Archive for February, 2009

Free Agency Preview

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

How will the Giants play in free agency this year? Will they, like last year, stay in-house and look to make hay in the draft? Or with as many eight picks in the first five rounds, will Jerry Reese be tempted to use these available chips to play the trade game and go after what appears to be the team’s only glaring weakness: a number one receiving threat?

Clearly, the number one objective in free agency for the Giants should be to resign Brandon Jacobs, and the Giants have addressed this by franchising the big guy. Jacobs, to me, is the tone setter of this offense. While health issues are always a concern with him, I just think the combination of speed and power is too unique to let get away. I could see Jacobs being the lead dog for the next few years, followed by a career similar to how is he started: a situational, short yardage back.

David Carr was a smart resigning. He’s got starting experience, the staff obviously likes him, and could handle the job adequately if ever called upon. And it gives the Giants a chance to develop third stringer Andre Woodson.

Kevin Dockery, a restricted free agent, was tendered and it was a wise move to keep him for at least one more year. He is a very solid fourth corner and is nice insurance in case Webster, Ross, or Thomas would miss any time due to injury. Likewise, TE Darcy Johnson, DE Dave Tollefson, and DT Leger Douzable were all tendered to help provide depth at a minimum price, provided they can make the team out of training camp. Expect Danny Ware to be tendered shortly as well.

Let me comment on a few players I would obviously want back, but from a financial standpoint, probably wont’ be possible.

James Butler could be this year’s Gibril Wilson (who coincidently became available on Saturday). Will another team over value him and throw more money than the Giants are willing to match? Considering Kenny Phillips and Michael Johnson have both shown they can start in this league, I think Butler only comes back at a number the Giants feel is fair. That number won’t be attractive to Butler, surely.

Derrick Ward is a very good back. Ward would like to go to a team where he can be the number one back. Problem is, in today’s NFL, how many teams could Ward go to where he would be the clear cut number one? Not many, and when you consider many teams do or would like to implement the two back rotational system that has become popular in the NFL, Ward faces the same situation here as anywhere else: splitting time. The big difference, however, is what a team would pay Ward. With Jacobs and Ward both free agents, the Giants can’t be expected to afford both. So while Ward might end up getting the same amount of carries elsewhere as he did here, he surely will get a bigger payout.

Then there’s Amani Toomer, and what can we say about him? What an outstanding and clutch player he has been for the Giants, but at 35 it is time for this receiving corp to move on. Dominik Hixon and Steve Smith are ready to hold down the number two and three slots.

So where do the Giants look in free agency? This year’s crop as a whole again doesn’t appear that strong, and with many teams having lots of free cap space in comparison to the Giants (estimated between $10-$20 million) and a record number of players being franchised, I don’t see a lot of movement here from a Giant perspective. But on the flip side, we are talking about a 12-4 team and I also don’t see any major weaknesses either, so that balances things out. Getting a deal ironed out for Jacobs and extending Eli Manning are both high priorities this offseason.

However, without a doubt, the number one question for this team is who will be the number one wide receiver in 2009? Plaxico Burress’ plight has been dissected ad nausea. There doesn’t appear to be any WR on the free agent market that the Giants would be interested in anyway, IMO. As far as a trade, the names of Anquan Boldin, Braylon Edwards, and Chad Johnson have all been mentioned at some point, but none seem to really be available. The one intriguing name would be Tony Gonzalez, but it’s not a certainty he’ll be on the market with all the changes in KC. Furthermore, how highly do the Giants believe in Kevin Boss’ ceiling? Bringing in Gonzo would certainly affect Boss’ playing time and development. Gonzalez has also said he plans on playing only two more years. On the positive side, Gonzalez is never hurt, is a total team guy, and catches passes regardless who has QB’d the Chiefs. Would he be worth that Giants’ second pick in round two (#61 overall)? I say yes, and then some. Remember last offseason I talked about a double TE offense featuring Shockey and Boss in the passing game. It never happened.

What does all this mean? While the Giants have the chips to play trade, the Giants could be in a real bind. There aren’t many players with Plax’s unique ability in the league. I can’t see them rectifying this situation unless they A) bring back Plax for one last go-around (which I am beginning to believe will happen) or B) take their chances on finding a playmaking offensive player in the draft or via trade. Plan B will probably be taken to some degree notwithstanding. Remember, Plax will be 32 and has fought foot issues, besides everything else going on. After March 31, when Burress’ trial is scheduled, we’ll get closer to an answer.

The areas the Giants will concentrate on come draft time will be adding depth to both lines, hopefully getting a strong side linebacking prospect, and as mentioned above coming up with some sort of playmaker (WR, RB, or TE) on offense to compliment what the Giants already have. I’ll write more on this as free agency progresses and before the draft on April 25.

Brad Van Pelt

Friday, February 20th, 2009

When I first became a Giants fan in 1979, the Giants were basically known for two things: a fantastic linebacking corp and their punter, Dave Jennings. That was it. And at the forefront of that linebacking unit was Brad Van Pelt, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 57. It was Van Pelt, Harry Carson, and Brian Kelley that formed the heart of those Giant defenses that were pretty darn good, but couldn’t make up for the ineptitude of the offense. When LT came along in 1981, those four became the best linebacking unit in football. And till this day the four of them held a bond, getting together every year in Hawaii.

Your friends who liked other teams knew Van Pelt because he wore the unusual #10. But they also knew him because he was a fine LB. Van Pelt was a complete defender who could play the run and the pass equally well. He made five Pro Bowls during his tenure with the Giants. Sadly, he played on only one winning team, the 1981 squad which went 9-7. Ironically, Van Pelt nursed an injury during that playoff run and, if I vaguely remember correctly, did manage to get himself into the San Francisco divisional playoff loss.

A great Giant and fan favorite, Van Pelt will be missed.

RIP, BVP.

2007 America’s Game

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I finally was able to NFL Films’ America’s Game on the 2007 Football Giants last night. It was originally broadcast on NFL Network last September before opening day, but I missed it while on vacation and foolishly didn’t DVR because they tend to play this stuff over and over. Surprisingly, I hadn’t seen it aired since then but was finally was able to catch it. I was not disappointed. As always, NFL Films tells a story, and this one hour documentary follows a familiar script. Establish the main characters in dire straits, then show them overcoming obstacles to achieve their ultimate goal.

The concept behind America’s Game is not the typical highlight film, but rather to chronicle the season of the Super Bowl champion as seen through the eyes of three key persons. In the Giants’ case, these three individuals were a no-brainer: Michael Strahan, Tom Coughlin, and Eli Manning. Strahan was his usual entertaining self. The funniest moment was his imitation of Tom Brady, who spoke in disbelief about Plaxico Burress’ prediction of the Pats scoring only 17 points. Manning had a smile on his face the entire time, and showed his more comical and lighthearted side. One particular snip had Manning describing half time of the Packers playoff game, in which he didn’t hear a word his coach said because he was focusing on whether Coughlin’s cherry red face had frost bite. Coughlin also presented a side that, until that 2007 season, many Giants’ fans didn’t know he had. All three beamed of victory throughout the show.

The thing I probably liked best about it was some non-NFL Films clips, which I am sure were rarely seen. The first which really hit me was Coughlin’s first speech to his team in 2004, and if his tone and directness didn’t get your attention, you didn’t have a pulse. Wow! During the 2007 training camp, they show a changed Coughlin taking the Giants out for bowling night rather than having meetings. During Super Bowl week in Arizona, there is a shot of the Giants’ team bus stopping at In-N-Out Burger to grab a team meal. They also give a 30 second shot of Coughlin’s Saturday night pregame speech to the team before the epic game. And seeing David Tyree dropping ball after ball during the last practice before the game added an interesting twist of things to come.

I’ve seen all three America’s Games on the Giants, and the 1986 version remains my favorite, and the only one I’ve watched multiple times. The 2007 team is probably 1A and the 1990 team 1B. I think a lot of the allure with the ’86 story is the three participants (Parcells, Taylor, and Simms) were talking about their season some 20 years later. While watching the 2007 version, we find ourselves only a year removed from the moment which I won’t say takes away from it, but it would be more nostalgic to see these three talk about it in about 10 years. Alas, there is an roundabout solution to this: wait 10 years and view it on DVD (or whatever medium we have then) and enjoy it all over again.

Let’s Get The 2009 Season Started Already

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

But I guess I first have to review the big game from Sunday. I thought it was a pretty boring first three quarters, with the only exciting play being the long interception return by the Steelers which looked like it was going to be the real difference in the game. But the Cardinals, who could never get any rhythm going throughout the entire game, finally made a game changing decision in the fourth quarter and went no-huddle. That move proved very effective. The Cards got a score to Fitzgerald to pull within six, and would eventually take a one point lead with a little more than two minutes left on a second Fitzgerald TD that was lightening quick. Both scores exemplified Fitz’s assets: size, strength, and speed. The Steelers, led by MVP Santonio Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger, then literally snatched the game away from the upstart Cards with a text book two minute drive in a dramatic fourth quarter.

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