Hello there Giants fans from all over the world!
It's time once again for a SOTU. If it at all pleases you, here's the previous iterations:
Last year was certainly a wild ride, but now its time for our title defense. Expect this post to be light on analysis and heavy on homerism, because hey, world champs, baby.
IT FEELS GOOD, DOESN'T IT?
The glow of the Superbowl victory, now 4 months past, has not lost any of its luminance. This is the time, the dog days of the offseason where nothing is happening (no free agency, no draft, no training camp), where we truly appreciate being the fans of a world champion.
Every blog, every site, every fan are looking only one way. Up. They want to be where are we are now. Up in the clouds, the summit of Mt. Everest. Hope springs eternal, and this is the time where each team believes it has a legitimate chance. Each move is analyzed, over analyzed, and analyzed again.
This is the year where the Kool-aid flows like wine and the cheerleaders instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. (Extra points for guessing that reference)
"If the Giants could do it, so can we..."
"They laid the foundation. A franchise QB and a great pass rush is the key"
"Oh, c'mon now. _______(Insert QB name here) is not elite. I'll give you Rodgers, Brees, Brady, and both Mannings, but that's it."
These were all actual quotes from different sites I've stumbled across in my travels across the SBNation brotherhood. There have been quite a few of these quotes, on pretty much every site. Being the champ, we are the target of someone else's admiration, study, jealousy, and no doubt, bitterness.
Every time I see something like that, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel proud. It makes me feel proud to know that fans try and throw rationalizations out there for our victory, they're just in 3rd stage of grief. It makes me feel proud that Eli Manning is finally getting his respect.
Yup, it definitely feels good to me.
So then, lets get on to some business. That's what State of the Union is for, right? Lets take look at us and our competition through my blue-tinted goggles:
THE DRAFT AND OUR COMPETITION
The NFC East is always a tough, nasty, hard-battled division. Each team is consistently under the major media outlet microscope. Each victory is magnificently heralded, while each defeat is treated like the coming Mayan apocalypse.
Each one of our main competitors has reloaded, and is aiming all of their guns right at us. Their fans may not like it, but we're the winners. We have the bullseye on our back. Miserable and bitter teams will be aiming for revenge, young up-and-comers will try and shoot to become what we have become: World Champions. We've reached the pinnacle of the sport, but its a new season, and the fire of hope, confidence, and yes, arrogance is just now begun building up.
How have our division rivals tried to catch up?
Well, for starters, all three traded up in the draft. The Cowboys drafted excellent cover CB Morris Claiborne. The Eagles drafted vicious penetrator DT Fletcher Cox. The Redskins did what they had to do to finally catch up with the rest of the division and drafted franchise QB Robert Griffin III.
They also dipped into the free agency pool. The Cowboys shored up their secondary by grabbing the best FA CB on the market in Brandon Carr and inking him to a big contract. The Philadelphia Eagles decided to take care of their own, and lock up Trent Cole, Todd Herremans, Desean Jackson, and Lesean McCoy. They also traded for former pro-bowl caliber MIKE Demeco Ryans. The Redskins grabbed a bevy of WRs in the shifty speedster Pierre Garcon and solid possession guy, Josh Morgan.
Despite this, questions abound for our competitors.
With the Eagles, they have a dominant defensive line, one that ranks just as high as ours. However, can their linebackers hold up? We have to see the development of Brian Rolle on the weakside. Mychal Kendricks is a talented, athletic SAM, but he's a rookie. Demeco Ryans, lets see if that achilles bothers him. He'll probably be alright, but there is a shade of doubt there. Also on that defensive side, I'm not sold on DRC. He had one great year in 2009, a terrible year in 2010, and a decent to mediocre year in 2011. The safeties depend on Nate Allen. Can he form a complete, solid year? And who plays next to him, Kurt Coleman or Jaiquawn Jarrett. On offense, they are solid across the OL, and the skill positions. Lesean McCoy - Jeremy Maclin - Desean Jackson is as explosive a trio as you'll find in the league. However, Michael Vick is the biggest wildcard in the division. Flashes dominance, but also flashes the inability to read a blitz. The Eagles will go only as far as he takes them, and that is as big a question mark as there is in this division.
Oh, God, keep that thing away from me.
With the Cowboys, they were all about upgrading the secondary. They definitely found their biggest weakness, and addressed it. They signed Brandon Carr, and drafted Morris Claiborne. However, Claiborne is a rookie. Nothing is confirmed, just look at Patrick Peterson last year. I still don't know who will be playing safety for them. Gerald Sensabaugh and Brodney Poole will not scare anybody. They have arguably the best defensive player in the league in Demarcus Ware, but again, they did not get an upgrade over Anthony Spencer. They have DL stalwart Jay Ratliff, but Sean Lissemore and Jason Hatcher aren't exactly Justin Smith and Calais Campbell. On offense, Tony Romo is a very good QB. They have very good skill position players. But that interior OL is a mess. Phil Costa, Kevin Kowalski, David Arkin, Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. They'll be facing Barry Cofield, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, Fletcher Cox, and Cullen Jenkins. Good luck.
With the Redskins, they have a ton of pieces in place. A very good front seven on defense, with Cofield, Bowen, Orakpo, Kerrigan, and Fletcher. They don't have a great secondary, however. DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson are meh, and they have Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson at safety. Ew. On offense, Roy Helu looks like the real deal, and Pierre Garcon is fast. Leonard Hankerson is my bEAST sleeper. The offensive line is anchored by Trent Williams, though all the other guys are decent to mediocre, with a few rookies possibly starting. Everything then, is on the shoulders of Robert Griffin III. While there's a really only a small chance he busts, the dude is still a rookie. The division's pass rushers will be sure to welcome him to the NFL.
"You up? You out? :P"
But anyway, all accounts say they got better, and everybody would likely agree to that statement. I've seen people, plenty of times, saying:
"Wow, the NFC East is going to be a tough division. Everybody got better. Well, everyone except the Giants."
Amid all of the hubbub about how Fletcher Cox is tailor-made for the Wide - 9 Jim Washburn scheme, how Mychal Kendricks will be an absolute beast at SAM, and how Vinny Curry is a high-motor vicious pass rusher. Amid all the fervor that Morris Claiborne is the best cornerback in Ft. Worth since Prime Time and how he'll shutdown anybody that comes at him. Amid all of the hysteria that RGIII brings to DC, the savior of the franchise that will bring it above all of the rest.
Amid all of that noise....
Anybody hear a peep about who the Giants picked up?
Nope. All I hear is that the Giants somehow got "scooped" by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trading up to select Doug Martin, how it was a reach, and therefore he gets skipped over. How, since he's a running back, he won't have an impact.
I think he begs to differ.
*Writers note: I've already done an in-depth look at the Giants' draft, so won't be going over it here. If you'd like a look back at that, I've linked it right here --> DRAFT REVIEW
(That is a must watch highlight reel. If that doesn't make you happy about the pick, nothing will.)
On top of that, our 2nd round pick probably could've been a 1st and nobody would've blinked. People keep saying he'll replace Manningham. I might be stretching a little bit, but Randle can do much more than replace, he can elevate. And in case you're worried about the potential of Randle, I provide you with another highlight film:
Ultimate Rueben Randle Highlights (2012 Draft 63rd Pick - New York Giants) (via TheVikingsworld2011)
Seriously, this "VikingsWorld" guy is amazing.
Wilson and Randle probably won't be playing right away. That's another knock on them. Mychal Kendricks and Fletcher Cox figure to take plenty of snaps this season. Morris Claiborne looks to be the starter opposite Brandon Carr if all goes to plan in Valley Ranch. RGIII is obviously the starter in Washington.
The difference here is, we don't need our top draft picks to play significant snaps. We're not dependent on them and barring injury (yes, I realize this is a monstrous qualifier. Hakeem Nicks says "Hi"), they will grow, mature, and develop.
Adding to that, we have the physical freak in Adrien Robinson, which just makes my head spin. He won't play right away, and Mike Pope has received accolades not only from us homers, but from guys like Jason Witten, who once said he'd "love to play under him." Pope also ran drills at the Combine.
The Eagles and Cowboys focused on shoring up their defense. We engaged in the arms race by ensuring that it would be our offense that became one of the most explosive in the league. Seriously, just check out the talent and potential on this roster:
RB: Ahmad Bradshaw, David Wilson
WR: Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle
TE: Martellus Bennett, Adrien Robinson
That is the most talented offensive skill corps in the nation. Whether it becomes the best or not is obviously still very much in question, but it easily could be. What makes it a lot easier is a head coach very much slanted towards offensive firepower (don't let tradition and Tom Coughlin's lies fool you, the man was a WRs coach), as well as the very definition of a franchise QB.
Hakeem Nicks has been nothing short of brilliant in his short career thus far. His trajectory resembles that of Greg Jennings, who is the definition of a superstar. Literally. Check out the career numbers:
2006: 45 - 632 - 14.0 - 3
2007: 53 - 920 - 17.4 - 12
2008: 80 -1292 - 16.2 - 9
2009: 47 - 790 -16.8 - 6
2010: 79 - 1052 - 13.3 - 11
2011: 76 - 1196 - 15.7 - 7
With the extra coverage no doubt swinging towards Victor Cruz this upcoming year, along with the assumed progression and assumed recovery from the broken foot, I'm think big things for OptiNicks Prime. I'd expect a line of 78 - 1213 - 15.6 - 10.
Yes, Hakeem, we're going for number 5 this year.
Speaking of Victor Cruz, much has been made of him being a one-year wonder. Given just how good this one year has been, I'm inclined to say he's a keeper. Will get break 1500 yards this year? I don't know, but I don't think its likely simply because of a more balanced focus and emphasis on the running game. I'd be willing to wager he goes out and grabs a line of 87 - 1175 - 13.5 - 7, which are numbers that are more indicative of an elite slot WR.
The 3rd WR....well, I've got nothing on that one. Rueben Randle, Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden, and Jerrel Jernigan will all battle for that spot, so whoever gets it, will have earned it. I'm inclined to say, based on Tom Coughlin's comments, that Domenik Hixon will be the 3rd guy, though it won't be a surprise if Randle takes over by mid-season.
As far as RB goes, expect a heavy dose of Bradshaw and Danny Ware. Two guys that, if anything, are experts in pass protection. David Wilson is an explosive back, with insane balance and prototype toughness. He needs to work on his decisiveness, ball handling, and pass protection, so he'll probably start out with very few snaps, and they'll gradually increase in a timeshare.
Tight End is a major question mark this season. We already know about the injuries to Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard. Adrien Robinson, we also know, is the definition of project. If Martellus Bennett can get to the nearest Weight Watchers, he could be the guy. Still don't know for sure. This is one area where I'm a little nervous.
Now for the offensive line. As an avid proponent of Jerry Reese and the Giants' front office, the draft picks they invested in the offensive line (Mosley and McCants) both have a chance to stick despite the low rounds in which we drafted them. Give them time and good coaching, and we'll have our new starters in a couple years. That's the Giants way, and the way of any good front office.
We've got Will Beatty, who gave up a whopping 2.5 sacks on the season in 10 games. That extrapolates to about 4 sacks given up for the full 16 games. That would put him right in the wheelhouse for the "very good" category for an offensive lineman.
"Maybe if I had thought to wear my incredibly stylish glasses on gameday, I wouldn't have been poked in the eye."
At offensive guard, we've got Chris Snee on the right side. He's had a piss poor outing in 2011, yes, but I think there will be a regression (or should I say "progression") to the mean in 2012. Part of his problem, and one that he readily admitted, was that of lingering concussion issues. The other issue was Kareem McKenzie, who we'll talk about, unfortunately, in just a little bit. If he can play at 75% of what he usually does, he's more than good enough for Eli to work with.
On the left side, it gets a bit more interesting. Kevin Boothe and Mitch Petrus are battling it out. We know what we'll get with Boothe, a solid, low-ceiling mucker that will work his gigantic arse off. He uses his wide base effectively, and can use it to drive defenders backwards in the running game, but he tends to overextend at times, and can allow serious penetration. In pass protection, he's decent. On the other hand, we have rock star Mitch Petrus. He's a boom or bust type. Either dominates at the point of attack, or gets dominated. Sloppy technique, but incredibly powerful, if Petrus can get it together, he'll win the job.
Center was a problem for the Giants. No skirting around the issue. David Baas did not play up to the big contract he was given. Part of that, nay, all of that, can be attributed to the neck injuries he had been dealing with all year. He had continual headaches, symptoms from a bad stinger, inconsistent snaps, and had to learn a new offense. When he got healthy, he stonewalled everything. B.J. Raji got zero pressure on Eli Manning. San Francisco was a bloodbath, but there's was barely any pressure up the middle. Vince Wilfork, for the most part, was invisible during the Superbowl. If there's any Giant on the team that I'm expecting to win a "most improved" award, it'll be Baas.
Right tackle. Oh, Right tackle. Sigh. If there's one position on the offense that will give me ulcers, its the RT position. Kareem McKenzie was atrocious. Great guy apparently, but that doesn't translate on the field. He was one of the best at his position in 2010. He hemorrhaged pressure on pretty much every other snap. What's even worse, is that his presumed replacement did pretty bad himself. David Diehl was a nasty, nasty man back in the day, but nowadays, he's more of a Guy Whimper. James Brewer is the biggest wildcard here, but I believe he'll still be limited in his snap count. He'll probably act as a jumbo TE if anything.
Quarterback...hmm. Need I say anything?
Anyway, so here's what I'd say the ideal 1st down offense would look to me.
With an equal run and pass threat, and assuming the offensive line at least somewhat average, how do you defend that? Throw eight men in the box, and Nicks or Cruz can burn you. Go into a nickel defense, and get destroyed by the running game with Bennett and Hynoski paving the way. It's a rock solid lineup.
My ideal passing situation offense? I'd go with something like this.
Bradshaw topped PFF's charts (or at least has been a top 5 guy) in pass blocking efficiency, and is one of the best pass blocking RBs in the league. Martellus Bennett, once again, can be the safety blanket or stay back to block, and we have an explosive trio of Nicks, Cruz, and Randle. Tough to stop for any defense.
Now onto the defensive side of the ball, we couldn't be stronger. I'm not buying the terrible numbers that we put in last year. Not one bit. I've lost my shame quite some time ago, so I've got no problem in saying that injuries were a big factor.
Imagine Aaron Ross being the dime CB instead of a starter. That's what we could have potentially had with Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, and a healthy Prince Amukamara. Amukamara, when finally healthy and with a few practices under his belt, played as the dime CB in the playoffs. He had 60 snaps. How many receptions did he give up? One. A 4 yard quick slant to Julio Jones. Yeah, I still think this kid's going to be good.
Haters gonna hate.
With those guys healthy, Antrel will actually be able to play his natural role (pun intended) at strong safety. He's played SAM LB and Nickel CB this past year, and quite frankly, stank at both. With him at safety and fully on board, the hope is that his play improves. Kenny Phillips is by far the best safety in the NFC East, and it isn't close. He'll keep balling out in what will be his contract year.
We got this other kid, Jayron Hosley:
Ultimate Jayron Hosley Highlights (2012 Draft 94th Pick - New York Giants) (via TheVikingsworld2011)
As far as the defensive line goes, barring, once again, injury....it's never been stronger.
Osi Umenyiora seems to be back on board. Mathias Kiwanuka (though a LB, is still a passrusher) is on board for the long term. Justin Tuck is healthy. Jason Pierre-Paul is many things, a Kraken, a Haitian Sensation, an Octopus, and a 1st team All Pro. Chris Canty does what Chris Canty does. Linval Joseph, I believe, will take the next step towards stardom this year. I have high hopes for Marvin Austin. Shaun Rogers should be a nice rotational end.
"Haha, I think I'm going to kill someone today."
Yeah, that's what we call depth. Quality depth. With the secondary finally healthy, I expect to see a rise in coverage sacks.
Finally we come to everybody's favorite subject. The linebackers. Right now the starters are pegged as Kiwi at SAM, Chase at MIKE, and Boley at WILL, but I seriously think that the 6'3 245 lbs athletic freak that is Keith Rivers will take over the middle position. Jacquian Williams will probably get time in passing situations as well as perhaps being the 3rd "safety" in the "Buffalo Nickel" package. Mark Herzlich and Chase Blackburn would be the backups at SAM and MIKE.
An ideal BASE defense (that is, no nickel funny business) in my eyes would be:
An ideal NICKEL defense (our big nickel) in my eyes would be:
Both of those line-ups look good to me. Rivers and Kiwanuka are both good pass rushers, so it opens things up for a blitz if warranted. Terrell Thomas is a massive upgrade at the 3rd safety spot over Deon Grant. Rivers and Boley (with an occasional cameo from a not-a-rookie-anymore Jacquian Williams) provides a huge upgrade against the passing attack. Finally, the defensivel line is as strong as ever. Tuck can hold his own at defensive tackle and get ample penetration. The two best pass rushers on the squad are Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul, so they take the edges. Canty is the most experienced pass rusher from the inside, he narrowly beats out Anvil.
What do I really talk about here? Steve Weatherford enjoyed a career best in punting distance average, net yard average, and for punts downed inside the 20. He's about as solid as you can get.
Lawrence Tynes, I still admit, gives my heart palpitations. He's had a couple blocked field goals last year, the blocking for him needs to help him out, but makes me wonder if he should get some more air under his kicks. He's firmly middle of the pack, which is fine by me.
"Hi, I'm Lawrence Tynes and I'm just the embodiment of sex."
What still burns me up that WASN'T fixed was the pathetic, disgusting, god awful 6.1 YPR on punt returns. That ranked 30th in the league. The top team was, unsurprisingly, the Chicago Bears, who had 15.7 yards per return. That's a difference of 9.6 yards EVERY. SINGLE. PUNT. That's huge when it comes to field position battles. Something needs to change. Hopefully putting Jerrel Jernigan or Da'Rel Scott (provided they can hold on to the ball) can give us a nice boost in that department.
PRE-TRAINING CAMP 53 MAN ROSTER
Since everyone's doing it, I figured I'll give it a shot.
QB (2): Eli Manning, David Carr
TE (3): Martellus Bennett, Adrien Robinson, Bear Pascoe
WR (6): Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Ramses Barden, Domenik Hixon, Jerrel Jernigan
OL(8): Will Beatty, David Diehl, Kevin Boothe, Mitch Petrus, Chris Snee, James Brewer, Brandon Mosley, David Baas
DL (8): Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Shaun Rogers, Osi Umenyiora, Marvin Austin, Linval Joseph, Chris Canty, Justin Trattou
LB (7): Mathias Kiwanuka, Michael Boley, Keith Rivers, Mark Herzlich, Jacquian Williams, Greg Jones, Chase Blackburn
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
K: Lawrence Tynes
P: Steve Weatherford
LS: Zak DeOssie
That's a pretty suh-weet looking roster if you ask me. Superbowl-worthy, to be honest.
Any how, those are my scattered, disjointed, and overall disasterously disorganized thoughts on the state of the New York Football Giants. All seems well, in Giants land.
The sunshine still hasn't set on this last world championship, and it probably never will. Now, lets let that light lead us to glory once again. Still a solid 3 months before real football starts, but this new beginning is shaping up quite nicely. Here's to a quick healing of Hakeem Nicks' injury, a thought and prayer for Brian Witherspoon, and a plea to the Football Gods to leave our damned division alone for once.
I will now take your leave with one more fantastic video, enjoy:
Ultimate New York Giants Highlights 2011 - Super Bowl XLVI Champions (via TheVikingsworldNFL)