The bye week is over. The New York Giants have had time now to look in the mirror and assess what has gone wrong during their current unexpected four-game slide into mediocrity.
The question now is simple. What can they do to turn things around over the next seven games? Can they get back to being the team we all thought they were going to be, and that they were through a 5-0 start?
Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan was asked last week about using the bye week to make changes in areas where his defense has been struggling. His answer, I thought, was instructive not just for the defense but for the Giants as a whole. I am taking a little editorial license with Sheridan's remarks, removing the parts where he specifically discussed red zone defense.
"You can sit back and look at a nine game self-scout and kind of take a picture of what you are doing ... How you are playing defense and what kind of calls you are or are not making. It gives you a chance, about a couple of days to do that, to maybe rethink some thoughts defensively about what you can do maybe a little differently," Sheridan said. "You can’t make dramatic changes but you definitely can modify it ... I think you can step back and take a look at what you are doing and maybe consider some other types of things."
Like I said, I think Sheridan's words apply to the entire team. Tom Coughlin, Kevin Gilbride, the players -- everyone. Now that they have had time to think about what has gone wrong, can they make some changes to get this ship sailing back in the right direction?
Here are my suggestions for things I would like to see the Giants do differently during the remaining seven games.
A lot more Brandon Jacobs. Is he running well? Isn't he running well? I'm tired of talking about it. Fact is, during the four-game skid he simply hasn't been running enough. In four losses Jacobs had 7, 13, 20 and 11 carries, 12.75 per game. In the five previous wins, Jacobs had more than 20 carries three times and no less than 16 in any game. He averaged 20 carries in those five victories. When the Giants are playing football their way, dominating teams physically and controlling the clock, Jacobs is punishing defenses 17-25 times per game. It's time to stop protecting the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Jacobs and start using him. As Yogi Berra would say "it's getting late early around here."
Stick with the short passing game. The Giants offense got back to the short, ball-control type passes against San Diego, and it's a trend I would like to see continue. There is a time and place for the long ball, and it is awesome when it works, but let's be honest. After beating up on JV teams the early part of the season Gilbride and Eli Manning fell in love with it. The Giants best receiver, Steve Smith, is a machine on short-to-intermediate routes. Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks are showing the ability to turn short throws into huge plays. Kevin Boss is a quality tight end. You don't have to throw the ball 40 or 50 yards downfield to make teams pay for stuffing the box or blitzing the house. Short, quick completions they can't cover -- and ones that occasionally turn into huge gains -- will do the trick. Besides, we are heading into that time of year in the Meadowlands where we know throwing the ball down the field will become more and more dicey. So, stick with what you do best, and what has the best chance to succeed.
Give me some Ramses Barden. Please. I know the third-round pick from Cal-Poly is a work in progress. And I know he has to contribute on special teams to be active on Sunday. But the guy is a 6-foot-6 physical freak, and he needs to be given an opportunity to get on the field and make a couple of plays. Even if Barden doesn't run perfect routes, I saw over and over during training camp that he can use his size and strength to make plays in traffic even when he seems covered. C'mon, now! Is Sinorice Moss really helping the special teams enough to keep Barden inactive every Sunday? I don't think so.
Unleash Danny Ware. We all love Ahmad Bradshaw, but it is plain to see that AB's foot and ankle injuries are slowing him down. His production just hasn't been the same in recent weeks. Ware has fresh legs, gobs of talent and he is dying for an opportunity. I think it's time the Giants give him one.
More Clint Sintim. During pre-season, a lot of folks thought Sintim, the second-round pick, would be the Giants rookie who had the biggest impact this season. A leg injury has derailed the young linebacker, but he is healthy now. Danny Clark might grade out OK on film, but we all know he is not a play maker. The Giants need play makers on defense right now, guys who are fast, strong, athletic and can make plays that change games. Michael Boley and Chris Canty might be those kinds of players. Sintim, too. The Giants need to get him on the field and see what he can do.
Less zone blitz. In fact, no zone blitz. Rip it out of the defensive playbook. I really, really hope that Bill Sheridan has looked at his propensity to call zone blitzes -- something he promised he would not do -- and realize that is the dumbest defense ever invented that is not called the prevent. Dropping Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka into coverage against tight ends is stupid, a recipe for failure. Let them do what they are paid to do, and what they do best, go crush some quarterbacks.
A little faith, Tom. The worst thing a head coach can do is play not to lose, rather than show faith in his eam and play to win. TC played not to lose at the end of the San Diego game, and ended up losing. If he allows the Giants to take a shot into the end zone and it doesn't work I can stomach that loss a lot easier. I also think TC's lack of faith is hurting the kicking game. Coughlin is so afraid of returns he has Jeff Feagles kicking everything out of bounds, and now Feagles -- one of the best directional punters ever -- is all screwed up. He's got Lawrence Tynes kicking squibbers and bouncers and God-awful looking kickoffs all over the place. Show a little faith in your coverage teams. And your quarterback, Tom. That's what you did in 2007. Don't show fear. Show belief.