All was quiet at the Quest Diagnostic Training center yesterday, as the Giants enjoyed their bye week Sunday. Their co-tenants, the New York Jets, lost their seventh straight game, turning the ball over six times, to fall to 1-7, making the Giants 3-4 record look better in comparison. The lights came back on today, as did the cameras, with both Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin addressing the media. The team also practiced for the first time in preparation for their game next Monday against the Indianapolis Colts, an important contest that, if won, will get them back to even going into the second half of the season.
Jon Beason’s season is over, as it was announced that he is having season ending toe surgery. Coughlin bristled when asked if the team waited too long to go with the surgical solution, “How can you ask that? He was able to get back on the field,” was the coach’s response. “He gave it everything he had,” added Coughlin. Beason will have surgery and then rejoin the team and participate in meetings and provide the leadership he’s brought since his acquisition in a trade with the Carolina Panthers last season.
Jameel McClain will move into the starting middle linebacker spot with rookie Devon Kennard as his backup. Kennard will also see increased playing time in nickel packages. Coughlin believes McClain has played well in the spot and that the team will simply move forward with him in place.
Geoff Schwartz’s “Clock has started,” according to Coughlin, who said his toe looks like “The Queen Mary” with all the bandages wrapped around it. He took some plays and looked good in some and not so good in others, and still has a ways to go. Schwartz should be considered day-to-day at this point.
Also day-to-day, is Rashad Jennings, who was described as “Not ready to go,” by Coughlin. Cullen Jenkins also did not practice. Peyton Hillis and Spencer Paysinger returned from the bye week “Throwing up,” and Coughlin joked that “These vacations are no good.” He added that the players probably caught the bug from their children and humorously added that he plans to petition the Commissioner to cancel bye weeks.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was a participant in practice. The team suffered a scare when Antrel Rolle was off working with trainers on an issue with his left foot during the open portion of practice. Coughlin said that Rolle’s shoe was too tight and that once the team portion of practice started, he participated in every play.
Coughlin’s message to the team returning from the bye is “Rising above the X’s and O’s” and playing better football. The team has 9 opportunities to play and win and needs to take advantage of every one of them
Reese wants to see the team play more consistently and be more aggressive on both sides of the ball. Despite playing some “Good football” at times, there have also been inconsistencies that have cost them games. As the second half of the season unfolds, Reese expects them to play like a good football team.
Building a roster for the Giants is not a matter of looking at a template and filling in the empty holes. In his time with the team, Reese has built teams in different ways and expects rookies, especially those drafted in the first three rounds, to contribute right away. There is no longer the luxury of allowing high draft picks to spend time on the sideline learning the NFL.
While knowing that the team brought in a lot of new players, as well as a new offensive scheme, and a new play caller, Reese thought the entire spring, and five preseason games was enough time to work out most of the kinks. Admitting that the first game (against Detroit) was rough, he thought things started to come together in the second (against Arizona) until the Ted Ginn punt return for a touchdown shifted the momentum. Reese’s expectation for the bye was a better record than the 3-4 the team currently has, but he did not specify what his expectation was. “There are a lot of teams saying that,” quipped Reese, when asked about expecting to go into the bye week with a winning record.
Refusing to blame injuries, Reese said that every week, you assess what healthy players you have on offense, defense, and special teams, and then determine what you have to do in order to “Manufacture a win” with the players you have left. It’s a slightly different take than Coughlin’s “Next man up” philosophy, but puts forth the same concept of adjust and move on.
Despite what Reese called “A setback against Philadelphia,” which may be the understatement of 2014, Reese said the offensive line played quite well at times during the first part of the season. Calling the linemen “A prideful group,” Reese expects more consistent and better play over the final 9 games. Having Schwartz back, whom Reese also referred to as day-to-day, will provide a boost, and he added that “We will have to see where he fits in,” upon his return.
Reese pointed out that every game has aspects that are positive, and some that are setbacks, giving the example of Odell Beckham making contributions against the Eagles, and then losing Victor Cruz for the season. “It’s one step forward two steps back,” he added, but you look at the players you have left, “Beckham, Rueben Randle, Preston Parker, Corey Washington, you add Kevin Ogletree… And ask, How do you win with the receiving corps that you have?”
Both Jason Pierre-Paul and Eli Manning have shown flashes of their old selves, Reese said, referring to his preseason quote that those two men are the key to the Giants having a playoff season, but both can play some better football. One thing he would like to see if a more aggressive offense, with Manning taking more shots down field and the receivers making plays on the ball. He was questioned about quotes from Coughlin and multiple assistant coaches about their, Be conservative, protect the football mantra, and Reese said, “You asking me what my opinion is. That is my opinion.”
Reese and Coughlin talk daily and have a meeting every Monday. During that meeting, it’s “Real talk. Nothing is sugar coated,” according to Reese. The general manager will raise concerns such as taking shots down the field and player issues, but was careful to point out that he’s not a coach. Coughlin, said Reese, has been able to evolve in a lot of ways since he’s been here. “I’ll never bet against Tom Coughlin,” he added, “When his back is against the wall, he comes out swinging.”
While most have has a lot of negative things to say about the Giants special teams, including some of the reporters at Reese’s press conference, he was not as dismissive, pointing out that both Josh Brown and Steve Weatherford, with his ankle injury, have been among the most consistent Giants. Other than Ginn’s return, Reese asserts that the coverage units have been good. And admits that the plan for the return units has not worked out as planned, with David Wilson, Trindon Holliday, and Odell Beckham all suffering injuries. He expects Beckham’s return and Michael Cox’s continued presence on the kickoff return unit to provide a boost.
The upcoming schedule, with games against the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco Forty-Niners, and rematch with the Dallas Cowboys is not the death knell for the Giants season that some are prognosticating, according to Reese. The Giants history is playing well in these types of games, and Reese expects nothing different this season. He expects the Giants to contend for the NFC East, as it historically comes down to “One or two games at the end of the season.” Some teams will come back to the pack, others will climb back into it, adds Reese, and he expects that the Giants will be one of them.
The NFL trading deadline is tomorrow at 4 PM, and Reese has not ruled out a trade to improve the Giants. “All options are open,” said Reese. Having made and received some phone calls, Reese said “We will see what happens.”
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