Happy Saturday, friends. Today, I'm going to preview the New York (Football) Giants. There are a number of teams in the NFL that I'm indifferent toward, but the Giants are not one of them.
They actually play a key role in my founding story as a Broncos fan. If it wasn't for the Giants, and my dad being an ass on January 25, 1987, I most probably wouldn't be writing for this site today.
You know what I hate the most about the Giants? Their homers in the media, of which there are plenty. I had to listen to Bob Papa Friday morning on Sirius XM NFL Radio make the case that the Giants were going to beat the Broncos because Bill Parcells is getting his Hall of Fame ring on Sunday, and they'd want to make him proud.
You couldn't make that up - something that has nothing at all to do with a football game is going to swing a football game. Only in the mind of a homer.
You know who else is just atrocious? Radio callers in the tri-state area (which is comprised of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, for the uninitiated). There are a lot of smart, economically productive people in the New York metro area, and I'm convinced that none of them call into sports radio shows. Case in point is
Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo Joe Benigno, who started out as an Imus caller, and went on to be an awful radio host himself. He's who Al in Yonkers and Big Pete in Queens really want to be.
UPDATE - Doug corrected me on the Russo/Benigno thing. He knows the best, as somebody who grew up with WFAN. Benigno sucks too.
All of these dumbasses have the most idiotic statements to make, and they all seem to think that it comes down to things like who wants it more. And everybody knows that New Yorkers want it the most! They should bench David Wilson, because he doesn't want it enough! He's not a real New Yawker!
You know what? It doesn't come down to who wants it more. It comes down to who has better talent, and whose talent executes better. We're going to go with that operating theory, and take a look at the Giants' talent, and propensity to execute well.
It all obviously starts with Eli Manning, who is a very good QB. He can make every throw you need to make, with both accuracy and velocity. He's nowhere near as heady as his brother Peyton, though, and he has a much greater tendency to make bad decisions. In terms of his football character, the thing that always gets thrown out about Eli is that he's unflappable. He'll throw a pick, and come right back and make a big-time throw. Over small sample sizes (like the Giants' two Super Bowl runs), that can work very well. Over the course of a long season, the mistakes hurt a team, and it's a big part of the reason why the Giants keep finishing around 9-7 every year.
As for Manning's receiving corps, he has some weapons. Hakeem Nicks is a very unique player, who, though he isn't particularly fast, runs good routes, catches the ball very well, and is an absolute nightmare to tackle in the open field. Nicks gets less publicity than Victor Cruz, because you won't catch him salsa dancing, but he's the true number-one guy for the Giants.
Cruz is a handful too, especially from the slot. There's this perception that slot guys are all like Wes Welker, but Cruz is very different in build and style. He's 6-1, 200 pounds, and he runs the whole route tree very well. He's also dangerous after the catch, but with him, it's more a matter of speed than power, like Nicks.
Third receiver Rueben Randle is a developing second-year guy who caught a few passes last week against the Cowboys. Dallas didn't really have a good enough third CB to deal with him, but the Broncos do, even without Champ Bailey in the lineup. The primary TE Brandon Myers is a good player who isn't all that athletically dynamic, but has a nice receiving skill set. He was the rare good player that the Raiders had last season, and they let him walk. The blocking TE is Bear Pascoe.
At RB, the Giants are presently a mess. David Wilson is fast and talented, but he's been very prone to fumbling, and he plays for a coach who isn't having any of that. Backup Da'Rel Scott didn't look like much last week, and the Giants just re-signed Brandon Jacobs. My understanding is that he's not really in football shape yet, so I doubt that we see too much of him, if at all.
The offensive line for the Giants continues to be suspect. LT William Beatty had a pretty tough time Sunday night going up against DeMarcus Ware. The LG is James Brewer, and he's a replacement-level guy, as is C Kevin Boothe. The RG Chris Snee has historically been pretty good, but he had a tough game on Sunday night. At RT, the Giants are playing rookie first-rounder Justin Pugh. I view him as more of a guard, but with David Diehl hurt, he's playing outside. He did an okay job overall against Dallas, but DE George Selvie got him more than a few times in pass protection.
The Giants only attempted to run the ball 15 times last week, and I expect that they'll struggle up front if they try to block the monsters the Broncos have on the defensive line. When you're going into a game knowing that the other team is probably one-dimensional, that's a good advantage.
The Giants have always relied heavily upon their defensive line during the Jerry Reese/Tom Coughlin era, and the 2013 version of the team is no different. Justin Tuck had a nice opening game, after a fairly disappointing 2012 season. He plays both inside and outside, and he's especially effective as an inside pass rusher. The other starting DE is Mathias Kiwanuka, who I've always considered to be just a guy, aside from his position versatility between DE and SLB.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul had his first game action in a while, and played 51 of the 79 defensive snaps. He didn't look like he was back to 2011 form after his injury-plagued 2012. He's the most talented player on the Giants defense, and it bears watching whether he looks any more comfortable on Sunday.
I was pretty impressed with DT Linval Joseph, who has developed into a nice player. He and Cullen Jenkins are a quick pair of inside rushers, and the Broncos' inside trio will have to be on their game to contain them. Shaun Rogers used to be one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL, but now he's just a serviceable backup.
Marvin Austin has some upside, and Mike Patterson flashed some quickness at times against the Cowboys.
Update:For some reason, I mixed up Mike Patterson with Marvin Austin in my mind while watching the Dallas game. I saw Austin look good in the preseason, and didn't know he'd been cut. H/T to Steve Williams for getting me corrected.
As much as the G-Men collect quality players on the defensive line, it's like they're allergic to allocating any resources to their linebacker corps. They've got nothing there; the starters will be Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, and Keith Rivers, from Sam to Will. Paysinger is replacement-level and Rivers is a guy who was a draft bust for the Bengals, who went on to be serviceable-at-best for the Giants.
Herzlich was a feel-good story coming out of college, after his cancer went into remission. The reality, though, is that he lacks sufficient foot quickness to be a good NFL linebacker. He's your basic try-hard white guy, and when Dan Connor got hurt last week, and Herzlich had to play, Dallas went right after him with Jason Witten. They got the good results they were looking for, too. It would be nice if a good kid with a good story could be as effective as he'd like to be, but ball don't lie.
The Giants secondary is also a concern. Their general strategy on defense is to get a lot of pressure with four rushers, and then play a lot of zone coverage behind it, to minimize the limitations of their mediocre back-end defenders. That's a recipe for trouble against the Broncos, though. The starting CBs are Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara, provided Amukamara plays coming off a concussion (he's expected to). Both guys are better when the defensive line is winning consistently, but have struggled the last couple years as the front guys haven't dominated.
The backup guys are Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross. Both of them have had good moments in their careers, but neither is anybody I'd want to count on to lock up guys like Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, or Wes Welker.
I do like Antrel Rolle, who is one of the better matchup safeties in the NFL. He gives the Giants some flexibility in coverage, when they elect to mix in some man-to-man looks. The other starter at safety is former Steeler Ryan Mundy, and he had a nice game against the Cowboys, with an interception that he returned 91 yards. Neither player is a big thumper in the box, and I think the Giants are smart not to sacrifice coverage ability for pop.
I thought the Giants defense played pretty well against Dallas. The team gave up 36 points, but 14 of them came on defensive returns by the Cowboys. Sunday's game will hinge on the Giants' ability to pressure Peyton Manning; I tend to doubt that they will be able to, but it's a possibility.
The Giants are pretty unspectacular on their kicking-game units, and it doesn't seem like they prioritize it that much. The kick and punt returns were handled by the combination of Randle, Trumaine McBride, and Michael Cox in Week 1, and none of them are all that dynamic with the ball in their hands. The Giants seem to have taken David Wilson out of that mix, because he's being counted on more at running back, and that makes the return units less scary.
The placekicker is Josh Brown, and he's nothing special. Steve Weatherford is a pretty good punter, though. Let's hope we see a lot of him on Sunday.
The Bottom Line
The Giants aren't a bad team, but I don't think that they can score enough to keep up with the Broncos. I also don't think that their defense can contain the Broncos passing game, not even a little bit. I expect the Broncos to win going away, by at least 2 TDs.