Giants News, Notes, and Reflections: Sept 11, 2014

It’s a rainy morning in New Jersey, as summer, in it’s last gasps, took a stranglehold on the weather, bringing a blast of heat and humidity and with it the threat of intermittent thunderstorms. As I was gathering my thoughts for today’s News, Notes, and Reflections, my phone beeped with a text from my nephew. He asked if I had heard the Lions defensive adjustments to the Giants running game. I had not, but still having the game on my DVR , I forwarded to the Giants drives, and was astonished by what was revealed.

"Alpha" "Baltimore"

“Alpha” “Baltimore”

While difficult to make out consistently on the ESPN broadcast, with the Jon Gruden, Mike Tirico, and Lisa Salters speaking over the players much of the time, there are clear instances where you can hear the Lions defenders yelling out “Alpha” and “Baltimore” as the Giants then run the ball to the corresponding A and B gaps. The most obvious is at 11:15 in the third quarter, when the “Baltimore” can be clearly heard. The Giants run game, which was ineffective most of the game, may have been doomed from start, as the Lions knew what was coming. There was one play at 1:47 third quarter where the Lions call out the “Alpha” adjustment, Manning changes the play to a roll out pass, and both receivers miss the adjustment and continue block for  the run play.

There are two possible explanations for this phenomenon. First, one or more of the Giants offensive linemen may have been tipping the plays. How linemen set up, the positioning of their feet, arms, or angle to the line of scrimmage often provide the defense with clues to the play that’s coming. Film study reveals many secrets in the NFL. The second is Ben McAdoo may have brought with him from Green Bay a play signalling system that is familiar to the Lions because they play the Packers twice each season and they were intercepting sideline relays or Eli Manning’s hand signals.

The Giants’ coaching staff will certainly pick this up in their film review and make the necessary adjustments before Sunday’s game with the Arizona Cardinals.

Odell Beckham (hamstring) was once again on the sideline when the Giants took the field to practice, but did appear to be running full speed and may be inching closer to rejoining his teammates. Steve Weatherford (ankle) joined him but hopes to resume kicking tomorrow. Placekicker Josh Brown practiced some punts in Weatherford’s absence and was passable, getting off some high kicks. Devon Kennard (hamstring), Markus Kuhn (ankle), James Brewer (back), and Jon Beason (foot) also did not practice. Beason missed practice due to soreness, after practicing yesterday on a limited basis. Cullen Jenkins (hip) and Charles Brown (shoulder) both returned to practice but were limited. Kuhn did some individual drills, and may be close to returning from a high ankle sprain suffered on August 22nd.

Geoff Schwartz was spotted in the weight room without his walking boot doing some strength work with free weights. Based on the performance of the offensive line on Monday night, his return from short term injured reserve can’t come soon enough.

For the Cardinals, running back Andre Ellington (foot), linebacker Alex Okeafor (thigh), and defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (calf) did not practice. Guard Paul Fanaika (knee), safety Rashad Johnson (ankle), quarterback Carson Palmer (right shoulder), and punter Dave Zastudil (left groin) were limited.

Add Tom Coughlin to the list of people who want to know why Moore only got 9 snaps

Tom Coughlin also wants to know why Moore only got 9 snaps

Tom Coughlin spoke with the media after practice and said that it’s uncertain if Beason will practice tomorrow, but that trainers believe he will play on Sunday. He added that Kennard will definitely not be able to practice tomorrow and his status for the Cardinals game is uncertain. Coughlin said that defensive end Damontre Moore “should have played more and indicated that he will going forward. Asked why he didn’t get more playing time in the Lions game, Coughlin responded, “That’s a good question,” and referred the media to Perry Fewell for an explanation.

Weatherford addressed the media and said the swelling is down in his plant leg and he is able to move around much better. He has high praise for the training staff and feels “Amazing” considering the damage done to him on Monday night. Weatherford is “Optimistic” about his chances of playing against Arizona, but added “I’m always optimistic.” Although he doesn’t have to prove his toughness after playing through the pain on Monday night, Weatherford continued to impress, getting in a workout in the weight room despite his injury. He said won’t try to be a hero, and will only play if he thinks he can help the team win. Special teams coach Tom Quinn confirmed that Brown is the backup punter but expects that the team will look at free agent punters in case Weatherford is unable to go.

Jason Pierre-Paul said the team is not down despite the disappointing loss. He sent a text to Moore after the game to let him know that “Missed sacks happen” and not to dwell his against Matthew Stafford. Pierre-Paul is not suffering any lingering effects from his stinger, and said his neck feels fine. Pierre-Paul, when asked about the Lions gaining over 400 yards on the Giants defense, said that they were gifted 200 of the yards, “They didn’t earn those.”

Fewell called the Detroit game "A Comedy of Errors." Giants360 wasn't laughing.

Fewell called the Detroit game “A Comedy of Errors.” Giants360 wasn’t laughing.

Fewell agreed, saying if you took away the “Silly breakdowns and mistakes,” the team only allowed 167 yards. He notes the impact of the injuries to Pierre-Paul and Kennard, saying that you couldn’t feel Pierre-Paul’s energy after his injury and that losing Kennard “Knocked them of some packages.” Fewell called the defensive performance in the game, “A comedy of errors.” Asked about Beason’s soreness, Fewell responded that he is “Banking” on him playing.

Regarding Moore’s playing time, Fewell’s simple explanation is that the packages used didn’t require Moore to be on the field. The game dictates what packages are sent in, and that’s how the Detroit game went. On Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown’s collision that resulted in Calvin Johnson’s 67 yard touchdown, Fewell had no explanation.

McAdoo’s turn at the podium again pointed to a good practice as a reason for optimism. He made the same assertion last week and it didn’t translate onto the playing field. McAdoo pointed out that the offense is not repeating mistakes, rather they are making different mistakes each week and correcting them. He then referenced the 2007 Giants who fell to 0-2 against the Green Bay Packers, on which McAdoo was an assistant coach, then turned it around and beat them in the NFC Championship Game.

Defending Manning, McAdoo points to progress in his footwork and his intelligent. He believes the West Coast offense is a perfect fit for Manning’s skill set. If McAdoo had said anything else, it would have been the biggest upset since Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson.

He praised Larry Donnell, and specifically mentioned his blocking but cautioned that there is room fir improvement. Turning his focus to the Cardinals impressive cornerback duo of Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie, McAdoo said they not dictate his play calling and he will not “Shy away” from them.

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Giants New, Notes, and Reflection: Sept 10, 2014

PFF is a great resource for unique stats (subscription required)

PFF is a great resource for unique stats (subscription required)

The dust has settled on the Lions demolition of the Giants on Monday night and as we prepare to move on from the disappointment of another opening night loss, let’s review some of the statistics and see what we can learn about the 2014 Giants. Many of the statistics in this article come from the analytical website ProFootballFocus.com (PFF), and require a subscription. It’s a fantastic resource if you enjoy want to delve deeper than they typical surface NFL statistics and want unbiased comparative player stats to use for comparisons. Others are derived from the Gamebooks on NFL.com, and are homegrown.

Based on practice and the preseason games, it appeared that the fullback would figure more prominently in Ben McAdoo’s offense, but Henry Hynoski was only on the field for 6 of 62 offensive snaps. This could be attributable to the shoulder injury he suffered against the Patriots, or the speculation during the summer, including that of Giants360 was wrong. The running back division of carries against Detroit was 2 to 1 in favor of Rashad Jennings as he was on the field for 42 snaps compared to 20 for rookie Andre Williams. Jennings also received the majority of red zone carries, somewhat unexpectedly, based on practice reports this summer, especially for fantasy football players.

John Jerry’s injury was not serious, as he missed only 3 snaps. Jerry was the least effective run blocking lineman, something that was apparent re-watching the game. Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh were also particularly ineffective run blocking. None of the Giants offensive linemen rated out highly in this category. Pass blocking, surprisingly, was better, with Pugh and Jerry rating the best. Not outstanding by any means, but highest on the team. Richburg and Will Beatty struggled with pass blocking on Monday night. It was a rough outing all around for the rookie Richburg, making his first start at left guard facing one of the best defensive tackle combinations in the league.

The Giants averaged just 2.41 yards per carry, horrific by any standard. However, they were only stuffed in the backfield twice despite the run blocking woes.

Manning was at his best when blitzed

Manning was at his best when blitzed

The truly shocking statistics come when you review the passing breakdown. PFF shows that Eli Manning was under pressure on 11 of 35 dropbacks, that’s 31% of passing plays. Subtracting the two sacks, Manning was 2 of 9 for 20 yards, but that’s not the shocking part. Both interceptions came on plays when there was no blitz, one was an “under pressure” play, meaning it was just a blocking breakdown, and one was not. The floated pass to Victor Cruz that was intercepted by Glover Quin, was made while Manning was under intense pressure. The DeAndre Levy interception was a miscommunication with Larry Donnell.

Manning was at his best when he was blitzed, completing 3 of 4 passes, including the touchdown to Donnell.

Cruz spoke out in the media and commented that he did not have enough looks in the game. He was targeted 6 times, with 2 catches, and 2 drops. Part of the issue was pass protection, but if the drops continue, Manning will lose confidence in him. His speaking out was ill timed, coming after the blowout loss when the team needs to regroup and pull together to avoid another 2013 like start to the season.

The shining star through all of the fallout was the performance of the Giants run defense. Detroit averaged only 2.53 yards per carry and were stuffed 4 times in 30 carries. The best defenders along the defensive line were Jason Pierre-Paul, despite his missing time with an injury, Robert Ayers, Cullen Jenkins, and Jonathan Hankins. Grading out poorly were Mathias Kiwanuka and Mike Patterson, explaining why Patterson has dropped below Hankins on the depth chart. Jacquian Williams rated out poorly and was horrific in pass coverage, especially against Reggie Bush. Sunday’s opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, feature Andre Ellington, another accomplished pass catching running back, and improvement will be needed.

Williams poor performance is concerning as the coaches were raving about his having taken a step forward in his development coming into his fourth season with the Giants. It may have been apparent in practice, but it did not translate onto the field on Monday night. Pass coverage is allegedly among Williams strengths. Jon Beason, while looking good during my game re-watch, graded out poorly, likely a function of his summer of inactivity.

As good as the run defense looked, the pass defense was equally bad. The issue may come down to communication with Perry Fewell trying to integrate players from various systems into his with limited practice time under the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement. While returning veterans Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, and Prince Amukamara know Fewell’s terminology, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond, who were on the field for the majority of  snaps, 66 (of 68) for Rodgers-Cromartie and 44 for nickel back Thurmond, have only been in the system since May. Fewell has been criticized for having too complex a system in the past and famously simplified it before the Giants beat the Jets in 2011 to kick start their championship run.

"How could you single cover Calvin Johnson?!"

“How could you single cover Calvin Johnson?!”

Covering Calvin Johnson one on one for the majority of the game, Rodgers-Cromartie rated out horrifically on Monday night. One of Giants360’s keys to victory was blanketing Johnson with double coverage. Fewell is obviously not among out current readership. Conversely, Amukamara was one of the highest rated cornerbacks in the NFL for week 1, another bright spot n a game mostly devoid of them. Stevie Brown also struggled against Detroit, perhaps attributable to his returning from a torn ACL. It might take him a few games to play himself back into his old ball hawking form.

Damontre Moore only played 9 snaps on Monday night, the most infamous of which was when he was sidestepped by Matthew Stafford on his 67 yard touchdown to Johnson. Moore’s run defense is a concern, which is why his snap count was so low. Devon Kennard only played 2 snaps on defense before a hamstring injury sidelined him. Safety Nat “The Missile” Berhe was on the field for 4 defensive snaps.

Steve Weatherford has torn ligaments in his plant leg, but won’t require surgery. It’s hard to imagine him being ready to punt on Sunday, although he’s been called day-to-day and not ruled out, and the Giants are unlikely to use two roster spots on punters, costing them a position player. Season ending injured reserve seems the most likely destination for Weatherford. Chris Kluwe, Matt Turk, Daniel Sepulveda, Ben Graham, T.J. Conley, and Reggie Hodges are among the recognizable names of free agent punts available.

Weatherford is also the holder for Josh Brown’s kicks, a critical special team role that will not be easy to replace on short notice.

Another name that was on the list of available punters will surely rekindle Giants fans nightmare images from 2010 season – Matt Dodge. Everyone knew as the Giants lined up to punt with 14 seconds left on the clock and the score tied at 31, not to punt the ball to Eagles returner DeSean Jackson. Everyone except then Giants punter Dodge, that is. The image of Jackson picking up his own fumbled punt, streaking through the Giants coverage, down the sideline, and then taunting the Giants by running parallel to their goal line before crossing into the end zone for the winning score is burned into fans minds forever. As is a frustrated Tom Coughlin running out on to the field to confront Dodge on his line drive punt directly to Jackson. Weatherford replaced Dodge the next season, and Dodge has not been given another chance in the NFL. I doubt he’s on the Giants short list of replacement punters, should they need one.

Zack Bowman and Spencer Paysinger were the Giants best special teams players against the Lions on Monday night. Trumaine McBride, and surprisingly, Mark Herzlich, were the worst. Herzlich has historically been an outstanding special teams player and it’s the main reason he was given a roster spot. If his play doesn’t improve, it’s doubtful he’ll hold on to it.

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer empathizes with Manning, having learned a new offense himself last season. He says it takes 4-8 regular season games to truly learn the system and that there is no substitute for live action, “There is no other way to replicate a regular season game that playing a regular season game.” Palmer cautions that there’s not a date where – BOOM – it just clicks, and that learning the system will just take time. He also says that Manning will learn from the bad experiences as well as the good.

Palmer has a lot of respect for the Giants defense, mentioning Beason, Amukamara, Rodgers-Cromartie, Rolle, Jenkins, and Pierre-Paul as standouts on the unit. The Cardinals defense suffered an injury casualty, as 36 year old John Abraham has left the team and is contemplating retirement after suffering another concussion in the Cardinals Monday night victory over San Diego. “It’s going to be tough,” said Palmer, asked about replacing Abraham, who has reportedly been experiencing memory loss for more than a year after sustaining multiple career concussions.

Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians

Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, who has been involved in coaching football for 40 years echoed Palmer’s sentiments about the Giants picking up the new offense. He even agreed with the time frame, stating that he doesn’t judge a quarterback on a new offense until week 8. Arians, an who was offensive coordinator in both Cleveland and Pittsburgh, before famously taking the Colts interim head coaching job while Chuck Pagano underwent cancer treatment in 2012, said that it’s sometimes more difficult to teach a veteran quarterback a new system and he finds it easier to “brainwash” a rookie. He has no doubt that Manning is experiencing growing pains in the new system.

The Giants poor performance in Detroit before returning home to face his Cardinals is of concern to Arians as he doesn’t see the Giants playing as poorly before their home fans. He says there is nothing worse than going into a team’s home stadium after they lost the week before.

As the Giants returned to the practice field today, Weatherford was among those that didn’t practice. Josh Brown was reported to be available as the stand in punter, but a JUGGS machine was used instead Joining Weatherford on the sideline was Jason Pierre-Paul, who is being monitored after suffering a “stinger” on Monday night. Kennard was not out on the field today, and Odell Beckham junior fielded punts only, not returning them, repeating a pattern familiar to those following his training camp practice habits.

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Giants at Lions: Week 1 Game Review

Going into this game, it was apparent that the key to a Giants victory would be how their rebuilt, patchwork offensive line responded to the Detroit Lions ferocious front four. Look no further than the final score, 35-14 Lions, and you have your answer. This Giants were over matched, with Eli Manning under constant pressure and never looking comfortable in the pocket, running lanes were non-existent, and there was no surge off the ball to give Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams room to pick a hole. After two early breakdowns, the defense settled in and played well until the fourth quarter, when they were tired and wore down, giving up a late score to put the game completely out of reach. This one was ugly, but it was only the first game. The Arizona Cardinals come to town in six days, and with them, a chance for redemption.

Losing the coin toss, the Giants kicked off to the Lions and Josh Brown put the ball into the end zone for a touchback. After giving up 12 yards on a screen pass to Reggie Bush, it appeared the defense had settled down as Prince Amukamara and Jon Beason stuffed Bush for no gain, and Calvin Johnson was called for an illegal touching penalty after a spectacular sideline catch where Amukamara had tight coverage. A short pass to Bush brought up third and 9 and it the Giants appeared poised to stop Detroit’s opening drive. Johnson went deep, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in coverage, he released, and safeties Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown collided, taking each another out of the play and leaving Johnson wide open. Matthew Stafford, the Lions quarterback, sidestepped a hard charging Damontre Moore and fired the ball the Johnson, who caught the ball without a Giants within 15 yards of him and strolled into the end zone for an easy 67 yard touchdown and a 7-0 Lions lead.

After a Nate Freese touchback, Manning brought the Giants offense out for the first time in 2014, with dreadful results. Jennings ran into the line twice and lost a yard. On the first play, defensive tackle Nick Fairley blew past center J.D. Walton, and on the second, he overpowered right guard John Jerry. On third down, Manning, under pressure, misfired towards Jerrell Jernigan, and the Giants were forced to punt.

Calvin Johnson's diving second TD made it 14-0 Lions

Calvin Johnson’s diving second TD made it 14-0 Lions

Taking over at his own 31, Stafford went to work again, picking up a quick 39 yards on two passes to Bush and a toe tapper to the on the sidelines to Johnson. Mixing in a few Joique Bell runs, Stafford again moved away from Giants pressure and found Johnson in the end zone for a second touchdown, this one a diving grab for 16 yards, and a 14-0 Detroit lead. Jason Pierre-Paul was injured on the play, and taken into the locker room with what he described as a “stinger.” He later returned but was not a factor in the game with just 4 tackles.

Another touchback gave the Giants the ball on their own 20 and the best play on this drive was a 22 yard pass interference call on a pass intended for Victor Cruz. After the penalty, the Giants offense against stalled and they were again forced to punt. Special teams issues, which plagued the team in the early part of 2013, reared up again, and the punt, partially blocked by linebacker Tahir Whitehead, traveled only 16 yards. On the replay, it appeared that Whitehead blew past Jameel McClain who was running downfield, there’s no way to know if he was responsible to blocking him. Nat Berhe and Will Demps were in the backfield to protect. Berhe was in the best position to pick up Whitehead.

The Giants defense adjusted, and forced the Lions to punt after only three plays, giving them the ball on their own 21. On drive three, the offense appeared to have something going, as Manning hit tight end Larry Donnell for 19 yard, and Jernigan for gains of 7 and 9 yards, until a penalty on the Lions defense for hands to the face seemingly confused Clete Blakeman’s officiating crew and the delay while they determined if it would be assessed from the line of scrimmage or the end of the play cooled down the Giants offense. Assessed from the previous line of scrimmage and finally resuming play, the Lions defense stopped the Giants cold, culminating with a sack of Manning and Weatherford again came out to punt. On the sack, defensive end George Johnson came on a stunt between Jerry and Walton, following a blitzing linebacker who was picked up Jennings, and Jerry whiffed.

Punt protection issues continued, and while Weatherford got the punt away, he was knocked down by Jerome Couplin, and drew a roughing the kicker penalty. Couplin was being blocked by McClain and came off of it into Weatherford, who was injured on the play, but finished the game. The penalty gave the Giants a first down on the Lions 35 and breathed new life into them as the second quarter started.

Donnell outleads Abdul-Quddus for a Giants TD

Donnell outleads Abdul-Quddus for a Giants TD

Rashad Jennings had his best run of the night, a 14 yard burst up the middle behind blocks by Walton and Weston Richburg. After another Jennings run, Manning threw a pass intended for Jernigan in the end zone, drawing a flag for pass interference on cornerback Darius Slay, and giving the Giants a first and goal on the one. Here we got our first glimpse of Ben McAdoo’s goal to go style.

The first down play was a fade to rookie Corey Washington, his only target of the night, who had his hands on the ball, but couldn’t bring it down. On second down, another fade, this one to Donnell, he caught the ball, but couldn’t get his feet in bounds. The third down play was a Jennings run that was stuffed for no gain. Passing up the field goal, Coughlin elected to go for it and McAdoo called another fade to Donnell, who out leaped safety Isa Abdul-Quddus and caught the ball for a touchdown, cutting the Lions lead to 14-7. It was a choppy, penalty assisted 13 play, 79 yard drive that took 4:56.

The Giant defense held Detroit to another three and out and it appeared that the offense might be getting on track as a quick first down following the Lions punt gave them a first down at mid field with just under 10 minutes left in the first half. Two incompletions and sack ended that threat and a short punt by an obviously injured Weatherford failed to pin the Lions inside their own 20. Stafford mixed passes to Bush, Johnson, and Golden Tate and drove the Lions into field goal range as the two minute warning arrived. The Giants caught a break as rookie Freese’s 43 yard attempt sailed wide left .

Taking over at their own 33 with 1:55 on the clock, Manning hit Donnell up the seam to give them a first down just inside Lions territory, but was unable to push them deeper and Weatherford punt and Stafford kneel down ended the half. The Giants were fortunate to be down only 7, as they gained just 75 yards, and needed help from the officials to sustain drives. As they would receive the third quarter kickoff, the game was still well within reach.

Levy's magic fingers INT sets up a Lion FG

Levy’s magic fingers INT sets up a Lion FG

The third quarter opened with a familiar pattern from 2013. The Giants took the second quarter kickoff, and after two lackluster plays, Manning fired an off target pass in the general direction of Donnell. Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy cradled it, and kept it from touching the ground for a brilliant interception, setting the Lions up at the Giants 18. The Giants defense held and Detroit settled for a 28 yard Freese field goal and a 17-7 lead.

After a Giants punt, Stafford drive the Lions 66 yards in 9 plays including a 44 yard pass to Tate to set up another Freese field goal, this time for 27 yard, increasing their lead to 13, at 20-7, when disaster struck for the Giants on the signature play of this game. On the very first play after the kickoff, Manning dropped back to pass and, under intense pressure from Fairley, threw a wild,floating  pass towards Cruz that was easily intercepted by Lions Safety Glover Quin. With the ball at the Giants 19, Stafford was able to put the ball in the end zone in 5 plays, keeping the ball himself on a 5 yard touchdown scramble. His score effectively put the game out of reach for the Giants struggling offense at 27-7 Lions with 3:51 in the third quarter.

The Giants immediately answered the Lions score with a 14 play, 80 yard touchdown drive, culminating with a 1 yard Jennings plunge to cut the score to 27-14, but the damage was already done and the outcome of the game was long decided. On the field for more than 36 minutes, an exhausted and bullied Giants defense gave up a late touchdown and two point conversion on a 12 play, 80 yard touchdown drive and two point conversion that took over ten minutes off the clock and closed scoring in the 35-14 rout.

The Giants were flat out awful the their 2014 regular season debut, especially on offense, confirming the worst of fan and media observations from the first team’s performance in the preseason games. Manning had little time to pass and never looked comfortable in the pocket. When he did look down field, the only wide receiver who seemed to have separation was Jernigan, who was targeted 7 times, catching 4 for 25 yards. Cruz was a non-factor, catching 2 of 6 passes thrown his was for 24 yards with several drops. Rueben Randle caught 2 passes for 1 single yard. That’s a total of 50 yards receiving from the Giants top 3 wide outs and won’t get the job done against any opponent. The Cardinals secondary is vastly superior to Detroit’s, which does not bode well for the trio of receivers.

Stafford's surprising mobility kept plays alive

Stafford’s surprising mobility kept plays alive

For the game, the Giants gained 197 yard, 53 rushing and 144 passing. The defense gave up 417 to the Lions, including 346 to the red hot Stafford who completed 22 of 32 passes and had a passer rating of 125.3 Manning rating was 53.0 on an 18 for 33 night, a 54% completion rate, far off from McAdoo’s target of 70%. The Giants were able to penetrate the Lions defensive line, but Stafford was surprisingly mobile, stepping up and rolling away from the pressure to make completions or throw away to avoid sacks.

There were some bright spots on offense – Donnell made some impressive grabs at tight end, catching 5 of 8 passes thrown his way for 56 yard and the touchdown. He was open in down the seam and looked fluid and athletic catching the ball, and appears to have claimed the starting tight end job for the time being. Jennings caught 4 passes for 50 yards and was elusive in the open field. He also made a nice run on a 4th down conversion on the the Giants second touchdown drive.

On defense, following the first quarter breakdowns, there were a lot of positives to take away from the game. Jon Beason played well in his first game back from a foot injury. He showed no ill effect from the sesamoid fracture, moving well and making plays. Amukamara made several good plays in the secondary and was his usual solid self in run support. The run defense was solid overall, limiting the Lions to 76 yards on 30 carries, a 2.5 average per carry, with 4 stuffs in the backfield. Those numbers would have been more impressive if not for some Bell bursts on the Lions clock killing drive against the Giants spent defense.

Of particular concern are the punt protection breakdowns, which were consistent and led to Weatherford’s injury. His plant foot was swollen after the game, however, he doesn’t believe anything is seriously damaged. X-Rays were negative, but he’ll have an MRI today. Jameel McClain, Nate Berhe, and Will Demps were among the primary culprits in the punt protection breakdowns, depending on their assignments. Giants360 will keep an eye out for team information releases this week for more on this topic.

Also injured in the game were Jerry, who was replaced by Brandon Mosley, no word on his injury, and Devon Kennard, who left with a hamstring injury and did not return. Pierre-Paul left and returned, and will certainly be evaluated this week given that the injury was to his neck.

Coughlin called the game a "Nightmare Performance"

Coughlin called the game a “Nightmare Performance”

In his post game press conference, Coughlin called the game a “Nightmare performance,” saying that the Giants couldn’t move the ball, stop the Lions, turned the ball over, and had a blocked punt. He added that the team has a lot of things to improve in a short week. Coughlin wouldn’t offer excuses other than “We played poorly.”

Asked if Manning was an issue, Coughlin responded, “It’s no one individual, It’s a team game and a team concept. He’s no more to blame than anyone else. Blame me.” He earlier indicated that a big part of Manning poor performance was the constant pass pressure Manning faced from the Lions and made statement that is concerning, “This is our team, this is what we have.” For the second season running, the Giants have a lack of talent on the offensive line, having lost Geoff Schwartz to injury until November, and Chris Snee to retirement. Coughlin seems resigned to deal with an inferior line in 2014.

Coughlin responded “Pass protection and the inability to run the ball,” when a reporter asked him the biggest areas of disappointment in the game. The lack of a run game was particularly concerning as it appeared to have some life in the preseason, but lacked any cohesion against Detroit.

The Giants fly back today and will begin short week preparations for the 1-0 Arizona Cardinals. They need to turn things around quickly or they face an 0-2 hole that will be difficult to dig out from.

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Giants at Lions: Week 1 Keys to Victory

The Giants enjoyed an undefeated preseason, winning all 5 games they played, often in exciting fashion with late game heroics. Many of the players who contributed to those wins are no longer on the roster or firmly entrenched on the bench, and instead, the players who made those comebacks necessary will be playing the entire game. Game plans have been prepared and installed, intensity is ramped up, and the games count towards the goal of every team taking the field this weekend – The 49th Superbowl, to be played on February 1, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.

Key Pressuring Matthew Stafford.

Key 4: Pressuring Matthew Stafford.

The Giants travel to Detroit, Michigan for a Monday night opener against the Detroit Lions, a game which odds makers expect them to lose. The points spread has been steadily increasing all week, from 5 points this past Sunday to 7 points today, an indicator that the betting public has been putting their money on the Lions. In order for the Giants to win this game, and they are capable of winning it, here are the keys to victory for the team:

 

  1. Run the ball effectively. Detroit’s run defense was 23rd in the NFL last season, but improved to 4th in the league during the 2014 preseason, a possible indicator that the team has improved in that area. While the Giants’ offensive line was out of sync for the entire summer, their run blocking was effective and both starter Rashad Jennings and short yardage back Andre Williams were able to rip off big gains with some consistency. Running the ball with keep the Lions offense off the field, open up play action passes for Eli Manning, and make the Giant offense click.
  2. Protect Manning. During his limited preseason snaps, Manning was running for his life. He was strip sacked, and his fumble led to a Buffalo Bills touchdown in the first preseason game and even when there wasn’t pressure on him, Manning acted as if it was there. Detroit tallied 11 preseason sacks, in the top 5 of the NFL, and if they are able to pressure Manning effectively, it will lead to mistakes and good field position for the potent Lions offense.
  3. Protect the Football. One of the area wheres the Giants improved in the preseason was turnovers, averaging just one per game, after turning it over 2.75 times per game in 2013. If the turnovers come early and often, it will be a happy night in the Motor City.
  4. Pressure Matthew Stafford. No NFL quarterback preforms well when under constant and consistent pressure. The Giants used pressure to win their two most recent Super Bowls and quietly amassed a league leading 14 preseason sacks this year. With their upgraded secondary and linebackers, effective pressure from the defensive line will help create turnovers and do for the Giants what was done to them last season.
  5. Blanket Megatron. Calvin Johnson is the Lions most dangerous player. If he’s allowed to run loose in the secondary, it will be a long day for the Giant defense. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, and Walter Thurmond need to prevent him from getting a clean release off the line and the safeties need to provide help over the top and make Detroit’s other weapons beat them. Golden Tate one on one doesn’t put the scare into a defense that Johnson does and both Jameel McClain and Devon Kennard can match up with Reggie Bush or Eric Ebron. Johnson shouldn’t see single coverage all night.

If the Giants are able to accomplish the five items on the above list, it should prove enough to best the Lions and send them home with an opening day victory. As you saw in the 360 Pick article posted yesterday, it’s too soon to expect miracles from this team and while they will keep it close, Giants360 believes this one will slip away. Taking the 7 points, however, is the smart play, because historically, whenever most people are counting a NFL team out, they prove the most dangerous.

It's his first game tonight. Tweet pics of others to @Giants360

It’s his first game tonight. Tweet pics of others to @Giants360

Are you following @giants360 on Twitter, we will be live tweeting all the games and want you to join us. It’s the place to be for Giants news, rumors, and game day observations. To the right is a picture of Big Blue fan William, who will be enjoying his first Giants game tonight. Tweet pics of your young Giants fans to @Giants360 for a chance at a retweet and to be included in giants360.com articles for this coming week.

Did you know that Giants360.com now has a shop with all the team official gear to show your Big Blue pride? Click the Giants Store link in the upper right hand corner and be sure to use the code “Kickoff” to save 20% on your purchase in celebration of the 2014 season.

And give the author a follow @hyprcaffeinated

Giants 360 Picks: Week 1

We picked the Seahawks to win but not cover in a high scoring affair on Thursday night and got off to a decent start, as Seattle won the game and the over came in, but Green Bay wasn’t close to covering the spread. Injuries impacted the Packers drastically in the second half and a close game turned into a Seattle route.

Week 1 is always challenging, as teams have yet to establish their personalities for the season. Defenses are usually ahead of offenses, but the line makers in Las Vegas are well aware of that and build it into their odds. Let’s take a look at games and make take a look at who we like in week 1 action.

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons:

Line: Saints by 3.5
Over/Under: 51.5

Analysis: The Saints are a different team on the road, going 1-7 against the spread in 2013. The Falcons are rebuilding their offensive line and will keep it close, but Drew Brees wins a close, high scoring affair.

Straight Pick: Saints
Spread Pick: Falcons + 3.5
OU Pick: Over 51.5

Confidence: Low confidence picks on all

Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams:

Line: Rams by 3.0
Over/Under: 43.0

Analysis: The Vikings were 5-3 on the road against the spread and starter Matt Cassel was their most effective quarterback. The Rams turn to journeyman Shaun Hill following Sam Bradford’s season ending injury and will need time to adjust their offense. The Vikings win in a upset.

Straight Pick: Vikings
Spread Pick: Vikings + 3.0
OU Pick: Over 43.0

Confidence: High confidence on all three picks

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers:

Line: Steelers by 7.0
Over/Under: 41.5

Analysis: Pittsburgh has lost 3 season opening games in a row, but none of those games were against Cleveland, who they are 24-3 against in the last 27 meetings. The game will be low scoring, and the Steelers win by at least a touchdown.

Straight Pick: Steelers
Spread Pick: Steelers – 7.0
OU Pick: Under 41.5

Confidence: High confidence on all picks

Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles:

Line: Eagles by 10.0
Over/Under: 52.0

Analysis: The Jaguars will be an improved team in 2014, but they’re not quite good enough to beat the Eagles. It wouldn’t be a shocker if they keep the game close, probably not though, lay the points and take the over.

Straight Pick: Eagles
Spread Pick: Eagles – 10.0
OU Pick: Over 52.0

Confidence: High confidence on Straight, Low confidence on Spread and OU

Oakland Raiders at New York Jets:

Line: Jets by 5.0
Over/Under: 40.5

Analysis: One of the best trends in betting games is taking a bad west coast team in an early Sunday kickoff on the east coast. Another one is to not to bet any game involving the inconsistent Jets. Clashing trends say the Jets will win the game, but won’t cover the spread. Why not take the over, but based on that statement, you know the confidence is low.

Straight Pick: Jets
Spread Pick: Raiders + 5.0
OU Pick: Over 40.5

Confidence: High confidence on Straight, Low confidence on Spread and OU

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens:

Line: Ravens by 1.0
Over/Under: 42.5

Analysis: These teams are 13-13 straight in their last 26 match-ups, with the home team winning. Cincinnati is a much better home team than road against the spread. With two good defenses early in the season, expect points to be at a premium.

Straight Pick: Ravens
Spread Pick: Ravens – 1.0
OU Pick: Under 42.5

Confidence: Low confidence on all three picks

Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears:

Line: Bears by 7.5
Over/Under: 48.0

Analysis: Chicago improved an already good team. Buffalo is still a work in progress and E.J. Manual looked horrid in the preseason. The Bears should win this one easily and may score 48 points by themselves at home.

Straight Pick: Bears
Spread Pick: Bears – 7.5
OU Pick: Over 48.0

Confidence: High confidence on Straight; Low confidence on Spread and OU

Washington Redskins at Houston Texans:

Line: Texans by 3.0
Over/Under: 44.5

Analysis: Two new coaching staffs, means two unknown quantities. Go with the home teams at your own peril. The Texans defense should be fierce with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney on the same defense, so take the under, if you must.

Straight Pick: Texans
Spread Pick: Texans – 3.0
OU Pick: Under 44.5

Confidence: Low Confidence on all three picks

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs:

Line: Chiefs by 3.0
Over/Under: 43.5

Analysis: These teams have only played 5 times since 2004. The Chiefs should win at home in a close, low scoring game.

Straight Pick: Chiefs
Spread Pick: Titans + 3.0
OU Pick: Under 43.5

Confidence: Low Confidence on all three picks

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins:

Line: Patriots by 5.0
Over/Under: 46.5

Analysis: The Patriots will be in their dark blue uniforms on the sunny side of the field in Miami in September. Bill Belichick has probably had the team in full uniform in a steam room all summer to prepare. While everything about this game screams “Miami,” the Patriots have a knack for doing the unexpected.

Straight Pick: Patriots
Spread Pick: Patriots – 5.0
OU Pick: Under 46.5

Confidence: High confidence on Straight; Low confidence on Spread and OU

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Line: Buccaneers by 3.0
Over/Under: 38.5

Analysis: The Panthers were the surprise team of 2013. Tampa Bay is a candidate to be a surprise team for 2014, but not this early. Carolina’s defense and Cam Newton win this game for the visitors. Keep an eye on Cam Newton’s injury report, there’s a slim chance he doesn’t play in this game, in which case, it’s a no bet on all counts.

Straight Pick: Panthers
Spread Pick: Panthers + 3.0
OU Pick: Over 38.5

Confidence: High Confidence on all three picks (If Cam Newton plays)

San Fransisco Forty-Niners at Dallas Cowboys:

Line: Forty-Niners by 4.0
Over/Under: 51.0

Analysis: San Fransisco is hurting between injuries and suspensions, but not nearly as bad as the Dallas defense. The Forty-Niners will score early and often, the only question is, will they lay off in the fourth quarter.

Straight Pick: Forty-Niners
Spread Pick: Forty-Niners – 4.0
OU Pick: Over 51.0

Confidence: High confidence on the Straight and Spread Picks; Low confidence on the OU

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos:

Line: Broncos by 8.0
Over/Under: 55.0

Analysis: One of Denver’s regular season losses last year was when Peyton Manning visited the Colts at his former stomping grounds in Indianapolis. The rematch is in Denver, and he will extract his revenge, if the teams trade touchdowns, the Colts could cover the spread and the over is a shoe-in, but the Denver defense is improved. The Indy defense is not.

Straight Pick: Broncos
Spread Pick: Broncos – 8.0
OU Pick: Over 55.0

Confidence: High Confidence on the Straight pick; Low confidence on the Spread and the OU picks

New York Giants at Detroit Lions:

Line: Lions by 7.0
Over/Under: 48.0

Analysis: The best unit on the Lions defense is the line, the worst unit on the Giants offense is the line. If the Giants can give Eli Manning time, he can exploit the Lions weak secondary, if not, well, you understand why the game is low confidence.

Straight Pick: Lions
Spread Pick: Giants + 7.0
OU Pick: Over 48.0

Confidence: Low confidence on all three picks

San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals:

Line: Cardinals by 3.0
Over/Under: 46.0

Analysis: San Diego was a surprise playoff team last season, and Arizona was a 10-6 spectator under first year coach Bruce Arians. The Cardinals front seven has suffered losses to both injury and suspensions, giving the Chargers enough of an advantage to eke out an opening night win.

Straight Pick: Chargers
Spread Pick: Chargers + 3.0
OU Pick: Over 46.0

Confidence: Low confidence on all three picks

If you want to play a parley: Go with the best of the high confidence picks – Forty-Niners -4.0, Vikings + 3.0, and Steelers/Browns Under 41.5

If you’re in a suicide pool: Pick among these teams – Eagles, Forty-Niners, Jets, and Bears.

Season Preview, Part 3: A Celebrity Take

Erin Foley decked out in Giants gear and her sacred Giants scarf.

Erin Foley decked out in Giants gear and her sacred Giants scarf.

Erin Foley is a comedic actress, writer, and comedian who you may have seen in the movie Almost Famous or on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. When she appeared on the improv comedy panel show @midnight, Giants360 was first introduced to her podcast, Sports Without Balls, where Erin and a guest delve into a wide array of sports each week, and through it, one learns of her lifelong devotion to our New York Giants. If you’re looking for a lighthearted, informative podcast that mixes every sport imaginable with wit, laughter, and charm, I highly recommend it.

Erin was kind enough to answer some questions for Giants360, and couldn’t have been more gracious. As you will see, she knows her football, and the Giants.

Giants360: Will Eli bounce back his season?

Foley: Yes, Eli will bounce back. I will defend Eli to my grave. I hope that’s not anytime soon because it’s the start of the NFL season! Thank God! When Giants’ fans throw Eli under the bus I respond with this list: Kerry Collins, Kurt Warner, Kent Graham, Dave Brown, Jesse Palmer, Danny Kannell… that usually does the trick. His consistency and two Super Bowl rings should be enough. It would be enough if he didn’t have a big brother.

Giants360: Can the team wrestle the NFC East away from the Eagles?

Foley: I don’t see anyone wrestling the East away from the Eagles which kills me. I think they are going to get better and better which means I will be purchasing a flask.

Giants360: The new offense? Will it fix what was broken?

Foley: It’s going to be interesting to see what this new offense entails. I think we all can agree that the preseason was a bit of a hot mess. 5-0 doesn’t mean anything. Good news first. Our offensive line went through an overhaul in the off season. It’s always been so solid for the Giants. Eli had 700 interceptions last season because our O-line was comprised of cousins of the dudes on the practice squad. If the O-line is better, the new and improved running game will take the pressure off Manning. Bad news. Eli will be throwing to the cousins of the wide receivers on the practice squad. We need Odell’s hamstring to be duct taped and Victor Cruz to grow another arm. I guess I’ll be playing tight end.

Giants360: Who’s your favorite Giant – Current and All Time?

Foley: Current: Manning. All Time: Mark Bavaro and LT (tie).

Giants360: Victor Cruz said recently that this team has championship mettle. Can you see them making another championship run?

Foley: I can see them making another championship run in another year or two. It depends if everyone stays healthy and this new offense goes forward and down the field instead of side to side and out of bounds (see last season).

Giants360: Will you be attending any Giant games this year?

Foley: I hope to either catch a home game later in the season when I go back to New York City or possibly head to Seattle (quick flight from LA) and try to be New York’s 12th woman.

From the stage to the huddle. Meet the newest TE for the NYG

From the stage to the huddle. Meet the newest TE for the NYG?

And there you have it folks, another Giants360 exclusive, Erin Foley will be playing tight end for the Giants, the position most in need of an upgrade. She is already a better option than Adrien Robinson.

Many thanks to Erin for taking the time to talk to Giants360 and her insights into upcoming Giants season.

If you would like more information about Erin Foley, her comedy, albums, and tour dates, visit erinkfoley.com. Sports without Balls can be found on iTunes, on allthingscomedy.com, or though the Apple podcast app. Follow Erin on Twitter @erinfoleycomic.

Be sure to follow @Giants360 on Twitter. Get the latest news, notes, and rumors there first. And we will be live tweeting all the games. If you’re not following, you’re missing out.

Did you know that Giants360 now has a shop with all the team official gear, including a Giants flask for Erin, to show your Big Blue pride? Click the Giants Store link in the upper right hand corner and be sure to use the code “Kickoff” to save 20% on your purchase in celebration of the 2014 season.

And give the author a follow @hyprcaffeinated

Season Preview, Part 2: The Games

In part one of the Giants360 season preview, we took a look at the team roster, unit by unit and assessed the strength of each. In part two, we will go game by game and project the outcome of each.

September 8th, Monday Night Opener, at Detroit Lions (Loss)

The Lions defensive line is too much for the Giant patchwork offensive line.

September 14 vs Arizona Cardinals (Win)

The Cardinals have suffered losses along their front seven, Darnell Dockett to injury, and Darryl Washington to a suspension. They can’t take advantage of the Giants glaring weakness, and the Giants prevail to even their record at 1-1.

September 21 vs Houston Texans (Win)

Houston has a new head coach, and a new quarterback. They also have a ferocious pass rush featuring J.D. Watt and rookie Jadaveon Clowney. The Giants run the ball to neutralize it and their defense shuts out the Texans.

September 25 Thursday Night at Washington Redskins (Win)

On a short week, the Giants take advantage of catching the Redskins early in the season and their defense and running game propel then to a third straight win.

October 5 vs Atlanta Falcons (Loss)

The Falcons are also rebuilding, and have a much better offensive line in 2014 than they did in 2013. They also have an improved defense. This is the kind of team the Giants historically overlook and it bites them for an unexpected loss.

October 12 Sunday Night at Philadelphia Eagles (Loss)

The Giants offense is not nearly together enough at this point in the season to match scoring with Chip Kelly’s high flying attack. This one could be ugly as the defense gets tired late in the game and the Giants record falls to 3-3.

October 19 at Dallas Cowboys (Win)

What is the cure for an ailing offense? The Cowboys defense. In 2013, the Dallas defense was historically bad, and they’ve gotten worse. The salary cap and injuries have decimated them. If you want to know how bad things have gotten, look no further than the un-retired Rolando McClain starting at middle linebacker.

November 3 Monday Night vs Indianapolis Colts (Loss)

Another team with a good offense that will tire out the Giants defense and outscore them.

November 9  at Seattle Seahawks (Loss)

The game is in Seattle on a short week. Do you need any more than that?

November 16 vs San Fransisco Forty-Niners (Win)

Between suspensions and injuries, the Forty-Niner defense is decimated. Their offense is not good enough to carry the team.

November 23 Sunday Night vs Dallas Cowboys (Win)

The Giants offense will start to come together in their second game against Dallas.

November 30  at Jacksonville Jaguars (Win)

Coughlin return to his roots to play a surprisingly competitive Jaguars team quarterbacked by rookie Blake Bortles. The Giant defense and running game is too much for them.

December 7 at Tennessee Titans (Win)

Back to back road games in December against mediocre teams don’t derail the Giants, who dominate against lesser quarterbacks…

December 14 vs Washington Redskins (Loss)

…Until they return home for their annual December let down game and lose to the Redskins.

December 21 at St. Louis Rams (Win)

The Rams have a horrific season after losing Sam Bradford for the second year in a row, the Giants ground game pounds them for an easy road win.

December 28 vs Philadelphia Eagles (Win)

The Giants offense is clicking in the NFC East Championship game. December weather combined with a superior defense bring the Giants a surprise division title.

There you have it, Giants360 predicts the Giants will ride their running game and defense to a 10-6 record. They make the playoffs and who know what happens.

On the flip side, the team will go 6-10 if: The offensive line loses any more players to injury, Jason Pierre-Paul doesn’t round back into his 2011 form, or the offense fails to protect the football better than they did in 2013. Small things make a big difference in the NFL, and it’s a fine line that separates the 6 win and the 10 win teams.

Giants360 asked on Twitter about the team’s outlook and what players you think would have big seasons. @zoomusikgrl think the team will start slow, pick up steam, make the playoffs, but lose in the playoffs in a heart breaker. She adds that the Giants will “Slaughter the Cowboys.” @smd16nwo calls for Steve Weatherford to have a big season, “Unfortunately,” indicating he does not think too highly of the Giants new offense. @JROC_NYG agrees with Giants360 about the Giants running game, and thinks rookie Andre Williams is the power back to have a big year.

In Part 3 of the Giants360 season preview, we get a celebrity take on the Giants season. Check back for the final chapter of our comprehensive preview of the upcoming season.

Championship Mettle? A Giant Preview Part 1

Victor Cruz, during an interview, said he sees something in this Giants team that he’s seen on another team – in 2011. The camaraderie and drive that defines a champion. He’s not as bold or brash like Rex Ryan and would not predict that the Giants would win a Super Bowl this season, but instead was saying that this team might have special chemistry. There is a similarity between the 2014 squad and the one fielded in 2011 – a glaring weakness that leads one to believe it could be a challenging season. In 2011 it was the secondary, as cornerback after cornerback went down to injury. In 2014, it’s the offensive line, a patchwork unit, that lost Chris Snee the day training camp started, and now Geoff Schwartz until November. How will the the 2014 Giants stack up? Let’s review each unit individually.

Presumed starters are bolded and blue:

Quarterbacks (2): Eli Manning, Ryan Nassib.
Eli Manning is coming off his worst season as a professional, having thrown 27 interception, while being subjected to constant pressure. The impact of the weak offensive line has carried over to this season, as Manning has looked uncomfortable in the pocket during the preseason, often rushing throws even when a pass rush present. Having an offensive line that will be a work in progress won’t help resolve this issue. Add on top learning a new offense for the first time in his eleven year career, and it’s not exactly a recipe for a bounce back year. However, Manning is highly intelligent, is surrounded by talented players, especially when Odell Beckham can return to the field, and another 27 interception season in this short passing offense is improbable at best.

Ryan Nassib ascended during the preseason following a demotion to third string that lit a fire beneath him. Starting with the Giants third preseason game, Nassib was a different quarterback and showed the talent that had some projecting him as a first round pick and the top quarterback off draft boards in 2013. His performance was of high enough quality that Tom Coughlin was comfortable keeping only two quarterbacks and let Curtis Painter go in the final cuts. Nassib is still learning and if he has to take any meaningful snaps in 2014, the season is lost.

Rashad Jennings will play a big role in the Giants new offense

Rashad Jennings will play a big role in the Giants new offense

Running Back (3): Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Peyton Hillis.
Practice Squad (1): Michael Cox.
The biggest victim of the Giants offensive struggles in 2013 was their running game as the team averaged a paltry 3.5 yard per carry and topped 100 yards only 4 times. David Wilson’s neck injury proved career ending, Andre Brown couldn’t make the Houston Texans as a backup, and Brandon Jacobs retired. Free agent addition Rashad Jennings will be the starter and had a dazzling 73 yard run during the preseason  and showed off his pass catching prowess, a staple of the Ben McAdoo West Coast offense. Rookie Andre Williams is the power runner of the group, and expected to handle short yardage and goal line duty. He is surprisingly quick for his size (5’11”, 230), but lacks pass receiving ability. The injured Peyton Hillis, a holdover from 2013, rounds out the running backs. Michael Cox provides depth on the practice squad. Overall this unit is considerably stronger that 2013, and will be leaned on heavily early in the season.

Fullback (1): Henry Hynoski.
Fullback is not a complete description of Henry Hynoski’s role in the Giants offense. He will provide blocking, paving the way for Jennings and Williams as part of the running game, but Hynoski will also be used as a receiver out of the backfield in a H-Back capacity, something he showed a flair for in training camp. If practice is any indicator, the quick hand off to the fullback, a play that has worked well against the Giants for years, will be incorporated into the offensive bag of tricks in 2014. Beating out strong competitor John Conner, Hynoski was the better blocker, receiver, and runner during the preseason. He suffered a minor shoulder injury in the final preseason game, which is not expected to slow him down. Conner has not signed with another team as of the publication of this article, and would be brought back is Hynoski is unable to play.

Giants Receivers: Victor Cruz and ?

Giants Receivers: Victor Cruz and ?

Wide Receiver (6): Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham, Jerrell Jernigan, Corey Washington, Preston Parker.
Practice Squad (1): Julian Talley.
The Giants wide receiver corps can best be described as Victor Cruz and his band of the unknown. Rueben Randle will start opposite Cruz to open the season, but has not shone brightly in the early going, still displaying evidence that “miscommunication” with Manning will be an issue, at least early in the season. The new offense is considerably simpler for the receivers, but has not slowed down for Randle yet.

Jerrell Jernigan made the team by default when camp star Marcus Harris, who caught everything throw his way, was injured against the New York Jets in the preseason and placed on season ending injured reserve. Jeringan’s breakout performance last December appears to be a flash in the pan as he was dropping more passes than he caught this preseason. First round draft pick Odell Beckham’s hamstring has kept him off the field and his potential remains on the sideline with him. Beckham has caught more passes from the JUGGS machine than Manning. Based on Coughlin’s comments earlier this week, the Atlanta Falcons game on October 5th would seem the most likely for Beckham’s debut.

Corey Washington caught 4 game winning or sealing touchdown passes in 5 games this preseason and won himself a roster spot. While he may have a role the red zone package because of this 6’4″ frame, keep in mind that he never played in a preseason game with the starters and made scant appearances with the second string. This is a strong indicator that the coaching staff doesn’t see him as regular season ready. Preston Parker was kept to return punts until Beckham is healthy. He will be the fourth wide receiver and may or may not stick once the rookie is back. This unit has a lot of potential, but can also be a huge flop; Cruz will be his steady self and catch 80-90 passes for 1,000 to 1,100 yards and 9 touchdown, but as for the rest, your guess is as good as mine.

Will Cunningham be the eventual answer at tight end?

Will Cunningham be the eventual answer at tight end?

Tight End (3): Daniel Fells, Larry Donnell, Adrien Robinson.
Practice Squad (1): Jerome Cunningham.
When looking over the Giants tight ends, one question immediately springs to mind – How did Adrien Robinson make this team? He’s obviously the third tight end of three, but Kellen Davis, released Saturday, outplayed him, and is a far superior blocker. The tight ends are the weakest unit on the 2014 Giants. Coughlin already informed the media that despite their hope that one of the tight ends on the roster would emerge during camp, it’s apparent that this position will be played “By committee” with each taking a separate role. Fells is the blocker, Donnell is the receiver, and Robinson is the 4th round draft choice on the committee. The coaching staff much see something in Robinson that wasn’t apparent on the practice field or in the preseason games. Don’t be surprised if practice squad tight end Jerome Cunningham makes it to the active roster for the second half of the season, as the coaching staff was raving about his raw talent during camp.

Will Walton's remain rusty?

Will Walton’s remain rusty?

Offensive Line (10): Will Beatty (T), Justin Pugh (T), Charles Brown (T), James Brewer (T/G), Dallas Reynolds (C/G), Brandon Mosley (G), John Jerry (G), J.D. Walton (C), Weston Richburg (C/G), Adam Snyder (G/T).
Injured Reserve, Designated for Return (1): Geoff Schwartz (G).
Practice Squad (2): Mark Asper (OT), Nick Becton (OT).
The biggest blow of the preseason was the injury to Geoff Schwartz. The crown jewel of the Giants 2014 free agency class, Schwartz was expected to stabilize the Giants offensive line and help protect Manning’s blind side. A right guard in Kansas City, the former Chief was struggling with his transition to the left side before the injury. The 2 months on the short term injured reserve list will give him additional time to work with coaches to refine his technique. Starting in his place is rookie second round draft pick Weston Richburg, who has proved a versatile addition to the Giants trenches. Playing all three interior line spots in the preseason, Richburg was expected to unseat presumed starting right guard Brandon Mosley prior to the Schwartz injury.

Center J.D. Walton, another free agent addition, is showing lots of rust as he is coming back from missing most of the past 2 season with injuries. He has been underwhelming at best, but is the only option at center for the moment. Will Beatty and Justin Pugh are the starting tackles, and Beatty is coming off a horrific 2013 that ended with a badly broken leg. He needs to recover not only his physically, but also mentally and in technique if the Giants line is to improve. As goes the Giants offensive line, so goes the season. The good news, the run blocking was surprisingly competent during the preseason. The bad news, the pass blocking was, well, absent.

Defensive Line (9): Jason Pierre-Paul (DE), Mathias Kiwanuka (DE), Robert Ayers (DE), Damontre Moore (DE), Kerry Wynn (DE), Cullen Jenkins (DT), Mike Patterson (DT), Jonathan Hankins (DT), Jay Bromley (DT), Markus Kuhn (DT).
Practice Squad (2): Jordan Stanton (DE), Dominique Hamilton (DT).
Gone are long time stalwart Justin Tuck and stud defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Replacing them are Mathias Kiwanuka and second year defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins. Tuck’s skill and productivity were beginning to diminish with age, and most of his sacks came over the last 6 games of last season. He was all but invisible over the first 10. Joseph priced himself out of the Giants range. Kiwanuka is a step down, but Hankins has shown potential to be a more than adequate replacement for Joseph.

The success or failure of the defensive line will boil down to how Jason Pierre-Paul bounces back from an injury riddled 2013. If he becomes the nearly un-blockable force of 2011, when he had 16.5 sacks, drawing double and triple teams, it will mean single blocking for his line mates, including second year end Damontre Moore. Moore will be used as a pass rusher, where he excelled this preseason, tallying 4 sacks. The influx of talent in the Giant secondary will mean some coverage sacks, something the Giants have not seen in a long time.

How big a role with Kennard play?

How big a role with Kennard play?

Linebackers (6): Jon Beason, Jameel McClain, Jacquian Williams, Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, Devon Kennard.
Practice Squad (1): Dan Fox
In June, when Jon Beason suffered a foot injury, it sent shock waves through the hearts and minds of the Giants faithful. Coaches and fans joined together holding their breath awaiting results of the medical exams and breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that the injury was not season ending. When the Giants traded for Beason last October, the team was 0-6, and being regularly gashed up the middle by opponents ground game. He immediately solidified the run defense and his leadership helped mold the Giants defense into a top 10 unit. Joining Beason on the most talented linebacking corps the Giants have had since the days of Jessie Armstead, are free agent addition Jameel McClain, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, and super rookie, fifth round draft pick, Devon Kennard. Joined by returning starter Jacquian Williams, who is said to have taken a leap forward in his fourth season, the linebackers are expected to be the playmaking unit the defense has sorely lacked in recent seasons.

If they can stay healthy.

Will Brown's knee hold up?

Will Brown’s knee hold up?

Defensive Backs (9): Dominique Rodgers-Cromarie (CB), Prince Amukamara (CB), Walter Thurmond (CB), Trumaine McBride (CB), Zack Bowman (CB), Antrel Rolle (S), Stevie Brown (S), Quintin Demps (S), Nat Berhe (S).
Practice Squad (2): Bennett Jackson (CB), Chandler Fenner (CB)
When free agency was over in April and the dust settled around the NFL, the Giants had added a boat load of talent to their secondary. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will part with Prince Amukamara to form as solid a pair of cover cornerbacks that the Giants have ever had. Walter Thurmond, formerly of the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, will provide solid slot coverage. Zack Bowman, the former Chicago Bear, showed a knack for interceptions during the preseason and holdover Trumaine McBride rounds out a deep cornerback group.

The safety position is not nearly as robust. While starters Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown are top notch, the depth behind them took two bad blows when Will Hill was suspended and released and Cooper Taylor suffered a season ending foot injury. The backups are Will Demps, more of a kick returner than safety, and rookie Nat Berhe, a big hitter, who needs to develop better coverage skills. An injury to either Rolle or Brown would be devastating to the Giants secondary. No additional depth was added to the practice squad at safety as two additional cornerbacks were brought on board, 2014 Giants draft pick Bennett Jackson, and camp hand Chandler Fenner, who made some big plays in practice.

Parker's tenure as punt returner may be short lived

Parker’s tenure as punt returner may be short lived

Specialists (3): Josh Brown (K), Steve Weatherford (P), Zak DeOssie (LS).
One of the better battles of training camp was the kicking battle between Josh Brown and rookie Brandon McManus. Brown outlasted McManus, who was sent to Denver for a conditional 7th round draft choice, and returns for a second season as a Giant. Weatherford is a popular and serviceable punter, and DeOssie a dependable long snapper. Punt returns will be handled in the early going by Parker or Randle, and later by Beckham if healthy. Dynamic returner Trindon Holliday was brought in to compete for the punt return job, but suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out of camp and landed him on injured reserve. Demps will be the primary kick returner after Wilson was forced to retire. The Giants return teams ranked near the bottom of the league in 2013 and any improvement is welcome.

If the Giants are to win games in 2014, especially early, it will be because of a strong defense and running game. The pass offense is still a work in progress (Coughlin’s words, not mine), which was evident throughout the preseason. The offensive line needs to gel, which will be difficult with their best guard on the trainer’s table. Expect close, highly competitive contests that will be won if the offense is able to protect the ball better that in 2013, when the team had a league high 44 turnovers. If they don’t improve ball security, fall behind in games, and are forced to pass, things could get ugly. Ball security was better in the preseason, when the team had 5 fumbles lost, threw no interception, and created 6 turnovers for a +1 turnover margin. If this carries over into the regular season, it will immediately improve the team. Another promising preseason statistic was the Giants +7 sack margin. Despite their offensive line woes, Giants quarterbacks were sacked only 7 times in 5 games, and sacked opposing quarterbacks 14 times. The team was -6 in sack differential in 2013.

Part 2 of the season preview will be a review of the schedule, and the projected outcome for each game.

 

 

Giants News, Notes, and Reflections: Sept 5, 2014

Preparations for Monday’s season opener with the Detroit Lions continue as the game is only three days away. The NFL season is underway as the Seattle Seahawks ran away from the Green Bay Packers 36-16 with a dominating second half in last night’s NFL opening game. Football season is finally upon us.

The Giants announced their team captain, and there were no big surprises among the choices, as Eli Manning and Victor Cruz were elected offensive captains, Jon Beason and Antrel Rolle for the defense, and long snapper Zak DeOssie for special teams. They will represent the team at midfield for the coin toss, but more importantly, are looked at by their teammates as the locker room leaders. The five captains, who will have a “C” sewn on the front of their uniforms, were called to the front of this morning’s team meeting and announced. The room burst into applause.

No scripted plays for McAdoo

No scripted plays for McAdoo

Ben McAdoo spoke with the media today and said that the game plan for Monday night is mostly installed. Unlike many teams that use a West Coast offensive system, McAdoo is not planning on scripting plays. He wants the team to put the preseason in the past and views it as something fading in the rear view mirror. Encouraged by  a solid two days of practice, McAdoo wants to “Prepare, play well, and go out and win the game.”

One things the team has been practicing is a silent snap count to operate in the elevated noise at Ford Field. Relying on body language and peripheral vision to determine when the ball is snapped rather than verbal cues, the silent snap can sometimes give the defensive line a half a step advantage. Given that the Giants are already at a talent disadvantage, their execution on the silent snap will need to be flawless.

Special Teams coach Tom Quinn didn’t exactly give Preston Parker a ringing endorsement when he said regarding the punt returner, “It’s Preston (Parker) right now.” He is obviously among the many anxiously awaiting Odell Beckham’s return to the field.

Captain Cruz doesn’t recall the preseason. He’s too busy preparing a new salsa dance that he hopes to break out on Monday night.

The team’s injury reports included, not surprisingly, that Beckham (hamstring) didn’t practice. Also not practicing were James Brewer (back) and Markus Kuhn (ankle). Expect all three to be on the inactive list on Monday night. Wearing shells with their teammates, but limited in practice, were Beason (foot), Charles Brown (shoulder), and Brandon Mosley (back).

Beason said that if it were up to him, “I’d play every down, and I’d play offense too.” He appreciates being names a team captain as it puts pressure on his to uphold a higher standard.

JPP wants a division title in 2014

JPP wants a division title in 2014

Jason Pierre-Paul was interviewed by Stephen A. Smith on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio and said that the Giants will “Snatch the NFC East and run away with it.” Smith pointed out that the Eagles defense is questionable, with the Redskins, Robert Griffin III is questionable, and “Everything” is questionable about the Cowboys defense. But, he also correctly added that the Giants offense is questionable making the division a wide open race. Pierre-Paul followed up with his bold statement and said he only worries about his own team.

Look for some big articles coming out over the next few days. Tomorrow will be a huge Giants season outlook, as we will be reviewing the roster and schedule and taking a look at the Giants360 expectations for the season. On Sunday morning, Giants360 picks week one, all the games, all the over/unders. And on Monday morning, our keys to the game – a look at the Detroit match up and what the Giants will need to do to emerge 1-0 from the season opener.

Are you following @Giants360 on Twitter? You will find out all the breaking news and rumors there first, and we will be live tweeting the games. Don’t miss out on all the fun with your fellow Giants fans.

Did you know that Giants360 now has a shop with all the official gear you need to show your Big Blue pride? Click the Giants Store link in the upper right hand corner and be sure to use the code “Kickoff” to save 20% on your purchase in celebration of the 2014 season.

And give the author a follow @hyprcaffeinated.

Giants News, Notes, and Reflections: Sept 4, 2014

The NFL season have arrived, after 6 long months of waiting, tonight kicks off the 2014 season as the Green Bay Packers face the Seattle Seahawks at Quest Field in Seattle. Who does Giants360 like in the game? Check the tag “360 Picks” every week through the season to see who we like in all the games.

Tom Coughlin holds a press conference ever week, usually on Wednesday, but this week his schedule is pushed back one day due to the Monday Night opener in Detroit. Preparations for this game began in the spring time as the Giants coaches have been studying the history of the new Lions coaching staff to learn their preferences and trends. Coughlin said they, “Will go back as far as birth,” to learn the secrets of Jim Caldwell and his team. Of course, he was kidding, we think. In looking at the most important statistic in determining success in the NFL, Coughlin points out that the Lions were -12 in turnover margin for the 2013 season and improved to +4 for the 2014 preseason, something he credits to Caldwell.

Crowd noise will be an issue on Monday night

Crowd noise will be an issue on Monday night

To prepare for the noisy Ford Field dome, the Giants will pump crowd noise into practice this week. Preparing for Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is another matter, something Coughlin calls a “big challenge,” and says the team is preparing as best they can. Don’t count out newest Giant Adam Snyder, signed yesterday and wearing number 68, for the Monday night game, as Coughlin said that the veteran offensive lineman is learning the plays and sees no reason that we wouldn’t play if he’s needed.

Coughlin plans to keep a close eye on the game officials to see how penalties are being called in the defensive backfield. Having a Monday Night game will provide an advantage as the Lions, Giants, San Diego Chargers, and Oakland Raiders will be able to see how games are called on Sunday and adjust accordingly.

Having a new offensive coordinator has not affected Coughlin’s preparation for this game, as he said he was no more involved in preparing the game plan that he was in previous years. He called Ben McAdoo “excellent” in the efficiency aspects of serving as offensive coordinator and said he is “Entirely prepared for any situation or circumstance from a play calling standpoint.” Coughlin will be available if McAdoo needs help and will say something if he feels the need. As a former play caller, Coughlin didn’t appreciate being interrupted and plans to offer McAdoo the same courtesy.

Coughlin was asked if Eli Manning’s poor 2013 served as motivation for the Giants quarterback and he replied, “There’s no doubt about that.” He said Manning is “focused,” and that this is a “Serious business for him.” Caldwell doesn’t pay attention to Manning’s statistics, saying he is “Dangerous” regardless of his stats.

The media respected Coughlin’s request not to be asked about Odell Beckham and no inquiries were made during today’s press conference.

Snyder also spoke with the media, and shared that in addition to playing all five spots along the offensive line during his career, he also played some tight end. As the Giants can use all the help they can get at that position, could they have a few tricks up their sleeve for their latest addition? Probably not! Snyder sees the Giants as one of the “Best run” organizations in football, and admits to being a little nervous about learning an entire offense in time for Monday night. He says it’s “Coming along.”

A healthy Megatron will challenge with Giants new secondary

A healthy Megatron will challenge with Giants new secondary

Lions receiver Calvin Johnson spoke with the New York media today and admitted that he was “Not as healthy as he wanted to be” during last year’s December game, where the Giants upset victory eliminated the Lions from the playoff race. Johnson compliments both Giants cornerbacks, saying that Prince Amukamara likes to get his hands on you early in every play and called Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a “Very shifty, very long guy.” When asked if he minds, having a cornerback shadow him for an entire game, Johnson said he doesn’t, as it gives him a chance to learn that player’s moves.

The long and shifty Rodgers-Cromartie repaid the compliment, calling Johnson the best receiver in football, but said he is not changing his style of play, not matching up against Johnson, not for the new “Points of Emphasis.” He often doesn’t go into the huddle, preferring to see the offensive formations first hand. Antrel Rolle tells him the defensive calls when he doesn’t huddle up. Rodgers-Cromartie won’t shadow Johnson on Monday night – he plays his side of the field and Amukamara the other. With Walter Thurmond in the slot.

Thurmond is excited to go line up across from “Megatron,” saying that, “You always want to go against the best. He plans to watch tonight’s season opener, but admits it will be “A little bit weird” watching his former Seattle teammates on television.

Beckham (hamstring) was listed among the six players listed on the Giants pre-practice injury report, along with Jon Beason (foot), James Brewer (back), Charles Brown (shoulder), Markus Kuhn (ankle), and Brandon Mosley (back). Beckham, Brewer, and Kuhn did not practice, while Beason, Brown, and Mosley were participants. Having Mosley available for the game would be a bonus, but John Jerry is still expected to get the start as he has been practicing with the first team.

The Giants have the 27th easiest schedule in the league, based on last season’s records, with opponents having a 46.5% winning percentage.

Bailey worked out for the Lions

Bailey worked out for the Lions

The Lions worked out Champ Bailey today, who was among the New Orleans Saints cuts this past Saturday. The secondary is a weakness on the Lions team, if Manning can be kept upright in the pocket, he should be able to take advantage of it.

How do you think the Giants will do this season? Who do you think will have a big year for the team? Tweet your thoughts to @Giants360 and your thoughts could get included in the Giants360 season preview article, coming this weekend. We will also be live tweeting the Monday Night game, follow along or miss out on all the fun.

Don’t forget to give the author a follow @hyprcaffeinated