There is a lot to discuss when it comes to your 1-2 New York Giants. Let's get right to much of it in this week's edition of "Five things I think I think" about the Giants.
I think we need to be realistic about Victor Cruz
It is wonderful that Victor Cruz, nearly a year after his horrifying torn patellar tendon injury suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles, expects to return to an NFL playing field Sunday when the Giants face the Buffalo Bills. I think, however, that it is unrealistic to expect him to be THAT Victor Cruz, the game-breaking, salsa-dancing sensation who set a tea record with 1,536 receiving yards in 2011 and backed that up with another 1,000-plus receiving yards season in 2012. At least not Sunday in Buffalo. Maybe not for a while, in fact.
I hate to go all Tom Coughlin here, but I guess I'm going all Tom Coughlin here. Cruz hasn't practiced on the filed with his temmates, hasn't caught a pass from Eli Manning or run a pass route against a defender in six weeks. He can talk all he wants about how he is running and feeling good, but there is a difference between running and playing football. It's about as wide as, oh, the Atlantic Ocean.
To expect Cruz to be CRUZ on Sunday is expecting too much. Remember Thursday when middle linebacker Jon Beason played for the first time in six weeks. Other than snaps played, Beason didn't appear anywhere on the stat sheet. He helped the Giants with his presence, not necessarily his performance.
The situation could well be the same for Cruz. He has to have some doubt what will happen with his calf if he has to go all out and extend for a ball. He has to wonder what will happen with his knee the first time he has to plant his foot and make a violent cut, or the first time a defender puts a helmet on that surgically-repaired knee. The timing between he and Manning can't be what it would be had he been practicing all along. Cruz can't be expected to do more than play a limited number of snaps.
It is great to have Cruz back. Just don't expect him to be great right away.
I think Justin Pugh deserves a lot of credit
I neglected to include Justin Pugh in the "Kudos & Wet Willies" following Thursday's game against the Washington Redskins, but Pugh deserved a "Kudos." Peter King pointed out just how good Pugh was subbing for Ereck Flowers at left tackle -- 32 pass drops for Eli Manning, two pressures, no hits, no sacks allowed by Pugh.
Think about what Pugh means to the Giants. He moved from right tackle to the less glamorous left guard spot, giving the Giants a young triumvirate on the left side of the line to build around. He is the backup left tackle. He is probably also the backup right tackle. In the locker room, he is the lineman everyone goes to for comment. He is the David Diehl of this generation of Giants, he can go just about anywhere on the line whenever you need him. Oh, and he's probably a better player than Diehl ever was.
At this point, Pugh is the one offensive lineman the Giants absolutely cannot afford to lose.
I think I will always have a soft spot for Steve Weatherford, but ...
Brad Wing is making an ENORMOUS difference for the Giants as their punter. I have immense respect for Weatherford, and what he accomplished both on the field with the Giants and in the community with all of his volunteer efforts. Shoot, the truth is that while he was a Giant Weatherford was easily the player in the Giants' locker room I was closest to.
Here is a sad truth, though. There were health-related reasons that contributed -- namely torn ankle ligaments and a back injury -- but Weatherford didn't do his job incredibly well last year. Too many line drive punts, too many punts that were supposed to be outside the numbers that ended up in the middle of the field. In all honesty, throughout training camp and the preseason Weatherford really didn't punt the ball any better.
Three games is too small of a sample size to draw a conclusion, but Wing has made the Giants look brilliant thus far for sending a conditional draft pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers to acquire him.
He has punted 12 times and leads the league in punts downed inside the 20-yard line with eight. He is tied for the league lead in punts fair caught with six. Only three of his punts have been returned for a total of 17 yards. So, 75 percent of his punts have not been returned, and the ones that have been returned have gone for an average of 5.6 yards per return. Wing's net average is 41.4 yards per punt.
Last season, 37 of Weatherford's 80 punts (46.25 percent) were returned, and opponents averaged 10.6 yards per return. While Weatherford 45.5 yards per punt average is far superior to Wing's 42.8, his net of 38.6 is three yards worse.
So, yes, replacing Weatherford with Wing looks -- so far -- like the right move by the Giants.
I think we need to talk about Damontre Moore
I think I really wanted the subhead for this to be "I think fans really need to stop obsessing about the number of snaps Damontre Moore is playing and start obsessing about the fact that he isn't doing anything with the ones he does get."
I think that's the blunt, harsh truth but it's just a tad long for a subhead.
For two-plus seasons now, virtually every time we put together a post here at Big Blue View listing snap counts there is some gnashing of teeth over how many snaps the young defensive end gets, or doesn't get. And, of course, plenty of Coughlin-bashing.
Moore has been on the field for 89 snaps thru the first three games. Moore has two tackles in those 89 snaps and no sacks. Pro Football Focus credits him with six total pressures in 70 pass rush snaps, a pass rush productivity percentage of 6.4. In 2014, Moore's PRP was 11.4, eighth in the league among 4-3 defensive ends who played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps. So, we see regression in the first three games rather than progression.
Moore is still just 23, but this is his third season in the NFL. His third season in the same locker room with the same head coach. His third year, and third chance, to figure out hwo to be a good NFL player. He isn't there yet, but if Moore doesn't figure it out at some point this season and start making some plays he is going to creep into that much too long category of "disappointing Jerry Reese draft picks."
The Giants desperately need a pass rusher to step forward, and on physical skill alone Moore is their best chance at having that happen. I think, though, that it's time for everyone to stop demanding that Moore get in the games. It's time to start demanding that he actually gets something done when he does get in the game.
I think Sunday is crucial for the Giants
Let's face it, the way the Giants tossed away their first two game of the 2015 season they have reduced their margin for error to zero. That doesn't mean they can't lose another football game. That's unrealistic. And absurd. They will lose more games this season. It means they can't give away any more games they should win. It means they need to catch a break here and there along the way. It means they need to win games are supposed to win. It means they really need to win the next two weeks to set up upcoming games in back-to-back weeks against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
The Giants feel much better about themselves at 1-2 than they would have at 0-3. And they should. The flip side of that is they have still given away two games that should have been victories. The team they beat, the Washington Redskins, might as well be named the Washington Generals. At least when they play the Giants.
The Giants feel like they are a good football team, despite the unfortunate way the season began. They can legitimize that feeling with a victory on Sunday, and there is an opportunity to get one.
Personally, I don't care about the line that says the Bills are 6-point favorites. I don't care that Buffalo is coming off a 41-14 victory over a seemingly going through the motions Miami Dolphins team. I don't care that Buffalo is 2-1 and the Giants 1-2. I don't care that Tyrod Taylor has a passer rating of 116.1. He's Tyrod Taylor, a fifth-year player seeing his first real action.
This is a winnable game for the New York Football Giants. One that they need. One that will help shape whether or not 2015 is a successful season or not.
A bonus thought
Yours truly had a little fun Monday stirring the pot with the James Jones stuff. Then Jones went out and had a seven-catch, 139-yard night for the Green Bay Packers in a 38-28 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Jones had a 27-yard touchdown catch and a 52-yard grab. I know, not funny anymore.
It is pretty clear that the Giants made a mistake cutting Jones and keeping Preston Parker. We will never know exactly why. I have my suspicions, though, that Jones heart was in Green Bay and that, given the chance, what he really wanted to do is play for the Packers.
Jones now has 12 receptions for 219 yards (18.3 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. Great numbers that, without knowing the whole story, make the Giants look foolish for cutting him. Thing is, if you think Jones would be putting up these numbers for the Giants I think you are kidding yourself.
Jones had banked seven years of work with Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. He knows every route in the Green Bay playbook. He knows exactly what Rodgers is asking him to do with every nod or subtle gesture. He didn't have that with Eli Manning, and we saw some mis-communications between the two in the preseason. Sure, he could have developed a rapport with Manning and had he been on the receiving end of some of the throws Parker dropped he likely would have caught them.
I think, though, that believing Jones would be starring for the Giants the way he is for the Packers is assuming too much.