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.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

OL maneuvering / Injuries

It looks like the Giants rearranged their OL based on the performance of Cordle in the Jets game and what I suggested in my last post. Boothe is moving to C and Brewer is moving in to fill Boothe's LG spot. If Cordle is supposed to be the backup C, yet when an opportunity arises for him to play as backup he plays so poorly that he is passed over for the next game, what's the point of keeping him on the team? I think he gets cut and Giants keep another OL-man on the team instead. Maybe Selvish Capers or McCants makes the team instead. Perhaps rookie G Herman makes the team, though that is less probable. I have not heard a thing about Herman, and I didn't see him get much action in the preseason games. This makes it more likely that Herman gets cut and signed to the practice squad when the season starts.

JPP came off PUP which is good news - but not as indicative of his near return as you might think. If he had stayed on the PUP list through the start of the season, he would have been ineligible to play in the first 6 games of the season. So it doesn't mean that JPP will be ready for the season opener. it only means that he is ready to start practicing and the Giants think he will be ready sometime in the first 6 games. It does not mean that he is ready to go.

Damontre Moore and Cooper Taylor returned to practice which is good news. Giants may need Taylor to be ready to play some S in those first 4 games until Will Hill comes back.

Trade Suggestion

If you listen ever to sports talk radio, you'll find that the most annoying, ridiculous calls are the loonies that call up with a trade proposal. It happens more in baseball than other sports for some reason, but you gotta love it when Joe from Queens calls up and suggests that the Yankees trade Brett Gardner to the Tigers For Miguel Cabrera, because the Tigers lack speed in their lineup.

Having said that, I am going to propose a more serious (and more general) trade for the Giants that could really help them out. Thanks to my brother for coming up with this idea, but I think it really makes sense.  Right now the Giants have an abundance of talent on the DL and will surely be cutting someone that is good enough to make another team's NFL roster. Specifically at DT, Giants have 6 good players: Joseph, Jenkins, Patterson, Austin, Rogers and Hankins. That is too crowded a field and Giants will (at most) carry 5 DTs. Instead of cutting one of them at the end of camp and just giving him away for nothing, why not trade one of them for a solid backup OL-man somewhere that is excess baggage for another team. Giants will not get more than a backup, because other teams know that Giants have a number crunch and will be releasing someone. If another team has their eye on one of Giants DTs, instead of giving up real talent for one of them, they can just wait until they get cut and sign them them, so they won't give up a starter. The only slim advantage for making the trade is that the team will then have to take the player that Giants choose to cut and not one that they may like more. So Giants can offer a trade for any one of the 3 DTs competing for last 2 spots and get something in return.

Giants did the same thing with RB Ryan Grant a few years ago, trading him at the end of training camp to the Packers for a low (7th round I think) draft pick, because Giants had lots of RBs on the team ahead of him. Worked out well for both teams - Grant had a few good years for Green bay and Giants got an extra draft pick. This time instead of a draft pick, maybe Giants get a decent backup player that fills the roster elsewhere.

Jets game

It's officially time to start worrying, though panic is too strong a word to use at this point. The offense looked bad, but let's take a breath - there's nothing that makes an offense look worse than poor OL play. And there's nothing that makes an OL look worse than when the C is absolutely overwhelmed by the DT, especially when it is a 3-4 defense and there are other guys coming from all over the place. Cordle was overwhelmed on Saturday night against the Jets and it made Eli look terrible. Never thought I would be hoping and praying for Diehl and Baas to come back. Neither is great, but they are decent players who can solidify things in the middle.

Cordle may have played himself off the team. He was kept around simply because he was backup C and in his first sustained action, he showed that he cannot handle it. I would move Boothe back to C and find a replacement to backfill for Boothe at G. Maybe Brewer finally gets a chance or Moesely, but I would move Boothe back in until Baas returns. Who knows - maybe Boothe/Diehl at C/G is a better combination than Baas/Boothe at C/G and Giants find yet another OL combination that works.

The good news from the Jets game was that Pugh looked really good especially in the passing game.

Jernigan showed some talent, but he still drops too many and runs routes that give Eli no angle to get him the ball.

Defense looked very good against the Jets, but I'm not celebrating because the Jets offense is pretty weak, especially with a rookie QB getting his first action against decent competition. Nevertheless, the good news is that Tuck looked strong and spry. Terrell Thomas looked very good. Amukamara continues to look great and appears to be ready for a breakout season as a top CB.

Marvin Austin finally broke out of his shell, showed off his atheticism and looked dominant in his time in the game. To be sure, he was playing against the 2s and 3s on the Jets. The Jets starting OL is decent (though a bit overrated IMO), but their backup OL-men are weak. Nevertheless, he did show off his great quickness and strength and may have beaten out Rogers with his performance, assuming Giants carry only 5 DTs.

Monday, August 26, 2013


My first guess at the roster makeup:

DE (4) - JPP, Tuck, Kiwanuka, Moore
Tracy and Ojomo are good players, but they don't make the cut. Tratttou has been impressive and I would like to see him make the team, but the numbers are tough. The fact that DT Jenkins can play some DE makes the number of DEs 4.

DT (5) - Jenkins, Joseph, Hankins, Austin, Patterson
It's a close call between Patterson and Rogers and it could go either way. Rogers is bigger and the Giants are going for improved bulky run stoppers in the middle. But Patterson looks very solid in the middle also and is a little quicker. Rogers is older, is less likely to be signed by another team and therefore is more likely to be available if the Giants need an emergency injury replacement in mid year.

LB (6) - Paysinger, Herzlich, Rivers, Williams, Connor, Bosworth
They all look athletic and quick to me. Giants look like they are going with huge powerful DL-men backed up by smallish, quick LBs. Herzlich has to play better, because I think Connor showed a little more in first preseason game, though he was playing against the subs.

CB (5) - Webster, Amukamara, Ross, Hosley, Thomas
Some young fast players get cut - James, Frederick even McBride has looked decent. Maybe somebody beats out Terrell Thomas. UPDATE: Terrell Thomas looked strong in his one outing against the Jets.

S (4) -  Rolle, Mundy, Taylor, Sash (or pickup from another team's cuts instead of Sash)
What happens when Hill comes back from his suspension is a mystery. Tyler Sash has played well in camp but the other guys at the position are simply more athletic. The injury to Rolle makes it more likely that they carry an extra S. Injury to Brown opens the door for Tyler Sash

Defense: 24

QB (3) - Eli, Painter, Nassib
I think Painter beats out Carr. He's younger (and cheaper) and could be backup next year also. Extra QB on the roster is going to cost some other unit a roster spot.

RB (3) - Wilson, Brown, Cox
Maybe they add a 4th RB who gets cut off someone else's roster, but for now I think they should go with 3. RBs are always available to add in emergency from "the street". Scott is probably gone and Tourain is a remote possibility.

WR (6) - Nicks, Randle, Cruz, Murphy, Jernigan, Talley
Barden just hasn't shown enough and is injured.  Five is a little light for the position, but they may carry extra TE instead.

TE/FB (5) Myers, Robinson, Pascoe, Donnell, Hynoski
Hynoski start the year on PUP. When he is ready to return, Giants have to make a decision on Donnell vs. Barden. D'Imperio has been solid in camp; too bad he retired

OL (9) - Beatty Boothe, Baas, Snee, Diehl, Pugh, Brewer, Moesly, Cordle
Capers, McCants and new draftee Herman have some ability but there's no room. Herman makes it to the practice squad. McCants hurt his chances to make it as backup C over Cordle with the snap over Nassib's head in Steelers preseason game. Maybe he beats him out anyway, because Boothe could be backup C also. Cordle looked awful aginst Jets.

Offense: 26

K / P / LS (3) - Brown, Weatherford, DeOssie

Special: 3

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


The injury to Antrel Rolle in yesterday's practice has reminded me of one of the minor things in Coughlin's coaching manual that I find puzzling and slightly annoying. He is constantly chiding the players that are injured about staying on the sidelines. He never comes out directly and says - these guys are slacking off, they're not really injured, they're just using it as a lame excuse to avoid practice. But when he says things like "it's time for these guys that are injured to get going" ... "we have only 9 more practices in camp"... "they've got to get their reps, it's frustrating to see them on the side"... the clear implication is that the players are lazy bums who are avoiding the work required. His team-first approach is important, it has taken hold and it is effective, I'm not complaining about that. You hear players, when they come back to practice from injury saying things like: "I felt like I was letting my teammates down when I was on the sideline and they were working". Give Coughlin credit for impressing the team first approach on his players. But in today's game, there are two dynamics that make it clear that players are not lengthening injury recovery time arbitrarily. First, there are so many talented, athletic players ready to take your spot, and second, more than any other sport, every player is one ordinary play away from being out for the year or ending his career due to serious injury. Players know the risk of losing their jobs, made more impactful in the NFL with non guaranteed contracts. But they know more importantly to protect themselves for the long haul - for the entire season and for their careers. To cajole a player to come back to practice and put himself at risk for returning from injury too soon, and potentially risk a more major injury or even a more serious threat is just plain stupid by the coach. It hearkens back to an era when the coaches ruled with an iron fist; where the coach wanted to wear the players out, 2-a-day practices, denied them water during summer time practices to toughen them up,  didn't allow them to wear long sleeves or gloves in freezing cold winter games, etc. It was the coach treating the players like children who needed toughening up and needed a strong hand to help them mature into adults. What nonsense.

When Coughlin first joined the Giants as coach, taking over from Jim Fassell, the Giants locker room had the reputation of being a country club. Fassell ran a loose ship, players were undisciplined, they were out of shape and that led to the myriad of injuries that plagued the Giants during that period. Or so was the theory. Coughlin was intent upon changing the culture. He gave that famous introductory speech about how injuries are a cancer and he's going to stop the flood of injuries by toughening up the players. The implication of course was that the injuries weren't real, that they were just a mental thing and he was going to clean things up as the new sheriff in town. Of all the things Coughlin did, the coming early to meetings, the fines, the dress code etc., if I were a player that "injuries is a state of mind" would have ticked me off the most. Maybe the training regimen could have been better to get players ready and to avoid injury, but once the player is injured, he's injured. A torn ACL or high ankle sprain is not a state of mind. It is an injury and if players don't go for treatment and hide the injury, it gets worse. It's interesting that despite that speech, the string of injuries under Coughlin continued for the Giants, perhaps even worse for a few years. Coughlin made some well publicized changes in his attitude towards the players, including them in a player's council, making them feel like they were part of the team and accountable for their conduct, and the players responded. He also got off his injury soapbox to a point, but judging from his statements that I am referring to here, I guess some old attitudes die hard and this approach to injury is still part of his coaching DNA.

I don't want players to use injuries as an excuse to avoid practice, but they rarely do. Coughlin was prodding Nicks to get back on the practice field implying that he needed the reps with the QB. He's been in the league 4 years already, he knows the playbook and QB, he doesn't need 4 full weeks of training camp to get ready. We saw what Nicks was last year when injured; if there's a choice between avoiding practice to fully heal an injury and stay fresh for the season, versus practicing and developing chemistry with the team and the QB, I'm voting for health every time. Coughlin is a good coach; this is one area where the old-school-coaching attitudes comes to the forefront and win out. A clear victory of emotion over reason.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Steelers game: other notes

On offense, it was a little disappointing that Eli and the offense could not punch it in from the 5 after the blocked punt. On the first play, Giants ran the fade route that Eli and Nicks always hook up on. Unfortunately Murphy was running it and instead of taking an outside path and running between the DB and the sideline, where he could "fade" to the corner, he took an inside route. He didn't get open, but more than that it threw off the timing since Eli didn't expect him to go there. On 2nd down, the Steelers stuffed the run and on 3rd down, Giants missed the best opportunity to score. Randle was 1-on-1 in the slot and had a lot of space to work, but didn't explode off the line and get enough separation from the DB. Eli's throw should have led him more inside, but it was knocked down. On the second possession, Eli missed an open Randle for a deep ball down the sideline. It looked like Eli overthrew it, but Randle, in another indication of his continuing maturity, did not blame the QB but rather said that he didn't get a clean enough release off the line and if he had, he would've caught the ball.

Giants OL was average in the running game, but Wilson and Brown both continue to show really good skills. Da'rel Scott has great speed but is not a great RB. Michael Cox outplayed him and IMO is ahead in the battle for a roster spot. Lots of teams carry 4 RBs, but Giants may carry only 3 this year, partly because of the extra QB they may carry and because of the extra OL-men and DL-men that they may want to keep. Larry Donnell looks like he has some good skills and there is a hint that the Giants like him - he came into camp as a TE, but did you notice that he lined up in the backfield several times as a FB. If he can play that position, then Giants will have two FBs, Pascoe and Donnell on the roster until Hynoski comes back. Donnell would then not be bumped off the roster as a 4th TE if the Giants will carry only 3; but could sneak in as TE/FB. If Donnell looks good, Giants will not rush Hynoski back and he could start the season on PUP, which makes him available only after game 6. Donnell almost had a big gain on a screen pass, but Capers missed a block - it was wide open and would have gone a long way. Two other balls he dropped, but he amde very good attempts on. One was a seam route that was thrown well behind him and the other was a ball that was thrown high, he jumped to reach for but could not hold on to. He was held by a DB

I know Cruz caught that TD, but he looked more slick and smart than he did fast to me. He ran past the secondary, so I guess I shouldn't complain, but I think he fooled them more than he did outrun them. Cruz is a real good player, but he is not a real speed burner and he looks a little thicker and slower to me this year. Giants had the leverage in the contract negotiations and seemed to sign him to the contract that they wanted to give him. But it really was a fair contract - Cruz is not as good as the big time outside WRs, no matter what his statistics say.

Moesly played pretty well on the OL and Giants have some tough decisions to make there. The five starters: Beatty, Boothe, Baas, Snee and Diehl are on. Pugh, Moesly, Cordle and James Brewer probably are on. But then Giants have to decide what to do with McCants, draftee Herman and Selvish Capers (who missed the block for Donnell on the screen I mentioned above).

More roster analysis as we go forward and things clarify themselves further.

Steelers preseason game 1

We're off to the races; finally! After all the talk about who looks good in camp, who's playing well, who needs to step it up, we finally get to watch the team against real live players from other teams. I guess if the coaches are really sharp they can evaluate their players in training camp in their intrateam practices, but in a sense it may be difficult to get a really good read on them. For example, if your team has a WR in training camp that is doing really well, how do you know it is the WR that is excelling - maybe the CBs on your team stink, or maybe they are easing up in practice just a little because of fear of injury, either of themselves or their teammates. So the first preseason game, where you get the lightest load for the starters (except for preseason game 4) really gives you a good look into how everyone is playing, especially the second and third team players who get a healthy dose of playing time. You get the teams going full speed against one another and consequently get a better judgement on who's doing what.

I was really surprised to read the analysis in the various local NY papers talking about how poorly the Giants defense played. The general tone in the papers was that the Giants run defense was really poor last year (correct statement) and despite all the personnel changes in the off season to the front 7,  Giants could not stop the Steelers running game Saturday night. All these papers did was look at statistics and did not really look at the play of the game. For one thing, all the Steelers positive running plays runs were made after the Giants DL stopped the surge of the opposing OL and the RBs bounced it outside for some decent yardage. The Steelers have gone to a new zone blocking run scheme this year and you have to prepare defensively to stop that. Giants do not come up with a game plan for preseason games and the only recollection of the Steelers offense they had was the game towards the end of last year, from which the Steelers have changed their running game. Fact is that the Giants DL was dominant in this game and I was greatly encouraged by their play. The Steelers ran the ball effectively mostly on their second offensive possession and the rest of the night their running game was pedestrian. Giants LBs got caught not protecting the edge and allowing those cut back runs, but the LBs are much more athletic than last year and a little bit of coaching can fix that problem.

What I was incredibly impressed by was the play of the DL. Giants are so deep - they are surely going to have cut some NFL-caliber players there. First the great news is the 2 draft choices. Hankins looked very strong, plugging up the middle and showed great quickness getting a push at the QB and providing decent gap control. But the great news is 3rd rounder Damontre Moore. I know it's only part of one preseason game, but he looks like the second coming of JPP to me; another freak of an athlete at DE. He was very quick with his first step, has incredible speed as evidenced by the punt block, by pressuring the QBs and getting after runners from all angles on the field. New FA Cullen Jenkins looked great showing both speed and power. On his sack, he took an inside move beating his man with quickness and showed strength swatting him away from the side with one hand to get past him like he wasn't there. Generally when a DL-man beats his man, the OL-man is close enough to him to try and hold him, but Jenkins was a full 4 steps past his man in the blink of an eye and he ran down Big Ben easily. Very impressive.

The other DTs, Patterson and Austin also looked good. Patterson is a beast and Austin was very quick. I didn't get a good read on Shaun Rogers, but he has played well in the past. It's hard to tell who the Giants will keep from this group. The other surprise for me was Trattou who played an excellent football game. He sealed the edge several times on running plays and got after the QB effectively. Giants almost can't go wrong with who they keep from this group, but it seems likely that whomever they cut will end up on some NFL roster somewhere. I don't know if Trattou showed enough to put Adrian Tracy's job in jeopardy, but in my opinion, he jumped way ahead of Ojomo, who is a good pass rusher that I really like. Giants put pressure on the Steelers QBs all night; it was a very encouraging evening for the DL.

The LBs, after that second drive played much better. I am rooting for Herzlich, but Connor played better than he did, I thought. Rivers and Curry are both keepers, Williams did not seal the edge on a few running plays, but he has great speed and will be a good player for the Giants. He has incredible vertical jump, by the way - I saw it at practice last week and in the game when he batted down Big Ben's pass on their first possession of the game. I would like to keep 6 LBs: Paysinger, Herzlich, Rivers, Curry, Williams, Connor and cut Bosworth. But it becomes a number game - not sure if the Giants can keep 6 LBs. A few of the FA DBs looked good. At S there is a load of good players also - I thought Tyler Sash would be a camp cut, because he is least athletic of the players Giants have at S. But he played very well Saturday night, though mostly against Steelers second unit. Mundy played well also and with Will Hill and rookie Cooper Taylor (or is it Taylor Cooper?) along with presumptive starters Rolle and Brown, this is also a crowded position with lots of competition for roster spots. Remember Will Hill is suspended for first 4 games and that could affect Giants thinking.

The DB group looked pretty good, but when your team has a pass rush like Giants had, DB play always tends to improve. I am still worried about Corey Webster - he gave up a pass that would have been a TD if the WR had been able to keep his feet in bounds. He tackled his man just short of the 1st down marker on 3rd and 10 forcing Steelers FG, but he did give up the catch. Ross looks like he is playing really well as is Hosley. I would not be surprised if they move Ross to the starting outside CB, move Hosley in as the nickel/slot CB and move Webster to the bench. You can't give up on Webster yet, but he may have lost a half-step, which can be deadly for CBs.

More on the offense later this week.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sometimes it's more fun going through training camp than the regular season - there's so much speculation on who's going to make the roster, who's going to step up, how are the new draft choices doing and are the Giants going to plug the holes that hurt their team last year. During the season, reading the papers and the various media outlets, it's all about the game. During training camp, you really get to focus on player by player and play GM of your team. There seems to be so much more written on line and in the traditional outlets, that your morning is filled just following everything. It's also funny that each newspaper seems to cling to similar story lines each day - no doubt because they don't really know what they are seeing and they are fed "inside" information from one of the coaches.

Some interesting notes so far are that the Giants seem extremely happy with their draft choices, especially the first three. Pugh has looked very good and has been sharing first team snaps with Diehl. The coaches say he is very smart and has picked up the playbook well. This is important for OL-men, because you have to adjust quickly and switch your assignments when the defense throws a different blitz at you. The concussion he suffered is a setback, but if he gets back onto the field in the next week or so, we can hope that it won't retard his progress badly.

Hankins has been exactly what they expected - a big space eater at DT but has showed better quickness than they thought. The DL coach expects him to be a contributor and in the DL rotation this year. The big find, however has been Damontre Moore who has really wowed everyone with his talent and speed rush capability. He's a little light, so he may not be a 3-down DE and instead be only  a situational pass rusher at first. He has a big enough frame to carry a few extra pounds and for the future, could go heavier than the 250 he is now. Moore was known to have first round talent coming out of college but had a reputation as someone who did not work hard. If he has shed that tendency, he could be a real find. If these two DL draftees have an impact their first year, it may mean that some of the veterans don't make the club. It is really crowded on the DL, especially at DT. Shaun Rogers and even FA signee Patterson may be on the bubble. Jenkins, Joseph and Hankins will make the team. Marvin Austin has looked good also (see my report below), so you can validly ask how many DTs will the Giants carry? Kuhn can probably be stashed on PUP through part of the season in case of injury, making it more likely that one of the veterans will be cut.

I went to Giants training camp on Friday August 2nd and have the following personal report:

1. Prince Amukamara looks like he is ready to step up into the 'shut down' CB status. He is fast, looks very tough and has great instincts and technique. Even when the offense completed some balls against his man, he was right on top of the play and tightly contested the catch.

2. Reuben Randle continued his strong camp and looks like he will be an important player for the Giants this year. I am not sure he is a pure speed burner - in fact Manningham, the guy he is essentially replacing, may have been a bit faster in terms of pure foot speed. But Randle just looks like a  great football player. He runs effortlessly with a  long stride that makes it seem like he is not working, has great body control and deceptive speed. He can jump really well and has excellent hands.

3. David Wilson at RB also looks like he is ready for a big year. When he gets going nobody can stay with him. On one kickoff return drill, which was admittedly run at 3/4 speed, he just exploded down the sideline. He looks like the car in 'Back to the Future', powered by lightning and when he gets going, there are streaks of light as trails behind him.

4. It's hard to scout OL/DL at practice because they're not really banging hard, and there is a mass of bodies to try and look through from the sideline. But I will say that Marvin Austin looked lightning quick and Tuck looks like he's in great shape - not an ounce of body fat on his frame. In the front 7, the other player that looks extremely impressive to me is Jacquian Williams. I will admit that I always liked him - he reminds me of a slightly smaller Jesse Armstead, but he is extremely athletic and in a passing league, could be a great asset covering TEs from the LB position and running down read-option QBs.

5. Only big negative that I observed was Myers, the TE Giants signed from Oakland. He looked smallish, did not look fast and dropped 2 or 3 balls. He did not seem to get any separation on his routes, though everything he ran was short and intermediate stuff in the middle of the field. On the other hand, Andre Robinson the TE the Giants drafted last year from Cincinnati looked great. He is an imposing physical specimen, can run impressively especially for a man of that size and has very soft hands. He has a really high ceiling - I hope he makes it onto the field with some regularity this year. With his size, if he can learn the proper blocking techniques and assignments, he can be a strong player at that position.

One more note - I mentioned "soft hands" above and I have a new appreciation for what that means, which came from observing practice. In the NFL, everyone catches the ball with their hands, not against their body. It gives the WR an extra fraction of a second to secure the ball before he gets hit by a defender, instead of waiting until the ball (and defender) reaches him. Sitting next to the practice field, with the velocity that the QBs put on the ball, when the WRs catch the ball, you hear a loud slap when the ball comes in contact with their hands. The players with really soft hands have the ability to move their hands back just an inch or two and cradle the ball gently as it hits their outstretched hands. You can't really see a player do that, but you can hear it; or actually, you can't hear it. When the ball hit the hands of most of the WRs, you hear that loud slap. When the ball hit Robinson's hands, you heard nothing, just a soft thud. Since the collision between ball and hands is less "violent" the force of ball against hand is lessened, some of the energy is dissipated and there is less of a chance of drop. For students of physics, it is the difference between a ball hitting a concrete wall or hitting a pillow and the energy that the ball may have when rebounding off those surfaces. Robinson showed these soft, quiet hands.