Archive for the ‘Ross’ Category

THE ROOKIES (Part II)

February 20, 2008

On February 2, a day before the Super Bowl, Ultimatenyg quickly ran through the rookies from the Draft Class of 2007, pinpointing them as a big reason the Giants were in the big game. With the Super Bowl in the record books, is there any doubt that the rookies were also a big reason the Giants WON the big game? They made an impact on the biggest stage of all.

Any credit given to the rookies has to start with the front office and Jerry Reese. All of the great successes in professional sports are due in part to the front office finding talent and getting the support players who allow those stars to excel. Men like Carmen Policy (blogger’s note- originally stated Eddie DeBartolo, the owner, my mistake), Bobby Beathard, Ron Wolf, George Young and the Rooneys are the lifelines for how these organizations can make championships possible not only once but again and again.

Ernie Accorsi set the table for Reese and Tom Coughlin by locking up a number of key players for a long time, simultaneously passing down a salary cap that was in very good shape. The Giants’ cap room is the best in the N.F.C. East and is in a very good position to keep Reese competitive with new signings where he deems fit.

Where Accorsi ended, Reese began. Reese was also the director of player personnel, so the result of the 2007 draft was going to fall squarely on his shoulders.

It was historic and seismic. Reese’s draft made him instant royalty. The first-year impact players became known as “Reese’s Pieces.” Super Bowl or not, Reese’s crop of kids made such a big splash that it was almost uncomfortable for him to accept such inordinate praise. He went out of his way to compliment the young group of players. He redirected accolades to the coaching staff for enabling the draft class to assist the team so positively and so quickly.

The new Giants were not all along for the ‘Parcells ride,’ where rookies are seen but not heard. With the exception of Adam Koets, every other rookie drafted (and even a few who were signed as UFAs) made significant contributions. This added up to a record number of rookies getting Super Bowl rings.

How do the Giants win if #1 pick Aaron Ross is not providing tremendous coverage all season? As soon as Ross started playing meaningful minutes, the defense tightened up. Everyone remembers the second half of the first Redskins game, but does everyone remember that that was the first time Ross stepped in to play corner? He was there knocking Marion Barber down with a separated shoulder. He was there to save the Jets game when the rest of the team was flat. He was not immune to getting beat, but he had mostly excellent coverage and could also be physical. Add that he played through multiple injuries, had Madison, Dockery, Webster and McQuarters rotating in and out with their injuries, and you can see how significant his efforts were in getting the team to a championship.

For a second pick, Steve Smith was almost all-world. If not for a midseason injury, he would have been putting up numbers all year. He caught four passes in the Super Bowl, none bigger than the play sandwiched between David Tyree’s helmet grab and Plaxico Burress’s game-winning TD. On 3rd and 11, Smith caught a pass in the right flat, came to a complete stop to avoid going out of bounds, ran another 3-4 yards up field for the first down, then went out of bounds to stop the clock. That kind of play would have been excellent for a seasoned veteran like Amani Toomer, but for a rookie who did not even play half the games this season, it was nothing short of spectacular. It will be overlooked in history, but Giants fans who appreciate the rookies will remember Smith’s grab and key first down as long as they remember the Super Bowl XLII win.

Jay Alford (#3) plays a tough position for any rookie, DL. But he was good enough to provide rotation relief among the veterans. And his entire career may already be remembered for the sack on 2nd down of the final series that buried Tom Brady and the Patriots’ chances.

Zak DeOssie (#4) put the finishing touches on the 1990 championship season’s analog by being the long snapper and impact special teams player for a Giants Super Bowl winner just like his father 17 years before. It was enough to bring Steve DeOssie to tears.

Kevin Boss (#5) filled in for injured TE Jeremy Shockey. His great hands made him an instant threat and kept defenses off balance as soon as he went into a route. The Boss catch-and-run for 45 yards at the beginning of Q4 of the Super Bowl ignited the offense and set up the first go-ahead score. Imagine a rookie doing what Welker, Moss, Burress and Toomer could not do! Boss’s chemistry with Eli Manning was so impressive that it forced others to question whether Shockey was already yesterday’s news. That conclusion is most likely unfounded, and the Giants are poised to reap many rewards from a two TE set with double threats.

Michael Johnson (#7a) filled in and started for the Giants when other safeties were hurt. He never lost his aggressiveness and was instrumental in the team’s drive to 6-2 earlier in the season. At one point he and undrafted rookie Craig Dahl were each patrolling the defense’s deep waters … a large responsibility that proved critical along the team’s path to a Super Bowl. Coughlin went out of his way to point out that it was Johnson who got the McQuarters nightmarish fumble vs. Green Bay knocked away so that Domenik Hixon (another great pickup by Reese) could recover the ball.

Ahmad Bradshaw (#7b), the last Giant pick, was taken only a few spots from the end of the draft. Bradshaw was featured early and often on ultimatenyg because his speed, cutbacks, quickness to the hole, north-south running, pass catching and ability to pound defenses was a total find. It took an injury by Brandon Jacobs (on top of Derrick Ward already being on IR) for Bradshaw to get up on the depth charts high enough to be seen. His impact on the team’s late-season and postseason drive was nothing short of stunning. In the second half of the Bills game W16, when everyone knew the Giants were running the ball, Bradshaw told his teammates during a timeout that if they made their blocks he would take it the distance. One snap and 88 yards later, he helped sew up the team’s playoff berth. The accolades he received from competitors was a reminder that Bradshaw can be special for quite some time if he remains healthy. His only weakness was a lack of experience and knowledge in how to pick up the blitz. This may get squared away in 2008’s training camp, affording him the opportunity to be the starting RB. He is that good.

The Giants made a very special run to collect their third Super Bowl title. It is next to impossible to envision how this could have happened without the major contributions delivered by this fine rookie class. As a group, they exhibited maturity and experience beyond their years. The draft of 2007 can be the backbone for many playoff runs to come.

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Analysis of Super Bowl XLII

January 30, 2008

There are going to be many battles within this war on Sunday night.

WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL:
1) Burress vs Samuel/Hobbs. There are two reasons why Plax opened his mouth with “23-17.” One is because he has S*** for brains. The second is that he is genuinely pumped to be in this game and feeling about as well as he has felt in a long time. He has a 7″ height advantage on these guys, played well against them before and he clearly has an.. EDGE NYG.
2) Steve Smith vs Randall Gay. I would normally say Gay has the advantage, but Smith is getting better every game and one would think he will make plays.
3) Giant OL vs Patriots DL. Wilfork is very important to this team, but the Giants have demonstrated time and again the ability to control the line of scrimmage. Pickup of Vrabel on the blitz is imperative… this is how they get to the passer. EDGE NYG.
4) Jacobs/Bradshaw vs Seau/Bruschi/Vrabel. Ability vs Experience. Jacobs has shown a tendency to fumble the ball after a layoff.. please protect the ball. Bradshaw’s speed is a HUGE advantage over this aging group of experienced veterans if the Giants are smart enough to leverage it often. EDGE NYG.
5)Manning vs Belichick. Belichick is smart and will not let Manning sit back there with time. He will mix up coverages a lot more than the Packers did, and do his best to confuse and fluster Eli. The old Eli would not be up to the task. The new Eli has shown he is because Gilbride has smartly mixed up playcalling (when they are not ahead in Q4) and made the game shorter so that Manning is not back there so long that he can have that turnover. Manning does best with LESS time and MORE reflex. He is best when he has to throw to a spot before the WR is there. I see no reason why Gilbride will change this- it is a quicker game and Manning does best in it. The edge will go to Belichick in deference to his myriad # of SB successes, but Manning can control this outcome if he keeps doing what has gotten him here. EDGE PATS.
6) Giants offense vs Patriots defense summary- Bradshaw and Burress have the distinct advantage that must be leveraged. If the running game gets on track, then Manning’s play action becomes lethal too. EDGE NYG.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL:
1) Moss vs Webster/double team- Any need for discussion? The Giants need to be physical and force him inside. Webster has improved but this is in need of help(doubling) and that means EDGE PATS.
2) Welker vs Ross- The Giants must be very physical here and do the 1991 Super Bowl ‘Andre Reed redux’ by kicking the living snot out of this player. He lives near the line of scrimmage on short stuff, so you have to pound him and disrupt the timing. Welker likes coming back to the ball (as all good WRs must do), and then he curls around to break the first defender’s tackle. It was really helpful that the Giants saw this guy already, because they know all about how he kills teams. EDGE PATS.
3) Pats OL vs Giants DL- Earth to Osi Umenyiora, Earth to Osi Umenyiora, come in please?!!! It is time for us to see Umenyiora make an impact. I know he is getting doubled, but he often gets singled too by Light, so GET TO BRADY please and cause havoc. This is the most pivotal matchup of the game. When Flozell Adams buckled in Q3 of the Dallas game, the Giants went from needing a miracle to win to getting that miracle and winning. Good pitching beats good hitting, good OLs beat good DLs. Strahan is going to play the game of his life. Will Umenyiora? I think not. The only hope for the Giants is Tuck on mismatches with a Guard. EDGE PATS.
4) Maroney/Faulk vs Pierce/Mitchell/Torbor. Maroney was held in check, but Faulk never is. Faulk must be blanketed or else he will kill you on those 3rd down conversions. EDGE PATS.
5) Brady vs Spagnuolo. Thank goodness for Spags. Otherwise this would not even be a contest and I would not be wasting my time typing this entire analysis. Brady is there with Montana and the great ones of all time. Spags and this Giant defense have seen Brady-Garcia-Romo-Favre the past 4 games, so the good news for the Giants is that they are not getting a shock to the system. Spags will put as much pressure on Brady as possible and Brady will still win. EDGE PATS.
6) Patriots offense vs Giants defense summary- The trick to beating the Patriots is to bend but not break here. They are going to score points. They just cannot score 35-40 points. EDGE PATS.

SPECIAL TEAMS:
Tynes benefited greatly from making that big 47 yarder. Confidence is everything. Hixon and the kickoff unit put a great deal of pressure on the opposing team and they just get better and better every game. EDGE NYG.

COACHING:
Edge Belichick, EDGE PATS.

GAME SUMMARY:
Objectively speaking, the edge that the Giants offense has over the Patriots defense is not as great as the edge of the Patriots offense over the Giants defense. Specials will give the Giants a shorter field than the Patriots, but will that be enough? My two keys to the game are: 1) GILBRIDE MUST ATTACK EARLY AND OFTEN AND KEEP PUTTING PRESSURE ON THE PATRIOTS DEFENSE FOR 60 MINUTES.. NOT FOR ONLY 50:33 .. NOT THE LETUP WE SAW IN W17 WHEN WE HAD A LEAD. 2) UMENYIORA MUST GET TO BRADY. I will go out on a limb and say that if either of these two things happen the Giants will win the game. I do not think that that happens because I have seen Umenyiora mostly quiet vs the better Offensive Tackles these past 4 games, and I have not seen Gilbride use Bradshaw as much as he needs to and use the offense in the 4th quarter (unless they are behind).

It is there for the taking for the Giants. How badly do they want it? No one gives you anything. Championships are won, championships are not not lost. There is an opening here for the Giants to be physical and win, but everything must go right. You must be bold and not be afraid to lose. I have my doubts about what the playcalling will be like in Q4. We know that if you fall behind vs the Patriots it is going to be hard to win, so what if the Giants actually have a lead in Q4? Do you want a 3-4 pt lead vs Brady in Q4 and have Gilbride put the brakes on and think that R-R-P-K is going to win you a Super Bowl? He needs to understand that the only way you are going to deny Brady a chance to win is with you running out the clock, and that means keeping up the attack offense, getting first downs and keeping the ball until the game is OVER. How much respect do you have for Mr. Brady, Mr. Gilbride? No lead is safe, and if the Giants did not understand that from playing him already, then we deserve to lose. But if the Giants are able to realize that the best defense vs Brady is an offense that stays on the field ALL the time, then we do have a very realistic chance.

The 2 week layover

January 23, 2008

Is the two week layover good or bad for the Giants?

They are the hot team, so conventional wisdom argues that they want to play this weekend. Nope. Incorrect.

They have been going full throttle for 11 weeks straight with their last 3 obviously on the road, and they could use a ‘home game’ this weekend. I am reminded of the Giants-Ravens Super Bowl 7 years ago. A #1 seed with the bye vs a wild card winner that played 3 playoff games, the last two games on the road. The Ravens needed some rest and (in retrospect) many felt that the week off benefitted the Ravens more. The Steelers also won the Super Bowl after winning 3 wild card games and getting the 2 week layover. So the precedent is there for the wild card winner to benefit more.

The only reason to think it will hurt the Giants is that you believe they will lose their edge and not have that focus which has gotten them into the big game. I can only counter that with a sense that this team is confident and they still feel they have a lot to prove. They know their job is not over by any stretch.

In the meantime, guys like Pierce, O’Hara, Burress, Madison, Ross and McKenzie all played through injuries and they will benefit from an extra week off. Seubert, despite having an MRI on a knee sprain, says he will play. Maybe they can get Dockery back. I do not think this layover does anything but help the gmen. Now if you are going to mention the TMZ report about Brady wearing a boot, his leg would have to be broken in 3 different places in order for him to be out of the Super Bowl if it were being played now, this weekend, or next weekend.

the glass is three quarters empty

May 6, 2007

Before the sugar-coated one-sided pr pieces come out on how wonderful every player is through minicamp and preseason, let’s list objective reasons for why we are going to suck this year.

1) You cannot teach accuracy. There is plenty of room for Manning to improve, but the studies show that QB ratings start leveling off in Y3, and Manning’s was FLAT. Unfortunately we are not going to see a serious jump in his production.

2) Jerry Reese’s plan for Left Tackle is a bust so far. He has been trying to get Cleveland’s LT, but even that would be yet another “stabilizer.” Speaking of stabilizers…

3) LB Kawika Mitchell, DT Marcus Bell, DB Michael Stone, QB Anthony Wright, K Marc Hickok, P Cory Ohnesorge.

4) We still do not have a kicker. Another stabilizer coming.

5) There are still medical questions about lisfranc foot injuries in terms of Strahan’s ability to come back at the same pro-bowl level of play. He is 36.

6) There are no medical questions about ACL injuries- Toomer will not be ‘effective’ in his first year back. Considering his age, he is headed toward being cut or becoming that classic “third-down” possesion receiver.

7) You lose something when you take your most recent #1 (Kiwanuka) and try to change his position. Dialing up this guy’s weight like a video control and making him into a different player is rarely pulled off at the level of the NFL. I agree that it would be good to have Kiwanuka and our pro bowl ends on the field at the same time but Kiwanuka is not likely going to be a pro bowl LB, certainly not this year. In fact, he is going to make a few mistakes during games that will cost us.

8) Gilbride and Palmer are retreads. Gilbride deserved a promotion after being part of the problem in Manning’s lack of improvement? Someone explain to me how THIS GUY is going to help Manning. Was Hufnagel the root of all evil and Gilbride blocked from succeeding? I doubt it highly.

9) Coughlin is a retread in a retread year. No one wants to play for us this season because we are dead Coughlin walking. I do not think he motivates his players properly. He treats them equally and that is a mistake. His undoing will come in the latter part of the season when he has them out in pads yet again in practice, sucking whatever energy they have so that they can get the first score and pack the rest of the game in.

10) We still have the same problems at LB and Secondary that we had last year. We are getting the 2006 history lesson that the Lewis system was truly a harm to Webster (and Pierce and Wilson) making plays. I am hopeful this can be the case and that our new coord will make a difference… but either Webster is going to make big improvement or he is gone.

Please note that I specifically did not list the departure of Tiki… I am very bullish on Brandon Jacobs. Of course he will not be able to fill Tiki’s shoes but he will do a very good job wearing down defenses.