- NYGMen gets some love from Deadspin.
- Final preseason game tonight against the Patriots, and the Giants have a chance to go undefeated for the first time since 1990. For that reason only, I hope they win tonight. Here are my observations on the three previous preseason games. (Ravens game, Chiefs game, Jets game parts 1 and 2)
- Fox Sports has the Giants going 11-5, finishing in first place and losing in the NFC Championship game.
- A unit-by-unit preview of the Giants from Fox Sports.
- Nice piece by Mike Garafolo on some guys on the bubble: Michael Jennings, Damane Duckett, Wade Fletcher, Nick McNeil, and Matthew Lentz.
- Arthur Staple on the same subject. “Bubble Boys” make the squad, “Costanzas” are gone.
- Garafolo gives us three things to watch for in tonightâ€™s game against the Pats, including the backup QB job being in the line. He thinks that the Hefty Lefty can clinch it with a good performance. And so does Paul Schwartz.
- Donâ€™t tell the guys on the bubble or the coaches that this last preseason game isnâ€™t important, writes Arthur Staple. Also in the article, Bill Belichick had some flattering words about the G-Men, calling them “a playoff team that is really good on defense and has a lot of weapons on offense. Theyâ€™re well coached.”
- Dan Benton gives his thoughts on tonightâ€™s game.
- As the left corner, the progress of Corey Webster will be critically important to the success of the defense. “Iâ€™ve got to tell you heâ€™s had a good camp,” said Colonel Tom. A good sign. Also, Sam Madison is taking Webster under his wing and is pleased with his progress. I didnâ€™t know this, but apparently Webster played some receiver at LSU.
- Ralph Vacchiano writes that Colonel Tom will be coaching the Giants next year and for a while after that. “The organization loves the discipline, order, and most of all, winning,” Vacchiano writes.
- Really interesting piece by Peter King about each teamâ€™s “best case scenario.” He looks at the schedule and rates each team from everything from a certain win to a certain loss, and then he devises a best-case scenario from this. The best case scenario for the G-Men? 10-6. Hmmm. Itâ€™s hard to swallow that a best case scenario for a team that went 11-5 last year and clearly improved in the offseason will be a one win decline than last year, but I guess thatâ€™s the tough schedule for you. But I donâ€™t buy it â€“ Peter King will eat his words.
- FootballOutsidersâ€™ Over-Unders take on the top half of the NFC. They’ve set the Giants at 9 wins: one guy has them over and one has them under. Very interesting commentary on all the teams. A suggested read. One of the guyâ€™s points about the Giants is that the Will Demps acquisition didnâ€™t make much sense because the Giants already have a run-stuffing safety in Gibril Wilson. He says that they would have been better served with a better pass defender to replace Alexander. Hereâ€™s my analysis of the pass defense. And, if youâ€™re interested, the run defense, the return game, the punter, and the kicker.
- Plax is antsy to get the preseason over with. “Itâ€™s probably one of the longest preseasons Iâ€™ve ever been in because weâ€™re so anxious and weâ€™re anticipating going out and doing well. We just want to get the ball rolling. Weâ€™re so excited about the season that the preseason kind of dragged along for us.”
Thu 31 Aug 2006
Wed 30 Aug 2006
- Parts 1 and 2 of my write-up of our preseason game against the Jets.
- My analysis of the run defense, pass defense, return game, punter, and kicker. More of these analyses to come.
- YahooSports has the Giants finishing first, projecting them with a 10-6 record in a tightly bunched NFC East. Sports Illustrated has the Redskins winning the division at 9-7, but the Giants and Cowboys pulling into the wildcard with the same record, and the Eagles missing the playoffs altogether with the same record. The consensus here is that the NFC East will be tough. ButÂ SI has the G-Men picking up steam during the postseason in a reverse of what happened last year, beating both the Redskins and Seahawks on the road before succumbing to the Panthers in the NFC Championship game. Interestingly, they have the Panthers as the eventual Super Bowl Champions, beating everyoneâ€™s trendy pick, the Dolphins.
- Mike Garafolo on R.W. McQuarters, one of the coolest names in Giants history, and now that Sir Henry Anderson and Little John Flowers are out of the picture, by far the coolest name on this yearâ€™s squad. Apparently, the Giants were the only team that had even the faintest interest in olâ€™ R.W. â€“ the Lions, the team that he started all 16 games for last year, didnâ€™t even call him. I somewhat neglected R.W. in my analysis of the pass defense, but he is a big component to our depth at defensive back. If SIâ€™s prediction comes to fruition and we wind up playing Carolina in the NFC Championship game, we probably wonâ€™t be seeing a washed-up Terrell Buckley on Steve Smith.
- TikiÂ is stillÂ pissed about last yearâ€™s playoff loss.Â Good. Hopefully, that loss will be a springboard like the 20-0 ass-whupping that we endured in Chicago in the â€™85 playoffs. By the way, I love how Tiki says “restore Giants pride.” Itâ€™s good that heâ€™s taking on the leadership role of setting really high expectations. Thereâ€™s a lot of articles on this subject today: hereâ€™s the Daily News, the Westchester Journal News, the Bergen Record, and the Post.
- I had always wondered about Mike Garafoloâ€™s obsession with Bob Whitfield and had even been slightly irritated by it, but after reading this, I see where heâ€™s coming from. Frank Walker comes off as really cool too. My favorite quote in the whole exchange comes from Whitfield, dropping some Ali-esque compliments on Walker: “The boy can be a politician, congressman, senator, president, a CEO and a thief all in the same breath.”
- With a full year under his belt, thereâ€™s really no reason to think that Eli wonâ€™t improve this year, writes Newsdayâ€™s Steve Zipay. Heâ€™ll need to improve, considering our murderous schedule. Also, promising rookie free agent E.J. Underwood is out for the year with a torn labrum. Thatâ€™s a big loss â€“ Coughlin said that he was working in the nickel and dime packages, and that “he had a really good camp.”
- Sinorice Moss will not play in Thursdayâ€™s game. As Colonel Tom says, “The clock keeps running.” Luke Petitgout (back) and Shaun Oâ€™Hara (knee) are back at practice, but Rick Seubert (toe) is still out.
- In a Scout.com interview about Eli Manning, Phil Simms takes an old-school, anti-statistics approach. Football stats are often misunderstood â€“ itâ€™s not that quantifying events on the football field is impossible, itâ€™s that conventional statistics tend to take the wrong approach to doing so. I could go on and on, but instead Iâ€™ll point you to FootballOutsiders.com. Fascinating stuff.
- Dan Benton of Giants 101 with an update on Brentson Buckner, who apparently is still of interest to the Giants. Benton writes that the G-Men might also sign a DT who has been cut by another team, which doesnâ€™t sound so appealing to me.
- Or they might just go with Barry Cofield at the Nose, Paul Schwartz writes. At 6-3 and 303 lbs, Cofield seems a little small for the Nose, but apparently, Fred Robbins is much more effective playing the off-tackle spot, where the DT lines up against a guard and getting upfield is more of a priority than holding oneâ€™s ground.
Tue 29 Aug 2006
First, here’s my analysis of the run defense.Â
Now to the pass D…
There is no area of the Giants harder to predict than pass defense. Three out of four starters in the secondary â€“ Sam Madison, Corey Webster, and Will Demps â€“ are new starters for Big Blue.
Adding to the difficulty of predicting is that itâ€™s hard to know what to expect out of these individual players. Madison is staving off the effects of Father Time and has heard whispers about being over the hill all camp. Demps is coming off knee surgery that sidelined him for the latter part of 2005. And Webster has never started for a season in the NFL before.
However well these three newcomers to the starting lineup perform, one would expect them to do better than last yearâ€™s group. With the frustrating Will Allen departed, the overmatched Curtis DeLoatch relegated to his proper place on the bench and special teams (if he even makes the squad), and the solid, but uninspiring Brent Alexander retired, they would be hard press to duplicate last yearâ€™s mediocrity.
Statistically, the Giants finished 18 in the NFL against the pass with a DVOA of 2.3%. (Donâ€™t know what DVOA is? Well, itâ€™s an advanced metric created by the smart folks at FootballOutsiders.com that adjusts every play of the NFL season to situation and opponent, and then calibrates statistics accordingly. Click here and scroll down a bit for a more fleshed out explanation. But to make a long story short, 2.3% for defense is a little worse than average, while 2.3% on offense is a little better than average. Conversely, -2.3% for defense is a little better than average for defense, while -2.3% is a little worse than average for offense. Understand? Sort of?)
So anyway, the Giants pass defense, judging by DVOA, was a little worse than average, making it the only facet of the team (run-D, run-O, pass-D, pass-O, special teams) that was below league average.
That the Giants pass defense was below average is particularly egregious when you consider that the Giants had one of the best pass-rushes in the league. Any time you have Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora and youâ€™re pass defense still struggles, it reflects pretty poorly on your defensive backs.
In fact, when the guys up front werenâ€™t sacking the quarterback, the ineptitude of the secondarily was on full display. When the Giants had three or more sacks, the pass defense compiled a -18.1% DVOA, which, for the uninitiated, is somewhere between very good to excellent. In games that Big Blue did not record at least three quarterback sacks (6 of the games last year), the secondary put up a 29.4% DVOA, which, for uninitiated, is horrendous.
The conclusion to draw from these numbers is that our defensive backs were horrible last year, and it was only our dominant pass rush that spared them embarrassing statistics. If only our defensive backsÂ had beenÂ average, our pass defense wouldÂ have been aboveÂ average.
And there is no reason to think that our acquisitions will not give us at least a average secondary, which, combined with our outstanding pass rush, should give the Giants an above average pass-defense. If we can improve the weakest facet of our team from 18th in the league to, say, 11th, that would be huge, and our free agent dollars (Madison, Demps, McQuarters, Harris) and draft choices (Webster, Peprah, Butler [who was actually an undrafted free agent]) will be well worth it.
Letâ€™s examine these guys individually, using a pretty crude and questionable measurement, the Scout.com ratings. Take these ratings with a grain of salt; weâ€™re talking about the same people that wrote that Tiki has trouble holding onto the ball â€“ in this yearâ€™s reports! But just to illustrate the point in an objective way, letâ€™s look at this yearâ€™s d-backs who theyâ€™re replacing:
(Websterâ€™s grade is obviously some sort of glitch. I donâ€™t even think Scout.com would argue that DeLoatch last year was twice as good as Webster will be this year).
Demps: 74Â Â Â Alexander: NA
(Alexander wasnâ€™t terrible, but Demps is undoubtedly an upgrade)
Ok, aside from the Webster hiccup, itâ€™s safe to assume that weâ€™ve made significant improvements in the secondary. Even if Webster is a little worse than Allen was last year (which would actually be disappointing), weâ€™ve still substantially upgraded both corner spots, the free safety spot, and, with another year under Gibrilâ€™s belt, the strong safety spot.
All of these upgrades add up. Even if the pass-rush doesnâ€™t have quite the banner year that it did last year, the pass defense will be much better this year.
Tue 29 Aug 2006
- First, parts 1 and 2 of my Jets game recap.
- A non-Giants item: The Eagles just got Donte Stallworth from the Saints for Mark Simoneau and a conditional draft choice. Donâ€™t let last yearâ€™s 5-11 record fool you â€“ they did that without McNabb and Westbrook. Last year, they had a young defense that was actually better than league-average. With their offensive playmakers back and with the addition of Stallworth, this team is gonna be scary. Ralph Vacchiano agrees.
- Hopes are high for the Giants D, writes Arthur Staple. My favorite quote in this article is from Gibril Wilson, who led the team with 110 tackles last year: “Weâ€™ve got a lot of playmakers, we run to the ball, and when we get there we have bad intentions.”
- Good article by John Branch on Brandon Jacobs. Unfortunately, the Giants still seem set on using him as their short-yardage/goal line guy. Iâ€™ve said this a thousand times, but Tiki should get these carries. Jacobs does not get good leverage in tight spaces; just because heâ€™s big doesnâ€™t mean that heâ€™s a good short yardage runner (see Dayne, Ron). I would love to see Jacobs get more carries, but not as a pigeonholed short-yardage guy. But he needs to do a better job of holding onto the ball â€“ he fumbled out of bounds in the Jets game, and can generally be a little careless with the rock.
- From the Times Health Section, many concussions would be prevented if trainers and coaches made sure that helmets fit properly. Apparently, there is a 10-step process to making sure that helmets fit, including checking if the facemask is two inches from the nose and that the chinstraps are an equal distance apart.
- I think Plax was a little easy on himself for his egregious two personal fouls in the Jets game. His rationale was basically: “Hey, itâ€™s preseason. It wonâ€™t happen when the games count.” But come on. Itâ€™s still a game that the whole squadâ€™s been working up to all week long. Also, Carlos Emmons is back. Shaun Oâ€™Hara and Luke Petitgout are back practicing, although limitedly. And E.J. Underwood, the promising free agent corner, will likely be placed on season-ending IR with a torn labrum. And Sinorice Moss is still out. Frustrating.
- Barry Cofield has been a quick study, and it looks like heâ€™s earned the starting nose tackle spot. But realize that the Giants will still employ a four-man rotation at the defensive tackles: Cofield, Robbins, Jonas Seawright, and William Joseph. The G-Men are no longer interested in Brentson Buckner, which I suppose speaks well of Cofieldâ€™s progress.
- Bob Whitfield: Hip-hop mogul, Stanford alum, proud parent of five children, and an invaluable part of the Giants depth at offensive line. He and Grey Ruegamer did a great job Friday against the Jets in place of Luke Petitgout and Shaun Oâ€™Hara.
- Vinny DiTrani on cut day, when red tags are doled out to those unfortunate Gentrys of the world. The Giants carried only six linebackers last year, but given the depth problems that came to a head in the Panthers game, they will probably keep seven this year, DiTrani writes. They would be Pierce, Arrington, Wilkinson, Emmons, Short, Blackburn, and either Reggie Torbor, Tyson Smith, or Nick McNeil.
- Another detailed, comprehensive game write-up from Eric at Big Blue Interactive.
- Julian Garcia on Carlos Emmons, who was itching to get back to practice. Giants 101 opens up the forum for fans to say who theyâ€™d prefer at that weakside linebacker spot.
Mon 28 Aug 2006
Ok, lots to talk about.
- Parts 1 and 2 of my recap of the Giants â€“ Jets game last Friday.
- I had mentioned in my recap of the Jets game that Gerris Wilkinson had struggled, and that it would be interesting what would happen with Emmons, Short, and Wilkinson, all candidates for the weakside linebacker spot. What caught my eye were a couple of plays on the first series, when he got caught out of position. But he evidently improved, according to Michael Eisenâ€™s article and a transcript of a Colonel Tom interview in which he said as much, and he actually may have helped his cause with his performance. This is of course bad news for Carlos Emmons and Brandon Short â€“ scroll down to the bottom and check out Coughlinâ€™s answer to the question: “Do you expect to keep all three weakside linebackers?”
- But Carlos Emmonsâ€™ returned to practice yesterday, and Arthur Staple writes that Emmons is a “long shot” NOT to make the team. Itâ€™s hard to get a handle on this situation.
- Ernie Palladino on the Giants depth at linebacker. Whether Emmons or Short will be cut is anybodyâ€™s guess, but right now Iâ€™m leaning towards “No.”
- Hereâ€™s something else I didnâ€™t pick up on: Barry Cofield also acquitted himself quite well, and like Wilkinson, may have helped his efforts to crack the starting lineup. But just because Cofield might start does not mean that Joseph wonâ€™t play; Coughlin says heâ€™s going with the four man rotation at D-Tackle, consisting of Robbins, Cofield, Joseph, and Jonas Seawright. Right now, Cofield is at the NT spot and Robbins is at the off-tackle. Iâ€™m not sure about Joseph and Seawright.
- After a bit of a rough start, everybody was generally pretty pleased with Cofieldâ€™s performance. Hereâ€™s Vinny DiTraniâ€™s take on Cofield and Wilkinson â€“ again, pretty positive.
- Another thing from Colonel Tomâ€™s interview: He has obviously been very pleased with Corey Webster, despite the fact that Webster did get toasted for a 40-yard gain on Friday. And, overall, he seemed happy with the Giantsâ€™ overall performance in the Jet game.
- Mike Garafolo runs down the players he did not see in the locker room yesterday morning. Among the twelve names are Rob Johnson, Triandos Luke, Little John Flowers, Sir Henry Anderson, and Boo Williams. The Williams cut is a surprise, but the Giants are apparently high on Darcy Johnson.
- Garafolo’s observations from last Fridayâ€™s game. He was impressed with Madison, Demps, Pierce, and R.W. He was hard on Plax and Webster.
- Eli banged his hand on a helmet Friday night, but heâ€™s telling everyone that heâ€™s ok. As Garafolo points out, he actually performed better after the injury than before it. Both Colonel Tom and Eli downplayed the quarterbackâ€™s shaky performance.
- With Rob Johnson out of the picture, the Hefty Lefty is assured a roster spot. Also from Garafoloâ€™s notes, Eliâ€™s hand injury was apparently not serious at all, Amani (who suffered a hip contusion) will be limited in practice but the injury is not serious, E.J. Underwood injured his shoulder, and Sinorice Moss had yet another setback.
- Garafolo on the anonymous but invaluable Jim Finn.
- Justin Tuck has had a great camp, writes Arthur Staple. Osi says that of the four defensive ends, Tuck has had the best camp. It will be interesting to see what they do with all four of these guys.
- Ralph Vacchianoâ€™s observations from Fridayâ€™s game. He makes the point that the secret is out on where to run against the Giants: up the middle. Antonio Pierce was forced to make five tackles. I have confidence that the DTs will improve though.
- Vacchianoâ€™s “camp awards.” Nice piece.
Sun 27 Aug 2006
According to WFAN’s Jerry Recco, Rob Johnson was spotted saying goodbye to his teammates.Â He’s a goner, whichÂ means thatÂ the Hefty Lefty is officially on the squad.Â I never really thought that Johnson had much of a chance of making it, despite however much Coughlin may have liked him.Â He’s notorious for taking sacks, and his Tommy John surgery made his arm-strength a question mark.
Sun 27 Aug 2006
Obviously, a very encouraging performance by the Giants D, who did not allow a point to the Jets and held them to 184 yards of total offense and 9 first downs. Granted, it was the Jets, but still.
Also, how annoying was CBSâ€™ Jets-based coverage? By my count, they made three mistakes when announcing the starting lineup, saying that Joseph, Short, and McQuarters were starting when it was actually Cofield, Wilkinson, and Madison.
Ok, some observations:
–Will Demps was impressive. On one play on the Jets second series, he hustled up into run support and laid a lick on Kevan Barlow, but neglected to wrap up and wound up missing the tackle. He learned from his mistake later in the series when he drilled Barlow down low and forced a fumble. In my analysis of the run defense I somehow neglected to mention our safeties, who are just about as good a run-support group as youâ€™re going to find. Gibril and Demps are two tough guys who donâ€™t mind sticking their nose in there.
–Speaking of Gibril, he had a beautifully timed blitz on the Jets first series, shooting the gap and getting to Pennington before he could even complete his drop. He made some other nice plays during the night as well. The aggressiveness and athleticism of the Giants D is very exciting.
–The corners also looked good. Except for one 40-yard play in which Corey Webster found himself in single coverage with Justin McCareins with about half the field to cover, the Giants did a great job containing the pass. Overall, Pennington went 11/20 for 125 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per attempt. If you take that one play away, that would have been 10/19 for 85 yards and a paltry 4.7 yards per attempt. (Give credit to Corey Webster for preventing that play from being even worse than it was. He was caught in a really impossible position.)
Sam Madison had a good night. He did a good job keeping things in front of him and making tackles for short gains. On the Jets third series on 3rd and 3, he closed aggressively on Doug Jolley and was able to ride him out of bounds before Jolley got to the first down marker. (He then goaded Jolley into committing a personal foul.) It hasnâ€™t been the best camp for Madison, who got off to a rough start, got a little too much negative press about his rough start, and then tweaked him hamstring. Good to see an effort like his last night.
RW looked really good in nickel coverage, and on the first series of the second half, did a nice job jumping a Pennington pass for an interception.
–How good did Brandon Short look?! This guy was clearly playing with a fire lit under his ass. He made a couple of good stops, had a big sack, and was generally everywhere.
–Chase Blackburn looked very good too. Of course, Short and Blackburn were playing against the Jets second string offense, so their play has to be judged accordingly.
–Gerris Wilkinson, on the other hand, didnâ€™t look so great. He was a little overzealous at times. On the second series, he was caught biting on a play action and lost BJ Askew out of the flat for what turned out to be a 10-yard gain. There was another play â€“ I canâ€™t really remember the specifics â€“ where he looked a little slow getting wide, and was out of position as a result. With Wilkinson got the start, Colonel Tom was hoping that he would step up and seize that weakside linebacker job and therefore make either Short or Emmons expendable. Instead, for the first time all camp, he looked like a rookie. Now itâ€™s anybodyâ€™s guess what will happen at that position.
–Antonio Pierce was vintage Antonio Pierce. The guy can ball. At the end of the first quarter, on a 3rd and 1 from the Giants 28, Pierce aggressively shot a gap and stuffed Derrick Blaylock for no gain. The Jets looked like they would go for it on 4th down, but Dâ€™Brickashaw Ferguson jumped off-sides and forced his team to punt.
–The first unit special teams looked decent. Feely connected easily on field goals of 39 and 33 yards. Feagles had a middling performance. It was obviously unacceptable when Travis Dorschâ€™s punt got blocked â€“ It seemed like the long-snapper (Was it Kuehl?) just completely missed his assignment. Iâ€™m sure that Colonel Tom was pissed, but it doesnâ€™t exactly worry me going forward.
Sat 26 Aug 2006
Big Blue moves to 3-0 on the preseason. I need to catch an Amtrak to Massachusetts for my grandmotherâ€™s 88th birthday party (happy birthday Nanny!), so I can only talk about the offense here â€“ defense and special teams coming soon. Ok, onto the observations:
–Eli did not look good. He made a horrendous pass to Plaxico on third down of the second series, sailing the ball over his head by about twenty feet â€“ I donâ€™t know if this happened because of the pass itself or the result of a miscommunication between Eli and Plax.
A couple of seriesâ€™ later, Eli made an even worse pass to Plax. Plax was running horizontally across the field, and Eli basically just threw it behind him by a good 10 yards, resulting in an interception.
On another play, the 2nd and Goal from the Jets 8, Eli threw a bad ball behind Amani, leaving him to get absolutely popped by the Justin Miller. The Giants were bailed out when Miller got called for taunting (which seemed like a ridiculous call, by the way), but the bad pass was big at the time.
The commentator kept talking about his mechanics, and how it was his sloppy footwork that was resulting in his bad throws. This is something to keep an eye on: At this stage of his career, are Eliâ€™s mechanics consistent enough for him to be a top-flight quarterback?
To his credit, though, Eli did bounce back, and was making some pretty nice throws at the end of the half. If he had played four quarters, we might be talking about how his straightening himself out shows that heâ€™s arrived.
He finished 10 for 20, for 107 yards and 5.4 yards per attempt. Overall, not great from Eli, but not something to worry too much about.
–Plax had a terrible game. He nearly fumbled the ball on the first possession on a play that was ultimately ruled incomplete â€“ he seemed a little casual about tucking the ball into a running position after he caught it, which is something that Iâ€™ve noticed before. He also committed two personal fouls for his game-long beef with Justin Miller. Come on, Plax. We need you to be smart.
–The offensive line, on the other hand, looked terrific, especially in pass protection. It seemed like the Jets were dropping a lot of their guys into coverage, but the O-Line gave Eli all kinds of time. In the running game, they made way for Tiki to have a vintage Tiki game.
Whatâ€™s especially encouraging about this is that the line was able to put this performance together with two starters out of action. Grey Ruegamer started in place of Shaun Oâ€™Hara, and Bob Whitfield started in place of Luke Petitgout. Going into the season, it looks like our O-Line is solid and deep.
–Good to see Tiki back to his old tricks. Hopefully, these will be YouTubed at some point, but he made some pretty sweet runs, including a counter that he bounced outside to the left and took for 20 yards. Thereâ€™s not too much more to say about this guy at this point. Just sit back and enjoy another â€“ and maybe the last â€“ season of the greatest offensive player in Giants history.
–Tim Carter was impressive again, finishing with 4 catches for 34 yards. As has become his M.O., he was able to back defenders off with his amazing speed and then come back for the ball on come-backs. He also made a really nice grab on an out pattern. Iâ€™m going to say something here, so pay attention: If he stays healthy, Tim Carter might be the best receiver on our team.
–Part of the reason why this is so is because Amani Toomer seems to have lost quite a bit of speed at this point. There was a play on the Giants third series where Eli tried to hit Amani over the deep middle on a deep post. But the defender was with him stride for stride, and Amani couldnâ€™t come close to catching up to Eliâ€™s lead pass. To his credit, Amani has worked hard at turning himself into a possession guy â€“ he made a really nice play on the Giants first touchdown drive when he caught a little out and danced his way over the first-down marker.
–Brandon Jacobs didnâ€™t look so great. I appreciate the fact that heâ€™s trying to run low, but it seems like he often commits himself to running low and hard at the expense of his natural running style and maneuverability â€“ “pressing X in Madden,” as my friend Wong puts it. Heâ€™ll get better, no question, but he still needs work.
Ok â€“ I have to go now, but observations on the defense and special teams coming soon.
Thu 24 Aug 2006
Congratulations to the G-Men for finishing training camp. Those of you who never played football have no idea how much theyâ€™ve been looking forward to this day â€“ good for them that itâ€™s over, and they can go back to the Tri-State and get ready for the season.
It seems like it was a good camp â€“ certainly more small injuries than we would have liked, but nothing devastating, and the team looks like itâ€™s showing progress. Hey, donâ€™t take it from me, take it from Colonel Tom: “It was a good camp. Itâ€™s a good, solid opportunity for us to spend a lot of time together. Itâ€™s never perfect, but you make good progress. Overall, I feel good about it. I think our players feel good about it.” Ah, Colonel Tom, ya gotta love him! His quotes have become strangely endearing in their own way.
- Hereâ€™s the rest of Mike Garafoloâ€™s article about the optimistic atmosphere that surrounded the end of camp. It should be an interesting game tomorrow (or today, for many of you reading this) â€“ many of the starters will play the first half and then come out again for a series or so in the second, an attempt to simulate the halftime changeover. Shaun Oâ€™Hara, Rich Seubert, Luke Petitgout, Carlos Emmons, and Sinorice Moss will all miss Fridayâ€™s game. But according to Garafolo according to Coughlin, Mossâ€™s health is rapidly improving.
- Hereâ€™s Garafoloâ€™s blog, which runs down some of training camps pleasant surprises and disappointments. Among the pleasant surprises were R.W and Corey Webster, the latter of whom Garafolo described as having made “astounding” strides with his field awareness. E.J. Underwood, the corner who flunked out of Ohio State before his senior year and transferred to an NIAI school, seeing his draft stock plummet as a result, was another pleasant surprise. On the other end of the spectrum were Rob Johnson, Guy Whimper, and surprisingly, Michael Jennings. Jennings a disappointment? Garafolo noted his failures as a receiver, but he seems more valuable as a punt returner. Maybe Willie Ponder will surviveâ€¦. Cut day will be very interesting.
- Some dense pieces of information from Arthur Stapleâ€™s blog. First, Barry Cofield is starting in place of William Joseph at DT, and heâ€™s been working with the first team in Josephâ€™s spot all week. Second, Gerris Wilkinson is starting at weakside linebacker, at the spot that Brandon Short started at last week. And as Staple writes, “If Wilkinson excels, that could mean trouble for Emmons or Short.”
- This is somewhat buried in John Altavillaâ€™s article, but this kid Tyson Smith has looked really good in camp and has a spot of making the roster. At this point, it seems pretty likely that Emmons or Short wonâ€™t be on the final roster.
- An excellent, excellent job by Giants 101 about the guys on the bubble. A strongly suggested read.
- Also from Giants 101, the Giants still appear to be interested in Donnie Edwards, and might possibly part with Chad Morton toÂ obtain him. I donâ€™t like it. Edwards is a very good player, but Wilkinson is an exciting prospect and Emmons, Short, and even Blackburn round out what should be a pretty decent weakside linebacker stable. They cite Michael Jenningsâ€™ emergence as a reason why Morton will be expendable, but the juryâ€™s still out on whether or not Jennings will even make the squad. Even if he does, I still like Morton as a returner. Last year, he was one of the best return-men in the league. This year, heâ€™s a year away from his knee troubles and should be even better. The drop-off that weâ€™ll suffer from going from Morton to Jennings/Ponder is greater than the gain weâ€™ll get by upgrading Emmons/Short/Wilkerson/Blackburn for Edwards. Plus, I still thing we should sign Brentson Buckner, and we donâ€™t want to kill our cap space.
- Arthur Staple writes that Jared Lorenzen will be the first guy off the bench to replace Eli against the Jets. Letâ€™s hope the Hefty Lefty, and his “surprisingly quick feet,” to quote Staple, snag this number two job. Also, Sam Madison is back from the minor hamstring injury, and will play against the Jets.
- Despite encouraging auditions, David Tyree remains buried on the depth chart at wide receiver. From what weâ€™ve seen of Tyree, thereâ€™s every reason to think he can be a good receiver â€“ as Colonel Tom says in Arthur Stapleâ€™s article, “Heâ€™s just a good football player. He can do a lot of things.” But maybe his day will come, if not this year then next. Who knows what will become of Toomer? Who knows about the health of Tim Carter? Heâ€™s not that far away from being in the rotation. With Tyree, you get the feeling heâ€™d be a solid contributor at receiver if he were on another team.
- The Giants are trying to build a training camp complex near their new home in East Rutherford, and want to have it ready by 2010.
- Corey Webster the emerging star, writes Paul Schwartz. Tim Lewis sums up the excitement that everyoneâ€™s feeling about a second-year man who had a terrific camp: “Heâ€™s tall, heâ€™s fast, heâ€™s explosive, heâ€™s quick, heâ€™s instinctive. When we rank defensive backs, thereâ€™s a criteria weâ€™re looking for, and heâ€™s got all of those.”
- Nice piece by Ernie Palladino about Sam Madison and the Giants secondary. Reviews of Madisonâ€™s performance thus far have been lukewarm, but everyone, including Madison, claims that Frank Walker and E.J. Underwood have been very impressive. Walker always has the talent, but as Madison says, “He was very raw.” If this guy can harness some of his great speed and ball-hawking instincts, he can be a good one. The immediate concern, though, is Madison. Itâ€™s great to teach the young guys a thing or two, but letâ€™s hope heâ€™s not over the hill himself â€“ we need him to be big this year.
- Vinny DiTrani takes on the same subject, referring to Walker as a “changed man” from the guy that displayed talent, but a lackadaisical attitude. DiTrani also notes that rookie free agent Kevin Dockery may have surpassed E.J. Underwood (another rookie free agent) on the cornerback depth chart. Interesting. And what about Curtis Deloatch? If he gets cut, I donâ€™t think Giants fans will miss him too much.
- Nice little recap by DiTrani on Giants training camp. Because of Tim Carterâ€™s emergence, the disappointment of Sinorice Mossâ€™s injury hasnâ€™t gotten that much attention. Apparently, the Giants were so excited to have Moss aboard that they designed plays specifically for him. Alas, they kept the plays, but theyâ€™re being run by different players
- It takes many attributes to be a truly great receiver, not least whichÂ isÂ an extremelyÂ high perception of one’s self-worth. Tim Carterâ€™s got that, writes Ralph Vacchiano. And great speed.
- Ralph Vacchianoâ€™s blog points us to some things to watch for in the upcoming game against the Jets: LaVarâ€™s health, Eli making his reads, the Hefty Lefty, and the secondary, which will be a question mark until it proves otherwise.
- And finally, Tiki might retire after this year. Really, you read that correctly. As of now, there seems to be a good chance that Tiki might retire after this year. Check out the comments by his agent. Iâ€™m speechless, but if he goes, I will miss him. Cherish him, Giants fans â€“ heâ€™s the greatest offensive player that weâ€™ve seen. Ah, the Chiefs game last year was his finest hour. Check out these YouTube clips.
Wed 23 Aug 2006
There has been much discussion this preseason about the Giants run-defense. Are they the unit that looked so porous against the Ravens in the first preseason game? Or are they the unit that held Larry Johnson, the best running back in the league, to 8 yards on 4 carries?
Letâ€™s examine the facts, starting with the fact that last year, the Giants had one of the best run defenses in the league. FootballOutsiders, using their advanced metric DVOA, ranked the Giants run-defense as second best in the league last year with a DVOA of -18.3%.
(Important Digression [Read Carefully]: I strongly recommend that all thinking football fans take the time to read FootballOutsidersâ€™ fleshed-out explanation of DVOA. But in this space, to make a long story short, the basic principle of DVOA â€“ which stands for Defensive-Adjusted Value Over Average â€” holds that all football stats should take into account situation and opponent, and therefore, looking at such primitive measures such as Yards is insufficient. For instance, a 1-yard run that yields a first down against a tough defense like the Bears is a more successful play than a 2-yard run on 3rd and 4 against a bad defense like the Texans. Without going into all the crazy math, DVOA breaks down each play of the NFL season in terms of “success points,” so that the 1-yard first-down run against the Bears is worth more than the 2-yard run on 3rd and 4 against the Texans.
DVOA, while imperfect and still the subject of constant tinkering, is the best statistical measurement there is right now. The number itself [in this case, -18.3%], stands for the percentage of success above league average. This doesnâ€™t correspond to yards or points; it is on its own scale. But to give you a sense of what the numbers mean, 30 means excellent, 0 means league average, and -30 means terrible. For defense, on the other hand, the more negative the number, the better [for intuitive reasons], so -30 is excellent, 0 is league average, and 30 is terrible. But do check out the full explanation. It also should be noted that that DVOA has a stronger correlation to a teamâ€™s record than yards, which is not surprising because it is calibrated to account for situation. And as a predictor, it has a higher correlative value than games won when it comes to predicting future wins. In other words, a 10-6 team with a DVOA of 30% is more likely to be better going forward than a 12-4 team with a DVOA of 20%.)
If youâ€™re into conventional statistics, the 2005 Giants run-D again holds up well, although not quite as spectacularly. They held their opponents to 103.5 rushing yards per game, good for 12th in the league, and 3.9 yards per carry, also 12th. That might not seem so great, but it places them in the upper 37.5% of the league, or better than 62.5% of the teams. Not bad for a supposed weakness.
It is somewhat understandable that people think the Giants run-defense is worse than it is. After all, itâ€™s hard to forget the painful image of the Panthers punishing us for 223 yards on the ground. But did that Giants defense bear any resemblance to the one that weâ€™re trotting out here this year? Not that I need to remind you, but do Kevin Lewis (who was wearing #44 for that game, for Christâ€™s sake!), a banged-up Nick Greisen, and Alonzo Jackson bear even the slightest resemblance to LaVar, Pierce, and Emmons/Short/Wilkerson? Youâ€™re going from one of the worst linebacking corps imaginable to one of the best.
(Donâ€™t believe me? Check out the FoxSports-FootballOutsiders positional rankings, which use some advanced statistical tools and some intuitive common sense to rank the Giants linebackers as the sixth best group in the league and significantly ahead of any of their NFC East rivals. Their defensive line, for that matter, ranked fifth, although that of course factors in the awesome pass-rushing abilities of Strahan, Osi and co.)
It wasnâ€™t long ago that the Giants run-defense was actually considered the strongest aspect of the team. Remember that mid-to-late-season stretch during which they held the Redskins to 38 rushing yards, the 49ers to 52, and the Vikings to 12? A little after that, before Pierce got hurt, the Giants even managed to contain the previously unconscious Shaun Alexander. Expect this yearâ€™s version of the Giants run defense to be more similar to this group than the depleted group that got trounced by Carolina.
But now, the Giants run-defense lays an egg against the Ravens in their first live contact, Colonel Tom calls them soft, and all of a sudden everyoneâ€™s sounding alarm bells. Despite the fact that the Giants run-defense was superb last year, especially when the starters were healthy, this year weâ€™re gonna have problems, the thinking went. In fact, you canâ€™t even compare last yearâ€™s run defense to this yearâ€™s, because this year weâ€™re going to have to make due withoutâ€¦. Kendrick Clancy.
Kendrick Clancy??? Losing him will single-handedly sink our run-defense???
Fellas, come on. Clancy was our best defensive tackle last year, no question â€“ he was by far the most productiveÂ member of theÂ four-man rotation of Clancy, William Joseph, Fred Robbins, and the also-departed Kenderick Allen. But doesnâ€™t the addition of LaVar Arrington, a physical enforcer at strongside linebacker, more than make up for the loss of Clancy? (And Allen, who nobody talks about.)
So the Giants run-defense should be a big strength this year, just as it was last year.
But I donâ€™t mean to imply that we should rest on our laurels, and that weâ€™re set at D-Tackle. I still think we should sign Brentson Buckner, a proven run-stuffer who will give us four starting caliber players at the D-Tackle spot â€“ Joseph, Robbins, and the impressive Barry Cofield being the others. Signing Buckner would not only make us four-deep at the position, but would also serve the purpose of lighting a fire under the asses of Joseph and Robbins, two guys who could definitely use a nudge.