This week we check in with Andrew Ilnicki of GMen HQ for some insight on Sunday’s opponent the New York Giants:
TVA: A bunch of important offensive players have been missing recently for the Giants, including Steve Smith, David Diehl and Shaun O’Hara. Which guy have they missed the most?
GMenHQ: On that list, WR Steve Smith. Eli was having trouble moving the chains on short passes without him, but Derek Hagan improved his route running and had a tremendous game against the Redskins last week. The offensive line has held together well — they’e had 10 or so different configurations since camp and haven’t given up a sack in the last 5 games. Also, as of last game the running lanes have never been wider. Rookies have filled in extremely well across the board on the line, Beatty and Boothe have done extremely well the last few weeks and I’m a bit nervous that the Giants would fix something that really isn’t broke by returning Diehl to the lineup. Other than that, WR Hakeem Nicks was on track to have a pro bowl year before the Eagles game, then had to have surgery on his leg. He’ll be back this week, as will Smith.
TVA: Jason Pierre-Paul has really burst on the scene here the last few weeks. Tell us a little bit about this guy. He seems to be an emerging star.
GMenHQ: He had only played a handful of college football games at USF but the Giants front office felt he had the most upside of anyone in the draft. Talk about vision from Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese... After Antonio Pierce went out last season, we had all hoped the Giants would draft a MLB like Rolando McClain that went to the Raiders — they didn’t. They went with JPP and had committed to him as a project player with limited snaps. It didn’t exactly work that way. He broke out in camp, did well in the preseason, and with an injuries and lack of production here and there around the defense he has since emerged as a significant pass rushing threat regardless of where he lines up. He’ll play LB, DE, DT — they move him around and keep the offense guessing as to who’s rushing and who’s in coverage. Since Mathias Kiwanuka ended up on IR, JPP has taken his place more or less as that wildcard pass rusher. He’s had a great last few weeks recording multiple sacks and forced fumbles — he has freakishly long arms, is quick, nimble, and of course he’s EXTREMELY powerful. The Giants made the right choice drafting him for sure.
TVA: Eli Manning is starting his 100th consecutive game Sunday. This is an amazing feat for a guy who at one point seemed on the verge of getting run out of the league. What are your thoughts on the durable Mr. Eli?
GMenHQ: I love Easy E. He”s tough, no question about it. But you know in the beginning it was tough, watching him struggle. If I bring myself back (and it’s hard to remember given all that’s happened with the Giants since) but in 2006 I think I was on Tiki Barber‘s side and felt Coughlin and Manning were on the verge. In 2007 though, the defense was much much better under Spagnuolo, gave Eli and the offense more reps, more opportunities — and suddenly there was a spark. They turned a corner, the potential had been actualized and everyone felt it, atleast if you were a Giants fan. Then before the playoffs – you knew if they could just get in the postseason and minimize mistakes they had a chance to do something special, and they did. Eli matured, led his team to victory after victory. It seemed like he turned a corner every game. Just matured, became a true professional — and hasn’t stopped improving since. In 2008 he had a great year, last year he was tremendous with some better WR options, and this year with his weapons in the system under Kevin Gilbride — this offense can be one of the deadliest attacks in the NFL when they get going. At times, they just have looked ridiculous. Eli knows the offense inside and out, knows the options, and has communicated well with his receivers and backs and everyone is on the same page. It’s been quite a ride, he’s quite a player. Gotta love him for it if you’re a Giants fan.
TVA: The Giants have bounced back well from a disappointing 2009. What’s been the main key behind this quick resurgence?
GMenHQ: So many things. First and foremost, the defense is now back on track. That is the biggest improvement. Perry Fewell‘s scheme has a lot to do with it, as personnel changes with Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant coming into the secondary. Jon Goff has a year under his belt now as MLB and has been great for most of the year. Keith Bulluck is now here at OLB. But people forget what the Giants were accomplishing before last year’s collapse in the second half of the season. In 2007 and 2008 under Steve Spagnuolo‘s defense — they were SB champs and NFC regular season champs respectively. In 2009, Spags leaves and is replaced by Bill “Vanilla Cover 2″ Sheridan. Disaster. Kenny Phillips and Antonio Pierce are injured in the first half of the season. C.C. Brown and Michael Johnson were two of the worst safeties in the NFL, now neither are with the Giants. Both Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs were injured last year, this year they have both been healthy after off season surgeries. It’s a completely revitalized team in many ways and all of these things play into it. Hopefully they can stay relatively healthy now as we wind down the rest of the regular season.
TVA: For the first time in forever, it seems the Jets are dominating the headlines in New York, relegating the Giants to 2nd-tier status. How does it feel playing second fiddle to the loudmouthed Rex Ryan and his bunch of over-confident players?
GMenHQ: I think after their loss to the Patriots, the Jets need to get ahold of themselves a little bit. Take a time out from patting themselves on the back prematurely. I like NY teams, I’m a home team kinda guy — but the Giants are on another level than the Jets. The Giants have demonstrated that they are a class A organization from soup to nuts. The Jets are just nuts. They talk trash, they invite high expectations, they over-promise and under-deliver when it matters. But I’m fine with the Jets making the headlines in NY. The Giants then can fly under the radar as the underdogs once again and surprise everyone quietly.
Prediction: Big Blue dominates and Favre doesn’t finish the first half. 33-13 Giants
Site5 and Fansided Holiday Season Charity Drive: Give to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.