2010 New York Football Giants: Final Evaluation


2010 New York Football Giants: Final Evaluation

M.D. Wright

1.6.2011

Now that the 2010 season is over, and terminated unfavorably for the Giants once again, it is time to reflect Game-By-Game. What went right? What went wrong? What needs to change? Who needs to stay? Who should be fired? What can be improved upon? We’ll get into that here on the Football Giants’ Final Evaluation.

The Giants are the most predictable, but yet most unpredictable team in the NFL. Predictable, in that you know what the plan is offensively and defensively, the way it will (or will not) be executed and the type of personnel — even down to specific positions — will man the football field. Yet they are unpredictable, because you never know WHEN they will play up to their talent level or beneath it; whether it be game to game or even HALF TO HALF.

That was the story once again in 2010.

WEEK 1

vs. Carolina Panthers

Giants Stadium

East Rutherford, New Jersey

The game had a weird feel to it. “New Meadowlands” (sorry Jets fans, it’s still and always WILL BE “Giants Stadium”) just feels hollow to me. It’s too clean, too antiseptic and refined to be a Football Giants field. The crowd noise kind of disappears into a vacuum, somewhat. It definitely does not have the same crowd advantage as the old Giants Stadium did.

In the same manner, that Week 1 game felt the same. We won, but I had some nagging feels of uneasiness, as if something just wasn’t right about this place (and this team). Eli Manning threw INTs — all of which were tipped — which would be the prevailing theme all season, as 14 of his 25 INT (by my count) were tipped either by his own WRs/TEs or by a defender at the line of scrimmage. Unreal.

Though the Giants won 31-18, the Panthers were horrid going into the season, during it and finishing it. You felt as though the Giants could have and should have scored 48 or 51, easily. Their play-calling became very shaky in the 2nd half along with the execution of the plays. The good news for Giants fans (those who didn’t listen to me all offseason as I reported what I was told by insiders who went up to Albany during training camp) was that the defense was BACK. And not a moment too soon. 2009 ended the wrong way. I had full confidence that new Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell would get the defense back to Giants Levels. They knocked out QB Matt Moore, who would be the first of SEVEN QBs the Giants would knock out of games in 2010. They nearly did the same to his backup, rookie Jim Clausen, but merely ran out of time to compound a hit that required Clausen a few extra seconds to arise from the turf with help late in the game.

We saw Ahmad Bradshaw get more carries (20 rush, 75 yards) than Brandon Jacobs, which immediately made us wonder if Bradshaw would be the starter this year. Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith picked up right where they left off in 2009. I had really hoped that Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck would bounce back from subpar 2009 seasons. My son Kenny Phillips was on the field and got his first (and turned out, ONLY) INT of the season in this game and it was just good to see him healthy and playing football again. After having microfracture knee surgery, you know it takes a full year to get back on par, so anything he did in 2010 would be Found Money to me. 2011 will be the test.

Giants win, 31-18.

RECORD: 1-0.


WEEK 2

at Indianapolis Colts

Lucas Oil Stadium

Indianapolis, Indiana

An early barometer for the Giants. I was already in midseason Giants fan form “they’re either going to come out All-World and play up to their competition or look positively SHITTY, but nothing in between”.

Unfortunately, I was correct.

The game could not have started any worse. The Giants continued a nasty trend throughout the season where they did not score a touchdown on the first drive of games all season (I believe they only did it ONCE, if at all — I need to go research it further). Thanks Kevin “Killdrive” Gilbride.

The offense didn’t do anything worthwhile until the game was pretty much out of reach. Naturally, I was at a bar and nearly smashed my hand nicely at The Ainsworth.

Perry Fewell experimented with looks defensively, shifting from a Base 4-3/Cover 2 scheme to a lot of Nickel, Dime and Quarter formations, attempting to confuse Peyton Manning. Manning struggles against 3-4 defenses, but he is the quickest in the NFL at reading what defenses are doing pre-snap as well as adjusting in future plays. The Giants were two plays behind Manning while they were on defense all game long.

Fewell’s scheme was smart, given that the Giants don’t have anyone above B+ speed (Phillips is A- when 100%, but he’s a step slow while still recovering) in their secondary. Bruce Johnson was the fastest player on defense for the Giants, but he landed on Injured Reserve by midseason. Corey Webster only has slightly above average speed, Terrell Thomas is a step below A speed, so is Antrel Rolle. Fewell, knowing his personnel, felt the need to construct defensive game plans for the Colts’ 4 WR sets, all of whom are precise route-runners and possess good to excellent speed.

Naturally, as was the case any time the Giants faced teams that ran 4 WRs with speed, the Giants struggled mightily as a result of the relative lack of speed in their own secondary and/or lost (Indianapolis, nearly blew first game vs. Dallas, 4 WRs gave the Giants fits in the second game vs. Dallas, both Philadelphia games and the Green Bay game).

The Giants were smote.

Colts win, 38-14.

RECORD: 1-1.

Week 3

vs. Tennessee Titans

Giants Stadium

East Rutherford, New Jersey

The story of this game needs not a long write-up, for this game embodied what the Giants’ 2010 season was in a nutshell:

1. They outgained the Titans by a full 200 yards.

2. They moved the ball at will and stifled the Titans’ offense completely until the Giants’ defense wore out from repeatedly having to come onto the field following Giants’ turnovers on offense and constant “Three and Out” series.

3. Turnovers and bonehead penalties galore by the offense.

4. Playing stellar defense early and fading late (due to the aforementioned situation each and every time, including the monumental collapse vs. Philadelphia in Week 15).

5. The tipped passes by Manning (and in this particular game, a failed 2nd and Goal from the 2 yard line situation where Manning attempts a left-handed pass that is intercepted, killing momentum), fumbles by Bradshaw (despite running for good yardage whenever he fumbles) and awful play-calling by Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride.

That’s the Giants’ 2010 season and their Week 3 game vs. Tennessee all in one. You’d look at the box score and think the outcome was anything but what it was until you looked at the “Penalties” and “Turnovers” section, as well as “Time of Possession”.

No one truly ran the ball on the Giants all year, except Maurice Jones-Drew. A quick glance at the box score or highlight shows would lead you to believe that Chris Johnson ran roughshod over the Giants’ defense, but he was completely shut down all game.

His first 27 carries: 70 yards.

His final 5 carries: 55 yards, including a 42 yard run off the left side on blown containment by DE Osi Umenyiora.

The Giants just could not get out of their way all game, appearing to play as if they thought they could “turn it on” because the Titans didn’t appear to be explosive coming into the game.

Too bad.

Another loss, but this one was awful.

Titans win, 29-10.

RECORD: 1-2.

Week 4

vs. Chicago Bears

Giants Stadium

East Rutherford, New Jersey

The Giants knew they needed to right the ship ASAP. Naturally, they begin their season-long injury situation by losing their then-team-leading sack leader, Mathias Kiwanuka for the season with a neck injury. Kiwanuka had amassed four sacks through three games and with Tuck, Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul waiting in the wings, the Giants appeared to be in position to not only match their ’07 and ’08 defenses from a pass rush standpoint, but SURPASS them.

Even without the services of Kiwanuka, the Giants sacked Bears’ QB Jay Cutler nine times (and a 10th of backup QB Todd Collins, who entered after the 9th sack of Cutler by CB Aaron Ross — leading to Cutler’s head being slammed to the ground and a concussion).

Nothing to write about otherwise. The defense held all game, but the offense was stagnant for all but two series and did its best to keep the Bears in it with predictable play-calling.

Giants win, 17-3.

RECORD: 2-2.

Week 5

at Houston Texans

Reliant Stadium

Houston, Texas

This game was interesting on paper. The Giants were in the Top 3 in defense all year and were 1st entering this game. The Texans featured an explosive offense that could score with newfound RB Arian Foster or league-best WR Andre Johnson.

However, the Texans have their own problems — only that they are defensive. They were exploited by the Giants in constant fashion in what seemed to be a tease of what the Giants were capable of offensively to their fans and portended what the Texans’ season would be like defensively for their fans (last in the league vs. the pass).

Eli Manning appeared to be on track to throw two interceptions per game at the rate that he was going. Although he carved the Texans up at will, the tipped pass INT and bad decisions by Manning were piling up quickly. The Giants completely shut down Arian Foster and were not able to run the ball all that well themselves.

Meanwhile, Hakeem Nicks made a mockery of the Texans’ secondary, breaking out with a 12 catch, 130 yard, 2 touchdown performance.

Giants win, 34-10.

RECORD: 3-2.

Week 6

vs. Detroit Lions

Giants Stadium

East Rutherford, New Jersey

I have been a proponent of the Lions P.M. (Post Millen) from the get-go. They have a solid GM in former DB Martin Mayhew and they’re building the right way. I’ve seen them play enough to know this was going to be a tough game. Not a “Trap Game”, because there isn’t a such thing with the Giants, since they routinely play down a level or two to the teams they “should” beat as it is.

The Giants had firm control of the game, but in typical fashion, allowed the Lions to hang around. More ultra-conservative play-calling by Kevin Gilbride led to several short series by the offense and the Giants’ defense wore down after being on the field for most of the second half as the Lions nibbled at the Giants’ lead.

Bradshaw had his way with the Lions’ defense, despite the presence of All-World DT Ndamukong Suh, who frequently chases down running plays from his tackle spot, which is a joy to watch.

The Giants came into the game determined to shut down WR Calvin Johnson, Jr., and aside from a play where CB Terrell Thomas mistimed his leap for a Drew Stanton pass (we had already knocked Shaun Hill from the game) and FS Antrel Rolle took a horrific angle on the play, forgetting he was no longer a CB but a Free, Johnson scored on an 87 yard touchdown. Otherwise, he had pedestrian numbers.

Down the stretch, the Giants fell asleep offensively and were tired defensively, as WR Nate Burleson weaved through the defense several times in an attempt to tie the game at 28 late. Only a fumble on Burleson’ part allowed the Giants to survive and breathe easily. Another sign that structurally, the Giants are flawed. The defense is fine, the coordinator and his game plans are fine, but they spent more time on the field in the 2nd Half of games than the 1st almost all season and it had a cumulative effect, naturally, as the season wore on.

Giants win, 28-20.

RECORD: 4-2.

Week 7

at Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Stadium

Arlington, Texas

The Cowboys entered the season with all the fanfare. And legitimately so. Their defense came off a season where it only yielded 15 PPG and their offense was to be one of the best they’ve ever had, with speed at RB (Felix Jones) a versatile TE (Jason Witten) and supreme athletic ability at WR (Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Roy Williams, etc.)

The Giants used the game as a barometer for where they stood with regards to the best teams in the NFC and NFL in general, and were motivated by the rivalry angle that was present going into the game.

Dallas played remarkably well to start out, as two tipped-pass INTs and a Brandon Jacobs fumble allowed for 20 quick Dallas points.

However, the Giants rebounded after knocking QB Tony Romo from the game (ultimately ending his season) and scored 31 straight points at one stretch).

Nevertheless, despite leading 38-20, I knew the game was not over. I’ve watched these Giants for 26 years now and I knew better — regardless of the coach and personnel.

Bradshaw had another huge game (126 yards rushing), as well did Steve Smith (Steve-12) and Hakeem Nicks, but the Giants allowed career backup Jon Kitna to provide the Cowboys a spark, and late in the game, with the score 41-35, only recovering a last ditch onside kick by Dallas granted the Giants their win in the contest. Another lead blown, only to survive by the skin of their teeth in back to back weeks.

The reason?

You guessed it. Ohhhhhhh, I’m going to rip that guy a new one before this column is done.

Giants win, 41-35.

RECORD: 5-2.

Week 8

BYE

———————————————————–

Week 9

at Seattle Seahawks

Qwest Field

Seattle, Washington

There was much ado about what turned out to be nothing. Eli Manning has always struggled in Qwest Field and the Metrodome, as well. Much was made about the Seabags’ “12th Man”, referring to the loudness of their fans, who literally sit on top of the playing field, allowing for their cacophony of cheering and jeering to reverberate throughout the stadium.

QB Matt Hasselbeck for the Seahawks had suffered a concussion recently before the game and saw that the Giants had already knocked out four QBs in 2010. He didn’t want to be the fifth, so in came Charlie Whitehurst.

He was overmatched. And so where the Seabags all game.

Bradshaw notched two rushing TDs, and Hakeem Nicks authored another 100 yard game with a TD, putting him atop the NFC at the time in receiving TDs.

Interestingly, no Manning INTs and no sacks by the Giants on the Seattle QB. Rare.

The Giants were up 35-0 quickly and never looked back.

Giants win, 41-7.

RECORD: 6-2.

Week 10

vs. Dallas Cowboys

Giants Stadium

East Rutherford, New Jersey

So typically, the Giants and Cowboys fight to close finishes and (generally) split each year. This was the rematch from their Week 7 showdown, which was not as close as the score indicated. The same was the case with this game. The Giants were never seemingly in it. With two separate blackouts (along with several others from the Giants’ offense AND defense at times), the conditions at the stadium mirrored that of the team on this night.

Naturally, when the Giants play on national TV, they always stink it up and while this was a FOX game, it was national coverage and they stank to high hell. This game also marked a definitive asterisk on the Giants defense, as they are prone to huge plays against teams that feature three or more speedy WRs.

Jon Kitna (???) lit us up from start to finish, with Madden-like 13/22, 327 yards, 3 TD numbers that a 12 year old would put up on the gaming console (usually calling the sme TE Corner route 17 straight plays). Unreal how lacking the secondary was in coverage for the entire first half.

The Giants had SOME success early with the running game, but were forced to abandon it as they got behind very quickly yet again versus Dallas. Eli Manning had a very good overall game, but his INTs, awful calls on Kevin Boothe (phantom holding call negated a Hakeem Nicks TD reception) and others down the stretch quelled any comeback attempt late.

Cowboys win, 33-20.

RECORD: 6-3.

Week 11

at Philadelphia Eagles

Lincoln Financial Field

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Eagles have owned the Giants of late; mostly due to the fact they have too much speed on the outside that the Giants simply do not have the personnel to match one on one. The Giants had one of the more bottom-shelf linebacking corps (Michael Boley, who was just “good”, not GREAT by any stretch, saved it from being completely barren), especailly in pass coverage. Mike LB Jonathan Goff was decent versus the run all season, and the Eagles really did not do anything in the running game until a couple of last ditch effort attempts to stop the Eagles on the part of the Giants led to long runs by RB LeSean McCoy.

Desean Jackson was held in check, and the Giants willfully (although at times maddeningly) allowed for Jeremy Maclin to run free underneath the secondary coverage and receive over 100 yards worth of passes.

The Eagles also do something to the Giants running game that almost no other team does: they flow to the ball just like any other LB corps with speed, but they shoot gaps more accurately than any other team that attempts to stuff the Giants’ running game and Week 11 was no different.

The Giants hit Michael Vick early and often, writing the book on how to shut him down.

Despite every attempt by Eli Manning to give the game back to the Eagles (fumbling, three INTs, two to CB Asante Samuel), the Giants still had a chance to win if they had gotten a crucial 3rd and 6 stop on the Eagles. The officials called a phantom offsides penalty on DE Jason Pierre-Paul, who was lined up as a Defensive Tackle, giving the Iggles a short yardage situation. Osi Umenyiora read the pitch out by Vick to McCoy and came within two inches of knocking the ball down and giving the ball back to the Giants (who, with Gilbride as the offensive coordinator, likely would have given it right back to the Eagles with a three and out series featuring two or three passes on ridiculous route calls). Instead, McCoy took the pitch and not only evaded Umenyiora and FS Antrel Rolle, but scored on the play. Another score on a short yardage stuff attempt put the game out of reach in the end, making it apepar less close than it actually was.

Eagles win, 27-17.

RECORD: 6-4.

Week 12

vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Giants Stadium

East Rutherford, New Jersey

The Giants knew they needed to get back on a roll and win some games, or else they were at risk of losing their grip on a playoff spot. They knew they had a rematch coming up with Philadelphia, which, even at the time appeared to be a winner-take-all scenario for the NFC East.

They came out as flat as could be, allowing for numerous gashing rushes by Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings (who???) in the first half. QB Dave Garrard was made to look like a slower Michael Vick. The Giants were embarrassing in the first half.

Jacobs and Bradshaw had early success running, but Gilbride refused to stick with run calls when they were most necessary and effective (2nd and 4, 3rd and 3 several times early on in this game). The Giants weren’t exactly pass-happy for once, but that was mostly because of the fact that Jacksonville had the ball for several long, time-consuming drives.

Worthy of note was the fact that Eli Manning was missing his two top WRs, Steve-12 (Steve Smith) and Hakeem Nicks. And WR Mario Manningham, our big play/Home Run threat, was being double teamed, with the likes of 5.3/40 Derek Hagan, newly signed Michael Clayton and Kevin Boss being main targets in this game.

SN: The Giants should really consider keeping Devin Thomas.

Once the second half began, the Giants began playing GIANTS FOOTBALL again. They intercepted Garrard on the 2nd play of the half and outscored the Jaguars 18-3 in the 2nd half, including three sacks on the final series and a strip-sack to end the game.

Giants win, 24-20.

RECORD: 7-4.

Week 13

vs. Washington Redskins

Giants Stadium

East Rutherford, New Jersey

The Redskins were a muddled mess, much like Seattle a few weeks prior. Derek Hagan was Eli Manning’s safety blanket all game, amassing 7 receptions for 65 yards, and Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 200 yards rushing on 33 carries and 4 TDs total.

Giants win, 31-7.

RECORD: 8-4.

Week 14

at Minnesota Vikings

Game Held at Ford Field Due to Mall of America Field/Metrodome Roof Collapse

Detroit, Michigan

The Giants, much like the Chicago Bears did all season, caught another team in disarray at the worst possible time. The Vikes were starting a Tarvaris Jackson, who had barely played in the past two seasons (and was knocked out by the Giants) and then a 3rd string, converted QB and it showed. The Giants did not play all out during the game, and were busy doing what the Giants do — allowing inferior teams to hang around — before Keith Bulluck’s INT at the turn of the 2nd half shifted momentum fully back to the Giants.

The defense shut down Adrian Peterson all game, just as they had done to everyone else this season and won rather handily, if in not unspectacular fashion.

Jacobs and Bradshaw combined for 219 yards rushing on 25 carries, 2 TD and both had long runs — Jacobs, a career-long 73 yard rush and Bradshaw, looking jittery as ever, on a 48 yard romp. Hakeem Nicks had missed the previous two games with “Compartment Syndrome” in his leg, came back and didn’t miss a beat — going for 7 and 96.

Giants win, 21-3.

RECORD: 9-4.

Week 15

vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Giants Stadium

East Rutherford, New Jersey

The Giants were confident in their game plan versus the Philadelphia offense. And in the first half, everything worked delightfully. Even better, the offense clicked early with nice pass plays to Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham for multiple touchdown passes. The Giants led 24-3 at the half, battered Michael Vick and stifled every aspect of the Eagles’ offensive attack.

Following a Jeremy Maclin TD and then a Kevin Boss TD that made the score 31-10, the Giants completely fell apart. Mario Manningham inexplicably fumbled the ball on a routine play. The ball was not knocked away from him. The Eagles recaptured momentum and later hit Brent Celek on a deep seam route. Justin Tuck, the best defensive end in the NFL is in coverage for reasons Giants fans will go to their graves wondering, and just missed a swat at the ball underneath on the pass play. Superman Kenny Phillips completely whiffed in Clark Kent fashion, both on the INT and tackle attempt, and somehow Celek, who is not a burner, scores from 65 yards out, with Antrel Rolle’s back turned — for again, reasons Giants fans will never solve.

That was only the beginning.

With the score 31-17 and the game still seemingly out of reach with less than half of the 4th quarter remaining, the Eagles attempted an onside kick that everyone knew was coming except Tom Coughlin and Tom Quinn.

The Eagles recovered easily and drove the field in similar fashion, behind Michael Vick. Vick appeared to be playing the CPU on Rookie level, with the Giants being totally bereft of any pass rush and coverage down the field. They also forgot to tackle, even in situations where Vick ran directly into an oncoming rusher for sacks. He “ducked” three sack attempts in the 2nd half and turned them into huge runs (10 rush, 130 yards, TD — virtually all in a 10 minute span).

Vick rushed for a TD and then the Giants allowed another in the air (all with horrid and poorly timed penalties — the 3rd down play with Eli Manning laughing off a false start that HE caused HB Bear Pascoe to make ended up being the final nail in the coffin of an already Gilbride-Special shutoff valve job by the Giants’ offense), leading to a 31-31 tie. The Giants were unable to run out the clock, again with awful play selection and the Eagles were able to get the ball back (and every assistance from the officials, by adding 2 seconds to the clock for absolutely no reason) via a punt. Giants fans knew that even with OT, they were probably going to lose. The breaks weren’t going their way and the Eagles likely would have won the coin toss. And with the way the defense had already loaded up the wood panel station wagon by midway the 3rd quarter, there was no reason to believe they would stop the Iggles on the coin toss.

But then something even more embarrassing occurred.

Tom Coughlin instructed rookie Punter Matthew Dodge to kick the ball out of bounds, avoiding the ever-dangerous Desean Jackson. Instead, Dodge does as he has done all year, line-driving punts with 1.76-second hangtime, preventing his coverage team any opportunity to close out effectively on Jackson — who only needed to make one move and cut on the backside seam for the game winning score on a PUNT RETURN (something that had never occurred in 90 years of NFL play).

DID YOU KNOW: Kevin Gilbride, who was the Houston Oilers’ Offensive Coordinator when the Oilers famously “sat” on a similarly huge lead, only to go 3 and out time after time after time after time in the 2nd half of the game — is the only coach/coordinator in HISTORY to have an offense in the Top 5 blow a 21+ point lead in less than a quarter? And Gilbride featured the NFC’s best defense entering this game, something he attempted every game to destroy with his unimaginative play-calling, which most teams accurately predicted — especially when the Giants had leads.

When you do that more than once in your career, it should be GOODBYE NFL. Period.

Eagles “win”, 38-31.

RECORD: 9-5.

Week 16

at Green Bay Packers

Lambeau Field

Green Bay, Wisconsin

Despite the media’s attempt to create controversy and imbue the coach potato QB’s mentality that somehow Week 15 carried over into Week 16 (something that makes it impossible for me to talk to people who either never played football or truly don’t know the game well enough to be shouting incessantly about superficial things; not knowing what’s really going on beyond that), the Giants knew they had every opportunity to seal up the final Wild Card spot with a win in Green Bay. It was not going to be easy and Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell knew it. The Packers are one of those teams that feature too much speed for the Giants to cover (Phillips 4.45, Thomas 4.52, Rolle 4.58, Webster 4.57) one on one, especially with aging, but fan-appreciated Deon Grant (11th year) in coverage as well.

Rolle was at the line quite a bit, and I will say that he missed several opportunities to get the Giants’ D off the field in short yardage run situations featuring Packers’ RBs Brandon Jackson (who is nothing more than a “Three and a Cloud of Dust” guy, who managed to “fall forward” for 5 yards on every carry) and bruising John Kuhn. Rolle whiffed on two particular runs that would have resulted in punts and blew coverage as he shifted his box responsibilities for coverage deep responsibilities. In a way, it is too much to ask of one guy to cover three levels, but with the state of the Giants’ linebacking corps, they were forced to use Rolle and Grant in the box for most of the season, and even more so in this particular game.

Aaron Rodgers saw it, liked it, licked his chops, smiled and did his goofy gun-in-holster dance all day long, because the Giants were consistently at least a step slow on all of the Packers’ slants, slago and deep routes.

Meanwhile, for whatever reason, following the Jacksonville, Washington and Minnesota games, the Giants were unable to run the football for the final three games of the season. I have film proof for one of the culprits, C Shaun O’Hara, whose time should just about be up with the Giants, when you contrast the running game with that which took place with Giants’ Offensive Line MVP Rich Seubert at Center when O’Hara missed all or parts of nine games.

Despite big plays by Manningham and Nicks, the Giants fumbled the ball (both Jacobs and Bradshaw once a piece, leading to Packers’ points in backbreaking fashion) and Eli Manning threw the ball all over the place as if interceptions were unofficial stats. The Giants, who were 14-14 with the Packers, were outscored 31-3 following a Hakeem Nicks TD.

When you allow a guy named JORDY beat you, you don’t deserve to win the game nor be in the playoffs.

Packers win, 45-17.

RECORD: 9-6.

Week 17

at Washington Redskins

FedEx Field

Landover, Maryland

The Giants knew they needed to win and for the Packers to now lose (Packers’ head-to-head tiebreaker being the end of discussion for Wild Card purposes) in order to make the playoffs.

As has been the case for years now, Giants/Redskins games have been very “Ho-Hum” and the Giants played conservatively on both sides of the ball. They didn’t get much pressure on QB Rex Grossman, who somehow passed for well over 300 yards — until late, with two Osi Umenyiora strip-sacks, giving him 10 of those on the season, an NFL record — and 11.5 sacks, tying him with teammate Justin Tuck for 5th in the NFL.

The Giants were leading 17-7, but had the game firmly in hand before blown coverage by Antrel Rolle, who was otherwise excellent all season besides five key blown plays (but for the several dozen others that he made, the tradeoff is tolerable), took a bad angle on Anthony Armstrong, who scored from 64 yards out. A Giants loss would have been doubly-crushing, even if a win and a Packers win would have been just as devastating, given the storyline just three weeks prior.

The Giants managed to hold on due to the aforementioned Umenyiora strip-sacks, but 28 rushes for 71 yards is embarrassing. The Giants ran the ball much better with Rich Seubert, and he injures his knee due to virtually illegal field conditions at FedEx field. He could miss nearly all of the 2011 season as a result.

Hakeem Nicks missed the game and it showed. Steve Smith had been on IR for weeks, which certainly killed any chance of the Giants winning versus Philadelphia (both games), coming back late versus Dallas and at least keeping the chains moving versus Green Bay and keeping Aaron Rodgers off the field. Had the Giants made the playoffs, they were just missing too much at the receiving position and had no ability to run the ball with Kevin Boothe having to play Center for the first time in his career. It was better this way, although you never want to miss the playoffs.

Shortly after making a couple of decent plays to stuff the Skins, the Giants found out via pitiful Redskins fans that the Packers had beaten the Bears, thus eliminating the Giants. It was a surreal feeling, but this 2010 season was star-crossed from the beginning, as I wrote in this chronicle. When you look at each game week to week, you see the same issues costing the Giants in five of their six losses. You had a feeling in Week 1, if they didn’t shore it up, it would eventually kill them.

They didn’t.

It did.

Giants win, 17-14.

RECORD: 10-6.

But,

END OF SEASON

——————————————-

Coach/Player Assessments & Grades

HEAD COACH

Tom Coughlin: B+

Coughlin, overall is a great coach. The problem with him is that he is too loyal to some of the coaches and players who are causing him to sit on the proverbial “Hot Seat” (Kevin “Killdrive” Gilbride, Tom Quinn, Matt Dodge, etc.) When it comes to tangibles and intangibles, there aren’t more than a couple of coaches the Giants would rather have — and NONE of those ones rumored to be vying for the job, because they’re all vastly overrated (Cowher), specialists who completely ignore one facet of the game (Jon Gruden, John Fox) or are just not ready to be a Head Coach in the NFL — at least at this time (Josh McDaniels).

I rarely negatively criticize Coughlin. I like the guy. He’s as much of a fan as we are at home. Makes the same faces when the Giants screw up, throws his hands up like we do when Eli Manning throws a bonehead INT, and curses like a drunken sailor when the team completely forgets how to play football. He’s as complete of a coach as you can get. I’m glad he is returning and may get an extension. Now for the clowns he employs, that is a different story.

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR

Kevin Gilbride: D+

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Giants perennially have a Top 3 to Top 10 offense. Blah, blah, blah. People who do not watch the Giants offensively from snap to snap will query “Why do you all dislike Gilbride so much?”

WATCH A GIANTS GAME WITH US AND YOU WILL FULLY UNDERSTAND. Not even an entire game, but a single QUARTER, with 2-3 series.

I’ve railed against him for almost five years now. Not going to spend a lot of time doing so here. Flat out, he needs to go and somehow Coughlin doesn’t see what fans, team commentators and even teams that hate the Giants can see. This is my only real gripe with Coughlin. Gilbride is Kryptonite to the Giants’ offense.

And again, when you are the VERY person in charge of the two absolute biggest in-game collapses in NFL HISTORY, you know you need to get out of dodge (no pun intended) while the “gettin’s good”.

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR

Perry Fewell: B+

He was everything that Gilbride was not: imaginative, willing to take risks, actually put his playmakers in position to succeed and the whole nine. From being a proponent of Defensive Line Coach Robert Nunn’s hiring, to Peter Giunta continuing to do what he does with the secondary, the Giants’ “D” did a complete 180 after Bill Sheridan left. Everyone knew the team had some of the best talent along the defensive line and secondary, and just needed a guide.

The one problem I have with Fewell is, as a former CB myself, I watch them even more than I do the offensive (which is in and of itself INCESSANTLY AND INTENTLY) and he gave too many responsibilities to guys like Antrel Rolle and Justin Tuck. Yes, those are your big play guys, but Tuck, for all of his athleticism, should not be deep in coverage. Yes, he was 3rd on the TEAM in tackles (unheard of for even a defensive end that may get tons of run stuffs and STFL), but far too often I saw Tuck and Umenyiora in coverage. If Pierre-Paul is in coverage, that’s fine, as long as Tuck and Umenyiora, who combined for 23 sacks — are rushing upfield.

He also gave too many liberties to the defense to make its own calls, particularly in the second Philadelphia game. They couldn’t figure out Vick, who strictly tossed aside Offensive Coordinator Marty Morninhweg’s game plan and took matters into his own hands and Fewell did not reel them in. Fans saying FEWELL needs to be reeled in are off base. He just needs to reel in the amount of rope that he gives guys like Rolle, Goff/Boley and Tuck to make calls on the fly. There was no excuse for the Philadelphia collapse, even if the offensive play-calling by the Giants only helped exacerbate matters further.

If he indeed remains in 2011, it will be his last year, because he is certainly going to bolt for a head coaching job.

SN: I do not know why teams have raided the Giants’ Defensive Coordinators all my life. Is it some conspiracy to ensure that we have those average seasons mixed in — knowing that we always have the fiercest pass rushers in the NFL when we don’t have Rod Rust, Johnnie Lynn, Tim Lewis and Bill Sheridan as DC’s.

Teams have taken Bill Belichick, John Fox, Steve Spagnuolo and now angling to take Perry Fewell from us — all had the Giants’ defense at #1 in the NFL at one point in time as their tenure as coordinator. HMMMMMM.

SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR

Tom Quinn: F

There is no excuse for how poorly this unit played from the first punt return by Darius Reynaud, who the Giants (believe it or not) TRADED to get from Minnesota, while he averaged seemingly 14 yards per KICKOFF return — to the first dead duck punt that remained in the air all of 1.97 seconds off the foot of Matt Dodge.

Coverage was awful on kickoffs and punts all year, the return team never came close to returning either a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown and looked horrid many times per game. Chase Blackburn, Jason Pierre-Paul (“JPP”) and Law Tynes were the only redeeming players on any of the units. Field position and poor execution across the board on special teams cost the Giants two games, so it would be naive to blow off this unit’s importance to the overall team.

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Eli Manning: B

Tons of pass yards, tons of touchdowns, tons of INTs, tons of tipped passes (at 6’4″, he’s not 5’11” like Drew Brees) and a myriad of poor decisions even when there weren’t turnovers.

Nevertheless, even with the league-worst INT total of 25, Eli did muster 31 TDs — 4th in the NFL and 4,002 pass yards, which was also Top 5. He also completed a higher percentage of his passes. He incrementally gets better every year, but he could have had about 12-15 fewer INT and better decisions with an actual Quarterbacks coach, not a Wide Receivers coach doubling as one (as was the case in 2010 after Chris Palmer left following the 2009 and serving in that capacity).

Overall, he had a great year, but the INTs serve as more like an asterisk than full letter-grade detraction; especially given that 14 of those INTs were tipped and/or caused by the route running that Gilbride’s needlessly complex offense causes on the part of the WRs. They have too many in-route reads to make and Manning must be on the same page with them for the routes to work. Given how young and raw these WRs are, it is a wonder that Manning didn’t have 35 INT and managed to still surpass 4,000 yards passing.

Running Back

Ahmad Bradshaw: B+

Rushed for 1,235 yards and 8 TD, despite faltering badly following Week 14. He was 2nd in the NFC in rushing before finishing the season with only one 100+ yard rushing game in the 2nd half of the season. All of his fumbles seven (7) killed the Giants; either leading to points by the opposing team or momentum killers, as a couple of them came at the end of big runs on Bradshaw’s part. But for what was expected from him going into the season, he far exceeded expectations.

He is a bargain at barely $550K, but a free agent. Undoubtedly, the Giants will be bringing him back, though.

Brandon Jacobs: B-

Not really sure what is a fair barometer for him. He had over 800 yards, despite 100 fewer carries than Bradshaw, but he initially bristled at a reduced role earlier in the season. Coupled with a couple of Giants losses, he blew a gasket and had to be reeled in by Coughlin. He is an improved blocker, but he too had very costly fumbles and dropped too many drive-sustaining passes in the flat, which deflated the Giants several times all season.

The Giants can stand to run multiple plays featuring both Jacobs and Bradshaw on the field at the same time. Their substitution packages are one of the many reasons they are so predictable offensively.

Fullback

Bear Pascoe: B

He’s not particularly fast nor quick, but he uses his hands well, now that he is serving as the team’s H-Back/Fullback. Madison Hedgecock, who landed on IR early in the 2010 season — is on the books for a couple more seasons at over $1.1M per (appalling as that is to Giants fans, because he does NOTHING well, whatsoever), and Pascoe is a free agent, so it is going to be interesting to see where Pascoe lines up next year, if with the Giants at all. He did pave some running lanes early on for Bradshaw and Jacobs before the offensive line went into disarray in the running game. Pass blocking is only adequate and he doesn’t have the best hands.

Tight End

Kevin Boss: B-

He blocks decently, but far too many dropped passes. Too much was made of his ability in order to shift focus from the nearly catastrophic banter that took place between the front office (Jerry Reese, specifically) and Jeremy Shockey, who was on his way out of New York following the Super Bowl. Gilbride’s offenses have never featured Tight Ends as anything more than an intermittent short route runner to keep teams off the WRs. The fact that he even managed 35 catches in this system is shocking, although he should have had 45 just on drops and mis-run routes alone.

Travis Beckum: C

He was okay on Special Teams and occasionally when he came into the offense, but he barely saw the field as the season wore on. The Giants must develop him, because he has the speed, agility and hands that Boss does not.

Wide Receivers

Steve Smith: B (Incomplete)

Steve-12 missed too many games to truly be evaluated accurately. Teams were trying to take him away coming into the season and being the Giants’ best route-runner, he still managed 48 catches in the 9 games that he played more than a half. Over the course of an entire season, that pans out to over 80 catches and 1,000 yards, but it was not to be. He played well when he was in the lineup, but did have a few surprising drops and tipped balls that led to Manning INTs early in the season.

The Giants’ WR corps glue, they clearly missed him whenever he was out of the lineup. Steve-12 is a free agent this offseason and Reese is said to be contemplating offering him a one-year deal, just to be able to re-establish his value after 2011. This was not a fair year for our guy and the Giants really need to lock him up long-term. But it would be against everyone’s best interests to offer a deal with a 6-8 month rehabilitation stint coming off microfracture surgery.

Hakeem Nicks: A-

Short of missing three games due to injury and leaving parts of two others early, Nicks still managed 79 catches in 13 games. He would have gotten around 100 with the way Manning force-fed the ball to him all season, and still had 1,000 yards and 11 TD, leading the team.

The main knock against Nicks is his route running at times and the Braylon Edwards Syndrome. But it isn’t more than intermittent, so it isn’t exactly a major issue. Should have been a Pro Bowler in 2010 and will be one in 2011 and beyond, barring injury — including All-Pro years mixed in as well.

Mario Manningham: A-

The Giants’ Home Run threat that they’ve truly never had. He has “A” speed and used it to his advantage all season, landing TD catches of 85 and 92 yards in back to back weeks, along with several others over 35 yards.

His route running still is not crisp, and he runs routes short of the mark FAR TOO OFTEN for the team and its fans’ liking, but other than a dropped pass here or there and still-not-precise route-running, the Giants love him and so do the fans.

Left Tackle

Dave Diehl: B

Diehl appeared to have lost a step, especially against extremely quick and agile right ends, but he rebounded late and had a solid all-around year. Running plays off both his hips were not as proficient as they had been, but that had more to do with the instability at Center all season and the Giants’ lack of attention to detail, allowing for linebackers to shoot the gaps like lions pouncing on a random zebra out of a flock on the African savannah — between Guard, Center and Tackle. His pass protection and run blocking were very good, not great.

Shawn Andrews played above average football, playing both LT and LG, but no full evaluation is necessary. His run blocking with Boothe and Seubert (along with Snee and McKenzie) was the best combination the Giants had all season and someone in the front office needs to realize this.

Left Guard

Rich Seubert: A

The Giants’ offensive line “Glue Guy”. Even GM Jerry Reese anointed him as the MVP of the offensive line, because of his invaluable play to the team. He’s no superstar and only has slightly above average talent, but he gets the most of it and he is a warrior. He has played all across the line for the Giants in his 10 seasons here and played LT, LG and C in 2010 alone. He performed admirably at all places and the run blocking and pass protection were never poor on account of his play.

Center

Shaun O’Hara: C-

Adam Koets: B+

Rich Seubert: A+

Another guy that Coughlin and Gilbride are too loyal to is O’Hara. I like O’Hara, and he’s a good guy, but he has been a Peak Hour Turnstile the past two seasons in the running game. Against the pass rush, he’s still decent, but he got blown up many times in 2010, something that hadn’t happened before. And given that he will be 34 next year, the Giants need to be grooming Koets, Mitch Petrus or someone else as their next starter at the position. There were too many good running plays that were killed because O’Hara could not pull to the outside and allowed backside contain of linebackers to break down on off tackle runs, sweeps and stretch plays to the left side. PARTICULARLY against the Eagles and Packers.

Right Guard

Chris Snee: A+

The best Right Guard in football. PERIOD. Does everything well and is legitimately a Pro Bowl perennially for a reason. He is a road-grader in the run game and pulls, kicks out, mauls even gets a hat on a hat in screens and stretch plays to his size. When you see a right guard pulling and BEATING a linebacker and a cornerback to a point during a play — if you truly know football and what to look for with regards to offensive line play, you LOVE it. Thanks John Madden for teaching me this in the 1980s.

Right Tackle

Kareem McKenzie: B+

Surprisingly still agile at 6’6″ 330. He appeared to have lost it a bit early in the season, but after about Week 5, no one got past him (unless it was a blown assignment by guys such as Derek Hagan in the Green Bay game) and runs to his side along with Snee were generally gainful. He’s my age (31) and as offensive linemen go, he can still play 6-7 more years — 4 or 5 more at a very high level as he did in 2010, after driving Giants fans to drink in the Week 3 matchup vs. Tennessee.

Defensive End

Justin Tuck: A+

The Giants’ best player on defense, the best defensive end in the NFL (yet only a Pro Bowl alternate?) and does everything that Perry Fewell asks of him. He rushes the passer (11.5 sacks), makes game-changing plays (6 forced fumbles, several recoveries and several passes defensed) and stuffs the run, along with occasionally making plays downfield and chasing down run plays back side. He was third on the team in total tackles, which is a remarkable statistic, no matter how it is sliced — from the “well, the defense is on the field so much due to turnovers, he SHOULD have that many” to “well, Fewell is using him in coverage, so big deal”, but he is the leader of the defense and even though he is a quiet dude, he is the beacon of the defense.

Osi Umenyiora: A-

Only A- because he “gave up the edge” too often in the run game and took too many wide and deep angles in the pass rush, taking himself completely out of plays. Again, both Philadelphia games are prime examples. But he rebounded remarkably, a full year removed from hip and knee surgery and in a pass rusher-friendly scheme again. He also notched 11.5 sacks and an eye-popping/NFL record 10 forced fumbles in 2010 (the 2nd place leader had 6, for perspective — and Umenyiora went SEVERAL games without one until Week 17, for even more perspective). He appeared to wear down late in the season, which was somewhat bothersome, but overall, it was good to have him back.

If Mathias Kiwanuka comes back, the Giants will once again be the most fearsome defensive line in the NFL. Kiwanuka is a free agent, missed 13 games this year, so no evaluation. In three games, he notched 4 sacks.

Jason Pierre-Paul: B+

His learning curve was sharp and he far exceeded expectations for a rookie who was so raw entering camp in July that most Japanese hibachis would prefer him over the sushi they offered. But he delivered. He played great on special teams and had a nice five game stretch with 4.5 sacks and a ridiculous 8 passes defensed/deflected in such a short period of time with his wingspan.

Defensive Tackle

Barry Cofield: A

The Giants almost bulloxed this season up before it began. First off, they’re paying Rocky Bernard a lot of money to ride the pine (where he should be — Reese really screwed up paying him as much as he’s being paid; he wasn’t GREAT in Seattle) and almost traded Cofield to the Saints on draft day 2010. He responded by having a should-have-been Pro Bowl season, 4 sacks, tons of plays that did not show up on the stat sheet and plugging the middle of the Giants’ defensive line, which was the best in football versus both the run and the pass. Yet few people outside of Giants fans and officials (and even some Giants fans themselves) realize how good of a season he just had.

Chris Canty: B+

His contributions were even more overlooked by the Box Score Grazers and the fans who only watch pass rushers who get sacks, the linebackers and defensive backs. He played much better in 2010 now that he was healthy and made tons of plays, while not giving up anything in the middle. Teams almost never gained yardage running inside on the Giants and Canty and Cofield are the reason why.

Strong Side (Sam) Linebacker

Michael Boley: B

He was good, not great. Gets blown off the ball too easily and struggles shedding blocks. Still has all the ability in the world to run with Tight Ends and some WRs in coverage. Sure tackler and he was steady if not dependable all season. Just didn’t make many plays other than a couple of QBs that he knocked out (Romo, Tarvaris Jackson).

Middle (Mike) Linebacker

Jonathan Goff: B

We weren’t expecting too much from him, because we knew early in Training Camp that the Giants were going to feature a three-safety alignment on the back end. Goff’s responsibilities were mostly on 1st and 2nd down and mostly running plays, although he was serviceable in coverage. Serviceable is not enough when the pass rush does not get to the QB, however, and the Giants will be looking to make upgrades across the board on the LB corps

Weak Side (Will) Linebacker

Keith Bulluck: A-

Deon Grant (SS): A

Both rotated in this capacity, depending upon which exotic look Fewell was featuring with his defense. Bulluck should have been used more, and he showed flashes of his former self — he’s 33 and obviously was not 100% coming off his injury late in 2009 — with 2 big INTs this season. Both retained leads and quenched the opposition’s momentum at key junctures.

Grant played in the box as a Rover LB/SS in the box type of guy, with FS Antrel Rolle sometimes next to him, providing the additional run support and pass rush that the below-average linebacking corp possesses. They both filled that role admirably, but neither were there full time and it is a big need.

Cornerback

Corey Webster: B+

Webster has never been a burner and isn’t great in zone coverage. Fewell’s defense features a lot of zone (although not the majority of the time, which some fans fail to realize — playing OFF a WR does not necessarily denote zone, as Man-Take was one of the things the Giants did frequently, particularly when Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant were all on the field simultaneously). The Giants really could have allowed him to play on an island at his own behest this year, because he IS very good as a press corner and is a ballhawk in those situations. But he had a decent year. Not great and nothing terrible in coverage other than the first Eagles’ TD on miscommunication with Terrell Thomas in the 2nd Eagles’ game.

Terrell Thomas: A-

Consider that the Giants wanted Aaron Ross to be that LCB and wanted to bring Thomas along slowly as a rookie and then 2nd year guy. He’s played very well in both seasons. He’s been allowed to bump and run more than Webster, because he is slightly faster and quicker off his breaks. He closes on the ball well and attacks WRs and RBs in his zones. Sure tackler and does play well in zone (provided his safety shell is manned properly, which it wasn’t on the biggest play Thomas gave up all year — an 87 yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson, Jr., in which FS Antrel Rolle forgot he was no longer a CB and took an angle as one, allowing Johnson to walk into the end zone from 50 yards out).

Overall, he led the Giants in INT and tackles. He should have been a Pro Bowl alternate.

Aaron Ross: B

For his role, he played about as well as could be expected. He may want to watch out for Bruce Johnson next year. Johnson is quicker and faster and is more of an aggressive corner, something you must be if you play Nickel CB. Ross did deliver the final blow (the 9th of 9 sacks) on Jay Cutler, causing Cutler a concussion and requiring him to leave the game, but Ross was not great in coverage downfield. He appears to have already lost a step.

And despite lobbying to return punts, he looked awful in the few times he did it. He needs a full season of training and a full season without injuries before he can lock down that Nickel CB role that is vital to the defense here.

Free Safety

Antrel Rolle: A-

He blew coverage here and there, a couple leading to long TDs (Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson and Anthony Armstrong, the most glaring), but he had tons of responsibilities on the field all year, only rivaled by Justin Tuck. Rolle had to play his standard deep coverage — continuing to make the transition from CB to FS, he played down “in the box” as the pseudo “3rd LB” and also provided edge rush/run support off the defensive right edge for most of the season. He missed a few tackles, but objectively as a fan who does not only focus on what was done wrong — for every play where Rolle whiffed, he made 10 very good to great plays. But timing was everything with those whiffs and two of those long TDs either woke up a dead team (Detroit) or set the tone for a very long and bad day defensively (Green Bay).

Strong Safety

Kenny Phillips: A-

I do not like the capacity in which he was used in Fewell’s system. Understandably, the Giants did not want to place half-the-field responsibilities on Phillips, who was coming off micro-fracture surgery in the off-season. He progressed well, played nearly pain free and regained most of his range. He’ll be 100% in 2011, with the proverbial “year removed” from surgery.

However, he was contained to only 1/3 of the field all year. He wasn’t allowed to roam and make plays in coverage nor stuff the run, which he is excellent doing. Most of those responsibilities went to Rolle and Grant — with those two having more coverage responsibilities downfield as well. Phillips was more of a clean-up guy — ensuring that no one got past him (other than Celek, no one did, when he was the resident safety) and played more of a centerfield/watchman position.

For his role, he executed very well and didn’t miss more than a few snaps all season. Looking forward to 2011.

Place Kicker

Lawrence Tynes: B+

Missed a couple of “gimmes”, but other than that, he didn’t blow any games for us with missed kicks and had longer kickoffs again in 2010, coming off a poor kickoff year in 2009, where many of his kicks were barely getting past the 10 yard line, if at all.

Punter

Matt Dodge: C-

Give the kid a break. Regardless of the fact that he was actually drafted (punters can be developed without using a draft pick, even if a 7th round pick is inconsequential for the most part), he was chosen with cause. I told people all offseason that we were spoiled by Jeff Feagles for years. He always coffin-corner punted perfectly, kicked out of bounds when necessary and never beat us — but instead, swung field position in our favor more than anything.

Dodge has a big leg. And again, punters can be coached. Anyone who watched the Giants snap for snap all year know that Dodge had been having problems directional punting and with hangtime since Week 1. We were at Giants Stadium asking “WHAT IS WITH THIS KID??? WE’RE GONNA LOSE A GAME BECAUSE OF THIS SHIT!”

Lo and behold, we ULTIMATELY lost a game, but it obviously was not solely because of a Dodge punt gone awry, given that the Giants should have never been in position to require such a maneuver to be made when they had a 31-10 lead with 7:28 remaining in the 4th quarter of a game.

Dodge, with proper (read: NOT TOM QUINN NOR HIS ASSISTANTS) coaching, can be very good, if not great, with his 55+ yard/42-45 yard net leg. We shall see. I docked him for poor hangtime, which prevented his coverage friends from making plays downfield. The Giants were fortunate that they did not surrender a half dozen punt returns for TDs, given how poor the tackling was on special teams and Dodge’s propensity for line drive punts and even out-kicking his coverage (Dez Bryant’s punt return for TD) in Week 10.

——————————

Overall, the Giants finished 10-6, about where I expected them to be in the preseason (predicted 11-5), but it’s not good enough to be 10-6, when taken into account the WAY it unfolded. To lead the NFL in takeaways is fine, but to also lead the league in giving it away is abominable, with the amount of talent all of this team. Improvements will be made, not necessarily wholesale changes, and that begins with re-signing some of the 21 notable free agents — an alarming number — on the team currently, drafting well, and signing the proper free agents during the summer.

Bradshaw, S. Smith, Pascoe, Grant and Kiwanuka are the most notable of the free agents. I personally say it is a no-brainer on the first two. A decision on Pascoe will come down to team need and whether they pursue drafting another TE or developing Beckum. Grant may come back for another year, particularly if Fewell is back, although his role should not be as expansive if the team does what it should in addressing the LB corps. Kiwanuka is the tricky one, because his neck hernia has not healed and those are difficult injuries to project out, considering a long-term deal is at stake. He may have the same offer made to him that Steve-12 may indeed get — a one-year deal, intended to save the team from making a long-term decision with healthy issues looming, intended to also give the player the opportunity to demonstrate his value for 2012, and whether the team indeed offers a long-term deal or allows them to pursue another elsewhere in free agency.

Along the offensive line, we all know there must be changes to get younger. And Kevin Boothe is a free agent who may walk and get playing time, with as well as he played in a reserve role after the injuries stifled the LG and C portions of the line.

In the 2011 Draft, the Giants need to be looking at these positions and in this order:

1. OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (preferably WILL).

We have been struggling to replace our Will LBs since we foolishly let Jessie Armstead go in 2002. Kawika Mitchell played admirably there, but everyone else was either over the hill (Carlos Emmons, Keith Bulluck) or just too slow to be manning that side behind Osi (Danny Clark). They’re also easier to find and not as hit-or-miss as drafting middle linebackers out of college at times. I’d give Goff one more season at MLB and still bring in a veteran in free agency rather than use a 1st Round pick on a MLB who may end up being another Mike Croel.

2. CORNERBACK.

We need more speed out there. Everyone has B/B+ speed on the roster right now, and that won’t cut it, as 6 of your 16 games annually are going to feature teams (division rivals) with 2-3, sometimes 4 receivers with more speed than everyone in your secondary. There is no wonder why we struggled with the Eagles and Cowboys this year. It isn’t because the Eagles “own” us, because they surely do not — they’re faster at every receiving position than we are other than Celek vs. Boley/TE vs. SLB. Same with Dallas. Terrell Thomas is a future Pro Bowler, but short of allowing Webster to bump and run more, we need someone with more speed on that side.

3. RUNNING BACK.

The Giants have to exercise due diligence. They’re going to commit a ton of money in 2011 and 2012 to Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw (do not allow anyone to even mention the possibility that Bradshaw is leaving, because it has already been put to rest by insiders — the details just cannot be hashed out until the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place, but Bradshaw’s wagon is hitched to the Giants’ and an extension still saves them money over signing a big name free agent) and probably will allow Danny “DJ” Ware to walk. They could look to the early 70s in the draft to take one of those speedy RB guys who can be a true 3rd down option and return kicks. And if for some reason the Giants trade Jacobs (do not see that happening, but no inside info on that, so…) they’ll need to address that position before the 3rd round.

4. LEFT TACKLE/LEFT GUARD.

Depending on the school, some of these guys can play either position, but we need to address the left side PERIOD. We have bodies out there, but no one is sure to be where they currently line up next year. The hope is that young Adam Koets can come back healthy after a torn ACL (out for season) in 2010 early on. He was playing well prior to his injury and as previously mentioned, anything is better than seeing O’Hara get abused all game, every game in the running game. However, with William Beatty, Kevin Boothe (who may or may not bolt in free agency), incumbent Dave Diehl and Rich Seubert (questionable his level of play even after he heals), the Giants aren’t exactly vacant on the left side. They can also use Shawn Andrews at either Tackle position whenever necessary, enabling the Giants to put off any decision on McKenzie for at least a couple more seasons.

However, there needs to be new blood on the line. One via the draft and one via free agency.

5. DEFENSIVE TACKLE.

There won’t be a reach here, but the Giants do need to prepare for the possibility that Cofield may depart in free agency. Rocky Bernard is not the answer and we won’t know how ready Linval Joseph (hopefully no reminder of ANOTHER Joseph who played DT here) will be until he is pressed into duty. No one knows when that will be, but there needs to be a fresh body to go alongside Joseph when Canty and Cofield are resting.

6. OUTSIDE LINEBACKER.

For simply more depth.

7. CENTER/RUNNING BACK.

Long snapper, potential backup if O’Hara is released, or a RB for kickoff or punt return-only duties, because Calhoun, Ware and Reynaud should not be returning.

LET US HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS!

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