobility somewhat and teams will probably blitz more to test him this way.

How good are the Giants? On the one hand, they are 4-0, have dominated the weak teams and won the one close game they were in against the Cowboys. On the other hand, although the Giants are 4-0, the cumulative record of the teams they have beaten is 4-12. The Cowboys win was thought to be a great victory by the Giants against a sure playoff team and a Superbowl contender, on the road no less. In retrospect, now that the Cowboys are 2-2, the bloom is off that rose and the Cowboys may be a fairly pedestrian team this year. Similarly, the Redskins who lost to the Lions and barely beat the Bucs, who the Giants crushed, don't exactly look like an upper echelon, elite team right now. We all know the old saying - you can only play the teams on your schedule, but if you want to be honest and analyze the level of competition, it may not have been so good. Giants will get a real stiff test starting in week 6 against the Saints and we will learn much more about the quality and character of this team.

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