Tag Archives: Eli Manning

Headlines 1/3/2012

Yesterday’s biggest news story was the return of Amar’e Stoudemire.  But the story turned familiar.  The Knicks came out ice cold and couldn’t buy a lay up, while the other team was hitting every open shot they were given.  At one point the Knicks went down 19 and once again climbed to within one shot of tying, but could never find the defensive stop they needed.

“You can’t keep spotting teams 20-plus leads and think you’re going to win,” Mike Woodson said. “The last few games have been a disaster in terms of how we’re starting games.”

Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News writes that Amar’e Stoudemire is in direct competition with Carmelo Anthony to get touches and therein lies the rub and the greater storyline as it relates to the rest of the 2012-2013 season.  In a more optimistic story, the New York Post’s Kevin Kiernan writes that if Carmelo and Amar’e learn how to work together, and the fans are patient, a bigger reward awaits the Knicks. Zach Schonbrun of the New York Times writes that Amar’e Stoudemire’s standing ovation was ripe with optimism but filled with caution.

Yesterday’s game was a pretty familiar storyline.  Fall down early, make a great comeback but ultimately fall short.  The added storyline of Amar’es return and Carmelo’s return from a two game sit out due to a hyper extended knee made this a must watch game.  Nothing about this game was pretty, despite 45 from Carmelo Anthony.  The Knicks continue to live and die by the three and yesterday they were slaughtered.  The Knicks were 10-37 from beyond the arc while the Blazers shot 11-33.  It seemed that every shot that Nicholas Batum took either went in or airballed and he didn’t airball much.  He was the high man, and also the one given the responsibility of trying to guard Carmelo.  When one on one defense didn’t work, the Blazers began double teaming Melo.  Credit Melo with finding his open teammates, but nobody ever found a rhythm that would make the Blazers go away from the strategy of doubling Melo.  

JR Smith continues to be a real Six Man of the Year candidate playing an all around game that everyone thought he could play but never lived up to, either due to immaturity or indifference.  Either way, the idea I would think, is to have Amar’e and JR come in to give the team an offensive lift when they can’t seem to score points.  At some point Steve Novak will start hitting the close to 50% that he can, and the Knicks will have a formidable 9 man rotation.  Of course, the odd man out in this rotation will be Ronnie Brewer who is known for his defense and is a starter by name only, but plays very few minutes thanks to his inability to hit the wide open corner three, once Iman Shumpert returns.  That return is still being speculated about, but expect in the next two weeks to hear an announcement from the usually tightlipped MSG office.  I found the rotations a bit weird, as this was kind of a throwaway game for the Knicks.  They were working with several line ups, but having a very quick hook with any line up that had Carmelo and Amar’e in it which was odd to me.  Its a chemistry issue they want to avoid for now until Amar’e gets fully healthy, or its something they have decided upon for the betterment of the team.  Stoudemire’s minutes were limited to 20 yesterday but while he only played 17, he seemed tentative and hesitant.  Too amped up on his first few attempts before settling down on his old familiar: the pick and roll drive to the hoop dunk.  Once he got that lead pass from Pablo Prigioni, and he dunked, there was that familiar spark in his eyes.  

On the other side, I was extremely impressed with Damian Lilliard.  I had heard he was a legit rookie of the year candidate (the lead dog IMO), but to see him in person was impressive.  He’s got that quickness and body control that makes him a poor man’s Derrick Rose.  That step back three was the kind of shot that you only see from more poised veteran guards and it tells you how much more mature beyond his years this kid really is.  A four year starter from Weber State, Lilliard is proving to be the team’s best draft selection since LaMarcus Aldridge.  Also, how in the hell does JJ Hickson dominate us EVERY FREAKING TIME?  He’s in the ALL-“ROLE PLAYERS WHO HAVE CAREER GAMES AGAINST THE KNICKS ALL THE TIME” Team.  

The Jets offseason unofficially started the day they couldn’t beat the Tennessee Titans, but their official offseason started Monday when they fired the GM, Mike Tannenbaum.  Many wrote about how Rex should have been given a pink slip with the GM.  Rich Cimini of ESPNNY writes why this plan of action, hiring a GM while keeping the incumbent coach, could be a death penalty for Rex. Ben Shpigel of the New York Times writes “No doubt the Jets’ position is appealing; only 32 of these jobs exist, after all. But whoever takes over for Tannenbaum will inherit a mess at quarterback, several bloated contracts and a roster in dire need of an overhaul, not to mention a coach he did not choose in Ryan, whose return in 2013 Johnson guaranteed.”  Mark Cannizaro of the Post writes that a curious decision was to let Tony Sparano hang on to his job as offensive coordinator, though he admits that the Jets lead the league in curious decision making.  Steve Serby of the Post writes that Rex needs to come out and talk about it.  His press conference was canceled by the team on the day that Mike Tannenbaum was let go.  The owner Woody Johnson had a five paragraph statement read.  In fact, the only member of the Jet hierarchy that did any talking, was the guy they let go: GM Mike Tannenbaum.  Finally, Manish Mehta of the Daily News, and Rex Ryan’s favorite scribe writes, “Rex Ryan, the king of transparency and accountability, isn’t talking.”

You can understand the frustration from the beat writing community as it relates to the Jets.  The team had a frustrating and disappointing season.  They aren’t in the mood to answer some difficult questions.  But the bigger dilemma becomes that the Jets organization wanted to dump everything on the lap of the GM while saving the coach who’s been at the head of much of this mess.  What I don’t know and what will apparently never be clear, is who was responsible for the Tim Tebow signing?  That was a decision made by an influential voice within the organization.  Was it Rex Ryan?  It didn’t look like it from the amount of playing time he got and the constant refusal to name him the starting QB especially in the meaningless week 17 contest against Buffalo.  Was it Mike Tannenbaum?  Maybe.  He did make the, now idiotic, decision to resign Mark Sanchez and guarantee him $20 million basically bolting him down to the Jets roster for the 2013 season.  But then why would he turn around the next day and go after Tim Tebow?  His decision to give Sanchez that contract extension was definitely influenced by the fact that he openly went after Peyton Manning and Mark found out and was upset by it, and yeah, this whole thing sounds soap opera-ish.  My guess is that it was owner Woody Johnson who has never really made a good decision since he’s taken over the team’s ownership.  

Woody has always been about the bottom line and winning the back page war with the Giants who never have had any desire to partake in that kind of thing.  This move was meant to distract everyone from the poor season they had.  Add to that, the whole building up a wall and the almost CIA Top Secret Tebow playbook and you had the makings of a ridiculous campaign that became bizarre.  Needless to say the Tebow situation was NOT the only reason the GM got fired, but the quarterbacking position was a major influence.  Add the contract, and the overall lack of depth to the roster and very few draft picks with which to fix the roster, Mike Tannenbaum leaves his successor very few avenues to go through in order to cure what ails this team.  

I know Jet fans won’t want to hear this and obviously they won’t consider this move, but the best way to get all of your draft picks back is to trade one of your best players.  Yes, if the Jets pay most of Mark Sanchez’s salary they may get a sixth round pick, but why do that deal in the first place?  My guess would be to bring in a strong QB’s coach to work with Mark.  The Jets should invest in a running game.  Steven Jackson will be a free agent soon, and he would like another chance at winning.  His price range may be too high for the Jets but they should consider knocking on that door.  They still have stars.  Maybe if they trade a guy like Muhammad Wilkerson OR Darelle Revis, they will get a bunch of draft picks back- maybe even a number one.  Remember, the Rams still have picks from their RGIII trade with Washington, and they are trying to find building blocks and Wilkerson would definitely be looked at as something they would want.  Would that be worth it? 

As it relates to media relations, this won’t get better unless the team gets better.  But even then, there are some feelings that need to be mended.  Its clear that several in the media are feeling ignored and not being given a story and don’t expect for them to continue to speculate, thereby giving the reader and the fanbase something to worry about.   Lately, the boastful and talkative Jets have gone into bunker mode.  What is the deal there?  The Jets will certainly have many questions to answer.  Once they find a new GM perhaps some of those answers will be given by an actual member of the Jets hierarchy.

While the Jets are majoring in confusion and outright non-commital, the Giants are in a different state of mind.  They were left with no answers as to why they no-showed their week 15 and week 16 contests against two playoff teams while demolishing the pathetic Eagles (there was no homer-ism in that description of the Eagles, just outright contempt.  Please note the difference).  Changes are coming for the Giants and one change that seemed imminent is now as close to official as can be: Osi Umeniyora announced on the Michael Kay show that he probably won’t be returning to the Giants and he will test the open market.  Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News writes that panic isn’t setting in on the Giants, a team who came within one game of making the playoffs.  Paul Schwartz of the Post writes that it won’t be easy identifying what exactly happened in those week 15 and week 16 games, but it won’t be tough to know what needs to be done.  Zach Shonbrun of the New York Times writes that remorse is the word around Giants camp.  Remorse that a quality team didn’t get to defend its Super Bowl title.  Finally Ohm Yungmisuk of ESPNNY writes the same thing only with hilarious quotes from Martellus Bennett.

I’m not going to try and figure out weeks 15 and 16.  The usual flat performance that we’ve come to expect was the immediate answer following each loss, but it never seemed to accurately describe what happened.  Losing 34-0 to a Falcons team that shouldn’t have soundly beat the Giants?  Losing 33-14 to a team and a QB who had issues galore?  It just didn’t seem right.  If it was lack of focus and intensity then doesn’t some of that fall on the coaching staff?  Just trusting that a team that has done it before will pick it up automatically won’t be an easy sell to a fanbase that went into the season and especially after blowout wins against the 49ers and the Packers.  Clearly the talent is there to compete and a returning core will be a good start, but with almost two dozen players becoming either restricted or unrestricted free agents (here is a list) there will certainly be a good amount of change at the Timex center come next season.  

IF I had to guess who is definitely coming back from that list, I would say that Stevie Brown, Victor Cruz, Andre Brown (all restricted free agents), Lawrence Tynes, Kevin Boothe, Will Beatty, Sean Locklear,  Bear Pascoe, Adrian Tracy aka YOsi (young Osi), and Domenik Hixon.  Guys I would like to be re-signed but are iffy because of either price or shaky health are, Kenny Phillips, Martellus Bennett, Rocky Bernard, Ramses Barden, Chase Blackburn, and Keith Rivers.  Every other guy on that list is a goner in my eyes.  The Giants had another good to great year on the offensive line but saw too much of their health depleted.  

If I were in charge of the draft, I would try to find an offensive lineman (you draft tackles because they are usually the best athletes), before they find a pass rusher.  I think the Giants just had a off season in terms of pass rushing and Perry Fewell made the mistake of trusting that his line would apply pressure without any stunts or blitzes.  That last game against the Eagles, the Giants used a lot of stunts and linebacker blitzes and created a ton of turnovers.  That may be a blueprint for how Fewell designs pressure in the upcoming season.  The Giants line were not winning their one on ones which they were used to winning, so perhaps mixing in some pressure from the LB’s and corners along with winning some one on one match ups will help but the team needs to begin to play with more fire.  Maybe next year they won’t enter week 16 and 17 having to win games just to make it into the playoffs.  This is still a team capable of winning a Super Bowl and the window is right now open. As Martellus Bennett hilariously put it, 

“It is a big a– window, we are not talking about apartment windows on the side. We are talking like mansions.  Like [Evander] Holyfield’s house in Atlanta where he had people working the grounds for you,” the tight end continued. “I don’t think the window is closing. I think there are other guys coming in to open up another window.”

That remains to be seen.

 

What do you guys think?

 

 

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Daily Rounds 12/12/2011

First off let me apologize for yesterday’s second part not being put up.  Unfortunately technology let me down and erased my entire 2200 word post as I was finishing it up.   Not too proud of that but hey, in this business you move on to the next one and here we are.  More NBA.  More player movement.  More on the Ryan Braun positive test front.  But first we begin with football and boy is there a lot to talk about.

In a must win game that was essentially for the season and keeping their playoff hopes alive.  The Giants were down 34-22 with 5:41 left in the game.  The Giants scored two touchdowns and a two point conversion to go ahead 37-34 with :46 left.  Romo helped drive the Cowboys the length of the field setting up Dan Bailey for a game tying field goal.  He had hit two from 40+ deep already in the game.  He kicked it, and it went through….only, Tom Coughlin called the timeout prior to the kick and so the Boys had to kick it again.  Wouldn’t you know it, Jason Pierre Paul gets his long arms on the ball on the second kick and the Giants end up winning the game 37-34.  Mike Vacarro says JPP deserves a lot of the credit for this win.  Tom Rock of Newsday says its no wonder Brandon Jacobs had his best game of the season against the Cowboys: he hates them.  Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star Telegram found out that not even Tony Romo’s 4 TD 0 INT game could save the Cowboys from its porous defense.  

Forget arm chair analysis.  Forget Monday Morning QB.  The Cowboys AND the Giants defense were clueless and giving up yards in bunches.  Eli Manning threw for 400 yards.  Romo threw for 321.  Eli threw for 2 TD’s and 1 INT, and Romo threw 4 TD’s and 0 Int. The Giants rushing game had 110 yards, and the Cowboys had 139.  The Boys gave up 510 yards and the Giants gave up 444 yards.  This was not for defensive purists.  Two times you saw the Giants and Cowboys with defensive lapses leaving receivers wide, wide, wiiiiide open.  But when both defenses needed plays only ONE guy from either side stood out and he wore Giants blue Sunday.

Jason Pierre Paul was a man amongst boys yesterday in so many ways.  Let’s count how many game changing plays he had ok?  He had a safety on Tony Romo.  He had two sacks that forced the Cowboys to punt on both occasions.  Six tackles including a critical stop on second down on Felix Jones which forced the Cowboys into a critical third down.  His pressure on that next play made Romo throw a hurried pass that JUST, and I mean JUST miss Miles Austin.  When I tell you that the game is over if Austin catches that pass, I mean it, he was led perfectly, he had four yards on Aaron Ross and if he catches it, he’s gone.  Touchdown.  Game.  Season.

But the pass dropped two yards in front of Austin’s outstretched arm because of Romo being hurried.  Because of JPP’s pressure.  Then on the game tying field goal, after icing the kicker, JPP comes right through the middle and blocks the FG attempt.  What an amazing play.  What an amazing game.  What an amazing player.

On the same field with Justin Tuck, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, the best player on the field was a young second year player who JUST started playing the game five years ago.  Not professionally, I mean started playing the game of football.  He’s doing this all from pure physical talent.  Once he learns scheme and the little tricks that all the greats know, this kid is going to be among the best in all of football, earning annual trips to Hawaii.  If he didn’t earn it with yesterdays game alone, I dont know what you have to do, to get it.

Most of the narrative this morning will be on Eli’s come from behind heroics as it should be.  The Giants have had little to no running game.  The Giants defense has given up points in bunches.  The stress on Eli to make plays and correct decisions has gone way up this year and he’s responded with the kind of game that you didn’t expect as a Giant fan.  Why?  Because you’ve seen the throws like the one that got intercepted by Sean Lee, the ones that leave you scratching your head and wondering WHAT Eli saw.  Some of the playcalling was questionable as well.  How many times did they run that draw play to little to NO success?  But Eli made some terrific throws including on a 3rd and1 in the fourth quarter, he lofts a pass off his back foot (traditionally a troublesome thing for ANY Giant fan and had me screaming NO ELI NOOOO) which make its way to Victor Cruz who somehow, someway knows where to be when Manning needs him to be there.  I love the trust that he has in his receivers.  He’s been working Cruz into the game plan.  He goes to Manningham, and trusts him even after what could’ve been a critical drop.  Anyone miss Kevin Boss?  No, because Eli has built up Jake Ballard in much the same way.  Then there’s Hakeem Nicks who the Giants know is an elite receiver.  Eli picks and chooses when he goes to Nicks and you can see if he’s got one on one matchups with Nicks the ball is going to be up there and will find his way to him.  There’s a built in trust there and that’s what elite quarterbacks do.  No need to get into that conversation right?  I mean we can put that one to bed can’t we?  Ok good.

Now comes the bad.  Aaron Ross is a liability on the secondary.  Romo knew exactly WHO to pick on when it came to crunch time.  Prince Amukamara is still a liability.  He has the speed to keep up with fast receivers but he doesn’t have the scheme down yet.  Antrell Rolle and Deon Grant are both better when they are in the box making plays.  The Giants were missing Kenny Phillips who by definition is their best coverage safety.  But he’s their ONLY coverage guy in that group and he’s lost a lot of his elite speed thanks to a chronic Knee arthritis which will always have him lacking that speed.  The Giants front line need to do a better job on the run.  The Cowboys lost DeMarco Murray but Felix Jones, who historically has played the Giants VERY WELL, ran the ball up and down the field on them with nothing stopping him.  The Giants were not playing the run well at all much of the game and that’s a weak area.  They are so focused on rushing the passer that they open up lanes for runners and that’s problematic for this team.  They aren’t disciplined in their gaps and constantly leave gaping holes.  Let’s not congratulate the running game yet.  We’ve yet to see Brandon Jacobs run with that kind of purpose, though to the offensive line’s credit, a much maligned group, they opened up HUGE holes and Jacobs obliged to run through those lanes, but it was no surprise it was against the Cowboys, whom he HATES.  If you need any evidence you can just watch that video of his celebration.

It was funny watching that game because the Cowboys and Giants have so many similar issues its like looking in the mirror.  Its no wonder that both have the same record and have the same question marks moving forward.  Victory masks alot of the bad as Trent Dilfer said in the post game and that’s true.  Romo converts that third down with 2:12 remaining in the game and its all over.  JPP doesn’t make the block then we’re headed to overtime and who knows what happens there?  Either way, the Giants AND Cowboys have much to improve upon if they have any dreams of making a run in the playoffs.

Knowing they have to win out, the Jets can rest a little bit easier this morning as they got some help and now control their own fate.  The Jets bludgeoned the Chiefs 37-10 yesterday in what was their most convincing win of the season, next to that Jags game in week 2.  Mark Cannizaro of the Post says that Rex’s message was loud and clear.  Manish Mehta though reported after the game that Jim Leonhard was lost for the season with a knee injury marking the second consecutive season in which the very important member of their defensive secondary goes down.  

The Jets were comfortably out in front by the fourth quarter and yet for some reason Mark Sanchez was still in the game.  These are the moments where Rex scares me.  You have to know to TAKE HIM OUT.   The Jets also, opened the game by having the wrong personnel grouping and had to call a very embarassing timeout, six seconds into the game.  Something I had never seen before.

Those were the TWO negative things I took from that game.  The Jets played unbelivably.  The Chiefs had 4 yards in the first half.  Total.  Yep, you read it right.  The crazyness of that statement can’t be overstated.  The Jets defense was confident they would have their way with the Chiefs and they played that way and were able to win the game in the first half scoring 28 points, the first time they’ve done that in about 5 years.

The best part of this game?  Shonn Greene rushed for 129yards.  The Jets are undefeated when he goes over 100 yards which tells you that when Greene is going, the Jets are rolling.  He looks stronger and healthier than I’ve seen him all season and he seems to be getting better as the season wears on which bodes well for the Jets.  They are going to rely heavily on that running game much like they did for the last two post seasons and will depend on Greene to get those hard fought yards.  In the playoffs the Jets face rush defenses of the Steelers and Ravens who don’t give you yards, they give up inches.  Those are the times when the offensive line has to man up and right now they are manning up for the Jets.  Wayne Hunter had his best game of the season in my opinion.  Looks like Mangold is fully healthy and the Jets seem to be getting more conservative in their playcalling and working their offense through the running game.  Everybody knows about their passing weapons, once the running game gets rolling, those receivers will look MUCH more open.

Yes, Tim Tebow did it again.  Down 10 with more than 6 minutes left in the game, he drove them  the length of the field and got a touchdown.  Then a huge running gaffe by Marion Barber to get out of bounds which conserved time for the Broncos set Tebow up and Matt Prater made a 59 yard field goal.  Woody Paige of the Denver Post says that God’s plan continues.  The magic of Tim Tebow continues to grow, and its in Denver’s locker room where they believe they can’t lose says Mark Kiszla.  Want debate?  Here’s Frank Bruni of the New York Times wondering if God can win games and Chuck Klosterman of Grantland.com takes a look at the people who hate Tim Tebow.  

We’d like to believe that sports statistics can tell you a reason for everything.  Every stat purist, which is the in thing now in sports, and new stat purist believes that the numbers don’t lie. In fact ESPN has a show everyday with that moniker and in 99 out of 100 cases that’s true.  Meet the 1 case in which it isn’t.

Tim Tebow is THE most polarizing athlete of our generation.  Why?  Because he challenges our perception of everything we know to be true.  A QB with his mechanics CAN NOT succeed.  That’s what we’ve been told as ardent football fans.  3-16 through three quarters?  Overthrowing receivers by five yards?  Running a college style offense because your coach doesn’t really believe in you?  The critics of Tebow are many and they are all based on reason.

We can’t find a reason to believe he’s going to be successful.  But how to explain those fourth quarters?  You can’t.  You can’t explain why Marion Barber steps out of bounds.  You can’t put into numbers how you absolutely knew heading into overtime that Chicago had absolutely NO CHANCE of winning that game.  You can’t put into words why you felt confident in Matt Prater hitting that 59 yard field goal.  You can’t tell people why you knew that Barber was going to fumble that ball when they were in field goal territory already.  If you saw that play, if Barber breaks free that tackle which he was close to doing, he’s going to the house.  Done.

But the Broncos believe in Tebow.  The world believes in Tim Tebow.  Somehow receivers get open in the flat and get to go out of bounds.  The Red Sea opens up and pushes these players to play harder than they ever have.  That catch by DeMayrius Thomas was unbelievable.  There are no numbers that do this man justice.  There’s only the result on the field.  7-1 record.  Six straight victories.  Another fourth quarter comeback.  Look at John Elway.  During the first five weeks of this he was firmly against the Tebow momentum that was building.  These last three he’s been firmly aboard.  He’s hi-fiving and smiling and wondering exactly what he did to deserve this fate.  You can’t explain to anyone exactly what is going on with Tim Tebow, but what you can do is say you’re having a great time doing it.

Will Carroll of SI.com and author of the book “Juiced” explains in wonderful detail why the Ryan Braun positive dope testing must be taken with a grain of salt. 

Sunday, when everyone found out the usual statement came out from the Braun/Brewer camp: be careful to judge.  As Will explains, the positive sampling could’ve just been a trigger as part of  the B testing.  We must know if the A testing had a positive test to make the report even true.  As he explains an “A” test positive would trigger further, deeper look at “B” testing which would then be unequivocal.  There were reports coming out that Braun’s tests were OFF THE CHARTS positive which would be damning to him.  Alarming for the reigning MVP.  Braun’s reputation is basically smoked if the aggressive appeal that his camp is preparing doesn’t go through.

But in the court of public opinion, its over.  They have decided.  Braun is guilty.  And no matter what comes out next, even a sliver of doubt will hover over his career.  Its sad that a mistake could’ve cost him this.  Putting supplements that even he had no idea what was inside of them, into his body was a bad idea and may have cost him his reputation.  Its sad, but unfortunately in today’s day and age, an initial positive is a HUGE permanent negative.

On the heels of this morning’s news that the Clippers have submitted a multiplayer deal to the league with the Hornets in exchange for Chris Paul, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN writes that fate is changing in Clipper land but it all depends on what the Clips can stomach in a deal and if Paul will opt in on an extension for one more season.  The Lakers meanwhile completed their deal to send Lamar Odom to the Mavs, but the compensation was interesting and something that made Kobe VERY unhappy according to Mike Breshnahan of the LA Times.    Kevin Ding is still wondering why they traded Lamar Odom, oh wait that’s right, its the money.  Meanwhile in Orlando, Dwight Howard appears to be pulling a power move and he isnt happy that his suggestions weren’t heard according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

I’ve held on to the belief that the Clippers HAD to make a move.  For either Dwight OR CP3.  For the sake of keeping Blake long term they had to prove they were serious.  They are.  Oh boy they are.  This deal that includes PG Eric Bledsoe, former All Star Center Chris Kaman, Al Farooq Aminu, and most importantly the unprotected first round pick of the Minny-Ha-Ha Timberwolves as Peter Vecsey lovingly calls them is a deal that NEEDS to be made.  Of course the caveat and catch here is that CP3 opts into his final year.  That’s the deal breaker and we’ll see how badly CP3 wants to leave and how much he’s in love with Southern California and the obviously talented young nucleus of the Clippers who on promise alone offer more than the Lakers ever did.  The Lakers offer a legacy, star power and tradition.  The Clippers meanwhile have a history of being morbid and terrible.  A history that this team can change and that has to be alluring for any competitive person.  Unless you’re Lebron James and you just decide to bolt your hometown who’s been sick for ANY kind of title since the Paul Brown days.  But I digress.

The Dwight Howard situation seems teneable.  He wants to go to New Jersey.  Go figure.  But the Lakers pulled a move to get a first round pick and a trade exception which would allow them to swallow a contract of say a Hedo Turkoglou.  Now its on Otis Smith’s lap.  The offer of Brook Lopez and two first rounders or Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and a first round pick for Dwight and Hedo’s bad contract.  I dont know that the Lakers automatically send both but its possible now that Gasol and Bynum know they are expendable in the Laker’s eyes.  IF the Lakers don’t do this trade and wind up with them on the court, trust me when I say this will come back to bite them in the ass.

Phil Jackson famously punched Gasol in the chest, openly questioning his heart without ever uttering a word.  Now Gasol is going to have to man up and realize that this is JUST a business.  An interesting option that was opened up by the Chicago Tribune yesterday is the chance that the Bulls tell the Magic to pick any grouping of players not named Derrick Rose.  Would Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and a first round pick be enticing enough?  Would they have to include Omer Asik?  Probably.  But if you’re the Bulls, don’t you do that trade?  There are rumblings that Dwight wouldn’t resign there so there is that problem.  Without any assurance of that happening how can the Bulls ever truly think they could keep him.

Also the problem with Howard’s request to move to Brooklyn via New Jersey, is that Deron Williams has openly stated he plans on opting out and testing free agency.  Suitors like his hometown Mavs will have cap space now to pursue him and that would be a very enticing option for Deron.  Why would Dwight go to New Jersey knowing that there’s a chance that they don’t resign Deron?  Which means that Dwight will be a free agent at the end of the year.

My prediction?  Dwight doesn’t get traded.  Lakers DO trade Pau Gasol for picks, young players and cap relief and try to win with Kobe and Bynum (no chance of that happening) and then reload next summer.  Dwight would love to come to LA as most predict but who knows what can happen.  What I do know is that the Clippers NEED to do something to combat their current legacy which stands as a major roadblock against them.

Its wait and see time.

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Sports Round up 12/05/2011

So many stories to begin with but to start it all off, a New York superstar is now leaving his nest for beachier pastures:

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The Jose Reyes era in a Met uniform is (un)officially over.  According to reports that began popping up last night, the former Mets shortstop had apparently agreed to a 6 year $106 million contract.  And here are the opinions flowing in first from John Harper of the Daily News who says the Mets were justified somewhat in letting Reyes go.  Joel Sherman of the New York Post says now the job of Sandy Alderson will be to repair the image of the Mets.  Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald says move over Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes is here.  Finally the voice of Met fans, Matthew Cerrone of Metsblog.com gave his opinion about why this sucks.  

They say its always darkest before dawn.  Ok fine, so that was a line from the Dark Knight.  But it holds true.  Here are the facts:

1. The Mets knew him better than anyone else.
2. They were never going to guarantee that sixth year so the Marlins knew what it would take for them to absolutely score Jose Reyes.
3.  The Mets were virtually transparent throughout this whole process about their lack of immediacy to move on resigning their superstar.
4.  The Mets are broke and this was eventually going to happen and the Met front office played this perfectly to reflect on that.

Those are the indisputable facts of this.  I disagree with Harper who believes that Jose will NEVER be better than he was last year.  I think he has the potential to be the guy everyone was gushing over from 2006-2009 and then again last season.  He’s a speedster capable of stealing 60 bases a season.  He’s the prototypical top of the order bat.  He can hit for average and has shown flashes of power.

But that injury bug had to worry Met officials and no longer is Omar Minaya and staff involved in negotiations where they would’ve certainly pushed for a Reyes resigning.  But Joel Sherman is right, in baseball senses, this is absolutely the right move.  Could the Mets have gone to $100 million?  Not likely.  So the Marlins knew that he wanted a $100 million deal and a 6 year commitment something that everyone knew the Mets were never going to guarantee.  Stories are coming out that some officials within the Met organization were scared to even guarantee 5 which apparently would’ve been the Met offer.  Of course we don’t know that because the Mets never gave him an offer which I find is the only indefensible thing about this whole process.  The Mets were never involved.  They never got up to make an offer.  They practically pushed him out saying they didn’t want to set the market.  They told him to come back with the best offer and then the Mets would then tell him if they were willing to compete with it.  All the Marlins had to do was put a desperate deal together that fit the rumored parameters of what he wanted and they knew they had their man.  This was so easy that the Marlins couldn’t have botched such a thing and they didn’t.  You knew they were desperate to make a splash with their new stadium being built.  The Mets and the front office never had any intention of matching any crazy offer.  Even the first 6 year $90 million deal that was reported, was probably something the Mets would not have matched had Reyes come back to them with that offer but Reyes and his agent never did, knowing that if they got over $100 million from practically the only team that was offering him a contract he would take it.  Now Reyes joins his homie in South Florida, Hanley Ramirez, who will not be thrilled to be shifting positions though it is the right move in baseball senses.  Ramirez is way too big to be playing shortstop anyway and a corner infield position is probably best for a guy losing his lateral movement.  You put Reyes who has a cannon of an arm and the ability to make huge plays.

Its clear what the Marlins are doing.  They are building a Latino-emphasized team for a Latino fan base to embrace.  Their move to Miami was about the money but their success will be predicated on how much they can depend on that fan base to come out.  Latin countries love their baseball, so fielding a team that caters to that fan base ONLY makes sense and financially they will need to begin filling up that park to justify their spending spree.  Either way, the Marlins got an excellent corner stone player and now will have to win and sustain a winner for a long time for the first time EVER in their history.

As for the Mets, I think Sherman is way too judgemental on the Mets for my taste.  Rebuilding their image?  The Mets have an image problem yes but THIS is not something that would rebuild it.  Met fans have to be realistic about their owners current financial situation.  Sadly, the owners have to be realistic too.  When I first heard about Reyes signing with the Marlins I was upset and ready to just blast the Coupons but I woke up calmer and with more understanding.  I realized one thing about this whole mess: Alderson has to face all the blame and all the questions surrounding this mess.  But the Wilpons, as long as their buddy Bud Selig is commissioner, has an enabler that will allow them to pay back their loans on their time and so financially they will be solvent for the foreseeable future.  Alderson is also the right play at GM.  He is a former Marine who can face all the questions about credibility with a stone face and give the politically correct answers back to a media who will want him to admit two things: the Mets are broke and the Coupon family is no longer able to carry the burden of fielding a big market team.  Unfortunately the Coupons will stay in ownership for as long as they like.  That Madoff judgement doesn’t look like it will leave them broke (in terms of rich people, so if the Madoff ruling took them for a large sum of money or whatever they were rumored to be paying, they wouldn’t be rich enough to own a sports team but rich enough to still be hundred times richer than you or me….isn’t that rich?) so they will be around and will expect you to come to the stadium and fill the seats.

Unfortunately if history is any indicator and if last season and the season prior are any kind of model by which to go on, believe you me, the Mets are in trouble more financially than anything Madoff could ever do.  The saving grace?  The Mets field a winner.  But first they will have to build a team.  Want to prove that you aren’t broke and that the Reyes decision was strictly smart baseball business?  Fine.  Spend that money you would’ve spent on Reyes back into the team.  Lets see you do that.  I doubt they will.  Sigh, the life and times of a Met fan.

Speaking of disappointments the Giants ALMOST came away with the upset of the year when they took the defending Super Bowl champs and current undefeated team and current MVP of the season Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to the wire .  Unfortunately there was :51 left on the clock and Aaron Rodgers needing ONLY to get into field goal range to clinch it and that he did.  Gary Meyers says the Giants gave their best effort and it wasn’t enough.  Mike Lupica says, nice try Giants.  

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In the end, they were the defending champs and the Giants were a reeling team fighting in desperation and showing their true colors.  Lets face it, since losing their secondary and much of their depth throughout the season the Giants have fought and clawed and been the antithesis of the Philadelphia Eagles.  They were not supposed to beat them and were not even supposed to be in the same league with them yesterday unless the Giants summoned a fight and resolve that had gone missing the last two weeks.  Shows how important Michael Boley is to a linebacker unit that was pretty much decimated with injury and lack of experience.  Then losing Osi Umeniyora and JPP for period of the game had to be troubling but the Giants kept fighting.  I said it prior to the game, if the Giants could get stops they would win the game because their offense could put up points.  But a killer pick six early on in the game came back to haunt them and then a phantom hands to the face penalty also kept a drive going for the Packers who eventually scored.  Tom Coughlin used up challenges and the Giants were absolutely terrible with time management last night.  He challenged two plays that had no chance of being over turned which left him with none.  No play after that looked like it needed reviewing to over turn but the Giants were fortunate.  However, this idea that the Giants were right to throw it on the first two downs when they were at the Packer goal to go situation in under two minutes to go is absolutely insane.  You don’t leave QB’s like Aaron Rodgers time like that to go the length of the field to kick a chip shot field goal.  The Packer offense is SO explosive and we all know that and yet the Giants mindset was to make sure they scored.  Well, the Giants know that should they run would they have necessarily gotten it in on first down?  No.  Second down?  Probably but not a certainty.  Then on third down you throw it up for Nicks to make a play on it.  That Nicks play was in their back pocket the whole time and yet Gilbride, the Giants OC, refused to go to it.  Leaving Aaron Rodgers with the time to do what he does best.

Those are the many negatives I take back from this game.  The positives?  Lets count them shall we?  The Giants played toe to toe with the best team in football and almost won.  The Giants finally showed some heart.  They had a lot of calls go against them but they remained composed and kept fighting.  Michael Boley and Ahmad Bradshaw reportedly stayed healthy throughout this game but we’ll know once the week progresses as to how they feel.  This looks eerily similar to the last time the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007?  They will have to win out from here to ensure they win the division.  Even though the Lions and Bears (who look like they will be without Matt Forte which should effectively end their season) are reeling, the Giants still have to handle business on their end beginning in Dallas which I can assure you is MOST realistic.  Look, this was statistically and hypothetically the toughest schedule in the NFL in terms of games and the Giants were 6-2 heading into it.  They beat the Patriots, hung in there with the 49ers and almost won that game.  Played poorly against the Eagles and Saints and then looked rejuvenated against the Packers.  If they take yesterday’s attitude into their remaining schedule, Antrel Rolle’s prediction that the Giants and Packers will meet again WILL come true.  The Giants have to handle their business moving forward.  The G-Men can do this and now is the time for the famous Jim Fassel speech. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ab2pnlWkd4

The Jets went into Washington in basically Giant territory of win-it all and came away with a commanding 34-19 victory over the Redskins who’ve lost 7 straight.  Filip Bondy says Sanchize commandeered the Jets to victory.  Mike Vaccaro believes this could be the start of something huge for Gang Green.  

I’m not going to pretend like I saw this game from beginning to end.  Unfortunately the rigors of married life throw a monkey wrench into those things.  But what I did see, I saw Mark Sanchez and a game plan centered around trying to protect him.  I saw a close game up until about 5 minutes left in the game when Sanchez led a drive that culminated in a TD pass to Santonio Holmes which was as beautiful a pass as you’ll see perfectly lobbed over the defender’s head who Holmes had beaten anyway.  I saw the defense force a turnover immediately on hapless Rex Grossman.  I saw the Jets punch it in for insurance.

But I also saw more miscues on special teams and an offense that somehow could NOT trust Sanchez with anything more than a quick slant pattern.  The Jets are a terribly conflicting team but they have the elements of a defense that can be great.  They have the elements of an offense that has weapons there to be great.  Their special teams has been sloppy at best these last 6 weeks but they have the elements of a team that can make another run but they have the elements of a team that can and will give Jet fans heartburn and asthma attacks on the way.  Do I think the Jets are a Super Bowl contender?  No.  Do I think they can beat the Patriots?  OH YEAH.  The Pats are NOT unbeatable.  For that matter, the Pack are not unbeatable.  The Jets HAVE to play on top of their game though.  Giving teams like the Patriots those kind of turnovers will cost them.  Be thankful they were ONLY playing the Redskins.

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And the Broncos just keep winning.  Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post writes more so than the Tebow-factor, John Fox has quietly pulled ALL the right strings.  

Look, I can’t begin to explain to you how this Tebow thing is going.  I just know that its bigger than you, me, Denver or the great sport of football.  Its in that grey area that nobody can quite put their finger on.  The Broncos have now won 5 in a row and it should be written in the rulebooks of the NFL that if the game is close against the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow is playing in that game, the game should be called because Tebow is going to do something that makes this liberal country get into the silly conversation about religion that has me tired even thinking about it.  Tim Tebow is amazing.  Tim Tebow is fantastic.  He’s a great kid.  You can say till your blue that his style of quarterbacking won’t get it done but the Broncos aren’t winning solely on the left arm and legs of Tebow.  Or his heart.  Its the defense and a coach, John Fox, that was given a QB that if you gave him a polygraph today would admit he didn’t want.  Now the Broncos and Tim Tebow are linked and no matter what John Elways says or does, barring a collapse and Tebow completely blowing games down the stretch, John Elway will be hard pressed to find an immediate successor for the Broncos QB job which up until two weeks ago even was open for applicants.

I know that Elway believes that Tebow can’t be a conventional QB.  But credit John Fox for realizing that early on.  The job of the head coach is to put the team in the best position to win and he has done that.  Fox’s coaching staff has protected Tebow within the confines of a system that he can win in while teaching Tebow the finer points of throwing the football and the system they are running.  Some of the throws Tebow has made have been exceptional including that sideline throw to Demairiyus Thomas who had a huge day for the Broncos.  BUT, the fact is that more than Tim Tebow, the Broncos have been putting together wins as a team.  At some point all the detractors have to realize that and just give up this ill fated discussion UNTIL Tim Tebow gives us a reason to.

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Giants Postgame Reax!

I know what you’re going to tell me.  Don’t buy into just one victory.  Its still early.  Only half the season has been played.  I get all that.  And yet.  I want to yell and scream at everyone and everything.  I want to just yell out profanities and mumbo jumbo that has no clear meaning.  That’s the feeling you get when you see your team pull out a victory like that.

Its that kind of victory that shifts the attention from a negative to a positive.

Unfortunately THIS is the kind of victory that can help a team lose its perspective as they enter into the league’s most unforgiving second half schedule.

The Giants still haven’t played the Cowboys.  They go up to San Fran this week against the 7-1 49ers.  Then its back home for the Eagles against a team who embarassed them at home last year and may come in very angry and worse, VERY dangerous.  Then comes the Saints who play like the Dow Jones.  One week scoring 62 then the next not being able to score against a winless Rams team.  Then the week after they face the Packers.  Yep, the for now 8-0 Packers who will be coming off a very emotional Thanksgiving Day game and given a few extra days to rest to prepare for the Giants at the new Meadowlands.

Exactly WHO did the Giants piss off in the league office that they were given this schedule?  Either way, this is the kind of game that can bring the team up and help propel them to something special and help them realize the potential in themselves OR its the kind of game that can have them head into Candlestick overconfident and have their asses handed to them.  THEN start a spiral downwards that could cost them the division.

Either of those scenarios are still in play BUT for now, let’s just revel in this instant classic game that once again gave us the kind of goosebump highlights that made Giant and Patriot fans reminisce over Super Bowl 42.  So let’s delve into the big plays and the small things that may come back to haunt us:

– Eli IS elite.  Let’s put that argument to rest.  He’s a Super Bowl winner.  Clutch as they come.  And judging by Philip Rivers’ last few games we can end the talk that he’s better than Eli despite the fact that the argument, when one really breaks it down, is ludicrous considering what Eli has accomplished when compared to Rivers.  But that’s it for now.  Let’s remember that his number one receiver, running back and starting center were ALL out due to injuries.  The Giants have always been conservative when it comes to injuries and preventing further damage so there Eli was playing with Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz, Ramses Barden and Jake Ballard.  So if you take out Mario Manningham, a fifth round draft pick, we’re talking about two undrafted free agents and a guy who hadn’t played in over a year thanks to an injury.  That was Eli’s Sunday afternoon.  By Monday morning each had made atleast one play to put the Giants in position to score OR scored a touchdown.  Amazing.  That’s what great quarterbacks do.  That’s what elite quarterbacks do.  Plain and simple.

– Welcome back to Brandon Jacobs who played like the guy we all saw in 2006 and 2007.  The fear inducing runner who loves contact with smaller DB’s.  I think Tom Coughlin said it best, he wasn’t going east and west, he was going north and south and when Brandon Jacobs does that he’s a great runner because not many want to deal with his physicality.  His stats won’t say it, but if this is the Brandon Jacobs we’re going to get moving forward, teams had better worry; there aren’t two more angrier runners in the game than him and Ahmad Bradshaw.

– Once again, the coverage units did their job.  This time, it was Deon Grant who seemed to be everywhere that Tom Brady did NOT expect.  Forget the fact that Grant had one INT and two almost INT’s off Brady who never seemed to account for him, it was his coverage of the TE’s that helped win this game.  If the Giants allowed Hernandez and Gronkowski to get open, it would’ve been a long afternoon but the Giants knew that in order to beat Brady you had to occupy the TE’s long enough for the pass rush to be effective.

But the better coverage job was done by Mathias Kiawanuka who had the dubious honor of covering the slot guy in Wes Welker OR his kid brother Danny Woodhead.  No two slot receivers give defenses more fits than those two and Kiwi, the fruit Ninja, had to mix in coverage along with blitzing responsibilities and played a phenomenal game.  The kind of game that makes you realize why the Giants took from a position of strength (DE) to apply into a position of weakness (LB).  Kiwi had one INT of Brady thanks to a tip by Michael Boley (who we’ll laud too) which landed in his arms.

– Speaking of which, Michael Boley has been a God-send for the Giants since he signed with them in 2009.  The Giants were thin at the position and needed some youth badly.  Thanks to Boley’s emergence and his ability to call the signals on defense, they got more than they bargained for and have been rewarded since trusting him with the signal calling.  He’s been the defacto Mike despite playing mostly strong side LB on most downs.

– Back to Eli.  Bad Eli showed up on that one INT play in which he threw off his back foot and basically gave the Patriots all the momentum back but it eventually didn’t come back to haunt them, but those backfoot throws are the kind of things that drive you crazy as an Eli fan and give the haters plenty of ammunition against him.

– So after waiting for a year, we saw Ramses Barden make the kind of catch where you realized having a 6’6 and 240 pound receiver can be crucial.  On a 2nd and 10 on the final drive, he snatched a surefire INT and muscled his way into a first down which kept the drive going.  Amazing stuff and the physicality we had hoped to see.  Reminded me of Plaxico.  No lie.

– For the last few weeks, I told you how much I was impressed by Jake Ballard and well, what can you say about his Sunday afternoon?  Made the most clutch catch on a play that I’ve seen Eli throw plenty of times before.  Its his patented throw tight into double coverage and hope his receiver makes a play on the ball.  He did that throw twice, the second being the one that drew the pass interference call which set the Giants up at the Patriots one with less than a minute to go to win the game.  Ballard has been such a great find for the Giants that you’re now seeing what all the talent evaluators saw when they let Kevin Boss leave for the Raiders.  Look, I’m not going to say that that decision wasn’t with its inherent question marks but that’s why you trust the system and trust the development crew.  Want to know another Giants tight end who has been enjoying success?  Scott Chandler.  Chandler was on the Giants practice squad and today stars as the Bills TE.  You trust the system and you allow the development to happen.

– Which naturally leads me to the guy in charge of all that and that’s Jerry Reese.  During his first year as GM he engineered a draft that saw all 7 picks see the field and play prominent roles on a championship team.  Now, five years later with Reese’ job pretty much on the line, Reese did nothing but stand pat.  He let Boss leave for the Raiders.  He worked out a compromise on the Osi Umeniyora situation and he did an amazing job retooling the roster with some good draft picks.  Basically he got back to what made him a good GM and didn’t go out and spend money frivolously like he had done the last two seasons.  I’m not saying that he’s the GM of the year, but he’s in the running and we’re going to see more of that put to the test.  Prince Amukamara still hasnt played a down so that position of dearth may become one of strength if the Prince comes and plays to the talent the Giants expect.  Not bad for a guy who was going to enter a lame duck year eh?

– How poetic that the music being played on the loudspeakers as Eli and co were coming in was Victory by Biggie?

– The Giants played excellently on both sides of the ball and managed to be effective in both areas especially on limiting yards after catch which is a very tough thing to do with these Patriots and also an essential thing to do.  Everytime the Pats would catch a pass, they took a hit and were immediately dropped.  Only until the second half when Brady finally got a chance to hit receivers in stride (make that one, only Wes Welker did any damage) did the Pats have any YAC.  The Giants finally played an almost completely good game from top to bottom.  106 rushing yards on 24 carries which is still a 4.5 ypc average but after the first run for 18 yards by Ben Jarvis Green Ellis, the Patriots never had a high of more than 13 which was on an end around.  The fact is, the Giants played tough, motivated and within the game plan that was given to them.  Give them credit for keeping the Pats scoreless through 2.5 quarters and forcing Brady into uncharacteristic mistakes.  Brady never really had a clear lane of vision and never looked comfortable.

The Pats were considered by most a Top 5 team in the league prior to Sunday’s game and the Giants certainly will play the cream of the crop but they were up against the 32n’d rank pass defense.  The 31st?  That would be the league’s best team, the Green Bay Packers.  Much of that is due to the Packers usually being ahead comfortably and teams racking up yardage after they have put the game out of reach but Aaron Rodgers had to play a near perfect game in San Diego to escape with a W.  He also had to put up monster performances to escape a 2-6 team in Minnesota to also come away with a victory.  The Saints looked lifeless and completely lost against the Rams and never really looked dominant against the Bucs.  The Eagles are a complete mess and basically 2 losses away from their season being over.  What i’m trying to say is this: NO TEAM does NOT come away looking like an unbeatable team.  For the first time in years, there is an actual question mark each week.  I can see the Giants winning the next 4 or losing the next four.  Its either the ceiling or the basement.  Its unreal how open it is.  Betting this season has been fun and i’ve been moderately successful but its a complete crapshoot.

I’m saying this to Giants fans:  Don’t worry about the schedule.  Let the schedule worry about itself.  Let’s play this one game at a time and I think we may end up having a few more of these postgame moments in our future:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-locker-room-mvps/09000d5d823a982e/Locker-room-lingo?continuous=true

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Week 5 Postgame Reax

Before we get into the interceptions and everyone’s need to blame Eli for all of the Giants problems, I’ll try to explain why Eli wasn’t at fault for today’s loss and why a surprise group is at fault for today’s loss.

– Seattle came out on the field with the hurry- up offense which was successful in beating the Giants and I’ll tell you why for two reasons:

1. The NFL is a copycat league.  So if other teams see an offensive philosophy that works against a defense, then yes, other teams will try to copy them and go for it.

2. The Hurry-up offense negates the pass rush because Seattle did quick hitches and slants.  Look at the Giants DB’s, they are 5-8 yards off the receiver.  Why?  Because the point is not to let the receiver beat you with their speed.  If the route takes longer to develop, the QB will have to hold on to the ball much longer and thus gives time for the DE’s and tackles to get to the QB which drives the defense.  the lack of speed by the corners is a problem

– I don’t watch the Seattle offense well enough to know this, but is it really a good thing for them to be running an option offense in the NFL?  I get that the college spread offense has been the latest revolutionary offense that has taken hold in the pro league, but the option offense?  I mean, if a pro offense is too much for Tarvaris, I get it, but how many teams will be able to run it effectively?

– The Giants giveth and the Giants taketh away.  Amazingly this loss can be pinned on the lack of taking advantage of opportunities that the Seahawks continuously gave them.  I counted 5 passes that were sure fire interceptions that the Giants dropped.  You can take one of them away because the Giants then got a strip fumble on the very next play.  That’s four extra turnovers the Giants could’ve had which means the Giants left points on the board.  Again, this game was done in by mistakes that the Giants didn’t take advantage of, as opposed to the ones they did.

– For the second straight week, the Giants offensive line was manhandled at the point of attack.  All day, the Seahawks were running inside stunts and coming RIGHT UP THE MIDDLE which is how they got the safety to begin with.  Anthony Hargrove punched right through the middle and before Eli even turned around after the handoff, Hargrove’s helmet was in Bradshaw’s chest and pushing him behind the goal line.  Then there were the constant line mishaps.  Clearly David Baas’ absence was huge.  Low snaps, terrible handling and the Seahawks constantly coming right up the middle of the line meant that there were several leaks at the center position.  The Kevin Boothe experiment hopefully will end in time for the Bills coming into town.

It was the kind of week that the offensive line once again had a problem.  Then there’s the defensive line.  Now, the QB pressures, hurries, and sacks will cloud the fact that the Seahawk line was powering some strong runs by Marshawn Lynch.  We’ve glorified the Giants when they can hold firm against smaller lines but boy, runners like Marshawn Lynch and Beanie Wells last week will give the Giants problems.  Bigger running backs can muscle a few extra yards out of the Giants defensive line who’ve shown poor tackling technique.  The one handed reaches for tackles will NOT cut it against bigger backs OR shiftier backs.  The Giants have been susceptible to those kind of runners for some time now.  It will be difficult for the Giants to stop anyone if their run defense isn’t closing running lanes.

– As fantastic as that catch was for Victor Cruz, I still think that the better emergence has been Hakeem Nicks.  Every week Nicks makes a grab that makes you go wow.  He’s not going to get the press that a Calvin Johnson gets because Eli doesn’t throw to Nicks in triple coverage, he only saves that Sportscenter highlight for Victor Cruz.  Last week, Nicks grab to set up a 1st and goal to score the touchdown to make it a one possession game against the Cardinals was flat out impressive where he muscled the ball away from the corner, threw him down, and then ran with the football for about ten yards.  That’s called force of will.  That’s his drive.  The fact that he wants nothing to do with Facebook or Twitter or hates to do the commercial stuff (I don’t mean commercials, but just the networking and posing) tells you all about how humble, and driven this kid is.  Hakeem Nicks is the real deal and for too long we’ve been hungry for a receiver to step up since Plaxico Burress left and he’s stepped up in a huge way.  At some point Eli and him will get that back shoulder play routine and become so in synch with one another that all it will take is a look to run a back shoulder route which I have to say, is probably next to the fadeaway by Jordan, the most impossible play to stop in sports.

– Victor Cruz has absolutely been impressive these last few weeks starting from his Eagles game where he had some terrific touchdown grabs.  More so than his highlight reel which has been unreal, his emergence has been that Eli has become much more comfortable in trusting him with the ball which was evidenced by Eli going to him deep in Seattle territory and the game on the line.  Now, him slipping and Eli trying to get it to him anyway shows that there are still little parts of his game that need to be fixed but there is someone that Eli has become confident in.

– On the other side of the good tidings for receivers, is the bad.  Mario Manningham has simply disappeared from Eli Manning’s radar in key critical moments.  I’ve been a fan of Manningham since he was drafted in the fifth round.  I thought he was a steal at that point in the draft.  He has the flair for making great catches.  But he has dropped plenty of critical throws and that’s the way to get OUT of the graces of your QB which is what Victor Cruz can tell you after his key third down drop in the first quarter of the first game got him a first class seat on the bench.  It was only necessity, after Manningham’s injury that got Cruz back into the rotation and he’s taken full advantage of his second chance.  It looks like Manningham has to get in some extra practice time and make some bigger catches in order to get the fair Eli’s attention.

– One more reciever I want to give props to is Jake Ballard.  When Kevin Boss was not retained and the Giants let him walk I was wondering what the G-men were thinking but they are legitemately excited about Ballard’s progression and growth as not only a pass catching tight end but as a blocker as well.  Ballard first of all, looks like Boss so the similiarity begins there, but his blocking has been pretty good and has filled in nicely.  Manning loves to throw to his tight ends to begin with and the absolute flop that Travis Beckum has been has only exacerbated how effective Ballard has been.  Converting Bear Pascoe to TE has been a rough go of it, but Ballard’s emergence gives Eli yet another safety net to throw to.  Remember when the Giants were afraid of losing two key Eli safety nets in Steve Smith and Kevin Boss the Giants have found two new ones in Cruz and Ballard.

– Now, I promised you I would defend Eli Manning and I will.  This loss is not on him and that interception.  The QB gets all the credit and fairly gets all the blame when things don’t go right.  But he was not the reason they lost this game.  Watch the Packers.  Watch the Saints.  They have a certain rhythm and definition to their offense.  There is an air of unpredictability when they line up.  There is an air of confidence that when its a passing down, they can pass it knowing that they will convert.  I dont get the sense the Giants have that.  I think the Giants running game is better than both of those teams to be fair and some of yesterday’s struggles and only converting their first third down on that Victor Cruz hail mary of a play is NOT a recipe for success but its clear that the vision of this offense is not a good one and it starts with the coordinator.  I have NEVER been a fan of Kevin Gilbride.  He relies on the screen pass far too often which leads to the once or twice in a game play where Eli just kind of chucks it at Bradshaw’s feet and the crowd starts booing.  The screen is a good play if you run it twice in a game but the G-Men are a screen heavy team and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.  I get its a successful play but not when teams read it.  Not when teams are sitting on that play and when you have become so reliant on it that teams can sniff it out early.  Gilbride’s play calling got a lot of love in that Philly game and with just due.  He called a brilliant game but in a game against Seattle where their run defense is stout and you know that and you can’t draw up pass plays that are effective enough to take advantage of it?  That’s just lazy play calling.  I get that the Giants want to impose their will on the defense and want to make sure that they play Giant football but you have to be ready and willing to adapt.  The Giants have three quality receivers now.  I still am high on Manningham even if Eli has begun to phase him slowly out of the offense.  I think Jake Ballard has quietly been an absolute beast and its up to Gilbride to utilize these weapons on offense to give the Giants a different shade to this offense.  Its time to pull out the bigger designs on this offense.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this was the game to tip your hand in showing all the secret plays but this was a game that I felt the Giants went to the pass too late, and hung around with the run too long.  Shorter pass routes and quick slants and hitches would’ve helped.  On the play that Eli threw the ball up to Cruz, Manningham was wide open as he ran an out and in but Eli never even looked underneath.  It has to be frustrating for Manningham now but he has to play himself back in and must continue to work in order to be back in the QB’s good graces.  More so, the Giants need better play calling to ensure that Eli isn’t in a state of constant flux where he’s getting poor back up . – The Giants were fortunate with their first half follies to be tied.  242-163 in total yards, 97-35 in rushing yards and 145-128 in passing yards all in favor of the Seahawks but the biggest stat was 3 takeaways and 7 points off those turnovers to 2 turnovers and 0 points off the turnovers including two which had the Giants pinned at the red zone.  The defense clamped down when necessary.  The Giants need a certain rhythm and Gilbride must effectively get that rhythm to play itself out.  You have the weapons Gilbride, now use them properly.

– Finally, I think this loss goes to the defense more so than the offense.  The offense did its part somewhat but with Snee going down in that final fourth quarter drive due to a concussion and David Baas’ injury and Brandon Jacob’s absence, it was tough for the G-Men offense to gain any rhythm.  Danny Ware was a flop and it has to be concerning for them that without Jacobs the running game can stall.  I think the outcome would’ve been different had Jacobs been in the game.  The offense would’ve converted more third downs but more importantly, the third downs would’ve been more manageable distances than the ones that the Giants were attempting to convert.  The defense was slow, and on the deciding touchdown failed to continue playing.  Now teams have a blueprint to slow down the Nascar defense the Giants have.  Quick slants to receivers.  Hurry up offense.  More teams will run it.  And now we have Brad Smith, Fred Jackson, and those damn Bills coming in on Sunday.  Certainly will be a tough task for the Giants.  Getting some of those guys back will certainly help.or

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Jets Vs. Giants Reaction

Staying true to my laziness, I waited a full day after all the post-game analysis done by everyone else to post my thoughts.  Really it was because I didn’t get to watch the game on Monday and I was just exhausted Tuesday.*  But here are my thoughts as it stands on the very first preseason game:

*= I know, I know, you care.

First big play was the Sanchez interception.  The pass was intended for LDT and he threw it into double coverage.  My opinion on that play is, he was going to throw it to LDT on that play no matter what and the Giants had a guy covering him and another LB converging on him.  The ball bounced off his shoulder pads and hung in the air long enough for new Giant Antrell Rolle (you know, the Giants made offseason moves too), to pick off the pass and take it all the way to the one.  I think one of the biggest problems with the Giants last season was their safety play.  CC Brown was poorly cast as a starting cover safety and the lack of depth at the safety position manifested itself when Kenny Phillips went down with arthiritis in his knee.  Let me reiterate one thing for everyone: unless Kenny Phillips comes back, the Giants will continue to have problems in the secondary.

Underneath routes will be there all day for opponents of the G-Men, because the linebackers aren’t that quick and the cover corners aren’t all that great.  Everything will once again hinge on how quickly the defense can ratchet up pressure.  If the defensive line can not force its way into the quarterback’s face with regularity I can guarantee you that the Giants will have another season of disappointment.  The Giants once again come into the season with perhaps the deepest rotation of defensive linemen in the league but, if they don’t perform it won’t matter.  With the talent of wide recievers in the NFC East vastly improved with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin (and maybe Riley Cooper who is emerging as a favorite receiver for new Eagles QB Kevin Kolb), and Miles Austin and Dez Bryant (he’s going to be like Randy Moss- teams are going to regret holding his character as means to not draft him).*

*=  I know I left out the Redskins, but as much as I hate to admit this, McNabb being their QB will make that entire team’s receiving corps better.

– The Jets really tried to feature LDT in the passing game alot, perhaps hinting that they want to use him as a receiver more than just a runner.  Which if that’s true, then that makes Shonn Greene a feature back, one of the few in a league that has gone to the two back system that most coaches favor.  I think if you assign roles for both guys, it makes it interesting when it comes time for LDT to run and Shonn Greene to be a pass catcher.  Eventually the Jets want Greene to do it all and I think he could, but he has to change his physical lowering his head, battering ram style of running.  The shelf life of running backs is small to begin with, but you start playing like that it becomes even smaller.  Greene however showed some moves in this game that could give him longevity in the game.  Finding when to use the battering ram style and when to use finesse will be Greene’s biggest obstacle.  LDT in the passing game makes a lot of sense.

– Antonio Cromartie dropped two sure fire interceptions.  If this Revis thing doesn’t get resolved before the season, those kind of mistakes will not be accepted.  The Jets were getting plenty of pressure on the Giants first team offensive line and alot of throws were going right to Cromartie, and I mean RIGHT to Cromartie, but he never made the play.  Of course the initial reaction will be: if Revis were there, he would’ve made that play.  Its going to be tough if this hold out goes beyond the preseason and into the season and Cromartie whiffs on those sure-fire interceptions.  For the Jets to gain any more leverage in this than what they already have, the secondary must perform.    One of the biggest plays that every Charger fan remembers from Cromartie’s last game with them was his lack of physicality on the Shonn Greene touchdown in the AFC Divisional round game.  Cromartie dodged a tackle but then ran down Greene in the end zone in time to deliver a cheap shot with his elbow.  If Cromartie shows those colors here in New York, you can bet that his value will significantly drop because those kinds of plays will not go unnoticed here in New York.

– Brandon Jacobs’ regression will be a major plot line during the pre-season.  Let’s admit it, he’s taken a step back.  Playing at 260 and being 6’4 is great and all but now teams are hitting him at the knees and its wearing the big man down.  He used to wear teams down by the third and fourth quarters but since its the other way around, the Giants have to be concerned.  I think the Giants had better hope Ahmad Bradshaw comes back healthy and with the kind of moves he flashed on the shovel pass by Eli in the second quarter.  Bradshaw played with two broken ankles (i cry when I have one broken ankle, I have no idea how he was walking playing with two) and tried to gut out the season.  I don’t think Bradshaw is a number one back in the league BUT he can be a really good complementary back.  He is most effective as a 225-250 carry back in the league with about 50-75 catches.  He can do wonders in space and I can’t help but feel that Kevin Gilbride, the Giants offensive coordinator, should look to use him in receiver formations to throw defenses a new wrinkle.  He’s an effective screen back runner and the Giants usually do well in identifying excellent in-between the tackle rushers and the Giants should really look to get Andre Brown into that mix.

– It brings us to the Eli Manning hit which of course was shown on loop on ESPN.  Seeing it for the first time it looked gruesome, but with more replays you realized the mix up on the play (Brandon Jacobs said Eli called a running play but Eli changed the play at the line of scrimmage) and the bump by Jacobs loosened the helmet which came flying off at the end of the play thanks to Calvin Pace’s hit.  The blood came gushing out thanks to the face mask of Jim Leonhard who converged from the other side seeing the ball loose.  It was totally coincidental contact on Leonhard’s part which cut Manning on the forehead.  Either way, it was kind of cool to see that kind of physicality from a preseason game.

– Preseason games get a bad rap in terms of intensity, thanks to back ups being in by basically the second quarter, but there was Eli playing in the second, there was LDT and Mark Sanchez playing the entire half.  I loved the intensity from both sides.  Clearly both teams came to win the game, so how do I grade both first teams?  I thought the first team defense of the Jets was the best unit on the field hands down.  Eli never had much time and Rex Ryan threw some blitzes to mix up timing.  Maybe not as much as Rex would but certainly the natural pressure they got affected Eli’s timing.  Here are other winners and losers:

1. Victor Cruz- Pre Season games are not meant for guys with contracts and set in stone positions on the team.  They are for the, oh i don’t know, undrafted rookies out of UMASS just trying to get noticed and if you’ve been following the tweets and reports from Giants camp like I have, Monday was NOT the first time you heard the kid’s name.  Cruz has been impressive in practice and showed on the field that perhaps the Giants plucked another gem.  Cruz’ work ethic and overall demeanor will certainly gain him favor when it comes time for coaches to make those tough decisions at the end of camp of who to go to the regular season with.  All his catches seemingly were passes lofted to him where he had to make a play on the ball and he came down with the ball.  With injuries befalling the Giants depth chart at receiver and tight end, it leaves spots that can be earned and clearly Victor Cruz (a local product from Patterson, NJ) is taking advantage.

2. Jason Pierre Paul-  Remember, he’s still a work in progress.  He JUST started playing organized football during his senior year of football.  He walked on to South Florida last year at this time and vaulted himself to first round status.  He’s a freak of nature and he showed.  Right now, he needs coaching on technique and how to use his unbelievable physical talents but when he understands what’s going on in front of him and how to leverage the offensive linemen, this guy could be a force.  In college they basically threw him out there in every part of the defensive line and basically handed him instructions to get to the QB and that he did.  This is just one guy’s opinion but with enough reps, he could average a sack per game.  He’s just that naturally gifted that if he had 10 snaps per game to start off, I predict he could easily get one sack per game.  His wing span is that of a 7 footer which means that if he gets his hands underneath the offensive lineman’s hands, the offensive lineman better start trying his best to put the brakes on because he’s going to get pushed back.

3. John Connor- The Terminator.  Loved him on Hard Knocks and I have to admit I was watching him play on the field.  He’s behind Tony Richardson one of the best fullbacks of all time and he stands to gain alot of knowledge about hustle and everything else but what a pro to be behind.  He already has mastered the one key component of a fullback: “the I am not afraid to get hit” part of being one.  On the LDT rushing TD that was negated by a holding penalty, Connor bulldozed Jonathan Goff and LDT blasted through the zone.  I think LDT is going to love running behind the rookie.  Speaking of which…

4. LaDanian Tomlinson- I’ve never been a huge LDT fan.  I think the guy quit on his team in just about every single playoff game they lost.  He pouts when he doesn’t get the ball despite the fact that it became obviously clear that in the last two seasons Darren Sproles became the Chargers better running option.  I think it was a stupid move for the Jets to let Thomas Jones and his hard working, leadership go for what turns out to be pennies, and recruited LDT to come in and take over the mentoring role for Shonn Greene.  I believe Chargers like Philip Rivers (who I’ve made no bones about being one of my favorite players in the league) told you a lot about the atmosphere around the Chargers with LDT saying “everyone can breathe now.”  But, Mike Tannenbaum took a roll of the dice and went all in for the 2010 season with the moves he did make and this represents one of his biggest gambles (other than that staring contest with Darrelle Revis’ agent) as GM.  What this game proved is that the Jets have one of the best offensive lines in all of football so it stands to reason that LDT could see a renewal here in NY.  If LDT is any kind of competitor, then you can best believe he will use this as momentum.  What I worry about is the LDT that shows up in January.  Jets fans will murder him if they see him sitting on the sidelines with the helmet with the tinted face mask and arms crossed.  I think he will have a good season behind this offensive line.

5.  Mark Sanchez- He was impressive.  Stepped into throws, showed the zip and he was more comfortable in the system that Brian Schottenheimer has installed.  Frankly I still think he’s going to have those moments like that LDT interception where you see the replay and you scratch your head but he won’t have the 12 TD 20 INT line that he had last year.  Last year, he was given a bike with training wheels.  This year, they souped up the bike and are hoping to take off the training wheels, added Santonio Holmes to the group of receivers.  I would put Holmes in the winners list, but he’s out for the first four games thanks to a league suspension for violating the substance abuse policy, so he gets penalized.

Losers:

1. Giants identity- What is it?  The Jets remind me of the Giants from 2007 which won the Super Bowl.  Great line play on both sides and a team built on the running game.  The Giants have the runners but clearly Brandon Jacobs has lost a step and Ahmad Bradshaw is recovering from ankle problems.  There’s a shift that the Giants are going through, they want William Beatty their 2nd round draft pick from a year ago to take over on the offensive line for Rich Seubert who was injured during training camp and will miss a few weeks.  So that continuity isn’t there, which coincidentally the Jets took over that streak when the Giants had a few injuries last year, but one which the Jets won’t have either thanks to Alan Faneca not being resigned.  I think the Giants have to go back to 50/50 run/pass and can not expect Eli Manning to put up 4,000 yards of passing every year.  They need to do it on the ground and get back to the formula of success that has been almost a hallmark of the franchise.  Power running games keep the team fresher and allow the QB to stay up right which is what you want more than anything.

2. Giants Special teams-  Right now, Matt Dodge looks like an absolute failure as the replacement for long time safety net Jeff Feagles who retired after 100 years in the NFL.  Dodge has been shanking punts and hitting line drives which any 9 year old kid with Madden can tell you is a no-no.  With Domenik Hixon out for the regular season with a torn ACL (thanks to the Meadowlands new turf), the return game is a big question mark as well and the Giants trotted out Aaron Ross, Andre  Brown, Duke Calhoun to name a few.  No one stood out and that could be a problem.  The last few years have shown how important the field battle can be an important one to win.  If the Giants dont fix this problem, there may not be much the defense can do.

3. Antonio Cromartie, Jets corners-  The Jets had better hope that the reputation that Cromartie left the Chargers with, (Being soft, afraid of contact, not a hard worker) don’t come to fruition here in New York.  Cromartie is playing under brighter lights especially considering all the attention the Jets are getting with Hard Knocks and all the pre season Super Bowl talk.  Add to that the whole Revis hold out, there is a ton of pressure on Cromartie to compete and hold the fort down.  IF this holdout goes into the regular season, the secondary’s play will be scrutinized and may play a role in negotiations.  Clearly Cromartie right now is the Jets best corner with Revis out and if the Jets get thrown on early and often and can’t stop the pass with regularity, it could become a situation in which the Jets will lose their leverage with Revis and may force the Jets into resigning Revis.  For those wondering the Jets first five games are against Baltimore, New England, Miami, Buffalo and Minnesota, so it will be paramount that the Jets secondary hold their own when Sexy Rexy throws those zero protection blitzes.  For those counting, Cromartie dropped 2 gimme interceptions.

4. Nick Folk- Another decision that made me scratch my head.  Jay Feely has a reputation for being one of the least likable locker room guys and maybe that will help, but Folk has been a wreck after his rookie year.  He made 3 of 4 field goals, but that 46 yard field goal makes you wonder about his head.  Feely hit those 46 yarders with regularity despite being a prick.  Maybe some decisions should be based on talent alone.  This coming from the guy who talks all day about team unity.

5. Chris Canty- He’s the guy that got the huge free agent contract with all that guaranteed money and he’s been guaranteed to be on the sideline with an injury or ineffectiveness.  For what its worth, reports from camp have been that he’s been dominant but if what I saw is true, that’s more on the offensive line being ineffective.  He’s the one guy I’m going to look at to make an impact and he didn’t do jack in the Jet game.  I’m hoping he shows up at some point during real live games because you know, thats what the Giants paid him for.

A few other small non-football related nuggets:

-Loved the fight between the jackass Giant fan who made Fireman Ed get off his post to do his customary J-E-T-S call.  Remember, this was a Jet home game.  Firemen Ed, clearly livid, elbowed the guy a few times and then led a more spirited than necessary for a pre season game rendition of the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS chant.  I’m a Giants fan but Fireman Ed is a part of New York sports.  He’s crafted a legacy for himself that he hopes to carry into this new stadium which Jets fans will call Meadowlands Stadium and Giants fans will call the New Giants Stadium.

– Can we get Woody Johnson a new white shirt and green tie, or is his wardrobe completely filled with that combo?  I mean, come on, i’m sure if he wore a green shirt and white tie, it would be a hit.

– Can’t wait for the next episode of Hard Knocks.  Just one thought relating to HBO docu-series: Rex Ryan was MADE for television.

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