Tag:Tom Coughlin
Posted on: October 18, 2009 9:15 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2009 9:18 pm

Giants Wk 6 Recap: Legitimacy Takes a Hit

Brees exposes & exploits Big Blue secondary; too much, too quickly for Manning to overcome.

 The Giants were left in the dust all day.

I wrapped up a rather protracted preview to this game by stating that "...no matter which team wins, you can be sure the one that loses will be heard from come the playoffs. And that's really what everyone should be looking for in this game - legitimacy."

The Saints solidified their legitimacy. There's no questioning the fact that they've sured up their defense - the secondary in particular - and are now prepared for the long haul on both sides of the ball.

It was obviously a big day for former Giants Tight End Jeremy Shockey who's four receptions for 37 yards including a TD all came within the first 17 minutes of the game. He was fired up, and more than willing to showboat it a bit (along with others on the Saints) in celebration of the debauchery taking place. New York simply had no answer for Shockey, Lance Moore or Marques Colston - there were nothing they could do to respond to the dancing or  jawing. Give credit where credit is due; Sean Payton's team showed up to play today. They viewed this game as a "statement", and they served notice to the rest of the league today that they are top dogs.

When the revelation comes

The Giants secondary was clearly a source of concern for Tom Coughlin heading into this week's matchup in New Orleans.

There's nothing that New Orleans showed today that isn't expected from them week in and week out. Perhaps the team they did it against was surprising, but no one questions the firepower. Drew Brees (20-33 for 369, 4 TD's) was spectacular; even though he got a little help from the sloppy play of Giants safety C.C. Brown and CB Kevin Dockery, his accuracy was perfect and his reads of the defense were on the money.

The revelation for the Giants today is quite simple; the solution however is not. This team's pass defense is in trouble without safety Kenny Phillips (on I.R.) and CB Aaron Ross, who's yet to see the field this season while dealing with a hamstring injury.

Phillips is just a second year player, but there's no way he would have let Robert Meachem catch that touchdown in the second quarter. C.C. Brown was flying in from Meachem's right side and was seemingly in perfect position to make a play on the ball, but inexplicably ran behind Meachem instead of in front of him. A simple read on the pass that should have resulted in a broken play - and could have resulted in an interception - ended up being a touchdown that for all intents and purposes put the game out of reach. Out of reach in the 2nd quarter.

Kevin Dockery (in just his second game back from a hamstring injury) and Brown appeared to be crossing each other up all afternoon; Dockery was fading off his coverage expecting Brown to take over, except Brown wasn't there most of the time. The frustration spilled out following the 3rd quarter touchdown by Colston (who had a monster game with 8 receptions for 166 yeards) - when Dockery turned to Brown with his arms outstretched in a "where the hell were you?" sort of way. The conversation between the two continued on the sidelines afterwards.

Considering the manner in which Drew Brees had picked them apart and demoralized them by the end of the first half, Coughlin has to be concerned about how he's going to tighten things up in the weeks ahead - or at least conceal the deficiencies a little bit. The days of Jamarcus Russell, Matt Cassel & Byron Leftwich are over, boys.

Oh, when the sun refuse to shine

No one expected the Giants to contain Brees or come close to maintaining the 104 YPG average they've built through five games by smothering the talented receiving corps of the Saints. But defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan's plan seemed to admit the fact that they couldn't stop Brees; there was absolutely no pressure on the Saints QB today, giving him all the time in the world to pick and chose his targets. For the most part, the Giants rushed the front four - that was all. DE's Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora could not penetrate from the outside due to the strong play of tackles Jermon Bushrod & Jon Stinchcomb. After the game, Uminyiora said "Pretty much were able to do what they wanted to do. ... If you give him (Brees)and that offense enough time, that's not good and that's what happened today."  

The linebackers dropped back in pass coverage to assist the depleted secondary to no avail. Even when it was apparent by the start of the 2nd quarter that Brees was going to have his way with the passing game, Sheridan stuck with the four man rush. In my view (and granted, I'm no defensive coordinator) it might have been adventageous to send the house a few times and at least get Brees thinking this wasn't going to be a cakewalk. Coughlin said in his postgame press conference, ""I don't know that we ever hit him..."

Revealed today was the fact that Bill Sheridan may not be quite as adept at making the crucial in-game adjustments necessary to give his unit a chance to redeem itself. It's what made former coordinator and current Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo such an essential ingredient in Big Blue's successes over the past three years; the Giants would not have stayed with the same look to start the 2nd half as they did today. They would have blitzed, and blitzed and then blitzed some more. Spagnuolo knew that when something wasn't working one way, it would only have a chance if it was tried another way.

Bill Sheridan needed to pressure the QB today. He needed to recognize that his pass coverage was a 350-lb lineman with greased palms trying to pull himself to the top of a gym rope - and that he needed to make adjustments today. The simple fact is that he didn't. That's fine when you're ahead by 21 points; it's not fine when your down by 21 points. 

When the rich go out and work

As bad as things got today, the offense wasn't necessarily part of the problem. Despite fumbling the ball on a blind-side hit and throwing an ill-advised pass under pressure which led to an interception, Eli Manning didn't play poorly. He overthrew a couple of passes in the early goings; Eli was probably hyped up over the magnitude of the game, as well as being home for the first time as a pro (he grew up just 2.5 miles away from the Superdome). He was still a leader on the field, even when things seemed hopeless. He was animated with Ahmad Bradshaw following his interception, urging him on to recognize the blitz from the defensive backfield and get his head in the game.

Manning has taken some flack for now being the highest paid QB in the league, but he's making an honest effort at earning every dollar of it. At one point in the 4th quarter - when the Giants were down 41-20 - Manning took the snap at the Saints 10-yard line, scrambled out of the pocket and rolled back about 15 yards to avoid the rush of defenders. He sprinted across the field to the left and threw across his body on the run - a dart in the end zone to Brandon Jacobs, who he somehow found nestled amongst a crowd of blue and white jerseys. Had the score not been nullified by a holding call, it would have pulled them within two touchdowns with over 12 minutes remaining.

Oh, how  I want to be in that number

For a team that has been used to landing on the good side of stats and numbers, the Giants were slapped in the face and given a dose of their own serum today. The Saints bested them in time of possesion by almost 13 minutes and won every offensive category in terms of total yards, number of offensive plays, and rushing & passing yardage.

When the scales tip so violently in the oppositions favor so quickly, the 'expected' flies out the window. The Giants could have made this more of a game today but they ran into a better, more prepared team. It's that simple.

The Giants could possibly meet up with New Orleans again in the postseason; as I said at the top of this article, "...no matter which team wins, you can be sure the one that loses will be heard from come the playoffs." This does no more to hurt the Giants chances at taking the NFC East title than a loss to any other team, because we all knew they weren't going undefeated. What it does is give them a golden opportunity to experience the harsh reality of what they're capable of at this point in time when facing an elite opponent. I'm sure that Coughlin, the players and the rest of the coaching staff will not sleep well tonight if at all. "Harsh" is the preferct word to describe their current reality.

Manning was quoted after the game as saying, "It's not the way I imagined it all week, but if you play football long enough you encounter all sorts of games and situations. I look at it as a loss. We need to go back to work this week, fix some things and try to improve." 

To quote the end of my previous blog entry - where I took the liberty of rewriting George Orwell's Animal Farm to suit my personal needs - "All losses are equal, but some losses are more equal than others". This loss is very equal. They are capable of turning this around and grabbing a few more W's before reaching the bye week, but they are going to need to make adjustements - first a foremost with their secondary and overall defensive game planning. 

They have to. "Legitimacy" is on the line. 


Posted on: September 27, 2009 5:43 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2009 8:21 am

Trampled Bay

Earth, Fire & Weather too Hot for Bucs to Handle as Big Blue Rolls Bucs 24-0

 Ahmad Bradshaw led the way with 104 yards

This past week, coach Tom Coughlin threw down the gauntlet.

Despite being fresh off the heels of a big divisional win on the road in Dallas, Coughlin challenged his team to show up in Tampa this weekend prepared to prove to him that the effort displayed last Sunday night was just a fluke, and that they could control the running game on both sides of the line. He wanted to see his defensive line shut down former teammate Derrick Ward and the rejuvinated Cadillac Williams - and the offense to regain it's form and command with the ground attack that led the NFL just a season ago. Coach Coughlin should leave Raymond James stadium this afternoon with a sense of relief and pride in the fact that his linemen responded on both counts, even it's due in some part to the uninspired play of the Buccaneers.

As if the heat brought down from Coughlin's ultimatum wasn't enough to deal with, temperatures on the field were a blistering 100+ degrees by game time. It was all just enough to ignite the running game; Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined for 196 yards - with some extra sprinkled in by rookie Gartrell Johnson and QB Eli Manning - to rack up 226 yards on the ground this afternoon as the Giants buried the lifeless Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-0.

Eli Manning didn't have to do that much in today's game; he threw two touchdown passes to Steve Smith and Sinorice Moss (his first catch of the year) and was able to keep himself from trying to hard to squeeze passes in where they shouldn't be. The second TD strike to Moss was the one that put them up by 24 and iced it for New York. Backup David Carr was brought in off the bench with just under 12 minutes left in the game, which gives you an idea of what a stranglehold the G-Men had on this contest.

The defense did their share by limiting the Bucs to a measly 86 yards of total offense; QB Byron Leftwich will be waking up in a cold sweat all night dreaming that he's about to get knocked to the ground again. Despite not regisgtering a sack in the game, the front four of the Giants were able to penetrate the Bucs o-line at will, which resulted in numerous ill-advised throws by Leftwich (one of which was intercepted by cornerback Terrell Thomas). In the fourth, Tampa head coach Raheem Morris brought in 2nd year QB Josh Johnson in lieu of the ineffective Leftwich. Johnson appeared to bring a bit of a spark to the Bucs offense, and was able to thread the needle a couple of times despite prettu tight coverage by the Giants secondary - which continues to play well despite missing the services of starting cornerbacks Kevin Dockery and Aaron Ross.

Johnson - who Morris had referred to as his "permanent backup" to either Leftwich or QB of the future Josh Freeman - may need to get a little more attention from the coaching staff in the weeks ahead if Tampa plans to be part of a postseason race. He engineered the only substantial drive of the game for the Bucs, and even got them down to the Giants 5-yard line. He must have been pretty jacked up at the opportunity to score, as all four of his passes sailed high and fast, over and through, his receivers.

In the end, this was a solid effort from the Giants. They beat a team by 24 points they should have beaten by 24 points, and regardless of gameplans or ineptitude, it's difficult to shut down any professional ball club for a full 60 minutes. Next week, Big Blue travels to Kansas City for their third straight road game to take on the 0-3 Kansas City Chiefs - who just had their dorrs blown off by the McNabb-less, Westbrook-less Philadelphia Eagles. Manning and company will need to keep their heads on straight and take it one game at a time, as the week 6 showdown at the Superdome against the seemingly unstoppable Saints looms larger and larger as a potential matchup for NFC conference dominance.

It's not work that kills... 

By now, it's apparent that the active members of the Giants secondary have been reaping the benefits of the work they've put in through preseason and at practice over the past couple of weeks. It's clear that defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan has spent a lot of time with newly acquired C. C. Brown, rookie Bruce Johnson and the rest of the defensive backfield to fill the void left by the injuries to Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery.

With news breaking this week that sensational 2nd-year safety Kenny Phillips will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury, this group will have to work even harder to maintain the cohesiveness shown over the first three weeks of the seaon. 2nd-year CB Terrell Thomas seems to be putting things together; he's getting to the ball much faster than he had last season, and his open field tackling is much improved. With the steady & reliable Corey Webster being the veteran and de facto leader of the group, the Giants could be doing a lot worse.

... it's worry.

Is it too soon to start worrying about Brandon Jacobs?

Ever since absorbing that massive hit at the hands of Redskins defender Albert Haynesworth in week 1, Jacobs has not looked like the same back. Since the 2nd half of that game, Jacobs has been prone to being dropped on the first or second touch of a defender, which is very unlike him. His downhill running style and propensity for bulldozing defenders is clearly lacking; his physical dominance is just not there right now. He doesn't seem slower, he doesn't appear to be "hurt" in the traditional sense. He just seems to be going down too easily. Fox commentator Tony Siragusa said it perfectly during today's game, "Brandon isn't utilizing his size to his advantage. He needs to start creating holes instead of waiting for holes to open up." Yeah, Tony. We know. That's why I hope it's too early to worry about him.

Offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie injured:

McKenzie was injured during a Lawrence Tynes field goal with just under six minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. He limped off the field and remained on his back for quite some time while trainers examined his right knee. Later he was taken to the locker room on a flat bed for x-rays. No reports were available as of this writing, but let's just say it wasn't looking very optimistic. Guard Rich Seubert also left the game in the third quarter with an apparent right shoulder injury, but remained on the sideline with a wrap and didn't appear to be in much pain. McKenzie and Seubert - along with David Deihl, Shaun O'Hara and Chris Snee - currently lay claim to the longest active streak for offensive lines in the league, with today being the 34th consecutive start for the team of five. Rookie William Beatty would most likely take over the duties at tackle should McKenzie miss any significant time.
Posted on: September 22, 2009 12:23 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2009 12:24 pm

Life with Coherence, Interference & Perseverance:

Mario Manningham, 'Apocalypse Now' & Temporary Relief

You didn't quite expect it... so when it actually happens, you don't know how to respond.

Anyone familiar with the old HBO comedy series Dream On can relate to my perpetual state of being, and the pop-culture references my brain will conjure up to find parallels between real-life goings on and my favorite movie or TV moments my conciuosness has sopped up over the years like an electronic wave decoding sponge. This was the case on my way home from work this past Friday, where it happened to me again; and usually, two collected thoughts will not stand alone in the rattling cage between my ears without at least a third slipping between the bars... when somehow a busy weekend on the horizon melded with The New York Giants receiving corps and the film Apocalypse Now.
Does this at all sound familiar? It's been a long week at work, you're beat. You just want to relax at home and be left alone. But of course, there's a wedding that night that you're already late for - for a couple you don't know or really care for, and surely you won't know anyone else who's attending so you'll become quite friendly with the bartender very quickly. Then there's that "project" in the yard you've avoided all summer should be done Saturday morning because in the afternoon you have to drive the kids to dance class and a soccer game. Later on it's a birthday party at "Toss-A-Cookie" or another of the quaint little inforr playgrounds where the screams of children could drown out the sound of an CH-46 Sea Knight flying overhead. And don't even consider resting Saturday night because you just found out you're hosting the in-laws for dinner.

Sunday is the day to "finally clean out that storage room", fix little odd and ends and "discuss" your family budget (and why you have to stop spending money - don't you have enough XBOX 360 games?) . You'll try to catch some NFL action between here and there but you know you'll be lucky if you can catch a few radio minutes in the car on your way to-and-from the hardware store. Of course, you'll only hear the end of the pregame show, then the end of first quarter break and some mindless banter to fill time while the trainers help some special teams guy off the field - never once giving a score. You park, open the front door and Disney Channel is on your television. The only thing harder than pulling a guy away from a tv when football is on is taking back control of the remote when your kids are watching High School Musical 3: Sing Along version for the third time.

This is what you have to look forward to as you park in front of your house. First you scrape the curb with your tires a few times, then you get the angle just right. Turn the ignition off to the auxiliary position - because whatever blah-blah is on the radio is enough of an excuse to keep you in the car for just a few more minutes. Delay the inevitable.

Then the vision... I suddenly turn into Dream On's Martin Tupper... and now I'm Martin Sheen... I'm Captain Willard in one of my all-time favorite cinematic classics Apocalypse Now...

As if the voices punching through my speakers and getting absorbed into the seat upholstery were G.D> Spradlin and Harrison Ford themselves...  I start walking to the front door as the walkway takes on the shape and feel of the Nung River running up into Cambodia. 

My overly talkitive and extremely uncomfortable next door neighbor is wearing a cowboy hat; standing at an angle with both hands on his hips, he couldn't care less that I'm not even listening to him as he begins to run through his list of crap he's got going on this weekend. He's Colonel Kilgore... he's shirtless, and he's wearing that stupid hat and I'm not listening to a single word he says.
Why? Because the jungle thickens and the sunlight begins to disappear as I make my way to the front door... Pretty soon I'll be in the house.

Colonel Kurtz is waiting for me. I can visualize the conversation already.

"Hey honey - I'm home"

"...Are you an assassin?"

"I'm... I'm your husband."

"You're neither. Your a grocery clerk. My hired hand for the weekend... who's going to miss the Giants game on Sunday"

"Umm, no? I told Lance that if I wasn't back at the boat by sundown to call in the air strike..."

"What are you talking about? Who the hell is Lance?"

"Never Mind. Did we get mail? I need reading material, have to hit the bathroom . Be out in an hour or so."

You walk in, put your bag down... there's a note on the table.


Well, well, well... I grab the spatula out of the drain and whack myself on the forehead... nope, not dreaming. 

"C'mon! That never happens!". Of course it doesn't, but it's nice to dream isn't it?

Now we come to this season's New York Football Giants, and the . Much like an wide open, no strings attached weekend that's just been thrust upon you, you start to feel relieved; you have nothing to worry about, and you sit there wondering how lucky you are. Why? It's not because you have this weight lifted off your shoulders, or that all the things you've wasted precious time stressing about have apparently vanished into thin air.

No, the most amazing thing is that you never thought you'd live to see the day.

So what do you do? How do you harness this new-found zest?

Right - you don't. Why? Because you and I both know you'll spend the entire time wondering when the phone will ring.

"Hi, It's me  - the kids were bored so they wanted to come home. Let's have a GARAGE SALE on Sunday!!"  

"Well, I uh..."

"Super - how does noon to 6 sound? We can invite my family over for dinner afterwards. Wanna Barbecue?"

Lets look at what we know so far about the Giants:
Eli Manning - despite a pick and a few ill-advised throws - has been as close to perfect as one could expect, and as always he's cool and comfortable when the clock is ticking down and the game's on the line.

Except for the injury to Justin Tuck (thanks to the normally disciplined Flozell Adams), the D-Line is in tact and better than ever. The Secondary is doing a decent job despite missing the services of Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery - thanks largely in part to the outstanding play of safety Kenny Phillips, who is pushing through despite a knee injury. "Earth" and "Fire" will get untracked soon enough.

No Toomer, No Burress... no problems at wide receiver. Mario manningham has been a revelation, already beginning to look every bit like the "steal of the draft" as many referred to him following his 3rd round selection in 2008. Steve Smith has remained mr. consistent, and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is smartly utilizing him as a slot receiver, where he's most comfortable. It's only a few games, but the roles of these two playerws are starting to materialize and define themselves within the game plan, and Eli Manning seems confident in their ability to make the plays they need to.

But when will that phone call come? 

Will the dream be shattered? When will the big drop occur? When will these two seemingly reliable receivers become the "number 2's" everyone has tabbed them as? The New Orleans Saints in week 6? Next week against the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Maybe. Maybe not. This is unfamiliar territory for both Eli and for the receivers.

Regardless, here the Giants are at 2-0, off to another solid start under coach Tom Coughlin. The boat is creaky and the river is wide as it is murky. Up the river we go to face our destiny - Manning is driving the boat, Coughlin is our confident yet strict captain Willard, and Manningham is surfing the waves while Plaxico Burress is locked up tight in a bamboo cage in the rain, waiting for someone to offer hom a drag off their cigarette in the form of a second chance in the NFL. What will this 2009-2010 mission into the darkness of the jungle, the unpredictable nature of a 16-game season, have in store for the men in blue?

Nobody knows. This is a different this season, and a different set of circumstances. In the end I think the only two things I could ever hope for - a free weekend all to myself, and an enjoyable season from the Giants that I can walk away from with pride - whether it be in December or february. As guarded optimism goes, I'm stocked up. 

For now, all I have is a house full of sleeping children and a sleeping wife. The lights are all off except the flicker of the televison, and I've just stumbled upon Apocalypse Now already in progress. The darkness of Colonel Kurtz's lair is lit only by the hazy sunlight splitting through the mouth of the cave. A tired, broken Captain Willard sits with his head dangling in defeat, while Dennis Hopper's popped up, deranged photo journalist rambles on about anything he can wrap his mind around. As I listen to Hopper's voice cut the soupy air like a buzz saw, I hear the scripted words that all football fans can relate to in thinking about how they DON'T want history to remember their team's 2009-2010 season:

"This is the way it ends, man! Not with a bang but with a whimper. And with a whimper - I'm f***ing splitting, Jack!"

Posted on: September 21, 2009 1:08 pm

Mann to Mann, NYG Lucky to Escape Big-D with "V"

Super Mario Shines again as Giants spoil Cowboys Hope Opener, despite more Red Zone Woes.
 Manningham had 10 catches for 150 yards on Sunday night.

This is an excerpt from my post game blog last week following the Giants 23-17 win over the Redskins:

"Something happens to this team's offense once the field in front of them shortens to 60 feet or less...they rarely take that huge bite out of the opposition and gobble them up."

"... Coughlin and Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride had better address this quickly. Without an established big-play wide receiver, they still lack that legitimate "knockout punch". If they continue to squander red zone opportunities to the tune of 6 points per three trips, they will continue to find themselves hanging on for dear life at the end of games in which they've clearly outplayed their opponent."

In light of the events that took place in the newly crowned Xanadu of sports mecca's - where New York was outgained in rushing by 154 yards and failed to score a touchdown in five Red Zone trips - I stand by that statement.

The brightest spot of the night was - no, not the ridiculously large HD TV dangling above the field - the continued emergence of WR Mario Manningham as Eli Manning's new #1 man. Manningham is showing terrific poise under pressure, and a keen sense of when he needs to break from the route and make himself available to bail out his QB. Between Manningham and Steve Smith (both of whom caught 10 balls in the contest - a first for any pair of Giants receivers in a single game in franchise history), Manning has found himself in a much better position than anyone would have expected at this early point of the season.

If head coach Tom Coughlin's "Green Zone" is more akin to a barren stretch of antarctic ice bed, then the area that lies between the opponent's 20-30 yard lines must be the "Hot Zone". It seems to be the only portion of the opposition's field where Eli can connect with receivers past the goal line - as proven by his 22-yard scoring strike to Manningham in the 2nd quarter, and his other 22-yarder to Smith in the 4th. In five trips inside the Dallas 20, Lawrence Tynes provided the only points with four field goals. He also provided a scare by missing a 29-yard chip shot to close the first drive of the 2nd half that would have put NY up by 6.

The Giants running game was practically non-existent, gaining all of 97 yards on 26 carries. The real spark plug was once again Ahmad Bradshaw, who didn't have quite as good a game as many have come to expect since taking over the #2 spot on the depth chart. The Dallas defense really clamped down on the line of scrimmage and was succesful in taking away the running game from the Giants, who's normally stout offensive line was unable to plow any openings for Brandon Jacobs. Bradshaw's ability to deak oncoming defenders out of the backfield provided a much needed boost at times (more often than not creating 'something' out of 'nothng'), but it was Dallas' Marion Barber and Felix Jones who dominated the ground game.   

The Cowboys offensive line was able to stave off the front four of the Giants, and with the quick & elusive team of Barber and Jones running their counter attacks all night, linebackers Michael Boley (the former Atlanta Falcon making hs first start with the Giants), Antonio Pierce and Chase Blackburn had all they could handle just trying to keep up with them. In addition to the phenomenal run blocking, the Dallas O-Line provided plenty of time & protection to QB Tony Romo, who did everything he could to hand this one to his opponents by throwing two inexcusable interceptions - one that landed right in the cradle of rookie CB Bruce Johnson that went 37-yards the other direction for a touchdown. In fairness to Romo (something I never imagined I'd say), LB Antonio Pierce showed a little veteran savvy just before Romo took the snap by recognizing the play and calling an audible to pull his secondary off the line to drop back into pass coverage. 

An ugly duckling...
Dallas lineman Flozell Adams tripped up Giants DE Justin Tuck in the 3rd quarter as Tuck made a bee line for Tony Romo deep in Dallas territory. While no one can fault Adams for wanting to protect his QB, the trip resulted in Tuck spending the rest of the game in an arm sling - watching from the sidelines. Initial x-rays were negative, and hopefully further tests this week don't reveal any damage. Adams actions could be tolerated for this one instance, but he tried the same thing later in the game on Osi Umenyiora, who was only playing in his second game since missing all of last season.

... graceful as a swan.
Mario manningham
 had another terrific TD catch: as he curled around behind CB Terence Newman, he bobbled Manning's pass as he fell backward in the end zone. Manningam had the wherewithal to keep his eye on the ball and reign it in while on his back to secure the score. And a less than 100% Kenny Phillips also proved to be as sharp as a tack with a heads-up play of his own, when an incomplete pass to TE Jason Witten bounced of his heel as he kicked up happened to bounce right into Phillip's gut before hitting the ground. Phillips was not awarded the TD he thought he'd scored, but the Giants did retain possesion upon review.



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 20, 2009 11:13 am
Edited on: January 20, 2009 1:35 pm

Spags to Riches; Sheridan hired to replace Steve

Giants will enter '09 season with the loss of another defensive leader, with the conviction that his replacement will carry on continuity. 

                                                                                                                      Steve Spagnuolo is introduced as the New Head Coach of the St. Louis Rams on Monday 1/19/09

Michael Strahan's retirement after the Super Bowl and Osi Umenyiora's season ending injury left many Giants fans bracing for the impact it would have on the 2008 season... the performances of Mathias Kiwanuka & Justin Tuck during the 2008 season left many Giants fans wondering why they were so concerned in the first place, yet feeling a bit cheated in knowing that the mere presence of a Umenyiora or Strahan on the field could have been the extra push needed to get over the hump.

Here we go again.

Everyone knew this day would come. I'm sure that Giants fans - myself included - held out hope that the plethora of head coaching job openings would fill up quickly and leave Steve Spagnuolo in their wake, forcing him to wait it out just one more year. It wasn't to be, and Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom has secured himself a talented football mind and solid human being. To be perfectly honest, Spags deserves this; I wish him the best of everything in his new role (except of course when he faces the Giants).

St. Louis' gain is the Giants loss, but Spagnuolo leaves a very special gift behind as he leaves New York. His influence on this team will reap benefits for years to come, and what his presence in this organization has meant to players like Justin Tuck, Fred Robbins, Kiwanuka and Umenyiora cannot be overstated. In 2006, the Giants were the 26th ranked defense in the league under coordinator Tim Lewis. In just two short years, Spagnuolo instilled his system and work ethic in the fabric of each and every member of the Giants defense, and he's responsible for returning them to the ranks of NFL prominence as one of the most cohesive and successful units in the league.  

Now we look ahead to 2009. Tom Coughlin has named Bill Sheridan as Spagnuolo's successor. It's been reported that Dom Capers - Coughlin's former defensive coordinator in Jacksonville - was among his considerations, but that Sheridan was always number one on the list of candidates (Capers has since taken that same post with the Green Bay Packers). To understand what Coughlin sees in Bill Sheridan, look no further that the fact that Spagnuolo would have hired Sheridan to be his defensive coordinator in St. Louis had the Giants granted Sheridan permission to even discuss it with Spags. Sheridan was asked to wait until the Giants were able to solidify their own coaching staff needs.

A Detroit native, Sheridan (49) played linebacker at De La Salle High School and Grand Valley State University. He has a pretty healthy resume, mostly on the collegiate level dating back to the mid 1980's. Over a 12-year span between 1992 and 2004, he coached at Army, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Michigan. Sheridan was primarily a linebackers and defensive line coach in that time, but also served as a special teams and defensive backs coach. He also gained in-depth knowledge of the recruiting process at the University of Michigan as the school's recruitment coordinator for two years, where his classes were rated among the top 10 in the nation.

As the Giants linebackers coach since 2005, Sheridan has grown adept at coping with injuries and working with players that had to shift positions.  Carlos Emmons, Reggie Torbor, LaVar Arrington, Brandon Short, Roman Phifer - all former Giants linebackers that rotated in and out of the lineup over the last three years with injury problems. Even with all of those issues on the table, Sheridan managed to work closely with former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Kawika Mitchell to integrate him into pass rushing schemes, resulting in Mitchell's highest single season sack totals last year. Sheridan also played a major role in the development of  Antonio Pierce, who's performance had been inconsistent prior to signing with New York as a free agent in 2005.

Pierce was an undrafted free agent signed by the Washington Redskins in 2001, where he spent four seasons in and out of the starting lineup. His best season came in 2004, when Pierce started in all 16 games replacing the injured Micheal Barrow - he signed on with the Giants the following season, and was one of the few injury-free players Sheridan could rely on over the last three years. Sheridan was also a key factor in helping Kiwanuka transition from defensive end to strongside linebacker for the 2007 season, where Kiwanuka registered 4.5 sacks and 47 tackles in 9 games before breaking his leg in week 11 against the Lions when - oddly enough - Osi Umenyiora fell on him while tackling Detroit running back Kevin Jones.

So now we wait for the 2009 season, where we'll find out just how much of Steve Spagnuolo's residue sticks to Bill Sheridan and the New York Giants defense.

"It's obviously a proven, excellent system that Steve brought from Philadelphia..." Sheridan said in a Giants team statement released on Monday. "You're obviously going to have a slightly different tint to it, because you have a different coordinator and will get different input from whoever Tom brings in from outside to complete the staff. But the system is in place and there's a tremendous comfort level with the players."

Tom Coughlin added, "We won 26 games here in the last two years..." Coughlin added. "...there is an inclination when that happens that you would stay within. Continuity is important to me, but the strength of staff is important, too. We've lost Steve, our coordinator, but it takes many, many people to be successful and to function properly... I want to keep the continuity, I want the players to know that the fact they have performed to a high level the last two years is, in a way, being rewarded. One of the coaches from the staff has been elevated to the coordinator's role and the terminology will stay the same."

Staying within... I like the way that feels. And Spagnoulo wanted Sheridan to join him in St. Louis, which - for now - is good enough for me.


References: giants.com, nydailynews.com (Ralph Vacchiano - staff writer), nfl.com  -  Giants Statement: Associated Press

Posted on: December 28, 2008 12:39 am
Edited on: December 28, 2008 9:27 am

NY Giants "Things to Do" list for Sunday 12/28

The three R's of preparing for the Playoffs.

For the Giants, Playoffs begin in two weeks. Defending the title? That begins Now.

Despite the fact that the Giants have wrapped up home field advantage and a first round bye in the post season, it's not likely that Tom Coughlin will approach Sunday's game against the Vikings conservatively. That's not to suggest that Coughlin wouldn't - or shouldn't - rest a couple of key players to give them an extra week of much needed recovery time. There's enough depth on this team, particularly at running back and on the defensive line, that affords Coughlin the opportunity to outright sit a couple of players, limit the playing time of a few others, and still maintain a full head of steam as Big Blue goes for their 13th win of the season.

The Giants may face Minnesota in the playoffs a few weeks down the road. For that reason alone, a convincing victory Sunday against this Minnesota team - that must win to guarantee themselves a playoff appearance  - is important. It would send a strong psychological message right to their thought process. A convincing victory with many of their first-string players wearing baseball caps - instead of helmets - would send a strong emotional message to their hearts. Either affect goes a long way... the Vikings are a solid team that's had the Giants number in recent years.

Besides, "taking it easy" down the home stretch is not how Coughlin operates. Historically, he's never pulled back the reigns. "You can't play like that," said veteran wide receiver Amani Toomer. "You never know who you're going to play, so we're not going to hold anything back. That doesn't seem like how Coach (Tom) Coughlin would play the game."

Offensive lineman David Diehl agrees. "I think you just do what you have to do to win the football game, regardless. Don't get me wrong, there's little different things you can do here or there. But we are who we are. This is our 16th game. We've shown what we do."

"I hear things like we have everything locked up and all this nonsense, but we still have to go out and play well," added Chris Snee. "If we go out and take a step backwards, it doesn't make sense to me. We have to keep that winning feeling."


THINGS TO DO LIST for Sunday 12/28


  RB Brandon Jacobs    DT Fred Robbins

Fred Robbins returned to action last Sunday night after a fairly significant layoff due to a shoulder injury. The good news is that he looked strong and healthy, while the not-so-good news is that he wasn't nearly as effective stopping the run as he normally is. He will play some to get reacclimated and work on his rhythm, but they should replace him at some in the first half with Jay Alford. Though he played last week, scored three touchdowns and was effective in spots, Brandon Jacobs is still nursing two sore knees and should be riding the pine this Sunday in Minneapolis. The closest he should get to the field is when bringing some water to Derrick Ward as he comes off the field. Ward will get the start in the backfield, but will likely give way to Ahmad Bradshaw for the majority of the second half. I don't doubt that Brandon could play if he had to, but the reason to sit him is two-fold. His knees are one reason...

 DE Jared Allen

... is the other reason. Let's see... Matt Schaub. Aaron Rodgers. Kyle Orton. I won't go as far as to call Allen out as a cheap shot artist (as many in the media have), but I'll say that late hits, low hits and injuries seem to follow this guy around. Allen is the kid you knew in school that you couldn't quite put your finger on; he could be fun to hang out with and seemed friendly enough - but trouble always seemed to find him and you never felt 100% comfortable in his presence. Heck, I'd go as far as to say the Giants should play straight two tight end sets and have three guys keeping strict tabs on Allen to make sure he's got a white jersey on him at all times. Which brings me to item #2 on the list...


  QB David Carr

Coach Coughlin will go all out for the win. That's fine with me, as long as he does so with Carr in the second half.

and Recycle

 WR Mario Manningham

Second year receiver Steve Smith had a very similar season last year to the one Manningham is having this year. Not so much in terms of grasping the offense and understaning the playbook, but more so regarding the nagging minor injuries and lack of playing time leading into the final weeks of the season. Smith had 1 catch for 8 yards the entire season heading into the week 17 matchup with the New England Patriots. He caught 3 balls in that game for 27 yards, and while he may have turned a few heads and had some - like myself - saying "Hey, the kid looks pretty good", nobody could have predicted how those extra reps would help him become a key contributor in the postseason. When I watch the game Sunday afternoon, I want to see Manningham get some serious playing time. I want to turn my head and say "Hey, the kid looks pretty good."


Player Quotes source: NY Daily News

Posted on: December 16, 2008 11:31 am
Edited on: December 16, 2008 2:24 pm

NY Giants: What Are We Witnessing Here?

Mediocrity Exposed, or just missing Lynchpins? 


For the road to Super Bowl 43 to pass through East Rutherford, Big Blue needs two healthy bodies and one clear-minded leader to face Carolina this Sunday.

It was evident from the first snap Eli Manning took; DeMarcus Ware bolted from the left side untouched and plowed into Eli, knocking the ball loose (recovered by the Giants) and creating a 2nd down & 19 situation. That is not how this Giants team starts games. Or at least, it wasn't.

The Giants had an opportunity on Sunday night to all but seal the deal for themselves - a first round bye and home field throughout the playoffs were not guaranteed, but were more realistic than irrational reach when John Carney booted the opening kickoff in Irving, Texas. Defeating the Cowboys in their final visit to Texas Stadium would have been the cherry on top of what has been a season more successful than even the most ardent fan could have imagined. Alas, victory wasn't in the cards - and Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg may become a fitting symbol for the defending Champions who are now displaying a less egregious, but more demoralizing form of self-injurious behavior... One lands you on the DL with a suspension; the other gets you a plane ticket and hotel accomodations should you be fortunate enough to make it to the NFC Championship.

Give credit where credit is due. The Cowboys took care of business at home against a division rival, and they need the victory to stay alive for the postseason. They're defense continues to get healthy and improve, getting more aggressive as the season rolls along. Though receivers Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith showed a lot of toughness and fight, losing tackle Kareem McKenzie to an injury and guard Rich Seubert to an undisclosed illness for the second half did the Giants in as they couldn't get the running game established. In the end it was the eight sacks on Manning and the overall inability to sustain drives that made the difference in the game.

In last year's season opener in Dallas, Manning suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder. Luckily he didn't miss any time, as the injury wasn't serious enough that he couldn't play through it. As a Giants fan, hoping that Manning would emerge unscathed from the piles of white jerseys was the hardest part of getting through the entire game on Sunday. Hats off to Dallas - no one should question their talent or legitimacy regarding the playoffs; Tony Romo was back behind center and was not going to give up - regardless of the amount of pain the Giants' pass rush inflicted on him. 

While the past two games against the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles were dissapointing, there's as many reasonable excuses to point towards as there are unreasonable ones. Mediocre teams don't pull off an 11-3 record in the NFL by sheer luck; meaning, the Giants are not mediocre. They are what their record says they are, and despite the past two weeks and the Burress situation had a very impressive string of victories against solid opponents heading into week 14. Some of what we're seeing with the Giants is obvious. No matter the circumstances, Philadelphia was hell-bent on leaving the Meadowlands with a victory two weeks ago, and Brian Westbrook was the project manager. 

Was it the distractions of week-long headlines about the Latin Quarter, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Antonio Pierce that derailed the Giants against the Eagles? It certainly had an affect on them. But then what about their performance in Dallas? Did Tony Romo's presence make that much of a difference? Even in the two regular season games the Giants lost to them last year, they played with more intensity and managed to stay in the game until the end. On Sunday, the difference was alarming; the 7-3 lead the Cowboys held for most of the game felt like 27-3. So what has happened the past few weeks to keep the Giants from being competitive against these teams?

Three answers: Fred Robbins, Brandon Jacobs, Antonio Pierce.

Every team in the NFL will suffer their share of losses, injuries and off-the-field turmoil. The Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals have proven that some will suffer more than others (check out the Bengals blog by fellow member IGetNoRespect for a well written, heartfelt look at the rash of injuries his team has experienced).  As the 2008 NFL season got underway, the Giants had their own issues to cope with. Michael Strahan retired, Kawika Mitchell and Gibril Wilson - two main cogs in the defensive gears - were lost to free agency, K Lawrence Tynes suffered and leg injury, and Super Bowl hero David Tyree ( their best special teams player ) was put on the PUP list. Then the most devistating of all: losing Osi Umenyiora for the season to a torn lateral meniscus in a preaseason game with the Jets. This was a lot to overcome for the Giants, and to Tom Coughlin's credit they've managed to do just that. The underlying concern has been how they would do if hit with a few more injuries to key positions. In the Giants case, it could take a potentially elite team and render them quite ordinary, All the depth in the world couldn't change that. 

Now we come to the crux of the Giants current state, which is that the wheels are beginning to wobble a bit. Check the lynchpins. 

I'll begin with Antonio Pierce. Pierce is the captain and emotional leader of the new "Crunch Bunch" (a little nostalgia for inspriration - I used to have a poster with Lawrence taylor, Harry Carson, Brad Van Pelt and Brian Kelly wearing hard hats sitting on top of a bulldozer). But Pierce has found himself on the outside looking in; standing around the pile-ups as opposed to being buried in them, and watching backs and tight ends run past him instead of being taken down by him. Here is what I wrote following the loss to the Eagles back on December 7; it's eerily applicable to his performance in Dallas, and I see no reason to alter my commentary of Pierce's performance two weeks ago, while offering it up as somewhat of a bullet point (no pun intended) for future consideration: Antonio Pierce is playing this (Plaxico Buress situation & overall distraction) up as if everything is fine, and that there's nothing taking his focus way from football. After watching him and the rest of the defense today, I wouldn't necessarily agree. It may be unfair to lay everything on Antonio, but he was not on his game today... He was caught out of position quite often, and over-pursued on many of the plays out of the backfield... I'm curios to know if anyone else thinks that Chase Blackburn should have taken over for him at some point... He just seems out of it.

Now let's take a look at Brandon Jacobs. The loss of Jacobs is something the Giants offense can deal with when playing less physically overbearing opponents. However, the Eagles and Cowboys are anything but pushovers; both teams have stout, quick defensive lines that pride themselves on physical domination at scrimmage. What has made the Giants running game so efficient is the 1-2-3 combination of Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. Community member Jimmy the Greek might appreciate the culinary references I like to attribute to Earth, Wind and Fire:  I call them TenderizeMarinade and Cook. Jacobs is the Tenderizer - he pounds you, pulverizes you until your soft and malleable. Ward comes in at this point and gives the offense a little flavor; a little spice to liven things up and provide some zest. Once Bradshaw enters the game, it's time to cook the meat - and the Giants like it "well done". That's the game. Have you ever tried marinating a steak fresh out of the freezer? It doesn't work, does it... well, without Jacobs there to punish a few defenders, the running game doesn't work either. Not against the like of Dallas and Philadelphia anyway.

Finally, the underrated defensive tackle Fred Robbins - the unknown soldier. Robbins has been nursing an injured shoulder for a month. Over the past three weeks, Robbins sat out the Redskins and Cowboys games, and played sparingly against the Eagles. Jay Alford has been filling in for Robbins and while he's done a fine job, does not have the strength, size or experience that Robbins has. In tandem with fellow defensive tackle Barry Cofield, Robbins wreaks havoc in the middle of the line, bottles up runners and forces them to the outside where Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka can either run them them down or allow the linebackers to track them as Tuck & Kiwanuka rush the QB. Clinton Portis was pretty much shut down in large part because of nagging knee injuries; and with Cowboys guard Montrea Holland out, much of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's success in pressuring Tony Romo was a result of mismatch opportunities against Cory Proctor. But don't think it's gone unnoticed that Tashard Choice & Brian Westbrook gained the majority of their rushing yards straight up the middle of the field. In fact , 22 of Westbrook's 33 carries against the Giants were right up the gut, and with the exception of his 30-yard TD run, his 10 carries to the outside only garnered 11 yards. Tashard Choice's blast right through the heart of the line for his 38-yard score further emphasizes the point that Robbins' presence on the field is sorely missed. 

We'll know a lot more as information is released about the Giants infirmary as the week progresses, but it's not overstating it to say that a healthy Brandon Jacobs and a healthy Fred Robbins are a must for the upcoming matchup against Carolina.

And Antonio Pierce having his head in the game wouldn't be the worst thing either. 

Lynchpins. They don't look like much, but they keep the wheels from falling off.

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