Tag:Steve Smith
Posted on: August 30, 2009 8:18 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2009 8:49 pm
 

In the Nicks of Time

With Sure-Handedness an anomaly for Receivers, Hakeem is a Dream that must become reality.



Call it "garbage time" if you wish. Explain it away as just being another pre-season 4th Quarter where the darkest and deepest corners of the depth chart are fighhting for their rightful place on the Giants practice squad. Take it for whatever you think it's worth, but as a Giants fan I saw something in a receiver that has been sorely lacking since Glendale in February of 2008; confident hands.

Hakeem Nicks hadn't shown much leading up to the 3rd quarter of last night's annual exhibition against the New York Jets, hauling in just two catches in the first two games. But two touchdowns and 144 yards later, Nicks is finally comfortable with his role and with his new team. "I feel like I know what I'm doing out there" he was quoted as saying in a postgame interview.

OK, so it was primarily David Carr - and not Eli Manning - throwing the ball to Nicks, and it wasn't as if he was being covered by the amazing Darrelle Revis or even the savvy-yet-suddenly-sloppy veteran Lito Sheppard (who was pulling at Mario Manningham's jersey like a 13-year old girl would claw at one of the Jonas brothers Marc Ecko sew fly shirts). But when the game was on the line - and for Nicks, this was his moment to show what he could do - he made the big grabs and showed the superior route running ability and quickness that Jerry Reese drafted him for.

In the first quarter, Nicks had made an impressive 15-yard grab off a pass from Manning as he broke back towards the sideline and gained the inside edge on Sheppard - falling to his knees and scooping up the low pass just as it was designed. His first TD was a corner route to the back of the end zone where he curled around behind CB Drew Coleman and twisted his torso to the right as the pass came down - perfectly positioning himself on what was basically a desparation play by Carr who was about to get hammered in the pocket. On the 71-yard TD pass, Nicks was simply the benificiary of a blown coverage scheme as he was streaking down the right side - there wasn't a single white jersey in sight, and it was beautiful.

What - you may be asking yourself - is so beautiful about an easy touchdown catch that any legitimate NFL pro should be able to make?
It was as beautiful as Steve Smith's dropped pass was ugly.
It was as beautiful as Domenik Hixon's mishandling of an Eli pass (resulting in a David Harris interception) was disappointing. 

The Smith drop was a tide shifter that would have put the Giants up by two touchdowns in the first quarter. After going up 7-0, the Giants defense stuffed NY(A) for three-and-out. On the first play of their ensuing drive, a perfectly thrown 60-yard heat seeker by Manning landed right in the cradle of a wide-open Smith - who had five steps on the nearest defender, The ball had 'touchdown' written all over it. In... and out. In and out. 14-0 suddenly became 7-7 less than four minutes later. The first thing I thought of was the eerily similar drop by Hixon against the Eagles last year - same situation, same result. It's what I call an "inflation transfusion" from one team's balloon to the other's.

Hixon's was much less egregious, a bullet over the middle that was a bit off target (Manning has yet to learn he needs to take a little something off those to avoid breaking his receiver's fingers). Hixon, however had both hands on the ball. You know what they say, and it's true - if you have your hands on it, you have to catch it. Hixon did not, and it popped off his hands and straight into the air resulting in a turnover that led to the Jets first score of the game. 

If Smith and Hixon - the team's starters - can't make those catches in a preseason game, what will they do when it really counts?

Steve Smith said in a post game interview, "Perfect pass, right in the bread basket. I'm just glad it was a preseason game."

I'm not. And I'm pretty sure Tom Coughlin's not.

Maybe it's time to start planning Hakeem Nicks' "gradual transition" into the starting unit sooner, rather than later. 



Quotes source: RSS Feed (Dan Graziano) 

Posted on: January 23, 2009 11:14 am
Edited on: January 23, 2009 11:33 am
 

Doomed? Dead Piano Players & Giant Receivers

One's at a piano and the other's on a sideline, but both seats may be cursed.

 Plaxico   Mydland (bottom left)

When the Grateful Dead formed back in 1965 (under the name "The Warlocks") their keyboardist and blues singer extraordinaire was Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan. Pig Pen was the only member of the group that shunned drugs and hallucinogenics, but oddly enough was the first member of the group to pass away due to overindulgence and abuse when his heavy drinking caught up with him in 1973, at the age of 27. Before Pig Pen died, he was in a state of deterioration for over a year; this prompted the band to hire the services of Piano player Keith Godchaux (along with his wife Donna, a vocalist) as a compliment to Pig Pen's blues harmonica and lead vocals when he was healthy enough to make a tour. Godchaux was with the Dead until 1979 when he and his wife were asked to leave the band in favor of keyboardist Brent Mydland. Less that a year after being fired, Keith Godchaux was killed in a car accident.

Mydland was creative musician and gifted singer, who wrote a lot of songs for the Dead over his 10-year run with the group. In July of 1990, Mydland was found dead at his home in Lafayette, California of an accidental drug overdose. The search for their fourth keyboardist was on, and eventually Vince Welnick - formerly of The Tubes - joined the lineup. The Grateful Dead called it quits in 1995 following the death of Jerry Garcia, and Welnick was pretty much on his own from that point; Welnick was not invited to take part in future projects or tours with the surviving members of the band. Welnick committed suicide on June 2nd, 2006.

There's nothing inherently shocking anymore (unfortunately) about rock & roll musicians dying from self-inflicted wounds or drug & alcohol abuse; And we certainly can't compare the culture of wantonness and excess of a perpetually touring rock band to what should be the more structured, disciplined and health conscious lifestyle of an NFL Wide Receiver.

But since the Grateful Dead have pretty much been my favorite band throughout my life, and the New York Giants being my team...

Reports came out yesterday that Taye Biddle, a second-year receiver who played sparingly with the Carolina Panthers in his rookie season, and was signed to the Giants practice squad this past season, was shot in the leg and in the hand in front of his family's house in Decatur, Alabama while getting something out of his car. The injuries are supposedly minor - just like Biddle's importance to the Giants' future plans for rebuilding their wide receiver corps. "There is no evidence to indicate that Biddle did anything to contribute, cause or provoke the shooting." according to Decatur police. The Hospital Biddle was treated at stated that he would require more surgery on the injury to his hand, and according to a Giants team spokesman Biddle has been in constant contact with the organization regarding the situation.

Taye Biddle's fluky incident - in and of itself - is not headline news, but it's really an interesting coincidence when you realize that Biddle was signed to the Giants practice squad back in September to fill the open slot that was created when Plaxico Burress was suspended for 2 weeks for failing to alert the team he would be skipping practice to take his daughter to school.

We've all been beaten over the head ad nauseum with the Burress saga that began with that suspension and reached its pinnacle outside of a New York City club in late November. Just three days prior to the Latin Quarter incident, fellow teammate and wide receiver Stever Smith was robbed at gunpoint as he was walking up to his front door. Smith had the muzzle of a pistol pressed against the back of his head as he handed over his jewelry and cash. Smith was shaken up over the incident, saying he felt like he "could be dead right now" had he resisted.

As long as the initial reports regarding Taye Biddle are eventually corroborated in the police investigation, we have three receivers on one team that in the last two months have found themselves in dangerous circumstances involving guns; two of which were seemingly random happenings and one that was accidental - even if it was his own fault.

If the Giants do seriously decide to belly-flop into the tantalizing waters of the wide receiver free agency (which I strongly advocate), I don't think General Manager Jerry Reese will lose much sleep wrestling with the choice of whether to pursue T.J. Houshmandzadeh or Terrell Owens.

Besides, Tom Constanten and Bruce Hornsby were both keyboardists for the Grateful Dead, and they're doing just fine these days.

 

Posted on: December 22, 2008 1:52 am
Edited on: December 22, 2008 10:12 am
 

RECAP: Giants 34, Panthers 28 (OT)

Running down a Dream

   

Ward runs for 216 yards; Jacobs' 3 touchdowns lead Giants to OT victory.

The road to Super Bowl 43 will go through East Rutherford. 

Who was that guy wearing #34 tonight?

Derrick Ward has been as valuable a member of the Giants offense as anyone this season, but the effort he put forth tonight was nothing short of unbelievable. So it's appropriate that on a windy night in East Rutherford, New Jersey that "Wind" howled for 216 yards rushing as the offensive catalyst. "Earth" provided the points, as Brandon Jacobs rumbled in for 18 of them to help Tom Coughlin and his team finish off a terrific football game in overtime and claim the top seed for the NFC playoffs. The Giants running game regained its mid-season form to the tune of 301 yards, averaging 7.3 yards a carry as a result of Ward's explosives.

After the game Derrick Ward told NBC-NY sportscaster Bruce Beck "We knew that coming into this game tonight, we had to come out and play like the more desperate team... we needed this, we needed it more and we played like it"

Brandon Jacobs simply said, "Sweet as candy".

This game could have easily ended in regulation; The Panthers attempted a 50-yard field goal on 4th and 5 with :09 seconds remaining, but John Kasay appeared to stutter-step a bit as the ball was snapped, and it sailed just wide to the left, missing the post by no more than two feet. That was just one of the many magical moments in this game, as both teams came to claim home field in the playoffs. They came ready, and they came able - but Derrick Ward came in just a bit more willing than everyone else. Just as important was the Giants offensive line reestablishing itself as a force to contend with and to game plan around. Eli Manning was sacked three times tonight - a trend that needs to be dealt with  - but his overall pass protection was otherwise solid, and the run blocking was as good as it's been all season.

The Giants came out flying as fast as the arctic wind swirling around the Meadowlands. On the fifth play of the game, Manning scrambled away from the grasp of Julius Peppers and tossed a perfectly targeted 40-yard strike into the chest of a double-covered Domenik Hixon. The Giants eventually settled for a John Carney field goal for the early lead. For the remainder of the first half it was the DeAngelo Williams show.

Williams shredded the Giants defense for three touchdown runs in the first half, as the Panthers found themselves moving the ball very effectively thanks to the precision passing of Jake Delhomme who completed 8 of 10 to start the game. Particularly crushing blows were landed on a 60-yard completion to Mushin Muhammad, and a 35-yard strike to pro-bowl receiver Steve Smith; but when in range, DeAngelo got the call. Williams added a fourth touchdown in the second half on a beautiful 30-yard run to the outside, and would have been the toast of the coast had Carolina pulled this one out (the loss, along with Derrick Ward's performance, will unfortunately overshadow an otherwise phenomenal night for him). 

The Giants defense did not look sharp for the better part of the first three quarters, despite the return of sorely missed DT Fred Robbins; Justin Tuck - who did not show up on the injury report - was playing with the flu and was clearly in a haze for most of the night. He actually appeared to vomit on the field following a play in the 4th quarter, forcing the Giants to take a time out they would have preferred to save for later in the game. I don't know if it was better or worse for Justin to be taken in and out of the game as much as he was in the final minutes; understandably, the coaches wanted to give him some rest between plays but the man was literally wobbling at points. I wasn't sure if I should be applauding his efforts or screaming at him for not taking himself out of the game. Eventually the defense buckled down through some halftime adjustments to stop the run, as well as changing coverage schemes on Steve Smith.

As is usually the modus operandi  for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, he focused on the one player he felt could hurt the Giants the most; not that the tandem of Williams and rookie Jonathan Stewart can't do a lot of damage, but Smith is the guy that will kill you if too much attention is payed to stopping the run. Whatever Spagnuolo did, it worked; Smith finished the night with 3 receptions for 47 yards. It was Smith's second lowest output of the season and halted a 4-game streak of 100+ yard performances. He was shut out the entire 2nd half and the overtime; his last reception occurred with 4:34 left in the second quarter. That play was a 3-yard quick out to Smith which was initially ruled a touchdown, but was overturned on a Tom Coughlin challenge because Smith's knee was down before the ball broke the goal line. It only delayed the inevitable however, as Williams plunged in from the 1-yard line on the very next play to put Carolina ahead 21-10.

The Giants scored another 3 before the half came to a close, but at 21-13 appeared to be as out of it as they had been the past two weeks against Dallas and Philadelphia. After exchanging punts to start the second half (twice for Carolina, who received the opening kickoff), the Giants put together one of their quintessential drives... they took 8:36 of the clock on a 12 play, 84-yard drive that culminated in a TD pass to tight end Kevin Boss that pulled New York within a point at 21-20. Boss had another key grab on the drive, when faced with 3rd and 10 form their own 16 yard line, Manning found Boss on the left side for 11 yards which kept the drive alive. Four plays later, Derrick Ward ran for 22 yards that put the Giants at the Carolina 33 yard line.

Following DeAngelo Williams' fourth TD run, the teams exchanged punts again. The Panthers found themselves pinned back on their own 5 yard line, and punter Jason Baker could only muster a 49-yard kick with so little room to work with. The Giants took the ball from the Carolina 44 and rammed another one in - Jacobs' second touchdown of the night brought them within two points, 28-26. Kevin Boss was again a key contributor on this drive, as his 12-yard catch on 3rd and 5 planted Big Blue right on the Carolina 5 to set up the score. Coughlin emphatically waved at the offense to stay on the field for the 2-point conversion. A nicely designed play faked the handoff to Jacobs running right, as Eli dropped back and hit Hixon to the left as he ran under the coverage of cornerback Ken Lucas. Tie Game. Carolina got the ball back with 3:15 remaining in regulation, and executed a perfectly constructed drive to get them within field goal range with just :09 seconds left on the clock. As I stated earlier, Kasay's kick sailed left... overtime.

The Giants won the toss and went 3 & out on their first drive. Carolina returned the favor, and punted deep into Giants territory. R.W. McQuarters fielded the kick at his own 19, but misjudged the ball as it came down; it bounced out of his cradled arms as panther blue & white jerseys descended upon him. Luckily for the Giants (and McQuarters in particular) he was able to regain control as he fell ass-backwards, but now Eli Manning had to start this drive from the 13. Here's how it all went down from there:

Derrick Ward: 51-yard run up the middle to the Carolina 36... Brandon Jacobs: 3-yard run to the Carolina 33... Manning: incomplete pass to Hixon... Ward: 14-yard run right to the Carolina 19... Ward: 17-yard run right to the Carolina 2... Jacobs: 2-yard touchdown run left guard.

Don't you just love those full play-by-play charts?

Two heavyweights standing toe-to-toe in the center of the ring. This was a fantastic game to watch, and the Panthers showed what a heck of a football team they are. Despite the lackluster play of the Giants in recent games, it's not easy to go on the road and face the defending champs in their house, frigid temperatures and windy conditions to boot. And yet they almost left New Jersey with a huge win had it not been for a boot a few feet to the left - and they would have more than deserved it. 

For the Giants, the goal they've tried to reach for weeks now is securely in their back pocket. The team swagger that Antonio Pierce had talked about "getting back" is back - for now. It will be interesting to see how the Giants handle next week's game in Minnesota. Everyone talks about the fact that last year, they played all their starters against the Patriots in week 17... there's no denying that decision - and their performance in that one game - set the stage for one of the most incredible and unlikely playoff runs in NFL history. But then, at that time, they needed that game - they needed that effort against an undefeated team. They needed to see that they could play with the best of them, and needed to gain the confidence that would fill the tank for the long drive to Glendale, Arizona. Some will rest; I would be shocked to see Fred Robbins, Aaron Ross (who suffered a concussion in tonight's game) or perhaps even Jacobs on the field at the Metrodome this Sunday. I don't know what to expect, and I have no thoughts at this point. I just know it feels different this year, so I'm not expecting the same all-out effort I had the pleasure of seeing live in week 17 last year.

In his postgame press conference, Coach Coughlin said, "You talk about losing two games to divisional teams, but losing them really in not good fashion - particularly offensively. So to go out and to play well... to hang in there - to have the opportunity to get the thing to overtime, was a very very good sign."

A very good sign indeed coach. A very good sign indeed.

 

NOTE:

*DeAngelo Williams' touchdown in the 4th quarter was his sixth rushing score from 30+ yards this season.  It puts him in the record books, sandwiched between the great Jim Brown and ...the great Jim Brown. "First Down" did it 7 times during the 1958 season, and 6 times during the 1963 season. Congratulations to DeAngelo on an amazing year.

 *According to play-by-play man Al Michaels, the pass interference call on Panthers CB  Ken Lucas was the first defensive pass interference call on Carolina this season

Quote sources: WNBC-TV, New York

Posted on: November 5, 2008 2:33 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2008 12:44 am
 

New York Giants 2nd Quarter Report Card - Offense

Big midterm exam vs. Eagles counts heavily towards final Grade

 1. An NFL teams' _____________ is directly proportionate to its _____________.

O  credibility; win-loss record

focus; discipline

O  overall ability; individual accountability

rushing success; offensive lines' performance

All of the above

Click on this link for Defense & Special teams report cards: http://www.sportsline.com/mcc/blogs
/entry/10752270/11536496

At the halfway point of the season, the Giants are 7-1 and find themselves on top of the very competitive NFC East. Despite Monday night's lackluster performance against the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington (6-3) is going to be a force in the division along with Philadelphia (5-3) and Dallas (5-4), who is crackling with anticipation at the likely return of QB Tony Romo just in time to save their season - and potentially a few jobs. 

Most pundits, analysts and commentators have declared that as many as three of the four NFC East teams should make the postseason. The road to the NFC East Title, however, is paved with land mines and pockets of quicksand. Make no mistake about it - that's the road these four teams are going to be looking up on 'MapQuest'. The land mines are the divisional matchups taking place between now and December 28th - 7 games between the four teams to be exact - waiting to pick each other off one by one as they head towards January. Anyone who suffers a blow by tripping one of those landmines will undoubtedly find their way into a pocket of quicksand - in the form of a crushing defeat at the hands of non-divisional teams such as Arizona, Minnesota or Carolina - that will seal the deal for them and shut the door on a playoff berth. These obstacles, trap doors and explosives are merely tests - tests that impact the final regular season grades these NFC East teams hope propell them into the postseason. 

With these tests looming straight ahead, there isn't much study time. Not enough time to go over everything there is to know. The big midterm exam for the New York Giants is this Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field. The first half of the year has shown us where the strengths are, and where the areas of concern might be. This is a crunch-fest - a good ol' fashion cramming - a time to have faith in what's worked consistently (what we know) and focus more on what hasn't worked consistently (what we don't know). Grades of "A" or "B+" signify what the Giants should feel comfortable in answering correctly, but a grade of  "B" or below means they need to crack the books if they hope to lock down a playoff spot.  

 

OFFENSIVE LINE:  A  ( last quarter - A+ ) Masters Seubert, Diehl, O'Hara, Snee and McKenzie - This unit continues to be the backbone of the team. The successes of the defensive line are more glamorous, more noticeable; the D-line and O-Line have contributed equally to the teams' ability to control the battle of field position and time of possession week in, week out. The Giants have slipped to 2nd in the league in rushing offense (behind Atlanta), but by only 6 yards with 26 fewer rushing attempts. New York still leads the league in average per rush, and are 2nd to Baltimore with 72 rushing 1st downs. They have also provided excellent pass protection; despite giving up four sacks to Dallas last week, they're ranked 5th overall having only allowed 10 sacks on Eli Manning in 8 games. Philly will be the third tough matchup in a row for this O-line - it will be interesting to see how they perform.      

QUARTERBACKS:  B  ( last quarter - A ) Eli Manning was sporting a 99.7 passer rating after the first four games, with 6 TD's and 1 INT. He's since dropped 10 points in rating, down to 89.7 and has 6 TD's and 4 INT's over the last four games. Whereas manning appeared to be seeing the field better and not telegraphing his passes early on, he started off this grading period with a bad outing against Cleveland (which accounted for 3 of his 4 INT's) and an unimpressive performance against San Francisco - where he was lucky he wasn't picked off three more times. Of course, the disruptions of the Plaxico Burress situation haven't helped matters. In Cleveland - the first game following Plaxico's suspension - it was very obvious that Manning was forcing the ball to Burress, which was a mistake. Last week against the Cowboys, Manning's sideline pass intended for Burress was intercepted for a TD by Mike Jenkins. Just as obvious was the sense that Burress broke his route and expecting Manning to follow his lead downfield when it was too late. The dropsies have also plagued certain Giants, most notably Burress along with FB Madison Hedgecock and Brandon Jacobs out of the backfield. But drops and distractions aren't to blame for Manning's questionable performances - his ability to scan the field and avoid throwing into danger is. Since he was able to play with more focus and awareness in the Pittsburgh & Dallas games, it looks like he may be moving in the right direction. Let's see what happens in Philadelphia.  

RUNNING BACKS:  A+  ( last quarter - A In the 1st quarter report card, I made the statement that it's hard to determine sometimes how much of the actual work Earth, Wind and Fire does, and how much of it is a byproduct of the ability of the Giants O-line. As the season moves forward the running backs and the line will get tired; a few more bumps and bruises with emerge. Brandon Jacobs has been the workhorse for the squad carrying 66 times for 300 yards (4.5 YPA) with 4 TD's in the last four games, and has taken the bulk of abuse from opposing defenses. That said, the contributions Derrick Ward has made to the offense has been arguably the most valuable. In that same 4-game span, Ward has 39 carries for 220 yards (5.6 YPA) with a TD, but added 12 receptions for 120 yards. The difference in their running styles, speed and skillset has kept opposing defenses on their heels. Jacobs still needs to improve his nose for finding the gaps, as he still tends to run directly into piles from time to time. The reason for the increase in grade to A+ has more to do with Kevin Gilbride's recognition of this tandem's possibilities; their ability to remain effective at their roles without fighting for playing time, and the impact it has on the offense as a whole.

RECEIVERS:  B+  ( last quarter - B )  Mr. Burress will be held accountable for his own actions, and will no longer affect the grade for the rest of the students. Therefore he will be graded seperately from here on out. 

Stop the presses - there's been a Kevin Boss sighting. In the last two games, against their toughest opponents, Boss has 7 receptions for 64 yards. Whether they kept him on the line to hone his blocking skills or he's simply running crisper routes, Boss is starting to rebuild that report with Manning they had during last year's playoffs. Steve Smith has become the primary target for Manning with 21 receptions for over 200 yards in the last four games. While the yardage might seem low, it's due to Eli spreading the wealth to include other's - like veteran Amani Toomer (who seems to make at least one incredible catch every week), Derrick Ward, Domenick Hixon and now Boss. The weak link for the passing game is the backfield (minus Ward). Jacobs and Hedgecock have combined for 8 catches and 9 drops. 

Plaxico Burress: D-  Plaxico is a disruptive young man who is pushing his coaches and teammates to the point of no return. Since his last report card Plaxico has run poor routes, missed a mandatory therapy session, has yelled at both his head coach and quarterback on the sidelines and has had very little overall impact on the offense with the exception of demanding defensive respect by sheer virtue of his presence. Here's the cold, hard fact: The Giants don't need Plaxico as badly as once thought.

Would they, I, and every other Giants fan prefer to have Plaxico? Absolutely. Would his loss be devistating? Maybe, maybe not... his skills and raw talent, his toughness are all undisputed. His route running ability -  once his strong suit - is now questionable. They need a receiver like Plaxico Burress, but they don't need this. How long will Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese continue to put up with his tirades and dismissal of team policies? If the Giants continue to win while Burress averages 30 yards a game, it won't be for long. Besides, Mario Manningham is waiting in the wings to take his place in more ways than one.

 

Stats courtesy of sportsline.comnfl.com

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com