New York Giants: How Do Receivers Match Up to the Philadelphia Eagles' Corners?
As a New Yorker who is extremely indifferent to the city's beloved New York Giants, it has been intriguing to see how fans in the area have been reacting to the blockbuster signings the Philadelphia Eagles have been making over the past week.
While the Giants are struggling to retain the pieces they already had, the Eagles are signing the best free agents across the league.
The Giants have just re-signed Ahmad Bradshaw after he looked at other teams and didn't like the market, but haven't been so fortunate with other players.
Osi Umenyiora is holding out on his $3.1 million contract, and the Giants, who have several other functional defensive ends, have failed so far to trade him or to rectify the situation.
Their former wide receiver, Plaxico Burress, has signed with the New York Jets, whom Giants fans will have the pleasure of knowing will be playing his eight home games at their stadium, without reaping any of the benefits.
The Eagles, on the other hand, can't turn away top-tier players.
They traded Kevin Kolb, their former backup, to the Arizona Cardinals for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick.
Then, Philly snatched up Cullen Jenkins, the defensive tackle who helped the Green Bay Packers to the Lombardi Trophy this past season.
Nnamdi Asomugha is probably the biggest name of the bunch, who decided to take less money to sign with a team he thought was most likely to make a run at the Super Bowl.
Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie and several other recognizable names lead an Eagles secondary that will surely stifle opponents.
Their closest rival, the Giants, hope to bring back Steve Smith, who will likely lead an imposing group of targets for Eli Manning to scope out downfield.
Let's take a look how the Giants' receivers compare to the Eagles' cornerbacks.
Steve Smith went down with a knee injury after nine games last season, but is definitely a legitimate No. 1 receiver when healthy.
Those nine games were not great, but not terrible.
He caught for 529 yards and three touchdowns.
For some perspective, that equates to a little over 58 yards per game, which is still above average for a guy who had a busted knee.
His 2009 season, in which he played all 16 games, was fantastic. He put up the type of numbers to prove he was officially the best Steve Smith in the NFL.
He racked up 1,220 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. At 76.3 yards per game, that is very respectable.
Some are worried that Smith's microfracture surgery will slow him down, but it varies based on the person, so it's hard to gauge how he'll recover.
Also, he has yet to sign with the Giants, but other teams are wary of his knee, so he will likely return.
According to Alex Kay, a B/R featured columnist, it is probable that Smith will start the season on the PUP list, forcing him to miss the first six games.
This is surely going to hurt the Giants early this season, but if they can play consistently in that time Smith could surely add a spark in their first meeting with the Eagles in week 8.
He missed both games against the Eagles last season, but totaled 142 yards against them in two 2009 starts, both of which the Giants lost.
Steve Smith can still be a weapon, but certainly needs to reach a deal with the team and rehabilitate his knee as soon as possible.
Nnamdi Asomugha is widely regarded as a top-two cornerback in the NFL.
Some say he's No. 1, but it really doesn't make much of a difference—he's phenomenal.
Ever since his eight-interception season in 2006, quarterbacks know not to throw anywhere near him. He only has three picks since then because of this.
Evan Silva at Rotoworld described Asomugha very well:
"(Andre) Johnson, the best wideout in the game, has been held to stat lines of 2/66/0, 2/19/0, and 1/9/0 in his career against Asomugha. For the most part, offenses have simply refused to throw at Asomugha's RCB position over the past several seasons. He has not exceeded 40 tackles or one interception in any of the last four years."
Asomugha basically just shuts off half of the field, which is exactly what an elite cornerback does.
As for the Eagles, their defense was already putting up positive numbers, at fourth in the NFL in yards per game.
Imagine what Nnamdi will add to that? At 30 years old he's in the middle of his prime, which is perfect for the win-now Eagles.
Their secondary is just frightening.
He has yet to face Big Blue in an Eagles uniform, but whether the No. 1 receiver is Steve Smith, or anybody else, I wouldn't expect too much production out of them.
Hakeem Nicks was one of the best receivers in the NFL last season.
The Giants took him in the 2009 draft, as the fifth of six wide receivers selected in the first round.
He caught 79 passes for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns, making him Eli Manning's most trusted wideout.
Nicks has all the tools to be a prototypical star receiver: strong build, great hands, swift speed, good height and a winner's heart.
A leg injury sidelined him for several weeks during the season, but his numbers through 13 games are better than most top-tier receivers' numbers through 16 games.
Giants fans were happy to see Nicks taking passes from Manning during the lockout, even without mandatory practices being held.
Mark Garafolo caught up with Nicks during the lockout while he was practicing: “I feel like we’re getting our timing back down. It’s our first week linking up a little bit," Nicks said. "I think guys are just trying to get back in the groove of things and get that connection back. Extra time is always good. I always try to put in extra time whenever I can."
It's always nice to know that when your players have the option of "playing for free," or really just getting in shape when there's no check to cash, that they are eager to stay ahead of the curve.
Nicks proved last year that he can play with the best of them, and he's only 23 years old.
With his skills and his situation, it would be surprising if Nicks does not bud into an NFL superstar.
Rodgers-Cromartie was part of a baffling trade that sent him to the Eagles from the Arizona Cardinals.
If this trade makes sense, then that makes Kevin Kolb, the Eagles backup who they took in the second round of the 2007 draft, worth as much as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a Pro Bowl cornerback, taken in the first round of the 2008 draft.
Oh, and throw a second-round pick in next year's draft the Eagles' way, too.
DRC has 13 picks in his three seasons and is one of the most talented players at his position.
Like all great cornerbacks, Rodgers-Cromartie is quick, agile and able to keep up with receivers easily. Also, he's tall, which never hurts.
Critics claim that Rodgers-Cromartie's 2011 was weak, but the rest of his team's defense far worse, allowing those he covered to have plenty of time to get open.
This probably won't be the case in Philly.
Rodgers-Cromartie is better than many No. 1 corners, so shadowing a team's second best receiver should usually be a piece of cake.
One team that might give him problems is the Giants.
If both Smith and Nicks are healthy by the time these teams meet, it will be interesting to see how Dominique can keep up.
In his most recent game against the Giants, in 2009, DRC had an interception.
Mario Manningham, the third-round pick in 2008 draft, has been surprisingly useful for the Giants.
He was the Giants' third receiver when Smith was healthy, and the second after he went down.
Any team that has Manningham as its third option is in pretty good shape, and he stepped up as the No. 2 comfortably as well.
His 2010 statline looked like this: 60 receptions for 944 yards and nine touchdowns.
He especially turned up the heat as the Giants made their failed playoff push, managing to gain 346 yards and four touchdowns in the final three games.
One of those games, a loss to the Eagles, was probably his best performance of the season, with 113 yards and two touchdowns.
In all of the Giants' struggles against Philly, none have come from Manningham.
The only alarming part about Manningham is his rumored score on the Wonderlic test–an alarming six points out of a possible 50.
As terrible as that is, it hasn't shown on the field at all, with Manningham being an important staple of the Giants offense.
Asante Samuel may be another year older, be he is definitely still useful.
He missed several weeks last season with a knee injury, which is always distressing at cornerback.
Many critics may feel that Samuel is unable to perform at the level he did throughout his prime, but if he remains with the Eagles he probably won't have to.
The comparisons of Philly to the NBA's Miami Heat are ludicrous, but maybe the best comparison to the Big Three can be made to the Eagle corners.
In his time with the Toronto Raptors, Chris Bosh was their best player.
Bosh put up great numbers and sometimes was able to carry his team to the playoffs, but couldn't win a series alone.
Now, as Samuel gets older, Andy Reid did his best Pat Reilly impression and acquired two fresh cornerbacks to take most of the workload.
Like Bosh did this season for the Heat, Samuel can be that extra something that his team needs without being a true star.
Samuel can extend his career and expand his legacy by helping his new teammates rest when they need it and possibly help out if either is hurt.
Asante Samuel is part of what makes the Eagles' new look so great: depth at every major position.
He caught two balls last season from Eli Manning in their sweep of the Giants, and had seven total during the season.
At just 30 years old, he's only a few months older than Asomugha, so maybe he does have something left in the tank.
It's a close call, but it looks as though the Eagles have the edge in the WR vs. CB competition of 2011.
Because of Smith likely starting on the PUP list, the Eagles are at a clear advantage.
Of course, the way a team's receivers match up with the opposition's corners is important, but it doesn't mean everything.
Still, Eli Manning is fortunate to have three gifted, young wide receivers to target and very few teams have the depth that they do.
However, nobody has the cornerback depth of the Eagles right now.
It looks now like they will hold on to Samuel unless they get an overwhelming offer, which is going to make things much easier on the defense.
Injuries are extremely prevalent in the NFL, and having Samuel ready to relieve an ailing Asomugha or Rodgers-Cromartie could help them reach the Super Bowl without missing a beat.
The Eagles are superior on paper, but it should be interesting to see if the Giants can surprise their best adversary when they take the field.
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