Archive for the ‘2009 Offseason’ Category

Post Draft Analysis

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

The NFL draft ended on Sunday with the Giants not getting the player that had been rumored for weeks and months to be coming to them: Braylon Edwards. In the end, the Giants either felt the trade value put on Edwards by the Browns was out of touch, and/or the contract demand by the WR, entering his first contract year in 2010, was too great a price to pay. So the Giants ended up utilizing the draft to help improve the team for 2009.

With their first pick, the Jints selected WR Hakeem Nicks from North Carolina. I had predicted either Nicks or Rutgers’ Kenny Britt as potential picks (and Britt went immediately afterwards to Tennessee). Admittedly, I liked Britt because of the local ties to Rutgers, but after watching and reading about Nicks, I am very happy with this pick. Along with top prospect Michael Crabtree, Nicks was the most “NFL ready” WR in the draft. Some other things that grab your attention: he has the best hands of any WR, seemingly attacking the ball while in flight. He started all three of his seasons at NC and never missed a game. And he uses his thick body to fight for the ball and isn’t afraid to go over the middle. I expect him to be part of the rotation come fall.

The second round brought an extra pick, courtesy of the Shockey trade. The first pick yielded Virginia LB Clint Sintim, and the reaction was luke warm by the Giant following. Sintim’s game in college was rushing the passer, which you’d think fits the Giants’ scheme perfectly. But Sintim’s highlights were probably what turned off viewers. First, NFL Network showed him at the Senior Bowl practices covering backs and TE’s in drills, and he simply looked lost. Analyst Mike Mayock pointed out it was a bit unfair to Sintim because he was a 3-4 rusher in college and was being asked to cover in a 4-3 (which made the pick a bit more puzzling because the Giants are a 4-3 base). But after hearing Jerry Reese, they plan to utilize this guy as a pass rusher come next year. Rumors even had the Giants considering him in the first round, so they certainly wanted this guy and feel they can teach him the rest. The second choice was a great value pick, William Beatty. An athletic left tackle prospect from UCONN, Beatty had been projected a low first round pick in some mocks, going to the Giants. The Giants got their man at the end of the second. There will be no pressure on Beatty as he adjusts to NFL competition, but there will be on current backups Kevin Boothe, Guy Whimper, and Adam Koets to produce in camp. One of those guys will not be on the team in September. In a perfect world, Beatty will eventually move to LT and Dave Diehl to guard in a few years.

In the third round, the Giants got their Plaixco Burress. Only this guy is a little bigger! Ramses Barden is a startling 6′ 6”, 229 lb. wideout who played at Cal-Poly. The Giants traded up using their second fifth, ironically with the Eagles, to nab him (apparently, Miami was hot for him). Barden completely dominated at the college level, which is one thing the Giants look for when evaluating small school talent (much like Kevin Boss). He’ll be one of the most intriguing players to watch in camp, but he’ll have a quite a bit of a learning curve so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he’s inactive for most of next season, or perhaps strictly a situational player in certain packages (i.e. red zone). Ray Didinger, the highly respected writer out of Philadelphia, had him as one of his sleeper picks and that’s good enough for me. How great would it be if this guy does develops into a big time receiver at the expense of the Eagles?

The comp pick at the end of the third round for losing Gibril Wilson produced a player that Giant fans seemingly got excited about the most: TE Travis Beckhum. In my draft preview, I commented that the Giants would be looking for another pass catching TE to improve the offense, and Beckhum fits that model. The term we keep hearing about Beckhum is “H-Back” rather than TE, with many comparisons to Dallas Clark. Either way, this sends a message that the Giants are aware that they must tweak their offensive philosophy in the vertical passing game and work in more underneath patterns. That’s were a guy like Beckhum becomes very valuable. When you hear Jerry Reese calling Beckhum a “nightmare matchup” for safeties and linebackers, you can see why fans were excited. I’d love to see the seam pass, thrown so many years by Simms to Bavaro, again become a staple in the offense. A bit undersized like many TE’s in this draft, they’ll have to teach him to be a better blocker, but he’ll learn from one of the best in Mike Pope.

In the fourth, the Giants went running back with NC State’s Andre Brown. Brown had moved up the charts in pre draft workouts and had been projected as high as the second round, so getting him the fourth again represents value. Compared to Derrick Ward in running style, Brown combines good size with speed and demonstrates a better ability than Ward to catch the ball, specifically mentioned by the Giants in post draft comments. This again tells me the short passing game, with emphasis on the backs receiving, will become a bigger part of the offense. The Giants have been outstanding at evaluating running back over the last few years, and while I am not sure how much Brown contributes this year because of the depth we have, he provides insurance if injuries and/or Danny Ware is unable to progress to the next level.

I wouldn’t have thought QB to be a position drafted in 2009, but there the Giants were selecting the intriguing Rhett Bomar in the fifth round. Much like last year’s choice of Andre Woodson, this pick hopefully develops into a legit backup QB or possible trade potential down the line (see Matt Cassell). It also tells me the Giants are not thrilled with how Woodson developed since last camp and are concerned about David Carr leaving after only signing on for one more year. Bomar has skills, ranked in some parts as the fourth best QB in the draft. He’s got the arm and attitude to play in the NFL, so we’ll see.

The last two selections, DeAndre Wright and Stoney Woodson, are defensive backs that will battle for the fifth CB spot on the roster. Again, sixth and seventh rounders are hard to evaluate, but DeAndre Wright might have an advantage as he does have some return experience, in addition to good size.

Most national pundits gave the Giants very good grades for this draft, and I have to say I agree. But as always, we won’t really find out the true value of these picks for at least a couple years.

2009 Draft Preview

Friday, April 24th, 2009

I haven’t written a post since I’ve been vacationing in Southern California for 10 days, but I’m back at the perfect time: the NFL draft. But much has happened over the last two weeks, and two months for that matter.

First, the big news is the demise of Plaxico Burress. It’s a real shame, because the guy is so talented and never realized what he could probably have fully attained. He was one of my favorite players (the man had a place on this website’s main banner!) and the Giants wouldn’t have won the big one without him, but it’s obvious Plax no longer wanted to be a Giant. He wasn’t going to change his ways, clearly demonstrating that with his lack of communication to the Giant brass who through this entire ordeal supported him and said the right things. This behavior and the uncertainty of his trial pushed the Giants into a corner and they decided to cut their losses and move on. Burress may have been upset with the Giants trying to deny him his roster bonus and withholding game day checks, but clearly the man in the mirror was the problem.

In between that entire fiasco, the Giants had a great free agency period, but also lost some players. Gone are WR Amani Toomer, RB Derrick Ward, and S James Butler. Time to replenish via the draft. Admittedly, I do not watch a lot of college football, so I get most of my info on the draft by scouring the Internet, and watching NFL Network. In particular, I enjoy the combine. Who am I kidding? I just like NFL Network.

But I do know the Giants and have a good feel of how they draft. Going into this weekend’s crap shoot, the organization is in a great position. The only glaring weakness is the obvious number one wide receiver position, courtesy of Plax. A lot of teams would love to be in the shape the Giants are, but then again, the bar is raised now. Four straight playoff appearances. A Super Bowl title. A young and deep team. Another Super Bowl is the immediate goal. Back when the 2007 playoffs started, I just wanted Eli to get a playoff win under his belt. Times have indeed changed.

With a total of 10 picks (including five in the top 100), the Giants will surely trade a few of those for choices next year. While conventional wisdom would say drafting 10 players gives you the best chance, percentage wise, to get a hit on blue chippers, I’m not sure exactly how many roster spots the Giants will actually have. The team is very deep. Conversely, if the Giants are to pull off some draft day trade (Braylon Edwards’ rumors were prevelant by now have died down) for some of those picks, you’ll want to keep what’s left over to fill out the draft. As I have said in different posts, the Giants have options.

While best available athlete is the Giants’ way, I think they will focus on a few areas. Obviously wide receiver is on their radar. A few names I like are Hakim Nicks and Kenny Britt. Britt is particularly interesting being from Rutgers. Nicks might not be there, but I think Britt will be. But I will say first round picks on receivers scare me, as they seem to be boom or bust. Another area is depth on the offensive line. The Giants have been fortunate not to have any serious injuries the last few years. I admittedly cringe every time Kevin Boothe came in for Kareem McKenzie last year. I can see him at guard, but not tackle. Similarly, Adam Koets and Guy Whimper continue to be prospects who haven’t proven anything. A name I like is AZ tackle Eben Britton who probably would be there at #29. I also like the versatility of Oregon’s Max Unger, who can play all three line positions. He could be a second round selection.

With the linebackers, I’d like to see someone drafted to push and eventually replace (next year) Danny Clark as the SAM. Backup TE Darcy Johnson has talent, but the Giants won’t wait for it to translate onto the field and could grab one of a variety of pass catching TE’s in round two or three. As always in today’s NFL, don’t pass on a good corner. The Giants go four deep there, but injuries can happen and it wouldn’t surprise me if they grab something they like fairly early, especially with Kevin Dockery operating on a one year deal.

I think the most interesting selection could be a running back. With all the success the Giants have had with backs since Coughlin’s arrival, you begin to wonder how much it has to do with the offensive line? Right now, it’s Jacobs, Bradshaw, and the unproven Danny Ware. Many people are high on Ware. But I pose this question: if either Jacobs or Bradshaw got hurt, are you confident in Ware stepping up? Derrick Ward came from equal obscurity and we saw what he did here. But I think if a good running back is sitting there, particularly one that is well rounded (can run and catch) I think the Giants would bite. Remember, a playmaker doesn’t necessarily need to be a WR or TE. I want to see the Giants make the swing and screen pass part of this offense. That’s been missing.

I guess the point of all this analysis is, when it’s the Giants turn to pick, they will look at their draft board and ask themselves “who is the best player out there?” And that’s who they will probably take.

Becoming Bleak For Burress?

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Plaxico Burress’ trial date was pushed back to June 15, which doesn’t bode well for the Giants’ enigmatic WR. My initial thoughts on this were Plax would get probation and then deal with the bigger hurdle of convincing the Giants, and Tom Coughlin, he was ready to come back and be a team first guy. But news of this adjournment tells me both sides can’t come to an agreement on a plea.

Burress obviously wants probation, or at most three months I would think, so he can get back to playing football ASAP. The prosecution is probably looking more at six months to a year which is very consistent with similar plea bargains. Which side will blink first? I distinctly believe now if Plax doesn’t play this year with the Giants, his career in New York will be over.

This new date hurts the Giants from the perspective that the draft, and potential draft day trades, will (probably) be completed by the time Burress’ fate becomes fact. Surely the Giants had prepared for this and will act accordingly.

There have been Braylon Edwards rumors circulating, but I wonder why the Browns would deal him after already trading their other blue chip receiver, Kellen Winslow Jr. Are the Browns going into complete rebuild mode? Edwards is intriguing because he is the closest thing to a Plax clone out there. He’s got size, commands a double team, and can make catches despite being covered. But he has led the league in drops the last two years. If you were going to make a case for Edwards, it’s that a change of scenery could do him good. Edwards would be a free agent in 2010 so making a trade would require you sign him first, and the Giants are not in a position to give Edwards a decent contract considering their cap number. Edwards would be hitting his first free agency and want to cash in. An Eli Manning extension could, however, buy the Giants some more cap room this year. Rumors had the Giants giving draft choices and a player, but I hope the dangling of Dominik Hixon was untrue as I have high hopes for him as a key contributor in both the passing and return game.

Boldin is in the news it seems every other week, but I contend the Cards won’t deal him. That’s unless of course you consider the rumor of the Giants offering this year’s one and three, and next year’s number one as bait. That rumor was complete crap. Boldin hasn’t played a full season in the last four years and plays the game in too physical a way that, IMO, will shorten his career. On top of all that, the number one reason Boldin wants out is, surprise, money!! Succumbing to Boldin would mean making him one of the top three paid wideouts in the league, and as I said, his injury history to me says it’s not worth it.

I still feel the very best option, sans Plax, is getting Tony Gonzalez from the Chiefs. He’d be less costly in terms of trade value than either Edwards or Boldin, and would give the Giants that unique look of two TE’s I have been talking about for over a year now. And you could still draft a WR prospect and hope for Manningham to step up this year, resulting in a “by committee” effort at wide reciever. Alas, salary cap issues could come into play here too with Gonzo’s contract.

So what will Reese do? The good thing is the Giants as a team right now will do two things very well: run the ball and play defense. That wins football games. They’ve got plenty of draft picks, now five in the first three rounds after getting a comp pick for Gibril Wilson. I suspect that drafting is the route they are going to take.

Reese Gone Wild

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

I mean that in a good way. Not Dan Snyder wild. So much for my prediction that the Giants wouldn’t be big players in the free agent market. The weekend marked a bonanza as Jerry Reese made three signings, each one bigger than the last. Super Bowls aren’t won in March, but you’ve got to be smiling if you root for Big Blue.

Let’s start with what happened on Thursday. The Giants signed Brandon Jacobs to a four year deal that was fair to both sides. Want to know why Jacobs is one of the players featured on this site’s home page banner? He is the ultimate team player. You can see it in the way he conducts himself on the field, and this contract also proves it. Jacobs wanted to be here and both sides made it happen.

With Friday came the rumors of OLB Michael Boley already in discussions with the Giants. The deal got done and the Giants helped themselves in the one weak spot on this roster: linebacking. Boley looked to be Pro Bowl material after 2007, but lost his job last year when he didn’t fit into Mike Smith’s new defense in Atlanta as a strong side LB. Boley is a bit undersized, but can cover, rush the passer, and play “downhill” as they say. The Giants signed him because they feel he’s a great fit in how they play defense: aggressively. He is also a fine special teams player. Boley, just 26, will play the more suitable weakside with the Giants.

Saturday revealed the Giants were now negotiating with Rocky Bernard, DT from Seattle. Then things got complicated when DE Chris Canty (Dallas) diverted from Washington to East Rutherford because of the Albert Hainsworth signing by the Skins. Would the Giants sign Bernard, who would come with a less expensive price tag, or go for Canty who is younger but would command more money? The Giants got both.

Bernard will be part of a four man rotation at DT, but look for him to pay his biggest dividends on third down, teaming with Tuck, Osi, and Kiwi for the newest fearsome foursome. Canty is a big body (6-7, 300 lbs) who played end in Dallas’ 3-4 scheme. With the Giants 4-3, Canty will move inside and team with Fred Robbins at DT with the first and second down defense. Barry Cofield is the fourth wheel in the interior, but he’ll get his share of reps as the idea is to keep everyone fresh, especially come fourth quarter when games are won and lost. Tuck, Kiwi, Cofield, and Robbins got worn down last year. Getting Osi back plus these signings ensure that won’t happen again.

So what does all this mean? Initially, my instincts told me the chips were now there for a trade, something along the lines of Kiwi for a player like Braylon Edwards. But further inspection reveals the Giants are already planning for 2010. Fred Robbins has been one of those unheralded players that was truly a great free agent signing by the Giants back in 2004. But he’ll be 32 and a free agent after this year and it’s obvious that signing Canty and Bernard are meant for the longer haul. Cofield, also a free agent in 2010, would be the more likely candidate to be resigned. Cofield is younger and also proven his worth in this league.

This also means the Giants have the best DL and OL in the league right now, and that’s a recipe for winning NFL games. I don’t think these three defensive additions necessarily dictates the Giants will draft heavily on the offensive side of the ball. An eventual successor for Antonio Pierce and a strong side backer prospect would help too. Again, they have positioned themselves for taking the best available athlete. And with as many as 11 picks, things could get very interesting come draft day.

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.