Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Giants: Packers game review II

I am not going to waste your time going over the simple facts of the game - you can get that from other media. I am going to try to highlight some of the finer points.

JPP is a far better DE than Osi, and in fact, Osi is now the worst DE on the team, even including Tollefson. Giants have a LB, Kiwanuka, that is a better DE than Osi. JPP was an absolute beast in the game. He completely abused the Packers LT, going around him with speed rushes, going right at him with bull rushes and going inside of him with various moves. He put pressure on Rodgers in the passing game and did very well against the run as well, something Osi never does. He was doubled, chip-blocked and drew max-protect configurations by the Packers several times, opening things up for his DL-mates. Osi is done - in retrospect and with hindsight, Giants should have traded Osi last off season when they could get a 2nd round pick for him. Now, they will be lucky to get a 3rd rounder, based on his performance this year. Parenthetically, JPP was often held by the Packers OL and never got a call.

It seems strange to say that the Giants had a good defensive game when they gave up 31 points (7 given up by the offense), but they really played well. Against any other team, with the pressure they got on the QB and the job they did defending the run, they would have had a better result. It sounds obvious, but this game was so close, that a bounce here, a call there, a toe staying in bounds for the Giants or going out for the Packers could have turned the game. 

I was really disappointed in Amukamara for a couple of reasons. He got beat on the Jenings TD (which was a bad call by the refs - he was juggling it in the end zone and then Amukamara knocked it loose); he got called for the PI (which should have been a non-call, but he still got beat by a yard or two); but most of all - he was fatigued at the end of the game. The last drive of the game, with the Giants season hanging in the balance (not knowing that the Cowboys had lost), he was not on the field because, we found it later, he was fatigued. Insead, Will Blackmon, a DB that was not in the league a few weeks ago, and someone Giants signed to be a backup, was on the field and was on the outside in 1-on-1 coverage against Nelson and that is exactly where Rodgers went for the 30 yard completion that put them in FG range to win the game. Amukamara should have been on the field at that moment. I guess I can't complain too much, because Amukamara's injury was a foot injury, so he couldn't run and keep in shape during his 10 week absence. You know what they say - it's harder to get in shape then to stay in shape. But still.... the Prince should have been out there. I hope he doesn't slip into Coughlin/Fewell doghouse because of that. I don't want to whine about injuries, but it is telling that the Giants have lost so many DBs that someone they signed off the street a few weeks ago was a critical player at a critical moment in a critical game. 

Changes in the OL seemed to work well. Petrus starting at G looked very good against the run. He got beat a few times on pass protection, and there is nothing worse than an inside rush right in the QB's face to disrupt a pass play (although blind side hits work pretty well also). But note that many of the effective runs were between the C and G and between the G and T. Giants had some running plays that worked to the outside, but most were up the middle. Boothe and Petrus were solid and Diehl played well at LT. A big test for Diehl this week - he has trouble with DeMarcus Ware.

Cruz has become a really dangerous player. He has more than 1,000 receiving yards this year and we still have 1/4 of the season left. Even though Cruz has been effective and has more yards and more catches than Nicks - Nicks is the WR that makes this team go. He is a great player, draws most of the double teams making it possible for Cruz and especially Ballard to get open and be productive. Ballard is a really good story, catches the ball, runs good routes and uses his size well to shield the defender from the ball, meaning he catches the ball well in traffic. But - without the exquisite throwing and ball placement by Eli, Ballard would be unproductive, and in fact, Giants would benefit greatly next year by improving the speed at the TE position. There is a new wave of fast, athletic, strong TEs in the league that are really hard to cover because of their speed/size combination. Graham on New Orleans, Finley on the Packers, Davis on 9ers, Hernandez and Gronkowski on the Pats and a few others that I am meaving out are examples of this trend. Giants need to get on board this train and get some real speed at that position next year. It also wouldn't hurt if they threw the ball to Beckum a few more times - he showed that he has the speed and athleticism to make plays.

By the way - Jacquian Williams at LB for the Giants, is probably the only one on the team that can match these athletic TEs in the league in pass coverage. With Kenny Phillips out and the Giants short at S, that will become more important the rest of the year. Williams got beat a few times Sunday, but also made a few good plays and most important - did not have blown assignments and was not way out of position noticeably. The experience and growing pains he is going through now will serve him and the Giants well in the future. He will be a very good player at a position of need and with a style of play that fits the future trends in the league.  

I know I sound boring and repetitive, but I have to remind you that Eli is playing at such an incredibly high level, week after week, despite that pick 6 he gave up. Just look at the Beckum TD as an example. That was Eli's fourth read on the play. He looked first deep to Nicks down the left sideline, but he was doubled by the S. Then he looked at the intermediate route over the middle to Ballard, but the timing was off, and he was too late after his break. Then he turned his head to his right and was going to throw the ball to Cruz short on a comeback route, but as he turned, he saw that the S on that side bit on the Cruz route and was running foward perhaps to try and jump the route, leaving Beckum 1 on 1 with the S. Without hesitating, Eli loaded up and threw a perfect strike 40 yards down the field, hitting Beckum right in stride. The S who had doubled Nicks on the left then came over too late and both he and the primary cover guy looked lame trying to tackle Beckum on the TD.

On the Giants last TD drive, Eli made a great read and throw to Cruz in the middle of the field for 17 yards, getting the Giants in position for the score and an even better throw to Ballard for 15 on the sideline before that to get the drive started.

This was Hynoski's best week of blocking this season. When he hits the defender, he usually neutralizes him, though he doesn't often completely knock him over. His problem has been that he is not quick enough into the hole and he is not making his blocks far enough downfield. He is often either in the backfield where the defender has already penetrated the line of scrimmage, or right in the intended hole, which does not give the RB enough room to operate. This week he was a little more decisive and met the defender a little further upfield making his blocks more effective. 

Fewell had a pretty good game calling the defense. There was less predictability and Fewell changed things up a lot. Giants did not do much blitzing, but they switched from zone to man, from 4 man rush to occasional 3 man rush dropping Tuck in the middle on coverage, sometimes pressed coverage by the CB and sometimes gave a cushion. He did not give Rodgers consistent looks and it seemed to work. Of course, with Osi out, JPP disrupting their offense, Boley returning and Blackburn playing well, maybe anything he called would have looked better than the last few weeks of defense.

Slight digression proving the above point: Jeff Van Gundy really hates Phil Jackson, no doubt for his Jordan Bulls constantly beating Van Gundy's Ewing Knicks for all those years.... and particularity for being condescending and arrogant about it. Van Gundy always was ticked off that Jackson got great praise for being the genius coach who revolutionized basketball by installing the triangle offense. After Jordan retired and the Bulls stumbled, Van Gundy remarked: the triangle offense doesn't look quite as good when # 23 is not on the floor. Same thing with Fewell: JPP made him look smart. 

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