Giants Week 17 defensive report card, presented by Long Island University

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Overall Grade: D: It actually should be an F, but, hey, it’s the giving season so why not? When you give up 27 points, 426 net yards and 5.1 YPA on the ground, things did not go well. Still, the Giants did play well in spots, holding the Eagles to 7-of-16 on third down and 2-for-4 in the red zone.

Long Island UniversityThe defense on the season was a mess thanks to season-ending injuries to MLB Jon Beason, LB Jacquian Williams and CBs Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond III and Trumaine McBride. They allowed 400 points on the season, tied for fourth-worst in team history. On a positive note, they recorded 47 sacks, up from 34 last year, and the most since 2011 when they had 48 and won the Super Bowl.

DL – Grade: C-: Call it a good sign. JPP and Jon Hankins both started every game this season. On this team, that’s a badge of honor. JPP Had two sacks of Mark Sanchez, raising his season total to 12.5, the most by a Giant since he had 16.5 in 2011. The bad news is they haven’t been able to stop the run all year and they didn’t again this week. DT Markus Kuhn got his first career sack.

LB – Grade: C: Jameel McClain (8 tackles, six solo, 1 PD) closed out his debut season in Blue with another fine performance. Mark Herzlich had seven tackles and a sack. Still, this group was supposed by about Beason, the team leader on defense; Williams, who way ahead in tackles when he got hurt halfway through the season and rookie Devon Kennard. The effort was there this week from the others, but more is obviously needed.

CB – Grade: C: Mike Harris has been a pleasant surprise as a mid-season free agent add. He led the way on Sunday with ten solo tackles, an INT and a PD. Chykie Brown had six total tackles and DRC was quiet as the Eagles chose to steer away from him for the most part. He did allow a few to be caught on him, however. To read more of this story, click here

Season ends with trademark loss to Eagles

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

After finishing 7-9 last year, the Giants retooled and came back this year to prove they were not losers. They were bitten hard again by the injury bug and actually finished 6-10, one game worse than last year.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York GiantsThe season ended with a game that resembles a microcosm of the Giants’ problems the past two years: the opponent ran the ball at will, the special teams gave up a score and the offense failed in key spots, especially in the red zone.

In a contest that could have put a cherry on the season with a four-game winning streak, the Giants fell to the Eagles for the fifth time in seven games. Philadelphia did what they did best yesterday: hand the ball off and watch the Giants struggle to stop them.

The Giants failed to defeat another opponent with a winning record and we were reminded of why the Giants were going for only their second consecutive seven-win season yesterday. They have not solved their problems at some key positions, mainly tight end and in the trenches, and will face many of the same questions they faced last offseason. They ran the ball poorly again, gaining just 3.0 YPC.

Even though the Giants’ defense was only on the field for 25 minutes, they looked a step slower all afternoon. Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense had the lead for all but short stint right before halftime.  It didn’t help that the Giants’ lost two more defensive players, safeties Stevie Brown and Nat Berhe, early in the game.

QB Eli Manning came out firing, hitting his talented group of wide receivers for huge gains, but the Giants’ offense sputtered when it counted. They were 7-18 on third down and 1-3 in the red zone. Manning threw catchable passes that were not caught. They settled for FGs instead of TDs  too often.

There were some good things, though. Manning had one of his best days ever, throwing for 429 yards on 53 attempts, but had only one TD pass and his lone interception late in the game killed the Giants’ last hope of winning.

Odell Beckham, Jr. continued to post historic numbers and his cohort, Rueben Randle, had his biggest game as a pro. The two combined for 18 receptions and 343 yards yesterday.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul had two more sacks, finishing the season with 12.5 which will undoubtedly jack up his price this offseason. He was one of the Giants’ pregame captains, leaving fans wondering if its a sign of commitment by the team or a fitting farewell.

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Last game for Fewell?

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Perry Fewell has been the Giants’ defensive coordinator since 2010. During that period, the Giants’ defense has been ranked among the best – and worst – in the NFL. His “bend but don’t break” philosophy has taken the Giants to the top of the league, winning a Super Bowl. But it also has failed miserably at times, exposing the team both personnel-wise as well as calling into question the team’s defensive strategy.

USATSI_4971254_110579513_lowresLast season, the Giants made a change at offensive coordinator, bringing in Ben McAdoo to replace the retiring Kevin Gilbride. At least that was the official narrative. This year, with the team missing the playoffs for the third straight season, many feel it’s time for a change on defense.

“No, not really. I just prepare for the next opponent, and I go at it like that,” Fewell replied Friday when asked if he thought this Sunday’s game vs the Eagles was his last with the Giants.

Fewell, like all of the team’s employees will learn their fate after the season. It is widely believed that head coach Tom Coughlin will be retained, but will be asked to make changes among the rank and file within his coaching staff.

If this is his finale as DC, Fewell is not reflecting on his time here. Coaches all know. Getting fired is just like getting hired. It’s one of the hard facts of the profession.

“I haven’t really thought about it. I wouldn’t even reflect on it,” he said.

To Fewell’s credit, his defense has been a force on occasion amassing takeways and sacks, stopping the run and shutting down historic offenses in postseason play. To his detriment, Fewell’s unit has been on the receiving end of some inexplicable beatings, surrendering large chunks of yards and points while failing to hold leads late in games.

Many readers of this column, and others, would not be sorry to see him go. I personally believe it’s time for a change. As for Fewell, he’s a class guy and a pro all the way. He will certainly be coaching somewhere next season. I just don’t think it will be here.

Rehabbing Beason, Cruz wondering what might have been

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Injuries have been a major story with the Giants and with one more game to go this season, a meaningless one playoff-wise, everyone is sitting around contemplating what might have been.

Two integral Giant captains, WR Victor Cruz and MLB Jon Beason, are two of the nearly two dozen players the Giants placed on injured reserve this season. Their services were sorely missed and one wonders where the Giants would be right now if these two key players were able to play out the season.

“It’s been tough being out, obviously, during that span of those games that we lost because you feel helpless, like you want to do something but you can’t,” Cruz told reporters this week. “But watching Odell has been fun. He’s been great. That kid is a heck of an athlete, heck of a ball player. Just seeing the things that he’s doing out there is motivating me to come back and be able to play next to him and do some really good things next year.”

Cruz went down with a torn patellar tendon in the Giants’ first meeting with Philadelphia in October. It was Beckham’s second game as a pro. The Giants were still breaking OBJ in, so we never got to see the full effect of both players on the field at the same time.

It’s no guarantee that a Cruz/Beckham tandem would produce a bonanza of points, but we’d sure like to see it. There is still only one football, so it’s possible that had Cruz not gotten hurt, Beckham’s targets would be severely limited. Still, it’s a good problem to have.

Beason, one of the Giants’ defensive captains and the one who wears the headset on the field, tore a ligament and fractured the sesamoid bone in his toe in the team’s minicamp in June. He played in just four games and was clearly not himself on the field this season. The defense struggled without him, especially against the run. It was hard for Beason to watch.

“Obviously, you wish you can contribute,”  said Beason in an interview session this week. “You want to be the reason why things are going well and not why they are going bad. You look at what the guys are able to do. You sit back and watch the film, and you say, ‘it’s really a matter of taking ownership and being where you are supposed to be, being accountable.’ That was a big thing. You don’t give up the huge rushing games we have or in terms of points scored against us. It was pretty bad, and pretty consistently bad for a while, but you step up and you look at yourself first and see how you can get better. I think that is what guys did individually.”

One player that righted the ship was Beason’s replacement, Jameel McClain, who shifted to MLB from the outside. McClain leads the Giants n tackles with 108 (68 solo), has two sacks and fumble recovery. Beason believes the defense will benefit greatly in 2015 with McClain and himself on the field together.

“I think Jameel McClain has done a great job, first off. It is a lot of pressure to be a mike linebacker,” said Beason. “A lot of times when things go well, you don’t necessarily get the praise for it. When things go bad, you usually take the blame for it. It is kind of like being a quarterback. He has done a great job, he has the personality for it. He’s made some huge plays for us. He is going to be a big part of what we are doing next year. I think it is something we can build off of.”

Both Beason and Cruz are rehabbing on schedule, and will come back to a more-fortified Giants roster in 2015.


Rookies Donald, Martin make Pro Bowl; Odell an alternate

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The 2014 NFL Draft class has been well received by critics and fans alike. Many rookies have made an impact in their inaugural seasons but making the Pro Bowl as a rookie appears to be a major challenge.

The top rookies being talked about – the Giants’ Odell Beckham, Jr., Tampa’s Mike Evans, the Raiders’ Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins of Buffalo and the Bengals’ Jeremy Hill – made major debuts this fall but all are on the outside looking in when it comes to the upcoming Pro Bowl.

Only three players selected last April were named to the Pro Bowl this week. Two of them, Dallas OL Zach Martin (No. 16 overall) and Rams DT Aaron Donald (No. 13), were both penciled as possible Giants during the mock draft season and many others felt the third rookie Pro Bowler, Alabama LB CJ Mosely, taken 17th overall by Baltimore, would fit nicely as well.

The Giants had Beckham rated higher and selected him at 12. In the beginning, Beckham was shelved with a tricky hamstring. He missed all of training camp and the preseason and then sat out the Giants’ first four games. Fans were wondering if the Giants had made the right choice in bypassing Martin, who stepped right into a starting position with the hated Cowboys and Donald, who would have helped stabilize the middle of their defensive line.

But Beckham turned out to be the right move by GM Jerry Reese. He is as productive as he is electrifying. In just 11 games, OBJ has 79 receptions for 1,120 yards and 11 TDs. Tops of the 2014 draft class.

Beckham and Mack have been named as alternates and will likely participate in the game. As for the more experienced Giants’ players, none were named to the roster, which is no longer determined by conference. DE Jason Pierre-Paul was also chosen as an alternate.


Giants Week 16 offensive report card, presented by Long Island University

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The performance was a surprise to some, but the Giants were prepared. Sparked by a focused Eli Manning and Rueben Randle the offense went off against the Rams’ overzealous defense, taking the lead early and never looking back. WR Odell Beckham, Jr. and RB Andre Williams continued their strong rookie campaigns. They exceeded 100 yards in the same game for the second time this season. Before this year, Giants rookies had not had 100 rushing and 100 receiving yards in the same game even once.

Long Island UniversityThe Giants’ 514 yards, are the most accumulated in a single game since they gained 604 yards in a victory over Tampa Bay on Sept. 16, 2012. The 386 net passing yards was their highest total since they threw for 428 yards on Sept. 8, 2013 against Dallas. Eli Manning racked up a 131.5 QBR in the first half, completing 16 of 18 passes for 200 yards and a TD.

The Giants had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver for the first time since Dec. 1, 2011, in a victory at Dallas, where Manning threw for 400 yards, Brandon Jacobs ran for 101 yards and Nicks had 163 receiving yards.

For the second game in a row, the Giants did not have an offensive turnover, the first time that’s happened since Oct. 21 and 27, 2013, in victories over Minnesota and Philadelphia. They have won six consecutive games in which they did not commit an offensive turnover. Go figure.

QB: Grade A: Manning completed 25 of 32 passes for 391 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 148.8. The rating was his highest in a full game in his 11-year career. Against a Rams’ team that was playing as stingy a defense as we’ve seen in recent memory, that’s an incredible accomplishment. Eli threw the ball with authority and a crispness not seen in years by Giant fans. Too little, too late, I know. But it’s an encouraging sign that he’s far from done. In fact, his future looks bright. To read more of this story, click here

Coughlin full of praise after win over Rams

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has spent most of the second half of this season speaking about amazing rookie WR Odell Beckham, Jr. Monday morning, on his conference call with reporters, Coughlin took the time to recognize several other rookies:

“I would have to say I was very pleased with a lot of our young guys, to be honest with you,” the coach said. “I would talk about Kerry Wynn for a minute, with an interception, a fumble recovery and playing a lot more in the rotation than he normally would have because of Damontré Moore’s ejection. I also would recognize Nat Berhe, who did an outstanding job of recovering a fumble and making a tackle on the kickoff at the 10-yard line. Orleans Darkwa, who forced a fumble and then had an opportunity to play in the game and scored a touchdown on an outstanding run where he started one way and [the Rams] defense surrounded him and then all of a sudden, he broke out of the crowd and got in position to where he was able to score a touchdown there.”

But the truth is, the whole team has elevated their game. Sunday’s win in St. Louis against a rugged Rams team was a quite an impressive one. Veterans and rookies alike took charge of this game from the beginning and never let go.

“You saw a couple of really good, young running backs,” Coughlin continued. “The Rams with [Tre] Mason and Andre Williams, who played well for us and displayed some powerful runs. He did an outstanding job there and, of course, Odell Beckham, who had eight catches for 148 yards and a long of 80. [He] continued his outstanding play. Then I would mention outstanding pressure on the quarterback. Of course, Jason Pierre-Paul continued his outstanding play. Then, Eli Manning, with an outstanding football game with a quarterback rating of 148.8, 25 for 32 for 391 [yards], three touchdowns and no interceptions.”

The coach added the team was plus-three turnover-wise and outplayed the Rams in all of the key aspects of the game with good energy. He mentioned the melee in the first half sparked by the Rams’ late hits on Beckham, but was pleased the game calmed down and his team kept their composure and got the victory.

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