Jake Ballard (85) of the New York Giants catches a pass in the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 6, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Giants won 24-20. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
The New York Giants have hit their halfway point of the 2011 NFL season with a 6-2 record and a two-game advantage over the Dallas Cowboys in the race for the NFC East title. I thought it would be appropriate at this point to review where the Giants are. The way we do that here, of course, is with 'Kudos & Wet Willies.' So, a little bonus midseason 'K&WW' post for you.
Kudos to ...
Tom Coughlin: You simply have to start here, don't you? And Coughlin simply has to get a 'Kudos,' wouldn't you agree? With all of the seemingly devastating preseason injuries and free-agent defections that the Giants were hit with, and consequently what might be the youngest roster Coughlin has ever coached in the NFL, he has kept this team pointed in the right direction. Did anyone realistically see 6-2 coming after the preseason and the awful season-opening loss to the Washington Redskins? If the Giants do make the playoffs Coughlin has to get some support for Coach of the Year.
Eli Manning: Pretty easy, and pretty obvious. I don't really care where anybody ranks him in terms of elite, not elite or how many quarterbacks analysts think are better than Eli. He is the Giants MVP, and easily their most important player. They don't have five come-from-behind victories -- or any shot at the playoffs -- without him playing the best football of his NFL career.
Jake Ballard: Over and over, you hear people around the Giants call the 6-foot-6, 275-pound tight end the team's biggest surprise. He has become a huge downfield weapon with 23 catches for a 17.2 yards per catch average, and nobody -- maybe not even Ballard's mom -- could have seen that coming.
Hakeem Nicks: The guy has blossomed into a star with 38 catches in seven games. He is as difficult to cover as just about any receiver in the league.
Victor Cruuuuuuuuuuuz: I had to embellish that one just a bit. Can anyone remember the last Giants player who was greeted with his own chant when he made a play the way Cruz is? Has there ever been one?
Will Beatty: The third-year player out of UConn has answered the questions as to whether or not he is ready to be a starting left tackle in the league. He has been the Giants' best offensive lineman, without much doubt. His +4.3 grade from PFF makes him the only Giants' lineman with a positive grade thus far in 2011, and that is on target. There are definitely problems in that group, but Beatty is not one of them.
Mathias Kiwanuka: Seems to get better and better each week in his hybrid linebacker/defensive end role. His +14.2 mark from PFF is the best on the defense, and he has probably become the most important player the Giants have on that side of the ball.
Jason Pierre-Paul: So, general manager Jerry Reese was unquestionably right about the star potential of this young monster of a defensive end. Pierre-Paul has 9.5 sacks, which is third in the league, and has played the run well for a guy who is still learning. His versatility, like Kiwanuka's helps the defense. Perry Fewell has used JPP at both ends, sometimes at tackle in the four defensive end set, and often at nose tackle in the three-man line.
Osi Umenyiora: Six sacks and two forced fumbles for Umenyiora. He is also on this list for his attitude. Despite his feelings about the organization they guy has played hard -- and without complaint -- since returning from knee surgery. He deserves some credit.
Michael Boley: The guy is playing like the impact linebacker the Giants hoped they had acquired when they signed him as a free agent a couple of years ago. He leads the team with 56 tackles thus far.
Corey Webster: Handling the best receiver on the opposition most weeks, and doing a very good job.
Aaron Ross: Everybody worried about Ross when Terrell Thomas went down with a season-ending knee injury. He has, however, played very well as a corner and done an excellent job returning punts -- despite Sunday's muff.
Kenny Phillips: Phillips is back to form as a top-flight safety. He isn't the fastest guy, but he has been a force against the run and his pass defense on the back end has been solid. He has 55 tackles, one behind Boley.
Rocky Bernard: The guy is playing good football (+6.2 PFF rating, 15 tackles). Nobody really saw this coming, expect maybe Reese.
Steve Weatherford: The guy has been terrific. Weatherford is averaging a career-best 45.8 yards per punt, has a net average of 39.3 yards per punt and has placed 12 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Wet Willies to ...
Devin Thomas: Not long ago I was loving the job Thomas was doing returning kickoffs. A few muffs and some uninspiring returns later I am starting to wonder if we will see more of Jerrel Jernigan in that capacity as the season unfolds.
Offensive Linemen Not Named Will Beatty: Not one of those guys has played up to their career reputations -- unless, of course, you didn't think much of David Diehl to begin with. The run-blocking has been atrocious most of the season.
Travis Beckum: The guy is still wearing a uniform, still taking up a roster spot and still -- after three years -- doing absolutely nothing to justify it.
There are probably some other players I could touch on, but this is enough. Add or subtract anyone you like, and let me know why.