This morning I sat in my office; blue shirt, blue tie, tailored blue suit. A subtle but gratifying celebration. 8 hours earlier I had begun to type a eulogy for Coughlin’s tenure as Giants Head Coach. I had painted a morbid picture of Tommy paddling furiously against a vicious current. The harder he attempted to reach shore, the quicker the weight tied to his ankles pulled him out to the Atlantic. That weight of course, is Kevin Gilbride.
But as I sat at my desk and retuned this piece, I instead found myself joyously documenting a stay of execution. I considered the high level of play being provided by the offense despite the inadequacy of the coordinator. I reveled in the emergence of a rising defensive star that helped his unit reward the efforts of one of the league’s top QB talents with an outstanding special teams contribution.
Be warned, however, that despite the heat I’ve garnered in the past for not painting a PR picture and playing the role of Pat Hanlon, the following reactions from last night’s game will contain both positive and negative feedback. But I know you’ll keep reading. If you want a story that’s all smiles, buy a Disney movie (I recommend Toy Story, it has not failed to make me laugh hysterically in 16 years). For those of you brave enough, here we go…
- While the secondary faired well enough to keep Dan Bailey’s failed FG attempt out of chip shot range, the overwhelming loss of so many key players is finally starting to show. The unit has played admirably, considering it has now lost 5 CBs since the beginning of training camp. A sixth, Prince Amukamara was sidelined by a foot injury until making his debut in the Philadelphia loss. Despite grabbing an impressive interception on his first ever snap from scrimmage, his inexperience has reared its ugly head over the past three weeks. Adding to the woes was the absence of Kenny Phillips last night at S.
If last night is any indication, this unit may very well be the Achilles heel that eventually leads to the Giants demise. With Justin Tuck riddled with injury and Osi Umenyiora on a week-to-week basis, the pass rush’s top threat is the freakish JPP.
Keep in mind, during the 2007 run (which is drawing countless comparisons to the campaign currently in progress), Big Blue had three top tier DE’s at their disposal. Each of which, was playing at a peak level. Along with talented LBs, the front four was able to mask a suspect secondary and successfully withstand the best efforts of Romo, Favre, and Brady. The current one man show may be impressive, but will it be enough to carry what are essentially 7th and 8th string CBs through post season meetings with Brees or Rodgers?
- Ahmad Bradshaw’s benching likely drew the ire of many of you last night and rightfully so. Whether you agree with Cris Collinsworth (and feel benching him hurt the team more than it did Bradshaw) or feel the punishment fit the crime, the end result proved an important point. He is more valuable as a change of pace back.
As most Giants fans already know, Bradshaw is currently playing with screws in each foot, among other lower body problems. The damage is so severe, he can only run on the sides of his feet. Despite this serious restriction, he is still quite dangerous when relatively healthy. The trouble is keeping him that way.
Except for 2010, Bradshaw has yet to play a full 16 game season since entering the league in 2007. As time goes on and the poundings continue to rain down, his chances of stringing together a second full campaign diminish. The Giants would be best served to significantly limit his carries next season to perhaps 8- 10 a game. This small reduction could go a long way towards keeping him fresh. When another feature back is available to play at an adequate level, as Jacobs decided to do last night, then Bradshaw’s toughness and quick bursts are best used to capitalize on tired defenses.
A fresher Bradshaw next December would require the Giants to either draft or otherwise acquire a feature back to share the load on a consistent basis in 2012 (Jacobs will not likely return due to his hefty contract and inconsistent play).
-I had begged and pleaded with Tim Teb----err God to let Kevin Gilbride be named the head coach at UCONN. That would have of course killed two birds with one stone. On one hand, Gilbride is no longer strangling Eli’s potential with bogus strategy and late calls from the sidelines; on the other, he is hurting a hated ‘Cuse rival by strangling their offense instead.
But Gilbride is still here, waging a silent war with those who love Big Blue or despise screen passes. I truly believe that should Coughlin be fired (a la a collapse during the final three games) it will be because of his allegiance to his OC. That would truly be a shame, because ironically Coughlin is a much better OC than his assistant and I think he would benefit from taking over the play calling.
-Now on to the positive. The music has stopped and last night’s starting 5 O-Lineman may have grabbed the last seats.
The Giants touted Mitch Petrus as a younger Rich Seubert after they drafted him, and expectations had been high. Getting his first and second starts over the past two weeks, Petrus has impressed at LG and you would have to think that the job is now his to lose when this season is over. Both the Giants and David Diehl seem to be happy with his return to LT and while I don’t wish injury on anyone, Will Beatty’s absence has in no way been a detriment.
I think that question marks still remain at C, as Kevin Boothe continues to struggle in both shotgun and general hurry up situations. His snaps are erratic and had it not been for an offside call late in last night’s game, one of his botches could have proven costly. That said, he is a good blocker. I’d love to see him tune up his longer snaps and continue through the season and perhaps further as a starting C.
The starting 5 helped give Eli enough time last night to find his openings and as is normally the case when that happens, he thrived (400 yards for the game).
-Speaking of Easy E, he’s on fire. Do I put him in the class of Brees, Rodgers, and Brady? Yes and no. Regarding things that are out of his control, such as years spent on rosters equipped to match his talent with equally impressive production, I think Eli misses out. Also, I don’t think he is quite as electrifying as Brees, or dynamic as Aaron Rodgers when he is forced out of the pocket (no one is).
HOWEVER, Eli’s signature is his 4th quarter poise. Along with a strong arm, impressive accuracy, and a psyche that can’t be rattled, he is an elite QB. He is currently marching towards a 5,000 yard season in which not 1 but 2 of his top targets already boast receiving yardage north of 1,000. I would very much love to see Eli get another shot at a playoff run.
-Helping him along the way would certainly be Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Nicks was the star last night, but the fact that 7 receptions for 83 yards is a slow outing for the young Cruz speaks loud and clear about the NJ native’s contributions this season.
In Cruz, the Giants have a receiver that is far more dynamic and far more explosive than Steve Smith was even at his best. In Nicks, they have a sure handed deep threat that finds ways to negate double coverage.
The wildcard in the receiving department would be the 3rd option, Mario Manningham. Outshined by Cruz and Nicks in 2011, Manningham is no one to sleep on. He hauled in a remarkably easy 47 yard grab last night thanks to a Giant-esque blown coverage by Dallas.
He also dropped a late TD pass that hit him right in the sweet spot. Of course in doing so, he allowed the Giants to burn more time off the clock before letting Jacobs score. No harm no foul. Still, Manningham is a very attractive 3rd option. Whether or not he’ll be satisfied with that role in the future could make for quite the interesting storyline.
As the date with the Redskins approaches, I am not overconfident. Washington is hungry to play spoiler and gave New England quite the fight. It doesn’t help that they do own a victory over the Giants already this season. But before you flip, I see the Giants maintaining their composure and level of play. They should win.
While the rest of you reminisce about ’07, I’ll sit here and reminisce about ’02. That year, the Giants went on a slightly more challenging December run to qualify for the playoffs despite mid season struggles. I recall a brilliant flea flicker culminating in a Toomer TD in a bout with Eli’s brother. I remember Shockey leaping into the air on a crisp, post-Christmas Saturday to wrestle a game winning TD away from Brian Dawkins.
At this point if you remember the crushing 49er loss in the Wildcard round, you probably hate me again. But you shouldn’t. When playoff time comes, we’ll chat about a memorable 4 game run in 2008 that left the best team in the league’s history 18-1. Maybe.