|Giants DEs Osi Umenyiora (72), Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul haven't played up to their standards, recording just 3.5 sacks combined through four weeks. (US Presswire)|
As you might expect, the Giants’ performance in Sunday night’s 19-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was a mixed bag. Simply holding Michael Vick and the Eagles offense to 19 points might be a victory in itself, but the Giants offense struggled to find any consistency.
Things New York has relied on in recent years (a vertical passing game, a fierce pass rush, a disciplined offensive line) disappointed while some unheralded players actually stepped up and performed admirably under difficult circumstances.
Here are some things that stood out on closer inspection:
What looked good?
- Safety Stevie Brown was better than average in place of Kenny Phillips, who sprained his right MCL in the first half. Brown primarily played deep coverage, but he did cause an incompletion by hitting Michael Vick on a first down pass with 2:50 remaining in the first quarter. Coach Tom Coughlin praised Brown on Monday, but he didn’t touch upon all the different ways the first-year Giant is making a difference. In addition to special teams, Brown has shown an ability to cover and defend the run. Tyler Sash is coming back from suspension in Week 5, but Brown definitely has a case to start in place of Phillips.
- Wide receiver Ramses Barden’s night will be remembered for the offensive pass interference call that pushed Lawrence Tynes’ game-winning field goal attempt back to the 36-yard line. Tynes missed the kick and Barden was left answering questions on Monday, but he didn’t apologize for the way he handled Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. The thing is, Barden was justified in his actions. He was trying to prevent an interception, which would have been even worse than a 10-yard interference penalty. Also, Barden added some diversity to his route tree in Week 4. He primarily ran slants in his breakout nine-catch performance in Week 3, but on Sunday night, Barden’s 31-yard reception was a go route, and that shows some progress on his part.
- Safety Will Hill did an admirable job filling in for injured nickelback Jayron Hosley, but his real value came on special teams where he nearly blocked several punts. Hill is fast with long arms, so it’s easy to see why he did so well on specials. However, if he can get acclimated on defense, he’d be a good candidate to defend tight ends like Vernon Davis because of his physical traits.
- Rookie David Wilson was great on kick returns, but not just because of his speed. Wilson’s 36.2-yard average was actually the product of good blocking and some great reads. Wilson has the ability to drift in one direction, pulling the entire coverage unit toward one sideline, before rocketing in the other direction to find open space.
- We didn’t need to look at the film to confirm that middle linebacker Chase Blackburn played well, but it’s worth mentioning again. His 10-tackle, one-sack performance is probably one of the better games by a Giants linebacker over the last few seasons. And keep in mind, Blackburn’s main value to the defense is the way he reads the offense and gets his crew lined up properly. For him to play like an All-Pro on top of that is just icing on the cake.
What looked bad?
- He didn’t play particularly well with two good hands in Weeks 1 through 3, and cornerback Corey Webster wasn’t much better with a cast on his broken right hand Sunday night. Webster was beaten by Eagles WR DeSean Jackson several times and also looked indifferent in run support as RB LeSean McCoy heated up in the second half.
- QB Eli Manning’s accuracy and decision-making were up and down all game. His touchdown pass to WR Victor Cruz was nearly picked off; the pass interference call on Barden was a poor throw and Manning should have never released his fourth-quarter interception. (I mistakenly wrote on Twitter that Martellus Bennett could have broken up that play, but seeing it again, it’s clear that it was just a poor throw and decision by Manning and there wasn’t anything Bennett could have done).
- Running back Ahmad Bradshaw looked decent in the passing game and he continues to pick up the blitz very well, but his carries just didn’t go anywhere. He’s not churning his feet as much as backup Andre Brown and the result is that he’s not picking up any yards after first contact.
- It’s not that the pass rush looked bad. It’s just that the Giants defense generated as much pressure rushing four (or three) lineman as it did when linebackers and defensive backs were sent in on blitzes. Defensive end Justin Tuck looked good on a goal-line stand in the third quarter, but failed to generate much pressure on Vick. He still hasn’t recorded a sack this year.
What is still inconclusive?
- Bradshaw’s benefits are obvious (Manning is always protected well when he’s in the backfield) but outside of a handful of productive plays per game, he’s simply not picking up yards like he once did. Brown played well in Week 3 (113 yards, two touchdowns) and it’s time to shift the offense in his direction. Eventually Wilson will be seeing more time on offense and it really will be a committee of running backs, but for the time being, it looks like Brown should handle the bulk of the carries.
- What’s up with Jason Pierre-Paul? He has two sacks in his last eight games (including the 2011 postseason) even though he appears to be getting decent penetration every time he steps onto the field. Yes, he’s getting chipped more at the line, but the real issue might be Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, who haven’t played up to their standards so far this year. New York’s pass rushers aren’t so scary at the moment.