There was lots to be happy about from game 1 and also a few concerns that came up. First concern is around the TE situation. I warned in previous posts that it was ridiculous to go into a season with only 2 TEs. Even if they stay relatively healthy all year and don't miss a few games, there are certainly going to be points within games where they need a short breather because of a minor injury or just being tired. What if that happens when you're down on the goal line and you need a 2-TE grouping for extra blocking? Anyway, our worst fears came true when Boss went out on one of the first plays in the first possession of the year. BTW - it was clearly a late, dirty hit and I don't understand why the S was not penalized for it. It was the prototypical definition of what the NFL is trying to protect against - a defenseless receiver being hit from the blind side in the head with the helmet after the play has ended and he no longer even has the ball. Antrel Rolle got penalized for a hit in the preseason which was a much closer call and this hit on Boss was a full second after the play was over and Boss was on the ground.
Anyway - the Giants did what everyone though they would do - signed Bear Pascoe off their practice squad. But this now becomes a permanent situation, because they had to cut someone in order to make room for him. The practice squad is not like the minor leagues in baseball: you can't send someone down and recall them and then recycle them later. Once a player has a contract, he can't be sent down to the practice squad. Now that Pascoe has a contract, he has to stay unless they cut him. And to bring him up to the 53 man roster, they have to get rid of someone else. I was wondering if they would IR Beatty, but apprently his broken foot will only keep him out 4-6 weeks. I thought they might cut Barden who is bad on ST and cost the Giants one INT this past week without making any positive plays to show his worth. But apprently, Barden continues to shine in practice and the Giants are still high on him. So they cut Bryan Kehl, which I am really sorry about because I think he is really athletic. But he did not crack the depth chart as one of the top 5 LBs and so he has to be a ST wizard. This is especially true because Fewell is finding personnel groupings that include some of his quick DL-men to play LB (see below), making substitute LBs even less important. Kehl is the one that whiffed on the block Sunday that led to the blocked punt, so I guess he's not much of a stud on ST. It shows how transitory life in the NFL is - one bad play and you're gone.
I was very pleased with the defensive schemes, the effort and the performance by Fewell's defense. A few things you may not have noticed on TV and that the announcer surely did not explain:
In many obvious running downs, Giants went with 5 DL-men. Usually it was Kiwanuka and sometimes it was Osi who was wandering behind the 4 down linemen playing LB, coming from different angles making it very hard for the OL to adjust to where they were coming from. They did this on some passing downs also to get the best pass rushers on the field. One of Kiwanuka's sacks came with him looping from the right and coming right up the middle. (BTW it was the best game I have seen Kiwanuka play for the Giants.)
The Giants played a lot of single safety high, instead of the more traditional 2-deep. This let them push Rolle down into the box and provide good run defense; Rolle is an excellent run support safety. With the single safety high, you're daring the offense to throw the ball and with Kenny Phillips speed back there, he can cover up and the Giants are still not terribly exposed.
Fewell did a lot of substituions and used a lot of different personnel groupings, not just rotation when people got tired. There were specific packages to maximize the strength of every player and match the offensive groupings. I did not watch the replay on my DVR carefully, so I don't yet have the exact packages - more on that later in the year. If I am right, we will see a lot less of the 5 DL look in the base package against the Colts who pass on every down. We will see more nickel package in the DB-field and more of the quick LBs - Boley and Goff - in the base defense.
One thing I was very pleased about was how he used the DBs. Aside from what I mentioned above about one S in the box and only one S deep, when they went to a nickel, they used 3 safeties and only went to that 3rd CB when they needed 6 DBs on the field. This shows that the coaches know the personnel almost as well as I do. (jk) There's a big dropoff in talent between the 3rd CB and the 4th - Aaron Ross and Johnson. With Ross out for the game (he's due back Sunday) the Giants used Grant as their fifth DB to get the best DBs on the field, regardless of position. Giants are helped that Phillips has great speed and can cover anybody and Rolle was a CB in college, so he has innate cover skills. Grant showed what he can do with that great INT in first quarter.
Overall, we saw the Giants stop the run and get after the QB with a fierce pass rush, especially in the 2nd half. That is a great formula for defensive success, of course. Beyond that, I saw a great effort by Canty who, for the first time as a Giant played a great game and showed that he can be a dominant player. Canty even lined up as DE once or twice, was outstanding against the run and got a sack also.
As much talent as we seem to have on defense, as good as Tuck is, Kenny Phillips might be the best player on the defense. His combination of speed, strength, hitting ability, instincts and football IQ makes him an absolute stud.
More later in another post on the offense and other observations.