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Interesting articles

Post  Big_Pete on Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:18 pm

Big Blue beat writer Ohm Youngmisuk takes a four-part look at what went wrong for the G-Men in 2010.

Part 1: Injuries leave G-Men limping
Part 2: Can't Dodge special teams mess
Part 3: Giants must turn over new leaf
Part 4: Season ended in eight minutes


Last edited by Big_Pete on Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Interesting articles

Post  Big_Pete on Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:19 pm

Part 1

Giants literally limped to finish line
G-Men won't use injuries as excuse for missing playoffs, but they sure didn't help

Youngmisuk By Ohm Youngmisuk

At times this season, some New York Giants could be seen maneuvering through the locker room on a scooter-like contraption that allowed hobbled players to transport themselves without putting weight on an injured leg.

[+] EnlargeMathias Kiwanuka
AP Photo/Bill KostrounDo you wonder what the Giants defense would've been like with Mathias Kiwanuka? His coordinator sure does.

And when the Giants cleaned out their lockers on Monday, Rich Seubert made his way to his locker on crutches while Hakeem Nicks walked with a boot on his foot.

From the offseason down to the final day of the season, the Giants had to deal with several injuries -- which are as much a part of the fabric of NFL life as practice and film study. The Giants, though, did have to deal with several to their offensive line and wide receivers.

They had 12 players on injured reserve at the end of the season, not including players like Sinorice Moss, who was placed on IR and then waived.

By comparison, playoff teams like the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts both had 16 players on their respective season-ending injured reserved lists. So every team deals with the injuries, and some have it worse.

"Some of the injuries to key players affected us," said Steve Tisch, the Giants' chairman and executive vice president. "But then again the guys who stepped in, in most situations, really filled those holes.

"Every team has injuries and I think this year the injuries hurt us a little more maybe than some other teams. But it never got us down and never diminished our spirit to win and play as a team."

Still, you can't help but wonder:

Perhaps the Giants (10-6) could've won one more game and reached the playoffs had Mathias Kiwanuka, the team's most versatile defensive player, not been lost to a neck injury in late October.

How To Fix The Giants

Maybe the Giants beat the Philadelphia Eagles at least once if Steve Smith was healthy. Smith missed both Eagles games, one due to a pectoral injury and the other because of a knee injury that landed him on injured reserve right before the home collapse to the Eagles.

Who knows what the special teams would have looked like if returner Domenik Hixon didn't make that one cut on the fresh turf at the New Meadowlands Stadium and suffer a season-ending ACL injury during the team's first practice there?

Perhaps third-round pick Chad Jones would have been able to contribute on special teams had he not been involved in a car accident that has left his career in jeopardy.

While the Giants did struggle to replace Hixon on punt returns, they did well at managing injuries to the offensive line and about as good as they could when the injury bug bit the receiving corps.

The Giants had their starting offensive linemen together for a total of only six games, as foot and Achilles injuries hampered center Shaun O'Hara all season. Tom Coughlin had to start six different starting combinations on the line as O'Hara, Shawn Andrews (back) and David Diehl (hip/hamstring) all missed time. Even backups William Beatty and Adam Koets suffered serious injuries.

Injury Timeline

Some key, season-ending injuries during the Giants' 2010 season:

July 16: Domenik Hixon placed on IR after tearing ACL during first practice in June at New Meadowlands Stadium.

July 29: S Chad Jones placed on reserve/non-football injury list after car accident.

Oct. 16: WR Victor Cruz placed on IR after suffering hamstring injury.

Oct. 28: DE Mathias Kiwanuka placed on IR with neck injury.

Nov. 9: C Adam Koets, who started three games for injured Shaun O'Hara, placed on IR with knee injury.

Nov. 16: WR Ramses Barden, who finally got some playing time due to an injury to Steve Smith, placed on IR with season-ending ankle injury.

Dec. 16: Smith on IR due to knee injury suffered after he returned from a four-game layoff due to pectoral injury.

-- Ohm Youngmisuk

But the Giants' line excelled at times as Seubert, Kevin Boothe and Diehl showed their versatility and played different positions.

Injuries created opportunities for many. When fullback Madison Hedgecock hurt his hamstring four games into the season, the Giants found a player in tight end Bear Pascoe, who moved to fullback and thrived.

The injuries to the wide receivers unit are the ones that might've played a part in keeping the Giants out of the postseason for a second straight season.

Eli Manning threw a league-high 25 interceptions and five of his receivers landed on injured reserve. The Giants had to place Smith, Ramses Barden, Victor Cruz, Moss and Hixon all on IR in 2010.

The team added Derek Hagan, Michael Clayton and Devin Thomas all in November during a time when a quarterback and his receivers should be well into a groove.

The Giants still won two games against Jacksonville and Washington despite their top two receivers -- Nicks and Smith -- sitting out due to injuries. But if Manning had more continuity with his receivers, he might have had five to 10 fewer interceptions.

After injuries to key players like Antonio Pierce, Kenny Phillips, Aaron Ross, Chris Canty and Brandon Jacobs helped lead to a disappointing 8-8 finish in 2009, general manager Jerry Reese's goal in the offseason was to provide the team with depth to withstand more injuries.

"We had some depth," Reese said. "The offensive line, for instance, we shuffled them back three or four times and were able to get through with it and the receivers, we scrambled with the receivers two or three times.

"Those really were our spots where we got banged up the most and we got through it good enough to get us where we wanted to be, but it just didn't happen for us."

The Giants never used injuries as an excuse. And several Giants, such as Osi Umenyiora and Barry Cofield, played through pain. Both said this week that they will need offseason surgery.

With a potential lockout looming, there could be plenty of time for players to heal up for next season. The Giants hope they'll have better luck with health in 2011.

As for 2010, they can only wonder what might've been had the Giants been at full-strength or even a little bit healthier in one of those two games against the Eagles.

"I think about that all the time," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said last week when asked how different life might've been if he had Kiwanuka to use all season long.

"Tom tells me, 'Don't cry over spilled milk.' You never know the impact of a player, but I think about [Kiwanuka ] like, 'Boy if we had him, we could do this, we could do this. We would be like this, we would be like that. We could change our complexion a little bit more.'

"But we'll never know."
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Re: Interesting articles

Post  Big_Pete on Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:21 pm

Part 2

Giants can't Dodge special teams issues
Punter's problems tops among troubles for a unit that needs serious shaping up in 2011

Youngmisuk By Ohm Youngmisuk

Long before the football sailed off Matt Dodge's foot to DeSean Jackson, special teams was a headache for Tom Coughlin.

Starting with Jeff Feagles' retirement in April to the moment Domenik Hixon crumpled in pain after tearing his ACL on the new turf in a practice at New Meadowlands Stadium in June, the New York Giants' special teams suffered massive losses in the offseason it would never recover from during the 2010 season.

Dodge struggled to step into Feagles' cleats and the Giants kept auditioning replacements for Hixon throughout the season with no luck. Now, as the Giants look toward 2011, they must figure out a way to improve their special teams -- a weakness all season.

Not only did they struggle in punting and punt returning, their coverage was shaky at times as well.

"There's no question," Coughlin said. "We've got to improve [our special teams play]. Provided we can get this thing resolved so that Matt is in here, Matt needs to work almost situationally every day on it. A young punter that has got to grow from the experiences that he's had and get better, that's going to help us a lot."

Dodge was the poster boy for the Giants' special teams struggles. The seventh-round pick finished third to last in net average with 34.3 yards per punt. The Giants love his rocket-powered leg but the young punter redefined the term roller coaster this season. Early on, Dodge had trouble at times even executing the fundamentals of catching the snap and then dropping the ball to punt.

It often looked like Dodge had no idea where his punts were heading. But as the season progressed, he did show signs of improvement and tantalizing flashes of his powerful leg. Unfortunately, the one crucial time the team needed him to deliver in the clutch, he failed miserably.

Instead of punting the ball out of bounds as instructed against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15, he sent it right to Jackson, who scored on the final play of regulation to complete a stunning 38-31 come-from-behind win that set off Coughlin like an erupting volcano. Dodge, of course, wasn't solely responsible for the Giants' blowing a 31-10 lead in the final eight minutes, but his mistake punctuated the team's most damaging defeat, one that ultimately cost them the playoffs.

On other occasions, Dodge out-kicked his coverage team. Still, the Giants and Coughlin supported the maligned punter and are hoping Dodge will thrive next season after all he has been through this year. The Giants have stuck with Dodge this far, so they plan on bringing him back to compete for the job next season.

"We think he's talented, but we always try to create competition and we aren't just going to lay dead and think, 'Well, he's going to be the guy,'" general manager Jerry Reese said. "He'll have some competition moving forward. [Dodge] did a good job at times. We think he has great potential."

Dodge, who absorbed all the criticism throughout the season and always stood tall and talked candidly about his inconsistencies, vowed to stay ahead of his competition.

"I guarantee no one is going to outwork me in the offseason," Dodge said.

Dodge admits his rookie season was more topsy-turvy than any ride at Six Flags.

"There's no kind of screw up that I can say I didn't get to experience this year, so that will help me a lot," Dodge said. "I went into this season with a lot unknown and now I've got my share of crazy experiences so I think I'll be better for it."

Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn will also have to find a way to improve his return team and punt coverage team. What would help is more talent. The Giants need better special teams players starting with someone to return punts.

Hixon, whose contract expires after 2010, has been rehabbing his knee injury and wants to reclaim his old job.

"To be honest with you, I think I'll be better," Hixon said. "On the outside looking in, you get a different perspective."

It wasn't hard for Hixon or anyone else to see how badly the Giants fared without him. Darius Reynaud finished last in the NFL in punt returns with an average of 5.7 yards. The Giants brought in Will Blackmon and he was only a slight improvement before getting injured. Aaron Ross finished out the year as the punt returner.

D.J. Ware provided a late spark as the kickoff returner but the Giants desperately need speed and a playmaker on special teams. Reese's top priority in the draft is to take talent and the more athletes he picks, the better his special teams might be.

There were some positives on special teams as Lawrence Tynes converted on 16 straight field goals after the Giants replaced Dodge with Sage Rosenfels as the team's holder in Week 5. Tynes missed his last field goal of the season to snap the streak, finishing 19-of-23 on the season.

Rookie defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul also emerged as a special teams standout on coverage teams, often drawing double teams and plenty of praise from Coughlin.

Dodge hopes he'll be hearing Coughlin's praises soon.

"Until they tell me otherwise," Dodge said, "I'll be back for sure."

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Re: Interesting articles

Post  Big_Pete on Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:22 pm

Part 3

Giants must turn over a new leaf in 2011
Eli Manning & Co. can't give away another season with out-of-control INTs, fumbles

Youngmisuk By Ohm Youngmisuk

As Tom Coughlin enters what could be a long offseason with a potential labor stoppage looming, the New York Giants head coach will have plenty of time to digest all the turnovers that plagued his team this season.

The Giants led the NFL with 42 turnovers. If there was a way to lose the ball, the Giants pretty much found it. Whether it was having passes get tipped off the fingers of their own receivers, throwing a left-handed interception into the end zone or losing a fumble because of a failure to slide, the Giants discovered ways to beat themselves -- and sometimes got creative doing it.

Coughlin even used the term "psychological" when discussing turnovers a few weeks ago. Now the Giants, who finished with 10 wins but out of the playoffs, have an entire offseason to correct a major reason why they weren't able to reach the postseason.

The Giants' 42 turnovers led to 107 points by the opposition. During their six losses, the Giants gave the ball away 22 times. If they cut that number by only five, they might be preparing for a playoff game this week.

"I think we could have won a couple more games," said general manager Jerry Reese, whose team also led the NFL in takeaways with 39. "If you take away 10 of the turnovers right there, there's probably two games there."

Eli Manning's otherwise good statistical season was marred by turnovers. He threw for 4,002 yards and 31 touchdowns but had a league-leading 25 interceptions. He also lost five fumbles.

Manning had his share of bad luck as a good amount of his interceptions went off the hands of his own receivers. That happened from the first game of the season against Carolina all the way to the last game of the year in Washington.

But many times, Manning tried too hard to make something happen. He lost a crucial fumble late in the fourth quarter in a 27-17 loss to the Eagles after he failed to slide on a first-down scramble, killing any hope of a comeback.

"Obviously we have to do a better job protecting the ball, I don't know if that was always the reason that we lost all our games," Manning said. "Some turnovers came at the end of games when you're trying to get back into it. That's definitely an area that we have to correct. There are other things that we have to correct that sometimes lead to turnovers, and that's something we'll look at in the offseason, why some of the turnovers and why, on my part, interceptions were occurring."

Manning stayed healthy this season but he still had to deal with injuries around him. He had his starting offensive line in front of him for a total of six games. Center Shaun O'Hara dealt with foot injuries all season long, and the Giants were forced to start six different offensive line combinations due to various injuries.

Five of Manning's wide receivers went on injured reserve and he had to play seven games without his Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith due to pectoral and knee injuries. He also lost Hakeem Nicks for three games and had to get late-season additions Derek Hagan, Michael Clayton and Devin Thomas up to speed in late November.

The Giants had to move receivers around and it was hard to replicate Manning's comfort level with his most trusted targets.

"You're trying to move receivers around, and it's tough," Manning said. "On paper, you kind of draw it up and you think they know what they're doing, but all of a sudden, you get different coverage and you have a little pressure and you have to move around and your timing is just off.

"We weren't as sharp as we needed to be on some of our route running and decision-making. Every week, it seemed like Manningham was playing a new spot. We just kind of had a roller coaster of different receivers in and out."

Manning shouldered the blame and said he will fix the turnover epidemic, insisting, "I'm not a 25-interception quarterback."

Critics have wondered if Manning, who turned 30 this week, has taken a step back after winning the Super Bowl during the 2007 season.

"That is for other people to judge," team president and CEO John Mara said. "Obviously, it wasn't his best year. But he had a lot of tipped balls, also playing with I don't know how many combinations on the offensive line and how many combinations at receiver. I don't think we need to kill him for all the interceptions. He's our guy going forward and he's won before and we think he will win again."

Manning and his receivers weren't the only ones with butterfingers. Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled seven times, losing six of them. He lost the ball so many times Coughlin demoted him and started Brandon Jacobs at the end of November.

The Giants continued to use their leading rusher more than Jacobs but the fumbles have some wondering if the Giants will move forward with Bradshaw, whose contract is up after he ran for 1,235 yards and eight touchdowns.

Coughlin loves Bradshaw, who plays hurt and runs as hard as anyone in the game. But Bradshaw will have to go to the Tiki Barber school for ball protection this offseason. Bradshaw did try carrying the football around with him, holding it high and tight like Coughlin teaches him. He might need an entire offseason of doing that, though.

Just two years ago, the Giants and the Miami Dolphins set an NFL record with just 13 giveaways in a 16-game season. But they had 31 in 2009 and now have had a total of 73 turnovers in the past two seasons.

"I think we can [fix it]," Coughlin said. "We can do something with design, we can do something with individuals. There may be certain things that have to be accomplished by just knowing who is doing what and where and when, so I think that we can."
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Re: Interesting articles

Post  Big_Pete on Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:24 pm

Part 4

The Giants' eight minutes of infamy
Say what you want, but Big Blue's season ended with DeSean Jackson's punt return TD

Youngmisuk By Ohm Youngmisuk

The defining moment of the New York Giants' 2010 season came in eight minutes and 17 seconds. That was the amount of time it took Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles to erase a 31-10 lead and ultimately end the Giants' postseason hopes.

In eight minutes, the Giants went from potential NFC East champions to sliding straight out of the playoffs and into a second straight offseason of frustration.

Disastrous speed dates don't even go this bad.

"It really came down to one bad half of a quarter for us, but I don't think when that happens that means you have to blow the whole thing up," team president and CEO John Mara said.

No matter what some players tried to say, there was no denying that the Giants' 2010 season was decided by an unbelievable eight-minute collapse against the Eagles.

As Osi Umenyiora repeatedly said, had the Giants made just one more play, they could be division champs and in the playoffs.

If Kenny Phillips had been able to tackle Brent Celek, the Eagles wouldn't have scored on a 65-yard touchdown catch-and-run that started a 28-0 run to finish the game.

If Tom Coughlin put his hands team on the field for the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles might not have converted an onside kick with 7:28 left that lead to another Philadelphia touchdown.

If the Giants defense was able to tackle Vick, the Eagles' quarterback might not have had scrambles of 35, 33 and 22 yards. On the 33-yard run, Vick converted a third-and-10 from the Eagles' 12. On another scramble, safety Deon Grant had a clear shot at Vick only to come too high and see the elusive quarterback escape.

And finally, if rookie punter Matt Dodge was able to punt out of bounds, as instructed, DeSean Jackson would have never been able to end the game with a 65-yard punt return that was the play of the year.

After all that, the Giants still had an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth the following week, but they were demolished in Green Bay, 45-17.

Players and coaches said they saw no signs during practices of a hangover from the demoralizing debacle the week before. But the score indicated otherwise, as the Giants were hammered by another hot quarterback in Aaron Rodgers.

"I'm not going to lie, that game took a lot out [of us], I know it took a lot out of me," safety Antrel Rolle said of the Philly loss on his weekly spot with WFAN radio this week. "I try my best to have amnesia just to let it go, but I don't know. ... That is the worst loss I've ever faced since I've been playing football at the age of 6. I have lost national titles and Super Bowls but I have never experienced a loss like that."

Certainly there were other games the Giants should've and could've won. They lost 29-10 against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3 after suffering a meltdown and were flagged for 11 penalties. And they should've taken care of business at home against the Dallas Cowboys, who beat the Giants, 33-20, in Jason Garrett's debut on Nov. 14.

Also, there was the 27-17 loss to the Eagles at Philadelphia the following week, when they led 17-16 in the fourth quarter before surrendering a 50-yard touchdown run to LeSean McCoy on a fourth-and-1.

General manager Jerry Reese said he was disappointed in the big plays the Giants allowed this season. Opponents scored five touchdowns of 50 yards or longer this season.

"I look at a lot of issues that added into this factor," defensive end Justin Tuck said of missing the playoffs. "I know, to a lot of people, [the Eagles loss was] the standout issue. It was resounding, I guess, but we lost other games, too. If we win some of the other games, that game isn't as important as it was. I don't think that ruined our season. It's high on the list of things that I wish I could take back for this year, but that one incident didn't ruin our year."

Of course, if the Giants (10-6) were just able to stop one of those explosive plays in the Eagles collapse, they would've been talking about their upcoming playoff opponent last Monday instead of what went wrong.

"If we make one play on either side of the ball or on special teams or anywhere, make one first down, the result is different," Mara said. "Yeah, you ask yourself that quite a bit."
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Re: Interesting articles

Post  Pizan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:46 am

Part 1 - Every team has injuries
Part 2 - I miss Feagles
Part 3 - Bench the players causing turnovers. I don't care if there name rhymes with fanning.
Part 4 - No Comment.

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