Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Game 2 Report Card

The coaches have their grades in. Now we have ours. I think both our sheets are going to reflect one main thing -- though there is much potential for greatness, the Giants are far from a finished product.

Can't beat a win like last week's however. Going down into a new, noisy venue -- they set an NFL attendance record down there -- and working through the problems to come away with a two-point comeback win earns a big, overall A. But the unit breakdown will show some issues that need immediate address.

Here are the grades.

QUARTERBACK: Could not have asked for more out of Comeback Kid Eli Manning. That was his 12th career comeback, and it didn't come without a little bit of luck on that tipped Mario Manningham completion on third-and-4. Still, what he did during the game enabled the Giants to be within striking distance on that drive. He moved in the pocket well to avoid several sack opportunities, and held a firm grasp on the ball when one potential sacker nearly swatted it out of his hand. He didn't have an interception. That was huge in the Giants holding a plus-4 in the turnover differential. He was certainly accurate enough in a 25-of-38, 330-yard game with two touchdowns. And he continues to develop a go-to rapport with young receivers Manningham and Smith. One thing you can say about this guy; if the game's close, he gives his team a chance to win it at the end. GRADE: A.

RUNNING BACKS: Wondering whether it's Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw's problem, or play selection. Either way, the ground game was never really established. Even in the second half, when Jacobs ripped off his beautiful, stiff-arming 31-yard run, the ground game moved in fits and starts. Jacobs isn't going to cut it at 58 yards on 16 carries. Nor is Bradshaw's 37 yards on nine carries. Part of that is the offensive line allowing too much penetration. But the 264-pound Jacobs hasn't seemed like the bruiser he should be this year. At least he didn't miss on any short-yardage situations. In fact, they avoided running in third-and-5 and under, passing the ball in all three situations that arose. And what's with throwing to fullback Madison Hedgecock on second-and-7 from the Dallas 11. Of course he dropped it. He's not a pass-catcher. Big cause for concern here. GRADE: C-.

RECEIVERS: Love grows for Manningham every game. This time, he caught 10 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown, including a diving, juggling grab in the end zone and the key catch off a tipped ball to put the Giants in field goal range on the final drive. What he might lack in route-running polish, he makes up for with speed and the ability to concentrate, and it's showing. He can play both wide receiver and flanker, and lined up in both spots against Dallas, going to the X when Domenik Hixon went down with a knee sprain. Steve Smith is rapidly becoming the next Amani Toomer, as his work over the middle and on the sidelines improves every week. He, too, caught 10 balls for 134 yards and a touchdown. Smith was wide open on many of his catches, but especially on the 22-yard touchdown throw over the middle that he punctuated with a leap to ensure his crossing the goal line as the safety bore down on him. He's a great route runner who is only getting better. Tight end Kevin Boss didn't get a lot of business, and Derek Hagan has obviously moved ahead of Sinorice Moss on the receiving depth chart. GRADE: A.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Well, they didn't allow a sack, which is good. But they weren't particularly good on the ground attack, and that's bad. The Giants have to move the ball on the ground to be successful long-range, so that's an area of concern. G Rich Seubert had a holding call, but that appeared more phantom than anything, so we'll let him off the hook. The line seemed to get manhandled at times. But in fairness, the playcalling did lean toward the passing game most of the contest. GRADE: C.

DEFENSIVE LINE: This is a unit that prides itself on penetration, discipline, and strength to hold opponents under 100 yards rushing. None of it happened in Cowboys Stadium. Once DE Justin Tuck left with a sprained left shoulder, the Cowboys did pretty much whatever they wanted in a 251-yard, three-touchdown ground game. Yeah, you read that right. When they're playing well, they won't give up 200 yards rushing in three games. The Cowboys ran right most of the time, and sealed off Mathias Kiwanuka with relative ease. They didn't exactly bounce Tony Romo around, either. Zero sacks, and way too often he appeared unpressured. In fact, they only hit him once, courtesy of Osi Umenyiora. ONCE! Those three interceptions were more his fault than that of any upfront heat. The Dallas line was one of the heaviest units this team will face, but that's only a partial excuse because the Giants are faster. It didn't show, though. And Marc Columbo made the interior line look sick on Romo's quarterback draw for a touchdown. Vast improvement needed. GRADE: D.

LINEBACKERS: Antonio Pierce did a great job audibling out of a defense to set up Bruce Johnson's interception and touchdown return. Aside from that, this unit was less than perfect. WSL Michael Boley showed good mobility in his first action and led the team with seven tackles. But he appeared out of position on a few plays. Danny Clark and Pierce weren't big factors overall. GRADE: C.

SECONDARY: Without these guys, the Giants would have been goners. Undrafted Bruce Johnson impressed for the second straight week at nickelback when he reacted to Pierce's audible and then stepped inside on Roy Williams for his interception and return for his first career touchdown. Kenny Phillips had two picks and was all over the place despite a swollen knee. Corey Webster missed a tackle on a Williams completion, but didn't do poorly after that. GRADE: A .

SPECIAL TEAMS: People got nervous when Tynes missed a 29-yard chip shot. But when the money was on the line he came through not once, but twice, as Wade Phillips called a last-second timeout on the winning field goal. His kickoffs leave something to be desired, however, as few ever get to the 5, let alone the end zone. Jeff Feagles was his usual self, putting three of five punts inside the 20. Domenik Hixon had a nice return to the 50 on the first possession ruined by a hold. GRADE: B.

COACHING: The Giants have yet to score a touchdown in the Red Zone this year, and are now officially 0-for-8 in visits. They came away empty for the second time on Tynes' miss. At least there were no goal line disasters. But Kevin Gilbride might want to take away a lesson the Cowboys taught about spreading things out in close for future goal line situations. There's also something to be said for throwing the ball INTO the end zone once inside the 20, rather than trying to hit a receiver two yards in front of the goal line and letting him fight his way in. The Red Zone futility almost cost them last night, and will certainly hurt them down the road. As for the defense, Bill Sheridan needs to address the leakiness the unit showed against the ground game. Could be because of the heat and the absence of Tuck and Chris Canty, making for a thin rotation. But these supposedly well-conditioned athletes have got to be able to stand up better than that. It's going to be hot in Tampa this week, too. GRADE: D.

The floor is open. Feel free to add your two cents.

EP

12 comments:

  1. Not for nothing Ernie but it was a two point win.

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  2. Every once in a while, Gilbride calls a game that takes a couple years off my life. You can't convert a third and long by throwing a 3-yard screen to the wideout, especially when your is quarterback throwing the deep ball effectively. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the best hope for the Giants offense is to throw the deep and over the middle. This would also help keep their safeties from coming into the box and shutting down our the running game like the Cowbays did Sunday.

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  3. The running game to me looks like they are trying to go off center or guard into a run stopping D instead of off tackle in prior years ... The Redskins and Cowboys seemed to dare the Jints to throw ... Mannings seems tobe on the same page with these kids instead of years past when he had no timing with the idiot tight end Shockey and Plexico ... just goes to show what reps will do for you ...

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  4. OSI needs to stop playing so lazy.Hey Osi stop running up the field every play forgetting about the run..Whats his problem.At Least 180 of the 250 yards were right up his ***

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  5. Howard:

    Thanks. Lost my calculator. Now you know why I'm a sportswriter and not a mathematician. Duly corrected.

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  6. I couldn't agree more with all the grades. Especially the coaching grade. I can't understand why, after ABUSING the Dallas secondary, they didn't send receivers to the end zone more often.

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  7. I think you were a little harsh on the coaching. I'd give em a C+. The offense scored and the ball was thrown down the field a little more. Teams will stop packing the box and the running game will be fine.

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  8. The Red Zone failure is not new. It must be addressed before it costs the Giants a game. Gilbride has failed to improve this obvious deficiency for a while. His status must be looked at.

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  9. I like Kevin Gilbride, and I think he's one of the best OC's in the league. I think it's a bit over-aggressive to say he should be replaced. Does he need to work on his third down play calling? Of course. Should he be fired because we were 0-5 in the red zone? No. As long as he doesn't take over the HC spot when Coughlin retires. I'm content with him where he is.

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  10. I'd love to see a breakdown of yards per rush for Dallas in the various gaps.

    EP - nice giving props to Webster - his week 1 performance was generally under-appreciated imo as most people focused on that silly helmet grabbing thing.

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  11. Webster is a shut down corner now. Reese has spent the last few drafts rebuilding the secondary and the results are paying off. Hopefully Ross can get back into action soon.

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  12. Great summary Ernie. I agree, the red zone offense is beyond horrible and I have no idea why they threw to Hedgecock at the 11. Awful. Maybe they were trying to make the defense think about him later on by giving him that play, but it really was surprising. I'm 26 and turning grey watching plays like that.

    You're right, why can't they just spread it out and throw the ball down there? We're so conservative at times, it makes me sick. I've always had questions about Gilbride in the red zone. Hopefully Eli will pull a Peyton soon and start calling his own plays.

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