Friday, November 25, 2011

N.Y. Giants ~ The Search For Daylight

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL:  Rushing Towards The Truth About The Giants' Running Game.

Last Post:  Haunting Loss Versus Eagles; No Exorcism For You.

Just in time for the Holidays, the New York Football Giants served up a Big Blue Giant turkey of a game last Sunday.  They got the stuffing knocked out of their running game as the Offensive Line played as soft as sweet potato pie.  Philly carved up our Linebackers and reduced the Giants pass rush to giblets.  Philly left town flying high like a Macy's Parade float while leaving Met-Life Stadium behind looking like a game-farm crime scene with trails of gravy on the field and smatterings of cranberry sauce all over the scoreboard.  By the end of Sunday night, all that nauseated Giant Fans had left to hold on to were both sides of the nearest porcelain toilet and the losing end of a wishbone.

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Everything starts up front.  And up front, everything starts with the Center.  The Offensive Line is clearly not of the caliber it was just a few years ago.  At some point, we knew the former record-setting line needed a renovation.  The Giants' struggles down the stretch over the last two seasons were partly attributable to injuries plaguing Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert.  Thus, Jerry Reese started the O-Line transformation this season.  The GM released both O'Hara and Seubert prior to the season and turned to free agent David Baas to replace O'Hara at center.  The book on Baas as a Giant is incomplete because he, like so many Giants, missed several games due to injury.  The position of Center has suffered as a result with the Giants having to plug in 2nd year-Jim Cordle and the capable Chris Snee when Baas was out.

At twenty-nine years old, Chris Snee is in his eighth season.  Of the starting unit, I'd say he's struggling the most.  Chris Snee was hampered by concussion symptoms earlier this season.  And by their own standards, the Giants two Guards, Chris Snee and David Diehl have been racking-up a bevy of very uncharacteristic penalties.  The versatile David Diehl was moved back to his old position of left Guard this season.  He is now in his ninth season at thirty years old, and remains a strong lineman on Eli's blind side.

The plan to move David Deihl back to left Guard was designed to give Will Beatty his chance at left Tackle next to Diehl.  But Beatty will now miss extensive time due to an eye injury that will require surgery.  Enter Kevin Boothe who is no stranger.  He is twenty-eight years old with six years in the league.  By now he should be experienced enough and is charged with picking up the slack on Eli's blind side.  But it's a situation I'd consider precarious at best heading into Monday night.  The right side Tackle; Kareem McKenzie; has always been a good, solid Tackle.  But he is now thirty-two years old and in his twelfth season.

That's the starting front line as of this posting.  And beware, the tide is going out on the Giants' Offensive Line depth.  Gone from the squad is Adam Koets.  Remember him?  He was released after having ACL surgery this season. He was being counted on this season.  But with Koets, goes veteran stability and more lost experience from the Giants last Super Bowl.  Now thrust into a starting role, Kevin Boothe depletes depth as well. That leaves the Giants with rookie-James Brewer; second year Jim Cordle; third year Mitch Petrus; and now in his ninth year, pick-up Stacey Andrews.

On the one hand, even though Eli is taking far more hits this season than he's accustomed to, the Giants passing game is still very fruitful.  They are actually having one of their best seasons passing the ball during this era.  And even though teams are now expecting Eli to throw the ball forty-five or more times a game, he just so happens to be having a career year doing it.  That doesn't happen without a certain degree of effective pass blocking and protection as teams are really starting to amp-up their pass rush against Eli knowing the Giants are struggling mightily running the ball.

As we know, run blocking is an entirely different story.  Collectively, the Offensive Line has not been able to get the running game surging forward.  Quite frankly, there is no forward surge from the O-Line at all.  Together, they couldn't push a sofa across a room right now.  And the loss to the Eagles needs to be called for what it embarrassment.  Because before we get to Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, all this must have been said first. 

For the first time in many, many seasons, the Giants are not averaging 100-yards per game.  And running anywhere between the Tackles has seemed damn near impossible.  Whether off-Center or off-Tackle, there have been no running lanes to speak of, or holes to run through.  It's uncomfortable to say, but Baas, Diehl, and Snee are having better luck opening refrigerator doors lately than they've had opening up cracks of daylight for Bradshaw, Jacobs, and Ware.  I don't really have an answer as to why, but part of any answer must credit O'Hara and Seubert for being that good when healthy.  And the fact that our Fullback situation is currently a borderline fail directly contributes to the Giants' poor rushing as well. 

The Giants running game, if anything, has had a measure of success running outside the Tackles, where Kareem McKenzie is still capable of sealing the end.  Will Beatty was somewhat less successful helping bounce plays outside to the left however.  But that role now falls on Kevin Boothe as mentioned above.

Welcome to what we all knew was the riskier side of resigning our own free-agent, Ahmad Bradshaw.  We've been in this situation with, and without him before.  There's no need getting into what we all know he can do when healthy.  Right now he's not.  Therein lies the second biggest reason for the Giants' floundering running game.  Mind you, while on the field he managed just one 100+ yard game this season.  And for the Giants, it stands as the only 100-yard performance of the season.

Now finally....Brandon Jacobs.  Do his words still bother you?  I said once before; ignore him.  He's horrible with the Media; more like adversarial with them.  And he's just not a good effective public speaker.  Some guys are like that.  But his team mates like him and he's never been insubordinate with Coach Coughlin.  And the fact he reworked his deal should not go under spoken either.

Of course you know I've said everything possible in support and defense of Brandon Jacobs.  But you need to know I'm not joined at the hip with him.  He's just not going anywhere this season, so we have to make this work some how.  If he's gone after the season; bye.  We need to move away from him anyway for more reasons than just the obvious.  I'll get to that in a sec...

We've established there is no where to run between the Tackles.  More importantly, the Offensive Line isn't generating any kind of forward surge off the snap, which historically allowed Brandon Jacobs to gain steam.  By the time Jacobs used to crash the line, the boys up front were three yards deeper beyond the line of scrimmage.  And that's when Jacobs used to hurt and intimidate Safeties.  These days, the front line is being stood up and pushed back.  Therefore making Jacobs look pretty damn bad.  He's not a speed back by any stretch.  But he's been effective this season getting outside Kareem McKenzie, and catching passes out of the backfield.  Yet, Coach Gilbride hasn't employed Jacobs that way.  Coach keeps sending him into the wall.  Let's not lose sight of this fact. - This time last season, Brandon Jacobs was thumping and bumping his way towards his highest yards per rush average in his career.  Obviously the Giants employ the two back attack.  But if you prorated Jacobs' limited playing time last season, he was still a 1000-yard back.

But Brandon Jacobs has not been without his injuries also.  For Bradshaw, his feet are killing him.  For Jacobs, his knees are the problem.  But they weren't an excuse for an under thirty yards rushing performance against the Eagles last week.  However everything else I said so

The once formidable Giants' game was predicated on a forward moving Offensive Line and two healthy backs each representing different styles that complimented each other very well.  Today, they seriously lack two of those elements, and are kind of fed-up and resigned to part with the other.  But as I maintain, even then, at least for the rest of the season, Brandon Jacobs has to be Coached/utilized a little more smartly.

In my lifetime at least, the Giants have historically been very successful utilizing smaller, stocky, low center of mass backs.  Joe Morris, Dave Meggett; Tiki Barber; and these days, Ahmad Bradshaw speaks to that.  Brandon Jacobs came on the scene like a freak.  And yeah, maybe the show is over for him.  His shelf life is definitely about to expire.  However I still maintain the Giants can use him with great effectiveness over the rest of this season.  Draws, screens, and swing passes, pitches, or whatever, will allow Jacobs to gain a few more yards on the ground.  Coach has to be creative and shake things up for Brandon.  But really..., something has got to give between the Tackle positions if we're to have any success without Bradshaw, and especially with the schedule we have ahead.

David Diehl, David Baas, and Chris Snee need to start pushing this team forward.

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The Giants' Soft White Under-Belly:  LINEBACKER

Losing Jonathan Goff changed the plan.  Having Michael Boley go down with an injury changes everything.  To put it mildly, the Giants are, and have been, woefully deficient at Linebacker.

The reason the Giants won Super Bowls XXI and XXV, among other reasons, were they had two Hall of Fame Linebackers in Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson.  And they had two more stand-out Linebackers; borderline HOF'er Carl Banks, and pit bull Pepper Johnson.

If you take a look at the 2007 Super Bowl team, they also had two superlative Linebackers.  Antonio Pierce had one of the best seasons of his career in 2007.  And Kawika Mitchell had one of the most under-rated, quietly great efforts who then Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo knew exactly how to get every ounce of effectiveness out of.  During the Super Bowl game itself, Mitchell had a brilliant game against Tom Brady.

Without Goff and Boley, the present day Giants are down to the Junior Varsity.  Mathias Kiwanuka must play Big Brother to rookie- Greg Jones; rookie-Jacquian Williams; rookie-Mark Herzlich; and rookie-Spencer Paysinger.  ...So you tell me.

Want to know what ails the Giants defense?  Look no further.  Our propensity to give up the big play whether be it on the ground or in the air, I believe stems from this dilemma.


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