Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More on Eagles game....

I don't remember a time when Giants fans have been so pumped up about a regular season victory, and in week 3 of the season no less. I think the reason is obvious: Giants fans had a dim view of the team's prospects and were fearful of the dream team in Philadelphia. A 1-2 start which included two losses within the division could have wrecked the season before it really got started. So the win was more than a win against a hated division opponent, it was deemed as a season saver.

Before we get too pumped up about this win and start making Super Bowl travel plans, we need to take a breath and figure out where this team is going. They probably weren't as bad as we thought they were going into that Philly game and they're probably not as good as they looked coming out of that game. Truth is, victory is determined by relative strength of the two teams; winning a game doesn't mean you're good, it just means that you're better than your opponent. So early in the year, it's often difficult to assess the quality of a win, because until the season unfolds a little bit, you can't tell if your team's wins or losses came against good teams or weak ones. Giants two wins came against a Rams team that is 0-3 and against the dream team Eagles. I am quite certain that the Eagles are a seriously flawed team, are overrated and will have a disappointing season. I am not saying they will crash and burn - there are enough duds on their schedule that they will run up a decent record - I am just saying that they are not nearly as good as all the prognosticators predicted.

From the big picture there are some good trends to look at: Giants got better in each game they've played. They were awful against the Redskins, mediocre against the Rams and a little better against the Eagles. The OL played well against the Eagles. (Thanks to my friend Ray who always takes a macro look at the product on the field.) While the OL did give up some sacks, they often gave Eli a nice clean pocket to throw from. He had time to hold the ball and complete some throws downfield. Beatty has really been coming along and handled Trent Cole well. Only time Cole made some noise is when the blocking schemes called for him to be blocked by a TE.

The DL play has been strong and the goal line defense was particularly good. Linval Joseph and Canty are playing well at DT and Rocky Bernard seems to be playing with more purpose after he lost a lot of weight in the offseason. Being cut and re-signed may have given him the message that tomorrow is promised to no one in the NFL and he better do his best to succeed now.

Anybody have any idea how good Arizona is?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Eagles game review II

Some more nuggets from the win against Eagles on Sunday....

Aaron Ross had a very nice game on Sunday with the 2 INTs, knock down of several other passes and some good tackling.

Before we get too pumped up about the game, let's talk about the things that could be improved on: Giants DBs missed a bunch of tackles in the running game which gave McCoy some of his yardage. McCoy ran for 127 but there were not often huge gashes in the Giants DL. He made a lot of his yards like he was returning a punt - make the first guy miss, break a tackle and then run.

BTW - McCoy is a great runner, may be the most dangerous player on the Eagles.

Kenny Phillips is continuing to play better and better.  I won't say that his INT was an easy pick, but he could have called for a fair catch.

Giants offense, even though it was unproductive in the middle two quarters has the following batting average for Sunday: Not including the kneel down at the end of the game, Giants offense had 9 possessions, 4 TDs, 4 punts, no INTs or fumbles and 1 loss of the ball on downs (thanks to bonehead play by Beckum). That's a great conversion percentage and we can take that all year long.

Before we get too excited about offensive production, let's remember it was against the Eagles defense. Let me be the first to assert here; Eagles defense is AWFUL. They have terrible LBs, terrible safeties, an undersized DL that can be run against and very weak defensive coaching. That's not the recipe for a dream team Superbowl. The GM built this team like it was a fantasy league team - concentrating only on skill position players and forgetting about the OL and the front 7 on defense.

I think the Eagles are by far the most overrated team in football and would not be surprised if they have a disappointing season.

Eagles game review I

This was one of the most exciting, significant regular season wins I can remember. I had fears of the Giants going down to Philly, getting waxed by two TDs, coming back home with their tail between their legs, no confidence in themselves, disharmony in the locker room and disillusionment with the coaches and the season suddenly slipping away. Instead, the Giants played a gritty game, showed great heart and may have reversed the tone and tenor of the entire season. It kind of reminds me of game 3 in the 2007 season down in Washington. Giants were 0-2, having given up 80 points in the first two games of the season to the Cowboys and the Packers and were facing a hopeful, improved Redskins team. You all remember what happened - Giants were down 17-0 at half time, but the defense awoke in the second half, got 5 conseuctive 3 and-outs giving the ball to the Giants offense, which scored 24 unanswered points. Defense clinched it with a goal line stand in the last minute.

On to the Eagles game.... I spend a fair amount of time on the blog toasting the Giants coaches, but we have to give them their props this weekend. They completely outcoached the Eagles in every phase of the game. Let's start with the offense - Gilbride (the coordinator formerly known as Killdrive) must have been reading my previous blog posts where I said that the way to beat the Eagles is to attack their LBs with passes to the RBs. I hate to say I told you so (actually, not true, I love to say I told you so), but Jacobs hit the first big play of the game on the wheel route beating an Eagle LB for the TD and Bradshaw scored the TD that put the game on ice on a sceen pass. In between, there were more passes than usual to the RBs. Giants even threw a few to the TE just for balance. I'm not giving up on Beckum, even though he made a stupid play - he has speed and could make some plays for the Giants before the year is up.

On defense, Fewell did a number of really smart things. First of all, somehow between game 2 and game 3 he taught the Giants LBs and DBs how to play a zone. The drops by the LBs were good, Boley got his hands on another pass (more about Boley later) and Jacquian Williams was all over the field in the psssing game. Giants played a lot nickel, hoping to combat the Eagles speed and it worked very well - the Eagles ran the ball effectively, but held the passing game in check with no big plays. They also kept Vick in the pocket, not letting him get out on any big runs.

One other smart thing Fewell did was in his LB rotation. The starting LBs in the base defense are Boley, Kiwanuka and R Greg Jones. Because the Giants played a lot of nickel, Jones did not see much playing time. But here's the smart thing Fewell did - Jacquian Williams, who has tremndous speed, was the nickel LB. They don't just take off one of the LBs and replace him with a DB, they put in a speedy LB to replace Kiwanuka because he will be mroe effective in the passing game. Williams played great making several very good solo tackles. Reese may have hit the jackpot with this year's LBs. Jones and Williams are already getting a lot of playing time and are playing extremely well. Herzlich is a future starter and even Paysinger will be a contributor.

Boley is having an excellent season so far having played an excellent game Sunday. He made the big stop on McCoy on 4th down, knocked down a pass in the zone defense and he made several of the stops on the goal line stands.

Back to the coaching - even the ST coaches should get some respect. When the Giants lined up for the FG in the 4th qtr that would have given them a 9 point lead, they drew the Eagles offside which gave them a  first down. That was not a random, lucky play. Giants ST coach Quinn noticed that the Eagles end gets a very fast start rushing the place kicker and listens carefully to the snap count by the holder to get his fast start. Giants called for a double snap count there which drew the penalty and the clinching TD.

Eli palyed a great game, throwing the ball accurately, making great decisions and eating the ball to take a sack a few times instead of putting the ball in harms way and risking a turnover. Even the second TD to Cruz, which looked like it was thrown into double coverage, was actually a great pass. Cruz was right in the seam of the zone and the ball was thrown with great timing before the Eagle defenders could close and make a play on the ball.

I was very unimpressed with Asomugha. He didn't shut anyone down in coverage and his tackling skills are nonexistent. I also talked about how weak the Eagles LBs were, but after watching the game I can also add that their safeties stink too. Reid is a great offensive coach, but not good defensively. He prospered when he had Jim Johnson and Spagnuolo on his defensive staff, but has hired a few terrible DCs in the past few years and it will be the achilles heel of this team all year long.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

And now for something completely different....

Rules of war: when your enemy is faster than you, you try to outmuscle him. When your opponent is bigger than you, try to be faster and quicker. However when your opponent is faster than you and your size advantage is mitigated because you are injured and are fighting with diminished speed, try SURPRISE.

The Eagles defense is built for speed, does not have good LBs and is at or near the bottom of the league in run defense. So the game plan seems obvious - Giants have to try to outmuscle them and run the ball at them. However, when your number 2 and number 3 WRs are both gone, Hixon because he's out for the season with torn ACL and Manningham because he hasn't recovered from his concussion, the Eagles do not have to worry much about a threat on the outside. They can load the box with 8 guys to take away the Giants running game and still have enough speed to take away any deep threat from the Giants diminished passing game.

What to do? Try SURPRISE. Giants need to go big at the line of scrimmage, using an extra OL-man, because the Eagles will not respect the passing game anyway. They will leave a LB on the TE and the LB will also have responsibility for the RB out of the backfield. Giants need to attack the LBs and throw to Beckum up the seam and to RBs deep as well.

But that's not the big surprise, that's more football 101. Here's the big surprise: this is the week for the Giants to go with a few wildcat looks. Nobody has ever seen it from an offense with a Manning in it. The advantage it has is that when the QB runs the ball himself out of the wildcat, there is an extra blocker available from the backfield. In classic offense, once the QB give the ball to the RB, he is out of the play. However, if you're running two RBs in the backfield and the QB runs, that extra body counteracts the extra S that the Eagles will bring up to the line of scrimmage. I am not saying Giants should do it all the time and I am not saying they should continue to be a wildcat team once Manningham gets back into the lineup. But it could be a useful look this week when you get a team against whom you want to power run the ball.

Think the OC Killdrive will come up with this?

Friday, September 23, 2011

More on Eagles

Giants pass defense has given up 300+ yards in both of the first two games; they have to play better. (Really insightful analysis, don't you think?) So far, the pattern looks the same as last year: when the pass rush is there, the defense looks great. When they can't pressure the QB and the Giants sit in a zone, there is too much room to throw. Last week Ross was toasted whether it was man coverage or zone, so he has to tighten up his game. He has some ability and played well in preseason, so I'm not giving up on him. We are all miserable about the loss of Terrel Thomas, the starting CB, but also a killer was the fact that the Giants lost two other CBs: Bruce Johnson who was a valuable substitute last year and Witherspoon, who had great speed and showed some talent in the preseason. Michael Coe was really on the bubble in training camp as to even making the team. If he made the roster, it would be as a ST player and not in the regular DB rotation. Not only did he make the team, but with all the injuries he was the first guy off the bench to replace Ross. Furthermore, when the Giants go to their nickel or dime packages, they bring in an extra S, not CB. The hope here is that Amukamara comes back soon and really contributes.

Vick practiced fully Thursday and passed his neurological / brain / concussion test. Although with Vick, I'm not sure how anyone can tell. I mean, no offense intended, but Michael is not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. If the baseline test for concussion effects includes cognitive skills, well.... you figure it out.

Giants need to keep Vick in the pocket and confuse him with blitzes and a good pass rush. Sounds like the prescription for every QB really, but keeping him from leaking out of the pocket is of course more important with someone like Vick who runs like a greyhound.

If Manningham can't play, and it's looking more likely that he won't, because he didn't practice Thursday, Giants need to replace him with more than just a warm body. They need to find someone with some speed, which is what Manningham brings to the table. Presumably, Stokley will have a slightly bigger package and role in the offense, but he is not a pure speed guy. I would not mind seeing Devin Thomas on the field and perhaps Jernigan, if the Giants activate him. I also would love to see Da'rel Scott get some reps, he might be the fastest guy on the team and is certainly the fastest RB. Put in a package for him, get him on the field with some new plays. How about dropping a TE back for extra blocking or blitz pickup and sending him up the seam from his RB position.

Giants need to find a way to attack the Eagles LBs, which is the weakest part of the defense. Usually this means a TE or a package of throws to RBs in the middle of the field. This also plays into my Da'rel Scott "scenario". Beckum seems ready to come back this week - maybe he gets a chance to pick on the Eagle LBs also.

Antrel Rolle plays S for the Giants, but talks like he's playing for the Jets. Didn't he get the Coughlin tee-shirt: "Shut up and play the game" ?? If he was as talented as he thinks he is and was not giving up deep balls behind him all the time, I might be able to tolerate his yapping a bit more. Unless he really picks up his game, this will go down as a really mediocre FA signing by Reese.

Kenny Phillips is starting to make some plays at S. He hasn't made any INTs, but he is breaking up some pass plays, giving help on his side of the field and is coming up in the running game on occasion. He's still not back to where he was in his rookie year, but he's warming up.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Look forward to Eagles

There's no denying that the loss of Hixon is a bad blow, but the way to beat the Eagles is not by passing against them. The Eagles built their defense like the Indy Colts of recent vintage did, with Manning at QB. The Colts theory was that their offense will score a lot of points, the team will often find themselves in high scoring games, will be ahead early and will be forcing the opponents to pass the ball more often than they would like. Consequently they built an offense that is light in the DL, not particularly geared to stopping the run, but is very fast and can put on a big pass rush. The Eagles defense seems similar to me. They are not good against the run and have a bunch of fast, pass rushing specialists in the DL. The Eagles even doubled down on this strategy by loading up at CB by signing Asomugha and trading for Rogers-Cromartie. By the way, the Eagles paid no attention to their LBs and are having trouble at that position. The way to beat the Eagles is to try to take away the big offensive play, don't let them get ahead and try to run the ball at them. Eagles are near last in the league in run defense and are shuffling their LBs this week.

The problem with the Giants is that the running game has been spotty, with mediocre work from the FB and terrible blocking form the TE position. The OL run blocking has been good, but when the defense loads up the line of scrimmage with an extra S (or two) you absolutely need the TE/FB to block. Playing an extra OL-man doesn't help that much, because it frees yet another S to drop down to the line of scrimmage, because the 6th OL-man is one extra eligible receiver who does not have to be guarded. I would still try to pound the ball in the running game against the Eagles and put the burden on the group up front to win the game.

Of course, you need some balance in the offense, you have to take some shots down the field, and if your running game is not successful, you may have to pass a bit more. But throwing the ball too much against the Eagles with their 3 very good CBs, their fast pass rushing DEs and their propensity to blitz a lot is not a good formula. Run the damn ball!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rams game review

Well at least it was a win. The offense actually showed a little bit as the game wore on and while it is far from cohesive now, it showed some signs. Giants have to find better blocking in the running game; the TEs are terrible. I think the Giants recognize this because they had an extra OL-man in the game quite often in situations that were not short yardage.

Eli missed a lot of opportunities, underthrowing Mannigham when he beat the safeties on a deep post down the middle and making a bad play on the INT. On that play, Mannigham was wide open and Eli should have either thrown it earlier before the S could break over or thrown it much deeper with more air under it so that Mannigham could run under it. In either case, the S would not have been able to make a play on the ball. He had a couple of other bad throws, but then found his rhythm and played well.

Bradshaw is running well and I think Jacobs is running very well. They would be doing a lot better if the TEs could actually block somebody. They have been awful.

I love the progress of the young LBs. Greg Jones looks like a player and Williams does as well. I still say the Giants should move Kiwanuka back to his natural DE position and play Jones, Williams and Boley. This would give Herzlich some reps also. Kiwanuka has been playing fairly well at LB and the DL has been excellent against the run. What is killing the defense is the DB-field. The Giants DBs seemnot to know how to play a zone. They give too much cushion and don't move enough to pick up the WR coming into their area. They seem to get to their spots and play the QBs eyes. That's not how you do it. When a CB trails a WR down the sideline and passes him off to a S expecting deep help, the window is open way too wide before the S comes over to give the help. When they play man coverage, they seem to do a little better in terms of fewer blown assignments, but Ross was getting toasted all over the place on Monday night. The hope for the season to not completely unravel is for the Giants to hang on until Osi comes back, hope that Amukamara has a short learning curve and that both can bring some help to the defense.

Phillips has been playing well at S, but Rolle and Grant have been spotty.


This is getting stupid. Hixon done for the year with an ACL injury on the same knee he hurt last year. Hixon was starting to find his stride and was playing fairly well. If he's the 2nd or 3rd best WR on the team, he could be productive. However, this is a moot discussion at this point. If Nicks stays healthy, Manningham stays healthy and actually catches the ball when it's thrown to him, if Stokley catches on, the Giants are still a few players short at WR. They need to get Devin Thomas to play, they need to see if Jernigan and Cruz can contribute, they need to hope that Barden comes back and they should probably sign another WR.

The big worry is that the collective spirit of the team will be crushed by all the injuries. The biggest problem with the offense, however is not the WR group but is the blocking in the OL. I repeat my contention that the OL is talented and capable. Their main problem now is developing the cohesion to adjust the blocking schemes and not miss assignments, especially when the defense blitzes or lines up in a way that they did not expect. However, I believe this will develop over time.

My big concern with the blocking is with the TEs and FB position. All the announcers love Hynoski, because he is a throwback player, has a great attitude and he is a great story. Gruden was praising him a lot Monday night, but the fact is that he misses a lot of assignments and when he does pick up the right guy, he doesn't exactly demolish him and get a great push at the point of attack. Hedgecock was much better before he got hurt. Maybe he will develop a bit more as he gains more confidence and learns the offense better.

However, the big concern is the blocking from the TE position. Pascoe and even Ballard have been getting absolutely destroyed by the LBs or DL-men that they have had to block. This makes the running game suffer and the makes the OL look worse than it is.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What needs to improve

The OL has talent, I am confident in that. But they made lots of mental mistakes and missed assignments in the game against the Redskins. Particularly up the middle, where Diehl and Baas were supposed to protect Eli, there were several leaks and missed switches on blitz pickups. I am confident that they can work this out because they have talent. But it could be a few weeks before it happens. Everyone talks about protecting the QB's blind side, but the fact is, a strong pass rush right up the middle ruins your offense more than an occasional hit by a rushing DE.

Find a WR, is what I was whining about in the last post.It looks like the Giants are following my blog because they went out and signed Brandon Stokely. He is quick and is perfectly built fo the slot, where he has played his entire career.

More man-to-man less zone in the DB-field; especially when the down and distance calls for it.

I am tired of Giants coaches blaming the players for on-field mistakes. Players will occasionally miss assignments and make mistakes. My problem is that coaches are responsible for teaching the players the offense and defensive schemes. If players don't get it, then the coaches are not getting through to them, i.e not coaching effectively.

One more thing about Coughlin: he has a reputation as being a disciplinarian and a coach who instructs his players to keep their heads and always be professional, both on the practice field as well as during the game. If that is his coaching style,  how can he constantly lose his cool and act unprofessionally himself on the sideline - he regularly goes crazy over every blown play. If you yell at the players for every mistake, it is as if your not yelling at all. He's got to calm down and find a better way to communicate and connect with his team.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Redskins review II - things to fix

After week 1 of the NFL season, half the teams are feeling great, strutting their stuff, patting themselves on the back about the great wisdom of their off-season acquisitions and contacting their travel agents to inquire about hotel reservations for February in whatever city the Superbowl is being played in that year. The other half of the NFL is worried about the season, complaining about the players, whining about how their coaching staff got out-coached and checking the statistics of how many teams make the playoffs when they lose their first game. God forbid they should lose the second game of the season also - then they're looking to contact whomever it is that took up Dr. Kevorkian's cause when he passed away earlier this year, because assisted suicide is the only honorable exit strategy when your team is 0-2. There is no difference greater in the collective minds of fans, players and coaches than the results of those first two weeks of the NFL season. Having said that and realizing that the results of one game may be somewhat overemphasized, it is still reasonable to review some of the key worries from the Giants game one loss to see what is broken.

On the offensive side, it seems to me that the talent is there in the OL. There were missed assignments and blitz pickups, but I am hopeful that can be fixed. One thing is for sure - every team is going to blitz the Giants like crazy until they show that they can handle it amd burn them for the risk. I am sure Spagnuolo will have a creative game plan cooked up this week; he loves to bring pressure. To me the Giants need to do three things to fix this problem.
>>The obvious step one is to keep working in practice and concentrating until the cohesiveness develops. This will likely take a few games, but I believe that the talent is there.
>>Second, the Giants need to get Da'rel Scott in the game and make him a pass catching threat out of the backfield to give big play potential when you dump the ball off to a back on a hot read or screen.
>>Third, and this is radical - go and sign one of the FA WRs that are sitting on the sideline, not playing, to give a real vertical threat to this offense. I'm talking about Randy Moss, TO or even Sinorice Moss, who never made it in the league but has undeniable speed. Contracts are not guaranteed after game 2, so if it doesn't work out, you can cut them without much pain or expense. But if one of them still has some gas left in the tank, you instantly make the defenses take notice and they have to defend another threat. This makes the defense think twice about blitzing every passing down and it opens up many more lanes for Nicks and Manningham.

On the defensive side of the ball, there are a few things that should be done. Tuck is questionable and Osi is still out a few games. The Giants, once thought to be loaded at DE now are so thin that Dave Tollefson, no better than a backup and a one dimensional DE with some speed but no size, was elevated to starter. Justin Trattou who was out of football until he was signed by the Giants to their practice squad a few weeks ago and then signed to the team and activated, was the main backup. That is not quite the strength that the Giants need at DE. The solution is simple - slide Kiwanuka back to his position at DE.

The idea of moving Kiwanuka to LB made some sense at the beginning of the year. The logic was that (1) the Giants have enormous depth at DE and Kiwanuka would be a backup, not getting enough snaps. (2) Kiwanuka is a marvelous athlete and rather than having  him sit on the bench, move him to LB so the Giants can get their best athletes on the field, regardless of position. (3) The Giants did not have experience at LB, with 4 raw rookies and Sintim behind them who also had not played the position much. Now Goff went down, forcing Greg Jones into the starting position on Sunday and he did a very creditable job. Giants have 3 other rookie LBs and they should probably roll the dice and slide one of them into Kiwanuka's spot. The world did not collapse when Goff was replaced by Jones and it won't collapse when  Jacquian Williams, Scott Paysinger or Mark Herzlich replaces Kiwanuka at LB.

The real point is: Kiwanuka is an average LB but he is an outstanding DE. Tollefson and Trattou are below average NFL DEs. With the current lineup, the Giants have mediocrity (at best) at both positions; with Kiwanuka at DE, they at least have excellence at one position. There is no question that the lineup is better when Kiwanuka has his hand in the dirt at DE and player X is at LB. Even if Tuck and Osi come back, I would stick with this alignment and get the best production out of the players. The most important thing the coaching staff does is to put their players in the best position to succeed. For Kiwanuka, that is certainly DE and for the Giants, the young LBs are impressive, maybe the team finds a gem.

Finally, on the defensive side, Fewell has to learn how to blend his pass defenses and mix in some press coverage and man to man with his two deep zones. Perhaps he went to this because of all the injuries in the DB-field and his fear that the DBs would get burned deep too often, so he went to the safer zone coverage. Maybe that's logical, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. But even if it makes sense, you can't do it all the time. Any defense that the offense can get a read on and know exactly what is coming, will certainly be cut to pieces. More than that, there are times in the game, based on down and distance and time on the clock, where it just screams for a different approach.

I am referring here of course to the fateful 4th and 5 that the Redskins had at about the Giants 40. It was too close to punt and too far for a FG, so they elected to go for it on 4th down. Giants sat back in the same zone they had been playing much of the time and the CBs and LBs took a safe 10 yard drop, playing the QB's eyes and keeping the receivers in front of them. Grossman had probably the easiest completion of the day, hitting Santana Moss right at the sticks and letting him run forward for another 5 yards for an easy first down.  The defense had to get a stop right there, not prevent a long TD pass. Terrible coaching.

I don't think Fewell really gets the strategy of the game. Last year in the Eagles game when the Giants went up 21 pioints in the 4th quarter, sitting back in a zone and making the Eagles use clock would have been the appropriate defensive strategy, even if  the Eagles did score. Instead the Giants kept blitzing and the Eagles scored 3 TDs on long plays because of the Giants risky approach. On Sunday, when it was 4th and 5, it was appropriate for the Giants to attack, to blitz and to try to take away the short easy throw, even if they did get beat over the top. Coughlin ultimately has the responsibility for game management and he needs to manage the strategy better.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Redskins review I

I thought this might be a tough game because of all the injuries, but this really was much worse than I anticipated. The Giants just looked like a team that was outmatched physically on both sides of the ball. The OL did have some moderate success running the ball, but it seemed like there were Redskins swarming all over Eli and he did not have a clean pocket to throw from on most passing plays. It made it look like the Redskins were far superior athletically.

Similar things on defense - Redskins WRs were running wide open all day long making it appear again that the Giants defense could not compete with them from a pure athletic perspective.

It was so bad that it's even hard to tell if it's the players or the coaches. The Giants coaches have been here for several years now and the league has certainly caught up to the offensive schemes. more than that, the league's defenses have changed and evolved, relying much more heavily on blitzing and speed packages, generating pass rush from all angles and the Giants offense has not adjusted to adapt to these changes. The Giants simply do not have enough speed or play makers on offense to burn opposing defenses when they gamble with a blitz. If I were an opposing DC, I would blitz all the time also, because even if the Giants pick it up, they can't hurt you down the field. That's one area where it's probably the weakness of the players rather than the coaches. If you don't have the speed, coaches can't manufacture it it on the sidelines. Giants WRs don't seem to get a lot of separation and that could be a blend of coaching and players. The pass routes are too predictable, but the players don't run well enough to get open.

Bring back Sinorice Moss. He is a perfect compliment to what the Giants need - pure speed. Victor Cruz looks like he's working out real well. Dropped a ball that a HS player should have caught. If you don't have breakaway speed, you should have sticky fingers and catch every darned catchable ball.

The bigger indictment of the coaches is in the running game, especially on short yardage. How can the Giants have the biggest RB in the league, a competent OL and the worst short yardage offense in the league. It's because the play calls are so obvious. On the third and short that Bradshaw got stopped on in the 3rd qtr, the entire defense was flowing to their left, as the ball was being snapped, because the Giants play calls are so predictable.

One more worry, as if we didn't have enough, maybe with this trend towards more and more blitzing by defenses, it becomes important to have a QB a little more athletic than Eli.

But here's the big picture and the biggest indictment of this team and its coaches. The game looked exactly like every other game last year. On defense, Giants were very good against the run, but against the pass, if the the pass rush didn't kill the QB, the DB-field was sitting in a zone and giving way too much room to WRs, allowing them lots of space to run free. Grossman made some nice throws, but roughly 50% of his throws were to WRs that were running completely free. In addition to that, when the Giants did finally come up with a stop in the second half when Grossman completed a 9 yard pass on 3rd and 11, the idiot Antrel Rolle spears the WR while he's lying on the ground and has already been touched by Corey Webster. I would cut Rolle for that play; he has beena  terrible signing for the Giants. He gets beat in pass coverage all the time, makes an occasional big hit so everyone can go ooooooh, talks way too much and gets stupid penalties way too often. That spearing penalty gave the Redskins a new setof downs deep in Giants territory, leading to the clinching TD.

On offense, there was also a reprise of 2010 performance: too many awful looking plays and not enough speed. That may be more of a blend of coaching and players, but it's almost hard to evaluate how good players are when they are put at such a disadvantaged position when opposing defenses know what the offense is going to do.

With Spags coming in this Monday night, who probably knows the Giants offense as well as Killdrive does, it could be another ugly night for the offense. If you watched any of the Rams-Eagles game, you will have seen that the Rams blitzed Vick a lot and it bothered him at times. He'll do the same with Eli and kill the Giants with it.

More later in the week.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


As much as you want to win the opener, there are 15 games after that to worry about. If Tuck has a bad neck, the Giants should sit him and not jeopardize the entire season. It looks like the Giants are thinking that way, since they signed undrafted rookie FA Trattou to the active team from the practice squad. To make room for him, they put Goff on IR. The fact that they waited a few days to IR Goff instead of doing it right away probably shows that they wanted to wait to see Tuck's status before deciding whom to activate. If Tuck was fully healthy, they might have signed LB Tracy off the practice squad to bolster the LB crew.

With Osi (and possibly Tuck) out, I would not rely on Dave Tollefson as the starting DE. Even if they do start him, he is not a great run stopper and he will not be able to go the whole game. I would slide Kiwanuka back to the DE slot, use more of the rookie LBs and perhaps more of the 3 safety formation on defense.

Redskins do not have a great defense, Giants offense should be able to move the ball.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Getting warmer

We're getting warmer.... getting closer to the Giants opener on Sunday.Now that the league season has begun with the Thursday night opener, we can start looking ahead to the Giants season. Early on in this preseason, when the Giants failed to lock up Smith and Boss, my feeling was to stay the course and not panic. I think the Giants upgraded the OL and there are still enough weapons on offense with a good QB to get them the ball. That if is a big one though - IF the OL has improved. Based on my observation in the preseason, the OL has very much improved and it has gotten younger as well. The big key is Beatty at LT and he has looked very good. Diehl slid back in at G smoothly and Baas looks very athletic at C. There were occasional missed assignments and bad line calls, but the talent is there. I am upbeat about the improvement in the OL.

At TE, believe it or not, I think Jake Ballard should start and get many of the reps on 1st and 2nd down. Of the three TEs, including Pascoe and Beckum, Ballard is the best blocker. He can move and catch the ball just well enough to be a threat and not completely telegraph that the Giants are going to run the ball every down that he is on the field. And, of course, when they do run the ball, he is the best blocker. This is a bit of a surprise, since Pascoe and Beckum were both on the roster last year while Ballard was a practice team player. Still, I think the Giants should shift their offense slightly and run the ball a bit more, which argues even a more for Ballard to get playing time. What I saw out of Beckum in the preseason was a player who, though slight of stature, improved his run blocking quite a bit. He'll never be Mark Bavaro and blow away a DE at the line of scrimmage, but he can hold his own. I just hope that run blocking from the TE and FB position does not become a major thorn all year in the side of the Giants running game. Beckum has to pick up his route running and pass catching and be a threat at what he is supposed to be expert in. Look at the TE position in the game last night - two TEs on the Packers and Saints that were real down field threats. Why keep the TE to block on passing downs, when if you send him out in a pass pattern, someone on the derfense has to follow him and not blitz. Seems like the same benefit to me - especially for the TE who lines up close to the QB, releases quickly and is often a very good hot read for the QB in  case the defense does blitz.

Back to the OL for a minute - there was a conference call conducted by the Giants for their season ticket holders on Thursday afternoon. Bob Papa hosted Justin Tuck and then Carl banks for 30 minutes each. When someone asked Tuck who the most improved Giants were, he said without hesitation Will Beatty. Right after that he said JPP and Linval Joseph also were primed to have a big season. Let's hope he's right.

The Giants strength is at the line of scrimmage and they are a little thin at skill positions, on offense because of FAs leaving and on defense because of injury. But if the OL comes together as it looks like it might and the DL becomes a strength with the emergence of JPP and Linval Joseph, the Giants have a chance to be in the mix and have a good season. With the strength of the team in the trenches, this says to me that the Giants should rely on that strength and build game plans around that. To me that means that they should run the ball a little more, be a little more conservative on offense to cut down the turnovers and put the game in the hands of their defense.

To add to that, Jacobs looks primed to have a good season and Bradshaw is ready to go as well. The addition of Da'rel Scott as a home run threat out of the backfield may make the running game the strongest part of the team. This also means that Jacobs should carry the ball a little more often than he did last year to wear down the defense. I am not saying we should become the 1990 Giants, just a slight shift towards the run. Last year the Giants passed the ball about 53%. I am not suggesting a radical shift, maybe 48% or just a little closer to 50-50.

The biggest determinant of the Giants season probably comes down to Eli having a good year. If Eli had thrown 1/2 the interceptions last year that he did, Giants would have won 2 or 3 more games. The Titans loss early in the year was all on Eli and the home Cowboys game was turned on the 97 yard pick-6 on the play where Nicks cut off his route at the goal line. That Cowboys game, in retrospect, was the beginning of the Giants second half demise, even though everyone remembers that Eagles game as the crusher.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Another day and another injury to a starting defensive player on the Giants. Goff was starting to play better at MLB and looked comfortable back there. He was very solid on stopping the run and this year in the preseason, we actually saw him get his hands on a pass and knock it down. That might have been the first time it happened in about 5 years. I really liked the 4 rookie LBs the Giants signed as substitutes behind the starters because they had great speed, energy and football IQ. I guess we'll see if they can play now. Giants will probably sign a veteran to hold down the fort and play more 3-safety looks to compensate for this.

Almost as important as the actual loss of Goff's on the field contributions might be the deflating morale and dispiriting nature of all the injuries. On the performance side, the Giants have now lost 8 defensive players that were either starters or prominent players that were penciled in to be in the regular defensive rotation. The list is: Terrel Thomas, Bruce Johnson, Amukamara and Witherspoon at CB, Marvin Austin and Osi at DL, Sintim and now Goff at LB. Osi and Amukamara will come back relatively soon, but that is still a lot of talent to take off the field. From the team spirit point of view, at what point do the Giants players start thinking to themselves that with all these injuries, their season is washed out and they may not play as hard.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Giants 53 man roster announced

If you're looking for an overall theme of the 2011 Giants roster, I can sum it up in one word - speed. Let me explain:

New wave of LBs
There were quite a few surprises for these final cuts and a significant rebuild of the Giants roster. Most interesting to me was the total rebuild of the LB crew. Last year's relatively high draft choice, Dillard as well as Adrian Tracy have been cut from that group and the Giants added four young, athletic fast LBs this year. Clint Sintim, also part of last year's LB unit has been put on IR, and with Kiwanuka joining the LBs there are essentially five new LBs. Frankly, I love it - Dillard and Tracy did not show much and the four new ones added: Williams, Jones, Paysinger and Herzlich are all really fast and good ST players. In this group alone, the Giants have greatly improved their team speed. It's a real feel good story that Herzich made the team. I am really pleased that he did, because aside from the emotional aspect, he is a real good football player. Presumably by next year, he will have regained his full strength following his bout with cancer and if he does, he will be a starter in the NFL for a long time.

Surprise at the RB position
The RB position was also a crowded one. Andre Brown looked so good, I thought he would be a lock to make the roster. But the Giants carried 9 OL-men, where often they will carry only 8 and this gave them room for one less player in some unit somewhere. It looked to me like Brown was the casualty. I would not have been surprised if the Giants kept Brown and tried to trade DJ Ware. But - the Giants like Ware a lot, mostly because of his smooth style and speed. Da'rel Scott, who I said in the last post, just has to make the roster, that he just looks like a football player, in fact beat out Brown. While I liked Brown and was rooting for him, I am sorry to see him go, but am really pleased that Scott made the team. Once again, the Giants have improved the overall team speed and athleticism with this move. Da'rel Scott is an absolute burner. I don't know if he can catch the ball for KO returns, but they just have to get him on the field. He's a threat to break one all the way every time he touches the ball. My opinion is that he is this year's Ahmad Bradshaw.

The Giants decided to go with Steve Weatherford and I am a little disappointed with that move. Weatherford is a solid punter, but he has been in the league for 7 years now and he is what he is. He will never get any better than he is right now. Dodge, on the other hand has a cannon for a leg, has a huge upside and, if he marshalls and controls his talent will be a pro bowl punter in the NFL someday. Weatherford will make fewer mistakes and will probably nestle a few more kicks out of bounds inside the 20 than Dodge would. But if the Giants are backed up at their goal line and need a big kick to gain back some field position, Dodge will be 10 or 15 yards longer than Weatherford.

Carr at QB
At QB the Giants IR'ed Rosenfels, which is a real classy move on their part as opposed to releasing him, because it means he gets paid. But the move at QB, keeping Carr instead of Rosenfels had an affect on the decision at punter. Rosenfels and Weatherford are the two best (only?) holders for place kicks on the team. Since they were going with Carr and not Rosenfels, that argues strongly for keeping Weatherford as holder. You tend to get a lot of fumbled snaps and preciously few made FGs if you don't have a holder. (jk)

Mild surprises were Micahel Coe and Derrick Martin in the DB-field. Both played mediocre at first and improved through the preseason schedule. Veteran Brian Williams also made the team. Coe and Martin were a little unpolished, but both have real good speed. They stepped up and played well in the Patriots game.


The Giants also completely rebuilt this unit, carrying 6 WRs and adding four players that were not fixtures on last year's roster. Hixon and Cruz were on the team in 2010 but were IR'ed. Devin Thomas was on the team, but only for a few games towards the end of the year and Jernigan is this year's 3rd round draft choice. It looks to me like the Giants added speed at this position too, compared to last year when Michael Clayton, Duke Calhoun and a few other slower WRs were on the team. The question to answer is what to do when Ramses Barden recovers and is ready to come off the PUP list in week 7. The obvious move is to see which WR is least productive and cut him in favor of Barden. My prediction, however is something different. Because Amukamara will be back and active by then, if he looks like he is playing well, Giants could cut one of the CBs, either Michael Coe or Brian Williams and carry 7 WRs instead of 6. It's unlikely that either of these DBs would be picked up by someone else, so the Giants would be able to call them back in case of injury later in the year.

TE and FB
Hynoski and Pascoe both made the roster as FB's, though Pascoe can also play TE. Pascoe has looked awful blocking at the point of attack at TE and Hynoski has been no better than mediocre at FB. I would not at all be surprised if the Giants pick up a TE and/or FB from the training camp cuts of other teams in the next few days.

If you have been reading my blog religiously, you will have seen that I predicted that Dillard was on the bubble and that the young LBs all looked really good to me. I also predicted that Da'rel Scott looked so good that the Giants just had to find a roster spot for him. For all things Giants- keep following.

One other item of interest - Sinorice Moss was cut by the Eagles. To me, he is a perfect fit for this Giants roster, giving them a pure burner on the outside. They may have cut him because they expected Steve Smith to return, but I would give Moss some consideration. In all honesty, I should add that I always liked him and thought the coaching staff misused him.

Final note - 3 players from the 2010 draft class - Dodge, Dillard and Tracy have been cut, making 2010 a weak performance by the front office.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Patriots game

This was Giants substitutes all the way, so you're not going to take much from this game about the prospects of the team for the regular season, but we can look at some interesting points.

The log jam at RB and LB is very interesting and some good prospects/athletes may not make the team. Da'rel Scott just looks like a football player to me. He has speed, decent size, balance, vision and a knowledge of how to use angles and running lanes to get the most out of every run. Even on that fake punt he ran in the game last night for a TD - he blew past the WR waiting to return the punt like the guy was standing still. It was partly his great speed and partly the angle he took running away from the WR. Same thing on his 97 yard TD run against the Bears - he showed great balance by not falling down when first hit in the backfield, a good change of direction to find the hole and (here's the part I like the best) when he got into the open field, rather than getting caught from behind in the foot race part of the run, he actually opened up the gap between him and the S, who are usually the fastest guys on the team.

Andre Brown looked very good last night also and is more of a power runner with some speed. If the Giants carry 5 RBs, than after Bradshaw and Jacobs, Da'rel Scott and Andre Brown will both make the team. It will be a shame if one of them has to get cut. IT would be interesting (bold/risky) to keep both and cut DJ Ware, depending on the numbers elsewhere on the roster.

At LB, the Giants seem to have a lot of good young athletes and here too, there are tough decisions to be made. Behind starters Goff, Kiwanuka and Bolley, there are tough decisions to be made. Greg Jones drafted this year looks athletic as does Paysinger and Jacquian Williams. Adrian Tracy is on the bubble as is Herzlich. Dillard, drafted last year has not looked great and he may be on the bubble also.

The DT situation is also hard to read. After the starters, I thought they all played well last night when they got their chance against the Patriots and it will be a numbers game there. The DTs may get squeezed because they can't play ST and you don't carry extra players there.

I think the Giants will keep Matt Dodge as the punter, even though that means they have to find another holder for the kicker.  He kicked a little better than Weatherford in the last game and he made one play that will give the Giants confidence that the game has slowed down for him. On one punt in the 4th qtr, the snap was bad and was sailing over his head. He jumped as high as he could and with outstretched arms, caught the ball, calmly landed and got a solid punt away. His directional kicking seems to be better than it was last year and he still has a huge leg.

The WR position is really difficult as well. Reynaud and Watkins will be cut but after that it really depends on how many WR the Giants keep. I keep saying that, but the decisions made for one unit has impact on others. At WR, after starters Nicks and Manningham, Giants should keep Hixon, Thomas and Jernigan. Cruz will probably make the team, but he hasn't showed me enough and I would put both him and Micahel Clayton on the bubble.

TE is another tough call along with the FB position. Ballard and Beckum make the team, but Hynoski and Pascoe both have had weak camps. You could keep them both because Pascor can play both TE and FB, but I would not at all be surprised if the Giants pick up a TE or FB that gets cut from another team.

I didn't see enough of the backup CBs to make an intelligent judgment. Coe played reasonably well as did Williams, the recent signee. With Rolle slated to play some CB in the slot, at least until Amukamara comes back, Giants may carry one less CB.

The Giants have a lot of good athletes, but do they have enough stars and play makers on offense to be mroe than an average team?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Competition for jobs

Ramses Barden was placed on PUP list, meaning he's on the shelf for at least the first 6 games.

Adam Koets was also PUP'ed.

I sure hope Herzlich makes the team - he's a potential starting LB. Giants seem to have some good young talent at LB. Dillard, last year's 4th round pick may get cut. The Giants seem high on Greg Jones from MSU and Paysinger is getting a long look at LB. He's an undrafted RFA and seems like a 'tweener - doesn't look big enough to play LB and a little too slow for S. When Kiwanuka went down with (minor) groin tweak against the Jets, Sintim came in and actually played well.

Life in the NFL is so tenuous. Cruz was being pumped up and primed for the 3rd WR on the team and was given the important job of gunner on punt coverage. But if he doesn't show a little more capability, a little more productivity, not only might he lose the 3rd WR spot, he might not even make the team.

My guess is that Carr makes it as backup QB.

Hynoski was the only true FB on the roster and so seemed a lock to make the team. But he has been really mediocre in preseason, at least in my view. He's big and rugged, but seems to be slow to get to the holes and lead the runner. Seems like opposing LBs are beating him to the spot and even if he engages the LB, he is doing so in the Giants backfield, instead of running downhill and hitting them on the other side of the line of scrimmage. It's really important for the FB to get out there in good shape, because he is often blocking right at the point of attack. He hasn't really shown enough to take Pascoe's job.

The RB situation is confusing - how many do you carry? Do you keep five? After Jacobs and Bradshaw, there are Da'rel Scott, Andre Brown and DJ Ware. While Ware seems to be next on the depth chart, he also could garner more in a trade. If they think that one of the other two are close to being productive, Ware may get traded. Otherwise, I see Scott as making the practice squad, but all three seem to be on the bubble and are all competing for spots.

Jernigan has not shown much, but as a 3rd round pick, he will not get cut. Giants had hopes that he would be a threat, a weapon to spice up the offense, but he hasn't shown much.

Manningham has a ton of talent but has to be more productive, a better play maker and more of a deep threat. I am not saying he is in danger of losing his job, but he will not be a long term pro unless he improves.

At DT, it's hard to read who the backups will be. I was hopeful that Marvin Austin would be a player, but we will have to wait until next year to see what he's got. Joseph looks like an absolute stud to me. He's huge and very quick. Canty also looks great. The substitutes behind them - Bernard, Kennedy or whomever. Doesn't matter that much because the Giants cycle their DEs into DT in pass rush situations. The depth at DE is more important, where Giants are pretty deep.

Ballard has looked better at TE than I thought he would. Coats hardly played against the Jets. Beckum has to be a threat at TE. He finally needs to step up.

Jets game review

We need Eli to play better, no excuses allowed. He threw 2 INTs and did not get the team into the end zone. That's not good, but I think we need to look at the big picture and put a slightly more positive spin on things. The glass-half-full perspective is that:
  • Giants moved the ball effectively up and down the field, both passing and running against what was a top 10 defense last year and is purported to be a top defense in the NFL this year.
  • The OL played extremely well, occasionally missing an assignment here or there and missing a blitz pickup, but overall providing good protection for Eli and doing a nice job run-blocking.
  • Beatty was particularly good, Diehl looked good pulling in front of running plays.
  • Jacobs looked very good - lean and still very powerful.
  • Hynoski at FB finally played a little better, getting into the defenders downfield, rather than getting beaten to the hole by attacking LBs.
  • Overall, the Giants offense was pitiful in the first game against Carolina, was a little better in the second game against Chicago and was still better against the Jets.

Of course, this is the good news. The bad news is that the Giants did not finish these drives and did not get into the end zone. I remain uncertain about what's going on with the WRs and the passing routes. There are simply no easy throws for Eli to make. Every NFL offense has a few throws a game where a WR is wide open somewhere and it becomes an easy picth and catch for a nice gain. I reviewed the game again today and of the 30 throws that Eli made, there were none in that category. Every throw was into a tight or moderately tight window and had to be timed perfectly. Even the one throw he made to Bradshaw which went for a 20 yard gain, had to be timed just right because of the LB coming up to tackle him. I am not exaggerating when I said no easy throws. I didn't mean almost no easy throws, or virtually no easy throws. I meant absolutely none. There was  great catch by Nicks when he was held by Cromartie (it would have been 'and-one' if it was a basketball game), there was another great catch when he was hammered right after he caught the ball. There was the beautiful back shoulder fade to Manningham which had to be thrown absolutely perfectly to be complete. These were nice plays, but they had to be perfectly executed and needed great hands by the WR because there was not sufficient separation to make them easier plays. If this is the case, when the timing is a little off and the OL is still coming together, it can lead to diminished performance and inability to finish drives.

The hope is that as things come together and the WRs get used to their new roles, the offense will get a little sharper. But the question is - why is this happening? Is it because the WRs have to be very controlled in the Gilbride offense,so precise in their routes that they end up being slightly mechanical and can't use their natural taletns to get open?

Or.... is it just that the Giants lack some speed on the outside and the opposing DB-field can press the Giants WRs without fear of being burned deep. I love Nicks and Manningham, but they are not real speed burners. Victor Cruz is coming along and may have some upside, but he also is more of a slot receiver and not a deep outside threat.  I would look real hard at playing Hixon as the third WR or even getting Devin Thomas some playing time, because of their flat out speed. It could be important in opening up the field. While Boss was not a great TE, he did run decent seam routes which attracted defensive attention in the middle of the field. The current Giants offense has to find someone to do this.

Travis Beckum has to run his routes with more conviction and get open, making himself a real target. He's not going to do it with great size, so he has to use his speed. Eli threw him a perfect pass down near the goal line, but he had not gotten enough separation from the defender, who knocked the ball away. Parenthetically - this was an obvious PI penalty that was not called, because the S hit Beckum a full stride before the ball arrived, but Beckum should have run a better route to get open. (BTW - Manningham was also held on the fade that they tried to run at the goal line; I guess it's preseason for the refs also.)

Beckum was also responsible for the first INT, not Eli. Beckum ran the wrong route too close to the intended receiver. It caused the WR to cut his route short to avoid colliding with Beckum and brought the S into the intended area for the pass. I won't be surprised if the Giants pick up a pass catching TE from some of the training camp cuts from other teams.

In the first half, Eli threw a seam route over Cruz's head and it looked like a bad, high throw from Eli. But a second look at the play showed that Cruz did not runa  seam route straight up the field, which is where Eli threw the ball. Instead, Cruz angled his route and ran a post pattern. I hope the WRs get on the same page.


The defense looked very good. Aaron Ross had another great game and looks like he is playing with fire and spirit. The DL also looked good, shutting down for the most part the Jets pound and ground game and getting decent pressure in the pass rush with almost no blitzing. I also thought Sintim played well at LB.

Before we get too excited about the Giants defense, remeber that they were playing a Jets offense that is not that strong. The Jets defense is very strong but the offense does not have a great track record.

Special teams need work. Hixon should be the permanent punt and KO retunrn man, because you can't afford that many muffed  catches of kicks.