Week 8: New York Giants Weekend Wrap-Up
Welcome to the second installment of Weekend Wrap-Up. If you missed last week’s introductory article, the Weekend Wrap-Up is designed to fill you in on all the midweek events, quotes and anecdotes that may have slipped by unnoticed.
The Giants notched their first divisional win of the season with a 27-23 victory over the Washington Redskins last Sunday, and they will attempt to level out their divisional record at 2-2 when they travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys this weekend. The Giants lost their Week 1 matchup with the Cowboys, 24-17; much of the past week’s news has been centered on the revenge factor.
This week’s edition of Weekend Wrap-Up will focus on the steadily increasing Vegas odds, linebacker Chase Blackburn’s role in the defense, Eli Manning’s critique of his former teammates and more.
Vegas Odds Jump in Giants’ Favor
It would be very difficult for the Giants to continue to play the underdog card now that they are 7/1 favorites to win the Super Bowl, according to betvega.com.
The team’s current three-game winning streak must have had an effect on Las Vegas odds-makers, as the Giants are more heavily favored now than they have been all season.
According to betvega.com, the Giants have hovered around 18/1 for the past three months. Their recent wins over a dominant San Francisco 49ers team and a dangerous Redskins squad must have held a bit more weight than their early-season wins over the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns.
Betvega.com lists three teams with greater odds than the Giants: the Houston Texans (5/1), the 49ers (13/2), and the New England Patriots (13/2). Of those three teams, only the Texans (6-1) have a better overall record than the Giants.
After thriving for so long as underdogs, it will be interesting to see how head coach Tom Coughlin’s team fares as one of the league’s favorites. The last time they were this heavily favored to win the Super Bowl was during their title defense in 2008. After starting that season 11-1, the Giants suffered an epic late-season collapse, which included a 23-11 playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round.
(For reference: The Jacksonville Jaguars are the least likely team to win the Super Bowl with 1,000/1 odds.)
Ongoing War of Words with Redskins Cornerback
By now, we’ve all seen Manning’s 77-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with 1:13 remaining in the Redskins game last Sunday.
But apparently, some of us saw it a little differently than others. Just ask Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who believes that the play was a gift, courtesy of Washington’s secondary.
According to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, Hall told the Washington media that Manning wasn’t the one who made the play.
I don’t feel like he made that play. I feel we gave him that play. We just had one guy set his feet and one guy not do this. I could have thrown that ball, and he would have scored. It wasn’t something where he was a rocket scientist, and he figured something out. We just played that as bad as possible.
Hall is right; the Redskins did blow the coverage. But that didn’t stop some Giants players from speaking out in the team’s defense. According to Schwartz, Cruz called Hall’s comments “a little disrespectful,” and ESPN New York’s Ohm Youngmisuk quoted defensive end Justin Tuck saying that Hall is “not that smart.”
Manning simply thanked Hall and the rest of the Redskins defense for the so-called gift.
OK, the touchdown pass definitely wasn’t the most difficult of Manning’s career, but Hall is overlooking many of the play’s subtleties. For example, Manning and Cruz had to be on the exact same page in order to recognize the defense correctly. And did you see the hit Manning took just as he released the ball? He stood in the pocket and fearlessly delivered a perfect strike with a defender closing in on him.
Sure, the Redskins’ secondary was awful on the play, but it’s unfair to take all the credit away from Manning.
Fewell Credits Blackburn as Key to Defensive Success
Who would you name as the Giants’ defensive MVP through the first seven games of the season? Jason Pierre-Paul? Antrel Rolle?
What about middle linebacker Chase Blackburn?
According to Tom Rock of Long Island Newsday, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell singled Blackburn out as the “key” to the Giants’ defensive success so far this season.
Chase is really the key to our success because he’s the quarterback of our defense. He plays and he gets everyone lined up and he gets everyone on the same page and in the proper coverages and getting the guys up front doing the things they should be doing and then, in addition to that, he plays his technique and responsibility. I think Chase has been playing very steady for us. He’s been doing the job of a mike linebacker, what a mike linebacker should do, and I’m glad he’s on my football team.
Fewell’s praise of Blackburn is surprising, especially since he wasn’t even on the team a year ago today. The team let him walk before last season only to call him back in Week 13 against the Packers due to a shortage at his position.
Even after he helped the Giants win their second Super Bowl in five seasons, Blackburn’s starting position wasn’t a lock in training camp this summer. Second-year pro Mark Herzlich was given an opportunity to compete for the spot, but Blackburn barely edged him out before the season began.
And now, all of a sudden, Blackburn is the key to the Giants’ success on defense?
I’m not buying it. Although I agree with Fewell that Blackburn has an extensive understanding of the defense, it’s one thing to know what to do and another to actually carry it out. Mentally, Blackburn may very well be the Giants’ most complete defensive player, but I believe he is the defense’s weak link athletically.
Also, if he's so knowledgeable, then why doesn’t he wear the radio? That duty is reserved for outside linebacker Michael Boley, who I believe Fewell truly places more faith in than Blackburn.
Diehl Wants Another Shot at His Starting Spot
David Diehl was the team’s starting right tackle until Week 2 when he sprained his MCL. The injury only sidelined him for three weeks, but it also cost him his starting job, as Sean Locklear and Will Beatty have played extraordinary in his absence.
Diehl has played in the last two games but only as an extra blocker in some run-heavy sets. Before this year, the one-time Pro Bowler had started all 16 games in eight of his nine seasons with the team, so adjusting to his new reserve role must be a difficult transition to make.
According to Jorge Castillo of The Newark Star-Ledger, Diehl claims that his knee is 100 percent healthy, and he is ready to start when needed. The veteran also realizes that time may never come, as he explained to Castillo:
You don’t assume anything. You would hope so, but like I said, the fact that if it doesn’t happen, I’m not, don’t get me wrong, I would love to be starting, I would love to be back out there, that’s what I’m here for, that’s what I’ve always done. But, like I said, if that doesn’t happen, it’s not going to change the way I feel about Sean. It’s not going to change the way I feel about our coaches and our staff. I’ve been hurt. I’ve been out. There’s nothing I can do to change that.
Even though the offensive line has only allowed Manning to be sacked twice in the five games that Diehl has been out of the starting lineup, it’s hard not to feel for the guy. He was a fifth-round draft pick from Illinois in 2003, making him one of two players that have been on the team since the Jim Fassel era—the other is defensive end Osi Umenyiora—and ever since he has been with New York, Diehl has provided the line with tremendous versatility.
Perhaps Diehl is better suited as a reserve. He is a better run blocker than pass protector, and he could come in handy in a pinch a la Kevin Boothe in 2011.
Manning Blames Bad Habits on Ex-Teammates
Even though Manning has two Super Bowl MVPs, the quarterback that won the first one was completely different than the quarterback that won the second one. Manning’s biggest improvement over that time has been his decision making, for which he has his young core of receivers to thank.
According to ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor, Manning admitted that some of the receivers he played with earlier in his career had ball-hogging personalities, which he believes led to some bad habits.
Early on, we probably had receivers where in practice you try to force it to get them balls so they don't get down, or you keep them happy, and I think you create bad habits doing that.
And so as I got older and we got younger, new guys in, you evolve to doing it the correct way. And it's going through the reads, saying you've got to earn the right to get open, and it's all based on the coverage and the reads. I've got to do that to make sure I'm doing the right things and not doing bad habits.
O’Connor suggests—and I agree—that Manning was referring to tight end Jeremy Shockey and wide receiver Plaxico Burress in his statement; he definitely targeted those two the most early in his career. In the three seasons (2005-07) that Shockey and Burress played with Manning, they caught a combined 397 of the team’s 897 total receptions (44.3%).
Luckily, Manning has overcome most of his “bad habits.” The veteran quarterback is clearly the one calling the shots nowadays, and young receivers like Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz have visibly benefited from the experienced decision-making.
That also explains why so many receivers are able to seamlessly step into the Giants offense. As long as they know the route, Manning will find a way to get them the ball.
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