New York Football Giants: The Virtual Midseason (BYE) Report
I’ve recently written a State of the Giants report, so this won’t be as in-depth. Not much has changed in the three weeks since that last report.
The Giants sit at 4-2 and all alone in first place in the NFC East. Despite nearly half of the team’s starters either being on the Injured Reserve list, missing multiple games or playing through injuries that had previously had them out during this season thus far, the Giants have played overall pretty good football. Rather than break everything down by position, I will address each unit on all sides of the team and then issue a cumulative grade.
Even though we are not semantically at the halfway point in the season, we’re going to call it thus for argument’s sake.
New York Football Giants
4-2 Record, 1st in NFC East
FIRST HALF BREAKDOWN
Eli Manning has proven to be the Elite quarterback that he spoke of before the season began. Detractors scoffed, citing the aberration that was the 2010 season for Manning, specifically with the negative statistics (each of his positive statistics were erstwhile career highs and better than all but three or four QBs in the NFL). Manning has taken sacks and dumped the ball off when facing pressure, whereas he mostly forced the ball into double coverage or misreads with this option route/mid-route read scheme employed by Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Only the Patriots’ offense is more complex than the Giants’. Eli is definitely elite, even posting a +100 QB rating in his one off-game performance in Week 5’s loss to Seattle.
Manning gets undue blame from people who hate him and/or the Giants when the Giants fail, and almost no credit or nothing more than backhand compliments when he shines. Eli surely doesn’t care either way.
The offensive line has done a favorable job overall in pass protection, however, they have only begun to open running lanes in the past game or so. Most of Ahmad Bradshaw’s big yardage runs have come on cutbacks or against overpursuing defenses like that of the Philadelphia Eagles, who he gashed for a 40-yard run in Week 3. Bradshaw had a 30-yard anger-filled scamper late in the 4th Quarter vs. BUF in Week 6 that led to the Game-Winning Field Goal.
Run Blocking can definitely get better, but the line has played musical chairs almost since Week 1, so overall, the unit has played well enough to win, and can get much better with everyone healthy. I am very much optimistic here. Yeoman’s work by Guard Kevin Boothe playing both Guard positions and Center through six games. He had a sterling game blocking in both rushing situations and pass protection. Missing Chris Snee in Week 6 was a major concern, but there were absolutely no protection issues all game and Boothe was key with this.
Tight End play has been better than expected. Travis Beckum looks lost at times, but I am cutting him slack, because he just hasn’t had any real reps or game time thus far this year. He’s run two routes very badly (today, tripping over his feet on a play where, had he run the route properly, he would have virtually walked into the end zone with a touchdown pass), but again, he has been out for a couple of games and only played minimally due to the emergence of big Jake Ballard, who has become one of Eli’s favorite targets. He’s had HUGE grabs in nearly every game this year, some resulting in touchdowns, others prolonging drives on critical third downs and just opening up the field for everyone else on the outside AND the running game. I’ll take it. Bear Pascoe has blocked well and caught a couple whether at FB or TE.
Running game can get better and I expect it to. Ahmad Bradshaw was hoping for a big game with an expected larger share of carries (he had all but three of the Giants carries in Week 6) with Brandon Jacobs missing two games. His per-carry average isn’t where he’d like it, but he’s grinding out tough yards and breaking runs that have helped put away both Buffalo and Philadelphia thus far this season. With Jacobs healthy and hopefully the Giants working Da’Rel Scott into the offense more (one catch vs. BUF, no rushing attempts to my recollection), I expect this to be the usual strong-point for the Giants, especially down the stretch against a bevy of tough opponents.
Wide Receiver play has been filled with a ton of big plays. Outside of a few drops by young Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham, each has had big catches. Manningham had two potential touchdowns reviewed and taken off the board in Week 6 vs. BUF (something Bills fans forget to acknowledge while the use the classic, “The Giants didn’t win, the Bills LOST IT” angle, while thinking the Bills are really as good as they’ve been puffed up to be thus far this ONE season). Cruz has had several catches over 30 yards and Nicks had another 60-yard catch today, that would have been a touchdown had he run with the football closer to his body. He makes plays and the Giants’ passing game is clicking on all cylinders. Kevin Gilbride nervously smirks whenever these plays work, which almost make me cringe, because it means he’s probably going to revert to predictable play-calling whenever we get leads — which is his modus operandi.
OFFENSE GRADE: B+
Defense has literally bent but not broken. A number of big plays of late, some to awful offenses, the inability to get off the field on third down and poor tackling (more so earlier, it has shored up of late). I’ve seen everyone in the secondary take poor angles on RBs and WRs carrying the ball, so I am not singling anyone out. Overall, the unit is playing pretty well. They are yielding far more yards and points than they have been accustomed, but in pressure situations, in two of the past three weeks, the Giants have gotten huge stops to stop rallies by the Cardinals and Bills.
Jason Pierre-Paul has 8 sacks (the league keeps giving and taking away a half sack, so it may be 7.5 officially) and is playing at an All-Pro level. He played more RE in Week 6, after playing primarily LE since All-World LE Justin Tuck has been out with his neck and groin injuries. The front that the Giants used vs. BUF has worked the best that it has since Tuck began missing time late in the Week 3 game vs. PHI. RE Osi Umenyiora (another 1.5 sacks today), known league-wide for his taking wide angles upfield in pass-rush situations, often leaves a huge lane for RBs to gain yards off the Giants’ right side. The Giants rotated “JPP” to RE at times and used OLB/LE Mathias Kiwanuka (1 sack) at left end, in order to hold the point against the run and still generate a pass rush. Dave Tollefson has been absolutely phenomenal with his small window of playing time, lining up at both DE and DT at times.
When Tuck is healthy and each plays at the same time, which Perry Fewell loves to do (Kiwanuka-Tuck-Pierre Paul-Umenyiora on the defensive line), LOOK OUT NFL.
Linebacker play has been shaky at times, but it is tough to rip them; they have tons of responsibilities and there is a lot of youth out there with rookies Jacquian Williams and Greg Jones making calls with Michael Boley, who became the de facto signal caller for the LB corps and the defense as a whole when MLB Jonathan Goff (Torn ACL, OUT FOR SEASON) went down early on. They are pretty good in pass coverage, but blown assignments and over pursuit in rushing situations has yielded several huge plays on both the ground and via the passing game against almost every team thus far. I am not panicking; besides, these guys are young, outside of Boley, who’s still just 29. By the end of the year, they will know their roles and shut their (detractors’) mouths, a la Dwayne Johnson.
Boley has been huge in stuffing the run and downfield coverage/making impact plays.
Ahhhhhh the secondary, my bread and butter. Considering all of the losses back there (Terrell Thomas – Torn ACL, OUT FOR SEASON, Bruce Johnson – Ruptured Achilles, OUT FOR SEASON, Brian Witherspoon, Torn ACL — minutes after Thomas tore his — OUT FOR SEASON), the Giants have fared better than some had expected. Fewell still uses FS Antrel Rolle all over the field like last year, which sometimes opens up big plays downfield, but SS Kenny Phillips is laying the wood like we all knew he could. He stuffs the run well, and is free to help more in run support and make the impact hits. His Week 6 stop on a Fred Jackson run (followed by a stop by Jacquian Williams was a huge turning point in stopping a Bills drive when the Giants could have fallen behind late).
Corey Webster looks like he has cement boots at time at corner, but he’s always had the technique. He’s gotten beat a few times, but he made two huge, game-changing INTs vs. BUF in Week 6, the second of which possibly saved the Giants from having to play late-comeback roles yet again in a 4th quarter. Aaron Ross has been even better than he was in his rookie season (already tying that season’s INT total with 3) and playing very good in coverage and run support. He has been much-maligned since the 2007 Super Bowl run, because he’s been in and out of the lineup with injury and an apparent liability in coverage over the rest of the time when he DID make the field. Although, having played CB myself, I know that playing in the slot is NO EASY TASK. But overall, I am very much pleased with Ross’ play and it has saved the defense from really going off the deep end.
Kenny Phillips is rounding back into that early 2009 form, and could potentially be in the mix for a Pro Bowl vote as long as he continues to restore his level of play pre-knee injury.
I’ve had my gripes about Kevin Gilbride’s play-calling and more times than not, it has been justified (and shared by many Giants fans, REGARDLESS of where they live), but he called excellent games vs. PHI, BUF and the second halves vs. STL and ARZ. Perry Fewell is mixing and matching pieces with more integral starters lost for the season, but hopefully CB Prince Amukamara and DE Justin Tuck are ready to go when the Giants return from the BYE in Week 8.
DEFENSE GRADE: C+
Not much to speak about here. It’s just not good outside of Steve Weatherford’s punting, let’s face it. The good thing is, we haven’t been gashed by a KR or PR return for TD, but we get almost nothing in either facet on our own returns and it seems like Devin Thomas bobbles the ball as much as Jerrel Jernigan does. At that rate, we’d be better off using Jernigan with his speed. We haven’t had a KR or PR for a TD in at least two years, if not longer.
Law Tynes getting kicks blocked every other week. I believe he has 3 FGs blocked already, although a SLIGHT benefit of the doubt in that two of them were over 50 yards and he had to ‘drive’ them. Whatever. Kickoffs are strong, however.
Weatherford has been All-Pro level.
SPECIAL TEAMS GRADE: B-
For one week, Tom Coughlin’s red-faced, dog-like sideways glare was missing and I’m glad — as he is.
OVERALL TEAM GRADE: B
REST UP AND HEAL UP GUYS, THE SECOND HALF IS GHASTLY.