Friday, October 28, 2011

Eagles-Cowboys Addendum: Go Iggles !

Another reason Giants should be rooting for the Eagles to beat the Cowboys:

As difficult as the Giants schedule is for the last 9 games of the season, the Cowboys schedule is ridiculously easy. Giants had all their softer opponents in the first half and the Cowboys have most of their weaker opponents in the second half. Specifically, Cowboys schedule after the Eagles game is: Seattle and Buffalo at home, followed by the Redskins on the road, Miami at home and back on the road in Arizona. They could win all 5 of those games and almost surely will win 4. The Cowboys have already played the hardest teams on their schedule: Patriots, Jets, 49ers and Lions. Their last 4 games of the season has the Giants twice sandwiched around games against the Buccaneers and Eagles.

My point with all of this is that, excluding the 4 division games the Cowboys have left against the Eagles and Giants, they should win a minimum of 5 out of 6 of the other games. That would put them in prime position to win the division.

By contrast, the Eagles have at least some difficult games remaining on their schedule: Bears, Jets and Patriots. So even though they also have the same weak opponents left from the NFC West: Seattle and Arizona, unless I am grossly underrating them, I don't expect them to win more than 5 of their other 9 games. That would give them around 8 or 9 wins and would not be enough to win the division.

Cowboys are better, have an easier schedule, have not played the Giants yet while the Eagles have already lost their home game against the Giants. Therefore the Cowboys constitute a much bigger threat to the Giants chances of winning the division. We want the Eagles to win this Sunday.

Herzlich on 60 Minutes

I don't want to make it seem like I am a shill advertising for 60 Minutes, but there will be a segment this Sunday night, October 30th, on Giants LB Herzlich. It will focus on his battle against cancer and his successful fight to make it in the NFL.Teaser below from

HerzlichSegment On 60Minutes

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Expectations of the Miami game

I realize that we barely discussed the Dolphins game. I can't say I know their team intimately, though I did scout them a bit when they played the Jets a few weeks ago. In that game the Dolphins showed absolutely no pass rush against what was (at the time, at least) a questionable Jets OL. Dolphins have a few decent players in their DB-field, including former Giants player Will Allen, and their LBs seemed quick. But if the Giants OL can provide protection against a suspect DL, Giants should be able to move the ball with their passing game. Dolphins will roll their coverage towards Nicks and pay attention to Manningham, as they seem to play a lot of cover-2. If so, I look for Cruz and Ballard to make some plays. Maybe Barden gets activated and gets in on the action also. We would also like to see some progress in the Giants running game. 

On offense, the Dolphins have two dangerous skill position players in Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush. QB Matt Moore toasted the Giants while with the Panthers in the final game of the 2009 season that closed out the old Giants Stadium, but it was probably the only good game he has played in the pros as QB. Giants need to show something on defense Sunday also.

It's funny how one win against a good team, the Bills one week before the bye, changes the feelings and the evaluation of the team. It was a solid team win and the overall feeling is that the Giants crossed the threshold from being just a motley, uncoordinated collection of players into being a real team that week. We'll see if that was just an illusion or if there is some substance to this team. Giants need to win and look good doing it Sunday to continue building their confidence as a team. This game, against a team they should beat, is one they just can't let get away, like they did the Seattle game.

Jacobs, Amukamara, LBs

Brandon Jacobs interview with Men's Health, a fitness magazine came out this week apparently indicating that he did not expect to be with the Giants come next year. Generally when players make comments like these, they are trying to get some attention and get the coaches and the front office to reaffirm that they really are part of their future plans. It is a call to get their egos stroked and usually they are way off base. In this case, I think Jacobs is probably correct. Giants spent a lot of money on Bradshaw and they probably feel he is on the verge of becoming a star, if he has not already become one. Add to that Jacobs apparent propensity to getting hurt and the salary cap considerations and you see why he might be expendable. Under Jacobs restructured deal, his salary next year would $4.4M, with a 500K roster bonus due in March for a total of $4.9M, which is the amount that would be shaved off the salary cap if he is cut. Giants would still be charged the 1/4 remainder of his guaranteed money under his original four year deal which was reported to be $13M, though that might have changed also under the restructure. Nevertheless, Jacobs is secondary in the running game and even if his carries increase somewhat, it just does not make sense to invest so much money in the RB position. Giants should give some carries to Da'rel Scott and see what they have with him. They should trade or cut Jacobs after the year and replace him next year with a short yardage back that is a little more flexible and cheaper than BJ. Andre Brown would suit me just fine.

Giants coaches were all pumped up because Amukamara actually made some good defensive plays in practice. I can't remember a time when the progress of a rookie DB appeared as if it would have such a big affect on the prospects of the team. I have been posting this for a while now and the media finally picked up on it. Amukamara contributing at a decent level would permit the Giants to slide Rolle back to his S position and not have to play the nickel CB when the opposing offense uses three or four WRs. This would also allow Grant to spend more time on the bench instead of being one of the 2 primary safeties in these nickel or dime defensive packages.

It is interesting how much of the league is going to these spread offenses and the quick 3 step drops to mitigate the big pass rush. CBs will then edge ahead of pass rushing DEs in importance to the defense. They may already be more important, but this might emphasize the change. It also probably means that LBs will become more important again, though the style in which they will have to play will change. The big bruising, run stopping LBs will be less important than quick, fast LBs that can actually cover a TE or RB coming out on these short routes. They will also have to take good drops in zone coverage and bother, if not actually defend some slot receivers. In this regard, Giants are well equipped at LB with speedy young LBs J Williams and Greg Jones. Herzlich is also a very atheltic LB and Boley, finally healthy this year has shown very good speed.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cowboys-Eagles game

Whom do Giants fans root for in the Cowboys - Eagles game this Sunday? Eagles were the preseason favorites to win the division in a cake walk. Cowboys were supposed to be exposed as a team with a weak OL, a terrible secondary and wallow near the bottom of the division. Now, the roles seem to be reversed. Eagles are the team that have been exposed with some serious structural flaws: weak LBs, weak play at the S position, poor OL play and some very questionable coaching decisions and strategies, especially on the defensive side of the ball. By contrast, the Cowboys young OL seems to be gelling and their defense seems to be more formidable than anticipated in large measure, no doubt, because of the Ryan family coaching touch.

If the Eagles lose, they fall to 2-5 and are probably done. But the Cowboys would rise to 4-3, only one game behind the Giants, and possessing the more complete team, would be a real threat to take the division. On the other hand, if the Eagles win, the Eagles and Cowboys would both be 3-4, two games behind the Giants, and with the Giants already holding a road win against them, would not be as much of a threat in the division.

Even though it is tempting to root for the Cowboys and completely take the Eagles out, I can't do it. Go Eagles!

Looking Ahead to the 'Fins

I am going with the Coughlin company line: Respect everyone. Fear no one. To build up the Dolphins, I guess you would have to look at their last two weeks and say: (1) they were ahead of the Broncos on the road 15-0 with 4 minutes left in the game,  and (2) against the Jets, they were ahead in the first quarter and played good defense against them, until the second half. Wow, I even feel like a coach now. Best thing to say to motivate the Giants is: remember the Seahawks.

Best line I read from a sports writer about this week's game was this: With the new collective bargaining agreement, players are required to get four days off during their bye week. This year, with that rule in place, players have a vacation, travel back to their home and stop paying attention to football. As such, the record of teams coming off the bye this year is 3-9. (Now here's the line I like:) As such, it was real nice of the NFL to schedule the Giants game after their bye against a high school team so they would have a good chance of winning while easing back into the NFL routine.

I was surprised to hear bye-week comments from Gilbride taking Cruz to task. He didn't say much about the plays he has made and the good things he has done, but spoke mostly of his inconsistency, his taking 1 1/2 steps back after he takes two steps forward. Not exactly a motivational uplift for Cruz.

Gilbride, as is everyone on the Giants, is absolutely glowing about the contribution by Jake Ballard. Giants are being honest and not saying that they knew he had it all along, rather saying that he has been a big and pleasant surprise. He is not as fast as Boss, but runs great routes, has a high football IQ, can make YAC yards and NEVER drops a ball. Boss had quite a few drops, despite his productivity. Rumors out of Oakland are that Boss has suffered another concussion.

Speaking of Boss and FA losses by the Giants, anybody still wringing their hands and regretting the loss of Steve Smith? He has 5 catches for 63 yards over the first 6 games. He looks done. Maybe he will come back strong eventually, but it certainly does not look like it's going to be this year. I think Eagles signed Smith more to put a bee in Giants bonnet and create some turmoil and dissension than they did because they thought he could be productive in their offense. 

The Giants are not a great team, let's be realistic about that. The defense is in the bottom half of the league and the offense can't run the ball. But I will say this: the Giants have the ingredients, the raw materials to grow and get better as the year goes along. The pass rush is second to none. The DL is strong enough to stop the run. The QB is at the top of his game and he has some dangerous receivers to throw to. The weaknesses on the team: lack of depth at CB, missed assignments by the OL, inexperienced LBs are all  things that can be worked on and can get better as the season goes along. Looking down the barrel of a very rough second half schedule, you might say that the NFL schedule maker did the Giants no favors this year. However, with so many changes and the likelihood that the young players and position shifts would require some time to settle in, perhaps it was good that the Giants soft part of the schedule was the first half of the year.

But the statistics don't lie, the schedule is brutal in the second half. Right now,the cumulative record of the teams the Giants will have played through week 8 (including upcoming game against Miami) is 12-30. By contrast the cumulative record of the teams the Giants will be playing over the last 9 games of the year stands now at 34-17. Yikes.

To make the playoffs, in my opinion, Giants need to beat Miami this week, then have to win 3 out of 4 of their remaining division games. That would get them to 8 wins. Of the remaining 5 games, against the Packers (home), Patriots (road), Saints (road), 49ers (road)  and Jets (road, sort of), Giants would have to win 2 of those games to get to 10 wins. That total would give them a decent chance of making the playoffs. If they can't win 2 out of those 5 games against playoff teams, I don't want them to make the playoffs anyway, because those are the teams they would be playing in the playoffs. Nobody wants to see the Giants squeeze into the playoffs on some tiebreaker and get spanked in the first round.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bye week assessment and musings

It's hard to judge where the Giants are after these first 6 games. There were two awful losses against the Redskins and Seahawks and some very unimpressive wins against the Rams and Cardinals, especially in consideration of these opponent's performance in their other games, where we see the Cardinals and Rams struggling on offense against other teams. The victory against the Eagles could also be considered somewhat tainted, as they have a 2-4 record. Really the only good win against a good team was week 6 against the Bills, but that is not much to rely on to predict a good season. The loss against the Seahawks was really awful - they scored 36 points (7 on defense) and accumulated 420+ yards on offense - way better than their numbers in every other game this year. So who are the Giants? The team that had great 4th quarter wins against the Eagles and Bills? Or the team that looked awful against one of the worst teams in football?

Amukamara coming back to practice is a big plus - the Giants need to play a blend of zone and man coverages and can not do it unless they have the personnel to do so. Amukamara's presence allows the Giants to slide Rolle back to his natural S position and give less playing time to Grant and Tryon. Looks like the Giants are as healthy as they have been in a while, with Tuck, Snee, Hynoski and Jacobs all returning to practice.

Ballard has been a real find, catching the ball well. If Ballard, Hynoski and Pascoe pick up their blocking, Giants could have a very balanced offense the rest of the year.

Phillip Rivers is considered an elite QB by the NFL experts, but I would take Eli every time. He looked really lame in the second half against the Jets this week. He probably has better career numbers than Eli, but: (1) he has had betyter weapons than Eli over the years, (2) the weather in San Diego doesn't compare to the winds that Eli has to put up with in the Meadowlands every winter and (3) the NFC East is always tough while Rivers can pad his stats against the awful AFC West.

My hope for the second half of the season is that LB Herzlich and RB Da'rel Scott get some playing time and make a contribution. Jacquian Williams has gotten much more playing time than anyone anticpated. THis is partly because he has played fairly well and partly because he has good speed and teams have been playing a lot of 3 WR formations against the Giants defense. Herzlich has been active every game but has not seen the field in the base defense, playing only on ST.

Revis is the best CB I have ever seen and probably the best defensive player in the league. Giants wanted to draft him, but the Jets traded up to get him. Giants ended up with Aaron Ross, who is playing better this year than he has in a few years.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

More stuff on Bills game

Kevin Boothe had a decent game against the Bills and the OL pass blocking was really good. Overall the OL was still a little iffy on run blocking, though there is definite improvement. On that winning 4th quarter FG drive, the run blocking was really good. On Bradshaw's first run of 11 yards, the right side of the OL was really good at blocking the man in front of them and Pascoe got out into the hole to push the LB about 3 yards back. Bradshaw hit the hole quickly right behind Pascoe and made a really nice gain. It just proves the point I have been making tirelessly on this blog that the problem with the running game is more with the blocking from the TE and FB position than it is with the OL. When the Giants get a good block from the TE, they make a good gain.

Right after Webster's first INT, Giants had a 3rd and 2 on about the Bills 40. From the shotgun, Eli pitched it to Ware on a little toss and he made the first down. (Next play was the almost-TD to Manningham). On that first down run behind Beatty and Diehl to the left side of the OL, the blocking from the OL was almost perfect, except for Boothe. Beatty drove his man to the outside while Diehl and Baas sealed the DTs well to the inside. The Bills had only a LB in the middle and DBs on the play side of the field. Boothe's assignment was to fire out from his RG position and block the MLB. He got to him in great shape, had good position because he was inside of him, i.e. between the LB and the intended running lane, so all he had to was get in his way to seal him from filling the hole. He didn't make the block. He kind of stood there watching him and the MLB ran right past him towards the hole, tackling Ware. Giants made the first down anyway, but the play was wide open and if Boothe had made the block, Giants could have gained 10 or 15 on that play; maybe more if Ware had been able to make someone in the secondary miss.

Boothe was also the culprit who missed the block at the goal line when Giants had 2nd and 1 at the end of the game. After Boothe missed the block, Bradshaw was dropped for a 4 yard loss.  Overall, the run blocking is improving and if the OL continues to improve, Giants will have a good offensive team this year.

I have to give Gilbride credit for reshaping, if not totally remaking the Giants offense. There are very few comeback routes, except for Cruuuuuz. Giants are throwing to Manningham and Nicks on the move, which plays to their strength and gives them more opportunity to slip a tackle and make some YAC yards. The run game has a little more deception in it, with Giants using some counters and fooling the defense with blocks that influence them to go to the wrong side of the field.

It also looks like the opponents are starting to respect the Giants passing game, if last Sunday is any indication. Bills rarely had an extra safety dropped down to the line of scrimmage. They stayed mostly conventional with 7 at the line of scrimmage. This gives the running game a better chance. I guess you could say that they respected the passing game, or perhaps they were not afraid of Giants running game.

Bradshaw has really improved his blitz pickup. He was never really bad at it, but he has become really excellent recently, with a few great blocks on Sunday against the Bills.

I have been crowing about the young LBs. While they are really talented, fast and will be good players in the future, Williams made a couple of bad plays on Sunday - mental errors showing his inexperience that hurt the team. On Jackson's 80 yard run, he closed to the wrong hole and allowed a gaping hole in the middle. It's true that the interior of the Bills OL made a crease between the Giants two DT's but Williams should have held it to a respectable 5-10 yard run instead of letting it go the distance. I want to Herzlich get on the field. Aside from the bringing the feel good story full circle, it would really benefit the Giants on the field. They could use Kiwanuka more at his natural position of DE. With Tuck injured and Osi still gaining strength from his knee surgery, bolstering further a position of strength is not a bad thing. Osi may be a better pass rusher than Kiwanuka, but Kiwanuka is much better against the run and knows how to get to the QB also. Go Herzlich.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bills game review

Nice win against a good Bills team. Bills offense is particularly well suited to go against the Giants, which made it tough. Bills offense is all short throws off 3-step drops, which doesn't allow the Giants defense to go to their strength, which is their pass rush. It seemed like whenever Fitzpatrick did try to hold the ball a little longer and look for a slightly longer throw, the Giants pass rush put good pressure on him. I particularly liked the sack that took them out of FG range. The only two really deep throws that Fitzpatrick attempted were both picked off by the Webster.

Giants defense is not as bad as it sometimes looks. They are forced into playing much more zone than they prefer and being very predictable on defense, largely because the defense has only two legitimate CBs in Ross and Webster. Remember of course that Terrel Thomas, Bruce Johnson and promising rookie Witherspoon are gone for the season and Amukamara has not stepped onto the field yet. Giants are forced into using Rolle as the nickel back and while he is doing a good job, he is simply not a natural cover DB. If you play too much zone, and if the pass rush can't get home, you are exposed. As stupid as it sounds, improvement in the Giants defense may depend on how fast Amukamara recovers and develops. If he is as good as advertised and can contribute significantly down the stretch, it could make the defense much better. If Giants play a predictable zone against the Patriots, Brady will carve it up.

The 3-safety look was a nice gimmick last year, but teams are getting used to it and burning it with running game, especially because Grant seems to have lost a step from last year and is not playing well. On Bills long TD run in first half, RB Jackson lined up as WR, forcing the Giants to spread their defense. Then pre-snap, Jackson shifted into the backfield, and while Phillips slid over also from his S position, the 7 defenders the Giants had in the box included S Phillips and light-ish LB Jacquian Williams. The middle of the Bills OL made a little crease, Phillips didn't fill the hole well, Grant missed a tackle and just like that Jackson was gone for 80.

Eli had one of his best days throwing the ball. Every pass was perfect and his reading of the defense was excellent. The OL did a very nice job pass blocking and was decent in the running game. Boothe did a good job filling in for Snee, but he missed blocks on two running plays, that if he had made them, would have gone for big yards. More on that in future posts.

Ballard is a real find at TE. He's not fast as Boss was, but he catches everything, runs very precise routes and knows how to find the dead seams in the zone. He uses his big body well to shield the ball from smaller DBs. If his blocking improves, he will be very productive.

The main problem with the running game remains the poor blocking from the TE and FB position. Pascoe got called for two holding penalties this week. Ballard was a little better.

Anatomy of the winning run: the 30 yard run by Bradshaw that set up the winning FG by Tynes, was an excellent call and perfect execution. Giants OL all pushed out to the right influencing the Bills defense to flow to that side. Pascoe also ran to the right, apparently leading a run to that side of the field. On the left side of the offense, the Bills DE rushed up field and Ballard easily got in front of him and prevented him from making a play. Manningham was the WR on the left and he made a crushing block on the DB, pushing him 10 yards across the field away from the play. Bradshaw took one step to the right, continuing the deception and then ran a counter back to the left where there was only one defender in his way. He juked him, made him miss and he was gone for 30. Great call and perfect execution.

Giants are starting to get close in getting their running game going. OL needs to continue to improve, get the defense a little better and we can be a little optimistic about this season.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A view of the Cowboys

I know this is a Giants blog, but other teams in the NFC East are fair game. I am not going to write a long piece on the Cowboys, but will say that I watched a replay of last Sunday's Lions-Cowboys game on the NFL Network and came out with a much different impression than most of the NFL analysts did. Most of them came out praising the Lions as the real deal for pulling out a game on the road in which they trailed badly. They also seriously denigrated the Cowboys as a playoff pretender rather than contender and especially deprecated QB Romo as a choke who turns the ball over in crunch time and can't make plays. Even Redskins TE Chris Cooley got into the act laughing at and criticizing Romo as a loser and choke artist. Here's a quote from his interview on a Washington sports talk radio program:

“I was watching the scoreboard in St. Louis, and I didn’t see that they’d lost really until they end, I thought they blew them out so I kind of stopped paying attention. It’s amazing, amazing to watch him choke like that. I’m just saying, I’m up 24 points in the third quarter, if I’m the head coach, I feel like I could probably just take a knee for the rest of the game, punt it away and there’s no way that Detroit’s gonna drive on you that many times. The only way you’re gonna give up that many points is turnovers, right? It’s hilarious to watch him throw pick sixes, too, back-to-back. I loved it.”

I look at it somewhat differently. Lions were getting pasted by the Cowboys, down 27-3. It's true that Romo then threw three INTs, two returned for TDs and the third leading to a TD by the Lions offense on a short field. But the Cowboys offense was rolling and put up 27 points in a little more than a half against a team that is considered near the top of the conference. I had thought that the Cowboys OL was weak and would undermine their offensive weapons. But the OL was able to block the Lions strong DL and give Romo time to make plays, even witha somewhat slowed Dex Bryant and with Miles Austin missing.. Romo played very well in getting the Cowboys the lead. If you want to make this a referendum on whether Romo will ever be a Super Bowl capable QB, it's a valid question to consider. However, it is undeniable that the Cowboys have enough talent to put up lots of points and their OL may not be the liability that I thought it might be. Without trying to be a Cowboy apologist or one who rationalizes their failures, you can look at the game from the 30,000 foot view and have a different perspective. If you consider all of the offensive plays by the Cowboys, they had many more successful plays than failures. I certainly agree that you can't just eliminate the three turnovers and say "if they hadn't turned it over they would have won". But it certainly shows that the Cowboys have the talent to be a very productive offense based on their 27-4 lead and therefore have to be considered dangerous.

Seahawks Preview

Absolutely everyone in the media is telling their listeners or writing to their readers to pick the 10 1/2 point favorite Giants in their suicide pools this weekend. That makes me nervous. As much as you don't expect a still unproven team like the Giants to look past an opponent in week 5, the players still can't fail to hear the background noise and perhaps it will affect their resolve. Add to that the fact that the Giants have a number of key players injured and it makes for an even more tentative proposition. Tuck, Baas and Jacobs are all most likely out for the game. They do have decent replacements, but still - the injuries have to hurt. Having said all of that, I took the Giants in my suicide pool.

I think we will see a healthy dose of DJ Ware and I am hopeful we will see Da'rel Scott get some action at RB. Seahawks are not very good defensively or offensively - but I do remember the last time Tavaris Jackson came to town as a starting QB for an opposing team. He was the starter for the Vikings on the worst day of Eli's career - I think he threw 100 INTs and 12 of them were returned for TDs. Or something like that - my memory is foggy. On the first series of the game (maybe the first play?) , Jackson hauled back and threw a long TD pass down the sideline and the Giants never really got back in the game.

I would like to see Mario Manningham have a big day tomorrow and I think the Giants will pay attention to his psyche and his ego and try to feed him the ball a bit. Last game, Cruz took a lot of his snaps and he caught only one ball. But Eli purposely and directly tried to console him, to make him feel like part of the team, on the sideline towards the end of the game. The camera showed Eli with hand on  Manningham's shoulder, leaning down and talking to him. In the papers this week, Gilbride also went out of his way to say Manningham had a great game - that he was open often and ran great routes, but the ball just didn't come his way. Seahawks CBs are not great cover corners, maybe Giants try to hit Manningham deep down the sidelines.

Another view of the Eagles

I dissed the Eagles as a false dream team in my post after the Giants Eagles team. Looks like the NY Times agrees with me. Take a look at the article from their NFL blog called Fifth Down, where writer Mike Tanier completely takes the Eagles apart. In fact, he is much harder on them than I was in my analysis and he is quite sarcastic and funny in some of his lines. Check out his take on the yards-per-carry that Eagles allow in their running game:

The Eagles have allowed 18 runs of 10 or more yards and give up 5.6 yards per carry, a number kept artificially low by the fact that running backs stop upon reaching the end zone.

And check out this description of ex-Giants Steve Smith's contribution to his new team:

Receiver Steve Smith’s lone contribution so far has been a tipped pass that resulted in an interception, a play he perfected as a member of the Giants last season.
It's definitely worth a read, check it out.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Focus of Giants improvement: the running game

On both sides of the ball, the Giants focus is to improve the running game. On offense, they've got to run it better and on defense they have to do a better job stopping it.

On offense, I see a few things that are causing the decline in quality runs. As I have said a few times on this blog, a problem lies with the blocking from the TE and FB positions. Ballard has not been doing a good job blocking, missing some blocks entirely, getting defeated 1-on-1 when he engages the defender he's supposed to block and occasionally getting the wrong guy. Pascoe's blocking has been similarly weak, a little worse than Ballard's because he occasionally gets completely knocked back because he is smaller than Ballard. (It's just physics: F=ma.) Hynoski has been mediocre at FB, not as bad as Pascoe. My take on Hynoski is that he is not quick enough (or decisive enough?) to get out and run downhill at the defender he is supposed to block. As a result, even though he has decent size, he is occasionally absorbing the blow from the defensive player and just taking up space, not leading and creating a crease or a running lane for the runner. (There's Newton's pesky second law of motion again: F=ma.)  I don't know if he will get better when he learns the offense better, gets used to life in the NFL more and adjusts to the speed of the game. Perhaps he becomes more decisive then and will play better. Of course, it is also possible that he is simply not fast or powerful enough and he will always be an average FB.

The other aspect of the running game on offense that needs improvement appears to me to be the G play from Diehl. At times he gets his man and does well. But I have seen several times, especially when he has to leave his slot at LG and run counter to the line to seal a DT on the other side or pull to block someone on the right side of the offense, he seems to miss his block. He doesn't get out there quickly enough and his man eludes him and blows up the running play. It's something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Giants have had some successful running plays when they ran to their right behind MacKenzie, Snee and an extra TE or when Snee has pulled back to the left. Diehl is capable, he just has to get sharper. A shift to G after playing T for a few years may take a little adjustment. I am confident that the OL will play better as the year goes along. The TEs and FB - I'm hopeful but not sure about.

On defense - I am somehow less worried about the run defense. Once Tuck gets back to playing in the regular rotation, as the season moves along and the DBs get more practice time and miss fewer tackles; as Osi gets his sea legs under him and plays the run a little better, I think this part of the defense will come back to form.

Injury News

Tuck apparenrtly returned to practice with some extra padding/neck protection. If he's that tender, I would sit him this week.

Boley back at practice but Jacobs still out with tender knee. If Jacobs can't go this Sunday, I wonder if this is the week we might see Da'rel Scott get some action. DJ Ware is ahead of Scott on the depth chart, but I'd still like to see him get some action.

Amukamara still out - expected to be out another 3/4 weeks.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Giants injuries

Tuck is still nursing his neck burner and David Baas missed the entire second half with a neck burner also. It sounds like Baas will not play, or the Giants are at least preparing for that possibility, because they signed C Jim Cordle from their practice squad. Boothe will start at C, but they need someone to snap the ball in case Boothe gets hurt or needs a break during the game. Boothe got toasted on his first play on Sunday leading to the sack/fumble of Eli, but he played reasonably well after that.

Giants cut Stokley because they needed the roster spot and he was injured. I think Stokley could have helped at this position of need during the course of the season, but with the emergence of Cruz as a WR these last two weeks, it makes sense to cut him. Furthermore, Barden is apparently recovering and running freely in practice, so Giants may feel that there is more help on the way at WR.

I would let Tuck and Baas recover from these injuries, and let them rest through the bye week, perhaps even one week after that. Giants next four weeks are: Seahawks, Bills then the Dolphins after a by week. Of those teams, it would appear that the Bills are the only tough one and it would be worthwhile to sacrifice one game for these key players long term health. Coaches don't think this way of course, and if a player is healthy, they will dress.

Boley and Jacobs have knee swelling, but significantly, Nicks is not on the injury report this week. Boley and Jacobs injuries not expected to be severe. Amukamara wil be out another few weeks.

A look at the Eagles

After we got a look at the Eagles when the Giants played them in week 3, I asserted on this blog that the Eagles were waaaaaaay overrated. Despite having an array of really talented skill positions players on both sides of the ball, they are a seriously flawed team and will have a disappointing season. I am not saying that they will crash and burn and be below .500. But for a team designated as the dream team, with Super Bowl aspirations, a team that virtually every NFL prognosticator and preseason forecaster conceded the division to, they will fall well short.

Well guess what - all of a sudden all the football analysts are hopping on my bandwagon and agreeing with me that the Eagles have serious foundational problems.

Their flaws seem obvious - the interior of their OL is weak and while the two OTs are solid, they are far from great. The QB has a cannon for an arm and is a great runner, but is not a great pure QB. Sean McCoy is one of the best runners in the league, which gives their offense as many weapons as anyone, but there seems to be no balance or philosophy to the offense and with their weak OL, they seem to be not good in short yardage situations. But mostly, their problems are on defense. Their DL does not have great depth, has generally light players and not stout against the run. The LBs are a disaster and the S position is weak. When the middle of the field is open, and the DL can be run on, you have troubles on defense. The defensive philosophy was to load up the defense with speed, with speed pass rushes and Asomugha at CB, because teams would have to throw against the high scoring Eagles offense. Not a bad plan, except you can throw to the middle of that defense. Add to that the fact that Asomugha has been playing terribly, for some inexplicable reason and the defense has been really poor.

On top of these structural flaws, we have news this week that the Eagles have suffered three injuries further weakening these units. Antonio Dixon, the DT who was a huge body and decent space eater against the run is out for the season. Trent Cole, the Eagles best DE, is out for at least 3 weeks with a calf problem. Jason Peters, their left OT is out for at least 3 weeks with a hamstring strain.

I still think the Eagles have enough skill position players and playmakers to have a good record, but with these basic personnel flaws, it's hard to see them as a real Super Bowl threat.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cardinals game review

This was exactly the type of game that the Giants would have lost last year. They would have folded up like a cheap suit, would have had that "oh no, here it goes again, what's going to go wrong now" feeling wash over them. The defense would have given up another big play, the offense would have gotten tight and predictable and they would have walked off the field with their tails between their legs. Instead, we saw Gilbride come up with a few creative calls, we saw the pass defense come up with key plays, we saw the pass rush bother Kolb without having to resort to much blitzing and we saw players make plays. Mostly, we saw Nicks continue to emerge as a star in this league, maybe not at the level of Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant or Larry Fitzgerald, but he is a dangerous player developing some real chemistry with Eli.

Now that I have mentioned the QB, let me point out the obvious - he is playing perhaps the best football of his career. He is distributing the ball, throwing very accurately, making great decisions and taking care of the football. His composure in the clutch was on display against the Cards this week as it was in week 3 against the dream team from Philadelphia. His 4th quarter numbers this week: 14-17, 180 yards, 2 TDs and no turnovers.

Victor Cruz is stepping up and playing nicely. He is taking snaps away from Manningham, who played mostly in the the 3 WR sets. This might be the pattern for the rest of the season - Manningham has great natural talent but makes too many mistakes and deviates from the routes that Eli expects him to run. If he has a smaller package of plays to worry about, he may be able to run them with great conviction and contribute that way.

The OL is playing reasonably well, despite some of the sacks, pressures and the weak running game. The reason the running game is not doing well is mostly because of the poor blocking from the TE and FB positions. It's funny: Ballard is a 280 lb. TE with a reputation as someone who does not have the hands or speed to be a receiver, rather an excellent blocker because of his size. It seems to me that the opposite is true - he has proven to be a very good pass catcher, running good routes and not dropping a single pass, while his blocking has been weak. On Sunday, he had one play where he had to block down on the DE and he completely missed him. This is the easiest block for a TE - he comes from the side of the DE who usually does not see him coming and he just needs to seal him, does not need to pancake him. He completely whiffed on it. Pascoe's blocking  has also declined. Hynoski looks like he can catch the ball coming out of the backfield, but his run blocking has been mediocre. It is telling that the Giants best running plays are when they bring in Andrews as an extra TE and he leads the blocking, even though the defense knows what's coming. BTW - Beckum, who we all thought was going to be the pass catcher and not the blocker, has been blocking very well and not catching passes. I have not given up on him.

I am not as worried about the poor run defense as everyone else seems to be. This week, Wells ran for about 125 yards, but 40 of them came on one great play by the Cardinals, and they were running at under 4 yards per carry until that run. On that play, they ran to the weak side (at Osi), Osi was taking an inside rush, they easily hooked him and it was wide open. They also ran almost exclusively at Osi and his run defense has never been his strong suit. Obviously, Giants have to improve there, but I think the ability is there to do so. I have been whining about this all year, but I would play the young LBs more and move Kiwanuka back to DE, it would help the run defense a lot. This is especially a logical plan with Tuck still out.

Props once again to Gilbride for some very creative play calls. I loved the throw back across the field to Ballard, with Eli holding the ball and looking to the right side of the field before coming back to Ballard. I loved also the 3rd and short, when the Giants actually used some deception in the running game to make the yardage. On that play, Giants loaded up the right side as the strong side with extra TEs, with Andrews eligible, Ballard and Beckum right behind them in the slot. Instead of running Bradshaw on the little pitch to the strong side, which the Giants do all the time and the defense must have been expecting, they ran a counter back to the weak side, with Beckum running across the field behind the line to lead the blocking, making a good block and Bradshaw gaining 5 yards.

Nicks is becoming like Fitzgerald and like Burress used to be - even when they're not open, they're open. His ability to use his incredibly strong hands to take the ball away from defenders is impressive.

I hope we're not getting too pumped up about the Giants, because after all, the three wins have come against really weak teams:  Rams (0-4),  Eagles (1-3) and Cardinals (1-3).