Archive for May, 2008

Around the NFL

May 30, 2008

1) The amount of $ that Ryan got is making a mockery of what already is a mockery. The top 10 slots in the draft are a liability. It makes absolutely no sense to see rookies getting paid more than established veterans that have already cut their teeth and proved their worth in the league. Gene Upshaw, for his role in defending the rookie salaries, is a joke.

2) The NFL is discussing cutting down from 4 preseason games to 3 and adding one extra regular season game. Do it. Better this than increasing the number of teams that make the playoffs. 4 preseason games is a joke; by the time we get to the fourth (last) game the starters are being coddled and it is time for a few players on the bubble to make or get cut from the team. Remember that the league used to be one where players got paid a lot less and had to work as insurance salesmen etc.. in the offseason. They came to camp out of shape and needed the 6 games to get ready. Things have changed so much that if you report to camp out of shape you will likely get demoted or cut. So going to three games makes sense. The biggest downside is that if you get to the Super Bowl it is a VERY long season. You could conceivably be playing as many as 21 games… there is only so much punishment the human body can take. The cost will come from somewhere… extending the season will likely create more injuries and shorten careers. I suspect that if they do go to a 17 game schedule you will see more players being rotated, making bench depth that much more critical.

3) Giants mandatory minicamp for all players is June 11. This will be a mediafest for Shockey and Strahan musings.

Ross Tucker’s allegation of the Patriots using players from IR

May 29, 2008

A journeyman player’s look at the NFL from the inside. Ross Tucker played for 5 teams over a 7 year period. He was there long enough to know that players on IR are not allowed to (and did not) practice with the team. Except at the Patriots. The other interesting nugget was a story of how a coach was fired midseason and then returned the favor by giving Jim McNally of the Bills information on defensive formations his offensive line would be seeing that weekend.

The allegations about the Patriots using players on Injured Reserve are pretty strong stuff imo. That essentially allows a team to umbrella more players in its organization without having to necessarily waive them. Another illegal advantage.

You can draw your own conclusions about Spygate, Belichick and breaking the rules in the NFL. The more I read about Spygate, the more I know I do not know. I know other teams in the NFL do nasty things, but then I hear many times how the Giants are one of the classiest organizations in the league. I have to wonder- does that means that the Giants treat their players with respect? do they treat other teams with enough respect not to stoop to this level of play? Why do the Patriots always seem to be the ones with the dirt clinging to their clothes? After a while the coincidences stop being coincidences.


May 28, 2008

1) Get Kiwanuka back on defensive line. Yes, we hear from LBs coach Sheridan last week that Kiwanuka is making very good improvement at LB, but I for one certainly do not see it.
3) SIGN STRAHAN. For enough money he’ll even sell peanuts during halftime.
4) Find an answer to the TE in coverage. Is this Kenny Phillips? Or one our new rookie LBers? Wilkinson is weakside, so that is not the answer. I guess this circles back to Kiwanuka, but until we see him handle this assignment with confidence the gmen are vulnerable here.

I have to confess that watching Spagnoulo last season was a privilege. My only knocks on the defense are more related to personnel (lack of speed at LB) than anything else. With the Giants having drafted 4 players at S, CB and LB in the first 5 rounds, one would hope that these additions will give us some potential/speed in space. The Giants certainly did not underachieve at defense in 2007. The lowest common denominator is a comparision between Spagnuolo and Gilbride. It is on the shoulders of the offense to absorb more of the improvement.


May 27, 2008

Yesterday we noted the story of Tavaris Jackson eyeing the Giants game vs the Vikes last year as evidence of how his team could climb the mountain. The response here is that the Giants know they can improve in many areas… if they do they can EASILY repeat. Here is some LOW HANGING FRUIT FOR HOW TO IMPROVE ON OFFENSE:

1) NEW ELI HAS TO STAY. That 41-17 monstrosity that Jackson refers to is Old Eli at his worst. The Super Bowl run is NEW ELI at his best. At this moment in time you have to think we have New Eli coming back in ’08. That would be an immediate and HUGE improvement over ’07, because Manning was awol for more than a few of these games, and certainly awol for many halves of games. The frightening thing is that if we do indeed have New Eli for good, he will put so much pressure on opposing offenses to score more points vs our defense that it will have incredibly positive effects all around. THE GIANTS WILL BE IN THE TITLE MIX IF NEW ELI IS WITH US IN 2008 AND NOTHING ELSE IMPROVES.
2) CAN DAVID DIEHL IMPROVE AT LT? This is the player who is the weakest link on the starting team right now. Tell me he improves, that he drops from 13.5 sacks allowed to something like 8 or 9 and I know we can be in very good shape. Every sack is going to range from a drive killer to a turnover, so if this liability is shored up 2008 can be bright.
3) MORE BRADSHAW. The rookie is not a rookie anymore. In camp he is going to get even more experience in the offense and will learn even more about blitz pickups. This is not a complicated game. The more snaps he is on the field and the more touches he gets, the better this team will be.
4) MORE AND BETTER PASS CATCHING BY RUNNING BACKS. Please stop throwing RB dumpoff passes into the ground Eli! If you want to talk about how the Giants can improve, look no further than the RB passing game. There was so much left ‘on the field.’ This offense can become a juggernaut if/when this element is able to click. And get the ball here to Bradshaw, he is electric in space.
5) TWO TIGHT END SET. Shockey is still a Giant and that is logical if no team is willing to pay what he is legitimately worth. So use him with Boss and punish teams with this set. It provides matchup nightmares galore. Imagine the dropped passes to Matthews becoming catches to Boss.
6) BURRESS AND SMITH HEALTHY AT THE SAME TIME? There will always be injuries, so 2008 will offer subtraction elsewhere. The prospect of having these two healthy at the same time will make for large problems for the opposing defense.

defensive improvements tomorrow

The perspective of Tavaris Jackson

May 26, 2008

The perspective from Tavaris Jackson on the 2008 season is important to appreciate from the standpoint of the Giants. The 41-17 rout was the last time I saw the Giants live at the stadium, and it was an awful game. It was Old Eli at Old Eli’s worst. It was a flat team that looked like it did not show up. Naturally at home. With the exception of the Redskins game, the Giants pretty much went straight up from there. Manning did not go ‘straight up,’ preferring to remain mired in mediocrity for another 4 games… blossoming before our very eyes in a way that Tavaris Jackson can only dream of.

Jackson’s dreams are not to be ignored. For starters, his hunger is palpable and that is what we are going to see facing the Giants every game as Super Bowl champions. Even literally- we play the Vikes the last week of the season too. So the Giants need to improve in a big way this season. Where can it can happen? That is the good AND the bad news.

The bad news is that there was plenty of weakness last season. Everyone knows the Giants lost 6 games. Is everyone willing to remember that we squeaked by in many others?

The good news is that the Giants did not play anywhere near its potential in many of the regular season games. All of the puzzling and maddening underachievement was lifted at the end of the season and offers the Giants a blueprint for a standard of excellence that can easily put the gmen in title contention again if the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed. In the next two days we will offer ideas for how the Giants can get better in order to stay ahead of the rest of the league and defend their title.


May 25, 2008

Here is the current state of professional football- still in the Stone Ages. The world of football has learned absolutely nothing from Moneyball. Someone had the courage to build an intelligent product which analyzes football decisions of all varied types and sizes… and naturally the ‘club’ of football men balked. Just like they did in Moneyball. These football men have fear of changing, fear of doing the same NEW thing over and over to extrapolate an advantage with increased expected value. There is simply too much money in this game now for these football men to look the other way. Eventually they will get replaced. Or replaced by football men that deeply respect the objectivity of the numbers.

Offensive coaches excerpts

May 24, 2008

Q: Do you still think the guy that was drafted number one overall is still inside David Carr?

Palmer: “I believe so. I watch him; he is very, very athletic. What people forget, I think my third year in Houston (where he was Carr’s offensive coordinator with the Texans) we were one of six teams offensively that had a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard receiver and a 1,000-yard runner. The next year after the staff was let go in Houston he came out and threw for 68 percent for Gary (Kubiak) and those guys down there. I think he is a talented guy. I think confidence is a factor with all quarterbacks and hopefully we can get him back in the groove where he can come out and help us in the event that Eli can’t play.”

Q: Will NFL coaches try to come up with new wrinkles to stop Eli Manning?

Palmer: “Eli is exceptional. We had our meeting and he talked about the things that he wanted to improve. He is a hardworking guy. He is well grounded and he knows that it is just the beginning for him. I think he can get better, I think he thinks he can get better, and if those things happen we will have a very, very bright future.”

Q: Do you see any signs of Amani slowing down?

Sullivan: “You look at how he performed in the postseason leading the team in receptions and making some plays, including the big catch versus Dallas where he ran down the sideline. He is still someone that because of his experience, because of his ability to understand defenses, and his ability to get open he is always going to be a force to be reckoned with. I don’t know if there is anybody that takes better care of himself in the offseason. He is a guy that takes a great deal of pride in doing the yoga and kung-fu and some of those other things. But I think he also rests himself well and really puts himself into top condition. If anyone is in a position to continue to sustain and build upon a great postseason I think it is Amani Toomer.”

Sullivan on Burress: “He is pleased with the progress of his rehab and I think he can’t wait to get back into the fray and see where he can go with two healthy ankles underneath him and two sturdy legs and take his game to that next level.”

Sullivan on Manningham: “…a pretty complete receiver”

Ingram on using Jacobs and Bradshaw 1-2 punch: “Definitely… we have great depth”

Q: Jeremy’s perceived strong personality versus Eli’s perceived not as strong personality?

Pope: “Here is what I think: I think that is demeaning to both players, to Eli and to Jeremy. To think that one player has to be out of the player before another player can surface, that is ludicrous. Eli Manning has been on a constant scale of improvement, that is very obvious, so to say that any player was here or was not here I would say that Steve Smith and those kinds of players who stepped in, Kevin Boss, I think the combination of those things were the reason that we continued to improve and go as far as we did. It wasn’t the absence of anybody; it was the ascension of some other players. You have to be pretty narrow-minded to look at things that way.

Q: Do you think anything changes with his role in the offense?

Pope: “I can say to you unequivocally that he said to me back before the draft that none of his problems were with our offense, with players on the team, or with how he was used, he said, ‘I dropped enough balls, I missed blocks,’ so he is not self-cleansing here with this whole approach, he really is not. I think those things are really unrelated to how he played. He knows he can play a lot better. He has continued to get better, he has improved as a blocker, so he hasn’t given up on self-improvement in any way, shape, or form.”

Q: Do you have any idea where he stands physically right now?

Pope: “As far as I know he is making very good progress. His surgery went well, the rehab has gone well. I heard he was running in those sand pits down there in Miami so he is very obviously making a lot of progress there.

Defensive Coaches outtakes

May 23, 2008

Waufle on Strahan: “I called him last week and I told him, ‘I’ve been doing these cutups and I have made this phone call to you already and I have said that you had one heck of a season.’ And I said, ‘I’m going to tell you again’ Because he really did, he played really well, especially at the end. What a way to finish it.”

Waufle on Umenyiora: “Osi has really improved on is his run defense. He is very consistent at it. In fact, I was showing the rookies a particular alignment today which Osi plays. He is playing really well.”

Q: How do you feel about the potential replacements for (weakside linebacker) Kawika Mitchell (who signed with Buffalo as a free agent)? Is Gerris Wilkinson the number one prospect?

Sheridan: “I think going into the spring practices he will be, just because he is coming back and Danny Clark (signed on March 13) is coming from outside. I think both of them understand that the position is wide open and (fourth-round draft choice) Bryan Kehl would be considered in the mix, too. We are not going to necessarily pigeonhole Bryan as a SAM or a WILL, so I think he will do some of both in the spring and if he can make a splash he will be considered as well.”

Q: How is Mathias Kiwanuka (who fractured his left fibula in Detroit on Nov. 18) coming along?

Sheridan: “I anticipate him taking all of the reps in the spring. I think he is fully ready to go and very anxious to do it.

Re Kiwanuka at LB: “I think he will be much, much further along. I think when he got hurt he had showed so much improvement every week and I think he would have continued to go and get better had he not gotten hurt and been able to play for the rest of the season. I think he is a lot more confident in the schemes and the Xs and Os. He will continue to just get better with becoming familiar with playing the position and the pass coverages. I anticipate him being an excellent player.”

Sheridan on Goff and Kehl: “I did like both of them going into the draft. I had evaluated both guys and I had gone to Jon Goff’s senior workout at Vanderbilt. They are both big. They are all of 6-2 plus, almost 6-3, they are both 240 lbs. So just walking in the door they are great size guys and both of them are really smart. Maybe you hear that all the time and you think it is trite, but it is so much easier to win with guys that are really smart, and they are. We interviewed them both at the combine and watching film with them, and they know football, they can talk football, they can explain football, and in the short time that I have had to visit with them and meet them here they understand exactly what we are installing. They can reiterate back to me what I just told them five minutes ago, they understand when we go and do some walk-thrus and jog-thrus, and even in the rookie mini camp they did a great job. They are really smart guys.”

Giunta on Webster: “Yes, very confident, very confident that he will continue to develop and get better and better.

Giunta on another year for McQuarters and Madison: “Oh yeah, absolutely. Those guys both have stuff left in the tank.”

Q: Is Kenny Phillips a guy who is as NFL ready as one can be?

Merritt: “Yes. Kenny came out early as a junior. But this kid, in the classroom, has shown unbelievable recall for the defense. We put in things early in the mini-camp and he is able to recall it back to me a week or two later. Safeties are the quarterbacks of the defense, they control all the coverage, they get them in and out of checks, and this kid was able to recall a lot of the information and things that we had spoken about weeks before. As far as his smarts and his intellect I am very, very excited about that. Now there is some stuff as far as on the field that I will work with him with as far as understanding angles and how he approaches certain routes and things like that, but that is my job as a coach. As far as his God-given ability mentally the kid is very good.”

Q: In a perfect world does Sammy Knight play the strong safety and Kenny Phillips play the free?

Merritt: “Don’t disregard Michael Johnson and James Butler because Michael Johnson started for us last year a couple of games and James Butler started for us a majority of the season. Other than his hamstring injury James Butler came out of the Super Bowl as the starting strong safety, and that is what is going to happen this year. Right now no matter what happens (going into the OTA’s and mini-camp) James Butler is the starting strong safety with Michael Johnson right now being the starting free safety. What I am doing with the guys here this spring is I am playing left and right safety. Sammy Knight is going to have to learn how to play free safety just as well as strong safety. That way they are able to learn the entire defense. Once the season comes along we will start to weed it out and put the guys in their position, but right now we would like for these guys to learn it all; both positions.”

Chris Snee

May 22, 2008

Chris Snee is in the last year of his contract. Pay the man. He is such a solid part of this team, it is almost not worth mentioning. But this blog likes taking moments like these to herald the play of guys like this.

In all of his years as a Giant on the field, perhaps the only time he ever cost the Giants anything was when Bradshaw ran for a TD in the GB NFC Championship game which was called back by a Snee hold. And the call was chickens**t too. All Snee does is protect the QB, make super solid blocks and pulls on the running game, show up for every game. He was Mr. Consistent (at a very high level) on the single most consistent unit of the team in 2007. Or to put it one last way- Snee’s value and cost will only go up next season if he ever gets the recognition he deserves as a Pro Bowl Guard. So pay him now and lock him up before it gets more costly later. By the way, Snee is yet another in a long line of solid #2 round draft picks by the gmen.

Football Moneyball

May 21, 2008

The football world is inefficient.

There have been 42 Super Bowl titles won by a league which has ~28 teams (32 teams rounded down for recent franchises), meaning that each franchise should have won ~1.5 championships. Except that the Steelers, Cowboys and 49ers have won 5 a piece. Anyone who understands normal distributions in statistics will tell you that when there are 21 teams that have won one or never won a Super Bowl and 11 teams that are on the other side of the mean, that is lopsided. Or that 3 teams have won 2, 5 teams have 3, and 3 teams have won 5…that is a fat tail. Or that 6 teams have won 1 vs 15 teams that won none. This is not a bell-shaped outcome.

Failure begets failure and success begets success. What is happening is likely that all of the teams are making plenty of mistakes yet there a few teams that simply know how to make a lot fewer. The Eagles experiment of targeting second-rounders is a smart move. If they have average success in each pick, they will still come out way ahead because they will be getting a lot more 2’s (and 3’s and 4’s) than the 1’s and 2’s they started with… resulting in a much greater input of players and the ~same probability per player. They will likely end up with more NET success in players drafted that stay with the team 3+ years. While it is possible they miss the once in a generation hall of famer, that is not entirely clear that they won’t get a Favre or Strahan.. who were both drafted in the second round. And according to the draft value chart, a very high #1 (where there can still be colossal busts) can still give you that hall of famer but all the while will net you the equivalent of 4 or as many as 6 #2 picks if traded down in deliberate fashion. Value decisions will give your team the numbers to get it done.