The New York Giants have five games to play, and still a very good chance to win the NFC East and advance to the playoffs. Before you downplay getting to the playoffs with a mediocre team, remember what the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks did in 2010, winning a wild-card game. Getting there is getting there, no matter how it happens.
With that said, let's move on to this week's "Five things I think I think" about the Giants.
I think I'm worried about Justin Pugh
Pugh was originally diagnosed with an illness and not a concussion following the Nov. 8 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He hasn't played since, and coach Tom Coughlin said Monday Pugh is still in the league's concussion protocol. I think it's safe to believe that the concussion was suffered in the Buccaneers game, which makes it more than three weeks now that Pugh has been dealing with it.
This is Pugh's second concussion as an NFL player, having dealt with one during training camp of his rookie season. The length of time he has dealt with the effects of this one is a huge red flag. If Pugh isn't cleared this week you have to begin to wonder about his availability for the rest of the season and, of course, the long-term impacts on both Pugh as a person and the Giants as a team.
The young man's health is first and foremost, obviously. From a pure football standpoint, though, Pugh is a former first-round pick and a cornerstone player expected to anchor the offensive line for several more seasons. I'm leaping way ahead here, but it becomes a major issue if the Giants can't count on that.
I think this is a must-read
Good friend and Big Blue Chat podcast co-host Pat Traina has penned an excellent look at the work of Giants general manager Jerry Reese over the past six seasons. If you have been reading Big Blue View for any length of time, like since Monday, you know that I have been critical of Reese and the Giants' personnel department.
Reese, of course, doesn't coach. He doesn't manage the clock. He doesn't prepare the team week-in and week-out for games. He does, however, have final say over who is on the roster and who is not. When there are great decisions, like drafting Odell Beckham Jr., he deserves credit for those. When there are poor decisions, when the roster lacks talent in certain areas, when and if there are players brought in who don't really fit what the coaching staff is looking for, the GM deserves criticism.
Traina's work takes a look at the good and bad from the Giants in terms of personnel the past few years. In the end, talent wins in the NFL. Has Reese found the Giants enough of it? Judge for yourself.
I think I need to give DRC props
When the Giants gave Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie big money ($35 million over five year, $13.98 million guaranteed) I will admit I greeted the move with trepidation. Rodgers-Cromartie came with a resume that showed he could be, and had been at times, a fantastic player. He also came with a reputation as a guy who didn't always play hard, who would lose interest, who perhaps didn't love the game. He also came advertised as a guy who didn't like contact, didn't like to tackle. Some would even say he was "soft," one of the worst words than can be associated with a football player.
After nearly two full seasons with the Giants I have nothing but respect for Rodgers-Cromartie. The guy played hurt almost all of last season, going in and out of games based on how much his injured legs could take, continuing despite the Giants season being a lost cause. In recent weeks, he is doing it again. Who thought DRC would play any more Sunday after he was dragged off the field unable to put weight on his right foot. Yet, he returned and continued to play well.
This is not a guy who is disinterested. This is a guy giving his team everything he can. He is also not shying away from delivering a hit when it's called for, either.
No matter if the Giants make the playoffs or change coaches there is going to be a pretty substantial roster turnover following this season. Rodgers-Cromartie has now received all of his guaranteed money so, theoretically, he could be a victim of any roster re-structuring. I can't, however, imagine the Giants letting him go.
I think I still can't explain Sunday
The fact that the Giants lost on Sunday probably shouldn't be a stunner. They aren't a great team, they are a mediocre one. They are capable of both beating anyone and losing to anyone. What was really a stunner was that they lost without really bothering to show up, without ever actually giving themselves a chance.
What is the explanation for that? Is it on Tom Coughlin? You can certainly pin blame on him, preparation and motivation is a big part of the coach's job. Thing is, Coughlin has historically been good at those things. Is it a lack of locker room leadership? Is it just the type of players the Giants have in the locker room.
There are very few players on the Giants who have ever actually won anything at the NFL level. Eli Manning, Zak DeOssie, Prince Amukamara, Pierre-Paul and Hakeem Nicks are the only ones I can think of left from the last Super Bowl team. Many, probably most, of the players in the locker room are either veteran players who have done a lot more losing than winning in the NFL, or young players still trying to figure out what the league is all about.
Are there enough players in the locker room who understand the increased urgency of a playoff drive, and what that requires? Are there enough players who even care, or are there too many guys simply happy to be NFL players and enjoying the perks of being a pro athlete in New York? It's not a defense of Coughlin, but sometimes I wonder if he cares more about winning than many of his players do.
I think I'm offering these personnel suggestions
Tom, Jerry, Steve, Ben, are you reading? You and your team have five games left to get this season right, and despite everything there is still an excellent opportunity to do that. Tom, you fell back on one of your favorite sayings the other day, stating that "this is our team, these are our guys."
Well, yes. There are no new players riding in at this point to change this team or save the day. I would, however, submit that there are a few personnel moves you can still make to give the Giants a better chance.
- Give Orleans Darkwa the rock. Enough with the dang running back by committee, already! Darkwa isn't Adrien Peterson or Todd Gurley, but pretty much everyone can see he is the best running back you have. Rashad Jennings is getting a nice chunk of change from you, but he's a plodder. Shane Vereen is a nice change of pace pass catcher. Andre Williams either needs to be the lead back and get 15 carries, or not play at all. I would suggest in this circumstance that he not play at all. Darkwa has the thinnest resume, a UDFA you pulled off the Miami Dolphins practice squad. If you are ever going to get some semblance of a real running game, though, he's your best chance. It's time to recognize that. This is the NFL, not Pop Warner where everybody gets a chance.
- Play Trumaine McBride. While Jayron Hosley and Trevin Wade have been playing, and struggling, McBride has been mostly just watching, playing all of one snap last week. McBride is not a great player, but he is a veteran who has at least had some success in the league -- including with the Giants. As porous as the pass defense has been, give the guy a chance.
- Less Craig Dahl. I know you like the veteran safety because he knows the defense and tries to do the right thing. I know he played pretty well against Rob Gronkowki. But, Dahl isn't very good. How is it a good idea to play three safeties when precisely none of them are any good in pass coverage? Let the athletic J.T. Thomas stay on the field and cover tight ends. Or, let Jonathan Casillas do that. From here it certainly doesn't look like Dahl is really adding anything when he's on the field.