Archive for August, 2009

Snoozer in Chi-Town

Monday, August 24th, 2009

The game versus the Bears can’t be called anything but uninspiring. The Giants really didn’t play well offensively or defensively in a game they seemed to be sleepwalking through, particularly on offense. There could be a few reasons for this outcome. First, the Bears were coming off their own flat performance last week versus the Bills, and with new QB Jay Cutler making his debut for the home fans, Chicago wanted to make a good impression. Second, the Giants had played Monday night and were on a short week. Combine that in the middle of training camp and the Giants surely could have been a tired football team.

Nonetheless, neither Coughlin nor the fans want excuses and if there’s one thing I think everyone is looking for this preseason it’s play from the wide receivers. Unfortunately, we haven’t really gotten it yet. Let’s remember, however, that Eli Manning still hasn’t played a full half of football yet, so it’s tough to judge. And I’m sure the Giants are running vanilla stuff at this point in the preseason and not game planning in the least. It was good to see Hakim Nicks catching a 50 yarder even though it was at the very end of the game. And Ramses Barden caught another pass and drew a penalty on a deep throw in the fourth quarter. Baby steps indeed.

The running attack, even with guards Rich Seubert and Chris Snee out, looked really good. The only thing that bothered me was Ahmad Bradshaw not picking up a third down blitz on Manning’s last series. It resulted in Manning getting rid of the ball before he wanted and an incompletion. Plays like that will continue to keep Bradshaw on the bench more than on the field. He has to be able to handle blitz pickup. Brandon Jacobs, a bull. Just ask Brian Urlacher. Danny Ware continues to show good skills both running and receiving.

Defensively, Cutler ripped through the Giants defense, but I will say a few completions were into excellent coverage. That’s the way it goes sometimes. The most disheartening play of the night was Matt Forte’s untouched gallop for 32 yards. Yes, untouched. That disregard for defense will be something the players wish they hadn’t done when it comes to practice this week.

The third preseason game is widely known to be the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Hopefully the offense shows comes out more aggressive in the pass game, showcasing the receivers. But I warn that it won’t be easy versus the Jets. New head man Rex Ryan hasn’t forgotten how the Giants beat up his Ravens defense last year, and he’d like nothing more than take bragging rights from winning this game.

Sad Ending

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Plaxico Burress agreed to accept a two year prison sentence (minimum 20 months) for the unlawful carrying of a firearm at a Manhattan night club last November. Burress only nine months earlier had sealed his fate in Giant history with his game winning grab in the Super Bowl win over the Patriots. Sadly, he’ll probably be remembered for this as much as that great day in Arizona. I still remember the words: “Manning lobs it, Burress, alone…..touchdown New York!!” Now Burress is completely alone.

I’ll admit I was dead wrong on this one. I figured Burress, especially with a top notch NY lawyer, would be able to beat this with probation and healthy dose of community service. And would make it back to the Giants. But Mayor Bloomberg clearly had an agenda from the start and wanted to an example that no one is beyond the law despite any celebrity status. Many have said that someone less famous would have gotten a less severe penalty. I’m not so sure about that. New York law states a minimum of 3.5 years for the carrying of an unlicensed gun. Plax got two years.

In the end, this was a culmination of Plax’s lax attitude on authority. Late for meetings. Not showing up for treatment. A host of traffic violations. Back in 2005, he failed to show up for the team’s final breakup meeting after the loss to the Panthers. Last year, did not report to practice on Monday after a win over the Bengals. We’d later find out a litany of team fines incurred by Plax. Ultimately, this latest disregard of rules caught up to him. The Giants bring in law officials to discuss guns every year with the players, but Burress probably wasn’t there or wasn’t listening. Otherwise, he would have known that to carry a gun in New York City requires a permit. Now Burress pays the ultimate price: two years of his life behind bars, substantial lawyer fees, and forfeiture of a brand new contract. Burress will be 34 upon is release from prison and most likely has seen his last days as an NFL player. Sad indeed.

He’s Back (again!)

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

All I can say is wow, and I won’t write too much on this but felt it had to be acknowledged. Bret Favre doesn’t go away does he? I’m still a big fan of his and think this is nothing but good for the NFL (and the Vikings). I mean, c’mon, every time Tavaris Jackson drops back Minnesota fans must be holding their breath. Come to think of it, they’ll be holding their breath with Favre too, but it will certainly be more fun. It’s easy to blame Favre, with all his waffling, but let’s not forget it’s still Minnesota making a call halfway through training camp. The guy can still play, and if someone wants to offer him millions, I say why not?

If he’s healthy, and that’s a big if considering he has a small tear of the rotator cuff, he makes the Vikes better. How much better? That’s why it will be interesting to watch, especially when they play the Packers in Weeks Four and Eight (in Green Bay).

Still Much To Be Determined

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

The Giants 24-17 victory had a pretty exciting finish, but admittedly I had one eye on my laptop and the other on the game. It’s really hard watching preseason, especially in the fourth quarter. I had previously wrote about a few players I would have both eyes on come Monday’s game, and here is my review on each of them:

Mario Manningham: Good to see with Steve Smith out, he was the starting wideout along with Hixon. Made a nice catch on a throw from Manning resulting in a first down (nixed by a penalty), but then quickly make a mistake on the very next play. Instead of “sitting down” against a zone defense, Mario continued to run thru the defense. The result was a throw that was behind him, but which would have been on target had he read the defense correctly. Also tried to get deep in the second quarter and made a decent attempt to bring in a pass from David Carr despite good coverage. Looked quick and decisive on his one punt return for 21 yards. Overall, Manningham impresses because he has very fluid moves and looks the part. He is definitely in the running for that #3 receiving spot behind Hixon and Smith, but by no means does he have it locked up.

Hakeem Nicks and Rames Barden: I’m combining these two because I felt the results were very similar. First, I was dissapointed that both didn’t make an appearance until the third quarter. At that point, third stringers are in the game and it makes the evaluation a bit more difficult. Barden made a nice 20 yard reception showing soft hands, and Nicks showed off good concentration and those big paws for his one catch where he was well covered. But Barden failed to come back on a ball which didn’t help on an interception by Andre Woodson. Nicks failed to sell a stop-and-go route in which he never really sold the stop part. I have to give an incomplete mainly on the fact they didn’t get any reps with the second stringers. Hopefully next week they do.

Derrek Hagan: Had only two throws his way, but was well covered on both and failed to come up with a catch. Not exactly a ringing endorsement after a terrific start to camp.

Danny Ware: Looked very impressive on a screen pass he took 36 yards for a touchdown. After making the catch, Ware had one objective – find an opening and run to it. Thing I like about Ware is he appears to have a nice combo of size and speed, and he’ll run better behind the regulars (he was met at the LOS on many of his runs). The Giants want him to be the third down back, so pass blocking and receiving ability are going to be key for him.

Some other thoughts about the game:

Ahmad Bradshaw looked fantastic. The kid is a human fire hydrant on wheels. Was also very happy to see him in the passing game (which appeared to be emphaised overall in the game plan).

Second round pick William Beatty accounted for himself nicely. Liked the fact he was in the game in just the second quarter. Showed good footwork and athleticism for a big man. Still a project, the Giants will add bulk and strength to him come the offseason.

Clint Sintim, the other second round pick, looked physically imposing. Billed as a speed rusher, he showed just that getting a sack and multiple pressures. Played against backups, but considering it was his first game and how other players can look lost, it was a real good sign.

Osi Umenyoria looked like his old self out there, quick and active, and that’s enough said.

Sinorice Moss is not a punt returner. Looking horrible on a handful of punts. His speed doesn’t translate to catching a punt and then acclerating. He also has zero strength, coming down way too easily. I’ve been one of Moss’ biggest detractors and will have more to say about him as a wide receiver after the next preseason game.

DE Maurice Evans appeared to have a good motor and plenty of upside. The free agent from Penn State had gotten nice reviews since mini camp and was credited with a sack and forced fumble. I think he’ll push Dave Tollefson for the final DE because Evans has much more upside, and the Giants will be able to carry him because of their tremendous depth and versatility on the DL.

Preseason Primer

Monday, August 17th, 2009

The Giants open their preseason on ESPN’s Monday Night Football versus Carolina. I’ll have my eye on a handful of young players, who all should get plenty of time in these first of four pratice games. Here’s the rundown:

Mario Manningham: Last year’s third round pick hardly saw the field, after an injury in training camp set him back. He’s been looking good from spring practices into August, and that number three WR spot is clearly there for him to grab. It’s time for him to take the next step.

Hakim Nicks: Always an interest in seeing our top pick. Nick’s been sidelined a bit by a hamstring in camp, but hopefully he’ll be cleared to go on Monday night. He was touted as the being the most “NFL ready” receiver in the draft (along with Crabtree), so it would be nice to see involved early and often.

Ramses Barden: Most intriguing player, hands down. His small school origins had him pegged as a project, but his big time size has been the hit of camp so far. While speed and ability to get off the line were projected weaknesses, his size and catching ability have really shined in camp thus far. In fact, it seems he’s outperformed both Mario and Nicks at this juncture. But pratice is just that, practice. Hopefully he’ll get plenty of reps in the second half to show his stuff in game situations.

Derek Hagan: Yes, another wide receiver. Hagan was a third round pick by the Dolphins in 2006 after a very successful career at Arizona State. After two pedestran years at Miami, he was cut last year and picked up by the Giants late (interestingly, he and not Sinorice Moss was active for the playoff game versus the Eagles). Anyway, Hagan has been catching everything is sight (something he didn’t do in Miami) and because he can contribute on special teams, Hagan’s got a chance to make this team. It will be between him, Moss, and David Tyree for the sixth and final receiving spot.

Danny Ware: With Friday’s season ending injury to Andre Brown, Ware’s role in this offense just became that much more important. He no longer can linger in the background and have the “prospect” tag on him. He’s going to have to prove he can be part of this offense when they start playing for real in September. Ware is now officially the third back (assuming Bradshaw in the number two) and third string this year still should get you some reps on game day, especially in the passing game. Ware played mainly against third and fourth stringers last preseason. I want to see how he does against better competition this summer.

Vick Returns

Friday, August 14th, 2009

First, a few things about Vick. I sincerely believe that people deserve a second chance, and after serving his penalty I feel Vick should be allowed to make a living. If someone is willing to give him that chance, so be it. Trust me, there will many people who will never let him forget what he did, so in that respect, he’s still serving time and will spend the rest of his life accounting for his actions.

Now about Michael Vick the football player. I’ve always thought he was one of the most exciting players in the league, having unlimited potential. There’s not much debate there. But I’m certainly in the minority when I say Vick could have become a top notch QB in this league. In fact, Vick may have gotten to that level except Atlanta did a dumb thing back in 2004. They fired Dan Reeves, who Vick was progressing under very nicely. And they replaced him with yahoo Jim Mora, Jr. who basically gave Vick zero direction IMO. All you have to know is Mora visited college campuses in his first offseason to learn about installing the QB option into his offense. Poor planning, poor coaching. Mora treated Vick as a runner, rather than a quarterback who could run. From there, Vick spiraled downward as a quarterback.

So the signing of Vick is an intriguing one. First, playing under a coach like Andy Reid is probably a good situation. For all his shortcomings on gameday, the man knows QB’s, having worked with some of the best, and understands how to deploy an offense. That’s exactly what a guy like Vick needs: good, technical coaching. But here’s what doesn’t make sense. The Eagles are unquestionably one of the deepest teams in the league at QB, going three deep. McNabb is a Top 10 QB. Backups Kevin Kolb and AJ Feeley both can be considered competent. Why would the Eagles invest in such a controversial player at a position where they don’t really need it? It just doesn’t make sense to me. And for Vick, is this really the best place for him? I think back to a situation much like Kerry Collins was in 1999 with the Giants. Collins again had to prove himself by coming in as a backup, but it was a spot where he could also wiggle his way back into a starting role, which he eventually did. Can Vick expect that in Philadelphia? A place like Minnesota seemed a much better fit, but it takes interest from both sides.

And here is where it gets even more puzzling. The thin-skinned McNabb apparently pushed for it, according to the Eagles and McNabb himself. Can this really be considered a healthy decision in the long run? McNabb was benched last year, and after being quickly reinstated played with a chip on his shoulder the rest of the year. So much in fact he publicly bragged of a sit down where the QB and management would straighten things out. That translated to everyone in terms of a contract extension. McNabb’s late season playoff push (where Reid proclaimed him the “best QB in the league”) seemed to pack all the ammunition McNabb would need. But McNabb came out of talks with the Eagles with his tail between his legs, settling for a raise in the final two years of his existing deal, rather than a new contract (and the all important signing bonus). As always, McNabb’s the quintessential “organizational guy”. And by signing off on Vick he’s done it again. To himself. McNabb continues to allow the Eagles to control all the chips. Is Vick going to replace him this year? Almost zero chance, barring injury. But it does serve to loom over McNabb, especially when he goes thru a stretch where he isn’t playing well. And who’s to say that if McNabb, clearly not given a contract extension so the Eagles could keep their options open in 2010, plays poorly this year or again comes up short in big games isn’t moved out with a rehabilitating Vick in the wings? Far fetched? Perhaps. But then just ask yourself if a week ago Michael Vick could end up an Eagle.

You Owe Me A Dinner, Eli

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

I think so. After all, I’m paying for some of that contract by being a season ticket holder beginning in 2010!! All kidding aside, it was great news for Giants’ fans to lock up Manning for the forseeable future. Of course there was a ton of debate on whether #10 deserves it, but I heard a good assessment from Adam Schefter on ESPN Radio. Manning has won a Super Bowl, is just beginning to enter his prime (a theme I have written about as well), he’s a Top 10 QB, and if the Giants didn’t pay it, someone else would have. So the Giants really weren’t bidding against themselves as some have chimed in, and neither side wanted to go into a contract year without an extension. And as far as being the highest paid player (it’s actually the highest average salary over the next six years), that will quickly fall by the wayside when, say, someone like Phillip Rivers gets his new contract. That’s the way it works in sports. The next one is the biggest one.

Manning certainly should be entering his prime years at age 28. He followed up a Super Bowl victory with a run where the Giants were, IMO, the best team in the NFL for most of the season before running out of steam late last year. Manning is by no means a finished product and while he may never rise to a top five QB, he does bring one intangible to the table which I love. The thing that separates the good teams from the rest of the pack in the NFL is those that finish off drives when the get inside the 20 with touchdowns. Playing offense between the 20’s is easy. Similarly, it’s easy to play quarterback in quarters one through three. But you make your bones by playing big in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line. And Manning does come up big in those situations. I’ll take that trait in my quarterback every day.