It’s not very often that New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin gets a chance to step outside and enjoy the beauty of nature during the autumn season.
“I took a long walk on Saturday,” he said after the Giants concluded their practice on Monday when asked how he spent this past weekend. “I thought the leaves were nice. Someone told me they change this time of year.”
Another sight that Coughlin would, no doubt, find to be even prettier than the fall foliage is the number one, especially if it’s under the “Games Won” column adjacent to his team’s name in the standings.
To encourage that to happen, Coughlin gave his players the entire weekend off so that they could clear their minds and be ready for the start of a new week of preparation that gets underway on Thursday for their Monday night game against the Minnesota Vikings.
“They came back, and they jumped right into the meeting room,” Coughlin said of his players on their first day back from the extended break.
“They jumped into the weight room. This has been a pretty good practice (Monday), so I think it was a nice break for them,” he added.
The players agreed.
“It was nice to relax and get to spend a little time with the family there,” said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins.
With the short break over, Coughlin is hoping the players also have some answers that help solve the problem the team has had in its first six games.
“I can certainly talk to them individually about it, and mentioned it again in the meeting, but we’ll see,” he said when asked if there as a way to measure what the players came up with over the weekend.
Jenkins believes the time away to think about what has happened will hopefully increase the determination in the locker room to right the ship.
“You get away for a little bit, get another little break here,” he said. “It’s almost like a little bye week. You’re a little more anxious to get back to it.”
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who started in place of the injured Michael Vick (hamstring), threw three touchdown passes and ran for another to help his team move to 3-3 in the NFC East.
Foles ran for a four-yard touchdown run on his team’s first possession of the game to give his team the early lead. However, they fell to a 17-14 halftime deficit, thanks to two touchdown receptions by Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson and a 38-yard field goal by kicker Rian Lindell.
Foles and the Eagles took back the lead for good, thanks to a 47-yard scoring strike to receiver Riley Cooper in the third quarter.
DeSean Jackson added a 36-yard touchdown reception, his second in the game, and kicker Alex Henery had a 24-yard field goal to cap the Eagles' second-half scoring.
Dallas return specialist Dwayne Harris had an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 90-yard kickoff return to finish with an impressive 222 return yards in his team’s win over the Redskins.
Dallas, who jumped out to a 7-0 lead on its first possession of the game, held the Redskins to two first-half field goals by kicker Kai Forbath, who also added another three-pointer to start the third quarter to make it a 14-9 game.
Following Harris’ 90-yard kickoff return, the Cowboys began to pull away as quarterback Tony Romo connected with Terrence Williams for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 21-9.
Washington didn’t get its first touchdown of the game until near the end of third quarter when running back Alfred Morris ran for a 45-yard score to cap a three-play, 71-yard drive. Morris’ score pulled the Redskins to a 21-16 deficit.
Dallas added 10 fourth-quarter points to seal the win. The points included a 30-yard field goal by kicker Dan Bailey and a one-yard touchdown run by running back Joseph Randle, who was in the game for DeMarco Murray (sprained left knee).
Randle’s touchdown run was set up by defensive end Kyle Wilber’s forced fumble and recovery on a sack of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Starting running back David Wilson, who missed last week's game with a neck injury, revealed to reporters that he has spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column that can place pressure on one's spinal cord.
Wilson, who, on Monday sought a second opinion on his condition from noted Los Angeles-area spinal surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins, was injured on the final play of the first quarter in the Giants' 36-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Since his injury, Wilson said he's had no adverse symptoms, was hoping that his visit with Dr. Watkins would help him avoid season-ending surgery.
"That’s what I’m hoping and praying for because I feel perfectly fine," he said on Friday. "It really doesn’t make sense to me right now. People say, 'Oh, but it’s the neck.' But I feel like I’m fine. I’m willing to go out there and sacrifice and play with my team."
Apparently, Wilson may just get that chance after all. Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports was first to report that Wilson does not need surgery:
Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger reported that, while the second opinion sought by Wilson confirmed the Giants' initial diagnosis, there, apparently, is no rush to get him back on the field.
Wilson isn't the only Giants running back who is ailing. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported last week that Da’Rel Scott, whom New York re-signed last Tuesday, is expected to miss a few weeks after suffering a hamstring strain.
Scott, who had to be helped off the field by Giants' trainers, was injured in the fourth quarter following a 13-yard gain on the Giants' final drive.
Brandon Jacobs, who had a 100-yard rushing performance against the Bears, was kept out of Monday's practice as a precautionary due to a hamstring strain.
"Hamstrings can be tricky, especially when you feel like they are healed and ready to go," Jacobs said. "I’m just taking it very precautionary. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue."
Because of the injuries at running back, the Giants will reportedly hold a workout for potential replacements.
Dan Graziano of ESPN reported that Jeremy Wright, who was briefly with the Giants in their minicamp, would be among those in attendance.
The Giants did get a little bit of good news on the injury front.
Tight end Adrien Robinson, who had a setback with his foot a few weeks back that necessitated him being placed back into a protective boot, practiced on a limited basis on Monday.
Meanwhile, center David Baas (neck), is “getting close,” per head coach Tom Coughlin, to being medically cleared by the team’s medical staff to return to the practice field.
Three Things That Must Improve
1. The Pass Rush
The continued absence of the Giants’ pass rush is, perhaps, one of the biggest concerns that has yet to be resolved.
Supposedly, opposing quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball faster. However, that’s a trend that’s been happening around the NFL, and yet, other teams are having success with getting to the opposing quarterback.
Even more frustrating for the Giants is that their defensive tackles are pushing the pocket. It’s been the defensive ends who have been unable to disengage from blocks and finish off the play.
A big part of the problem has been the personnel. Justin Tuck is clearly no longer the dynamic force he once was coming off the edge.
Jason Pierre-Paul seems to have lost any explosiveness or quickness, an occurrence likely due to his continued recovery from offseason back surgery.
Mathias Kiwanuka finally showed a lot more fight in his game vs. the Chicago Bears, but he hasn’t been anywhere near consistent in doing so and is too often stymied by blockers.
Damontre Moore? The rookie has shown flashes, but his inability to stay healthy is a big reason why the Giants have not turned to the youngster more often.
What’s a defense to do when half of its ends are 30 years old and who, for whatever the reason, are playing the game at a fraction of the speed that is necessary to be effective?
The sad reality is that the Giants made the same mistake with their defensive ends as they did with their aging and oft-banged up offensive line: They tried to squeeze one extra year out of the group only to find out that there wasn’t much left in the tank.
2. The Rueben Randle—Eli Manning Connection
There’s no question that wide receiver Rueben Randle is dripping with talent.
However, his second season has been tough so far. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Randle has been the receiving target on six of Manning’s 15 interceptions, including two of the three that Manning threw against the Bears.
Analysts have noted that the two players are not on the same page, but no one has really offered a theory as to why this might be the case.
The answer is likely in the Giants offense, which, for a receiver, calls for much more than simply running to a spot and waiting for the ball.
In a 2010 article appearing in the Wall Street Journal, a receiver in the Giants offense is given several options based on the defensive coverage.
The numerous options, which can be as many as four or five, ends up creating a lot of thinking for a player who has minimal experience facing defensive fronts, like Randle, whose 41 targets to date barely exceed the 32 he was given in his rookie season.
If Manning and Randle are to get on the same page, the coaches might want to consider cutting back on the number of decisions he needs to make when running his routes, at least until he gets through his second season and sees more defensive looks.
3. The Play-Calling
As noted above, the Giants passing game is said to be one of the most challenging in the NFL because it provides numerous options for receivers and the quarterback to make based on their pre-snap reads as well as what the defense actually shows.
At some point along the way, the basic concept of “man vs. man” was lost on the Giants' offensive brain trust.
Instead of allowing Manning to make what seems like countless changes at the line of scrimmage (a big reason why on nearly every play, the ball is snapped very close to time on the play clock expiring), there has to be more trust put in the individuals to win their respective battles.
It was previously mentioned in point No. 2 that a big reason for Manning's interceptions is that he hasn't been on the same page with his receivers.
It might behoove offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride to remember that he's not working with the veteran team he had in 2007, a group that included receivers Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress, two receivers who, in that Super Bowl-winning season, had a combined 19 years of experience.
Rather than run the same complex schemes, simplify things a bit and let all the players gain the confidence they are missing. As they master the basics, then start increasing the number of options given to a receiver on a given route.