Friday, August 26, 2011


Can't anybody get open?
There's been lots of talk and hand wringing about the departure of Smith and Boss and worry that the passing game will be affected. I am not sure about the impact of their departure, but I am seeing a disturbing trend of WRs just not getting a lot of separation in their routes from their defenders. I don't know if it's because the WRs are not as good or quick as I think they are, if the routes they run in Gilbride's offense are so predictable that defenders are all over them, if they are learning new positions (particularly Manningham who has been moved into the slot occasionally) or if their timing needs to be improved. It just seems like every throw that Manning makes, he has to squeeze into a narrow window.  You watch other NFL teams and a good number of throws that the QB makes are easy pitch and catch to a wide open WR and very few of those throws exist for the Giants offense. Even the one down field throw Eli completed to Cruz, had to be a perfect throw, because Cruz was just a step beyond the defender. Maybe this is a preseason phenomenon, where Gilbride and the Giants don't want to show their offense to the rest of the league.

TE and FB
Beckum hasn't shown much in pass catching, the best he has done has been to run some seam routes and cleared out the middle of the field, but they don't ever throw to him. Interestingly, though, I see his run blocking improving and he is not a total zero there. He is lighter and smaller than typical TEs and you can't expect him to take on a great DE on a pass rush, but he may be passable. Pascoe's blocking has been mediocre.

Hynoski at FB also hasn't showed that much. For a one dimensional player, a throwback player, pure blocking FB, he should be wiping out defenders on every play with every punishing block he makes. It's not happening. If you can only do one thing, you better do it really well. Coats, TE the Giants picked up when cut by Cincinatti, just looks like a football player and mostly, looks like a TE. (Being 6'2", 270 might contribute to that "look".) He caught a TD at the end of the game from Carr and I would not be surprised at all if he makes the team and beats out Ballard or even nudges out Pascoe. The logic here is that if Beckum is on the team, you want a big TE to balance him out. Pascoe's blocking from the TE position is not great, so they may want some bigger at that position. Pascoe probably makes the team, but if he does, that may spell the end to Hynoski. Remeber, Pascoe was a pure TE and the Giants taught him the FB position. Maybe they can do the same with Coats and have him and Pascoe share time at TE/FB.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bears game review

I was so ill about the loss of Terrell Thomas that I couldn't bring myself to watch the game again and review it. Aside from the loss of his skill for the Giants, which makes the team weaker, it is a real tough break for him. It''s his second ACL injury and there is a greater risk that he may not be able to come back at full speed. To make it worse, of course, is that this is his contract year. I finally got around to reviewing the game, in fact did it a few times and there is a lot of stuff to report.

The good news first:

Beatty played very well as did David Baas. The OL is starting to come together and could be a strength of the team. Beatty completely neutralized Peppers. Giants ran the ball fairly well against a very strong run defense.

Jacobs looks better than he has in a few years. He looks leaner and quicker and still packs a huge wallop when he makes contact with a potential tackler. His TD run was a thing of beauty - he juked and left a S in the dust, then was hit by two guys at about the 8 yard line, easily shrugged them off like he was swatting flies and went into the endzone standing up. Bradshaw looks like he is trying too hard - trying to justify his contract by scoring a TD on every play. As a result, he dances behind the line, and runs backwards looking to evade a tackler and hit a home run on every carry. When it works, everyone says oooooh. But there are too many zero or negative yardage plays with him. Giants have other competent RBs on the team and even if Bradshaw has a good year, they may regret signing him to such a big contract.

Aaron Ross played better than he has in 2 or 3 years - what can only be called propitious or fortuitous timing with the loss of so many CBs. He was excellent in pass coverage and made some really nice plays in the running game also.

Linval Joseph looks great at DT and Canty also looks great. Both are huge and quick with good technique and a good nose for reading the offense.

The young LBs look good to me: Jones and Herzlich in particular. But Tracy also looks like an athlete. Herzlich was a real find and if he recovers to 100% physically, he will be a real good player.

ST look much improved - Devin Thomas is a threat and the punt and kick coverage was much better than it's been. When did the Giants ever get a 70 yard kick return and blocked punt in the same game. Herzlich and Mark Clayton are excellent ST players.

Giants did not get any sacks but had good pressure on Cutler, causing the Bears to go to a lot of 3 step drops and screen passes.

On the weak side - Kenny Phillips looked awful. He looks slow and/or is not anticipating the plays well. There are long throws being completed over his head, which is not good.

Eli was OK against the Bears, but just doesn't look sharp this training camp. I don't want to rationalize this too much and sound like an Eli apologist - but there are a lot of new moving parts to the offense. Maybe it's just taking some time to fit everything together, but there's no denying that he hasn't looked great and the offense just doesn't seem to have any sizzle.

Interesting thing about the Giants - I have been saying for a while that the Giants have a lot of depth, a lot of very good players, but not that many real stars. Maybe this is reflected by the fact that the starters did pretty well in the first half, but the subs dominated their opposing numbers on the other team in the second half.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The sky is falling !

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the Giants lose Terrell Thomas, their best CB, the guy poised to make the next leap into a pro bowl player and one of the most important players on the defense. This seems to happen to the Giants every few years - it's not that they have so many injuries in total, but they all concentrate in one position stripping the team of its depth at, in this case, one of the most important positions on the field. In the current day pass oriented NFL, there are two ways to stop a passing game - use a pass rushing DE to sack the QB before he throws or get great CBs to stop the WRs. I think CBs are more important, because even the best pass rush can't get to the QB every play and there are therefore many times when the CB will be out there by himself. Giants this preseason have lost their starting CB, their first round draft choice, Bruce Johnson, who played very well as a 4th CB last year and now have also lost Witherspoon to a torn ACL, who had showed some speed and some promise this year. No matter how well stocked you are at a position coming into training camp, when you lose 4 CBs, you're going to be hurt. Frankly, I don't even know how they will run a practice.

Each individual move that the Giants made this off season and each individual injury by itself could probably be handled and managed, but the cumulative affect of all of the losses could make this a tough season for the Giants. What I mean by that is: Giants were up against the salary cap so they decided not to mortgage it further by restructuring contracts and therefore didn't retain a lot of players. They lost Cofield to the Redskins, but seem to be able to recover from that because Linval Joseph has looked so good. They lost Amukamara to an injury - no problem we've got a lot of CBs. Bruce Johnson goes down - also not a catastrophe, he was only a backup. Now Thomas and Witherspoon go down with ACL in the same evening and suddenly you've got some problems on your hands. Actually, the same can be said of the offense. Individually, Boss and Smith were not the greatest players in the league and their contributions could probably be replaced. But both did make contributions and the Giants do not seem to have a strong TE on the roster or a sure handed 3rd down target.

Each loss or injury may by itself may not be a killer, but when you stand back and look at the big picture, you see the following. From the 2010 defense, the Giants are missing 3 starters and key contributors: Osi, Thomas and Cofield. On the offensive side, forgetting about the two OL-men that they cut, they are missing Boss and Smith. That's 5 players from the base offense and defense, or 22% of the starters. That's not good. Giants may have some substitutes for some of these players, but the cumulative affect of the drain of talent is a big hit.

The good news last night was, in my eyes, the continued improvement in the OL. I was at the game and it seemed that the OL was giving up some pressures from Eli's blind side. But when I watched the DVR of the game today, there may have been a breakdown here or there, but the OL overall did reasonably well and Beatty in particular did very well against all-world Julius Peppers. I even saw one play where he knocked him completely on his back (pancake is what they used to call it). Baas looked very good at C. Of course, the fact that 80% of the passes that Gilbride called were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage may have limited the offense somewhat (he said dripping with sarcasm).

Jacobs looks very lean and strong. I think the offense runs better when they play through Jacobs and use Bradshaw 30-40% of the time as the true change of pace. The other RBs on the roster: Andre Brown, DJ Ware and even Da'rel Scott (who is averaging 97 yards per carry this preseason) looks like he has some talent. In the big picture, the Giants would have been better off letting Bradshaw walk, taking the money they gave and investing it somewhere else and finding that second RB from the group they now have on the roster. Too late now. Despite the loss of Boss and Smith, if the OL comes around, there are enough skill position players on this offense for it to be fairly productive.

Herzlich, in his short stint against the second unit looked great. I'll say it again, for the 100th time - give him the starting job, move Kiwanuka to DE and ship Osi out of town. Sintim still looks a little lost playing in space.

Linval Joseph looks like a stud at DT. One stupid question - did he suddenly get smart in the off season when there was a lockout and therefore no organized off season conditioning program, no organized team activities and no coaching? Don't answer.... that's a rhetorical question. Obviously, he was just as quick and just as big last year as he is now. Why then did he not get off the bench to play a little last year? Why did he only dress for 6 freakin' games. Coughlin not playing rookies really ticks me off sometimes.

More detail and analysis of the Bears preseason game in the next few days.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Questions to be answered

Osi decided to have surgery on his knee. I don't get exactly how this works. Here's the soap opera sequence of events, as we recontruct them: Osi is a plaintiff in the players anti-trust suit against the NFL claiming that Reese promised him a new contract or a trade...Osi wants a new contract... Osi holds out and does not report to camp on time.... Giants fine him....He comes in one day later....He rides stationary bike insted of practicing, still demanding a contract or trade.... Osi and his agent are given permission to seek a trade but there are no takers. Now here's the part about the knee.....Osi says he has a knee problem which requires surgery.... Giants doctors say it does not need surgery and can be managed with treatment and diminished practice schedule....Osi gets another opinion from another doctor which confirms the Giants team doctors' prognosis.... Osi starts practicing and after 3 days with some pain and swelling in the knee, unilaterally decides to have the surgery. 

Here's the part I don't get ...if Giants team doctors and Osi's own second medical opinion concur that surgery is not necessary, why can the player overrule both his own doctor's opinion as well as the team's and have surgery? I think at least part of Osi's motivation to have this surgery was to punish the Giants for not giving him a new contract. If they won't give him a new contract, he won't give them a full season of football. And if he wants to gain leverage to make a run for a new contract after this year, he wants to show off his ability by playing at full strength the entire year, not at a slightly reduced performance level. Osi said the reason he returned to practice was to "be there" for his coaches and teammates, but to me, this looks like Osi is looking out only for himself. I don't blame him - an athlete's career is very short, and he should try to get as much money as he can while he can. Just don't be disingenuous and pretend that what you're doing is only for the good of the team, when it is all about yourself. I still think the Giants made a tactical mistake by keeping Osi. Now, with this surgery it is too late to trade him, since no team wants to take damaged goods. They should have traded him right away, moved Kiwanuka back to DE and played one of the many up and coming LBs on the team in that spot. Bad decision.

There are several questions coming out of training camp, which quite frankly have not been answered and which will determine the quality of the Giants season.
On the offensive side of the ball: Can Beckum, Pascoe and Ballard step up and replace Boss as a TE presence? Can Beatty step in and be a top LT? Can the OL settle down with all the shuffling and be a solid presence? Can the Giants find that 3rd WR to replace Steve Smith in the lineup? Most of all - can Eli cut down on his interceptions and lead an offense to make it productive with all these changes and apparent open questions?
On defense - Can Kiwanuka progress as LB? Can Aaron Ross regain his form and be a solid CB? Will Kenny Phillips regain his speed and be the top S Giants expect him to be? Most of all - will Fewell be a little more cerebral and analytical in his approach to the Giants defense instead of using his blitz-and-attack-at-all-costs philosophy? Will the defense come together better in Fewell's second year and understand the schemes and approach better.
On Special Teams - will Quinn figure out how to coach these guys and get better coverage? I have always said that every NFL team has enough good athletes to be at least competent on ST. Therefore, good ST coverage is almost entirely about coaching. Can Quinn do it? I'm actually less concerend about the punting, because I think Dodge will settle down and have a better year if they keep him and Weatherford  is a solid punter if they go in that direction.

The rest of the preseason will be interesting and more important for the somewhat unsettled Giants to resolve some of these open questions. I wouldn't be surprised if the Giants pick up a player or two that are cut from other teams at the end of the preseason to address some of these questions.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Another look back at preseason opener vs. Carolina

My first impression of the Carolina game was that the team on both sides of the ball looked rather sluggish and uninspired. When I reviewed the video of the game, it actually wasn't as bad as I thought originally. My approach to preseason games is that what you want to see from your team is exactly opposite what you want to see from them in a regular season game. In the regular season, it's all about winning and the style points or the performance of individual players is completely unimportant. Conversely, in the preseason, you don't particularly care about winning, but you do want so see the team look good in spots or at least see some progress and good individual performances. The lackluster offensive performance was due largely to missed assignments and some miscommunication of blitz pickups in the OL. Offense always looks bad when the OL play is inconsistent. But what I saw was some key individual performances that were very encouraging. For one thing, Will Beatty looked very good. He stood up to the pass rush very well, never allowing so much as a pressure on Eli from his LT position. Diehl looked comfortable at his new LG position, pulling and leading a few effective running plays on power runs to the right. Baas was not physically beaten on any plays that I saw, but occasionally blocked the wrong guy and left pressure up the middle, notably on one pass play and a few running plays. I am very encouraged by Beatty's play and the word is that he has been doing very well in practice as well.

Other notes and observations:
  • Canty looks just great. He is trimmer, faster and still impossible to move out of the middle.
  • Linval Joseph looked very good also, getting a push up the middle on several pass plays, allowing JPP's rush around the end to be more effective, because the QB could not step up to avoid the rush. That's what happened on the JPP pressure that led to the Bolley pick-6.
  • I saw a subtle change in Gilbride's offense, where quick slants seem to have become more prominent part of the offense instead of the old staples, which were hook and comeback routes. This is good, because the Giants WRs have good quickness and if they catch the ball on the move, they have a chance to make a play by making someone miss.
  • Eli missed Nicks on one play in the first quarter that could have been a TD and it did look like Eli threw the ball too flat. However, if he had thrown it up higher to give Nicks a chance to run under it, the S coming over from the middle of the field might have taken Nicks' head off.
  • Rocky Bernard looks very quick. I think he is healthy this year and may contribute some.
  • I guess it's preseason for the refs, because they missed an obvious pass interference call that would have given Nickls a big gain.
  • Among the young DBs, Ingram, Coe and Witherspoon looked like they had good speed.
  • Jacobs had one long run in the 2nd quarter, on which MacKenzie and Snee pulled and were in great shape. Jacobs was out to the perimeter quickly and looked fast. On the play, Nicks did a beautiful job blocking the WR which led to a much bigger gain than it otherwise might have been. Pascoe could not wipe out the S, otherwise it could have been TD.
  • Hixon looked great running routes, catching the ball and taking hits. He could have an important role this year. Devin Thomas also showed something in speed and quickness and could be a player.

Now for the bad news:

  • Rookie S Tyler Sash looked overmatched on the two big pass completions he gave up. Even though he came back to stop one pass in the endzone and make a hit in the running game, he simply did not show the speed and athleticism necessary to play in the DB-field at the NFL level, IMO. Maybe he was just nervous and he will play better later, but I don't see it. Giants must agree, because they signed Deon Grant today.
  • Kiwanuka is a great athlete but is used to playing DE and will make several mistakes learning the position. Still not sure this is the right move.
  • On the WR screen that blew up and almost turned into an INT, Baas picked up the wrong blitzer, which gave someone a clear rush to Eli.
  • On one out route in the 2nd quarter, Manningham got absolutely no separation from his defender, leading to an incompletion on a dangerous looking pass. (Note to Gilbride: Manningham should be on the outside and Hixon in the slot.)

In total, the scoreboard told a sad story, but enough good things happened to take some mild encouragement for the team.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another perspective on the departure of Smith and Boss

Reese and the departing FAs
As I said in a recent post, the big mistake Reese made in the post season negotiations with Boss and Smith was not the fact that he actually lost the players, but the way he went about it. He made an offer to them and left it hanging out there, giving no deadline for when a response was expected and therefore showing no sense of urgency to get a deal done. This, on the one hand,  gave the feeling to the players that the Giants did not particularly care about having them back. Worse still, it allowed them to sit with the offer until a better one came along. All it takes is one team to beat the offer and the players are gone; and the teams had a target to shoot at - an offer they knew they had to beat if they wanted the player. If you think I am wrong, take a look here  at the article in the NY Post for Smith's confirmation of this. He says that the Giants lack of urgency to sign him made him feel that they didn't really care about having him back.

Did he want them or not ??
This leads me to the next question about the GM's performance. Did he want to sign Smith and/or Boss or not? Nobody has a good read on their exact intentions or "the blueprint" as Reese called it. Since he didn't exactly tell us what the blueprint was, we are left with the task of trying to read his mind retrospectively, to do a theoretical  analysis without having the actual facts. It goes something like this: did he really want to sign them or was he just going through the motions to make the other players on the team, who loved these players, secure in the knowledge that if you're on the Giants, the management tries to take care of you. OR... perhaps he genuinely wanted these players and since he saw no other team was pursuing them, he tried to get them as cheaply as possible. OR....  did he sort of want the players because they fit in the system well, but he knew they were not star players and he did not want to overpay for them and give star money to good-or-very-good-players. OR... did he want them, but he was up against the salary cap and just couldn't offer more than he offered. It's so confusing. Bottom line is that Reese extended them an offer that was not terrible, so you have to feel he wanted them to some degree. This is a results oriented world and because they left when the Giants offered them a contract and that they were indignant that Smith didn't give them a chance to match, shows, I think that they misplayed and misjudged the situation.

Even though we like Boss and Smith and they seem to be good contributors on offense, they are not a requirement to make the offense productive. The Giants need the OL to come together and if it does, there are plenty enough weapons on offense to make it productive, assuming Eli decides to throw the ball to the guys wearing the same colored jersey as his own this year.

Giants Practice Notes
I went to Giants practice today at the Timex Performance Center and have the following notes:
  • There are two side by side fields where practice is conducted. There are drills and routines going on simultaneously on both fields. But when the offense goes against the defense for the simulated game practice, they did that on the field closest to the Timex building. Because the bleachers are set up on the side of the first field and fans must stay there, they are separated from the practicing players by the width of one football field and it does not afford a great view of practice.
  • The defensive backfield looks very strong. Terrell Thomas looks even better than last year and Corey Webster was all over the place.
  • Brandon Jacobs looks lean, spry and quicker to me than in the past.
  • Jernigan made some nice moves, catches and ran routes decisively, with real quickness.
  • Victor Cruz, the star of preseason last year, dropped a few balls, then committed the cardinal sin for WRs - he pulled up on one long throw by Eli instead of continuing his route and running under the ball. It looked like a perfect throw by Eli which fell incomplete
  • I didn't have a complete count, but I thought I saw 3 or 4 INTs that Eli threw today. One was a gorgeous play by Terrell Thomas on a long ball. Two were on balls that were slightly off target, were tipped by the WR and fell into the hands of the DB. Sound familiar? These picks include one that ended the practice. It was a two-minute drill, which would end with either the offense scoring or the defense getting a stop. Eli completed one or two balls, then threw an in cut to Victor Cruz which bounced off his fingertips into the waiting arms of Corey Webster who flew down the sidelines for what would have been a TD.
  • Maybe it's me, but it looks like David Carr changed his throwing motion. He's starting the ball lower and almost slinging it. He looked like he was throwing well and accurately.
  • The punters, some ST players and DBs were the groups that signed autographs or fans after practice today. They were very social and warm, joking and talking with the kids. Zak De Ossie was particularly friendly. I mentioned to him that he is the answer to one of my favorite trivia questions: the only father-son combination to win a Superbowl for the same franchise. He liked that.
  • You might think that punters are not "real" football players, that they are soft and unmuscular, but just have great flexibility in their legs that allow them to kick it a long way. I am here to tell you that's not true. Weatherford and Dodge are both extremely impressive physical specimens, with great upper body strength, no body fat and, of course, huge legs. I noticed that Weatherford's kicking leg (right) looked 50% bigger than his left. It was enormous.

Blog posts every day.... come back to check often.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Osi reporting to practice

What a shocker! JPP looks dominant at DE, gets two sacks in one qtr of play, looks ready to lay claim to the starting job and magically, Osi decides that he will start practicing Monday. I guess he decided that his knee was feeling better and that, hey after all, he is under contract, so he may as well report to work. Looks like fifteen minutes of play in the first preseason game cost Osi a few million bucks.

What happens if JPP outplays Osi in the preseason (as I am confident he will) and absolutely requires that he be the starter for the season? Does it make any sense at all to keep Osi on the team? That is a rhetorical question - I hope nobody answered the question silently by nodding their heads in concurrence or shaking violently in disagreement. My point is the same as I made in the last post. We may be looking at the start of the career of the next great pass rushing DE in football. I know the philosophy - you can never have enough great pass rushers and it is certainly an embarrassment of riches for the Giants to have 3 stud pass rushers (4 if you count Kiwanuka). But that mantra may only be true if you have everything else you need on the team. Giants don't. I would sacrifice this pass rusher for one more weapon on offense and/or a reasonable return in the draft.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Carolina Preseason game

Slow out of the gate
Ugh. That was ugly. Offense was boring, unproductive and out of sync. Eli was very mediocre and the running game made a few plays here and there but was not clicking either. Even uglier than the offense was the ST that seemed to give up big yardage on punt returns and even some kickoffs. If you look at the stats, the net yardage on punts was decent at 39.4 yards, but that was largely due to some very good kicks, the actual coverage missed several tackles and showed poor coverage lane discipline The defense was OK, but considering it was going up against a mediocre Carolina offense that does not have a proven QB, I'm not going to give it high grades either.

As far as what I said we were looking for from the game, the big thing was progress from Will Beatty. He was fine in pass blocking and the Panthers did blitz quite a bit, especially for a preseason game, so that was a fairly positive result. He did not do as well blocking for the running game, as the Giants got stuffed a few times on 3rd and short when trying to run behind the left side of the OL.

We didn't see much else positive - nothing from Jernigan; Hixon made a few catches and looked smooth running routes, but did not look explosive; Hynoski was OK. Nothing much happening, it looked like a detached, dispirited group.

One surprise was the play of Adrian Tracy at LB - a converted DE, who was IR'ed last year, showed real good speed at LB and played well in space.


The best news of the evening, maybe the only good news, is the emergence of JPP from the shadows. He looked positively dominating. He got two sacks in one quarter of play and also got the pressure and the hit on the QB that forced the bad throw resulting in the Bolley INT/TD. He also made some plays in the running game, not necessarily making the tackle, but getting in the way of the runner and forcing him to reroute and break down the play. He has the super-freak athletic skills of a Julius Peppers, has a little more size (at least to my eye, I didn't check out their stats) and has a motor that never stops going. He showed some real good technique on one of his rushes, which is very promising for someone with little college playing experience and only one year in the pros. To make things even more encouraging, he was going against Jordan Gross, who is no slouch, a 9 year veteran with two pro bowls on his resume, including last year where he started at LT.

Time to trade Osi
I don't know if Osi watched this game, but he may be more motivated to get back into camp, because based on last night's performance, he may have lost his starting job on his own team. He may think he's a top 5 DE in the NFL, but that must mean that there aren't too many good DEs elsewhere in the NFL, because he just may be the 3rd or 4th best DE on the Giants. The Giants moved Kiwanuka to LB in order to get their best athletes on the field and to break up the 4 player logjam at DE, with Tuck, Osi, JPP and Kiwanuka. That's a fine sentiment, but I have a better plan. If I were the Giants, I would find a LB on the team - Kruzlick, Jones, Sintim, Dillard, Tracy, anybody.... and move Kiwanuka back to his natural DE position. To break the logjam at DE, trade Osi for as much as you can get - high draft choice, or maybe some offensive talent to put around Eli and perk up that side of the ball.

Later in the week I will do a slightly more detailed, play-by-play analysis of the game.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Big things to watch for in preseason....

** Want to see Will Beatty progressing at LT. If he slides in and becomes a formidable LT, the Giants will be set with a strong, young OL for several years. MacKenzie may have to be replaced after this year, but Diehl may be able to slide over to RT and a replacement at LG is even easier to find. Beatty growing to be a solid LT could make or break the Giants season.

** Let's see what Jerningan has at WR. He could be a dynamic weapon on offense to replace Smith and Boss.

** Want to see if Hynoski looks good at FB which will free Pascoe to be a full time TE.

** Want to see Hixon, if he has lost any quickness or if he can be a contributor at WR.

** Would love to see Barden get on the field and show something, but that's for later in preseason, obviously, as he still on PUP list.

** Andre Brown and DJ Ware will probably fight it out for a roster spot.

** I am dying to see the two young DTs, Austin and Jospeh, this year and last year's 2nd round draft choices respectively.

** I also heard that the LBs are doing well, Jones and Sintim. I would love one of them to come up and steal the starting job, so Kiwanuka can play his natural position at DE.

The BIG Reese mistake

Everybody is all over Jerry Reese now for not making a big splash in free agency and not even retaining two important players form last year's offensive unit, Kevin Boss and now Steve Smith. I liked Steve Smith and we all remember the big year he had in 2009 and the huge plays he made as a rookie in the Super Bowl playoff run in 2007. In case you need reminding, he made two huge catches in the 0:47 second TD drive against the Cowboys at the end of the half in the divisional playoff round and the huge third down conversion right before Plaxico's winning TD against the Patriots. These plays were great and he is a very good player, but those plays probably elevate him in the evaluation of the fans higher than he really deserves. I am going to put another perspective on this. Players come and players go. The key for long term success is not overpaying for players and drafting well. You can't take a player from your own team that you're very fond of and retain him by overpaying for him as if he were a star. I am not going to be two-faced and pretend that I didn't want Smith back, but his departure is not a crusher and the fact that he left is not the issue I have with Reese handling of this situation. The Giants have a lot of very good players, but they don't have many great players. I believe Reese decided that he would like to keep the good players but does not want to pay them like they're great players. The one consensus superstar he has on the team is Justin Tuck. His contract is due in about two years (I think). If Reese had caved and paid Boss a big contract and/or had come up with more coin for Smith, leaving the Giants salary constrained when they have to come up with the big bucks for Tuck, it would have been much worse situation for the Giants. Furthermore, Terrel Thomas is still on his rookie contract and he is going to demand a major raise when he is up in 2 or 3 years. Like I said, players come and players go; the problem I have with Reese is not the specific departure of these two players, but rather I have two issues with how he handled this Giants off-season.

The first, obviously, is: how did Reese let the Giants get into salary cap hell this year? The main moves the Giants made were salary cap related to get under the cap. Giants cut Seubert, O'Hara, Andrews, Bernard and let Bulluck go also. They restructured Jacobs contract and did some tweaking of Corey Webster's contract as well. He should have managed the cap better to avoid this. (But of course, people would have been howling about how he let this player go and that player go, so I guess he can't win.) The Eagles strategy is not to retain their players unless they're indispensable. That's why they were $30M under the cap and went on a shopping spree this off-season. Giants should work to get in the same position.

The second issue I have with Reese is the way he managed the contract negotiation with these players. He made them an offer and let them sit with it. He didn't give a time limit. He didn't say - this offer is good for 48 hours. He let the players hold their offer and shop it around until some other team came up with just enough extra money or sweetened guaranteed money to beat the Giants offer. That's bad negotiating. I don't know if you remember how Accorsi handled the Plaxico negotiation, but let me refresh your memory. Plaxico was a FA and the Giants were the first team he visited. He met the coach, Giants trainers, was taken out to dinner and at the end of the weekend of FA-wooing, the Giants made him an offer. Since it was his first FA visit, Plaxico declined the offer, indicating that he wanted to visit some other teams before he decided. Accorsi bluntly said, if you leave NJ without signing the contract, the offer is off the table, Plax and his agent didn't believe the Giants so he left town. Accorsi, very publicly went to the press and said that the Giants offer was rescinded, but Plax and the agent didn't mind. When Burress went on his FA tour and did not get any other offers, he fired his agent, signed Rosenhaus as the new agent and came back to the Giants, somewhat chaste and humbled, and negotiated a new contract.

Accorsi specifically said that he did not want Burress to use the Giants offer as leverage to go shopping and extract a better offer from other teams. Similarly, he did not want Plaxico to come back to the Giants with an offer from another team in hand and use it as leverage to extract more money from the Giants. This is where Reese went wrong. He made offers to Boss and Smith, let them sit with it and even said - the ball is in their court. Well, they killed the clock, held onto the offers for a few weeks until another offer came along that was better. All it takes is one of the other 31 teams to think that the player is worth a higher investment, or in case of Philadelphia, is insurance against Maclin injury being more serious. Parenthetically, I  also think Reid wanted to hurt the Giants as much as he wanted to help the Eagles, both physically as well as with team morale, but that's besides the point. Reese misplayed the negotiation by leaving it up to the players and giving them lots of runway. If he had made the offer to Boss/Smith and said that it's good for 48 hours, he might have gotten a different result.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Boss, Smith,

This is starting to get stupid. I know it's easy to say you can always replace a TE. And we can also say further that while Boss was productive, he is not a star player making him even more eminently replaceable. And we can say similar things to downgrade the importance of Steve Smith - a very good, but not a great player; coming off an injury and probably won't be ready for the start of the season. But still - those are just rationalizations for why the Giants should not spend top coin to retain them. I understand that and it may make sense, but from the grand perspective, the bottom line is that the Giants offense has fewer weapons lining up to start the 2011 season than it did lining up to start the 2010 season. We are down the starting TE and one starting WR in Smith.

OK. I finished ranting now and have sufficiently calmed down. The truth of the matter is that Boss IS in fact a complimentary and not a star player. He was pretty good after the catch and did run some nice seam routes, but he was really a slightly above average TE. He was not one of those players that demanded the attention of the defense or special game planning thereby allowing the Giants to spread the field and make the offense much better. He did not have blazing speed, and was not an overwhelming, punishing blocker. He ran nice routes, dropped too many balls, had a good football IQ so he could find the soft spots in the zone and was a productive player at the position. But he was more a product of the systems and the offense than a player that made the offense go. We all remember the huge play he made in the Superbowl to set up the TD that put the Giants ahead at the beginning of the 4th qtr. We also remember some nice plays he made last year to help win some games. But let's not get crazy - he is a good but not game-changing player. I actually like Pascoe and I think he can be productive in that spot also. The Giants signed an undrafted rookie FA FB in Hynoski who they like very much. If he can win the job as the starting FB, the Giants can make Pascoe a full time TE, his natural position, and will have Pascoe and Beckum as the TE group. They need one more for depth, but they should be able to pick someone up after the training camp cuts for some decent depth. Alternatively, I would not mind seeing Michael Clayton shifted to that TE slot. He is big and physical for a WR and while slightly undersized for a TE, could probably be a decent backup.

Steve Smith has been in NJ, meeting with the Giants and that makes it seem like he will eventually sign with the Giants. He has no other offers and no teams pursuing him. (I said that with Boss also, so who knows how that could change.) The difference with Smith is that he is coming off microfracture knee surgery fairly late in the 2010 season and teams will be reluctant to take a risk on him.

Let's go back to that big picture again and I'll try to be a glass-half full kind of guy this time specifically with the offensive questions. The Giants retooled their OL, making it faster, more athletic and younger. They may have found their starting LT, always a significant move. They got under the salary cap with some stability for the future. They have added draftee Jernigan who could be a real weapon, and have welcomed back some speed in WR Dixon. Victor Cruz is another possible offensive weapon and if Barden and Smith make it back onto the field, there should be plenty of talent for Eli to find.

While I like Bradsdhaw, it's not clear to me that having about $9M tied up in the RB position with two players that are not stars is a good investment.

My opinion is that the Osi situation will get worked out to the Giants satisfaction. Giants seem to have all the leverage: 1. Agent could not work out a trade; 2. Osi further limited his value, his marketability and his leverage by announcing his knee problem; 3. Let's not forget the biggest point of Giants leverage - Osi is actually under contract! Giants should throw Osi a little incentive money in his contract to soothe his ego and pride and expect him to come into camp.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Osi.... et al

After giving Osi and his agent all of about 36 hours to find a team interested, the Giants withdrew their offer to allow the agent to seek a trade for Osi. This makes it seem like it was just a ploy all along for the Giants to show Osi that his value was not as high as he thinks, especially now when teams are cramped by a slightly lower salary cap than the last capped year in 2009. Still, I think some team would have come up with some creative deal to trade for Osi and then the Giants would have been in a real bind. Giants had demanded a # 1 pick, but suppose a team offered a 2 and a 4. Or a starting player and a 3. If they had to say no to that, they really could have been called liars by Osi + agent.

On the one hand, I understand the Giants position - they probably did not say exactly what Osi said they did, and Osi kind of interpreted or heard what he wanted to hear. Even if the Giants made a loose promise or best effort to renegotiate, nobody could have anticipated the salary cap situation that they found themselves in because of the new CBA. They may have planned to give him a new contract, but found changed business conditions when the time came.

Osi's perspective is somewhat understandable, but flawed. His email rant to the Associated Press, where he said the team has all the power to cut a player but the player has to live by the contract is correct. That's life. To whine about this now, nanoseconds after a new CBA was negotiated and signed, reaffirming the state of business in the NFL with its non-guaranteed contract is like complaining to God that that darned sun keeps coming up in the east everyday. Live with it.

Osi is also complaining that he is making only around $4M this year and he has outplayed his contract, especially compared to the huge deal that the Panthers gave to their DE Johnson (who is he?). Well, he forgets that  he also received a big bonus up front and he should not just look at the 2011 base salary. Furthermore, because one stupid team overpays for one player doesn't mean that he is entitled to the same money. The biggest flaw in Osi's argument that he has outplayed his contract, is that this fact may be true only for 2010. Let's not forget that he missed the entire 2008 season with a knee injury and that he had a miserable year in 2009 where he actually lost his starting job. That makes his claim about outplaying his contract a little misleading. I think Osi is a very talented pass rusher, but he is a fairly one-dimensional player and should not get paid like one of the top five DEs in football.

Having said all of that, the Giants should try to keep Osi on the team and make him a happy, productive player. I think part of Osi's complaint and frustration is that he is very proud, wants to be thought of as "the best" and wants his ego stroked through a new contract. The Giants should try to find a compromise to make all parties happy and not threaten to start a revolt among the other players who may demand more money if they hold out. I think that's called a win-win.

Ideas for compromises:

1. Don't rip up the current contract, but give Osi an extension to the contract starting in 2013. This way, the Giants are not throwing out his current contract and are not creating a precedent, encouraging players who perceive themselves as underpaid to become squeaky wheels in order to get some oil. This shows Osi some love, does not break the current salary cap and does not give players license to revolt.

2. If they wanted to be bold, they could even renegotiate by giving him a new contract at the end of 2011, going into the 2012 season. The same benefits accrue to both side as above and Osi gets money earlier.

3. If Osi is unwilling to do that, if he feels the relationship with the Giants is so fractured, they can instead promise to cut him after 2011. That way they will get a highly motivated player for 2011 and he will be able to negotiate at market value with no restrictions as a FA for the 2012 season. I don't recommend this, because it is too risky for the Giants.

4. Make the 2012 contract dollars guaranteed and/or give him a big roster bonus for March 2012 as a prelude to renegotiating at that time. That way, Osi is guaranteed either to get  a pile of cash and a new contract from the Giants, or he will be cut loose and negotiate as a FA.

Big picture, the Giants reputation has taken a hit and they should try to repair it and keep the best players on the team.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bradshaw agrees to contract

It seemed inevitable when all the potential buyers of Ahmad Bradshaw's services dropped away, who brought in other RBs to satisfy their needs, that Bradshaw would accept the offer from the Giants and return. That seems to be what happened and it probably means that the Giants got Bradshaw in at a reasonable, cap-friendly price. Terms of the deal were not yet announced. The same will probably be true for Boss in short order as TE spots are also not open for Boss to look at.... in other words, it seems to be a buyer's market.

The big question mark is Steve Smith - not because many teams are pursuing him, but because his physical health is up in the air. My guess is all these situations will be resolved by the end of this week, perhaps by Wednesday, when the FAs are legally allowed to start practicing.

What happens if Osi's agent can't find a team to give up what the Giants are looking for in a trade and/or a team that will renegotiate his contract and give him what he wants financially? Does he come back into camp like a good soldier and bleed Giants blue suffering on his ~$4M salary? Or does he cut off his nose to spite his face, refuse to play for the paltry sum that the Giants are paying him and sit on the sidelines for 2011. I understand that Osi is a very proud man. Pride goeth before the fall.

Truthfully, there may not be many teams that will be willing to give up a 1st round draft choice (and potentially another starter) and pay Osi a cap-threatening sum. Once the agent got involved with making a deal, instead of the Giants just trading Osi themselves, the contract renegotiation became a requirement of the deal. It will also cut down the buyers. Would the Giants trade Osi inside the division, say to Dallas or Philadelphia? What are the parameters of the authority that the Giants gave to Osi and agent. I still say that there is at least a chance that Osi will not be traded and will end up playing for the Giants. If the Giants don't rip up his contract but give him an ego-soothing two year extension with some guaranteed money thrown in, he comes back in happy.

More drama on Osi

ESPN and other media outlets are reporting that Osi has been granted permission to seek a trade. The Giants are looking for a first round draft choice and some players in return. Kevin Kolb fetched a 2nd round draft choice and a starting CB in a trade, so a first rounder + players for Osi might be reasonable. While you pay for the position and QB is considered more important than DE, Osi is a 7 year veteran with 60 career sacks, two trips to the pro bowl, one ring and is generally regarded as one of the top pass rushers in the league. Kevin Kolb on the other hand, has never played a full season, has a losing record as a starting QB and only 4 career wins. He has ability, potential and a lot of upside, but has to be considered unproven. If he can get a 2 and a player, Osi should be able to demand a 1.

Somehow I am not upset about this. On the one hand, although Osi is a talented pass rusher, he is not as good an all around DE as, for example, Strahan was. Furthremore, look how the Eagles profit when they get rid of veteran players, draft well and replace them with younger talented players. They stay young, fast and fresh, while keeping the salary cap low so they have maximum flexibility to move on a big FA if needed. With the rookie wage scale in place, a first round draft choice is worth more than it was in the past, so this is not a terrible move, if they get their asking price.