Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The second half

If we harbor any hopes for the Giants of at least getting back into the race and having a meaningful second half of the season, this past Sunday was overall not a good day for the team. All three NFC East rivals won though two of them, Redskins and Cowboys looked a little shaky doing so. They both could easily have easily lost to weak teams . Cowboys needed a last minute TD to pull out a win against the awful Vikings. Redskins needed OT to beat the Chargers. If both teams had as they easily could have, it would have improved the Giants position greatly. This made those wins a particularly bitter pill to swallow. Eagles won big, but that was as much a  really badly played by the Raiders as it was a dominating win for the Eagles. Game was handed to Eagles by the Raiders. Raiders are not as bad as they looked last week and they will surely play a much better game this Sunday when they come to Met Life Stadium. Realistically, the Giants don't have much of a chance and have a lot of things working against them. They are 2 1/2 games behind the Cowboys and the Cowboys have the tie breaker on their side. Even if the Cowboys fall apart and the Giants are able to get them in haling distance, there are two other teams, Eagles and Redskins ahead of the Giants. This means that the Giants need three teams to collapse, not just the first place 'Boys. Giants split with the Eagles and do have one game left against the Cowboys, but they are going to need help from the rest of the league to get going and definitely do not have their fate in their own hands.

There was one positive omen to come out of this past Sunday. I never root for injuries, especially for a top player, but they are a part of the game and if they happen to your opponents and weaken them when you're about to play them, it can be considered a lucky break that you have to take advantage of. There's an old adage in football - "it's not who you play, it's when you play them". This covers teams that go through their up and down cycles during the season, but also the ebb and flow of injuries. I am referring of course, to the unfortunate left shoulder injury to Aaron Rodgers. Giants have a few difficult games left on their schedule blended in with some winnable games. The toughest games left were Green Bay, @ Detroit and Seattle. The other games are not easy (no game should be considered easy for a 2-6 team), but relatively speaking these were the most difficult. Of those three games, one, the Packers game, just became much more winnable because the best QB in football will probably be out when the Giants play them on November 17th. Interesting news is that Matt Flynn just got cut by the Bills, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Packers pick him up. He was the understudy to Rodgers for several years and knows the offense and the players. He had that one huge game while Rodgers rested towards the end of the 2011 season, which propelled the Seahawks into trading for him, but his career never took off. Maybe the Packers will think that he can recapture the magic and play well for a few games until Rodgers gets back. They need a QB; Flynn is available; Packers have some history with him - he'll go back to Green Bay.

But all that hope and the break of the Rodgers injury, the Giants season still comes down to one thing. It's true that the Giants beat two teams in a row. It's true that the Giants have looked better especially on defense. It's true that the Giants made some personnel improvements on defense and the defensive improvements may be more than smoke and mirrors. But there's one thing we can't get around. The Giants interior OL is not good and the cavalry is not on the way with some fresh reinforcements. Giants will have to make do with what they have and they are not going to magically start getting better. On top of that, Nicks has been having an average season. Andre Brown is coming back this Sunday and will slowly work back into the rotation and David Wilson is out a few more weeks at least; perhaps for the rest of the season. So..... a weak OL, the two skill position players that were going to carry the offense - Wilson and Nicks are out and/or not as productive as we hoped. This kind of means that despite all the stuff going on around them, Giants may just not be good enough this year for a run.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Special Teams

Giants are having a terrible time on special teams this season. They seem like they are on a record to give up most special teams touchdowns in a season. I have no idea if that's true, but 4 TDs, 3 on punt returns and 1 on a bad snap, in only 8 weeks of play is pretty bad. Jumping off sides on punt coverage when it was 4th and less than 5 to give the other team a 1st down and keep their drive alive was another egregious mistake. They did that twice. Weatherford had a few terrible games punting, though he has been better the last few games. Josh Brown has missed several makeable FGs at points during the game when it seemed like it could make a difference. But I want to concentrate on the coaching behind this horror show.

The NFL is a player's league, but coaching has a huge impact on the results and achievement of the team. You need the talent, but coaching can either prop up or weaken what you might consider the team's natural ability. When it comes to offense or defense, the style of play must match the skills of the players. When the Giants finished next to last in the league in 1980 and had the second pick in the draft, they drafted LT. The team was awful, had no QB, no talent at all on offense and little to speak of on defense except for 3 very good LBs. They correctly assessed that LT was a once in a generation player and drafted him despite his being a LB, the only unit on the team that did not need help. Once they got LT into camp and saw that they had judged him correctly and he was in fact going to be a dominant player, they did not stick with their 4-3 defense. Rather they switched to a 3-4, just to get their best players on the field. That's coaching - examining your roster and arranging the style of play around it. But it is still about the players' talents first.

When it comes to special teams, however, it is not partly about coaching - it is ENTIRELY about coaching. My contention is that every NFL team has a sufficient number of capable athletes to field at least a competent special teams unit. Every so often you get a player like Devin Hester on your team, or Reyna Thompson or David Tyree, if you want to take a nostalgic view into Giants history for a moment,  that elevates the ST play and makes it well above average. But with good coaching, every team should have decent special teams coverage and play. The fact that the punt coverage is so bad is a direct reflection of poor coaching by Quinn, the ST coach. I noticed that on 2 of the 3 punt returns that went for TDs against the Giants, the gunner on the side of the field where the ball was kicked was rookie Damontre Moore. In both those instances, Moore did his best to get down field and actually got there in good time. But he was easily juked out of the play by the returner and overran the ball carrier as the kick returner started to run down field on his TD run. Damontre Moore is a fabulous athlete for a DE. I have high hopes for him to become a good pass rusher of the future for the Giants. But - HE IS STILL A DE. No other teams use DEs for gunners. None. I'm not exaggerating when I say none. Some people might use none as (negative) hyperbole and really mean " very few" when they say none. I am not. I really mean none. Nada. Rien. Zero. Zilch. אפס. NONE! A DE, no matter how athletic and fast has no chance to stay with a little returner who has moves to fake out quick guys his own size, much less a 250-260 lb. player who is not nearly as nimble as he is. It's an inexcusable coaching error. The most important thing any coach does in any sport is fill out the lineup card. And if the coach has the wrong guys in the game at the wrong positions, he has failed. Especially if they do it twice.

One more point: I am willing to wager that this is the first time that Moore has been a gunner on punt coverage in his entire career of playing football at any level - Pop Warner, HS or college. He was the best athlete probably on every team, he was the biggest player on every team, so his coach surely did not want to "waste" him as a punt cover guy. That's what DBs are for. Therefore, in addition to being disadvantaged physically against the smaller, quicker returner, he did not even have game experience to fall back on. You saw the results. Maybe the coach picked him because in straight line sprints he was faster than other players. But still - if I could figure out that he wasn't suited for the job, then the coaches should have been able to figure it out too.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

MidSeason Analysis

It's tough to get excited about a 2-6 team even if it is on a 2 game winning streak. I am going to take a glass half full / half empty approach and present reasons for some optimism as well a dose of a reality check to understand the frailties of this team.

Reality Check - glass half empty

The competition

True, Giants are on a 2 game winning streak. But let's be clear: the Vikings and Eagles are not good football teams. Giants still have not beaten a team with a  competent starting QB. Josh Freeman has a strong arm and is physically gifted, but his accuracy is awful. He was so wild with his throws that he made former Giant QB great Dave Brown look like an all pro. Michael Vick, while also physically gifted, we must admit is an awful QB. He makes some plays that make you marvel at his physical ability, and he steals some games with that talent that he has no business winning.  While he throws a nice deep ball, he is a terrible decision maker, has no touch on the ball for the medium routes and is not a good team leader. On top of that he had a bad hammy and could not use his best quality - speed. So even though the Giants defense played better in these two games, they weren't exactly facing Joe Montana.

Offensive Disappointment

Giants came into the season thinking that they had a boat load of offensive weapons with Wilson and Brown at RB; Randle, Nicks and Cruz at WR. If they could block for the QB, Giants would be a high powered offense and score lots of points. But the harsh reality is that the OL could not block and was much worse than anyone anticipated. On top of that, the best OL-man Snee was hurt as was C Baas. Boothe at the other G seems to have slipped from the mediocre level he was at last year, Beatty had a few bad games and Pugh had some rookie problems. The OL has been worse than Giants needed it to be, but the offensive weapons have been degraded also. Wilson and Brown have been hurt and contributed nothing, except for a bunch of fumbles and missed assignments which cost the team the Cowboys game. More worrisome to me is the WR corps, where Randle's routes seem to be as predictable as a random number generator, leading to 6 of Eli's 15 interceptions. Nicks, who was supposed to be the deep threat, the straw that stirs the drink of the Giants passing attack, has been very mediocre. He just doesn't have the burst he showed in previous years, rarely gets separation deep and has been uncharacteristically dropping balls with his greatest strength, his hands. Every pass he catches requires a perfect, pinpoint throw from Eli and that is a recipe for a high risk offense. Nicks looks more like he did last year when he was injured than he did in 2011 when he was an absolute beast and was my MVP of the playoffs, right after Eli. The deep passing attack that Giants use is particularly vulnerable to bad OL play because the QB has to hold the ball longer.

Defense under par

Defense has been tentative and has been getting beat late in games, especially. They have had very good run defense all year, with the inflow of quality DTs, but the pass rush has been invisible and the LBs have been mediocre. The coverage and tackling in the DB-field has been good, but the safe, completely predictable, keep-everything-in-front-of-you zone that Fewell plays is just too easy for opposing offenses to scheme against.

A glimmer of optimism - glass half full

Personnel upgrades 

Giants have won the last two games not only because the same old players played better and not only because they were playing two crappy teams. They have made a few key personnel changes which have really changed things up and may provide some hope. Specifically: Beason has been a real find at LB, shoring up a mediocre LB unit. He has been particularly good in the middle against the pass and has made plays in the running game also. On offense, everyone wants to look at the addition of Hillis as a benefit and he has been fine, I agree. But the real addition has been Conners at FB. You can't get a running game without blocking at the point of attack and that often is led by the TE and the FB. Using Pascoe at FB after Hynoski got hurt was just not going to power the Giants running game. Pascoe is just not physical and athletic enough. Conners has been great at FB in the running game and is an excellent pass blocker also. With a weak OL, the FB is not going to transform it into a power running team, but it helps. The addition of Will Hill at S has been a real plus. He could become an all pro S some day and is an enormous upgrade over Ryan Mundy who is not fast enough to give the defense any help in pass coverage. In addition to these new players, there have been a few players that have settled into their roles since the beginning of the season and are improving. Specifically, Terrell Thomas looks like he has really regained his form and is running smoothly and tackling well. He had a great game against the Eagles Sunday. Cordle is improving at C. He was shaky at the beginning when he replaced Baas and has been steady recently. Pugh is also getting better every game at RT, not surprising that a rookie would struggle early. Diehl and Boothe seem to be the weak points in the OL and they are tough to hide.

Coaching philosophy changes

I give crap  on this blog to the coordinators all the time and it's time to 'fess up and give them their props when they do something good. On offense, Gilbride is fond of the long passing game and it is a reasonable strategy with a strong armed, capable QB. But when the OL can't block, you can't ask Eli to hold the ball for 4-5 seconds and take 5-7 step drops all the time. Gilbride in the last 2 games has completely changed the offense and has gone to a mostly short, safe passing game. The ball comes out of Eli' hand in 2-3 seconds instead of having to hold it for 4-5 seconds. The offense was average against the Vikings, but was better against the Eagles. When you have that short passing game, it's tougher to get in the end zone, but there were no turnovers by the offense and 5 scoring drives. If 2 of the 5 had been TDs, the game would have looked a lot better. In fact, some of the drives were stopped by procedure penalties and delay of game, rather than weakness in the offense.

On defense, the players and the DC made a lot out of the new approach since half time of the Bears game. The players approached Fewell and told him that the reads and the keys on defense were too complicated, slowing the players down and not allowing them to play fast and loose. To his credit, he simplified the defense and the Giants have not given up an offensive TD since half time of that bears game, a span of 10 quarters.

The hope - the reality

The hope has to be that the interior of the OL plays a little better, that Nicks finds his burst after he takes a bye week off, that the defense continues to improve and the Giants get back in the race. Giants are 2-6 but only 2 games behind Dallas. If they had not turned the ball over 5 times opening night and had won that game, they would actually be tied for first with them now at 3-5.

The worry has to be that the tough part of the schedule is in front of the Giants with games against Green Bay, Seattle and Dallas. For them to win a few games and have a decent close to the season is a reasonable expectations. To hope / expect them to actually win the division is probably too much to ask for.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bears game review

If it's possible for one game in a winless 6 game opening of the season to be more depressing than the others, this Bears game last Thursday night might be it for me. Coming into the game, in fact coming into the season, it appeared that on offense Giants had an abundance of skill position players, a great QB and the big question was the OL. Could they block for them, open some holes in the running game and provide some protection for Eli? In those first 5 games the answer was no. The OL was horrid, providing no running game and no protection for Eli, leaving the Giants with no way to move the ball on offense. When thing got dicey, Eli tried to win the games all by himself, took some chances he shouldn't have taken and ended up throwing the ball to the guys with the other colored jerseys way too often. That was the first 5 games of the season. But going into the 6th game, hope springs eternal, and there was just a tiny ray of hope. It was true that the two RBs set to carry the ball this season were both out with injuries and the Giants had a retread Jacobs at RB. But the Bears DL was weakened by injury and the Giants had a competent OL-man Diehl starting his second game after coming back from injury. Not that Diehl is an all pro, but he has shown flashes of slightly-above-average in his career and maybe he would get his sea legs back and play well. So the hope was that the OL would be representative of a decent OL, that Eli would finally have time to throw and that the Giants would play well. In fact it worked out better than that - OL also opened some holes for the running game and Jacobs had 100+ yards, mostly behind the right side of the OL with Pugh who played very well and Diehl who also played well. The Giants definitely played better than they had in their previous 5 games, but the depressing thing for me is that they still lost to a very-mediocre Bears team.

Defense was cut up badly in the first half, giving up 17 points to the Bears (7 coming courtesy of a pick 6 by Eli) and looked like they could not stop the Bears at all. Sometimes an offense scores points but they look like they are working hard and struggling to do it - the Bears offense in first half looked like it just walked through the Giants, with nearly every play working successfully. Giants defense did have one good stop on 4th down after the first Eli INT, but after that it was just too easy for the Bears. In the 2nd half, the Giants defense was a little better, giving up only 3 points and forcing several punts. It appeared to me that it was more the Bears misfiring on some 3rd downs than great pressure or play by the Giants defense, but at least the defense got in position to get the stops. When the Giants got the ball back with about 4 minutes left and Eli started moving them down the field, it sure looked like they were in position to win again on a 4th quarter TD drive. But Eli's pass was about 6 inches too high and the TE Myers did not turn his body around early enough in his route to see the ball coming, tipped it up in the air and yet another INT ended the disappointing evening.

Of Eli's 15 INTs this year, 5 of them have come when he has targeted Randle and this is disproportional to the total number of targets he gets compared to other potential pass receivers in the offense. Randle has a lot of talent, but he is often not on the same page with Eli. All the INTs go in Eli's statistics column, but many of them are the result of this overly complex offense by Gilbride and the WR/QB not making the same read of the defense and subsequent adjustment to their routes. Actually, calling it complex is not the right word - it's not complex so much as it is filled with instantaneous decisions and reads by the entire offense. They've gotten away with it for years because Eli is such a cerebral QB. But it is very high risk as we saw Thursday night.  Randle reads one thing, Eli reads another. 6 points for the other guys. Tipped ball because the receiver is not in perfect position, perhaps because he is hesitating after the snap trying to read the defense - INT. That was not only Myers on Thursday, but that was also the opening night INT on the tip off of Da'Rel Scott's hands and probably a few others. There have been some times when Nicks cut off his route and Eli threw it to where he should have been. Eli has to take some of the blame, but he has not played as badly as it appears from his statistics.

The other thing that makes this Gilbride offense obsolete and a liability is that in the new world of the NFL, with the current collective bargaining agreement, it is much more important to bring in young players and inexpensive FAs and get them productive right away. The current collective bargaining agreement has two important financial elements: (1) a very slow rise in the salary cap from the 2010 number (deal became effective in 2011); (2) a rookie salary cap. If the salary cap is rising slowly, it made it very difficult for a team to keep the higher priced veterans and makes it difficult to bring in new high priced FAs. To manage this cap, teams must draft well and get their draft class productive right away, rather than waiting a season and a half to get them on the field. Second, if they need to fill a roster slot with a FA, rather than giving a big contract to an expensive FA, they will try to find a middle of the road FA who is looking to prove himself and give him a cheap 1 year contract. Giants did this with Kawika Mitchell in 2007, with Martellus Bennett last year and with several others along the way. All this means much more turnover in the roster and the need to get new players accustomed to the offense so they can be productive immediately. That just does not happen with Gilbride's offense and it's time to go.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gameday.... time for "If"

There's no denying that the Giants are in trouble. Having said that, my opinion remains that there are still some good players and even some great players on this team. They are being done in by the units that are weak and the serious flaws that exist elsewhere on the roster. Giants used to be driven by their OL and DL and now those units are weak. But..... If the Giants OL plays a little better (I would be trying Brewer at LG and maybe move Boothe to C); If Brandon Jacobs meets up with Ponce de Leon and finds the fountain of youth; If Da'Rel Scott makes a few plays with his speed; If Eli has just a few more seconds to scan the field in the pocket; If JPP and Kiwi wake up from their season long slumber; If Beason gets over his injuries and regains his speed; then I still think there are enough skill position players on the Giants to field a representative team.

OK, I get that those are a lot of if's. Most of them individually are unlikely to happen (especially that fountain of youth thing)  and certainly ALL of them happening together is a near impossibility, but hey this is Game Day. Time for dreaming. A few years ago I was at Monday (maybe Sunday?) night game between Bears and Giants and the pass rush really got after Cutler. Giants sacked him 5 or 6 times in the first half, knocked him out of the game with a concussion by half time and generally made the Bears OL look stupid. Apparently Bears have improved their OL and they have a new coach that has injected some life into the team, particularly the offense. (There's an idea for Giants management - a new coaching philosophy with some life.)  But the Bears are not a great team and even though they are favored by 8 1/2 this is not an unwinnable game for the Giants. Bears defense is not bad and they do have the formidable freak-athlete Julius Peppers at DE. But he has only 1 sack this year and the Bears defense is not overwhelming. Maybe Giants get going tonight.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The decline of the roster

We can all rail about the coaching with some justification. We can complain about sloppy play by the QB. We can talk about bad turnovers and idiotic penalties. But that doesn't get to the heart of the matter, which is the steady decline in the talent on this roster. I was watching the Jets the other night against Atlanta and saw more good athletes on their roster than on the Giants. Just as one example, look at the backup TE Cumberland.... Winslow is their starter and when he went out, Cumberland came in - he is huge, fit, strong and fast. Giants don't seem to have players like that on the roster, much less as substitutes behind the starters. Let's not confuse cause and effect. The turnovers, penalties, sloppy play are not the cause of Giants losing. Rather, they are the effect of not having enough good players and having those players a step slow, less powerful and athletic makes it impossible for them to succeed in the sport where athleticism determines outcome more than in any other sport. 
Some example of the declining roster:
1. At RB, Jacobs is the starting RB right now, and if he wasn't playing for the Giants, he would not be in football. Pascoe is the FB and he is just awful. He's in there because of the Hynoski injury, but how do you go into the season with 1 FB on your roster, and that one being someone who is coming off a major knee injury and surgery and you just expect him to be OK. BTW, everyone loves Hynoski because he's tough and has a great name, but he doesn't have a great track record yet and is also a big step down from previous FB, Madison Hedgecock who was an excellent player until he got injured. Giants are so desperate that they signed Conner, ex-Jet FB, who also was out of football until Giants signed him.
2. At TE, the last several Giants have had - Kevin Boss, Jake Ballard, Martellus Bennett and even Beckum are way better than Myers. First time I saw Myers on the practice field this summer, I said he's not very good. A "tweener" - not a big guy /  good blocker, but also not very fast and.... drops some balls he should catch.
3. At OL, Baas is a clear step down from his predecessor O'Hara and Cordle his backup is probably not an NFL player. Boothe, the starting LG was not a starter two years ago; he's a good backup but a below average starter who is probably on the team because of his versatility. Being versatile is coach-speak for saying he can be a below average player at all 3 of the interior OL positions he can play. Diehl was a decent player at his peak and now after injuries and age have slowed him down, he is also worse than he ever was; playing RG in place of Snee is another major downgrade (at least compared to when Snee was healthy). Beatty and Pugh are OK at the T positions, though neither is sparkling right now.
4. LB position: Herzlich is a great story but he does not look like he is more than a ST player in the NFL. He made an occasional play last week against the Eagles, but consider the following: he couldn't beat out Blackburn last year who got cut; he couldn't beat out Connor this year who had been cut previous year from the Cowboys. And the Giants have now traded for Beason, who became available because he was beaten out of his job by Blackburn and Beason is slated to take Herzlich MLB job as soon as he gets healthy and learns Fewell's complex defense. He may start Thursday night against Chicago. I have to admit that Paysinger is coming around and I like J Williams athleticism. But the MLB position when compared to Antonio Pierce is a huge step down in talent also.
5. DL: DT is the one position Giants have upgraded. They are playing well and stuffing the run well. But the DEs and DL get no pass rush. Tuck is a shell of his former self. JPP and Kiwanuka look lost and are not playing as well as Osi did last year.
6. CBs are better than last year. S position is hurt - Mundy was brought in to be backup S and that's what he is.... a backup. Both Mundy and his intended replacement Stevie Brown are worse football players than their predecessor, Kenny Phillips. I am not saying that Giants should have kept KP, because he has been slowed by age/injury also. My point is that here too, the roster has declined.
7. Training staff: Why do Giants get so many injuries every year? Injuries are supposed to be randomly distributed so that at least sometimes your team gets a relatively injury-free year. Never seems to happen with the Giants. I read a few articles recently that reported that the 49ers and Saints in particular have adopted new, advanced training techniques to get their players stronger and faster and less prone to injuries. Seems to be working for them.
In summary, the whole organization has to take the blame for this team. GM-coaches-players-even owners.   Giants need a makeover, and the window for Eli remaining a Super Bowl caliber QB is closing, so this has to be done fast. Alas, there are lots of holes to fill. My opinion is that there will be a radical change this offseason, helped by the many players that are in the last year of their deal.
You all know I'm a big Eli fan and I will agree he's not playing well this year. But he still has the arm, the brains, the heart and the genes to be a champion.

The trend

The trending continues as all of these losses continue piling up, but the games seem to have some similar trends and feel to them. It doesn't seem to matter whether the Giants are playing established, undefeated teams like the Broncos or Chiefs, whether they are playing young, athletic wanna-be teams like the Panthers or whether they are playing division rivals who are not very good but have some good offensive talent somewhere on their roster. The Giants show some ability early on, play tough at the outset, hang in with the other team for a while, but then get overwhelmed in the 2nd half and especially the 4th quarter. Their defense plays tough for a while but then crumbles. Their offense starts poorly, shows no running game and little ability to present a clean pocket for the QB and eventually are done in by turnovers.

The injuries continue to pile up and they expose several important things on the roster constructed by the front office: (1) there is a surprising lack of depth behind the starters on the OL, at RB and at FB. There is also little talent at the TE position; (2) the roster is old and aging at key positions and when that happens injuries are more likely to occur; (3) even the DL and the pass rush, core of the Giants defensive strategy for so many years is filled with aging players for whom their best playing days are behind them.

From the broad perspective, without going into too much individual analysis, the Giants are getting beaten badly at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and that means that the skill position players on offense and defense are limited in their ability to succeed. On offense, before you analyze the statistics too closely, you can just take a 30,000 foot perspective of the game and imagine or recall visually what the game looked like last Sunday against the Iggles. Vick and later Foles were often able to drop back and sit in a nice clean pocket, step forward into their throws when they had to. Eli on the other hand was too often getting pressured, often got off throws with guys rushing right at him up the middle and could not cleanly step into the throws. When he was able to do that, he was able to hit his receivers and make some plays. But when there is no running game, the QB has to throw all the time to move the team, when the OL gives up all this pressure, bad plays are going to happen. This Sunday against the Eagles, the stat sheet says that Eli had 3 INTs. The first happened when Eli's helmet was hit as he was throwing and the ball bounced off his own C's helmet. The fact that there should have been a penalty called is immaterial to the point that the OL allowed several DL-men to get to Eli, there was no clean pocket to throw from and they were close enough to him to reach out and hit his helmet. The second INT was a ball that was in Cruz's hands and ripped out by the defender. You could argue that the ball was thrown slightly behind Cruz which gave the DB a chance to make the play on the ball. But the truth is that Eli hit his man in the hands and try to recall the play - here too Eli was forced out of the pocket, was throwing on the run and threw a great ball under the circumstances. On the third INT, Nicks inexplicably pulled up his route, Eli threw it where he should have been and the ball was picked. I don't want this to sound like a blind Eli defense from an unobjective groupie who is trying to defend the QB at the expense of all else, but the facts are that the team around Eli, from the OL to the RBs to the FB and the TE are the worst team he's ever had around him. I would argue that of those 8 players that I just referred to: 5 OL-men Beatty, Boothe, Cordle, Diehl, Pugh, RB Jacobs, FB Pascoe and TE Myers, none of them would start on most of the other NFL teams. Furthermore, 5 of the 8 (the 3 interior OL-men, the FB and the TE) would not make the rosters of the better NFL teams. Yet, the QB is blasted for throwing too many picks and that's why the teams is losing.

Even going beyond those core infrastructure positions and looking at the skill position players, Cruz is playing great this year, but Nicks and Randle have both dropped way too many passes that could have been big plays and maybe changed the complexion of some of the games.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Scary prospects

Here are the scary things for Giants fans:

1. We're thrilled that David Diehl is making it back from injury and will solidify the OL. The scary part of that proposition is that Diehl has never been a great player, never been an all pro, whose best quality is certainly his versatility, not his overpowering strength as a blocker. Diehl was shuffled around to all the positions on the OL except for C. He has been a trooper, has done what's been asked of him, took a pay cut twice on the Giants. His contract called for him to be payed more if he was the starting LT and when he was moved away from that position, his salary was essentially cut. Second time was this off season, when the Giants told him he needed to take a pay cut or, presumably, he would be cut from the team. So someone who was on the bubble for making the team is now going to save the season? Yikes.

Note: My brother always likes to point out that without David Diehl, David Tyree and the helmet catch would not be part of our sports lore. It was Diehl who was unable to block Adalius Thomas (right this way Mr. Thomas, I believe you have a meeting scheduled in the backfield with our QB Mr. Manning) and set the great escape up for Eli. 

2. Brandon Jacobs has now been elevated to the number 2 RB on the team. This is a player that also never made a pro bowl, was cut two years ago because he was slowing down, signed by the 49ers, was injured and did not play the entire 2012 season, did not have a job in training camp and was only signed by the Giants when Andre Brown got hurt and David Wilson decided to start fumbling the ball. Now that Da'Rel Scott has been cut, Jacobs plays a more prominent role in the offense. I remember the Giants having OJ Anderson as a backup RB in the 1986 season - in fact he scored a TD in garbage time in the 1986 Super Bowl. He hung around a few more season, was also the back up in 1990 and because of some injuries, ended upplaying a much more prominent role than he or anyone else anticipated. But he was a pro, gained more than 1,000 yards that season and was the Super Bowl MVP in 1990. Jacobs is not in that class and the Giants have no backups like that on this team. Double Yikes!

3. Giants LBs have played better than anyone has given them credit for, though I think I am the only one that holds that opinion. Herzlich had a decent game last week and Paysinger is developing. Now, however the Giants seem to have some injuries at that position, though it's hard to tell how serious. The DBs have also been good. Prince A has lived up to his 1st round draft status and the off season goal to become an elite CB. Thomas, Ross and Webster have all played pretty well but now they all seem hurt to some degree or another. McBride had to play last week and actually did pretty well. The DL has been playing well against the run but now have injuries to JPP, Linval Jospeh and Cullen Jenkins. Against the Eagles, who run a football version of the Mike D'Antoni offense, you need depth on the DL to substitute, get a rotation going and keep the defense relatively fresh. It's hard to do that with all the injuries. Hankins and Damontre Moore will play some this week. It's scary when the best part of the team, the part that has been at least decent, is now hammered by injuries.

4. As bad as the defense was last year, finishing 31st statistically in the league last year, the weak performance was partially masked by the turnover differential in the team's favor. Giants had one of the better turnover differentials last year. This year, the numbers have reversed and the Giants are worst in the league in turnover differential through 4 games at -9, perhaps making things look worse than they really are.

5. The OC and DC have their set way of playing and they're very reluctant to change things up based on circumstances or personnel. This is a weakness for them. a good coach builds a plan around his players skills. But Giants still run the same offense with this OL and with David Wilson as RB as they did with a strong OL and Bradshaw/Jacobs/Ward as the power RBs. They still throw every ball down the field and have not developed a short passing game or effective screen passes despite the crying, obvious need to do so.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Injuries and a look forward

Giants have played poorly this year, no doubt about that. But they also have been very unlucky, getting almost no breaks on fumbles, weird interceptions, some bad refs calls and now the injuries are piling up at particular areas of weakness on the team. The OL has been brutal this year, creating no holes for the running game and leaving Eli in a vulnerable position, getting sacked more than anyone in the league and getting smacked around and hit when he is not getting sacked. To make matters worse, Snee has a damaged hip and will probably be out for the year and Baas, who never lived up to his $5M per year FA contract is also hurt and not making much progress. Diehl is coming back this week and will start at RG in place of Jim Brewer, who was starting in place of Snee. Diehl is not a great G but at least he knows the assignments and the hope is that he will improve the OL play a bit. Eagles have a really poor defense, but they do blitz a lot, so it will be interesting to see how the Giants offense does this weekend. Gilbride has said he does not want to chuck the entire offense and retool everything in consideration of the poor OL play and offensive production. I can accept that; you can't totally change the offense in the middle of the season. But you can put in some plays that benefits the current players and optimizes their talents. Particularly, Da'Rel Scott has been cut which means that Jacobs may get a bit more playing time; but Wilson should get many more touches. Wilson has been a little shaky picking up the blitzers on 3rd down. But if Gilbride swings him out in the flat on passing downs as a safety valve and lets Eli check down to him occasionally, he could catch the Eagles in some blitzes and make some big plays. Don't use Wilson like he's Brandon Jacobs.

I would like to see Adrien Robinson come back soon from his foot injury and see if he is a player. Pascoe is just not athletic enough and Myers is a big disappointment. Larry Donnell should play: he is more athletic and bigger than both Pascoe and Myers.

All of a sudden there are some injuries piling up in the DB-field. Hosley, Ross and Webster are all knicked up. Let's see if someone can run with DeSean Jackson this week. Giants need a bog game from Prince A to handle the deep balls. It will be interesting to see Chip Kelly's offense - looks like he copied Mike D'Antoni's plan for basketball by running a play every 15 seconds or so.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Roster moves

It sure looks like Snee's career may be in jeopardy. He is coming off a down year last year and had surgery for a torn labrum in his left hip in the offseason which he was trying to recover from. But now he tore the labrum in his right (good) hip and will probably have surgery to repair it - which means he will be gone for the year. The Giants apparently restructured his contract to get them some salary cap room to sign a replacement this year. Restructuring contracts doesn't work unless there is another year (at least) behind it, and that is case with Snee - he has one year left after this one, becoming a free agent after 2014 season. Snee's contract was guaranteed for the year, as with all veterans that are on the roster in week one. So he's not going to restructure the contract and move guaranteed money out of this year that would become "unguaranteed" next year. That means that if the Giants were to cut Snee before the 2014 season, they would still have some guaranteed money to pay him and a salary cap hit of about $3M + whatever they guaranteed him in this restructure. Otherwise, his salary next year would be about 7.25M, so his job is still in jeopardy.

Giants, desperate for OL help signed a C, Dallas Reynolds, who played for the Eagles last year and was out of football to date in 2013. He played a bit for an awful Eagles OL last year, but it sure seems like Baas is going to be out for a while if they are signing this C. Cordle started at C last week and Boothe is the only other C on the team. With Snee ailing, Giants don't have enough depth at G to slide someone in there and move Boothe to C in case Cordle were to get hurt; you need a backup for every position. That's why it seems like Baas is out. To make room for Reynolds, Giants cut Da'Rel Scott. He did not look like an NFL caliber player.

I can understand the OL affecting the running game badly. It also affects the passing game of course, but there are some steps you can take to improve it. Gilbride has to put in some 3 step drops and quick routes to get things moving, protect the QB and give the OL a chance. The Giants offense is filled with 5 and 7 step drops and has Eli looking down the field all the time. The lack of a good TE really hurts (Myers seems to be a huge downgrade from Bennett last year) with those short routes and Eli has been under pressure. It is difficult to see on television, but it looks like opposing defenses are playing the Giants WRs very tight, very physical, daring them to go long. That forces Eli to hold the ball and the OL collapses because it can't hold them out long enough. When the OL does hold up and Eli gets off a deep ball, the WRs (especially Nicks last week and Randle also) have not been making plays on the ball. Long passes by their nature have a lower completion percentage, of course, but the WRs have missed a few deep balls that Eli has put right in their hands. I never thought I'd say this, but I really hope Diehl comes back soon.

Giants need help at S also and Will Hill is due back this week from his 4 game suspension - so there is another roster move coming before he can be activated. If Hosley is hurt, maybe he goes on IR; he has not been getting much playing time anyway. I don't know the extent and the long term health of Webster's or Ross's injuries are. Speaking of players that are marginal - Bear Pascoe should be a candidate for being cut. Larry Donnell is more athletic and if Adrien Robinson comes back from his foot injury, Pascoe could go. Pascoe can play some FB, but the problem is he doesn't play it well. Easiest cut would be Marcus Harris, a WR who never gets on the field on offense, only plays ST and that ST spot could be taken by Hill.

Downward trends for the Giants

Against the Chiefs, the defense was not bad, regardless of what the statistics may have said. It's obvious to everyone that it's the offense and the OL that is killing the Giants. It sure looks like the Patriots way to build a team is the way to go. Don't overspend on skill position players, because you can always find good speedy players at those positions to play and be productive, especially if the QB has 5 seconds and a clean pocket to find someone. Spend your salary cap dollars on the QB and the OL and the rest of the offense will take care of itself. Giants did not do that and the OL has been in decline for several years. Speaking of offense - I know Andre Brown is out, but Da'Rel Scott is just not an NFL caliber player. (Editor's update: Scott was cut after this post was written) The cracks are showing in the foundation of this team. Having said that the defense was not bad, I must admit that the DL is not playing to their reputation. They are stopping the running game fairly well, but the pass rush is invisible.

The downward trends that I see are the similarities in the games that they have played so far. Giants offense is unproductive as the game moves along and in every game, the opposing offense figures out the Giants defense, gets better in the 2nd half and blows out the team late. I think the entire league has figured out how to play against Giants defense as well as its offense and it's time for a new look. The special teams play has been a problem, in each of last two games: giving up a punt return for a TD; missing a makeable FG that would have kept the Giants close; and making two dumb, inexcusable 5 yard penalties that gave away 1st downs when the defense actually got a stop and had the opposing offense in 4th and less than 5. I've always said that special teams play is 80% or 90% coaching. Occasionally you get a great ST player on the team that elevates the unit's play, but generally there are enough good athletes on every NFL team to have competent ST play if they are well coached. If they're not well coached, they give up punt returns for TDs on consecutive weeks like the Giants just did. Worse still, while ST is 90% coaching, when the team lines up improperly (against Chiefs) getting a penalty that keeps the drive going or when they get an offside trying to block a punt on 3rd and 5 (prior game against the Panthers), I assert that it's not 90% coaching - it's 100% coaching. It is not an excuse for the coaches to say that the players didn't do what they were coached to do. That can work as an excuse sometimes, but when the number of missed assignments, miscommunications and dumb plays continues to grow each week on offense, defense and special teams, you have to say that the coaches are not getting through to the players and are not coaching them well. Speaking of ST coaching - did you notice that Damontre Moore was the gunner on the fateful punt return against the Chiefs. I mean, WTF??!!?? What is a DE doing as a gunner? Those guys are supposed to be DBs or WRs, on rare occasion LBs, but never DEs. I know Moore is a sick athlete, but he is still not as nimble at 250-260 as a punt returner who is less than 200. Another gruesome coaching blunder.

I am not laying this totally on the coaches, I am also laying blame to the front office. This team is just worse personnel wise than the group last year, especially on offense. The OL was a problem last year and while they drafted Pugh who looks like a good player, Snee looks done, Baas looks average and can't stay on the field, and Boothe never was more than a good backup and a very mediocre starter. Reese brought in tons of DT talent to compete for starting time and the results have been decent - Giants seem to be doing a good job stopping the run. While everyone has been beating up the LBs, I think they have been decent. Paysinger has played well and Herzlich played his best game of the year on Sunday, despite getting flattened a few times in the second half. Amukamara has been great and the rest of the DBs have been decent also. But the entire league knows how to play against the Giants defense. Fewell plays a lot of 2-deep zone, with DBs keeping the WRs in front of them and giving a little cushion so as not to get beat deep. So to counter (what used to be) a good pass rush, Giants oppnents throw quick short routes and take an occasional shot down the field. In fact, the entire league does this as a staple part of their offenses. Except for Gilbride. He believes in taking lots of shots down the field - but that requires confident WRs who can beat their man regularly and an above average OL that can give the QB time to hold the ball in the pocket. Giants have neither. The WRs are not able to run quick developing plays because the run-and-shoot concepts that Gilbride puts into the offense requires patience and intelligence to read the defenses which are becoming increasingly complex. The OL this year is well below average, so it is a perfect storm for making a great QB look bad.

Enough for today...... more about Giants weaknesses as the week proceeds.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Chiefs game review

Yikes. No other way to say it and there are several different way to analyze it - but the Giants stink. No getting around it. Here are some of the obvious ways to understand the poor play. First and most obvious is the record; you are what your record says you are and 0-4 is 0-4. But wait, there's more: Giants have been outscored by their last two opponents, 69-7. Giants have gotten totally blasted in the last two weeks by two teams that nobody thinks is a real title contender, and one, Carolina that probably is not a playoff team. Going back to last year, Giants concluded the season with a 3-5 record over their last 8 games of 2012 (one of those being a mail-it-in win over the awful Eagles in the finale). This means that over the last 12 games, the Giants are 3-9. That's not a little losing streak, that's a team that needs to be rebuilt. The Jacksonville Jaguars, everyone seems to agree, is the worst team in the NFL and has statistics that compare to some of the worst teams in history. For example, Jacksonville is averaging 7.8 points per game and is giving up an average of 32 for a differential of 24.2 points per game. Awful, I agree. But Giants are not far behind, giving up an average of 36.5 points per game, scoring 15.2 for a differential of 21.3 ppg. Giants yardage statistics are a little misleading because they gained tons of yardage in their first two season losses against Dallas and Denver, but in the last two games the offense has been pitiful. Right now, the Giants are down there with Jacksonville as one of the worst teams in the NFL. There are other indicators of poor play in the statistics - lack of sacks by the defense and lots of sacks given up by the offense; more than twice as many turnovers (15) given up by the offense than (7) forced by the defense; an unbelievable meager total of 57.8 yards rushing per game produced by the offense.

As bad as those first two losses of the year were to Dallas and Denver, the last two were worse and showed a downward trend for the team. The OL actually played a little bit better on Sunday against the Chiefs, though it didn't show up significantly in the statistics. Eli still got sacked three times and had several plays where he just had to eat the ball or throw it away because nobody was open while the pocket was starting to collapse. The running game was only marginally better, getting about 85 yards rushing (I'm excluding the 13 yards rushing by Eli) and had fewer 0 or negative yardage plays compared to the first two games. But that is small comfort, since at the open of the 2nd half, when the Giants were in the game and had the Chiefs within reach, they could not get anything going on offense and didn't come close to converting a 3rd and 1 on the ground.

I am sticking to analysis of this game and will talk about the overall team later in the week. Josh Brown missed a FG at the end of the half and instead of going in tied at 10 with some positive momentum, Giants were down in the dumps and the Chiefs were pumped up. Still, Giants defense did very well in the 3rd quarter and answered the turnovers by the offense with making turnovers of their own - an INT by Amukamara and fumble recovery on a bad snap by the Chiefs. The killer sequences were a punt return for a TD after a successful challenge by Reid right at the end of the 3rd qtr. (Can't complain about the refs when your team loses by 24, but Zak DeOssie was clearly blocked in the back when he was right in front of the returner and could have stopped him.)  Then in the beginning of the 4th qtr, with the defense starting to get tired from being on the field the entire game, Chiefs got a drive going which the Giants stopped and held them to a long FG attempt. Inexcusable illegal formation penalty kept the drive alive, Chiefs got a TD and another one late to make the final score a blowout.

Defense was not bad, regardless of what the statistics may have said. It's the offense and the OL that is killing the Giants. It sure looks like the Patriots way to build a team is the way to go. Don't overspend on skill position players, because you can always find good speedy players at those positions to play and be productive. Spend your salary cap dollars on the QB and the OL and the rest of the offense will take care of itself. Giants did not do that and the OL has been in decline for several years. The cracks are showing in the foundation of this team. More analysis of the team later in the week.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Look ahead

After writing my last post about the overreaction that exists among fans to a week one loss for their team and the tenfold multiplied emotional response to a second loss in week two, I implied that everyone around the Giants has to calm down a bit. It may be time to be somewhat concerned, but it is not yet time to panic. However if the Giants should lose to the Panthers this week and go 0-3 to start the season, the Tom Coughlin tenure will be moved from sure lock to return if he wants in 2014, to a warming up of the hot seat he may be on. I must admit that I myself will go from worry to almost panic mostly because I had such high hopes for this team.

Giants played the Panthers last year without their main WR weapons - I can't remember who else was out, but Nicks was gone and Ramses Barden had his first start and a big game. That Panthers team is not much improved from last year. Steve Smith, though still dangerous, is a year older and the Giants DB-field is much improved, so Giants should have a good chance. But until they actually win that first game of the season and start playing well, you can't be sure what the season holds.

I am always talking about how predictable the Giants defense is. Too much zone, no trickery, no creative blitzing and complete transparency in what they are going to do. Tony Romo said as much in his post game interview after week 1.  He said Giants were playing back, in their zone, keeping everything on front of them... then he started to say like they always do, we knew what t expect , but he quickly bit his lip and swallowed his words not wanting to let the Giants get wind of the fact that they had unlocked the keys to their simplistic schemes. he was explaining why they threw a lot of underneath short throws and didn't challenge the Giants deep very often. He was just taking what the offense was giving. I don't mind the strategy of taking away the long ball, combined with sure tackling if you can throw in a pass rush, but the pass rush has not been consistently there. Fewell just does not optimize what the Giants should get out of the the talent on this defense.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Broncos game review

There's no weekend in any sport that exaggerates the fans emotions in both directions like the first week of the NFL season. Call it overreaction weekend. If your team wins, no matter how sloppy or ugly, dreams of trips to the Super Bowl dance in your head like so many sugar plum fairies. If your team wins big in a clean relatively error free game, they look unbeatable and have answered all the off season questions with the right personnel and coaching moves. If they win ugly, you count them as resourceful and imagine how great they'll be when they address the little problems you noticed. Conversely, if your team loses, whether by a big score or in a squeaker, you are downright depressed and see it an omen of a miserable losing season, where your team may not win more than 2 or 3 games. Week 2 seems like it is 6 months down the road and if your team gets its first victory somehow you can take a deep breath, and recover some sanity. However, if your team should lose its second game also, the depression and worry is magnified tenfold and it's time to increase the dosage of the Prozac. Unfortunately, this is the situation where we fans find our Giants team in. If you just look at the scores, it seems really bleak. In the first week the Giants lost to a flawed Cowboys team that in turn lost the next week to a Chiefs team that, while they may be improved from last year, is still coming off a 2 win season. Furthermore, if you wanted to chalk up the first loss to a bunch of turnovers, some of which were somewhat unlucky, you could see a sobering trend in another 4 turnovers in week 2 loss against the Broncos. Eli has thrown for 800+ yards in the two games but has 7 INTs. Not good.

In retrospect, with some chance to reflect on the loss, there are certainly some easily identifiable problem areas for this Giants team, but the Broncos loss wasn't as bad as the final score indicated. It was a 1 point game at half time and a 1 point game with 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Denver scored a TD to go up by 8 going into the 4th quarter, but Giants had the ball and Eli was ready to get the offense moving. Then in the space of about 3 minutes, Broncos got a fluke INT on a ball that should have fallen harmlessly incomplete but hits the defender's foot and caromed up in the air giving Peyton field position at the Giants 35. Broncos easily punched it in for a TD. Then, next sequence was a Giants 3 and out, bad punt returned for TD, game out of reach. Eli picked up 2 INTs late in the game because he doesn't care about his own personal statistics and at that point, down by 22, the only way to get his team back in the game was to try to take extreme chances.

That's the Father Flannigan perspective of the game, but in truth there were several troubling things about the game that need to get fixed.

OL was terrible run blocking, though they were a little better pass blocking and were certainly improved defending Eli compared to the Dallas game. There is absolutely no running game. Every inside run gets blown up by a DT or LB coming through the middle and nobody on the interior OL picks up a charging defender. If Giants try to run outside to get away from that, the penetration from the inside is so sudden that the RBs can't even make it to the outside before the play gets blown up. I heard Eli in an interview on radio say that the OL play is getting close and it's not a total breakdown on every play. Rather, Eli said that on each play there is one breakdown somewhere while everyone else is doing their job. I think Eli was trying to be charitable and not throw his OL under the bus, because I didn't really see it quite that way. Snee made a few good blocks switching on blitz and stunt pickups, but wasn't consistently good. Baas got beat several times and Boothe was average at best. The Ts played pretty well and Pugh looks like he will be a good OL-man. If you want to be optimistic, you can say that Snee will get healthier as he recovers from the off season hip surgery and Baas will improve as his knee gets better, since this was really his first game in 3 weeks. Diehl is due to come back in a few weeks and maybe that helps a bit. But the truth is, some of the responsibility has to go on Reese. I am not saying he's not a good GM, but Giants added a whole lot of FA talent this off season in the DL, but did nothing on the OL. They did draft Pugh but the problem is on the interior.

Weatherford had a great season last year, in fact was great in Super Bowl season also, but he has been mediocre in first two games and was really awful Sunday against the Broncos. He shanked one at beginning of 2nd half giving Broncos great field position and then really hit a bad one on the punt return for a TD.

The defense has been good though there are some areas for improvement. Giants have not been getting many sacks and their defensive strategy depends on it. The DBs are really a strong group greatly improved from last year. Webster has had a resurgence. Amukamara has really stepped up and looks great. Thomas coming back from his knee surgery and playing very well gives them three strong defenders back there. Aaron Ross has played very well in preseason and in the Cowboys game when Prince went out with the concussion, but the guys ahead of him are playing so well that he can't get on the field.

The big problem on defense is the predictability and the weakness of the base LBs to play pass defense. The opposing offense can get the macthups they want just by changing personnel groups and lining up in certain formations, knowing exactly what the Giants will do. Let me give an example: in the first half the Broncos played almost exclusively 3 WR which forced the Giants into their nickel defense. Because they went to a hurry up offense and kept those players on the field, Giants kept their nickel package on the field exclusively. This meant that Paysinger and Jacquian Williams stayed on the field the entire 1st half and they played very well. Paysinger is really developing and Williams is the most athletic LB the Giants have. He can run with nearly any TE in the league and the defense is just flat better with him on the field. Giants gave up only 10 points in the first half and forced 4  Denver punts including several 3-and-outs. But in the 2nd half, seeing that this was not as effective as they would have liked, Denver put in an extra TE in place of a 3rd WR and the Giants reverted to their base defense which included Herzlich at MLB with Rivers and Paysinger on the outside. The Broncos scored every time they touched the ball, running and passing effectively against this defense. Broncos finally punted once in 2nd half, but only in garbage time when the game was safely secured and they wanted to run some clock.

Fewell's defensive schemes are just too predictable. Not many blitzes or stunts and when they do blitz, you can see it coming from a mile away.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Look ahead to the Broncos

Coming off a 7 TD, 472 yard performance, it's going to be tough for Giants to stop Peyton. They need a big pass rush and strong work from their DB-field. (I heard Herm Edwards say that on radio analyzing the game. In fact Herm Edwards says that on radio about every game. Some other of Herm's standard incisive, insightful analytic comments that he applies to EVERY game that he assesses: You have to win the turnover battle. You have to get the running game going because then the play action passing game is effective. He's so deep.)

Terrell Thomas did a good job tackling and covering the slot receiver against Dallas. Do you think he has what it takes to cover Welker? That might be the Giants best chance. I always thought Hosley would develop into a real good slot CB, but he is not developing as quickly as I had guessed / hoped. It's a dangerous combination when Welker can get open virtually on every play for short and intermediate passes, but if you press up to stop him, they have the outside speed to beat the defense deep. On the outside, it will be Ross, Webster and Prince. Giants will / should use a lot of 3 and even 4 CBs on the field, depending what the offense shows. The last Manning Bowl, Giants defended the pass only - and had 2 LBs in their base defense, played a soft box dropping the S back in to coverage. Peyton saw this and kept calling running plays which trashed the Giants defense. Broncos are not those Colts, but they have a good OL and are balanced on offense, so the Giants can't sell out too much to stop one thing; they have to be prepared to handle whatever Peyton and friends cook up. I can't emphasize this enough - J Williams has to play a lot this Sunday. Peyton will throw to the TE and to the backs coming out of the backfield to test the Giants LBs. Giants have to be ready.

On offense, the Giants have a real good passing attack. They put up 450 yards last week (granted that the last 80 or so were in garbage time at the end of the game, but they still have a great passing attack). And that was with the OL playing very inconsistently, giving up 3 sacks and a bunch of knockdowns of Eli. To be honest, it also came against a really poor Dallas DB-field, but I am not sure how good the Broncos are back there either. Their best pass rusher is out and their best CB Champ Bailey is out. They did fairly well against the Ravens last week, but I think the Giants will get their chance to move the ball this week, especially if the OL improves a bit. Baas might be back and that gets Boothe back to his more comfortable LG position. He had a decidedly mediocre game at C last week, but it's more than that. Boothe works well at LG with Beatty. Snee works well with C Baas. Having them both out disrupted the chemistry more than we realize. Even though Baas is not a great player, his presence should help. I would like to see a better running game; Giants ran for only 50 yards last week. Oh, one more thing that would help - David Wilson should not fumble and the Giants should not turn the ball over 6 times. I know this because I was listening to Herm on the radio.

Injury to Dan Connor

Looks like Da'Rel Scott injury is not too serious. He returned to practice the next day, though may have been somewhat limited. Amukamara has not returned to practice as of Thursday, but they still seem to think he has a shot at being ready for Sunday. The injury to Dan Connor was most serious, both in terms of the severity to the player as well as its impact to the team. Connor had a neck burner or stinger, which is a neurological injury to the neck caused by trauma. It could be a minor thing that gets better with rest or it could be a major injury. In this case, it was apparently severe enough for the Giants to put Connor on IR; you don't want to fool around with neck/nerve/trauma injuries. Connor was far from the best MLB in football, but he was very good in pass coverage and with the inclination of all teams to pass-pass-pass his presence in the lineup was fairly important. This is particularly true because the Giants decided to take the (20-20 hindsight here) unwise move to cut Bosworth, carry only 5 LBs and instead carry an extra DE in Ojomo. This move was to protect them in case JPP was not ready for the opener and/or Damontre Moore would be out for a longer time with his shoulder injury. Giants were already carrying an extra DE over what most teams do (JPP, Tuck, Kiwi, Moore, Trattou =5 + Ojomo =6) and in fact were carrying an extra DT, one of whom could play some DE if needed. (Joseph, Jenkins, Patterson, Rogers, Hankins =5). I know the Giants defensive strategy is to put the talent in the DL and then plan to get by without star LBs, but going into the season with only 5 LBs, leaves you very thin in case of injury. Which, unfortunately is exactly what happened. To make matters worse, JPP was in fact ready for the first game taking 50 snaps in the opener, Moore is likely coming back this week and Ojomo was cut without even dressing for the first game. Things worked out really badly for the Giants, but you could really question their strategy even if it had worked out well. They cut Bosworth to carry only 5 LBs and went into the season carrying 11 DL men, one of whom they already cut because there's no room on the squad for him. Maybe it's bad luck, but I think it was also bad planning. Now Herzlich is starting MLB and behind him on the depth chart is someone they signed off the street - Allen Bradford. (Sounds more like a lawyer from the firm of Dewey, Cheatam and Howe or a Wall Street analyst than a football player.) How well is he going to do not being in football shape and not knowing the defense. If Herzlich plays poorly in the passing game or needs a rest, I would move Keith Rivers to the middle and get Jacquian Williams in the game more. Seeing how Witten beat the Giants MLBs last week and knowing that the unit is further weakened by the loss of Connor makes it likely that Peyton and the Broncos will attack the Giants LBs this coming Sunday. Colts have a very dangerous, athletic, dynamic TE in Julius Thomas and he would be a difficulty to defend even at full strength. Last week he caught 5 balls for 110 yards. The truth is, he's probably needs to be defended by someone else anyway, although you can never tell about Fewell's schemes.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Da'Rel Scott Injury

Who would have thought that an injury to a RB who was probably not going to make the team until someone ahead of him on the depth chart got injured would be such big, hand wringing news to the Giants and their nervous, hyper fan base. Of course, we can all understand why - we're not trying to treat Da'Rel Scott like he's the second coming of Adrian Peterson, but in a backfield that was thin coming into the season with only 3 it does give us cause for concern. And it's not only that it was thin, it was painfully short on experience and PROVEN performance. Michael Cox is a rookie who was so impressive in college that he left Michigan because of lack of playing time, went to that football powerhouse U Mass, barely played there and was an drafted by the Giants on a whim in the 7th round. Wilson, though he seems to have a world of talent is a 2nd year player who showed flashes of brilliant ability last year, but surely does not have a track record of success. And he has that little fumbling "issue" that sure makes everyone jumpy. Scott is actually the senior member of this group entering his 3rd year, though most of one of those years was spent on IR and the other year he didn't get a lot of carries. So with that thin depth chart, you can understand why this may be a big loss. Giants did sign Brandon Jacobs, but he carried the ball 2 times all of last year and was not pursued by any team as a FA this off season, so we're not sure how much tread is left on his tires. Here's a hypothetical for you: David Wilson starts Sunday and fumbles the ball on his 3rd carry. What do the Giants do?

You've got to feel sorry for Da'Rel Scott. If Andre Brown had not been injured, he probably would have been cut and it is unlikely any other team would have given him a call. Nobody likes to prosper through the pain and suffering of others, but when Brown got injured, it was Scott's chance to show the league that he is a NFL caliber RB. He acquitted himself fairly well against the Cowboys, showed some speed and ability. Of course he did make that one rookie mistake that sort of cost the team the game, but we'll overlook that for now. Now if he's injured and can't go for a few weeks (or worse) the window of opportunity for him that was ever so slightly opened gets shut firmly.

The news that might be a comfort to the Giants and keep them from hitting the valium too hard is that there are lots of decent RBs that are sitting on the sideline looking for a chance and the Giants had several of them in last few weeks to have a look-see.

The injury to Dan Connor is also interesting. I know you're tired of hearing me say this, but Jacquian Williams is by far the most athletic LB on the team. Rivers is also pretty quick, but not like Williams. Herzlich is still a project at MLB, especially covering TEs in his zone. I'm not giving up on him yet, but he got handled by Witten last week. I would keep JW on the field much more against the pass-happy Broncos and let Herzlich be a backup, or limit his pass cover responsibilities. The others haven't really played MLB, but Giants will have to manage.

Jones should shut the f up

Consider:  suppose John Mara walks in front of TV cameras and microphones, and announces that Jerry Jones has been violating the salary cap rules by paying Tony Romo cash under the table in direct violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Furthermore, he charges that Jones has been employing Romo's wife in a no-show job as assistant choreographer for the Dallas Cowgirl cheerleaders. Mara demands that the Cowboys be penalized for their evasion of the salary cap rules with a heavy fine and the loss of draft choices in the next draft. Jones has cheated the system, asserts Mara and he should not get off free.

John Mara is a serious, well respected owner, carrying a lot of sway with his colleagues and with the league. Of course the league would listen to these serious allegations and would investigate appropriately. They would ask for records, evidence, bank accounts, deposits, etc. Unfortunately, it turns out that Mara was just yanking Jerry's chain and had manufactured these charges just because they seemed likely. What would the NFL then do? No doubt, they would go to Mara and reprimand him severely. They would hit him with a large fine and warn him that if he did this again, the penalties would be even more severe, up to and including suspension, cash and loss of draft choices for HIS New York Giants team. After all, the NFL brand is important and it survives on its integrity. Making false allegations about a team cheating and violating that integrity of the game, whether on the field or off the field is no laughing matter. We saw how hard the NFL came down on Bellichick and the Patriots with the illegal videoing practices. They take cheating very, very seriously. In the future, Goodell tells Mara, if you have a suspicion like this, bring it to the league privately; do not besmirch the character and integrity of another NFL team publicly.

Now let's consider what Jerry Jones did Sunday night. He accused the Giants of faking injuries to slow down the powerful Cowboys offense. (That's the fearful Cowboys offense that produced all of 330 yards of offense and 13 points that came without the benefit of turnovers.) Jones was referring to Dan Connor and Cullen Jenkins. Connor had a burner, a potentially serious neurological injury, and he never returned to the game. Jenkins left for a few plays, cleared his head and came back in. The NFL knows that Jones is a serious owner and, just like in the hypothetical case above, investigated Jones' charges. The league immediately said that there is no basis for accusation of the Giants.

In my hypothetical case above, one team accused the other team of cheating and was seriously reprimanded for it. Why, in the real case, when Jones actually did accuse the Giants of lack of integrity and cheating, should Jones not be fined. He can't just say whatever he wants. I get that the first amendment protects free speech, and he should not be thrown in jail. But in a private club or association, like the NFL, there is some tacit requirement to act responsibly and not accuse another member of improper behavior. The NFL should not just let this stand. And Jerry Jones should shut the f up.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

You can't go home again

Or can you. I am somewhat surprised that the Giants brought back Brandon Jacobs instead of McGahee as a big RB, tutor and backup for David Wilson. I thought the reason that the Giants let him go a year ago was only partly for on the field football reasons. They were getting a little tired of his act and his presence in the locker room. I guess now that positives outweigh the negatives. There is no salary cap issue now - Jacobs is desperate and Giants can dictate the terms. Jacobs won't be pouting looking for playing time and carries. He's here to be a short yardage back, to take Wilson under his wing, to be a blocker in the backfield for Eli and to generally be a good citizen in the locker room.   I guess he can do that. He doesn't need to learn the offense, the playbook and will fit in immediately as a personality on the team, so it's worth a try. If it doesn't work out, Giants are able to cut him and in 7 more weeks Andre Brown is back. Still, I'm a little surprised.

Roster Moves

I know that the roster was set coming out of camp, but it seems likely that the Giants will sign a RB now. In my last post talking about the roster, I put in a small paragraph about the tenuous nature of life in the NFL. Ojomo was elevated to the roster and made the final 53; he was probably thrilled that he finally made it to the big show. I speculated that he made the team mostly because the Giants were unsure about the physical status of JPP and Damontre Moore, because 6 DEs on the roster is way too many. While JPP was not dominant against the Cowboys and still does not have his mojo back, he was on the field for 50 snaps and therefore seems past his physical problems. Secondly, Moore's shoulder seems to be healing and he is getting close to being ready to play. Consequently, the Giants are overloaded now at DE, and they made the predictable move of waiving Ojomo. I think he is still practice squad eligible because he does not yet have a full year of accrued NFL experience. We'll see if the Giants keep him and sign him to the practice squad.

It will be interesting to see which RB the Giants bring in. Old Giant Brandon Jacobs and Williss McGahee are reported to be under consideration. Giants will look for a big RB for short yardage and improved 3rd down pass blocking. Jacobs was not particularly good at that when he played for the Giants, even though he has the size to do it. Interesting decision.

Cowboys game review

When it's a night game and when the Giants lose like they did Sunday night against a hated rival like the Cowboys, it takes me a day to decompress before writing something in the heat of the moment that I might otherwise regret the next day. (Sir, please move away from the keyboard.) For this game, it is definitely the case. It was such a disheartening loss; a game that despite giving up the ball on those first 5 turnovers and being down by 17 points at one juncture late in the 3rd quarter and being down 13 points in the 4th quarter, Giants were in a position to win with 2 minutes left in the game. In fact, I expected them to win at that time. Eli was red hot, had the offense moving, having thrown for about 340 yards until that point in the game, 205 of them coming in those first 25 minutes of the second half. It's more than that - the offense looked unstoppable. It's not just that they were moving the ball, it's that every play seemed to work. Eli had to throw accurately, but it just looked too easy - Cowboys were not stopping many plays, they were all working. Then came the last turnover, which was nobody's fault and everybody's fault. The Cowboys DE cut inside quickly and the Giants RT did not pick him up perfectly. Da'Rel Scott didn't read what to do because of the move of the Cowboys defensive player and did not do his assignment perfectly. Eli threw the ball expecting the RB to be in the right spot, but he didn't look to see if he was in the right position and tuned around ready to catch the ball. Having said all that, it was still an incredibly unlucky play for the Giants. Often tipped passes are intercepted when they are popped up in the air. But the passes we are talking about are the ones that are thrown into traffic or NEAR traffic, in the middle of the field or in the area where DBs are hanging out. We are all familiar with the tip drill that every team runs: that is balls thrown down the field and tipped up in the air 15 yards down the field. Stevie Brown made a living off of those plays last year. But this pass was a little dump off to the RB. If the execution was faulty, the most likely result should have been an incomplete pass, since no defender was nearby. It was extremely unlikely for the ball to be tipped up and propelled some 15 yards toward the sideline for an easy INT.

In fact, while I am not excusing the Giants sloppy play and they have nobody to blame but themselves for the turnovers, you have to admit that they were unlucky with some of these. (Definition of unlucky is something that has low probability of occurring.)  Generally, the recovery of fumbles is considered to be purely a random event. Forcing the fumble requires some skill, but recovering it depends on where an oblong ball bounces and where players happen to be situated. There were 5 fumbles, 3 by the Giants and 2 by the Cowboys, as well as one loose ball lying on the ground after the Giants last desperation on side kick. That's 6 balls that should have been randomly available for recovery and the Cowboys got all 6. Add in the tipped ball and unlucky situation on the Da'Rel Scott pass and you have a perfect storm of unlikely events that doomed the Giants. If instead of 6 turnovers, the Giants had only 5, they would have won.

Areas of improvement: OL was spotty, but not as bad as I thought while watching the game live. Pugh and Beatty were both good, but both, especially Pugh, had some misses and have some room for improvement. The thing that is encouraging is that when he handled his man, he completely dominated him and controlled him. Beatty played well and mostly kept Ware at bay. The interior of the OL is the area that needs the most work. They had great trouble making any room, getting any push for the running game. Their pass blocking was average and it did get better as the game went along. The worry is that Cowboys DL is not that good and if the OL can't dominate them, it could be a season long worry.

The highlight for the game is of course the passing game. Eli was great, notwithstanding his 3 picks. Randle continues to impress and Nicks looked as good as he has since the beginning of last year before his injury. Cruz is dangerous when Nicks is on the field attracting attention from the defense and he will be absolutely lethal when Randle and Nicks are both on the field. Giants have to fix Wilson's fumbling issues; they have to solidify and stabilize the interior of the OL and if they do, their offense can be dangerous.

The defense was very good, though certainly not dominant. The strategy was to keep all the Cowboy WRs in front of them and not give up anything deep. They gave a little cushion in front, played a mix of pure zone and man underneath with zone deep and it worked pretty well. The DBs batted away some balls, did not let anything get deep behind them (which was a big problem last year) and most of all tackled really well. There were very little yards after catch for the Cowboys. Romo threw for 260 yards, but the most important statistic that indicates success in the passing game is yards per attempt; Romo's numbers were around 5.3 yards per attempt, which is a very weak number. By contrast, Eli's YPA was 10.5 yards. Cowboys scored 36 points - 13 on turnovers returned for scores (missed 2 point conversion on one of them), and 10 more on short fields produced by other turnovers. So the Giants allowed only 13 legitimate points to the Cowboys and only 330 yards of offense. Not a bad result. The Giants pass rush was not consistent enough, but the hope is that as JPP rounds into form and Damontre Moore comes onto the field, the pass rush will return.

The LBs were OK, and I am not even killing Herzlich for getting beat by Witten. He is a great TE and Herzlich will learn how to handle the little push that he made to get free right before the catch. I don't understand the reluctance to play J Williams. He is the most athletic LB on the team and can cover TEs better than anyone else in that group. Paysinger and Rivers also played well.

So ---- after all that ----- with the ugly turnovers and the OL play that needs improvement, I am less discouraged about the game than I was Sunday night at midnight. I saw enough good things that the Giants can build on to have a good season.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

More Roster Stuff

Only one claim off the Giants cut list - Cowboys claimed Bosworth. I had a feeling that if Andre Brown went onto the recallable IR, Giants might have brought back Bosworth, but of course that theoretical plan is moot. Bosworth had to be cut several days before Brown could be moved to recallable IR and by then, Cowboys claimed him. He is a good special teams player, an area Cowboys needed help with. I am sure Cowboys want to pry information out of Bosworth on the Giants defensive playbook going into the opener. I am not sure how much it will help, but at the very least, Giants have to change their line calls, audibles and maybe their hand signals on defense so as not to give away what they are doing.

Giants have had some OL-men in from other teams and signed a S to the practice squad. They are also testing out some RBs, Beanie Wells and Leon Washington among them. I don't think the Giants will sign any of them in the short term. Giants will probably try to wait for Andre Brown to come off the IR after game 8, and go with the 3 RBs on their roster. If it looks too thin and if it's not working, or if one of the RBs gets hurt, they can bring in one of these RBs. Also, if they bring in a veteran for week one, his contract is guaranteed, but if they wait, it's not guaranteed. There are also a lot of solid, proven RBs sitting on the sideline in case the Giants need some immediate help. Two that come to mind are Michael Turner and Ryan Grant. Brandon Jacobs is out there too, but I doubt Giants would look to him for help.

With Brown going on recallable IR, he doesn't count on the 53 man roster, so Giants added Adewele Ojomo to fill his roster spot, signing him off of their own practice squad. It was a very interesting move and I think it reveals a few things about the Giants defensive strategy and perhaps something of their injured players. First, after releasing Bosworth, you would think that they would want to add another LB, especially with the injury history of some of the 5 LBs that are now on the roster - Rivers has been nicked up from time to time throughout his career and Williams is coming off a knee injury last year. This strongly indicates what their strategy is: bring in lots of big bodies at DT and strong players at DE and if they dominate the opposing OL you don't need LT or Carl Banks playing LB. Instead you keep a bunch of almost interchangeable athletic, smart LBs that can run to the hole but don't need to be powerful to shed blocks, because the DL is not letting the OL get to that second level. It also may indicate that they don't think JPP and Moore will be ready week one, but may take a few weeks to get ready. That makes the deep DE rotation a bit thinner, so adding Ojomo makes some sense. Parenthetically, I think the Giants might want to try S Cooper Taylor at the S/ LB hybrid that they've used in the past - he's fast and strong enough to tackle.

It is a tenuous existence for Ojomo, however. On the one hand, he must be thrilled that he finally made it off the practice squad and onto an NFL roster. On the other hand, if the Giants need some help at another position because of injury or poor play, he will probably be the first to go. If I read the practice squad rules eligibility right, he can go back to the practice squad, but only if he has not accrued one year of service in the NFL. That one year of service occurs after game 8. So if he lasts through game 9 and then gets cut, he will be a FA and will not be practice squad eligible. Of course by then, his NFL performance will be on film and there may be a sufficient body of work for some NFL team to sign him.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Final Roster

Interesting roster cuts by the Giants mostly consistent with what we saw in the preseason and much of what I forecast in my recent post predicting the final roster. The surprising moves were the cutting of backup QB David Carr and Curtis painter beating him out to hold the clipboard for Eli. The fact that Nassib made the team as 3rd QB and has speed, contributed in a minor way to Carr's demise. Giants liked to keep a speedy player at QB to run the scout team and simulate all the running QBs in the league now. Carr was very athletic and could do that. But so is Nassib and the fact that he could play in that role allowed the Giants to take Painter who outplayed Carr in the summer.

Giants did something very interesting on the front 7 on defense. Generally the Giants would carry 6 LB and 9 DL-men. Instead, Trattou showed them so much and was so productive this camp that he absolutely demanded a roster spot. They decided to keep him and carry only 5 LBs, with Bosworth the last cut. Trattou also beat out Tracy at DE because Tracy seems to be more of a one dimensional pass rusher while Trattou looked solid against the run also. With Damontre Moore on the roster as probably a pure pass rusher, they went for some bulk at DE. On the DL, Patterson beat out Marvin Austin and it takes a lot for any team, especially the Giants to cut a 2nd round draft choice. But Austin was all potential and no performance. He showed a few flashes in a few games, but Patterson looked simply great when he played and flat beat Austin out of a spot. My guess is that someone will pick up Austin. He has too much natural talent that some team out there will want to take a flyer on him. If Hankins had not showed the Giants that he was a keeper and that he had huge potential, they might have wanted to keep Austin so they have some youth on the team at the DT position. But with Hankins, Linval Jospeh and Cullen Jenkin signed for 3 years, they probably felt that they could let Austin go.

Barden just didn't show enough during camp and was hurt, so he got cut. Giants are going with only 5 WRs, and with Nicks history and current Cruz injury that seems a little risky. To balance that, Giants are carrying an extra TE. In addition to Myers, Pascoe and Robinson, Larry Donnell made the team. Both Pascoe and Donnell spent time lining up in the backfield as FB, so they provide backup for Hynoski. 

At CB, Giants are carrying an extra CB, as I guessed they might and are carrying only 3 safeties. Terrell Thomas made the team, but in a move that surprised me, they kept Truman McBride instead of James. I liked James better. McBride is more experienced at CB, but James is really fast and athletic. I can see James filling in as a S in case of emergency better than McBride could. Giants, I guess got fed up with Will Hill and cut him as well as cutting Tyler Sash, who simply wasn't athletic enough. Cooper Taylor made the team as a backup S and they have to coach him up pretty quick, because he looked very raw and not ready to play in the regular defense in that last preseason game that he played.

In a mild surprise, Cordle made the team as a backup C, but I don't think his roster spot is all that secure. If an OL-man comes available from another team's roster cuts, I believe Giants would consider upgrading. Giants are carrying 9 OL-men. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Preseason over

I said in my pregame post that all it took was one play and one injury to really affect the season. I am sorry that I was prescient, because Andre Brown's broken leg is a real killer. I can't really blame this on the coaches because it had nothing to do with Brown playing with the substitutes as the Jets did with Sanchez last week. But, it was unfortunate, maybe stupid,  that he was playing at all. Giants wanted to get a look at the other RBs, so why wasn't Scott, Turain or Cox playing after that first quarter. Water under the bridge now. I wonder if the Giants give Brandon Jacobs a tryout. I think they don't want to go there, but they may search for an inside, short yardage RB from the other teams cuts.

I was not that impressed with the first team offense despite everyone's feel good impression about finally getting into the end zone. If the Giants were a really good offense they would have ripped through the second string Patriots defense easily, not just once in three possessions.

I also remain unimpressed with TE Myers. He just doesn't show much - average speed, average size, though he does seem to be holding onto the ball now.

The problems on the OL continue for the second stringers. After the starters came out of the game, the second units were absolutely pounded by the Patriots, not a god sign. The good news is that the T position manned by Beatty and Pugh seems strong. Pugh looked excellent. Being optimistic, I guess we can be hopeful that when Baas and Diehl come back the OL will be OK. But we are so paper thin that a few injuries could really derail things. You can bet that the game plan for the Cowboys on defense will be to load up in the middle and attack the interior of the Giants OL. They like to hit Eli up the middle anyway and the weakness that Giants displayed there in the preseason will give them more incentive to do that. In the Giants favor is the fact that the Cowboys are switching from 3-4 to 4-3 and their excellent NT Ratliff is out.

Last preseason game

I am not sure why Coughlin thinks it's so important to get the offense on the field for 12-15 plays in the last preseason game this evening. I guess he's done it this way in past years, but still... Granted that the team has not been playing well offensively, but is 12 or 15 plays really going to make a difference? If they weren't ready before I doubt that playing 1 or 2 series against the Patriots scrubs (Bellichick plays even fewer starters than most other coaches do in that last preseason game)  is really going to make much difference in their preparedness for the regular season. You could get an injury to a key player, though it is also true that if you play only a series or two the risk of injury is also small. But still - all it takes is one play to lose a key player. Which probably means that the starters will play cautiously to avoid injury, which would further erode any potential gain that would accrue to them from practicing against guys with live ammo, so to speak. (Not a cheap Aaron Hernandez reference.... I would never be so crude as to do that).

There are still some roster spots open and some competition. Terrell Thomas has looked good but only played one preseason game. Did he show enough and does he have enough of a pedigree to bypass McBride and James who have both played pretty well all camp. I would like to see the Giants find a way to keep James who has great speed.

Teams usually carry 6 WRs, which would mean that after Nicks, Randle, Cruz, Murphy and Jernigan, Barden would make the team. But he really hasn't showed much this summer and he is slightly hurt, so I wonder if the Giants would cut Barden and keep an extra player somewhere else, just in the interest of keeping the best 53 on the roster. Maybe they carry an extra TE and Donnell makes it in place of Barden. Or maybe the Giants carry an extra DT, because they have all showed something in camp.

On the DL, especially at DT,  it's really a battle and someone capable is going get cut. If the Giants carry only 5 DTs, Jenkins, Joseph, Patterson, Hankins are sure to make the team. That would leave Austin, Patterson and Rogers to fight for 2 spots. Patterson has looked really strong to me and Austin finally showed talent at the end of the Jets game, which means that Rogers is out. Will Giants carry 5 DEs? Kiwanuka, JPP, Tuck and Moore are the first 4 and Trattou, Ojomo and Tracy all showed some good ability. To me Trattou showed the most on the field, but Giants have always liked Tracy. An argument for keeping Trattou is that Tracy is on the light side, as is rookie Moore. So Giants might go for the more bulky Trattou, if they even keep 5 DEs at all.

On the OL, I had Cordle penciled in as backup C, but I think he lost his job in the Jets game. He got knocked to the bench off that performance, so if Brewer (or someone else) shows that they can handle the G position reasonably well, Cordle may lose his spot on the team. After the 5 starters there is Diehl, Brewer and Moesly. Then perhaps the rookie Herman or McCants, Capers or someone off another roster if the Giants want to carry 9 OL-men. It really shows how the weakness of the team might be the OL. I like the talent on defense, even if they finished 31st in the league last year. But if the OL can't block, it could really sink the whole offense and the team. Maybe the Giants judge that the 9th OL-man that they would carry will never dress and is really not NFL-ready, so they instead carry 8 OL-men and pray to the good lord that they stay healthy. That would open up another spot somewhere else, once again under the best-53 theory regardless of position. Of course that leaves Giants thin at OL and vulnerable to injury, especially during the time when Baas and Diehl are out. Cordle may make the team by default. Anybody know if Lomas Brown is still available for emergency fill-in duty?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Moral of the Story

Consider the lives of two football players, roughly the same age, similar career arcs and college background and both thrust into similar contract situations, Victor Cruz and Steve Brown.

Neither player was valued highly by scouts coming out of college and neither was drafted early. Stevie Brown was a 7th round pick  coming out of Michigan (251st overall) of the Oakland Raiders in 2010. Victor Cruz came out of U Mass the same year and went undrafted. Brown kicked around with Raiders in 2010, was cut at the end of the year. He signed with the Colts for 2011 and barely played getting cut after the season and signed by the Giants as a FA that they just wanted to take a flyer on in April 2012. Cruz came onto the Giants as an undrafted FA and had little expectations of catching on. He made the team largely on the strength of an eye opening performance in a preseason game against the Jets where he scored 3 TDs while playing only in the 2nd half. He played a few games in 2010 then went on IR. He made the team in 2011 but was not playing much until injuries gave him a chance and he made his big splash onto the scene against the Eagles early in 2011. He has been a big player for the Giants in 2011 and 2012. Stevie Brown got his chance last year also due to some injuries in the secondary, particularly to S Kenny Phillips. Brown announced his arrival last year with 8 INTs.

Since neither had signed a big rookie contract coming out of college, they did not have the required service time in the NFL and therefore were both RFAs coming into the 2013 off season. Both received a tender offer from the Giants, Cruz at the first round level and Brown at 2nd. Neither received any offers from other teams during the FA signing period and were therefore married to the Giants for 2013 season. Cruz negotiated hard and held out as long as he could but finally relented and signed a long term contract with the Giants, making his future secure, notwithstanding this heel injury that he is now nursing. On the other hand, Steve Brown tore his ACL in a meaningless preseason game and his future is anything but secure. He had a great year last year, but still does not have the history or pedigree to write his own ticket. If he had a great 2013, he would have been a full unrestricted FA at the end of the year and would have cashed in going into the 2014 season. But the ACL injury made those plans unreachable and far from being financially secure next year, his career is at best tentative and in fact may be over. How much guaranteed money and how many years is some team going to pay for a S coming off ACL surgery? Rhetorical question - answer is "not much". He may be checked out by a few teams, and will be offered a 1 year provisional contract, perhaps with some incentives, where he has to prove himself all over again. Many players, especially at the speed positions need more than 1 year to get back to full strength after the ACL goes, so if his 2014 season is shaky, there will be 2 years worth of safeties having come out of college that he has to compete with in 2015 just to stick on an NFL roster.

The moral of the story is that Cruz did the right thing by taking the best offer he could get from the Giants even if he thought it was undervalued. Hakeem Nicks might consider the same story and try to sign a slightly lower contract now rather than risk an injury sometime during the year which could jeopardize his entire career.