I tried making this a regular posting last season, but just couldn't put enough effort into it to make it worthwhile in the later half of the year; however, I got a lot of positive comments about the series, and some people told me they actually missed this little FanPost, so I'm going to give this another shot and try to bring back Looking Back, Moving Forward. This week, we'll take a look at the previous season, move forward to the impending season, and finally take a look at the season opener at the Washington Redskins.
First, a little bit of backstory: "looking back, moving forward" is a phrase I basically stole from my old High School football coach. "If you want to be successful," he said, "you must look back at what you've done while moving forward into your next game."
Actually, now that I think about it, I don't think he said that at all. In fact, what I think he said was "Pullara! Quit being an idiot and start being smart!" Really insightful stuff. I guess that's why he was a High School coach and not in the pros.
Anyway, last year was a disappointment. At 10-6 you expect to make the playoffs in some form or another. Our New York Giants didn't, and here's why.
Too many divisional losses. That's the story of the 2010 New York Giants. While they swept the Washington Redskins, they lost to Dallas once at home (against a backup Quaterback) and were swept by the Philadelphia Eagles - and that was the nail in the coffin. In the NFC East you must, at a bare minimum, split your divisional games. At 10-6, the Philadelphia Eagles weren't exactly running away with the NFC East: the Giants were right up there with them until the end.
The only problem was that there were two games left in the season. After the second loss to the Eagles, the Giants were 9-5, while the Eagles were 10-4 with a 1 game tie-breaking lead over the Giants. Both teams had a tough schedule coming up - each had one divisional game and one game against the Green Bay Packers. By losing to the Eagles, the Giants sealed their own fate - their season was over before it had ended.
(Oh, sure, statistically they were still in it, but the statistics also indicated that the chances of them winning against Green Bay and the Eagles losing both games showed that the Giants chances of getting into the playoffs was less than 5%, so don't talk to be about that one "what if" scenario).
For 2010, the New York Giants had a fairly successful campaign, save for some obvious blemishes that really need to be cleaned up this year.
Eli Manning had a successful campaign with 4002 yards thrown, a 62.9% completion percentage, and 5.8% of his passes completed for touchdowns. The only negative side were the interceptions. As fans we're preety defensive about Eli's interceptions from last year because, quite frankly, there's almost no excuse for them: the receivers really need to get their heads in the game and catch the damn ball.
I know there was a small bit of media drama when Eli said he thought he was as good as Tom Brady, with a lot of analysts laughing it off as if Eli was some kind of kid trying to sit at the adults table at Thanksgiving, but ... stat for stat, outside of the interceptions, Eli stacks up relatively well to Tom Brady from last season.
Tom Brady had 3900 yards passing, 36 touchdowns, 65.9% completion percentage, and 7.3% of his passes went for touchdowns.
Eli Manning had 4002 yards passing, 31 touchdowns, 62.9% completion percentage, and 5.8% of his passes went for touchdowns.
Yes, there is a significant difference in completion and touchdown percentages, but it's still pretty darn good. The fact that some analysts compare Eli Manning to a lower-tier quarterback like Rex Grossman is, quite frankly, laughable.
Rex Grossman had 437 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, 52.8% completion percentage, and 2.8% of his passes went for touchdowns.
Hey, how about we compare him to the much-praised Michael Vick? After all, he's going to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to the Superbowl this year, right?
Michael Vick had 3018 yards passing, 21 touchdowns, 62.6% completion percentage, and 5.6% of his passes went for touchdowns.
Oh hell, why not, let's compare Eli to Superbowl-winning Quarterback Aaron Rodgers:
Aaron Rodgers had 3922 yards passing, 28 touchdowns, 65.7% completion percentage, and 5.9% of his passes went for touchdowns.
In almost every respect, outside of yards rushing and interceptions, Eli Manning was better than Michael Vick, and almost as good as Tom Brady. Make no mistake about it - Eli Manning is elite. He may not have the ESPN Quarterback image, but once the teams shores up around him, Eli is a killer on the field.
The running game last year was pretty good as well, posting up 2200 yards on the ground with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs getting 1235 and 823 yards between them, for a total of 17 touchdowns. Those ... aren't terrible numbers. They're not dominating numbers, but they're respectable enough to where opposing teams have to respect the running game.
If you combine the running game with Eli's ability to throw the ball down the field it means one thing for the 2011 Giants: each and every team has to respect the offense. They may not be a media-hyped offense, but they're very well balanced, and that keeps defenses honest: they won't be able to play to either the pass or the run, they have to play against both.
This means that in 2011 the offense will keep the Giants in the game. My friends, long gone are the days of Dave Brown where we could only hope to score a touchdown against the Cardinals. It kind of sucks, though, because that means I can't get up when the offense is on the field to get another beer - a "sacrifice" I'm gladly willing to make.
The defense took a step forward from 2009 where it ranked 30th in points allowed and 13th in yards allowed. In 2010 it was ranked at 17th in points allowed and 7th in yards allowed. That's a significant one-year improvement for Perry Fewell, and with the defense now more comfortable - and more properly built for the type of scheme Fewell wants to run - 2011 is shaping up to be a better year for the Quarterback killers.
You know, assuming that every single defensive player doesn't end up on Injured Reserve. Last year the Giants were hit pretty hard with losses in the backfield, and once again they're being hit pretty hard with losses in the backfield. So, you know what that means, Giants fans: another long season of long passes, blown coverages, and headaches, unless, of course, the defensive front makes up for the rest of the defenses shortcomings.
The defensive front looks absolutely stunning on paper. We'll have to see how they perform in the regular season, but if the preseason is any indication, teams are going to have a hell of a hard time getting a running game going and keeping their Quarterbacks upright. With Jason Pierre-Paul coming into his own this season, it's possible we just may have the single best defensive line in the league. That's just downright scary.
Of course, that doesn't mean we're going to have a top 10 defense this season. Much like last season, the defensive front looks good on paper, but the rest of the defense might just be as bad as Buffalo's. While I may be criticized for this, our linebacking corps is not nearly well equipped enough to be as agile and as smart as Fewell needs them to be in his scheme, and with our backfield basically being scrapped together with draft picks and last second pickups due to injuries, it's looking like it's going to be another frustrating season of medium and long passes for big gains as the corners continue to blow their coverages, bite on fake hand-offs, and play out of position when they try to be aggressive and intercept the ball.
Oh, if you don't believe me, look at how New England picked them apart in the preseason game. The good thing is , though, that the Giants managed to stop them from scoring on a lot of opportunities, but there are some serious glaring problems on the outside that have yet to be addressed.
In the middle, the linebackers aren't terrible. In fact, Johnathan Goff has looked like hes finally started to mature, and may just end up being the long-term linebacking solution the Giants have needed. Of course, he's only one player and the other players behind him aren't as field-smart and tend to show some poor coverage decisions in the middle of the field.
If the defense can improve to a top 10 defense, look for the Giants to be under-hyped but extremely dangerous.
Now, let's talk about the special teams.
Alright, look, Matt Dodge is not the worst punter in the world. I really don't understand why Tom Coughlin gives him such a hard time - I know he screws up from time to time and isn't as good as Jeff Feagles, but in the pre-season he has been much improved over his performance last season, which included ... that ... punt. Of course, blaming Matt Dodge for a poorly placed punt is easy enough, but if the Giants special teams could cover anything, it probably wouldn't have mattered.
After all, isn't this a team game? When one piece of the machine screws up, aren't the rest of the pieces supposed to pick up the slack? Well, it turns out that the Giants special teams are far too reliant on one player performing a perfect job each and every time he gets on the field than they really should be.
In fact, going back to each game, it seems like Tom Coughlin was extremely tough on Matt Dodge for this exact reason: the special teams just aren't that good and they desperately need a positional kicker to keep that ball out of the hands of anyone competent enough to follow their blocks. The simple fact is that coverage sucks. We have a lot of talent on special teams and yet we can't cover anything.
Matt Dodge, for the season, averaged 44.8 yards per punt. Not a bad number, especially when you compare it to Shane Lechler who is widely believed to be the best punter in the NFL right now. He averages 47 yards per punt. There are two major differences between these two punters:
1 - Shane Lechler can drive punts into specific positions, and he can knock them out of bounds.
2- The Oakland Raiders have a better coverage unit than the New York Giants.
On average, for every 47 yard punt, the Oakland Raiders gave back between 5 and 10 yards on the return. In contrast, for every 44 yard punt, the New York Giants gave back between 20 and 30 yards on the return. With the added risk of a return for a touchdown, I seriously question why the Giants bother to ever punt the ball and not just have Eli throw a long pass on 4th down.
I also seriously question the Giants commitment to keeping Tom Quinn as the Special Teams coach. One can only hope that the addition of Assistant Special Teams Coach Larry Izzo spells the end of the Tom Quinn era sometime this season.
My outlook for the 2011 New York Giants is somewhat mixed. Their offense is solid. While we don't have Steve Smith, we proved last year that we don't need him. The offensive line was broken up and needs time to gel - which will hamper them early on in the season - but it's strong enough to keep Eli off of his back, which is extremely important, considering how good he actually is.
I expect the defense to improve, but not significantly. With the injuries in the backfield and the problems we had last year with the pass, we'll have to rely on a dominant front to carry us through most of the games. I doubt we'll see this defense break the top 10 in points allowed, but if we do I wouldn't be surprised. I expect this defensive unit to rank between 10th and 15th in points allowed this season.
On special teams, well, it's going to be another long season. Hey, if you want to get drunk, take a shot every time a punt or kickoff is returned for at least 20 yards. By the end of the game you'll be so drunk you won't be able to tell your wife apart from your dog ... just, don't post about that mistake here.
Well, that's all for looking back at the overall season, let's move forward to Week 1 at the Washington Redskins.
Ah, September 11th. I really hate that day. Oh, don't get me wrong - the murders that took place on September 11th are terrible, but I think the biggest crime ever committed on the US soil is the yearly tradition of sports and politicians drawing attention to themselves with big, televised ceremonies. Every year when I turn on the television and I see another leader trying to cultivate his cult of personality by using September 11th as some kind of launching platform, I die inside. The NFL does the same thing - they use September 11th as a promotional tool: "remember to tune in to see ceremonies remembering the victims of 9/11/01, and don't forget to buy Bud Light!"
It's one of the most disgusting, disgraceful, and disrespectful things I've ever seen in my life.
In other words: I won't be watching the ceremonies; however, I won't be discounting the emotional impact it can have on the teams involved.
Make no mistake about it: this is going to be a rough game for both teams, but it's going to be especially rough for the New York Giants. This is not the away game you wanted to have 10 years after the events of 9/11. This home crowd is going to be excited, pumped, and loud. That means one thing for the Giants: false starts.
I really only expect one result on 9/11: the look of annoyance on Eli Manning's face as, for the 18th time, Will Beatty steps back a split second too soon and pushes the offense back 5 yards ... which means we're going to see a HELL of a lot of passes from the Giants. This may not actually be a bad thing, as we'll get to see how much improved the wide receivers are in actually holding on to a well-placed pass. We'll also get to see how well the offensive line does in pass protection.
Needless to say, I'm nervous. With a wide receiving corps that got famous for deflecting perfectly placed passes and turning them into interceptions, and a revamped offensive line that has not had an offseason to gel, this is going to be interesting. I don't know what to expect, but if the preseason and statistics are any indication, I'm worried. The chances are pretty high that we'll see at least one major interception or fumble from Eli Manning simply because of the reputation of both units.
On the bright side, crowd noise really isn't that big of a problem for the defense, which is looking really good in comparison to the hodge-podge mess that is the Washington Redskins offense. I don't know, exactly, what Dan Snyder's master plan is, but after so many seasons of him making one or two big name signings and hoping it pushes the team to higher level of ... not suck(?) ... he has apparently decided to trash that option, get rid of his has-beens and never-weres, and get a bunch of no-name players who can't win games.
Look, I'm not saying Rex Grossman sucks. He's the starter of the Redskins for a reason (and that's something I could never be), but all I'm saying is that in comparison to the rest of the NFL, Rex Grossman sucks. He doesn't make fantastic decisions and his aim is a little suspect. While Tim Hightower will put up some yards, and the wide receiving corps is made up of a few threats, that offensive line is not good enough to keep Grossman upright the entire night, and with the caliber of talent it'll be facing in week one, I'm seriously questioning if they'll ever get a running game going outside of screen passes.
The biggest difference in this game, though, is going to be the special teams. with an offense that probably isn't going to get anything going early on, and a defense that is probably going to stop the running game, and be good enough to slow down the passing game, the Giants really need to pray that whomever is kicking is going to kick the ball out of bounds. I have watched this special teams unit for the Washington Redskins and they scare me.
Not because they're fantastic or they have a returner that iss so dangerous that you never, ever punt to him in any situation ever ... it's just that we're so terrible at maintaining out lanes that when a returner goes right, our entire special teams coverage follows him, so that when he jukes left he has nothing but open field in front of him.
If the Giants can keep this close and keep the Washington special teams from scoring on us, then I think we'll pull out a close victory, 10-7.
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