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.