Lots of personal stuff going, took a brief hiatus, now we're back blogging away.
I'm not going to review in detail the flow of the Carolina game or the Tampa game since they are long in the books, but we can review some of the major trends and observations from those games.
The biggest thing to notice and I anticipate what could be the biggest harbinger of improved play from the G-men is the OL play. It was like a switch being turned on midway through the Tampa game, and I hate to say it, but it seemed to coincide with the Diehl injury. When he first went down, Giants tried a few different combinations on the next few plays and series. At first Boothe slid over to RT and Cordle went in at G. Then Cordle played RT and Boothe returned to his position. Then Beatty played some at RT, but ultimately they moved Beatty to his natural LT spot and flipped Locklear over to RT. I love Diehl, he's been a warrior for the Giants for a long time, a real team player and they won two Super Bowls with him at LT. But there's no getting around the fact that he's not a great OT, that his play has declined over the last few years and he was playing poorly at RT this year. Locklear was so-so at LT and we saw shaky OL play through the Dallas game and part of the Tampa game. But Beatty has been rock solid at LT, good blocking for the pass and very good in the running game, while Locklear is a much better RT than he is LT. So with this move, Giants upgraded greatly two critical positions on the OL. Tampa has a very good DL and held their opponents to meager rushing yardage this year, but the Giants ran well against them. I don't think Carolina's DL or defense is that good, but the Giants OL pounded them for big running yards and gave Eli a nice clean pocket to throw from. If the Giants OL plays well enough for the Giants to get 120-130 yards rushing, with the weapons they have at WR/TE and that guy # 10 playing QB, Giants will put up lots of points. As my friend Ray pointed out, the biggest indicator of improved OL play and running game wasn't really the 130 yards Brown ran for against Carolina. It was when the Giants had 1st and goal from the 9 and they ran the ball 3 times culminating with Brown taking it in for the TD. All three runs were over the left side of the OL behind Beatty.
Andre Brown and Ramses Barden played very well against Carolina; that goes without saying. But it has to be mentioned that the Caroina coaching was clueless. I guess you can't roast them for trying to slide the coverage over to Cruz when Nicks was out and in effect say: "let's see Barden beat us". But when it was evident that he was beating them after he caught 5 or 6 balls right away, they could have, maybe should have reevaluated their strategy. I'm being kind. They're a bunch of dopes. It's fine to go in with a particular game plan, but you can't stick with it blindly without watching the game and seeing if it's working. This was Bill Sheridan's style and that's why Coughlin showed him the door after one year.
I have posted here many times that I think Bradshaw is overrated and with Brown's performance, perhaps we see that a straight ahead slashing style might be more effective in today's speed-focused league rather than Bradshaw's juking, dancing, make-somebody-miss and bounce it outside style. If Bradshaw stays out for a few weeks with the injury and Brown continues to play well, I wouldn't be so fast to give him back his starter's job. Develop Wilson and even Scott as the speed alternatives while giving Brown the bulk of the carries. Maybe Giants will find that Bradhsaw is not a necessary part in future years.
Prince A came back and played really well against Carolina. He seemed like he was always in good position and he defended a few passes. He's also a solid tackler in run support. Hosely looks like he could be a star. He's a little small-ish, so you may always need to pair him with one big CB who can handle the really tall WRs in the league, but he has great makeup speed, great feet and he is a playmaker. What a difference to the pass defense it makes to have 3 good CBs and a pass rush. Huge difference to trot Tryon and Coe out as 4th/5th CBs instead of 3rd.
The Giants are so deep with quality LBs, a position that was weak a few short years ago, that the starters could all get injured, the second team could come in and we would not notice a drop off in talent. Kiwanuka-Blackburn-Boley with Williams-Herzlich-Rivers right behind them and Paysinger barely even in the mix, mostly playing ST. In fact - he made a huge play on ST forcing and recovering the fumble of the opening kickoff of the 2nd half of the Carolina game. That's whay io keep saying - expect Osi to leave after this year, slide Kiwanuka back to the DL and let these talented LBs play.
Speaking of Carolina game, I just love what the brilliant analyst Mayock said. Carolina was obviously having trouble in coverage as Eli had open targets to throw to all night. So the genius says (not a direct quote): "Carolina is not covering well, but regardless of coverage, if you can't get to the QB and you can't stop the running game, you're going to have trouble on defense." I think I get it - if you can't stop the pass or the run, your defense might not be so good. I only wish I had that kind of insight into the game, but he's a former player, so I can't possibly hope to have his deep perception.