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New York Giants: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 8

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New York Giants: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 8
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL doesn’t hand out extra points for ugly wins.

If it did, the New York Giants’ 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night certainly would be worthy of more than just a few extra ticks on the year-end report card.

The fact of the matter is, despite recording their first win of the 2013 season, the Giants still aren’t getting complete games form all three phases of the ball, and it just seems like, every week, it’s a different unit that decides to mail in a clunker.

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This week, the special teams had its turn, and not just the coverage, which has been problem all year long, but also the return game.

With the offense struggling to score, it needs all the help it can get in terms of favorable field position, which is something that has been a struggle.

This week was no different. According to the official game book, on kickoffs, the Giants’ average starting field position was their 19, whereas the Vikings average starting field position was their 31.

That 12-yard difference favored an offense that was starting a new quarterback in his first game. Imagine, though, the game’s outcome if that same difference kept on occurring when the Giants face more established quarterbacks.

Not surprisingly, head coach Tom Coughlin wasn’t willing to hand out praise to his special teams units.

“We’re disappointed in the majority of our special teams play, our coverage teams first and foremost,” he said during his day-after conference call with the New York media. “We have plenty of work to do.”

That work, though, extends beyond trying to fix special teams.

The biggest challenge for the coaching staff during their short work week is to bring all three phases together on the same page in this, their final game before their bye week, so they can get a little more momentum going for a very critical—and difficult—second half of the season.

NFC East Division Standings
Team Record
Dallas Cowboys 4-3
Philadelphia Eagles 3-4
Washington Redskins 2-4
New York Giants 1-6

via NFL.com

 

Dallas Cowboys 17, Philadelphia Eagles 3

After a scoreless first quarter, the Cowboys jumped out to a 10-0 lead, thanks to a 38-yard field goal by kicker Dan Bailey and a one-yard touchdown run by running back Phillip Tanner, starting for the injured DeMarco Murray.

The Eagles, who have not won a game at home since Sept. 30, 2012, when they topped the Giants, 19-17, scored their first points of the game in the fourth quarter on a 31-yard field goal by kicker Alex Henery.

Dallas capped the scoring on a 9-yard touchdown catch by Terrance Williams from quarterback Tony Romo, who completed 28 of 47 pass attempts for 317 yards and two interceptions to go along with his lone touchdown pass.

With the win, the Cowboys moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC East, while the Eagles (3-4) slid into second place.

Box Score

 

Washington Redskins 45, Chicago Bears 41

Washington Redskins running back Roy Helu ran for three touchdowns, including a three-yard rush with less than a minute to play, a score that gave his team the 45-41 comeback win over the Chicago Bears. 

In addition to Helu’s three scores, quarterback Robert Griffin III connected with rookie tight end Jordan Reed on a three-yard touchdown pass, and linebacker Brian Orakpo picked off Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s pass intended for receiver Alshon Jeffery and returned the ball 29 yards for the score.

Rounding out the Redskins’ scoring was a first quarter, 38-yard field goal by kicker Kai Forbath and a 45-yard touchdown reception by receiver Aldrick Robinson.

Cutler left the game in the second quarter with a groin injury, and was replaced by Josh McCown, who completed 14 of 20 pass attempts for 204 yards and one touchdown.  

The Bears’ scoring came thanks to three rushing touchdowns by running back Matt Forte, two field goals by kicker Robbie Gould, a seven-yard touchdown reception by tight end Martellus Bennett and an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown by Devin Hester. 

Box Score

 

Week 8

The Cowboys will face the Detroit Lions, who lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-24. The Eagles will host the Giants, and the Redskins will visit the Denver Broncos, who lost to Indianapolis Colts, 39-33.

 

Giants Injury Report
Player Injury Most Recent Status
RB David Wilson neck Inactive for Week 7
CB Jayron Holsey hamstring Inactive for Week 7
DE Jason Pierre-Paul illness Active
RB Brandon Jacobs hamstring Inactive for Week 7
TE Adrien Robinson foot Inactive for Week 7
DT Shaun Rogers knee Active
S Cooper Taylor shoulder Inactive for Week 7
C David Baas neck Active; injured knee
CB Terrell Thomas knee Active
CB Corey Webster groin Active; played 3 snaps
Justin Tuck finger injured in game; injury not believed to be serious

via New York Giants

Injury Analysis 

The news wasn’t good for running back Brandon Jacobs (hamstring), who hoped to play Monday night against the Vikings.

After being limited in practice last Thursday, Jacobs missed both Friday and Saturday’s practices, a likely indication his hamstring injury wasn’t responding to treatment.

He was, of course, inactivate on Monday night, his status for Sunday against the Eagles is up in the air.

“I don’t,” said head coach Tom Coughlin when asked during his Tuesday conference call with reporters if he had an update on Jacobs. “Again, I’ll have to see where we’re at on that.” 

With the Giants set to have a bye week after their game Sunday, against the Eagles, and given the tricky nature of hamstring injuries, it would not be a surprise if Jacobs is held out of action for a second game.

In other injury news, center David Baas, who made his return to the starting lineup after missing three weeks with a neck issue, injured his knee on the Giants’ opening drive against the Vikings and will probably be out this weekend.

The injury, according to Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger, is believed to be a sprained MCL, which is the same injury to the same knee that Baas had late in the preseason leading to the regular season.

In his postgame press conference, defensive end Justin Tuck revealed that he dislocated a finger during the game, but trainers were able to pop the finger back into place. Tuck didn’t sound too concerned about missing any time in the week ahead.

 

What Must Improve

Special Teams Coverage

The Giants are getting very few favors this season from their special teams unit, a group that just can’t seem to get out of its own way.

Thus far, the punt coverage team alone has given up three punts returned for touchdowns, which, according to Tom Rock of Long Island (NY) Newsday, is one shy of the team’s season high set in 1959.

The latest blunder came in the first quarter, as Vikings punt returner Marcus Sherels returned a punt 86 yards for Minnesota’s only points in the game.

Want more bad news? Punter Steve Weatherford’s 34.8 net average puts the Giants 31st in the NFL. Also, the 408 return yards allowed by New York is the most in the NFL, as opponents have averaged an unheard of 20.4 yards per return. 

The punt coverage team wasn’t the only unit on specials to struggle. The kickoff coverage team gave up a 69-yard return to Cordarrelle Patterson. 

While it didn’t help that Giants kicker Josh Brown didn’t boot all six of his kickoffs out of the end zone—only three went for touchbacks—the coverage on Patterson’s big return was simply abysmal.  

Going back to Brown, in his last two games, his touchback percentage on his kickoffs has been 50 percent or less. That’s ideal production from a kicker whom the Giants were hoping would upgrade the kickoff game.

If that’s not bad enough, the Giants’ return games are virtually nonexistent. Both the kickoff and punt return units are ranked 23rd in the NFL, with the kickoff return averaging 22.2 yards and the punt return game averaging 6.3 yards.

 

Third-Down Conversion Success Rate

In five of their seven games so far, the Giants’ third-down conversion rate has been no higher than 35 percent. They have not only lost those games, they have also been outscored, 143-75, in those games.

Thus, it goes without saying, unless an offense is converting on third down, it won’t sustain many drives, and that’s why the Giants, who have converted just 33 percent of their third-down conversions, are ranked 29th in the league in that category.

Because of the shorter drives, the Giants are also hovering near the bottom of the league in average time of possession (TOP).

They’re ranked 28th with their 27:38 TOP, a figure that was boosted this week, thanks to their dominating the clock against the Vikings.

 

The Pass Protection

Short of a complete personnel overhaul, there’s probably not much more that can be done with this unit, this year, other than to ride things out and hope, at some point, the revolving door that has seen five different starting combinations this season stops.

In the meantime, that’s not good news for Eli Manning, who has been sacked in every game—18 times to be precise—and who, according to data compiled from the official NFL game books, has been hit 39 times over seven games.

Based on those numbers, Manning is being touched once every 6.8 pass attempts, which is not a statistic of which an offensive line should be proud.

In pass protection, left tackle William Beatty has had some ups and downs against some of the better NFL defensive ends this season.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Beatty has allowed five sacks (including a rather unusual one given up to Vikings defensive end Jared Allen), six hits and 20 hurries.

Left guard Kevin Boothe has yielded one sack, two hits and eight hurries, right guard David Diehl has allowed one hit and nine hurries and right tackle Justin Pugh has allowed two sacks, two hits and 28 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.

Looping back to Beatty, while some might argue he’s gone against some top defensive ends, the question that needs to be asked is if he’s being paid to perform like a premium left tackle and required help to double up these defensive ends, was there an error made in determining his value?

 

Patricia Traina is the senior editor for Inside Football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow Patricia on Twitter,@Patricia_Traina.

 

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