Big Blue View Mailbag: End Of Season Edition

With our New York Giants having finished a second straight playoff-less season quite a few interesting messages have found their way into the Big Blue View mailbag this week. Thought I would share some of those with you.

John Foster writes in with questions about Kenny Phillips:

I would love to get your take on something. A couple years ago Kenny Phillips was considered one of the top safeties and was playing great, and it was a huge blow when he went out injured. This year he played all season, but we didn't hear much about him, or it didn't appear, from a fan's perspective at least, that he had that big of an impact on the team's defense. I was really surprised that with Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, and Deon Grant at safeties, that the Giants didn't improve more on that middle of the field area that was such a weakness the season before. It seems like it was still a major weakness.

So my 2 questions would be:

1) Why did Kenny Phillips not have more of an impact?

2) Why did the Giants middle of the field coverage not improve more from last year with all 3 top notch safeties and all healthy for the year?

It doesn't seem like this has been talked about much, and yet it was definitely an achilles heel for the Giants.

John, this is a really interesting topic. GM Jerry Reese talked a lot in his season-ending press conference about being disappointed with the play of the back end of the defense and how the Giants have to find better ways to utilize these guys. So, let's look at both parts of your question.

1. Kenny Phillips impact: It's entirely possible that, considering his prior knee issues, the Giants were trying to protect KP at the beginning of the season. As the year wore on the question, as you indicated, became 'why isn't he making more plays?' As Inside Football's Pat Traina pointed out to me for some reason the Giants were often lining Phillips up 25 yards off the line of scrimmage -- pretty much in another zip code. You can't make plays when you are basically lined up like a punt returner. He's a playmaker who wasn't put in position to make enough plays.

2. Middle of the field issues: I will be doing a 'Friday Five' with Pat this week, and I talk about this some in my answers to her questions. I think this has a whole lot to do with the issues the Giants have at linebacker, particularly on the outside. Rolle and Grant spent a great deal of time playing "in the box" in place of linebackers rather than as traditional safeties, and I think this particularly affected Rolle. He was asked to do a lot of things he had not done before, and when you think and play at the same time you get caught in-between, which seemed to happen to him at times. I think the Giants need to upgrade the linebacking unit so they can have linebackers play linebacker and let guys like KP and Rolle get back to what they do best -- roaming around and making plays.

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Peter Tavlin comments on the quality of the teams the Giants defeated while going 10-6:

I haven't heard anyone talk about the following: The GMen played 5 games against teams that ended up with winning records and they won one, ONE, of those games ! They beat one team with a winning record (Chicago), one team with a .500 record (Jacksonville), and the rest were teams with losing records. It seems to me that the Giants really had an easy schedule so the 10 - 6 record to me is very misleading.

That is not a team that "deserved" to go to the playoffs.

Peter, I would say there is never an 'easy' game in the NFL. In most games the difference is still three or four plays. For two seasons now, though, the Giants have tended to beat the weaker or middle of the road teams and get exposed by the top-tier ones. What does this tell you? That the Giants, as constructed right now, don't have championship talent. They are a good team, but there is room for improvement. As for whether they deserved to go to the playoffs, they deserved it a whole lot more than the Seattle Seahawks, that's for sure.

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Russ Welz writes in with thoughts on several topics:

Giant fan here. Read BBV all the time and appreciate your clear analysis and focus.

I think a case could be made for an overhaul of the strength and conditioning aspect of this team given the amount of injuries. I believe time should be spent in some form of martial arts training to increase full-body flexibility along with targeted strength training. Athletes who incorporate this balanced approach in their training are less prone to injury.

Leaving the discussion of individual coaches and players to your astute, and well-informed regular contributors, I think that overall the team is comprised of talented and perfectly capable personel. However I agree with Carl Banks when he observes that the team is mentally weak and a perfect example is their "confounding" (your term) inconsistency. If we agree that the coaches are doing their job, the only factor left is the teams willingness to execute the game plan and THAT is the job of team leaders.

OK here's where I get in trouble.

Eli Manning IS the team leader and he needs to act like one. It is a quality he does not have.

He is obviously capable of executing a game plan but the team does not rally around him. The games they have lost are not for want of talent or strategy, but desire!

Maybe the right OC or Q-bk coach could turn a 'hayseed' into a 'haymaker' or maybe it's time to make a move in April for a second or third rounder in this reportedly Q-bk heavy draft...not to replace Eli (although it's not too early to start grooming one) but to light a fire. Look around the league and you will see teams that are doing more with less.
I can't argue stats, records and rings with you, but I can tune in Sunday and watch HOW a team plays.

I bleed blue and I read BBV and love 'em both!

Keep up the great work!

Russ, thanks for all the kind words. That said, I'm not buying the whole 'strength and conditioning' thing. Pro athletes work out year-round. largely with their own programs and their own personal trainers. I also don't think there is a lack of "willigness" to execute on the part of the Giants. I do think that defensively there is still an annoying tendency for guys to freelance a little too much, and on offense the simple fact is the Giants need to value the football more than they apparently do.

As for Eli, I'm past the whole leadership thing with him. He's a very good quarterback who had a very inconsistent season. That's it.

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Tom Lasusa writes to rip me for my stance in not wanting Plaxico Burress back with the Giants:

Plax has forgotten more about playing wide receiver than any of or WR's know. I would tend to think that 2.5+ years of sitting in a cell would provide a bit of an attitude change. He was OUR EAGLES KILLER..PERIOD. Plax owned the Eagles...wonder what Eli would say...I also don't remember balls glancing off Plax's hand very often. The guy has had no wear and tear on his body at all and has dropped weight and is as healthy as he's ever been in his entire career...

Uh how about GB, do ya think Plax would have made a difference this year? He owned both corners the last time we played. He flat out dominated in -17 degrees..

Anybody that cannot practice all year and dominate the way he did in 2007 is very special even with his attitude (which has gone through a 2.5 year timeout in a cell as big as a closet).

2011 Spread formation, plax, nicks, smith and super mario....you tell me how to defend that line up? Who you gonna double team?..plax

I also think he had a little something to do with the G Men taking down a 17-0 patriot team (that doubled teamed him quite often during the game and opened up our running game), basically the greatest Superbowl win of all time.

Don't forget his SB pregame score and prediction...he backed that up too!

Wow, what Giant from this year's team has backed up his words? Rolle, Tuck, Eli, Coughlin?.....nough said

Your just wrong...

If he goes to a team in the NFC east he will definitely come back to haunt us.

I have made my feelings about Burress clear. As for Tom's e-mail, let's just say I don't think you can accuse me of only running e-mails that are complimentary.

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