[Note by Ed Valentine, 11/07/13 8:10 AM EST: Excellent work here from BBI. Which allows me to remind you that quality Fanposts are more than welcome, they are necessary.]
I'm really not a fan of "grades" or "midseason evals" when it comes to football. I feel like the game is far too fluid to make static, set in stone grades.
So without further ado here's 30 or so interesting (and not so interesting) observations that I've noticed about our New York Football Giants over the halfway mark of the regular season:
1) I find this season to be ridiculous. What was supposed to be an explosive offense is one that's rather...flaccid. And what was supposed to be a porous, injured defense with a good pass rush is actually a strong, sturdy defense predicated on stopping the run and the big play.
3) Justin Pugh amassed a -7.4 PFF grade the 1st half of the season, and followed it up with a +3.6 grade the 2nd half of the season thus far. Why the sudden change? Comfort level. Pugh has been beaten easily by speed rushers on the edge in pretty much every game. But he stopped panicking and used his feet to get in the way instead of trying to chase after the rusher and do too much.
4) Linval Joseph played 68% of all defensive snaps in 2012. I'd wager that even when healthy, he's gotten half that amount this year. And that's a big reason for the run defense going up, a strong rotation.
5) My vote for biggest surprise? Trumaine McBride. Has better recovery speed than Prince Amukamara. The only thing holding him back is his dimunitive size, but even when he's been beaten, he's contested those balls. He's earned a starting spot in my eyes.
6) While they wouldn't get many awards for the work they do in coverage, I'd throw my hat in for Antrel Rolle and Will Hill as the best tackling safety duo in the league. Between the two of them, I've seen all of 3 or 4 missed tackles all year.
7) It's clear that Jason Pierre-Paul's freakish strength is 90% momentum from his first step. That has been missing this year and so JPP's functional strength has been greatly decreased. The result? Him being manhandled by the likes of Branden Albert in some one on one situations.
8) At this point, while I personally am not a fan of either, I'd give Perry Fewell the edge over Kevin Gilbride. He made the adjustments first, and listened to his team after the players held a meeting with him to change the scheme. Lots of coaches would have dismissed player suggestions, but credit Fewell for listening...and implementing.
9) Jacquian Williams destroys Spencer Paysinger when it comes to blitzing the passer. He is so smooth and can recover from poor angles to redirect himself towards the QB. That helps him in pass coverage as well. Paysinger flows 90 MPH downhill, making him the much bigger asset against the run.
10) Jerrel Jernigan has taken over 4th WR duties over Louis Murphy? Why? Complete and utter speculation here, but it seemed funny to me that Terrell Thomas and Murphy had to be separated after a loss. A day later, Thomas said there were some in the locker room that didn't care if the Giants lost. In the coming weeks, we started seeing more of Jernigan. Ludicrous conspiracy theory? Perhaps.
11) The biggest difference between the 2011 Giants and the 2013 Giants is obviously Eli Manning. He went from being one of the clutchiest clutch QBs to ever clutch to...well, God awful. The statistical proof? In 2011, Manning completed 67% of his passes at 9.0 YPA en route to a 111.0 QBR in the 4th quarter. And that's not just padded garbage time, when the Giants were within 7 points, Manning held steady with 9 TDs to only 3 INTs with a 104.5. QBR. This year? Manning has completed 48% of his passes at 5.7 YPA for a QBR of 40.9 in the 4th quarter. If the Giants were within 7 points in the 4th, it's even worse. Manning has a league low 4.9 QBR. That's not a typo.
12) Steve Weatherford, despite a few struggles, is averaging 47.2 yards per punt, good for a top 5 rating league wide.
13) Despite Weatherford's good kicking, however, the Giants have allowed 4 PR TDs. The league as a whole has only allowed 7. So we contributed a lot to that.
14) Despite the ugly stats, the defense has been pretty solid for the Giants. One stat that proves it? The Giants currently only allow 4.9 yards per play to the opposing offense. How does that compare to the rest of the league? The Giants are 4th. Seems to me like the issues reside with field position, turnovers and special teams.
15) By far the most talented position on the Giants is the WRs. If they can get their bearings straight, they can be dominant. Perhaps the one team's WRs that I'm jealous of is probably the Bears with the monsters they have on the outside.
16) Despite a 4 sack performance against the Eagles, the Giants are still dead last in sacks. The halcyon days are gone. They need to get by now on forcing incompletions or mistakes due to bringing pressure.
17) While many are calling for Damontre Moore to start playing, I am more excited about Jonathan Hankins. Coming out of college, the knock on him was getting exhausted after playing close to 85% of his team's defensive snaps. He's certainly fresh now.
18) Speaking of exciting players, the other guy that I need to see is Adrien Robinson. I firmly believe he has the talent and ability to not be the next Travis Beckum and languish on the sidelines due to repetitive injuries. His size/speed combination is on par with Jimmy Graham.
19) In goal to go situations less than 2 yards, or in 3rd or 4th downs with 2 or less yards to go, the Giants have a 100% success rate running to their left. They have a 50% success rate running to the right. Up the middle? Only 33%. The Shotgun Draw must die.
20) Despite the OL getting a lot of flack for being one of the worst in the league, they are surprisingly average in pass protection. The Giants have allowed 45 QB hits, which ranks 16th in the league. However, they also average only 3.2 yards per rush, which is good for 30th.
21) Many have said this on multiple occasions, but I feel the need to repeat it anyway. Tom Coughlin and this organization deserve all the credit in the world for staying as motivated and professional as they have through this year. At 0-6, its pretty clear the team could've given up. Hell, the Vikings, Bucs, Falcons, Jags, and even Steelers look defeated and forlorn. The Giants do not. And that's a beautiful thing.
22) I don't know how they are going to do it, but the interior OL of the team is done. Finished. Caput. All three interior linemen need to be replaced. Boothe I can live with, but Baas/Snee/Diehl are the last gasp vestiges of the Petitgout/O'Hara days. Whether it be draft, free agency, or internal promotion, change is needed.
23) According to PFF, both Rueben Randle and Hakeem Nicks are top 10 in the league in drops. It's beyond frustrating and something that the Giants have dealt with for years now. Last couple years, Cruz has been a culprit, but he's doing well this year. It's a big reason the Giants cannot sustain drives.
24) Remember when I talked about Rolle and Hill being great tacklers back in observation #6? I think I'll extend that to the entire secondary. According to AdvancedNFLStats.com, Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas ranked 2nd and 3rd in the league in "Tackle Factor" which essentially compares how much they tackle compared to the average to that position.
25) Directly in contrast to that, the Giants LBs probably make less tackles than any other LB corps in the league. The highest ranked Giants in "tackle factor" is MIKE Jon Beason, who ranks 38th. Spencer Paysinger is the next highest at 55th. For those that care, both are ahead of Mason Foster.
26) AdvancedNFLStats also has their unique brand of statistic (like PFF's grading system and FO's DVOA) called WPA/EPA. WPA/EPA is essentially quantifying how much a player directly impacts their team's ability to score points and win the game. Victor Cruz is top 10 WR in WPA and top 5 WR in EPA in the league. Meaning he's more important to the Giants' chances of winning than most all other WRs. Certainly feels that way to me too.
27) If only David Wilson were healthy enough to get the types of plays that Kevin Gilbride is now calling for Peyton Hillis. Eli has targeted Hillis as the checkdown guy numerous times the last two games, giving him a chance in open space. Wilson has been relegated only to screen passes thus far before he got hurt.
28) One note on the NYG run defense, teams are scared of the DTs. The Giants are ranked 3rd overall by FootballOutsiders in run defense, trailing only the Broncos (probably due to teams passing a lot since they are behind) and the Jets. The left tackle runs, the Giants are 13th in the league, the right tackle runs, the Giants are 7th in the league, and runs up the gut, the Giants rank 2nd in the league. Teams have taken notice of this. Teams run up the middle only 44% of the time, which is 4th least in the league. Jerry Reese certainly did his job in this regard.
29) One stat I found incomprehensible considering the Giants propensity to let the clock run down to zero almost every play, they actually get their snap off in 26.78 seconds which, wait for it, is actually in the top half of the league! Ranked 12th. Still, the pace has been glacially slow up until the last few games. If there's anything that can get a stale offense going, its an uptempo drive. That needs to be a major change in the 2nd half of the season.
30) Finally, I'd be remiss to mention Peyton Hillis' and John Conner's job in pass protection. Those guys are so enormous, its essentially having two extra offensive linemen blocking for Eli Manning. It's really heartening to see them pick up the blocking scheme that quickly, and its clear both have made an impact on the team thus far.