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: 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: October 20, 2008 8:08 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2008 7:59 pm

Shockey makes things hard in the Big Easy.

By gloves or by emblem , the opponent to defeat is the one in the mirror.

The rise & fall of Jeremy Shockey runs in parallel to another sports icon: Mike Tyson.

Some of you know exactly where I'm going with this. Some of you may just be curious enough to read a little further. Some of you have already moved on to another Blog. Trust me, it's not a crazy at it may sound.

To show the similarities between these two, we have to distinguish a point in time when "the end" actually began for Jeremy Shockey. But First, let's revisit the early years of Mike Tyson. It's the kind of tale Oscar-winning movies are made of.

Tyson's relationship with his trainer and legal guardian Cus D'Amato is well documented. Tyson was a dormant volcano from a broken home that learned to fight because of his lisp and high-pitched voice. He learned to fight without the help of his dad, who abandoned his family when he was two years old. By the time he was 16, he'd been bounced from one facility to the next. It was D'Amato that discovered Tyson and pulled him out of reform school in the early 1980's, giving him boxing gloves and a purpose. He spent his final years molding Tyson into the meanest and arguably the most technically brilliant fighter of his generation. D'Amato made Tyson the fighter that he was -and more importantly, helped him become a better person; the person he was in the beginning. D'Amato kept him from falling off the ledge of his own psyche.

Cus D'Amato passed away shortly before Tyson defeated Trevor Berbick to become the WBC Heavyweight Champ. But shortly after the victory, Tyson's personal life spiraled out of control. His fighting skills diminished. Robin Givens led to Buster Douglas. Without Cus, No one was there to set him straight. No one was there to appreciate Mike for who he was as a person. He was just a boxer. 

Jeremy Shockey? He's always had a mouth on him. He was a lightning rod for the press and kept damage control at DEFCON 4 levels during his time in New York. There was the crude gesture during their choke at San Francisco in January of 2003. There was the cup of ice he hurled blindly over his shoulder into the lower boxes during that same game. What I don't recall about that game is when he dropped that perfect Kerry Collins pass in the end zone - before or after the cup of ice. I think it was after.

Then there was the New York Magazine article 8 months later - in August of 2003 - where he referred to Bill Parcells as a  "Homeowner" (figure it out for yourself). He of course denied the comment. He followed that up by emphatically declaring he would never stand for having a "homeowner" as a teammate, during an interview on The Howard Stern Radio Show (think about this; the one person we can thank for first exposing  Shockey's true feelings about "homeowners" is none other than Baba-Booey. That's Pop culture at it's finest, folks).

Somehow, with this whirlwind of garbage flying around the Meadowlands, Jeremy was still looked at as a leader by some teammates and fans. Sure, he could be a pain in the neck to his coaches. Sometines he was a Bully towards his teammates, and an unnecessary distraction for Giants ownership to deal with. But he could still catch the ball. And he made defenders pay dearly should they dare try to stop him one-on-one. Just like they say about Terrell Owens - He wanted to win. And that was good enough for Giants fans. But when did the "end" actually begin for Shockey? When was it that the wheels came off, the springs popped and the smoke began to bellow?

It was October of 2005. 

On a chilly autumn morning in Rye, New York, Shockey was invited (along with only a handful of others) to visit the home of Giants owner and NFL patriarch Wellington Mara. Mara was 89-years old and dying of Lymphoma. The Mara family knew of the special bond between Wellington and Shockey; reports at the time suggested that Jeremy spent a lot of time alone with Mara that day, and did most or all of the talking. It was the last conversation between the two; and Mara's death just days later had a profound affect on him. In the October 27, 2005 edition of the New York Times, an article by John Branch quoted Shockey as saying "He said so many things to me. I know in my heart he respected the things that I've done in the past as far as a football player, but he wasn't worried about me as a football player. He was worried about me as a person."

In the most unlikely of pairings, the two had quickly developed a tight relationship from the time Mara drafted Shockey. Shockey's reputation at the University of Miami (FL) preceded him, but Mara's respect for the players that Miami churned out year after year (along with Jeremy's accomplishments) were all he needed to want him on his team. There were heart to heart talks between the two early on, since Mara wanted to feel confident that Jeremy's on the field talents would not be overshadowed by off the field turmoil. It was a connection between an owner and player that's hard to find in this day and age. 

Reportedly, Mara and Shockey could often be found chatting in the halls of the Meadowlands, sharing a laugh - a rarity for other Giants players. It was also well known that Mara was like a father to Jeremy - the father that he never had growing up in Oklahoma (his parents divorced before he started grammer school, and had no contact with his father at all). Mara never questioned Shockey's talent, but was concerned for him as a person.

"We're two different people, two different backgrounds, and raised in two different areas," said Shockey. "It was very special to me to get to know him and to see that he took time out of his day to get to know me and to try to mold me into a better person." Wellington Mara gave Shockey a "ny" emblem and a purpose. He tried to help Shockey become the person he knew he was capable of being. Wellington Mara kept him from falling off the ledge of his own psyche. Without Wellington Mara, the volatile and controversial - yet containable - Jeremy Shockey was now adrift without an anchor.

The early stages of the end were quiet but noticeable. The stats started to decline. He was dropping passes more frequently. The injury bug started to hit. He sat alone with a broken leg as he watched Kevin Boss draw rave reviews while the press proclaimed that the Giants were a better team without him.

The slope of the decline had now steepend. During a gut-wrenching playoff run, Shockey sat at home watching it all on TV. As his teammates were shocking the world on a football field in Glensdale, Shockey was tucked away in a luxury suite sipping cocktails through a straw. While Eli Manning was driving his club down the field towards destiny, Shockey sat quietly while brother Peyton stood up and cheered. While his team was being drenched in ticker tape along Broadway, Shockey was MIA. When training camp started for the 2008 season, Jeremy began having verbal confrontations with Giants General Manager Jerry Reese.

What's that? A 2nd round pick in 2009? Goodbye, Jeremy.

Consistent with the behavior of most problem players (and problem people in general for that matter), Shockey had nothing but love for his new digs. Enough praise for his coaches and support for his teammates to last a contract and them some. But the injury bug has hit in the form of a sports hernia. During the healing process, Shockey decided to pass time by following head coach Sean Payton up and down the sidelines. Literally. On the Monday Night Football telecast when New Orleans hosted Minnesota, Shockey never appeared to be more than 3 feet away from his head coach. He ran out on the field a few times in celebration, and was helpful making faces at referees when he disagreed with a call. His actions prompted Payton to say "I know he's anxious to get back and not have him standing next to me with a towel in his hand. Hopefully it's this week". Payton further noted that Shockey's daisy-chain tactics were not "part of the plan. He kind of just invited himself". 

Shockey returned to action this past Sunday, but the Saints lost. They lost big. In addition to a costly fumble, Shockey aggrivated his hernia. Following the game, Shockey told reporters that not only was he "rushed back" into action, but that the Saints mishandled his injury by not allowing him a 5-7 week time frame for proper healing. Apparently, Jeremy doesn't know whether he's in pain or not and needs team doctors to tell him that. Jeremy probably doesn't trust those doctors though, because in addition to the miscalculated recovery time, according to Shockey they completely misdiagnosed him in training camp.

There's no one there to set him straight. No one to appreciate Jeremy for who he is as a person. He is just a football player.

The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It's the same thing, fear. But it's what you do with it that matters.  - Cus D'Amato.



Jeremy Shockey quotes: New York TImes  - Rare Bond Between Shockey and Mara'  by John Branch - October 27, 2005

Sean Payton quotes - The Sun Herald - 'Shockey Wants Back inthe Game, Coach' by Larry Holder - October 14, 2008

SportingNews.com & CBS Sportsline.com

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 26, 2008 9:20 am

Shockey: still breaking b*lls

I've always been a fan of Jeremy's.

As a Giant, he could inspire and pump you up as often as he could make you yell "Don't be an idiot!!!!" at your TV. I wish him only the best with New Orleans, and while I'm one who's supported the trade - recognizing his time had run out here in NY - there was still a part of me that wished it hadn't come to this.

The last time I felt this way about a trade was when the NY Rangers traded Ron Duguay, Eddie Mio and Eddie Johnstone to the Red Wings. They were only my three favorite players on the team - even painted my MYLEC goalie mask red on top, blue down the sides.

Willie Huber & Mike Blaisdell didn't exactly work out as planned, did they?

Back to football...

Sorry to hear that Jeremy's body continues to break down, expected now to miss four to six weeks with a sports hernia.  And you know this won't be the only action he misses this season. But after Kevin Boss caught three passes (including his first TD this season - showing how tough he can be while taking a nasty shot to the ribs in the process) for over 50 yards this past week against the Bengals, only one thing came to mind:

Our 2nd round pick in 2009 won't miss time this year.

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