Good morning, New York Giants fans. Time for our weekly 'Friday Five' with the knowledgeable editor of Inside Football Pat Traina. Be sure to stop by Pat's site this morning for my answers to her excellent questions.
Ed: Obviously Mark Sanchez is not Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or even Tony Romo. The Giants were much better defensively last week, though, using what seemed like a simplified approach. What took so long for the Giants to make that adjustment?
Pat: In all honesty, I think a certain degree of desperation fueled the change. I got the sense that the players were not happy with the schemes and game plans that Fewell was running - there were very strong hints that players made that I think confirmed my theory. In some cases, you could just tell that some of the players were really biting their tongues as far as openly unloading on the game plans.
I think Fewell has gone back to playing to his players' strengths rather than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I just hope that this thinking continues this weekend because as one defensive player told me, if you look at the games the Giants have lost, it's because the opponents played a very simple, yet effective defense.
When a team gets "too cute" with its schemes, it ultimately end up "outsmarting itself,"" and that's what I (along with the player with whom I had the conversation) think has happened at times this season.
Ed: Victor Cruz was named a Pro Bowl alternate. Other than Green Bay being 14-1 I can't find any justification for Greg Jennings being on the team and Cruz not making it. Agree or disagree?
Pat: Funny you should bring this up because I had this discussion with a couple of colleagues on Wednesday. We all came to the conclusion that while Cruz has had some pretty impressive numbers after the catch (513 of his 1358 yards have come after the catch according to ProFootballFocus.com), he doesn't always come up with the "tough" catches like Hakeem Nicks and, I suppose, Jennings.
The other thing is according to Pro Football Focus, Cruz has 11 drops this season, and Jennings has four. So if you consider PFF's stats as gospel, can you argue about the selection of Jennings over Cruz? I'd say no but at the same time, there's no question that Cruz has had a banner season.
Ed: The Giants' passing attack has not been nearly as efficient the last two weeks as it had been most of the season. How worrisome is that, and what do you see as the cause?
Pat: Mis-communications and drops. I wrote this for yesterday's SportsXchange column - how many times have we seen Eli Manning throw to one spot and the receiver be in a completely different spot? Usually that's on the receiver (and we can tell when that is the case as when it's on Manning, he immediately points at himself as if to say he was to blame.)
Another problem that really drives me nuts is when a receiver runs his route short of the first down marker. If you need eight yards, why are you running seven yards?
Lastly, let's look at the drops. I mentioned above that according to Pro Football Focus, Victor Cruz has had 11 drops this season which leads the Giants. Hakeem Nicks, who has eight drops for the year, has racked up half of those in the last two weeks, which is right around when the passing game went into its slump. But let's look at the last two weeks specifically and at what all of the receivers have done.
All together over the last two weeks, the Giants have dropped nine passes. That's a high number of passes and a big part of the problem.
Now what's behind the drops is another story - in Cruz's case, he has admitted to sometimes taking his eye off the ball for a split second and I suspect a few other guys might have been guilty of that as well. How do they fix it? Easy. Look the ball in and then worry about where you're going to run. If you run your route past the first down marker, that, to me should be the first thing to worry about. Then look the ball into your hands to gain possession. THEN worry about yards after the catch.
Ed: Jacquian Williams has played way more than anyone anticipated this season. He has had good and bad moments. Do you see him as a guy who can become that impact type linebacker the Giants have been in need of for a while now?
Pat: Honestly, I think the jury's still out. As you said, he's had his good moments and his bad moments, and he should be applauded for having as many good moments as he has considering he didn't come from a football rich background and that he didn't have an off-season to work with. I see enough athleticism and speed in this kid that makes me think he'll be in line for an increased role, but to say he's going to become an impact player right now is, I think, a premature statement.
Ed: I keep getting asked this question, so I will ask you. Is Tom Coughlin coaching for his job Sunday night?
Pat: No. I know that's probably going to upset a lot of people, but here's why I say he isn't coaching for his job. Coughlin, like the other 31 NFL head coaches was not able to put his team through an off-season program. Even field there. However, look at all the injuries he's had to deal with and then look at the fact that here it is, the final regular season game of the year, and he has his team in the hunt for a playoff berth. Now I know some might say, "So what? The Packers did that last year."
But here's the biggest difference, other than the fact that again, there was no off-season. Coughlin has played perhaps more rookies this year than in all of his years as a head coach of this team, and he's still managed to get them to this point. I think there's a lot to be said about the job he and his assistant coaches have done given the cards they were dealt.