Giants Troubles Start With Reese’s Decisions, Not Rough Schedule

Published on: 22nd November, 2011

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Giants Manning Gets Hit
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New York – It’s not so much that the Giants are heading into (or have already entered) the toughest part of their schedule, the portion of their season that most pundits agree will make or break their season and perhaps, the coaching career of Tom Coughlin.

It’s not that the Giants will be facing New Orleans down in the Superdome this Sunday and then, the defending champion Green Bay Packers the following Sunday in New Jersey. It goes without saying this will be the ultimate litmus test for the men in blue,  who will most assuredly be pronounced underdogs in both contests.  

After having just lost their last two games to the 49ers and the Eagles, dropping their record from 6-2 to 6-4 and leaving them in a first-place tie with the Cowboys, it’s become clear to Coughlin and his charges that every game from here on will have the feel and urgency of a playoff game, especially with the surging Cowboys looking to take over the NFC East Division lead.  

But, it’s not really about the schedule, Giants fans. It’s about how this Giants team, this roster of an eclectic mix of old veterans and very inexperienced players, simply isn’t good enough to compete on a consistently high level in the NFL.

When Giants General Manager Jerry Reese was putting together the 2011 version of the Giants during the off-season, after a 10-6 2010 season did not yield a playoff position, he made the conscious decision to jettison solid, productive young veterans like Steve Smith and Kevin Boss right out of Eli Manning’s arsenal. These were not old players, they just didn’t provide the on-field value, in Reese’s opinion, to commit the franchise to the types of contracts and dollars they were asking for. It didn’t matter to Reese that both Boss and Smith played key roles as rookies in the Giants last Super Bowl championship run, and in that historic game itself. Business was business for Reese, sentiment be damned.

As it’s turned out through these first ten games of the season, Reese’s judgment call to go with youngsters like Victor Cruz and the undrafted rookie tight end from Ohio State, Jake Ballard, has shown both good and not so good results. The not so good results have had mostly to do with these players’ ability to catch the football consistently, an issue never before associated with Smith or Boss, both of whom had reliable, upper-echelon NFL hands of glue.  Since catching a football is the primary prerequisite of an NFL receiver, the troubling track record of both Cruz and Ballard letting passes from Manning hit them squarely in the hands followed by the ball falling to the ground has had a deleterious affect on the Giants ability to sustain drives and score points. A major no-no for a team that needs to play mistake-free football in order to compete.

Reese also took a similar tact towards re-stocking talent along the offensive line and the linebacker corps. In both cases, the results have ranged from spotty to disastrous. Whether or not one believes Sean O’Hara and Rich Seubert, both coming off of injuries, could have eventually helped the Giants win this season, their replacements have turned out to be abominable, at best. Manning has gotten hit more often than ever before in his career, and though the quarterback, now 30-years old, is playing at the highest level of his career, he’s doing it through no help from the weak pass-blocking and the even weaker run-blocking of the five blocks of broken granite lining up in front of him.

The Giants gained all of 29 yards rushing against the Eagles this past Sunday, a 17-10 loss. The booing from the stands of loyal Giants fans made it clear nobody was happy with the type of production Reese had hoped for from his refurbished line.

O’Hara was replaced at center by a free-agent signed from the San Francisco 49ers, David Baas, who, according to Reese was of Pro Bowl caliber, tough and mean. The best thing that could be said about Baas, so far, is that he isn’t even of O’Hara’s caliber.

Will Beatty, third-round draft choice in 2009, had very little playing experience in his first two years but was handed the crucial left offensive tackle job, protecting Manning’s back side against the other team’s best pass rusher. The best that can be said about Beatty is that he is not of David Diehl’s caliber at the position. And, if you watched Beatty struggle to protect his quarterback last Sunday against the Eagles, you had to feel badly for the punishment Manning was taking from Eagles defensive end, Trent Cole and from defensive tackle, Cullen Jenkins, both of whom ripped through Beatty and Diehl with ease the entire night.

And, Diehl, moved inside to left guard to take over for Rich Seubert, has been shockingly bad and outmanned by quicker, younger, stronger defensive tackles. More surprisingly, Diehl, a seven-year veteran has not provided the leadership or toughness that Seubert lent to the team.

The linebacker corps against the Eagles included the rookie feel-good story of the year, Mark Herzlich, in his first start; Jacquan Williams, another rookie who wasn’t even drafted out of college, and Mathias Kiwanuka, a transformed defensive end with little linebacker experience. Michael Boley, the only experienced player at the position the Giants have, was injured and out. Herzlich, who recovered from cancer to make it to the NFL as a free-agent out of Boston College, did okay, for a rookie. But, his mistakes in not dropping into pass coverage with enough depth led to Philadelphia touchdowns.

Did Reese leave Coughlin and his defensive coordinator, Perry Fewell, short of experience and talent at so crucial a position? Uh, yup, he did.

Yes, the Giants will be facing this Sunday, a New Orleans team coming off a bye this past weekend, leaving them well-healed from injuries and well-rested (11 days since their last game).  

But, it’s not only that the Saints may seem mostly unstoppable for the Giants this Sunday with the ball in the hands of their great quarterback, Drew Brees, flinging it all over the field to a flock of outstanding receivers.

When Aaron Rodgers and his Packers come to New Jersey the following week, once again, it won’t be about whether the Big Blue can stop the juggernaut from Wisconsin. It’s almost an understood reality that most NFL teams cannot slow down Rodgers’ high-octane offensive skills.

It’s really about whether the Giants, aging in spots and simply too young in other spots, can figure out how to perform miracles and win these games. Unfortunately, it was because of  Jerry Reese’s off-season personnel decisions, leaving the Giants without leadership and proven experience during playoff intensity games, that these next few contests on the Giants schedule seem unwinnable, indeed in need of a miracle to even compete.

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