New York Giants: B+
The Giants are easily the surprise of the NFC East. The offseason wasn’t full of bright, cheery news. Jerry Reese and co. let some of the biggest names on their roster slip through his fingers. At first glance, it looked as if this team was in rebuild mode. But if you look at the standings, you’ll see that the GM has had his eye on the prize all along. The G-Men are in 1st place of the NFC East and with a comfortable lead, I might add. They have a very tough schedule ahead of them. But have a few things working in their favor. One of them is that 5 of the next 8 games will be at home. The second is that there are some big play makers sidelined right now who will be making their way back. This will only make the Giants a better team than they are right now. And they’re pretty good as is.
I have to say this. ENOUGH with the “elite” crap. Eli Manning has proved himself already. Get over it. Manning is ranked 7th in passing yards (2,377). He has the 5th best QB Rating (98.8). He has the 2nd best yards per pass average (8.5). Most importantly, he has completely turned around the turnover problem he was having last year. Eli lead the league in interceptions in 2010 (25). Today, he is in the lower echelon, having only thrown 6 INTs thus far. He currently holds the active streak for most consecutive regular season starts by a QB (111). He’s been to the Super Bowl, won it and earned the MVP award in the process. He is by far, the the hottest 4th quarter comeback QB and runs a 2-minute offense as good as anyone in the league. Manning already holds most of the franchise QB records but he still has a few to go…and he’ll get ‘em. He still tends to make rookie mistakes from time to time. Luckily, he has the determination and intelligence to work on and correct his errors.
The Giants, collectively, are ranked 29th in rushing. Ahmad Bradshaw is ranked 21st. Brandon Jacobs is ranked 52nd. Last season, Jacobs and Bradshaw rushed for over 2,000 yards, collectively. That doesn’t appear to be the fate for this tandem this season. So far, these two RBs have recorded 638 rushing yards, conjointly. Bradshaw missed last week’s game due to an injury to his foot. This could reap more havoc on the running game in the future. Brandon Jacobs has been quite vocal about his feelings in regards to his limited carries this season. Looks like he will be getting what he has been vying for. Hopefully, he can do something with it.
No Kevin Boss? No Steve Smith? No problem! There have been some new additions to this Giants team that have stepped up and stepped up BIG! Victor Cruz, the preseason sensation from 2010, is back in the mix and already a fan favorite. Jake Ballard, the massive Tight End, has surprised even the front office. Even though Big Blue still have there more than capable duo in Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks, these two rookies (although both in their 2nd season) have been getting their hands on the ball a great deal. Cruz (588) just surpassed Nicks (575) in reception yards, due to Nicks’ injury. Ballard (395) has more receiving yards than Manningham (323). The rest of the NFL is learning that this New York Giants team may just have more depth than they had last season. That’s a pretty tall order. The Giants rank 7th in receiving, just under the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Offensive Line: B
New York has slipped a few pegs since last season. They have also been having to make adjustments while C David Baas has been injured. Filling in has been Kevin Boothe, who has done a prudent job. There have been a few changes made during the offseason, namely David Diehl moving to LG. The O-line is limiting the sacks on Eli but he is still taking a few hits. They could do more to help the run. But it is hard to tell whether or not the problem with the run game is a line problem or a RB problem. This is an aging line, the 3rd oldest in the NFL. All in all, there are still some things that need to gel with this line but aren’t doing a bad job as things stand.
Coming in with the third most sacks in the NFL (9.5) is the Giants’ #1 overall pick in the 2010 Draft, Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP has been filling in for an injured Osi Umenyiora. This youngster has shown tremendous growth since last year and will continue to get better. Speaking of Osi, he has 6.0 sacks on the year and climbed up the Giants All-Time Sack Leader franchise list, surpassing Keith Hamilton. Stepping up big time this year is Michael Boley, who leads the Giants in tackles with 56 combined, 1.0 sack and 1 forced fumble. The Giants have struggled a bit to stop the rush. The secondary could use a few Red Bulls before the game to keep them fast and alert. They have been doing a decent job but need to do better with the havoc wreaking schedule upon us. We should be seeing our 1st Round Draft Pick, Prince Amukamara, coming into the mix soon. That should help things tremendously.
Special Teams: C+
We’ve got to start off with the obvious first. Special Teams was a John Carpenter nightmare last year, largely in part to Matt Dodge. We witnessed a brief battle for punter in the preseason. Luckily, newly appointed hero, Steve Weatherford won the job outright and Matt Dodge is nothing more than a bad memory, like Ray Handley. Lawrence Tynes remains an Old Faithful for us, averaging 64.5 yards per kickoff. He is 100% on FGs made from 20-29 yard range. But he has had 2 FGs blocked this season. His longest is a 30 yarder. The Giants rank dead last in FGs. That may seem jarring but it is actually a good thing. Eli has been finding the end zone more often than having to settle for 3 points. The return game can certainly use some improvement. Devin Thomas has had the most success thus far. He has the 7th most kickoff return yards (498) in the NFL. We all saw what Aaron Ross can do with a return last week. Our best return man to date, Domenik Hixon, missed all of last season due to injury. He came back in and in the blink of an eye, he was injured again. Nevertheless, Giants fans should be quite pleased with the Special teams play so far this year.
That’s it kiddies. School’s out! Well, at least the first session is. The second session is about to get underway. Will the Giants continue to reign supreme over the NFC East? Let’s hear from you.
**Photos provided by Yardbarker.com Report Card Art by Sean Kerr**