Saturday, November 12, 2005

Giants Midseason Report
By Imtiaz Mussa

On the eve of the Giants’ ninth game of the season against Minnesota, I thought I’d take a look at the team and dish out some grades.

Quarterback: Eli Manning has made plenty of strides but is still not a finished product. He needs to be more accurate and step into this throws more. With all of that said, he has 14 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. His game winning drive against Denver is a sign of things to come. I think he gets to the Pro Bowl sooner rather than later.
Grade: B+

Running Back: People should not expect Tiki Barber to repeat his performance from last year. He does have a very solid total of 760 yards. But then again, 206 of those came against the Washington Redskins. Tiki is not nearly the focal point of this offense as much as he was last year. Brandon Jacobs has done exactly what he has been expected to do. Who is Ron Dayne? Derrick Ward has impressed some people in his ability to give Tiki a breather.
Grade: A-

Wide Receiver/Tight End: Plaxico Burress has been everything the Giants hoped he would be. With 45 catches and 656 yards, he ranks in the top ten in the NFL in both categories. Amani Toomer was nowhere to be seen at the start of the season but hopefully, the catch against Denver will propel him. Jeremy Shockey has been outstanding. He is second to Antonio Gates in receiving yards by a tight end and third in TDs. A solid third wideout has yet to emerge and I’m not sure if Visanthe Shiancoe has the blocking ability to be a solid backup TE.
Grade: B+

Offensive Line: This is a better unit than the one that took the field last year but I still think that they commit too many penalties that leaves the team in long situations. Beyond they have for the most part given Eli time to throw and have opened up a hole for Tiki Barber. Chris Snee has been improving at a tremendous rate.
Grade: B

Defensive Line: Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora have been very good at the ends this season. But in order to ensure that Strahan has gas left in the tank come the end of the season, it may be a good idea to get rookie Justin Tuck some more action. I’m still not sure about the defensive tackles. Good offensive lines have had their way with them this season.
Grade: B

Linebackers: Antonio Pierce has been as solid as advertised. He leads the team with 67 tackles. Carlos Emmons has been battling nagging injuries all season. Nick Greisen may not be the fastest or the strongest but works really hard to make tackles. Giant fans are still waiting for a Barrett Green sighting.
Grade: B+

Secondary: This is the weakest link of the Giants. Will Peterson continues to say that he should not be playing for the rest of the season while Giants team doctors tell him he should be back in a few weeks. Will Allen has yet to make an interception. Curtis DeLoatch has been good but nothing special and we really haven’t seen what Corey Webster can do. Why do the Giants continue to start Brent Alexander? The man is too old and too slow to start at safety. Please get Shaun Williams out there. At least he can run. Gibril Wilson is much better against the run than against the pass.
Grade: C

Special Teams: I’m one of those Giants fans who remembered when Dave Meggett was our returner. Having Willie Ponder and Chad Morton makes me feel just as good as I did back in the day. The Giants are second in the NFL in kick returning. I think Ponder should go to the Pro Bowl. With Morton returning punts, Big Blue has a guy they feel confident in. I questioned the signing of Jay Feely but he has shown the leg strength necessary to kick in Giants Stadium. He has missed just one field goal all season. Jeff Feagles has been exceptional as always. There are no complaints. By the way, the Giants are one of the better teams in the NFL in coverage as well.
Grade: A

Coaching: According to the fans that vote on espn.com, Coughlin has a 93% approval rating. The offense has been thriving. Offensive coordinator John Hufnagel and Quarterbacks coach Kevin Gilbride deserve credit for the work they have done with Eli. There is still some work to be done with the defense but Tim Lewis has started to blitz some more in hopes of covering his weak secondary. I have nothing but praise for Special Teams coach Mike Sweatman.

General Thoughts: The Giants did exactly what they had to do in the first half.
Look at the teams they have faced:
Arizona Cardinals: 2-6
New Orleans Saints: 2-7
San Diego Chargers: 5-4
St. Louis Rams: 4-4
Dallas Cowboys: 5-3
Denver Broncos: 6-2
Washington Redskins: 5-3
San Francisco 49ers: 2-6
Combined Record: 31-35

Remaining Opponents:
Minnesota Vikings: 3-5
Philadelphia Eagles: 4-4
Seattle Seahawks: 6-2
Dallas Cowboys: 5-3
Philadelphia Eagles: 4-4
Kansas City Chiefs: 5-3
Washington Redskins: 5-3
Oakland Raiders: 3-5
Combined Record: 35-29

The schedule gets tougher but I still believe that they are a playoff team with ten wins.

But I’m one of those Giant fans who still thinks we’re a season away from being a real contender. But I will enjoy the ride.

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