Archive for February, 2008

Free Agency Preview

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

This year in my free agency preview, I’ve broken down the team’s needs into two areas: areas of immediate need (positions where the Giants need help and must target these spots in free agency and/or the draft this year) and areas to build depth.

Areas of immediate need:

None, provided current players are resigned

Areas to build depth:

S, CB, LB, DE, OL, QB

First, let’s start by stating that the Giants’ roster is in terrific shape. The team is young for the most part at every position and because of last year’s fantastic draft and waiver wire pickups (see Dominic Hixon, Madison Hedgecock) has quality across the board and will bring back a very talented team. I expect GM Jerry Reese to take a similar approach to last year, opting to build via the draft rather than free agency. Despite their excellent salary cap position, the Giants would be wise to take a pass on getting into a spending contest in acquiring a marquee player (most teams are in very good cap shape) and use a portion of their money to not only sign their own free agents, but extend the contracts of current players before free agency becomes an issue. That’s why my areas of immediate need are described as none, with the caveat being they must resign their own. Take care of in-house first. Offensively, the only significant name is Derrick Ward, and while I like Ward, I’d rather use the extra money if necessary on Mitchell and/or Wilson. Running back, in my estimation, is the easiest position in the draft to obtain a good player, especially in rounds 2-4. The Giants’ defense finished in the top 10 last year and made great strides from the year before. They are a good defense that turned it on full throttle by the playoffs. What this team has an opportunity to do is become a very good to dominating defense on a more consistent basis if they play their chips right. Let’s take a closer look.

I would like to see the Giants bring back the following free agents (where “R” designates restricted):

  • Gibril Wilson
  • Kawika Mitchell
  • Derrick Ward
  • Jeff Feagles (resigned, February 13th)
  • Lawrence Tynes (resigned, February 25th)
  • James Butler (R)

Safety:

I feel the Giants are a ball-hawking safety away from really having an outstanding defense, someone along the lines of Bob Sanders or Troy Polamalo. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be anyone in free agency or the draft that fits the bill. James Butler is the proverbial whipping boy of most Giant bloggers and discussion boards. And while I have taken my shots at him on occassion, one quote from Steve Spagnuolo makes me take notice: “He’s the guy back there who keeps things together.” Say what you want about Butler, he was the starting safety on a Super Bowl winning team. Could the Giants do better? Certainly. Should they let him walk? No way. He’s restricted, so bring him back for at least one more season, and at the very worse, he’s a very good backup. That brings us to Gibril Wilson, the real key to this discussion. Early counts say he wants a boatload of money, which could scare the Giants off. Wilson is a solid player and a legit NFL starting safety. But he is no Bob Sanders. The Giants won’t overspend, and here’s hoping a common ground can be worked out, because with Wilson, Michael Johnson (who could be ready to start), and a draft pick the Giants would have a nice foursome of safeties. Losing him would quickly categorize this as an area of immediate need. Two unrestricted names in the free agent pool are Madieu Williams (Cincy) and Eugene Wilson (NE), and if the Giants lose Gibril one of those could be a suitable replacement. Wilson has played on Super Bowl teams, plus has some versatility (having played CB in college).

Corner:

Aaron Ross was an outstanding pick by Jerry Reese and made a quick transition to the NFL game. The idea behind obtaining another corner is to groom someone to replace veteran Sam Madison, eventually, and team with Ross. Kevin Dockery is a classic nickel/dime corner and the reborn Corey Webster gives the team depth. For all I know, Webster could be the eventual replacement for Madison based on his late season play, but for now, I am willing to be satisfied with him as a competent corner in the rotation, something he didn’t display for most of his career. Free agents corners cost a bundle (in fact, NE’s Assante Samuel could command the most money of all FA’s), so I’d rather see the draft be used here.

Linebacker:

Much like safety, this position hinges on retaining our own. The Giants have two free agents, Kawika Mitchell and Reggie Torbor. Simply stated, you don’t get to bring both guys back. Torbor probably wants a chance to start in the league after four years as a reserve, and if the Giants bring back Mitchell (my preferred choice) then Torbor goes elsewhere. If Mitchell wants too much in the Giants’ estimation, then Torbor could be a less costly fit. As I said, Mitchell is the obvious choice. The guy is productive, and most importantly, doesn’t miss games. He’s steady, and behind that very good defensive line, that’s all you need. It will come down to how much he is asking for, as teams from around the league are very aware of how well he played this season. If the Giants were to lose both, that means third year man Gerris Wilkinson would be anointed the starter and they’d be left with only Chase Blackburn and Zach DeOssie as the main reserves, creating a depth problem. If the Giants were to lose Mitchell and Torbor, could the Bear’s Lance Briggs be a possibility (note: he’s close with Antonio Pierce)? Speaking of Antonio, drafting his eventual replacement should not be considered out of the question.

Defensive End:

What you say? Remember when the Giants drafted Kiwi in 2006? Who did the Giants have already on the line? Say it with me: Strahan, Osi, and Tuck. They were all on the roster and injury free. And of course we all threw our hands up and mocked the pick. As it turns out, injuries that year proved why you can never have enough depth. And when you consider Kiwi is still slated to play linebacker this year combined with Strahan possibly not returning,  drafting and developing another end is definitely something to consider.

Offensive Line:

This unit continues to be one of the main reasons for the team’s success. Just like with the defensive line, if you can control the line of scrimmage you just put yourself in a better position to win games in the NFL. So why not continue to stockpile depth on such an important unit? The entire line is relatively young and signed. Grey Ruegamer is a solid veteran backup on the inside and tackle Guy Whimper has looked good in limited action. I’d like to see the Giants maybe take a look at a center/guard prospect to eventually replace Ruegamer. As always, drafting a prospect at tackle should never be discounted, and this year is very deep at OT.

Quarterback:

Second year in a row I am mentioning this. Last year, I had to clearly state it didn’t concern the starter, Eli Manning. After this season, that needs no clarification. Manning has started every game of his young career. Are you confident enough if he was to miss three weeks with an injury that our current backups could do the job? Trent Green was just released by Miami, and is the perfect type of veteran the Giants could use. It’s a position to not neglect. Todd Collins also could be a nice pickup, or if released, Mark Brunell who has ties to Coughlin.

After the free agency period settles down and we move closer to the end of April, I’ll re-evaluate the Giants roster and preview the 2008 NFL draft.

Happy Birthday FootballGiants.net

Friday, February 8th, 2008

The official date is actually 01/28/2007 but, still, what a year! Started with a great draft by Jerry Reese, then a rollercoaster ride of a regular season, and finally culminated with just an edge-of-your-seat post season. I’d always said the games in 1991 versus San Fran and Buffalo were the best the back-to-back games for a Giant fan to experience. This 2007 team topped it with back-to-back-to back games in Dallas, Green Bay, and finally versus New England. For all those that read and/or posted in our first year, much thanks.

The best post-Super Bowl news was the fact DC Steve Spagnuolo is staying with New York. This basically was a no-brainer. Obviously he wants to eventually be a head coach, but the Redskins’ job is a one-way ticket to disaster. An over-meddling owner and a team with huge salary cap issues, but most importantly to me, a situation where his primary assistants were already hired. With the Giants, he stays in a spot he’s comfortable and can continue to grow. Throw in being the highest paid coordinator at $2 million/year (kudos to the Giants for that) isn’t all that bad either! There will always be head coaching vacancies each year and certainly ones much more attractive than Washington’s.

Ernie Acorsi: Oracle

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

“There’s a championship in this room.” Ernie Acorsi to the Giants’ locker room before leaving for retirement.

Acorsi, who pulled the strings to have Eli Manning QB the New York Football Giants, must have felt he was on top of Mount Everest Sunday evening. And probably every Giants’ fan would have wanted to join him if there was enough room. Led by Manning, and that defense (oh that defense!!), the Giants became world champions and beat the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in a thriller of a game.

The defense set the tone for the entire game, harassing Tom Brady and proving that a QB is only as good as the pieces around him. Quarterbacks from around the league must have rejoiced in seeing Brady suffer through what most experience on Sunday’s in the NFL. But despite this, the Giants trailed 7-3 at the start of the fourth quarter and thoughts of wasting this effort were starting to enter my head. Were the Giants really going to lose a game where they hold NE under 20? That’s until Eli hit rookie Kevin Boss for 45 yards on their first fourth quarter possession which galvanized the offense. A clutch third down conversion to Steve Smith put the Giants inside the 10 yard line, and one play later Eli then ran a personal favorite of his own: the play-action, quick throw to a crossing WR over the middle for a 10-7 lead with just over 11 minutes left. David Tyree’s catch was just a preview of things to come.

That’s because the Patriots would go on what appeared to be a game winning drive that resulted 14-10 lead with just over two minutes to go. And that’s exactly when Eli Manning erased all doubts about what kind of QB he is. If there is anything Giant fans can agree on, it’s Manning is at his best when he runs the two minute offense. He didn’t disappoint. His Houdini escape from being sacked and his 32 yard completion will live in Giant lure forever. But, as most things this season, the Giants win things as a team. And Eli needed teammate David Tyree to hold up  his end of the bargain. Tyree’s one-handed, helmet grab (how else can I explain it?) was quite possibly the greatest catch in Super Bowl history. Four plays later, Eli and Plax worked their magic for a 14 yard touchdown pass with 34 ticks left on the clock. Simply beautiful.

Tyree proved to be an unlikely hero, and credit here goes to the coaching staff. They elected to have Tyree as the team’s fourth WR for the playoffs, rather than Sinorice Moss. I’ve been hard on the coaching staff this year for their approach to games offensively, but they really put it together over the last month, led by Tom Coughlin.

Finally, Eli Manning. There wasn’t a player I could be more happy for. The one thing I found out in the two weeks leading to this game was Eli Manning is the most popular player in the Giants’ locker room, and the players really want to play for him. For the last three years, he’s been portrayed as a player in the shadows of more high profile, extravagant personalities. Make no mistake now, this is Eli Manning’s football team.

Super Bowl XLII Preview

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

The Giants have been presented with a more difficult challenge each week during this amazing playoff run. On Sunday, they face their most difficult task: knock off the 18-0 Patriots and create their own legend. They know what they are up against, having played NE as tough as anyone in a Week 17 loss that gave the Pats their undefeated regular season. The Giants get to avenge that loss, knock off the mighty Pats, and make history all in one shot.

Are they capable? I believe so, but a few things have to happen. First, the Giants need do to play at a very high level. Some have said a perfect game. I won’t go that far, but they have to be clicking on all cylinders and also get the Pats to play similar to the way they did against San Diego, which frankly is nothing extraordinary. That starts with rushing the football effectively. I believe the Giants will have to out-rush New England, thus keeping the ball away from Brady and company for a greater period of time and also allow Eli to work off play-action resulting in big plays. To get in a scoring duel with them would be unwise.

Defensively, I’d put Aaron Ross almost exclusively on Wes Welker. He is athletic enough to slow down Welker and also cover those WR screens they run so effectively. Then I’d put Madison with over-the-top help on Moss. Make Stallworth, the tight ends, and Maroney beat you. The Giants will also have to give different looks, combining that four man rush with various blitz schemes. Mix it up. You won’t confuse Brady, he is too good for that. But make him work for it. They did a great job of that through three quarters last game until breaking down in the final stanza.

Finally, win the turnover battle. That doesn’t mean the Giants can’t turn the ball over. But if they turn it over once, make the Pats turn it over twice. Get to tipped balls. Make a big special teams play.

And lastly, don’t be afraid to gamble. The Patriots are the best team in football this year. But the best team doesn’t always win. If the Giants get into a situation where they have fourth and one inside the NE 35 yard line, go for it. Don’t settle for field goals.  New England is just an average team between the twenty’s, but very good inside the twenty. Finish off what you start.