Time for this week's edition of the 'Friday Five' with Inside Football editor Pat Traina. This week I ask Pat about Justin Tuck, Ahmad Bradshaw, the poor defensive effort against New Orleans and more. Be sure to check Pat's site for my answers to her questions.
Ed: I'm worried about Justin Tuck, and was critical of a remark he made this week because it seems like he already sounds defeated. I know he's hurt and I know he's frustrated, but that defense looks to him for leadership and I'm not sure he's providing it. What are your thoughts on Tuck at this point?
Pat: Well first, I will never question a man who's hurting physically, and there's no question that Tuck must be feeling about 100 years old right now (an aside - a few years ago I used to have this running joke with him where every week after a game, I'd ask him how old he felt. His answers always used to vary based on the previous week's game.)
Anyway, I don't think what you're seeing is a result of a lack of ability. You also have to remember that earlier this year Tuck had a couple of deaths in his family. He also has the injuries he's trying to work through, and I don't care how tough a guy is, I have to believe that's all taking a toll on him.
Ed: Ahmad Bradshaw is promising to play this week, and I won't ask you if you think he will or not. What I will ask, though, is what you think the Giants miss without him?
Pat: What are they missing without him? Only their most complete back. He can take it between the tackles, he can make something out of nothing, and has perhaps the best vision out of all the backs on the team.
The problem is the coaches keep hoping Jacobs morphs into that kind of runner, and he's not even close - he can't change direction like Bradshaw can. His vision appears is questionable - how many times has he tiptoed to the line? Is that because he's not lined up deep enough to where he can get a running start, or is it because he doesn't fully trust his blocking? At least when Bradshaw deviates from the plan, he usually has a positive gain. So without a running back who can do that and adjust to what happens on the field, you end up missing a lot in your offense.
Ed: Watching the Giants try to play defense against New Orleans was painful, and the thing that bothered me most was that they couldn't even get lined up much of the time. Any idea what that was all about?
Pat: My biggest question though that I keep replaying in my head over and over comes back to the game plan. Did the plan cover everything? I'm thinking no, and here's why. After the game, one of the defensive starters said that the Saints did a few things that caught the Giants off guard. What does that tell you? That tells me that when the players saw these unexpected looks, they were trying to figure out how to adjust without totally deviating from what was called.
Ed: Chase Blackburn is back. Can a guy who was never really able to grab a full-time starting job in six seasons, and who hasn't played football all year, actually help this defense?
Pat: He might not have a choice. The real problem with this defense, I think, is a lack of speed and experience. In time, maybe the young pups develop into studs, but right now they're all going through growing pains and we're at a point in the season where there is no more room for error.
Not to knock Chase, because the man is a trooper who gives everything he has, but let's think about this. Why was he still available this late in the season despite having "several good workouts" with teams? At this point in the season, Chase is a plus because he knows Fewell's defense, but can he provide the speed this defense needs? That, I'm not so sure about.
Ed: Lots of debate this week about the quality of the Giants roster. When you analyze this team is there one area or position where you feel GM Jerry Reese dropped the ball in the building this team?
Pat: How about linebacker? Again, the rookies have potential and might very well develop into studs, but how do you not have a veteran for depth? If you think back to last year, the Giants had Deon Grant, a former starter, step in at safety when injuries struck, and the safety play held up.
Well this year, you have Kiwi playing out of position (and he could see more time as part of the defensive end rotation if Perry Fewell sticks to his plan of limiting JPP's snaps now that Osi is on the shelf.) You have Boley, your best and most experienced linebacker out with a hamstring injury for who knows how much longer. So what's left? Rookies. Late in the season. With no room for error. With a potential playoff berth on the line.
I understand and appreciate it when Reese said these kids have to step up, but I would think that stepping up should be done earlier in the season when you have some room for error, and then showing steady progress as the year goes on.
If that's Reese's reasoning, then I'm okay with that. But if he's of the "Well we have injuries so guys that haven't played and thus who haven't received many reps with the ones now have to step up" mindset, then that, to me, is flawed thinking because there's only so much a kid can learn in the classroom. At some point they have to get out there and show they can do it and during a regular season practice, there isn't a lot of time to give these kids many reps with the ones to get them ready.