Identity switch: The Giants began the season with the perception of having a high-flying offense and a bend-but-don't-break defense. As the season has barreled on, they have proved they are not anything of the sort. On offense, they have become run-based. On defense, they haven't given up the big plays like they have in the past. This has made a strange season even more bizarre.
Passing 18th; Rushing 26th.....the ground game has gotten much better under the Brown/Hillis/Jacobs trio. Looks like Jacobs will miss some more time with that chronic knee of his, but Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis are a nice change-up combo that can both catch the ball out of the backfield. The most underrated pickup of the year by Jerry Reese has to be FB Jon Conner but Reese won't get much love from his haters, who want him gone.
The offensive line has been in flux and it has showed in the results. The injuries to Chris Snee and David Baas have just crushed this team. Jim Cordle took awhile to get comfortable in Baas' place, and when he did, he went out with a knee injury. Rookie Justin Pugh has been a constant at RT but Will Beatty has been a disappointment at LT. David Diehl missed the first four weeks, but he's been pretty solid at RG. Kevin Boothe started the season at LG and is now at center. He's been a pretty consistent player for the Giants. Overall, they have allowed 31 sacks, the most in the Coughlin era and the shuffling had led to the offense keeping things simple.
Eli Manning only has three multi-TD games this year, which is shaping up to be his worst as a pro. His turnovers have killed killed the Giants this season. But the tide may be turning. After throwing 15 INTs in the first six games, he's only thrown three in the last six games. That is partly because the Giants have reeled in their pass routes a bit, which has raised his completion percentage and passer rating. Eli's PR has been 92, 92 and 98 the past three weeks.
Victor Cruz is doing all he can with his targets, which have been shorter in nature these days, but Hakeem Nicks' role in the offense seems to be getting reduced with each passing week. Rueben Randle has played well, but he's still developing. TE Brandon Myers has gotten more involved. Hey, it took long enough. One of the more intriguing questions of the year has to be: Where is the JPP of tight ends? Adrien Robinson, in his second year, has only dressed for two games and yet to catch a pass in a regular-season game. This is one move I personally hold Reese's feet to the fire on....
13th passing, 9th rushing....a surprise by all accounts. The offseason initiative to stop the bleeding up front has worked. The big bodies, teamed with Reese's acquisition of MLB Jon Beason, has cauterized the Giants' most critical wound from last year - stopping the run.
The D-line has, however, been awful in creating QB pressure and collecting sacks. They are tied for next to last in the NFL in sacks with 23. The health of JPP and the underperformance of Mathias Kiwanuka has leveled a once-elite group. Justin Tuck has stepped up lately and rookie Damontre Moore is about to see more action, so things may change in the final quarter.
Beason has simply been a beast since arriving via a trade by in October. He's only played seven games for the Giants and is already fifth on the club in tackles. The performance of the defense as whole has been elevated under his leadership. LB Spencer Paysinger, a UDFA from a few years ago, has had a strong season and is another player Reese won't get any credit for bringing in.
S Antrel Rolle has had a Pro Bowl year thus far. He is second in the NFC in INTs and second on the Giants in tackles behind CB Prince Amukamara, who is having a fine season himself. CB Terrell Thomas has 50 tackles this season and is a legitimate candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year after losing back-to-back seasons with ACL tears.
Safeties Ryan Mundy and Will Hill have done a nice job in the absence of Stevie Brown. Hill, who was signed as a UDFA last year, is a budding star. He is becoming a force in both the secondary and on special teams for the Blue.
You can read my latest report on the specials here.The return teams have been a wash. Not much happening. The coverage teams have tightened up after allowing three a league-leading three TDs on punt returns.
Tom Coughlin's Giant teams are in unfamiliar territory this season. They usually start strong an then take a dive. He has done a fine job keeping the team on task and winning the winnable games after floundering the first six weeks. The coordinators have not gotten much credit this year, and quite frankly, they don't really deserve much. The team has not been outstanding at any juncture of the season.
They most likely will finish 8-8, not bad either. That means they went 8-2 in the final 10 games. But what fans really want to see is the young players get some playing time and develop. These four games are all about finishing strong and preparing for the future.