The State Of The New York Football Giants (2009 Season Recap)
***EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a continuation of the mid-season assessment of the Giants from early November in 2009.
If you think we’re going to win the division or make the playoffs (especially if we don’t beat Atlanta, which will be the team looking for the last wild card slot most likely)…
…nah, we’re done. If we somehow win the division, it will be because we have the Skins and a Vikings team that will be resting their starters late. I honestly think it will take 11 wins to win the division and with the way we play, we won’t even win 10.
I’m going to tell you why. When teams slump, they have answers to fix it. Usually, it’s because 1-3 guys are hurt for a few weeks, maybe one is out for the season. Maybe it’s because of schematics.
However, that’s not the issue here. … Read More
Cris Carter or one of those guys on ESPN made a great point (which is rare) there are problems that the Giants have that WON’T GET FIXED THIS YEAR.
1. We REALLY miss Kenny Phillips more than Giants haters, casual fans and even some Giants fans figured we would. I knew we would miss him ENORMOUSLY.
2. Our offensive line scheme has been atrocious in the running game. We’re getting manhandled like the Falcons offensive line. We, on numerous occasions, have been unable to convert 3rd and 1s with a 265-lb running back. Our linemen are getting pushed around and manhandled in both the running AND passing game. Out of everything, that’s the ONE thing that possibly COULD be fixed.
3. The defensive line can’t get consistent pressure. We get there, but don’t get the sack. We get there, and maybe strip the ball — but don’t get the recovery (that has happened a half dozen times this season by my count and each time we DIDN’T get the recovery, the team went down and scored DEAR GOD). We get there, as we did with Rivers today, and hang all over him and he still makes a throw to a WIDE OPEN player, which leads to my other point:
4. Our linebackers are ridiculously flawed. Clark can’t cover downfield. I like him as a person, he’s a good dude, and he has a good skill set, but he’s good in run support. I have seen him on far too many occasions trailing plays downfield and out of position to make a play on his man. We are a SIEVE across the middle of the field. Pierce is a fatass and can’t run anymore. It’s outrageous how he is still starting. We definitely need to be eyeing a Mike in the draft or free agency. Boley, with all his speed, CAN’T stay healthy.
5. The cumulative effect of the defensive issues in the front seven leads to our already severely depleted secondary who can’t cover for SHIT to be compromised further. Evidenced again by the final drive of the game when the Chargers went RIGHT DOWN THE FIELD with no resistance whatsoever. Even guys like Corey Webster, who is a Top 5 CB are being made to look foolish because they can’t get to the QB when they blitz up front.
We’re not getting Phillips back this year, obviously (and what confounds me more and more every time we get beat deep — which is a half dozen times a game — is the fact that he was able to play. His knee was arthritic, but they forced him to go on IR; he had played two GREAT games so obviously he was fine with playing through the pain). Canty just finally played today, but was a non-factor. Same with Boley. Whenever Ross DOES come back (who stays out almost 3 months with a hamstring unless it’s torn? I’ve never seen that before) he’s going to be rusty. We can’t stop anyone when we need to.
We can’t convert short yardage. We can’t protect Eli and our special teams has me AGHAST on both sides of it every week. Hixon is WORTHLESS to this team. He doesn’t run routes properly, nor does he make adjustments with the ball in mid-air. He doesn’t do anything in the return game. We just have terrible decision-makers outside of Coughlin. Gilbride has caused several coronaries and strokes by some Giants fans I’m sure, since 2005. Every week he finds a new way to hold this team back and cost us games when we lose (all but maybe 5 or 6 losses since 2006 can be attributed to Gilbride’s awful play-calling which leaves 10-20 points on the field on the average every game). Bill Sheridan can’t decide when to blitz and when to fall back and play zone. Every week he gets outcoached. We really miss Spags, and I was one of the few people who was saying he was going to regret taking that job. The Rams aren’t going anywhere in the next 3-4 years. By then, he’ll be fired and be looking to be someone ELSE’S Defensive Coordinator. He should’ve stayed here, worked his magnificent scheme and succeeded Coughlin once he burns out and gets sick and tired of boneheaded players (112 yards in penalties today???) because I know I’d probably have a stroke and die on the field if I was coaching this team right now.
It turns out the things I wrote back in November were right. But then again, this has been my team since 1985 and I’ve watched them ardently. Our defense has NEVER been as bad as it was this season in my entire lifetime. That’s not just aesthetically, but also STATISTICALLY. We had (for all intents and purposes) the worst defense in the NFL.
As of January 4, 2010, the Giants fired Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan. Giants fans began questioning his hire during and especially after the Saints’ loss in Week 6, when the Giants seemed to be two steps behind everything Saints’ head coach Sean Payton and Gary Gibbs were doing.
The Giants’ problems run deep, but the good thing is, everything can be fixed. I will do a quick breakdown of what needs to be done at each position going into the offseason.
Although we could not realistically see it coming, the Saints game was a precursor of things to come. The Saints had the most potent offense for most of the season, so losing to them was no sin. But then the first Philadelphia game (the Iggles are one-dimensional and live by the big play, which is the common denominator in every one of their losses), and on and on from there (although remarkably, we beat Dallas handily — go figure).
HEAD COACH: C+
Coughlin should have final say and sign off on any decisions made by either of his coordinators and who gets cut or signed. The debacle that was the Giants’ defense was indefensible. Too much talent to play like a sieve. This defense couldn’t have stopped option teams in FBS college subdivision. The offense was potent, but too often Coughlin trusted Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride (who he goes back 20 years with as Gilbride is a Connecticut native) with play-calling that stifled many Giants’ drives. As potent as the offense was, the defense was just as inept — and the Giants left a good 100 points on the field this year. No hyperbole. That would have been good enough to be best in the NFL in points per game scoring.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: C
Sure, the Kevin Gilbride-led offense had explosive numbers in the passing game. The Giants have never been a big passing team. It is not our nature. We are run-first and a tough defense team, then pass. That’s why we haven’t had a Pro Bowl WR in 41 years and just had our first 100-catch WR this year in 85 seasons of playing football.
Noticeable were the running statistics. Most fans were alarmed that RB Brandon Jacobs could not break any runs against the exact same Washington defense he had been annihilating his entire career previously. Ahmad Bradshaw had great moments, but too often the play-calling leaned toward abandoning the run, despite Bradshaw averaging nearly 5 yards per carry all season. Too often this was the case, too often the play-calling was predictable, and FAR too often it was flat out INANE. I could point out scenarios in the losses and wins alike where Gilbride’s play-calling either prevented the Giants from winning going away (Kansas City game ended up being one play from being a one score game late because of the over-conservative play-calling, and let’s not begin on the numerous blunders in each of the blowout losses).
For all of the offense’s exploits (8th in the NFL, 3rd in the NFC, Manning surpassing 4,000 yards and having 27 passing TDs), the running game has always been the Giants’ staple and despite both RBs being injured all season (and DJ Ware likewise, as the 3rd RB), there were too many situations when Manning was passing when the Giants should have been running. To be fair, the Giants struggled in short yardage situations all season.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: F-.
Former Giants (fired today) Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan was embattled from the beginning of his tenure, following Giants fan-favorite Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s departure to take the Head Coach position with the St. Louis Rams last offseason. DE Osi Umenyiora (who hinted several times this season he may not be back with the Giants — okay, AND???) walked out on practice on a couple of occasions and the defense never seemed to respect Sheridan.
Giants fans were expecting more of what Spagnuolo did with the defense, considering the Giants retained all their key players at each level and added depth. NO DICE.
To be fair, the league-worst secondary became such with losses at 3 of the 4 starting positions, and at one point ALL of the starting defensive backs were out at one point or another, most of the defensive line was banged up and curious lineup changes were made similar to Jimmy Carter’s cabinet (both desperation save-faces) before he was sonned by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 Election.
Eli Manning had a great season. His detractors, who will always hate him because 1) The Draft Day Situation in 2004, 2) simply because he is and never will be Peyton and 3) seems not to care by his demeanor (although Giants fans often rolled their eyes and heads and yelled just as often as he did when his WRs caught whatever Braylon Edwards brought to New York (because he definitely didn’t drop passes anymore). Manning had career highs in pass yardage, completion percentage, rating, touchdowns and made very few mistakes, considering he had tons of drops by his relatively-young receiving corps, a shockingly regressed offensive line which gave him less time to pass than he’s had since 2005 and an all-of-a-sudden-average running game. Other than a couple of INTs here and there when games were out of reach, I can’t say anything about Manning’s season, all things considered, other than “REMARKABLE”. Anyone who says otherwise should have their tongues forked with a hot, rusty stake and not be allowed to comment on football.
QB David Carr is no longer shell-shocked and he wouldn’t completely fall apart if Ironman Eli ever went down or ever missed a game (he hasn’t since becoming starter and hopefully won’t). He makes enough plays to keep the offense moving.
To properly assess the running back position, one must not play the novice game of stating the obvious “Yeah, but Jacobs only averaged 3.7 yards per carry” blah blah blah. Real football analysts know there is a cause and effect for everything.
Jacobs played all season with a bad knee. Some believe it is a carryover from the same knee that has plagued him since he became a starter in 2007. He had to miss games intermittently in that season, then again last season, before playing all of 2009 — although he was never 100% nor complained of it. His arthroscopic knee surgery immediately following the Giants’ elimination from playoff contention confirmed insiders’ suspicions that Jacobs was visibly slow with good reason — he’s on bad wheels. Not sure how long he will hold up anyway at his size, but his curious numbers had a manifold cause. Not only the knee situation, but also the offensive line being a mess. These are the same guys who have played together as a unit since Eli Manning became the starter of the team midway through the 2004 season. The way they regressed, with none of them being older than 32 is startling. I hear Giants fans talking “these guys are getting old and long in the tooth”. None of the guys are old. The Chiefs had a similar dominating unit, most of whom played until they were 36 or 37 before they began looking genuinely “old”. Age isn’t the issue. They were simply getting beat off the ball. There weren’t nearly as many holes for the backs to run through (most of Bradshaw’s big runs came because of his speed, quickness and cutback ability). Jacobs wasn’t 100% and also isn’t 5’9″ 200 lbs like Bradshaw, he’s 6’4″ 255 (he’s not that big up close, no homo). The Giants have Andre Brown returning (possibly) as a rookie out of NC State who missed his entire rookie season with a nasty injury. They know they cannot depend on Jacobs for long and having him next year and the offensive line having a year to regroup and retool (maybe a 4th round selection) and the running game will be fine. Not really my major concern.
Gartrell Johnson only played in mop-up duty.
FB Madison Hedgecock played decently. We did not pass to him as much (most of us Giants fans prefer it that way, we went nuts throughout 2008 as we watched young Madison drop wide open passes in the flat that were sure first downs). He failed to open many holes for Jacobs and Bradshaw, especially in short yardage. But he was good in pass blocking when he had responsibilities on edge rushers and defensive backs blitzing. DJ Ware played very well in limited work, as he was hurt and out for about half the season.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C-.
As previously mentioned, the line regressed a bit this year. Eli wasn’t sacked overwhelmingly, but he was rarely touched in 2008. The running game had been the best in the league the previous 4 seasons. And although they weren’t great in 2009, the running game wasn’t awful, either. Just not what expectations were from the team nor the fans. Key injuries to RT Kareem McKenzie (who, in addition to missing the last 2 1/2 games, was nicked up at various times and missed parts of 4 other games) and LG Rich Seubert doomed the Giants in the very end when they needed to win games.
Despite receiving no accolades, RG Chris Snee may still be the 2nd best right guard in the NFC and LT Dave Diehl doesn’t get beat at all (Peppers beat him once, but DeMarcus Ware did not get past him a single time in two games, and Trent Cole only did once, and once in a running situation — albeit registering a key strip of RB Brandon Jacobs in the 2nd matchup with Philadelphia).
C Shaun O’Hara still played well enough to be an alternate in the Pro Bowl. Rookie RT Will Beatty seemed comfortable filling in for McKenzie and only got beat once. G Kevin Boothe filled in as a backup, but is nothing special. A band-aid, but not a sieve nor to be mistaken for vintage Larry Allen, obviously.
WIDE RECEIVER: B.
WR Steve Smith had a breakout season, as I predicted. He is Eli Manning’s safety blanket and so it was fitting he ended up with 107 catches this season. He did everything we needed him to. Over half of his catches went for first downs.
WR Mario Manningham made huge strides, considering he had only played sparsely in his rookie season in 2008. He made tons of plays and proved to be elusive, but he dropped tons of wide open passes, route-running gaffes had at least 3 TDs taken off the board and he does not block well yet.
WR Hakeem Nicks was no surprise to me. I thought he would be the most NFL-ready WR in the 2009 Draft and I was glad we landed him. He is just a flat out player. He reminds me a bit of Michael Irvin. His route running is very good for a rookie, although it needs work. He has Baker’s Oven Mitts for hands. He had a couple of key drops, but he was the Giants’ big play threat all season, notching a half dozen plays of over 40 yards while finishing second to Steve Smith on the team with 6 TD.
WR Domenik Hixon was used less frequently this year, and his showing after Plaxico Burress went down last year proved to be the right move going into this year. But he did make a couple of nice catches.
WR Derrick Hagan made a few plays, including a late TD grab vs. Washington in Week 15, but he didn’t get enough playing time to be accurately assessed.
WR Sinorice Moss may be the odd man out as he has never done enough to impress the coaches enough to even warrant playing in the slot.
WR Ramses Barden needs to see the field in 2010. Unless he was injured or in witness protection, there was no reason why he should not have played in Weeks 16 and 17 at the very least. We need the height that we lost with Burress.
TIGHT END: B.
TE Kevin Boss takes too many solid shots. At 6’7″, he doesn’t run nearly as well as Jeremy Shockey did, but he is just as good of a blocker. He must work on getting his pads lower if he wants to play for long. Expect TE Travis Beckum to see more of the field in 2010. TE Darcy Johnson is mostly used in short yardage situations.
DEFENSIVE LINE: D.
The Giants’ strength for as long as I have been alive has been the defensive line. From guys like Jim Burt, Erik Howard, Leonard Marshall, Erik Dorsey, Keith Hamilton and Michael Strahan to HEALTHY Justin Tuck and pre-2008 Osi Umenyiora, this was the pride and joy of the Giants team and Giants fans. They were equally culpable as the weakness of the team (along with the slow footed linebackers and banged up/clueless secondary). LE Justin Tuck is a warrior. Some say he’s soft because he pulls up lame and grimaces every game. What have you. He gets cheap-shotted by Flozell Adams two games a year when he beats him twice a game (this year the shoulder injury sustained when Adams leg-whipped him in Week 2 — http://vimeo.com/6704982 added to the leg injury he had coming into the season).
RE Osi Umenyiora may not be 100% recovered from his ACL surgery, but he seemed to not be giving effort half of the time. He was already slow to the QB as it were, but teams’ best runs came at his and Danny Clark’s side. Umenyiora did lead the team in sacks and had a boatload of forced fumbles, but those mask how many plays he was flat out run by every week by opposing WRs and even a few QBs.
DT Fred Robbins started off the year flat and just played flat all season before being benched. The Giants lost DT Jay Alford in preseason and he might have been the only tackle to give a damn. DT Barry Cofield just took up space all season, doing nothing of note vs. the run nor vs. the pass.
Backups DE Chris Canty and DT Rocky Bernard made a play this year apiece. And yes, I mean A. PLAY. These guys were brought in to beef up the already stout defensive line, but they were wastes of money with other needs on the table.
DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka tries hard, but he does not shed blockers well, and isn’t stout against the run. Given his slight build, even when he replaced Umenyiora when the latter was benched late in the season, teams still gashed the Giants’ weakside for big runs.
Where do you start? MLB Antonio Pierce appears to be 6 months pregnant and can’t run with anyone anymore. For all the heart and composure he brings to the defensive unit, he’s as big of a liability as anyone. His injury may have given the Giants a convenient excuse to part ways with him coming up on his walk year and steeply declining skills-wise. He should not be back next season. If so, the Giants will continue to struggle in both run and (most noticeably with Pierce) pass defense. Jason Witten, Brent Celek and Chris Cooley owned him the past 2-3 seasons — all tight ends; Pierce’s main responsibility in the passing game when Boley or Kavika Mitchell (who departed following the Super Bowl and made more plays in one season than Clark has made in two and Boley made this year combined). WLB Danny Clark is decent in spots, but he is not fleet afoot and opposing teams’ best runs were at his side. Pierce began regressing as early as 2007. He was poor in coverage then. Ever since, he’s begun looking like a defensive tackle with his build. He can’t run anymore and the only thing he’s good for is a quote and aligning the defense. That’s all fine and well if you’re the linebackers coach (hey, didn’t Sheridan vacate that role?) but if you’re putting your already-thin defense in a position where they’re playing 10 on 11 against opposing offenses, you are a liability. Plain and simple.
SLB Michael Boley did not seem as fast as he was with Atlanta. Maybe it was his injuries coming into the season, maybe it was a combination of that and the fact that EVERYONE (cue the very first drive in the 2nd game vs. Philadelphia when the team seemed clueless as to what types of looks to give the entire first drive) was thinking more than reacting (i.e. PLAYING FOOTBALL), but he wasn’t much of an asset. Chase Blackburn at least knows where to be, even if he is not fast and gets on my nerves at times.
WLB Danny Clark was just a body out there. He had a couple of sacks, but did nothing else noteworthy.
Backups Jonathan Goff and Chase Blackburn looked like the rookies and Gary Reasons/Corey Widmer knockoffs that they are.
Somewhere LT, Carl Banks, Harry Carson, Pepper Johnson and Gary Reasons — THE GUYS I GREW UP WATCHING when I was little — have to be shaking their heads in collective disgust.
SLB Clint Sintim played sparingly (should have played more) and Bryan Kehl barely played outside of special teams.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: F.
FS Kenny Phillips is not yet known league-wide, as he was just entering his 2nd year in the NFL. Giants fans know he is already the best Free Safety we’ve ever had (as we’ve never been strong at that position). He was coming into his own and had started 2009 quickly with 2 INT in two games and never getting beat. He had the speed, hitting ability and awareness to play the position with the guile of Darren Sharper and Ed Reed, and hitting like Sean Taylor (RIP son) Lite. We knew we’d miss him big time, but we were like a turnstile at the 42nd Street 1-2-3/N-R-W lines during peak hour back there once he went down. He went on Injured Reserve with Patellaosteoarthritis (a shock to him, since he knew the knee was not right, but able to play and play remarkably well despite it) after the Week 2 win vs. Dallas.
SS Michael Johnson (missed several games), LCB Corey Webster (missed several games, regressed in his play) and RCB Aaron Ross (missed 13 games) were the starters who missed numerous games for the Giants. Nevertheless, the players plugged in to play for the injured starters looked completely lost — especially and notoriously C(an’t) C(over) Brown at FS. CB Bruce Johnson played well, especially given his status as an undrafted free agent. CB Kevin Dockery made a few plays, but he gave up even more big plays than he made. FS Aaron Rouse played like he was 5’9″ and 180 instead of the 6’4″ 230 that he is listed. And he is slower than most, if not all, free safeties in the NFL. Even the guy he was brought in to replace in Green Bay 5 years ago (Darren Sharper, who is at the end of his career at age 34).
We couldn’t cover most invalids after Week 5. The worst defense I’ve ever seen from a Giants team in my LIFE. BY FAR. Anyone who is over 30 and has been a Giants fan longer than I am readily agrees.
CB Terrell Thomas was the lone bright spot and played magnificently being a 2nd year and being thrust into a starting role after initially being cast as a nickel CB — he led the team in interceptions easily.
K Lawrence Tynes had a very good year. Other than Seabass (Sebastian Janikowski), he was the most reliable kicker out there. There was a time that Law Tynes would be the Rey Ordoñez of kicking. He’d blow the easy ones and make the tough ones, but he’s the least of our concerns.
P Jeff Feagles is still the DEAN of punting. He can kick for us as long as he feels like it. Tilted field position as always and his patented coffin corner kicks and pinning teams within the 10-20 yard range at LEAST put our defense in position to get stops and get the offense the ball back, but…
KICK RETURNS/PUNT RETURNS: B-.
WR Domenik Hixon had moments. He housed a couple and had a couple of other long returns, but far too many fumbles and other times where they tried to house punts and kicks when there was no alley. Everyone else who had been back there the past 5 years was putrid, disgusting and made me want to puke, so I shant complain.
SPECIAL TEAMS DEFENSE: C.
Too many big returns, the final nail in the coffin of the Giants’ season came when they gave up a ridiculous 67 yard return to Eagles’ WR DeSean Jackson when they had him pinned to the sidelines and four Giants were within 3 yards of him and none touched him (if my eyesight isn’t bad). This happened — albeit not so elusively on the part of the other returners — far too often for my liking. Josh Cribbs would have housed us 3 times a game if we played the Browns.
Bryan Kehl and Chase Blackburn were standouts when tackles WERE MADE.
Overall, the team was .500 and an average team in every regard. They gave up as many points as they scored. They had an 8 win, 8 loss record. The defense was as bad as the offense was good. Just a pure Jekyll & Hyde, night and day outfit. Considering this team (haters, ESPN hacks — aka MORE HATERS and disqualified think-they-know-it-alls aside) had NFC East winning, Super Bowl contending, 12-13 win talent and ability, this season was a gross disappointment.
Firing Sheridan was a start, but the blame is hardly his alone. Kevin Gilbride ought to have been fired first, to be perfectly frank.
Draft-wise, the Giants need to check out a few players at the LB and S positions.
Players who should be available when the Giants pick:
LB Brandon Spikes, UF
LB Sergio Kindle, Texas
S Taylor Mays, USC
However, the main needs with the (at least) 7 picks the Giants have in the 2010 Draft are as follows (in order from the greatest to the least):
OFFENSIVE LINE (GUARD)
WIDE RECEIVER (HEIGHT — DESPITE BARDEN NOT PLAYING THIS YEAR)
STATISTICAL TEAM LEADERS
Courtesy Of Giants.com: