The Giants play the Eagles tonight in a nationally televised game. The Eagles have narrowly won 2 games and lost their third. They have been a turnover machine and Vick has been horrible. The Giants on the other hand have been playing excellent football. Their offense is playing tremendously and their defense has started to gel. So why am I worried? Key Injuries and unsustainable turnover ratios.
Football is a game of matchups. The Giants passing game is led by the elite quarterback Eli Manning who is playing other worldly. I don’t expect that to stop but Hakeem Nicks was ruled out for the game with knee swelling. Yes, the Giants are deep at the position, but Nicks is their best receiver, and unlike a week ago, Ramses Barden will not sneak up on anyone, and most importantly the Eagles are great against the pass. They have a fearsome pass rush that led the league in sacks last year going against a mediocre Giants offensive line, and they have one of the NFLs best secondaries. This is a good match up for the Eagles. The Giants looked great last week without Nicks but that was with Barden going up against a rookie cornerback, not against Rodgers-Cromartie or Asomugha. This is not a battle in the Giants favor. Cruz is still a much better receiver when Nicks is on the field and attention is paid away from him. Last week without Nicks, he was held to 42 yards. Hixon and Barden will need to step up.
On defense the big concern is the loss of Holsey to a hamstring injury. I’m not afraid of Amukamara making his first NFL start, He held in well. And if Coe was available as a third corner Id probably still think we the Giants would be ok, but with both out for this week, Justin Tyron will be the third corner. The nickel back in the NFL is basically a starter. He is on the field for the majority of passing plays. A defense is only as good as its weakest link and Tyron who may not be more than 5 foot 8 is the weak link. It worries me. Having said that, there is one match up in the Giants favor. JPP and Osi will be going up a against a third string left tackle Demetress Bell. Now he did start many games for the Bills over the past few years and was given a large contract when Jason Peters when out with an injury during the off-season but he was beaten out by the mediocre King Dunlap. JPP will destroy most, but even Osi, who I think is very overrated is the type to feast on second tier talent. Lets recall his 6 sack performance against then Eagles rookie Winston Justice a few years back. If the Giants can shut down the run game
One last thing that worries me: turnover ratio. These things tend to even out and the Eagles have been horrific in this category and giants pretty good. It’s unreasonable to expect the discrepancy to be as wide. If the Giants don’t win the turnover battle today expect the Eagles to edge them. If the Giants can win that battle they should win the game.
A few interesting things to watch for: How are the carries split between incumbent starter Ahmad Bradshaw returning from injury and his replacement Andre Brown who has looked like a better version of 2008 Derrick Ward. Also –with Nicks out and Hixon returning who is the # 2 and who is the # 3 receiver. Before Nicks was ruled out I read that they were going to play Hixon at the #3 slot. I am not overreacting to one game when I say Barden deserves the spot.
When I thought Nicks and Holsey were healthy I thought this would be a big Giants win (30-17), but those injuries are big. I think the Giants can still pull it out but 24-23. If they don’t win the turnover battle all bets are off.
The Giants routed the Panthers in Carolina on Thursday night by the score of 36-7. The Giants dominated from the opening kickoff. They were so dominant, that there was an in-season David Carr sighting. It could be argued that game MVP was GM Jerry Reese, as the Giants showed great depth in light of key injuries. His drafts produced great depth that in generally called upon over the length of an NFL season. Andre Brown continued what he stated in Tampa, running fro 113 yards on 20 carries, and 2 touchdowns. Reese referrers to him as a Derrick Ward type and it is a great comparison. Ramses Barden finally delivered on the promise he has shown every preseason he has been with the Giants. In my Game 1 review, I called on Coughlin to give him more opportunity over Hixon. Injury wasn't the way it was supposed to happen, but it was the right call. He hauled in 9 receptions for 138 yards and looked ungaurdable. When Nicks comes back, the Giants should have a 3 receiver tandem that is better than last year's Nicks/Cruz/Manningham tandem. A big question will be, is Bradshaw washed up or is the sample size of he and Brown just too small to draw any conclusions?? Either way, expect Brown to see more playing time. What this means for first rounder Wilson, who couldn't' even get garbage time carries over Da'Rel Scott is anyone's guess.
The blessing/curse that is Domenik Hixon- The guy seems to play hard and fast, he is also a very likable player. But every year, he gets injured and the guy who replaces him winds up being a revelation. Two years ago it was Manningham who got his shot when Hixon went down. Last year it was Cruz and this year it is Barden. Amazing coincidence. The Giants should keep him around forever even if he doesn't get on the field. Maybe if they put him at Defensive tackle for a week, we can finally get something out of Marvin Austin.
The much maligned defensive back field held their own. Amukamara, is no superstar, but an upgrade over Michael Coe. The secondary is only as strong as its weakest link. It's a shame that Antrel Rolle got hurt by a sideline camera, but it was nice to see Will Hill get some playing time. He is a great athlete and will eventually supplant one of the starting safeties (not this year).
Given the loss of San Francisco and the Eagles, the Giants should climb the power rankings this week. They have a big in conference game this Sunday night against the Eagles. Given the performances of the two teams this weekend, I find the point spread (Eagles -2.5) very surprising. I don't usually put betting tips on the sire, but that is way too expensive. Assuming the Giants are back healthy, take the Giants and the points this week against the Eagles.
The Giants go into tonight’s game very banged up. Out for tonight’s game are Nicks, Bradshaw, Hixon, and Diehl. Prince Amukamara should be back to help a secondary that has been picked on. Of the injured, Nicks is far and away the most indispensable player on the list. In fact, after Eli and JPP he is their third most important player. The other injured players all have backups who provide similar expected production. Nicks is the guy Eli can throw to when he is not open and he will still catch it.
Cam Newton is a special taken but the Giants should match up as well with him as anyone. His primary plus attribute is athletic ability. The Giants happen to have a very athletic front 7 and should be hurt by this strength less than most. Steve Smith has killed the Giants in the past with a bubble screen play. Let’s hope Coughlin viewed enough film to counter that. Expect Barden and Randle to show some thing tonight and the Giants to be able to move the ball despite the key injuries. The defense should benefit from the return of Amukamara and the Giants run defense has generally been stout other than a few big runs in the second half against Dallas.
Prediction: Giants 20 Panthers 19
What a game! Eli gifted the Bucs the opportunity to compete with three ugly first half interceptions. The Giants were dominating on the field and losing on the scoreboard at half time. In the second half and the 4th quarter in particular the Giants really came alive. Eli Manning finished with 510 yards passing in a top 10 of all-time single game performance. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz were uncoverable. Eli was incredible finding receivers wherever they were and accurately delivering the ball. Bradshaw got injured allowing Brown to get his first significant regular season NFL experience. He looked good. Good enough in fact to keep promising rookie David Wilson pinned to the bench. The Giants did not escape the game unscathed. The injury bug hit hard. In addition to the aforementioned Bradshaw (who we may need to soon admit has lost a step), the Giants lost David Diehl (who has probably also lost a step) and Dominick Hixon. Then they ruled out Hakeem Nicks for Sundays game as he exacerbated his foot injury.
The Giants play the Bucs on Sunday. This should be a team they can easily handle. The Bucs have a new coach in Rutgers’ Greg Schiano who led them to an impressive opening day victory, but one game does not make a season. The Bucs were impressive stopping the Panthers running game last week, and with the Giants running game not looking good that could be a challenge. However, Eli has feasted on the Bucs over the years and this year should be no different. Returning for the Giants should be Marvin Austin. The reason this is important is that the only 3 man DT rotation the Giants had last week included 7th round pick Marcus Kuhn. The run defense was excellent in the first half against the cowboys, but the lack of depth caused serious fatigue in the second half when the Cowboys ran wild. We have been waiting to see Austin for 2 years and it’s exciting to see what he can do.
Keith Rivers, who started last week at linebacker for the Giants will probably be out with a hamstring injury. That is disappointing because he was their best player on the field last week. Boley will take back his starting job. I hope they find a way to get Rivers in at middle line backer when he returns and allow them to play together as they are the best 2 linebackers they have. If Prince Amukamara comes back from an ankle injury the secondary should be ok. The Bucs do not have a Tony Romo, who was excellent last week. Even a subpar defense should be able to withstand the Bucs passing game. Look for David Wilson to get a second chance and work his way out of the dog house.
Side note on Marcus Kuhn: Every time he is brought up the commentators love to point out that he only started playing football as a 15 year old so he is new to the game. The guy is a 26 year old rookie. This makes no sense. The average rookie is 23, so 11 years in the game is like someone else starting at 13 which is a normal age. It’s one of those bizarre stats the media likes to throw out that makes no sense.
The Giants will bounce back. The Giants will win the game 27-17.
Not the way to start a season. The Giants lost 24-17 to the Cowboys on NFL kick off night. They didn’t play particularly well and had no excuses. The Cowboys, a good team, but a team that the Giants must beat in a home game. With the schedule the Giants have, they can’t afford to give away any games like this, but this is one of 16 games and way too early to panic.
The Cowboys had a couple of big plays and most of the Giants problems are fixable and not indicative of a real problem. Corey Webster was beaten badly a couple of times and Victor Cruz dropped 3 easy balls. Both are high quality players so I would not expect that to happen again. On the other hand, the secondary seemed porous. Michael Coe is not ready for a starting role (and is now injured), and Tyron as a replacement was overmatched. The Giants will really need Prince Amukamara to play like a first rounder. He has not really shown that yet, but should be an upgrade from the crew they currently have manning the position.
As discussed in the the season preview, the Giants can’t run block. That was extremely evident last night. A late 33 yard run by Bradshaw distorted the numbers. The reality was that on almost every run he was held to 2 yards or less. This was particularly damaging when Boley returned the ball to the 1 yard line on an interception. You knew that would come back to haunt them. Rookie David Wilson fumbled early and was sent to the bench never to return finishing with only 2 carries for 4 yards. This was one thing I disagreed with Coughlin on. You need to keep his confidence up and get him back out there. Turnovers are unacceptable, but you don’t want to risk destroying a young guy’s confidence.
Manning threw the ball very well. His pass to Hixon was a thing of beauty and he was generally on target all night, despite shaky protection. He connected on 2/3rds of his throws and there were 4 drops and at least one throw away to avoid a sack. He had very few bad throws.
Defensively, the Giants had some but not enough pressure on an elusive Romo. It seemed there were 4 or 5 false start penalties –all coming against whoever was assigned to block JPP at the time. He added value not seen in his stats. He was also largely responsible for the Linval Joseph sack. Rivers filled in for a slightly injured Boley and seemed to be all over the field until getting injured on a tackle. Prior to the injury, he was the Giants best player on the field. He will have to see significant playing time this year. Given the continued mediocrity at middle linebacker, is it too late to see if he can play there?
A few other small changes I’d like to see next game:
1 –Barden saw almost no playing time as a receiver. I’d like to see what he can do.
2 – Da’rell Scott should play over Brown. If they are primarily being used for special teams, Scott speed makes him a better bet on kickoff returns and he did block a punt in the preseason.
3 – This vaunted NASCAR Alignment is flawed. It’s great in concept. The problem is that it usually means moving JPP inside to tackle, largely neutralizing his quickness. He rushes best from right end, and while that make Osi superfluous, JPP needs to spend more time there on passing downs. I’d rather see an Austin or Joseph (or eventually Canty) in at DT on these downs. With a long break until game 2, we will probably be next week with a preview. Please feel free to offer up comments or opinions on the site or directly to me. If you like our blog, please pass it along.
Coming off of a Superbowl victory in Indianapolis, expectations are shockingly low for the Giants. Very few have them near the top of the polls and given that they didn’t lose any quality players from last year’s team, it would at first blush seem surprising. However, remember that the Giants were only 9-7 in the regular season and got hot at the right time. Also be aware that the reward for the Superbowl win and playing in the NFC East is one of the most difficult schedules of any team in recent memory. It is likely that the Giants would be favored by 3 points or more in only 4 or 5 of their games of their schedule if the games were played today. That is usually a statement you would associate with a team coming off of a 4-12 season.
The Giants only “key” personnel losses from last year (payers starting or subs with significant playing time) were Brandon Jacobs, Mario Manningham, Aaron Ross, Kareem McKenzie, Jake Ballard and Deon Grant. by the measuement of most statistical experts, Mackenzie was one of the leages worst rated lineman and has not been picked up by any other team. Deon Grant is also too old and slow, and his replacement Will Hill looked to be a significant improvement in the pre-season. Jacobs’s best days are long gone, and rookie first round pick David Wilson has shown enough speed and ability to be excited about his role in replacing Jacobs. Manningham carved out a nice body of work with the Giants, and his Superbowl catch will forever make him a Giant fan favorite, but he plays the position the Giants are deepest at and will not be missed at all. Free agent acquisition Martellus Bennet, should be an improvement over Ballard.
The Giants had a relatively uneventful pre-season. Overshadowed by the Tebow side show across town, the Giants slipped under the radar. They had some injuries, specifically at DT and CB, but all teams do. As far as defensive tackle is concerned, Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard should be able to hold down the fort until Canty comes off the PUP and Marvin Austin gets healthy (back injury, expected back for week 2). At cornerback, Terrel Thomas became a 3 time ACL tear victim. I hope he recovers better than I did from my 3rd ACL tear. Prince Amukamara will have to show he was worthy of the first round pick from 2011. So far his biggest claim to fame is getting bullied in the locker room by his teammates. Coe will fill in for him in week 1, and Jayron Holsey also shows promise as the slot cornerback.
The Giant offense should continue where it left off last year. Eli Manning is now widely considered elite. He had a spectacular year and has really come into his own. He is a top 5 NFL quarterback and the unquestioned star of the team. Last years numbers will be difficult to duplicate, but 62% passing, 4,400 yards and 30 touchdowns are doable.
At running back, Bradshaw has lost a step but is still very good and should be healthy for the first time in years. Wilson looks like an exciting playmaker. They made a wise choice in going with Scott and Brown instead of Ware as backups. They have more upside. Bradshaw will finish with 1,000 yards rushing at a 4.2 per carry clip, and Brown will finish with 600 yards.
The receivers are a team strength. Hakeem Nicks may be the best receiver this team has ever had. If he plays a full 16 games, and teams pa attention to some of the other good Giant receivers he can put up scary numbers. I’m predicting 85 catches and 1250 yards and a pro bowl this year. Across the field, Victor Cruz was last year’s breakout player. Its scary to think that if not for injuries to Hixon and Manningham he may never had the chance. He is now a bona fide star and he looked very good in pre-season. However, the ball clearly bounced his way last year and more attention will now be paid. Expect 75 catches and 1050 yards. Hixon was named the number 3 receiver. He is solid, but I would have loved to see Ramses Barden given the chance for this important / quasi starter role. He finally showed the talent we all knew he had in a few preseason games this year and that was without even using his extraordinary height advantage. This is his last year under contract. I’d like to see what he has. Rookie Ruben Randle flashed as well and will see some time. Jerrel Jernigan has his fans but I am not one of them. I think he is just too small to play this game at this level, and while he is fast, at his size you need unparrareled speed and he does not have that. This pick will prove to be a waste.
The offensive line is the teams weak spot. Expect the Giants to draft high here next year. Chris Snee is the only above average lineman and he is a bit past his prime.
On defense the strength of the team is the D-line, specifically the ends. Jason Pierre Paul (here on only referred to as JPP) is a beast with the potential to be the best lineman in the NFL and dear we say it, be remember in almost LT type of Giants lore by the time he is done. He will quickly surpass Strahan in stature. Side note- Congrats to Strahan on getting the talk show job with Kelly Ripa but he is a fake. I was in the box next to FOX’s at the Superbowl in Dallas and while his colleague Howie Long came over and was extremely nice, Strahan blew us off –wouldn’t even give us a hello. Having JPP in the lineup always makes it seem like the Giants have an advantage. No player can stop him one on one. As I write this, my assistant is out buying my JPP jersey that I will wear to tonight’s game and to every subsequent game for the duration of his 12 year Giant career. Justin Tuck and Umenyiora round out a premier threesome. Expect a now healthy Tuck to have a bounce back year. Adrian Tracey and preseason surprise Ojomo, round out an incredibly strong defensive end grouping. Ojomo and Tracey will be needed to step next year when Osi is gone. In a future blog I will explain how upsetting it was that the Giants gave in to the Osi blackmail and paid him more than they had to given his contract for this year. They should look at how the Jaguars stood their ground with MJD. Osi’s arguments were incredibly disingenuous. He is also a bit overrated as he cant play the run at all. At tackle Linval Joseph is very strong and Canty is solid and should be back for game 7. Rocky Bernard can hold down the fort until then. I’m excited to see what Marvin Austin will bring to this team when healthy. If it is what I expect, Canty will not be back next year.
The linebacking crew, which has been a weak point for a number of years, but last year’s rookie crew now has a training camp under their belt and are maturing very quickly. They will be with the team for years to come. Kiwi may be out of position but is one of my favorite Giants and has caught on to the opposition. Boley is the leader out there and Rivers was a nice signing. Although you have to wonder if the Giants knew Demarcus Ryan was available. He would have been a much better signing than Rivers. Middle linebacker is a weakness. The job is held down by the solid Chase Blackburn, until Mark Herzlich eventually steals his job.
In the secondary Webster is a notch below pro bowl and very solid. I had high hoped for a Terrel Thomas return from injury but that will not be happening this year. It’s doubtful he ever plays another down for them. Prince needs to step up, but replacing a cornerback who cant beat his wife in a foot race shouldn’t be too hard even if he is married to Olympic medal winner Sanya Richards. The safety's are solid and I’m excited to see Will Hill play. He flew all over the place in preseason. I predict next year the Giants will be rid of either Rolle or Phillips to get him into the starting lineup.
In summary, the Giants have a better roster this year than last year but will face a tougher schedule and will be unlikely to have the ball bounce in their direction down the stretch. They will be in the mix but will finish the season at 106 and will be forced to play a road playoff game. This time they will not overcome.
As for tonight, the Giants will get the season off to a good start by beating the Cowboys 24-20.
Ari has been an avid Giants fan since 1979. He attends many home games and has attended the Giants last 2 Superbowl victories. This blog will talk about anything related to the New York Giants. Ari also blogs about the New York Knicks, at http://www.ariglassknicksblog.com