Friday, August 31, 2012

DJ Ware

As I speculated a while ago, the Giants cut DJ Ware and are keeping Andre Brown and Da'Rel Scott as the 3rd and 4th RBs behind Bradshaw and Wilson. We got a hint in the recent preseason game, when Brown was the lead horse in the 3rd quarter of the game getting all the carries and Scott carried the ball in the 4th quarter, with Ware barely seeing the field. If one of the RBs had done poorly in those auditions, I guess it's possible that Ware would have stuck, but both looked good. They both have a higher upside and more speed than Ware, while Brown has the additional attribute of being the most physical RB on the team. That physical presence might be a desired quality at some point in the season with the departure of Brandon Jacobs from the team this year.

Ware was one of 14 players still on the team that had been on the 2007 Super Bowl team..... now down to 13 with his departure. The others are: Boothe, Blackburn, Bradshaw, Carr, DeOssie, Diehl, Hixon, Kiwanuka, Manning, Tynes, Tuck, Umenyiora, Webster. Others in that category who departed just this year are Brandon Jacobs and Aaron Ross.

Some trivia questions:
Q: Name the only family that has two members that have won Super Bowl rings for the same franchise
A: DeOssie family: Steve (Giants 1990) and Zak (Giants 2007 and 2011)

Q: Name the only family that has won a Super Bowl ring and an Olympic gold medal.
A: Ross family:  Aaron (Giants 2007 and 2011) and wife Sanya Richards (London 2012 games, 400 meters)

Roster cut down day

Highlights:  UPDATED 2:40PM (see below)

Marcus Thomas and Broha were cut from the DL, neither a big surprise.

It appears that Ojomo has made the roster at DE. It probably means that Adrien Tracy, who looked so good in preseason before he got hurt, might get cut. I would think he will be picked up by some other team. Everyone would love to have an extra pass rusher and there's certainly no disgrace in being a DE cut from the Giants.

Still curious what maneuvering Giants will do at DT. Very crowded position complicated by some injuries.

The big news - Greg Jones has been cut. He was starting MLB last year, got moved to the outside with the ascension of Herzlich. I guess Giants decided that 7 was the right number of LBs and the last two LBs were Jones and Paysinger - Paysinger is a better ST player than Jones. My guess is he will be picked up by some team - lots of teams would like an athletic, young, fast, improving LB on their roster. It made sense to cut Jones - Herzlich is the MLB of the future and Giants have several LBs on the outside who are better than Jones and whom Jones would probably never be able to pass on the depth chart. Boley, Rivers, Williams, Kiwanuka and even Paysinger are all just flat better athletes than Jones.

Since Giants are carrying only 7 LBs, they may carry 9 OL-men. Cordle is a decent backup C and with Boothe entering the starting lineup at G, he's no longer available to be the primary backup at C.

At RB, I still think there's a chance that DJ Ware will be a surprise cut and the Giants will end up keeping both Brown and Scott behind the two lead RBs - Bradshaw and Wilson.

Stay tuned.

Updated: 11:05AM
Sixth-round offensive tackle Matt McCants was cut and Giants may want to get him on the practice squad.

At WR: Isaiah Stanback, Dan DePalma and David Douglas will be cut, which means that Hixon has saved his roster spot at WR if the Giants go with 6 WRs.

Also cut: DE Massau, DE Marshall, TE Donnell, none of whom were given a serious chance at making the roster.

Still no news on the RBs and DTs.

Also interesting to see what happens when Sash comes off suspension and when Canty comes off PUP. Giants may take advantage of the short term IR list which will cause another midseason shuffle.

Updated: 2:40PM
First move in the DT area: Dwayne Hendricks was cut. I am really surprised by this move. Hendricks showed a lot in the preseason games, did well in practice and was called out for praise by Coughlin who loved his non-stop motor. I think he showed enough that some other team might pick him up, but we'll see.

CB Bruce Johnson got put on IR with a bad shoulder. Giants must really like him to keep him around instead of waiving him. This will be the third straight year he's been IR'ed: two knees and a shoulder.

Tyler Sash is suspended so he does not count against the final 53 .... for 4 weeks.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

New IR Rule gets passed

The NFL wanted to modify the IR rules and create a short term IR list. Under previous rules, when a player was designated for IR his season was over. NFL wanted to be able to place a player on IR and bring him back at some point in the season. This rule had to be agreed to by the NFLPA and because the relationship between the NFL and the player's union has grown so contentious, the NFLPA rejected the rule. They did this just because the NFL asked for it and they wanted to dig in their heels and be difficult. (My son used to do stuff like this when he was 5 years old). However, the NFLPA is supposed to represent the best interest of the players in their union and while this benefits the teams, giving them a little more flexibility in forming a roster, it clearly also benefits the players. First, the player brought back to the roster, even if it is only for 8 games, at least earns a half year's salary and can show his worth to the rest of the league. Second, the injured player would get a chance to come back, won't lose an entire season and can show his talent by playing, thereby increasing his earning power in future years. The union came to their senses and negotiated this rule change with the NFL, allowing each team to designate one player for IR who could be brought back later in the year.

This could benefit the Giants, who have a few players that were penciled in to be key contributors to this year's team, are injured now, but apparently do not have season-ending injuries and could come back in a few weeks. The players I am thinking of that fall into this category are Marvin Austin, Terrell Thomas and Shaun Rogers. The rule is tricky in its application:
(1) the designation to return has to be applied immediately when the player is moved to IR. In other words, a team CAN NOT move a player to IR and then three weeks later realize that the injury may not have been season-ending, and move him to this short term IR list. He has to be designated for eventual return at the time he is moved to IR.
(2) the player has to be on the 53 man roster when it is set at 9PM ET on Friday. Then he is moved to the short term IR list on Tuesday Sept 4 at 4PM. Once he is moved to IR, the team can bring in another player to replace him, but that player necessarily had to be off their 53 man roster in the 91 hour period (5 hours short of 4 days) between Friday 9PM and Tuesday 4PM. In that nearly-four day period, the player who was released by the team is also free to sign with any other team. In other words, player X would be released at cutdown time on Sunday. Player Y, who made the 53 man roster, would then be moved to the short term IR list on Tuesday reducing the roster to 52 and then the team could bring back player X to fill out the 53 man roster. The team could also bring in a player released from another team.
(3) The injury has to be a legitimate major injury, not one that the team kind of manufactures for the purpose of manipulating the roster.
(4) The player would be out for six weeks unable to practice and then could be activated, eligible to start practicing and would be eligible to play two weeks later.

Of the players I mentioned above, I don't think Rogers would be a good candidate, because you want to be sure that the player can come back and it's too uncertain for Rogers. Furthermore, he did some good things, but didn't really show that he is playing at a very high level. Marvin Austin does not really have a major injury - he has a back problem and might be able to come back in just a few weeks, perhaps even by the opener a week from yesterday. That leaves Terrell Thomas and he might be a good candidate, because he could need six weeks to rehab his knee and determine if he could come back. He seems to be optimistic that he can come back sooner, but Giants want to be cautious and see if he can make it back. There is still no certainty that he will be healthy, but the 6-8 week window seems like the right amount of time and he plays a position of great need in the NFL nowadays.

Worried in East Rutherford

Worried about OL

Pick whatever adage, whatever tired corny saying that you want about preseason football: the games don't count but they do matter; don't overestimate the results of the games, but don't totally dismiss them either; try to be vanilla so as not to show the future opposition too much, but also show your opponents at least something to worry about. They all mean about the same thing - you don't care if you win or lose, but some of the character, talents and flaws of your team do come out during preseason. I said early on in the posts analyzing this Giants team in this season that they seem like they have a lot of talent, but the one questionable area that can really hurt the season is the OL, even more than the injured CB position, where they seem to have identified some decent backups. This certainly seemed to be the case this preseason and especially last night in the 4th preseason game against the Patriots. The first team took 3 or 4 possessions last night and did absolutely nothing, primarily because the OL was overwhelmed by the Patriots defense. There was not an inch of running room for Wilson or any of the other RBs in the first half to move. Wilson is quick and can get outside but not when he's being smacked in the backfield the second he gets the ball from the QB. Eli was sacked and was pressured all night so that he did not have time to set up, to look down the field and throw the ball.

There is nothing that destroys an offense like bad OL play and that reared its head too many times during the preseason. I know that Beatty and Snee didn't play last night, so I guess you would expect some drop off in performance, but the first team OL was completely outplayed on nearly every snap of the game when they were in there. In the 2nd half, the substitutes did a bit better and they showed a little bit of movement in the running game in that second half, but the pass protection was poor and Carr got knocked around badly. I am not ready to wash away the entire season, but count me in the "worried" column as someone who is afraid that poor OL play could really undermine the Giants chances for a very good season.

Roster battles

Barden continues to impress and had another very good game last night. Jernigan didn't get thrown to often, but made one very good play on a scramble by Carr. He came back to the QB and made himself a target when Carr was pushed out of the pocket, and made a good move after the catch to get about 25 yards. Still not sure if Giants will keep 5 or 6 WRs, but it's possible that Hixon's roster spot is in jeopardy.

It's hard to see how Ojoma at DE will not make the team. He looks like another good pass rusher from the outside and has really impressed. If performance in camp and preseason games means anything at all, he will stick.

Greg Jones played well last night, but Herzlich really impressed at the MLB position. Jones was at MLB last year, but has been moved to the outside this year, partly because of Herzlich's progress. He could push Blackburn for the starting position as the year goes along. There are 8 LBs that are NFL caliber players and are good enough to make the team. Kiwanuka, Boley, Blackburn are starters. Williams, Herzlich and Rivers will make the team behind them. Paysinger and Jones are next in line and it will come down to numbers - how many LBs do the Giants want to carry.

At RB, Brown and Scott faced off, no doubt to see which one nabs the 4th RB slot on the roster. Brown was a little better, but Scott played well also. Then, near the end of the evening, Brown fumbled the ball, something all coaches, especially Coughlin hate. Let's see how that folds into the equation and evaluation.

One final note: we have seen Petrus do some good blocking in the running game and hoped that he could develop into a starting G and that spot away from Boothe. Unfortunately his pass blocking has not improved and he seems to me  like a real liability out there. His run blocking has declined also.  This is not about technique, coaching, or maturing. This is about the lack of lateral quickness. He just doesn't move well that way and that's what you need to do in pass blocking, because the rushers never just go straight at you. Maybe one of the other young players have showed more this preseason, and will beat him out for a job, but I am down on Petrus.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Injury news

Some pieces of good news, or let's say.... mildly encouraging news... on the injury front:

Beatty returned to practice after 4 or 5 days of good conditioning and workouts where he showed his strength and dexterity had returned. He took snaps with the starters, though he was limited and did not take all the snaps. Still - a good sign. Nevertheless, I think they will hold him out of the 4th preseason game tomorrow night. Probably more to be gained from him getting rest and rehab and avoiding reinjury than from the marginal gain of game experience for the 10 or 12 snaps he would take.

Amukamara appeared at practice without his walking boot (did not practice, of course, but was out of his boot). I don't know if he's a fast healer, but the fact that the boot is off probably means that the pain and swelling has subsided somewhat. The purpose of the boot is to immobilize the foot and protect it so blood flow to the area decreases and the swelling goes down. It is also intended to stabilize the foot if it has become unstable, i.e. if it will not support him because of tears of the ligaments between the ankle and the leg bones (tibia and fibula). The fact that he has taken it off already is a good sign; it probably indicates that those ligaments were not completely torn and were only stretched somewhat. He wants to be ready for the opener which is unlikely, but perhaps it means he will be back on the shorter end of the 3-6 week window it takes to recover from the high ankle sprain. The rehabilitation consists of strengthening the muscles around the ankle so it can compensate for any weakness introduced by the weakened ligaments.

Nicks seems 100% and might even take some snaps in the game against the Patriots Wednesday night to feel the game speed and hitting. He looked back to form in practice, both in straight line speed as well as with his cutting and changing direction. His recovery time was almost exactly what Giants doctors forecast that it would be.

Roster rumors - odds and ends

Is there any truth to the rumor that Barden was just being showcased against the Bears for a possible trade? I don't think so - Giants don't usually do that kind of stuff, but who knows. If a decent CB became available in a trade, with the depth that the Giants have at the WR position, maybe they would risk it.

Ojoma came out of nowhere at DE and had a great preseason. He beat out Tracy in performance on the field for a 4th DE spot; let's see if he sticks on the roster.

Giants had two guys dressed wearing number 33 against the Bears. One was RB Da'rel Scott and the other was a DB named Hughes. You might recall some confusion from the announcers when Scott blocked the punt near the end of the first half leading to Giants second TD. They couldn't figure out who blocked the kick. Especially when Jones, who wears the similar number 53 recovered the kick. I guess it's preseason for the announcers also.

Carr did not look very good at all in the 2nd half. Maybe it's because he's not playing with the starters, but I didn't like his passing. His throwing motion looks a little jerky, i.e. not smooth. He seems to have a little hitch in his motion and he does not come right over the top, he short arms the ball from his shoulders, not from the ear hole in his helmet.

Didn't look to me like there were any useful players released from other teams in those first 15 cuts  yesterday. The mad scramble for talent happens when those last 22 guys are cut and the rosters have to go down from 75 to 53. Giants may be at a disadvantage, since their first game is on Wednesday night and there is unlikely to be enough time to get someone ready for game action in just those few days. Giants lose 4 days of preparation between Wednesday and Sunday, when the rest of the league starts.

With the apparent increased emphasis on rookies (5 rookie QBs won starting jobs) there may be some valuable veteran talent at other positions that comes available. Can't believe that the trend for rookies is only at the QB position. I think this may be influenced by the recent CBA with its rookie wage scale. Now rookies are MUCH less expensive than veterans, both in actual cash spent as well as in salary cap effect.

Jets made a great trade - Hunter for Jason Smith of the Rams. I know Smith has been a disappointment since he was drafted 2nd overall in the 2009 draft. But a big part of his failed development has been because of injury. He obviously has some talent and maybe he will rediscover it. It's certainly worth a gamble for the Jets and is a trade that could have big upside.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bears game review

Can't make too much of preseason games, of course, but there were some encouraging signs in this game. Finally we saw a Ramses Barden sighting. He looked very good, getting open against a very good CB, running very good routes, catching everything that was thrown his way and even drawing a PI penalty in the end zone when he beat the Bears CB so badly that he had to interfere with Barden.

Da'Rel Scott looked pretty good and blocked a punt also. Andre Brown did not have a good game and it may have sealed his fate.

The OL was a little better but still not great. There were some successful runs and the pass blocking was good enough for Eli to go 17-21, with 2 drops by WRs. But there were still too many completely unsuccessful running plays. There were too many times where the Bears DL broke down a block and blew up the play for 0 or negative yardage.

Eli looked great. He has become such an accurate passer and is underrated for how well he moves in the pocket. Not only his accuracy, but his ball placement is uncanny. His weapons are better than last year, with the addition of speed at RB inWilson and a legitmate threat at TE in Bennett. He may not pass for as many yards as last year because of more balance coming from the (hoped for) increased  production in the running game, but I am still looking for a big season from Eli.

David Wilson looked great. He has great speed, great vision and instincts and for a man who is considered a somewhat slight, speed RB, he can really break tackles against a defense that has the reputation for toughness. He is going to be a huge benefit to the Giants offense as the season goes along. I am not sure he shouldn't be starting and I would like to see his workload increase as he masters the offense.

Reuben Randle is a player. I love his smooth strides and even gait when he looks like he is not even trying. But he gets separation, has great hands and is a strong WR who can catch the ball in traffic and take a hit, still holding onto the ball.

I've said this before but Giants have among the best blocking WRs in football. Cruz gets himself in good position to engage the DB even though he's not big. Nicks is big and a great blocker and this week, Barden made a few very good blocks in the running game.

Last year one of the problems with the running game was the poor blocking by the FB and the TEs on the edge. Even though Ballard is big, he was simply not a good in line blocker and he was even worse when he got out into space. Pascoe is decent, but is not athletic and often did not line up the blocks properly when there was some movement necessary to get in position for the block. Hynoski was learning the game and the offense; was often late getting to lead the play in the hole. As the season went along Hynoski got better and better and was playing FB very well towards the end of the season - one of the reasons the run game picked up in the playoffs. Pascoe also got a little better as the season went along, but still not great. The good news for the Giants is how good Bennett has looked at TE. He is a superior blocker and may really help the running game and has looked like a perfect complementary piece for the passing game. He might be the most complete TE Giants have had since Bavaro. Even Shockey... he was a crazy athlete, but was not big body and not a great blocker.

Roster predictions

One man's humble opinion of the final 53 man roster, with 10 days to go before the season starts:
(Note: I wrote this post before the weekend and updated it today.)

QB (2):  Eli, Carr.
Isn't it funny how the entire world refers to the Giants QB as "Eli". Not Manning. Not Eli Manning. Just Eli. Is the Patriots QB referred to as "Tom" or the Saints QB referred to as "Brees"? Even Eli's brother is usually referred to by his full name as Peyton Manning. It's curious. Also completely irrelevant.

RB (4) Bradshaw, Wilson, Ware, Scott. Out: Andre Brown.
It's a close call between Brown and Scott, and because Scott's skills and style are similar to Wilson's and Bradshaw's, I thought that Giants may keep Andre Brown to have that physical presence in the backfield now that Jacobs has gone to SF. However, Brown did not look great in this last preseason game, while Scott made a few good runs and was a factor on ST, making the blocked punt. As stupid as it sounds, the 1 short yardage carry that Hynoski made picking up the first down against the Jets, might influence the Giants to use him in short yardage occasionally and therefore think that they can do without Brown. I may be overthinking this

FB (1): Hynoski. Out: Martinek.
Martinek has looked good and might get picked up by another team, but is more likely a practice squad candidate.

TE (3): Bennet, Pascoe, Robinson.  PUP: Beckum
Not a lot of competition here beyond these three.

WR (6): Nicks, Cruuuuuz, Jernigan, Randle, Hixon, Barden. Out: Stanback, DePalma, Douglas, Talley.
Tough call to get rid of Barden who has a lot of physical skills and he acquitted himself while in the game against the Bears. In fact he looked great. Stanback is a superior ST player and that's what you're lookign for in your 5th and 6th WR, which is why he's still hanging around. I hear that Hixon has had a solid but unspectacular camp. Maybe it's a battle between Stanback and Hixon for that last WR slot. Brandon Collins has also looked good, but Stanback is a 5 year veteran and in not practice squald eligible, while Collins is. UPDATE: Collins was in the cuts today to get down to 75.

OL (8): Beatty, Boothe, Baas, Snee, Diehl, Locklear, Petrus, Brewer. Out: McCants, Cordle, White, Moesley and some others.
McCants makes it to the practice squad. Petrus pass blocking has not improved, which is unfortunate, but he has good skills as run blocker. This is the weak spot on the team, perhaps Giants carry a 9th OL-man and cut someone from another unit. Giants could go into the season with only 3 DEs, knowing that Kiwanuka is a wild card who can take some snaps at that position. That would give them the flexibility to carry an extra OL-man.

DE (4): JPP, Tuck, Osi, Ojoma. Out: Tracy, Marshall, Broha.
Tracy has shown enough early to make the team, but his injuries have made him vulnerable. Ojoma has played well and I think he will sneak his way onto the team ahead of Tracy. If Giants go with only 3 DEs, this discussion is moot.

DT (4): Joseph, Bernard, Austin, Kuhn. Out: Canty(PUP), Powell, Thomas, Rogers.
Very tough call here with all the good players at this position. With Tuck available to move inside on passing downs and Kiwanuka available to take his slot at DE, the front 7 is somewhat fluid. When Canty comes off PUP, Giants need to make another roster decision, but it can be delayed until the coaches see game performance. If Austin makes the team, I don't see how they can carry Rogers and go into the season with 2 DTs with questionable availability. If one of them makes a miraculaous recovery, could change things.

LB (8): Boley, Kiwanuka, Blackburn, Rivers, Herzlich, Williams, Jones, Paysinger.
Lots of talent at this position.

CB (6): Amukamara, Webster, Hosely, Thomas, Tryon, Coe. Out: Molden, Bing.
If Thomas were not injured, the Giants might go with 5 CBs, especially with the knowledge that Rolle and even Will Hill can help out at the nickel. Little known DB Stevie Brown has looked good on ST, but I don't know if there's room for him on this roster.

S (4): Rolle, Phillips, Sash, Hill
Sash is suspended for first 4 games of the season, giving the Giants some roster flexibility. They may carry an extra CB with Molden and Coe being likeliest candidates.

ST (3): Tynes, Weatherford, DeOssie

Friday, August 24, 2012

DT questions

A week or so ago it looked like the Giants were in a bit of trouble with depth at the DT position. They lost Parker (not a great chance of making the team anyway) for the season due to injury. Shaun Rogers developed a blood clot and was presumed to be lost for the season. Marvin Austin developed back troubles with unknown severity and Canty was (is) still unable to get off PUP with that post surgical knee. Even Rocky Bernard, who was, almost by default promoted to be a starter on the depth chart has a somewhat balky knee that makes him better suited for a back up role. It seemed like the sky was falling on the DT position. But then the good news started rolling in: Dwayne Hendricks, he of last year's practice squad, played very well in practice and carried that play over to the preseason games. Austin's back appears to be a less serious injury than originally thought and he should return shortly. Draftee Markus Kuhn seems to be playing very well in flashes and to back fill for the loss of depth, Giants went out and signed a bunch of players, some of whom appear to be really good, including untested/undrafted Oren Wilson (R), with experienced veterans Carlton Powell and Marcus Thomas. Powell was a very good player for the Broncos last year and was not re-signed by Denver because of salary demands, not because of lack of production.

On top of all that, it appears that Rogers may not be out for the entire year as originally feared - his blood clot may clear up and he may be off of the blood thinning medication that would have prevented him from playing. Where they had a depth problem before, now it seems like they have a logjam. Nevertheless, it's unlikely they will carry more than 4 DTs going into the year. Assuming Canty is on PUP and Giants keep a roster exemption for him at the start of the season, Linval Joseph, Marvin Austin and Rocky Bernard seem like good bets to make the team. Hendricks, Kuhn and Powell, if he plays well in his preseason audition could also be in position to make the team. Giants may keep the players on the roster that they do not think they can stash on the practice squad without being snapped up by another team. Powell, with his veteran experience can not be put on practice squad and Hendricks, with what he's shown in preseason may also be grabbed by another team. Kuhn is a better candidate and might be put on the pracice squad. If Austin's back holds up, when Canty makes it back from the PUP list in the middle of the year, Rocky Bernard might get cut. Additionally, Bernard would probably not be taken by another team, so he would be available to come back to the Giants if they need him midseason because of injuries. I guess it's what the coaches call a "good problem to have" but it's tough and really not clear what the Giants will do. The availability of Shaun Rogers may not help him - it's tough to carry someone on the roster whose availability is so uncertain. Since he did not start the preseason on PUP he can't be pushed there, so he will probably not make the final 53.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

OL questions

As we're getting closer to opening game, only 13 days away from today, I want to focus on the one problem area with the Giants roster that can seriously undermine the entire season: the OL. Last season, the OL was terrible and there are several metrics to show that. Giants were near the bottom in the league in rushing yardage and Eli was among the most often pressured QBs in the league. Kareem MacKenzie's performance declined precipitously, from being a solid, better than average RT in 2010 to being really unproductive in 2011. I know Giants won two titles with Diehl at the all important LT position, but Diehl is far from a top shelf T and can probably be considered below average. He is graded as such by web sites like Profootballfocus that analyze each and every play of each and every game and grade out the players. Diehl is now over on the right side and we can hope that he plays a little better over there, now that his hands are no longer injured. I don't like hoping for improvement of a player that's been in the league for 10 years. On the left side is Beatty, if he can overcome his injuries and the jury is still out on him. In his place is Locklear who is a decent veteran who was acquired for depth, but certainly not a player that inspires great confidence in upgrading the running game and the pass blocking.

On the interior of the OL, Snee is very good and should have a rebound season from his injuries last year. Baas was mediocre last year, also was fighting head and neck injuries and has looked better this preseason. Boothe at the other G position is also not a stud OL-man and would be a very valuable player as a backup, but as a starter he is only average. He doesn't blow his assignments, but he is simply not very athletic and can get beaten by quick DTs.

Overall it's not a picture that makes you feel comfortable. Another way to look at things is to compare the different units on the team from their 2007 counterparts that won the first title in the Eli era. At WR, Giants have greatly upgraded with Nicks/Cruz much better that Burress/Toomer. The RBs were productive then, but Jacobs is gone replaced by faster and more dangerous Bradshaw/Wilson combination. At TE, it's too ealry to tell, but Bennet looks like a more physical player and a much better blocker than Kevin Boss was. On the defensive side, Giants have upgraded the CBs and definitely have upgraded the S position. The LB group has seen an influx of young, athletic speedy players mixed in with some experienced veterans. Even the DL that was the strength of the team back in 2007 has been upgraded with all-world JPP and with Tuck playing at a higher level than he did then. On the OL, however, Baas may be a downgrade at C compared to O'Hara, Boothe may be a downgrade compared to Seubert, Diehl at RT may be a downgrade compared to the way MacKenzie was playing the position back in 2007 and Beatty/Locklear is a question mark. Not a very pretty picture.

In summary, I would argue that the Giants have more talent and depth at every unit on the team than they did in 2007, with the exception of the OL, which is worse. Last year, of the 7 games the Giants lost, 3 were a direct result of the OL being outplayed by their opposing DL: the two Redskins games and the Eagles game. The OL may not sink the Giants season in 2012, but it is the weakest unit on a team that is otherwise deep and rich in talent.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Roster competition

The competition at WR is really interesting. Randle made a great cacth on a 50 yard pass thrown by Carr against the Jets. In that game, Jernigan made a few catches and looked quick and dangerous after the catch. Hixon made a great catch on Revis to convert a 3rd down. Barden dropped one catchable ball (Cormartie held him, but he could have caught it anyway). He also did not get open against Revis later in the game. It's looking to me like Randle and Jernigan are definitely going to get some playing time this year. Hixon probably will make the team also, his experience, reliability and knowledge of the offense tipping the scales in his favor. If the Giants carry 6 WRs, will they really carry Barden? How often does a 6th WR get into the game on offense..... answer - not very often. Consequently, you want someone in that slot who can play ST and Stanback might fit the bill. Truth is, other receivers have done well in camp, so Stanback might not grab it - Brandon Collins has played well also. My point is that, while he is most athletically gifted and was the highest draft choice - Barden might not be a lock to make the team.

At RB, I thought Ware might be on the bubble, but he has played so well in the games and so well in camp, that he is probably going to make the team. Bradshaw and Wilson are locks to make the team, so unless the Giants carry 5 RBs, there will be a battle for that 4th RB position between Andre Brown and Da'Rel Scott. I think Brown may get the nod because he is more physical than all the other RBs and Scott is too similar to Wilson in style to carry. he has been hurt and has missed practice time which also hurts,e ven though the coaches love his straight line speed.
How many DTs do the Giants carry this year? If they are limited to only 4, you can assume it will be Canty, Linval Joseph, Bernard and Austin. But Hendricks has looked great and Kuhn who was drafted this year, also has impressed the coaches. Canty may be on PUP first part of the year, so they will get to carry a different player in his place. But still ... is it 4 DTs or 5? If Hendricks or Kuhn get cut, and one of them surely will, my guess is they get picked up by some other team.
More on the rosters battles and numbers game later in the week.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jets game review part I

By now you've read all the comments and the simple straightforward analysis of the Giants - Jets game, so here goes with some of the other stuff you may not have caught about the game.
OL looked poor - everyone agrees with that. Giants running game was poor and Eli got pressured once or twice. But that doesn't really tell the whole story and, while I of course would've liked to have seen a better running game, I think there are some factors that should mitigate our concern. First, the Jets 3-4 is a difficult scheme to run against. They played very aggressively and had LBs and DBs coming hard and crowding the middle. That's not an excuse, it's just that in a preseason game, when your offense doesn't watch film and doesn't game plan at all for what the opposing defense will do, it's not surprising that the OL had some trouble. Even with that excuse, I'd like to see better OL play and better running game. Baas was OK in the middle, but Boothe got beat a few times at his LG position. Locklear was a good pickup as backup LT.
The NFL better get the real referees back on the field. This is the second week in a row where a sure TD pass for the Giants was broken up by a DB who blatantly and egregiously held the arms of the WR as he was trying to make a play on the ball. This time it was Kyle WIlson on Cruz. Cruz had him beat and Eli lobbed up a soft one for Cruz to make a play on. Wilson grabbed both Cruz' arms so he couldn't catch the ball. Earlier in the evening, Jets CB Cromartie got away with a hold on Barden, but it was just for a first down, not a TD.
Hosely looks like a perfect fit for this Giants defense. And I'm not just saying that because of his pick 6. Giants have two big CBs (3 if you include Thomas) to play those bigger outside WRs in the league, but have nobody obvious to play the smaller, quicker slot receivers in nickle packages. Hosely has great CB skills, cover skills and instincts. He has outstanding ball skills, speed and toughness. The reason he slipped to the 3rd round in the draft is because he is a bit on the small side. But if he's covering insider where the smaller WRs roam, he will be a good fit for Fewell's system.
Hosely made a fabulous play on his INT. He was lined up on the right side of the defense at the line of scrimmage right on top of the WR. He had to back pedal, change directions and cut across the field trailing the WR on his crossing route, had to avoid a Jets WR, Patrick Turner, who was standing in the middle of the field in his way setting a legal "natural pick". He did that successfully and immediately turned on the burners to use his impressive closing speed. Sanchez threw the ball about a foot behind the WR and Hosely, who never stopped pumping his legs to catch up to the intended WR reached out, plucked the ball out of the air and went all the way with it. I know it's only one play, but he might be a real great addition to the Giants DB-field this year.

The Giants DL looked dominant, but we can't get too excited about that, because in truth the Jets don't have a lot of talent on offense and seem to be struggling in the OL. The impressive thing to me is how smooth JPP looked. Last year he made his hay by relying on his instincts, power and quickness. This past Saturday night, he used some real technique on his sacks, by getting the RT to lean one way and just pushing by him on a strong inside move. If he actually develops some sophisticate football moves like most "normal" DEs, he will be completely unblockable.

Friday, August 17, 2012


My friend Ray, always a cerebral observer of the NFL scene, gave me an interesting view into the results of the NFL season. The NFL is such a hard hitting violent sport, and the injury rate for players is virtually 100% - i.e every single player appears on the injury report at least once in his career and nearly 100% miss some games due to injury during their careers. The incidence of injuries influence a team's results greatly. There's nothing really deep or insightful there, but Ray went a step further in his analysis. Because injuries are generally random in nature, you expect them to even out for each team over time. That doesn't necessarily mean that a team with a lot of injuries one year will have very few the next, but certainly over a longer span of several years time frame they can be expected to equalize. Ray asserted that because the 49ers were relatively injury free last year, especially on defense, and because that defense has little depth behind its front line quality, it's possible that they could be really vulnerable to some injuries this year.  It's safe to assume that a few key injuries there could really hurt the team. I searched on line for some analysis of injuries in 2011 season and found an interesting analysis on Football Outsiders that comes up with a stat called adjusted games lost. It indeed shows that the 49ers were in the top 1/4th of the league in terms of lack of injuries. Specifically,  49ers were 8th least injured team in 2011 and 4th least injured the year before, so they have had a run of good luck for last two years. Interesting that the two Super Bowl teams, Giants and Patriots suffered lots of injuries and were the 26th and 30th most injured teams in the league. It is a statement of depth of the roster and the fact that the Giants could stay afloat until their players got healthy to how they overcame the adversity.  Giants were also the 22nd most injured team in 2010, so maybe the Giants are in for a few years of better luck on the injury front to even things out.

The same thing really happened to the Packers in their 2010 Super Bowl run. They had a lot of injuries all year long, but stayed afloat near the .500 mark and got a lot of injured players back at the end of the 2010 season to be ready for their playoff run. In 2010 the Packers were the 30th most injured team in the league, where in 2011 they were in the middle of the league.

It's really unclear what is going on with the starting LT Beatty. He has some back issues, which typically can be managed, but he is up and down with this. The Giants have good talent up and down the roster; the two biggest question marks are in the OL and at the Amukama's starting spot at CB. Amukamara has flashed some talent but also got beaten badly in the Jacksonville game. As far as the OL - they were awful last year opening nothing for the running game. I saw the 49ers - Vikings game the other day and the 49er OL was really handling the Vikings. Jacobs even looked great, because he was getting himself running down hill into big holes before an DLman could put a hand on him. The Vikings are not very good, but the quality of their OL is evident. Giants need to really improve there and Beatty being out does not help.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Roster moves

As you've already heard, Rogers is done for the season as is another DT Parker. Austin's back problem seems to be minor; he may miss some training camp time but it shouldn't affect his availability for the season. But with Canty still on PUP, Giants went out and signed a few other DTs at least to have enough bodies to go through all the drills in training camp until the cut down dates. Some of the players they signed have previous NFL experience and will probably at the very least be serviceable players until Canty and Austin get back to full strength. Giants also signed a kick returner, Laron Scott, a rookie undrafted FA from Georgia Southern. With all the depth the Giants have on their team, and the difficult decisions they will have to make to arrive at the final roster, I am sure they don't love the idea of carrying a specialist that does nothing but return kicks, that only puts more pressure on the "numbers game".  But with two muffed punts in the opener, they may bite the bullet and take him.

The interesting side note to these roster moves is that in addition to signing DTs Wilson, Skinner and Powell; and the rumored plan to sign Marcus Thomas who played in the league for the Broncos last year, the Giants also released two other DL/LBs: they cut Justin Trattou and Clint Sintim, both because of injury. Trattou had  a bad ankle and Sintim never recovered from his multiple knee injuries. The reason I am bringing up the Sintim thing is that it is one of the very few unproductive high round draft pick that Reese has ever made. I was always somewhat suspect of this draft pick, because he was a DE in college that was shifted to LB in the pros. I've gone back to a post I made on this blog on 8/25/2010,  the summer after he was drafted and wrote as follows:

One interesting player to watch is Sintim. When he was drafted, I was unsure of where he might fit. He might be a 'tweener: he played with his hand on the ground, as a pass rushing DE in college. But he is too light to play DE in the NFL and the Giants shifted him to LB. The question is, obviously, does he have the speed and the instincts to play in space in the NFL. He may be a good run stopper because of his size, but may have trouble tracking TEs and RBs running pass patterns on defense. The Giants may envision him not as a 3-down player, but with all the defenses and offenses so situational nowadays, they may view him as playing on running downs only. This is of course risky, because (if you know the rules of football) offenses are in fact allowed to pass on downs that appear to be running downs. He could be a liability if he cannot play in space.
In retrospect, I have to say that my worries back then proved to be well founded. Sintim made a few plays from the LB position - some sacks and some run stops, showed that he was strong and athletic, but had an unmemorable stint as LB and never quite made it. The coup de grace of course, were his knee injuries which put the nails in the coffin of his career. Drafting a guy who played one position in college and expecting him to make the shift to another in the NFL is very suspect. Kiwanuka seems to be managing at LB, but the Giants really use him as a blend DE/LB and there are many others who failed trying to do this. One notable example that comes to mind is Vernon Gholston of the Jets, who was drafted very high, was unable to make the shift and never had his pro career get started.

Reese has been a wonderful talent evaluator and an excellent drafter of talent. The reason the Giants have such talent and depth on this roster is all because of the the master skills of JR. Nobody has a 100% success rate drafting and Sintim is one that he missed on.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lot's wife

Some of you may be students of the bible, but if you're not, let me give you a little lesson. Lot, the nephew of Abraham, lived in the sinful city of Sodom. When God destroyed Sodom (and Gomorrah) Lot and his wife were saved and escaped the city, but they were warned not to turn back and observe the destruction of those cities they were fleeing from. Lot obeyed this commandment and was saved, but Lot's wife just couldn't resist, took a little peak over her shoulder and was punished by being turned into a pillar of salt. Presumably, the lesson of this biblical story, recounted to us in the book of Genesis is that we should not take pleasure in the pain and suffering of others. I consider myself a moral, ethcial, empathetic and religious person and I scrupulously and carefully follow this lesson and do not enjoy when others have pain.

With one exception - the Dallas Cowboys. I just love it when the arrogant, condescending, entitled group called America's team with an owner/GM who makes terrible football decisions for his franchise and then talks trash about beating the Super Bowl champs falls on his face. I know it's only one preseason game and maybe the Cowboys will get things worked out by the time the regular season rolls around, but they looked absolutely awful against the Raiders, who are themselves one of the worst teams in the league. Sometimes you can be shut out in preseason game and nobody worries too much - you can move the ball a little bit, make a few plays, show off some of the talented rookies you just added to the team, etc. In other words, take something positive out of the game even if you lost or your team didn't score offensively. But this performance by the Cowboys Monday night had to be worrying for Cowboys nation. Romo completely one pass for 20 yards and that was the only first down they achieved in 3 possessions. Their OL, particularly the interior part of it, which was said to be somewhat of a concern coming into training camp was in fact absolutely horrible. Raider DTs had a clear lane running at Romo on passing plays as soon as the ball was snapped. The Cowboys RBs didn't show anything, maybe because the OL didn't make any running lanes for them. I didn't watch that carefully, but I think Miles Austin, one of their starting WRs was out with a bad hammy (doesn't he perpetually have a hamstring injury?) and because they lost Laurent Robinson in FA, they do not have a defined third WR. On top of that, to make their outlook more bleak, there is a report in today's papers that said that Witten suffered some kind of serious injury in that Oakland game, may have a spleen injury and could miss substantial time, even into the regular season. Read about it here.

I hope I don't burn in hell for this, but hey.... it's the Cowboys

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

DT Injuries

Last year it was the CBs that got hammered with injuries in camp leaving the Giants with a  season long scramble to catch up and patch together sufficient coverage on the backend to provide representative defense. Coming together with the normal stream of injuries that inevitably happen during the year to other positions on the defense, it almost ruined the Giants season. Fortunately by the end of the season, some of the injured healed up and the season was saved. This year things looked quiet and relatively calm on the injury front. The one area where Reese was concerned was the DT position, because Canty was coming off serious knee surgery and Marvin Austin was in effect a red-shirted freshman who had no track record and had not played competitive football in 2 years. In response to this apparent lack of depth at DT, Reese drafted Kuhn and signed veterans Rocky Bernard and Shaun Rogers. As we blogged earlier, Reese was so concerned about this, he put Ballard at risk and lost him to the Patriots, but he felt bringing in the depth was critical. I don't know if we can say he was right or if he brought in the wrong players, but the injury bug that hit the CBs last year seems to have traveled to the DTs this year. Rogers was taken to the hospital and was diagnosed this morning with a blood clot in his leg. Martin Parker, another DT on the roster who I think had slim chance of making the roster is out with a bad back requiring surgery. Marvin Austin is also being looked at with a back problem, not really surprising because of his lack of playing time over the last two years. With Canty still on PUP and unlikely to be ready for the start of the season, if at all this year, the DT part of the roster looks thin. Bernard and Linval Jospeh are probably the current starters. Dwayne Hendricks, who has had a great camp and played very well against the Jaguars in the preseason opener will probably make the team now and get prominent playing time. I am worried about Canty - I think he will start the season on PUP and may not make it off, missing the entire season. Giants could go out and find some depth at DT after training camp cuts, or they could carry an extra DE/LB, give Tuck some extra snaps at DT and give Kiwanuka some more plays with his hands in the dirt to cover up the shortage at DT. I would not make Tuck a full time DT - his great value is his blend of strength and speed. Sticking him in the middle all the time makes him more prone to injury and mitigates his ability. We'll see.

UPDATE AT Aug 14; 16:12 -  The worst case seems confirmed; Coughlin is quoted as saying that Rogers is out for the season.

I took another look at the game the other night and came away really impressed with Herzlich. He was in on several running plays, looks very fast and physical and also showed good instincts in defending the pass.

There is so much talent and depth on this roster, the formulation of the team and the final cuts will be really tough. I wouldn't be surprised if Giants end up cutting some good players that end up on other rosters in the league. One simple example is at the WR position. It would be nice to carry 6 WRs and if the Giants do, the leading candidates are probably: Nicks, Cruz, Randle, Jenrigan, Hixon and Barden. But Stanback made a great catch the other night, has had a good camp and is a very good ST player. They also have some other WRs who look good: Douglas, Talley and DePalma, but let's assume they won't make the team. If you want to keep Stanback and can carry only 6 WRs, is there a chance that Hixon does not make the team? Or if Hixon makes the team is there a chance they cut Barden? Difficult decisions.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Preseason game 1 - good and bad

Nobody worries about who wins the preseason games, we all just want to scout the new players and see if they are showing any talent or ability. We take a look at the question marks and see what we can expect from our team in the coming season. This first game was mostly a positive exercise for the Giants with one notable exception.

On the good side, all of the 3 top draft picks looked like dynamic players who will contribute immediately to the team. Wilson looked fast and electric with his cuts. Randle had only two balls thrown to him but he made a great catch on the first one, where he looked back for the ball too late, after it had already been released by QB Carr, but he smoothly adjusted his hands to the flight of the ball and it stuck like Velcro. Hosely made a good punt return (and one muff) but looked very quick in pass coverage. Marvin Austin looked good at DT as did Hendricks, both guiys from last year's practice squad; and Adrian Tracy looked great at DE. Giants have almost an embarrassment of riches along the DL. I don't know how they're going to manage the final roster, because you can't carry 12 DL-men on the final squad. If Hendricks and Tracy continue to impress and if Canty comes back strong from his injury, I would not be surprised if either Rocky Bernard or Shaun Rogers fail to make the team. (That would be ironic, since the Giants desire to sign these two, to stock up on DL-men to protect them against loss of Canty and Austin, is what caused them to lose Ballard to the Patriots.) Canty seems to be progressing very slowly, so I wonder if he will be IR'ed this year, whcih would be a big loss for the defense. Herzlich also played very well at MLB, though it is hard to tell sometimes from the limited camera angles you get at the game.

The one piece of bad news, IMO is Amukamara getting beat in that first drive twice, once for a big gain and once for the TD. He played well in the playoffs and towards the end of the season, so I'm not calling him a bust, but I want to see more from him.

The other piece of bad news fro me is Mitch Petrus - he looks really athletic and seems like a powerful run blocker. But he seems to miss a lot in pass blocking which is a big problem. I am hoping he would improve there and win the job, but he had a couple of whiffs in the Jacksonville game. I hope he can improve there.

I also loved what Martellus Bennet gave the Giants. His blocking was good and his pass catching was excellent. He will be a real plus if he stays healthy.

I am still intrigued by what the Giants might do at RB. Last year the Giants carried on the active roster 4 RBs: Jacobs, Bradshaw, DJ Ware and Da'rel Scott. Andre Brown was on the practice squad and the Giants also carried FB Hynoski and FB/TE Pascoe. If the Giants carry only 4 RBs again this year, it seems like the obvious choices will be: Bradshaw, Ware and Wilson, with one of Brown and Scott being released or put on the practice squad. However, I beg to differ with this strategy. DJ Ware, Bradshaw and Wilson are all too similar in style. It's true that Ware is a little bigger, but he is not a power runner. He is smooth and comes out of the backfield well as receiver and 3rd down back. But this is a role I see Wilson filling and if the Giants want to add a little power to their RB mix, I would think about keeping Andre Brown instead. Ware has a little bit of a resume and some team might be willing to give a low round draft choice for him, but if not, the team might release Ware and carry Bradshaw, Wilson, Scott and Brown as the RB group. It's a little too early to figure out the roster moves, but this could be a really interesting area.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Preseason game 1

Nicks is said to be making progress and should even get a few weeks of preseason practice in before the regular season. starts.

I am really eager to see the RBs perform in the preseason and particularly the opener tonight. Giants have 5 RBs with varying levels of skill and accomplishments on their resume. One thing is certain - Giants have made the transition from the old school big power running game to an emphasis on speed and quickness. It was just a few years ago, in the 2008 season following the 2007 Super Bowl where the primary runners were Jacobs and Derrick Ward. It was a very successful running attack - both runners gained more than 1,000 yards in the season, an impressive accomplishment. While Ward had a little more speed and a slightly different style than Jacobs, neither were speed burners and both would be considered power backs. Bradshaw was the speed guy coming off the bench. He had good contribution in the 2007 playoff run but played sparingly and gained only 350 yards in the 2008 season. Now Bradshaw is the primary ball carrier on the team and is probably considered the tough power back of the group instead of the speed guy he was when he first came to the team. The Giants have added speed to that group with Da'Rel Scott and David Wilson in last two drafts. DJ Ware is kind of a 'tweener - has some strength and not blazing fast but is more of third down finesse player. Not sure if Andre Brown will make the team, but he also is not a big bruiser. The point is that the Giants have consciously made a transition to speed and it shows up at RB.

It also shows up at other spots on the roster, specifically, at LB. They moved away from Antonio Pierce a few years ago, cut Chase Blackburn last year only to re-sign him when injuries caught up with them and even drafted TEs in recent years - Beckum and this year's draftee Adrien Robinson who are more athletic and can run. At LB now, the Giants have gone for speed whereever they can - the trade for Rivers, the acquisitions of Herzlich, J Williams and Greg Jones who are all very athletic players for that position. On the DL - the Giants in JPP, Tuck and Osi certainly have the fastest and probably most athletic group of DEs in the game. At DT, Linval Joseph is really quick for someone so strong and Marvin Austin is extremely quick. Giants are big enough to contend with the power game of opponents, but clearly have made a shift towards speed and quickness throughout their roster.

The RB position is interesting, but the WR competition is also intense. Barden, Jernigan, Hixon and Randle all have something to show in these games. I am really hopeful that Barden and Jernigan step up and contribute. Behind that group are some unheralded players Douglas, DePalma and Talley that have played well incamp and caught the eye of the coaches.

It's interesting - Giants won the Super Bowl last year and got absolutely nothing from their top 3 draft picks. Amukamara was out most of the year and contributed only a little at the very end. Austin was out for the year and Jernigan did not catch a single pass. Contrast that with the 2007 Super Bowl where so many of the draftees played significant roles in the title. Now consider that these 3 first rounders from last year are all healthy, gaining great experience and seem poised to contribute. It's almost as if the Giants have a double draft this year, with 6 first-through-third round players joining the roster.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

More camp chatter

I keep hearing that the young CBs are having great camps. Jayron Hosley, the 3rd round draft choice is looking particularly strong and may even be pushing Amukamara and challenging for the starting spot. Michael Coe is playing well and Bruce Johnson seems to have recovered from his injuries and is playing solid. Add in veteran Molden and the Giants have great depth at CB. The one challenge will be finding someone to play the slot receiver when the Giants are in nickel coverage. Hosley has no experience doing that, so he may start on the outside, just because Amukamara can do a better job on the slot receiver. We could see Antrel Rolle filling that position again, which is not bad, because he's not the best S in the league, his own self evaluation notwithstanding. Tyler Sash and Will Hill will get some playing time at S if they play well enough to make the team (Sash seems like a lock but Hill is still a maybe)  and the Giants may yet bring back Deon Grant for some extra depth at that position.

Herzlich and Blackburn are close for the starting MLB position - Herzlich is playing really well this summer.  I want to see him win the job because he is so much more athletic and therefore IMO, fits better in the pass dominated NFL.

If you look at the bad injuries the Giants had last year and the depth that they have filled in this year, the Giants could have a better defense than what they showed even in the last 6 games of the season. The change from the first 14 games to the last 6 was stunning. In the first 14, Giants allowed an average of about 25 points per game. But from the Jets game on, they allowed an average of only 14 points per game over those last 6 games. And - they played 2 of the 3 best offense in the league, Green Bay and New England, avoiding only the Saints in their Super Bowl run.

I am very anxious to see the performance of the players at the contested positions. I want to see the RBs, the LBs, the OL and the WRs. I am also anxious to see Marvin Austin at DT. Giants coaches are really high on him and with Canty likely to miss some time at the beginning of the season, his presence should be important.

At WR, I am not sure who will make the team. If WRs can play ST, you can carry a few more. Nicks, Cruz, Jernigan and Randle are locks to make the team. Hixon is almost certain to make the team. After that, Barden, Douglas and DePalma may be battling for that 6th WR spot, if indeed they do carry 6 WRs. Julian Talley and some other lesser known players may have a chance to make the team if they can be ST contributors, but the Giants may end up cutting a player from that group that shows up on another NFL roster.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Camp Chatter

As I said in an earlier post, it's really hard to tell how good a player will be just by judging his performance in practice. They all look like HOF-ers before they get onto the field in a real game. Fran Tarkenton, old time HOF QB, they said was the worst practice QB anyone had ever seen. His arm strength was poor and while his accuracy was always good on the medium and short throws, he never looked good in practice. Roll him out there on Sundays, however and he looked great. He might be an exceptional case because he was the original scrambling QB and that just doesn't get put on display when you're wearing the red jersey and nobody can touch you. Nevertheless, he was famous for looking like garbage in practice. Conversely, Kent Graham looked like an absolute stud in practice. He had a really strong arm, had a great football body and in practice, when both sides are not quite going at game speed and he didn't have to worry about a pass rush, or about making the proper reads against a defense he knew from playing against every day, he would be zinging balls all over the place and looked like the second coming of John Elway. However on Sunday.... not so much, to use the colloquial expression.

So we should certainly consider the source when we hear about great performance on the practice field. But we can at least be optimistic about good training camp performances and hope that it translates to success come game time. Giants lost a very productive player from last year's passing game in Manningham. There seems to be a lot of talent to fill in for Manningham and it's nice to hear that some of those players are stepping up. Randle is having a good camp as is Barden. Hixon is playing very well from all reports. Jernigan, last year's third round choice is having a very strong camp, which is very encouraging since he showed nothing last year. Jernigan is playing well both in the slot as well as outside, which gives flexibility to the lineup. Some of the lower end WRs, Douglas and DePalma are also having a great camp and they were not really expected to compete for a roster spot. I am most excited about Jernigan and am very anxious to see how he plays in the preseason.

I have not heard much about the TE situation, which is somewhat worrying to me. I would not be surprised if FB Hynoski plays a more active role in the passing game this year to account for somewhat lesser production form TE position.

The other position of great interest to me is the LB group where we seem to have a lot of players. Paysinger and Herzlich are both having very good camps, particularly Herzlich who might beat out Blackburn as the starter at MLB. I can't wait to see them perform during the preseason games.

At RB, Wilson is getting a lot of reps and is showing his speed, but Giants are always very slow to bring rookie RBs along until they show they can pick up blitzes so they keep Eli safe. We'll see. I'd like to see the Giants use Wilson the way the Saints (and Chargers before them) use Sproles. He can't block either, but somehow they get him the ball and burn the defense when they blitz with him in the game. Two words: screen pass. Games start this weekend. Can't wait.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Draft Choices: looking back, looking forward

We often make much of the complexity of analyzing and building an NFL roster and forecasting how the team will do. I will propose a very simple way of forecasting success and it is totally based on looking at the quality of first round draft picks. You can either call it simplistic and stupid or call it brilliantly elegant in its simplicity. Look at the first round draft choices for a team for a few years in a row and the quality of those draft choices will be strong indicators of success of the team for the succeeding 5 of 6 years. It is not a perfect system of course, because it ignores 2nd round picks, FAs, etc, but you'd be surprised how well it works. My contention is that sustained success (i.e. over a 5-6 year period) is only built through the draft. And while you occasionally get a star like Tom Brady in the 6th round or a pro bowler like Justin Tuck in the 4th, best players usually come in the first round.

To draft successfully in that first round, you need to find a player that is a solid starter for your team, once in a while find a star and avoid minor contributors and complete busts. Take a look at the Giants draft choices over the last 30 years or so with the success/lack of success in the several years following those drafts and I think I can prove my case:

In the 1970's Giants drafts were simply awful, drafting nine players from 1970-1978 only 3 of which were legitmate NFL caliber players. Of the 3, only one was a capable starter, Brad Van Pelt who was a very strong player. Consequently, according to my theory, Giants were awful in the '70s. Things turned around in 1979. Beginning in 1979 through 1984, Giants drafted 3 starts in Simms, Taylor and Banks. Of the other 3 players they drafted, only one was a washout, while the other 2, Mark Haynes and Terry Kinard were solid starters. Giants had sustained success from 1985 through 1990 winning their first two Super Bowls and constantly being in contention following this six year period of good drafting.
Beginning in 1985, the drafting started to decline, with Giants getting a few decent players in Mark Ingram, Eric Moore and Rodney Hampton, but 3 poor picks in Brian Williams, Eric Dorsey and George Adams. In the years following the 1990 Super Bowl the team was very up and down. Then in 1991, the first round draft choices declined greatly again. In the 13 years from 1991 through 2003, the Giants had six complete busts: Jarrod Bunch, Derek Brown, Dave Brown, Thomas Lewis, Cedric Jones, Ty Wheatley, Ron Dayne and William Joseph. They had a few decent players in Ike Hilliard, Shaun Williams, Will Allen and Luke Pettigout, with one player that could have been great and never quite reached his potential in Jeremy Shockey. Giants made it to the Super Bowl in 2000 and had some decent years here and there sprinkled in, largely because of later round draft choices (Strahan, Barber, Armstead, Toomer) and a few good FA pickups (Kerry Collins, OL-men right before 2000). But that does not lead to sustained success; it was  good season one year, followed by an awful one the next year, culminating with a 4-12 record in 2003 and the departure of the coach.

Now let's look at what I'll call the "Eli era", where it seems like every year, Giants are getting at worst solid starters and are hitting home runs with some real stars. Since 2004, the draft picks have been: Eli, Webster (2nd round, but first pick for Giants that year because of Eli trade the year before), Kiwanuka, Ross, Phillips, Nicks, JPP, Amukamara. We don't know how Amukamara will turn out, though he is starting to show some talent. But of the 7 picks between 2004 - 2010, Giants had 3 superstars in Eli, Nicks and JPP; 3 superior players in Webster, Kiwanuka and Phillips; and one solid starter in Aaron Ross. Of course, Giants have had two more titles since this 2004 drafting period began and their worst record was 8-8. By my theory, that success was predictable and it bodes well for the Giants fortunes for the next several years.