Tag:ahmad bradshaw
Posted on: October 14, 2009 2:39 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2009 2:06 pm

NY Giants Week 6 Preview: Saints of Circumstance

When the first whistle blows, there will be two undefeated NFC juggernauts going toe to toe. When the last whistle blows, there should be no questions asked about the legitimacy of either team.

In case you haven't heard, there's a big game taking place at the Superdome this weekend. The Saints - with their revitalized defense and strong-as-ever offensive attack  - lie in wait with their ears to the ground, waiting to pounce the moment a thundering herd of blue from New York reaches the watering hole...

There are number of interesting storylines attached to this game. There's Eli's Plantar fasciitis, which is a simple case of painful tissue swelling on the underside of the foot. There's deportee Jeremey Shockey - which is a simple case of painful tissue swelling between the ears. There's 5-0. There's 4-0. There's NFC bragging rights on the line, at least until the Giants travel to Minnesota for the last game of the regular season (depending on how the rest of the year shakes out, of course - the Saints do not face the Vikings this season). 

A somewhat overlooked element in this contest is the improvement both teams have made in what were believed to be their weakest areas. The Giants limped towards the finish line last year with no "legitimate" number one receiver, and concerns about their ability to score points and duel with high-flying teams like the Cowboys, Eagles, Cardinals and Saints were more than warranted. For New Orleans, it was their defense; there's no denying the fact that watching the scoreboard at a Saints game last year was like watching the backbox of a pinball machine played by 'Tommy' himself.  Had they been able to clamp down on their opponents to compliment the offensive production, they may have been the odds-on favorite to make it to the Super Bowl.

Fast forward to 2009.

There's lots to like about the 2009 New Orleans Saints, but first and foremost is their improved defense. Veteran Darren Sharper has single handedly turned one of the worst secondary units of 2008 into one of the most feared in 2009. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has obviously worked well with new CB's Malcom Jenkins and Jabari Greer, but Sharper has been the primary influence, and his presence on the field is unmistakeable - it could turn out to be the best off-season signing of the year by any team.

The Saints currently boast the 6th rated defense in the league, so it isn't the secondary alone that's to credit for the turnaround. Allowing only 83 yards per game on the ground, with 10 sacks through four games against teams with pretty good offensive lines speaks volumes about their play at the line of scrimmage.

The offense continues to shine; despite less-than expected production over the last two games vs. the Bills and Jets, I'm not convinced (as many fans and analysts seem to be) that the Saints are somehow suddenly being "figured out". Rest assured that Drew Brees, Marques Colston and co. are still a force to be reckoned with. When WR Lance Moore is fully healthy again - and Sean Payton figures out why he's not getting Reggie Bush more involved in the game planning - they'll be back to putting a 40-spot on the board.

In regards to the running game, the Saints have one. Mike Bell was impressive the first two games of the season, and Pierre Thomas was equally impressive in the last two - this could be the makings of quite a 1-2 punch out of the backfield for New Orleans.

Imagine what Drew Brees could do with an effective running game?

Just imagine what the Yankees could do if they added Matt Holliday & Jason Bay to their already potent lineup... or just go with the odds that the Yankees will actually sign those two, wait until next year and see it for yourself.  

On the flip side, there's lots to like about the 2009 New York Giants, but first and foremost is their newfound corps of wide receivers. What initially appeared to be a severe void in their offense is now their most valuable resource. Second-year man Mario Manningham is proving that he may, indeed, have been the steal of the 2008 draft. His penchant for bobbling the ball is more than just dramatic flair; his circus catch against Cowboys corner Terence Newman in week 2 was exciting highlight material, but his inability to NOT bobble every pass thrown to him against the Bucs a week later was cause for concern. It goes without saying he's commited to improvement, which is why I'll say it. Rookie Hakeem Nicks has bounced back rather nicely from his week 1 injury to show he's capable of being the big-play threat Eli Manning needs, and Steve Smith has been nothing short of spectacular - playing more like the Steve Smith (yes, the other Steve Smith), and producing even better stats than that Steve Smith is. I think...

In a preseason blog, I called out Smith for letting a 60-yard dart slip right through his hands on a sure touchdown - I think my exact words were, "If Smith (and Hixon) - the team's starter(s) - can't make those catches in a preseason game, what will they do when it really counts? I guess he showed me.

Eli Manning finally seems 100% at ease with his offense, and perhaps those distractions of Shockey and Plaxico Burress were a little too much too deal with week in & week out. He's already built a strong report with these three receivers, and they seem to be just as synced up with him as Burress and Amani Toomer ever were.

The one concern I have is Brandon Jacobs. After their opening game against Washington, I wrote about the hit LB London Fletcher threw on him that would have knocked most human beings into a month-long coma. The funny thing was that Jacobs really didn't seem at all stunned by the hit, though he left the game for a bit and was looked at by the trainers. In the postgame blog, I wrote that "He didn't miss any time, but he never quite seemed the same after that."

Unfortunately, Jacobs still hasn't looked the same. He's suddenly and unexplainably become a very "tackleable" running back. This is not the Brandon Jacobs we've grown accustomed to, and had it not been for the exceptional play of Ahmad Bradshaw this season we'd be finding photos of the Giants running game on the back of milk cartons - "Have you seen this ability?". At some point, Brandon needs to shake off whatever is holding him back - if he's going to go down at the initial point of contact, then he's not very useful. 

And in the end - after extolling the virtues of the successful revamping of both the Giants wide receivers and the Saints secondary, what will this game come down to?

Can Steve Smith get open on Darren Sharper?

Will Manning continue his heads-up, mistake free play?

Can the Giants score from inside the 20's?

Will Pierre Thomas & Reggie Bush run all over the Giants defense the way Marion Barber & Felix Jones did?

Do the Saints have a plan to contain Ahamad Bradshaw?

Can Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora get to Brees quickly enough to force turnovers?

Will Manning's foot hold up for an entire game?

Will Jeremy Shockey be able to control his rage once he realizes that his former team is completely ignoring him and his pissing-match tactics?

Is there enough going on here to get your mouth watering?

Could I write a little more like Pete Prisco?

I make no predictions. I expect this game to be all it's hyped up to be - one for the ages. Or at least "one for" this season. For now, it's the best the NFL can possiby offer - and 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. There's enough mediocrity and lackluster play to go around - it's high time that we have more than one or two teams with a stranglehold on the NFL. There's nothing wrong with having seven or eight teams fighting for 'elite' status. 

A loss is a loss, and win is a win. But if I may take liberties with literary greatness, I'll credit George Orwell and say that - as you and I both know... " "All losses are equal, but some losses are more equal than others".

References: TheTimes-Picayune.com, pro-football-reference.com

Posted on: September 28, 2009 2:47 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2009 2:50 pm

New York Fans Have 'Two For The Show'

If you're looking for a backup running back that can single-handedly take control of a game, then look no further than East Rutherford: Leon Washington & Ahmad Bradshaw are #1 and #1A in the NFL

 Bradshaw's proving that 'Fire' can replace 'Wind'.

When the Jets and Giants offenses take the field for their first possession of a game, it's veteran Thomas Jones and 'Mount' Brandon Jacobs who are called upon to get things going. They are fixtures - penned in under all circumstances for the opening drive on gameday, and have earned those roles the hard way. Their presence in the backfield is unquestioned; their contributions are worthy of praise and their commitment to victory is always apparent. Each back brings something to the table that forces opposing defenses to plan around and prepare for, and over the past few seasons they've been instrumental in the level of success their organizations have attained. They get the attention and focus, and are expected to start the engines.   

But what happens if that engine begins to sputter? When the flames turn blue and begin to flicker - and the most subtle breeze threatens to extinguish what's left of the fire - fans of these New York teams have grown accustomed to seeing their leading men take a back seat while their understudies come in and stoke the furnace to get the engines chugging again.

In reality, the term understudy is not an entirely accurate description. An understudy is someone who learns the entirety of a lead performer's role so they are able to replace that regular performer when/if required. When looking at the roles asked of the Jets' Leon Washington and the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw, it's obvious - they have their own parts to play, and in many respects they are stealing the spotlight from the leads. And their head coaches wouldn't have it any other way.

Leon Washington earned the tag "game breaker" right off the bat; the 117th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Leon began turning heads in the '06 preseason with his speed and agility on kick returns. At the time, the Jets had signed Kevan Barlow away from the 49ers as the heir apparent to Curtis Martin, who had just retired. It didn't take long for Washington to outshine his lead performer, and Jets fans immediately recognized him for the threat that he was. Against the Detroit Lions in October, Washington racked up over 120 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns in a 31-24 victory. He would prove dangerous in the passing attack later on that year with over 100 yards through the air against the Miami Dolphins on Christmas day. He wrapped up the year as the team's rushing leader, and despite taking a back seat to Jones the following season has been a force to be reckoned with ever since - giving opposing defensive coordinators and special teams coaches fits in preparing for him. 

Ahmad Bradshaw's rise to prominence came a year later, having been drafted as the 250th overall pick out of Marshall in '07. Unlike Washington, Bradshaw's career started with less fanfare and more trepidation on the part of his coaching staff. His preseason performance was lackluster, prone to fumbling on kickoff returns and struggling to find open running lanes. Veteran Reuben Droughns began the 2007 season as the kickoff returner, but the aging Droughns started to show signs of slowing down and his abilities were quickly deteriorating. That - combined with injuries to Jacobs and Derrick Ward - gave Bradshaw the opportunity to show his stuff. His was given his first significant role in a game against the Buffalo Bills on December 23rd - and responded with 151 yards rushing on just 17 carries, including an 88-yard TD where he shot through the line like a missle and sprinted all the way to the end zone untouched. His team leading 42-yards rushing in Super Bowl XLII and heads-up recovery of an Eli Manning fumble further increased his stock. Despite losing 60-days worth of training camp heading in to the 2008 season (spent in Abingdon Regional Jail for violating probation for a juvenile charge), he worked his way back into shape and led the Giants in yards per carry with 6.7 for the season, being the third man on the totem pole in the "Earth, Wind and Fire" trio of running backs. 

Bradshaw is currently leading the Giants in rushing with 201 yards (5.7 per carry), despite touching the ball 23 fewer times than starter Jacobs. This past Sunday in Tampa Bay, Bradshaw did what Jacobs could not; find the open lanes and make defenders have to work at dragging him down. Even though the Giants dominated field possession, the game clock and every offensive statistic possible, this could have been a very different game if Bradshaw was not there to keep the clock ticking and the chains moving. 

Washington - despite being knee deep in a contract dispute - is the good soldier who puts his head down and does his job. He continues to be the x-factor for the Jets - and even though his performance this past Sunday against Tennessee was subdued in comparison, who can forget last years matchup in Music City when the Jets rolled to a 34-13 victory over the undefeated Titans? Washington ran for 83 yards on just 8 carries, and his 61-yard TD dash in the last quarter turned out to be the nail in the coffin. Whatever the details of his contract dispute are, it's hard to imagine that someone as valuable to his team as Washington is could be asking for anything more than he rightfully deserves.

This is not in any way meant to diminish the talent of other quote-unquote backup running backs in the league; some of the more valuable 2nd stringers like Mewelde Moore (Pittsburgh) and Darren Sproles (SD) have been clutch for their teams. And yes, there are other backup RB's out there such as Dallas' Felix Jones and New Orleans Pierre Thomas who have shown amazing ability off the bench and on special teams. But they haven't dominated games. They haven't been out there standing head and shoulders above the other 21 players on the field; like a solitary sailboat in an endless blue ocean, you fixate on the boat because there's really nothing else for you to look at.  

These are two prolific athletes. They may be backups on the depth chart, but they are second to none when it comes to the intensity and passion they spill all over the gridiron. In a day and age where leaders need to lead both statistically and emotionally, it's nice to know that there are two young men here in the Apple that have the same potential to do what players like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson and Randy Moss can do - that is, to hoist their temmates up on their shoulders and offer them a ride.

The fact that they come out of nowhere to do this makes the experience that much sweeter. 

Every team is in the same boat; they trust their captains and sail the NFL seas with confidence in their crew. But every once in a while, things can slow down and goals become harder to reach than first thought. When spirits are low and someone needs to step up, Leon Washington and Ahmad Bradshaw seem to provide the gusts needed when the sails are up.

References: pro-football-reference.com, nfl.com

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: October 4, 2008 6:00 pm

Giants to do list: Sunday 10/5

1. Offense: Exploit the Secondary: Seatles Defensive line is formidable, allowing just 88 yards rushing per game. Granted, the last two games were against the 49ers and Rams, but both of those struggling teams have A-list talent running backs. Brandon Jacobs' strength happens to be running between the tackles, but it seems like Kevin Gilbride has been swinging him to the outside an awful lot in the first half. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are 25th in the league against the pass - allowing 226 yards a game (again, against weak offensive teams - including Trent Edwards, who won't be confused for Dan Fouts). If Eli Manning were ever going to have a 350+ yard afternoon this should be it; the Seattle secondary is riddled with injury (Marcus Trufant continues to play with a broken bone in his hand, Kelly Jennings will be returning to action after breaking a rib) and doesn't have the speed to contend should Gilbride send out 3 or 4 receivers - even without Plaxico in the lineup. 

2. Defense: Stop Julius Jones: Steve Spagnola should expect a heavy dose of Orange Julius on Sunday (they're right... NOTHING rhymes with "orange"). He's broken out two straight 100 yard games and is really finding the holes his line creates for him. Despite the expected returns of Deion Branch and Bobby Engram, Aaron Pierce & Co. should be focusing on Jones and stopping the running game. I would expect with the extra week off that Spagnola will start working Kenny Phillips into the starting lineup, and Matt Hasselbeck's been struglging this season (60.1 passer rating) with finding open targets. Seattle will look to neutralize the Giants passing attack by trying to win time of possesion.

3. Special Teams: No "Mc"Quarters: R.W. McQuarters will play Sunday, but New York would be wise to rest him and allow Domenik Hixon to continue returning punts. Let's face it: He's younger and faster, more dynamic. He makes something out of nothing and is a legitimate threat everytime he touches the ball. And anyone can call for a fair catch when there's 20 yards of open field in front of him. Maybe he's the only one who can do it without fumbling?

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