Tag Archives: Giants

The Giants Running Game

A question I’ve heard a lot from non-Giants fans this week is whether the running game can see similar production for the remainder of the season.

To be honest I barely gave the running game a second thought, even though Ahmad Bradshaw just ran for a career-high 200 yards against the Browns this week.

The running game has been SO bad the past season and a half, that one game isn’t going to do it for me, especially when it came against the Browns. Next week the Giants are going to have no running room against the 49ers, and people are going to stop caring about the running attack of Big Blue.

That would be silly as well. There are some reasons to believe that the Giants running game can at least be a formidable attack from this point further.

For starters, Will Beatty has looked outstanding ever since being reinserted into the lineup this season. I have no idea what happened, but he looks like the left tackle we were expecting to get when the Giants took him in the second round a couple seasons ago.

His emergence helps solidify the left side of the line with Kevin Boothe, a player that is a little underrated in my opinion.

Another change is the plan of attack for the running backs. Andre Brown was able to have success when he got carries by following his blocks and running where the play was designed to. The same cannot be said for Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs last year.

This was probably due to the poor blocking they had in front of them, but both would dance around, or be quick to bounce the play outside in a desperate attempt to find running room. This caused confusion amongst the lineman, and they had trouble knowing where to block, which made it harder for them to hold the blocks.

Perhaps Beatty has helped solidify the line. The new running style has made it easier for the lineman to know their assignments, and that will allow Bradshaw, Brown, or whoever else is running to have confidence there will be a hole if they follow the play. That would be awesome.

Unfortunately I haven’t bought in yet. Even worse, we probably won’t know anything new based on this weekend. Still, it is worth keeping an eye on moving forward. If the running game really has emerged this offense could be a top 3 unit in the league.

Tom Coughlin’s Final Days

I don’t plan on this being an indictment of Coughlin as a head coach, but rather an argument that his time as head coach for the Giants has come to an end.

In professional sports, unless the man is brilliant at X’s and O’s (and even then there is no guarantee) his time as head coach is limited. You can’t shout the same things over and over again and expect to get the same response from your players. I do believe the Giants respect Coughlin, but I don’t believe he can adequately motivate them anymore.

There are two games that come to mind when making this point. The Eagles game against Vince Young, and, more recently, the match against the Redskins. In both cases the Giants had a winnable game on their hands, but failed to capitalize. This wasn’t an issue of talent, but an issue of motivation. In both games, it seemed like the Giants opponents were playing harder than the Giants.

On top of his lost voice in the locker room, Coughlin has shown an inability to pick adequate NFL coordinators. On offense he handpicked John Hufnagel. Hufnagel was never thought of fondly by fans or media covering the Giants, and, after the 2006 season, the Giants forced Coughlin to fire him. Since then, Hufnagel has failed to find a job in the NFL and now coaches in the CFL.

Coughlin replaced Hufnagel with current offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride (a man more commonly referred to as Killdrive). Gilbride is not nearly as bad as Hufnagel was, and if he was fired I’m sure he’d find another job in the NFL, but he is not a great fit as offensive coordinator for the Giants. His expertise as a coordinator is in the “run and gun” offense, an offense that is not a match for what many consider to be “Giant Football” (the whole ball control, pound the rock type offense).  This probably explains why Gilbride has a tough time getting the offense into a rhythm. Having him call plays just seems to be like fitting a square peg in a round hole. He doesn’t have a feel for the run game and it either causes him to stubbornly run with no success causing 3rd and long situations, or to neglect Eli and fail to get him into a rhythm (this was seen much more early on for Eli. More recently, it has been easier for Eli to get into a rhythm). His best season as coordinator came in 2008 when the offensively line was so strong they were able to run no matter what the defensive set was. (Honestly check the tapes. There weren’t complex schemes, just an offense that could run it down its opponent’s throat. No one could stop it.)

To add to those problems Gilbride tends to run a more complicated offense than is truly necessary. Receiver routes rely heavily on options. Basically, on any given play a receiver isn’t told to run a slant, or a deep post. Instead they are told multiple different routes and to adjust based on coverages. This leads to the receivers and Eli expecting different things. (This season the big culprit has been Manningham…last season it seemed to be everybody). The most frustrating part about this is Gilbride’s insistence on running the same plays with so many young receivers the last few years. Instead of adjusting his offense to make it easier for the younger guys to pick it up, Gilbride ran the same system, and the Giants turned the ball over a ridiculously high amount of times.

Gilbride is not a terrible offensive coordinator, but his inability to adjust to his team has hurt his time with the Giants.

As for defense, Tim Lewis, Bill Sheridan and Perry Fewell were big mistakes.

Let’s start with Lewis. Since Lewis’ time with the Giants he has held the role of secondary/defensive backs coach with three different teams. He hasn’t lasted more than two years in any place. He was a good defensive coordinator early on with the Steelers, but for some reason reverted to a more conservative defense and was then fired by the Steelers (the only defensive coordinator Cowher fired in his 15-year tenure). With the Giants he resembled the conservative coach that was fired, rather than the aggressive one Cowher originally hired.

I’m not gonna waste my time talking about Sheridan…he was that bad.

Now for current defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Like Lewis he started out aggressively, and has become more conservative. He has blamed this new approach on lack of playmakers, but that seems ridiculous. First off, the Giants have plenty of playmakers. Secondly, the defense has performed astronomically better when they have brought pressure. The best performance they had by far was against the Eagles week 3. Remember that game? The one where Vick basically cried after the game because the Giants hit him so many times? How can our secondary hold up so well against that explosive offense, but we couldn’t afford to blitz Alex Smith and the 49ers. Perry Fewell is a serviceable defensive coordinator, but he is in no way anything special. His best attempt at getting creative led to a lopsided loss to the Colts a season ago. (Remember that game? No defensive tackles, just ends playing all four spots. More corners than linebackers. It took Caldwell Peyton all of 3 seconds to realize if he ran the ball they would win).

The only good hiring Coughlin made was Steve Spagnoulo. The thing is, Coughlin seems to be more concerned with hiring someone he is friendly with, then someone who is legitimately good at his job. In addition, he only fires them if management forces him to.

I like Coughlin, and I’m not entirely happy saying he should be fired, but this team is in need of a makeover. With the potential for a third straight collapse, no seems to be the perfect time to switch things up.

Ramblings of an Angry Giants Fan

I’m shocked, and yet, with everything that has happened this season, I should have expected this. Plainly speaking, the Giants are an average team. They are a .500  team now (7-7, essentially the definition of average in sports) and that screams inconsistency. One week they can beat the mighty Patriots, and another they can lose to Rex Grossman and the abysmal Redskins. (To illustrate how bad the Redskins have been this season: they are easily the worst team in the NFC East…a division that could realistically send an 8-8 team to the playoffs. Ouch)

To be fair, though, calling them inconsistent might be misleading. Inconsistent gives the impression that they are a talented team. Talent should not describe a team that has replaced its defense with a revolving door (I almost wish they did this…could it really be any worse?) With Tuck injured and Kiwanuka playing linebacker (WTF?!?!?!?!?!?! – yes…all those question marks and exclamation marks were needed. Trust me) JPP is the only pass rusher we have. Without a consistent pass rush, and a coordinator who refuses to send any blitz at any point in the game no matter what, quarterbacks are able to just sit back and pick the defense apart.With no defense every game is put on the shoulders of the offense.

Oh the offense. That unit we are depending so desperately on is a unit that ranks dead last in every rush category imaginable. Crazy. So really, the only working part of this team is the passing game. Eli has become a top 5 QB in this league, and has kept this team in playoff contention, but that is exactly why this team is .500. You can’t rely on one aspect of the game (no matter how awesome it has been) and expect to make the playoffs or be considered a GOOD team.

I know. That is a hard pill to swallow. This is the same team that was a top 5 team in terms of talent last season. How did we fall this far? Well first off, we lost a good deal of players from that team. Steve Smith, Kevin Boss, Shaun O’Hara, Adam Koets (super cereal about this), Rich Seubert, Jonathan Goff, Barry Cofield, Justin Tuck (really might as well be on IR), and Terrell Thomas. That is a lot of talent to lose. Not only were all of those guys starters, but all of those guys were great locker room guys too. Then you factor in Perry Fewell’s disastrous season as defensive coordinator, and a team with the maturity level of a 5-year-old (2-year-old….new born?!?) and you get this abomination we call the 2011 season.

I should be more specific about those last two points. Let’s start with Fewell. When he said he couldn’t blitz because he didn’t trust his guys in coverage he lost me. I was ready to fire him then. Are you kidding me Fewell? It is not like you were given the Colts roster. Kenny Phillips, Corey Webster, Antrel Rolle, Michael Boley, JPP, Osi Umenyiora, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, hell even Aaron Ross. Those are good players. Any decent coordinator would be able to work with that. The reason they struggle in coverage is because you have made things too complicated for them. This team is not good at thinking reacting. They like to attack. Look at Sheridan, look at Tim Lewis…then look at Spags. What was the difference? Spags attacked. This team has never been good at zone, they excel in man coverage and blitzing. They love being physical. PLAY TO THEIR STRENGTHS! I just don’t understand how he can expect to win by giving players like Grossman and Vince Young all day to throw. Any QB in this league will tear you apart if you give them time. Make these guys uncomfortable and when the game is on the line in the fourth, they will be too jittery to put together a drive.

This brings me to a quick side note. I like Tom Coughlin. I think he is a good head coach, but he clearly is done as the head coach of the Giants. The big reason I believe in that, is his ineptitude at picking coordinators. Outside of Spagnoulo, he has not hired a single good coordinator. What other Giant coordinator has gotten a second job. Sheridan? Lewis? John Haufnagel? (remember him). I’ll talk more about this in a later post.

Now to the second point. Maturity. God this team is immature. What was the shirt Coughlin had them all wearing? Talk is Cheap? Do his players know what that means. All they do is talk. They say how upset they are, how fired up they are, but when it comes time for the game they don’t show up. Then there was Jacobs deciding he doesn’t get enough carries, and Antrel Rolle and his radio station. What was that line this week? Throw to me? Well they did, and you got burned. Shut up and play the game.

The Giants still have a chance to make the playoffs. Unfortunately that has more to do with the poor performance of their division than it does with anything they’ve done. Yes, I hope they make the playoffs. And of course I would love a playoff run, but that doesn’t change the fact that come the offseason this team needs to have some big changes.

Emerging Talent

The popular belief amongst many fans is that a team’s improvement relies heavily on the draft and free agency. That is true to a certain extent, but what is more important is the development of the players already on the roster.

Players in their rookie years rarely make big impacts on the season. Instead, players say, their third year in the league is the year they turn into the consistent and productive players that teams rely on. The players on the Giants entering their third years are: Hakeem Nicks, Clint Sintim, William Beatty, Ramses Barden, and Travis Beckum. If those players take the necessary step, the Giants will be a much improved team.

Hakeem Nicks has, not so quietly, been evolving into a great player. Many experts expect him to be amongst the top receivers in the league soon. He was explosive last season posting 79 receptions for 1,052 yards, and 11 touchdowns. With Smith likely missing the start of the season, it is imperative that Nicks take the next step, and be a consistent and reliable producer for Eli and the offense.

Clint Sintim is a player with tons of potential. A player many believed the Giants would take in the first round, unexpectedly slipped to the second, where the Giants were able to pick him up with the first of their two second round picks. He was an OLB in a 3-4 in college and has had trouble adjusting to the Giants system. The coaching staff still has tons of faith in him, and the hope is he can figure it out in his third season. If Sintim can win the starting spot, he gives the Giants another pass rushing option, and another player with long arms to disrupt the passing lanes.

William Beatty was another player that could have been taken in the second round, but, in a class with a ton of talent at tackle, fell to the second round. He has quick feet that should help him against speed rushers, but his technique needed some refining, and he needed to bulk up. With Diehl moved to guard, it looks like Beatty will be taking over at left tackle. If Beatty can come in and play up to his potential, he should solidify an offensive line that is in flux. Beatty is easily the biggest question mark on that line, and if he can play well he can turn that question mark into a big stregnth.

Ramses Barden has been dubbed as a replacement for Plaxico Burress. Gifted with the height of a small giant, (no pun intended) Barden has been targeted as the Giants’ big redzone target. He was injured last season, when injuries to Smith and Nicks gave him an opportunity to show off his potential, but if he can come on strong and win the third receiver spot while Smith is gone, all will be forgiven. He came from a small program in college, and so the learning curve was expected to be steep, but this is his third season and he has tons of talent. If he can have a big training camp, the Giants have a lot to look forward to.

Travis Beckum has become increasingly more important today. After the news that Kevin Boss has signed with the Raiders, Beckum has become the starter for Big Blue. There is still the chance that the Giants opt to start Ben Patrick, as they prefer their tight ends to be blockers over receivers, but if Beckum continues to impress in camp, he could hold down the starting spot this season. Drafted to be an H-Back for the Giants, Beckum has yet to really contribute. The sad part about this, is every time he does see the field, he seems to make a great catch. The only reasons I could fathom as to why he has not seen the field more is his poor blocking, or perhaps a lack of knowledge of the offense. In his third season, he better have a good grasp of the offense, and for the blocking, all reports from camp indicate he has improved drastically. In college he was used almost exclusively as a receiver, so the learning curve was to be expected. Don’t forget, Boss was terrible at blocking in his first season starting. Smith and Boss were the big targets over the middle for Manning. With both likely out (at least for the first couple weeks for Smith), it would be a huge boost if Beckum could win the starting spot.

There are other, non-third year, players that could play important roles on this team based on their development, but these guys are, perhaps, the most important.

The biggest question marks going into this season are on the offensive line, the linebacking corp, and, with the loss of Boss, the tight ends. If Beatty can hold his own, the offensive line should be a strength for the Giants. If Sintim can reach his potential, the Giants will be able to pair him with last year’s starters, Jonathan Goff and Michael Boley, to form a pretty solid unit. And if Beckum keeps turning heads like he has been doing in camp so far, the Giants should not have many problems with their tight ends. Also, the development of the Barden and Nicks could help ease the transition without Boss and Smith.

While a big free agent signing would be fun, the Giants have new, talented starters in place already.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

It would be easy to jump on the Giants for failing to make a splashy move while their close rivals scoop up every free agent on the market, but it wouldn’t be smart.

First off, it is very rare that a team goes on this kind of offseason splurge and wins a championship. The only times I can remember a team bringing in this many big names in one offseason, and it working out well, were the 2004 Eagles and the 2007 Patriots. Both teams did very well, but failed to win the SuperBowl that year, or any year after it for that matter. Most teams, however,  end up the way the Redskin, Cowboys and Raiders have with these attempts. (perhaps another indication of a supposed sports god?) Usually there is a combination of overconfidence, poor chemistry on the field, and sometimes a divided locker room. This season, those issues seem to be exacerbated with such little time to prepare before the start of the season. Think back to all the interviews during the lockout. All players, coaches, and people in the media kept saying, is the teams with the least amount of changes are set up the best to do well this season.

On the other hand the Giants have tried their best to re-sign their own players, and make a few small depth moves in the process. While none of these moves can be considered “splashy,” they each helped the Giants inch closer to their goal of a SuperBowl title.

Releasing Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert, and Shawn Andrews was a tough blow for the veterans on the team. O’Hara and Seubert have long been stalwarts on the offensive line and in the locker room. Their injuries and age, however, made it impossible for the Giants to keep them. In comes David Baas and Stacy Andrews. Neither one of those players have made a Pro Bowl yet, but both are more than adequate to fill their designated roles. Baas instantly upgrades the offensive line, as O’Hara, Seubert and Adam Koets (the three players who took snaps at center last season) all were coming into training camp with lingering injury problems. Baas will not only be a healthy option for the Giants, but he is coming off a pretty successful season for the 49ers. In his first season at center Baas had some growing pains, but ultimately was viewed as one of the top 10 players at his position. He was a player the 49ers were hoping to get back, and a player that will hopefully improve and play well for the Giants. Stacy Andrews has not had as big of an impact with his former teams, but is still a reliable offensive tackle in this league, and offers a nice security blanket for a team going into the season with an unproven starter (Will Beatty) and an aging veteran (Kareem McKenzie).

Other notable transactions include the signings of tight end Ben Patrick, defensive tackle Gabe Watson, quarterback David Carr, punter Steve Weatherford, and running back Andre Brown.

In my opinion, Patrick could be one of the more underrated signings of the offseason. I have been high on this guy for a while now, as I hoped the Giant would draft him when he originally entered the league. He has been used mostly as a blocker for Arizona, but Coughlin raved about his hands in his workout. He has a big body and has proven he can block in this league, something no Giants starter outside (including?) Boss has proven, and he is a better receiver than most realize. With the loss of Boss to the Raiders, it seems the Giants are going to have to rely on him as their primary tight end, unless Beckum shows he can handle the role in camp.

Watson is another “high reward” type player. While I’m not as high on him as I am Patrick, I was also in favor of drafting him when he came out. The guy was a great college player with a quick burst, and strong body. Problem is he hasn’t really shown it in his limited action in the NFL. The big concern about him coming out of college was his work ethic. It was enough of a concern that he fell to the fourth round despite having first round talent. There are a few reasons why this signing could work out for the Giants. First off, he played the nose tackle position for the Cardinals in their 3-4 set. As Warren Sapp can attest to, this is not a fun position for penetrating tackles. Perhaps a return to a 4-3 defense can help him find his footing again. Secondly, this guy is on a one year minimum salary deal. Money has a funny way of motivating people and if Watson ever wants to see a big payday he better start playing well. (admittedly he should have realized this when he dropped to the fourth round. Second times the charm?)

Carr does not have high upside, but he played very nicely as the Giants back-up. Nicely enough that the 49ers thought he might have the potential to be a starting quarterback again. (that was until he actually showed up in camp) With Sage Rosenfels and Carr on the roster heading into training camp, you can rest assured that the Giants will have at least a serviceable back-up if anything were to happen to Manning. (KNOCK ON WOOD!)

Last season the Giants’ two biggest concerns were their turnovers and special teams. Matt Dodge has a lot of talent, but struggled his rookie year. The Giants could have pinned their hopes to him again this season, but realized the importance of the position and made a move to ensure steadier production. In comes Steve Weatherford, a punter who had a very successful season and a guy who won’t smack line drives when we desperately need the field position. An under the radar signing sure, but an important one nonetheless.

Finally, there is Brown. Like Carr, Brown is a player who has worn royal blue before, as he was originally drafted by the Giants in the 4th round. He was quick and a good receiver out of the backfield, what seemed like a nice replacement for Ward. Unfortunately, he ruptured his Achilles tendon and was released the following season. He bounced around quite a bit, but now he is back. If he can prove he is healthy, he might be able to fulfill the promise he showed giving the Giants a nice security blanket in case of an injury to Jacobs or Bradshaw. Or we can flashback to 2008 and try another three-headed monster. (would that make Brown wind?)

None of these moves are real splashy, but they help to bring depth and stability to an already stacked roster. If the Giants can re-sign their remaining free agent (Steve Smith) the Giants should be in good position to make the playoffs, even though the Eagles are in their division.

Honestly the most important thing for the Giants is going to be the maturation of their young talented players. I’ll touch on that in another post sometime soon.