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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Around the NFL

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.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

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

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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

IMPROVEMENT ON DEFENSE

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.
2) KEEP SPAGNUOLO!
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.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

IMPROVEMENT ON OFFENSE

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

Monday, May 26, 2008

The perspective of Tavaris Jackson

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.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

moneyfootball

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.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Offensive coaches excerpts

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.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Defensive Coaches outtakes

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.”

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chris Snee

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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Football Moneyball

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.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ultimatenyg Book Club: Moneyball

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

It has business. It has sports. It has the GM and the draft. This is as close as it comes to Ultimatenyg required reading. What more can you say when a General Manager turns the sports world upside down by listening to the statistics which work and transforming a 100+ year old pastime? The lessons for football are incredible. Pay attention to what works. Go for the steak in Round 2 instead of the sizzle of Round 1. Look at stats in college that will make a player stick in the pros. Respect the work of scouts but respect the stats that matter for a player's chances more. Ultimatenyg already mentioned how the 40 yard dash time is not statistically correlated with success. We found out that Jerry Reese looks at the 3-cone drill.

Baseball is radically different from football because it does not share revenue equally. But that does not mean the front office is less important. It simply means that if Billy Beane as GM has more money he is competing for championships and perpetual winners instead of trolling for good players and always watching them leave. The Eagles are trading down because they see the merit in Round 2. The experiment is two drafts (only one season) old, so the dividends will take years to be seen. But you can already see that the Eagles are getting lots of 2's 3's and 4's for their trouble. And they have two #1's next season. It is exasperating their fans, as this is the equivalent of being down by 4 and punting. But quietly the Eagles are beginning to load up. They are going to wreck that draft value chart, which I have already speculated is too top heavy. Read the links, see how second round draft picks do and you will begin to understand that you are better off trading down. That is the Moneyball conclusion Ultimatenyg has reached without a computer.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The NFL in 2008

Pat Kirwan of NFL.com writes a good review of where the NFL has been migrating. The league is always changing. This blog has talked up those changes more than a few times to emphasize where resources need to go in order for teams (specifically the gmen) to remain competitive.

Note how Kirwan mentions the need for a TE to be vertical so that it can foil the "box" safety. While the Giants used Shockey to beat Williams, he was not used the other 13 games he started nearly as much in that 'vertical' capacity.

Note also how the need for today's LB to have more lateral range is discussed. The LB today gets outsourced to either rushing the passer or pulled off the field for the nickel or dime defensive back because they are simply a liability in the middle of the field. This is why these 4th rounders do not make a whole lot of sense here... either you are drafting a LB with a lot of speed who can play all three downs or you almost should not bother. Is the hope here that Kehl or Goff turn into Brandon Short or Dhani Jones? Or is the objective to get a Jessie Armstead? If it were not for Armstead we would be talking 24 years ago at #1 Banks to get excited about a LB draft choice. Nowhere on the field is lack of speed more embarrassing than watching a LB in space on a pass route. Guys like Urlacher and Ray Lewis made their defenses dominant because they were an asset on those plays instead of liability. Do not forget that Pierce was a liability on the first touchdown pass (interference penalty) of the Super Bowl. We need to cover that vertical TE!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Epilogue on Spygate

The story is mostly finished. Earlier this week there was no smoking gun at the Super Bowl walkthrough, and that meant that the Patriots and Goodell can breathe a sigh of relief. But that did not stop a few of the main characters from taking some parting shots. Belichick should have been smart enough to stop talking, to simply let it go and move on. Instead he has showed how truly ugly this whole thing is. The story is over, yet it is Belichick who keeps this thing going. Mistake. Apparently Belichick has even more of a monstrous ego than we already thought he had.

I liked Belichick better when he was a defensive genius assistant who was part of the three Super Bowl appearances with Parcells. Now that he is his own man in New England, he gets all the credit for the success of the franchise and he deservedly gets all the stain too. He stepped over the line. It tarnishes a lot of what he has accomplished. Most importantly he does not want to accept that he no longer is going to be judged favorably by history. Bummer. I guess those things matter when you have that kind of ego. Let's remember Belichick for his last (class) act as head coach, leaving the field with 1 second left on the clock. How appropriate. Actions speak louder than words, but in this case they both say the same thing. Belichick has embarrassed the league, but now that that affair is over he mostly just embarrasses himself.

Friday, May 16, 2008

John Clayton

This past Monday, some poor soul over at some other Giants site linked to ultimatenyg with the story from John Clayton from ESPN and his perspective on Shockey and Strahan. Amusing. The bullies over there started giving him s*** for sending over a stale story quoting a loser like Clayton.

1) The Shockey and Strahan stories are not exactly 'timely' pieces where an ESPN analyst is being held on the clock for a breaking OPINION. It's freaking MAY, the nadir of our football calendar. EVERYTHING IS STALE!

2) Clayton is not the holy grail. In over 400 posts over a 1.5 year period, do you know how many times this blog referred to his coverage? TWICE. That INCLUDES Monday's post. AND it also includes the John Fox article where the blog casted doubt on the perception of Fox as damaged goods on the hot seat. So this site is not exactly a John Clayton parrot.

3) My own personal bias has been leaning toward Strahan coming back because of the financial nightmare of a divorce. But I have enough humility and respect for other opinions to ask for any STRONG opinion which is based on strong facts in support for EITHER side. I'd love to share the OUTCOME before it occurs. IF you have a unique perspective on WHY he is going to leave or stay that no one is talking about, I am all ears.

4) Lost in the Monday post was the key part of the message, that Clayton's perspective on Strahan and Shockey had some merit because he was a step back from the Giants mania and had an unbiased view of the story. His sense of Strahan packing it in has more merit in my eyes than mine or anyone else's in Giantland right now because he is NOT watching every bowel movement of Strahan and really could care less about the outcome. We care. We are biased. We are dissecting every angle.

The bottom line here is that I'd rather have the answer than be right. Clayton is out there ALL THE TIME, and rarely does he add something which is worth passing along. This time his comments struck me as simple and to the point. His lack of bias is the value, that is the story.

The latest is that Strahan said Wednesday that he has pretty much made up his mind. The earlier he makes up his mind the more likely he is retiring. Clayton does not look so bad right now, given that he is saying Strahan goes and Shockey stays.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The view from across the Delaware

The view from across the river in Philadelphia is always a mixture of rabid hunger and violent depression. This is why I find these takes on the prognosis of the Eagles so amusing.

These stats on the record of the Eagles the past three seasons (0.500) are incredibly deceptive. McNabb, Westbrook and Kearse all have had major injuries at various junctures, and the team MUST be viewed in that context. Before anyone gets too in love with our 'superior' Giants, you must remember that we SQUEAKED by this team the past few games with MANY EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES. I can hear it already---'ya call 6 sacks from Osi extenuating?'.... YES I DO! Osi had the joy of going up against rookie Winston Justice and for some BIRD-brained reason they did not give him help. Maybe some of that reason was that the Eagles so injury-riddled that they could not hide anywhere else either. This was the debut of the 4-headed monster rush where Spags started sending Kiwi and Tuck up the middle while Strahan and Osi went on their own missions. But the big picture here is that the Giants had such a huge advantage over this team because of injuries. And then when we played them again later in the season we beat them by a FG and Akers could have sent it to OT if not for a narrow miss when he hit the right upright.

This is a game of inches, and while our memories of this wonderful season will last a LIFETIME, do not forget that we were not exactly dominant over ANYBODY. About the only game that you could have comfortably lit up an Auerbach cigar for was against Atlanta. Even the 49er game was a travesty of missed opptys until Osi broke it open. So the message here is simple- do not underestimate Philadelphia one bit, because if they are healthy they are a bear. I like it a lot because I have always been advocating that a strong NFC East will be good for the Giants... I see a strong NFC this year and that means that someone from our division can go very far because they will be tested and ready.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Kenny Phillips

The early returns are in from rookie minicamp. Manningham has shown flashes, although he did get hurt. Thomas seems in the mix. The Goff/Kehl LB tandem seems like a smart and savvy set. But Phillips impressed the most.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New York Giants 6th Round Draft Pick Andre Woodson, UFAs signed

Andre Woodson, QB from Kentucky. Value or cigar butt? Wonder was not upbeat. His slow delivery seems to be the issue with making it as a pro. The Giants see it as an oppty, and at the 6th round the price is right. Now if Barrett becomes a good safety for the Broncos (he went in the 7th), then the gmen went for the wrong value.

For the record- the New York Giants have signed 7 UFA's from/after minicamp. Their names are in the link.

Monday, May 12, 2008

John Clayton of ESPN reports on the NY Giants

1) John Clayton says that despite all the talk about Shockey, he is going to stay. The Saints were the only ones to offer anything serious for him. They offered a 2 and 5, the Giants wanted a 1. The draft is over and the Giants did not draft a TE. Despite some of the talk from Shockey and the trade ideas, no trade is going to get done so Shockey is going to remain a Giant.

2) John Clayton says that it looks like Strahan is leaning toward retirement. A lot of players Strahan speaks to have left them as confused as all of us. Strahan spoke with Tuck yesterday and even Tuck is confused. At this point Strahan's head simply is not in football and the speculation is (see Antonio Pierce remarks from Thursday May 8) that he is not going to be able to summon up the desire to do battle when he has gotten his prized ring.

I think that Clayton has a good and unbiased sense of what is there and what is NOT there for these players. At this moment in time it looks like Strahan will not be in uniform on opening day and that Shockey will be.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The other half of the Jeremy Shockey question...

resides with the offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride. We have been arguing since the beginning of December when he went down (and even before that while he was mired in lack of pass production) that the Jeremy Shockey question was shared with his coordinator. Kevin Gilbride, with notable exception in Game 9 (Week 10) vs the Cowboys after the bye, repeatedly did not feature the starting TE in the passing game. Indeed it seemed that stonehands rookie Matthews got more passes at times than Shockey. Yesterday Gilbride talked to the media a little bit about our starting TE, and it does not sound good. While I am the first person to admit that you cannot have a player dictating to a coach how he should be played, I have been saying all along that that use is flawed. So what now? It seems that Shockey does not want this rift to go away because he wants to be used more than the Giants can commit to. Shockey is under contract- he needs to support his team until they as managers can make it work. They did not make it work until he went down and Smith/Bradshaw came into the offense. Shockey for his part has to realize there are more weapons than ever in this offense and that he can help this team win with just a few more touches than he has been receiving. Stay healthy. Celebrate touchdowns. Block for the running game. Have Gilbride not waste your receiver talents. Show up for camp, shut your mouth and play.

Friday, May 9, 2008

In Praise of the best New York Giants Defensive End of All Time- Michael Strahan

I started to comment to Cody in the previous post and it quickly became obvious that this two sentence reply to acknowledge #92 was becoming an ode to a living legend. Like it or not, even though Michael Strahan was going to Canton in a limousine before the 2007 Championship run, now he is going to get even more recognition for the accomplishments AND the ring.

What started this out was the reminder from Cody about Strahan's unheralded skill in stopping the run. Sacks are an easy stat to measure for the ability of a pass rusher. True, they do not include pressures, which as we all know was as important a reason for the beating of Tom Brady in Super Bowl XLII as anything else accomplished that evening. But how do you really quantify the ability of a lineman (or LB or CB or S, for that matter) to play the run? In short, it is next to impossible. Looking at tackles made is insane because the defense may be set up for a NT to take on two men while the LB is free to get the RB unencumbered. Similarly, a Safety can have lots of tackles, but perhaps that simply implies the LBs were shoddy tacklers lacking in speed who let it get to that point where a tackle should not have even been necessary. THE ONLY WAY TO APPRECIATE THE ENORMOUS SKILLS OF MICHAEL STRAHAN AS A RUN DEFENDER WAS TO WATCH HIM AT THE STADIUM. There, you could focus on what he did WELL BEFORE THE BALL WAS EVEN GOING TO HIS SIDE. Just like RBs like Barry Sanders and Gale Sayers could see the field and make a cut effortlessly to find a hole that was not there a second ago, Michael Strahan would CONTINUOUSLY over and over again make all the right moves and find the hole that the runner was going to before he knew where he was going. Strahan's ability to use leverage and technique in pass rushing has been analyzed and dissected by many over the years, but he uses that same technique to shed blockers on runs. He is rarely out of place and wonderously has not lost a step in enabling runners to go around him... if they do, he always forces them to go so wide that the rest of the defense is given that extra split second it needs to come up in support and make the tackle.

One of my favorite plays of the season for Michael Strahan was against Tampa Bay in the playoffs. Going up against the wily veteran in Jeff Garcia, Strahan was sucked in to pass rushing but quickly set his feet and adjusted to deflect a pass to the RB just above the line of scrimmage. It was part of a key defensive stop in taking away and controlling tempo in the game. His presence on the field is a menace to the opposition because he shuts so many things down and makes it so much easier for the other 10 players. The statistics of the team for wons-losses the past 3-4 seasons when he is starting vs the games where he is out is so gaudy that it is almost embarrassing for the hard work and efforts of the other 21 starters (and coaching staff). In 2006, for example, the Giants had just beaten Atlanta and Dallas on the road and were arguably the best team in the league. The team started losing players to injury but when Strahan went down that was it.

No one will replace Strahan when he leaves. We can hope he gives the team adequate warning this time (last year's training camp saga one of the few blemishes on an otherwise storied career) to his intentions so that Kiwanuka and the LBers are able to get the reps in training camp at whatever positions they take in the regular season. At this point we have almost as much confidence in Spagnuolo to get the defense ready as we do in Strahan to close down the left side. However long we havehad Strahan, it has been a great ride. I think I can speak for Cody and everyone else that "(we'll) miss him when he's gone."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Will Michael Strahan play another year?

Antonio Pierce chimed in with his view on whether Strahan will play another year. I do not believe that anyone really 'knows' or not... I truly do not think Strahan has made up his mind. I think he wants the money because his ex-wife took a chunk of money out of the divorce. No, he does not NEED the money, but he wants to maintain a lifestyle and will not make nearly the money in broadcasting that he is making as a player. He can play just one more year and perhaps make more than any other year he has played. The thing that gives me a small bias that he will return is that sometime in March his agent did make preliminary inquiries with the Giants. In case anyone here thinks it is so simple, contrast Pierce's take on Strahan with Toomer's. Two people, two views. Who REALLY knows?

How many of you out there think the Giants would have won the Super Bowl without Strahan? That is how important he is. We can win without him if a healthy Kiwi steps in and gives us the healthy rotation you need in order to spell linemen in a 60 minute game. (... you have to assume SOMEONE gets hurt during the season.) I thought Strahan was about as effective as he has ever been in his career, once he got past those first 3-4 games because of the lack of camp. That was why he still had gas left in the tank on February 3rd. He really needs a different set of rules in camp if he does return. I think that the new Coughlin understands that.

If anyone out there in ultimatenygland has a strong opinion and a strong reason why he retires or returns, pls comment. It still feels like a coin toss.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Strahan speculation, Diehl contract extension

videoHere comes the parade of players wanting contract extensions, including Snee and Burress mentioned. Diehl deserves an extension because he was getting Guard money for Tackle time. Also, with no OLinemen drafted and Whimper the only remote possibility of threatening his job security, Reese has to pay the man. Not mentioned was Umenyiora; thankfully he is not going to hold out but he will still want to get an extension.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Radio Interview with Terrell Thomas from WFAN 5/1/08

Richard G., one of the charter members of this blog, has been an advocate of getting the best football players from the best programs. That mantle used to belong to Miami and now he is now focusing more on the players from Pete Carroll's USC program as the new source of NFL-ready talent. Terrell Thomas talks about coming out of that system and how it gives him confidence that he can and will contribute to the Giants.Sometimes it is simply reading between the lines, but when you listen to Thomas talk about what he expects of himself it sounds like he is ready. Two USC guys from Round 2 in a row? That feels like a good niche for the Giants.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Do you start in your first game as a rookie?

With the exception of QB, ultimatenyg believes that the question a franchise should ask itself when picking that first rounder is- WILL THIS PLAYER START GAME ONE AS A ROOKIE? Some players are shot out like a cannon. They enter into the league and instead of fighting for a roster spot or playing time, they start game 1. And then they never leave. If it takes time to get settled into the league and a rookie takes a few games or a full season to break into the starting rotation, that is not a stain. No shame. But your #1 pick is different. This is one of the ~32 best players in the country by your own evaluation. Considering there are almost 1700 players on the roster for NFL teams, if you cannot find a player that can break in as a starter, then something is probably wrong. (DE is a second position next to QB that is extremely difficult for 22 year olds to physically manage, thereby making drafting one in the first round a true test of whether the choice is merited.)

This is not an ironclad rule. Matthias Kiwanuka is a good example of a very good pick at #32 in the first round. At DE, he was not expected to supplant two players (Umenyiora and Strahan) who went to the Pro Bowl the preceding year.

Here is a list of starters in Game 1 of their rookie season for the New York Giants in the past ten years.
2006 Cofield
2004 Wilson
2003 Diehl
2002 Shockey
(If you can comment on a player I may have missed, appreciated. My database does not give granularity, so a mistake is possible here.)

The point is that guys like Ronnie Lott and Lawrence Taylor, two notables who started their first game as a Pro and never left, cannot be held back. They move at a different speed and the pro game almost adjusts to them and not the other way around. Shockey was the same way, knocking over bodies in 2002's preseason like bowling pins en route to an easy Pro Bowl selection. (...which is why I still maintain to this day that he is a resource which is woefully mismanaged.)

Will Kenny Phillips start for the Giants in Game 1? This will go a long way to determining whether he is a good pick for the Giants. The Giants have the following coming to camp at this position:
1) Butler- a starter noted for his efficient tackling but slow speed
2) Johnson- a #7 rounder who started a handful of games as a rookie after others got hurt, plays with aggressiveness (a polite way of saying that he is playing hard but does not necessarily make all the right decisions yet)
3) Knight- a smart veteran who plays strong up at the line yet (because of age) can get beat by a TE in coverage

The logic is that this is not a particularly deep set of incumbents. If Phillips is any good he should be starting against Washington on Thursday night in the Meadowlands.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

ESPN's McShay reviews the NFC East draft

I usually pay little attention to these draft recaps. What was of note is that McShay said almost precisely what Wonder said about Phillips, that this was not a first rounder and that Tyrell Johnson was the better pick. Reese feels differently, and considering Reese's track record as a scout and GM in 2007, he will get the benefit of the doubt. The Giants rated Phillips not only as the best Safety in the draft but also very high on an absolute basis for talent, so that stands at odds with the evaluation of Wonder. If Phillips is the starter for the Giants in Game 1 that will be the first test to determine if the Giants did well.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Will the New York Giants be complacent defenders of their Super Bowl crown?

For any Giant fan able to remember the seasons following all three previous Super Bowl appearances, each following season was one to quickly forget. All three were asterisk seasons of one variety or another.

1987 The Replacements. While the Maras were toeing the line for the NFL against the players' union, the other teams were quietly giving unofficial contracts to the best of the replacement players in front of the lockout. When the strike was announced and teams could now speak to non-union players, the Giants found out that all the good replacements were mysteriously gone, having signed immediately after the strike began. The team went 0-3 during the strike and never recovered. Nice guys finish last.

1991 You owe it to yourself to read "Good to Great" by Jim Collins (see Ultimatenyg Book Club link on right side) for understanding this season's demise. Collins points out the "Level 5 leader," for whom the organization's success is more important than his/her own press clippings. In order for an organization to have SUSTAINED success the leader must groom a successor or multiple successors so that the business can continue to excel. We all love Parcells for giving us two championships, but his abrupt exit in MAY 1991 was NOT what Level 5 leaders do. In fact, if we look at the way Parcells left the Giants, Patriots and Jets, and if we look at the way he scorned franchises like Tampa Bay and Atlanta, it is all about Parcells and not about the organizations he works for. Indeed, many leaders of less than great companies are out to prove that THEY are the reason for the company's success. When they leave and the company subsequently stumbles/suffers, we are supposed to fawn over the exited leader for being the singular reason for the success of the team. THE BEST LEADERS ARE THE ONES WHO LEAVE STRUCTURE IN PLACE FOR CONTINUED SUCCESS AFTER THEIR DEPARTURE. Contrast Parcells to the way that Young and Accorsi each laid the groundwork for a smooth transition to a capable successor. Collins' book has zero to do with football but has everything to do with the implosion of 1991-1992.

2001 In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King. Ultimatenyg did an exposé on the myth of Jim Fassel. The era of his reign was marked by such poor coaching in the NFC East that it fostered mediocrity in the Meadowlands. Fassel could not ONCE orchestrate consecutive winning seasons because the 'players coach' and strength of schedule insured that the team could not handle prosperity. Even during the special 2000 season when the team went 12-4, it only had a non-division record of 5-3.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Where have you gone Giants Linebacker?

2008 Kehl4 Goff5
2007 DeOssie4
2006 Wilkinson3
2004 Torbor4
2002 Griesen5 Mallard6
2000 Short4 Jones6
1999 Childress7

*Are these picks weak? No.
*Are any of them particularly exciting? We obviously have to wait for the jury on Wilkinson, DeOssie (as a LB, not his good specials), Goff and Kehl.
*See a trend? No doubt about it.
*Are you thinking what I am thinking? Yep, another patch job.

Reggie Torbor/Brandon Short/Dhani Jones... these guys helped our team, but did any of them make you feel that they were going to help the defense impose their will on the other team's offense? They did their jobs, and once in a while they made a nice play, but that was it. Is that what we have in store for ourselves with one of the last lot? We certainly went for defensive help in the secondary by drafting a Safety in Round 1 and a Cornerback in Round 2. If these guys in the secondary can be big and strong and play the run big and strong, then the Giants by default become this 4-2-5 nickel defense, or even 5-1-5 when they rush that fifth man (remember Kawika Mitchell in the Super Bowl) to keep the pressure on the QB. LB gets outsourced.

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