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.
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