Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Phillips Has Surgery

This via Kenny Phillips' official website:

He had surgery yesterday to alleviate the patellofemoral arthritis in the left knee that put him on the IR and expects to resume his career next season. But he also expects a long rehab road ahead of him.

Famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery in Alabama, and Phillips headed back to the area today to start rehabbing immediately.

"I don’t remember anything because I was under anesthesia," Phillips wrote. "My knee is wrapped up and I have a brace and crutches. They gave me a lot of meds. The knee doesn’t really hurt right now, but the meds are making me feel sick."

Those things will tend to do that. But watching his teammates try to improve to 4-0 this week probably won't help his demeanor, either.

"I won’t be at the games on the sidelines," he said. "I’ll probably watch at home on TV. But I’ll be at the facility first thing tomorrow to start my rehab. Nothing major at first, just icing and massages. I might get off these crutches in about 8 weeks."

Phillips said he won't even be able to run for four or five months.

"This kind of injury takes a long time to heal," he said. "It’s a long process, I can’t even run for 4-5 months. It’s going to be a while before I’m back to 100 percent."

EP

Other Injuries

DE Justin Tuck sat out practice but said his left shoulder felt strong after his eight-play display in Tampa.

"I'm pretty much full-go other than collisions in practice," Tuck said.

Tuck indicated that he was warned ahead of time not to try to use his bad shoulder when he went in, which made for some uncomfortable moments.

"I was scared to even try to use it a little bit," Tuck said. "I felt limitations, but no pain. Nothing like that. It's just getting stronger and it feels pretty good right now. I'm hoping next game I can go arm-and-a-half, arm-and-three-quarters, something like that.

"I told everybody in the locker room I haven't been this nervous since my first day walking on the campus of Notre Dame. It felt like a brand new start. I realize I hadn't missed a game yet, but it just felt that way. I wasn't very confident, but luckily I played pretty well and the confidence started coming back."

There's still a better-than-even chance Tuck won't be able to go a whole game. And the coaches may still want to keep him out of typical first and second-down situations and limit him to obvious pass-rush situations, as they did last week.

"Pass blockers are going backwards, and there's more of an opportunity to get a running start," he said. "Run blockers are coming forward. The way we looked at it, there was more opportunity to get myself hurt playing the run than pass. This week, (the shoulder) is a lot stronger, and hopefully I'll get the opportunity to go in there and help stop the run."

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WR Hakeem Nicks and his sprained foot took limited participation in team drills for the first time since the opening week. He said the goal is to play this week, though he's still working through some pain.

WR Domenik Hixon (knee) did the same, and reported no pain.

"It felt good," Hixon said. "I just need to make sure I can compete at a high level. I can do everything. I just need to make sure I can do it and full speed and not risk further injury."

EP

This From Bradshaw


Ahmad Bradshaw said he didn't think he could injure his sprained right foot and ankle any more than it is. But I'm not sure whether it would be safe yet to count him in for Sunday. Still, he sounded as if he was preparing to play, even though he will probably sit out practice this week wearing that protective boot.

"I don't think it'll get any worse," Bradshaw said. "I think it's been to the furthest extent."

The ankle injury dates back to the Marshall product's true freshman year at the University of Virgina, a team he never played for because of an incident of underage drinking.

"I don't think it can get any worse than that," Bradshaw said. "I went through a lot of pain then, and then the next year (at Marshall) I played through a lot of pain. I'd go in, play a couple of plays, get hit, and have to come out for a couple of plays."

Bradshaw said his running style -- a mixture of power and cutting -- contributes to the chronic nature of the ankle. He said a few days of rest should help.

"Just stay off it and take a lot of pressure off the foot," Bradshaw said. "My ankle's held up until this year. It really hasn't given me too many problems. A little pain here and there. But this year, when somebody falls on it wrong, it hurts. I have to fight through it.

"I went through a lot of pain with it Sunday."

It'll be interesting to see if he does play, and how much he plays. With Danny Ware nowhere near ready to resume, it may be up to Gartrell Johnson to pick up some of Bradshaw's carries. The newcomer said he's ready, and that he's progressed far enough into the playbook to hande just about anything.

"I come out every day and prepare myself for any role I may have to perform in the game," Johnson said. "I've been staying out there, doing extra work."

EP

Receivers

And here's another piece of video showing WRs Domenik Hixon (87) and Hakeem Nicks (88) getting some individual work in. No telling how much they did in team drills, but the coaches were encouraged to see them make some progress.

By the way, in case you missed the other video, the only players on the side today were DE Justin Tuck (shoulder), DT Chris Canty (calf), RB Danny Ware (elbow) and RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot and ankle).




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Practice Video

Got some practice video right here. But first, let me tell you about Ahmad Bradshaw. He appeared at practice wearing a walking boot over his injured right ankle and foot. Coughlin said the ankle is an aggravation of an old injury, but the foot was incurred during the Tampa Bay game and was taped during the game.

Though Bradshaw continued to play, it got sore. And apparently it's serious enough to keep him out of practice at least for today. Here's the thing, though. It's the rare player who hobbles around in a boot during the week who actually plays on Sunday. Though Coughlin said he expects Bradshaw to improve during the week, it's possible Gartrell Johnson may have to take a larger role against the Chiefs.

That wouldn't be a bad thing, since Johnson showed some toughness and catching ability last week as he mopped up in the fourth quarter.

Here's the video.


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We'll Find Out

With any luck, we'll find out today whether some or all of the Giants' wounded will return to practice. We're looking for any encouraging signs from CB Aaron Ross (hamstring), CB Kevin Dockery (hamstring), DT Chris Canty (calf), WR Domenik Hixon (knee), WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), and LB Clint Sintim (groin). Last week, Tom Coughlin appeared to be getting a bit impatient with the bumps and bruises. So even seeing a couple of them back at work would be cause for anticipation.

We'll also be keeping an eye on offensive linemen Rich Seubert (left shoulder) and Kareem McKenzie (right knee). Both are expected to be out there. Also, Ahmad Bradshaw is on the preliminary list with an ankle/foot problem, and Justin Tuck remains on the list with a shoulder despite taking eight plays Sunday.

While we're at it, let's talk about a non-injury related topic. I'm not as ticked off about Lawrence Tynes as a lot of you guys seem to be. Yeah, he's inconsistent. But he does hit them when it counts, and that's what counts. The kicks don't have to be pretty. They just have to get through the uprights.

Yes, he's the only kicker in the league to have missed not one, but two field goals from inside 30 yards. But he also leads the league in points. He and Steve Gostkowski of New England are the only ones with as many as 10 field goal attempts right now, and Gostkowski has hit nine of those, as opposed to Tynes' eight.

I kind of regard Tynes as the football version of Don Stanhouse. Remember him? He used to close games for Earl Weaver's Orioles in the early '80s. Called him "Fullpack." Know why? Because he'd usually get the job done, but not before causing Weaver to go through a full pack of cigs when he'd walk the bases loaded.

Tynes is kind of like that. He'll drive you absolutely nuts by missing a 29-yarder with the score close. But then, in the closing seconds, he'll hit not one, but two as the opposing coach tries to ice him. Or he'll miss a big one in the postseason, only to kick his team into the Super Bowl on the last try.

As for the kickoffs everybody complains about, yeah, he's a little short. But he does have two touchbacks, and that lands him in the middle of the NFL pack.

As ugly as he sometimes seems, I'm not sure Tynes is going anywhere unless he absolutely collapses. But he is the kind of guy that makes a coach keep the short list ready at all times. It's just not time to pull it out of the desk yet. Until he actually hurts you, you stick with him.

I'm just sayin'...

Any opinions?

EP

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In The Pink

Eli Manning, Kevin Boss, Michael Boley, Mathias Kiwanuka, Domenik Hixon, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora will wear pink cleats next month.

Oh, grow up. I know what you're thinking. NFL. Panzy league. Not!!!! These guys will be part of an NFL initiative for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. They'll go right along with the pink-garbed officials, pink-sheathed goal posts, and pink-colored banners that will be present in every NFL stadium that month.

Listen. This is important stuff here. Get out the checkbook and make a contribution. You won't regret it.

Then, do yourself a real favor and got to www.NFL.com/pink to get tips on breast cancer detection and prevention.

As I said, important stuff.

EP

Developing Eli

Here's a little video from Eli Manning on the overall development of this 3-0 squad.


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Good Think Piece

My guy over at Big Blue View, Ed Valentine, wrote a pretty strong think piece on the merits and liabilities of kicker Lawrence Tynes. I might just have some thoughts myself in our Friday Q&A tradeoff, but here's his piece to mull over in the meantime.

EP

Game 3 Report Card

Well, that was a lot easier than expected, and it's not just because Tampa Bay is a bad team. Remember, those guys put up a bunch of yards against Dallas just two weeks ago. And, even though we picked them to lose, who expected a shutout from an injury-riddled defense?


Lots of good marks coming up, all around.


QUARTERBACK: Another great job by Eli Manning in a 14-of-24, 161-yard effort. No picks for a second straight game. Two touchdown passes, including a great throw over the cornerback on Sinorice Moss' touchdown. Best of all, because of the running game's efficiency, he only had to throw 24 times, which is right about where you want him. Have to give him a lot of credit for that big first-possession completion to Steve Smith that was threaded right through Aqib Talib's grasp. Thought that was coming back the other way. He also did a good job getting new target Travis Beckum into the passing game, and hit eight receivers before David Carr mopped up and added a ninth target in Gartrell Johnson. GRADE: A.


RUNNING BACKS: 226 yards on the ground, 104 from Ahmad Bradshaw and 92 and a touchdown from Brandon Jacobs. Thanks, they needed that. The breakout game after two weeks of slogging around should get this bunch back on track. Bradshaw looked sharper than Jacobs in breaking off the longest run of the game, a 38-yarder that positioned them for Steve Smith's 4-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Kind of worried about Jacobs, actually. He looked tentative at times, picking at instead of hitting the holes as hard as a 264-pound running back should. He does tend toward fragility, so perhaps he's unconciously trying to pace himself. Still, they handed him the ball 26 times. Tom Coughlin said he didn't notice any tentativeness in Jacobs, however. "No," Coughlin said, when asked about the observation. "It's getting better. We're all getting better in the run." Jacobs did get dragged down for a loss at the Bucs' 3 on the missed field goal drive, but Coughlin said that wasn't his fault. Gartrell Johnson did a nice job running the clock in the fourth quarter and can look forward to having his playbook expanded. Grade: A.

RECEIVERS: This rapport thing Manning has going with Steve Smith is getting awfully good. Smith seems to be there everytime he's needed, whether it's going out on goal-line slant for a touchdown catch or battling off the Bucs' top cornerback while falling on a sideline grab for a first down. Manning is starting to trust this guy, a lot, and it showed with his team-high seven catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. His diving 10-yard catch set up Moss' first reception, a touchdown. Mario Manningham put up another strong effort with four catches for 55 yards. Interesting work from the tight ends as Kevin Boss and Beckum caught two passes each, and Darcy Johnson was thrown to once. Manning threw to the three tight ends seven times, indicating a growing confidence in all of them. GRADE: A.


OFFENSIVE LINE: These guys love to block downhill, and that's exactly what this game came down to. Once they got the momentum against a defense that was lighter than average up front, they did what they were supposed to do, which is basically manhandle them. The 226 yards on the ground and no sacks for a second straight game tells most of the story. Best part: Manning got hit twice, just like last week in Dallas. They love it when the quarterback comes out with a clean uniform. The most encouraging stuff happened after both RT Kareem McKenzie and LG Rich Seubert came out of the game with respective knee and shoulder injuries. Kevin Boothe at guard and second-rounder Will Beatty at right tackle both did commendable jobs in both pass and run blocking. Beatty actually played both tackles, seeing action on the goal line team, the short-yardage team, and the field goal team before taking over for McKenzie. Coughlin said he did well with his assignments and will be in the mix with Boothe and Guy Wimper to replace McKenzie if he can't go Sunday. GRADE: A.


DEFENSIVE LINE: For a banged up front, this unit did a super job against a ground game that recorded almost 200 yards against Dallas two weeks ago. Derrick Ward was held to just five carries for two yards. Okay, part of that was the fact that the Giants jumped up 14-0 and forced them into a passing game. But the other part was Fred Robbins working his way through inside double-teams, at one time splitting the blockers to drag down Ward for minus-5. No sacks for a second straight week, but who needs them when you can scare a guy like Byron Leftwich into throwing prematurely just by growling at him? Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora, and Dave Tollefson recorded seven of the 10 official hits the Giants laid on him. GRADE: A.


LINEBACKERS: Danny Clark made a nice tackle on Leftwich's second-quarter scramble that could have gone for major yards. Antonio Pierce made a touchdown-saving breakup in the fourth quarter a split second before tight end Jerramy Stevens came free behind him. And once again, Pierce was excellent in putting his teammates in the right position. Michael Boley had three tackles including one for a loss. GRADE: B+


SECONDARY: Aaron Ross can take his time coming back from his hamstring because Terrell Thomas continues to grow at the right corner spot. Not only did he make his first interception of the season, but he got a hit on Leftwich and finished second to Corey Webster with three tackles. Coughlin said his body positioning on tackles, which he blamed for misses the previous two weeks, is improving. C.C. Brown did fine as IRed safety Kenny Phillips' replacement with two tackles. Bruce Johnson missed a tackle, but did nothing to put the team's chances in danger. GRADE: B.


SPECIAL TEAMS: Oh, boy. Poor Lawrence Tynes. He missed a second field goal from inside 30, this one coming at 14-0, when it was still a game. That no doubt rankled Coughlin. But the coach said he's not planning on trying out any kickers this week, so Tynes gets another chance. Kickoff coverage was good, as only one came back as far as the 30, and Tynes had a touchback. Jeff Feagles banged out four punts for a 50-yard average. GRADE: B.


COACHING: Can't get on Kevin Gilbride for this one, in any manner. Yeah, they were unsuccessful in three of five Red Zone situations, but at least they scored two touchdowns there on a Jacobs run and a pass play that had the Bucs chasing three receivers on the right side. Looked more like a high weave in basketball to me. I'm just saying...Also, great run-pass mix, one of the benefits of getting up on the scoreboard quickly. Can't knock the defense, either. You shut out a team on 86 total yards, 36 offensive plays, and five first downs, and you've earned your gruel for the next week. Give Coughlin credit, too, for preparing a team that could well have been complacent or spent after the previous week's cliff-hanger in Dallas. He spent the week pumping Tampa Bay's explosiveness, but a couple of Hail Mary's should cover that. GRADE: A.


Tell me what you think.

EP

Monday, September 28, 2009

Collateral Damage

Not that there's a lot of Bucs fans on this blog, but here's some interesting fallout from Sunday. The Giants not only cost Tampa Bay quarterback Byron Leftwich his starting job, but also the No. 2 spot. Coach Raheem Morris pulled the trigger on that today, making the more mobile Josh Johnson the starter after he recorded four of his team's five first downs on the Bucs' final drive. Third quarterback Josh Freeman moves up to second.

My guess is they probably ended Leftwich's career. Two years too late, maybe, but ended just the same.

EP

What's That You Say?

You've been dying for a little video on Steve Smith talking about how the passing game opens up because of the running game? Well, here it is, straight out of the Giants' locker room.


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Some Good News

Looks like a bunch of the Giants' injured will be headed back to practice, at least, on Wednesday. WR Domenik Hixon (knee), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring), CB Kevin Dockery (hamstring), and DT Chris Canty (calf) are all expected to practice as of now. But Tom Coughlin warned that no one should take that as meaning any are ready to get back into game action.

"This has been going on a long time now," Coughlin said, referring specifically to Canty and Hixon. "They're encouraged. But let's not get ahead of ourselves."

When asked if he was ready to resume practice, Ross said in exasperated tones, "I hope so. It's day-to-day."

The injuries out of yesterday's games also put some players in doubt, though none of them seemed particularly serious. T Kareem McKenzie's MRI showed a slight knee sprain, and Coughlin said he was hopeful he could practice Wednesday. McKenzie offered a simple wave and a "Spectacular" and "Wonderful" to inquiries about his health.

LB Chase Blackburn said he sustained a "high (right) ankle sprain" but said he expected to be ready for Sunday in Kansas City. That should raise eyebrows, however, since even the most mild of high ankle sprains typically take weeks to heal. Blackburn also re-entered the game after having the ankle taped. "As with a lot of our guys, Chase will be in the training room for 24 hours where he can control the swelling. He came back and finshed the game, so..."

G Rich Seubert had his shoulder dislocated, but doctors were able to pop it back in. Coughlin said he expected him to be ready for Sunday.

By the way, DE Justin Tuck took eight snaps, all on third down, and his injured left shoulder held up well. He should see increased time this week if nothing stiffens up over the next couple of days.

EP

Some Highights For You

Here are the highlights of yesterday's 24-0 win. Pay close attention to Ahmad Bradshaw's 38-yard jaunt, the best of the Giants' breakout rushing day.

And while we're at it, anyone have any theories on where Osi Umenyiora might be. He seemed a bit more active yesterday than he was against Dallas, but he still came away with nothing. Then again, the Bucs did run just 36 offensive plays. Interesting thought, though.

Here's the highlights.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Game Summary

So much for a letdown after that emotional, pulsating finish in Dallas. As it turned out, the Giants had a beach day in Tampa despite starting half a secondary and using Justin Tuck sparingly up front. The 24-0 shutout, accomplished on a nice fourth-quarter goal line series that included end zone breakups on third and fourth down, was the Giants' first since Oct. 30, 2005, a 36-0 win over Washington at home. It was also their first road shutout since Nov. 20, 1983 in Philadelphia, 23-0. Of course, that first Bill Parcells' team gladly would have traded the shutout for where these 3-0 Giants stand now, considering that squad finished 3-12-1.

The Giants did exactly as they planned, and what they should have done, against an undersized defense. They ran the ball. And they threw it around, too. And they stopped the run. Can't beat holding an opponent to five first downs, four of which came on the Bucs' final drive. Twenty-eight yards rushing, 58 yards passing, 86 total yards. Gonna be a lot of happy film watchers tomorrow.

Okay, maybe not everybody. Lawrence Tynes missed a 21-yard chippie, the second time he's missed inside 30 this year. Don't believe Tom Coughlin will do anything about that, though, since he's been hitting the truly big ones. Or, at least, he'll wait until Tynes does something really bad, like cost them a game, to make a change. But certainly the offense should be happy as it got to use all three running backs and put Ahmad Bradshaw over the 100-yard mark at 104, and Brandon Jacobs close enough to it at 92 yards. Gartrell Johnson did a nice job in garbage time, too. The run-pass ratio was 49-27, a testiment to just how well the offensive line handled the Bucs' front 7.

A quick look at the schedule shows Kansas City and Oakland up next, neither of whom should scare this team. So if they hit New Orleans at less than 5-0 now, it'll be a surprise. Not that anyone should get excited here. Tampa Bay came into the season rated as one of the NFL's worst teams. The Giants simply did what they should have done to inferior competition, and even at that they let the Bucs hang around way too long into the third quarter. But they did put them away, and that's something they don't often do against anyone.

So, hey, be happy, everybody! Celebrate those 397 yards of total offense, no turnovers for a second straight game, and possession advantage of 43:38 to 16:22.

THE BIG PLAYS:

Eli Manning's needle-like pass to Steve Smith for a 12-yard gain to the Tampa Bay 20 setup the first touchdown, a 7-yard walk-in by Jacobs in the first quarter. It looked then like the Giants would mix the run and pass well.

Terrell Thomas' first-quarter interception off Byron Leftwich gave the Giants possession at their 34, but it was Bradshaw's 38-yard run around right tackle on which he shook a linebacker that set up a second touchdown. That, by the way, came on short-yardage (third-and-1), a troublesome down-and-distance in the past. But they did convert three of those in the first two drives, one which produced Jacobs' 4-yard touchdown run.

THE VETS:

Ahmad Bradshaw: Can't credit him enough, as he actually ran better and strong than Jacobs. He killed the inside defense with his short cutbacks up the middle. Jacobs didn't do poorly, but he didn't look as sharp as Bradshaw.

Fred Robbins: The whole defensive line contributed well; even Osi Umenyiora, who looked more active despite his failing to record a tackle. But Robbins was the best as he fought off those inside double-teams to apply pressure on Leftwich. Plus, he made a great play against the run, dropping Derrick Ward for five yards in the second quarter.

Steve Smith: Nice 4-yard catch for a touchdown, and he led the receivers with seven catches for 63 yards. Outstanding grab on a diving 10-yard throw that was challenged, but upheld, to keep a fourth-quarter touchdown drive going on third-and-8.

Sinorice Moss: Wondering where he's been hiding? Wonder no more. They put in in on that touchdown drive, ran him past Aquib Talib, and then watched him leap over Talib for his first reception of the year, an 18-yard touchdown catch. Might just have earned himself a little more time with that.

Kevin Boss: His 24-yard catch set up Tynes' 26-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead, and he made several nice blocks along the way, too.

Antonio Pierce: His deflection as Jerramy Stevens was coming free at the goal line saved the Giants the shutout.

THE KIDS:

Travis Beckum: Nice to see the third-round tight end come out a little bit with his first two catches of the season for eight yards.

Bruce Johnson: Another nice shoestring tackle, but got called for holding on a punt return and missed a tackle. No harm done, though.

Will Beatty: The second-round tackle came in after Kareem McKenzie went off with a knee injury in the fourth quarter and pass protected well.

The Ugly Stuff:

After that kind of performance, this catagory goes almost naked. But let's put Tynes in there, just for giggles. I don't hate this guy as much as many of you do. Yeah, he missed a 21-yarder, but he hit another to put the Giants up 17-0, basically out of reach for the hapless Bucs.

THE MISS:

It's really on anyone who shut the game off before Gartrell Johnson came in. Did a real nice job on running the clock, picking up 23 yards on six carries.

THE BUMPS:

Probably should be worried about McKenzie because he never returned. Have to find out what that's all about tomorrow.

G Rich Seubert also went off for good with a fourth-quarter shoulder. He's had problem with the right shoulder this week, so he probably just aggravated things. But if it doesn't get better, we could see both Beatty and Seubert's replacement Kevin Boothe in the starting lineup.

EP

The Game

UPDATE: That's it. Eli's kneeling it out for a 24-0 win. First shutout win for the Giants since 36-0 over Washington in 2005, and first on the road since the blanked Philly in 1983. Summary will be up later.

What do you guys think of all this?

UPDATE: Looks like the Giants are going to get their shutout. Amazing time of possession difference. A well-deserved walk in the park after a couple of tough division games. I'm starting to think 5-0 is a distinct possibility now.

UPDATE: Guess that defense does want the shutout. After a near miss on Michael Clayton's drop in the back of the end zone, they pressured Johnson into a bad throw on second down, then got a deflection from Antonio Pierce to save them on third down, and a breakup from Terrell Thomas on fourth down. Nice job.

UPDATE: Cofield's down with a right calf cramp as the Bucs drive to the Giants' 5. Maybe this Josh Johnson kid, in for Leftwich, is the Bucs' answer. Doesn't matter. Only 6:31 to go, but don't you think the defense would love a shutout here? Those chances don't come around very often.

UPDATE: Coughin's doing something very smart here, putting in David Carr and Gartrell Johnson for the last 12 minutes of garbage time. Keeps your main guys healthy. And this is going to be Johnsoon's role as the third RB anyway.

UPDATE: First catch of the season for Moss, and it's a touchdown as he leaps for Manning's throw over Aqib Talib. Well, they're 3-for-5 in the Red Zone today. Got a long way to even things up from the first two games, but it's a good start. Giants 24-0.

UPDATE: Play is upheld and Tampa Bay loses it's second timeout. First down on the 15.

UPDATE: Tampa Bay's challenging Smith's diving catch off Eli's wobbler. Looked good to me, though.

UPDATE: Third quarter ends as Jacobs brings it down to the Bucs' 25. Giants 17-0. Would take a Tampa Bay miracle for the Giants to lose this one. Have no idea, absolutely no idea, how the Cowboys gave up so many rushing yards to these guys.

UPDATE: Rich Seubert's out with a shoulder problem. But Bradshaw still got 9 with Kevin Boothe in at left guard. Giants should just keep the ball on the ground now. But who listens to me? Manning hits Smith for 9.

UPDATE: McKenzie's being carted off. Tampa Bay made its first first-down of the game at 4:37 of the third quarter.

UPDATE: Gonna go out on a limb here and say even the Red Zone problems aren't going to hurt them in this one. No sign of a Bucs offense at all. But Kareem McKenzie just went off with a right knee problem.

UPDATE: Didn't like the third-and-10 handoff to Bradshaw from the 12. But at least Tynes made this chip shot from 26. Giants 17-0.

UPDATE: Can somebody tell me what they're seeing with Jacobs? He looks a step slow to me. But I love what they're doing with Bradshaw.

UPDATE: Another three-and-out for Tampa Bay. They didn't have a first down in the first half. Looks like they may not get one in the second half. Advice for the Giants: Score right now and put them away.


UPDATE: Just a heads up. There's something real screwy going on with the blog host. If some of these updates get delayed, they'll eventually be up. And I'd be interested in knowing if anybody's having trouble posting comments.

UPDATE: Nice third-and-short conversion as Bradshaw goes up the middle on spread formation. Then Eli throws to Hedgecock incomplete. And now they'll probably have to settle for a field goal. Don't quite understand all this faith in Hedgecock as a receiver. It's third-and-9 now from the 23. But after Manningham gets it to the 13 and Jacobs picks his way up the middle to the 2, Piscatelli flies in from the edge and drops him for a loss. Then, Tynes misses his second field goal of the season from inside 30, a 21-yard chip shot, to keep the score at 14-0. Guarantee it, this is going to figure huge in the second half. Another situation where the Giants were positioned to bury somebody early on the scoreboard and let them off the hook. Nothing worse than letting a bad team hang around, but that's what the Giants have historically done.

UPDATE: Game's settled into a punting drill. Four straight three-and-outs, two each.

UPDATE: Looks like conditions are getting a little rough down there with the rain. Could make running a bit tough, but the Giants ought to stick with the run-pass ratio even if it does.

UPDATE: Tampa Bay just went three-and-out as the defense stuffed Ward twice and then smelled out a screen pass at the Bucs' 20. This, by the way, is the same unit that gave up 251 rushing yards last week.

UPDATE: Eli just threw a nice pass to Smith for a touchdown from the 4 for a second Red Zone touchdown. Beauty of this one was the three-receiver formation with Smith, Boss, and Hagan causing coverage havoc.

UPDATE: Can't beat a nice 38-yard run by Bradshaw where he shook off a tackle for the last 10 yards. They're third-and-goal from the 5 now as the first quarter ends, Giants up 7-0. Anybody want to see play-action right now? A little Kevin Boss, maybe?

UPDATE: See, the thing about Byron Leftwich is you're never really in danger, even if you make a mistake. Leftwich just gave it back on a play-action pass to heavens knows who, which Terrell Thomas intercepted in great field position. Guarantee you one thing. If the Giants go plus-4 in turnovers, they won't have to worry about any last-minute field goals to win this one.

UPDATE: Bad news here. Giants go three-and-out, and then louse up the punt coverage as Feagles does his job in pinning Clifton Smith to the sideline, only to watch Smith return it 20 yards when the first guy down misses a tackle.

UPDATE: Tuck's in on third down and Osi Umenyiora gets pressure on Leftwich's short pass, forcing a punt. Giants will be smart to use Tuck like that. Just limit him to third-down situations.

UPDATE: See what happens when you mix things up? Great catch by Smith at the 20. Honestly, don't know how that got past the corner. Then a real good run by Bradshaw and a walk-in by Jacobs from the 7 to break that 0-for-8 Red Zone drought. The O-line is manhandling the Bucs' front seven at this point. Giants 7-0. But hey, Eli Manning, be careful down there. You nearly got intercepted at the 7 on that blocked pass.

UPDATE: Giants have gone straight to the run, and convert a third-and-1 with Jacobs up the middle. I think they're gonna pound today. That's the first third-and-short conversion this year.

UPDATE: Feels like 102 on the field in Tampa. That DL rotation's gonna get a workout. And we're off.

Update: They're going to get to say hello to Derrick Ward right away. He's starting ahead of Cadillac Williams, whose injury will supposedly limit his action today. Bet a couple of guys on defense would like to plant him right way.

About 15 minutes to kickoff. Get the brats and beer ready!

EP

Inactives -- Tuck dressed

Here's a big surprise. Justin Tuck, after failing to practice all week, is dressed. And that tells me that even if he doesn't start, he's going to play a significant role with his injured left shoulder harnessed. Bet he just wore down the medical staff into letting him play. Now, we'll have to see how much he's used and how effective he is. However much he does, gotta love the heart, no?

Here's the Giants' inactives:
RB Danny Ware
CB Aaron Ross
CB Kevin Dockery
T Adam Koets
WR Domenik Hixon
WR Hakeem Nicks
LB Clint Sintim
DT Chris Canty

And here's the Tampa Bay inactives:

QB Josh Freeman
RB Earnest Graham
C Jeff Faine
T Marc Dile
T Demar Dotson
WR Maurice Stovall
DT Dre Moore
DE Kyle Moore

Antonio Bryant, who was questionable going in, is active.

EP

Just a Reminder

We're live-blogging the game today. Same deal. Lines for comments will be open all game long on the game page, so join in.

EP

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.





EP

Friday, September 25, 2009

Coughlin on Phillips

Tom Coughlin had made his initial statements in the Giants announcement on the IRing of Kenny Phillips yesterday. But here he is talking to the press today.

Asked how Phillips is doing the day after the news, Coughlin said, "Well, he is very emotional about it. He expected to play and wanted to play. And he is playing well. And he is very upset that it wasn’t the direction that this was to go in. And he fully understood the management part of it. And obviously he could it, played well in the game with it.

"So he is very emotional about it. And as I said – and I have tried to be consistent with this – the first thing that I say is: our concern is about the player – the player’s health and his emotional well-being and all of those things. We want to be there for him – to support him. And I’m talking about our team, our players, and everyone. And then we want to have the circumstances corrected and want to put a smile back on his face and get him back out on the field playing the game that he loves to play."

Coughlin said he had believed the Giants medical staff could "manage" the knee condition, termed patello-femoral arthritis. But as the condition declined, the Giants had no choice but to end Phillips' season.

"No, it swelled and then he has to go back to doing all of the things that he does in the training room to get the swelling out of it and then they felt that on Sunday morning that – he was in great shape. He felt good. The swelling was down, he was ready to go."

But by Monday morning, things didn't look good.

"It’s not just Wednesday. It was the next morning and all of that business, too."

Coughlin, while noting that he's no doctor, was optimistic when asked if he thought Phillips could continue his career next season amid speculation that the condition could be considered career-threating.

"I am, yeah," Coughlin said. "First of all, what we have done is in the best interest of the player and the New York Giants because we feel like this young man has an outstanding future. Now you know that I don’t have a medical degree, right?"

EP

No Tuck, Dockery

For those of you holding out hope that DE Justin Tuck or CB Kevin Dockery might play Sunday in Tampa, forget it. My spies out at practice tell me that Tuck and Dockery were in no position to take even limited practice with their respective shoulder and hamstring problems. And that means they have virtually no chance at playing.

They'll stay home along with DT Chris Canty (calf), WR Domenik Hixon (knee), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring), WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), and RB Danny Ware (elbow). S Kenny Phillips, of course, is done for the year after hitting the IR yesterday with patello-femoral arthritis in his left knee.

That list accounts for about half the defense, but only Dockery is a surprise there. He told me yesterday that the hamstring had started to feel better last week, only to regress by the end of it. There's been little progress since.

"It's just frustrating," Dockery said. "It just doesn't feel right."

My bet is that Tuck comes back next week with a harness. But, as we see with Dockery and Ross, those hamstring injuries do linger. It's anybody's guess when they'll be ready.

EP

Going to Tampa?

Here's the second in our continuing series of good places to go if you're taking a Giants road trip. This week, Tampa.

Not really my favorite town, but there are good places to eat down there if you look for them. But one of them isn't -- and this is going to surprise most who've been there -- Bern's Steakhouse. Now, you have to understand, steakhouses get one chance with me. If the food's no good, I'm outta there, no matter what the rep. Bern's has one of the best reputations anywhere. But during the 1990 Super Bowl (Giants-Buffalo), Bern's served me one of the worst pieces of meat I'd ever had. Tough, leathery, tasteless. And worse, undersized. It was supposed to be a 16-ounce piece and came in around 10 oz.

When we brought this up to the waiter, he seemed insulted that we'd dare criticize the food. He grudingly brought over another three or four ounces of charred meat. Utterly disgraceful way to treat a customer. So, go to Bern's at your own risk.

In the years since, I've found several delightful places down there. Donatello's on Dale Mabry has wonderful Italian food, as does the chain restaurant Maggiano's. Maggiano's serves it up family-style, so if you don't like sharing, stay away.

Tell me your favorites. Where do you guys head?

EP

From Last Night On WFAN

A few of you have written in about the interview I did on the Steve Somers show on WFAN last night, which included my 1995 "tiff" with the great Lawrence Taylor. If you missed it -- or if you even care enough about it to listen in -- here's the link on the WFAN website.

Nice fellow, that Steve Somers. It was a lot of fun.

EP

Me and the Big Blue View

A little more experimentation here. Every week, or at least for the next few weeks, my friend Ed Valentine from The Big Blue View and I answer some of the more pressing questions surrounding the Giants. We'll run our answers on opposite blogs. Not to get Obama-ish, but I think you'll find we have a lot more in common than you think.


If you want to see how I answered, swing on over to Ed's blog at http://www.bigblueview.com/ and take a read.


So now, he-e-e-e-r-r-r-e-e-e's Ed!


Ernie, I want to thank you for allowing me to participate here on your blog. You have been around the Giants a long time, and I appreciate the the opportunity to trade opinions with you. I just hope my thoughts meet your very high standards.


1. What would you do to correct the 0-for-8 red zone problems?


"I talked about this at length in a post on Big Blue View before the Dallas game -- http://www.bigblueview.com/2009/9/15/1030438/examining-the-new-york-giants. Obviously, I am not a football coach, but I think there are several issues. The Giants do not have a power, straight-ahead run-blocking line. It's a pulling, athletic line and that is not how red zone blocking is done. The smallish wide receivers make tougher targets in the goal line areas, as well. I would like to see.
1. More passing, especially play action.
2. Spread the field rather than go 'heavy' with the formation. Run out of that setting if you like, but don't make it hard on yourself.
3. Get an extra lineman in the game rather than a tight end if you are going 'heavy.'
4. Run to the edges, where Brandon Jacobs seems better anyway.
5. Use Kevin Boss, and find roles for Ramses Barden and Travis Beckum."


2. Where do you think Mario Manningham will be in five weeks?



"In the starting lineup. Honestly, this is what I have been hoping would happen all along. Domenik Hixon is a good player, but in my opinion he is best suited to be a third or fourth wide receiver and to handle a heavy load in the kick and punt return games. He is easily the Giants' best returner, and the Giants are a better team if they can afford to use him that way. I have been hoping someone -- Manningham, Nicks, Barden -- would push Hixon back into that role. I am not putting 'Super Mario' in the Pro Bowl yet, but the guy certainly is showing signs of being a very good player."

3. Does Osi Umenyiora appear to be the Pro Bowl player he once was?



"Ah, one of my favorite topics. I love Osi, but I have said over and over on my site that I believe Justin Tuck is a superior player. Most recently I debated this here -- http://www.bigblueview.com/2009/6/15/906284/osi-vs-justin-who-ya-got. I will repeat here what I said then. I truly believe Osi, despite calling himself the best defensive end in football, has not truly been a great player since 2005. Yes, he had 13 sacks in 2007, but six were in one game. That means he had seven in the other 15, which is mediocre. As he showed in the season opener against Washington when he forced a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown, Osi is capable of the brilliant play. He also disappears for long stretches, and sometimes for entire games. I think Sunday night was a prime example. He did absolutely nothing. Osi is a spectacular playmaker, but I won't call him a great player again until he shows up more consistently. I also feel Osi is so consumed with getting to the quarterback he is running himself out of position, leading to some of the big runs the Giants have given up."

4. What can a win like last week's do for this team?



"Well, I think if you look at the schedule the Giants should head into Week 6 (New Orleans) with a 5-0 record. I was not sure the Giants could win in that environment in Dallas, but they proved once again that they are a very mature team that believes in itself. The 2007 Super Bowl, and the fact that Eli is so calm, give this team a belief in itself that shows up in situations like that."


Now tell me what you think. Feel free to elaborate on any of the questions. Looking forward to your comments.


EP

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Interesting Take

Here's an interesting -- albeit decidedly pessimistic -- take on Kenny Phillip's injury by the esteemed Tom Rock of Newsday. He spoke to an orthopedist who said the patellofemoral arthritis in his left knee could be career-threating.

Here's the link.

EP

So What's Patello-Femoral Arthritis

Simply put, it's the end result that happens when the patella (kneecap to you and me) keeps slipping out of the groove formed by the femor and the tibia. If left untreated, the joint turns arthritic, causing tremendous pain.

EP

Phillips Done

The mystery is over. Kenny Phillips will spend the rest of the 2009 season on injured reserve, and the Giants were awarded waived Green Bay safety Aaron Rouse to replace him. Rouse will now undergo intensive training and must be ready to contribute as a sixth defensive back Sunday in Tampa Bay.

The decision to IR Phillips came as little surprise, as that had been one of the early possibilities. An MRI yesterday showed the cartilage condition in his left knee, termed Patella Femoral Arthritis, had worsened over the last couple of weeks despite time off from practice. No determination has yet been made on whether he will have surgery.

In fact, Phillips was hoping until the last minute that he could be nursed through the season.

"(Going on IR) never crossed my mind, ever,” Phillips said. "I knew the situation. I just felt I could push it through the season. So to get this news is a real shock."

What is for certain is that Rouse resembles Phillips in no way, shape or form. The 6-foot-4, 227-pound Rouse was the Packers' third-round pick in 2007. He started 11 of 27 games. He had a 99-yard interception return off Peyton Manning -- the longest interception return for a touchdown in Lambeau Field history -- last year. He played in both games this year, getting nine tackles last week against Cincinnati and three in the opener against Chicago.

"I really feel for Kenny because he had worked so hard during the offseason to prepare himself for the ‘09 season," general manager Jerry Reese said. "He had a great camp and was just beginning to come into his own and showed flashes of being one of the premier safeties in the NFL. We expect him to recover from this setback and come back stronger than ever. This league is about making adjustments and we will do that."

Phillips thought he was doing just that. For a second-year player who was never hurt, this comes as much as a blow to him as the depleted secondary.

"I hate to miss out on this season," he said. "We have such a great team I wish I could just be a part of it, helping them out. I know the team is going to support me. They are treating me like family, like I am their son, brothers or whatever. Jerry Reese came down and talked to me, Coach Coughlin, the training staff, everyone has been real supportive of me.

"I am only in year two, so I feel this is the right decision. Longevity is the key, so this is why we are going through with it."

Sitting around watching his teammates battle through the NFC East won't be easy. He'd worked hard during training camp to further absorb a defense in which he appeared occasionally lost last season. But he knew what was on the line, having been handed the starting strong safety job after James Butler departed for St. Louis.

"That is probably the toughest part - I worked hard this offseason and I felt like this was going to be a big year not only for me, but for the Giants," Phillips said. "I started the season off pretty well with a few tackles, interceptions and for it to just get snatched away from me like this is real tough.

"We’re only in Week 3, so I don’t know how I am going to find a way to cope. But if anything it makes me want to work even harder. Playing two games, I had a pretty good start and I want to do better than that next year."

EP

Phillips A Mystery

All sorts of mystery surrounding the Kenny Phillips situation, from whether the player himself wants cartilage surgery on his left knee, to how long he'll be out, to potential roster moves in other areas to accommodate another safety so Phillips won't have to go on IR.

Tom Coughlin left the door wide open to all speculation when he apologetically put off all comment until later. A team spokesman said an announcement could come down by around 4 p.m.

"There's a lot of cirumstances involved here and I'm not at liberty to say anything at this point," Coughlin said. "All circumstances. There's a lot of other circumstances surrounding this, not just Kenny."

The players were typically tight-lipped over the issue. But here's one possibility. Assuming the potential surgery will not require the rest of the regular season for rehab, the Giants could conceivably cut a player from another position, bring in an Aaron Rouse, Steve Cargile, or even Giants cut Travonti Johnson and carry Phillips until he's ready to get back toward the end of the season.

Just where that cut would come from is the question. The secondary and defensive line have gone from two of the Giants' deepest positions to paper thin in a matter of two weeks, so those are out. It's also hard to believe they'd cut a linebacker.

They could cut an offensive lineman, though. T Guy Wimper hasn't played this year, so he could be expendable. A trade could also be a far less likely possibility.

All we do know right now is that Phillips was no where to be found yesterday.

"I haven't talked to him," said CB Kevin Dockery, whose own hamstring problem will probably keep him out a third straight game Sunday. "I hope he doesn't need an operation. That'd be bad for him and bad for us. I'll probably talk to him later."

The Giants carried only eight DBs coming out of camp, and Phillips, Aaron Ross (hamstring) and Dockery (hamstring) are hurt. That leaves only Michael Johnson as C.C. Brown as their only healthy safeties. Sha'reff Rashad could be called up from the practice squad, but the coaches haven't informed him of any such move yet.

"I'm not sure right now," Rashad said. "Hopefully, I'll be ready if called on. But Kenny's a great player on run support."

For a defense that was gashed for 251 yards and three touchdowns last week, losing Phillips would be a major blow. Consider, too, that DE Justin Tuck, an excellent run-stopper, also will probably sit out against Tampa's Cadillac Williams and former Giant Derek Ward.

Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said he needs at least six DBs for the game. But bringing a new guy up to speed by Sunday wouldn't be a problem, he said.

"It's not like we're gonna ask him to play a whole game," Sheridan said. "Everybody plays a two-deep, three-deep. So yeah, you can get a guy up to snuff.

Still, a new guy would probably not duplicate what Phillips does.

"He's a sideline-to-sideline guy and he can run to the ball and make big plays," CB Corey Webster said. "He's a big part that's gonna be missing. But everybody's a professional, and we won't have a problem."

Webster can only hope.

EP

Phillips MIA


Potentially big news coming down the pike. S Kenny Phillips, nursing a cartilage problem in his left knee, was not at practice and could be headed for surgery.

According to Pro Football Talk, a league source said a final decision hasn't been made on any surgery. But if it happens, Phillips would probably go on injured reserve and be lost for the season. That would be a shame, since the second-year safety came off a Dallas game in which he had two interceptions.

The knee has been bothering Phillips for some time, and the Giants medical staff has tried to nurse him through the practice weeks. He rode the exercise bike yesterday, as he did last Wednesday before he returned to practice later in the week.

If Phillips is indeed lost, C.C. Brown would become the starter, and then the Giants would have to worry about finding a backup. Sha'reff Rashad, a practice squad rookie, is one possibility. Third-year safety Aaron Rouse was cut yesterday by the Packers. And a former Giants summer camp player, Steve Cargile, a fourth-year veteran of the Cowboys and Broncos, was cut by the Bucs Tuesday.

Phillips would be the latest blow to a secondary already thinned by injuries. Cornerbacks Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery have missed the first two games, though second-year player Terrell Thomas and undrafted rookie Bruce Johnson have done credible jobs filling in at the starting right corner and nickelback spots, respectively.

A Giants spokesman had no comment on Phillips other than to say, "We'll see."
In other injury news, DE Justin Tuck appeared ready to spend another day on the sidelines with an injured shoulder. If he misses today, don't count on him starting Sunday in Tampa Bay. DT Chris Canty was also out.
WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), WR Domenik Hixon (knee), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring), Kevin Dockery (hamstring), and RB Danny Ware (elbow) were all on the side. WR Mario Manningham (shoulder) took a limited practice yesterday and appeared to be practicing today.
EP

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Little Eli for a Thursday Morning

Here's a video of Eli Manning, taken yesterday, as he talks about other guys picking up for Justin Tuck and curing the 0-for-8 Red Zone problems.

video


EP



Tuck On Adams

Justin Tuck said he has the date circled -- Dec. 6, Dallas. That's the next time he'll meet up with Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams, whose flagrant trip caused Tuck to aggravate a partially torn labrum he originally injured in college.

And Tuck was none too pleased about Adams' statement that "he should have stayed up" on the play Tuck called "bush league" after the game on Sunday.

"It makes me hate the Cowboys even more," Tuck said. "And you all can write that. I did say hate. I'm aware of his comments. You get to the Pro Bowl by blocking people, not tripping them. I don't want to get into no war of words or anything. I'll see Flozell when we play them again."

Tuck said he wouldn't do anything beyond the rules the next time they meet. But he wouldn't rule out a little pop to the jaw if they do get tangled.

Adams was fined $12,500 for the flagrant foul, the second straight game the league has taken money from his wallet. He was fined in the opener for unsportsmanlike conduct against Tampa Bay.

"I don't get paid to think about that," said Tuck, who termed himself day-to-day. "The league will do what they think is necessary, and that'll be the end of it. I could care less if he gets fined or suspended.

"In all honesty, I think he was doing what any O-lineman would do. At that point, I had a clear path to Romo. It's just unfortunate I got hurt on the play."

Tom Coughlin earlier brought up the possibility of Tuck playing with a harness, an idea Tuck would be amenable to. He said he played harnessed during the originally injury at Notre Dame, with no appreciable decline in his play.

But he said he's not going to get out there until he's ready.

"There's always a fine line between playing hurt and injured," Tuck said. "The key thing right now is to be smart about it. Don't let my ego get in the way of common sense. Right now, I'd say I'm hurt."

Here's Tuck talking about how he feels.

video

-----------------------------------------------------

In other major injury news, DT Chris Canty said his calf strain was coming along, but couldn't say whether there is a timetable for his return.

"Every day there's progress," Canty said. "You get frustrated, but you've got to continue your due diligence. I try to progress as much as I can while I'm not practicing or playing."

Canty sat out training camp with a hamstring problem, and went so far as to get plasma-enriched blood therapy in an effort to get back to work in time for the opener. It worked, but he said the residual effect of missing training camp could be hurting him now.

"I've come to the reality that I didn't have the training camp I'd like to have. Sometimes you get little tweaks and nicks here and there as a result of not having the work in training camp. I really feel like that's what's coming into play in this situation."

He didn't think, however, that one injury had anything to do with the other.

"I don't think it's anything as far as compensating, but I'm not a doctor," he said.

EP

Just Experimenting Again

Trying some home-made video for you. Here's a minute of practice, showing Justin Tuck and Chris Canty preparing for a physical day off.


video

Tuck And More

DE Justin Tuck did not practice, as planned, but Tom Coughlin said his partially torn left labrum may not keep him out of Sunday's game in Tampa. He didn't say Tuck was a definite go, but he did sound guardedly optimistic.

"It's a matter of soreness and strength," Coughlin said of the injury, which originally happened at Notre Dame. "He's a little bit less sore today than he was yesterday, so hopefully that's something that's going to improve."

Coughlin put out the possibility that Tuck could play with a harness. That's not a unique idea. Hall-of-Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor played one of the greatest games of his career against New Orleans with one shoulder harnessed to near immobility in 1988.

Meanwhile, Coughlin was still bristling over Flozell Adams' illegal trip that caused the whole mess. When asked what he thought of the play, Coughlin snapped, "What do you want me to think? It was a flagrant foul."

----------------------------------------------

The other injury news didn't sound as encouraging. Joining Tuck on the sideline was Chris Canty, who is still rehabbing his calf strain. S Kenny Phillips (knee), CB Kevin Dockery (hamstring), WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) and WR Domenik Hixon (knee) were all on the exercise bikes. Coughlin said the conditions of Dockery, Ross, and Nicks remained unchanged, which means they'll probably go a third game without Ross, a second game without Nicks, and possibly a third game without Dockery. No word on Hixon, who was hurt in the first half last week, but he was not wearing pads.

LB Clint Sintim (groin) and T Adam Koets (ankle) were in pads and appeared ready to take at least limited work after missing the first two weeks entirely.

RB Danny Ware (elbow) was not sighted at practice.

EP

Preliminary Injuries

Here's the preliminary injury report prior to Coughlin's press conference.

DT Chris Canty (calf)
CB Kevin Dockery (hamstring)
WR Domenik Hixon (knee)
T Adam Koets (ankle)
WR Hakeem Nicks (foot)
S Kenny Phillips (knee)
CB Aaron Ross (hamstring)
LB Clint Sintim (groin)
DE Justin Tuck (shoulder)
RB Danny Ware (elbow)

Starting to get worried about Dockery. We'll see if he practices at all today. Don't worry about Phillips. Unless Coughlin tells us something different, this is just part of nursing him through what will be a chronic problem.

EP

Seeing About Tuck

We'll get Tom Coughlin in an hour or so and maybe he'll tell us something about Justin Tuck's injured left shoulder. He underwent an MRI Monday, and some speculation is that he'll miss this week's game in Tampa Bay. According to the Daily News, he has a partially torn labrum, which would be a huge problem if he was a pitcher. Defensive ends, not so much. The report indicated it could be two weeks, and that he may not practice at all today.

Hopefully, Coughlin will elaborate. Also of concern is WR Domenik Hixon's sprained right knee. If he's out, look for Mario Manningham to start at the X, with Derek Hagan playing the slot in three-wide formations.

EP

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Frightening Figure

Want to know just how bad that rushing yardage allowed mark was Sunday night? The 251 yards on 29 carries amounted to an 8.7-yard per carry average. The last time they allowed that high an average on a minimum of 29 carries came on Oct. 17, 1948, when the Chicago Cardinals averaged 8.8 yards on 34 carries.

EP

Disgraceful

Somebody over at BBI found this video of the folks who held the so-called "Party Pass" tickets for standing room last Sunday. Seems ol' Jerry Jones padded the house. But on top of that, take a look at this video and tell me, just from sight, how many of those fans who paid $29 a pop caught even a glimpse of that field.


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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

Monday, September 21, 2009

What About Hixon?

As we said, Domenik Hixon wound up with a sprained right knee and sat out the rest of the game. At first, Sinorice Moss looked like a likely replacement to go into the three and four-wide sets as Mario Manningham moved into Hixon's starting spot. But in the end, Derek Hagan got most of the snaps there, with Moss relegated to special teams.

Hagan actually wound up catching a pass for 12 yards. Moss didn't get a sniff. Kind of tells you something about what the hierarchy thinks of Moss as a receiver, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, Steve Smith is tied with Pittsburgh's Santonio Holmes for the league lead in receiving yards with 214 over the first two weeks, while Manningham sits in third just six yards behind. This from at least one second-year player -- Manningham -- that nobody figured would produce to any great extent before the season started.

"That is why we worked so hard in the offseason," Smith said. "That is why everybody was here in the offseason workouts in the spring and we had some good days and some tough days in training camp and the preseason. We're just glad it's coming together now."

Now, if they would just send the two of them into the end zone consistently on those Red Zone situations -- instead of two yards in front of the goal line -- maybe they'd have a partial solution to their problems in that area.

EP

The Aftermath

Just got done with Tom Coughlin and a couple of players about last night's game. The big news is that DE Justin Tuck and WR Domenik Hixon are getting their respective left shoulder and right knee tested. Who knows whether either will be available for Sunday's game in Tampa. But Coughlin knew one thing for sure. When a player like Tuck can't complete a game, it's cause for concern.

"Anytime you've got a player of that caliber who can't complete a game, I would think something's going on there to prevent him from continuing," Coughlin said. "We'll just have to wait and see."

Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka didn't sound as if he wanted to be patient with anything Tuck related. In fact, he wouldn't mind running into Flozell Adams right about now for the trip that caused the injury.

"It looked like a pretty bad play," Kiwanuka said. "I understand you do anything to save the quarterback, but that's not an excuse.

"It's absolutely not an excuse. This is the NFL. People put their careers on the line every day and every game. You don't want to risk somebody getting hurt off something cheap like that. Obviously they have a job to protect their quarterback. But there's rules to the game for a reason. For it to be a play like that is bad enough. But that's inexcusable.

"They were obviously frustrated. But you play within the rules of the game. If you can't play within the rules of the game, there's no need to be out there."

As far as Hixon goes, he was actually lobbying the training staff to go back into the game in the second half. But his availability will depend on the tests.

CB Aaron Ross (hamstring), DT Chris Canty (calf), and CB Kevin Dockery all remain iffy at best -- Ross and Canty are probably out -- for Tampa Bay.

"The prognosis isn't much changed from the end of the week," Coughlin said.

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Oh, Coughlin and defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan are going to have a time of it in the meeting room going over a run defense that allowed more than 200 yards last night. Their highest allowance last season was 158 ground yards against Carolina. And this is a defense that has perennially taken pride in not allowing individual 100-yard rushing games. The Cowboys fell just four yards short of getting two of them, as Marion Barber had 124 and Felix Jones had 96.

"Do we have work to do?" Coughlin asked rhetorically. "You bet we have work to do. Our inability to stop the run and our inability to run the ball the way we want to are issues that are first and foremost with our team. We'll be working hard to make the necessary corrections to that."

Coughlin noted that several players were out of position on some of Barber's and Jones' long runs. But what he didn't mention is that most of them occurred when Tuck was on the bench with his arm in a sling. That had to have had a lot to do with it. Osi Umenyiora has never exactly been a monster against the run, and Kiwanuka tends to get over-aggressive on the other side, making a cutback runner like Barber all the more effective.

There will undoubtedly be a lot of blackboard work on that this week.

EP

A few highlights

Got a couple of videos for you. This one involves general highlights.
By the way, I absolutely love how these announcers overplay everything. Listen to Al Michaels going on and on about how this stadium opening must have been exactly the same as the Coliseum in Rome back in the day. Yeah, Al. Exactly. The gladiators were all padded up, and if you crossed a line you scored points for yourself. Exactly.
Oh, forgot one other thing. The Coliseum was open to the peasantry. Don't recall Nero ever charging outrageous PSLs and a $160 average per ticket. And that dude was nuts, man!

And now, can you ever get enough of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones trying to pick himself a winner? Whatever it was, it didn't come out reading "Cowboys."


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My Boy Ralph

My main man -- at least one of them -- has some pretty good stuff on the Tuck injury and some post-game scuffling in his blog today. You can read it here.

Interesting how Tuck called Flozell Adams "bush league." Adams has been doing that stuff for a long time. I remember Dallas had another tackle named Erik Williams who was one of the dirtiest guys in the league. He'd leg-whip his own mother, just for the heck of it.

EP

Game 2 Summary

Okay, you guys saw it. Now let's summarize it.

First of all, you couldn't have asked for a better win this early in the season, what with 100,000 people going nuts in the Boss Hog Dome and Eli Manning completing his 12th career fourth-quarter comeback. The emotional momentum from this one could carry the 2-0 NFC East-leading Giants for a while if they don't decide to play down to Tampa Bay's horrendous level next week. Can't beat starting the year off with two division wins, either.

But there are issues here. For one thing, they have to learn how to score touchdowns in the Red Zone. Technically, their last two field goals came on the cusp of the zone, at the 20, so we'll count them. That makes them 0-for-7 this year, with two drives on which they got nothing. Granted, the winning field goal came from there, and the offense did a fantastic job in driving from the 25 for that final answer. But the rest? With Tony Romo handing over three INTs, the Giants could have run away with this one. Somehow, it never should have come down to Lawrence Tynes' leg and the timeout hystrionics of the last field goal.

The Giants may also have a problem with the defensive front. Not talent-wise. Body-wise. We'll find out later today about Justin Tuck's shoulder, which wound up in a sling after Flozell Adams tripped him in the second quarter. But seeing him sidelined, his right arm in a sling, was not a good sign for a squad that has already lost defensive tackle Chris Canty to a calf injury. Tuck would be a much bigger loss. Huge, in fact, as showed by some of the second-half runs the Cowboys made. Tuck would have been playing that side, and one wonders if he'd have been handled as easily as Mathias Kiwanuka. Teams can never afford to lose a great player, and Tuck is rapidly turning into one of those.

The rest of the picture isn't gloomy at all. Sure, the Giants could use a better ground game, as 97 yards of total rushing isn't going to get it done. They never really were able to establish Brandon Jacobs, and at times they didn't look like they were trying. But when you've got the young receivers catching the ball as they did, the Giants could still move down the field. And when it comes to the two-minute drill, there are few better than Manning. He's cool under pressure, and so was Mario Manningham in catching a tipped ball to get the Giants into field goal range.

Here's a few catagories.

THE BIG PLAYS: The afore-mentioned Manningham made one of the biggest with that tipped ball. Without that, it's fourth down from the 41 and all bets are off. Great concentration from a young receiver whose stock as a reliable, even go-to target is skyrocketing right now. That's not to mention his touchdown, a diving, juggling catch he eventually secured while on his back from 22 yards out. In addition, he had 10 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown.

Steve Smith: Another go-to guy. He's fearless over the middle, and he showed it again by catching several in that area. Very smart leap into the end zone on his 22-yard scoring catch. Plus, he also finished over the 100-yard mark in receiving, catching 10 balls for 134 yards and a touchdown.

Bruce Johnson: When the offense couldn't score, the only undrafted rookie to make the squad did. His first-quarter pick and touchdown return, the first of his career, came off an Antonio Pierce-called adjustment, and he reacted perfectly.

Lawrence Tynes: After missing a 29-yard chip shot at the start of the third quarter, he came through big on the final one. He had to kick it twice because of the timeout Wade Phillips called a millisecond before the snap, but he was 2-0. The one that counted was actually a lot better a kick than the one that went through.

THE VETS:

Brandon Jacobs: He had only one outstanding run, but his stiff-arm of linebacker Keith Brooking on the 31-yard jaunt was a thing to behold. Still, 16 carries for 58 yards and no touchdowns against a Cowboys run defense that had looked vulnerable doesn't look good, especially after a 60-yard opener.

Kenny Phillips: He struggled -- and will continue to do so -- with knee problems during the week. But there was nothing wrong with his hands as he made an interception off Jason Witten's kicked ball. It's too bad somebody blew a whistle to nullify his touchdown return.

Antonio Pierce: He's the quarterback of the defense, and he acted just like it when he audibled the alignment that produced Bruce Johnson's interception. No less than four players in the back either moved over or switched sides completely, leaving Tony Romo utterly confused. He never saw Johnson.

THE KIDS:

Bruce Johnson: We already talked about him, but it bears repeating. He's showing the poise of a veteran in place of injured nickelback Kevin Dockery. As Lou Grant once said, "Kid, you got spunk." He had two tackles.

THE UGLY STUFF:

* Want to see how to run a goal line offense? Look at what the Cowboys did on Romo's third-quarter touchdown. Spread out, run the quarterback draw, get some blocking up front. Romo wasn't touched.

* More Red Zone ugliness. Is there any real purpose in Eli Manning throwing all those passes in front of the goal line? How about putting a target or two in the end zone? There's a definite need to mix things up a little.

* The defensive front got pushed around way too much for anyone's liking. It was too easy to seal off the left side on some of those Marion Barber runs. This is a defense that prides itself on shutting down the run, so all those yards are going to be a source for much meeting-room discussion throughout the week.

THE MISS:

We already talked about the premature whistle that took away Phillip's touchdown. But did anyone see the hold that was called on Rich Seubert? I couldn't spot it on the replay.

THE BUMPS:

Justin Tuck: Injured his shoulder after being tripped by Flozell Adams in the second quarter and spent the whole second half on the sideline with his arm in the sling. He'll be going for an MRI today, and the Giants had better pray it's nothing serious. That would be a huge blow to the defensive front.

Domenik Hixon: He went out in the second quarter with a right knee sprain. Have no idea right now how long he'll be out, but not having him as a downfield possibility will put even more pressure on Smith and Manningham to produce.

We'll have Tom Coughlin and some players on conference calls later this afternoon. Hopefully, there'll be some updates.

EP