Week 7: New York Giants Weekend Wrap-Up
Six weeks have already passed us by and the season is showing no signs of slowing down. The Giants are off to a solid 4-2 start, but they will try to capture their first divisional win of the season against the Washington Redskins this Sunday.
With so much going on all the time, it can get pretty difficult to keep up with all the news that occurs during the week. That’s why I decided to put together a weekly installment called the “Weekend Wrap-Up.”
The articles will be designed to highlight the five most interesting events, quotes, and anecdotes from the past week of practice. By reading the wrap-ups, every Giants fan will be thoroughly updated on all the latest information.
This week’s edition will touch on the progress of Martellus Bennett’s relationship with Eli Manning, Chris Canty’s return from PUP, the offensive line’s league-wide recognition, and more.
Martellus Bennett’s Relationship with His Quarterback Blossoms
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Just before the 2012 season began, tight end Martellus Bennett likened his relationship with quarterback Eli Manning to that of one with a new girlfriend. In order to form a strong bond with his quarterback, Bennett believes he needs to have a strong off-field bond first, as he explained to ESPN New York’s Ohm Youngmisuk back in September:
"I want [Manning] to be able to read my mind and my body language. It's like having a new girlfriend. You want to go to dinner dates to get to know her better and have a good conversation with her," Bennett said.
Now, nearly seven weeks into the season, it sounds like their relationship is going just swimmingly. Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reports that Bennett’s relationship is far closer than the one he had with his former quarterback, Tony Romo:
I think Romo is a great quarterback, and I think he’s done some great things for the Cowboys. But I just think his relationship with Witten is one of those special things they were able to build. Being here, I’ve just been trying to build the same thing with Eli. And I think I’ve had the chance to build and grow into that role instead of being the guy that’s going to be second hand in the relationship. It’s kind of like somebody who is dating two women. One woman is going to get more attention than the other.
Bennett may have been the third wheel in Dallas, but he seems to be handling his divorce from Romo and the Cowboys well. Manning has not voiced an opinion on his relationship with his new tight end—nor has his wife, Abby—but as long as Bennett is happy and producing, then the Giants should be content.
Prince Amukamara Has Goal to Become NFL’s Best Cornerback
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Cornerback Prince Amukamara is only one year removed from an ugly rookie season, but now he’s finally starting to play like a first-round draft pick. Amukamara told Tom Rock of Long Island Newsday that he has a goal to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but he realizes it will take a lot of work to get there:
“It’s huge. I have confidence in myself eventually, but before that I have to be the number one corner on this team and I don’t think I’m there yet. But I’ll just keep working,” Amukamara said.
Amukamara is clearly motivated to become one of the best defenders in the league, but he may actually be selling himself a bit short. While he’s not technically the team’s number one cornerback—that title still belongs to veteran Corey Webster—no one has outplayed him over the past few weeks.
After suffering a high ankle sprain in the preseason, Amukamara was forced to miss the first two weeks of the season. He came back strong in Week 3 against the Panthers, though, providing a bit of stability for a defensive backfield that had really struggled early on.
Last week against the 49ers Amukamara had his best game of the season. He recorded six tackles (all unassisted), three passes defended and a crucial interception. Amukamara probably has a way to go before his name gets thrown into the Defensive Player of the Year discussion, but his role as the team’s best corner has certainly become a realistic debate.
Chris Canty Returns to Practice, May Play Against Redskins
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Defensive tackle Chris Canty was an integral part of last year’s championship run, so when he was placed on the physically unable to perform list before the season, the Giants knew the defensive line would be at a serious disadvantage for the first six weeks.
New York’s defense held its own without Canty, but it doesn’t look like the team is going to waste any time getting him back into the action. The New York Post’s Paul Schwartz reports that head coach Tom Coughlin is impressed with Canty’s current physical condition:
He actually practiced well yesterday and today. He’s in very good condition. He’s in very good shape. There was no swelling, there was nothing. Hopefully, that’s the way it will stay. The biggest challenge is you are not in training camp. You can’t give the young man a training camp, you don’t have one. He’s got a week of practice, which is three hard days, but that’s it.
It’s encouraging to hear that Canty’s surgically repaired knee has held up through practice so far. With veteran Rocky Bernard out of the lineup (quad), rookie Markus Kuhn and second-year pro Marvin Austin have been major downgrades. Inserting Canty into the rotation will bolster both the Giants' pass rush and run defense.
Hopefully, Canty plays smart and does not rush back too fast. If he re-injures himself, it could mean another long recovery period. Canty, who has not played a game in eight months, needs to play it safe and avoid pushing his knee past what it can handle.
Jason Pierre-Paul Issues Robert Griffin III a Warning
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The Giants’ pass rush enjoyed a return to dominance against the 49ers last week, and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was a large part of the equation. He pestered the passer all day, collecting two sacks, three QB hits and a pass defended. Pierre-Paul was also formidable against the run, recording three tackles (two solo, two for a loss).
Pierre-Paul must be riding a wave of confidence, because he decided to issue Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III a warning earlier this week. The rookie sensation may have had a phenomenal Week 6 performance over the Vikings, but Pierre-Paul thinks it would be wise for Griffin III to keep his distance on Sunday, according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.
“Don’t bring it to my side,” Pierre-Paul told Vacchiano. “Go the other way.”
That’s pretty big talk, especially since Pierre-Paul admitted he was no longer having fun two weeks ago. A dominant performance against San Francisco must have changed his attitude, though, as Pierre-Paul has complete faith in the Giants’ once-struggling defensive front:
Trust me, we chase quarterbacks all time. We turn and run to the ball, no matter what. He may get past us and zoom right past us, but trust me we’re right behind him. You’ve got to respect that too. It’s not all about the speed. We’ve got guys, all 11 guys that can run to the ball very quick. You’d be surprised. Very surprised.
Griffin III should certainly heed Pierre-Paul’s warning, but the Giants’ All-Pro defensive end must realize that Griffin III’s world class speed helped him score a 76-yard touchdown around the left end last week. If Pierre-Paul wants to avoid a similar embarrassment, he’ll have to put his money where his mouth is.
Giants O-Line Earns Madden’s Most Valuable Protectors Award
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The Giants’ offensive line has quickly become one of the most cohesive units in the entire NFL. Last week, Hall of Fame head coach John Madden honored New York’s offensive line with its second Most Valuable Protectors (MVP) award in six games.
A season ago, New York had the league's worst ground game and provided quarterback Eli Manning with shoddy, unreliable pass protection. Now, the team is averaging 125 rushing yards per game and has not given up a sack in three straight weeks.
The Giants were first granted the Madden MVP award in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers. With starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw out of the lineup for that game, the offensive line paved the way for backup Andre Brown to lead the charge with 113 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
The New York offensive line’s performance in Week 6 was even more impressive, though. This time Brown was out with a concussion, but Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson were still able to combine for over 150 rushing yards. The line didn’t allow San Francisco’s usually fierce pass rush anywhere near Manning either, as the 49ers only managed to record one QB hit all game.
The Redskins have showcased their ability to put up big scores so far this season, so if the Giants find themselves in a shootout, they will need to be firing on all cylinders. The offensive line will be key in this match-up, as the offense’s efficiency can tend to be heavily dependent upon the unit’s performance.