Archive for August, 2008

Race To 53

Friday, August 29th, 2008

The Giants ended the preseason with what looked to be a pretty good effort. Now we get to the real stuff. First cutdown day, then the opener. The Giants roster is just about set, and here’s where I think the G-Men are:

  • It’s quite obivous RB Danny Ware will make this team. He’s younger, cheaper, and the Giants will control him as far as free agency for a few years. Rueben Droughns was a real asset last year on specials and as a fill in, never complaining. But it’s time to move forward. And, damn, do the Giants find good RBs everywhere!!!
  • Mario Manningham already had the team made no matter what, but it was good to see him contributing the last two weeks. He’s smooth and really has upside, which was part of his draft profile. He’ll be the sixth WR this season and might not even play, but look for him to be a real focal point come next training camp. Six roster spots ends any chance of Brandon London landing on the 53.
  • David Carr nailed down the backup QB spot. I still feel a bit uneasy about him, but last night he played well and earned the spot. The question now is does rookie Andre Woodson get the number three spot?
  • Does vet Sammy Knight beat out the younger Stuart Schweigert? Could the quick development of Kenny Phillips spell the end for Knight, who was signed as insurance at the safety position back in March when Gibril left?
    Will fan favorite R.W. McQuarters make the team? I think the Giants will keep at least five corners, so it could be between Sam Madison and McQuarters. “Q” can play CB, safety, and specials. Madison proved himself as a valuable mentor last year. Real tough choice. I’d go with Sam.
  • The starters at linebacker are set, but what will the backups look like? Chase Blackburn and rookie Bryan Kehl are in. Does Zac DeOssie make the cut? He long snapping abiltity/coverage is second to none. His play at linebacker is another story. Tank Daniels is a valuable special teams player too. Is that enough win a spot? Will the Giants IR Johnathan Goff, which will directly affect Daniels and DeOssie? I think the Giants will IR him (let him get 100%), and look for another LB on the waiver wire. I am quite concerned with the depth here, now that Clark and Wilkinson are starters. If Kehl can contribute early, I’ll feel much better.
  • Finally, do the Giants feel they are ready to go with the defensive linemen they have on the current roster, or will they possibly make a minor trade for depth?

Seven days ’till kickoff…

Osi Done For Year

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

I finished watching a reply of Saturday’s Giants/Jets game today, and the contest became secondary after losing Osi Umenyoria for the entire season with a knee injury. Few teams have the luxury of plugging in a replacment like Kiwi (nothing official, but they have to move him from OLB), but this has ramifications down the entire roster. First, we lose the ability to use Kiwi as that extra rusher on third down. Secondly, and more importantly, our depth has been compromised. Danny Clark and Gerris Wilkinson will both have to step up big time. Clark has, looking very good in camp. He’s a veteran that can be counted on. The wildcard here is Wilkinson. The Giants let Kawika Mitchell go because the want Wilkinson to be the starter. Clark was actually signed as insurance in case Wilkinson failed. Both enter the spotlight now. Wilkison was credited with six tackles and three assists on Saturday, so he was active. He’s got talent, and it’s time to show it.

As for the game, it was an uninspiring performance by both teams. Some thoughts:

  • Domenik Hixon and Derrick Ward continue to look really good. Hixon with two very nice catches and Ward running very hard between the tackles.
  • I don’t know what to make of David Carr. I called him an upgrade over Jared Lorenzen back when he was signed. I am beginning to doubt it. Why is he continually sacked? The Giants would be wise to play him in the first half next week, with the first stringers, and see what he has. Could our backup be playing for another team right now?
  • It was good to see Mario Manningham on the field. Any doubts about him being IR’d were put to rest. He’ll be the sixth WR.
  • The Giants will be scanning the wavier wire for a kicker. Tynes probalby won’t be ready for the opener, and Giants cannot trust Josh Huston in a close game.
  • Rookie Kenny Phillips got a lesson from the ol’ vet Brett Favre. Favre looked and pumped left, then hit a streaking WR down the right sideline for a TD (which was called back due to penalty anyway). Phillips is going to be a player, but he’s not there yet.

Finally, injuries are part of the game. And there will be more, for all teams actually. I hate when I hear/read exhibition games should be completely eliminated. At this stage of my football life, I really have a hard time watching myself and do think the NFL should go to three, or maybe two, games. But injuries will occur in this violent sport whether it’s a practice game or meaningful game. They are needed to evaluate young players and also get veterans into “game” shape. Practice only takes you so far. Osi could have been injured in the first quarter of the opening game (like he was in fact last year). It’s really the luck of the draw, and a battle of attrition.

Domenik Hixon Shines On MNF

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Some observations from Monday night win over the Brownies:

  • Domenik Hixon was obviously the star of the game with three TD’s (two receiving, one return). With all the injuries to the regulars, we’ve heard Hixon is having a great camp working with the starters. It translated to the field on Monday evening. With this guy as your fourth or fifth wideout, the Giant are demonstrating outstanding depth.
  • Eli Manning. Composed and relaxed. Looked good with some subtle movement in the pocket. Only play he would want back was a miss to, who else, Hixon on a long out pass. His second TD pass down the middle to Hixon was a thing of beauty.
  • David Carr took the lead in the race for the backup position. Anthony Wright made some errors in recognizing blitz situations, and it cost him. Carr did nothing exceptional, but stayed away from errors.
  • Danny Ware is making a case for being the fourth running back on this team. Had a nice KO return (ironically, his main competition Droughns made a key block) and really ran well in the fourth quarter. The thing to keep in mind is he was up against guys who are marginal NFL players for most of his 90 rushing yards. Again, do the Giants go with youth or experience in the form of Droughns? The staff would be wise to get him some runs in the first half next week against the Jets.
  • Speaking of running backs, Derrick Ward ran exceptionally hard on his first half carries. He looked good.
  • Kickoff coverage teams were simply atrocious. Cleveland continually hit big plays. They are obviously working with different combinations on coverage, but this is something to watch for.
  • Rookies Bryan Kehl and Kenny Phillips weren’t nearly as prominent in the second game. Everyone was fired up, particularly over Phillips’ play. You have to remember these guys are rookies and still learning. I heard a radio interview with Phillips, and he talked about how the NFL game wasn’t as fast as he anticipated. C’mon Kenny, it’s never that easy.
  • Second team defense, as a whole, didn’t look that good. Again, it’s some new guys and the staff working different combinations but you’d like to see more from that unit. Conversely, with a 30-3 lead there’s a tendency to back off defensively.

Chris Russo Done At WFAN

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Just got word that Chris “Mad Dog” Russo is leaving WFAN after what I think is 20 years of teaming with Mike Francesca on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show. There had been rumors swirling about these two no longer seeing eye-to-eye and that one or both were going be leaving the ‘FAN. The latest buzz has Russo going to Sirius radio with Francesca going solo.

While I have bitched and complained about both these guys (mainly in the context of Giants’ football), I will miss listening to the duo. I’ve been tuning in for all 20 years at various times depending on what job I was working, despite what I consider some obvious dislike toward the Giants since about the middle of the Jim Fassel era. They openly showed their dislike for Strahan, Shockey, and Tiki, with some of it warranted. But Russo, in particular, would go out of his way to root against the Giants and really bring a negative context when talking about the team. Sure he hates the Yankees too and even had a band of callers who backed him, but that was done in a much different tone. With the Giants, you got the impression he really didn’t like the players. In fact, in the last three Super Bowls that the Giants played in during his time on WFAN, he predicted blow out losses for the Giants in each. Enough said.

Good or bad, after a Giant win or loss, I would always make time to tune in to see what these guys were saying. They just didn’t take calls, but had top personalities on and did great interviews. The show was always entertaining, whether you agreed or disagreed and that’s why I listened. Missed pronunciations of words, twisting of names, and uncontrollable rants aside, I will miss Russo, and the show as a whole.

In my best Russo impersonation, “Goooooooooooooooooood night, everybody!!”

Introducing Kenny Phillips

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

I watched the replay of the Giants and Lions on NFL Network, and came away with these thoughts, in no particular order:

  • Kenny Phillips was the best player on the field during the second half. Sure he was matching up with a lot of third stringers, but the number one pick really looks the part. Fine tackling and just playing like he belonged. Impressive.
  • The battle for the backup QB spot got off to an interesting start. Both Anthony Wright and David Carr played well. You have to think that Andre Woodson will get the third spot, so something has to give with Wright and Carr. Speaking of Woodson, it was dissapointing not to see him get in the game.
  • RB Danny Ware had a nice kickoff return and showed some ability when running the football. Does he give Reuben Droughns a run for his roster spot? Does the coaching staff go with a young, unproven player over a veteran?
  • Speaking of unproven players, the most impressive individual play of the evening involved WR Brandon London. London, by all reports, has been a standout in practice. It translated to the field when he picked a ball out of mid air on a slant and then showed YAC ability with a nice 29 yard catch and run. Despite this, with all the bodies at WR, can he really stick on the 53 man roster?
  • Sinorice Moss, having an average camp at best, showed some life with a big 46 yard pass play. It was good to see the Giants utilizing his speed down the field. Moss’ speed on fly patterns and comebacks should be an asset, but it hasn’t shown up during games (and I partially blame the coaching staff on this one).
  • I don’t like Ahmad Bradshaw on KO returns, particularly in the preseason. Last year as an unproven rookie, yes. This guy is now way too valuable to risk there.
  • Brandon Jacobs looked slow to me, even on that 27 yard gallop in the first quarter. I know that for a man his size, it’s still a damn good run. But I remember a long TD run during the 2006 preseason versus the Patriots where I swear he looked as fast as Tiki. BJ looked slower at the end of last year, which I attributed to some injuries. The thing that made this guys so unique was the combination of power and speed. I hope he hasn’t slowed down a gear. Just throwing it out there.
  • In addition to Phillips, Bryan Kehl flashed from the LB position. The rookie from BYU looked very quick and was around the football, which fits his draft profile. Again, looks like the type of athlete that fits into our defensive scheme perfectly.

Favre JETtisonned From PackerLand

Friday, August 8th, 2008

The one thing I can’t really understand is the enormous dislike for Brett Favre. Maybe I am reading one too many message board/blogs on the Net, but I swear the anti-Favre sentiment heavily outweights anything supporting the new Jets’ quarterback. I guess it’s Favre’s fault that ESPN or NFL Network beats this story to death. I, for one, am a big fan of his and glad he is coming back. I never need convincing to watch any NFL football game, but if it is one that involves Brett Farve, I’ll watch with a bit more attention. It’s a good trade for the Jets. They are trying to win now, and Favre fits that blueprint perfectly. I don’t see New York’s other team as Super Bowl material, but this move puts them in the hunt for a playoff spot. Plus they hang onto their future QB and don’t give up a lot if Farve tanks it (conditional fourth round pick) in the Big Apple.

Was Favre wrong for how he handled his return to the NFL? Sure. And he put the Packers in a very awkward position. Furthermore, I completely agree with how the Packers handled it.  The needed to get off that merry-go-round that Favre was putting them through now, and potentially in the future. For them, it was time to move on. For Brett Favre, it was time to move as well. But if Brett Favre wants to play in the league and someone wants to give him the opportunity, he should play in the league.  A lot of people resent that.

To steal one of my favorite quotes, from the former Phillies’ relief pitcher Mitch Williams, who said, “I pitch like my hair’s on fire.” That’s what I think about Favre. I hope he keeps playing another five years. The NFL is better with him.