Time for my weekly swap of questions with long-time Giants beat writer Ernie Palladino, which we do every Friday. My answers to these same questions will be found some time today at Ernie's Giants beat.
1. How important is it that Michael Boley and Chris Canty get back into the lineup this week?
Ernie's Answer: I've totally changed my thinking on this. I never expected the Giants to drop three straight after that start. But since they have, this game with San Diego has become as close to a must-win game as one gets at this time of year. A lot of my readers have coined it an "All hands on deck" game, and I agree. Any available swinging...well, you know, has to be out there. Now, considering the dismal showing of the linebackers and the apparent lack of speed in the unit, Boley's presence is a must. If he can move at all, it's still an upgrade over Chase Blackburn. And who knows, Boley might even be able to get home on the blitz. As for Canty, the middle of that line needs a big, tall guy to hinder Rivers' field of vision. If he can come in on just the passing downs, get those 747 wings up, and bat a couple of balls, it will have been worth rushing him back. This defense needs something, and the Giants are paying both Boley and Canty a lot of money. Ideally, I'd have liked them to sit out until Atlanta, after the bye, but the season has reached too critical a stage to hold off on using them.
2. Would four losses in a row basically set this team on an irretrievable spiral after the bye?
Ernie's Answer: I asked that same question Wednesday to Tom Coughlin, and he didn't even want to think about the possibility. Wouldn't address it at all. I don't blame him. He knows what losing a fourth straight game would do to this team. It would utterly destroy what little of their confidence is left. You know, there's a big difference in an 0-8 team hitting a bye and one that was formerly 5-0. The winless team knows it's bad, and it can use the bye to reassess its dedication to the sport, hone up on fundamentals, whatever. The 5-0 team who drops four straight just before the bye is a tortured one, condemned now to wonder for two whole weeks how such a successful season started sinking into oblivion. The fact that they'll still be a game above .500 won't matter. It's the thought of, "Where the hell is rock bottom here," that will haunt the players. That could lead to all sorts of things, and self-doubt is the most mild manifestation. Finger-pointing, insurrection, summary execution of the coaching staff, the whole bit. Lose this game and things could get very, very ugly. And the coach knows it. No wonder Coughlin didn't want any part of the question.
3. What does Eli Manning have to do to fix his accuracy problems?
Ernie's Answer: A remedial reading course wouldn't hurt. You know, the kind where an assistant sits down with him and says, "See that guy in the different-colored uniform? If he's too close to your guy, don't throw there. Either throw it away or check down. And stop picking at that, you'll make it bleed!" Of course, convincing people like Mario Manningham to run a proper route wouldn't hurt, either. Whatever. Eli simply needs to settle down and start reading defenses like he was last season and at the beginning of this season. If he does that, and he's decisive in his throws, I believe the passes will find their marks more consistently.
4. Would a coaching change, ala John Hufnagel, help anything at this point?
Ernie's Answer: Nah. Everybody wants to put Kevin Gilbride's and Bill Sheridan's heads on pikes and display them at the Tower of London. Look, aside from Gilbride trying to call the spectacular play every third-and-short he comes across, these guys aren't calling such horrendous games. Sheridan blitzed a lot against Philadelphia. Is it his fault virtually none of them got home? As for Gilbride, yeah, he should probably use Kevin Boss more and commit to the run. But a little prodding from Coughlin should take care of that. So should a little play-action in the Red Zone, which will be effective only if the Giants establish the run first. Note the trend here. Run. And now that Boley is expected back, perhaps those blitzes Sheridan calls will have some effect. Oh, I know. Do something about C.C. Brown. And what would you like Sheridan to do? Aaron Rouse isn't the answer. Terrell Thomas or Aaron Ross might be, but he can't do anything until Ross is healthy. So he's hamstrung. Not his fault. So don't anticipate any changes. Do anticipate Coughlin getting on both their backs to alter their play calling a bit, however.