From the desk of: DO IT FOR THE DUKE
NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL ~ At The Break:
Thank you Michael Strahan and Antonio Pierce. Their criticisms levelled against Justin Tuck and Brandon Jacobs have served to unify, not vilify. And by injecting their opinions into their former team-mates' injury matters, they've served to keep the meddling Media's attention away from pecking away at the team's deficiencies, and instead have them covering more trivial, inconsequential matters that have no bearing on the Giants condition or situation.
Whatever grievances Osi Umenyiora has with the organization, he's taking it out on Strahan, Pierce, and opposing quarterbacks. Strahan's and Pierce's comments have put Osi exactly right where we want him as Fans - and that's backing up his team-mates. When it comes to signing him beyond this season; never say never. But he's playing very good soldier with a big chip on his shoulder. That's a good thing. NFL QB's beware.
And that is the extent of controversy in the Land of Giants. That's also good thing.
I. TOM COUGHLIN and JERRY REESE:
When the Giants lost the first game of the season to Washington and were faced with potentially falling to 0-2 before heading to Philly for a showdown with the Eagles, the first two heads everyone called for were that of Jerry Reese and Coach Coughlin. One opening loss was followed by a week of media, as well as fans, allowing their imaginations to run wild with them and had Coughlin and Reese all but stooped over positioned under a Big Blue guillotine. Then a Week Two win over the Rams quieted down the more rabid knee-jerk Third Estate. A Week Three win in Philly made everyone else just shut-up. Even in the aftermath of that disgusting loss to Seattle, fire the Coach and GM talk did not resurface.
Say what you will - Tom the fossil Coughlin still runs a tight ship. His methods still prove effective right up to the present. All systems are different. All can work. It's how effective you are at implementing your system that determines one's success. Tom Coughlin's way has worked for him his entire career.
What if Tiki Barber; Amani Toomer; and Michael Strahan had all been lost to injury in the same season? And to start the same season, the Giants also lost Jeremy Shockey to free-agency? How do you think a Giants team of that era would have fared? Well, aided by players with lack of oral self-restrain and discipline the whole way down into the pits, the answer is poor enough to get Jim Fassell fired as Head Coach. By Fassell's last season, the team's record was abysmal and so was their attitude. Good thing for us is, these are not Jim Fassell's Giants nor are they Rex Ryan's Jets. Both examples face(d) a lot of adversity and chaos is over-whelming their day. Meanwhile here in Big Blue, these are Tom Coughlin's Giants and it's business as usual.
Fassell's units routinely bickered amongst each other and had no problem throwing their coaches under the bus. Those guys....under Fassell and initially under Coughlin, complained after games to the Media and bickered in a locker-room where it wasn't traditionally appropriate. Today we see D-Generation Rex and his flight crew laying down a consistent carpet bombing of idiocy. They've now welcomed in-fighting into their locker room with open arms aside from continually getting caught in Media triple-aaa flack. Jim Fassell's team tanked. And just like Fassell, Rex's team has a major problem on their hands right now. Yet Coach Coughlin's team is 4-2 and in 1st place of the NFC East. And ironically, the only ones doing any Big Blue yapping are former Giants who now work for the Media.
Coach Coughlin once resorted to introspective measures such as self-reflection and instituting a Leadership Counsel to better communicate his desires and soothe his relationship with the players. That Counsel was created because Coughlin's discipline and old school ways were a literal shock to Fassell's frat boys. Strahan don't forget, first came back to the Giants after Jerry Reese told him to beat it during his hold-out. Then after clashing with Coughlin, the Counsel come about. But Barber as well as Shockey routinely threw Coughlin under the bus also.
Tom Coughlin just re-instituted the Leadership Counsel again. But this time, it's not being done to give Animal House some structure. Which is my point.....Animal House does not exists here. Shockey, Strahan, and Barber, were all dealt with rather swiftly by Jerry Reese. Strahan was made to rethink his bravado and ultimately made to comply. It won him a Super Bowl. Tiki Barber? He was the first to run to the media after his starting job was handed to Brandon Jacobs. And Shockey was traded off for Goodness Sake, a draft pick, and a tackle dummy. Outside of Osi Umenyiora and his contract drama, the land of Giants is relatively quiet.
Among the team cancers Coach Coughlin noted upon taking over the Giants were penalties and injuries. Hinting that injuries were avoidable was ponderous. Fine. But in his introductory press conference, what or who Coach Coughlin probably wanted to single out were malingerers. Today, not only is the media throwing that in his face, the Giants penalty rate is indeed escalating like the National Debt again; particularly the Offensive Line; which for a stretch under Coughlin was the most disciplined O-Line in Football.
And today, the Giants are being ravaged by injuries to key players again. Brandon Jacobs (Tiki), Domenik Hixon (Toomer), Justin Tuck (Strahan) are losing time to injury. And to complete the parallel, Kevin Boss (Shockey) left as a free agent. Such a situation in the Fassell years would have been ruinous. And it was. Yet Coach Coughlin has managed his team through those injuries; and still even more to Amukamara; Snee; Osi; Baas; Goff; Sintim; and Terrell Thomas. And well, it's still business as usual.
All this directly speaks of Jerry Reese as well. The Giants last Super Bowl was largely won due to a tremendous Rookie class that stepped up for this team. They were drafted by a one - Jerry Reese. In spite all the injuries listed above - two major blows at linebacker; two major blows to the secondary; two YEARS of major blows at wide receiver; and continuing blows to the D-Line; - somehow Jerry Reese has still maintained to sustain a quality of depth that, were it not for some bad breaks and a bullet to the leg, have kept the Giants very competitive.
Speaking of bullets, wide receiver after wide receiver has continually stepped in to fill a void left behind by the "latest recurring" injured receiver. And right before our eyes, Hakeem Nicks is becoming a League Star. Mario Manningham is steadily improving. And whether your heart can take it or not, where would we be without Victor Cruz right now? By the way, Steven Smith is doing nothing in Philly and Plaxico Buress is doing nothing to speak of for the Jets as well. Weeks Four and Five had Giants Fans asking - Kevin Boss who? - after a handful of catches by Jake Ballard.
And while I'm at it, where would the Giants Defense be without Jason Pierre Paul this season!? Or where would the linebacking be without Mathias Kiwanuka? Jerry Reese tried addressing Linebacker. But Goff and Sintim were injured and lost for the season leaving Michael Boley and Kiwanuka.
This season also ushered in renovations to the Offensive Line. We all knew it was needed and just a matter of time before Jerry Reese was forced to address the matter. Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert were great Giant Linemen. However they remain unemployed/ineffective like the other Giant cast-offs.
So if you were one of those who were calling for the heads of Coach Coughlin and Jerry Reese earlier this season, now's the time for you to bow your head in shame.
II. COACH KEVIN GILBRIDE:
If there is anyone who stands to get fired, Kevin Gilbride should be first before Coach Coughlin or Jerry Reese are even brought into the conversation. Having said that, I don't want him fired...just yet. Predictability, or lack of creativity if you will, his lack of willingness to stick with the running game, and his pass happy ways are all the most popular criticisms held against him. Then we can talk about an inability to convert on third downs and turnovers.
After last season's disappointing end, Coach Coughlin made it known he wanted the ball in Brandon Jacob's hands more often. And quite frankly, the whole implementation of the running game needed to be re-examined.
This season, there is a slight, but noticeable change. Coach Gilbride has taken a step in the right direction, but he still has a long way to go before he masters patience with the running game. Brandon Jacobs' recent knee injury has altered the plan somewhat. But the fact Ahmad Bradshaw rushed twenty-six times last Sunday versus Buffalo was a very welcome practice in patience indeed. Many times he and Jacobs barely rush twenty times combined.
As long as anyone is willing to lay equal blame on Kevin Gilbride for interceptions, I'm amicable to hammering Eli as well. No Gilbride, and I will staunchly have to defend Eli for many an interception. Both Eli and Coach have done well to limit interceptions this season versus last year's abysmal rate.
Coach Gilbride has actually dialed up some nice lengthy, varied drives this season in big moments. He mustered enough trust to call Ballard's name recently and has been giving the running game a chance to establish itself, giving play-action a new life. Piggy-backing the running game for a change, and not the other way around, Eli has managed to put up some impressive numbers ranking him among the League leaders.
Moving forward, if Coach Gilbride maintains patience in the running game, I like our ability to move the ball and score points. Sometimes we score those points too quickly. So Coach needs to work on his clock management as well.
1) - OFFENSIVE LINE - This unit is in flux and not all too healthy. First off, Chris Snee passed his first round of concussion tests. Snee, David Baas and Kevin Boothe will all benefit from having a bye-week to recover from their injuries. If they can get healthy and play together, it can only improve our situation. This is no longer the O-Line that set an NFL record for consecutive starts together. So, there is a lot to be said for familiarity when it comes to Linemen.
Eli is getting sacked a lot more often than he is used to. Several Giant fumbles this season have occurred when the pocket collapsed and Eli was stripped of the ball. Obviously, better pass protection is needed.
A once very disciplined unit, the O-Line has really been killing themselves with penalties. That, and the fact they haven't exactly been opening up many holes to run through this season means this unit has a lot of work to do if the Giants want to be contenders in December. Everything starts up front.
Struggles like this happen with change. It's a period of adjustment. They'll need to adapt and improve together by the time the Giants start facing stiffer competition later in the schedule which means they need to be healthy together.
David Diehl, Kareem McKenzie, and Will Beatty have had solid seasons so far. But problems occurred at the Center position with Baas, Jim Cordle, and Snee which only a return to health will resolve.
1.A) - TIGHT END - Jake Ballard blew his assignment that resulted in a Safety in Week Five versus Seattle. And for someone who was credited with being a good blocker, in my opinion he hasn't blocked very well overall. However on the receiving end of things, Eli may have found himself a new Tight End to bail him out of trouble like Kevin Boss used to. Ballard has shown good hands stamping a decent three week period. And for Giant Fans, he's been a surprising and effective alternative from Travis Beckum. Perhaps a few poor blocks and a couple of bad penalties called against him were just fluke occurrences. Maybe his blocking is as good as advertised. He's shown he can catch. We just may have something here.
2) - RUNNING BACKS - Big Buddy and Little Buddy aren't running on all cylinders. At least Jacobs' isn't. And he said he won't either! Meaning, he will not play through this knee injury...(again). And you know what? Who can blame him? The Giants have done nothing but dump on this guy and worse, they have and still misuse him; - latest injury aside. I still feel he can and will be a positive and necessary factor come December. The Two weeks off will do him well.
Ahmad Bradshaw finally broke through to give the Giants their first 100-yard/game rusher of the season last week against Buffalo. Unlike Jacobs, Ahamad Bradshaw seems to have shaken off any ill-effects from last season's nagging injuries. Last game, Coach Gilbride rode him like a mule (..for Coach that is) to the tune of 26-carries.
Coach Gilbride should be incorporating more Draw Plays; Swings, and Screens into the backfield's repertoire. It's not that Smash-Mouth has been quieted. I just feel Fullback Henry Hynoski hasn't been as effective as fullbacks before him have. That, the O-Line being in flux, and trying to incorporate a new TE, I think are the three biggest reasons why the running game has apparently come to a grinding halt at times.
I just beg for patience on Coach's part. Even though the run was slow to develop last Sunday, it still proved safe, effective, and opened up Eli's game.
3) - WIDE RECEIVERS - As I said before, Hakeem Nicks is becoming a star receiver in the NFL. Mario Manningham found his way as Eli's slot receiver before suffering a setback due to concussion symptoms. He's back now and looking to continue improving and re-establishing a connection with Eli again. And Victor Cruz? The man is either a miracle maker or a complete disaster waiting to happen. Tipped balls have gone his way and tipped balls have gone against him. He's suffered brain cramps on the field and has fumbled. And yet, most Fans are only talking about the good...so far. But the man really does need to find the middle ground between two extremes.
Domenick Hixon was a big loss, which for the moment Cruz has filled in effectively for. Ramses Barden's name has recently been named. His situation remains undetermined. The only way rookie Jerrel Jernigan will improve is with playing time. He just may get more in the upcoming weeks.
Michael Clayton? Stop it. Which leaves the non-signees; - Plaxico Buress and Steven Smith. One is doing Gats' and the other one is doin' Gul' for their respective teams. The best move as it turns out, was not to sign them.
The three Giant receivers on the field have given the Giants a proven deep and quick strike ability. Much of their success will come however through the O-Line's ability to keep Eli upright, and Eli continuing to make the wise pass. And of course, that requires Coach Gilbride to dial up the right call for the situation, and ensuring he's attacking defensive weaknesses.
It's all tied in people.
4) - QUARTERBACK - Eli is unequivocally "My Dude" - and always has been. If a segment of my fellow Giant Fans does not like him and wants him replaced, all I ask is... - With Whom? With someone available? Another team's QB? A yet undrafted QB from college? A grocery store bagger? Who is the unknown QB you speak of? Until then, Eli hasn't necessarily been the root of our seasons past gone sour. There's a game or two we can point to; like anyone else.
Eli was suffering happy feet earlier in the season, and understandably so. He was getting sacked more then ever. Even though he's getting sacked just as often, it seems he's standing in the pocket with a lot of poise the last four games.
Many of Eli's interceptions last season came as a result of high throws and tipped passes. Thus far, the passes are coming in lower and the interception rate has plummeted. Although there was that one interception against the Seahawks that was a can of corn and strictly on Eli. In addition, Coach Gilbride often passed unnecessarily during secure 4th quarter situations last season that merely required ball control through the run. Instead, Coach dialed up many unnecessary passing that resulted in INT's and opportunities the other way. And it is in that area, that Gilbride is yet to prove he's learned his lesson as the Giants have been playing catch-up Football lately.
III. COACH PERRY FEWELL:
Coach Fewell is proving adept at damage control. The Defense is almost Bend-Don't-Break but with a lethal pass rush. As such, Coach Perry Fewell is also proving very adept at saving Coach Gilbride's and the Offense's posteriors. Almost every Giant turnover has been committed in the worst parts of the field. But the Defense has held many times to keep the opposition at a field goal, or better yet, caused a turnover.
But make no mistake, be it through the air or by ground, the Defense has been victimized by the big play on a weekly basis. The Defense is not in sync. When the Secondary does well, the Linebacking struggles. When the Linebackers have a successful day, the Secondary struggles. The only constant has been the Defensive front and the pressure they get on the QB. Their pressure has been constant, and is largely responsible for keeping the Giants close late in games with timely sacks.
Perry Fewell's success is largely based on his timeliness this season. I think he's dialed up some very timely and effective blitzes this year that were game changers. But overall, there have been major communication issues that have resulted in big plays against us. He needs that corrected. But although the stats may not agree, I think Coach Fewell has put in some crafty work in as Def. Coordinator this season with all things considered, to include of course, the injuries that have taken a toll mostly on this side of the ball.
1) - DEFENSIVE LINE - What team wouldn't love to have just one of Jason Pierre Paul; Osi Umenyiora; or Justin Tuck; much less having all three. This is the unqualified spear-head of the Giants defensive attack. Want to know why we're really so thin at Linebacker? His name is Jason Pierre Paul. Depth at D-Line and pass rushing ability has served us well. And for at least the rest of this season, we have a depth at this position unrivaled by any team in the League.
Osi, quite simply has been a beast since returning from his surgery. And JPP has emerged as another dominant force unleashed upon the League by the Giants. But Justin Tuck remains questionable with his neck injury. Dave Tollefson and Rocky Bernard have served their roles very well.
The Line isn't just getting to the QB with regularity. They are coming up with sacks and strips at most critical times. But their ability to mount a pass rush on their own without sending in extra players is an asset the Secondary hasn't allowed Coach Fewell to fully taken advantage of yet.
2) - LINEBACKERS - Youngsters need to be led by the hand - just not in the NFL. Welcome to the front lines rookie; i.e.; Jacquian Williams and Greg Jones. That's what happens when you lose Clint Sintim and Jonathan Goff for the season. Michael Boley has had ups and downs, but gets a favorable grade.
But were not for Mr. Hybrid; Mathias Kiwanuka; how bad would this unit really be? He along with JPP and Osi have carried the Giants Defense and have gotten the Offense off the hook many times so far.
There is no hiding the fact however, the middle of our Defense is spacious. It's becoming a weekly affair where rushers go for one-hundred yards plus on the ground with the Defense often giving up lengthy gallops in the process.
Perry Fewell's blitzes have mainly come from the Safeties off the outside because the truth is, we're not effective coming through the gaps. That's a tremendous knock against the Linebacking unit. But if Coach Fewell dips into his Safety scheme too often because it's already becoming too recognizable, we are sure to get burned.
3) - SECONDARY - The Corners and Safeties are suffering a major lack of communication and I want to know what Corners Coach Peter Giunta and Safety Coach David Merritt are doing about it. Because the huge plays; the huge breakdowns in coverage; the huge lack of communication at times; are becoming routine now.
On the bright side, Aaron Ross and Corey Webster both have multi-INT games each now.
Deon Grant and Antrell Rolle have been disruptive in the backfield and have played the run fairly well. But they keep losing that darned slot-receiver. Slot receiver today; Tight End tomorrow. You get my drift.
Kenny Phillips is nursing sore ribs and like the others will benefit from the bye week. And the Giants are one week closer to the return on Prince Amukamara.
IV. SPECIAL TEAMS:
All I want to say is Steve Weatherford is having a damn good season punting the pigskin.