The heavy lifting of the preseason is over, with only a Thursday night game against the New England Patriots remaining for the New York Giants. Roster cuts from 90 to 75 players are coming on Tuesday, along with some inevitable roster shuffling as new players are added. With those things in mind, let's run through this week's "Five things I think I think" about the Giants.
I think the Victor Cruz injury is a serious issue for the Giants
Cruz put a brave face on the situation with his injured calf on Monday, but this is not good. Not good at all. Cruz has not practiced since his calf injury was first reported on Aug. 19. If he hasn't even jogged yet, that means he will have been shut down for nearly three full weeks when the Giants begin practicing next for the Sept. 13 season opener vs. the Dallas Cowboys.
Cruz was just rounding into shape when the calf injury struck. Two days before the calf injury was reported, Cruz looked fantastic during a training camp practice I was able to attend. His work that night prompted me to write "made two spectacular moves during 1-on-1 drills that screamed 'I'm healthy.' "
Well, so much for that.
The injury and the resulting missed time complicates his comeback from the torn patellar tendon. Whether he played in any preseason games or not, Cruz needed the practice time to continue working his way back. Even if he plays vs. the Cowboys it will obviously be a diminished, rusty Cruz who isn't 100 percent physically and isn't completely in tune with the offense.
The other problem is that the Cruz injury complicates the construction of the 53-man roster. In all of the projections I have done the assumption has been that the Giants would keep six wide receivers. If they are uncertain about Cruz they may be forced to keep a seventh wide receiver. That might be good news for Preston Parker, who has experience in the slot. What position, though, would get shorted to add Cruz protection to the roster?
I think I'm glad Stevie Brown is back
In retrospect, Brown probably never should have been allowed to leave. He bolted the Giants for the Houston Texans for a one-year $825K deal with a paltry $40K guaranteed. Hard to believe the Giants couldn't, or wouldn't, match that offer. That's what happened, though, with the Giants choosing to start training camp with nary a truly experienced safety in sight.
So, yes, I'm glad he's back. That, however, doesn't mean he solves the Giants' problem at safety. The Giants let him leave because, bluntly, he was terrible in 2014. He lost his job to journeyman Quintin Demps, for crying out loud. The Texans couldn't have thought much of Brown because that same Demps is now on the Houston roster, and Brown is back with the Giants.
Per Pro Football Focus, Brown's passer rating against of 150.8 was the worst in the league among 91 safeties who played at least 25 percent of their team's defensive snaps. It won't comfort anyone to know that the second-worst rating of 140.5 belonged to Brandon Meriweather. Brown surrendered 13 completions and three touchdowns in 19 targets and gave up an average 10.6 yards after catch on each of those receptions.
The Giants are
banking on, hoping, praying that they get the 2012 version of Brown, the pre-torn ACL guy who had eight interceptions in 11 starts. This is sort of a case of the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. Brown and the Giants are comfortable with each other, and in the current less-than-ideal circumstance that counts for something. The real question is whether or not Brown can actually still play.
I think Tom Coughlin's comments about the deep pass were curious
If you have watched the Giants throughout the Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning era, you know that dinking and dunking their way downfield Chad Pennington style has never been their way. They like the deep shot. They are willing to accept the risk of the vertical pass for the reward when it works. There is a whole lot more old-fashioned Daryl Lamonica Oakland Raiders to this duo than there is West Coast offense precision.
Which is why the melding of Ben McAdoo's West Coast principles and the Coughlin-Manning desire for the home run remains so fascinating. And why Coughlin's frustration with the lack of vertical passing during the preseason is so interesting.
"I come from a long line of, I like the ball thrown down the field, I like taking shots, I like all of those things," Coughlin said. "It's one thing to talk about it, another thing to do it. We just haven't done it.
"We're not taking advantage of some of the opportunities that are created by the receivers. When a receiver is open down the field we've got to give him a chance."
I don't know if that's a message to McAdoo, to Manning or just general frustration from continuing to watch his team's offense misfire. Alex also pointed out the lack of vertical passing in his most recent "Blue Data" analysis. It is something that bears watching.
I think I feel for Nat Berhe
Second-year safety Nat Berhe is a terrific young man. I have talked with him on several occasions, and he has appeared with Pat Traina and I on the "Big Blue Chat" podcast. Berhe could also end up being a good NFL player. Many thought he would start alongside Landon Collins at safety this season. A spring calf injury that lingered and eventually led to surgery has, for now, put the kabosh on that possibility.
Berhe recently took to Twitter to, basically, campaign to avoid being placed on season-ending IR.
I'm just ready to start the healing process. Calf muscle looked good, the clot behind it was just putting pressure on the muscle.— Nat Berhe (@NatBerhe) August 28, 2015
Now that it's gone, I expect to heal up and play this season. I'm an expert in my body, knew something extra was going on. Now it's fixed.— Nat Berhe (@NatBerhe) August 28, 2015
I have been asked a number of times about the Giants either using the short-term IR designation for Berhe or simply carrying him on the roster until he is healthy. I honestly, and unfortunately, don't think the Giants can afford to do either.
Reality is, Berhe is an unknown. For all intents and purposes, he has not practiced at all -- going all the way back to OTAs. Even once he gets healthy enough to practice, he won't be anywhere near actually being ready to contribute because of that lack of practice time.
Unless you are absolutely certain he would be healthy a week or two into the regular season, the Giants can't carry him on the roster. As for short-term IR, I don't think that's an option, either. It goes back to him being pretty much an unknown quantity. Teams get one short-term IR designation. You want to use that on a key player, and right now Berhe doesn't really seem to qualify. Sadly.
I think Uani Unga needs to make the team
The Giants like Unga enough that he took some reps with the first-team nickel package Saturday vs. the New York Jets. Unga is a terrific story. He is a 27-year-old who suffered a devastating knee injury at the end of his 2013 senior season with BYU. He has lost time due to serving a two-year Mormon mission and transferring schools.
With the Giants' uncertainties at middle linebacker, though, finding a way to keep Unga would be an excellent idea.