Antrel Rolle

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

2014 NY Giants Preview: Can Eli Still Make Fans BELIeve?

EliManning

Eli Manning must stay on his feet and keep the ball out of the opponents’ hands if the Giants are to make the playoffs.

by Drew Sarver

Tom Coughlin’s tenure as head coach of the NY Giants has seens its ups and downs. Those same highs and lows have been experienced by his starting quarterback, Eli Manning. Despite two Super Bowl victories, each of which saw Manning take home the game’s MVP Award, the Giants are in a period of transition. One that could cost both Coughlin and Manning if things don’t work out right.

Based on the pre-season, the Giants have their work cut out for them.

Key New FA Additions: RB Rashad Jennings, OL Geoff Schwartz,  CB Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, LB Jameel McClain

The Giants counted on running back David Wilson to be an integral part of their offense in 2013, but the former stand out at Virginia suffered a season ending neck injury and was forced to retire after a scare during training camp this year. Andre Brown missed half of the 2013 season, but led the team with 492 yard rushing. With his departure as a free agent, the Giants turned to Jennings, who rushed for 723 yards for the Oakland Raiders and looked sharp during the exhibition season.

With the retirements of Chris Snee and Dave Diehl, and the departure of ineffective center David Baas, Schwartz was a major signing to bolster an offensive line that was one of the weakest links on last season’s team. Unfortunately, Schwartz suffered a dislocated toe during the exhibition season and will miss the first half of the season.

The Giants secondary is one of the deeper area’s on this year’s squad, but the acquisition of Rogers-Cromartie give the Giants another top cover guy. He’ll need to be since he’s not particularly physical or consistent.

The Giants linebacking corp are many years removed from the LT years, Jessie Armstead, and Aaron Pierce. Jon Beason was a great addition last year and the Giants hope they can get big-time production from McClain, an excellent run stopper.

Key Departures: Justin Tuck, Chris Snee, David Diehl, David Baa, RB Andre Brown, WR Hsakeem Nicks, TE Brandon Myers, RB Brandon Jacobs

NFL Draft Additions:

Round 1: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

Round 2: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado St.

Round 3: Jay Bromley, DT, Syracuse

Round 4: Andre Williams, RB, Boston College

Round 5: Nat Berhe, S, San Diego St.

Round 5: Devon Kennard, LB, LSU

Round 6: Bennet Jackson, CB, Notre Dame

Beckham is being heavily counted on to take pressure off the Giants’ number one playmaker, Victor Cruz. Unfortunately, Beckham missed the pre-season with a bad hamstring and won’t suit up in week 1.

Richburg was a nice choice for an offensive line that needed help. With the injury to Schwartz, Richburg is going to have to adapt quickly.

Bromley joins a line that struggled last year to get to the quarterback last season. A Giants’ fan growing up, Bromley is expected to use his strength and speed to clog up the middle.

Williams could eventually emerge as the team’s number one back this season. That will all depend on the success or failure of Jennings. Either way, Williams should get a good amount of carries in reserve.

Berhe adds more depth to a deep defensive backfield. Extremely athletic, Berhe could have a big impact down the road.

Kennard is a physical player that the Giants will need to contribute immediately. Linebacker continues to be a weak spot on the Giants roster.

Jackson will start the season on the practice squad.

The Offense:

The biggest addition to the Giants is new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. For years, fans have been all over Kevin Gilbride, not affectionately known as “Killdrive” by his detractors. McAdoo brings his version of the west coast offense to a team that has relied on deep QB drop backs and long passes from Manning. The first string offense, particularly the passing game, was a disaster during the exhibition games. The quicker the offense adapts to McAdoo’s schemes, the more successful the team will be. So far, a .500 record might be a stretch.

Jennings, Williams, and Peyton Hillis will need to run the ball effectively to give Manning time to find his receivers. The heaviest pressure is on the re-tooled offensive line to open holes for the aforementioned trio and to keep Manning off his back. Versatile fullback Henry Hynoski returns after missing most of last season due to injury.

Rueben Randle continues to not be on the same page as Manning. At times, Randle looks spectacular; at other times he looks completely lost. Beckham’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for an offense in transition.

The Giants tight end position is up in the air after another free agent, Brandon Myers, left after one year. Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, and Adrien Robinson are the underwhelming trio that will split time at tight end, at least until someone better comes along.

The new line, for now, has J.D. Walton at center with Will Beatty and Richburg filling out the left tackle and guard positions. Brandon Mosley starts at right guard with second year man Justin Pugh getting the nod at right tackle.

In addition to Cruz and Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, Preston Parker, and Corey Washington are the other wideouts. Washington could be the break out star of latter trio.

The Defense:

The key to the Giants defense has been to put pressure on the opposing quarterback. When the line and linebackers get in the quarterback’s face, the Giants coverage in the secondary holds and makes run stopping easier.  The pass rush was one of the team’s biggest weaknesses last season. The primary reason the team was 23rd in the NFL against the pass. The squad finished tied for 25th in the league in sacks.

Veteran leader Justin Tuck is gone and Jason Pierre-Paul is coming off a season in which he struggled post-back surgery. Mathias Kiwanuka, who has played linebacker as well for the Giants, will lineup at the opposite end of Pierre-Paul. Damontre Moore will fill in, in pass rushing situations. Cullin Jenkins and  Johnathan Hankins are plugged in at the tackles spots, with Bromley spelling them.

Jon Beason begins the season with a foot injury, but will start at middle linebacker. He’s also one of the team leaders. Mcclain and Mark Herzlich will back him up. Jacquian Williams starts at the weakside with Kennard lined up at on the strong side. Spencer Paysinger will see some time as a back up and will be a regular on special teams.

The defensive backfield is deep with Rogers-Cromarte and the ever-improving Prince Anukamara at the corners and Stevie Brown, back from knee surgery, at free safety. Veteran mouthpiece Antrel Rolle, who had one of his best seasons in 2013, returns at strong safety. He’ll serve as a good mentor for Berhe.

Special Teams:

The Giants’ special teams have struggled over the years, particularly at stopping the opposing returner. The Giants return men was nothing special last season, as the team finished in the bottom five  of all teams. Due to injuries and ineffectiveness, the Giants have tabbed Parker as the punt returner to being the season. Quinton Demps gets the nod on kick returns, with Parker as his backup.

Kicker Josh Brown and punter Steve Weatherford return to their respective positions.

Outlook:

The Giants could finish in second place in the NFC East this season and not come close to a playoff spot. That’s because of how flawed the teams in the division are.  There’s plenty of pressure on head coach Tom Coughlin, quarterback Eli Manning, o-coordinator Ben McAdoo, and DE Jason Pierre-Paul to turn things around from last season’s medicore 7-9 mark.

It will be far from easy, 8-8 looks about as good as the team will be. It’s not out of the question that the Giants will split their six division games against Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington. But Seattle, Indianoplis, Arizona, and Detroit are on the schedule, and what should be an improved Atlanta squad.

The key to the season is for Manning to keep his turnovers down from the last two seasons. That will at least give the Giants a fighting chance.

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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.