New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
It is Monday and we have no New York Giants game to review. What is a Monday during NFL season without 'Kudos & Wet Willies,' though? Well, for me it's just not a football Monday. So, let's use it to do a midseason 'Kudos & Wet Willies' review of the Giants up to this point.
I know this isn't technically the mid-point of the season for the Giants. It is close, though, and coming off the bye week seems like a natural time to do something like this. So, let's get started.
Kudos to ...
Tom Coughlin: Here is an amazing statistical oddity about Coughlin's career as Giants head coach. Coughlin has been Giants coach since 2004 and during that time the Giants have been 5-2 through seven games in every season except 2008. That year, of course, they were 6-1 en route to an 11-1 start before melting down. When the Giants began this season 1-2 there was a firestorm around TC unlike anything we had seen since early in 2007, when the Giants lost their first two games. Had he lost control of the team? At 64, was he just marking time until he retired? Was anyone in the locker room paying any attention to the old man?
I think that has been answered the past four weeks. As we know, the Giants have ripped off four straight victories and are now looked at as one of the best teams in the NFC. Coughlin deserves lots of credit here for never wavering, never panicking, continuing to preach the same basic, team-oriented message and holding together a group that could have splintered early on.
The real question, though, is what happens with the Giants from here on out.
- In 2004, the Giants started 5-2 and finished 6-10.
- In 2006, a 5-2 start ended with an 8-8 season.
- In 2008, a 6-1 start ended with a 12-4 finish and a first round playoff ouster.
- In 2009, a 5-0 start ended with a 3-8 final 11 games and an 8-8 overall record that fell short of the playoffs.
The toughest part of the Giants schedule, including five of their six NFC East games, is yet to come. Let's hope we are still giving TC 'Kudos' when it's over with.
Perry Fewell: In one of the Q&A's I did recently with Inside Football's Pat Traina I named Fewell as MVP of the impressive Giants defense. As I said in that article, Fewell has put Humpty Dumpty back together again. The Giants defense was broken when Fewell arrived. Now, it might be the best in the league -- though I'm not willing to start calling it that yet. As soon as I do, it will get torched.
Regardless, give Fewell a ton of credit. Not only do you have to love the results so far, but you have to love how they have been achieved. Fewell came to the Giants with a reputation as a 'Tampa 2' coach, and stating his desire not to use a rotation of defensive players.
We have, however, seen something much different than we might have anticipated. A variety of schemes, and lots creativity. Terrific use of a variety of personnel, making use of the varied skills of all the weapons he has on defense. One of the most impressive things is how he has been able to get veteran players to buy in to doing things they might not have been asked to do before, and probably are not really thrilled with doing.
Ahmad Bradshaw: What can you say about this guy? Took over as the No. 1 back and justified it by rushing for an NFL-best 708 yards through seven games. The best back in the league? Prior to the weekend, Pro Football Focus rated him that way. Fact is, Bradshaw, a big-play 'thrill a minute' type back, fits the modern NFL better than Brandon Jacobs in many ways. It's a big-play league now, a pass-happy league. There is a time and place for grind it out and get the first downs, which is Jacobs' forte, but Bradshaw has been critical to the resurgence of the running game.
Hakeem Nicks: The second-year-player from North Carolina leads the Giants in receptions (45), yards receiving (525), yards per catch (11.7) and touchdowns (8). ESPN even recently put him in a discussion of MVP candidates. He is on the verge of stardom, and has certainly justified GM Jerry Reese's decision to make him the No. 1 pick a year ago.
Eli Manning: Manning is completing a career-best, 65.6 percent of his passes. He is on pace to throw for a career-high 32 touchdowns. He is averaging a career-best 255 yards passing per game. He is on pace to reach 4,000 yards passing for the second straight season. The down side is he is on pace to throw a career-worst 25 interceptions. All-in-all, though, Manning has been tremendous. Now, if he can just eliminate those occasionally mystifying throws.
Osi Umenyiora: Nine players on the Giants defense have more tackles than Umenyiora. None, however, has had a bigger impact. Osi leads the team with eight quarterback sacks and he had already forced a career-best seven fumbles in seven games. Umenyiora has perfected the art of swatting the ball out of a quarterback's unsuspecting hands, and is as dangerous coming off the edge as he has ever been. On top of which, he has played the run well enough that he can't be considered a liability.
Justin Tuck: Leads the defensive linemen with 37 tackles, has four sacks and seems to be adjusting more to be being asked to take a leadership role on the defense. Tuck is back to his 2008 form, which makes sense since he has two healthy arms again. Tuck is rated +11 by Pro Football Focus, 13th in the league among defensive ends. He is in the top 10 among defensive ends in run defense.
Barry Cofield: Call it a contract drive. Call it a player coming into his own. Call it whatever you want, Cofield is playing the best football of his career this season. And, admittedly, waaaaay better than I ever thought he could play. I always saw Cofield as a decent player, but this season he is playing at a Pro Bowl level. He has 30 tackles, many of which seem to come by crushing running backs in the backfield, and three sacks. PFF ranks him third in the league among defensive tackles thus far. Cofield is earning himself a big money deal from the Giants, or elsewhere, at season's end.
Antrel Rolle: Rolle was the Giants' key free-agent acquistion in the offseason, and his five-year, $37-million contract was roundly criticized as exorbitant. Thus far he is earning his paycheck. Rolle leads the defense with 37 tackles, and has quite often played down near the line of scrimmage as a linebacker in run support. Plus, like it or not, in retrospect I do think Rolle's brutal honesty after the Indianapolis debacle ended up being a positive turning point for the Giants.
Deon Grant: Grant was signed mostly as insurance for Kenny Phillips, but with Chad Jones' unfortunate injury and the Giants often wanting to use three safeties Grant's ability to play the run as a linebacker and to cover tight ends has been critical to the success of the Giants defene.
Corey Webster: After a rocky 2009 season, Webster seems to be back to his 2008 form. He has been thrown at 29 times in seven games and given up just 12 completion (41.4%), according to Pro Football Focus. Quarterbacks have a rating of only 68.5 throwing in his direction. He has an interception, four passes defensed an 22 tackles.
Bear Pascoe: The Giants 'accidental fullback' has been a terrific addition to the running game. Pascoe might not be completely comfortable as a fullback, but since taking over for the injured Madison Hedgecock he has done a terrific job helping the resurgent Giants running game. How the Giants saw fit not to put him on the 53-man roster at the beginning of the season I will never understand.
Jonathan Goff: Admit it, there are very few of you out here who thought Goff could handle the job as the every down middle linebacker. He is not only handling it, but the fourth-year player is excelling. He has 32 tackles and, while he will never be a great coverage linebacker, he has held his own when he has needed to.
Michael Boley: Boley is playing like the player the Giants hoped they signed when they brought him from Atlanta prior to last season. He has 38 tackles, is showing sideline-to-sideline range, and has done a nice job in coverage. Pro Football Focus ranks Boley (+8.4) third among the league's 4-3 outside linebackers.
Rich Seubert: This is a 'Kudos' I am stunned to be giving. I never thought Seubert could maintain his job at left guard this season, much less play as well as he has. He will never be a straight-ahead, plow-horse type blocker, but he can still pass protect and in the run game he can still pull and trap despite limited athleticism. Seubert is more than holding his own for an aging offensive line that is playing better than most of us thought it could.
Wet Willies to ...
Darius Reynaud: In the words of Charles Barkley, 'terrr-i-bull." The Giants have replaced Reynaud with Will Blackmon after Reynaud averaged a putrid 5.9 yards on punt returns and 18.4 yards on kickoff returns through seven games. The most mystifying thing is why the Giants waited a full seven games to replace the guy.
Clint Sintim: Maybe this isn't fair since the guy almost never plays. But, I think that's the point. The Giants handed the second-year outside linebacker a virtually uncontested starting job when training camp began, and Sintim couldn't hold it. He is a fast, strong, athletic guy, but when he's on the field that never seems to translate into making plays. I am not giving up on the guy, but he certainly has not yet justified his selection in the second round a year ago.
David Diehl: Ugh! Hurry up and get better Will Beatty! Hurry up and learn the offense Shawn Andrews! No tackle in the league has surrendered more sacks/hits/pressures than Diehl's 33. The Giants have taken to giving him help whenever possible, and there is no question he needs it. In the run game, when they need to make a play they almost always go right, because they have to.
Kwillies to ...
Matt Dodge: You want to talk about a player who has had ups and down the first seven weeks of the season, Dodge is your guy. He has inexplicably dropped a couple of snaps, lost his job as Lawrence Tynes' holder on placekicks because he dropped one snap and couldn't get the ball down quickly enough at other times, and has hit some of the worst-looking punts I have ever seen from an NFL punter. Yet, the rookie seventh-round pick is still standing and beginning to show signs of turning into a quality NFL punter. He has a 46.2-yard per kick average, which is sixth in the league and shows his strong leg, even though his 36.3-yard net is middle of the pack.