Remember the good old days of the 2010 season when we could count the vast number of injuries affecting Giants players and marvel at the patchwork offense and their effectiveness in protecting the quarterback?
Yeah, I miss that too.
The talk of the season will be the injuries and how they are affecting this team. Of course, if that was the team’s only problem we would probably be in decent shape. What follows are my observations of each unit in my new weekly segment, “Pros and Cons.” Ever the optimist, I start with the Cons first and end with the Pros.
Injuries, as expected, have destroyed an otherwise powerful defense. I know this is old news, but with the first meaningful game under their belts, it’s clear that this unit has a long way to go to reach their potential. The line got good pressure on the quarterback early in the game but seemed to fade out over time. And, once the Redskins adjusted and got the ball out quicker, there was no stopping Grossman and his receivers. The secondary looked simply awful, leaving guys wide open in the backfield. Aaron Ross, who is the weak spot back there, had shown some potential in preseason but was ineffective yesterday. He really needs to step it up or he will be picked on all season.
Unlike last season, the notable, and numerous, injuries occurred before the season began, which means there is plenty of time to adjust to the new dynamic of the defense. Plus, Tuck and Osi should be back soon, which will really help the already strong line become more powerful. And let’s not forget that Jason Pierre-Paul is only a second year player and seems to improve every time he steps onto the field.
The offense has picked up right where they left off: dropped passes, miscues, predictable play-calling and interceptions that defy physics. Unfortunately, this game had it all. The dropped passes were not as numerous as they were last year, so I am willing to let that one slide for now. But I saw at least two or three moments where Eli and a receiver were clearly out of sync and the ball landed in open space. And of course, there was the predictability of the offensive game plan. I loved the fake handoff from two yards out of the end zone that gave Eli a huge open space to rush for a touchdown. But the reason it worked was because it was so unexpected (certainly not because of Eli’s speed). It’s a known thing that Eli is horribly slow, and more often than not it is up to Jacobs to ground out a couple of yards. So it was no surprise that the entire Redskins defense took the bait and shifted left. I can only hope that this play really highlights what can be accomplished with a little creativity.
While I will not go so far as to say Eli had a good game, he also wasn’t terrible. That interception was a great athletic play, sprinkled with a bit of luck. Last year Eli was plagued by some bad luck that cannot be controlled, but the real problems would occur after a few bad luck plays, when he would begin to panic. So let’s not forget what he has been working on all preseason: making good decisions and protecting the football. The offense gave up four sacks, but in this case it means that Eli was not trying to force something to happen once he felt the pressure. Instead he tucked the ball away and took the lost yards. I would much rather see that then an interception. He also threw the ball away a few times when nothing else was available. These kinds of plays have to become instinctual, and the fact that he was able to do this successfully in the first week of the season, even after some miscues and an interception, all bode well for the rest of the year. There are plenty of other problem areas on this team without adding Eli to the mix at the moment.
It is completely unacceptable to allow a blocked field goal that is well within Lawrence Tynes’ range. That is a deflating play that hurts the entire team, and shakes the confidence of a kicker coming off an injury. That simply cannot happen again.
Steve Weatherford looked strong in his first game with the Giants, averaging 45.2 yards on 6 punts. If nothing else, it was great to not have to worry that your punter was going to bobble the snap. It was also great to see Domenik Hixon back to returning punts. Not that his numbers were all that outstanding, but it was still a big improvement over last year’s efforts.
All in all, not a good game for the Giants. Let’s face it, when Rex Grossman can pick you apart, you know you have a lot of work to do. But again, it’s early in the season and there is plenty of time to adjust. It stings a bit more since this was a division team, but the Cowboys also suffered a tough loss, and although the Eagles won convincingly, it was against a non-elite team so there is no reason to panic at this point.