Two days after their come from behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons, the Giants are licking their wounds and beginning preparations for a nationally televised showdown with the defending division champion Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday night. The bad blood that exists between these two teams cannot be underestimated. The Giants will be without their leading rusher, Rashad Jennings, who sprained his MCL, and their best cover cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be dealing with hip and ankle injuries for the remainder of the season. The good news is, all of the preseason comebacks point to depth on the team, and Andre Williams, Trumaine McBride, and even the recently promoted Jayron Hosley are the next men up in this key early season game.
The Giants made a couple of roster moves yesterday, releasing Chandler Fenner and Julian Talley. With the roster spots created, the team activated Jayron Hosley, back from his drug suspension, and promoted Michael Cox from the practice squad. Both will provide depth for injured players. Hosley for Rodgers-Cromartie, who has rotated in and out of games, and Zack Bowman, who has an injury of unknown severity, and Cox for Jennings.
It’s Tuesday, and at Giants360, that means a deep stat review, looking at both home grown statistics and those from the subscription area of ProFootballFocus.com, the objective statistical site that reviews and grades every player and play. Their grades are usually up before film review is complete, but we don’t review them before this morning to give them time to make adjustments and to allow the film review to be independent of influence from their assessments.
It should come as no surprise that Will Beatty, Justin Pugh, and Weston Richburg all graded out highly among all Giants players on offense. Pass protection was largely sound for Eli Manning, and the run game was effective for both Williams and Jennings. J.D. Walton rated out well for run blocking, but was average in pass protection, while John Jerry had the lone poor rating on the line. Geoff Schwartz can begin practicing next Monday and will be eligible to return from injured reserve for the Indianapolis Colts game on November 3rd. With Richburg ensconced at left guard and performing at a high level and Schwartz’s best position right guard, it would seem he would best replace Jerry if he continues his downward trend.
Henry Hynoski has a good game run blocking in a limited 17 snaps and appears to have fully recovered from the shoulder injury he suffered in the preseason finale. Larry Donnell had a poor game run blocking in addition to be schemed out of the passing game by the Falcons. Victor Cruz suffered a similar fate. Both players will benefit from the extra attention Odell Beckham will draw after his high impact debut. He rated well in his 38 snaps.
Williams rated out higher than Jennings with a similar number of carries. As he takes over as the lead back for the next few weeks and grows into the role, Jennings needs to guard against being Wally Pipp’d. Especially if Williams continues to improve his pass protection and receiving skills.
Manning was under pressure for 7 of his 31 drop backs, but was only sacked once, by Osi Umenyioura against Beatty. The pressure affected him as his completion percentage dropped 40% when pressured. One positive in the passing game this week is there were no dropped passes recorded for the first time this season.
On defense, Jason Pierre-Paul was the highest rated player, in a news flash that should come as a shock to no one. He played his best game of the season and is hopefully rounding back into top form in time for the critical stretch of division games. Jonathan Hankins is becoming a force in the middle of the defensive line and rated out highly as a pass rusher on Sunday. Trumaine McBride continued his strong play as nickel cornerback, a position that will be key against the Eagles offense. Quintin Demps, a clear liability as a kick returner, has been a boost in pass coverage as free safety and rated out highly for the second straight game.
Matthias Kiwanuka had a bad game, as did both starting cornerbacks, which is an indicator of the stellar performance Julio Jones had in the game. Deion Sanders in his prime would have had a hard time shutting down the Falcons star receiver last Sunday. Rodgers-Cromartie’s poor rating may attributable to his nagging injuries.
Mike Patterson struggled against the run, as did Markus Kuhn, who only played 12 snaps. Kuhn may still be recovering from his high ankle sprain, but is in danger of being lapped by Jay Bromley if he doesn’t pick up his performance before the bye week. Jameel McClain struggled against the run, making the return of Jon Beason critical before the Giants head to Dallas on October 19th to face the Cowboys highly ranked rushing attack.
The surprise rating of the week went to Jacquian Williams, who rated highly against the run, despite being completely blocked out of both big Steven Jackson runs on the Falcons first touchdown drive. He was just taken out of both plays, I would think that alone would give him no more than an average rating for the game.
In another blinding flash of the obvious, no one on the Giants special teams stood out, but in a positive sign of improvement, no one rated horribly either. As the Eagles have scored four special teams touchdown this season (1 kickoff return, one punt return, two blocked punt returns), this facet of the game will be the determining factor on Sunday night. If the Giants avoid a critical special teams error, they will win the game. You may see this “key” statement again before the game kicks off.
Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews rated out abysmally, having been turned into a pretzel by Pierre-Paul. Surprisingly, newlysigned right tackle Gabe Carimi acquitted himself quite nicely for Atlanta and was the highest rated on their offensive line. Emergency starters Peter Konz and Harlen Gunn both rated out poorly. This explains why Matt Ryan was under pressure 39.1% of his drop backs.
No one on the Falcons defense rated out particularly well or poorly, except cornerback Robert Alford, who was exposed by Odell Beckham. It was Alford who got beaten by three steps by the rookie wide receiver forcing the Falcons defense to adjust it’s coverage and changed the game for the Giants offense.
How far has this team come since the season opener in Detroit when some fans were calling for Ryan Nassib to replace Manning as starting cornerback and Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin’s heads on a pike? According to the cumulative ratings on PFF, the Giants have the number 2 overall offense and defense in the league. Their pass and rush offenses rate out 8th overall, while their rush defense is 2nd and pass defense 6th. Special teams is 23rd.
The Eagles special teams rate out as first in the league, giving credibility to Giants360 raising of the a red flag over this area as a concern for Sunday. Looking at the cumulative ratings, the Eagles have 5 players rated highly for special teams play, and only one negative. For comparison, the Giants have 4 who rate out highly – Damontre Moore, Spencer Paysinger, Jennings, and Hynoski, and 4 who rate out poorly – Preston Parker, Demps, McBride, and Zak DeOssie. Keep in mind that Paysinger and Jennings are injured and probably will not play against Philadelphia.
The Giants offensive line came together faster than anyone thought after it’s preseason and opening game performance. They rate out 3rd in pass blocking and 8th in run blocking through 5 games according to PFF. Schwartz’s return will only serve to improve those numbers.
Beatty, Pugh, and Richburg lead the way among the Giants offensive linemen, rating out in the top 11, in their respective positions. Beatty is the top rated offensive tackle in the NFL, number 2 pass blocking and number 4 run blocking. Pugh is the 4th rated tackle, first in run blocking, but 27th pass blocking, indicative of his struggles.
Pierre-Paul is the top rated defensive end in the NFL based on his stellar run play. He is still struggling as a pass rusher.
Coughlin called the Falcon game a tale of two halves. He was pleased with the Giants play in the second half, their consecutive stops of Atlanta in the third and fourth quarter when the outcome of the game was undecided, and that “The fourth quarter was ours.” Asked what changed at halftime, Coughlin could not point to a specific adjustment, but said “We got into a groove… We had a better handle on who we were defending and played a little better.”
Again asked if he has a message for the team, Coughlin responded, “The message is execution and the elimination of mental errors. By the end of the season we shouldn’t see any more of that.”
Heaping praise on the defense, Coughlin pointed to two drives, both of which resulted in Falcons field goals. The fumbled kickoff that gave Atlanta the ball at the Giants 21 yard line and the drive right before the half. “You can point to that for keeping the margin close and giving us the opportunity to win the game.” Giants360 made the same point in our game summary yesterday, it’s always good to be on the same page with one of the most knowledgeable football men in America.
Josh Brown’s 49 and 50 yard field goals were also “Outstanding,” per Coughlin, providing a margin at the end of the game when it was needed. He also praised the offense for not giving the ball away.
Some of you offered suggestions on why the Giants knelt down at the end of the game on third down rather than try to run the ball for a touchdown. Coughlin addressed this yesterday, saying it was “To secure the ball and center it to get to the ten point margin.” While ball security has never been an issue for Williams, Coughlin has always been a conservative coach and it’s served him well.
Pending observation on the practice field and advice from Giants medical staff, Beckham’s playing time will increase. Heading into the divisional games, he couldn’t have picked a better time to get back on the field. Both Philadelphia and Dallas are vulnerable on defense, and the more weapons available to Manning, the better.
Coughlin addressed the most glaring area of the special teams, kickoff returns in his Tuesday press conference, “You can argue for ever about whether the ball should come out or it shouldn’t. You see it all around the league, guys bringing them out from nine yards deep and the ball winds up at the 15 or 14 yard line. We have some ideas about when that thing should come out and when it shouldn’t. But you also have the confidence of the guy bringing it out who thinks he can do it.”
Giants360 also has some ideas about when the ball should and shouldn’t come out. Should come out – when you have a returner back who hasn’t fumbled a kickoff return. Shouldn’t come out – when the ball is kicked more than one yard into the end zone. Special teams error will be the undoing of a team that is proving talented and competitive. Coughlin has proven that conservative football can win games over the long haul. Don’t risk the devastating change in momentum that a fumbled kickoff return provides your opponent. Kneel down when the kickoff reaches the end zone. Period.
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