With the New York Giants season a third of the way finished, it is time to issue individual third player report cards. The Giants have enjoyed somewhat of a roller coaster season that finds them standing 8-4 battling the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East crown.
In an especially tight NFC this year, going 11-5 is not a guarantee to make the playoffs, and the only way the Giants can assure themselves of making the playoffs is to win out the rest of their schedule, which includes games against Green Bay and the Eagles.
For the Giants to have a shot at doing that, they will have to play better than they have so far this season.
The following is a slideshow of 15 players for the Giants who are very important to the Giants this season. Each slide will include a quick evaluation of that player’s season, and an overall grade.
Each player will be graded on three separate individual criteria, based upon their position and offseason expectations.
Up to this point in the season, Eli has had a very interesting ride. Eli, in my opinion, has had his best season as a pro. His accuracy, command, leadership and even his arm strength seem to have improved in his sixth season as the Giants starter.
However, while Eli seems to be on track for career highs in completion percentage and touchdowns, he's also thrown 17 interceptions in 12 games so far a season—any way you cut that, that’s way too many interceptions.
So why has Eli thrown so many picks if he is having such a great season? Because at least eight of those interceptions have come from tipped balls, and of those eight, probably five were of no fault of Eli’s in any way.
That’s just bad luck, but luckily for Giant fans, Eli is the kind of guy who isn’t going to get bothered by that kind of thing. However, for the Giants to make the playoffs, they need Eli to cut down on not just the interceptions, but also the fumbling.
Game Management: A
Nicks has sat out the last two games of the season while recovering from Compartment Syndrome, a rather nasty injury that is not only dangerous, but also disgusting, so I won't get into the details.
Up until that point, Nicks had accumulated 62 receptions, 800 yards and nine touchdowns in only 10 games. Nicks has quickly developed into the Giants No. 1 receiver, capable of not only beating a defense for a 60-yard touchdown bomb but also of taking a short slant or screen 60 yards to the house.
Nicks is a true demon in the open field, where his physicality and athleticism make him almost impossible for a cornerback to bring down one-on-one.
However, Nicks is not without his flaws. He drops too many balls he should catch, and worse, he tips them up, which allows defenses to pick the ball off. Of Eli’s 17 picks this year, I would say three or four are Nicks’ fault. He’s young, though; concentration and focus will come with experience.
Big Plays: A
Route Running: B+
Coming into this season, Osi was still feeling pain from an old knee and hip injury, one that will require offseason surgery, and a season before that he openly feuded with his coaches and was benched in favor of Mathias Kiwanuka.
No one knew what to expect from Osi this season. Few, even the optimistic, would have guessed nine sacks, eight forced fumbles and incredible defense against the run. Some have even mentioned the possibility of Osi winning the NFL comeback player of the year award.
Osi might not be physically back to his 2007 Super Bowl season, but he is older and wiser. And Osi is such an athletic freak that Osi at 85 percent is still better than 90 percent of the guys in the league.
Osi just has a rare burst, bend, top end speed and just truly elite hip fluidity. That combined with his improved understanding of the game makes him too much to handle one-on-one, even against elite left tackles.
Rushing the Passer: A-
Run Defense: A-
Tuck has spent this season living behind the line of scrimmage, with 8.5 sacks and seven tackles for a loss. He has 59 total tackles on the season, a staggering total for a defensive end. While Tuck has perhaps done only an above average job rushing the passer this season, he has perhaps been the best run stuffing defensive end in football this year, regardless of scheme.
Tuck has also taken an increased leadership role this season with the Giants both on and off the field. A perfect example of this is Jason Pierre Paul; Tuck has been mentoring him on how to be a professional athlete and help acclimate him to the bright lights of New York.
And his halftime speech against the Jaguars is already the stuff of legend.
Run Defense: A+
Rushing the Passer: B+
Coming into the season, I could not have been a bigger hater of Goff. I thought at the time, the idea that Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin thinking Goff would ever develop into an effective, NFL caliber starter was insane.
Crow does not taste like chicken, it tastes like crow.
Goff has been a revelation this season, living behind the line of scrimmage in the run game, effective playing the zone in coverage and even displaying a nasty ability to blitz. But where Goff has really surprised me is his tackling and aggression.
I always knew Goff was smart, so the fact he is calling a great defense right now for the Giants if of no surprise to me. What is surprising to me is how much nastier his tackling and disposition has become. I just didn’t see that coming.
Run Defense: A
Pass Coverage: A-
Play Calling: A
Kenny Phillips is lucky he plays in an era where medicine was capable of salvaging his career. The micro-fracture surgery he endured last season to re-grow cartilage was shocking, because the idea that a young 20-year-old had degenerative arthritis in his knee is never a good thing.
The idea that Phillips would play this season, or ever again for that matter, was optimistic, I thought. Phillips has come back and come back strong.
However, it must be said that athletically Phillips is only 75 percent of what he was pre-surgery, and that he might not ever be back to what he was. But again, like Umenyiora, Phillips was such a freak athlete that even at 80 percent, he is still athletically gifted.
Phillips hasn’t racked up the big plays this season, but he has the safety net that prevents big play bombs from going over the head of the cornerbacks. And he has performed that job well.
Pass Coverage: B+
Run Defense: B
There is a good chance that Andrews is done for the season, and consider that he only started three games and appeared in just half.
However, Andrews was a key contributor before his recurring back ailments reoccurred and sidelined him. When David Diehl went down, he played a three-game stretch where he was the best left tackle in football.
And before that he played a key role as a blocking tight end, in essence a sixth offensive lineman.
So while Andrews only made it to week 10 before he got hurt, up until that point he was a key contributor and a reason why the Giants didn’t totally self destruct during all the offensive line injuries.
Pass Protection: A
Manningham has seen a dramatic reduction in the amount of targets that he has seen from this season compared to last due to the emergence of Hakeem Nicks as the Giants No. 1 threat.
But Manningham hasn’t pouted; in fact he has made the most of the opportunities he has received. On only 62 targets he has 43 catches and an impressive 13.9 yards per catch average. And his big play abilities are actually something that defenses must account for every single time he is on the field.
While Manningham hasn’t posted big numbers in Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks' absence, as the teams No. 1 threat, the attention he has demanded has still allowed the Giants to run the ball with impunity and open things up for the other receivers.
Big Plays: B+
Route Running: A-
The Giants big offseason acquisition, Rolle has played a big role in the Giants defensive resurgence from the disaster that was last year.
I expected Rolle to play on the backend while Phillips played closer to the line of scrimmage, but it has been the complete opposite of that. Rolle has constantly patrolled the line of scrimmage, supporting the run with tackling skills I didn’t know he possessed.
And his abilities as a blitzer have been exceptional. However, while Rolle has surprised me in his play around the line of scrimmage, he has been burned far too many times in coverage for my tastes. I also expected more interceptions.
But his leadership has also been vital to the Giants and is one of the reasons why the Giants paid so much for him in the first place.
Run Support: A
Pass Coverage: C
If you think Eli Manning has had a roller coaster ride of a season, then stay off the Bradshaw ride, it might make you puke.
Bradshaw has had an impressive statistical season in almost every facet, rushing for over 1000 yards in 12 games along with seven touchdowns and a 4.6 yards per carry average. Bradshaw has done a great job of running behind a makeshift offensive line.
However, Bradshaw has been fumbling, a lot. This is a result of not only how he holds the ball but how he plays the game; he is a little bowling ball of a man who runs into defenders with extreme prejudice. After about the fifth time, while dragging two men for that extra yard, Bradshaw will finally fumble.
It’s why Bradshaw lost his starting job, but is still a major playmaker for the Giants.
Oh and he deserves respect for playing constantly hurt. The dude is tough. And he has also improved in leaps and bounds as a third down back, both in catching the ball and protecting for Eli.
Big Play Ability: A-
Short Yardage Rushing: A-
The Giants agreed to trade Cofield this past offseason to the New Orleans Saints for a second round pick, but the trade fell apart when the Saints and Cofield couldn’t agree to a contract extension.
The Giants should count themselves lucky that the trade fell apart, because Cofield has been the Giants' most consistent defensive player this season. Even Tuck and Osi have been up and down a bit this season, but Cofield has been nothing but up.
Due to his improved play, Cofield has even been given the chance to stay on the field to rush the passer in pass rushing situations, and he has responded with three sacks and a lot of quarterback pressures.
And his play against the run has been a thing of beauty.
Run Defense: A
Pass Rushing: A-
Webster might actually have an argument that he has been New York’s best cornerback this season, not Darelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie.
While Webster has not lit up the league with interceptions this season, it’s because he hasn’t had the chance. Offenses, it seems, have just given up on trying to attack him.
Often matched up against the teams No. 1 wide receiver, regardless of where they line up, Webster has played sticky coverage almost all season long. I can’t say he has been completely consistent; there have been two games at least this season where instead of being the lockdown corner he is capable of being, he was merely average at best.
At this point in Webster’s career, and given what his talent makes him capable of, I expect better consistency.
Oh and Webster is a devastating run supporter. He has no issue getting his jersey dirty laying devastating hits on ball carriers.
Pass Coverage: A-
Run Defense: A
Jason Pierre-Paul came into this season as one of the rarest defensive line prospects that I remember breaking down.
He had never played with a team for more than one year, started playing football his junior year of high school, never participated in an organized offseason and he played only one season of true Division I college football. And he is young; he doesn't even turn 22 until after the end of this season.
So to say people expected little to nothing from him this season would be an understatement.
Also, to say that Pierre-Paul has turned heads with his outstanding play the deeper the season has gone would also be an understatement.
However, Justin Tuck has recently said that earlier this season he questioned the rookie's dedication and professionalism. While that no longer seems an issue, it wasn't a good start to the season.
And it's not just that his pass rushing is starting to mature much faster than people thought it would, it is how deadly he has been all season long on special teams. I believe that Pierre-Paul has played on a Pro-Bowl level as a special teamer this season.
Special Teams: A
Most pundits and fans thought Deon Grant would start this season as a starter at safety due to the severity of Kenny Phillips injury and surgery. I think Grant thought this as well.
But Phillips surprised everybody and performed a medical miracle by coming back so soon. Grant was disappointed, but he wouldn't be for long.
While Grant is a gamer, and had his consecutive games started streak broken, he still plays starter minutes for the Giants. Instead of Aaron Ross, when the Giants play a nickel defense, they bring in Deon Grant as a third safety instead of Ross as a third cornerback.
Grant is also on the field as a linebacker when they do decide to bring Ross in as a cornerback.
He has been a stable, underrated, big play machine this season for the Giants.
Pass Defense: B+
Big Plays: A
Run Defense: B+
Yet another situation with the Giants this season that has caused me to eat crow. I knew from the get go that Pascoe was never going to be a starting NFL tight end, his original position.
And when whispers began that he could move to fullback I thought, "No way, too tall."
Man was I wrong.
When Madison Hedgecock went down with an injury, I expected the Giants run game to suffer, not improve. But when the Giants promoted Pascoe from the practice squad and installed him at fullback he was an immediate shot in the arm for the team, a true revelation.
And while Pascoe was a below average pass catcher as a tight end, as a fullback he is a true threat in the passing game, and he gives Eli a very valuable check down option in certain situations that wouldn't have been their if Hedgecock, who was terrible at catching the ball, never got hurt.
Still, it must be said that Pascoe is new to this and has moments where he will miss an assignment or get overwhelmed by a linebacker. Though, he will get much better at this with time.
Pass Catching: B
Run Blocking: A-