NFL Week 3: Giant Collapse – What’s Wrong With The Giants?


NFL Week 3: Giant Collapse – What’s Wrong With The Giants?
M.D. Wright
9.26.2010

Seems like an elementary question, and the person listed inset is one of the culprits, but this thing goes much deeper than the turnovers, bonehead penalties and final scores indicate. It showed last season (and remarkably, the defense has been stout — Week 2 was an aberration given the scheme being totally altered specifically for that one game), but was overlooked because of the appalling and Giants-history WORST effort ever by a Giants defense.

The most glaring problem?

THE OFFENSIVE LINE AND OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR HAS BEEN TOTALLY INEPT.

Last season, the offense played relatively well, until the team completely gave up following Week 14. But the running game had been lacking all season. To be sure, most Giants fans accepted the fact that Brandon Jacobs was hurt going into the season, and the Week 1 matchup only made his knee situation worse. Ahmad Bradshaw has had foot and ankle issues seemingly since he entered the league with the Giants, and last year was no difference. Andre Brown was hurt before the season began, and Danny Ware was the backup, as Derrick Ward left via free agency to Tampa Bay. Gartrell Johnson (now cut) was even seeing carries at times. The running game was not the Giants’ strong point last year, but that was with good reason, as I have just pointed out.

The offensive line has aged seemingly overnight. The Giants’ offensive line was the best in the NFL from 2005-2008. Shaun O’Hara, the starting center, is just 34 years of age, but he has looked like a turnstile in the Times Square station during peak hour when it comes to blocking defensive tackles both in the run and pass game. His replacement, Adam Koets has not looked bad, and it may be time to just make the transition now, while the season is somewhat salvageable.

David Diehl cannot block anyone at left tackle anymore, it seems. He was a mauler for years, but in Week 3, I saw him fan at Dave Ball of Tennessee — DAVE BALL!!! — as if he were fanning flies. Ball goes right past Diehl for a sack on Eli Manning. The week before, it was Dwight Freeney who did the same. Had the Panthers had any semblance of a team, they would have done the same to Diehl. He either needs to move back inside as a guard (more on that left guard situation later), or be the backup to Will Beatty (#65 to those who became even more familiar with him at Giants Stadium Week 1, as he was substituted “Tackle Eligible” at tight end for 40+ snaps following Kevin Boss’ early injury). But this lack of protection and spotty pulling and smash blocking in the run game is not going to hold up. Any yards Bradshaw has gotten off both tackles’ edge has been on his own ability alone. Jacobs barely gets out of the backfield anymore; and it is not because he has lost THAT much in his step.

Rich Seubert, he who was born mere minutes apart from me on March 30, 1979, appears to be done as well. He does decently in the pass protection aspect of the game, but there have been few to no holes behind Seubert since the beginning of last year. It’s time for Shawn Andrews, who’s motivated, bigger, stronger and more athletic, to get in there and road-grade as he did at times with Philadelphia.

Chris Snee, the coach’s son-in-law, is the only keeper. He’s been solid in all aspects of the game. I can count on him to trap block, pull occasionally, or kick-out on sweeps and stretch plays.

Kareem McKenzie has lost it. He’s slow now. And at 6’6″ 335, he cannot block any left ends anymore. Robert Mathis, who is a good 100 pounds lighter than McKenzie, EMBARRASSED him on national TV last week. It actually happened quite a bit last season as well, when he wasn’t being pushed off the line in the running game as well. A man that size should not be the one being bullied by guys 40-60 pounds lighter. Outside of Bradshaw’s electric runs, I don’t recall more than 5 or 6 long running plays off McKenzie’s right hip, whereas they were very common EVERY GAME from 2005-2008.

Pass protection has been so-so at best thus far this season. It was the only strong-suit of the offense last year, as the running game fell flat, Eli had over 4,000 yards passing and 27 touchdowns, with plenty of time to pass last year. But running the ball has been a nightmare since the end of 2008, when it was already showing signs following Plaxico Burress’ arrest and suspension.

I never make excuses, and will excoriate this team more than any Giants hater could — when they deserve it. AND THEY DO, RIGHT NOW.

In saying as much, the Week 2 performance was an aberration, at least defensively. I still believe the defense is back. Yes, the Carolina Panthers are the worst team in the NFC, and the Titans are by no means a pinball act offensively (although they may look that way by merely looking at Week 3’s scoreboard), but while the Colts are an elite team, the scheme of nickel and dime coverage for most of the game vs. Peyton Manning, while understandable, was without adjustments for the running game. Joseph Addai hadn’t had a decent game in seemingly forever, but we made him look like a Pro Bowler in Week 2. Because we played 5 or 6 DBs most of the game and never bumped and ran with the WRs of the Colts (which negates the entire reason to have that many DBs on the field at once to begin with), Manning was playing pitch and catch from the embarrassing first drive of the game until he obviously let off the gas pedal midway through the 3rd quarter. The Giants could have easily lost by 40 on Sunday Night with that scheme. There is a way to beat Manning, but not pressuring him and allowing the WRs large cushions and running free within zones is not the way. The Giants are better than the Saints defensively, and you’d think, with better personnel than the Saints, they would have looked at what the Saints did to frustrate Manning in the Super Bowl and base their approach off that scheme. But I digress.

The defense has been the saving grace this year, after being the culprit for all of the losses last season. ALL OF THEM. Surrendering 40 points seemingly every other week, being gashed up and down the seams for big plays by mediocre players, being beaten deep twice per game for 50+ yard touchdowns, etc. etc. etc. The offense was sorely lacking in about 3 games last season, enough to be the reason we lost those games. If the defense plays halfway decently and the offense continued its 26 PPG output last year, we win 11 games. But alas.

The Giants’ defense entered Week 3 determined to shut down Chris Johnson. And aside from a late run in garbage time in which the defense had been worn out after being on the field for most of the 2nd half — they were gassed, so the numbers are deceiving. Chris Johnson has been SHUT DOWN the past two weeks by two of the best front sevens in football. Let that not be overlooked.

But the approach was to dare Vince Young to pass. EVERYONE KNEW IT. But instead of pressing him more often when he dropped back and pressing these unproven WRs that the Titans possess, we gave cushions and played too soft of a zone coverage most of the game. ESPECIALLY ON THIRD AND LONGS, which is inexcusable. It deflates the fans, it deflates the team as well. Constant pressure is the way to beat Vince Young, especially once you have shut down Chris Johnson, but the Giants let him off the hook in the 2nd half by not getting near him nor bumping and running with the Titans’ WRs, when the Giants have the personnel to do so.

KEVIN GILBRIDE.

This man has to go. How on earth you can average 450 yards of offense per game and only get 24 points in two games is beyond me. Eli Manning haters will say “look at all those INTs!” But aside from an ill-advised improvisational pass in the red zone vs. Tennessee in Week 3 that resulted in an easy interception for the Titans, all of Manning’s INTs have been the result of bobbled passes, passes that have bounced right off Giants’ players shoulder pads and in and out of their hands — directly to Panther, Colt and Titans defenders. Eli had an otherwise all-world game in Week 3 and bonehead penalties yanked at least 20 points off the board for the Giants, and gave a good 19 to the Titans. The Titans did nothing of note offensively. They were rewarded with excellent field position most of the game and aside from a couple of late scores, did little with it. The Giants had 3 turnovers early, and up until a certain point, the Titans had only managed a field goal out of them, because the Giants’ defense had shut them down each time.

Gilbride has had the reins on Manning for far too long. You cannot run no-huddle offense all game, but Eli loves it and it should be run more often, in order to establish a rhythm, which, outside of a couple of series all season, the offense HAS NOT ACHIEVED ALL SEASON. At least do it in order to get Manning in synch with his WRs, because he definitely has little to no synergy with anyone but Mario Manningham at this point. He’s barely getting the ball to Steve Smith in situations where the game matters. Hakeem Nicks has dropped as many passes as he’s caught, seemingly. He missed Boss, who made a Bavaro-esque play in Week 3, but even Gilbride’s playcalling with regards to Boss has been shotty.

Gilbride isn’t maximizing the talent available here. Steve Smith is an excellent possession receiver who repeatedly moved the chains in 2008 and 2009. Gilbride’s playcalling has shifted toward predictable inside-handoffs to Jacobs or Bradshaw (who has made the most out of most of these touches, I will admit), but has barely looked at Smith in 3rd down situations — something he did with great alacrity last season.

We didn’t use Boss as effectively as he could have been vs. TEN. The man could have had 7 or 8 catches against those linebackers.

Nicks needs to concentrate more. He’s obviously preoccupied with making a play with the ball before he has secured it, because he’s dropped a half dozen passes already this season and all of them have hit him squarely in BOTH HANDS.

Manningham had problems running consistent routes and remaining inbounds when he was near the sideline. He had a great catch in Week 3, which was naturally wiped out by a chop-block/safety penalty on Ahmad Bradshaw. To be fair to Bradshaw, he was responsible for any blitz pickup or any pass rusher that came up the middle. And if Koets hadn’t been holding Tony Brown, Bradshaw’s block would have been legal (given that Brown and Koets were technically still engaged, due to Koets’ contact with Brown’s facemask — which could have also been called and resulted in a safety), so while we lost 2 points there, I cannot blame Ahmad much. But on the following opportunity to redeem himself, including a couple of excellent runs, he fumbled the ball and deflated the entire team.

The Giants did not recover on either side of the ball after that. The Titans scored and made it 19-10, and the defense was worn out from that point forward (ONLY THEN DID JOHNSON GET ANY REAL YARDAGE).

This team has far too much talent offensively to have only scored 55 points in 3 games. PERIOD. That’s usually an AVERAGE result of TWO games.

TEAM GRADES
(Through Three Games)
Head Coach: B-

Tom Coughlin seems to have lost this team once again. It happened in 2005 and appeared to be occurring again in 2006, with Tiki Barber’s selfish disruption of the team with his “retirement” talk. The team is being penalized like the ’06 team was, undisciplined, tons of blown opportunities on both sides of the ball, and while players play and coaches coach, this team has shown signs of tuning out Coughlin. He’s been here 7 years and this team — on paper and in philosophy/practice, is a legitimate contender when the players play up to ability, they haven’t thus far. The defense has, but if they continue to spend 35 minutes per game on the field, they won’t be doing so in December. Not sure what Coughlin can do at this point to reel this team in, except to cut the malcontents and and bench the aforementioned unproductive players on the offensive line.

Offensive Coordinator: C-
This is being generous.

So many opportunities being left on the field by this team every week. The only thing that Gilbride has done favorably in my sight is become LESS PREDICTABLE in goal line play-calling. Still, there are too many inside handoffs on 3rd and 7, too many missed blocking assignments, and too few passes downfield to take advantage of the Giants’ WRs’ speed.

Defensive Coordinator: B+
Fewell has done an excellent job reinvigorating these guys. Aside from Rolle and returning the soon-to-be best free in the NFL, this is the same team from last year. Yet, they play with energy. They swarm to the ball. They’re not blowing tackles left and right. They’re not being beaten up the seam, which was a problem in nearly every game last season. They actually CARE again. I will say that he has even gotten the last bit of ability remaining in Osi Umenyiora (who needs to be traded while there still may be value for him — JPP is ready to play in at LEAST a platoon role with Kiwanuka — who has been HUGE this year thus far). Justin Tuck is a captain, but I believe he spends too much time on TV. He’s always wearing down at the ends of games.

But that’s not on the DC. His job is to put the players in the best position to succeed given their respective abilities and Perry Fewell has done that.

Special Teams: D-
Just when I thought it really could not be any worse?

We rarely return the ball to the 20 on kickoffs. Barely any punt returns whatsoever. Routinely surrendering 30-40 yard kickoff returns. Poor tackling. Too many penalties on this unit. Just bad. And two more missed FGs by Law Tynes, which Giants fans almost expect from him. The guy is clutch, but he misses far too many FGs to have the kind of leg that he has. Punting has been the worst I have ever witnessed on any Giants team in 26 years of being a fan. And yes, I am spoiled after having two of the all-time greats (Landeta, Feagles) for half of that time, but Matt Dodge is even worse than RODNEY WILLIAMS — so that’s saying something.

Offense: C
Tons of yardage, paltry points. Too many mistakes, too many blown opportunities. This team should have scored 90 points by now and that is no exaggeration.

Defense: B
Considering how much time they spend on the field every game, they have been productive. It helps that they have a healthy defensive line and use an 8 man rotation. The linebacking corps is sorely lacking. Keith Bulluck only has a little left in the tank and Goff is not impressive. He’s… just… well… THERE. Makes you long for a fat, out of shape Pierce, and a far cry from guys like Harry Carson and what have you. The secondary has mostly been good. A great number of passes defensed, solid tackling and a couple of INTs here and there. No one has really been beaten deep more than once.

INDIVIDUAL GRADES (Starters)
QB – Eli Manning: B

Eli has been solid, if not excellent. And even though only one of those INTs is truly his fault, the result of bad decisions, they’re still INTs and each one of them have come back to haunt the Giants. Even if the Giants beat the NFC-worst Panthers, the INTs in that game led to nearly all of the Panthers’ points — a team that would have otherwise not scored any points. Tons of yardage and barely anything to show for it.

RB – Ahmad Bradshaw: A-

The minus being because of fumbles, missed blocks and a costly Week 3 penalty. Otherwise, he’s the only consistent player on offense thus far.

RB – Brandon Jacobs: D

Partly due to the offensive line’s ineptitude, but Jacobs looks sluggish, slow and doesn’t just explode through holes anymore — even if said holes are few and far between as compared to 2007 and 2008. Constant pouting, media rants and tantrums (see Week 2 vs. IND) make him look worse than he’s playing. But the Giants know they cannot get much in return for Jacobs, because his trade value is low with his awful play thus far this year.

FB – Madison Hedgecock: B

Young Madison does what the Giants ask for him to do. He misses blocks at times, though, which just shouldn’t happen when you are a fullback. You’re a MAGNET for defenders, for crying out loud. Some of his missed blocks lead to Bradshaw and Jacobs being stopped for losses or very little gain. He has stopped dropping Eli’s passes, which nearly made me suicidal the past couple of years, so I give him credit for that.

WR – Steve Smith: C

Very unproductive, and uncharacteristic dropped passes. Too much production when the game is out of reach.

WR – Hakeem Nicks: C+

Far too many dropped passes. Has made some timely grabs, but the drops have either been direct interceptions or drive-killers.

WR – Mario Manningham: B-

Actually leading the Giants in catches until Smith’s garbage time catches late in Week 3, but he’s had the dropsies also. Better route-running this year, which was not the case last year.

TE – Kevin Boss: INCOMPLETE

He missed most of Week 1, did not play in Week 2, only split snaps with Travis Beckum (B+) in Week 3. Had a great Mark Bavaro-esque catch in Week 3, but faded from Gilbride’s plans until the game was out of reach.

LT – Dave Diehl: D-

Worst I’ve ever seen him. Can’t block a speed rusher, barely any rushing yards to be had off his left hip and some bonehead penalties. Unreal. He needs to move back inside as a backup or ratchet up his game a notch. Will Beatty is waiting in the wings.

LG – Rich Seubert: D

He has been OK at times in pass protection, but the run blocking leaves a ton to be desired. He’s done. Please play Shawn Andrews.

C – Shaun O’Hara: F
This is a carryover from last year. He’s been in and out, and probably needs to be out for good. Adam Koets hasn’t been bad at all.

RG – Chris Snee: A-
The only guy playing worth a damn on the line. But with McKenzie next to him playing like a complete jackass thus far this season, Snee’s efforts are overlooked.

RT – Kareem McKenzie: F
He can’t block any defensive ends anymore, after being the best RT in the NFC from 2005-2008. He’s 6’6″ 335 and left ends are faster than ever now. Even Boothe couldn’t be any worse, especially after McKenzie’s awful display vs. Indianapolis in Week 2 and his inexcusable penalties vs. Tennessee in Week 3.

DE – Justin Tuck: B+
The only reason he doesn’t get an A is because he seems to wear down at the end of every game. Personally, while my favorite defensive lineman and my second overall favorite defensive player (behind young Kenny), I think he’s slightly overrated. But what have you. He’s making tons of plays when the game is in the balance and you love that from your captain. A nice stick to Chris Johnson on the Titans’ first play of the game in Week 3.

DT – Barry Cofield: A
He’s been all-world this year. Anyone who has watched every snap of each game thus far knows this. Think my statement is preposterous if you’d like, but look at the film (if you haven’t watched each defensive snap he’s played) and tell me if you can name 5 DTs who have played better this year.

DT – Chris Canty: D+
He made a play or two early on in Week 1, but all you see is him getting pushed off the ball play after play (Rocky Bernard the same, as his backup). At 6’7″ 310, he is rarely the “Low Man”, which partly accounts for his lack of leverage in the trenches. He’s honestly better suited athletically at DE, but he has never played well in that role.

DE – Osi Umenyiora: C+/Mathias Kiwanuka: A-
Osi at least seems to care, although he barely does anything whatsoever versus the run. The pass rush has been there, albeit a step late on several plays (including backbreaking 3rd and long conversions by the opposing teams). Kiwanuka has been lights out in every facet in every game. The only drawback has been his inability to shed blockers on outside runs (i.e. Chris Johnson’s lone 10+ yard run in Week 3).

OLB – Keith Bulluck: C
He’s not the same player he used to be. But he’s smart and knows where to be. Not the explosive player we need, however.

MLB – Jonathan Goff: C
He’s young, but otherwise, very uninspiring. No GLARING gaffes, but you barely hear his name. Appears that Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle are making the plays that Goff should be as the Mike.

OLB – Michael Boley: B-
He has solid players over the top in the secondary, so he doesn’t have to cover 40 yards as he did when CC Brown was back there last year. Nothing special, thus far, but no blown plays either, so you have to say he’s been solid, if not unspectacular. As a Giants fan from the mid 80s, I am still waiting for us to have a Linebacking corps like those from the late 80s. We haven’t had anything close since the Armstead/Barrow years.

LCB – Corey Webster: B
He’s healthy, at least. Never been a big INT guy, but he doesn’t blow coverage anymore. The only drawback is he’s not put in positions to make plays on the ball as frequently as his earlier years. The Giants are playing more zone than expected, which leaves him reading and reacting rather than bumping and running, which is his strength.

RCB – Terrell Thomas: A-
Young Terrell has been excellent all-around. He has relegated oft-injured Aaron Ross to a nickel corner, which was Thomas’ role previously. Fewell got this one right, because along with the fact that Ross is undependable due to his health issues, he’s not as dynamic as Thomas.

SS – Antrel Rolle: B-
Blown coverage on several plays, but he has been electric versus the run and has had some excellent passes defensed. Thanks Cards!

Anything is an upgrade over Michael Johnson and CC Brown. And Rolle is worth every dime.

FS – Kenny Phillips: A
Cleaning up a lot of messes left by Goff, making plays all over the field. This is why he will be the best FS in the NFC by the end of the year. He would have been declared as such last season if not for his injury. I nearly faint every time they say he’s down with an injury (which has happened in every game thus far this season). But young Kenny is THE MAN.

P – Matthew Dodge: F
……………………….

K – Law Tynes: D-
Too many short kicks, missing field goals. I just don’t get it.

This team is well on its way to having just as many turnovers (if not MORE) than touchdowns.

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