November 2006


It was obviously sad to hear the news about Amani, the old pro and G-Men institution. He had some huge games at the beginning of the year, had the best hands and foot-dragging skills on the team, and was a guy that could be counted on for timely catches.

I haven’t listened to any sports talk radio or anything, but I suspect there may be some who are gonna criticize his decision to shut it down and have surgery rather than just resting/rehabbing/cortizoning/icing and taking whatever other measures that may or may not make him available for some games later in the season.

But I think he made the right call, not only for himself — it was, after all, his call — but for the Giants as well. It’s better to know that he’s done now than it would be if he was week to week for the rest of the season.  Now that we know we won’t have him, we can start slotting in Carter, Tyree, Jennings, and (guess who practiced yesterday, not a moment too soon?) Moss. By the end of the year, one of these guys will emerge and be better than a banged-up Amani.

And if I may go further, there’s a good chance that this injury to Toomer will turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Right now, Tim Carter will step into the starting lineup, giving us a speedy home-run threat that Amani, for all his virtues, is not.

Carter generated a lot of excitement in training camp with his improved health and play, but save for two extremely important plays in the season’s first two games — 1) The bullshit holding penalty in the Colts game which wasn’t his fault at all; and 2) The huge fumble recovery in Philly, without which we would be in second place behind the 5-3, tiebreaker-advantaged Eagles — Carter has been pretty invisible.

We saw a little of what this guy was capable of in 2003, and we’ve been waiting for this potential to re-materialize ever since — Ernie Accorsi even anted up on a two-year deal to bring him back before this year because he was unable to part with Carter’s tantalizing athleticism. Maybe this is finally his time. And, dare I say it, an emerging 26-year old Tim Carter is a better player than the 32-year old version of Amani Toomer.

There are additional benefits aside from Carter. As I mentioned above, Sinorice Moss practices yesterday. If Moss actually is healthy this time, he should soon slot right into the 3rd receiver position vacated by Carter, where you expect him to pay dividends immediately. His quickness of the line and shiftiness in small spaces make him a much better fit in the slot role than Carter was. We’re all anxious to see what this guy can do.

Assuming Sinorice is healthy, we’ll get two speed burners on the field in positions to maximize their ability for the price of one steady Amani. And though it may take some games for these guys to get adjusted, and for Eli to get adjusted to them, I really believe that this will make us a more dangerous offense going forward. Against playoff teams, teams need playmakers. This injury gives us the opportunity to see if we have one, or two, in these guys.

Of course, there’s no guarantee whatsoever than Sinorice will ever be healthy this year — you just hope that he wasn’t rushed back to practice because of the Amani situation. It’s been such a snake-bitten season for Sinorice that it’s hard to get too excited and imagine him not having a setback. His season reminds me of Jose Reyes’ 2004, when the Mets repeatedly rushed him back from a nagging hammy only to see him have recurrence after recurrence. A real, prolonged rest was the only thing he needed.

If Sinorice isn’t healthy, either David Tyree or Michael Jennings will get a chance. Though they have very different games — Tyree is a big-target possession guy, Jennings is a pure speedster — they both have the potential to be pretty decent.

Yes, that’s right. The well-dressed one partially tore his ACL and will miss the year as he recovers from surgery. Go to giants.com to confirm it.

I’m at work right now and can’t really go into detail/analysis, but I’ll weigh in on the matter later. Make no mistake though, this is bad news.

I.

Two competing views of the Giants and Eli are proffered in a couple of New York Sun articles from the past couple of days. Michael David Smith has an optimistic take on our Young Elisha.  He writes:

“The maturation of their passing game, headed by Eli Manning, has made a big difference this season. Last year, Manning tried to force the ball into coverage too often. This season, no quarterback distributes the ball more evenly than Manning. Amani Toomer and Tiki Barber have 32 catches apiece; Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey each have 31.”

Indeed, you really have to like the way Eli’s finding guys this year. Last year he seemed very prone to lock in on key guys; this year, he’s really found the knack for finding the open man. I wrote about this after the Cowboys game. For a quarterback, finding the open dude is more than half the battle.

But Allen Barra isn’t sold. Let me point out first that Barra makes a living being a contrarian. It’s great to be analytical, and Barra’s pieces are of course more interesting than almost anything else you’ll see in daily newspapers, but just because you’re piecing together an analytical argument doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re making a good point. Just because there’s reason behind your conclusion doesn’t mean that that reason is properly guided. So although I will always read Barra’s pieces, I take them with a grain of salt.

All of this is prologue to the fact that Barra has been straight hating on the G-Men all year. Every little glimmer of imperfection that emerges from the games he has seized on. Yes, I know, I know, he is only trying to do his due diligence in tempering the overheated New York media, but it seems like this year, he has pulled out every conceivable argument to deny the G-Men their rightful status as an elite team.

But anyway, with that said, he brings up some valid points about Eli and the Giants offense:

“Look at Eli’s numbers for the first four games of the year, and compare them to those of the last four. Yes, I know, Burress was out yesterday; and the week before, against Tampa Bay, the wind played havoc with the passing game. But throw these and any other excuses you want to into the mix: The numbers for the past four games are not good. The Giants play selection has, on the whole, been unimaginative over the last four games, exactly the same bad groove that Coughlin and his staff got into the second half of the season last year, only this year it’s happening earlier.”

We are 6-2 and everything is looking rosy, but it’s important not to get carried away with the good vibe. Last year, both Eli and our offense trailed off dramatically from the first part of the year to the second, and until I see it not happening this year, it’s gonna be in the back of my mind. The worst case scenario is the one that Barra puts forth. I can’t say that it’s totally out of the question.

But the one big difference between this year and last year is that Eli, despite his disconcertingly deteriorating accuracy, has gotten really good at finding guys year. Part of the problem last year was that he got so attached to Plax that once defenses game-planned to stop Plax, we were fucked. Nobody talked about this, but let’s face it: By the end of last year, Eli was a substantial liability. We need him to be a substantial asset this year if we want to seriously compete for a championship.

II.

Some random thoughts from Sunday’s game: Gary Kubiak is a total Jim Mora, Jr. is a total Augustus Busch, III. Same dude. I love these tri-partite calls – they really are unique. Here’s another one, which was a lot more relevant to the New York sports scene last year when I made it than it is now: Will Peterson is a total Robinson Cano is a total Trevor Ariza. Here’s a link to my old website that shows what I’m talking about. It’s pretty uncanny.

But anyway, this got me thinking about calls, and I think it’s time that we do kind of a “Here’s looking at you” segment here at NYGMen. Write in suggestions, of course, are always welcome and appreciated. (But one condition: No links pictures of the actual subjects of the call. I feel that pictures can present a false essence of the subjects, which goes against the beauty of a call: Even if it’s not a perfect physical resemblance, a call is on point if it captures some kind of signature essence.) Anyway, here are some off the top of my head:

–R.W. McQuarters is a total wheelchair-bound narrator from “Oz,” the same guy who played Mercutio in the Claire Daines version of Romeo and Juliet. The actual actor’s name is Harold Perrineau.

–Speaking of “Oz,” my friend Dan – who is also a regular NYGMen commentator – points out that LaVar is a total Poet.

–I hate to dwell on HBO shows, but as my brother Harv pointed out, Antonio Pierce is a total Keith from “Six Feet Under.” You can make a trifecta call on this one by throwing in Mike Jarvis, the former GW and St. John’s basketball coach.

–Gibril Wilson is a total Dwyane Wade.

–Kareem McKenzie is a total Zacarias Moussaoui.

–Brandon Short is a total Tony Parker.

–Amani Toomer is a total Carolina Mudcat. For some reason, it always looks like Amani’s sense of smell has been egregiously offended.

–Will Demps is a total Chad Morton. Credit on this one belongs to my friend Wong.

–Offensive Coordinator John Hufnagel is a total Dan Hedaya. He played Alicia Silverstone’s pops in Clueless and Carla’s ex-husband on “Cheers.”

I.

For the second week in a row, we didn’t play our best game. But 6-2 is 6-2, and with the schedule we’ve had, you really couldn’t have asked for a better first half. I said four weeks ago that it would greatly behoove us to go 3-1 in our upcoming four-game stretch, which would place us at a solid 5-3 going into the second half. But we swept those four games, getting the hard part over with convincingly, on the road, against good teams, and then cobbling together enough plays in these last two games to avoid a letdown, battling a pesky but not devastating injury bug all the while.

This is no small accomplishment, and right now, Strahan news notwithstanding, you have to be as optimistic about the Giants as you’ve been in over a decade. I am not exaggerating: This team can be expected to go places.

II.

This past month has been great, not only in terms of what we’ve done, but with what’s happened around us.

Starting with the division: The Eagles have dropped three of the last four, losing to the Saints, Bucs, and Jags. It’s worth noting that they were favored in all three of these games. But despite being one of the league’s more talented teams, they stand at 4-4, two games behind us, to say nothing of the tiebreaker, which, with our division record, seems to be a safely within our grasp.

And Dallas. Was that great yesterday or what? Like the Eagles, they’ve also dropped three of the last four — all to NFC East teams, no less. If we win just one of our three remaining division games, we clinch the divisional tie-breaker over the ‘Boys, meaning that Tony Romo or not, they have to make up three games over these last eight. That’s not gonna happen.

But for a time yesterday, it really looked like we might end the day in a 5-3 tie with Cowboys. What a difference a few plays makes.

Outside of the division, good things are happening too. The Bears loss gives us a chance to claim the inside track to home field advantage this Sunday night. (The Meadowlands is gonna be completely rocking. Time for the red jerseys? I think so. I like the red jerseys, by the way. I can’t really explain why, but I do. But only for one game per year. That’s the key. Speaking of red jerseys, I just ordered the Pierce 58, rounding out my jersey collection, which also includes the blue Tiki 21 [the classic], and the white Osi 72 [nothing better than a white dude on the Upper West Side rocking the Umenyiora 72 jersey]. It’s funny about jerseys: As my friend Cory once said, “Sometimes, it’s just the right time and the right place to add to your jersey collection.”) Maybe the road to the Super Bowl won’t go through Soldier Field after all.

Another potentially imposing NFC team, the Seahawks, is having their struggles. Because of their shitty division, they should cruise to another division title, and they’ll start playing better once they get their two offensive Pro-Bowlers back, but there’s no question that this team is much weaker team than the NFC Champions of last year. Hopefully, we won’t have to go to Qwest Field again this year. If we do, though, I’m very confident that we’ll beat them.

III.

Ok, the game itself: Strangely, even though we were playing the notoriously terrible Texans, and even though we almost lost to them, and even though the final score was a depressing 14-10, I thought this game was much more satisfying than the Tampa game.

For one, we were battling through a substantial number of injuries. Our two best defensive players (Strahan and Osi), one of their talented backups (Tuck), a starting cornerback (Madison – who’s probably no better than R.W., but who was still missed because of the 4 and 5 wide receiver sets the Texans were running), two of the linebackers that we started the season with (LaVar and Short – although Wilkinson made the biggest play of the game in their place), our best receiver (Plax), a guy who would probably be our second or at least third best receiver (Sinorice), and our right tackle (McKenzie).

Nine key men down from our opening day roster – This is considerable up-bangage. If we went into the season with the roster we trotted out today, I’m not sure that we’d even be an above average team.

And the Texans, despite the fact that they’re the Texans, actually played pretty well yesterday – they’ve generally played solid ball over the past month or so. Let me put it this way: That Texans team yesterday was in a completely different league than the Bucs team we beat the week before.

I mean, give the Texans some credit: They came out with a great game-plan and executed it very well. Knowing that their pass protection is terrible and their quarterback is fumble-prone, they devised an attack of short, quick passes from a spread offense.

All told, Carr threw 30 passes, completing 21 of them for 176 yards. The key was the percentage: Nickel and diming us, the Texans strung together some good drives and kept our defense on the field. The game plan not only masked Carr’s deficiencies but also played to his strengths: He is very quick getting into his drop, and he was both accurate and savvy with the short passes he had to throw. As my friend Wong said sometime in the 4th quarter, “The Texans really couldn’t have asked for a better game out of Carr.”

The Texans receivers were well-suited to the task as well: Andre Johnson is an absolute beast at 6-3, 220, and our guys had a really tough time with him: He caught 9 balls for 83 yards.

And losing our Pro-Bowl ends really hurt. Even though Carr was taking short drops, the pressure we got from Kiwanuka and Awasom (who seems more like a run-anchor guy than a pass rusher) left something to be desired. Yes, I know the company line in Monday’s papers was that those guys played well, but they’re certainly no Osi-Strahan tandem.

(To his credit, Awasom made one of the biggest plays of the game by drawing a holding penalty that debilitated a Texan possession and led to us getting the ball back and scoring.)

But anyway, considering the fact that we were missing so many key guys, and that the Texans executed a well-conceived game-plan almost to perfection, and that we had the hardest time catching a break, and that we were primed for a let-down before the Bears next week, you can’t be displeased with how this game went. 14-10 isn’t sexy, but 6-2 most certainly is.

IV.

The recent play of Eli, on the other hand, may be a cause for concern. Thanks to some big numbers he posted during the season’s first three games, his numbers for the year still look pretty good, but it’s been awhile since he’s had an impressive performance.

Yes, we’ve won every game since then, and granted, Plax’s absence rendered our receiving corps pretty depleted, but Eli still looked pretty bad. He is still plagued by bouts with inaccuracy – there were a number of throws on sideline out patterns on which he didn’t give his receivers much of a chance. Against one of the worst pass defenses in the league, which was stacking guys in the box to stop our running game (which they weren’t even able to do because Tiki’s a God), Eli’s performance left something to be desired.

To his credit, he rebounded when he needed to, going 8 for 9 and leading the team downfield on a decisive fourth quarter touchdown drive. Ah, Eli! Some day, you will put it all together.

V.

And of course, Strahan. There’s not much more to add to this – here’s the latest Pasquarelli article that explains everything about this Lisfranc stuff. It’s obviously very bad news. I mean, the guy is our best defensive player, and even though he plays in New York and he’s in commercials and he loves the limelight and he has the single-season sack record*, I would venture to say that Strahan is actually an underrated player. The guy is just so solid; he’s as good against the run as he is as a pass rusher. We’re gonna miss him, but we can reasonably expect to have him back at full strength when the playoffs start, which is when we really need him.

Let’s hope we get both Osi and Tuck back for next week so that at least we can trot out three talented players at our two D-End spots. More news on that will be forthcoming. I guess the lesson here is that Ernie Accorsi was right: You can never have too many pass rushers. Thank God we have depth at this all-important position.

There’s much more to say, but it’s late. Remember to vote, G-Men fans!

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