NFL

2014 in review in poetry

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

 

This is the final entry for Designated For Assignment. Coming January 5, 2015, D4A becomes “On the Warning Track”, dedicated to baseball at all levels.  See you there at http://onthewarningtrack.com.

Our Brandon Karsten gives his year in review a poetic twist. Good night to all and to all a good night.

 

By Brandon Karsten

This year started with the crowning of a national champ in Florida State.

When it came time to select Jameis Winston for the game’s MVP, there was no need to hesitate.

This year’s Super Bowl was quite boring.

Seeing Peyton Manning’s Broncos fail miserably reduced all of us to snoring.

 

The Winter Olympics for this year saw Russia playing host.

After two weeks of competing for medals, Russia came away with the most.

From March to April, we saw UConn march from a seventh seed to champions in the Final Four.

With so many exciting finishes, next year we’ll be back screaming for more.

 

With the beginning of spring came another season of baseball,

And with it came the eager anticipation of who will win in the fall.

Before Spring Training, Derek Jeter said the 2014 season would be his last,

And seeing him get the game winning hit in his last Yankee Stadium at-bat was a blast.

 

Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was caught with something on his neck called pine tar.

And with that stunt he did not go very far.

One pitcher who was dominant this year was Clayton Kershaw.

On his way to the NL Cy Young and MVP, he left all of us in awe.

 

We saw an exciting World Cup in Brazil.

Every minute of soccer action seemed to offer a thrill.

The most talked about incident was Uruguay’s Luis Suarez’s bite,

But Mario Götze’s game-winning goal in the Final showed Germany’s might.

 

In the NBA Finals, the Spurs finally got to the Heat,

Showing the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can be beat.

It was hard to hear L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling ripping black fans and Magic.

Seeing that racism and prejudice in sports still exists today is quite tragic.

 

LeBron ultimately decided to return home to the Mistake by the Lake,

And we hope to see if a Cleveland title drought will finally break.

In the NHL, the L.A. Kings won Stanley’s Cup with Alec Martinez scoring the game-winner.

In five games, the New York Rangers were done like a TV dinner.

 

The NFL had a PR crisis with Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé Janay.

Rice and Adrian Peterson showed when it came to domestic violence, the NFL was in disarray.

Rest in peace Ralph Wilson, Don Zimmer and Kevin Ward, Jr. and others who died in 2014.

But we can’t forget Tony Gwynn, one of the best sluggers baseball has seen.

 

The person we’ll miss the most is Robin Williams, Giants fan and king of funny.

His wit and humor seemed to turn even the gloomiest of days bright and sunny.

With him gone, in our lives he has left a big gaping hole.

I think what we will miss is what he put into every one of his movies: Soul.

 

Robin would be happy to know that the Giants won the World Series, their third in five years.

But the story was the red-hot Royals who brought K.C. fans a lot of joy and cheers.

Those Royals ran into a pitcher by the nickname of MadBum.

After seeing Madison Bumgarner pitch in the Fall Classic, he left all of us feeling numb.

 

This year for Michigan football was a complete joke.

AD Dave Brandon resigned and the next guy looking for a job was coach Brady Hoke.

With 2015 upcoming, something new called a college football playoff will begin.

Right now it’s hard to predict who will win.

 

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton signed the biggest contract extension in sports history.

Whether that will help the Marlins make the playoffs in 2015 is only a mystery.

Let’s rejoice in the reason for the season: God sending His son to show us the light.

I say Merry Christmas to you all and to all a good night.

 

Brandon Karsten is a contributor to Designated Four Assignment. He can be found on Facebook or reached through bkarsten2009@hotmail.com.

Still Fighting For Life

Devon Still and his daughter Leah fighting the good fight.

Devon Still and his daughter Leah fighting the good fight.

by Richard McBane

Money can buy happiness.

At the very least it can for the Cincinnati Bengals’ Devon Still and his family. The third year defensive tackle had struggled all off-season, both on and off the field, dealing with injuries and recovery from a January back surgery. But most devastating of all was the news he received on June 2nd that his four year old daughter had Stage IVcancer.

Leah Still was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, the most common cancer found outside the brain in young children. Leah was given a 50% chance of survival,a development that spiraled Devon and his family’s world out of control. Football instantly became a trivial part of Still’s life as his daughter would be fighting for her own.

Essentially deciding to hang up his cleats indefinitely Still said “when I found out, I told my family I was done. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving my daughter while she’s going through this”. He spent the next three weeks sleeping next to his daughter at the hospital despite having back problems of his own after his recent surgery. He said “’I’m not worried about my back right now,” “I’m worried about my daughter’s health.”

Situations like these often put things into perspective how little importance football can have in times of struggle. Still said “she’s fighting for her life. Sports is not more important than me being there while my daughter is fighting for her life.”

Still even shaved his head in support of his daughter, refusing to grow his hair until hers returns.

Understandably, Still’s mind was not committed to football and he was consequently cut from the Bengals’ 53-man roster. However, in light of Still’s situation, the Bengals signed him to the team’s practice squad to keep him on salary so that he could pay for his daughter’s cancer treatments.

Still and Channing Smythe, Leah’s mother, decided to bring their daughter to Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital, where one of the nation’s top neuroblastoma surgeons works. He decided this would be a positive move for his daughter as he could reach out to the Bengals community for support. Still even started a campaign to fund research and help other families affected by the disease.

You can contribute to help wipe out pediatric cancer by donating at pldgit.com

While on the practice squad, Still’s story spread throughout the NFL community and beyond, filling the hearts of a nation of supporters. People began buying Still’s jersey in support of his situation. The Bengals organization agreed to use the revenue from the jersey sales to contribute to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and pediatric cancer research. Public response to this was so immense that over $400,000 in Still’s jersey sales were made in just four days after this announcement.

Overnight, Still’s jersey became the most sold jersey in a 24-hour span in Bengals’ history. Recently, the charity  racked up nearly 15,000 jersey sales totaling over $1.25 million, all of which will be donated to the Children’s Hospital and pediatric cancer research to help families with children living with these diseases. The money will be presented to the hospital after the first quarter of the Bengals Thursday November 6th game against the Cleveland Browns.2

In September, while this heartwarming story was developing, Leah underwent successful surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her abdomen. Given a 50-50 chance of survival, this beautiful little girl is now in the midst of weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments that aim to destroy the cancerous cells in her body.

Hopes are high for Devon Still’s daughter, thanks in part to what seemed like a minuscule idea of purchasing a jersey; in the end it became much more than that. Still could have given all of his efforts to his daughter’s battle with cancer, but what he did on October 21st shows what kind of character he really has. Still visited terminally ill basketball player Lauren Hill of Mount St. Joseph University. At 19-years old she has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor but has decided to continue to play basketball and dedicate her time to raising awareness. Still visited the team’s practice on Tuesday, leaving Leah a signed game worn jersey of his own with the hashtag #BeatCancer.3

Leah’s story will be told in a documentary, “One Last Game”, set to air on November 2nd.
While most of the media’s attention is focused on  the NFL’s negative situations –  Ray Rice, Josh Gordon Adrian Peterson, etc…It is stories about the Devon Stills and Lauren Hills of the sports world that truly help us gain perspective on life and what truly matters. Their struggles remind us how fortunate many of us really are.

 

1 – cincinnati.com

2 – USAtoday.com

3 – sbnation.com

 

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Richard McBane  is a U of Albany Alum, and an avid Yankees and Giants supporter. He can be reached Twitter at @RichieeMC

The 3 Most Memorable Giants Wins Over Dallas In The Manning-Romo Era

Jason Pierre-Paul's block preserved a 37-34 Giants win.

Jason Pierre-Paul’s block preserved a 37-34 Giants win in 2011.

by Drew Sarver

The New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys meet today in a 4:25 PM EDT contest on Fox Sports. The NFC East rivals have met 105 times so far with Dallas holding a 59-43-2 edge and are the winners of the last two meetings.

The first time the Giants’ Eli Manning and the Cowboys’ Tony Romo faced off against each other was October 23, 2006, the first of 16 meetings between the two quarterbacks. The Giants took that first game with a big 36-22 road victory, but would finish 8-8, while the Cowboys were 9-7. The Cowboys gained a split of the series with a 23-20 win in December.  Dallas dropped their playoff opener to Seattle when Romo dropped the snap as the holder on a potential game winning field goal against Seattle. He’s been much maligned ever since. (His dating Jessica Simpson didn’t help either.)

But this is about the the three most memorable wins for the Giants over the Cowboys since Manning and Romo became their team’s starting QBs.

January 13, 2008 Divisional Round of Playoffs

Dallas finished the regular season as the NFC leaders with a 13-3 record, three games ahead of the second place Giants. It earned Dallas a bye in the first round and the home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

The two regular season meetings between the two squads resulted in a pair of Dallas wins – a 45-35 shootout on the first Sunday night of the season and a 31-20 Dallas win in week 10.

The final statistics of the playoff game showed Dallas with a 336-230 advantage in total yards and and 36 1/2 minutes of possession to the Giants 23 1/2. But the final score showed Giants 21 Cowboys 17.

The Giants took less than three minutes to get on the scoreboard first. Starting on their own 23, the Giants quickly moved towards midfield. Facing a 3rd-and-five from their own 43, Manning’s pass to Amani Toomer fell incomplete, but Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware was flagged for being offside. After Manning converted a 3rd-and-one, he found Toomer for what appeared to be a 10-yard completion.

But the Giants’ wide receiver slipped two tackles, got a big block from fullback Madison Hedgecock and raced to the end zone for a 52-yard touchdown. The drive consumed 2/3 of the Giants total yards for the day. The Cowboys answered back with a 96-yd drive that began late in the first quarter and ended on the first play of the second quarter when Romo found Terrell Owens in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. It was a well thrown ball that went over the top of cornerback Corey Webster and settled in Owens hands just before he stepped out of bounds. The play was challenged by Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin, but was held up by review.

The Cowboys took the lead with 1:01 left in the first half on a Marion Barber 1-yard score, but the Giants move 71 yards in 36 seconds. Manning hooked up with Steve Smith on passes of 22 and 11 yards, with 15 more yards tacked on the latter play thanks to face mask penalty on DB Jacques Reeves. On 3rd-and-10, Manning found tight end Kevin Boss for 19 yards to the Cowboys’4-yard line where Manning found Toomer again to tie things up at 14 apiece.

Nick Folk‘s 34-yard FG gave the Cowboys a 17-14 lead after three quarters. After the teams exchanged punts, the Giants began the last scoring drive of the game. R.W. McQuarters returned the Cowboy’s punt 25 yards to the Dallas 37-yard line. Six plays later, Brandon Jacobs punched it in from the one to give the Giants a 21-17 lead.

The Cowboys were forced to punt in their first two possessions of the final quarter, but a Matt McBriar punt trapped the Giants back on their own 12-yard line with 3:46 left in regulation. The Cowboys defense got the job done – holding the Giants to a three-and-out – and took over at the Giants 48 after a Jeff Feagles punt. Romo found tight end/Giants killer Jason Witten for 18 yards to the Giants 22-yard line, but Dallas faced a fourth down after a short gain and two incompletions. Romo threw into double coverage in the endzone in attempt to find Terry Glenn, but McQuarters intercepted the pass to seal the Giants victory.

The Giants then beat Green Bay on the road and topped the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.


December 11, 2011

The week 13 matchup had a big impact on the three-way battle between the Giants, Cowboys, and Eagles for the NFC East lead . The Cowboys  entered the game at 7-5, while the Giants struggled their way to a 6-6 mark through 12 games. The game was about offense, with more than combined  700 total yards. Mannings’ 47-yard TD pass to Mario Manningham had given the Giants a 22-20 lead after three quarters.

But the Cowboys first drive of the 4th quarter resulted in a TD that took less than two minutes to complete. The big play was a 74-yard completion from Romo to receiver Laurent Robinson that set up a 6-yard TD pass to Miles Austin.

On the ensuing drive, the Giants moved from their own 20 to the Dallas 22, but Manning’s pass for D.J. Ware was picked off by Sean Lee and return 30 yards to the Giants 49. After a 1-yard loss, Romo and Dez Bryant hooked up on a 50-yard touchdown pass that put Dallas up 34-22 with just 5:52 to play. The Giants quickly countered back with a pair of completions to Cruz and another to Hakeem Nicks that moved the ball to the Cowboys 32. A 24 completion to Nicks gave them a first down at the Cowboys 8-yard line. Two plays later, Manning connected with tight end Jake Ballard to cut the lead to 34-29 with 3:20 left in the 4th.

The Giants had two timeouts and the two minute warning remaining when the Cowboys got the ball at their own 20-yard line following a touchback. The Giants got what they needed, a three-and-out series, and Coughlin used one of his remaining timeouts to stop the clock. A poor punt by McBride gave the Giants the ball at their own 42 with 2:12 left in regulation.

Manning hit Ballard with a 21-yard completion and then the  Giants moved five more yards on Ware’s second offsides penalty of the game. With the ball on the Dallas 24-yard line and incomplete pass was negated by a defensive holding penalty on cornerback Frank Walker. The automatic first down moved the ball to the 19 and then Manning found Ballard again for an 18-yard gain to the 1. Now it was Dallas’ turn to burn their second timeout with one minute left in regulation.

On his second attempt, Brandon Jacobs carried the ball across the end zone for a go ahead touchdown. The Giants tacked on a two-point conversion when DJ Ware went through right tackle to find the end zone.  A 12-point deficit turned inito a 3-point Giants’ lead in four minutes-fifty seconds. The Cowboys would have one more shot to keep the game going on the leg of rookie Dan Bailey, who is still a member of the Cowboys today and one of the best kickers in the league.

With the aid of 22- and 23-yard completions to Miles Austin, Romo led the Cowboys from their own 20 to the Giants 29-yard line in 38 seconds. Romo spiked the ball to stop the clock with eight seconds remaining in the 4th quarter as Bailey trotted on to the field. Just before the ball was snapped, the Giants used their final timeout. Already in motion, Bailey kicked the ball right down the middle, but the field goal didn’t count. On his second attempt, the Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul partially blocked the kick and the Giants had their victory.

New Years Day, 2012

The final game of the season would determine which team, the Giants or Cowboys, would go to the playoff and which team would go home. Both teams entered the January 1, 2012 contest with 8-7 records. The game was three weeks after the Giants surprise come from behind road victory in Dalass.

Unlike their previous meeting, however, this game was primarily in the Giants control.. With the game scoreless midway through the 1st quarter, the Giants got the ball on their own 4-yard line. Manning completed a 3rd-and-9 pass to tight end Bear Pascoe to keep possession of the football. In the previous week’s win over the New York Jets, Cruz took a short pass and turned it into a 90-yard TD reception. Against the Cowboys he did it again. On 3rd-and-1, Manning found Cruz at the Giants 31-yard line. With the help of a block, the sasa-dancing receiver blew past the defense and ran 74 yards for the first score of the day.

The Giants quickly got the ball back when defense held the Cowboys to a three-and-out. The Giants used a 10 play drive that spanned the first and second quarters to take a 14-0 lead. Ahmad Bradshaw finished the drive off with a 5-yard TD run.

The Giants last possession of the half resulted in another Bradshaw touchdown. The Gmen went 80 yards, thanks in part to a Bradshaw 29-yard run, and scored when Manning tossed a short pass to Bradshaw that resulted in a 12-yard TD. Bailey had a rare miss, from 52 yards, to keep Dallas off the scoreboard in the first half.

The Cowboys finally came alive in the third quarter. On their first possession, which began at their own 6-yard line, Dallas drove to the Giants’ 34. Romo then hooked up with Robinson for a 34-yard scoring play. The score would remain 21-7 until the 4th quarter when the Cowboys took over at the Giants 26-yard line after a short Steve Weatherford punt and a 13-yard Dez Bryant return. Three plays later, Romo and Robinson again combined for a score, this time a 6-yard TD pass. Up 21-14, the Giants suddenly found themselves in a much tougher situation.

A Lawrence Tynes‘ field goal added some breathing room and the Giants held the Cowboys to a punt on the ensuing possession aided by a Chris Canty sack. Chris Jones shanked the punt and the Giants got he ball at the Cowboys 45-yard line. After a couple of Bradsaw runs netted five yards, Manning threw to Nicks for a 36 yard gain to the Cowboys 4. After a Dallas timeout, Manning went to Nicks again for a touchdown.

The Cowboys got the ball back, down 10 with 3:46 remaining in regulation. The Cowboys got out to their own 46 before Justin Tuck strip-sacked Romo and the Giants’ Matthias Kiwanuka fell on the ball to  put the finishing touches on the Giants win.

The Giants topped the Falcons at home, Green Bay and San Francisco on the road, and topped the Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time five seasons.

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

Dear Mr. Fantasy, Give Us A Clue

Victor Cruz is out for the year, so who should you pick up?

Victor Cruz is out for the year, so who should you pick up?

It’s Mr. Fantasy’s premiere football column. He share his waiver wire grabs, drops, an fuggedaboutits.

Injuries play a huge role in every fantasy football league, just as they do in the actual National Football League. Week 6 had more than their fair share of impactful injuries, so it’s time to go around the NFL and take a look at the newest injuries and how they impact their teams and yours.

Victor Cruz WR, NYG: This is a huge blow to the Giants’ already shaky playoff chances. If you missed it, there will be no salsa dancing for the foreseeable future for Cruz after he tore his patella tendon in Sunday night’s contest with Philly. Swoop up Rueben Randle or Odell Beckham Jr. if one of them is available in your league. Randle is likely to be targeted more at this point of the season, but Beckham, the Giants first round pick in 2014, will get more passes thrown his way as the season goes on. Eli Manning and Randle are often not on the same page, so that could also play into Beckham’s numbers. Preston Parker’s targets should go up as well as a result of Cruz’s injury. The Giants have also signed Kevin Ogletree, but he won’t have much of a fantasy impact.

Darren Sproles RB, PHI: The diminutive, but powerful running back is expected to miss two weeks with a sprained MCL. That could be just one week of games since Philly has a bye this Sunday. (Post-MRI talk even has a possibility of Sproles returning in week eight versus Arizona) Sproles’ nine fantasy points on Sunday was the most since he compiled 14 and 23 the first two weeks of the season.

Not that it has hurt their offense, but Sproles was targeted four times against the Giants on Sunday night, but didn’t have a reception. In the prior week’s victory over St. Louis, Nick Foles didn’t throw Sproles’ way once. Chris Polk, who sat out Sunday’s game due to a hamstring injury has indicated he’ll be ready for the Cardinals game. Even if Sproles is out, Polk is not likely to get too many carries when LeSean McCoy needs a breather.

Stevan Ridley RB, NE: The New England Patriots top back tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee and is out for the remainder of the season. Picking a replacement running back for the Pats, when it comes to fantasy football, is extremely diifficult. Head coach Bill Belichik uses so many situational formations it’s difficult to predict how many touches a game a player will get.

Former Patriot RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a perfect example of this. He rushed for just 667 yards in 2011, but was a goal line specialist and scored 11 touchdowns. That being said, Shane Vereen is the favorite to handle the ball the most of any of NE’s backs…but look for your points from another team.

Knowshon Moreno RB, Mia: Most owners had already picked up Lamar Miller when Moreno injured his elbow in Week 2. Now the former Denver Broncos standout is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL in his right knee. Miller has been limited in practice due to an undisclosed injury so stowing Damien Williams on your bench might be a good long term investment.

 

Turn out the lights, the party’s over. Time to ride the pines.

Ah, good ol’ “Dandy” Don Meredith singing “Turn out the lights, the party’s over” back in the hey day of Monday Night Football. In this case the party is over for some football players. These guys aren’t hurt, they’ve just become ineffective.

Matt Asiata RB, Min: When Adrian Peterson was suspended, the Vikings gave the ball to Asiata, who responded with 36 yards rushing and 48 yards receiving and a TD in week 2. Week 4 saw him compile the fantasy game of his life. In the 41-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons, Asiata rushed for three touchdowns and compiled 100 total yards rushing and receiving. But the game also was an omen of things to come.

Rookie Jerick McKinnon rushed for 135 yards against Atlanta,  on just 18 carries. The 3rd round pick from Georgia Southern still managed only 10 touches the following week, because Green Bay blew the game open early in a 42-10 rout. Last week, the Vikings held tough against a very good Detroit Lions defense, which saw McKinnon rush for 40 yards (11 carries) and catch all six passes targeted at him for another 42 yards. Meanwhile Asiata, despite 72 yards rushing against the Packers, carried the ball just twice against Detroit and had no receptions. McKinnon is clearly the starter now, though you may not want to start him this week against a tough Buffalo Bills defense.

Larry Donnell TE, NYG: Donnell had a pretty awful 2013 campaign and was a breakout star this season until the last two weeks. He scored 11 points in week 1 vs. Detroit, followed by eight points against Arizona. His big week came in week 4 when he caught three touchdowns against the beleaguered Washington Redskins defense. But Donnell has recorded zero fantasy points the last two weeks. Granted his triple tap touchdown reception this past Sunday against Philly was called back by a holding penalty on offensive lineman Will Beatty, but either defenses have adjusted and/or Manning is looking elsewhere.

With Cruz out, Manning could go back to Donnell, but this week’s opponent, Dallas, has allowed just two touchdowns to tight ends this season. That and the other Giants tight end Daniel Fells caught a TD pass in weeks 2 through 4. It’s a  good time to bench Donnell.

Chris Johnson RB, NYJ: Remember when Johnson was the studliest running back in the NFL? It seems like eons ago now. While he put in some serviceable performances in his latter days with the Tennessee Titans, his time with the Jets has been nothing stellar. Fans were excited when he had 68 yards rushing and another 23 receiving in week 1, including a touchdown, but Johnson hasn’t done much since then. He’s found the opponents’ end zone just one additional time.Teammate Chris Ivory is clearly the better back at this time and Johnson is likely to continue to see the football less and less. Cut Johnson loose and get a useful player on your roster.

 

Christmas Comes Early

Jason Witten TE, DAL: The Cowboys tight end has just one TD reception this season and has not recorded more than eight fantasy points in any single game. But the Cowboys host the Giants this week and Jason Witten loves to play his division rivals. Last season alone, Witten caught eight of nine targets for 70 yards and two touchdowns in an opening night 36-31 win. In the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving, the Giants “held” Witten to four receptions for 37 yards, but he still caught two TD passes in a 24-21 Cowboys’ win. Though he didn’t catch a touchdown pass, the second meeting between the two teams in 2012 saw Witten catch a ridiculous 18 passes for 167 yards. In a word, or two words, start him!

 

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Mr. Fantasy can be reached with fantasy football or hockey questions at mrfantasy@d4assignment.com

Andre The Giant: Williams’ Increased Role

andrewilliams

It’s Andre Williams’ time to shine.

by Richard McBane

The Giants have stood tall the last three weeks. There was the much needed win in week three against Houston Texans to avoid a dreaded 0-3 hole.  Then there was the ensuing Thursday night rout of the division rival Washington Redskins, and last week’s come from behind win against the Atlanta Falcons.

All seems to be right in Giants’ land. The offense is clicking under Ben McAdoo’s system, the defense is playing cohesive physical football, and special teams still never fails to make you want to pull your hair out every time they are on the field.

However, the knee injury that lead RB Rashad Jennings suffered at MetLife Stadium last Sunday could add some turbulence at a pivotal point in the season. With road trips to hostile division rival territory (Philadelphia and Dallas) before their bye, many are looking at these two games to reveal the true colors of the Giants. Will they be true contenders in the NFC East, or will they be a bust?

The Giants will look to rookie running back Andre Williams to pick up Jennings’ workload. The 22-year old Boston College alumnus was selected in the fourth round (113th overall) in this year’s draft. At 5’11” and 234 pounds, the Poughkeepsie, NY native was a formidable running threat throughout his college career, but really broke out in his senior year in 2013. His final college season saw him amass 25 runs of at least 20 yards or more and his 2,177 total rushing yards sent him into Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) history as #5 all-time in single season rushing yards.

His greatest performance as a BC Eagle set a single game FBS record for 2013; he carried the ball 42 times for 339 yards and two touchdowns. Williams finished fourth in the 2013 Heisman trophy candidate voting, won the Doak Walker Award (given to the nation’s top running back) and was named a unanimous All-American.1

Off the field, Williams is no dud either. He graduated a semester early while earning his bachelor’s in applied psychology and human development from the Lynch School of Education. He has also begun writing a memoir which he has titled “A King, , a Queen and a Conscience” based on his experiences that have shaped him to be the person he is today.

He has also infused business into his craft as he is has created a compression shirt that would help stabilize runners’ shoulders. Williams knows that football does not last forever, especially for running backs and has plans for a future in philanthropy.  He aspires to establish non-profit organizations for children and has already written mission statements for some of them.2

For at least the next few weeks, the Giants need Williams to show his versatility on the field. Throughout his career there have been doubts regarding his pass catching and blocking abilities, but now he has the chance to silence his critics. He’s already begun to prove his worth in the NFL – last week against the Falcons he rushed 20 times for 65 yards and caught both passes thrown to him in relief for his injured mentor, Jennings.

Williams must continue to improve and perform in the absence of Jennings in order for the Giants to be a force in NFC East. While his fill in performance was exciting, the next two weeks will serve as the true test for Williams’ NFL ability

His peers certainly think he is up for the challenge. His predecessor, Jennings, has full faith in him to perform.  “I have complete confidence in Andre.”, Jennings said and added “he’s a great player; he’s going to continue to be great. He wants to be great and he’s going to be a good player in this league.”

Eli Manning went on to praise the rookie saying “I thought he came in last week and played really well, ran the ball hard, ran over some guys, caught the ball well”.

Coach Tom Coughlin said “We expect him to be what he was a week ago, a downhill, north-south runner, which is what he does very, very well”. It is a good sign the coach praises Williams to take the workload of carries in the upcoming weeks to give the rookie confidence in the biggest stage of his career.

Whatever the circumstances may bring him Sunday evening, Williams’ response will be critical to the teams performance. One thing for sure, Williams will give it his all as Andre the Giant says, “I only know one way to run, so I am just going to run hard and make sure I compete at the highest level.” 3

 

1 – bceagles.com

2 – nytimes.com

3 – giants.com

 

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Richard McBane  is a U of Albany Alum, and an avid Yankees and Giants supporter. He can be reached Twitter at @RichieeMC

Giants Continue Turnaround With Come From Behind Win

Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. was a big part of Sunday's come from behind win.

Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. was a big part of Sunday’s come from behind win.

by Drew Sarver

The first half of Sunday’s home between the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons looked much like the Big Blue disaster that were weeks one and two.  The defensive line was bulldozed, resulting in no pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan and the Atlanta running game big chunks of yardage at a time. The offense was ineffective, but the Giants only found themselves down 13-10 at halftime and mounted a second half comeback for a 30-20 win.

After the Falcons’ second possession it didn’t seem the Giants would be extending their two game winning streak. What appeared to be a harmless screen pass almost turned into a back breaker. From their own 26-yard line, Ryan went into a deep drop and connected with running back Antone Smith at the line of scrimmage. Giants’ safety Antrel Rolle missed a bad angle tackle and there was no one there to back him up. The speedy Smith outraced Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, who had initially stopped pursuit on the play, to the end zone for a 74-yard touchdown and a 20-10 Falcons lead.

But as if someone had suddenly flipped the switch, the game turned in the Giants favor and they answered the Falcons touchdown with one of their own. A 9-play, 81-yard drive culminated with rookie running back Andre Williams finding the end zone on a 3-yard run. The drive featured receptions by Williams, Victor Cruz, rookie Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle, and two third down conversions. (One on an Atlanta penalty.)

Then the Giants defense stepped up their game. They only sacked Ryan once on the day, but continually got in his face and/or flushed him out of the pocket. A quick three and out by the Falcons, gave the Giants the ball back  with 24 seconds left in the third quarter. Now it was time for the Giants offensive line to do some bullying, giving Manning time to throw and opening holes for Williams, who took over as the featured back when Rashad Jennings sprained his knee. Manning and Beckham hooked up on a 14-yard completion and Cruz pulled in a 12-yard pass on a third and eight. Facing a third and three at the Falcons’ 15, Beckham outmuscled Robert Alford and got in front of the cornerback in the end zone for his career TD reception.

A second straight three and out led to a Josh Brown 50-yard FG to give the Giants a 27-20 lead. The Giants iced the victory after a questionable decision by Atlanta head coach Mike Smith. The Falcons faced fourth and one on their own 29-yard line with 4:48 remaining in regulation, all three timeouts remaining, plus the 2-minute warning. But instead of punting, Smith showed no faith in his defense, which in fairness had been dominated in the second half, and went for it. The decision backfired when Giants’ defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins dropped Ryan for a nine yard loss. With 2:11 remaining in the game, Brown booted througha  26-yard FG for the game’s final scoring play.

Ryan was missing 2/5 of his starting offensive line, but it didn’t seem to matter through the first 30 minutes of the game. Trailing 7-0 after a first quarter TD pass from Eli Manning and Randle, the Falcons drove 80 yards in nine plays that culminated with running back Stephen Jackson practically walking into the end zone for a game tying 10 yard touchdown. The drive, which took 4:43, featured 22- , 11-, and 12-yard  completions from Ryan to receiver Julio Jones. Each time, Jones was wide open. Stephen Jackson also reeled off an 11-yard run before he scored his second touchdown of the season.

Atlanta got the ball back immediately when return man Preston Parker was stripped of the football on the ensuing kickoff.  The Falcons’ Eric Weems recovered the pigskin on the Giants 21-yard line. The six-play drive crossed into the second quarter and ended with a Matt Bryant 22-yard field goal for a 10-7 Atlanta lead.

The Giants went three plays and out and the Falcons had the ball back yet again in less than two minutes. This time the Giants defense stopped the Falcons after they marched 37 yards to the Giants 38 yard line. 21 yards rushing by Jennings and an 18 yard completion to Randle helped the Giants get to the Falcons’ 34, but on second and nine, former teammate Osi Umenyiora sacked Manning for a seven-yard loss. The Giants eventually settled for a Brown 49-yard FG.

Upon getting the ball back, the Falcons quickly moved 73 yards as Ryan completed six straight passes. But with 2nd and goal at the two, Ryan’s passes to Jones and Roddy White fell short. The Giants were fortunate to escape the first half down 13-10 after Bryant nailed a chip shot from 20 yards.

The Giants rookies came up big and will have to continue to in the coming weeks with Philadelphia and Dallas next on the schedule. Williams finished the game with 65 yards on 20 carries and two receptions for 18 yards. Beckham wasn’t on the field for a large number of snaps, but there appears to be a solid comfort level between he and Manning despite missing the pre-season and the first four regular season games with an injured hamstring. He was targeted five times and finished with four receptions for 44 yards.

With a lingering foot injury keeping middle linebacker Jon Beason out of the lineup, six-year veteran Jameel McClain also turned in a strong game. The 29-year old free agent signee – after six season with the Baltimore Ravens – recorded seven tackles and defended two passes.

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

Giants Banking on Jennings

jennings

Jennings Needs To Be The Next Great Giants Back

 

by Richard McBane

The addition of running back Rashad Jennings will turn out be a pleasant surprise (although it shouldn’t) to the Giants offense.

With the alarming neck injury to RB David Wilson that ultimately ended his career last season, the Giants were forced to move on with an assortment of five backs that rushed for a little over 1000 yards combined.

This year however, look to Rashad Jennings to become the offensive backbone the Giants have needed of late.  He can virtually do it all for the Giants offense. He has the ability to break out for big plays as seen in his 73 yard touchdown run against the Steelers this preseason, and will take the bulk of carries this season. He also has exceptional blocking and pass catching abilities. He is an all-around competitor and reliable offensive presence solidifying the question mark that was the Giants running game.

Jennings talks the talk and walks the walk in his offseason training routines and the way he he handles press conferences. In an August 23rd interview Jennings said “you always want consistency”; a sign of good things to come and hopefully often for Giant fans. His belief in being consistent coincides with the traditional and hardworking culture the Mara family has established in the Giants organization.  Jennings also said “it’s all about being physical and finishing runs as a runner” in the same August interview. We can assume Jennings will be true to his word, because he was third in the NFL last season in yards after contact finishing only behind Chris Ivory and Adrian Peterson.

In a Giants.com featured video of his workout routines1, he talked of performing exercises to build up “explosiveness, endurance and durability” with muscle activating therapy. He also revealed he sleeps in a “hyperbolic chamber” to keep his body durable due to the everyday wear and tear he endures as a running back. With these serious measures being taken to enhance his athleticism and performance, it seems the Giants finally have the real deal at the running back position they lacked for over a year. He emphasized this feeling by quoting one of his former coaches: “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender”.

Jennings’ stats through two games:

Game ATT YDS AVG TD REC
9/14vs

Cardinals

18 64 3.6 0 4
9/8@

Lions

16 46 2.9 1 4

The Giants step into the third week of the regular season in what some people would say is a devastating 0-2 hole. 12% of teams since 1990 that dug themselves into this deep of a hole have gone on to make the playoffs (the 2008 super bowl winning Giants being one of them). The Giants opened up the season against the Lions in a completely lopsided game. The revamped New York defense was steamrolled by Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and company, allowing Matt Stafford to throw for 346 yards, including two TD passes to Johnson. Jennings was held to 46 yards rushing, but he did have a goal line dive in which he muscled his way into the end zone for a touchdown.  It was one of the few bright spots in a 35-14 debacle.

In the second game of the season, against the Cardinals, it felt like one of those games where turnovers and penalties end up costing a team a victory. Overall the team showed much improvement as Eli was able to throw for 277 yards and two touchdowns, but too many errors proved to be the Giants’ downfall. The G-Men headed into the fourth quarter up by four points but failed to execute and finish off the game. Among the many mistakes was a costly punt return on a short punt by an injured Weatherford, a lost fumble on the Giants’ own 21 yard line, a pair of Victor Cruz drops, and a 63-yard drive that ended when Jennings’ coughed up the football.

Although he gave up a crucial fumble in the fourth quarter, Jennings rushed for 64 yards and showed his versatility with a surprising blocked punt. The fumble was as he said in his own words “uncharacteristic” of him; his last fumble was in 2012.

With the pressure on the team to win their first game and avoid a disastrous 0-3 start, expect Jennings to bounce back after the shortcomings of his first two games as well as continue to execute the positives of his game. Pressure often brings out the best in good athletes and Jennings is no different. When speaking of the pressure leading to this week’s game he said “pressure can be a great thing, it can break pipes, but can also make diamonds”. His mentality for tomorrow’s game: “everybody is going to dig deep, we love this game and we have a lot to prove”2.

1 – Giants.com(1)

2 – Giants.com(2)

Richard McBane  is a U of Albany Alum, and an avid Yankees and Giants supporter. He can be reached Twitter at @RichieeMC