When the 2011 NFL season began the New York Giants' offense figured to be a work in progress. As expected, that has been the case through the first six games.
I don't want to do this 'Kudos & Wet Willies' style, and I don't want to go position-by-position. Let's try breaking it into a few different categories and see where that goes.
The Best Player
Obviously, that has been quarterback Eli Manning. With a revamped offensive line, with new receivers taking the place of Kevin Boss and Steve Smith, with a running game that has largely been stuck in neutral and with a myriad of questions hanging over his head after a 25-interception season Manning has been nothing short of brilliant.
His 101.1 passer rating is third in the league behind Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and Tom Brady of New England, and dwarfs his career best of 93.1. He has 11 touchdown passes and five interceptions in 196 throws. That means 2.6 percent of his passes have been intercepted this season, down from 4.6 percent a season ago and the second-best mark of his career.
With the gauntlet the Giants have to run the rest of the season Manning will have to continue to play at this level for them to reach the playoffs.
|2011 - Eli Manning||6||101.1||125||196||63.8||1778||296.3||9.1||11||5||16||-12||-2||-0.8||1||14||109|
Yes, He Is A Star
I am talking about wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Am I the only one who thinks the national media has not yet caught on to how good the third-year wide receiver is? He is on pace for 85 receptions and 1.355 yards. He has huge hands, he is incredibly physical and he has good enough speed. Darrelle Revis might be the only corner in the league who can handle him. We will find out in a few weeks.
|Receiving||Kickoff Returns||Punt Returns|
The Adventures Of Mr. Cruz
When the ball leaves Manning's hand headed in the direction of the exciting 24-year-old Cruz you can never be sure if the play will end with the chants of 'Cruuuuuuuuuuuuz' or with boos from the MetLife Stadium faithful. Big plays, circus catches, dropped passes that turn into interceptions, fumbles. They are all part of Cruz's repertoire. In Big Blue View parlance, he is a 'Kwillie' waiting to happen on every play.
Thing is, he has 21 catches and is headed toward being a very good NFL player. The guy he replaced, Steve Smith, has five catches and is looking buried deep on the Philadelphia bench.
Paging Sherlock Holmes -- Mr Holmes, Please Locate The Giants' Running Game
Clues emerged to the whereabouts of the Giants missing running game last Sunday against Buffalo when Ahmad Bradshaw snuck over 100 yards (104) for the first time this season. Still, though, 90.2 yards per game (26th in the NFL) is not what we are used to from the Giants, or from any team ever coached by Tom Coughlin.
The problem really isn't the running backs, though once in a while you would like to reach through your TV screen and throw Bradshaw back into the hole where the play was designed to go. Inconsistencies in the line play, the tight end and fullback blocking and in the commitment from Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride have all contributed at times.
With the Northeast weather turning colder and windier, and the Giants' schedule getting tougher, the Giants will need to find some success on the ground.
The pass-catching of tight end Jake Ballard, who already has 15 receptions this season. At that pace he will not only replace Kevin Boss's receiving production from a season ago, but will exceed Boss's 35 catches. No one expected this from the 275-pound undrafted free agent from Ohio State. Especially not the 18.2 yards per catch average.
|Receiving||Kickoff Returns||Punt Returns|
The lack of pass-catching by Travis Beckum. Most of those passes that are going to Ballard were supposed to go to Beckum this season. Instead, the under-whelming third-year tight end/H Back/whatever he is has just one catch for two yards (on fourth down when he need three, in case you forgot), has been targeted just three times and has played all of 59 snaps.
I figure we have to talk about the guy so many of you love to rip no matter what he does, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. If I was going to give Gilbride's work so far this season a letter grade I would probably put it at B to B+.
You can, rightly, criticize Gilbride for abandoning the run a little too early on a couple of occasions this season. There is, however, a lot to like. If you love Cruz, let's not forget that it is Gilbride who has been the young receiver's biggest supporter. He put Cruz ahead of Domenik Hixon for the No. 3 job during the preseason, bristled a bit when the team signed veteran Brandon Stokley nominally to replace Cruz and has continued to put him on the field and run plays designed for him.
Gilbride is also finding more ways to use Ballard, and for those who did not notice last week rookie Da'Rel Scott caught a pass and fellow rookie Jerrel Jernigan was targeted on a red zone play. Bit by bit, the Giants are trying to incorporate some of the untapped weapons at their disposal.
By The Numbers
Yards Per Game: 368.3 (12th)
Passing: 278.2 yards per game (7th)
Rushing: 90.2 yards per game (26th)
Points Per Game: 25.7 (9th)