Giants Have Question Marks, Too

While there are some very good reasons to be optimistic about the 2009 Eagles campaign — it doesn’t take much thought to put together some reasons for doubt, either.  Will the offensive line gel?  Will and how much will the defense suffer after losing Jim Johnson?  And perhaps the biggest of all, will Brian Westbrook be healthy and effective?

But the other likely NFC East powerhouse — the Giants — have their share of question marks as well.

  • Don’t forget, this team also will have a new, unproven defensive coordinator (Bill Sheridan).
  • Eli Manning is playing without Plaxico Burress, and the Giants did not go out and get any of the big name receivers that were rumored available.  Whether any of their young crop of receivers is really any good is yet to be determined.
  • Gone is one big part of their rushing attack — Derrick Ward.  Keeping Jacobs healthy is more vital than ever, as “Ahmad Bradshaw, feature back” has never been tested.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  This team will be good.  They have an excellent offensive and defensive line — and when you’re team is strong in the trenches you will always be competitive.

The question I see for them is — when they face a tough defense, will they be able to put up points?  The passing game is the key to almost every modern and powerful NFL offense.  And whether Eli and that group of pass-catchers will be up to the task is an open question.

What I’m Watching on Sunday

This weekend has some really nice matchups.  It also has some really nice gambling opportunities.  Here we go:

Bengals @ Giants:  Bengals are floundering and some say they might have already given up on the season.  If they lose this one consider betting against them the rest of the year.  But I like them this week, getting almost two touchdowns.  Eli is due for a game where he throws 3 interceptions, and the Bengals offense is going to break out in the beautiful weather New York will have on Sunday.  Bet on the stripes.

Rams @ Seahawks:  Things are going to get ugly in St Louis.  The Seattle defense is still pretty good, and the Rams are going to struggle to get in the endzone.  Give the 10 points and take the Seahawks.

Dallas @ Green Bay:  Something most people don’t know:  Al Harris isn’t very good any more.  Look for the Boys to try and get him lined up opposite TO.  The Packers also have a glaring coverage issue wherever Atari Bigby is supposed to be.  Jason Whitten is going to dominate him.  I hate to say it, but I really have trouble believing the Cowboys can lose this one unless Aaron Rodgers plays out of his mind and the Packers passing game can’t be stopped.

This Is Great is probably the most popular unofficial Giants website out there.  Daily updates on the front page, but the biggest attraction is the endless chatter in their forums.

From a thread titled “Article on Eagles’ DEs on the Bubble” –

McDougle would be a steal … especially since he would be more familiar with our defense coming from JJ defense
I would think we’d be a VERY attractive spot for him if we’re interested.

What a difference a few months makes, huh?

NFC East Off-Season Analysis: Giants

Over the last couple of years the Giants seem to have utilized a pretty peculiar draft strategy. First, they identify a position of immediate need. Next, they take the best player available at that position.

If that kind of simplistic logic completely bewilders you, I understand. It just means you are an Eagles fan, and you’ve spent the last four or five years tying your brain in knots attempting to legitimize each puzzling Eagles’ draft decision (hey, many of them have worked out, but that doesn’t mean they made a whole lot of sense to us at the time).

Interestingly, this simple Giants’ strategy has paid off so far. Aaron Ross, drafted in 2007 after a season where the Giants cornerbacks were routinely roasted, was a key piece of the Giants’ late-season and playoff run.

This year, it was the loss of Gibril Wilson to the Raiders that prompted to drafting of Kenny Phillips. Obviously its too early to know whether that move will pay off, but the Giants’ straightforward draft approach has certainly won them some good will from the fan base.

But the offseason wasn’t completely rosy in New York (I’ll ignore that big parade they had).

Key Losses

Kawika Mitchell and Reggie Torbor

What it means:
Mitchell was a solid though unspectacular performer for the Giants. He was an asset defending the run, but perhaps a bit of a liability against the pass. But most importantly, he was a reliable player for a Giants’ team that desperately needed that at linebacker. Mitchell hasn’t missed a game due to injury in four years.

Kawika Mitchell
Off to Buffalo

Keep in mind the 2006 Giants were pulling guys off the street to play linebacker. Mitchell was exactly what they needed, and he did all they could ask.

Reggie Torbor was mostly a backup for New York, but one who played quite a bit. He really finished last season strong as well — with 10 tackles and a sack against the Pats in week 17.

The Giants decision to let these two guys go means they have confidence in two young players: Mathius Kiwanuka and Gerris Wilkinson. Combined, these two have started 11 NFL games — so this is no small gamble.

Kiwanuka is the clear starter at SAM, but Wilkinson will have a bit of a battle for the starting job at WILL:

“He’s going to have to beat out other players at that position,” Reese said of Wilkinson, “but he’s definitely going to get his shot to be a starter.”

Those other players are really Danny Clark, a veteran insurance signing by the Giants this off-season. Clark isn’t really well suited to the WILL spot, having spent most of his time on the strong-side, so Wilkinson would really have to screw this up to not be a starter in Week One.

Gibril Wilson

What It Means: The young safety was a coveted free agent, eventually signing with the Raiders for a contract worth $39 million ($16 mil guaranteed). The Giants opted not to try to retain him at that price tag, and quickly brought in a veteran safety to help out — Sammy Knight. Knight will be 33 this year and is nearing retirement. Presumably, he’ll spend this season teaching the finer points of the position to the young Kenny Phillips, whom the Giants drafted with their first pick last month.

Phillips may or may not win the starting job in camp. If he does, the Giants will have an extremely young starting defense (Ross, Phillips, Tuck, Umenyora, Wilkinson, Kiwanuka).

Key Additions

I’ve already covered Phillips and Danny Clark. The Giants also signed David Carr, who’s bad luck might be enough to kill their entire season. At least that’s what I’ll hope for.

The Giants also drafted Terrell Thomas, an interesting cornerback prospect out of USC. He will likely be spending some time on special teams this year, but once the old fogies in the Giants secondary are finally gone the team will have the young Thomas, Ross, and Webster as the presumed nickel package.

Other Transactions

The Giants got part-time running back Derrick Ward to agree to stay with the team. He, Brandon Jacobs, and Ahmad Bradshaw proved to be a lethal combination at in the backfield for the Giants. It was important for the team to try and keep Ward because Jacobs has a tendency to get injured and Bradshaw may not be an every down back.

The team also signed Rich Suebert an extension. Their offensive line was a real strength last season, and keeping them together was a big priority.


The Giants roster certainly doesn’t look any better on paper than it did last year. But it is younger, and that should have some payoff in years to come. This team did win the Super Bowl thanks in large part to the play of their young guys (Tuck, Ross, Webster, Manning) — so they have every reason to be confident they are making the right moves.

Personally, I think they may be going to far. Kiwanuka is coming off an injury and Wilkinson isn’t proven at all. Young players tend to make big mistakes, so look for the Giants to have some early season trouble. If they can survive those, this team may again be a player at year’s end.

Shockey’s Not Going Anywhere

If this Giants’ beat writer is to be believed, there’s no way Jeremy Shockey is getting traded.

In fact, they’re probably going to turn down anybody who isn’t offering at least a first-rounder, which the Saints were not, or a second-rounder plus a starting player and possibly more than that.

No one is going to give up that much for someone who spends as much time on the injured list as Shockey does. The guy is good, but he’s not nearly worth that kind of ransom.

Giants Re-Sign Feagles

In a move that is of much greater importance than you might imagine from the coverage it will receive — the Giants got Jeff Feagles to agree to a two year contract. He was a free agent.

Feagles has become the absolute best in the NFL at directional kicking over his many years, and he routinely puts the ball out of bounds inside the 10. The Giants’ defense will for at least the next two years benefit from the long fields their opponents will have to travel to score.

Super Bowl

I am ill-prepared to live in a world where Eli Manning is a Super Bowl MVP. I’m shaken.

Dealing with my many friends who are Giants’ fans will be difficult for the next year. I always had the Eli jokes to trump whatever insults they threw my way. I’m not sure what I have to hang my hat on any more.

At least Shockey didn’t catch the game-winning touchdown.

Today sucks.

What the Postseason Means for the Eagles

There are several prevailing pieces of wisdom being floated throughout the mainstream media this postseason. But the biggest, of course, is the theory that Eli Manning has turned into a star. Pick your cliche’ — “the light has been turned on”, “he’s arrived”, etc, etc.

Eli Manning

The young quarterback of the Giants is finally providing some return on the team’s significant investment in him. This must be bad for the Eagles, right?

Well, I’m not so sure. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe this three-game run portends a prolonged stretch of excellence that takes the Giants’ to multiple playoff appearances. Despite the Super Bowl appearance, this Giants’ team is not ahead of the Cowboys or Eagles in the talent department.

Look, this should be obvious but this Giants team isn’t succeeding because Manning has taken the reigns and made game-changing plays. They are succeeding because of the magnificent play of their defensive front seven — especially Strahan, Umenyiora, Tuck, Mitchell, and Pierce. They are succeeding because their much-maligned defensive backfield is actually doing an adequate job and making plays when given the opportunity. And they are succeeding because their opponents are faltering at absolutely critical moments. Combine that with the fact that the Giants’ quarterback isn’t turning the ball over every third possession and you can win some games.

So no, I don’t think massive Eli love-fest is bad news for the Eagles. I think we will see the quarterback we are used to seeing in 2008. The one that can make a critical mistake and a game saving throw. The one that badly misses open receivers and pouts. The quarterback that infuriates both Giants’ fans and their opponents’. And as an Eagles fan, I’m OK with this.

Breaking Down the Giants/Packers NFC Championship

I’m going to try and break down this week’s unlikely matchup in the NFC Championship and give an edge where there is one. This isn’t the sort of thing I’ll do regularly here, and this really just came to me as an idea to write a really long post — which I needed to see presented as I develop my “theme” for the blog.

We’ll start with the ball in the Giants’ hands.

Giants’ Interior Line (Suebert, O’Hara, Snee) vs. Packers’ DT’s (Pickett, Williams)
Snee and O’Hara are both excellent run blockers, and when combined with Kareem McKenzie the Giants’ have a ton of success running to the right side. Suebert is a veteran who is an average, dependable player. The Giants O-Line as a whole is an “OK” pass-blocking unit, but the middle of the line generally holds up pretty well.

Corey Williams had an impressive seven sacks from the tackle position, but he can be exploited in the running game. Ryan Pickett is humongous, designed to eat up blocks that let Nick Barnett and AJ Hawk do their work. Both of these DT’s are good at getting their hands in the air and getting a pass deflection.

Overall, this is an area of strength for the Giants. They should run right at these guys.
Edge: Giants

Giants’ OTs (Diehl, McKenzie) vs. Packers’ DEs (Kampman, Jenkins, KGB)

Diehl has proven himself adequate in his first year as a tackle, but he’s not the kind of guy who can keep Kampman in check all game. Kampman and Jenkins both perform well against the run, and KGB will come in for Jenkins on obvious passing downs. This is a big edge in passing situations for the Packers — and something the Giants have to be concerned with.
Edge: Packers

Giants’ TE (Kevin Boss) vs. Packers’ SAM & SS (Poppinga, Bigby)
Poppinga isn’t anything to write home about, and Bigby has been a disaster in coverage — whether it’s man or zone. With that being said, he does look to be improving a little, evidenced by his performance against the Seahawks.

Kevin Boss has done a pretty good job filling in for Jeremy Shockey. If Eli Manning is lacking any confidence in this young TE, it isn’t showing. This matchup is pretty even in that it shouldn’t impact the game much.
Edge: None

Giants’ Running Game vs. Packers’ Front Seven

You could argue the Giants were the best running team in the NFL this season. Brandon Jacobs averaged a robust 5.0 ypc. Ahmad Bradshaw has made a bit of a name for himself in December and January. He’s shifty, strong for his size, and he can break a big one at any time.

The Packers have outstanding speed all over their defense, but they aren’t the biggest group. They are young, and can be susceptible to cutbacks and misdirections. The Giants should have success when they want to run the ball.
Edge: Giants

Giants’ WRs (Burress, Toomer, Smith) vs. Packers Secondary (Woodson, Harris, Collins, Bigby)

Plaxico Burress has looked like a shell of himself for the last two months. Amani Toomer is ancient, but still reliable. Steve Smith is inconsistent, but he had a good game last week.

Plaxico is capable of dominating a game when healthy, but as I said he’s just not close to that. He can’t get much push off of the line of scrimmage, and if Harris and Woodson choose to wrestle with him at the line I think they can be successful. They are excellent cover corners, who should be able to handle themselves well in this situation. The Packers’ safeties can be exploited, especially Bigby, if Eli can find guys up the seems and sidelines.
Edge: None

Packers’ Interior Line (Colledge, Wells, Spitz) vs. Giants’ DTs (Cofield, Robbins)
Much of Brett Favre’s improved performance this season can be contributed to the improved pass protection. He’s not throwing off his back foot as frequently, which has often led to turnovers.  These guys are a solid but unspectacular crew.  The Guards, especially Colledge move well and Ryan Grant has taken the starting job and run with it (ehh).

The Giants’ DTs get plenty of rest in the first part of the season, as the well-known “4 DE” (Strahan, Umenyora, Tuck, Kiwunuka) line was employed on passing downs.  They do a good job against the run, but this Packers group is pounding opponents right now.
Edge:  Packers