Sunday, February 28, 2010
So take today off, sit back, and enjoy the Canada-US gold medal hockey game. Should be a good one, though I have a feeling Canada's going to put it all together. Hard to beat a hosting favorite twice in the same building.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
But one of the more interesting things said outside of free agency was the idea that Will Beatty could be thrown into a head-to-head battle with David Diehl for the left tackle spot. We all know that Beatty's natural position is left tackle, even though he did a solid job starting at right tackle during Kareem McKenzie's injuries. And it's likely the line will go into a bit of a transitonal phase, perhaps with Rich Seubert and McKenzie making way for new blood.
The left tackle competition would make part of that easier, since Reese feels Beatty is tough enough to handle the spot. And Diehl, more natural at guard, could seamlessly slide over to Seubert's LG spot. That would leave only right tackle to deal with, and that, Reese hinted, could be filled with an outside body (my guess is Guy Whimper or Adam Koets just won't get the job done).
Reese also said he's had some contract talks with unrestricted backup quarterback David Carr and would like him back. Whether Carr would agree to a new deal before testing the open market remains to be seen.
And it looks like the Giants will be willing to pay for the right piece to fit in their 2010 puzzle, up to a point.
"We’ll spend where we have to spend," Reese said at his press conference this morning at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "I still believe you do what you do to fill the spots in your roster you need to fill. If you have to spend to do that, we’ll continue to do that. We have a budget, we’ll try to stick to our budget. But if we have to spend on a guy, we’ll do that."
They'll probably have to outbid Miami, which is making big noises about getting Dansby for their 3-4 alignment. But Dansby is one of those guys who is confident he can fit into any scheme, so it will, as these things usually do, come down to the dollar figures. And with no salary cap involved, a bidding war could raise the stakes more significantly than it would in a capped year.
Still, Reese said that wouldn't scare him. He said he's prepared to fill various spots on offense and defense, be it through free agent acquisition or trade before the draft.
"It’s a little different this time, but there’s a lot of time during free agency, so you can get things done before the draft," Reese said. "It takes a little bit of pressure off the draft and you can be more conscious of picking valued players than trying to reach for your needs in the draft."
They'll be aggressive in free agency.
"I think there are some holes we need to fill defensively," Reese said about the possibility of existing rostered players stepping up next season. "Are there some guys on the roster? I hope there are, but we’re still going to try to go out and fill some spots.
"If there’s a guy on the roster that we don’t see yet that emerges, fantastic. But we’re definitely not going to depend on that. We’re going to try to bolster a lot of positions offensively and defensively."
My guess is they'll take a real big run at Dansby. If they get him, he'll be the only major free agent name to come aboard. Anyone else will be of a depth-type acquisition. If they don't get him, look for a big-name trade. But -- and I'm going out on a gut-influenced limb here -- I don't see Osi Umenyiora as being part of that package. Too valuable as a pass rusher if healthy.
Then again, I'm just guessing there.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Apparently, what Reese told Umenyiora about his potential return to starting status didn't appease him. And you get the idea that Coughlin's opinions on the matter didn't do much to advance that goal, if that is the goal, at all.
"I don’t know how you do that," the Giants’ coach said of any starting guarantees Umenyiora said would be required before he deigned to don a uniform in 2010. "Our field is the field, and competition is good. It’s like we tell everybody: 'Go earn it.'"
Hmmmm. A unique idea, right? Especially for someone who lost their job at a critical juncture of the season because he couldn't stop the run.
Umenyiora has also met with new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, Coughlin said. But nobody seems to be in a placating mood. Not after 8-8, that is.
"I just reassured Osi our expectations for him were very high," Coughlin said. "He’s an integral part of our plans and of our defensive football team. Osi is a big part of our team and the word ‘team’ is critical to me.”
The coach was none too happy about Umenyiora's Super Bowl press tour, where he freely aired his gripes to print and radio reporters alike.
"Naturally, it did," Coughlin said. "It should start with me; he should come in and talk to me, which he did do, and we had a good talk but that’s where it’ll stop."
I'm not sure we've heard the end of this yet. With the offseason program set to start March 15, it'll be interesting to see if Umenyiora shows up and exhibits the kind of team unity Coughlin seeks. The defensive end said at season's end that he'd rather "retire" than come back as a part-time player, but something tells me there are more than three million reasons for him to stick around. Oh, and the Giants have no intentions of trading him.
"Osi’s a big part of our team and we expect he’ll come back, work as hard as he can and be a big part of our defensive rejuvenation, if you will," Coughlin said. "Competition is a very good thing. We’ve been able to, over the course of the last few years, have a very good system whereby we waved our defensive linemen in. It helped us in our Super Bowl year and we continue to do that. But Osi’s a big part of our plans."
Arizona has decided not to place a bid for Supe XLVIII because of looming layoffs among safety and police. The overall economic climate just isn't conducive to holding a high-profile event like that.
Still, it's not a cinch the Meadowlands gets it. Miami and Tampa are still in the running. But Roger Goodell said in his Super Bowl state-of-the-league press conference that he'd certainly be interested in putting the NFL's showcase event in a cold-weather, open-air stadium. All the Giants and Jets have to hope is that the owners to the west and south aren't watching our lovely little snowstorm on TV.
Think warm thoughts, guys.
The Giants will apparently let CB Kevin Dockery go into the open market, as they will not tender him. But they're going to tie up WR Derek Hagan, and WR Domenik Hixon was tendered at a second-round level. It is believed WR Sinorice Moss will also be tendered at his original draft spot, which was in the second round.
Kind of shows you how far Dockery has fallen. It would have cost the Giants nothing to tender him, as they could have pulled it at any time. It appears they just don't want him around after watching him fall from capable nickelback to barely active status last season.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Four were defensive tackles: Green Bay's Ryan Pickett, San Fran's Aubreyo Franklin, New England's Vince Wilfork, and Oakland's Richard Seymour.
The other two were kickers: Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed and Seattle's Olindo Mare.
There was one more planned, but Pittsburgh DT Casey Hampton came to an agreement on a three-year contract before the deadline.
As it turned out, the six marked the least number of franchise tags given out since 2006, when only three teams used the hammer. The numbers over the last two years reached double-digits, but owners this year obviously felt talking contract in an emotionally unheated climate was a better move as an uncapped season looms.
Meanwhile, teams are in the process of preparing tenders for slews of restricted free agents, many of whom will be forced to sign the one-year deals as organizations avoid long-term contract talks. With a lockout probable for 2011, no need to tie up a lot of money now. Plus, no signing bonuses, which saves ownership loads and puts extra heat on the players to make the squad. No roster spot, no money.
Same deal with the franchise tags.
That kind of surprises me, considering Wilkinson has seen a minimum of playing time through his four-year career. Good kid, has skills, but simply cannot stay healthy. But since he will receive a tender, along with yesterday's news that DE Dave Tollefson will get a second-round tender, I'm now inclined to think the Giants might try to protect their other nine restricted veterans.
It would make sense, and basically wouldn't cost the Giants anything this year. You see, the looming uncapped season makes that possible. In capped seasons, the value of each tender gets subtracted from your total cap figure. The Giants had to be discriminating as to who they kept and who they decided to set free in the open market. But with the uncapped season ahead, there are no such worries. And besides, if a surprise accord does happen and a new collective bargaining agreement is put into place, with cap, the Giants can always revoke the tender as long as the player hasn't signed it yet.
So now it would be a surprise if DT Barry Cofield, G Kevin Boothe, CB Kevin Dockery, S C.C. Brown, TE Darcy Johnson, WR Derek Hagan, WR Domenik Hixon, T Guy Whimper, and WR Sinorice Moss didn't get tenders. The Giants have nothing to lose, and might even pick up a draft pick in the process.
UPDATE: Whimper was tendered at his original fourth-round draft position.
UPDATE: Cofield getting a second-round tender.
UPDATE: According to Newsday's Bob Glauber on Twitter, the Giants have told the agents of all their restricted free agents that they will receive tender offers. Makes sense.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Tell me teams don't covet a competent guy who can plug up the run and add a little pass rush up the middle. But even at that, they're still a relative bargain. Only safeties ($6.455 million), tight ends ($5.908 million), and kickers and punters ($2.814 million) are awarded lesser tenders.
Robinson, a year out of ACL surgery, did not have the kind of season a top-flight cornerback should have, as he was vulnerable to the intermediate passes. But some feel that he could return to being one of the best cover guys in the league next season. The question is, do you guys think he's worth it?
Having a guy like Robinson might make it unnecessary for them to keep Dockery, since that would probably push one of the two starters from last season, Webster or Thomas, into the nickel package. Also, the Giants may well want to keep some flexibility with Ross, who played several games at safety before his hamstring problems ultimately ended his season.
I don't see the Giants going after Robinson, but the question does seem intriguing. And, let's face it, the good stuff at the NFL Scouting Combine doesn't happen until later in the week, so what else have we got to occupy us?
Idle hands are the devil's workshop. So get typing.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Question is, do you guys want him? Should the Giants make a play for the 30-year-old pass-rusher?
As I said a couple of weeks ago, I've never been a big Peppers fan, unless they're sprinkled liberally around my chicken scarpariella. The guy disappears way too often for my liking and has never been the overriding force he had the ability to be. Now, at 30, it's unlikely he'll ever be that force. He'll undoubtedly be looking for big salary numbers, too, so signing him would also be an economic risk.
So what do you think? You like him?
Still, it's one less person the defense will have to deal with. Now, if Andy Reid would just rid of Shady McCoy and Leonard Weaver, what remains of the front-seven might breathe a little easier.
Oh, and remember those Giants and Jets tryouts former Dallas kicker Nick Folk had last week? Well, he signed with the Jets, according to an ESPN report. Just as well. The Giants need somebody who can kick off while Lawrence Tynes handles field goals. They also have first-year kicker Sam Swank on the roster.
Wasn't any harm in looking at Folk, though.
Basically, he's not going anywhere.
Keeping in mind that the Giants will likely tender backup guard Kevin Boothe, a potential starter, and they should be set to insert second-rounder Will Beatty at one of the starting tackle slots, here's a look at some free agents who might help out come March 5.
BOBBIE WILLIAMS: He's old at 33, but if the Giants want a seasoned guard to push Rich Seubert into a backup position, the Bengal might be worth a look. Run-blocking is his forte, which is something Brandon Jacobs certainly would welcome. The Bengals probably will make a big push to keep him, though.
LOGAN MANKINS: Good left tackle for the Patriots, who will probably lock him up as a restricted free agent absent a CBA. He's started all 80 games of his five-year career, and might look awfully nice next to David Diehl if they wanted to move the left tackle starter to his natural guard position. Not likely that he'll hit the open market, though, as he's stated he'd like to stay in New England.
JAMMAL BROWN: He's coming off the IR after hip and hernia surgery. The 29-year-old Saint could be available in a trade, as he'll be a restricted free agent. A former Pro Bowler, he could take over at left tackle.
WILLIE COLON: Beatty's more natural position is at left tackle, so if the Giants wanted to flip him, this 27-year-old Steeler might be the guy to facilitate the move. He's a natural right tackle and an outstanding pass blocker. He did an acceptable job in the run-blocking department, but will have to improve to make it worth the draft picks to pry away the restricted player.
CORNELL GREEN: The 34-year-old Raider will be out there, but who knows how much left he has in the tank. Might make for a reasonably-priced backup tackle.
MIKE GANDY: The Cardinals' 31-year-old started 12 games at left tackle this year before hernia surgery put him on IR late in the season. Before that, he'd started every game the previous four seasons. Pretty consistent run blocker, and he's played three of the five line spots, including both guard spots. Might make for a nice all-around backup.
My guess is they'll keep Boothe around, and possibly restricted tackle Guy Whimper, and draft for depth in later rounds, since Adam Koets is no closer to being a starter than the day he was drafted.
Coaches, scouts, administrators all head out to the annual meat market, where the primest of prime college prospects, about 300 of them, will be inspected, prodded, poked, timed, and measured to get a better idea of where they should sit on the team's value board.
Not every draftee will be in attendance. They never are. Osi Umenyiora wasn't even invited in 2003, and yet he became the Giants' second-round pick. And many of the prospects who will begin workouts Saturday will pass up various parts of the combine, either because they're still rehabbing injuries or they simply feel they'll post better times in more familiar surroundings at their private, Pro-Day workouts at their colleges.
So the Giants won't get a full idea of how their draft board will look once the workouts end March 2. But they'll get plenty of info, as well as a chance to interview their targets.
A guy like UCLA DT Brian Price should get a lot of attention, considering the Giants' need for that position and the fact that he'll certainly be around at No. 15 after Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy come off the board. They might also give some special attention to Tyson Alualu of Cal, a potential second-rounder some currently rate as the seventh best defensive tackle in the draft.
Safeties Eric Berry of Tennessee, Taylor Mays of USC, and Florida State's Myron Rolle will be there too, undoubtedly getting a good look from Tom Coughlin and his staff.
I'll try to keep you updated from here on anything of interest. Jerry Reese and Coughlin usually appear at press conferences at some point during the week, so that should provide some thought-provoking pre-draft stuff.
In the meantime, the staff's clipboards, stopwatches, and measuring tapes are packed and ready to go.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Gilbride replaces Sean Ryan, who moved from that position to wide receivers coach after that coach, Mike Sullivan, moved on to coach quarterbacks.
Tom Coughlin said he's had his eye on Gilbride for a while.
"Kevin is very aggressive and a very energetic young coach," Coughlin said. "Quite frankly, I investigated him three or four years ago. He’s busted his tail to get where he is. He was a graduate assistant at Syracuse (Coughlin’s alma mater), so I knew about him there and the coaches were very favorably impressed by what he was able to accomplish there."
Coughlin indicated the job, though considered an entry-level position among NFL coaches, is rather involved.
"In this day and age, your coaches are relying on the quality control coaches’ ability to take off segments and situations (from game tapes) before they can start to game plan," Coughlin said. "It’s a grinder’s job. It’s very much a behind-the-scenes job. They are responsible for self-scout. They are responsible for the next opponent and he has already started, because very shortly we will be on our divisional opponents.
"During the season, he has to provide us with self-scout information on a Monday night, get the next opponent off and he runs the scout squad. And when you talk about professional football, and you talk about the quality of your practices, those scout squads have to be run to perfection."
Gilbride coached wide receivers at Temple last year, the 9-4 Owls' first winning season since 1990.
Gilbride, Sr., said he advised his now 30-year-old son to stay away from coaching. Oh, but you know kids. They never listen.
"In terms of getting into coaching,” said Gilbride, Sr., "my wife and I did everything we could to discourage, not encourage, because we know it’s a challenging life and there are a lot of potential pitfalls. He was adamant that he wanted to get into it and he’s been very fortunate. He made a decision he wanted to try pro football. And again our efforts to discourage were met with non-compliance.
"He was fortunate enough to get the interview with Tom, and Tom was impressed enough with his knowledge of the computer and the things that he’ll have to do in the quality control position to bring him on board."
Bet he'll be more obedient with Coughlin than the old man.
Considering his production tailed off sharply the past two years because of injury and age, would you consider bringing him here to bolster a backfield that is currently led by two surgically-repaired players in Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw? He was due to earn $5 million with the Chargers. How much would you pay him, assuming you want him at all.
The tag is of the non-exclusive kind, meaning teams can still give him an offer sheet. But he's going to cost two 2010 first-round picks and a massive contract in order to do it. The Giants don't have two first-rounders to give at this moment, anyway. So it looks like the prize among potential free agent defensive tackles isn't going anywhere.
At least they'll have a shot at Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby, though. Reports out of Cardinals-land indicate the team will not use their franchise tag on him and will probably allow him to test the market. That's provided, of course, that the Cardinals don't sign him to a long-term contract before the March 5 opening gun. The same reports indicate Dansby would be open to such discussions, though none have happened yet.
It's almost needless to say that the Giants will not be using either tag. They only have four players heading for the open market as of now -- P Jeff Feagles, DT Fred Robbins, QB David Carr, and LB Danny Clark.
They will be in the business of tendering some of their 11 restricted free agents. And they'll have a number of ways to do it.
For fourth-year restricted free agents, they can demand compensation in the position of the player's original draft position ($1.176 million), a second-round pick regardless of position ($1.759 million), a first-round pick ($2.521 million), or a first and third-round pick ($3.168 million).
For five-year vets, it goes $1.226 million for original pick, $1.809 million for a second-rounder, $2.621 million for a first-round pick, and a first and third-round tender will cost a team $3.268 million.
As usual, don't expect the organization to tender everybody, even in an uncapped year. They'll choose from a list that includes G Kevin Boothe, S C.C. Brown, T Barry Cofield, CB Kevin Dockery, WR Derek Hagan, WR Domenik Hixon, TE Darcy Johnson, WR Sinorice Moss, DE Dave Tollefson, T Guy Whimper, and LB Gerris Wilkinson.
Hixon, Johnson, and Tollefson are all three-year vets subject to lower-valued tenders: Right of First Refusal, $1,101,000; player’s original draft round, $1,101,000; second-round pick, $1,684,000; first-round pick, $2,396,000; first and third-round picks, $3,043,000.
DB D.J. Johnson, RB DJ Ware, and TE Scott Chandler are all exclusive rights free agents.
There was some confusion about LB Chase Blackburn, but he is signed through 2010 as he did not make the playing time incentives that would have triggered a voidable year in his contract.
Honestly, out of that whole group, the only ones I definitely expect them to tender are Boothe, Cofield, Hixon, and Hagan, and I'm on the fence about Dockery.
You guys want to keep Moss around, just in case?
Sunday, February 21, 2010
"The teams have the leverage," Cofield told the Newark Star-Ledger yesterday. "They have the opportunity to tender guys, keep them for cheap, and I expect them to do that. They’re businessmen, this is a business, so that’s what I expect."
Here's the rest of the story. Cofield said he's not going to make a big stink about it. But he thinks he knows what's coming since there have been no talks, he said, between the Giants and his agent.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Now, here's something interesting. Jenny Vrentas of the Star-Ledger wrote a real good story on how the Giants are going to track a sampling of 15 players with Timex' digital heart-rate systems. Such tracking has become almost routine among marathoners and triathletes, but it really hasn't cracked into the realm of team sports.
One of the first things they said at the dedication of the Timex Performance Center -- known here as the Giants' field house -- involved the use of these computerized measuring devices to enhance player training, performance, and safety. It's too early to say if the data will bear any useful fruit, but it's certainly a fascinating concept.
Worth a read.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Now, I know some of you probably don't care for Kiper, considering the way his hair never moves an iota on the draft telecasts. But he's been doing this for a long time, so I think it's valuable to at least get his opinion on things. So I'm going to give you some exerpts from his 97-minute session, especially those portions that might pertain to the Giants.
Some have suggested the Giants go so far as to trade up to the No. 1 spot, from their 15th pick, to get Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh, and others have suggested Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy or Tennessee corner Eric Berry. Kiper rates them as the top three picks in the draft.
"McCoy gives you a little bit more versatility because he can be a 3-4 end and a 4-3-1 gap penetrator," Kiper said. "Suh is a guy that is strong, powerful, an outstanding bull rusher. I think he is a better pass-rusher in general than people give him credit for. McCoy is a little bit more sudden, a little bit more explosive. But I think when you look at the productivity of Suh and the instincts and the ability to be a complete defensive tackle without being an elite pass rusher, Suh is.
"McCoy was also very productive at Oklahoma. I have them one and two on the board and would not argue with either one going first overall.
"You look at Suh and the productivity the last two years tells you all about this kid. He’s a warrior. I still give Suh the slightest of edges. I have McCoy at No. 2 on the Big Board overall as well, so its not like they’re just projected to go No.1 and No. 2, they’ve been the No. 1 and No. 2 player with Eric Berry the safety from Tennessee at No. 3. That’s been steady and solid since early October. Fourth has been a little fluid but the three of Suh, McCoy and Berry have been etched in stone and will be etched in stone all the way until Draft Day for me."
I get the idea from Kiper that Texas S Earl Thomas might be around when the Giants pick in the second round. Given their need at that position, he might be a legit choice.
"The size factor and how he’ll hold up in the NFL is something that may push him into the late first, early second round from where I had him," Kiper said. "He’s got tremendous ball skills, a good tackler, a big game guy. In the spotlight games he was at his best.…This is a guy that if you can get him in the early to mid-second round, I think you’re getting yourself one heck of a player."
Here's the whole call if you've got the time and the interest.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Would you try to find a kicker to handle strictly kickoffs? How much of a burden would that be on a team that really can't afford -- roster-wise, not financially -- many luxury items? Would you go so far as to spend a draft pick on a strong-legged kid, or would he have to be a veteran?
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
What's wrong with showing it live in the afternoon and then re-running the tape at night? Everybody knows who won by then, anyway.
According to ProFootballTalk.com, Folk is headed to the New York area in the next day or two to have tryouts with both the Giants and Jets. The Jets are interested because their own kicker, Jay Feely, is an unrestricted free agent.
The Giants are interested because, well, if the coaches feel the same way a lot of commenters on this blog felt this year, they'd rather see anybody booting kickoffs than Lawrence Tynes.
One should be careful what one wishes for, however. The Cowboys cut Folk before the next-to-last game of the regular season for one good reason -- he missed 10 field goals in his first 14 games this year. And he didn't have a touchback, as the Cowboys handed the kickoff duties to David Buehler from the beginning. Buehler put 29 of his kickoffs into the end zone, while Folk was called in for just two onside kicks. Folk doesn't hit the end zone often anyway, having recorded just four touchbacks in 169 kickoffs between 2007 and 2008.
He has been a very good field goal guy until this year, however, and it might be wise for the Giants to sign him cheap, if only to give Tynes some much-needed and well-advised competition during training camp. We'll keep an eye on that one.
I hear ya. And it's not that bad an idea. And it's a good bet that one of the three positions of the middle defense will be addressed by a veteran.
So who's available at defensive tackle? In our continuing shopping cart series, here's an idea of the selection Jerry Reese might be looking at once the free agent smorgasbord begins March 5. You needn't look further than the next few paragraphs.
You might also want to keep in mind that the Giants will probably tender defensive tackle starter Barry Cofield, who will be a restricted free agent unless a new CBA is reached. But there's a good chance unrestricted DT Fred Robbins will be let loose in free agency.
CASEY HAMPTON: This 32-year-old Steeler is one of the best defensive tackles in the league. He plays a true nose tackle in Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense, which would probably translate to the end of Barry Cofield as a starter in the Giants' 4-3. The Giants would have to go hard for him, since the Steelers have made him a re-signing priority. His 43 tackles helped the Steelers become one of the best run defenses in the league, and his 2 1/2 tackles shows he can pressure the passer. Might look nice next to Chris Canty.
RYAN PICKETT: The 30-year-old Packer helped transform Green Bay into a solid run-stopping defense. Almost all his snaps came at nose tackle on running downs and he proved a virtually impenetrable roadblock up the middle, where he made 47 tackles and batted one pass. At 340 pounds, he's strictly a first and second-down guy, though, as he barely pressures the passer.
AUBRAYO FRANKLIN: The 30-year-old 49er jumped into the elite class of nose tackles this year. The 49ers want him back badly enough that they plan to franchise him if they can't work out a long-term deal this week. He does almost nothing against the pass, but with Patrick Willis commanding the middle linebacking duties, he doesn't have to.
VINCE WOLFORK: The Patriots' defensive tackle is considered an elite product, and at 28 he should have plenty of gas left in the tank. He'd be a difficult get, however, since the Pats seem intent on keeping him around, whether it be through his preferred long-term extension or by franchise tag. We'll know by Feb. 25, the deadline for applying franchise and transition tags, whether anybody will have an outside shot at him. The Pats aren't beneath doing that, either. Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000, they've whacked around five players with the franchise hammer, so don't count on getting him.
TONY BROWN: You can always use a pass rusher, and with Robbins possibly on the way out, this 29-year-old Titan would be a great choice. He'll be restricted, absent a CBA, but he might be the one DT worth giving up a draft picks in compensation. He's one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in the league with five sacks and a league-high total of hits on the quarterback. And his 38 tackles indicate he's good enough against the run. Gonna be hard to pry away from Tennessee, however.
KENDRICK CLANCY: He's 32. He's got a Super Bowl ring with New Orleans. Problem is, he was hurt for all but two games in the regular season before going on IR with a knee injury. And he had lost his starting job even before the injury to Remi Ayodele. Still, he might be worth a flyer as an inexpensive pickup for someone who is stout in the middle.
TRAVIS JOHNSON: At 28, the Charger is still developing. He'd be restricted, too, unless a CBA agreement is reached. He had 16 tackles this year.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I did find the results quite interesting. When I posted the poll, I went in thinking that middle linebacker should be a primary focus of free agency. But by a slight plurality, you guys thought it was only moderately important. Of the 124 voters, 59 (47 percent) went with that option, while 55 (44 percent) thought it was an urgent matter. Only 10 voters, or eight percent, considered the position utterly unimportant.
Loved the discussion on the possibility of packaging Goff and some draft picks to get a guy like DeMeco Ryans, and the idea of drafting for someone like Penn State's Sean Lee in the second or third round. Shows a lot of insight out there.
We'll do a few more polls as free agency progresses and the draft draws near. In the meantime, keep reading.
It appears that 61-year-old former quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer is going to have quite a job in the UFL. Not only will he coach the Hartford Sentinels, but he's also going to be the team's general manager. Should be good experience for a guy who wants to get back to the upper rungs of NFL coaching.
The UFL formally introduced him today in a press conference in Hartford.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Considering today is Presidents Day, this is the perfect time for a new poll.
The question: How important is it that the Giants pick up a middle linebacker in free agency?
The answers: Urgent, moderately important, utterly unimportant.
Make your choice and then leave an explanation in this entry. And by middle linebacker, we're not just talking Karlos Dansby. You can throw out any name you wish, and maybe even make a trade. But if you're going the trade route, let's try to come up with something more creative than Osi Umenyiora, only because we're trying to forge new ground for the Giants' braintrust here.
We'll leave it up until tomorrow morning, at which point we'll discuss the results.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
The younger Gilbride spent the last four seasons coaching wide receivers and tight ends at Temple University. He will replace Sean Ryan, who moves up into former wide receivers coach Mike Sullivan's spot as Sullivan moves on to quarterback coaching duties.
An NFL source indicated that the hiring hasn't been completed as yet.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Co-owner John Mara met recently with New York senator Charles Schumer and indicated he'd was nearing a decision. Conversations have centered around the school's balking at the Giants' use of their artificial turf fields during inclement weather.
Schumer, meanwhile, has been trying to impress upon Mara the benefits of holding training camp up there for a 15th season.
"Holding the training camp in Albany is good for both the Giants’ morale and cohesion and the local economy," Schumer said in a statement released from his office. "What’s more, the training camp has become one of the favorite ways for Capital Region families to spend a summer day and, quite frankly, it is the Giants’ last physical link to New York State."
I'll admit to being selfish here, but I've always hated spending August in Albany. Nothing against the facilities -- they're outstanding -- but I didn't like being away from home that long. And now that the Giants have ample fields, including a full-sized field house that will shield them from the rain and allow the practice schedule to proceed uninterrupted, and plenty of locker room space, I'd have hoped they'd at least shorten their time away.
That may still happen. I'd say a week to 10 days would be ideal if they wanted to keep their Albany connection alive.
Does anyone here ever make the trip upstate for camp? What have your experiences been like?
Chris Palmer did upon resigning from the Giants as their quarterbacks coach. But it looks like he's found a new one. The United Football League has a press conference planned for next Tuesday in Hartford, Ct., at which time Palmer is expected to be formally introduced as the head coach of the transplanted New York Sentinals.
Rumors to that effect have circulated since Palmer turned in his resignation Jan. 29.
Just a glance across the line to the receivers position. That's right. Wide receivers coach Mike Sullivan will be Eli Manning's new position coach, with offensive quality control coach Sean Ryan moving up to replace Sullivan in handling the wide receivers.
Offhand, I'd say it's kind of an odd switch. But then again, Sullivan already jumped across the line with the wide receivers the last six years, considering he was a defensive back at Army. And Manning stated at the Super Bowl that he didn't really need a position coach to mold his mechanics, per se. He needed more of a quarterback's conscience behind him, a football Jiminy Cricket of sorts, who will get in his ear and tell him if his on-field decisions were pointing in the right direction.
"I talked to Coach Coughlin about this. I feel very comfortable with Coach Sullivan," Manning said. "I knew he was in the mix. I feel very good about him moving to the quarterback position. He's a guy who knows what we do and we can grow as an offense. I think he'll be good in the meeting room, giving me different ideas and things we can work on and I look forward to that."
Sullivan was well-liked and respected by the wide receivers, knows exactly what offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride wants and expects, and should work well with Manning. The only question is whether he can continue to develop third quarterback Rhett Bomar, who made some definite strides under Palmer.
He's never coached quarterbacks before, but said coaching the wide receivers involved a lot of interaction with Manning, anyway.
"I feel very proud of everything we accomplished as a wide receiving group and I enjoyed my experience working with some tremendous players over the years," said Sullivan, who was first hired by Coughlin in Jacksonville in 2002. "But this is a new challenge and a chance to grow professionally and stretch myself as a coach. It's exciting to move to the quarterbacks, particularly to work with Eli Manning. We've been together for six years and we've worked together to develop our knowledge of the scheme and the pass game particularly. And just to take that next step and have that one-on-one relationship with him and work with him and try to become the best possible player is really an exciting challenge for me.
"We spent a lot of time just by the nature of the positions, the receivers and the quarterbacks, not just out on the practice field but in the meeting room and many areas. In many cases that transition is one that is a lot easier than someone coming from the outside that doesn't know the system and doesn't know how we operate and doesn't have years of experience in a relationship built up. From that standpoint, it makes it a lot easier."
The only candidate the Giants are known to have spoken to was Buffalo's quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt. But he signed with Tampa Bay.
Tom Coughlin had no reservations about moving him, however.
"The major reason that I felt strongly about Mike Sullivan coaching the quarterbacks here is that Mike has been with us for all six years and he's been an integral part of the progress of our pass game," Coughlin said. "He was the position coach for the wide receivers last year and worked very closely with the quarterbacks and the offensive coordinator. He has a very good understanding of our passing game. He did the majority of the work in assembling our first and second down pass game. He is an industrious, very hard-working, very intelligent coach who looks forward to each challenge.
"In the words of Eli, he knows exactly what we can expect from Sully and that Mike is a grinder. Mike is going to work extremely hard in the face of any challenge - and his challenge is to continue the development of Eli."
Ryan will move to wide receivers after three years of breaking down the opposition and his own team in the film room, writing reports, and contributing to the gameplan in the coaches meetings. He does have experience with them, however, as he served as a kind of unofficial wide receivers assistant in training camp.
As Sullivan is now charged with advancing Manning, Bomar, and perhaps David Carr if he doesn't move on in free agency, Ryan will have a new challenge in advancing a young receiving group that surprised everybody with their production in 2009.
"Obviously, it's a younger group of guys, but a younger group of guys who have playing experience, which is a great combination," Ryan said. "There's excitement and room to grow for these guys. There's a ton of potential left to reach. At the same time, they're coming in with real game experience.
"I have three years of being in the room and hearing it taught and seeing what works for them and being able to carry on and knowing what Coach (Kevin) Gilbride (the offensive coordinator) and Sully and everybody is trying to get done within the offense - having that to work off of is an incredible advantage. You don't skip a beat. Obviously, I'm going to have my own way of teaching. I won't copy everything Sully did. But to have that as a background and have that kind of knowledge going in is going to make a great transition."
With Perry Fewell in as the new defensive coordinator and Robert Nunn handling the defensive line, it would appear the offensive restructuring should take care of staff save for the addition of an offensive quality control coach. Those positions are usually manned by younger coaches as a way of entree into the NFL from the college ranks. According to Mikey G at the Star-Ledger, Gilbride's son could be in line for that. Also named Kevin, he is currently Temple's wide receivers coach.
Mildly good news there. But it really looks like Dansby's ready to sell himself to the highest bidder. And there could be a few. He said he'd also be interested in going to San Diego, Miami, or Washington.
Also, don't count out his current team, Arizona, just yet. The Cardinals haven't made him any offers yet. But with three weeks to go before free agency starts March 5, anything can happen.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
"Really sad to hear about Antonio Pierce being released," Boss said. "Nobody knows the game better then AP! Tremendous leader and football player. AP made me a better player going against him everyday in training camp. I learned a ton from him. He will certainly be missed!"
What we haven't explored is a trade scenario. With a diluted free agent pool expected for March 5, it's anticipated that more teams will go the trade route this year than at any time in recent memory.
So I'm asking you, of all the middle linebackers who are not free agents, who would you like to see in a Giants' uniform next season? And what would you be willing to give up for him? Is having a veteran MLB worth shipping off a No. 1, or is something like a 2 and a 5 more appropriate? Would you give up a veteran from another position for him?
Talk to me, people!
Beginning on March 5, we proudly present the Karlos Dansby Watch.
For anyone who believes this is a surprise, consider this. Even before the bulging disc in his neck rendered him idle the final seven games of the season, Pierce had looked slow against both the run and pass after the snap. The old savvy was still there, and he always did a great job of quarterbacking the defense pre-snap. But he simply was not able to get to ballcarriers.
The fact that he was found to have a neck problem simply made the decision easier to replace him in the lineup. And now, given all that and the dangers the problem may present in the future, it looks like Pierce's career could be over. However, his agent Drew Rosenhaus, said on Twitter that Pierce is healthy and that several teams are interested in him.
That could be just agent-speak in an effort to drum up business for the nine-year veteran. But Pierce appears to be interested in playing again.
"A.P. came right in and took the bull by the horns from day one and was very instrumental in helping the New York Giants win a lot of games and accomplishing a lot of our goals during his time here,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “He has been an outstanding Giant and we wish him nothing but the best for his family and future."
It's truly amazing how quickly a career can head downhill. Since Pierce arrived in 2005 free agency from Washington, where he'd spent his first four years predominantly on special teams, he became one of the Giants' defensive leaders. Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora's pass rush skill overshadowed him at times, but Pierce's study habits and work ethic made him a favorite among teammates. The 31-year-old earned Pro Bowl recognition in 2006, and was a huge reason behind the defensive resurgence that led the Giants to a Super Bowl victory in 2007.
"When I came to New York I wanted to be a dominant player and help this organization win a championship, which we did in Super Bowl XLII," Pierce said. "I wanted to be a leader and I did that and was voted a captain for three years and another two years when we didn’t have captains and I was still out there. I wanted to be a guy who always led by example, a guy you could count on every day. You never had to worry if A.P. was going to be at practice or if he was going to show up for the game. I was going to be there."
Pierce made $4.35 million in 2009 and was due to make $4.75 million in 2010, the final year of his contract. The Giants, therefore, are saving some cash for themselves, assuming an uncapped year is coming up. But if, by chance, there is a new collective bargaining agreement by the March 5 start of free agency, and assuming a salary cap is part of that, they will have saved themselves $4.75 million under the new cap.
In either case, Reese has said the Giants expect to be prudent in their spending. They undoubtedly could put that saved money to use in pursing Arizona's Dansby, an inside linebacker with coverage skills who will be regarded as one of the few free agent prizes this year.
Jonathan Goff, an enthusiastic but raw player, heading into his third season, eventually took over for Pierce and could be another candidate as his successor.
But the future of the Giants' middle defense no longer includes Pierce. Asked what he is most proud of from his five years with the Giants, Pierce said, "Obviously, from a team standpoint, the Super Bowl. Personally, it’s how the guys on the team looked at me. They looked at me as a guy that led. I led by example."
Said Tom Coughlin, "When we brought him in here we were interested in A.P. for all of the dimensions he brought to the table – his leadership qualities, his natural charismatic ability to rally the troops, he loved football, he’s a very smart football player – he took great pride in studying the tape and knowing what everybody did on defense. He had the ability to communicate assignments on defense as the leader in the huddle. He was a three-time elected captain here with the New York Giants. He demonstrated great leadership. He has been an outstanding football player.
"Think of the screen play against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game and the tremendous play that he made. Had he not made that play who knows where that ball would have gone?"
"He has worn that Giant uniform very, very proudly."
That play Coughlin spoke about saved a touchdown in the icebox that doubled as Lambeau Field. Pierce sliced his way through three defenders to hold the receiver to a minimal gain, marking one of the greatest plays he ever made as a Giant.
The organization broke the news to him in two meetings, yesterday with Coughlin and today with Reese.
His final season with the Giants ended with 51 tackles (31 solo), three tackles for losses, a sack, two passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. His five-year totals with the Giants were 537 tackles (322 solo), 7.0 sacks, six forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and four interceptions. Pierce also had 44 postseason tackles (28 solo).
Pierce led the Giants with 159 tackles in 2006 (when he became the first Giants linebacker to play in the Pro Bowl since Jessie Armstead in 2001), 116 in 2007 and 113 in 2008. He was at the forefront again before the bulging disc was discovered two days prior to the Giants’ Nov. 22 victory over Atlanta.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
It's a fair enough point, though I tend to disagree. For all his marquee rep, I've never been a big Peppers fan. I've seen him get lost in too many games, and he's never truly had the big impact that a guy with six double-digit sack seasons should have. Still, he'd come with a huge pricetag, and I doubt the Giants would care to play in that ballpark.
Besides, he's a 3-4 guy. That doesn't mean he can't play a 4-3, or even stand up as a pass-rushing linebacker in a 3-4 look. I just think that, at 30, his best years probably aren't ahead of him.
That's must my opinion. Just for kicks, I want you guys to weigh this: Umenyiora vs. Peppers. Keep Osi, or cut him loose and go for Peppers. And no, you don't get to have both on the roster.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Put it this way. Phillips may well be coming along fine. But he hasn't started running yet. And even if he starts on his target date of March 29, six months out from the operation, there's no telling how much he'll be able to do, or whether he'll do it as well as he did before the surgery. You must remember that this microfracture stuff, though it's becoming common, is still a long rehab. Look what it did to Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins, who were not the same this year after similar operations.
What we're saying here is that one should not count on Phillips to return to full strength this coming season. If he does, so much the better. But Jerry Reese would do well to take a very close look at the available free agent talent there, if only to improve the depth over a position that relied on folks like C.C. Brown, Aaron Rouse, and a transplanted Aaron Ross after Phillips went down.
Here's a look at what might be available once the free agent gun sounds on March 5.
DARREN SHARPER: This guy has absolutely tormented Eli Manning, so it might be a case of picking him up to remove a major irritant to Manning's future. The first-year Saint is 34 years old, and could never be looked upon as more than a short-term solution despite nine picks, three of which came back for touchdowns, this year. But wouldn't you love to have his leadership and skills back there, even if just for a single season while a draft pick develops? Send Michael Johnson to the bench, stick Sharper right next to Phillips, and turn him loose in centerfield.
NICK COLLINS: This Packer is regarded as one of the top five safeties in the game, right up there with Sharper and Ed Reed. His astounding speed allows him to make up for his mistakes, and he'd probably fit in very well with Perry Fewell's Tampa-2 looks. He picked off six passes, and also plays the run, which could relieve Phillips of some punishment. But he'll need a new CBA to come free, and even at that Green Bay will probably re-sign the 27-year-old.
O.J. ATOGWE: The Rams' most consistent safety wound up on the IR with a shoulder injury, but he might be worth a shot. At 29, he's a strong tackler who could allow Phillips to concentrate more on coverage. He won't come free unless there's a new CBA.
GEORGE WILSON: Of all the safeties in the league, this 28-year-0ld Bill probably has the best shot of landing with the Giants. He's a big fan of Fewell and his aggressive schemes, and Fewell seems a big fan of his. Wilson, a restricted player absent a CBA, finished second on the Bills with four of their league second-best 28 interceptions, and was also second on the team with 103 tackles.
ATARI BIGBY: Another resticted guy, this 28-year-old Packer had four interceptions, 12 breakups, and proved a strong complement to Collins. He's a hard hitter in run support who had 54 tackles last year, and has enough range in coverage to transition from strong to weakside safety.
GERALD SENSABAUGH: The 27-year-old Cowboy showed toughness this year, and is also known as a strong special teams guy. He wound up on the strong side, replacing Roy "Horse Collar" Williams, and is mostly a run-stopper. The same can be said of a couple of other highly-regarded safeties like the Texans' Bernard Pollard, the Saints' Roman Harper, and the Colts' Antoine Bethea. The Giants would be better served signing a coverage safety, since that is probably where Phillips' weakness in a still-healing knee would probably suffer.
Any other ideas?
Monday, February 8, 2010
The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Taylor was active for one game with the Broncos, but did not play, after signing him Dec. 9. Kansas City, for which he played 18 games in the two years since he became their sixth-round pick in 2007, cut him Sept. 4. Taylor has played at both tackles.
Super Bowl XLIV was the most-watched television program of all time, with 153.4 million viewers. The estimated average of 106.5 million eclipsed that of the previous record-holder, the MASH finale in 1983 that drew an average of 106 million. I'm proud to say I'm a member of both groups. I'm guessing that doesn't make me unique, however.
The NFLPA and NFL management teams should now e-mail each person who tuned in and explain why, exactly, 32 teams and their players find it impossible to equitably divide an $8 billion pot.
But now that the Vince Lombardi Trophy has happily landed in the party capital of the world, we are truly in the offseason. My buddies in South Florida are at this moment either on planes headed home, or are scrambling to catch their flights after a long week of story production. The Colts may be in the middle of their breakup day, lamenting missed chances (Pierre Garcon's drop, anybody?) and how history eluded Peyton Manning. No worries, though. He's still a first-ballot Hall of Famer, even if he never wins another ring.
And, of course, in New Orleans, Mardi Gras has come early. They won't stop down there until Ash Wednesday. And by then, classy coach Sean Payton -- I love that he has a ring now, considering the shabby way Jim Fassel demoted him here -- will be well into the portions of his free agent and draft research that were put off until he dealt with more pressing matters.
For the Giants, there's still work left to do. Unless there's a major holdup, I expect they'll hire a quarterbacks coach by week's end. I'll have another position breakdown of free agency for you in the coming days, too.
In the meantime, don't be afraid to have a lunchtime Hurricane to toast the Saints. And put it on the boss' tab.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
I feel great for Sean Payton, who I always liked as a Giants offensive coordinator. He and his staff called a gunslinger's game from the sideline, going for it on fourth down, calling a successful onside kick to start the second half, and calling that all-out blitz that pressured Peyton Manning and caused that game-clinching interception by Tracy Porter.
And can't say enough about the performance of Drew Brees. Can't say enough about both quarterbacks, really, in the most pass-heavy Super Bowl ever. And, just as an aside, how insufferable might Jeremy Shockey become now after catching that go-ahead touchdown pass?
Actually, the worst part of the game was the halftime show. Daltry and Townsend just can't do it anymore, even though they did pretty good for two old rockers pushing, what, 90?
To all the Saints fans out there, congrats. And as we say up here in the north country, Lessez Les Bontemps Roulez!
In the immediate time frame, however, I want to know what you guys have planned for the game. Having a party? What's for eats? Going to a bar? Which one? Who's in a pool and what numbers did you get?
And is anybody watching the interminable pregame stuff?
Okay. We'll check back with you later. I'm rooting hard for the Colts just because I like the whole Manning angle. But I won't be heartbroken to see the Saints win. You know us journalists. Long deadlines, good stories.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Hey, you know all the background. Peyton Manning, greatest thing to hit NFL quarterbacking since Joe Montana. The New Orleans Saints, Super Bowl's sentimental darlings due to 43 years of futility and their role in rebuilding the morale of an area torn by Hurricane Katrina.
They've been writing all week about every aspect of it. So read this final sum-up, and then head into tomorrow relaxed. Watch the six hours of pregame chatter, and then sit back for the game and the commercials.
Keep this in mind, too. If the Colts win, it will still be too early to call it a dynasty, but not so for the Manning family. This is the third Super Bowl in four years that will feature either Peyton or Eli Manning, and a Super Bowl MVP award to Peyton would make it three MVP Mannings in four years. Now that's a family legacy!
INJURIES: Colts -- DE Dwight Freeney (ankle) and CB Jerraud Powers (foot) are questionable. WR Reggie Wayne (knee), RB Joe Addai (shoulder); S Antoine Beathea (back), LB Gary Brackett (knee), RB Donald Brown (foot), S Melvin Bullitt (knee), T Ryan Diem (knee), S Aaron Francisco (hand), RB Mike Hart (ankle), DT Antonio Johnson (shoulder), T Charlie Johnson (foot), G Ryan Lilja (back), DE Robert Mathis (shoulder), G Jamey Richard (shoulder), K Matt Stover (calf), TE Jacob Tamme (ankle), T Tony Ugoh (knee) and K Adam Vinatieri (hip) are probable.
Saints -- RB Lynell Hamilton (ankle) is questionable. CB Randall Gay (foot/illness); CB Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring); DE Bobby McCray (back/ankle); S Pierson Prioleau (quad); WR Courtney Roby (knee); S Darren Sharper (knee); TE Jeremy Shockey (knee); DE Will Smith (groin); T Zach Strief (shoulder); LB Jonathan Vilma (knee); T Jermon Bushrod (thumb); LB Jonathan Casillas (ankle); TE Darnell Dinkins (foot); G Jahri Evans (foot); LB Scott Fujita (knee); CB Jabari Greer (groin); WR Robert Meachem (ankle); WR Lance Moore (ankle); and CB Tracy Porter (knee) are probable.
WATCH THIS: If both teams play to form, this could be one of the highest-scoring Super Bowls of all time. But when was the last time that happened? Still, the makings are there quarterback-wise.
In Manning, the Colts have one of, if not the most, intelligent quarterbacks in the NFL. He threw for 4,500 yards this year, with 33 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. And he's only thrown one pick in his two playoff games this year, against Baltimore. After getting off to a slow start against the Jets in the AFC Championship game, he buried them with 24 unanswered points and finished with 377 passing yards and three touchdowns. Whether Manning wins his second Super Bowl ring tomorrow or not, Colts owner Jim Irsay has said he will rip up Manning's contract and make him the highest-paid quarterback in the league.
As good as Manning is, this won't be a walkover if only because of the presence of New Orleans safety Darren Sharper. As Peyton's brother Eli can attest, Sharper is a ball magnet, and probably the biggest reason behind turning the Saints' defense from so-so to very good. He'll be roaming centerfield, which means Manning will have to be careful about his dumpoffs to his ultra-productive tight end Clark. But for all of Sharper's prowess, the Saints don't have a corner who can cover wide receiver Reggie Wayne. The Jets took him out of their contest with Darrell Revis. But it's unlikely the Saints secondary can handle the fast receiver, who grabbed 100 passes for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season. And if, by chance, cornerback Jabari Greer does contain Wayne, right corner Tracy Porter will also have his hands full with young up-and-comer Pierre Garcon, who has come up huge in the postseason.
And then there's always Clark, who can line up tight, come out of the slot, or go wide. He, like Wayne, caught 100 balls for 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. Because of those two, the Colts finished seventh in points scored, averaging 26 per game.
Manning gets pretty good protection, and he'll need it against a Saints pass rush that left Brett Favre a limping mess after hitting him 15 times in the NFC title game. Manning has a quicker trigger than Favre, but if the Saints can get to him with any frequency they'll have a chance of at least forcing a few early throws and potentially some turnovers. Better yet, they'd like nothing better than to ground the passing attack and force matters into the hands of running back Joseph Addai, who produced just 828 yards and three touchdowns while the Colts' passing predominated each gameplan.
As potent as the Colts' offense was, the Saints put up even more points -- 31 1/2 per game. Drew Brees (4,388 yards, 34 TDs, 11 INTs) and his cadre of receivers, led by Marques Colston's 70 catches for 1,074 yards and nine touchdowns, were nearly unstoppable. Just ask the Giants, against whom Brees threw four touchdowns in a 48-27 win on Oct. 18. The Saints' major offensive asset is their diversity. Between Colston, Devery Henderson, tight end Jeremy Shockey, pass-catching running back Reggie Bush, and productive running back Pierre Thomas, defenses never quite know where the ball is going. And if Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney's ankle sprain doesn't allow him to exert the pass rush pressure that earned him a place on the All-Decade team, Brees could become that much more effective. If Freeney's play is limited, expect the Saints' solid offensive front to double up on the Colts' other excellent pass rusher, Robert Mathis, whose 9 1/2 sacks came in second only to Freeney's 13 1/2.
Colts linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Sessions are both adept at stopping the run, and Sessions can put a beating on the passer. The secondary is led by free safety Antoine Bethea's four picks, while nickleback Jacob Lacey added three others. But none of their DBs could be considered of the shutdown variety, which means unless the front four puts an inordinate amount of pressure on Brees, he'll have plenty of opportunities.
A shootout, however, would probably favor the Colts, since they have long depended on their offense to win games for them. Their defensive strength this year has actually been regarded as a luxury for that franchise. Of course, turnovers could change all that. That's where the Saints have the advantage, having finished the regular season at plus-11, the league's third-best turnover differential. Their 39 takeaways were second-best in the league, one short of Green Bay's 40.
Manning, however, has thrown just three interceptions in his last 152 attempts.
Should be a good one.
PREDICTION: It's great the Saints made it after all that city and team has been through. They have every right to be proud. But this is where it ends. Manning and his offense are just too savvy. Blitz Manning, and he knows exactly where to go with the ball. Give him time and he, Wayne, and Clark, not to mention the other receivers, will tear a defense apart. Unless the Saints can truly beat up the Colts' Hall-of-Famer-in-waiting, they'll have no shot. Still, could be a very exciting shootout. But Manning wins in the end, 34-27.
Friday, February 5, 2010
"I hit him the other day and said 'Stop saying stupid stuff … you got a better chance of me coming back than you quitting,' '' Strahan said. "That ain't happening. He ain't quitting nothing."
Here's the whole story.
Considering some of the doozies Strahan came up with in his playing days, I'd say he's got a point.
Jacobs said the knee bothered him the whole season, and he would have been much better served had he addressed the issue early on. He said an operation would have cost him four or five games, but then he might have been back at full strength, as opposed to the often tentative running back he became in 2009.
"I just kept going on it," he said. "I have to put it all on myself. No one else but me. I did it."
Jacobs said the knee should no longer be an issue. But there will always be questions about the rest of his body. Throughout his career, Jacobs has proven himself ultra-fragile for a man who stands 6-foot-4, 264 pounds. He may never play a full 16-game schedule.
But if he's right about the knee, he may have a shot at returning to the pounding, 1,000-yard runner he was in 2007 and 2008. He did learn one lesson this year, however.
"Not to play hurt,” Jacobs said. "If something happens to you, go and get it taken care of, no matter what it is. Because things aren’t going to get better."
That shows growth on the part of the commissioner's office. Before, the league was steadfast in its refusal to house its showcase event in an undomed, cold-weather stadium. But Goodell said the idea of having it up here is "interesting" to him. And the possiblity of it being played in anything from a frosty breeze to a driving snowstorm doesn't seem to bother him.
"That's the way the game of football is played," he said.
Have to say, I wouldn't be against this. Super Bowls tend to stimulate the economy for the week, as hotels and restaurants usually get filled to capacity the latter part of the week. And let's face it, it's not like the Olympics, a money-draining event that takes zillions of dollars in new construction and leaves cities in recovery for years to come. The NFL has used the carrot of a Super Bowl to spur the building of new stadiums around the league. So if the Meadowlands gets one, undoubtedly one would be forthcoming to places like Philadelphia, New England, Washington, Cleveland and Baltimore, which also have open-air stadiums.
Wouldn't be a bad precedent to set. And now that Goodell is on board, bet that it's going to happen.
If the last name sounds familiar, you're right. Vince's grandson. It's a good read about a guy who never used his bloodlines to get ahead.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Back to Osi. Now he's using terms like "disrespect" to describe his fall from fulltime to parttime player after the Denver debacle. He said he feels he was singled out as the root cause of the defense's demise. And he said he wants a sitdown with the Giants' organization BEFORE he even speaks to defensive coordinator Perry Fewell for the first time.
He's getting off on some foot here with the new guy.
He's also talking like a guy who's got a lot of leverage here. He doesn't. He's signed through 2012. And if this has to do with him getting a new contract, as he wanted before this season, I think he's just torpedoed any hope of that. Not that it was going to happen in the first place.
So, as you'll see in the complete interview, he now talks of getting a clear picture of what his role will be before he even reports to the offseason program, and before he introduces himself to Fewell. And if the Giants don't say the right words, he'd ask for a trade -- but only as a "last resort," he said.
So there you have it. Disrespect, conversation, trade, last resort. All the operative words that will surely add spice to an offseason that will already center around the rejuvenation of a defense that allowed 30 points seven times and 40 or more points five times. The question is, will Umenyiora be a returning or exiting part of that rebuilding job?
I'm sticking with him staying. Players have said stupid things before, and organizations have put up with that. The only way the Giants get rid of him is if they truly believe he's on a permanent slide downward. Even I'm not sure if that's the case.
That may sound like he's trying to force a trade, but until it happens I'll continue to say he's not going anywhere. He'll get his assurances, too, in the form of "Shut up and make more than two plays a game," from the coaching staff.
It does lead me to believe that he might not show up at the "voluntary" conditioning program, which would be a shame. Coming off a year like that, with his surgical knee still shaky, he'd be wise to take all the supervised work he can get. Like I say, the best way out of the doghouse is production, and that can start with the offseason program and OTAs.
More to the present, Umenyiora simply needs to clamp his mouth shut now. No player on that defense is in a position to make any demands, except perhaps for direct-deposit of his paychecks.
Whatever the case, Tom Coughlin said before the season ended that the Giants have no designs on getting rid of their run-challenged defender. And from all reports, that opinion hasn't changed. It could change if somebody came up with a nice trade package before draft day, say, a veteran plus a second and a five. But it's hard to believe Umenyiora would be a desirable commodity after the year he had.
Besides, he can still be considered damaged goods. I think the league will be watching him this year, his second after knee surgery, to see if he rebounds fully. And if he does, he'll play fulltime. He'll be happy. And the Giants will be happy with him.
Mark it down. He's going nowhere, people.
According to my guy Ralph, our on-site Super Bowl reporter (just kidding. I only have enough money to steal his info off his reports, meaning I got zilch), Eli Manning will have a hand in hiring the new quarterbacks coach.
He confirmed the Giants spoke to Buffalo's Alex Van Pelt, who opted to sign on with Tampa Bay instead. But he and Coughlin are working off a short list. The object, he said, is to get a coach who looks at the game through the quarterback's eyes, something at which the departed Chris Palmer did a great job. It's more of a support position, rather than a coaching spot.
"It’s a support system," Manning said. "It’s a guy that’s going to have your back and support you. When some coaches might not see things some ways, the quarterback coach sees it your way. I thought Coach Palmer did a great job. He thought more like a quarterback than a coach. That’s what you want, a guy that’s seeing what you’re seeing. Anybody can say ‘Hey you had a guy wide open over there.’ But (a quarterback coach knows) my read is over here, and I can’t help that (the defense) busted a coverage because I’m not even supposed to be looking at that guy."
Manning said the search will continue next week.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Remember, what they do in free agency will go a long way in dictating where they go in the draft. But keep in mind that any list is even more subject to change this year, given the near certainty of an uncapped year and the simple fact that some teams may lock up some of their talent before the opening bell the beginning of March.
Today we'll peruse the linebacker crop, or more specifically the inside linebackers. With the future of middle linebacker Antonio Pierce up in the air and the inexperience of an enthusiastic but raw Jonathan Goff, the Giants may well want to spend a few bucks shoring up that spot. But don't expect them to throw money wildly at any of the candidates. They've traditionally worked with a long-term budget, and not just because of the salary cap. Just because it's an uncapped season doesn't mean John Mara is suddenly going to turn into Daniel Snyder.
But here are a couple of guys worth paying a fair sum to.
KARLOS DANSBY: Yeah, I know. Everybody's talking about the 29-year-old Cardinal, and everybody wants him. Arizona may well sign him back, but if they don't he'll come out as one of the prizes of the free agent class. That means the Giants will have to beat out several teams who pursue this combination run-stopper and pass-rusher who feels comfortable in just about any front-seven alignment. He'd probably fit in real well with Perry Fewell's multiple-look philosophy, and he's certainly aggressive enough for the new defensive coordinator's liking.
BARRETT RUUD: This 27-year-old Buc will need a new CBA agreement to become an unrestricted free agent. If it doesn't happen, compensation in the form of draft picks would be required to pry him out of Tampa Bay. Don't think the Giants would want to go that route. But he's worth a look, anyway. The middle linebacker is regarded as a great tackler, something the Giants sorely need in the middle, and and he's been a defensive leader down there. There's a good chance he'll never hit the market in any form, as he is believed to be one of the Bucs' re-signing priorities.
DeMeco Ryans: Another guy who will be restricted in an uncapped year. He's been consistent for a fair Texans defense. He was second on the Texans with 123 tackles, but the 26-year-old didn't present much of a pass rush with just one sack. Still, just having a good run-stopper there would help the Giants immensely.
Kirk Morrison: He, too, will be restricted absent a new CBA. The 28-year-old Raider has started in the middle five straight years, and has made 100 tackles in each of those seasons. Chances are the Raiders will re-sign before anybody gets a crack at him.
SCOTT FUJITA: Danny Clark needs to go, so the 31-year-old Saints strongside linebacker might just do the trick. Obviously he's got some gas left in the tank. He finished up with 58 tackles, a sack, and two forced fumbles. And hey, you can always use somebody off a Super Bowl roster, can't you?
KEITH BULLUCK: The 33-year-old Titans Pro Bowler has an Antonio Pierce type of fire, but he's old and now he's busted up. Still, he had a pretty good year on the strong side, making 108 tackles before he was placed on IR at the end of the season. Might make for a one-year stop-gap, if worst came to worst.
GARY BRACKETT: The 30-year-old plays in the middle and was the Colts' second-leading (by one) tackler with 99. He also had a sack and five breakups, which indicates he's got at least half a chance of successfully covering a tight end or running back. Can't believe Bill Polian will let him get away, however.
STEPHEN TULLOCH: Needs a new CBA. But at 25, this Titans middle linebacker is certainly young enough after leading Tennessee with 132 tackles. Also had two sacks and seven tackles for losses in just his second year of starting. A downhill defender with quick feet and good side-to-side movement.
Any other suggestions?
Guess he figured out that when you shoot yourself, it's probably your fault it happened.
Burress also said he expects to play pro football again. I sincerely doubt that will be in a Giants uniform, though he did say he sent a letter of apology to team owners John Mara and the Tisch family for, you know, messing things up.
I'm sure they'll be dying to have him back if he gets out on schedule in 2011. NOT!!!!
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Van Pelt started the 2009 season as the Bills' quarterbacks coach, but ended it as their offensive coordinator after Turk Shoenert was fired.
And here's a blast from the past. Remember Ike Hilliard, the wonderful Giants' receiver who absorbed a medical compendium of injuries during his eight seasons with the Giants? Well, he retired from football following the 2008 season, his fourth year with the Bucs. And now he appears to be the front-runner for that team's wide receivers coach.
Hilliard spent the 2009 season coaching receivers for Jim Haslett's Florida Tuskers of the UFL. He hasn't been tabbed yet, but the report out of the Tampa Tribune says Hilliard's name continues to come up. He was a great player, in my opinion. One of the hardest-working guys around, a true warrior with an undying love for the game and a hatred for losing. He'll make a great position coach.
There's real news happening in South Florida. Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney's ankle sprain, which involves a totally-torn ligament on the outside of the joint, has rendered him questionable at best for Sunday's game.
In a week traditionally loaded with fluff -- no detail of a player's life is too small during Super Bowl week -- this will become an overriding story. Freeney, of course, is not just some rotation players. He's the Colts' best pass rusher, a member of the All-Decade team, and will be an invaluable part of keeping the prolific Saints quarterback Drew Brees off balance. Without him in the lineup, the Colts' other excellent pass rusher, Robert Mathis, will undoubtedly draw constant double-teams from an offensive line that already comes into the game fourth in the league in fewest sacks allowed and third in fewest hits on the quarterback.
Could change the whole tenor of the Super Bowl if he doesn't play, or even if he does. The Colts need him to be Dwight Freeney, not a half-speed version of him.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Now, you have to realize, Media Day is a zoo to start with. The entire legitimate press contingent shows up, along with every loony bird from MTV and the like. In all, it's not unusual to have between 2,000 and 3,000 people floating around the outside of the field and stands on a sunny day.
Now that it's being moved indoors, to a confined area, there's going to be a lot less elbow room. I'm probably better off away from it all, since I tend not to suffer fools lightly, especially in tight quarters. And you see plenty of foofs the Tuesday before the Super Bowl.
I feel bad for all my buddies down there. Hope they weather the discomfort.
Here's the entire list. Seems like a pretty solid bunch. Any arguments?
Well, we'll hold him to that. And he seems to be taking steps toward that goal himself, while at the same time pursuing that new deal. He's changing agents, from DeBartolo Sports to, as reported by my guy Mike at the Star-Ledger, CAA with Tom Condon.
You can bet on two things with that move. One, that Smith will probably wind up with a lucrative contract if there's one to be had, as Condon has a reputation as a fair but hard negotiator. Second, that he won't hold out of anything. Condon, a real pain in the neck to most reporters because he keeps his negotiations far from the media spotlight, is not the kind of guy who keeps players away from team activities just to prove a point.
Condon also represents Eli Manning, who received a $97 million extension in 2009 to make his total contract worth $106 million. No doubt, he'll get the best possible deal for Smith, who was just given the Visio Top Value Performer Award at the Super Bowl for being the biggest bargain in the league. Smith, with a team-record 107 catches, made $460,000 in '09 and is set to earn $550,000 next season. Smith won over Baltimore RB Ray Rice, San Diego WR Vincent Jackson, Denver defensive end Elvis Dumervil, and Jacksonville WR Mike Sims-Walker.
In fact, knowing what goes on and what's said in crowds that gather for MMA and wrestling shows, a raised middle finger and an expletive probably ranks as one of the milder moments of the evening. Those are crazy folks, right there.
If anything, Ryan might want to avoid those events in the future, so as not to put himself in situations where his emotions might be photographed getting the best of him. But let's face it, it was an MMA show. And the guy was heckling him. So let's not get too moralistic about it.
So now it's on to the Super Bowl, of which you and I will not be a part. But if there are any issues that come up during the week, we can certainly discuss them here. I'll be keeping an eye out for any reports my buddies down in South Florida send up. Right now, wondering if Eli Manning is down there yet. Peyton won't have a lot of time to huddle up with him this week, as players are kept fairly busy. But they do have time for a dinner or two toward the end of the week.
The good thing about the Super Bowl, from a sportswriter's perspective, is that there's plenty to write about. And there's plenty of availability. There was probably a press conference last night with about six or seven players from each team and the coaches. Same tonight. And starting tomorrow, with that stupid Media Day, where every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a camera and microphone get to come and act stupid (dumb questions, brides asking players to marry them, kid's cartoon network characters), players MUST appear and talk, under threat of a substantial league fine, for an hour each day until Friday, when the coaches give their final press conference.
The output of all this access winds up being so much non-football related pulp that few even read. But it's the exercise. Personally, I'm wondering what the final media count will be at week's end. Bet it's way down, given that papers are cutting staff and travel budgets wherever possible.
We'll keep an eye on things from here. And if anybody has any suggestions about discussion topics during the week, just chime in.