Welcome to the third edition of Weekend Wrap-Up. Make sure you click through this weekend’s slideshow to catch up on this past week’s most important events, quotes and anecdotes.
The New York Giants narrowly avoided a complete meltdown last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. They were able to hold off their division rivals just long enough, as kicker Lawrence Tynes provided two fourth-quarter field goals in a 29-25 victory.
In this week’s edition of Weekend Wrap-Up, you will read about the starting statuses of David Diehl and Kenny Phillips, Hurricane Sandy’s effects on the team and Sunday’s game, head coach Tom Coughlin’s diagnosis of the subpar passing attack and more.
Sean Locklear is the only offensive tackle that has started for the Giants in all eight games of the season so far. That looks like it’s finally going to change in Week 9.
According to Jenny Vrentas of The Newark Star-Ledger, offensive line coach Pat Flaherty broke the news to Locklear that veteran David Diehl will reassume his starting position against the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday. Locklear was not caught off guard by the switch, as he explained to Vrentas:
He said, "You're not being benched because of your play. You’ve been playing good; you’ve done everything we’ve asked. It’s just the guy can’t lose his job from minor injury." I kind of expected it; I just didn’t know when it was going to happen. He’s been here 10 years; he’s started virtually every game. So I understand where they are coming from.
The Steelers game will be Diehl’s first start since Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Diehl has waited patiently to be inserted back into the starting lineup over the past few weeks. During that time, he has been used sparingly as an extra blocker on running plays.
Safety Kenny Phillips may not be as lucky; backup Stevie Brown has been incredible in his absence. Brown had two interceptions and a fumble recovery against the Cowboys last Sunday, which helped him earn NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
According to Jorge Castillo of The Newark Star-Ledger, Phillips is ready to strap the pads on against the Steelers. That doesn’t mean he’ll immediately usurp the starting position, though.
“Because Stevie (Brown) has come on like this, it gives me more ideas to have the three-safety package and now we can go forward with that,” defensive coordinator Perry Fewell told Castillo.
The Giants defense is very familiar with three-safety sets; they ran that a lot with Deion Grant both last year and the season before.
Kicker Lawrence Tynes has been by far New York’s most consistent player this season. His contributions sometimes go unnoticed, but the Giants have called on him a lot this season, and more often than not, Tynes has delivered.
Tom Rock of Long Island Newsday points out that, at the midseason mark, Tynes is on pace to break most of the franchise’s single-season kicking records, including field goals made (35), field-goal percentage and total scoring (148).
Tynes has made 24 of his 26 attempts so far this season, including all five of his attempts against the Cowboys last Sunday. According to Rock, Tynes’ recent efforts have earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for the month of October.
This is Tynes’ second conference-wide award of the 2012 season; he won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his first five-field goal performance of the year, which came in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers.
The New York offense has consistently set Tynes up with good kicks from very makeable range, and in return, he has been rock solid. His only misses on the season have been a 54-yarder against the Philadelphia Eagles and a blocked 40-yard attempt against the San Francisco 49ers.
Hurricane Sandy rocked the Meadowlands and northern New Jersey as a whole earlier this week, as the storm tore across the entire northeastern coast. Many communities are still picking up the pieces, but the Giants say they will be prepared to host the Steelers on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.
According to the Associated Press, New Jersey governor Chris Christie gave the go-ahead for the game to be played, leaving the final decision up to the NFL. Coughlin is surely glad to get the game in as scheduled, but that doesn’t mean he’s downplaying the severity of the situation. Coughlin expressed his feelings on Hurricane Sandy during his weekly spot on giants.com’s “Coughlin’s Corner” with Michael Eisen:
You can’t help but ask the questions. "What the hell have we done to the environment?" It’s unheard of. This is not hurricane season. I lived in Florida on the ocean. I know what that’s like. You’re holding your breath from whatever it is. I went through the blizzard of ’66. I was a student. You couldn’t go back to school for a week. The snow was eight feet deep. I’ve been around those kinds of things. This is the same thing. People can’t go anywhere, can’t do anything. They’re desperate for food, for milk, for bread, for gas. This is the same thing. The disruption is unbelievable.
Sandy may have only slightly altered the team’s weekly preparation routine, but the impact the storm has had on the players' personal lives has been much larger. The picture of Eli Manning’s flooded apartment lobby went viral, and according to ESPN New York’s Ohm Youngmisuk, tight end Martellus Bennett, who was without power, had to take his family to stay with left guard Kevin Boothe’s family for a night.
Does this sound a little familiar? Probably because offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride used the same analogy to describe San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith’s technique three weeks ago.
Defensive end Justin Tuck has been studying up on the Steelers’ offensive front, and he doesn’t like what he sees. According to Tuck, Pittsburgh’s offensive line does not like to play by the rules (via ESPN).
"I hope we get some holding calls because they have gotten away with murder. They've done a very good job protecting Ben (Roethlisberger)—they don't hold on every play. But we've seen a whole lot of it," Tuck told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.
The more levelheaded Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin—who is not known for getting into a physical altercation with another coach after a game—will probably handle the scathing comments a little better than San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh did.
Tuck is an emotional player that rarely hesitates to voice his opinion, yet he’s not classified as a loudmouth a la former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs. However, it’s safe to say that Tuck should care a little less about what his opponents are up to and a little more on his own production. Tuck only has one sack in 2012.
Something has gone awry in New York’s usually potent passing game as of late. In the past three games, Manning has passed for under 200 yards twice and thrown for a total of two touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating has been steadily decreasing.
Coughlin believes that the issue stems from an overly “tight” receiving corps, as he explained to Rock of Newsday:
We’re not playing at the same level. We’re not executing. We’re not winning. We’re not separating. We’re not putting ourselves in position where it’s a very confident throw for the quarterback. Everything is so tight. The two jerseys are meshed. That’s not how you operate in the pass game. The pass game is about getting open, getting separated
The Giants receivers have torn apart zone defenses thanks to Gilbride’s intricately crafted option routes, but they have struggled to get open in man-to-man situations. Even Victor Cruz, New York’s biggest playmaker in the receiving game, was stifled by the Cowboys’ press coverage a week ago; he had a season-low two catches for 23 yards.
Perhaps the chemistry hasn’t quite been there between Cruz and his counterpart Hakeem Nicks, as Gilbride believes that the interplay between those two is necessary for the passing game to thrive. Gilbride explained to Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News:
There’s no question that they play off each other. Sometimes, you get to the point like last year when those two are playing really well. It’s not necessarily a double, it’s certainly a focus on those two and that’s where that third guy has to come through for you. Like last year, when Manningham did such a nice job for us, because of what was happening.
The Giants need Nicks back at full strength now more than ever. Teams are quickly figuring out how to counter the Giants’ aerial assault, and with an inconsistent ground game backing it up, New York’s offense could be in real trouble.