Here is this week's version of the 'Friday Five' with Pat Traina of Inside Football. I like this set of questions, as well as the ones Pat asked me. It might be the best one we have done in a few weeks. Be sure to stop over at Train-A-Thought and check out my answers to Pat''s questions.
Ed: Are you buying the hype about the Giants defense after Sunday's second half? I have seen 'best defense in New York' and 'best defense in the NFL' labels attached to the Giants by writers this week. Personally, I know what the numbers say about the Giants defense. I just haven't seen enough consistency or domination to buy the "best in the NFL" label. Agree or disagree?
Pat: Agree. After witnessing the first half of that Jags game, I don't see how you can attach "best defense" to the Giants - no disrespect, mind you, but to me "best defense in the NFL" gets it done 60 minutes a week, week after week. Now do I think they have what it takes to be the best defense in the league? Absolutely! This is by far the best group of talent they've had in ages and as a bonus, they're all relatively healthy. I'd like to see them get on a roll in these final weeks to where they're completely dominating the opponent as they did in the five-game winning streak. Now is the time to "get hot" and play your best football and I definitely think they have what it takes to do that.
Ed: The Giants finally seem to be solving some of their issues with kick coverage, and with creating some lanes for kickoff returners. What has been the biggest change? Are they doing anything noticeably different?
Pat: Probably the biggest difference is they've put some starters in key positions on the coverage teams. We've seen Deon Grant, we've seen Michael Boley. I think those starters have brought a new level of physical play that wasn't always there in the beginning of the year.
Ed: Kenny Phillips. Giants fans are thrilled that Phillips is back this season, and that he does not seem troubled by the arthritic knee that cost him last season -- at least not now. But, do you see the same dynamic, explosive, elite player that it looked like Phillips was ready to become a year ago? Or, is he maybe not quite the same?
Pat: Not at all, and the reason why, as we've written in our Inside Football post game analyses, is that often times it appears that Phillips is playing in the next state. Seriously, one of the greatest mysteries to me - and I've asked coaches and players this question countless times and have yet to get an answer I can wrap my hands around - is what criteria is used to determine how deep they play. Against the Jags, for instance, we noted that Garrard doesn't usually go for the deep ball, yet Phillips was often times 30 yards away from the play. I understand the goal is to keep everything in front of you, but at times, it was as if the Giants were only playing with 10 men instead of 11 because the safety was so deep.
Ed: Do you think that Justin Tuck's halftime speech/tirade finally puts him in that category of being a real leader on this Giants team? By that I mean a guy willing to hold others accountable, and whose teammates respect him for it?
Pat: I have always thought of Tuck as a leader. A leader, to me, doesn't have to be a loud, boisterous in your face type of guy. Sometimes a quiet leader is just as effective - just as TC, who loves the expression, "Talk is cheap; play the game." Tuck is that quiet leader. I don't think there's any question that he's well respected in that locker room. What I like about Tuck is that he won't ask anyone to do something that he himself isn't willing to do.
Ed: With Brandon Jacobs starting and so many receivers hurt, the Giants offense seemed simpler -- not too mention more like what we had been used to in years past. Is this approach what we are likely to see the rest of the season?
Pat: Sort of. I don't' think they can keep it that simple the rest of the way out. I think gradually they're going to start adding things back into the game plan that they took out as these new receivers get getter acquainted with Eli Manning and the offense in general. I do like the decision to move Jacobs ahead of Bradshaw, and I thought the way they were both used on Sunday was probably the best use of the running game personnel this season - good balance with good results.