Wednesday, August 31, 2016

More roster follow ups

Yesterday's blog post, where I took a shot at Donnell and said I did not like him as TE is moot ---- both LaCosse and now Maleck have been waived because of injury and even the other TE option TE/FB Will Johnson has been on the shelf because of an injury - a stinger. The other player who theoretically could have served as a functional blocking TE, Nikita Whitlock, last year's FB, was waived with an injury. So a position, TE/FB that a week ago looked like it was crowded and filled with competition now is sparsely populated and Donnell will definitely make the team. But both he and in particular Tye have been called out by the coaching staff because of poor blocking, so I think Will Johnson, when healthy will play a lot. And the point of this post is to say that I would promote Jerell Adams on the depth chart and give him a a lot of snaps, even ahead of Donnell. Adams came out of college as somewhat raw, with a reputation as  a good blocking TE but questionable in the passing game. He looks like he is progressing in the passing game and that is a more natural part of everyone's game  who has ever played football, so I expect it to improve. He is playing great on ST so there is little doubt he will make the team now, but I would elevate him and see what he's got; see if he can be developed sooner rather than sitting on the bench as a long term project.

Will Beatty was resigned to prop up the OL. This makes a great deal of sense - he was never a stud LT, but he was capable; a solid NFL caliber OT. I presume that they will leave Flowers at LT and let Beatty supplant Newhouse at RT. While Beatty may not be a star, he still represents a significant upgrade to the OL. It's ironic - I had just been discussing with all my Giants buddies that the Giants in the off-season upgraded, in some cases significantly upgraded EVERY unit on the team (except for QB). We have two new DL-men in Vernon and Harrison. Really we have 4 if you count JPP and OO's emergence from the injury hell of last year. We added two LBs - Shepard and Goodson and got Casillas back to good health. Giants added 2 CBs and a safety. They added a WR (Sheppard) and RB (Perkins) in the draft. We even added a pair in the TE/FB position by drafting Adams and signing Johnson. It sure seems to me like the only unit we did not upgrade was the OL and, while the OL wasn't horrible last year, it certainly was not a unit of strength. It was one of the units that we all felt was in need of improvement. We've read all the stories from the draft room that Giants were intending to draft a T, but got outmaneuvered, ending up with Eli Apple. I think this will end up being a blessing in disguise because I think Apple will be  a stud. Nevertheless, Giants needed to upgrade the OL. With this Beatty signing, they did.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Roster moves

If this were my team, Larry Donnell would be a roster cut. He is just not good enough - he can't block at all and the poor TE work in the blocking department is one reason the OL looks worse and the running game looks worse than it should be. Donnell is a completely one dimensional player and even as a pass catcher he is somewhat limited. He is a big target, convenient for the red zone, and occasionally able to catch those seam routes. But he fumbles too often, drops too many balls, runs too upright and therefore gets attacked at his knees. He is constantly looking to protect himself from those chop-at-the-ankles-and-knees tackles and so he goes down way too easily. I haven't looked at the stats, but just viscerally, his YAC yards have to be close to 0. The only thing keeping him on the roster is that LaCosse is always injured, in fact he was waived injured today. Ryan Malleck is just not talented enough to nudge Donnell off the roster, but he is just not a quality NFL TE. If he were in his first year, we would be salivating about his upside and would be hopeful that his blocking would immprove. But let's face it - he's not a rookie, he's been in the league 4 years, if you count his year on the practice squad. If his blocking hasn't improved up until now, it probably just ain't gonna' get any better. I would promote Jerell Adams above Donnell on the depth chart. Adams was a blocking TE in college, so maybe he can do a better job than Donnell and so far, from the little I have seen of him on film from games and practice, he is flexible, quick, a decent route runner and has good hands. He's got a learning curve, to be sure, but I have given up on investing time in Donnell.

Maybe some team out there needs a TE, remembers the 3 TD performance by Donnell against the Redskins or maybe the game winning TD catch against the 49ers last year and gives us a reserve OL-man or a 3rd od 4th round draft choice in a trade.

By the way - speaking of a leopard not changing his spots - did you see that Reuben Randle was cut by the Eagles. Randle (or RFR as I call him) is one of my most unfavorite Giants players ever. OK, maybe Dave Brown is ahead of him on the list, but RFR is pretty darned close.

The other roster spot with lots of competition is WR. Tavarres King looked real good in practice and right behind him is Roger Lewis. Myles White got cut today, so it looks to me like the WR corps will be: OBJ, Sheppard, Cruz, Harris and these two neophytes: King and Lewis. Two others will probably make the practice squad: Powe and Dable.

Next question is what happens at RB. It's really hard to judge the RBs with this awful OL play. Jennings, Vereen and rookie Perkins are locks to make the team. After that, it depends if Giants carry 4 or 5 RBs. If they carry only 1 more RB and it comes down to Rainey, Darkwa and Williams, I think they may keep Darkwa and cut the otehr two. Pretty close call, though.


Third preseason game review

A couple of years ago,  at the end of the season, John Mara famously complained to Gilbride Sr and Coach Coughlin "the offense is broken, fix it". He was rightly worried about all the INTs, lack of creativity and the great complexity and indecision in the routes that the WR were running and the many midroute adjustments they had to make. This meant that the QB and WR were often not on the same page. So, we fired Gilbride, hired McAdoo as new OC and the offense greatly improved in the succeeding two years. We have a Super Bowl caliber QB, lots of talent at the skill positions, but now, however, we seem to have another problem and that is that the OL and the TEs can't block anyone. Every play was completely exploded by the Jets DL; every running play the RB was clobbered as soon as he took the handoff from Eli; and there was never a clean comfortable pocket for Eli on passing plays.

Everyone in football talks about how important the work in the trenches is and it's true. But comparatively, the OL is even more important than the DL ---- here's why: if you have a weak DL, you can still field a somewhat representative defense and cover up weakness in the DL. You would need great LBs and/or a strong secondary and some creative coaching, but you can somehow compensate for it. The defense may not be great without a good DL, but you can field a defense that is somewhat functional. But on offense, there is just no getting around a terrible OL. No matter how good your QB or other skill position players are, they can't compensate for a terrible OL. A bad OL just ruins the offense.

It's only preseason and the Jets do have a very formidable DL, Buffalo plays multiple looks and blitzes up front a lot, so perhaps we shouldn't overreact. On the other hand---- if the OL had played poorly but at least showed something, we could grasp at some straws of optimism or at least hope. But this week, the OL was just completely dominated on every play and there is definitely cause for concern, if not total panic.

On the other side of the ball, however, I think the defense has a chance to be very good. The DL has strength and depth. The starters look great - two excellent DTs in Harrison and Hankins; two excellent DEs in Vernon and JPP. Some depth off the bench in Bromley and Odigizuwa, and even a young "comer" in Okwara who looks great. Towards the end of the game Okwara was abusing the Jets OL, looking like LT in his prime. Granted he was going against 2nd and 3rd string players --- but he just looks like a player. The LBs all of a sudden look like a formidable group with Casillas really standing out (hope the rib injury sin't too bad) and competnet depth behind all the LBs. I am really enthused about ELi Apple, he looks great. Right now, I think he s a better CB than expensive FA Janoris Jenkins. Collins looks better than last year, actually making some plays in the passing game.

The defense has a chance to be really good, but no team can be a playoff team or a serious contender without good OL play and right now, we're not showing it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Training Camp observations I

I haven't  been out to training camp yet, planning to go next week sometime. Consequently, these observations are limited to the various reports from all the media outlets that I read voraciously and from the film that I watch, released by the Giants and from other sources.

It seems that our QB is having a great camp and is feeling very comfortable with the weapons and the offense. We can't get overconfident in this, because in camp, the OL and DL don't get to grit their teeth and go after it that hard - they don't hit the QB, the QB knows he's not going to get hit, so he just stands there and throws. Nevertheless, it's better that he looks great than not. He threw an INT on the first pass in camp and has not thrown one since. I said this before and it may sound ridiculous - but if it's possible for a two time Super Bowl MVP to be underrated, Eli is the one.

Everyone is excited about Sterling Shepard; he seems to make a big play every practice and is very polished and professional. You can't get too crazy about the highlights the Giants release of him, because they are after all highlights meant to show off the best in a player. But he does certainly look like a play maker. The flip side of that is that while everyone is saying that Cruz is coming along and if he ends up delivering 75% or 80% of what he used to be, all will be well in Giants land. I disagree. He's not and never has been a dominant physical presence. He is smallish and quick, not a speed merchant. He was dangerous for a slot receiver, perhaps the most dangerous slot receiver in the league. But it may be a very narrow margin and if he loses that step, that quickness that distinguished him, it's possible that he could become a very ordinary receiver. Parallel history lesson: There was an NBA player named Hal Greer - great player, played on the old 76er teams with Wilt Chamberlain. He was a 6'2" guard, quick as could be. He didn't have to worry about dropping down to help rebound, because Wilt had his back. When the opposing shot went up, he ran down court, caught an outlet pass from Chamberlain, dribbled hard to the basket, stopped at the foul line, let everyone run past him and scored 10 points a game on open jump shots from the foul line. As he aged, one year he lost a step and no longer could beat everyone down the court. He was out of the league in a year. Sometimes it's a very thin margin that makes a player special and when he loses that edge, he doesn't go from great to very good, he goes from great to ordinary.

From what I've seen on film of Cruz, he does not have the sharpness and separation ability in his routes. When he runs the hook / comeback routes, it looks like he has to take 4 or 5 little baby steps to slow down and stop before he comes back for the ball. This gives the DB a chance to break on the route and stop the play. The 4 or 5 steps could be an indication of weakness in his calf and knee or his mental uncertainty in trusting his legs. Or it could be that the Giants are asking him to proceed slowly and he is working his way back. But if you look at his physical condition, his upper body strength, he looks great; so you would expect his wheels to be equally strong. The fact that they don't look great to me is a warning signal.

TE is a really interesting position to handicap. LaCosse has played well but keeps getting hurt. Will Tye played very well last year and is a lock to make the team. Donnell is big, has talent the Giants love, but he drops the ball, fumbles after the catch, falls on his head after every catch and has a close to 0 YAC number. When this happens to a rookie, you hope for improvement, but he's been around too long to have strong expectations that this will change. The draftee Adams will probably show enough in camp and in game films that the Giants will not be able to sneak him through onto the practice squad. They have Will Johnson who will take up snaps at TE during the season...... my point is: I am not sure Donnell's roster spot is safe.