Saturday, September 26, 2009

Game 3 Scouting Report

GIANTS (2-0) vs. TAMPA BAY BUCS (0-2)
THE TEAMS: The Giants come off season-opening division victories over the Redskins and Cowboys, while the Bucs come off consecutive losses to the Cowboys and Bills. The Giants had to come back on the final two-minute drill to position themselves for a field goal to win. Both Mario Manningham and Steve Smith had great days, catching 10 balls each for respective 150 and 134-yard days, with one touchdown each. DE Justin Tuck got hurt in the first half when Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams tripped him, injuring his left shoulder. How he plays -- if he plays at all -- could have a big impact on the game. The defense has scored touchdowns in both games, and the Giants have needed each of those in a combined eight-point margin of victory. Manningham and Smith sit among the league's top four in total receiving yards, Smith tied for second with 214 and Manningham in fourth with 208.
The Bucs have yet to look good, though Tom Coughlin has tried to sell his players on their big-play ability. Byron Leftwich's 42-yard scoring throw to tight end Kellen Winslow was a case in point. But Leftwich has been making more big plays in the other team's favor than his own.
THE HISTORY: The Giants lead the regular season series 10-6, and have won six of the last nine meetings. The last time they met was in 2006, a 17-3 Giants win in the Meadowlands. Their last meeting at Raymond James Stadium came in the postseason of 2007, a 24-14 Giants win in the NFC Wildcard game. Since this is the middle game of a three-game road sequence -- only one other team in the NFL has as long a string -- a victory here would assure them of a winning stretch.
INJURY REPORT: Giants -- S Kenny Phillips (knee, IR), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring), DT Chris Canty (calf), LB Clint Sintim (groin), WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), and RB Danny Ware (elbow) are out. DE Justin Tuck (shoulder), WR Domenik Hixon (knee) and CB Kevin Dockery (hamstring), and Adam Koets (ankle) are questionable. WR Mario Manningham (shoulder) is probable.
Bucs -- C Jeff Faine (triceps) and DL Kyle Moore (knee) are out. WR Maurice Stovall (knee) is doubtful. WR Antonio Bryant (knee), RB Earnest Graham (hamstring), LB Matt McCoy (back), and RB Cadillac Williams (knee) are questionable. DT Roy Miller (ankle), RB Clifton Smith (quad), TE John Gilmore (ankle) and CB Elbert Mack (shoulder) are probable.
WATCH THIS: Now would be an ideal time for the Giants to get their running game going. With Manningham nursing a sore shoulder and teams getting ready to take that safety out of the box to bolster pass coverage, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw may now have a clearer field. Certainly, they need to do better than their combined 201 yards and no touchdowns over the first two games. Look for the Giants to spread the field and run both players more off-tackle than up the middle. The Tampa Bay defense lends itself to the running game, too, as it is ranked 27th against the ground game with a 168-yard average.

The Bucs' front seven is smallish and non-descript enough for the Giants' offensive line to make this their first real downhill blocking game. If Kareem McKenzie can take care of LDE Jimmy Wilkerson, the Giants may be able to run all day to that side. David Diehl may have his hands full this week against DE Gaines Adams, the Bucs' first-rounder in '07 that coach Raheem Morris nearly benched this week for lack of effort. Adams could come out with a renewed vigor, which would mean trouble for Eli Manning. Former Viking nose tackle Chris Hovan will present a decidedly tougher task for guards Rich Seubert and Chris Snee. One thing is for sure, though. The Giants need to stick with the running game to minimize the risk of cornerback Ronde Barber and safety Jermaine Phillips picking off Manning.

Also of high importance is keeping the running game going to shorten the game and keep the Tampa Bay offense off the field. It may be true that Byron Leftwich is just about washed up, but he can still fling it. Just remember the list. Tuck's a gametime decision and probably won't be there. Phillips, Ross, Dockery, Canty; all gone. And Osi Umenyiora needs desperately to redeem himself after a horrible game against Dallas in which he over-pursued numerous times against the cutback. Mathias Kiwanuka will start in place of Tuck, but Dave Tollefson will get major time in the rotation. He's a good pass rusher, but not so much a run-stopper. He'll have to step it up, though.

Leftwich, using tight end Kellen Winslow and wide receiver Michael Clayton, proved the Bucs can still hit the big play. And there's also fast Antonio Bryant out there, too. Without Phillips' ball-hawking prowess back there, the secondary becomes ever more vulnerable. The pickup of Aaron Rouse off Green Bay waivers wasn't bad, since he, too, is a ballhawk. But he's got so many more holes in his game than Phillips that one can't help but assume a major hit on the dime. C.C. Brown will have to be ultra-disciplined at starting strong safety, especially when he's called to stack the box against the two-headed monster of Cadillac Williams and Derek Ward. The physical Brown will also be called upon to play the deep centerfield spot, but that could cause problems since he's known as more of a hitter than a coverage guy. He'll miss tackles, too. The Giants can compensate for that by playing free safety Michael Johnson in the box at times. "There are ways to maneuver so that one guy is up and one guy is down the majority of the time," Tom Coughlin said. "It is not going to be an all of the time thing. But both guys have to be able to play at the line of scrimmage and play in deep center field position – or deep half."

Speaking of Ward, Tuck has been forwarding some of his trash-texts to his teammates. "He's been texting since the preseason," Tuck said. "Says he's going to run all over us."

He'd best not, for the Giants' sake. After allowing 251 yards and three touchdowns last week, and a total of 336 yards and four TDs for the season, they desperately need an improved attack whether they're doing it with half a roster or not. If the Bucs get the ground game going, then Leftwich will be that much more effective in the air.

Of course, if the Giants get their ground attack going, then the play-action to Kevin Boss or the wide receivers comes into play. Whatever they do, they should probably consider staying away from fullback Madison Hedgecock as a Red Zone receiver. Maybe this is the week third-rounder Ramses Barden makes his appearance on the end zone fade. Or perhaps somebody else. Anything besides running Jacobs straight into the line to try and break their 0-for-8 Red Zone streak.

If they don't score from in close in hot Tampa, it could turn into a long, fruitless day.

PREDICTION: Tampa Bay is regarded as one of the worst teams in the league, but that doesn't mean they're not dangerous. And just because the Giants' haven't gotten their running game going yet doesn't mean it won't happen. They'll make it happen against the Bucs, and this one won't have to come down to a fourth-quarter comeback. The defense doesn't score, but the Giants score two Red Zone touchdowns. Giants 23-10.

T-Rock's Pick: Yeah, okay. That's not the eminent Tom Rock from Newsday. But it's pretty darned close. We've decided to use him as our guest forecaster this week because, well, he's a real nice guy. You have to be when you travel 500 miles every day from the east end of Long Island just to give his readers the latest. Anyway, he'll be in sunny Tampa with the rest of the guys and gals come Sunday. His pick: Giants, 27-17.



  1. Manningham and Smith sit among the league's top three in total receiving yards, Smith tied for first with 214 and Manningham in third with 208.

    I've enjoyed reading your blog but please try not to make such a careless mistake.

    This WAS true before the Monday night game when Dallas Clark went off.

    Clark has 222 yards receiving (1st)

    Smith is tied for second with holmes (214) which pushed Manningham to fourth with 208.

    We all make mistakes.

    Good blog otherwise. I hope you're right about your prediction the injries are beginning to worry me.