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.