Week 9 Sneak Peek: Colts standing in the way of Giants’ progress

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The Colts are coming! The Colts are coming!

The Giants host the powerful Indianapolis Colts this coming Monday in a game both teams need to win to stay afloat in their respective division races.

Indianapolis is 5-3 and are currently one game ahead of the 4-4 Houston Texans in the AFC South. The Giants are 3-4 and are in third place looking up at the 6-2 Dallas Cowboys and 5-2 Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.

“We can get back in the race. It is not over right now. It is still early,” said Giants’ GM Jerry Reese at his press conference this week. “There are still a lot of teams that have chance to get back in the picture. We think we are one of the teams that can do that. We have to start right here, right now, on Monday night and get ready to beat a good football team.”

“We have experienced our ups and downs and we started off the same way that New York started off, losing a couple of games, found a way to win a couple games here and there, it is difficult,” Colts head coach Chuck Pagano told reporters this week. “What I see is a really good football team and a really well-coached football team in all three phases. I’ve got the utmost respect for coach Tom Coughlin and the entire staff there. He does a great job, he has done a great job forever, hold him in the highest regard. You’ve got a defense that’s got a bunch of game-wreckers upfront, the front seven, that is going to be very, very difficult to block. Those guys still can bring it and cause problems from a protection standpoint.

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Bradshaw and Nicks enjoying second chances

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Ahmad Bradshaw, a former Giants back and starter, is one of the most versatile running backs in the NFL. -- USA Today Sports.

The Giants have had recent success this past decade because they brought in some extraordinary players with skill, heart and toughness. RB Ahmad Bradshaw and WR Hakeem Nicks were two of those players.

This coming Monday they will be at MetLife Stadium again, but on the opposing sidelines with their new team, the Indianapolis Colts. Most of the football-watching public are well aware that these ex-Giant veterans are experiencing a second chapter of their careers alongside the NFL’s newest superstar, QB Andrew Luck.

“They were tremendous football players,” said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin of Nicks and Bradshaw on his Wednesday conference call with the media.

Bradshaw, a seventh round draft pick in 2007, won two Super Bowls with the Giants. He was one of the franchise’s most compelling success stories, even with all the injuries he endured. Bradshaw signed with the Colts as s free agent in 2013.

Nicks was the Giants top selection in the 2009 NFL Draft and was one of the club’s most prolific receivers until injuries slowed him down as well.

Bradshaw is currently averaging 4.9 yards per carry and is leading all NFL running backs with six receiving TDs. Nicks, who had no TD catches for the Giants in 2013, has two TDs this season but is not a starter. It is clear he is not the player he once was with the Giants but Coughlin has not forgotten the type of players both can be.

“When I watch the tape and I see the way that they progressed and the way they’re playing this year, there’s no doubt that it sends us back a couple of years to when they were both here. They’re outstanding young men, they work hard. You know that in Bradshaw you have a very tough, tough guy who loves to play. It’s interesting, I would kid him that, you know he’s caught as many balls as he has and he’s had success with the catch and run after the catch, and scored a number of touchdowns, and he used to yell at me for wanting to run it more. I wonder now if he wants to catch it more (laughs). But he’s done very well and both of those guys meant a great deal to our team.”

QB Eli Manning has not forgotten how integral Bradshaw and Nicks were to the team’s Super Bowl XLVI victory over New England in February of 2012.

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Giants must get that stout run defense back

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

Tom Coughlin once said, in order to stop the pass, you must address the run first. His logic  comes from the belief that if your defense can dictate things along the line of scrimmage, you’re halfway home.

USATSI_8074846_110579513_lowresIt works most of the time. Last year, the Giants lined up against almost all of the NFL’s top rushing offense and played stout to the point where they were able to win seven of their last ten games. This season, they have not been as effective vs the run and it has been costly.

In 2013, the Giants allowed 3.8 YPC and 108.9 YPG on the ground as opposed to 4.4 YPC and 122 YPG this season. They allowed just 12 rushing TDs in 2013. They have already given up eight this season.

Only two of their four linemen have played up to expectations – DE Jason Pierre-Paul and DT Jon Hankins. JPP is third in the league in tackles among defensive lineman. Hankins is 16th. The rest of the Giant linemen are way down the list.

DTs Cullen Jenkins, 33, and Mike Patterson, 31 made a gig difference as free agents last season clogging the middle, but their performance has tailed off this year. Jenkins is currently out with a calf ailment and Patterson opened the season with a sore shoulder. Markus Kuhn has come back slowly from a lost season after knee surgery and third-round draft choice Jay Bromley has not gotten enough reps to form a judgement on. There isn’t a lot to draw from here. They need to play better, that’s all.

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Giants sign CB; Beason surgery set

The Giants have signed CB Mike Harris off the Lions’ practice squad.

From Rotoworld:

A third-year sixth rounder, Harris was signed off the Lions’ practice squad. Harris will provide depth as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (ankle, hamstring) works his way back to 100 percent health. (Source: Tim Twentyman on Twitter Oct 28)

Harris (5’10”, 188) was a member of the Jaguars in 2012 and 2013 and landed with Detroit as a free agent this season. In 31 games in Jacksonville , Harris compiled 92 tackles, one sack, one INT and eight passes defended.

The NFL trading deadline passed at midnight on Tuesday. The Giants, like most teams, did not make a deal.

MLB Jon Beason said on WFAN on Monday that he will undergo surgery on his foot on Wednesday.

Giants begin second half of uneven season

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The Giants will reassemble at QDTC this morning as they prepare for the second half of their season. They will practice this morning, followed by comments from players, head coach Tom Coughlin and yes, GM Jerry Reese.

Over the break, the Giants entertained a slew of free agents in hopes of finding some live bodies to supplement their diminishing roster. They found no one worthy at the moment.

According to the Giants they have 12 players on the IR lists, the second most in the league behind the Colts, who will be here next Monday night.

Ten players are on season-ending IR: WR Victor Cruz, CB Walter Thurmond III, CB Trumaine McBride, OL Rogers Gaines, WR Marcus Harris, CB Travis Howard, WR Jerrel Jernigan, OT Troy Kropog, S Cooper Taylor and RB David Wilson

OL Geoff Schwartz on IR/Designated for Return. CB Bennett Jackson is on Practice Squad/Injured.

LB Jon Beason will likely be placed on IR this week if he opts for surgery on his ailing foot.

The Giants are heading into the killer part of the schedule, with a gauntlet of games that no team would envy. After hosting the Colts, the Giants travel to Seattle then come home to host the 49ers and Cowboys. At 3-4, they need to split these games to have any chance to make a playoff run.

Players to watch going forward: WRs Odell Beckham, Jr. and Rueben Randle; OL Weston Richburg; DE Damontre Moore; TE Larry Donnell; LB Devon Kennard; DT Jon Hankins and RB Andre Williams.

The development of these players will determine whether the Giants have a core to build on. JPP, Stevie Brown, Antrel Rolle and Jacquian Williams are all in the final years of their contracts and will be on display the final nine games.

Talking Giants defense at the bye

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

In a nutshell: MLB Jon Beason will likely opt to have surgery on his ailing foot and miss the rest of the season. The front seven has to step up and do a better job now that the secondary has taken on some losses due to injuries.

Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith (77) blocks New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) in the game at AT&T Stadium. Dallas beat New York 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith (77) blocks New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) in the game at AT&T Stadium. Dallas beat New York 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

After a 7-9 campaign last year, many felt the Giants needed a change at defensive coordinator in the offseason. It didn’t happen and Perry Fewell and his flawed philosophy was allowed to continue forward.

The results have been much the same, even with all of the changes they made personnel-wise. Injuries have certainly restricted whatever plans Fewell and his coaches were going to try to implement.

The defensive line played the run well last season, but have been inconsistent thus far. Their level of play has dropped, even with JPP and Jon Hankins playing well in run situations. Back-to-back games vs last year’s rushing champ, LeSean McCoy, and this year’s juggernaut, DeMarco Murray, did not help and have skewed the stats in the wrong direction.

Fewell’s system is built around a strong pass rush. So, why aren’t they getting their best pass rushers on the field more often? JPP needs to be rotated around so that teams can’t gameplan for him. By shuffling him around, they can also get him into mismatches in his favor. It’s not written in stone that he has to play DE every down.

The Giants have two pass rushers that they have to give more playing time to: Damontre Moore and Robert Ayers, Jr. Both players have more upside than Mathias Kiwanuka and the Giants would serve themselves well if they allowed them to show it. Unfortunately, teams know they can make yards on the ground vs. the Giants and the shortage of passing situations has kept them both on the bench.

DL coach Robert Nunn: “The last two games we have not created a lot of pass rush situations, so his numbers have been limited. Damontré needs to continue to improve and continue to stay focused on what we are doing on first and second down. He can do it. He is a lighter body, not ideal, but he can play it. He has to stay focused and continue to improve in that area and he will get more at-bats. He is going to get more opportunities on third down and so he just has to keep coming along and improve on first and second down. If he does that, then he is going to get those opportunities in pass rush situations.”

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