Winning is a panacea in the National Football League. The tenor of the coaches press conferences this week were more jovial, even Tom Coughlin, who has a tendency to be all business had a lighter air about him. Planes flew overhead as Coughlin, offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell spoke about strategy and short turnaround preparations for the Washington Redskins.
Coughlin has a great deal of respect for Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, “All you have to do it put in the tape. Forty-five points in two games. He’s thrown the ball very well. The deep ball and the percentage passes. And they’ve done a good job adjusting their offense.”
Referring to this as a divisional game of critical importance, Coughlin said he spoke with the team about their preparation, “I want that hunger and desire and the will to prepare to win that I saw last week ever week for the remainder of the season.” Always one to preach preparation and consistency, this is a message the head coach will drive home.
Seeing improvement from his starting quarterback, Coughlin said Manning is growing every week, controls the no huddle very well, and communicates with the receivers and offensive linemen changing plays and protections when necessary. He also said his footwork has been good.
Asked if the team has “Go to” plays and players, Coughlin said they do, but it’s players first, then plays, an important distinction.
One brave soul inquired about Odell Beckham, a line of questioning that has rankled the coach in the past. Coughlin responded that the rookie practiced extensively in individual drills, has been increasing his workload, per the plan by trainers, and it’s been good results so far. When pressed about a return to the lineup, Coughlin would only say, “In the future.” Giants360 is sticking with our October 5th prediction from the early September season preview. Pick him up now in your fantasy leagues if you have a bench spot available to stash him away.
The special teams errors are not a repeat of those that occurred last season. Coughlin pointed out that there was no snapping snafu in 2013 and that the blown coverage on the fake punt was a young guy that made a mistake he’ll “Never make again.” He added that, “Sometimes you have to learn that way. It’s unfortunate, but true.”
From our review of the game, it appeared that Corey Washington was the “Young guy” in question and his special teams play has been a topic of conversation for Coughlin in previous press conferences, but the coach would not name the player.
McAdoo would not say that the offense is where he wants it to be, instead saying he’s pleased with the progress as the team has a long way to go and that it’s “Nice to see it moving in the right direction.” He added that he’s still learning about the personnel. “New guys are playing and we are learning what they do best, but we have some things we can hang our hat on.”
In describing the offense’s efforts, McAdoo painted a clear picture of his (and Coughlin’s) vision, “Moving the ball isn’t good enough. We need to be successful on third down. We need to be successful in the green [red] zone. We need to do a better job finishing games.” Coughlin was added as a visionary in that statement as it sounded like his words coming out of McAdoo’s mouth. It sends a strong message to the players when both coaches are repeating the same mantra.
Manning’s completion percentage has been a frequent topic of conversation following a 75% game, and McAdoo called it “Special.” While he says completing the ball is important, he also wants to be able to run it, and considers any game where the quarterback completes 70% or more of his passes a special one.
McAdoo is pleased with Manning’s progress and has been since the beginning of camp. He also mentioned footwork, saying that it’s been “Coming along” and that the media doesn’t get to see Manning in practice the way the coaches get to see him. The importance of footwork is emphasized because, as McAdoo phrased it, “It’s hard to dance with someone if you’re not listening to the same song.” He then added, “If the primary receivers are on the same page as the quarterback’s feet, you have a chance, no matter what the defense does, to complete the football.” It speaks to the timing of this offense, something that has started to come together and was witnessed several times in last Sunday’s game.
Rashad Jennings is a “Special Back” who gains yards after contact, which is one of the things that defines running backs as special, according to McAdoo. He recalls evaluating Jennings as a free agent, and could tell that he was of high character, and would bring both versatility and toughness to the Giants. Saying that, “You appreciate a back that gets stronger as the game goes on,” McAdoo added, “The way he prepares himself and takes care of himself showed up on Sunday.”
McAdoo called Washington “Better than good against the run. The have a very good front five and are deep there.” He added that the team is also well coached, but that won’t stop the Giants from trying to run the ball tomorrow night. Beyond that, McAdoo would only say that play calling will be dependent on “How the game develops.”
Constantly in teaching mode, McAdoo would not attribute Larry Donnell’s fumble to the hit delivered by Kendrick Lewis. He said that Donnell needs to learn to “Carry the ball high, tuck it away, and make sure we have it at the end of the play.”
Fewell would not get into a deep discussion about the change at safety, saying that Stevie Brown’s benching is, “An internal Giants decision,” and that Brown “Can play better football.” He also would not place blame on Brown’s rebuilt ACL, commenting that Brown has looked as strong as ever at times. His demeanor and tone of voice made it clear that discussions on this topic would be brief.
Commenting that the Giants defensive linemen have been in position to sack the quarterback but not tallied sacks, Fewell said it’s both good and bad, “Good that you’re in position, but you need to finish the play and have the sacks to show for it.” He is pleased with the coordinated effort that resulted in turnovers against Houston saying that the quarterback wasn’t able to step up into the pocket and couldn’t follow through on the ball. Then the defensive back was in good position to intercept the ball.
Fewell knows that it takes a bit of time to develop chemistry on defense, but sees it starting to come together for the 2014 Giants. Defensive backs need some time together to know where the others are when playing zones, and defensive linemen need to know how their line mates run stunts. He added that the line was particularly effective running stunts against the Texans.
When speaking of zone defenses, Fewell deflected a question regarding a Redskin’s coaches comment that the Giants are playing more man to man coverage this season. He said he’s go with “Fifty-Fifty” and that to provide any detail would give an advantage to either opponents. Elaborating, Fewell said that offensive coordinators will take advantage of any team that runs too much of either coverage due to the sophistication of offenses.
When that Giants success against Cousins last season was cited to Fewell, he dismissed it, stating that he is a different player this season, “Cousins has improved. His receiving corps has improved. He is playing with more confidence that last season.” He also praised DeSean Jackson, saying that even injured, he has the speed to get behind a defense and Cousin has put the ball on him in stride. The key is to get enough pressure on Cousins to ensure he can’t get the deep ball to Jackson cleanly.
“Limiting big plays, and creating turnovers,” are things the Giants work on every day, stated Fewell. If we can do that, we’ll be an outstanding defense. Only adding avoiding devastating injuries to the list, Giants360 agrees that his defense has the potential to be a very good one, but potential and reality are often very different.
Tuesday is tryout day in the NFL and yesterday could be described as a cavalcade of safeties at the Quest Diagnostic Center. Baccari Rambo, Corey Lynch, Jerron McMillan, and Jawanza Starling all tried out for a safety position, perhaps just to fill out a short replacement list for the team. They were joined by quarterback Ricky Stanzi and wide receiver Juron Criner. It was 6’3″, 227 pound Criner who was offered a spot on the practice squad, replacing L’Damien Washington, who was brought in last week. Criner was a fifth round draft pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2012 and has 19 career receptions. He never started a game.
The Giants also signed offensive lineman Eric Herman to the practice squad and released offensive tackle Mark Asper. Herman was with the Giants last season and throughout training camp until he began serving a four game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy. Recent negotiations between the league and player’s union revised the policy and resulted in Herman’s reinstatement. The Giants chose not to make room for him on their active roster.
Injury reports came out today and as previously reported, Beckham is out for the game, along with Devon Kennard. Jon Beason is doubtful. Zack Bowman, Charles Brown, and James Brewer are questionable. Steve Weatherford is probable.
The Redskins have more issues than the Giants, with 17 on their injury report, especially along the offensive line as three starters are dealing with injuries. Out are backup linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee), quarterback Robert Griffin III (ankle), and tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring). Questionable are starting nose tackle Chris Baker (ankle/hip), backup defensive end Kedric Golston (groin), starting defensive end Jason Hatcher (hamstring), starting wide receiver DeSean Jackson (shoulder), backup defensive end Frank Kearse (ankle), starting left guard Shawn Lauvao (knee), starting center Kory Lichtensteiger (groin/rib/hip), backup cornerback Tracy Porter (hamstring), and backup safety Trenton Robinson (abdomen).
Probable for Washington are kicker Kai Forbath (right groin), starting running back Alfred Morris knee), starting linebacker Brian Orakpo (finger/wrist, will be wearing hard cast), starting right tackle Tyler Polumbus (knee), and starting linebacker Keenan Robinson (shoulder).
Given the injuries along the Redskins offensive line, pressuring Cousins should be an achievable goal for the Giants. Mounting injuries to Washington’s strong front seven and to their secondary, they lost cornerback DeAngelo Hall and backup safety Duke Uhenacho for the season in week 3, renders a stout defense exploitable.
Penalties may be abundant tomorrow night, as the Carl Cheffers crew has been assigned to officiate the game. Cheffers crew has thrown the third most penalty flags through three weeks in 2014, averaging 21.67 per game, but not point of emphasis flags, but rather various blocking and pre-snap fouls. In their week 2 assignment, the Chicago Bears at San Francisco Forty-Niners game, Cheffers crew threw 33 flags, including 7 for offensive holding, a surprising number considering the high quality of both teams offensive lines. In their other two games, week 1 Cleveland at Pittsburgh and week 3 Green Bay at Detroit, 24 and 11 flags were thrown, respectively.
The officiating crew assignment may have a bigger impact on the Redskins than the Giants as Washington has been called for 8 blocking and 8 pre-snap penalties so far this season, compared to 4 and 3 for the Giants, however, the Redskins also draw more opponent flags in these areas with 11 blocking and 9 pre-span fouls thrown. Giants opponents have been flagged 4 times for blocking infractions and 5 times for pre-snap violations.
Look for the Giants360 keys to victory tomorrow morning. We’ll be tweeting them out before the game as well, along with “My Idiot Brother’s Key to the Game” a popular Twitter only feature that started when he was in the car with me on the way to the Giants vs Cardinals game. My brother has sequestered himself in deep meditation while his ponders this week’s key to the game. It should be another gem, so follow @giants360 on Twitter or you’ll miss that and our live tweeting of the game. Plus, it’s an interactive party with close to 5,000 other Giants fans.
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