For the second straight game, the Giants enter with a significant advantage over their opponent on the injury front. The Atlanta Falcons will be starting three new offensive linemen on Sunday as left guard Justin Blalock has been declared out with a lower back injury suffered in their loss the the Minnesota Vikings last week. This is in addition to center Joe Hawley and right tackle Lamar Holmes, who were placed in injured reserve on Monday. Third year center Peter Konz, who started 25 games for the Falcons in the past two season, but lost his starting job to Hawley will get the start at center.
Former Chicago Bear and Tampa Bay Buccaneer Gabe Carimi will get the start at right tackle, a four year veteran who has 21 starts to his credit. Harland Gunn, recently promoted from the practice squad, will get the start for Blalock, he has no starts to his credit. While the veteran additions bring NFL experience to to line, both have rated out extremely poorly in pass blocking per ProFootballFocus. Konz is not particularly skilled as a run blocker either, while Carimi has done well in this area. Gunn has no ratings as he has limited NFL experience. Their lack of playing time together will be a disadvantage for the Falcons and will require adjustments for their high powered offense.
Tom Coughlin, meanwhile, has a good problem on his hands, picking between relatively healthy players to put on the inactive list for Sunday’s game. He said that having seen two hard back-to-back practices from Odell Beckham, he will evaluate the post practice news before making a final decision. He added that Beckham “Practiced well.” Beckham is listed as questionable for the game, NFL speak for a 50/50 chance of playing, but all signs point toward his NFL debut. Punter Steve Weatherford is probable, his inclusion on the injury report a matter of formality at this point.
Perry Fewell could not comment on either Jon Beason or Devon Kennard, simply saying that both practiced and that the decision will be made by Coughlin after discussion of their performance in practice. Both linebackers are questionable for the game. He also would not discuss the Falcons injury issues, preferring to remain focused on the Giants. Their approach to the game is the same regardless of changes to the opponents lineup.
Asked if the defensive players “Eyes light up” when seeing the changes to the Falcons offensive line, Fewell countered by talking about Matt Ryan and the Falcons skill players. He expect the Atlanta coaching staff to make the necessary adjustment to the game plan to keep the team competitive. He also said that the last time they faced Matt Ryan, “He beat the hell out of us.” And that Ryan is throwing better when flushed out of the pocket since that game, a 34-0 Falcons victory late in the 2012 season that eliminated the Giants from the playoff race.
Fewell said that communication still needs to improve in the Giants secondary and among the defenders overall, and that the lineup changes with Quintin Demps starting and Trumaine McBride taking a bigger role, it’s even more critical. “Being on the same page is the key to being a good secondary and a good defense,” added Fewell.
Trumaine McBride is a competitor and a professional athlete, said Fewell. He knows that McBride struggled going from starter in 2013 to reserve in 2014 and is proud of his performance since gaining the role of nickel back replacing the injured Walter Thurmond. Fewell said he waited his turn and is proving that he belongs out there.
Fewell called Beason “A special guy” and said he’s provided a voice that’s “Tied it all together” since coming over from the Carolina Panthers one year ago this month. Even when injured, Beason has been a leader in the meeting rooms, and his leadership is very apparent on the field.
Asked about the defense’s improved performance in the past two games, compared to the first two, Fewell credits “Creating turnovers and making third down stops.” He cautions that the team is still giving up too many big plays and sees that as the biggest area for improvement. Giants360 agrees, especially down the middle of the field. Quarterback containment is also an area that needs to improve. If those corrections are made, and devastating injuries are avoided, this defense has the potential to be top five in the NFL.
Ben McAdoo start talking about his newest toy on offense, Beckham, and confirming his three days of practice this week. Calling Beckham’s skill set unique, McAdoo describes the rookie as explosive and adds that he “Plucks the ball pretty well.” Beckham won’t be on a “pitch count” because of the nature of the Giants offense. It’s often no huddle and hurry up, limiting substitutions. Admitting that the coaches haven’t met to discuss Beckham’s availability, McAdoo couldn’t provide any more detail about his potential usage.
As early as April 21st of this year, McAdoo has been preparing the players for success with the new offense. Calling it their biggest challenge and stating that the offense has had two weeks in a row where it’s done some things, but not everything well, McAdoo sees Sunday as another opportunity for success. He wants them to “Stack successes,” and not rest on their accomplishments. McAdoo also calls himself his own worst critic, saying that when reviewing tape, he always looks for opportunities to improve.
Speaking of reviewing tape, the Giants are awaiting word from the NFL office regarding the Rueben Randle touchdown pass turned interception against the Washington Redskins. Asked about the play, McAdoo said, “It’s a bit of a bang-bang play. I’m glad I’m not an official on that type of play. Give credit to Washington for getting a helmet on the ball and popping it out.” He then referred the media to Coughlin for information when the NFL responds to the Giants inquiry.
The Giants and Falcons drew the short straw in the officiating department this week as the game will be overseen by the hands down worst crew in the NFL, the Ed Hochuli crew. Third in 2014 in flags thrown, Hochuli is best known for his unnecessarily detailed penalty calls. This crew is in the top half of the seventeen officiating crews in three of the four categories of penalties that Giants360 utilizes to analyze penalties, and in the top five for blocking penalties and personal fouls called. Expect a flurry of yellow on Sunday afternoon and the flow of the game to be disrupted by ticky-tack flags and lengthy calls. The only silver lining is the game is at Metlife Stadium as this crew’s refereed by Hochuli has statistically penalized the road team more severely that the home team according to Pro-FootballReference.com that has official’s statistics aggregated back to the 1999 season. The downside is, we can’t mute Hochuli’s penalty calls inside the stadium.
Of the three games this crew has worked in 2014, two featured more than 20 flags thrown, only the Pittsburgh at Baltimore game, week 2, was the anomaly, with only 11 penalty flags thrown against both teams. Officiating is an under reported element that often affects the outcome of games. The complexity of NFL rules makes the jobs of these men difficult, with only seven to watch over twenty-two of the most highly skilled athletes in the world. Most do an admirable job, but the system and the rulebook need an overhaul.
On of the more amusing stories of the week comes courtesy of Antrel Rolle, who attributes Prince Amukamara’s improved play to his getting married. It seems that Amukamara believed in waiting for marriage before engaging in relations with his now wife, and Rolle has noted a certain “swagger” about the cornerback now that’s he’s partaken. Amukamara’s greatest concern was his wife’s reaction to the news of Rolle’s revelation, but as she retweeted the story, it would seem his worries were over nothing. Tom Coughlin brusquely asked if “Anyone had a serious question” when asked about Rolle’s theory.
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